12.23.2010

My stalker

I have a stalker.

He's a short, white male with dark brown eyes and a high pitched voice.

And he's obsessed.

I go to bed. There he is.

I wake up. There he is.

He follows me from place to place, and I can hear him crying when he can't get to me.

He's been to jail, but upon release, he just tracks me down like nothing ever happened.

I can't sleep. I can't eat. I can't move without his beady eyes on me.

Send help.

12.19.2010

Not so a-maze-ing, really

I love labyrinths.

Wait, let me amend that.

I love labyrinths, in theory.

In practice, what is advertised as a labyrinth is often of the contemplative nature rather than the ... say ... Jack Nicholson in The Shining with an axe nature. (I'm looking at you, Brookgreen Gardens!)

Awesome:


Not awesome:


Yes, I know meditation and contemplation and all that spiritual stuff is good for you.

I got it. You walk, you contemplate, you become a better person.

Whatever.

I want a true hedge maze. With high walls and mystery lurking around every corner.

I want a minotaur in the center devouring young adventurers.

I want danger, the unknown, the potential to get hopelessly lost.

I want Jack Nicholson with an axe, darnit!

Enlightenment has got nothing on that.

Photo by allatan

12.18.2010

My life in one week

 

Thanks to Kat for sharing the link on Facebook!

12.17.2010

Night of 1000 Candles

Last night, Kurt and I went to the Night of 1000 Candles at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, SC.

No idea why they call it Night of 1000 Candles when there are actually 5000 candles (and 145,000 twinkle lights!). If I'm lighting that many candles, people are gonna know about it, but maybe that's just me.

In addition to the gorgeous lights, we got to enjoy live music - everything from a classical quartet to an acoustic guitarist to a surprisingly good rock band - while we strolled through the gardens drinking our hot chocolate. That the evening was 60 degrees and breezy made it all the sweeter. It was truly magical from start to finish.

The event runs through tomorrow evening, opening at 3pm and closing at 10pm, so there's still time for those in the Carolinas to come visit.

The pictures don't do the evening justice, but at least those of you far away will get a taste. I will admit, this is the first time I've been in the Christmas spirit this year. If they can convert a grinch like me, you know they've got something special going on.

12.16.2010

Lion and wildebeest

We have two cats.

There's James: quiet, gentle, and more than a little nervous. And Nelson, the kind of ornery playground bully who has been giving wedgies to the Jameses of the world since the beginning of time.

In our house, the wedgie comes in the form of Nelson's favorite game: lion and wildebeest.

You can guess who is the wildebeest.

Since Nelson is declawed, he never actually hurts James. I'm not sure he even wants to. It's more a game of psychological warfare. James never knows when Nelson will strike and spends a good bit of his time peering around corners and tiptoeing through the house.

Kurt and I decided to combat this situation with a program of feline behavior modification. (I can almost hear the cat owners laughing right now ...)

Every time Nelson attacked James, he would be put in jail (his cage), with his sentence varying by the severity of the attack. A swat of the paw might yield a ten minute stay, but the full monty - a flying leap onto poor James's back - could land him in the slammer for an hour.

We've been diligently following the plan for a couple months now. And there's definitely been a change.

Now, after Nelson attacks James, he walks to his cage.

And sits down.

And looks defiant.

There's a reason he's the king of the jungle.

Photo by will.huen

12.11.2010

Apologies for the cell phone picture, but ...

Is this not the pinkest store EVER?


To paraphrase Steel Magnolias: That shop looks like it's been hosed down with Pepto-Bismal!

(It's on King St. in Charleston, SC, for those of you wanting to make a pilgrimage.)

12.10.2010

Focaccia for the yeast impaired

I have a bad track record with bread baking.

There were the donuts that took 4 hours (!!!) to make and then sank to bottom of the fryer, the country loaf that managed to be both burnt and raw all at once, and more batches of dough that refused to rise than I can count.

While I can cook most anything and bake sweets all day long, I accepted the obvious truth: Yeast was my nemesis.

Recently a friend mentioned an easy bread recipe. It ended (of course) in more unrisen dough being thrown away, but this time my ornery streak kicked in. I was going to make bread, darnit. I didn't care how much time and flour and misery it took.

I would make bread!

Success finally came with an easy focaccia recipe and a good bit of trial and error on my part. Below is the formula that worked for me. I use a stand mixer due to ... well ... general laziness, but those who like a workout could knead by hand.

Focaccia

4-5 cups bread flour
1.5 t salt
2 t yeast
13.5 ounces water
cornmeal (optional)
olive oil
herbs

Mix 4 cups of flour with salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Heat water to 100 degrees. Dissolve yeast and let stand for 10 minutes. While the water can be a notch warmer, do not exceed 120 degrees - that will kill the yeast.

Add yeast-water mixture to flour.

Using the mixer attachment, incorporate the water into the flour until a sticky dough forms.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.

Ok, this is where it gets interesting. This is a sticky dough, so don't be overly alarmed by that. The goal is to reach a consistency where the dough sticks to the dough hook but can easily be peeled off of it. I've needed to add anywhere from an extra 1/4 cup to an extra cup of flour to achieve this state. Knead in the flour in 1/4 cup increments, checking after each to see if you've reached the desired consistency. The dough ball that forms will be a little shaggy and not the smooth round ball that other recipes require.

Warning! Many recipes mention the 'window pane test'. This is where you stretch your dough and a thin, semi-transparent area forms. This dough does not pass the windowpane test. Don't worry. It will taste fine. Just keep going with the gloppy dough ball. It'll all work out in the end.

Place the dough into a floured bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise for 1 hour.

Tips on rising: This is where I've run into trouble before. Most recipes say to let it rise in area that is around 80 degrees, but no place in my house fits the bill. My solution is to preheat the oven to its lowest setting (150 in my case) for 3-4 minutes, turn it off, and let the dough rise in the warm oven. For later rises, I preheat for around 30 seconds more to keep a nice level of heat in there. The goal is to get the oven warmer than room temperature but not hot.

Oil a pizza pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. You can skip the cornmeal if you'd like, but I find it makes it easier to remove the bread after baking and adds a nice texture. Stretch the dough and spread it out to fill the pizza pan. Let rise for another 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen a second time, use your finger to make indentations in the top of the bread (1 indentation every 3 inches or so). Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs. Thyme, rosemary, and dill all work well.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Photo by bookgrl

12.03.2010

Actual conversation with my husband: Dream edition

Me: I had a bad dream.

Husband: Mmm.

Me: Seriously. BAD!

Husband: What happened?

Me: I had a demon following me around.

Husband: (raises an eyebrow)

Me: And he didn't hurt me, but whenever my back was turned he wreaked havoc.

Husband: (suspiciously silent)

Me: At one point, he tried to suffocate you when I was out of the room.

Husband: Was he grey?

Me: No.

Husband: Long haired?

Me: No, he was short and bald.

Husband: Mmm hmm.

Me: Why are you looking at the cat?!

Husband: No reason.