Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Common

The New York Times recently ran an amusing article about reading and dating. The funniest bit to me was mention of a woman who broke up with a guy "because he was very keen on Ayn Rand." I feel that.

Monday, April 14, 2008

We Heart Carbs

I tried my hand at making tortillas last week, and Ickie announced they were the best ones he's ever eaten, even fresh ones made by actual Mexican people. I think they're the best ones I've had as well, and they're very easy to make.

Flour Tortillas

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
t tsp salt
1/2 cup Crisco
1 cup warm water

Mix together flour and salt; cut in shortening with a pastry blender until crumbly and well incorporated. Adding water a bit at a time, stir until dough forms. Knead for several minutes on floured surface until smooth. Split into 3 separate balls, cover with towel, and allow to rest for about an hour (can be less).

Split each ball into 3 smaller balls (to make 9 tortillas). Roll out on floured surface to 9-inch rounds. Bring an ungreased skillet to medium heat. Set one tortilla on skillet. Wait until it puffs up and starts to brown a bit on the downside, then flip over and cook the other side (second side won't take as long). Wrap cooked tortillas in a towel and keep in a warm oven until they're all done and ready to serve.

If you have any leftovers, just allow them to cool, store them in a zipper bag in the fridge, and reheat them wrapped in foil at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. They are just as good reheated the next day, and they don't last any longer than that around here. I have been serving these with carnitas (Mexican pork roasted in the crockpot).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fairytale Cocktail

Whereas Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is no work of art, it was darned enjoyable and exciting. It's an appealingly dark, quasi-feminist, creative retelling of the fairy tales of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince, set in Romania (hence, the inclusion of vampires). About a third of the way into the book I found it nearly impossible to put down. The characters had just enough depth to make them interesting, and I was fond of Jena, the practical young heroine and second sister. I did spend most of the book wanted to slap Tati, the eldest sister, who was dying of a consumption (i.e., uber-dramatic, self-imposed starvation a la Wurthering Heights).

There were some nice little details; my favorite was when a thus-far intimidating character smiled for the first time at the end of the book, and his crooked teeth "turned him from coolly handsome to charmingly plain." How often in fairy tales (or any tale) does a character improve by going from beautiful to ordinary?

That's pretty much all I have to say about it. It was very fun. I regretted coming to the end and being left with no more to read.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'd like to know how these guys got their job...

If you have BBC America in your cable line-up, I strongly recommend BBC's Top Gear, which presently airs on Monday nights (you can also watch videos on the website). It's a hilarious show, not just for able motorheads but for girly folk like myself with only enough knowledge to change a tire. (Actually, I've always found driving exhilarating, thanks to being taught by a fighter pilot in a Toyota MR2.)

Anyway, Top Gear is the latest TV obsession for Ickie and myself. The three hosts have an side-splitting rapport, rather like the Car Talk guys but with British accents, and they come up with the most bizarre stunts and practical jokes. In recent episodes I watched them race across Botswana in secondhand jalopies, pit an Alpha Romeo against a man wading through mud, race BMW and Mercedes station wagons down a burning runway, race a convertible against a man on rollerblades with a rocket pack, and compete in a demolition derby with several dilapidated campers.

Of note is that Ickie read a recent article about an American network planning to make their own version of the show, which I assume will be an abysmal disappointment.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I haven't put up a book post in a while because I've spent what felt like an eternity slogging through The Arsonist's Guide to Writers in New England these past few weeks. Back before Christmas in Longfellow Books I had picked it up and read the first chapter, which I found amusing, but as I read the book, aside from a few darkly amusing moments, I just found the story and characters incredibly frustrating and the end unsatisfying and depressing.

This novel with the appealing title by Brock Clarke is "the memoir of a bumbler," namely, Sam Pulsifer, who accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson house in his youth, went to jail, got out 10 years later and started a new life, then screwed it all up worse than he did the first time. Sam seems incapable of telling the truth, and he's an expert at making the worst decision imaginable in any given situation. To make matters worse, his family members are all as screwed up as he is, and they are selfishly unwilling to help him. (The story feels like the antithesis to Lars and The Real Girl, a movie about a suffering guy who is surrounded by gentle, caring souls who help him in every way imaginable.)

Reading Arsonist's Guide irritated me to the extent that I found it difficult to read more than a few chapters at a time (in the same way I can't watch a marathon run of BBC's The Office without getting all stressed out). Ickie enjoyed it more than I did, and whereas I admit the author can turn a phrase well and tell an attention-grabbing, unique tale, I ended the book feeling bitter about being forced to spend 300 pages hating every jerk featured therein.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fair Weather

“In blue and yellow from its grave
Springs up the crocus fair”
–Harriet Beecher Stowe

Yesterday I went for a walk in the sunny, blustery, 40-degree weather and was charmed and ecstatic to discover cheerful, bright little crocuses peeping up in a few yards bordering the woods. I might have done a little dance right there if I weren't afraid people would think I'm mad. Also, the big belly was only affording me enough energy to finish my walk, not perform jigs.

There's still snow covering the paths in the woods and piled up in many other spots, but our yard is nearly clear of it, and crocuses are unassuming yet...heraldic.