Monthly Archives: January 2010

Other Trees

Today I received an e-mail with the subject line, “We’ve found your relatives in other trees.” I saw that it was from a genealogy service, so I figured out pretty quickly that it meant family trees and not, hey, please come get your cousin out of our sugar maple, his yelling is really disturbing the birds.

After this stellar beginning, the e-mail then went on to inform me that “[My father’s name], your father, appears in 1 other tree” and also, “[My father’s name], your aunt/uncle, appears in 1 other tree.” Puzzling, since we’re not from West Virginia, and even if we were…you know what, no, not going there. Suffice to say I won’t be climbing any trees anytime soon.

We’re a little short on trees around here anyway, with the Discarded Christmas Tree being one of the most common types. And they’re more fun for jumping over than for climbing.

What I’ve been reading: Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann; Cyanide & Happiness, Kris, Rob, Matt, & Dave
What I’ve been listening to: Chopin; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; Dashboard Confessional, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most; Joshua Radin; Ani DiFranco, Little Plastic Castles

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The beauty, the splendor, the wonder

Last Friday I got to see Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical on Broadway. Somehow I’d made it 24 years (almost 25!) without hearing any of the music, so it was all new.

And now I have had, alternately over the past four days, “Hair,” “Let The Sun Shine In,” and “Manchester England” stuck in my head. (And now “Suffer Little Children” by the Smiths because of the Manchester mention.)

For others who haven’t seen it either, it won’t be giving anything away to say it’s about a bunch of hippie flower children in the ’70s, most of whom burn their draft cards, one of whom does not. That’s pretty much it as far as plot goes; it’s mostly a singing and dancing spectacle. The cast runs through the audience a lot, and they handed out flowers.

Real flowers! Which I put in this nice bud vase (or triple shot glass, take your pick) when I got home. You may, if you look closely, notice there’s an odd reflection – not in the window, but in front of the windowsill. That is because, after repeatedly asking the landlord to do something about the obvious gaps around the window, which were leading to frozen drafts of icy tundra air and rendering my tiny radiator ineffective, a couple of practical-minded friends came over and sealed the windows up with plastic. Problem solved!

Funny thing I noticed when buying a couple of tracks from Hair off iTunes: the first review began “Even though I disagreed with practically every second of the show…” (doesn’t THAT sound like a fun person to hang out with!), and the second review was titled “Gavin Creel is a God.” (Creel is the actor who plays Claude, and he was in fact fantastic.)

[photo stolen from internet via google image search]

What I’ve been reading: Beatrice & Virgil, Yann Martel; Let The Great World Spin, Colum McCann

What I’ve been listening to: Hair, Wilco, the Weakerthans

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Filed under events, music

The Time Warner Saga Concludes

Yes, the Time Warner Saga has, at long last, concluded. More or less. I hope. (If you missed the first, let’s see, SIX installments, dating back as early as September 2009, you can find them here, here, and here.) Over the past couple weeks, I (a) obtained a faxed estimate from my dentist as to the cost of a replacement retainer; (b) faxed this, in turn, to the TWC representative who came to inspect and photograph the damaged item and to take down my account of events; (c) received a call from TWC informing me that they would pay for 71% of the cost of replacing the retainer (“We can offer you X amount.” “Despite the fact that it will cost Y amount to replace?” “Yes, well… [muttering about how I can’t PROVE it was their technician who broke it. I guess they are 71% sure it was him though]”); (d) received another call to schedule tonight’s appointment for the rep to come give me a check and have me sign papers; (e) met with the rep, who was only 45 minutes late and who kindly called ahead to let me know that he would be late; (f) accepted the check and read over the statement I was to sign; (g) suppressed a massive coronary attack at the multiple, blatant, glaring, egregious spelling and grammatical errors on the one-paragraph document; (h) photographed the document, signed, and saw the rep on his merry way.

I’ve spent a few days at work recently going over a contract, so I am not unfamiliar with legal language. This has got to be, hands-down, one of the most garbled and senseless paragraphs I have ever seen in my life, and I HAVE READ JAMES JOYCE. (Sections of Ulysses, anyway, and they were easier to follow than this.) Sentence structure aside – it’s clearly a mess – the “UNERSIGNED”? “…and forever discharge IT’S parent…”? It’s the misplaced apostrophe there that nearly killed me. Out, out, damn spot! Begone with ye.

Apparently my explication on the correct placement of the apostrophe in the word “y’all” earlier today was just a warmup. (For those who weren’t in on that: “y’all” is a contraction made up of the words “you” and “all.” The apostrophe takes the place of the “ou” in “you” and therefore the correct spelling/punctuation is “y’all.”) (For the record, this explanation earned me the “most hilarious e-mail in the ‘sort of a dick move’ category” award.)

What I’ve been reading: The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson
What I’ve been listening to: Songs Without Words, Mendelssohn; Clarity and Stay On My Side Tonight, Jimmy Eat World; Hard Candy, Counting Crows; Gordon, Barenaked Ladies; songs from Parachute, Lost and Gone Forever, and Goldfly, Guster

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Sanity Prevails

For once. I got ready to go play frisbee, resolutely ignoring the 38-degrees-and-raining conditions, and even left the house, and got half a block before I had an epiphany: THIS IS MENTAL. TURN AROUND AND GO HOME. So I did. Not my most hard-core moment, but it does mean I have a few hours to fill and can share more of yesterday’s cooking exploits.

Yesterday was 45 degrees and exuberantly sunny, and even though I’ve already shared the Israeli salad recipe, I couldn’t resist taking more pictures when I made it again. The tomatoes almost look like they’re glowing.

‘Cause glowing tomatoes, that’s not scary at all.

And this red onion – it’s enough to make you cry. (Ha, get it? Because when you cut an onion…oh, never mind.)


Cast of characters: feta cheese, hummus, salad, pita. A.K.A. lunch!

But it wouldn’t have been a very productive day if all I did was go grocery shopping, loiter in coffeeshops with friends, and made a salad I’ve made before, no. I had to make a quiche also. (By definition, any day you make a quiche is a productive day. According to the rule that I have just made up.)

This quiche is really easy – and it’s even easier if you use a pre-made crust, which I would have, except that I thought I had one in the freezer and that turned out to be untrue. That’s okay though, because it gave me a chance to use my new food processor! (Marathon Girl, see those spinning blades? Back away slowly…)


For the crust
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
6 Tbsp ice water

For the filling
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I used cheddar, but you can also use gruyere or pretty much any cheese you can grate, or a mixture of cheeses)
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp powdered mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne (or less, take it easy if you don’t like it too spicy)
cooked veggies (I used broccoli, tomatoes, and also some Morningstar fake bacon, which I do realize is not a vegetable, thank you. Well actually it’s probably TVP – textured vegetable protein – so there. Vegetable.)

If you don’t have a pre-made crust, make the crust first, as the dough will need to chill in the fridge for an hour. Combine the dry ingredients, then cut in the cold butter. If you don’t have a food processor, use a pastry cutter, two knives, or your hands (but NOT one knife and one hand) to work the butter into the dry ingredients. Then sprinkle the ice water over the dough and use a spatula to make it into a ball; add more ice water if necessary. Wrap the dough in wax paper and stick it in the fridge to chill.

While the dough is in the fridge, grate the cheese and set aside. Chop and cook your chosen vegetables (and TVP strips) so they are ready to add. Preheat the oven to 375. Press the chilled dough into a pie pan (you could roll it out with a rolling pin, but I was lazy and neglected to do so, and it turned out fine anyway).

Sprinkle the grated cheese onto the pie crust. Place the cooked veggies on top of the cheese, evenly distributed. Beat the remaining ingredients together (eggs, milk and cream, spices) and pour carefully over the veggies and cheese; the liquid may come right up to the brim. Slide the quiche into the oven and cook for 45 minutes, checking and rotating halfway through. Mine never cook this quickly, so add time as necessary in 10-minute increments. The quiche should be relatively firm and not too jiggly.

Also it should be delicious.


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Smells Like Heaven

For this recipe, all we have to do is combine Nirvana (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”) with The Cure (“Just Like Heaven”) to end up with Beer Bread (“Smells Like Heaven”). Beer Bread is, in fact, a bread, and not a band, but if it WAS a band, it would probably go with Nirvana’s flannel-shirt-and-torn-jeans look and eschew The Cure’s weird eye makeup.

Sorry. I had to go with a complicated lead-in, because this just might be The Simplest Recipe In The World. I found it on Epicurious, but here it is, reproduced so you don’t even have to go to a different web page. How much easier could it possibly be?

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 bottle (12 oz.) beer, room temp
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (1/2 stick)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the beer. Stir just enough to combine – don’t overmix. Batter will be lumpy.

Plop batter in a greased 9x5x3″ loaf pan and spread out evenly; brush the melted butter over the top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer (or knife, if you don’t have such fancy things as skewers lying about) comes out clean. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Eat!

What I’ve been reading: Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks

What I’ve been listening to: Matt Pond PA, Emblems; the Beatles, Revolver; Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Outer South; Mendelssohn, Symphony No. 5 in D Minor; Elliott Smith, Either/Or; Jimmy Eat World, Clarity; The Weepies, Say I Am You; Rancid, And Out Come the Wolves


Filed under food, recipe

With Apologies to Orwell

All morning are equal, but some mornings are more equal than others. And on the less equal mornings, it is handy to have made an apple-and-berry crisp the previous evening.

And it is even handier to have vanilla ice cream in the freezer.

Haphazard Fruit Crisp

(much like Apple Crisp, but with fewer apples and more frozen berries)


1 apple
the remainders of two packages of frozen berries (about 1 1/2 cups?)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2+ cup sugar
3/4 cups flour
6 Tbsp butter
cinnamon, nutmeg, salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toss the berries into a bread pan (if they are frozen together in intractable clumps and bashing them against the counter doesn’t work, zap them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds). Chop up the apple (leave the skin on, it’s OK!) and toss it in with the berries; pour on the lemon juice and some sugar and toss/stir to coat.

Then assemble the topping; cut the butter into the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to mix, then sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes or so. Allow to cool (just enough so you don’t burn your mouth) and eat warm (with ice cream, of course).

What I’ve Been Reading: Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, Nick Hornby; The Unnamed, Joshua Ferris; Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float, Sarah Schmelling; Making Toast, Roger Rosenblatt
What I’ve Been Listening to: Once: Music From the Motion Picture; Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys; Bach Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma; And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid; Reconstruction Site, the Weakerthans

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Primary Colors Soup

I’ve been doing a lot of baking recently (mostly repeat recipes like chocolate chip cookies, biscuits, and oatmeal cookies), but today those leftover potatoes’ number was up: soup! When it’s twenty-three degrees out, soup is pretty much the perfect food to make.

I didn’t plan ahead, so I just used the ingredients I had around, which happened to be:

2 smallish-medium potatoes (yukon gold I think)
1/2 white onion (yellow would work fine)
4 cups broth
1 carrot
1 chicken breast
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups frozen corn
2 Tbsp cream (you could easily leave this out)
salt, pepper, butter

Wash, peel, and cut up potatoes. Put them in a medium saucepan, cover with water, add a dash of salt, cover and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer until potatoes are soft but not falling apart; drain and remove potatoes to a bowl. Add a little butter (and/or olive oil if you like), some salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in another medium saucepan, melt about 2 Tbsp butter. Chop the onion finely and add it to the pot. Rinse and cut up the chicken breast – I cut mine very small, because chicken is actually not my favorite part of chicken soup, so I like to minimize its presence. Or something. When the onions have turned translucent (about 5 minutes), add the chicken to the pot, stirring occasionally.

In the now-empty potato pot, heat 4 cups broth. Again, I used a bouillon cube; the directions say 1 cube per 2 cups of water, but I used 1 cube for 4 cups. When the broth is warm, add half (2 cups) to the saucepan with the onions and chicken. Now would be a good time to wash, peel, chop, and add the carrot, too – I forgot and added it toward the end.

Add the potatoes, which have been waiting patiently in their bowl, back into their original pot with the remaining 2 cups of broth. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender (or however you like). I wanted a creamy base for the soup; if you prefer a clearer broth, just make sure the potatoes are cut into bite-size pieces and skip the blending. I poured some of the broth from the chicken-and-onion pot back into the potato pot to be blended in, then added the cream.

Combine the contents of both pots and add in the frozen peas and corn. Stir together, add salt and pepper to taste. Heat through, and enjoy!

What I’m reading: The Unnamed, Joshua Ferris; Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, Nick Hornby
What I’m listening to: Road to Ruin, the Ramones; The Best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

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