Thursday, December 28, 2006

17 things...

...about Mariah:

1. She laughs when I try to be cool. (She rocks!)

2. She looks great, no matter what color her hair is.

3. She's brave enough to try different hair colors.

4. She gets amazing grades.

5. She's modest about that.

6. She can sing. Like an angel.

7. She finds books for me to read.

8. She reads the books I find for her.

9. She's patient with her brother. Mostly.

10. She's terrific with other people's kids.

11. She's the best babysitter on the block.

12. She loves chocolate almost as much as I do.

13. Nonetheless she can be restrained about it.

14. She has great friends--ones I'm happy to have over as often as they want to come.

15. She seems to be willing to hang out with her parents.

16. She can drive a stick shift.

17. She's seventeen today, and this hardly scratches the surface. Happy Birthday, again!

Happy Birthday

Mariah turns 17 today, which is a greater shock to me, I think, than it is to her. Just this past week she has gone on her first college visit, driven an unfamiliar car, calmed her brother's night-time fears, and generally acted like the grown-up she is becoming. The night she was born she seemed calm and deeply curious--she lay in Mark's arms and drank in the world around her with her blue blue eyes. She is still curious, though perhaps not always calm.

She'll get a birthday with her godmother and family this year, as well as with grandparents; I'm glad she can do that, though I know she also wants a friend-birthday, and we'll probably try to make that happen as well. Before that, though, there will be creamy pasta with mushrooms and a very chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream--the girl has good taste, I'll give her that.

This is the first time I've ever blogged on her birthday, but it shouldn't, probably, be the last: happy birthday, Mariah!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

now it can be told

I meant to post an "after" picture to match up with the Christmas Eve one, but with two dogs (my brother's) and two kids under five (my sister's) in the house, we made sure to keep the under-tree area pretty clean as we were opening gifts. It took hours, though, I tell you. And everyone is very happy now.

What I can show you today is my Christmas knitting.

Clockwise from top, just left of noon:

A maroon alpaca scarf for Mom, knit in a simple eyelet pattern I sort of made up.

A sideways knit scarf for my brother-in-law out of Paton's Rumor, an alpaca blend.

Slacker scarf for my older brother, out of a nice wool whose name I can't remember. Yes, I did finish it on the drive.

Edgar, for Mariah, out of a lovely hand-painted yarn. I finished that one Christmas eve.

A multi-directional diagonal scarf for my sister out of another lovely multi-colored yarn.

[edited to add:] Missing from this picture (inexplicably, because it's in an earlier shot, without the incomplete items) is the ribbed alpaca hat I made for Mark. It looks exactly like the one in the pattern, though, amazingly. I used the same colors and everything...

And in the middle, cupcakes from One Skein for my nephew, the hit of Christmas. So much fun. I can't wait to make more.

There was real baking, too, over the past couple of days, but that's for another time.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Friday, December 22, 2006

one last Friday food

I made these rolls for Thanksgiving and a friend asked for the recipe, so here it is for posterity (or however long this thing lasts...)

Brown and Serve Rolls

Mix together:
1 cup warm water
2 envelopes (4-1/2 tsp.) dry yeast
let stand for 5 - 10 minutes

Stir together in a large bowl until shortening melts:
1/2 cu soft shortening (I used butter)
2 cu hot water
1/4 cu sugar (brown or white; I used brown)
1-1/2 cu powdered milk
1-1/2 tbl. salt

Add to the large bowl and beat together:
the yeast mixture
1 slightly beaten egg
6 cu flour (I used unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 cu toasted wheat germ

Once the dough begins to come together, turn it out on a floured work surface and knead for ten minutes, adding as much as 3 cu flour.

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and let it rise again for 45-60 minutes. After the second rise, shape the dough. I rolled it out to about 1/2 inch thick and cut small circles with a biscuit cutter, brushed each circle with melted butter and folded it in half, placing it fold-side down in a large glass baking dish (also buttered). You can find other techniques for shaping in any good encyclopedic cookbook (ie, Joy, Fannie Farmer, etc.). Once all the dough is shaped, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise until double--30-45 minutes.

Bake at 275 for 40 minutes.
Leave in pan for 20 minutes, then remove and let cool at room temperature. If desired, wrap and freeze some or all of the rolls at this point. When you want to bake them, thaw first, then bake at 400 for 7-15 minutes, depending on how big you've made them.

My recipe says it makes 8 dozen but I cut the rolls bigger and ended up with 4-5 dozen. Still more than enough for a feast!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

the year in blogging: 2006

As seen on The Republic of Heaven and Raising WEG: the first line of the first post of each month:

I don't make new year's resolutions; they just make me feel inadequate.

Today's my day on the Literary Mama Anthology blog book tour.

It's the first day of Lent and I haven't decided what, if anything, to give up.

I have a confession to make. I was a mean girl.

We had a quiet weekend.

I should probably preface this recipe by noting that, at the end, I will just tell you to grill the chicken and leave it at that.

Did I already mention going to see The Break-Up while we were at the beach?

He shares a birthday with Francis Scott Key and Herman Melville.

We've had no phone or internet at home since yesterday afternoon, and no power on campus today, so I'm feeling a little out-of-touch.

[my lovely sister] Is in yesterday's NYTimes.

The headless wonder heads out for the night...

After all the posting last month I'm taking a brief break to work on some other stuff.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I almost titled this post "why I am amazing," but my early training in modesty kicked in and I had to change it. Still, I'm feeling pretty good. The grading is almost done (and I haven't yet resorted to this technique--alas, exams submitted online can't be thrown up OR down the stairs!), and I've made lots of treats today as well. (Baking is a wonderful procrastination technique.)

Here's the Christmas baking list. (Not all were made today...but I'm not sure I should admit how many were.)

Pumpkin Rocks (I threw caution to the winds and used dried cranberries, walnuts, andchocolate chunks.)
Mocha Butter Balls
Speculatius (Danish nut cookies from the old New Joy of Cooking [1953])
Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies (I'm pretty sure that's a TimesSelect link; sorry if it doesn't work for you. The recipe is from the NYTimes Magazine, 11/5/06, and it's really good. I didn't do the fussy roll, chill, trim, cut, bake routine; at Mom's recommendation, I just rolled the dough into logs, chilled, then sliced and baked later.)
Elevator Lady Spice Cookies
Amaretti (adapted from Donna Hay's Modern Classics, Book Two) (These are about the easiest cookies ever: almonds, sugar, a little flour, vanilla, and eggwhites. I added cocoa powder, too. Quick and tasty.)
Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti (also Donna Hay)
Chocolate Truffles (Silver Palate Cookbook)

I haven't yet tasted the biscotti or the truffles, and the pumpkin rocks and mocha butter balls are almost gone. Still, there are enough for some gift trays and for us to keep some, too.

But now I'm beat.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Christmas Miracle: a tale in three acts

Wow, where did that last week go? (Don't answer that...the piles of papers on my desk tell the story.)

I've been wanting to tell this story since it happened, but it's been too busy until today.

Our heroine, rushing as usual, decides to make a quick Target run on the way home from campus. It is a Thursday in December, mid-afternoon. The list includes band-aids, toilet paper, and compact fluorescent light bulbs; should be a quick in-and-out, with no Christmas shopping involved.

In the way of such things, though, it is not all that quick. The parking lot is crammed with other shoppers who in fact are Christmas shopping at 3:30 on a Thursday. And the clothing aisle emits its usual seductive aroma of inexpensive impulsivity. Despite the two pairs of jeans and two t-shirts that join the rest of the shopping list items in the cart, however, our heroine makes it through the store before 4. (As usual she skips trying on anything, trusting to Target's generous return policy.)

Purchases made, she returns home uneventfully, puts together some cookie dough to chill and bake later, cooks and eats dinner with supporting cast (spouse and younger child).

After dinner our heroine leaves for choir practice. Eldest child has an unexpected ride home from school--where she's stayed late for her own choir rehearsal--so the evening's plans have eased. Halfway through rehearsal our heroine reaches into her bag for her palm pilot, to check a date for an upcoming event.

It's not in the bag.

The palm pilot is not only the repository of all date- and place-related information. Its case is also a wallet, containing credit cards of untold spending limits and over eighty dollars cash, following an ATM run the day before. This is serious.

The bag is floppy and things sometimes fall out of it. Maybe the palm pilot is on the floor of the car.

It's not.

Our heroine returns home after choir practice, ca. 9 p.m. A frantic search for the palm pilot throughout the house ensues. It is unsuccessful. Our heroine is dangerously agitated, slamming drawers open and closed, stomping up and down stairs. The supporting cast (now represented by spouse and older child, as younger child is already in bed) backs away. This can't end well.

Realizing that she last used her wallet/palm pilot case earlier that day at Target, our heroine makes a desperate phone call. After waiting through a long recorded message and explaining her problem twice (once to the operator, and again to Guest Services), she is told to call back in thirty minutes, when the person with the key to the lost-and-found drawer will return. Assured that coming in to the store during the thirty-minute waiting period will not hasten the return of the keeper of the keys, our heroine hangs up and commences upon a tirade on the decline of western civilization, as evidenced by the failure of Guest Services to procure a key when needed. The supporting cast makes comforting noises but keep their distance.

Thirty minutes is long enough to roll and bake the chilled cookie dough. When the cookies are in the oven, the time appears to be up. Savvy now to the workings of the Target phone service, our heroine presses "0" at the appropriate moment and requests a connection to Guest Services, which is provided.

"Hello? My name is Our Heroine, and I think I left a black leather case--with a palm pilot in it, and some money--in the store, earlier today?"

"I think you did, honey. Let me check. Hold on."

Miraculously, Guest Services does not subject our heroine to holiday--or any--music on hold. On her return, she asks for a name again, then fills in first and middle when she hears the last name. The palm pilot is found! It would be too much to ask for anything to be left in the wallet; our heroine doesn't ask.

Target is open for another hour. It is ten minutes away. Our heroine rushes out the door, leaving instructions with eldest for cookie-removal. Guest Services has the wallet/case and more endearments. Our heroine doesn't usually answer to "honey," but it seems just right in the moment. She leaves, proffering grateful thanks. Once back in the car, she looks inside: all the money is there. The cards have not been moved.* A Christmas miracle, indeed.

The jeans and t-shirts don't fit and will be returned at a later date. The cookies are fine. All is well.

*In case you're worried that someone did get numbers and security codes from them, don't be: there's a fraud alert on my accounts anyway as a result of UCLA's recent data security breach.

Monday, December 11, 2006

ant or grasshopper?

From yesterday's New York Times comes the word that guilt fades while regret at missed opportunities grows. In other words, I should be out Christmas shopping and having fun now instead of sitting at my desk trying to start grading? Or, hmm, would Christmas shopping not be fun enough?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

welcome, happy morning!

No, it's not Easter, nor yet Christmas yet, but weekend mornings, especially in the winter, are indeed happy. This morning Nick crept into our room at about 7:30 with the idea that we should have chocolate muffins.

Why, yes, we should.

Monday, December 04, 2006

blog break

After all the posting last month I'm taking a brief break to work on some other stuff. A paper, a column, some grading, that sort of thing. I'll probably pop in and out but I'm not expecting to be very present here for the next month or so. We'll see how that goes.