Sunday, January 29, 2012

Better to shoot for the stars and miss . . . *

I did not do nearly as much stargazing as I intended in star year. Nor did I watch any star movies (which is odd. Since we own all of the Star Wars movies, I could have at least re-viewed my beloved New Hope [aka original Star Wars] even if I didn't find the time for Starman, Stardust, or any of the 14 movies titled "Star" on imdb) or eat any starfruit.
I did twice bake star shaped cookies with Dianthus (peanut butter and gingerbread).
I read many star books, and a few Starr books (to be discussed later).
I watched an embarrasing quantity of reality TV with "star" in the title (only a few episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" but nearly two whole seasons of "The Next Food Network Star" [no "Top Chef" but I loved it while pregnant] and, much as it pains me to admit it, a whole season of "Design Star").
I learned that star anise can be great in mulled wine, spiced apple cider, port poached pears and red cabbage with apples.
I made no star quilts, but then nobody really thought I was going to, and I admired many.
For the last month, I've taken my Dianthus out nearly every night. He knows now that we don't see the moon every night; sometimes the stars are behind the clouds; Venus and Jupiter are beautiful, and there are "more stars" and "more stars" and on clear nights "more more more stars, Mommy, more stars." And he tells me about more stars until I acknowledge every one. And I hug him and hold him and he sees some more. There are always more stars in the sky.
That's the kind of thing I was shooting for.

*. . than to shoot for a manure pile and hit. While I appreciate the cliched intent that it is better to aim high, I'm too much of a scientist not to think that floating in space after you've missed the star is considerably worse than being on earth covered in a little dung. But isn't floating in space preferable to actually hitting a star?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bright Acid for the Dragon Days

Happy Year of the Dragon!
The moon is growing again, Janet is another year older, and the most depressing day of the year is past*, which means that it is time to announce the new resolution.
Through 2012, the year of the dragon, I will be exploring acid.
If I have learned one thing from watching too much food-television (and we don't even have cable!) this last year, it is that acid brightens everything. I've learned that many things are out of balance, a state which could simply be corrected by the addition of acid.
So I'm going to learn to cook with acid correctly. I have a small flock of vinegar bottles (fourteen? maybe fourteen different kinds of vinegar is a large flock) to help me do it. I'll be writing about vinegar. And citrus (definitely going to get some yuzu, meyer lemons and key limes in the mix). And making pickles. And drinking coffee and wine (okay, I do that anyway).
Beyond that, I'm open. Exploring wit? Acid-washing my jeans as they become to big? Teaching the pH scale? I might be doing cool color change experiments like the Williams sisters, but I probably won't be wearing acid-brights.** I probably won't listen to much acid music and I'm not going to be taking any drug-induced trips.
Anyway, the resolution is acid. Suggest related activities at your leisure.
Many thanks to the Mister who not only gave me a collection of vinegars for Christmas, but suggested the theme unprompted. It's a little scary, and a lot romantic, how well he know me.

*Some study years ago determined that Jan. 24 was the most depressing day of the year. It happened to be a good friend's birthday, so the factoid has stuck. As it happened, three friends had beloved pets die yesterday and two of my colleagues are out of town at funerals of close family members, so it was largely a downer of a day.
**Right after I typed that (this post has been four days in the making) I opened the protective eye wear cabinet in the lab and all of the goggles were in neon colors. It made my day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Other Resolutions

While my fun resolution (or theme for the year) garners attention on this blog, I do have "normal" resolutions as well.
Every year I resolve to read 50 books. I usually come close, but usually don't know if I've actually succeeded. In 2011 I read more than 60. I'll post the list once I figure out how to add pages (which will involve having time at home to devote to learning new technology steps, so don't count on it anytime soon).
In 2012, I plan to read at least 50 books.
I will read a book a month with a friend as part of the continuing STIR project (Portugeese novel up for February).
I plan to return to my pre-pregnancy weight by my birthday.
I will exercise, as exercise (in addition to the daily commuting walking) at least once a week.
I will write at least one hand-written piece of correspondence each month.
The Mister is trying to better manage our food supply, cook more with local and interesting products and eat more whole grains. I'm heartily with him on all of these.
In 2012, I also have a few possibly impossibly paradoxical ambitions:
I want to be more social without being a social coordinator.
I want to want to not bring any work home, teach as well and research better than I have, and leave work earlier.
I want to stress less about convention and perception while having a cleaner house, looking sharper and being a more in-touch friend and correspondent.

Beyond that, I'm going to brighten with acid, but you'll need to wait for Janet's birthday/lunar New Year to learn about that.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Noodle Making

My parents have a hand crank pasta machine that hasn't been out of the basement for years.
Late in December, the Mister and I combined the snails Santa left in Mister Splashy Pants' stocking with a fresh Oregon black truffle to create a special "present" dish for M+D . Along with the mushrooms, shallots, wine and cream, and accompaniments of crusty bread, creamed spinach and braised fennel, I thought the dish needed homemade pasta.
With mom watching and actively thinking I was crazy, I noted how they can make pasta (with time to plate) in 30 minutes on "The Next Iron Chef", pulled out Mom's Marcella Hazan*, and made some pasta. Dad helped me crank it out. Mom took these photos**.

It was great. The escargot and truffles may have been better on angel hair rather than the fettuccine, but overall it was great.
So great that my parents pulled out the noodle machine last night and the Mister and I are talking of buying one (someday***). So great that I wondered how a whole noodle year passed without me making these noodles and so great that I came home and made ravioli a week later. So great that I think you should try and see the magic that can happen with eggs and flour and a little time. Let me know how it works.

*The Classic Italian Cookbook.
**The Mister took some on our camera as well. It just seems that M+D are better organized (and have flashier phones) than we are.
***But if you see one at a garage sale or have one from a wedding gift you never use, we'll take it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

If thinking were writing . . .

. . then I would have written these posts long ago.
Lessons from Jane Austen Light I: 16 is too young. A comparison of the ages of heroines in Jane Austen novels and the derivatives and a tribute to my requited-but-unfulfilled love at 16 (who turned 40 on Monday) and our right-for-us spouses.
Lessons from JAL II: "I guess being sarcastic isn't necessarily modern." Like Amateur Reader, I laughed when a 21st century character in Jane Austen in Boca suddenly realized this from reading Pride and Prejudice. But then I found myself surprised by the sarcasm in Thorne Smith's Night Life of the Gods and Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, both written in 1932, as if I expected 1932 life everywhere to be like Richard Peck's A Long Way from Chicago (1999) and A Year Down Yonder (2001 Newberry Award Winner) which take place in 1932. With thanks to Jenny, AR and VJ for the books and suggestions.
Lessons from JAL III: And I'm Pretty, Too! If a whole bunch of heroines [list here] can suddenly realize that they are pretty as they turn 40*, I can, too.
Star Books I Short reviews of the star books I read last spring [list goes here].
The Next Star on the Shelf Comparisons of the books I've read simply because they have had star in the title [list goes here].
Judging Books by Their Covers Discussions of books I selected because their spines intrigued me at the library [list goes here].
Not Quite Stars Report from looking at the moon and planets every night with a two year old.
Glowing Stars Adorable images of my sons in their space pjs.
Sledding Stars Video of my family sledding
Noodles! I made homemade noodles! Just a year late.
Ravioli! I made homemade ravioli for the first time. Also a year late. There are images on my friend's facebook page. I know because I am now also on facebook (Ack!). There will be images here someday.
Star Cookies I baked with my students and Dianthus baked with both grandmas and it was all good fun. I also bought the ingredients to make Zimmsterne but didn't bake them.
Star Anise Cider It's actually pretty good.
STIR Reports What we read this year, what's coming up.

Of course, if thinking were writing my assignments would also be written, which means that I would have time to actually write the above posts rather than just summarize my intentions (and if thinking were cleaning who knows what I would accomplish?) and, alas, that is not the case.
Let me know what you'd like to learn more about.
*Yes, a series of books full of women suddenly realizing they were pretty initially caused me to gag more than the streak of gorgeous heroines I had been reading about. Then they were inspiring and now I'm pretty as a result.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guest Star: Quilts from my MiL

From Guest Star Prairie Quilter:
The big star is a replica of a quilt from Kentucky made around 1870. I call it My Kentucky Star. The multi star quilt is "My Williamsburg Stars". It is a replica of a quilt I saw in the museum in Williamsburg when we were there two years ago.

Note from SpSq: These are but a small sampling of Prairie Quilter's fabulous star quilts.
Thanks for sharing, Prairie Quilter!