Archive for March, 2010

I haven’t had very much to say lately. In the interest of posting to this blog even sporadically, it seemed like a good idea to share some of what I’ve been making lately thanks to my (beautiful, wonderful) stand mixer.

I suppose the novelty of my stand mixer has worn off a little bit, but only in that I don’t feel the need to caress it every time I walk through the kitchen. I still find myself coming up with excuses to use it. It is so much better than the flat-screen TV my mom gave me the option of getting for Christmas instead. I haven’t attempted anything really adventurous yet, like, for example, homemade marshmallows, but my attempts at making the basics have been more than exciting.

Yeast fermenting in the mixing bowl.

I feel one area in particular where the stand mixer has made a big difference is in making homemade frosting. I was never patient enough with a hand mixer to beat the frosting for as long as I should have. The stand mixer changed all that. I feel like my frostings are getting better with every batch.

Cupcakes I was actually paid to make.

I’ve become a really big fan of homemade pizzas, though I can’t come close to making a pizza dough that is really spectacular. This is one thing where I can’t quite figure out where I am going wrong. The pizzas still turn out good enough that I really, really enjoy them, but there is something not quite right about the crusts. Fortunately, I have discovered that buying the good mozarella (in the globs, rather than shredded in the plastic packages) pretty much makes up for any other imperfections.

Homemade broccoli and spinach pizza.

There is something about yeast breads I just really have not mastered yet. I can’t figure it out, but they always seem to come out a little funky with not quite the right texture. I made french bread out of Beard on Bread, and I figured that I probably couldn’t really go wrong. And yet, there was obviously something about my bread that wasn’t right. Am I kneading too much? Too little?

My funky french bread.

Fortunately, I seem to do okay with non-yeast breads, like this molasses-walnut bread which was great for breakfast.

Molasses-walnut bread.

I suppose I just need more practice. Fortunately, flour is cheap!


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Since my sister/roommate has left for her internship, I have been the only human living in my house. It occurred to me recently that, on many days, the vast majority of my spoken conversation is with animals.

Charlie, the very aged mouse, is always eager to see me and to hear what I have to say. My conversations with Charlie mostly consist of my saying, “Hey there, Charlie! Look at you! You’re still alive! Good job!”

My discussions with the fish are pretty similar. They usually begin with my counting the fish, “One… two… three… …. … four! Four fish! You guys are all still alive! Good job!”

And tonight, for example, I delivered a friendly lecture to my sister’s rats, in which I asked them to please, please not die while they are under my care for the next four months. I could tell they were listening to me from the way they were gripping the bars of their cage and looking at me, but I couldn’t really figure out whether or not I had their buy-in.

They’re not as good at conversation as my deaf dog.

I should give my dog some credit and say that he isn’t completely deaf. If you say his name in a very loud, high-pitched voice, he will swivel his head around and try to figure out where that weird noise is coming from. It seems like he can also hear very sharp, low pitched noises based on the way he jumps whenever I drop something on the floor. It’s just all sounds within a normal range that he can’t hear. But, given that he’s 16 and a half years old, and still quite spry, his hearing loss is a pretty minor issue.

Felix is the only one of the animals that doesn’t live in a cage and is, thus, able to follow me around the house. He follows me quite faithfully. This means that he’s always around to discuss important issues.

After an episode of Lost, Felix is always just as confused by everything as I am. Felix doesn’t know how they’re going to be able to wrap it all up in 10 more episodes, either. He is eager to hear about my day at work. He is always extremely interested when I am cooking or baking something new. He also gets frequent updates on how all the other animals are fairing. And of course, he gets his own regular encouragement to stay alive, just a little bit longer, please please please.

Felix also likes to initiate conversations. Most nights, if I am downstairs watching TV or reading past 9:00 or so, Felix will go to the bottom of the stairs, look at me, and tell me quite clearly that it is time for bed, and would I please wrap up my downstairs activities and follow him upstairs so he can get some sleep?

Felix manages to say a lot, and to listen quite well for a deaf dog. I am really lucky to have such excellent company. Sometimes I just want to sing the Golden Girls theme song to him.

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Without fail, February is the longest month of the year.

February 2010 will be remembered in the years to come as the month of three things:

  • Snow
  • Sickness
  • House Hunters International

While it’s true that Louisville didn’t get as much snow this February as, say New York or Washington, DC, we got gobs more than we usually do. I like snow in December, when it’s novel and festive. I don’t like snow in February, when it does nothing more than turn my street into a solid sheet of ice, dirty up my car, and require me to go searching all over the city for a damn snow shovel.

I kicked off the month of February with a fever, the highest fever I’ve had in years. I had a virus for a couple of days, and then spent the rest of the month with a cold or sinus infection that never actually seemed bad enough to warrant my going to the doctor, but never actually went away either. It just lingered. On and on.

Between being sick and being snowed in, I actually started feeling restless and isolated doing nothing but sitting in my house, which is nuts, because I am the sort of person who is happy when winter begins because it gives me an excuse to not go outside.

What was there to do with myself during those long days and nights inside but to watch hours upon hours of my newly discovered show, House Hunters International.  It’s simple and formulaic and comforting.  Someone is moving someplace other than the United States.  They look at three homes, each with pros and cons.  Then they pick a home.  And then they do a “3 Months Later!” and everyone is happy and smiley about it. Their terrace is wonderful, and perfect for entertaining! And they’ve already made so many new friends!

The best part about the show is that there are a seemingly infinite number of episodes.  I have had a season pass on Tivo for the entire month of February, and I have never seen a repeat episode, even though it records at least an episode a day.

Yesterday, I greeted March 1st with much enthusiasm. I was all smug with my, “Good riddance, February! I am done with you!” attitude. But so far, March hasn’t seemed all that different.

It’s still cold out. I am still sick-but-not-really-sick. Yesterday, I was coughing quite a bit, and I finally resolved to go to the doctor. It was March 1 now, after all, and things would be different. Plus, I felt less stupid about going to the doctor to say, “I am coughing up stuff! Dr. Internet says it’s pneumonia!” than I would about going to the doctor to say, “I’ve got the sniffles. Wahhh.” But I couldn’t get an appointment. And today, I’m not coughing anymore. I’ve just got the sniffles back again. Wahhh.

Fortunately, there were still new episodes of House Hunters International waiting for me when I got home.

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I have a lot of books that are favorites in different ways. Infinite Jest represents one of the most rewarding reading experiences I’ve had. The Diary of Anne Frank had an enormous affect on me during my middle school years, and remains an area of interest. Hamlet is my favorite work of Shakespeare. And then there’s Harry Potter and 1984, and so on, and so forth.

If I had to name just one book to be my favorite book of all time, though, that high, high honor would go to To Say Nothing of the Dog (Or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last) by Connie Willis.

My mom picked it out for me and my sister. We were going to the beach, and my mom was buying us books for the trip. I was 14 or 15, and I was in an awkward reading age during which I couldn’t find books for myself, and I didn’t want to ask anyone for help. (Also, why read when I could devote my life to watching, reading about, and discussing The X-Files!) So, my mom saw it on a shelf and thought I might like it–which is impressive, considering the summary on the back of the book in no way does it justice.

I didn’t read TSNOTD during the beach trip. That summary on the back of the book just wasn’t drawing me in. I finally picked it up months later, and then read it during every available second of every day until it was finished. (X-Files be damned!)

Since the original reading approximately 11 years ago, I would estimate that I’ve read or listened to it 15 times.

It was an extraordinarily perfect blend of my all most favorite elements: science fiction, romance, comedy, history, mystery, and literary allusions.

I credit TSNOTD with instilling in me my great love for time travel. Whether it’s Harry Potter or my high school physics class or Lost or When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, if time travel is involved, you have my attention.

I own three and a half copies of it: one hardback first-edition, one paperback for regular re-reading, the audio cassette version, and the original paperback copy, which has been read so many times it is held together with tape and has been retired into a place of honor (shared with my sister). I believe my sister owns two and a half copies of the book–one hardback, one paperback for reading, and her shared half of the original copy.

Allow me to do the math for you: that’s 6 copies of 1 book for 2 people, and every single copy serves a purpose. Even if that purpose is to sit on a shelf and make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

With my sister, I have made cupcakes devoted to TSNOTD. I have spent time casting and re-casting the movie version inside my head. (Right now, the front-runner to play Ned Henry is Lee Pace, but I can’t help and wonder if the power of suggestion is at play, considering my love for Ned the Piemaker.) My sister and I both have a serious affection for the name “Ned” for a potential son. I have given TSNOTD as a gift to more people than I can count.

In February, Connie Willis’s new book in this same universe came out. It’s called Blackout, and I don’t know much about it other than that it takes place during World War II. Though I’ve purchased it, I haven’t read it yet. I’m a little nervous to do so. I have certain… expectations I worry won’t be met, even though I know it can’t possibly be as epic is TSNOTD.

Sometimes I think that To Say Nothing of the Dog is what true love might feel like. (Setting aside the fact that promiscuity in reading material is pretty much never a bad thing.) As soon as I started reading the book, I knew I’d never loved a book in quite the same way before. Over the years, I’ve only come to love it more. And, sure, I suppose it’s possible that there might be some other book out there in the universe that I might love more. But I can’t imagine how.

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