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Monday, August 1, 2011

A Whirly Good Time!

Michaela, this is for you.  Ask and the door shall be opened to you (and the blog, too.).

I was speaking with my English friend (who is very lovely, by the way - she has even brought me real English Twinings straight from the Motherland, yes, you're jealous.  I know.) about laundry.  She remarked about how her washing machine is quite a bit smaller back at home and that she was a little surprized because in the U.S. we're all about dryer use while back in the U.K., they just hang it up on the line (in the warm months) or throw it over the radiator (in the cold months).  Now I don't have a radiator so I won't be able to try that (unless I throw it on my car...but then I'm guessing that whole idea of having clean laundry would be slightly out the window), but I was very interested in her description of her clothesline.

My grandma used to have a line that reminded me of a telephone wire, basically.  It was a T-shape with three lines across to the other T-shape.  My mother has one line that goes from tree to tree.  I was used to all of these two dimensional planes for clotheslines and I didn't realize that there was a whole world of fabulousness out there in the realm of clotheslines.  So my friend tells me about this thing that she calls a "whirly" (because, she explained, you can whirl it around).  I ran home and looked up "whirly" on Google images.  Wow, what weird things it came up with.  Mostly lollipops, a cat toy and a weird lady sitting on a stick.  Well none of THOSE things are clotheslines. 

Wheeeeeeeeee!!  Whirly!!

I searched and searched and finally found out that our very boring word for it is not even close to the whimsical word "whirly".  No.  You want to know what the dreadful American English word for "whirly" is?  "Umbrella style clothesline".  Reeeeeeeeeally.  Wow, that certainly sounds fun.  Not!
I knew you were curious!
Here it is, the famous whirly!
(Or...umbrella style clothesline.)

So, I thought, you know, I think I'd LIKE to hang my clothes up on something fun like that!  I could actually look forward to doing that!  She told me that it dries much quicker than in your dryer, especially in the heat of the summer.  She was right.  It takes 20-30 minutes.  Not to mention I feel retro-fresh-crunchy-domestic whilst pinning my clothes on the line.  And even though you can save plenty of money by not running your dryer, I am actually doing it just for the simple fact that I enjoy it.  My hubby would like to save a few bucks, that I know.  Although he did think I was a bit different for doing so and happened to mention I was the only person in the world that he knew that did such things (to which I responded, "Well, duh, you married me, you should have known this already.").  And my almost-(T-minus-12-days)brother-in-law saw the contraption and suggested to my son that perhaps I was calling in aliens.  I am not easily disturbed or distracted from such prattle so I forge happily on with my whirly anyway.  Hmph! 

The darling whirly comes down in between each use, should you wish to do so.  I bring it down and put it in the garage when I'm not using it, mostly because I can imagine some small tots clambering upon it with reckless abandon and glee.  (Read: finding some way to tangle themselves in it and break it in two seconds.)

Now, two things.  If you want to get one, you can get it cheapest at Home Depot.  They sell them online if you don't have a Home Depot near you.  Online I found them for around $55, at  Home Depot I got it for around $40.  The second thing is that she warned me about the towels.  If you hang them up straightaway on the line, they'll be a bit crunchy.  And not like Crunchy Betty.  Like actually crunchy.  To resolve this, she pops them in the dryer for a few minutes at the beginning and then puts them on the line with much greater success.  I was just crunching it up because I didn't care that much (but did receive a complaint from the husband department this morning..."Um, honey, yeah, you know uh...are you doing something wrong or something with the towels on the line - uh, they're sanding my skin off..."  Wuss!).  So I will henceforth do the pre-dryer treatment, per implied request.

You know you can make your own laundry detergent, don't you?  I use it on my whites.  Check it out, it works like a charm and does not include piles of chemicals to irritate your small one's skins (or your own).  You don't have to jump in to both of these things both feet, but you could...I's kind of fun.
Crunchy Betty's Laundry Detergent 

You can also give your whites a superboost by using this "bluing" stuff. 

                                                                      Mrs. Stewart's Bluing

Make sure you read the instructions, though.  (Mainly - mix it with cold water first before adding it to your laundry.  Unless you want all blue clothes, I mean.  But maybe you're into that, I don't know.)

But at any rate, I'm here to tell you that it's kind of fun.  I mean, laundry is a necessary evil of life, you might as well experiment and have a good time with it.  But for now, I'm off - I've got a beautiful pot of English afternoon waiting for me and some smashingly fabulous clean clothes to sniff.  All thanks to you, Andrea!

Monday, July 11, 2011

How To Make Your Husband Very Happy

Okay, okay, okay.  Let me just start out by saying I don't mean VERY (raise your eyebrows up and down repeatedly) happy.  I mean very (normal straight face) happy.  If you need to know what to do to make your husband VERY (eyebrows) happy, you should probably talk to my friend Debbie.  She can counsel you in the right direction.  I'll give you a hint.  It has three letters.

Anyway.  The real reason we're here today is because I have taken another idea from another fabulous online source - .  These peeps wrote the book on awesome.  Well, close.  They wrote a book on how to make bread (and baguettes - and bagels - and carbohydrate heaven) like those jolly singing and dancing bakers in Beauty and the Beast.  ("Marie, the baguettes, hurry up!")

Now I know what you're thinking.  You're all like, "Pink, what the heck.  You think I have like five hours in my day where I'm doing nothing so I can just flit around my kitchen watching bread rise, punching it down, timing it, singing in French and all the rest.  What EVER!"  Yeah, I've been there.  I've made bread The Other Way (a.k.a. The bad way.).  Well, minus the French.  I sing in español.

No really, this is different.  I promise.  You just watch me, okay?  Then you can see.  You can try it.  You will be very popular around your house.  You might even get the special eyebrows just for making this.  Unless you don't want the special eyebrows.  Then you can threaten - no more homemade bread - stay back, eyebrows!

All right.  On to the awesome.

Step 1: Get stuff you need.  What do you need?  Violá.
EVOO, warm water, coarse Kosher salt, granulated yeast,
flour, rosemary, a strange container (6 quarts). 
Not pictured: a baking stone, a fork, an oven, a broiler pan, parchment paper.
(Yes, the eggshells on the windowsill are getting ready to get smashed and go on my face.)

To be exact:

1.5 Tbsp. granulated yeast
1.5 Tbsp. Kosher coarse salt
6.5 cups all purpose flour (go get King Arthur, he's so worth it.)
3-ish to 3 and a half-ish cups of warm water (not too hot, you'll kill the yeastie boys)
a blob of rosemary
another blob of extra virgin olive oil

Now about the weird container. On their website, they can show you their fancy container. I am not fancy when it comes to this container. I went to the Buy Everything Here store and bought a Rubbermaid storage container. It has to be able to hold 6 quarts. Then I poked holes into the top where the plastic maker thingy company shot out their plastic out of their mold. This is actually important. You have to let the gases escape, so go on, get some scissors or some other pointy object (ooh, wouldn't one of those old school compasses come in handy!) and dig a hole. Not giant, but it has to be there. Unless you like explosions, whatever.

Oooh!  A hole in the lid! (Really there are 2.)

2.  In your weird container, dump 1.5 Tbsp. of granulated yeast and 1.5 Tbsp. of Morton's Kosher (coarse) salt.  Add 3ish cups of warm water (REMEMBER - not too hot.  Don't kill the Yeastie Boys.).  Stir lovingly.  Garnish lavishly with rosemary (whatever amount you want), pour in extra virgin olive oil - with a flourish (also whatever amount you want).

Okay, we are sideways.  Ahem, here we have: salt, yeast, water,
a blob of rosemary and a blob of EVOO.

3.  Stir wildly with a fancy fork.  Sing.  If you can't think of a song, "la la la la!" loudly will do just fine.  Carelessly dump 6.5 cups of that King Arthur all-purpose flour, making sure to make noises as each 1/2 cup hits the pool.  Stir rashly with previously mentioned fancy fork.

4.  Slightly mash to partial flatness.  Put the specially poked hole lid on.  Let it sit there for two hours.  (Yep, told you.  Really hard.)

Woo!  I'm lidded!

5.  After two hours, you can grab some dough out of the batch (it will have risen to the top).  If you are so tired out from all of this hard work and just want to go to bed, put the container into the fridge.  You can keep it in there for a few weeks and keep pulling out dough when you want to use it.  The longer you leave it in there, the more sourdough it will become (a.k.a. it smells like beer/alcohol.).

So, let's pretend you put it in the fridge and you wake up and say, "Golly, Wally!  Gee whiz, I just want to bake some fresh artisan bread today!"  All you need to do now is dust the top with flour (so you're not too sticky when you grab it).  Pick up about a third of what's in there.  Make a ball out of it and toss it on some parchment paper.  Actually, you know what, just watch this video.  They're amazing.

You can slash your bread to make it look like you bought it from the store.  I'm sure there's a good reason for doing this, I just don't know what it is.  I'd like to make it up but the kids are being so loud that I can't even come up with a fantastically ridiculous reason.  By "slash" I mean: get out a sharp knife, make lines in it. 

Lines!  Glory hallelujah!

After your bread has rested (it's very tired) for about 45 minutes or until you remember it and can feel like messing around with it, put that oven on for 450 F.  Make sure your baking stone is in there near the middle.  The broiler pan (or metal pan of other sorts) should go on the rack underneath the baking stone's rack. 

Do you have a pizza peel?  It's one of those wooden things that you see pizza dudes shoving their pizza into the oven with.  If you have one, slide it under the parchment paper then use it to slide the stuff onto the baking stone.  Leave the parchment paper there.  It's not a big deal.  It likes it in the oven.  If you use waxed paper instead, you will shoot yourself.  Don't get it mixed up.  Shut the oven.  (It's supa doopa important to keep the oven temp up.)

Pouring hot water into an oven is hard to do
when you're taking a picture.  Avoid.

Now for awesomeness.  Get a cup of hot water and pour it into the metal pan.  You will create steam inside your oven like you're a wizard.  Shut that door and trap the steam.  This is what makes a crunchy crust and a soft middle. 

Bake your precious darling baby boule for about 25-30 minutes.
Cool on a rack.  Chop off anybody's hand who tries to cut it open and eat some.  It actually has to cool down before you cut it because the steam inside the crust cooks the rest of the bread inside.  If you cut it now, you will have a great crust and a puddle of goo inside.  Not eyebrow worthy at all.

Every day you can make some more.  It's divine as sandwich bread - a little Everroast (by Boars Head), a dab of mayo, some Mucky Duck and some organic romaine.  Delish.  What creative sandwich would you make with this bread?

And if you think that even bread won't solve the serious problem you're having with your hubby, you really should talk to someone.  Don't be selfish (if you just said, "HEEE's the selfish one!", you might want to climb down off of your throne and remember what God has done for you.).  Don't take the best piece of bread for yourself.  Share, baby, share!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Crushing Eggshells

Whilst perusing one of the crunchiest places on the net (, I came across her highly retro idea of crushing eggshells into a powder to put on your face.  What?  Eggshells on your face?  Yes.  It creates a matte powder so you can avoid the Sweating Pig look.  Why can't I use my powder I already have?  You can, go ahead.  Do you know what's in it?  Maybe crazy chemicals?  Maybe horse hooves?  Maybe vampire blood?  Maybe not.  Well, you have no idea either way, you just slap it on your face without a care in the world.  Do you know what is in ground up eggshells?  Yes.  Ground up eggshells.  So, let's just entertain me for a moment and go with the idea.  (Plus, think of all the hippie points you can get from talking about putting eggshell powder on your face.  All of your friends who used to follow Phish will probably high five you.)  And also plus - it's fun to crush things up.  You can pretend you're a mad scientist - without the boiling radioactive liquid.

Now that that's explained, let's begin.

Step one: Eat eggs for breakfast.  Yum.  Just think of how delish they are with that cracked black pepper, a little salt - don't forget the sprouted multigrain toast with loads of butter and your Irish breakfast tea. 

Step two: Wash out eggshells and dry them with a paper towel.  For extra dryness, I put them outside in a glass jar so the hot air could bake them to a crisp.

Step three: Bring them back in the house after about a day (or more if you can stand it).  Depends on your crispy-ness level tolerance.

Left: eggshells in jar.  Right: handy-dandy mortar and pestle.
Step four: Take out your handy-dandy mortar and pestle.  WHAT?  You don't have one of these?  Why not?  Ooooh, yes.  You have a normal pet, I forgot.  Well, never mind, while I am twice to thrice daily crushing pancreatic enzyme pills to a fine fly-up-your-nose powder, you're busy with doing other things.  Well then.  Go get one.

Step five: Begin crunching.
Notice the lovely pigments.
Step six: Crunch a little more.

Oooh, powdery.
Step seven: Take pictures.  Okay, okay, you can totally skip this step.

A happy family: Eggshell mama, mortar and
pestle daddy, baby egg powder.
Step eight: Go get a blush brush and brush some on.  The end.  Well, unless you get really carried away with your mortar and pestle and decide to go on to step nine...which is:

Left: crushed dried oats.  Right: kid breakfast.
Crush other things because they're laying around and you think it might be fun.  I made some oatmeal for the kiddos breakfast and decided that it would be fun to smash dried oatmeal and see what happened.  That's what happened.  I have no idea what to do with my smashed oat powder, but don't worry, I'll find something.

Do you have any ideas?