Love. Listen/Observe/Read. Act. Repeat.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bonenkai or not?

There are many things about 2011 that tell me it doesn't matter how many black-eyed peas I eat, that Southern tradition for good luck isn't going to work for me.

I loved being a part of many year-end parties in Japan when I was there twenty-five years ago. (Gad, that's a long time.) Even though 1985 was a good year, everyone acted as if it couldn't come to an end soon enough so that they could have another shot at it in the New Year. We ate like kings. And then the New Year came -- and that's three full days of resting and eating and being with family and friends.

Now, 1986 was a very good year for me. So I'm thinking Paige's little project this afternoon of making ramen noodles from scratch (based on a website that has thorough directions, with photos) ought to be our bonenkai. She's trying to channel her dad, who was an excellent pasta maker (his recipe below -- he would have the noodles cut by the time the water was boiling).

Yep, I'm thinking 2012 is going to be a very good year.

Mark's Perfect Pasta
Two heaping 1/3 cups of semolina flour
1 egg
1 T. water
1 tsp. olive oil
white flour
large pot boiling, salted water

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process til a ball forms, about 3 minutes.

Turn out on a floured board and knead for a minute or two until supple. If it's too wet, knead flour into it. Divide into parts and put through your pasta machine. You may need to roll it through several times at the wider setting until the dough is supple enough to start rolling it through the thinner settings. Dust with flour on both sides before you roll it through the cutter.
Drop the noodles in the water and cook until slightly swollen, about five to ten minutes. Big noodles take longer.
Serve hot with garlic butter and grated Romano cheese; your favorite marinara sauce; room temperature with pesto; or cold over cucumber cut julienne style and peanut sauce poured over all.

I've already posted the pesto recipe. I'll put up the peanut sauce recipe tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Text Messages You Don't Want to See While At Work

1:19 p.m.
Sam to Peggy: I got some bad news.
Peggy (holding her breath): What?
1:38 p.m.
Sam: I couldn't fix ClickFree ....
(Peggy exhales.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #149

Peggy: I have a new Christmas arrangement to play for you.
Sam: Yes! The Charlie Brown one. (as Peggy gets to the key change at the bridge) Oh, she's having trouble.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mark's Kahlua

Just about every year this time of year we'd have to hightail it outside and stay gone for a while because Mark would be making kahlua for his friends and music colleagues. The only thing that stinks up the house more than making kahlua is making mustard. Caramelizing onions isn't even on the same scale of stink, I'm telling you.

Ok, guys. Here's the recipe he refined while we were living in Sacramento.

2 quarts plus one cup water
7 cups sugar
6 ounces of freeze-dried coffee
1 T. Hershey's cocoa, optional
1 fifth of Everclear
3 T. vanilla

1. Drive to Reno to buy Everclear. (After we moved to Texas, he drove to Paradise.)
2. Boil water and add sugar. Add coffee and boil for 15 minutes. The house will be really smelly, so go outside. Add the cocoa and remove from the heat. Let cool.
3. Add Everclear and vanilla. Bottle and keep in your liquor cabinet.

Today it's four years since he's been gone.

I don't like thinking that at some point in my life I will have lived more of my life without him than with him.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Overheard on the Dance Floor

Peggy: We twirl pretty well, I think.
Sam: That's because we don't twist each other's arms off.

Oooh, You Make Me Smile

Congratulations, Ted and Lori! Thanks for including us on your big day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Little Girls Are Made Of

As Paige was packing up for college last summer, we had a dilemma. She'd been borrowing my jewelry box for years because she had way more bangles and beads and baubles than I did.

I stopped wearing earrings when the kids were babies and pulled on them. My skin has autism. It doesn't like bracelets or necklaces or rings. She felt a little guilty about taking my box, especially since that left me without anything for the few things I do have.

On her dresser was a box she'd made at art camp in elementary school. It was empty. I asked her about the ceramic piece affixed to the top. Did she remember making it?

No, she said, but she did remember what inspired her. "I had learned the atmosphere was made up of bits of sunlight, and water, and the grass around us. I wanted to make that. I wanted to make the atmosphere."

That went right to my heart. "I'll trade you boxes," I said. She didn't think it was a fair trade, but I convinced her.

My little girl comes home for the holidays tonight.

Sugar and spice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #148

After Peggy plays "Sleigh Ride" on piano and Sam follows that by using the computer to play "Sleigh Ride" on the synthesizer.
Sam: I'll bet your jealous of Sibelius.
Peggy: Why is that?
Sam: It can play Sleigh Ride a lot faster.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Big Girls Are Made Of

Last weekend, my grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday. We sent her a pop-up card. My mother and dad were able to go back to Milwaukee for the fun.

My grandmother and grandfather spent a good part of their retirement crafting and selling their little creations at shows in shopping malls. I have quite a few things they made. My grandfather did a lot of small woodwork. I have a spice rack and most of the wooden toys he made, although they have seen a lot of wear and tear, especially a pull toy that Sam drug around the back patio as toddler in California until it fell apart.

A lesser toy, made of plastic, would have never withstood what Grandpa made.

This is unlike my father, who excels at creating furniture -- I have seven or eight pieces that he built or rehabbed for us -- he had enough of the small work crafting crowns and bridges and filling people's teeth, I think. But I digress.

My grandmother made hundreds of counted cross-stitch pieces. I have some Christmas ornaments, and this little hanging piece that has always hung with on the key rack with the house and car keys.

"Home is where you hang your heart."

That's my grandmother. Only recently, did I start really looking at what else grandma hangs on the key rack besides her heart.

Dang, grandma, you've got a set of boxing gloves, a set of shoulder pads, and a pair of nunchucks hanging there.

No wonder you're living so long.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #147

Sam: Mom, you might want to take a break from the computer.
Peggy: Why? Did you need the Mac?
Sam: No, I'm just worried about your health.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Setback in Santa's Workshop

I have a bad habit of using old appliances until they catch fire or shock me into unconsciousness.

I've been so determined to keep my mid-century Pfaff sewing machine going that I've nearly set the house on fire twice. The first time, I warned the shopkeeper that I was bringing it in for service because it had nearly caught fire and to please be careful.

When I came to pick it up, he said, "Dang, we nearly set the shop on fire."

Today was the last straw. Tomorrow, I buy a new machine. There is too much to do for Christmas, and I can tell I'm just asking for trouble.

After all the sparks flew this time, Sam came into the office/sewing room/Santa's workshop and said, "What's that burning smell?"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy 24th, Sam!

The only time in his life I can buy a pack of candles and use every last one of them.

Here is the cake we nearly always bake for a Wolfe family birthday, ever since I bought Rosso and Lukins New Basics Cookbook and adapted it.

The Chocolate Birthday Cake

1 c. butter
1 1/4 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
9 T. buttermilk
1 c. boiling water
2 tsp. vanilla

Cream the butter and the sugar in the mixer for five minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in the microwave by breaking the blocks in pieces and microwaving on high one minute. If not fully melted, microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted. Fold into butter and egg mixture.

Sift flour, soda and salt together. Add one third of flour mixture with 3 T. of buttermilk and mix on low. Repeat two times, mixing until all buttermilk and flour is incorporated.

With mixer on low, slowly pour in boiling water and then add vanilla. Pour into two prepared cake pans (I prefer Doughmakers) and bake at 375 til it pulls away from the sides and springs back in the middle, 25 to 32 minutes.

While the cake cools, melt 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips in a small saucepan with 8 T. of butter over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, gently store in 2/3 c. half-n-half, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 c. confectioner's sugar. This mixture will be thin. Refrigerate, stirring every 10-15 minutes until its stiff enough to frost the cake.

Start by applying a thin layer of ganache on the bottom cake round. Sprinkle with additional chocolate chips, pressing them down into the ganache. Top with other round, frost top and sides.

Serve. Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #146

After spending half her paycheck on massive plumbing repairs, part 4, ...

Peggy (looking at Sam in his robe, hair still dry): Were you not able to take a shower?
Sam: No!
Peggy: Why? Is the shower still not working right?
Sam: You didn't put the shampoo back.