Archive for June, 2008

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THIS:  As if being a zombie all weekend on the new meds wasn’t bad enough, I now have a huge enormous shiny red zit on the bridge of my nose. All together now: eeeuuuu! I did see some people comment that on one of the new meds they got the kind of zits I get anyway, the boil-like ones that you can’t squeeze ’cause they’ll leave craters in your face. I don’t normally get them often, so when I tell you that I already had one near my nose, which means that I now have two, you can imagine how disgusted I am. 

THAT: Actually, I wasn’t a zombie allweekend. I did go home from work on Friday and crash. Saturday I mustered the energy to go to the library and the mall, where I ordered my new glasses. ($486!!! Yowza! That is with a 50% discount on the frames and a 20% discount on the lenses. But when you have to get bifocals and you want lightweight lenses and transitions and anti-scratch/anti-glare coating, it still adds up. They’re very cute, though, and I’m looking forward to showing them off in a few weeks, ’cause when they advertise that they can make your glasses in one hour, that never includes the kind of glasses I have to have.) And I did a fair bit of reading, just with lots of naps in between. And Sunday I went to church and made a killer dinner (more on that in a sec), and then a fair bit of reading, just with lots of naps in between. And I will confess that during sacrament meeting I kept nodding, so I skipped Sunday School to sit in the foyer and snooze. But I was there for Relief Society/Priesthood combined meeting (since it was the 5th Sunday), so I’m not going to feel too bad.

THE OTHER: A milestone was reached yesterday, one that I’m very proud of. Joe has long conceded that I am the best soup-maker he’s ever met, but there’s one dish his mother has always prepared better than I do: Swiss Steak. He doesn’t like the version with tomatoes, which is what I usually make, but prefers it with a brown gravy. So yesterday after church I went to work in the kitchen. When we later sat down to dinner, he took a bite and said, “I hate to say this, but this is better than Mom’s.” Yes! Victory! So here’s how to make it. This recipe will feed 3-4 people, so change the quantities as necessary.

  • 1 pound round steak
  • Seasoned flour (about 1/2 cup flour and whatever seasonings you like. I used freshly-ground salt & pepper, sweet basil, crushed rosemary, seasoned salt, and ground celery seed)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup beef bouillon
  1. Mix flour and seasonings in a large zipper-type heavy plastic bag.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Brown the onion and garlic; remove from the pan. If the skillet needs a little more oil, add it and allow the skillet to heat back up.
  3. Meanwhile, swiss the steak by coating both sides with the seasoned flour mixture; cover it with plastic wrap; and pound with a mallet. Remove the plastic wrap, cut the steak into serving size pieces, and dredge once more with flour.
  4. Brown the steaks in the skillet on both sides. Only do 2 or 3 at a time; remove the browned ones from the skillet, add a little more olive oil, and brown the remaining steaks.
  5. Return the steaks to the skillet. Put the browned onions and garlic on top of the steaks. Pour the bouillon into the skillet and bring to a boil (won’t take long). Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 4-5 hours, checking the liquid level occasionally. If necessary, add a small amount of water. You don’t want to drown the steaks, but you want there to be about 1/4 inch of water in the skillet.
  6. When the steaks are done,o  remove from the skillet and keep hot. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the remaining seasoned flour with water, and stir into the liquid in the skillet. Whisk it well and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, stirring constantly, until the gravy has reached the desired thickness.  Taste and correct the seasonings.
  7. Pour a little gravy over the steaks before serving, and serve the rest of the gravy with the big pot of mashed potatoes you made during the last half-hour of cooking.

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One of the side effects of the new meds is funky dreams (my words, not theirs). And since I already tend to have notoriously funky dreams, you can imagine what I’ve been dreaming about the last two nights.

The first night’s dreams had such things as my sitting in the living room taking a bath in a kiddie pool and talking to my mother, chasing a serial killer who actually killed me at one point (but it didn’t matter, because I had already backed up the dream and hit the play button again), and spending an hour styling my hair (if you know me, you’re laughing at this point).

Then last night the first batch of dreams had me visiting someone from church and spending a lot of time with her grandchildren (I don’t even know her beyond saying hello at church, and I have no idea if she even has children, much less grandchildren). The kids and I went out for ice cream, and it was only the second time the blond baby boy had tasted any ice cream. I was holding him in my lap and feeding him little bites of chocolate vanilla swirl, when one of his sisters or cousins made a joke about him eating the table. He stared at her, offended, and said, “The table is not digestible.”  I wish I could say that I woke up laughing at that, but the dream kept going until my bladder woke me up (seems to be another side effect with these meds–I’m up every hour or two all night).  The second batch of dreams that I remember had all  my girlfriends in it, and the first time it ended very unpleasantly. So once again I hit rewind and started it over again, determined not to make the same choices. And there was a major ice storm (more like an ice age) that hit Fort Worth, so one of my friends and I were on an ice ferry that was going east on I-30.  The captain of the ferry wouldn’t let us off, so my friend and I, and Captain Jack, performed a very military style mooning of the captain.

The dreams do seem to be lucid, as inevitably I get to a place where I realize that I don’t like what happened and that since it’s a dream I can change it. And very, very few of my regular dreams are lucid. So that’s been interesting. And I do like waking up and laughing at the weird things that happen in the dreams.

Now if I could just figure out why Willow Rosenberg was standing in for my friend Heather, most of my questions would be answered.

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Did you ever wonder what a literary work would be like if it had been written by another author? For example, suppose that Margaret Mitchell had written Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Perhaps it might read something like this:

The small round man, his whiskers quivering around his pointed ratlike nose, whimpered, “My lord, I don’t know nothin’ ’bout killin’ no more people.”

Voldemort slapped Wormtail hard across his face. “You worthless servant!” he hissed angrily.

Okay, so that’s a pretty lame example. But if you knew how zombified I am this morning after last night’s first dose of the new meds, you’d be pretty impressed, trust me.  The point of this is that a group of amazingly creative people asked themselves the same question. No, not what GOF would be like had Margaret Mitchell written it! Silly! They wondered what Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy would be like if someone else had written it.

Frankly, I think it might have been a lot more readable had someone else written it, seeing as how I haven’t managed yet to wade through the whole book. Of course, it could have been much worse. I mean, what if Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins had written it!  But I digress.

As I was reading the thread, and laughing so hard I snorted a few times, I came across the following gem. I immediately e-mailed the author requesting permission to post it here, and he graciously consented. So with no further ado, here is LOTR a la Geoffrey Chaucer, courtesy of rjk:

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
Old Hobbiton hath perced to the roote,
And Frodo drinken down in swich licour
Of which vertu he passeth happy hour;
Whan Gandalphus eek with his wise voice
Inspired hath in Frodo’s heart a choice,
(so priketh him nature in his corages);
To join odd folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And travel far to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from this homely shire’s ende
To Mordor, evil’s keep, to wende
To cast into the fire this One great Ring

— Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Ring

Feeling creative? Leave a comment with your version of LOTR (or any other book) in the voice of another author. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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I just did a password protected post on a topic that I’d rather keep private. If you know me well enough, please e-mail me and I’ll give you the password. I’ll use the same passwords on all posts pertaining to this specific topic.

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Once Joe was thinking of naming a blues band Skillet-Head. It brought some funny mental images to mind, but he never got around to forming said band.

And what, you may be asking yourself, does that have to do with the price of tea in China?  Just this: I’ve been wanting a cast iron skillet for quite a while now. Um, not to hit my husband upside the head with it. That came out wrong. I’ve been wanting one so I can bake cornbread in it, among other things. But cast iron skillets can be a little hard to find. I’ve made several trips to Good Will and Thrift Town, where I have occasionally found a teeny tiny little cast iron skillet, big enough to fry one egg in, but hardly large enough for a pan of cornbread.

So last night I hit E-Bay. Oh, how I hate E-Bay, the site that’s suckered me into bidding on a vintage Crissy doll with original box (I will confess that I’m happy to once again have a Crissy doll, and Mom, I promise not to give her a mohawk this time because I’m old enough to understand that her hair won’t grow back), various books (I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much about those, since even with shipping they cost less than if I’d bought them even at Half-Price), and other assorted things that, fortunately, I did not win.

But I *really* wanted a cast iron skillet. So I bid on one, and was promptly outbid. I decided to take it as a sign that I shouldn’t get one, and didn’t place a counter bid. Only a few short hours later, I was once again bidding on a skillet, and when I got outbid, I placed a higher bid. And then I sat there hitting the refresh button every 30 seconds to see if I was still the top bidder (there were only about 10 minutes left in the auction). And I was. So I got my cast iron skillet for $10. Well, you know, $10 plus $13.29 shipping.

But hey, cast iron skillet, those things are heavy! I shouldn’t quibble that shipping cost more than the skillet. It’s kind of like how when you’re going to college and your books cost more than your tuition, which happened on more than one occasion.

 So if you’re hungry for cornbread, come over in a few weeks and I’ll make you some real Southern-style cornbread. That means it won’t be sweet, and it will have a grainy texture, and it will be sizzling in a blazing-hot cast-iron skillet.

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Oh, I feel sorry for you wonderful people. Know why? Huh? Know why?

‘Cause you didn’t get lunch made for you by Jehara!!

I was actually planning to eat lunch with her and B today, but had to go home and wait for the refrigerator repair person. And to give him credit, he actually showed up about five minutes into the two-hour time-frame he gave, so I was pretty impressed with that. My refrigerator is working again. I lost the contents of the fridge, but the stuff in the freezer is fine, so there’s not as much restocking as there otherwise could have been.

Anyway, to get back to my point, when I returned to the office there was an e-mail from Jehara telling me where my lunch was in the office fridge. And I brought it to my desk and went back to work and started to eat and oh my goodness gracious me oh my! I’m sure that some of you have, doubtless, enjoyed the blissful taste sensation that is a PBN (peanut butter/Nutella) sandwich. And some of you may perhaps have even taken it a step further by adding some sliced bananas into the mixture, thus creating a PBNB. But Jehara went beyond even those boundaries to create the incredibly scrumptious PBNBSH (peanut butter/Nutella/banana/strawberry/honey) sandwich. Woot! My taste buds are dancing with joy.  She also brought me some fresh cherries, and I do like the cherries, some yogurt, a little broccoli, and some cereal to snack on this afternoon.

I wonder if she’d bring my lunch every day. I could so get used to this. 😀

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Faith’s Trail Cookies

Don’t they say that necessity is the mother of invention?  My refrigerator went out (the freezer unit still works, thank goodness), and it’s only 8 months old. The store is sending someone to repair it, but no one could come today. The stuff in there is still cold, because we put a big bag of ice in it, but come tomorrow I’m going to have to throw things out.

In the meantime, I had a few pounds of butter and some eggs that I wanted to waste as little of as possible. So I made cookies. And I didn’t have any chocolate chips, which is a pity, because I’d love some homemade chocolate chip cookies. But I did have a bag and a half of trail mix. So I improvised, and came up with this recipe. If you try it, let me know how it turned out for you.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • approximately 3 cups of trail mix, prepared as directed below
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Separate the large nuts out of the trail mix, and chop. If there are any large chunks of fruit, chop those as well (kitchen shears works great for this). When everything is approximately a uniform size, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Gradually add in the flour, soda, and salt, until everything is well-mixed.
  5. Stir in the trail mix.
  6. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove baking sheet from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool thoroughly.

Depending upon how large you make the cookies, you should get 4-5 dozen cookies.

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Whether you’re a novice or expert at Indian cooking, you’re bound to love this thick cookbook that just bursts with flavour. Raghavan Iyer describes his first attempt at cooking with the generic American spice called “curry powder,” and his subsequent disappointment at its failure to evoke the spicy heritage of his home. His book 660 Curries is both an homage to the great foods of India and a guide to making those foods for people who have perhaps always thought of curry as something blazing hot that’s seasoned with a can of curry powder.

But just what is curry? If you had asked me before I read this cookbook, I’d have responded that it’s a dish consisting of vegetables, perhaps meat, cooked in a fiery sauce and served with rice. Very nondescriptive. Here’s what Iyer says about curry:

In England and the rest of the world, “curry” describes anything Indian that is mottled with hot spices, with or without a sauce, and “curry powder” is the blend that delivers it. In keeping with my culture, I define a curry as any dish that consists of meat, fish, poultry, legumes, vegetables, or fruits, simmered in or covered with a sauce, gravy, or other liquid that is redolent of spices and/or herbs (p. 3).

I remember once making a curry for dinner, and later meeting up with a friend. “You had curry for dinner tonight, didn’t you?” she asked me, and I stared blankly at her, wondering if my telltale breath had given it away. It turned out that she had already seen my husband, who told her the news. That curry, like every other curry I’ve ever prepared, was seasoned with a curry powder blend that I purchased at the grocery store. Now, however, thanks to Iyer, I’ll be preparing my own blends. He gives you a variety to work with, tells you where to find ingredients that may not be readily available at your grocery store, tells you the best ways to prepare and store them, and provides a variety of useful tips.

Many of the recipes in the book relate back to the section about “spice blends and pastes,” as those are the essential ingredients in preparing the other dishes. Iyer recommends–and I wholeheartedly agree with him–that you carefully read the entire recipe before you begin preparation, and make sure you have everything in place and at hand. If your recipe includes a spice blend found on page 28 (Sesame-Flavored Blend with peanuts and coconut–Maharashtrian Garam Masala), prepare the blend, if you haven’t already, and make sure it’s ready for use.

This book has curries and side dishes to tempt any appetite, including appetizer curries (did you ever think of having a curry dish as an appetizer?), meat curries, paneer curries, legume curries, vegetable curries, contemporary curries, and biryani curries. There is also a section on curry cohorts, in case you were wondering what to serve with the Cauliflower and Potatoes in a blackened red chile sauce (Alur Phulkopir Jhol) on page 481, for example.  I like a good naan, and on page 729 there is a recipe for Salt-Crusted Grilled Flatbread with ghee (Naan) that I will be trying out before I get very much older.

The recipes are laid out step-by-step so that they can be easily followed, and tips about techniques, alternatives, etc., frequently follow the recipes. The recipe section is followed up with a very useful guide that includes metric conversion charts, a thorough glossary of ingredients, the basic elements of curry, mail-order sources for spices and legumes, and a good bibliography for the chef who wants to learn more.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit Iyer’s website.

Publisher: Workman Publishing, New York. ISBN 978-0-7611-37870-0. $22.95

Buy it now!

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