Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Twilight (again)

I've recently read several Twilight reviews, where the series was defended pretty much solely because Bella and Edward abstain from pre-marital sex.

I've read the whole series. They were neither as good nor as bad as they're made out to be (the writing, that is), although I didn't find anything especially original about them. My only reason for reading them was to see for myself if the Bella-Edward relationship is really abusive, since that was the chief complaint I heard. I just want to make this clear: when someone pins you to a bed to stop you from seeing someone they don't approve of, you are being controlled, and it is a form of abuse. When someone sabotages your car to prevent your free movement around town, you are being controlled, and it is a form of abuse. It doesn't matter if it's 'for your own good'. Abusers nearly always have reasons for their actions, and 'for your own good' is a pretty popular one.

Abstinence is great, and I'm all for encouraging role-models who promote a responsible lifestyle; but no relationship is worth the price if the cost is being controlled, and taking insane, dangerous risks to sneak around the limitations you're under.

Adventures in Dorm Cooking

Unlike Kate (and, I'm assuming, the majority of on-campus college students), I have a kitchen. A tiny one with just a range top, fridge and sink, but a kitchen nonetheless. My roommates and I have augmented this with a slow-cooker, hand-mixer, three French presses (we take our coffee seriously), and last but not least, a convection oven given to a roommate by a lady at her synagogue. Lately I've committed myself to getting my grocery spending under control, by both planning menus and making as much as I can from scratch. Having a slow-cooker is a big help in this: I can make one meat-based meal (whole chicken, roast, chicken parm, whatever) at the beginning of the week, and I'll get anywhere from 4-6 meals out of it. I also eat a lot of eggs and rice dishes. My favorite made-it-myself money-saver is butter:

 This isn't that much of a money saver for me; I figure I break even (unless stores run out of my brand of butter, and then it's way cheaper to make), but it tastes so much better than store bought, so it's worth the effort. It's also nice to not be dependent on stores for my butter: for a couple weeks at the beginning of the month, we couldn't find our cheap butter anywhere. We joked that the cows must have gone on strike. Later we learned the cows had become dehydrated, and really had gone on strike. It turns out making butter is one of the simplest things you can do in your kitchen: two cups whipping cream (highest fat content you can find) at room temperature, mix in a bowl with a stand-mixer (10-15 minutes) or hand-mixer (forever30-45 minutes); when the butter milk separates, drain it out and give the butter a stir to make sure there isn't any milk still inside; rinse it under slowly running cool water, and place in a container. It makes a little more than a cup of butter, plus buttermilk you can bake with. 

You can mix a half-teaspoon of salt in if you want, or try a variety of flavored-butter recipes. Last week one of my roommates put garlic and basil in hers, and it was wonderful. This week I'm going to use this recipe to make honey-cinnamon butter. It makes about a week's worth, which is about how long I was told it will last before going bad. 

My latest accomplishment (from tonight, and the real potluck recipe):

Home made pizza: I made both the dough and the sauce myself. By the way, the sauce isn't watery as it appears in the picture, you just need to stir it occasionally. I made this so I would have lunch for the week, but it would be great for a party where you want mini-pizzas for everyone. Making them would be especially fun for a kid's party, too.

Sauce recipe:

1 can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (we don't have onion powder, so I used a quarter of a small onion, chopped finely)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (will not make the sauce spicy, just gives it a little zing)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil

I like to warm the sauce a little in a pot, and then add all the ingredients at once. Let it simmer for a while (there's not really a science to it, just until the kitchen smells like pizza).

The dough recipe I found online, but I lost the link, so if you recognize it please let me know:

2.25 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1.5 cups warm water

1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/3 cups flour

Olive oil to spread on the oven pan.

Mix the yeast, brown sugar, and warm water in a bowl; let sit for 10 minutes. Mix in the salt and olive oil, and then mix in 2.5 cups of flour. Knead in the remaining flour, cover with a towel, and let sit for one hour. For the rolling-out process, make sure everything is well-floured! I would recommend rolling the dough on wax paper, but since we don't have any, I rolled it out on a cutting board. I used a 7-inch bowl to cut out circles (only the last two turned out circular, because that's how long it took me to really flour the board). After removing the excess dough, I flipped the cutting board over the oven pan, because the dough isn't stiff enough to be scraped up with a spatula. I can't remember if spreading olive oil on the oven pan, was required in the recipe, but I did it anyway (but only once, with the first pizza; none of the others stuck after that). Bake for 15-20 minutes (it only took 15 for mine) without toppings, at 425 Fahrenheit (220 C). After you remove it, put all your toppings on and bake until the cheese is gooey.

You're going to make a huge mess. Accept this before you even begin:

This recipe made seven mini-pizzas for me, although I think I could have made several more if I had rolled the dough out more (but rolling dough is my least favorite part). I ate one pizza tonight, put three crusts in the fridge, and froze the other three (I'll let you know how well they freeze). As you can see, your pizzas aren't going to look like restaurant made ones, but they'll be crunchy and delicious!

Between this and the roast I'm making Monday, I'll have leftovers for long after Thanksgiving! Speaking of Thanksgiving, my roommates and I are hosting a Thanksgiving potluck for several (around 20) of the other American graduate students, so I hope to have another post for the next Saturday potluck as well!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Between illness in Kate's and Ginny's family, and deaths in mine, we've rather let the blog go ignored. However, Kate mentioned this past week that she has two posts she wants me to edit before she posts them, and I'm planning to post my latest travel adventures, so hopefully we can pick up and get moving again.

In parting, I'll leave you with this link: How to get married.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The spread.
Dessert: Kosher chocolate mousse made by a roommate
My roommates and I had a potluck Wednesday, and invited a bunch of students from our language classes. I think we invited between twenty and twenty-five people, and about twelve turned up. We were a little relieved that only half the invitees came, because it was pretty crowded with just the seventeen of us! My contribution to dinner was a crockpot chicken:

-one whole chicken
-some kind of spice from the market*
-two onions
-three potatoes
-half a liter of sprite

Since I don't like wine (and can't find bouillon flavoring anywhere), I used sprite as the liquid for my chicken. One of the onions I cubed and smeared with the chicken seasoning, and then put inside the chicken. The other one, with the potatoes, I cubed at arranged around the chicken in the sprite. It cooked on high for four hours, and was falling off the bones while I carved it.

Everyone had a great time, and aside from when I accidentally un-Koshered someone's pot lid, everything went well. We're definitely going to do this again, and I'm hoping to do a beignets-and-coffee day later in the semester.

*I asked the counter guy at the spice store what was good for chicken, and he waved something under my nose. It smelled good, so I bought it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Hello, world, and many happy greetings from Israel. Learning Hebrew is exhausting, especially when you spend 25 hours a week in class. I'm very happy to say I'm enjoying Israel very much, despite the tone set by my departure from America. First, the travel agency I booked my flight with (through the university, a group flight with other students) was so late in mailing out our travel packets that I never actually got mine, and had to meet a representative from the agency at the airport to get my necessary travel vouchers. The representative waited until the very last minute before we were required to check our baggage to show up, and then was surprised to learn I needed anything from her, and seemed confused as to why I should want the documents she had promised me both in e-mail and over the phone. Then take-off was delayed by about an hour while security did who-knows-what. And then, to top it all off, when we arrived in Israel, the school officials had us fill out the paperwork they had already mailed or e-mailed to us, which I had already taken the time to mail/fax back to them. Nearly everything was chaotic and disorganized in some way. However, once I settled into my dorm (and threw away my big suitcase, which gave in to old-age on the flight over and had to be literally dragged across the ground to my dorm), I started to feel slightly calmer.

That disappeared as soon as ulpan (Hebrew classes) started the next day. We are three-quarters of the way through ulpan, and three-quarters of the way through our text book, and somewhere around the second week I started looking for a tutor. This is where my major (and pretty much only) problem with Israel arises: people seem either annoyed or baffled when you ask for help. When I asked my teacher if the university had tutoring for students, she looked at my like I'd sprouted another head, but did take me up to the language office to get the information. It turned out their tutoring is just another class you go to after ulpan, though, so one of our wonderful activities coordinators found an Israeli student willing to tutor me one-on-one. In short, my life since August 3 has been one of constant studying, with a few exceptions: the coordinators took us on a 'practical' tour of Jerusalem, and then later to the שוק (outdoor market, where we do most of our grocery shopping); and last week they took us on a tour of the Old City, where I got to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Right now we're on vacation for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), which our teachers celebrated by giving us a take-home exam, with plenty of homework on the side. One of my classmates invited me to her home for dinner tonight: she's married to an Israeli and they have a home off-campus.

More to come, but for now שלום ושנה טובה!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

All my bags are packed...

and I'm ready to go already gone. I spent the past week in South Carolina, first for a dear friend's wedding, and then just to hang out with people I hadn't seen in years. It was a great week, and exactly the kind of relaxation I needed before this big trip. I'm sitting in Newark airport in New Jersey now, and my flight out to Israel isn't until 2:15 pm (it's 1:16 am now). I wish I could have had more time to visit with more people, but that's the way things go.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back soon

Off to Mississippi to see our new niece, and pack Kate out of her dorm. We'll be back Friday, when Kate promises she'll start blogging again.