Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's a B Kind of Day

First off, check it:

This insanely cute custom little beauty for the BlackBerry Curve, with it's matching wristlet went into the mail today. But I could have admired it all afternoon, really, because it was just that fun!

Then, a bowl of yumminess that Boy, who is out to dinner on business tonight, would have wanted to run from. Oven blasted balsamic-glazed beets and broccoli with brown Basmati rice and creamy balsamic drizzle:

For something so simple and vegetable-y, seriously, deliciously amazing and it took all of 10 minutes worth of prep. Of course there isn't a single thing you can do to a beet that I wouldn't love. And to think that a year ago, I had never purchased or eaten a beet in my life, and now I sort of dream about them and all the amazing things that can be conjured up with them. (thanks CSA!)

I've been feeling like utter yuck in the gastrointestinal department (which I'm certain is the result of eating too much meat and dairy of late), so as much as I miss having Boy home for dinner, I was sort of glad for the opportunity to be able to make something healthful without having to worry about him. Because while Boy almost never complains, he also does not adore the veg-intense, busting-with-health meals in the way that I do and I hate feeling like I've cooked him up a plate of misery.
So while I'm here whining about winter and pining away for the return of CSA and summer veggie abundance, Boy is celebrating veggie vacation and loving that he gets to eat more of anything NOT veggie.
Sad but true.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blog Fodder

So, Boy's workplace is in an office complex where their neighboring tenant is one of those social service agencies that helps developmentally disabled adults enter the workforce, or is like a daycare, or something. Which I think is great. Except for the fact that their two offices share a common restroom, and that one or more of this agencies' clients has bathroom "issues" on a fairly regular basis.
And without going into too much detail, these issues range from not understanding the social more that is closing the stall door, to poop problems that necessitate rubber gloves, a mop, bucket and a change of clothing, to um...engaging in activities of personal pleasure.

do not.
about the.

body fluids.

I have to say that it's really pretty funny to hear the stories from Boy about the day's bathroom events, and to hear about Boy's coworkers reactions to these bathroom events. Of course not working there and not having to actually use the bathroom in question makes it slightly easier to maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing.
Fortunately Boy is very easy going so for the most part he takes it all in stride and/or just pees when he is out to lunch.
But the same cannot be said for everyone in his office.
Because understandably, coming face to face with a poo-mergency, or even with the aftermath of a the office.... can be a little off-putting.

Now, whether a poo-mergency is more or less off-putting than walking in and finding completely naked guy just standing there, I'm not sure.

I keep telling him he needs to start a blog.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Who Wants Cake?

I was at Costco the other day to pick up my first new pair of glasses in 11 years (and some Cheerios. did you know they have gargantuan, doublewide boxes of Cheerios at Costco for like $5?). And yes, my first new glasses in 11 years, because I hate glasses and feel like I'm swimming when I wear them so I only use them to read in bed or when I first get up, but my previous pair had lost a nosepiece about three years ago and wearing them like that was starting to bug me. So I figured I'd give Costco optical a try, and it turns out you can get a decent looking pair of glasses for like $150 total, AND they have disposable contacts IN STOCK.
Anyway, in the vision department, that whole adventure was a major win, but my point is that I was also looking for media because I was desperate for something to read. And I did find a book I was interested in, and one of the other things I came across was this recipe book/magazine by Americas Test Kitchen. Not something I would typically buy, the overpriced little recipe compilation issues of magazines, but I do like the ATK TV show even though I commonly find their recipe tweaks and methods to be completely over the shark (most recently, spending 6 hours carmelizing onions in the oven for onion soup, or putting vodka in pastry crust, because nothing about pie crust is so difficult as to require me keeping chilled vodka on hand).
Anyway, I decided it was probably a worthwhile purchase despite being deeply offended by the Tiramisu recipe that calls for rum (um, hello? rum? marsala or Frangelico or it's not Tiramisu). And that shameful wrongness aside, I found several recipes I would make and gleaned some great tips, like tossing the potato wedges for oven fries in cornstarch before baking them to get them crispier.

And then I decided to make the recipe for Texas Sheet Cake, because I had the ingredients on hand and I needed a sugar fix.
And now I have a sheet cake here, that is, well, Texas-sized.
um, duh.
So come on over if you feel like some cake.

p.s. thanks for the replies about heartbreaking work. i feel so much better!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Random Commentary

First of all, I feel the need to announce that Trader Joe's Mayonaise is like eighty bajillion times better than Hellmans.
It tastes fresh and real and almost like it was just whipped up in my kitchen.
Who knew.
Thanks to Ms. Knit-Whit for that, or her mom by way of her sister-not-in-law.
Long story, but did you know that some people put mayo on a grilled cheese? I haven't tried it yet, but I intend to.


The other thing is, I just finished reading Dave Eggers "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius", and I feel I need some literary-type person to explain to me what the big deal is.
Even if that means talking to me like a second grader, really.
Because it's a highly acclaimed book and a Pulitzer prize finalist, but I just don't get it.

I found it tedious.
And occasionally annoying.
And it's not a book I would ever think twice about much less think was important or recommend-able.

So seriously, can someone who is smart about these kinds of things tell me what it is exactly, about this book that is supposedly so earth shattering? Like is it a style thing, or what?
Because I feel like there is some memo I never got.
And if you've just been shocked by my ignorance in such a way that you're calling me an idiot to yourself, that's OK.
Because I probably am.
And if you can grant me the patience to explain it, even it's in the same way you'd explain something to a five year old, I'll love you.
Because I just need to know.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lets Talk Community Supported Agriculture

A couple of things crossed my path today that got me thinking...anticipating...Spring. And maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit, but with some things you need to turn up early to get the good stuff.
And when it comes to choosing and signing up for a CSA farmshare, turning up early is always advisable, so I figured I'd pass that reminder along to y'all.

So yea, it's still January, and the growing season, at least in MN is still months away, but I speak from experience when I tell you that now is the time to start doing your homework to get yourself set up with a CSA share for the coming season.

Regardless of where you live, the Local Harvest website is a fantastic resource for all things edible. There you'll find the information you need to study up and choose the perfect partner to provide you with a seasons' worth of lovely local produce.

Here's a peek at one of the final boxes from the '08 season:

Our share was with Riverbend Farm, and if you're local to the Twin Cities, I highly recommend Greg and Mary and crew.

I found that photo in my picture files, waiting since last Fall to be uploaded to the set that documented the contents of each weeks' box for our entire season with Riverbend Farm. If you're curious to know what you could expect from a CSA farmshare, check those photos out here.
And I know I've said it before, but I really can't shout loud enough about the awesomeness that is CSA. I know it may seem like a lot of money to put forth all at once...for vegetables...but I know that wherever you live and whatever CSA farm you choose, you'll find it's an excellent value with a payoff that goes well beyond just fresh veggies.

So go get started on your homework, ok?


Monday, January 19, 2009

Spinach Mushroom Pizza, My Favorite!

I had some spinach and a container of mushrooms burning a hole in my produce drawer all week, and the obvious answer came to me yesterday afternoon when trying to figure out what yumminess we could conjure up for dinner without leaving the house.
That yumminess, for me anyway, turned out to be spinach-mushroom pizza:

This one with just goat cheese, because I am at the point of being almost completely unable to deal with anything cows' milk other than yogurt.

The spinach-mushroom combo is an old favorite of mine that more or less fell out of favor when I met my mushroom hater, but fortunately for us all, I also had some ham in the fridge, and according to Boy, "anything with ham is my favorite". So that's his ham and mozzarella pizza there in the back.
Suprisingly it smelled pretty good, but it was nowhere near as inviting as my garlic-y pile of sauteed spinach and mushroom love.

And I still have the leftovers waiting for me in the fridge. One of the many bonuses of living with a mushroom hater.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bad, Bad Thing I Did

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already heard my confession. If not, here it is in living color:

Say hello to my new favorite gadget, an Acer Aspire One mini-notebook.

Either I haven't been spending enough time channeling my inner Asian teenager, or I'm just getting old and slow, because I only recently discovered the wonder that is the "netbook" despite the fact that they've been around for a while.
And ever since then, no matter how hard I tried to resist, my craving for one just kept coming back.

Because I am sucker for all things trial-size.

So I finally broke down and ordered one last week. And despite the fact that Boy thinks it's the dumbest, most useless thing ever, he's already named it Junior, aka The Little Guy. Because engineers have a habit of naming all their computers...or "machines" as they're called by my favorite resident computer geek. And I'm taking this as proof that he secretly thinks it's just the slightest bit cool.

Anyway, me and my new machine...Junior...have been getting to know each other. And so far I think it's just about the coolest thing ever, because it's tiny and super light but it works basically just like a full size laptop, albeit slightly dumbed down. I got the older A110 model because it was available with a version of Linux (my long-time OS of choice), but you can get it with XP, too, and it's just been announced that there'll be a 10" screen version out shortly (this one as an 8.5" screen).

As you can probably imagine, I'm already at work on a cute and nifty new case for it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Designer Denim

These days, I'm way too cheap to spend $200 on jeans for myself, but that doesn't mean I won't foot the bill to outfit PupCake in some designer denim. I hear he keeps a fabulous tailor at his beck and call, and his with his killer figure, he deserves nothing but the best:

You know they say most people treat their pets better than they treat themselves, and we're no exception. I think this is custom made garment number three or four (not counting the locker full of collars and leashes) for him, compared to zero human garments. Pretty good for a guy who does nothing more than lounge around and look cute 90% of the time.

I finally got my act together enough that this latest ensemble even comes with a matching leash and collar set, complete with monogrammed tag.

Now if only it would get above zero we could go on a walk and show off!

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year, New Leaf

This new leaf shot up and was ready to present itself to the world right around the first of the year, and I've enjoyed watching it unfurl a bit more every day since. As of today it's almost completely open, but it has a way to go before it will reach its final height:

I've had this plant for almost a year and it's been growing like crazy despite having done nothing to it other than watering and the occasional dose of fertilizer. Because to be a houseplant around here means being easy to grow and unfussy...or being subjected to a slow, tortuous death. Because I refuse to nurse picky plants. Just ask my (former) lemon tree.
Anyway, I think I got this one at IKEA for $19.99, and as with all new houseplant acquisitions, I wasn't expecting too much but for that price, having it here as long as it would take me to kill it would have meant me feeling like I got my moneys' worth.
But grow and thrive it has, and I'm thrilled, because one of the things I've always thought would be fun for this house is huge, tall plants. I even went so far as to start researching bamboos that were indoor container friendly, but I talked myself out of that because it seemed like most of the varieties that were easy to grow indoors either weren't tall or weren't suited to the light conditions in here. Plus they were expensive and hard to get.
But, ready or not, it seems I may be well on my way to having my first huge, tall plant, as I've now got going on ten feet of what I think is a species of Musa (aka banana). But I'm dreading having to repot it more and more with each new leaf addition, because aside from the physical challenge that will be getting it out of its existing pot and into a new one unharmed, big pots are way, way expensive. Like hundreds of dollars expensive.
So the only other comment I have on that subject is the thing better not freakin croak after I buy it a $300 new pot...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baking Bread

Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire, from The Bread Bakers Apprentice, which I think is a great book, particularly if you're into baking geekery because it gives fairly extensive how and why of different ingredients and techniques. It's one that I don't bake from nearly enough.

I only sort of followed the recipe. I didn't have any wheat bran and was loathe to go buy some just for a couple of tablespoons worth, so I used extra of the other grains. These included oats, polenta-style cornmeal, cooked brown rice, and most interestingly, quinoa. The quinoa I just happened to have a bit of laying around, leftover from last summers' experiments with it where I discovered I didn't heart it as much as I would have hoped. (Revisit that adventure here.)
And I didn't have the instant yeast called for (or rather I have a whole huge pagackage that seems to be dead despite having been stored in the freezer) so I just used a package of good old Red Star from my pantry and added it to the liquids to hydrate it first instead of the direct method, i.e. adding it to the dry ingredients, as is possible with instant yeast.

I was trying for a baguette shape, but I hadn't made this particular recipe before and I realized once I had shaped and set the loaves to rise that it's not really that kind of a dough. So they got a little flat and pudgy but it's a shape that will work great for sandwiches when sliced through the middle.

And it's darn tasty, too. A bit sweet for my palate, but that makes great for eating plain with just butter and the texture is nice and chewy with the combination of grains. The topping is nigella seed because my poppy seeds were, um, not usable. Turns out the nigella is a win...peppery and spicy and a nice foil to the sweetness....yum!
We ate a bit with our leftover squash soup from the other night an the rest got stashed in the freezer. And I have to say that knowing I have homemade bread of any sort in the freezer makes me just so, so happy. Much more so than other kinds of leftovers.


Friday, January 09, 2009

No Short Bus for PupCake

Ahh Greyhounds.
No matter how well adjusted and happy, they always seem to be just a little bit neurotic, like it or not.
Unlike most normal dogs, PupCake has never, ever shown any interest in getting up on the furniture. To this day, he's never been on any sofa or chair in the house, preferring any one of his three beds to those lowly human perches. And our bed? Forget it. He's never even considered it. So while it's sort of nice that I dont' have to worry about every comfortable sitting and lying surface in the house getting dog-ified, it's also hard not to take it a little bit personally when I try and get him to jump up on the bed for a snuggle and he runs away in fear to his own bed and then shoots me a look that proclaims "safe!"
It's like he doesn't get that the people bed is a prized and comfortable place to lie.
And silly me, I was almost ready to believe he was really that ignorant, but you'll note I said Greyhounds are neurotic, not stupid. They only pretend to be stupid, as evidenced by the fact that PupCake's human-beds-are-scary rule applies only to his home.
I know this because every time we go to grandmas, the first thing he does is jump right up onto her bed and make himself comfortable, with a look like "um, duh, why wouldn't I choose to lie here?'s a BED for dogs' sake". It's the craziest thing ever, and I have to say that the first time it happened I was more than slightly relieved to know he wasn't so much of a short bus rider that he didn't know a comfy spot from a danger zone.
Anyway, even after lots of human bed practice at grandmas, the the only way Dad's gonna get some PupCake love when he's in bed with a headache is if someone physically puts him up which case he settles right in and proceeds to hog every inch of space. Because the (furry) guy's got a lot of leg, you know?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I Hate Squash

I guess this counts for a What's For Dinner Wednesday since I made it on Wednesday and it was something new:

Creamy squash and root vegetable soup. But in truth, it's more like faux creamy since it really only had about 1/4c. of cream in the whole pot. No recipe this time, just a winging-it compilation of freezer and fridge scraps.
I started with a container of squash from our CSA that I had roasted and tucked away in the freezer last fall, plus half a can of leftover organic pumpkin puree that was hanging out with it. I had a couple of turnips and parsnips in my veg drawer...leftovers from Thanskgiving... and I rough chopped those plus a couple of carrots and onions and roasted everything in a hot oven for a half hour or so. Once the fresh stuff had a bit of color, I dumped it into a stockpot with the frozen stuff and some pressed garlic, thyme, olive oil and grated ginger, plus a bit of coriander and cumin and then let the whole deal simmer in a quart of chicken stock until the veg were nice and soft and starting to break down. At that point it was into the blender to puree, back into the pot, adjust the seasonings and then let it simmer happily away until dinner time.
The crisps happen to be the companion to an actual squash soup recipe that popped up on Epicurious, basically just cheesy crostini with a little fresh herb added, and they were the perfect compliment.
I hate squash, but this rocked and I had two bowls. Even Boy went back for seconds, and the leftovers were just as good tonight. Easy, tasty and healthy and perfect for a cold winter night!


OK, so I just had to tell someone that I've just observed a person on the trail behind my house walking and reading a book.
Does that count as an upper body workout, then, too?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Partners in Caffeine Crime

A while back your friend and mine, Mariko over super eggplant at gifted me these neato insulated Bodum cups:

I dunno if she was aware of my Bodum obsession prior to that or not, but it was a gift that hit the mark, because as I think I've told you before, I am and have always been completely obsessed with all things Bodum and borosilicate glass.
And so they got a lot of use. And ever since Boy gave up drinking Mountain Dew a few months ago (gack! Yay Boy!), he's become quite the coffee fiend. So despite the fabulous win that is having a new coffee maker in residence, we often found ourselves fighting for rights to the one remaining Bodum insulated cup...because one of our lameass kitties broke the other one.

Anyway, I figured it was time to invest in a few more cups so the other day I paid a visit to the delicious Bodum website to pick up a couple more sets, and while I was there I just couldn't resist getting some of the larger cooler-size glasses to match. Because they were all on sale for like LESS than half price. But, what with coffee being the slippery slope that it is, it didn't take long for Boy to discover that what goes down easy from a small cup, goes down even better with a large one:

And of course I was quick to follow him down that hole.
That co-dependence thing, ya know.

p.s. I just checked, and they're still on sale. Practically free. Seriously.

Monday, January 05, 2009

One Piece Welt Pocket

I thought I'd start off the new year with a nifty little sewing tutorial. If you're a non-sewer, quit here or you'll almost certainly be bored to tears, but don't worry, because I'm sure I'll be back to food and other crafty stuff shortly :)

As you are probably aware, I sew... a lot. And I take a great deal of pride in producing and selling only things that are as perfect as I can make them, a fact that, when it comes to handsewn goods, can be at odds with needing to keep the whole endeavour worth my while financially. So I'm always looking for ways to work that are both better and faster, and this little trick is one of the handy shortcuts that I've come up with that I absolutely love.

I'm going to address welt pockets specifically, but this technique was actually born from a method I devised for zipper pockets whereby the zipper tape is covered even on the reverse side (tutorial coming soon I hope).
This is a one piece method, meaning you achieve a complete welt pocket using only a single piece of fabric insead of two pieces for the pocket bag plus two separate strips of fabric for the welting as with the standard method. The finished welt pocket looks like this:

Looks complicated and time consuming, right? Not!

1. First, calculate and cut your pocket bag fabric. For the width figure the finished pocket opening size and add 2". For the length, double the desired pocket bag depth and add 4" to 6".

In my case, I want a finished opening that is 7" wide with a 1" wide welt, and I want my pocket to end up 8" deep, so I cut my bag fabric 9" wide by 22" long, or, (2x8)+6. If you're planning a narrower welt opening, your welts will use less fabric so you can cut the pocket fabric a bit shorter.

2. Locate and mark the top of the opening on right side of (fashion) fabric.

3. Lay the strip of pocket bag fabric out flat on top of the fashion fabric, right sides together*. Align the top of the pocket bag piece 1 1/2" plus the width of the welt from the top of edge of the welt opening. In this case, the top edge of the pocket extends 2 1/2" above the top edge of the intended opening.

4. Carefully mark stitching lines for the pocket opening on the pocket bag. The whole arrangement ready to stitch should look something like this:

5. Stitch the pocket opening as accurately as possible using a short (2-2.5mm) stitch length.

6. Cut opening, being careful to center the cut and snipping in a "V" as close to opening corners as possible without cutting beyond stitching. An x-acto knife works well, and I like to put a drop of FrayCheck in each corner just for insurance.

Now, here's where we deviate from a standard welt pocket. Normally you turn and press this opening. For a zipper pocket you'd have made the opening narrower and you'd put the zipper in now. For a welted pocket, you'd have inserted separate strips of folded fabric, with or without cording inside them, between these layers and then tried to line up and stitch the whole deal, a process that I've always found excessively futzy, messy and do-over prone. I have a better way...

7. Fold the pocket bag fabric back through the opening to the wrong side. Turn the whole piece over and press the pocket bag flat to the wrong side just at the vertical seams at this point, taking care to get the corners as neat and pucker-free as possible:

8. Press the top seam down, making a nice straight fold across entire width of pocket fabric, then turn up edge of pocket fabric along cut edge.

From the front, it should now look like this:

9. Repeat with lower edge.

Pin folds in place from front and topstitch around entire welt opening:

here's what it looks like now, from the right side:

and from the inside (wrong) side:

At this point, I stitched on a snap tab for the closure, but you can omit this or use an alternative:

10. Now form the pocket bag. Fold bottom edge of pocket bag fabric up to meet the top edge. Pin edges and stitch around sides and top, folding fashion fabric back and away as necessary to keep from being caught in stitching. Finish raw edges of pocket bag as desired:

Press, and voila! A simple, neat and tidy one piece welted pocket!

Of course you can use matching rather than contrasting fabric for the pocket if you want a more subdued look. I like to use something contrasting because it shows off the detail of the welt better and adds a little pop and interest to the bag lining. Also keep in mind that if you want a true corded welt pocket this method still works. Just add it by cutting the cording strips the same length as the opening and placing them in the folds before you topstitch everything in place. I think it's a superior method since it's reduces the amount of fabric in the seams and produces a tider, less lumpy looking pocket.

* orienting the fabrics right sides together puts the right side of the pocket fabric on the pocket interior. In certain situations, you may want to change this.

As I said, I hope to have a tutorial for a one piece couture-finish zipper pocket up shortly, and I'll also show you how to do a French seamed pocket bag using this method for pockets that are visible inside a bag.

Oh yea, and Happy New Year!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?