A Shiksa on a Mission

Balaboosta (n.)(bah-lah-b00-sta) A Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife
I'm a shiksa on a mission...
It may not be perfection but it's the journey that counts

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Poetry of Debt

Felt the need to share this book.

I read the Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter because it was just sitting there, staring at me. I had forgotten that Reg read it and said I would like it. Now I kick myself because I could have already been through it and several of his other books which is exactly what I want to do now that I'm done with this one. I love the feeling of finishing a book and wanting nothing more than to inhale everything else that person has ever read. I felt like that after reading Atonement by Ian McEwan. I felt like that after reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I felt like that after reading The World According to Garp by John Irving. And so many more. I don't always love everything else but I do like the feeling of propulsion towards more literature. It's like a high and I need another fix.

This story is about a man who is lost in a world of bad career choices, financial debt and the sinking feeling of absolute failure on its way. And it's really engaging and surprisingly sweet even though it's pretty dark. I wanted to read it every spare moment I could find. Shorter days in the Pacific Northwest means I could realistically hit the hay earlier and earlier just to wrap up in the warm quilts and this clever story.

And now I'm onto another one.

Nerd Implosion

I'm spending countless hours (actually I could probably count them but it feels infinite right now) walking my puppy for training. Some walks are short lesson walks and some are long please wear out soon walks. On the longer walks, I usually listen to some music or a podcast. Yesterday I listened to The Nerdist (one of my favorite podcasts) and the guest was Neil deGrasse Tyson (the coolest astrophysicist ever). The convergence of two of my nerd loves was so overpowering that I had to share. I just love NdGT for his love of knowledge and science but most importantly his love of the journey.

If you are like me and need something to keep you walking in the cold (or not so cold) November air or you are inside and warm but also a big geek, then listen to this podcast (but feel free to skip the ghost story in the last 20 minutes--it was just an added little thing for Halloween).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Future with Figs

Figs + Bourbon = Delicious Autumn cocktails.....eventually.
I'm excited that my tree is still producing figs. I'm thinking I may have enough to make another small batch of fig jam but I am also wondering if I should do something else that I haven't even discovered yet. I need to do some fig investigation. In the meantime, I'll look forward to this infused bourbon. Maybe I'll even add a vanilla bean.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Figs are here. It's that wonderful time of year when my fig tree finally gives me a reason to love it. I love it. But like many dysfunctional relationships, it doesn't always give me what I want. I want more figs. But I need more patience. This year I got a good little crop. Enough to eat a few here and there for breakfast, make a small batch of preserves with some lemon and cardamom, bake some little fig cakes with orange syrup and maybe even infuse some bourbon. All small amounts but enough to savor and look forward to next year.

Indian Food

I recently fell in love with yet another cookbook. I'm a fickle woman when it comes to the direct line between my heart and my stomach. But when the love connection is made, I'm a happy woman. I came across Anjum's New Indian Cookbook at the library (but of course) and I was immediately smitten by the pictures of gorgeous food that I wanted to eat right off the page. I kept the book for several renewals just to try a few more recipes before parting with it. But then I decided that it's official. I'm buying it. The final decision came about as I was making the meal pictured: Spicy Black Eyed Pea Curry. Comfort food with some good old fashioned Indian spice. It was love at first bite but I took several more because it was just that good.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Funny Lady

Can I just say that I love the library? I freakin' love the library. I do. I could wander for hours. And I love that I have a library just down the street because we use it a lot. The other day as we were checking out our books, I just happened to glance at the new books and see that Samantha Bee from The Daily Show had a book out. I never knew. It's called I Know I Am But What Are You. Since I love her on The Daily Show, I snatched it up and read it in about two days. And I laughed out loud. She is downright hilarious but I warn you, she is also freakishly bizarre. This is not Bossypants by Tina Fey. I laughed out loud at that book too but Bee's book is way darker. Way darker. She's slightly insane. Comically so. And her writing is really good. She goes from her early years as a child of divorce through some tumultuous years where she swings wildly from hoping to be Jesus' girlfriend to her minor criminal offenses to her strange relationships. And she does it all with none of that pesky sentimentality. She is as vicious with her own faults as she is with any other person she describes. She's hysterically irreverent and she knows it. Her book is a peek into her absurd mind and it's well worth the time.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Spent last Sunday making labels for my pickles. Now they are ready for delivery. And I may be ready to start on some more.

There is something about jars filled a variety of colors and shapes that makes me want to dive right back in for a brand new creation.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


An unexpected trip to our neighborhood farmer's market afforded me to make one of my favorite treats: Arugula Pesto. Peppery arugula, hazelnuts, garlic and olive oil. It all blended for a perfect spread to serve with some pretzel bread from a local bakery, farmer's fresh made cheese and some of the pickles I just made. Not a bad Labor Day snack.


My day of pickling yielded 30 jars of beautiful vegetables surrounded by herbs and spices. It was definitely one of my favorite days from summer because I really love projects that have a beginning, middle and end that are all in plain sight of each other. I was inspired by the book Tart and Sweet that I saw when I was visiting my mom. And because the book was on loan from the library (for a trial run before I decide on purchasing), I decided to try more than one recipe. I made Spicy Dill Pickles, Bread and Butter Pickles, Escabeche, Spicy Pickled Cauliflower and Spicy Curry Carrot Pickles. And then I collapsed into a pot of brine.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I found another pastime for these hot summer days....I finish what I started reading. It's not incredibly difficult to imagine beginning to read a book and then ending that process. Unfortunately parenthood often gets in the way of reading and almost always leads to problems absorbing any of the material hence my desire to sit and stare whenever the chance presents itself.

But I picked up Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris and had no absorption problems whatsoever. This novel is so engrossing. I loved it from the very beginning. It's funny and heartbreaking all at once. The writing is incredible especially considering this is his first novel. The entire novel takes place at an ad agency that is starting to lay off workers with a variety of results. The characters are scared but not enough to stop gossiping about it. I was completely drawn in from the very beginning probably even more than other novels because the entire novel is written from a first person plural "we" point of view which made me feel even more a part of the story. I loved it.

If you get a chance, check out the website. It's quite interactive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The sweltering heat is coming. We've been warned. So I was up early to bake a pie crust before the house started to melt around us. I remember when I was growing up in the Southwest that everyone would do their one big heat related thing in the early hours. If you needed to mow the lawn, you got up and did it before the crack o' dawn. If there was something that had to be baked, it was an early morning chore. This idea may explain why I get up in the morning ready to roll but I'm ready for a nap by 1pm. I'm ripe for a siesta loving country.

I got this recipe off of Joy the Baker. It is supposed to be a Fig and Apricot Tart but I had nectarines, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries so I zigged instead of zagged.  It seems like the perfect thing for the upcoming heatwave. Cold food for hot people.

Okay, temps. We're ready for you!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pod People

Lately I am somewhat obsessed with podcasts. I can't seem to get enough of listening to people talk about whatever. Anything. All things. I find myself taking hour long walks in the morning so I can listen to an interview. I have them on while I'm cooking or driving. I'll even listen to ones while I'm getting dressed. Is there a support group? Do I need help? I don't think I've reached an unreachable valley yet but it could be coming. It kicks me into information junkie mode. I get all absorbent and sponge-like in my brain. I'm hoping the upside is I might stave off Alzheimer's for a few more years. And I always have something to talk about at any dinner table.

Here are some I am digging right now:

Neil deGrasse Tyson (my favorite astrophysicist) has a show called Star Talk. He's smart and funny and smart. I read his book about Pluto being downgraded from planet to dwarf planet. Interesting to say the least. The two episodes entitled Packing for Mars included sections about eating, farting and pooping in space. Can you beat that? Plus, he plays the Beastie Boys and in one episode he even played a snippet from the old Ash song The Girl from Mars. Love it.

The Nerdist has many podcasts but I've only had a chance to really listen to the one with Chris Hardwick called The Nerdist. You'll know what I mean when you go to the site. His interviews are fun and funny and he's not all about talking just about himself. Sometimes interviewers don't let their subjects ever talk. I despise those interviewers (Bad, interviewer, bad!). I just finished the ones with Aaron Paul, Tina Fey and Greg Proops. Cool stuff.

Stuff You Should Know is just one of the many podcasts at How Stuff Works. The hosts, Chuck and Josh, basically just describe what they have found from their own research and other contributing writers' articles. It's like listening to two dudes discuss something interesting. They're not rocket scientists but they like information. The kids and I can talk about the things they cover. We discussed Atlantis being a real place and how to shrink heads. You know, important stuff.

Radio Lab is one that I will listen to while I take an hour long walk. I like they way they take a subject and then branch off in different directions of the same theme. The episodes Colors, Guts and the Bad Show were all amazing. Truly. Wow. Listen to them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Elusive Marmalade

It's summertime which is the season of  jam making here at the Five Cent Farm. Days spent preserving and canning always remind me of my grandmother. She would stand in the blazing hot kitchen canning one thing or another but she was so small (she didn't ever reach 5 feet tall) that we had to help her with the lifting and reaching. It was all worth it. I love jam. A trip to a pop up fruit stand made for an afternoon of Apricot Jam and Raspberry Jam. Two of my favorites from the summer fruits. The Apricot Jam is very tangy and the Raspberry Jam is super sweet. The only downside in the preserving and canning department is my complete inability thus far to make a decent marmalade. I tried this time with clementines and again it doesn't set up. What am I doing wrong? Why must the marmalade always elude me? I've done what I can with what I have. I have a motto now that sustains me through each and every marmalade failure: When life hands you runny marmalade, make marinade. It has worked like a charm. My last tries at Three Citrus Marmalade turned into fantastic marinade for chicken and pork and once was used in Chinese Orange Chicken. Maybe I should set out to make marinade.....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Growing Gratitude

 Late to post this but here are the gifts for the kids' teachers. 
Scrabble tiles + terra cotta pots + flowers + glue = pretty little reminders of a job well done.
The kids picked out little phrases to tell their teachers what a great job they did this year.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reading: Just Another Experiment

I just finished a book I wanted to share. I've long been a fan of AJ Jacobs and his life experiment books. He first read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in the (very misguided) pursuit to become the world's smartest man in The Know-It-All. Then he went on a (somewhat less misguided but infinitely more comical) journey to understand religion when he followed the Bible to the letter in the book The Year of Living Bibilically. And now he has taken on a ( preposterously misguided) quest to become the world's healthiest human being in Drop Dead Healthy.

I have to admit I have a bit of a career crush on him. I want his job but I'm simply not qualified. His incredibly obsessive personality makes him perfect for these ventures. Who else but an insane person could stick to reading the encyclopedia from A to Z? Who else could wear robes of only one fabric and go out to stone sinners in New York City? Who else would buy a device that enables him to squat over the toilet as opposed to sitting because it's healthier on the bowels? I'm crazy. But this guy is dedicated to the crazy on a higher level.  And he's hilarious. These books make me laugh out loud until I cry. I love reading them because I understand his nerdish desire for more information even if I could never take it to the nth degree.

If you are looking for a good but fast read, check him out.

One final note: I saw that he had a new book out and immediately went to the library website to put it on hold. Apparently I'm not the only fan because there was already a waiting list. What did I do? I ordered the large print version because it never has a waiting list and got my copy before all those other suckers! AJ would have been proud. But then I was reading it (as was anyone in a ten mile radius of me since the print was so damn large) and his section on eye health mentioned that smaller font is better to train the eyes. Now I know. I need to weigh my desire to cut in line with the future of my peepers. See? It's chockablock full of good information.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dye Job

 The white shirt was not cutting it but I liked the cut and little ruffle down the front right side so I dyed it. Happy accident. I bought Scarlet Red but I ran out of time and ended up with a sort of coral color. And I likes. So it's staying.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


 A friend had twins. I thought I would help her tell one from the other.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gross and Grosser

Although we've been busy little beavers at the Five Cent Farm, I have been doing my fair share of reading. Thought I'd share the last two books I read with you all.

First of all,  That's Disgusting by Rachel Herz is a book about the emotion of disgust. And it's fascinating. You have to be able to read about drinking fermented, masticated corn flour liquid or eating maggot covered cheese or starting off the day with a big bowl of slimy, soggy soybeans because they are all beloved dishes in a variety of cultures. There is also much ado about cannibalism, morality, horror films, blood, feces, pus, phlegm and necrophilia. And more. I learned a great deal and was disgusted. And I think about disgust on a whole other level now. And also I can't get the idea of that Icelandic people like rotting shark meat. So my point is this: Mom, don't read this book.

The other book I read is The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Two words. Werewolf porn. Also, I'd like to remind my mother not to read this one either.

So there you have it. Any questions?

Play Ball!

In honor of both National Poetry Month and Baseball Season, I give you a poem about baseball.

Assignment #1: Write a poem about Baseball and God

And on the ninth day, God
In His infinite playfulness
Grass green grass, sky blue sky,
Separated the infield from the outfield,
Formed a skin of clay,
Assigned bases of safety
On cardinal points of the compass
Circling the mountain of deliverance,
Fashioned a wandering moon
From a horse, a string and a gum tree,
Tempered weapons of ash,
Made gloves from the golden skin of sacrificial bulls,
Set stars alight in the Milky Way,
Divided the descendants of Cain and Abel into contenders,
Declared time out, time in,        stepped back,
And thundered over all of creation:
                                       "Play ball!"

Monday, March 12, 2012


 One of my favorite little recipes to make for guests is Spicy Fennel Glazed Almonds. You can adjust the spice to fennel ratio. I usually up the spice just a bit. These are so good because they have sweet, salty, spicy and crunchy all in one. It is easy and tasty beyond belief. If I don't devour them all, then I share them with guests. If they don't devour them all, then they are a very tasty addition to salads. Trust me, they usually don't make it to salads.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Kids

I am not exaggerating when I say that this whole family can geek out like nobody's business. We have been immersed in some serious Mythbusters marathons lately. We left the library the other day with 34 books. Flannery's take included kid biographies of Stephen Hawking, Amelia Earhart, Princess Grace of Monaco, Dr. Charles Drew and Margaret Chase Smith along with two stories regarding Lewis and Clark.  Emerson had one book about Easter Island and one about Macchu Picchu and a book about animals from the Smithsonian that weighs as much as he does.  Tonight we are heading out to see a special showing of a tv show aimed at teaching kids about history. We like Science Fridays and zoo webcams. Reg and I kind of hope to encourage massive geekiness in our children for as long as possible. We're not necessarily leaning towards social outcast but something more like awkward and intimidating.  Keeping our fingers crossed.

It's this type of information addiction that leads us here and there. One thing our kids love is this website with a Place the States game.You get an empty American map and you place the states. Keep the sound on because you get to hear a little "D'oh" when you miss.  We're still working on America but I'm pretty sure there are many maps to use. At the same time, we've been playing Scrambled States of America. It's a card game and Emerson is becoming quite a shark at it. If you play with him, don't play for money. Seriously.

Like I said, we've been on a Mythbusters marathon. I think we've checked out pretty much every season from the library. We're getting through them slowly but surely. Actually not slowly at all. Emerson would watch it non-stop if given the chance. I'm often very touched that he and his friends will choose to watch that when they are spending the night.

And today I came across this article from NPR. Scientists have found a large stick insect (the size of a man's hand) that was believed to be extinct.  We will be discussing this tonight and watching the video of the insect emerging from it's egg.  Yup. It will be like a party here tonight.

Muffin Morning

My kids think every weekend morning was made for big, fancy breakfasts. It must include something that can't just be toasted or poured into a bowl. They become quite adamant and turn on the adorable. Last weekend we compromised on blueberry muffins. And I got a little helper with me. I found the Barefoot Contessa recipe for Blueberry Streusel Muffins but left off the streusel (kind of out of spite and also I was tired). I did make the sour cream a mixture of sour cream and yogurt simply because I ran out. It's an easy recipe and it makes a bunch of muffins. I have to admit that making these was not so difficult but having "help" can sometimes make me cringe. Flannery insisted on pouring the batter in the muffin pan. And apparently she wanted to do it as slowly as humanly possible. Considering I have pledged to let my children help me cook more, I did a good job and let her. But it almost killed me.  And so I had to take pictures to keep my hands from grabbing everything out of her hands and elbowing her out of my way. 

If you are looking for a good and quick recipe for muffins (which you could adapt to any fruit), then try these. And if you need help making them, I know just the girl....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Hearts Day

Colorful paper folded into hearts with a kiss and a smile. I have to say that I still love homemade Valentines the best of all. The kids are into origami like nobody's business so it was easy to pick. A bag of Hershey's kisses, some tape and paper tags with names finished the project is no time at all.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Prescription for Lunch

 I'm going to kick this little sinus thing I've got going on by attacking it on all fronts. Here's today's at home help.
 Food is your medicine so today's dose is kale, mango, strawberries and coconut milk.
 I know. It's green. It's green and it's in a glass. You have to get past it because, baby, it's delicious.
So delicious that I'll be drinking it even after I've vanquished that which is attacking my body. I cannot say the same for all of the other things I'm trying.