Sunday, September 30, 2007

Procyonidae and Sciuridae

In the past couple of weeks, I've had some nice encounters with wildlife who just happened to be eating or looking forward to eating birdseed that we put out for them. For these night shots, it's the first time I had tried out the ISO 200 setting on raccoons. On the same evening as I took these photos, I also saw one of the groundhogs that they've been feeding. FIFO, who, with the help of a spray water bottle, has been conditioned to tolerate raccoons, squirrels, does not like groundhogs or opossums. That's putting it mildly.

These raccoons are on my parents' deck. I think the maximum number I've personally seen is seven at one time. When the babies are tiny, they are particularly adorable. I've never been too concerned about rabies, because, with rare exceptions, they've looked rather healthy. I, however, don't exactly go out of my way to pet them either. As I've mentioned quite some time ago, I've only seen one raccoon on the deck at my house. I think my parents' place is just more popular due to its proximity to the Eno River.
Here is one of my very own squirrels. I was outside on my deck and this one was too interested in the cups of seed I was holding to run away.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

ACME Blogging: Brunch

It's been several days since my last post about ACME Food & Beverage Co. We can't have that, can we? I was actually not feeling well enough to go there tonight, so my parents brought back take-out, which was nice.Last weekend, while my brother was visiting, we had to go at least once since it's one of his favorite restaurants, too. I was very happy to go there for brunch, since we usually seem to end up going there on Sunday mornings for special occasions. My plate of eggs benedict was likely the best servng of eggs benedict that I'd had there so far. There was plenty of hollandaise sauce, the poached eggs were perfect and the fries (substituted for roasted potatoes) were wonderfully crisp.My mom had this beautiful serving of French toast with maple syrup and fresh blue berries.

Afterwards we had the opportunity to go across the street and sign an impeachment petition. That's one stop shopping for you. You've got to love Carrboro... My mom signed it. I tend to only cross the road if there's food on the other side.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Upton Tea Imports

I wasn't going to blog at all tonight, because I'm still firmly under the weather and wasn't feeling up to it. Then I remembered that ordering some tea filters had been on my to-do list for some time now and there's nothing quite like ordering something off the web to perk me up a bit.

Once I placed my order, I thought it was imperative that I immediately inform my readers about Upton Tea Imports, located in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Thanks to my brother, who gave me a teapot and a tea sampler back in 2004, it is the best place I know of to buy tea and "tea accessories". They have a huge selection of teas and you can buy 15g samples for $1 to $1.50 each or much larger quantities once you've discovered what you prefer.

At work, I don't have convenient access to a sink, so making coffee isn't practical. Without having a good place to rinse out anything, taking in my teapot wouldn't make a lot of sense either. Upton's, however, has these nifty disposable filter bags for individual cups or mugs for brewing loose tea. They also sell a clip with a chain to make the filters easier to use. This all opens up a whole world of teas to me.

I've been addicted to Bigelow's Plantation Mint for some time, but when I've had my dose of caffiene, I'll be trying my samples of Hibiscus Flowers, Honeybush Vanilla, Peach Melba, Organic Ginger Root and Cinnamon Plum. My brother also recommended Moroccan Mint green tea, so I'll be trying that, too. I also have most of a 125g package of Chinese Yunnan black tea that he ordered last Christmas. Once I try all those things, perhaps I can experiment with the hundreds of other varieties of caffienated tea they offer.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Acute Viral Nasopharyngitis Redux

The last time I was sick, which appears to be last October, I never dreamed just how many hits I would get just because my post was titled "Acute viral nasopharyngitis?"

In fact, if you have a blog and you care about its popularity, I recommend getting sick and blogging about it. It's worth it. That's what I'm telling myself, because my aforementioned sore throat slowly turned into a full-blown head cold late this afternoon and evening.

It's all for the blog.

No, I will not sell my used tissues. Find a young child if you want to be infected for the sake of your blog.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Literary Lifehack: Still Successfully Stirring

In mid August, I wrote about my so-called "Night Owl's Literary Lifehack", where I used the anticipation of reading for 15 minutes as motivation for getting up in the morning. I have to say that it has worked beyond my wildest dreams. I've gotten up immediately, every morning, except for today.

I've been fighting off a sore throat since late Saturday night and I've felt gradually sicker, although not severely so. This morning I thought that perhaps my reading time would be better spent resting. When my second alarm went off, I felt as if I would really benefit from getting some adequate rest today by actually *gasp* taking a sick day. It would be my first whole sick day in the two years that I've worked at Duke.

When I woke up again, it was almost six hours later. When I looked at my alarm clock, I expected it to say some time after 9am, but instead it was after noon. I must have been right about needing some extra sleep.

Speaking of extra sleep, one thing I've learned since I started getting up on time is that it's important to go to sleep earlier in the night as well. That alarm filled or snooze alarm interrupted sleep is still more restful than getting right up. I know if I get a decent amount of sleep every night, I'm a lot happier and less cranky, so it's important to adjust accordingly.

Coincidentally, this morning I would have finished my first book since experimenting with my "lifehack". Of course, if I'd noticed yesterday that I only lacked two pages, I might have finished yesterday anyway. Tomorrow, assuming I'm up to it, I'll start a new novel to read for the next month or two. This way I also truly get to savor a novel that most people finish in a couple of days or less.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back for Seconds: Blu

My friend, AN, and I were trying to decide where we should go to dinner last night and I limited our choices to places that at least one of us had never been before. I'd only been to Blu Seafood & Bar once before and I really liked it, so I thought her first suggestion was excellent.We shared two appetizers and a salad, which turned out to be just about the perfect amount of food. The citrus cured salmon, above, was very good. I liked the citrus flavor with every bite. It was served with mashed avacado on crisp pieces of toast. I put the salmon on pieces of their deliciously soft bread and it was lovely.I'd ordered the greens, tomatoes, feta, pita, shredded cucumber, mint and lemon vinaigrette salad before and, as I'd predicted, I thought we should order it again last night. It's just a perfect salad.We ordered the mussels, which were in a moderately spicy citrus broth. It was truly fantastic and we dipped our bread in the broth afterwards. There was enough left such that I debated whether I should take the few tablespoons of liquid home, but I decided it was too much trouble. Just the fact that I thought about it says a lot, though. Finally, we enjoyed the masterpiece that I'd been dreaming of trying ever since I was there in July. The chocolate fondue, for two, is decadence at its best, but I'm betting it's comparatively healthy as desserts go. It came with exquisite dark chocolate, pound cake, blueberries, strawberries, dried mango, bananas, dried papaya and thin slices of granny smith apples. I don't like raw bananas and AN doesn't like strawberries, so it worked out perfectly.
Overall, Blu impressed me even more this time than before. The service was impeccable and friendly. It's a great place to actually have a conversation, because the background noise is not excessive. Also, it was fun to chat with Chef Tim Lyons while we were eating, because we were seated close to their open kitchen. I hope to eat there far more frequently in the future. Once every couple of months is not enough.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Barbecue Pilgrimage: A&M Grill

Whenever my brother comes to visit, we have to go to at least one barbecue joint. For the last couple of visits, we've gone to A&M Grill, in Mebane. They have high-quality pit-cooked barbecue, but I have mixed feelings about their tomato-vinegar based barbecue sauce, because it's on the sour side. Their coleslaw is also laden with vinegar. On occasion, I'm in the mood for a ascerbic sandwich, but yesterday was not one of them.

Instead, I ordered a bowl of brunswick stew with a side of onion rings. The stew was somewhat thick with thoroughly shredded chicken and vegetables. The overall effect was slightly sweet. I enjoyed it a great deal and will make it my meal of choice there. Their onion rings are consistently excellent, but greasy. What good onion rings aren't greasy?

I didn't try any hushpuppies, because I had more than I could eat already, but they are always good there. Their sweet tea was also good. It's not Refectory sweet tea, but it was drinkable. I just can't drink the syrup like I used to.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Yet Another Taverna Nikos Update!

Brightleaf Square was hopping again tonight, which was good to see. My brother is visiting this weekend and I dragged all the family members to Piazza Italia who hadn't been there before. It was just an excuse to have another order of Mezzaluna di Pesce and try out more gelato flavors.

After dinner, I stopped by to peer in the dark windows at Taverna Nikos. I found out that they are just waiting for permits. Apparently, while Bill Bakis will still own it, he is setting up a new corporation for the restaurant. This is taking more time, since he has to deal a bit more with the city than he would have otherwise.

Soon the wait will be over!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's Gone To The Dogs

As I've mentioned numerous times, I don't eat beef, for a variety of reasons. Since I love hot dogs and most sausages, that used to seem almost depressing. Fortunately, I've recently found excellent substitutes.

Pauly Dogs, on Duke's campus, introduced me to veggie Morningstar Farms hotdogs, which I find just as good as beef hot dogs, but so much healthier. I've become a Pauly Dogs addict, since Pauly has come up with such creative combinations of toppings. I just hope he'll offer some vegetarian or non-beef chili someday.

Aidells makes all natural chicken and apple sausages, which are superb. The sweetness of the apple and fruit juices obliterates any bitterness from the chicken. They are free from preservatives, hormones and antibiotics. 160 calories for a large 100g link doesn't seem too shabby either. They even microwave well. Around here, Aidells sausages are available from CostCo and Harris Teeter. According to their website, they actually have 22 varieties, but I don't know how many of those are easy to find.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arrr! Humor in Software Development

At work today, it was hard to avoid the fact that it was Talk Like a Pirate Day, even if one wanted to. People were talking like pirates during meetings, between meetings and while talking about meetings. It be a lot o' fun.

Today Blackboard,Inc. announced that they were releasing two new language packs for the latest version of its software, one for Pirate Language and one for Pig Latin. I found one article that also has some good quotes from some Blackboard, Inc. employees with whom I've had the pleasure of working.

Blackboard, Inc. has received some criticism for this, because it was assumed that they could be working on bug fixes or enhancements that their customers have requested. I, on the other hand, think it's great. It is so refreshing to see a sense of humor exhibited in such a staid and sober arena as software development. Generally the people who would be producing such language packs are not the ones likely to be working on bug fixes, but even if they were, is it such a bad thing for employees to get to work on something fun occasionally? I would imagine that it actually makes their serious work more efficient and productive.

Now, back when I studying to be a software engineer when I grew up, I was the project team member advocating things like "crash" buttons explicitly designed to make our applications fail spectacularly combined with humorous or nonsensical error messages. I think it was a complete coincidence that these brainstorming activities also included my fellow team members' plans to FedEx me to Guatemala.

Today is also the 25th anniversary of the smiley, which seems highly appropriate. :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Two Perfect Evenings

We have been having the most fantastic weather that could be imagined. After 75+ days of 90 degree heat, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever be nice again. It's been the perfect weather for leisurely enjoying a meal outside, too.

On Sunday, I was able to spend about five hours relaxing, eating and playing guitar on my friends' patio, in Durham. My friend's parents grilled chicken, veggies and bison burgers. The burgers were a real treat, since I don't eat beef. For me, the evening's culinary highlight was a salad that JA made with salad greens, mozzarella, fresh figs, watermelon and homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I had my first Mallomar for dessert. Apparently they only sell them up north during the fall, but they are very good and surprisingly light. For those who haven't seen them before, they consist of marshmallow and graham cracker covered with a thin layer of dark chocolate.

Last night, I got to spend the evening talking with friends over dinner at Piazza Italia. I hadn't seen them in a while, so we had so much to talk about. It was great taking advantage of the restaurant's outdoor seating for hours and it definitely made me appreciate the recent renovations at Brightleaf. We went inside to have our servings of gelato, each having two flavors in our "small" cups. I chose chocolate and orange this time. I didn't take any photos of my meal, because I couldn't resist ordering the Mezzaluna di Pesce again.

On one of these fine evenings, I hope my readers will take the time to relax and eat outdoors, too. Fall is such a beautiful time of the year, even before the leaves start to turn.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Brunch with Skeedaddle

I was going to take the night off from blogging since I got home on the late side, but I couldn't resist posting a couple of photos from today's Skeedaddle concert at Nosh.

It was a delightful way to spend my morning and early afternoon and I think Hugh, Anastasia, Steve and Fred had just as good a time as I did. My giant pancake, eggs, bacon and fruit were great, too.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

How Much For That Froggie In the Window?

Last night, just as I was getting ready to turn the lights off and get ready for bed, I noticed this frog on the window next to my front door.

I think it was another Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis or Hyla versicolor), similar to the one I saw a few weeks ago. It had the same light gray patch underneath the eyes and a large orange patch on the thigh, which I couldn't see on the previous one. I almost considered making a short movie of it, but I was too sleepy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's Raining Over Here!

Only a few readers who are also amateur radio operators will truly appreciate the title of this post. When Skywarn nets are activated, there are invariably people who call in with their radios and announce that it's raining where they are. During severe weather, reports should generally be limited to reports of hail that is dime sized or greater, tree and structural damage, flooding and funnel clouds.

In any case, it certainly has been raining over here and it seems rather significant. I can't recall a time when people were more excited about rain. I got e-mails saying that I should go outside on the quad and enjoy it. People came up to my cube and said, "Look! Lenore! It's raining! I'm wet!" We've had the hottest summer on record in terms of how many days we endured above 90 and we hadn't had widespread rain in months. The swarms of yellow jackets on campus were very cranky while I was attempting to eat my lunch today. We needed this.

While I was driving home, it was really coming down and there was quite a bit of water standing on the road, but we probably only got half an inch or so. We need so much more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food For Thought

Before I forget entirely, it's time for another poll. First, let's examine the results of the first one.
Thanks to those of you who answered. It took a long time for anyone to answer B, so I wondered if this question were a no-brainer for most people. I, however, took a comparatively long time to answer. I had to sleep on it. I mean, just how bad is the food and how good is the company? I have friends with whom I've flat out refused to go to certain eating establishments, particularly chains. Although, if I haven't seen the person in a long time, I'll eat just about anywhere. So many possibilities went through my mind while trying to answer this question.

What if the food were live larvae? That leads me to my next poll question, which is a little more concrete. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sensational Skeedaddle and Sustenance

This Sunday, an incredible event will occur. It's somewhat akin to the moon and several planets aligning on a clear and cool summer evening. On Sunday, September 16th at 11am, everyone will get a chance to hear and watch the talented musicians of Skeedaddle perform while simultaneously eating Nosh pancakes.

Back in May I wrote about what a wonderful time I had seeing Hugh and Anastasia perform in their band, Skeedaddle, so I am truly looking forward to listening to that toe tapping music once again while having an excellent brunch at Nosh. I hope many of my dear readers will take the time to stop by to enjoy that groovy combination with me. If you don't feel like eating breakfast, then I heartily recommend the SRP pizza, substituting chicken for beef. They also sell both IZZE and locopops!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Observing 9/11 At Duke

Today was more thought provoking than I anticipated. On my way to lunch today, I passed by the rows of flags on Duke's main quad, commemorating those who died six years ago. I thought about how many more flags there should be for the soldiers and Iraqis who have died since then. If all of the deaths were commemorated, then the original set would seem small by comparison.

I chose a shady spot to enjoy my veggie Pauly Dog that just happened to be near the tent of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. I could not have asked for a more interesting view. Of all of the theories that have been proposed so far, it is only the one purported by the Bush Administration that I am certain that I do not believe. It's not as if they exactly have a stellar track-record for honesty, now do they? I rarely underestimate what people will do for greed and the administration has shown very little regard for human life.

I was alarmed at how few people stopped to hear what they had to say. Most didn't even look in their direction as they were being offered a small flier. A couple of students became angry and were offensively rude. If people are so sure of their convictions, then they shouldn't fear being contaminated by an opposing point of view, now should they? As an alum, I feel ashamed that the majority of the students passing by didn't appear to have an open mind and appeared to not question the world around them. Skepticism should exude from every pore of these students. Perhaps they are "waiting on the world to change"? While I applaud the fact that John Mayer promotes distrust of the media in the song, I am dismayed at the message that apathy should be embraced. Today's Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper, had an article about how Duke students have changed in this regard.

After I finished my lunch, I stopped and talked to the group for a bit. They seemed pleased at my interest and at the notion of appearing in my blog. I didn't recognize him out of context at the time, but Dr. Burk, who is reaching for the banner in the photo, gave a fascinating guest lecture on integrative medicine in one of my history courses, eight years ago. The Durham 9/11 Public Response group has regular meetups, so be sure to check out their schedule if you're interested.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I made the trek to ACME Food & Beverage Co., in Carrboro, again last night, which isn't exactly a surprise to anyone, I'm sure. My meal, however, was news worthy. This weekend, they had a bratwurst special for $12.95. You get local pork bratwurst from EcoFarm, covered with sauerkraut and coleslaw and served with a mountain of ACME's Stupendous Fries. (They don't call them that.)
What's the exciting news? Kevin said that, starting today, ACME will have bratwurst all winter long. So pick one of the beers they have on tap, relax and have one heck of a meal.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Maki Magic at Mount Fuji

Friday night, I went to Mount Fuji Asian Bistro for dinner. Of the sushi places that I go to on a regular basis (Kurama and Cafe Zen), it probably has the third best sushi. Unlike the others, where I primarily get nigiri, I enjoy their rolls best. They sometimes put a lot of effort into presentation when one orders several more rolls.
My favorite Mt. Fuji roll is the Wasabi Roll, which has quite a kick. In fact, on Friday, I could feel it in my scalp with almost every bite. That was unusually strong, but very good. This time I also tried a Rainbow Roll, which I hadn't ordered from anywhere in years. I thought the two types of rolls would be a good combination and I was right. I'm very fond of their eel and avocado Caterpillar Roll, but I didn't feel like eating anything that sweet at the time. Generally, when I'm feeling adventurous (most of the time) and I'm ordering a variety of rolls, I ask for them to leave off the "spicy sauce", because it tends to obliterate all of the subtle flavors in the fish.

Here's another example, from early August. The rolls and the salmon roe were great, but the mackerel nigiri was way too pickled for my taste. I'm a big fan of the mackerel at Kurama.

I think the interior, like many of the restaurants in Brightleaf Square, is lovely. Unlike Kurama and Cafe Zen, they have lots of tables and there's an option of sitting outside when it's nice out, or even when it's unbearably hot. I've never tried any of their non-sushi entrees, but my dad seems to enjoy them. One of the main reasons why I like to go Mt. Fuji, however, is my favorite waiter, Danny. He puts an enormous amount of charm and energy into his job, always has plenty of political jokes (you can guess which flavor from my blogroll) and commiserates when times are rough. (When haven't they been, in the last seven years?) He worked at Taverna Nikos for a long time and I knew I could always look forward to his laughter during our frequent visits there.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Taverna Nikos Update

Brightleaf Square was Friday's hot destination for many tonight, in more ways than one. Hundreds of people were enjoying eating, shopping and listening to The Magic Pipers, a local cover band, while managing to survive the humidity and the heat of the brick oven that we normally think of as a shopping mall.

While I was planning to get dinner, my primary reason for heading to Brightleaf tonight was to see if I could find out more about the reopening of Taverna Nikos. I've been calling every few days, hoping to hear that they've opened. Apparently they are doing some remodeling and there have been delays in the construction. Work has been observed to be sporadic, but they now have a sign indicating that they will be opening soon.

While I was making these photographs, a couple wandered over, also hoping to find out when they will be opening. With so many eagerly awaiting their return, I'm optimistic that it won't be long before the resurrected restaurant is full of hungry epicureans. I just hope they offer Garides Kataife on their menu, which is that delicious shrimp dish they have at their Nikos Taverna location, in Morrisville.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's A Good Thing They're Cute

As many of you have already read, I feed the squirrels on my deck rail every day. I am nominally feeding the birds, but I'm sure that the majority of the shelled sunflower seeds get eaten by my squirrels. Sometimes I have as many as nine on my deck at once, but with that many they tend to put more energy into martial arts maneuvers than eating. One morning, this past weekend, as I was going out to feed them, I noticed that one of the squirrels was climbing my red crepe myrtle, which you can see behind the railing, between the two squirrels in the foreground. You can observe that there are no flowers visible in this photo. The squirrel that climbed it was chewing them off! I had thought that the deer didn't like crepe myrtles, so I had wondered what had been happening to them. A couple of days later I saw a squirrel just lean over from the deck rail in order to chew. Believe me, I had a few choice words for them as I examined their dining area.
I looked down and saw some of the blossoms on the ground.

I went down the ramp and saw that they had dragged some flowers down there. That squirrel sure looks guilty to me.
I took this photo two years ago, before any of my furry friends had discovered it. Notice that they are still on the tree. It's a really pretty color, so it's really a shame. My mom came by and sprayed with Liquid Fence and I haven't seen them touch it since, although they probably aren't as interested now that the flowers are gone. It's a good thing those little bastards are so cute.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not Yet

As my laptop ages, I keep considering how and when I should replace it. As more and more machines are released, I've become more indecisive. Should I get a Mac? Should I stick with Windows? Should I get a desktop? Should I get a UMPC? In the past year, all I've managed to decide was to get a new Treo 700p and switch to Verizon, but that's still just a phone.

Today's release of the new iPod touch didn't make that decision any easier. I'd been figuring that I wouldn't worry about the iPhone until they opened it up to new carriers, which, unless they break their contract with AT&T, wouldn't be for almost two years. Of course, I should have predicted that they would release a non-phone iPhone.

Well, the problem is that it's not really an iPhone sans the phone. It doesn't have many of the features that make the iPhone desirable. It doesn't have the awesome speakers or 3rd party applications. In fact, looking at what Fake Steve succinctly lists as what's missing from the iPod Touch, it's easy to see what my Treo 700p has that the iPod Touch doesn't:

  • microphone
  • Bluetooth
  • card slots
  • speakers
  • 3rd party applications (for me that means IM, Twitter, etc.)
  • Google Maps
  • phone
  • camera
Yet once again I can triumph in deciding to do absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, that means that my dream of having an ultra-portable Wi-Fi device with a fully functional browser while carrying around a teeny little phone will have to wait a little longer.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

ACME: My Favorite Restaurant

I've been going to ACME Food & Beverage Co. since the summer of 1998. It's hard to believe that it's been that long and that they've only continued to blossom since then. When I first started going there, the long departed Pyewacket was my restaurant of choice, but I started frequenting ACME far more. Not only is the food superb, but the service my family has received has always been beyond excellent. We look forward to seeing Scott, Brian and Paul when we visit. The owner and chef, Kevin Callaghan, also has an almost weekly newsletter filled with humor and information about the weekend's specials. We miss it if he skips a week.

Sunday night, I experienced yet another delightful evening there. It started out with their delicious bread, which has varied over the years. My all time favorite was when they served the lightest and softest rolls, fresh out of the oven, but I consistently ended up eating so many that it became much more difficult to eat dessert.

I always check the dessert list first and Sunday night I determined that I wanted to have the turkey fig tart. I've had several of them before and I knew I loved them. I wasn't in the mood to share one, so I chose a small plate of housemade shrimp ravioli for my entree. They were fantastic.

The tart itself was just wonderful. Its fresh figs were sweet, but not excessively so, and they were perfectly combined with amaretto mascarpone cheese and toasted almonds.
My parents' selections of pork tenderloin and crab cakes were particularly nicely presented as well.
I look forward to many many more celebrations and fabulous informal dinners at "our" table near the bar.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Batter Fights Back

The pavlovas were well received by my test subjects. I thought they were on the sweet side, but I think that may be appropriate for giant meringues. Once we finished eating, I was ready to get back to my original mission, to bake a Yeasted Sugar Cake, from the Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone cookbook. For those of you who don't wish to purchase a mammoth-sized cookbook on vegetarian cooking, it's also available here on Epicurious.

Since I was making the cake for the first time, I was somewhat nervous. There's just so much that could go wrong and I'm very good at worrying. I could kill the yeast. I could overheat the warmed milk. To my knowledge, I've never actually killed yeast before, but there are times when I could imagine that the YCLU was about to knock on my door.

Everything worked perfectly. The yeast rose before I put it in. The batter doubled in bulk, just as it was supposed to. Then I got to the part where the recipe said to put the dough on a lightly-floured counter and shape the it into a disk before placing it in a buttered cake pan. The problem was that this wasn't dough. It was yeasty cake batter that fought back. If I had been intelligent, I would have just poured it in the cake pan, but I attempted to follow the instructions. I ended up moving cupped handfuls of batter and dumping them in the pan. It was not pretty. Spreading softened butter on top of a semi-liquid substance was only somewhat easier. Topping the butter with granulated sugar was cake, by comparison.

While it I was letting the cake rise one last time, I googled to find out if other bloggers had similar experiences with the same recipe. Indeed, they had and I was quite relieved, because their photos of their results looked similar to what I remembered.

Here's what it looked like as soon as I took it out of the oven. It smelled heavenly.

Here's a slice with a dollop of the lemon curd. It was an excellent combination, although I did prefer the plums, strawberries and whipped cream that Camilla served. I truly love this recipe, because it's not overly sweet, nicely yeasty and with only a 1/2 cup of sugar and 6 tablespoons of butter, it's comparatively healthy.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Everything but the Cake

I wasn't sure what I was planning to do over the three day holiday weekend, but I knew that I wanted to bake a cake. In fact, I knew I wanted to bake a cake using the same Yeasted Sugar Cake recipe that Camilla made while I was visiting.

I didn't have any fruit to go with it, so I thought I would try out the Lemon Curd recipe in the Luscious Lemon Desserts cookbook. I've had store bought versions before, made by Dundee, but I had a feeling that something homemade might be a whole lot better.

The recipe sounded fairly easy to make. It called for six egg yolks and didn't need a double boiler, although that wouldn't have been a big deal, since I have one. Wait. What do I do with the whites? My mom suggested looking up pavlova in the Joy of Cooking, but that didn't seem to be in edition that I have. I googled "6 egg whites pavlova" and ended up with a recipe for 6 individual pavlovas on Maiapapaya.

At least that was settled. I began working on the lemon curd. After it thickens on the stove, you're supposed to strain it while pouring the curd into a bowl. That's easier said than done, because the curd really didn't want to go through the strainer. I had to keep stirring and pushing it through. Next time, I don't think I'm going to bother with this step, because while I'm sure it was an effort to maintain an ultra-smooth consistency, the leftover contents of the strainer tasted awfully good. The lemon curd itself ended up being pretty fantastic, though.

When I got home from dinner, I started working on the pavlovas. They were pretty easy, too. Next time I might use a full-sized baking sheet since these just barely ran together. These are supposed to be topped with whipped cream and strawberries soaked in Grand Marinier, but I suspect they will be good plain.

I decided to wait to bake the cake until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Peculiar Printer and Pen Problems

This week, I've had two annoying problems:

My HP 7410 all-in-one printer decided that it didn't want to turn on this morning. It's normally on all the time, but I found it off. Actually, I only noticed it was off after I carefully lined up two pictures to scan them. Eventually, unplugging it and replugging it in at the wall seems to have fixed it. Unplugging and replugging the power supply from the printer had no effect.

Just about every time I picked up my Swiss Army pen with its Fisher Space Pen cartridge this past week, it had a blob (or perhaps a glob) of ink on the tip. If I didn't notice and blot it somewhere, that ink got on my paper where I was writing and ended up smearing rather spectacularly. It's kind of sad, because I really enjoyed writing with the pen up until now and it was the best pen I'd ever used. As I've mentioned before, since I'm left-handed, gel roller-balls tend to smear and for unknown reasons ordinary ball-points seem to skip or just quit writing.

Apparently, the Fisher Space Pen ink cartridges are pressurized with 35 pounds per square inch and I guess it's constantly pushing ink out, whether or not it's in use. Do any of my readers have experience using Fisher Space Pen cartridges? Is this something that regularly happens or is this an anomaly? I had intended to order one of Fisher's rainbow titanium pens and I'm surprised that this problem started before I shelled out my money.