10.21.2010

Bridges

My brother, Jordan, sent me this link of incredible, awesome photos of the new bridge at Hoover Dam. Do yourself a favor today and check them out.

Speaking of bridges, look at this incredible functional, green and aesthetically gorgeous bridge to be built in Korea over the River Han. Designers are really tapping into form, function, sunlight, space, glass, and the Jetson's.








All photos credit: Planning Korea


Keep swimming,
Ms Fish

PS: You can read more about the bridge here. Or here.

10.20.2010

Road to State Cup

Soccer has been a huge part of our family's life. Well, actually it has been a huge part of Otto and Andy's life. The rest of us have just tagged along for the rollercoaster ride. Over 11 years, I have watched hundreds of hours of soccer.

I still can't analyze the game very well. I'm starting to figure out offsides. And I know that when the ball goes into that net thing below, it is either very good or very bad. And I know that these boys look pretty handsome when standing in front of it. Especially with their victory faces!


This game was to get into the quarter finals...the boys played their guts out against Sparta and tied 1-1.


The next game (below) was on Tuesday, Oct. 19. We squeaked out a win (in part thanks to the incredible acrobatics and heroics of our keeper) in double overtime: 2-1 against the mighty Rangers who were tenacious. 

After each game, our team circles together. To do the male bonding thing. And talk about how great they are. Which is really smart of them...because they ARE great.

that's andy...right there in the center (#3)

Photo credit: Cindi

Photo credit: Cindi

This photo above is one of my FAVORITE moments of every game. After the sportmanship hand-shakes with the refs and the other team, all the boys start from the opposite side of the field and jog across to where the parents are spectating. And the boys clap for US.

At that moment, I envision that they are saying,

"thank you so much for all the hundreds thousands of dollars you have spent on my soccer, and for sweating and freezing through countless hours of games to support me, and for smelling my dirty socks."

But really they are thinking, "ok..now what is to eat?"

Despite what is in going through their head, I just love it when they do that traditional run across the field towards us and clap thing...it is always a touching moment. Either because I'm an old softy or because it really is a touching moment.

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So far, the Fire FC has traveled over 1800 miles (made 3 trips to Orem) and played 4 hard-fought games to make it this far in the tourny (knocked out Arsenal, Forza, Sparta A, Rangers).

Tomorrow, we'll rack up another 600 miles. My husband and I (and the team) will travel [again] to Orem for the semi-final game against Sparta B. My stomach is already gearing up: it feels like there is a hamster spinning on a wheel inside it.

If When we win, we play for the State Cup championship (this is a BIG deal...a really BIG deal) in the REAL stadium in Sandy, Ut. How cool would that be?

I know winning isn't everything and that it's all about teamwork and lessons learned and....

Oh, who am I kidding? I want to win!!! Have I mentioned this is kinda a big deal?

Plus, victory is like being wrapped in a warm blanket of awesome.

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Keep swimming, and wish us luck!
Ms. Fish

PS:  BIG thanks to our coach, Travis Wilkinson, and his wife for the financial contributions as well as the countless, selfless hours of training and organizing that they donate to the team. They are the biggest reason for the team's success.

10.19.2010

The Storm Before the Calm: Conclusion

Cut, coughing, choking for air, exhausted AND now burned,  I finished caramelizing the onions, and added liquor to my grocery list.

Just kidding about the alcohol. I don't drink and never will. But I confess, there are times I'm tempted!

On Thursday night, when I shimmied into the sheets, I became all Scarlett O'hara-ish and thought, "tomorrow is another day" Actually what I really thought is, "tomorrow will be a better day." I felt hopeful and grateful for a clean slate. But when I woke up early on Friday, tomorrow had turned into today. Since it was no longer tomorrow, hope stayed in bed.

I wanted to.

But, I got up and took the rolls out of the fridge, burped the lid and punched down the dough.... as if I were channeling my inner Ali. I then left it on the table to acclimate, and wiped out the mounds of ash in my oven from the bake-off the night before.

Time to tackle the cheesecake. Now cheesecakes are finicky little things. They must treated with care or they crack. Sorta like me at the moment.

So, I took all the precautions and followed the recipe exactly. Except'n that I forgot to cook the crust. Just poured the cheese base right into it. (Which is the norm in some recipes, so it isn't a HUGE faux pax...but still, I prefer my crust a little crusty.)

While the cheesecake was baking, I assembled the cake and frosted it. NO mishaps. Ta-da!!!

Now the caramel: I tried a new recipe. WHY? Who in heavens knows. I have a recipe that I love, love and like a good marriage, have figured out the recipe's little quirks and learned how to work around them.  But in my smoggy stupor....I became a traitor... a caramel traitor, choosing a foreigner, which seemed easier than the homeboy. I stirred, watched, stirred, watched, stirred, watched, stir.... my son asked me a question.... turned my head and didn't stir, didn't watch for 30 seconds. That's when the creamy amber colored caramel turned to creamy burnt amber. I quickly removed it from the stove. It looked golden and beautiful. It was the perfect consistency. But it tasted like..... uh.....let's see, if my tongue could accurately identify tastes now that my tastebuds were completely singed right off of my tongue from inpatience....like smoked butter....

That will never do. I pride myself on delicious caramel. Plus this caramel didn't have the depth, the creaminess to it that my old standby recipe has. MY old standby. MY recipe that is not mine at all, but rather my dear neighbor's, Mrs. Lawson, whose caramels wrapped in little pieces of wax paper were the highlight of my childhood Christmas culinary cache every year. I was waxing nostalgic. I didn't have time to wax nostalgic. But I waxed anyway.

I shook my head, mumbled "you are insane, Ms. Fish" and added [more] cream onto my grocery list. 

After my son returned from a store run, I began making the new caramels: stirring, watching, stirring, watching. Then I went to the sink to wash some dishes. ONLY because these caramels offer more freedom...they take over 40 minutes to cook and require the attention of a teenager...check-in now and then, but don't smother. That other stuff was like a toddler....needing you there every second. Abandoning the cooking caramel to do the dishes will be fine, people. They won't burn. I leave these caramels all the time. They are big boys. They can handle it. I know what I'm doing!

Uh...huh! I glanced over at the stove just as the creamy, sugary mixture was rolling over the top of the pan and slinking down the sides like hot magma. I shrieked. I ran. I turned off the heat. Then stood frozen and helpless at the stove, watching as the tan liquid transformed immediately to a black solid upon contact with the burner. Surprise! I had forgotten the cardinal #1 rule in making Mrs. Lawson's caramels: use my humongous heavy pot with high sides, cuz the caramels froth and bubble like a witch's brew.

One side of my pristine stove was now a burned, hardened, syrupy, sticky, stained charbroiled mess. My stove will never be the same.

Seeing (and hearing) the look on my face, my teenage son, Otto, and his friend immediately jumped up to help me. While I tried to salvage the caramel mixture, Eric and Otto scraped and scrubbed and worked on the stove. And for the rest of the day, until the guests arrived, they offered their services.... "what do you need now, mom?" It was enough to make me want to cry. They were so sweet and awesome.

The rest of the day, the three of us worked together: cleaning the kitchen, mowing the grass, sweeping the patio and front porch, cleaning the patio chair cushions, setting the table, preparing the cheese plate, making cucumber and radish sandwiches, rolling out and baking the rolls, cooking the beans, re-warming the potatoes, wrapping the pears in prosciutto, and getting out the serving platters.

My time simply ran out. When the guests arrived, many of the last minute things were undone like taking out the butter and honey butter to soften to room temp, finish preparing the drinks, put the sodas on the table, assemble the green salad, chop the apples for the pork dish, or turn on my Pandora playlist. The scene which greeted my friends was not at all what I had planned or envisioned. Yes, my good intentions gang aft agleyed.

My friends simply thought I was running a little behind or disorganized. That's why I call them smarty pants. What my friends didn't know is that I had about turned to drinking, ruined my stove, spent a small fortune on extra trips to the grocery store, lost 2 wonderful measuring cups, and almost curled into a catatonic ball on the floor with a sign on my front door that said, "party moved to Olive Garden."

But when my friends came, I perked up and did what any good friend would do: started ordering them around. And they cheerfully went right to work.

Once that happened, the rocky road I took to get to the party melted into a smooth chocolate superhighway, and the rest of the story sweetened.

I sighed and added thank-you cards onto my grocery list.

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One more word regarding microwave ovens. If you have any concerns about the color and texture of your food, the ability to identify it, the re-usability of your dishes, or the air quality in your kitchen, I strongly recommend that you do NOT....I repeat.... do NOT attempt to make sugared bacon in the microwave.

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And now you know the rest of the dreary story. Lemony Snicket would be proud.

Keep swimming!
Ms. Fish

PS: Watch for my upcoming cooking classes to be held soon (haha...just kidding....just a little Halloween horror joke!)

PPS: Am I the only one with days like these?

 

10.18.2010

The Storm Before the Calm: Part I

Warning! If you are looking for happiness, inspiration and utopia, click here.

Because trust me, you won't find that below. All you will get here is a series of unfortunate events, sans Count Olaf. If you keep reading, I trust you have a good reason, though I have no idea what that might be. I can only hope that a little glimmer of good will come from it. I think....as usually happens with tragedy... there are valuable lessons to be learned....

...like never let Ms. Fish into your kitchen!

You see, I do what I can to make you feel good about your own skillz. I like to call it: feeling capable by comparison.

Now....here is the story:

I planned this party with as much detail as a space shuttle take-off. Many of the preparations would be done in advance, including making the rolls and desserts the day before. So...on Thursday, the day before the party,  I woke up early and took out my Bosch mixer to begin the rolls.

Now I need to stop right here and interject a side note. I only do this because it is important to the unfolding chain of events. Or maybe I am simply stalling in having to confess what happens next. Anyway, over the last month, I have been cleaning every nook and cranny of my house, so I was excited to cook and bake and create in my sparkly clean / organized kitchen. My stove and oven hadn't been so clean since they were in the appliance womb.

Ok, now back to the rolls. Actually, the rolls rolled along without a hitch. The dough was put into the fridge to raise overnight. For the rest of the day, I roasted, peeled and sliced beets, toasted pecans with sea salt and pepper, made Roquefort dressing, reduced balsamic vinegar to a glaze, fried bacon, made magical Buttercream frosting (a long process), cut butter slices into shapes of leaves, washed water spots off my crystal, made mashed sweet potatoes, whipped up honey butter, and attempted to make candied orange slices (to garnish the cake). The candied orange slices, which I had babied along for over 30 minutes, were going really well until the last 2 minutes when the sugar, without any warning, progressed very quickly through various shades of brown, ending with a brown-black color that attached itself with such fervor to my pan that it took 30 minutes of hard scrubbing to get it clean.

Throwing away the hardened sticky mess, I added gumdrop orange slices onto my grocery list.

By 8:00 pm, I was ready to start baking the chocolate cake. By now, I had a pile of both clean, washed dishes on my sideboard, and a stack of dirty dishes on the other side of the sink...so things were a little crowded. Reaching for my measuring spoons among a pile of clean dishes, I knocked my plastic 4-cup measuring cup off the counter and it split open. I had to chuck it. Next, I grabbed my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. It slipped from my hands and crashed to the tile floor that always wins in a war against glass. The Pyrex shattered and sprayed glass everywhere like a sprinkler. I wouldn't be surprised if my neighbors find tiny glass shards in their house. I picked up a large piece of glass and it sliced open my finger. I spent the next 20 minutes bleeding, applying pressure, sweeping and vacuuming, finding glass in the most unlikely places.

After dumping what I hoped was the last dusting of glass into the garbage, I added measuring cup onto my grocery list.

Finished with the batter, I placed the 2 round cake pans into the oven, and finally plopped down to eat some cucumbers and cottage cheese... the first time I had eaten anything or sat down all day. "Hmmm," I thought, gratefully crunching away....."these cucumbers have a little smoky flavor".... "Wait a minute...cucumbers aren't supposed to be smoky." What??? SMOKY!!!

I looked over to see smoke dancing from the oven. I ran over, opened the door and saw black batter drippings glowing like lit charcoal all over the racks and the bottom of the oven. I turned on the fan, opened all the windows and doors, and braced myself for the fire alarm. What could I do but let the cakes finish baking... and gasp for air in the London smog.

My pristine oven now looked and smelled like the inside of a boxcar. So after the cakes were done baking, I turned on the oven's self-cleaning mechanism, which takes 2 hours, and gives our home the hazy atmosphere of a 70's nightclub. Added to that, my kitchen was now buzzing with flies. (Remember...the open doors). Great! Now my house is like a dingy club. In Tijuana. A club in Tijuana with a sink full of dirty dishes. A club in Tijuana with a sink full of dirty dishes and tiny specks of glass hiding in nooks and crannies. A club in Tijuana with a sink full of dirty dishes, specks of glass hiding, and a party in less than 24 hours.

Since my oven was now out of commission, I would have to make the cheesecake tomorrow, the actual day of the party, which was pushing it because cheesecakes need time to sit and firm up and percolate and meld flavors and all that sort of stuff. Although it was late and I was battered, I decided to squeeze in one more task: making caramelized onions for the appetizer. (This process takes at least 30-40 minutes to reach a good caramelization.)

Reaching down into the drawer under the oven to get the frying pan, I didn't think about it being of the same piece of metal CONNECTED to the oven which was blasting away at 500 degrees....

Cut, coughing, choking for air, exhausted AND now burned,  I finished caramelizing the onions, and added liquor to my grocery list.

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Stay tuned for the worsening conclusion!

Keep swimming,
Ms. Fish

10.15.2010

The Storm before the Calm: Intro


A good intention is like a newborn baby: good and pure. A symbol of hope. But beware and don't be bumboozled. When you least expect it, and often at the most inoportune times, those sweet, innocent, kissable, squeezable, baby-powder smellin', backside cheeks can deliver a stinky blowout!!

I experienced this last weekend. No, I didn't have a baby, thank goodnes. I had my equivalent of a stinky blowout that started innocuously enough as a pile of good intentions. Robert Burns said it best:

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men

Gang aft agley.


So, when Pollyanna took over my alter ego and wrote about our fab five party here, that was only half of it.

Stay tuned for............the rest of the story!



See you in a while, crocodile.

Keep swimming,
Ms. Fish

10.12.2010

Ode to Autumn and Good Friends + Fall Party Ideas

We gather with our spouses once a year. It's not easy for the Misters. But being the good men that they are, they indulge us.

See how happy the men are!

Because when we five women get together, our conversations mostly revolve around blood, bodily functions, bloody bodily functions (i.e. periods) and words that end in -ology.  And since we are two months shy of getting our doctorate degrees, we can't help talk about statistics and dissertations, instructors we don't like, and stories of five women in one hotel room that are far too personal to discuss in public. But we do anyway.

Bless our men. They act like they are listening, breaking in with an occasional courtesy laugh, or comment. But I've seen their clandestine checking of the clock, watching it with as much interest as if it were a racehorse holding their $800 wager.

Actually, this year, the men (and by MEN here I mostly mean Lance) chimed in with important things to say...like how great APPLE computers are. As the lone Apple crusader, I've been waiting for this type of support for four years! Monte and Amanda came out too (proud new owners of the iPad). That opens the door for others to feel safe and reveal their secret love of the silicon fruit as well. Stay tuned for next year's party....


Lance and Jenni talk Mac smac. Finally someone has seen the light!

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For me, one of the funnest parts of hosting a party is the planning and preparation. Hey, I'll use any excuse to read recipes. After reading enough recipes to fill a book the size of Gone With the Wind, I finally settled on some tried-n'-true favorites and a few newbies. Both the menu and table settings were a definite ode to the colorful, crisp days of Autumn and her delicious bounty!

Appetizers


Photo credit: thefoodaddicts.com
Mini Cucumber and Radish Sandwiches on Pumpernickel
Artisan cheese plate with dried cherries and water crackers
Proscuitto Wrapped Pear with Caramelized Onions and Parmesan Cheese
Kettle corn
Marcona almonds

Salad



Romaine and Roasted Beet Salad with Roquefort Dressing

Main Course

Pork Tenderloins with Apple Cider Sauce
Vanilla Infused Mashed Sweet Potatoes
French Green Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions
Homemade Rolls with Whipped Honey Butter

Dessert




Chocolate Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Sour Cream Topping and Roasted Pecans

Drink

Sparkling White Grape Juice
Mexican Coca-Cola (in honor of our trip together to Boliva...everyone went except Amanda)

made with real cane sugar

Gotta love George. We can eat outside in the middle of October!
 

This table runner has great significance. I got it in Peru. It symbolizes the wonderful strength and unity of women.

How about the color of those red pears? GORGEOUS!!






The men do the dishes. It's a beautiful site.  But not for Monte. He is trying to shoot them the evil eye.

Lance handwashed my crystal. Whatta sweet guy!!

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Most of us in the group are teetotalers. So no alcohol was served. However, when I crawled into bed after the party, I was drunk! Intoxicated from good food, laughter, and the love and support of dear friends who know me well, and yet miracously, love me anyway!

Looking forward to another year of friendship and already CAN'T WAIT for next year's partay! The Doctors and their spouses will reunite for more Mac Smac and some serious laugh-ology.


My BFF's: bright, capable, accomplished, strong women

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Now that the party is over, I just have one burning question: any ideas how to remove wax from the table runner?


Keep swimming,
Ms. Fish

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