Audrey Lee McKinney 1934-2008

My grandpa died yesterday afternoon. I wish I had known him better but I'm glad he was able to meet Saul, his youngest great-grandson of many, before he died, and that I was able to see him and to say good-bye. We will be out of town until next Tuesday.



Aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas and cousins, oh my!

His first concert

We went to see the Intercoastal Pirates - an awesome band made even more awesome by the fact that the guitarist is Saul's grandpa.

Bath time

Saul has recently developed a fascination with the bathtub drain. Letting the water out of the tub is now the highlight of his evening.

I deem today a PICTURE DAY

Trip to the park near our house...


Late Recipe Friday

Risotto with Italian Sausage, Caramelized Onions, and Bitter Greens

Another annoyingly long name.

4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
2 teaspoons sugar
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage (12 works better)
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
2 cups arugula leaves
3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1. Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and sugar to pan; sauté 7 minutes or until onion is golden. Place onion mixture in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Removing casings from sausage. Add sausage to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add chopped shallots; sauté 2 minutes. Add Arborio rice; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in white wine; cook 45 seconds or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup hot broth; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Remove from heat; stir in reserved onion, arugula, and remaining ingredients.

Verdict: risotto takes a long time to make. I've been wanting to try it for awhile now, but perhaps I should have waited until winter when standing over a hot stove for half an hour wouldn't be such a hardship. However, it was worth it. This was GOOD. This might be my new comfort food. It was creamy and rich and salty all at the same time. The flavors were perfectly balanced, which was the whole point of the article (Cooking Light, as always). Definitely a winner, but to be put into the regular rotation only in the colder months.



A thought inspired by BPP

When you read a book, what does the voice inside your head sound like? In mine, it's always an upper class British accent.

Making an effort

My new compost bin should arrive today or tomorrow. I am quite excited to start composting, although I'm disappointed that I can't afford a more sophisticated worm system. I'm planning on putting the bin near my vegetable garden in the backyard, which is surrounded by chicken wire to keep the deer out.

Let me tell you, the neighbors are going to love this.

Do you think they will tolerate it better if I offer them some fresh compost for their gardens? Homegrown tomatoes might go over better, but I have a feeling that B is going to wolf them down just as soon as I can pick them, so I'd better not plan on extras.

Recipe Friday (not really)

Well that lasted a long time, huh?

My recipe for this week was supposed to be either a sausage risotto with caramelized onions and bitter greens, or pork with bacon-cornbread stuffing. But I kept making other things instead. I am making the risotto tonight and the pork next week. So maybe there will be a Recipe Monday next week.

As always, I am happy to substitute a cute video of Saul for actual content.


Opinions needed

Ok, is Saul saying mama in this video? I mean I know he's saying it, but does he know he's saying it? What do you think?


Cheerios, applesauce, and yogurt kept him busy for a very long time.

What can I say? I needed to cook dinner.

Poetry Thursday


Although he's apparently the youngest (his little rasta-beard is
barely down and feathers),
most casually connected (he hardly glances at the girl he's with,
though she might be his wife),
half-sloshed (or more than half) on picnic-whiskey teen-aged
father, when his little son,
two or so, tumbles from the slide, hard enough to scare
himself, hard enough to make him cry,
really cry, not partly cry, not pretend the fright for what must
be some scarce attention,
but really let it out, let loudly be revealed the fear of having
been so close to real fear,
he, the father, knows just how quickly he should pick the child
up, then how firmly hold it,
fit its head into the muscled socket of his shoulder, rub its
back, croon and whisper to it,
and finally pull away a little, about a head's length, looking, still
concerned, into its eyes,
then smiling, broadly, brightly, as though something had been
shared, something of importance,
not dreadful, or not very, not at least now that it's past, but
rather something...funny,
funny, yes, it was funny, wasn't it, to fall and cry like that,
though one certainly can understand,
we've all had glimpses of a premonition of the anguish out
there, you're better now, though,
aren't you, why don't you go back and try again, I'll watch you,
maybe have another drink,
yes, my son, my love, I'll go back and be myself now, you go be
the person you are, too.

-C.K. Williams

Just a reminder

Everyone knows that my birthday is coming up in August, right?

And does everyone know that Target sells a Wii Fit bundle?

Ok then. Just checking.


One success, one failure

This is not recipe Friday, so I'll keep it short.

The Success

I marinated a flank steak overnight last week in soy sauce, ketchup, scallions, and little bit of sesame oil. For dinner, I just plopped it on the grill, 6 minutes per side, and then sliced it up. We had it with salads, a baguette, and a bottle of Shiraz.

Simple and delicious.

The Failure

It seemed like such a great idea. Waffles. With maple syrup and bacon cooked right in. Genius right? I imagined sweet syrupy waffles with crunches of salty bacon here and there. Wow, even thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out the way I had hoped. There was not enough syrup in the batter to make it even slightly sweet or to give it a maple flavor. The bacon was too strong. Instead of crunchy bacon surprises, it was like having bacon flavored waffles. Which isn't really a bad idea, now that I think of it, but not what I was wanting. Finally, I don't think the recipe had enough oil/fat to make a good crunchy waffle. Perhaps the bacon was supposed to cover it, but I drained it and patted it all over with paper towels before adding it to the batter.

Anyway, try again Cooking Light. Great idea, bad execution.


And so it begins

Saul has discovered books. Until now, he was mostly uninterested except when he had the chance to knock them off of my bookshelf. But that was before he knew.

Books open. And close. And open. And close.

The fascination is endless.

You might have to increase your screen brightness - I took this right before bedtime.

The Project, part one

Ok, so when I was 18 I failed a class in my first semester of college. The class was calculus, which I had stupidly signed up to take at 8:00 am on the far end of the UT campus. In my second semester of college, I made a D in biology. Again, early class, hard subject to BS on tests. I think it is pretty standard for 18 year olds, suddenly set free in the big city and living in their own apartments, to have some adjusting to do. At the end of that first school year, my dad helped my adjustment by dropping his monetary support. He would not pay any more tuition, and he would no longer help pay my rent. I was stuck in Austin with a lease that lasted until August, and a very low paying job as a maid.

I weighed all my options and then embarked on the very first Get Stephanie's Shit Together Project. I was a fast typer, so I went to Office Temps and managed to get lucky with a decent paying temp job that later turned into the permanent job I would keep until I finished my bachelor's degree. I continued to clean houses at night for awhile. I made my first obsessively detailed Excel budget so that I could track all my expenses. I ate a lot of Lipton Noodle packs.

UT was not willing to help me out with financial aid, but I found a small private college that would. I harassed the administration at that college until they finally admitted me to their nights and weekends program, which was supposed to be limited to people over the age of 24. I decided that a liberal arts degree was wonderful for people with money, but since I would need to pay back my loans, I went with accounting. I worked as an admin from 8 to 5 every day and kept a full-time schedule at school until I graduated. I learned how to handle my money, how to manage my time, and basically how to be a responsible adult.

It was a hard couple of years, but it was very good for me. I regret that I wasn't able to have a real college experience or to just enjoy being young in such a cool city. But in the end, I did what I needed to do and found that I was able to hold my head up high and be proud of my accomplishments.

Now I feel like I am in an analogous situation. I am at a crossroads. I have spent the last few years focusing on having a baby. Now that he's here, I'm ready to sit down and take a hard look at where I'm going and what my goals are. In 2001, I made a five year plan, and then I executed it. And I think I did a good job. But I've been drifting for a little while now, so it's time for the next five year plan, and the Get Stephanie's Shit Together Project, Part Two.

More later. Maybe. It's easy to talk about the project after completion. Much harder when things are in flux.

I will definitely post a video of Saul later, however. And that's really what you're here for, right?



Soon, I will post about the official Get Stephanie's Shit Together Project, Part Two, and about the flank steak (success!) and the bacon-maple waffles (fail!)

But right now, I've got to take care of some work stuff. So here is Saul to cover for me.


Recipe Friday

I got this recipe out of one of my favorite mags, Cooking Light. It had some long descriptive name, but I can't remember it, and those drive me nuts anyway, so lets just call it

Roast Pork with Sauerkraut, mmmkay?

You know what? Cooking Light might be a great magazine, but their website sucks. I can't find the recipe anywhere, even though it was in the most recent issue. So I'll just do my best to remember.

1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt (it's Cooking Light, so double this if you want it to taste good*)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 lb pork tenderloin
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup sliced onion
2 tsp sugar
2 cups drained sauerkraut
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apricot preserves (I used peach. It's the same color.)

*why do I get a magazine devoted to making healthy recipes and then circumvent all the things that make the recipes healthy? If it calls for low-sodium broth, I use regular. If it calls for 1 tsp oil, I use 2. Anyway, carry on.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425
  2. Mix the spices together and rub all over the pork, then brown in a skillet with the olive oil for about 6 minutes.
  3. Put the pork in a greased 11 x 7 baking dish
  4. Add the onions and sugar to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the sauerkraut and saute for another 2 minutes.
  6. Arrange the sauerkraut/onion mixture around the pork.
  7. Brush the pork with 1/3 of the preserves and then pour the water on the sauerkraut.
  8. Roast for 15 minutes, then brush 1/3 of the preserves on the pork.
  9. Roast for 15 minutes, then brush the remaining 1/3 of the preserves on the pork.
  10. Roast for another 10 minutes, until internal temperature is 160.
  11. Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes before carving.
Verdict: yummy. The sweetness of the peaches balanced out the sour cabbage perfectly. I will definitely be making this again, maybe even with apricots, although B thought it was weird that there was fruit in his sauerkraut. But that didn't stop him from going back for seconds. And he didn't even complain when we had leftovers last night.

BTW, have you noticed that everything I make lately is coming out really well? I would like to think it's because I'm a damn good cook, but I think I've just gotten a lot better at picking out good recipes. And because I'm a damn good cook.

Tonight, I am going to grill a flank steak that I started marinating last night. If it's yummy, I'll take pictures. If not, I'll pretend it never happened.

Oh yeah, and here is Saul. Still cute, still recovering, still managing to get himself tangled up in his toys approximately every 3 minutes.


Is that Bella the Devil Cat?

What is it with me and the cat videos?

You know what? It's not me. It's the internet. Cats have overrun the internet.

You know it's true. There is an entire GENRE of YouTube videos for cats on treadmills.

Poetry Thursday


If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

-Billy Collins

This is actually just the day I am wishing for. So far, this spring has been soupy. Last night, we were woken up by a terrible storm. The hail and wind were so loud that I was sure we were in a tornado. We went downstairs to get Saul, and then I had to go back up the stairs, past the glass front door that I was sure was going to bust out, to retrieve a cowering Monster from the corner of the bedroom. After everything calmed down, we had no power and, therefore, no baby monitor. So we had to wake up Saul to bring him upstairs with us. Needless to say, none of us got much sleep last night. And I'm ashamed to say that perhaps we wouldn't be so miserable this morning if I hadn't insisted that we stay up late to watch the Project Runway finale. Sorry, B. But you know you love it too.

This is why we can't ever have cable. We can't be trusted to use it responsibly.


Quick update

I was going to post this video to show how Saul seemed to be completely recovered this morning, aside from the copious amounts of snot dripping from his nose.

However, shortly after this he started crying and running a fever again and is now drowsing in his crip doped up on Tylenol and gumming a bottle of Gatorade.

Poor baby.

Wednesday Morning Sa-AHHHH!!!SPIDER!!!!


I found this tarantula on my driveway last night. She wasn't very big - when she un-scrunched herself to make a break for the garage, she looked to be about the size of my outstretched hand. Did you know that tarantulas are all scrunched up when they're just sitting there? When she moved, she rose up from her legs so that she was a few inches off the ground. Her back was a beautiful tan color, but I wasn't able to get a picture of that because every time she moved, I hopped around like the wussy that I am. But here is a video I found of one moving so you can see the different colors.

I was holding Saul when I found her, but luckily a neighbor was outside and helped me sweep her into a dustpan and relocate her to our backyard.

When B got home, I think he was a little unsettled to know that we had a tarantula living the backyard. He is into unnecessary bug carnage. But really, even if he doesn't like to think about it too much, this isn't the first tarantula that has been seen in the vicinity of our house, and it certainly isn't the biggest or the hairiest.

Anyway, I'll take the spiders over the scorpions any day.