Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ad copy

Some advertising copy I've seen and noted:

"Wonder Bread: Fresh fresh fresh"

Okay.  Here's my advertising tip for today: don't pick the one most flagrant and obvious thing that you AREN'T, and say you ARE it.  I mean, Wonder Bread probably has its virtues, right?  Fluffy? Convenient? Inexpensive? Shelf-stable? But one thing it ISN'T, is Fresh Bread.  And the advertisement just brings that fact, painfully, to the front of one's mind.  You'd be better off thinking of it as a whole different entity than fresh bread.  Because the comparison is not going to be favorable. 

Another:

"Since then Krusteaz---a clever mix of 'crust' and 'ease'---has come to stand for homemade goodness."

Um.  Laying aside the "homemade goodness" part, can we really concede that Krusteaz is a clever mix of 'crust' and 'ease'?  I mean, it's a mix of the two words, I think we can agree on that.  But what makes it a "clever" mix?  The "K" at the beginning of "crust," perhaps?  Or did they have in mind the "eaz" spelling of "ease"?  Or is it the "clever" way they made the two words into---get this---one word?

I happen to know a copy writer.  (Or is he a "copyrighter"?)  And I'm pretty sure he'd never engage in such sloppy writing . . . right Jordan?  Right? :)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Benefits of Fame

Sam's art blog is, maybe not famous, but quite popular---he gets thousands of views a day, as well as lots of related emails; gushing with praise, asking for help, seeking advice, offering jobs, etc.  It's well-deserved attention, and I haven't been envious of it----until now.  When I find he is the recipient of such spectacular missives as the following:

Subject: punxsutawney phil loved your illustration

Weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil and I stumbled on to your site and the great illustration of a groundhog or as we thought ‘evil phil’ : phil’s alter ego.

We really enjoyed the illustration and thought we would pass along the praise. There are so many bad representations of groundhogs in illustration… it was refreshing to see yours.

Warm regards on a Cold day.
From the weather capital of the world
At Gobblers Knob.
In Punxsutawney Pennsylvania
Happy Groundhog Day

[Name withheld]
Official Handler, Punxsutawney Phil

First of all, it's so great that Phil has an "official handler," and furthermore that the handler SPEAKS so confidently for Phil.  And then the delight that Phil (and handler) took in finding an illustration that does justice to the groundhog (with accompanying dismay at the general State of Groundhog Illustration These Days)!  Wouldn't you LOVE to get letters like this?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lemon Curd Marbled Cheesecake

I was trying to devise a fitting dessert for the First Day of Spring (which ended with snow, of course) and what kept coming to mind was LEMON.  Mmm; delicate, tangy lemon---what a perfect flavor for Spring!  And my favorite lemon curd is also the perfect color for Spring.  I love yellow!

So here we have Lemon Curd Marbled Cheesecake, from Epicurious.  (I personally don't think the picture at their site does it justice.  You can't see the swirled top.)  It is such a beautiful dessert for the beginning of Spring!  The lemon flavor is less obvious than in the goat-cheese lemon tart I made last year, because the cheesecake is stronger.  But you can always drizzle more lemon curd over the top, as we did, and the cheesecake texture is superb.  Yum! 

It isn't hard to make, although it takes a few steps.  You start with lemon curd---any recipe, really, but I have one here.  Let that chill for an hour or two, while you make a graham cracker crust in a springform pan.  (I used a larger one than called for, which makes a slightly thinner cheesecake.  I prefer that.)  Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350.

Then make the cheesecake filling, as follows:

3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat it together (first cream cheese and sugar, then eggs one at a time, then sour cream and vanilla) and pour 2/3 of it into the crust.  Then dot with half of lemon curd.  Then rest of cheesecake.  Then rest of lemon curd.  Then swirl it gently together with a butter knife, so it looks like this:

Then you bake it at 300 for 45 minutes, or actually it was more like an hour---till it's firm 1-1/2 inches from the edge, but still jiggles slightly in the middle.
Why do people worry about cheesecake cracking on top when you bake it?  I hear people talking about it like it's a bad thing, but I think the cracks are lovely!  They add to the appeal, especially when they follow the swirls of the lemon curd.  Isn't it beautiful?

I garnished ours with violets.  I love violets.  And you can eat them, did you know?  At least I hope you can, because we did.

And there it is.  Spring, in lemony cheesecake form.  Enjoy it while the snow falls (and melts) outside! :)

UPDATE: more pictures, and sugared violet recipe, here

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Going to extremes

Saturday was alphabet-letter "E," so we performed several activities in an EXTREME way.  We had a logo and everything:
You know how "hard-core" (as I believe they say) we are, so you can only imagine the extremities to which we went.
Or can you?
Let me help:
Extreme muffin-eating.  The closed eyes signify not fatigue, but concentration.  And might I take this opportunity to say that over the course of this event, I managed to catch, in my mouth, some food thrown to me---for the FIRST TIME EVER?  I was so proud.

Extreme Stoller-Pushing: Obstacle Course (Note the red Tracking Balloon).  This picture shows the winning contestant in the final seconds of the first heat.

I don't have any pictures of the Extreme Popcorn-Making, so you will have to imagine that one.  But here is Daisy; she clasps her hands at you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Goat Dairy

There's a sign by the road that says "Goat Dairy" that I pass by occasionally, and I always want to turn there and check it out.  So we finally did.  You drive back on a dirt road behind some houses and into kind of a farm-y area.  And then there's a little white shed with a sign on it that says, GOAT DAIRY---OPEN.  Inside there's a little refrigerated display case with feta, chevre, ricotta, yogurt, and milk, and they also sell soap and gelato (the sign said, though I didn't see any).  You fill out an order form, take your food, and leave your money in a little box by the door.  It's charming (and the prices very reasonable).

There wasn't any feta in the case when I went, so I called the phone number on a sign posted inside, and got a nice old man who said, "I haven't got any cut just now, but if you can set tight for a bit, I'll go on out and cut some and bring it on over."  We waited on a handy bench outside (and watched some goats sleeping and walking around---very peaceful), and soon he drove up in his truck with some bags of cheese for me.  "Do you like it quite stout?" he said.  "Oh yes," I said, not really knowing what he meant but thinking he meant "strong."  "This-ere's three years old," he said.  "It's quite stout."  So, I took it, and also some chevre, and I've been using it with great enjoyment for the past few days in my cooking.  The feta IS quite "stout."  You can really smell it when you open the fridge.  But it's delicious, and the chevre is too---smooth and creamy and just sour enough.  Yum!  I would like to try the yogurt and the ricotta (and gelato, if they really have it) next time I go back.


I made this macaroni and cheese---actually Carrot-and-spinach Pasta and Feta---that I thought turned out quite yummy.  Here is how you make it:
  • Cook some pasta (I used the colored spinach kind because I like feta and spinach together) until not-quite-soft.
  • Make a roux (equal parts flour and butter cooked together in a saucepan; then whisk in milk to desired thickness.  I did about 1/4 c. butter, 1/4 c. flour, 2 c. milk? or so). 
  • Add grated cheese (any kind; I did a mixture of cheddar and feta), salt and pepper, and a little nutmeg. 
  • Melt a little more butter (2 T?) and stir it together with some bread crumbs (panko style, or make your own) and more feta.  This is your topping.
  • Stir together the pasta and the cheese sauce.  If I'd remembered I would have added spinach too.  And then top with the topping.  Bake at 375 for a half hour or so.
My sister-in-law also taught me how to make this good salad.  (She says basically, you put in a cheese, a fruit, and a nut.)  I changed it to use the ingredients I had.  Both versions are really good.  Hers had:
  • Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • mandarin oranges
  • avocado
  • artichoke hearts
  • lettuce
  • sugared sliced almonds (fry almonds in 3-4 Tbsp. sugar until sugar dissolves and coats nuts; cool, then break apart)
Mine had:
  • feta cheese
  • chopped apples
  • sugared almonds
  • green onions
  • avacado
  • spinach
  • lettuce
And here is her delicious Poppy Seed Dressing which goes with the salad:
1/2 C. Sugar
1/4 C. oil
1/3 C. Cider Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon poppy seed
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 Tablespoon Grated Onion (optional)
pepper to taste

Tomorrow night I am going to use the rest of the feta on this pizza.  Roasted sweet pepper and feta, or caramelized leek and feta.  Yum!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Feeshy-go-round

There are two things I've been feeling grateful for lately.

1. My kids are easily amused
2. My every movement is not captured by a GPS tracking system

There are two roundabouts in our neighborhood, so lately we've been playing "feeshy-go-round."  Well, one is a fish-go-round and one is a "horsie-go-round."  Here is how it goes: we get in the car.  We drive to Roundabout #1.  As we go, we say, "We're standing in line!  We're waiting!  We're almost there!"  Then, we drive into the circle, and around, while saying in fun voices, "Wheee!  Woohoo!  We're on the fishy-go-round!  Up and down, up and down!  Hooray!"  We go around 5 or 6 times, until we are dizzy.  Then we drive out and towards Roundabout #2, where we repeat as needed.  The kids loooooove it.  (Like I said.  Easily amused.  Free fun!)

But also, and this speaks to #2, I ask myself if anyone ever sees us and wonders what we're doing.  I saw an exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art which is a GPS tracking device constantly attached to some guy, and a camera, so variously cut shots of what he sees and where he is are always appearing in realtime.  Of course it's supposed to be a biting commentary on the ubiquitous nature of the media, and an ironic insult to the national security that wrongly tracked the artist (or something)---but all I could think as I looked at it was, "What would people think if they saw my location dot---going 'round---and 'round---and 'round---and 'round?"*

Little Sebby a couple years ago.  Doesn't he look young and sweet?

*Or sitting in one spot, never moving more than 25 ft in either direction, for DAYS AT A TIME?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A light exists in Spring*

Stripes.  Or veins.  HOW is this possible?  It seems amazing to me that something so tiny could be so precise in its details.
I think I love the springtime more every year.  I remember liking the warm weather as a little kid, but I don't remember feeling the overwhelming gratitude and relief that I feel now as we near the end of winter.  I wonder why?  Maybe as a kid the months seem so long that there is no point anticipating the next season; whereas as an adult I've learned how fast time can go, so I look ahead more than I used to?  Or perhaps when I had a child's boundless imagination I didn't feel as constrained by the four walls of the house as I do as a boring adult?  Or maybe I have more of a feeling of ownership now that I'm the one in charge of planting the bulbs and the flowers, and I like that?

Well, whatever the reason, I LOVE the warm weather!  We've been spending as much time outside as we can, including but not limited to eating our lunches, doing homework, feeding babies, hanging laundry (hooray! no more trying to fit everything on the drying rack inside!), tidying up the garden beds (how I love to see the bulbs sprouting!), and watching the lettuce seeds sprout.  (They are volunteers from last years' crop.  I don't know if they will grow perfectly, but they are darling---tiny little shoots as small as rice grains, but already with the shape of their mature selves.)

My own crocuses--so sweet!

Not my own, but beautiful

Spiderman deliberates about what delectable morsel to eat next

Even Daisy seemed quietly pleased about being out in the sunshine, and valiantly tried to eat some grass and bark.  Also---that urgency I talked about?  It often leaves me for awhile when I'm outside.  I don't know if it's the warmth of the sun, or the fact that I can't hear the phone, or what, but it's so peaceful and nice.

*From Emily Dickinson's poem: 

 
 
"A light exists in Spring

Not present on the Year
At any other period---
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad

On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,

It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step,

Or Noons report away,
Without the Formula of sound,
It Passes and we stay---

A quality of loss

Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pictures I like, and why

Sam holds the two babies up proprietarily.  "These babies do I show you, by the might of my own arm!"

The boys were so excited that they could get right up next to these railroad arms and lights.  They had to examine every part to see how the mechanism worked.

I like how you can see Abe gasping as the cold water hits his legs.  He was the only one brave enough to really play in the water, but he was still cautious.

Braver now.  And aware of it---shown by that goofy grin on his face that he gets when he's being a bit silly.

Malachi was NOT brave.  And who can blame him?  The ocean is VERY VERY BIG, especially to such a tiny guy.  You can see he's nervous and ready to run.  Then he does run.  And his tiny footprints marking out that hasty retreat.  (Side note: toddlers in wetsuits!  So chubby and delicious!  See also below:)

Seb was excited about everything, but in a much sober-er, quieter way than you'd think.  I think he was slightly unsure of what to expect, or maybe just so interested in everything that he was focusing his entire energy on taking in every detail and remembering it for later.  He has a particular smile that combines fluttery anticipation with genuine excitement.  This is it.

Again, serious.  He was in charge of this car, and HE KNEW IT.  And took the responsibility seriously.

"Look Mommy!  Sprinkler!"  The funny thing is that I started noticing every sprinkler at Disneyland, too.  "Look Sebby!  Sprinkler!"  I wonder what people thought of us?

Pouting over something.  Monkey consoles him.  In this light Sebby looks like someone in a Caravaggio painting.

Why does Daisy do this?  She always holds her arms out and up, like she's balancing, or dancing.  So delicate.  They almost hover up in the air, like it's water and she's floating in it.

Ky's faithful bear, watching and waiting.  We couldn't find birdie for the trip (!!) but luckily this "tiny beer" filled in as friend and companion.

Giggles of glee.  It's almost unbearably cute to watch someone become so happy and so excited at all once.  You can't help but laugh too---it's infectious.  Which is why people enjoy taking kids to Disneyland, I guess.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Baby Beenjameen

I've been gone for a time, and the reasons, while many, can be summed up as follows:
Allison, please bring him back to me at your earliest convenience!
Thank you.