Thursday, January 27, 2005

Snow Day

My car after the blizzard Posted by Hello

Who doesn't love a free day off of work or school? One way that being off work beats being off school though, is that you don't have to make up the time at the end of the year sitting in a sweltering classroom regretting the big storm back in January. The main disadvantage to being an adult on a snow day is that it is tough to find adults who want to go sledriding or igloo making with you. Grownups, sheesh.

Here in snow-socked New England, they weren't even exxagerating about the blizzard label because technically a blizzard is related to visibility, and we didn't have much of that. If I had to milk the cow, I would have needed to tie a rope between the house and the barn so I wouldn't get lost trying to find my way back to the house, freezing to death like a statue just a few feet from safety. I learned that trick from reading Little House on the Prairie books. Who knew the knowledge I gleaned back in 3rd grade would come in handy here in urban Boston? That is, if I'd had a cow to milk.

I enjoyed being snowed in. I must have cooked about four different new things. White bean chili and ginger pumpkin bread for lunch packing, and crazy tomato sauce, and moist crazy cake for a fresh pasta dinner at a friends'. The crazy cake was a good chance to compare my family's treasured cake recipe with Shirley Corriher's super scientific method. I'd say Corriher's was indeed moist, and I just about swooned when I tasted the batter, but the results were not all that different from the family recipe. So I felt good that I can remain loyal to the family cookbook. The Crazy Tomato Sauce is super easy and what makes it crazy is the use of butter instead of olive oil. The butter gives it a deeper, almost cheese-like flavor that is very appealing.

Because there was no way I was going to drive anywhere in my buried car (see photo), I decided to cross country ski to the dinner party about a mile or so away. Other folks might have stayed home, but they do not have the commitment to fresh pasta that I do. Come hell or highwater or a blizzard and all that. The only place you could ski was on the road, which wasn't too scary since there were few cars out, although was a bit tricky with places that were salted. It is such a satisfying feeling when people stare out their car windows to see someone cross country skiing on Mass Ave in Boston, the equivalent of skiing down 5th Avenue in NYC. You know you are providing fodder for their stories: "That blizzard was so bad that people were skiing down Mass Ave!"

It was terribly gratifying to be the hero of the dinner party, arriving on my skis with Crazy Sauce and Crazy Cake. I was feeling pretty smug about the whole thing.

Although winter has its frustrations, some parts are pretty, er, cool.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Shed a Little Light / The Secret of Life

I'm not sure why but winter puts me in a James Taylor kinda mood. And every MLK day seems to be a day that I have free to be at home and reflect on things, and of course get a little cooking and cleaning done. As part of my MLK Day tradition, I listened to his tribute song to MLK, which is called "Shed a Little Light" and starts off with the lovely lines:

Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood,
that we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead.
We are bound and we are bound.


And the next song on the CD I have is "The Secret O'Life." I'm going to include the lyrics here because they are so simple as to be ridiculous. And like a lot of simple things, it rings true. I seem to need to be reminded of this message on a regular basis. Thanks, JT for sharing the secret. Who knew.

Secret O' Life

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it, there ain't nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we're on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride.

The secret of love is in opening up your heart.
It's okay to feel afraid, but don't let that stand in your way.
Cause anyone knows that love is the only road.
And since we're only here for a while, might as well show some style.

Isn't it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it's just a lovely ride.

So it was a good day. Had my JT moment, and I cooked a scary good cake (if you need to register, use bugmenot). I don't know if I would recommend making the cake unless you have the day off, as well as a pound of butter and four cups of sugar on hand. Yikes! But it was so fun to have the day to work on that as well as just relaxing and doing the JT thing, enjoying the passage of time. I need more of these days off.

So I Guess I Really am a Doula

Superdoula! Posted by Hello

Here's me at the hospital with one of my very first teeny tiny clients, just an hour or so after birth. I was so tickled that the parents shared this photo with me and were happy with how the birth went. I'm still amazed that I am able to do this. What an incredible privilege it is to be with a couple during the labor and the first few hours of their new family. Whew.

So I'm just showing off here a little by sharing this photo. Hope you don't mind. Aww. Gee. I really am a doula!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Culinary Pleasures of a Midwestern Christmas

Green Bean Casserole Posted by Hello

I thought I'd share with you a few of my family's specialties. The above, Green Bean Casserole, is a true classic, and a remarkably simple conglomeration of Cambbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, canned grean beans, all topped by French's Onions. Bake and enjoy! As a kid, I always got busted for just eating the topping (sorry Grandma).

Below is another classic, rutabega. Boy did I hate this as a kid. Weirdly enough, we all seem to like it now. It's hard to believe.

Rutabega! Posted by Hello

And the last photo in the series is a photo of the beloved relish tray. I've been talking about it here for so long I had to get a photo.

It really is a treat to go home and eat home cooking. Although I like to joke about my family's not-so-fancy cooking, it all tastes great and there is nothing like it in the world.

A Proper Relish Tray Posted by Hello

Food Tourism: Or, Thanks Red Sox!

Red Sox Victory is Sweet: Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Toasted Ravioli Posted by Hello

Over the holiday, a few bets had to be settled.

My brother-in-law is from St. Louis so when the Red Sox went head to head with the Cardinals, there was going to have to be a friendly wager or two. If the Sox won, I would win some toasted ravioli, a St. Louis speciality. If the Cards won (perish the thought!), I would be bringing Boston's chowdah home at Christmas. As anyone who was awake in 2004 might remember, the Sox swept the series. So I won some bragging rights and some toasted ravioli! They are the round pasta-like thingies in the photo, and most importantly, as illustrated in the photo, they come with a yummy tomato sauce.

Even better, because my brother-in-law felt that a series sweep deserved an extra treat, he also brought along a rare but beloved local delicacy called the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake! Anyone reading this blog knows about my food quests, and I've heard wonderful rumors of this confection, basically defined as "a pre-baked cake drenched in butter and sugar." And it was everything you might imagine. Disgusting, sickening and absolutely delicious. Like cake candy. Like liquid, gooey, buttery cake. The sugar rush is so fast and so intense, taking a bite is like a punch in the eye. You don't want to eat this every day but boy oh boy, it ain't bad for breakfast the day after Christmas. I don't know if you can see it oozing in the photo, but it does ooze a buttery goo for sure.

And because I'm such a swell sister-in-law, I brought along some Legal Seafood clam chowdah bought at the airport on the way home. So everyone was pretty happy. And I won't even have to go to St. Louis to check off those items on my food quest list!

Christmas Eve with the Jellies and Seahorses

Jelly (not Jellyfish) Posted by Hello

I had an odd Christmas Eve. I didn't plan it that way, but as most of you probably remember, it was a nightmare of a travel day for those flying. Between the horrible midwestern storm, a fair amount of agents calling in sick, cranky luggage workers, as well as it being a huge travel day, a couple of airlines just fell apart. When I arrived at my gate (after not being able to find it due to the non-working screens), they were already asking for volunteers to take a later flight. After talking to my family and other lucrative negotiations with the airline, I agreed to take a flight four hours later. Fortunately, this all worked out fine and I got home that same evening, unlike other stories I heard where people never got to go home at all, or their luggage was lost, etc.

With four hours to wait for the next flight, a T pass to anywhere in the city, and no real interest in hanging out at the airport, I pondered my options. Revere Beach is quite close to the airport, but being on the beach with a suitcase seemed problematic. Did I have time for a foodquest in East Boston? Again, the suitcase factor seemed a problem. And then I remembered, the New England Aquarium, just two t-stops away, has a show about Jellies (not jellyfish as they aren't fish) that I'd been wanting to see. I'm not that into fish, but I'd seen some jellies at another aquarium and could barely tear myself away from their tank. So off I went to see some new ones. And the suitcase factor wasn't even a problem as I was able to park my suitcase in the Aquarium's stroller park. I highly recommend this as an alternative to sitting around at the airport if you ever have a long layover -- although be prepared to drop $15 to get in.

I took some photos of the jellies which I'm posting here. I just find their undulations and colors to be mesmerizing. Some even generated their own light, which was this wonderful irridescent glow that even the folks at Disney would never have thought up. I learned some depressing facts about them as well: mostly that their population is increasing rapidly because of global warming, which means a decrease in lots of other kinds of fish populations which are preyed upon by the jellyfish. Sigh. Once again, it's all our fault.

Cool seahorse Posted by Hello

I also saw my first seahorses outside of a textbook and they are just as wild as the jellies. Apparently, seahorses ARE fish (unlike jellies). You really don't need science fiction -- we've got plenty of freaky stuff that already exists. The seahorses really do look like dragons. The ones in the photo at the bottom (Leafy and Weedy Seadragons they are called) had such elaborate limbs, such incredibly ornamented bodies that they looked like living jewelry. I was just entranced watching them move. The photos really do not do these creatures justice. And I haven't even talked about the noisy blue penguins or the giant turtle feeding!

So I went back to the airport all wowed and agape and refreshed for my flight home. It was a weird way to spend Christmas Eve, but definitely magical in its own way.

Leafy and Weedy Seadragon Posted by Hello