You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2007.

The blueberries, of course!  It was pure bliss to walk back into the bushes after vespers and have them plunk into my container (and my mouth).  Most aren’t anywhere near ripe, but enough to stand and pick and eat and lean into the bush.  JOY.  I ought to have brought my camera, but how was I supposed to know that it would be a picture perfect June evening, warm with a little breeze and the sun setting?  The perfect evening to sit on the rope swing and lean back and soak it all in?  Excuse my rapture, but these are the days you dream about in the dead of winter.  The ones that seem impossible when your skin hasn’t felt sun in weeks, your windows can’t remember the last time they opened, and you don’t even have bare feet in the house.   So I’m trying to make a point of appreciating.

Which reminds me that a certain young lady recently received a copy of Chrysanthemum (I always hear Anne Shirley’s voice in my head when I write that word) and, according to her mother, has started using the word appreciate.  As in, she finds a shirt and asks if her sister used to wear it.  When informed that it doesn’t fit her yet, she’s still too small, Q says, “when M grows and learns to appreciate this shirt, then she’ll wear it.”  Ah, my little Chrysanthemum.

Also in the appreciating realm, I would really appreciate it if the kids across the street had a babysitter instead of being left to run and scream and play in the restaurant driveway.  They even have an inflatable bouncy thing.  Surely if their parents can afford a couple of shiny SUVs, they could afford a babysitter.  Especially on nice evenings when they have outdoor seating.  Who wants to hear the owner’s kids wail while eating a nice dinner?  I sure don’t, and I’m not even paying them good money for my meal (the last of the beets, some wilted lettuce, oil & balsamic.  So gourmet.)

More blueberry rhapsodizing to come, I’m sure.

These days, it’s been more laughing at them, although we do make a nice fishbowl with our blinds open at night.

You would think that the new neighbors would be a sigh of relief after crazy old neighbor, but I do believe they’ve managed to outdo him.  I think they have a puppy – which the landlord may or may not know about – and if they don’t, I don’t want to know who they’re shouting “down” to in fake-deep voices.  They leave an unbelievable amount of trash out each week, and no recycling.  They watch LOUD movies in the small hours of the morning.  (Every time I was about to fall asleep last night, they woke me up.  I thought I left the dorms years ago?)

However, they are paving their way with good laughs.  For instance, there was the visitor they had Sunday evening, a girl of at most 20.  She parks in front of our dining room window, opens her trunk, pulls out a shirt, smells it, drapes it over her bag, and walks back and forth checking her cell.

“Hey,” I say to Kitri, “that girl just got a shirt out of her trunk and smelled it.”  A few minutes later I’m in the kitchen with a good view out the window, and I see her get back in her car.

“Now she’s changing,” I say.  “Doesn’t she realize we can see her?”  Not to mention that it’s daylight, she’s parked on a moderately busy corner, and her car is mere feet from our window.

She pulls off one tank top, pulls on the (smelled) one, and then does the take of your bra from under your shirt thing.  Classy.  Then she wiggles around a lot (we interpret this as changing pants) and applies another pound of make-up. By this time, we’re both in the kitchen.  She finally looks at our window, and Kitri gives her the “yeah, we see you” look of disdain, before turning her back.

Then she gets out, checks her phone again, and walks up to our neighbors’ door.  Yes, Kitri kept a look-out from the peephole.

It’s apparently baking week chez Monster & Kitri.  The mixer has been in near-constant use since yesterday afternoon.  First there was the bundt cake, then K threw together an “it’s a girl” cake for a coworker, then frosted it, then I whipped cream for my cake, then this morning it was on to muffin baking.  I tried a recipe for French Breakfast Muffins from my Savor the Flavor of Oregon cookbook (thanks, Di!  Apparently you gave it to me, um, eleven years ago for Christmas.  Wow.)  They’re nothing thrilling, but tasty.  Basic muffin base, half whole wheat flour, hint of nutmeg, and then you’re supposed to “immediately dip tops in melted butter and then in the sugar and cinnamon mixture.”  For those of you that have hands of steel, perhaps that works.  I had to let them cool a bit before they were handle-able.  Plus, since they’re warm they squish in as you complete the dipping.  They also recommend an obscene amount of sugar for the dipping – I used less than half.  Wow, I sound like those commenters for online recipes.

Anyway, they’re delicious with a hardboiled egg and an obscene amount of fresh raspberries and some Irish Breakfast.

Sunday was the baptism, finally, so I now have a leetle godson.  At the after-party, I met more people of Polish origin than I’ve met in the previous 25 years of my life combined.  Seven people born in Poland, most of the rest of Polish parents.  I felt like the freakish outsider.  Until I ate some of the Polish grandma’s pastries and everything was okay again.

The gown was large, but not disastrously so – the sleeves just needed rolling up.  I don’t have any pictures of the actual event, having a baby in my hands instead of a camera, but I can show you my first ever garment:

Ta-da!  Next up, those curtains I should’ve made months ago.

Also, lots of garden photos on flickr.

The process started with a field trip.  To my parents’ backyard to berry-pick.

The cherries don’t factor into the cake, but aren’t they lovely?

Although I’ve never seen an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (I leave the cooking show viewing to my dad), I trust them.  They gave me the so-far foolproof cake release method: melt a tablespoon of butter, mix in a tablespoon of cocoa, brush over bundt pan (or if, like me, you’re not possessed of a pastry brush, a paper towel will serve).

No unsightly white clumps on finished chocolate cake.  Smoothest release imaginable.

The thing I always forget about this recipe is that it requires a minimum of three bowls.

Here we see Jessmonster’s hope chest in action.  It’s more cupboard, really, and obviously nothing is being saved.  It’s more hope than chest, as in, “I hope this cake turns out because wouldn’t it just kill you if a previously successful recipe fails during photo-documentation?”  Over the years (since I moved out of the dorms senior year of college, although I had some random things before that, too) I’ve acquired a nice hope chest.  Some things from my parents, some things I got myself.  Every girl needs a 9-speed mixer.  And 2 different box sets of Pyrex.  And enough spatulas to serve each bowl.  These are necessities, as I see it.

I invariably mix the dry ingredients in the largest bowl and then have to downgrade them (I think I need more bowls).  They forgive me, generally.  Clockwise from top we have our dry ingredients, our chocolate & boiling water, our sour cream, our butter/sugar/vanilla mixture. Just waiting to be turned into…

Lovely blend of sour cream and chocolate.  From this point on, my fingers were too dirty to photo-document.   Let us fast-forward to…

At which point I abandoned the cake to its cooling, wrote my earlier post,  and left for work.  I am currently decimating this:

The whipped cream has a bit of sour cream and a touch of sugar, to tang it up and balance out the tang.  I don’t know, that’s what America’s Test Kitchen told me to do.  Come on over and I’ll give you a slice, the cake is HUGE.  I’m wishing for a mini bundt pan like Bee for non-occasions such as this.  It will feed a crowd.  It has.

Bee and I have a new something. We’re sending recipes back and forth and documenting it. Months will be themed, starting next week with pies/tarts/pastries, but this inaugural joint week is that standby, the Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake from America’s Test Kitchen (you can get the recipe online if you do the free trial membership). I must run to work, and I just had enough time to whip the cake from the oven and scarf a sandwich and upload the pictures (but not to flickr yet) so I will be back this evening. With photos and the full story and a piece of cake to eat.

“Don’t you ever feel like, what if the world really is messed up?  What if we could do it all over again from scratch?  No more war.  Nobody homeless.  No more summer reading homework.”

“I’m listening.”

Admit it.  You’re wishing you were reading The Sea of Monsters with me right now, Wikipedia at the ready to look up all the names and classical references.

You also wish that, like me, you had spent the morning volunteering at the book sale and picking up random titles in spare moments.  You wish you were the proud owner of Daughter of Time for $1 (yes!).  Or the Penguin Russian Cookery for 50 cents (that one’s to give away).  Or Saucepans & the Single Girl, a “swinging cookbook” which is “guaranteed to do more for the bachelor girl’s social life than long-lash mascara or a new discotheque dress.”  Watch out Bronwen, I might be sending you recipes from here, especially as both authors (one delightfully named Jinx) hail from your current academic institution.  Did you know that “degrees in English qualify one for a limited realm of responsibility in the business world – usually confined either to preparing the coffee for the office staff or watering the rubber plant”?  Why am I not getting paid to water the rubber plant?  Copyright 1965, naturally.

I also recently acquired from the library discards a gem of a title called Building Your Home Life (the revised edition, but of course, copyright 1966) which is “as new as tomorrow in its contents and ideas and in its consistency with currently accepted approaches to learning.”  It’s lofty goal is to help prepare early-adolescent students for “an effective personal and family life.”  I might have to do a whole series of posts on this puppy, because every page is chock full of goodness.  For instance, did you know that “a lively barn dance is fun and frolic”?  My goodness, it’s been far too long since I’ve been to a good frolicsome barn dance!

With the exception of The Wednesday Wars (awesome, awesome, awesome) I haven’t met a book I loved in a while.  Okay, in a week or so.  But still!  I’m plugging through The Nature of Monsters because I want to know what will happen – but honestly, I don’t care about Eliza, or Mary, or anyone.  The details are riveting and I often feel like I’m in the room with them, but that’s always followed by an “eww” reaction because it’s 1718 and things are grimy and sweaty and there’s always at least one character who’s under the weather.  There’s lots of vomiting, and nightmares, and icky men.  A boatload of unsympathetic supporting characters – there has only been ONE exception to this and I’m almost done.  So, while I’m going to finish it, I won’t recommend it unless you want to feel like you’re an indentured servant in 18th century London, okay?

In the car I still have The History of Love, and things were going well, I was enjoying the old guy voice of Leo, but then we got to Alma…who sounds like she ought to be reading chick lit or the peppier kind of YA.  She does a terrible fake British accent for her mother’s voice, and forgets to switch back to American teenager until halfway through the next sentence of narrative.  Ugh.  I don’t particularly care about the characters, either, although I do think I’ve gotten further than last time.  Perhaps I need to switch back to the book.  Especially since three other people have it on hold and there’s only this one copy.  But I don’t have a back-up car book yet!  So I’ll give it a bit longer.

But The Wednesday Wars.  I think it was even better than his first, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.  It felt very balanced – plot, characters, humor, sadness, pain, joy.  There’s plenty of Shakespeare, a great teacher, rats on the loose, cream puffs, and the feeling that you’re in 7th grade again.  But in a good way.

And in unrelated news, sweet victory!  I managed to sew the sleeves on to the teensy baptismal gown.  Sleeves are, and there’s no other way to put this, a bitch.  I’m never sewing a sleeved garment again.  Well, maybe.  And when I said teensy, I meant huge because this thing is LONG for how big it is on top.  And it’s not even a traditional baptismal gown pattern, just a transformed sleeper gown.  I think I have the sewing bug again because I fell asleep thinking of things to make and how delicious it looks when the pieces come together into a Something.

I’m alive, but apparently I don’t have much to say. Apparently that’s what happens when I don’t spend as much time on the computer…

Klamath Falls was a success, unless you’re my mom who couldn’t seem to make exits. We’d be driving along, talking about stopping in Eugene and looking around the U of O campus, and I’d pull out the atlas to look at something and say, “um, Mom? I think we’re about 10 miles past Eugene.” Apparently you can blink and pass the Eugene exits, at least if you’re her. She blames us for not keeping a better eye on the exits. Then there was the whole Crater Lake incident, in which we again drove past two different routes before realizing and turning around. Again, where did the blame fall? On all of us. Notice that the other person who drove half the time (cough, me) didn’t miss any exits. But we survived! And didn’t kill each other! And I finally made it to one of those famous Northwest landmarks that everyone and their brother has been to except me (next up, Mt. St. Helens).

There was a lot of rearranging things to fit in the car, milkshakes, a run-in with a tornado of bugs (got to wait for Joe’s pictures for that).

Since then, there’s been badminton, birthday cake, ribs, strawberry picking, crisp, sewing, tearing hair over tiny garments, modern letters, roast beets, local lamb, and a tiny bit of reading.

…And found some dress-up outfits in the attic while her mother and I rummaged around for patterns and fabric. Nothing screams I’m four like a red plaid dress over pink shirt and pants, topped with wings and halo. She considered adding overalls but decided it might be uncomfortable. Smart move.

K set me up with a baptismal gown (unmade) in a bag, with a cross that’s passed through a few hands without ever ending up being used, the leftover material from Q’s, and pattern that looks simple enough for a garment-novice like myself to not mangle out of recognition. Rather than a grandmotherly art, we’ll call this a godmotherly art.

More photos on flickr, including a tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Tomorrow we go pick up little brother from college, a 4/5ths of the family whirlwind road trip with a possible detour to Crater Lake. I simultaneously dread and look forward to it. Fortunately, I had five million books come in on hold, so I’ll have plenty to distract myself should conversation falter (and I not be driving at the time).

  • Austenland, Shannon Hale (oops, I already read this since picking it up last night. I’ll have to leave it for Kitri. Did you know that “chick lit” is a subject heading? Yeah, yeah, shut up already about subject headings, you’re saying, it’s summer vacation.)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
  • Farthing, Jo Walton
  • The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen
  • Arcadia, Tom Stoppard
  • Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, R.L. Lafevers
  • Shug, Jenny Han
  • The Blood of Flowers, Anita Amirrezvani
  • The Wednesday Wars, Gary Schmidt
  • Roller Skates, Ruth Sawyer
  • Half Life, Shelley Jackson
  • The Nature of Monsters, Clare Clark
  • Now is the Hour, Tom Spanbauer
  • The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman

Several of those were impulse “buys” after processing them (there’s nothing quite like typing a label for a book and then checking it out). I’m also currently reading Lullabies for little Criminals and The Art of Eating, and I didn’t list the audiobooks. Some of them I’ve had for a while, but 6 I just picked up last night. I still have 3 more sitting at work.

Volume 1: So Far

Visited Town Pocket in Oly, which was a lot of relaxing.  Sitting around fending off the affections of her cat, drinking cocktails, trying on jewelry, eating brunch, watching terrible, horrible movies (if you ever consider watching one called Palindromes, just don’t).  I raided her bookshelf and somehow managed to read an entire book in my 37 hour visit.  I just couldn’t stop myself.

When I got home, the whole book addiction thing continued.  After 2 hours of Bel Canto, I found myself bringing the tapes into the house and listening to the rest of the book.  Which ended just in time for me to compose myself before heading to work.  It was one of those books that fools you into thinking, “maybe there will be a happy ending” just as the characters are lulled into thinking the same thing.  And then, you can imagine.  Well worth being put through the wringer, though.  And I got lots of things done while I listened, like laundry and dishes and sweeping and unpacking.

Today I pretended to be productive.  I did things like visit the new bookstore around the corner, pretending that I was looking for a book for father’s day but really just perusing the new fiction section and spotting several interesting titles that I’ve already forgotten.

Now it’s all iced coffee and blog reading and pulling weeds from the garden and admiring the things that are finally willing to bloom.

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Flickr Photos

Dinner success - the rare occasion when we eat exactly the same thing (except no hot salsa on his rice & beans).

Trucks, always trucks (and the water tables).

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