That’s pretty much all you have to say and my husband’s eyes start to widen. Okay, okay, mine too – who’s kidding who here?

My mom is a doughnut-making pro and makes them every once in a while for special occasions. They tend to all disappear as they’re being made; I don’t think I have ever seen a full batch. Her winning recipe is from Sunset magazine but is currently hidden in one of her moving boxes, so when I thought of giving doughnuts a try for the first time I had to find my own recipe.

The one I finally landed on was one from The Pioneer Woman blog. I don’t follow her at all and have never tried any of her recipes, but I’ve heard fairly good things about her blog here and there and her doughnut description was making me very, very hungry.

I have some basic things I scope out when looking for new recipes:

1. Prep time
2. Cooking time
3. Whether the recipe calls for ingredients I already have on hand or a bunch of new ones that I suspect I won’t use again
4. Whether or not I would need to buy any new kitchen tools I don’t already have
5. Overall appeal/Reviews (when available)

With this recipe I was willing to put in a little extra time because it was a special treat, but I couldn’t put in an obscene amount of time because there’s a 4-month old in the house that I’d rather spend time staring at thankyouverymuch.

Luckily these doughnuts came down to pretty simple steps, and while it involved a lengthy process if you include the hands-off time, the rest of the work was quicker than I expected. Except for heating the oil – oh man. Sounds simple enough but that took FOREVER. Calls with Comcast have taken less time, and that’s saying something (don’t get me started on that nightmare). I’ve never tried heating oil to a very specific temperature before and didn’t realize how difficult it would be. At first it didn’t seem to be going anywhere near where it needed to be and then it quickly went way beyond, and then once I got it down to the right temperature it quickly went back up and then there were lots of gaps where I had to stand close-by to monitor the temperature but couldn’t actually cook anything. That right there is not my idea of a good time or time efficiently spent. If anyone knows the trick to this, please share.

The only ingredients I had to go out and buy were yeast (a staple for some people but not something I work with often) and unsalted butter, and the only cooking tools I needed to get were a frying/candy thermometer and doughnut-cutters (which you could easily work around, as you can see on the Pioneer Woman blog). Both were pretty inexpensive at Shackford’s in Napa and at the very least the yeast and thermometer will get good use over time.

The recipe looked pretty freaking delicious in part because they looked a lot like Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Ahmed and I are big fans of that variety – simple, squishy, sweet, and perfectly glazed. The reviews weren’t ideal – it was just a collection of people saying how delicious they looked and how they thought they would be so amazing to try – but I don’t think I saw a single review from anyone who had actually tried making them. But alas I was fasting and very, very hungry and my mouth was watering and I thought, what the heck, I should just to give it a go.

They turned out great but maybe just a tad bit yeastier than I was hoping for, and I’m not sure how to modify the recipe to correct that as I don’t have a lot of experience working with yeast. So I would probably just roll the dice and try an altogether different recipe next time. The basic glaze recipe was good though. I’ll probably keep that on hand for the future. Oh, and they had a very short shelf life. They were great the day I made them and good the day after. The day after that? Meh. You need a crowd to feed.

Anywho, without further adieu, here are the pictures (including one of the very patient Zahra attempting to eat her ball while waiting for me to finish):

Note: I neglected to take pictures of the first couple steps: making the dough and then letting it sit in the refrigerator for several hours. I did, however, talk Mr. Farooki into photographing the rest of the process.

Oh hey! Remember me? I used to blog here sometimes, kind of, on occasion.

It’s been a while.

For whatever reason, I’ve been on a bit of a cooking/make-a-huge-mess-of-the-kitchen streak lately. This isn’t to say that I don’t normally cook, but I’ve been taking the time to try new recipes and put old ones to good use. With a fairly new baby in the house, in the very recent past there were weeks of skipped dinners or making the easiest things possible – cereal, pasta, baked fish sticks – easy stuff to do with very little prep time and still better than take-out, but not exactly stuff you want to live on permanently.

At this point things are starting to evolve and the little one likes to hang out with me in the kitchen and bounce around in her bouncy seat. She can watch me and look out the window at the trees blowing around, one of her favorite pastimes. She isn’t to the point where she’s eating any real food yet, so she doesn’t get to taste any of the things that I’m cooking, but it’s important to me that she learn the value of home cooking. I realize that sounds a bit dorky, but it’s true. And as with most important things, it’s not a value you can instill just by talking about it, it’s in the doing.

I grew up in a home where we ate dinner together as a family, all eight of us if not more, every single night. My mom and grandma did most of the cooking, sometimes assisted in small ways by the rest of us. Dad and Grandpa tended to handle the BBQ-ing and grilling (a skill I’ve still yet to pick up and instead delegate to the husband). When I smell onions cooking, to this day I flash back to waking up from an after-school nap to the smell of dinner in the works in the kitchen. When I hear the sizzle of butter melting I remember my mom or grandma whipping up a million roll-em-ups (crepes) for us on weekend mornings. The kitchen has always been my family’s central hub. And it’s never been all about eating (even though they’re excellent cooks). It’s about spending time together and about the joy you get from feeding others, including any friends or distant family that happen to be around when meals are being served. It’s those memories that I want my daughter to have.

This month (amongst all this cooking, oddly enough) is Ramadan, a month where we fast from all food and drink from dawn to sunset. It’s on the lunar calendar so it shifts a bit each year, but this year it ends up being from around 4:30am-8:30pm. (For those of you worrying, no, babies and children don’t fast.) Over the course of the month, I feel more and more grateful for everything I have – the very basics to the luxuries. I have my family, my health, a roof over our heads, more than enough food and water, a place to cook… so many things that shouldn’t be taken for granted, and a month of fasting helps to put everything back in perspective.

Ramadan also prompts me to plan my cooking a bit more and to put a little more effort into it. For example, when fasting starts at the crack of dawn (literally), you need to make sure you eat a proper meal before that time. I have an impossible time waking up early enough to prepare something decent in the morning, so instead I usually cook the night before. And with my go-to meal, a frittata, I can cook a big one one day and the leftovers will last a week in the fridge: winning. It’s also conveniently high protein and makes use of all the leftover veggies you have in the fridge. Last week that even included some chopped up green beans – not bad.

Here are a few pictures of my most recent frittata and Zahra and I hanging out in the kitchen (recipe can be found here). This particular frittata included kale, yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, basil, lots of red onions, a few green onions, salt, pepper, red chili pepper powder, red chili pepper flakes, ground cumin, 7 eggs, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, a little sriracha, and a dash of milk. Next up: Doughnuts!

Photos courtesy of my awesome husband, Ahmed Farooki. (Except for the last one, which is obviously from my iPhone rather than the fancy-shmancy camera.)

I just discovered NPR’s Field Recordings today and I LOVE the videos they’ve posted so far! Thought I should share.

“Stripped of an electric guitar and moody reverb, Metric singer Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw perform a version of ‘Synthetica’ pretty enough to challenge the sweeping sunset behind them.”

Of Monsters And Men
“No strangers to natural beauty, the Icelanders were nevertheless stunned by the picturesque backdrop of the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington as they performed ‘Mountain Sound.’”

Lee Fields
“With his voice still raw from a show the night before, rough-and-tumble soul singer Lee Fields reached deep, fought off the morning fog and gave a passionate, stripped-down performance of ‘Still Hanging On.’”

I saw these guys opening for another band I went to see in SF a while back and was absolutely blown away. I actually enjoyed them way more than the one I went to see.

Horse Feathers | Belly Of June | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Horse Feathers – Working Poor from LaundroMatinee on Vimeo.

Horse Feathers – Thistled Spring from on Vimeo.

Pomplamoose makes me happy.

That is all.

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that I don’t think there are things we or – more specifically, I – should aim for or decide to accomplish. It’s just that I don’t think setting the resolution right on the first of the year is necessarily the best bet.

You see, any master procrastinator knows their patterns, ridiculous little OCD-ish “reasons” for not starting something important right at the moment they realize a change needs to be made. Need to lose a few pounds? I should probably finish the food in my fridge before I start my new diet so it doesn’t all go to waste, or I should probably wait until after my birthday next week since there will be cake and, you know, that would totally just ruin my whole healthy eating pattern right there and OH MY GOD LET ME SEE HOW MANY MORE EXCUSES I CAN COME UP WITH.

Yes, that needed to be in all caps.

And it’s in that same master procrastinator spirit that I bobble my head at the, “So, what are your New Year’s resolutions?” questions. I mean, do I have things I’d really, really, really like to accomplish this year? You bet your ass I do. But do I think that plastering them all over the Internets will help me accomplish them? Not so much, no.

But my husband has asked me to make “Stop head bobbling” my resolution for this year, and so it shall be.

Some of you may be wondering what this whole head bobbling business is all about, and so I present to you the highly contagious, completely awesome, just as completely annoying and ever so hard to quit Head Bobble. Please pardon the terrible quality – it was the best I could find.

First clip: Bobble at 54 seconds

Second clip: Bobble at 9 seconds, even better at 35 seconds

And this is where you come in (*cough, cough* so I have someone to blame if it doesn’t work out, *cough, cough*). For those of you who follow my rather sporadic blogging and actually see me face-to-face on a regular basis, if you see a bobble, a friendly nudge would be greatly appreciated. Please and thank you.

I was reading through the afternoon headlines today on one of my favorite blogs, The Morning News, and one link led to another and suddenly I was on a Yahoo! News page. I don’t know if the world just woke up this morning and decided to be an awful place or if Yahoo! simply couldn’t help themselves and decided to post every sad and scary news story at once in favor of increasing their page views and revenue by the sheer power of anxiety-inducing news (wait, scratch that – we all know it’s the latter), but the list of news stories was… not pretty.

I actually typed out links to some of the stories for you before managing to accidentally delete the whole thing, so I think this may have been God’s way of telling me to spare you the trauma. To give you a general idea though: a veteran parachuter committed suicide by unhooking his parachute over upstate New York, a husband and wife are dead after an apparent murder-suicide at Lowe’s in North Carolina, Troy Davis was denied his final appeal, and – lastly – a former Afghan president in charge of a government peace council trying to come to a peace agreement with the Taliban was killed in his own home by a suicide bomber who hid an explosive device in his turban.

Oh yeah, and then add the story about volcanic vents off an Italian island giving us a preview of the acidic oceans in our future, and the other one about the deadliest volcano on the planet, located in Indonesia, being ready to explode again.


But then I ran across this:

And that’s how I know we’re all going to be okay.

A Google Chat Conversation With My Husband

Me: I got on my hands and knees and cleaned our entire bathroom. It was nasty.

Ahmed: That sucks. I’m sorry you had to do that alone.

Me: You can do it next time. :)

Ahmed: No, I meant I would have liked to have watched. :P

Last weekend, in a moment of masochism/psychosis goodwill and generosity, I volunteered to help my little — okay, 20 and bearded — brother clean up his apartment up in the Humboldt area where he’s going to school. Well, not just his apartment, but one he shares with two other 20ish-year-old guys. Messy guys. Guys who leave the toilet seat up and little airsoft pellets all over the place and, miraculously, still had a complete shelf of seemingly untouched household cleaning products after living in the apartment for a year or so.

And that’s all I’ll say about the status of the place for fear that Patrick might stop clearing the table and doing the dishes for us each night every time he comes home.

It’s not that I’m that masochistic (or sadistic for that matter considering I also inadvertently volunteered Ahmed) or a big fan of cleaning, but since Patrick and his roommates were about to move out, his landlady had to start showing the place, and his roommates were home visiting their families. And ohhhh boy was this anything but a one man job.

So off we went with an assortment of cleaning products, enough rubber gloves to stock a janitorial supply store, and our own little Humboldt hippy in tow. And while it was a little frightening at times, considering the task, we actually had a pretty fun time!

On the way up, we stopped for lunch in Santa Rosa at the last In-N-Out Burger between Napa and Humboldt. Because of Humboldt hippies and their munchies the distance (over 200 miles), the animal style fries seem to be all Patrick and his friends can think about when they’re off at school.

And since my mom was on her own with one very mopey dog (Maggie just hasn’t been herself since Grandma got sick, and then we deserted her, so she was even more mopey), they decided to go out on their own little In-N-Out adventure. One in which the dog was introduced to Puppy Prozac.

But I digress.

We also went to this neat little diner called Toni’s after our first night of cleaning. I didn’t have much of an appetite, but when I saw blackberry cobbler on the menu, I just couldn’t help myself. And I’m so glad I went for it, because it was basically the best blackberry cobbler EVER (sorry, Mom!).

I think Patrick liked his food, too.

But lets get back to that whole Cleaning An Apartment of 20ish-Year-Old Humboldt Hippies thing.

How do I say this?

Guys? I thought I found a crack pipe. (Deep breaths, Family. That’s past tense right there. Thought, not think.)

It’s not that I thought my little brother was a crackhead or anything (he’s quite mellow and well-mannered), but the shape of the thing and the intricate design coupled with the fact that I found it hidden behind the microwave I was cleaning in the very scary kitchen just made the worst case scenario pop up in my head before anything else. I had never seen anything like it before, and when I asked Patrick about it, he said he and his roommates had no idea what it was either. According to him, they found it in a drawer in the kitchen filled with other odd things when they moved in.

No, I didn’t take it outside to “try it out” or anything, I was just having a really hard time getting a decent shot of it in the house.

The mystery of the thing went on for a few hours until my cousin, Byron, stopped by the apartment to loan Patrick a weed eater for the yard (thanks, Byron!). Byron, being raised in Humboldt, has been around a lot of hippies himself, and thus had adequate knowledge to not only identify but also appreciate the item. Turns out it was a Yerba Mate straw. Who knew?

I have heard that Yerba Mate can get you a little wired though, so in a sense it is a little like another delivery of a crack-like substance.

(Side note: It’s not that Ahmed and I think all people from Humboldt/Santa Cruz/Berkeley are hippies per se, but we enjoy the ones who are and find it entertaining to continue Grandpa’s legacy of hippy discrimination. Quietly, and mostly to ourselves. Because we’re easily entertained like that.)

Apart from the initial viewing of the apartment and a huge scary spider I found (and smooshed) while cleaning the windows, the only other scary part of our visit was our sleeping arrangement. Don’t get me wrong – we had a really cozy inflatable mattress and a down comforter, and the place was a lot cleaner by the time we went to bed – it was just, well, the view…

Each time I would open my eyes, there in the dim light staring down at me was none other than the really freaking scary looking (albeit very talented) Thelonious Monk. While I admire him and all and I don’t think he’s a frightening looking man in most cases, this particular image of him isn’t one I’d say could lull you to sleep at night. Or comfort you if you wake up in the middle of the night not entirely cognizant at first of where you are. Good times.

In addition to all of our other little adventures, we had a really nice breakfast outing the next morning at Los Bagels, which both Patrick and my sister Lisa (who also went to Humboldt State University) have always raved about. Ahmed and I split ours so we could try a couple things. I ordered the Huevos Los Bagels on a cheddar bagel and he ordered the cheddar bagel with cream cheese, lox, and all the toppings (red onions, Slug Slime, and chives). Both were delicious.

The place was really cute, and they had excellent coffee.

We also had a chance to stop and visit my Auntie Patty and Uncle Jon (and cousins Byron and Kenny), who we were rarely ever able to see in their own habitat with Grandma being down in Napa. While it’s a bit of a drive for just a weekend, it’s a really pretty area, so hopefully now we’ll get up there to visit more often than we used to. Especially since Patrick will never have a messy apartment EVER AGAIN, meaning we’ll have a lovely place to stay.

Right, Patrick?

Next post: The drive home.

One week ago, I lost my grandma.

I knew that the time was coming, and I knew it would be hard – very hard – but I didn’t realize exactly how disorienting it would be. I remember going to the farmers’ market a few weeks ago, browsing around for some things that might spark Grandma’s appetite or brighten her day a bit, picking up a bouquet of gorgeous, oversized dahlias, trying to find a few tomatoes that actually smelled like tomatoes, and then wandering over to pick up a few white peaches. The samples were sweet and just soft enough but the ones available to buy weren’t quite ripe yet, which led to these awful, morbid thoughts that I had never encountered up until that point: What if she’s not here in a day or two? What if there isn’t even enough time for these peaches to ripen?

She had hung on through so many tough times and illnesses – plenty of surgeries for various ailments, going through an unpleasant but necessary colostomy that we thought would be reversible only to find out she wasn’t quite healthy enough to have it reversed, years of weekly poking and prodding at the lab to keep her coumadin at the right dosage, losing her husband of 58 years. And then, about four months ago, a blockage of one of her arteries leading to her stomach, which the doctors couldn’t fix. Who knew that, ultimately, this is how Grandma would get her way?

Four months of hospice care in the comfort of her own home, four months without a handful of unappetizing drugs at breakfast and after dinner, four months without having to go to the lab every week to be stabbed and bruised, four months without having to go back to the doctors at all. As I’m sure she would say, how do you like dem apples?

We had lots of short drives through town, which was often all new to her, and long ones out to the beach to visit Papa; the best ice cream cone of her life (thanks to no longer being on a bajillion drugs, her taste buds allowing her to actually taste it and her appetite allowing her to surpass her usual two bites and eat the whole thing, cone and all); mornings and afternoons sitting in her garden with all of Mom’s flowers, always amazed by her gorgeous dahlias, watching her chickens waddle around, digging up worms; cozy mornings with her beloved and loyal dog curled up with her in bed for petting and tummy-rubbing; and four months of being comfortable at home, cared for with all the love in the world by her family.

As many times as Grandma told me over the last decade or so that if they put her in the hospital again for one more surgery, to pull the plugs and run – “You know where the money is,” she’d remind me, jokingly – I was never entirely sure that she was ready to go. But last week, when the time came and she finally was, she had it her way. After asking where Patrick (my little brother) was multiple times each day, he hopped on a bus and made it home to see her with just a few hours to spare; her cozy den, where she was resting in her reclined soft leather chair, was filled with as many of her loved ones as could make it in time and fit in the room, sharing their love, memories, and gratitude, offering comfort and hands to hold, and reminding her to keep Papa in line up there in heaven; and, even though it didn’t seem like she had been fully aware of place and time over the last few months, she waited until the precise two year anniversary of her husband’s passing to finally let go.

So this last week, while unbelievably hard and disorienting, has also been one full of gratitude and amazement: that God gave me such an amazing grandmother and role model; that I was so fortunate to be so close to her from the time she gave me baths in her kitchen sink to the time I was able to help give her warm sponge baths and mini-facials in her bedroom; that she was with us long enough to meet and develop such an amazing, loving relationship with my husband; that after all she gave to her loved ones throughout her life, we were able to be there for her and reflect that love up through her final breath; and that even in the end, Grandma got her way.

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