Friday, April 29, 2011

Is that Kate William, Mama?

Emilia sat on my lap this evening while we watched clip after clip of the Royal Wedding. 
'Is that Kate William?', she asked.
'Her name is Kate.  Isn't she beautiful?  And William is the name of the man she is marrying.'
A few moments later...
'Whose dress do you like best, mama?  Kate's or Pippa's?'
We both agreed that Kate's dress was the best, but that Pippa looked beautiful, too.  And what's more, is that it is much more fun to say Pippa, no?  'Is that Pippa, mama?  Is that Pippa there, too, mama?'

Highlights and clips were the way that I ended up watching the entire wedding.  I tried to stay up, even cooked the most British things I could think of to celebrate, but nothing doing.  Less than an hour into the local coverage, and I was off to bed (berating myself all the while).  But what was one to do?  Particularly when one happens to live in the worst time zone in the world to watch the exchanging of vows.  Drat -- but not to be helped.  And I realized, way too late, that the smartest thing to do would have been to set the alarm for 3am, go to bed like a normal person, get up and watch the vows, and then go back to bed. 

But the real kicker is that since we have rebuked this whole idea of cable on the telly, we had no repeated coverage the next morning.  There was no re-broadcasting of anything resembling the Royal Wedding whatsoever.  And the frustration continues to grow, as I now realize that we will be missing the entire beatification of JP2 -- that would be Pope John Paul II, née Karol Wojtyla, who died less than one week after I was received into the church.  Quite sad, one could say.  Or just simply, 'Rats!', which seems to be equally effective.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Woe is to me

Do you know, it has turned into sheer torture sitting in front of this blasted computer.  Because, as ridiculous as it sounds, it is windy -- kind of in the manner of a howling gale, only without the howling bit.  And it is right smack in my eyes, causing me to squint, or type with my eyes closed, and feeling generally downright miserable.

If you've been paying attention at all, you will know that I am an avid reader -- usually going for a new book every week or two.  As I write this, I am on page 302 of The Lacuna (by Barbara Kingsolver)**, and it has taken me weeks and weeks to get there.  I can't even read anymore, and to be perfectly frank, it is making me mad and extremely depressed.  My eyes are burning burning burning twenty four hours a day.  I'm at my wits end over here.

So I went to the doctor.  He looked me over (some quick procedure involving a very long cotton swab and a bright light, both of which went right in my eyes), and pronounced that every single duct in my eyes was clogged right up.  Well, what do you know?  He offered to fix the problem then and there, sitting alongside me and explaining it all in a very kindly manner.  I said 'sounds great', and then I immediately passed out.  I swear it's true.  One moment I am sitting there, minding my own business and freezing my tuchas off; the next I am trying to rip off my sweater as fast as I can, because I am covered with sweat and feeling a bit woozy (to say the least).  So I guess this means that I am officially 'one of those'.  I realize this is incredibly lame of me, and I have been quite disgusted and rather put out with myself ever since.  But there it is.

What's more was that they made me reschedule my cotton swab eyeball compression appointment because I was apparently not in the right state to continue on with it.  Right-o.  I went back for my second appointment a week later and did just fine -- seven o'clock in the morning, a healthy dose of valerian extract swimming in my system, and there I was.  The nasty procedure was done in less than ten minutes.  And I felt great for about a day and a half.  But wait, there's more. 

I called and said I had allergies something awful, 'and could you please prescribe a drop of some sort, pretty pretty please?'  And they said 'not a chance, instead we'd like you to rearrange your whole day and come back in'.  Fine.  Whatever.  So with Emilia in tow, I went in one afternoon and left an hour later with plugs.  Yes, that's right.  Plugs.  Some tiny things they squash into your eyes using a very long (and very menacing) silver pokey-thing.  I did not pass out this time, thank you very much, but am very glad that I had the presence of mind to have a nice valerian cocktail earlier.  (Oh, that stuff is a marvel!)  Anyway, Michael called when we were on our way out.  'Whatcha doing?'  'Leaving the eye doctor.  I got plugs.'  'What?  It sounded like you said plugs.'  And then he went from yelling about something or another to laughing at me for getting plugs.  Whatever.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spelt and Yogurt Biscuits

Now then, if you happen to wake up one Saturday morning feeling slightly in the manner of a hippie genius, might I suggest whipping up a batch of these beauties?  The three of us ate them to our heart's content for breakfast, along with lots of butter, jam, and copious amounts of fresh fruit.  We also had cup after cup of coffee (for mama and dada), and a nice glass of milk (for Emilia)**.  I then froze the rest of the batch thinking I would pull them out later in the week, but ended up yanking them from the freezer late Saturday night for breakfast on Sunday.  (What can I say?  Sometimes the idea of cooking breakfast sounds like a royal pain in the arse, particularly when it is late at night and breakfast is not actually that far off.)  So we had them Sunday morning as well, then I had the last one for lunch a few hours later, and that was the end of our yummy biscuits. They were incredibly easy to make -- the dough is mixed entirely in the food processor, which makes them even easier than the scone recipe from Baking with Julia (my old stand-by).  But more importantly, they were so so good.  Julia Child's recipe is hands down the best scone recipe I've come across, but I'm sick to death of it and/or bored to tears by it.  So spelt and yogurt biscuits are completely where it's at for the moment -- not to mention being a very welcome diversion.

The recipe is from Heidi Swanson's new cookbook Super Natural Every Day, and after thumbing through it last week (it is hot off the presses, you know), I settled on the recipe for Yogurt Biscuits to try first, and the recipe on the cover to try next.  (I am always quite interested to know which recipe one chooses to do first in a brand new cookbook.  Odd, but there it is.  Could probably do all kinds of psycho-analysis just with that bit of information.  Or maybe not.  But still interesting, nonetheless.)  Anyway, the cookbook looks marvelous and I am so excited about it.  Usually I just check out her book called Super Natural Cooking from the library, but there is always such a long wait for it.  So a couple of months ago I got on Amazon's site thinking I would just buy my own copy of the damn thing already, when I saw that Miss Swanson had a new cookbook coming out-- rather soon, no less.  I immediately did the pre-order for it  (oh, how I do love a  pre-order!), and then I sat back and waited.  And waited and waited. 

Anyway, that's neither here nor there.  The book came, it looks fabulous, and this is the first recipe I did.

**Getting the girl to drink milk has turned into a nightmare -- she will only drink it if she thinks it is Michael's.  Michael, or dada for short, must then act like he is on the verge of having a bonafide tizzy fit because she is drinking all of his milk.  And yes, this act has been going on for months now.  How long does she expect us to keep it up, I wonder?  Until she is eighteen and has moved out of the house?  For hell's sake already.

Spelt and Yogurt Biscuits

1 ¼ cups spelt flour or whole what pastry flour
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons fine-grain sea-salt (I used my regular kosher salt and will happily do it again because the sea-salt was too far in the back of the cupboard to be bothered)
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 ⅓ cup greek-style plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.  Place an ungreased baking sheet in the oven at the same time to preheat along with it. 

Combine the flours, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of the food processor.  Scatter the butter across the top and pulse about 20 times.  The mixture should look nice and sandy with a few lumps here or there.  Add the yogurt and pulse again until incorporated.  Go easily here because it is very easy to over-mix.  Gather the dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface.  Knead five times until the dough comes together.  Press the dough until it is about half an inch thick and a nice square.  Cut the dough in half.  Place one half on top of the other and press again.  Do this two more times -- cut in half, stack, and then press.  Add a bit more flour if necessary, just to avoid stickiness.  This stacking process will give the biscuits their nice flaky layers once they have baked, and goodness knows that's the whole point of biscuits.

Press (or roll) the dough into a ¾-inch rectangle.  (Any higher and the biscuits will bake tilted and wonky.)  Cut the dough into twelve equal biscuits.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven, quickly place the biscuits on it, spacing about 2 inches in-between, and then place back in the oven.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.  Both the tops and bottom will be nicely golden and look divine.  (Recipe from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. Ten Speed Press, 2011.)  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Royal Wedding Tea

Ooh, lookee!  Look what I just got!  Er, what I mean to say is, what has become of me?  I mean, really -- who buys this crap?  (Actually, it would seem that loads of people buy it. Otherwise, why on earth would they sell it?*)  The funny thing is that the second I pulled it out of the box yesterday, I immediately plonked it on the counter for all to see.  'All' would be Michael -- the one who I knew full-well would openly make fun of me to his heart's content.  And he did not disappoint, I'll tell you that much.

Ordinarily this is just the sort of thing that I would tuck into the back of a closet somewhere and deny owning, or indeed, ever seeing before, all the while feeling quite pleased with myself for making the purchase.  You know how it is.  But for some reason I couldn't do it with my Royal Wedding Tea.  The tea in the fancy tin caddy is by Ahmad's of London, which is totally legit, and it is really quite good.  I know because I had some this morning.  And what's more, this was not a frivolous purchase.  I was actually in dire need of tea.  I've been out for a month now, couldn't be bothered driving to Metropolitan Market** for some more, and became an ardent coffee fan in the meantime.  And what's more, it only cost a buck or two more than the other teas I ordered.  My all-time favorite is actually Brodie's Famous Edinburgh, and I've discovered that I can order it in a mondo-sized-box.  After that, I've become a big fan of Bewley's (Irish Afternoon, in particular), also in mondo-size.  Yorkshire Gold has fallen way down on the list, on account of the fact that I am bored to tears with the stuff.  PG Tips I buy when I'm in a pinch, but the older I get the more bitter it seems to taste.  And not to sound too high-falutin, but it clearly is not the best quality.

And so, with that, I suppose I've indulged (and divulged) my inner anglophile-isms a bit too much.  But I stand by it.  After all, who doesn't like Will and Kate?***  He seems quite nice and she wears lovely boots.  And rumor has it that the doll made in her likeness is flying off the shelves.  Hmmm, maybe Emilia needs one?  Because, to be perfectly honest, there is something very American about the Middletons.  They are entirely self-made, which I find rather admirable and so very respectable.  They are not the worst role-models I've ever seen, that's for sure.  Ah, forget it.  I think we'll stick with Madeline and Mary Poppins for now.  But just make sure you keep me off the computer late at night, after a really long day and all that.  Because goodness knows I am capable of doing a lot of damage.  Or, at least as much damage as our already reeling checking account can take, which isn't much.  So we're safe for now.

* However, I do draw the line with the Royal Wedding fridge because that's just absurd.
**Metropolitan Market is one of the only shops around that sells strong British tea.  Whole Foods and PCC only have odd hippie tea, which is probably quite nice -- really healthy and all that crap, but I'm partial to my British stuff.

***My Chinese brother claims to never have heard of them before.  I told him that they were getting married on his birthday and he said, and I quote, 'Who?  Are you talking about that show?  Will and Grace or something?'