Something Pretty

Over the last year I set a list of goals for myself. Number 3: Make Something Pretty for my Daughter. In addition to making Maggie some felt and wool toys, I also learned a single stitch of crochet and took off running.

Given how impatient I am, I should have learned more than the single loop stitch before proceeding. It’s the easiest GED stitch there is, but it’s tiny. In not asking my mother about the scope of my plan, I made a serious error. Since I’m so impatient, I ran off half-cocked, chained a huge long starter chain, didn’t measure it and relied on my nonexistent depth judgment for the length, and thought I was making a 3′ blanket when really it was more like 4′, and I chose a thin, worsted-weight cotton yarn and a smallish hook. So what I’m saying is, “Mistakes were made.” But only in the planning process. The execution was lovely. Closeup!

The border is a double-loop stitch, taught to me by my mother after two weeks of hand-cramping single loop stitches. It took another three weeks after that to complete. The end result was a 36×48″ blanket, rainbow variegated with a purple border. It was painstaking and repetitive but I love the tight weave, and it’s a cotton blanket so it’s light but warm.

Maggie appears indifferent here, but she’s been sleeping under it (or on it, actually) for the last week or so.

Goal 3: Achieved. And I’ll never do a single-loop blanket ever again. At least not without measuring.


Thinking gorgonzola when it’s clearly brie time

First off, a link to my darling munchkin’s 9-month portraits. I don’t know how we settled on 9 months in our family as THE portrait date, just that my sister and I had formal ones done at that age and then my nephew did too. Now it’s more or less graven in stone. I have no idea what color Maggie’s eyes are; they look gray in these photos but they’re edging closer to brown in real life. I could spend hours looking at them to figure it out.

Now, my children, gather round, for I am about to teach you how to make friends and be popular. I know! Socially anxious ME telling assumedly normal YOU how to be popular. It’s shocking. But this is the easiest recipe ever, even easier than the vegetable platter my mom always advised me to make for parties. She knew the score: everyone at a party should love your dish and it should take no more than 15 minutes to assemble. And this baked brie (compliments of my college roommate, who introduced me to expensive cheese) takes exactly that amount of time, which includes finding the camera and photographing the whole shebang for the five people that read your blog.

First things first: ask your host or hostess if you can use their oven upon arrival. Tom still has to mop his brow and furrow his nose at the mention of a Thanksgiving guest nearly a decade ago who volunteered to make a side of mac ‘n cheese for Tom’s dinner of 20+ guests, arrived bearing two boxes of Kraft and asked him to make room for her food in the kitchen. Blue box blues, indeed. Never presume it’s okay to use the kitchen facilities, because hosting is stressful and even though this is a dish of magic it still takes up valuable oven real estate.

Once you have the blessing of your host, get an oval baking dish (IKEA makes a nice ceramic one, about 10″ long), three wedges of brie, dark brown sugar, and Craisins. Cut the rind off the top, bottom, and side of the brie wedges. Place them at angles in the dish. Cut the third one up the middle and wiggle it in between the two whole triangles. Then get your sugar.

Cover the whole thing with a layer of sugar, however much or little you want. Don’t measure! It will take up valuable time.

Sprinkle Craisins liberally over the top. If you are super-ambitious and have almond slices, those might be nice too but they don’t bake up as well.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. I TOLD you it was easy. Congratulate yourself on your efficiency with a beer.

Once you get to the party, bake at whatever temperature you want (my oven defaults to 350, which is fine) for however long it takes for the cheese to melt together and bubble. Serve with crackers. I like Wheat Thins because they have sharp corners for dipping and I can fit like eight plain ones in my mouth at once.

Guys, this is the GED version of a party dish. You can’t screw it up unless you cook it so long the sugar burns. And if you do that, well, you don’t deserve the sweetened glazed melty deliciousness. It is ridiculous how easy this is to make and you will be shocked and probably very frightened by the depraved lengths your friends will go to in order to get you to make it again, again, again. If you put actual cocaine in the sugar it couldn’t be more addictive than it is already.

So there you go. Go forth, party, look like a badass gourmet because your cheese is French, and thank my Former Roommate W for improving your life.

Goal Setting

Before we begin…

It never gets old. I hear Baby-Fu’s voice in my head, and it sounds like DRUNK HULK.

Back in July I set a list of goals for myself. Let us update, shall we?

1 & 5. The travel website I was hired to write for has still not launched, because when it does I will sing it loud and proud from the rooftops. I need to look at my spreadsheet and invoices but I estimate that I have written over 300 keyword-based articles (is that SEO writing? I was intrigued by the going rate for SEO writers and going to research freelance jobs in that market. $120K for a degree in PR and communications and I have to self-teach social media marketing. I want a refund, AU.). I’ve been paid for some of it, some is still pending. Y’all will be the FIRST ones to know when that site goes live, aside from Tom and the baby, because without their patience I couldn’t have stuck with the 6 articles/night pace I had kept.

The good news is that I have learned so much doing it. How to structure the articles, how to sound fresh while writing 300+ articles with the same 10 keywords, how to stay disciplined while writing them. I’ve also learned fascinating things about Hawaii: the major geography of all the islands, the history behind the famous sites. I could take anyone on a kick-ass tour of any of the islands.

2. The UH’s digital art program was cost-prohibitive, plus the majority of the classes were available online. To me that says the curriculum is not tech-intensive. I’d want a professor in a media lab showing me the finer points of Photoshop and Illustrator. If I could teach myself graphic design, I would buy a Macbook Pro, CS4, and For Dummies book and rock it at home for a fraction of the price. I did shoot my first wedding (it was my sister’s, for free) and though I think I have a long way to go, she was pleased. I do think I’ve gone as far as I can go with the Digital Rebel, and so I am getting myself a little reward for going through the next few months flying solo on the parent front while we’re on the East Coast.

3. My mom is teaching me to knit and crochet! Woo! I, uh, haven’t asked her to teach me, but we’ll be in Florida for three months so I’m sure it will come up. I just want to make my kiddo a blankie, it can’t be that hard. Right? (Hold me. I’m scared of needlecraft.)

4. Stroller Strides, and I did wind sprints today for the first time in ten years. This looked and felt as utterly ridiculous as it sounds. I plan to put extra bubbles in my bath to console myself.

Appropos of nothing, the baby is wearing rainbow leg warmers. Pictures later.


Shameless self-promotion:

I’ll be writing over at the Examiner as the Honolulu Baby & Toddler Gear Examiner, reviewing and profiling all kinds of nifty kid stuff. My first article on swaddling blankets went live today. Earnings are decided in page views, comments, and subscribers, so give it a look-see. Even if you don’t have a kid, you might find something cool you want for a baby shower. That is, if that darn Mighty Junior hasn’t already covered it.

All proceeds to go directly into my Diet Coke fund and/or Maggie’s college/therapy fund.


A few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to make ravioli. Partly because I could, partly because I was bored. Mostly I liked the idea that if I got good at whipping up ravioli at home, I could control the ingredients and serve local/free range/exotic wacky filling/dough woven with gold fairydust fresh pasta. So (see above re: bored) I photographed the excursion.

The filling: beef, asiago, and mozzarella. Note that empty wine bottle in the background.

fig. 1: Mmmm, beefy.

I didn’t *quite* nail the dough mixing proportions and my hands were too dirty to capture the ensuing farce. But trust me, we did laugh at my inability to pour the egg and water into the flour well. Well, Tom laughed while I muttered about my failure to conquer ground wheat. I also discovered that we don’t have a flour sifter, after which I mentioned that had to be the only kitchen implement we didn’t own. I’ll get back to that.

fig. 2: not a slug.

Next came the dough rolling. At this juncture, I discovered the second kitchen tool we do not own: a rolling pin. Did you note that empty wine bottle above? Gooooood.

fig. 3: It was already empty. Swear.

I had thought that after our wedding and various cooking misadventures we had at least all of the kitchen basics and most of the wacky stuff, but I was wrong. For the record, wine bottles are usually tapered and not quite heavy enough to get the right weight distribution. Rolling the dough took a WHILE. But I got several usable strips, and sealed the filling inside.

fig. 4: Runaway beef, never goin’ back.

Well, “sealed” is a loose term. There was a great deal of runaway beef, re-rolling to make the dough thinner, and the odd tears. It was very difficult to get it just right with the dough being a bit too thick and a little dry.

fig. 5: Frowny-oli.

But behold! The finished product! I am not strong enough to get the pasta as thin as it should be, so it was hard to cook.

fig. 6: Take THAT, Chef Boyardee!

Would I do it again? Yes, if only to prove that I’m tougher than pasta. I found a mold on Amazon that looks like an ice cube tray that would make my life substantially easier if I pursued this a second time. I would also grind the filling up more so it would be a bit smoother. The edges were very thick and a little too chewy, but I suspect they were a bit undercooked. Overall, this was a hearty meal, the ravioli didn’t fall apart in the pot, and it was declared “Not bad for a first effort” by the diplomatic husband.