Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bread at last

I've waxed poetic about baking bread before. And, again, I've always felt the best part of baking your own bread is being able to eat it warm, 20 minutes after it has baked.

It's always bothered me, though, that I could never find that perfect basic ingredient mix that would produce a loaf that had that "artisan" look to it and tasted so good that it was worth the effort to bake myself, rather than visit a bakery.

Let's face it -- high end grocery stores are churning out some pretty nice looking loaves and attaching all kinds of cool names to them. Taste? Well, I guess they taste okay. They don't taste bad.

So, anyway, my quest has been to bake a really nicely-textured, tasty and visually pleasing loaf of bread using a process I could deal with on a regular basis. A custom-built wood-burning stone bread oven out back would produce a wonderful loaf of bread, but I can't see myself going out there every day to fuss with that unless I was, say, producing a loaf for the Last Supper or something.

So this has been a kind of quest, one that I thought would be easy enough since all I had to do is Google "Italian Bread" and -- voila -- a recipe would appear.

Alas, no. I had some very specific qualities in mind and no single recipe fit. So it was time for experimentation.

I never produced anything inedible, but I was beginning to think that maybe the qualities I was looking for just weren't do-able in a plain old kitchen oven.

Finally on Monday I produced a loaf that had a great flavor and a perfect crust. The only thing missing was texture, but it was coming close. The most pronounced improvement was that I had gotten rid of that "yeasty" taste that so often plagues homemade bread, even ones using a sourdough starter instead of yeast. That's a lovely flavor for sandwich bread. But for Italian bread? Uh-uh.

Friday I actually was abandoning my quest for the perfect loaf and seeing if I could manifest a couple loaves of bread with a minimum amount of equipment. This was in preparation for our vacation to Outer Banks (graciously being provided by the Mr. and Mrs. Dark Garden), where I would feel really stupid lugging my Artisan mixer (because I am already lugging my ice cream maker).

Turns out that was the key. Even though I rely on the Artisan only to do the initial mixing of the dough and knead it by hand, it still made a huge difference (to me, anyway) in texture to mix and knead it start to finish by hand. From my standpoint it was wonderful -- I love to mess with dough.

The ingredients are simple:

6 to 6-1/2 cups bread flour
2-1/2 tsp. dry yeast
2 T. sugar
2 T. olive oil
2-1/4 c. hot tap water (around 115 degrees F)
1-1/2 tsp. salt

I make a soup of the the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup of the water. While that sits, I measure out about 6 cups of the flour onto my kneading surface (I have a granite-topped bakers' cart). Once the yeast is dissolved and foamy, I make a well in the center of the flour and pour the yeast mixture and the olive oil. Gradually feed the flour into the liquid until all the liquid is absorbed.

Add salt to remaining 2 cups of hot water and gradually incorporate into dough. Begin kneading (cleaning up all over your surface as you knead). Add extra 1/2 flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Knead until "smooth and elastic," as all the books say. I stop kneading -- reluctantly -- usually after about 10 minutes -- just enough time for a nice, quick meditation.

It really will feel like a baby's behind when it's ready for the first rising (Dark Garden is throwing up just a little in his mouth right now). Slap it in an olive-oil coated bowl, flip is once to coat, cover with oiled wax paper and put in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Let me insert something here about rising dough. Yeast can only rise so much. If it's doubled in size and an hour has not yet passed, pull it anyway. The rising time is for the dough, not you. If it rises too much the first time, when you go to shape it and put it in for a second rising, it will have nowhere to go.

Anyway, punch down, dump onto your kneading surface and let it rest 10 minutes. Divide in half, shape into oblongs and place on baking surface (I use an upside down sheet cake pan sprinkled with semonlina flour, but you can use a parchment-lined cookie sheet or, if you're lucky enough to have one, a baking stone lined with the semolina flour).

Brush with egg white, sprinkle with topping if you like (toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cracked wheat, etc.). Let rise another half hour.

Set oven for 350 degrees. Place loaves in oven, mist with water and bake five minutes. Mist with water again, bake another five minutes. Mist once more. Bake an additional 35-40 minutes. Loaves are done when they make a hollow sound when you thump them.

Cool at least 20 minutes before slicing. It doesn't cool any faster if Heir 2 stands over it, threatening it with a knife.

Editor's note: We are fully aware we cannot come close in texture to bread baked in a bread oven. But life is too short to wait to own a stone oven before baking bread.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Your produce alone has been worth the trip

There is nothing I would like better than to take credit for our first basket of vegetables pulled from the garden, but I can't. Other than my expressing a few opinions, choosing the seeds and doing some weeding and thinning, Dirtman is the one responsible for tonight's salad.

Oh, I cleaned it all and sliced the green onions. But he did all the digging and planting, not to mention the watering (when needed) and obsessing. And he's the one who's been out there tying up all the tomato and pepper plants with my old pantyhose (as the thing he's tying with, I mean -- he's not just out there with my pantyhose because that would be creepy).

It's not a lot, but it's rather impressive for a garden that was dug for the first time this year.

Oh! I am responsible for the basket, which is a $1 thrift store find. Take that over-priced, over-produced Longaberger.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday is Spot-On day

Gotta promote my day job, ya know.

I carefully considered what I was going to write on this week. You can thank Dirtman for the fact that I wrote about this and not what was really on my mind...

(Off topic: Gwynne sent me ham and suet for my birthday! We need to honor this in typical Linguini fashion, don't we, Dark Garden? I mean: ham and suet. It's like she knows what gift items to combine for maximum enjoyment!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The survivor

I was worried. I hadn't seen her in so long. Whew!

(Post just for you, Dark Garden!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The morning after the night before

Perhaps we'd better put Whiskers and Zsa Zsa in crates at night like the other animals.

I think they may go out on a binge at night while we sleep.

Friday, June 19, 2009

There were no aliens in New least not in 1938

When you are the baker in the family, you usually don't expect a cake on your own birthday unless you're motivated to make it yourself. So I haven't had a birthday cake for quite awhile.

Until now.

Heir 1's birthday gift to me.

Heir 2 has discovered antique and thrift shops -- happily. This was his gift.

There is a story that goes with this (that the Heirs have, of course, heard ad nauseum).

This is a recording of the original Orson Welles 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. The legendary radio play caused widespread panic among people who thought what they were hearing was authentic.

In the' radio version, H.G. Wells' fictitious aliens land in, of all places, New Jersey -- which would have placed them within linguini-throwing distance of adolescent versions of my wacky aunts and uncles.

As the story goes, my uncle was doing his homework and listening to the radio. He heard the broadcast from the very beginning with the radio play was introduced.

My two aunts, however, came in the middle of it and, as Italians tend to do, overreacted a bit. They began running in circles and screaming.

Now at this point my uncle had a few choices. The obvious course of action would have been to say, simply, "Don't panic." But Douglas Adams wasn't even born yet. Just as effective would have been something to the effect of, "It's just a radio play. There are no aliens landing in New Jersey."

Perhaps not as effective, but certainly more humane, he could have urged them to listen to the radio, which eventually began announcing that what everyone was hearing was a dramatization.

But you know my uncle didn't do that -- not with such a great performance going on in his own livingroom, which by this time involved his two sisters throwing things into suitcases and boxes while screaming at him to help. He calmly continued on with his homework.

In fact, the play was wrapping up just as my grandmother was coming home from work* and he still had not calmed down his sisters and the house was torn up from them throwing everything into whatever they could find.

My uncle, as he has a tendency to do, simply looked up with that "What? I didn't do anything" look. And, technically, he hadn't.

My grandmother, as family legend has it, was not angry over my uncle not telling my aunts about the play; she wasn't even angry that all their stuff was strewn about the livingroom. She simply did one of those Sicilian back-of-the-head slaps to my aunts, called them both "Stupido" and sent everyone to bed.

Somewhere in our communal family archives (probably in John Boy's Basement of Doom) is yet another recording of a (overly) dramatic version of War of the Worlds containing that line that we all repeat to this day (but I'll bet I'm the only one who remembers this is where it came from): "I.............survived."

*My grandfather had died a few years earlier of pneumonia. My grandmother worked in a millinery factory to support herself and her six children (well, five, since my oldest aunt had already married at this point).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Let this be an end to it

Ya know. I was going to behave. I was just going to let this issue die mostly because I’m tired of talking about it; but also because this is not a blog about this state’s transportation department. It’s not a blog for this state’s transportation department.

But, as a citizen of this state, I’m going to damn well not be intimidated about talking about an organization that my tax money funds, even though, frankly, the subject bores me to tears.

Was this a revelation to anyone? No. We’ve all come to accept these budgeting slights-of-hand from every governmental agency, not just VDOT – which is why my post was a rather run-of-the-mill observation of an irony.

This ain’t the Huffington Post, people. It’s a blog with a handful of readers – or it was until VDOT made it a high traffic site that drew attention. Seriously, if they didn’t want the public seeing their workers standing around, all they had to do was stop hitting the site for two straight days, because for a day and a half they were the only new people showing up on Site Meter. The rest of you I know couldn’t care less.

I’m not sure what the department is upset about. One guy claims it’s the picture of everyone standing around, for which I thought they had a valid excuse. But, honestly, because they are being so defensive about it, I almost wonder if I didn’t hit a nerve…And I’m sure no one else has ever observed a group of DOT workers standing around, right?

Mostly what seems to be at issue is that I repeated in my blog about the last minute spending -- something told to my husband without caveats. It wasn’t told as a secret; it wasn’t even prefaced with a “don’t tell anyone, but…” It was told as ironically as I wrote it.

Now this seems to be the crux of the whole issue: VDOT management is interrogating their employees to find out who told tales out of school. Because, you know, the ten other people who read this blog – most of whom don’t even live in this state – might be outraged. So VDOT management continues to waste money on an issue no one but VDOT knows or cares about.

And, while I hate to be glib about someone losing their job, whoever talked to my husband had to have known the nature of his employers and their policy on public disclosure. It is not my or my husband’s responsibility to edit their discussion. Sorry. I don’t have a VDOT employee manual.

Besides, he was basically telling a taxpayer that our money was being wasted. Did he think we would be happy about that?

Incidentally, in perusing the web, I don’t think I could be accused of “making a mess” at VDOT (as accused by Anonymous VDOT employee). Someone started before me. Could this be why they're so sensitive?

So here's the plan:

Today is my birthday and here is what I'm going to do:

I'm going to sit in my happy place.

I'm going to sit in my happy place and knit and drink Pelligrino.

I'm going to sit in my happy place, knit, drink Pelligrino and watch my birds. My birds.

I'm going to sit in my happy place, knit, drink Pelligrino, watch my birds

and tell them to shut up.

I may even dip into the semi-sweet chocolate chips, close my eyes and pretend I'm at Longwood Gardens. At the gazebo.

But I'll actually be in my happy place, knitting, drinking Pelligrino and watching my birds.

Unless, of course, it rains, in which case I'll be lying in a fetal position in my bed, reading a mindless mystery while snorking Redi-Whip from a can.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gooooooooood morning Richmond VDOT!!!!!

It’s kind of funny, when I think about it -- an entire state agency in a kerfuffle over my little blog with a readership of perhaps fifteen people, many of them relatives and friends who know my opinions anyway without my having to blog about them.

So yesterday’s post apparently drew the attention to the desk jockeys in Richmond, who called down to another layer of VDOT management, who called the next layer of VDOT management, all having time to peruse the blog, which I only noticed because all of a sudden my numbers have jumped. Apparently there is nothing better to do when you are a VDOT employee in Richmond.

The result of this is that yesterday afternoon a VDOT supervisor (the working kind, not the desk kind) showed up at my front door.

Let me just state a few things for the record: I in no way believe it’s possible to remain totally anonymous on the web without coming off as really paranoid. So I try to be as honest as I can be and, like Billie’s father says in Born Yesterday: “Never do nothing you wouldn't want printed on the front page of The New York Times.” If someone wants to find me, I know there is nothing I can do about it and still live a normal life. So here I am – I live with four large dogs and Gaspode (frankly, worry more about Gaspode…).

Secondly, I have this annoying habit of automatically assuming I’m wrong. I begin apologizing for things I didn’t do before anyone actually accuses me of doing anything or, when I know I have every right to believe what I believe or do what I’m doing, I try to find some common ground with my accuser.

I would say VDOT was sending out its muscle to intimidate me, but the man at my door was a very polite – if beleaguered – gentleman who had just been bawled out by his upper management, none of whom, apparently, could read. Because, if they had been able to read they would have known I was not chuckling over the VDOT workers, so much as them – the guys sitting behind the desks, glibly issuing orders to “save money” that actually cost more in the long run.

To his credit, the gentleman took one for the team, so to speak, and insisted that his project on Monday was necessary, and I suppose road conditions are subjective. But I drive the road quite a bit and its deterioration was unremarkable. I’ve also lived on VDOT-maintained gravel roads that needed far more attention and need it now. I’m no geological engineer, but I know when a road is screwing up my car’s alignment – even if I am a girl.

Anyway, the VDOT workers I observed Monday were doing the only thing they could do, given the screwy, if predictable, orders they were given.

I am fully aware this is common practice in every governmental agency, local, state or federal. Who cares about $80,000 when your budget is in the millions? It’s really small potatoes – just a number on the ledger.

I also know that our personal situation makes some people think we’ve no right to an opinion on any financial matter. Sorry. It’s my blog. I may be living in a rental house and my finances devastated but, if I treated my personal budget like the pencil pusher in government, I’d be living out my retirement in a cardboard box.

So, NO, I have NO gripe against our local VDOT workers, which was the point I was making in the original post. They’re obviously patient, tolerant people. But my aforementioned assumption of guilt requires me to apologize to them for stirring up the people who somehow managed to fumble their way out of high school without achieving abilities in reading comprehension: I’m sorry your upper management can’t read.

Ironically, in making such a fuss over this entry, they have, in fact, caused it to be viewed by more people than if they had just let it alone. One has to wonder what level of the VDOT bureaucracy has so much time on their hands that they can cause my site traffic to triple in one day – all of it from the Richmond VDOT server.

While I appreciate the attention, controversy is not what this blog is about and tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled domestic blathering.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My tax dollars at work

So I'm sitting at my desk, minding my own business and the business of the bird feeder, when I look just beyond to the intersection of a little road that runs off my road. This is what I see:

It is a few minutes before 9 a.m., but VDOT works an earlier day (By 3:30 p.m., they're on overtime). Okay. I get that a project must be discussed before inception, though you'd think such discussion would have taken place prior to actually arriving on location. I had no idea what the project was, since there never appeared to be a problem at this particular intersection.

Twenty minutes later:

More people are required to discuss whatever it is. Is the speed sign crooked? What?

Finally, having discussed the matter for 45 minutes, a truck of paving material arrives, the road is reduced to one lane and the smell of tar wafts through the air. This carries on for about and hour or so and then -- break time. And so goes the morning and the afternoon: An hour or so of work; half hour break.

At any other time in my life, I would have just shrugged, chuckled and moved on with my day. But our financial position and fruitless search for employment has me more than a little sensitive when I see workers not working -- especially when they're not working on my tax money.

Then the final straw: In the middle of baking some Italian bread, the electricity goes off. Anyway, there I am, filled with righteous indignation and I'm stalking through the house delivering a diatribe on civil service workers who never get fired and the cost to the taxpayer and how I was certainly capable of holding up a "slow" sign for an hour without requiring a half hour break.

So Dirtman heads over to take matters into his own hands, not so much because he is outraged at the injustice of being without power, but more because he just wants me to Shut. Up.

"Did you tell them about my Italian bread?" I asked angrily when he came back.

" wasn't them," he said. "There's some guy digging with a backhoe in his yard who probably didn't clear it with the utilities. And, no, I didn't mention your bread. They've got enough problems."


It seems our local VDOT guys got a call Friday that there was $80,000 left in the budget that had to be "used up" by the end of the day (June 15) or it would be lost. They were directed to "go out and pave something" immediately, whether it needed it or not. They figured this intersection would cause the least amount of trouble to drivers.

Since the project was so spur-of-the-moment, they didn't have the materials on hand, so they had to wait for truckloads of supplies to be picked up in another county -- hence all the waiting around.

For the record, they were just as outraged as I was, since they had plenty of maintenance that had to be done, seeing as they have to maintain the most gravel roads of any VDOT jurisdiction in the state. Yet, here they were being paid overtime to pave a road that didn't need paving.

How much paving does $80,000 buy? 19,008 inches; 1,584 feet; 0.3 of a mile -- 30 cents per square foot of pavement.

I try not to think what a difference $80,000 would mean in the real world -- you know the world where $80,000 could support an entire family very comfortably for an entire year.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A gift -- sort of

The parents of the intended recipient of this layette do not read this blog, so I thought I'd show off how quickly I can conjure a crocheting project in a pinch.

I very rarely give homemade gifts -- it's a rather dicey sort of proposition. I mean, they're always received graciously, but there is the taint of a "loving hands at home" look about them that is not often the style of the recipient.

I used to give any homemade gifts along with a long, drawn out disclaimer relieving the recipient from any obligation to wear, display or keep the item given, but then realized that, as a gift, that would be the rule with any item. You don't give a gift with strings attached -- otherwise it's not a gift. I'm not sure what it is, but it's not a gift.

Then there is my Puritan idea that in order for something to be a gift, I should have to have gone through some trouble to manifest it. I should have to spend money, go to a store, stand in a long check out line -- something horrible, or even slightly annoying. But the fact is, I love to knit and crochet, find it very relaxing and enjoyable. So it's more a gift to me, than to the recipient and that doesn't seem quite fair.

So I suppose the only gift in the case are the buttons, which I had to go to Joanne Fabrics to purchase. Then again, I'm always looking for an excuse to go to Joanne Fabrics, so having to buy buttons for a gift that was being mailed to someone on Dirtman's side of the family justified my at least entering the store and, if I happen to glance briefly at the bargain fabric, it was merely in the interest of getting to the button rack -- honest. Okay, not really. The buttons are in front of the store and the bargain fabric are as far in the back as you can get.

So I guess the real gift part of this is that I at least thought of a way to mail it to Maryland, though Dirtman actually packaged and mailed it.

I guess I really didn't do anything to make this a gift then. Which means I'll have to write a thank you note to Kim and Brad thanking them for giving me an excuse to crochet a baby layette.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Teenage Mutant Cardinal Birdies

This female cardinal only just showed up at the feeder, so I'm guessing she was hatched only this spring. I'm not sure what happened to her right eye, whether it was a near-fatal encounter with a predator or whether she was just born this way.

It doesn't bother her in the least and she thinks she looks like all the other cardinals, even with her little two-feather crest.

I pray she has some sight in that eye so she will avoid any further injury. I know her demise would be survival of the fittest and nature's way of protecting the strength of the gene pool, but I can't help pulling for her.

Editor's Note: Dark Garden will now commence yelling at me and telling me to take these photos down.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Sisters of the Linguini Feeders

When it comes to hummingbirds, according to all my "vast" research (through Google) there is really only one type that migrates through Virginia -- the ruby-throated hummingbird.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is a bright green to olive green in color. The male has the distinctive bright red throat.

We've had lots of hummingbirds come to the feeders, but not one male. Not. One.

Apparently I am hosting the only hummingbird convent in the country.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday is Spot-On day

I'm not real happy that I'm beginning to become identified with our foreclosure and bankruptcy. Regular Linguini readers (and by that I mean those who read this blog on a regular basis, not those whose digestive systems do not require the aid of Activia) know that I am so much more than that.

However, there are precious few speaking out for we powerless, devastated foreclosure victims, who are not asking for anyone's pity. All we ask is that everyone stop blaming us for the entire economic condition of the country because, by the way, it's not our fault. Blame Wall Street; blame the greedy developers who raped the industry then dove for cover behind an embankment of lawyers.

So when I see articles like this that reveal such smug self-righteousness, I can't help myself. But I do feel bad that I have to pick on one person when I know this is the opinion of so many people. I'm sure the Bochers are a very nice family who are responding out of ignorance and self-preservation. I'm sorry my writing style leans toward the ... um ... sarcastic.

Okay. Maybe I'm not that sorry...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Speaking of unfinished projects...

Some of you may recall this project started at The House That Shall No Longer Be Named (that we seem to be naming a lot lately -- I have a theory about that which I will share one of these days.). At the time I admitted to being the world's slowest knitter.

Well I'm not that slow -- Evening Breeze was finished well over a year ago and I've worn it several times. But, for the record, here's a brief jaunt down memory lane:


Winding the Yarn (not always easy around here, what with all the help)


Finished Product

Curious knitters can read the particulars on Ravelry. For the rest of you: Behold! I have finished a wearable sweater!

Monday, June 08, 2009

When life give you egg yolks...

So, four angel food cakes later, here I am with over 40 egg yolks in my refrigerator. It looked like I was going to have to cook them all up for the dogs.

Then I remembered custard ice cream. Custard ice cream uses six yolk per batch. Yeah. Not your everyday treat; more a once in a while treat, like when your son requests lots of angel food cake for his graduation. Doesn't happen often, thank goodness; but when it does, take full advantage of the kismet of decadence.

So, six egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup heavy cream whisked in a bowl.

In a heavy saucepan, pour 1-1/2 cups of whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream. Add one vanilla bean (split, scrap center into pot, put bean in pot). Scald the whole mess (bubbles around side of pot, not boiling).

Take pot off heat and, while whisking the egg mixture, add 1/2 cup of the cream mixture gradually. Repeat with a few more 1/2 cup portions then, whisking the cream mixture, add egg mixture.

Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and keep a path drawn with your finger. Take off flame and pour through a sieve into a bowl. Cool quickly in a cold water bath (place bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water).

Place plastic wrap flush against the ice cream batter (to prevent a skin forming) and place in refrigerator for at least 3 and up to 24 hours.

Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturers direction.

I made two batches, using two different freezers -- a Cuisinart stand alone and the ice cream attachment to my trusty Kitchenaid Artisan stand mixer. The Cuisinart is easier to use. The Artisan is a little more fiddly, but holds more batter. Both do a good job, though.

As you can see.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

She herd that (heh -- get it -- herd that. Heh, heh...)

Dirtman would love to work with Hokie in the herding ring, but right now it's just not in the budget. So, for now, we live vicariously through Zsa Zsa's puppies.

Or, rather, puppy -- Becca, to be specific. You remember Becca, the one lovely red-tri? The snake herder?

We traveled to Keepstone Farm in Berryville, Va., to watch Becca's first herding lesson. I might add, this is the first time I've seen Becca since saying goodbye to her over a year and a half ago.

As you can see, it was an emotional reunion.

Actually, she only had eyes for the sheep.

First Keepstone's owner and herding instructor Susan Rhodes runs her through the paces.

Then it was Becca's dad Tom's turn to work with her, no small feat considering it was their first time out.

Herding would certainly be my downfall because you have to have a strong knowledge of right and left and then call it something else. Tom did really well for his first time out. There's a lot to remember when you're out there that I'm sure, in time, becomes second nature. You've got your herding stick, you've got the dog going one way, you've got the sheep going the other way and you've got yourself to put somewhere.

And then, of course, there's the sheep that are, well -- sheep. They're not as dumb as you think and can be downright stubborn -- in a stupid way.

Zsa Zsa was very proud of Becca, though she denies being old enough to have had puppies and claims that Becca is her younger sister. She assures us that she would be equally as deft in the herding ring if it weren't for "all that panting and running. And really, Dah-ling -- just let the filthy beasts go where they want to go. Isn't it time for my facial?"

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Swan songs and Pomp and Circumstance non-stop

Many people are deceived by the simplicity of the triangle as an instrument. It's too easy to write off the importance of and talent required to sit through an entire piece of music waiting for two triangle hits, looking totally engaged, and deliver a performance whose simplicity masks the skill and practice required to accomplish.

The Master's Hands

There are good triangle players and there are poor triangle players. Heir 2 is known in these parts as the Yo Yo Ma of the Triangle. And certainly his performance at last night's graduation ceremony -- his final high school band performance -- brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience.

Oh. And Caisee did something too.

(Actually Caisee got up there and belted out the Star Spangled Banner all by herself in a nail-biting performance that had us swearing she'd never be able to hit That Note -- but she did. What will Strasburg High School do without their house singer? Oh, and Caisee will put her talent to use in the future by becoming a doctor of forensics. Yes, I've tried to find the connection. Singing autopsies? I just print the facts.)

And now for some typical Linguini shots we've all come to expect:

Joe 'n' Gnate

Joe 'n' Dirtman

Just. Don't. Ask.

Centerpiece designed by Dark Garden*

*Some of you may recognize the this from way back when. Little by little all my old House That Shall No Longer Be Named projects are turning up from the bags where they were so hastily tossed. This is a particular favorite of DG's.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Just in case you were wondering...

Four angel food cakes and four dozen orange-essence shortbread cookies in two days.

So far, three cakes and two dozen cookies done, and the fourth cake in the oven. I think I've transcended any concerns I had about angel food cake. I could make one in my sleep.

Tomorrow Heir 2 graduates.

See you all on the flip side.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

That which was lost...

...has been found.

Let me just say, I rarely got a phone call on this thing until I lost it. Then it disappeared and suddenly everyone's been trying to get me on my cell phone -- or so they say.

So here it is, but do not feel obligated to call me for the sole purpose of assuring me of my popularity. I still hate talking on a phone.*

*And 3/4 of the time I forget to bring it with me so, in the words of Douglas Adams, "Don't Panic." And know I always remember my towel.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dining out with the Starlings

If you sit here long enough, staring out the window at the bird feeder, thinking of things to write, you see some pretty neat stuff. I will admit my bird watching is a form of meditation; I'm truly "in the moment" and yesterday the moment consisted of this:

I know starlings are considered nuisance birds. Around here they're second only to the grackles in being the bird feeder bullies. Even Bubba the Bluejay gives them a wide berth.

As for teaching their kids to fend for themselves, however, they are second to none. By the end of the day, these fledglings had learned to fly up to the suet feeder and feed themselves -- awkwardly (they kept flying on top of each other and falling off), but efficiently.

Today they discovered that the top of the suet feeder is flat, thereby allowing more of them to perch. What they couldn't figure out was how to access the actual suet from this convenient location. This has resulted in a lot of jostling for position accompanied by a racket of squawking while Mom placidly stuffs her face.

Meanwhile, one of the mourning doves calmly pecks up her usual ground seed, thinking, "This used to be such a nice restaurant. Why can't those trashy Starlings leave their brats at home like civilized birds."

That's right. I know what my birds are thinking.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mystery bird revealed

The mystery is solved, thanks to Dolores at Wild Birds Unlimited.

He's a Tree Swallow. And he's highly insulted that he was called a kingbird. So much so, he hasn't been back since.

There. Now we can all get some sleep tonight.

Lost in Lost River

John Boy was to arrive at Lost River State Park much earlier than the rest of us in order to go on a hike and then would meet us for a picnic.

A (sort of) direct quote from John Boy, after sitting a half hour in the general parking area while we had already set up the site and having arrived, via his car, after searching the whole park:

"I thought you'd probably leave a note or something on my windshield..."

"...but I got distracted."

Did I mention Linguinis have a focusing prob...

Oh, look! Zsa Zsa!