Saturday, February 26, 2011

A List

Reasons why I like the city of Savannah, GA:

1.The presence of many beautiful historic buildings: churches built in the 1700s by French Colonists, large mansions that remain as remnants of the Civil War and cemeteries where many of the soldiers are still buried.

2. Specialty drinks: there is the option of sweet tea at every restaurant you visit, including the brand Luzianne, which I assume is supposed to sound like the southern pronunciation of Louisiana. This includes raspberry sweet tea, peach sweet tea, unsweetened sweet tea and sweetest sweet tea.

3. River Street: this famous street boasts original cobblestone complete with the presence of two super-old candy stores that give you free samples of pralines and offer every option of saltwater taffy imaginable. They also make the taffy fresh in front of you and will sometimes throw you free pieces if you jump up and down and clap your hands.

4. Famous movies are filmed here, like the well-known Forrest Gump and lesser known and more terrible The Last Song. In fact, production is currently going on downtown for a new movie aptly entitled, Savannah, which stars Jim Caviezel. You may also know him as Jesus or Edmond Dantes.

5. And a final reason for liking Savannah is that the town is only a few hours away from this location:


Universal Studios in Orlando, FL.

Universal also has historic buildings:


And the presence of a very significant street, or rather, alley:

Diagon Alley

With directions to some more important places:


And though it doesn't have sweet tea, it has something arguably better:



A sort of famous movie was also filmed in accordance with these surroundings.

And while living at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter may mean having to occasionally deal with "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," I didn't see a single cockroach. I wish I could say the same for the streets of Georgia. Though if there were cockroaches at Hogwarts, you could probably just give them a Cruciatus Curse.

But alas, my home is in Savannah so I guess I will settle for making Butterbeer at home and drinking it in my front porch rocker.

But I am happy to call Hogwarts my neighbor city.

And shamelessly promote other reasons why people should come visit me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bread

If you asked Andrew what his favorite food was, he would quickly respond:
"The Bread."

Indeed. The bread. There is no other name by which it must be called. It seems to have forever filled a place in my mind which was previously held by blurry images of Olive Garden breadsticks and All-Purpose flour.

Considering I have American Romanticism this semester and thus have been inspired to use loftier means of expression, I have written several poems to convey my deep sentiments for the bread.

To the Bread:

A Limerick
There once was a mean husband so hungry
That his stomach got all mad and grumbly
     Til the wife gave him bread
     And he smacked his forehead
Saying “wife, thou art so wise and lovely.”

A Haiku:
Golden crust so crisp
You smell of fresh bakeries 

Perfection in wheat

An Iambic Couplet:
You are to me a perfect slice of bliss,
Even more than Lembas from the Elvish!

I first discovered the bread on a dark and frigid morning in Chicago. Andrew was at Basic Training and I was visiting Karyn in Chicago. She apparently had more important things to do with her time than keep a lonely military spouse company, so I found solace in my only true friend: my ex-con, Martha Stewart. On this particular morning, Martha was hosting a guest from New York named Jim Lahey. Lahey was a famous baker who had perfected a fuss-free technique for making bread. Even Martha was fawning over it. To make a long story short, what resulted from Lahey's efforts, and his purpose for being on the Martha show, was this gift to the world:

{photo: Amazon}
And my procurements of its many blessings.

It's easy to understand why the book gained such a strong following. Lahey's recipe is virtually fool-proof, extremely forgiving and requires very little effort. It has become thee household food staple in our home and we are healthier and happier for it. Not to mention, if you are looking for ways to save money on groceries, a loaf of this goodness costs about 40 cents to make.

While I recommend buying the book because of the many wonderful variations included, I am happy to post Lahey's infamous recipe and rave about its life-changing nature through serifed fonts. The basic recipe requires four ingredients, as well as a large dutch oven. I always go with my trusty rusty from Martha herself.

...except I remove the little black handle for fear it will melt off in the oven.

3 cups bread flour (400 grams)
1 1/4 tsp table salt (8 grams)
1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 gram)
1 1/3 cups cool (55-65 degrees) water

It's this easy:
Pour the flour in a bowl (Not to be an unofficial spokesperson for kitchen scales, but it really does help to have a scale especially because flour can be so insecure about its weight and measuring it in cups isn't always accurate).

Add the salt and the yeast:

Mix it together. Then add the water:

Mix it with a spoon, or your hands:

When the dough is thoroughly combined,

Cover it with a towel:

And then do whatever you want for the next 12-18 hours. Maybe even the next 24 hours. The first rise generally takes about 12-18 hours, but it depends on the temperature of your home, how impatient you are and whether or not you sort of forget it's even there. The point being, the bread is extremely kind, forgiving and magnanimous. After whatever amount of time you choose (I usually mix the bread right before I go to bed at night, then I get up and go to school all day and I flip it again whenever I get that's probably about 18 hours) lift the towel from the bread,

(For the record, this is a pitiful first rise. I think it was 50 degrees in our house and Andrew wouldn't let me turn the heat on...the bread normally rises quite a bit more than this. See how many people suffer in your heat tyranny, Andrew?)

Scoop the bread out of the bowl, making sure to tuck in any dry parts of the dough:

And deposit the bread on a lightly floured surface or tea towel:

Aaaand cover it again. Let it rise another 1 to 2 hours or until if you poke it, the bread holds the indentation. About 1/2 hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475* and put the dutch oven IN the oven. It's important the D oven is hot when you place the bread in it.

Blah, blah, fast forward 1-2 hours, carefully remove the dutch oven from the oven and ease the bread down in.

My dutch oven has some burned flour in it, but don't judge me. I like the bread to feel at home in its surroundings.

Put the lid back on and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes are up, carefully remove the dutch oven from the regular oven and take off the lid.

The bread will have cooked a bit. Also, this is a very, very hot temperature in cooking and in life. My dutch oven literally changes colors to a darker red during this heating process and I've sustained several serious burns during this stage. One such injury was a severe burn that resulted from the steam that spewed from the dutch oven when I took the lid off too fast. Bake with caution or just be smarter than me.

With the lid off, place the dutch oven back in the oven for another 15-30 minutes (depending on how browned you like the bread). I like it a little bit darker than this:

Remove the bread from the oven and set it somewhere to cool. According to Mr. Lahey, it is essential that you let the bread cool for one hour to finish the rest of the cooking process. During this juncture, you also get to hear the bread "sing." The "singing" occurs as the bread makes a whole lot of cracking and snapping noises as hot air tries to escape. It's sort of cool. Though not a lot like singing.

But an hour is a long time to wait. You can answer to Mr. Lahey for your choices.


If you buy the book, there are wonderful variations, like whole wheat bread:

Olive bread:

Chocolate cupcakes using leftover breadcrumbs:

Wonderful bread recipes for making sandwich bread:


Even recipes for pickling stuff to add to your sandwiches:

Basically, I haven't felt this passionately about something since people started trying to say Twilight was good literature.

The bread is that serious.

If you're still unconvinced, I can only bear witness to one greater than I am. Take his opinion if not mine:

He's the new Jacob.

{And if you haven't seen LOST...
I have no words. Only deep abiding sorrow.

And if you really like Twilight, I understand. 
Sometimes I watch the Bachelor. For hours at a time.}

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lessons in Rejection for Valentine's Day

My first romantic interest in a boy occurred in the first grade. I rode the school bus with a sixth-grade boy who was tall, thin, had a dark complexion and always seemed to wear white t-shirts. His name was Lance. And I was smitten.

Considering I saw Lance almost every day of my elementary school commute, I made a point to sit next to him often and eavesdrop on all his conversations. After several months, I finally got up the nerve to interact with him. Being a first grader and unaware of how to act around boys, I found myself shyly talking to him and for some reason, sometimes pretending to be a puppy. I guess I thought since my own dogs were cute, he would think I was cute -- if I acted like a dog.

I have no more memories of our relationship. I can only assume why.

The following year, I fell in love again. This time with the neighbor boy. His name was Ryan and to this day, I swear he looks exactly like the kid from Rookie of the Year:


Since my love shared the same name as my brother, everyone just called him “Older Ryan,” which I suppose is better than being called “Neighbor Ryan.” Although he was ten-years old at the time and I was seven, I was certain I could win his favor and help him to fall in love with me.

There were several defining moments in our relationship that would prove otherwise.

One of those instances occurred when we were playing baseball in my yard. My brother Ryan and Older Ryan decided to name their baseball team the A’s, in which case my younger sister decided our team should be called the B’s. The A’s were up to bat first and I was playing first base. Older Ryan’s first hit went straight towards the pond and had the makings of a home run. He was rounding first base on his way to second when I saw an excuse to playfully flirt with him. I grabbed on to the back of his shirt and pulled as hard as I could to stop him. Seeing that this tactic was getting me nowhere, (and only a seven-year old could explain why I did what I did next), I put his T-shirt in my mouth and latched on with my teeth. He kept running, and I kept dragging along behind him, arms and legs flailing on the ground. That is, until the force of his pulling actually ripped out one of my teeth and I started gushing blood all over his t-shirt. Not only was he disgusted by all my chomping and bleeding, but I never even found the tooth so violently taken from me in the name of love and therefore received no visit from the Tooth Fairy. It was a low point on many levels.

I wasn't ready to give up on Older Ryan though. A few weeks later, he came over to shoot BB guns with my brother in our backyard. I walked over to where they were targeting several Folgers cans and I tried to show Older Ryan my rabbit and tell him a really interesting story about what I normally fed her. Not surprisingly, he completely ignored me. Maybe it was because I looked like this:

{Source: My mom makes me wear srunchies}

Still unwilling to face defeat, I walked around the back of our house and decided if I was going to be noticed, I was going to have to try a lot harder. Again, only a seven-year old can explain why I did what I did next, but I walked directly in front of their targets and started yelling my story about my rabbit a whole lot louder. That is, until all the breath went out of my lungs because Older Ryan shot me. In the stomach.

Some relationships just aren't meant to be.

Psychologists say our very first memories say a lot about who we are and what we care about. Likewise, I would imagine our first memories of love say a great deal about what we will value in the future. Not surprisingly, I married someone younger than me. When it came to my relationship with Andrew, I never pretended to be a puppy. I never walked in front of his targets while he was shooting (and he really does have to shoot guns a lot) and I never latched on to his shirt with my teeth while we were playing any type of sporting event.

I believe this is why things have worked out so well for us.

Though I did try to show him my rabbit once.


Psychologists also say we don't always learn from our mistakes.

Happy Valentine's Week.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Sad Story About Cameras. And About Houses.

I once owned several lenses for my camera. Some (and by some I mean one), were wider lenses that let me take pictures like this:


Others (and again I mean one), were portrait lenses that took closer pictures like this:

Train to Madrid

One day I realized Georgia should actually be called "The Cotton State" and not "The Peach State" because there are no peaches in Georgia and a whole lot of cotton.

That being said, I took my camera to one of the many fluffy cotton fields that seem to grow so liberally in Georgia and managed to take a few poor and uninteresting photos like this:


Unfortunately, when I returned home, I realized I was missing one of my lenses. I searched the house. I searched the car. I searched the camera bag. But all to no avail. Then I had the grim realization that maybe my lens somehow fell out of my bag in the cotton field (sorry about the dangling modifier [can someone rewrite this sentence for me?]). This was particularly depressing considering it was pouring rain and the cotton field was an hour away.

When I returned to the scene of my substandard photos the next day, my suspicions were confirmed. As I trudged out into the field, I saw a small lens cap sticking out of the ground. My lens had been buried in mud. And maybe even ran over by a tractor.

While this story is understandably sad as it relates to a loss of money, it is also inherently teachable as it shows once again, Jack London-style, nature's ability to dominate technology.

The point of this tale is that I have been meaning to post updated pictures of our house, but without my wider lens, I can't seem to fit more than a single chair or vase in the frame.

Additionally, I may not want to take any current pictures of our house right now seeing as most of it is covered in an inch of dust. Apparently the person who built our house didn't grow up watching Bob the Builder because our friendly contractor went ahead and nailed our garage together with a lot of four-inch nails. The problem being that the laundry room is connected to the garage and I guess one can miss the fact that the laundry room contains water hoses -- for laundry. One of his nails managed to puncture a pipe, and, well, life has been a bit harder since then.

The laundry room, as witnessed from my iPhone camera, now looks like this:

blog 3

Hence all the dust.

Andrew has been working daily to fix this unwelcome problem, and for that reason I decided to stop dusting and mopping every day. Why keep doing a job that is just going to have to be done again the next day? Sometimes I try to apply this logic to laundry, usually with poor results.

On a more positive note, I've decided that when Andrew finishes the wall, I'm going to paint it pink. I'm hoping this feminine color will encourage me to do laundry more often than I dust.

And at least I now have an excuse to buy a new camera lens. And to become a better laundress.