Friday, April 27, 2007


In M&J Trimmings:

I just want to say to him, go suck some pork out of your teeth.

On Bleecker Street, a small blond boy to an even smaller blond boy:

Why do you always ruin everything?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fritz's Bread

I don't know if any of you read Rex Stout. He writes mystery stories featuring a detective named Nero Wolfe. Wolfe likes his home comfortable with an orchid greenhouse on the roof and a gourmet chef in the kitchen. The chef is named Fritz Brenner. His meals are the subject of many pages in the books. Stout got together with a food writer named Sheila Hibben to create a cookbook of dishes mentioned in the book. One of the entries is a bread recipe. It makes a very nice loaf of bread which is wonderful with butter, jam or in a sandwich. The recipe in the book is for two loaves. I used half the recipe but I think I should have used the whole thing. The loaf pan I have is larger than average (9x5) so my loaf is a little short (I used to have a smaller pan but it was lost). But still very tasty.

Fritz's Bread

2 cups milk
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbs butter, softened
1 package instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup warm water
6 cups sifted all purpose flour

Heat the milk until scalded. When bubbles have formed around the edges take it off the heat and stir in the sugar, salt, and butter. Let this cool until it is just tepid (110 degrees or so). Dissolve the yeast in the water then add to the milk mixture. Stir this into the flour. If you are using a mixer with a dough hook start on low speed and increase to low medium to knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. If kneading by hand this will take about 10 minutes. Shape into a round and place into a lightly greased bowl turning it once so the top gets coated with oil. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch it down and let rise again for an hour. After second rise divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a rectangle and place in a greased loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise a third time until doubled in bulk, 1-1 1/2 hours (keeping the dough in a warm place will speed up the rising time). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees for at least 20 minutes. Just before baking brush top of the loaf with a little melted butter (I omitted this step so I got a crustier top). Bake for 40-45 minutes (less if in a bigger pan). If the top browns too quickly cover with aluminum foil.
Eat bread warm. Try not to devour the entire loaf at once.

Monday, April 23, 2007

More Eavesdropping in Union Square

I got a haircut today. For the past five years I've been getting it cut the same way, very short. I got bored with it and for the last 4 months I've been letting it grow out. I really wanted to let it get even longer but I just couldn't stand it any more. So I made an appointment at this salon near Union Square. I really like my usual stylist but I thought I should get a new view. The cut is pretty good. Nothing really radical, just some nice shaping. Most important, it doesn't take a lot of work. I'm willing to use product, even do a little blow drying but nothing complicated. I just don't have the patience.

While I was having my hair cut I listened to the conversation going on two chairs away. The man having his hair cut was a polar explorer. His job is going on arctic expeditions. His next one is going to last 4 months. His stylist had all sorts of questions for him which he answered cheerfully.

Only in New York City.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Overheard in Union Square

Woman in sweats to woman in chic outfit:

Hi! Look at you, so fancy!

I'm going to a funeral.

Oh. Sorry.

It's okay.

I'm really sorry.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Home Therapy

One of the blogs I read regularly is Apartment Therapy. They've been running a Smallest Coolest Apartment Contest. I've been looking at the entries to see if I can steal some ideas. Many of the apartments really are very cool. But I've been noticing that they all seem to have less stuff than I do. Specifically they have less kitchen stuff and fewer books. In fact, most of the apartments have hardly any books. I have about 500 and this is after some ruthless cutting and lots of self-control (thank goodness for the library). As for the dearth of kitchen stuff, that I am inferring from the amount of storage space seen. I have two rolling carts, four shelves, and one whole closet full of kitchen stuff. I've got pots and pans and dutch ovens, chocolate molds and cake stands, muffin tins, sheet pans, and cake pans... not to mention all the ceramics. It is probable that I am not utilizing my space to best advantage. I was having a little daydream the other day about a custom built desk and work area. And also about a custom built shelving unit that would hold not just my books but also the TV and the stereo. While I'm at it, I should get myself some nice custom built counter areas for the kitchen. I can see it all now, made of hardwoods, maple and perhaps some cherry. Gleaming stainless steel, marble, and butcher block tops, antique drawer pulls and lots of cubbies, a slide out ironing board and knit blocker, different counter heights for different jobs and adjustable shelves. Just thinking about it makes me feel beatific.

Anyone know a carpenter who'd be willing to work for food?

Friday, April 20, 2007

New Toy

I got a new printer today! And it is very cute. Not an adjective usually applied to a printer but this one is only 4.5"x6.5"x2" tall. It's a Canon Selphy CP400 photo printer. I have a Xerox color laser printer that is great for text and graphics but only so so for photos. A bonehead mistake I made left me with a store credit to J and R Computer world so I decided to spend it on a photo printer. The Selphy uses dye sublimation thermal transfer. It's a mouthful but it has advantages over inkjet. No nozzles to get clogged or ink cartridges that dry out. Love that. What it does is lay down one color at a time and then an overcoat which keeps the print smudge proof. In theory, the print will last 100 years. Not too bad.

I did a test print and it came out very nice. It's hard to tell in the photo above but it really looks like it was done in a lab, crisp and glossy. Now I just have to remember to take my camera when I go out so I have some great shots to print.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Bogey Man

I've been watching Bowling for Columbine. I was not surprised that it was on tonight. Now I want to move to Canada or possibly Australia or the UK. The movie is just as relevant today as it was in 2002. Fear is still the favorite message here. It makes sense. Fearful people are easier to control. And, more importantly, they are ready to consume. We'll buy anything that will make us feel safe. Guns, diet pills, paper towels, anti-bacterial soap, home security systems, cars, retirement plans, credit monitoring, there are so many things you can sell by inspiring fear. There's a new ad in the subway these days advocating colonoscopy. It features the man who saved another on the subway tracks, it calls him the subway hero. The ad states that if you're over 50 you should get a colonoscopy and be a hero for your family.

Now, I've got some fears. They aren't based in reality but in a possible future that my mind conjures up. And at least one of them is the result of media and advertising. Specifically, I am worried about my financial future. We've been told we need a certain amount of money to survive our old age and we'd better start saving and investing now, right now. Don't wait, for goodness sake, or you'll be living in a cardboard box when you're 80. These fears are insidious, they can sneak up on you, enter you mind when you're not looking. The next thing you know you're wiping your apples with paper towels and getting your doctor to stick an endoscope in every orifice.

I've been doing my best to get rid of my fears. After all, I'm not afraid of bacteria or that I'll get blown up in the subway or that I'm certain to end up with colon cancer. So why should I be so fearful of destitution? Why I am I afraid that I won't find work that supports me both financially and otherwise? Why do I have to check the stove before I leave the apartment each day? Why do I think of the worst outcome to a situation and then prepare my response? Of course the real question is, how do I stop my mind from conjuring fear? Fear is a habit and habits are hard to change. I'm workin' on it. If only we could get the nation as a whole to work on it.

Warning: Non-sequitur

I went for a walk today in the park and now the cat is in love with my shoes. I wonder what I walked on. Some wild catnip?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Moment of Silence

Can we have a moment of silence for the late great Kurt Vonnegut.
He died last night right here in Manhattan at the age of 84.

I've always thought of Kurt Vonnegut as a pessimist but in the New York Times obituary I discovered that he also valued kindness. To quote his character Mr. Rosewater in “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine,”

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’

May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Free Stuff

Yesterday I went on a foray for cat food. I steeled myself and started at Trader Joe's. This is always a trial. I have never been there when it was comfortable. Possibly at the moment it opens or closes it might actually be a pleasant experience. Otherwise it's an exercise in patience and restraint. The urge to thin the crowd with a machete is strong. Don't get me wrong, I like Trader Joe's. They've got some good stuff there but the space is just too small. This is New York City for goodness sake. We need some wide aisles. On occasion I am willing to brave the melee to buy cat food and a few other things. But yesterday they had no cat food or dog food for that matter. I didn't discover this until I'd already shopped for some other things. I toyed briefly with the idea of buying them but as both lines snaked all the way to the other end of the store I just couldn't do it. I was a good girl and put all my items back where they belonged and then got the heck out of there.

I moved on to the Whole Foods. They've got crowds too but the store is big enough that I don't have the constant urge to run screaming into the night. I bought the cat food and some other stuff and went home. When I got here I put my groceries away, and discovered that I had some extra stuff. Some mesclun mix, a head of garlic, a package of tomatoes, some carrots, and a bar of soap. At first I thought that maybe someone had put them in my basket when I had left it on its own. But I didn't remember seeing them as I stood on line or on the screen as she was ringing. Then I checked my receipt. Not there, I hadn't paid for them. So they must have been in the bag already when the cashier put my items in. Nice for me but very sad for the person who actually bought the stuff. Since they were in the bag they must have been rung up already. What a bummer to get home and discover you were missing things, things you'd paid for. And what about the cashier? Did she really not notice them in the bag or did she have some sort of brain spasm to make her think she'd rung them up for me?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Make It Yourself

If you are a serious baker, known to be picky about your baked goods, many people will be loath to bake for you. They worry that you will be disappointed, that you would rather have something you made yourself or something made by a professional baker. They may or may not be right about this. The upshot of this is that if you want a cake on your birthday you have to make it yourself. I usually do buy myself a birthday present but I've never baked myself a cake. It doesn't seem right somehow.

My birthday is this Saturday. I am going out to dinner and I will eat some dessert made by a professional. If my friends manage to speak to the waitstaff on the side (they usually do and on one occasion got me involved in a questionable contest) there may even be a candle in this dessert. But I felt like some dessert today. In lieu of a whole cake I made some brownies using one of my favorite recipies. It's from the Califonia Culinary Academy book Cookies at the Academy.

3oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 Tbs butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped

As I said, I really like this recipe but I didn't have everything I needed so I made some changes. I did not want to open a new box of brown sugar so I used all granulated and I didn't have any walnuts. I also used cake flour instead of all purpose. This made the brownies very tender with a fine crumb. I have also been known to use only one egg. This results in a chewier browny. But I felt like cakey today so I used two. The lack of brown sugar also makes for a less chewy brownie.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First, combine the butter and chocolate and melt them over hot water.

Once they have melted completely set the mixture aside to cool.
Grease and flour an 8x8 pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt, stir to mix.
Combine the sugar and eggs and beat at high speed until thick.

Add the vanilla and the chocolate mixture then the flour mixture and beat until well combined.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. On this occasion I used a pan I got at The Pit in the last Christmas grab bag. It has a pattern etched into it to make it stick resistant. I still needed to grease the pan but the first brownie (which sometimes gets mangled) came out just fine.
Be sure to get all the batter out of the mixing bowl. The bowl licking squad may try to prevent this. Try throwing the beater to distract them while you scrape out the bowl.

Bake for 2o-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Do not overbake. Let the pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Cut the brownies and stand back. Since the cats were the only ones here I still have some brownies. I'm going to freeze some of them for future dessert need.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Yesterday I listened to "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime" by Tom Haddon. I got the book on tape from the library. It was pretty good. The ending is predictable but that's okay. You'd be very upset if the book ended badly after all the hardships endured by the narrator. In case you don't know, the book is narrated by an autistic boy named Christopher. He sets out to find out who killed the neighbor's dog and the investigation sends him on an odyssey. He has what would be a very ordinary adventure for your average child but for him it is like climbing Mount Everest. The worst part is, of course, that no one he meets on this journey understands what is happening to him. They think he's crazy and walk away. Though this is what Christopher wants. His favorite dream involves him being one of the last people on earth and all the others that are left are like him so they stay away from him. And yet he does not want to live alone, without someone to care for him. He does get some help on his way but it is grudging and wary. I think that even now, in the information age, many people don't know anything about autism unless they know someone who is autistic. To further confuse the issue there are different kinds of autism and different levels of functioning.

I have also read "Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin. She is a consultant to the meat and poultry industry; she helps them design their systems to minimize stress and fear in the livestock. She is also autistic, high functioning autistic. Her book prepared me for some of the things in "The Curious Incident" but it is still a compelling experience to see the world from a very different perspective. What must it be like to live without filters? Imagine walking into Times Square and seeing everything. And hearing everything. If you have not read "Animals in Translation" I highly recommend it. In both of these books you will find a whole other world.

Listening to the book made me think of my experience working with "special needs" children. When I was in high school I spent two years as a volunteer at a center for neurologically impaired children. The center had a range of children, some who were merely a bit hyper-active to those who could barely communicate. One of the boys was named Anthony. We volunteers were not privy to medical information but one of them told me she thought Anthony was autistic. I think she was right. His favorite color was blue and he wouldn't wear any other color. He had a blue cardigan sweater that he wore all the time, even in the summer sun. He said it protected him from aliens. He didn't like to be touched and often sat apart from the others. As an added bonus he was diabetic and you had to make sure he ate enough so he wouldn't slip into an insulin coma. We all carried candy in our pockets just in case. It happens so fast, the blood would drain from his face and he would start to sink to the floor. Then you would stuff some Lifesavers into him and hope you did it soon enough. His parents were really great. So very kind. They owned an Italian restaurant and they used to bring food to our parties. Baked ziti and lasagna. I think that they had to put Anthony in an institution. He was not high functioning and as he got older and bigger he was getting hard to handle.

The human mind is an amazing thing and I believe we can learn a lot about the world and ourselves if we listen to those who see things from a different perspective. We just have to be willing to open our own minds.