Know your strengths

Quick programming note for those of you who may have been disappointed in my decision to avoid torturing myself for the sake of comedy w/r/t the Williams-Sonoma Finds Spring Disgusting, Apparently cookbook: I have resubscribed to the print edition of Bon Appétit! And I've started thinking that maybe it would be fun to cook all the way through the summer issue! Because my memory is so short, you guys. Like lobster goldfish-short.

In the meantime, let's peruse the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, as it is a non-ridiculous tome that fills me with cheer.

Big Breakfast Latkes

Sesame-spiced Turkey Meatballs and Smashed Chickpea Salad

Brownie Roll-Out Cookies

I want you to make all of the above, in the following order: meatballs, cookies, cookies, latkes, cookies.

This weekend we went to an art festival at Anna's preschool.

Seems like Ivy was picturing more of an exclusive gallery show.

As part of the festivities, Anna's class put on a production of The Gruffalo, which meant that Anna needed a homemade mouse costume. Obviously this task is included in my job description as a viking stay-at-home-mom, but my first thought was literally "I guess we can get some fabric and, like…glue it? On the…sides?" So my close viewing of 28 seasons of Project Runway has absolutely paid off. My second thought was, "Hey, wait, Holly said I should master my strengths and outsource my weaknesses!" This seemed like a good opportunity to put that idea into practice, so I had Anna's father and grandmother do the actual constructing of the costume while I focused on worrying about it excessively.

I think we all did a great job.


The Literate Masochist's Cookbook

When last we met The Book Lover's Cookbook, it was bringing us down with some neonaticide, having previously brought us down with random violence, Civil War-era despair, slightly unhinged pioneers, and child/elder abuse. It was time for a break. Something that would not make us afraid to step outside our front door (or at least onto any Amish farms). Something comforting and nurturing. Something like Mrs. Dalby's Buttermilk Scones.

I couldn't wait for the relief of reading something uplifting and life-affirming for once. These were, after all, taken from a book with the words "warm and joyful" right there on the cover. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

It's the heartwarming story of a giant vet, his giant sheep companion, and the various miniature people and animals that they serve.

Here we go, let's check the excerpt! 

"You'll have a cup of tea, Mr. Herriot." She said it in a gracious way, not casually, her head slightly on one side and a dignified little smile on her face.
And when I went into the kitchen, I knew what I would find: the inevitable tray. It was always a tray with Mrs. Dalby. The hospitable Dales people were continually asking me in for some kind of refreshment--"a bit o' dinner" perhaps, but if it wasn't midday there was usually a mug of tea and a scone or a hunk of thick-crusted apple pie--but Mrs. Dalby invariably set out a special tray. And there it was today with a clean cloth and the best china cup and saucer and side plates, with sliced buttered scones and iced cakes and malt bread and biscuits. 

Looks like Mrs. Dalby is going to be one of those determinedly generous hostesses, maybe a little on the amusingly eccentric side like that crazy dog lady from All Creatures Great and Small. Excellent! Probably no tragic backstory in this one, it's pretty light stuff overall, I'll just take a peek in the chapter here, and…ah. Hmm. Recently widowed, you say? With how many…three children? Under the age of eight. I see. Well, I'm sure the land she was left with will sustain…oh, "Prospect House was a bad farm," huh? And half of her cows are going to die and you can't fix it? Are you sure it isn't just copper deficiency? Because it seems like it's usually copper deficiency. Terrible, lung-eating worms, you say. OKAY THEN.

But with the Dalbys who needed my help so desperately I had nothing to offer; my memories are of repeated comfortless visits, of death, and of an all-pervading reek of chloroform, creosote and turpentine.

Anyway, these scones were really good. I ate four of them.

And look, we finally got the cast pictures for our in-house production of Godspell!


The Unslumpening

Listen, I know all you young people (I am assuming my demographic is mostly males 18-25?) are still recovering from your Śmigus-Dyngus Day festivities, so I'll try to keep it pretty brief today.

Here, have a hard-boiled egg. It will help.

As you may recall, something in the air has got me and my sinus cavities down but I am determined to pull myself up by my sandalstraps and turn things around. I thought homemade angel food cake might be a good way to kickstart things (it is a CAKE made entirely of EGGS) but all it did was teach me that I am not blessed with any particular competence regarding homemade angel food cake. Bit of a backfire, but you know what, some lessons are probably worth a two-and-a-half hour investment.

I am free of the tyranny of believing that I can make angel food cake! FREE, I TELL YOU!

I couldn't even capture any comically disinterested faces during the Easter egg hunt. They were too excited. The best Anna could muster for me was "slightly annoyed by the woman standing in front of the candy."

Fortunately, they gave pretty good post-candy-crash face.

Their glucose fatigue is straight existential. #gifted

Anyway, you know what they say. "When all else fails, call up a meeting of the Super Social Food League of Austin." To Hopdoddy's we go! I still find the ordering experience there to be almost exactly identical to Order Grill (5:42) ("There's a new email that you make up for here.") But they do make a mean turkey burger.

"Are you going to get an egg on yours?" asked Regan. "I don't think I have a choice," I replied philosophically.

Green chile queso IS a choice, however, and I made that choice so hard.

It seems like thing are looking up. Or forward. Kinda sideways. In closing, this is the happiest picture I can conceive of in this or any universe.


Good, Friday

After last week's berry-picking extravaganza, I spent most of Sunday making preserves with the bounty. I soaked the strawberries in sugar overnight, cooked them down with a little lemon juice until the entire house and most of the backyard was filled with delicious stewed-berry air, made a spectacular mess that required the separate soaking of many stovetop components, and managed to get four out of six jars to seal through sheer will. It was a rousing success. I was very proud.

I have not cooked anything since then.

Looks like my Spring Slump is here! Don't know what date you had in the Erica Stops Wanting To Do Anything pool of 2014, but I hope you were close! There are several factors I could blame--5:30 pm swim lessons really throw a wrench in our evening schedule, cooking Weight Watchers recipes for two weeks made me lose interest in food, I'm 90% certain my other foot is broken now, I more or less quit drinking and it turns out that was my lone source of motivation, I've been kind of sneezy. Could be any number of things! (Almost definitely the WW.) All I know is, at some point a small voice in my head said Just return All Creatures Great and Small. You don't have to finish it. You will be able to figure out what's going on in the next book. He is definitely still a vet visiting eccentric characters and relating his experiences with warm humor and gentle exasperation. And I did it. And nothing terrible happened.

Good, said the voice. Now return that Spring cookbook that makes you feel depressed every time you look at it. Take pictures first, though. And I did.

Williams-Sonoma presents Nature's Bounty: more unappealing than ever before.

I know it's hard to believe that I would pass up all these beautiful desserts, but like I said, I'm just kind of in a place right now. I'm hoping they will inspire you guys, though!

Mmm, random garden clippings.

This claims to be a cheesecake but I'm guessing it's really a distant cousin of the Wisconsin Swiss Linguine Tart.

A classic bowl of Seeds and Viscera.

I'd be afraid to serve this one to people lest that pineapple be used as a weapon against me.

Now, pick out something you actually like. Go forth and unslump thyself. You know, next week.

Ivy's still narrowing down her Easter headwear, but I feel like we're getting close.


Remembering the two-week spring of 2014

I intended this post to be about my reluctant acceptance of the arrival of spring and the weekend wherein I crammed several rites thereof and then it was 38 degrees when I woke up this morning so I'm…uh, I'm not really sure what's going on. (We're blaming things on the Blood Moon, right?) Anyway, I finally determined that the only thing to do was to press on, lest the entirety of today's content be pictures of me wearing a sweatshirt and looking confused.

We spent a good chunk of the weekend picking strawberries and being either dubious or enthusiastic, depending on whether we were two or four.



Two and four.

Seriously, Anna will happily pose for and with anything right now.

Literally anything.


It was a good day.



April showers bring dead livestock

Slow reader book update! What I have learned from All Things Bright and Beautiful so far: nothing, because I am still reading All Creatures Great and Small. What I have learned from that: being a vet in rural England in the 30s sounds terrible, animals that spend their entire lives standing around in fields get struck by lightning a lot. Human body count: zero. Animal body count: really quite high. With the lightning and all.

Speaking of, it's time for Friday's How Many Minutes To Make It? LIGHTNING ROUND. Here we go, what say you to some Open Faced Veggie Melts? Will they make their 15 MINUTE cutoff?

Nooooooooooooope. Almost bumped to the next time category, even. Possibly slowing me down: indicating to husband that I am on the clock and need to avoid distraction, husband helpfully chanting "Chop! Chop! Chop!" in response.

In the 20 MINUTE category we have Soba Noodles with Tofu in Ginger Broth.

I'll allow the slight overage because most of that time was waiting for the water to boil and I felt like this took almost no work whatsoever. Possibly slowing me down: I was totally watching that pot.

And finally, representing 30 MINUTE dinners, we have Poached Salmon with Dill Mustard Sauce.

I am again going to forgive the extra minute here because out of all of this week's contenders this tasted the most like real food. Possibly slowing me down: having to persuade the toddler not to drink the bottle of clam juice.

Ah, the toddler. Yes, yes. She is loving her umbrella stroller right now.

Riiiiiight up until we're half a mile from the house in it.


What's with today, today?

First of all, I want to assure you guys that I have not abandoned my Book Lover's Cookbook project, it's just that I've started playing 2048 been really busy. Also, in order to make the scones from All Things Bright and Beautiful I basically have to read James Herriot's entire body of work, because of...mental health. So, scones! Sometime before July, almost definitely!

For now though, I just got to 1024 and have to try again immediately have some stuff to take care of, so let's get back to Make it in Minutes. How many minutes will it take???

Over the weekend, I went with some nice, leisurely 30-minute Peanut Noodles.

That is LEISURELY INDEED. These were actually very tasty, but they were neither 1) faster nor 2) any healthier than your average peanut noodle recipe, so I'm not sure what WW is playing at here. Not accounted for: a full minute of debating whether to bother with chopsticks, warming up a hot dog for the child who proclaimed it "uuuuck peanut buttery," pondering the palate of same frequent-peanut-butter-eating child.

Last night was swimming lessons, so I headed back to the 15-minute section. Chicken Tacos with Salsa Verde Cream.

Our first shorter-than-promised prep time! And I even shredded my own cheese. Good job, store-bought taco shells! Not accounted for: having to inventory my canned meat supply, denying my Austinite child her request for eggs and beans on hers, explaining that tacos are sometimes crunchy.

Hey, Anna wanted me to remind you that April is National Car Care Month.

Apparently she had a broken hyperdrive. Good thing she checked!

I am also informed that today is Be Kind to Lawyers Day. Due to my inactive status with the state bar I'm not sure if I count, but you should probably be civil to me today just to cover your bases.

NOT SURE IF THIS COUNTS AS AN UPDATE IF I ADD IT BEFORE I HIT PUBLISH: It is also Rex Manning Day. This either matters A LOT to you or you have no idea what I'm talking about. I have to go make cupcakes now.


April is the whiniest month

Hoo boy, it has been kind of a week in this house. First of all, we had a mystery cat in the very top branches of one of our trees for almost four days, a situation that I found surprisingly stressful considering my only contributions were to put a plate of salmon on the ground and occasionally ask "Kitty?" (My intrepid neighbor actually climbed up very very very very high in a rescue attempt, but to no avail.) And I know, I know, the have-you-ever-seen-a-cat-skeleton-in-a-tree thing, but I HAVE seen CAT CORPSES on the GROUND. So. Anyway, she climbed and/or fell down at some point Wednesday night. Godspeed, stressful mystery cat.

Also, it was in the mid-80s this week and the beginning of feeling like I can't really take a deep breath and no one is sorry for you when your seasonal depression is off-seasonal.

And mostly, Ivy has thrown all of her energy into her two primary hobbies, which are 1) avoiding sleep and 2) screaming the word "no" at me. SHE'S DOING BOTH RIGHT NOW, RIGHT THIS SECOND. Her devotion is inspirational, in a way. I nearly formulated a joke about the Olympics and a driving-your-mother-to-exhausted-tears event, but I was too distracted by my exhausted tears.

Aaaaaaaaaaanyway! April is swimming lessons month! They happen right around dinner-prep time! To the library for a cookbook solution of some sort! Ah, here we are: Make It In Minutes. Hey, good news for those of you who want to follow along at home, used copies are one cent on Amazon, because it is a Weight Watchers book based on an outmoded points system. No matter, it's only the minutes that concern us here, although technically every dish I have ever made was prepared in some number of minutes. These claim to fall in 15, 20, and 30 minutes categories. Let's see!

I had almost completed my first thought upon seeing "Spicy Hummus with Curried Pita Chips," which was Are they seriously trying to sell hummus as a dinner? when it was overtaken by my second thought, which was YES, SOLD. Prep time claim: 15 minutes.

Actual prep time:

Not bad! I'm reasonably efficient in the kitchen and know exactly where I keep my tahini, so maybe give it a five minute cushion, but it was pretty close. Not accounted for: chopping the vegetables, cleaning the food processor, semi-apologizing to the husband that we are having hummus for dinner.

Pepper-Crusted Flank Steak with Cucumber Relish. Prep time claim: 20 minutes.

Actual prep time:

VERY close. And the first thing said by two different people who walked into the house was "It smells good in here." Not accounted for: psychological recovery from pulling a pan out of the oven that was entirely engulfed in flames. Pretty good start, though. I could get used to this quick whipping up of dinner thing, it frees up tons of time for exhausted tears.

"Hi, I'm Anna and my mother has no idea where to tie on the extra flappy things that came with my dance costume."

On a non-complaining note, the ATX Television Festival made some programming announcements this week, so my obsessively completionist self has started from the beginning of both Bates Motel and Everwood. How am I going to keep these eccentric small towns straight? (Haha, just kidding, one of them is full of murder, but seriously they both have quirky festivals in the first couple of episodes and I think I'm going to have pretty weird dreams this month.)