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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keep an eye on this one.

I know I've talked to at least a couple of you who are interested in buying a cast iron pot. The Martha Stewart ones like I have from Macy's (I have the robin's-egg-blue 7-qt round one) are on sale. They may eventually get marked down a little further (I think mine was $60), so it's worth at least keeping an eye on. Love the green and red ones, too!


Friday, September 19, 2008

In All My Glory

Via my old, old (circa fall 1985) friendly acquaintance Bill Shunn: Take a picture of yourself right now. Don’t change your clothes. Don’t fix your hair. Just take a picture. Post that picture with no editing. (Except maybe to get the image size down to something reasonable. Don’t go posting an eight megapixel image.) Include these instructions.

This is killing two birds with one stone, because it shows my new t-shirt, purchased at Adriana's urging.

And here's a gratuitous kid pic, which I snapped the other day to send off for an alumni newsletter:

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Eleven Months Old

Sweet Cindy Lou is now eleven months old. Just in the last 10 days or so, she's become a vertical baby--pulling herself up to standing, coming up from her belly to a seated position. She's always been certain about what she wants, but now she's even more able to get it. She has a further-expanding repertoire of tricks (she now gives kisses and hugs on request), has started communicating some yes/no responses (with grunts and facial expressions), and just today was much more cooperative for her eye ointment (a near-perennial thing for us, as she is the queen of eye goo) after I explained that I needed to do it, that it would be brief, and that it would be easier for both of us if she held still and didn't wiggle. Amazing what a difference that made. She's not supposed to be understanding me this well yet!

Here she is just waking up from a long nap, and squinting at the bright red-eye-reducing light on the camera:

Hangin' with the Wiz:

I think she was actually stuck in this position, leaning over with one knee kind of hyperextended. She'll get the hang of it!

She loves to peer through the gate at the top of the stairs (and she loved even more that the Wizard was looking through it, too):

It's nigh-impossible to get a picture of her if we're on the same side of that gate. As soon as I kneel to get a good camera angle, she breaststrokes right over and climbs up.

The Wizard almost, almost fell asleep here the other day waiting for me to come read him a book:

The Wizard started preschool, and LOVES it. He cries when it's time to come home. I was there helping out on his first day (it's a co-op), and during story time he corrected the teacher when she deviated from the printed text! Not in an obnoxious way, fortunately. The teacher had Newton for two years of preschool, so she wasn't in the slightest offended or taken aback.



Two completely unrelated websites you should check out:

the blog I created to post recipes for dishes served at church functions

Factcheck.org, run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Before you believe anything in a political ad by any candidate or in any political e-mail forward you receive, you should check here. They're nonpartisan, careful, and thorough.

I'm a Carny, You're a Carny . . .

My book group met today to discuss one of the strangest books I've ever read: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Not geek as in Mavis, geek as in carnival performer who bites off the heads of small animals. The story (written by a Portland author, and partly set in Portland) revolves around a family of homemade carnival freaks. Trust me--it's even weirder than it sounds. The book is beautifully written (it was a finalist for the National Book Award), but not for the faint of heart.

So, for brunch today we had (in part) carnival-inspired fare. The parts that were carnival-inspired and the parts that weren't should be immediately apparent. Once again, in the bustle of getting everything ready and on the table I forgot to take pictures--you book group attendees need to follow Newton's example and remind me!
Peaches topped with Nancy's Honey Whole Milk Yogurt and brown sugar

Gourmet Corn Dogs made with chicken-apple sausage
Creamy Mustard-Dill Sauce
Corn Relish

Mesclun Salad with balsamic vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and chèvre

Umpqua Ice Cream Cones (with either Tin Roof Sundae or Beaver Tracks--an OSU promotional flavor with caramel-filled chocolate footballs and a fudge swirl in peanut butter ice cream)
Kettle Corn drizzled with dark chocolate

We ate on the back patio to enjoy our beautiful weather (seriously, it's been near-perfect lately!), and enjoyed a lively discussion of the book, the presidential race, and the more annoying aspects of Mormon culture. You shoulda been there!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm boring!

Adriana tagged me for this meme.

Here are six unspectacular things about me:

1. I drive a Honda Odyssey.
2. I love chocolate.
3. I am a liberal Democrat (I suppose this isn't so unspectacular in the context of my family or church! It's definitely unspectacular in my neighborhood and in the mom crowd at Newton's school.).
4. I think my children are geniuses.
5. I hate sweating or being out of breath.
6. I love to read, and don't do as much of it as I should.

Meme terms & conditions:

Link the person who tagged you.
Mention the rules on your blog.
List 6 unspectacular things about you.
Tag 6 other bloggers by linking them.

I tag the Laundry Queen, Tams, Nat, Krista, Jen, and MWR.


The Magic of Numbers

No, this isn't about Newton and his math fetish. Just my favorite little factoid that appeared in The Oregonian yesterday:

Population of the state of Alaska: 670,053

Population of Multnomah County: 701,986

Our county chair is Ted Wheeler. He wouldn't make a bad VP candidate, either.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stumptown Bike Culture

So, I've been thinking about biking in Portland since my previous post on the topic and MWR's sort-of response. I've been paying more attention to whether bicyclists I encounter while driving follow all the rules of the road (like they're supposed to). My impression, based on an admittedly limited sample, is that a clear majority of cyclists here obey the rules of the road, including stopping at stop signs and red lights, and signaling turns. While driving the kids to swimming lessons at the same time each weekday morning last month, I frequently had occasion to stop at a light on a street that also has a well-used bike lane. Nine times out of ten, bicyclists stopped for that light and waited until it turned green before proceeding.

And here's another anecdote: yesterday Mavis rode his bike to report for jury duty. Stopped at a light, another cyclist rode up and engaged him in conversation. The other guy had recently moved to Portland from San Francisco and said he was still getting to understand bike culture here. Like, he said, bicyclists obey the rules of the road. He had recently run a red light while on his bike (as he was in the habit of doing in San Francisco), and gotten yelled at by another bicyclist. As Mavis told it, he wasn't upset about having to change his habits, just anxious to follow local custom.

I recently spotted a new license plate option here:

If it had been available when we bought our car last year, we would certainly have chosen it. I told Mavis if he wanted to switch, I certainly wouldn't object. I've seen "Share the Road" bumper stickers elsewhere, but here folks really seem to be driving the drive, so to speak.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

To Hell in a Handbasket

Well, not really. But the September 1 issue of The New Yorker had the following, in an article about Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava:
In an effort to keep the cost of the project below two and a half billion dollars, changes to the underground mezzanine were being evaluated, including a dimunition of public space.

Do they not have spell check? Even Blogger knows that one's a turkey.


Birthday Treats

Newton recently had a birthday, for which the celebrations ended up stretching more than a week, with his "friend" party the Saturday before and his family party the weekend after. Here's a shot I recently snapped for his soccer ID card (!):

The day of his birthday party, he had the world's loosest tooth. He wouldn't let me pull it, and wouldn't pull it himself. He would wiggle it with his tongue, but otherwise just moped around the house all morning, not eating. I finally made him sit down and eat dry Peanut Butter Crunch and blueberries (his breakfast he never ate, which had been sitting there waiting for its milk), popping them in individually so as not to bump the tooth. Thankfully, it fell out at the beginning of the party when he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. I shudder to think about the cloud of doom that tooth would have thrown over the party otherwise. Here's the tooth hanging by the tiniest thread, turned around 180 degrees:

At the party the boys (he did invite a couple of girls, but they didn't come) played on the slip n' slide, swapped books, and ate homemade ice cream sandwiches (The Thin with vanilla or chocolate-peanut butter ice cream). I whipped up a platter of crudités (multicolored cherry tomatoes, jicama, blanched green and yellow beans, cucumber, carrots) with garlic herb dip for the grownups.

Newton's actual birthday was a busy one. All the kids had swimming lessons in the morning, and then Newton had his well-child checkup (at 8 years old, 59 lbs = 59th percentile!). After a quick lunch, he had a play date with a friend from school which included soccer in the park and a trip to Ben & Jerry's. In the evening was Newton's back-to-school ice cream social, and then he went to a Portland Beavers game with another school friend. Wow.

My family has a tradition of letting the birthday person pick the menu on his or her day. Since Newton's day was so full, we postponed the meal picking to the weekend. For Sunday's dinner with just our family, we had spaghetti carbonara, and then homemade Peanut Butter Fudge ice cream for dessert.

Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream
adapted from the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Book
makes about 1 quart

2 eggs
3/4 C sugar
1/4 t salt
2 C heavy cream
1 C milk
1/3 C creamy peanut butter
chopped peanuts (optional--I didn't use them because Newton doesn't like nuts)
chocolate fudge or ganache (I used the ganache from the cupcakes recipe below)

Whisk eggs in standing mixer until foaming, then gradually add sugar and salt. Keep whisking at medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, then gradually whisk in cream and milk. Transfer mixture to medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (you can skip this step if you don't mind eating raw eggs or are in a big hurry). Remove from heat, then add a little of the cream base at a time to the peanut butter in a small bowl, whisking to blend. When thoroughly mixed, let cool almost to room temperature and then chill in fridge overnight (or less time if you didn't cook it).

The next day, freeze in an ice cream maker according to machine's instructions, adding pieces of fudge or ganache late in the process (so they don't break down or sink to the bottom). If you're using an ice cream maker that doesn't let you add ingredients in the middle of the process, layer in the fudge/ganache pieces when you transfer the ice cream to another container. Let cure in freezer for at least several hours and preferably overnight (yes, two overnights--good ice cream means planning ahead!).

Monday was the family dinner, and we just had simple grilled fare in the back yard: buffalo burgers on whole wheat buns, tomatoes and lettuce from J&J's garden, Walla Walla sweets their friends had brought them, corn on the cob, French potato salad with blanched green and yellow beans, corn, and more of those garden tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, and potato chips with ranch dip. For dessert, the famous cupcakes made a reappearance. Inexplicably, Newton wanted some without ganache filling (!), so I made one dozen (minis) without, and two dozen with. Again, frosted with cream cheese frosting. I've figured out the secret to perfect cream cheese frosting! Here is how I made it this time, and it turned out PERFECT.

Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C unsalted butter
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1-1 1/2 C powdered sugar

The cream cheese and butter should be softened to cool room temperature, just under 70 degrees. Beat them in stand mixer with whisk attachment until well blended, smooth and creamy, scraping down bowl periodically and adding salt and vanilla mid-way. Then add powdered sugar and keep beating and scraping until it's light and fluffy.

RESIST the impulse to add more sugar! It will just make it sweeter and hide the cream cheese flavor. I know because I made cream cheese frosting for the Wizard's birthday cupcakes, and it was too sweet and not cheesy enough.

You know what's crazy? Newton's birthday food is not yet done. Another tradition in my family is to have waffles with fruit and ice cream for birthday breakfasts. Newton wants peaches. So, this coming weekend we'll have sourdough waffles with buttermilk syrup, peaches, and vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmmmmm.

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