Monday, June 23, 2008

I love olives and olives love me

I think I forgot to tell you all about my great olive experiment. Last fall I read an article about curing olives at home. I was smitten with the idea and even my lack of access to olive trees could nat deter me. I found an olive farm (olive grower? olive ranch? I'm not sure) that ships them, and I ordered 20 pounds, split between two varieties. I had calculated that (even including shipping, a few bruised olives that would have to be discarded, and the cost of the brine ingredients), the olives would still end up being about $3 a pound.

After they arrived, I spent an evening cutting a slit in each fruit, removing the most bruised olives, and the starting the cure. Olives are cured because the bitter compounds in them have to be leached out, and there are several ways to do this. I tried two different methods: one in which the olives are immersed in clear water which is changed daily for several weeks; and one in which the olives are immersed in a brine which is changed once after several months. All of the olives turned out nice, but the salt water leached out more flavor than I meant it to. The water method was easier, too, because I got in the habit of changing the water every night (which only took a minute) and they were edible sooner.

Once the olives were sufficiently un-bittered (and that point is determined by personal taste), they can be placed in brines of vinegar and salt. The plain red wine vinegar-soaked olives were pleasant and versatile, but the flavored olives have been outstanding. So far we've tried a garlic lemon combo and a dill fennel mix. I'll definitely be repeating this again during the next harvest, although I plan to get some green olives as well then.

Monday, June 16, 2008

'Til death do us part

Sorry for disappearing for a while. Andrew and I were both in a wedding this past weekend (not our own, in case that's not clear). There was much gnashing of the teeth over the Best Man speech, and a fair bit of rending of the garments when I saw how the stylist did my hair. (We were in the south and there was a fair bit of teasing in the 'do and that's all I'll say.) But our friend beamed for the entire wedding, which was worth any amount of bad hair.

And by going we've actually saved ourselves several hundred dollars. As we took part in this wedding, Andrew and I decided we could do without a few more services in our own wedding. For one, I don't need to spend over $100 on a hairdo I won't like - I can do that on my own, for free. If I'm not careful, I'll soon whittle the reception down to soydogs and iced tea.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Let's just all lay here quietly until Fall

I know the whole country is suffering from various weather-related ailments (what's your poison? tornadoes? floods?), but it is HOT in DC. We are melting. And our air conditioner just isn't up to the challenge. It can keep the indoor temperature about five degrees cooler than the outdoor temperature, which, you know, is better than nothing, but when it's 98F then our house is 93. On Saturday we lay around, stretched out under the ceiling fans, surrounded by cats trying to cool off the same way. On Sunday we went to the beach, and the bliss of the frigid Atlantic cannot be described.

Can I retract that blissful ode about the joys of summer that I posted a few weeks ago? I've changed my mind.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lounging around

I finished the paper that was consuming my life, but now I'm supposed to be writing the talk that goes with it. And when I sat down to Powerpoint, I found that all of my work ethic has already taken off for the weekend.

So I'll send the following puzzling question out to the great electronic ether. Andrew and I watch a lot of musicals, especially old ones. Last week we were watching Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (and let me pause to say... Meh.) There was a scene in a nightclub (a lounge? a cabaret?) where the two heroines are singing in fancy, sparkly gowns to a crowd of well-dressed patrons sipping cocktails. You see scenes like this all the time in movies. My question? Did people really do this? I mean, did they get all dolled up and go out and drink Manhattans and watch people sing swingy songs? It just seems like something Hollywood invented. And I don't know anyone old enough to ask, except my Mennonite** grandmother, who probably couldn't help me much with this one.

**Because Mennonites, even the liberal branch I come from, don't drink, dance, or listen to much popular music.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mazel tov!

My Star Trek group had a little party last night to celebrate a momentous engagement. (Sure we've got two engaged couples in the group, but this was bigger than that.) George Takei* recently announced his engagement to his partner of 21 years, Brad Altman. This happened, surprisingly, right after California ruled that gay marriages were legal. We were so tickled by both of these developments that we made them a cake (which was also my trial-run wedding cake) and a congratulatory sign.

*Sure, you know George Takei. He played Sulu on the original Star Trek series and he has this amazingly smooth, deep voice.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Just a bit off the sides, please

GACK! I have so much writing to do in the next three days that I'm considering skipping my monthly writing meeting... While we do write during our time together, sometimes we also talk about our writing. And I can't be wasting my time yapping; there are too many words to pry out of my brain.

In the meantime, I learned something that will make one of my chores easier. I have been cutting both my and Andrew's hair, because, well, I am insanely frugal. While it's more complex to cut my own hair because of the mirror, scissors, and comb juggling, Andrew's haircut is more trouble. This is because, no matter how long it is, he doesn't see the need to have it cut and thus protests mightily. He prefers the Old Testament prophet look, as far as I can tell. But this time I took a cue from those children's barbers who show kids cartoons so they'll sit still during the haircut. I hauled the laptop into the bathroom, turned on Star Trek, and handed him a glass of wine; he sat quietly the whole time I was cutting.