Saturday, April 25, 2009

Things That Make Me Go "Huh?"

Is it possible for something to be infinitely small?

Obviously the potential for infinite bigness exists (though certainly nothing infinitely big now exists since if it did, none of us would be here to enjoy it, having been crowded off the planet.)

A long time ago, a girl told me that if you suck a peppermint down to nothing, it doesn't really disappear, it just keeps getting smaller and smaller and smaller...

BUT. If something keeps getting smaller, won't it eventually be negative? As in a black hole, sucking all matter into it's nothingness?

Things that make my head hurt.

So, anybody know? Is this true? Philip, I'm looking at you. Philip, dear readers, is my genius older brother. The one I had to follow in school. The one that caused math teachers the world around to look at me, heads cocked and stutter, "Sarah. Kennedy? Philip's sister? But, but you're dumb as a bag of hammers! How can this be so?" I'm the one who inspired Mr. Jackson to Tourette's like exclamations of "Judas' Priest!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Adventures in Appalachia-Part Three

Part One is here. Part Two is here.

The Missionary Apartment.

It was nicely furnished inside, but Steve and I called dibbs on two twin beds and quickly fell asleep, holding hands between the beds. Later, our traveling companions came in to hug us goodbye, but I only remember this vaguely. I was still in dreamland.

At some point during our extended sleep fest, some workers from the school's kitchen came to visit. They knocked. No answer. They opened the door and cautiously came in. Startled at seeing us sprawled out in the twin beds, they quietly left food and drink in the tiny kitchen and crept out again.

We woke to find sweet tea (blech!) and some sort of meal which we wolfed down. We had no idea how the food had arrived and we didn't care. These people could have been cannibals or axe murderers and we still would have eaten their food. My Michigan co-workers had given me a huge basket of granola bars, hot cocoa mix, fruits and other treats as a going away present and so we devoured that, too.

That day was orientation. Steven. Left. Me. Alone. In a new place, knowing no one, with horrible cramps and worse homesickness, I was left. Later that day, they were finally able to plow the road to our housing area. Hemlock Heights, better known as Honeymoon Hill, due to all the people there being couples without children. Driving up to the little duplex, I noticed a note in the tape deck. It was from Becky, "Cheer up, Sarah, it's only for four years!" I cried, but later. Later I would curl up on my unmade bed and bawl like a heartbroken child.

For now, it was time to unpack.

There were six duplexes arranged in a U-shape. We were at the base of the U. Every couple there came out to help us move in. I really need to repeat that. Every couple came out. A woman who was eight months pregnant was lugging and carrying along with everybody else. Due to this abundant help, we were unloaded in no time. Steven headed out with a new friend to drop off the moving van and I started to put things in their new homes.

Steven started classes. He came home every afternoon and told me what he'd learned. We made friends with the people on the Hill. Christina loved to tease me for my northern accent and I'd try my best to sound more Southern. She was from Georgia and her husband from Mississippi. The couple sharing our duplex was Moses (yes, Moses, at a Bible college) from Africa and his wife, whose name escapes me.

Michelle (the pregnant lady) was leaving her job at the Kitchen and asked me if I wanted it. She'd put in a good word if I was interested. Heck yeah, I'm interested! We'd burned through our meager savings and were getting a little desperate for cash.

I started as a cleaning woman. I'd come in as the day shift was finishing serving lunch and clean up their mess. I was pretty good, if I do say so myself. The head kitchen lady, Barb, would always comment on how thorough I was. Before too long, I was cooking the evening meal in addition to my cleaning duties. More hours, more money. ($5.15 an hour is nothing to sneeze at, especially when I could take home dinner to Steven for free.) The guys at Kelly Hall loved me. If I'd prepared too much food, I'd let them take it back to their apartments for later.

Steven started working on the mowing crew. They'd mow (yup), shovel snow, keep up the grounds and whatever other heavy lifting jobs they could come up with. Including killing baby bunnies (accidentally, or so they say) and letting the black snakes live (they eat baby bunnies, dontchaknow).

When the weather got nice, I'd walk to work. About ten minutes of walking while staring, enamored, at the surrounding mountains. Often I didn't pay attention to my immediate surroundings. On such a day, I caught a glimpse of something brown and scaly slithering away. Had I almost stepped on a copperhead? Yes, folks, yes. I trotted the rest of the way to work and kept my eyes on the ground after that.

The end of my journey took me behind Kelly Hall and along the banks of Clear Creek. One day, I saw a duck in the middle of the creek. It didn't move. The next day it was there again. And the next...
picture is Kelly Hall (borrowed from the official website), which was the men's dorm when we lived there. It also contained the school's kitchen and a huge, gorgeous banquet hall, used for everyday eating and often for weddings, meetings and other community events.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bagels for BYOB!

I'm proud to report that I haven't purchased bread since starting the BYOB challenge over at the Baker's Bench. I found a great bagel recipe here.

Homemade Bagel Recipe
*adapted from John D Lee*
4 c bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil (Being out of veggie, I used olive. Good result.)
2 tsp instant yeast
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. The dough should feel stiff, but add the extra water if it's really stiff, or you can't get all the dry flour incorporated.

Plop the dough down onto the counter, and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough is uniform and smooth. (I used my stand mixer for this, and only kneaded with the dough hook for about five minutes. Kneading dough is great for working out frustrations and building up those muscles. My arms are big enough, thanks.)

Cut the dough into 8 equal sized balls, and let rest for 10-20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425.

Recalling your childhood playdough fun, roll each dough ball into a snake. Once it's about a long as the width of both your hands, roll it around one of your hangs and join the ends together. The dough will adhere to itself easier if you wet your fingertips a little before the smooshing part. Practice makes perfect! (I really liked his description for the rolling...he's even got a video of it on his site...)

Let your bagels rest on the counter for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, and grease a large baking tray lightly.

After the 20 minute wait, your bagels will start to look puffy, and it's time to get them boiling! Add them as many at a time as you can to your boiling water without crowding them. Boil for about a minute, turn them over (use a fork or a chopstick) and boil for another minute. Take them out and let dry for a minute and then place them on your oiled baking tray. Repeat until all the bagels are boiled.

Add the tray to the oven, and after 10 minutes, flip the bagels over, bake for another ten minutes.

Let them cool for at least 20 minutes.

Add toppings after the boiling if you like. Onion, poppy seeds, pig droppings, whatever you want. I sprinkled on some sesame seeds and they look beautiful. Bake in the same way, turning bagels over halfway through baking.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adventures in Appalachia-Part Two

Part One is here.
It snowed from the second we hit Kentucky all the way down into the southeastern corner where we were headed. Snow is no big deal for three tough Yankee drivers. We laugh in the face of snow. As long as we're on flat, Yankee land, that is. Snow in the mountains is another story. We crawled down the roads, some of them hollowed out from the very mountains. Even in my exhausted and emotionally drained stupor, I still marveled over the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. My first view of them I will never forget. They kind of creep up on you; you don't even realize you're climbing up until you catch a glimpse of the view through the trees. Trees and mountains as far as the eye can see.

Exiting the highway in Corbin, we saw a barbecue place and gas station or two and that was about it. Coming from Flint, which has a population of about 114,000 to Corbin, which has about 7,500 was kind of a shock. And we weren't even at our final destination yet. (Note: Pineville has about 2,000 residents.)

We continued along 25E, winding our way around mountains and slower moving vehicles, looking for salt trucks or even sand trucks to no avail.

Finally we reached Clear Creek Road, the road that would bring us to college and our new home. On the left were a group of trailers that looked like they had been dropped out of the sky and were haphazardly perched along the roadway. On the right was a golf course, snowed in for the winter.

We got to the school and were greeted by a man in overalls who was driving a little tractor with a snowplow attached to the front.

"School's closed for the snow," he called.

We parked our moving van and the two cars in the empty lot.

"You'll never make it up to your housing area in this!"

The tired, vicious snakewoman in me had a little inner monologue: Let us at least try! We've been on the road for 13 hours! Get out of our way! I will drag this van up the mountain!

The real me just stood there, staring at the snow covered mountains.

Overall man (later introduced as Mr. Fain) showed us into a little building just off the main school. A sign over the door proclaimed that it was the Foxes' Den. Inside were mailboxes, vending machines, and oh, sweet Jesus, couches. We all collapsed. Surely students and faculty alike came in and out while we rested, but we were happily oblivious.

Finally, the road to our temporary housing was clear enough for us to pass. Leaving our van at the school, we traversed the twisting road up to a little house set apart from the rest of the school buildings.

The Missionary Apartment.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Adventures in Appalachia-Part One

Otherwise known as "How This Yankee Girl Came to Love Bluegrass"

Telling our families we were moving to Kentucky was hard. Our mothers cried to be losing us, and our fathers thought we were crazy to be leaving great jobs for Pineville, located in Bell Country, the "poorest county in the United States." It's actually the 82nd poorest county in the country. They understood, though. However they disagreed with our decision, God meant for us to go to Kentucky, and we were going.

The day we moved was a church day. We skipped church and huddled with our families in our emptied out apartment to pray and cry together. One more hurried look through closets and bedrooms to make sure nothing was forgotten and we were on our way.

We left after dark.

Steven's best friend, Bogie and his brother, Billy accompanied us, along with our friend, Ryan and my sister, Becky.

We had a huge moving truck, our old Cutlass, and our beloved Lumina, Antonio (RIP). We also had walkie talkies for ease of communication during our eight-hour trek.

The trip started out easily enough. We joked on the walkies, listened to music and speculated on what life would be like in the mountains.

When we got hungry, we stopped at a Waffle House. It happened to be about 3 a.m. in downtown Cincinnati. When we pulled into the parking lot, three of the waitresses ran up to the moving truck grinning and laughing. I felt like a celebrity. Turns out, they thought we were selling soap. I am absolutely not making this up. They asked if we had apple-scented soap for sale. When we said no, they were disappointed and walked dejectedly back into the restaurant. I hoped they wouldn't hold any grudges while making our food.

Inside, we were greeted and seated by a policeman wearing some kind of coveralls like you sometimes see on a mechanic. Yes, he was a policeman, complete with gun and handcuffs. Still, we sat. And ordered, no less.

Looking around the seating area, we saw a man with his arms around two scantily clad women, and few drunk guys boisterously chatting up the waitresses, and some truckers drinking coffee.

Sarah's inner monologue: Okay, we just need to drink our coffee and get out of here. Oh my God, that guy is looking at me. Oh, if he comes over here I'm going to lose it. Oh, he's walking over. I'm going under the table to hide. Oh my God!

Steven's spoken monologue: Guys, drink your coffee and let's get out of here. Hurry up, hurry up, here comes the cop!

Steven drank three cups of coffee and ate two waffles in about five minutes. Then he had to go potty, as often happens. The policeman escorted him to the restroom and unlocked the door for him. How helpful.

We paid our check and hit the road...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mmmmm, Soup!

The best thing about the Easter feast? Leftovers. I made a picnic pork shoulder roast with mushroom gravy. Mmmmm. When all the feasting was done, I had a lovely pork bone just perfect for making stock. I'd never made porky pig ham stock before, but I figured it couldn't be much different than making poultry stock and so I did!


Pork Shoulder with Mustard-Mushroom Gravy

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped peeled carrots (about 12 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 bay leaf
4 1/2 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups dry white wine
1 7 1/2-pound picnic pork shoulder roast, trimmed of rind and all but 1/8-inch-thick layer of fat
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, coarsely chopped
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, thyme and bay leaf. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups broth and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover pot partially. Simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off fat if necessary. Strain into 4-cup glass measuring cup, pressing on solids; discard solids. Add more broth if necessary to measure 4 cups, or return broth to pot and boil until reduced to 4 cups. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool to room temperature. Cover; chill.)

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Place roasting rack in shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle pork generously with salt and pepper. Set pork, fat side up, on rack in roasting pan. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of pork registers 180°F, about 3 hours. Transfer to cutting board. Tent with foil. Scrape pan juices into 1-cup glass measuring cup. Spoon off fat. Reserve juices.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add all mushrooms. Cover and cook until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Pour pan juices and 4 cups broth into mushrooms. Bring to simmer. Mix 4 tablespoons butter and flour in small bowl to form paste. Add mustard. Gradually whisk paste into skillet. Cook until gravy thickens slightly, whisking occasionally, about 5 minutes. Serve pork with gravy.

After da food, stick the bone in a pot of water with some salt and pepper and spices and seasonings of your choice. Boil, boil til the bone crumbles, adding water as needed to keep the bone completely submerged.

Strain, cover and refrigerate the liquid gold. Remove the layer of fat that'll gather on top before using. Freeze or use within a week.

Homemade pork stock + leftover mushroom gravy + a handful of carrots + a bunch of cubed ham + a cup of barley =

Steven actually said, "Doggone it, this soup is delicious, dear."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Much better, thank you!

Had a poopity day today. There's only so long that I can listen to other peoples' problems before I just lose it. And so, I went hunting. For a greasy, fattening and utterly delicious lunch.

Sonic! I thought. Sonic has delicious greasy cheeseburgers AND cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper! Can life get better? I submit that it cannot.


I've been so bad lately. Eating junk food. Not wanting to cook dinner at night. What's up with that?

So I talked myself down. Topz! That's the solution! It's the guilt-free grill! One grilled ahi tuna burger and an order of baked, not fried onion rings later and I was feeling fine. (and $10 lighter, but that's beside the point, right?)

Yes, I took a picture of my onion ring while stopped at a light. Pipe down! At least I wasn't on a cell phone!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bay, Bay for Everyone!

We've already established that my parents are awesome, right?

Here is the lovely apron they had made for me when I mentioned wanting a "June Cleaver- type apron" one Christmas. Isn't it cute?!

(Pay no attention to the sumo- hairstyle. That's how I always look in the kitchen.)

But what's that weird plant- like alien life form on the wall? Oh that? That's just my bay leaf wreath. What? You don't have a bay leaf wreath? Oh, for shame. I pity the fool who doesn't have a bay leaf wreath. Bay is so good in so many things. Liiiikkkkeeee...

Mr. Brown's Tomato Sauce

You'll need:

2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes (or you can use fresh. This is perfect for when your neighbor brings you twelve bushels of their leftover tomatoes.)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 onion
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
2 ounces olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained (no capers for me)
1/2 cup white wine (I use chicken broth)
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Bay. Tons of bay. The recipe doesn't call for it, but I think it adds a little extra flavor boost.

In a sieve over a medium non-reactive saucepot, strain the tomatoes of their juice into the sauce pot. Add the sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil (and bay, if you're using it. And why wouldn't you use it?) to the tomato juice. Stir and cook over high heat. Once bubbles begin to form on the surface, reduce to a simmer. Allow liquid to reduce by 1/2 or until liquid has thickened to a loose syrup consistency.

Squeeze each tomato thoroughly to ensure most seeds are removed. Set the tomatoes aside.

Cut carrot, onion, and celery into uniform sizes and combine with olive oil and garlic in a non-reactive roasting pan over low heat. Sweat the mirepoix until the carrots are tender and the onion becomes translucent, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers to the roasting pan.

Place roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Tomatoes should start to brown slightly on edges with light caramelization. Remove the pan from the broiler. Place the pan over 2 burners on the stove. Add the white wine to the tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes over medium heat.

Put the tomatoes into a deep pot or bowl and add the reduced tomato liquid (minus the bay leaves) to the tomatoes. Blend to desired consistency and adjust seasoning.

Perfect for spaghetti, pizza, or whatever else your twisted little brain can come up with.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Where Dost I Write?

Octamom asked this question, and I think it's an interesting one. It seems that mommy bloggers have a lot to contend with if they want to write. Me, I just sit down and type. Biggest interruption I get is Steven asking me for a cup of coffee. Here's my sanctuary.

Blogging, to me, is therapy. Most of what I write never sees the light of day. My dashboard is a smorgasbord of words, thoughts and ideas, most of which will be deleted. (kinda makes you wonder about my posting process, don't it?)

Friday, April 3, 2009

If I Were on Death Row... last meal would be:

Salmon Patties (made by Mother Dearest)
mac n'cheese* (the fluorescent yellow kind from a box)
and fresh delicious bread. White. From frozen bread dough, best beloved.

Though I'm kind of a food snob, my choices are oddly pre-packaged and predictably comforting.

And for dessert? Um, um Chocolate. Covered. Strawberries.

How bout you? Give me your death row meal, pronto.
*I originally typed "man n'cheese." Freudian slip?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm Not Preggers!

Steve and I don’t have kids yet, but that doesn’t stop us from talking about what we will and won’t do once we do have them.

For example, we have names picked out (well at least for the first one): Katharine Elisabeth for a girl or Steven Duane III for a boy.

When we first married, Steve liked the name OJ Curtis. Yes folks, that’s Orenthal James Curtis. Also Jamie, but then I discovered he had a former girlfriend named Jamie, so that name went sailing right out the window. I liked Claire, but he is convinced that kids would tease her and call her Éclair. Which is so much worse than OJ, dontchaknow. I like original names, but once the public gets their talons into a name, that’s it. I have a nephew named Kaeden, which I thought was pretty original, but now everybody and their grandma is named Kaeden.

My mom insists that when I was born, there were no other Sarahs around and I was the only Sarah Elisabeth they’d ever heard of. Sure, Mom. That’s why there were three Sarahs in my sixth grade class and two of us were Sarah Elisabeth. And all of us were BFFs, which was occasionally pretty confusing. Now there are three Sarahs at my church, though we are very diverse in age. One works with me in the Kitchen Committee and the other is a student in my Sunday School class. Also pretty confusing.

I want to homeschool, I know that for sure. We both had public school educations and there is no way I’d inflict that on my kids. (Please don’t shoot me if your kids are public school kids. I’m sure your town has better schools than mine did. Actually, I can’t really blame the schools; I had great teachers, I just stayed bored.)

We disagree over whether or not to buy our not-quite-kids cars or to pay for their college education. I think once they’re old enough to have a job (like, say age 11) they should start looking for an apartment.

I tell you all of this to show you this scary glimpse into the future. World, meet Baby Curtis. It's got my dimples and Steven's eyebrows. And is that a beard?! What an adorable creature!

What your own devil baby? Click here!