17 November 2014

Alice Shook Her Head

It wasn't until I got to work this morning that I remembered about the tattoo.

"Is that a real tattoo?"
"What does it say?"

No, it's a temporary, and it's because months ago I signed onto a goofy Kickstarter where for a bit of pocket change, I got a temporary tattoo with a line out of Through The Looking Glass. The company doing this carved up both Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass into around 5000 unique sentences/phrases, and issued them as one-offs. My job was to apply the tattoo, and upload a picture to their website.

So I did.

Of course it's on my neck. It says "Alice shook her head". But the most entertaining part might be that people in my office actually thought it could be a real tattoo. As if.

13 November 2014

Squash Bread #2

I love this bread. It's lovely toasted, it smells a little like Zwieback (which, unhappily, Nabisco discontinued), and it makes me feel virtuous because it's laced with puréed squash. The original recipe includes walnuts, raisins and cranberries and has a long rise in the fridge. I wanted a more versatile loaf, so I leave out all of the nuts & berries, and I start it in the bread machine, but I bake it in the oven.

Yeasted Squash Bread (adapted from Baking With Julia)

Wet stuff

1 egg
1 cup squash purée
2 T. warm water
5 T. butter (at room temperature)

Dry stuff
2 2/3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. freshly grated nutmeg
½ t. salt
2 t. active dry yeast

1) Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a loaf pan.
2) Add ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed - that is, wet stuff at the bottom, dry on top. Set it for "dough" and come back when it beeps.
3) Sprinkle some flour on your countertop, dump the dough out of the bread machine bowl, squish it into a rectangle and fold it into a log. Seam side down, put it in a greased loaf pan. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm spot for a couple of hours.
4) Bake until done - about 45 minutes - I usually take it out of the pan after about 30 minutes and put it back on the oven rack for the last 15 minutes.
5) Cool on a rack.

[If you want to do this by hand, you are on your own - but dumping everything in a bowl, mixing it together, and then turning it out to knead sounds about right.]

11 November 2014

Squash Bread #1

There are hundreds of dozens of recipes for pumpkin bread on the web. I'm posting this mostly because I finally tweaked one just so, and I want to remember it, damn it. It's good.

Squash Bread (adapted from Simply Recipes)

Dry stuff

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 t. allspice

Wet stuff
2 eggs
1 cup squash purée*
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

Other stuff
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a normal sized loaf pan.
2) Mix all the dry ingredients together in a good sized bowl.
3) Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, and beat them up with a fork. Or a whisk. Add the squash and the water; stir to mix. Add the melted coconut oil.
4) Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined.
5) Add the walnuts. Oh, fine. Leave them out if you must.
6) Bake in that greased loaf pan until done - about 50 minutes - but check it with a cake tester to make sure it's done in the middle.
7) Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling.

*I have no interest in eating winter squash, ever. I just don't like it. But I always seem to end up with an acorn squash or three butternuts - they're like the fall version of pass-along zucchini - and I don't like to waste. So I cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast the squash cut side down on a silpat. When it's cool, I scoop the flesh out, buzz it in the food processor, and freeze it in 1 cup portions. It's good for quick breads or muffins, it gives body to a batch of chili, and I use it in a streamlined version of a pumpkin yeast bread from Baking With Julia (in which I leave out all of the crunchy bits and which I think I'll post later in the week).

10 November 2014

The Eleventh Whale

The other day, I sent a text to my daughter:

Ask and ye shall receive:

Happy birthday, little goose.

09 November 2014

Weekend Update

You know, it was kind of a nice weekend. I puttered around the house, and I caught up with an old friend while my kid was getting her hair cut. I passed along some Playmobil and Calico Critters, and I put my too-small hiking boots on eBay.

I took a picture of the Cimicifuga racemosa - which started opening its little flowers a week ago. It doesn't know that it's November?

I finished building the Lego Mini Cooper. The girl and I had started it a while ago, and then it got put away in a frantic house cleaning for something or another. I pulled it out this afternoon and had a delightful time snapping the rest of it together.

When I was done, we put a hamster in it. That's Ottilia, the docile hamster. Anastasia wanted no part of the Mini.

I love the Mini. I have made it abundantly clear that it is MY car, and that it is NOT to be cannibalized for other Lego creations. I may take it to my office, just for safekeeping.

In a not fun hour, I vacuumed up three million Nerds that a visiting child had strewn all over my house. Nerds are now off the Halloween candy list, and that child is never coming here again. Seriously, she opened all of the remaining boxes of Nerds and, I don't know, they were EVERYWHERE. We are going to be finding them when Easter rolls around. Nerds, by the way, are almost as annoying to step on in bare feet as Legos are.

I made 3 pints of potato and leek soup (two leeks, two potatoes, three cloves of garlic, a quart of chicken stock, a pinch of tarragon and a bit of salt) for my lunch for this week.

We had rice and stir-fried vegetables leftover in the fridge, so to amplify dinner, I tried out two new recipes, using miso, because I everywhere I turn, I see another recipe that includes miso. One was tofu with a maple miso glaze, the other was a salad dressing which I sort of improvised (a blob of miso, some apple cider vinegar, the last 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of safflower seed oil, a tablespoon of mayonnaise, a dribble of soy sauce, some lemon juice because I'd forgotten that I'd already added vinegar). The girl rejected the tofu, because I made the mistake of mentioning the maple, but ate the salad without complaint. She seems to think that sweet doesn't belong in savory dishes, and yet she douses everything in ketchup. Even rice. [I've spared you that picture.] I liked the tofu, and I can see adding miso to lots of things.

I did not lose my temper at the awful postal clerk, but as I was tossing out the receipt later, I noticed that there was a website and a request to "tell us about your recent postal experience". So I did. THAT was gratifying. Maybe they'll act on my feedback and move the awful clerk to the back room where there are no customers. I know people in town - my husband included - who will wait for the next clerk rather than deal with her.

I made two loaves of bread - one a plain yeast bread for toast and sandwiches, the other a squash quick bread. Oh, you could call it pumpkin bread, but I used pureed butternut squash because that's what was in the freezer.

And I wrapped some presents for the girlie. Old road atlases are my new favorite wrapping paper.

How was your weekend?

07 November 2014

Madness Lies This Way

I don't like loose ends. I hate it when things don't get resolved, I like everything in its place (although the clutter in my house might not lead you to think so). And when I respond to your PR pitch with a genuine question, I want an answer.

Last night, I was tidying up my email, in which "tidying up" equals "delete delete delete", as one does. In the morass I found a pitch from a PR company, flogging a GPS pet tracker, "that is perfect for your holiday or stocking stuffer gift guide" (like I have such a thing). If Fluffy runs out of the "safe zone", "you will receive an instant text message or email with a live-GPS tracking map to assist you finding your dog/pet immediately". Not only that, the thing acts like a combination FitBit/NannyCam for your dog: "this technology will showcase when your pet is getting exercise...and really let you know if your pet is getting enough exercise on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Also, if you have a dog walker--you can really monitor if your dog is getting enough exercise via this technology."

[Insert eyeroll]

I had, in September when I got this email, responded to the PR flack:

What happens to the GPS if the pet is eaten by a coyote? This a serious question, BTW. Lots of coyotes in my area.

And I have had no response to date.

I imagine that when the coyote (wolf, bear, lion) eats the tracked pet, the tracker ends up in the coyote (wolf, bear, lion). And then, we get a ping that the pet has crossed the line, so we start following the GPS tracking map on the trail of Fluffy, and OOPS, end up in the lion's den. Somehow, this seems like a misguided application of GPS technology. Or not, whatev.

But why didn't the PR flack answer my question?

04 November 2014

In Which I Introduce My Child To Some Possibly Inappropriate Television

Despite a general feeling that I'd rather be reading a book, there are some TV shows that I've gotten sucked into. In the past year, I've watched all of House of Cards, all of Orange is the New Black, and all of Luther. In each case it's been in a not-binge, not-attenuated way like thirteen episodes in two weeks - not thirteen weeks, not thirty six hours.

A couple of months ago, I started on Call the Midwife, and I was hooked from the beginning. It's set in mid-century London, and the main characters are a group of lay and nun nurse-midwives, caring largely for poor working class families. Gripping explicit birth scenes punctuate a through-story of the interpersonal dynamics of the midwives, and a fascinating exploration of the life and times of post-war London. It's fabulous television (and my friend the midwife says the birth scenes are really well done).

One night, after I'd watched a few episodes, all by myself on the couch, enraptured, the girl child came downstairs to see what I was doing. Oh, watching TV, said I. Can I watch with you?

Around went the wheels in my head. Many of the pregnancies and births are difficult - babies die, a mother dies, a mother's been beaten, there's an illegal abortion, a teenage pregnancy, incest. I thought quickly, and said yes. (And then looked it up on Common Sense Media, which rates it 14 and up.) A week or so later, she came down and asked again. That time, I said let's start at the beginning, and we'll watch the whole series together.

We watched the first two seasons on Netflix, and switched to the DVR to watch the third season on PBS (it's since been added to Netflix). The girl was distinctly amused by the warning that came up on the PBS broadcast:

Call the Midwife is definitely not for every 10 year old. In fact, there are plenty of grown-ups who might be too squeamish for it. But for me and my girl, it was a wonderful TV experience. I paused it from time to time so we could talk about what was happening. Pre-eclampsia is still a very serious pregnancy complication. A rare few women have 25 pregnancies. Oh, that white woman had an affair with a black man - how's the mixed race baby going to go over? [Actually, that happened in two episodes, with radically different end results.] It's highly unlikely that a woman would give birth to triplets without having known there were multiples. No one should give birth alone. Sometimes babies die. Mostly babies come out head first; a breech birth is a hair-raising event. Wrap that baby in a blanket so it doesn't get cold! Placenta previa, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, polio, retained placenta and cancer all make appearances.

It so happened that her math teacher was pregnant while we were watching, which lead to a lively discussion about what would happen if said very pregnant math teacher went into labor in the classroom. I could deliver the baby, she said. I'd send all of the boys out to get clean towels and hot water, and I'd tell her 'little pants' and now 'a big push'. I suggested she might should run get the principal and have someone call an ambulance. She agreed. I don't think I want to see my math teacher's lady parts.