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Archive for May, 2009

One of my favorite places to get a snack is Great Harvest Bakery.  Unfortunately, I don’t get there too often any more, but I love all their different kinds of breads, and you can always get several “free sample” slices.  One time I saw they had a bread called “Guinness and Gouda”, made with smoked Gouda cheese chunks and…Guinness beer.  (Thank you very much!)  Now, being a good little girl, the thought of beer bread seemed very naughty, so of course I tried a piece.  It was so good!  Every year in March when they make it, I get a loaf and tell myself that this year I’ll learn to make it myself.  This year I decided I really would.

In March, I traipsed off to the forbidden territory of the liquor store and suavely bought a bottle of Guinness.  The smoked Gouda was much easier, from Trader Joe’s (I asked them if they had Guinness and they said no).  Then I couldn’t find the recipe I’d gotten off the internet last year for Guinness bread that wasn’t a sweet bread.  I had one for beer bread, but I thought I had better be picky.  About a month ago, I found the recipe during my Great Mushroom Bake-off with Kerrie.  Today one of the teachers at school (who I asked about Guinness when I bought it) had a bad day, so I told her I’d make it for her.

I am a bad blogger, because I do not have pictures for this.  And, dear readers, you most definitely would have loved the pictures!  Alas, I was alone, and, as you will hear, was soon in no shape to take pictures!  (No, I didn’t drink the beer.  Stop that!)

So…

…there were no pictures as I smelled the beer and made a bad face: this stuff smells like something died

…as I bravely mixed the beer with honey and butter, warming it in the microwave and adding to my yeast mixture (yes, yeast AND beer…this thing’s gonna be skyhigh)…

…as I lovingly cut the Smoked Gouda (cchowda, like Bach, not goo0da) into wedges and then nummy little pieces to mix into the dough…

The Dough.

The Thing that Ate my Hands.

In its defense, the recipe did say a “soft” dough, and to flour the work surface (I forgot.  I oiled my hands like my mom does when she makes bread).  The recipe did not say this was the Dreaded Dough Monster from the Fire Swamp.

If you ever watched the first Lord of the Rings movie, you probably remember the part where Saruman is creating his “special” orcs and they get ‘birthed’ out of the slime.  (That was probably the most disgusting part of the movie for me.)

Imagine that all over your oily hands.  And the mixing bowl.  And the mat laid down so my counter didn’t get it.  And then read the section of the recipe that says, “Form the dough into a round loaf and place in a cake pan.”  That was where I began to laugh hysterically and mutter things like, “Just poke it in there”, “More oil”, and “The Swamp Thing!”

Not all the bread dough made it into the three cake pans I had ready.  Some was still in the bowl, some was on the counter, and a lot was on my hands.

Carnage in the kitchen

Carnage in the kitchen

Luckily I’d taken my wedding ring off first (I’ve done bread dough a time or two).  I oiled my hands again and smoothed the scary-looking lumps down so they looked smooth and nice, like I’d formed them into docile little loaves.  When we both knew that given a little less oil, they’d bite my hands off again.

They’re rising right now in the oven.  Sounds a little scary, considering.  I’ll update this after they’ve baked…if I’m still alive.

***********************

Dear readers, the Swamp Thing…is alive!  I went out after typing the sentence above and checked the oven.  Cover your eyes if you’re easily frightened…

Save the women and children!

Save the women and children!

I looked at the recipe again, and I was supposed to cut a cross in the tops with a floured knife.

How do you flour a knife?

How do you flour a knife?

So I did.  Maybe the cross will defeat the monster?

Will the cross defeat the monster???

Will the cross defeat the monster???

**************

Unfortunately, it may have been to late for the cross to have an effect.

Run! It's alive!!!

Run! It's alive!!!

I’ve turned the oven on now to bake it.  It smells good, at any rate, and there’ll be no shortage!


If we survive…

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Deep thoughts???

I’ve been working on this for a couple of days.  Also a lot of homework from my graduate class.  So I guess I didn’t make NaBloPoMo this month…oh well.  I have to sleep some time.  🙂

I’ve been reading a book by Clifford Goldstein off and on — By His Stripes.  Goldstein is way too smart for me, but I like the things he says, a lot of which are based on concepts in Isaiah.  Here’s my reaction to one of the chapters: “Origins Matter”.

I was really struck by the quotation by Bertrand Russell.  I think I will copy it here.

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving, that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins–all these things, ivf not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.  Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

–Bertrand Russell: Why I Am Not A Christian

You know, I’ve often wondered why non-Christians are so self-centered and don’t seem to think past getting the next thrill.  If this is truly what they believe, even subconsciously, then it really makes perfect sense.  If you believe you were the product of some cosmic accident (and never mind that many people are the result of human accident), then it seems to me that you wouldn’t feel like you were worth much; that what you did with your life didn’t matter to anyone but you.  So of course, live at the center of your own universe and live to please yourself alone.  Not only are origins accidental in this worldview, but endings are invitable and final.  If I don’t come from anywhere and I’m done when I die, then, again, it doesn’t matter what I do.  Other people, too, are just short-lived accidents, so why bother with them?

Mr. Russell does have some grasp of reality, however.  He says that no human effor can extend beyond the grave, and that no human genius or achievement can make any difference to the eventual destruction of humanity and the universe.  In that, he is perfectly correct.  What takes humanity beyond the grave is no effort of our own, but the surrender to God, who alone can take us out of a deteriorating universe.  When you really think about the achievements he’s referring to, what we’ve managed to accomplish in six thousand years of existence (recorded history, for the evolutionary types) is basically to ruin everything we could, from land to people.  Sure, there’s literature, art, music, and great deeds, but they are only copies of the real thing.  Most of the “great deeds” done are done because of sin — battles, rescues, near-death experiences.  Literature is full of conflict, and music and art are never so pleasing as when they copy nature.  Never mind the kind of music, art, or literature that invokes, evokes, and provokes rage and violence!

And Mr. Russell’s final conclusion?  Life must be founded on despair in order to be safe.  Cynicism may be the way to keep from being hurt by human relationships; it may keep you from being disappointed, but it can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t expect anything, you won’t work for anything, and, in some cases, you may even sabotage what you might have gotten, either consciously or unconsciously.

No wonder so many people are depressed with a worldview based on worthlessness and dead-end despair!  Better off believing the “fairy tale” of religion, because it’ll make you a more fulfilled person in this life, and, if we’re right, the rewards are eternal!  What have you got to lose but despair?

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I’ve been complaining a lot the last several posts.  I really did have a nice weekend, just not one where I got a lot of sleep.  Consequently, I’m tired and crabby.  The kids are actually being pretty good, considering, so life isn’t really all that bad.  I promised “zek pics” in a post a few days ago, so since I have my thumb drive, I’ll post some.  And quit focusing on myself.

First, an explanation.  My juniors are reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  It’s a fictionalized story of the events of one day in the Soviet prison camps, the GULAG.  Solzhenitsyn was in the camps for several years, so the events and people in the book are based on life.  I was telling the students how, during Communism, artists, authors, and musicians were censored or limited in their topics.  Solzhenitsyn got kicked out of Russia, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich were forced to change their music to suit the government or be harassed and have their music banned, and artists like Nikolai Getman were jailed or deported for portraying the true life of the Russian people in the gulags.  I spent some time online looking for Getman’s paintings, because I had remembered seeing them in the past and was struck by the stark despair in the prisoners’ (or zeks’) eyes.  I did find lots of them at the Jamestown Project and other sites, and I saved them to show to my students, who need to learn that they were not the only people oppressed in this world.

This first painting is of a new group of prisoners, just arrived to the camp.

after arriving

Once they got there, they were divided into squads and assigned to a barracks.  Soldiers with machine guns and guard dogs kept them from trying to escape.

barracks and guard dog

Every day, they marched out to work at different building sites, constructing buildings for the Soviet government that they themselves would never use, or mining gold or other minerals.

mining

the march to work

Not all the prison camps were male; women had camps as well.  All the camps, however, were quota-based, meaning that prisoners were given food according to how much their squad worked.  Experienced prisoners knew that when they recieved their bread ration for the day, they should eat part of it and save the rest for later.

the bread ration

Sometimes prisoners would not report the death of a squad member so they could get his ration.

the dead man's ration

Sometimes food was short, especially vegetables, and prisoners got scurvy.

prisoners with scurvy

Prisoners were taken off to the guardhouse and put on short rations for small offenses, and sometimes they were shot for no reason, either singly or in groups.

prisoner who was shot in the back

prisoners about to be shot

Sometimes they weren’t shot, but hung up to be bitten by mosquitoes until they’d lost so much blood they died of weakness in their starved condition.

death by mosquitoes

It was the job of one or two prisoners in the camp to make tags out of strips of metal that had the ID number and date of death to be fastened with barbed wire to the ankle of a dead prisoner.  Some were respectful of the dead and filed the barbs off, but as the prisoners lay stacked up, just beyond the boundary of the camp, the metal tags clinked together like macabre wind chimes.

making the tags for the dead bodies

They hauled the bodies away in a sled in the winter, when many prisoners died of cold or starvation.

hauling the dead sled

The ground was frozen so hard, however, that they could not bury them, but only put them under chunks of ice to keep scavengers away.

burying in ice

Many people never made it through their sentences, which were always an arbitrary number and could be increased at any moment.

graveyard

People like Getman and Solzhenitsyn, however, who survived, made it their duty to publish to the world what was going on in the USSR.  Solzhenitsyn said when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his Gulag Archipelago, “One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.”  Getman persisted in painting his memories of the camps, even when repeatedly threatened and persecuted, because he believed “it was my duty to leave behind a testimony to the fate of the millions of prisoners who died and who should not forgotten”.

The last of the gulag camps were closed in the 1980s by Gorbachev, so Solzhenitsyn (who died Aug. 2008) and Getman (who died Aug. 2004) were able to know that they were partly responsible for ending the torment of thousands of prisoners who had been lost to the world for years.  If that’s not a good life’s work, I don’t know what is.

Was I cranky about something?

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was tired.

I didn’t post on Saturday because I was barely at home the whole day.  Let me tell you how it was…

Got up extra early because Kent’s alarm was somehow set for 6:48 AM.  Grrr.  I had to get up anyway because I had to sing for Sabbath School and that meant I had to be up long enough for my voice to be awake.  Plus, I didn’t know the song, and I was trying to change the words so they applied to Mothers’ Day, and I hadn’t done that either.  I tried to learn the song with Ole, but the one I picked (Sure on this shining night by Samuel Barber) had a melody that wasn’t easy to follow.  I sort of got it right before we had to run out the door or we’d be too late to make it to sing.  I finished learning it while I rewrote the words in the car.  We made it to the church with five minutes to spare…and the song went really well.

After church, I assembled the lemon cake.  I had forgotten my beaters at home, but there was one at the church.  I made the lemon frosting, stuck the cake together with raspberry jam and put raspberries on top.  Everyone went straight for the cake (and the leftover crack from Friday night).  Someone else had brought some really sketchy-looking carob pudding mess, but no one ate it.  I sort of felt bad, but it really didn’t look good.  The cake was a little dry, but that’s because it sat out on the counter all night.

We left for the Arboretum with Rob and Tara and their two boys.  It was cool out, and not all the trees and flowers were blooming, but it was still pretty and nice.  The geese we’d seen last year as babies had come back with their own little broods, and we got lots of great pictures.  There were tons of bluebells and lots of different-colored violets.  Some of the crabapple trees were blooming.  We went through the maze twice, forwards and backwards.  Then I had to run home.

Prom.  Grr again.  I had to change quickly and eat supper (actually, I ate a sandwich in the car).  Melissa came over to play games.  I really didn’t want to leave and go sit in an auditorium for three hours.  I got there at 8:30 (after almost running a red light trying to read directions), and the kids looked really good.  Most of the guys had white tuxes on, and the girls had nice dresses.  Most of the girls’ dresses didn’t complement their body shape or type, but they probably liked the way they looked.  The music was LOUD and piercing.  They also had two strobe lights.  I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.  Kent had sent me with three pieces of Ritter Peppermint chocolate, so I had those to console me.  We just sat and did nothing.  I was so bored.  Finally at 10:30 I called Kent and he said I should ask the principal if I could go home.  She said yes, so I ended up at home a little after 11.

Everyone was still there, and there was pizza and ice cream.  They were playing Boggle.  I sat down in Ole’s place when he got a phone call, and I had pizza and a little bit of all three kinds of ice cream (Haagen-Dazs Mango Sorbet and Raspberry-Chocolate and Minnesota Creamery Cinnamon).  By the time everyone left and I finally got to bed, it was after 1 AM.  And I had to get up by 7 AM.

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So I finally decided to go see my chiropractor about the car accident in March.  I wasn’t sure that anything was from that, but Kent kept bugging me about it, and after I had bad cricks in both sides of my neck, I decided that I should go.  I had gone first in the fall of 2007 because my hip was really hurting me from my accident in 2004.  At that point, my right hip was off about 1/4″ from my left one.  Well, I thought, I’m ok this time around because it’s not bothering me.  I’ve been exercising and I should be fine.  Not true.  He looked at me and laughed a little and said, “Actually, you’re off about 1/2″ now.”  Great!  So he adjusted me and sent me on my way.

I was hardly out of the door before I got a bad headache, and not in the spot I usually have headaches.  Then Ole and I went over to my church to pick my music for Sunday, and I suddenly got really dizzy.  That’s why I came home and just went straight to bed last night.

I went back today and told the chiropractor about the headaches and dizziness, so he didn’t adjust everything today.  I feel better though.  Some of my muscles are feeling the stretch, but my shoulders aren’t doing the involuntary tensing they had been these last few weeks.  So the “crack doctor” is working for me.

And so I decided to turn “crack doctor” today.  I made “crack” for the Bible study tonight, and I think it was well recieved.  I promised people to find the recipe on my blog, but I’m still going to point them to Smitten Kitchen’s blog, since she credits the original author.

I also made a lemon yogurt cake from Orangette’s blog today.  I haven’t iced it yet, but it smelled lovely.  I doubled it, and I’m planning on filling it with raspberry jam, icing it with lemon frosting I found online somewhere, and then garnishing it with fresh raspberries.  Let you know how that turns out 😉

Good night!

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