What I saw

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:45 pm

I witnessed the strangest tableau today.  It felt like something out of a David Lynch film.

I was walking past the Pentacrest on the side facing the mall, with a clear shot of the Old Capitol from the south.  A campus police car pulled up next to the Pentacrest, turned on his cherries, then got out of the car and crouched in front of it and took a picture.

Just as he was doing that, a black cat walked by, and above it were two very loud, squawky crows.  It was surreal.

It was exactly like this, only it took place on the south side of the Old Capitol and not the east side.


Long weekend: not long enough

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:50 pm

Denny and I had a nice Memorial Day weekend. Three-day weekends are so nice; they’re better than taking vacation, because no work piles up when you’re gone, since nobody else is working either and creating stuff for you to do.

The most exciting weekend event: we ordered a deep freeze. We have one in our garage right now, which was kindly given to us by my grandparents, except we tried to use it and it didn’t work. Well, the motor ran, but it never got cold. It had been sitting idle in our garage for over a year, and it’s a pretty old model. I suspect the refrigerant needed to be replaced. We decided to get a new one, because that one is much bigger than what we need, it’s old and inefficient, and it would likely cost more to get the refrigerant replaced than to just get a new one.

I don’t know why, but deep freezes hold great romance for me. My parents have one in their basement, and it was always exciting to go down there and find stuff. There were always buried treasures in the form of frozen pizzas, ice cream treats, and camera film (before my dad went digital, he stored his film down there).

Last summer we had a wonderful bumper crop of tomatoes, and I filled up the freezer with tomato sauce. I came nowhere near using all the tomatoes I could have, so this year I look forward to making even more tomato sauce, tomato soup, and maybe big batches of pesto from our basil plant. I’ll stock up on frozen pizzas and lunch entrees when they’re on sale. I’ll freeze our leftovers instead of leaving them in the fridge until they turn fuzzy and I have to throw them out.

Oh, this Thursday shall be a wonderful day. We even got free delivery, plus they’re hauling away the old one for only $20. What a country!


Ethiopian food

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:06 pm

I finally got around to trying the new Ethiopian restaurant/bar today.  The last time I had Ethiopian food was in Phoenix, and it was phenomenal.  This was good but not great.  I wonder if it’s because they’re spreading their efforts too thin.  It’s trying to be an ethnic food joint and a sports bar at the same time; along with your typical injera and berbere dishes, they also serve mozzarella sticks and Philly cheese steak sandwiches.

It was pretty good.  Denny and Kaspar and I split several dishes:  a chicken and egg berbere dish (mother and child reunited, doncha know), a beef berbere dish, and a spinach dish.  It also came with some kind of yam and cabbage concotion, lentils, and lots of injera, a spongey flatbread.  The other person with us, our coworker Steve, got the aforementioned Philly cheese steak.  He said it was good.

It’s a nice addition to the downtown landscape.  If they really want to blossom in the exotic food realm, though, maybe they should have a more indicative name than “David’s Place.”


Food for Lost finale

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:32 am

The Lost-themed dinner turned out well. This post will contain no spoilers, so feel free to read it, Emily.

I ended up going kind of southwest-themed for the main course, including green chiles, some jack cheese, cornmeal, and cayenne pepper to the dough. It was tasty.

The best part was dessert. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Hurley likes chocolate and peanut butter, so I’ll post the recipe here. I ended up modifying the recipe from epicurious.com in order to make it a bit lighter (I reduced the butter, egg yolks, and used fat-free cream cheese instead of full-fat). It’s still extremely rich, though, and very cooling on a hot night. I could have lightened it further by using fat-free Cool Whip instead of real whipping cream, but you’ve got to have standards, people.

I also made it in pie form instead of bars, because I didn’t have a square baking dish.

Hurley’s Frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Chocolate layer:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 7 oz good quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 of a ripe banana, well mashed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg + 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Peanut butter layer:

  • 4 oz fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch pie plate with aluminum foil, leaving overhang off the edges. Spray the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl on top of a pan of simmering water, melt chocolate, butter, sugar, and salt, whisking frequently until smoothly melted. Remove top vessel and whisk in egg, banana, and vanilla.
  3. Pour batter into pie plate and bake for abut 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly puffed. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.
  4. Make peanut butter layer: Mix cream cheese, peanut butter, confectioners sugar, and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer and medium speed until well-blended, about 4 minutes. Beat cream with vanilla in a clean bowl with clean beaters until it just holds stiff peaks, then gentle fold into peanut butter mixture until just combined.
  5. Spread peanut butter mixture evenly on top of chocolate layer and freeze for 1-2 hours, until firm but not frozen solid. Using a warm, sharp knife, cut into wedges. Cover with foil and return to freezer until well-frozen.
  6. To serve, use foil overhang to remove entire pie from pie plate. Using a warm, sharp knife, re-cut the wedges. Carefully remove all foil and serve.


Whistle speech

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:37 pm

I just learned something interesting about the language of the Pirahã people, who are a group indigenous to the Maici River area of Brazil.

“The Pirahã people communicate almost as much by singing, whistling, and humming as they do using consonants and verbs.”  See this site for more information.

For example, they have hum speech, which is used for privacy, intimacy, and talking with one’s mouth full.  They also have yell speech, which logically enough is used for long distance, and, less logically, rainy days.  There’s musical speech, which is used for dancing and flirtation and apparently is more common among women than men, and there’s whistle speech, which is used in hunting and is more common among men.  Apparently there are some conversations that can be conducted entirely through whistling.

The site above has a sound clip, but it just sounds like somebody whistling to me.  I guess that stands to reason, since that’s pretty much what it is.  I believe it is a non-native whistler, though, so maybe he’s not doing it right.

Fancy fancy

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:10 pm

The bad news:  the Anna Sui dress from Ebay was way too big.  Fortunately, the seller was very gracious about accepting a return and offering me a refund.

The good news:  Anthropologie has some new stuff in their summer collection, including this snappy little number, which I love.  It seems good for summer weddings:  dressy but not awkwardly formal, not black or white or red, cute and fun for dancing but not too revealing.  Plus it looks like it would pack well, which is important considering  that some of the weddings are in distant locations.  And I love the little upside-down flowers on the hem.  Woot!


Lost season finale

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:12 pm

Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island, inhabited by scary people and possibly a monster and maybe there are psychological/sociological experiments being performed on you, you are aware that tomorrow night is the season finale of Lost.  In honor of the occasion, I am making a Lost-themed dinner.  WARNING:  if you are watching Lost a season behind on DVD, read no further, because the food items and descriptions contain plot spoilers from the season.

What to drink?  Boone’s “Bought the” Farm wine?

Stress-induced asthma?

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:14 am

Is there such a thing?

Yesterday I was out for a run (and kicking ass, by the way; I made a personal best time on my 5k), and I was doing a gentle cool-down mile around the neighborhood. I passed a bush that was obscuring my vision, and out of nowhere, this medium-large dog started barking and growling and approaching me in a threatening manner. It was chained up, but a quick assessment clearly showed that the chain was long enough for it to easily cross the sidewalk and then some.

I immediately stopped, and when it didn’t quit charging me, I started backing away in a scrambly fashion. I lost my footing on the grass (the grass between the sidewalk and the street, which was still within the rude dog’s reach) and fell on my butt. I wasn’t hurt, just shaken up, and I managed to get out of the dog’s zone and continued my jog.

However, despite not being all that physically challenged, I could barely get a breath. I felt like there was a mesh screen over my throat and I had to struggle to force air into my lungs. It was quite similar to how I’ve heard an asthma attack described. I just took it easy, and in a minute or two, all was normal again.

I’ve never had asthma in my life, and I don’t think it was exercise-induced because I exercise all the time and this has never happened before.

This article indicates that stress-induced asthma exists, but usually in combination with another trigger. I guess exercise + stress could count. I’m not going to give up exercise, though. I guess I’ll have to give up stress. Step 1? Keep to the north side of the street when I’m running on Brookside.

I would also like to express my appreciation for dog owners who teach their dogs the skills necessary to live in a human society, and who don’t leave their dogs bored and alone, tied up in a yard, with only innocent passing joggers to harass for entertainment. There are some very nice dogs in my neighborhood with very thoughtful, responsible owners. I wish all dog owners were that way.


Sweet Woodruff

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:23 pm

Did you know that there’s an herb out there that tastes like almonds/marzipan/amaretto? I HAD NO IDEA. How could the Earth be holding out on me like that?

Best of all, it’s a shade-loving ground cover that makes pretty little flowers. We have a shady lawn that could perhaps use some pretty little flower-based cover.

I ordered some. I would like to state for the record that I deeply love the internet. It told me about something that piqued my interest and gave me a method to purchase it. Now I am using the internet to tell you about it. And, if all goes according to plan, later this summer I’ll publish the pictures I plan to make Denny take of a delicious woodruff crème brulée.

Thanks to Delicious Days for bringing it to my attention.

ARCHIVE CHECK:  One year ago today, I was writing about herbs and cute babies.  I’m a surprise a minute. :/

Sushi + retraction

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:42 pm

Hey, all you parents who hope to instill a love of interesting food in your children (Danny, Jack, map, I’m looking at you), you could buy your kids this awesome toy sushi set.

Also: thanks to Jack for pointing out that the story I quoted from Canada’s National Post on Friday is actually a hoax. You’ll notice that the story has been pulled; the link I provided now goes nowhere. This site refutes the National Post‘s claim. So, for the time being, rest assured that Iran does not have plans to require Jews and Christians to wear color-coded (or as the Canadians would say, colour-coded) armbands. Also rest assured that anti-Arab propaganda lives on, even in gentle Canada.


Good old Leviticus

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:31 pm

There’s not much more annoying than zealots who use the Bible to justify prejudice against gay people (or worse, outright hatred or violence), and an oft-cited passage is Leviticus 18:22 (“Thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination,” which apparently lets lesbians off the hook, but that’s another conversation).

Frankly, Leviticus says most things are abominations. Here’s a cute breakdown:

“Dear Friend,

Thanks very much for reminding me that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states that homosexuality is an abomination. I would like some further advice, however, regarding some other laws and how to best follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as suggested in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus (Ex 35:2) clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, and if so, how should I do that?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or are correctable defects in vision excluded from the aforementioned proscription.?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm on which he violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field. His wife likewise violates Leviticus by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (a cotton/polyester blend). Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Leviticus 24:10-16). Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Leviticus 20:14)?

Thanks very much for your help, and thanks again for reminding us that God’sword is eternal and unchanging.”

In other awesome news, Iran is looking to pass a law that would require non-Muslims (specifically Iran’s Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian minorities) to wear colored strips of cloth on their clothing to identify themselves. Yay! (Source)
P.S. I was joking about the “yay.”

Friday Five

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:00 pm

Courtesy of Morgan

1.  Name your brand of deodorant / antiperspirant.  Would you (if it existed) get surgery to eliminate any sweat or odor from your underarm? 

I’ve been using Dove lately.  I find that when it blends with sweat, it doesn’t smell too bad.  I used Degree for years, which I basically liked, except it tended to make a weird smell when it blended with sweat.  It wasn’t B.O. exactly, just a strange combination.

No, I would not get such a surgery.  Sweating is good for you.  Besides, I don’t want to have a surgery that hasn’t been researched for decades.  You never know, armpit sweat glands could be the new tonsils.  People used to think that tonsils were no big deal to have taken out, but little did they know that intact tonsils are the key to telepathy.

I know what you’re thinking.  I know it in my throat.

2.  Which animal do you think you have a better chance of surviving an attack from?  (a) A rabid puma, (b) a Floridian alligator or (c) an ill-mannered sloth. 

Well, the sloth is the wimpiest, right?  Definitely not the rabid puma; I wouldn’t want a rabies bite or a puma bite separately, much less at the same time.  And I just read a story in the Onion about how alligators do not become more docile the more you drink, despite popular perception.  That leaves me with the sloth.

3.   If you found the following message on your car window after work: “We are watching you and we are not happy!” Whom would you suspect & why?
Denny and I drive to work together, so I’d probably assume he was the one who was being watched disapprovingly.  I would suspect that it’s his mortal enemy, but it’s pretty hard to imagine that he would have a mortal enemy.  He’s quite likeable.

I guess that just leaves me, then.  Hm.  It might be that undergrad I had to fire a year or so ago.

4.  Since no good food combination has been invented since Peanut Butter & Jelly, which two foods would you like to see enter in marital bliss? 

I disagree with the sentiment about PB&J being the only good food combination.  Have you forgotten about goat cheese and figs?  Beef and bleu cheese?  Chocolate and cinnamon?  Balsamic vinegar and strawberries?  Toffee and cayenne pepper?  If I had to invent a new one, though, I would invent Cheetos and fish.  Mmm…fish Cheetos.

5.    In the movie Back to the Future, Michael J. Fox uses a Van Helen music as a weapon of torture to persuade is father into asking out his mother.  What music would torture you? 

I really hate that Nickelback song (is it Nickelback?  It’s some angsty young man group.) about looking through a yearbook.  How pompous and boring is that song?  Very.


Just like that scene in Harry and the Hendersons

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:48 pm

Do you love unicorns?  Do you want to trick people into thinking you’ve killed one?

Look no further.

Bonus:  though it’s far from certain, it’s definitely implied that you ate the missing parts of the unicorn.


Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:14 pm

When in doubt, write haiku.

When I was in the Translation Workshop, this dude was translating haiku, and in workshopping with him, I learned that haiku does not actually have to follow the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. That’s just something that’s caught on in the west, apparently. A Japanese haiku is just a very short poem that is meant to capture a moment.

That said, half the fun of writing haiku is the 5-7-5 thing, and I don’t speak Japanese anyway, so I think I’ll go western-style here.

I smell Cheerios.
My blood sugar grows lower,
jealous of that food.

Old coffee in my
neglected old coffee mug
cultivated fur.

Iggy Pop: so thin!
Iggy Pop: he rocks me hard!
Cooler than talent.


Anna Sui for little old me?

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:09 pm

I’ve been searching for a dress to wear to this summer and fall’s weddings. There was one I really wanted from Anthropologie, but it sold out before I got around to ordering it. I find black so boring, and it seems like all the other beautiful dresses this season are white, which is obviously inappropriate for a wedding.

This Anna Sui dress is, at the moment, going for less than $100. It would retail for over $500. It’s a size or two bigger than I usually wear, but I contacted the seller for the measurements and from what she describes, I bet it would fit me. Maybe Anna Sui runs small or something. It’s so pretty, and it’s not black or white. It’s my fantasy that, while wearing it, I would look like Reese Witherspoon at the Golden Globes.

I’m trying to decide whether I should bid on it or not. Hrm. Maybe I will, but I’ll quit if it goes over $100.

Update: I got the dress for under a c-note, even including shipping.  Now we just wait and see if it fits.

Dancy dancy dance

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:27 pm

Check out my beautiful, famous mom!

Be sure to check out the photo gallery (link is right under the photo in that article). I do not yet have confirmation on this, but I suspect my dad took the pictures because they’re a) good, and b) uncredited.

I’ll be shaking my booty at my mom’s recital on Saturday, June 3, as part of the special “All alumni are invited on stage to dance at the end” 25th anniversary celebration.

I’m not making any promises here, but if you come, you stand a reasonable chance of seeing the mythical Beth Clarke Boob Shake. It’s named after her because she invented it, not because she’s necessarily going to do it.

But she might.

(Special thanks to Linds for drawing my attention to the article.)


It’s rhubarb time

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:18 am

Rhubarb is so great.  For a while there, I wanted to name a child Rhubarb.  I have since reconsidered about the name, but it’s still a wonderful vegetable.  It looks like celery, tastes like (extremely) sour apples, and has poison leaves.  Magical, I say.

When I was a kid, my mom had a recipe that I believe we got from our next door neighbor, Ruby, for Rhubarb Bars.  I called them Rhubarb Barbs and I loved them.  I still love them, come to think of it.   My Grammy and I used to make them when she’d come stay with my brother and me while my parents were occupied with recital photo weekend,and once I got big enough, I made them myself.
I found this recipe online that looks very similar to my mom’s.  I may have to make some of these soon, before the bountiful spring rhubarb goes bad.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 tsp soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup nuts
  • 3 cups of rhubarb, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1-3oz. pkg cherry Jell-O
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Mix rhubarb, sugar,cornstarch and water. Cook in a medium saucepan over medium heat until very thick.  Cool and add vanilla.
  2. Mix flour, oatmeal, butter, brown sugar, and baking soda together till crumbly.  Add nuts.
  3. Pat 2/3 of the mixture into 9 x13 pan. Spread cooled rhubarb mixture over crust and sprinkle the dry gelatin evenly over the rhubarb. Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top.
  4. Bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes until light tan color.


Wedding video

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:30 pm

I spent much of last week making a DVD of our wedding video for our moms’ Mothers Day gifts, but I couldn’t write about it so as not to ruin the surprise. If you’re interested in a small, grainy, low-quality web version (and who wouldn’t be, really? What’s more fascinating than someone else’s wedding video, especially a small, grainy, low-quality one?), go for it.

I did have fun messing around with iMovie. I could see myself nerding out on that hardcore. I’m going to be one of those obnoxious parents who makes iMovies of her child barfing and then gets mad when people don’t gush about how cute it is.

To my credit, I will add interesting sound effects and transitions. You’ll feel like you’re right in the same room with that barfing baby.
Wedding video


So tired

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:32 pm

Whoo, it’s been a busy week.  I’m exhausted.  I don’t know how my bosses think they’re going to squeeze another 49 minutes of work out of me today.

Iowa has such weird weather.  Spring graduation tomorrow, and it looks like it’s going to be 50 F and rainy.  When I graduated in December 1998, it was 50 and sunny.  I take no responsibility for you, Iowa.

We had some company reps from a product we use on campus today.  I always feel weirdly responsible for the weather when outsiders come.  The last time one of these people came to Iowa City, we had an ice storm.  At least they weren’t scheduled to come on Tornado Day.

This weekend we’re going to do the mother-centric Iowa tour, visiting DC’s family on Saturday and mine on Sunday.

Sometimes I feel like I should password protect posts, not because they’re especially scandalous, but because it would make them seem more glamorous.  I may just do that some day.  I’d like to see you stop me.


Anal-retentive item of the day

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:23 am

Here is something that bugs me:  the use of a comma in a sentence like “Brown shoes are what make me, me” (sic).

What?  Why would there be a comma in that sentence?  Let’s think of an analogous sentence: “Brown shoes are what make me a coalminer.”  It’s the same exact sentence, structurally, but no one would write “Brown shoes are what make me, a coalminer.”

I understand why in spoken language one might want to pause between the repeated words, because otherwise it sounds like “Brown shoes are what make Mimi.”  Still, just because you pause doesn’t mean there should be a comma there.

Next up: appostrophes do not signifiy plurality except in a few very unusual cases, people.

(I try not to be a prescriptive grammarian because I find it pompous and rude. I was just feeling a little ranty about it this morning.)

Somebody (hi, Sean!) told me the other day that he and another person we know were watching a movie with Julia Stiles in it, and she said something pleasant and reassuring, and the both said, “Aprille!”

I’ve been told a few times that I remind people of Julia Stiles (I think maybe more in voice and speech patterns than looks, although she’s lovely and I would take that as a compliment too), but Sean pointed out that it was the fact that she said something reassuring, which he said is something I do.

I was not aware that I do that.   I suppose it’s a nice enough thing to do, but it’s funny to be recognized for a characteristic I didn’t know I had.

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