Friday, December 26, 2008

394.2663 -- Family time

Through the magic of webcams, I was able to talk to my family all together for one hour on Christmas day. It was 0100 hours for my brother in Korea, 1600 for my mom and her husband in England, and 1100 in good old Ohio. Not the greatest picture of me, but I'm trying not to dwell :) Next year we'll get those microphones working!

Friday, December 19, 2008

641.8654 -- DIY Turtles

Love the taste of turtles? Here's a quick and easy way to make your own.

pretzels (waffle-shaped or regular pretzel-shaped)
Rolos (unwrapped, obviously)

Heat oven to 250. Place a layer of foil or wax paper on a baking sheet. Arrange pretzels on baking sheet, placing one Rolo on each pretzel. Bake at 250 for 3-4 minutes. Rolos should retain their form, but be soft enough to squish. Place a pecan on each Rolo-pretzel. Squish it down (not too far!). Let these cool completely before attempting to eat them. (If you just cannot resist, they are edible while still warm... they're just not as good.)

Voila! This year will be your easiest cookie exchange ever!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

778.53 -- Talkies

Monday Matt and I attended an advance screening of Tom Cruise's new movie Valkyrie. The movie is based on the fascinating true story of an attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20, 1944.

The movie was just okay. I liked it enough that I'm glad I saw it, and I could even watch it again. I didn't like it enough to buy the DVD -- or to pay theater prices. I really enjoyed the historical aspects, and seeing Tom Cruise in an unweird role (Eyes Wide Shut much?). I wasn't riveted the whole time, but it was pretty interesting.

We wanted to see the movie of course, but seeing it at an advance screening was really cool. Neither Matt nor I had ever been to one! Did you know, they overbook the theater to make sure they're playing to a packed house? When we got there an hour before the start time, there were already a lot of people in line! There were also seats up and down the aisles reserved for journalists and reviewers.

It was really cool to be there! And since we had wanted to see Valkyrie anyway, neither of us could pass this up. What a fun evening!

Friday, December 12, 2008

641.568 -- Turkey a la brine

When I think "brine" my mind skips to sea water and murkiness. So, no, brining a turkey did not initially seem like a tasty option. But even I can't argue with the bevy of 5-star reviews brining often seems to elicit. So brine we did.

My biggest fear was that it would be too salty, but it wasn't. It didn't taste salty at all! And it did turn out to be the moistest turkey I have ever had.

Here is both the recipe and my tips. Give it a go this Christmas. Amaze your family. Thrill your friends. A lot of this will be obvious to you more seasoned turkey roasters. For me, this being my first experience, much direction was needed, so I included it below.

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black pepper corns
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon coriander seeds

  1. Dissolve brine in 2 quarts of boiling water. Ours did not dissolve completely, and it ended up looking a lot like sea water. It smelled great, though, so we stayed the course.
  2. Once it is dissolved, add in 1-2 quarts more water (depending on the size of your bird).
  3. While the brine is cooling, place your turkey in a large bag. We used two roasting bags doubled up, but that didn't work as well as we'd hoped, because the brine would not completely cover the bird. We ended up using one of our big blue coolers -- the kind that you see dispensing Gatorade on countless sports sidelines.
  4. When the brine is completely cool, pour over bird. Add more water if necessary to cover the whole thing. We had to add another quart for our 20-pounder.
  5. Let bird sit in brine for 12-24 hours. Use whatever means necessary to keep the brine and turkey under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. We stuck several cold packs around the turkey and left the cooler in the garage overnight.
  6. When you're ready to start preparing, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse, pat dry, and roast. Discard the brine, obviously.
TIP: After the first hour in the oven, we basted it every 30 minutes. If there aren't enough juices to baste the first couple of times, don't fret. Use either melted sage butter or olive oil to supplement.

TIP: For the last hour to two hours, we used tented foil to keep the skin from over-crisping.

TIP: Before roasting, I mixed up some sage butter and rubbed it under the skin of the turkey. This, along with the brining, was designed to keep the breast meat from drying out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

383-4973 -- Neither rain nor sleet ... nor newbies?

I have sent many packages overseas. Enough so that I know which customs form (there are two sizes) to use for which packages, and can fill out said forms with my eyes closed. Enough so that I can guestimate within a dollar or two how much postage will be, and if it would be more economical to use a flat rate box. (That only applies to APO addresses, obviously. You can't send true international mail with flat rate boxes or priority mail markings. Duh, right?)

So when the (probably new?) postal employee started stuttering half way through her spiel, it was no surprise to me that I could finish it for her. I tried to be gracious and deliver it with a smile, but really... I was in a hurry, and she was clearly flustered.

H: "Does this package contain anything fragile, liquid, uh... perish... perishable, or uh... Fragile, liquid, p..."

M: "Perishable or potentially hazardous? No, it doesn't." *smile* "And it's just cookies, so no insurance needed. And I'm set on stamps and other mailing supplies, so I won't need any this time. Thank you."

Though I said "thank you" at least three times during this exchange, I'm sure she rolled her eyes at me after I left.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

641.568 -- Family tradition

The day after Thanksgiving means different things to different people. For me, it is safe to decorate for Christmas and annoy everyone with holiday music. For my aunts, it is the biggest shopping day of the year. For my husband, it is the day that turkey leftovers are transformed into a delicious family recipe.

This creamy, flavorful concoction is most commonly referred to as creamed turkey. My husband's family has given it a considerably more colorful name...

Sh*t on a Shingle
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick margarine or butter
turkey (shredded)
bread (toasted)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine flour and butter in a large skillet. Shred turkey leftovers. Add turkey and milk to skillet until you've reached a cream-of-mushroom/chicken consistency. Should be thick enough to put on plate (not a bowl, like soup). Add salt and pepper to taste. While that is warming, toast bread. When bread is toasted, spoon warm mixture over toast. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

394.2663 -- Home sweet home

As long as I can remember, I've wanted a house with a huge front picture window in which to display our Christmas tree. Now this is what I get to come home to every night! Notice the dusting of snow we got that day!

I don't know if you can really see it in this picture, but our tree is that jumble of lights in the front window. Don't bother trying to click on it for a better look... it'll get a little larger and a lot fuzzier! Also, I have no idea why the sky looks so spooky :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

784.83 -- Old band members never die...

... they just wait for their second time around. Needless to say, this marching band was my favorite entry in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. These former marching band and flag corps members, from either high school or college, missed marching way too much to stop. All ages, all abilities. Don't they look like they're having the greatest time?! Here is their official site.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

394.2663 -- Christmastime in the city

The day after Thanksgiving -- the start of the Christmas season. I could barely contain my joy at the prospect of setting up our Christmas tree and lights. Because I had to work that day, my patient husband stayed up late with me listening to holiday tunes and putting ornaments on our tree. After a trip to the store for some garland and a tree skirt, here is the finished product. I have no idea why it looks like the middle of the day outside the window. It was dark when I took the picture!

¡Feliz Navidad!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

011.73 -- Book Lust

One evening last week, after an early dinner, Matt and I ventured out to start our Christmas shopping. We went to six stores in about 3 hours. An disproportionate amount of that time we spent at a bookstore.

Among the things that I love about my husband is the fact that he can walk away from a bookstore about as easily as he can walk away from a football game. (That is to say, not easily at all.)

So anyway, I spend most of my waking hours around thousands of books. What is it about bookstores that is so captivating? Here is my theory: Library books, by sheer fact that they are being looked after by people who love them, have found their home. Yes, they may get more abused, but the world is a scary place. At least they have a home. Meanwhile, their cousins over at the bookstore are being bought and sold by evil capitalists, only intent on making their next buck. Those books need a home and someone to appreciate them.

And last week, I was only to happy to give three lucky books a good home. Merry Christmas to me :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

641.568 -- Oven-less Ham

So for Thanksgiving, our oven was constantly busy, and constantly changing temperatures. After the turkey came out (see that recipe in a coming post), the green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and dinner rolls went in. Our spiral-sliced ham was homeless. Gigantic crock pot to the rescue! I scouted out some tasty-sounding crock pot "baked" ham recipes, and here's the one we used. It ended up so moist and tender. And it's so easy. I can't wait to make it again!

First, find a crock pot big enough for your ham. Ours was huge, but only because we had to fit 7 pounds of spiral-sliced goodness into it :) Put the ham in the crock pot with whatever juices it's been packed in. In a bowl, mix two cups brown sugar with one cup water. Pour into the crock pot. Add a can of diced pineapple, with all the juice. (Adjust the amount to the size of your ham. The next time we do this, I'll use a much smaller cut. I'll probably halve the recipe.)

If you want to fancy-up the presentation, stud the outside of the ham with pineapple rings instead of just pouring them in. Use toothpicks or cloves to "pin" the rings in place. I did not have time or inclination for this after wrestling a 20-pound turkey into -- and out of -- a basting bag.

We cooked the thing all night on the "warm" setting. Put it on low if you're aiming for it to be done when you get home from work. Put it on high if you've only got 4 hours or so. Since the ham is usually already cooked, you really just have to get it hot all the way through.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

394.2649 -- Giving Thanks

Every year at Thanksgiving, my mom's side of the family gathers for a weekend of food, games and general togetherness. This year, I volunteered my house as the venue for the big feast.

Though it included making my and Matt's first turkey and ham, nothing -- not one thing -- could have made that day better. We cooked (stay tuned for the recipes that got the ravingest reviews), ate, talked, and played games. My mom called from England just after dinner, and my brother called from Korea later in the evening. The girls combed through Black Friday ads, while the guys snuck down to the basement to get their battle-board games going.

The last guests didn't leave until almost 12:30 in the morning, and everyone had a good time. It was my favorite Thanksgiving to date.

Sixteen people wanting to eat together meant going to the basement
and moving the pool table out of the way. But we all fit!

After dinner (and dessert) we played some trivia games.
What we discovered: we are no good at English trivia.
Pictured above is team "Better than awesome."
They named themselves obviously.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

641.814 -- Did you know?

The "57" that still graces the bottles of miscellaneous Heinz products is actually a misnomer of sorts. At the time the number was introduced to the logo (and as a slogan), the company boasted over 60 different products. Henry Heinz was being completely random when he "cast about" for a suitable number. He liked how 57 looked and sounded, and so the slogan and icon were born. Since then, Heinz has had a long history of 57s -- including their 2001 purchase of the Pittsburgh Steeler's field... for $57 million dollars.

Read here or here for more information.

If you didn't catch on to my extreme subtlety, I'm going to start play "catchup" here on the blog. Don't be surprised when you're inundated with posts :) hehehe

Friday, November 14, 2008

641.5 -- Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Recommended recipes are, in my opinion, the best kind of recipes. In that spirit, I present to you another recipe pilfered from a dear friend. This one is from Jackie. About a year ago, when she was living close enough for me to visit her, I did just that. We scouted the greater Ft. Knox metropolitan area (hah!) for flea markets and other craft opportunities. We looked at furniture, watched movies, and she made this delicious (and too freakin' easy) dinner for us. So good and so impressive, that you'll want to keep the ingredients handy for spur-of-the-moment dinner guests.

4 boneless skinless thin sliced chicken breasts
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tsp Italian season bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425. Line 9x13 baking dish with foil. Place chicken in pan. Combine the mayo and the Parmesan cheese. Spread over the chicken breasts. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

791.4375 -- Picture show

As a kid, I can remember sitting in our living room watching old James Bond movies during TBS Bond marathons. With only one TV in the house -- and my dad a decided Bond fan -- it was either 007 or nothing. Two years ago, I gave Matt the complete set of Bond movies on DVD as his "deployment extension present." So now there's really no escaping it. And truth be told, I actually really liked Casino Royale and Daniel Craig in the title role. So I was happier than I expected to find out that Matt already bought us tickets to Quantum of Solace for Friday night. I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

394.264 -- Happy Veterans Day

I'm so proud of my husband Matt for so many reasons, not the least of which is his service in the Army. Today I get to thank him as the rest of America thanks him and all veterans for their service. I wish I had time to post something more thought-provoking or pensive, but my lunch break is waning. Happy Veterans' Day!

Posing outisde a school house in Kamdesh, Afghanistan. Matt is on the left. He's standing nex to our friend Ben Keating, who died 20 days after this picture was taken. On the far right is the Afghan National Army Executive Officer (XO) who was working with our Battalion.

Monday, November 10, 2008

613.79 -- Relaxation

This past Saturday was a rarity around our house: neither Matt nor I had anything planned outside of the home. In fact, we didn't have anything planned to do at all. It was a glorious day, and I'm thankful we got to spend it together. Neither one of us so much as lifted a finger to do laundry, clean dishes, or pay bills. We didn't even get the mail in or check our email. After making pancakes mid-morning, we didn't cook either. It was the first day since we moved into our house 7 months ago that we didn't do a single thing that resembled work. A thoroughly great day.

641.568 -- Thanksgiving recipes

What's not to like about Thanksgiving?! Cold weather, warm family gatherings, and license to eat all of the comfort foods I love the best. This year, my family's Thanksgiving celebration is at my house. Entertaining is one of my favorite things about (finally) having a house that's big enough and close enough to friends and relatives. I couldn't be more excited to host aunts, uncles, cousins, and my grandparents for the holiday (though technically, we'll be celebrating the weekend after the big day).

Excited as I am, however, I'm also a little bit terrified. I've never cooked a whole turkey before, and instead of starting with 2 or 4 people as I normally would, I'm jumping strait to a group of 16. I have no doubt that my trusted sources at allrecipes will do right by me.

Below is the recipe I plan to cook. (I've left the alternate temperature suggestions in for my mom and anyone else who might find themselves cooking in other than the most familiar circumstances.) Do you have any tips or tricks to help this first-time bird baker? Note that any suggestions to use a deep fryer will go unheeded. I'm going traditional this year :)

1 12-pound whole turkey
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp dried minced onion
4 cups warm water
3 tbsp chicken bouillon
2 tbsp seasoning salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Rinse and wash turkey. Discard the giblets, or add them tot he pan if they are anyone's favorites.

2. Place the turkey in a Dutch oven or roasting pan. (I'll be using the roasting pan.) Separate the skin over the breast to make little pockets. Put 3 tbsp of the butter on both sides between the skin andt he breast meat. This makes for very juicy breast meat.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the water with the bouillon. Sprinkle in the parsley and minced onion. Pour over the top of the turkey. Sprinkle seasoning salt over the turkey.

4. Cover with foil, and bake in the preheated oven 3-1/2 to 4 hours, until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 180 degrees F (80 degrees C). For the last 45 minutes or so, remove the foil so the turkey will brown nicely.

Friday, October 31, 2008

641.5 -- Chicken Florentine

This recipe comes to you courtesy Giada de Lorentiis, by way of my good friend Briana. The final results will wow your guests, but the recipe is a tad involved. Although the steps are easy to follow, this recipe does require that you be in the kitchen nearly the entire time. For me, this was about an hour. If you're serving four good-size portions, I'd recommend increasing it by half.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and ground black pepper
All-purpose flour
6 tbsp shallots, sliced
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 10-oz packages frozen cut-leaf spinach, thawed and drained

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat lightly. Shake of any excess flour. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a place and tent with foil to keep it warm.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until the shallots are translucent, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet (about 1 minute). Add the wine. Increase the heat to medium-high, and boil until the liquid is reduced by half (about 3 minutes). Add the cream, and boil until the sauce reduced by half, stirring often (about 3 minutes). Stir in the parsley. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the sauce. Turn the chicken to coat in the sauce.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter in another large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and saute until heated through. Season the spinach to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the spinach over a platter. Place the chicken atop the spinach. Pour the sauce over and serve. (Try serving it atop bow tie pasta!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

641.8654 -- Peanut Butter Blossoms

This recipe has been a staple on "cookie day" for as long as I can remember having a cookie day with my family. We'd all bring designated ingredients (flour, sugar, butter, chocolate chips, etc.) and convene at someone's house for a day of baking and camaraderie. Sometime during my college years, cookie day went by the wayside, but I still love baking these fun, delicious cookies and reminiscing about 26 people gathered around my grandma's kitchen table (inevitable covered in flour and peanut butter!)

1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups Bisquick
1 tsp vanilla
Hershey's chocolate kisses

Preheat oven to 375. Mix sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter in large bowl. Add Bisquick and vanilla. Stir until well mixed. Roll dough into 1.25 inch balls (approximate obviously). Roll cookie balls in granulated sugar. Bake on ungreased baking sheet for 8 - 10 minutes. Unwrap kisses while baking. When the cookies come out of the oven, while the cookies are still hot, press one kiss onto each cookie. The dough will crack and gush up over the kiss a little.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

641.815 -- Pumpkin-Banana Bread

Owing to my lack of recipe-posting yesterday, I was more delighted than usual to be gifted with the following recipe from a coworker this morning. This marks the first recipe posted that I have not personally tried, so if someone tries this, please let me know the result. That said, pumpkin bread and banana-nut bread are two of my favorites, so how can this not be delicious?!

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2/3 cup water
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (1 large)
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a very large mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. Alternately add flour mixture and the water to sugar mixture, beating after each addition just until combined. Beat in pumpkin and banana. Stir in pecans. Spoon batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks. Wrap and store overnight before slicing, if you like.

Friday, October 10, 2008

641.5 -- BLT Bites

An easy appetizer that makes a great presentation Bonus: it's pretty much good for you, too!

16 cherry tomatoes
1 pound bacon (cooked and crumbled) *
1/2 cup mayonnaise (the low fat stuff is fine)
1/3 cup chopped green onions
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp snipped fresh parsley
(notice: there actually is no lettuce in this recipe :)

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out and discard pulp. Invert the tomatoes on a paper towel to drain. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; mix well. Spoon into tomatoes. Refrigerate for several hours.

*Hint: use the precooked, precrumbled bacon available near the condiments and/or salad dressings. It saves time and tastes just as good.

*Another hint: The tomatoes will roll around, being round on the bottom as tomatoes usually are. Next time I make these, I'm going to try cutting a sliver off the bottom to give it a flatter surface. If you try this, let me know how it works.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

641.5 -- Pumpkin pie dip

This recipe was a hit at our last house party. Serve in a hollowed out pumpkin for a neat fall presentation. The original recipe called for gingersnaps for dipping, but I used apples. Yum!

8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
15 oz can solid pack pumpkin
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp frozen orange juice concentrate

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and confectioners sugar. In another medium bowl, mix solid pack pumpkin, ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and frozen orange juice concentrate. Thoroughly mix in the cream cheese blend. Chill in the refrigerator until serving. Makes about 4 cups.

Monday, September 29, 2008

747 -- Meme theme

In response to my friend Karen's Meme Mondays I am posting pictures of my favorite "orange-colored item, thing or place." Mine is our brand new (as of less than a week ago) guest bathroom. The tiles are actually a tan-ish color, and they are my favorite part of the room. What's your favorite orange-colored item, thing or place?

Friday, September 26, 2008

641.5 -- Easy appetizers

For the easiest appetizers known to man, get a Sam's club card. There you can find deli rolls (thaw and serve), mini egg rolls (heat and serve), mini quiches (heat and serve), and all manner of other foods that are easy on the oven and the taste buds.

With a borrowed Sam's Club card and three crock pots, tomorrow's party fare will be all too easy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

599.53 -- Dolphins at play

Bottlenose dolphins are generally regarded as social and playful mammals. But did you know they can make their own "objects of play" underwater? They emit a ring of bubbles from their blowhole, then draw other rings out of it, bandy it about, and finally take a bite out of it, making the ring burst into many small bubbles. They do this over and over again. Check it out!

How cool is that?!

Monday, September 22, 2008

508.2 -- All Fall Leaves Leave

Happy First Day of Fall!

What a great season! Beautiful colors. Pumpkin pie. Sweaters. Apple picking. Camp fires. Uncompromisingly blue skies. Family gatherings. Football (high school or otherwise).

Yup, Fall has always been my favorite season. Hands down favorite.

Surprisingly, though, Fall ranks third in Americans' favorite seasons. Come on, what's not to love?

Friday, September 19, 2008

641.5 -- Buffalo Chicken Dip

Here is an up-and-coming family favorite. Make it as spicy as you wish!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 12.5 oz cans of chicken
2 8 oz blocks of cream cheese
1 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag tortilla chips (we use Fritos)

Drain the cans of chicken. Using a fork, shred the chicken to a consistency like a shredded chicken sandwich. It has to be dippable! Heat remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. When they are mixed, add the shredded chicken. When the dip is heated through, transfer it to a small crockpot to keep it warm. Serve with chips.

Friday, September 12, 2008

401.4 -- Word.

So, I'm beginning to suspect that I suffer from logophilia. Well maybe "suffer" is the wrong word, because actually, I embrace it.

Logophilia refers to a love of words. Which I do. I love words. If it was possible for a person to have any more words in their life than having been an English undergrad major, a library grad school major, a library employee for 8 years (and counting), a former spelling bee champ, and a recreational reader... I would. Because I. Love. Words.

I really like finding new ones -- or old ones I haven't seen or heard in awhile. I like saying them out loud and rolling them around until they feel comfortable. I even like foreign words and phrases -- ones that, by sheer coolness, have made their way into the English language. Words like schadenfreude, de rigueur, sturm und drang. When I find one I like a lot, I'll carry it with me until I can use it in regular conversation.

Recently, at a work conference, I asked a presenter if his library's social networking sites received many disingenuous comments or friend requests, and how they were handled. I'm not going to lie to you... my heart started palpitating when I got to use the word disingenuous in a room full of colleagues.

Just the fact that the word logophilia has been added to the lexicon, makes me think that I am not alone in this. (Apparently American Idol David Cook is a self-professed word nerd. Love that!) But how about any of you? Anyone?

641.5 -- Broccoli Salad

Welcome to the first ever Foodie Fridays! (Otherwise known as a pre-established topic for an otherwise unbloggable day.)

Below is the recipe that has carried me through cookouts, parish picnics, family gatherings, birthdays, welcome home parties, and all sorts of other summer fêtes.

When Jackie brought this to a cookout two years ago (two years already!?), I instantly loved it. Since then, I've shamelessly passed it off as my own with great success. Even people who don't like broccoli (or vegetables of any kind) love this dish.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 5 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (I usually leave these out)
  • 1/2 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
  • 1/4 cup of red onion, chopped
  • Optional: throw in a cup of thawed peas if you're looking to add more substance or veggie power!
Dressing Incredients:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar


Combine broccoli florets, raisins, sunflower seeds, crumbled bacon, chopped onion, and peas in a large serving bowl. In a separate bowl or large cup, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Add dressing to the salad and toss to mix well; chill thoroughly before serving.
Broccoli salad serves 4 to 6.

Friday, August 29, 2008

025.3 -- Closet nerdiness

-- OR --
The time I spent all day at my library job,
then came home to catalog my own books.

Actually... that day was today. And it was a pretty good day. Sure, it took four and a half hours to unpack eight boxes of books, find the ISBNs, shelve the books, and add the ISBNs to Shelfari ... but look how pretty!

And how exciting to finally have a log of all the books Matt and I own. You know, in case we ever have to lend one! Unfortunately, I ran out of physical shelving before I could get to the last two boxes of books. That was upsetting. I must have more shelving. My books are feeling neglected :(

Saturday, August 23, 2008

394.2644 -- Bier and brats, kraut and kartoffelpuffers

Outside of actually being in Germany, there's no place I've been that's more proud of their German heritage than Cincinnati. Greater Cincinnati boasts at least seven Oktoberfest celebrations -- all on different weekends for maximum German food/beer/music/culture enjoyment. The biggest (but not the best in my opinion) is Oktoberfest Zinzinnati -- the largest Oktoberfest outside München.

Every year, downtown Cincinnati is crammed with revelers. The party usually spills over the Ohio River into Newport, Kentucky, where you will find the Hofbräuhaus. You know... in case you haven't had enough German food, drink, and music.

Anyway, so far this weekend, we have made the first of two visits to Germania's Oktoberfest, the oldest and most authentic in the area. We listened to German music, were surrounded by lederhosen and alpine hats, and oh-my-God the food. Friends joined us for dunkel, kartoffelpuffers, apfelmus, goetta, and bratwursts with sauerkraut. Yummmm!

Unlike Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, often overrun with the college crowd interested only in taps overflowing with beer, Germania's crowd was more interested in reveling with fellow German-thusiasts. Just the way we like it. Prost!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

796.357 -- Down grade

Last week, I poked a little fun at my dear husband. One of his favorite Reds players was traded, and I asked him if he was in mourning. Har har har. This week, when one of my favorite Reds players was traded, it wasn't so funny. Dunner, I will miss you... and your rockin 80s music theme songs.

I am puzzled. Despite being mired in controversies regarding strikeouts, injuries, and fielding ability, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn are -- well, were two of the strongest hitters on the team. Coincidentally, they are the two that have been Reds the longest. Maybe they are just tired of being good on a losing team. Or maybe the management really is crazy. The guys we traded for are virtual no-names in baseball. Some are minor leaguers.

What is going on here, Reds?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

394 -- Holiday Shmoliday

A Tyson foods plant in Tennessee has agreed to swap out one of the eight paid holidays its employees receive per calendar year. As a result of a union request, the employees of the Shelbyville plant will receive Eid ul-Fitr as a paid holiday in exchange for working on Labor Day. See the full story as originally reported in Shelbyville.

Some people are really upset. Some people wonder why other people are so upset. Some people don't want to be upset, because after all, the US is a democracy and the plant voted in this holiday swap; and yet this just rubs them the wrong way for some reason. (Can you tell which I fall into?)

Maybe my discomfort with this situation lies in that they (the union, the workers, whomever) chose a federal holiday for the swap, instead of an even religious-holiday trade. Because maybe you're not Christian, and you don't celebrate Easter (for example). But aren't you still American, and shouldn't that include celebrating federal holidays? I'm just saying...

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

628.535 -- Adventures with Radon, part 2

-- OR --
Murder by high-end kitchen counter top

I don't know that granite counter tops were ever really an option in our budget kitchen. Still, this article from urban legend debunker has given me pause. Apparently, radon emissions from some types of granite counter tops have tested at levels much higher than is suggested. And after our previous radon adventures, I'm even more fond of our cheap laminate!

And yet, an update will be in our future, because the counter tops we inherited with our house... let's just say they are showing their age. Who knew home ownership came with life-threatening design choices?!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

394.13 -- Absinthe reported today on the anniversary of the legalization of absinthe. It hasn't always been legal in the US, and for awhile it was legal in only some states. We still haven't found it in any area liquor stores, but its ready availability in Kentucky inspired a taste test at our Fourth of July party this year.

After all the hype I'd heard, I was less than impressed. After all, wasn't this the libation that had inspired the genius (?) of Hemingway, Manet and Oscar Wilde? Wasn't this the very drink that resulted in Van Gogh's "ear incident"?

Actually, it isn't. It turns out that the chemical that gave absinthe its "bad boy" image is really only marginally present in distilled absinthe. And it didn't even taste that great. Next time, I'm buying amaretto.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

770.9 -- The joys of Snapfish

I wasn't as much of a photo hound five years ago as I am today. Still, when my mom took my brother and me on a four-week whirlwind tour of the British Isles, we used up more than a few rolls of film. Not to mention several megabytes of digital images.

Last month (a full five years and one month after the trip had ended), I ordered almost 350 prints of the trip off Snapfish. Leafing through pictures with my family was like a reunion tour. I still have to put them in a photo album, of course, but at least they're developed... and in order :)

If I ever find the pics of my 2004 Korea trip, they're next!

Whitby Abbey (this is one of my favorite photos of the whole trip!)

004.678 -- The Internet

Two Google-related bits 'n' pieces I came across this past month:

The first is an article titled Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr. The questions posed and assertions posited by Carr made me, for the first time, miss the scholarly debate characteristic of my college days. What did you think of the article? Would someone like to assign suggest an article that counters or expands upon this one?

More recently, the Google blog reported that their electronic search henchmen had located 1 trillion unique URLs on the Web. Surprising? Not really. Just myself, I am responsible for at least 20 of those unique markers. And considering there are over 6 billion people on earth, 1 trillion is really kind of conservative if I'd had to guess.

306.85 -- Family time

Owing to a confluence of events (namely my brother's graduation and summer vacation), much of my family was in town over July. My mom and her husband (who usually live in Hemel Hemstead, England), my cousins (who usually live in Harrogate, England), and my brother (see last post for his geographical story) all made their way to Ohio this July.

My extended family has always been pretty close, but having far flung family in town just gives us that many more reasons to get together. So for me, it was a month full of restaurants, swim parties, back yard BBQs, movies, and of course games. Because it isn't a Bresler family gathering without at least one game of euchre.

The cousins minus 2

355.10973 -- Congratulations!

Last July, Matt and I cut short our trip to Germany to be back in time for my little brother's graduation from Army basic training. That included a hot, sticky few days in South Carolina. (The AC in my car was on the fritz!) But it was SO worth it! After basic, he only got a couple of days off before heading out to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona for military intelligence Advanced Individual Training.

So this year, my mom and grandparents were able to fly out to Arizona to see James' AIT graduation and briefly tour the Arizona environs. Luckily for everyone who couldn't make it out west, James was able to come back to Ohio for a few weeks of leave before his next duty station... a bit farther away than Arizona!

Congratulations James! And good luck in Korea!

598.47 -- Penguins!

Our "staycation" this year included a trip to the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky. To make it extra cool, we opted for a penguin encounter! About half way through the aquarium, we broke from the herd to meet our behind-the-scenes guide. She took our group (about 12 people) back into a special room where we got to meet (and pet!) three adorable penguins!

Also included at the aquarium, an underwater look at the big tank, where two divers in full scuba gear talked to us over water-proof mics. They pointed out the fish, sharks, tortoise, rays and shark-rays swimming all around them.

We got to pet sharks, horseshoe crabs, and starfish, too! The glass tunnels were the most unique part. Seeing all manner of marine life swimming over, under, and around us was almost like being under water. I wanted to take tons of pics, but taking pictures through glass is not always easy.

Below are some of the pictures we took walking through the last tunnel. Amazing views! What a great day!

006.7 -- Feast or famine

Since a particularly harried July left me a long, long way from my goal of 10 blog posts a month, I'm doing a mad blog-posting dash toward my August goal. Here goes!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

747 -- The Reveal, part V

The guest bedroom before

The guest bedroom after

Want to see more pics of the after guest bedroom? Click here!

747 -- The Reveal, part IV

The kitchen and dining area before

The kitchen and dining area after

Want to see more pics of the after kitchen? Click here!

Friday, July 4, 2008

747 -- The Reveal, part III

The second bedroom before

The second bedroom after
-OR- the office

Our cool office project -- the magnetic message board
(click on the picture for a detailed look)

Want to see more pics of the after office? Click here!

Friday, June 20, 2008

321.92 -- Were they just unpopular in high school?

Is it just me, or does it seem like China's control issues mask deeper feelings of insecurity? Or maybe they're just very, very Type A.

I mean, yes you're Communist, we get it. But some of the Olympics Games-centered regulations border on the ridiculous. Most bizarre is the government-sanctioned cheer routine, which they hope all Olympic Games attendees will adhere to, foreign and domestic. (There's even going to be a training session so no one screws it up.)

And once you can control unruly spectators wishing to shout the occasional "woo hoo," it's a very small step to China's most outlandish guarantee that they will also control the weather. Most useless? The government issued pamphlet listing government-sanctioned English language translations for local menu items. Wouldn't want to get too authentic when visiting a foreign country.

On the serious side, the Chinese government is also insisting that foreign journalists hire government-sanctioned translators. Oh, and those with mental or communicable illnesses (like AIDS? a cold?) will not be let in, whether they're holding a ticket to the Games or not.

I've asked around for public opinion, but most people just shrug it off. It will be interesting to see what transpires.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

551.5 -- The heat is on

Actually, the heat is not on... it's just that the air conditioning is off. Or more precisely, it is broken.

Last week, it was a stifling 90 degrees -- with a heat index of 95 degrees, humidity at 60%, and only the slightest of breezes. And inside the library, it was a little cooler, with less breeze. And in my car, it was much warmer with almost no breeze at all.

After last week, I have newfound appreciation for the behemoth that the nice heating and cooling guys installed at our home several weeks ago. (Is this not the hugest air handler you have ever seen?)

Thank you residential HVAC guys! It's working like a dream! (A pox on the commercial HVAC team that will not be installing the library's new air conditioner for several more weeks.)

This week is shaping up to be much nicer. Not only is it a comfortable range of mid-70-degree weather, but there are ample fans in the library, and my car air conditioner will be fixed by tomorrow! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

641.5 -- Home-made deliciousness

I offer this most excellent dish to you exactly the way it was passed to me from a coworker. My notes are in blue. It really is yummy! One 14-inch skillet recipe serves about 4 people.

Please feel free to experiment with this pizza. In place of or in addition to the spinach, on that layer, feel free to add anything that you wish--broccoli and canadian bacon, pepperoni and red onion, sausage and olives, the sky is the limit.

Oven temperature: 375 degrees

  • 3 t. sugar
  • 2 pkg. yeast
  • 1 1/4 c. water
  • 3 1/4 c. bread flour
  • 3 t. salt
  • 4 T. vegetable oil

  • 1/4 lb. fresh spinach, chopped
  • 8 oz. grated mozzarella cheese

  • 2 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes I used two 14.5-oz cans of diced tomatoes pre-seasoned with oregano, garlic and basil.
  • 2 T. oil
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. bail
  • 1 t. salt (optional)
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated

Proof yeast in warm water and sugar. Mix dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add
oil to proofed yeast and mix into dry items. Blend and put in covered mixing
bowl until dough is doubled in size. (About 1 1/2 hours)

Prepare and mix, set aside. I put the layer of cheese down first, then a solid layer of turkey pepperoni. Turned out great! Next time, I may use more cheese ;)

Drain tomatoes in colander and mash; add other ingredients. Because I used the pre-seasoned tomatoes that were already cut and nicely textured, I just drained them and they were good to go.

Divide dough. Roll half of dough and place in cast iron skillet that has been prepared. Add stuffing. Roll rest of dough and place over stuffing. Wet edge of first layer of dough and press crusts together. Cutting slit in center of dough to vent. Spoon on sauce. Bake on bottom rack of oven 10 minutes. Move to higher rack and bake 30 minutes more or until golden brown.

Side notes from the voice of experience.
  1. Salt is necessary in the dough to make the dough rise. If you want less salt, don't add it to the sauce.
  2. Frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained works just as well as cutting fresh spinach. Just remove the spinach from the freezer when you begin to proof the yeast.
  3. Bread flour is not necessary. Regular flour works just as well and isn't as expensive.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

747 -- The Reveal, part II

The Master Bedroom
and Master Bathroom Before

The Master Bedroom and
Master Bathroom After*

* Our walls are depressingly bare... still working on that!

Want to see more pics of the after master bedroom and master bathroom? Click here!

747 -- The Reveal, part I

The Living Room Before

The Living Room After*

*Not quite done. We still have to find a small table for the receiver and record player.

Want to see more pics of the after living room? Click here!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

303.4834 -- Information

So yesterday, we had a little bit of a technical snafu. Our computer wasn't working. To be specific would take to long, but there was a problem between our hard drive and the monitor, though both seemed to be working fine independently.

I thought, "It's a brand new computer. I'll just call tech support." And I trotted off to the computer to look up the number...

That's right. My reliance on the Internet is complete. Even when it isn't working, I still depend on it.

A little short of breath and starting to overreact, I though, "No problem. We can fix this. I am a problem solver." And I found my cell phone, because 411 is a great thing. I asked to be connected to a toll free number for Hewlett Packard tech support, and they connected me to some 800 number for free!

Except that it was the wrong number AND it had been disconnected from whatever company it had been connected to in the first place. So I called back. They tried again. This time, the call went to an independent tech support call center that charges $3.50 an hour for their service.

As I was thinking, "Wow, some psychics make more money than these poor geeks" I dialed 411 again. Because now it was becoming a thing with me that they should get this right. They gave me three more numbers. All of them had been disconnected.

More than a little peeved, I did what I should have done all along. I dialed another information number, and got to talk to a real human being who was able to give me the correct number in less than a minute. And for free.

So the next time you need directory assistance... call the library.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

796.357 -- Instant replay

Today, we got an impromptu invitation to see a Reds' game. So the two of us, along with two of Matt's friends and their significant others met up and drove down to Great American Ballpark to see the home team SWEEP THE BRAVES!

Now, I don't want to jinx anything here, but it seems like the Reds may have a not-sucking year! Which makes it all the more fun to be a fan :) The seats were good, the game was great, and the weather was perfect. What more could you ask for?

Plus, we jumped on a chance to run the bases after the game. Got the certificate to prove it. How cool is that?