Archive for November, 2010

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day 30 – final post

November 30, 2010

I just went back and re-read my final NaBloPoMo post from last year and I think I can pretty much sum up this month’s experience with a ditto to that post.  While it feels good to have accomplished my goal of daily blogging, it also happened with a fair number of filler posts thrown in there, but then again that is part of the deal, so I don’t feel too bad about that.  I think the highlight of this November was getting my first guest posts up and setting up regular weekly features, while once again I don’t know how much of this I will carry into the coming months with me, it has been a pleasure blathering on to you all.  I hope your Novembers were as full of fun, business, stretching and relaxation as mine was.  I would post a bunch of pictures from Thanksgiving with this post, but I kind of want to get to bed and I know you are all are fully capable of clicking on over to Flickr 🙂

Oh and once again thanks to all of you who took the time to comment, it is always fun to read your thoughts on this crazy thing I call my blog!

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day 29 – linky Monday

November 29, 2010

Well, seeing as I have no more vacation excuses to throw at you and still have not actually gone through or uploaded the many Thanksgiving pictures I have, I figure I will distract you from any apparent lack of thoughtful blogging by showing you random things on the internet that I have found interesting recently.

Charletta showed this rather brilliant video about the state of education and society in general to the family on Sunday afternoon and it sparked a lot of good conversation.  I know it is pretty long, but the incredible artwork that accompanies the speech is an added bonus to reward your attention.

Mathew Baldwin (of Defective Yeti) fame created this list of Animated films for Grown-ups, I have seen several of these and would like to see more.

Jesse (a friendly acquaintance from college) has started a blog in which he is reviewing the World.  Despite a rather ambitious goal, Jesse is off to a great start with reviews of Thanksgiving, Harry Potter books from Best to Worst, and a new cereal.

In the friends from college category, Emily recently posted a really fascinating write up of her experience joining a local food co-op.  Once a month the group meets to share harder to prep foods with each other as to try new food, eat more homemade food and have fun together.  I would love to get involved with something like this.

Every year I love looking through the National Geographic Photography finalists.  Such a wide variety of inspiring photographs from all over the world!  But if you don’t have time for the full site, the Big Picture has curated 30 great pictures.

While the picture itself is raw and graphic (as war photos often are) I was incredibly struck by the back story of this iconic photo of the first female war correspondent killed during the Vietnam war.

One of the consistently hilarious bloggers that I regularly read, Alice Bradley of Finslippy recorded this very amusing and apt conversation with her 8 year old son.

My cousin’s husband works as an English teacher and therefore gets to read some incredible and often amusing work produced by young people.  Go read some of the works his students wrote when he assigned them disparaging love poems.

And what would a link post be without a little XKCD.  This is a guest post by Zach Weiner and it depicts the Smithsonian Museum of Dad-Trolling.

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day 28 – home again home again

November 28, 2010

Well technically I am no longer on vacation, but seeing as it is after 10pm and I almost forgot to post today, this will have to do.  But I have to say my thanksgiving break was wonderful! Lots of family, friends, food and relaxation.  How about you? How was your Thanksgiving/weekend?

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day 27 – still on vacation

November 27, 2010

So another photo post!  Although today was another great day of lounging around the house with the family. But thrown into the mix was a great visit to the super cute baby of college friends, coffee with another friend from college, and another huge dinner with family (this time we had an aunt and uncle and two cousins here too!), and some more games including several rousing (and stressful!) rounds of Up-Jenkins/Down-Jenkins and three good rounds of Rummikub.   This has truly been a great weekend, but of course like all good things, the end is quickly approaching, so I am trying to ween myself off my vacation style of up late and sleeping in late, so hopefully (if I am wise) I will be off to bed soon.

This brilliant (and hilarious) group game entails everyone writing a beginning sentence or phrase on a piece of paper and then passing it to the person next to them in the circle. That person then does their best to illustrate the sentence and folds under the original sentence and passes the paper on. The next person then writes a caption describing the picture, folds it the first picture under and passes it on. This process continues until the sheet is full. This of course leads to some hilarious misunderstandings. For example this was my original sentence, "The pig was on the fence about what to eat for dinner." led through some interesting twists and turns to "Near the famous cross shoe the cat dreamed of the lightening Pokeman, while the flames drew near"

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day 26 – still on vacation, so photo post!

November 26, 2010

Today was another day of full vacation mode, relaxation was key and I even indulged myself by purchasing the two volumes of Sandman that I needed to complete my collection and then of course I spent a happy afternoon on the couch re-reading them.  Man, I love good books!

Anyways we have a game night coming up, so I have little interest in writing more, so here are two pictures from yesterday.

Back in the late 80s, early 90s, our family discovered the peak of computer gaming – Space Quest II, a type text, very basic (but at the time incredible) graphics space adventure game. Recently Jonathan bought all 6 Space Quest games and so our family decided to relive the glory of SpaceQuest II and all its puzzles and sarcastic wording. Dad borrowed a projector, for added enjoyment.

We had two cousins, one of their cousins and her friend, plus the family, so it was a full table. But of course at Thanksgiving that is the best part!

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day 25 – Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

Today has been spent cooking, eating, laughing with family, putting together a giant puzzle, playing Space Quest II on the projector, doing dishes, eating pie, playing a ridiculously awesome game of “Eat Poop You Cat” (other wise known as Traveling Pictionary), going on a walk, taking pictures of water droplets and all in all having a wonderful time.

So I am going to leave it at that and post pictures and more later.  I hope you all have had a good day of food, family and good times.

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day 24 – Outfit Post Wednesday

November 24, 2010

I seriously need to clean my mirror! Although I think some of the scratches may be of old age origin and not just dust, but still I should give the mirror the benefit of the doubt.  Anyways this outfit was in large part to feeling ridiculously underdressed at student teaching Monday.  It was parent-teacher conferences, so I knew there would be no students and therefore assumed, “oh, work day, therefore wear comfy jeans and a get ready to put up a bulletin board!”.  Fortunately I at least wore a nice cardigan to cover up my grubby tee-shirt, but none the less, I felt distinctly out of place amidst all the teachers and staff in their nicest pantsuits, all prepared to meet with the parents of the Northshore.  So Tuesday was my attempt to make up for that oversight on my part.  As usually head over to Flickr to see the details of the outfit, although I will say I think this outfit says a lot about my closet in that it is both 50% thrifted and showcases my boots which were an investment to say the least.  Although I have to say my favorite part of this outfit was my hair, which I learned how to do by watching a neat tutorial on YouTube.  I think this may become a go to hair style for me, fairly simple and actually lasts throughout the day, even without hair spray (which I have always hated!)

In other news, the drive from Evanston to Lafayette and then to Goshen went well today and Jonathan and I safely arrived in Goshen.  Since then I have baked one pie, made cranberry sauce and stuffing and had supper with my parents.  Jonathan is busy down in his “workshop” playing with robotics (because that is what he does for fun!), Mom is setting the table for tomorrow, Dad is picking Tim and Charletta up from the train and in a little while I am going to head out to have a catch-up drink with Steph.  I hope you all have happy thanksgivings and tomorrow I will share more details about the dishes I have cooked and maybe even the meal in general.

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day 23 – Guest Post from Becca

November 23, 2010

As you may note, today’s post is not actually the expected “Cooking with Abby” but instead a guest post from Becca, one of my dearest and oldest (in terms of length of friendship, not age) friends.  But seeing as a certain day of major cooking festivities is coming up on Thursday, I thought I would switch my order around and do a Cooking with Abby post then.  Plus as you will see, this post may come in handy for all your pre-festivity pie baking because, trust me, this girl knows her pies!

Pie Crust 101

I have been baking since elementary school.  I don’t remember what my first project was, or even why I began baking in the first place.  What I do remember are lovely afternoons in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, my first measuring spoon set (brightly colored spoons that came with a kid’s cookbook), the wrath of my parents when they discovered the inevitable mess I would made in the kitchen, and, of course the finished products (or “goop” as my dad calls it).  I had a number of  successes, and even more flops–the pancakes that were so bad they got fed to the dog (my thoughtful and amazing Grandpa also forced some down), the cake with Pepto Bismal-colored frosting, and of course the Jessica Fields Marshmallow Cloud Cookie disaster (ask Abby about that one)–to name a few.

I have always loved making pie.  I love trying new fillings and learning different techniques for making the perfect pie crust.  The first pie I ever attempted was an unmitigated disaster.  I was probably about 9 years old, and I decided that it would be a good idea to make a pie in the middle of July on one of the hottest, most humid days of the year.  Several attempts at getting the rolled out dough into the pie pan proved fruitless.  Frustrated, I gave up and went swimming, leaving my poor mother to finish the pie for me.

Since that day, I have made more pies, most with more success than that first one.  I made a pie the other evening, and Abby asked me to share the crust recipe.  The recipe is from Pie, by Ken Haedrich.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in pie making.  There are 50 pages devoted to apple pies alone!

When in comes to pie crust, I am firmly in the all-butter camp.  Using shortening does make for a flakier crust, but butter gives a much better flavor.  If you have access to it/are not a vegetarian/ are not grossed out by it, lard actually makes the best crust, giving both amazing flavor and texture.

A caveat:  Don’t be discouraged by the length of this recipe, I was just super detailed.  Making pie crust really is pretty easy once you get the hang of it!

Single-crust all butter pie dough (with the double crust measurements in parentheses):

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (2 3/4 cups)
1 1/2 t sugar (1T)
1/2 t salt (1t)
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4” pieces (1 cup)
About 1/4 cup ice water (about 1/2 cup)

Directions:

You can make your pie dough by hand, in a food processor, or with an electric mixer.  The following are directions for mixing by hand.  Whichever method you use, the trick is not to overwork the dough.  Work it as little as possible to prevent activating the gluten in the flour, resulting in a chewy, elasticy crust.

Begin by mixing the flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl.  Add half the butter, and cut in with a pastry blender or two forks.  The pieces can be fairly large.  (This is a trick I learned from my middle school teacher Mrs. Gleim.  I’m not sure if there’s any merit to it, but she swore that cutting in half the fat, then the other half gives a flakier crust.)  Cut in the rest of the butter.  The pieces should now be about “pea-sized”–basically, you don’t want the pieces of butter too small, because it’s the pockets of unincorporated fat in pie crust that add to the flakiness.

Next, slowly add the water.  This is the tricky part.  You want to add just enough water so that the dough just begins to stick together, but not so much that it becomes sticky.  I usually add about half the water, toss the dough with a fork, then continue to add the water in a slow stream with one hand while tossing the dough with the other.  When you have added enough water, pack the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap (If you are making a double crust, make two balls, one slightly larger than the other).  Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When you are ready to roll out the crust, take the dough from the refrigerator (if it’s been in the fridge for more than an hour, let the dough sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes to soften a bit before rolling it out).  If you wish, you can roll out the dough on silpat or waxed paper for an easier transition to the pie plate, but I usually just roll it out on the counter because I’m lazy and/or I forget about it until it’s too late.

Liberally flour your work surface.  Place the ball of dough in the middle.  Flour the top of the dough, as well as your rolling pin.  Flatten the dough a bit with the rolling pin, then begin rolling out the dough.  Begin in the middle, and work your way out to the edge in one motion.  Do not roll back and forth.  Always start in the center and work outward, then go back to the center to get a consistent thickness (another Mrs. Gleim trick).  After the first few rolls, pick up the pastry, add more flour to the counter, and place it back down.  Do this a couple of times until it becomes too big to pick up to prevent it from sticking to the counter.

When your crust is all rolled out, you need to get it into the shell.  If you are using waxed paper, pick up the paper, invert it over the shell, and gradually peel it off.  What I usually do is gently pull up half the crust and fold it over the other half.  Then I take half of that and fold it over (so it is folded into fourths).  I then pick up the dough from the counter, place it in the pie pan, and unfold it.  This usually works for me, but you may have your own way that you prefer.

Pat the dough into the pan.  if it tears, you can fix it with a bit of water.  There should be about 1/2”-1” overhang around the edge of the pan.  Trim this overhang with a knife so that it is about 1/2” all the way around.  Next tuck this overhang under itself, so that it is even with the edge of the pie pan.  Bring the edge of the pie crust up off the pie plate so it is standing up.  Flute the crust by placing your left thumb and forefinger on the inside of the crust while pushing the crust inward with your right forefinger.  When this is done, chill your crust.  If you are making a single crust pie, chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.  If you are making a double crust pie, chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

If you are baking your filling in the shell, make the filling, place it in the shell, and cook according to your recipe.  If you are making a cream pie, or another pie that requires a prebaked shell, read on.

Get a sheet of aluminum foil (preferably not heavy-duty) and line the inside of your shell, with the excess foil flaring out like wings.  Get some rice or dry beans and fill the shell the entire way up (you can save these and use them over and over).  This is to prevent the pie shell from shrinking.  Bake the shell at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Slowly lift the foil with the weights out of the shell (you can usually do this with your bare hands because the aluminum will cool when it hits room temperature).  Take a fork and prick the shell on the bottom 7 or 8 times.

Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and further bake the shell 10-12 minutes for a partially prebaked shell and 15-17 minutes longer for a fully prebaked shell (depending on what the recipe calls for).  Check the shell occasionally to make sure it isn’t puffing.  If it is, prick the area with a fork.  When you take the pie out of the oven, a partially prebaked shell should be just starting to brown, while a fully baked shell should be golden brown.

When the pastry is cool, fill with you desired filling and enjoy!!

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day 22 – Lame Post Monday

November 22, 2010

Today felt much like a vacation day because, due to parent/teacher conferences, I worked 3pm to 9pm, which meant I slept in and generally was able to have a lazy morning.  But the best part of the day was this schedule also allowed me to have a long overdue catch-up coffee with a friend and finally get another business phone call in for Wilderness Wind 25th anniversary planning committee.  Then when I actually got to work I spent the whole evening cutting out ogre feet out of foam board, glueing fake hair on them and generally working on my fantasy series bullitin board.  Tomorrow I should finish that up and hopefully have a picture for you.

But mainly what I am most interested in right now is looking at these great pictures, Tim took during our Labor Day family outing.  Don’t I have the most talented brothers!

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day 21 – Photo Sunday and catch-up

November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1 (technically SPOILER ALERT, but if you have read the book you won’t find anything surprising about what I am saying)

First of all, I should say I am what you might call a big Harry Potter fan, while I don’t think the books are perfect by any means, they have also been a huge part of my reading for the past 10 years.  I am a part of the Harry Potter generation and therefore my viewpoint on the movie is definitely biased.  That said, I really loved this film!  Going into it I hadn’t heard really great reviews of the movie, many complained about the first part that dragged on and the repetition of the familiar tropes of Harry feeling bad about the people around him dying.  So I didn’t entirely know what to think going into it and I had no idea how they were going to come to a satisfying conclusion half-way through the book.  After seeing the movie, I have come to realization that those very things I was worried about going into the film, turned out to be some of my favorite things about the movie.

First, yes the first part of the movie does drag on for a while, but that is kind of the point.  This is a huge turning point for Harry, Ron and Hermione, no longer are they under the protection of Hogwarts, with the routine and direction it provided.  They are for the first time, really truly on their own and with a gigantic task ahead of them.  No wonder they mope about for a while, unsure of what to do next and so scaried, they are after all still teenagers (and young ones at that).  For the first time I felt like the movie actually gave time to the small quiet moments that helped capture the true heroism of the trio in keeping on going even when no hope or adults stand ready to save them.  This also ties into the idea of the continual theme of Harry being a bit deadly to those around him, I think it was Ron who has this great line in the movie that points out that these people haven’t died FOR Harry or even because of him, they have died for the bigger cause and the bigger fight that Harry is just one part of.  So yes, bad things continue to happen to Harry in this movie, but now in the context of a Voldermort in the flesh and in control of the Ministry of Magic, the fight has become much bigger than just a teenage boy with a scar on his forehead.

Second, I ended up loving the way they choose to end the movie [okay some of this might qualify as SPOILER ALERT], but ending with the heroic effort by Dobby the house elf to rescue his friend Harry Potter from the clutches of Bellatrix Lestrange.  Dobby fulfills his mission, only to be killed by Bellatrix in a final knife throw and he dies in the arms of Harry.  One of the most poignant parts of the book both for its eloquence (Harry honors his friend by burying him by hand) and important in that it gives Harry and his friend a chance to grieve many of the deaths they have already experienced by haven’t had time to remember.  Choosing to end the first part of the movies this way seemed very fitting and I left the theater both satisfied and very excited about July 2011.  All in all, this picture captures my review of the movie.

Baking a Cake

During our 6 hour baking fest yesterday, Becca and I were reminiscing about how much we used to bake together.  We have known each other since we were 10, so that is around 17 years of friendship and a lot of baking!  This was probably our most ambition project yet (at least together, Becca has conquered wedding cakes before!), but I thought it would be fun to bake a cake for our church’s thank you celebration today instead of just buying a half a sheet cake from Sams.  So I found two of my tried and true favorites from over on Smitten Kitchen.  While exhausting, it ended up being so much fun and both Becca and I felt that we work so well together, neither of us could have done it alone.  There are lots of pictures of the process over here, but this is what the finished product looked like in all its homemade charm.  Bonus to anyone who tries to guess how many lbs of butter went into the combined cake and frosting 🙂

Teaching

My supervising librarian told me to make sure I documented my lessons, so this past friday when I got to run the library and teach 4 classes, the sub took pictures of me.  As you can see I kept the kids in rapt attention with my fascinating lesson on the new and shiny online catalog 🙂  I have to say I kind of love 6th graders, still interested enough that they can get pretty excited by the general concept of learning new things, still craving adult approval and encouragement, and capable of slightly higher orders of thinking than 1st graders.  Overall both of my student teaching experiences have been only helped encourage me in pursuing a career in education.