Lo Tries to Make El Feel Better

27 02 2010
El: I am feeling very Debbie Downer today.
Which may be attributed to the fact that I couldn’t sleep last night and didn’t drop off until 4ish.
Lo: Wah-wah.
(That was the Debbie Downer noise.)
El: (I know.)
Lo : Well, maybe you can just imagine me running a Vietnamese Restaurant called Pho Realz.
El: So – I was thinking about it – and I think it should be a Vietnamese / soul food restaurant.
Lo : Go on….
El: Well – um, that’s about it.
Lo: Oh. I just like saying “Go on…”
El: It makes me so nervous!!
Like I haven’t prepared properly
And here’s a bonus:
Lo: A message was just in my Spam folder that said “Fire your boss! As seen on TV with Tom Bosley!”
El: What??
Lo: Exactly. I guess someone had it out for Father Dowling and his mysteries?

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Lo’s Not Dead!

22 02 2010

Pretty accurate representation of what happened.

But my computer kind of died. So I bought myself a kicky new laptop and I’m back in business! Mostly. The goddamn laptop doesn’t like my camera, so I can’t show you pictures of how I spent my winter vacation. Yet. I’m still working on getting the desktop fixed so they will appear at some point. ANYWAY. Did you miss me? Yes, I know. What have I been DOING all this time, since I couldn’t update my blog OR check Facebook? GOING OUT OF MY FUCKING SKULL, THAT’S WHAT. Also, I’ve been cooking. A lot. Steak fajitas, pot roast, cookies, brownies, and, as a special treat for my Sig Ot for finally after all this time NOT getting me anything for Valentine’s Day, cinnamon rolls. From scratch. Awwwwwwwwww yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Since I am always looking to use yeast more in my baking, I thought that this would be a delicious experiment. Verdict? FUCK YEAH IT WAS. I’m not sure I can ever eat a piddly from-a-can cinnamon roll again. The Pioneer Woman has a fine looking recipe on her site, but she lives on a goddamn cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere with a kitchen I am fairly certain is the size of my entire house, and we all know I suck at fractions, so I didn’t want to fuck up her recipe by trying to whittle it down (even if you halve it, it makes 25-30). SOOOO, I turned to my old friend in the bow tie, America’s Test Kitchen. This particular recipe rules for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that it’s easy. I highly recommend starting the dough the day before. Then, after it’s all risen and assembled, cover it and stick it in the fridge. The next day all you have to do is preheat and pop ’em in. (Note: El came to visit this past weekend and I was all “Yeah! I’ll make cinnamon rolls!” and she was all “AWESOME!” and then we went out for sushi and got a little tipsy and there were naps and they never happened. ::sigh:: Next time. Right? Right.)

Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book)

Dough:

  • 3/4 cup butter milk, warm (110 degrees)
  • 6 Tbl. butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 1/4 cup AP flour (note: I wound up using closer to 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope (or 2 1/4 tsp.) instant rise yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Whisk the liquid ingredients together in a large liquid measuring cup (or a bowl if you aren’t fancy, like me). Combine 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
  2. With the mixer on low speed, add the liquid ingredients and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
  3. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue mixing until dough is smooth, elastic, and coming away from the sides of the bowl (stuck to the bottom is okay). If the dough is still wonky looking after about 5 minutes, add the rest of the flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together.
  4. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead for about 1 minute, til it forms a ball. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover that shit with some plastic wrap, and let it hang out somewhere warm for about 2 hours, until it’s doubled in size.
  5. Get yourself out a little 9×13″ metal pan and grease that baby up. I’d use butter if I were you. Mix up the filling:

The Filling

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I added more, uhDOI)
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbl. butter, melted and cooled
  1. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and flatten into a rectangle-ish shape, about 16×12″. Brush with melted butter.
  2. Sprinkle with filling, taking care not to grab a spoon and shove it into your mouth. Leave a 3/4″ border along the top edge.
  3. Loosen the dough from the counter and start rolling into a tight log. Pinch it closed and put it seam-side down. Stretch the log out another 2″ so it’s about 18″ long. Try to even the ends out. Grab a serrated knife and start slicing. This recipe makes about 12 of these puppies, so you might want to make little marks with the knife before you fuck it all up and make too few. DON’T BE A FAILURE.
  4. Arrange the rolls cut-side down in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1-1 1/2 hours. (If you’re making these the night before, refrigerate right after you arrange them in the pan and let them rise for 1-1 1/2 hours when you take them out of the fridge).
  5. Preheat oven to 350 and bake these suckers for 25-30 minutes. Revel in the fact that your house smells better than anyone else’s in your neighborhood. Unless they’re also making cinnamon rolls.
  6. While you’re waiting, make the glaze:

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbl. softened cream cheese
  • 3 Tbl. milk or buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  1. Whisk together the ingredients.
  2. Pour over cinnamon rolls while still warm. ATK says to turn the rolls out on to a rack with parchment underneath, but I left ’em in the pan.

Impress your friends (unless you get drunk and forget or nap and forget) and forget about that new workout regimen you just began…





Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

15 02 2010

A life without color would be very depressing.

I have a hard time picking favorites, but, as a viewer of Lost, I have given some thought to the old deserted island question.  You know, what music, movies, dudes, whatever, you’d choose the have stranded with you.  The one that I think about most is probably books – but because I can’t decide on just 5 books, I’ve expanded it to top 5 authors with the assumption I’d be able to take their collected works with me.  (Because this is a ridiculous thing to imagine so of course I could.)  For the past couple of years now, Jasper Fforde has had a permanent spot on that list.

Jasper Fforde is just brilliant – there’s really no other word for him.  His first series, the Thursday Next novels, were so amazing and out there they may have gotten on my island on their own.  Then came the Nursery Crimes books, which blew me away again – and weren’t quite as complicated as the Thursday Next books – they sealed the deal.  But oh my sassy molassy, Shades of Grey smacks the rest of his books in the face with awesome.  Seriously.  I don’t know if I’m going to be able to accurately convey my love for this book in words, but while I read it, I basically felt like the Nintendo 64 kid.

Shades of Grey is a post-apocalyptic novel – but instead of focusing on the apocalypse event and the resulting confusion and struggle to rebuild society, Fforde drops us in a couple of centuries after the “Something That Happened.”  In this future world, people have lost the capacity to see the full spectrum of color, and how much color and what color you can see determines your place in the very rigid social structure.  And once you have your place, everything else is figured out – who you can marry, what your job will be, where you live – there is no thinking, no exploring, only a struggle to increase your family’s color through an up color marriage.  At the bottom of this society are the Greys, those who see almost no color at all, and they are the ones who do almost all of the actual work and have almost no rights.  The story follows Eddie Russett, a red who is soon coming of age and is a bit too inquisitive for his own good – which of course leads to all the interesting troubles that add up to a story.

With any Fforde novel, the more you attempt to describe the plot, the less sense it makes.  So, I’ll restrain myself and leave it there.  But, believe me, it is so so so amazing.  This is an entirely new world, and not just because of the lack of color.  He gives us this society based on rules which seem absolutely ridiculous – I mean, what color you can see? – but are really as arbitrary as our current social laws.  Shades of Grey is a very sly satire, but you never feel as though you’re in the middle of a sermon because there’s so much humor and the mysteries are so engrossing.  And, really, isn’t that what really matters?  The story is compelling, interesting, joyful, intelligent and, above all, fun.  Oh, and lucky me, it’s the first in a new series, so I have at least two more installments coming my way.






Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

9 02 2010

Wow, I have been super absent around here.  I’m blaming all the freaking snow – it’s kind of suffocated my will to live.  That is until I hit a wicked awesome reading streak – 4 super good books in a row and it’s showing no sign of stopping (like winter, ugh).  Here’s the first one I finished…


I don’t drive all that much, I live about a block away from my office and walk to work most days.  So I kind of get excited about an out of town trip, because those uninterrupted hours in the car alone give me the perfect opportunity to listen to an audiobook – reading and driving at the same time!!  Now, I know there a lot of audiobook haters out there, Lo being one of them, and I get it.  For a long time, I couldn’t do it, they’d put me to sleep – which is definitely a negative while driving – and I have some listening comprehension issues, so even if I stayed awake, I wouldn’t be able to follow what was going on.  Then it just clicked for me one day, and I finally got why everyone was so stoked for audiobooks.

Because there are fundamental differences between listening and reading (uh-der), choosing a good audiobook is very different than picking out a good book.  I prefer fast paced, action heavy audiobooks – they’re better at keeping my attention and make a more exciting listening experience.  And the narrator makes a huuuuuge difference – there have been books I’ve picked up simply because I like the reader.  I recommend avoiding books by Nicholas Sparks or Kristin Hannah if you’re a crier – sobbing hysterically while driving is not good.  And I generally don’t pick up a more “literary” type book – for me, the beauty of the writing is lost on audio.

Which brings me to Interred With Their Bones – the Mary Poppins of audiobooks, it is practically perfect in every way.  It follows Kate, a Shakespeare scholar and director of Hamlet in the newly rebuilt Globe Theater.  Shortly before the show is set to open, her old mentor, Roz, shows up with a package and the promise of adventure.  Before Kate can find out much more, Roz is murdered, the Globe is burned down, and Kate is thrown into a journey she didn’t want to take.  The action goes from London to the States and Kate finds herself chasing down one of Shakespeare’s lost plays as well as the playwright’s true identity – all while trying to not get murdered.  The story is super fast paced, but because Carrell is actually a Shakespeare scholar herself, incredibly well-researched and believable.  I mean, this book was so exciting that it kept me awake and alert while driving back from Richmond at the end of the LONGEST DAY EVER.  And Kathleen McNenny, the narrator, is FANTASTIC – her character voices were great, she did accents well (except for Mexican…that was just weird sounding), and her tone and pace were very listenable. All in all, highly recommended to anyone who likes audiobooks, or even if you’re thinking about giving them a try, this would be a good starting point.