Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Elle!

Happy Second Birthday, my Elle-Belle!

Elle's First Peep

One for Elle, one for Auntie Nettie
Mulling it over
Nibbling away
Stuffing it in More please! The Many Faces of Elle

Perplexed: Who are all these relatives?
Peering through bangs Perturbed: I said no photos during lunchtime! Put upon: Can't a girl eat in peace? Pondering murder of the auntie with the camera
I can't believe you're growing up so fast. I'm so glad I got to document your first Peep and to spend time with you. I know I was a pain with the camera on our last visit, but one day you might appreciate the fact that someone took so many pictures of you when you were little!

Be good for Mama and Papa.
Play nice with Amber, and remember, most of all,
take care of little Nathan like a good big sister.

Lots of love,
Auntie Nettie

P.s. I know that you don't like it when I call you Elle-belle. Tough luck, kiddo. As your aunt, I reserve the right to make up nicknames ... just like my aunts did to me. You'll learn to tolerate it, eventually.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New National Holiday!

Did you know that Sunday, March 28th was a little-known national holiday? Me neither. Luckily I have neighbors who let us know about such things.*

Apparently yesterday was National Return the Laundry Cart Day!
Festivities include the plastering of your building and the elevators with reminders to:

It is a very low-key holiday. It's not even sponsored by a detergent or fabric softener company who could pay for the design and printing of fancy decorations/flyers.

Think of the sponsorship opportunities. We could have Pimp Your Laundry Cart days, ala the Pimp Your Bookcart contests run by these guys and sponsored by the major bookcart company. Since it was so close to Easter this year, the carts could have been decorated like Easter Baskets. Think of the Halloween tie-ins ... A Where's Waldo? costume for the laundry cart would also be appropriate!

This holiday is an opportunity to bring shared-laundry room apartment/condo/co-op dwellers closer together ... to put names to the faces of those laundry cart hogs, er, I mean, users. We could debate the pros and cons of the amounts, sizes, and other attributes of the carts we have:

i.e. Do you like the ones with the bars or not?

When do you use the carts the most? For laundry or grocery hauling?

s the cart EVER there when you need it?

What color would you like to paint the cart, if you could?

What about names for the cars? Squeaky? Gimpy? Pokey?

So, next year when March 28th rolls around, won't you join us in celebrating National Return the Laundry Cart Day? Spread the word -- and return the )(#*)!( cart!

* This isn't
the first time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recipes from Ollie J -- Hush Puppies

This is another very vintage recipe from the box, but I had to include a hush puppy recipe from Grandma Ollie! I don't remember her making it for us, but she must have made something like this at least once in her lifetime.

There are all kinds of variations on the recipe, some include onions and spices, and you can pick up mixes from all kinds of vendors. However, for this family, the best and most authentic hush puppies from our southern roots came from
Wilber's Barbeque in Goldsboro, N.C. Better than fries, better than the biscuits (which is saying something), if you have southern, North Carolina, vinegar based, pulled pork barbecue, you have to have hush puppies.

Hush Puppies

1 cup enriched corn meal
1 tblsp. flour (white all-purpose)
1 tsp. sugar (white)
1 egg (beaten)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. soda (baking)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup water

Mix all dry ingredients together, then add egg, buttermilk, and water. Drop by the spoonful into hot fat. Fry to a golden brown. If a deep pot is used the hush puppy bread will float when done.

You know how sometimes you can tell a recipe just isn't going to work out once you've made up the ingredients? This is one of those times.

If you make it as is, the "batter" is super soupy. There is no way that this could be correct, right? I consulted my "bible," the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, for some ideas to thicken this up, and it's pretty much what BH&G has written down. All I could think to do is keep adding flour and cornmeal until it looked right in the bowl.

I ended up adding about a 1/4 cup of flour and 5 heaping tablespoons of cornmeal to the mix, but it still never got thick enough. I'm used to thick, dense hush puppies, and these puppies are very thin. The mix need something else-- like onion/spices and/or more sugar. To me, growing up on Wilber's delicacies, something is seriously off. A colleague suggested that maybe the mix/dough needed to be refrigerated. This is one of those times I wish my hotline to the Southern cooks was still intact and included Skyping capabilities so they could see my mix and my fryer. Where's Alton Brown when you need him?

They're very corny, crispy, and edible when warm, 'cause what fried dough isn't edible when warm? However, hush puppies are one of those things that do not well going to the office, like a cake, biscuits, or cookies. They don't microwave well, and have a tendency to taste kind of oily when cold. I did use some in hash later in the week, and they caramelize in the frying pan and bulk up a meal. The birds and squirrels, I have to report, LOVE them. Of course, they aren't picky.

Any chefs out there with some tips?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thesis Statement

I am one of the fortunate college graduates that managed to matriculate without writing a thesis, for either my undergraduate or graduate degrees. Oh, I didn't get off scott-free. I had to write my share of tomes, but I avoided the dreaded THESIS.

My Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature saw many a paper written over four years. I had old fashioned comprehensive exams wherein I filled out many, many a little blue book. In two separate three-hour sessions, I scribbled away, struggling in vain to remember four years worth of readings ranging across centuries of literature. These writing sessions were very intense. Imagine a locked room in a library. 25 or more anxious English majors gathered around a large wooden table. Proctors handing out blue books and instructions. Add in the ever growing realization that you have only a few hours to regurgitate all the things in your brain, and that the result of how you do in the next hours would determine if you pass and graduate or, heaven forbid, you have to take the test again.

Panic has a smell. It's not pleasant.

On the other hand, my masters degree in Librarian Science was considered a "practical" degree and there was no thesis requirement. One of the requirements for graduation, however, was an internship for which you had to write a paper on your experiences. I had a lovely internship at a college music library, and over three months kept a journal that developed into a larger paper. With the addition of copies of the research, advertising materials, new flyers, and other brochures I developed for the library, I handed in quite a large binder. I don't even think my advisor read my paper. I think she weighed that binder, by eye and by mass, against some of the other papers that were handed in, and just gave me an A. I still have the binder. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's as large as some of the dissertations that I've come across in various library stacks.

Now, this is not to say I didn't have the opportunity to write a thesis. There were honors tracks in both degree programs which culminated in a thesis project. As you can see here, verbosity is not my problem. I like to read. I like to research. I usually like to write. At the time I just had other priorities. I finished up the bulk of my undergraduate degree in three and half years. I was living off-campus my last semester, taking two night/weekend courses, and working two or three jobs. I didn't have time to do extra credit honors work. Same situation with my graduate degree. I was working full (plus)-time, travelling onto Long Island or into New York City for my classes, and was commuting to the internship. More importantly, I could only afford to put so many graduate credit tuition fees onto a credit card or to incur more student loans.

I'm capable of a thesis. I just chose to take other academic and life paths.

There was also one other factor. The whole thesis process always seemed like such a daunting thing to me, but it was based on perceptions and childhood impressions. You know how, when you're looking back through the filter of childhood memories, things always look bigger, and tasks seem more daunting? And then when you come upon them later, things are surprisingly easier or places smaller? That's the THESIS for me.

When I was little, my father was working on his undergraduate and graduate degrees, working two or three jobs, and all the while raising a family in a day and age where there weren't so many technological advancements. I have vague memories of him struggling to write that thing out long-hand before dashing off to a night job, and then my poor mother "translating" and editing it. After staying home all day with three young kids under the age of 8, dealing with all our issues, she would then stay up late typing Dad's thesis on a manual typewriter ... over and over and over again. The sound of a typewriter got to be a comforting rhythm to my childhood dreams. Later on, I remember my parents having conversations about thesis advisers and approval committees -- how these professor-types would argue and haggle over language/sentences and how these changes made my mother have to retype the whole paper ... you guessed it -- over and over and over again. The folks kept drafts to track the changes, and would cynically comment about thesis advisers who would say one things in a draft, insist on edits, and by draft 20 or 30, would have managed to flip all the way back to the original version. I was about 6-8 about this time, and somehow all of this was floating around my head when it came time to have to decide on educational paths.

I admire anyone who has willingly taken on a thesis project, especially one that involves surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and other research. It's hard work getting people to respond, and then to provide data that you can actually use. I remember all too well from grad school.

So, when I read about Whitney's thesis project on blogging, I was more than willing to help.

Extra bonus ... Whitney is attending Dad's alma mater.

Won't you
click through and then take some time to help a fellow blogger out? She asks some very important questions about why you do, or do not, blog, who you blog for, and what other blogs you read. If you haven't already thought about these questions for yourself, it does help you to focus on your subject matter and intended audience.

Write on, Ms. Whitney, Write on!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Drew Spotted

I imagine the conversation as something like this:
You know, Dad? When I told you about Crazy Hair Day at school, I thought I was going to end up with a fauxhawk or something. Having you go crazy with the green hair dye wasn't part of the plan.You did so well with the homemade stencil, except for that one drip that's trickling down my neck.You're sure this looks CRAZY and not like I have a weird hair rash or something, right? You know what? I look cute no matter how crazy my hair is!
(pictures courtesy of the family)

My suggestions for Drew's hair included: a buzz of the Boston Red Sox logo, wild Kool-Aid stripes, or a total buzz and fun with temporary tattoos. I'm just the aunt though, so no one took me seriously.

Why don't they have crazy hair day for grown-ups? Maybe some people would actually make an effort from time to time?

I may have to try out the Kool-Aid Stripes on my streak. I'm thinking Fruit Punch for a nice pink highlight.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Faux Twits

This blog is my only foray into social media. I don't LiveJournal, Facebook, or Twitter. I just don't have time or opportunity. I do understand the allure of Twitter, but the format of 140 characters is limiting. Getting me to be succinct is usually the trouble.

I've been a bit busy this week, and had a bit of bloggers block, so I decided to keep a post-it filled with notes, as if I had a Twitter account. These are some of my musings. After reviewing them, I don't think I'll be getting an account anytime soon:

Here are my Treat or Tweets (times are estimates, since they weren't really posted):

Posted 12 hours ago:
Leftover chocolate cake with purple frosting from Magnolia Bakery makes the afternoon go by much easier.

Posted 16 hours ago:
Do I know anyone who wants a pair of Carnegie Hall symphony tickets? UM, HELLO? ME! Thanks people with box seats and other social plans.

Posted 18 hours ago:
RT @mooshinindy: the moosh ended her prayer today with dot com. As in "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Dot Com." [c.11/18/09 ]

Posted 18 hours ago:

I did this but it was after a shift at Mickey Dees and was all like "Welcome to McDonald's, may I take your order please?"

Posted 18 hours ago:
Saddest thing? No one in family noticed when I broke off mid-phrase trying not to laugh.

Posted 25 hours ago:
Dear #Castle Location People: You can't fake Grand Central Terminal with LA locations. NOPE. NOT AT ALL. We have a better ceiling in NYC.

Posted a day ago:
Yes, my e-mail friend. Rainy days and Mondays do get me down.

Posted a day ago:
Is it time to go home yet? I need me some Big Bang Theory and some @NathanFillion charm.

Posted a day ago:
Hoping that outstanding invoices come in ASAP so I can have money for laundry, Dt. Coke and rest of rent. Though it should be rest of rent, laundry and THEN Dt. Coke.

Posted a day ago:
Processing two checks for working totaling $150,000 just makes me feel even more poor. When is pay day again?

Posted a day ago:
It doesn't bode well for your work out if you manage to strain your neck muscles and almost dislocate your shoulder just trying to put ON your sports bra. Just saying.

Posted 4 days ago:
Spring is here. The biggest sign in NYC? The Mr. Softee trucks are out on the street corners. It’s 2:15. Time for an ice cream run. Chocolate Ice Cream mid-afternoon = YUM!

Posted 4 days ago:
Saw a want ad that said: "you must love books." What if you just "like like" them?

Posted a week ago:
#overheard in office Excessive spreadsheet manipulation can apparently lead to softening of the brain.

To Twit or not to twit? That is the question ... Perhaps I will continue to accumulate these Faux Twits in a post-it until I have something worth Twitting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Recipes from Ollie J -- Southern Teacakes

After making these, I think these are more like sugar cookies than teacakes, but that may have more to do with how thin I rolled them out and which cookie cutter I used. No one's complained though.

(Old Fashioned) Southern Teacakes

2 1/4 cup sifted plain flour
1/4 tsp salt

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together.

Cream butter, sugar & eggs.

Add vanilla, milk and dry ingredients.

Blend well.

Place dough on a lightly floured board, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and roll to about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut with a cookie cutter.

Place on cookie sheet and bake in a moderate oven, at 350 or 375 degrees for about 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown on top.

I couldn't find my grandmother's rolling pin, which I know I got when we cleaned out her house and moved her. I'm still seriously worried about where it is. I can only think that it must be in storage somewhere and I'll find it the next time I'm moving (which I am not intending to anytime soon!) I had to improvise on the rolling pin, so I floured down a drinking glass (which I also never use) to roll out the dough. Between an unseasoned butcher's block and the glass, I used a LOT of flour to keep the dough from sticking. I wasn't measuring the thickness. The cookies tasted fine to me, and like I said above, none of my tastetesters have complained thus far.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Aunt misbehavin' is part of the job

Wherein we explain, and redirect you to this article of the title above, by Tish Durkin of Ms. O's eponymous magazine. Thanks for posting and Tish for articulating.

(See Mom, it's not just me!)

Favorite quotes:
"If this is the strangest sensation that aunting provides, it is also the sweetest. For it reminds me that I have been privileged to see all these children up close as they came into the world, and all through their growing up in it. And yet I have never felt obliged to grow up myself."

"I am also relatively unworried about my own chances of becoming a parent, because although aunting will never give me anything like the full course of motherhood, it does give me a wonderful, powerful -- and possibly sufficient -- taste of it. While I will never be the children's mother, I will always be their family, with all the history, complexity, and fidelity that entails. I couldn't drop them like a yoga class, a book club, or a waning friendship, even if I wanted to. I have known them forever, and they have known me.

That's it, really: We just know each other and know, as one so rarely can these days, that we will always know each other."

I love you -- all my litle nieces and nephews in various far-flug places. Let's goof off again soon.
All my love,
Auntie Nettie

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to de-stress while on vacation, Part 4

Hang out with your nieces. Aren't they cute? How can you be stressed when confronted by the sheer adorableness of these two?

It doesn't take much to amuse them. Being outside is fun. Take a zen lesson from the nieces: Go outside in the sun and look at all the beauty of nature. Look for fun things to play with. Sticks, branches ....
or large rocks. Didn't you know? Climbing "mountains" is fun. It's also fun to use your aunt later to climb on, just like you did this huge boulder. Aunties = jungle gyms, don't you know? [Only with prior parental approval though.]Who knows what is going on in Ms. Elle's head as she looks at this leaf or flower? Perhaps she's trying to articulate the cure to cancer that's she's discovered. That girl has wonders going on in her head that the rest of us only wish we could know. How to de-stress: be comfortable with your own thoughts.Elle also has a wicked sense of humor, adventure, and fearlessness that we should all emulate. Lesson from Elle: Discover new things with all of your senses and don't care what you end up looking like. (What's yellow and red and a mess all over? Elle after a meal.)Ms. Amber is also usually quite active. Being active is a way to de-stress. (How did I manage to catch this glimpse of momentarily stillness? Oh, wait! She's not moving, but she is talking a mile a minute!)Another way to de-stress is cuddles -- cuddles with aunties; cuddles with mama; and/or cuddles with grandmas. Grandmas are fun to climb on too. Silly grandmas. Other things the nieces taught me? Princesses don't have stress. They are the rulers and are free of such silly things. Act like a Princess all the time and you won't have stress.When that doesn't work, try some deep reflection upon your inner self. (Silly Elle, I knew about Glass Meditation from my bosom friend Anne Shirley and Anne of Green Gables. I can't wait to share that book with you.)If that still doesn't work, the girls say that exercise is key. Try running and chasing your sister and cousin, and then running some more.

See! No stress.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to de-stress while on vacation, Part 3

Hang out with a baby. Seriously. Try it. Even if all the baby does is sleep, eat, poop, or chill out, just hang with a baby. You have to mellow out or they will pick up on it. No one wants a cranky baby, so you have to calm down too.

How to de-stress, via BABYTIME:

1. Rock a baby, sway side to side, or do the "bop." If you do it right, you'll get big yawns. Once the baby is asleep, you have to keep swaying. You don't want to relinquish the feel of that warm body in your arms.

2. Smell a baby's head. Go on. You know it's a sweet, sweet perfume. Nothing like it in any of the perfume stores. Sometimes the baby will help, and stick their little noggin right up in nook of your neck.

Smell my head. Come on, you know you want to!
3. Look deeply into a baby's eyes. It will get you closer to the answers to the mysteries of the universe than any trek to the old man on the mountain.

What you looking at? (When's lunch?)

4. Stroke baby skin. It's so unbelievably soft.
Alternative step: Play with baby fingers and get wrapped around their little tiny thumbs.

Thanks for helping to de-stress me, Mr. Nathan. Can we have a playdate again soon? Maybe this time Grandmary will let me hold you? Maybe your sisters won't mind too much ... I did get to spend time with them too.

Part 4: Watching the Nieces Play