Archive for December 2008

New Culinary Explorations

December 30, 2008

For Christmas, Wheeler got me two new cookbooks. One is The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift; the other is Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes from the Big Easy.  Interestingly, Wheeler first heard about both of these books on NPR. (I guess this is a sign that he spends too much time in his car.)

They are both great books. I’ve never gotten engrossed in reading a cookbook, but that has happened on more than one occasion with both of these books. The Splendid Table is not just a cookbook; it includes stories, background, and opinions on recipes, food, ingredients, and society. It’s fascinating reading, and so far, judging from the four dishes I’ve made from it’s pages, the recipes are outstanding. Just in the past two nights, Wheeler and I have tried two completely new things – goat cheese and red chard. Both delicious. The homemade tomato soup I made last night was an eye-opening, and mouth-watering, experience for someone who’s soup history could be summed up with one word: Campbell’s.

I’ve not tried any of the recipes from Cooking Up a Storm yet, but that will change tomorrow when I attempt the “blue cheese puffs” for a New Year’s Eve party. This book is so unique:

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, thousands of people lost their keepsakes and family treasures forever. As residents started to rebuild their lives, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans became a post-hurricane swapping place for old recipes that were washed away in the storm. The newspaper has compiled 250 of these delicious, authentic recipes along with the stories about how they came to be and who created them. Cooking Up a Storm includes the very best of classic and contemporary New Orleans cuisine, from seafood and meat to desserts and cocktails. But it also tells the story, recipe by recipe, of one of the great food cities in the world, and the determination of its citizens to preserve and safeguard their culinary legacy.

Every since we moved to Louisiana last year, I’ve wanted to expand my recipes to include more Cajun recipes. Now, I can.

While some of my friends have looked at me a little strange when I told them about my Christmas gifts (Not just one, but two cookbooks? Where those for your hubby or for you?!), I couldn’t have been more excited. I love to cook, but I had gotten in quite a culinary rut over the last few years. I’ve been as excited cooking dinner the last few nights as I was when I first learned to cook after Jed and I got married. It’s fun again!

Happy eating. And check out these books.


Finally, A New Van

December 30, 2008

I say finally because we were both sick of the Venture and because it took almost a week to get the deal I wanted on the new one.

As for the Venture, it was always a utilitarian vehicle. A minivan can’t be anything else. Even for a mini van, though, it was a hooptie: Ugly, old, raggedy, Chevy. Still, it got us across the country several times and I paid a pittance for it. So we drove it somewhat contentedly.

Then it started breaking down. The a/c last spring. Then a thermostat. The gas gauge stopped working and would have cost too much to be worth fixing, so we kept track of the miles between fillups. The driver’s side window motor barely had enough life to creak the window up. Up next, an alternator. The penultimate problem was the intake manifold gasket. Like I said here, we came thisclose to selling it after that one. But I didn’t.

Then on Christmas – mother f’ing Christmas! – the starter goes out. That was it. Not just one repair too many, but the moment it became personal. We managed to start it and drive home, and the whole way all I wanted to do was drive the stupid POS off the Texas Street Bridge into the Red River. Break down on Christmas after all the patience and loyalty I’d shown, ohh I was mad. I never even considered repairing it.

The next day I got to work. I found the van I wanted Friday, a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan with 28k miles on it. It looks brand new, has a clean carfax, was a one owner vehicle (a rental) and is Chrysler certified, which gives us some extra warranty coverage beyond the 36/36k factory warranty. Chrysler redesigned the things this year, and its super nice. Integrated child safety seats. Stow and go rear seats. High tech stain resistant fabric. Two covered storage compartments in the floor in front of the second row seats. A really nice solid ride. My favorite part is the rear windows role down. As far as I know its the only minivan that does that.

The Blue Book and Edmunds values for it average about 16,000. After a four days of haggling and going home to think and playing one dealer against another, we got it for 12,800. Even better than the sale price is that they gave me 1,250 for my van, which won’t even start. I managed to get it to crank one last time, drove it to the dealer, put in in park in front of the building, went inside to find the salesman, and then told her: “Look at it good now, because once I kill it, it ain’t gonna start again.” And it didn’t. I parked it and that was that.

So now we’ve got a nifty semi-new ride in the driveway and I shouldn’t have to worry about buying another car for at least five or six more years. And I’ll be able to think about blogging and other stuff besides vans and mileage and prices and financing and down payments and all the other variables that I’ve obsessed over for the last several days.

I Hate Buying Cars

December 29, 2008

That’s why I haven’t posted for a few days, too preoccupied with wheein’ and dealin’. I have it down to two possibilities. Hopefully one of them will make me an offer I can’t refuse today. Then all will be normal again.

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2008

Though I’d really like to exterminate the whole season.


Thanks to Kathy for the pic.

Some Real Vampire Movies

December 24, 2008

After suffering through Twilight, I added the following vampire movies to my Blockbuster Online queue:

1. The Lost Boys

2. Nosferatu

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

4. Dracula

5. Blade

6. From Dusk Till Dawn

7. Underworld

I tried to add Vampiros Lesbos (“An erotic horror tale about a vixen vampiress seducing and killing women to appease her insatiable thirst for female blood”), too, but that one got vetoed. Not sure why. I thought it looked interesting.

Oh, and this isn’t a vampire movie, but when I realized Edward Cullen was like a hundred years old and still chasing high school girls, I was immediately reminded of Mathew McConaughey’s finest performance:

What’s The Point Of A Vacation If I Can’t Ride My Bike?

December 23, 2008

Grrrh. Two days into Christmas vacation, and no ride yet. I hadn’t planned on riding yesterday; it was a recovery day from the weekend rides. Today, though, was supposed to be a two or three hour ride with two other guys. Then I saw this:

Drivers are cautioned to drive slowly or not drive at all as a freezing rain advisory remains effect in Caddo and Bossier parishes. Currently, Shreveport police are working nearly two dozen minor accidents, according to 911 dispatchers.

Not wanting the next headline to involve cars sliding on icy roads into cyclists, we decided to stay home.

So here I sit, sipping my coffee and posting on my blog. All well and good, but I want to ride. (Especially after last night’s dinner: Lasagna, cheesecake, and, being Christmas time, lots of egg nog.) Maybe I can sneak in a mountain bike ride later this morning. Hope so, or I’ll be really grumpy by this afternoon.

Librarians On The Take?

December 23, 2008

I’d really like to know the reason for this:

Some not-so-cheery holiday news for staffers with the St. Tammany Parish Library: They can’t accept gifts from grateful patrons — not even small ones such as baked goods or houseplants.

That’s the word from the state Ethics Board, which recently responded to a query from library officials about the gifts.

An Ethics Board staff attorney says the gifts cannot be accepted.

Are librarians shaking down patrons? Keeping them last on the waiting list for a new book unless the patron brings the librarian a nice poinsettia? When I went to the library yesterday, could I have had my twenty cent fine erased if I brought a loaf of banana bread with me? If my kids colored a Christmas card for the librarian, would they get to sit closer to the front for story time?

Really, I’m having a hard time imagining what possible pro quo justifies banning the quid. Then, if there is a potential harm, I’m having an even harder time imagining it has ever occurred. Maybe I’m wrong, but the gifts are probably banned because someone says they are, not because there’s a reason for it.