Sunday, March 29, 2009

Matthias' Bean Recipes

Another round of shameless self promotion: a new post over on I've been neglecting it for a while, but have resolved to do better.

This is the first guest post for the blog, done by the wonderful Matthias (of fame). Check it out, and be sure to try one of his recipes.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Moo is Ashamed for not posting

Note the capitalization?
That means true penance.
Or at least enough shame to get me to post something.

Back in my young and reckless years as a sophomore in my illustration program, a group of us under the real aliases of Thing One, Thing Two , Thing Three (me) and Thing 3.14, started

The Argyle Club

The main purpose of this club was to have a nice excuse to eat chicken and cheesecake on Thursdays, with a rousing game of croquet shortly after in our argyle socks. What more, and better still, it was an indoor croquet game in a small squashy space with about 12 people and a bunch of chairs and tables and much violent mallet whacking.
The Argyle Club's Thursday theme song is one worth listening to, called

by Louis Armstrong

This is one of those songs I can guarantee 90-100% of you will like.

Happy Friday, and cheesecake eating.


Note: the SHOO FLEA was just too good not to post. Just say it outloud: "shoo-flea."

Book Binge

After my last post about the life of leisure, I thought I would make an effort to justify my book binge by reporting the results.

A Tale of 12 Kitchens: Family Cooking in Four Countries by Jake Tilson. This isn't your normal cookbook, which is what caught my interest. The page layouts look like a scrapbook, but not the kind on display in Michaels or Joanns. This is an unexpected, unique style of collage: there are pictures of packages, menus, kitchens, paraphernalia from the towns where the recipes are eaten, random things like president shaped cookie cutters...I can't do it justice here. The book is worth looking at just to enjoy the layouts. One of my favorite sections is the New York section, in which the author tells how he wanders through the city for Breakfast No. 1 at 6am (in the bitter cold) then treks around the city till his wife joins him for breakfast No. 2, then plans to have breakfast No. 3 two hours after that. That is my kind of itinerary. That page features a menu graphic of two little birds chirping "Good Morning Breakfast Menu," a picture of a diner on a winter day, a plastic toothpick sword, and a full page picture of pancakes on the page opposite. It's charming! The author details his love affair with food in four different countries by recounting the memories he associates with the food along with the stories of the people who supply the recipes included. I'm not nearly cosmopolitan enough to appreciate most of the included recipes--they are regional and mostly unfamiliar foods. The ones I plan to try: Pancake Laboratory (substitute oj for milk and I'd try the snowcakes if it would snow again here); Skirlie (scottish oatmeal cooked with onions); and Don't Go to Any Trouble Backstreet Couscous.

Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White. My dad loves reading Bailey White; he donates his books to me when he's finished reading them, so I gave this one a whirl.
Ms. White relates anecdotes from her life, her mother's life, her aunt's the time I read all of the stories, I realized how different my life is from hers. I don't have a screened porch with a bathtub that empties onto a bed of lilies. I don't have a pond full of alligators (which, may not be lamentable), and I don't have a mother who eats road kill (also, probably not lamentable). In spite of the differences, I was left with a feeling that, somehow, I do relate to her life.
I love this book because the stories are short and funny. I love the simple style, the way she laughs at people's quirks without being cruel, and I love the perspective the stories encourage. I kept thinking, there's so much to appreciate and enjoy in regular life. My favorite part? The fact that she uses sea chanties to teach first graders to read. "Give me a man overboard or a good sinking ship, and I can teach a half-witted gorilla to read."

The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks
This isn’t my normal novel (although my town library has classified this as a Young Adult book, I would keep it in the adult section), so heads up. It was violent (it’s more violent in parts than the Jason Bourne movies, so if you didn’t like them, don’t go near this).

I didn’t like the book, although I’m glad my complaints come from another angle than I was expecting.

It was cliché—the seedy contacts that were used to gain false ids, the bad guys, the sidekicks, even the descriptions of alternate realities—cliché. Maybe that isn’t the author’s fault, maybe this book generated spinoff tv shows or movies or books that got to me first. But, I’m skeptical.

Another complaint. The author dished a fairly intricate plot and then wrapped everything up in under twenty pages. I’m supposed to believe that the thing the characters considered to be an impossible task actually was that impossible when it only took a few pages to get through it? I was more focused on how few pages there were left in the book than in the ending itself. I kept thinking, “There can only be three or four pages left. That isn’t enough to do the plot justice.” At that point, I knew it was going to be a lousy conclusion. And it’s not the kind of ending where I was so excited knowing that there was a sequel coming to keep the story going. No. It was more like, “I can’t believe I wasted all of that time plowing through the story only to have a cheap ending.” So, I read a plot summary on Wikipedia, and confirmed that the next book is even more silly than this one.

Into the Wildewood by Gillian Summers. The cover is deceiving. It gives one the impression that possibly, this won't be a totally ridiculous book. It's a fifteen year old girl who is an elf living in the human world. She and her father travel to different Renaissance Fairs to make money selling furniture. It has the potential to be an interesting plot--an elf girl who can talk to trees, distraught trees in need of someone to save them. Then, a unicorn steps on the scene. I was prepared to play along, elves, talking trees...why not a unicorn too. But, it didn't improve. The plot dragged on and also came up at random moments (e.g. girl is in precarious situation at work and suddenly, in the middle of the work drama feels compelled to find out what a tree is thinking. Just because.), and was eventually resolved in a way that every teenage girl would want it to be.

Tales from Shakespeare by Tina Packer. This is a beautifully illustrated collection of summaries of the plots of 12 Shakespeare plays. I enjoyed it immensely. I've read and seen most of the plays. I've analyzed them, written papers about them, even memorized lines from them. I haven't ever taken the time to simply enjoy the story and appreciate the plays for what they are: interesting stories. They are sometimes silly, many times improbable, and yet, they are compelling. These summaries give you a chance to appreciate the plots without getting bogged down in the language (I know, not a very scholarly or sophisticated approach, and blasphemy to some). I would love to read these with middle school kids. Then, I would feel comfortable taking the students into the original text because they would have an idea of the overall story to back them up through the difficult reading. It's also a great refresher if you need to brush up on Shakespeare.

The Owl Service by Alan Garner. This is an older book (published in the sixties); I found it in the little town library and took it home out of curiosity. It is a fantasy based on a Celtic myth--and it's a little strange. The author twists the scenes and the dialogue leaving the reader to make assumptions about what has occurred. The slang is dated and is difficult to interpret at times (maybe a Brit would have an easier go at it). At some point I realized that this novel would have been more effective as a movie--I think the audience would follow the character's emotions better, and the setting wouldn't be so confusing. It's not particularly a happy book--it's a myth, not a modernized fairy tale. It has received some prestigious awards. Maybe I'm suffering from a lack of literary appreciation, but I don't intend to read it again.

Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had To Go by Annie Barrows, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. I liked this book. I really liked this book. It's funny, it's genuine, it's...well, it's second grade. Made me want to go back for a few days. The illustrations made me laugh and fall in love with the characters (and made me want Bean's octopus shirt!). This is "chapter book" that was actually enjoyable to read. Usually, I loathe early reader types. I plan to read more. The two main characters, Ivy and Bean, determine there is a ghost haunting the girl's bathroom and come up with a plan to get rid of the ghost. Of course, the plan they come up with is totally silly. I'm looking forward to reading the next one.

As The City Sleeps by Stephen T. Johnson.
This isn't really a "story" book. It's a compilation of "pictures" of a city at night. Each picture has a caption that hints at the story behind the picture. And all of the pictures are designed to spark your imagination. What is that running through the city? Why is that cab moving without a driver?
It reminds me of Chris Van Allsburg's book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Every so often, my sixth grade teacher would choose a picture from that book, and we used it and it's caption as the starting point for a creative writing assignment. As the City Sleeps would be perfect for that kind of exercise. It's a little spooky too, which is sure to get kids interested.

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
I haven't read this book since I was a child. I had forgotten the plot, but the illustrations all seemed familiar. In short: I loved it. It's the story of a little badger, Frances, who only wants to eat bread and jam. It's actually funny. And the story is better than typical "I don't want to eat food" kinds of books. One of my favorite things about it is how Frances sings little songs to and about her food. I thought I was the only one!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Living a Life of Leisure = Embarrassment

This morning, I awoke to the sound of someone knocking on my front door. I tried to peep out the window (unsuccessful because I didn't have my contacts in and because to do it properly I would have had to open the blinds all the way, which would have been Very Obvious). I went back to bed, but the knocking continued--it seemed to go on for at least five or six minutes, and who knows how long it had been going on before I woke up.

I checked out the window again (because this time, my sleepy-logic told me, I would magically be able to see!). Turns out, I still couldn't see who was at the door, but, thankfully, I could see The Rock's truck pulling up in front of the house. For a moment, I thought that something was terribly wrong, but then realized it was lunch time and he was probably just home for lunch (as I hadn't gotten up earlier and made him some before he left for work).

Oh yeah, it was lunch time. And I wasn't even awake.

I hastily began trying to find some non-pajama pants to pull on (no easy task since I had made a mess of things the night before) and was still looking for them when The Rock found me. He looked pretty amused at the clearly discombobulated state I was in. He told me my friend K was at the door, then trekked off to the kitchen to fix some lunch. I finally found some pants, then stumbled toward the front room.

It was only slightly awkward when I stepped out the front door--hair tousled, eyes puffy, XXXL shirt hanging down to my knees. But, she sympathized when I said, "I stayed up till 4:30 this morning reading a book." She's been known to do that too. She didn't even laugh too hard.

Turns out, she wanted me to babysit the little kids who had been banging on the door. They were really excited about knocking on the door, apparently, so she just let them keep at it even when I didn't come.

End result: I babysat the kids for two hours this afternoon. I was yawning the whole time, but they didn't seem to notice at all. --Lu

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend in the FP

This weekend my dad and brother came to the FP to golf, but there was a tournament in the morning, so we took a drive down a dirt road that we'd never really been down before. We parked when the mud got too fierce and tromped down into the canyon to take a look at the creek. Pretty soon someone found a Huge moth tucked down between some rocks by the water. The moth was dead, but beautiful. I wanted to take it home, but couldn't carry it as I scrambled up the canyon. My dad devised a solution: he took off his hat, set the moth in the hat, and then put it back on his head, careful not to tug it down too far (lest he squash the moth). He kept the moth safe up there for the whole hike, and now the moth "lives" under the leaves of one of our tropical houseplants. It startles me every time I look over, because it takes a few minutes of looking before I realize there is something under the leaves--and then my heart rate increases until I remember that it's just the moth.

I love it's "fur" and it's antenna things with their little spines.

What else we saw on our excursion:

It was as if the FP wanted to show off just a little for our guests.

When we finally went golfing in the late afternoon, The Rock and I made the most of our time. Neither of us is even remotely interested in even pretending to like golf, so we found ways to entertain ourselves. I perfected the art of scooping up golf balls while the golf cart is still rolling (I had three or four balls on the course almost the entire time, and most of them weren't worth hitting a second time, so there were always a few to round up using this method). The Rock insisted on doing doughnuts every so often (slowly, so as not to hurt the grass) and in speeding around my brother's cart.

The Rock, it turns out, has a natural talent for hitting a ball a long ways. Usually not in the right direction, but a Long Ways is worth something in my book--I need at least four swings before I can even make contact with the ball, let alone send it soaring across the course. By the last hole, The Rock volunteered that he had taken fifteen swings on that hole alone. I had lost count, and at some point The Rock had tossed my ball in the general direction of the green so I wasn't sure how many swings that counted for.

Overall, I would say it was quite a delightful first time golfing on a Real Course (my prior attempts were solely in the world of goofy golf (or putt putt as they say in Virginia)) and if someone pays for the golf cart, I'll happily go again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mossy Storage Space Tutorial

I have some velcro rollers that I use on a few rare occasions. Because I use them so infrequently I didn't want to use up precious space storing them, so I devised this as their permanent home:

It was surprisingly quick to put it together.
I used cardboard from an picture frame box, Super Moss Brand Instant Green (re-usable moss cloth), masking tape and tacks.

I turned the tin container upside down on the cardboard and traced around the opening at the top--the cardboard needs to fit just inside the tin container, without being so small that it slides to the bottom.

I tested the cardboard on the container, and trimmed off a few places so it fit how I wanted it to.
Then I taped one edge of the cardboard to the container. I left the tape on the outside of the container because no one will see that side, but you could put the tape on the inside if you want to make it look good from all angles.

Then I pulled the cardboard off, and used it to trace the oval pattern onto the moss--the moss cloth is easy to work with--I had no trouble tracing or cutting it out. (aside from little piece of moss getting all over the floor, but that was expected).

Then I cut the moss--I didn't cut close to the line because I wanted to have enough moss to fold under the edge of the cardboard if it would look better that way.

Then I folded some tape, stuck it to the top of the cardboard and pressed the moss cloth into place. I folded under the front edge of the moss and used tacks to hold it in place, stretching it a little to get rid of any bumps in the moss (its fold lines were pretty well creased in place). I ended up cutting off the rest of the moss close to the edge of the cardboard because folding all of the edges under made the lid poke up too much.

The moss is VERY messy--little pieces fall off at every touch, so beware. Also, I've had the mossy container in my bathroom for a month or so now, and I still find little pieces of moss on the floor, but there are fewer and fewer as the days go by (and yet the moss still looks good, no bare patches or anything), so maybe I was just knocking off pieces that were already loose.

I found the tin container at Home Goods--one of my favorite stores for home decorations (especially things from the clearance racks)--and the moss was from Joanns.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Utah Extravaganza

Hi. Last week I took a road trip to Utah. All By Myself (The Rock had work, and seriously people, do you really Think he would have liked having a girl party for an Entire Week? Exactly.)

It was a great experiment in whether I could actually drive all that way alone. Turns out, Yes. Yes, I can. And it was cake. I was bored the last two hours of the drive there, but that was my biggest complaint. If I have a decent audiobook to listen to I'm capable of driving long distances--even without cruise control.

It also turns out that I'm pretty scatterbrained these days. Let me describe my attempts to leave Utah:
1. Wake up, pack, get in the car, sit there, ready to go and realize haven't seen phone charger for a few days. Rummage through luggage: no chager.
2. Return to house, search for and find phone charger.
2.5 Pat self on back for being observant AND responsible.
3. Get in car, drive to gas station, gas up and realize have left pillow at house.
4. Return to house, nab the pillow, find favorite water bottle skulking in a corner and rejoice that have noticed it and not left it behind.
5. Get in car feeling good about self and trip and life.
6. Drive 3 hours and stop for gas (Used up most of my gas on the wind alone...or else the first gas station lied when it said my tank was full)
7. Find gas station, but fail to find wallet.
8. Call Moo. She leaves work, goes to house and finds my wallet. In the HOUSE. 3 hours away.
9. Ask Moo to bring it to me as I can't drive back--seeing as I'm almost out of gas and have No Money.
10. Drive 45 minutes back to another little town to wait for Moo.
11. 2.5 hours later, meet up with Moo.
12. Gas up and head for home.
13. A majillion hours later, pull into my garage in the FP and realize I've left my Brand New Flower Vase at Moo's house.
14. Decide not to call Moo and ask her to drive it to me.

I'm becoming Very Experienced at waiting in town's for someone to come and bail me out.

These are the fruits of my wait:

I owe my successful return home to Moo who braved the snowstorm and the wind to come find me. Thanks Moo and thanks Geologist for supporting her (and thanks too for the sweet sharktooth earrings you gave me)!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ending and Beginning

Today I sang at a funeral for a little friend that I grew acquainted with while substituting in the little kids class at church (nursery). He died last week in an accident and...I'm full of sadness. Mostly I'm sad for his parents and for his brother--I'm sad because they miss him very much, and because he was so young, and because it's hard to say goodbye to someone....

I love the restored gospel that makes it possible for families to be together forever (and his will be because they were sealed in the temple), and that death, while difficult for those left behind, is not the end. At stake conference this weekend one of the speakers reminded us that our spirits are eons old. That we should care for and nourish our spirits as much as we care for and nourish our physical bodies. This funeral has hammered that point home even more.

I wanted to send out a tribute to my little friend. I'll miss you buddy.