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We are Familia FIG. We are a bi- lingual, blended family. Belalu was diagnosed at 9 months with hypochondroplasia.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

How I Earned My Outdoors Bead: Part I

The time has come. I am ready to talk about it now. Many of you have probably already heard the story, so you can skip on down to drool over Indian food, or keep reading and have a laugh all over again.

I believe it was day four of our FIG Road Trip 2007 MN-ME. We had been camping at Split Rock Lighthouse and already canoed in Lake Superior. We were paddling road warriors ready for more adventure, no challenge on land nor sea would be too daunting for us. After having traveled for the whole previous day, topping the night off with a sauna and delicious meal, we felt refreshed and ready to explore the gorgeous town of Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Janet and Gary Graham, our illustrious hosts, suggested a leisurely trip down the Chocolay River, which eventually opens into Lake Superior. The plan was to drift downstream until we reached the lake, have a picnic lunch, and then paddle back upstream before an impending storm reached town. It was a hot, mostly sunny day, with some brisk wind coming from the lake and dark clouds in the distance, promising to arrive by late afternoon.

We put in at the designated launch, bringing along Mobi, my camera, and a packed lunch. I was wearing a cardigan (not handmade) to protect me from the sun and for some reason, Juan was wearing some sort of outerwear that was not really appropriate for the weather. We paddled along the winding river, seeing lots of ducks and geese and marveling at the houses with such a beautiful location to call home. It was quiet and peaceful and we were really enjoying ourselves.

All too quickly, we turned a bend.In the distance, beyond the bridge, the lake appeared. Though slowly at first, as we got closer its vast expanse grew larger until it filled our horizon. Here we were, face to face with the mighty Lake Superior. So big, a drop of water remains in the lake for 191 years. So grand it manifests itself like an ocean, with tides and waves and storms so fierce they have sank 350 ships, including many carriers. This is not a body of water you want to mess with.

The strength of the river's current quickly increased as we approached its mouth. We steered the canoe towards the beach, pulling it onto a deserted stretch of sand. Marveling at the privacy afforded by no road access, we stretched out and had lunch while Mobi tore around, enjoying herself immensely. The wind was blowing quite strongly, so despite the hot sun we were comfortable.After 30 minutes or so, full and happy, we decided to take a walk along the beach before heading back. I took off my cardigan and Juan his jacket, leaving them in the canoe. At the last minute, I grabbed my camera"just in case" and pulled the canoe a little further from the water before setting off down the beach...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Something to read while I gather myself together

I am currently working on writing up one of our interesting adventures this summer, involving a red Charles River canoe and the Marquette, MI, Coast Guard. Writing about it forces me to relive the trauma, so it may take a while to get the whole story out. In the meantime, I'll give you something else to read.

Gaby and Alejandra have both posted a game where you take the 5th paragraph of page 161 of the book you are reading. Curious, I grabbed the closest at hand to see what came up. This is from a new book of Adolfo Bioy Casares's diary entries and notes about his good friend and collaborator Jorge Luis Borges, titled, aptly, Borges. The book is over 1600 pages long, so I just try to read a few entries a day with no particular goal for finishing. The entry goes as follows:

martes, 8 de mayo [1956] "Despues del almuerzo, la madre de Borges me hace leer una pagina de Borges que se titula "Borges y yo": algo muy sencillo, escrito de una manera llana, triste, noble."

My translation:
Tuesday, May 8th "After lunch, Borges's mother had me read something of his called 'Borges and I': something very simple, written in such a plain, sad, noble way."

The text Bioy is referring to is below, in translation, copied from here. For you Spanish speakers, the original text can be read here.

To the other one, to Borges, is to whom things happen. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and I delay myself, perhaps almost mechanically, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; from Borges I find out through the mail and I see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belong[s] to no-one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, although I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things. Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being: the stone eternally wants to be stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books tha[n] in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belong[s] to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Indian Food at Home

I recently made two fabulous Indian dishes at home, thanks to Cook's Illustrated.
Recommended viewing accompaniment: Water: the latest film by Deepa Mehta

While I was feeling ambitious and full of culinary energy, and so decided to tackle both at once, I would recommend doing the chopping, dicing and spice measuring ahead of time, so when it comes time to cook, you just have to throw it all together.
This is Chicken Tikka Masala, a tomato-based dish.This dish is best when prepared with whole-milk yogurt, but low-fat yogurt can be substituted. For a spicier dish, do not remove the ribs and seeds from the chile. If you prefer, substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper for the garam masala. The sauce can be made ahead, refrigerated for up to 4 days in an airtight container, and gently reheated before adding the hot chicken. Serve with basmati rice.


Chicken Tikka
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (see note above)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion , diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano chile , ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (see note above)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala (see note above)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.
2. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

A great vegetarian option is veggie curry, which includes cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.This curry is moderately spicy when made with one chile. For more heat, use an additional half chile. For a mild curry, remove the chile's ribs and seeds before mincing. Onions can be pulsed in a food processor. You can substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for the garam masala. Serve with Basmati Rice Pilaf, passing yogurt and at least one type of chutney or relish at the table.

2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or mild)
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (see note above)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
12 ounces Red Bliss potatoes , scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 - 1 1/2 serrano chiles , ribs, seeds, and flesh minced (see note above)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 medium head cauliflower , trimmed, cored, and cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , pulsed in food processor until nearly smooth with 1/4-inch pieces visible
1 1/4 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
Table salt
8 ounces frozen peas (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk

1. Toast curry powder and garam masala in small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until spices darken slightly and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove spices from skillet and set aside.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and potatoes are golden brown on edges, about 10 minutes. (Reduce heat to medium if onions darken too quickly.)
3. Reduce heat to medium. Clear center of pan and add remaining tablespoon oil, garlic, ginger, chile, and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add toasted spices and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute longer. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring constantly, until spices coat florets, about 2 minutes longer.
4. Add tomatoes, water, chickpeas, and 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in peas and cream or coconut milk; continue to cook until heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning with salt and serve immediately, passing condiments separately.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What I've NOT been knitting

My knitting decreased towards the end of the summer, in spite of the fact that I was traveling quite a bit, which tends to be my most productive time. So, I will display for you my unfinished projects of Summer 2007 and you can decide if my excuses are valid enough to justify such a vacuous knitting month:

This project I WILL actually finish, but since I won't be seeing its recipient for a couple more months, I've had no motivation to get it done right now. I started knitting Julian a sweater in July or so, in his favorite color. The pattern is Sherwood from Knitty.com. I modified it by not including the cabled pattern on the sleeves, because I thought it looked cooler with ribbing only.
Just a sleeve, the collar and some loose ends to go!
More detailed shot of the "tree" cable pattern.

My next unfinished project involves, surprise surprise, that cotton yarn I can't seem to do anything with. I was going to make a really cute racer-back tunic, but the smallest size was coming out way too big, a problem I later learned most knitters had with this pattern. It's called the Prairie Tunic, and is supposed to look like this:Soooo cute, right? *sigh* After traveling to Spain and back in my suitcase without being knit once and looking a bit worse for wear, I'm thinking this is going to be frogged as soon as I can bear to do it. I was really excited about this, but I can already tell it's going to be way too big and I'll never wear it. I'm really starting to think this yarn is cursed.The other pattern I was sure I was going to love, but that soon turned my thoughts dour was to be my second pair of socks. Hundreds of knitters on Ravelry have managed to knit out a decent pair of these socks, but I am really not liking the "Magic loop" technique called for. It leaves an obvious stretched line down the side. I knew they were destined to be frogged when I was at my knitting group, and someone commented on how pretty they were. My response? "I HATE these socks!" Wow- tell us how you feel Vanessa... The worst thing about these socks is that when I finish the first one, I have to make another.

So, after all these false and/or stalled starts, I just stopped knitting for a while. Luckily, I've since regained my senses and I have started a new project- my favorite kind. A sweater for me. I love making things for other people, but there is a lot of stress about how it will come out, will they like it, will it fit/work for them, so, with me, at least I know I'll wear it. It's also been tricky to find knitting time because we no longer have tv, so there's less excuse to knit. Though we do still have Netflix. I'm currently working my way through the second season of Rome, one of the best shows ever made.This blob here is the back of my sweater. It's a raglan decrease and there is some dart shaping at the waist, I just couldn't get it to lay flat for the picture. The next shot is of the sleeve that I'm expanding to make one front half of the Sunrise Circle Cardigan, from Interweave Knits- last fall's issue, I believe. Here's what it's supposed to look like when I'm done with it:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Beads, Badges, and Campfire fun!

The theme for series five of the cast-on podcast is Campfire fun.Now, I was a campfire girl before moving on through several levels of Girl Scouts, and many of my young weekends were spent earning badges. Ridiculous numbers of badges. I loved being faced with a variety of challenges, doing them, and then getting a really cool embroidered badge for it. (hmmm... indication of a later interest in fiber arts?) It was satisfying on numerous levels: 1) yankee mentality that sees all free time as an opportunity to be productive 2) exploring, creating, thinking, learning 3) immersing myself in a particular topic for a while and then moving on to something else 4) accumulating pretty little tokens that I could show off to others.

Fast forward oh, let's say 15 years or so, and in steps Brenda Dayne to bring it all back. On her website, you can see a list of requirements from the 1914 edition of the Campfire Manual for the HOME bead. Some of my personal favorites are the following, with my commentary, because, well, it is my blog, isn't it?

Cooking: a) Prepare a gruel, a cereal, an eggnog, and milk toast and arrange an invalid’s tray attractively. (Is this supposed to be the invalid's meal?) b) Write out a menu for three weeks suitable for a school girl who is inclined to be too stout. ("inclined to be stout"???)

Marketing: Market for one week one week on one dollar and a half per person, keeping accounts and records of menus, etc. (If only!)

Laundry: a) Do a family washing, using modern labor-saving devices if possible. (Heck, I should be getting THREE badges a week!) b) Use two agents for softening water, two soaps for different uses, two kinds of starch for different uses, two methods of bluing, and two household methods of bleaching. (you mean, I can't just divide lights and darks and be done with it?)

Housekeeping: a) Wash and wipe dishes and leave the dining room in order, after one meal a day, for two months. (Ok, make that five badges a week) b) Take care of the milk and cream from at least one cow, and see that the pails and pans are properly cleaned for two months. (um, anyone got a cow I can borrow?) c) Repack a faucet. (I'm sorry, what?) d) Install an electric bell and care for it for three months. (And again... huh?)

Baby Craft a) Know how much a baby should grow in weight each week for the first six months, in height for each month for the first year, the relation of weight to disease and vitality. (Isn't that what the Internet's for?) b) Know and describe three kinds of baby cries and what they mean. (Can I substitute Mobi sounds/behavior?)

Next up, still under the HOME bead, we have Entertainment. Because after you've planned and prepared all the household meals, cleaned the place top to bottom and cared for all the children and infirm, you are expected to provide the entertainment of the evening. This could include such fun as a) Play from memory five piano pieces of the difficulty of Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood, or perhaps b) Commit and recite five hundred lines of standard poetry, or maybe you'd rather c) Know and tell five standard folk stories. I think I'll take d) Plan and give a pantomime entertainment