Artisanal dirt, though

Whoa, where did January go? It just floated right by in a series of 75-degree days, am I right? (Sorry northerners.) (You know we'll get ours, and it will be brutal and sweaty.)  One of my goals was to finish up by Middlemarch (822 pages) by February, and I just want to say that being on page 185 would mean a pretty good dent in most books. Not this one, though! This one has what seems to be about 200 pages devoted to the election of minor positions in this small town! I am ready to go back to the part where the teenager is marrying an old man and everyone is slinging really interestingly-worded insults around!

Alas. Nothing to be done but stage the final battle of January Bon Appetit vs Martha. What's even left? Broccoli, I guess? Sure.

This sounds good, and looks good, but is…not really. It's too sweet? Nutritional yeast is pretty gross? I feel like several things went wrong here.

Martha contender: Sausage and Broccoli with Pepperoncini Sauce.

I'm going to be honest, this one might have won just because I used apple gouda sausage in it.

Overall winner: Was it a MARTHA SWEEP? I'm not going to bother looking it up. I shall remember it as such, now and always. LONG LIVE THE MARTHA.

Speaking of Martha, I feel like she is at least partly to blame for the new hobby taking up all of my time and brainspace.

Candle-making: like cooking, except setting the results on fire is encouraged.

Yes, I have recently discovered that my latent lifelong ambition is in fact candlemongery.

If you look closely you will see that my immediate instinct was to make something that smells like dirt. MY VISION IS WHAT IT IS, GUYS.

It's so fun! And kind of time-consuming! There's math involved! And really, really difficult decisions:

Anyway, the fact is, I am a suburban mom in her mid-30s and I just checked the list--next up after "blog about what you are eating" and "take up mid-distance running at non-competitive speeds" is "open an Etsy shop." I don't make the rules! Just gotta get that sweet, sweet dirt scent perfected first.

Speaking of science (?), we went to Anna's first science fair last night. We were slightly overwhelmed.

She is carefully digesting the fact that the most effective penny-cleaning substance is ketchup. It's a lot to handle.


I guess brainy dudes aren't her type

Soooooo, how was everyone's Burns Night this year? I know. I forgot to send you a slightly misspelled text about it on Sunday. It appears that removing the excessive scotch intake from Burns Night DRASTICALLY reduces my compulsion to spread the good word, which is a shame, because shortbread is delicious and poetry is fun and Mr. Guy still looks very foxy in the above link.

I did try to whip up some cock-a-leekie soup again, but I was sort of tired and screwed up one of the steps and had to remove the…leekies. So I added potatoes, as you do.

Honestly, cock-a-tattie soup sounds approximately as good as cock-a-leekie.

I have a decent excuse for my sloppy soup-making, though--I had gotten up early that morning and spent two and a half hours moving quite slowly, as evidenced by this nice piece of neckwear and what are clearly victory tacos:

You know what they say, "The slower the victory, the sweeter the tacos."

Obviously with all that actual activity going on I had neither the time nor the energy to pit Martha against Bon Appétit this weekend, so instead I will stage a different battle, and it leave it to you to determine which of my children was the most distressing.

Contender #1: IVY. Distressing behavior: using my phone to play a game wherein you photograph yourself of your sister or your stuffed penguin or your poor unsuspecting and long-suffering mother and then do weird things to your/her/its/my face and hair; leaving the evidence of said game scattered throughout my photos.

Contender #2: ANNA. Distressing behavior: announcing, ardently and repeatedly, that she would like to go on a date with this headless mannequin:

Please, please note the fact that she is HOLDING ITS HAND.

Oh, wait, before you decide: did I mention that sometimes the frankenpictures wink at you?

You may, of course, draw your own conclusions, but I say Ivy takes it by a (creepy Groucho-Marx) nose.


Pink Eyes

At long last, Super Social Food and Makeup League of Austin 2015 has commenced! We recovered from our psychosomatic eye diseases, applied some serious nonsense to our faces, pulled on our ramen-eating pants, and hit the (sketchy industrial district part of) town!

Word on the street internet review sites is that Ramen Tatsu-Ya has the best ramen game in town. This is only my third Austin ramen, so I am not really qualified to say. I do think it was the best of the three, though! 

Probably because I added roasted Brussels sprouts like a smart, smart lady.

Next we hit Snow Monster, possibly the best shaved ice in town? Again, I am too inexperienced to determine this, but it was definitely the best and only shaved ice I have had here.

Bonus: it looks insane.

So insane and so yummy.

I highly recommend both of these fine establishments, with a couple of warnings. 1) I realized, after eating a giant bowl of it at 9:00 pm, that the Thai Tea flavor of shaved ice definitely has caffeine in it. I guess this warning could double as an exciting guarantee, depending on your plans for the evening. My personal plans were to be asleep at 10:30, so things DID NOT WORK OUT ON THAT FRONT.

2) These eateries are very casual and well-lit. Like, so so so bright. Really bright and, in the case of ramen, also boasting communal tables. Normally this would be a perfectly acceptable scenario for enjoying dinner. I only mention it in case you have, for some dare-based-friendship reason, decided to do stupid things on your face and were maybe planning on hiding at a table in a dark corner. If, however, it brings you joy to be looked at curiously by strangers, just throw an entire bottle of  metallic pink eyeliner all over the top portion of your face and enjoy the ride.

Post-prandial trip to the Target makeup aisle.

This stuff peeled off in thick strips and took most of my eyelashes with it. The good news is, it really brings out the "colossus" side of my nose.

I would also like to note that we exchanged next month's compulsive cosmetic items, and while Regan's gift to me is appropriately cringe-inducing, my purchase for her was a failure for the following reason: SHE ALREADY HAD THAT EXACT FROSTY LILAC LIPSTICK IN HER PURSE AND IN FACT HAD ALMOST WORN IT TO DINNER. So...the bar for embarrassing Regan through makeup is significantly higher than I realized. I do believe I am up for the challenge. And in the meantime, we now own matching frosty lilac lipstick. SSFAML 2015, BABY.

In other news, look you guys! I did crafting!

I just followed Jen's directions and turned a pile of burlap that already existed in our garage into what looks very much like an actual wreath! It's hard for me to write a sentence about it that doesn't end in an exclamation point, because I am so surprised and happy regarding this success! I own a hot glue gun now and I'm okay with that!

Ivy is also very excited for me.


Sisyphus in Pink

Hey guys.

We had really nice weather for our holiday weekend down here and somehow I managed to avoid cooking and reading almost entirely. Which is actually pretty impressive, if you sort of tilt your head and squint hard. So, uh, I guess we can talk about…you? How are you doing? Did you make and already abandon any resolutions? Here's a little a tip, try resolving to do something very easy and pleasant. For example, my resolution this year is to really get into one new album every month, because for the past few years podcasts have taken over all of my listening time. I'm off to a good start! If you need some high-minded reasoning, just tell people that instead of resolving to deny yourself, you are resolving to, like, enrich your life, man.

If it's too late, though, and you already resolved to actually improve yourself or your home or the world at large or whatever, all I can tell you is that sometimes it takes a couple of tries to roll up that hill. Persevere, friends!


Some would say I'm just too committed

Topic about which I intended to write this morning: The first 2015 outing of the Super Social Food League of Austin.

What interfered with my plans: After 16 months of largely uneventful restaurant attendance and one near-fatal ice cream spree, we members of SSFL have decided to add an extra layer of difficulty to our adventures by including an experimental cosmetics portion of the evening. (We have recently discovered the makeup video section of YouTube, with…mixed results.) In other words, Regan was determined to make me wear this pink eyeliner and I was pleased to introduce her to the world of indie eyeshadow, and thus the natural course of our dare-based friendship continues apace. What we did not anticipate was that my body is so deeply, subconsciously attuned to any impending theme that when I woke up the morning of Pink Eyeliner Day, it would be with a stunning case of pinkeye itself. A FOR EFFORT, BODY. But it means dinner, with its attendant pictures of our clown faces, is postponed until next week.

"We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time." --(apt quote and proof that I am still reading) Middlemarch

"Some of us also devour lunch and a couple of snacks in there, which helps." --Erica

Instead, I will stage for you a Martha vs. Bon Appétit battle without having done any cooking at all, watch and wonder at my blog-filling abilities!

Battle of the Open-Faced Sandwich Spreads

Martha Contender: previously, thoroughly covered. Thought I had after inspecting the combinations: this all looks great and I already have so many of these ingredients! I could throw ham and dried apricots together and call it a meal! Martha, you complete me.

BA Contender: looks good from a distance.




I don't…I'm not sure. I'm going to say no, just to be safe.


Thought I had after inspecting the combinations: Where the eff am I even supposed to find bee pollen? BA, you enrage me.

Winner: Martha, in a landslide of delicious toasted breads.

Bonus link to make up for not really generating any content this week: check out Mental Floss's words of the year from other countries. I enjoy this type of list very, very much. I am especially taken with Belgium's overschotdoos, which means doggie bag. Overshot it!

Ivy wisely refuses to come out of the car until my pinkeye has subsided. 


The Archaic Burns is the name of my madrigal cover band

I know mid-January can seem like a drag for a lot of people, just post-holiday, gray-skied blur, so today we're going to DOUBLE DOWN on that feeling by staging a Battle of The Swiss Chards.

Who Charded It Best? Martha or Bon Appétit?

This one should have been a slam dunk, what with the mushy lentils and that glorious yolky pillow of protein and all, but I only found it to be okay. It's possible that I was annoyed that they expected me to make this two-bowl, three-pot monstrosity for breakfast. I cannot wash three pots before 9 am, Bon Appétit. I feel like you know this already.

This sounds terrible, and is delicious. I am glad there are leftovers.

Winner: Martha, in a shocking, egg-defying upset.

I also attempted some Brown Rice with Salmon, Avocado, and Toasted Nori, a combination which I had to actually start eating to realize was an inside-out salmon roll. Maybe because I had replaced the avocado with potatoes, for things-I-had-on-hand reasons.

I say "attempted" because I had never toasted sheets of nori over an open flame before. I toast tortillas on my gas stove all the time, so I was not remotely concerned about this step.

It turns out nori is a lot thinner and, uh, more excitable than tortillas are. After that first sheet, I turned the heat way down and turned my podcast off and monitored the situation more carefully.

Anyway, we ended up eating sheets of raw nori, which is very chewy. I'm thinking about handing over the culinary reins for a while.

With Anna helming dinner, I'll have WAY more time to focus on Middlemarch. I've read several chapters now!

Character Whose Probable Fate Most Distresses Me: The Maltese puppy presented by a suitor to Dorothea, who is so utterly disgusted by the offering that a servant is asked to take it away and "was thus got rid of." We never hear of this puppy again.

Most Archaic Burn: "As to his blood, I suppose the family quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant."

Point At Which I Started To Ruminate About The Fact That I Am Closer To 45-Year-Old Casaubon Than 19-Year-Old Dorothea: "What business has an old bachelor like that to marry?…He has one foot in the grave."

Sentiment With Which I Most Empathize So Far: "He did not usually find it easy to give his reasons: it seemed to him strange that people should not know them without being told, since he only felt what was reasonable." I HEAR THAT, SIR JAMES.


Severely healthy recipes for January

I'm not going to tell you exactly which page out of 822 I have reached in Middlemarch, except to say that it rhymes with "plenty poor" and that it's probably a good thing I don't mind hot soup in the summertime. In my defense, I have been using all of my book-reading time to try and finish my book club book by Saturday, and also to watch television. I will say that my favorite part so far is on the first page, when the sisters are described as having "naturally regarded frippery as the ambition of a huckster's daughter." With all due respect to my own parents, I have been known to indulge in some frippery now and again, but today, in the spirit of the Brooke sisters and the book that I will likely still be reading in January of 2017, we will investigate Martha and BA recipes that are rather on the stark side.

Loses points for: making me grate butternut squash; leaving me with half a butternut squash in my fridge.

Gains points for: only needing a slight drizzle of honey to convince my children that they were actual, edible pancakes.

Martha Contender:  Carrot-Spinach Soup with Dill.

Intended use: Dinner of a three-day "detox."

How I used it: Beverage to wash down grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches.

Winner: chickpea pancakes, by virtue of being fried and containing more than 7 calories per serving.

SPEAKING OF FRIPPERY, the other day Ivy kept hollering at me to take her picture while she posed with her new giant ball. I'm pretty sure she was trying to recreate the Parisian photo shoot from Funny Face. It's our favorite minor midcentury musical.

That disconcertingly old photographer will definitely fall in love with you now!

Also explains why Anna has been barking orders about the color pink.