Monday, August 03, 2009

Attempt one canning applesauce was sort of a half success. I make apple sauce all the time in the pressure cooker but it looks like more sauce in the pan than it actually is I guess. Instead of 2 quart jars, 2 pint jars. Instead of 2 properly canned jars, 1 properly canned jar and one that exploded all over the kitchen when I dropped it with the crappy plastic tongs that aren't made for picking up anything, especially not boiling hot jars. But what was left of that jar went great with dinner. making yogurt was only successful in the learning. The most important lesson, do not drop the digital thermometer into the milk. Digital thermometers are not water proof which also applies to milk. Without a thermometer you have to guess at temperatures and I guessed high. Live and active cultures aren't so live and active over 55 degrees. Oops.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I am with Honduras

Leave the country to govern itself by its own laws.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Technicoloring the treetops

June was awash with rain and the clouds that ferried it from place to place. Colors were all muted in shades of grey and the world seemed out of focus from the fog. Flowers blossomed sparingly and mother birds willed their children to stay in the nest so they did not die from the elements. Basements got wet and rivers rose. All people seemed to be able to talk about was the weather. “Welcome to Seattle, Massachusetts.” “It is supposed to be 100 in June.” “I heard in a dream last night to build an ark.” But I suppose this was actually to be expected since the showers drowned out dreams of something more exciting. Weather seems to be the most neutral topic of conversation and so when the world shifts into greys and softer shades perhaps the neutral topic is natural.

The morning of the fourth found me in Ipswich after Isolating Thunderstorms had stalled our egress one or two hours longer than was safe for riding. The weather had turned overnight. There was a sun. It was a warm sun. And the breeze through my jacket vents was for the first time necessary to keep temperatures in check.

As we twisted between treescapes and river views it became apparent that the sky had never been this blue before and the clouds never so purely white. The greens were striving to be the greenest they had ever been and the red-browns of the forest understory were so vibrant they seemed as alive as the trees themselves. The world was soaked in pure earnest color radiating from all corners. Stone walls had cloaked themselves in green ivies and the river was made up in reflections of the sky and trees both refusing to maintain dull colors after the break in the weather. The only grey left on the landscape was that rightfully owned by the well worn road to anywhere. And even then, as the pavement wove its way through the colors and ducked out of site around corners or at the edges of the horizon, perspective took over and all that remained of our path was the vibrant yellow stripes guiding the way forward.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tomatoes and trees

First you buy tomato plants. Then you gain permission from the land lady to put in a garden for which to plant said plants. Then you weed a small plot until the rain gets too rainy. Then you go buy more plants because if 6 tomatoes are ok then 10 should be fine too and some peppers and beans and cucumbers and zucchini shouldn’t hurt either. After that you pull up all of the not-grass that is in the “backyard” because now you can fill it up. Then you find yourself unable to requisition a shovel but it is raining anyway so it doesn’t matter much.

But now you have a shovel and a tray of plants that need planting. So you begin turning the soil and find lots of rocks and even more glass. But for every shard of glass there is a nice healthy earthworm so it can’t be all bad. The ground is moist and dark, full of nutrients and animals to shuffle them around. And while you work you even out the strangely sloped earth until you are about halfway through. This is when you first meet the tree. The tree quickly loses a few roots and you move on without much thought. But there it is again and again. And now the roots are growing around and through each other and now they are growing into each other. The first one is perhaps 2 feet long, then 5, now 10. And now for every solid shovel of dirt to turn there is another shovel that hits roots and stops dead.

This tree was planted perhaps before the houses themselves or at least at the same time. It is large but not regal. It is a city tree with boils and galls for all its shady branches. It grows at the junction of 3 lots. Above ground it is forced this way by a garage wall, and that way by a fence, and growth is limited on another side by a driveway. Restrictions and rules in place to keep it growing ever taller and straighter if not healthier. But beneath the soil the tree was given no tending, no direction. Roots were free to do as they desired, first up now over, now through left and back right. A driveway may limit direct nutrients but not the persistent quest for them. And so a sprawling net of subterranean hardwood has crept from the parent trunk in all possible directions.

What could be removed from the small plot in the small time allowed with the small amount of energy left in the shoveler, was removed with gusto. Now the vestiges remain at the edges of the land waiting to be turned. Perhaps this is ground enough for my chosen green things to grow. The possibility of sharing will be considered after the application of a tape measure in the morning sunlight. If a compromise cannot now be made a new battle will unfold with a re-energized shoveler. But the outcome of the war is not in question.

The trees will always win. Unlike fickle flesh, trees can afford to be patient. I will be around tending and toiling on my small plot for a few years more at the most. The ground left behind will be more rich, even, and aerated for the effort. And so the root edges will reclaim territory in a slowly meandering way. The tree is surely older than I am, and may outlive me by a number of years. The tree has time to wait. Trees always have time.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


2c trader joes multigrain baking mix
1c oatmeal
2T ground flax seed
2T oil
2 eggs
1.5c milk
cinnamon or nutmeg to taste

Serve with berries and real maple syrup.

Basically its the TJ's recipe plus oatmeal and flax seed and enough milk to make the consistency right again. But the bonus is that they are high in fiber and relatively good for you. I'm sure it works with other baking mix too or you could be less lazy and make them entirely from scratch. What intrigues me is that the TJ's box recipe is supposed to make between 12 and 14 cakes and I added a bunch of stuff and still only got 12. Shrug.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

4 seconds finished

Night comes slowly to this city
Washed with clean spring rain
Grey, Grey-blue the clouds dispersing
In sunset pink the foremost framed
And the buildings, mirrored, reflecting
Green and steel, green and grey
Save the few sun's light directing
Gold on gold to end the day


Monday, March 02, 2009

I hate bananas

We had nastier than usual bananas in the apartment this week so I decided to make bread with them. Keep in mind that the last time I made a banana inclusive recipe I gagged several times- pretty much whenever I could smell the bananas- so this was a big step. Also I had no pecans or walnuts, no coconut, no almond extract, no mixer, and a mostly white flour/refined sugar avoiding household. I knew mixing was going to be a problem so I made sure my wet and dry ingredients were homogenized before I put them together. That seemed to work well and I don't actually think a mixer would have made it any better (more to clean up and put away).

I was told that the bread came out perfectly and that I shouldn't change anything- no nuts, no coconut, no messing around with the flour or sugar ratios. I even had a few pieces and it was tasty which should tell you something.

(And as always 5L feel free to skip the DEATH ingredient.)

Jenn’s Perfect Banana Bread- adapted from Mom’s recipe

1 C White flour (I only use King Arthur Flour now for everything)
1 C White whole wheat flour
½ C White sugar
½ C Brown Sugar
1 teas. Baking soda
½ teas. Salt
1 T fresh grated orange peel (actually about 3 teas- more doesn’t hurt)
½ teas. Cinnamon (Didn’t actually measure this out)
¼ teas. Nutmeg (Didn’t actually measure this out)
½ C butter, softened (1 stick)
¼ C milk
1 C (4 small) mashed bananas
1 teas. Vanilla
½ teas. Amaretto (because we don’t have almond extract)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all dry ingredients and mix evenly. Combine all wet ingredients and do the same. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Turn into 9x5 bread pan which has been greased on bottom only. Bake at 350 for 60-70 mins- or when toothpick comes out clean.

Use this one if you are resistant to change...
Original Recipe (Mom’s)

1 C flour
1 C sugar
1 teas. Baking soda
½ teas. Salt
1 T grated orange peel
½ C butter, softened
¼ C milk
1 C (2 med) mashed bananas
1 teas. Vanilla
½ teas. almond extract
1 C flaked coconut
½ C chopped walnuts

Combine all ingredients except coconut and nuts. Blend at low speed- beat at med speed 3 mins. Stir in nuts and coconut. Turn into 9x5 bread pan which has been greased on bottom only. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 mins- or when toothpick comes out clean. I use 4 small pans and bake about 45 mins. Remove from pan immediately. Note: you can leave out the orange peel and coconut and even the nuts if you don’t have them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wrote this days ago...

The east coast is unique in North America because the geological composition is such that we can build underground. It is understood that this changes the structure of buildings. For instance, you rarely see basements in Florida. However, this also effects transportation. In Boston we have, as a result of the Big Dig, a maze of roads beneath parts of the city. So large, ugly highways have been hidden beneath historic buildings, and the city is more aesthetic.

In addition to burying our cars we are also permitted underground trains. Phoenix has a train system resting gently on the fragile desert soil and Chicago has trains attached to buildings several stories above the ground. They have the light rail and the El….we have the T.

For what it’s worth I have been taking the T more often lately and it puts me in the mind of dystopian societies. The system is well designed and trains should come often enough so that rowdy crowds do not build up on platforms but not so often that they are empty and thus wasteful. However, the trains themselves are aging and break down with almost daily regularity. Conveniently for the state, the delays seem confined to rush hour periods when people are still groggy from waking to early or tired from the day’s drudgery. The crowds are thus desperate and frustrated by a need to be anywhere else save where they stand, but the lack of energy drives them into suspicious and hopeless passiveness instead of riotous action. Youth maintain more energy throughout the events, but they resent cooperation and lack focus. They respond to the situation with furtive vandalism and little else. Still the effects of such street art are not always empty.

Posters highlighting or perhaps mocking the grey dystopianism are sprouting around the city. The image is a stern but portly face something like the synthesis of Che with Buddha. The eyes are watchful and the expression borders on angry, but it is rendered in a way that it cannot be taken seriously. Many posters contain only this face while others are underscored with the word OBEY in large, bold letters. Big Brother has come in the form of an overweight man and he is watching you from bridges and from rooftops. He is with you while you are on the highway, crossing a pedestrian bridge, or shuffling through the train station. He sensors the mail you slide into the mailbox and he peers in to the coffee shop where you access the internet to check your email.

I assume few acknowledge this bit of vandalism. At best they label it poor street art and dismiss it. And again I assume that these same people fail to notice the cameras in the tunnels reading license plates and those mounted on building corners near busy crosswalks. Signs denote train cars under surveillance and train stations watched as well, but these notices are lost amid one hundred other signs, posters, and graffiti scrawls. If the overzealous person does manage to read and understand those words they will be translated as “safety” anyway for watched means protected to most.

But perhaps this is all tainted thought. A bias brought on by reading too many of the wrong type of books in my youth. Had I read cheerful sentences my outlook might reflect the same. Instead I am left with sad images from sad pages that are brought into alignment with the current situation any time I step into the underground.

The underground, where the color is always washed in soot or concrete grey and pigeons huddle against the breeze that must be coming from someplace outside or above. The underground, where people wait idle and wary and water seems to always trickle down the walls from some other place into another unknown. The underground, where ugliness of all types is hidden.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Where's the cream filling?

The state of the Twinkies.
(One Twinkie a year for 10 years. However one of my Twinkies was stolen about 2 years ago so there should be 5 under that box.)
The Twinkie of the day above the sell by date that mysteriously lacks a year.
What I am theoretically still eating.
The guarantee that it will be good.
Twinkie number 6: Looks normal, feels like a cracker, crumbles like a cracker.
Like last year the cream filling has been absorbed into the cake. The outside is again crunchy but unlike last year the two ends are also pretty crunchy until you get about 2 bites in. The center right around where the filling would have been is still chewy and not as sacchariny. Actually it tastes a lot less like anything. Some residual nasty absorbed cream taste but everything else is pretty subtle.
Last bite. Crunchy.
And the clock resets.
Posted by Picasa

Conclusion: Better than last year.


See Also: Hostess Twinkies and Twinkie Recipes

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sort of like a snow day

I am still on school break. I get well over a month to sit on my duff and get bored. Went to my parents, went to the boyfriends parents, went to my place, went to the best friends, redecorated and refunitured a pair of apartments, hosted a playoffs batch, all interesting things with interesting people. I also did a lot of procrastinating writing a paper and a letter of recommendation. Writing with a quality assurance checker. No good. I have one more week minus the time I have not used productively today to get myself squared away. I am sort of flailing and splashing a lot with no structure to my days. It is hard to get up and hard to get moving and hard to start doing things I don’t want to do. There is a nebulous deadline floating out there over my head that I can see if I squint but like the deadline all of the steps to get there are fuzzy. Starting school again will be good for me.

Today I was hanging out at the boyfriend’s and he was busy being boring doing interview related things pretty much all day. The house was pretty much immaculate due to preparation for the aforementioned football bash and so I had to go outside to productively procrastinate. I carried snow and thought about nothing. Then I carried snow and thought about more nothing. Then the neighbor from the squirrel infested house came home, talked to me for a while, and took his smiley pooch for a drive. So I carried snow and thought about a little more than nothing. Then the neighbor came back and fired up his snow blower to help me. He did laps with the blower and I cleaned up in between his lanes in a comfortable steady manner enveloped by snow blower white noise which was much more like silence.

We were done to the point of having to ask other tenants to move vehicles so that we could get the last vestiges of snow when the land lord showed up to shovel. The landlord proceeded to wrestle the blower away from the neighbor and conscripted another tenant to shovel which was odd all around. We were almost done anyway so why bother? Plus with 4 people walking around carrying snow and talking to each other and to me it was difficult to keep carrying snow while thinking about nothing. I started thinking about carrying snow and how I didn’t want to carry snow because it was wet and heavy and I was cold and sweaty. Consequently, shortly after I started thinking about carrying snow I also started thinking about not carrying snow anymore which is also about when I stopped thinking about carrying snow because I stopped carrying snow and moved back inside. Problem solved. I do however need to do something Normal Rockwell-esq and make some sort of baked good for the neighbor with the smiley dog named Christy who chases the squirrels that live in the eaves of her peoples’ house.

I also never wrote up the recipe for my pumpkin soup. Hmmm…


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

January was so long that it lasted into March

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the new year in January. It hasn’t made sense to me when I was a child. I remember when I was young a made a comment to my mother about how it was strange that every year has two winters. She didn’t understand what I meant and corrected me but I wasn’t incorrect. Every calendar year is book ended by a winter either coming or going.

Why don’t we choose an equinox or a solstice, a changing of guard of the seasons. End at an established end and start with a true start instead of making up our own. I understand that these events are not set days but they stay close to each other and are bound by celestial movement not human designation. Other cultures and other times have used planting and harvesting seasons, or rainy and dry seasons, but nearly always season to demarcate the passage of time. We choose not to start at a season nor the mid-point of a season and this has been so for most places since before the Gregorian Calendar (the one you are most probably most used to) was introduced. But there is not a great deal of reason for why January 1st starts the year and not another first...or similarly why January 1 is in the middle of the front half of winter instead of some geometrically or celestially more logical place.

Apparently calendaring is not an easy business. It starts with the moon spinning round us out of sink with us spinning round the sun such that you cant always fit months with moons and not have seasons shift quickly. So there must be the extra days and the too few days chasing each other. And the craftsman must try to get all months to have a moon and to be odd numbered to pacify the gods and superstitions. Pagans and Christians and Republicans (roman) and Mathematicians all causing commotion if their holidays and symmetries are forced to shift. And the commonest man constantly confused by the push and pull of additional days or months by papal or pontifical decree such that his birthdays are never the same and letters come in the mail dated later then they were received.

While we are on the subject, why did we stick with the superstitious Roman choice of making February so short when the Catholics and other religious folk were clamoring for a proper calendar that didn’t lose days and shift important Holy Days around. We could have rounded out the months 31, 30, 31, 30 and stuck a leap day in any day we pleased. Why 31, 28(29), 31, 30 with a stuttered 31 later on. Perhaps at the mid year point. Why even give it a month. Make it a day outside the calendar. If at the new year point it would be a day between years. Name it after a king or celebrated figure.

This may seem strange for children born on that day but not really. Feb 29th babies are already forced into cruelties like being 1/4th their true age or celebrating their birthdays on off days. We other day babies have the same number of days in each of our years but face not the same issues because our dates don't drop of the map. Worse still for the Romans born in a month that was added or subtracted often at random to keep the seasons straight. How do they age. Better to have a true unbirthday, to be born outside of the calendar and never age at all.