Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Adam Zagajewski
Translated by claire cavanaugh in the New Yorker.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some Stuff to look at while I'm gone:

Nothing earth-shattering here, these are pretty well-known...

Our devotional blog,
featuring reflections (in words and art) from people who are dear to me:


Some food blogs I like:





Pictures of outfits:



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fair warning:

Just wanted to mention that I won't be blogging during March. Blogging and Facebook are what I am fasting from for Lent this year.

Because I really love them. Much more than I love chocolate, or swearing, or making snarky judgements about strangers based on their outfits. (I have given all these things up for Lent at various times. The last one really made a change in my life - not that I never make snarky judgements anymore, but it is far, far from the reflex it used to be. Seriously.)

AND since I have a Wednesday night service to prepare for (and, like so many holiday services, IT IS NOT WRITING OR COORDINATING ITSELF, to my grave frustration) it's possible that you won't see another recipe, American Idol critique, book review, entertaining conversation with a 3-year-old, or photo of something lying in the street until April.

No, I really don't know what I'm going to do with myself. I'm trying NOT to make a plan for filling the time, but just see what it's like to go without this - without this outlet, and without you all.

I want to do it because I REALLY don't want to do it. You know?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dinner tonight: finally, a happy ending!

Tonight we had 'use what you have' meatloaf, which turned out quite well, and this, which I was trying for the first time. I had been re-reading Mollie Katzen's Brocolli Forest, (incidentally, that link is for the NEW Enchanted Brocolli Forest; I have the OLD one, no photos, handlettered...) which has quite a few souffles in it, and was curious about spoonbread. But I was scared off by her recipe, with it's 6 separated eggs and the allowing of time for things to come to room temperature...since I already had meatloaf in the oven.

Well, Easy Basics to the rescue, as always. (This is the best cookbook I own, and it is a crime, a CRIME that it is out of print.) (Although I feel less guilty about posting the recipe, since you can't buy the book.)

It's perfectly lovely. It fits in my souffle pan. It is a bit 'washing-up intensive', using multiple bowls and pans, and it does require one kitchen technique that I am still far from mastering. And it's still great.


Preheat the oven to 375, and find your soufflé dish. (Mine was behind the stack of loaf pans. I mention this at the beginning so that you do not find yourself, as I did, wondering what you’re supposed to pour this stuff – THIS stuff here, in the pan in my HAND – into.)

Butter the soufflé dish.

Mix in a bowl ¾ cup cornmeal and 1 cup milk. Let it stand for 3-5 minutes.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat another 1 ¼ cup milk until just boiling. Add the contents of the bowl – cornmeal and cold milk – to the hot milk and cook it until it thickens, anywhere from 2-5 minutes. Cornmeal is unpredictable, I have found recently.

Remove the pan with the thickened cornmeal mixture from the heat. Stir in ¼ cup sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and a stick of butter cut into 8 pieces. Stir until the butter melts.

Now let that sit and cool a little, while you separate 3 eggs.

Beat the whites of those 3 eggs until they are stiff (able to stand up my themselves) but not dry.

Take the yolks of those 3 eggs and beat them, one at a time, into the cornmeal mixture.

Okay, here’s the tricky part. This is the part where you FOLD the fluffy whites into the slippery, heavy cornmeal stuff. Easy Basics recommends transferring a big glob of whites into the saucepan and folding those in, then, once that mixture is all incorporated and pretty even, dropping all that on top of the rest of the whites (into the bowl of the stand mixer, in my case) to finish the folding.

Folding has always confounded me. You’re supposed to be gentle, so you don’t whomp all the air out of the egg whites; at the same time, you’re supposed to get it fully mixed, eliminating any big clumps of egg. These two goals seem mutually exclusive. Guess I’ll never get that Cordon Bleu certification. Use a stiff, heat-resistant silicone spatula to lift the batter over the puffs of egg, turn the bowl as you fold, scrape down the sides and the whole bottom. Don’t do it for too long.

Here’s the good news – mine looked totally bad, with big white dunes of egg visible after I transferred it to the soufflé dish. I thought I had messed it up totally.

Not so! It was completely delicious. And puffy like a soufflé, but the cornmeal gives it some structure so it doesn’t fall.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the middle firms up a little (the cookbook said ‘until it doesn’t jiggle’, but mine jiggled somewhat and it was perfect.

This was so light and SO delicious I could have fainted. Serve immediately by huge spoonfuls.

Now THIS is a successful starch.

Some things to be happy about:

1. my brother is home from the hospital
2. his wife has taken a new job
3. summer programs are gathering steam
4. my child is not always the unrepentant knob he sometimes appears to be
5, I am going to do something fun tomorrow
6. (that is, it will be fun if the little knob cooperates, which I would imagine that he will)
7. i took a day off this week
8. i made 2 really delicious things for dinner tonight.
9. i have read 42 of the 100 books on that list on facebook, so i'm perhaps my expensive education was not a complete loss
10. Jesus loves me, this I know.

Friday Five: Taking a Break

In that spirit, I offer this Taking a Break Friday Five. Tell us how you would spend:

1. a 15 minute break
I stopped drinking coffee about 3 weeks ago. (I had some mild withdrawl headaches, but only for a couple of days. ) I mention this because, up until 2 weeks ago, my answer would have been 'out for a cup of coffee!'

and now it would be (sheepishly) 'facebook.'
2. an afternoon off
OH, you mean like YESTERDAY? Yesterday my husband and I went out for a burrito, then enjoyed an afternoon show of Coraline in 3d. I do enjoy an afternoon movie. I also enjoy a few childless hours at the Borders Books, Music and Inadvertent Reference Library, where for the price of a cup of tea, I read fashion and graphic design magazines, and then RESTOCK THEM. (I have spent enough money at that Borders over the years to feel absolutely no guilt about this.)

3. an unexpected free day
Bad weather: art museum.
Good weather: Wandering around a city, usually the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore. Both of these involve pastry.

4. a week's vacation
Well, since I'm imagining, I think I'll imagine that my son is well-cared-for for the week, and my husband is performing in New York City or Philadelphia. Or is lecturing or something. So that there would be time for adventures together but also for me to wander alone, write, take pictures, look at fabrics and trims, visit a historic church and a market like Reading Terminal Market.

5. a sabbatical
I think I would stay mostly put and take classes. Seminary or art school?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I think this is just excellent.

By Carl Willat, at CarlsFineFilms.com. Shot on his PDA.

A couple of years ago. I had an on-line conversation about Trader Joe's - this might have been as long ago as my LiveJournal days - where Natasha and I agreed that shopping at our local TJ's made us feel kind of uneasy. I used to feel like I was taking up too much room in the aisles when I shopped there, like I was impeding the flow of the other shoppers. (And, incidentally, eating delicious natural foods apparently does not make you nicer or more patient. Not reliably, anyway. Didn't work for me. and evidently doesn't work for people who shop at TJs.)

I'm pleased to report that a new TJs has opened in the intervening years, which is closer to me and A LITTLE LARGER. The aisles are wider. And I no longer feel like a bull in a little-mesh-bag-of-avocados shop.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spot The Worship Leader, round 2

Last time I watched American Idol, I picked Fat Chris (I'm really sorry, I know not everyone likes the F word...but there were 2 Chrises in the top 12, and Curly-haired Chris just wasn't good shorthand. And if I said The Cute One, I'd be the only one who knew what I meant.) He was my favorite contestant, both musically and personality-wise. And of course he's a worship leader.

In this season's auditions, to which I did not pay much attention but had on in the background while I wasted time on Facebook, I did pick a favorite contestant: Danny Gokey from Minneapolis.

And yes, tonight he mentioned that he's a music director at a church.

Why yes, I can spot 'em in a crowd.

I like a worship leader who has a little Robert Downey Jr. vibe.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tonight Dinner: I'm doing it wrong, part 2

I tried to make this for dinner (another Martha Stewart Everyday item, but this one you can link to. Weird.)

This recipe is just wrong. (Maybe you can only link to the screwed-up ones.)

It says to simmer the polenta over low heat for 10 minutes until thickened. My polenta took almost 20 minutes to thicken up, over increasingly high heat. It also says to deglaze the pan (not the polenta pan, the pan you cooked the beef in) and then boil the vinegar over high heat for 5-7 minutes until it reduces. At about 3 minutes, my vinegar seized up into a disgusting black mess, not unlike the monster in The Blob.

Also, no tomatoes in February, not even grape tomatoes. I made peas.
That may not be the recipe's fault, technically.

It wasn't bad.

Edited to add: Speaking for food, check out this birthday cake from Pink Cake Box in New Jersey. Via Ravelry.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recipe: Oyster Stew-soup-whatever

Put one or two redskin potatoes in the microwave, and nuke 'em for for about 8 minutes.
Chop the leaves from a couple of stalks of celery.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan.

When the butter is melted, drop in half a chopped onion or a spoonful of minced garlic, as well as the celery leaves. Cook that for a few minutes over medium heat, with a little salt and pepper. If you have onions, cook until they're soft. If you have garlic, cook until it starts to turn golden.

When the potatoes are nuked and a little soft, cut them into chunks (USE AN OVEN MITT FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE) and add them to the pot. They will absorb all the butter -you can drop in another pat if you like. More salt, more pepper. Dice the one or two stalks of celery really really small and drop them in to the pot as well. Cook another 2-4 minutes.

Add fresh oysters. I had a 8 oz refrigerated pack - it looks like a can, with a pull top, but the container is actually plastic. They were good, because they were enormous ('Select' size) and fresh and semi-local...but more than 8 oz would have been even better. (2 cans would have been great, except that would make this $10 soup, which I cannot get behind in our current economic situation.) Stir those in, along with all the liquid from the can, and let them warm up for a minute or two. If they cook too long, they will get rubbery, and if the stick to the bottom, they'll tear and fall apart. Neither of these is a huge tragedy, but I prefer a little undercooked to rubbery.

Cover with 2% milk. Keep the heat at medium or lower - you don't want it to boil. Stir frequently over the next 5 minutes, until it is hot all the way through. Season to taste - I used a small drizzle of fish sauce and a decent shake of soy sauce.

Makes 4 large bowls.
Serve with Italian bread and butter.
We ate every drop.

I got you, babe

this being February, I have of course had several conversations about this movie, which find quite thought-provoking - deeply philosophical, if not precisely religious. For me, it has stood up to repeated viewings. If we are doomed to repeat, if the things we do cannot make us progress, if we cannot accumulate stuff and increase wealth and status...how then shall we live? What makes a satisfying life, in the absence of a future?
Apparently I'm not the only one who can find all this stuff in a comedy.
Interestingly, another movie that I watch with complete rapt attention at least annually, and one that never fails to make me laugh and cry, is also a Bill Murray dumbass comedy.
national review link via Get Religion, a blog critiquing the way the news media covers (or usually fails to cover) religious questions. I read it at least once a week. (This is the website that jokingly suggested, in its predictions for the new year, that the Obamas would be joining our little church. Funny, eh?)
(One commenter helpfully added that we have space on the church grounds for their helepad.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hey, everybody, guess what?

Hey look, everybody! It's my brother.

For those of you who are not on Facebook (and so are not reading my daily Tweet-length medical updates) my fucking brother has been in the fucking hospital for a fucking week. 7 days - and it's been different every day. Bad news - he's got pancreatitis. Oh, wait, it's actually good news - it's because of his gall bladder! We can take care of that! As soon as his pancreas calms down! We'll just hang around here while we wait for the pancreas to calm down.

Dum de dum dum dum. Waiting for the pancreas. Waiting....waiting....

Oh, wait - let's do something different to his gall bladder. But it's complicated, so let's move him to the good public hospital. (What? This wasn't the good hospital? Where's the good hospital? Oh, just down the street? Great, let's go to the GOOD hospital.)


Hmm, it looks like his gall bladder is better! By itself! So we don't have to do the complicated thing! Well, that's good - we'll just watch him for a couple days and then let him go. Oh, and let's give him food, and about time, since he hasn't eaten to speak of since last WEDNESDAY.

Hmmm, he's only a little better. What's that? Some sort of hole in the pancreas? That sounds serious. Fluid pooling in his abdomen? Running a fever? For 6 days? TEST TEST XRAYS MRI BLOODWORK TEST.

Also, you know that solid food thing? Forget that - what this man needs is a feeding tube. Lipids through the nose. That makes everyone feel better.

Oh, and by the way, he's in real pain, feeling like he's being punched in the middle all day long.

And did I mention? My brother is moderately hearing- and speech-impaired. Verbal communication with hospital staff ranges from excellently successful to seriously, WTF? So Jenny, his wife, is there all the time to facilitate communication. Eric or I visit nearly every other day and help out as best we can, and give Jenny a break.

This is confusing and stressful for me, and you can only imagine how worried Jenny and Sandy are.

So we made valentines.

with dinosaurs. Dinosaur Valentines FTW.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

oh, what on earth is Paula wearing? I can't tell whether I like that piece of jewelry or hate it. Kinda cool and artistic and kind of a train wreck.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Dinner Tonight: I did it wrong

Tonight I made...

Oh, heck with it. I've been trying to link to the recipe, but apparently Martha Stewart Omnimedia does not want people to link. That's rather shortsighted, don't you think?

It's a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe called Crispy Ginger-Lime Chicken Thighs. You make a paste with curry powder, grated ginger, lime juice and scallions, and spread it under the skin, then broil the chicken thighs.

It was fast, and pretty tasty, though milder than I wold like. It also created a house-ful of smoke, which did not add to the dining experience.

I think I can do this better. Especially since the new supermarket in town has really cheap chicken thighs. (And, um, everything else. Inexpensive produce, a butcher shop, cheap shrimp.fish in tanks and on ice, This is a fine, fine addition to town. Also, shopping there will mean I have to learn some practical Spanish.)


Friday Five - These are a few of....

Over at RevGal, Songbird says:
... I found myself thinking of the way Maria comforted the Von Trapp children in one of my favorite movies. Frightened by a thunder storm, the children descend upon her, and she sings to them about her favorite things, taking their minds off the storm.

So, let's encourage ourselves. Share with us five of your favorite things. Use words or pictures, whatever expresses it best.
I was thinking of things and looking at Flickr...and I think I will do 5 top 5s.

1. Five Favorite entertainers:
Kevin Smith, Stephen Colbert, all three Roches.

2. Five Favorite Baby Names we didn't choose:
Sydney, Isabel, Aiden, Finn, David

3. Five Favorite Writers that I fantasize are my friends in real life:
Anne Lamott, Michael Chabon, David Sedaris, Don Miller, Jeffery Steingarten

4. Five Favorite things to eat that I didn't cook:
Tom Ka Gai, whole tilapia with scallions and ginger, cherry custard pie, coffee ice cream, fried pork dumplings.

5. Five Favorite Photos I took (that are on my hard drive at the moment.)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

guess it happened.

okay, so who remembers my Halloween post, where I wrote about the triceratops costume I designed and made ON THE 31ST?

Which my kid would not wear?

Who remembers that one of my dear friends was skeptical in the comments? "Pics or it didn't happen," he wrote, echoing the spirit of the age.

He wears it around town - not daily, but a couple of times a month, he comes down the stairs wearing it over his clothes. They've seen it at the bank, at the dry cleaners...this was taken outside the Columbia library last Friday.

I think the coat makes it much, much funnier.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

some photos that need no comment:

from the tres excellent Mimi Smartypants

via the moderately vulgar but fairly entertaining No But Yes But No