Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day of Leisure

I absolutely enjoyed today. The weather is beautiful (55 degrees, not a cloud in the sky) and I don't have any homework or anything else that absolutely has to be done. Can you believe it? No stress! We finally found the gelato place in Norman,il dolce gelato, because there was a coupon in the ValPack we got in the mail yesterday, so Paul took me for gelato and it was really really good. I had half tiramisu and half vanilla rum.

Earlier today, I worked on my needlepoint while watching Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, one of my favorite films. I first saw the play at Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park as a child and fell in love immediately and I later rented this movie and fell in love all over again. It really is charming.

Lastly, I finally finished The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I checked it out in October and had to go into the decks to get it. It's in the old part of Bizzell Library at OU and there are 2 decks per floor, but the bookshelves go all the way up, so it's not advisable to look down. Paul and I decided that we liked the decks because they were very Indiana Jones and then I read The Historian and I know all those old libraries were somehow related to the decks. The book itself is beautiful with lots of detail that is nonexistent in the book covers of today.

The front cover:
Detail of the front cover with shields representing England and America:
Frontispiece (don't you just love that word?) and title page:
Detail of title page with fauns holding up a fountain:
Copyright page:
Unlike Frances Hodgson Burnett's most famous books, this one is centered around adults and was a pleasant read with glimpses of depth, especially when the narrator and the characters explore the intricacies of Anglo-American relations. For example:

Cheap, pirated editions of English works…brought before Americans soft , home-like pictures of places which were, after all was said and done, the homes of those who read of them, at least in the sense of having been the birthplaces of fathers or grandfathers. Some subtle, far-reaching power of nature caused a stirring of the blood, a vague, unexpressed yearning and lingering over pages which depicted sweet, green lanes, broad acres rich with centuries of nourishment and care; grey church towers, red roofs, and village children playing before cottage doors…Old grievances having had time to fade away and take on less poignant color, the stirring of blood stirred also imaginations, and wakened something akin to homesickness… (51)

Isn't that description just perfect? Another thing I really like about the book is the heroine, Betty Vanderpoel, who is refreshingly capable and intelligent. I think she's great. I know there is a Persephone edition of this book, because their website is what spurred me to look it up in the OU catalog. The Persephone description of the book is worth reading.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Needlepoint and Research

Above: "Jacobean" pillow on frame (It says it's Jacobean, but I don't think it really is. The colors are all wrong but it was the only decent-looking canvas at Hobby Lobby. I don't want any crazy cat lady needlepoint.); below: first stitches
Below: Close-up of satin stitches
I've had this canvas since Christmas Eve, but I just started it today. I wasn't sure if I was ready, but I decided if I just paid attention, I couldn't mess it up too much. I did waste a couple strands of the color above reacquainting myself with needlepoint technique and trying to decide in which square to put the needle. I also spent most of the afternoon making Beef Bourguignon, but I couldn't get a good photo. It's a good thing that the recipe makes enough for 4 meals, because it makes enough mess and takes enough effort for 4 meals!

Well, here's my research: watching For Your Eyes Only. Oh, yes, very intellectual. I gave Paul the 007 Scene It for Christmas so we're improving our James Bond skills. He's also currently reading Thunderball. For Your Eyes Only isn't the best Bond movie, but it wasn't unwatchable (like Diamonds are Forever). While I watched the movie (really listened and looked up every once in a while), I was able to finish most of the first color on my needlepoint canvas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Las Vegas

Above: Clouds roll in to cover the mountains behind the Strip, photo taken from Gate 6 at McCarran International

Here are just a few tips, tricks, and suggestions that we discovered while in Vegas:
  • Make sure your rental car key isn't bent
  • Be prepared for an allergic reaction to all the smoke in the casinos (best bets: allergy eye drops to counteract redness and over-the-counter nasal spray)
  • Be prepared to be extremely dried-out and pack your heaviest face cream and use the eye drops and nasal spray listed above (the inside of my nose felt like sandpaper)
  • I wish I had stocked up on bottled water at a convenience store so I wouldn't have had to pay $4 per bottle in the hotels on the Strip
  • Good grilled cheese and tomato soup at Raffles in Mandalay Bay (pricey but yummy, just be prepared for crap service and tip accordingly)
  • Don't expect to use the gym at Mandalay Bay without spending $25 for a spa day pass
  • Make sure you check out the fountains at Bellagio. They really are amazing and they're free (along with the hotel's conservatory, just off the lobby).
  • Check out the outlet on Dean Martin Drive
  • Take gaming lessons at the Venetian and have a croissant panini at the food court on the casino level (not in the mall).
  • While you're at the Venetian, pick up some Murano glass beads at a kiosk in the mall.
  • Play $3 minimum blackjack at the Golden Gate downtown. Their diner is super cute, too, and the medium-rare steak was actually medium-rare and was only $14 and came with soup or salad, potato, vegetable, and a roll. The casino also had yummy gin and tonics.
  • Grab a long strand of freshwater pearls for $20 at a kiosk at the Forum Shops, Caesar's Palace
  • The Creperie at Paris Las Vegas was pricey ($9 for savory crêpes) but tasty and like a full meal (it's just off the casino floor)
  • Try out the $5 minimum blackjack at The Orleans (about a mile west of the strip on Tropicana). It's the only place where I actually made money. They also have good ice cream for about half the price of the hotels on the Strip (try the Spumoni). Also check out the gift shop.
I had a really great time. It was really excellent to decompress after this semester and relax and have fun. I am glad to be home, though. The air quality is better.

Best Way to Freeze Cookie Dough

I love cookies straight from the oven, so since there are only two of us, I freeze a lot of cookie dough so that I can bake just a few cookies at a time. Here are the steps:

1. Make a cookie dough that freezes well. (Like these Chocolate Chip Cookies)
2. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil, wax paper, or parchment paper (whichever you have on hand).
3. Scoop mounds of cookie dough onto baking sheet, placed close together but not touching.
4. Freeze for a few hours.
5. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and place balls of dough into a tupperware-type container in layers separated either by plastic wrap, parchment paper, or wax paper:

6. Return to freezer for up to 3 months.

To bake:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the number of cookies you would like to bake on the sheet.
2. Heat the oven to the temperature on the recipe.
3. When oven registers correct temperature, place dough in oven and cook for time on recipe.

Very very simple! (These steps have been adapted from Cook's Illustrated April 2005 p. 17)

Sunday, December 16, 2007


We're off for Las Vegas, so I'll be back sometime after the 20th. I finally finished White Christmas today (the annual viewing). I watched bits and pieces throughout the week, but I finally just sat down and finished it.

Here's one of my favorite numbers from the movie. After my friend Grace and I saw the re-release of the movie in 7th or 8th grade, we went around singing this song (and Doris Day's Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps--but that's another story).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Paul had a final at 4:30 this afternoon, so I made chocolate chip cookies while listening to Tom Jones, which I have to do while Paul isn't around because I'm forbidden from even mentioning Tom Jones in his presence, much less singing Delilah or It's Not Unusual at the top of my voice. Oh, well. Two of the best things about baking on my own are: (1) I pick the music and (2) I get to gluttonously lick the bowl and beaters all by myself. This is actually my second batch of cookies this week. Erika and I made molasses spice cookies yesterday but I forgot to take pictures. I have a dozen eggs I need to use up before we go on vacation.

The recipe I used is for Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Martha Stewart: Holiday Cookies. It's online here. I use all semi-sweet chocolate chips and instead of vanilla extract I use Nielson-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste, which after you try it you will understand why it's worth $11 a jar. It definitely makes a difference.

My lovely apron:

"Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment" (my hand mixer will just have to do):

"Add salt, vanilla, and eggs":

Dough ready to be frozen:

Close-up of cookie goodness:

This sublime cheesiness is precisely why I always wanted my own variety show. Do you think it's too late to quit this whole history thing and become a back-up singer for Tom Jones? [edited 10/3/08: video no longer available; this is the same performance but the quality of the video is definitely not as good. :-( ]
[edited 11/14/08: above video now no longer available, as well--same performance is at]

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Arrival of Jack Frost

Above: Berries encased in ice

I honestly can't remember the last time we had this much ice accumulation. I have heard trees and branches falling and emergency vehicle sirens continually today. The berries above are from the tree by our mailbox that fell over early this morning. I really liked that tree, especially since it had such jolly red berries. It makes me sad.

On a happier note, the final for my class is tomorrow and OU has decided not to cancel classes, which means that I don't have to reschedule and I can finish my grading by Thursday and I'm finished with my term paper for Directed Readings. Yippee!!!
Above: Ice accumulation on tree branches, taken at the window

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

New Yarn, New Project

I've been seeing this hat everywhere online lately and I was definitely thinking about crocheting it despite the fact that the last time I crocheted a hat was in middle school and I worked on it with lots of help from my grandma. Well, the yarn (Lion Cashmere Blend) went on sale at the Hancock's down the street, so I swooped in (the place was packed) and nabbed the last two balls of the color I wanted: charcoal. It was a good thing that was the color I wanted, because they only had one more ball and it was baby blue.

One of the comments on the pattern post stated that the hat only took 45 minutes, but I know I probably won't be able to finish until at least sometime next week or maybe even after Las Vegas.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Paul as Emperor Constantine

I pester Paul every once in a while with my camera. I took this portrait in August, but didn't run across it again until recently, when I was organizing iPhoto. I didn't have any intention when I took this, but now I think it's rather reminiscent of marble busts of Roman Emperors. The look. That nose! Check out this photo of a statue of the emperor Constantine: image/65333810.

Paul- I know you're now totally embarrassed. I love you for letting me get away with things like this!

An Explanation for the Lack of Cuisine of Late

Last night was the last Methods class ever. Dave wanted to go celebrate, but we'll all have to go out some other time. I think Allison, Ariana, and I were so beyond celebrating! I just wanted to go home and go to sleep!

I know my blog started off with food photos and I intend to post more--as soon as I start cooking again. The end of the semester has really put a cramp in my culinary style. Recently, I've been enjoying(?) Lean Cuisine and Campbell's soup. Dear Lord, I am ready to return to the kitchen! So as soon as finals are over, Paul and I are off to Vegas and then I will come back and get back to cuisine (and knitting and reading and wasting time on YouTube etc. etc.). To tide us over, here is a photo of prosciutto-wrapped pork chops, lima bean salad, and the ubiquitous carottes étuvées au beurre that I made earlier and never posted:
The pork chops are from the June 2006 issue of Everyday Food and the lima beans are from another issue of Everyday Food, but I can't find it at present.