Jamaican Hot Chocolate Chocolate Ice Cream

Posted on 8/28/2011 12:22:00 PM In: ,
Note: If you're reading this, don't take it as a sign that my city is no longer underwater; I've post-scheduled this post in anticipation of not having computer access.  There's still plenty to panic about

One of the pepper plants that Monica gifted me from the South Forty, was this Jamaican Hot Chocolate pepper plant.  These peppers are super yummy and very hot, with a unique flavor.  The KingofHearts claims it tastes like something burned, but I quite like them and maintain that he's just a wussy.

Plus, it's just fun to see a pepper turn a color other than red or green.


They ripen from the top down, so it's also kinda cool to watch.

There are only two problems with these plants.  One is they seem to be a determinate (if peppers can even be determinates, I don't even know).   Both years I've had these plants, they've produced five or six peppers which all ripen at once and then no more.  The second problem is they ripen slowly, so you have to wait until darn near the end of the season to savor their spicy goodness.  I have yet to figure out if that's to be expected, or if I'm just an incompetent farmer.

Either way, this was basically my yield from the Jamaican Hot Chocolate pepper crop here this year:


They're beautiful, aren't they?

Since there weren't enough to make salsa (at least not the way *I* make it), I decided to turn them into a new ice cream recipe.  And since the first spicy ice cream I ever tried was a spicy chocolate, well, they seemed to be calling out for it.

Honestly, there's not that much to it.  I basically followed my jalapeño ice cream recipe, (two peppers to three cups of milk plus 3/4 cup sugar).  You see more peppers here because I didn't want the peppers to go to waste and eventually doubled the recipe - before I doubled the milk I had basically made something that was so spicy it was pretty much inedible - even to me.


and then added a half cup of chocolate syrup when I put it in the ice cream maker.

I know.  Not a culinary accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination and Alice Waters would probably have my head for using Hershey's syrup rather than cocoa beans hand-picked by an Oompa Loompa riding on a llama who then gave them to a pilot set to jet them over to me within the hour, but,


still... pretty good.

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Come On, Irene*

Posted on 8/27/2011 12:06:00 PM
- or -

Let's Panic About Hurricanes 

While we are here preparing for the Stormpocalypse, (yes, an earthquake, a hurricane and the possibility of tornadoes in the same week; this is the meteorological equivalent of an alligator riding on a shark in the Rocky Mountains) the Shortlings are planning to put on their swimsuits and play in God's sprinkler.

Other than our everyday emergency preparedness food storage and seventy-two hour kits, which we always have on hand, I have made the following preparations:
  • full tank of gas in the car
  • make sure we have a couple of bags of sand handy in case the neighbors' sump pump fails and we have to seal up the basement door (his house sits a little lower than ours and it tends to pump all the ground water out of our higher elevation site too, so the only times we've ever had water issues in the basement since we've lived here is when his sump pump has stopped working)
  • instruct my husband to purchase no perishable food from the grocery store
  • buy three bags of ice to keep in the fridge for when we might, make that will, lose power

Yesterday we received a robocall from our power company, warning us that power outages are likely and that we probably shouldn't expect electricity to be restored in a timely manner.  Nothing like creating lowered expectations right off the bat.  The tweets about this call were hilarious and I retweeted a couple of them, which caught the attention of the power company.  They tweeted a url back at me in self defense, which claimed that they weren't trying to be alarmist and they were basically better than the news media.  Perhaps, but the news media was not recently rated the lowest performing company in America, so maybe they should just stick to fixing that infrastructure they keep claiming they're improving.

The other preparation we made was to use up all the sparklers the night before the storm.  Because who knows how long we'll be underwater?
    


*Yes, I'm totally aware that the song is "Come on Eileen" and not "Irene," but I can't stand to be one more person referencing the song Good Night Irene, because that doesn't really make a lot of sense now, does it?

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A Fungus Among Us

Posted on 8/25/2011 09:11:00 AM
In the past month, we've had the weirdest weather imaginable (and for D.C., that's saying something).  It's been ridiculously hot all month, yet every few days we have a torrential downpour which causes us to check the street for actual cats and dogs bouncing off the pavement.  Then ten minutes later, the sky is clear and the sun is back again, baking everything to a nice toasty goo of humidity and steam and blech.  In at least three of those rainstorms, we've had hail to accompany the animal menagerie precipitation... when it was 100 degrees on the ground. What the what?

A couple of weeks ago, I had promised the Shortlings that they could go out and play in the car kid wash.  But suddenly the heavens opened and it began pouring like God turned a firehose on us.  They had already put their swimsuits on and whined because they couldn't "get wet in the sprinkler" so I told them to just go outside and prance around in the rain.  They were thrilled and went outside with shrieks of delight.  It's amazing how little excites them sometimes.

They weren't out there five minutes before walnut-sized hail started falling from the heavens.  So I stuck my head out the door and yelled,

"Girls.  Time to come in."

"No!  We're having fun!"

"Well, it's starting to hail and you need to come in."

"Aw, MOM!  We don't want to come in! We want to stay outside and... ow. Ow. Ow! Ow ow ow ow ow OW!"

They came in. 

Sometimes, Moms know stuff.

blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah

The result of these days of really wet weather with disgustingly high humidity in between is that our neighborhood has been inundated by an army of fungi.  More kinds than I have ever seen before.  I'm sure you know what that means.  Why a photo essay about fungi, of course. You may have to click to embiggen some of these to really seem them.  Or not.  Some are pretty gross.

Case in point:  This is by far the oddest fungus I've seen and it's in our front yard.  I'm gonna keep my comment on the shape and appearance to myself in the interest of keeping a PG-rated blog.

It looks way scarier from this angle.

Tiny button fungi brothers.

Big toadstool fungi twins.

Pacman mushroom.

This one is just a mess.  It's like God spilled a fungus.

This one reminds me of a Kevin Bacon movie.

The Caterpillar was thrilled to spot a fairy ring near the bus stop in the morning.

This giant toadstool appeared in our backyard yesterday. 
The girls had a lot of fun with it.

I don't know a lot about mushrooms and I don't have a clue as to which are poisonous vs. safe.  So I'm constantly yelling at them to wash their hands after touching one.  Perhaps I'll consult Doctor Google.  On second thought, maybe it's easier to tell the girls to just leave them all alone.

The Dormouse tests out the literal interpretation of the term toadstool.

I found this later in the evening after they'd finished playing outside and had gone in for a bath.

A feast fit for a fairy.

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Under My Feet

Posted on 8/23/2011 08:00:00 PM In:
 
So true, but I'm going to tell it anyway... mostly because, with one exception (and it was a pretty pitiful exception), I've never actually experienced an earthquake before and now I have a story to compete with all my blasé California friends who, when I talk to them on the phone, casually aside, 

"Hey honey, can you get that?" 

Me: "Huh?" 

Blasé California Friend: "Oh, not you, I was telling my husband to grab that vase off the counter before it fell; we're having an earthquake. So anyway, there was this sale at The Gap this weekend and I...."

blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah

Over a decade ago, when I announced to friends and family that I was moving to Washington, D.C. for a job, the most common reply was, "Murder capital of the country?" followed closely by, "What do you want to go there for?" 

Ignoring the fact that nearly every one of my friends and family ended their sentence with a preposition, I usually said, "Because D.C. is AWESOME." 

And then they countered with a list of eighty or ninety reasons why I would not enjoy living in D.C. 

I think I can, with confidence, say that not one of those eighty or ninety reasons was 5.9 magnitude earthquakes

I had just put The Caterpillar down for a nap after lunch and was trying to catch up on a mountain of work after a week off when I heard and/or felt the rumble of a train going by. We live close to a train track so this isn't unusual. Only this time the duration of the train sound lasted way too long. My brain noted that somewhere around here:


I looked around for the cats and they had scattered, so I stood up in the middle of the living room, my bare feet on the floor, and felt a new wave of rumbling come up through my feet as things started to fall off the shelves in the kitchen.

All this information came together in my head around here:


When it suddenly dawned on me: oh, this must be an earthquake.

Well, duh.

It still wasn't subsiding, so I figured some sort of action on my part was required. (Am I good in a crisis or what?)  I know you're supposed to stand in a doorway when experiencing an earthquake and that's mostly to avoid the stuff that's about to rain down upon your head, but outside seemed even better to me, with even less stuff to fall on my head if it so desired, so I yelled for The Caterpillar to wake her up (I think I scared her more by yelling her name than any fear the actual earthquake provided) as I went to her room to swoop her up and we headed outside.

I'm just glad I was dressed. Had the earthquake happened an hour or so earlier, my neighbors, who all decided to do the same thing, might not have been so lucky.

I stood outside with my neighbor, who asked, "Do you think we should call someone?"

"Whom should we call?" I asked. "I'm pretty everyone else knows what happened."

"Mother nature?"

Needless to say, there was no nap today.  That may be the cruelest cut of all.

The whole thing lasted about forty-five seconds and I spent the rest of the afternoon joking about it on the FacePlace and Twitterverse.

Rebuild New York? Why, yes, that was me! After the terrible earthquake of 2011, and the amazing thing is I did it entirely Out. Of. Legoooos!
I may or may not have a problem with using humor to deflect tense situations.

If I'm being honest though, it was a little scary at the point when I felt like the shaking should have stopped by now and it was still going on. Forty-five seconds is a lot longer than you'd expect sometimes. I'm a little less jovial about the whole thing now that I understand there has been damage to some historical places and people's homes closer to the epicenter, which was a couple of hours away near Richmond, Virginia.

We were fortunate, but didn't escape Mother Nature's wrath entirely. Earthquake devastation in my kitchen:

Save the guampas!

The Dormouse was at school and they evacuated the school immediately. Her story goes something like this:

"I was trying to do my math lesson and Manuel kept shaking my desk. So I said, 'Manuel, stop shaking my desk,' and he said, 'I'm not shaking your desk,' and I looked up and My Teacher was looking out the window and then there was an announcement on the loud speaker that we had to have a fire drill only there wasn't a fire and we stayed outside for the rest of the afternoon until the buses came and we talked about the earthquake and it was the Best. Day. Ever!" 

Perspective is everything.

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First Day of School Ice Cream

Posted on 8/22/2011 07:45:00 PM

The first day of third grade was declared "awesome."  The ice cream was merely an ancillary benefit.

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Word to the Wise

Posted on 8/20/2011 07:54:00 AM
You might think presenting your children with that cute little pack of scented lip gloss and nail polish is a good idea to celebrate the last week of summer camp, but you'd be wrong.



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New York by Android

Posted on 8/17/2011 05:18:00 PM In:
I am in the middle of a week of forced vacation.  My Big Work Thing is kinda calming down a little bit and I had about sixty hours of use-or-lose leave that my boss made me take before the end of the month.  I originally balked at her suggestion requirement because I can't really maximize any leave by taking, you know, a proper vacation.  We don't have any disposable money (I spent it all on day care), The KingofHearts doesn't have any time off and I already paid the non-refundable fee for the girls' summer camp this week... so what's the point of vacating?  But then I realized that I began working on the Big Work Thing last August and that means this month marks my working on this project non-stop along with my other regular job duties for AN ENTIRE ^%^&* YEAR.  So a week off from obsessively checking email and trying to make people happy, even if it meant just sitting in my house staring at the TV, sounded actually kind of nice -- especially since while I'm on vacation, no one else in my house is.  Today I went to Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx and spent two hours leisurely shopping without a single whine or "Can you buy me this?' or "I have to go to the bathroom" or hurrying to get back home before someone's bus arrived or fretting that someone had to be somewhere. It was decadent.

And yes, I realize how bad that sounds that I consider one uninterrupted trip to Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx "decadent." 

My life makes me sad.

Actually, I did take a couple days to make Monica and a couple others run off to New York with me over the weekend.   So I might be exaggerating the woe just a bit. 

Our trips to New York, are, unconventional, to say the least.  We both have often had friends and family tell us they want to join us in our New York adventures.  We usually explain that while you may want to go to New York, you probably don't want to go to New York with us.  It takes a very special person to enjoy accompanying us on one of these whirlwind trips in the style that we like to travel.  That someone who would need to also enjoy the following:
  • taking the $1 bus whenever possible and sharing your travel experience with the kinds of  people who take the bus (namely, us)
  • the high art of mocking those people
  • leaving and returning in the middle of the night so as to squeeze a few more hours out of the weekend while not miss a day of work and/or childcare pick-ups/drop-offs
  • chasing food trucks around the city
  • not talking for long periods of time
  • very bad theater
  • not seeing any of the typical New York things most folks do (Look, if you want to see the Statue of Liberty or take a tour bus, you can find photos on the internet.  What you cannot do on the internet is experience an awesome crazy dude wearing a tinfoil hat and riding on a bicycle adorned with lights, a burly guy wearing lumberjack flannel and walking two teacup yorkies with shoes on their paws, or two guys holding hands and walking down the block while loudly listing every kind of bear they know.  This is the New York I want to marry and get pregnant.)
  • our complete refusal to go anywhere/do anything that you can do in our own town  (Times Square is full of billboards and lights, yes, but it's also full of chain restaurants and stores that you can find in any city.  I am not sitting on a bus for four hours enduring  the pathetic attempts of the guy next to me try to pick up his seat mate so I can eat at Applebees and buy M&Ms.
  • our need to change the scheduled activities to investigate whatever we see, whenever we see it.  ("What's that?"  "I don't know."  "Well, then we must walk two miles out of our way to figure it out."  "Clearly.")
  • sharing beds and/or sleeping on someone's floor
  • carrying everything you plan to wear in a single bag on your back at all times.  On this trip, I didn't even bring my camera because it was too big/cumbersome to carry and the forecast was for rain the whole weekend.  We actually stayed in a hotel this time and had a place to put our bags, but old habits die hard and I reverted to the old days when we brought old clothes we didn't want any more so we could throw them away and not carry them throughout the trip.  Fortunately, I had my mobile phone and a fake instagram app, which allows me to share some photos with you:
This Battery City park was so cute.  I have to go back with a real camera one day.
Fight THE MAN
Who doesn't want a bike cozy? NO ONE THAT'S WHO!
When the kids' college fund comes up empty, it'll be because I decided all the streetlights on my block needed to be so adorned.
It just doesn't get better than Grimaldi's pizza and Dean Martin music
Brooklyn Bridge lampost
Lovers' locks on the Brooklyn Bridge
I desperately wanted to remove it, but it's in there pretty good.
I didn't go in here and I'm not a fan of the musical Mama Mia.  But we walked by on our way somewhere else and I just had to photograph the place that made Al Jolson so famous.
The Chinatown franchise of a Baltimore tradition
OK - this is the one thing you might have wanted to do but I can't tell you what it is because I wasn't supposed to be taking pictures inside.  Shhh!
I can tell you that I waited outside in this in order to get into what's above.
I have an obsession with old and/or iconic buildings.
I'm also weirdly obsessed with smoke stacks/steam coming from random places.
Five fish?  I'll be rich!

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Night Gallery

Posted on 8/11/2011 09:19:00 AM In:
Aside: Anyone else remember that show, Night Gallery?  In equal parts, I loved/was totally creeped out by it as a kid.  Probably the most memorable episode for me at eight- or nine-ish years old was one where some guy hatched a plan to put an earwig into another guy's ear while he slept because he wanted the other guy's beautiful wife.  Then the earwig would lay eggs and the baby earwigs rattle around inside the guy's head and bore holes in his brain and make him slowly go crazy.  To this day, I still can't look at an earwig without thinking of that show. I'm not really a person who freaks out about bugs, but earwigs?  They make my skin crawl.  And I'm almost positive this show is why.

Why I was watching Night Gallery at eight- or nine-ish years old, I cannot tell you.  You could try and blame my parents, but I'm pretty sure it's not something you could pin on them.  I think I was probably the only kid in sixth grade carrying around a collection of Rod Serling's short stories to read for fun.  Arguments could be made that there's a long history to my morbid sense of humor.

Anyhoo...

The Caterpillar (funny, that's the title of that Night Gallery episode) has just recently taken an interest in writing and drawing.  We've been trying to get her to catch up on that front for a year now, but those fine motor skills have been slow to develop and she has been as disinterested as she could be until the last couple of weeks when suddenly, she exploded with creativity.  She began bringing a pencil and a pad of paper with her to school, the car, the bathroom, anywhere she could possibly convince me that it was necessary.  The house is constantly littered with drawings and little scraps of paper because it's not good enough to just draw on the paper, it must also be cut up in tiny slivers and then taped back together with approximately seven miles of Scotch tape, then affixed to some appropriate viewing surface, such as the refrigerator, the shower curtain or the living room floor (which means it will eventually become affixed to the bottom of my foot).

The result of this new found interest in writing is I find scraps of papers with scribbles and drawings everywhere I go.  Yesterday, she disappeared for a long period of time.  Then she appeared with an empty roll of tape, complaining that she couldn't get the tape to come off.  When I went to investigate, I found an entire gallery of drawings taped to my dresser drawers.  

Here are some of the best and what she said about them when we asked.  I think my favorite part about this whole series is the variability of emotions expressed.

They go from the mundane:
:
This is... "a man saying 'Hi.'"

To the specific:

This is... "a flying carpet from the show with the blue man."

To random:

This is... "a lobster."

To fantasy:

This is... "a snake carrying grocery bags."
(I often wish a snake would do my grocery shopping too.  Who doesn't, really?)


To downright bizarre:

This is... "a duck... no... actually it's a walking potato chip."

I sense an exhibit at the Hirshhorn in her future. 

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Poachers R Us

Posted on 8/05/2011 09:39:00 AM In:
Caterpillar:  "MOMMA!  I know what I want to be when I grow up now!"

Us: "That's great!  What do you want to be?"

"I want to be a BEAR HUNTER!"

"Uh... well... you have to be very brave to be a bear hunter."

"Actually, a PANDA BEAR HUNTER!"

"Oh.... kay....."

"Or a maid."

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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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