Thursday, December 4, 2014

the best fudge. really.

I can't remember where this recipe came from, but I did not invent it.  It came into my life around the time I decided I liked The Man Who Now Lives In My House so much that I would give up my tiny apartment (over which I had total aesthetic control) to live with him.  So I've been making this during the Holidays for the last 18 years or so.

I wrote it down on the front page of my Joy Of Cooking, which is falling apart because really, what other cookbook do you need?

Here it is:

pour 1 can of condensed milk (unsweetened)
and 3.5 cups sugar
into a large heavy saucepan.

(if you don't have a really good pan, maybe this is the year to request one.  My favorite is le creuset, which turn up in thrift stores from time to time.  I figure it the pan is a little bit chipped around the rim, I won't feel terrible when I chip it a little more.  It's called patina.  )

bring this to a boil and start stirring NON STOP for SIX MINUTES.

set a timer.  if you do this the fudge will turn out perfectly.

after SIX MINUTES of NON STOP stirring (got it?), take the mixture off the heat, dump in 18 oz of chocolate chips or chunks--the better quality the chocolate, the better the fudge.

 If you like dark chocolate you can use 9 oz (or more!) unsweetened chocolate and the other 9 could be bittersweet--you could even do all 18 oz unsweetened, but I haven't tried that so I make no guarantees.

also add:
 1/4 t salt,
 2 t  flavoring--vanilla, grand mariner, peppermint, coffee, whatever you prefer,
and 3/4 C butter.

Some people like to add stuff--nuts, mini marshmallows, chopped up candy canes, candied orange peel, whatever, as well.  I'm a purist.  I add grand mariner instead of vanilla sometimes, but no stuff.

stir everything together until the chocolate and butter have melted and then pour into a shallow rimmed pan lined with parchment paper.  refrigerate for several hours to set.  then cut into squares with a pizza cutter and share with everyone you like.

you can also line small boxes (the ones checks come in are the perfect size) with parchment, pour the hot fudge directly in, refrigerate and then give away (or hoard and devour--because this is so good no one could blame you).

It's also easy.  The smaller hooligan made a batch the other night all by himself and gave a big box to his cello teacher.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Staying focused ha ha

Suffering from extreme scattered-ness around here.

BUT I have been managing to cook a lot.  A friend of mine is struggling with an autoimmune disease which has left her unable to work.  A more organized parent from our sons' soccer teams set up a schedule to bring the family dinners most nights.  I am seriously so computer-phobic and spacey that I never actually signed up for an official time.  Instead I just read some cookbooks or cooking blogs on Sunday morning, make a grocery list, and call her to see if she wants a dinner on monday or tuesday.  This seems to work.

AND while I am terribly sorry my friend and her family are going through this, I am grateful for the cooking inspiration.  It's fall!  It's a good time to cook!  And it's a good time to cook big pots of things that you can share with a friend or freeze for later.

Last night's dish was, tho I say it myself, exemplary:

Braised beef with cumin and carrots--enough for 8-10 people, or 2 dinners for 4-5.  

(To start I have to say that I made this one up BUT I had inspiration long ago from our Baltimore friend, Charles Eberhardt who used to make these incredible buttery cumin carrots for a side dish. I could not find the recipe.  You will be shocked to learn that I keep recipes from friends, magazines, etc in a jumble.  Fortunately my tongue has a taste-o-graphic memory so I can usually replicate stuff)

olive oil
big lump of butter
6 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
zest of one orange
1T ground cumin
2t cumin seeds
pinch of red pepper flakes if you want a little kick

2-3 lbs chuck roast or stew meat, chopped into 1-2 inch pieces,

2-3 bunches carrots, chopped

bay leaf
2c red wine
juice of the orange you zested,
chicken stock (I used canned.)

sauté veggies, meat herbs and spices in the oil and butter, add the red wine and orange juice, cook down a bit, cover with chicken stock, put the lid on the pot and leave it on low for a couple of hours, before serving, adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and serve over noodles.

you could also make this up to the point of adding the chicken stock, refrigerate, and finish the next day.  lots of options here.  all measurements and quantities could be modified to your tastes.  Also you could skip the beef and chicken stock and use those giant white beans and veggie stock if you're a vegetarian.  Gluten free folks could use potatoes or serve over get the picture.

The hooligans often are somewhat disparaging of stew-type dishes but they gobbled this one up.  We actually devoured all of it (everyone was hungry).  Next time I will make lots more.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


I have a long and tedious list of errands and chores, but I am opting to ignore it and go search for chanterelles instead.  I have to be home by three to help finish Halloween costumes.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I just came across the expression:  "Not my circus.  Not my monkeys."

It struck a chord.

Only my life is kind of the opposite:

My book title (if I ever write one) will be: My Circus, My Monkeys. 

(side note:  I can't find that yellow scarf anywhere.  and it's perfect scarf weather today!  My circus is disorganized. I blame the monkeys.  Curses.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

While I was out on leave.....

I got to officiate a wedding this summer.  Our beloved onetime babysitter Trish moved to Norway to do a Phd. in Comparative Lit (beloved and brilliant).  While there she met an amazing and lovely Norwegian (read: Viking!!) named Trond.  In addition to being kind, clever, hardworking and handsome, he is a rock star.  

His band is called Dark Times.:   Trond is the one with long curly hair.  They tour and everything. So add talented to his list of attributes.   When Trish asked me if I would be an officiant at their wedding I was as flattered as I have ever been in my life.  

I started trying to write down some profound thoughts and they were really annoying.  So I decided not to overthink it.  Which, it occurred to me, is a good policy for marriage in general:  Don't overthink it.

I did need to say something semi coherent, though, so this is what I came up with:  

Marriage is the collision between romance and real life.   (Maybe I should have said intersection? a much gentler word choice.  Oh well, it is too late. )  

I went on to say what our preacher said to us:  which was:   

Have fun together.  Prioritize it, even when you are broke and stressed and surrounded by screaming babies.  Build some fun with into the budget and budget the time together.  Spending joyful, relaxing time together is not just a "bonus."  If it doesn't happen, how will you remember why you're together?  It's more important than a clean house.  And while a little money in the bank is important, spending a little bit of it on a bottle of wine or a weekend away now and then is also of great value. 

Make each other laugh so hard you are hyperventilating.  Cook for each other, make coffee in the morning, do the dishes at night.  If both of you act as if all the logistics are your job, neither of you will ever have the opportunity to resent doing the logistics:  you will think, oh, I should do the the dishes, oh wait, they are already done.  Was it the elves?  no, it was Trond/Trish.  How nice.  I must thank him/her, with a kiss, or something :).  

Pragmatic and mundane ideas, but marriage is a philosophical state put into practice.  It is easier to be happily committed when your partner sets a cup of hot coffee and the paper on your bedside table on his way to the shower.   A long time ago, Denis said to me, Love is a verb.  

Love is a verb.  And I am deeply appreciative of the coffee.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

More bits from the summer: Deaf as a post post

I did actually write a little bit this summer, I just never got around to adding pictures and posting.  Here is one example:

We went out to the sailboat (have I mentioned the sailboat?  We have acquired my folks' pretty wooden day sailer since my dad's balance has become so poor--we keep it at the local reservoir in the summer.  Lucky us!)  the other evening.

The smaller hooligan brought his remote control speedboat. The wind was light and we were just tooling along very peacefully.  He stood by the mast and ran his demonic little vessel alongside.

Some big tattoo'd dudes and their neon thong lady friends in a speed boat were amused.  They hollered  "Send that thing over with a beer!"  Ha ha.  That was sweet, actually.  Often the sailboat people and the speed boat people have nothing to say to each other.  We do not like the big wake they create.  They do not like that we have right of way if we're under sail.

As we sailed away from our new speed boat friends the Man Who Lives In My House and the Smaller Hooligan were bobbing their heads in time to something.
"I hate this song."  Said the smaller hooligan.
"Me too, but it's horribly catchy."  said TMWLIMH.
 "What song?"  I asked.

They looked at me quizzically.  You can't hear that?  aske THMWLIMH.

"Hear What?"  I responded.

The smaller hooligan chimed in  "Mom you really are deaf!"

Oh dear.  I thought having to get progressive lenses in my glasses would somehow protect me from other areas of sensory deterioration.  I guess I can look forward to being more oblivious to irritating background noise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A message from the Universe

Yesterday my car wouldn't start.  Today the dishwasher appeared to be defunct.  Both things turned out to be minor problems that I was able, albeit with much cursing, to fix myself.  Nonetheless I am sidling along, nervously squinting at the sky as I'm pretty sure a grand piano is about to land on my head.

I was going to run errands and take the dogs on a long hike but instead I am staying inside and cleaning the floor.  

The dogs think I'm over-reacting. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Not Extinct

Very large versions of mammals that are still around today once roamed the earth:  6 foot tall beavers, for example, and giant sloths.  I believe that we have a giant hamster in residence:

I have not actually caught the critter, digitally or otherwise.  I have only cleaned up after him:

I guess I'll set up a webcam and then call National Geographic.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Call your mother.

My (almost daily) conversation with my mom today went something like this:

Me:  "So on Friday, the Larger Hooligan was all ebullient and pleased because he found out he's getting and A in Geometry, and naturally we were pleased too."

Bad Grandma:  "Well you should be pleased!  that is very good!  He is quite bright you know." (My mother was convinced the Larger Hooligan could read when he was three.  She dotes with great enthusiasm. It is endearing.)

Me:  "Well yes, but he works so hard at acting like a doofus that I forget.  And by Sunday he started mentioning that his grade in Science might not be so great, but he was going to turn all the missing work in, the teacher accepted late work, etc etc.  So I'm trying not to get pissed at him but I'm all stressed out again and then TODAY (Monday) I get a text:  Hey Mom!  A- in Science!

B.G.:  Well that's wonderful!  What was he talking about?  Did he think he'd bombed a test or something?

Me:  I think he is just trying to kill me.

At this point in the conversation my mother could no longer contain herself:  "That is exactly how we felt when we got the letter saying that you, with your 2.4 GPA, were a National Honor Society Scholar because of your SAT scores!  YOU! A SCHOLAR!  Hahahahaa"

Me:  "I know, and I am only sharing this with you because I know it will give you great pleasure, Mom.  It is my gift to you."

I've been out on Puberty leave

This should be a real phenomenon, com to think of it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Casual Conversation

I was on the phone, making plans with a friend when she said the following:

"So I'll meet you at--wait a minute...."

(voices, shrieking from children, sound of feet on gravel)

"Sorry, my cat was eating a chipmunk's head while it was still alive.  Where were we?"

This almost makes me appreciate Magnus.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Truth about DIY

Part of the reason I do stuff myself, like make felted critters, or knit sweaters (see below)

is that it is fun, and satisfying.  Also, I am sort of ADD, so knitting helps me to focus during long meetings.  It also keeps me from losing my mind on airplane rides and long car trips.    

The real reason I make stuff, though,  is that I am a show off.  Many crafty folks are.  My mother, for example, is a one woman  baby sweater knitting factory.

 Normal people make baby sweaters for their own children, grandchildren, maybe nieces and nephews.  My mother makes baby sweaters for the grandchildren of her neighbors and the other artists in her painting club--babies whose parents she barely knows.  On the surface, this is very sweet and generous.  But it is also a venue for her to showboat her skills.  As she should.  They are adorable sweaters.

Just one blog post ago, I was displaying my felted bunny critter, now I want you to see this sweater.  It's a swedish pattern called " Plöj sagan om ringen-trilogin och du har fixat julstämning och varmaste, gosigaste tröjan i vinter."

That says, "Three Movies Sweater  The sweater is really quick knitted.  It takes about three movies to knit."

Maybe if you are swedish is is quick knitted.  Maybe in Swedish there are tips to speed up your knitting and cure your ADD.  I was going to make the whole thing dark green but after I joined the body and arms at the shoulder level I got bored (easily bored!  ADD!)and swapped out the rest of my green skeins for blue.

I thought it was going to be a total disaster right up to the end when I blocked it.  Blocking (for you non knitters) is where you get the finished sweater wet and stretch and shape it to the proportions you want.  It is magical.

It would be nice if you could block your actual body:  step out of the shower, pat your muffin top down to your butt or up to your bust.  I would firm up my bingo wing triceps.  Oh wait, you can do that, it's called go to the gym.

But I digress (ADD!! I'm having an episode!).  Anyway, the sweater:  I'm pleased as punch although I wish wool did not make me itch.

One more thing:  the CLOGS!  They are red!  And Swedish!  I scored them at Value Village for $8.  Since I am not actually Swedish,  the next best thing is to wear clogs as much as possible.  Also I hate heels but like to be two or three inches taller.   I'm hoping that eventually all my shoes will be clogs.  My friend Keri would tell you I'm well on my way.

A final note:  the evil beast standing next to me in the picture was mad because I gave him a bath yesterday.  So this morning he escaped the yard and rolled in cat shit.  I had to hose him down and scrub him with dish soap and then take a shower myself.  No one should knit him a sweater.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Olympics of Crafty Cuteness! I Win! I Win!

The smaller Hooligan did some needle felting at a friend's house.  He was really into it. I capitalized on his enthusiasm--which is to say I bribed him:  

"I know you don't want to start doing the longer cello practices, but if you will play for at least 45 minutes every day this week, we can go to the yarn store after your lesson and you can pick out a felting kit.  Deal?"

A deal indeed.  The practices were nice and long.  He even used the loathsome metronome.  On Wednesday after cello we walked up to the local yarn shop and spent a happy hour looking at all the options.  He got a kit to make a little gnome dude with a mushroom.  

I impulsively got one to make two playful foxes.  I finished those and left them at a friend's house by mistake.  And now I'm obsessed. 

Today I stopped by the yarn store and got what I needed to make some bunnies.  I have this notion that I must make all the cute forest creatures.  I think I will make a squirrel next, or maybe a chipmunk.  And a deer and a bear.

The Man Who Lives In My House seems to be amused to find me sitting up in bed with my glasses on the end of my nose, stabbing away at wads of wool morning and night.  I can't stop!  It's very addictive.  

The Man Who Lives in My House
2 hours ago 
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Kate has a new sport: Felting.
 — with Kate Marble McCarthy.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

He looks so good, and acts so bad

The Man Who lives in my house was away for the weekend.  I took advantage of his absence to make "normal chicken" which he dislikes.  Everyone else loves normal chicken, everyone normal, that is.  You place your cut up chicken a baking dish, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and parmesan cheese and bake it at 350 for an hour.

So there were six chicken thighs in a pan atop the stove, the oven was pre-heating, and I was around the corner in my office nook, working on our taxes.  I heard a clunking noise, and ssumed that the puppy (now 110 lbs, mostly head and teeth) was playing with his food bowl.  He does this in hopes that I will notice and decide to feed him (again).  He and the larger hooligan have a lot in common.

I ignored him until I wrapped up my tax project.  I came around the corner to see the dog whisking off under the table in a furtive and guilty manner.   The pan of chicken was completely empty.

Six chicken thighs had gone down the hatch.

One or two chicken thighs would have been manageable, but I did not want to deal with chicken thigh regurgitation at 4 in the morning.  I put the dog in the yard and tore off to the market for more chicken, and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.

Upon my return I trapped Magnus between my knees, tipped his head back and poured a 1 oz shot of hydrogen peroxide down his throat.  I held his jaw shut  and gave him a little shake, and sent him out onto the back lawn.  30 minutes later we had a mess to clean up, but at least it was outside.

I learned this useful bit of animal husbandry years ago, during my first dog's tenure.  She was a chubby lab who  once levitated to the top of the fridge to consume an entire cheesecake.  Levitation is the only plausible explanation.  Another time she ate a pound of Belgian dark chocolate--it was wrapped up for Christmas, we didn't know.  Forcing her to bring up whatever inappropriate thing she had wolfed down was fairly routine.  And not going to the vet saves about $90.

All I can say is it's a good thing he's cute.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Double Agents

The Hooligans needed sneakers.  What else is new?  They outgrow/thrash their sneakers with frightening and expensive regularity.  Skateboarding is very hard on shoes.  I thought living right in town would be more economical, transportation-wise.  Their schools are so close it's quicker to walk than to drive, ditto music lessons, sports practice, and the local junk-food emporium.  However they ride their skateboards everywhere they go, which literally burns a lot of rubber.

So, new sneakers:  they wanted converse.  I like that.  They're classic and not prohibitively expensive.  Unfortunately, the only store with a good selection was at the mall.

How I loathe the mall.  I like shopping (very much), but not at malls.  I like thrift stores. I like little boutiques. I like flea markets and garage sales and estate sales.  I can even handle the occasional big box expedition, but malls. Ugh.

Especially our mall, which is one of those grim seventies models where everything is enclosed and painted sort of a sickly yellowish grey.  Old ladies bustle around for exercise.  Young mothers scream at screaming toddlers.  The sales people at the kiosks in the center come at you aggressively with various unguents and products.  I have been chased by a guy selling dead sea face cream.  Do I look that wrinkly?   It's an exceptionally bad mall.

But there is a cool shoe emporium staffed by young women in tight t shirts that hint at their fascinating tattoos.  I made eye contact with one while my sons were perusing the converse selection.  "They need shoes,"  I told her, sotto voce, "And I'm hoping they won't select the neon colored ones--ideally grey or navy?  Anything you can do to guide them in that direction…"

"I hear you, mom," she said," leave it to me."  I sat down and checked my email, affecting disinterest and she sidled up casually behind the hooligans, slinging her arms around their shoulders,  "Looking for converse, huh?"  she asked.  "Awesome.  Converse are so legit.  They grey ones are super popular.  Want me to see if I've got some in your sizes?"

Slack-jawed, both hooligans nodded dumbly.  We left with two pairs of grey converse high tops, plus some extra shoelaces in neon orange--in case the neon mood strikes.  I have newfound appreciation for the mall, and for double agent sales girls.

Now I need these girls to appear, casually you understand, in my house.  "Oh hey," they might say, "Were you going to practice cello?  That is SO awesome.  Can I just listen if I'm really quiet?  I wish all guys played cello.  It's so cool."

Or they might wander upstairs,  "S'up?  Your mom wants you to clean your room?  I do not get what the big deal about cleaning is, but hey,  I'll help you out and it will keep her off your back, you know?"