Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why I miss the south (#42)

Des Ark -- great band from North Carolina. Think Touch and Go band (June of 44, Shellac, etc.) meets Catpower, meets Smithsonian Folkways sound. Some songs from their amazing first album are on Myspace. You can listen to her (Aimee Argote's) more folksy self-released album on And she certainly wins the best title award for Top 40 single with the song "If By 'Gay' You Mean 'Totally Freaking Awesome', Then Yeah, I Guess It's Pretty Gay." You can listen to that on the Pitchfork page.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stuff I'd Like to Cook and Food Stuff

My Google Reader is stuffed with recipes I want to make and a few food related items I thought I'd share. We're contemplating throwing a party in the next month or two, so I have collected a number of party-friendly foods, which might work for your Super Bowl gourmands.
Party Friendly Foods

Not So Party Friendly Foods

Food Stuff

Ahh . . . my Google Reader Starred Items is now ready for its weigh-in.

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Fluffy Furrday

Augie got groomed on Tuesday in anticipation of his grandparents' visit this week. Nothing says, "Welcome to Orange County!" like a super fluffy spoiled dog.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Round Up

In this round up: schools of rock, loathsome people, eyebrow dancing, cardboard airplane, greener gaming, upon which foods to spend your organic dollar, industrial produce not as nutritious, reused mini-greenhouse, tax breaks for energy efficient home improvements, and who killed the plug-in hybrid.

Oh, yeah, and I added a couple more resources to my parenting resources page.

Carrie Brownstein, one of the members of the awesome band Sleater Kinney, posted her highly insightful and entertaining thoughts on rock schools.

Some blog called The Beast posted a list of The 50 Most Loathsome People, which Kottke recommended with a delicious excerpt of his favorite entry. (Thanks for sharing, Rebecca!)

Serious Eats posted an hilarious video of two kids doing an eyebrow dance. (Thanks for sharing again, Rebecca!)

I ALWAYS loved playing with cardboard boxes when I was a kid. When my friend Leslie Goodrich's parents got a new refrigerator, I invited myself over just to play with it. I felt sorta bad for her dad who had spent like two years making a huge Victorian dollhouse from scratch and it was sitting right next to the cardboard box and we didn't touch it once. And when my friend Todd Lawrence moved to town and we discovered we both had a love of cardboard boxes, we went to all the shops on Lake Street asking for their leftover boxes and carried them to his backyard and built a HUGE fort out of them. It was one of the highlights of my childhood. So when I saw CardboardDesign's cardboard airplane over at Re-Nest, I had the most pleasant of flashbacks. Check out all the other fun stuff they have for kids, like a castle and a rocket.

I know SOMEONE who might read this is a wee bit into games. So when I saw Re-Nest's post about greener games I thought it might be of interest to our readers. Would that same reader have any more suggestions for greener gaming? Any game manufacturers particularly ecofriendly?

In these trying economic times sometimes cutting back means not buying exclusively local organic food. When you have to make that choice, check out The Daily Green's list of fruit and veg that are lower on pesticides and their list of foods that have the heaviest burden of pesticides, chemicals, additives and hormones. The fruit and veg on the dirty list might also be good to prioritize in your home garden since growing them will be more economical than buying organic AND you control the pesticides. Via Consumerist.

Another plus in the grow your own fruit and veg column: industrially grown produce is less nutritious. Tom Philpott over at Gristmill posted about a recent article that compiled a number of studies that found declining nutrients in fruits and vegetables bred for higher yield. For the home gardener, this also suggests that true heirloom varieties are probably a better choice than high-yield hybrids.

As we've been talking about starting seeds for our herb garden and I keep our house pretty cold, this post about reusing plastic packaging to make an indoor seed-starting greenhouse at Re-Nest caught my eye.

Consumer Report's Home & Garden blog has a great post about the federal tax credits available for homeowners who make energy efficient improvements to their homes including installing alternative energy sources, tankless water heaters, natural gas heating systems, and insulation. Via Consumerist.

Gristmill referred me to an article in the East Bay Express by Robert Gammon about the California Air Resources Board's efforts to institute a regulation that would prevent the conversion of hybrids to plug-in hybrids. It's like Who Killed the Electric Car: The Sequel (subtitle: Who Killed the Plug-in Hybrid) by Michael Scott with Dwight Shrute. OK, not that last part. Sorry, lines from The Office just pop out sometimes. I can't control it. Once you get all anxious and righteously indignant reading the East Bay Express article, go read's update on the CARB hearing. In sum:

The Board detached the aftermarket conversion issues from the general test procedures for new PHEV manufacturers and then approved the latter. For retrofitters, the Board Members directed its staff to review options for rules that would promote innovation and foster new business and job formation.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Fabric Fabulousness!

The doorbell rings. Dogs go wild. I drop my chopsticks in my potstickers so as to run to the door without impaling myself - you think running with scissors is treacherous. I open the door doing the doorway body block to prevent the wild dogs from eviscerating the delivery man. What could this box contain? I have been so good about not ordering fabric, I am practically starving for fiber. I look at the return address. It is from our very own Rebecca. It is not my birthday and she bought me multiple Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/New Years presents. Whatever could have possessed her?


You heard me: Barnslig.

"What is Barnslig?", I hear you cry. Just the cutest fabric designed by Eva Lundgreen for IKEA.

Look at those tomato and lime hippos! And the jungle animal multicolor print! Huzzah!

Thank you, Rebecca! (And possibly Bob, who was present on the IKEA adventure which resulted in this purchase for me)

What should I make with it? I've got 3 1/2 yards of EACH. Woo HOO!

Oh Deer

When it comes to hip design, deer are the new owl.

Just feast your eyes on the above swatch of the much heralded A Day In The Life in Moss from Erin Michael's Lush line for Moda.

Back in October I posted my two cents about Jay McCarrol's new fabric line from FreeSpirit. I feel like the designers over at Michael Miller Fabrics shared my concerns. But rather than posting some snark about Jay's chemical-dependent woodland creatures, they came up with their own design for cute forest friends fabric: Grass Menagerie.

I was struck by the similarities between Michael Miller's design and Jay McCarrol's designs. Not in an intellectual property badness way, but in a first draft versus finished product way. Like the boss at Michael Miller looked at Jay's animals and said, "Those could be cuter. Design Minions, make it so!" But don't take my word for it. Compare the deer and the bunnies for yourself.

First, Jay's cracked out deer from his Woodland Wonderland line for FreeSpirit.

Now, Michael Miller's deer from Grass Menagerie.

Next, Jay's meth-addled rabbit from his Garden Friends line for FreeSpirit.

Now, Michael Miller's rabbits from Grass Menagerie.

Now, don't get me wrong, I heart Jay McCarrol. But I really cannot envision a place for these animal prints in any quilt anyone might make ever. Honestly, and this just shows I'm the least cool person ever, I'm not a huge fan of Erin Michael's A Day in the Life either. But at least I can imagine someone who is totally not me making a quilt with it. Michael Miller's Grass Menagerie - well, to quote George Michael Bluth, "I could marinate a chicken in that." And maybe, like his fashion design, Jay isn't trying to appeal to the mass market. But does a woodland themed fabric that no one buys make a sound?

FYI: I came across Michael Miller Fabric's blog while perusing my favorite textile blog, True Up.

Edited 1/28/2009 to add: Project Rungay posted an interview with Jay in which he talks lots about his fabric line. Read the comments to find people who both loved and hated the animal prints in the line. I was sort of shocked to hear people complain about the non-animal prints, which I thought were quite fetching even if a tad derivative. I found this via True Up.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Vote! Feel the rush again!

Remember the excitement and thrill of voting for someone new in the White House last fall? You can have that experience all over again!

Our community-supported agriculture farmer has been nominated to be suggested to President Obama as the White House farmer (basically, Michael Pollan has proposed that five acres of the White House lawn be turned into an organic garden, with the produce going to the White House chef and local food banks. This is an online poll to offer some prospective choices to the President.) So you can go to this site and vote for OUR guy, who is Charlie Collins. At the time of this posting, he's in 4th place, and they're going to send the top three names!

He's clearly qualified -- look at some of our past veggie pics for proof. And he's the only nominee (at the time of this posting, anyway) from Virginia, which is pretty darn local to Washington DC.

Not to worry, they promise that he'll still be growing veggies for us too. :) So vote!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Furrday: Take 2 Puppies and Call Me in the Morning

We at Chez Kelman have been knocked out by the flu for some length of time no shorter than a week (we're to hallucinate-y to be more specific).

Thus we feel completely justified in staying curled up in bed with the dogs well past any reasonable hour.

They appear to have no problem with this treatment plan.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Swearing in, or The Meaning of the Robama Conspiracy

When Obama’s swearing-in ceremony went awry on inauguration day, the New York Times and NPR both suggested that this event is something that only academics will argue about. And of course they’re right, but at the same time it’s clear this mishap bothered Obama aides enough to decide to do the whole thing over again. Why the anxiety? In a word: speech-act theory.

According to the theories of J.L. Austin, the “father” of speech-act theory, the first swearing-in ceremony never really happened. A “speech-act” or “performative utterance” refers to those kinds of words that actually do things. For example, in a marriage ceremony, when the groom says “I do” (take this woman to be my lawful wedded wife), this statement does not refer back to a state of affairs that is true or false (the groom is not saying “she is my wife,” since until that moment the two are merely betrothed, not married). When the groom says “I do,” this new state of affairs is inaugurated in that very act: he is now, in that moment, taking this woman as his wife. “I do” therefore performs an act; it does not refer back to a prior state of affairs.

We have the same situation with naming ceremonies, as when a group of people gather to name a new boat. But suppose, Austin says, some “low type” comes along, and right before I’m about to bang the bottle on the side of the ship and name it “The Seaward,” this “low type” grabs the bottle from my hand, takes a swig, and then bangs it against the hull at the same time that he says: “I name this ship the Generalissimo Stalin.” Has this speech-act actually performed the act of naming? If I had gone through with my naming ceremony, then certainly the ship would have been named “The Seaward.” After all, I was authorized to name it, there was an audience that recognized my authority to name it, and, if the “low type” hadn’t come along, I would have uttered the correct words in the correct order. The ship would have been named. But since the “low type” came along and usurped my position, then everything has gone awry: he was not authorized to name the ship and the audience did not recognize his authority (he was a “low type”). For Austin, there would be no way we can say that the speech-act has occurred as it was supposed to; it “misfired,” he would say; it should be considered “infelicitous.” In short, nothing happened.

Obama’s swearing-in ceremony stands in this long tradition of speech-acts that have gone awry. On the one hand, the right conditions were all in place: the context was correct, the person doing the swearing was authorized to swear and the audience recognized him as authorized to swear, and there was a Chief Justice there – one of the most authoritative people in the country – ready to witness and recognize the act. Most of all, there was no question as to which words were to be spoken, since these words are institutionally mandated and actually written in the authorizing document of the United States: the Constitution. Everything was in place. But, as the White House counsel noted, “there was one word out of sequence”: the word “faithfully.” At that point, technically speaking, the speech-act failed: the proper words were not spoken in a way that was faithful to the authorizing document (the Constitution). The word “faithful,” misplaced in this way, forced Obama to swear unfaithfully. And to swear unfaithfully is to delegitimize the authenticity of a speech-act. As a result, Obama’s swearing-in ceremony cannot be considered a felicitous speech-act: his performative utterance misfired.

Who is to blame? Well, the low type. In Austin’s theory, the “low type” names the agency that disrupts a potentially felicitous speech-act and instead makes it misfire. The “low type” is not necessarily a person but rather an event that haunts every speech-act: as Derrida notes, all performative utterances are marked by the possibility of a misfire. In this case, the “low type” is not Obama or even Roberts: it is the figure inscribed between the two of them. After all, the act was performed not only by Obama, but also by Roberts: together they messed up the act of swearing; the two of them together displaced the word “faithfully” from its proper position. The two together formed a kind of conspiracy, a conjura in Spanish (literally, a “swearing-together”). The two conspired (conjuron) – regardless of their intentions – to undermine the efficacy of this inaugurating moment. This is the Robama conspiracy (Roberts / Obama).

And here’s my only point: by sabotaging the swearing-in ceremony in this way, this “low type” (“Robama”) produced an event that has nothing to do with a faithful act of swearing. Something happened that day, but it wasn’t a legal act. The actual event that happened on inauguration day was an event of politics, the event that happens when a low type comes along and performs a speech act improperly. Every act of politics entails the “conspiracy” of a low type that threatens to derail a legitimate act. In this case, the “low type” is a kind of bi-partisan conspiracy between Roberts and Obama: the Robama Conspiracy. The swearing-in ceremony therefore did not inaugurate a new administration; rather, it repeated the inaugurating act of democracy: democracy, if it exists at all, must always be a struggle between the legitimacy of law and the emergence of a low type that threatens that law. Obama’s swearing-in ceremony should serve as a reminder that democracy always entails the possible usurpation of power by a low type who is not authorized to speak.

For that reason, the supplemental swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, January 21, is not simply something added or extra (“out of an abundance of caution”), but is rather absolutely essential. This act must always be repeated, since there is never any one moment when a democracy is fully legitimate. Every moment must be a repetition of this gesture that allows the “low type” to speak. This, perhaps, is the meaning of the conspiracy (conjura) that was sworn together by Roberts and Obama on Tuesday. This (maybe) is the meaning of the Robama Conspiracy.

What’s interesting is that all this doesn’t matter. It’s all “academic.” As the New York Times noted in its report on Wednesday, January 21:

It is academic to argue about what the failure to utter the words in the precise order required by the Constitution means. Who would have standing to raise the argument that Mr. Obama had not become president as a consequence?
This is a strange way to put this. The NYT seems to be asking: Who would have the authority to state that Obama’s speech-act did not work? Who has the legitimacy to say that a legitimate act has not occurred? This is as much a challenge as it is a question: Who would dare claim to have the standing to be able to argue against the standing of the President? Only a low type, one presumes, would lay claim to such a ridiculous notion. By posing this challenge, by inviting the low type to speak, the New York Times, in its own way, has repeated the act that the Robama Conspiracy itself repeated. Or, to put it in the mode of the conspiracy theorist: Who is to say that the New York Times is not part of the Robama Conspiracy?

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Bittman's Pantry Tidy Segment 4

As you might have noticed from my three earlier posts (lemons & limes, bread crumbs, and parsley & basil), I've become a bit obsessed with Mark Bittman's article, "Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen," from Tuesday, January 6th's New York Times. And what is #8 on his list?

OUT Canned beans (except in emergencies).

IN Dried beans. More economical, better tasting, space saving and available in far more varieties. Cook a pound once a week and you’ll always have them around (you can freeze small amounts in their cooking liquid, or water, indefinitely). If you’re not sold, try this: soak and cook a pound of white beans. Take some and finish with fresh chopped sage, garlic and good olive oil. Purée another cup or so with a boiled potato and lots of garlic. Mix some with a bit of cooking liquid, and add a can of tomatoes; some chopped celery, carrots and onions; cooked pasta; and cheese and call it pasta fagiole or minestrone. If there are any left, mix them with a can of olive-oil-packed tuna or sardines. And that’s just white beans.
Now, I'm not going to name names, but a certain person whose word on all things culinary I hold sacred (except for her lack of love for NYTCCCs), told me dried beans were necessary only when canned beans of that variety were unavailable. In other words, she privileged canned over dried. I'm not entirely convinced that Bittman isn't sort of agreeing - one of his pros for dried beans is that they come in a greater variety.

Henry's is a great source for dried beans. Their bulk foods section offers fourteen different types of dried beans including some I'd never heard of before (peruano beans, anyone?). Their prices range between $0.79 to $1.79 per pound. Compare that to Henry's brand of canned beans, all of which cost $0.99 for a 15 ounce can, which is about $1.06 per pound and that's before draining off the liquid. Also the variety of beans available in cans is limited to black, dark red kidney, garbanzo, great northern, and pinto. I've been working on the biodiversity of my diet. I'm going to start test driving dried legumes.

The folks over at AskMetafilter have worked up quite a list of bean soup recipes.

But for my first test drive I went for a recipe I've had success with in the past using canned beans: The Flying Biscuit's White Bean Cassoulet.

As recommended by the cookbook, I serve this topped with grilled chicken sausage as a main dish.


1/2 pound dried small white navy beans (which were $1.49 per pound at Henry's)
3 cups chicken stock or veggie stock
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup Creme Fraiche (see below for instructions)


1. Place beans in a Dutch oven (or a heavy bottomed sauce pan if you're not all Ooo La La over Le Creuset) and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 1 hour.

2. Place beans in their liquid back on stove and add stock, garlic, shallots, and carrots. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Beans will be tender and just starting to fall apart. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, rosemary, salt, pepper, olive oil, and Creme Fraiche. Taste for seasonings and serve.

Creme Fraiche (a.k.a. my little science experiment - remember when you used to put bread in a jar and leave it on the counter to watch the mold grow? Like that, but super yummy!)


2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk


1. Pour cream into a nonreactive container, like a glass jar. Make sure the container is large enough to let some biological action happen. If you put this in a 2 cup pyrex dish with a tupperware-esque top, it will be messy. Trust me.

2. Stir in buttermilk.

3. Cover and place in a warm (78 degrees Fahrenheit), dark place for 24 hours.

4. After 24 hours, stir. The mixture should be thick and creamy. If it's not quite creamy, leave it for another 8 hours.

5. Once it's creamy, pop it into the refrigerator before you turn it into sour cream. It should keep in the fridge for up to a week.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barack and Michelle, freewheelin'

Proof that our world has already been destroyed and replaced by a virtual construct: the New York Times front page photo of President Obama and the First Lady is a duplicate of the cover photo of Bob Dylan's "The Freewheelin'". This same image was used in "Vanilla Sky" (remake of "Abre los ojos") to suggest that Tom Cruise's character was being fed artificial memories based on popular culture references. Neo, this is loco.

Doug Mills' photo for the New York Times

Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' album cover

Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky.

Dinner Failure: Meat Lite: Spaghetti with Garlic, Broccoli, and Ham

I've been contemplating making a number of dishes from Tara Mataraza Desmond's Meat Lite posts at Serious Eats, which she has parlayed into a forthcoming cookbook: Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet. This is partly due to Michael Pollan's mantra from In Defense of Food, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Other journalists are picking up on the less meat message, as noted by Serious Eats. Audubon Magazine recently published an article on reducing meat consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. News picked up on that article too.

So in the spirit of reduced carbon footprint, grocery bill, and waistband, I took her recipe for Spaghetti with Garlic, Broccoli and Ham for a test drive. The verdict: we weren't even to the title sequence in our mealtime episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when David got up to microwave some Trader Joe's tomato sauce. It was way too dry and tasteless. So I modified the recipe taking inspiration from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta version of Olive Oil and Garlic Sauce. Verdict: AWESOME! Follow the link to see my hybrid recipe.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Broccoli and Ham
adapted from Tara Mataraza Desmond's recipe and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta


1 pound spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
1 tablespoon + 1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
2 cups sliced broccoli florets and stems (about 1/4 pound)
4 ounces sliced spiral ham, cut into 1/4-inch squares (or Canadian bacon if you don't have any leftover ham, but this is really a recipe designed to use up your leftover ham)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh flat parsley, chopped
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente. While the pasta cooks, prepare the rest of the recipe. (Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before straining.)

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan (at least 10 inches), over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant and starting to soften, about 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer the liquid to reduce by a little more than half.

3. Add the 1/4 cup of water and the broccoli pieces. Cover the pan and let the broccoli cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is fork tender.

4. Add the ham, salt, pepper, parsley, and remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil and toss to combine.

5. Strain the pasta and immediately add it and the reserved pasta water to the sauté pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and toss the pasta with the contents of the saute pan. Simmer for 30 second or so, just until the liquid reduces and thickens a little bit.

6. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crafty Round Up

In this round up: reconstructed sweaters, stretch fabric, cutting curves, reverse applique, oil cloth, skirt pattern making, ikat, Egyptian pattern inspiration, Mexican stamp inspiration, colors in patterned fabric, and colorful furniture.

I fear cutting and sewing knitwear, but I love the idea of these reconstructed sweaters by outsapop trashion and they ever so kindly created a photo tutorial on Flickr, which tempts me greatly. Via Whip Up.

My fear of cutting and sewing knitwear is a subfear of my primary fear of working with stretchy fabrics of any kind. AskMeFi addressed this fear, at least in the context of hemming stretch denim jeans.

I have a minor fear of working with curves. Craft Apple posted a nice tutorial on cutting curves with a rotary cutter, via Whip Up. Now if I could face my sewing curves fear.

I don't fear applique in the least, so I'm not sure why I like That Darn Kat's reverse applique tutorial so much except for the adorable little frog. Via Whip Up.

I fear sewing oil cloth, but I have a ton leftover from making my dining room table cloth (by "making" I mean cutting an appropriately sized square) and I do love it so. Based on kath_red's review over at Whip Up, I am mightily tempted to purchase or at least check out of the library Oil Cloth Inspirations by Sophie Bester.

I am also tempted to draft my own skirt pattern following craftystylish's tutorial. But I never wear skirts. Via Whip Up.

Design*Sponge did a neat trend round up of stuff decorated with ikat patterns that reminded me of some of the awesome ikat textiles I saw at the Textile Museum.

Jessica Pigza of the New York Public Library guest blogged at Design*Sponge and included some gorgeous images of Egyptian patterns from a 1911 book of patterns entitled Décoration Egyptienne by Gustave Jéquier. Much quilty inspiration.

Adam Kuban over at Serious Eats posted images of food-related stamps illustrated by Rafael Davidson. Again, much quilty inspiration.

Kim over at True Up has been uploading her vintage fabric to ColourLOVERS to analyze its color content. Very cool.

Design*Sponge also posted some super colorful furniture from the aptly named Chroma Lab. Imagine those drawers holding your fabric stash.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Round Up

In this round up: games for two, awesome music blog, starting seeds, IKEA cookery, Girl Scout cookies, consumer journalism, personal finance in the end of days, greenhouse gas emissions, nature makes you smarter, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, California's sentencing sucks, Teague retroactivity, kick off your shoes, Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, and another Shepard Fairey poster.

Also, I've added a few more resources to my page of parenting resources.

Bob and Rebecca gave David and me Carcassonne for Hanukkah 2008. We actually played it at least once a night for the first two weeks after we received it. Now we're sort of in a gaming frame of mind. Which makes the AskMeFi discussion of great games for two people particularly timely.

Carrie Brownstein, one of the members of the awesome band Sleater Kinney, has her very own music blog via NPR called Monitor Mix. Definitely worth a listen.

As discussed in my post about Mark Bittman's recommendation to use fresh basil and parsley, I'm planning a minor expedition into the world of container gardening this year. Re-Nest has a nice post about when and how to start your seeds inside, including a handy link to Organic Gardening's article about when to start seeds.

Michele Humes over at Serious Eats did an incredible job assembling the food available at the grocery department of IKEA into some pretty impressive dishes. She was refreshingly frank in her review.

If you like the pronounced flavor of oily fish like sardines and mackerel, you'll probably enjoy this hors d'oeuvre. If you don't, you'll probably gag.
I'm totally serving Lingonberry-Glazed Sausage Bites with Crispy Onions at my next dinner party.

Erin Zimmer, also at Serious Eats, reminded us that it is Girl Scout Cookie Time and also provided a few links to recipes for homemade versions.

The Consumerist, which was recently purchased by the Consumers Union, posted an interesting summary of an article by Trudy Lieberman in the Columbia Journalism Review about the death of true consumer journalism.

The Consumerist also posted a list of good habits for personal finance a deep recession. Much of it is quite helpful, though, "You should have an emergency fund, with 3-6 months of living expenses in a savings account," seems utterly unrealistic to me. Am I wrong?

Jon Rynn posted a summary of his findings about the sources of greenhouse gas emissions over at Gristmill.

And just when you thought all environmental news is depressing: The Blue Marble reports that a study showed that walking in nature for as little as 30 minutes, regardless of whether you enjoy the experience, helps improve memory and attention by 20 percent.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is holding public hearings and initiating a practitioners' advisory group. The first public hearing is in Atlanta, Georgia, February 10-11. So if you have "any suggestions regarding changes to the Sentencing Reform Act and other relevant statutes, the federal sentencing guidelines and policy statements, and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that," you think, "will further the statutory purposes of sentencing," you should totally go. Via Prof. Berman's sentencing blog.

Prof. Berman also crowned California as the most dysfunctional state in terms of sentencing.

If you're one of those post-conviction practitioners who loiters around here when you should be working on your responses to habeas petitions, check out Christopher N. Lasch's forthcoming article on Teague retroactivity from Yale's American Criminal Law Review as summarized by Prof. Berman.

We have a friend who's a doctor and has a small child and is a big stickler about taking shoes off in the house. We thought he was just OCD, or suffering from PTSD due to his internship at Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta. But according to Re-Nest, there are 37 different reasons he might be perfectly sane about this whole shoe taking off thing.

Consumerist recommends something my friend Julia recommended long ago: head to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore for material for your next home project. There are two in Orange County, California, at 12827 Harbor Blvd in Garden Grove and 2200 S Ritchey St. in Santa Ana. There are two in Baltimore, Maryland, at 505 Kane St., and 1300 N Fulton Ave. There's one in Richmond, Virginia, at 1901 Roane St. There's one in New Port Richey, Florida, at 3531 Grand Blvd. I think that covers our top reader locations.

Birdie Loo of Dear Ada fame loves Shepard Fairey's poster for the animal adoption group Adopt A Pet and so do I. It explores many of the same themes addressed in my post-election patriotism furrday post.

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Friday, January 16, 2009


The other day while working on my grocery list I realized the only processed food that I still buy are bread, crackers, and David's cereal. My plan in 2009 is to reduce that list to just David's cereal (if you find me a good recipe for homemade Special K and homemade original flavor Puffins, that might leave the list too). I thought I'd start with the most obvious: bread. This plan has been cemented by my discovery via Not Martha of Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Light Wheat Bread.

Do you have any advice for the bread uninitiated before I embark on this adventure?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mellow Mushroom Pizza

If you ever visited us when we lived in Atlanta or Decatur or Athens, Georgia, then you probably shared some Mellow Mushroom pizza with us. Serious Eats recently reviewed our hometown favorite. We were partial to the meatball and mushroom toppings in either pizza or calzone format. We're also huge fans of the pretzels both with marina sauce as an appetizer and with cinnamon and honey as dessert.

Here are two anecdotes to demonstrate how much we love Mellow Mushroom. First, when I was in law school up in Athens and David was in grad school down in Decatur, he ordered out Mellow Mushroom so frequently that when our usual location on LaVista was going to be closed for a week for renovations, they called David at home to give him a heads up. Second, when we traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina, for Thanksgiving in 2008, we suspected we might be entering the Mellow Mushroom region, so we checked the website, printed out the phone number and directions to the Mellow Mushroom on the island, and called in our order on the way from the airport in Savannah.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top 25 Censored Press Stories of 2008

Project Censored has issued its list of news stories that were subject to press censorship in 2008. The five I found most interesting and knew the least about:

For summaries of the top ten censored stories see Amanda Witherell's article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. For summaries of the top twenty five censored stories see Via the Organic Consumers Association.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bittman's Pantry Bootcamp Part 3

As you might have noticed from my two earlier posts (lemons & limes and bread crumbs), I've become a bit obsessed with Mark Bittman's article, "Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen," from Tuesday, January 6th's New York Times. Today I tackle his pantry peeve #7. . .

OUT Dried parsley and basil. They’re worthless.

IN Fresh parsley, which keeps at least a week in the refrigerator. (Try your favorite summer pesto recipe with parsley in place of basil, or simply purée some parsley with a little oil, water, salt and a whisper of garlic. Or add a chopped handful to any salad or almost anything else.) And dried tarragon, rosemary and dill, all of which I use all winter; mix a teaspoon or so of tarragon or rosemary — not more, they’re strong — with olive oil or melted butter and brush on roasted or broiled chicken while it cooks, or add a pinch to vinaigrette. Dill is also good with chicken; on plain broiled fish, with lemon; or in many simple soups.
I used to be a major offender of Bittman Edict #6
OUT Spices older than a year: smell before using; if you get a whiff of dust or must before you smell the spice, toss it. I find it easier to clean house once a year and buy new ones.
But once I started cooking at home more frequently, I've run through my spices pretty quickly. For example, in the six months since we've moved to California I've already gone through at least two bottles of dried basil.

But I have never had good luck with store bought fresh herbs. They come in too large a bunch to actually use while their fresh and they go funky in the fridge after not very long. I've had some success freezing parsley for throwing into cooked recipes, but it becomes too floppy soggy to use in anything that isn't thoroughly cooked.

At the Henry's in Yorba Linda fresh parsley cost $1 for 8 oz., or $0.13 per ounce. The only fresh basil available was Jacobs Farm Organic and cost $2.97 per ounce (the same can also be said of dill, chives, mint, rosemary, tarragon, and sage). Henry's sells bulk dry parsley for $1.50 per ounce and basil for $0.44 per ounce. They also sell The Spice Hunter bottled dry parsley for $14.74 per ounce and basil for $13.30 per ounce. Wowza. Clearly fresh parsley is much more cost effective, at $1.37 less per ounce than Henry's bulk dry price and $14.61 less per ounce than The Spice Hunter. Fresh basil costs $2.53 more per ounce than Henry's bulk dry basil, but it costs $10.33 per ounce less than The Spice Hunter.

One cost effective solution to the problem of too large bunches of store bought fresh herbs going funky before you can use them is to grow the herbs yourself. Basil and parsley are both easy to grow in containers. Burpee's basic Sweet Basil seeds come 400 to a packet for $2.95. Burpee's basic Plain (Single Italian) Parsley seeds come 750 to a packet for $2.95. Basil and parsley are now classified as Container Garden Priority #1.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bittman's Pantry Overhaul Part Deux

As I mentioned in a previous post about lemons & limes, I'm obsessing a bit over Mark Bittman's article, "Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen," from Tuesday, January 6th's New York Times. And what better to obsess over than his #1 pantry faux pas . . .

OUT Packaged bread crumbs or croutons.

IN Take crumbs, cubes or slices of bread, and either toast evenly in a low oven until dry and lightly browned, tossing occasionally; or cook in olive oil until brown and crisp, stirring frequently. The first keep a long time, and are multipurpose; the second are best used quickly, and are incomparably delicious.
I only have one recipe in my repertoire that calls for breadcrumbs: turkey meatloaf from The Flying Biscuit Cafe Cookbook: Breakfast and Beyond. Scroll to the bottom for my version of this recipe. The recipe as I make it requires one cup of bread crumbs and I make this bad boy about once a week. So that's four cups of bread crumbs a month, easily a can of store bought crumbs a month.

But is it really cheaper to use bread to make bread crumbs? Is the non-olive oiled version all that yummier? So I conducted a little experiment.

Cost Analysis:
In sum, yes, it is less expensive to make bread crumbs than it is to buy packaged bread crumbs.

At the Henry's in Yorba Linda the bread crumb options are limited to two different flavors of Gia Russa Whole Grain Bread Crumbs which both cost $3.19 for a 10 oz. container. A cup of these bread crumbs weighs in at 4 oz. So that's $1.28 worth of breadcrumbs per loaf of meat. Three bread ends weighed in at about 4 oz. So let's call that three slices of bread out of a loaf costing $2.99 containing 17 slices of bread. At $0.18 per slice, that's $0.54 per loaf of meat, for a total savings of $0.74. Huh, that's more cost savings than I expected. If I really make meatloaf once a week, that's an annual savings of $38.48.

Convenience Analysis
In sum: pouring processed breadcrumbs is pretty darned easy, but making them from scratch isn't rocket science.

Saturday, before I started slicing onions for the meatloaf, I placed my three bread ends on a cookie sheet and popped them in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven and left them there while I did the rest of my prep work on the meatloaf, no more than 30 minutes. First, I tried to grate the toasted bread. I think that resulted in more breadcrumbs on the counter and the floor than in the bowl. Dicing the bread proved both faster and less wasteful. Certainly toasting and dicing bread takes a few more seconds than pouring crumbs out of a container. And there's the cost of the heating the oven to consider, though to be fair I have to preheat the oven to 350 for the meatloaf.

Flavor Analysis:
In sum: as far as breadcrumbs in meatloaf goes, it's six of one half dozen of the other.

My independent taste tester, a.k.a. David, determined that there was no difference in the consistency or flavor of the meatloaf. That might be a function of the recipe.

Can anyone think of a good recipe to taste the quality of breadcrumbs?

Turkey Meatloaf with Homemade Breadcrumbs adapted from The Flying Biscuit Cafe Cookbook: Breakfast and Beyond by April Moon.

The cookbook recommends serving the loaf topped with Creamy Horseradish Sauce. I serve it topped with Sage and Onion Gravy from The Grit Cookbook.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small yellow, onion minced
1 large carrot, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup or 4 oz. or about three bread ends worth of homemade bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup ketchup
1 pound lean ground turkey

1. Place bread ends on a cookie sheet, pop them into a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven, and ignore them while you do the rest of your prep work on the meatloaf.
2. Lightly grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan (I use a glass one). Then line the bottom and sides of said pan with waxed paper. Then grease the waxed paper and set aside.
3. In a small skillet heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic to the pan and saute until onions are translucent and carrots have softened, about 7 minutes. Add the basil, oregano, rosemary, pepper, and salt to the veggies. Saute briefly to bring out the flavor of the herbs. Remove from heat and cool. In a large bowl combine the contents from the skillet with the bread crumbs, egg, cream, Parmesan, mozzarella, and ketchup. Stir it up until all the yummy bits are evenly distributed.
4. Take the dry, lightly browned bread ends out of the oven, dice them, throw them in the bowl, and mix them in with the rest of the yummy stuff.
5. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Add the turkey and mix until all ingredients are incorporated, then mound mixture into prepared loaf pan.
7. Bake 1 hour, or until the internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool slightly, then cut and serve.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ringing in the New Year with a 5.0 Earthquake

The epicenter of tonight's 5.0 earthquake was about 50 miles northeast of Fullerton, in San Bernardino. We felt it around 7:50 p.m. Not as shaky at this summer's bigger, closer shake. Here's the USGS 411.

Bittman, Stop Reading My Mind!

The other day I had a grocery store failure. I went to three different grocery stores and could find no lemon juice, no lime juice, and no 9 inch square baking pans (the story of the 9 inch square baking pan is for another day). But I did notice that the citrus at Henry's was dirt cheap. Actually, I think dirt is more expensive. But Henry's was the first store I went to, so I figured one of the later stores would have my lemon juice and lime juice. And I questioned how long home squeezed lemon or lime juice would keep. Then I open up my New York Times on Tuesday and what do I see? Mark Bittman's article, "Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen." And what is #5 on his list?

OUT Bottled lemon juice.

IN Lemons. Try buying six at a time, then experiment; I never put lemon on something and regret it. (Scramble a couple of eggs in chicken stock, then finish with a lot of lemon, black pepper and dill; call this egg-lemon soup, or avgolemono.) Don’t forget the zest: you can grate it and add it to many pan sauces, or hummus and other purées. And don’t worry about reamers, squeezers or any of that junk; squeeze from one hand into the other and let your fingers filter out the pips.
Then I recalled making pineapple sauce (for ham, it's awesome, and if you're interested I'll post the recipe) with my mom in Florida this past December. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of lemon juice. She opened up the freezer and pulled out a bag of what looked like cloudy ice cubes and popped one in the pan. Apparently some neighbor had an excess of lemons and Mom eased their burden by picking as many as she could carry. She squeezed them and froze the juice in an ice cube tray after determining each cube from said tray held exactly one tablespoon. Genius, no?

So on my grocery list for next week: all the lemons I can carry.

Updated 1/11/2009 to add:
Serious Eats compiled a list of lemon recipes to celebrate lemon season.

Henry's sells lemons for $0.50 a piece, which works out to about $2.00 per pound. Henry's also sells 1 lb. bags of lemons for $1.49. The limes are $0.33 each, which works out to $2.64 per pound. I did find one of those plastic lime-shaped containers of lime juice at Henry's this week for $0.79 for 4 fl. oz.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Organized Labor is Not the Auto Industry's Big Problem

In recent holiday dinner table debate the subject of the effect of organized labor on the automotive industry in the United States arose. Lots of folks, particularly conservative anti-organized labor folks, argue that the auto industry needs to void its union contracts and basically disorganize its labor force in order to become competitive and therefor worthy of a bailout. The soundbite they like to throw around to support their argument and pit the average working person against the average UAW laborer is that unionized auto workers make on average $70 per hour. This is false and intentionally misleading and I'd hate for all you smart folks to either (a) fall for that nonsense or (b) not have the facts to back up your retort to the misinformed people who parrot this non-truth. So go read's thorough review of the actual wages and benefits of unionized auto workers in the U.S.

To summarize: automakers themselves say that the average wage earned by its unionized workers is about $29 per hour.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Radio

No life-altering resolutions or year-in-review lessons learned thusfar. Just been listening to KPCC while cooking up a ham and some yeast rolls and some pineapple sauce for said ham. Heard two great pieces that I thought y'all might enjoy:

PRI's The World broadcasted Jeb Sharp's series How Wars End in its entirety. Definitely worth listening to the whole series back to back, as you can on their website.

American Radio Works produced an amazing documentary about the 1968 presidential election called Campaign '68. Very insightful and well-balanced history of an era to which your high school history textbook did not do justice.

Oh, yeah, and one of the flavor trends of 2009 spotlighted by All Things Considered: persimmons. I am so cutting edge.