Monday, January 31, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
- we took a field trip to the stores, before Mama left for work, to get snacks and treats for the day;
- Sis built a HP Quidditch Lego set;
- Sis started making class valentines, completing seven;
- Bud is building an extensive Ninja-inspired Lego set;
- Sis made chocolate cupcakes (did you know that Nutella is the perfect frosting?);
- I started reading Cherries in Winter by Suzan Colon, a book I picked up on a whim because I liked the title, cover picture, and food writing/memoir content;
- we will take delivery of my treadmill this afternoon, if they can get in the snow-narrowed driveway;
- we have Stuart Little to finish and, if we do, James and the Giant Peach to start.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The house is . . .
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
“When we put people in a 60-degree room, they increase their energy expenditure by 100 or 200 calories a day if they’re in light clothing,” like hospital scrubs, he said. “They’re not shivering. They activate their brown fat.”
Over a period of several weeks, they will have burned an extra 3,500 calories, which translates into the loss of one pound. Wearing a sweater will dilute the effect.
The problem, Dr. Kahn said, is that “most people won’t stay at that temperature for very long.”
Well, we're usually at 65 during the day and I'm in a sweatshirt. Not sure I could drop it 5 degrees and lose the extra layer. Interesting, though.
- Mama, whose tendonitis in her right arm is still keeping her from moving it much and whose cold/allergies/flu is going on week #3;
- Gommie, whose hip hurts to the point of sending her to the doctor today (which, if you know her, is relatively rare); and
- Mama Teacher, who is suffering with vertigo and migraines amid a lot of stress.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
There's a brand new game for Family Game Night, which was held tonight because last night was date night. I laughingly called it Wizard's Chess, owing to our Harry Potter obsession, but it's not far off:
- fingers, with pistachios and this incredible honey, so creamy tasting I'd have sworn there was vanilla
- flowers (or bird's nest baklava)
- maybe harissa (or namourrah), which is semolina cake soaked in syrup with almonds on top. Sis's favorite.
- baklava, of course, but as this was Middle Eastern and not Greek, it was pistachio not walnut
- Bourma, which is a phyllo rolled filled with honeyed pistachios that is then cut in disks so you can see the inside. (not pictured here)
- Mammoul with pistachios (perhaps also called kanata?). Or maybe it was Osmanlia with pistachios. It's hard to tell from pictures and several languages . . . . One had shredded phyllo on top but wasn't kataifi
- David Brooks's "Amy Chua is a Wimp" was a striking title, and essay, given the relative rigidity and brutality of her approach to parenting, but his argument is that she protects her kids from the hardest part of childhood and growing up: other children.
- Huang Hong, a journalist in China, writes about the culture behind Chua's "Chinese" parenting, from the glorification of suffering, the status of women dependent on their children, and the tradition of lack of individual rights in China. She also counters, "It is ironic that as young Chinese mothers in Beijing and Shanghai are embracing more enlighted Western ideas about child raising, mothers from Connecticut are sinking deeper into China’s darker past in child rearing."
Friday, January 21, 2011
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1/2 clove garlic, peeled, or more to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as desired
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor once or twice. Add the eggs and yolks, and turn the machine on. Process just until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Add a few drops of water if the dough is dry and grainy; add a tablespoon of flour if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out of the food processor, sprinkle it with a little flour, cover it with plastic or a cloth, and let it rest for about 30 minutes. (At this point, you may refrigerate the dough, wrapped in plastic, until you’re ready to roll it out, for up to 24 hours.)
2. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic and about half the oil. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and adding the rest of the oil gradually. Add the nuts and cheese, and pulse a few times. The pesto should be well combined but still chunky.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Divide the dough in half. Turn one half of the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle no thicker than 1/4 inch and ideally closer to 1/8 inch, adding additional flour sparingly as necessary. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
4. Cut into squares no larger than 4 inches across. Drop the squares into the water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the handkerchiefs with the pesto, some salt and pepper, and a spoonful of cooking water, if necessary, to thin the pesto. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan.
Yield: 4 servings.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough. . . .What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
We are completely Lego-looney over here. It started with a few simple Star Wars sets before Christmas and morphed into a giant Hogwarts Castle for Christmas.
". . . . I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I didn't watch the televised memorial for the victims of Tuscon's shooting, with President Obama, last night. But I'm reading about it this morning (here and here and here and here and here).
“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. . . .
"So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others. . . .
"The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. . . .
"I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
1 orange, preferably untreated
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, ideally at room temperature, cubed
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries, thawed if frozen
½ cup (50 g) coarsely chopped walnuts (I used almonds)
2 cups (250 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Makes: 12 medium or 8 large muffins
Time: About 40 minutes
The only real difference between muffins and other quick breads is the pan you bake them in. But those little muffin cups allow for a lot more potential variation, depending on what you do at the last minute before baking.
Anything goes when it comes to varying this master recipe. See the variations below for more ways to spike the recipe. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
3 tablespoons melted butter or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for the muffin tin
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk, plus more if needed
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and line it with paper or foil muffin cups if you like.
2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat together the egg, milk, and melted butter or oil in another bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating and stopping as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but quite moist; add a little more milk or other liquid if necessary.
3. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them about two-thirds full and handling the batter as little as possible. (If you prefer bigger muffins, fill 8 cups almost to the top; pour 1/4 cup water into the empty cups.) Bake for about 20 minutes (about 30 minutes for larger muffins) or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before taking them out of the tin. Serve warm.
**Sis and Bud's Variations: We halved the batter, adding a 1/2 cup fresh blueberries and dusting with sugar for Bud and 1/2 cup chocolate chips and topping with more chips for Sis. Perfection.
Banana-Nut Muffins. These are good with half bran or whole wheat flour: Add 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts, pecans, or cashews to the dry ingredients. Substitute 1 cup mashed very ripe banana for 3/4 cup of the milk. Use honey or maple syrup in place of sugar if possible.
Bran Muffins. Substitute 1 cup oat or wheat bran for 1 cup of the flour (you can use whole wheat flour for the remainder if you like). Use 2 eggs and honey, molasses, or maple syrup as the sweetener. Add 1/2 cup raisins to the prepared batter if you like.
Sour Cream or Yogurt Muffins. Reduce the baking powder to 1 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients. Substitute 11/4 cups sour cream or yogurt for the milk and cut the butter or oil back to 1 tablespoon.
Spice Muffins. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon each ground allspice and ground ginger, and 1 pinch ground cloves and mace or nutmeg to the dry ingredients; use 1 cup whole wheat flour in place of 1 cup all-purpose flour. Add 1/2 cup raisins, currants, dates, or dried figs to the prepared batter if you like.
Blueberry or Cranberry Muffins. Try substituting cornmeal for up to 1/2 cup of the flour: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients; increase the sugar to 1/2 cup. Stir 1 cup fresh blueberries or cranberries into the batter at the last minute. You can also use frozen blueberries or cranberries here; do not defrost them first. Blueberry muffins are good with 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest added to the batter along with the wet ingredients. Cranberry muffins are excellent with 1/2 cup chopped nuts and/or 1 tablespoon minced orange zest added to the prepared batter.
Sweet and Rich Muffins. Like cake: Use butter and increase the quantity to 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick); increase the sugar to 3/4 cup. Use 2 eggs and decrease the milk to 1/2 cup, or more if needed. In Step 2, after mixing together the dry ingredients, cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer and in a small bowl beat together the eggs with the milk. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, then moisten with a little of the milk. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, taking care not to over-mix. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but moist; add a little more milk or other liquid if necessary.
Lighter Muffins. A little more work, with noticeable results: Use 2 eggs and separate them. Add the yolks as usual; beat the whites until stiff but not dry and fold in very gently at the last moment.
Coffee Cake Muffins. Mix together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar; 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans, or cashews; and 2 extra tablespoons melted butter. Stir half of this mixture into the original batter with the wet ingredients and sprinkle the rest on top before baking.
Savory Muffins. Cut the sugar back to 1 tablespoon. Add up to 1 cup of cooked minced onion or leek and shredded cheese to the batter just before baking.