Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bāo Dài Fēn

Photo by Gary R. Zahm/US Fish and Wildlife Service

I decided to stick with my Chinese class, even though I still don't know if I'll get the other class I wanted (which was the whole reason I took Chinese in the first place). The thing is, I'm enjoying it. It's not easy, but it's very interesting and stimulating. I am spending a lot of time in the language lab listening to all the sounds of the language because right now it's hard for me to distinguish between many of the sounds (qin and qing, for example). We are just now starting to learn about Chinese characters. If I don't try to learn too much at once, it's manageable.

The big news from last week's Chinese class: my teacher gave us all our Chinese names (if we didn't have one already). My Chinese name is Bāo Dài Fēn. It seems to mean "Fragrant Turtle." I might ask her for a different name.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Apron!

Actually it's not all that new. I finished it right before we went up to the lake, and I brought it up to use there. It got some nice compliments. I'm working on one the same style, just a little smaller, for my niece who has her own cooking blog. You can check out her blog here.
Back to my apron, it's made from an old plaid tablecloth from Thrift Town and some other fabric from SCRAP. The pattern by Joan Hand Stroh is called "Lorelei" from A is for Apron by Nathalie Mornu. I really like the design because it's simple and flattering and easy to combine different fabrics and trims. If you want to see more adorable aprons (for sale!) by Joan Hand Stroh, here's her Etsy site.
I submitted my apron to the Tie One On apron theme--plaid--this month. Go see some of the other cool past apron themes!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boeuf Bourgignon

Just like everyone else who saw the movie "Julie and Julia," I had an irresistible craving to make Boeuf Bourgignon afterward. It was so very satisfying to watch a movie about cooking and a cookbook, specifically about two women who take a ridiculous amount of time to cook amazingly decadent things to eat and each write a book about it. Meryl Streep is fun to watch and she is obviously having fun, too; I think she must be more like Julia Child than Julia Child was. And the 1950s French interiors and dresses are to die for.
I don't have Mastering the Art of French Cooking, although I did have one within hands' reach at my mother-in-law's house this weekend. (She said the recipes had too many steps.) I decided not to ask to borrow it because I didn't really need to make Julia's Boeuf Bourgignon. I was quite happy to make Mark Bittman's simplified version from his cookbook The Best Recipes in the World. It's a good recipe, with not too many steps. But no carrots! I missed the carrots.
It was delicious, but it didn't rock my world. I do like beef stew but I think I like it with more vegetables in it (especially tomatoes) and no so much, well, beef. My husband liked it and I liked it and one teenage boy liked it. The other didn't. The Boeuf Bourgignon made me remember a similar beef stew that my dad used to make that was really good. I'll have to ask him about that one.
I love it that Mastering is selling out all over the country. I wonder how many people will actually cook anything in it, besides the Boeuf Bourgignon, of course. Boeuf Bourgignon is brown food, so it doesn't photograph too well. That white sphere is a pearl onion.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


This is the cover of my Chinese book that I have not even removed the shrink-wrapping from. I'm not sure I'm going to take the class, although I am enrolled and have gone to two classes. The teacher is great: just the right mixture of strictness and humor, very clear, smart. I like the intellectual challenge of it, and it is quite challenging. But I never really had a burning desire to learn Chinese. I'm hoping to take a course in Second Language Acquisition at SF State, and enrollment in a non-Indo-European foreign language is a requirement of that class. But I won't find out if I can get into the course until at least the first class on Aug. 31 (and maybe not until a week after that). I am taking the Chinese class at CCSF (which started this week) since it's near my house and much cheaper. The catch is, the deadline to drop the CCSF Chinese class and get a full refund is ... Aug. 31. And then there's this textbook, which cost $80. So, should I just take the class anyway, even if I don't get into the SF State class? Oh yes, and there's 2 hours a week in the language lab in addition to class hours. Am I nuts?
(zǎo = good morning)

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Week at the Lake

My husband and I took a hike while we were up at the lake with our families (13 of us!). That's his boot in the left side of this photo. It was nice to escape the hubbub and be on our own. It was nice to have kids who were old enough to be responsible for themselves for several hours. We were revisiting a trail that we had hiked part of 15 years ago, with our oldest son in a backpack. We had only gotten as far as these train tracks, then headed back down the hill. This time we planned to make to to the lakes above. Only we hadn't remembered a dip in the trail where it followed a gully before reaching the train tracks. So we headed east a bit cross-country to make sure there wasn't some other branch of the trail we had missed. I grumbled a bit, since I hate to hike cross-country. We followed the leveled path of a pipeline among some ferns for a while before finally admitting we had gone too far east. We came up to the train tracks and followed them back to the first trail.
There was something fascinating to both of us about the train tracks. They were so smooth, the gravel so evenly shaped and piled up under the ties. There was a possibility of danger, of noise, of going far away. Even though the rails and the ties and the gravel had all been replaced since it was first built, still we thought of the Chinese and Irish laborers who dynamited the granite and leveled the way. Some of the holes drilled for the dynamite were still visible in rocks along the way.
We did make it to the lakes but I had a headache from getting too hot and waiting too long to eat my sandwich. I thought our excursion was a good lesson in the errors of memory.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Garden Girls

My Tongues of Fire beans are starting to get...fiery? Speckled, at least. There are only a few of them on the one plant, but I'll be happy if they all mature. I think I have to plant a LOT of bean plants to get a big harvest. My Emerite beans are still producing (a few at a time). It's amazing how all my beans have had a little growth spurt in the last 4 days, due to some sunshine and warmer weather. Now is the time to start thinking ahead to the winter garden. What do I want to grow? While I'm thinking I will pull out some old stuff and add a batch of worm compost.
My brother-in-law sent me the lovely card below. It's entitled "Garden Girls," a vintage image from the "Ken Brown Collection." I like the young lady and the snail contemplating each other. Is she reclining on a pillow or a bean pod? And those bean pods the ladies are emerging from are definitely Romano beans.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tomato Envy

My Aunt Terry had a party yesterday for my granny, who is turning 90 this month. If I live to be 90, I hope I'm as sharp as my granny. She seemed to enjoy herself but didn't feel the need to enter into every conversation. That's good, because there were about 20 different conversations going on at the same time. The party was in Terry's backyard, so I had plenty of time to check out her garden, and she's growing tomatoes. I did really feel a wishful longing as I examined her tomatoes. She always grows vegetables every summer, and every year tries to give me some of those huge zucchini. I'll pass on the zucchini but say yes to the tomatoes. Here she is finding a ripe cherry tomato for me.