Sign-a-codey-dodie-chody, let’s have a contest

First! The time of the Oscars is nearly upon us. Which means it’s time to jump on into the Butterscotch Sundae Oscars pool! The victor will receive a a lollipop and a piece of thread. (Or probably not that, but I’ll think of something prize-ish.)

Second! I can’t stop laughing at these Pronunciation Manual videos. There are about a zillion others (or 143). I love these two.

I’m a sucker for a good baseball story

“Hm,” the librarian said as she pulled the book off the holds shelf. “I’ll be interested to hear what you think of this one.”

“Have you read it?”

“No, but people have either really liked it or really hated it.”

And so I started Chad Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding” with trepidation. It’s a baseball story, but it’s also a friendship story and kind of a coming-of-age story and a love story or two. I’ve read a few reviews that liken it to some of David Foster Wallace’s writing, which made me feel rather nice because I had the same thought when I was reading it. I’m not a literary critic, though, so I can’t put a finger on precisely what it is. It’s in the somewhat ridiculous names — Henry Skrimshander, Guert Affenlight — and in the importance of books that only exist in the novel’s world, I think, as well as those other things that I haven’t been able to quantify.

We all know how I feel about Wallace — and if you don’t: I love him so much that I can’t bear to read his final, posthumous novel. I sat with it open to the first page and cried. I’m maudlin and I know it. — so the fact that “The Art of Fielding” reminded me of his work is High Praise. The book is gently written without being dumbed-down, and I found the characters believable and for the most part likable.

I am firmly in the Really Liked It camp.

A biscuit by any other name would taste as great

It has been a long time since I participated in a Daring Bakers’ challenge. As in, nearly-three-years-ago long. I enjoyed it (mostly) when I was doing them, though, so I decided to try it again in 2012.

And then they announced what the January challenge was, and I was temporarily very confused. Scones. But not really scones, unless you’re in Australia (I think), which is where they refer to biscuits as scones and scones as biscuits. Or something like that. Like I said, it was confusing. But the crux of the matter is that the January challenge was biscuits.

I’m from the South. I should know how to make a biscuit. And yet I did not, unless you count Bisquick biscuits. I’m pretty sure the Daring Bakers do not count Bisquick biscuits.

The hardest part of the January challenge for me wasn’t in the making of the biscuits. It was in finding the time and inclination to make them. Rockford has been on the road a lot this month, and as much as I’d like to say that doesn’t phase me in the least? It does. It phases me greatly. I’ve gotten to the point where I maintain normal well enough when he’s gone, but I don’t usually do much above and beyond that.

I managed not to succumb to my pathetic loneliness, though. And on Tuesday night I made some biscuits. We had eggs, veggie sausages and homemade biscuits for dinner while we watched “Yellow Submarine.” It was a nice evening, in spite of Rockford’s absence.

A few weeks before I attempted the basic biscuit, I tried my hand at The King of Biscuits; The Most Delicious Thing in the World; The Primary Reason to Go to Red Lobster — the Cheddar Bay biscuit. I’d planned to infuse the milk with garlic, all fancy-like, but then I discovered that I didn’t have any garlic. So instead I just added garlic powder to the flour, and I mixed about a cup of Cheddar cheese into the dough.

And they were like a dream. A delicate, buttery, garlicky, cheesy dream.

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Biscuits)

Biscuits are best with Trader Joe's honey apple butter.

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately 1/2 cup cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)

Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.

Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)

Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about 3/4-inch thick. Using a well-floured 2-inch scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.

Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.

Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.

My biscuits didn’t rise nearly as much as other Daring Bakers’ did. Some people achieved gorgeous, flaky, picture-perfect results. These were tasty, though, and my very picky child ate them happily. And so we are pleased.

Return of the prodigal meow

About a year after we got Marsha, I decided we needed another cat. A cat to keep Marsha company. Because I thought she was lonely, wiling away the hours while Rockford and I were at work.

See? Even back then I put far too much thought into what the cat might be thinking. I may have a problem.

So I thought Marsha needed a friend, and so I called a local rescue operation and asked them who they had available. They had a fellow who’d recently been found in a Dumpster behind the Juvenile Justice Center. He was young and very thin, and he was, they said, pretty friendly. Because we had Marsha and Marsha hadn’t lived with another cat since her foster home days, the rescue guy and I decided the cat should come over for a few days to see how well they got along.

They sat on opposite ends of the living room for two full days, staring at each other and making the most horrible sounds a cat can make. So maybe I was wrong about the Lonely Cat thing.

And yet we (by which I mean I) couldn’t send that poor, emaciated cat back to the agency.

That is the story of the first time we saw JJ. He and Marsha never really became BFFs, but they did learn to tolerate one another. JJ was much more of the stereotypical stand-offish cat than Marsha, who is more canine than feline in many ways. JJ, though. Every now and then he’d deign to allow you to scratch his head, but that was about it. We loved him anyway.

JJ went to live with Rockford’s sister six or so years ago when we moved. Then a few years later she moved, and JJ went to live with a friend of Rockford’s sister. And then last year she moved, too, and JJ went to live with the parents of a friend of Rockford’s sister. They didn’t move, but they also didn’t want a cat.

But I did. And last week Rockford’s work travels took him oh-so-close to the home of Rockford’s sister’s friend’s parents.

And so.

Welcome back, JJ. We’re pleased to have you home. (And by “we,” I mean “all of us except for Marsha, who is not happy about it at all.)

A Democratic menu plan

I had a hard time thinking of things to put on the menu this week, so I turned it over to the family. They did a pretty good job of it.
Monday: Fish sticks & macaroni and cheese

I let Poppy pick today’s meal. This is almost always her second choice. (Her first choice is always McAlister’s Deli.)

Tuesday: “Grilled” chicken and corn on the cob
Pete requested chicken. And also “corn that’s still attached.”

Wednesday: Pineapple black bean enchiladas
And this was Rockford’s pick!

Thursday: Potato soup
I’m trying to make Thursday soup night.

Friday: Pizza