Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ancestral knowledge

Friday morning on my way to work, I heard on the radio that the temperature would be in the 30s that night. A tiny voice in my head said, "cover your plants." Hopefully my seedlings survived (I was out snowboarding all day and didn't get a chance to check on them). Now all I have to do is remember to uncover them.

I also found a germinated seed in a lemon. I've decided to try to grow it. Who knows, in five or ten years I could be cooking with Meyer lemons from my very own tree. I imagine it would be very productive, as R's family's tree, the parent of the seed, is always dripping with lemons.

In other cool news, I'm now a published author. To be fair, it is in the family magazine, but still. Here it is.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh, the irony

On Sunday, I told my sister that, unless we got any snow while she was on her birthday trip to Las Vegas, she probably wouldn't want to go skiing when she got home on Thursday. Well, we got the snow, but my sister won't be going skiing, as she is stuck in Las Vegas. Due to the snow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Still talking about the weather

Apparently that is what this blog has been reduced to. In all fairness, though, rain is newsworthy in San Diego. Thanks to the poorly maintained roads and bad drivers, the sheer number of flooded streets and crashes tends to make headlines.

In typical San Diego fashion, Monday's rain was followed by a very sunny Tuesday, as it can't rain two days in a row here. It poured again today, but it looks to be getting back to normal for our Christmas visitors. However, nature has left a little gift in the mountains - snow! Totally going snowboarding this weekend.

Really, though, it hasn't been all work and contemplating the weather lately. There has been some cooking going on as well. Today I made teriyaki chicken from scratch, which was super easy and much tastier than the stuff from a bottle. I've also cooked up various winter treats, but I'll have to share the recipes later, as I want the treats themselves to remain a surprise.

Monday, December 15, 2008

NOW it feels like winter

They'd been promising us rainstorms off and on for a while now, but this time there was finally more than a drizzle. After I made it to work, in turned into a deluge. Driving around on San Diego's poorly-maintained roads was actually fun, as I got to splash through some rather deep puddles.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Getting into the spirit of things (a little bit)

I've been feeling really lazy lately. So lazy, in fact, that the thought of all the work that goes into getting an actual Christmas tree seemed like too much effort. Still, I wasn't quite to the point of not having anything (especially since we're sticking around this holiday season), so I decided to light up the metal cactus that my aunt and uncle gave me as a wedding present. As it turns out, little white lights are all one really needs to feel festive.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I still can't believe there are only 3 weeks until Christmas

The Christmas lights came on this week. Many of the houses on my block leave them up all year (we're classy like that), but they only turn them in in December. One of the houses has a giant star constructed on a pole on its fence. At night, with the lights turned on, it looks like a five pointed star in a circle. I'm sure they're going for the whole star of Bethlehem thing. During the day, however, it looks like a pentacle. Considering the block (and the sheer number of "Yes on 8" signs this October), I'm sure they would be horrified.

Now is also the time for picking out Christmas gifts, particularly as we hope to do the majority of our shopping from Amazon. We've been checking out Dr. Seuss books for the nephews, which has been an exercise in nostalgia. R and I both seem to want to give the Dr. Seuss books we read when we were little, which, I suppose, shows the impact of good books on young minds. I could clearly hear my mother reading some of the lines when Are You My Mother? showed up on the search menu, and I couldn't help extending my neck and craning my head to the side the way she would when she read the oft repeated title phrase.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo-ing poorly

Well, this is now two out of three NaBloPoMos that I've failed at, and I'm starting to think the first one must have been some sort of fluke. In any case, I'm thinking I may not do it again next year. This year, my life was hectic but uneventful, leading to no time and no inspiration for writing. Next year, my life will (hopefully) be a good deal more interesting, but I think I will have probably even less time for writing.

Now that the 90 degree days seem to finally be behind us (knock wood), I've started to plant a few cooler weather plants. I planted two kinds of lettuce, beets, and radishes. I'm really quite excited to get back to gardening.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Continuing the sporadic posting

I could tell you in detail what I've been up to lately, but, as I've mostly been playing Warcraft, I don't think it would make for the most riveting reading. I did do some really kick-ass healing this evening (my character is a priest). R's health bar was dropping and I was all heal, and then R's brother was also running out of health and I healed him, and then they were both running out of health and it didn't seem like I would be able to keep them alive, but I totally did!

Ahem.

I suppose you had to be there. It really was quite exciting.

I made a couple of quiches for Thanksgiving (my family, though they are quite capable cooks, has a habit of making inedible food, such as stuffing and things in Jello). I decided to try out a cheddar and black pepper pie crust, but I think it was overwhelmed by the flavor of the rest of the quiche. I think I'll stick with this crust recipe (but without the sugar, as the sweetness was a little odd with a savory quiche).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Delving into the crazy world of TTC

For those of you who aren't insane parenthood forum lurkers, TTC stands for "trying to conceive." I also do my best to stay the hell away from those cesspits of mania and desperation, but I am about to engage in one of their fetish activities: basal temperature charting.

What that means is I will be taking my temperature every morning at the same time before I've gotten out of bed and making a little graph. It will help determine when (and if) I'm ovulating. I've even bought myself a tricked-out thermometer.

Why would I do such a neurotic activity, you ask? Well, as it turns out, the pill messes with your body a bit. It generally takes 1-3 months for one's cycle to get back to normal, but the effects can last for up to a year (this is also why all the people I know who hadn't used the pill prior to trying hit the jackpot right away, while everyone else takes closer to six months, which is the time frame our doctor gave us). For someone who had a cycle you could set your clock to, unreliability is really disconcerting, particularly when you're hoping that the delay means babies. So, in order to make sure everything is working okay, and to give me the impression that I'm actually doing something, I'm joining the temperature charting bandwagon. Yay.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Three pieces in the shape of a grapefruit

I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to finish my book, so Thursday before my computer class I was left sitting in the car with nothing to do. I wandered across the parking lot to the grocery store, where I saw the most perfect looking grapefruits. They were fat, blushed with pink, and a little soft. I bought two, sat in the car slowly eating one. Due to the statins, it had been about six years since I last ate a grapefruit, and this one was as delicious, juicy, and wonderful as I had been fantasizing it would be.


We decided to play Frisbee golf this morning. The kid in the group behind us was clearly playing his first game, and was very impressed by some of R's drives. He decided R was the Happy Gilmore of Frisbee golf, and started pestering him to make a Happy Gilmore parody movie involving Frisbee golf. Thankfully, he left about midway through the round.


R's mom recently came back from Ireland. As is the case when she visits her homeland, she brings back goodies that can't be easily found in the U.S., usually Tayto crisps and assorted Cadbury candies. During the course of the evening, crisp sandwiches came up as a topic of conversation. R and his family reminisced fondly, while I expressed my disbelief. I clearly am missing something.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Falling off the blog wagon

It is probably a good thing I already failed NaBloPoMo on my own, as otherwise the World of Warcraft expansion would have done it for me this past week. All my spare moments are spent running around a beautiful alpine environment.

The blogging also wasn't helped by the exhaustion I keep feeling in the evenings. Come 10 o'clock, I want to go to bed. Unfortunately, I've been going to an advanced AutoCAD class twice a week for the past three weeks and wind up getting home about 10 pm, which means that Monday and Wednesday are something of a wash. I've been learning all sorts of useful things, but it has been exhausting. It really gives me more respect for my parents, who both went back to school in the evenings to get they bachelor's degrees when my sister and I were little.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Slightly odd

Now that I'm married and trying to get pregnant, sex has suddenly become a topic of conversation with my relatives. After so many years of even allusions to the idea that my boyfriend/fiance and I might have been intimate being somewhat taboo, the change seems a bit strange. Of course, we're not actually going around saying "we're having lots of sex" to grandparents and in-laws, but "we're trying really hard" is essentially the same thing. The nods of approval just freak me out a little.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Holiday eve

Tuesday holidays seem somewhat odd and good for nothing from a distance, but they have their own peculiar charm. Monday, you're filled with energy, as you've just finished up the weekend but you're getting the next day off. It is almost a Friday. The rest of the work week, all three days of it, also seems short and stubby. You're only just getting dragged down by the time it is over. The day of the holiday is the only issue. What do you do to make it special? How can you make it last, particularly when all you want to do is sleep in?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

If you want something delicious next Sunday morning...

I would highly recommend these cinnamon rolls. They were ridiculously good. And huge. Downright massive.

Two warnings, though. The recipe doesn't mention when to add the cup of warm water, but if you start mixing the dry ingredients with the milk without having added it, you'll wind up with permanent lumps. Also, adding almond extract to the cream cheese frosting makes the cinnamon rolls reminiscent of bear claws. Next time, I think I will try them with it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ay

Hmm... It seems I forgot to post yesterday. Much earlier in the month than last year.

Well, just as an object lesson for the rest of you NaBloPoMoers out there, if you find yourself thinking oh, I'll just post later, you're just lying to yourself.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Books, books, and more books

After learning that books checked out within the San Diego library system can be checked returned to any branch, I went online to request another book from my local library. I was relieved not to have to make more than one trip, as the books I checked out were not from the branch closest to my house. Requesting that one book was so easy, though, that I became drunk with power and requested more, picking books from my saved Amazon cart willy-nilly.

I hope I can read them all in time, but I have been doing more reading lately. I read during lunch at the office, as I am all by myself, and two days a week I also have a couple of hours between work and an evening class I'm taking. I'm a lean, mean, reading machine right now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I still don't get it

They're still tallying the votes, but at the moment it looks like the end run around the 2/3 majority required to change the state constitution may have passed by a slim margin.

What I still don't get, and probably never will, is how gay marriage would make other people's marriages "invalid." It isn't as though people are going down on one knee and saying, "Darling, would you exclude gay people with me for the rest of our lives?"

No, marriage is about love and commitment to one person, and the two people involved (and perhaps god, if you're into that sort of thing) are the only two that matter. My marriage is no less valid if other people's marriages are shams. Shit, plenty of heterosexual marriages fill that slot. Just because some people get married on a whim in Las Vegas, Britney Spears-style, or for money, green cards, or accidental pregnancies, it doesn't mean that my marriage is less well thought out and personally meaningful.

And to all those people who voted for Prop. 8 because they didn't want their kids to learn about gay marriage in school, I ask you: how much does marriage feature in the curriculum currently? Pretty much not at all.


Okay, I think you're all sick of politics now, so I think I'm done with the political posts. Back to the usual tripe!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Woo!

I've got a new nephew! This brings the grand total up to two.

Is it odd that I'm feeling a little competitive about this? Time to put on my game face, buckle down, and have some kids of my own.

Monday, November 03, 2008

F*ck!

I kept hearing about it on other blogs, that some people had bought google ads for Yes on Prop 8. Then I checked my site and damned if I didn't have one as well. I'm going to see if I can change anything on AdSense, but until then, here is this blog's official stand on this issue:

No on Prop. 8! Don't put discrimination into our constitution!

That is all.*

* Your own opinion, of course, may vary.

Three cheers for gaining an hour!

Having struggled all last week to get back to a sleeping schedule appropriate for my employed lifestyle, going off daylight savings time was just the thing I needed to get me to bed earlier. By 10 pm last night I was seriously starting to drag, but I managed to fight of sleep until 10:30, resulting in my getting nearly 8 hours of sleep last night. It was wonderful.

Hopefully, though, I won't be crashing at 10 pm tonight, as I will be attending the first of 6 AutoCAD classes and will be getting home around that time. The class is a follow-up to one I took a few years back which was really helpful and informative. If I'm going to be doing this for a living, I might as well be good at it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I'm so not a morning person

I was woken up in the middle of the night by R getting out of bed. I looked over at the clock. 5:30. 45 more minutes, I thought. When R came back to bed, he mentioned that it was time to turn back the clock. I wasn't sure, so I decided to go out and check. I put on my robe, and fed the desperate cat.

Sometime during my walk to the kitchen, I realized it wasn't Monday.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The day after

Halloween is a great holiday. R and I get to get rid of a good portion of our junk candy in one fell swoop!

Now, I'm sure you're wondering what the hell I mean by that statement. "Are you giving out years-old Laffy Taffy?" No, though I doubt time would affect that particular confection. R and I just have this horrible habit of buying candy at Costco. We wind up eating a few pieces and satiating our desire, then are stuck with the rest of the package. Worse still are candy mixes with flavors we don't like. We bought a box of Tootsie Roll Pops and it had all sorts of nasty crap. So what did the kids who came to our house get? Watermelon, blue raspberry, and lemon-lime Tootsie Roll Pops. Oh, and mint patties. We've also got a jug of those.

Apparently Halloween is also my opportunity to be mildly snarky to pre-teens. Particularly the older ones, many of whom don't even bother with costumes. I felt fine giving candy to the teenager who was taking his two little brothers trick or treating, but the same did not apply to the bevy of teenage girls escorting one slightly younger boy. "What are you?" I asked.
"A Power Ranger."
"Ah. So you all must be... his harem?" They giggled awkwardly. I only gave them one piece of candy each, even though I was eager to get rid of the stuff.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All the new that is the new

In case you were wondering, the new job is working out pretty well. The work is interesting enough to keep me from falling asleep, which is always a plus at a desk job. There are only two of us actually in the office, so, aside from the sounds of marines drilling in the distance and the tiny screams emanating from the child development center across the street, it is quite peaceful.

A few years back, the warehouse where my office is located used to be the clothing dispensary for the base. Apparently someone hasn't yet realized this fact, as yesterday we had a fairly steady stream of guys with bad haircuts and funny hats coming to our door wondering if they could get dress blues or P.T. clothes.

On the food front, I made a few things that were good, but that I wouldn't make again without alterations. I thought the mapo tofu was delicious and R agrees, but he thinks next time I should leave out the tofu and put in some broccoli instead. Orange olive chicken had two strikes against it in R's book (namely olives and the whole fruit with meat thing), but he found it edible. I think the general technique would be useful for making other dishes with a creamy sauce, possibly over pasta.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Making something delicious

R loves caramel. If he had to pick one kind of sweet to have for the rest of his life, caramel would be it. Nothing else even comes close.

Ever since we received an ice cream maker, R has been asking me to make caramel ice cream. Apparently he meant 'ice cream with caramel in it,' but when I finally got around to making the requested ice cream, I took the request at face value and started looking for a recipe for caramel-flavored ice cream. When I didn't find one, I decided to get creative.

Inspired by this recipe's transformation of a jar of Nutella into ice cream, I decided to try combining a batch of caramel (I used the recipe from The Perfect Scoop, but any recipe would probably do) and a can of evaporated milk. The results were amazing. Rich, creamy, and so very caramel-y.

R says next time I should include a caramel ripple.

Caramel Ice Cream
(utilizing the recipe for creamy caramel sauce from The Perfect Scoop)
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 t coarse salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 can (12 oz or so) evaporated milk

1. In a large, heavy sauce pan or Dutch oven, spread the sugar in an even layer. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring to encourage even cooking. When it starts to stay melted and darken, tilt the pan and continue stirring.

2. When all the sugar is melted and turns caramel-colored, remove from heat and whisk in half the cream. One everything is dissolved, add in salt, vanilla, and the rest of the cream. If any chunks of sugar remain, cook over low heat until they melt.

3. Pour caramel into a bowl. Add evaporated milk, and whisk until incorporated. Refrigerate the mixture until chilled, then use your ice cream maker to freeze it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Making the days count

Seeing as I will be returning to the workforce on Monday, the malaise that had overtaken my weeks had dissipated and I've become filled with the desire to get all the things I need to do done while I have the time. Today I cleaned, dropped off a load of stuff for Good Will, and went grocery shopping. With the skin and fat from the chicken thighs I found on sale, I rendered myself a little chicken fat (thanks to this lovely tutorial). Perhaps there will be some kasha varnishkes in my future. I then used some of the thighs to make chipotle chicken tacos (meh). I also made a little ice cream (delicious, but a very tiny recipe).

Tomorrow I go in to fill out paperwork, though I won't see my actual job site until Monday. I'm going to be working at the location of the project, rather than the main office where I interviewed. I have no idea what this job is going to be like. It's a little nerve wracking. I'm not even sure what to wear.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Success!

I'm employed!

I had a job interview yesterday. I came back from it feeling like I wasn't really what they were looking for, but I recieved an e-mail last night saying that they wanted me. At the end of the interview, they said that there were also other applicants and that they would get back to me. The pessimist in me thinks that there weren't other applicants, but that they had to decide if I was the best they were going to get (as the job posting had already been up for 20 days).

Whatever the reason, though, I got it. I'll be a AutoCAD drafter for a telecommunications company (a slightly redundant title, as CAD stands for 'computer aided drafting'). Just in time, too, as all this staying home was starting to make me slightly loopy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Trapped in the world (of Warcraft)

You wanna know where I've been since I last posted?

Playing World of Warcraft.

What else, you may ask?

Not a whole lot else, I tell you.

A new patch for the game came out on Tuesday, and ever since the servers came back up, I've been pretty much glued to my computer. I was planning on making bread on Tuesday, but then 2 pm rolled around, the servers came back up, and I was lost to the world. You see, they've put these achievements into the game, giving you credit for doing all sorts of things. I think it is the slightly anal-retentive side of myself, but part of me finds them irresistible. So, for the past several days, I've been exploring zones, acquiring pets, cooking, fishing, learning first-aid, and running through low-level instances. All in order to see little achievements flash up on the screen.

Hopefully this mania wears off soon. I've got other stuff to do!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Link list

I think it is high time I added a few links to this site. I spend so much time enjoying the fruits of the internet.

Now, I've got a single disclaimer here. This is just the contents of my feed reader. There are certainly many other great blogs out there, but, given that I have limited time, I can't read them all. So, if you're not in here, I still love you, but I'm probably not reading about your exploits regularly.


Currently in my feed reader:

40
A Teacher's Education
Adventures in Teaching English (and other cute-ish stories)
All or Nothing
Alyndabear
Anna in Spain
Anne's Food
Baby Toolkit
Basic Beekeeping
Bento Corner (Seems to be inactive at the moment.)
Bitten
Blue Door
Bright Minds (Also seems to be inactive.)
Cake Wrecks
Chez Pim
Chocolate & Zucchini
Clio's Sketchmajibber!!
Coconut & Lime
Cooking Cute - a bento site
Cynical Dad
DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary
Dooce
Dubious Quality
Flutephobia
Follow That Elephant!
Fussy
Garfield Minus Garfield
Geninne's Art Blog
GraphJam
Heavy Petal
I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?
Ikea Hacker
Kuala Lumpur Daily Photo
Life: The Illustrated Education
Life: The Ongoing Education
Living the Good Life
Loobylu
Lunch in a Box
Mighty Goods
Mighty Haus
Mighty Junior
Minmin's Obento
Monstro-Draw!
Old Photos of Japan
One Green Generation
Order of the Stick
Penny-Arcade
PostSecret
PvP
So... What Else, What Else, What Else?
Soy and Pepper
Stuff White People Like
Sweet Juniper!
That Night
The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook
The Daily Coyote
The Human Marvels
The Pants Press Sketchblog
Tokyo Girl Down Under
Vera's Particular Sketchblog
xkcd


Things I look through in my spare moments:

Apartment Therapy
Food Gawker


Recommended reading:

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou ("Record of a Yokohama Shopping Trip")
A really sweet manga. Downright relaxing to read. It can be found here and here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Entertainment for the unemployed

What is free, cleans the house, might even make you money, and provides hours of entertainment?

Craigslist!

Yes, I've discovered the joy that is selling my possessions to other people. I've been (and still will be) dropping off loads at the Good Will stop by my house, but it is nice to get a little money from some of the clutter we've accumulated over the years. It will be nice to only have one fondue pot again.

In cooking news, I made bacon and leek risotto. Nice, but I don't know if it needs to actually go in the cookbook, as, once you get a hang of the basic risotto formula, this is a simple variation.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Alyndabear would be proud

Went to an Australian restaurant for a friend's bachelorette party. Tried beetroot on a hamburger. Thought it was a nice addition (and will probably be something I crave at odd moments from now on).

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pretending it is actually October

Yes, I know the calendar says October, but where is the fall weather? It has been 90 degrees for weeks now! I'm sure that sounds good for some people, but I'm ready to turn my air conditioning off.

In spite of the non-fall temperature, I've been making all sorts of fall foods. Maybe it is to spite the weather, or maybe it is all the delicious fall recipes people have been posting, but I really just want to make warm comfort food right now. I've tried out two different cottage pie recipes (this one was a bit better than that one, but I think I'd add some veggies next time), clam chowder (good, but not rich and creamy like we wanted), and veggie chowder (quite tasty). Now I just need the weather to cool down so that the soup won't make me sweat.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The infamous no-knead bread

Joblessness persists, which means that my culinary adventures also continue full time. R finds it somewhat hilarious that, even though I do not subscribe to retrogressive ideals of feminine duties and propriety, I'm still doing all sorts of newlywed housewife activities (getting up to make him lunch, seeing him off, greeting him when he returns, making dinner). He has decided it is because I'm secure in my place in the world, and he will be more than happy to stay home when I'm supporting us as an orthodontist (should that happen in the future).

In any case, I tried out a quick version of the much lauded no-knead bread recipe. I think R hopes I will make it every week. (I might even, too, as it was very easy.) The accompanying article states a variety of flours can be used in the bread, which I might take advantage of to use up the various nonstandard flours I have acquired. Got to lighten up the load for the future move.

Speaking of lightening the load, I've been working to purge the house of things we don't use. If anyone wants crutches, a yoga mat (slightly cat-nibbled), or a picnic kit, please feel free.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ugh

Earlier today I was sitting at my computer, minding my own business, when piercing whine ripped through the air. What the hell? I thought, totally confused, but then I remembered that it is the beginning of October. Time for the air show.

Now, normally living within flyover distance of an air base isn't actually that big a deal. Occasionally helicopters leave one needing to pause the TV, but it isn't a daily event. During the air show, however, they pull out all the stops and let the screaming jets deafen the locals. Yay. Quite the fun weekend ahead.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Daytime TV (and other mind rot)

As I currently find the thought of going back into the classroom terrifying and repellent, I have instead applied for several temp jobs at the university. Carpooling with R again would be really nice. The university jobs website even has an online application status indicator, to feed my constant need to know whether or not anyone is actually looking at my job application. (Look at my application, damn you!) However, as the job postings don't close for another week, I am likely to be a homebody for a little while longer. Here is where we segue into daytime TV.

I've always wondered how so many people can spend themselves into massive debt. Watching the commercials on daytime TV, however, I think I've found a contributing factor. There is so much useless shit out there designed to solve nonexistent problems and someone must be buying it. I mean, really, cooking pasta is not so much of a momentous challenge that you need a special container for it. Nor is your dog suffering from you clipping its nails (unless you really suck), so forget about the doggy pedicure device.

The really sad thing, though? I'm pretty sure my dad would buy some of this stuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My latest craziness

I've cut myself off of alcohol and painkillers. I didn't use either much, but now I have a persistent headache and keep thinking about having a drink.

Needing to get moving on the whole employment situation, I started looking at substitute teacher applications. However, the thought of returning to the classroom left me anxious, so I applied to some jobs in Washington for Rich (with his approval, of course).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Honeymoon musings

There are deterministic, Euro-centric messages at Disney World. I didn't notice this to be a large problem, but it was disturbing nonetheless. Two rides specifically caught my eye: Splash Mountain and It's a Small World.

Now, I'm sure I'm probably not the first person to notice this, but at the end of the ride, when all of the kids of all the nationalities sing together, they're all dressed in white. Only by whitening can everyone come together in peace and harmony. Unsettling, perhaps?

Splash Mountain, though, is the ride with the most palpably creepy dialogue. At the end of the ride, after Brer Rabbit saves himself by tricking Brer Fox into dumping him back into the brier patch he had been trying to escape in the first place, you find Brer Rabbit and the bluebird sitting on the porch of Brer Rabbit's house. Among other things in the sequence of dialogue, the bluebird says (in a very condescending voice), "The brier patch is where you were born, and the brier patch is where you'll stay!" Apparently wanting to explore and move up in life is not a Disney virtue.

... If this is what I think of in Disney World, I think it means I need to get out more. I must have no life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The triumphant return

Well, perhaps that is a bit of an overstatement. Perhaps it would me more accurate to say "Staggering back to the blogosphere," as after returning home late Thursday night, R and I were then felled by the same cold and have been laying around the house ever since. I got up the energy to make a delicious soup we first sampled on our honeymoon, but not much has been going on otherwise. There is something about sickness that just turns me into a whimpering lump. I'm fine with injuries, but, due to a tendency to only get really sick, I cave to the slightest sore throat.

Anyway, the honeymoon was awesome, but I'm a bit too tired to go into much detail at the moment. Having never been to the southern portion of the country, the cultural differences certainly stood out. Every restaurant and fast food stand seemed to have pulled pork sandwiches. There was plenty of "high, hard hair" (as I have heard it previously described), large bodies, and more tube tops than one should in the course of a year. Everyone seemed to have some sort of accent. Most importantly, everyone was really nice and seemed genuinely friendly. A nice place, though incredibly humid. The camera even fogged up!

(That would be me up there on the balcony, in the pink t-shirt.)

One of our biggest fears when scheduling the honeymoon was hurricanes. Lucky for us, both avoided our area and we only had a couple days of rain to deal with. Of course, thanks to the Internet, one's friends tend to be located in diverse areas, and what seems like a lucky break for you (such as a hurricane not hitting Florida) may not be so lucky for them (the hurricane instead hits Texas). So whether you just missed the hurricane, helped out the evacuees, had to deal with associated weather, or survived the hurricane itself, I'm glad everyone out there seems to be in one piece.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wedding pictures #3

On to the party!

My brain coral cake (as I had previously described it).

Concentrating...

Success!

Ritual feeding.

First dance (to Amazing, by Aerosmith).

Me and my papa.

That's it for now. See you when we get back!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Wedding pictures #2

On with the show! Or, well, ceremony. Much obliged to the friend of mine who took these pictures.

Waiting...

Processional.


And here we go!

In case you can't tell, it was really bright up there. Poor R could hardly see anything. I was but I silhouette against a blinding background.

Moment of truth here. Does it fit?

Aww, we're so happy. I really was just overjoyed throughout the wedding. It all felt so right. There was definitely crying from other parties standing up there, but aside from one little choke, I didn't notice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wedding pictures #1

I'm off on vacation right now and won't have Internet access, seeing as it cost $10 a day at our hotel. I may be an Internet junkie, but I can make it 10 days without at that price.

In any case, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to take advantage of Blogger's post scheduling abilities and share some wedding pictures. Here is a bit of the pre-show.

My good friend S and me, studiously avoiding the camera while making the bouquets.
My sister's hair, mid-do. They teased up the middle, but it worked out in the end.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pre-vacation update

For those of you who have been wondering, here is my slightly-tipsy update on what I've been doing and thinking lately, in list form.

- No matter how tasty, I can't eat an entire batch of smoked oyster risotto on my own, and the stuff is just not appealing the next day (or any day thereafter).

- Ice cream and sorbet is always good, even though some people may think otherwise.

- I know I'm not here to talk politics, but I'm somewhat enthused by McCain's choice of running mate. Really, though, I think either candidate would do better than the current president. That guy is just embarrassing.

So, I am intending to set up some post of wedding photos (borrowed from friends) for during the honeymoon. Hopefully that won't fall by the wayside during the packing tomorrow. Wish us luck (that we won't wind up in a hurricane)!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Like a butterfly

It is strange to watch my new come into being. Mrs. [new last name]. Picked up my marriage license today and then ambled my way over to the social security office.

"Hey," I said, "I'm changing my name."

"Alrighty," said they, "have a new card."

In a few days, I'll head down to the DMV to change the name on my driver's license. After that, I get to talk with various other places and get my passport replaced. The whole process really seems so uncoordinated and arbitrary for something so important and routine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Still unemployed

The culinary adventures continue here at Chez A.

I finally managed to make some pepper jelly that was actually spicy, after a very disappointing first batch made with the recipe from the canning cookbook. Same recipe, but this time I left in some of the seeds, particularly those of the Thai peppers I used. The recipe makes about twice as much jelly as the book claims it should, which means I have all the more to share with slavering friends and family.

Ice cream creation continues unabated. Nutella ice cream met with rave reviews all around, and was even described as "the best thing I've had in a long time" by a friend of mine. Coconut ice cream was found to be delicious by the only coconut lover in the house (me), and recieved a passable review from my husband. Even though I was forced to use sweetened shredded coconut, as none of the supermarkets around me had unsweetened, it still turned out quite nicely.

R, although thrilled by my love of cooking, feels I have a knack for picking recipes that he won't like. Some of my recent trials have given more evidence to said theory. In my quest to use up an open bottle of red wine, I made barlotto with red with and mushrooms, a recipe from that risotto cookbook I am so fond of. R, being un-fond of mushrooms, took a rain check on that one. I also made romesco sauce (conveniently using ingredients I already had in the pantry, particularly a half bag of almonds I didn't know what to do with) and served it with cauliflower steaks. R tried it, but found the bell pepper flavor to be overwhelming, at it is something he isn't fond of. I suppose I will have to take these things into account when cooking for a family, as, without torturing R, I will want him to set a good example for the kids and eat a little of everything. No more portobello paninis then, I guess.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bear necessities

My original plans for last Friday were to meet the famous Alyndabear, touring the world as is her style, but unfortunately she neglected to respond to my text message so that didn't pan out. Perhaps her phone fell in when she was on Splash Mountain. (Actually, she hasn't posted since. You're not dead, are you? I do worry when people visit L.A., as I find the place somewhat unpleasant.)

So, to soothe my bruised ego, I instead set about making some strawberry stracciatella ice cream (very tasty, by the way) and foraged for fruit in my backyard. I had realized the day before that my neighbor's cactus was a prickly pear when I saw that they new lobes it had grown were actually ripening fruit (so I was actually a little excited at this unexpected opportunity to try one that very day).

I ever so carefully plucked the fruit, grasping it with two fingers on the spaces in between the black spots, which are full of tiny spines. Even so, I managed to get a few stuck in my fingers. I took it inside and rubbed it with a paper towel to remove the spines and then washed it.

After cutting off the skin (and making sure there weren't any stickers waiting to stab my tongue) I tried a bite. The fruit had an interesting flavor, like a cross between a papaya and a pumpkin. Unfortunately, it was filled with many small seeds, meaning that each fruit only had a small amount of meat. Definitely a food of desperation.

Additionally, I found myself stabbed by small, near-invisible stickers throughout the rest of the day. As R hilariously kept reminding me, "Don't pick a prickly pear with a paw. When you pick a pear, gotta use the claw!" Yeah, I got it.

The plan for prickly pear jelly has since been scrapped.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Childhood drama

R and I were watching Animaniacs this evening (you know it's awesome) when a segment containing the character Katie Ka-Boom came on. Oddly enough, the harmless short made me cringe. I suppose this was due more to the associated memories and emotions than the cartoon itself. You see, my family used to watch Animaniacs together, and Katie Ka-Boom was my mom's favorite character. She thought Katie's temper was a hilarious parody of teenage behavior, and would often repeat Katie's catchphrase when my sister and I were upset. "I'm not overreacting - I'm a teenager!"

I think what bothers me most about this whole situation is that my mom didn't really know my sister and me when we were teenagers. My sister started to live full-time with my dad early in 6th grade (a little before she turned 12). I did the 1-week-at-one-house-1-week-at-the-other thing from 14 to 15.5, after which I started living full-time with my dad. My mom saw us maybe once a month. Less, after she called the police on me for refusing to go to church.

Now, this is all ancient history. When I started this blog, I specifically told myself I wasn't going to use it as a forum to bitch about my mother. Why am I bringing this up now? The answer is simple: kids, specifically my plans to have them shortly. Even though we're so very different, I'm afraid I'm going to turn into my mother. More specifically, I'm afraid my relationship with my kids will be like mine and my mother's. None of this is helped by R's conviction that we're going to have daughters.

This is probably how my dad felt when my mom was trying to convince him to have kids. My dad's blood-father bailed on my grandma when my dad was 3. He had a step-dad from 9 to 19 (his "10 year dad," as he refers to him), but the guy was a traveling salesman who was often gone and was exhausted when he was home. My dad wasn't really sure how one was supposed to act as a father.

In the end, I suppose I will muddle through. My dad certainly did. Instead of repeating my mom's mistakes, I'm sure I will make different ones. There certainly are daughters out there who have good relationships with their mothers. Perhaps I'll do okay.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Recipe Review: Red Wine Risotto

Somehow the extra booze from the wedding (particularly a large open bottle of red wine) and the general lack of fresh groceries combined into a perfect storm of risotto yesterday. After furiously flipping through my well-loved risotto cookbook, I found several recipes which involved red wine, one of which I could in fact make with ingredients I pretty much had on hand. I did have to go out to buy a red onion, but that was okay, as it could sit in the car while I ran my other errands (dropping off the marriage license at the county clerk's office).

Red Wine Risotto
from Risotto: With vegetables, seafood, meat, and more by Maxine Clark (recipe slightly condensed, as I am tired)

- about 6 c. hot chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 small celery stick, finely chopped
- 3 T. pancetta or prosciutto, finely chopped (optional) (I used bacon)
- 2 1/3 c. risotto rice
- 1 1/4 c. full-bodied red wine
- 1 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- chopped fresh parsley, to serve

1. Put the broth in a saucepan & keep at a simmer.

2. Melt half the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until transluscent.

3. Add the pancetta & cook for another 2 minutes. (I just added bacon I cooked separately.)

4. Add rice and stir until well coated & heated through.

5. Pour in wine & boil hard until reduced by half.

6. Add broth a ladle at a time, keeping the rice as a simmer & adding more broth before it dries out. Repeat until rice is creamy but still al dente (15-20 minutes).

7. Season with salt & pepper, then mix in Parmesan and remaining butter. Cover and let rest, then serve sprinkled with parsley.

Needless to say, this risotto was pleasant enough that I wanted to share the recipe with you. As R put it, it was not the very best risotto we ever had, but it was still good.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Recipe Review: Dark Chocolate Sorbet

Ah, August. The time when a girl's fancy turns to ice cream.

Well, that probably has more to do with my new toy than anything else, as today was rather overcast. This wedding was really my opportunity to pimp out my kitchen. Amongst the other cool swag (new pots and pans, culinary torch, that mixer that everyone else has), I received an ice cream maker.

Having been wanting one of these for a while (and having it residing on my gift registry for the last several months), I had started to collect ice cream recipes to try once I acquired said ice cream maker. The first we tried was the dark chocolate sorbet recipe found on Chocolate & Zucchini (though originally from The Perfect Scoop, which I have since ordered). We could almost stop the explorations into ice cream making at that one recipe. It is so good! Rich chocolate flavor, with little chocolate grains throughout - you'd hardly believe it was an incredibly simple recipe. I bought some nice chocolate for this inaugural run, but I bet it would still be good with standard chocolate chips, meaning it wouldn't even require a special trip to the store. We've pretty much decided that, barring new flavors from Haagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry's, we're going to be making our own ice cream from now on. Next up: strawberry stracciatella.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Why having friends is awesome

Multitudes of other reasons aside, they do really awesome things when you get married. Such as doing all sorts of errands, getting my wedding dress steamed so that it looks extra lovely, planning an incredibly fun bridal shower at a cool winery, and generally making me feel like a princess (and my life easier) throughout this whole marathon event. So I want to everyone to know how very grateful to have had a wonderful friend like this ever since the second week of first grade, when I transferred into her class. (She got all teary when she told this to everyone at the bridal shower. Isn't that just adorable?)

I do feel a little jealous that she was partying and getting drunk with my family the night before my bridal shower, but I think I can forgive her. They also love her, so I suppose it is okay that they like to spend time with her whether or not I'm there. At least they took pictures.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

After this, sleep

I don't think I actually realized how exhausting and busy this whole "wedding" thing was going to be until my sister and best friend (co-maids of honor) were laying out the schedule for the next few days. Hair trial, bridal shower, flowers, dinners, medical appointments... Madness! That doesn't even include the day of the wedding, which is pretty much nonstop primping prior to the ceremony.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's going to be great, but just the thought of what is left to be done leaves me pooped.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Growing Challenge #11: Sharing

A flock of birds has found my tomato-y paradise. Anything remotely red develops holes. I check the plants throughout the course of the day, each time finding new victims. My only recourse is to eat them anyway. I wash them, cut out the holes, and put them to use. Fried tomatoes and brie on rye toast for breakfast, sliced into veggie wraps for lunch, or pasta sauce for dinner and the freezer. My only challenge is using them that day, as I don't want to put them in the fridge, but I know that their violated skins will lead to spoilage if they sit out. With all the wedding hullabaloo, I'm sure to miss a few in the coming days.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Growing Challenge #... Umm... 10?

Okay, so it's been a while since I last updated on this topic. [Looks into archives] 3 months. Yeesh.

Well, I may have been so busy with grad school and wedding stuff that I didn't update, but I didn't stop doing the important stuff (namely, watering). Thanks to this continued effort, I've now started to see the payoff. Tomatoes! Peppers! Radishes!

My Thai pepper plant is just dripping with peppers, as you can tell from the photo, but even though the peppers were large they remained green. Finally, they've started to turn red. My bell peppers have started to turn orange, and even my lone poblano chile has taken on a deep green-red hue. I've decided to make some pepper jelly and toss in a few of the Thai peppers, just for added kick.

Even after several failures (dang rabbits. They also ate a bunch of jalapenos), I decided to try planting radishes again. Apparently the planter I planted them in was far enough away from the fence, and the radishes have grown to maturity. I'm pretty sure I've grown the world's cutest radish, but I might be biased.

Just so you know, that tomato is tiny.

I've also planted my centerpieces for my upcoming nuptials. I think they've turned out quite nicely. Plus, one they are finished with that role they will go live in the backyard of a friend of mine (well, I'll probably keep one). Dual purpose!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Progress

I just got my wedding dress back from the tailor. I think I will have to send her a wedding picture in a thank you note, as she did such an incredible job (and for a very reasonable price, too). I've finished nearly all of the items on my to do list, though I abandoned my search for stockings. I'd hate to bleed on them. Tomorrow, I'll figure out something for the table numbers.

The last big thing left is finalizing the ceremony. Earlier this evening, R and I chopped out the soppy bits from the sample officiant speech. We've tasked our roommate with figuring out the opening for the ceremony. Something funny, if possible. Poor guy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

11 days (and counting)

The wedding looms overhead, and I feel like I'm stuck in limbo. I'd like it to be here already, but at the same time we've still got things to do. We're going to be figuring out the ceremony tonight. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up my wedding dress from the tailor today.

Mentally, I think we're feeling the strain. R and I have been having wedding dreams. Something always seems to go wrong.

In R's most recent dream, he and I had gotten the date of the wedding wrong thanks to some quirk of Outlook. Everything was scheduled correctly, the guests arrived, but we weren't ready. We all took a walk on the beach, then decided we would just have to wing the ceremony. As one of our wedding gifts, we were given a tiny box that contained a tiny terrier. It was only a couple of inches long and ran around yapping. R wondered why someone would give us a dog, particularly as we prefer large dogs.

In my most recent dream, way too many people showed up for the wedding. They were jamming people in for the ceremony--it looked like a concert. There were people lining the stairs and people hanging off the nonexistent balcony of the building. I had forgotten my jewelry and my dress was stained and didn't fit right. Finally, the wedding party started walking down the aisle, my sister stumbling in last wearing massively tall shoes and a short white afro wig. I finally walked down the aisle to applause and cheers of "You go, girl!" (For some reason, there were a lot of black people in the crowd, even though I personally don't know many black people.) My roommate then started out the ceremony with an enlightening parable about testicles.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Birthday blogging

My roommate is at a bachelor party in Vegas this weekend (poor guy has been caught up in wedding activities all summer and isn't even getting married). When a friend arrived to pick up my roommate, said friend came over to talk to me and noticed that my birthday was the next day. He wished me a happy birthday, and mused on the the fact that I was nearing the quarter century mark. For his quarter life crisis, he bought himself a sports car. I told him that for my 25th birthday, I would like a baby. He was somewhat shocked.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Don't look if you have a weak stomach

So yesterday we were biking down this awesome, fun, incredible bike trail that we just discovered right next to our house. The trail consists of these trails through a tunnel of trees which drop down into a canyon and then climb back out.

At the lowest point in the trail, right were R thought to himself "It would really suck to get injured right here," I hit a rock, my foot slipped off the pedal, and the gear wheel sliced open my leg. I got off my bike, took one look at my leg, and sat down to apply direct pressure and wait for R to come back to get me (and bring the first aid kit).

We then had to walk out of the canyon while our roommate raced home to get the car to pick us up. We then spent several hours in the emergency room. Apparently the place was really freaking busy. Anyway, I got two cute little stitches. My first from things other than surgery. I'm so proud!

We've decided that the garter will need to go on the other leg. Glad I have a long dress!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Recipe Review: Maya Gold Truffles

Back when I was little, prior to the familial rift, my family used to throw a joint birthday party for my grandfather (July 20), my mom (July 21), and me (July 26). We three chocoholics would have a chocolate birthday cake with our combined age on top. My mom would always maintain that I was turning 25, as she and my grandpa were never as old as the cake implied.

Though these communal birthdays are a thing of the past, something chocolaty seemed like the ideal gift to give my grandfather at tomorrow night's birthday/hooray-for-finishing-grad-school dinner.

Even though I was not very successful with the white chocolate saffron truffles, I decided Maya Gold truffles would be hard to mess up. Having learned my lesson from last time, I didn't boil the chocolate (only the cream), and the truffles firmed up quite nicely!

Unfortunately, my grocery store didn't have Maya Gold chocolate bars, so I had to make due with Spicy Maya. As these bars lack the hint of orange found in the original bars, I peeled a little bit of orange rind and let it infuse its flavor into the cream. Delicious! The only thing I would change would be the fact that I used unsweetened cocoa powder on the outside of the truffles and it is a little more bitter than I would like. Perhaps next time I'll mix in a little sugar. Still, I think my grandpa will love them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Recipe Review: Thai Sticky Rice Mango

Back in June, while I was up in north county checking out of my school, I stopped by a Thai foods store in order to get a few specialty ingredients. I bought various curry pastes, a giant bottle of fish sauce, tom yum soup paste, and a bag of sweet rice to make this recipe.

Now, I'm a little slow getting around to things (so much other stuff to do) and this recipe requires an overnight soak for the rice, but I got my act together and made it today. The rice was so good that I wound up spoiling my appetite for dinner a spoonful at a time! So, I did what the recipesmith does and just had a delicious bowl of Thai sticky rice nectarine for dinner.

What? You were expecting some other fruit? Mango, perhaps? Well, that had been the plan, only the mango I had sitting above the fridge, though it smelled delicious, was brown and odd inside and clearly not fit for human consumption. I'm not very good at ripening mangoes at home. I always leave them for too long. Luckily the nectarines I picked from R's family's backyard on Sunday were also delicious with the sticky rice.

In other happy news, I had my last day of summer classes today and finished up the paper for my masters project. All I have left is to present it on Friday, and then I'm all done. I can't believe it!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Recipe Review: Peanut Sesame Noodles

Here I sit, alone, having spent the afternoon and evening working on the final paper for my masters program (and made decent progress, btw). R has been off on a day-long bachelor extravaganza for an acquaintance of ours who is getting married next weekend, leaving me a quiet house (so quiet) in which to work.

Also, much to my delight, I got to try out a recipe R would probably object to: peanut sesame noodles. Any sort of peanut-flavored dish just reminds him of peanut butter, though this one is so savory and delicious and filled with other flavors that the peanut flavor is not overwhelming. I've actually been tasting the leftover sauce all evening, it is so good. I can't wait to try it with soba noodles (I used somen, like in the picture, which was also delicious). Make this recipe!

Well, as long as you aren't allergic to peanuts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Because I need to write this down somewhere

As the wedding approaches, I keep finding more and more little things to do. I've decided that I need a little check-off list so that I won't forget anything. I can't believe this whole thing is going down in less than a month. So little time to do stuff!

- Figure out music for ceremony
- Finalize music for reception
- Make time line/schedule for the event
- Get dress hemmed and bustled and buttons sewn on top section (has to wait until my petticoat arrives)
- Get R fitted for his tux (should be happening this weekend)
- Get a haircut
- Give R a haircut (2 weeks out)
- Figure out how to decorate patio for ceremony (Do I want an aisle runner?)
- Paint little containers for favor/seating assignment plants
- Buy plants and plant centerpieces and favors (not until closer to the date, so I don't have to water them for too long)
- Buy parakeet grit to cover soil in centerpieces
- Make bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages (day before)
- Find stockings
- Figure out the jewelry situation

Brain... hurts...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

And the final version



Digital story rough draft

I thought I'd share the rough draft of my digital story with you all. Please feel free to leave me suggestions or constructive criticism.



Sunday, July 06, 2008

Recipe Review: Chocolate Risotto

I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July (and those of you outside the U.S. didn't work too hard)! Instead of fighting the crowds, I hiked up the hill behind my house and watched San Diego area fireworks from there. Not quite as large and lacking coordinating music (though some of the other people who hiked up the hill did have a radio with them), but you do get to see multiple shows at once.

On the 5th of July, part of my evening was spent making chocolate risotto. I'd purchased the ingredients a while back, intending to make it for my mother's visit, but due to laziness and a bit of skepticism on R's part, I'd put it off until now. The results, however, converted the two of us into true believers. Chocolate risotto is delicious! A new classic!

Perhaps due to my cooking it a little hotter than recommended, or maybe my rice wasn't quite the same, my risotto turned out a bit runnier than the one in the picture on the original website. Next time, I think I will add a little more rice. Still, it's a keeper!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gazing into my crystal ball

It's time to blog for school again. What fun!

Blog Response #3: What is your 2020 Education Vision?

Looking into the near future, I think the event that will have the most significant event on the whole compulsory education complex will be the retirement of the baby boomer teachers. Looking at the teachers I know from that generation, specifically my mom and step-mom, I can tell they are definitely excited at the prospect, no matter how much they love teaching.

After the baby boomers retire, schools find themselves missing a large chunk of their returning teachers. New teachers will come into the profession, much as they have, but continued high rates of attrition (made worse by the retirement of mentor teachers and school leaders) will lead to teacher shortages. I imagine that 2020 will probably be a turning point for education, though the field will go in one of two opposing directions.

The first direction, the ideal one, would be for schools to reduce teacher hours and institute formal mentoring programs. During an extra free period, novice teachers would meet with more experienced colleagues for advice, planning tips, and even (hopefully) to share materials. By giving teachers a little more time to plan, network, grade, and contact parents, attrition rates will decrease. School curricula will be refined, while at the same time becoming more inventive, thanks again to the increased planning time.

The second direction, the non-ideal but more probable one, is that the prerequisites for going into teaching will be lowered in an attempt to shovel more bodies into classrooms as fast as possible. The constant influx of new inexperienced teachers will hinder any attempt to institute school programs and policies, as participants will change from year to year. Staff development will also suffer, as many new teachers leave prior to or immediately after completing induction. In an attempt to counteract the inexperience of the majority of the teaching staff, more schools will adopt prescribed curricula, decreasing educational flexibility and experimentation.

Wow, that was depressing. Time for a gratuitous cat picture!

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Full circle

There is something about the Internet that makes people act like kids again -- at least, while they're still Internet neophytes.

How do I know this? Simple. Who is it that I get chain e-mails from? My middle school students and my mom.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A menu to impress one's mother

I'd say it also impressed my future in-laws, but, as they said to my mother, they've always had good food at my house. My mom is the one who, despite all reports to the contrary, refused to believe that my cooking skills had improved since middle school. Of course, this was one I couldn't win either way, as her comments on the improvement of my cooking skills echoed of kindergarten teacherly judgment and really rankled (though, prior to beginning to teach, my mom did apologize for the fact that she would inevitably talk to us in her teacher voice).

In any case, here was the menu last Sunday:
R's mom was kind enough to bring dessert, a chocolate cake (with little chocolate chunks) frosted with whipped cream and festooned with raspberries.

The meal was a smashing success. I really can't recommend the shrimp recipe highly enough. Simple, fast, and completely delicious. Everyone loved it. R was quite jealous that I got to eat what little was left over, so you can tell this recipe will be made again in the near future.

The tart (inspired by this recipe) was good, but I think it could have been better. I caramelized the onions and leeks, spread them on a sheet of puff pasty, grated a little cheese on them, then baked (no fennel seeds for us, thank you). The sides of the pasty wound up puffing up, but the onion-covered parts did not. Next time, I think I'll bake the pastry on its own for a bit before adding the onions, just to give it a little more volume. Still, quite a successful evening.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Digital story ideas

My next task for my technology class is to try out podcasting. In class we had the option of using iMovie for this activity, however some of us prefer to talk to ourselves in the privacy of our own homes. For those of you who, like myself, are not Mac people, Audacity also works pretty well for this purpose and is, conveniently, free.

Our assignment is to talk about our digital story ideas, the culmination of which will be appearing on TeacherTube later next month for your viewing pleasure. Here is what I have so far.

In a final aside, I never realized how much cool stuff is available for free on iTunes. The iTunes U section of the store is full of edifying podcasts and I have completely fallen in love with it. I spent my workout today listening to a lecture/interview about Islam and the West from Open University and have downloaded a whole series of podcasts to brush up on my Spanish.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Recipe Review: Saffron White Chocolate Truffles

Alternately titled "The time I found out my kitchen scale can't measure fractions of grams."

Seeing as my mom has come for a visit this weekend, I've been trying out all sorts of new recipes (as well as pulling out the old favorites) so that I can finally convince the woman that I know how to cook. Apparently she needed to see it to believe it.

Anyway, I decided to try out these interesting looking truffles in honor of her visit. Fortunately I had gotten a large jar of saffron at CostCo for a very reasonable price a few years back, as otherwise this recipe would be quite expensive. As I was trying to measure out the necessary half gram of saffron (don't let that comma fool you), I found out that my scale can't measure a half gram of anything. How inconvenient! So, I would up using a large pinch of saffron. I also managed to screw up the order of the recipe by throwing everything in the saucepan instead of just heating the cream and other ingredients and then adding them to a separate bowl of chocolate, which resulted in a longer cooling time and a softer texture. In the end, though, it was the taste that did this recipe in for me. Maybe I put in too much saffron, maybe the saffron should have been ground instead of left as threads, or maybe it is just that I'm not the biggest fan of white chocolate, but I didn't really care for them (this being said, I'm still looking forward to trying the same woman's recipe for maya gold truffles).

They are, however, very tasty in muffin form. Inspired by these Cadbury Creme Egg muffins, I decided to make some saffron white chocolate truffle muffins of my own. I added a little bit of melted truffle to the batter and then placed chunks of truffle in the uncooked muffins, but I think it would still be pretty tasty if you only added melted truffle to the batter.

Saffron White Chocolate Truffle Oatmeal Muffins
Oatmeal muffin recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book

1. Preheat oven to 400* F. Grease twelve muffin cups or use paper baking cups. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl combine egg, milk, and cooking oil. Add liquid ingredients all at once to dry ingredients and stir until moist. Melt a truffle or two in the microwave and mix resulting liquid into muffins.

4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Place marble-sized piece of truffle into each muffin cup. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool muffins on a wire rack and serve warm.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Abusing my blog for fun and academic credit

Summer classes started today, and one part of the technology class I am taking is a requirement to blog. For those of us who already have blogs, we've been given the option of just using our pre-existing blogs. So, for your reading pleasure, here is my first course assignment.

EDS 204 Blog Response #1: Tell us about a classroom event this year that has an impact on your professional growth and/or vision.

Given that I knew since the beginning of the year that I didn't really want to teach as a career (and tend to dwell on the negative stories), I think I'm going to share a couple of positive stories.
The Tuesday of the last week of school, I decided to get a couple of last minute pictures to serve as "artifacts" to show that I was fulfilling the California Teaching Performance Expectations (TPEs). For TPE 2, Monitoring Student Learning During Instruction, I decided to stage a photo of me talking to students. After snapping the photo, the student operating the camera exclaimed, "Damn, Miss A, you've got a big butt!" I gave her an odd look, at which point in time she started backtracking. "No, no. It's a good thing. I've got a big butt too!" As my class had been writing goodbye messages to me on the whiteboard, she followed up that comment by writing "I [heart] Miss A's big butt" on the blackboard.

I suppose this whole incident can simply be explained as a youthful attempt to extract one's foot from one's mouth, and in the process wedging it in deeper, but I've got an alternate (though unlikely) pet theory. My thought is perhaps the embrace of hip hop culture is actually doing some good in the body image circuit.



My other story is more of the heartwarming sort. One of my sixth grade advisory students received a number of awards at our end of the year ceremony. When we had adjourned out back to feast on watermelon, I went over to congratulate her. Our conversation went something like this:

Teacher A: Wow, that's quite a haul you've got there.
Student: Yeah.
Teacher A: How many did you get?
Student: I stopped counting after five, [leans closer] but I think I got eight.
Teacher A: Very nice.
Student: I guess hard work sure does pay off.
Teacher A: That it does.

Don't you just want to adopt her? She's awesome. All the teachers are betting she'll be valedictorian. I suppose there are a few good ones out there, after all.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Recipe Reviews: This weekend's endeavors

Dinner last night was a nice little meatball number that I served with rice and a salad. Tasty, but I don't know if they'll make it into the permanent rotation. (Speaking of rice, have you tried Free Rice? You just match words to their meanings, but the game adjusts to your vocabulary level, making it a nice brain work out.)

As a last-minute Father's Day gift, I wound up making some caramelized spicy peanuts this morning for my dad and grandpa. This was after making a batch of caramelized spicy sunflower seeds and finding them completely irresistible. They're not hard to make and watching the sugar transform in a flash from liquid to sandy solid and then caramelize is really cool. Now that I know how to give nuts crunchy sugar coating, I'm enthralled by the possibilities of what else I could dust them with afterwards. Chocolate? Bacon salt? Ginger powder? The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

'Twas the night before the last day of school

This whole moment in time seems very surreal. The Last Day of School.

The first day of school is still fresh in my mind, with the terror and the wondering how I would make it through the year, yet here we are. It seems like so little time has passed, probably because the beginning and ending are so clearly demarcated in time, but I suppose a lot has happened. I've moved from being nervous and sweaty to confident and apathetic. I know I can do this now. I also know I don't want to do this for a living.

I left the school positively giddy. My last day of teaching is over! Tomorrow is just supervising yearbook signing for the sixth graders! I'll likely never see any of the ninth graders ever again! Sure, I still will have to go to work Friday and Monday to close up shop, but no more students!

During my afternoon bike ride, however, I found myself not being able to breathe quite right and being (quite irrationally) annoyed at R because he could ride faster than I could. I wasn't really mad at him, but my throat was feeling all tight and painful, as were my tear ducts...

Yes, apparently I was more affected by the end of school than I had initially realized. A few of my students really were quite interesting people, and when you spend every day with a group of people for nine months it is somewhat natural to get attached. I think a few of them are even going to miss me too. I had several conversations along the lines of:

"Bye! See you next year!"
"Uh, no you won't. I'm moving. It's been fun. Have a nice life."
"Oh no!"

At which point in time I received several hugs. Somehow, though, I don't think they'll miss me quite as much as I'll miss them. I suppose this is what keeps people in teaching.

Still don't want to do it again, though.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Recipe Review: Applesauce

Alternately, this post could be titled "What I do with my evenings now that I don't have class."

Of course, this is just the first week without evening classes and also the last week of school, so I could just be feeling giddy. Anyway, I decided it was time to harvest some of the apples from my lovely apple tree and make applesauce. I love applesauce and I also hate to see things go to waste, even bird-pecked apples. Given that my garden appears to be feeding all of the local wildlife, it is really no surprise that the majority of the apples have a few divots taken out of them, if not large chunks.

The recipe I used was from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving I recently bought, along with some tools to keep me from dropping jars of jam into boiling water and scalding myself. I'll tell you now, the can lifter they have make canning much less frightening than it was when I was using my standard-issue tongs. I'm also glad the whole thing is no longer a two-man operation.

This is the first recipe I have tried out of this book, though I have bookmarked a few others. There are definitely some odd ones (the page opposite applesauce has a recipe for "strawberry smooch," whatever the hell that is), but it seems to have enough good recipes and tips to make it worth the money. Makes a darn tasty applesauce.

Applesauce
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes about 4 quarts (I got 6, but I think I like a thinner applesauce)
  • 12 lbs. apples, peeled (or not, if you're planning on using a food mill like I did), cored, quartered, treated to prevent browning, and drained
  • water
  • 3 c. granulated sugar (optional) (I wound up using 1 c. to take the edge off, as a few of the apples I picked were still a little green)
  • 4 T lemon juice
  • cinnamon (optional)
1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

2. In a large saucepan (more like a vat), combine apples with just enough water to keep them from sticking. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 5-20 minutes, until the apples are tender (time will depend on the variety of apple and their maturity). Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

3. Working in batches, transfer apples to a food mill or food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree until smooth. (After all the apples were out of the water, I reserved ~ 4 c. and poured the rest out.)

4. Return apple puree to saucepan. Add sugar, if using, and lemon juice; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking (you can also add some of the reserved apple-water to loosen things up). Maintain a gentle boil over low heat while filling jars.

5. Ladle hot applesauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot applesauce. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

6. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Recipe Reviews: A few good ones

Although I've been too lazy (and tired, and stressed, and lacking in time, etc.) to post, I have been trying a few recipes.

Way back on Memorial Day weekend, R and I were invited to a barbecue. Aside from bringing meat, I knew the one thing people my age want but always forget to bring is salad or some sort of vegetable. Perhaps it is because our parents always brought some sort of odd salad to potlucks, but the people I know rarely think of anything other than main dishes and desserts. In any case, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to whip up a quinoa salad that I had been planning on making that week anyway.

As I don't care much for green peppers, I substituted red ones and seasoned the water used to cook the quinoa, but other than that left the recipe pretty much as it. It turned out quite nicely (and I have several other people to back me up on that), and made a large number of portions which I was able to eat throughout the week.

The other recipe I tried recently was blue cheese mac & cheese, which was, as you might guess, totally awesome. As long as you like blue cheese, that is. We're thinking that next time we might add in some bacon, just for extra awesome.