Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dinner during Dora: Easy Pizza

Long time readers may or may not remember that I was looking for a good pizza dough recipe. I have been meaning to post the pizza dough recipe I eventually settled on for a long time, but I kept forgetting to take pictures of the final product. I have finally assembled all of the pictures I need and I have a somewhat lazy Sunday morning going: I am sitting at my computer drinking tea while my kids play, but I don't really need to do any work.

So, I'll tell you about the pizza dough.

The recipe below is derived from the Smitten Kitchen Lazy Pizza dough that Today Wendy recommended. I made some changes because Pumpkin didn't care for the dough I made by following the original recipe. The rest of us liked it, but I was determined to find something everyone would like. My additions are a little whole wheat flour and some "green can cheese" (Kraft Parmesan in the can—I would have used cheese powder as recommended in one of the other recipes I found, but I didn't have any and my grocery store doesn't stock that and the whole point was for this to be easy.)

Easy Pizza Dough

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cup water, plus more as needed to make a "craggy" dough that sticks together. I was using less water than needed at first, and the dough wasn't rising as much as it should have. The crust still tasted good, but it was a little dense and chewy. Live and learn.

Yeast, based on how long you're going to let the dough sit on the counter:
1/8 tsp for overnight + the next day
1/4 tsp for just the day
1/2 tsp for a half day (~6 hrs)

1/3 cup "green can" Kraft Parmesan cheese

Mix everything but the Parmesan cheese together in a big bowl, cover loosely with a tea towel, and let it stand for the desired amount of time. This is really quick, which is why I don't mind doing it in the morning. It takes five minutes to throw together, at most.

Dough, ready to rise

When you're ready to make your pizza, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Then add the Parmesan cheese and work it into the dough. I add about a third, fold the dough over, add another bit, fold the dough over, then add the rest and fold the dough over again. Then I fold and squeeze the dough until the cheese is worked in.

Dough, having risen.
Then shape your crust. I can't add anything to the instructions in the original Smitten Kitchen recipe here, so go read that. I do follow those instructions and spray cooking spray on my cookie sheets and then coat with cornmeal.

I may need to work on my crust shaping skills.
Top with your desired toppings. I make three pizzas: one for the grown ups, one with just sauce and cheese for Petunia, and one with just cheese for Pumpkin.

Bake at 500 degrees F for ~15 minutes. Then let it stand about 5 minutes so that you don't burn yourself cutting it.

The finished products.
Eat and enjoy!

Source: derived from the awesome Smitten Kitchen Lazy Pizza recipe.

Who eats it: Everyone!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Weekend Reading: The I'm Still Celebrating Edition

I am so happy that we saved the ACA! I know my efforts didn't make much of a difference: my Congressman was always against the repeal bill. But I'm still going to bask in this victory a bit, because we have a lot of hard fights ahead. We have to enjoy the ones win. Also, if millions of people keeping their insurance isn't cause for celebration, I don't know what is. 

(For the record, I know the ACA isn't perfect, and that some people still struggle to get good insurance they can afford. I want to see legislation that improves this situation, and I'll support such legislation, no matter which party introduces it. But the AHCA was not that legislation, not at all.)

Anyhow, I had a nice rollerblade and called it a victory lap.

On to the links.

Next week is the last week Caresaway will be in the Kindle Unlimited program. If you subscribe to that program and are tempted to read this book, now is your time!  On April 4, Caresaway will become available through BN.com, Kobo, GumRoad, and iBooks. You'll always be able to find the latest purchase links on the Caresaway homepage.

So, despite being really happy about the ACA not getting repealed, I don't have any links about that. Instead, here is a somewhat terrifying article about one group of scientists' roadmap for meeting the climate goal set by the Paris agreement. Add "we really need to stop using so much fossil fuels NOW" to the list of reasons coal jobs aren't coming back. I think that the sooner everyone acknowledges that, the better. Then we can move on to finding other industries that can bring prosperity to America's coal regions.

This Bloomberg article about conditions in Alabama's non-unionized auto parts plants is heartbreaking. 


Speaking of lies... turns out Eric Trump plans to report on the Trump Organization's financial status. There is no real separation between Trump the President and Trump the businessman, and that is bad for the rest of us.

And here's an appropriate quote a reader sent me:

"For many people the truth, it seemed, was what you wanted it to be, and if you asserted a falsehood long enough with sufficient conviction, then it would be believed, not only by those whom it was intended to deceive, but by you yourself. This enabled you to protest with real feeling when the fact was called into question."
 - Alexander McCall Smith in his novel The Bertie Project (44 Scotland Street Series)

Moving on...

This is a really interesting post about what might be going on with Trump and judges right now.



And now for the tweets. Here's a patch of California desert looking pretty:



Target does poetry:


All sorts of awesome:


BUNNY!


Happy weekend, everyone. Also, next week is spring break here, and I'll be playing more than working, so don't be surprised if no links post shows up next week. You know you can always go check out Nicoleandmaggie's links if you're in need of reading.... 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Assimilation is the Wrong Goal

When I was a kid, people worried that Latino immigrants to the US weren't assimilating like earlier European immigrants had. I don't remember the details, because it wasn't a topic we dwelt on in my house. I do remember a lot of hand-wringing in the media about the fact that Spanish was still spoken so much. I don't remember if I thought a lack of assimilation was a ridiculous thing to worry about given the obvious similarities between me and the my many Latino classmates. But I remember hearing about it. I remember later learning about the "No Irish need apply" days and telling my Mom I thought that maybe in time, the slurs I heard about Mexicans would seem as weird as the old slurs about the Irish, and I remember her trying to explain to me about why racism meant it wouldn't necessarily be that simple.

And she was right, it hasn't been, not at all. But those fears about assimilation turned out to be bunk. My kids now go to school with the grandchildren (and perhaps great-grandchildren) of the immigrants people were worried wouldn't assimilate. Remember, my kids go to a Spanish immersion school. Those immigrant families assimilated so well that now they have to send kids to school to become fluent in Spanish, just like I do.

In truth, I dislike the word "assimilate." It reminds me too much of the Borg from Star Trek. I also don't think it really describes what happened. We didn't absorb each wave of immigrants into an unchanging monoculture. Instead, each wave integrated with the people already here, and the result is the regional variation we take for granted. In many cases, the integration remains imperfect and incomplete, but that is usually because we've erected barriers, not because the people who came here want to remain separate.

Whenever I hear people talk about how the earlier waves truly "assimilated," I think that those people aren't looking hard enough. Remember this tweet I found so funny?




If you aren't from the Midwest and/or of Scandinavian descent, you probably have no idea what the hell lutefisk is, right? You betcha.

And don't forget about all the ethnic festivals we have. We are in the midst of planning our summer vacation (yeah, when you have to get your kids signed up for summer camp, you plan your summer early...) and our current plan involves driving across the I-80 in Nevada. Mr. Snarky was doing some research about places we might stop, and discovered the Elko Basque Festival. Sadly, I think we will miss it by a day. But it was such a random thing to discover in a town in the middle of such a sparsely populated part of Nevada that we actually considered trying to rework our schedule to catch the festival.

If you live in a city, there are probably ethnic festivals going on all the time. Here in San Diego, I've been to a Greek festival and a Polish festival. I love the Pacific Islands festival we have, and next year, I'm going to plan to go to the Diwali celebration at Balboa park instead of stumbling into it unprepared and being unable to stay for the best part. And there are more.

But even if you live in a small town, there is probably one ethnic festival: the one for the ethnic group that built your town, like the Basques in Elko.

So when I hear worries about Muslim immigrants not "assimilating," I just can't buy into it. I suspect they will "assimilate" just as much as any other group has: which is to say, they will integrate like every group before them, unless we screw it up with our fear-mongering. Heck, they will probably integrate despite our attempts to screw it up with our fear-mongering. Others in the past did.

I do not mean to imply that everything is roses. The warning my Mom gave child-me about the impact of racism remains. Racism is a poison in our society, and as my Mom said, it will complicate the story of these immigrants. But the fact remains that the only wave of immigrants that didn't integrate with the people already here was the first one.

That particular point of history should be enough to remind us that assimilation is the wrong goal. But even ignoring history and looking only forward, I think it is the wrong goal. It shuts us off from what we can learn from the people who come here. It sets up a goal that no other immigrant group has really met, and in doing so, I think it ignores one of the sources of our strength. Just like diverse teams do better work, I think a diverse country is likely to have a stronger, more resilient economy and society. Yes, there is a price to pay for diversity. Diverse teams have to work harder at communication and inclusivity, and so will a diverse nation. But that work pays off in access to a wider range of ideas to tackle problems, and a deeper understanding of the world.

So instead of expecting immigrants to assimilate, we should look for them to integrate, and set ourselves the goal of removing the barriers to integration erected by racism.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Politics and Animals Edition

I didn't get my Friday rollerblade today, because my 4th grader had a special event at school. They do something called a wax museum. They each do a report on a famous person, then they dress up as that person and parents and other kids can come hear them deliver a spiel about their person. It was cool to see all the kids dressed up, and to walk around and get the spiels. There was a huge range of famous people selected. The kids were supposed to select someone with a connection to California, but they were pretty lenient in what that connection could be. Pumpkin was Amelia Earhart, and her connection to California was just that she ran a flight school here for a little while.

So, to the links.

I announced three new acquisitions for Annorlunda Books this week. Today, I spent a couple of hours working out the production schedules for those books and a Taster Flight I'd like to do.

In politics:

For St. Patrick's Day, Fintan O'Toole provides a reminder of the history of Irish immigration to the US, and how they were once the reviled, uneducated, poor immigrants.

Today's WTF moment was provided by someone in the White House including this satirical Alexandra Petri post about the budget in their roundup of links they sent out trying to show the budget in a favorable light. As I said on Twitter, this would be funny, except these people also have the power to declare war.

A bipartisan roadtrip shows that maybe we can still be friends across the partisan divide. I am still friends with several people who see politics differently than I do. I like them, which is why I'm friends with them, but I also like knowing people who think differently than me. (Except on some deal-breakers: I've ended friendships over racism.)

John Scalzi wrote about something similar, and his post and the article it links to are good to read, along with the comments on his post, which are generally thoughtful.

The Iowa Starting Line looks at why Western Iowa keeps electing Steve King.

Megan McArdle on the mistake Republicans are making when they cut taxes like they've done in Kansas.

I've said before that I've found Vox's coverage of healthcare really useful. Here is a long piece from Sarah Kliff and Ezra Klein about the lessons of Obamacare that the Republicans apparently did not learn. It is worth the time to read.

This Chris Ladd piece is really good, both in thinking about how we got to our weird system where our employers provide health insurance and in thinking about why Democrats are struggling with working class white people right now. I think the fact that white people are used to getting our government assistance in basically invisible ways has allowed a culture to develop in which more obvious assistance—even when less generous than the assistance people like me get—is seen to be a sign of weakness or failure, which understandably makes people less interested in receiving it. I know plenty of people who have held off signing up for the unemployment benefits due to them after a layoff, because they do not want to take "help." Nevermind that it is a program they've paid into, they feel ashamed to need it.

But of course, we're all taking assistance. I take a ginormous mortgage interest deduction on my taxes. We have a child care credit on our taxes. But because those are tax deductions, they don't trigger the shame, I guess.

There's a lot going on there that I am not at all qualified to assess. Add it to my list of things to read about at some point, I guess.

That's a lot of politics, but I don't have much else this week. Just some creepy animals turned to stone at an alkaline lake in Tanzania.

And a dog with the best "bullshit!" face you'll ever see:




And bunnies. Of course, I have bunnies.




Happy weekend, everyone. Time for me to go make pizza!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trip Story: Anza-Borrego and the Salton Sea

Last Saturday, we drove out to see the "super bloom" that is underway in the Anza-Borrego desert. We have had a lot of rain in Southern California this winter, and that means that there are more flowers than usual in bloom. We don't go out to see the desert wildflowers every year—it is a long drive, so the trip takes an entire day, and we get busy. But I really wanted to see them this year.

The advice was to go early, but the kids do gymnastics on Saturday morning, so we went in the afternoon. We headed out as soon as we could get organized after gymnastics. We stopped for a quick lunch in Ramona, and then drove to Anza-Borrego. It was a pleasant drive, until we were about halfway down the mountain pass going into town: then we caught up with the traffic jam. We crawled forward, which at least gave me the opportunity to take pictures like these:

Sadly, the best view of the desert lupins we got all day.
At least, I think that's what those purple flowers are.

If you aren't used to seeing ocotillo, you maybe don't realize how weird it is to see them this green.

Desert mountains

A little bit outside of town, we saw a lot of people pulled over, and decided to join them. We walked along looking at flowers, and even climbed a small hill.

Yes, Petunia wore her Elsa hat on the hike.

Pretty little flowers, like a carpet!

Pretty flowers intertwined with a cactus.

Close up on a flower whose name I do not know.

Cactus in bloom.

Happy to have at least seen some flowers up close, we decided to go to the park visitor's center. We didn't make it there. The line was too long, and Petunia needed a bathroom. So we went instead to a town park for a break, then decided to go see a couple of the flower fields that had been mentioned in the park info I'd looked up.

The second stop was amazing. It is hard to describe how beautiful it is to see a field of yellow flowers in a desert. My picture doesn't do it justice.

This was more impressive in person.

After that stop, we decided we'd seen enough flowers. We were also only about 30 minutes' drive from the Salton Sea, an inland lake that was created by an accidental water release from the Colorado River in 1905. (I won't go into details here, but although this particular event was man-made, there is evidence that similar events happened naturally over the centuries. If you want to know more, the Wikipedia article has some details.)

On our way to the Sea, we stopped to admire a little canyon that is popular with off-road vehicles.

We didn't see the dirt bikes while we were stopped, but we could hear them.

We approached from the Salton Sea from the west, via Salton City, which is a weird mix of inhabited and uninhabited buildings. Mr. Snarky said it reminded him of the computer game he is playing right now, which is set in a post-apocalyptic Nevada. We parked at an abandoned dock, and then walked out to the sea... over a field of bones.

At first you think it is shells.

Then you notice the little skeletons.

The bones are from fish, birds, and barnacles. The kids alternated between being excited to find cool bones and thinking it was creepy to be walking on so many dead things.

The sea itself is calm, and beautiful.

The water was eerily calm.

The Sea is a bird sanctuary.We didn't see many birds on our visit, though.

Oh, and there was dried mud. Petunia LOVED that. I still haven't cleaned that off our shoes. They are sitting in a plastic bag in the garage. It did, however, vindicate my decision to pack some wet wipes in the car bag.

Petunia thought the big mud flakes were super cool.
Pumpkin is looking at a bird skeleton, I think.
We lingered for awhile, then walked back to our car and drove away. We drove back west through Ocotillo, and drove back into the mountains. The drive through the desert towards the mountains may have been my favorite part of the day. The late afternoon light on the desert, with mountains in the distance turned purple-blue by the disappearing light is something special. I don't have any pictures of that, and I doubt the pictures would capture the magic, anyway. It was the sort of view that made me wish I could paint.

My plan was to have dinner in Julian, but in retrospect, that was a bad plan once we decided to stop at the Salton Sea. I knew that everything in Julian closes early. I knew that there was really only one restaurant that would be open and acceptable to my kids. There was no particular reason to go to Julian that day. We could have continued south from the Salton Sea and joined up with the 8 in El Centro, having dinner at one of the tried and true chains we've stopped at before on our many drives to Arizona.

But, for whatever reason, we drove to Julian. The road through the mountains was windy (I knew this, too) and Petunia felt a little queasy by the time we arrived. The restaurant wouldn't have a table for us for an hour, and there was nothing much to do since all of the shops were closed. Inexplicably, instead of just driving on to Wynola or even all the way to Ramona, we waited. We were seated and got our dinner eventually, but by that time, the kids were too tired to really eat. Mr. Snarky and I enjoyed our meals, though. Then we loaded the kids into the car and I drove us home. The kids got to bed very late that night, but that didn't really bother them the next day. So I guess all is well that ends well.

Still, I wonder if I'll be able to convince them to go back to Julian during the daytime someday, or if I've spoiled it for them. It really is a cute little town when things are open, and they might not eat the apple pie for which the town is famous, but I do.... Maybe I'll put it on next year's family fun list.

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