Monday, June 28, 2010

BEEEEES! (by Kat)

First I read all about it.

Then I thought all about it...

Then I built it and baited it...

But they didn't come!

So tomorrow I'm going to go get them!

(wait, there aren't any bees in that picture...what gives?)

This is a top-bar beehive. It's a less stressful environment for the bees than the typical box o' bees beehives you usually see along roadsides pollinating orchards. I don't have a picture of it with the lid on the top, so please just imagine a lid over top of the bars.

The kerfs in each bar are filled with a starter bead of wax to encourage the residents to build their combs along each top bar instead of across multiple top bars. The photo shows the kerfs wax-side up, but these were all turned over as soona s the wax had set.

I baited the box my rubbing a lemongrass-olive oil mixture into the wood. I gave it a week, then became impatient. Someone on Craig's List has some bees to sell, so tomorrow I go for a look-see.

Do I take the car or do I take the truck to pick them up?
They could get really hot in the back of the truck, but I'm not sure I'm brave enough to drive an hour with them sitting in the back seat of the car....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascaprone Mousse (by Kat)

Mandatory Blog-Check lines: The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

This dessert, my friends, is top notch! You can make most of it ahead of time, you can alter it to fit any season or any mood, and it looks super fancy. This is the dessert to make for the in-laws when you first meet 'em. This is the dessert to make for that fancy potluck where you just don't know what to bring. This is the dessert for two, five, or a crowd. This dessert is a show-stopper.

Okay, maybe mine wasn't a show-stopper, per se, but it pleased the crowd none-the-less and some of the other Daring Bakers out there made jaw-dropping creations this month. See the "Mandatory Blog-Check lines" above? Copy those, paste into your search engine of choice, and be prepared to be totally and utterly amazed by Daring Bakers worldwide. Wait. Read mine first, and then go see theirs. If you would. Please.

If you're still here you are my very favorite reader of all time. So this is for you:

The pavlovas were something of a dessert in three parts. First, the meringues are assembled and baked. Then, a yummy mousse is created. Finally, this dessert called for a delicious variant of the traditional creme anglaise--creme anglaise with mascarpone. Yes, the lily was gilded. And while I'm not the sort of person who likes her lilies gilded on a daily basis, a gilded lily is a wonder to behold when you're talking dessert.

Day One:

Make meringues, mascarpone, and creme anglaise.

Beat egg whites and sugar until stiff

Fold in dry ingredients

Lick the spoon as needed for testing purposes

Pipe into silly or fancy or circular shapes.
Size doesn't matter in this instance.

See? Each is unique...and special.

Pulling the mascarpone out of the cloth after draining.

Day Two:

Make mousse, realize you need more mascarpone for the creme anglaise, make more mascarpone.
Dag-nabbit! My mousse base broke.
What happens if I throw it in the food processor?

Perfection, and project saved.

Another batch of mascarpone

Day three:

Realize mascarpone was supposed to go into the warm anglaise, so just beat it in and call it good. Assemble.

Great oogly-googly pavlova, Batman!

Here's the recipe from our challenge. I marked my changes in bold red. Essentially, I replaced the fruity flavors with the sweet sweet wonderful flavor of Kahlua. Yummmm. If you have any specific questions about how to make the pavlovas, let me know.

Now, go try them for yourself!

Mandatory items: The recipe is comprised of three parts, four if you include the crème anglaise. You must make the chocolate pavlovas, the mascarpone mousse and the mascarpone cream using the recipes provided.

Variations allowed:

  • You can use orange juice for the Grand Marnier in the mousse if you don’t use alcohol
  • You can omit the sambuca from the mascarpone cream.
  • You may substitute any crème anglaise recipe you might already have in your arsenal.

Preparation time: The recipe can be made in one day although there are several steps involved.

  • While the pavlovas are baking, the crème anglaise should be made which will take about 15 minutes.
  • While it is cooling, the chocolate mascarpone mousse can be made which will take about 15 minutes.
  • There will be a bit of a wait time for the mascarpone cream because of the cooling time for the Crème Anglaise.
  • If you make the Crème Anglaise the day before, the dessert should take about 2 hours including cooking time for the pavlovas.

Equipment required:
• Baking sheet(s) with parchment or silpat
• Several bowls
• Piping bag with pastry tip
• Hand or stand mixer

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder


  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):

1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon [I left this out]
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone (don't forget we made this a few months ago - get the printable .pdf HERE)
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice) [I used Kahlua instead]


  1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):

1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
[I left this out]
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream


Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract [I used the bean]
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar


  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Additional Information:

Wikipedia’s definition of Pavlova

The history of Pavlova


Great video on YoutubeHow to Make Pavlova

Another great video that uses whipped cream instead of the Mascarpone cream - Pavlova

One more from EpicuriousAustralia Pavlova

Some great photos on Flickr:

La Tartine Gourmand – Red and Orange Pavlova

VROG in Bristol – Birthday Pavlova

Marco VeringaPavlova 6 (the fruit on this one is stunning)

KatiequinndaviesDouble Chocolate & Raspberry Pavlova

My Food Obsession – Chocolate Banana Rolled Pavlova (something different!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pain (by Bet)

Pain is a relevant term.  Today I feel like I have found pain and am about to ask for more of it.  But that is a story for later in the post. 

When I first got home Wednesday on the last day of school, I took everything out of my son's bedroom and piled it in the living room.  I have no idea where the burst of energy came from, but I instantly regretted it as I surveyed the mess in the living room.  I even hauled out the old camera to document the train wreck.  Who knew he had so much stuff in that little room of his?  The initial thinking was I would deal with it the next morning and that would be that.  Silly ol' me.

How many toys can you identify? There's a couch under that!

It took us until TODAY (that would be seven full days) to finish going through, sorting things and putting it all in his room.  I hauled eight bags to Goodwill and threw three bags in the garbage.  The good news is that there is no longer a single toy in my family or living room.  We have moved to the next level.  Wait, that is not right.  There is about two tons of train set in a tub next to my fireplace.  But due to shear depth of toy, it must stay there.  Sigh.

Now let us visit the place where pain lives.  I woke up this morning and could no longer viably move in any fashion that could be concieved as graceful.  My chest hurt and I started coughing.  My legs hurt, my stomach muscles hurt and my arms hurt.  If I knew the names of these muscles I would be able to be more specific.  But it was the greatest morning of my life.

I started crossfitting three weeks ago.  I am very out of shape with more extra weight than the small boy weighs.  I started by barely being able to do 15 pushups.  Yesterday I did less than half a hero's workout which amounted to 75 push ups (girl style still, but still), 9 beginner rope climbs, and 1200 meters of running.  I did it in twenty minutes.  Whoo hoo! I made it through and now want MORE!  Maybe not today, because, you know, the movement thing. But definitely tomorrow.

Presidents Physical Fitness Test be warned.  I am going to be able to do that rope climb and pull ups yet.  I might be twenty or so years late, but I am going to do it.  My baby muscles told me so.

Since I am celebrating me at this point, I might add that I have managed to drop ten pounds since starting and have dumped processed food.  Truth be told dark chocolate and the one random diet coke still grace my mouth, but I'm working on it.  I have gone completely Zoleo.  Maybe for life since I feel so good.  Except the pain, except the pain.  But that's how the baby muscles are born.

My family is off to Minnesota on Saturday so see you when we get back.  Wish us luck.  It will be the husband, the boy, the girl, me and the in-laws in one car for fourteen days.  It might be a "National Lampoon" moment for us.  Especially since I still plan to do Crossfit workouts at the rest areas.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer solstice (by Kat)

Gloriously busy around here! Zing-zang happy-skipping around here.

Here's evidence of a blooming elderberry.
Chirp chirp was in misery because the little blooms were stuck fiercely in her hair.
She smelled (to me) like heaven in springtime and (to her) like a scary old lady.

Summer solstice swung by, by summer herself is strangely absent. In fact, we had snow to the north of town last Wednesday. The poor local farmers are scratching their heads and pulling their beards in frustration. We've gone from a drought year (declared late March) to a nearly 100% water year (as of a few weeks ago).

This has been great for the garden, though!



More onions, four rows of beets, recalcitrant broccoli:

An alium transplanted from Mr. Boom's grandmother's home before it was torn down to make room for a housing development:

This volunteer broccoli plant, growing up through the bricks of our garden path, is so much further along than the broccoli I actually planted. Make of that what you will....

(I really do!)

And finally, Chirp Chirp made her first loaf of bread. See the difference in surfaces of the two loaves of french bread? One was stretched tight as it was rolled into shape, the other wasn't. Proof that a simple little technique can really make a huge difference in your final product.

And finally, a sneak peak...

Any guesses?

It's the reason I've been so busy this past week...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Last Day of School! (by Bet)

Today is the last day of school. 


Commence with the frolicking and crazy decisions. 

Plans have been made.  We were going to jump into the lake fully clothed, but it is raining.  We might do it anyway.  We will gorge on ice cream from the local store and lay about. 

Tomorrow is the day of cleaning.  We will wash, throw out, vacum and dust.  Maybe. 

Soon we will get in a car and drive to Minnesota. 

It's been twenty years since we graduated so I might screw up the courage to go to the reunion those that are in charge organized. 

I will go home and see those that stayed.  My children will rejoice at being around Grammy and Papa. 

I will blog. 

I will Crossfit.

I will read madly. 

I will play in my new Vibram Fives.

In 55 minutes I will leave this place and be FREE!  (and maybe I will kill the need to make lists)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Small town news (by Kat)

Dear Bet,

You were right to leave our hometown. We grew up, and you moved away. You escaped the crime and the evil ways of our little town.

Alas, I stayed put. I didn't move on. The weekend crime wave I managed to live through is a just punishment for my sedentary ways.

In the past few days, according to that bastion of knowledge and truly trustworthy source called a local newspaper:

A cow was following a person along a popular recreational trail!
Two deer were reportedly trying to cross Main Street during the day!
Someone was tap-dancing very loudly on a deck!
A bike with flat tire and no brakes was stolen!
And, finally:
Some folks were jumping from a cliff, even though "no trespassing" signs were clearly posted.
Also, quite curiously and most criminally, someone was walking down the street with a Coors Light neon sign.

As you can see, the situation is really out of control here. Remember the police blotter from the day you were born? As I recall, someone had left a large jar of pickles on a street corner. Ahh, the halcyon days of our youth. Oh, the terror of the modern age in this small town.

I bet the police where you live never get calls that people were using their cellphones as lights. That's got to make you feel safe!

Your small-town friend,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Boom (by Kat)

Me: Did you hear that?
Mr. Boom: No. Maybe.
Me: I heard a noise, maybe a small boom.
Mr. Boom: Could have been. You know, I was kinda afraid of that.
Me: It sounded like it came from the closet.
Mr. Boom: Well, I was sorta prepared for that.
Me: ?????
Mr. Boom (opening closet): Heh. Good thing I prepared for it.

Oh man! That was some really good home-brew!
(Glad he was prepared for it!)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mr. Boom asplodes my head (by Kat)

My dear husband, Mr. Boom, is a very quiet guy. One should never underestimate the quiet guys...

Sure, he works in a dark and dreary basement, employed by rednecks, and is typically assumed to be just another dolt clogging the cogs of our small town agricultural fabric.

And yeah, he was valedictorian of his graduating class, but that class only had about 30 students (it was a pretty big class that year, actually).

But this actual event, in near real-time, demonstrates who I'm actually married to, and why I get half the headaches I do.

I stumbled up on this theoretical physics article discussing the results of collapsing black holes:

How To Destroy A Black Hole

I mentioned (stupid, stupid, stupid, when will I ever learn??!!) that black holes seemed to be one of the few things we really probably should hold sacred and leave the heck alone! At which point Mr. Boom wondered why the author was pitting straight physicists against astrophysicists in their suppositions of the nature of singularities.

"That's just dumb" he said. "Anyone who understands Einstein knows how stupid that sounds."

Um, yeah.

"Singularities are by definition something or other and so mass does something and then gravity slows down time and something and another thing asymptotic curves can't ever blah blah blah so the author is an idiot to think that they wouldn't agree and besides that the tangential mass charge something ions and protons something fabric, so there you go, right?"

Um, right?

"That's just common high school physics."

Um, how about some wine?

"Oh, I've got some home-brew here if I can get the cap off."

Okay. Can I have Tyelnol with mine?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Life goes on (by Kat)

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da,

life goes on, brah!...

Lala how the life goes on...

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, brah!...

Lala how the life goes on.

Gotta love the Beatles.

I really sincerely appreciate the kind thoughts and the love you've sent my way.

Grandma is settled in her new home, fussing around with her books and teddy bears, making sure they're all just so. She's right next door to her best friend, and she loves how much fun it is. Prior to the move, she was all the way across the hall. So, you know, this is lots better.

Grandpa's ashes are ready to be scattered back at the family cemetery in Illinois.

Comfort's been given to loved ones across the country.

Chirp chirp's final choir concert was last night. She isn't taking choir next year, so the concert was extra bittersweet. She possesses an awful lot of musical talent, but doesn't find it to be rewarding in the least.

And me? Well I'm still standing. I'll settle for that right now.

Worms. Gotta love the worms, too.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Time (by Kat)

Time keeps on slipping.
And my grandpa is slipping away after years in a nursing home.
My grandma, in an assisted living facility, has to move this weekend to another room, smaller than the one she has now.
So, between keeping my non-lucid grandpa calm, dealing with family country-wide, and moving my grandma, I'm gonna need some time.
Right now, I wish I was more like Bet. She survives on so little sleep. That would buy me some time.
I'll be back in a week at most, I promise.
Right now, I've gotta find time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

And then they were gone (by Kat)

Four weeks ago they were eggs.

Two weeks ago they were growing their first feathers.

And today they were gone.

BTW, you're really glad that this picture wasn't bought to you in

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June 1st garden update (by Kat)

So much has been going on in the garden.

Every spring I'm amazed at how looooooong it takes for the season to get here,
but how quickly it takes hold once it does.

Today I'll just show you some of the fruits and veggies.

But the flowers....oh the flowers....



plums, not nearly as far along


Walla Walla sweet onions, beets, and broccoli

more beets and broccoli

cauliflower, and lots of weeds

wispy little leeks, and lots more weeds

garlic, peas, and potatoes (and still more weeds)

Would anyone like to come help me weed?