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Irish Soda Bread and Putting Off Procrastination

16 Mar

This post was supposed to be about procrastination….but I’ve decided to write about that later. 

I know. I love me some irony.

I have a good reason, though, for putting off today’s intended post. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, and I wanted to share my tried-and-true Irish Soda Bread Recipe. It is fool-proof easy and I will be making it today as I avoid the rain and attempt to clean up the house. We have Company arriving tonight, so this is not a drill. The difference between visiting relatives and Company? Relatives know exactly how messy you are and are pleasantly surprised when your home reflects something different. With Company, you clean with the foolish hope of tricking them into thinking that you’re better than you are.

Personally, I think that true love means never having to pretend to be something you’re not….and my family just happens to not be organized. This might just be my fear talking, though. I’m terrified that the visiting Company will open the closets or look under the beds. As you know from my 5 Stages of Cleaning, that would not end well.

Anyway, let’s get on with the show–Irish Soda Bread. I love raisin bread and I love Irish Soda Bread for its denseness. It’s one of my comfort foods, really, and it helps that it’s so easy to make. I first saw this recipe in Marin Magazine–see the original recipe here. I think I will be skipping the caraway seeds when I make this bread today, but I have used them in the past.

Joan’s Irish Soda Bread

Makes one large loaf or two medium (four cup) loaves.

Note: For the most tender texture, don’t overmix the batter–combine the dry and wet ingredients just until there is no dry flour left. For all you Catholics (fallen and otherwise), Joan suggests mixing only as long as it takes to say an “Our Father,” a “Hail Mary,” and a “Glory Be.” As for my own suggestions: for the best results, listen to this and this while baking. 

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons canola oil or other vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups raisins

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two medium (four-cup) loaf pans. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, caraway seeds, and oil together in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and sprinkle the raisins over. Sweeping your whisk thoroughly over the bottom of the bowl, mix the batter only until uniform; do not over-mix. Scrape into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the soda bread rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool.

Happy Baking! Check back soon for my thoughts on procrastination and life as an ostrich. Yeah, that’s right.

Today, a Telemarketer Made Me Cry

3 Nov

I’m not proud of it. It was not a shining moment of maturity, nor an example of my sanity. But, yes, today a telemarketer made me cry.

She happened to call at a particularly bad time. Let’s just say I had recently dunked my fifth post-Halloween kit-kat (“fun size” my left foot) into my third cup of coffee and was trying to ward off a so-much-work-so-little-time panic attack. This was at least the gazillionth time the same organization has called asking for my mother. In the beginning, it was funny because they added “Dr.” to her name. She’s not a doctor, but my family likes to joke that she could have been so the first (and even the second and third) call was amusing.

When I answered today’s call–teetering on an emotional cliff, even as I reached for the phone–the familiar request for my mother the doctor hit me hard. “Who is this?” I demanded.

The woman remained cheerful. The fool. “This is a political call,” she said. “We’re looking for donations–“

I cut her off right quick. “Well, the person you want isn’t a doctor. And she won’t give you money. And anyway, she’s not here. She works–particularly on Wednesdays, at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Like. Most. People.”

At this point, my voice was breaking and I’m sure the faceless woman could hear that I was two kit-kats past crazy. “Someone from your group keeps calling. Do these calls even work, anyway? Could you stop? Could you take us off your list and stop calling? Please? PLEASE JUST STOP.”

There was a pause and for a moment I thought that she hung up on me–a first, in my experience with telemarketers.

“I–I understand.” She finally said. “I do apologize.”

I felt a twinge of guilt. She sounded shell-shocked, hesitant. I generally don’t like to be rude (or batshit crazy) to telemarketers. “We’re not interested” is my go-to phrase. (Not sure if that’s a royal we or if I am speaking for the household. Either way, I’m a queen–right?) If they mispronounce our name in a particularly creative way, I politely tell them they have the wrong number. If I’m really feeling non-confrontational, I just say he/she isn’t home. Of course, then they call back later and I have to mentally choose my own adventure: continue the cycle or end it?

So I felt sort of bad for talking to this woman like I was a supporting role from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.


“Ma’am?” She ventured. “Would you be interested in providing a donation?”

Hubba Hubba! Hunks from Yesteryear

20 Sep

(This short post could alternatively be titled I Should Be Studying, But Instead…)

Who needs People Magazine’s Sexiest Man pick, when you can ogle some hunky hotties from history? My new favorite discoveries are two tubmlr sites–My Daguerrotype Boyfriend and Bangable Dudes in History–that feature daguerrotypes and old photos of some bygone babes. If you’re like me, and swoon for fedoras and gentlemen and oldtime standards of beauty,  you’ll get a kick out of browsing these images. BDiH is particularly funny, with breakdowns of each photo’s appeal. Check it out!

Funny, Frog, Fig, Flower, Fire, Family, Fabulous, Foil, Freckle, Five, Friend

27 Jun

My grandma’s neighbor Helen had to take a memory test the other day. The test is supposed to determine if a patient has dementia or other type of memory problem. In Helen’s case, it was also meant to help her doctor determine whether she should still be allowed to have a driver’s license.   

This is a woman who spends hours every day meticulously matching her outfits–which all have a bedazzled or zebra-print component–and applying colorful makeup. She manages to return opened boxes of cereal and kleenex by playing the Old Lady Card and batting her (fake) eyelashes. She shamelessly cheats the system–applying for food stamps and divvying her money up among relatives (who give it back to her in regular installments) so that she can qualify to live in the low-income senior housing my grandma calls home. When we found out the doctor suspected Helen had dementia, I couldn’t decide what to think. Is she suffering from some form of mental problem? I think it’s just as likely that she’s eccentric and sly like a bejeweled fox–but who knows? The latest Helen Story certainly doesn’t lead to any clear conclusions.

One of the questions on Helen’s memory test was to name a word that starts with “F”.

“I just blanked,” Helen told my grandma when she recounted the experience. “The only words I could think of were ‘fart’ and ‘fuck’.”

“So what did she put?” I asked, fascinated in spite of myself.

“She told me she debated for awhile about which would make her seem nuttier, then finally wrote ‘fart’ very deliberately.” Grandma said. 

A few days later, Helen got her results back. Lit by an indignant passion, she cornered Grandma and started venting. “Can you believe it?” She demanded. “I didn’t pass! Now they think I’ve got memory problems!”

Grandma must have been feeling brave that day, because she carefully suggested that maybe the F-word question cost her. “Oh please,” Helen said. “Nobody can think of words that start with F on demand. Besides, why wouldn’t those words naturally come to mind? Everybody does them, after all.”

6 Reasons Why an Apocalypse Tomorrow Would Be Inconvenient

20 May
  1. I just started a new tube of toothpaste. I don’t know what the odds are of a holy bread-dropper getting beamed up tomorrow (I’m thinking not so good…) but either way, I’m pretty sure that toothpaste would never get finished. It’s a minty-fresh tragedy.
  2. I’m in the middle of a good book–The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat kind of read (more of a full-recline-on-your-bed) but I’m still hooked and I’d like to finish it. Also, it’s a library book, and even if the world were to end, I still wouldn’t like my library track record to include the apocalyptic destruction of a borrowed book.
  3. I just signed up for an online creative writing class that will begin in June. The end of the world would mean a) the world would miss out on my creative writing and b) I wouldn’t get my deposit back. Bummer.
  4.  I’ll NEVER know what happens next on Fringe! So many unanswered questions! So many plot twists! An apocalypse would leave my obsession with this show completely unfulfilled. Talk about your ultimate cliffhanger. Top that, J.J. Abrams.
  5. It’s my friend’s birthday tomorrow. I’m sorry, but doomsday = party pooper.
  6. I have a story to tell you all about job letdowns and a sweet, older gentleman named Pete. I was even going to share the recipes for some scrumptious goodies.  I have the post half written, but I think it would be a pretty pointless post, post-apocalypse. 
See ya on the other side! 🙂

End the world in style, with a tin foil hat. Timeless, classic, reflective--this is one fashion statement that will never go out of style!

A Quick Word on Sweet Talkin’ Men

18 Mar

I’ll admit it–I’ve fallen behind on the latest news of Barbie and Ken. Despite my college education and interest in the world around me, I didn’t know that America’s original “it” couple had broken up (in 2004, after 43 years of…marriage? were they married?) and I didn’t know that they’d gotten back together (just recently, on Valentine’s Day, no less). However, more interesting than the plastic power couple’s on-again-off-again relationship status–the new Sweet Talkin’ Ken.

Sweet Talkin’ Ken is touted as “the ultimate boyfriend.” You can record compliments, thoughtful messages, and other sweet nothings, and Ken will repeat them back to you like a good little parrot. The microphone is located in his heart region (where else?) and the play buttons on his lower back allow for regular, low, or high voice responses. (The high voice option makes Ken sound like he’s been sucking helium, and the low voice option sounds like what the news uses to disguise witnesses’ voices.) 

It seems to me that this is a toy that big girls (or boys) would appreciate more than little ones. The concept is intriguing and, let’s face it, funny as hell. The folks at Children’s Technology Review made a short video of Sweet Talkin’ Ken in action, and you can tell they got a kick out of it–I was amused by their amusement.  

So? What would your Sweet Talkin’ Ken say?

A Quick Word on Confession and Techy Catholics…

22 Feb

Are you technologically savvy and down with G-O-D? Do you live your daily life with an iphone in your pocket and a burden of guilt in your heart? Do you pray for more opportunities to clear your conscience?

There’s an App for that!

If you haven’t heard, the latest apple-related news that has Catholics abuzz has nothing to do with Eve or her rib-less beau. Recently, a Confession iphone app has become available to iphone and ipad users.  For a mere $1.99, users receive:

– Custom examination of Conscience based upon age, sex, and vocation (single, married, priest, or religious)
– Multiple user support with password protected accounts
– Ability to add sins not listed in standard examination of conscience
– Confession walkthrough including time of last confession in days, weeks, months, and years
– Choose from 7 different acts of contrition

Keep in mind that the Vatican is not embracing this idea of confession with a techy twist. “I must stress to avoid all ambiguity, under no circumstance is it possible to ‘confess by iPhone,'” said spokesman Federico Lombardi.

Even with the Vatican frown of disapproval (careful! your face will freeze that way!), the punchlines for this whole iconfess situation practically write themselves. My favorite so far comes from boingboing“Finally! A way to confess your sins with one hand while possibly still committing them with the other.”

A Quick Word on Marooned Pianos…

30 Jan

I was really into this story about a baby-grand piano that mysteriously appeared on top of a sand bar in Florida. For the past week, no one knew where it had come from or why it was there–though the Miami New Times did compile a highly entertaining list of guesses. It was a compelling sight: a lone piano perched atop a strip of sand in the middle of Biscayne Bay. There was something mystical about the whole thing. Was the baby-grand waiting for a magical musician to tickle its ivories? Was it perhaps buoyed up from the bay by otherworldly music? Was it aliens? An act of God? A sign of the music missing from our lives?

Well, a few days ago the New York Times reported that the mystery was officially solved. You can read for yourself about the less-than-magical reasons behind the piano’s appearance. The point of this Quick Word is that I’m a little disappointed with the truth. I liked the speculations about the piano better than the reality. Plus, the piano has since been removed which ends the story on a bit of a flat note. Oh well, it was a fun mystery while it lasted.

I Put the Me in Employment

8 Sep


Phone interview tomorrow today for an internship that sounds fantastic. It’s an unpaid position but the experience would be priceless. (Yes, I mean that cornieness with all of my heart and I’m going to keep the cliches coming.)

More to come, assuming I don’t die of anxiety

A Quick Word on the Importance of Spell-check…

16 Aug

Hmmm, what's wrong with this picture?

Someone was snoozing over at CNN today and as a result a snicker-worthy typo was seen during a live broadcast of this afternoon’s CNN Newsroom. Where’s an English Major when you need one, huh? Of course, wasn’t it Freud who said there are no accidents? Maybe CNN’s “oops” was really more appropriate than the alternative…