30 September 2009

My Favorite Things #10

Orange slippers from LL Bean (especially when I have an LL Bean credit card and can rack up the points with which to obtain said slippers for free). Fuzzy and warm and cute! What more could you want?

Lip shimmer from Burt's Bees. Much better than lipstick, in my opinion, and available in thirteen beautiful colors.

Cold weather that calls for down vests and potato chowder. :)

28 September 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: A Throwback

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Sometimes--a lot of times, actually--elementary school gets the best literature. On my list of Favorite Books Ever, supposed "children's" literature takes up more than its fair share of space.

24 September 2009

In Which I Make Several Discoveries

A couple weeks ago, Jared and I went to Culturas, the tapas restaurant at El Serrano on Columbia Avenue. I had never tried tapas before, but my parents had gone to Culturas the month before and I was pretty excited when we walked through those carved mahogany doors. (Is there anything cooler than heavily ornamented wood? I submit that there is not.)

Well, I discovered that tapas are awesome, especially when they are really expensive and eaten by candlelight on a Spanish-style balcony overlooking a fountain-and-shrubbery filled courtyard. (A SHRUBBERY!) The avocado frito was something of a revelation. Who knew you could fry avocado? Or serve it with balsamic vinegar and wasabi? I sure didn't.


Yesterday I was making Italian bread, and when I walked into the kitchen to place the beautifully shaped, slashed, and risen loaves into the oven, I realized that smoke was coming from the vent. Oh, bother. Sure enough, the oven had a fire in it, thanks to a very buttery pie crust the day before and very buttery scones a few days prior. Ergo, discovery number two: the postponement of oven-cleaning is a horrible idea.

The bread turned out just fine, though. After the fire died, I scraped the bottom of the oven and baked those shaped slashed risen loaves until they were golden and steaming. So there.

22 September 2009

My Favorite Things #9

Today, my two favorite Hot Beverage Makers.

A glass infuser teapot. Put a heaping tablespoon of loose-leaf tea in the infuser basket, pour in hot water, wait a few minutes. Voila, excellent tea with a beautiful presentation. My glass teapot doesn't look exactly like this, but close enough . . .
A French press coffeemaker. My parents have the largest size (I think it's the largest anyway) and I have a smaller one. Again, it is super easy to use and looks classy in the meantime; measure out coarse-ground coffee, pour in hot water, stir and let steep. Then gently push down to strain out the grounds. I do like glass.

21 September 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: I have spread my dreams

"Aedh Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven" by William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.

Watched 84 Charing Cross Road last night with Mom and Dad. A good thoughtful movie-- and Anthony Hopkins' character quotes this poem toward the end.

17 September 2009

Thankful Thursdays: Chocolate and Chopin

I guess the title says it all. They are very comforting things to have on a cold, cloudy day.

15 September 2009

My Favorite Things #8 (and a recipe)

Using Facebook in Spanish. It's really funny to see how things translate, and it helps the Spanish channels of my brain to flow a little more smoothly.

Putting fudge sauce (homemade, of course) in the freezer. Two good things about this: first, you always have it ready for ice cream sundaes, cheesecake drizzling, or chocolate-dipped pretzels. Second, you can eat it with a spoon. Thick fudgy deliciousness. Not that I'd, uh, know that from experience.

While we're on the topic, here is the Recipe of the Week as well. Bonus post!

Dark Chocolate Fudge Sauce

1/2 c. butter
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. cocoa, sifted

In small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter in cream.
Stir in sugar until completely dissolved.
Whisk in cocoa gradually, until there are no lumps.
Bring to boil, stirring all the while to prevent scorching.
Reduce heat to low; cook on low for about ten minutes, stirring frequently.
Let cool. Serve or freeze (or both).

This is my favorite fudge sauce. It is not overly sweet, but packs a powerful chocolate punch. And yes, health-conscious friends, this sauce has a lot of calories. Suck it up.

14 September 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: Our Secret, Only Ours

"At a Dinner Party" by Amy Levy

With fruit and flowers the board is deckt,
The wine and laughter flow;
I'll not complain-- could one expect
So dull a world to know?

You look across the fruit and flowers,
My glance your glances find.
It is our secret, only ours,
Since all the world is blind.

I think that unspoken confidence-- the communication of trust and affection, without the burden of words-- is one of the greatest treasures a relationship could yield. It's good just to be quiet with the ones you love.

11 September 2009

"Let Them Drink Art": Another Reason to Love Tea

I'm a big fan of Portland Studios, and I just found this archived post on their blog. Painting with tea? Inherently awesome.

If I ever write a children's book, I want these guys to illustrate it.

10 September 2009

Thankful Thursdays: A Nice Duo

Two things today: one for me, one for someone else.

First of all, my students are awesome. They're so darn excited about literature and writing, and if anything, they ask too many questions. I would much rather have that than apathy, even when I have seventeen thousand emails in my inbox every morning demanding clarification on some exceedingly minor point. lol :) And second, Jared is now working full time, which is an answer to (lots of) prayer. We've seen so much of God's perfect timing and provision this summer; He is gracious beyond what we deserve.

09 September 2009

Recipe of the Week: She Sells Stuffed Shells...

. . . except she doesn't sell them. She just makes them and serves them to the Italian-food-loving people of her acquaintance.

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

12 oz. box jumbo pasta shells
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 egg, beaten with fork
2 c. ricotta cheese
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. minced fresh basil
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. salt
24 oz. jar spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Heat olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until translucent; transfer to large bowl.
Add thawed spinach and beaten egg to bowl, and stir to combine.
Add cheeses and seasonings, reserving 1 c. mozzarella. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, cook shells according to package directions (I undercook them by one or two minutes). Drain well, and toss with a few teaspoons of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Fill each shell with about two tablespoons of cheese mixture. Place filled shells in prepared pan; you might need to use a small pan as well, depending on how large your shells are and how closely you pack them into the first dish. :)
Spoon spaghetti sauce over shells (don't drown them).
Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with reserved mozzarella, and bake 5-10 more minutes.

08 September 2009

My Favorite Things #7

Ziploc bags. Goodness, they have a million uses, from shredded lettuce to Latin flashcards. They make packing so easy, because clothing is compressed once you squish out the air and seal the bag. They fit into corners where solid boxes don't. They also make barriers where needed: wet swimsuits stay away from the rest of your suitcase, while onions stay away from the less pungent inhabitants of the refrigerator.

Besides, ziploc bags come in many handy sizes, so you can always find one to fit, whether you have a long baguette or a tiny collection of hairpins. I took a box of them to Turkey, and it was one of the best decisions of the trip.

No, I am not being paid by a plastic-bag-company to promote their products. haha :)

07 September 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: The Comfort of Providence

It fortifies my soul to know
That, though I perish, truth is so;
That, howsoe'er I stay or range,
Whate'er I do, Thou dost not change.
I steadier step when I recall
That, if I slip, Thou dost not fall.
-Arthur Hugh Clough

03 September 2009

Thankful Thursdays: Absolutely Gorgeous!

IT'S SEPTEMBER. The weather has changed accordingly. Pale foggy mornings and crisp autumn breezes and apples ripening by the side of the road? Yes please. Weather like this has always been my favorite, and a lot of my most cherished memories are linked to it; with every cold snap or reddened leaf, an instinctive excitement rises in me, and I rush to grab a scarf and take a walk in the beauty outside my door. I don't want to see the thermometer above 70 degrees again for a good long while.

Besides, when you consider that we have a year-long pass to Longwood Gardens, you can see why I'm reveling in the gorgeousness of the season.

01 September 2009

My Favorite Things #6

Coffee that is not from Starbucks . . . or as my dad calls it, Charbucks. That stuff is burnt and needs cream, sugar, and a shot of hazelnut syrup to make it drinkable. I'll take Green Mountain, Seattle's Best, the coffee at Panera, or any of the good little coffee shops around here over Starbucks. Yes, I will drink Starbucks if there is absolutely nothing else. But only if I need caffeine, and only with that cream, sugar, and hazelnut. The cinnamon dolce lattes are pretty good, actually-- but it's kind of sad that you need to dump a lot of flavoring in your coffee. You should be able to drink it straight, without doctoring it up.