Monday, June 30, 2008

Logan's Run meet Little Mermaid, Enya, with a twist of the Wizard of Oz

Every year, Ann Arbor hosts "Top of the Park," a summer festival held on the green strip of lawn in front of the graduate studies building. The festival includes music, vendors, movies, and - last Wednesday night - the heliosphere: an "enchanting outdoor spectacle of aerialist performers suspended from a larger-than-life helium balloon".

The event was set against the steely blue of a summer storm sky. The luminescent sphere ascended in changing greens, pinks, and purples. The metallic-white clad dancer, harnessed at the sphere's base, twirled to a meditative song that blasted through the park's sound system. She had a flower in her hair. It was bizarre and beautiful.

Of course, I forgot my camera. I lifted these from flickr. Thanks to the photographers, and katiewhitney.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Speaking of edibles... is by far the best website ever for recipes.

Things I have made from epicurious that have tasted fabulous:
- New York style pizza crust
- Mexican rice
- Granola
- Kebab marinade

Things I have made from epicurious that have not tasted fabulous:

p.s. I'm not a very good cook.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Family Goes Bananas

I have a feeling that this will only be amusing to the people who were involved in the conversation, but I couldn’t resist.

My sister sent an email out on Wednesday evening to me, my siblings, and my parents, to tell us about her recent promotion at work and update us on her cancer treatment. The next morning, I sent her a response and included a note about my experience with a banana that morning (we share a sensitivity disorder that makes it difficult to eat certain foods because our gag reflex suddenly kicks in – it can be weird and unpredictable – kind of like us, I suppose).

I meant to send the email just to her, because I didn’t think the rest of the family would really be interested in my bananas. But apparently I was wrong. I accidentally sent the email out to the whole family, and when I checked my email the next day the conversation thread was 17 messages long.

Here it is, parsed for concision, and anonymized.

SUBJECT LINE: FW: Promotion Announcement: [SISTER 1]
15 messages

June 18, 6: 57 PM

I must be insane for taking on more work but apparently, they know my price. …just three steps away from taking over the company. bwah ha ha

Btw, I know I told mom and dad, and I’m sure the word has spread about the non-spreading of my cancer. I keep meaning to send out a detailed email, but then get home and just go to sleep.

[details about cancer, hypoglycemic development, glucose levels, and insulin]

And that’s the news from Lake Woebegone.

June 19, 9:49 AM

Congratulations! You are insane, by the way. But I love you anyway. :) And that's good news about the cancer. We keep praying and hoping for the best.

I thought of you when I was eating my banana this morning and could only get down half of it b/c it was too ripe. When bananas are too ripe it kicks in our sensitivity disorder and I gag on them. Does that happen to you? People think I'm weird b/c I like bananas that don't taste too much like a banana (eg when they're green and have just a bit of crunch to them).

Love you!

9:53 AM

Yes, congrats! And the news about the cancer is what we've all been praying for!

As for bananas, there should be banana delivery, just like milk delivery. Because they're really only good the first day or two you bring them home. Then it's off to the mixing bowl to become bread or cookies. Luckily, [DAUGHTER] doesn't mind the ripe bananas so I can push them on her.

1:28 PM

That's great news [SISTER 1]!, hang in there. Do you have to give yourself insulin shots or is it some oral thing? And why the insulin at all, I thought it lowered blood glucose levels?

I also purchase but rarely actually eat bananas. And SISTER 3, bananas are a good source of fiber which is helpful post pregnancy to get things moving.

An alternate use for bananas from

Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

I see this doing more harm than good.

Also, here is another important banana site

I am going to make this when I get home, feel free to join with me.
Choc Monster
1 banana, peeled
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 cup milk
2 scoops chocolate
or vanilla ice cream
A fast food treat the kids will go bananas over.
Blend all ingredients until smooth.
Serve immediately sprinkled with extra cocoa.

1:35 PM

If bananas are a good source of fiber, why was I told to avoid giving [DAUGHTER] bananas for her constipation issues?

2:38 PM

[SISTER 1], great news about the diminishing cancer. I am so relieved that
your news of late has been more positive with the exception of the
hypoglycemia. Does that mean you get to take snacks to church?

Funny that bananas should come up. I'm reading a great book which I
highly recommend to all of you if you haven't read it already. It's
called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. (First book in the Thursday
Next series). Just yesterday I read this sentence: "You can pick it
well before ripe, transport it thousands of miles if necessary and it
will keep fresh in its own hermetically sealed biodegradable packaging.
Nutritious and tasty, too."

So those brown spots are called sugar spots, pretty sure they're called
mold by my kids (I threw two "moldy" bananas away yesterday). I too
have a problem with bananas that are soft and for some reason I usually
can't eat a whole one. There comes that point where I know the next
bite is going to make me gag. And, thanks to [SISTER 1]’s tales from
Ecuador I can no longer eat the top or bottom of the banana. Still,
they're a great snack and I find myself throwing one in every smoothie
I make. For mother's day I got a sweet new blender, yesterday I noticed
that the display said I'd used it 79 times (goodbye otter pops, hello
smoothies). Tonight we'll have to try [BROTHER 1]’s Choc Monster recipe.

3:12 PM

While bananas are fantastic and delicious and have more fiber than a donut, they don't have as much fiber as some other fruits, like apricots and such. Maybe this is why they were not recommended. I saw a couple crazy websites that were sure that bananas cause constipation but I couldn't find anything in the medical literature. Bananas have about 1.6g of fiber for a med sized banana. Apricots can have like 5+g of fiber.

There really is not that much evidence to support saying that increasing fiber will actually reduce constipation in children. There was one study in 99 published in the Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, which concluded that "lack of fiber may play an important role in the etiology of chronic idiopathic constipation in children." But according to DynaMed there is only midlevel evidence to support this.

In a study done in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology entitled "The perceived effect of various foods and beverages on stool consistency" they found that German people most often attributed their constipation to Chocolate, bananas and black tea. Is your doctor German?

3:16 PM

Who needs PubMed when we have [BROTHER 1]?
Would that mean you might be constipated after having a Choc Monster?

3:25 PM

Wait, did I only send that to [SISTER 3]? What is a choc monster? It sounds more like a diarrhea inducer.

Crap!, apparently there is more fiber in a chocolate cake donut than in a banana.

3:40 PM

One word: Dulcolax

I've been missing out on a great banana conversation. Work is already overswamping. It's great fun to do two jobs for the price of one right now. :-|

So, first the banana responses. They're best when picked directly from the plant. That’s the only time they taste like an actual banana, or guinello as we say in the old country. ...and [SISTER 4] is right, you have to watch out for the spiders. They’ll come crawling right out of the end of that banana, so watch carefully as you slowly peel back that skin! hehehe It absolutely makes me gag to eat a banana that has, as Dad calls them, flavor spots, and yes, [SISTER 2], I’ll attribute it to our sensitivity disorder. I also can’t stand eating a banana that isn’t ripe enough. You know, when you bite in and there is that bitter taste that somehow embeds itself in your tongue and you can’t get rid of the taste no matter how much apple juice you drink? I like eating the little baby bananas because they’re equivalent to about 1/3 of a regular sized banana. And, at the first sign of a flavor spot, into the blender the go with a some milk and a little cinnamon. Mmmm (to be eaten with a toasted/grilled/fried cheese sandwich)

About the sugar, I think I meant to type glucose, but I must have insulin on the mind b/c I have to go pick it up today. [more info about monitoring sugar levels, advice to SISTER 2 about monitoring hers, and new product to diminish “skin tabs”]

3:55 PM

Yes, what is a choc monster?

3:56 PM

…and it just so happens that as you were typing away, I was eating the perfect banana.

3:56 PM

I knew donuts had to be good for something.

3:58 PM

Let me quote from a previous [BROTHER 1] message... (the one with the banana stage pictures).

[Quote from BROTHER 1 about Choc Monster]

9:15 PM

This is the most hilarious chain I have read in a long time. I can't believe the whole family has so much to say about bananas. The Choc Monster has replaced that weird peanut butter/chocolate goolash [BROTHER 1] used to make as a young one....remember his chocolate experiments? This seems rather reasonable and delicious.

[SISTER 2], go get your blood sugar tested. You could have hypoglycemia as well.
[BROTHER 1], I can't believe it, but I actually understood most of what you wrote about! Amazing what a college degree will do!
[SISTER 1], get me some of that skin tab medicine. I'll be the guinee pig; and just wait, you'll all get skin tabs one day.
[SISTER 3], give Amelia an apricot and a chocolate donut for breakfast.
[SISTER 4], what kind of blender did you get? that one like Stephanie's that grinds up metal?
[DAD], we will have 5 ripe bananas when you return from your scout trip, so I'll get out the cookie sheets.

I love this family! We must have won the lottery in the council in heaven!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Prepare to feel squeamish

Like most people, I have had several inconvenient and uncomfortable run-ins with creepy, crawly things in my life. Like the time I was putting my shoes on to go to church and my bare toes crunched into a dead cockroach lodged in the toe of my shoe. Or the time I shared my bed with a scorpion (ouch!).

Well, last night as I was laying down in bed, I felt something tickle my back underneath my undershirt. I thought it was probably just the shirt fabric, but then it tickled again, and then I felt a little pinch, and THEN I yelped and slapped at my back. When I shook my shirt, several long, feathery legs fell to the sheets. I looked at the inside of my shirt and saw THIS, squashed up.

A house centipede. The creepiest house-dwelling thing known to man. Crawling around my back for who knows how long, now smushed up in my undershirt with its thousand legs scattered across my bed sheets.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

E is for Efficiency

For my birthday the first year we were married, Abe made me a crossword puzzle. One of the clues was an 10-letter word for "_____ is Erin's middle name". Some of you may know that I don't have a middle name, so this had to be some clever pun or reference. The answer was Efficiency. It's something Abe has noticed about me and teased me relentlessly about - and something that I never knew was, well, different from other people.

I mean, doesn't everyone always start their errands by making a driving route that optimizes distance traveled. And haven't other people planned their meals out for a 4-month period, came up with accompanying grocery lists, and printed them out to take with them every week when they went to the store. Because, you know, it would be faster to do it all at one time then to have to re-think the list each week.

I like to be efficient. And I'm very good at it. Have you ever read "Cheaper by the Dozen"? The father in the book is an efficiency expert, and he basically indoctrinates his family with his obsession. In one chapter, the mother makes a trip back home. While there, she has a list of old family friends to visit. She goes out in the morning and comes back just a few hours later, with all her visits finished. She greets her own mother and says "Well, that just took a few hours. Look how efficient I was able to be!" And the mother replies, "Yes - perhaps too efficient, dear."

I'd like to think that usually my efficiency makes the world a better place. I think it did today. At 4:15 I started packing for our move. I had until 5:30. In that time, I managed to:
- exhume our old moving boxes from our storage unit next door
- clean dirty dishes that needed to be packed (order is important here, because of course I needed to do this step early so the dishes had time to air-dry)
- make a list of all of the kitchen items we would absolutely need to survive the next 4 days of pre-planned food (2 bowls, 2 plates, 4 forks & spoons, 2 knifes, 1 sharp knife, 1 can opener, Tupperware, 2 cookies sheets, 1 large pan, 1 sauce pan, 1 rice cooker & paddle, and 1 turner)
- pack all of the breakable kitchen items into non-breakable positions in their boxes
- pack everything else in the kitchen except food and the aforementioned essentials

Oh, and make the pizza dough that needs to be refrigerated for a day before making it. (Note: need to blog about my adventures trying to make New York style pizza).

I know. I'm good. It's sick sometimes.

My living room with boxes, ready to be attacked by my packing efficiency.

One hour later. Bwah ha ha!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

House: Phase 1

We've been trying to make our apartment a little more like a home and a little less like a dorm room. We searched Target, Kohls, Macy's, and trying to find a slip cover for our couch that was a little less...bold...than the original fabric. Target was the winner, in Stretch Ribbed Blue Steel.

After finding the right cover, I poured through my supply of interior design books trying to figure out good color schemes and furniture arrangements for our new condo (14 days until the move!). It's a little embarrassing, but I actually hunted down the condo floor plan and made a model of the condo in PowerPoint with scaled furniture pieces to figure out furniture arrangements and colors.

So after all that, I went to Joann's fabrics and got our accent colors - let's hear it for dark blue and canary yellow - for pillows. Luckily I can sew somewhat straight lines, so the pillows turned out okay. Don't look too closely at one of the yellow ones, or you'll notice that one of the corners is skewed. Still working on those straight lines. One of my few memories of 6th grade includes my Home Ec teacher scolding me for pressing the peddle to hard on my sewing machine. I was making a pink pig pillow case.

Up next in House: Darling Dove, Champagne Waltz, or Puffy Shirt - which off-white is right for me? and Selling leftover wedding gifts on craigslist to augment our home budget