Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Baking, Pie Edition

Pie is an extremely important holiday tradition in my family.  For Christmas, we have pie for breakfast, which growing up my siblings and I understood to be a tradition passed down from my father's family.  Then we mentioned this tradition to my aunt, who stated that they did no such thing.  So apparently my father just likes eating pie for breakfast, and told us it was tradition as an excuse.  Or possibly we finished baking the pies too late to eat them on Christmas Eve one year, and moved them to breakfast.  Either way, it is an excellent tradition.

This year, we had cherry, apple, and cranberry-apple pies (a cherry and apple are above).  I add brown sugar and cinnamon to my pie crust, which may interfere with the flakiness, but is much tastier that they standard flour, butter, water combination.  My husband and I did a repeat of the cherry pie for New Years, and will be testing it shortly.  And yes, cherry pie must have a cute little cat on it, and no, it is not at all easy to sculpt whiskers out of pie dough!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

193 Interviews . . . Transcribed!!!!

Which means, I am done with transcription. At least temporarily. Of course, I finished at my parents' house, and the celebratory mead was at my house. Then when I finally got to celebrate with it, it was sickeningly sweet. But I am done, and my foot pedal and intense earphones are packed away. Now there's just a dissertation chapter or two to write with all that data :-)

Holiday Baking Part 2

So this is posting a few days late, but since it is one of the best parts, I didn't want readers to miss out :-)

As I mentioned in the first post, Sandtarts are a traditional favorite in my family, as they were the cookies my father made growing up, and thus the ones he introduced us to when we were young and he was in charge of holiday baking.  They are like sugar cookies with a lemon flavor, and we hang them on our tree, as in the picture below (where the flash sadly blew out my careful striping of sprinkles on the tree cookie).

The recipe for these delightful cookies used to be the Joy of Cooking, but for some reason they removed it.  So here it is (and as much as I like chewy cookies, these are best rolled thin).

Beat until soft:
     3/4 cup butter
Add gradually and blend until creamy:
     1 1/4 cups sifted white sugar
Beat in:
     1 egg
     1 egg yolk
     1 teaspoon vanilla
     1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Sift before measuring:
     3 cups all-purpose flour
Resift with:
     1/4 teaspoon salt
Stir the flour gradually into the butter mixture until well blended.  The last of the flour may have to be kneaded in by hand.  Chill the dough several hours.
Preheat oven to 400.
Roll the dough until very thin.  Cut into shapes and place on greased cookie sheets.  
Brush the tops of the cookies with:
     The white of an egg
Sprinkle generously with sugar.
Bake about 8 minutes. 

That's all for now, as I am writing these overdue posts between interview analysis.  But stay tuned for the pies!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The new baby tractor gets into the Christmas spirit

Of course, this would be even funnier had I managed to capture myself, my brother, and my husband all taking picture with our iphones as my father drove it over.  But it's not every day you see a tractor full of presents!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Baking, Part 1

Baking is one of my favorite holiday traditions, in addition to one of my favorite adolescent activities, and more recently a way of convincing non-Americans that American baked goods do not in fact suck like the nastiness you can buy at the big chain grocery store.

The two cookies that make Christmas for me are Sand Tarts and Oatmeal cookies, which we've made ever since I was little.  The Oatmeal cookies are taken from the Quaker Oats recipe (which makes this Quaker a little grumpy as seeing that box also brings back memories of being teased about funny clothing, television, and horses as a child (um, we're not Amish)).  However, sometime during the Craisin Craze in the 90's, I decided that craisins would be a good substitute for raisins, and they have remained my favorite cookie ever since.

In addition to the staple cookies, I usually make a chip cookie and a spice cookie of some sort.  This year, my father requested Black Forest Cookies, which are basically chocolate chip cookies with dried unsweetened tart cherries (mail order in these parts).  Very tasty, although I would probably use an equal chocolate to cherry ratio, rather than slightly more chocolate.

Finally, my husband picked a ginger cookie recipe off the internet, and we finished off today's baking with that.  They're tasty, although I prefer a spicier cookie.

In addition to baking, I finished two transcriptions! Only five more to go! What a successful day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back to transcription!

I put an exclamation point in the title hoping it would make me excited for transcription.  It didn't work.  I have a mere ten more interviews to go, and am hoping to do one a day.  So far this has worked, except for the days when I've been grading finals, which seems reasonable.  Then I will be done, and can celebrate with the honey mead that has been mocking me from the fridge all semester.

Of course, refreshing my inbox every thirty seconds, and staring it trying to conjure up an email from a search committee also limits my productivity.  So far, I can only say that I am adept at conjuring up emails urging me to take advantage of last minute Christmas sales.

My legs hurt from a half-hour of split high-cutting last night, as well being consistently occupied by one of two lap-addicted cats.  On the other hand, the rest of dance class was spent choreographing to Christmas Carols for upcoming shows, which are turning out well.  

In addition to finishing transcription, I am hoping to finish a chapter of my dissertation over break.  This is the hardest, but also the most interesting chapter in my dissertation.  We'll see how it goes.

I may also do some baking updates, as now that I am back in the US, I have access to all my traditional American baking goods and ingredients.  Stay tuned for pies and cookies!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Five interviews and a Sri Lankan-Jewish-Korean wedding

That was my conference weekend.  Followed by a Skype interview today, which means I had exactly six hours (3.5 of which were spent teaching dancing) in which I was excited to be done interviewing, followed by the stress of knowing that in the next two weeks I will know whether or not I make it to various other stages of this process.

The wedding (my husband's cousin, although he is only two of those traditions) was excellent.  Especially as it was held in a library that looked like the Beast's in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast.  If only I hadn't been too exhausted for socialization.

Finally, here is an amusing and appalling story from the plane ride to this conference (since I am blonde, I can get away with reading Arabic on planes):

Woman sitting behind me: Are you originally a native speaker of English?
Me: Yes [Originally?]
Woman: But you're reading a book in a language that's not English
Me: It's a book of short stories by Ibrahim Aslan, an excellent Egyptian author [Haven't you heard of multilingualism, you idiot?]
Woman: Oh, I've always wanted to see the pyramids.
Me: Yes, they're amazing [Don't be mean to ignorant people, don't be mean to ignorant people . . . ]
Man from two rows down: Oh, you must be going to Area Studies Conference!
Me: Yes, I am [Thank you for saving me from this conversation!]

As it happens, here is a similar story from the last time I flew to this conference, and was grading homework on the plane:

Man passing down the aisle: What kind of funny language is that?
Me: Arabic [which has a much less funny orthographic system than English]
Man: Well, it sure isn't English!
Me: No, it's not [you moron]
Woman sitting behind me, as they man moves on: The ignorance of some people knows no bounds.  Are you going to Area Studies Conference?

Sometimes, I have the patience for these types of people, and will calmly explain that no, I do not speak hieroglyphics as a result of living in Egypt.  However, when I am stressed, short on sleep, and on my third plane ride in a two week period, it is all I can do to keep it short and civil.