April 29, 2015

Justifiably delicious

This post is a rescuee from my drafts folder. It was written but not published in late 2011 or early 2012, when Stan and I were engaged. Please note that I fully stand behind the sentiments expressed herein.  

In a way, I love being sick. Being sick is like being handed a license to indulge yourself; it's amazing how many things suddenly become justifiable once you've got the sniffles. Stay in bed and watch an entire half-season of Dr Who? Why not? Call your financé to ask why he hasn't been calling to check up on you? Sure! Everything goes when you're sick.

And then there's the matter of dinner.

It goes something like this:
  1. Hmm, my throat is really sore. What's good for sore throats? Honey is good for sore throats.
  2. I'll eat this spoonful of honey. Nom nom nom... Ooh, look, there's still leftover honey cake!
  3. Honey cake = honey (good for sore throats!), plus eggs (protein!) and flour (grain!) and things (nutrition, ahoy!). Maybe I'll eat some honey cake.
  4. Hmm. This is really crumbly. I'll put it in a bowl.
  5. I wonder if this would be good with milk?
  6. Wow, I'm eating cake cereal for dinner.
Don't look at me like that. It's probably still healthier than Lucky Charms.

April 23, 2015

Little library, big font

It was with great delight that I read an acquaintance's facebook post last night, announcing that our little town now has its very own Little Free Library. She had driven past the unveiling ceremony on her way home; the library box is set up in the nearest park, in between the post office and a mechanic's.

As much as I love the idea of little free libraries in and of themselves, I'm especially glad to see one in this town. We're in the rust belt, the industry around which the town was built died off several decades ago, and things are both depressed and depressing. From a height of 20,000+, the population has fallen to about 7,000. There is a lot of negative thinking from long-term residents, and many attempts to open new businesses or otherwise improve things are met with gloomy prophecies of failure.

Now, I understand that I'm a newcomer -- and transient -- and that I can't personally compare things now with the town's heyday (c. 1960s-70s). But actually, things don't seem that bad to me. We like it here. The town has some problems, but where doesn't? We love that there is still a front-porch culture here. We love how friendly people are on the street. Overall this is a pleasant place to live and we've enjoyed seeing little hints of how it can become something more: a new ice cream shop, a fantastic hyper-local news site, a hotel, etc. Things are happening.

The little free library box, to me, is a sign of hope for this little town. It's a sweet little something that says hey, we're here, and we're a community. Anselm and I went over to see it before lunch today; I picked up one book and dropped off two others, and I suspect that we will make many trips over the next year.

(What did I pick? The Thirteenth Tale, which I have read before but don't remember at all except for the fact that I liked it. Unfortunately I did not notice that, annoyingly, this copy happens to be a large-print edition, so it will definitely be going back to the library box once finished, because I won't own this sort of book until I have to.)

See? Isn't that annoying? I don't like reading large-print books because it's hard to get a good flow going; the size of the print constantly draws my attention out of the story. On the other hand, I will admit that it's hard not to feel like the Queen of Reading when you're turning the page every 23 seconds. So, trade-offs.

At any rate, the thought of our new little library makes me quite cheerful, and I do hope that people embrace it. Onward and upward, little town, onward and upward.


April 20, 2015

Please tell me she's not one of them

Anselm has some neck issues -- either from a birth injury or from just the way he was positioned while growing in utero -- and so he gets physical therapy once a week. It's a great program, actually. The county we're in runs free early intervention services for qualifying children. The baby passed his initial screening, and so now we have a therapist come to our house once a week to do stretches and strengthening exercises with him. Her name is Michelle and we like her a lot.

Michelle has a son who's about two weeks younger than Anselm, so it's been fun to compare notes. She also has a daughter, who turned four in December. That means she was born in (count with me here) 2010.

Now, let's try and remember what happened in 2010:

  • Haiti gets hit by a brutal earthquake
  • The Vancouver Olympics happen and all of Canada screams in unison (We love you, Sidney Crosby)
  • Eyjafjallajokull (which I did not know how to pronounce then and do not know how to pronounce now)  erupts
  • BP Oil runs into some trouble off the Louisiana coast
  • Spain wins the World Cup
  • The Chilean miners get trapped, and then rescued
And, what was it? -- oh yes,
  • The Twilight series, featuring Bella, the twittiest twit in all of literature, hits the peak of its popularity. 
.....

Guess what Michelle's daughter is named? 

(It may be coincidence, of course... but I'm glad that I decided I liked her before I found out her child's name.)

April 10, 2015

7QT: I'm screaming in the rain, just screaming in the rain

Linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes this Friday.

1. The other day I had to run over to the school to take care of something relatively urgent, but Anselm was napping upstairs and Stan wasn't home. So I called a neighbour of ours and she came over with her son, who's a month older than Anselm. I got home about ten minutes later and as soon as I got in the door all I could hear was screaming (in stereo, even, since the baby monitor was still on downstairs). Upstairs I go: R was in our bedroom trying to calm Anselm while her son lost his mind in the bouncy chair in the office. Anselm had woken up from his nap screaming -- terrible habit -- and had set off BabyJ, who set off Anselm, who set off BabyJ... a perfect feedback loop. We took both babies downstairs but there was no chance of a visit since whenever they laid eyes on each other the terrified screaming began again. Sometimes I am less than enchanted with babies' empathic responses.

2. On the other hand, sometimes the empathy thing comes in handy. Once a week Anselm and I spend the afternoon at anther friend's house, babysitting their son E while both parents are in class. E is about thirteen months old, and yesterday he slept so long that I had to wake him, which ensued in a lot of distressed... well, whining, really. But when I took him downstairs -- "Let's go see baby Anselm! What's he doing? Baby Anselm is sleeping!" -- things cheered up considerably, especially after Anselm woke up. He thinks that E is just about the best thing going; it's hard to stay whiny when another baby is staring at you with the love-light in his eyes.

3. I am finally reading Susanna Clark's brilliant novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, only ten years after everyone else did. I'm halfway through but I know that this is one that I'll be reading over and over again -- for the footnotes if nothing else. It's a mystery why, but few things tickle my fancy like a footnoted novel (see also my feelings for Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy).

4. It appears that winter is finally over; instead we have entered the drowning time spring, which so far has chiefly manifested itself in significant amounts of rain. And thunder. And rain. And lightning. And rain. I don't know why this surprises me since spring happens every year.

5. Speaking of things that happen every year, hey, Easter! It was a very quiet Easter for us this year -- pretty much every Holy Week service happened either at naptime or bedtime, so I didn't get to go to any of them except Sunday morning. But Anselm had his four-month vaccinations on Good Friday morning, so rest assured that there was still much reflection on pain, suffering, and travail going on in our house. I don't know if vaccinations really count as part of the cruciform life, but I'm willing to make a case for it.

6. Anyone else on Reddit being driving crazy by The Button? To press or not to press? And if to press -- to press when? I am spending way, way too much time thinking about this.

7. Meanwhile, as I've been reading novels and pondering a stupid button that does nothing, the baby has achieved mobility. Danger! Doom! He can't crawl yet, but he can roll from his tummy to his back, and now from his back to his tummy, and he can certainly squirm. I haven't fully integrated the fact that he's mobile into my brain, though, so the days are frequently punctuated by exclamations of "How did you get there?" Time to start babyproofing, I guess. Also we should probably sweep the carpet.

April 8, 2015

Black Bean Brownies (GF/DF)

Being suddenly dairy-free (thanks, little Anselm!) means that I've been unable to indulge my sweet tooth with my usual post-Communion doughnuts and similar treats. In fact, the other day we were out walking and stopped in at the town bakery, and then I realised that there was literally nothing there I could eat. So I just smelled the air for a while and departed, glumly.

Anyway! For the two very good reasons of 1) wanting to convince myself that there are still many delicious things I can eat and 2) wanting brownies, I made me some dairy-free black bean brownies. The post title probably told you that was coming.

The original recipe is here but I messed around with it significantly (as one does). The recipe with my variations is below.

The verdict?They're... okay. Good but not great. The texture is sort of fudgey-cakey-quichelike, and I would probably add more chocolate. You can definitely taste the beans. It needs more tweaking but it has potential... this is not likely to become a family favourite but I will keep it in my back pocket for entertaining gluten-free / dairy-free friends.

BLACK BEAN BROWNIES

Ingredients:

1 can black beans (15 oz)
3 eggs
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 'glug' maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar

Rinse and drain beans.

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into greased 8x8 pan. Bake at 350F until top is dry and edges pull away from the pan, about 30 minutes.

April 6, 2015

TL;DR 2013/14

Oh, right, I haven't posted in like a year and a half. Let's catch up, shall we?

In 2013 and 2014, I retired a major debt, left my jobs, moved to small-town America, took up ukulele, dressed up as a Settlers of Catan wheat tile for Hallowe'en, drove to St. Louis for American Thanksgiving, drove back to Ontario for Christmas, started a master's degree program, got pregnant, finished the semester, drove to Ohio for a family reunion, spent a month cat/house sitting in the fancy town up the road, made half a rag rug, painted three rooms, drove back to Ontario for a family visit, made curtains and generally nested, started the fall semester, figured I'd be pregnant forever, finally had the baby (41+6 weeks gestation), finished the semester, hosted family for Christmas for the first time, and read 354 books.

That about covers it.

April 4, 2015

Apple Date Almond Squares

A few weeks ago we were having our Bishop over for dinner, so naturally my thoughts turned to dessert. My default on these occasions is usually chocolate chip cookies, but a recent switch to dairy-free living meant that I had to tweak the recipe a bit. Chocolate chips were out; almonds and dates were in. Butter was out; applesauce was in. Then when I had the dough all together, it occurred to me that the anticipated butter -> applesauce texture change might work better as a square than a cookie. So into the pan it all went, and the results were highly satisfactory: sweet but not too sweet, moist, and chewy. Plus the nuts and dates tip the balance from "I'm eating way too much dessert" to "Hey, at least it's kind of healthy, right? Fibre! Protein! Pass the pan."

I would have taken a picture if I hadn't eaten all the leftovers. With gusto.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped dates

Mix together applesauce, sugars, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Add flour, baking soda, salt, almonds, and dates, and mix well.

Pour into greased 8x8 pan.

Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.