Sunday, September 18, 2011

blog complacency

folks, it's been a long time...

i'm feeling really blah about posting to my blog these days, but i'm going to promise to get some pictures up about what i've been doing and how my life is getting along these days. but here is the textual update:

1. i changed jobs. this is one of the main reasons i'm anti-blog these days. i am not allowed to check any personal email at work or use my work email to contact people i am not doing business with. all i do is catalogue archival collections all day at work--which is hard on the eyes. i now have a 40-hour/week job, which is rare in library land. i'm used to working 35 or 37.5 hours/week. so i essentially stare at a computer screen for 40 hours (because i do very little else at work), am gone for a longer part of my day, and the last thing i want to do when i get home is email, blog or anything of that nature. i usually keep my online discussions to a few short sentences these days, updated or sent out while cooking dinner. it's strange. i feel very disconnected. but more on my new job in another post. i just can't do it right now...

2. i've read quite a few good books. I LOVE ALEXANDRE DUMAS and i encourage you guys to read some. it's so fun--sword fights, intrigues, amorous encounters. it's all great. i read the three musketeers several years ago, and in light of my attempt to read a bunch of french authors this year, he was a good choice. the count of monte cristo is fantastic, but then i decided to finish out the musketeer trilogy. twenty years after picks up 20 years after the original musketeer story, during the time of the glorious revolution in england. the story takes place in both france and england and the musketeers have a lot of catching up to do because they have barely seen each other in this twenty-year interval. i'm now reading the vicomte de bragellone, which includes "the man on the iron mask." i've also been trying to watch the movies that go with the books i'm reading. it's been fun. in a different vein though, i also read a book called andes which calls itself a biography of the area. it has made me want to visit south america very badly--but only parts of it. it has made me distinctly not want to visit certain countries. i think ecuador and argentina sounded nice.

3. we've had lots of activities to keep us busy. we spent a weekend on a farm in vermont, i went on a great whale watch, lee went to maine, we did trips to salem and new bedford, we went to the cape for about 5 days, and have mini golfed our asses off. we have also picked 13 pounds of blueberries, 10 pounds of peaches (shared with our neighbors) and a half bushel of apples. we have a great garden. we lost some of it to bugs, but we have successfully grown scallions, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, peppers and lots of herbs. unfortunately, the sweet peas and zucchini plants died after we'd barely started. we harvested a fair amount of lettuce and then it was totally overtaken by lice or something--and then bolted, so it was over anyway. our corn grew amazingly well, and then was eaten alive by something so that all four ears were basically empty by the beginning of september. the cabbage and beets seem to be growing well but have not been harvested yet. i'm excited to see them though :) i've been canning and preseving (freezing) things a bit and have made lemon blueberry jam, garlic pickles, dill pickles and mixed pickles. in the freezer are lots of pesto and apple/peach sauce. it's been fun :) we also finished painting the interior of our condo and so now it's all ours. we just have to finish getting furniture, weatherizing, framing art... the list goes on...

4. and violet is all grown up. she's now about 14 months old and generally behaves pretty well. she is a little "teenager-y" and sometimes has way too much energy and doesn't want to listen, but these moments are short bursts compared to what they used to be. she's a good dog, and super cute to boot :) we've done some hiking this summer, though not nearly as much as we would have liked. but fall will still be great for getting out. so i'm looking forward to it.

that's most of the update. there are probably things i've forgotten, but i'll post some pictures soon to back up my stories :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011


this year, i'm trying my black thumb out at gardening. luckily, the upstairs neighbor is a good gardener, and i think i'm getting the hang of some of it :) we're doing that square-foot gardening thing (i like this guy, tim's, web site--he explains it well). with 2 boxes, we were able to plant a lot! plus, we have tons of herbs and other things in little window boxes and pots. hopefully, we'll have a bumper crop--i've already reaped the rewards of the herbs so far!

what we've got in the square-foot gardening boxes:
  • tomatoes
  • 8 cucumber plants, including pickling cucumbers
  • 3 broccoli plants
  • a bunch of sweet peas
  • both gold and red beets
  • scallions and shallots
  • 4 corn plants
  • 3 round zucchini plants
  • 1 green cabbage plant
  • several types of lettuces
  • carrots
in our window boxes and pots, we have even more:

  • more tomatoes
  • 3 more broccoli plants
  • several basil varieties
  • cilantro
  • japanese parsley
  • eucalyptus
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • chocolate mint
  • peppermint
  • a meyer lemon tree
  • dill
and around the patio, the previous owners had planted oregano, sage and lemon verbena. so hopefully we'll have a lot to show for it this year!

italian bread rolls, for real!

a while ago, i finally caved and admitted that the gf flour blend i was routinely using was just plain not available in massachusetts. i was getting it when i went up to maine, at a place called wild flours gluten free market. they were in brunswick. then i heard that their block had a fire and they burned down! now, they are still doing bake sales and farmer's markets (it looks like from their facebook page), but that doesn't help me down here in massachusetts. so, in short, i changed flour brands. AND I AM SO HAPPY I DID!

this stuff is amazing! it's called better batter and i made real, chewy, wonderful italian bread rolls with it :)

italian bread rolls (adapted from back of better batter box)

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/2 c warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 c better batter flour
1/4 c cornmeal
olive oil and course salt

1. preheat oven to 450.
2. cover baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.
3. using an electric stand mixer, mix together yeast and water and let sit for 5 minutes.
4. add salt and flour and beat on high for 4 minutes.
5. spoon batter onto baking sheet in 1/2 c scoops. smooth over with a spatula or wet hands. brush the tops lightly with olive oil. sprinkle with course salt, if desired.
6. let rise for about 20 minutes.
7. bake for 20-30 minutes and then cool on wire rack.

THIS WAS AWESOME! we made fancy sandwiches with them and just stuffed our faces. they were delicious :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

easter menu

lee and i don't do any religious holidays, but sometimes it is a nice excuse to have a lovely dinner. this year, we barbecued with our upstairs neighbors and had some great food!

marinated tofu kebabs
lamb kebabs
2 different kinds of mint sauce: english mint sauce and yoghurt mint sauce
mushroom and pea risotto
balsamic glazed pearl onions
a spicy green bean and tomato dish with feta cheese

and finally, carrot cake with lemon cream cheese frosting, served with salted caramel ice cream! again, no pictures, but i am getting notoriously bad at remembering to take photos these days!

carrot cake (makes 1 10-inch cake) adapted from a recipe for torta di carote del veneto from cucina ebraica by joyce goldstein

1/2 c butter (1 stick)
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
2 c gluten free all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
approx. 1 lb. carrots, grated
1/2 c almond meal (i sucessfully substituted cornmeal here this time because one of the neighbors is allergic to almonds...)

1. preheat oven to 350 and grease and line a 10 inch spring form pan
2. in a bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. add the eggs, ginger, vanilla extract and lemon zest. mix thoroughly.
3. add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. mix well.
4. fold in carrots and almond meal.
5. pour into prepared cake pan and bake until golden--about 45 minutes. cool, then frost with:

lemon cream cheese frosting

1/4 c butter
1/4 c cream cheese
2 c confectioner's sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon

1. cream together softened butter and cream cheese.
2. add confectioner's sugar, 1/2 c at a time, until all is added and well blended.
3. squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lemon and blend.


more books and pics of ms. v

i've finally been reading a lot again recently and have finished some good books. i read another jules verne--this time it was 20,000 leagues under the sea. i vastly preferred a journey to the center of the earth, but i'm really glad i read 20,000. mostly, the main character in this one was just not as captivating. he was a little dry, really. he was a dry scientist, listing facts and ocean specimens constantly. but i remember the movie from when i was a kid, and the book delivered. i wouldn't give it as much of a rave review as journey though.

i also read a fun book with some friends called spiced by dalia jurgensen. it's an autobiography of her journey as a pastry chef. it's not pedantic (like some other chef bios), but much more enjoyable and less self-aggrandizing. she tells some pretty funny anecdotes and talks about the fantastic places she worked. and she talks about how her life changed, too, when she decided to become a chef--and i remember this stuff well: working every holiday, working long days, never getting breaks, etc. the book also made me pretty hungry and threw me back into baking :) i recommend it for people who like foodie-type books. it's a really quick read, but worth it!

now on to my pup, ms. violet, or v as we've grown to call her (or pupcake, because she's the same color as the pupcakes at kickass cupcakes and she likes them!). v is now 9 months old and about 36 lbs. she has not grown as much as we expected her to, since she is a german shepherd mix. so dad must have been a small pup, and since she's supposed to be a bit hound-y, possibly a beagle type mix. we honestly have no idea! but you can see here that she and sid do get along--not always mind you! she's still way too hyper and excitable for him, but they have their moments when they definitely enjoy each other's company :)

and here she is laying on our window seat. this is the only "furniture" she is allowed on and so far she seems to like it. some day, we'll get a nice cushion made for it and it will be softer for her. the she won't have to cram herself on the little pillow up there!

and interestingly, we went to ohio in february to celebrate the birthdays of my nephews. it turns out that all violet wants is a suburban house with children all around her, because this is how she behaved the whole time we were there. note: she is not often like this at our house! to get her to act like this yesterday (for example), she went on a 5 mile run with lee in the morning. then she went for an hour at the dog park in the afternoon, and then she played fetch with the upstairs neighbor for about a 1/2 hour while we finished cooking dinner... but at my parents house, after hanging out with the kids, she just did this:

there you go! and for good measure, another one of my sweet sid :)

pineapple gingerbread

wow, was this a delicious recipe i adapted from an applesauce gingerbread recipe in the joy of cooking :) sorry i have no pictures, but hey--i'm back in the saddle with some great posts!

i also have a new and much preferred gluten free flour blend that i'm using: better batter. i was using namaste perfect flour blend (with success), but goodies often had a spongy or stretchy texture to them. the taste was fine, but i wasn't always in love with the texture. this better batter stuff is amazing! i have passed off plenty of baked goodies now with it and friends are feeling sad that i can't eat the things i've made for them because they don't realize it's gluten free. yay!

pineapple gingerbread muffins

1 c crushed pineapple, mostly drained
1/2 c molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c gluten free all-purpose flour
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2/3 c sugar
1/3 c vegetable oil

1. preheat oven to 350. line a muffin tin with liners or grease a 8 x 8 inch pan.
2. with a medium bowl in the microwave, bring crushed pineapple to a boil. add molasses and baking soda. the mixture will be foamy and bubble vigorously. let this cool slightly.
3. sift together gf flour (or regular old ap flour), ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
4. in yet another bowl, beat eggs and sugar together on high speed until thick and pale. gradually beat in the oil.
5. fold in flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the pineapple/molasses mixture in 2 parts.
6. scrape batter into muffin tin or 8 x 8 pan and bake--about 25 minutes for muffins or 45 minutes for cake.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

jules verne

i just finished a journey to the center of the earth and it was such a fun book! i remembered that movie from when i was a kid, along with 20,000 leagues under the sea (which is my next book). i was looking for more classic literature, but i've decided to leave england for france. i'm not disappointed so far. in fact, i think it's time to rent both of those movies, as well. how fun! i recommend them if you haven't read them.

on a different subject, i promise to try to get some pictures up of violet soon. we have so many pictures that have yet to be downloaded from our camera. my life is so different now... i wake up at 6am (i am not a morning person and used to wake at 7 for work, 9:30 on the weekends!). lee takes vi for a walk while i shower and prepare lunches. i go to work, get home, feed the dog and immediately take her on a 3 mile walk. we eat dinner and then collapse on the couch to read or watch some tv. we go to bed and begin again the next day. i rarely turn my computer on! but i will try to do better...

hope you are all doing well :)