Monday, August 27, 2012

Likes & Finds

Envy apples just showed up at Central Market and they are - YES - better than Honeycrisp apples.

L'Oreal Colour Riche le Balm in Heavenly Berry ($8)  So pretty, SPF 15, can apply without looking.

Letters of Note, a blog devoted to "correspondence deserving of a wider audience."  My favorite so far is this beautiful condolence letter written by the screenwriter of Rebel Without a Cause to the aunt and uncle of James Dean.

The rediscovered deliciousness of cinnamon toast.   The first bite with the dissipating granularity of the sugar and the melted could I have forgotten?  And how can I stop making it every day now that I've remembered?

"The Sense of an Ending" by Ann Patchett on the loss of her beloved dog, Rose.  (Vogue September 2012)  Unfortunately I can't find a link to share with you --- it's in the giant September issue with Lady Gaga on the cover.  (Luke: 'What is this magazine?  [Flipping pages] It's of girls with lots of eye makeup.')


Saw one of my favorite bands, Those Darlins, this weekend.  This song is just so great/hilarious/catchy, and I complimented the singer/songwriter Nikki Darlin on it after the show.

Night jogger... what are you running from?


Monday, August 20, 2012

And I Am Called Pumpkins

This pumpkin bread is the best pumpkin bread.  The problem is that even so-so pumpkin bread is still pretty good, so you have to decide whether the extra effort is worth it.

Pumpkin Bread (Cook's Illustrated Sept/Oct 2012)

5 T packed light brown sugar
1 T flour
1 T unsalted butter, softened
1 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t salt

2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 (15 oz) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 t salt
1 and 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 oz cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
4 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine

1.  For the topping: Using fingers, mix all ingredients in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand.

2.  For the bread:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350.  Grease two 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pans.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

3.  Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1.5 cups, 6 to 8 minutes.  Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated and brown sugars, oil, and cream cheese until combined.  Let mixture stand for 5 minutes.  Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

4.  Whisk together eggs and buttermilk.  Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.  Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK).  Fold walnuts into batter.  Scrape batter into prepared pans.  Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf.  Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.  Let loaves cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes.  Remove from pans and let cool for at least 1.5 hours.

The next time I make this:  I will let the cream cheese sit at room temperature for a bit beforehand to speed up the addition to the puree.

If you want to try this (and, on behalf of your household members, co-workers, etc - you do), you can print this page by hitting the green print/pdf button at the bottom of the page.


Theme in Yellow

by Carl Sandburg

I spot the hills 
With yellow balls in autumn. 
I light the prairie cornfields 
Orange and tawny gold clusters 
And I am called pumpkins. 
On the last of October 
When dusk is fallen 
Children join hands 
And circle round me 
Singing ghost songs 
And love to the harvest moon; 
I am a jack-o'-lantern 
With terrible teeth 
And the children know 
I am fooling.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

First Trimester


Look at that.

6 weeks

Getting bigger.  The blip at 2 o'clock is the yolk sac... NOT another fetus.  (Sigh of relief).

7 weeks

8 weeks

Finding out.  Like so many things in life, this was not as I had pictured.  I found out about Baby H about two hours after Luke left for a two and a half week trip.  So I called him and told him... he was driving through Texarkana and I spent the rest of the day in a fog of semi-incredulity.  I tried to make white bean soup, which sounded so wholesome and simple and maternal, and it didn't work out.  Bitter disappointment in Mark Bittman recipes continues.

Weeks 6 to 8: Little pukey, but not much.  Extreme fatigue.  [If you're wondering about the serial ultrasounds, everything is perfectly fine, it was a function of the unusual way I got enrolled in the OB clinic.]  Grossed out by most foods, with the exception of cold, creamy things (egg salad, milkshakes, etc)  Could not get enough guacamole.  Salad and vegetables a no-go.  Any strong cooking smell, especially of meat---> gag.  I stop cooking.  Luke reverts to his bachelor diet of cottage cheese and fistfuls of peanut butter. I eat Oreos, strawberries, go to Sonic for milkshakes.  Often can't decide whether I'm going to throw up or I need to eat something.  Having Saltines at the ready becomes paramount.

Week 9: Instructing an intern, I dissect a small (perhaps 12 week) miscarried fetus.  So fascinating to hold in my hand and observe the perfect anatomy (each lobe of the lung appreciable; tiny digits; itty-bitty stomach)  I think about how mine is the one of the only professions granted this sort of viewpoint.  Not scary or disconcerting.  I murmur to myself, grow, BH, grow.

Week 10: Continue to feel occasionally nauseated.  Food becoming slowly more attractive again.

Week 11: When dining out at a restaurant I normally like, I complain about "how this restaurant smells like... food."  Omnivorousness not regained yet. [I still don't know if I'll ever eat fajitas again.  Sizzling meat smell.  Blech.]

Week 12-13: Complete first trimester by camping for a week out of the van in the Iowa heat.  Nausea thankfully resolved in the nick of time.

13 weeks

3-D ultrasound -- amazing!

13 weeks

I write this at 16 weeks feeling like a peach.  My uterus is making a palpable ascent out of the pelvis, but has yet to start making appreciable gains on the x-axis.

Went to a baby store to investigate furniture. Perused some books about child care.  Situation still surreal.

But we are awed at this new adventure.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stuff I Like

A list of things I read or applied to my body recently.  Reading, mascara (occasionally), sunscreen (always)... that's pretty much it.


Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream SPF 30.  Finally, a tinted product that can be applied like (and in lieu of, if applied liberally) sunscreen.  Great texture, good coverage, not gloppy or too thick.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Hilarious, poignant.  Really enjoyed this book.  Read a brief synopsis here.  Great if you like 1) food and 2) humor.  CONFIDENTIAL TO AMY STODDARD:  I think you will looooove and laugh your way through this book.  It is precisely your sense of humor!

Bumble and Bumble surf spray.  Spray on wet hair, do not touch hair, experience best-possible summer hair.

Can This Wedding Be Saved? Only By Legalizing Gay Marriage by A.A. Gill (Vanity Fair, September 2012).  A hysterical and trenchant look at the fetishization of wedding culture - and how gay marriage can save the modern wedding from its maudlin histrionics ("Viewed from the pews, weddings are theater produced by straight amateurs using their own money.") The solution:

The history of queer culture shows us that gay men are the trailblazers. Where they go, heterosexual women follow, dragging reluctant straight men behind them, who in turn bring Texans. That’s how civilization and musical theater evolve.

More sunscreen.  So non-greasy I barely have to wash my hands.  I love this.

buy it here

My sister Elise sent me some great mascara for my birthday (Benefit They're Real!) and it's true: you do have to wiggle the brush for luscious lashes!

from Elise

Thursday, August 9, 2012


This is the most gripping, moving, peculiar, and astonishing movie I have seen in a long time.

Rent it, stream it, watch it now!

Mark Hogancamp was beaten savagely and suffered amnesia and long term cognitive disability.  As part of his rehabilitation, he builds a town called Marwencol.

The 1/6 scale WWII era Belgian town lays bare the inner workings of its creator's psyche (one of my favorite moments of the movie: Mark's best friend saying, This is Mark's war.)  To see Marwencol - and Hogancamp's extraordinary photographs of the intricate story lines he develops -- is to see a damaged spirit and gifted mind trying to heal itself through the generative power of artistic expression.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lost in Translation



(Felt nothing for the characters, zero interest in the story, gave the writing/language/lyricism a pass -- it is a translation, after all.  In case you were casting about for the next novel to read... keep looking!)

Sunday, August 5, 2012



July was about mileage.  And heat.  And Wet Wipes.

But first we headed to Michigan for my sister-in-law's wedding.  Pics!

Officiated by the groom's father

Sister/MOH Amy looks on

Susie was radiant

Luke sings at the ceremony:

with Mr and Mrs Wales

Sunday morning we drove from Grand Rapids to Cherokee, Iowa (642 miles) to catch up with the RAGBRAI team: Luke's bandmates Matt, Josh and Ian; bros Tom and Paul; friends Kelly and Cassie.  All of whom had been training for this weeklong bike ride across Iowa... my job was to drive the van, full of camping gear and supplies, ahead to the next town and stake out a campsite.

En route, we listened to Confederacy of Dunces read by Barrett Whitener.  Though I've read it several times, and Luke had already listened to it during his long drive from San Antonio to Grand Rapids (1,383 miles), we were doubled over laughing.  Snort-laughing.  Choke-on-my-frozen-lemonade-laughing.  Whitener does great voices-- even his female voices are fantastic.  Improve your commute/gym experience and listen - laugh out loud hilarious.

Camping: Cherokee

Chamois Butt'r.  To prevent chafing.  And cause giggles during application.

Getting ready to head out for the day's ride:

Riders roll into Schaller, IA

Cooling off after several hours of riding.

I don't have many pictures... most of the time I was too hot or my hands too sunscreeny/too greasy with pork sandwich to retrieve my camera.  Despite the (relative) hardships of camping out of the van for a week, the Flavor Savers and Friends were so fun to spend time with.

Van-oramic shots:

Cassie is fast asleep


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

That's Bananas

Dessert breakthrough, courtesy of Oprah magazine August 2012.

Peel and cut up banana(s) into 2 inch chunks.  Freeze for at least three hours.  Process in food processor for 5 minutes, scraping down bowl occasionally.

The result: a very creamy, almost ice cream-like treat made only of banana.

I, for whom food texture is paramount, was impressed.

[I dolloped with a little chocolate sauce that appeared in the same feature (melt semisweet chocolate chips with coconut oil for DIY Magic Shell)]

Eat promptly as it doesn't keep and doesn't re-freeze.


Ripening chart via.  Aside: I like my bananas at a 4, no more, no less.