The great Julekake lamination of aught-nine.

As with last year, I made Julekake this year.  The big difference is I got off my hind end and decided to experiment.  My grandmother’s recipe makes five full-size loaves at one go.  This is a quantity of dough that swamps my stand mixer and, in the words of my mother, “You don’t knead it, you hug it.”  In other words, it is an incredibly daunting prospect to contemplate for any amateur Julenisse.

Modifying baking recipes is not something I’m qualified in any way to do.  My friend Linsey is an expert in such things, and from reading her blog I know there is seemingly endless trial and error in these experiments.  But I wanted cardamom and dried fruit in a lovely, slightly chewy, perfect for breakfast toast sort of way.  And so I fired up a spreadsheet and commenced to calculate.

My first experiment (five loaves down to three) was actually very successful.  Not enough cardamom, but I was (I believe) understandably cautious: cardamom is pretty pungent.  But the texture was perfect.  And I could get the bulk of the kneading done with the stand mixer and finish by hand.

We stored two of the loaves in the oven.  John’s idea, and not a bad one.  But it is a bad idea to preheat the oven without checking to see if there is anything in there first.  And so, preparing to roast a chicken, John essentially laminated two loaves of Julekake.

So I made two more batches.  Nine total loaves is proof of concept, I think.  And I think I’m finally getting the cardamom calibration correct.

I still won’t make the mistake of thinking that I did anything other than get lucky with my first attempt at modifying a baking recipe.  But it’s nice to have a more manageable version.

Milo’s not going to the baseball hall of fame

But we are cautiously optimistic that the lump in his throat is getting better under steroid treatment.

The dog better look out, though.  Milo may kick the stuffing out of him in a fit of ‘roid rage…


It’s hard to focus on the good when illness has struck a tiny tyrant.

Plenty is just fine chez nous, and we have much to be grateful for.  But John found a grape-sized lump on Milo’s larynx on Friday.  At the vet, they found he had a fever of 106 – very, very high.  An expensive battery of tests has told us… well, almost nothing, except he doesn’t have an infection.  He has been out of sorts and punky, spending lots of time in the cool sanctuary of the basement.  He appreciates visits, but hasn’t been seeking us out with his usual insistent regularity.  His meow is a croak, and his purr sounds like a fork dragged across asphalt.

Wee Milo is not well.  And it’s got us well and truly tweaked.

That’s all I got.  How are you?

…and now, the weather. Over to you, Bob.

It is very fashionable to freak out about the weather in DC.  An inch or two of snow never fails to make the local news people completely lose their bananas, and school is often canceled the night before a prospective storm, without ever seeing so much as a flake (other than the aforementioned news people, that is).

However, it is unwise to ignore the peril that is the DC local driving in snow.  Rich lobbyists from Georgia in massive SUVs seem to think that four-wheel drive and ABS cancel out the effect of snow and ice.  Other people in more plebian vehicles drive in a manner that would be considered dangerously stupid on dry roads, rendering them criminally insane when there is ice present.

And don’t get me started on the “plowing” that is done around here.  On some roads, you will see three giant snowplows in a single-file line, the first doing some work, the other two… I don’t know what they are for.  Backup, in the event of possible gang warfare?  On other roads, the plow may trundle through, with the blade held delicately aloft – about an inch or two from the road’s surface, thus ensuring that passing traffic creates a nicely packed layer of ice all the more rapidly.  Or they may never come at all, leaving your local street a lunar landscape of icy potholes.

John and I saw all of this yesterday as we went in for a half day.  We had somewhere in the neighborhood of eight inches fall on our house (we have learned that we live in a funny pocket weather-wise: there were probably only three inches just a few miles to the southeast of us), and we decided to wait out the morning snow and see what happened rather than hurling our bodies into the scrum.  He gave me a ride to the Metro in his four-wheel-drive wagon, and what fun we had.  Who needs a gym when you can have the adrenaline rush of someone in an Infiniti sedan diving in front of you at 40 mph with a half-carlength to spare?  And why go to the ballet, when you can watch four enormous snowplows weaving complicated patterns in front of you on a local multi-lane road?

And people think that politics are our great amusement around here.

Political action

Sorry for the lack of postage lately.   And today’s update isn’t terribly exciting, but I thought some of my readers might want to jump on this particular bandwagon.

I sent this e-mail to my state reps and senator today:

Dear Sirs and Madam:

Citizens are turning to public libraries in record numbers. Library usage data across the state is rising steeply — libraries and their services (job search training, new skills and education services, Internet and computer access, safe and free place for families) are helping citizens survive the economic crisis.

That being the case, please consider the potential impact of the following:

  • Maryland public libraries are currently threatened with a 10% cut in state funds for FY 2010.
  • Funding for the county libraries and the Enoch Pratt Free Library would be cut over three million dollars.
  • The State Library Resource Center would have an additional devastating one million dollar cut —- a cut back to a funding level below FY 2003 that would force reductions in services to every county library in the state.
  • A 10% cut will undermine the ability of public libraries to help citizens survive this crisis.

Strong support of the state’s excellent public library system will have a powerful impact on Maryland’s ability to survive and rebound from the economic crisis.  I ask that you please support increased funding — or at least a rollback of the proposed cuts to help our libraries serve their communities.

I signed off with my name and contact details (a thing one should generally do when sending a letter to representatives, FYI — it both reassures them that you are a real constituent and enables them to get back to you easily if they need/want to follow up).

If you live in Maryland, you can find out who your legislators are and how to contact them here.

Crazy Aunt Purl: the sanest woman around

I really hate worrying about things I can’t control, and as a general rule I don’t.  So it’s not surprising that I find the following incredibly sane:

The economy doesn’t call me each day to see how I feel about it. If I choose to think about something else, like green beans and herb gardening and vacuuming the house, the economy doesn’t get worse. It doesn’t get better either, in fact I have no control at all over any of this! All I can control is how I choose to see this whole thing. So I am choosing to opt out of all of it. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen whether I freak out or not.

Truer words were never spoken.

Who knew my oven timer was so powerful?

I do not think that label means what you think it means...

…and why doesn’t it work like my TiVo remote?  Wouldn’t that be cool?  "Go eight seconds back in time."  If I had that button the other day, I might have saved myself the horrendous cleanup of flour mixed with oily, yeasty water when the beginnings of a pizza crust dough went horribly wrong all over the kitchen counter.

I blame Jamie Oliver for making that flour-well thing look so easy.

Jangly power-pop

I was sitting home yesterday letting my laptop serve up what it wanted out of the 9.7 days’ worth of music it has in its innards, and Bleu’s "DDBDD" came on.

This, of course, brought me right back to the summer of 1993, the last summer I lived in Minneapolis.  I didn’t know it was to be my last summer – I managed the world’s fastest move back to the East coast on having been summarily accepted as a transfer to the University of Maine School of Law: two weeks from acceptance to classes starting.  I try to remember that summer when I get the idea that something isn’t doable in the time allotted.  If I found someone to take over my lease, packed my one-bedroom apartment, loaded the caboodle into a U-Haul and made the two-day trek from Minneapolis to Portland* in two weeks, I can bloody well do ANYTHING.

Sorry – digressions upon digressions.  Getting back to the point, "How on earth did an album released in 2002 bring you to 1993?" I hear you cry.

Two words: Andy Sturmer.  Andy Sturmer of the sadly short-lived band Jellyfish, which I saw live that summer, works with Bleu, and on some songs (as with "DDBDD," and "Could be Worse"), the result is so Jellyfish-like I get an absolute jones for more jangly, harmony-drenched, sunny-yet-slightly-bombastic power pop.

So I’m begging you: any recommendations?  The playlist in the sidebar to the right has some good examples of what I’m talking about.

*Hat tip to Dad, who did the driving, but only because he hates being driven.

A missive from my former cell phone provider

“Theres only one reason to choose a wireless company”

Good thing that reason isn’t spelling.  I can tell you it’s definitely not customer service.

Typing one-handed

No, not like that.  Pervert.

Like this:


Surgery on finger.  Typing not easy.  Haven’t tried knitting.

More later.