Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cinnamon with French Toast

We made French toast this morning. I mixed up the batter and I thought that it was actually quite beautiful before I whisked the ingredients together. I'm just way too fond of yellow.

The recipe is a modified version from the 1964 edition of the Joy of Cooking. I'll put the additions in bold.

2 extra large eggs
pinch of salt
1 cup of milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp canola oil

Just whisk that all together, dip the bread in the batter such that both sides are completely coated and fry in a lightly oiled pan. I used sunflower bread, but French bread works nicely, too. Just about any bread will work, I think. The nicest thing is that the bread already has its own integrity, so the pieces are easy to flip. Even I can do it and I fried most of the pieces today, except for when my dad felt the need to grab the spatula or the tongs out of my hand and do it himself. That only happened maybe six or seven times, at most.
As you can see, I put maple syrup and no more than a quarter cup of cinnamon on top. I really like cinnamon.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Last night, after guitar practice, my friends and I went to El Corral for dinner. It was good, as usual.

My friends recommended the horchata, which I'd never tried before, but I really liked it. I didn't photograph it, because it just looked like a glass of milk with ice in it. In the United States, it's usually a chilled and sweetened rice milk based beverage and is one of several commonly served types of aqua fresca. Another one is jamaica, which sounds a lot like iced "Red Zinger" or hibiscus tea to me, so I'm eager to try it.

Since the rest of the gang usually gets margaritas, it's nice to have something non-alcoholic to drink that's a little more interesting than water or soft drinks.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gadget Gushing

I gave my parents two new Motorola Razr V3m phones for Christmas. Verizon, at least, hardly charges anything for the phones themselves, so the real gift was picking out and ordering phones, adding their new service plan, activating the new phones and canceling the old SunCom plan.

When we were unpacking the boxes today, you would have thought that I was meeting small furry animals:

"Oh, this is so exciting."
"Aren't they adorable?"
"Look how small they are."
"Oh, this is so much fun!"

I'm such a gadget geek. I mean, I'm not even going to use these phones. I was like a parent who gets more out of her children's early holidays than the kids do. There was, however, more to it than that.

Since these are clamshell style cell phones, I will no longer be receiving 3 or 4 minute muffled messages from cell phones that like calling me from their owner's pockets. I do have to admit that this was entertaining once or twice out of the approximatey fifty times that it happened. Unlike their previous phones, we've already set up the voice-mail, so I'll actually be able to leave voice-mail when I can't reach them. It's the simple things that make me happy.

I still need to reject SunCom. On their website they say, "SUNCOM CUSTOMER SERVICE IS AT YOUR SERVICE 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK!" Apparently, Customer Service does not include canceling your service. For that, I need to talk to Account Services, which is only open from 8am to 9pm on weekdays and until 7pm on Saturdays.

Despite the gadget cuteness factor, I would still rather pet a large or small furry animal any day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Crepe Style Pancakes

Early this morning, my dad and I made thin or crepe style pancakes using a recipe that he invented sometime before time began. He believes it was inspired by Pfannkuchen (Eierkuchen), but it's certainly different from what I can roughly translate from recipes I've seen on-line. It's also different from most French crepe recipes I've seen, except for this one.

Mix the following using an electric mixer:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 pinch of salt

While mixing, gradually add:
6 extra large eggs
1 tbsp canola oil

Mix until it's smooth and creamy and add while mixing:
2 1/3 cups of milk

You'll want to mix on a fairly fast setting and ensure that there aren't any lumps. Hopefully you don't mind liquidy droplets flying everywhere, because that's just part of the experience.

This is actually the "light" version. His original recipe, which I grew up with, called for a dozen eggs, but my dad scaled it back so it would be healthier.

When the pan is hot and has just a bit of canola oil in it, scoop a half cup of batter and pour evenly in the pan.
Flipping the pancake is difficult and that's why I like to make the batter and have Dad do the frying. The edges will start to brown, any bubbles (won't be many with this kind of batter) will burst and dry. The only foolproof method for determining when it's ready to flip is to peek under the edges. It helps to have a thin spatula and it's important to remember that broken pancakes taste just as good as the perfectly round ones. You will likely have to add a little more oil after a few pancakes. The photo shows a pancake after it has been flipped.
Afterwards, you should have a nice stack of pancakes and, ideally, a bowl full of cut up fruit will magically appear next to them.
In my opinion, these are best served with whipped cream and fruit, which I like to wrap up like a burrito. You can also use real maple syrup or melted semi-sweet chocolate. These would be great with savory dishes, too. I'm also eager to try a variation inspired by a recent boozy breakfast.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Secular Winter Holiday 2007!

Merry Christmas! My family celebrates on Christmas Eve and we had a nice little celebration, which mostly consisted of taking lots of photos of our tree while listening to the Bach Christmas Oratorio, as always.

Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, all of you can celebrate today, because it's also the fourth birthday of the blog. Thanks to all of you who read the Glob, whether you started four years ago or today. I enjoy writing a lot more knowing that so many of you are reading it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Go Look at Mars

Go outside tonight and look for the moon. As always, it's very pretty by itself, but Mars is right next to it, so it's even more amazing.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Behind the Necklace

Thursday night, I made this necklace and I'm very happy with how it turned out. It looks even better while it's being worn by its new owner.

This made me realize that I need to get some fabric to use for the background of such photos. In this case I used a skirt that I didn't iron or put much effort into flattening. Fortunately, it will be very easy to find something suitable at my parents', since there is an excess of fabric there. I really like the neutral titanium background provided by a Macbook pro, but there's this annoying abstract fruit logo that detracts from it.

Back when I was selling my jewelry and when I created the images on my website, I had to either take photographs and scan them in or put the jewelry in the scanner itself. Everything is so much easier now that I can use my digital camera.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Haute Canine Cuisine

On Wednesday, when I went into the office after working at home while I was sick(er), I found that LA had left a container of cookies in my mailbox. I saw that they were even branded with a Gizmo label, which was terribly cute. I tried one and thought they tasted pretty awful, actually, but speculated that my taste buds hadn't fully recovered yet or perhaps it was because they were made from pumpkin. I thought I would take them home to see if my parents liked them.

Last night, I offered them to my mom and she exclaimed, "They're for dogs!"

"What?! No, they aren't."

Maybe I should have asked for Rosetta Stone for French instead of Spanish?

Today, LA, between bouts of hysterical laughter, explained that she gave most of the containers to our co-workers in person and told them they were dog biscuits. It doesn't pay to be out sick, apparently. The good thing is that I'm not squeamish about such things and I've sampled dog biscuits before. If it's good enough for my dog, then it's surely good enough for me, right?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cramped Gelato Style

Brightleaf Square has a lovely Christmas tree on display in their courtyard. Despite the fact that I don't actually believe that the Christmas season should start until the 24th, a grand tree like that is one I can appreciate anytime.

I went over to Piazza Italia this evening to spend time with a couple of friends. I was disappointed to see that they added a wall that shrank the size of their gelato store space. They have a couple of benches along the wall and the distance between the benches and the gelato case is barely over three feet, if that. It's cramped for people sitting on the benches if other people are standing to pick out gelato. They said it was to make room for another private dining space. Gelato sales are slow right now, which is isn't too surprising, I suppose, but they expected the new wall to be permanent. It's sad, because that was such a pleasant sitting area for the gelato.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cold Beauty

I was working from home again today and I happened to glance out the window and noticed just how beautiful I thought it was. The sky was a such a deep blue and the contrasting cirrus clouds painted intense streaks of white through it. The trees were lit in such a way that flattered their weather-battered limbs.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No Spoilers Here

I worked from home today, because I'm still sick, but I did still accomplish something important this evening. I finished book seven, The Deathly Hallows, in the Harry Potter series. Why is this such a big deal? I managed to do it and found out what happened in the end by reading it with my own eyes. I'm not one of those people who glances at the end of a book to find out what happened early either.

When book seven came out, last July, I was in Princeton, NJ, heading back from Boston. I had only read the first four books, so I was not optimistic that I would get to the end of the last novel without finding out which wizard prevailed. When I started reading books in fifteen minute increments, I didn't think it would help too much, although at least some progress was better than none. I still like the fact that I've been savoring each novel almost as if I were eating a single piece of a dark chocolate bar every day. Oh, wait. I do that, too.

On at least two occasions, I had to cover my ears and make panicked noises in order to avoid hearing about the ending. One other time, I thought that a friend had inadvertently revealed at least part of the ending. She felt guilty, thinking that everyone knew, because it was on Good Morning America. Well, I've been spared from almost all entertainment news ever since I quit watching almost all television and quit listening to non-NPR radio, that has made my avoidance easier. The fortunate thing is that what my friend revealed to me actually happened in book six, so it was still a surprise.

Since I've been sick, I've picked up the pace on the final book just a bit. I probably read the last two thirds of the book while I was sick. The Harry Potter books are perfect reading for when you're already feeling a little fuzzy. In the past several months, aside from my brief morning wake-up reading, I've been mostly reading while I'm eating. The only problem with that is that when a book gets particularly exciting, your soup gets cold.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Taking Ranting for Granted

Since I'm still sick, I'm kind of running out of blog fodder, at least material that doesn't require a dab of mental energy. Of course, I could write about yet more dining excursions, but writing about that is less appealing to someone who still can't really taste anything.

This must mean that it's time to rant about something. I think one of the major problems in this area, this country and perhaps the rest of the world is that we take things for granted. It's likely impossible not to and may even be a survival trait. If we spent all our time appreciating everything that was going right in our lives at every moment, then we would have all been run over by trucks a long time ago.

There are two things that are driving the point of this post. One is that, as I'm mentioned a couple of dozen times already, I'm sick and I know that no matter how hard I attempt to fully appreciate being healthy, it does happen occasionally. I do believe that I've said to people in the past, "nothing makes you appreciate living as almost dying." Well, the same is true if you've recently experienced a head cold, just to a lesser extent.

The other rant inducement is the drought. I've heard numerous people tell me recently that they were waiting to run the dishwasher until it was full, because of the drought. It shouldn't be because of the drought. The dishwasher shouldn't be run until it's full because it wastes water (and energy) if it's not full. It wastes just as much water whether you live in the desert or whether some hurricane has dumped twenty inches of rain the day before. The problem is that people take fresh water for granted, just as we do electricity, heat, clean air, food and the fact that we are currently unlikely to be shot on the way to work. Obviously, some people take different things for granted. Some people may take the cool crisp air of fall for granted, while I know that if it weren't for the drought most of my neighborhood would be so full of smoke that I'd have difficulty breathing even without a cold.

I'm not saying that I'm a saint here, because I'm sure I waste about as much water as most people in some fashion or another and I know I can be cranky at the best of times, but I just hope a few of you will think about what or who in your life is important and not take them for granted. Be sure to look for trucks first.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just Ask Alice

Many of you are starting to spend more time at home for the holidays. (I am, but it's because I'm still sick and I can honestly say that I would even rather be working on a Saturday night than feel sick.) In any case, for many of you, your kids are home for the holidays, as well.

This is the perfect opportunity to teach them about programming. Yes, you read that right. Yank them away from the television or whatever new fangled toy that they're selling this year, settle down and start working on some animation. If you don't, they are liable to go into finance or go to law school. Surely you don't want that. Actually, starting to strengthen analytical skills at an early age should help in whatever career they choose, but you should still remain optimistic.

Last month, Dr. Susan Rodger gave a talk to the Durham FM Association regarding the Alice Programming Language, which was developed by Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon. Pausch recently gave an inspirational "Last Lecture" after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Alice is a tool for creating animation using "drag and drop" code and 3D object libraries to teach fundamental coding concepts, such as loops, classes, functions and arrays. It's pretty cute. It's currently being used in one of the Duke computer science courses for non-majors, but it's clearly even more appropriate for K-12 education and they are encouraging its adoption at that level.

The programming tool reminded me vaguely of the software that comes with Lego Mindstorms, which is another excellent method for learning fundamental programming concepts.

The best thing is that Alice is free, so anyone can try it out on their own. Dr. Rodger also has additional materials available.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Neomonde Bakery and Deli

I've effectively been quarantined since Wednesday night, so I haven't exactly ventured out into the world to have interesting experiences, much been less able to actually taste any of the food that I've been injesting. Fortunately, there are some things that I've been meaning to write about for a while.

Warning: The following information is not about Durham, quaint Hillsborough or Carrboro. It's about Raleigh. Please avert your children's eyes as necessary.
A few weeks ago, before going to the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show, I went to Neomonde Bakery and Deli, which is just down Beryl Road from the J.C. Raulston Arboretum. It's a cafe serving wonderful Lebanese food. They have another location in Morrisville, but I first started going to this original location many years ago. I didn't see the owners this time, but the gregarious brothers used to cheerfully chat with us each time we came in. They expanded this location since the last time I was there and I marveled at how much it had grown.

I came in eager to have a falafel sandwich and it definitely hit the spot.

We also split a spinach fatayer, which is a spinach, tomato, onion and olive oil filled pastry. It used to be one of my favorite meals when I was a teenager.
They have a wide array of desserts. This is where once I infamously said I would have "one bite" of a cream puff and I left just one bite for my Most Faithful Reader to eat. Fortunately, they don't sell cream puffs anymore or I would be likely to demonstrate my generosity once again. AE bought some halva, which is a dessert made from sesame seed paste and strangely reminds me of malted milk balls.
They've also always had a market area where they sell nuts, dried fruit, spices and all kinds of other cooking ingredients in large quanitities, for low prices.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Aril Liberation

I've been very sick with a head cold all day (acute viral nasopharyngitis, I'm sure), but it turns out that opening up a pomegranate for the first time is a fairly good activity when you're feeling ill, because it's somewhat mindless and yet you get to dissect a new lifeform, which is interesting. I decided to use the pomegranate submerged in water method, because I just have too much white in my kitchen and I wasn't feeling particularly brave. Hopefully you will all enjoy the play-by-play.
This is after I sliced off a narrow chunk and started to break it apart with my fingers. The red flesh covered seeds are called arils.
Here you can see the difference in the pith-like substance and the thin membranes between areas of fruit.
I was about half-way through at this point.
All done. Then all I had to deal with was a big soggy mess. Fortunately, most of the membranes and the pith float, for the most part, so I was able to skim off most of it with my cupped hands.
I put it all in a strainer, washed most of the little bits down the sink and then slowly rolled the arils into another bowl. I had to pick off more derbis as I transferred it, but it wasn't too bad.
I'd say the whole process took an hour or so, but I'm guessing it wouldn't take nearly that long the next time. If nothing else, I should be a lot peppier and the task will seem a lot less daunting. The pomegranate is very tasty, of course and I'm sure it's good for me when I'm sick, too. Thanks again to GEE for giving me the fruit and all of the rest of you who contributed anticipatory comments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Locopops Coming to a Building Near Me!

I am sure that many of you already know that a Weaver Street Market will be in the large building that is currently being built in downtown Hillsborough. While that is something to which I am really looking foward, I am even more excited about the wonderful news that I heard today.

Thanks to my Hippest Friend, I found out that in March, a fourth Locopops location will be opening behind the new Weaver Street Market! I have been so envious of those of you who can just stop by and pick up a locopop on the slightest whim rather than having to stockpile them and bring them home in coolers. Now I will be able to get fresh hibiscus locopops every day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Punica granatum

Today Google Earth Evangelist gave me an unusual gift. For those of you who are as ignorant as I apparently am, it's a pomegranate. Despite a love for food shopping, I rarely venture into grocery stores, which may or may not contribute to my ignorance. I am, however, very familiar with the seeds once they've been deposited in a salad or on my favorite ravioli dish, so I am very excited about the prospect of cutting open this fruit. This one is about the size of a very large apple.

I am looking forwarded to the adventure that awaits when I attempt to cut it open and squirt glorious red pomegranate juice over the white walls of my kitchen, my kitchen cabinets, the living room carpet and possibly the ceiling. I'm not sure exactly what range I can expect from the fruit, but I have been told that I need to wear black.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rosetta Stone

For some combination of birthday and Christmas, my parents gave me Rosetta Stone for Latin American Spanish. I've been really excited about this, because I've been wanting to learn Spanish for years and I suspect using Rosetta Stone will probably be the most effective and enjoyable way to do that. The co-founder of the original company, John Fairfield, was a graduate student in the Duke Computer Science department. In fact, two of the senior executives, Mike Fulkerson and Greg Keim, were graduate students in the department when I was an undergraduate.

Rather than requiring the memorization of vocabulary definitions and verb conjugations, it leads you through the process of intuitively figuring out words for yourself based on selections of images. It continues to build on itself as sentence constructions become more complicated. At the same time, you have to speak words and phrases and it checks your pronunciation using speech recognition. You can even graphically see how the sounds you make compare to their audio examples. Since you are only exposed to the spoken language audio, images, the written language and no English translations, there is actual potential to learn to think in the new language early on.

I've only completed a couple of lessons, but I'm even more optimistic now than I was before I experienced what they refer to as the "dynamic immersion" method. It's basically like playing a game for which you are constantly learning and that's hard to beat.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I'm In Love Again

It's not unusual for me to come home from a party and feel as if I'm in love. I usually return feeling that way about a dog or perhaps some sort of gadget. Dogs are the most common, because I really like dogs and they are even friendlier than gadgets.

This time, thanks to the Why Bee, the object of my affection is Cambozola. Like the name suggests, it's kind of like a combination of Camembert or Brie and Gorgonzola. I believe it may be habit forming, if not addictive.

I'm afraid I'm just going to have to go somewhere and introduce myself to a new dog, because I have a feeling that will be a lot healthier.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Flaming Wax Garnish

I was eating at ACME Food & Beverage Co. tonight and they served my beloved lemon pudding cake in the most unusual manner. It had this wax stick that had been placed orthogonal to the dessert itself and at the tip was a small flame. I can only imagine that they thought it might aid my photography. Thankfully, the smoke alarms were not set off when I extinguished the flame, although from my dining experiences, very few customers notice such things so I would not have been unduly embarrassed. In any case, I applaud the dramatic presentation and I suspect it will be all the rage soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Vegetarian Options at Federal

Prior to attending the Duke Sympony Concert (awesome), Google Earth Evangelist and I went to the Federal for dinner. She had never been before and I hadn't been in about a year. Glancing at the menu, one wouldn't necessarily think that it's the best place to go with a vegetarian, but it turned out to be a good choice. If you haven't been there before, and you're a non-smoker, I recommend that you make sure that you're seated in the back of the restaurant instead of the bar area.
We decided to split two servings in half so we could both try them. One was fried eggplant with potatoes, fennel and leeks. It was just amazing, because the eggplant was almost creamy inside. I would be excited to have a whole plate of this, if given the opportunity. The flavors and textures of all of the vegetables were just wonderful.

Our other entree was a grilled cheese sandwich with sharp cheddar, avocado, roasted tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper mayo and mixed greens, on focaccia. I remember having a similar open-faced sandwich with shrimp before, but it must have been a special. This was very good, but it would have been impossible for it to top the eggplant.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When Gerberas Attack

Detectives to Hunt, Kill Deer Eating Flowers

Oh, my goodness gracious. If flowers are attacking deer, then humans are certainly fair game. I've been convinced that my orchids have been just waiting for an opportune moment to wrap their aerial roots around my throat ever since I forgot to water them for a day or two.

I'm also thinking that perhaps a least one person at WRAL needs to read Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Actually, I would prefer that they didn't.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blu Blogging: Pretty Pie

This may be even more beautiful than my rice. This gorgeous slice of key lime pie followed our dinner at Blu this evening. The whipped cream was topped with mint and candied lime, which I don't recall ever having tried before. My Most Faithful Reader actually ordered this dessert. but she was generous enough to give me a lime piece. I had my own bowl of peach cobbler.

Is there any sort of candied fruit that doesn't taste interesting and wonderful?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How to Make Rice

I have observed that a lot of people who are perfectly capable at most cooking don't know how to make rice. I love making it, because the way I do it is incredibly easy and turns out perfectly every time. I always make basmati rice, because that's what I like best, but these instructions were originally developed for "ordinary" rice. You can adjust all of the ingredients proportionally if you want to make more or less rice.

In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart pot, boil:

2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pat/glob of butter

Once it comes to a boil, dump in:

1 cup of rice

Immediately cover with a lid and set the stove on the lowest heat setting. Set a timer for 20 minutes. After the timer goes off, it's ready to eat!

Isn't it beautiful?

Here is my rice again with some delicious fake hamburger glop and green beans that my mom made this evening. Yves soy ground round stir fried with a couple of eggs and onions is very tasty, indeed. Yes, as my readers may have noticed, carbohydrates seem to be my specialty.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Skeedaddle - Dec 2nd

Just as I feel as if my doctored photo on the left is is a bit Hopperesque, I'm sure you'll feel like hopping if you go hear Skeedaddle at Nosh on Sunday, anytime from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. They've been playing there at brunchtime once a month for the last few and it's a pretty much guaranteed good time for all involved.

You can read more of what I've written about Skeedaddle or you can check out their nifty pdf flier for tomorrow's performance.