Friday, February 29, 2008

Basketball like it used to be,
shorts like they once were

One of my favorite parts of Sophie's carpool is the conversations I have with the eleven-year-old boy who rides with us. We've gotten to know each other quite well and chatter on in the front seat while the younger kids escape into their own backseat fantasy world. I'm fascinated by what he thinks of things, and he's young enough to still think a few things I'm thinking are interesting.

Such as the other day, when we were talking about the Boston Celtics. He knows I'm not into sports or television, so he was astounded that I had once been glued to the screen watching a sports team make history. I was talking about the 1986 Celtics: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Danny Ainge, Bill Walton. They were gods. It was a long time ago. I was living in a falling-down Somerville Victorian near Davis Square.

I was truly having a moment here. Remembering scrambling with my roomates to be the first to get the sports section of the Boston Globe to read the rehash of the game we had just watched the night before. The gravely voice of Johnny Most calling the games. Getting to the Ground Round in Cambridge early and eating dinner at the bar so we would have good seats to watch the home games on their cable station. I'll never forget being in that bar for the final game and seeing grown men cry and hug strangers when the Celtics won the championship. And for a southern California girl who had been raised on Laker basketball, that was really something.

The Boy was amazed and appreciative until a look of horror passed his face. "Wait. Was that back when they wore short shorts???" Yeah, it was. And who cares how they looked in them. Because that wasn't what it was about. Way back then.

Have a good weekend.

Own it, please

So that's it. I've flipped the switch on anonymous comments. To off.

If you want to leave a stupid, rude, or self-righteous remark, you're going to have to sign your name it to, 'k? Funny how people who write nice things usually do that anyway.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My house cleaner is a stubborn lady

And I am, apparently, a spineless idiot.

Here's the problem. And the fact that I think it's a problem is in itself a problem. I have this little rug that goes in front of the door leading out of the kitchen to the garage. It is placed like this:

Right? Flat side against the door. But when my house cleaner finishes her work in the kitchen, she leaves it like this:

Which is just wrong, according to me. So every time I find it like this, I reverse it, and every time she comes she puts it back her way.

But what's really crazy is how crazy this makes me. Every Thursday I run in the house from work right to that rug to see if she's done it again. And she always has. And I don't seem to be able to do anything about it. It's such a stupid little thing that it seems petty to mention it. And it's gone on for so long, wouldn't she wonder why I hadn't mentioned it before? I thought that my turning it around every week would be enough. Obviously I'm not good at managing the help. And I'm not good at confrontation.

The bed linens is a similar example. I insist on flannel all the time, all year round (even in the summer, nights here get cool). House cleaner, however, prefers cotton percale. I know this because she will dig percale sheets out of the very back of the linen closet (where I hide them) and replace the flannel ones with them. But do I inform her that I prefer flannel? Nooooooo. I get rid of the percale so she has no option other than flannel. (I think I donated them to our vet's office.) It's my house. My bed. My sheets. And my rug? What on earth is my problem???

I dunno. Maybe the fact that my house cleaner really works for my mother-in-law? Here's how that happened: One day the MIL remarked "I couldn't help but notice when I was at your house the other day that you could use a little help." And instead of saying "What exactly do you mean by that?" I said "Uh, yeah. I've been kind of busy." So my Christmas present was to have her cleaning person clean my house once a week for "a while," which has continued over a year later. Because obviously, I really need quite a lot of help. And the MIL is an unbelievably generous and truly nonjudgmental (just observant) person.

How rocking of the MIL is that? And how pathetic of me? But my house is (fairly) clean. Who needs pride?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What's cooking: Vanilla pudding
What's not: Husband

The plague is slowly making its way through my house. Sophie returned to school today (still coughing but feeling better), but now Husband is down. In bed. Unable to eat. And I can't believe how nice I'm being to him. Usually, I'm more of the Nurse Ratchet school. I mean, really, how would you respond to a 6'4" man who opines that he is "weak as a kitten"? But I'm serving him homemade chicken broth, ginger ale, and crackers.

Here's his dinner.

In the meantime, Sophie and I got busy with some vanilla pudding. We used Martha Stewart's recipe, which produces a rich flavor and nice texture. And unlike many other recipes it does not use corn starch, a substance I regard with general suspicion. After tasting this I can't imagine anyone would make pudding from a box again. Check it out here.

And about that plague: I'm next, right? I guess if we can all get sick at different times so there's always someone to play nurse, we're in good shape. Right.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's cooking: A little fish

Husband had some dental work today and Sophie's still feeling pretty puny, so some tender pan-sauteed fish sounded like a good idea.

I chose basa basa, which is one of the only farm-raised fish I like. It's mild-tasting and tender, yet firm enough to pan saute. It's also pretty affordable. I dredged it in seasoned flour (a little salt, pepper, and paprika) and sauteed it in a little olive oil.

Then I made a lemon caper sauce. In the same pan in which I had sauteed the fish, I melted a tablespoon of unsalted butter. I added capers and minced garlic and let these sizzle for a few minutes.

Then I added about 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice and deglazed the pan.

I served the sauce over the fish, along with rice Wife Rice and buttered baby peas.

Wife Rice is made like this:

Saute half a diced onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When onions are clear, add 3/4 cup rice (either white or brown) and 1/4 cup bulgar. Saute until grains start to brown a little. Add 2 cups of chicken stock, and bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat until done (shorter for white rice, longer for brown). Fluff with fork, salt to taste, and serve. It goes with everything.
And of course we had some of this too.

Sophie and I wanted to make pudding, but she just didn't feel well enough. Maybe tomorrow.

Until then.

Ski day 14: A little hard
work never killed anyone

Hard work on the slopes is much better than hard work at the office, don't you think?

In a move that will probably astound responsible and compassionate parents everywhere, Husband and I deposited a sick Sophie at her grandmother's and took off Monday for a single-day assault on Kirkwood. We set the alarm for 5:00 a.m., confirmed that the Carson Spur was open, and were off. The Sierras had received a pretty good dump of snow, so we had that California combination of good snow and blue skis.

I find Kirkwood sort of annoying because I often feel like I spend the most of the day on a chair lift. There's not many high speed detachables, with many lifts being fairly slow and often short. Why else would so many people be taking off their skis and hiking to get to the good stuff?

They reminded me of this picture of prospective miners heading over the Chilkoot Pass during the Alaskan gold rush.

Anywhoo, what stood out on this trip is that I listened to advice from one of my favorite bloggers, KatieGirlBlue over at The Wasatch Report, who encouraged me on a previous trip to ski hard. And so I did, damnit. I've been sort of down on my skiing lately. Here's the problem: It was scheduled to be a big breakthrough year for me. Husband gifted me with a three-day all-women's ski clinic at Squaw for Christmas, and this was supposed to solve all my ski problems (terrain, bumps, crud). But the whole thing received a few setbacks, in addition to my general age. I had pneumonia right before Christmas, leaving me hacking and spitting down even the groomers. We had no snow and very hard-packed conditions for my class, which means we stuck mostly to the groomers. And then I had my big motor scooter crasheroo, which messed up my knee. I could still ski but stuck to groomers to avoid twisting it and causing further injury. You see common denominator here: GROOMERS. I am Queen of the Groomers, which is not what I want to be. I want to improve and be able to ski on snow as it falls from the sky, not as a machine prepares it for me.

So I skied hard. Husband and I took an intermediate groomer off Solitude for the first run and then headed over to Cornice Express where I totally hacked my way in the most embarrassing mess down an advanced ungroomed run. I was clearly having a head problem, so Husband cut me loose and went over to take a few runs down The Wall. I went back to Solitude, did a groomer off that and decided that was just not what I wanted to be doing. For once I had no kids to keep track of and no friends to either wait for or keep up with, so I decided this would be a work day, reasoning that I have had enough fun already and could have more later. So I went back up Cornice and did the run that gave me trouble again. And again. And again. And it got a little easier every time. And the work started being fun.

I didn't ski that run all day because some friends showed up and Husband came back to fetch me to ski with them, but I did it a lot more than I really wanted to. And later in the day I skied mostly ungroomed runs too, even when there was a groomer available. I'm not saying I'm good at this stuff, but it's a step in the right direction.

Something else that was a little different is that Husband and I went up just the two of us instead of with an entourage requiring elaborately planned carpools and accommodation arrangements. We were both a little down: he with his work situation and me after being cooped up with a sick child and rainy weather for three days. The day provided the space and attitude adjustment we both needed and was a nice reminder that we're more than just house partners and parents of the same great kid. We're best friends and ski buddies.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why we are not skiing

I know . . . good question. The Kirkwood weather report on their website sums it up nicely:
A strong storm is moving in and will paste the Sierras with deeper snow through tonight.
That's right, paste. Sounds good, no?

It's not that we shy away from a little weather, but work schedules and the business of life meant that we were limited this weekend to a one-day trip, which was supposed to occur today. But after careful consideration and a zillion checks of on-line weather reports, Husband concluded that today would be a hammerfest. What a way he has with language. He means that driving would be epic, if even possible, and even if we made it, lifts might well be closed owing to high winds that were predicted.

Here's a live cam photo from today's hammerfest at Kirkwood:

And here we are live from Squaw where no one is enjoying lunch on the patio:

BUT we might not have made it. We wanted to go to Kirkwood, which means we could have been on the Hwy. 88 Carson spur at 8:30 this morning when an avalanche buried two cars. No injuries reported, but still . . . yipe! And sure enough, the lifts to most of what we like to ski there are currently listed as closed.

So tomorrow, bright and early, we're outsourcing Sophie (still sick) to my MIL (they're probably engraving that Mother of the Year plaque for me right now), phoning our respective places of employment (we admit it: we're slackers), and heading off for what should be a great powder day. I'm going to demo. powder skis and dedicate the day to finding the perfect pair so I can consider making another ski-related purchase that I can't afford.

What's cooking: Pad Thai, take 2

After my previous Pad Thai meltdown goop-out, it took me a while to work up the nerve to tackle this one again. And I probably never would have done so had not the wonderful Pim—proprietor of Chez Pim, a most amazing food blog, and author of the recipe I used—not answered my plea for enlightenment. And what a thrill that was in its own! Pim! On my blog! Seriously, if you're at all interested in food, you should check it out. Pim travels the world in search of what is good to eat and what is interesting about food and culture. And like that genius at use real butter but unlike me, she can actually operate a camera. Really well, in fact.

But I digress. Pim explained that not all rice noodles are created equal. The ones I used did not match the ones she had in mind for the recipe in soaking time. Pim recommended soaking the noodles until almost soft enough to eat rather than adhering to a specific soaking time. She also recommended the local Berkeley Bowl as a potential source for noodles labeled as Pad Thai noodles. But whereas the Bowl had about seventy kinds of tofu, they did not have the noodle I was seeking. I'm absolutely sure of this because I stood in front the noodle section for about half and hour surely looking like a total idiot.

But the Bowl did have several other ingredients that I had not been able to find elsewhere.

Pim recommends pickled turnips. I couldn't find those but thought that pickled radish would be close enough. I liked it, and it added a nice bit of color.

And instead of the standard green onions that most American versions of this dish include, Pim recommends garlic chives. I know: I really should learn to focus my camera, but in the meantime know that if you can ever get these they are absolutely worth buying in a bunch as large as this. Their taste is somewhere between garlic and chive, and they would be good chopped in a salad or on top of almost anything.

Because Sophie is a little fussy about green plants sprinkled over her food, I served the radish, garlic chive, and cilantro as optional toppings, along with sliced lime.

They added both color and flavor to the finished dish, which was finally a success!

I'm convinced that the key is Pim's sauce. Many American recipes for this dish include catsup, which is wrong, wrong, wrong. Pim recommends nearly equal parts of tamarind pulp, fish sauce, and palm sugar, adjusted for personal taste. I love the Thai combination of sweet, sour, and salty, and Pim's recipe hits it right on the head.

Thank you, dear Pim!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Crazy times at Figs

Whereas my list of regular readers has grown from the original six to upwards of 100 people per day (go figure), Friday marked the height of crazy over here at Figs. According to my site meter I finished the day at 345 visits from people in areas as crazy sounding as Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, Brussels; Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria; Eugene, Oregon; and Menlo Park, California.

What gives? Has my blog suddenly become that interesting? Of course not. Here's what happened:

I was tagged for a meme, tagged other bloggers, was thanked for lemons, and was agreed with concerning a particular disturbing image of John McCain groping George Bush. All good fun because most people who came my way are probably authors of similar (ok, better) blogs. And I enjoyed discovering some new blogs from the comments people left.

BUT THEN in the middle of the day, the lid nearly blew off my site meter. Seems someone included a link to what I thought was one of my lamest and most insubstantial posts, Fun with scissors: A little art hoax. I thought it was kind of fun, posted it, and them immediately forgot about it. But that someone included a link to it on a seemingly megasite, sort of like a public blog where anyone can post about anything. And floods of people clicked on the link and came over to Figs for a visit.
And it's got me a little worried. How do I know all these people are nice??? They haven't left any mean comments . . . yet. I know some bloggers regularly get this kind of traffic. But not little old me.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I don't get it


I do not get this product.

Then what is it doing in my house? I invited it, and it came over to visit. Well, sort of. Sophie is home with what seems like a minor version of the flu. She came home from school with a fever, but the fever broke last night, and now she's just feels not too well. One of our carpool kids came home with the same thing, and he's over at our house so his mom can go to a work lunch. I figure if you've got one sick kid, you might as well have two. They played a couple rounds of dinosaur concentration and are now cuddled up on the coach like two puppies watching a movie about Santa Claus. I love Little Carpool Friend and his family and was happy to help out. But as soon as I made the offer, I panicked. What was I going to feed this kid? He eats like five or six things (broccoli is one of them, thank goodness), and I wasn't sure I had any of those things. No problem, said his mom. She would send food with him. Which is why that box is here.

I remember liking Kraft Mac & Cheese when I was little. It was a special treat we had when the babysitter came. And I ate my fair share of it in the dorm in college. This is organic (good), so wouldn't you think it would be better?? Well, let's see.

I read and followed the directions very carefully. While the pasta is cooking, you mix powder from this little packet with milk.

And then stir it up. Does this look like cheese? I'm asking because this is the cheese part.

You then drain the noodles and stir in this stuff.

WTF. Does that look like something you'd like to eat? I tried to rescue it by offering to stir in some real cheese, but Little Carpool Friend wasn't having it. He said it would be fine if I added it. But when I asked if he would eat it then, he said no. He's such a polite little guy. The kids, of course, loved it just as it was. Sophie said I really should be open to trying new things, just like I tell her to do. So I had a bite. Eeeeuw. Really bad.

But here's the thing that baffles me. Macaroni and cheese is really easy and pretty quick to make. Kind of like pudding. I don't get why people use mixes for that either. And homemade macaroni and cheese tastes like cheese— any cheese you want, because it works with almost any cheese in any combination.

I made some the other night using the recipe from Cook's Illustrated. They won't let me link to it (I'd have to give everyone my password, which would probably piss them off), so I'll give an adaptation of it here (I half it, decrease some of the butter, and skip the buttered bread crumbs on top—enough fat and carbs already, you know?).


1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
1/2 Tbl. salt
2 Tbl. unsalted butter
3 Tbl. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. powdered mustard
2 1/2 cups milk (any kind)
8 oz. shredded cheese (about 2 cups; I've used cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, paremesan, gruyere, and chevre, although not all at the same time)


Cook the pasta in salted water and drain.

Heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour and mustard and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, whisk in cheeses and salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

Transfer mixture to an oven-proof baking dish and broil until top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.
We can make pudding another time.

A Friday meme: Five things

I was just tagged by that skiing, baking ass-kicker who brings us use real butter (you really should, folks). Anywhoo, this one is easy: five things about myself (I survived the one hundred things, so this should be a piece of cake, right?). Here goes:

1. I drink my coffee black.

Makes life so much easier, unlike that of Husband, who has a terrible fuss if he can't have real half and half (not non-dairy creamer, not milk, not cream). The key is good coffee. If it can't be had, I'll have tea.

2. I love living in the the SF bay area but would throw it all away for a cabin in the Sierras (log, please). Like Jen Yu, I'm a cold-weather being. I love that cold, crisp intake of air and the smell of the mountains. Did you know that Truckee, CA is the coldest town in the U.S. year round? Snowy in the winter and doesn't get really hot in the summer. That would work for me, keeping the hotflashes nicely under control. Also, have you heard about the predicted invasion of pythons?

Yep, they're coming to a bay area neighborhood near you. Because it's a climate that works so well for them.

They eat alligators, goats, and like, and whereas I'm pretty sure they wouldn't mess with me, they might eat my kid, and then where would I be?

The SF Chronicle's article notes that
In California, the only safe places to avoid the migrating pythons would be the colder areas—the Sierra, the Cascades or the North Coast.
OK, let's go!

And let's face it: I look better in ski clothes than a bathing suit.

3. I hate Costco more than almost any place on earth. The pre-packaged prepared foods, the horrifying imported produce, the toilet paper bundled into packages the size of refrigerators, the lines. I just don't get it.

4. I read cookbooks in bed and wake up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep until I decide what I am making for dinner the next night. Think there's a connection?

5. Although I put off having a child until my late thirties (not terribly into babies, you know) there is no person I'd rather spend time with than my almost-eight-year-old daughter: shopping, eating out, cooking, hiking, skiing, although when it comes to the last I'm at her mercy for keeping up. Thank the gods she's kind.

So following Jen Yu's lead, I'm to tag five other people I'd like to know more about.

1. Katie at The Wasatch Report. You and Jen need to meet up in cyberspace. To do some skiing. And introduce your dogs.

2. Gwendomama. I already know a zillion things about her, but other people should too.

3. The nut who writes a play a day & lysteria, one of the only men to ever comment on my blog. Come out, come out. And of course I want more publicity for the Bush McCain hug, which he also features on this blog in a fun game of Caption It.

4. Angelina at Dustpan Alley, because she's the only person I know engaged in urban homesteading, which she does with amazing insight and style. I want to know more.

5. Kate. Because the more I read, the more I like. Muddled, undefined thoughts in my mind appear on her blog in articulate, compelling prose. If you want to know what I wish I had said, give her a visit.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I call him TimTim

Careful readers will recall that I received a TomTom from Husband for Valentine's Day after shamelessly begging for one for months.

I was planning on programming it with a female voice. We were going to be girlfriends, and she was going to direct me to my destinations in a nondirective way. But then clever blogger Jordan pointed out that there is a very nice British male voice available by the name of Tim.

I was determined that I had to have him, even if it meant logging into the TomTom website and pretending I was a resident of the U.K. so I could download him, which really taxed my technological capabilities. But I have him now, the object being to feel like I have

him ordering me about in my car. Probably not what Husband had in mind, but I was very pleased. "Turn right," Clive TimTim would say, and I would.

Until this morning, when we had sort of a falling out. It was my morning to drive carpool to Sophie's school, which is about 25 minutes from our house in a rural redwood-forested canyon. We were in trouble right off the bat. He told me to go right, and I went left. I disobeyed!! This apparently floored him. He was speechless for several minutes, the display on the screen looking like I was driving into oblivion. The carpool kids loved it. "You've ditched him!!!" Hence, the name of our new carpool game: Ditch TimTim. Better than Twenty Questions any day. But TimTim rebounded. After a minute or so he found us, and proceeded with a new set of instructions from where we were, ignoring the fact that I had blown him off only moments before. But I could not contain myself—I disobeyed again, and again, and AGAIN. And it was fun to see how long it took him to find me after each time.

Turns out that whereas I'm sure TimTim is quite the man on city streets, he's pretty lame in rural areas. He doesn't know, for example, that a road that is usually part of the quickest route to school has been covered by a mudslide for months. Or that taking a different freeway offramp than what he recommends avoids shopping district traffic. The kids would have loved his instruction to me on the way home from school: "Turn around as soon as possible." I did not, and it took him the longest ever to find me, give in, and agree to my way.

Our verdict: Not very useful for this drive, but enormously entertaining. But I'm not mad at him and am still thinking about buying him a cute little outfit, which he will wear because I say so.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What's cooking: Really easy Thai something or other

I've long read and admired several food blogs, and my friend Gwendomama (queen of the bento box kid's lunch) recently sent me links to a few others of particular note. She even noted that one, use real butter, reminded her of me—a skiing Martha. Except NOT. This woman
1. can obviously shred on telemark skis, which hurt my knees just to watch people ski on them

2. can cook and bake really fancy stuff

3. can take amazing close-up pictures of said fancy stuff
Whereas I admire food blogs like this, they make me feel really inadequate. Like I have no business at all writing about food. Or even cooking dinner. But then I wonder, how many people look at these really slick food blogs and say "I can do that!" and then run off to whip up the recipe? I mean, seriously. The donut recipe on use real butter is pretty close to brain surgery. On the other hand, I can easily imagine people looking at my blog and saying "Well, damn! If that nitwit at Figs, Lavender, and Cheese can make this SO CAN I!" You think? Well, just try this. It's really easy. And I made up the recipe myself!


some kind of meat
whatever vegetables you've got on hand
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 of a 4-oz. can of Masaman curry paste
1 can of coconut milk
2 Tbl. palm sugar (or regular or brown sugar)
1/4 cup fish sauce
juice of one lime
2 tsp. vegetable oil

Here's how it goes.

What's great about this recipe is you can use any almost any kind of meat, poulty, or prawns. For this batch I used thinly sliced beef. And almost any vegetables you have on hand. Here's what I started with:

In addition to the required ingredients, I had a couple zucchini, a bag of spinach, a can of straw mushrooms, and a can of those funny little corns (I hate them, but Sophie loves them; fresh corn cut from the cob when it's in season is much better).

The magic ingredient here is the Masaman curry paste. It's got all the ingredients I love in Thai food: garlic, dried red chiles, tamarind juice, shallot, salt, lemon grass, Kaffir lime, and spices (coriander seed, cumin, cardamon, cinnamon, bay leaves, galanga, and clove). If you can't find it at a local Thai grocery, it's worth mail ordering. What's particularly nice is that it has a little zing but isn't too hot for a child's taste. Sophie is pretty sensitive to spicy food, and she eats this with no problem.

Heat about a teaspoon or so of oil in a wok. Saute the meat and the minced garlic until just barely done.

Transfer the meat to a bowl. Pour off any juices and wipe the wok with a paper towel.

Warm a teaspoon or so of oil in a wok. Add the curry paste and saute until fragrant.

Stir in coconut milk, one half can of water, palm sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce. Simmer until gently bubbling. Add vegetables and cook until tender. Add meat back in and simmer.

Serve over steamed jasmine rice.

The leftover curry paste freezes well for another time.

Gwendo, thanks for the compliment. I'll try to take your advice to shut up and take it. But seriously—those donuts . . .

I am controlling the weather!

From my computer! Right here in my office! Bringing snow to the Sierras and an end to global warming!

Well, not really, but sometime I feel like I am. I have a compulsive disorder this time of year that causes me to check mountain weather reports constantly. And if I do not like the first report I see, I go in search of one that I like better. As if this has some kind of effect on the weather itself.

I usually start here, and then go here, here, and here,  as needed. I'm not picky. I just want results.

Like this

or this

but not this

So I can do this

OK, not exactly, but you follow my drift, right?

But really, sometimes I wonder if I'm not on to something. I have been checking the forecast for northern Lake Tahoe relentlessly. And things have improved! We now have mixed precipitation forecasted for today and tomorrow, followed by four days of snow showers, which is a drastic improvement from a few days ago when no precipitation was anywhere in sight. I'm feeling quite a sense of accomplishment. California skiers can go ahead and thank me now. 

Monday, February 18, 2008

When life gives you lemons,
make limoncello

For cooking, I mostly use the Meyer lemons off the tree in my backyard. But the other day my mother-in-law sent over a bag of thick-skinned lemons from the tree in her yard. The skin is thick, the fruit is not particularly juicy or favorful, but I think they're perfect for this recipe from California cookbook author Joanne Weir.


15 thick-skinned lemons
2 bottles of vodka, 750 ml each
3 1/4 cups sugar
5 cups water

If lemons are store-bought, wash themwell with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax. Pat the lemons dry and remove the zest with a vegetable peeler.

Scrape any pith away with the tip of a knife.

Pour one bottle of vodka into a 4-qt. jar and add the zest as you remove it from the lemons. Cover jar, and let sit for 40 days, storing it at room temp. in a dark cabinet or cupboard. There is no need to stir: just sit and wait. As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly takes on the flavor and rich yellow hue of the lemon zest.

After about 40 days, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the limoncello mixture, along with the other bottle of vodka. Cover and return to the cupboard for another 40 days.

Strain the limoncello into bottles and discard the lemon zest. Store the bottles in a cupboard, but keep one in the freezer so that the limoncello is icy cold when you are ready to drink it.

I have to wait 80 days now, but this was a good creative outlet for me this afternoon. After returning from being gone for two nights on a camping trip with another family, Sophie threw herself into my arms and clung to me. For quite a while. And then she took off for the neighbors' house, and I didn't see her for the rest of the afternoon. I guess this is only going to get worse.

Could this be it??

The picture, I mean. In the past certain pictures and video clips that have been overplayed and overinterpreted by the media have on occasion almost singlehandedly sunk campaigns.

Remember this one?

That had to hurt.

And who will ever forget the Dean Scream, although he wasn't doing too well at that point anyway.

And John Kerry's campaign was not helped by this picture:

Although I would have been perfectly fine with a windsurfing president because I know the idea that someone who changes with the wind on a windsurf board would change with the wind on policy is just plain dumb.

But if the American people had just listened to their inner voices when they saw this picture, we might have been saved measureless national pain and embarrassment.

And so I am wondering now, in this campaign, could THIS be that picture?

My plea to the media: Take this one and RUN WITH IT.