Thursday, July 17, 2014

Funny Things My Husband Says

(After winning at backgammon for the third time in four games, a change from the status quo of me winning more often than not)
Post-game board

 Don't worry, we'll re-match later.

But I need at least an hour to bask in the glory of my win.

And I'm going to do that by throwing away our donut trash.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Real food blogging: Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Any Way You Want It

Writing about how much I love buttermilk reminded me of how much I love buttermilk.  So, since I like to cook (though not as elaborately as my sister), I've been picking up half-gallons buttermilk from Braum's to make waffles.  And then, since we can't be wasting any food around here, I'm forced into making pancakes.  Or biscuits.  Or coffee cake.  Or all three.  A half-gallon goes quite a long way.

It's the coffee cake I want to talk about today*.

Adapted from my favorite magazine, I've been making this coffee cake on repeat, tweaking it every time.

Quick math problem^: the recipe instructs the cake be baked in a 9 in round.  However, I'm in the midst of a super-drawn out move and my 9 in round has been packed for weeks.  So, what do I use?  8 in square or 9 in square?  A prize to the first one who answers in the comments.**

The first time, I used a cup of jam like the original recipe calls for, but I found it too sweet.

Southern Living spread
The second time, I omitted the jam but failed to add any fruit to make up for it, and it was just a tad dry.

Then, I added more fruit, covering the top and almost reaching perfection.  The variety of this cake, with peaches and blueberries and blackberries and strawberries, was quite lovely.

Finally, I incorporated some of the fruit into the batter: perfection!

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake
The beauty of this coffee cake is that it's rich without too much butter (but some butter, don't you worry).  It's sweet without being overly so.  And its endlessly variable, so a. you can use whatever fruit you have and b. you don't get sick of it.

Any Flavor Buttermilk Coffee Cake
Adapted from the October 2013 Southern Living

Makes: 8 servings; Hands On: 15 minutes; Total: 1 Hour, 5 minutes

2 c. all-purpose flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. table salt
2 large eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. sugar
4 T butter, melted (original recipe calls for shortening, but I only do real food)
1 1/2 c diced or sliced fresh fruit (berries, peaches, pitted cherries and other soft fruit are excellent choices)
1/4 c. chopped nuts (optional)
1 c. powdered sugar
2 T buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Sift (or fake sift: whisk) first 4 ingredients.  Whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk four mixture into egg mixture.***  When well incorporated, lightly stir 1/2 cup of fruit into batter.

2. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9-in round (or a square- see math problem above).  Top with reminder of fruit and chopped nuts.  Sprinkle with 1 t. granulated sugar.

3. Bake at 350 for 38-45 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool.

4. Whisk together powdered sugar and 2 T buttermilk.  Drizzle over warm coffee cake.  (Omit if you want)

5. Take a small taste-tester bite.  End up eating 1/8 of the entire cake.  Cut reminder of the cake into equal servings.

*And how to flip pictures on blogger.  Anyone know?

^I used to teach math.  Sometimes I miss it.  Well, the math I miss.  Sometimes, some of the kids.  Sometimes even the teaching.  But pretty much never the grading and the constant complaints and the panic that the kid doesn't understand a new concept in the first five minutes its presented or the lack of panic that a kid doesn't understand an old concept after a month and the lack of responsibility for one's own learning. 

 Or the talking.  I never miss the talking.

**This may or may not be true.  It probably depends on where you live and how easily I can give you a loaf of (homemade!) bread.

***Taste-test batter despite concerns about raw eggs, if you're not pregnant.  Discover that you omitted the sugar.  Oops!  Add sugar and resume.

Real story.  So glad I'm not pregnant and thus taste-test all batters.  One and a half pints of blueberries almost wasted.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to Turn a Short Run to the Store into $50 Down the Hole in Five Easy Steps

1. Make sure at least three of the seven things you need to pick up cost five dollars or more

Grocery List
2. Buy two packages of brats because they are on sale... even though they've been on sale for the past month

3. Buy three packages of butter because the hormone-free kind are on sale.  So much so they are the cheapest quarts of butter at the grocery store.  When is that going to happen again?

(Probably all the time, for the next few weeks, until it's sold out, because you go to the super duper cheap grocery store where no one else ever buys stuff like Tom's toothepaste or Bob's Red Mill polenta or hormone-free butter)

4. Accidentally observe that the Nutella is on sale.  Super sale.  Two jar kind of sale.

5. Throw in a few discount Alessi products for good measure.

All the Stuff I wasn't Supposed to Buy

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Source and Summit of Life

So, anyone who reads my blog regularly (hi, mom!  hi, husband!) has probably realized I like to blog about funny things that happenunexpected & indirect ways being Cuban has affected mefood, and other randomness.

I'd like to keep it that way.  

Our beloved parish, late winter

As I've said before, I don't like arguing and engaging in conflict on the internet.  

Receiving the Eucharist at our wedding mass

But there is something so serious and pressing that is threatening to happen in my beloved city that I feel compelled to take a break from regularly scheduled programming.

There is a black mass scheduled to take place at the Civic Center in September, on the feast of St. Matthew.

The Catholic mass is a biblical liturgy with two climaxes: a Gospel reading and the transformation of ordinary bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

It is also a constant in my life.  It's marked all major life events, from birth to graduations to the beginning of my marriage; what better way to mark time than to participate in the ritual that is both within time and beyond time, a piece of heaven on earth?

When I travelled to Russia, we attended many masses in the extremely unfamiliar Russian language, yet I was able to pray and participate through the familiarity with the form of the liturgy- and even sing the Regina Caeli in latin, along with everyone else.

In the past few months, often sleep-deprived and always distracted by my little babe, the rhythm of the liturgy allows me to pray and participate even in while nursing a baby or holding one of her cousins.

A black mass is not just a Satanic ritual, which is offensive enough, but it is an inversion and perversion of the Catholic mass. A true black mass involves the desecration of the Eucharist, Jesus' body and blood, with urination and other bodily fluids.  It often involves using the naked body of a (not free) woman as an altar.  Presumably, some of these details may change to conform to Oklahoma laws.

It is absolutely appalling that this is allowed to go on at a public venue.  So far, the Civic Center and the city of Oklahoma City have abdicated responsibility under the guise of the First Amendment's right to free speech.  They say they have no power because of this because it is protected speech under the First Amendment.

No speech is just "speech." Speech is always an act. But a black mass is not just a speech act about why Catholics are wrong, nor even is it poking fun of Jesus: it is a hate crime.  It is the desecration of a holy object. Would the same policy apply if a Neo-Nazi group came to desecrate holy Jewish objects on stage?

Additionally, this particular black mass is hosted by a registered sex offender who was convicted of sexual battery in 2009.  

Sometimes leaving with something is worse than leaving with nothing

A few weeks ago, my friend Abby, the baby, and I went to Wal-Mart with one purpose: ear piercing.

After wandering (and wondering) around, trying to find the jewelry department and getting distracted by all the STUFF (as usual) we were told that we would have to return later.

The jewelry department couldn't ear pierce then.

Shopping our local Walmart
(bag courtesy of Holiday Pop-Up Shops, press packet)
Well.  Fail #1.

Since every trip outside the house with a small baby is often an epic journey, I decided not to waste the Walmart outing.  We would finally, finally get a second car key to my husband's HHR.

More wandering around, trying not to get absorbed in all the little baskets or mason jars, to find the place that makes duplicate keys.

The automotive department.  Not where I expected.

We wait in line.  I hand the lady the key; she rummages through the keys on the counter to try to find one that will work.  No luck.  She turns to a box with the fancier keys, behind her.  No match.

Fail #2.

Luckless in two noble pursuits, we decide to get fancy chocolate.  We find the aisle easily and each pick our own bars.

Mmmm, Ghiradelli!  Mmmm, dark chocolate with sea salt caramel.

Fail #3.

Time to check out brought us to terribly long lines in at all the cashiered registers.  Two options were left: wait at least ten minutes or (further) compromise our morals by using the automated registers that replace an employment opportunity with a machine.

As you can see from the above photo, we chose the latter.

Walmart 4, Us 0.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Interwebs

Sometimes it seems like the internet is either: a. “just a bunch of cat pictures or something,” (as my friend Anna says) or b. a big fight.*

 So, when I’m nursing a baby and surfing the web, it can be really discouraging when it seems like everything out there is designs to make the reader angry, either at the writer or with the writer, at something else.  

It’s even more discouraging when a piece written by a mommy blogger, intended to encourage new moms to relax, enjoy their baby, use their instincts and common sense about safety instead of stressing all the time, is ferociously attacked.

Or when people de-friend each other over differing political opinions.

This was the most discouraging thing about yesterday's discussion; many, many people stated proudly that the now knew who they "have nothing in common with" so purged them from Facebook.

Yes, we may have profound disagreements over things like the purpose of medicine, but that does not mean we have nothing in common.  We have a shared humanity, generally, plus lots of specific things in common with specific people.

So, in honor of yesterday's big fight, here are a few positive forces on the internet, from the lighthearted and funny to the inspiring and insightful.  So, if you: a. have lots of time to waste or b. are nursing a baby who won’t let you read a book but will let you read your phone,** here’s some sites to check out, from Serious Thinkers to outfit and food inspiration to actually good mommy bloggers:

The Faux Martha: Pretty pics, yummy recipes, and a good dose of keepin’ it real.  Only problem is her enthusiasm for Nutella.  And that's only a problem because Nutella is a little too delicious.

Orangette: Probably everyone reads this.  She’s, like, the best food blogger in the world.  Or so the London Times thinks.  Haven't read enough food blogs to know, but she's really good. I interviewed her about her new book here.

In Honor of Design: Lovely photographer, positive tone, and beautiful clothing that inspires me to actually get dressed even when I don’t really leave the house

Personalist Project: really smart people talking about personalist philosophy as relates to daily life- or, how to demonstrate the value of the human person in our everyday actions

Catholic Catalogue: Beautiful project aimed at anyone who is looking to live a more meaningful life, with small practices to start alongside book, movie, and music recommendations

Fike Life: Hilarious mommy blog.  (Don’t read it if you’re offended by an attentive mom who uses her common sense more than expert advice.) 

But, really. 

I thought mom blogs were a. opinions on the Best Way to Mother or b. 3000-word reflections on a small event in daily life that provided some piece of insight to the writer and is of interest only to those who know her and even then it reminds me of why print is not and should not die…. Editors… yes, editors are really good… no, great. 

I think I need one right now.

Anyway, Blythe Fike provided me wrong.  Mommy blogs can be comical retellings of little events, mixed with humble insight into the whole parenthood thing.

Verily: their tagline “Less of who you should be, more of who you are,” says it all; a different way to do a women's magazine, online.

The Billfold: subtitled “Everything you always wanted to know about money but were too polite to ask.”  Yes, I do wonder about how other people spend and save and earn their money.  I’m only a little ashamed to admit it.  Plus: a. I like their humourous style and b. I feel really good about how much I earn freelancing… and really bad about how little other people are willing to accept for what they write.

Any website recs from you, reader?

My real reading favorites.

*I mean, it was actually a (successful) career plan for some late-twenties guy to start a blog in which step one is to right “true” things that utterly lack compassion in tone and self-admitted actions (like leaving the grocery store mad at someone you disagree with) and then get upset because people think you don’t like them, when it’s really their actions you don’t like.

Yup.  And then, like, 10,000 people “like” the post about the distinction between not liking someone’s actions and not liking the person, because that is a real distinction… if you act that way.

**If c. you’re just looking for something new to read, I recommend a book.  Try: War and Peace, Father Brown stories (for all you mystery-lovers out there), Peace Like a River, Anne of Green Gables, Ceremony of Innocence, Tobit’s Dog, Pride and Prejudice, etc, etc.  This is just what I came up with off the top of my head; book suggestions are endless.  Feel free to leave more in the comments.