Monday, January 25, 2010


Just heard I squeaked in to the Madison conference, so its time to plan the road trip and get ready for John Taylor Gatto! Debating whether we'll go through Cleveland again, or just get a cheap motel halfway... the dog complicates things a bit. Madison peeps - we'll be in town about a week so if you want to get together, get in touch!

Thanks to all who have chimed in about the vaccines. We're still reading and thinking, and very grateful to be able to add your ideas and experiences to the mix.

Our homeschool Girl Scout troop is just about ready to begin and I'm so excited. And Caitlin. Caitlin is excited. This is for her, of course. I'm just leading, again, just to, um, be helpful, right? Its not that I totally love Girl Scouts and wish I was 11 again and could be earning all those cool badges and going to camp and everything. (Ok, yes, Mom, I did quit when I was 11 and cried through my entire Girl Scout camp career... but don't we all deserve another chance?) Love. It. All.

Swim team is also up and running (swimming?) now. Caitlin had her first meet last weekend, which was a challenge. She's never been a fast swimmer, and a year and a half out of the pool didn't do anything to change that. She was disappointed. Really disappointed. But she seems to have tuned-in, smart, sensitive coaches who helped her adjust her attitude about her times and set some realistic goals. And lucky for me, a good friend from knitting has an older swimmer and she helped me get through the meet. [One of the many things I love about getting older is how much more I appreciate all of the older (even just a tiny bit older) women in my life - its like I'm suddenly finding all the big sisters I always wished I had.] Anyhow, swimming continues and I'm motivated to get my butt in the water now too, which can only be good.

Ben continues apace, and the spouse-person keeps insisting he'll come up with a finished dissertation sooner or later. Here's hoping our trip to WI will help speed that up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


(First, welcome to new reader Jill! Glad you found us and I do hope we'll be able to connect in Madison in Feb... still waiting to hear about the conference. I'll keep you posted!)

Good people of blog-land, today I turn to you for a wee bit o' help.

We just got back from the pediatrician's and (as always) the subject of vaccinations came up. When the kids were little this was easy as either, with Caitlin, I just did what the doc said because I was naive or, with Ben, we did all the vax because we knew he was going to India in the near future.

Now India is behind us and looming are puberty and life with H1N1. The doc recommended Guardasil for Caitlin and H1N1 for both...

And I'm in a bit or a swivet. No easy answers anymore. India is a given, but the vax for that are a moot point. We've never done any flu shots, and I've never thought about Guardasil at all.

Thoughts? Things to read? What has your family done? I'd love to hear from everyone who's willing to share. You can leave a comment if you like, or if email would be more your speed, maggiehaskettATgmailDOTcom (make the obvious changes).

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You know what I think?

I think I'd like to go back to India. I really miss it and have been thinking about our old hometowns and all our friends in them quite a lot lately. I don't want to live there again, mind you. Just have a good long extended visit. At least a month in Ladakh - ok, a whole summer - and then onto Varanasi for as long as I can stand it and then Delhi, Pune and Goa until I am good and done in all regards. Or perhaps I'd like a 3-month tour of all the places we didn't get to, but wanted to visit. Ghost of Sen. Fulbright, can you hear me? The magic word is f-u-n-d-i-n-g...

Also, I think I ought to find out who Thomas Keller is. I have a recipe for his brownies taped up to my cabinet and as I wander the interwebs I keep bumping into "Thomas Keller's Pot Pie" or "Thomas Keller's Spaghetti Sauce" or "Thomas Keller's Peanut Butter and Crackers". What's the deal? Who is this guy and why do we care how he makes the most basic of dishes? (HIS brownies are iffy. Not as good as mine, even without salad dressing.)

I'm psyched to be a Girl Scout leader again, and double psyched that I don't have to have anything to do with managing our cookie sale.

I have to learn how to better interact with people who tell me quite seriously that they love global warming, and that maybe its just the earth finally getting back up to the "right" temperature.

Tracking our every expenditure for the entire month is simultaneously excruciatingly painful, satisfying to my meticulous-saurus side, and oddly liberating. (See! Its all the damn food! Not the little treats I buy myself! If only we ate less! More treats!) (Oh lord. I need such help.)

I'm curious to see what "Lee-Jackson Day" is all about. You guessed it - a Lexington-only holiday to commemorate our to favorite biggots OOPS! I mean heroes. A friend pointed out that L-J Day falling just 2 days after MLKJr day meant the two sort of cancelled each other out - like holding a Nazi Pride Fest just after Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Rememberance Day). There are American flags out all over town and nothing of consequence closed on Monday... wonder what tomorrow holds?

Caitlin has started swimming again, on the local winter team at the community pool. She's pleased with the shape she's in, having a blast, and thrilled to have the chance to swim 4 nights a week. Rockin. Now Ben wants in too.

I've slipped from conscious competence to unconscious competence with a lot of my baking/cooking. Vegan dinner is now a given, and loaves of good ol' sandwich bread issue forth from my oven at the drop of a hat. It is totally standard for me to crank out, from scratch, a baked dessert, bread and a full vegan dinner most days of the week. Cool.

The exterior of the house however, has gone to pot. The kids are so excited about the warm weather that they are outside all the time, which is awesome. But their crap is everywhere, which isn't. They are also building a club house and trying to thaw out our upper pond with some rather creative tools.

Today there were 12 youths at my house for the better part of the day (2 under 2). Awesome.

I need to get better at not wishing my current homeschooling group was my old homeschooling group. The new group has some lovely people in it, including some dear friends. It is what it is. Got to stop going to that hardware store for my loaf of bread.

And I'm hoping and wishing and squeezing my thumbs so hard that I'll get one of those last few spots at the Madison homeschool conference next month. But even if I don't we're still going home for a week or so.

And last, I toyed with declaring the 2009-2010 academic year my Year of Selfish Knitting. But I have some plum-wonderful sisters-in-law and they need some baby alpaca love. Sure hope someone can give me a ride to knitting tomorrow night.

So. Now you know!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Salad Dressing Bownies

In order to distract you from the absence of Stupid Tie #5 (he wore a sweatshirt and hole-y jeans to work on Friday instead - gasp!), allow me to present a recipe...

And not just any recipe! These are 'Salad Dressing' Brownies* and they are quickly becoming the most popular creation in my dessert repertoire.

These are brownies made in 3 acts, so plan ahead if you want to be eating them at any particular time. (Although I can tell you from experience that there is not an hour of the day that is not a good one for eating these beauties.) Also, do not be afraid by the plurality of phases - none is particularly challenging and you can always go take a nap in between if you need to. (Though, why? It would only delay that first lovely bite...)

Lastly, before I begin I must cite my sources. The brownie layer is my own take on a recipe I got from a friend's mom years ago (Hi Georgene!) tied to a jar of Sand Art Brownie mix. I've adjusted it only the tiniest bit, and in this instance increased it to 9x13 proportions. The mint layer is adapted from Cooking Light, as posted on this blog. And then the ganache is from King Arthur but double tweaked by the blogger above and by me.

Enough. Let us begin.

Salad Dressing Brownies
Brownie Layer

Preheat oven to 350F

2 1/4 C all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 C cocoa (Hershey's is my stand-by)
1 1/3 C sugar
1 1/3 C packed brown sugar
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C bittersweet chocolate chips
(I absolutely believe in using the best chocolate possible and so I use Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Both sorts are consistently available in my small town Kroger and regularly on sale - stock up when the price is good - you will not be sorry.)
Mix all of the above in a big bowl. Then add...

2 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs (settle down, you'll be fine)
1 C oil (really, you're fine)

Mix everything really well.

Grease a 9x13 pan. Scrape the batter into the pan. Push it into the corners and even it out with a spatula if need be.

Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until moist crumbs cling to a toothpick inserted in the center. (If the toothpick comes out wet, test again. You may have hit a chocolate chip.)

Let cool in the pan until roughly room temperature. (Or for as long as you can stand to wait.)

Mint Layer

In a medium bowl combine:

2 C powdered sugar
1/4 C melted butter
2 TBSP milk (If you're still feeling bad about all those eggs, use skim, but any kind will do.)
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract**

Mix until smooth. Glop it out onto the brownies and then spread evenly. (Silently thank your lucky stars for a sister-in-law who gives off-set spatulas for birthday presents!)

This will give you a fairly thin (but still potent) layer of mint. If you'd like a thicker layer, double everything above except for the peppermint extract. Depending on your taste you could leave that the same or bump it up as much as you dare.

Chocolate Ganache Layer

2 C (1 bag) bittersweet chocolate chips (see above, and photo, below)
1 C heavy cream or whipping cream (seriously, settle down. these are brownies!)

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until very hot. It is hot enough when steam rises from the surface and you can see tiny bubbles forming around the edges - do NOT let it boil! Remove from heat and dump in all of the chocolate chips. At first it will look really sketchy.

But don't worry. Just keep stirring and in no time you will have a lovely creamy shiny pot of chocolate goodness.

Scrape the ganache out of the pan and onto the mint layer. Spread evenly, being careful not to cut into the mint. (Again, much love to spatula-giving S-I-L.)

Pop the whole thing into the fridge to give the ganache a chance to set up. When that's happened, dig in!

I like to cut these into little triangles. They're very rich and just a few bites (usually) satisfies. They keep nicely for a few days in an airtight container on the counter or in the fridge if you like your minty chocolate cold.

*So called in honor of one of my new knitting buddies and her treat-making ingenuity. Our knitting group had a little extra-curricular outing in the cold one night and she thoughtfully brought along hot chocolate. She poured me a cup and then asked if I wanted some 'salad dressing' in it, and brandished an old salad dressing bottle filled with a mysterious clear liquid. Always game for adventure I agreed and seconds later was enjoying hot cocoa spiked with peppermint schnapps. Hence, these deeply chocolate-y and intensely minty brownies are named Salad Dressing Brownies in tribute.

**I haven't tried it yet, but I imagine you could substitute peppermint schnapps for the peppermint extract. It would certainly be more in the spirit of the original salad dressing delight. I've been baking for kids and Chris's office buddies, but perhaps next time I'll make these true 21-and-over Salad Dressing Brownies. I'll update you on that when it happens. And if you try it before I do, please let me know how it goes!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stupid Tie #4

As much fun as it must be to wear a new, stupid tie everyday, I think my husband enjoys taking the stupid picture even more.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Stupid tie [on the sly] #3

The Nag Championista thinks I don't remember how to blog any more. She also doesn't know I figured out the self timer on her camera.

Mu ha ha ha ha!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stupid Tie #2 (and other afternoon hijinks)

Soooo, this is it, Stupid Tie #2.
(No comment on husband's facial expression!) The picture doesn't quite do it justice but there is some sort of quasi-optical illusion thing happening, which gives me a headache if I look at it for more than a split second. Ugh.

In other news, the children made quicksand while I made Chris's Lentils (see post below). (And kindly don't tell my husband that I let them eat big bowls of Cheez-Its right before they were supposed to be eating His Lentils.)

No Han Solos were harmed in the making of this blog.

And in still other news, the door of my pantry opens all the way out.
I love that. I've lived here nearly 5 months and I open the pantry many many times every day, and every time I get a little thrill.

Its the simple things, right?

Lentils, Chris-style

My husband has a bit of a reputation as a smart-guy (and smart-ass), and also as a good cook, and also as a bit of a vegan epicure. And all of that is true. And all of that sometimes makes for rather challenging dinner-making directions.

May I present Exhibit A, Chris's directions to me, for prepping lentils, which he will make into Indian deliciousness?

Mince 1 mediumish onion, or a bigger one, or whatever. Cook over v low heat for a long time in our 2nd to largest saucepan
Maybe 1-2 mins before the onion is looking really soft, crush in 2ish cloves of garlic
Add salt, pepper, and cumin, in amounts that look like they will end up tasting good. You can add the s&p after the water if you prefer.
Add 1.5c lentils. Stir around in the onion and whatall--I have no idea why I do this, you can prolly skip it and add the lentils after the water if you have to go pull the dog out of the garbage at this precise minute or something.
Add water to exceed total volume of stuff in pot by like 3x. Cover. Turn heat all the cfuck the way up. let berl. Once berlin', reduce heat to like 9 o'clock on the dial, aka lowish. Go check your email. Come back. Play legos. come back. Yell at the chillens. Come back. Answer the phone. Come back. Check from time to time to make sure not running dry. If dry, add more water.
If you start this around like 5:15, so the whole business is simmering by 5:30, the stars will align and your toenails will be fungus-free for six thursdays.

Off I go to start the quest for six Thursdays of fungus-free toenails!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stupid Tie #1

Welcome to the newest SLNC feature - Stupid Tie Week! As some of you know, Mr. Nag Champion likes to wear ties to work. He's got his nose to the grindstone this week, cranking out a dissertation chapter before classes resume on the 11th, and to make sure he's in the right frame of mind, he's sporting full work regalia. Ben was in a bit of a snit this morning and suggested that Chris wear his "stupidest" tie to work, and thus Stupid Tie Week was born. For your viewing pleasure, we are proud to present a week of the stupidest ties in Chris's sizable collection.

Today, we give you the "Zulu of Scotland" tie.

Features include: made of black canvas, attractive crossed weapons design, and no back-flap thingy to keep the back tail in place.


Gratuitous Mookie Pictures