Friday, December 12, 2008

Hazy Shade of Winter, Part III

Before I get to the pictures of today's snow, here's a picture of McKenna in her sweater (a gift from her cousin Mocha):

We started getting snow yesterday afternoon. By the time we woke up this morning, this is what things looked like:

The snow is higher than Kenna's chest, so she had some trouble getting around in the yard:

Here' s a view from the front of the house:

Half of the porch shoveled--I have about 8 to 9 inches of snow so far:

While I was shoveling, Kenna played in the snow:

Here she is admiring my nicely shoveled porch:

My car (I'm not even going to deal with shoveling this mess until later today):

The woods behind the house across the street with trees covered in snow:

Later, I went to the back yard to take pictures. Here are my stairs, which are more like a ramp right now:

A side view of the stairs:

Can you guess what this is? It is my little Weber grill--when I saw this, I started laughing. It looks so cute all covered in snow.

A view toward the south:

A view of the creek:

And a view of the top of the waterfall:

And, finally, a bonus video of Kenna playing in the snow:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Same Old Lang Syne

This year, Family of Ken will be visiting San Francisco between Christmas and the New Year. We already have plans to visit Alcatraz and Hearst Castle as well as some family and friends, but if any of you gentle readers have suggestions for things to do or places to eat, we would appreciate them.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pearl in the Shell

When I was home for Thanksgiving, my grandmother gave me a bag of Kansas pecans to give to a certain lucky recipient on the East Coast. Kansas pecans are the best kind you can get (apologies to any Southerners who might be reading who think that their pecans are better). I decided to be nice and shell the pecans before sending them to my friend since shelling takes special skills ;-)

Here is McKenna posing with the bag of pecans:

I usually shell pecans at a table, but I was catching up on some TV shows, so I put the newspaper on the couch along with a bowl for the pecans, a pair of pliers, and a nail. These pecans that have been cracked, but you still have to use pliers on a few of them.

First, I poured the pecans onto the newspaper:

These are some nice looking pecans:

When Brother of Ken and I were kids, we spent almost every Sunday afternoon at my grandparents' farm. In the fall, after the pecans were harvested, my grandmother would pour pounds and pounds of them onto the table and "let" us pick them out of their shells. I might have done the same thing to my family last Thanksgiving...

Here are the pecans and the shells after I finished:

A closeup of the bowl of pecans:

These are really flavorful pecans.

Monday, December 1, 2008


A lot has happened since my last post almost two weeks ago. I left lake effect snow the Saturday before Thanksgiving to drive down to Maryland for Tricia's birthday celebration, which was a lot of fun. Then, on Sunday, a bunch of us went to the newly reopened Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

We didn't get to see the restored and reinstalled Star Spangled Banner because the line was way too long, as you can see here:

The new Lincoln exhibit and the First Ladies' exhibit are not open yet, but I am sure that we will see it all over the next few months. This is part of the collection of Civil War/Lincoln stuff--to my left is what is left of a tree that was outside of the Spotsylvania courthouse during the Civil War:

We did get to see some of the quilt collection:

We also saw the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, the Puffy Shirt from Seinfeld, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. The highlight of everyone's afternoon was riding the elevator with R2D2:

On Monday, I flew to Kansas to spend Thanksgiving with my family (McKenna stayed at the "spa" in Maryland). We had both sides of the family for dinner on Tuesday night because we spent Thanksgiving day at St. Timothy's. On Wednesday, though, Mother of Ken had to cook a turkey the size of Pluto that wouldn't even fit into the roasting pan for us to take to the church the next day. Those of you who know Immediate Family of Ken know that we do not eat turkey on Thanksgiving--we usually eat beef (steak, tenderloin, etc.). Turkeys are a pain, they kind of smell, and we don't like it enough to go to the trouble. This year, we were cooking a turkey for the community dinner at St. Timothy's, so at least it was for a good cause. We also made ten pounds of mashed potatoes.

Early on Thursday morning, we loaded the truck with "turkey lurkey" as Mother of Ken called the beast, a giant pot o' potatoes, twelve dozen dinner rolls, most of Brother of Ken's clothing, my luggage, and Mother and Father of Ken's overnight bags and we headed to Iola, Kansas. Donning our aprons, we spent the day serving turkey, gravy, potatoes, green beans, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, and dessert to anyone who came through the doors and we also sent several dinners out for delivery. We lost count of how many meals we served, but it was a lot and everyone had a lovely day.

After we cleaned everything, we drove to Kansas City to spend the night before I had to fly back to the east coast on Friday. We had reservations for a late dinner at McCormick and Schmick's on the Plaza, which was delicious. It was so nice after a long day to have wine and cocktails with bruschetta before dinner, which was fish for Father and Brother of Ken and coconut shrimp and salad for Ken and Mother of Ken, followed by a dessert of pecan pie and chocolate mousse with berries.

On our way back to the hotel, we saw this light and music display:

This shows Carol of the Bells, but there were several other songs (including, to my great joy, part of Van Halen's "Jump"!)

After doing a little early morning Black Friday shopping, I flew back to Maryland to spring McKenna from the "spa" and we drove back to New York on Saturday.

McKenna and I hope that you all had a Thanksgiving as nice as ours was.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hazy Shade of Winter, Part II

Fall is quickly coming to an end here in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York, where we have had snow off and on for the past week. Yesterday afternoon, it started getting dark around 3:30 and by around 4:00, snow was falling.

I had to drive into town around 6:00 and it was still snowing then. People northeast of here got a lot more snow than those of us near the lake. By the time I drove home around 9:30, there were just a few flurries left, but a little more snow fell overnight and we woke up to this:

It really isn't deeper than about an inch or so and the roads are completely clear, but we are expecting anywhere between 2 and 6 inches over the next 24 hours.

The creek is really pretty when it gets this cold because there is this kind of frozen mist that rises up and eventually coats the nearby trees in a layer of white frost. I'll post photos of that soon, I am sure.

A house at the bottom of the waterfall:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sweet Dreams

I apologize to my gentle readers for not posting much in the past few weeks. I recently finished a round of grant applications that took a lot of my time. This was one of them:

And this is what my study looked like after the applications were submitted:

Now, back to the blog. Some of my readers have requested that I post more about my baking, so this one's for you. I had to take dessert to a dinner a week or so ago, but I didn't have a lot of time to make it and I didn't have time to go to the store, so I decided to make Mother of Ken's Texas Brownie. There are lots of versions of this out there with slight variations and different names (my favorite: Texas Sheet Cake Massacre), but this is the one that my family uses. Those of you who know me well know that I don't care much for cake (I usually have birthday pie or birthday cheesecake), but this is one of the few that I do like.

It starts with a combination of 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of sugar in a mixing bowl:

Then I whisk it to be sure that there aren't any lumps. To me, whisking the ingredients is easier than sifting--I haven't sifted since middle school home ec class and if that makes me a bad little baker, that's fine with me. I haven't heard any complaints about my baked goods, so I'm not worried.

The next step is to gather the ingredients for the chocolate part of the cake. Here I have 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup of shortening, 1 cup of strong coffee, and 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.

Put all of these ingredients in a heavy saucepan:

Slowly bring it to a boil, stirring often:

Once the chocolate mixture comes to a rolling boil, add it to the dry ingredients:

The next few ingredients to go in are 1/2 cup of buttermilk (if you don't have any, which I usually don't, you can substitute 1/2 cup of milk with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice added), two eggs, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

After mixing the chocolate mixture and the dry ingredients until they are just blended, add the buttermilk:

Then the baking soda:

Followed by the eggs:

And finally, the vanilla:

Once everything is mixed well, pour the batter into a greased 17 1/2 x 11" pan.

The cake bakes at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. While it is in the oven, it's time to make the frosting. The ingredients are: 1 stick of butter, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/4 cup of milk, 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Combine the butter, cocoa, and milk in a heavy saucepan and heat it slowly until it comes to a boil, stirring often.

Add the powdered sugar:

And the vanilla:

Whisk the frosting until it is smooth.

Here's what the "brownie" looks like when it comes out of the oven:

While it is still warm, pour the frosting over the brownie and spread it evenly.

Some of the frosting may drip over the side of the pan. You can cut the brownie once it has completely cooled and you may want to dip your knife in water to make cleaner cuts.

Since I'm sure you were wondering, here are some of the other things I made and ate last week.

Chicken poached in clementine juice with wild rice, roasted broccoli, cranberry sauce, and olives:

And an individual meatloaf with roasted butternut squash and cracked potatoes: