Monday, November 20, 2017

the quotidian (11.20.17)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace 

Tanking up.

Leftovers for two.

Before I oversmoked it by five degrees: I CAN'T DO PORK.

Flying pie.

The stuff of soup.

Salvaged microwave popcorn kernels.

Craving met.

And the coma that followed.

He didn't like drinking from plastic water bottles day after day so I fixed the situation

Bath toys: they evolve.

Speed dry.

No ma'am, Miss Peggy.

How not to ride a horse.

Dress rehearsal.

This same time, years previous: spiced applesauce cake with caramel glaze, in my kitchen: noon, apple raisin bran muffins, sock curls, candid crazy, the quotidian (11.19.12), orange cranberry bread, chocolate pots de creme, brownies.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Smoking food, it turns out, is a lot of work.

Actually, I take that back. It’s like bread: If you have time and understand the process, it’s not that difficult. However, it is an undertaking.

And it takes a long time.

Have I mentioned that it takes time?

We started the fire around eight o’clock in the morning and finished smoking about twelve hours later. I spent the day at the kitchen window, staring out at the metal beast, watching the smoke drift from the chimney, and fretting. Did the fire need more wood? Was the smoke too thick? Should I give the fire more air? Less air? Was the thermometer giving us an accurate reading?

Accessing the firebox was tricky. Because it’s at the very bottom of the barrel, under the racks of food, every time I wanted to add more charcoal or wood, I had to enlist my husband’s help.

Very carefully, we’d lift the top half off, making sure not to jostle the racks full of water pan and food, tend the blaze, and then re-situate everything. By mid-afternoon my clothes reeked of smoke (kind of nice), and by evening my eyes were watering (not so nice).

But things went just as planned! I forgot to inject the brisket, and I rubbed the outside with a bit too much S&P, but the process itself was spot-on. Mid-afternoon, we hit the stall — when the internal meat temperature refuses to rise above 160 degrees — but then we wrapped the meat in foil and let it go for a few more hours. Right at the 12-hour mark, the meat registered 203 degrees, perfect! We rested the meat in a cooler for 30 minutes (it should’ve been a good hour, but our beds were calling) before cutting into it.

And wouldn’t you know, everything was just as the experts said it would be. There was a smoke ring! The meat separated when stretched! We were able to identify the deckle and flat, and we could taste the flavor differences!


I had made a sauce, of sorts, to serve with the meat, but no one ate it. They all prefered to devour their meat, slice after slice, straight up alongside the still-warm pan of buttered buns. The meat was so tender and juicy and smoky. It almost tasted like ham.

Also smoked that day:

Roma tomatoes
I cut about six tomatoes in half, drizzled them with olive oil, and added S&P. After a couple hours in the smoker, I divided them into two portions and stuck them in the freezer. Later, I’ll chop them up and add them to chili.

Sweet bell peppers and poblanos
My younger son charred these directly in the coals at the very end, and then I scraped off the black, seeded and chopped the peppers, and froze them. These will also go in chili, or maybe I’ll add some to a pot of beans or a butternut squash soup.

Stew meat
I smoked two pounds of beef in beer. Later, I finished it off in the crock pot with potatoes and carrots. The kids didn’t like it that much — I think the beer flavor may have been too strong — but I did.

Baked beans
Since I left them in the smoker longer than the recommended hour and a half, the smoke flavor was intense ... so I divided them into smaller portions and popped them in the freezer. Whenever I want a kick of smoke — in chili, soup, or ordinary baked beans — I’ll toss in one of the bags, my own little flavor bomb.

I’d like to do more smoking — I want to try a roast, and we have a couple fresh hams in the freezer — but, because I need my husband’s help to lift the smoker and it’s hard to find days when we’re both home the entire time, I’m limited in when I can do it.

Isn't it fascinating, all the myriad ways there are to prepare food? Smoking is such a tasty, fun way to go.

This same time, years previous: Thai chicken curry, the quotidian (11.16.15), gravity, lessons from a shopping trip, official, the quotidian (11.16.11), three things, peanut butter cream pie. SSR.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Shakespeare behind bars

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that my younger daughter, if she’d just break free of her inhibitions, would enjoy acting (says her mother, the woman who wasn’t brave enough to act until she was thirty-five). So a couple months ago when I learned that my friend, the head of the theater department at Eastern Mennonite University, would be reworking MacBeth for a female cast (because she has mostly female students and wanted them to get a chance to dig into some of the more meaty Shakespeare roles), I asked my daughter if she’d like to audition.

She hesitated. “I don’t want a speaking role. And I’d rather work backstage.”

“Well, how about you audition anyway, just to do it. On the audition form, you can say what you’re willing to do.”

My daughter hedged.

“Listen,” I wheedled. “If you get a role you don’t want, you can always say no, right?”

And so my daughter did her first audition. A friend of ours, an EMU student, went to the audition with her to provide moral support and help her prepare (shout-out to Clara!). And my daughter got just what she wanted, a non-speaking role as an inmate (because this version of the Scottish play is set in a women’s penitentiary, how cool is that?)

For the most part, my daughter’s been mum about what goes on in rehearsal. I did hear about the fight director who came on Wednesdays to teach combat, and once when I arrived to pick her up, I walked in to see my child holding another actor in a stranglehold while stabbing her in the back and bellowing with rage.

She told me she got to eat and drink on stage, too — she was quite excited about that. And then dress rehearsals started and she began waltzing into the house late at night sporting black eye makeup and neck tattoos, oh boy. 

The show opened last week. I have yet to see it (can’t wait!), but a couple of the other kids saw it already and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. (My brother and sister-in-law saw it, too — my sister-in-law said it was so full and rich that as soon as it was over she wished she could see it again.)

Sunday afternoon (when I went to hang around the green room, observe the fight warm-ups, and watch my daughter get ready) was the first time I had seen the set — seen anything, really — and it kind of pulled me up short. The tall chainlink fences, the industrial lighting, and the concrete walls bring the harsh reality of prison to life. It's disconcerting.

I’ve heard reports that my daughter, who also gets to play janitor and mop up all the blood (and on opening night actual vomit!), plays a delightfully sullen inmate. When I heard that, I busted out laughing. I could just see her angrily pushing a mop bucket around and ramming into anyone who gets in her way. I live with the child, after all. She’s been rehearsing for this role for years.

The other day I asked her if she'd be interested in auditioning for another play. "Yeah, maybe..." she said with her typical reserve, but her body told a different story. It had snapped to attention — she was suddenly sitting on the edge of her seat — and her eyes were sparking.

For tickets (three shows remaining!), go here.

This same time, years previous: enough, for now, George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger, butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, the quotidian (11.11.13), refrigerator bran muffins.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

unleashing the curls!

Apparently, wishing out loud for a magical cure to my hair problems was a smart thing to do. Within minutes of posting, people were chiming in via the blog, Facebook, emails, and phone calls.

I had no idea hair could be such a fascinating topic!

Since then, I have completely reworked my hair care routine. As per your suggestions, I clicked over to the Curly Girl website where I learned about hair porosity, washing methods, and product ingredients. I researched the specific products you recommended, purchased a few of them, and then set about unleashing the curls I didn’t know I had.

“What I can’t understand,” my husband said, fed up with all my hair talk, “is how you’ve managed to live this long without knowing you have curly hair.”

(The answer, as any woman knows is, of course, hormones. Also, one-track thinking. I used to have straight straight hair, so I simply assumed my hair was still straight, and my hair straightener — oh the irony! — allowed me to maintain that erroneous belief.)

So far, I've learned that:
1. Thanks to sulfate shampoo and other abrasive hair products, plus the hair dryer and straightener, my hair was much drier than it ought to be,
2. My hair is wavy-curly! In some places, especially around my face, I have actual ringlets,
3. Curly hair can be made more curly by: not using heat, washing it less often, not rubbing it dry with a towel, refraining from using combs and brushes, applying a couple softening/curling products, and scrunching.
4. It’s most effective to apply products when the hair is sopping wet.
5. Hair products make hair smell awesome!
6. My hair gets curlier the longer I go without washing. Weird, right?

And now, for the actual hair care method!

Every two days I wash my hair. One day I'll wash it with a shampoo and conditioner and the next time I'll wash it just with conditioner, also known as a co-wash. I use Shea Moisture’s Argan Oil and Almond Milk Smooth and Tame Shampoo, and Shea Soft and Smooth Conditioner. Since my bangs show grease more quickly than the rest of my hair — plus they get skanky from running — every morning I give them a light wash and blow dry. However, in a few months I won't even need to do that because, thanks to my persuasive cousin-in-law, I’m growing them out. (It might be a terrible mistake, but I guess I won't know until I try it, right?)

After washing, I wrap my hair in a towel while I get dressed and then, while it’s still super wet, I run a comb through it and massage One ‘n Only Argan Oil Styling Cream into the ends and up to about an inch from the scalp. I scrunch my hair all over, and then apply Taliah Waajid’s Curly Curl Cream to the ends and up the sides and back (not the underside), scrunching continually to hold the curl.

I let it air dry and that's it. 

On no-wash days, I lightly comb through my hair. Immediately my hair frizzes out and turns semi-straight, but then I spray it all over with water and it seizes right up into curls, magic! After applying a little product to hold the curl, I'm good to go.

Sometimes, if my hair is feeling drier than normal, I rub in a few drops of Moroccan Oil, a sample from a friend’s bottle. (And another friend gave me a different product to try, too, but I haven’t sampled it yet.)

I am not a purist. A couple spots have (lots) less curl than others, so some days, if I’m feeling fancy, I will do a little touch-up with the curling iron. Most of the time, though, I wear my hair all natural. 

And guess what! Over the last few weeks, my husband’s irritation has shifted to admiration. Sometimes I catch him looking at my hair, a mystified half-smile on his face. “Wow,” he’ll say, “You really do have curly hair.”

Yes, m'darling, I guess I do!

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.7.16), the quotidian (11.9.15), for the time change, "How are you different now?", maple roasted squash, pumpkin cranberry cream cheese muffins.

Monday, November 6, 2017

the quotidian (11.6.17)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Over polenta: braised beef short ribs with black lentils.

Mousetracks in the butter.

Little Red, Voldemort, Trash.

#nudistonstrike (his words, not mine).

Sixteen hydrocodon pills prescribed to a teenager for a routine wisdom tooth (teeth?) extraction 
and in the middle of an opioid epidemic, too, ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?! 
(She took one and puked her guts out. Ibuprofen was much more effective.)

Smile for the camera, Chipmunk!

Airing a pillow + cat = fail.

Rewired: Christmas tree light plus battery.

When Stranger Things gets scary. 

This same time, years previous: musings from the coffee shop, awkward, bierocks, crispy cinnamon cookies, brown sugar icing.