Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hump Day Hacks

Happy Wednesday! Two clever tips caught my eye this week.

How to remove oil stains


Ever dripped olive oil on your clothes, or is it just me? I recently read that one surprising item will remove the stains if you act quickly.

The usual go-to’s are dish soap and laundry detergent, which break down oil. The surprise: aloe vera. You simply soak the stained area in water and rub the gel into the stain. Next, hand-wash the piece and allow it to air-dry.

My question: if you’re hand washing with soap anyway, who’s to say the aloe vera made the difference? But, worth a try if you already have it in the house!

How to keep white sneakers white


Unlike when I was a kid, pristine sneakers are the desired look these days. And the best way to keep them white is to wash them in the washing machine.

Step 1: The night before, sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of baking soda on the outside and inside of your shoes. Be sure to dust it off before you wash them.

Step 2: Remove shoelaces, place in a pillowcase or wash bag and put them in the washer. Taking the laces out of your sneakers makes sure they get totally clean and no remaining dirt stays caked on under the holes.

Step 3: Use a shoe brush or old toothbrush to remove any loose dirt before you put your (lace-less) shoes in the washer.

Step 4: Next, add several towels. The towels act as a buffer between the shoes and the washer, preventing them from getting too knocked around or damaged during the wash cycle. Putting your sneakers in a separate wash bag adds extra protection.

Step 5: Set your washer on the cold delicate cycle and use liquid detergent. No chlorine bleach!

Step 6: Let your sneakers air dry after washing. Never put any type of shoes in the dryer, as the extreme heat will warp rubber or metal details.



A True Story

I always enjoy my monthly massage, not least because my therapist is smart, funny and usually has an interesting story to share.

Today we were talking about the hassles of resuming our maiden names after divorce. This reminded her of someone who lived in the small Texas town where she grew up.

This fellow, the town drunk, decided one day that he wanted to legally change his name to his high school nickname, Squirrel.

He went to court and told the judge what he wanted to do.  The judge thought he was kidding, or drunk, or both.

“Squirrel?” “Really?” “Yes.” 

“Are you sure?” “YES!” 

The back-and-forth went on for awhile and both parties were getting exasperated. Finally, the judge asked again, “You REALLY want to change your name to this?” “YES!!! Squirrel!! Period!!”

And the judge legally changed his name to Squirrel Period, as he has been known ever since.

Only in Texas.



For the Love of Carbs #3

Last week we experimented with bread porn.  This week, class entered horror movie territory as we were introduced to… The Slasher!!

The slasher, otherwise known as a bread lame (“lahm”, “lahm-uh”, or as our instructor endearingly pronounced it, “lamb-y”), is a tool used to score dough so that it can expand during baking.  For this session, we improvised with a razor on a stick, which worked pretty well.


Our final class was perhaps overly ambitious.  We made baguettes, another sourdough, pumpernickel (which we baked at home) and pizza (which we ate during our break).

Baguettes are nearly impossible to bake properly at home since it’s difficult to generate enough steam but we all wanted to try. Abby had made the dough in advance, which looked like Jabba the Hutt as it shimmied its way from its giant pan to the workspace.


Our baguettes ended up a bit under-baked due to time constraints, and mine got squashed on the ride home. They were tasty, though, and worth another try in the future.

The pizza was fun to make and we’d all worked up an appetite, but I’ll probably stick with Bobby Flay’s recipe. 

Pumpernickel was the most successful, perhaps because it wasn’t rushed.


The sourdough was good, too.


Someone asked Abby why she decided to make baking her career, not just a hobby. Her advice: If you lose track of time while you’re doing something, it means you really love it.

We certainly did!

bread class workshop pic (2) (1)

(Abby’s the tall one in the middle, back row. Yours truly is front row left in a scarf.)









For the Love of Carbs #2

Bread class continued with good spirits and much laughter, as we embarked on focaccia, ciabatta and a new method of making sourdough.


Is that apprehension I’m sensing?

First up, some brave souls brought in their starters for Abby to evaluate. We learned that a starter is ready to use if a small bit floats when immersed in water. Sadly, most of our efforts sank like a stone. (Cue “My heart will go on”.)

To make both focaccia and ciabatta, you begin with a “poolish”, which is pronounced poo-leash rather than rhyming with “foolish” which is how we felt about our sinking non-starters. This is essentially another type of starter that is ready much faster and keeps the dough nice and airy.

Abby kept us on a strict schedule so we could bake these during class. Unfortunately, my benchmate and I made the crucial mistake of flouring the tops of our ciabattas, not realizing they’d be flipped over. (Or possibly not paying attention?) And I opted not to cut the dough into rolls, ending up with a pale loaf bearing more than a passing resemblance to a manatee.


Ciabatta in the oven


Abby suspects they’re not quite ready.

Our focaccias weren’t much prettier, being pancake-flat. But despite their wonky appearance, both breads were pretty tasty.


Focaccia resembling paddleboards

The big excitement of the evening came when we learned a new technique that brought out our inner dominatrix. Abby had e-mailed us a video to get us “in the mood”. It’s called the slap and fold method, or, as my friend S dubbed it, Food Porn: You slap your dough on the counter, stretch it up and slap it down again. After about 5 minutes the dough is ready to rest, and so are you.

Who knew that bread making had a racy side? Or that my wardrobe needs a black leather apron?!

                                  (Above, clockwise: focaccia at home – I added rosemary -, ciabatta, sourdough.)

I can only imagine what’s in store for us this week. Stay tuned, dear friends.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

There are personal shoppers and people who can do your taxes, clean your house, even stand on line for you. Which made me wonder…


Wouldn’t it be great if someone else could:

• Pee for you when you’re in the middle of something or it’s the middle of the night?

• Catch the flu for you?

• Remove your makeup when you’re about to collapse from exhaustion?

• Sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for you?

• Take your mammogram/pap smear/proctology exam instead?

• Do your colonoscopy prep and then have tubes shoved up THEIR rectums?

Just sayin’….

For the Love of Carbs

Whoever said, “Man cannot live by bread alone” clearly didn’t live in my house. To that end, I’ve embarked on a series of 3 consecutive weekly classes in bread making, hoping to hone my skills or at the very least make and eat lots of yummy things.

Our first class was Tuesday night. Ten strangers introduced ourselves, commenting on each other’s aprons (the best one: printed with unpronounceable Scottish phrases) and gleaning levels of expertise. We ran the gamut from novice to knowledgeable.

Few things bind people together more than a shared interest; in this case hunger, as the class runs from 6-9 pm and no one had had dinner. As we descended on the snack table – samples of the bread we’d soon be baking – things quickly loosened up.

And then the work began. Abby, our intrepid instructor, handed out sheets of recipes (blue emmer sandwich bread, sourdough and challah) and led us back to the industrial kitchen where we started our first loaf.

First lesson: Measure your ingredients by weight, not volume. Turns out, it’s more accurate since flours vary in density, and it’s easier too. You put a bowl on a scale, set it to zero, and reset it to zero after you’ve added each ingredient. To quote the Monkees, now I’m a believer.

The whole group got down and dirty as we over- or under-loaded our bowls, covered ourselves in flour while dumping it out to re-measure, and got sticky bits of dough in our hair and jewelry. (Note to self: don’t wear a watch.) If you’re a clean freak, this “sport” may not be for you. One tip if you don’t want to keep running to the sink: keep a bowl of extra wheat flour available and rub your hands in it to remove most of the dough.

Then we started kneading. Not only is this a great upper-body workout (3 hours of standing and punching dough should cancel out all those calories, right?), it must be one of the earliest forms of therapy. PINCH! That’s for your annoying neighbor. POUND! That’s for your obnoxious boss. FLATTEN! That’s for every bad relationship you’ve ever had.

We also learned a great trick for preserving your starter if you don’t make bread multiple times a week: Roll some of the sticky starter in wheat flour and keep rubbing until it dries out into a crumbly nub. Abby says it will keep for quite awhile in the fridge (will have to ask how long “awhile” is) until you’re ready to reactivate it.

To keep your starter bubbly and active you’ll have to feed it 1-2x a week. (Starter is a fairly demanding pet but at least it won’t pee in the house!)

Keep it loosely covered in the fridge. A day or two before you plan to bake, dump out about 90% (this takes self-discipline as it seems so wasteful), then add back equal parts water and flour (half wheat/half bread flour) – making at least 130g (1 cup for your recipe plus extra to maintain it). Cover loosely and let it sit out on your counter for 8-10 hours. When the starter gets airy and fragrant, repeat the process.

If you don’t plan to bake for a few days, feed your leftover with more flour than water or dry it out as suggested above.

Exhausted but exhilarated, we left with three batches of dough to bake on our own, plus a dried nub of starter to resurrect. Abby encouraged us to name our starters – hers is Shiva. Since I have a tendency to kill mine on a regular basis, I’m naming him Lazarus.


“Meh” on the blue emmer bread. It was kind of flabby and spongy. A little too much like health food and not enough like “indulgence”.

“Yay” on the sourdough method, although the amount of dough we made was a bit small for my cast iron Dutch oven. And my usual method yields a darker, crisper crust.

“Pretty good” for the challah – I prefer the recipe in the Silver Palate Cookbook. DH says this one reminds him more of a brioche.

Looking forward to this week’s class. Especially the snacks.

p.s. Final tip: Don’t add salt with the rest of your ingredients.  Let dough hydrate (aka rest) for an hour and then mix in the salt.  Apparently it interferes with gluten production. Did not know that.

[main photo source:]


Happy Lupercalia!

I was curious about the origins of this overly-commercialized holiday so I turned to for info. Read on, and have a lovely day! xoxo



The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.


While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.

Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide.

Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.


Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.


In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century.

By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.”

Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.


Image source: Pixabay