Friday, August 31, 2007


This weekend, the nearest small-big town is having a balloon festival: we'd have gone Friday night, except the weather was threatening enough I expect that the balloons wouldn't have flown --- so we are planning on going Saturday morning: and then several times more over the weekend.
I hope to get at least one picture to rival the earlier picture I posted.

I love balloons:-)
Yours, in anticipation,
I don't wish to leave August with a worried post, and so I add this one: to all who read this after midnight, whichever timezone you live in, may September be good to you and yours! And October after that! And after that, &c! (which is the old way of writing etc!)

Yours, in peace,

One of those moments

This has a happy ending. Nobody was hurt in the creation of this post, other than a bowl of petunias.

This afternoon, on returning home from work rather early, a few minutes earlier than LOML, Skibo and Boo, I was not surprised to find the house empty (well, except for the dog and two cats, that is....)
I tried calling LOML's cell phone --- no reply. No problem, it is probably in the car, or switched off, or drained. Not uncommon.
Pootle around the kitchen, clean some things up, listen to the news, laugh at the current state of embarrassment of politics...

And the phone rings. Someone has found LOML's wallet -- and clearly is uncomfortable turning it over to anyone other than the face in the drivers license....
So we can't do anything about until LOML gets home.

Another twenty minutes go by, and another. I start to call friends: "Is LOML with you?" -- most of them are out, a few say no, but they'll contact me if....

Finally after they are two hours late, I prepare to start driving the roads around the 15 miles from here to the school: and as I am leaving the house, they drive up.

Yours, in relief,


Couple of things said today:

Me - "Skibo, what did you do at work today"
Skibo - "Lots of screwing work, so I can help you if you need screwing done."


(lying on the floor with a plastic Knight's shield) "This is my surfboard!"

This latter one especially is a huge relief, as he is madly keen on knights and fighting and other boyly things that we wish he'd grow out of, just a little bit. Or at least, stop trying to hit people with his sword...

Yours, amused,

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Last of the beach pictures?

Last one? We'll see. Anyway, this is the extra crusty batch that I cooked to go with the Low Country Boil: the crustiness is great to dip into the juices....

Yours, in retrospect,

A better pelican shot

Perhaps a better pelican shot --- came across this one the other night in the photos I hadn't yet downloaded!

Yours, soaring,

Another busy day -- first really long one for weeks

So I got to work shortly before 7 this morning, and left well after 5:20 this afternoon. I think that this is the last week in a while when I just have one day like this: I am pretty sure that after Labor Day (next Monday, for those of you out of the US: it would correspond to May Day in the rest of the world if unions here were regarded in a positive light), I will be having those sort of days Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, I get to leave early, so that I can go run the Origami Club at the Montessori school. I don't get home any earlier, I just don't have to stay at work until late....

It's going to get in the way of cooking, I suspect!

Yours, exhausted. Is it the weekend yet?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Politics goes down the toilet

I hear that there are rumours that there are more politicians who are going to be forced to come out of the (water) closet!

For a different take, check out the BBC series "Little Britain" clip.

Update: it now appears that his party is hoping to get rid of him: something about being "flushed with success", I believe....

Yours, ducking,

Violin lessons

One of the things which we liked about the Montessori school which Boo and Skibo attend is the potential to take violin lessons at an early age: apparently they practise either the Suzuki method or something very close to it, and I like the idea of exposing small children to music and the idea that they can make it at a very young age.

Last year, we kept waiting to hear that Boo had started learning violin: and never did: eventually we found out that there had been some misinformation, and since she had been 3 when she started she wasn't eligible: she turned 4 in November, but they wouldn't have started her until either the next semester or the next year: we never found out which, since we went away for the winter to Canada.

I had been wondering what was up with violin this year -- there had been essentially no mention of it since, until today.

Boo is usually extremely reluctant to talk about her day at school ("What work did you do today, Boo?" "All of it" is a typical exchange) but today when I asked her how her day had been, she started to talk about it, and after mentioning a few things, added "and violin".

So it appears that she has started to learn another musical instrument before she and I get to have piano lessons together!

Yours, in harmony,

And so it gets hectic

As everyone else with smallish children told us before we had kids ourselves, at the age when they change from toddlers to children, things suddenly get hectic. This past few weeks, Skibo turned 3, they both went back to school, they both went back to gymnastics, and Boo started dance classes.
Today seems to be typical: the morning was just an ordinary day, but the afternoon: first, Skibo had a doctors appointment, so LOML took him --- I looked after Boo, and made dinner, got her cleaned and dressed and ready to go off to her dance class: LOML got home twenty minutes before it was time to leave for the dance class: Boo expressed an interest in having LOML take her, so I stayed at home with Skibo and tried to get him to eat.

And I gather things get more hectic still each year as they get older.
(Reading back over the day it doesn't read as hectic as it seemed -- oh well. It felt hectic to us!)

Yours, exhausted, and it isn't even 7pm,

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Opportunities for little children

We are very lucky, in the little town in which we live, to have a wonderful gymnastics club, with a super teacher who works with the smallest children, up through age 5.
And in nearby towns we have lots of other golden opportunities for little ones: Boo started dance classes last week, and we are planning for her and me to take piano lessons together sometime in the near future (probably the spring: this fall is looking just way too busy for me as well as for the rest of the family!)

Yesterday, Boo and Skibo started gymnastics classes again for the first time (with the exception of a few weeks in the summer) since Christmas: and while they are clearly a little rusty on some things, like how to do a donkey kick (which is apparently both a prototype handstand and cartwheel), they did wonderfully well: and were well behaved, polite, and listened to their instructors really well. What I want to know is where they put the real Boo and Skibo!

Yours, happy, but not smug,

5 hours later

Five hours later, with lots of assistance from my Fedora guru, my new computer now boots up into linux, and will connect to certain networks. And not to others. And the sound doesn't work, and won't until the next kernel comes out in a few weeks time. And there's a bunch of other stuff that doesn't work yet. But it feels like progress, and that is great, since the past few weeks have felt like a combination of digress and regress.

Yours, on the old computer,

Politics, timing

I have been pondering the timing of the resignations announced over the past few days: why this weekend? And why the uncovering of senate sins on the same day? And it struck me: which television shows would you most like to be on hiatus when such announcements are made? The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Yours, 'nuff said,

Monday, August 27, 2007

White whole wheat, a cheesy conclusion

We decided that the answer to making sure that sprogs ate this evening was grilled cheese sandwiches. With the chili, of course, but we'd be willing to let them not eat the adult food if they at least ate the sandwiches.

LOML and I had grilled cheese sandwiches too --- we long ago discovered that they are wonderful in combination with chili, and the chili turned out to be spectacularly good too: LOML's raving about how good it was led to both children chowing down and pronouncing it yummy, delicious, scrumptious and scrumdiddliumptious too.

Of course, after seven or eight mouthfuls, Boo decided it was too spicy (it wasn't) and hurt her mouth (it didn't). And once she had said that, it was an effort to get Skibo not to think the same thing. Still he ate a couple of more spoonfuls....

In conclusion, the bread is not right yet, but it was a valiant first failure. I'll try again in a couple of days and update again.

Yours, in failure, grasping at success,

White whole wheat, fit the third

I'll admit to being a little bit disappointed: but not too badly so. Here is an overview:
First, as I said, there were problems with the dough before I put it in the oven, and of course for those I take full credit. I mean blame.
Second, the texture was strange: the insides seemed like it might have needed another ten minutes of cooking time (and given how thirsty the dough seemed when making it, that isn't such a surprise). The crumb is not particularly open (not that I have ever achieved that with a wholegrain loaf!) but it is fairly elastic, in a way not usually associated with wholewheat.
Third: the flavour: sort of halfway between wholewheat and white with a half cup of wholewheat flour added: neither one nor the other: a little nuttiness to it: next time I'll try adding molasses to it, to give it a richness, a darkness, a sweetness, a hint of the forbidden, to see if that improves things.

On the plus side, while it was baking, I threw together a pot of chili for this evening, and by the time that the bread was cool enough to try, the chili was ready too: so I had a thin slice of bread schmeared with a little chili: and that was a good combination. And while the chili is not exceptionally healthy (it has meat in) it does have a good number of beans in, so both the chili and the bread are high in fibre!

Here's the chili recipe:
2 medium onions
1 red bell pepper
5 cloves garlic
4 stalks celery
10-12 ounces mushrooms
2 lbs beef (I know it shouldn't be ground beef. I use ground beef. Don't eat it if it upsets you!)
Tomatoes, diced (fresh if you have them, 28 oz canned if you don't):
8 oz or so of beer (I used Sam Adams Cream Stout, 4 oz or so for the chef)
2 cans garbonzo beans
1 can red beans
1 can black beans
1 can dark kidney beans
Ancho chili powder
Chipotle chili powder
Storebrand chili powder
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Salt, pepper
1/4 ounce or so of dark chocolate (do *not* over do this!)

I browned the onion in a little fat from frying some bratwurst up: this adds a ton of flavour, and since much of the chili is going to be frozen, and it will provide us with perhaps four or five meals, a little fat is permissible. Note that there is nothing there to add serious heat: we have a three year old and a four year old
and we hope that they will eat it too.

Yours, whole-ly

White whole wheat, part the second

Well, the bread rose this morning, and it seems that I made the dough a little too wet, and too large for the (italian bread style) pan in which I left it to rise. So the loaves are a little misshapen. Haven't decided yet whether to share a photo of them: they are definitely "ugly bread".

In a little while, I'm going to cut into them, and will report back on the crumb, and on the flavour and texture.

Yours, in anticipation,

Sunday, August 26, 2007

White whole wheat flour

Has anyone tried making bread with "white whole wheat" flour? I bought a bag of King Arthur's brand, and threw it into a batch of old-dough-starter: it will rise on the counter Monday morning, and I will bake it at lunch time. I'll post here how it turns out: I am intrigued, as I do like the flavour of good white bread as well as whole wheat --- but the health benefits of whole wheat are enough to make it hard to justify making anything else. Or rather, the lack of benefits of non-whole wheat...

3-4 ounces of fully risen dough
20 oz water, warm
White whole wheat flour
1 tbsp kosher salt

Break the dough into small pieces, and place in the water to soften. Add a cup or so of the flour, mix in until a batter. Cover and leave for several hours. Now make a dough with the batter, remaining flour and the salt as usual. It will rise very slowly: leave overnight in a covered bowl: punch down and shape in the morning: bake in the afternoon.

That at least is the theory. I'll let you know how the practice goes!

P.S. Yes. No yeast. The old dough has enough in it.

Yours, in theory,

Sunday dinner

Uninspired by dinner thoughts, LOML and I decided we'd just go with salad for this evening: with a grilled pork chop to go with it. And inspiration hit: all quantities are guesses at what I put in: I just added until it was right!

Marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts
8oz mushrooms (I used half button, half baby bella: had them on hand)
8oz quartered artichoke hearts
4oz roasted red bell peppers
4oz toasted chopped walnuts
4oz pitted, chopped kalamata olives

Toss together at least 1 hour before eating in a balsamic vinaigrette: I used a mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, touch of mustard, salt and pepper. If I were not hoping the children would eat some too, I'd add some crushed red pepper flakes or little srirachi thai hot sauce. There should be enough vinaigrette to soak into the mushrooms: but not so much as to overwhelm the salad.
Serve on a mix of spring greens.

I've also used sunflower seeds in this instead of walnut, and would consider throwing both in: they bring different flavours and textures to the salad.

Yours, nutty,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Editing the photos

Since we went on holiday with friends, and we each took cameras, there was a natural need to get together again afterwards. To review photos, of course.

This evening we went over to their house for dinner (an amazingly delicious dish of sesame crusted marinated wild salmon, with brown rice, roasted broccoli and a salad. And along the way, spent a lot of time sorting through hundreds of photos, deciding on which photos they wanted to upload to the company we use to print our pictures.

It was really interesting to see which ones they chose -- some were obvious, but at the same time, there were ones I knew they'd pick, and they didn't --- and others that I was really surprised that they wanted.

On the down side, after seeing the photographs at the beach, they had both decided to go on a low carb diet -- so the bread that I took over for dinner was unwanted, as was the wine.... a good thing that I hadn't made a cold sesame noodle dish too!

Oh well. Slim pickings.

Yours, not a skinny chef,

Fauna IV (if they bite you)

About 5 or 10 miles from the beach is a wonderful little serpentarium (surely that should be herpetarium? but perhaps that would be less understandable to people) which we visited last year: it was a wonderful find: not cheap, at around $10 per adult (yes, I know, big city prices, blah blah blah, but this is not big city, and the aquarium is only $14 for an adult: and it is much bigger than the snake museum): anyway, last year when we went there with LOML's parents, we had a wonderful time: they have a display of snakes inside: outside they have snake handler give a 20-30 minute presentation: they feed alligators: they have a lot of wonderful turtles" and they really feel like they care. Oh, and a really nice, reasonably priced gift shop.

The downside? Skibo fell asleep on my shoulder during the snake handler's presentation, and stayed that way for ages. So I got to sit there holding him while everyone else went off to look at snakes and turtles and gators, oh my!

Still, at least I'd seen it last year.

Yours, hiss,

An afternoon of learning new swear words

LOML bought a new computer this week (rather than waiting for my 3 1/2 year old hand-me-down: the need was too urgent!) and I ended up spending today helping get it to the "usable" stage. Not perfect, just usable.

We are both linux users --- putting us in an even smaller minority than mac users, and without the cachet of social acceptability! But I haven't had a chance to put linux on the machine yet: there were more urgent things to be done: in particular, since we don't want to pay for office, Open Office was needed.

And this is where I hit steam. Full head of steam. Three or four times I tried to download it, and each time it'd get through about 40 MB and freeze. Over and over it did it. I finally downloaded it to the desktop machine in the office and transferred it over using a USB dongle.

And there are so many little things that need to be fixed, tweaked, changed, installed. It really would make more sense for me to take the couple of hours it is going to take, set it aside, and install linux on the damachine.

Yours, frustratedly,

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another beach photo

But I promise that there won't be a lot more. I won't inflict more that too too too many on you, I promise (especially those of you who are a lot more than 5 hours from a beach:-)

Anyway, here are Boo and Skibo being hoisted into the air: I think that they were having fun.....

Yours, still on the beach, if only in my mind,

I did pretty well!

Not to brag or anything, but I posted a list of the things that I wanted to do at the beach, and without even trying, I think that it pretty much summed up exactly what I ended up doing! I even managed to finish a book (and the rate I've been reading for the past two years, finishing two books in a one month period is a pretty mammoth achievement for me!)

Yours, in retrospect,

Fauna III

Or the "In the Tank" edition.

On thursday we went to the aquarium: it is a pretty nice one, and our state zoo membership gets us half price admission. Oh, and Skibo is absolutely nuts about divers, so the deep sea tank is a huge draw.
After a fair drive (it's over an hour from the beach house to the aquarium, and since I had thought it was less, every minute over the 45 I was expecting felt like an extra hour), and a very pleasant five minute walk from the multi-storey car park across the green space (which turned into a twenty minute race about by the kids, which was wonderful:-) we started our tour.
At the moment, the city has Turtles on the Town: displays of turtle-inspired artwork all over town: other than the fact that the children were not allowed to climb on them they immediately brought lots of little-one joy. And we adults liked them too...

Inside the building, we took the standard route through, starting with the river otters (who were unfortunately asleep in the heat, rather than frolicking as they usually do) -- and it quickly became apparent that the time of day was near when the sprogs would need a mid-morning snack: and so we broke out of tour mode, headed down to the cafe (for perhaps the worst coffee I've had this year!), and then, realising the time, went to the deep sea tank. They have a show every morning in which there are several divers in the tank feeding various of the fish inside (not the sharks: they don't want to get them associating divers with food!)
We found a good side spot to watch the divers rather than the young lady running the presentation that went with it: and a diver saw us, beaconed Skibo over, waved to him, and made it clear that he was setting up so that we could take a picture of him and Skibo (and subsequently Boo too) together. It was quite magical, and made the morning's experience for all of us, and especially for Skibo!

The rest of the aquarium visit was good, with some lovely encounters, for example with real turtles,

jelly fish, crabs, carnivorous plants, tropical fish etc. But nothing could compare to the tank and the diver.

Yours, gratefully,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fauna II

As we drove up to the beach on Sunday evening, I was surprised to see a pelican. Surprised not because there was any reason to expect them not to be there, just that I had not noticed them the other three times we'd visited that beach. Mind you, those trips had been in February, May and October, so perhaps there were fewer of them there then. Or none!

Anyway, this lone solitary pelican glided silently overhead, and it was as if he or she was beaconing us further, come to the beach, explore!

Throughout the week, we saw more and more pelicans: rarely one by itself: usually a string of pelicans waving through the sky like a child's skipping rope, weaving from side to side, almost as if there was a physical connection from one bird to the next, and someone vibrating the one at the front! Quite magical!

The image above was taken, I believe, on the Monday evening, the same night as the sunset photos: I looked later in the week for an opportunity to photograph one against a blue sky, but the opportunity never arose -- I was too busy in the water with two little children most of the time!

Yours, in an Ogden-Nash-like twitter,

Playing in the sand.

Is there anything more fun at the beach than playing in the sand? Boo, in the white shirt, and Skibo in the blue, both loved learning about making sandcastles. Last year when we went they didn't seem to get the ideas behind them -- this time, they did. It's amazing watching little brains click into gear, get an idea and run with it. And it is especially fascinating to have two small people, 21 months apart, and be able to see the differences in what they get and what they don't (and when they get it)! As with all children they have different abilities and interests and learning rates: Boo spoke much earlier than Skibo: on the other hand, there are many things he seems to be picking up (perhaps from her) much earlier than she did.

Yours, just watching,

Other food at the beach

But N, I hear you ask, (did I not?) (I didn't?) (okay, well I'm going to pretend you did ask, tell you the question, and then answer it) "didn't you eat anything other than bread at the beach?"

Yes we did! And at least one of the meals is worth mentioning, especially for the sake of those who haven't spent much time in the south east US.

The coastal southeast has a specialty that it calls a "low country boil": it typically consists of local produce, thrown in a big pot of water+, cooked, and eaten, sort of like a quick stew. And in our case, it was pretty good. Good enough we made it twice, especially because the fresh shrimp were amazing. All quantities are adjustable, so what I did was to ask: how many people? how much shrimp will they eat, how much corn, etc.

Low Country Boil
Shrimp: at least large, if not extra large or jumbo: ours were probably about a 20-25 count, that is 20-25 per pound.
Kielbasa or smoked sausage
Corn (on the cob)
Old Bay seasoning mix*

The cooking method is incredibly easy: prep work takes a little time because of the shrimp (prawns in UK lingo): peel and devein the shrimp. Cut the sausage into 1-2 inch pieces. Dice the potatoes and carrots into 1-2 inch pieces. Cut the ears of corn into 2-3 inch lengths.
Saute the pieces of sausage for a few minutes in a large pot: this will help bring out some flavour. Add the potatoes, carrots and enough water and beer to cover (make sure that there is enough that the corn will fit in later too), and a good amount of the seasoning blend. For four adults, we used about 1/4 cup.
Bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the corn, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the shrimp, and cook for two more minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and cooked.
Serve with freshly baked crusty bread: just spoon out some of everything into a bowl, eat with a fork or spoon, and sop up the juice with the bread.

Yours, bubbling away,

Old Bay seasoning mix contains a bunch of spices and herbs like ground bay leaves, paprika, pepper, red pepper, mustard etc. You could probably try recreating it from the ingredients listed at the above web site.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's enough to make a baker cry with joy

I was moved this afternoon to remember back four years to Boo's first solid food. I had taught a breadmaking class at our local culinary wares store the night before, on wholewheat loaves, and in the process of teaching had put together a batch of dough: when I got home, I shaped it, and left two loaves to rise overnight in the fridge.

The next day was Boo's six month birthday, and we took her to her checkup that morning. Our paediatrician answered our query about eating solid food with "she'll let you know when she's ready".

On our return to the house, I baked the loaves, and LOML and I ate them for lunch. Absolutely delicious, if I recall. But what was best was that Boo was sitting on LOML's lap, reached for the bread, taking it right out of LOML's hand, and stuffed it into her mouth. She was indeed ready for solid food, and we never looked back:-)

And somewhere, we have a lovely photo of a beautiful little girl cramming a slice of warm wholewheat bread into her little mouth!

Yours, in recollection,

Fauna I

I love the beach, and not least for the opportunity it affords to observe, if not interact with, the things that live there.

There are two beach areas on the island: we stayed at the Atlantic Ocean beach side of the island, and in the mornings for high tide went to the Sound side, and in the afternoons swam on the low-tide Atlantic beach. The reason for this is that the Sound side beach is very muddy at low tide, and the beach is much steeper and the currents are stronger and more dangerous on the Atlantic side at high tide.

The Sound is known for its dolphins: every time we have gone we have seen scores of them: and this trip was no different. Unfortunately it is a rather tricky feat to photograph them, and our camera setup is not really up to the task. You can see a closeup from a couple of attempts from last year here. I haven't found any good shots from last week yet (but I haven't done a thorough job of going through all several hundred photographs either!). It is really thrilling to be swimming with my little ones, and to look over my shoulder and see a dolphin surface less than 20 yards away: they never came much closer than that (and I'd probably have been a little bit nervous had they done so!) but that was thrilling. No other word for it.

Boo and Skibo were thrilled too -- at first. By Friday, Boo's response was one of "They're just dolphins. So what??" I am pretty sure this was largely because she was in a snit about something or other.... and I hope she recovers her sense of wonder again soon:-) I think I need to find some old episodes of Flipper for her to watch!

Yours, by the Sound of it,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


When we arrived at the beach on Sunday, it was just 8 o'clock, but we needed to go to the grocery store to get supplies for a late supper and whisk the children off to bed. So I experienced the sunset standing watching the red sky behind the grocery store: hardly the image I wanted.
After a most unpleasant dinner (ruined by the corn on the cob that we bought at a fruit and vegetable stand on the road, which was immensely disappointing, and by pork chops from the grocery, which were amongst the worst I've had a in a long time) (still, subsequent meals were better, about which more later) we put the children to sleep, and LOML and I settled down to read for a little before hitting the beds ourselves.

Monday we made an especial effort to be done with dinner by about 7:15 so that we could get shoes on children and get out to see the sun set --- the best views were a 10 - 15 minute walk down the beach from our house --- and managed to do exactly that.

Unfortunately timing conspired against us, and we didn't get to see another sunset: it was more important to still be swimming when 6:30 or 7:00 rolled around than to see yet another sunset: still, I think that we got some half-way decent shots.

Yours, setting,

Flying kites on the beach

Flying kites on the beach, on Tuesday morning. The wind was high, but not turbulently so, so the kites would stay airborne. There were some unpleasant minutes early on with a very unstable kite, and its effect on a subsequently very unstable Boo, but finally we got her kite high in the sky and she happily flew it, Poppinesque, for half an hour.

Do you get that I like pictures of objects against a blue sky background?

Yours, stringing you on,

One of my favourite sights when I get to the beach

One of my favourite sights, one of the ones that tell me that, yes, we are finally at the beach, and it is time to unwind, is the sea oats. Something about the insouciant way they toss in the wind, or sway in a gentle breeze, and the fact that we are urged to cherish them, makes me know that I am there.

And today, it brings back the memory: I can smell the sea, taste the salt in my mind.

Yours, in reverie,

Monday, August 20, 2007


One of my favourite pictures to have come about as a result of Boo and Skibo's love for balloons.

Yours, floating,

Where to start?

There are so many stories of the vacation that it is hard to know where to start. And so, rather than starting at the beginning, the middle or the end, I'll take my cue from my blog, and talk about the bread.

The plan was that I would make bread with the children the whole week. This plan, while well thought out, had three fatal flaws. First, the space in the kitchen in the beach house, while fine for one person in the kitchen, left much to be desired for four or five, and there was only one chair suitable for a sprog to stand up on. Second, the sprogs, for most of the time, were either much more interested in the beach, or were already exhausted by the time that breadmaking came around. And lastly, the schedule of breadmaking was so soothing to my soul, so relaxing for me personally, that I was loathe to share it with the children!
Truth be told, I did spend several hours the first day after we got there with Boo and Skibo and their friend B, during which they counted quarter cups of flour, water, half-teaspoons of yeast and salt, and took turns mixing the batter then the dough at great length, so that we could have bread for the evening.
And it turned out great.

The next day, I started in on the cunning plan -- I would not tell anyone, but I was going to keep using old dough, and either no yeast or just a little yeast each time, until the bread was basically a sourdough. This went on, Tuesday, Wednesday, until Thursday evening I started a batch for Friday morning: B's uncle and six-year old cousin had flown in from Houston the previous evening, and courtesy of TS Erin they had arrived about 13 hours late --- and I thought that good bread baking the next morning might take the edge of the beginnings of a much-shortened vacation for them. I let the dough rise overnight, and it was perhaps the best bread I have ever made: the crust was crispy, with a crunch, yet chewy, and the insides had the best open crumb I've yet to achieve. This bread comes close to earning me a temporary "extra" to go with the "ordinaire", I think.
I wasn't quite as careful with the batch for Saturday morning, so it came out just really good. Saturday evening I cooked up a regular batch, together with a little yeast in the interest of time, and then made it extra crusty to go with a rather nice little low country boil (shrimp, corn, kielbasa, potatoes, carrots, beer and seasonings) that I just threw together. A beach feast indeed.

Yours, an extra, temporarily,

Thomas the balloon

Preface: this is one of several unique bedtime stories that we read to our little ones: unique, we know, because we made them up ourselves. The following story is based on what actually happened on Boo's 18 month birthday, three months before Skibo appeared: we knew that we'd need the crib for him, so we decided to get Boo her own bed. We did eventually get the bed that day, but serendipity intervened first.
This is now often a requested bedtime story after we've read books and the lights are out, and they are ready to be asleep.
Yours, sitting comfortably,

Thomas the Balloon

Many years ago, beloved Boo, before Skibo was born, when he was still inside Mummy's tummy, Mummy and Daddy asked you if you wanted to get a big girl bed. After all, you were 18 months old, and so grown up already: and you said that you would like a big girl bed.

So one Saturday morning, in May, Mummy and Daddy put you into your car seat, and clunked you in, saying
"Clunk-click, every trip, keeps my baby safe!"
And off we went down the road to find a bed store.

As we drove down the road, we sang songs together, and you joined in singing words from "Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green". As we drove along, Mummy suddenly pointed in the sky, and said
"Look! There's a balloon!"
And sure enough, there in the sky was a big balloon, with yellow and red and green stripes, and a basket hanging underneath it. And in the basket were two people, waving at all the passers-by below!

And then you pointed too, and said
"Look, another balloon!"
and sure enough, there was another balloon, black and blue and red, and then there was another, and another, and another, until the sky was filled with balloons, hundreds of balloons! And so, before finding a big girl bed for Boo, we all stopped the car and got out to watch the balloons floating by.
There was a balloon shaped like a teddy bear, there was a balloon shaped like the energizer bunny, there was even a balloon which looked like an apple being eaten by a worm.
But the best balloon of all, Boo, was when you saw a balloon that looked like a train, and you pointed to it and you said,
"Look, it's Thomas the balloon!"

Copyright 2004 breadboxy (at) g m a i l (d ot) c o m.

Returned from the beach

We are back, safe and sound from the beach, and as we get our pictures sorted through, I am planning on posting some, and of course, talking about the wonderful time that we had.
Just to make you all jealous, of course!

Yours, rested and relaxed,

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Off soon, on vacation

I'm off to the beach soon: for a much needed vacation, break, holiday, rest,.....
I'll let you fill in the remaining words from your favourite thesaurus!

I doubt that I'll post much until I get back -- net access on this particular island is known to be particularly hard to find, and I must admit I don't intend to look hard.

My best wishes to all my friends while I'm gone: and I will comment with you all when I return on the 20th of August or so.

Yours, disappearing,

Happy Birthday Skibo!

Skibo was born exactly 3 years ago!

Yours in celebration!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Childrens' stories

I was reminded by a picture on Carmi's site (by the way, I only just realised that the site was Written, Inc, not Written In C!) of the importance of balloons in Boo and Skibo's lives.

So, over the next few posts, I think that I may explain, in part, why balloons are such a big part of their lives, and also tell some stories that we have been telling them for some time now. Not for you, mind. For me: so I can't forget them and need reminding again!.

Yours, inspired,

Update on Skibo's toe

It now looks as though we may have taken good care of Skibo's toe: it is not very swollen, the toenail is no longer black, and while it bled earlier (quite profusely, for a little while) we kept it clean and mopped up the blood.

Phew. The littlest kneady one may survive relatively unscathed:-)

Yours, in relief,

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Has Skibo really broken his toe???

Skibo today, in a battle of wits over whether he'd get a time out or not, raised a step-stool in anger against a door, and promptly dropped it on his toe --- which now has a blackened nail, and he has trouble walking on it. At the very least, it is severely bruised, we are worried that he'll lose the nail, perhaps he has broken it: it looks likely to put a serious damper on next week's holiday (that is, our vacation for the next year or so...)

Yours, in sympathy for my ailing wee boy,

how about a date?

I think that one of the strongest indicators of insecurity is how hard you fight to win an argument when you are wrong. If you are secure in yourself, you can sacrifice an argument, lose a point, without any loss of face or loss of self-confidence. But those who argue to the final angel and pin often seem to reveal an inner self-doubt: a fear that once they concede just one point, all is lost.
The US seems to feel this way on measurement conventions as I discussed earlier today.

And while I'm on the subject, let's talk dates.

Why is it that the US insists on writing today's date, as 08/09/07??? In fact, the date is a rather pretty 09/08/07, in non-US format, or 07/08/09 in decreasing size of time units. I like them both. I lean towards the latter as a favourite, since when naming computer files, it makes for a reasonable listing convention: in dictionary order, earlier files get listed first (and actually, I almost always use 2007.08.09 as the convention, so that it works with pre-2000 files too). In addition, US americans can usually be persuaded that this is their convention too --- they seem most concerned about the month coming before the date.

Anyway, preferences apart, when I write a date these days, to avoid confusion I almost always write it as "August 9, 2007" or "27th August, 2007" --- depending on whether I am writing it for a US or non-US audience.

Yours, 070809-ily,

A bushel and a peck

I remember the day they changed the money. In the late sixties or early seventies, it must have been: the UK went from L.S.D. (pounds, shillings and pence, that is, not the illegal substance!) to decimal coinage: prior to the change, there were 240 pennies in a pound, a shilling was 12 pence, a florin was two shillings, a half crown was two and a half shillings, sixpence was, well, six pence, and thrupenny bits were of course worth three pence. The system made no sense at all, of course, but people were used to it, and could calculate in it. And loved it.
There was a serious campaign to persuade people to accept the change: a lovely advert on the television with a grandmother locking herself in the bathroom, and her little grandchild banging on the door, saying "Come out gran, I'll explain it to you".

Of course, now nobody would change back: the old system was much more difficult for performing calculations (let's see, that's seven of those, so you get a three percent discount: the original price is 7s5d: a nasty calculation unless you convert to pennies first, do the calculations, and then convert back!)

I was out of the country when it changed from imperial units (for pretty much everything except pints of beer) to metric units. I gather that it wasn't pretty. And my mother still talks about buying vegetables, for example, by the pound. But it's not too bad: the system makes sense, even if you are not used to it, and it is not too hard to get the hang of it.

When I was in Canada this past spring, I found that I actually really liked the kilometre system for driving: probably because going 110 km/h looks so fast on the speedometer! And figuring on an hour per 100 km makes trip estimation just that little bit easier than dividing the distance by 60 miles...

Temperatures took a lot more getting used to. Strangely, I found the temperatures around freezing made much more sense to me than the ones around 20C: although probably after a few weeks of summer I'd be used to the higher ones too.

Here in the US, for everything but currency, we are a measurement backwater: the rest of the world, it seems, uses one system: here we are stuck with what are often called "English" systems (strange for a country so proud of throwing off it's yoke in 1776!) but are more properly probably described as (a bastardized) Imperial system.

Why "bastardized"? Because of fluid measures. In the UK, a pint is 20 ounces. As is the case in the rest of the world: if one refers to a pint, one typically means a british pint. In the UK there's a saying: "A pint of pure water weighs a pound and a quarter". In the US there's a similar saying "A pint's a pound the world around" (which I think needs the helpful addendum "except everywhere but the US, where it isn't") This seems helpful: a British pint is 20 fluid ounces, and a US pint is 16 fluid ounces, right? Right! But wrong. Because a US fluid ounce and a British fluid ounce are different measures: they are about 5% or so different!

Sometimes I think that things would be so much better if the US would just adopt the French system:-) That is, metric!

Yours, not hopeful,

P.S. the answer is 2 pounds, ten shillings, four pence ha'penny. Rounding to the nearest half-penny. Or 2 pounds, ten shillings, four pence and a farthing, rounding to the nearest farthing.


Can I get all of my grrrring out of the way in, say, a 48 hour period? Please???

Midnight plus perhaps two minutes. Flicker. Flicker. Dark. Whoosh, as the air conditioning comes back on, and so do the lights. Flicker. Flicker. Dark. Whoosh.
Unplug power supply from laptop --- no point in tempting fate here... Flicker. Flicker. Dark.

Wait for the whoosh and the light. Wait for it... wait for it wait for it wait for it....

And wait.

Close laptop, sole remaining source of light. Place securely on side table rather than risk dropping while carrying in lieu of a torch.

Walk gingerly to bedroom, get into bed hoping power will come back on so I can find my way to the other side of the house and brush my teeth without risking putting neosporin or other "do not take orally" medication on my toothbrush....

Think about the fact that our telephones are all cordless, and hence dependent on power supply, except cell phones and my cellphone is uncharged. Who knows where LOML's cell phone is. And we don't know the number of the power company by heart, so we couldn't phone them to find out an eta on power anyway.
LOML wakes, finds cellphone, calls directory assistance (Doh!) and finds out that we only have to live with outside temperatures until 2:30.

At this point the real feel outside was still 88 F. That's about 31 in real degrees for those of you in Europe, Canada, or anywhere else in the world.

The power actually was restored at 1:50: the temperature in the living room at this point was 83 F --- it had not risen too much --- but the really big difference the power made was that the ceiling fans worked again.


Yours, fears, and sweat evaporated,

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Naps are evil

Sometimes, I admit, I do like to take a nap. And if I were home at that time in the afternoon more often, it would probably be more often that I took a siesta.

The sprogs, however, have just about finished their nap-dependence -- Boo hasn't had a nap in weeks, although occasionally she will look like she's about to fall asleep: and Skibo doesn't seem to be willing to nap more than once a week or so.

And on those days when one of them does have a nap, it seems to always be my turn to put them to bed. We still read to them and sing to them and tell poems to them, in my case at least, until they are asleep. Most nights, anyway. Boo is getting better about closing her eyes and quietly going off to sleep if she's already drowsy, just not quite there yet.

Today, Skibo had taken a nap. And when he does nap, he takes a serious nap --- from about 1:30 this afternoon until about 4:30. And so, when bedtime rolled around he was far from ready to fall asleep. It's been now over an hour of reading and singing and poems and snuggling and passing him his cup of water again and again and again. He still wasn't asleep when I left the room, but I told him if he was quiet enough I'd come and check on him in a few minutes. And I will: I just need to make sure that it is a big enough "few" that he's asleep by then, and deep enough that I won't rouse him!

I'm really torn by this: I love putting them to bed and helping them get to sleep, and will miss it dreadfully when they are older -- on the other hand, I won't miss nights like tonight one bit!

Yours, in verse, song, on paper, over and over and over,

Bureaucracy gripes

We have a three year cycle on computers at work: it's recognized, at last, by the powers that be that this is a reasonable replacement timeframe: and so this year, my laptop being three and a half years old, I was on the list for a new box. And while my old machine is still working reasonably well, it is beginning to show its age, and some parts have worn out, and had to be replaced, still others are probably verging on the edge of a worn-out breakdown. Like the hard drive. And the screen.

Anyway, I'm pleased to be on the list.

The only thing is that the machines get bought with year-end money. Which has to be spent by June 30. Not only does it need to be spent by June 30, the equipment has to be delivered by then too.

My machine was ordered about two weeks from the end of June. And it arrived a week before the end of June. End of story, surely! Except that the person in charge of ordering it had gotten cold feet before it got there, and had cancelled the order, and spent the money on something else -- I have no idea what, but the money had been spent. And so my brand new computer was shipped back.

Fortunately, fairness being a good doctrine, or for whatever other reasons, the department realised that it would be good for me to get a new computer. And so they set about forthwith on the task of ordering it for me.

Unfortunately, since the one which had been delivered had been shipped back, there was an issue of getting refunded for it. Even though the money had been spent on something else. And they had to wait for that refund before they could spend money from yet another fund on another computer, this time one which might come for my use.

Finally, in early July the money was returned here, and we could go about ordering it. If the relevant person was on campus, which she was. And so, without further ado, a mere two weeks later, the order was placed.

Of course, that was just the order within the department. It had to be cleared through purchasing. And because of their speed and efficiency that took well under a month. Barely more than a week, in fact.

Now, granted everything takes a while, but the purchasing order went out, from purchasing, that is, the order was placed for the computer two weeks ago. And it is still not here.


Fume further.

Fume so much LOML accuses me of taking up smoking again. I'm not. That's not smoke coming out of my ears, its fumes.

If it had come in when it was supposed to, I would have had lots of time to tweak it, to get it the way that I want it, before going to the beach, so that when things get really busy again the next week, it would all just work.
As it is, I won't even be likely to get my hands on it now until it gets busy.


Yours, smouldering, and not in a good way,

Fahrenheit 102

It's 7:43pm, and says the temperature here is 97 degrees. With the humidity and lack of wind, it's a "real feel" of 102. It's not forecast to get below a real feel of 80 degrees until 6am. On Saturday.

Only another month or so of this weather and then the temperature ends up just hot and humid.

Yours, replenishing the water supply,

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A strange visit

As I have mentioned in a few, perhaps only one or two, posts, I do origami. One might say that I do it semi-professionally, since I have actually sold a small number of pieces. For charity, I must insist, for charity. Nobody would buy them otherwise!

We have a small cafe in town, and we have become friends with the owners: and last fall we had them over for supper one evening: I was running an origami club for a local school, and mentioned this: the discussion then turned to their display of origami at the cafe. Naturally, as soon as I could do so I visited the cafe to see the display: it was a nice, very carefully folded selection, mostly of classic models. Apparently they have a regular customer who comes in and folds, and leaves the pieces for them. I folded a few pieces in a sort of "banjo-from-the-movie-deliverance" moment. And every time I've gone down to the cafe (it's not often, as their hours tend to coincide with hours when I am at work!) I've tried to leave another piece.

This evening there was a knock on the door --- LOML and I were in the dining room, and the children were playing in the living room: I had gone through to the living room, and Boo was hiding behind the sofa -- I played along: she said "there's someone at the door", so I checked, and there was someone I'd never seen before.

It was the origami guy: I invited him in, and we talked folding for a while: what was really strange, though, is that LOML insists that while he was here he stole a pencil: quite deliberately, and openly. It was worth about 20 cents, and the cost of it is not the issue, but the fact that he would deliberately pick it up and put it in his pocket, and....

Yours, crissed, crossed and creased,

I am not grumpy!

Contrary to popular opinion in our house this afternoon and evening, I am not grumpy!

After attempting to take a very late afternoon nap, which was clearly a mistake, and being disturbed from it, through no fault of anyone, I was not grumpy. I was just waking up.

There's a difference.

Yours, dwarf-named-sleepy,

Things I have to do at the beach

Just a random list of things that I need to do at the beach next week. Can you tell that I am looking forward to it?

Swim with Boo and Skibo. Lots.
Get some sun.
Stay out of too much sun.
Wear Tilly hat --- look Tilly-ish.
Walk up and down sandy beach.
Watch sunsets, attempt to photograph same. Curse camera, bad-workman-ly.
Repeat above five entries.
Go to Charleston on day trip.
Go to the Mustard Seed restaurant in Mt. Pleasant.
Go to the aquarium in Charleston (must remember to take zoo membership to get half price entry to aquarium).
Build sandcastles.

Yours, excitement building,

Monday, August 6, 2007

What to eat, what to eat, what to eat?

This week's menu challenge? What to cook up for Skibo's birthday party on Saturday. We are having it as a late-ish afternoon event, so that people don't expect to be served a meal --- but at the same time, if their kids eat enough that they don't want to have dinner they are not going to be too upset about their kids being full way too early... Or something.

So we are obviously going to have cake, and icecream. It is a little kid's birthday, after all! But we are also going to try to figure out what he would like to have (we are even going so far as to ask him his opinion: this is of at most marginal help!) So far we have figured out which sorts of store-bought snacks he'd like (the staples of goldfish, cheesy puffs, pretzels) and that he'd like mini pizzas (home made, of course) and sausage rolls.

Yours in preparation,

Less than a week

The anticipation builds: this time next week we'll have woken up at the beach, perhaps even already been down for a pre-breakfast run through the waves, and will be sitting on the deck, looking out over the ocean.
I won't have woken up at seven thirty, sworn, and rushed out of bed to get out of the door.
Of course, we will all be exhausted from the weekend's activities: Skibo's birthday on Saturday, then Boo's best friend M's birthday on Sunday, which finishes at around 3:30pm: we pile into the car and immediately drive about 5 hours down to the beach. Of course, if it weren't for M's birthday we'd be going down much earlier in the day, get another several hours in down there, but that is not to be.

Yours, counting the days,

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Report on cheesemaking

Well, the cheesemaking went quite well the first time that I did it: so naturally, I tried it again yesterday: I had thought that I might do a caprese salad (mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) but after the cheesemaking, I had another think coming.

I experimented with adding some chopped fresh basil to the cheese near the final phase, the stretching-like-taffy phase. And I will try this again: the flavour of the cheese was incredible. Unfortunately, the texture was not good. The first batch, the batch that I made on Thursday, the texture was great, the flavour ho-hum. Saturday, the reverse. But I had figured out the reason for the texture, I thought: I had used organic milk, and apparently organic milk is usually ultra-pasteurized, which is apparently really bad for making cheese: the milk proteins have been cooked just a little too much to work their wonders. Still, both batches worked out really well on pizza: melting cured the texture problems of yesterday's batch.

So today, I used the raw milk we'd bought on Thursday at the Farmers' Market in town, and it came together beautifully. It was gorgeous looking: satiny smooth at the finish, and just looked perfect.
Unfortunately, the texture was a little on the rubbery side (not yet sure why) and the flavour? Well, I hadn't added any basil, and I believe as a consequence that it tasted a little under-salted. Just as salt brings out other flavours, a lack of other flavours can make it taste under-seasoned too.

But undeterred, I tore some basil leaves, and sliced some tomatoes, and then LOML drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them, and I sliced some wafer-thin slices of yesterday's bread: and the results were stunning! The texture problems with the cheese vanished, and the flavours mingled, merged and waltzed in the mouth.

I suspect that cheesemaking is a lot like breadmaking: I can follow the exact same recipe as someone else with less experience, and my bread will be consistently okay: whereas someone with less experience will be unable to unconsciously do the little things which make it work. I may not even be able to identify the little things, but I do them anyway. If cheesemaking is like that, it may be worth trying a few more times to get it right!

Yours, at a stretch,

Test part 1

This is a test. This is only a test: if this had been reality, you'd have been in real trouble.

And what am I testing? I am very impressed with Past Imperfect's stories of travels, in which she creates a sequence of posts describing a trip, and the posts march down the page in the obviously correct, yet chronologically reverse, order.
Naturally I asked if there was some neat trick she used to do this!

Yours, ab initio,

Test part 2

Test part two.

Her response was that she went to a lot of effort to remember to write the posts in the reverse order. This seemed like a lot of trouble, and while it was rather impressive, it is not something that I would like to have to do.

So I thought about it, and decided to try something.

Yours, in continuo,

Test part 3

Test part 3.

The result is these three posts, the bodies of which were written in sequence as you read them. The signatures were not, and nor were the titles. That is the trick, and it appears to work.

So, this is now a trick I can consider using if I want to tell a story in order, but I want to write it in order online too.

Yours, in conclusion,

A monumental post for number 200.

L'arc de Triomphe. Monumental enough?

Yours, in a monumental achievement,

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A sad little Boo

We had L&R over for dinner this evening, which was wonderful: but at one point, Boo was sitting next to R, kicking her leg back and forth, which was clearly annoying him. He asked her to stop, and when she started acting up, I asked her to do so as well: at which point her four year old face crumpled, she ran out of the room and we heard tears emanating from within.

After some tears and some talk, it transpired that "I don't think that any of you really love me any more" --- I am sure it is normal, I am sure all parents go through the exact same phrase, I am sure, I am sure, I am sure, I am sure.... but at the same time, to hear your daughter say that to you is heartbreaking.
And what a lot of work to persuade her that we all do, indeed, love her very very very much....

Yours, heartbroken,

Flattery, or beating ones breast

Chicken is a wonderfully versatile meat; but like all meats, the incorrect application of heat tends to toughen, and the chicken breast, while plentiful and available skinless and boneless (characterless?) is prone to toughening more than other parts.
But there is a method to ensure your bites are tender: beating the heck out of it, but gently:-)
If you do this right, and then flour, egg and bread the breasts, and then shallow fry them in a little oil, you'll get a marvellous comfort food dish, preparable in minutes, edible for a couple of days or more...

Yours, beating

Flattery will get you everywhere

Or in this case, flattery will get you flat bread. I was talking to LOML at lunch about the fact that I have not made pizza much this summer -- it is a frequent summer dish in our house when the garden is ready with tomatoes: and since I had whey to use in dough, and mozzarella to use on top, and pesto in the freezer from last year --- which really needs to get used up before we fill the freezer with enough pesto to last until next summer --- the kneads were clear.
And then Boo piped up "can I have pizza tonight? your pizza is the best!"

And so I have just spent an hour or so putting together enough pizza dough to do a few minipizzas this evening and some bigger pizzas tomorrow. I've already decided who to invite over (they are vegetarians, and so pizzas are perfect: we can add some meats to some of the pies, and not to others as we see fit!)

Pesto pizza party dough:

One small ball of already risen dough (a few ounces, not much)
Couple of cups of warm whey, milk or water
Half cup or so of homemade pesto
Bread flour (5-6 cups, or more if needed)
1 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp kosher salt (a bit less if using table salt)

Break the already risen dough into small pieces, and let it soften in the whey. Add a couple of cups of flour, whisk to make a batter, and leave it for the flour to hydrate and the yeast in the old dough to show it's alive. When it is beginning to show signs of life (a few bubbles pop on the surface) then (I use a mixer) add the yeast and some of the flour, and after it is incorporated, add enough of the flour that it comes together to make a soft but not too sticky dough.
Knead a long time: you want the gluten in this to be very well developed and elastic. Place into a lightly greased (with olive oil) bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When it is risen, cut off part of the dough to use immediately: cut into appropriate size pieces, stretch into rounds, place on parchment paper; top with cheese, tomatoes, and whatever else you want, and bake in a 425 oven. (I will often use a much hotter oven, and you get great results, but start with a lower heat and work your way up until you know what you are doing. 550 is quite hot!)

A key to pizzas is to not overdo the toppings! When I started baking, I used to make pizzas which were piled high with peppers, pepperoni, pepper flakes, on top of mushrooms, mozzarella and meat, sausage, sauce and seasonings. And they were edible, but not great. Then I discovered minimalism in pizzas, and oh, is it better!

Cut the remaining dough into appropriately sized pieces, shape into balls and put into ziplock bags: if you are going to bake in the next few days, put them in the fridge: if it is going to be longer than that, put them in the freezer. Take them out a few hours before you want to use them, and presto, pesto pizza dough!

Yours, flatterened,

Friday, August 3, 2007

Menu ideas for tomorrow

So we've arranged for L&R to come over tomorrow (sans B, Boo and Skibo's friend, who is visiting grandparents this week): and so I am trying to figure out a menu
for the meal.
So far, we have corn and beans ready to eat from the garden, and apparently there are some roma tomatoes just begging for mouths. Oh, and basil out the wazoo. So my thoughts at the moment are grilled corn on the cob, beans, somehow, and perhaps a caprese salad --- sliced mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. After my cheesemaking experiences of yesterday, I want to try it again, see how things change as I modify recipes -- I am thinking about splitting a batch of mozzarella in two, and working some herbs through one batch to have with roasted chili peppers.

Oh, and bread. Of course. Now I just need to figure out the rest of the menu.
And whether to invite anyone else, or to leave them to Sunday:-)

Yours, in apron mode,

Amazing meal

As always, dinner was incredible. The service at our favourite restaurant is first rate, and the food is fantastic. Tonight we must have looked like we wanted to sit and enjoy, because things seem to happen on a slower pace than usual -- not enough to annoy, but to let the pace be gentle.
I started with a miso soup, followed by beef tetaki, which was out of this world: just stunningly good this evening -- and then my standard fare of sushi: I don't go for experimental that often any more, I know what I want to have and I can't eat any more than that! And so I had an order each of maguro, saba, sake, unagi and hamachi (tuna, mackerel, salmon, barbecued eel and yellowtail).

One of these days, I must try to cook like that!

Yours, sated.

Weekend plans

We are looking forward to this weekend --- starting this evening: we have a babysitter lined up to watch Boo and Skibo, so that LOML and I can go out with friends to dinner -- the Japanese restaurant, as always:-)
And tomorrow we have absolutely nothing planned --- I am sure that lots will come up, but we have nothing actually set in stone that we have to do: no reason that we have to be up at an awful hour of the day on a Saturday (or worse, Sunday) morning, no parties to take the sprogs to, nothing at all.
Which means, it is time to invite people over to dinner! [ makes a mental note to get out guest book and go down the lists ]

Now, what to cook....

Yours, scheming,

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Who says I can't admit I'm wrong?

Okay, I may not be very good at admitting I am wrong --- I maintain that it is because I get so little practice (not that I don't have the opportunities, just that I don't take advantage of a little mistake to practice admitting error!)

But for years now I have been calling my Danish bread whisk a "brotpick": and after a couple of queries recently about what a brotpick is, I decided to check my spelling online, only to discover, that not only is my spelling wrong, so is my whole word!

So, for future reference, the word is brotpisker, which unfortunately sounds slightly obscene, but so be it.

For MissMeliss, a picture of the beast in question:

It's not a great picture --- perhaps I will try to remember to take a picture of mine and the sprogs' brotpiskers tomorrow and post that instead!

Yours, errata-ically,

Arthurian legends proven true

This afternoon, I arrived home to discover a package on the doorstep: it was the yeast and brotpicks from King Arthur. So in the end, I ordered on Tuesday, they shipped on Friday, it spent Sunday-Tuesday in storage two hours from here: from there it went north a couple of hours, then back in this direction, and finally arrived. I could certainly wish that they would shave a little off the time: ship on Wednesday instead of Friday, perhaps: cut out the storage at the "sortation center": but that said, it is here. And in time.

Yours, delivered,

Three out of four?

Not a bad score. Perhaps.

The mozzarella was a success: I wasn't sure that the curds were going to come together, and then they did: I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to knead it, and then I could: I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to stretch it like taffy, but then I was able to do so. And it was really fun: a small downside being that the temperature was way too high for the sprogs to handle it, so it was just a spectator sport for them.
Another small downside: I used an entire gallon of milk, and got a small amount of mozzarella out --- a very scant two cups, perhaps, if that.
Still, I thought, I had seen that I could recook the whey and get ricotta (re-cook, get it?) But no. I recooked the whey, and if I get a half a cup of ricotta out, I am going to be surprised. And that took until now to drain --- I certainly couldn't use it in my cooking earlier in the day!

That's the cheese.

But when I arrived home somewhat earlier, I discovered a package containing yeast and Danish (made in Poland) bread whisks. And so Boo and Skibo insisted that they wanted to make bread. So we made bread. It was a quick loaf: less than three hours from start to out of the oven, with an additional half hour cool-down after that: so, let's say three and a half hours. But as always, I started by proofing the yeast, and threw in some old dough from the fridge, and it was good. Not as good as taking longer, but good enough for a quick fix.

Finally (actually, right at the beginning) we made pasta: just threw three cups of flour into the food processor, added three eggs, a little salt and enough water, and pulsed with the dough blade until it came together as a dough: kneaded it a bit, then wrapped it in plastic and threw it in the fridge to relax. After an hour or so, I rolled it out into lasagna noodles.
I had some sauce left over from the other day, and some store-bought ricotta, and layered sauce and ricotta with lasagna, several layers, and topped it with shreds of the mozzarella I'd made earlier, and some grated parmigiano reggiano.
I baked the whole thing, covered in foil, for about an hour, and then removed the foil for a few more minutes in the oven: then let it sit for twenty minutes.

Definitely the best lasagna I've ever made: the cheese on top was good (and the sauce I'd made Sunday was really quite nice): but the noodles made the dish for me. And for LOML.

Oh, and the sprogs ate it. Lots of it:-)

Yours, far and a-whey,

Cheese please?

I know. I keep threatening. But today, I really feel that the cheese making stars may all be aligned.

LOML is in an all day meeting, so the sprogs are hanging out with our friend L: who is almost certainly making sure that they have an amazingly wonderful time. And when I am done for the day (around 1) I have to pick them up, and so I have the joy of playing with them all afternoon.
Now, other than making birthday cards for LOML for tomorrow, I don't have much Frogwarty stuff on the agenda: so let's insert the cheesemaking experiment, and the pasta making experience. That should get the children good and messy, and at the same time, make dinner! Oh, and save me from the cries of "I want television..."

Yours, in anticipastation,

Can we get a puppy?

Boo asked the question today.... "Can we get a puppy?"

LOML and I have been discussing when to get another dog --- we had to say goodbye to our golden retriever earlier this year: we had had him since he showed up on our doorstep in 2000, and he was at least 5 then, probably older. Our sheltie+ mix we've had since 1997, and she was probably at least 5 then too so she is getting on as well. But there are best times to get another dog: and of course, since we'll almost certainly rescue in one way or another, the times may be suggested by circumstance.
This week, for example, would not be an appropriate time: we go away for a vacation in 10 days time, and couldn't take a new pet with us. So today is not possible!

Boo, of course, has a different sense of time, and of urgency than we do. And so when she asked the question "Can we get a puppy?" and my response was "Maybe sometime soon", her response was predictable, yet unpredictably priceless: she stomped out of the room in disgust, and over her shoulder said

"That's too grownuppy!!"

Yours, doggedly,

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A nasty accident, not as bad as it might have been?

It appears, several hours into the coverage, that the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis this evening has caused a relatively small number of fatalities --- tragic for those who died, and more so for their families: yet the fact that there was a schoolbus with over 50 children on board, and there were no fatalities among them: the fact that the traffic was travelling slowly, and so there were fewer cars unable to stop in time: the fact that as of now they are reporting only 6 confirmed deaths, looks as though this may have been luckier than it might have been.
I am sure that the casualty figures will rise: and as they do there will be more and more grief. My heart goes out to the bereaved and to the injured.

Yours, in sadness,

So much for cheese

So much for cheese, and pasta, and bread. We went swimming instead.

And had a lovely time: Skibo learned to swim, sort of. Big steps. So to speak.

For dinner, instead we had bacon wrapped shrimp, and mushrooms (sauteed in the bacon grease: yum!) and basmati rice with peas and sweet corn mixed in. Simple, relatively quick, and quite delicious. As to why the sprogs didn't want to eat it, I have no idea!

Yours, all washed up, and nowhere to go,

Favourite childrens books (and authors)

I mentioned in a previous post that Mem Fox is one of my favourite authors: and in response, Awareness asked if I knew another book, The Kissing Hand: I do, and love it too. So, as one of two proud parents of two proud owners of hundreds, perhaps thousands of childrens books.

I'm going to list a few of them: I'm not saying that they are necessarily favourites, but that they are ones that come easily to my mind. I'll try and add authors later, and perhaps even some more books too! If I name two books by a particular author or illustrator, take it as an endorsement of all their other books too! In Mem Fox's case, consider it as an especially enthusiastic endorsement that I name three!

Koala Lou, Mem Fox and Pamela Lofts
Wombat Divine, Mem Fox and Kerry Argent
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Mem Fox and Julie Vivas
The Kissing Hand, Audrey Penn
Big Mama Makes The World, Phyllis Root and Helen Oxenbury
Slinky Malinki, Lynley Dodd and Mallinson Rendel
Hairy McClary From Donaldson's Dairy, Lynley Dodd and ?
Zen Shorts, Jon Muth
Peg and the Yeti, Kenneth Oppel and Barbara Reid
Peg and the Whale, Kenneth Oppel and Terry Widener
Stephanie's Ponytail, Kenneth Munsch and Michael Martchenko
The Paperbag Princess, Kenneth Munsch and Michael Martchenko

More to come...

Yours, in libris interruptus,


P.S. Thanks for some extras in the comments! Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak are all well liked in this house too --- but they are better known, at least in the US than some of the ones above.

Cheesy reasons not to blog...

Having been picked as Michele's site of the day for today, I feel rather embarrassed to admit that this was the day that I had decided I'd not be able to post at all until the evening! For various reasons, today is busier than most days this summer, and what with wanting to try making cheese today....

So I'm snatching a few minutes here to post this, more by way of an apology than an excuse! And in a few minutes, thanks to a comment by Awareness earlier, I'll have a new (but short) post up. And it will be one that I'd like comments on please:-)

Yours, temporarily