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Autumn Preview

After being crazy hot the in mid-August, it’s been cool and rainy for the last week, giving us a preview of September and October.

I went looking for a fall picture, remembering the banner below:


I thought I might find some nice fall-y food shots, but what I found instead was a whole set of old School Woods banners.

Made me miss doing the meals there – especially now that the place is officially for sale. It was a lot of work getting it ready – but it looks great.

And of course it will be 90° in time for the start of school next Wednesday.



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Plum Kuchen

On Sunday night, I made a plum cake with the little plums I got at the Farmers Market. I took it to work on my bike on Monday, for an all day meeting. There was some left and I had another slice for breakfast at work on Tuesday. I think it only has about 250 calories per slice. But it’s so good, it’d still be worth it at a higher calorie count.

I already posted these shots all over the Internet – my Instagram goes to Twitter and Tumblr – but I love how the plums make little dents in the cake, and the edges almost fold over.

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What a day …

What a F’ing day … Started off & the cats were just being pesty, hissing at each other, knocking stuff down, getting into everything. Like when I went into my bathroom and Hammie was standing on the toilet seat splashing water everywhere. Easy to remember because she’s in my lap now, squeaking and butting my hands to try to get me to pet her, and kneading my leg with her claws. She’s warm and shedding and making my face itch.Blue_Statice_Flower_350

I sorted out the leftover flowers from the birthday dinner, that we hardly enjoyed because they spent most of their life on top of the fridge where the cats couldn’t get them. I put a jar of statice with no water on the pass thru. I went out to get the papers, and was thinking, “Hmm, maybe I can get some glads at the Market”, and Hammie knocked the jar over.

We biked to the Farmers Market – that was nice – talked to friends, got coffee. We were conservative in our purchases because Mark’s going to Door County for his use it or lose it vacation while I stay here and get my online courses ready. I got a bag of peaches and a basket of plums and dragon tongue beans to cook with tomatoes & onion like the ones in my birthday dinner salad last week. And poblanos to roast. And corn. But people were clumpy and slow and annoying.

We came home and had separate breakfasts. I had a hard-boiled egg and cheese sandwich and some of the plums. Not sure what Mark had – something from Stella’s. He went off to the library, and to run errands for his trip, and I went to E. Wash to get stuff out of the basement.

Hard boiled egg sandwich with homemade pickles and mayo

Hard boiled egg sandwich with homemade pickles and mayo

Little plums from Morren Farm

Little plums from Morren Farm

Belinda and Stephen met me there, and we got things cleared up pretty fast. The painter stopped by too, and we made arrangements for when he’ll finish and when the cleaners will come. And it’s looking really good.

There was an old broken table with a glass top in the basement, and I was going to take it with a load of other stuff to the trash and recycle drop off, but we decided to leave it on the curb, along with a clothing rack. Mistake. I decided I wanted to get a new dish drainer and shower curtain, so I came home for coupons, to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond. When I got back the glass top was smashed, in the gutter and the street, and the sidewalk. Probably someone taking the clothes rack broke it and left it for me to clean up.

I was pretty tired by the time I got back home. A lot of the stuff in the basement was heavy. Like the 80 pounds of water softener salt I brought home, or the old trash can of dirt and sticks that I dumped in the yard waste pile, and then tossed into the rigid plastic dumpster at the trash and recycle drop off. So probably not so surprising that after I mixed up the bread dough with the sponge I’d had rising, I discovered the little bag of seeds that was supposed to go in, still sitting on the shelf. That might’ve actually been a good thing, since I kneaded the seeds in, instead of mixing them in with the mixer.

I decided that instead of working on setting up my online courses, I could relax a little bit – it was after 4:00 already. So I took a shower, and then was going to sit and read on the back deck. But even that took work – the resin Adirondack chairs needed to be scrubbed before they could be sat on.

Resin Adirondack chairs

Resin Adirondack chairs

I made an Aperol sprizter, but ended up only drinking part of it. (I mixed another one to drink with this blog post). I fooled around trying to take a picture of myself that looks like my dad.



I made a good pasta – penne with corn and onions cooked in a generous amount of butter, with goat cheese, a little drizzle of half & half, the pesto that was trying to turn black in the fridge, and a roasted pepper – in the course of making dinner, I got the poblanos roasted, too. I cooked a whole pound of pasta, but only used half – the corn lightened it up. There’s still stuff to wash in the sink, but only one pot and one half sheet pan. And I think the seedy bread will make good toast for breakfast tomorrow.

I brought home the little bunch of fake grapes I used to put in the bathroom at E. Wash – but I might have to take them back – the paint’s messed up in the little alcove where I always put them, from some deodorizer thing that Belinda tried when they used to have to keep the cat box in there – so maybe it needs fake grape camouflage. I’m sure it’ll make all the difference in the selling the house.

Fake Grapes

Fake Grapes

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Summer’s end

But not really – it’s only August 19th. It’s just a change in the weather.

After a stormy night last night, all of a sudden it’s grey and cloudy and 63°, which feels like about 40°, since it’s been so hot. On Monday I made it home before the rain, and worked until almost 7:30 reading student papers. I sold a few more supper club chairs – I’ve made almost $100. Then I had ice cream. The towel dams held until about 11:00 PM. I decided to check one last time before bed, and they were soaked – but in a way that was good, it meant I did all the sopping up, and spin drying and washing & drying towels last night, instead of this morning before my 9:00 AM Tuesday morning meeting.

I’m just in a funny unsettled state. I went off to that 9:00 AM meeting, and it wasn’t too cold while I was walking there, but freezing when I walked home. Where I spent the rest of the day grading, and I had everything submitted to the registrar by about 3:00.

There’s a ton of stuff in my email to deal with, I have two course syllabi to write, and online course spaces to set up, and I keep feeling like I should go over to E. Wash because I’m trying to get it ready to sell, but I just fooled around with email and then collapsed on the couch for 45 minutes or so –

I had a blueberry banana smoothie and some leftover hummus for lunch. I think I haven’t been eating enough bananas recently, because I’ve been getting leg cramps. Then I went on a bit of a cleaning out rampage. The leftover goat cheese from the birthday dinner seemed a little off, so I got rid of it, and the soggy popcorn, and the bowl with the last hunks of tuna and scraps from the salad. I’m still trying to decide what to do with the corn soup. Pasta sauce? Add potatoes and bacon for corn chowder? If it stays cold.

Funny weather – hot, cold, humid, dry – giant mushroom growing by Science Hall on the way to work. There were some big ones in my front yard, too – but they got all kind of baked and dried out during the hot days.



Rach and I went and did a little shopping – she got a dressy sweatshirt and a really great pair of jeans. I bought a top and pair of tie-dye leggings. Spent that $100 from the chairs – maybe i’ll tske the top back … We came home and I ate salad – which I could’ve topped with the birthday dinner salad scraps if I hadn’t run them down the disposal a few hours prior – and she had hummus for supper.

Now I’m watching ends of action movies on cable – Non-stop with Liam Neeson, and now Reindeer Games with a 15-years-younger Ben Affleck. Is he really sleeping with the nanny, like the tabloids say?

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Birthday dinner


Julia Google Doodle

Julia Google Doodle

Julia Child’s birthday is August 15th, which was a Saturday this year, so that seemed like as good a reason as any to have my birthday dinner that night, even though my real birthday was the Tuesday before. Julia turned 103 – I’m a lot younger, I just feel like 103 sometimes.

We had a pretty impressive array of appetizers:

  • Hummus with a curried onion and cauliflower topping, kind of like this Food & Wine recipe – I didn’t have the pink peppercorns, and I probably used less olive oil for the frying, served with some breads that Costco was called Naan but worked fine as pita;
  • Little toasts to spread with whipped goat cheese (that had a little honey mixed in) and zucchini butter, and roasted cherry tomatoes, and a few Potters Crackers cranberry hazelnut crisps from the Farmers Market;
  • Dill dip, and carrots and cucumbers and red and green peppers;
  • Bowls of curried cashews and wasabi peas from the co-op.

Then we ate chilled corn soup, topped with fresh popped popcorn, and I had bread bowls with mini corn muffins with fresh corn kernels in them, and focaccia, on the tables.

Followed by Salade Niçoise – that was the homage to Julia. Nice mixed greens, mesclun, (from what we call the “beautiful booth” Jones Valley Farm, where L’Etoile restaurant buys, too), steamed multi-color fingerlings, tossed with their own vinaigrette, and extra parsley, hard boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, chunks of tomato, and green beans. Tipi gave us Romano beans in our CSA boxes on Thursday, and I was going to roast them, but thought they might be too tough, so I decided to cook them the way I normally would – braised with onions, and tomatoes, and dill.

Partly the lightness of the dinner was so we could finish off with pie – I made a cherry pie and a peach galette, and a crisp from the leftover peach and cherry pie filling, mixed.

We decided to have everyone go upstairs for the appetizers, then come down for dinner, and then go back up for dessert, buffet style. We also decided, even though I served up the soup in individual bowls, to serve the salad on the buffet too, on the big platters that would be too hard to pass. Everything worked just about perfectly, and I had a ton of help, although the guests all showed up a bit early. Kind of why I thought I could do regular dinners here. We have the space, and I sure have the equipment. Rach is here, she organized her work week to be here for the party, and my brother came from Seattle, and both kids and one of their girlfriends (the other had to work) from Chicago. It was really fun having a house full of family, and a bunch of good friends.

I got a few key items for the dinner in my CSA box Thursday – the Romano beans and lots of tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers to cut up to go with the hummus and dill dip.  I did a Costco / Willy St. run on Friday morning to buy party stuff, then came home to do party prep. I made the hummus, and I had something like 19 ears of corn, from the market and my CSA box, and I got it all cut off the cobs, and measured out for the soup and the muffins and corn salad. Saturday morning my brother, Mark, and I biked to the Farmers Market Saturday for the rest of the supplies – lettuce and cauliflower and cherry tomatoes and potatoes and more corn just because I wanted it.

Friday night we had a pick up dinner of stuff I got out of the freezer – beef & bean burritos and a chicken enchilada casserole – plus the corn salad with an avocado cut up on top & chips. We opted NOT to go to Sugar Maple Fest, and I baked all the pies, and made the little toasts. The cherry came out best – the peach and the crumble got soggy by Sunday, when I ate the top of the crumble for a mid-afternoon snack. On Saturday I made the corn soup – I was so glad that I knew to cook the vegetables until they were really soft, based on my test batch experience. I also made the focaccia and mini corn muffins, boiled eggs, braised the green beans, cut up the veggies for the dip – Al says he came into the kitchen for a carrot and I told him to get out – I don’t remember that – made the hummus topping, steamed the potatoes, and tossed them in some scallion vinaigrette I had in the fridge, made a big batch of fresh vinaigrette and dressed the tuna. Rinsed the greens.

It all sounds like a lot of prep on Saturday, but there was time for Rach and my brother and I to eat egg salad made from the eggs that wouldn’t peel and the too vinegar-y pickles I had in the basement, made from an earlier CSA box’s cucumber and fresh dill, on buttered dense whole wheat bread. And there was still time for moving furniture – Al was our muscle – and making placecards, and showers, and I got Rach to French braid my hair, and make up my eyes.

There was pretty much the right amount of everything – still kind of a lot of corn soup in a big jar in the basement fridge (maybe I can make it into pasta sauce or enchiladas…)  – but we had bagels with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes and zucchini butter for Sunday breakfast and my brother kept slicing hunks off the focaccia, so now there’s just about the right amount of it it to freeze with the corn muffins (that got pretty crumbly) for breadcrumbs and a Thanksgiving stuffing that couldn’t be beat. I picked the wilted lettuce leaves out of the bowl of salad leftovers, and now there’s a mixture of tuna, olives, green beans, and potato that I bet Rach and I can eat up this week, maybe on top of fresh greens.

It was fun being surrounded by family and friends, interesting and embarrassing, too. Al obviously remembers some things a little differently than John and I do. Well, maybe not exactly differently, instead, as a member of the “never let the truth stand in the way if a good story” contingent in our family – that would be him, my mom, and my brother – he has used his skills as a raconteur to create a suitably embellished version of events that’s just a bit more tellable. Interesting, and embarrassing, too, for those of us who play a part in the tale.

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Happy Birthday to Me

Last year my birthday was on a Monday, and I made pie and took it to a meeting. This year it was a Tuesday. We went to Chicago, looked at a new apartment, and went to baseball with the John and Megan. We picked them up at John’s apartment and a few of the guys, John’s high school friends, were visiting, before they went to the game, too, so got to say hi to them. We stayed the night in Chicago, got up and I did a little work while Mark went and signed the lease for the new place ( we liked it), and we stopped at the WI State Fair on the way home.

Here’re the pics – I’m still having trouble getting portfolio slideshow to show captions, so I guess I’ll just list them. Then if there are subsequent upgrades to the software, it’ll all be doubled up …

  1. Fixed myself up with gladiola iPhone wallpaper while I was riding the train down to Chicago
  2. Birthday cupcakes that we bought while walking from the train to the apartment
  3. Birthday cupcakes eaten – the confetti cake was a little dry
  4. Chicago dog & fries at the Brewers vs. Cubs game. My first time at Wrigley. I sorta forgot what it’s like to be fans of the visiting team – when the majority of the crowd is booing, you’re clapping & cheering. There were a few Brewer fans in front of us – note the blue t-shirts behind my dog.
  5. My ticket to the state fair – Senior price for first time. We rode the funicular, looked at horses and pigs, and prize pies, cheeses, and quilts – but mostly we ate.
  6. Breakfast-all-day-tater tots, with egg, bacon, cilantro, Siracha, and cheese whiz. We also split an ear of corn, and a half butterflied porkchop sandwich.
  7. Cookie monsters in a bakery case
  8. Cookie monsters in a bakery case
  9. Cream puffs behind glass – there were too many old people behaving badly at the fair – like taking pics of their grandkids in the cream puff line for example – license for me to take a pic of the puffs. We got ours to go, and are about to go eat them in front of the TV. Downton Abbey special recorded on Sunday.
  10. Cute card from Lesleigh, with cute cat sticker


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Another Sunday’s cooking

I’m having a bit of trouble getting portfolio slideshow to display my picture captions – but I bet I can get it worked out, eventually.

I made leek & ham tart for breakfast and roasted fingerling potatoes. With bacon on the side, so a heavy on the smoked pork meal, but so tasty. Hammie decided to pose with the fruit – there was Tipi watermelon and cherries and apricots and little plums from Door County, by way of the Dane County Farmers Market.  

Later, I tried out a recipe for chilled corn soup that I’m considering for my birthday dinner – this one has white wine and red bell pepper in it, and you’re supposed to garnish with popcorn. I think I might use this Angostura bitters popcorn instead of the “Honey Thyme Kettlecorn” in the recipe, because I’m afraid it’d be too sticky, with the honey.

I also made upside down apple cake, and it’s another in my saga of wrong size pans; semi-disaster cakes. The recipe said 4 TBLS butter for the topping, and another 6 in the cake, and use an at least 2-inch deep, 9-inch, non-stick cake pan. I have a 2-inch deep, 9-inch, cake pan, but it’s not non-stick. The recipe allowed as how you could use an 8-inch square pan, but I decided to use a 9, to avoid boil over. Anyways, the topping was floating in the butter, and I forgot to put the butter into the cake batter. Which seemed almost tough to me, when the cake was topped with ice cream, and it got cold. It’s also really thin. I’m going to try it again, in a smaller pan, with I think about 4 TBLS butter in the cake.

chilled corn soup

chilled corn soup

Upside Down Apple Cake

Upside Down Apple Cake

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Saturday Before Staycation Week

The new graduate student’s Bootcamp is done, and now I “just” have to grade my 28 internship students, which means their journals and papers to read, and their overall participation in the online course to assess. 

Next week I’m doing a “Staycation”. On Monday, I have an eye doctor appointment, and I want to take the car in, and drop off all the empty cat litter buckets that have been accumulating in the basement at the rigid plastics recycle place, and then I have a meeting. Tuesday is my actual birthday, and we’re going to Chicago for baseball, and planning to stop at the State Fair on the way back on Weds. And it’s like go week for getting E. Wash ready to sell. Thursday I have a zipcar SUV, to move the last of my stuff out.

But I can take it easy, at least for now. I read all my students’ 60-hour journals, and checked them off for the last reading assignment. I made pasta with pesto and roasted sun golds and focaccia garlic toast for dinner. And we watched the third hobbit movie.



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Sunday cooking


Ham salad - I taste tested it on wheat thins - decided it's the high percentage of mayonnaise to meat that makes so it good

Ham salad – I taste tested it on wheat thins – decided it’s the high percentage of mayonnaise to meat that makes it so good

Sandwich focaccia, to eat with tomatoes and goat cheese and ham salad and all manner of summery things

Sandwich focaccia, to eat with tomatoes and goat cheese and ham salad and all manner of summery things

I cooked corn two ways - this is way #1, cut off the cob and boiled for a few minutes with a pinch each of sugar & salt

I cooked corn two ways – this is way #1, cut off the cob and boiled for a few minutes with a pinch each of sugar & salt

Quick pickles - I put tumeric in to make them more like bread & butter pickles. They ought to be good with the ham salad

Quick pickles – I put tumeric in to make them more like bread & butter pickles. They ought to be good with the ham salad

Corn cooking method #2 - cut off the cob and roasted in the oven. Next time I do this, I am going to use parchment so all the good roasted brownness doesn't stick to the pan - although the scrapings were a nice treat for the cook

Corn cooking method #2 – cut off the cob and roasted in the oven. Next time I do this, I am going to use parchment so all the good roasted brownness doesn’t stick to the pan – although the scrapings were a nice treat for the cook

Finally made the sleek, with kale, chard, yellow eye beans, and browned onions - could of had more onions, but still good

Finally made the sleek, with kale, chard, yellow eye beans, and browned onions – could of had more onions, but still good

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Newport Folk ’15 – from afar

I’ve trying to recreate the Newport Folk Festival experience for myself, a little late, and a little removed.

I started by reading an article in the New York Times. Or maybe I got tipped off by one of Robyn Hitchcock’s tweets, there he is in the polka dot shirt – not sure which came first.

 Musicians leading the Bob Dylan tribute at “ ’65 Revisited,” the grand finale of the Newport Folk Festival. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Musicians leading the Bob Dylan tribute at “ ’65 Revisited,” the grand finale of the Newport Folk Festival. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Next I watched a little bit of pro, and then way too much judder-y vid of various musicians.

Visions of Johanna – Al would’ve been a Johanna if he’d of been a girl. I like the name, when I was growing up we had a family friend named Johanna (called Hanna) whose mom was a doctor who worked with my dad, and her father was a judge. I remember staying at their ski cabin in Ligonier, Penna. – the old abbreviation for Pennsylvania, and her mom’s nickname. It smelled like bacon and woodsmoke and pine trees.  And John & Al’s dad, Jeff, agreed to Johanna because it’s in a Dylan song – “possibly the greatest song ever written”, as Robyn says.

Then I tried looking in the Internet Archive for recordings. Nothing there – so I guess that makes me waiting for something to come out.

And, looky here – Watkins family Hour doing Brokedown Palace even made CBS This Morning, although I think this is the night before Newport at a theater. I watched a different snippet of them performing it, that I can’t seem to find again, where they were arranged slightly differently, and Sara Watkins is in black.

And I guess the real coda to my Newport Festival remote experience was this piece on WPR. I turned on the radio in the bedroom a little earlier than usual, because Mark’s off at Lollapalloza, haha. Absolutely no one there I thought I wanted to see, I mean c’mon, Metallica is the Saturday headliner this year, plus wandering in Grant Park with 100,000 people just does not appeal to me anymore, even to see a few bands I like. Anyhow, when I turned on the radio I heard this preacher-y voice talking about playing music by the water, to 22,000 beating hearts – which turned out to be Michael Perry, the narrator of Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires Fest. This was followed by a piece on the history of the 1960s through music festivals, with Craig Werner, a UW-Madison history prof, who often lectures in the classroom across the hall from my office. He talked about Newport ’65 as the handoff from the old left to the new counter culture (sex and drugs and rock & roll). Made me want to go find a good New Speedway Boogie; I had a feeling I had never seen one, and looks like the Dead didn’t play it from like 1970 to 1991 – found this one (track 9), Jerry totally muffs the words, but it’s still good – and I listened while scooping the cat litter. I heard a little sound bite of this piece on why I hate music festivals, about having to sit through a band that you hate to see one that you like, and there’s a zillion people, and the bathrooms are disgusting port-a-potties – about how I feel. I’ll take my music one or two bands at a time, in a club, please. By the time I got downstairs, it was the Indigo Girls talking about the end of the Michigan Women’s Music Fest – the last one is this year.

And ugh, I’ve taken so long writing this I will NOT be early at the Farmers Market. Oh, well. All festival hating aside, I really wish I’d been at Newport ’15.

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