February 28, 2010

Maple Vinaigrette

I did some tinkering on my blog this weekend to change the layout.  The banners I made are kind of obnoxiously large, but I don't have the energy to change them.  All my pictures are on one hard drive, my photo editing program is on another, and I run back and forth between the laptop in my guest room and the desktop in the living room with a little memory stick so many times I am going to start counting it towards P90X points.  (You don't really get points in P90X - but you totally should).  Why don't I bring the laptop into the living room you ask?  Because Al Gore cast a spell on my living room and I can't get online in there.

Ok.  One of the *coolest* things I've finally broken into in the kitchen is making my own salad dressings and marinades.  It's something I put off for ages because...I don't know why.  Not only does the homemade version end up saving loads of money, your end result often tastes waaaay better and you get it sans the preservatives, additives and colorings packed into most all of the bottled stuff.  Does everybody already know this?  Am I way behind the curve?  Anyway, I needed Kraft's Asian Toasted Sesame dressing to marinate my chicken in not long ago, so I snuck down the grocery aisle, wrote down the ingredients and made it myself.  I. felt. so. smug.

The recipe that pushed me over the edge was a Maple Vinaigrette that I found in one of those little Everday Food Martha Stewart magazines.  Here's what initially caught my eye.


I've been meaning to make the switch from my regular old pancake syrup to pure maple syrup for a long time, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it because it's so much more pricey.  But then I read the ingredients in my normal pancake syrup:  sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, distilled marshmallow creme and caramel coloring.  I took this little salad recipe as an excuse to buy the real stuff. 

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs. cider vinegar
2 tbs. pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tbs. dijon mustard
coarse salt and pepper, to taste

These measurements are really small, so I doubled the batch to make our salads, and quadrupled it to make salads for company.  Whisk this together and toss a salad of greens, thinly sliced apple, blue cheese crumbles, almond slivers and red onion.  Best salad ever!

Speaking of salads, I'll leave you with a picture of our favorite meal - The Huge Salad.  As you can see, it was before my homemade dressing campaign.  For some reason, I really hate making salads.  Suddenly I'm going to see how many times I can say 'salad' in this post.  You have to drag all the stuff out, and then there's the chopping-endless-dicing-never-ending-slicing.  But once these salads are assembled, they're the best - and now my homemade dressing makes them taste even better!  Weehoo.  The funny thing is that my standard for how good a homemade salad is, is how much it mimics a restaurant salad.  I serve them in a big flat pasta bowl, and I put my dressing in ramekins on the side.  My salads include but aren't limited to:

A good leafy green
One fresh herb, chopped fine and tossed in: cilantro is the best
Red cabbage, shredded
Red onion
Boiled egg, crumbled
Some kind of nuts
Some kind of seeds
Craisins, always Craisins!
Tomato, tomato, tomato (my fave)
Cheese of whatever kind
Sliced grilled chicken or ham, as pictured

 Next week I'll share something from the dark side.  A trifle my Sis just taught me.  Or brownies ganache.  Or the ice cream pie recipe I just made up that would leave a lactose intolerant person in the fetal position for-eh-ver.  Name that movie.

February 26, 2010

Where The Tough Keep Driving

Today is Friday, and it's the day I was going to write about a memory from the Appalachian Trail.  But instead I thought I'd tell you what happened to me night before last.

When I told people we were moving to Wisconsin, I could kind of visualize myself already here.  In my mind I was wearing a piece of foam cheese on my head.  Ice fishing with a man named Bernie.  Doing shots of beer cheese soup at a hockey game.  Or milking a cow and doing shots of colostrum.  Mmmm, colostrum shots.  But the reaction I got from most people was not nearly as imaginative.  They were all the same.  Wisconsin?  You know how bad the winters are, right?  Or Wisconsin? (Shudder).  Brrrrrrr!  It's cold there!  I've been living with Dustan so long now that I'm sure my response was something like an eager nod, a big golden retriever-grin and an enthusiastic "Bring it on, baby!"

The reactions of people here, learning we'd just moved from Virginia, were even gloomier.  Will this be your first winter here?  (Big, ominous, apocolyptical laugh)  You just wait til your car is buried under a foot of snow and you've got to dig it out before work.  That does sound pretty miserable, doesn't it?  So we got ready.  I should change that sentence.  We got SO ready.  We got here, bought snow shovels and rock salt and small candles just in case we were stranded in a snow drift so big we could always toast our hair and eat it on a cracker.  I turned into a Weather Watcher, made noaa.gov my best friend.  As October turned into November and then December, we were like minutemen.  Watching, waiting, ready to fight the snow.

But something all funny-like happened this year.  We got some snow, yeah.  A skiff here, a mid-morning dump there.  Had to use our shovel maybe twice so far.  But Virginia.  Ohhh, Virginia.  The snow you've gotten this year rivals the winters of my childhood past.  Power lines down, front doors snowed closed, snow so heavy roofs are caving in.  The ominous winter we expected in Wisconsin has been completely and totally trumped by what is going on over there on the east coast.  What IS going on over there anyway?  I sent my mom a Valentine on February 8th and she got it like three weeks later.  The USPS isn't firing on all pistons because of "inclement weather on the east coast."  But haven't they been getting Valentines to Minnesota since before the world began?  And here, my friends, is the vast difference between a bad winter in Wisconsin and a bad winter in Virginia.  In Virginia, the world stops turning when it snows.  Schools close.  Forever.  Kids just sit around getting dumb, watching ice melt.  And Walmart can't keep cases of bottled water or emergency blankets or pre-packaged firewood stocked.  People quit driving.  The roads crust over with crunchy ice on top of snow.  Christmas is cancelled.  No one has to work.  Mailmen aren't required to get Valentines to moms on time.

In Wisconsin, however, nothing changes when it snows.  I'm preeeetty sure their definition of inclement weather here is a whiteout, below-zero temperatures, and a tsunami coming off Lake Michigan.  Simultaneously.  Because work ain't cancelled, baby showers aren't cancelled and no one goes home early if around, say 3:30, it starts snowing at your place of work with such fury that your car is suddenly buried and no one has cell reception.  And you too would feel like a total pansy if you stood up and peaced out because you were such a thumb-sucking baby that didn't believe in driving in the snow.  Because girl, if you don't drive in the snow here, you're not going anywhere.  For a very long time.

So I stuck it out until five, gathered my things and trudged out to my car.  I had to use the ice scraper-slash-snow brusher offer to get all the snow from Ruby while she idled, and then I started my long journey home to Racine from Milwaukee in really bad conditions.  It was like the snow surprised everybody, especially Wisconsin's equivalent to VDOT.  WDOT?  And the roads weren't plowed at all.  I was white-knuckling my steering wheel on the interstate all the way home.  It was impossible to change lanes without your backend squirrelling around, so I just stuck to my lane while brazen Neons and 18-wheelers flew past, probably jamming out to Pink and smoking a cigarette in their cab.  Wisconsin-born.

I finally got off at my Racine exit and was desperate for gas at this point.  So as I start to turn right into the gas station, my car decides: no.  We're not going that way.  In fact we're skidding the opposite way.  Right towards a concrete median with a big stoplight mounted in the middle of it.  It all happened in slow motion.  It wasn't dramatic or heart racing.  It was more like "Ah man! No, man! Crap." My car banged into the concrete base of the stoplight and then the stoplight fell on my car.


By stoplight I mean a big steel pole with a diamond-shaped sign on top that holds three big red, yellow and green bulbs.  On my car.  Unbelievable.  I'm too proud to leave work early and the price I pay is having a stoplight on my car.  Ruby is actually OK.  No windshield busted, just a dented hood and some undercarriage stuff, whatever that means.  My airbags didn't even go off.  But still.  A stoplight on my car?  A stoplight that costs ten thousand dollars that belongs to the city that I have to my insurance company has to pay for?

The policeman looks at my license and says to me "Welcome to Wisconsin."

And I say "This is inclement weather!"

February 25, 2010

Bringin' It

Dustan and I are doing P90X.  It's all the rage.  It's how skinny people get even skinnier, and also totally ripped.  It's how soft, desk-bound people torture themselves at night.  P90X.  We are doing P90X because we were fat.  We hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, but then we moved back in with Mom and she made us chicken pot pie and we got fat again.  Who wants to be an AT thru-hiker with nothing to show for it but calves the size of grapefruits (we both have them) and a sticker on their car? 

So we order this 90-day workout program that will give you muscles in your gums.  It's based on something called "Muscle Confusion."  I don't know if this is a gimmick or what, all I know is that we start the first day doing Core Synergistics.  Core Synergistics is a workout that makes you jump around so much your fat jiggles until it hurts, your face turns red, your throat throbs, and you feel like the chubby kid at basketball practice running suicides.  The next day we were supposed to do Cardio X, but I wilted from my push-up position like a noodle.  It was not a gimmick.  My muscles were definitely confused.  So confused that I just wanted to cry over a bowl of ice cream.  The thing about P90X is that it's old-fashioned.  In Cardio X we do jumping jacks (light fixtures trembling in the bar downstars) and curls and squats and lunges and push-ups.  Next is Shoulder & Arms. This means you put a chin-up bar in your doorway and almost kill yourself. Because right after chin-ups (which I can't do), you get down and do push-ups. Again, wilting like a noodle.  (Food metaphors give me comfort while I'm talking about P90X).  Then there's Yoga.  Now instead of your fat flopping around, you try to stick it into places it was never meant to go.  Now instead of jumping and crunching breathlessly, we are fixating on a spot on the wall, wobbling back and forth, our arms moving in synch, slow as molasses through the air.  Slow as honey through the air.  Slow as caramel sauce through the air...

But I really do like it.  Because there we are.  Two standing birds.  Pelicans on one foot.  Side by side, fibers from the rug all over our workout clothes, happy to be doing something with our blood and lungs and breath again, together. 

I will - inevitably - keep you posted.

February 24, 2010

The Bedroom

*I updated this post at the end.*

I sit here, scrolling through huge chunks of photos, not even knowing where to begin.  So I guess I'm gonna start with the first thing I painted in the apartment.  Our bedroom.  When we got here, it was hot and sticky - even in Wisconsin.  I couldn't believe it.  We just kept moving piles of boxes from one corner to the next until we couldn't take it anymore, and I decided to make one room normal.  Here's the bedroom evolving, from before we moved in, to blank whiteness, to the wrong peanut-buttery paint color, to the right one, and so forth.

This is how we slept for ages.  Nothing on the walls, nothing on the furniture, barely any covers on the bed.  The air may have been hot, but the walls were a nice Oatmeal, and that's all I cared about.

In every other room, I've done loads of small projects that make up the final product.  But in the bedroom, all the furniture/decor was pretty much ready to go.  I only did one little project.  My jewelry box:

This guy has been in my bedroom since I was a young girl, and I've always thought it would just be...I don't know, somehow wrong to paint it.  But I got over that when I finally decided that it would look good painted green, distressed, stained and rubbed with black.  You can't really tell the true color because of the exposure in this picture.  I like it so much better now.

Wow. . . I just had to come back.  Because as I was looking at these pictures I realized that everything in this room was given to us.  Everything!  I seriously can't look at one thing that I bought.  The chocolatey velvet curtains, matching sheets (that you can't see), puffy white comforter and lovely pillowcases all came from my aunt JJ.  The brown blanket on the bed came from my Mamaw Meade.  Rachel gave me the lamp for Christmas ages ago, and Rachel's mom gave me the red throw pillow as a wedding gift. Linds gave me the small white throw pillow, the furry rug, the furry pillow and the two excruciating little wooden boxes on my vanity.  Brahma's Mama gave me the vanity, and brought me back the small red lamp from Thailand.  Spring, Brahma's sister, gave me the bed.  Mom gave me the wooden rocking chair (I used to be rocked in that chair, now I paint it black and throw clothes over it) and the heavy afghan on it.  Furniture, window treatments, bedding, decor - free.  Getting free stuff?  Priiiiiiiicelessssssss. 

Nighty night.

February 23, 2010

Where the Child and the Dog Lie Side by Side

Today is the day I get to use a picture to talk about whatever the heck I want.  Here's a picture that makes me happy every time I look at it. 

This is a blog right?  What good would it be without some awkward Internet confessions.  I really like animals more than kids.  I mean, I like kids all right, in fact I have a really fun time with some of them.  But if there was a dog to pet in one corner and a baby to tickle in the other, I'd choose the dog ten out of ten.  No baby picture can make me squeak with a heart-squeezing I want one! the way a bunch of pudgy little labs in a wheelbarrow can.  Can I address the Sarah McLachlan commercial now?  You know the one.  The dogs, the cats, the puppies (oh the puppies!) trembling in cages with those huge brown, scared eyes.  It seriously sticks with me for hours.  I don't think I really cared about the tsunami or Katrina or Haiti until I saw images of a dog sitting on a porch that was about to go underwater.  If I don't turn the channel quick enough, I have to make up for it by giving Trail a hug so long it just annoys her.

Anyway, I know it's a bit dysfunctional that I am way more excited about getting a pet pig and a second pup than I am having a baby, and I'm OK with that.  Because it doesn't mean I'm not excited about a baby at all.  I really am.  That's why this picture isn't just a picture of a big shiny dog that I want to squeeze.  See?  There's also a little baby in it.  Maybe this picture makes you go "Those parents are fools" (because you watch too much Dateline and fill your brain with stories about snakes that eat small children), but it makes me really, really happy to see the family pet and the baby co-existing.  When we finally do get around to having a kid, I don't want that ol' Baba Gurl to get lost in the shuffle.  One of the blogs I read is Dooce, the Supreme Mommyblogger.  And the thing that keeps me a dedicated reader?  Is how her mutt and her (cah-razy, shelter-worthy, kick-to-the-curbable) Australian Shepherd get so much air time in their family.  I look at this picture and think, yes.  Trail will be that dog who has to endure lots of ear-tugging and eye-gouging, but in exchange she'll get to lick Stonyfield yogurt out of my kid's mouth.

February 22, 2010

High Gear

First things first.  Nabisco owns Oreos.  Secondly, that last post about killed me because I pasted it into Blogger from Word. I know Microsoft and Google don't play well in the sandbox, but seriously? It was a nightmare. Anyone know how to import posts? I can't always write in an open web browser.

Ok anyway, I'm doing it. I'm kicking this blog into high gear. A week or so ago Dustan sat me down and gave me a good kick in the teeth about how I'm not applying myself creatively in any way and I, in turn, went on whining about how I'm not going to be another woman trying to make a home-based internet business by covering bobby pins with Scotch tape and trying to sell them on Etsy. After all, I can't make a quilt or a scarf or a pair of earrings like some of my friends can. What was it he suggested I do? He said I should paint stuff for people, like the stuff I've done for our apartment. And that's when my brain disintegrated and kinda fell out of my ear like salt. Because the thought of painting something for myself gives me energy, but the thought of painting something for someone else, who may or may not buy it, who may walk right past it at a craft fair, makes me want to take a nap and suck my thumb (and set my little craft booth on fire) all at the same time.

I got a job working at a sweet company. Rishi Tea. They distribute loose leaf organic teas to a whole bunch of coffee shops, grocery stores, cafes, etc. Anyway, it used to be a small tea company in Milwaukee, and now it's a huge tea company in Milwaukee. I do officey-stuff at Rishi but all you really need to know is that every day I drink something like this
out of something like thisSo anyway, I have a job that is usually part time, but for the next bit or so, I'll be working a lot more than I thought. So the big blog ambition I have that was based on a lot more free time has been slightly dampened. But I'm still serious about blogging more. Dustan's pep talk lit a fire under me about blogging for no other reason than disicpline. Period. Comments and readership are cool, sponsored advertisements and flashing banners that make you money are great, sitting at home eating sushi and drinking Rishi Tea because you make money just by turning your computer on is even better - but that's really not the endgame. I honestly just want to see myself sitting before a blank white box, smoke coming out one ear as I try to get a sentence the way I want it. It's been a long time. And what better place to do that than on a blog, where friends can elbow you in the ribs when you quit posting.

I'm gonna try and give this blog a little structure to keep myself on track (Chris Farley). And I'm not sure how it's gonna work. I might hate it and scrap it and go back to Facebook to stay. Tell Dustan to go sell birdhouses at a craft fair.

Here are my features.


At the start of the week I'll post a great recipe that is changing my life in the kitchen. These seem to be coming in at a much better rate than when I first started cooking, and I'm happy about it. But this can't be a cooking blog. I'm not VeganYumYum and I'm not Honest Fare and I don't come up with anything on my own. I just imitate. Sometimes the result is a nice surprise on our kitchen table, so I'll talk about it. Plus, a good food blog has to be a downright amazing photography blog. You know I'm right! My little Sony Cybershot just can't live up to the pressure.  (Winter salad by Gabi, Cupcakes by VeganYumYum)


This is the day I'll publish a photo that I love. It will give me a chance to write about the people in my life.  And celebrities, the people in both our lives.  And pretty much any other thing imaginable. 


Since we've moved to Wisconsin, the before and after projects haven't stopped. I mean, you just don't know. I've painted beds, dressers, desks, tables, chairs, walls, filing cabinets, mirrors, baseboards, doors, windows, pictures, picture frames, bookshelves and a hall tree. I've spackled, sanded, mixed, remixed, polyed, distressed, caulked and scrubbed. This will be my chance to take one of my little DIY projects and show it off. But, this can't be a design blog. There are cool things to look at in my apartment, but you have to go other places to find the coolest stuff, because I've just copied them best I can, and drooled over the stuff I couldn't.  Like, the following.


I don't know. I'm going back and forth on this one. I might just do a journal entry. Write about the nuances of my day, just to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. "Today I woke up and made Dustan a fried egg. I walked to Sanders Paint, four doors down to the left, and bought three quarts - red, blue and green. The sky was a big cotton ball, making it impossible to judge the time by looking outside. It's been grey like this for what seems like weeks, and when the sun does come out, we will all throw our windows open and dance in the street with beads and braids like it's our own Wisconsin Mardi Gras, in honor of the sunshine."

Or I thought about featuring a product. One that I buy regularly, and enjoy the process of buying; one that I love to use so much I tell other people they're nuts if they don't use it too. I think this could be interesting because there's so much superficiality and negativity connected to the words 'marketing,' 'product placement,' 'consumerism,' and 'advertisement.' But the truth is, there are some products all of us would love to stand on our chairs and endorse. This would be my chance to talk about my new hand creme from Anthropologie that Dust got me for Valentine's Day. Or the 4-story brick feed n' seed store where we go to buy Trail's dogfood from Mark, and always come home with free puppy treats. Or eggs. I'd love to talk about eggs. The word, the shape, the many ways to eat them, their mystery.


I'm gonna talk about memories of the Appalachian Trail on Fridays. I know, I know. I dedicated a whole blog to it already. But really? It's an open, breathing memory. So many pictures left unpublished, so many stories left untold, so many piping hot cups of coffee to drink while typing them up.  Of course, if this gets stale, I'll talk about the other Trail in my life. She shows me around this great city every day and I love her. Her newest nickname is for early rising, when the bathroom light and steam from the shower cut through the sleepy haze of early-morning darkness. She yawns - making a sound that's almost language - stretches like a geriatric, and then clicks down the hallway, toenails on wood. That's when we call her Morning Star.

February 19, 2010

I Have Made A Decision

Why did I even create this space? I definitely had a lot of passion for it at one point. I think that passion was coupled with the fact that I was no longer blogging in a public library, wearing sweaty hiking pants that smelled like death. Tales From the Dairy Air was my back-to-real-life blog, in which I’d show off recipes (because I actually have a kitchen), and post pictures of my colorful painting projects (because my possessions are no longer reduced to what you can fit in a backpack). Even though I’m not looking over my shoulder to see how much time I have ‘til that diner down the street closes, leaving me cheeseburgerless and coffeeless, I still have trouble blogging regularly. The problem is our internet connection sucks. It just does. And beggars can’t be choosers, because we just mooch wireless off the bar downstairs. So I’ve gotten to a place where I barely even read my email any more. It’s so, so lame.

But the internet is just like soda. If you go cold turkey, you realize how much you don’t need it. Hey, you don’t even like it. Your relationship to the Internet is one more thing cluttering your life. It throws off your chi, it pulls you to a screen when you should be laughing and holding hands with real people and running through fields of wildflowers in Colorado. Until your bars pop back up, and there you are with a freshly launched browser, ready to take you anywhere you want to go. You can even find pictures of those wildflower fields! And now I’m flipping through the mental rolodex of Things I Meant to Google.

Home remedies for my dogs dry skin
Ray LaMontagne, images
Health food stores, Racine, WI
Recipes breakfast muffin bran
Where did the pilgrims first settle
Was 9/11 a conspiracy

And suddenly, what did I ever do without the internet? Not unlike that first fizzy Pepsi at the movie theatre with buttered popcorn. Unfortunately, I’ve only made it through half of my emails (and a whole wikipedia entry on Alicia Keys) until I realize that my connection just died again. And this ol’ blog takes the bottom rung.

But no more. I’m renewing my vows to this blog this day. Because I want to get more serious about the discipline of making some sort of creative deadline. The work situation I have right now allows me to be home a few days a week, and rather than drumming up another DIY project, I’m going to give some legitimate time towards the effort of making myself plug away at something creative - daily. In college I got so used to reading for a grade and writing for a grade that I’ve just about forgotten what it’s like to do it on your own initiative. (That’s my roundabout way of admitting that all I’ve done to stimulate my brain in the last 5 years is paint furniture and reread all my Nancy Drew hardbacks).

To kick off my rededication, I think I’m coming up with a plan. Yes, I’m going to come up with a plan. I’m going to attempt to make this blog a bit more regular, straight up predictable – maybe even boring. At this point, boring isn’t worse than coming here and finding the same post that was here nineteen days ago.

I’m not posting this here to make lofty promises to all nine of my readers. I’m really just telling myself, in front of all nine of you. My plan is to feature something every day of the week. It’s nothing ground-breaking for a blog or anything, but it will help keep me on some sort of track. And then I’ll be writing all the time. And then I’ll get nine million readers. And then an executive from Nabisco will find my blog and offer me money to eat Oreos all day long! It’s gonna be great. (See, here’s where I need the internet. Does Nabisco make Oreos? Or is it Keebler. Maybe Kraft? Doesn’t Kraft own Nabisco? But I’m not online, so who can ever know. And my question is – before the Internet, where did we find the answers to those kind of questions?). Anyway, there went that sponsorship. If you have any suggestions for features, I’d love to hear them. I'll keep what I have in mind up my sleeve, until I launch it. I'll start...this Monday.

*Rach - I had to delete this original post, reformat it and post again because I could not get the size of the font to obey me. Thanks for your initial comments though. You should write a cookbook.