Monday, March 29, 2010

more about custard

the thing about custard is that it's  good to eat and so easy to make, if you've the time to let it bake and set.

one thing i have a lot of is time, and cr likes it a lot, so i'm kind of experimenting with custard. hey, if cr's coming for sunday lunch, there might as well be custard along with whatever i rummage from the cupboards.

basically, it's just two cups of milk and three eggs along with a sweetener and maybe a flavoring. you mix it together, toss it in the cups (ok, maybe pour is a better verb), put the cups in a water bath, and bake 'em at about 320° until you can stick in a knife or toothpick in and it comes out clean, somewhere between forty minutes and an hour.

it's not at all fussy about the time of baking, because of the water bath, and it's not very fussy about oven temperature. and you can vary the amount of eggs, or the proportion of  yolk to white; more yolk makes a tenderer, richer custard, and more white will make it stiffer.

this week i made two experimentals.

the first is a banana number with a caramelized molasses sauce.

i happened to have had a perfectly ripe banana and it turns out that cr likes banana cream, so into the freezer with the banana.

i've never worked with a frozen banana before; i knew that it would never again recover a state suitable for eating, but i was surprised about what the freeze/thaw did to it!

first of all, i had to keep taking it out of the freezer to play with it, because a frozen banana has an interesting, fun feel to it that i found irresistible.

but then when i set it out to thaw so i could USE it, what i had was basically a long thin black bag of smoosh and i was wondering what the most practical method for opening the container and pouring out the smoosh would be.

aha! i thought, glancing around me. scissors!

so i cut it open at one end, and simply poured the smoosh into the blender. from there is was business as usual, except that instead of caramelizing just the sugar, i put molasses in with that.

and then last night i made a little dark chocolate coconut number; i substituted a can of coconut milk for some of the regular milk. you have to melt the chocolate into whatever you're using for your base, so that takes a little extra time and care. you don't want it to scald, but you do want the chocolate completely melted and mixed in.

use good chocolate. it always pays in the end.

once the chocolate was melted and mixed and a little vanilla and a tiny bit of honey (gives it a little fruity tang) added, i had to wait for the thing to be cool enough to add the eggs, because if you add eggs into a mixture that's too hot they just cook, and that'd be no good.

so. into the water bath, and into the oven.


the house smells divine. it smells divine because of all the lunch basket cooking, but i'm not talking about that yet.

but add the smell of chocolate custard baking to all that, and -whoa, nellie!-

this right here is what heaven must smell like.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

start to finish

a few weeks ago cr gave me this candle for my project and i don't think she really meant for me to return it to her finished, but sometimes that's how things turn out, you know?

i know that when i hand it back to her tomorrow or monday or some other day she'll tell me that it's not what she meant, but i'm pretty sure this is how it's supposed to go.

some of you have mentioned to me that the process is interesting to you, so i've included here a slideshow of this candle from start to finish, and also an animated gif showing it all the way around.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

signs and miracles

miraculous sign of the coming of the King?

no, it's just where i left my fork on the plate.

true miracle:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

down and back

so i know it's been a week, but here are my road pictures from my quick jaunt to virginia and back.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

stranger in a strange land

i felt so out of place on the jersey turnpike. i mean, i know how to change lanes aggressively in heavy traffic and all that, but where i'm from we customarily use the directional signal to indicate intent of a future action.

on the jersey turnpike (and in new jersey in general, apparently) there are two common practices regarding the directional, used with roughly equal frequency.

the first and easiest to perform is that the directional is simply not used, not ever, unless it is accidentally switched on while texting and then it is not turned off until the driver crosses over into pennsylvania.

the second and more entertaining form is that in which the driver uses the directional signal to announce a fait accompli. "hello", they seem to say. "i have just gotten in front of you."

i wonder if perhaps culturally one does not use the directional to signal intent because this represents a challenge to other drivers who perceive that defensive action must be taken in order to prevent you from changing lanes.

maybe it's unfair to even speculate on that, because the whole time i was in new jersey people just went ahead and let me change lanes even though i had signaled that i wished to do so. of course, i think i mentioned that i'm perfectly capable of driving aggressively in heavy traffic.

another thing that marks me as a foreigner on that road (aside from my car, which is um, less common in new jersey than it is at home, and my plates, which are definitely from away) is that i cheerfully let people into my lane if it appears to me that they wish to come over.

"foreigner", they will perhaps say. but i was born in new jersey and they can't take that away from me.

i wonder, though, how fast one has to be going to get pulled over for speeding on the new jersey turnpike? the whole time i was on it, the flow of densely-packed traffic was scooting along at about 85 MPH, except for when passing a state trooper, in which case the speed across all four lanes instantly decreased to 60 for about two seconds.

who, exactly, is going to be fooled by that?

and yet incredible as it seems, people WERE getting stopped for speeding. maybe the officers just pick drivers at random from the huge crowd going by? or maybe they set their sights on that one guy trying to go even faster than that by weaving from lane to lane?

i didn't see a lot of those guys; it was pretty much wall-to-wall cars.

there's a beauty in it, though: kind of an organic flow. packed traffic, nearly bumper to bumper and moving along smoothly like some huge and dangerous ballet.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


i have a few things to say about the trip out and back, but for now:

things i eat in bed

Monday, March 15, 2010


twenty-five years ago i made a promise to the god-in-whom-i-did-not-yet-believe.

as far as i'm concerned if you make a promise, you keep it whether or not the person to whom you made it exists.

if you are making promises to people who in your mind don't exist that's your lookout and maybe you ought to have a nice long talk with yourself or whomever you talk to about such things, but if you're going to make promises, you should keep them.

in order for me to keep my promise this year AND for me to be where i wish to be -at home- on palm sunday, it leaves me with no real choice except to toss my bags in the car tomorrow and drive to washington, DC, a city that while very beautiful gives me the heebie-jeebies.

and then on wednesday having discharged my obligation i will put my bags back in the car and drive home. ten hours' drive each way.

it'll be fun, i'm sure.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

fall of the house

if you've been following the story, you know that i've spent a lot of time this winter building first the snow cave:

invasion of the mole people
into the hole
into the hole again
keep digging

and then, after the thaw, building snohaus, which took a lot of hours over a lot of days.

the thing about building anything out of snow is that it's ephemeral. you can work and work and make it beautiful and smooth and square your lines and then one day the sun will come out and you know you've seen the last of winter; there will be no more snow for the year.

it's kind of a nice way to mark the coming of spring, but it's not for the faint of heart. you have to be willing to watch your beautiful creation melt and collapse.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

not very bright

i'm sure i wasn't the only one to receive this unusually well-written comment from "mike":

Hello. My wife and I bought our house about 6 months ago. It was a foreclosure and we were able to get a great deal on it. We also took advantage of the 8K tax credit so that definitely helped. We did an extensive remodeling job and now I want to refinance to cut the term to a 20 or 15 year loan. Does anyone know any good sites for mortgage information? Thanks!

well, "mike", you might could visit your banker and talk about refinancing options, or maybe you could google that. it seems to me there's no shortage of websites clamoring for attention on this topic.

what's interesting to me about your spam-of-non-sequitur is that you don't seem to provide me with any links of your own, so i have to assume your goal is to casually wander into people's blogs with that golly-gee-and-what's-all-this shiny baby face you have and get people to go google it for themselves.

maybe you're testing to see which of your spams produce hits on google, and maybe you're trying to create buzz for your "legitimate" "business", but by your friendly and personal tone i can just tell that you, regular guy, really think highly of our financially astute blogging and need our advice.

of course we want to jump in for you and run searches that match your "needs" and report back to you in our blogs which sites we recommend! of course we all want to be friendly and helpful and we'll all rush right out to do your googling for you and then post links and talk amongst ourselves about what sites we would definitely recommend to you and your lovely "wife".


since i'm so kind-hearted, "mike", i've come up with a few things that i think you and your "wife" will find useful:

use your tax credit!
foreclosure deals!
refinance now!

"mike", the possibilities are nearly endless! there's so much good "information" out there, but i've really given it a lot of thought and come up with my three best options for you.

"mike", i hope this "helps".

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is being found as hard as being lost?

it can be.

in one sense, it's easier to get lost and often harder to find your way back, and harder to manage to be found by the rescue team.

in another sense, you kind of relinquish control when you get lost, or sometimes you're really, really lost and don't entirely want to be found, in which case it is much harder to be found than it is to be lost.

i've been lost in the woods, lost in my life, lost metaphorically, lost in the discussion, lost in thought, and sometimes what's hard is not the being found, but adjusting to the aftermath.

lost can resonate in your soul for years.

the last time i was lost it was two days ago and i still haven't gotten my legs under me fully.

you shouldn't drink it.

i swear, i'm going to move this off of my desk, take it downstairs and clean it out. i keep reaching for it like it's a beverage because it's sitting in a glass i might drink out of, and it's in the place on my desk where i often keep a tertiary beverage. to my mind it looks a little like prune juice, which i like.

but yesterday i was working on a piece, something that required pens with actual ink and i tried out a couple of nibs and that glass is where i dropped nibs i wasn't particularly using. you know, as a prelimiary to cleaning them and putting them away.

i keep picking it up, distracted by other things, and i keep putting it down without drinking it. i wonder how close i will get before i take it down and wash it out?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

old tale

in january 1998 (and for some time after that) i was a music teacher.  i had a big concert, a complicated one, scheduled in the second week of that month.

and on january 8th we had that ice storm. the really big one. and it canceled four days of school just before my concert, four days of rehearsal that i NEEDED. unlike a lot of people around here, i lived in a pocket of rain instead of ice, and therefore had no damage to my home, and my electricity barely even flickered.

but fifty feet higher up and fifty feet lower down it was all ice, so there was no going in or out even if the roads hadn't been closed by order of the state police.

and all i could do was sit and watch, waiting each day for the call that came to tell me to stay home another day. watching all my rehearsal time slip away, hour by hour.

it was an ambitious program, one that required skill and attention. and even though i was given every possible minute in which to practice and every flexibility, i was not happy with the way things looked on that day going into the concert. i was just going to slink off and never be heard from again rather than face the humiliation of it.

but when i got home i found floating in my downstairs toilet (and don't ask me what i was doing in that bathroom; i never use it) a tiny little mouse, shivering and on the brink of death. it appeared to me that she'd been trapped in there for days, treading water.

i have no idea how she got in there.

but i fished her out, the poor thing, dried her off and put her under a lamp to warm up. i put a dish of water near her, a block of rat chow, and some peanut butter. and i watched her. and in a couple of hours she had dragged her tiny little form over and had begun eating.

what a little miracle she was!

and i decided that if she was going to make a recovery against those odds, so was i. and back at school i had just about released the horde of kids into the ramp leading down to the hall and i got up on a chair in the middle of that crowd and told the story of the mouse.

and the kids were so whipped up, they charged down the chute and somehow pulled off the performance i'd intended for it to be.

when i got home, i put the little mouse in a cage i had handy, with food and water and fresh bedding, and although i did not name her (a wild creature), i called her "miss mouse".

...until a few days later -did i mention that the mouse was teeny?- his one testicle descended and i started calling him "mister". i kept him for a while, having decided to nurse him to full health and then release him on the first warm day but when that day arrived and i left his cage outside with the door open, i watched from a window as he poked his head out, put his little paws onto the cold ground, and quickly retreated to the warmth of his nest, pulling the bedding down over himself as if to declare emphatically that he did not wish to go.

twice more, on warmer days, he declined to leave my house and although he never was a tame pet, he was a perfectly acceptable mouseguest and he stayed with me until he died.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

How are you?

well, thanks for asking. it's hard to know exactly how to answer this question when it's being asked anonymously. it's ok; it's just a little weird and i'm not quite used to it.

i'm having kind of a hard day; i've had a lot of mood swings and last night i felt a crash coming on, and probably a bad one, too, and it arrived this morning shortly after oh-four-hundred, and that's a bad way to wake up.

but i got myself to church and things are going about as good as they can be, i guess.

i'm feeling bad, but not as bad as i could be feeling, and that's something to be grateful for.

i'm hungry, so i think i'll go get some lunch.

i hope you are well and blessed.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

What is formspring?

apparently it's a doohickey that allows people to ask me any question they want.

you could do it too, i guess.

it seems like it has interesting possibilities.

i don't promise i'll answer everything that gets asked, but i promise to tell the truth.


i plan to keep building obsessively until i run out of snow, but i've been meaning to give you pictures of the snohaus.

here are some pretty nighttime shots; the rest of the pictures can be found in the usual place.

Friday, March 05, 2010

can't hold a candle to it...

so the candle project is going slower than i might have thought, but still progressing. i'll have some pretty little pieces to show for it.

of course, even though you know that i'm making them, i'm still pretending that it's a secret because i won't claim authorship on easter morning when they get given away to random people.

i like random gifts, random prizes.

i've always thought the world would be a nicer place if there were random gifts; things of beauty or usefulness or humor given to people just because they happened to show up.

i guess if you want to live in a world like that, you have to create it.

a friend of mine asked if i was really going to give these things away to unknown people.

yes. i did, and i will. when you do it in this way, they become gifts of place rather than gifts of person. and it isn't about me, funny little artist; it's about an environment of surprise and delight, a place of generosity.


i'm posting the gallery of the candles over here where i keep such things, and i'll update those photos as i have more candles finished.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

is this thing on?
yes, it is.

round two

the january thaw destroyed my snowcave but then when we got all that snow a couple of weeks ago i thought i'd rebuild it and that would have worked, too, except for the three days' rain.

there was more snow (never enough if you ask me, or even if you don't), so i decided to try an alternate construction style: instead of digging the cave out of a mound, i am now building upward with snow blocks held together with ig-glue.

sorry. i know you deserved better than that, but i am a weak, weak woman and i couldn't resist.

later on there will be more pictures over where i keep my photo galleries, but for now here's what it looked like when i started to rebuild, and a picture from yesterday just before i started zipping the front together.

it's amazing to see the wall go up,and really gratifying to get to the point where i have to use the stepladder, but the really cool moment is the one in which the walls join and all of a sudden you've got ROOF.

at its highest point, the interior is about seven feet tall.

Monday, March 01, 2010

snapshot life

february is over, which means i've photographed it in thirteen hour intervals, and i've even clocked it, so here's the video.


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