Friday, September 30, 2011

I know: it's a mess

I'm trying to figure out how to move my blog title closer to the bottom of the above photo ... think I may have found an answer online, but I'll have to try it out tomorrow.

*sigh*

I thought this (ie, Blogger) was supposed to be easy?

UPDATE: After messing around with this for awhile (and doing a ton of online searches for stuff like "how do I move my blog title in my header"), I think I'm stuck with this header as is.  It's driving me CRAZY: I want the title in black over the wheat, bottom left-justified.

But, the odds of me learning code this week? Slim to none.  Oh well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grading exams this week ...

PLUS I have a cold for the first time since last fall.  (We'll see if I lose my voice again for the third time in two years ... don't think I will ... I hope.)

Anyway, nothing to report here for another day or two.

Unless you feel like talking about Intro epistemology exams?

I didn't think so.

Is there still room in hell for Descartes' proof for the existence of God?
Ci vediamo!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ina's blondies

Last weekend, Ina had a show devoted to cookies, and I knew right away that I wanted to try out her blondie recipe (the batter for which doubles as her chocolate chunk cookie batter).  I have at least four of Ina's books, but the blondie recipe hadn't been printed in any of mine.  Oddly, the Food Network website didn't have the recipe either, but Ina's personal website did.

Of course, from the start I had an issue: I didn't have AP flour, but I DID have "unbleached white whole wheat flour."  Huh. I have NO IDEA why I bought this.  It was sitting unopened on the shelf in my basement, and I could tell I bought it recently.  My only guess is that I bought it thinking that it was "unbleached all purpose flour," but I was too distracted at the store to realize I was buying the wrong thing. Oh well.  So do you think I went to the store today to buy the correct flour for the blondies?

Of course I didn't.  Do you know how bad it rained here today? Bad enough that 1/3 of my students didn't show up for class and also bad enough that I couldn't convince myself to go to the supermarket for the third time this week.

I think I like the way they turned out.


Ok, I think the truth is that they're not cakey enough and (I can't believe I'm saying this) I think they may be too buttery/greasy even for me.  That being said, the flavor is good.  I can't tell what I screwed up.  I really don't think it's the flour.  For some reason, I think it was the choice of pan: I don't own a glass or metal 8x12 pan (because I already own two 9x13 pans, so what's the point?).  I did have a disposable foil pan that I simply sprayed with Pam (in lieu of greasing and flouring, which I would do for a glass/metal pan).  For some reason, I think Pam has added a degree of greasiness that's not completely helpful.


I'll definitely try this recipe out one more time with a proper baking dish and (why not?) proper flour.  Ironically, right after I popped these in the oven, I found myself reading this article in the latest O Magazine about the use of whole grain flours in baking.  Long story short, the author says (I'm paraphrasing here): "Sometimes you can substitute whole grain flours for AP, sometimes you can't. You never know for sure until you try them out."

Well, there you have it folks.

(Anybody want some unbleached white whole wheat flour?  Because I have a lot of it.)

btw, Happy Birthday Marcie!  Have fun in Hawaii!

Hoping for a pretty weekend

I've finally accepted that summer is over, and fall officially arrived four hours ago.  But it sure doesn't look like fall (or feel like it) when I look out my window or step outside.

These are from last year ... maybe they're from early October.

Whoever planned the landscaping for our neighborhood years ago really thought ahead.  Half of the trees bloom in April, and the other half turn bright orange and red in October.






Of course, there's always Longwood too.  Everything was still bright green there last week. I guess that's ok because January is gonna be here before you know it.


How can a person NOT love beige?  Look at all the shades of beige here.  What would this scene be without them??


Have a pretty weekend, wherever you may be!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hot tea obsession

One of my birthday gifts last month was this contraption:


I don't know what to call it exactly.  I guess it's just a tea steeper. Or a tea infuser.  Previous to this month, I've never bothered with loose leaf tea: Isn't that what Lipton is for?

I'm definitely a big tea drinker, but cultured tea drinker?  Not really.

Until now.

(Stop me if I get too snobby snotty.  That's not what I'm going for here.)

The same day that I discovered the matcha chai latte at the farmer's market was the same day I discovered this infuser.  (I need to give my mom credit for this because I technically didn't notice it--she did.)  I ended up receiving one a few weeks later, and it works for hot or cold tea; however, I've been holding out for cooler weather to try it out with hot tea.  I went back to the tea lady and bought an ounce or two of her exotic black tea and the mojito mint tea.

OMG.

The good news is that infuser works perfectly AND the teas taste freakin amazing.

The bad news is: what am I going to do with that big box of Lipton in my pantry?  And WHY--WHY GOD WHY??--am I constantly discovering new and wonderful things that cost "a little extra money?"  It's like when you figure out the difference between acrylic and cashmere sweaters for the first time in your life.  Or (God help me) the difference between coach and business class.

My point is: There is no going back. (That being said, I have flown coach plenty of times since the one random time I was bumped to business class. Please people: I'm an adjunct professor.  I'm surprised they don't make me ride in cargo with the luggage.)


The sad truth is, tea reminds me of powering through homework.  I lived at home when I went to college, and every night I would make tea for my sister, my mom, and me before sitting down to do my work.  When I seriously reflect on those years, I believe more and more that the ONLY reason I got through any of my stat, calc, and astronomy (and one godawful English) classes was due to tea.  It's a meditative process:  Ok, I won't actually start to work until the water boils.  What's the point of being interrupted by the kettle?  Ok well, the tea has to steep now, so I won't actually start to work until it's finished.  [90 minutes of homework later]:  Oh geez, look at that: my tea's finished and I still have three calc problems left ... I know! I'll make more tea, watch 15 minutes of ER, by then the tea will be ready, and then surely I will be smart enough to integrate these goddamn equations.  And tomorrow's Friday and I'm home free! ... once I get through my 3:30pm calc class.

It blows my mind that "reminiscing" of college homework initially strikes me as "relaxing and happy tea time."  Because, let me tell you, I don't remember being that happy about doing homework at the time. Frankly, I remember being tired when I reflect on it. Really tired.

I think I drank 100 gallons of tea working on The Diss this same month last year.  Oh, Lovely Tea Infuser: where were you a year ago when you really would've cheered me up?  No matter--you're mine now.  Even if you do end up bleeding my purse dry.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Life between (final summer) weekends

I've almost forgotten that it's still technically summer.  I know this is terrible, but I'm already looking forward to the first day of spring.  I know, I know: I should just move to California, I know.



I want to say that both of these sunset pictures followed a crazy rainstorm, but I honestly don't remember if it rained last week or not.  I guess things were more of a blur than I realized.

Oooohh, wait. I remember now: I took these while talking on the phone to Marcie last Thursday.  Thursday was the day that everything went from 80 degrees to 50 degrees in a matter of two hours. Totally bizarre. I guess these were the remnants of the front that moved through and literally cleared the air.


Despite it being the last official summer weekend, Saturday had "fall" written all over it.  Leslie joined me and Ron at the farmer's market--we (I guess that's me and Leslie) love how you can buy some really tiny apples at our favorite vendor.  I hate nothing more than an apple that's too big to finish.  (Well, supermarket red delicious apples are actually more hateful--no matter how small--now that I think about it.)

Leslie said the farmer's market reminded her of the fall festival scene from "You've Got Mail." (You know the part where they play Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash" and Tom Hanks is walking around with Annabelle and Matt?)  "I keep thinking we're going to bump into Kathleen Kelly."


We had our first official fall meal--chili and cornbread--at my mom's house.  Of course, the fall meal included fall china (a lovely find from the Women's Exchange).  I really like that tablecloth too.


My grandparents came to dinner, and I used my new Fuji Instax.  My grandmother took this photo home, but I guess I technically have a copy too.


I brought dessert over: pumpkin rice pudding with craisins and apples.  I usually make this repeatedly straight through the end of January.  It feels like forever since I last had it, but it's been only eight months.  Time is weird.  (I think a lot philosophers, professional and otherwise, would agree with me on that one.)

(Remind me if you want the recipe--I'll have to type it up.)



Mom and I (barely) made it over to Longwood for 30 minutes on Friday.



The pumpkins are out at Terrain, but people seriously: if you want the fancy pumpkins that you see in magazines (like Cinderalla pumpkins and Fairy Tale pumpkins), check out your farmer's market first.  They'll be a mere fraction of the price.  Our market didn't get them in until late Sept/early Oct. last year, but it's worth the wait.  (Just remember: if you walk a mile or two one-way to your market, do NOT buy 30lbs of pumpkins before remembering, "Oh wait: we didn't drive here ... we walked."  Ron's pretty forgiving of my miscalculations of various things, but he hasn't been so forgiving of that one.)


Last of the summer herbs.  Even when I bring herbs inside for the winter, they don't fare so well.  Simply not enough sun.  I wish I had floor to ceiling windows ... sorta. I guess it depends on where you live.

Monday's here: I hope everyone has an easy week : )

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In case you had doubts: Summer is over

Fall blew into town today around 3:30pm.  My mom and I were going to Starbucks, and I was completely set on their lemonade passion tea (such a pretty shade of pink).  While walking around town, the season shifted from summer to fall in the space of an hour.


Our order switched to a pumpkin spice latte and salted caramel mocha instead.


There's a fall wreath on my door.


And garnet colored mums are on my front step. To top it all off, I walked by the pool during my run this morning and it's completely covered with a tarp for winter.

I think I'm ok with all of this though.  Fall is a good thing ... maybe the winter won't be too bad?

PS: has anybody been checking out the web album from the garden walk?  Go check it out: you won't believe that these houses exist in our zip code!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Life between weekends

The weekend was jam packed. First, a preview:



The glass is speckled, hence the weird shadow pattern from the flash.

Ron has been working on new kitchen cabinets for the past 18 months. I don't really remember how we even came to discuss replacing them, but it probably had something to do with me freaking out about the lost space above the cabinets: "Why can't the cabinets go all the way up to the ceiling??" To my shock, Ron replied, "Who said they can't?" He made plans for new cabinets, but it took a long time to execute the them since--like a normal person--Ron works full time.

The new cabinets are up, but there are some final details that need to be completed before I bother to post photos of them. I'm hoping they'll be finished-finished in two weeks.

Also, I'm completely aware that my basement is a trainwreck. Yes, I noticed.

While Ron and his dad hung the cabinets, I toured the 2011 West Chester "Festival of Gardens" with my sister and my mom. This is the third year we've made it a point to go. The tour gives you access to some of the most gorgeous yards in the West Chester borough. Fourteen houses participated this year, and I have pictures of my favorites here:



You should be able to click on the photo above and see the web album from the garden tour--let me know if it doesn't work.

Finally on Sunday, we met Mark and Dina's new baby, Emedio (or Sonny, as he's called around the house).  He's three months old on Wednesday.  Mark made the most incredible salmon with leeks in a white-wine butter reduction, fried polenta, and swiss chard (from the backyard) with garlic and bacon.


Ron was really relaxed with the baby, but every time I raised the camera to my face, he (Ron) would tense up and I would totally lose the shot I wanted.

Meanwhile, could Ron get more relaxed here?

The boy wants a puppy so bad, I could just weep for him.

No, wait: It gets better.


I took this from across the room--he didn't even realize that he was being photographed. Anyway.  Don't know what his deal is when being photographed with the baby.


We saw Charlie--the puppy in the previous photo--at his parents' house on Friday.  It was Jess's birthday, and Matt was showing off the new bar he built in his basement.  Of course, I didn't realize that I basically cut the bar out of the photo.  But it was beautifully finished.



Who am I kidding? I'm sorry--I can't sign off without including this:


There's at least three things wrong with this picture.  What can I say? This is who we are.  I think I like it this way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

btw

This is what happens when you ask a guy to fold a mattress cover.


To be fair, he did fold it when he woke up.

Peach cupcakes and a new camera

I dug through my gmail and took special care to sort through all the emails my mom sent me during the last two weeks of August 2010.  (According to my gmail account--which I've only had since 2007--I have exchanged "thousands" of emails with my mom. On the one hand, I was surprised to find out there have been so many. On the other hand, I thought to myself, "You're sure it's not millions?")

After 90 seconds of sorting, I found the recipe for the peach cupcakes.  My memory was pretty accurate: the body of the email simply said, "You should make these for me, your mother."  You can find the recipe (and a much better photo of the finished product) here.  You should know that I added 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon to the dry ingredients in addition to the nutmeg, and I also made it a point to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the sliced and diced peaches.

In the meantime, I've been waiting to use one of my birthday gifts and have only just tried it today.  I received the Fujifilm Instax Mini camera a week ago, but it didn't come with any film so I had to order it after the fact. (Oddly, the camera DID come with all necessary batteries ... how bizarrely convenient is that?)

(It also came with a manual entirely written in Japanese.  Not as helpful.)

Image via here

Basically, this is a 21st century Polaroid.  I actually still have a Polaroid camera from 5th grade, but I couldn't afford the film when I was little so I used one film pack in it ... and never used it again.  Apparently, they do still sell Polaroid film at Target, so I intend to check that out this weekend.

The film for the Instax Mini arrived today, so I gave the camera a try (only twice! I am the ultimate Scrooge when it comes to film).  I was so angry because I totally botched the first shot.  Each "roll" only has ten shots, and each shot costs approximately $1.  I took one more while Ron was making dinner.


The pizza in the inset photo looks like it existed thirty years ago, but it's really just the same pizza in the background. (Sorry if it sounds like I'm insulting your intelligence there. Just wanted to be clear.)


Not really sure why I leaned it against a measuring spoon here, but it gives a sense of proportion.  The Instax photos are only the size of a credit card.

I'll bring it my friend Jess's house tomorrow night and see if I get anything good with it.  The hard part of using a camera that only creates hardcopies?  You have to get creative in order to upload them!  Instax camera + a blog = crazy mishmash of 20th and 21st century technology. It's strange.

Happy Birthday Jess!