Monday, November 06, 2006

The cat will mew and dog will have his day ...

So said Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Halloween was when the cat had his day to mew, as Jimmy, after much deliberation, finally settled on wanting to dress up as a black cat for trick-or-treating.

It almost didn't happen. For several days before Halloween, I worked on the costume so that Jimmy could trick-or-treat on Monday at Jim's workplace, Suncadia. With the clock ticking (one hour and counting 'til trick-or-treating), my sewing machine (a Singer 401A that's 17 years older than I am) suddenly started having thread tension issues. And the spindle for the thread spool kept popping off in mid-stitch. And then the bobbin thread started tangling.

Fear not, the costume was completed with moments to spare—but then, because that would have been too easy and we might have actually been on time for the trick-or-treating, I had to undergo high-powered negotiations with Jimmy about whether he would even put the costume on (we finally settled on him wearing his cat costume if I gave him a fruit snack). Forget about having whiskers and a kitty nose painted on his face!

Halloween itself was far easier; the costume was no longer a novelty and no negotiations were necessary since Jimmy understood that people would give him candy because he was dressed up. We went for a half-hour to our church "trunk-or-treat"—after which it became too cold when the thermometer dropped down in to the 20's, so we headed to Grandma Gail's house and then home for the night. Jimmy still got enough candy that properly rationed, it should last until after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We will eat a last year's pippin of my own graffing ...

Another quote by the Bard—this one from King Henry IV:

Nay, you shall see my orchard, where, in an arbour,
we will eat a last year's pippin of my own graffing . . .

Disregard the fact that this quote is taken completely out of context and focus on its topic: apples. Last week two different friends with their own apple trees gave us big bags of the fruit—many more than we thought we could use. Jim is feeling the stirrings of his annual winter baking frenzy and wanted to bake something with the apples but was perplexed because I've been trying to steer clear of sugar. What a thoughtful husband; he went to the Splenda section of and found a recipe. With a bit of tweaking, he came up with a sugar-free apple pie that tastes virtually the same as the fully-leaded version. It's not low-carb in the sense that he used regular all-purpose flour, but people watching their sugar intake can enjoy a slice with minimal guilt.

Jim's Sugar-Free Apple Pie

2-1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c cake flour
1 T Splenda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c shortening
1/2 c butter
1/2 c ice water

1 egg white
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon brown sugar

7 cups baking apples, thin-sliced, cored, peeled
1 cup Splenda
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 T butter, cut into pieces

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Make the filling: Place sliced apples into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Combine Splenda, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over apples and toss. Set aside.

2. Make the crust: In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in vegetable shortening and butter until coarse. Add ice water, and mix gently until moist. Form two balls, and roll out one of them to line pie plate. Spoon filling into unbaked crust. Dot with butter. Roll out second ball, and cover pie. Fold edges of top crust under bottom crust, and flute edges. Slit top of pie to vent.

3. Make egg glaze: In a small bowl, beat egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush top of pie with mixture, and sprinkle with white and brown sugar. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, and bake until filling bubbles, about 45 minutes.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If there be nothing new ...

In trying to think of the perfect title for my first blog post, I stumbled across Shakespeare's sonnet no. 59:

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguil'd,
Which labouring for invention bear amiss
The second burthen of a former child!
O! that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Wh'r we are mended, or wh'r better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O! sure I am the wits of former days,
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

I’ve debated for a while about whether to jump on the blog wagon because I wondered if I did have anything new, fresh or interesting to say, and whether it was worth committing to print. In the end I succumbed to peer pressure; when two friends in as many weeks sent me links to their new blogs, I decided it was time for me to carve out my own little cybersphere, even at the risk that I "labouring for invention bear amiss."

As I live far away from most of my friends and family, I thought this could be a good way to keep in touch. Please don’t expect anything brilliant or even deeply meaningful from me—that would be so out of character. All I can hope to provide is a creative outlet for myself, combined with selected random thoughts and maybe occasional news about what’s going on with my little family.

On that note, here’s a brief report about the past week. Jimmy continues to make progress with using the toilet, much to his parents’ everlasting relief. We’re in the eighth month of potty training, and are finally seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. This week he got through a couple of nights keeping his diaper dry, as well as keeping training pants dry during the daytime. We’re still trying to figure out what bribe will tempt him to go “poop” in the toilet, because so far he’s only been willing to “pee”. The “poopy treats” we’ve offered (M&M’s, chocolate covered raisins, and a few others) have not been sufficiently enticing, but knowing Jimmy, that’s most likely because he just hasn’t made up his mind that it’s worth his trouble.

Yesterday we drove down to the Costco in Yakima, and Jim and I got eye exams. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is to me because I’ve gone almost three years without getting new glasses and contacts while Jim was self-employed. It’s so wonderful to be blessed with good insurance again!

We’re gearing up for Halloween. While in Yakima, I stopped at the fabric store and picked up the necessary supplies to sew Jimmy’s costume. It took some time but I finally got him to commit to what he wanted to be for Halloween: “a grey stripy kitty like Guido” (Guido is Grampy Trout and Grammy Lo’s cat, who stayed with us for a month during the summer). Today after church, Jimmy went over to Grandma Gail and Grandpa Jim’s house and picked a pumpkin from their garden for Halloween. It’s on the small side, so I’ll probably pick up a couple larger ones to carve as jack-o-lanterns for our front porch. I’m looking forward to that, since we didn’t do any jack-o-lanterns last year, and that’s one of my favorite things to do at Halloween.