Austin to Boston Food Blogger Swap

Back in December, I had the enormous privilege to participate in the Austin to Boston (ATXBOS) Food Swap. I was matched with Jo at Hungry Crafter, which was a brilliant match, given our shared interests in food, cooking, and crafting.

After a few hastily exchanged emails (we were matched right before my defense) and following each other on Pinterest for a number of weeks, I felt ready to curate a package for Jo that spoke to both our overlapping tastes (hello, salted caramel!) and represented Austin’s local food culture.

In the package that went to Boston, I included the latest issue of Edible Austin, a copy of the Austin Chronicle (the one with my review of Bacon in it), a Bearded Brothers energy bar, some homemade matzoh crack, a small jar of salted caramel pear butter, some peanut brittle popcorn from Cornucopia, small pouches of vanilla bean sugar and Native Texan bbq rub from Savory Spice Shop, a bottle of Goodflow honey, some peppermint marshmallows from Coco Paloma (a last-minute addition that ended up making me miss the December 15 deadline, which was not a huge deal), a salted caramel brownie from Mary Louise Butter, and a couple of dishcloths I knitted. I am pretty proud of this goodie box!

I mailed the box out on December 16 (or 17, can’t recall) and held my breath. Jo was running late on her box, too. As it turns out, our packages probably crossed in the mail, as hers arrived here on Monday the 19th (the day before we were leaving for Phoenix for a week!), the same day that mine arrived in Boston! We really are truly kindred — and tardy — spirits.

Here are goods of Boston provenance that arrived that day: a bag of Effie’s oatcakes, of which I gobbled down two before reading the nutritional information; marshmallow Fluff (BK and LK had their first-ever Fluffernutters yesterday as a result); a bag of Fastachi nut mix; a bottle of maple syrup; some local dried cranberries, which are so delicious that I am rationing them for Very Special Salads and the occasional small fistful for snacking; a couple of pellets of Taza chocolate; and a couple of snack bags Jo made after observing my craft-related pins on Pinterest. She also included a lovely card with an image done by a local artist and tons of recipes and articles about the included products.

I am so pleased with this swap and to have made a new “penpal”! In fact, I may be presenting a paper (on food in The Hunger Games) at a conference in Boston in April and I hope to meet Jo in person (as well as get my hands on more of those cranberries!). Thanks to the organizers for making such a fun exchange happen!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mom’s Olive Oil Orange Bundt Cake

I decided, on the spur of the moment yesterday, to dip my toe back into the Baked Sunday Mornings project. I had made an executive decision, after three months of full-time work (a tough adjustment after more than 10 years of a part-time schedule!) and weekends that saw us run ragged with To Dos, to just do nothing. Putter. Laze around. Not rolling on Shabbos, so to speak.

This, of course, meant that in addition to doing chores and taking a fairly long nap, that I spent a fair amount of time sewing and baking. But at least it was an agenda I set for myself, and by that right, it was very relaxing. And the tangible results of this laziness are quite delightful.

I was actually very irritated while making this cake, particularly while zesting the oranges. “Why would you make a cake calling for fresh orange zest in the middle of summer?! Oranges are a winter fruit! These grocery-store, hothouse, imported oranges are mealy and lame!” (This was all inner dialogue, mind.) One of the cookbooks that I write about in my dissertation says that “Our lives are so disconnected from organic or natural timekeeping and the best efforts of the earth, that once we enter the sterile world of pre-packaged supermarkets it is hard to remember that strawberries and tomatoes are not worth eating in January and that onion soup and oranges don’t make sense in August.” Needless to say, I totally agree.

That doesn’t mean that this cake isn’t delicious — it truly is. The oils from the orange zest did their job and the cake, which was especially scrumptious when it was still warm, is definitely a treat. It’s a little dry this morning, but I wonder if maybe 10 seconds in the microwave would activate the olive oil a bit and awaken the moisture. I just wonder what it would taste like made with locally grown oranges in season (being in Texas means that I actually do have access to locally grown oranges in season!). Maybe I’ll try this one again in December.

Holiday Recipe Zine

This year, I decided to do something a little different when it came to holiday cards. Rather than the usual card + photo of kids + letter (which I am not consistent about including anyway), I put together a little zine featuring some of our favorite, most-used recipes for 2010. I got the idea from Isa Moskowitz, who suggested it in a status update on the Post Punk Kitchen Facebook page. This site has a little primer on how to do it; I relied on it plus a hazy remembrance of my zine days back in the ’90s.

I get by with a little help from Trader Joe's dark chocolate almonds!

Matt designed the cover art, a rendering of a Space Invader in toast (a “toast invader,” if you will), and I selected a not-very-seasonal bright yellow for the cover (my rationale being that the image and the addresses would show up better on something bright). I did a limited run of 35 copies, so a large swath of our address list was left out, but we were able to include our closest friends and relations, along with a couple of people who responded to a giveaway-type query on Facebook.

I handwrote all the recipes using a fine point Sharpie, and attempted to draw cute little anthropomorphic ingredients on each page. The recipes included were:

Curried Pea dip
Spicy Peanut and Eggplant soup from Veganomicon
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders from EatingWell
Martha’s Mac and Cheese adapted from Smitten Kitchen (I really hate it with the bread cubes on top)
Lemon Bars from Smitten Kitchen

I made each of these dishes several times in 2010 and they stand out as the most popular either within our family or as served at parties and whatnot.

Of course, because I’m me (or because we went to Phoenix during the run-up to Christmas and didn’t get back until Dec. 28), I didn’t get them out until this Monday. The responses are starting to trickle in, and it sounds like if people are going to try any of the recipes, they’re going to start with the chicken tenders. If the zine is a bona fide hit, I may do it again next year; that said, I’ll start a heck of a lot sooner!

What nesting looks like

Who needs to write a dissertation when there are crafts to be crafted?

(Click photos to embiggen.)

Tea towels for Crystal’s birthday:

Twirly skirts for Fiona and Grace:

Fall 2007: Stick a fork in it

Last week, I took my last Spanish test for the semester and apparently scored well enough on it to earn an A in the class. Tuesday night, I turned in my last paper for my rhetoric/theory class, and got an A on it but an A- in the class (which is fine; I don’t really think I earned an A per se). The best part of the class came at the end; my final paper (on Derrida and Paul de Man and the work of memory and mourning) will probably end up being the primary theoretical approach to at least one chapter of my dissertation.

Speaking of which, I am now done with my coursework and am ready to advance to candidacy. All I have to do is fill out the paperwork. I hate paperwork.

Today I graded the last batch of papers for my 309K class and posted the grades, which inspired a rant about why undergrads should be subject to the +/- system rather than graduate students. But that’s a rant for another day, probably early May.

So, that’s it for the fall semster. I have some final things to do for the barbecue book, but other than that, I’m “free” for a month. To mark the occasion, I took myself out to see Atonement, which is desperately sad, impeccably gorgeous, and has been haunting me since the credits rolled. I’m only about 35 pages into the book, and I’m eager to pick it back up and re-immerse myself in that world, as bleak as it is. I have a friend who gets weepy whenever there’s a conflict between family members or lovers in movies and TV. Me? I’m a sucker for a good doomed-love narrative. There’s something about that longing that just hits me in the guts. I’ll probably see the movie again and buy the DVD when it comes out. That’s how much I loved this movie.

Tomorrow is holiday shopping (ugh) and on Sunday Layne and I are running a 5K. That afternoon, H and M and I are headed to San Antonio for an annual gathering we have with Matt’s ole buddies. Then I start my two-week tenure as a SAHM. So far I’ve planned a trip to the Children’s Museum, a paint-it-yourself pottery place, and a playdate with Jodi and Arden. Superhappyfuntime!

Okay, I’m going to go read the book now. In a post soon to come: an account of the movies I’ve watched and things I’ve knitted while watching them.

The potato chips of mourning*

I’ve been quiet. This week has been incredibly busy, with deadlines out the wazoo. I have another deadline tomorrow, but am not sweating it as much as the paper and Spanish test I had on Thursday.

This class I’m taking on Thursday nights is killing my soul. I am currently taking it for a grade, but am trying to get my status changed to credit/no credit now that it appears it’s not required for my coursework. Ugh. I got my “homework” back from the previous week on Thursday and I got a “check minus.” I am 35 g-d years old and getting my PhD. Check minus has no place in my world. I don’t even give my undergrads check minuses. You know why? Because they are adults, not third graders. Never mind that I’ve spent two weeks reading the book that was the subject of the homework, trying very conscientiously to absorb and understand it. Nor that I’ve been laboring for the past several months on a book project that has snowballed in the home stretch before submitting the manuscript to the publisher’s. Nor anything else that’s going on my life. Nope. Check minus. That’s what I earned. What. the fuck. ever.

Needless to say, I had a bit of a fit. Not publicly, and not directed toward the prof, but there were tears. And if I hadn’t had a weigh in at WW the next morning, there would probably have been wine and/or chocolate.

But I was good, and the scale reflected that on Friday morning. 3.2 pounds gone my first week back in the saddle! It’s amazing how easy it is, although eliminating dairy presents a bit of a challenge in that it is so easy to just grab a yogurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast. A girl can only have so much oatmeal. Since my meeting is on a Friday morning, the first weekend back was pretty difficult. I spent those first couple of days just retraining myself to snack on fruits and veggies instead of Wheat Thins and Goldfish. Once the workweek started, it was much easier to track points — it helps not being five paces away from the pantry, too.

And, of course, I did exactly what I swore to myself (and to M, my WW partner in crime) I wouldn’t do after our first meeting together. The women in the meeting were talking about all of the voodoo/borderline anorexic things they do before meetings. Don’t eat anything with too much salt the night before. Don’t wear jeans. If your meeting is in the morning, don’t eat breakfast. I used to do all of those things, and I hated that I was such a slave to what that scale would say, a reflection of my “true weight.” But, of course, I ate the blandest, most salt-free thing I could find on Thursday night, and nothing passed my lips on Friday morning until after my weight had been recorded. Ridiculous. Also, I’m superstitious and will make sure I weigh on the same scale each week.

It’s crazy, I know, but if it keeps me going and keeps me losing, I guess I’ll just have to settle for being crazy.

Yesterday, I went to Stitch with C and L and spent a LOT of money. But I got some Yule gifts and a very cool t-shirt for myself (which I did not pay $45 for). I am very committed to purchasing handmade or making Yule gifts this year, but I’m going to have to reconcile myself to the fact that handmade stuff is going to cost more than the lead-drenched, Chinese sweatshop-produced plastic crapola you can pluck off the shelves at Target. But damn, it is hard to justify paying $28 for an embroidered American Apparel t-shirt for rapidly growing children, even though I know I’d be supporting entrepreneurial mothers and friends.

I have work to do, so should sign off. Tomorrow, a recipe for butternut squash and carrot soup. Yum.

*with apologies to Avital Ronell

Flying solo

Matt left early this morning to visit his paternal relatives in Rhode Island. It’s his grandmother’s 93rd (?) birthday, and he feels that perhaps his chances to visit her may be dwindling. So, he left for four days, with my blessings, to go eat lobster and surround himself with a whole host of people with his surname.

I have been feeling a bit glum and lonely today — I didn’t think that I’d miss him that much, especially after we just spent four days together in Seattle with no three-foot-high, “upupupupupupupupupupup!” preschooligan shenanigans. But I felt and feel his absence acutely, and did so the minute I came home from dropping off Harrison at Nana’s.

Harry and I have a busy weekend ahead of us: tonight we’re going out for dinner, maybe Thai (I dunno about that one; Harry is uber-picky and I need bland foods right now) or maybe something a little more playground-centric (a la Central Market). Tomorrow morning, breakfast tacos (hopefully en masse with other preschooligans and their mamas) at Torchy’s (my new addiction), then the sprinklers at Town Lake Park, then a meeting at Starbucks (unavoidable and definitely dreaded) about an essay and my other contributions to a book project-turned-albatross. Then lunch with Kyle at Phil’s/Amy’s, naptime, then a trip to Maker Faire with Molly. Then dinner and the arrival of the sitter (much trepidation on my part despite my adoration for sitter in question; all stemming from anxiety about possible anxiety on H’s part with Mommy abandoning him the day after Daddy left before the sun rose) so that Mariah and I can go bask in the awesomeness that is Anthony Bourdain (how tempted I have been to unload those tix for double what I paid in order to finance my latest knitting endeavor!).

Sunday is a trip to my folks’ place in Schertz and a visit to the SA Zoo, where they have “weel fah-mingos,” H’s latest animal-related obsession. Monday is school, then dinner at friends’. So, yes, we will stay busy, but the bed for the next few nights will feel very large and cold, and the creaky-creepy nighttime noises will sound that much louder. But, I will take this time to read ahead for my classes, get caught up on my knitting and movies, and generally, be at peace with my aloneness after the boy has gone to bed.

The Lists

I have a little over two hours to kill before my evening class. How should I fill my time?

Things I should be doing:

  • reading
  • doing my Spanish homework
  • balancing my checkbook
  • paying my Visa bill
  • working out

Things I wish I was doing:

  • knitting
  • napping
  • eating chocolate

What I am actually doing: