Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Talk about being caught wrong-footed! I just discovered, thanks to a comment, that Michele has very kindly named me her blog to visit today! And me without anything worth reading posted.... just a few whiney complaints and... and... and....
Oh well, I'll just say thank you to Michele! And welcome to everyone:-)

Oh, and I promise to visit everyone back, though it may not be until tomorrow!

Yours, blushing,

Going swimmingly

This afternoon we managed to steal a few hours of idyllic pleasures --- LOML and I took Boo and Skibo to the local outdoor pool: it was far busier than I had seen it before, but that may just be a consequence of just how nice an afternoon it was: it was hot, but not horribly so, and while the sunlight was extremely bright (almost uncomfortably so at times) it didn't feel like I was getting burned: and now, hours later, I don't feel like a lobster. And with how I am able to lobstrify myself, this is a good thing!
Boo is doing amazingly well: she can swim with her head under water for several seconds over and over again. Skibo is not quite that good yet, but then he is nearly two years younger! He consistently puts his head under the water, and will essentially swim that way so long as he has hold of my hand. I think that in the future they are both going to be fish!
Now we just have to decide how many swimming pools to join!

Yours, toweled dry,

Dinner last night

LOML had invited Boo's friend B and his mother over for dinner (his father was unfortunately off at work), and we gave her the choice of what to eat: pork chops or pasta and sauce. Since she'd had pork chops recently, we went with pasta. No, not homemade pasta. Yes I make my own pasta. No, not every time. And especially when I am getting others' children to eat, I'll buy shells. So that's what I did.
The sauce I made on Sunday afternoon --- so it had had a good chance to meld nicely, and the fresh basil I added at the end freshened and perked it up beautifully.

Tomorrow, we'll use the rest of the sauce for a lasagna, together with homemade cheese, assuming I have the energy (I think that I will!)

The pasta sauce:
2 medium onions, finely diced
Several stalks of celery, finely diced
2 red bell peppers diced
Several cloves of garlic
A little olive oil for sauteing
1 - 1 1/2 lb ground beef
Several cups diced ripe tomatoes
Couple of cups of sliced mushrooms
1/2 - 1 cup red wine
Oregano (fresh or dried)
Bay leaves
Marjoram (if you like)
Lots of pesto
Lots of fresh basil
Salt, pepper to taste
A little crushed hot red pepper if desired.

Assemble in the obvious fashion.

Okay, if you insist, I'll tell you: saute the onions in the oil for a few minutes: add the celery, peppers, garlic and continue to cook over medium heat for a few more minutes. Add the ground beef, and over higher heat, cook until brown. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, wine, herbs (except basil) and pesto. Simmer covered for at least an hour. Several hours is fine. Just before serving, make a chiffonade of the basil and stir it in. Serve over pasta, with freshly grated parmesan (not from a tub or jar, please!) Serve with garlic bread, and it is a feast.

I really like this to have a really really powerful basil flavour: others may like it less strong!

Yours, saucily,

ps chiffonade of basil: roll the leaves up like little cigars, and slice thin strips off. Yes, it's a $50 word. Feel free to use it (send the $50 to me, c/o YeastAndGluten.blogspot.com)

Arthurian legends continue

As of now, my yeast and all from King Arthur are on their way. They sent me a tracking number last Friday, as I mentioned a couple of days ago --- and when you send me a tracking number, I know what to do with it! Obsessively, compulsively, at least once a day, click on the link, enter the tracking number and read the output. Or in the case of KA, just click on the link in the email, which includes the tracking number (this is nice: saves an extra cut-and-paste).
Sunday, after bemoaning the state of Arthurian deliveries, I checked the status again: and this time, progress had been made! It had already made it to the "sortation center" about two hours from here! On Sunday morning! Why, this surely meant it would be delivered on Monday.
Well, Monday rolled around, and when I got home, LOML informed me that we had had three packages delivered that day, and that one of them was for me. And sure enough, there it was.

The cheese making kit.

About which I am absolutely delighted, I must admit. I nearly made mozzarella yesterday, but will probably put it off until tomorrow. I want to investigate the way to make ricotta from the whey first, as we have a batch of (fake, just beef) bolognese-style sauce which I made on Sunday, and are planning a lasagna with it: and it struck me that if I make the mozzarella, and I make the ricotta, and I make the pasta.... Why, next year, all I need to do is start growing mushrooms, and raise a cow, and it can really be an all from scratch recipe! Well, for all from scratch, I may have to make it vegetarian.

[ Breadbox collapses in a puddle of over-achieving home-made-i-ness ]

And the yeast? Apparently, according to this morning's check, it is still sitting in the "sortation center". What sort of a word is that? Why can't they use English, and call it what it is, a deep-storage facility?

Yours, awaiting,

Monday, July 30, 2007

Getting a rise

No, not a pay raise. Nor am I talking about getting someone to react to a joke, or to an evil comment, or anything like that. I'm talking bread. Of course.

Almost every cookbook, it seems, has a recipe for bread in it, emphasizing how nice it is to eat homemade bread, etc. And it's true: it is wonderful to have good homemade bread!

But these same books also suggest that the bread be left to rise "in a warm place", sometimes suggesting the top of a fridge, or even a gas oven with a pilot light left on. Perhaps this is because they think that people don't want to take the time with their recipes, or perhaps it got written down once, and like a bad meme or the common cold got passed from author to author. Whatever. Please, please, try making your own bread. And please, please, please try letting it rise somewhere other than a warm place!

Here's the thing: yeast will grow faster in a warm place, but that fast growth doesn't give the dough time to develop all that wonderful character, to reach its full potential. That takes time! And there are a variety of things you can do to give it that time. I will occasionally retard a rise by letting the shaped loaf rise in the fridge overnight (but letting the dough come back to room temperature for a couple of hours before baking!) I will choose a cooler spot, or chill the bowl in which the dough is going to rise.

Anyway, I'm thinking about posting some more thoughts on this in the next little while.

Did I get a rise?

Yours, seated,

On saying "I love you"

There is a wonderful book by the amazing Australian childrens author, Mem Fox, called Koala Lou: the gist of the story is that Koala Lou's mother tells her she loves her every day, until along come sisters and brothers, and she is too busy.
So Koala Lou, after brooding and getting upset, decides to enter the Bush Olympics -- she'll win the gum tree climbing competition and finally, her mother will say, once again, those words she longs to hear: "I love you".

Well, the story is wonderful - and at the end, her mother does say "Koala Lou, I *do* love you, I always have, and I always will".

The point of this? I try to tell Boo (4) and Skibo (2 going on 3) this every day, so that they know that they are loved, and so that they don't have to regard saying "I love you" as a freakish thing to say!

Yours, in love, with LOML and my sprogs,


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Anglo-US relations

As a US relation of my Anglo relatives, I care deeply about how the two countries see each other. And there are plenty of discussions going on at the moment on more political blogs than my little site about the rift in the "special relationship" that
the US and Britain have: but they all focus on Iraq.
Now don't get me wrong: Iraq is important -- it is special in at least one way: it is the clearest example of the US administration either lying or being completely incompetent (specifically on their reasons for going to war with Iraq) that can be understood by any population not in thrall to Bush and his minions (for which you should read: anyone who is not a US republican, plus a few who are).
However, in the rest of the world, there are lots of other important, perhaps even more important reasons to detest, nay, detest the administration. Global warming is probably the easiest, and most important one to point out, particularly in a week of European instability in the weather! And then there are all the other treaties the US signed and unsigned, or worse, forced a tipping point for.

There are lots of other reasons for (the rest of the world) to detest US. Let's all work to give them fewer, please? Because you know, just because we have a village idiot, it isn't necessarily the case that we should give him the keys to the village and make him mayor!

Yours, ranting,

Arthurian legends

I am a big fan of King Arthur flour, and of their internet/catalogue shop in general: I buy yeast (SAF gold) from them regularly, at ridiculously low prices (I buy a pound for what I could buy an ounce for in the supermarket in packet form!) I like the fact that they stock danish breadwhisks (or brotpicks).
However, their shipping leaves a little to be desired.
I placed an order on Tuesday last week, admittedly, after the close of business (okay, at 8:30 pm), so let's call it Wednesday morning. At 9am on Wednesday I got an acknowledgement: but by Thursday evening there was no shipping notice yet: I emailed on Friday afternoon, and finally, on Friday evening, I got a notice that it had shipped. With an expected delivery date of next Saturday. Yes, a full 11 days after ordering!
Now, once, a while ago, years ago, this would have been acceptable, usual business practice. For a company with a marginal web/catalogue presence, this would be acceptable still. But for a company as catalogue and net-dependent as King Arthur? Let's just say, it's hardly pulling a sword out of a stone.

I will continue to buy from them -- without trepidation -- but at the same time, I am very disappointed. And since I will continue to buy from them, I feel a need to express my disappointment in a vaguely public fashion.

KA: please, if you are reading this, please improve your shipping!

Yours, resentful,

In hot water

Dinner tonight: chicken pot pie with friends. The chicken pot pie was cooked: the friends were barely pickled.... or more precisely, neither bare nor pickled.
I decided, since LOML's decision yesterday not to eat with the sprogs and me, that we needed to do something with all of the chicken we had left: and since we had extra cold chicken, a chicken pot pie seemed to be calling.
Especially since we had lots of carcasses to make stock from -- so this morning, into the pan went the bones, water, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, peppercorns (no salt: always salt stock after you know how much you are going to reduce it!) etc (in case I'm leaving anything out!)
The stock simmered for ages, then, after straining it, and reducing for an hour or so, to several cups of the stock I added a diced onion, some chopped celery, garlic, carrots. After simmering for about an hour or so to cook (especially the carrots) (and the onions) (and the garlic!) I added the chicken, and a little cream,
and now, some salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Meanwhile, (just before adding the chicken) I had made some hot water crust pastry. This was something I have been wanting to try for ages: it can be made in the heat of summer -- indeed, it is better made then -- and you have to keep the dough warm instead of fighting to keep it cold.
Hot water crust pastry:
By weight, you'll need:
2+ parts flour (I used all purpose: this is supposed to be a sturdy pastry)
1 part water
1 part fat
1 small amount of salt
I used 24 oz of flour, 10 oz water, 5 oz each of lard and vegetable shortening
and about a teaspoon of salt (not enough salt, it turned out)
Bring the water and the fat to a boil on the stove: sift together the flour and salt: make a well, pour in the boiling mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon. No need for delicacy here. When it is a dough, immediately roll out into base and top, etc.
I made two 8 inch pies: and the amount of dough was just about perfect.

Line the pie plates with a piece of dough: fill the plates with chicken pot pie mix, top with dough, seal, slash the tops, brush with egg if you care. Stick it into the 425 F oven for about 20 minutes, turn down the heat to 350 and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

It was really good, except for being under salted: once we added salt, it was really very good.

As always, if you try it, and like it, please let me know!

Yours, in hot water,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

As if you care:-)

This was sent to me today by a friend:
Answering machine message:
"I can't come to the phone right now,
but thank you for caring enough to call.
I am making some changes in my life.
Please leave a message after the beep.
If I do not return your call,
you are one of the changes."

Yours, but not to you,

Mary Poppins versus The Princess Bride

So this afternoon, I thought, would be the perfect time to try to introduce the sprogles to The Princess Bride -- quite possibly my favourite movie (well, maybe not: that is surely Casablanca: but it is definitely in my list of top 20 movies, and I find it almost impossible to separate at that level). I've watched it over and over again, and love it!
But they are too young. We got to the shrieking eels, and I knew I couldn't put them through the rest of it. Another couple of year, perhaps, for Boo, and maybe even then Skibo, though younger, will be ready. But not yet. Oh well. Dang.
So we put on Mary Poppins. And are happily ensconced in magic babysitting:-)

Yours, with a spoonful of sugar,

A rift in the dinner-time continuum

Grrr. Chicken is in the oven. Potatoes are (par)boiling on the stove. Carrots are chopped. Everything but roasting the red peppers is underway. And what does LOML say? "Is it okay if I go out for a while with * and *, and oh, would you mind if I didn't come home for supper?". "No", I say. "That will be fine", I say. And truly, I mean it. I know what it is to need to get away from the house. Nonetheless.
Oh well.

Yours, 100 mouthfuls of solitude,

Dinner tonight

I think that we are all in serious need of comfort food right now --- not sure exactly why that is, but I am sensing a slight ultrasensitivity in everyone in the house today --- and the weather is miserable, and the corn in the store looked awful, so corn isn't going to cut it tonight.
I bought a chicken (organic, raised in the mountains of NC north of here, I believe, so it is not quite local, but it is a flavourful brand...), carrots, potatoes and red bell peppers. We have onions, bratwurst and bacon in the fridge, and bread dough ready to bake on the counter. I think that I'm going to stuff the chicken with lemon and garlic, wrap it in a layer of bacon, and throw sausages in the pan round it, and roast it at a high-ish temperature, with potatoes parboiled then roasted in the juices, roasted red peppers and vichy-style carrots as colour and vegetables.
The carrots I slice coarsely, and then boil in lightly salted water until the carrots are cooked and the water is almost gone: then add a little sugar and some butter and cook until the rest of the water is gone, to give a lovely buttery caramel flavour to the carrots.

Can you guess that I haven't had lunch, and hence I'm hungry?

Yours, salivating in advance!

Party time

For some reason, it seems that the months of July through November are the birthday months for everyone except me --- Boo, Skibo, all of Boo and Skibo's friends, and LOML too (although adult birthdays don't really count in the grand scheme of things after sprogs, right?)

So today I duly carted Boo and Skibo off to I's 5th birthday party: they had put up a 12 or 15 foot water slide in their yard (apparently it was cheaper to buy this --- by a lot --- than to rent a somewhat bigger one, given the cost of liability insurance!) as well as a small wading pool, a bubble blowing machine, a wiggly-worm-sprinkler, water squirters, a tent, and other smaller things. Boo had a great time, I think, sliding down time after time, laughing her head off -- but Skibo just wanted to hold my hand the whole time: I guess that he was going through separation anxiety or something, but whatever it was, it was a pain.

I have to say that as much fun as it is to see the little ones having fun, I find these childrens' parties, birthday and otherwise, to be rather tedious. I'll be happy when they are a bit older and the parties are strictly drop-off only.

Still, that is a year or more away, certainly more than that with Skibo, mine limpet, limpet mine. And so, I await the coming birthday season with more than a little trepidation.

Yours, trepidatiously:-)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cooler heads will prevail

Or at least, that is the plan --- after weeks of threatening, I finally got my hair cut today: it feels so good to have it shorter again: just in time for the weather to take a warmer turn again. The past few days have been a bit more reasonable than the earlier part of the month: the temperatures were under 90 all week, I believe, and we were able to eat outside on the deck several times without glowing profusely. Well, okay, actually I don't glow or perspire. I sweat. Like a horse. And profusely, this week too, but not as profusely as some weeks --- sort of like my blogging was a little lighter this week, so was.... okay... I'll leave that topic alone.

Yours, leaving it out,

Dinner tonight

Dinner tonight, a reprise of the steamed pork buns of which I've written before.

I tried a new addition to the filling, though: it seemed to me that I needed a little more depth to the sweetness, a little more stickiness: so I added about a tablespoonful of molasses prior to thickening it with cornstarch and water.
As an idea, I think it was successful. And as always, it was nice to see the children eat it without having to press them too hard:-)

Yours, experimentally,

Frogwarts School of Dark Arts and Craftiness

Boo and Skibo both attend preschool during the year: this year they are returning to a local Montessori school, where they will be encouraged to learn all sorts of arts and crafts skills. Boo will be in the same class as last year (it goes from 3-5, I believe) and Skibo will be entering either the same class as her, or a parallel level with a different teacher (I suspect we know, but in a CRAFT moment, I've temporarily forgotten).
So, along the way this summer LOML and I have tried to entertain them with our amateur version of the same things. Sort of Frogwarts School of Dark Arts and Craftiness. LOML is great with the glue stick and glitter: I've been needing to knead, and writing out words after words so that Boo can trace them out, spell them out, sound them out (phew, there are a lot of good games she gets to play with just a few hand written words!): I get to draw balloons --- lots of balloons, the only thing that I can credibly say to be able to draw: we've made paper aeroplanes, and I've even had them do some simple origami!
(Word to the wise: if you are going to get children under the age of 8 or 9 to do origami, don't!) But if you really are going to, stick with really simple models, and
(this is the key point) pre-crease all the folds first. That way your sprog just has to emphasize an existing crease, but does get the thrill of folding. Same trick with paper aeroplanes: precrease everything for them: the plane will practically fall into place for them once you do that!

Yours, craftily,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Daily gripe

Why is it that Boo and Skibo don't need naps any more? Well, more precisely, since I'm actually okay with that, why is it that if they do take a nap, they end up needing to stay up late? Well, even that is not it: what it is, in fact, is the following: we don't try to get the sprogs to take a nap any more, but then there are days like today: we all went down to the farmers' market this afternoon, and Skibo had an intense need to be held: and then, when being held, fell asleep on LOML's shoulder.
We brought him home, laid him on the bed, and he didn't get up until gone 6 o'clock. Is it any wonder that I didn't manage to finally get him to sleep again until nearly 10?

Still, it could have been worse: I was expecting to have to stay up until at least 11 before he'd go down:-)

Yours, in mild frustration,

FLA of the day

My current favourite five letter acronym: CRAFT, as in "I'm having a CRAFT moment": it stands for "Can't Remember A F(lipping?) Thing". Now, where did I put my keys? And my glasses? And my brain?

Yours, in absent(minded)ia,

Better news for me...

I am relieved to see that the flood warning posted Sunday from Windsor to the Bell Weir lock (which includes the area where my parents live) has been downgraded to a flood watch: still some concern, but in my parents case specifically it eases my worries greatly: they are far enough from the river that I now don't expect them to have any major problems.
However, while my family's situation seems much better, it is clear that there are hundreds of thousands still in trouble: did I hear correctly that there are 340,000 homes without water still? That is very distressing. It may not be a disaster on the level of Katrina, as CNN keeps pointing out ("Oooohhhh, look, Britain's floods are nothing by comparison to ours") but then over here we have a governing philosophy of "Government is incompetent: let's prove it", whereas I get the impression that Blair and Brown at least strive to be competent!

Yours, in some relief,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Books, not the town.

I discovered yet again that it is possible to read a book from start to finish. In a matter of just a few days. Not as fast as once I would have (before sprogs that is), but still not too bad. If only I could continue the trend! I shall have to take the appropriate books to the beach with me in August.

On a related note, Boo and Skibo wanted me to read some of HP and the DH to them the other day, so I just started in mid paragraph: they seemed to like it, so LOML and I decided to try them on HP and the PS (actually HP and the SS, since the publisher decided that USians can't be trusted to understand "philosophers' stone", while they can be trusted to invent a meaning for "sorcerers' stone") (we have PS in paper, SS in hardback, but for some reason LOML started reading the hardback version).

This past evening I read them a few pages: the trek the Dursleys take trying to avoid the Hogwarts letters, then the events at the hut on the rock. It was nice to read a book which was not a picture book, that had a real narrative, for a change:-) Oh, and wasn't about Dora or Diego or Bob the Builder either! And the sprogs seemed to like it quite well --- they certainly wanted me to continue well past when I expected them to...

Yours, aloud,

Flooding update

As of this evening, the river downstream of Windsor has not yet flooded. This is good, except that it was not apparently expected to flood until tomorrow. Apparently, they built the "Jubilee River" around Windsor to protect the (historically hugely important) towns of Windsor and Eton, and this is threatening to make the flooding in Datchet, Old Windsor and Wraysbury somewhat worse.
So, for now I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and planning to call parents in the morning to see how the waters are waving.

Any additional finger crossing by my blogfriends would be appreciated!

Yours, fingers, toes, eyes and nose crossed,

New ventures

With LOML's birthday coming up, and with us both wanting to get composting going on a more doable scale (we have a huge unmanageable pile, and a smaller compost bin which was cheap, but is impossible to maneuver) I ordered a Envirocycle: it had good writeups on a number of (apparently unrelated to the company) sites comparing different composters which can be rotated: and came in several hundred dollars cheaper than the top models which we had looked at before. Under $200 including shipping in the end.
If it works well, I'll certainly post updates here. Well, I'll post updates whether it works well or not!

The next purchase was a couple of small brotpicks (danish bread whisks) from King Arthur Flour etc, since I was buying a bunch of yeast from them, and thought to rationalize the shipping: that way when we go to the beach, the four kids can share two small brotpicks, and the five adults can share my larger version. The current plan is for Boo and Skibo, together with B, to teach LOML and Boo's mother to make bread:-) Now that is going to be wonderful to watch (and of course, I will help with the lessons).

Finally, I've decided, after reading various more adventurous foodblogs than mine, that it is time to make mozzarella: I went to buy rennet from our local "health" food store ten miles from here (the nearest, and only one in about a thirty mile radius): and they had never even heard of rennet, let alone stocked it. So that is coming internet bound too. The next few days are going to be fun:-)

Unfortunately, everything I want to buy at the moment has to be ordered over the internet: I would far far rather buy locally, even at a slight premium, than order over the net: I actively want to support my local businesses, but they don't carry what I want to buy. And I'm sorry: plastic mozzarella is no substitute for real rennet!

Yours, action at a distance,

HP over

I don't wish to give any spoilers to anyone. That said, I'm going to post everything I want to say in comments below --- this is a bit of a pain, since blogger won't allow me to subsequently edit things -- so I can't appear to be smarter than I actually am!

And more to the point, I can't add subsequent thoughts to the top comment: I have to create a new comment below....

Yours, hiding no spoilers,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In, Out, You shake it all about

Let's see: last week we decided we were not going to be entertaining every night. And we succeeded!
Wednesday: friends over (but who can call it "entertaining")
Thursday: friends over (different friends) (but who can call it "entertaining")
Friday: dinner en famille. Sans les autres personnes!
Saturday: went to (different) friends for dinner
Sunday: friends over (different friends) (they don't have kids: let's call it "entertaining")
Monday: went to (different) friends for dinner
Tuesday: friends over (different friends) (but who can call in "entertaining")
Tomorrow we have no plans. Yet. Give me a minute or two....

Yours, enjoying 100 seconds of solitude,


Less than a third of the book to go. I think so far that I am having more fun reading this that I did Half Blood Prince. This may be because I am not staying up to four in the morning to finish it!
I may come back and write my thoughts up on this one later --- but perhaps not. We shall see.

Yours, continuing this evening,

Flooding in the UK

Perhaps I haven't been following the news as assiduously the past few days as I normally do. Perhaps it is because it was a weekend, and the "news" channels here put on dross rather than news (mainly shock value shows to scare you witless about your children's future). But perhaps, just perhaps, the news shows haven't given the floods in the UK the attention that they might deserve. I didn't hear anything about it on the news until this morning on NPR. My thanks to RT over at Cornish Dreamer for blogging about it yesterday: it is how I came to hear about it.

LOML's parents live on high ground with no rivers nearby, and in an area which has not had the massive rains, so we are not worried about them. My parents live about half a mile or so from the Thames, opposite a small, man-made lake, so I had more concern about them.

I finally spoke to my parents yesterday afternoon, evening their time. Apparently they are expecting flooding today or tomorrow (although yesterday's rain was much less than expected, and today is supposed to be nice and sunny) --- they are downriver from Oxford, where things are flooded out.

Apparently there are still people in their village who remember the floods of 194x, when people were using rowing boats down the main roads to get around, and there is some fear that this year's floods will meet that high-water mark. A few years ago the flooding was restricted to property about half a mile from the Thames, and they are on slightly higher ground, so I am hopeful that they will be okay.

My thoughts go out to all those in lower lying places right now....

Yours, with cheer, because even in times of gloom and glummery it is better to work with a smile than slink with a frown,

Monday, July 23, 2007

Fresh corn

Yesterday was a day of bread and corn. Amongst other things, for which see below.

But it will live on in our minds as a day of corn. The first decent batch of corn from our garden, and it was good. Not stunningly stellar, not simply super, but definitely better than most we have bought this year. And I think that when we pick more in a week or so, it will have grown bigger and will be magnificent. (I think that I am being over-hyper-critical at the moment, as I often am of any endeavour in which I play a role: I shouldn't do so regarding the corn, as I had nothing to do with it!) And in the morning, LOML, having consulted the runes and the gardening zones for our region, planted some more corn, so we should have a harvest in the autumn too.

Of bread? Big, ungainly, shapeless loaf. Quite delicious. Freeform from a dough loose enough to be almost ciabatta, it is big and wholey holey. K&K raved about it, as they did about LOML's orange icecream (following Nigella Lawson's recipe)
though she topped it with drizzles of ganache. Lily-gilding? Naaaah.

We do love having people over for dinner! It seems like it just isn't a week if we don't have people over at least three times: the week just seems, somehow, empty...

Yours, cornily,

Light posting

I realised this morning that this had been very light posting here for the past two days, and in the mirror I could see that it had actually gotten to about 3 posts a days most days prior to that. I think that perhaps I should aim to post fewer but more interesting posts in general. In some sense, this weekend has been a liberating one -- it is not a case of "I need to have a day without posting, I need to have a day without posting", which can become a self-defeating mental block: the day without posting just happened, and so I can move on.

Oh, and the HP and the DH update? I'm about a third of the way through: basically I didn't get a chance to read more than about a dozen pages on Sunday: LOML had a bunch of errands to run, so I was left with the happy task of sprog-watcher-in-chief for a few hours: then we had K&K over for supper, which as always was wonderful (roast pork, roast potatoes, carrots and the next posting).
Finished up the day by watching the first half of the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie --- if it hadn't been so late we'd have watched it all, but with having to get up early for Monday it didn't seem to be a good idea.

And so, HP waits, Voldemort lurking in the shadows, Snape ready to pounce,...

Yours, in librus interruptus,

Saturday, July 21, 2007

HP in hand

Harry Potter in hand, sprogs' bread shaped and proofing on the counter, sprogs watching Robin Hood (the cartoon version) on DVD: LOML taking a much needed nap, and I am going to settle down with a book and a beverage and enjoy my afternoon! Occasional breaks to bake bread, but basically lots of lovely reading ahead!

Expect another posting, oh, three days from now:-)

Yours, in anticipation!

Oh Joy!

This morning, unbidden, Boo decided to make bread. If I would help her! And she and Skibo between them were able to figure out that we needed bowls, yeast, water, flour, sugar, salt, and clean hands!

Yours, proud of the little ones,

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hookie squared

Let's try this again: the sprogs are now playing nicely in the dining room, the soup is on the stove, the bread is in the oven, LOML is working at the desktop computer in our office, and things are quiet for a few minutes. Okay, now that I have jinxed everything for a few more minutes....
So I played hookie today. Not really, because the requirement for me basically is to be there when I have to teach: since I am co-teaching the course this summer we don't always both have to be there, and today I had to go to the doctor's: a legitimate excuse. So it was only hookie in my mind. But it was good hookie.
This afternoon I took a nap. A siesta. An afternoon snooze. Forty winks. A cat nap. Whatever the words, it was wonderful: and just long enough.
I threw some pain ordinaire together. That's white bread, folks, with not much fuss or frenzy, just the recipe that you see on the back of flour bags. (Well, okay, perhaps a little bit of breadbox's magic touch:-)
I made some soup. Basic, homey, satisfying chicken soup. The house smells wonderful! To echo the poem from Archy and Mehitabel that I posted a few days ago,
breakfast breakfast
i am full of breakfast
and they are at breakfast
in heaven
they breakfast in heaven
all s well with the world

It's not breakfast, but the sentiment is the same!

Yours, purring,

Chicken soup for the breadbox soul

So yesterday, as often recently, I decided to do breaded chicken breasts: they are simple, relatively quick, and the sprogs actually usually wolf them up (which as anyone with a 4 or 2 year old knows is an important and good feature of any food group at that age!)
But chicken breasts are not cheap at the moment, and even less cheap if you buy them boneless and skinless. So of course, rather than take the easy but expensive way out, BreadBox bought on-the-bone, skin-on chicken breasts. Now, not liking to waste anything, and most especially good food, I threw the bones etc into a stock pot with a diced onion or two, some carrots, celery, garlic, pepper corns and a bunch of water. Possibly some other stuff too --- I'm telling this from memory, remember? Today, I bought some more chicken, cut it into pieces, threw it into the stock, and poached it: now the stock and the chicken meat are waiting for me to assemble chicken soup with rice for dinner. Dice an onion, chop up some carrots and celery, season with salt, pepper, some herbs -- marjoram, perhaps tarragon or thyme, depending on my mood. Shred the chicken and throw it all together.

Oh, and of course, because it's me, I threw together a batch of dough to make a loaf for dinner too.

Yours, getting peckish already,

Playing hookie

A rare day for me this summer: a visit to the doctor's office this morning, and rather than going in to work afterwards, I went shopping for a bit, and then came home: I'm sitting with the kids running around me (there are three others over to play at the moment) in a state of parental bliss. Which I just jinxed -- one of them hit another, and there is screaming too....

A completely redirected post in mid-comment....

Yours, misdirected,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This weather

is really difficult for me. There is an old saying: "Horses sweat, gentlemen perspire and ladies glow". Well, in this heat, honey, let me tell you: I sweat. Any suggestions for how to beat the heat when the humidity hits high, and the heat hits hotter?

Yours, in anticipation of suggestions,

A growing of farmers' markets

Our little farmers' market has started to expand a little bit this year: each week it seems that there is one more vendor --- not always a farmer, sometimes a jewelery maker, or a photographer selling prints, but it is getting more interesting each week: who knows: it a little while we may actually get a real farmers market!
Our purchases today: two gallons of raw milk: two dozen eggs from real free range hens: a couple of pounds of green beans: 8 ears of corn: a couple of pounds of tomatoes: a couple of pounds of potatoes: and all grown or produced within 10 miles of here. We talk about trying to buy local produce, but it is really nice to be able to actually do it, even on a small scale!

Yours, in situ,

Swimming pictures

You can almost feel the concentration that the little ones are exuding in this picture: from the left, Skibo, Boo, D and B. And Miss K, of course, who keeps them all in line.

Yours, out of the pool,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Everythings coming up bubbles

For the first time since they've been taking lessons, I got a chance this afternoon to go swimming with Boo and Skibo --- and wow! am I ever impressed! It is such a great change from just a small number of weeks ago, when Boo practiced fear personified, and Skibo's nickname was about to become "Limpet Mine".

I am so proud of them!

Yours, swimmingly,


An evening for simplicity --- the food: pork chops, bone in, thick cut, seasoned and grilled: new-ish potatoes, mashed: corn on the cob, soaked and grilled in the husks: and to embellish the simple, to add a touch of effervescence, take the mashed potatoes, throw some of them into a little hot butter in a skillet and give them a crisp, crusty exterior.

Food fit for a ... well, a human being! And who can say better than that?

Yours, sated,

The sun is shining, the birds are singing

and I am in the mood for poetry.

Bad poetry. Poetry so bad it's good.
archy and mehitabel.

Yours, at the center of my universe,

the robin and the worm
by don marquis

a robin said to an
angleworm as he ate him
i am sorry but a bird
has to live somehow the
worm being slow witted could
not gather his
dissent into a wise crack
and retort he was
effectually swallowed
before he could turn
a phrase
by the time he had
reflected long enough
to say but why must a
bird live
he felt the beginnings
of a gradual change
invading him
some new and disintegrating
was stealing along him
from his positive
to his negative pole
and he did not have
the mental stamina
of a jonah to resist the
process of assimilation
which comes like a thief
in the night
demons and fishhooks
he exclaimed
i am losing my personal
identity as a worm
my individuality
is melting away from me
odds craw i am becoming
part and parcel of
this bloody robin
so help me i am thinking
like a robin and not
like a worm any
longer yes yes i even
find myself agreeing
that a robin must live
i still do not
understand with my mentality
why a robin must live
and yet i swoon into a
condition of belief
yes yes by heck that is
my dogma and i shout it a
robin must live
amen said a beetle who had
preceded him into the
interior that is the way i
feel myself is it not
wonderful when one arrives
at the place
where he can give up his
ambitions and resignedly
nay even with gladness
recognize that it is a far
far better thing to be
merged harmoniously
in the cosmic all
and this confortable situation
in his midst
so affected the marauding
robin that he perched
upon a blooming twig
and sang until the
blossoms shook with ecstacy
he sang
i have a good digestion
and there is a god after all
which i was wicked
enough to doubt
yesterday when it rained
breakfast breakfast
i am full of breakfast
and they are at breakfast
in heaven
they breakfast in heaven
all s well with the world
so intent was this pious and
murderous robin
on his own sweet song
that he did not notice
mehitabel the cat
sneaking toward him
she pounced just as he
had extended his larynx
in a melodious burst of
thanksgiving and
he went the way of all
flesh fish and good red herring
a ha purred mehitabel
licking the last
feather from her whiskers
was not that a beautiful
song he was singing
just before i took him to
my bosom
they breakfast in heaven
all s well with the world
how true that is
and even yet his song
echoes in the haunted
woodland of my midriff
peace and joy in the world
and over all the
provident skies
how beautiful is the universe
when something digestible meets
with an eager digestion
how sweet the embrace
when atom rushes to the arms
of waiting atom
and they dance together
skimming with fairy feet
along a tide of gastric juices
oh feline cosmos you were
made for cats
and in the spring
old cosmic thing
i dine and dance with you
i shall creep through
yonder tall grass
to see if peradventure
some silly fledgling thrushes
newly from the nest
be not floundering therein
i have a gusto this
morning i have a hunger
i have a yearning to hear
from my stomach
further music in accord with
the mystic chanting
of the spheres of the stars that
sang together in the dawn of
creation prophesying food
for me i have a faith
that providence has hidden for me
in yonder tall grass
still more
ornithological delicatessen
oh gayly let me strangle
what is gayly given
well well boss there is
something to be said
for the lyric and imperial
believe that everything is for
you until you discover
that you are for it
sing your faith in what you
get to eat right up to the
minute you are eaten
for you are going
to be eaten
will the orchestra please
strike up that old
tutankhamen jazz while i dance
a few steps i learnt from an
egyptian scarab and some day i
will narrate to you the most
merry light headed wheeze
that the skull of yorick put
across in answer to the
melancholy of the dane and also
what the ghost of
hamlet s father replied to the skull
not forgetting the worm that
wriggled across one of the picks
the grave diggers had left behind
for the worm listened and winked
at horatio while the skull and the
ghost and prince talked
saying there are more things
twixt the vermiform appendix
and nirvana than are dreamt of
in thy philosophy horatio
fol de riddle fol de rol
must every parrot be a poll

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What are the important things in life?

There are some obvious ones --- and no less important for that: family, friends, enough to eat, and a roof over your head, health. And less obvious but still important ones, such as job satisfaction, a sense of purpose, of belonging, and for many, of a deity.
Those are not the things I mean. They are big things. What I mean, is, what are the important little things: the things that you can get along with on a daily basis, even longer, but would really put a hurting on you if you had to do without for a sustained period of time.
I'm thinking, for me, bread. (Well, yes, you expected that.) (And if you've read some of my earlier posts, you'd know that that is how I came to learn to make bread....) I'd also place music right up there. And salt. Salt is pretty important. Just as in the fairy tale.

How about you?
Yours, in inquisition,

What made the bread sing on Sunday II

Of course, when bakers talk of bread singing, they don't mean what I wrote about earlier. They mean that moment, a few minutes after you've removed the bread from the oven, when it is sitting on the rack to cool: you're controlling your lust to slice into it, since you've believed Breadbox on this (let it cool enough: it really will be better) and suddenly, out of the corner of your ear, you hear it. It's whispering to you, a melodic, crackling whisper of a song, like an old 78 played by hand: and it is whispering "I'll be good, I'll be good, I'll be so good for you..."

Yours, (shhhh....)

What made the bread sing on Sunday

On Sunday, when the kids made bread, I used a little trick to improve the flavour. It is a simple trick that anyone can do, and it is a lot less trouble than making the mixed starter bread I've written about before. I had baked a batch of bread on Saturday, and had reserved some of the dough: I left it on the counter overnight to over-rise (the kitchen is not that warm at night if the stove is off). On Sunday, when the children were making their dough, I broke up the old dough into small pieces, and added them to the childrens' bowls, while their doughs were still at a liquidy batter stage (essentially proofing the yeast with all the water and about a quarter of the flour).
Of course, this was easily possible since I'd made dough the day before.... but you can refrigerate the dough, or freeze it until you need it. It won't be quite as good, perhaps, but still rather tasty:-)

Anyway, the flavour of the childrens' breads really did sing: a beautiful tenor or baritone: Pavarotti style, Nessun Dorma.

Yours, in gentle deceit and rhapsody,

Monday, July 16, 2007

What I'm (going to be) listening to right now

Awareness had a post today about the music of your life -- and I posted the following in response:

Many years ago, when I first got something approximating a walkman, I experienced, for the first time, my life with a soundtrack. And the soundtrack that day was Vivaldi's winter, from the Four Seasons. A marvellous discovery --- replaced gradually by a love, when I am in the country, of walking with the music of the world. In town, give me "Last train to glory" by Arlo Guthrie, or "The Mary Ellen Carter" by Stan Rogers.

In my life, with LOML, we have the theme from the Prairie Home Companion (the Tishomongo Blues, the real name of the song --- we think of it as "hear that old piano, from down the avenue"), the Jerome Kern standard "Folk who Live on the Hill": Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's "Our House (is a very very very fine house)", etc....

LOML and I actually got permission from Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion folks to record the song from the show and play it as the first song at our wedding:-)

To this, Awareness responded by posting the last verse of Mary Ellen Carter. So, to all who've not heard of Stan Rogers, but like folk music, please, do yourself a favour and find and listen to this song. I call it my lifeblood song, the one I rely on when things get bad enough to need it. And I love to listen to it when things are good too --- and I can really belt out the line about "smiling bastards laughing at you everywhere you go"

Yours, in no need now, but prepared,


The photo doesn't do this justice --- the flash washed out the bread --- but trust me, buy Baking with Julia and try this recipe!

Yours, glowing,

The crumb

Any words necessary?

Yours, pleased:-)

Picture of one of the guests

While the bread was proofing this afternoon, the children all went out to the front porch to draw and colour: Boo decided that she would draw B's daddy: this is her first portrait of a non-family member (which means that the electronic version is the only version we get to keep:-( )

I'll say this: she's already a better artist than I ever was!

Yours, in awe!

Photo of the bread

Here are the loaves that Boo, Skibo, and Boo's unrelated 9 month younger twin B made (together with the larger loaves that B's daddy and I made at the same time): in order, they are made by: B, Skibo, B's daddy, me, Boo. Boo had a little help with the braiding, and I helped all of them with slashing the loaves.

Yours, proud of the sprogs,

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Sprogs all made bread -- each of them had a cup of water in a bowl, added yeast, and flour and salt and mixed and kneaded, and with a little help, shaped --- we're letting it rise one more time, and will bake it in a little while. They were fantastic!

Yours, rising,

Entertaining is fun

Entertaining is also, on occasion, tiring.. But always fun:-) But neither LOML nor I realised until this afternoon that we had had people over to dinner Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, and that was before today! And we didn't have anyone over more than twice... I think (and I mean this seriously!) that the biggest thing it shows is how many good friends we are lucky enough to have!

Yours, surprised,

Saturday, July 14, 2007

And the evening is over

And I am sitting here, alone. Some guests have gone, and others have gone to camp in a tent on the back porch, with LOML and Boo and Skibo. I'm happy not to camp out, so I get to sleep in a bed tonight. At last check, the sprogs were all bouncing off tent walls, so I suspect the non-sprogs out there are in for a long night:-) Don't say I didn't warn them. Well, actually, I didn't, except by setting a good example.... but that should be enough!

Yours, feather-bedded,

Two doughs down, tomorrow the other

Well, the children never did feel like making bread, so we have postponed that to tomorrow morning. The other bread, on the other hand, was other than inedible.
The first loaf disappeared in less than 5 minutes (and there was a lot of other food with it!) and the second loaf didn't take too much longer.
The final menu tonight was:

Cream of Mushroom Soup (Elizabeth David, French Provincial Cooking)

Boeuf Bourguignonne (Margaret Fulton, Special Cookbook)
Basmati Rice (side of the container)
Ratatoulli (1000 Best Vegetarian Recipes, plus my changes -- more me than recipe)

Galette aux Peches (combination of a bunch of recipes: tart dough, peaches, peach preserves, topped with egg yolk and cream to form a custard on top).

Successful. Stuffed.

Yours, sitting unable to move.

One dough done, two to do

The brioche is baked, sliced, french-toasted and eaten. Well, one loaf of it, anyway.
I've shaped the loaves for dinner, and in a little while the kids and I are going to make another batch --- we'll let that proof in the fridge overnight, and bake it in the morning: that way it will be a bit sourdough-ish.

Yours, in process,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Allegro, con brioche!

Off to the kitchen, to do some brioche-making (well, a couple of steps in the middle of the process). The recipe, as with the mixed starter bread of a couple of days ago, is from the wonderful Baking with Julia: it starts with some warm milk, yeast and an egg: mix in some flour, top with more flour, and let proof. Then add eggs, sugar, flour, knead for ages, add butter slowly, knead for ages, let rise, fold, let rise in the fridge overnight....

Tomorrow morning early, I'll shape the loaves, then bake in time to make french toast with it later (it would be better if it were a little stale, but I didn't have the time/space/energy/other physical quanties yesterday to make it!)

Yours, lento

When doing a good deed feels good, or kind serendipity

We really did invite E and A over for dinner because they were in hard times. Yes, it was because they are kind-of my students too, and in hard times, but it was meant as an act of kindness (and taken that way too!)
That said, we had an absolutely wonderful time: the food was simple, but simply wonderful (that is my ever-so-modest opinion) (but also the expressed opinion of everybody else, including Boo and Skibo!) the company was wonderful and E and A both played wonderfully with the sprogs:-)

Yours, contented,

Cause it's raining, raining in my heart....

Listening to Buddy Holly, which is appropriate today: not that it is raining in my heart: but it is raining, in an apartment.

More specifically, it is raining in the apartment of two graduate student friends of mine, and so they are staying in a hotel for a few days while the pipes are fixed. LOML and I decided that it would be a good idea to have them over for dinner, to save them having to eat out at a restaurant for at least one night. So hopefully they are going to come over this evening. Something simple, nothing fancy: probably breaded chicken fillets (pounded first, then sauted in a hot skillet) with squash and potatoes. Oh, and corn. LOML is going to phone up the fruit-picking place and make sure that they have some, and drive out there this afternoon. We are indeed in need of great corn again!

And while I'm at home with the sprogs, I'm going to get started on the breads for tomorrow --- including brioche for french toast!

Yours, already cooking in my mind,

Light at the end of the tunnel

and it's not a mirror reflecting the headlights...
And so the busiest week of the year comes to an end: the undergraduate program that we run finishes with us all going out to lunch at noon, and so after all the tearful goodbyes, promises to stay in touch, and (some bound to be broken) guarantees that they will continue to work on their projects, by 2 or 3pm my life will be my own again --- at least for half the workday.
Of course, the double-time graduate course that we are running still has another month to go, and 3-4 straight hours in the classroom every morning is quite tiring enough by itself!

Yours, spare-tired and exhausted,

(ps: that's tyred, really, in UK-speak, but the pun doesn't work as well:-)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kicked out of the kitchen

Tonight is not my night. In the kitchen, that is. LOML has long wanted to try making southern fried chicken (english style, Nigella, of course), and I have been told to get out.

Hmmph. What's a breadmaker to do???

Yours, ex cucina,

Out of time

For some reason, today feels like Friday..... I am so ready for the weekend.
But no, tomorrow I still have to be at work, and as always, well before 8am. Ugh.

Yours, asynchronously,

A rising tide floods low-lying lands

I was reading Cornish Dreamer this morning, and after reading her post, left a too-long comment on her site. I'm posting it here too, not so more people read it, but so that I can try to be more thoughtful about it, and perhaps go back and edit some of it. It is something I care about, and I want to talk about it. The issue are not irrelevant in the US either --- if we lived in a less economically depressed region than we do, it is probably the case that we'd have a harder time finding a nice house than we did here. And the same is true of Canada too.

As someone with an English accent living abroad, I'm often asked whether I'm "going to go home", i.e. will I return to live in the UK: and after I explain that to me, I will always try and appreciate wherever I am as home, I generally launch into a tirade against the UK: because I love it, and because I know that I can never afford to go back. I see house prices (my parents live outside London near the M25 -- imagine what the prices are like there!) go through the roof and higher, and even though academic salaries have increased in Britain over the past few years, they haven 't gone up enough to afford to live as nicely as here. By a long way.

In Cornwall, it seems, you have the extra pressure of being low-wage, but it is not just that: you have the pressure of being one of the most beautiful areas in the country, so that people with lots of money want to have second or third homes there, which just feeds the resentment.

It is easy, and not necessarily incorrect, to blame this all on an economic system which has fostered and nurtured the growth of inequities in society. This is not, however a prescription for making it better. Would that there was an easy way to fix this!

Sadly enough, I was thinking yesterday of the old "Not the Nine O'clock News" fake ad (I think that it was theirs): with the tag line "Come home to a real fire. Buy a cottage in Wales".

Yours, in absentia,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't underestimate BreadBox!

At the last minute, LOML informed me that we were having friends over for dinner tonight --- "how do you feel about making fish and chips, dear?" Her thought was just to buy fish sticks and throw them and some frozen french fries in the oven. Hah! That'll teach LOML to underestimate BreadBox! So instead I ran to the store, bought some tilapia (the closest to a suitable fish that the store had today), peas, corn and frozen french fries, and ran home to get ready.
Okay, I get it. You noticed that I said frozen french fries (pronounced "chips"). I admit it, I did. I've not had huge success cooking french fries from scratch (or potatoes, for that matter!) and so I buy frozen and fry them in peanut oil. They taste much better than when cooked in the oven, and we only cook them occasionally, so we are not too fascistic about the health issues.
The batter --- a basic beer batter (based on Alton Brown's version, but modified to get the texture right for me): 2 cups of flour, about 20 ounces of dark-ish beer, tablespoon of baking powder, a little salt. Coat the fillets with a dusting of cornstarch, then dip in the batter, fry in medium hot oil (350 or so) until golden.

Oh, and the peas? Baby sweet peas (birdseye or green giant both make good versions) cooked re directions, then tossed with a little butter, touch of sugar and some chopped mint. The mint makes all the difference!

Yours, at the last minute, still cooking!


My colleague, with whom I am co-teaching a course, pointed out that we both have the same problem, we like the sound of our own voices, and that this leads to the condition from which we both suffer: logorrhoea. I believe that since we are co-teaching the course, the correct name for the condition is dialogorrhoea!

Yours, ad infinitum,

Watching the sprogs learn to swim

LOML and I have arranged for Boo and Skibo to have swimming lessons -- the instructor is someone they trust, as she teaches them gymnastics during the non-summer portion of the year. Today was their third class, and I finally got to go and watch them: it was incredible! Miss K, their teacher, is wonderful with them, and had them really getting used to the water. Boo is nearly swimming, and Skibo is able to put his head under water and pretend to read a book. It's wonderful to see them learning so well!

Yours, swimmingly,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I need an excuse

I definitely need an excuse --- to try making pork pies. Like sausage rolls, these are to me an unsung delicacy of traditional English cuisine: hot water crust, with a solid, crusty, almost crunchy bite to it: the jellied texture of the aspic around the filling, this is the stuff of legendary ploughmen's lunchtimes. But I need an excuse to try to make them --- I fear that without a decent reason to succeed, I'll fail, and in failing, lose the will to try again....
St George's day is the obvious --- or perhaps at a pinch November 5th --- but those are both so far away. So what's a poor dislocated soul to do?

Yours, far from home,

One of my favourite food writers is back

so please go visit Syllabub, on the blogroll --- her writing is sublime, as, I suspect, is her food.

Yours in awe,

Lightning and power

How is it, I wonder, that every time we have thunderstorm in our area, say daily for much of the summer, there is an excellent chance that there will be a power outage for several hours somewhere around here? Surely having to dispatch power company employees around the state for much of the summer fixing power lines can't make economic sense? Surely there must be a better way to provide power to houses without making it easy for a storm to take out an entire neighbourhood?

Yours, clueless (not powerless, fortunately)

How did I forget these two pictures???

The moon, through the sea grasses

Yours, in lunacy,

Monday, July 9, 2007

May 2006

Some photos from May last year: our beach trip

Strange and wonderful things on the beach

Dolphins frolicking at a distance

and a little closer in

and sunsets like you wouldn't believe

All in all, a wonderful time was had by all of us: I am hoping for an even better trip this year! A whole week! Can you believe it???

Yours, with happy photographic memories,


We are going to go on vacation! Phew! I thought we might not manage it this year, but it turns out that we can --- in August, for a week, to the coast, across the street from the beach! We're going to the same town that we went to several times last year, though we've not rented the same house twice in a row.

I'll have to check my photos from last year and see if there are any that I can put up here...

Yours in anticipation,

Mixed starter bread

This is adapted (from memory!) from the the recipe in Julia Child's wonderful book of recipes from her friends, Baking with Julia: if you buy just one bread-making and baking book, buy this one. You will, of course, subsequently buy several more, but buy this one first.

To make this, you need to reserve a small piece of dough from a previous batch of bread: the recipe suggests a walnut sized-piece, but this recipe is robust enough that the piece could be bigger (or perhaps even smaller). The dough is made in several stages, and takes a couple of days to make.

Mixed Starter Bread
Stage 1: break up the old dough into small pieces, and place in 1/4 cup of warm water (100-110 F) to soften for a few minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup of bread flour, just to incorporate the flour, not to produce a dough. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place for several hours.

Stage 2: break up the dough, place in 1/4 cup of warm water to soften for a few minutes, stir in 2/3 cup of bread flour to incorporate. Leave for several hours, then chill for at least one and at most 8 hours.

Stage 3: Put 1/2 tsp of yeast into 1 1/4 cup of cool water in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer with bread hook: break up the dough, place in the water to soften for a few minutes. Add 3 cups of bread flour and 1 tbsp salt, and pulse the mixer on low to get the flour mixed without flying everywhere. Once the flour is incorporated, turn the mixer off, cover the bowl, and leave for twenty minutes: this is the autolyse period: the flour will absorb the moisture and the gluten will loosen enough that it will stretch more easily when kneaded.

Turn the mixer on low and mix/knead for 10 minutes. Place in a large bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap (I admit it: I use plastic wrap: call me a philistine!) and leave to rise for an hour and a half.

Stage 4: Remove from the bowl and gently fold down the dough: don't punch it down: do this gently so as not to break all the texture the dough has. Place back in the bowl and allow to rise for another hour.

Stage 5: Remove the dough, shape into loaves, leave to rise, slash and bake. This is essentially the same as for any other bread recipe, so I'll leave out most of the details except for the following: I pre-heat the oven to 450 with stones in: after a few minutes at temperature, I turn it down to 425 and put the bread in: I throw in a half cup or so of water and close the oven door. This creates steam which assists the crust. After a few minutes I turn the oven down to 375 to continue baking. Bake until the crust is golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom: the exact time will depend on your stove, on the type of loaf you've made, etc.

As with all bread, when you take it out of the oven, let it cool on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes!!!! This is really important!

Now, the above is how the recipe recommends: I typically use a larger piece of old dough, about twice as much water and flour at stages 1 and 2, about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of water in stage 3, and a corresponding amount of flour to make a supple dough. I usually make a loaf which is like a batard in length, and perhaps a little fatter (but less than a US "Italian loaf"). I still look at the recipe when I make this, but more as a reminder of which stage I'm at than anything. This recipe is as close to a foolproof recipe for really good white bread as I have found (though as I noted, it does take a while to make!)

As always, if you make this, let me know how it turns out!

Yours, crustily,

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bragging rights?

Here are the loaves that I baked for July 4th:

Yours, in all false modesty!

We have amazing children

Here is Boo, not yet 5, climbing a wall like she was born to it.

And here is Skibo, not yet 3, doing likewise.

Yours, in awe,

On the back burner

As with all bread, when you take it out of the oven, let it cool on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes!!!!As with all bread, when you take it out of the oven, let it cool on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes!!!!for tonight.... literally.... is a sauce for a risotto --- adapted from Risotto alla sbiraglia in Elizabeth David's Italian Cooking.

Risotto Alla Sbiraglia
A few pieces of pancetta (yes, our next-but-one-local grocery store now has this!)
Couple of cups minced onion (2-3 smallish onions)
Red bell pepper, diced
Yellow bell pepper, diced
Several stalks of celery, diced
Several cloves of garlic
1 large can diced tomatoes or several fresh tomatoes, diced
Several chicken breasts
Several sliced mushrooms
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, herbs
White wine

Chop up the pancetta and over medium heat, fry in a little oil: this will flavour the base of the sauce. Saute the onions with the pancetta until transparent: add the bell peppers, celery and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring up to a simmer. Add the herbs. Slice the chicken breasts into long thin slices and add to the sauce, together with the mushrooms. Add wine to cover, and simmer for a long time.

As you see, this is as imprecise as any recipe I've posted --- it almost doesn't matter, for example, which herbs, so long as they taste good to you (I'm partial to basil, oregano, bay, thyme, etc... but your mileage may vary). In addition, the recipe is very robust, so as long as your ratios are not too ridiculous, it will be fine. The cooking time? I allow at least 45 minutes of simmering, but it is better in a really low oven for a longer time: on a weekend I'll often construct at 1 or 2 and simmer it until 5 or later.

For the risotto
Arborio rice (about 1/4 cup per person, or more if hungry!)
1 small onion, sliced thinly
Wine and or chicken or vegetable stock
Sauce from above

Melt a little butter in a risotto pan. Since you don't own a risotto pan, use a large skillet: it will work just as well:-) Melt the onion in the butter over medium-low heat until transparent. Now stir in the rice to coat in the butter, and stir gently for
a few minutes. Now, half a cup or so at a time, add wine or stock, stirring gently but continuously to allow the rice to absorb the liquid. When a grain is still crunchy in the middle but chewy and soft on the outside, add liquid from the sauce made earlier, still half a cup at a time, and still stirring continuously. When the rice is done (it takes about 20 minutes of adding and stirring) add an ounce or so of butter to it and stir it in. Remove from heat, top with the now less-liquidy sauce, and serve, preferably with crusty bread and butter.

As with all recipes, if you make this, please let me know how it turns out!

Yours, on the back burner,

The French menu for saturday...

is not yet complete, but it is beginning to shape up. To begin with we will have a lunch/brunch prior to the breadmaking, of French Toast (aka Pain Perdu): so I need to make some brioche middle of the week. This is good, as I haven't had a brioche-worthy excuse for ages, and I may have enough dough left to make cinnamon buns as well.... and for those who haven't had my cinnamon buns (actually the ones from Julia Child's Baking with Julia) let's just say that they are moderately good. Now go away and let me eat them.

Then we'll have an afternoon of children's breadmaking (2,3 and 4 year olds love this. So we will have on hand a 2 year old, a 3 year old and a 4 year old!)

For the late afternoon/early evening meal, we will start with Elizabeth David's Cream of Mushroom Soup (from, I believe, French Provincial Cookery) tarted up a little, perhaps, with just a dash of something.....
We will follow this with a main course --- but for the weather, I'd love to do a Boeuf Bourguignon, but we may choose to do something entirely different, since it is likely to be hot. Both these courses, of course, will be accompanied by excellent fresh crusty bread, baked by the sprogs.
To finish, I think that we'll probably have some sort of tarte, perhaps aux pommes
or aux fraises. We'll have to see what fruit looks good at the Farmers' Market on Thursday this week!

So, it's beginning to take shape:-) The Pain Perdu idea was from Boo this morning: while eating bacon and scrambled eggs, she proclaimed, "We haven't had French Toast for ages" at which LOML and I looked at each other and said "Bastille Day!"


The good, the bad, and the ecstasy

One of my greatest joys about living in the US in the summer is corn. I absolutely love the stuff. Freshly picked, on the cob, husks soaked for a few minutes, then grilled until the kernels are just picking up a little colour under the husks. Peel, butter, season and it can be an amazing experience.

The good: generally, corn has changed over the past few decades. I fear some of it may be genetic modification, but some of it is good old fashioned mendelian-style cross-till-you-get-the-features-you-want breeding. It used to be that corn had to be eaten the minute you picked it, or the sugars immediately became starch and the corn became inedible. These days, there are new varietals which hold their sugar longer, and hence can be sold in the grocery store, and you can still have a good, if not stellar, food experience.

The bad: yesterday, LOML picked up four ears for dinner: as usual, I cooked them as above, and LOML, Boo and Skibo loved it. I took one bite. It was "the bad". "The ugly". "The inedible". Pure starch, nothing more. I went without.

The ecstasy: on Friday, by contrast, LOML bought some corn from a local pick-your-own fruit place (the corn was already picked), and that evening we had the most transformative corn-experience ever! It was transcendent!

And we have corn growing in the raised beds in the garden, so in a few weeks we are going to be able to experience the picked-straight-to-grill version as well.

Yours in mouth-watering anticipation,

Poor Skibo

One day we will tease him mercilessly about the days when he used to wet the bed. Thankfully it is now a relatively rare occurrence --- but still when it happens a pain to deal with. And dealing with it tends to get in the way of going back to sleep, and so now, here I sit, at O'What O'Clock in the morning, blogging instead of sleeping.

Yours, currently awake,

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Empty house

There's something strange about coming home, expecting everyone to be there, ready to say "welcome home", only to discover that the house is empty. So when this happened this afternoon, I of course called LOML's cell phone, to find out where they were, and when they'd be back. But the phone just rang in another room --- left behind, another not-so-silent reminder.

They phoned a little later --- they had gone for a walk in a state park an hour or so from here, and were on their way home. And all was fine.

But it was still disconcerting.

Yours, off kilter,

Two years today

It seems a lifetime ago, and yesterday.
I recall a stunned silence, much like in 2001, fear for my family --- my sister was travelling across London that day, it turns out --- and friends. And then I sent emails to lots of people. Only to realize afterwards that all the people I knew in the UK were taking things very differently from those of us, even of citric extraction, in the US.
You see, as a matter of culture, when I was growing up bombings were not uncommon occurrences -- not every day, but not rare. In the US, bombings happened every few years, and were the action of a madman, not a terrorist group, and the country was soft to their threats. In the UK, one had to continue life, daily routine and daily grind: you just had to. In the US, they hadn't developed that resilience. And I had lost mine.
I think that it is similar today: the panic on American television about a car crashing into Glasgow airport (hurting nobody but the occupants of the car!) and failed, flubbed bombing attempts, reflect the fact that Americans don't yet know how to get on with life. I gather that the BBC even spent some news time covering Wimbledon last Saturday: not so CNN!

I really do not wish or intend to minimize the horror of July 7, nor of September 11, for those were truly horrific events. And the people who died, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, were loved and are missed.

But at the same time, there were floods this past month in Britain causing horrible devastation, and not on just an isolated scale. And here in the US, I recall July 7 for another reason: the following day, gas prices went up over 15% --- I stormed in to the gas station to rant about profiteering in the face of a national tragedy in another country, only later to discover that the reason that prices had spiked was a storm hitting the gulf coast of Florida, causing refinery problems. Little did anyone realise that day that two months later there would be more national mourning, another avoidable disaster allowed to happen. For that storm foreshadowed Katrina and New Orleans.

Yours in reflection,

Hi Ho, Hi ho

It's off to work we go.... or in my case, already gone...

Yours, arduously,

Friday, July 6, 2007

What I'm listening to...

or rather, what the sprogs were listening to a little while ago: as most nights, part of our bedtime routine is either LOML or me reading a story to Boo and Skibo (one each, short, usually at least one of Bob the Builder or Dora or Diego these days, unfortunately: but sometimes something more interesting like "Big Mama Makes the World") followed by me reading a poem or two and singing a song or two.

The past couple of nights (as often recently) Boo has asked for christmas carols, but she surprised me too by wanting "the quiet song that you sing to me" --- I finally figured out that she meant a song that I sing in French --- she doesn't realize it, but she is requesting an old anti-war protest song by Boris Vian!
It's a gorgeous gentle song, and I've loved it for years --- and now, Boo is growing up with it too:-)

Yours, in peace,

Le Déserteur (The Deserter)

par (by) Boris Vian et (and) Harold Berg

Monsieur le Président,
je vous fais une lettre,
que vous lirez peut-être,
si vous avez le temps.

Je viens de recevoir
mes papiers militaires
pour partir à la guerre
avant mercredi soir.

Monsieur le Président
je ne veux pas le faire,
je ne suis pas sur terre
pour tuer de pauvres gens.

C'est pas pour vous fâcher,
il faut que je vous dise,
ma décision est prise,
je m'en vais déserter.

Depuis que je suis né,
j'ai vu mourir mon père,
j'ai vu partir mes frères,
et pleurer mes enfants.

Ma mère a tant souffert,
qu'elle est dedans sa tombe,
et se moque des bombes,
et se moque des vers.

Quand j'étais prisonnier
on m'a volé ma femme,
on m'a volé mon âme,
et tout mon cher passé.

Demain de bon matin,
je fermerai ma porte
au nez des années mortes
j'irai sur les chemins.

Je mendierai ma vie,
sur les routes de France,
de Bretagne en Provence,
et je crierai aux gens:

refusez d'obéir,
refusez de la faire,
n'allez pas à la guerre,
refusez de partir.

S'il faut donner son sang,
allez donner le vôtre,
vous êtes bon apôtre,
monsieur le Président.

Si vous me poursuivez
prévenez vos gendarmes
que je n'aurai pas d'armes
et qu'ils pourront tirer.
Mr. President
I'm writing you a letter
that perhaps you will read
If you have the time.

I've just received
my call-up papers
to leave for the front
Before Wednesday night.

Mr. President
I do not want to go
I am not on this earth
to kill wretched people.

It's not to make you mad
I must tell you
my decision is made
I am going to desert.

Since I was born
I have seen my father die
I have seen my brothers leave
and my children cry.

My mother has suffered so,
that she is in her grave
and she laughs at the bombs
and she laughs at the worms.

When I was a prisoner
they stole my wife
they stole my soul
and all my dear past.

Early tomorrow morning
I will shut my door
on these dead years
I will take to the road.

I will beg my way along
on the roads of France
from Brittany to Provence
and I will cry out to the people:

Refuse to obey
refuse to do it
don't go to war
refuse to go.

If blood must be given
go give your own
you are a good apostle
Mr. President.

If you go after me
warn your police
that I'll be unarmed
and that they can shoot.

On television this evening

are more programmes I want to watch than have been on the tube for the past several weeks combined! Two episodes of the latest series of Dr Who to be shown over here, and two of the quirky but silly and fun Gil Mayo series from the UK, plus an episode of Numbers I missed in the spring. The first day that I really appreciate Tivo!

Yours, goggle-eyed,

Any given Saturday

except tomorrow, I'd be sleeping in. But no, since I had July 4th off, I have to work tomorrow.

Yours, missing some gruntles.

Suggested recipes for

a Bastille Day meal? LOML and I, in an effort to raise our sprogs with an appreciation for the world, have a tradition that we try to celebrate special days: for Chinese New Year we made longevity noodles and other traditional dishes: for Canada Day we had pancakes with Nova Scotian maple syrup: for St George's day and Shakespeare's birthday, of course, it was a standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and gravy.

Saturday a week from now it will be Bastille Day: we're planning a breadmaking day for the little ones plus some friends (bread is wonderful for involving kids in measuring, mixing, kneading, etc...) and are thinking that we should turn it into a dinner party afterwards. So: any suggestions for food for a Bastille Day celebration? Or kid-friendly activities?

Thanks in advance!


Average is mean

I am sometimes struck by the mediocrity of my life: I have done a few things over the past umptythrix years that I am very proud of: and a few that I am not proud of too. And I try, by and large, to leave a positive impact: I think that we are doing a pretty good job of raising two wonderful, smart, beautiful, kind children: we are gentle to pets, and save new ones that come along on occasion.
And when I look around me, to the people I know well, and afar, to the people I know at a distance, I usually feel quite ordinary. This is good.
And then I hear distant whispers, catch a glimpse, hear a rumour of what someone I know is doing: someone I have known well or less well in the past, doing something truly outstanding, something with a real impact, on a few people or a lot.
And I feel mediocre.

Yours, at par

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I believe I owe a great big thank you

to the good folks at Blogger, who have now removed the offending comment for me. Without, unfortunately, telling me how to do it myself... At least it is gone. I'm going to leave comment moderation on for a few days, and if I don't see more problems, I will turn it off again (I really don't want to stop anyone commenting legitimately!)
And as for the word verification, as much as I hate that, I'll leave it for a bit too.

Yours, unredirected, and apparently at my hundredth post!

Eating habits

The sausage rolls went first. As always. Of the desserts, the roulades were inhaled. As always. Something about the cylindrical shape, the fact that they are rolled up? Who can say?

Yours observantly,

A sensibly fun party

Well, that went well:-)
A sensibly timed beginning --- people came between 4 and 5 --- and ending --- people recognize that parents of small children don't get to stay up partying beyond 8 or 9, and the last guests to leave did so at about 8:30: I had the children asleep by 9, and LOML and I collapsed a little later.

A long day, the cooking was done in time, but only just sort of; the food was great, if I say so myself (especially all the stuff that I had no hand in!), and a wonderful time seemed to be had by all.

Yours, satisfiedly,
PS thanks for the anonymous comment here: to all others, please do not read the comments section as it will autoforward you to some other site. If you can tell me in a comment to another post how to delete this comment without deleting this post, I'd be greatly grateful.


PPS thanks to blogger for removing the offending comment. You may now safely comment here again.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy "y"

Happy 4th of July to any who celebrate it! (and a happy 4th to everyone else, too:-)

Yours in celebration,


Got to run to the grocery store for wine (how did we forget that? probably some each of Turning Leaf Reserve Merlot and Yellowtail Chardonnay --- inexpensive enough for a party, palatable enough to drink) and other goodies, like propane for the gas grill. As for the drinks

Beer --- selected (perhaps we can get rid of the bud/miller lite that was brought to our last party: we have real beer too)
Non-alcoholic punch: 70's retro fruit punch with a cranberry ice ring and raspberry ice cream/sorbet floats
Pimms Cocktails

Yours, hic


Progress on the food front:
Sausage rolls in the freezer: need cutting and baking
Hummus in fridge
Bread dough rising (white country loaf for eating, whole wheat pesto for pizza)

Ribs and chicken marinating
Lamb coming over this afternoon (thanks to B&P)
Brisket coming over this afternoon (thanks to R&L)
Vietnamese chicken salad, chicken on the side: salad in the fridge, chicken to be

Cream horns need filling
Cherry bombe in freezer: needs coating with chocolate (thanks to LOML)
Roulade needs making
Lemon/lime squares need making..

How did I forget to do the sesame noodles and pickled cucumber???

We may actually be ready on time again!

Yours in preparation,

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Libby decision is "rich"

Conservatives who are criticizing Bill Clinton's pardoning of Marc Rich, in an attempt to defend Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence miss an important detail. They should read about Rich's lawyer's vigourous defense of his client. That lawyer's name? Libby.
Yours serendipitously,

Welcome to a new blogospheroid

Welcome to the newest member of the blogworld! Congratulations to Kim and all of her family!

Yours, with a welcome mat,

One of those better days!

Just found out that we received a small, but not insignificant grant to run a conference this fall: I had not expected this grant to come through, so this is fantastic news!

Yours in gratitude!

One of those days

I think that it is going to be one of those days. We have a visiting speaker at work,
a recent acquaintance of mine, and so I am committed to lunch and dinner: I woke up this morning to discover that the clock radio had run its full hour of news and switched itself off again: in other words, I was, not late, but later than I intended to be. And then I arrive at work only to find I've left my cell phone at home: usually just an inconvenience, but occasionally, and today, a reason for me to get right back in my car and drive home again to pick it up. Oh well, just call me a left handed screwdriver in a right hand world.

Yours, gauche,

One of the sentences below is made up.

In a sign that they are in touch with the people, and that they know that they have the moral upper hand, the White House this evening shut off its phone lines for comments from the public. A spokeszombie released a statement that "Since we've been wiretapping everyone anyway we know who likes what we've been doing, and in our book, those three people are everybody".

Yours in disbelief!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Food, finally

Well, I finally managed to get down to preparing some of the food for Wednesday:
yesterday, as I said, I got the hummus out of the way: this evening I rolled out the (pre-prepared) puff pastry, and locally produced sausage for sausage rolls: I've also got the marinade cooling down for the ribs and chicken (cider vinegar, grapefruit juice, ginger, garlic, molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, mustard, ketchup: simmered to reduce for a while then left to cool: marinate at least overnight in the fridge). So I've made some progress. Since I would usually just do everything on the day, I'm probably well ahead of schedule, even though it feels like the reverse, given that we had intended to give ourselves an easier time of it on Wednesday!

That's life. We will get it done in time, it's just a question of when.

Yours, or at least I'll try to be sometime in the future,