Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Someone Please Kill Me Already:

In light of recent events, I have determined that everything fucking sucks royal ass.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Garden Update 2:

I'm sitting outside BLOGGING, heh heh-- WiFi is the single most useful thing in my house since lotion kleenex and satellite radio (...and parchment paper, can't forget that!). The mosquitos must have woken up today, damn nasty things, and I'm having to swat as I sit here watching the dog run like a wild child chasing the birds. She reminds me of a 7 year old who forgot to take her adderall; she has moments of attention span when she listens, but then loses focus the second a bird flies into her view-- even if it's in mid-leap, she's off an away to catch the elusive birds (even the ones who are almost too far up in the sky to see-- it's pretty darn funny). Maggie's apparently learned her boundaries, as she'll run the length of the yard at full speed in hot pursuit of a robin, and still stop a good foot or so before the boundary flags.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE the evil PETA-scorned shock fence. A dog quivering in fear of the nasty shocker thingamabobber is still better than a dead dog, as our entire family can attest to. Knowing your boundaries can keep you out of a heap o trouble, in the backyard as in real life (if only the kids were so easily trained...).
Interesting fact:
The chickens were afraid of Mr Six, wouldn't let him get near them. Today, Maggie took a flying leap to come nose to nose with a chicken, and the chicken didn't even flinch.
I guess the chickens are good barometers of danger... (maybe the robins clued them in).

anemones, violas, (yellow/bicolor daffs), muscari

p.s. BEST day at work today, the staff was so nice, helpful, and reaffirming:-) I couldn't be happier!
Too dark to type, I guess it's time to go in. Boo.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Garden Update/Macarons:

It was over 70 degrees this weekend, so the hubby and I felt motivated to ready the gardens over the past two days. We picked up sticks (we's got lots o sticks out here in the sticks-- 10 + loads full!), raked out and cleaned the perennial garden debris (5 loads full), tilled the kitchen gardens and the large garden patches.. I planted onions, garlic, shallots, beans, peas, spinach, and mesculin/spicy salad mix. I'm sore, sunburned, and feel 100% better, btw.
On a completely unrelated side note:
I made some macarons, and had very little difficulty (unless you count the dog eating a whole tray of them,.. damn!). The cookies turned out perfectly, and they were fabulous with a lightly almond/vanilla infused Italian buttercream (they were overstuffed since I had 1/3 less cookies to frost-- double stuffed macarons.....mmmmmmm). I'm going to try and make espresso macarons tonight, with a little bit of coconut flour in place of some of the almond (since I've conquered the mighty macaron, of course it's time to mess with the 200 year old recipe, wiseass that I am...) Husband says I need a new hobby vs making the most fussy recipes I can find, and I suspect he's right. I told him we needed a POOL, and that could be my new hobby vs the ass fattening one I currently have. I think he secretly wished my new hobby would include being a domestic goddess in other realms (cleaning the house daily, making gourmet dinners each and every night, martini and maribou slippers when he gets home from work each day...), but sorry dude, no such luck. I'll take a pool, and then the endless batches of cupcakes and French pastries will end. At least in the summer.

Espresso Macarons :
120 gr. egg whites, divided (this ends up being 4 egg whites total)
35 gr. sugar
150 gr. almond meal
150 gr. powdered sugar
2 tsp. espresso powder
For the syrup:150 gr. sugar and 50 gr. water

Prepare 3 sheet pans by lining them with parchment paper.Have a piping bag with a 1/2" round tip ready to go.
Sift together the almond meal, powdered sugar and espresso powder. Mix together with 60 grams of egg whites (2 egg whites) until well blended and set aside.
In a stand mixer, whip the remaining 60 grams of egg whites with the 35 grams of sugar to medium-soft peaks, turn the mixer to low speed to keep the whites moving while you prepare your sugar syrup.
-In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the 150 grams of sugar and 50 grams of water to about 230f.
-Turn your mixer back up to medium speed and slowly pour in the hot syrup (carefully) not worrying about any that sticks to the sides of the bowl. Whip the egg white and syrup mixture until the whites are cooled and you have a very pretty shiny meringue.
-Gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture.-Pipe the mixture into 1" circles onto the prepared sheet pans leaving at least 1" of space between each.
Let the pans sit out for about half hour to an hour to allow a "skin" to form on top (basically when you touch your finger to the surface, no batter will come off).
-Preheat oven to 320f (I found 320f to be too hot for mine, they exploded at this temperature...but then my oven runs hot).
Bake the meringues, one sheet at a time (double sheet panned for insulation on the bottom) for about 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling.

Ganache filling:
6 1/2 ounces good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into about 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 Tbsp butter
-Heat cream, corn syrup and butter in a saucepan until it boils. Pour over the chocolate, making sure the chocolate is covered in the cream mixture. Let sit about 5 minutes and then whisk until the mixture is smooth and a pudding-like consistency.
-Pipe on bottoms of macarons, and top with another macaron.
-Let cookies sit until chocolate filling has set up.

Basic Macaron Recipe:

225 grams icing sugar
125 grams ground almonds
110 grams egg whites (about 4), aged overnight at room temperature
30 grams granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1. On three pieces of parchment, use a pencil to draw 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles about 2 inches apart. Flip each sheet over and place each sheet on a baking sheet. [Note: You only have to draw circles on the parchment paper if you want absolutely even-sized macarons. If you're skilled with piping and don't mind eyeballing the amount of batter per cookie, skip this step.]
2. Push almond flour through a tamis or sieve, and sift icing sugar. Mix the almonds and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside. If the mixture is not dry, spread on a baking sheet, and heat in oven at the lowest setting until dry. Sift almonds at least TWICE.
3. In a large clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip to stiff peaks—the whites should be firm and shiny.
4. With a flexible spatula, gently fold in icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and 'flow like magma.' When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
4. Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, in the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.
5. Bake, in a 160C/325F oven for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, and rotate the baking sheet after 5 minutes for even baking.
6. Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.
7. Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about 1/2 tsp of the filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

Italian Buttercream:

-2 egg whites (60 mL)
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 4 oz (½ cup) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into slices
- 1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 tsp almond extract

In an electric mixer bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and heat the mixture, whisking often, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it feels warm and sugar has dissolved.Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer and whip warm egg mixture on high speed using the whisk attachment until stiff and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the butter, one slice at a time, and continue to mix until all the butter is thoroughly incorporated. Add any flavourings and refrigerate for 1 hour or until it becomes firm. The buttercream can be kept, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week. (I just heated the sugar with 1 tb water until it registered 230 degrees on the candy thermometer, and poured the hot syrup into the eggs that were beaten until soft peaks with a dash o cream of tartar; whip about 5 minutes and add vanilla/almond and then the butter) If the frosting looks curdled, just keep whipping it until it becomes smooth, btw...

I made the espresso macarons using the recipe above, and I had problems with it. Some of the cookies cracked, while others didn't, some developed "feet", others didn't, and for some reason, a whole pan refused to bake all the way and were still gooey inside, even after baking 5+ more minutes than the others... odd. It was pretty darn random, totally didn't make sense...
I had much better success with the basic recipe, not 100% sure why-- maybe it was the 2 tb of coconut I substituted for a little bit of almond meal, which I would NOT do again, I just couldn't get the coconut fine enough and it was a little mealy, even tho it was tasty. The coffee flavor was good, but I could easily have added more espresso powder.
I added a tb of espresso powder to the ganache, which turned out perfectly-- great recipe! I let it sit out at room temp for about an hour to get it to piping consistency, and it was excellent.
Overall, not a bad cookie, just not as "macaron" like as the basic one.
I pledged off baking until I could lose a wee bit o the winter weight I gained, but I slipped and made a quick batch today (didn't age the egg whites, only ground/sifted the almonds once-- hope they turn out!), I'm such an addict!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Books I'm Reading:

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb-- totally encompasses my freaky world view of randomness and the benefit of "not knowing", yet knowing... (ya know?)
Ageless by Suzanne Somers (suprisingly not lame)
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur
The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman (second time thru)
Project Renewment by Bernice Bratter and Helen Dennis
How Starbucks Changed My Life by Michael Gates Gill-- very inspirational, quite a bit like my work philosophy
It's Not About the Coffee by Howard Behar (these two books make me crave coffee in the WORST way, wonder if it's all part of the great corporate scheme to make us all addicts...)
Prescription for Nutritional Health by Phyllis Balch
Being here by Ariel Kane (totally non New-Agey, very nice book)
Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee: why does the quest for self involve so much angst? I can totally relate, sadly. This book made me long for all things French and introduced me to a new cooking challenge: Macarons http://www.laduree.fr/ Sadly, I can only live vicariously thru the pages of this book, but it at least got me dreaming again...

Juno: loved it! Reminded me of a young me, in all my snarky verbiosity. I only wish I was as selfless...
Last King of Scotland-- fascinating, not at all unexpected: another affirmation of the great good and incredible evil we are all capable of, given the circumstances. The question: who will *I* be when the shit goes down? As Bob as my Witless, I will die a good person, even if it is from a single gunshot to the head.
Stardust, dorky favorite of all new movies..

p.s. I scored an opportunity for DD to shadow with the local coroner for a day.. am I the very best mother in the world, or what? Of course, I'm going to go, too-- yippee! Score one for pushy moms with no shame...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I guess if I had to use one word to describe myself, it would be "goofy":

  1. I sign up for stuff in a flurry of excitement, convince myself that I really want to go inspite of much evidence to the contrary, and then at the last minute I don't want to go.

  2. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to please strangers but then blow off my family.

  3. I shun real life relationships in favor of back-and-forth single paragraph blog-friendships.

  4. I spend a ton of $$ to pursue things I really don't want (see #1, i.e gyms, classes, etc).

  5. I volunteer for things and then don't show up (the guilt is a killer, but obviously less than the effort it takes to just show up and get involved).

  6. I join groups that I know I won't fit in to to hang out with people I have nothing in common with, who I know will ultimately reject me (makes sense, no?).

  7. I go to church when it bores me to tears, hate singing (in public, for all the world to see-- worse than standing there in my underwear), and am fearful of the nice people..

  8. I somehow end up taking New Age classes and am then completely weirded out by how creepy and lost the people are-- and offended at their disdain for my beliefs. Why is it that sooooo many of them have completely absent/vacuous eyes, as if they have no soul?

  9. I complain about having nothing to do but then sit on my ASS when I have plenty of time to get out and whip up an adventure (usually on the computer).

Etc and etc... I could go on forever.

I also realized when speaking with someone the other day that *nothing* in my life fits together:
I'm a:

  • fairly conservative Christian (+/-) who loves yoga, swears like a sailor, and adores most everything else no one in my church likes (art, dirty movies on HBO... and martinis!)

  • nurse who believes in alternative medicine, accupuncture, supports not vaccinating, etc

  • conservative politically with a longstanding interest in protecting the environment, organic farming, alternative energy, etc and etc.

    And if all this weren't goofy enough, apparently someone I've recently gotten to know has me pegged as a baby stalker/snatcher:
    I chatted back and forth with this gal via e-mail for weeks; I offered support and assistance with my background as a nursery nurse for her concerns regarding nursing, etc --even met twice for lunch and chatted in person for several *hours*. We seemed to have quite a bit in common.
    But now that the baby's come, she tells me that her husband doesn't want me talking with her any longer; she's not interested in pursuing a friendship and doesn't want me to come and see the baby or e-mail her anymore...

    As if!

    I used to get *paid* to visit moms and babies at home, and never once had a hankering to steal, pinch, or otherwise cast an evil eye at a single one (knowing what troublesome little critters they are, and what they rapidly become has been a good deterrent). That, and it's fairly well known that I am not exactly a "baby person"; I've come to see them after so many years as a nursery nurse as, well, WORK. I'm not going to trip over myself and beg anyone to hold their baby... they all kindof look the same to me and are fairly unpredictable, wiley little creatures whose moms can do all the cooing and holding, TYVM, at least until the're about 3 and start running and jumping and talking and capable of more fun times than just crying and pooping.
    I even made a super cute hand-sewed bacon n eggs bib and had the blogging ladies sign a card, but I guess I can file those away until I can find another pregnant woman to stalk and harass with my offers of trained support, friendship, and handmade gifts. Egads!
    I always thought the polite thing to do when trying to dissuade a friendship that isn't going anywhere was to not answer e-mails, phone calls, etc-- not send a creepy "Dear John my husband doesn't want me talking to you in case you're a serial killer cleverly disguised as a nurse who also happened to attend the same church I do". WHAT-everrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
    An average of 1-2 e-mails a week does not a stalker make, but it just feels strange to have someone react to you in this manner, as if you committed some huge faux pas instead of trying to be nice and make a new friend. I guess that's the risk you take when you start meeting people on the scary in-tra-net.
    But in this instance, I think she's the goofy one-- n'est pas?
    Really tho, I didn't need another nice, Christian gal to bluntly refuse to associate with me-- and another Grace (church) lady at that!
    Those women must truly be able to see me for what I REALLY am: a fairly normal person who refuses to pretend or perpetute the illusion that I'm perfect (a serious crime, I know, but one I've paid the price for in every MOPS group I've joined, Bible study, retreat, mother-daughter campout, and small group I've participated in since becoming a deeply flawed Christian. Anyhoodle).
    I suppose I should move on, before I give you the impression that my feelings are hurt... (Totally not appropriate, I know...)

On a side note, I've learned so much about myself in the last two years, it isn't even funny:
Some tidbits, mostly work related--

  • I don't like office nursing. I don't like catering to all the return patients, the endless phone calls, med refills, etc and etc. I love the variety and fast pace of hospital nursing, where you see new faces quickly, over and over again.

  • I don't like working all sorts of different places. I want to establish a routine with set hours, days, work duties. I'm sick of having 3 different things to learn and do, with different shifts to adjust to.

  • My kids need more responsibilities

  • I am sooo spoiled with my pool wage that I'll face any permanent position with trepidation, as it would mean a significant pay cut.

  • I would only like to work THREE days per week at best. I function so much better and have greater home/work balance when I follow this.

  • I *hate* sit down jobs where I have open ended responsibilities-- I am not good at self direction and tend to flounder about in aimlessness all day.

  • I NEED TO WORK. Being home every now and again is very helpful to get stuff done about the house, but it tends to make me melancholy--neurotic, even. I was feeling pretty blue this am, but after being at work for an hour or so and forced to be perky and friendly, I completely forgot about being bummed and felt 100 times better... cheaper than therapy, and pays better, too. I noticed quite a few staff were cranky this morning, too. Must be the weather... I dread going to work in theory, but in practice it's usually better than being home all by my lonesome, surrounded by things I probably should be doing (but probably won't, tee hee).

  • I really don't like doing things by myself, except shopping-- that I prefer to do alone.

  • I don't want any more things in my life I have to take care of. That includes gardens, animals/pets, plants, and, of course, children (see "baby snatcher" post above).

  • I have too damn many hobbies; I am strangely talented at a great many things, but not exceedingly good at ANYTHING. Some people have a passion for cooking, sewing, knitting... I'm pretty darn good at all those things and more, but have no great passion or talent for any one thing in particular. Jack of all trades, master of none (in my private life as well as at work, go figure...) . Is it a gift-- or a curse?

  • I adore my husband, the super handsome guy I'm fortunate to be able to sleep with whenever I am (or HE's) awake enough to.

  • I am not so worried about my kids as I let on; I think they're actually pretty smart, level headed people and will end up just FINE. I'm the one that's overreacting most of the time, while they behave like normal children.