catching up (or a cream cheese update)

I’ve wanted to avoid the sort of post that says “sorry I haven’t been posting lately,” but well, um…It would appear that I haven’t been posting much lately. So, um…Sorry?

Things have been busy, and I find myself too tired to write the posts I’ve been meaning/wanting to write. (It has not escaped my attention that I haven’t even posted a “Themed Things” list in 3 weeks.) I mentioned a few months ago that I would be spreading myself a bit thin over the next few months, much like too little cream cheese for too big a bagel.

Well, as often happens, I enthusiastically used a lot of cream cheese up in those early weeks. But the truth is, there is still a lot of bagel to cover. I’ll be co-teaching an 4-week course starting this Tuesday, which will need a healthy amount of cream cheese. Then my group at work is planning to submit at least one abstract (hopefully two) to a conference with a deadline of January 18th, for which we have a lot of work to do, and for which I have committed quite a bit of cream cheese. There are other school- and work-related odds and ends I’ve committed to, which will require dabs and dollops here and there. Holiday travels and activities, while good, ended up taking up more cream cheese than I’d anticipated. Phoebe requires quite a lot of my available cream cheese, as always. So it would appear that blogging is the part of the bagel that has had to go with the thinnest coating of cream cheese, and at times must make do with no cream cheese at all. I’m not yet ready to give up that part of the bagel, but realistically, it may not get a decent layer of cream cheese for a few weeks yet.

There are lots of things I’d like to share, like photos from our trip and other stuff that’s been going on. I also have a few posts I’ve been planning, both of a serious and a frivolous nature.

(Speaking of things of a frivolous nature, I noticed a couple of weeks ago that due to some sort of WordPress change, suddenly a whole list of pages I’d carefully hidden away were exposed right there on my front page index, including a page that consists entirely of the word pants repeated 100 times. My stats indicated that this page was viewed 8 times before I hid the pages away again, and that other related pages were also viewed. If you are among those people who stumbled across those pages, I can only wonder what you thought of them. I mean, beyond the usual, “damn, alejna’s weird.” Or “wow, she really does love pants.”)

making faces and saving thyme

Yesterday was my CSA share pick-up day at the farm, again. And like the last 2 weeks, the share included 10 pounds of tomatoes. Here they all are in their polychromatic glory:

gradient_tomatoes.jpg

We also got some onions, a couple of small summer squashes, eggplants (I traded in my peppers for some extra eggplants), and some more basil. Inspired by Magpie Musing’s face of last week, I have put together my own vegetable face, based on the tradition started at The Great Big Vegetable Challenge.

onion_hair_face.jpg

I have quite a bit of thyme left from last week. (Also some basil and tomatoes.) I just roasted some potatoes with olive oil and thyme. But I may have to freeze it, as I don’t think I can use all of it before it goes bad. I don’t want to waste it. (Yes, I am fighting the pun. Fighting it!)

We had some friends over on Saturday, and I was able to use some of the thyme in a couple of dishes. My guests (at least those over the age of 5) each lent a hand with some food prep, including plucking thyme leaves off the sprigs.

The problem with cooking with thyme is that it is an herb that asks, begs and screams out to be used in puns. One of my guests abruptly cut off another guest in mid thyme-pun with a “don’t!”, but then shortly after succumbed to one of her own thyme puns. (“But you wouldn’t let me!” the interrupted guest cried.) It is a devilish thing. Some of the puns were not even entirely intentional, such as:

  • Did we run out of thyme?
  • No, we’ve got lots of thyme.
  • How much thyme do we have?
  • Are we going to save thyme?
  • I challenge you not to think up any of your own.

    Anyhow, dinner went well, and I had a grand time. (Though I was busy cooking most of the evening.) Here’s what we had for dinner.

    1. Roasted Tomato, Garlic and Chevre Frittata
      I followed this recipe from pantry permitting, and it was really tasty, and not too much work. One of the steps involved roasting tomatoes and garlic in the oven with olive oil. I roasted a big batch of tomatoes, leading to quite a bit of garlic-infused rich roasted tomato juice, which was really tasty.
    2. And because one of my guests does not like a goat cheese, I made a second fritatta.

    3. Roasted garlic and tomato frittata with monterey jack cheese and carmelized onions
      This was good, too. I basically used the recipe above, but with chunks of monterey jack cheese in place of the goat cheese, and with some onions that I browned on the stove with olive oil.
    4. stir-fried basil eggplant
      I threw some sauteed eggplant in with some carmelized onions, along with some basil left from the previous week, and soy sauce. (This was very, very loosely based on a Thai basil eggplant recipe.)
    5. tomato, mozzarella and basil salad
      Tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. Cubed up with some cubes of fresh mozzarella, and tossed with basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
    6. cucumber salad with roasted tomato and garlic yogurt dressing (that practically is the recipe):

      4-ish medium cucumbers, peeled (the skins were very bitter) and thinly sliced

      For the dressing I mixed (and the measurements are guesses. I don’t measure when I improvise):
      3 TBS plain whole milk yogurt
      juice and olive oil from the roasting pan from the tomatoes and garlic (about 1/4 cup)
      2 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
      thyme leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs of thyme
      a bit of fresh basil, shredded
      a splash of red wine vinegar
      salt

    Dessert was ice cream. I didn’t make it. (In a previous life, I would have made 2 or more desserts, and served things up in courses.)

    saturday_dinner.jpg

    I wanted to show my guests how pretty the vegetables looked, but realized that I wouldn’t have time to do all the preparation after their arrival and still eat at a decent hour. So I took a photo. The round orange vegetables that look rather tomato-like are actually Turkish eggplants. The photo also includes a bowl of the roasted tomatoes, and a small bowl of the roasted garlic cloves, as well as the little bundle of thyme that I have not yet wasted. Plus a couple of little zucchinis that didn’t make it on to the menu, and which I ended up wasting. I just can’t think of any good jokes about wasting zucchinis. Certainly not any puns.

    dances with cheese

    Yes, it’s cheese week here at collecting tokens. Because I apparently just can’t get enough cheese.¹

    Anyhow, inspired in part by the pants game (wherein a word in a known quotation, expression or title is replaced by the word pants) and in part by a post² I came across on adding the word cheese to movie titles, I offer up my own list of movie titles. (I got all these movie titles, or at least a previous version of them from the AFI’s 100 years 100 movies page. So these are high quality films that I’m making a cheese mockery of.)

    Classics of Cheese Cinema

  • From Cheese to Eternity (1953)
    Passion. Betrayal. Cheese.
  • Bonnie and Cheese (1967)
    Partners in crime, partners in cheese.
  • Apocalypse Cheese (1979)
    A dark and dangerous mission of cheese.
  • A Streetcar Named Cheese (1951)
    Glimpse the cheesy underbelly of New Orleans.
  • Rebel Without a Cheese (1955)
    Trouble’s coming. And it’s bringing crackers.
  • Wuthering Cheese (1939)
    A haunting tale of star-crossed young cheese lovers.
  • Gone with the Cheese (1939)
    An epic saga of love, war and cheese.
  • The Wizard of Cheese (1939)
    If ever a wonderful wiz there was…wait, would that be the CheeseWiz?
  • It’s a Wonderful Cheese (1946)
    A sentimental film that shows a glimpse of a world without cheese.
  • 2001: A Cheese Odyssey (1968)
    The awe and mystery of a cheese unlike any other.
  • Raiders of the Lost Cheese (1981)
    When they find it, they really don’t want to smell it.
  • The Silence of the Cheese (1991)
    Is the cheese quiet now, Clarice?
  • —————
    ¹It has occurred to me that I must consider cheese to be a funny word. Much like pants, squid, banana, duck and monkey. However, I don’t see any mention of cheese on the Wikipedia inherently funny word article.

    ²Really, I promise to stop this daily linking to Words for My Enjoyment. What’s funny is that I first came across the blog via my takehome final, as mentioned previously, but then found it again totally inadvertantly and coincidentally while doing a google search for “cheese” and “movies”. (Did I mention that there’s aren’t too many cheese movies?) It was almost as if it was written in the cheese…Wait, “Written on the Cheese.” I think that’s a movie, too.

    extra cheese

    You know what really cheeses me off? When I finish a list and realize I’ve forgotten something.

    It’s like going to the grocery store to buy bread, eggs and milk, and then remembering I need cheese too as I’m driving on my way there, but I figure I’ll wait to add it to my list, since it would be hazardous to write while driving, even if it is only one word, and then when I get there, going into this trance as I wander the aisles with my shopping cart, and wondering what it means that supermarkets now play music that was actually popular when I was in high school, and feeling up the melons and squeezing the toilet paper, then browsing the cereal aisle and feeling nostalgic for the days of my youth when lucky charms were an exotic unattainable bowl of cereal at the end of the rainbow because my mother insisted on having us eat healthy cereals like wheat chex and when I finally tried them, they really weren’t that thrilling, and resisting the urge to buy cookies and redi-whip and donuts, and before you know it, I’ve filled up the cart and then I head home with my bags of groceries, and after I put away my bread and my milk and my pint of organic blackberry sorbet, which seemed like a healthier choice than the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, but screw it, I bought that too, and bananas and maple syrup and zucchini and oatmeal and frozen peas, and then find a crumpled up paper in my pocket, and it’s my grocery list with its three measly items (bread, eggs and milk) scribbled on it, and realize that I’ve forgotten the eggs, and (crap!) I also forgot to get more cheese.

    You know what I’m saying?

    Anyhow, I realized that I left off some key pieces of cheese from yesterday’s cheeseful bounty. Such as:

    1. Richard Cheese, a musician who, along with his band Lounge Against the Machine, provides cheesy lounge music reinterpretations of so many your favorite contemporary songs. Also in the music category is the band The String Cheese Incident. Then there’s the apparently sadly now-defunct Cheese Patrol, a

      yearly homage to all the songs that people vociferously hate but secretly know all the words to. These are the songs we grew up with; overorchestrated. overwrought, oversynthed, over the top.

    2. Somehow I also managed to leave off the appearance of the cheese guy in the Buffy episodeRestless“, as well as a few other cheesy references. And in my research I came across this brilliant essay “An Analysis of Cheese as Metaphor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Apparently, the layers of cheese in the Buffy series run far deeper than I’d realized.
    3. For more on cheese philosophy, you can check out this essay “on the non-existence of cheese.” Is there proof of the existence of cheese in the universe? Perhaps not.
    4. Then there’s the Cheese Burglar. But I’m not really a big fan of the cult of which he is a member. So instead I offer this cartoon mouse classic, The Cheese Burglar (1946). (You can even see it on YouTube. Though I admit to not having watched anything close to the whole 7 minutes.)
    5. I actually like the animation of this (shorter) shortThe Cheese Trap better, which features a cg version of the board game Mouse Trap, one of my childhood favorites.
    6. Do you hanker for a hunka cheese? Do you remember this rather creepy cartoon psa from the 70s? You might also be interested in the hunk-hankerers guest appearance on the Family Guy.
    7. Yesterday’s cheese did not include much in the way of cheese activities for those of you with too much time and not enough cheese on your hands. Options include: a quiz to let you know what kind of cheese you are. (There’s also a similar-veined one-step cheese “comparator,” but the reviews are not stellar.)
    8. There’s even an experiment with cheese that you can perform at home on your own. (However, the author does recommend exercising caution if you are lactose tolerant.) (And no, my dear seester, this is not the same cheese experiment you tried with me that one time when we were little. I’ll write about that later.)
    9. Most thrillingly, you can actually watch cheese *live* online. That’s right, you can watch watch cheddar cheese aging. Not only is it just as exciting as it sounds, it is also apparently the cool thing to do. (If you don’t have the months to spare to see the change in progress, you can also check out this time-lapse video encapsulating 3 months of the cheese-aging process.)
    10. And even though I offered it up yesterday, no cheese list would be complete without The Cheese Shop sketch. This time, I serve it up in its youtubiful glory:

    say cheese

    swiss_cheese.jpgYou might think you need to go to the grocery store to find cheese, but I have found cheese in a variety of unexpected places: books, movies, music and more. (And yes, it can get messy. Let me tell you, camembert is not something you want to find in an unexpected place.) I’ve come across so much cheese that there’s far too much for just me. So, I offer up to you this delectable platter of assorted cheesy goodness. Get your crackers ready.

    1. “The Big Cheese”: an expression meaning “the top banana” or “the head honcho.” (Please note that the “head cheese” means something totally different.) Here’s something I did not now about the origins of the expression “big cheese“:

      This use of the word probably derived not from the word cheese, but from the Persian or Hindi word chiz, meaning a thing.

    2. Little Miss Muffet This nursery rhyme girl not only sits on her tuffet, but she eats her curds and whey. That’s cottage cheese, my friend.
    3. The Cheese Alarm,” a song by Robyn Hitchcock. This is a song of many cheeses:

      Roquefort and grueyere and slippery Brie
      All of these cheeses they happen to me

    4. the cheese stands alone“: a line from the song “The Farmer in the Dell”. The title of I am the Cheese, a young adult book by Robert Cormier, and also a movie based on the same, references this line of the song, and the loneliness of being cheese.
    5. Cheese has long been used as a bait in mousetraps, and is especially good for trying to catch cartoon mice. Recently, this cheesy bait concept has been extended to motivating office workers with the book Who Moved My Cheese. This irritating-looking parable appears to have spawned a slew of cheese parody books, at least three of which are entitled “Who Cut the Cheese?”
    6. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by the illustrious Lane Smith. This picture book features, among other things less cheese-oriented, a cheesy reinterpration of the gingerbread man fairy tale. Catch it if you can.
    7. Cheeses of the World Series“: Jefferson Mint’s series of hand-painted collector’s plates featuring the cheeses of the world. Available only as an extra on the Austin Powers DVD. This is funniest deleted scene I can remember. It’s part of the overview that Number Two (Robert Wagner) gives of the activities of Virtucon, the “legitmate face” of Dr. Evil’s evil empire.
    8. Wallace and Gromit, Grand Day Out. Wallace loves cheese. Enough to go to the moon for it. And as we all know, the moon is made of cheese. (The other W&G features also feature some cheese, at least I know that The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave do. I have yet to see The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, but I would be sorely disappointed if it was cheese-free.)
    9. You know, there just aren’t enough movies featuring cheese. Paul Davidson, whose blog I found while doing my takehome final, offers a solution to this perennial problem by suggesting “ten movies whose plotlines would change by simply adding the word cheese to their titles.” An excellent proposition. (cf. “A Touch of Evil Cheese” and “Stand by Me Cheese”)
    10. The Cheese Shop sketch. In the land of the cheese, this sketch reigns supreme. John Cheese, I mean, Cleese and Michael Palin perform this legendary Monty Python gem. Hey, I was just making a joke about the John Cheese thing, but check out this slice of trivia from the John Cleese Wikipedia entry:

      John Cleese was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England to Reginald Francis Cleese and Muriel Cross. His family’s surname was previously “Cheese”, but his father, an insurance salesman, changed his surname to “Cleese” upon joining the army in 1915.

      Anyhow, the Cheese Shop Sketch features 43 kinds of cheeses. Well, the names of 43 kinds of cheeses. Whether you’re looking for Cheddar, Brie, Wensleydale or Venezuelan Beaver Cheese, you will find no better place not to buy it.