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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Loose Ends

I finally got around to making the Bittman-Lahey no-knead bread this weekend, and I'm pretty happy with the results. I only wish there were more bread to show for the nineteen-hour first rise and two-hour second rise. The crust is crackly, chewy, and thin. I doubled the amount of salt in the recipe, and it could've used even a bit more. I also took some liberties with water and flour amounts because the dough looked like it was going to be too stiff. Otherwise I pretty much tried to follow the recipe, using a seven-quart round cast-iron Dutch oven. Instead of putting the dough on top of a floured towel, I used a Silpat and put the floured towel just on top—no sticking problems at all. I'll definitely make it again.

And while I was in New York I finished the brown Fetching mittens. Very happy with them, too, although the picot bind off edge is a little loose around the knuckles—it was fine on the pink pair, where I did the bind-off wrong; this time I did it right and it's not as snug.

The Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran is already pilling like crazy.

My mom made several pretty outfits for the bug: a "romper" (whatever that is) for summer, a couple of breezy blouses, and some pants, the latter two based on Burda 9645. Here she is out in the yard the other day in one of the blouses.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

New York

Better than expected. Taking the bug on the Metro-North to Grand Central, then on a train to Fort Greene for brunch with my friends, high-powered Cookie and Style and Google (don't tell me you need a link) types, and back again was just not as difficult as I'd imagined it would be. She was a brilliant, sweet little bug the whole time, even when we sat down for mushroom-shallot-thyme quiche, spicy pan-fried potatoes, and sweet potato biscuits and she had to make do on a little mat on the floor with a container of Cheerios and freeze-dried corn. (I'm going to try to make a similar quiche tonight; if it works out I'll post a recipe.) The trains ran the way they were supposed to.

The bug slept in her carrier all the way from Rye to the main concourse at GCT, where she woke up and found herself in the middle of the typical Grand Central throng (well, the Sunday version).

She was not as freaked out by the 4 train or the people on it as this picture would suggest.

At brunch in Brooklyn, she crawled over to the coffeetable, grabbed a cookie, and shoved the whole thing in her mouth before I even knew what she was doing. Turned out it had a big hunk of chocolate in it.

One day Mr. Chalmers and I left the bug with her grandma and aunt and went into the city on our own. We took the Garment District by storm—ducking in and out of fabric shops, walking fast, and bargaining like we were pros. I have the most amazing husband ever: he actually seemed to enjoy our whirlwind hunt for curtain material. (Although, come to think of it, he might not have used such words as "whirlwind" or "fast" or "ducking in and out" to describe the experience. I used to live a five-minute walk from those stores, and my fabric-shopping outings were always almost painfully slow, to the point where I wouldn't even buy anything because I could just tell myself I'll think about it, shop around, and come back the next day, or even later in the day. I have a problem making decisions, which is a small part of why Mr. Chalmers's participation was so refreshing.) Luxuriously, we shipped our purchases home right from 39th Street and skipped downtown unencumbered for a beautiful lunch at Lupa: octopus in chickpea puree, roasted sweet-and-sour parsnips, duck agrodolce, buridda, and a red wine from the Alto Adige that was really great. All of it was great.

The elder Chalmerses even got to go to a movie!

Friday, February 16, 2007


It's always nice to send off a bunch of work, whether you're freelance or not. I've taken several days off since I finished two of the three jobs I've been working on lately, and was able to finally finish the larger knit bonnet for the bug—I figured she might need it where we're going tomorrow: New York City!

Note the new, larger, more powerful radio collar on Wagnerford. It works, but I had to put up still more traditional fencing (so, okay, maybe it doesn't work so well).

I also got her some fleece-lined jeans and a pair of little shoes for the trip north, and I'm trying to finish up a second pair of Fetching mittens for myself in time to wear them this weekend (the first pair got lost on our last plane trip); these are in dark chocolate brown. Mr. Chalmers went up to the city ahead of us, and if all went well (telephonic communication between Carlton and Manhattan has not been the greatest) he saw the Arcade Fire show last night.

Overall I'm looking forward to being back in New York for a few days, seeing a couple friends for Sunday brunch in Brooklyn, going nuts in the Garment District, and maybe having a nice dinner someplace cramped and crowded (Lupa?) with Mr. Chalmers while the bug plays with her grandma and two dogs in the suburbs. Still, I'm prepared for much of it to be tiring and in no small part annoying. There was a New York couple on House Hunters last night, and as horrifying as they were I couldn't stop watching: this blinking, unhappy man and his sneering fiancée were looking for a loft space and it had to be within a ten-block radius of where they already lived, on Gramercy Park (because they liked the "energy" of the neighborhood and also wanted to be "close to work, yoga, and the gym"), it had to have two full bathrooms ("for the sake of their relationship"), it had to be large enough for their two very large dogs (they're thoughtful dog owners), and they had to close the deal on it before their wedding in Tuscany two months hence (cue blinking). They "couldn't imagine" living anywhere else. For maybe four or five years I couldn't imagine it either, but once I realized I could live somewhere besides New York, the whole mystique of the place crumbled and a cinderblock ranch house with a carport and a yard in Florida started to look like just one of many possible versions of heaven on earth. Our kitchen here in Georgia is another:

For my mom, a picture showing the two top teeth. She now has two on the bottom, too!

Monday, February 05, 2007

In the Dining Room with Dogs

The guy in downtown Carlton, as he refers to the sorry stretch of unleased commercial space along Highway 72 between Comer and Elberton, Georgia, has not yet finished the dining room table he's allegedly been making for us since late August, so there's still plenty of open space in the dining room for playing. I've been working in there too, opening up the curtains and letting the sun in during the cold daytimes, and turning a low lamp on in the early mornings and evenings. The bug and the dogs usually stay close by while I copyedit and drink a lot of cappuccinos and espressos out of a fancy china coffee cup. The coffee makes the workload seem more civilized.

And it's sure nice to have dogs around. The bug just spent the last half hour gnawing on a very stale taralli, and Wagner sat next to her, patiently watching her, and didn't try to take it away even though she would frequently hold it out to him and bang it against his food bowl. (I know, I know: not the cleanest thing in the world for a baby to be doing, but I try to keep her clean in the major ways and not worry too much about all the minor ways she contaminates herself.) When she finished up and crawled away happy, Wagner stood up and licked every last crumb up off the floor where she'd been, saving me even this trouble.

The bug and Wagner.

Resting with Cooper in the fireplace. Fireplace dirt is considered minor unless she gets black soot on her hands, in which case I'll wash them off right away. Lost socks are minor too, unless we're in a store and old people start tsking.

And this is pretty much what the days are like around here lately. (The blur is Wags.) The picture would be more representative if there were a manuscript getting trampled in the foreground.

Speaking of Wagner, over the weekend Mr. Chalmers and I put up this cool Radio Fence wire along one side of the yard where Wagner is jumping over the existing fence. So he gets a shock—sorry: "static correction"—through his special collar when he gets within a foot or so. He still goes over (hence "is" above). We need to train him more or try a more powerful collar. I think it'll work, and I'm convinced that soon we'll have full containment capabilities. And a table, even if it's not Made in Carlton.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Last weekend we smoked a slab of ribs and a bunch of chicken wings out in the backyard. Saturday it was warm and balmy, and we heard from friends that they'd be coming through the next day on their way from New York to New Orleans, so we started marinating and thawing. Sunday it turned cold and it was hard to keep the temperature in the smoker up high enough for ribs (I like to do them at about 225; we could only keep it a little over 150)—still, they were pretty great. A bit too spicy, though, because more cayenne came out of the container than I'd meant to use. We also had apple cream pie and beer. And molasses crinkles.

Ribs: Trim pork spareribs and rub with a mixture of 1 cup brown sugar, lots of cayenne, black pepper, and salt, and a little granulated garlic. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Smoke with hickory (we actually used pecan deadfall from the yard) until the meat pulls back from the ends of the bones, basting occasionally with a mixture of 1 part vegetable oil to 1 part cider vinegar. Boil the basting liquid for a few minutes, then add a bit of brown sugar and some mustard and use this to glaze the ribs in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
I'm still in the throes of a spate of freelance jobs. Last week I dropped the bug off with a friend in town for three hours during the day while I went down the street and worked at Jittery Joe's—I got more done in those three hours than in any three hours of my professional "career." If the bug hadn't come down with a raging cold—her first—soon afterward I'd have wanted to do it again, if only to jump-start the next job on the docket. I think she had a good time playing in a new place with a new friend.

She now has two teeth—the one on bottom and one on top, both in front. She can stand on her own without holding on to anything for about ten seconds at a time before gently sitting back down. She likes to play peekaboo, as she always has, except that now she's the one lifting the blanket or sweater over her face and then pulling it down quickly. She's almost said "balloon" several times—balloons are her favorite things other than dogs. We still have the ones from her dad's birthday several weeks ago, but they're so deflated by now that he brought some new ones home for her the other night. We've been starting to teach her a few words in sign language: light (on and off), ceiling fan, dog, cat, bird, tree, balloon, and train. (The useful words—hungry, cold, sleepy—are not as fun, so we tend to not do them as much.) One morning a couple weeks ago, she woke up with a completely new way of babbling. Apparently overnight she'd figured out how to use her tongue differently, so she suddenly had all these new syllables at her disposal. It took some getting used to on our part, because she didn't sound like herself.