As promised, herewith my update on the progress of our Family Dinner Initiative. As you may recall, up until very recently, we had more or less given up on the idea of all five of us eating the same food at the same time every night. There were just too many glitches—not least of which is the fact that my kids are pretty picky eaters. They've gotten much better, granted, but their repertoire is still quite limited—and they don't even all have the same repertoire at that.
For years, Andy and I played the short-order cook, making a hot dog for this one, a grilled-cheese sandwich for that one, and chicken nuggets for the third. Later, after the kids were in bed, we would have our lamb chops or whatever. It was really kind of nice, because we enjoy preparing and eating interesting food together, and it gave us a chance to reconnect after a hectic day.
Now that the kids are going to bed later, that's not much of an option; moreover, we know that for many reasons it's important for us to try to dine together as much as possible. Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that we now eat together every night, nor do I consider that a problem. Eating a family dinner is a good thing, but there are other good things—such as not losing my mind. Sometimes the problem is simply that because of our schedules, there is no way we can all sit down together and eat at a reasonable hour. On those occasions, we do the "catch as catch can" thing and it ends up being more sensible than freaking out over how on earth I'm going to plan, shop for, prepare, and serve a meal to all five of us at the same time—particularly if that time is way too early or too late for some of us. And you know what else? Eating a special meal alone with Andy is another good thing that we need to make time for now and again. In other words, eating together is not always the greatest good to which we must aspire.
That being said, we're working on doing it as much as possible. The real challenge is to come up with meals that everyone will eat without too much complaining. If it's too boring or repetitive, Andy and I suffer. If it's too "weird" or "icky" (those are technical terms used in the food services industry), the kids start whining. There are plenty of old standbys, like spaghetti and steak, and the kids are getting braver about trying new things, but I can never stray too far from the known. And then how to appeal to the grownups' more adventurous palates without offending the kids' tender tastebuds? I don't want to make two separate versions of everything, but sometimes it seems as though middle-of-the-road pleases no one.
And that, my friends, is where we are. Some evenings you'll see the five of us sitting around a candle-lit table, all enjoying the same food; other nights I'm making three different kinds of sandwiches while the duck is in the oven for later. It ain't perfect, but it works for now.
Time to learn something!
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
From music to film to literature:
Dennis Bock (born August 28, 1964, Belleville, Ontario) is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. Bock studied English and philosophy at the University of Western Ontario, and took one year off during that time to live in Spain.
He published his first book, the short story collection Olympia, in 1998. His first novel, The Ash Garden, was published in 2001, and was nominated for the Books in Canada First Novel Award and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Bock's second novel, The Communist's Daughter, is a fictional retelling of the final years in the life of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune.
And still never heard of him. Damn.
In the last few weeks, Pete's stuttering has gotten way worse. It was such a marked shift that his teacher and his speech therapist both pulled me aside on the same day that I was planning to pull aside each of them. No one can think of any reason why he would have had such a dramatic increase in problems, but this is certainly the worst it's ever been. He can barely get through a sentence, and his chin-jutting (and accompanying head-bobbling) has increased too. I have never heard him struggle so hard to get his words out, and he has mentioned several times in the last month that he wishes he didn't stutter—which he previously had rarely even acknowledged. It's gotten to the point that sometimes he gives up mid-sentence and says "Never mind!" which just breaks my heart.
His speech therapist at school has limited experience with stuttering (it's much rarer than you'd think, affecting only 1% of people); she is meeting with him twice a week instead of just once, but she also suggested he have a follow-up consultation with the speech therapist we used for the last two summers. He came last Friday and concurred with her; he also said that he'd pretty much exhausted his store of knowledge on treating stutterers. They both recommended we contact the local "guru" of stuttering. She called me today and we had a long chat. She sounds just wonderful, and we have an appointment with her in a couple of weeks.
She said one very interesting thing in particular. I told her that Pete is for the most part a very easy-going and cheerful kid, but that lately he's been complaining about his frustration with the stuttering—a first for him. She said that could be a good thing, because maybe he hasn't really seen the need to work much at the strategies he's learned from speech therapy. If everything is pretty good regardless, why should he do the hard work? So maybe if he is finally recognizing that this could be a problem, he'll concentrate on what he's learning in therapy and start trying to implement these tools "in real life" instead of just during his sessions.
Whenever I'm in danger of running out of things to blog about, I can always count on one of my appliances to go on the fritz. This time, it was the fridge, which hadn't given me trouble in exactly one year. Once again, I found myself emptying out the freezer into a cooler, paying $217 for some guy to pour boiling water down the little hole in the back, and then throwing away a bunch of questionable food before loading it all back up. This is my life. This is also why I have a deep-freeze in the basement for important things like meat and shellfish.
We ended up with exactly 6 ice cubes for tonight's cocktails, so we each took 3 and then had room-temperature refills. It'll all be OK, trust me.
4 strips bacon, cut into ½" pieces
3 lb. ground dark-meat turkey
4 cups chopped onions
¼ cup minced garlic
2 medium fresh jalapeño chiles, minced (ribs and seeds removed, if desired)
3 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tsp ground cumin
2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes in purée
2 Tbsp unsulfured molasses
1 cup water
4 tsp coarse salt
3 (15-oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Heat your biggest Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon; cook until crisp and brown, 6–8 minutes. Raise heat to high; add turkey. Cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 8–10 minutes.
Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno; cook until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cocoa powder, and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute.
Break up tomatoes with a spoon or your hands (fun!), and stir them in along with the puree. Add molasses, water, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 30 minutes.
Add beans; continue cooking, uncovered, until meat and beans are very tender and chili is thick, about 30 minutes more. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, cornbread, whatever.
"The Kingdom" was, unfortunately, a total bust, despite the promise of getting to watch Chris Cooper on screen—always a treat, but not always a guarantee of a worthwhile movie. Jamie Foxx leads a team of FBI agents who go to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist attack on a community of American expats, and it almost instantly becomes a formulaic, ham-handed, least-common-denominator type of movie. I also can't seem to get excited about Jamie Foxx. He does absolutely nothing for me. Two thumbs down.
But two thumbs up for "3:10 to Yuma," which is, plain and simple, a really well-done Western. I have to admit that I've never seen the 1957 original, so I'm unable to consider this as a remake. Russell Crowe, whom I continue to want to hate and yet continue to admire, plays Ned Wade, the outlaw who turns out to have more to him than anyone thinks. The one who discovers this is Christian Bale's character, who must deliver Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison in order to get paid. Bale is outstanding. He has an extraordinarily expressive face (although I can't help wishing it didn't look so much like Tom Cruise's) and a knack for delivering his lines in an understated way that manages to speak volumes. Some are saying that this is Crowe's masterpiece, but for me is was Bale who stole the show.
Today I woke up with an inexplicable desire to wear sweaty multicolored shoes that had already been worn by thousands of strangers, so Andy and I decided to take the girls bowling. (Pete was lucky enough to get invited to see "Spamalot" with a friend.)
Here in New England we have candlepin bowling, which uses small (cantaloupe-sized) balls. In fact, neither Andy nor I have ever gone ten-pin bowling or ever even held one of those big balls with the finger-holes. I can remember on rainy days at summer camp, they sometimes took us bowling, and all the kids from New York and New Jersey used to razz us New Englanders about the candlepins and small balls, but in truth it's a great sport for kids because they have a much better chance of succeeding. Nothing about the bowling alley has changed in the 40-odd years I've been going; it's kind of a pleasant time-warp.
I've neglected to mention that for the last 8 months or so, I've had a terrible pain in my right shoulder. If I pretend I'm doing the backstroke, the pain shoots through at the point when my right arm comes up and goes just beyond my right ear. I barely notice it during the day (since I go most days without miming or actually doing the backstroke), unless I do something like take off a T-shirt by crossing my hands at the waistline and pull up and over my head—right at about shoulder level, I get stuck. Or if I'm trying to scratch my left shoulder-blade with my right hand. Yowch! But every night at some point I roll onto my right side and then wake up with an agonizing pain. When Andy's sister was visiting last month, she said she had been diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis, known colloquially as "frozen shoulder," and in fact, she had arthroscopic surgery on it last week. She said it occurs most often in women in their 40s and 50s. Great.
So, back to bowling. My first toss of the day almost brought me to tears—the pain was that sharp. But, interestingly enough, I had no pain at all the rest of the time! I wonder if I knocked loose some of the "adhesions" with that sudden jerk of my arm.
Andy came home this afternoon ... and that's a big deal because...? Oh, I guess that I neglected to mention that he was in the hospital the last couple of days. On Wednesday he had a severe chest pain, unlike anything he'd ever experienced before, followed by such a dizzy rush to his head that he thought he would pass out. He really thought he was having a stroke or a heart attack (and this is Andy, a very non-hypochondriacal sort of person, unlike his wife). The chest pain passed as quickly as it had come, but he had a couple more attacks of lightheadedness. By Thursday he was getting very anxious about it (and I was leaning on him to get checked out), so he went to the ER around noon.
He learned that if you walk into an ER and say "chest pain," you get attention–and fast! They drew blood, did an EKG, injected him with a dye and did a CAT scan—none of which revealed evidence of a cardiac event of any kind. But they preferred to keep him overnight on a heart monitor (and with a roommate on suicide watch, lovely...). Today he had a stress test, after which he asked whether he should make a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist, and the doctor said, "With an EKG like this, you should make an appointment with a football coach!"
So they sent him packing, and although "nothing" officially happened, we are feeling very much like we got a gift.
1. Tell Me Why - Los Lonely Boys
2. Rock the Casbah - The Clash
3. Lonestar (live) - Norah Jones
4. The Weight - Lee Ann Womack
5. The Weight - The Band
6. Ophelia - The Band
7. Tower of Song - Leonard Cohen
8. Thick & Thin - Loudon Wainwright III
9. Your Mother & I - Loudon Wainwright III
10. All the Wine - The National
4 & 5 = "The Weight"
5 & 6 = The Band
8 & 9 = Loudo
Random my ass.
I've been saying forever that people tend to fear the wrong things, statistically speaking. You're more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash, your kid is more likely to be molested by someone well known to the family than by a stranger, and so on. Here's an interesting article on the psychology behind this phenomenon. (via the Presurfer, yet again)
Steph's going to take a babysitting course at the hospital next month, so I'll need to share some of these Do's and Don'ts with Babies* with her:
*By the way, this is one of those things that keep me up at night. "Do's and Don'ts" is not even remotely consistent, but it certainly looks a lot better than "Dos and Don'ts" or "Do's and Don't's"—whattaya think?
(via the Presurfer)
This is exciting (for me, anyhow): All the old Sesame Street videos are online now! The site is still in beta, and I'm not yet able to find my two favorites—ducklings crossing the school courtyard; little boy with something like muscular dystrophy goes biking (or running?) with his family and says "I feel like I'm flying!"— both of which used to bring me to tears every. single. time.
Time to learn something!
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
Last week was music, this week is film:
Robert Wilcox plays an undercover government-agent who agrees to be "framed" on a murder charge so he can be sent to prison. With his criminal "credentials" established, Wilcox is now paroled to work in a mine on an isolated Pacific island owned by Peter Lorre. The government wants Wilcox to learn if, as rumored, Lorre mistreats his workers.
Once on the island, Wilcox quickly finds himself subjected to the harsh conditions of a slave-labor camp. He also meets Peter Lorre's beautiful young wife, played by Rochelle Hudson, who -- despite her jewels and stylish wardrobe -- is every bit as much a prisoner as the men sweating in the mine. Once Lorre discovers Wilcox's true identity, Wilcox must work quickly to save his own life and to free from bondage all those held captive on the island.
Told in brisk, straightforward style, this movie exemplifies the Hollywood "B-movie" of its time but Peter Lorre's sardonic performance adds just enough style to lift it above the ordinary. Rochelle Hudson is no more than decorative but Robert Wilcox shows a promise that was never fulfilled in the movies. (He later married Diana Barrymore -- they both suffered from alcoholism -- and died prematurely at the age of 45.) Wilcox's most memorable scene comes at night when, on the command of the suavely-sadistic Lorre, he's tied to a whipping post and lashed across his bare back until he sinks into unconsciounsess. This scene is said to have been filmed in an area of L.A.'s Griffith Park called Bronson Canyon.
Sigh, never saw this one either.
Today Tammy came over (with the Preschooler and the Toddler in tow) so we could split up our CSA share. It's so much fun to meet an online pal in real life! Tammy is as nice and funny as I expected her to be, and I look forward to our monthly carnivore fests.
Some people say you shouldn't try a brand-new recipe when you're having company (particularly company you've never met) in case it turns out lousy, but you know by now that I don't care what some people say. I have to admit that I was a teensy bit nervous making this banana cake because it has no butter or oil in it at all, but it came out lovely. The bananas and eggs make it plenty moist.
Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Cinnamon Sugar Topping
3 very ripe bananas (I always have plenty of these in the freezer; I just thawed them out a bit first.)
2 large eggs
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided use
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray an 8" square pan with nonstick spray. (I have only a 9" square pan; it worked fine.)
In a medium mixing bowl, mash the bananas well with a fork or potato masher. Add the eggs and stir well to combine. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla; stir to combine. Stir in ¾ cup of the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter in the pan, and top with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.
Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Because of the bigger pan and convection oven, mine took only about 30 minutes.) Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
I was delighted last month when I posted a recipe for Crescent Dragonwagon's out-of-this-world cornbread, because Crescent herself came by and commented! I've since made the cornbread several more times, and it's a no-fail favorite around here. I tend to have buttermilk in the house these days, but it seems to work just as well with the Saco buttermilk powder I used that first time.
The reason I have so much buttermilk on hand lately is that Crescent subsequently asked her marketing person at Workman Publishing to send me a copy of her latest cookbook, The Cornbread Gospels, to review! It's a good thing she emailed me rather than phoned me, because I would have screamed "YES!" so loudly I might have shattered her eardrum.
This is such a terrific book. Even before I started digging into the 200+ recipes, I really learned a lot. For starters, the differences between Southern and Northern cornbread, which can be summed up as follows:
For instance, Southern cornbread nearly always contains buttermilk and no flour or sugar, whereas Northern cornbread usually calls for regular milk, a mixture of half flour and half cornmeal, and plenty of sugar. The author traces the roots of these differences back hundreds of years. For one thing, cornbread was subsistence food in the South and appeared, until recently, on every table at every meal; Northerners, in contrast, have always considered cornbread more of an occasional treat. (The exceptions to the South's "rules" tend to fall in Virginia and among descendants of former slaves, while the sole exception in the North seems to be found exclusively in Rhode Island.)
We also learn about how cornmeal is used around the world, including Mexico (tortillas), Italy (polenta), South America (arepas), Portugal (broa), Greece (bobota), and even India (makki ki roti) and South Africa (mealiebrod).
Speaking of cornmeal, I have to confess that I had been buying mediocre cornmeal (the mass-produced "enriched and degerminated" stuff in the cardboard cannister), never bothering to wonder about it. Now I know that stone-ground is a zillion times better than the cheap steel-ground kind, which has lost most of its flavor, texture, and nutritive value to processing. I am now a convert to stone-ground cornmeal and will use the cheap stuff only for its "ball bearing" effect when sliding bread or pizza off the peel.
The book contains a dizzying array of recipes for just plain (and, in many cases, not-so-plain) cornbread, plus muffins, pancakes, fritters, spoonbreads, and more, but there are also many other goodies to be made with leftover cornbread. Leftover cornbread? Not likely, at least around these parts! Yes, you will have to make extra just so you can have enough left over to try the likes of cornbread stuffing and cornbread pudding. There's even a chapter full of recipes for "great cornbread go-withs," such as slow-cooked collard greens, frijoles, baked beans, and lentil soup. The Cornbread Gospels is a pure delight from start to finish, owing to Crescent Dragonwagon's knack for delivering information in a fascinating, entertaining way. She is obviously a terrific cook, but she's also one heck of a writer.
Rosemary Corn Crackers
½ cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp very finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter, melted
Combine the buttermilk and rosemary in a small bowl and let stand for 1 hour. (I mistimed this, so it got to sit only about 15 minutes. No matter!)
Heat oven to 350°. Position rack in middle of oven.
Sift together flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Stir in Parm, oil (all of it), and butter, then the buttermilk-rosemary mixture, making a dough that is tender and moist but not too wet to roll out.
Portion the dough into 2 large balls. Spray two rimless 12x18" baking sheets with nonstick spray. Allow the dough balls to rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten and make them easier to roll out.
Place one ball of dough on one of the oiled sheets and press down to flatten it into a thickish oval or circle. Cover the dough with wax paper and start rolling the dough out gently, making an effort to keep the dough of even thickness all over, between 1/8" and 1/16" thick. (This was hard for me, so I had a few underdone and a few overdone crackers, but all were devoured with equal enjoyment.) Remove the wax paper and repeat with the second ball of dough on the second sheet.
Score the rolled-out dough, on its sheet, into crackers. I used a pizza wheel and made 1" squares. Be sure not to press down so hard that you cut all the way through the dough and scratch your baking sheet. (If you don't have rimless baking sheets, I imagine you could do this on parchment and then just carefully lift the parchment and dough onto rimmed sheets.)
Bake the first sheet until firmed up but not quite done and just slightly colored around the edges, 5–10 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and replace it with the second sheet. Let the first batch cool on its sheet while the second batch is baking; just before it's due to come out of the oven, carefully break apart the crackers of the first batch along the score lines, pulling the crackers apart but leaving them on the sheet. Fun!
Return batch one to the oven and bake crackers for another 5 minutes or so, being vigilant so they don't burn. They should be golden—not dark—brown.
Repeat the procedure with the second sheet. Let the crackers cool on the baking sheets, and serve, warm or not. I dare you to eat just one. Or two. Or ten....
*Resolutions, that is.
I knew that FreeCycle existed, but I forgot about it until Nancy reminded me. So I joined my local chapter and posted this:
OFFER: Power Mac G3 w/ Trinitron monitor, keyboard, mouse; HP Desk Jet; Microtek scanner; Sony Spressa burner; tons o' software (disks & manuals) -- all should work fine but haven't been used in years, so no guarantee. Also an Epson printer/copier/fax for Windows machine -- not sure this works.
It was all gone in a matter of hours, and I threw in my old Palm Zire and all its accessories and software. Yee-ha!
We had intended to head north for the long weekend (in honor of, to quote Julie, "Martha Lutin King"), but it is bitterly cold, so we decided to hold off so the kids won't have an unpleasant time skiing and be turned off by the whole idea. So instead I got to pick up my first meat share from the CSA I joined with Tammy. It felt somehow surreal and yet clandestine, meeting a farmer on a side street in the next town over, where he handed me a sack o' meat from his van. We chatted briefly about the difficulty in finding a good slaughterhouse these days (really!), and then I made my getaway.
Tammy and I will meet this week to divy up the goods: 3 packages of ground beef, 1 big bone-in rib-eye steak, 1 ham steak, 2 thick pork chops, 2 country-style spareribs, and some—mmmm—bacon. We're promised a whole chicken and more steaks next month, after the problem with the slaughterhouse is sorted out, you understand. I'm starting to think that half of a half-share is going to go fast.
We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.... They are unfamiliar and come from a different era. They don't look funny, they just look odd.
All together now: Duh! Who funds these studies anyhow?
1. After It All - Cat Power
2. This Is Radio Clash - The Clash
3. Who Am I Telling You? - J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton
4. Alexander's Ragtime Band - Louis Armstrong
5. Does My Ring Burn Your Finger - Buddy Miller
6. Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones
7. If I Only Had a Brain - Harry Connick, Jr.
8. Killin' the Blues - Chris Smither
9. Tessie - Dropkick Murphys
10. Jamaica, Say You Will - Tom Rush
I still plan to do a whole post on the status and progress of our Family Dinner Initiative, but for now, let's just say that recooked starches are the bee's knees.
First, I had some leftover spaghetti, so I fried it up in a skillet in some olive oil, adding only some Parm and salt. Oh. My. God. The kids were in heaven, and this has been an oft-requested side-dish since. I've taken to making way more spaghetti than necessary on spaghetti night, just so there'll be enough left over for the next night's side dish. Then, if there's even more left over, I can send it in a thermos to school! Leftover leftovers—get outta here! No photo necessary: Just picture two-tone spaghetti (some yellow and some brownish).
Then, I had some leftover cooked arborio rice, so I mixed in a beaten egg or two, formed cakes, dusted them with flour, and fried 'em up in a skillet of olive oil. Please sir, could I have some more? (This one got a photo op, although they were even tastier than they look here.)
I'm not the type to foist my politics on my kids (Is there anything worse than seeing a kid holding a sign at prochoice/ prolife rally?), but if I were, I'd buy this T-shirt.
In truth, I could've bought one in 2000 and all 3 kids would've already had a chance to wear it....
Lately my sleep has been inexplicably disrupted. I fall asleep as usual, but then I awaken somewhere around 3:30 or 4:00—and I mean wide awake. I stubbornly refuse to get out of bed, so I just thrash about until I finally fall back to sleep around 5:30–6:00. By the time I have to get up, around 7:15, I am deeply in REM and would give a limb just for another hour's sleep. Here's hoping I can sleep late this weekend and catch up, thereby returning to my regularly scheduled sleep cycle.
Anyhow, an interesting byproduct of this insomnia is that I've been remembering my dreams. I generally can't remember a single thing about any of my dreams, so this is something new. The problem is that my dreams are so strange that it's more than a little bit freaky. For instance, I wish I didn't know that last night I dreamed that Nick Nolte was running for president, and his gimmick was to spell his name Knick Knolte. (Does anyone else ever dream about spelling? Sheesh.) Oh, and his campaign manager was Evan, a kid who was in Pete's class in second grade. Excellent strategy, Knick.
Time to learn something!
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
This isn't what I'm usually thinking of when I hope I get a music entry:
A♯ minor or A-sharp minor is a minor scale based on A-sharp. The A♯ minor scale has pitches A♯, B♯, C♯, D♯, E♯, F♯, and G♯. For the natural minor scale, G is used instead of G♯. Its key signature has seven sharps (see below: Scales and keys).
Its relative major is C-sharp major. Its parallel major is A-sharp major, usually replaced by B-flat major, since A-sharp major has 10 sharps. However, occasionally brief passages in this key may not be changed to B-flat major: for example, Chopin's Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat major, Op. 61 has a brief passage of about 6 bars actually notated in A-sharp major, inserting the necessary double-sharps as accidentals. The overall harmonic context is an extended theme in B major, from which A-sharp major is briefly modulated to.
The direct enharmonic equivalent of A-sharp minor is B-flat minor.
Changes needed for the melodic and harmonic versions of the scale are written in with accidentals as necessary.
The enharmonic equivalent B-flat minor is often used in most musical compositions instead of A-sharp minor, thus indicating that A-sharp minor is not a practical key for compositions and is one of the least used minor keys in music. However, there were some composers in previous centuries that have composed music in this key.
I didn't even know that enharmonic was a word.
I'm guessing that most people already know about the "Click to Give" sites operated by Charity USA, but I'll mention it anyhow, in case you haven't heard or you've forgotten. There are currently 6 charitable organizations included, and you just click on a button on each page, and the advertisers give a charitable donation, as follows:
You can start at any one of them and then just use the tabs at the top to make sure you hit all of them—it takes all of 30 seconds. It's completely legit, and 100% of the sponsors' fees goes to charity. I've just added the site to my bookmarks toolbar so I can try to remember to do it every day.
I'm not much of a photographer, but I did shoot a bunch of photos as I walked to school to pick up the kids today. I like this one, because it looks like a black and white photo until you see the bright yellow sign. I love the way spots of colors pop when everything else is covered in snow, and I also enjoy looking at houses that I always assume are white only to see that this one is yellowish-white, that one grayish-white, etc.
As you know, I rarely go to the mall, but I had to pick up some Bona for my wood floors, and Restoration Hardware is the only place I know that sells it. Just my luck, it was 20% off! Also 20% off was a hand cream with the enticing name "No-Crack." They had several different scents, but I can't bear to have my hands smell like anything, particularly when I'm eating, so I went with the unscented. This stuff is awesome! I think I've finally solved my annual winter dry-hands problem.
I tried to find it at the Restoration Hardware website for you, but their search function is useless. Try plugging in "hand cream" or "cream" or "no-crack" and see what you get. Huh?! A quick Google search tells me that you can get this stuff elsewhere, though—including, of course, ebay.
We're back to school today, but it'll be a while before we shoot any hoops! The snow was very wet and heavy, and it all froze up last night, so branches are hanging very low and there are broken limbs— and even entire trees—everywhere. Oh, and we're expecting flurries again tonight....
Still, it looks so pretty. When I look down the street, it's like an Ansel Adams photo.
Remember when I told you about the new "reverse 911" phone system from our city's school department? That's how I knew last night that there would be no school today—no need to log on to the computer or turn on the TV anymore! The superintendent just records his message and it gets sent automatically to everyone's home phone number. It'll also be used if there's ever an emergency during the day, like a school evacuation or something. For that purpose, they also have everyone's cell phone numbers and emergency contact info.
Well, I didn't realize that the whole city had something like this in the works, too, but I just received a phone call from someone at the DPW. It was a recorded message telling us that because of the snow, trash and recycling pickup will be delayed by one day this week (so if your pickup is Monday, it'll be Tuesday; if it's Tuesday, it'll be Wednesday; etc.—there's no regularly scheduled pickups on Fridays anyhow). We do this automatically for holidays, but this is the first time I can ever recall it happening because of weather. It's a good idea, because there's no point in trying to send all the trucks out in this mess. And what a great way to get the word out!
It would appear that the school superintendent made the right decision. We've already got several inches of snow and it's still falling heavily. What you see in the photo is all new snow, since we were down to bare grass after last week's run of 60°+ days. If it had all stopped before dawn, the plows could have done their thing, but the way it is, it really wouldn't be safe to send kids out walking to school without proper sidewalks, and even the buses would have a dicey time. So, here we are. Luckily I rented "The Simpsons Movie" last night, so the kids will enjoy watching that again today, and maybe I'll pull something out of my secret bag of art supplies and games that I keep hidden for such occasions.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm afraid of clowns, always have been. Now I can say that I have something in common with Johnny Depp! Yes, we both suffer from coulrophobia. I used to read Stephen King's novels religiously; his novel IT probably put me over the edge—I recall reading it in the bathtub and coming to the very passage in which the psycho-clown attacks the person in the bathtub....
Well, this is a first: They've already canceled school for tomorrow—hours before the first snowflake has fallen. We're expecting a foot or so of snow by the end of this "storm system," so I guess I can't blame them. I can be annoyed and frustrated, though, can't I?
I've gone through phases of being addicted to certain puzzles. I've been off of crosswords for a long time now, mostly because for some reason, I no longer get that great feeling of accomplishment when I complete one—and I also find it annoying when I can't complete one just because I don't know one or two pieces of arcane information or trivia. I prefer a puzzle that can be completed regardless of what you do or don't know, like sudoku or Set. Even if you get stuck, it's not because you don't know the name of a tributary in Romania or the middle name of the third king of Persia—and, more importantly, you can get unstuck if you just persevere. As I've mentioned before, I also love a good acrostic, which is a very creative form of wordplay that yields a "reward": a quote and the author's name!
My sudoku fever has subsided somewhat; I no longer do several a day, but I still do them now and again—as long as I can find a hard-enough one, that is! I'm still working my way through the different varieties in my new book. Then Verbatim reader B.O.B. casually mentioned the weekly puzzle in the Boston Phoenix, a free alternative newspaper that I used to read regularly but hadn't picked up in years. I saw one recently and grabbed it, eager to turn to the puzzle in the back, created by someone with the ominous moniker Psycho Sudoku. Oh. My. God. It was the hardest puzzle I've ever done. It was called a Sum Sudoku, and by the time I'd erased my way through several holes in the paper, I discovered that it's also available online, so I printed it out. Three times. For some reason, the answer link didn't work, though, which I discovered when I wanted to check on my answers to see if I was on the right track. But after many tries, I finally got it! I've since gone back and found lots of other past puzzles to print out; I especially like the Sum Sudoku and the Kakuro (the two math varieties).
Over the years, I've occasionally visited the Daily Puzzles page but never got hooked. Lately, though, I've been doing the Secret Word and Secret Number puzzles every day, without fail, right after I finish the Set puzzle. Gotta keep those brain cells active!
Great news! I just formed a band and released my first CD:
Yeah, right. Here's how it works:
I don't have PhotoShop, so I just used Picnik, which has some fun text-adding features and such.
Your turn! (via Neatorama)
Remember all that hooha when Jim Lahey's no-knead hit the blogosphere a year or two ago? Forget it. A recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois appeared on the Chicago Tribune site the other day, and I frankly can't imagine anyone making the other one anymore. This is not only the easiest, most flexible bread recipe I've ever encountered, it also produced just about the best bread I've had in my life!
When you go to the site, in addition to reading the article, be sure to watch the video—it really is that simple. The real beauty of it, though, is that you can make one big batch of dough (which takes about 1 minute, honestly) and use only part of it that day, then keep the rest in the fridge for another day! That means that you can make a small loaf of fresh bread every night for dinner, rather than making two big loaves and then having to deal with storing the leftovers, which are never as good as the original. Indeed, Amy at Cooks Talk told me that the loaf she made the second day, from the refrigerated dough, was even better than the first! I haven't made my second loaf, yet, but I'll let you know. I think that the batch of dough I made will yield about four loaves of the size I made this time.
I intend to flip through the book next time I'm at the bookstore; apparently the "master recipe" can be adapted in endless ways. For instance, Amy said that to make a peasant loaf, you just substitute ½ cup rye flour and ½ cup whole-wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, but do everything else the same. The authors also have a blog, which looks very interesting and will surely answer any additional questions you might have.
OK, ready to get baking? Here we go.
Simple Crusty Bread
1½ Tbsp yeast
1½ Tbsp kosher salt
3 cups lukewarm water
6½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting dough
Mix yeast and salt into the water in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, mixing until there are no dry patches; the dough will be quite shaggy. Cover, but not airtight. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2–5 hours.
Bake immediately, if desired, or refrigerate, loosely covered, for up to 2 weeks (the dough is easier to handle when it's cold). When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on the dough; cut off a grapefruit-sized piece (and refrigerate remainder if making only one loaf). Turn dough in floured hands to lightly stretch the surface until smooth and round on top and lumpy on the bottom.
Heat oven to 450°. Sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal. I don't have a pizza peel, so I just used the back of a cookie sheet. The cornmeal acts like little ball-bearings to let the loaf slide off the pan or peel. Place the dough on the
peel cookie sheet; let rise 40 minutes if fresh, 1 hour if refrigerated. Meanwhile, place a broiler pan on floor of oven. My Viking has a heating element on the bottom, so I placed the broiler pan on the lowest rack. Place a baking stone on the middle rack. If using a loaf pan without a baking stone, stretch rounded dough into an oval and place into a greased, non-stick loaf pan.
Dust loaf with flour, slash top in a cross with a serrated knife. Slide loaf onto baking stone or, if using loaf pan, place loaf pan on middle rack. Pour 1 cup water into the broiler pan; close oven door quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes; cool completely before cutting.
But more importantly, it tastes so. freaking. good. I waited as long as I could before slicing into it and then just wolfed down most of it, slathered with butter.
1. Doesn't Make It Alright - The Specials
2. What Light - Wilco
3. Marry Me - Martin Sexton
4. This Life Makes Me Wonder - Delroy Wilson
5. All the Way from Italy - The Greencards
6. You Can't Resist It - Lyle Lovett
7. Time Loves a Hero - Little Feat
8. Further On (Up The Road) (live) - Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions Band
9. One Step Over the Line - John Hiatt & The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
10. Brandy Alexander - Feist
This is very encouraging: A study suggests that perceived exercise may be as effective as actual exercise, sort of like a placebo effect for exercise like the one for medicine. Seeing as I haven't darkened the gym's door since early September (with no real excuse), I like the idea that if I concentrate hard enough on walking back and forth to school, lugging the laundry basket up and down the stairs, and wiggling my fingers along this keyboard, perhaps my body can be fooled into thinking that I've done a proper workout. Shyeah.
1. I can't remember how I first heard of the Greencards, but I was sufficiently impressed to get their latest CD, Viridian. You can hear some of their music at their website and their MySpace page. They're a bluegrass group, but their sound is not altogether traditional (perhaps because they originally come from Australian and the U.K.). Nice stuff.
2. I'm absolutely hooked on Eilen* Jewell's CD Letters from Sinners & Strangers. Go to her site right now and listen to some of her songs. I'll wait. OK, you're back? What a voice, huh? I agree with reviewers who have compared her to Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams, but she has her own sound too. When I'm listening to her, I imagine I'm in a smoky honky-tonk (in the good way). I sent an email to the guy who picks the setlists for Boot Liquor and asked him to start playing her, but I didn't hear back yet. (I also sent SomaFM a donation, and you should too if you appreciate their commercial-free music streaming 24/7.)
*I read that her first name is pronounced so it rhymes with feelin'.
1. Some old photos of Audrey Hepburn have turned up!
2. Isn't this little USB vacuum cleaner the cutest thing you've ever seen?
3. I just signed up for Jott, a cool little (free!) app that lets you make calls from your cell phone, and the messages are transcribed and sent to your recipients' emails and cell phones (as text messages), or to yourself as reminders. I don't think I have anywhere near as much use for it as, say, someone who's on the road all day for work, but I can imagine a few handy uses even for me. I know I'm very naive about how web-based businesses work, but I can't for the life of me figure out how they are able to provide this service without charging anything for it. I don't see any ads anywhere.
I love the idea of CSAs (community-supported agriculture programs) but have never subscribed to one. Everyone always talks about the guilt and pressure to use up all those veggies before the next pickup, but I do envy those who get gorgeous fresh produce all summer. And all winter, as it turns out—Tammy over at Food on the Food participates in a winter CSA also, where she even has to contribute several hours of grueling farm labor. I think I would be ready to do myself in after all those winter squashes, but she is a more inventive cook than I.
Anyhow, the exciting news for me was the discovery of a meat CSA! A friend from Cooks Talk told me about a couple who run a wonderful farm and offer both produce and meat shares—she's sampled their stuff at farmers' markets and raved about the quality. The meat and poultry is all grass-fed, pasture-raised, and hormone-free. So Tammy and I are going to split a 6-month half-share (10 lbs. of assorted meat and poultry each month). The meat is all freshly frozen and vacuum-packed, so into the deep freeze it'll go. The first pickup is in a couple of weeks; I'll report back with news of what exactly we got.
Time to learn something!
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!
Looks like I got the answer to an extra-credit question on a Film 101 final exam:
Mario Gallo (July 31, 1878 Barletta, Puglia Italy - 1945 in Buenos Aires) was an Italian born Argentine film director of the 1900s and 1910s and one of the earliest directors in the Cinema of Argentina. He directed what is nowadays considered the first fiction feature movie, El Fusilamiento de Dorrego, now lost.
Gallo arrived in Argentina in 1905 and began directing in 1909 El Fusilamiento de Dorrego, which he presented a year later. Argentine cinema had so far consisted of shorts depicting parts of Buenos Aires and even a documental by Eugenio Py, in 1900, but Gallo's film was the first to be a feature work of fiction. In later years, Gallo claimed to have filmed other films first, all equally lost and of which remained no evidence. Gallo's films consisted of short glimpses of reenacted Argentine history, mostly historical events, myths and battles. No other film he ever made achieved the fame of his first.
Lost? How horrible!