Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Favorite Passage from Philip Roth & Obsessed with Baumkuchen

"You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again."

from American Pastoral by Philip Roth.

This was the memorable passage for me from American Pastoral - indeed it is one of the most memorable passages I have ever read. I have often thumbed through the book trying to find it so that I could have it as written instead of as a shadowy memory of something I read that resonated with me. Tonight, I was especially interested in finding it for the purpose of posting it here. I thumbed through the book, hoping to find it, as I have several times before. Then, I googled a few words from it along with Philip Roth and PRESTO! there it was. The internet. My very own go-to-gal.

I just felt like posting it.





"Baumkuchen"

In other news, I made a Baumkuchen today. It is a German cake that is traditionally made on a rotating spit onto which the batter is poured on in layers. Since I don't have a spit, I followed a recipe that didn't require one. First, you make the batter, which has ten eggs in it (!) and then you pour a third of a cup into a prepared eight inch springform pan, broil 5 inches from the broiler for about a minute and fifteen seconds and repeat this process about fifteen times. It is sort of time consuming in the same way that risotto is, but it is sort of fun to do it. After the cake has cooled, you glaze it. I sliced it into twelve wedges and glazed the individual wedges for (if I may say so myself) quite an elegant presentation. I will be posting pictures either here or on my recipe blog tomorrow.

The finished product was different than anything I had made before, tasted pretty good and looked impressive. The downside is that now I am obsessed with Baumkuchen. I am planning to make another one tomorrow to experiment with some recipe variations. There goes my post flu skinniness.

I would love to write more (and better) stuff, but I am so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open.

More tomorrow on the first day of 2007.

Time flies when you're breathing.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

More Boots!

Here they are, Loyal Readers...your BloomingtonGirl's newest boots! Aren't they boss? I flipped for them yesterday, didn't buy them and went back today and scooped them up. They were on sale, by the way. Call me a slave to fashion if you must. They are so cozy and comfy and fun to pet. It is like having a puppy right at your ankles. Chris laughed out loud when he saw them, but what does he know?

We went to an IU basketball game tonight. Every time we go, I always have this moment of "I can't believe we moved to Indiana and I actually care about being at a basketball game." We didn't get our own season tickets this year, but we still go to quite a few games. We are friends with a couple who have four seats and they often invite us and in addition, we share the tickets that Chris's group has. The group's tickets are in the second row, almost directly behind the opposing team's coach...an excellent and exciting place to watch a Big Ten Basketball game. The new coach (Sampson) is so much better than the last (Mike Davis). Of course, I missed the Bobby Knight era, which I am sure was very entertaining. He still is a divisive topic in this town. Folks take their basketball here very seriously.

In other news, Jack is feeling much better, though neither he nor I have our appetites fully back. For him, that isn't so good because the poor little guy is so skinny. For me, it isn't such a tragedy.

Well, I am going to sign off and read more Clarissa. I am on page 456! I believe I might finish it before my next birthday. Yahoo! Chris is reading, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and appears to be enjoying it. At least he has laughed out loud a couple of times. Jack is having read to him Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We are all enjoying that. It makes me wish that I had magical powers. I would conjure up all sorts of new boots and then I would make a spell for world peace and harmony.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Harry Potter & I Think My Mother is Trying to Kill Me

Here is my little guy dressed up in his Harry Potter Costume that he got for Christmas from his godfather, Sirius Black. From Santa, he got Lego Sets, more Lego Sets and only Lego Sets. The sets were either Harry Potter themed or Star Wars themed and Jack hums the appropriate theme song depending upon which kind he is working on. It is one of the little joys of my life.

Jack was really sick since Christmas Eve, though today he was much improved. He had the stomach flu, a nasty head cold with an ear infection and chicken pox all at once. The chicken pox were very mild, since he had been vaccinated, but still it was a ton of germs to fight all at once.

One of my Christmas gifts from my mother this year was Paula Deen Celebrates! by none other than Paula Deen. If you haven't seen her on the Food Network (as I have not) you might not know that apparently one of her ways to make anything better is to simply add a stick of butter, a cup of mayo or a hunk of cream cheese. (She even manages to put cream cheese and mayo in cranberry sauce!) I've read through the cookbook and I can only conclude that my mother is trying to kill me. It contains recipe after recipe of incredibly unhealthy home cookin' (ya'll) and homey little comments about each hip-widening, heart-stopping dish. To be fair, Paula does dabble in vegetables - she includes a recipe for "Green Peas" - but they are canned and doused with a half a stick of butter. Of her "Whipping Cream Grits" she exclaims, "It's hard to make grits better than they already are, but whipping cream and butter does it!" And, did you know that "A little bacon and whipping cream turn cabbage into a gourmet dish"? Hell, ya'll...I didn't know that.

Other notable recipes are for Spinach Salad ("This dressing is so good, you just might want to drink it." Yeech! ) and for Deen's "gooey butter cakes" of which there are "endless varieties" including peanut butter and toffee.

I wasn't able to choose just one favorite recipe from this heart attack collection; it was a toss up between Collard Greens and Ham Hock Pizza (includes both cream cheese and mayo, believe it or not) and (I kid you not) Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, made with two dozen Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts and a can of sweetened condensed milk. In this concoction, the butter is in the Butter Rum Sauce, which also includes 3 (count 'em 3!) cups of confectioners' sugar.

It is easy to see why this woman is so popular with Americans and I have to admit that a couple of the recipes might come in handy should I undertake a huge eating binge. Miss Paula does appear to be a very nice person based on the abundant commentary in the book. Unfortunately that commentary is liberally sprinkled with the ever annoying "ya'll". (I don't mind if people say it but annoys me to have to read it outside of dialogue. Call me a Yankee. I plead guilty.

Well, that is enough from your own BloomingtonGirl.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Bright Side

The bright side of having the stomach flu over Christmas is that you don't have to deal with that pesky holiday weight gain. The bright side of having the stomach flu over Christmas is that you don't have to make Christmas dinner, because if you have the stomach flu, chances are at least one other member of your family does and the rest are on their way to getting it, so, nobody wants to eat anything anyway. The bright side of having the stomach flu over Christmas is that you have an excuse for your Christmas Cards being dreadfully late.

There are no other bright sides that I can think of. I am still pretty tired from having the flu, so I am going to sign off now. More tomorrow after I have hydrated my brain cells a bit more.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Oy

A very brief post. I go to bed happy tonight in spite of life's little difficulties. First, Betsy - our sixteen month old granddaughter (I know, I know...I am such a young and young looking grandmother) had the stomach flu during her brief and ill fated visit here today. She vomited most of the night and then had the other thing (my maiden delicacy prevents me from actually using the word diarrhea outside of parentheses) all over my kitchen floor. Tiring for the laundress and house keeper (me, that is) but worse for the poor little peanut and her parents, who, had they had their way, would have just relaxed and enjoyed their holiday as they deserved to do. Betsy was so miserable that she kept bringing her mom their coats and shoes and looking imploringly at her as if to say, "Let's get the hell out of this awful place, Mommy." It was sad. The poor thing associates being sick or injured with our house. The second to last time that she was here, she fell down the stairs. After the unfortunate fall, Jack (an eyewitness) reported that Besty didn't fall on her head..."she rolled," he said, " you know, frontbackfrontbackfrontback." Comforting.

The rest of the day was relaxing. Kate and I helped Jack do some Legos and then we went shopping and indulged ourselves utterly in buying some new clothes. It was fun. Having Kate home is like having a fun girlfriend visit.

And now, at 10:45 at night, my husband is trying in earnest to get to sleep because he has to get up at 6AM tomorrow to go to work (!), and he cannot sleep because the next door neighbor's dog is barking like crazy. Said neighbor is out of town and the other neighbor who is supposed to be watching the dog is not home to let her in. It is unpleasant and annoying, even though we do love our neighbors.

In other news, I am tired and have not yet mailed out the xmas cards. But, take heart, loyal readers...I read it aloud to my humor judge in CT and she laughed out loud several times. I hope you all enjoy it when you get it.

Off to lie in bed and listen to Bea the Barkin' Dog do her thing while I try to read Clarissa.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Exhausted

Ho ho ho, loyal readers. Just a very quick note before I print out some more #$&!-ing Christmas Cards and stuff them into envelopes. Please, PLEASE remind me next year that I meant it when I said this year..."I will never do another Christmas Card again... this is the LAST year." Meg says that I say that every year, but I think that this year has been the worst. And, to add insult to injury, it isn't even the best card we have sent out! Well, how could it be...we haven't even sent it out yet. I have no idea what the photo is above. I googled "exhausted Santa" and this is what I got. I liked the photo but I am glad that I am not at that particular party, though he looks like I feel.


In more sprightly news, loyal readers...here are my new rain boots. I couldn't resist them. The picture does NOT do them justice in the least. I am wearing them as I type. They make me completely happy. Well, not completely. I can't be completely happy when I still have those rotten cards to print, fold and send out. Oy.

Off to bed now. Clarissa beckons. I am taking bets on when I will finish the book. Brownies for the winner.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Christmas Card

I worked all day on our Christmas Card only to have my husband read it (without cracking a smile...can you imagine?) and tell me that he was worried that some recipients might thing our theme this year was not in the Christmas Spirit! I immediately called Meg and read it to her and we laughed out loud at my brilliant humor. So there! I am hoping to get the card out tomorrow - Christmas Spirit or not - but I think that deadline might be a bit ambitious. If you are a loyal reader and fear that you are not on the A list to receive a card, e-mail me, or if this link attempt didn't work, leave me a comment to email you.

Well, off to bed to read Clarissa. It is a great book and long enough to carry me into old age.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Help! I'm Talking and I Can't Shut Up!


It's true, loyal readers. I can't seem to shut up lately. I can't tell whether I am just so excited about Christmas or completely anxious about something else. Either way, everyone who encounters me is getting an ear full of my wacky brand of humor and holiday excitement.

Right now, there is nobody here to listen to me yammer on. Jack is asleep and Chris is at work - STILL! I should be finishing the annual Christmas Card, also known as Joni's Albatross, but here I am, yammering on for my loyal readers. Good money says that I will talk in my sleep all night as well. I hope that the dawn brings some much needed relief for me and all those around me. I hope that I wake up feeling the need to simply keep things to myself.

Off to try to finish the card. Next year, I am taking a year off. (Of course, I say that every year and never do.)

Happy Day

This is a picture of Jack and Chris wishing on and breaking the wishbone of a chicken I baked last week. (Poor chicken.) Just liked the picture.

Today is a busy day, loyal readers, but fret not...I always have time for you. I have been typing my little fingers to the bone ordering Christmas presents on line so that they will arrive before the holiday. As I was doing this, I was getting impatient with one particular website because I had to order each gift separately and check out each time so that the gifts would be sent to their respective recipients. I harrumphed and sighed and then realized that I couldn't really complain too much because I was doing marathon shopping from the comfort of my office chair rather than having to stand in line with the rest of the shoppers at the Bloomington Muh.

Anyway, off to lunch with a friend and then to shop for teacher gifts. If time allows, I shall attempt to finish our Christmas card today. More later. I am feeling rather chatty.

PS...billboard of the Hoosier Barber Shop (which often has such-like wisdom on it)

Forbidden Fruits Create Many Jams

Just a little local cultchah for you.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pom Tini

I began this post last night on my office computer but decided to finish it on my (very) old laptop in bed. The old laptop can't support the software that can support the blogger site so I couldn't finish it. And, today was such a whirlwind of activity, that I am just now sitting down to write at 9:40 PM.

First, the Pom Tini. I tried one on Friday night. I usually am strict about Martini's, drinking exclusively extra-dry, straight-up, vodka martinis with olives. They are strong, but you know what you are getting. They don't go down too easily (most of the time), so it is not so easy to get completely carried away. (I am not saying that I never have made the error of drinking too many of them, but you know what I mean.) A friend of mine wanted to try the Pom Tini and we had an occasion to celebrate (our kids graduated to Yellow Belts in Karate) so we made some. Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup very good vodka, chilled
1/4 cup triple sec (or if you want to get very fancy, Grand Marnier would probably be good)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup pomegranate juice

Shake in a shaker with ice, strain over some fresh pom berries into a festive glass. Drink up and remark how it tastes a bit like Hawaiian Punch, only better and Punchier. YUM.

Today was busy. Jack and I went to see the Cardinal Theatre Production of A Year with Frog and Toad and it was absolutely enchanting. I LOVED it. That group is so professional. I am not exaggerating when I say I felt like I was in NYC. If you live here and are so inclined, don't miss it. Great fun and well done.

This evening, Chris and I went out to dinner at Tallent, my favorite restaurant. We went with our next door neighbors. It was delicious and fun. And now, I am off to bed.

Tomorrow is Chris's birthday! I have to think up a cake for this important event.

More later.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ho Ho Ho

Good Evening, Loyal Readers! Today, I went shopping at the Indiana Premium Outlet Mall and picked up quite a few perfect little Christmas presents for my loved ones. I can't go into detail here, of course, but suffice it to say that I found really great stuff that is sure to please. I am so excited about Christmas this year and I can't wait for the family to be all together. We haven't been all together since last Christmas, believe it or not.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cooking, Blogging, Enjoying Myself

This picture was taken at one of Jack's birthday parties back in September. He is with Phil, Kate's boyfriend, and Kate. We had a nice dinner at Phil's mom's apartment in NY and then Jack was the lucky recipient of Star Wars Lego booty.

We are lucky in our daughters's boyfriend/husband choices. Nice guys, both.

I recently read some of my first blog entries from late 2003 (!) I used to just write whatever I was thinking or doing on any particular day and often included the recipe of what I was cooking. As I said in my last post, I got all nostalgic from reading about that time in my life. I am so glad that I started writing a blog because it is a record of my life and the life of those I love. I initially got started because of my friend Michelle who was the first person to tell me about a blog. Neither of us knew what BLOG stood for when she told me about one that was written by Julie something or other who wrote about preparing one recipe a night from Julia Child's first cookbook for a year in her tiny NYC apartment kitchen. (Julie Something ended up with a big book deal from her blog.) To chronicle our move to Indiana, I decided to start a blog myself. Ironically, Michelle rarely reads my blog ("I only read it when I am desperate for news when we haven't talked in a long time") and I suspect she doesn't think I am a good/entertaining writer, but I am grateful to her for getting me started. Thank you Michelle. She, by the way, is an excellent writer and I wish that she would start her own blog. I would read it every day (so there).

So in the spirit of my old blog, I will blather on about my day. This morning, I was a pampered wife. I dropped Jack at school, went to a soothing Yoga class and then had a massage. It was relaxing and divine and I felt only a bit guilty. Before returning home, I stopped at the butcher to get a bone-in pork shoulder roast. I coated it in a mixture of chopped fresh sage, rosemary and garlic and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours. Next, I browned it in butter/olive oil. As I now write, I am braising it in milk. I started the braising step quite a while ago and unfortunately, it taking far longer than I had though it would to finish cooking. So, here I am, blogging and waiting. When the roast is done, I shall serve it with Brussels sprouts and roasted fingerling potatoes. My husband will top his with applesauce, but what can a girl do? That's the way he likes it, uh-huh, uh-huh. (I heard K.C. and the Sunshine Band on the Radio today.)

OOPS!! I boiled it over. Oh well, what are exhaust fans for?

In other news, I am busy planning my Christmas menu and wrapping presents. Jack wants all things Lego from Santa this year so that has been a breeze for the most part. Did I mention that I found the mother of all Lego sites?
Bricklink
Go there to find a clearinghouse of a bazillion international sellers of all things Lego. You can search for any theme, any set, any set of instructions, any part...you name it. Then, you can buy what you want. I ordered several sets from a Mexican seller - GREAT prices - and I got the stuff pronto. Chris wondered if the instructions would be in Spanish but I reminded him that Lego instructions are pictorial, so he didn't have to worry that we might pressure him to translate for us. Phew. Phew for him & phew for us, if you know what I mean.

I just cut the roast in half to find what I suspected to be true...It is SO not close to being done. I think that raw would be the operative word here. I called down to Chris and Jack (in the basement playing Ping-Pong) and told them to come up for a dinner of potatoes, Brussels sprouts and...cottage cheese. I put the roast in the oven to braise at its leisure and accepted the fact that we will have to eat it as a leftover.

The roast not-getting-done-thing happened to me once before, years ago, when I was hosting a dinner party for eight people at our house in Fairfield. I don't know what happened, but dinner wasn't ready until about 11 PM. One couple had to leave at ten and pick up their son from some high school thing and then return for dinner. I don't know why I didn't throw in the towel at about 8:30 and ordered pizza. That is what I would do now. It was a disaster and I was embarrassed.


After "dinner"....

It is 8:40 now and I have just taken a break to order some purses from a nifty little site full of nifty hand made purses. Bolsa Bonita I think that the people receiving the purses will be very happy and that is all I will say in case some of those lucky folks are reading here...

In other news, my ear has cleared and I can hear again. This is delightful.

I am off to bed to read Clarissa...already on page 325 and boy is it heating up. Poor Clarissa...her family wants her to marry someone she detests and she has refused to play ball. So, they locked her up until she complies. Another man, a rogue, is pursuing her and I think that what will happen is that she will run away with him and become ruined. Women had so few options back then.

Tomorrow I am going outlet shopping for no good reason. I would list the things I am planning to get but I can't because some of my readers (I won't say whom in case they are my daughters) might see the list and know what they are getting for Xmas.

Bye for now, loyal readers.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hola

Hola, loyal readers. I was just settling into our wonderful new bed (it is sheer heaven...have I mentioned that?), and opening Clarissa (I am almost to page 300!). I was so happy to be snuggled in bed and I was delighted to take up my book early enough to be able to read several pages before falling asleep.

But, here I am in my office, blogging instead of luxuriating in my bed with my book. Why?

Because my husband cranked up his little Spanish lesson at his computer, which unfortunately is located in our bedroom. He said that he didn't mind if I stayed while he repeated the phrases that the computer-tutor put forth. But, I couldn't concentrate while listening to him try to approximate the Spanish accent, so here I am.

Chris decided to start learning Spanish a couple of months ago and I have been impressed at his stick-to-it-ness despite the sad fact that languages do not come easily to him. He would be the first to admit that, so I am not speaking out of school. Don't get me wrong, I think my husband is one of the smartest people I know. But you either have a gift for learning a new language or you don't. That's just my opinion but since this is my blog, that is all you get here.

I read that learning a new language when you are older helps carve out new pathways in your brain and that may hold off dementia or something like that. I've forgotten where I read it. Maybe if I studied a foreign language, I wouldn't be forgetting such things.

In other news, I had my last writing class for the semester this morning and while I am going to return next semester, I considered not doing it. I just haven't been writing much that seems any good and I am starting to get a bit embarrassed about it. But, whether I produce anything worth reading aloud or not, just being in the company of this group of great women is so enriching that I decided to go back.

Oh, here comes Chris announcing he is done with the lesson. Hooray, I can go to bed now.

More tomorrow after I return from a shopping extravaganza at the Premium Outlet Mall.

Ho Ho Ho.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Homesick

I have my last writing class of the semester tomorrow morning and I am supposed to be writing a six minute piece to read for the group read-around. I have nothing, nada, zero. I can't think of anything to write about that is interesting or funny. I can think of all sorts of important things to write about but I am not a write-about-important things writer. I write about the unimportant things that fill my daily life and try to make them funny.

In the quest to find something funny to read to the group, I went back to my old blog which I started in late 2003. Geez...has it been that long? The first month chronicles the preparation for our move from Fairfield to Bloomington and the next fifteen months is my journal of our transition to the Midwest up until the point when Chris has his open heart surgery. At that point, I started this blog, mainly because I didn't want local people to read what I wrote and a few people had found the site. At that time, I didn't feel comfortable enough with some people here and worried about what they would think. It is nice to be at a point where I no longer care. Plus, this is now my home (wow, that may be true but it was weird to write it) and I have several friends here who (I am happy to be able to say) read my blog. Anyway, I ramble.

I was reading my old posts and was feeling sort of heartsick for Fairfield and our old friends and our old house, pictured above. When we lived in the house, it wasn't quite as nice looking as the picture because the people who bought it from us gave it a face lift and did an addition on the back as well. The picture is from realtor.com because the house is on the market again. The owners unexpectedly had to move to California and had to put it on the market after they did all that work. Serves 'em right for redoing my completely newly redone (and may I say gorgeous) kitchen. The house has been for sale for an age because it is WAY expensive now and the market is soft.

I miss that old house quite a bit. The neighborhood was beautiful - a bit chilly socially - but wonderful to walk in and look at. The house was cozy and right sized. And, even though it was a really tough adjustment for all of us after Marie died, we made it through and managed to form an intact and loving family unit. Maybe that is why I am so nostalgic for the house...it is where I became a mom and where we became a whole family. Wow, your Bloomingtongirl sure is sentimental this evening.

Which is why it is time for me to end the post and go and read about poor Clarissa.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What I've Been Doing

Greetings Loyal Readers! I've been under the weather AND very busy this past week.

These pictures are of boxes I made for a good friend to use as a promotional item for his brilliant CD. My friend, Dylan Connor, is hoping to get a record company contract (or whatever one calls them in this age of CDs, not records.) he is going to send these packages along with his CD and his promotional literature to record companies. Am I a creative genius or what? I used the CD art to cover a paper mache box and then filled the box with Lucky Guy Bakery HoosierMama brownies. But, because I thought the name a bit too hackneyed for the big city record people, I changed it to Triple Chocolate Brownies.

There, I am done showing off my gorgeous creations. I really enjoy doing custom packages like these. It would be a fun business, perhaps, but it would never make any money.

In other news, I have had a raging ear infection for a week now. I am on my second course of horse pill anti-biotics and am completely sick of being deaf in my left ear. It makes one anti-social to have a hearing defect. I imagine that when I am a deaf old lady, I will be quite happy to ignore everyone and sip martinis in a corner. And, if I get really old, I shall take up smoking again. I don't miss smoking a bit, but I always thought that I would enjoy taking it up again in old age. Silly, I know.

I must go now and get stuff done. The Christmas Card looms large over me...the pressure is enormous. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Who are these dolls made for?

Just a super short post. This is a Jason Wu doll from FAO Schwarz. It is a line of Barbie sized dolls ranging in price from $50 to $400. This one is representative of the attitude of the product.

People buy all sorts of weird stuff.

Friday, December 01, 2006

BloomingtonGirl Decorates

Greetings Loyal Readers! This picture shows a sample of some of my new accent pillows. Aren't they completely boss? My husband gulped a few times and commented on their bright colors but with some encouragement, he soon agreed that they were wonderful.

It isn't all that visible in the background, but the pillow on the slipper chair is new as well and coordinates beautifully with the other two. Trust me, loyal readers...the pictures do not do the reality justice.

It is about a million degrees below zero here today due to the wind chill. Yesterday it was a balmy sixty degrees and then - WHAM - winter came calling. It's about time, but still, it was shocking. I need to add some earmuffs to my Christmas list on line. I shall do that after this post.

Tomorrow night we have courtside tix seats at the IU/Charlotte basketball game and because it is some big sorority rush weekend, I have been unable to get a babysitter!! My husband might have to take a guy friend while I stay home alone, sipping wine and watching a chick-flick. Hmm, wait a minute now, that might not be all bad. Anyway, I've got two more calls out for babysitters and after that, there remain no more options on my list.

Well, loyal readers, it is time for me to retire to my Tempur-Pedic bed with its lush flannel sheets - oh joy!- and Clarissa. I do hope that I finish it before I start getting glaucoma or detached retinas. I am on approximately page 200 of 1700. Eek.