Home / 2010 / January

Book Challenge Update: 2 Down, 22 (24?) to Go

I finished Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk about Running on Tuesday, January 26, meaning I’m 26 days into my 365-day Book Challenge and have already checked two books off the list. This is good.

But Murakami also wrote a little book called Kafka on the Shore, which Rob read last year and has been nagging encouraging me to read. I figured it’d be good to follow up a memoir-type book by Murakami with one of his novels, so I’ve added Kafka on the Shore to my Book Challenge and started reading it the same day I finished What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. This is not good.

And Murakami mentioned The Great Gatsby more than once in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and that’s another that Rob read last year and has been encouraging me to read, so I added that to my Book Challenge too. Double not good. So now I’m a little ahead of my original schedule, but I’ve bulked up that list at the same time. This is the very nature of having a To Read list anyway, right? *sigh* I wonder how long my list will be on December 31,2010 . . .

Oh, but you want to hear about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, right? It is great.

If you are a runner who writes / a writer who runs (however you define yourself), go buy it right now, I can’t believe you haven’t read it yet. If you’ve already read it, you should lend your copy to another writer / runner friend. (That’s how I got it in my hands–thanks, Sarah!) If you have a runner / writer you need to buy a gift for, you’ve found that gift.

Murakami is a long-distance runner, and he’s one of those runners whose body was obviously made for running (I am not one of those runners). When he started running, he had just quit his job to write full time.

I am in a similar situation right now, so this book and his habits–running at least an hour every day–are giving me some crazy ideas. For example, as I was falling asleep the other night, I was seriously considering just running from my house to National and running up to campus and back, just to see if I could do it. (It’s about 10 miles.) If the weather was better that next day, I might have tried it. Don’t know how far I would have gotten before I called someone to come pick me up.*

It’s a great book to read for running inspiration. He’s very real about his struggles, successes, and failures in running. He’s an excellent writer, so it’s an easy, enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed when he painted scenes with his words–running in autumn in Cambridge, running an unofficial marathon from Athens to Marathon in stifling heat, and running an ultramarathon at Lake Saroma, Hokkaido, Japan.

Notes

* I can run 10 miles, but it’s usually not a good idea to go from “I’ve only logged 8 miles in the last two months” to “Hey, I’ll go see if I can run 10 miles at once, just for the fun of it.” “Just for the fun of it” running experiments don’t usually end well, in my experience. :)

My Response to “State of the Union 2010″ at Freedom Watch News

I typically avoid talking about politics at all costs because that discussion, as President Obama said last night at the end of the State of the the Union Address, has become so divisive in our society. I hate that. I am a lover, I do not thrive on discord, and I hate it that we have gotten to the point where you and I cannot be friends if we find ourselves on opposite sides of the political spectrum. But I have something to say in response to a Spirit of American friend that is more about personal responsibility than politics. I am responding to Joe Naff‘s “State of the Union 2010” on his Freedom Watch News blog.

Please be careful of your use of “Americans [verb]” Americans want… Americans believe… American were looking…

I am an American and I can’t say that I want/hope/whatever every time you used that phrase. For example, I do not believe that the government is to blame for the economic crisis. It is the banks’ capitalistic predatory loans (they just want to make money, not that I’m excusing it; we just need ethics, too) and–I truly believe this–it is the fault of Americans who took on more debt than they could repay based on their income.

If you cannot pay for it–whatever it is–and still put food on your plate, you do not buy it, no matter how much you want it, think you need it. Period. That is fiscal responsibility on a micro level.

The American Dream is to own a home, clean and clear. Not to live in a home for which you can barely make the payments. We must be responsible, save our pennies and dimes, and when we can afford it, buy a home in our price range.

Now, I admit, there are circumstances beyond our control, like a husband losing his job because of cutbacks, that could make a family default on their mortgage. But for the most part, the families who lost their homes were working, and they lost their homes because their poor credit qualified them for a tricky, sly loan with variable interest that got them where it counts later.

Still, I argue that if you have bad credit, you should act in a way that gets you out of debt and repairs your credit, proving that you can handle the huge financial commitment that is a house. Otherwise, you live in an apartment. Again, that is fiscal responsibility.

It is blatant disregard for personal responsibility that got us into so many of the problems we have, but no politician is going to scold their constituents. That is one major problem with representative government, or maybe just with our ME ME ME, fast food “I want it now” society.

Another major hot button issue that could be somewhat alleviated if each of us Americans showed personal responsibility? This health care crisis. You and me, if we (1) stop overeating (2) get 30 minutes of exercise a day, we can decrease this problem more than the government ever can with legislation and regulation. Is any elected official saying this? No, not that I’ve heard, but, please, correct me if I’m wrong. (Here’s a cute graphic about this; warning, strong language)

There is only so much any government can do, and the rest of it must be done by us, the Americans. I don’t know what political persuasion that groups me in, but that is what I believe.

This is an experiment. I very well might never publish another political comment on this blog; we’ll see. :)

Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes [RECIPE]

Yesterday, I promised to share two yummy recipes with you, Eierkuchen (best translated as “fluffy pancakes,” but literally “egg cakes”), and vanilla syrup. I just found another recipe that I’m going to share with you (I explain why in the Eierkuchen post), but I have decided to post only one recipe per post. That will make it easier for you to print it off, for those of you who want to do that. I’ll always provide links at the beginning and end of the posts to the other recipes in the grouping.

:: Eierkuchen / Fluffy Pancakes :: Vanilla Syrup :: Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes ::

Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes

by Tammie Kresse (via The Celebration Cookbook, 1840 – 1990, First Calvary Baptist Church of KCMO)

Ingredients

Filling

8 oz. cream cheese
1/3 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 c. peanut butter-flavored chips

Preparation

Blend cream cheese, sugar, and salt in a small mixer bowl. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in peanut butter-flavored chips. Set aside.

Batter

1 1/4 c. unsifted flour
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk or sour cream
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preparation

In separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add buttermilk (or sour cream), vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Blend well. Fill muffin cups half full of batter and top with 1 tablespoon of filling. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Makes 24 cupcakes.

:: Eierkuchen / Fluffy Pancakes :: Vanilla Syrup :: Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes ::

If you try these recipes and play around with them, let us know how it goes in the comments, especially if you tweak them and it works!

Vanilla Syrup [RECIPE]

Yesterday, I promised to share two yummy recipes with you, Eierkuchen (best translated as “fluffy pancakes,” but literally “egg cakes”), and vanilla syrup. I just found another recipe that I’m going to share with you (I explain why in the Eierkuchen post), but I have decided to post only one recipe per post. That will make it easier for you to print it off, for those of you who want to do that. I’ll always provide links at the beginning and end of the posts to the other recipes in the grouping.

:: Eierkuchen / Fluffy Pancakes :: Vanilla Syrup :: Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes ::

Vanilla Syrup

(by Marilyn Nielson via Christina Bailey)

Ingredients

½ cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in pan. Bring them to a rolling boil and boil for one minute. Serve warm. (Ours is always foamy–that’s okay. We put the leftovers in a container, refrigerated it, and reheated it the next day.)

:: Eierkuchen / Fluffy Pancakes :: Vanilla Syrup :: Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes ::

If you try these recipes and play around with them, let us know how it goes in the comments, especially if you tweak them and it works!

Eierkuchen [RECIPE]

Yesterday, I promised to share two yummy recipes with you, Eierkuchen (best translated as “fluffy pancakes,” but literally “egg cakes”), and vanilla syrup. I just found another recipe that I’m going to share with you (I’ll explain why later in this post), but I have decided to post only one recipe per post. That will make it easier for you to print it off, for those of you who want to do that. I’ll always provide links at the beginning and end of the posts to the other recipes in the grouping.

:: Eierkuchen / Fluffy Pancakes :: Vanilla Syrup :: Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes ::

We made the Eierkuchen because Rob was craving good German pancakes–they are different from American-style pancakes. They didn’t quite meet his expectations, so we are going to keep trying, but I found the recipe to be A-MA-ZING. I didn’t have any expectations for them to live up to, but I will definitely use this recipe again when we want pancakes or to treat guests to a special breakfasty treat.

We first had vanilla syrup when George and Christina had us over for brinner one evening, and it just goes perfectly with the Eierkuchen. Grocery shopping bonus: all three recipes for today require an item you might not have in your kitchen, buttermilk, so you can buy some and hopefully use most of it up before it spoils.

Eierkuchen

I’m going to post the Eierkuchen recipe in its original German and in English as well. There is a section of the German recipe that even Rob is not sure how to translate (not that he doesn’t know what the words mean; he doesn’t understand how they translate into method UPDATE: Thanks to Gerhild from Quick German Recipes, I can now translate this part, see comment below for explanation), so I’m going to put what we did in square brackets. If you are a native German speaker and can shed some light on how to properly follow this recipe, please do so in the comments. Believe me, they still taste delish!

(original source)

Zutaten

250 g Mehl
500 ml Buttermilch
½ TL Natron
1 TL Backpulver
50 g Zucker
1 TL Vanille oder Vanillezucker
1 Prise Salz
3 Ei(er), getrennt
Butter oder Öl für die Pfanne

Zubereitung

Eier trennen und das Eiweiß mit einer Prise Salz steif schlagen. Eigelb mit Zucker schaumig schlagen. In einer Schüssel Mehl mit Backpulver, Natron und Vanille mischen und im Wechsel mit der Buttermilch oder Milch zu dem Eier-Zuckergemisch geben. Alles nur kurz verrühren, so lange, bis das Mehl sich dann am Ende aufgelöst bzw. gut verteilt hat. Als letztes den Eischnee vorsichtig unterheben. Abgedeckt ca. 30 Minuten ruhen lassen!

In einer Pfanne etwas Butter oder Öl warm werden lassen und eine Kelle Teig hineingeben. Auf mittlerer Stufe schön goldgelb backen. Wenn die oberste Schicht blasen wirft, den Eierkuchen wenden und noch mal kurz braten. Auf einen Teller stürzen und weiter wie bisher braten bis der Teig komplett aufgebraucht ist.

Dazu schmeckt am besten Zucker mit Zimt oder Apfelmus oder Kompott! Wer es nicht so süß mag, gibt keinen oder nur 1 EL Zucker hinzu. Anstatt Buttermilch kann auch Milch verwendet werden, wer es knuspriger mag, verwendet Mineralwasser. Die Vanille kann durch 5 Tropfen Vanillearoma ersetzt werden oder durch Vanillekakao oder einfach komplett weggelassen werden, wer es nicht so mag!
Zubereitungszeit: ca. 30 Min.
Schwierigkeitsgrad: simpel
Brennwert p. P.: keine Angabe
Freischaltung: 04.08.07

Fluffy Pancakes

Ingredients

1 2/3 c. flour (if you have a kitchen scale, use 250 g.)
2 c. buttermilk
1/2 tbsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. baking power
1/4 c. sugar (if you have a kitchen scale, use 50 g.)
1 tbsp. vanilla or vanilla sugar
1 pinch salt
3 eggs, separated
butter or oil for the pan

Preparation

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites with a pinch of salt until they make stiff peaks. Beat the yolks and sugar until foamy. In a mixing bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla. Alternate between adding flour and then buttermilk to the egg yolk mixture  until combined. Finally, fold in egg whites. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Heat butter/oil in a pan over medium, then add one ladle of batter to griddle. When you start to see bubbles forming on the top, turn and brown for a few seconds on the other side.

Tastes best with sugar and cinnamon, apple sauce, or fruit compote/jam. If you don’t want them so sweet, use no sugar or only 1 teaspoon. You can also use milk instead of butter milk. If you’d like to make the pancakes crispier, add sparkling water [club soda would probably work just fine] instead of buttermilk/milk. You can substitute 5 drops of vanilla extract or [vanilla cocoa?], or leave it out completely.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Difficulty level: simple
Calories per portion: not available
Published: 4-Aug-2007

:: Eierkuchen / Fluffy Pancakes :: Vanilla Syrup :: Black Bottom Peanut Butter Chipcakes ::

If you try these recipes and play around with them, let us know how it goes in the comments, especially if you tweak them and it works!

The Joy of Cooking… at Home

I never took Home Ec in high school. I never really enjoyed cooking either, so I was happy to find out that Rob loves cooking. Took a lot of pressure off of me. Most of my friends enjoy cooking. When we were roommates, Beth always made homemade hummus. Liz always shares delicious, easy (i.e. simple enough for me to not mess up) recipes with me. The straw that broke this camel’s back was Christina and George Bailey.

When we lived in Germany, George and I were colleagues at Justus-Liebig-Universität, and we became dear friends with the Baileys. They had over for dinner regularly. We’d all cook dinner together, then play cards, talk, or watch Brian Regan. So many nights, our bellies were filled with yummy, made-from-scratch meals. Thanksgiving 2008 was a veritable feast (there were 6 pies!), and George and Christina made sure that our birthdays that year would be unforgettable. Yum! It makes my mouth water just thinking about it, and my heart ache for my friends who are across the ocean.

There is one more thing that helped me find joy in cooking, and that is, well, Germany. In Germany, you can get so many fresh fruits and vegetables, I mean the variety is just delectable! There are less boxed meals, less meals that require you to “Just add water!” Don’t get me wrong–it’s not that Germans make everything from scratch or never eat out, but they have a greater variety of foods available to them for home preparation it seems. And I haven’t even mentioned all the ethnic markets that abound even in a small town like Giessen (it’s about the size of Joplin). I wrote about them before, though, so you can check out that post.

The fridges are, on average, smaller there, too. So we had to buy more often, and we often bought fresh as opposed to frozen because our freezer was about as big as a hiking boot shoe box.

We brought a lot of habits back to America with us, and most of them are good*. We cook a lot more from home, and it’s great! I am loving it! I’ve realized how inspired I am lately, and it’s a blast. As is normal for this blog, I’ll be following my passions here, writing about the recipe and food experiments that have been going on in the Mueller household. I’ll try to post something food-related every other week (maybe more frequently if I can). Coming tomorrow, though, is a delicious recipe for German pancakes, called literally, “egg cakes” (Eierkuchen), and vanilla syrup, a recipe from Christina’s personal cookbook. Mmm, quite the treat.

Notes
* The worst one I can think of: I have an insatiable thirst for good, complex beer. My favorite is Hefeweizen. I’ll drink it dunkle, hell, naturtrüb. But nothing I’ve had in America is good.

Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links: It Made My Day [Quick Reads]

Back when I started my Tuesday links posts, we lived in Germany and I had much more time for blogging than I do now. I mean, I could blog every evening if I wanted to, but I’m striving for more balance in my life. I have restarted blogging after taking a break, but I’ve decided that in order to keep up my Tuesday link posts, they need to be shorter, less time-intensive. So I want to start sharing some links that will be shorter, less time-intensive for you too. I have a group of feeds in my Google Reader simply called “Shorts.” Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing those with you on Tuesdays. Here’s the first one!

It Made My Day!

I don’t remember how I found this site, but it was probably through the Twitter hashtag #immd. This fun site asks users to post “Little Moments of WIN!” that readers can vote thumbs up or thumbs down. The best posts get moved to the front page, and they’ve even recently introduced a page of winningest wins. Each post is funny. Some are punny, some intelligent, some reference pop culture, are some are just toilet humor. Here are a few of my favorites.

All day today I thought it was Thursday. It’s Friday! IMMD.

In my university’s student center we have a piano that anyone can play on. A guy sat down and has played nothing but Zelda music from Ocarina of Time. IMMD

My niece woke up in near tears on the morning of her 11th Birthday because Hagrid had not come for her in the middle of the night. IMMD

A friend of mine told me a story about how he was working at the movie theater the night of the New Moon release. He was working concessions when he saw a group of girls hovering around a giant Edward stand-up. He turned away for a moment, then looked back to find that they had put a Hufflepuff scarf around its neck. IMMD.

What has made your day?

Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links: It Made My Day [Quick Read]

When I started the Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links series, we lived in Germany and I had much more time for blogging because our life was very simple. Now, things have pick up again and I am balancing several hats (or something like that), so I am trying to balance my interests. Blogging simply has to be a part of my life. I love writing and writing with a deadline and for fun too much to close my blog. But I need to make sure that I don’t let it consume too much of my time.

I’ve decided to post only one link on these TwLFL posts. Maybe some day in the future I’ll bring back a list of links, but for now, I’m going to share one link a week. For a few weeks, I’m going to be sharing some websites that I have listed in my Google Reader as “Quick Reads.” These are sites where it takes only a few moments to enjoy the latest post, so enjoying these links will require much less time than the type of links I used to share, which were typically blog posts.

It Made My Day

URL: ItMadeMyDay.com

Twitter hashtag: #immd

This page is so fun! Users post short descriptions of funny moments in their life that–you guessed it–made their day.  You can vote on posts, so it’s easy to waste time on IMMD.com. I recommend subscribing in your RSS feeder because that helps control how many IMMD posts you can see, and thus save you from the Black Hole. The posts range from innocently funny to nerdy, to geeky and toilet humor. Here’s one of my favorites which falls, of course, into the “toilet humor” category.

I own a coffee shop. One of my regulars who is lactose intolerant came in a specifically asked me to fix him a very large mocha, made with whole milk. It seems that the other guys at his work have been farting a lot so he was going to get revenge. While making his drink we discussed strategy. IMMD.

What made your day?

Reader Poll: What Should I Name My New Betta?

I got so many great name suggestions for my new betta fish on the original blog post, via Twitter, and on Facebook, and if you know me, you know that I am terribly indecisive. I just can’t choose from all of these creative names, so again, I’m asking for your help! I’ve collected all of the suggestions and briefly described them below. Read the options, vote for your favorite, then share this poll on Facebook, Twitter, or even your own blog–I need all the help I can get!

The Names

Camilla Jilla: Jill’s suggestion comes from “British non-royalty royalty” and includes “Jilla” as a namsake.

Akamatsu Talbert: A Japanese last name meaning “red pine” (which describes what my fish’s fins look like) and which also belongs to several artists and statesmen. It was suggested by an old family friend, whose last name is Talbert.

Katzenfutter Len: The German word for “cat food,” suggested by my step-mom whose middle name is “Lynn.” I choose “Len” as the namesake since my fishie is a boy.

Gillbert Blythe Reinsch: Gilberty Blythe is a character from Anne of Green Gables, so it’s been fish-ized and gets its last name from LorraR who suggested it.

Ezekiel Bliss: A friend from Neosho names her fish after Old Testament kings or prophets, so I chose one (with a little help) and used her middle name as namesake.

Gillard Gillmore Austin: The only suggestion which stayed true to my previous habit of using presidential names, plus Sarah’s last name.

Pablo Church: Another artist-related name (from Pablo Picasso) which also has some “inside joke” connotations from grad school. The namesake is Sarah’s maiden name.

It’s Time to Vote!

Please vote as many times as you’d like, but only once per day.

I’ve also added this poll to Facebook, so feel free to vote there.

What Should I Name My New Betta?

I love betta fish! I think they are so beautiful, all iridescent and colorful. Plus, they are easy to take care of and don’t require a lot of start-up capital (that is, you don’t need a huge fish tank with a filter). Plus, I can keep him on my desk. It gets lonely working from home sometimes, especially since my office is in the part of the house where we do not allow Naveed and Stella, our two very friendly cats.

So yesterday, on my way to the library, I noticed that there is a Pet Warehouse just south of The Library Center. Never noticed it before. On a whim, I stopped in, picked out the most beautiful betta on the shelf, and now I have a friend living on my desk, between my speaker and my pen cup.

Back in high school, I owned five bettas at one time. When I went to Spirit of America in June/July of 1999, they lived with my boyfriend, and one of them died a tragic death–his cat tipped over the bowl and had a nice, fresh betta filet. It was sad, indeed, but at least I four other little fishies to marvel at. Over time, my bettas died or had to be relocated to different waters*. It’s been at least 8 years since I’ve had one.

Back then, my bettas all had fun names. Some were named after presidents (Madison) and some after artists (Picasso). But I’m at a loss for what to name this little guy. His body is blue/green iridescent, and his fins are all that nice, deep, matte red. I’d love to stay in the president/artist theme (but don’t have to), but I need help from my readers! Suggest a name idea in the comments and if I choose your name, my betta’s middle name will be yours (i.e. Madison Lorraine), just for fun. :)

Ah, I bet you’d like to see a picture of him for inspiration, huh? Here he is! (The picture doesn’t do his body color justice!) Here’s an artsy picture of him on my photoblog (also does not show his color).