Another dessert

We’ve all become very enamored of an Australian television show called Little Lunch. This mockumentary-style show focuses on a group of six twelve-year-olds and what they do during “little lunch” (a sort of recess+snack time) at school. One episode is about a dessert called a Pavlova. So of course we had to make one. (And by  “we” I mean Jan prepared the meringue and whipped cream, and Sylvia was in charge of prepping and arranging the fruit. My job was to eat.)



A literary dessert

Whenever my book group meets at my house, my in-house baker prepares a thematically appropriate dessert.

For last week’s discussion of The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, by Pico Iyer, he made this lemon-cranberry tart (with a hazelnut cookie crust) that’s the color of the Dalai Lama’s robes.



Here come the peas!

I love the newness of my garden in the spring.



I <3 this so much


I recently received a Starbucks Verismo machine as a gift. It makes single servings of espresso and coffee and claims to make frothed milk to accompany said espresso. (I say “claim” because the result is probably the worst frothed milk–in terms of both texture and taste–that I have ever encountered.) When it comes to coffee, I’m still very much a French press kind of person. So for me, the Verismo is exclusively an espresso machine. Fortunately, it actually makes pretty good espresso.

The problem is that it uses pods. I really, really, really hate the amount of waste that pods produce. I loathe Keurig machines for that reason, but at least sometimes there are options to use third-party refillable pods in those (at least until Keurig changes their DRM again to block them). But the Verismo uses only disposable pods. No one has created a fillable one–so I decided to do it myself. You can do it, too. Here’s how.

First, you need a sharp paring knife and some new Verismo pods that have been used once. IMG_0491

Remove and discard the foil “lid” of the pod. You want to cut as close as possible to the plastic rim of the pod. Dump the used grounds into your compost bin, wash out the pod, and set it aside to dry. IMG_0492

Use a 2.5″ hold punch (available from craft supply stores–I got mine at Michael’s) to cut circles of aluminum foil. The first time I tried this, I just cut foil squares with scissors. But using the punch is so much faster, and you end up with circles that are the perfect size for this use–not so large as to have a bunch of excess foil that could jam the pod in your machine, and not so small as to fail to cover the top of the pod completely and securely. IMG_0495

Once the pods are dry, it’s time to (re)fill them! I’ve found that the most efficient method is to hold the pod in your fingertips, put your hand right into the bag of ground espresso, scoop the espresso into the pod, and use your thumb to tamp it down. Doing all of this right in the bag (rather than dumping the espresso into a bowl or other container) minimizes the mess. IMG_0496

Center the foil circle on the top of your pod. Use two fingers (spread apart) of one hand to press down on the top of the rim (so the foil doesn’t shift) while you use the fingertips of your own hand to fold the foil under the edge of the rim. I keep my “crimping” hand at 3 o’clock and rotate the pod, not my hand, as I fold the foil. IMG_0502

Here’s a side view of a (refilled) and (re)covered pod. IMG_0503

And here are a bunch of pods, all ready to bring caffeinated goodness into the world! IMG_0504

The pods come in boxes of 12. My machine came with one box, and I had to refill them every few days. So I bought another box to bring my pod total up to 24, and I’m finding that works great for my household. Our mainstay is French press coffee, and we use the Verismo machine when only one person wants a coffee drink. At this rate, we’re washing and refilling the pods about once a week.

(As for the milk, we got a small, manual, stainless steel frother. It is perfect for our needs, cleans up easily. and has no electronics that might get gunked up. We love it.)


Lopi sweater

I finished the colorblock sweater I started (and ripped and restarted) back in November!


I am 95% happy with it. The sleeves are a little more snug than I’d prefer. But because knitting sleeves onto a top-down sweater is such a pita (having to pause frequently to rotate the sweater body so the whole thing doesn’t get all twisted up), I’d like to avoid redoing them if possible. Here’s hoping that blocking can save the day!


Blizzard Jonas 2016

“Snowblowers?! We don’t need no stinking snowblowers!”




Mourning the loss of a friend


Last week, my friend Nancy Abelmann died. I am feeling this loss keenly and have wanted to write about but for a while wasn’t sure what to say or how to say.

Nancy was my advisor in graduate school and the first person who made me feel that I was a scholar with something important to say. She was an incredibly generous scholar and mentor who spent countless hours helping me hone my grant proposals to the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, encouraged me during the dissertation-writing process (even after I moved far away), and was totally supportive of my decision not to finish my Ph.D. (and would have been equally supportive if I’d decided to complete it). As both a friend and a mentor, she was a huge influence in my life, and I’m sure I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t known her.

I last saw Nancy in person right before I moved to Pennsylvania about a decade and a half ago. We kept in touch, though, especially during the past four years as first Bill (my friend and one of my committee members, and one of Nancy’s closest friends) and then she were struck by cancer. This past fall, she did not have much energy for extensive communication, so we exchanged haiku.

She had been very forthcoming about her illness and treatment, sending out updates via e-mail and Caring Bridge, so this final event in her journey doesn’t really come as a surprise. One small consolation is that she knew how much she was loved: she was incredibly supported by local friends and family, and her far-flung connections, too, reached out with whatever support they could offer from afar. (One former student—and friend and former colleague of mine—even flew in from Korea for three days to be with her at the end.)

But it’s still hard to accept that she’s no longer here. She was (as many people have described her) “a force of nature,” and I’m sure she will be long (and fondly) remembered both professionally and personally.

It has been amazing to read the tributes about her over the past week, from all corners of the world—universities, former students, colleagues, academic units, publishers, neighbors, friends.  She had a direct positive impact on so many people! She truly made the world a better place.

(This video was made by Nancy’s daughters and posted a few days ago.)


Mystery lemon

Is giving giant* lemons with the next year’s date written on them some New Year’s Eve tradition that I just haven’t heard about before?



One of the guests at our New Year’s Eve party brought this decorated lemon. (I didn’t know about it until after he left, and he isn’t someone I know (he’s the friend of a friend who was invited), so I can’t really contact him to ask.

*Seriously, this thing is the size of a small grapefruit!


Happy New Year!

 We welcomed 2016 with about 100 friends crammed into our house! Actually, we welcomed it twice: we always toast with everyone at midnight GMT (the very family-friendly hour of 7 p.m. EST), and then again at midnight EST with whoever is still here (which ended up being about 20 people this time).

There’s a lot of food (all vegetarian), a lot of beer (thanks to the six-tap keg freezer in our garage), and lots of music.

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We had a scheduled concert at 5 featuring various friends performing different songs and everyone joining together at the end for a rousing rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (damn straight we demanded our figgy pudding, too!). And there was plenty of other impromptu singing and noodling around on the piano and ukuleles as well.
What fun! And how lucky we are to know so many wonderful people! I’m confident that 2016 will be a very happy new year indeed!
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