Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Mom Made Yesterday #8

With our first Berkshire snow falling in October this year, I was reminded of this felt wall-hanging that my mom made a few years ago. So cute!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I recently discovered that Berkshire County has its own currency — BerkShares. There was a BerkShare festival in August, but I was unable to go to learn more about this local cash.

BerkShares are largely a southern Berkshire County idea, designed to promote shopping in local stores. You can purchase the Berkshares with normal cash, at a 10% discount. So, you can buy 10 Berkshares for 9 dollars, and then you can spend your 10 BerkShares at a participating shop (again, most of which are in south county).

One of the best places I can think to utilize BerkShares is at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Lenox and Great Barrington, one of a handful of specialty (pricey) food shops in the area. I will happily take 10% off my Guido's food bill!

In the meantime, I'm hoping the BerkShares idea catches on and spreads to my north county neighborhood.

Here are some images of the currency from the BerkShares website):

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Salmon Burgers

I ran into my high school Biology teacher at the 2008 Relay for Life in Pittsfield. Herself a cancer survivor, she was giving a nutritional cooking demonstration. I flipped though her handout of recipes and nothing really caught my eye...but when I tried her salmon burgers, I knew I had to make them.

The idea of running fish through the food processor did seem kind of nasty (my mom was reminded of the old Bass-o-Matic SNL skit), but it was well worth it. The salmon was blended with ginger and garlic, then folded into panko bread crumbs, green onions, red peppers (missing in mine!), and an egg. The pan-seared burgers are served with a wasabi-mayo sauce. Wow.

So far, this is my favorite salmon dish...ever.

Addendum: I recently tried to make these burgers using canned salmon, and the whole canned fish thing skeeved me out to such a degree that I couldn't eat them. That's right, pureed fish is more appetizing than canned fish to me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chicken Soup For the Rotator Cuff's Soul

I have tried to make chicken soup on several occasions and it never comes out quite right. This time, I roasted the chicken and vegetables prior to simmering them, giving the soup a nice color and flavor. I desperately wanted to add alphabet noodles, but couldn't find them at our local store. Next time, for sure.

The inspiration for the soup was my aunt, who had just undergone rotator cuff surgery, however it made plenty to share with non-recovering people, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ridin' the Rail Trail

We are so lucky to live right next to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. Old railroad tracks were removed to create an 11.2-mile paved trail that runs through three Berkshire towns, by lakes and rivers...and the Berkshire Mall.

We can access the trail easily by crossing Route 8, and it has felt great to finally get some use out of the bike I bought last summer (to replace the one that was stolen in Somerville). My parents once ran into a bear on the trail, but all I have seen are bunnies and turtles. I'm fine with that.

Monday, October 20, 2008


At last, I made brasciole. It was wonderful, and the slow braise in the oven gave the tomato sauce the most amazing flavor.

However, I had no idea that I was supposed to pound out the meat before filling and rolling it. So, here is an uber-thick version of Giada DeLaurentis' brasciole. (I'll be pounding out this recipe again soon.)

Wow. Close-up photos of beef are just not attractive, are they?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Mom Made Yesterday #7

I confess that I've come across some older photos and, in fact, mom made this more than five years ago. I am sure of this because the baby for whom this quilt was made just started kindergarten! Here is Mikey's bright, fun quilt:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Last of the Heirlooms

I should confess, I have been updating my blog by posting into the future. Mid-October is no time for heirloom tomatoes. We actually ate this beautiful little specimen in early September. It was worth its own post!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just Another Manic Morning

I think it's safe to say that I suffer from a somewhat fictitious condition that I have decided to name Morning Mania. No, you won't find it in the DSM, but my husband will definitely vouch for me. I overwhelm myself with ideas and lists of tasks that I could never possibly have enough time to accomplish. (This kind of makes me resent having to go to work, although, I have new earlier work hours that are going to help tremendously.)

This most frequently occurs on weekend mornings, and it sometimes keeps me from sleeping as long as I should. A typical Saturday morning involves waking earlier than I do during the week, making grocery lists and other to-do lists, getting wrapped up in an unexpected project, finally getting to the grocery store...then completely crashing sometime around 11:30am. Grumpy and tired, but refusing to take a nap, I struggle to get through my lists, and feel disappointed when I can't accomplish everything. Essentially, I set myself up to fail, and this is not good.

I think it's clear from this blog that I take advantage of my creative energy. But I'm starting to realize that I need more downtime. I need to sit and read. I need to take naps. I need to just be.

The only solution I can come up with, in an effort to become more conscious of my pressure-inducing-list-making habit, is to limit the number of items on my lists. I am going to implement this idea this weekend and see how it goes. I think I will be happier for doing so.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

U-Haul, U Suck

I want everyone to know that U-Haul is evil.

They encourage you to buy more of their boxes than you think you may need for your move, and promise that you can return all unused boxes for a full refund. They call this their "100% Buyback Guarantee." It sounds nice. I bought $90 worth of extra boxes.

They do not tell you that the boxes must be returned to designated U-Haul centers. So if you are, say, moving to rural Massachusetts, you cannot return the boxes along with the truck, and the nearest designated center is an hour away.

Boxes are big. They fit nicely in the U-Haul truck, but do not fit in our little Corolla. After the company failed twice to contact me about the situation, as they had promised, I spoke to a representative who gave me the option of FedEx-ing my boxes to U-Haul headquarters...for $250. She refused to provide me with a mailing address where I could send a letter requesting that they change their website to list the specific box-buyback store locations.

John and I borrowed a car to return the boxes at a U-Haul center in Northampton, MA. Others could easily be stuck with hundreds of dollars worth of boxes.

We decided that we weren't going to let U-Haul ruin our day and, actually, the man that assisted us in Northampton was very helpful. (I might have told him in advance that I was going to freak out on him if he didn't process the return...) We celebrated with delicious lunch at Spoletto Express and German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream (my absolute favorite) from the Williamsburg General Store on the way home.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blueberry Redemption

I really wanted to go blueberry picking after discovering that I bought berries from California and Canada to make a fruit salad. There are berry picking places throughout the Berkshires, and I truly felt guilty for not giving them my business. Unfortunately, I had just missed berry-picking season.

Foreign Berry Salad:

Other opportunities for picking my own local produce began to present themselves to me, however. My boss owns a farm share at Caretaker Farm in Williamstown. When he and his family went out of town for a weekend, they let us collect their share for the week. We filled their canvas bag with greens, a pumpkin, beets, onions, a cabbage, herbs...and then we picked our own edamame, kale and raspberries. It was awesome. (My camera was acting up that morning, so the image below is from the farm's website.)

We also recently went apple-picking at Lakeview Orchard in Lanesboro. We arrived early on a Saturday morning to beat the crowds. It was my first time ever picking apples, and I made sure to enjoy some mulled cider and a cider doughnut, too.

I am also proud to say that John and I just became members of the food co-op in Williamstown. I hope I've made up for my berry mishap!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Send It to My Hotmail

No, really.

That picture was taken on a hot morning in August. The one below was taken this morning. Brrr!

I couldn't help but also take a picture of the bizarre fur-like frost that grew on our car's roof overnight. Weird! (Click on the photo for a larger image.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Red Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

I discovered quinoa a while ago, and had been following the cooking directions on the box...until I read Helen Rennie's post describing a quinoa cooking method similar to that of risotto. What a difference! Plus, we tried the slightly firmer red quinoa in this wonderful salad:

I don't think I'm the only one who stalks Helen's blog, and rightfully so!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Palin's Popcorn

I was pretty excited to watch the vice-presidential debate on Thursday evening. I anticipated that it would be more entertaining than the Sex and the City movie that I had (finally) watched the night before and, in preparation, I made some popcorn.

I don't know why anyone thinks that special equipment is needed to make popcorn, or how boxed, plastic-wrapped, chemically-drowned microwave popcorn is the norm. (Oooo, and don't get me started about the cost of movie popcorn — the people should revolt!)

Anyway, it's just this easy (and incredibly inexpensive) to make popcorn:

• Choose a saucepan and lid
• Coat the bottom of pan with a layer of oil (vegetable, olive, whatever...)
• Pour popcorn kernels to just barely cover the bottom of the pan (it doesn't look like much, but it is!)
• Place the pan (with lid!) over medium-high heat, shaking occasionally until you hear popping
• Keep shaking over heat until popping stops, remove lid
• Toss popcorn in a large bowl with salt and melted butter (or olive oil, as we did — yum!)

It takes the same amount of time as the microwave popcorn, is so much cheaper and healthier,'s kind of fun, too.

I don't want to comment much on the debate, other than noticing that Palin came across as the Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee of candidates. The way she spoke to the American public (and to Senator Joe Biden) was disrespectful of our intelligence. Her choice to offer her responses using words usually reserved for the most informal of situations did not make her seem more accessible, it made her come across as inauthentic. (As an aside, if Barack Obama spoke in this fashion, he would most certainly not be a candidate for the presidency.)

In short, it was the worst job interview I have ever witnessed...but my popcorn was the real deal. (Really, it all relates...)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pee-Wee's Big Dusty Adventure

Where to begin? I bought this Pee-Wee Herman action figure when I lived in Las Vegas. (Yes, I lived in Las Vegas). That was around the year 2000. Since then, this thing has moved along with me about 5 times. My thought was that it would someday reside in my office at work—that it would only leave its packaging when it had a lovely desk to live on. I am working from my third cubicle now, and I see no office in my future (other than a home office!).

Why could I not just love Pee-Wee's Playhouse without having to attach those feelings to a plastic toy? (I confess that I recently got rid of my Mulder and Scully action figures, too.) This, I suppose, is emotional consumerism. I am marking my official sensitivity to this issue by selling my Pee-Wee doll at an a tag sale today. I'm not concerned about its selling price (despite still being in its package) — I just want it to go.

On the topic of the unnecessary accumulation of trendy, media-driven garbage, I cannot believe that Disney-Pixar has the nerve to sell toys from the anti-consumerism themed movie, WALL•E. That is so very sad.

ADDENDUM (10/4/08): Pee-Wee sold for $2 to a woman who was living with her sister in Sarasota, FL when Paul Reubens was arrested there. She bought it as a gag gift for her sister.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Brown Eggs Are (Actually) Local Eggs (This Time)

We have been eating eggs much more regularly for a few months. We have "egg night" once a week, and we've been adding eggs to some salads, as well. I'm excited to have been stocking our fridge with eggs from local Williamstown chickens (through the Wild Oats Co-Op). They are wonderful.

According to Mr.Breakfast, there is no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs (making the claim in the jingle erroneous), but there is a difference between farm fresh eggs and those from the grocery store shelf that have been transported from who-knows-where (even if they're brown). Farm fresh eggs are tastier and fluffier, and sometimes more yellow. Mostly though, it just feels great to be supporting a local farmer.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Mom Made Yesterday #6

Another lovely little wool felt holiday mat made by mom!