Sunday, July 31, 2011

Culture, entertainment, sport

In some sense, a day which went from high culture (we went to the theatre, to see a play), to entertainment (on arriving home, the kids insisted on watching television), to sport --- after dinner, we went to the pool, and enjoyed the water in the warmth of the evening.

Yours, thinking that all we were missing was bread and circuses

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our young artisan becomes a businesswoman

Boo has been making earrings for a few weeks now.  She has a lovely eye for ways to put beads together, how colours will work in interesting ways, and has constructed several lovely sets.
This afternoon, a friend of our stopped by, and on seeing Boo's work, asked if she could buy a pair of the earrings.
Boo set her price (and naturally, she had no idea for how much to ask for, but she will learn that in time: in this instance she came in rather below:-) and immediately made her first sale!

So, our young artisan has become a businesswoman!  LOML suggested to her that she split the proceeds into three chunks, placing each chunk in a jar: one for saving, one for spending, and one for sharing.

Yours, very proud of our little girl,

How is a pig's tail like getting up for a swim meet this morning?

To quote the old, and deliberately awful Noel Coward joke, "twirly!"

It was indeed way too early this morning to get up for swimming.  But get up we did, and we ferried the kids to another pool for their final swim meet of the season: both kids swam their hearts out, didn't come close to winning any race, but had a fun time.  And in at least one relay race, Skibo's team, aged six and seven, was racing against teams aged ten and eleven!

Next week the children are signed up for swimming lessons, which I hope will help improve their strokes: the swim team coach has been focussing mainly on getting them to swim laps, and hasn't  had the time for individual attention, but starting Monday, they'll have a great teacher, just for the two of them.

Yours, looking forward to seeing more improvement,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Another month has flown by

August is nearly upon us, and with it, birthdays galore.

Yours, thinking it is time to celebrate...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Prioritizing problems

It seems to me that the country is confused.  And not only that, the confusion is very very scary.

The deficit is an issue.
The debt is a problem.
The current debt ceiling is a crisis.
And the approaches being discussed at the moment are leading us down the road to disaster.

The solution is to pass a clean debt ceiling extension bill, or even, get rid of the debt ceiling completely.
As for the debt, the way to reduce that is to grow the economy faster, and to increase revenues, as well as by eliminating unwanted, unnecessary or ineffective spending and waste.
For the deficit, we should not be too concerned right now.  The country is still lingering in the awful after effects of a recession, and we should be spending sensibly to accelerate growth.  If we need to worry about the deficit, we should be returning to the pre-Bush tax levels, and using the resulting revenues in a maximally stimulative way, which, largely speaking, is helping the poor, the unemployed, building essential infrastructure, investing in education.  Tax cuts to the wealthy are an incredibly inefficient form of stimulus.

Instead, I remain

Yours, looking forward to disaster on Tuesday,

Khoresht e Alu

I've probably mis-spelled the title of the post, but I copied it from a friend's recipe, a recipe she copied down for me some twenty or more years ago.

I had lost the recipe, and discovered it hiding between the pages of a cookbook a few months ago, and tonight I decided to try making it again.

It's a Persian chicken stew with golden prunes: one of my main memories of it from decades back was a frantic trip to a shop in Washington DC which claimed to sell Iranian foods, and was only open for a few more minutes than it would take to drive there from the suburbs.  We made it that day, and the food was good enough I asked for the recipe: but I annotated the recipe with "dried apricots?" next to the golden prunes.

Needless to say, here in the wilds of the back of beyond civilization, there were no golden prunes to be had for forty miles, so I substituted dried apricots for the prunes.  The result was delicious, although neither child appreciated it.

Khoresht e Alu
6-8 chicken pieces (skinless thighs works well here)
2-3 onions, minced
1 tsp turmeric
Couple of cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 15 oz cans tomatoes
1tsp cinnamon
20-30 golden prunes
Oil for sauteeing the onions, browning the chicken

Brown the chicken in the oil on all sides.  Remove to a plate.  Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring, for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and add the chicken back in.  Simmer covered for an hour or so, then add the cinnamon, salt, pepper and prunes.
Simmer for another half hour or so, covered. 
Serve with rice (I used Trader Joe's Brown Basmati, which we love), yogurt and chopped onion.  I omitted the chopped onion, and added some toasted slivered almonds instead.

Delectable!  Thanks, Mairi!

Yours, reliving recipes from decades ago,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Boo is better again

It seems that Boo's virus has been vanquished.  She and Skibo were bouncing off the walls this afternoon (and literally, and annoyingly, climbing the furniture too).
Fortunately, by the time dinner was over, some order had returned to the chaos, and we all went to the pool, where the kids were able to get some of the energy out, and they went to bed surprisingly well.

I tried a new idea for a meal today -- and while it wasn't a complete success, I have ideas for how to modify it, and will give it another shot.  Inspired by The Minimalist cooking show a few days ago, (inspired but not copying: his recipe was quite different, beginning for example, with lamb) I made some spiced meatballs out of ground turkey, sauteed onions and pepper, an egg, cumin, coriander, paprika and sriracha.
I formed small cylindrical meatballs, browned them in a little olive oil over high heat, then rolled them in red lettuce leaves, to emulate stuffed  grape leaves, without using grape leaves.

The lettuce was not a great hit: the texture was all wrong, but the idea may work.  I'll try mustard greens next time, wilted in some boiling water for a few seconds: they should wrap around the meat more neatly, and give it a better package.

Yours, always wanting to try new things,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poor Boo

Poor Boo has a stomach virus: she'd been complaining of tummy troubles for a day or two, and LOML took her to the doctor this morning.  Nothing we can do, except encourage her to get some rest, and let it work its way through her system.  Apparently she shouldn't be contagious, so it really changes nothing, but knowledge of it is good.  She napped for a good while this afternoon, which is a rare occurrence.

All this put lots of other kinks into the day, from the kids not going to swim team practice this morning, to Skibo and me not going swimming this evening.

Yours, hoping to go to the pool tomorrow evening,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Garlic, basil, shrimp

No swimming tonight: the pool is closed on Mondays (although open for swim team practice in the mornings), so it will have to wait until tomorrow.
We had shrimp in a garlic, basil, tomato and wine sauce tonight, with brown rice, portabella mushrooms, and salad: very quick and easy, and delicious.

1 lb peeled shrimp (30 count, or so)
5 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
White wine
A cup or two of chopped tomatoes (we used tiny cherry
tomatoes cut in half, straight off LOML's plants)
Big bunch of basil, chopped or cut in a chiffonade
Sriracha hot sauceSalt, Pepper
A little oil for sauteeing.

Heat a skillet, pour in a little oil, just enough to coat the pan: saute the shrimp for a few seconds on each side, just until they start to change colour.
Remove the shrimp to a plate, put the garlic in the pan, and cook for 30 seconds or so, just until it turns fragrant --- not until it burns!  Add a cup or so of white wine, and cook until it reduces a little: just for a few minutes over high heat.  Add the tomatoes, a healthy squirt of sriracha hot sauce (as much or as little as you like) and season with salt and pepper. Add the basil, and the shrimp and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, just until the shrimp are cooked through.
(Please, never overcook shrimp!)

Yours, pleased with how this turned out,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spanish Gold

We made paella this evening: quite delicious, as I had hoped, although the soccorat didn't work out as well as I had thought it might.  I was happy to discover that a couple of local grocery stores sell little packs of saffron, and not hidden away in the back, either.  It used to be that the local stores were so worried about it being shoplifted that you'd have to ask for it, feeling rather guilty, as if buying some forbidden product.
And as for the title, spanish gold: it turns out that at current gold prices, saffron is rather cheaper than the metal: not much, but a bit.  Saffron locally sells for between $350 and $400 per ounce, counting sales tax.  Fortunately, I only needed half a gramme, or 1/56 of an ounce, so the cost was merely inhibiting, not completely prohibitory.

Yours, spinning the threads,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Texas displays some rational behaviour?

It troubles me that the current political wisdom seems to suggest that the Governor of Texas is about to jump into the Republican presidential race: after all, the last time a Governor of Texas ran for President it all turned out so well, didn't it?

Nonetheless, there is a slight glimmer of progress on the horizon: the Texas State Board of Education, finally showing sense, has decided to adopt textbooks that teach science, instead of insisting on anti-evolution pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo.

This is a huge deal, because they are one of the biggest purchasers in the US of text books, and what they decide to buy often gets foisted on lots of other smaller school districts by the publishers.

Yours, happy at a sign of sense,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Horrors in Norway

I can't think of a comparable act of terror to what has happened in Norway.  The fact that they were children, the fact that the killer continued his rampage over an extended period of time, the number slaughtered, all make it one of the most horrific acts of our time.  And the fact that it appears to have been politically motivated: that the children were among the best and brightest of the new generation for a political party, and the murderer slaughtered them because of this, adds a further sense of horror to an already horrendous crime.

Yours, saddened, and horrified, and grieving for the people of Norway,

And another

Another day ends swimmingly.
The end was fine.
Yours, thinking that the middle part of the day could have been better.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wondering about growing exotic plants

With the difficulty we have in procuring various ingredients for recipes around here, we've been kicking around the idea of buying some plants, and growing them ourselves.  We already have a good little crop of lemongrass (which LOML planted a few months ago, and is growing nicely): next time we get some galangal, we may save a piece and try to root it.  The current discussion is about curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves: they both are small enough shrubs that we could grow them in plant pots on the deck, and bring them in during the winter.  Not sure whether we'll actually follow through on the idea, but it's fun to contemplate.

Yours, wondering if this is a way to curry favour,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another evening of swimming

To cap today off, we had another evening of swimming.  This was a very nice way to end what had been a rather hectic day.  LOML drove a couple of hours to pick up a friend's child from the airport, getting stuck in unpleasant traffic on the way back, for a return journey of rather more than a couple of hours.  I spent the afternoon at home helping other friends out by watching three of their boys (four year old twins and a nine year old), together with Boo and Skibo, and one of Boo's friends.  Six kids who mostly played nicely together, but it was still rather stressful!
So, the relaxing nature of the pool was a nice way to destress at the end of the day.

Yours, wound down,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Evening swimming

One of our friends had expressed an interest in going swimming with us at the outdoor pool, and we had all decided that the most convenient (and coolest) time of the day to do so would be in the evening.
This evening, we went.  It turned out to be a delightful swim: the pool was almost empty at 7:30: the lifeguards could relax and joke with the children a little, and towards the end of our time there, the lifeguards taught Boo how to do a flip off the diving board into the pool.

Yours, at the end of an idyllic evening,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to work

Another Monday morning.  Back at work, teaching again, at 8am.

Yours, missing the summer of a few weeks ago.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wild salmon leftovers

Friday night we ate wild salmon, poached in white wine.  Tonight we reaped the leftovers: salmon fishcakes, made with the remains of the salmon and about the same weight in mashed potatoes.
Together with salad, and tomatoes from the garden, tossed with fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, a feast!

Yours, feasted,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Swim meet

Morning came around way too early today: we made it to the pool for the 7:15 warm-ups.  The meet, the second for the kids, but the first one I've been able to get to, was fun, and went mostly without a hitch.  I say mostly, because for Skibo's first race, he didn't realise that he was supposed to be in the water, and the other three swimmers left without him.  Fortunately there was an empty lane in the following heat, and he swam in that instead (and acquitted himself well, considering that the swimmers in that heat were all a year or two older than him).
Boo did really well too -- not winning any races, but swimming hard all the way, and she only lost one race by a tiny fraction of a second.

Really rather a fun way to spend the morning, if a little too early to be up.

Yours, ready for a nap,

Friday, July 15, 2011


What time do we have to be up at in the morning? 
We have to be at the pool by 7:15??? 
This is the less pleasant side of swim team: the pool opens to the public at 10, so the swim meet has to start at some awful hour.

Yours, thinking that heading to bed early has to be a necessity tonight,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day!

We failed completely to celebrate one of the world's better known holidays: with LOML out of town it didn't feel right to throw a potluck party, added to which so many of the people we know are away on vacation.  In the end I forgot to mention it completely to the children (who are still a little young to read Les Miserables, so it may be okay to not tell them about it yet).

Still, it might have been nice to cook up a batch of boeuf bourguignon, or something else in celebration of all things French. (Including, since I do live in the States, their team's loss to the US yesterday!)

Yours, thinking that I may just have to watch Casablanca later to get a fix of La Marseillaise!


The three of us are surviving LOML's absence quite well.  LOML, meanwhile, is enjoying learning about aquatic life for a couple of days in a state park.  The kids have a babysitter for the mornings, while I am at work, and then in the afternoons we try to do things like reading, not watching tv, and not hitting each other.  We have succeeded in reading a couple of chapters, and not watching tv for every hour of the day, so I'll count it as a partial success.

Yours, glad it's only one more day,

Beja Flor

I've been listening, as I may have recently said, to Zoe Lewis' lovely album, Rotary Phone, finding it a wonderful mostly light hearted piece of music.  Her songs really are stories: for example, the song Bollywood, all about an eight year old girl on a train in India, singing, with no shoes, but dreams of Bollywood sparkling in her mind.  Rotary Phone, the title song, is a lovely paean to the old days when one came home to one's phone, not carrying it around like an electronic umbilical cord.
One song that was not as obvious to me was Beja Flor.  It sounded as though it was about a hummingbird --- and when I finally remembered to google the term, I discovered that Beija Flor is indeed the Portuguese word for hummingbird.  So, today I learned a new word in a language in which I know very few words, and understood better a beautiful song!

Yours, always looking to learn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The beer necessities of life

won't come to you... at least, in Minnesota, that is: since the state government is shut down, and since the state requires beer labels to be re-approved every three years, and since that last happened very nearly three years ago for some major brewers, Minnesota is just days away from a massive "beer" shortage.
Of course, they'll still be able to get real beer, but the massive breweries affected will force Joe Sixpack to try a sixpack of something with real flavour!

Yours, happy to be in a non-shut-down state,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I apologise for how mundane my posts have been recently: not that I mean them to be mundane: but I frequently have ideas for a wonderful post, only to find that I am not at my computer.
And so I say "I have to remember that idea".
Only to forget what the heck it was when I am next at the computer.

Eventually I remember again, sometimes to post, sometimes to decide not to, and sometimes to be not at the computer, and to forget again before the next opportunity to post.

I've had similar experiences while exercising to Zoe Lewis' music: she has a song called Beja Flor, and I had not idea what it was about: listening to the lyrics, it sounded like it might be about a hummingbird.  But every time I exercised to the lyrics, I was still exercising when the song came on: I'd think "I have to check that" but by the time I had finished, the song was gone, as was the thought.

Well, a moment on google told me this afternoon that yes, indeed, it is a hummingbird.  A spectacularly beautiful one at that!

Yours, in memory of memory,

Monday, July 11, 2011

One year later

It's been a whole year since Neptune was discovered.  A year on Neptune, that is.

Yours, thinking that this needs cake,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The mystery is revealed

A month or more ago, the local transportation department people came round and put up poles for signposts.  And then -- when nobody was looking, covered them with trash bags.
Being a law-abiding community, a few people may have peeked, but nobody unwrapped the signs completely.  We were all left to wonder why they were covered.

Today, all was revealed: the signs are warning of road works along the street through town: presumably the fact that they've put in serious signs means that the road works are going to last for a little while.

Yours, curiousity satisfied, for now,

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturdays at work

My institution, in its infinite wisdom, chooses to observe Independence Day.
And when July 4th falls on a day in the summer semester, to make up for the missed day, we have to teach on the following Saturday.
This year, our schedule has changed slightly, moving about a week later: consequently the 4th lay outside the semester completely.  And to compensate, they are making us work two saturdays to make up for it.

Yours, completely confused by this,

Friday, July 8, 2011

Trader Joes

Took a trip to the big city today, to get some supplies: in particular, Trader Joe's cheap, but entirely drinkable wines.  Two buck chuck is actually $2.99 before tax, so it's really more-than-three-buck chuck, but even so, it's still a bargain.
And Whole Foods is just down the road, and with it, smoked trout and smoked mackerel.

Yours, wishing that they would open up their stores in our town instead, though,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back in the daily routine

Back to work today: I enjoyed lecturing (of course, since I like the sound of my own voice, and the way my ideas work) but at the same time, I felt almost disconnected from the process.
It's almost like the time off, the time spent not thinking about teaching, research, supervising, has left me unready to go back to my real world.
I'm sure it will take a day or two at most to reconnect, but the sense of distance was quite disconcerting.

Yours, working to reconnect for tomorrow,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Really enjoying Zoe Lewis' new album

I just want to plug my favourite singers newest album: Zoe Lewis released Rotary Phone a few weeks ago, and I've been enjoying it on a near daily basis ever since our copy arrived.  I sing along while exercising, and Boo comes into the room and sings with me. 
It's a lovely piece, nostalgic for old technologies and old places, and poignant with metaphors when describing the Bollywood dreams of a young girl in India.  A wonderful album!  You can buy it from CDBaby, or directly from Zoe herself.

Yours, reminding you to check this album out,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Last few days of freedom

In a couple of days, I get to go back to the salt mines.  Or I get to go back and assault minds.  Or something.
So today,  I went swimming with the children for a little while, folded some paper, and generally enjoyed the fact that it's still a couple of days away.

Yours, living in the moment,

Monday, July 4, 2011


Or more properly, a rat.  Designed by the late great Eric Joisel, folded by me.

Yours, happy with the result,

Happy Independence Day

As Flanders and Swann sang:

The war of American independence,
That was enjoyable, by and large,
Watching England's free descendants busy defeating German charge.

Yours, independently,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Preparations are underway

We've prepared much of the stuff for tomorrow's party: LOML's made a crustless cheesecake, I've put together the coleslaw, the ribs and chicken are marinating, ready to slow cook tomorrow, and a bunch of other stuff has been prepped and is ready to combine.

Yours, looking forward to the party,

Saturday, July 2, 2011


A very pleasant evening: we went to friends for a gentle outdoor meal: salad and chicken, with lots of watermelon for the children.  Met some new and nice people, three of whose names begin with Mary.
And then we walked down the street to watch the annual fireworks display (our town always celebrates the Saturday before July 4th). 

Yours, having enjoyed the fireworks,

Friday, July 1, 2011


Surprisingly, I don't seem to have uploaded this recipe before: it's the coleslaw recipe I prefer: no mayonnaise, tart, with a good little bite.

Non-mayonnaise coleslaw
    * 1 medium head cabbage, shredded
    * 1 large red onion, diced
    * 1 cup grated carrots
    * 2 stalks celery, chopped
    * 1/3 cup white sugar
    * 1 cup white vinegar
    * 3/4 cup vegetable oil
    * 1 tablespoon salt
    * 1 tablespoon dry mustard
    * black pepper to taste

 In a large bowl, combine cabbage, onion, carrots, and celery.
 Sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar, and mix well. In a small saucepan,
 combine vinegar, oil, salt, dry mustard, and pepper. Bring to
 a boil. Pour hot dressing over cabbage mixture, and mix well.

Yours, planning on making this Sunday, since it ages well,

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends (and even if you are not Canadian, or not a friend, feel free to celebrate!)

Yours, in a Dominion Day frame of mind,