Saturday, January 2, 2010

Southern Roots in a Northern Climate

I may have mentioned--you know, in passing maybe once--that my mom is from New Orleans. Which is why I always make the traditional southern New Year's Day dinner of pork, greens, and black-eyed peas, even though I live way north of the Mason Dixon line.

There are penalties, however, to making a traditional food when outside the traditional geographic location. For instance, I don't think most people who made that meal yesterday faced this when they started the preparation of the greens:

Them's some cold-ass collards, right there.

I literally had to wait for a break in the blowing snowstorm before I went out there to harvest some very chilly and, I must assume, quite unhappy collard greens. I think the collards don't appreciate their home in a northern garden, where they are the only green, growing thing out there at the moment.

Except I think they've given up on the growing part. And really, can you blame them?

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, No Cake

The cake is no more. It lasted exactly five days and was consumed by both A. and me. But mostly me. Let us take a moment of silence in remembrance of a truly extraordinary cake.


Oh, and happy new year. Now get out of here and go cook you some black-eyed peas. And pork and greens while you're at it. Health, wealth, and happiness can be yours. All you have to do is eat.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh, Those Tricky Chicks

Just when you think you know your chickens, they go ahead and surprise you. I mean, you'd think a creature with the brainpower of the average root vegetable would be predictable. But no. You just never know what those crazy birds will do next.

Let us take--for a completely random example, as if you didn't see this narcissistic turn coming--MY chickens, for instance. I thought I knew them. I thought they were disdainful of any additions to their store-bought chicken feed, for one thing. I have tried at various times to give them half-frozen greens from the garden, stale bread, apple peelings . . . all to no avail. They turned their stupid beaks up at this nice fresh food and went on eating their artificial feed. Even though lots of OTHER people swear by giving their chickens all the scraps and old produce hanging around and claim their chickens love it. It really made me wonder what was wrong with MY chickens. Do I have the chicken equivalent of a picky toddler who refuses to consume anything other than pasta? Are they retarded in some way (other than the retardation of your average chicken, I mean, which is pretty substantial)?

Then, faced with about half a dozen starting-to-rot apples, I decided on a whim to cut one up and throw it in the chicken coop on Tuesday. By yesterday morning, it was completely gone. Oh. I don't know WHY they changed their tiny little minds, but they ate the apple, so that's something.

And another thing about those chickens. I thought it was understood that they were done laying eggs for the winter. Everyone says chickens don't lay in the winter unless they are exposed to artificial light. Everyone says chickens go through natural cycles with the sun and I shouldn't be expecting eggs until the days get longer.

Everyone didn't count on Poppy, that crazy chook*. You will recall, perhaps, that Poppy surprised me last year by laying her very first eggs around this time. Which is also the time, coincidentally, of the LEAST daylight in the whole year. Poppy, rebel that she is, doesn't seem to care about the conventional chicken wisdom. Yesterday, the same day I discovered that the chickens have spontaneously decided to eat apple pieces, I also decided to check the nesting box for the first time in a few days, just in case. I found two eggs in the nesting box. These are the first eggs I have found since this one over a month ago.

Now, I know it was Poppy because I only have two hens and they lay different colored eggs. Poppy's are green and Penny's are brown. Makes it easy to know who's producing and who's letting the team down. But if it hadn't been for the color, I would have thought they were Penny's. Because Poppy has never laid her eggs in the nesting box we built for the purpose (see, she really is a rebel). On TOP of the nesting box, sure. All over the floor of the coop, all the time. But IN the nesting box? No. And yet, there they were. Two green eggs sitting in the nesting box. Maybe she wanted to pay me back for the apple.

Or maybe she's just a chicken and therefore subject to no reasoning capabilities whatsoever. I'm going with that one.

* "Chook" is an Australian word for chicken. I think it's really fun to say and write. Try to work it into a conversation today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy? Sad? Just Ask the Weather Station!

A. got one of those digital weather stations for Christmas. It has a sensor that goes outside, with the readout screen inside. The screen has lots of information on it: moon phases, weather forecast icons, time, and of course, temperature and humidity. It displays the temperature and humidity both outside and inside. And here's where it gets good. Not only does it tell you what the temperature and humidity are in your house, it also has a little icon that functions as a "comfort level indicator." The icons are happy and sad faces.

Oh yes, they are.

If I may quote directly from the teeny tiny instruction manual that measures perhaps three inches and features minuscule type guaranteed to cause eyestrain:

"The comfort level indicator:

Comfortable: A happy face icon indicating a temperature level between 68 degrees F. and 78.6 degrees F. and relative humidity reading between 45% and 65%.

Uncomfortable: A sad face icon indicating any value outside the comfortable range."

Well. Guess where Blackrock falls on the comfort scale? The room the weather station is in currently reads at a toasty 43 degrees. SAD FACE. It's going to be many months before there is any happiness in that room, according to the weather station.

What I would like to know, however, is who decided that 68-78.6 degrees is the comfort range? I mean, maybe for a room you're sitting around reading in. But a bedroom? I can't sleep in a room that's 68 degrees. Why do they not take personal preference into account? Why is the weather station judging my comfort with a SAD FACE? How dare the weather station attempt to dictate my happiness with its soulless electronic measurements?

I'm telling you, the world is going to hell in a digital handbasket.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Glamor Continues

Our refrigerator has been making some worrisome noises lately. It seems to be running an awful lot, and being unnecessarily loud about it, too. I noted this some time ago and, in the great tradition of the large flightless bird, decided to figuratively stick my head in the sand and ignore the problem.

Then the MiL brought home Martha Stewart's magazine. It was just sitting there by my chair, so I started flipping through it, zipping right past the craft stuff and idly skimming a section on how to make your home more efficient. Which is where I saw the little tip that your refrigerator's condenser coils are supposed to be cleaned twice a year. This gave me pause, as I considered the fact that our refrigerator is now almost five years old and, to the best of my knowledge, had never had its coils cleaned. Unless A. or the MiL snuck in there and did it when I wasn't looking. I think that is unlikely.

Although I knew this little bit of housekeeping scheduling already, it never occurred to me to actually do it. I mean, who does? Do you clean your refrigerator coils twice a year? (If you do, don't tell me.) But I thought maybe five years might be stretching the boundaries of acceptable slovenly housekeeping, and might also possibly be contributing to refrigerator distress. So I decided to clean the coils.

This required, of course, moving the refrigerator. Which then revealed the floor underneath the refrigerator. Which is, of course, something you never really want to have to face. Because it is disgusting. The filth on the back of the refrigerator and the wall behind it was also revealed. It was gross.

But never mind that for now! Let's get to the coils! Which are . . . where are the coils? Ah, cleverly concealed behind this crappy cardboard piece on the bottom of the refrigerator. The cardboard is, I must assume, meant to keep the innards of the refrigerator free of dirt and debris. If that is in fact its function, it fails. And yet, it is screwed into the refrigerator with tiny little bolts that must be removed. Which requires a trip out to the shop, where of course I will never be able to find the right sized wrench for those tiny bolts, so I had to use needle nose pliers. They are not the right tool for the job and kept slipping off, so it took twice as long to remove the bolts as it should.

Keep in mind, please, that I am now seven months pregnant and getting on and off the kitchen floor, as well as bending over to unscrew the bolts, means there is much undignified scrambling and heaving. Possibly also some very attractive grunting sounds. It wasn't a pretty sight. Also, it made my back hurt.

But soldiering on! To the coils! Which were, predictably, filthy, and yet so constructed that it is impossible to get them all clean. Without removing them, that is, and that would require getting a service person out and would probably cost $100, so I just had to do the best I could and hope that the dust that was left would just disappear on its own. Sure.

Then back on went the useless cardboard piece with its irritating tiny bolts that the needle nose pliers can't grip properly. Then I cleaned the wall, the floor, and the side of the refrigerator. Then I moved the refrigerator back into position and plugged it back in. Then I took to the couch to rest after my ordeal.

Twice a year? Really? I think not.

Monday, December 28, 2009


The Ultimate Cake

What you see there is my birthday cake. I saw the recipe here months ago and thought to myself that that was the cake for me. I also thought to myself that there was no way I would make that cake myself, what with the multiple steps and hours required to put it all together. See, it's three layers of chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, AND THEN a chocolate glaze.

I mean, really. Who would go to all that trouble for a cake?

Luckily, someone I happen to live with would.

The MiL, dauntless baker that she is, spent most of yesterday afternoon engaged in cake preparation, so that when A. and I got home from dinner (ravioli with meatballs--yum) there was this towering cake, looking all artistic and tasting, I must tell you, even better than it looked.

Be warned, however: This is a serious cake. For real. I am not known for my restraint when it comes to cake eating, but even I couldn't have eaten two pieces of this. But then, that might have had something to do with the heavy Italian meal consumed prior to the cake. In any case, it is an exceedingly rich cake. Which makes it just to my taste.

Incidentally, the MiL asked me who I was going to get to help me eat all this cake. I pretended that maybe I would bring some to a New Year's Eve party we will be attending, but honestly? I'll probably eat it mostly by myself. Because I am just that greedy.

And this cake really is just that good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Today is a very exciting day! And to convey that excitement, I'm going to end every sentence with an exclamation point! Like so! See?! It can even be done in conjunction with a QUESTION MARK! AND CAPS!

Okay, that's enough excitement in the form of exclamation points. How annoying is that?


The reason it's such an exciting day is that today is my birthday. And that means that on this blog, which is already all about me, I can be even more me-centric than I am normally. Except I'm not really sure how that's possible, since pretty much every post is already all about mememememe, every day of the year.

Yeah, so. I don't really have anything particularly self-centered to say today. Just that today is the glorious celebration of my birth. Today, I am 30 years old.

Happy birthday to MEEEEEE! You may commence cheery birthday wishes in the comments now.