31 July 2007

We are not car people

Because we don't use the car every day, getting it fixed isn't terribly urgent. And since it's a fairly new vehicle it doesn't need fixing all that often. But we have had repeated problems with the battery. Last November I ended up replacing it. So I was a little frustrated last week when one day the car doesn't even unlock because the relatively new battery is dead. Get it jump started. Next day, dead again. So we decide that since the car's under warranty still we'll have the dealership look at it. There must be a problem with the electronics draining the batteries. If it's a battery problem, well the battery has a guarantee and can be replaced easily. We just need to know. But the dealership service department isn't open on weekends. And yesterday they were too busy so asked that we bring it in first thing this morning.

Okay. It's not the end of the world that we've procrastinated somewhat then were thwarted by crappy dealership service hours. I've been doing a lot of walking and running for my errands. Soon, though, we'll be out of milk and orange juice and mineral water, and I can't carry that much beverage home on foot. I'd really like the luxury of driving to the grocery store tomorrow.

This morning we get roadside assistance to tow the car to the dealership. They open at 7 am and Mike gets on the horn to the tow truck guy at 6:30 to arrange it. After the tow truck has already been dispatched, they tell us it will cost $125 cash and we can submit the receipt to the insurance agency for reimbursement. What? But the jump start guy comes out for no charge. (That's when I suggested we have the jump start guy come back and then we just drive the car to the dealership.) Well, towing is a different company. Okay, we get that. But cash? We don't have $125 in cash on us at 7 am, and ha, ha, we don't have a car to drive us to an ATM. So Mike says the only way we can pay that is if the tow truck driver brings him to an ATM after he drops off the car. They must get that request a lot because they agree to it. In this day and age, what service industry still deals in cash only? Even the pizza and chinese food delivery people take credit cards, and for amounts that are a lot smaller than $125! How. Annoying.

The dealership has to go through the diagnostic process to figure out what's wrong with the car. The diagnosis? Nothing's wrong. They say there's a parking light switch that's turned on, a switch that neither Mike nor I have even heard of before, let alone turned on.

Mike's going to be home from work soon, and we'll walk over to the dealership to pick up the car. It's one of those distances that's too short to get a taxi for (and so ineffecient in time and cost!), but too long to walk comfortably in this heat. I figured misery loves company so we should walk together.

Part of me hopes that it is the parking light switch, even though that makes us look like idiots for not figuring it out. (I'm positive that I didn't see any lights on when I got it jump started last week.) At least then the problem is solved. But part of me wants there to be a real problem so our paranoia is justified. Of course, a real problem is probably something the dealership will give us a hard time about fixing and end up not being covered by the warranty. Better for us to just look like idiots for leaving a light on.

food and stuff

I've been trying to reduce the amount of food we waste. Buy and cook smaller portions. Eat the leftovers. Just be plain old economical. We got take-out chinese food last weekend and most of it is still sitting in the fridge. The leftover rice was pretty good... but our entrees weren't that great the first time around and we've been avoiding reheating them. I think they've reached expiration but I feel sad about throwing out so much food.

Last night, for the first time ever I think, I made just enough stir-fry. We had plenty to eat and there wasn't any leftover except for the rice. I'd already planned to reheat the rice for tonight (which I'll be doing shortly.)

I made bread on Saturday so my focus is on sandwiches for lunch this week. Tuna salad, veggie, if there's leftover chicken tonight, then chicken. I'm anxious to use up my bread so I can try a homemade pita recipe. For some reason it's something I've been missing more than usual lately.

Today I bought just enough fresh produce to last for my lunch today, our dinner tonight, and lunch and dinner tomorrow. I like shopping for fruit and veggies every few days.

One of our wedding presents was a fantastic blender and I've been using it to make smoothies for afternoons snacks. Mangoes and peaches have been delicious lately in smoothies. And it's a good way to use up the fruit when it's at the point where it's almost too ripe to eat and if it sits for one more day it will definitely go bad.

Dinner tonight: Indian spice-rubbed chicken breasts on the grill, apple slaw (plain nonfat yogurt, grated apple, lime juice, cilantro), and the leftover rice. Easy, gluten-free, and Mike gets to grill.

Once I get myself in the practice of meal planning and smart shopping, then I'll be able to concentrate on Mike taking lunches to work. I can only eat so many leftovers myself. Mike has to eat up some of the slack.

30 July 2007

Note to self

Don't use a citrus oil based moisturizer immediately after shaving legs with a brand new razor. Especially if you haven't noticed that you cut yourself. It really stings.

29 July 2007

Bicycling: Bacharach, Mainz, Frankfurt, Worms

July 17. The ride from Bacharach to Mainz had some ups and downs, both literally and figuratively. It started raining and Helen's raincape got caught in the bicycle gears, causing her to take "a spill." There were some hard, long hills, but the road followed the Rhein and the scenery was nice. At one village she had trouble changing her money and had to go to 3 different banks. Her lunch was the "best meal yet," though: rump steak, potatoes, lettuce, and peaches.

hostel card front
Hostel Pass.

The next day they went on toward Frankfurt. They stopped in a little village along the way for a drink, "a quaint little village with narrow crooked streets with the usual odor." I wonder what the usual odor is? Garbage? Animals? Or something nice like baking bread? By noon they were at the Frankfurt hostel, which seems downright luxurious. Large, big enough to sleep 900 people. The 4 girls got a room with 5 beds in it. And it had hot water. They took advantage of their great accomodations and spent the afternoon washing up and taking naps.

After dinner the evening was spent singing and dancing with the other young people at the hostel. "Fast twirling German waltzes which I did with a boy from Sudetan. I got so dizzy he had to hold me up -- embarrassed no end."

Helen and friends spent a full day in Frankfurt doing some sight-seeing. At this point in the journal I think the entries are from Helen's friend. (My detective skills tell me this since Helen suddenly becomes a third person character.) In Frankfurt they saw Goethe's house, some churches, and the Emperor's Hall, where they had to put on felt slippers to keep their shoes from damaging the highly polished floor.

Back at the hostel that night, they met up with others in their group who were a day behind on their bicycles. Another night of singing and dancing.

July 20. They left Frankfurt and headed to Worms. They had a pretty good lunch on the road, it included fruit and pastries, and stopped at a farmhouse for glasses of milk. The hostel in Worms was in the basement of a school. Doesn't seem to be as great as the Frankfurt hostel, but good enough for washing up and napping before going out to explore the town.

They met "a nice young fellow who offered to escort us around." He told them a little bit about current events in town. He was discontent and had not been able to eat meat for 3 weeks. He was allowed only 1/4 pound of butter a week. (I don't know if that's just for him--which seems like plenty--or for a family.) "He was quite certain that Germany would take Danzig & that there would be war." He also said something that they think got mixed up in translation: Everyone had "me foot on war." Eventually they had to leave him and hurry back for their own dinner, which I notice didn't include meat: soup, eggs, potatoes, and salad.

Next stop, Heidelberg.

hostel card stamps
Back of hostel pass, with stamps from the various hostels she stayed at.

See all posts of Helen's trip.

(Clicking on photos will take you to larger views flickr.)

Spider pig, spider pig...

Does whatever a spider pig does. Can he swing from a web? No, because he's a pig.

We saw The Simpsons Movie last night. Thanks to the commercials being run approximately every 90 seconds whenever I turn on the tv, I've had Homer's spider pig song stuck in my head for weeks now. It wore me down. I wasn't sure I wanted to see the movie because the last few seasons of the show haven't been that funny. But we decided to go for it.
It was hilarious. For at least 75 of the 88 minutes (it's a short feature) we were laughing loudly, giggling, smiling. My face hurt by the end. The opening joke is the family's at the theater watching The Itchy and Scratchy Movie and Homer makes a stink over how stupid everyone in the audience is for paying money to watch something we can watch at home every day for free. It's a great note to get started with and it coincided with my thinking that it was weird to be watching something with so many people laughing around me when I'm used to watching it at home quietly on my couch. It turned out to be a lot of fun to have all those people laughing along.

The plot is pretty thin, but it didn't need substance. Homer falls in love with a pig ... disaster comes to Springfield. It had the great Simpsons irony and sarcasm and irrelevance and plain old silliness. It was just darned entertaining. Most of the citizens of Springfield make an appearance. There are some references to episodes, but there's also a lot that's independent to the film (I hope they make Lisa's new boyfriend a regular character on the show).

There's a PG rating and I expected a little more gratuitousness but it stayed pretty tame. We see Bart naked. Otto takes a bong hit. Marge finally gets mad enough to swear (she's earned it, she's put up with a lot over the years).

I hope now that the movie has finally been made, the writers will put their effort back into making the show funny again. Or else end The Simpsons now on a high note.

(At home now, we're alternating between singing "Grendel pig, Grendel pig" and "Spider Ellie, Spider Ellie" to ourselves.)

(Image from MTV.com.)

27 July 2007

gluten-free travel snacks

Packing for Europe includes me needing to bring some food. There will be delicious pastries and breads that I'll have to pass by. There will be flour hidden secretly in sauces and sausages. I have restaurant cards in Polish and German for giving to waiters to explain what gluten-free means. The breakfasts at our hotels will likely include some fruit or yogurt or cheese. But I'll need snacks, and I don't want every meal to be a chore. So I've been test-tasting some convenient foods to bring along.

Recently I ordered some stuff from gluten-free.com. First up, Glutino Breakfast Bars in cranberry. At first I didn't like these. I had been eating crackers with garlic cheese when the UPS guy delivered my gluten-free goodies, and I tore into the box and ate one of these bars right away. Mixing with the taste of the garlic cheese was not good. I had an awful taste in my mouth. I chased it with one of the Glutino organic chocolate and peanut bars and that made the taste in my mouth even worse. I was totally turned off by both bars, and very disappointed.

The next day, with a more hospitable pallate, I decided to give them both another try. I had my usual first few cups of coffee. Then I wanted a snack before heading out to the grocery store. I figured this sort of mimicked my coffee and light breakfast before going out for a few hours of sight-seeing. Even if the bars tasted terrible, would they be filling enough to sustain me for a few hours? I ate one of the cranberry bars. It tasted better, but not delicious. There's not a huge amount of cranberry flavor in the filling. But whatever they use for the outside is very heavy with something cinnamonny. (Maybe to cover up something less-tasty?) Several hours later, after grocery shopping, I noticed that I wasn't hungry. Yay! I got properly hungry at lunch time. As a pre-lunch snack I ate a chocolate-peanut bar. It still tasted awful. The chocolate is low-quality and I just didn't taste any peanuts. I tasted plastic.

The taste of the cranberry cereal bars grew on me, and I ordered another box plus the same kind in different flavors to bring with me. A couple bars, some fruit, some yogurt, not a bad breakfast or lunch.

I've also been trying hot cereals. I can tolerate oatmeal most of the time. Being on the road is not when I want to chance the 1 time out of 10 I might not tolerate it. So I ordered Alti Plano Quinoa Hot Cereal, the variety pack. I'd tried their chocolate cereal several years ago and didn't like it, but that was before I'd started eating quinoa regularly, and I think it's a taste that takes some getting used to. The variety pack comes with orange spice, chai spice, and apple spice flavors. They definitely overpower you with spice flavors to cover up the fact that you're eating quinoa, not the oatmeal you grew up with as a kid. They taste okay and they are filling. At the hotels that offer a cold breakfast, I'll be able have hot cereal (since they'll have hot water or milk for tea and coffee) and sometimes that comforting hot cereal mentality is what gets you going in the morning.

I'm mostly worried about Poland and Austria. From what I've heard the UK is pretty gluten-free friendly, plus I know the language. I fear that for the first 2 weeks of the trip I'll be living on coffee and my cereal bars until I get into the UK and can read the menus and labels.

How am I going to get all this stuff to Europe? I'm going to stash bars and packets in my backpack, my day pack, and my purse and pray they don't get too crushed.

26 July 2007

Ron Paul

I'm testing the theory that mentioning Ron Paul in a blog greatly increases traffic. See Cats and Beer. I'm not the only person with this idea. (Thanks Wonkette for the great idea!) The Ron Paul-ites are going to be busy today.

Ron Paul folks, I hope you have some other interests that make you want to stick around and keep reading. Thank for your click. Also, I'm a bona fide undecided at this point. Maybe you can convince me.

The Bicycling Begins

Not much has gone on with my travel plans recently. I bought a backpack and we interviewed a cat-sitter. So let's get back to Helen, shall we?

Insert wavy lines that indicate flashback here.

After several days on the cruise ship Helen and gang disembarked in Rotterdam. "Every one here rides around on bicycles and cute little motorcycles. Never in my life saw so many bikes." Helen's group didn't actually get their bikes here, though. They spent a night in a Rotterdam hostel then took the train to Arnheim, then to Cleve, where they got their bikes and had to assemble them before going on the first ride. July 12 -- "Had our first picnic lunch and our first ride on our new bikes." They have lots of picnic lunches throughout their trip and it's evident that they get bored of the breads and cheeses. At the hostel in Cleve, "Met and talked with an old German man who spoke Engl. He spoke of Germany as a porcupine which would prick anyone who bothered it."

Below, postcards from the hostel in Arnhem. The outside and the dining room.

Train rides and bike rides through Germany for several days. Cologne, Bad Godesburg, Bacharach (by steamboat, the notes say), Mainz. One of the lunch entries on the road indicates bread, meat and cheese (again), but with pastries. Unfortunately there was no fruit in the entire village. Later that afternoon they got a special treat--glasses of cold milk. At the hostel in Bad Godesburg there were many Hitler Youth. The girls sang songs and then the boys marched up singing a different song. They all pitched in the help with the dishes after dinner. The next morning, Helen and gang were awoken early by a bugle. They looked out the window to see the Hitler Youth doing an early morning workout on the lawn. Then everyone had breakfast and a Norwegian fellow who spoke English led Helen's group out of town.

The journal is actually entries from both Helen and another friend on the trip. I'm not able to tell all the entries from each other, but they have similar voices. Neither of them gets into the politics of the simmering pre-war going on all around them. It's all observations of actual daily life details, like the Hitler Youth waking up early for a workout. I find it fascinating.

Weird News from Rhode Island

Really, though, is there any kind of news from Rhode Island other than the weird kind? This cat Oscar lives at a nursing home and has an uncanny ability to pick out which patients are near death. And by "near death" the doctors mean within a couple hours. There's a full article in the Providence Journal today and he's noted in the New England Journal of Medicine. The doctors believe Oscar can sense some sort of enzyme or toxin that becomes apparent in these elderly patients just before they die. When Oscar curls up on someone's bed, the doctors notify the patient's family that it's time. How sad, yet strangely comforting.

25 July 2007

bicycling in europe


bicycling in europe
Originally uploaded by girl_in_bleue
I've been able to photograph some of the contents of my grandmother's journal. Bit by bit I'll add more photos and posts about her adventures. To the right is the photo from the Providence Sun newspaper. "On Bicycle Is Miss Helen E. Gould" -- that's my grandmother. Click on the photo to see it enlarged and go to the rest of them on flickr.

"They are going bicycling in Europe"

My last post reminded me that I've been meaning to go through my grandmother's European travel journal to see if our trips overlap anywhere.

In the summer of 1939 my grandmother and some friends bicycled through Europe. (Yeah, that's right, 1939. They arrived at the end of June and left at the end of August. On September 1st they were on the cruise ship heading back to New York.) They biked through a good portion of Germany. Our trips will only overlap in Munich, Fussen, and then London. They also covered Holland and Switzerland.

I've always loved going through the journal, and a few years before she died my grandmother gave me all the photos, typed pages, letters, postcards, ticket stubs, receipts from a sporting goods store in Fussen, all the momentos that were stuck to those old-school sticky page photo albums. I carefully peeled them off the sticky album pages and organized them and mounted them on archival acid-free paper and placed them in sleeves, then a sturdy 3-ring binder. I still love going through the journal. Looking at the pictures, reading about what she did every day. Helen must be where I get my minutiea-cataloging habits from. Every day lists the mileage, what they ate at each stop, the conditions of the hostels. I love the details.

Helen went with a group of friends in some sort of organized tour. In 1939 Rhode Island, this was pretty big news apparently, and there's a picture of them, Helen on her bicycle, in the newspaper with the headline "They are going bicycling in Europe." They started on a cruise ship from New York to Holland. Helen's journal includes the telegrams that friends and family members sent her to receive on the ship, wishing her good luck and bon voyage and all that. How exciting! Shore to ship telegrams! (No one sends telegrams anymore. You have to check your email. Which seems a lot less exciting than having a porter hand you a telegram.)

Upon arrival in Holland they received their bicycles and were on their way.

24 July 2007

travelogue


"2004 Eastern Europe Journal"

This looks kinda neat, even though it hasn't been updated recently. Moleskine a Day. Makes me want to find one of my many blank books and bring it along to Europe on the off chance I actually get around to documenting the trip in a cool way.

of a different color

A few weeks back did anyone else notice that Hillary was always wearing a bulky, textured, hideous blue jacket? Other than Wonkette?

It must be the texture, and not the color, that's the source of her power because last night she was wearing the same awful jacket in a different awful color: Pink! Surely there must be better-fitting, less bulky jackets for her out there.

Or her fashion consultant is a secret agent from a rival campaign... pretty boy Jon Edwards?

(Blue jacket montage from Wonkette. Pink pic from Reuters/Yahoo News. Click on images to enlarge them, if you dare.)

passports

We got our passports yesterday! Yes, we planned and paid for a full European vacation without valid passports in hand. Mine was lost and Mike's was going to expire in August.

We know we procrastinated on this. We know it's taking 4 months to process passports. We figured the expedited fee into our travel budget. We were planning on expediting them whether we did it last week or months ago because back when we first started talking about this vacation it was apparent that application processing was going slow. We went to the passport office on Thursday and Mike picked them up there yesterday. It was worth the fee for peace of mind.

Did you know you can take your passport photo at home? Mike had me stand against the white living room wall and snapped away with the digital camera. Then he did some photoshopping to make my head 2" x 2" and printed them out on photo paper. Voila. Passport photos. You don't have to add another errand or line or expense to the passport-getting process with a little home craftiness.

23 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Endless Buildup

That was a headline on the Daily Show last week. Mike and I both finished Book 7 over the weekend. I have to say that after all the hype, I'm a little disappointed with the ending. Should make for a good movie though. And that's something I've noticed in the last 3 books or so, they seem to be written more with movie scenes in mind.

21 July 2007

I bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this morning. Mike and I are going to take turns with it, trading off every hour. I just finished my first hour. We're 7 minutes into Mike's first hour.

I'm bored.

I've been meaning to clean up my sidebar. Maybe I'll work on that now for a bit.

20 July 2007

lol

According to an extremely scientific poll, if I were a lolcat I'd be this one. (High scores for affection and hunger; low score for excitability.) I don't really get lolcats or the popularity of the whole lol-phenomenon of putting bad captions on stupid pictures. I think the cat is cute though.

We had quite a wake up call this morning. Earthquake at of 4.2 magnatude at 4:42 am. It was one of those quick jolting ones. We rolled over and went back to sleep. Over in Oakland, though, some windows are broken and the power is out for some people. BART is running late. Apparently it was a shallow quake which is why the shaking was so "violent" and felt over such a widespread area.

I've only had a few sips of coffee. Not nearly enough to make me functional for post writing.

Oh, and speaking of cats, we're interviewing a pet sitter for while we're out of town. The kennels are expensive and I'm afraid Ellie will be transported back to her shelter days and de-civilize to the ultra-mean kitty we brought home so many years ago. (She's only slightly, occassionally mean now.) I'm sure Grendel would love nothing more than to be locked in a box for 3 weeks and left alone to sleep, but he'd also be pretty cozy in his own home.

18 July 2007

more travel stuff

Yesterday I received an email from a distant cousin in Poland: "When you will arrive to Zakopane you will stay in our/family house 'Koisowka.'" This is Koisowka:


Looks pretty neat. It's a bed and breakfast sort of place, with 8 rooms I think. It seems to be well located between the town center and the Tatra National Park, the 2 things we want to see in the 2 days we'll be there. We're very excited. (Obviously. I think I say and/or post that at least 3 times a day.)

Tonight we're planning on luggage shopping. We're trying to decide between suitcases or backpacks. There are some cities where we'll only have a few hours' layover so backpacks will be easy to stuff in a locker while we walk around. And I hate dragging wheeled suitcases around, especially on and off busses and trains. But the suitcases are sturdier and are probably easier to pack and keep organized. We'll see. I want to pack light since so much traveling will be going on over the course of the 3 weeks.

14 July 2007

lodging, etc.

I found us a place to stay in Edinburgh and the travel agent sent me the rest of our itnerary yesterday, so we are on the way to European Vacationness. National Lampoon's European Vacation happened to be on TV last night, and I could only watch about 20 minutes of it, getting a queasy feeling, thinking that maybe Europe hasn't updated it's hotel rooms in the last 30 years. So, this morning, with itnerary and guidebooks and google in-hand I researched our hotels.

Our room in Edinburgh may have either 2 twin beds or one bunk bed! (It's actually a hostel that rents private rooms.) And it looks like the "double rooms" in our London hotel consist of 2 twin beds. I told Mike that since the UK is at the end our trip, it's just as well that we sleep in separate beds. We'll probably be sick of each other after two weeks in the close quarters of Central Europe tiny hotel rooms and sleeper cars on trains.

One thing I can say about each hotel is that they seem to be well-located, near all the city centers and train and bus stops that we need. And they offer breakfasts. I'm sure they'll all be about the same as the one I stayed at in France a few years ago. Charming and novel in the European sense, but by no means luxurious. That's fine with us. The European free breakfasts tend to be pretty good I think. I'll be bringing GF energy bars and hot cereal, so if I can at least get some coffee in the mornings I'll be good to go. Keeping expectations low but optimism high.

Update: I've confirmed with the hostel: We have a bunk bed room in Edinburgh.

12 July 2007

Holy Festivals Batman!

No wonder we can't find a hotel room in Edinburgh. The city's full.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh International Festival

And of course, the only one we knew about when we decided to go to Edinburgh in August, Lebowski Fest UK.

Harry Potter Day

Yesterday morning I was pleasantly surprised to see Daniel Radcliffe on the Today Show. (Yeah, I still watch it out of habit, even though it generally makes me sick.) Then I watched a very uncomfortable Daniel Radcliffe be interviewed by Larry King. I never, ever watch Larry King. He is an old, irrelevant, dirty old (again) man. By far the best Daniel Radcliffe interview was Conan O'Brien. Tuesday night I watched the Extras episode with Daniel Radcliffe. It's been fun, but I think I'm done now.

In other news, I bought some more travel guides yesterday and a Polish language CD. (Hmmm, maybe I should be listening to that right now instead of flipping around the TV channels.)

totally. awesome.



And the rest of my day was interestingly good, too. On BART on the way into San Francisco I saw John Wilkes Booth from Assassins! He got on and I thought, That captivating moustache looks so familiar. I'm no fan of moustaches usually, but JWB's demands attention. He was reading and I was able to make some furtive glances at him. I was 87% sure it was him. Then when he got off the train I was able to see what he was reading. It was a well-worn copy of the Assassins script! That made me 100% certain. I unfortunately didn't have a chance to talk to him. Maybe I'll see him again someday and be able to say Hi.

10 July 2007

word of the day

I spent a quiet day at home; thus, I didn't have the opportunity to run into any obstreperous persons.

I've been wanting to use the word obstreperous in a sentence ever since I read it in the paper a few days ago. From the Sunday New York Times: Senator Harry Reid, the occasionally obstreperous Democratic leader, is upset as well.

I asked Mike what it meant, and he asked to see the paper, certain that I had mispronounced it. I showed him, and no, I said it correctly. He didn't know what it meant either. While I pondered what little I know about Harry Reid's personality, trying to figure out the meaning from context, Mike performed some internets magic to find the definition. 1. noisily and stubbornly defiant; 2. boisterously and noisily aggressive. (Courtesy of The Free Dictionary.com.)

So there you go.

"I even skipped going to Burning Man to save money..."

I came across that quote while doing some research to prepare for our European vacation. From the Across the Pond travelblog, a somewhat laboriously detailed, yet informational account of someone's trip to the UK.

Yesterday I learned that the German word for "health food store" is reformhaus, and when I see one in Austria or Germany I should pop in to look for some gluten-free snacks.

I also learned that hexenturm means "witch house," and it can refer to either a house where a witch lived or the prison where captured witches were kept before execution. There's a bookstore in Salzburg called Hexenturm and the owner is apparently a witch history expert. I learned that from the blog A lemon tree of our own.

Hotel rooms and train tickets, who cares? I want to find haunted castles and witch houses and old bookstores.

08 July 2007

Zucchini Quick Bread

A couple days ago, before it got too hot to light the oven, I baked zucchini bread. I slightly modified the recipe from The Best-Ever Wheat- and Gluten-Free Baking Book. (Hate that title; love the book as a reference.) The recipe called for zucchini (obviously), eggs, melted butter (I used canola oil), honey, rice flour, millet flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, xanthan gum, vanilla, an envelope of gelatin, raisins, and plain nuts. I don't know what "plain" nuts are so I used pecans. And I don't love raisins so I chopped some dried apricots.

Notice it doesn't say "quick zucchini bread". It took me awhile to chop and grate everything.

The recipe calls for two 8 x 4 loaf pans. I figured I'd fill one loaf pan and use the rest of the batter for muffins, then freeze either the loaf or the muffins for later. I emptied out my cupboards to discover that all 4 of the loaf pans I own are 9 x 5 pans. So, okay, I'll make a 9 x 5 loaf and use the rest for muffins. I decided to try my new silicone loaf pan--first time with silicone baking "dishes".

The batter came together just fine, until I started folding in the flour mixture. This was my first use of gelatin in baking and I wasn't sure what would happen with it but I decided to trust the recipe-writer. The batter was an elasticky lump. I thought maybe I had used too much xanthan gum. It plopped into my loaf pan and I knew it would be too much trouble and mess to scoop some out for making muffins. So I just put my 9 x 5 loaf in the oven.

The recipe said to bake for about 25 minutes. In my mind I was factoring in using a larger loaf pan, which might require longer cooking time, but using silicone is supposed to reduce cooking time because it distributes the heat better or something. After 25 minutes, I still had a gooey mass. After 30 minutes, the same. 40 turned out to be the magic number. Browning on top, clean toothpick from the middle. Quick, take it out before it gets too dry!

Dryness turned out not to be a problem here. Between the honey, zucchini, apricots, xanthan, and gelatin, there was enough moisture and stickiness in this batter. And it didn't turn out gooey, like some other GF quick breads I've tried. It's a nicely held-together moist quick bread. And tasty! Not too sweet, perfect for breakfast or snacktime with a cup of coffee or tea. And very filling. With the nuts and millet flour and apricots and zucchini there's a lot of protein and fiber in this bread.

Wet vegetables in breads tend to get moldy, quickly. After 3 days I had eaten about half the loaf, and was completely full and ready to eat something else for breakfast. I knew I'd never eat the rest before it went bad. So it's in the freezer now. We'll see how it comes out after freezing.

07 July 2007

holiday

This afternoon Mike and I met with a travel agent to plan our honeymoon/summer vacation. She was very nice to talk to and had visited many of the places we'd like to try and see. She seemed very knowledgeable and like she wanted to work with us rather than try to sell us a package deal. Our main cities are Zakopane (Poland), Salzburg, and Edinburgh. Places we'll pass through include London, Krakow, Vienna, and the Bavaria region. I am so excited that we've finally got these plans started. It's more than just talk now. This woman seemed very excited, too, in seeing our somewhat diverse itinerary ideas and trying to figure out the best way via planes, trains, and automobiles to get us to our destinations. Oh, and it's July now and we'd like to do this in August. An added challenge in finding available accomodations.

06 July 2007

Still cleaning up

From the wedding. Dining room table covered with gifts we have to find places to put away. Boxes full of dried flowers. Seems like a lot of trouble to ebay the lot of them but I hate to throw them all away. I just have no use for them anymore. I'm saving one centerpiece and some favors. And I have to find a place to stow all the napkins! (Then I have to figure out what to do with them... patchwork linen skirts?) Mike brought some of the beer to his office this morning to distribute among people for weekend consumption. But there's still a lot of homeless alcohol stashed in the corners.

From my debit card being stolen. Since I reported it on June 30, all my auto-payments for the beginning of July were denied. The inconvenience of living in a digital society. All companies are being sympathetic and putting my accounts on hold with no penalties for the next couple weeks. The new card should arrive next week. It's just such a pain to make all the phone calls and give the explanation.

05 July 2007

we are patriots

Last night, for 4th of July, we saw the Steven Sondheim musical Assassins. I loved it! While it was a community theater with a very small production budget, and thus sort of a crappy set, there was no masking Sondheim's catchy songs. And the charisma of John Wilkes Booth. (I *heart* him. As a character in a musical that is. In the Broadway rivial in 2004 the actor who played him won a Tony.) And the actor who played Leon Czolgosz was fantastic. Made me want to learn more about him and Emma Goldman and all that. And I learned a little about assassination history in general. I knew nothing about assissination attempts on FDR and Nixon, and very little about the attempt by Squeaky Fromme on Ford. And being that it was such a small theater, by sitting in the second row we were making eye contact with all the assassins all night long. It was a little nervy, especially when they were pointing guns into the audience. But I liked feeling so close to the actors. By being so actually close to them.

After the show the musical director came on stage and asked the audience to stand up and join the cast in singing "America the Beautiful" (because we all chose to spend our 4th of July night watching a musical about U.S. presidential assassins). I couldn't stop giggling throughout the song and John Wilkes Booth kept looking at me.

(More info from wikipedia.)

I imagine this is how rich people live

I just brushed my teeth with San Pelligrino. I wouldn't recommend it. When you swish it around your mouth, the bubbles explode and fill you up with foam.



I turned on the tap and no water came out. (Moments after I inquired about my clogged tub drain service request and put in a new service request for the leaking dishwasher. I guess they're both moot for the time being, if there's no water in the building.)

The only bottled water we have in the house is the S. Pel. I really needed to brush my teeth before going out to the store to buy water. It's going to be 100 this afternoon and the cats' water bowls are almost empty. We need hydration. I don't think they'll enjoy the sparkly too much.

The power may go out across the state this afternoon because of the heat and all the energy usage. yay california!

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...