02 December 2014

All I Want For Christmas...

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. Then came the shopping mayhem days: Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Today's Giving Tuesday, a day to make a difference.

And, though you're surely inundated by pleas from this great organization and that terrific non-profit, let me tug a little at your heartstrings.

Since sometime in the last century, more than 18 years if you really want to know, I've worked at a small awesome unique tuition-free ballet school. In a nutshell (though we don't put on a Nutcracker), we audition kids in the NYC public schools, and we teach them to dance. And, so that training is frictionless, we have an on-site public school for our students, we help them with transportation, we provide an after school program for working families, and did I mention that there's no tuition for the ballet program? If I may say so myself, we do great work.

In order to conduct auditions, we rent cars - lots of Zipcars - and send teams of people out to the elementary schools. Over the course of a year, we'll audition about 30,000 kids - kids who would never otherwise get a chance to dance. Crunching down the numbers, it ends up costing us just under $13 for each kid that we audition.

Do you have $13 to spare? If so, we'll put it to good use.

Here's a link. It's really fast and easy.

Support Ballet Tech through Crowdrise

Think of all the people who ask you to sponsor them in walk-a-thons or the like. This is my walk-a-thon. Thank you. Really, thank you so much.

01 December 2014

Game, Set, Match

Setting: Our car, at the outset of a two hour drive, the day after Thanksgiving.

Husband: "I can't believe you didn't swap your iPod over to all Christmas music."

I reach for the radio, and he says "how do you know you're going to find any Christmas music?" I push the on button, it launches into the usual last-listened-to NPR. I hit the station search button, and 94.3 locks in, in the middle of Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.

How it is that my husband did not know that the FM dial is littered with all-Christmas-all-the-time at this time of the year is beyond me.

Point to the Magpie.

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?