Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 ways to save at the grocery store

I'm in a strange position here, as I don't HAVE to cook for myself nine months out of the year. But I like cooking. And we can afford it. Being vegetarian at home really helps here, because I know that meat is where a lot of our friends spend a lot of their money, and it just doesn't figure for us.

1) Coupons.
2) Shop smart. I know which of our four local grocery chains has the best price on vegetables, so I always go there for the veg. Then to another place for the dairy. And another for the cleaning supplies. I used to worry about the gas costs adding up, but all the stores are within a mile of each other, so I'm not worrying anymore. (Plus, I have a Prius: 50mpg!)
3) Limit the impulse-purchases. Don't buy any cool ingredients unless you know how you're going to cook them.
4) Don't be a slave to the list. If dates are cheaper than figs, and can be used in the same recipe, go ahead and make the swap. This really helps me out with expensive ingredients like nuts.
5) Plan ahead. Don't buy so much food you can't cook it up and eat it before it goes bad.
6) If you see inexpensive stuff that your family loves, go ahead and buy it (in moderate quantities.) And drop something roughly equivalent, but pricier, off your list. (Thus: bought two melons because they were cheap and smelled good, didn't buy the wicked-expensive grapes.)
7) If you have storage space and facilities, buy in bulk and store things. We don't have a very big freezer so I don't actually do very much of this, but it's a nice idea.
8) Make your own... bread, cookies, waffles, pancakes, pizza, marmalade, jam... actually, I'm not sure the marmalade came out any cheaper than buying a nice jar at the store, but I know we save lots of money on the other items.
9) Grate/chop/clean your own stuff. I've wasted a lot of money over the years on pre-washed lettuce, baby carrots, shredded cheese, and "ready to steam" broccoli. When I was short on time, I felt it was worth the extra cost... now I don't.
10) Farmer's market/CSA/farm stand/U-Pick... for me, this revelation came last fall, when the local farm stand had butternut squash for 1/5 the price of the supermarket. I couldn't take full advantage of the bounty, as I didn't have a reliable way to store them, but I bought five and we ate them over the next month.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's for dinner?

Once again, I failed to take any pictures of dinner, because as soon as the serving bowl hit the table, we both tucked in and had to be restrained and polite about splitting up the last bit that was our thirds.

Tonight I made the astounding Beggar's Pasta by Dorie Greenspan. It came together in under 20 minutes and was absolutely delicious! Also, it was surprisingly easy to modify: I used almonds in place of pistachios and figs in places of dates and it was still divine. I need to see if I can cut back on the butter a bit; feeding each of us over TWO TABLESPOONS of the stuff didn't do our cholesterol any favours.

Last night I made two dishes from Plenty: the shakshuka was good but rather less fabulous than last time, possibly because I couldn't find the saffron and possibly because I omitted most of the hot pepper to make it acceptable to my MIL. The leek fritters also suffered a bit from the lack of hotness, but were still amazingly yummy. Too bad they're also fairly unhealthy, between the butter in the batter and the amount of oil it takes to pan-fry them. Maybe a better frying pan would require me to use less oil?

I found another version of the leek fritter recipe that has been mostly adapted for US readers: the only missing measurements are that the parsley will be about 1.5 cups chopped and lightly filled, and the flour is a scant-cup. I added an extra teaspoon of baking powder to account for not having self-raising flour and that worked pretty well. Oh - and two ounces of butter is 1/2 stick. I accidentally used 3/4 of a stick (not sure what I was thinking there) and they did taste a little too "buttery."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

10 on Tuesday: ten things I love about my family

My family... I wasn't sure, at first, if we were talking about my nuclear family (husband and two kids) or my extended family (parents, in-laws, step-mom, cousins, cousins-in-law, aunts, uncles, second cousins, cousins-by-marriage, etc.)

Then I thought about it, and realized that most of these apply to both groups, and it's silly to try to draw a line.

1) Love: even when we're mad at each other, we still love each other.
2) Good food: my family is packed with people who love to cook and eat, and I share in that joy with them.
3) Good books: my family is also packed with librarians and bookworms, so there's always somebody with whom you can share a new novel.
4) Good math and science: my side of the family is heavy on scientists and my husband's side is heavy on mathematicians, so there's always somebody around who can explain tidal pools or sub-woofers or Cauchy's Theorem.
5) Travel: I travel less than everyone else in the family (I'm a home-body, and having two small children makes long flights challenging) but everyone else travels to really cool places, and brings back pictures and spices and stories. I love hearing and seeing all of it and one day soon I think we'll join them in traveling more.
6) Traditions: we've lost some of our traditions as my grandparents' generation passed away, but we still know that stockings get opened before breakfast but big presents wait for after breakfast, and children get one present the night before Xmas, and everyone who has a job has to send a red envelope to anyone who's still in school on Chinese New Year's.
7) Loyalty: even when I've screwed something up, I know my family will stick up for me.
8) Kindness: this is something I've worked on with my children, and it mostly plays out in the larger family, too. We're kind to each other. We're gentle with each other's feelings and we play fair when we play board games.
9) Fairness: goes hand-in-hand with our notions of kindness.
10) Stories: we all share stories, whether it's the time that my cousin made herself throw up to get out of eating calves liver, or the time I nearly took out my aunt's mailbox. Sharing these is part of what binds us together!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


which means I'm busy with the "real-life" stuff this weekend. Hopefully, I'll have a finished pair of mittens to show off by Monday or Tuesday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Here's what 8 pounds of citrus fruit looks like

after somebody (ahem, me) has eaten one large orange and removed the giant avocado so it will stop squishing the smaller fruits beneath it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad Day Blues

Today has been One of Those Days, where I don't even want to write down the stupid silly stuff that made me see red because hopefully, when I reread this in a year, I won't remember any of it.

Also, it's mostly work-related and I don't talk about work on the blog.

However, I will say that the citrus fruit came from Friends Ranches and it is delicious! Two tiny tangerines had split under the weight of their larger cousins, but the avocado, lemons, and other 25+ oranges and tangerines came through intact. I'm still not sure we're going to eat it all fast enough so I'm giving some away to friends as I see them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Book Report

Somehow I've been squeezing in more time to read. This partially comes at the expense of getting enough sleep, and partially by doing no housework except cooking, and and partially by putting less energy into my knitting.

Indulgence in Death by J D Robb: another in the VERY long-running series by the prolific Nora Roberts, under one of her several pseudonyms. This one does a nice job of checking in on the returning minor characters without twisting the plot to actively include them. It isn't much of a mystery - Detective Eve Dallas spots the "baddie" pretty early - but the book remains compulsively readable as it follows the investigation.

Septimus Heap #1: Magyk by Angie Sage: a lovely YA book about wizards, witches, dragons, evil zombie necromancers, a lost princess, and a very bad cook. I was utterly charmed and immediately sought the second book at the library.

Intrigues: Book Two of the Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey: another in the VERY long-running loosely linked series of books about Valdemar by the prolific Mercedes Lackey. This book is about average for Ms. Lackey: the plot is interesting and the narrator sympathetic, but she "tells" far more than she "shows" and is somewhat ham-handed in her foreshadowing.

The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett: the direct sequel to The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, this was less derivative and seemed to move at a more measured pace than its predecessor. I was frustrated that so little actually happened until the final 100 pages, when everything suddenly fell together at once, but I loved the world and the characters and will definitely seek out future novels in the series.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 favorite snacks

Oh, another one I can really "sink my teeth" into!

1) popcorn, lightly salted, with real butter
2) fresh edamame in the pod, lightly salted
3) grapes
4) vegetable sticks and onion dip (or ranch dip, or remoulade sauce)
5) potato chips with salt and vinegar
6) watermelon
7) cheese and crackers (preferably sharp cheddar, a good Brie, or St Andre... I'm also partial to aged Gouda)
8) guacamole and chips
9) smoothies
10) nachos: just chips and hot cheese dip is great, but a little chili and scallions puts it over the top
11) cherries

As you can see, I couldn't limit it to just ten items! (I do love my snack food...)

Monday, April 11, 2011

1/2 FO

I finished a mitten! I don't dare say that I have a Finished Object, because of course what good is a mitten without its mate?

Pattern: Quo Vadis
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash
Needles: size 3 wooden

These knit up VERY small as I was doing them, but I trusted that the superwash wool would relax when I wet-blocked it, and it did!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I just found out that Tor has been publishing appropriately themed poems in celebration of National Poetry Month.

I don't want to violate copyright by copying any of them over here, but you must go check out this collection of steam-punk sonnets. More than one of them surprised me to tears.


Went to see Hanna last night. Music was awesome. Cinematography was very cool. Plot was weird.

(posting at 6am because I've been UP ALL NIGHT. Well, up since 3am. Bleah.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Eye candy Friday

Seen in front of our neighbor's house.

The colors remind me of a poached egg. Speaking of which, I made shakshuka for the first time and oh... wow... will definitely make it again. So yummy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A rant about the Red Sox

The Red Sox are now 0-6, having gotten swept by both the Tribe and the Rangers on the road.

As a dedicated fan, this has me... concerned. (Insert stronger words here.)

I was going to rant about how lousy the pitching's been, and how Carl Crawford really isn't living up to his advance billing, and how Youk looks kind of uncomfortable at 3rd... but instead I'm just going to point out that Crawford can steal, Salty can pick off a runner, and Lester had a terrific outing today.

Anyway, the BoSox always do a lot better at Fenway!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What I love in the new Knitty

This one didn't generate much excitement for me... maybe I'm just still in "mitten-mode" while Knitty is publishing cute little cotton sweaters and intricate shawls. The three that did catch my eye:

I love the idea of Make Up Your Mind but I think one has to be built like Julie (who must be a size 0) for this sweater to be a good idea. Maybe my skinny teenaged cousin would like this? I'll have to show it to her...

Amiga is just about the perfect summer sweater. I might make this one, if I can figure out how she made those buttons...

I love the heel on Ornamental and might take up the challenge, next winter.

And sadly, that was all. Verdant looks really lovely but I know I'll never wear it. Maybe I'll just do a tiny sample so I can master the new intarsia technique.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 favorite one-hit wonders

Oh, this is a such a rich topic! I had to hit Wikipedia to make sure everything I liked was actually a one-hit wonder. It turns out that while I love Concrete Blonde for "Everybody Knows" they had a much more major hit called "Joey." (Yeah... once upon a time I actually knew that. I must be getting old.) Similarly, my favorite song by XTC is "Mayor of Simpleton" but they had a much larger hit called "Dear God" - but I remembered that before looking them up.

1) "Life in a Northern Town" by Dream Academy
2) "No Myth" by Michael Penn
3) "Wild Night" by Meshelle Ndegecello (featuring John Mellencamp)
4) "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred
5) "Take on Me" by A-ha
6) "99 Luft Balloons" by Nena
7) "Beds are Burning" by Midnight Oil
8) "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak
9) "Jump Jive N Wail" by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
10) "One of Us" by Joan Osbourne

Now I want to go load up my iPod with 80s music!

Monday, April 4, 2011


I got Plenty (the British version) as a late Christmas present from one of my cousins and I've been enjoying reading it and marking recipes to try. I finally tried two of them last night and oh.... they're good!

Of course, I forgot to take pictures.

I've got another two planned for tomorrow's dinner and maybe I'll remember the camera this time!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My life, in fives

Yes, yes, I know I'm about FOUR YEARS TOO LATE to pick up this meme, but it amuses me and I'm short on other blogging material.

1972: I am born. Despite being half-Asian, I start life with strawberry-blonde hair and blue eyes, which gradually change to hazel. I am reliably told that as the doctor delivered me (which took a complicated C-section) he took a quick look at me (and my Chinese mother) and said, "Dear lord, I'm glad we have a lot of witnesses for this birth."

1977: I turn five, start kindergarten, begin piano lessons. I've already been taking ballet for nearly two years. I barely remember any of this. We're living in a tiny ranch house in upstate NY that's notable primarily because of the half-acre garden that comes with it.

1982: I turn ten, start fifth grade, pick up cello lessons AND riding lessons but finally convince my mother to drop the ballet lessons. I think this is the year my mother finally gets her driver's license. My best friend is Amy, who lives a half-mile up the road from us. We're still in the tiny ranch house in upstate NY, but a lot of new houses have been built around us. I'm a honey-blond with very green hazel eyes. Everyone assumes I'm adopted.

I read like it was my job: this is the year of horse books, from Walter Farley to Marguerite Henry. I'm aging out of the young Judy Blume books but still treasure them. I've read the first 50 Nancy Drew novels. This is the summer we go to Great Britain for nearly 6 weeks and the airline loses our suitcase with all the books, so I spend the first week there reading The Jewel in the Crown Quartet (which was in my father's carry-on for some reason) until we have time to buy a few more novels. I discover a novel by Anne McCaffrey at one of the B&Bs and insist on tracking down everything else she's written.

I remember that fifth grade was one of the happiest years of my early life: I had friends, I was pretty good at the things I wanted to be good at (like school and horse-back riding), my parents seemed happy, and I was starting to develop an interest in gardening.

1987: I turn 15. We now live in Indiana and I hate it. A small group of people in the town are viciously sexist and racist, and I allow their nasty interactions with me and my family to color my opinion of the whole place. I can't wait to "get out" and to this end I'm trying to finish all my high school classes in three years.

I still take piano lessons but I don't work at it very hard: my teacher is a lot of fun but she's into Impressionists and Moderns which just don't excite me. I've had to give up cello and horse-back riding because finances are tight. I play tennis, but mostly to please my father.

I still read like it's my job. I have a huge collection of fantasy and the school library has an amazing selection of SF "juveniles" for me to check out. I do really well at school, but let's be honest: I don't have a whole lot of competition from my classmates. Most of them aren't planning to attend college.

1992: I turn 20. I start my senior year of college. My parents have divorced, nastily, and I'm barely on speaking terms with either one. I'm trying to double-major in math and physics, but catching mono in my senior fall puts my plans behind and I end up with just the math major. On the bright side, I've got an amazing group of friends, a terrific roommate, and a gorgeous boyfriend.

1997: I turn 25. I'm half-way through a graduate program in experiment physics. I'm starting to think it's a bad idea: I love the classes but independent research doesn't appeal as much as I had hoped it would. I've got a crazy crush on a guy who's got a steady girlfriend, so I'm just his Best Friend and I manage to get along OK with his girlfriend, too. I have an adorable Golden Retriever and some really good friends. I meet my husband-to-be at a party but neither of us recognizes the significance of the event.

2002: I turn 30. I'm happily married. I teach math and physics at a posh boarding school in PA (I never finished my PhD) and I get pregnant with my older son in this year. Life is crazy. I never get enough sleep and I puke a lot.

2007: I turn 35. I'm on pretty good terms with both of my parents. We've moved to CT and I feel so much happier being back in New England. I've got two adorable little boys and a great husband and, while I still don't get enough sleep, I feel like things are only looking up. I'm really developing an interest in cooking and I'm becoming closer friends with my cousin-in-law, who just moved to an hour away from us. My interest in knitting is slowly taking off. I still read a lot, but life doesn't give me much time to indulge.

And... that's it, so far!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Flu-like Illness

Apparently the school-sponsored trip to South America brought back more than photos and good stories... yes, almost all of them fell sick at some point with what Kiley called "a really nasty case of Montezuma's revenge" and then brought it back to share with us.

I've didn't actually throw up, but I couldn't eat for over 2 days (severe stomach cramps if I tried) and also suffered from a high fever and aches and cramps. I'm slowly getting better, but it's still really hard for me to eat much solid food, so chronic low blood sugar is my new enemy.

So that's my excuse for missing a few days of posting! I could have put up a one-line post (which I've done before) but I literally didn't... have... the... energy.

Totally off-topic, I want to order from this citrus farm so badly! Currently wondering if my family can even eat 8 pounds of citrus fruit before it goes bad...