Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Mission Accomplished!

June 26, 2011

Finished reading Of Human Bondage this week! One less item on my long-term to-do list.


Bucket list

November 14, 2010

Okay, not a bucket list. Just stuff I’d like to do nowabouts.

  1. Read Our Bodies, Our Selves, Of Human Bondage and the Woodstock Craftsman’s Manual–all books that are sitting on my shelf but that I haven’t read.
  2. Submit a piece of writing for publication.
  3. Clear the too-small and never-worn clothing out of the family’s closets and DONATE it.
  4. Repair all of the damaged books and toys the girls have given me to fix.
  5. Finish the sofa cover I started last summer.
  6. Hem the tablecloth I started at the same time.
  7. Redesign and add lining to my black winter coat.
  8. Cut and style my hair.
  9. Send (on time) the gift I bought for my sister’s family.
  10. Apply to and start grad school.
  11. Mop the house.
  12. Read Julia Child’s autobiography.

Kind of an odd mix of short-term and long-term goals, but whatever. These are the ideas that have been preying on my mind. How long will they take?

It’s not homemade…it’s fauxmade!

August 16, 2010

Last week, my daughter and I made brownies. We went to a kids’ cooking class on using lemons. Saturday-into-Sunday, I made her a three-layer Fancy Nancy birthday cake.

We are a family obsessed with food. And not just any food, but the do-it-yourself kind of food. Fantastic, homemade food with less preservatives and additives and chemicals. Locally produced when possible. Organic when practical.

Thinking about food and eating this way is trendy right now, but I don’t think we cook and eat the way we do just because it’s popular (although popularity does help make this food widely available). Cool or not, I would still want to grow and eat from a garden. But we do fit into a certain food-related demographic, one that seems to be growing ever larger under the influence of the Food Network, Barbara Kingsolver, Emeril Lagasse…and so on.

However, it is not the only trendy food demographic these days. There is also the fauxmade crowd (I totally just made up that term). To illustrate this attitude toward food, I offer the following recipe, found on a package of C & H granulated sugar (courtesy of Semi-Homemade maven Sandra Lee).


* 1 package (18-ounce) refrigerated sugar cookie dough, room temperature
* 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup powdered sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or other flavoring
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

I’m just going to stop right here.  This is a RECIPE printed on a four-pound bag of SUGAR, for heaven’s sake. And the first ingredient is pre-packaged cookie dough! What the heck?! Why on earth would you buy a four-pound bag of sugar if you weren’t going to bake something with it? And by “bake” I mean mix up from real ingredients, not assemble from prepared items.

Okay, maybe I’m a snob. And I’m probably spoiled–I don’t work 40 hours per week these days, so I have more time to bake the old-fashioned way. I just can’t get behind this trend of semi-homemade food.

Did you know that Sandra Lee has trademarked the phrase “Semi-Homemade”? She also has a show on the Food Network, and she probably has a dozen cookbooks, if you care to call them that.


My feeling is, if you’re going to cook, cook. Don’t futz around making store-bought stuff LOOK homemade; it’s just a waste of time. You may create a warm and fuzzy illusion, but it’s just an that. As soon as anyone tastes your fauxmade food, the game is up. Because it doesn’t taste homemade. It tastes like the preservatives and stabilizers you’re trying to mask.


Coming Soon…

November 11, 2009

Though you couldn’t tell from here, I have been silently and sneakily preparing a ton of fun posts. Commencing tomorrow (or later tonight if I can find the photo card reader) will be:

  1. My week in pictures
  2. The scariest coloring book EVAH! (This was supposed to be for Halloween, but time got away from me.)
  3. More hideous cookbooks
  4. Preservation marathon!
  5. Silly parties galore

…as well as the usual ramblings of a madwoman. Hopefully a good time will be had by all. See you soon.

Mas hideousness

October 14, 2009

No, no..not “mass hideousness”. “Mas”. As in “more”. This is your Spanish word of the day.

And now for something completely different…

Meals in Minutes - 1973

Mm…just look at those ’70s colors. Don’t you just miss burnt umber?

Hideous cookbook series, part 4

October 12, 2009

I wandered away from this topic for awhile, but stumbled across a recipe this week that simply screamed for inclusion:

Corned Beef Salad

1 3-ounce pakage orange or lemon gelatin

1 3/4 c. hot water

1 c. Miracle Whip

1 c. chopped celery

1/4 c. chopped green pepper

1/4 c. finely chopped onion

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 can corned beef, broken up

Add hot water to gelatin to dissolve. When cool, add other ingredients. Chill until set in a 9″ x 9″ pan. Serve with crackers.

–from A Taste of Heaven, compiled by Hazel Dell United Methodist Church

Okay, first off, what about this says “salad”? Is it the gelatin? Is everything that contains gelatin either a salad or a dessert?

Second, just the phrase “can corned beef, broken up” makes me gag. Ew.

And, finally, the woman who submitted this recipe is known for being a fantastic cook. I won’t publish her name, because I don’t want to embarrass her, but…wow. The Hazel Dell compilers evidently did not suffer from the same compunctions.

More hideousness to come!

Proud Momma moment #2

September 30, 2009

My in-laws bought the Bean a book called Little Mommy by Sharon Kane.  It is about a little girl mothering her babydolls. It’s sweet, but it’s also a “classic”…meaning it was originally published some time ago. And the gender roles show it.

For that reason, I don’t like to read it to her. I don’t want her growing up to believe that all women (all mommies) stay at home while their husbands work. (And, yes, I am aware of the irony that I currently am a stay-at-home mom. )

I consciously work to defray gender role programming in my daughter, because I want HER to decide what she wants out of life and who she wants to be. When “Big Girls Don’t Cry” comes on the radio, I sing “DO cry”. When “I Want to Be Bobby’s Girl” comes on, I just change the channel.

I don’t buy her Barbies, Disney Princesses or Fairies…but I don’t throw them out when others give them to the Bean. Those are just different ideas of female identity, and it’s okay for her to be exposed to them. I just don’t want her to get those ideas from ME.

I give her puzzles and books and toys that could be fun for girls or boys. And, yes, I had to deal with a little sadness when she started REQUESTING Barbies. But I’ve also gotten to see the Barbies play with Buzz and Woody and Sully in the dollhouse.

Back to Little Mommy and the proud moment. What is the one scene I’ve seen the Bean act out? Sweeping? Cooking? Hanging laundry out to dry? No…

There she sits with her toy stethoscope, examining Mary-doll. Mary, Bean proclaims, has the “mumbledy bumps”. Just like page 15 in Little Mommy, in which a little BOY doctor diagnoses the same problem.

My daughter rocks.

What I did over Labor Day Weekend

September 23, 2009

Ever since I read The Fruit Hunter, I’ve been dying to find a paw paw or persimmon tree here in my neck of the woods. Theoretically, both are here…I just haven’t found either one yet.

But then, I didn’t want to set my sights too high (there’s nothing so disappointing as coming home from a day spent morel-hunting absolutely empty-handed). So I suggested to my darling husband that we spend part of the weekend looking for edible wild fruit. Hoping for paw paws but willing to settle for, say, chokecherries.

With the Bean off at her grandparents’ house, Michael and I packed a picnic and took Sweet Pea to a nearby park. I sowed a few guerrilla grape vines around the ancient picnic table (for future fruit-seekers). Then we waded into the narrow strip of woodland separating the park from some neighboring homes.

The first plant we came across was the nettle. Lots of nettles. Lots and lots and lots of nettles. Good thing we wore jeans!

The first fruit-bearing plant we found was a small tree in a shallow ravine, set right up against the fence line and unshaded by the bulk of the taller trees. The berries were bright red and quite small. I thought they were probably highbush cranberries, but I wasn’t entirely sure, so I only picked a handful. I also took a photograph of the tree and picked a few leaves to allow for more precise identification later.


Turns out I was right–now I wish I had picked more. How can I cook with a dozen tiny berries?

Nearby was a very small plant–not even 24 inches high–bearing roughly a dozen blueberry-like fruits. The leaves in particular were very interesting, but I could not identify the berries. Mr. Google is stumped as well.

mystery berries

Next up was a small bush with tiny oval leaves and tiny oval fruit. The berries were mostly green, but a few orangey tinges made me believe they just haven’t ripened yet. Again, no positive ID.

green ovals

Our fourth find looked extremely promising. Small blue grape-like fruit on bright pink grape-like stems. But then the alarms sounded–the leaves did not resemble grape leaves in the slightest.

poison berries

Alas. According to Wild Seasons, I had picked either Woodbine or Virginia creeper berries–both of which are poisonous.

Finally we exhausted our little portion of woodlands. It had been about an hour and a half, and we decided it was probably time to head home. But I wanted to check out a few trees we had seen driving into the park, so we made a quick pass.

And this is when we hit the biggest jackpot of the day, for we found tree after tree of crabapples!


I only picked a handful (again, for identification before consumption), but there were so many trees in such accessible places…I could easily return with the girls and a bucket later this week. We’d harvest a gallon in less than an hour, I’m sure.

So the search was a success. Yay! No paw paws, but I’m not giving up hope. Perhaps after I’ve finished processing the grocery sack full of wild grapes my parents gave us, the dozen zucchini and summer squash littering my kitchen counters and the three bags of field corn tripping us up every night…

Well, perhaps next year.

blue eyes

Summer reading #2

July 27, 2009

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

This was the second book I finished this summer, and so far, the one that made me laugh the hardest. I’ve listened to David Sedaris’s essays before, as he frequently contributes to This American Life on NPR. So I knew going in that the book would be funny.

What I didn’t know was that the book is mostly about his family, in all its dysfunctional glory. And that some of the stories would make me laugh and cry at the same time. That I would feel sick to my stomach at how a nine-year-old girl can treat a grown man. That Sedaris is closer to my parents’ ages than mine. That sometimes I would abhor him, sometimes I would pity him, and sometimes I would feel as if he were writing about my life instead of his own.

My favorite story, I think, is about his brother, Paul, and the arrival of Paul’s baby daughter. Of course, to enjoy it as much as I did, first you have to read the essay introducing Paul, a foul-mouthed, self-assured redneck who owns his own business–as compared to the rest of the Sedaris siblings, who are artsy, neurotic and existing on some kind of fringe. Just so you know where he’s coming from.

I love that this man, so unlike me and so unlike his older brother, could nevertheless be transformed into an awestruck daddy, wrapped around his little girl’s finger. I love that, despite his rather sexist ways, he stood up for his wife when the doctor-with-no-bedside manner told her she couldn’t have any more kids. I love that Paul calls his big brother every day so he can hear the baby cry and coo and sing–despite naming David “Uncle Faggot”. So many acts and perspectives I despise, juxtaposed against heartwarming acts of love.

This is why I loved Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. We are all a mass of contradictions. Sometimes we just need to remember it.

2009 Summer reading status

July 22, 2009

I had forgotten how quickly I finish books when I have a nursing infant. Unfortunately, I had also forgotten how hard it is to type with only one hand. So reading is ahead of schedule, while posting is sadly behind.


Completed: 2 1/2 books from the summer ’09 list, one from summer ’08 and one from no list at all. And I read Coming Home again. (The shame!)

  1. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
  2. In Defense of Food
  3. My Secret Diary
  4. The Red and the Black
  5. Dark Lord of Derkholm

In hand: 2 1/2 books from the summer ’09 list and three library books checked out when I discovered The Great Gatsby and From the MixedUp Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler were both unavailable.

  1. My Secret Diary
  2. Cookwise
  3. The Great Gatsby (thank heavens I still have access to my mum’s library)
  4. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone
  5. The Fruit Hunters
  6. Home Cheese Making

Not currently completed, in hand or available at the public library: three books, two of which are considered classics.

  1. Harriet the Spy
  2. From the MixedUp Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  3. Gulliver’s Travels