Christmas Photos Uploaded on Flickr

January 3, 2009 at 5:39 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve uploaded all the photos taken on my camera over Christmas and they are in the Flickr gallery, located in the right-hand panel. Please let me know if there are any photos that you would like, and whether you want them for print, web, or adjusted in some manner (cropping, color, clarity, etc.).  Use the sequence number on the photo when letting me know which ones you’d like.

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You want to mess with me???

December 30, 2008 at 9:38 pm (Movie Reviews)

This afternoon, we went to the Starbucks drive-thru.  Since I was sitting in the passenger seat, it was a little difficult, but Tom slowly repeated my order for the barista: a short, decaf, non-fat, sugar free vanilla latte.

We get up to the window and the gal asked if she could repeat my order.  She repeated it correctly, but then she told me that for future reference, I could just order a skinny vanilla.  I explained to her that some places give you a blank look when you order a skinny drink, like at the Starbucks in the Target – to which she replied in a very condescending tone that they weren’t “real Starbucks.”

Ok, coffee snob…and by the way, are you sure this is decaf?  No, you missed that part??  Were you too confused by the non-skinny skinny drink to miss the part that will keep me up all night?  Were you so focused on trying to transcribe my order into your fancy marketing lingo that you forgot to listen and check the little boxes on the side of the cup, you know, the old-skool way? 

Was my drink order too complicated for you?  Are you having trouble keeping up in the little Starbucks in the middle of America? You wouldn’t last 10 minutes in morning Seattle rush.  What if I threw out a short, split, half eggnog, half soy, with whip, extra hot?  Huh?  Can’t handle that?  And yes, that is a real drink.

Don’t get me started – I’m from Seattle.  I can order complicated coffee with the best of them.  I expect the best and the brightest of the Starbucks employees – the ones that not only take the complicated order down correctly the first time, but ask if I want extra nutmeg.  That’s right, Starbucks baristas with independent thinking skillz.  You, giving me the stink-eye for not ordering “properly”….YOU CAN’T HAAANNNDDDLLLEEE THE ORDER….

In other news….Benjamin Button is Boring.  Can I have my three hours back?  80 years is a long time to cover even in three hours, but more importantly, the movie never gave me a compelling reason to connect with the characters or the story.  Just a bunch of pretty people getting prettier as they age.  Blech.  Should have seen the Jim Carrey film.

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Boys and their toys

December 9, 2008 at 3:57 pm (My Daily Life)

Hello all, from cold and snowy Minnesota!

img_2971We got our first real snow last night.  We’ve gotten a few dustings here and there and a few inches were already on the ground, but last night 5 inches was predicted.  Tom came home and put together his snow-blower.  He’s been looking forward to using his snow-blower since we purchased it last March.  We had the snow-blower before we had the keys to the house!

img_2967Petty cool, huh?  He can lower and raise the scraper parts, and he can turn some apparatus to change the direction the snow blows.  He was able to get the driveway cleared before the new snow started falling.

This morning, we had 5 new inches of snow, which officially made the back yard a Lola-Unfriendly-Zone.  Poor dog – I’m not sure she was touching the actual ground.  The snow was up to Spice’s belly, but she has the height to bound through the snow.  Lola goes only as far as she needs to, does her business, and hightails it back to her doghouse to wait for someone to let her inside.  So Tom had a brilliant idea – he would blow a few paths through the grass so the dogs could get around better!

img_2968Note the apparel change – Tom realized he needed some winter clothes, so he’s now the proud owner of a pair of snow pants, a lined flannel shirt, a face-hat, puffy gloves and snow boots.  Isn’t he cute?  And look!  Grass!!

img_29731Um, Hon?  Um, Sweetie??  Did you mean to blow the entire back yard???  And what did you say?  You ran out of gas??

OMG – what are the neighbors going to think?  Can you imagine the conversations going on at their dinner tables tonight?  “Hey, did you see the neighbors yard?  That fool from Seattle shoveled his whole back yard!”

What can I say?  Tom really enjoyed snow-blowing; it looked like the most outdoor fun he’s had in a long time.  The snow-blower is a great toy, and Lola isn’t complaining – she can move about much better now!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!!

img_2972

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Make this cake. Right now.

November 24, 2008 at 2:20 pm (Recipes, Uncategorized)

Oh, my lands. This cake is a new family favorite. Even if it’s just my little family. I urge you to make this cake as soon as you can. It’s not complicated, it doesn’t use exotic ingredients, it smells divine, and tastes delicious.

jewish-apple-cakeThis recipe comes from the Smitten Kitchen blog. I haven’t tried many recipes off this site, and they seem to be hit and miss. But this one looked promising in part because it uses oil in the cake batter, which I know produces a moist cake. And it uses apples and I’m always on the lookout for a good apple recipe.

Mom’s Apple Cake

6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Ok, a few notes about the recipe.  First, she’s calling it “Mom’s Apple Cake” but the recipe is also known as “Jewish Apple Cake”, which is what I propose we call it to avoid confusion.  Secondly, you might be tempted, as I was, to mix the batter by hand, but resist that urge.  When you combine the dry and wet ingredients, it forms a very thick dough and is difficult to stir.  Much easier to whip out the old Kitchen Aid to incorporate those eggs, which makes the batter, while still thick, at least pourable.  Thirdly, I used a cooking apple called a Harrison.  I suggest using a sweet cooking apple and not a granny smith unless you absolutely LOVE tart apples.  Fourth, I think you need a tube pan.  As I was making this, I was wondering to myself if you could use a bundt pan, but as I watched it rise and rise and rise in the oven, I became convinced that you would need the taller, more spacious tube pan.  But don’t despair!  Tube pans are cheap and you can pick up one at Target or Walmart.  Totally worth it, even if you only use it for this cake.  And when it cooled later, it shrunk back down nicely.  Fifthly, mine took closer to 2 hours to bake.  Time intensive in the baking process, but it only took 15 minutes to throw together.

jewish-apple-cake-sliceSee, moist, filled with apples and yummy goodness.  I didn’t add powdered sugar to mine.  I didn’t think the cake needed any adornment, but if you dust the entire cake, the sugar is going to absorb into the moist top overnight.  Because it’s so moist, and because it makes a big cake, I froze half this morning.  I’m going to assume it will freeze well because of the oil.

jewish-apple-cake-topI served this with ice cream, but it really didn’t need it.  I needed the ice cream so it was all good.  I also ate it for breakfast the next morning.  Like a melt-in-your mouth fritter.  I have a feeling I’ve found a new favorite cake.  I hope you enjoy!

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Cookie Discovery

November 19, 2008 at 7:26 pm (Uncategorized)

You may remember this summer the New York Times posted a long article about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The article and accompanying recipe made the blog-rounds and got people talking. Here is a link to the article. Basically, the idea is that you need to let the dough rest for 36 hours because the egg is very slow to absorb into the flour. I thought this was a bit of a preposterous idea – chocolate chip cookies are something you make on a whim and eat half the batch while they’re still warm from the oven. Who plans on eating their cookie in 36 hours? Frankly, in my home, after 36 hours, there are only chocolate crumbs left.

But I thought the idea was intriguing – that the cookie can taste different and have different textures depending on how long the dough has been resting. At the 36 hour mark, the cookie is supposed to have a delightfully crispy-crunch outer ring, followed by a chewy middle ring, and a soft center.

Last weekend I made a batch of cookie and I baked a third on Friday night, a third Saturday night and a third on Sunday night. Here are my impressions.

At the 0-hour mark, the cookie was very, very sweet. It was uniformly soft throughout and uniform in color (light brown). The texture was uniform also. Basically, it was the cookie treat we all think of, but it didn’t have much complexity or sophistication. Not that you need those in a cookie, but this experiment is promising more, you know?

On Saturday, at the 24 hour mark, the cookie did crisp up in the center, but there was only one other ring – a chewy middle. It was much less sweet, and less cloying. You could taste a more pronounced butter flavor and the chocolate wasn’t nearly as overwhelming. It also had a more satisfying bite, heft, and golden color.

The Sunday cookie, baked at 48-hours, surprised me the most. It did indeed have three distinct regions; a crispy outer ring, a chewy middle and the very center was extremely soft – almost gooey. Because of the different textures, the flavor did have more nuance depending on where you were biting into. But, I didn’t much care for the gooey center as it was too mushy. I wonder if you would achieve the same result if the cookie was baked 12 hours earlier, but based on this experiment, I conclude that the 24-hour rest period produced a cookie that I liked best.

All that being said, there is no such thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie! If you can wait, or save some dough to bake later, the cookie does take on different properties, but it all depends on your personal preference. I’m still not sure I can wait 24 hours to eat a cookie, but I can at least save some of the dough for later.

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Hands Free Driving – Training Video

November 18, 2008 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

Oh, my, word….this video is really funny.  It comes to you from Dooce, so again, I’m not cool enough to find this stuff on my own.  A training video for those of you living in “hands free” states.  Enjoy!

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Two dogs more unlucky than mine

November 6, 2008 at 3:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Lola and Spice are so happy I didn’t do this to them:

coco-and-chuckThis is Chuck and Coco from Dooce.com. Poor dogs.

And I guess they should be glad they aren’t part of this family, the Sporh’s. Tom should thank his lucky stars.

flintspohrs

ok, and this one is really offensive but totally funny.

priest-photos

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Shopping Report

October 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm (My Daily Life)

Let’s just get it right out there, my shopping stamina is about 2.5 hours.  I know, sad, isn’t it?  So the fact that I lasted FOUR hours was a huge deal.  I think it helped that I saved DSW for last, like the carrot at the end of the stick.

First priority was to find a cocktail dress for the dinner.  I was hoping that it would be easy, but hey, that never happens.  I started at Macy’s, but they only had one really ugly black dress.  I specifically didn’t want black – too boring and makes me look really pale, and this one wasn’t flattering.  So on to Nordstrom where I tried on a champagne colored dress that had these horizontal layered panel things.  Too hard to describe but anyway, the color wasn’t good for me and again it wasn’t flattering.  I was off to Bloomingdale’s hopeful that in their huge department I would find success.

Unfortunately, the petite section of that department was small, and then when you weed out the more casual dresses and the longer dresses, I had a very small selection.  And for whatever reason, the petite sizes that fit at Nordstrom were about 2 sizes too small at Bloomies so that was wasting my time.  I just didn’t find anything that was flattering, young-looking, or would work with my undergarments.  Becoming slightly desperate, I returned to Nordstrom to try on some of the separates I saw and discarded.

Back at Nordy’s I saw a red dress that I had initially dismissed because you all know how I try to avoid the primary colors; they aren’t the most sophisticated color choice on me.  But I figured I should at least try it on since I had nothing after several hours of trying.  As it turns out, once it was on it didn’t scream “Nancy-Reagan-Red”; the color was somehow cooler or something.  Anyway, after debating the fit for a few minutes, even consulting the sales girl (wearing elastic pants all the time can really screw with your perception of what actually fits), I decided to purchase this dress.

And, it doesn’t show off too much cleavage!  I could actually just wear a regular bra, but the corset thingy eliminates the need to suck things in.  I got a pair of peep-toe heels at DSW but they aren’t the best fit – a little sloppy – so if I see something better I would swap them.  I like this dress – it’s cute and the price was good, $168.  But if mom and I are out and see something better, I would try it on.

Next, let’s talk jeans for a minute.  I really wanted a new pair of jeans.  My favorite pair has turned against me in a tratorious manner and is not flattering the belly region anymore.  My other pair of jeans has sparkles sewn into the front, so not exactly an every-day pair.  And that’s it.  I’ve noticed that all of my jeans tend to be higher in the back and scoop lower in the front, the better to cradle the pooch and create a muffin-top.  And there isn’t anything to be done because the rise is small and they have to be tight enough to actually stay on.

I tried on jeans at Macy’s.  No good.  They didn’t have petite jeans at Bloomies, and the ones at Ann Taylor surprised me the most.  First, it’s the only thing in AT that isn’t vanity sized, so even though I was wearing a pair of AT jeans in the same size, there was no way the new ones were going to fit.  And I had the same problem with the low rise/scoop issue.

I decided to try on some of the jeans at Nordstrom because they had several brands.  Thankfully, the sales girl was younger than me and took pity on me when she realized I was shopping the Tummy-Tuck Mom Jeans and steered me toward their “premium” jeans.

I’ve always wondered about the premium jeans – I mean, really, are they that earth-shatteringly good?  Will they rock my world, make me look thinner, taller and get the raise?  Or is it all hype?  Unfortunately, these were good jeans.  I say unfortunately because even though I SAID several months ago I would be willing to pay premium prices, with the recent economic times and my fore-coming lack of employment, I was reconsidering this offer.  And these jeans were $158.  *Gack*

But!  But!  When I zipped these jeans up, it was like strapping into a decent bra – instantly I could feel that there was support!  And comfort without having to suck anything in, or smosh anything around!  I didn’t have to do the shimmy to get my underwear in place.  They felt snug over my hips and weren’t baggy through the butt.  And best of all, they buttoned just below the belly button, closer to my natural waist, so I  knew that since the front was nearly the same height at the back, there would be no unflattering stretching later to embrace and exhibit the pooch.  Damn it, I think these were going to work.

The gal said that they can stretch up to a half-size in between washings, and since I am wearing the smallest size anyway, she suggested that I wear them around the house for a while and if they stretch too much, take them back.  And I totally will for $158.  But I’ve been wearing them all day today, at the computer, on the couch and had a BURGER AND FRIES in them and they haven’t stretched yet.  And frankly, after that burger they could stand to give just a little.  I’ve rationalized the price as thus: I only wear one pair of jeans since 5 days of the week I’m in work clothes, and my jeans last me, on average, 3 years, so when you do that math, it’s not unreasonable.  When I broke the price to Tom, he commented that you pay for what you get, and I believe that adage to be 100% true when it comes to my bras so I think that applies here.

BTW: I played a game this morning with Tom and first tried on the traitorous muffin-top-inducing jeans, then the sparkly ones, then the new ones and asked him if they didn’t look “SIGNIFICANTLY” better.  I figured that for the price, if they didn’t make me look twice as good at the cheaper ones, I wasn’t going to keep them.  He said that they did look good and that they looked more “grown up”.  Which is true.  And that was before I told him the price.  Here they are:

Ok, so now I have jeans.  At this point my feet are killing me and I realized I have to STOP wearing those Cole Hann loafers, so at DSW, I bought a pair of Soffit loafers.  Ahh, comfy.  I had tried them on with Samantha and decided on some plainer ones, but once I was home and wearing those around, I decided they were too plain.  So now I have comfy shoes again, and I’ve been wearing them all day, so I think they are good.

And in case you curious about the Tummy-Tuck Jeans – the reason they can tuck everything in is because they button under your bra!  Seriously, I haven’t worn a pair of pans that buttoned 1 inch above my belly button in years.  Wow.  I couldn’t get past that par.

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Mish-mash of stuff

October 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm (My Daily Life)

Lola is on the mend.  It seems to have taken a while for her to work this little bug out of her system, but she hasn’t had a bad asthma-like attack in a couple of days.  She has a few moments, but she’s getting much better.  I’ve been putting her sweater or coat on her in the morning because the cold air seems to affect her at the moment.

Spice has been very needy – she needs Lola to hurry up and get better so she can work out some of her energy in dog play.

I have a couple of recipes to share.  We tried these when Samantha was visiting.

First is a recipe for Margaritas.  The sum of the parts is much greater than the individual ingredients.  It’s different, but very good.

1 can of frozen lime aid concentrate
1 cup Sierra Mist
1 cup tequila
1 cup water
1 12oz. bottle of Corona Beer

Enjoy!  And let me know what you think.

The second recipe is for this chocolate cake.

This recipe is apparently the same as one in Nigella’s cookbook.  It contains 5 eggs, sugar, butter, chocolate and ONLY 1 TBS of flour!  And you believe it??  This thing is like solid chocolate.  Good thing good quality chocolate is easier to come by, and I got European 100% butterfat butter at Target.  The general rule of thumb is the fewer number of ingredients, the better the quality of those ingredients needs to be, and I believe that adage for something as important as this cake.

You would expect this cake would be very, very dense, rich, and sweet.  It’s not.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s chocolate heaven if that’s your thing, but it was surprisingly light.  Not angle-food light, but light enough you could serve it after a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.  And it’s not super sweet either – probably because of all that dark bittersweet chocolate.  It was incredibly easy to make too, came together very easily.  It took about an hour in my oven to bake, but that may just be me.  Use the picture and common sense to guide you.  When mine was baking, the sides kept rising about 2 inches over the side of the pan, like a souffle, but the center was obviously still liquid.  When the center was finally done and I let it rest for 10 minutes, it all deflated to about the same level.

The author of the blog is a Seattle resident who writes for Bon Appetite magazine and for her wedding last year in Bellingham, she personally made 20 of these cakes in lieu of a traditional cake.  So I figured any foody who would forgo traditional cake must know something.  We got about 6 servings out of this cake and it’s different enough, but special at the same time, that I might enter it into my “entertaining” desert rotation.  Certainly cheaper than buying fresh fruit in the winter.

Lastly, I have this recipe for you, Garlic Chicken with White Wine Sauce.  This could be a good low-carb option for those of you interested in that sort of thing.  We all agreed that the garlic was actually very subtle and wasn’t overly garlicky at all.  I would make this again – it was quick and easy.

Lastly, her is the link to my Netflix profile.  I’m not sure how this sharing this works, but if mom or dad is interested in trying it out and seeing if it’s helpful, give it a whirl.

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Another Horse Update – I KNOW!

October 8, 2008 at 4:09 pm (My Daily Life)

Ok, not sure where I left off, but to recap quickly, Jones wasn’t going to work out so last week I test rode a couple of horses at a barn about 15 miles away.  One was okay, but pretty well trained and wouldn’t give me much of a challenge.  The other horse, Bart, was younger and less trained, but still very calm, docile, and agreeable and I thought he might be a good match.

The only hesitation I was having was that the arena was small and very dusty.  I think it was smaller than the arena in Enumclaw.  Hard to visualize, but much, much smaller than the current arena I’m at.  Additionally, Cathy’s arena is heated, which, not knowing how bad the winters get, sounds appealing to my wimpy, blood-deprived limbs.

I went back to Cathy and explained that neither Jones nor Bling were going to work for me and she suggested I give Felix a try.  A Mexican horse!  No, not really.  He’s an appendix and has the TB head on a QH neck, with the big TB ears you look over.  Um, a little homely, poor guy.  His owner is a High School student and involved in sports so she only gets out once a week, if that.  He’s trained in some sort of jumping and has all the training I’m looking for, but is rusty.  Cathy assured me that I didn’t need her around to test ride him and that he was perfectly capable of being ridden without lounging, so on Tuesday, I gave him a whirl.

My impressions are as follows: he’s rusty but he’s sane and I feel relatively safe on him.  I walked him quite a bit in the arena and unlike the young horses, if he saw something unusual, he stopped and I let him stand there and investigate until he was willing to move forward, and after that he was fine.  He didn’t try to dance sideways across the arena or forever avoid an area because of some boogy-man.

He seemed very rusty and the first few minutes I did wonder about the sanity of a horse that appeared to prefer to trot INTO a wall rather than bend, but he warmed up.  He’s really, really heavy in the bridle.  I woke up this morning and my triceps and that muscle that anchors your boobs to your chest (you know the one ladies) is sore.  We need to work on that as there is no reason he can’t hold his own head up.  And he doesn’t respect the leg at all – the concept of bending around the leg seems a bit foreign to him.  Staying in a straight line seems difficult for him too.  And, he’s out of shape so toward the end of the hour I was having to push him on quite a bit.  And now my legs are sore too.

Very different from Chaps – I think Chaps was in better condition to begin with and he’s not a leaner with his head.  I got to the barn early and was able to take Chaps out to pasture.  He’s such a sweet horse.  Totally bonded and I need to stop hanging around him, but he’s leaving in a week anyway…

Back to Felix – I think there is something to work with, and the fact that I love that barn pushes me into the Yes column.  If Bart, the other horse, was at Cathy’s place, it would be a no-brainer.  Or even if it was springtime and I would be able to ride Bart in the larger outdoor arena, I would consider it.  But a heated HUGE indoor arena is hard to pass up.

I’ll stick to my routine and ride Felix 3 times a week.  Since I’m starting the month late and will be gone for 2 weeks, I’ll only pay for half the month, which is good.  I plan to use the extra money and get a lesson with Janna on Sunday.  Normally, I would ride him for a few weeks and get some conditioning on him, but with the leaning and the lack of leg respect, I’d like to practice right from the start getting him used to the proper aids.

Interestingly, I asked Janna her opinion of both Bling and Jones and she commented that both seemed spooky to her.  A lady is going to ride Jones in a lesson with Janna this weekend – she’s working Jones for Cathy – and she made the comment that Jones will need lots of time on the lounge line before the lesson!  Am I glad that I got off that train wreck licky-split.

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