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May 2007
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July 2007

a reminder

Had my bimonthly bloodletting yesterday. Woo.

I mention this not to just be all holier-than-thou but to bring to your attention again that donating blood is easy and relatively painless. Plus, you get cookies. Who doesn't like cookies?

It does, of course, always leave me feeling a wee bit drained, pun intended, and I'm going to have a bit of a lie down. 

Women and body image and food, with cheese

A couple of links to get out of the way, then the story of the cheese what I made.

-- Can you imagine the NYT Dining and Wine section running a story like this about male TV cooks? Yeah, me neither.

-- Having said that, I will be making the white sangria and the cold-brewed iced coffee. And, if I can bring myself to buy all the ingredients, the Long Island iced tea.

-- The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has launched a video that shows how the most average of women can become gorgeous in a photo. Hint: it has nothing to do with genes or Dove products. (Stolen from Ann Douglas.)

The story of the cheese:

Inspired by Katy at Knitterpated, I ordered a cheese making kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. By and large, the kit was well thought out. My only complaint is that someone needs to copyedit the enclosed booklets. This is an occupational hazard. I was half-tempted to do it myself and mail a copy back -- but I never know how that will go over and don't want to come off like a total snot.

Perhaps I shouldn't use the word snot and a picture of fresh cheese curds so close together...


Heating a gallon of whole milk and citric acid to 88 degrees. Note to self: use a bigger pot.


After adding the rennet. Two things:

First, this part of the process is olfactorily challenging if you've ever had a baby who spit up a lot.

Second, I'm going to a) use more rennet, b) let sit for longer and/or c) use unhomogenized milk next time so that I can get a firmer curd.


The curd, after a couple of heating/draining cycles.


Maddy wanted to know when we were going to have all of the cheesemaking fun I had promised. She decided blowing bubbles was more to her liking shortly after this. Kids.

After adding 1tsp of salt to the mostly dry curds, I started to knead. Next time, I'll double that, since this cheese came out sorta bland.

If my help hadn't gotten bored and wandered off at this point, I'd have pictures of my cheese kneading. As it was, my hands were too wet to touch the camera. You'll have to use your imagination.


After kneading it for two or three minutes, which *is* fun if you are the sort who likes to knead bread, my cheese stands alone.

FWIW, I had a great time and will do it again. As a family togetherness sort of activity, it wasn't as popular. The pizza we made afterwards was a hit, however, and M has been requesting the "cheese we made" on her rice cake pizzas since.

five years on

As I am every year on this day, I am stunned by how, through careful application of snacks and time, this:


becomes this:


Happy Birthday, Diva.

It's been quite a year, this four going into five.  Maddy's no longer the Diva she was. Day by day, she's turning into a bright, articulate school-aged kid who still loves things that are pink and princessy.

This year marked, perhaps, the Diva's biggest life change so far. There are certainly much, much worse diseases to have than Celiac. Still, it's hard to know that your kid will have to deal with having a disease for the rest of her life.

She, of course, has done beautifully with it. Only very, very rarely does the Gluten-free diet get her down. the Featureless Saint and I have more or less adapted. It's gone from something that we think about every minute of the day to something that we just automatically prepare for with little thought. Again, as diseases go, celiac is more of a pain-in-the-ass condition rather than a sturm-und-drang disorder.

Unless, of course, the Diva gets some wheat. Then there is a whole GI explosion to deal with. We shall not, however, dwell upon it.

In the last ten months since the diagnosis, the Diva has gone from a lethargic, grumpy, randomly vomiting and itty-bitty child four-year old to a downright peppy, mostly cheerful, ravenously hungry and tall five-year old. That alone is proof that we're on the right track. Tomorrow we'll get hard data about how much she has grown in the last year. My guess is about 8 inches.


On Saturday, in honor of the Diva's skating rink party, I made GF cupcakes.

Gluten-free baking remains a mystery to me. I've learned a few tricks -- one such is that passover deserts are a good place to start since they are flour-free -- but don't have enough knowledge to venture out too much on my own. There are just too many not-wheat flours to choose from. I don't yet know all of the drawbacks to each. Except for rice flour, which I was already familiar with, if only because I find it unbearably gritty.

This recipe, found in a cupcake book at the Pie Goddess' mom's house, is fairly straightforward. The "flour" is a combo of ground almonds and potato starch flour, which are ground together with some sugar in the food processor. Eggs and more sugar are whipped to death, then the flour is folded in. The resulting cake was tasty as all get out -- I love almonds in almost anything, frankly -- but the texture was off. The flour settled to the bottom of the cupcake, which made an enjoyable marzipan-like wafer.

Of course, I told the adults that ate them that's what I meant to do. Julia Child's lessons weren't lost on me.

With a little tinkering, I'll have it, I think.

The frosting is my favorite buttercream with strawberry jam whizzed in it because the Diva could exclusively eat strawberries if given a chance. Regardless of the texture problems with the cake, the frosting was perfection.

Tonight, there will be no cake. It's way too hot to turn on the oven. We do have a bowl of leftover frosting in the fridge and plan to put a celebratory candle in a dish of ice cream when we do our singing to the girl.

Five years old. Who would have thunk it?


[deity of your choice] bless the internets: creepy-crawly

It is finally summer. I know this because we had a busy, busy weekend of making stuff and romping about and because I am currently sitting on the couch watching Wimbledon. It isn't summer until the hours on the couch watching Wimbledon. If I was supposed to do something for you this week, it probably won't happen unless it can be done while on the couch watching Wimbledon. One must have priorities.

I can do quite a bit from here thanks to the modern age. I have a laptop and wireless internet access. I can listen to tennis and deal with email and research a couple of projects and write stuff that doesn't require too much of my brain. (Some would argue that I don't use that much of my brain while writing in the first place. They, of course, can bite me.)

My mind still boggles a bit at how easy some things have become, thanks to the vast amount of info floating out there and easily reached with the aforementioned wifi.


Since I had the camera in my hand while we were outside blowing bubbles yesterday, I took a picture of this bug (which I almost stepped on, much to the horror of everyone involved. (Maddy was horrified that I almost squashed it. I was horrified that there was a bug on the planet that is almost as long as my foot.)) with the sole intention of using the shot to ID the bug later. Yes, I am that kind of geek.

What surprised me is not the fact that I was able to get pretty close to figuring out the name of this bug.  What surprised me is how quickly I could do it.

All it took was googling  "big identification," which led to this helpful site. I then googled the two possibilities and found some photos, which led me to this site on Ephemeroptra. So the bug above is a mayfly of some sort. I've been looking at other pixs so that I can figure out what sort of mayfly it is but I now have a strong cases of the creeps after looking at so many pictures of so many insects that I can't quite go on. It's enough to know it's a mayfly. I can leave it at that.

In the "learn something new everyday" category -- mayflies are big for flyfishers. There are charts devoted to their hatch schedules, their markings, etc. There are guides on how to tie mayfly lures. And there are guides on which particular trout love which particular types of mayflies.

Our Trout, however, was remarkably uninterested.



ARIES (March 21-April 19): Welcome to Part Two of your outlook for the second half of 2007, Aries. We're checking up on how you're progressing with the long-term tasks you were assigned six months ago. I hope that by now you're seeing how much you have to learn. This has been and will continue to be an ideal time to act like a student in every phase of your life. But I also hope you've started to realize how much you have to offer as a role model, mentor, and guide. Amazingly, this is a year when you can generate unpredictable magic as both a student and a teacher.

-- Rob Brezney's Free Will Astrology for the week of June 20, inspired by Trish.

FWIW, my magic has always been of the unpredictable sort. Sometimes, a bouquet of flowers; sometimes, a four-alarm fire. One just never knows.

actual knitting content, plus stuff in a box, links and Mooch (not in a box)

"Here's the mail,

It never fails.

It makes me wanna wag my tail.

When it comes, I wanna wail: MAIL!"


Guess what's in the box? Hint: it's going to be a cheesy weekend.

Um, that didn't come out right...

Pictured with the box is my most recent project:


Mistake rib scarf in hand-dyed misti alpaca from Halcyon.

Of course, no picture taking is complete without a visit from Mooch.


Extreme close-up:


He looks cute, don't he? That's how he lures his victims.

Two completely unrelated links --

* Do you zafu? I'll be trying out these options next time I buy jeans. Can't wait until the bra section is up and running. (Stolen from One Weird Mother)

* Who knew this was the only medication I needed to deal with my PPD? I wish all of these women the very, very best. If it works for them, awesome! Personally, I am going to go off in the corner and gag a little bit. Don't mind me.

the networks can suck it

I now firmly believe that there is something truly wrong at the heart of the television industry. Rather than the networks (I count cable channels in here, too) courting me with their programs, it is the other way around. I am slowly becoming the networks' bitch.

If I want to keep watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip -- if you've been watching the episodes that NBC is burning off right now you know that they were just starting to find the rhythm when the cord was yanked -- I'll have to beg for it.  Preferably on my knees, it seems.

It's too late for all of the other shows that were killed just as they were finding their groove, like Serenity and, as I'm discovering as I watch the DVDs, Kitchen Confidential.

I know how crap like King of Queens stays on the air for so long. I know how the math works. I like crap, too, as evidenced by my enduring fondness for America's Next Top Model and Bridezilla. Don't judge - you watch crap, too.

That's fine. But when it comes to the non-crap -- the shows that might actually need some time to find a groove that will really bring all of the punters in -- there is no patience. If you want something that isn't crap, where everyone is taking a risk to do something just a little bit different, you have to plead to keep it on the air until it can figure it all out.

I'm not going to dance like a monkey on a string to prove my affections. I won't do it for my spouse. Why would I do it for a corporate executive?

And they wonder why ratings for shows that require thought are in the toilet...