Monday, March 30, 2009

Out Like a Lion

Last night Susan made a delicious supper of schnitzel, spaetzle with dill, and rotkohl. My recent turns in the kitchen for Scandinavian Saturday must have stirred up in her the urge to cook some German food, and it was great! While we ate, the snow fell; and later as we slept, the wind picked up as the snow fell; and this morning, as the snow fell, we heard media announcements that area schools (including the university) were, once again, closed due to severe winter weather . . . in the spring. Unbelievable.

This afternoon, as the snow fell, Susan and I went out to start clearing away snow (she with shovel, I with snowblower) so that we will be able to exit our house tomorrow. Have I mentioned that the snow continued to fall throughout all our snow removal efforts? At the same time, the temperature was so mild that the snow touching the concrete of the driveway and sidewalks and the pavement of the street was melting even though buried beneath many feet of snow above it. This made for nice weather in which to play in the snow, which our daughters and the neighborhood kids did, tunneling through the drifts and creating pathways and building snow homes, etc.

Unfortunately, it made the task of snow removal more difficult. The slushy snow clogged up the snowblower, requiring me to stop regularly to use a screwdriver to chisel the ice buildup out of the chute. The wet snow was too heavy to throw very far, so I couldn't direct it exactly where I wanted it and ended up resnowblowing previously snowblown snow from various sections of the driveway--and once-snowblown snow is more compacted and harder to resnowblow than virgin snow. Also, anywhere that anyone stepped in the snow--to turn around a snowblower, to maneuver a shovel, or to bound across the yard to play with friends--turned into icy snow that was all the more difficult to blow once I got there with the snowblower.

Oh, and the snowblower broke. Well, a bolt broke from the right side of the shaft for the impeller, causing it to stop turning. I had to hunt for another bolt and nut the right size--and found one in my collection of leftovers from over the years, thank goodness! By the time I got the snowblower up and running again, our neighbor across the street came over with his snowblower and asked if I would mind if he started at the far end of the driveway to help me clear it off, meeting me in the middle. I did not mind! We made good progress in good time.

When we had finished, I thanked him and told him that I owed him some fuel, a meal, some beer, etc. He said, "Nah, that's what neighbors are for." I said, "Well, welcome to the neighborhood!"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Music, Theatre, and Fine Dining

Today was a busy day for Susan and the girls. It started with the girls' performing for a mini-recital at the home of Mrs. Vold, the girls' piano teacher. A few weeks ago, most of Mrs. Vold's piano students played in the annual piano festival, in which Abigail and Suzanna performed quite well (remember?). Mrs. Vold's youngest students, however, were not entered in the festival, and she wanted them to have a performance opportunity, too. So Hillary and the other new-this-year-to-piano-lessons students played their own memorized piano solos this morning, and a few of the older students (including Suzanna and Abigail) played their festival selections, too, to round out the event. According to our daughters, a highlight of the in-home recital was the serving of refreshments afterward (store-bought doughnuts and canned punch).

In the afternoon, Susan and the girls attended a children's theatre performance of Puss in Boots at the university. It was a production by the University Players, a student organization that presents a play for children nearly annually. Besides the inherent kid-friendliness of the play, it had the added appeal of featuring in the cast and crew many university students with whom our daughters had worked in Seussical last autumn. When they returned, I asked them about the play, which they enjoyed but about which they shared no significant details, instead opting to tell me stories about meeting with the cast and crew members afterward to get their signatures on the programs and to get hugs!

Suzanna was a particularly busy girl today because, in between these events, she joined me for grocery shopping and, later, for kitchen duty. Yes, tonight was her turn to help me prepare supper for Scandinavian Saturday (recall Hillary's and Abigail's turns). Here is what she and I served:

red onion soup with Port and Jarlsberg

We sautéed lots of red onions in butter with bay leaves and fresh oregano before adding Port wine and chicken stock. We ladled it into stoneware ramekins, topped each with bread chunks and grated Jarlsberg cheese, placed them under the broiler until the cheese melted, and served them as the opener for our ethnic supper. Norway's version of baked French onion soup!

main course
juniper-spiced venison with brown goat cheese sauce
leeks with dill and coriander

The limited inventory of local grocery stores forced us to make some adjustments. The leeks, for example, were supposed to be fennel bulbs, but those were nowhere to be found in the produce aisles. So we sliced leeks and green onions and softened them in a frying pan with coriander before adding freshly squeezed orange juice and leaving it to simmer. After it had reduced, we plated it and served it with a vinaigrette of olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and finely chopped fresh dill.

The meat dish called for juniper berries, but they must have been wherever the fresh fennel bulbs were, so I substituted . . . (wait for it) . . . gin! Yes, juniper is what flavors gin, so why not? My father-in-law and brother-in-law are hunters who keep our freezer well stocked, so Suzanna and I thawed a couple pounds of venison chops and covered them in a rub of crushed fennel seeds, salt, and ground pepper. The juniper berries were supposed to be part of the rub, too, so instead we marinated the rubbed venison in gin. Later we seared it in a skillet of butter, sliced it, and plated a couple chops per person.

We drizzled each chop with a sauce made of flour, butter, beef stock, sour cream, more gin, and melted gjetost, a Norwegian goat cheese that has the color of caramel and the consistency of fudge. We were supposed to add aquavit to it just before serving, but rather than drive to the liquor store to purchase a bottle in order to have two tablespoons for the sauce, I decided to skip it. In addition to the gjetost sauce atop the venison chops, we garnished each plate with a dollop of lingonberries.

baked apples with lingonberries

Suzanna retired to the living room to practice her piano lesson, so I made dessert (while Abigail and Hillary continued to wash and dry dishes--good helpers). I removed the top 3/4 of the core from each of five Golden Delicious apples. I removed the seeds from some vanilla beans and smeared them inside each hollowed-out apple, then dusted each with sugar, then stuffed each with lingonberries, and finally stuck an empty vanilla bean into each. While they baked, I got out the hand mixer and made some whipped cream with plenty of sugar and vanilla extract, and we enjoyed our baked apples blanketed by ample amounts of whipped cream! (And I do mean "blanketed.")

So, another busy day in the Moberg household, but especially for little Suzanna, who was a sleepy girl tonight. I'm a little drained myself . . . what am I going to serve for Scandinavian Saturday next week?! Suggestions gladly accepted.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Springtime Blizzard

Ridiculous. This past weekend, the weather was so pleasant that the girls played outdoors without coats, and most of the snow was completely melted away from the lawn and the streets. Monday night a blizzard hit our state with such ferocity that the sheriff announced "no travel" in the county, and the police issued the same edict for the city. The city snow plows couldn't get out because the snow plow drivers couldn't get to the plows! The public schools were closed both yesterday and today . . . and so was the university!! You know it's bad weather when a ND university closes; that just doesn't happen!

Last night, once the snowfall had let up, we went outdoors to start cleaning up the snow. We could not get out our front door due to the four-foot-high snow drift running all along the south side of our house/north edge of our driveway! I ran the snowblower and made paths for both vehicles before running out of gas, but kind neighbor Chuck brought me some more so that I could resume working this morning.

After two hours last night and another three this morning, I finished snowblowing (and that includes cleaning out the end of the driveway after the city plows pushed snow from the street into our driveway). Susan assisted both last night and today, shoveling the tops off the drifts for me to pick up with the machine. The girls helped a bit, too, but Suzanna was also in charge of photography (that's why there are no pics of her below), and all three wanted to play in the snow drifts . . . and how could I say "no"? So they've got some tunnels dug in the drifts all around the house, and the neighborhood kids have been joining them, and we've got wet snowsuits and boots and gloves lying against the heaters in our mud room. It's like prime wintertime fun . . . at the beginning of spring! Welcome to ND.

Hm, can't get out the front door.

Yeah, looking out from the garage, it's clear why we couldn't get out the front door!

More Nephew Cuteness

Enjoy some more pics of our newest nephew, Davis--son of Susan's sister Cassie and her husband Nick:

I see a certain resemblance to Cassie . . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kookin' with Kevin (and Konsiderin' Kleanin' the K'Driveway)

The ND State Library scheduled its spring workshops for this week, and Susan signed up for the sessions to be presented in Bismarck today and tomorrow. Unfortunately Mother Nature scheduled an unusually severe multi-state blizzard that got to SW ND this afternoon and is forecast to be very unpleasant through Wednesday. Susan left for Bismarck yesterday while the gettin' was good, and she stayed with her brother, Jerrett, who lives in Mandan. She wasn't supposed to return until tomorrow night, but the workshop organizers sent her home today, shutting things down before the full force of the weather could do it for them. The last half-hour stretch of the drive home took her an hour, but she did make it home just in time to join us for supper, its preparation already in progress.

Yes, I was Mr. Kitchen three nights in a row! After Scandinavian Saturday, we had leftovers that Suzanna helped me transform for supper last night. We created a savory pork gravy and let the meatballs simmer in it and soak up the flavor. We made pork stuffing to go along with it, and we took the vanilla-infused rutabaga and "savoried it up" with onion soup mix and bacon and fried it into a hash. The girls gobbled it all up! For dessert, we took the remainder of the fresh blueberries, heated them up in the juice of an orange and some vanilla extract, and used it as a topping for vanilla ice cream. Delicious.

After I picked the girls up from school today, we bought a few groceries for supper, and I got to work in the kitchen as they worked on homework and practiced their piano lessons. I fried some Italian sausage, chopped onions, red pepper, yellow pepper, orange pepper, mushrooms, celery, and pressed garlic in olive oil and then added tomato sauce, brown sugar, pepper, and Merlot to simmer into a rich sauce. I made whole-wheat rotini pasta, tossed it in the tomato sauce, and topped it with shredded cheese and grated Parmesan.

I made a tossed salad of mixed greens (including radicchio and spinach) and crunchy vegetables: the three colors of bell pepper (above), cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, green onions, and carrots, all served with croutons, bacon topping, and a variety of dressings. We also had focaccia breadsticks covered in the roasted seed combination used for "everything" bagels. Susan returned home by suppertime and poured some white Zinfandel for her and me, and the meal was complete. Oh, except for dessert: vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, just delivered to me today by a coworker from whose daughter we bought them.

Our bellies are full, the kitchen is clean, Susan is home, the girls are tucked into bed, and now I'm watching the weather. It's getting worse and supposed to worsen further still, and I'm wondering how early I will have to get up to get the driveway cleaned in order to get everyone off to school tomorrow . . . if there even is school tomorrow. I don't like snow days; it's annoying for me to reschedule missed appointments and rework course schedules to cover missed topics in fewer class days. Unfortunately, the forecasters are making it sound as though that's very likely. All the snow has melted away from most of the yards and streets around here, so it's bizarre to consider a full-fledged blizzard again!

Around the state, many communities have it even worse: the spring melts have flooded some towns and threatened to do so to others, and the snow that we're getting is predicted to melt in the return to high temperatures at the end of the week, serving as a hassle now in terms of shutting down travel with snowy, icy roads and as a hassle later in terms of adding more water to already bursting-at-the-seams rivers and lakes. Having survived The Flood of '97, I can say that I'd much rather deal with snowblowing than with pre-flood sandbagging and post-flood mucking out of basements.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Say "Uncle"!

It's about time for an update on Davis, that handsome little guy who inherited his good looks from me (that we share no common DNA is but a small point). Feast your eyes on our newest nephew:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hillary: Sous-Chef Norvégienne

Tonight was Hillary's turn to help me prepare supper for Scandinavian Saturday. She was as helpful in the grocery store* as Abigail was last time, but there was less that she could really do at home in the kitchen, so I made most of the meal by myself. Here is what we served:

We served slices of Jarlsberg and Gouda cheese with rye crisps and sliced hard-boiled eggs.

main course
We served a mixed greens salad with seared scallops and a blueberry vinaigrette.

After cooking the scallops, I brought to a boil some fresh blueberries, the juice of a lemon, a chopped shallot, and some olive oil, which we drizzled warm over the scallops and topped with grated parmesan cheese on the bed of greens.

We also served pork meat balls with prunes.

I stewed prunes, an apple, and caraway seeds in some port wine, reduced it, and stuffed it into minced pork meat balls seasoned with ginger, nutmeg, and curry--and then fried them in butter.

We also served vanilla-scented rutabaga.

I boiled some small potatoes with a couple pounds of diced rutabaga, drained and mashed them, and mixed them with a stick of butter and the seeds from a vanilla bean.

We served warm nectarines with almonds and vanilla ice cream.

Hillary dished up the ice cream and popped the bowls into the freezer to wait until after the meal. When we had finished eating, I sent the ladies downstairs to relax and then stewed wedges of a half-dozen nectarines in the juice of a lemon, butter, sugar, and the remains of the vanilla bean. I ladled the warm nectarines in their syrup over the ice cream, and Hillary sprinkled each bowl with honey-roasted sliced almonds.

How does it sound, Faithful Reader? And have you thought of menu suggestions to share with me for upcoming Saturdays?!

*A first for me: I forgot my wallet at home and didn't realize it until Hillary and I had the grocery shopping done and were ready to push the full cart to a checkout lane! I borrowed the telephone at the service counter and called Susan, who brought me my wallet. While waiting for her, Hillary and I hung out in the magazine aisle and read.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saint and Sinner

Tonight was the night: I delivered the "meditation" for church this evening (remember?). Church was at 7:00 P.M., and the girls generally have dance class until 7:30 P.M. on Thursdays; but they wanted to hear Daddy "preach," so Susan got them out early and brought them to the service. They sat in the second pew directly in front of me and kept their eyes on me the entire 10 minutes or so that I spoke. Afterward I asked them what they "got out of" what I had said, and they quoted me verbatim as well as summarized my message quite accurately. Clearly they were listening attentively!

I gave an extended response to the question, "Why are you participating in the Walk to Jerusalem?" My answer started with stories about Dad and Beverly's dog Bandy and about Happy, our dog on the farm when my sisters and I were kids. Yep, stories about dogs! My point had to do with blazing trails and leaving footsteps for others to follow in if you want them to come along, and I connected that to living a Christian life so that your children will, too; to participating in projects at church so that other members of the congregation will, too; and to following Jesus and the path that He has laid out for us all and asked us to walk with one another and with Him. Lots of layers of metaphor in my "sermon," but I think I got my point(s) across.

After an early evening of heavenly behavior (I mean, really: me? preaching?!), Susan and I returned home and were surprised by a telephone invitation to behave devilishly! Our friend David was in town with a university choir for which he is the accompanist, and he remembered that we live here and phoned to see if we'd like to get together for a beverage, some snacks, and some catching up. He is hilarious and pulls no punches when it comes to sharing his opinions about the people and events in his stories. It was fun to reconnect with him after several years of no contact.

P.S. Three months after my last haircut, I finally made time to go get my locks chopped this afternoon. Our hair stylist took me at my word when I said that I wanted it short; I look as though my National Guard unit has just been reactivated! It's a statement both about how long my hair had become and about how short it is now that I get the shivers from the feel of perfectly temperate air on the back of my neck.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Post-Conference Potpourri

So, after a long day spent in airports, I returned home last night around 10:15 PM. The conference was worthwhile; all the sessions that I attended offered me practical ideas for the courses that I teach as well as inspiration for improvements that I could make. I got a lot of work done, too: grading exams, planning for my classes, and reading (quite an array, too: UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation, On a Raven's Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard).

(Faithful Reader, do you recall "Airline Humor" from 2.5 years ago? Well, the flight attendant on the leg from Dickinson to Denver last week was a little punchy and threw in some funny lines during the safety demonstration. She told us that the seat cushions would double as flotation devices "in the unlikely event that we should even encounter any water between here and Denver and need to attempt a landing on it." Teasing about the highly cramped quarters aboard the small airplane, she let us know that, once the captain had turned off the seatbelt sign, we could "feel free to canter up and down the aisle.")

I returned home to a houseful of women with tales to tell of their own adventures whilst I was away. Suzanna and Abigail each played in the annual piano festival on Saturday (I missed it last year, too, while away for a different conference), and they both earned superior ratings. This means that, should they earn superiors again next year, they will have earned enough points for their first trophy. (That's how the system works: one superior equals five points; 15 points equals the first trophy; every 15 points thereafter equals a larger trophy. My sisters will know what I mean; we all collected superiors and trophies of our own through the years. My three trophies sit on our piano here at home; Cathy earned three, too; and Sandy took lessons long enough to earn four!) Susan was impressed with the musicality and precision of the girls' performances--and evidently so were the judges. Congratulations, Suzanna and Abigail!

On Sunday Susan and the girls attended church and Sunday school (of course), and then attended the monthly Sons of Norway meeting (and brought along Susan's grandma Laura), and then attended the next performance in the Dickinson Area Concert Association's series, this one by a group called Counterpoint, with whom all the blonde ladies were thoroughly impressed.

Here's our Sons of Norway lodge's banner.

Here's the cake that was served in celebration of our lodge's having been around for 11 years. (I asked Susan why they celebrated the 11th anniversary since we generally only make a fuss about anniversaries divisible by five. She figures they do it annually. Hey, it's a reason to eat cake.)

Lodge food.

The girls and their great-grandma Laura.

P.S. The blog Bacon Unwrapped features entries on preparing a pork loin stuffed with pork sausage and wrapped in bacon as well as on drinking bacon-flavored vodka. What's not to love about such a site? Check it out!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Am I a Snow Bird?!

In 1993, Susan and I spent our honeymoon in Orlando, FL. In April 2007, I returned for two simultaneous conferences (presenting at one and attending the other). In November 2007, Susan and I surprised our daughters with a family vacation in Orlando. In March 2008, I returned to attend another conference. Do you know where I'm going with this, Faithful Reader? Yes, it's April 2009, and I'm in Orlando again for another conference! I'm coming here as regularly as a retiree! I have been here so frequently, in fact, that at the airport I notice each time what has been remodeled or refurbished since my last visit ("Oh, the new ceilings are in . . . that's new carpet . . . that wall didn't used to be there . . . ")!

I flew out of Dickinson yesterday before 6:00 A.M. and arrived in Orlando late in the afternoon (their time), making it to my hotel (the Rosen Centre) in time to check in, drop off my things, and find the conference venue for an opening reception. The Orange County Convention Center is a huge facility: over two million square feet! In fact, I spent a good half-hour walking around the wrong building (two enormous concourses, connected by a walkway, comprise the convention center) before figuring out where I was supposed to be. Even the west building, where our conference is, is huge; it takes a long time to get from one end to the other, let alone from one floor to another (and there are four floors). I followed the smell of the food, though, filled my belly, and returned to the hotel (also huge--I'm on the 18th floor, and there are another half-dozen floors above mine), conveniently located just across the street.

I'm attending the annual conference of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. At the first session this morning, I heard from the author of one of the textbooks I use for one of the courses I teach! I got some good ideas from him for using the book with my students. The other sessions today were valuable, too, though not led by such "big names" as the textbook author. (P.S. Goldie Hawn will co-present a session tomorrow on work done by a foundation in her name.)

It was a long day, but of course I just can't relax now that I'm in my hotel room--I brought along too much work to do! Yes, last night I graded some quizzes and compiled the results of some midterm feedback reports that I solicited from my students; tonight I will grade a set of midterm exams and type up the feedback from that class, and tomorrow I will repeat the process for another section of the course. Monday night I plan to work on a "sermon" that I'm delivering Thursday night at our church. And, of course, I brought along three books to read when I can find time on the plane, in the airport, between sessions, and before I fall asleep each night.

Some conference attendees are spending their nights "out on the town," but I can't wait to get back to my room to buckle down and get some of my work done. E-mails from friends and family who know that I'm here jealously ask how wonderful the weather is here, but how would I know? Except for the walks to and from the convention center, I'm inside all day and all night attending conference sessions or working. Spend 5 days in Orlando, FL and never once see the sights or dine out or go golfing but instead work the entire time? I guess I'm not a snow bird after all!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hearing My Story in Someone Else's Words

Today I attended a luncheon featuring a reading by musician and writer Debra Marquart, who is on campus for the university's annual Women's Voices celebration. She is a native North Dakotan who has written a memoir about her childhood here, and she read aloud excerpts from that book: The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere (read this and this).

Each passage was terrific and managed to be both ordinary and extraordinary simultaneously. She wrote about topics that I could have written about, except that her perspective is a decidedly feminine one. Other than the woman's lens through which she views her rural childhood experiences, her looking back is not unlike my own; and the places, events, and people she recollects are similar to those from my past, just with different names.

Marquart writes about family members and, now as an adult, tries to make sense of their behavior and character traits in light of their life circumstances (something that, as children, we don't bother to do--for example, we just know Aunt So-'n'-So is peretually grouchy, but we don't take the time to walk in her shoes and understand the causes of her demeanor). Marquart also writes about the physical world in which she grew up--the farm, the countryside, the small town--and the way in which she and others her age came to know this setting by interacting with it--by doing farm work, by attending parties in the hills outside of town, by driving the main street with other teens as a social activity.

Most impressively, Marquart finds larger truths in the smaller details of ordinary daily life. She comes to admire the struggles that her parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., faced and the hardships that they endured silently as a matter of fact, their lack of complaint a reflection of the character both prerequisite to and a result of making a living on the plains. In what she read aloud today, I heard her describe relatives who could have been my own, who had gone through trials in life that my own immigrant ancestors must have. I heard her describe childhood experiences and attitudes that were my own or those of my friends and neighbors. She described life on the farm the way I might, and she now looks back on her childhood with an insight brought about by the passage of time, her own maturity, and a poet's ability to see the world in metaphors.

I had tears in my eyes occasionally as something she read brought back vivid memories of my own past: a particular relative, an item in someone's home, a summer moment outside on the farm, a feeling about growing up in the country and yearning for life in the city, etc. The final passage, one that she hadn't ever read aloud for a group, brought tears even to her own eyes. It was a great way to spend a lunch, and I'll definitely check out her book.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Man's Place Is in the Kitchen

Faithful Readers, surely you recall that Saturday evenings at our house call for a Scandinavian menu. When I suggested "Scandinavian Saturday" for the lineup of nightly specialty menus, the intent was to give impetus to our exploring foods from our cultural background, to expanding our repertoire of dishes from our rich Nordic heritage, to developing in our children an appreciation for ethnic foods that represent their own ancestry. I thought it would be good to go beyond the lutefisk, lefse, Jell-O, and hotdishes that people in the Midwest associate with Scandinavian cuisine and to see what foods appeal to the palates of northern Europeans.

Well, I think Scandinavian Saturday has served mostly to drive Susan nuts as she racks her brain for menu ideas. She's more German than Norwegian or Swedish, so discovering new Scandinavian delicacies is less meaningful to her than to me. Also, Norwegian and Swedish recipes are a little harder to come by than, say, Italian or French or Mexican or Greek; there just isn't the same market in North America for Norwegian cookbooks or Swedish restaurants as there is for some other ethnicities. Furthermore, when she turned to the Internet for help, she often found recipes that called for unfamiliar, inaccessible ingredients or that just didn't sound all that appealing (e.g., lamb, which I like but of which Susan is not a fan).

Even stretching the "rules" of Saturday night to allow for food from countries near Scandinavia (i.e., British fish-'n'-chips or German sauerkraut would qualify) didn't seem to help. I knew we had a situation when, about a week ago, she suggested a different alliterative theme to replace our weekly Scandinavian meal: "Soup and Salad Saturday." Uff-dah! There was only one thing I could do: offer to take over the cooking on Scandinavian Saturdays.

Abigail volunteered to be my assistant for this first attempt, so she and I went grocery shopping this afternoon and then returned home to start cooking. She was very helpful both in the grocery store and in the kitchen, fetching and measuring and stirring and scooping and taste-testing, etc. We created our own appetizer but followed recipes for the main course and dessert. Here is what we served:

We topped rye crisps with Gouda cheese, flaked salmon, and diced cucumbers and fresh dill.

These were gobbled up with rapid dispatch! We had hoped to use Jarlsberg cheese instead but couldn't find any. The Gouda was great, though.

main course
We served torsk with boiled leeks in a vinaigrette flavored with capers, shallots, and garlic. We also made a crab compote with potatoes.

The recipe called for halibut, but it was so expensive! The torsk was tasty but was so thick that it took longer to cook than we had anticipated and would have been better broiled than pan-fried. None of us could remember ever having had leeks before, but they were an immediate hit (probably because of the savory vinaigrette--our girls love capers!). The other dish was essentially smashed potatoes with flakes of crab mixed throughout. We had to make some substitutions for that dish, though: we used Red River potatoes in place of Greenland potatoes, chive sour cream in place of fresh chives and crème fraîche (which I didn't have time to make from scratch), and raspberry balsamic vinegar in place of elderberry flower vinegar. (I know what you're thinking: the grocery store had no elderberry flower vinegar?! It's a travesty.)

We served Veiled Farm Girls, apparently a traditional Norwegian dessert that is simple but refreshing: layers of applesauce, whipped cream, and sweetened bread crumbs.

We mixed the bread crumbs with sugar, cinnamon, and butter and browned them on the stove. We made our own whipped cream with plenty of sugar and vanilla extract. The recipe called for chopped hazelnuts as a garnish, but we couldn't find hazelnuts, so we improvised: we smeared a little Nutella in the bottom of each glass (we used martini glasses so that the layers would be easily visible), layered the ingredients in a decorative fashion, added a dollop of Nutella to the whipped cream layer on top, and sprinkled a dash of breadcrumbs over the whipped cream as a final garnish.

So, what do you think, kittens? Does that menu sound appealing to you? Does it sound Scandinavian?

A better question: Do you have any recipes to offer me for upcoming Scandinavian Saturdays?! I'm off the hook for next Saturday because I'll be out of town, but the Saturdays thereafter will just keep coming, and I'll need to be ready for them . . .

Enlightening Friday

Yesterday at the university, I had two out-of-the ordinary and edifying experiences:
  • I attended a workshop on the topic of diversity. Dr. Aaron Thompson of Eastern KY University was on campus to facilitate discussions about the diversity at our university and the opportunities we have to capitalize on it: in our classes, in activities across campus, for our students' benefit, for our own development, etc. He set a pleasant, interactive tone and engaged us in so much getting-to-know-you conversation that we ran out of time to hear everything that he had prepared for the presentation itself. I hope that this will be the first in a series of such events and not just a one-time effort at "diversity training" to be checked off (e.g., "There, we covered diversity. Next issue?").
  • I attended a discussion on John Steinbeck. It was the final event in a week-long series of Steinbeck-focused presentations and discussions as part of the 4th annual Albers Humanities Festival. Self-described "public humanities scholar" Clay Jenkinson led us in conversation spurred by his sharing a few examples of Steinbeck's writing (in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, in The Grapes of Wrath, and in Travels with Charley). I love Steinbeck and had hoped to attend several of this week's events, but I had too much work to complete until I finally decided to put it on hold for at least last night's session. I enjoy listening to Jenkinson's radio program The Thomas Jefferson Hour; on it and during other public presentations, he speaks so intelligently on a wide variety of topics, both historical and current, both political and literary. It was fun to hear him and others talk about Steinbeck's writing and to be reminded why I enjoy reading Steinbeck's work.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

More Davis

Well, of course there's more of Davis to see. We have yet to meet this little guy, but we're lovin' the photos and video that have come our way!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Welcome to the Family!

Susan and I have a new nephew: Davis Roger! He was born today (I don't know the time, the weight, the length, etc.--just that he was born) to Susan's sister Cassie and her husband Nick. Davis is their first child and, unless they move back home in the near future, he'll grow up with a Southern accent! Look at the cutie and his proud parents:

Cassie, Nick, and Davis