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Are tedious. I learned this last night. Last night, as I was peeling them for the stuffing that is at this very moment in the oven inside our turkey.

Jamie has written about our Thanksgiving dinner. Although somewhat smugly. Ahem…

Indeed, I have been loathe to go against the food experts and cook my stuffing inside my turkey. The recipe we’re using, however, makes it easy to cook it inside the turkey, to maximize the flavor, and yet easily remove said stuffing for continued cooking to temperature after the bird is removed. Indeed, compromise.

I don’t know about the green bean casserole happening today. I’ve been doing all the cooking this year, as Jamie has come down with one whopper of a cold and has been laid out since yesterday. I’m hoping against hope that I’m not visited by the same bug. Fingers crossed.

But yes, the chestnuts. I’ve never peeled chestnuts. Everything I read, pre-peeling, seemed to indicate that it was indeed a laborious, hit-or-miss kind of thing with, very often, crumbled, rather than nice, whole, nut meats.

I decided to try the 1896 recipe that I found on About.com. It worked beautifully. No crumbled nuts.

It’s still not easy though, prying the shells off the suckers; imagine hot splinters shoved under your fingernails over and over and over again and you’ll get the gist. My thumbs are achin’.

I’m sure the chestnuts will be delicious in the stuffing. I’ll enjoy it immensely and keep it as a fond memory as I’ve no intention of ever peeling chestnuts again.

The cranberry salad. This is an anticipated treat in my family usually prepared by my Aunt Marcia, and since she’s not here to prepare it for us… While I’m not at liberty to share the recipe, I can assure you, and Jamie, that there are no oysters or chives to be found. It’s delicious. It better be ’cause I did make a hell of a lot of it, although not the 18 pounds Jamie has indicated. By the time we finish it up though, it might just seem that way.

So last night, after I finished mutilating my thumbs, I took a needed break from the kitchen and headed outside.

Oh it was lovely. It was about 11PM. It was misty, very misty, with the light of the street lamps diffused in a beautifully cinematic way. I headed down our block to a little garden area notable only as it offers a break between buildings and an unobstructed view out over the park.

And there I stood looking out into the night sky. Alone with my thoughts. And it was one of those beautiful nights, so quiet, full of anticipation, “holiday nights”; everyone is inside preparing or sleeping, dreaming of tomorrow.

And then it rained. But not rain. I was standing under a wonderful old tree whose leaves had all gone yellow. A lifetime ago, I’d have been able to tell you what kind of tree it is, but it’s one of the many things that I’ve forgotten over the years; funny how that goes. At any rate, there I was, in that gauzy mist-light in an amazing drizzle of yellow leaves. I must have stood there a good 10 minutes marveling at it all, the leaves gently falling all around me.

I love magical moments like that. That’s what is brilliant about life; you never know when those kind of things will happen. You just have to stop and be amazed when they do.

And then I went back inside and continued cooking… until about 2AM. Whatever, I’m a late-night person. Always have been. I’ve been totally acting against my nature with my current job that requires me to get up at 6AM; I can do it, but really I’m not meant to, and by the end of the week, I’m worn out from it. But I digress…

So today, I’ve been taking it slow; Jamie’s still feeling like crap, though less so than yesterday. We were going to put off Thanksgiving until tomorrow but I didn’t want the turkey to sit in the brine that long. So I’ve meandered in the kitchen today, really all that was left to cook was the pumpkin cheesecake – had batter left over, made cupcakes, yummy! – and finishing off the stuffing for the turkey. Everything else was done last night.

Except for the imported, organic green bean casserole (see Jamie’s piece for that one). We’ll make that tomorrow.

For now, the comforting aroma of roasted turkey wafts enticingly ’round the house. It’s almost time to pop the sucker out of the oven to rest while its companion dishes fill the oven void to warm up to dinner temperature.

And on that note, it’s time to baste!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Well, really Fred II.

He’s, or rather, it’s, my bread starter.And I’m starting his (’cause after all, it is a living thing that must be cared for, much like a pet, so it is far more of a “he/her” rather than an “it”) birthing process tonight. And in 6 days, I’ll have a very weak, hungry, but very much alive, starter.

Ironically, a few years ago, I discovered that I have a wheat intolerance; no, I’m not celiac, I’ve simply discovered that wheat/gluten products make me bloat, make me feel run down. You can tell by looking at me when I’ve indulged my delight of bread, I get, well, puffy.

So for quite some time, I was very strict: no wheat, no oats, nothing with gluten. I cleared my pantry of all my flours. I cleared my fridge of… Fred I. Well at the time, he was just “Fred”, not “Fred I”, but now that Fred II is coming into the world…

Ironic why, exactly? I was, am, a baker. No longer professionally, but still passionately. There is little more satisfying than starting out with some powders and liquids and conjuring up a crispy crusted, fluffy centered, delicious bread. The various aromas created throughout the process are enough to send me to heaven: First the deep, muskiness transforming during its time in the oven to a blissful, I’m at a loss for words to describe the amazing smell of bread baking, but I can say that just thinking about it now as I write, my heart is beating faster and my head is light. It is one of the most comforting smells in the world.

And I gave it all up.

And then, last January, in Paris, I had bread because, c’mon, how can you not have bread products in France? And what I discovered is, I didn’t puff. In fact, it didn’t seem to affect me at all.

My guess is that I’m not necessarily intolerant of the wheat/gluten, but rather all the processing and chemicals to which American bread products are subjected.

I’m intolerant of the adulteration.

So since when we were buying appliances for our new home I convinced Jamie to let me buy the convection oven that I’d always dreamed of, it seems incredibly stupid to not bake bread. And while it is true (he said immodestly), I’ve learned to make a mean loaf of gluten-free bread, it is simply not the same. Not the same in the production. Not the same texture in the pre-baked state: batter rather than soft fleshy-ness. And not, at all, the same smell.

And lets face it, having a convection oven at your beck and call and not baking is like having a Ferrari and driving in the slow lane. It’s denying the machine its nature.

So I’ve paused in my writing and put Fred II together. So simple. And I have to thank Julia Child and Nancy Silverton for the particular starter recipe I use to create my Freds.From Julia’s “Cooking with the Master Chefs” series, I present, for anyone hankerin’ to start their own “Fred” or “Ester” or whatever you choose to call your frothy, bubbling new pet: Nancy Silverton’s Bread Starter (I’m condensing-you can follow the “Cooking with…” link for a video of Nancy making it in Julia’s kitchen.):

  • 2 cups bread flour – she recommends a hard wheat flour-I’m using King Arthur Organic All-Purpose, no processing or chemicals added
  • 2 1/2 cups tepid water
  • 1/2 pound stemmed red grapes
  1. Stir together the flour and water in a glass or plastic container. Don’t worry about small lumps, they’ll dissolve.
  2. Tie the grapes up in a double layer of washed and rinsed cheesecloth.
  3. Crush the grapes lightly.
  4. Swirl the grape bag around in the flour/water mix.
  5. Submerge the bag in the mix.
  6. Cover the container tightly with a lid (if it has one) or with plastic wrap.
  7. Let it sit there for six days at room temperature, stirring once a day.
  8. Don’t do anything else with it. Just let it come to life.

Nancy Silverton: The bag of grapes will gradually appear inflated, and liquid will begin to separate from the flour base. The mixture will begin to taste and smell slightly fruity and the color will be strange. That is as it should be. By the sixth day, the bag of grapes will have deflated, the color will be yellow, and the taste pleasantly sour: the fermentation is complete. The starter is living but weak, and it needs to be fed.Feeding the starter:

  1. Remove the grape bag and squeeze the juices back into the starter. Discard the grapes.
  2. Stir thoroughly and transfer into a clean container.
  3. Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup tepid water.
  4. Stir well.
  5. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until it bubbles-3 to 4 hours.
  6. Cover and refrigerate.
  7. The next day, repeat steps 3 – 6.
  8. The next day, day 3, repeat steps 3 – 6.
  9. Your starter is now ready!

I didn’t say it was a fast process, nothing worth it ever seems to be, but it is so very worth each and every one of those nine days. And after this first big production, it gets much easier, you just need to do the three day feeding process each time you want to use it. To clarify, you will not be using all the starter in a recipe, unless, of course, you’re baking a hell of a lot of bread; more power to you.

And now, like Fred II and, indeed, Jamie (who’s been asleep for hours), I’m off to bed, to dream of delicious, crusty pillows of delight!

Ok, so I really, really like bread; so sue me.

Nite, k.

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As in the look of the site.

I’m still not happy with it.

I know what I want. At least I know the look I want at the moment.

I guess I’m going to have to buckle down and start learning how to code my own themes.

I used to hand-code everything. Years ago. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept up on the latest specs of HTML. Okie doke, guess I’ll have to do a quick refresher on that, too.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this theme, in fact, I really like its clean layout and design. It’s quite lovely.

It’s just not me. Well, of course it’s not, I didn’t create it. Adding in some of my own pics is not going to make it “me”.

This learning process will probably take a bit. I guess, then, that I’ll keep on switching between other people’s themes for the time being, adding just enough “me” to make it a bit “mine”.

Wish me luck.


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It seems as though that is exactly what this weekend is turning out to be. A weekend of roundtuit.

Now I suppose that it should really be spelled “roundtoit”. But, seeing it, you wouldn’t pronounce “roundtoit” the same, correct way one would pronounce “roundtuit”. At best, “roundtoit” would be gifted a French sensibility and be pronounced, “rontoi“; but what the hell is that? And without the French inflection, well, “roundtoit” is just rude.

So “roundtuit” it is. “Roundtuit”, as in, “when I get around to it,” in case that wasn’t painfully obvious by now.

‘Round to what? Little things around the house that I’ve been putting off: painting the trim on the door frames, painting the window trim in the bedroom, touch-up painting all over the house. Lots of painting. Frankly, I’m sick of painting.

But you know what? From now on, when I’m sitting on the couch or walking down the hall or lying in bed, well, I won’t have that splotch, that ill-defined line, that naked, primered window frame taunting me. No, I’ve put those little household demons to bed.

Now I can sit back, relax… and ponder the other projects I want to get done around here. The joys of home-ownership.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

New pix of the “finished” product coming soon, I promise.


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I’ve decided to devote the text widget, that space with the unfrequently updated “Semi-daily thought/quote”, to a higher purpose.

I’ve decided to act upon one of Jamie’s previous posts, “100 words that every High School senior – and their parents – should know”

So every day for the next 100 days (hopefully), I’ll update that little widget with a new word on the list.

We find fun where we can. 😉

For the complete list, go to: 100 Words

Today’s word (and as it’s 11:30PM, tomorrow’s as well) is: Abjure.


**UPDATE** I seem to have broken my widget. It won’t upload today’s word. Project on hold for the time being. Damn.

**2nd UPDATE** Seems to be working again. Welcome to “abrogate”.

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I’ve mentioned briefly before Jamie & my recent collision with organized religion and how, through the bad, it did bring about great good.

For the two-ish years we attended this particular church, we were heavily invented in it, in all senses of the word; we invested our emotions, our time and our money. As I said in the post linked to above, we are both still giving back financially to… God, Higher Power, what-have-you: to the Divine from which all things come.

Yes, I am spiritual. I do believe in a “higher power”. I have my little conversations with whatever you choose to call it, nearly every day. I find it comforting. I find it worthy. I find, in this world of increasing “me”-ness, that the acknowledgement of some power “greater than” is a centering, humbling practice.

For me.

Everyone is different, has different needs, practices, beliefs or lack thereof. It makes me no better, or anyone who doesn’t feel the same way, any worse. Our differences, as my dear Bob Bendorff used to say, are what “makes the phone book”. Homogeneity, monoculture, how boring and soul killing would a world like that be?

So this week, I’m feeling like I want to go to church on Sunday. Not that church. Never going back there. But there’s an Episcopal within walking distance and I’d like to go tomorrow.

Why? I’ve no idea. It’s just a desire that’s cropped up in my gut. I tend not to question these things. I just feel like I want… I don’t know, the experience, the reverential pause, mutually shared.

I like going outside our apartment to look at the sky, the trees, the world. It is my own personal reverential pause. My personal moment to stop and look around me, to see and feel the world. And really, that’s kind of my church, standing in the air, listening to the trees and birds and insects, looking up at the stars… It’s where I find my “calm center”.

I’ve always had a dicey relationship with organized religion. Through the years I’ve read, tried out, experienced a variety of religious permutations: Christianity, Eastern, the old religions. I’ve found all of them somewhat lacking as they are all tainted by the human element. To use a base, somewhat spiritually deficient corollary, it’s like my beautiful, pristinely shiny stainless steel refrigerator, you can’t touch it without leaving a fingerprint. And that fingerprint stands out like a sore thumb.

Organized religion is the attempt to understand the mystical, to put it in a neat box. You can’t.

Well, oops, organized religion is the attempt to control the masses though the use of a big bat called “God”, ‘Allah”, the Maiden, Mother and Crone (admittedly the older earth-based spriritualities are less so, but still, in a coven, there’s a leader and where you have a leader…), what-have-you. Organized religion is about “rules”.

“The Spirit” existed long before man came along and will still be here when we are nothing but a memory. We are unnecessary in the bigger picture. Organized religion tends not to pay that any mind.

And in the end, what are these religions all saying? What is the base from which all the man-made extranea is built? What are the basic rules?

How about: respect and love.

How good is man with those concepts? How good is organized religion with those concepts?

And so, I’m left with this slight feeling of hypocrisy in wanting to go to church tomorrow.

But sometimes, I like the ritual, the community. And sometimes, the Spirit manages to make an appearance despite the man-made constraints. And those times are glorious.


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