Note to self – next year, when putting in a garden, do not be talked into planting three different types of squash. I consider us lucky that the yellow crookneck hasn’t been very prolific, nor, to my great surprise, has the zucchini. This is a very good thing because the Zephyr squash is going absolutely nuts in its attempts to drown us in a giant pile of squash. Oh boy does that thing produce, especially now that the weather has gotten warmer. So far we’ve been able to stay on top of things with all the squash being produced, and I am counting myself quite lucky that I have a lot of friends who like squash, and none of them planted any this year.

The squash plants aren’t the only things enjoying the heat. The entire garden is suddenly exploding with green and the promise of fruit to come. Practically overnight the cucumbers graduated from long, lanky vines to giant climbing monsters, covered in giant leaves and tons of flowers, and I’m realizing that, much like the squash, we need to start checking those plants more often, or else we end up with cucumbers that could double as a lethal weapon. Several of the tomato plants are now taller than me, and it’s a continuing battle to keep them at least partially contained. The poor little lemon cucumber plant is only now starting to perk up, since it finally got long enough to reach the cage and I could encourage it to grow up and out from under the overbearing tomato shadow. We’ve harvested a few beautiful tomatoes already, and the plants are covered in green fruit, so it is entirely possible my dreams of making garden sauce might, for once, pan out.

In the raised brick bed, the strawberries are sending out runners in all directions and we’ve come to the conclusion that the best plan of action is to just let them eventually take over that space(and figure out where to move the herbs later). The catnip plant apparently thrives on being regularly sat on and squashed by visiting neighborhood kitties, and is now beginning to battle with the sage for control of that part of the garden. The blackberries are one giant mess and I am forever tucking the shoots back into the one narrow bed to which I’d like them to stay confined. One of these weekends we’ll get out there and rig up some string and encourage them to grow up, not out, but I suspect that eventually I’m going to have to break down and go at them with the hedge clippers, if only to keep them from taking out the compost bin.

We decided to take advantage of some empty space, now that all the lettuce is gone, and we put in two pumpkins a few weekends ago. One of them seems to be doing okay, but the other is getting ravaged by something, and the usual application of coffee grounds around the base doesn’t seem to be helping, so I’m not sure if the slugs and snails are getting bolder, or if we’ve got a new pest to deal with. I admit to being relieved that it is the ornamental pumpkin that is looking sickly, and that the pie pumpkin is the one currently surviving. I figure that, much like the peppers (which are doing SO WELL now, finally!) and the cucumbers, if we can just keep the pests away long enough for the pumpkin to really get going, we should be fine. So I’m crossing my fingers that at least one of these little sprouts can make it through.

And speaking of things with vines and giant fruit, the melon plant, which has spent the last few weeks growing at least a foot in all directions every few days and putting out flowers right and left, is finally starting to bear fruit! So far we’ve found three little proto-melons, lurking underneath the leaves, and I anxiously check them every time we go out to the garden, just to make sure they aren’t being attached by ants. I am cautiously optimistic about all those flowers, and am very much hoping that those three little melons are not the only ones for the season. Last year we were so overwhelmed with cherry tomatoes that Richard got sick of them. This year, I would absolutely love to be in the same position with melon. I may not be a fan of most fruit, but oh, I do love melon.


This week one of my sisters and her husband are hard at work on their house, taking care of a pile of big projects: tearing out an old, rotting wooden deck; replacing old ugly vertical blinds; painting and power washing and heavy yard work. This is because they are getting their house ready to be put on the market, in preparation for a move that will bring the kids closer to their schools, and the adults closer to their workplaces. In a way, they’re doing just about what we did three years ago – deciding to move closer to all the things they do, to cut down on the commute and make life a little easier in the long run.

They’ve put off ripping out that old deck for years because it was a big project and they knew it was going to be a major hassle, and they had no idea if what was underneath it might be even worse that what was already there. It turns out there was a very nice brick patio directly underneath all that wood – a patio that could have been used all these years, instead of a falling-apart deck that they pretty much avoided. Granted, it could have just as easily been ugly and nasty underneath that deck, and could have required even more work and annoyance, but oh, I know how that feels, to finally get something done and wonder why, oh why, you didn’t do this years ago

Reading their updates on Facebook made me think back to when we were getting our own house ready for putting on the market. We lived in that house for six years with boring white walls because I could never get around to picking a color and painting (the dining room was the only notable exception). We never got around to putting railings on the front porch, which meant the entire time we lived there it was a space that never got used. We never got around to doing a lot of things on that house because it always seemed like it was too much of a hassle…until it was time to move. So when we finally did the projects to make the house that much nicer, it was only to make it that much nicer for someone else.

I occasionally watch various home improvement shows on HGTV and some of the ones that fascinate me the most are the shows where they come in and get a house ready for market. Someone with a fresh eye and lots of enthusiasm comes in and suddenly rooms are painted, walls are knocked down, yards are redone, and the house looks like a completely different place. All of these things are usually done for not much money (just a lot of sweat and manual labor and determination to get it done). And I wonder how many of those homeowners look at the results and mentally kick themselves for never getting around to doing all those little fixes back when they could have enjoyed the reward themselves.

The house we live in right now is even more full of unfinished projects and good intentions than the last one, mainly because it is about 100 years old, and being full of improvement projects is sort of par for the course when you buy a house that age. It’s not like we’ve done absolutely nothing, of course – there was the whole flooring project downstairs when we first moved in, and the kitchen remodel, and most recently, the garden expansion. But there’s still so much to do in our house – things that would make it that much nicer to live in – and sometimes I wonder why it is that it’s just easier to try to pretend that the problem isn’t there and just ignore it, than to find a way to somehow get it done. After all, we have our own ugly rotting wooden deck to tackle – although ours is on the second story so it’s not as simple as just ripping it all out to expose what’s below. We’ve got a little building in the back yard that could be a terrific place for storing all the tools and gardening equipment and maybe someday chickens if the city council can ever get around to making it legal, if only it were cleared of bugs, and there was a cement floor put in, and it was wired and finished and cleaned up. There’s painting to finish downstairs, and closets that desperately need organizing, and shelving to install, and lighting to fix, and ugly vertical blinds to replace with curtains, and the yard, oh don’t even get me started on the yard, what with the raised beds all over the place and the dead peach tree and the frustrating lack of cohesive watering system, and on and on and on.

I know that part of the problem is that when you are living in the house, the sense of urgency just isn’t there. Home improvement isn’t very fun. No. Let me rephrase that. Home improvement is absolutely no fun at all while you’re doing it. Granted, there are some projects that can give you a huge sense of accomplishment once they’re done, but the ‘during’ process is invariably long and messy and exhausting, and sometimes it’s expensive, and it’s even more frustrating when you’re not entirely sure if you’re doing it right in the first place, or if it will even end up like what you envisioned when you started, and there are a bazillion other, nicer, less painful/dirty/annoying ways to spend your time. It all feels just so completely overwhelming sometimes – all those things that need doing and never seem to get done. And so I wonder what it will take before we eventually get them all done, in this house; if we’ll be able to get past all the obstacles that forever seem to jump into our way any time we think about tackling something big, or if instead, years down the road, the only reason they’ll finally be finished is to make the house nicer for someone else.

Enduring squash

I got up this morning and the very first thing I did (well, after I pet the cats and started the coffee, of course) was to peel and shred two more yellow squash. Every time we go out into the garden I find at least one more squash that is ready to pick, and there is no way that two people can eat this much squash in such a short period of time. So the current plan is to find ways to either preserve it, or to use it up.

The ‘preserving’ part of the equation is pretty much just me peeling one or two squash at a time, shredding them, and then flash freezing the shreds on a long cookie sheet covered in wax paper for a few hours. Once the little shreds are frozen, then they all get stuffed into a large freezer bag. I’m doing the flash freezing first only to prevent the entire bag from becoming one giant block of unusable squash; this way there’s little clumps of squash, but it’s much, much easier to just scoop out a giant handful without having to thaw the entire bag first.

So far I’ve given the three largest squash away to my family, and used up one giant squash in a chocolate cake, another (smaller) squash chopped and stirred into Sloppy Joes (by the way, this recipe is a lot of work, yes, but it is more than worth it. We double the veggies every time we make it), and last night I chopped up a zucchini and tossed it into the pan of salmon glop we had for dinner. Salmon glop is not a pretty dish, since it’s basically just a can of salmon (drained) plus a can of cream of mushroom soup stirred together and heated in a pan and then served over biscuits or toast whatever bready sort of thing you might have lying about the kitchen. But it’s very much a comfort sort of food for me (and luckily Richard loves it too), plus it is one of those perfect foods into which you can dump a whole lot of veggies, because salmon is a strong enough flavor that you really never notice the veggies are there. Usually I just toss in a few cans of mushrooms or peas and carrots, but it turns out zucchini works really well too, and hey, that’s one more squash off the counter. Only half a dozen or so left to go. For now. There’s still one tiny yellow squash lurking underneath the leaves (as of this morning), but there’s also still enough flowers that I suspect we’re not done with the squash explosion quite yet.


My dad’s birthday was Friday. So the family gathered for a celebratory dinner Friday night, and I volunteered to bring salad greens (because we have a rather large abundance of lettuce in the garden). Shortly before we were ready to head out, Richard and I went out into the garden to harvest lettuce, and that’s when I realized that this whole ‘checking on the garden only once a week’ thing was starting to become a very bad idea.

Last weekend there were a lot of cute little baby squash. One week later, all the cute baby squash had grown up. This is what we harvested Friday evening.

It was actually kind of comical, because I tried to carry every single one of those in a pile in my arms and had to sort of stagger back up the stairs to the kitchen. So I washed them all off, and Richard washed off all the lettuce, and then I picked three of the largest and took them to my parents’ house and foisted them on my family, because that is what you do when you have too many squash.

The state of the squash and lettuce plants, however, spurred us on for one of the biggest projects we tackled this weekend, which was to finally finish weeding the garden. In previous years we’ve gone out and hand-watered every single plant, following all the guidelines as set forth in the Square Foot Gardening book. Sometimes it was a pain, but at least that meant we were out in the garden several times a week, checking on things, catching the weeds early. This year, however, the garden’s been expanded to about four times what we were doing before, and there’s now a very lovely automatic drip system, so there’s been less of a reason for us to go out there and look at it as often.

So yesterday morning we got up at 8 and we went outside and tackled the garden. Admittedly both of us would have preferred to sleep in, but it was in the low 90’s yesterday, so it was better to get this kind of thing out of the way while it was still slightly bearable outside. We spent about an hour out there, pulling weeds and cleaning up the lettuce patch and the tomatoes and the squash. I got out the clippers and hacked back one of the tomatoes in order to rescue the poor little lemon cucumber, which was started to look a little sad and smothered. I spread more coffee grounds around the base of all the pepper plants and also two of the cucumber plants since that seems to be key to keeping the local slugs and snails at bay, although I still had to trim some of the lower hanging pepper leaves so there’d be nothing touching the ground where the stupid slugs could reach. And while we didn’t finish the entire garden that morning, we did make a serious dent in the mess by the time we finally decided we were done.

After that, it was off to Starbucks, to get coffee and pastries, and then we drove to Davis, to Impossible Acres, which is a local U-pick place. We spent an hour or so there, filling a flat box with as many strawberries we could find, then working our way down rows of raspberry bushes and braving the thorns to collect the tiny little berries that were hidden within. After about an hour or two, we were both tired and sore from bending and crouching, and our arms were pretty well shredded from the raspberry bushes, and so we decided we were done, and collected all our berries and headed back home to make jam.

For all the canning I’ve done in the past, I’ve never before made strawberry jam. But Richard loves berries and he especially loves berries in jam, and we had a whole LOT of strawberries, so it seemed like the best way to handle them. Strawberry jam is stupidly simple to make. We washed and cored enough strawberries to make about 5 cups of crushed strawberries (the food processor came in pretty handy at that point), and then I tossed those into a pot with some pectin and threw a pile of jars and lids into one of my giant canning kettles to boil, and about half an hour later, we had nine jars of strawberry jam cooling on the counter. Considering that we spent about $7.50 for all the berries, and the raspberries probably accounted for about $2.50 of that, that’s a pretty good deal for nine jars of beautiful, fresh-from-the-garden strawberry jam. As for the raspberries, they were washed and flash-frozen and tossed into the freezer for later. And after we were done with all of that, we decided that we’d done quite enough for one day, so we collapsed in little piles of exhaustion on the couch and watched the first few episodes of Star Trek (the original series) because it seemed like a very good idea at the time.

Today we finished up the garden, which included hacking down some kind of tree that keeps growing at an insane rate in the bed where the blackberry bushes are planted, and harvesting another huge batch of kale. I washed it all off and blanched it and then as I was rinsing it under cold water to stop the cooking process I had a few moments of girly freaking out because there were giant caterpillars in the kale, and I had not seen them on the leaves when I was washing them, so where did they come from, gah! At this point Richard came into the kitchen and noted that oh, yes, he’d found a lot of those last weekend. Ew. So I probably rinsed all the leaves a lot more than they needed to be, but finding a giant dead caterpillar (because it had been boiled, you see) made me a little extra paranoid. Anyway, we tossed another four cups of blanched (and decidedly caterpillar free) kale into the freezer along with all the kale we processed last weekend, and at this point if that kale keeps on producing like it’s been doing, we are going to be working our way through a whole lot of kale for months to come.

The other big project for this weekend was to deep clean the downstairs. There was vacuuming and dusting and scrubbing of counters and floors, but by the time we were done the downstairs looked better than it’s looked in an embarrassingly long time, so I am hoping that this will inspire us to do this sort of thing more often. Ha. Or not.


This weekend has been filled with a lot of unexpected good things. I like weekends like this. I think I should try to have them a lot more often.

The weekend started with Friday, since I’m still (sigh) on reduced hours. The cold I got for my birthday last weekend finally decided to release its death grip on my sinuses (or maybe it was that my sinuses finally decided to release their death grip on the cold – who knows). And I woke up in the morning feeling a sense of purpose. I was going to find myself some new black dress pants.

Shopping is usually a horrid sort of experience for me. I try on a lot of things, look in the dressing room mirror in disgust, and then eventually give up. If I am in a position where I *have* to buy clothes (because the old ones are literally falling apart, and in the case of my old black pants, the zipper broke an embarrassingly long time ago and I’ve been zipping them up with a tiny hot pink paper clip ever since, so…yeah…it was time), I will persevere until I’ve found whatever it is that I need, but it’s rare that it’s ever a remotely pleasant experience. And I’ll admit, even though I had a friend (who actually *enjoys* shopping) going with me, we were headed for the mall. Shudder. I am not a fan of the mall (any mall, quite frankly).

This time, however, it was finally my turn to get a little bit of shopping luck. A friend and I headed off to find me some new pants, and amazingly, we found a perfectly acceptable pair in the very first store we entered. Not only that, but I only had to try on about 3 pairs before I found ones that worked, and to make things even better, I spied some lovely dress pants on the clearance rack that turned out to be just my size, so I ended up with two (!) pairs of pants instead of just one.

Ah, but it gets better. We went to a second store, and on a whim I tried on a few more pairs of black pants, and found a pair that was even better than the one I’d already bought. Plus it was on clearance (oh, how we love clearance), which meant it cost about 1/3 what the first pair cost. Admittedly we had to stand in a very slow line to buy them, and then I had to go stand in another long line in the first store to return the first pair of pants, but even that experience did not negate the sense of excitement that I was actually able to find pants. Yay pants.

After lunch I dropped off my friend and then took myself (and my new pants) home and made this cake. We have three squash plants in the garden, and while so far there are only two teeny tiny little zucchini visible, there are WHOLE LOT of yellow crookneck merrily growing away, and after harvesting the first two, I realized I need to find some novel ways to use up a whole lot of squash this summer. And when I stumbled on this recipes, I knew it had to be tried.

Friday night was dress rehearsal for the concert, and it went fabulously. It was nice to have that dress rehearsal, if only because this particular concert is all solos and duets, so instead of singing as a group (where we all know the music), we were all pretty much on our own, which meant those who weren’t currently singing wouldn’t get a chance to hear those who were. So this way we all got a little preview of what the rest of the group was doing, and it was fantastic!

Saturday morning I got up and made the chocolate ganache frosted the cake, and then I headed off to a friend’s house for Dye Day. Most of the women there had done this before but I’ve never managed to make it to previous Dye Days, so this was a new experience for me. I hadn’t been sure what I was going to dye, but then I remembered that I’d bought this cone of gorgeous silk laceweight yarn a year or two ago when someone was destashing. So one of the things I did on Friday was spend about an hour skeining it (because you can’t dye it on the cone). It took that long because (and yes, I measured) there were about 3700 yards on that cone. Hint for non-knitters. That is a LOT of laceweight.

People had brought all sorts of yarns to dye – silk, bamboo, lots of wools, and even some unspun fleece. There were pots on every square inch of stove, boiling away, and bins full of yarn soaking in the sink, and the stink of vinegar and dye on the air, and then eventually there were skeins and skeins of gorgeous colors hung outside to dry. The newest baby in our knitting group came to visit, accompanied by her parents, and we all took turns passing her around and watching her make silly facial expressions and sleep. We all went out and got sandwiches and then sat outside and ate them, until the heat got to be just too much and we had to escape back inside, to get back to it. Everyone ate cake, which turned out to be incredibly rich and moist and quite possibly the best chocolate cake I have ever had, so at least I know I’ve got one squash-busting recipe that’s a keeper.

I eventually had to head home, even though we weren’t done, because Richard’s mom and little sister were coming up to see the concert. They brought my birthday presents, which included a goofy little stuffed dragon. This turned out to be far more hysterical than they’d expected, because Ingrid (once she got over being shy) jumped onto the table, inspected the dragon, and then grabbed hold of it in her mouth and carried it off with her. So I guess it’s isn’t just Rosie who’s fond of the stuffed critters in our house now. Who knew.

Saturday night was the concert. I’ve been a little nervous about this, on and off, ever since I agreed to do it. I’ve never been very confident about doing solos. It might seem kind of odd, considering that I’ve been singing in the group for several years, and also, you would think that someone who used to perform in front of crowds of strangers, wearing nothing but a bathing suit and massive quantities of Knox gelatin in her hair (I did synchronized swimming in high school and college) would have no problem at all with something like singing, but…. The director did a similar solo-based concert last year and I did not do it because I just didn’t have the nerve. But after I went to the concert and heard everyone sing and saw how fantastic they all were, I knew I had to make myself do it.

And last night, for the first time ever, I went out there and I sang and I wasn’t nervous at *all*. Granted, there was a brief moment during the prior singer’s set when I was afraid I’d forgotten the words to my first song, but I went out into the hall and quietly sang it to myself and of course it was just fine. I suspect maybe it helped that the first number I did was a duet that required a little bit of acting and hamming it up, so once I got through that, the rest was just easy. Everyone laughed at exactly the right spots, and that helped too.

I’m not sure how any of the others did, because most of the time we were all lurking nervously downstairs, waiting for our turn, but I feel like this huge weight has now been lifted off of me, because I did something I didn’t think I could do, and I actually did it really well, and if I’d let all my fear and my self-doubt take over, I wouldn’t have ever had this chance.

And that brings us to today, which was a lovely way to end the weekend of unexpected good things. We went out and spent about half an hour in the garden in the morning, weeding. I found one perfect strawberry that hadn’t yet been eaten by the ants, and Richard said it was delicious. The little blueberry bush that I was afraid we’d killed due to neglect produced its very first ripe blueberry and he said that was delicious too (all the berries are his because I really do not like berries in any shape or form). We spotted about a dozen bright green tomatoes, half-hidden underneath leaves. Despite prior snail and slug attacks, the ground coffee moat around each plant seems to be working, and the peppers are actually showing signs of recovery and new growth. The potato bed has pretty much exploded with green and there are flowers popping up everywhere. The blackberry bushes went from little squatty sticks to long vines almost over night. I may not be a fan of the heat, but at least the veggie garden loves it.

This afternoon we went out with a friend and her sister and her dad (who were visiting from out of town) to see the Star Trek exhibit at the Aerospace Museum in McClellan. It was fun to geek out over all the uniforms and various props; to read about how the first cell phones were designed based on what the designers had seen on Star Trek; to see how real life starts to mimic science fiction in tribute, in so many small ways. And after we’d wandered through looking at fantasy and future, then we wandered around and looked at all the old engines and planes and a replica of the Mars lander, and craned our necks to stare up at the replica of a rocket launcher something-or-other that hung, massively, from the ceiling.

We headed back to Sacramento, me driving while my friend and her sister sat in the back seat and tried to find Star-Trek inspired apps for their dad’s iPad. They introduced us to a new-to-us coffee shop, and we all sat around a high table and drank iced coffee drinks and talked about chemistry and engine maintenance and how schools need to bring back things like shop and Home Ec, but make them mandatory for everyone. And then we dropped them off and waved our goodbyes, and Richard and I headed home.

The rest of the day has been fairly low key. We’ve read books and played on the computer. I took this picture of Ingrid and turned it into an LOLCat. We watched the first episode of Next Food Network Star, because that’s the sort of “reality” show that is our guilty pleasure, and then I went off to pick up my silk yarn – the yarn that I dyed yesterday. It was supposed to be brown, but something about the dye didn’t quite take, and so instead of brown, it went deep silvery, wine purple. I am not sure I could have described the color if I’d been trying to get it, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and it will work just as well (if not better) for the project I’ll be making from the yarn, so that was just the sort of unexpected good thing to end the day.


I wish I could tell you that, now that he is closer to one year old and less of a tiny kitten, Rupert is calming down.

No, I’m serious. I really do wish I could tell you that. You have no idea how much I wish I could tell you that.

He has, in the last few months, broken several glasses. He is, in fact, a fiend about mugs and glasses, if they are holding cold beverages. If I am drinking anything that is not coffee (luckily he does not find coffee appealing), I have to hold the cup in my hand constantly, because if left unattended for even a split second, Rupert will come charging up and DELIBERATELY reach out one paw and snag the edge to pull it over. Oh, by the way, if one happens to have a glass of orange soda sitting on one’s desk and one isn’t paying attention, this is how one can have an ergonomic keyboard destroyed (and also a lap full of cold orange soda) in a matter of nanoseconds. And the latest thing to fall along the path of Rupert-induced destruction would be the top part of a very pretty glass lamp I’ve had for years. We’ve collected all the pieces and they are sitting in a bag in the pantry (safe from prying kitten paws) until I have the mental space to take them out and see if it can be repaired. This is not the first time it’s been broken, although the last time was due to a vacuum-cleaning incident, and not the result of a certain gray tabby whirlwind, but this time there are a lot more pieces, and while super glue is a miraculous thing, even this may be beyond what it can accomplish.

Ah well. His saving grace through all of this, as Richard and I grit our teeth and wait for him to get old enough to be a bit *less* exuberant, is that he is also completely adorable. He has never met another person or cat that he doesn’t like. He purrs pretty much constantly. He is extremely affectionate. And, at least while he is sleeping, he’s just as cute and sweet as he can be.

Here’s a few recent shots of the kittens. It is hard to remember, looking at how big they both are, that when we got them they were small enough to fit in the palm of Richard’s hand.

The amazing two-bodied cat!

Brother and sister.

A little British flair

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

I was actually really excited when I read this month’s challenge. I’ve never had a true steamed pudding, so this was definitely all new for me.

I decided to try both a savory and a sweet, since they both sounded interesting, and because I did them on one of my Friday’s off, I made them both in the same day. I made a steak and mushroom pie (The recipe the hostess suggested called for steak and kidney, but I’m not a fan of kidney, so…mushroom, it was!) for dinner and for dessert I made a steamed chocolate pudding.

For the meat pie, I will confess – I did not use suet. It’s not that I had any aversion to using the stuff; it’s just that I’ve got a can of Crisco in the cupboard that doesn’t get used very often, and it seemed to make more sense to just use what I had. Mixing the crust for the meat pie was pretty simple, which is a plus for me since I usually do not have much luck when it comes to making pie crust. I rolled it out (after carefully flouring the counter) and got it into one of my larger mixing bowls with a minimum of tearing, and then filled it with a mix of sliced steak, mushrooms, and onions.

The innards of the steak and mushroom pie:

Fully assembled and waiting to go into the steamer:

The whole point of this challenge was to steam the dishes. I have a countertop vegetable steamer, but it’s certainly not large enough for an entire meat pie. So I dragged out my giant canning kettle, covered the pie in the mixing bowl with aluminum foil, placed it on top of an upturned old aluminum pie pan, and poured boiling water in around the sides.

Of course, getting it *out* of the pot later was a bit of a challenge. Apparently true pudding bowls have a ridge around the top where you can attach some rope or a handle. I just made due with two large potholders and some very careful hand placement and did not manage to either spill it, or burn myself. Trust me when I say that those count as huge achievements for someone as clumsy as myself.

It didn’t look very appetizing once it was out of the pot:

And removing it from the bowl didn’t help much in the looks department either. Plus, since it was bound to happen at some point during the process, I did manage to spill gravy as I was upending it onto the serving dish. Luckily it all ended up on the dishtowel I put on the counter underneath the dish, for just this possibility.

And here is what it looks like inside. Sadly, not much more appetizing at this view either.

The verdict – eh. The pastry was pretty much tasteless and kind of gummy in places. I suspect that was mainly my fault, since I went really light on the salt and pepper. Neither my husband or I was all that thrilled with it. We picked kind of halfheartedly at our dinner and I didn’t finish my piece. I put the rest of the pie into the oven and baked it for a while, which at least made the crust look slightly less disturbing, but did not otherwise do much to improve the flavor. Ah well.

The chocolate pudding, however, was more of a success. For one thing, it was smaller, so I could put it into a little glass dish on top of a folded up dishcloth, inside one of my regular pots.

After 1 1/2 hours of steaming (and one scary moment when I came into the kitchen and realized all the water had steamed away – added water ASAP and all was well), it puffed up beautifully. It isn’t the prettiest pudding, since there was a little crumbling as I was unmolding it.

But it tasted just fine, with a little dollop of whipped cream on the side.

I could see doing the steamed cake again – that was fun, and there are several variations I’ve found that look delicious. I’m still pondering the pastry version, however. I’m sure I could make some modifications to make the flavor more appealing – add more seasoning to the pastry dough; make a roux for the filling and add more seasonings in there too – but it feels like the steaming part seems a bit hassle when it would take so much less time to just pop it into the oven and bake.

All in all, however, this was a fun challenge and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do something I’ve never done before.


I suppose I ought to apologize for the previous post, but hey, consider the date it was written. I figure after ten years of blogging, I’m entitled to do one single April Fool’s joke. Plus I finally got a chance to do a Rick-roll, so I’m calling this one a win all around.

Things that have happened in the last few months that I never got around to talking about here:

  • We went to a Jonathon Coulton concert in San Francisco, as our belated joint Christmas present, back in January. It was awesome. Last year when we went, I had only heard a few of his songs, and I’d bought the tickets for Richard because I knew he was a huge fan. This year I’m just as much of a fan (there’s a CD of his music in my car and I’ve got pretty much all of those songs memorized now and have been known play it at top volume, singing along at the top of my lungs, when I am alone in the car). Plus, after last year, when we ended up in a horrid spot in the balcony, our view mostly obstructed by a large pole, this time we splurged and bought the dinner seats. Frankly, neither of us cared about the dinner – the main reason for getting those was so that we could have a seat near the front. We ended up snagging a little table in the very front, and sharing it later on with a rather nice (but slightly toasted) older couple, neither of whom had ever heard either Paul & Storm, or Jonathon Coulton before (they loved them both). Possibly someone at the table at which we sat got called out by Jonathon Coulton during the concert for making a sound that he thought was an actual squee (it wasn’t, but I didn’t bother trying to correct him). Possibly that someone was me. We stayed in the same hotel as last time and went to the zoo the next day and saw lemurs and otters and penguins and other critters and I think I could be quite happy if we somehow were able to make this a post-Christmas tradition.
  • I had a pattern published. Back when I first decided to try my hand at designing, I set myself a goal of getting at least one pattern published per year. So far (three years into my forays into designing), I’ve managed to meet that goal. Maybe at some point I will go a little crazy and raise the bar to two, but…eh…why mess with success. Anyway, it was a nice and slightly giddy way to kick off the year. And while I’m never going to make a living at designing knitwear, it so far has brought in enough extra pocket change that when our contracts came due, we were able to get
  • Droids! Richard and I are now the proud nerdly owners of a pair of shiny Droid phones and they are everything we imagined they would be. Verizon was running this buy-one-get-one-free special in March, and we had a credit anyway for re-upping to another two-year contract (and since we’ve been perfectly happy with Verizon’s service for the past four years, and also, um, hello, DROIDS!), so we happened to be driving past a Verizon store and didn’t walk out until we had them. I know, I know, it wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t want anything to do with cell phones, period, and then it wasn’t so long ago that all I wanted was a phone that just made calls and why did I need it to do stuff like take pictures, but….this was before I got my Droid, and you will now have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I really do like living in the future.

If you ask me how I’m feeling

Hello again,

Wow. I didn’t realize time could pass so quickly. I didn’t mean to let this space linger, untouched, for two months. But things got a little bit crazy there for a bit, and I only just got home a few days ago, and have been trying to catch my breath ever since.

So…what’s been going on.

As my long-term readers know, I’ve been involved in a local women’s ensemble for a number of years. We do several concerts a year, and the director likes to mix it up and have each concert have a different theme (in the past we’ve done concerts focusing solely on Baroque music, some focusing on just one composer, one time we brought in a bunch of men to sing with us, and so on). Last year we did a concert that encompassed middle eastern inspired music. It was so popular that we did an encore performance in January. And that’s where things got really exciting.

See, little did all of us Vox gals know that there was a producer in the audience. I guess he was home visiting his grandparents and they took him to our concert, and he was really impressed with our music. So to make a long story short, he contacted the director and they got to talking, and it turns out he works with some pretty well known musicians, and one thing led to another, and we all got offered the chance of a lifetime – to perform with one of his clients, doing a new version of one of his most popular hits, but with a bit of a middle eastern flair.

So the past two months have been kind of this whirlwind of rehearsals and fittings for costumes, and oh, did I mention there was a little choreography involved? Seriously, that was a nightmare. I mean, some of the Vox girls have theater experience so it wasn’t a big deal for them, but I’m the sort of clumsy person who can trip over her own feet (here is where everyone who knows me in real life is nodding their head and laughing right now), so that was really a challenge.

But it all worked out (mostly) fine in the end. We flew out to New York last week, and it didn’t go *perfectly*, of course (does it ever?), but it was a lot of fun, and we did the recording, and they say the CD should be hitting the music shops soon. But in case you’re wondering (and because really, how can I *not* spill at least a little bit of the secret!), here’s a little clip of what we’ve all been working so hard on. Phew!

Still life with cats: the story of me