Wednesday, October 31

This just in: Martha Stewart is a weird-o

I've long suspected that Martha might be one of those crazy pet people. You know what I'm talking about. Well, now we have proof. I will let the images speak for themselves.

Friday, October 26

Brown paper packages tied up with string

Here are some things I've been enjoying lately.

Couscous and feta stuffed peppers. I made these Wednesday night. If I hadn't forgotten the salt they would have been smashing. This recipe is definitely worth making again, very colorful and healthy and comfort-foody. Tonight I'm planning to attempt pumpkin bread pudding. My mouth starts watering as I type those three words. Pumpkin. Bread. Pudding.

Martha Stewart and Carole King. How much awesomeness can you fit in one room? These two women shaped who I am today. My Sunday School teacher gave me my first Martha Stewart Living subscription when I was 14, and my life has never been the same (see couscous and feta stuffed peppers above for evidence). My best friend Paula and I used to listen to Tapestry together on vinyl when we were teenagers. I was intrigued by the fact that her hair was frizzy---and somehow that was okay.

The Office is back to half-hour episodes, which I think are stronger than the hour-long ones. I loved Daryl's song and Michael's commercial last night.

Atonement by Ian McEwan. A really absorbing novel that is so carefully paced. I could hardly stand the understated suspense of waiting for the story to unfold. The story begins in England in 1935 and moves on to Dunkirk in World War II. I won't tell you too much more because you'll enjoy it more the less you know about what is going to happen. The movie trailer looks promising too, and it's getting good reviews.

In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra. It was this review in The Wall Street Journal that prompted me to put this album on my wish list a while ago. When a lot of my friends got engaged and my roommate moved away, I thought, "Well, if I'm going to be sad and lonely this winter I'd better have some good music for it." And oh, boy IS IT! This album is the closest thing to perfection I've heard in a long time. I don't profess to be knowledgeable about Sinatra or music from this era (1955), but I can tell you what I hear: He embodies these songs written by others so thoroughly that you're sure he's lived it all and can tell you from experience. The melancholy is so beautifully balanced, never overwhelming. He delivers a silly line like " You had what I lack, myself / Now I even have to scratch my back myself" with so much pathos, that I give a quick smile followed by a sigh. He's so alone, and it's so beautiful! Listen to this at night in a quiet room on good speakers.

Friday, October 19

An Adventure Averted

After a short storm on Wednesday afternoon I came home from work to find a tree limb pinning down a power line just outside my house. I didn't have any electricity, but that was okay with me since I was headed to my church small group for the evening. But the power was still out when I got home at 9. I thought about just going to bed early, but men were buzzing away with chainsaws right outside my window. "No way I'm going to be able to sleep through that," I thought. I weighed my options: I could escape the darkness and go to Barnes & Noble, or I could embrace it by lighting candles and settling down with a book. I thought of the Ingalls family and went for option two.

Ever since the hurricane I've been determined to keep at least a small supply of candles on hand in case of emergencies. So I dug them out from under the bed and found saucers for them all. Now--what to read? I'm in process on Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, so that was the first thing that came to mind. But Dave Ramsey by candlelight? NO! Every feeling revolts! Reading a financial book by in dim, romantic lighting is just wrong. This is an adventure, I thought. I need an adventure book. I had only to crack open The Return of the King and glance down to read, "Oathbreakers, why have you come?" and I knew I'd found my book.

I settled down to read, book turned toward a bunch of candles to catch as much light as possible. But y'all, I hadn't even finished the synopsis of the previous two volumes before I noticed a soft glow coming from next door. Hmmm. I flipped a switch and winced at the light that came on. NO again! Just when I was excited about not having power--it comes back on. I'm not sure what the moral of this story is... Enjoy the simple pleasures in life? Keep your house clean because you never know when you'll have to get around it in the dark? Try to remember you're not Caroline Ingalls?

Monday, October 1

It's so damn hot! Milk was a bad choice.

I'm so ready for fall that I went ahead this weekend and made a fallish meal, even though it's still hot outside. So I had to turn up the AC and I still broke a sweat. I just couldn't wait any longer to make this recipe for Butternut Squash soup, which came from my friend Carla. I love how easy it is. And the color, which just says, "Hello, fall!" It does take the squashes (or is it butternuts? I really don't know--you so rarely hear them mentioned in conversation these days) some time to bake, so start early or else you'll be sitting down to eat supper at 9 o'clock like I did. I ate it with Ann's No-Knead Bread, which is also very easy. Are you noticing a theme here? I usually make it with whole-wheat flour, but I found that I was entirely out after I'd already started. So, white it was. I discovered I actually like wheat better. Whew.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. curry powder
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. apple juice
1 cooked butternut squash (or 4 c. cubed)
1 c. pear or apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
milk and/or sour cream (optional)

Heat the butter in a pot and saute the chopped onion until soft. Add curry powder and cook 1 minute. Add the broth, apple juice, squash, pear or apple and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Blend or mash once the ingredients are soft. Thin with milk if needed and garnish with sour cream if desired.

This is a pretty flexible recipe. This time I used water instead of chicken broth and milk, and applesauce instead of apple juice. I also added a dash of cloves, some cinnamon and some chili powder, and ground pepper just before serving. To cook the squash, I used two small ones because they're easier to cut. Just scoop out the seeds (these are good toasted as well--memories of American Indians using the whole buffalo flashed through my head at this point, when I almost threw them away) and bake somewhere around 400 degrees. Mine took about 50 minutes.

Both make good leftovers.