Tuesday, March 31, 2009

look what Emily made me do

I was tempted to drive to Logan tonight and take Emily up on her internet scam offer of a shared lemon pie, but Captain America was home sick today with a digestive ailment. He was the kind of sick that we couldn't take the chances of sending him to school, or we might end up having to move to a different school district, if not an entirely new state. There was a girl in John's grade school whose last name was Barfuss, and one day she did. The rest of the story writes itself. Kids are mean.

So I got about the business of using the last two Meyer lemons to make the ugliest pie I have ever frankensteined together. One of the worst indignities is that I burned the first crust and had to bake another. Stupid distracting lunch. But the nice thing is that even with a monstrously hideous crust this pie is the best lemon pie in the world. And it's not that lurid, throbbing, radioactive yellow one often sees, because it's made with real no-foolin' lemons.

You'll be gratified to know that yesterday when we got home from Costco and brought in the groceries, John set the two chickens we had bought on top of the bag of flour we had bought and promptly forgot them until right now. He was wondering if we should freeze the zombie birds before we trash them, but since the skunk is already dead our garbage can will probably remain inviolate. Well, comparatively.

provincial me

I've finally eaten oysters on the half shell, and of course my choice for where to first consume this delicacy was the Lucky Buffet Chinese restaurant in Riverdale. Obviously. To be fair, they are a very clean, well-run establishment, but when you get into the territory of raw mollusks, you're probably safer talking to the Market Street fishmonger.

It was a challenging thing to eat, too. I love the bivalve family in all its variety, but I've only ever eaten its members cooked. Sashimi is easy, because the texture is so uniform, and firm like a properly-cooked steak, but a raw oyster is a whole different ball of wax. But I was determined, so I loosened the oyster from its shell and slid it into my mouth unadorned. It tasted like it smelled--cold and clean. The texture is what was so difficult for me. It was very slippery, and there were chewy parts, tender parts, bursty parts full of liquid . . . there was just a lot going on. It took me a while to get it down, because it wasn't really the sort of thing you chew and swallow. It didn't make me sick (yet), but I think next time I might try a little sprinkle of kosher salt or lemon. And that might be a while from now.

Also there is a dead skunk on the road in front of our house. See?

Monday, March 30, 2009

garden status for last week of march/first week of april 2009

Well, I found my boots. They look-a like this:
Not exactly what I wanted, but close enough. I know, you're so relieved.

Friday afternoon was lovely, and warm enough that we got the spinach, mesclun and mache planted in the front flower garden. I figured that all that nice dirt could probably grow salad greens as well as it grows weeds, which it does in spades. I also decided to try doing a cauliflower there as well. Our house faces east, and I'm hoping that the afternoon shade will help the plants not to bolt when the weather makes its snowy-->perfect and balmy-->hot like unto the face of the sun transition that takes about three days here.

I have a crowding situation in the front garden--there is a volunteer Oregon-grape, a Spiraea (I don't remember which variety--japonica, maybe?) and a Diablo Ninebark which are all up in each other's business because I planted the Spiraea and Ninebark too close to each other. I think I'll just tear out the Oregon-grape, because I have other volunteers of it elsewhere in the yard. Anybody who wants to drive to my house can have it for free--they are awesome bushes. So that leaves the Spiraea and the Ninebark, and I think the Spiraea is the best one to leave where it is, even if its blossoms are similar to the Joe-Pye Weed that's right next to it. So where do I put the Ninebark?

This weekend we saw some people just plopping raised beds right onto their grass--it made me think of you, All8--and even though it's expensive to buy all the materials and filler dirt/planting mixture, I would really like to do that. We have all this unprofitable lawn on the north side of our house, but it gets quite a bit of sun, and it should be doing SOMETHING to contribute to the household.

I have a pair of pants that used to fit me great, but lately they've started hanging all weird and giving me a polterwang. Why do pants have to do that? Why can't they just be normal sauce?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

shut up, shoe designers

Seriously. Who do I have to kill to get a pair of brown, round-toe, knee-high boots? Like these, only brown and made of leather.
But I sort of want these, too. Think how cute! THINK, I SAID.

Friday, March 27, 2009

if I eat it only a sliver at a time it doesn't count

Well, I FINALLY made that lemon pudding cake with the Meyer lemons (at a Costco near you!), and though the tartness of a conventional lemon is something I love, this too had merit. The kind of merit that has me exercising extreme levels of restraint and self-control to keep from eating the rest of the pan with a ladle. Maybe it tasted more ethereal because of the emotional equipage I yet carried from the Sucanat Lemon Pudding: Official Dessert of Syria's Covert Torture Prisons.
Nah. It really is that good. And now I'm going to go back to the kitchen and taste it some more. Because I'm a princess and I can do what I bloody well like.

it has enough fat on its own, I promise

Last night we ate fried chicken, only really it was baked. The amount of grease a chicken throws off, you guys. I don't think it needs to be fried. Anyway, it was delish, and here is the recipe:

Oven Fried Chicken
Chicken: as much of whatever kind of chicken you want to eat and still have leftovers for breakfast the next day. I used two trays (20 pieces total) of bone-in, skin-on thighs. Shut up, it was for a reason. We're not ogres.

Put the chicken in a plastic bag and pour buttermilk in to cover. Seal the bag and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or two, flipping once in a while if you want. I did. I also had four 1-gallon bags of chicken.

About an hour before you want to eat, preheat the oven to 375*, get the chicken out and make the coating.

Coating (amounts are very approximate and can be changed to suit your taste and chicken amounts):
4 C flour
1 1/2 T paprika
2 T garlic salt (or powder, whatever you've got)
1 t cayenne
2 t salt

Put the coating in a bag (I used a 2-gallon zip-top) and shake it around, then add the chicken a few pieces at a time and shake to coat. Put the coated chicken pieces in a pammed baking dish. Bake at 375* for an hour, give or take--whenever the chicken is tender and not poisonous. Around 165*.

I'm not from the South, so I can't say this with any authority, but I bet anyone would be proud to show up to a church picnic or husking bee with a big platter of this chicken.

wise words from a wise man

Mr. Miyagi said something today that really made me think. He said balance not just for karate; for whole life.

I never thought of it that way! I bet you're a lot happier if you leave time in your life for not just martial arts, but also going to the arcade.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

stupid garden won't weed itself

This is a piece on Slate that you should read, because Tipsy Baker is both talented and correct.

big idea

Would it be gross to have a "Fried Chicken" perfume? Or the best smell in the world?

You'll find out the next time you smell me.

everyone loves a whipping boy

I don't know if you caught Diane Rehm today, but it was the closest thing to a bloodbath you can get on such a civilized program. They were discussing "healthful" food (haaaate that word) and how people are rethinking what they are or should be eating. The panel consisted of a few plucky upstarts and free thinkers who just want what's best for the kids, and the earth, man, and a guy from the American Farm Bureau Federation playing the role of Satan. It was crazy. It's mean to vilify him, but dude brought a knife to a gunfight. He refused to make any concessions whatsoever that local, organic, sustainably-grown produce just might be more nutritious than distant, factory-farmed, conventionally grown monoculture crops.

I admire his moxie for even showing up. He had to know going in that it was going to be ugly.

try this easy food thing: hot fudge sauce

Here's a recipe for chocolate sauce that is sweetened with honey instead of white sugar, so 1)vitamins for sure! and 2)it doesn't get all gritty, which is a hateful way for chocolate sauce to be.

Hot Fudge Sauce
(taken almost whole cloth from the Better Homes and Gardens recipe)
3/4 C semisweet chocolate pieces
1/4 C butter
1/2 C honey
2/3 C evaporated milk

Melt the chocolate and butter together, add the honey, then gradually stir in the evaporated milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and boil gently for 8 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Let cool and serve warm over ice cream.

This keeps for a long time in the fridge, reheats wonderfully and doesn't crystallize. It is sort of strong--for dark chocolate lovers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

tacky puns: adventures in english III

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who say, "It's Wednesday, all day, even if it rains!"
And those who don't.
Those who get a haircut and say, "Nope, I got ALL of 'em cut!"
And those who don't.
Those who call Las Vegas "Lost Wages."
And those who don't.

I was talking to a woman the other day who forgot a detail of what she was telling me, and said, "Sorry, I've got Alz--sorry, Old-Timer's." Let me be clear: she started referring to the disease by its real name, then corrected herself to call it by its stupid, tired, played joke name.


product may stay: kefir

In addition to essentially saving my daughter's life, kefir has provided another benefit. Since Pinga has been on antibiotics every day for two months now (we're finally done, yay!), all of her flora and fauna have been being killed off. But since she also has kefir every day, we have suffered none of the traditional ill effects of antibiotic use. The pharmacist warned us with each new course of hated antibiotics that there would be side effects, like nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections. But we didn't have problems with any of them, and I am sure it is the kefir, because that stuff is magic.

For anyone who hasn't had it before or doesn't know what it is, here is a quick rundown: It's a little group of micro-organisms including bacteria and yeast that causes fermentation. It looks a little bit like cooked rice or oatmeal. We put the sachet of kefir grains in a non-metal container, pour milk over it and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours (or more, usually). At that point the milk has become something like plain yogurt exposed to a gamma bomb, and is chockablock with good things too numerous to list. Pinga drinks it neat or straight up, but most other people like to add jam or something else sweet to it, and it tastes a lot like a yogurt drink. There is a nice long explanation of it here on the Wik.

You can buy kefir grains from various online sources like eBay and Amazon, and you can also buy packaged kefir from the grocery store, but I have my doubts as to its worth. I'm sure it's better than nothing, though. It may not save your life, but it will absolutely make you healthier and happier. Product may stay.

I have a bad feeling about this

You are not going to believe this, but Mr. Miyagi promised to teach Daniel karate, and he just told him to go wash a bunch of cars! What does he think he's DOING with this wax on/wax off nonsense? Daniel-san is going to get killed in that karate tournament.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

thoughts on martial arts

I haven't seen The Karate Kid for a while, so the details are fuzzy. But that Johnny kid seems to have a lot going for him--athletic, popular . . . I bet if he and that scrawny Daniel boy had a fight that Johnny would win, hands down. I bet he'd put Daniel in a body bag.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm charming at the speed of light

Here is the crappy ricotta cheesecake I made yesterday. I'm sure its crappiness is unrelated to the many, many shortcuts I took in its assembly and cooking.

See, it looks halfway decent, but it is not. Perhaps with a generous dollop of coulis, but definitely not with chocolate sauce, because the two will combine and give birth to a child so hideous you cannot look directly upon it. I speak from experience.

Forgive me, Tipsy. It is chocolate rice pudding.

I wanted to do something different with the ricotta, but pretty much I wasted it, because nobody wants to eat a dry cheesecake.

The chocolate rice pudding might be a success, though. I'm not sure yet.

product may stay: better than bouillon

A confession: until recently I used bouillon cubes in my cooking all the time. Chicken (and to a lesser extent, beef) stock and broth are ingredients in many of my frequently-used recipes, and I don't know about you, but I don't currently have the means and wherewithal to boil 3 whole chickens down into stock and DISCARD THE SOLIDS, Ina. What the crap? Like, who can afford that? Certainly not me. Ina, you go ahead with boiling your free-range phoenix in your gold and adamantium-alloy pan. I'll just be over here on Skid Row, boiling dead birds I found at the dump and straining the solids through a purloined pair of holey underpants.

So, anyway. Though I make stock with the carcasses of my roasted chickens and purchased rotisserie chickens, we don't eat chicken often enough to keep up with the demand. So bouillon it is. And I felt all guilty and shameful about it, like I was cheating, which I was, and like I was feeding my family weird chemicals, which . . . I was. But I didn't see a way around it, because, like a good American, I am unwilling to change my behavior.

But I kept hearing that if you were going to use bouillon, Better Than Bouillon was a pretty good bet. So I bought two six-jar boxes of the organic stuff (one of chicken and one of beef) from my neighbor's co-op to try it out. I figured, it can't be worse than the junk I was buying from Smith and Edwards, and at least it won't have MSG. Thank goodness we don't hate it, because that is a crap-ton of bouillon. And it actually tastes like real food! I made some broth this morning for John (clear output--hee!), and he was pleasantly surprised by how normal it tasted. It's still not real chicken broth, but unless you're a truffle pig, I bet you'll be cool with it. For a convenience food it has a surprisingly short ingredient list, and I can pronounce all of their names. Product may stay.

thoughts on march 23

I think my bread is alcoholic.

I have started watching The Karate Kid in the mornings. His mom just kills me with her fake Joisey accent. People love to pile on poor Ralph Macchio for his bad acting, but I think he was pretty standard fare for a youth actor in those days. But man, that mom of his! I wanted to claw my ears off. I can't wait until he meets the Cobra Kai.

In that end part of The Lord of the Rings where they get to Mount Doom, and Gollum snipes them, and Frodo gets away, I was urging him onward, saying, "Go! Go, Frodo!" Out loud. Gross. But it shows you what a good movie that is to run to--you get really involved and forget that you're exercising.

I thought for sure that Barney was going to ditch Andy and go with the Special Investigator from Capitol City, leaving Andy to apprehend the cow-stealing hobo by himself. But Barney had one of those redemptive Michael Scott moments that make you decide not to kill him just yet. Burned! By Andy Griffith!

I think I Love Lucy is a stupid show.

John said it's okay if I tell you he's having a colonoscopy tomorrow. It's nothing serious, just a prolapsed colon and endometriosis. But the instruction sheet is hilarious! He has to do all the clear liquid/Dulcolax/Miralax/Gatorade stuff until he has "clear output." Bwah ha ha ha!

I wish I played the fiddle, for the "Orange Blossom Special" alone. That song rocks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'll prolly have to uproot my tomatoes with my nose in heaven

Tomato Class 2009
Front row: Black Giant
Second row: Ananas Noire
Third row: Thessaloniki
Back row: Pantano Romanesco
Not shown (they're in the dish with the peppers): Chadwick Cherry

Well, John learned in priesthood meeting today that we should have planted our peas and radishes yesterday. Score! We got the peas done, but not the radishes. And supposedly if we're growing tomatoes from seed, we should have started them a month ago.


I wondered if maybe I should have done the tomatoes already, since the eggplants have been going for a couple of weeks. But the package said not until next Monday! So anyway, I hurried home and popped some seeds into Jiffy pots. I'm doing three plants of each of the five varieties I got--Baker Creek threw the Thessalonikis in for free. So, I'll be happy to report to Keevin that I am partially compliant for the lunar period. He told the guys, "Well, Michelle Obama just broke ground for a garden at the White House. And you all ought to be getting out and doing the same thing." It's time for carrots, potatoes and lettuce as well. None of which I have planted yet.

My uncle Kenny said that tomato seeds are 25 cents APIECE at a local store, because stock is so low from this year's incredible demand. I'm just glad I ordered early and from somewhere other than Burpee.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

lemon fruit very bitten

Andre the Citrus

Lookit this hugebig lemon! Emily got it from her uncle or something, and she shared it with us. Pinga was so enchanted that she bit a sizable chunk out of the rind, which I think you'll agree is both disgusting and impressive.

Once on The Daily Show Craig Kilborne called Stevie Nicks "everything that was wrong with the seventies in one rapidly expanding package." I miss him sometimes.

The twelve dancing eggplants. Blush on the left, Ebony King on the right.

I dated a guy once whose dad ate onions like apples. He also made floats with mint chocolate chip ice cream and Pepsi Free.

I just planted the peppers--Gambo variety--two days ago. I bet they will all win.

I don't want to jinx it or anything, but I have acheived near 100% germination with my seeds from Baker Creek. There were one or two cauliflower and onions that didn't work, but I think that was user error.

I was talking to my grandma the other day, and she was saying that there are a bunch of seed companies that have run out of stock this year--she couldn't get anything she ordered from Burpee, for example. I called her to see if she thinks I could plant the leftovers of the Shepody potatoes she gave us that have sprouted--All8, I bet you can help me out. They have long old sprouts--can I cut them up, leaving at least one sprout per chunk, and plant them?

Can you believe that it's spring, FINALLY?

Friday, March 20, 2009

six more cups turned into fat

Finally at 10:30 last night the chocolate bread pudding was done, and it was in this recipe that I had my first quibble with Bittman. He only called for 2 ounces of chocolate (4 for a double recipe)! Which is ridiculous. It's enough to ruin it for people who don't like chocolate, but not enough to taste like anything for people who do. Stupidness. I put in 12 ounces, which is what Joy recommended for the same amount of milk.

I ate a hot fudge pudding cake once that made me so. angry. because the only way I knew it was meant to taste like chocolate was the color. Why on earth bother? It's like mild cheese.

Today all I have to make is angel food cake to use up the egg whites and squash soup to use up the squash.

Our chickens are not dead, even though I've been letting them wander day and night for the past week. And our new baby chicks will be here the first or second Wednesday in April. I'm finally getting a Columbian Rock, which I've wanted for years.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

continuing scenes from my milk surplus

If you happen to be in Target and see the little AS SEEN ON TV stick-um lights (4 for $9.99), do not buy them in hopes that they can provide the missing light you crave over your stove. They will suck mightily. I'm saying.

And while I'm on the subject, Pottery Barn, I really love the light fixture I bought from you, but I like my kitchen lit like an operating theatre, and you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Get on that, would you?

Who DOESN'T want a girl with good dividends?

I can make anybody eat bread pudding, just because I don't like 'em.

It's a little bit ten pounds of pudding in a five pound dish.

I know, I've skipped the lemon pudding cake. I've been busy, you guys! I had to take Superman to preschool so he could continue to refuse to learn teach piano lessons get my blood drawn which took over an HOUR go to a gardening class which was fair-to-middling helpful then I came home and stuffed my face while John did the dishes and I was too tired to do pudding cake to use up the lemons or angel food cake or pavlova to use up the egg whites from the yolks I used for the ice cream (by which I mean ice milk-it's super icy) and it looks way worse without commas.

fancy fridge

You cannot possibly understand how bad I want one of these. Here's more info about it. The Kitchn people, they are awesome. They never DON'T have cool stuff on their site.

nine more cups gone

Our ice cream freezer, which was an inspired wedding gift from David and Patrese.

My favorite ELO song is Sweet Talkin' Woman. Mostly for the bit at 3:13. I have given myself and my children permanent hearing damage with that part.

Bittman says that ice cream is best right after it's frozen, which is probably true, but there's only so much room in my stomach.

I'm not postive, but I think that the Georgia Satellites are championing traditional family values.

It's not wrong that Pinga and Superman and I just ate ice cream for breakfast, is it? I figure, it's homemade, so it's good for us. That's why I sprout my own coca plants.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I was lying earlier

Okay, NOW the bread is done. On to the lemon pudding cake, since that's kind of the entire reason I bought the Meyer lemons in the first place.

Confession: I made lemon pudding cake last night, and decided to try it with Sucanat. Big mistake. If you were wondering, lemon is Felix and Sucanat is Oscar. So now I have to make it all over again, this time with dead sugar.

bread and ricotta, done

One gallon down:
And another five and a half cups down:
Thanks for your suggestions so far. I think I'm going to try Bittman's chocolate ice cream, since we have a birthday coming up. And, since my youngest sister hates chocolate (communist), I'm going to use one of my lovely vanilla beans to make some vanilla ice cream as well. My kids hate rice pudding (Bolsheviks), so I probably won't make a big batch of that, even though I love it. See the sacrifices I make? They don't really like pudding at all, in fact (savages).

stop, magic milk pot, enough!

Say you have three gallons of milk you have to use today. Say that the reason you have to use it today is because there are four new gallons of milk arriving this afternoon.

Holy crap!

How did I get so behind, and what am I going to do about it? I need ideas from everyone. So far I've got on the list:

lemon pudding cake

What else can I do? And who wants to come and help me eat a batch of ravioli?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

trash dumping stinkbags

So, we just went up the hill to dump off our metal recycling? And the tip? Is totally filled with some loser's garbage! Like, real, no-foolin' garbage, the kind that attracts flies, bears, and identity thieves. There were empty packages of diverse provenance; leftover food, both pre- and post-consumption . . . yes, that means what you think it means; and my favorite, used specimen cups.

But they messed with the wrong lady, because, in case you've forgotten, I'm on the Board of Adjustments! And I am going to adjust them so hard they'll be in smaller pants. Just as soon as I find out who it was.

happy whacking day, y'all

I am not Irish, but I do probably hate some English people--they are so selfish with their tubes of Hedley and Wyche! And I imagine there is some blarney somewhere in my pale, potato-loving ancestry. Usually on St. Pat's I cook corned beef with boiled vegetables--potatoes, rutabaga, carrots and parsnips. But I have two chickens sitting in the downstairs fridge that desperately want cooking, so I guess we won't be festive after all.

There was a minor skirmish at breakfast this morning, because Captain America had green only on the toes of his socks, and we were drawn into a semantic discussion of whether the rule of being pinched if you don't wear green also means that you MUST be pinched if you're not wearing green. I know, it doesn't make sense to me, either.

I was told by The Hulk that my pants are more brown than green, so I had to change to a green shirt. You do not want to get in the way of a precision-loving six-year-old with a license to pinch.

And here's a fun video for you to watch.

am I becoming a fifties housewife?

Not a picture of me.

Now that the weather has started getting into the forties during the day, my children have started wearing shorts, like the carrot-snapping Utahns they are. What is with people wearing shorts and flip-flops in March? Do people in other four-season states do this? Ridiculous.

All the short wearing has made me introspective, in that I am starting to wonder if I am too old/pear-shaped to be wearing shorts. There comes a point when I think adults should stop wearing shorts almost entirely, and I wonder if I've reached it. Don't you hate it when you see some dude in his forties or fifties with his Kentucky waterfall, his mustache, and a Hawaiian shirt, wearing shorts that barely go mid-thigh? He's all singing his Jimmy Buffet, with his Ray-Bans on Chums, like, could he BE any more of a stereotype? And yet, I see That Guy all. the. time. And who wants to look like that? Or who wants to look like the frumpy mom with her shaggy, ill-maintained bob, her stained shirt with white and hot pink horizontal stripes, and her pale denim knee-length shorts that make her look like a Weeble? Not me, and yet, I'm concerned that I do. Superficial of me, I know, but this is not news.

So I look stupid in shorts, we've established that. But I like the breeziness of having my legs in the sun during the summer. Capris are a possibility, but they are so often unflattering as well. The only remaining option, as I see it, is a skirt. Dare I attempt wearing skirts during the week? Can I possibly stand to be so fussy? And I don't want to have to worry about keeping my legs crossed allatime, so what about underneath? I think I'm going to try it, though, just to see. They should make skorts for grown women, only with cute, ruffly skirts instead of those dumpy miniskirts that accentuate my drumsticks.

Monday, March 16, 2009

book review: the wicked series thus far

Usually I put my books over on Goodreads, but it bugs to always have to review books in a series as distinct entities--sometimes I have thoughts about the series as a whole, and I don't know which book to tack them to.

On the whole, the Wicked series is very good, and I liked each book. A very original story, and Gregory Maguire's version of Oz is now what I picture, for better or worse. I didn't read the Oz series when I was little, so it's not like having a childhood friend die as much as it is like discovering your childhood friend has the Krippin virus. Maguire is a very gifted descriptive writer, and you become very involved in the story. However, there is a juvenile air that pervades a lot of the books, because although there is not a lot of sex described in the stories, the sex there is portrays humans as little better than beasts, for whom any port in a storm will do, gender and species providing no constraints. It's as though Maguire's sexual nature never matured beyond that of a LARPing 15-year-old, so he wrote this terrific, unique story, and then tacked on all his unfulfilled sexual fantasies, because he was a big boy now and could get away with it. It seemed sophomoric to me. The characters are also more often weak and treacherous than courageous and loyal, which bothered me as well. It's strange that I love Kurt Vonnegut for his dystopian view of humanity, and I find it so annoying in these books, but I don't make the rules.

I just finished A Lion Among Men on Saturday, and was irritated to realize that the series is going to continue. There needs to be more forward movement in the plot for me to stay engaged. The books do get less prurient as they progress, so there is that. Maybe he's becoming more invested in the story as a whole, rather than interspecific threesomes.

I suppose I'll read the next book and hope it's the last, because although I find the story very entertaining, I don't have energy to read series anymore. Too short of an attention span.

shut up, corn

Remember when I mentioned the hateful new corn syrup ads the other day, and you've been waiting with bated breath all this time for the other shoe to drop? Well, the bell tolls for thee, readers, because at the risk of giving you momentary tedium-related blindness, I'm going to rant about this campaign now.

You've seen the ads, I'm sure, with the top half of two heads having a conversation. The first head says something about corn syrup either being bad for one, or making one fat, and then the second head says something offensively condescending and dismissive. The two examples I've seen go a little something like this (there may be some paraphrasing, but the intent is unchanged):

First Head: My hairdresser says that corn syrup is bad for you.
Second Head: Wow, you get your hair cut by a doctor?

First Head: Corn syrup made me fat!
Second Head: No, going back for thirds made you fat.

Here are the flaws I see: First, you do not, thankfully, have to be a doctor to read the newspaper and see that there is strong correlation between the addition of HFCS to nearly everything in the American diet and a meteoric rise in numerous health problems. Second, the reason people are going back for thirds is because HFCS has been added to the "low-fat" foods they're buying to compensate for the flavor lost by removing the fat. And because the fat is gone, they receive no satiety from the food, and they have to eat much more of it to feel full--more than the few calories saved by removing the fat in the first place.

It's such a disingenuous and patently misleading set of ads that I almost can't believe they're real. But I guess when you are government subsidized you've got to spend all that money on something, and propaganda fits the bill nicely.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

we'll get some goats/and trim their hooves/and make our garden gro-o-ow

Since Saturday was such a lovely day, we decided to have ourselves a good old-fashioned hoof trimming. Goats who are out in the wild, running around on mountains butting their heads together and fighting off wolves with Lambert (I know it was sheep, but I'm taking artistic license) are able to wear their hooves down on rocks and whatnot. Goats who spend their time in an alfalfa field converted to a goat pen do not have that luxury, so their hooves, like our fingernails, continue to grow and grow, and will eventually look like genie shoes if they're not checked. Minus the bells on the toes.

We don't trim our goats' hooves nearly often enough, and Catwoman especially was starting to look like nobody loved her. She inherited Finola's wonky feet, and the inside of her front hooves grows much faster than the outside, which exacerbates her bulldog legs. A goat-raising neighbor of ours said that calcium supplements might help her legs straighten back out, so we'll see how that goes. I can just picture it, me sitting out there in the poop, feeding Catwoman her Caltrate wafers. Yuck. I always make fun of those people who treat their pets like hairy people, and now I am one!

This is Traci's nasty hind hoof. Mud and poo and hay and straw all mooshed up in it. And it's way overgrown, like I said. We suck.

Here's a shot of John in his goat clothes. Traci is chowing down on some grain.

Why is the grain gone? Why is the grain always gone?

Catwoman is eager for her turn.

Traci is looking for the bucket of grain.

I had to hide the grain, because Traci kept ganking it out from underneath the milking stand and shoving her fat face in it. She's the herd queen, and has a place in our herd until death parts us, because she is so calm. She's also wicked smart, and tests our fences regularly. If there's ever a weak spot in the fence, Traci knows about it and is out in the yard eating our trees.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

in the night kitchen

It's quarter to ten and I'm cooking the bolognese sauce from this great Kitchn article. We have a bunch of ground beef that was given to us by my grandma and my uncle. They had to slaughter a bull for some reason--I think he was a Holocaust denier--and wanted to be sure we got some of the good stuff. And it is great ground beef, plus? Won't give my daughter a mustache or my sons size Bs, if you know what I mean.

Also we are stamping out evil where e-er we find it. The root cellar is full of squash that I bought and have hoarded, afraid to cook very much of it, because what if I ran out before winter is over? But now that spring approaches the cases of squash begin to appear ridiculous. As in moldy from neglect. So when I sent John down to find a likely candidate for dinner tomorrow, he found that the circle of life had been progressing apace in our absence, and next to our dumplings and Hubbards and butternuts we had some lovely, soft, furry white and green mounds. The Delicata and buttercup fared the worst. Stupid mold. Now he has removed the offenders and the mold spores can begin their work of conversion on fresh victims.

chicken in the dead pan, picking up dough

Hey. Do you guys want to hear something gross? Shut up, you do too.

So, you know we have a motley flock of chickens. Our rooster Fauntleroy had his neck broken accidentally by Captain America, so the remaining chickens are Socks and Shoes (Easter Eggers), Toupee (a Cuckoo Marans), I and O (Buff Orpingtons), U (a cannibalistic Gold Sex Link), and Sometimes Y (a Silver Laced Wyandotte). Those who have left us via assorted methods for the happy scratching grounds in the sky are Shirt and Pants (Australorps), Broccoli and Cauliflower (Blue Laced Red Wyandottes), and A and E (White Leghorns). There was also for a short time a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte rooster named General Turgidson.

I'm getting to the gross part, be patient. Since we live out here in redneck/hippie commune territory (depending on your inclinations), we have to be careful about raccoons and skunks. We have bricks lining the outside of the chicken run to discourage digging, and we try not to leave the gate open overnight. I think having Fauntleroy helped, too, because any fool who would try to get past him with malice aforethought would have a bloody disembowelling to show for it. But on Saturday morning we went outside and saw that there was a Leghorn who had met her untimely demise.

If it had been a raccoon, he would have only taken her head and moseyed on his wanton way. Wasteful! But this creature had eaten her head and her insides--with such fervor, in fact, that he had eaten up inside her until he got to her little egg-making factory, found the egg inside, cracked it open and eaten the innards. Gross! But you've got to give him credit for stick-to-it-ive-ness. He deserved the win. So that's a skunk for you. There were feathers everywhere.

We can't figure out how he got in, either. You almost need a wire floor for the pen, or they find a way in. We're going to call our neighbor who traps skunks and extracts their essence to come take care of it. What he does is, he straps them into a chair and focuses the light of the Dark Crystal on their eyes, and the stink just sort of drips out into little vials. The future today, I tell you!

Monday, March 9, 2009

the week of no tv

This picture represents my family's reaction to my plan.

People say that you're amazed by how much time you discover you have if you stop watching TV. And I was getting mighty sick and tired of my kids pestering me to watch TV, after they'd already used up their screen time for the day. So, like any decent hausfrau who's serious about making her children resent her, I decided we'd go for a week without watching TV. Internet time for John and me is limited, but allowed for necessary communications. Blogging is necessary, but doing "town stuff" is not. That's what I call it when you start out doing a legitimate activity, but it gets stretched out into hours of unproductive meandering.

Don't worry, I'm almost sure we won't get cabin fever and start eating each other.

those who can't teach design software

After I graduated from college I got a job at a non-profit educational software company. The design team for each activity was composed of a designer (a former teacher), a tech writer (me, in this case), an artist, and a computer programmer.

For this activity we were teaching the states of matter, i.e., gas, liquid, solid. (We didn't think we should start covering plasma yet.) The designer, whose name I forget, had recently been hired as a math and science specialist. One day in our design meeting we were discussing the animations to illustrate each state of matter, and Carl Wayne and I suggested honey as the liquid. So Designer Whats-her-face says, "No, because honey isn't a liquid. It's a viscous."


I was flummoxed, because I had never before heard of "viscous" as one of the states of matter. I may not be a math or science specialist, but I was pretty sure that viscous was an adjective, not a noun. So Carl Wayne and I, as well as the rest of our departments, got tremendous enjoyment out of nouning adjectives. Brick is a hard, milk is a runny. And honey is a thick.

So be sure to use your new science terminology (courtesy of me, you're welcome) at your next catered affair, and you will win friends and influence people.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

passive-aggressive shoes

I'm glad that TOMS sends shoes to impoverished urchins when you buy a pair, but their shoes look like they'd be murder on your arches. While they're at it, why don't they send the urchins some muffin stumps?

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'm never without duck confit

You know that feature in the back of Bon Appetit about the three things the famous person subject always has in the refrigerator? I think about that often (because I bet they'll call me when I write a Tony-award-winning musical based on my experiences in Ladies' Prison after committing vehicular manslaughter). I wonder how much internal editing they do before they answer. Like, "Well, I know there's some moldy creme fraiche in there right now, but usually there's takeout and a half-eaten Chocodile . . . I'm just gonna say creme fraiche."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

uncle moe's family feedbag it ain't

Please don't take from my previous post that I don't frequent chain restaurants, because I do, and to imply otherwise would make me guilty of the same crime of which I am accusing the Cheesecake Factory, namely, implying that I'm a lot fancier than I really am. For example, we're going to the Texas Roadhouse (not a brothel--I know! I was surprised too) tomorrow night for dinner with some friends, and I plan to eat a bloody steak and let the juices run down my chin.

I just like for eating establishments to have some perspective about their place in the world. The immortal Fletch would tell you that there's crime neither in being a chain restaurant nor molesting a dead horse. It's your right as an American! But there's nothing in the Cheesecake Factory's performance to merit their unseemly amount of self-regard and apparent belief that their clientele is more educated than that of any other chain.

abnormally inflated self worth

A few years ago, in those halcyon days of yore before there was a Cheesecake Factory in Utah, there was an article published in I don't remember which newspaper that said the Cheesecake Factory would not be coming to the Gateway, which was still under construction, because Salt Lake's population was not well enough educated.

Wow. This is awkward. So, Cheesecake Factory . . . you guys know you're a chain restaurant, right? Like, no marginally reputable newspaper would be allowed to review you? That you are Applebee's older sister who has just read The Bell Jar and it totally changed your life? And you realize that there is already a Cheesecake Factory in Las Vegas, which is almost entirely populated by homeless people, strippers, and overweight tourists? Where did you get the idea that you are a thing?

I've been to the Cheesecake Factory in Seattle, and I remember being underwhelmed. The menu is War and Peace-sized, with no real cohesion or adherence to any particular genre. And you know what they say about a Jack of all trades. It's not bad food, but like, they need to not be thinking they're Babbo.

And in case they didn't realize it by now, what with the lines out the door even on weeknights, they should know that if there's anything Utahns love, it's mediocre chain food that they can get in big cities. It makes them feel all classy-like. People in this state have a weird inferiority complex which causes them to disparage quality, local, single-site restaurants in favor of whatever chain a rube Utah developer has bent over backwards trying to lure here from the last place he went on vacation. It's not education, it's the population's upward mobility and desire to appear more sophisticated. How this perception of chain food as sophisticated came to be, I have no idea.

The reason I say this is because John went to the Cheesecake Factory last night for a meeting and brought me home a tall piece of chocolate cake. And it had better be some decent cake, because any doofus can master a dense, rich, chocolate cake and reproduce it until doomsday. Frigging weirdos with their bizarre ideas of their own importance.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

if the cheese IRS wants to know what I did on Tuesday, this is it

My field trip to the Beehive Cheese Company

Please forgive the confuzled version of today's events. I have tried not to lead anyone astray, but I suggest that you don't come here for an accurate and in-depth cheesemaking tutorial. These pictures are in the order I encountered their subjects, not the chronology of making a batch of cheese. We were be-bopping around in three different batches, and got to see the whole fascinating process in only 4 hours. You know those educational videos they have on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers? It was like that, only being in it, so exponentially more enjoyable. Because I always hated those people in the videos. So smug and superior. Just because they get to make orange crayons all day.

Man, I feel sorry that my camera is such an inappropriate instrument for this. But it fits in my back pocket, and that's about all I could manage. So, I apologize for the wretched pictures of much blurriness. But if you wanted good pictures, you'd read Smitten Kitchen. And there you'd be, with no one to tell you about castrating goats, and you'd be in a fine pickle.

My sister-in-law Emily dabbles in cheesemaking as well, so I asked her to come along on this adventure. We got there at 9:00 in our poly-cotton blends (for comfort and wicking ability) and were lent some stylin' boots--did you know that Crocs makes boots? Me neither! And they are a lot of fun, but a little lacking in arch support, so don't be thinking you can climb K2 in them. Also, they are not good for irrigating. Not tall enough in the shaft. We also got some sweet hairnets. It was like working at the Church cannery, only way more fun, because at the end of the day there is cheese instead of nasty beef stew.

Here are Pat (on the left) and Tim, cheesemaking brothers-in-law and partners in the company. Pat was our cheese sensei.

Emily is rarin' to go. She is in front of a ginormous vat of milk. It comes in raw, then they pasteurize it (unless it's Full Moon . . . yum . . . ) and send it into this vat. They add calcium chloride, various cultures and rennet at the proper temperatures. Because that's how you make cheese, duh.

Here is what a batch of cheese looks like after the curds have been pressed in the hoops for a while.

Here I am lining the hoops with some funky cheesecloth. Look at the scary Jenga tower of hoops next to me--we didn't even knock them all down and ruin everyone's lives.

Pat and Doug (0bscured by me) checking the consistency of the curd.

Pat and Doug using the harps to cut the curd. I was wondering, what did people make the harps out of before they had stainless steel? Probably catgut, because it's awesome.

Emily stirring the curd. She looks all calm, but it's wicked heavy.

Me stirring the curd. Hope you have tickets to the gun show.

Here is a big old pile of slabs of cheddared curd.

Doug (obscured) is feeding the slabs into the machine whose name I forget that will turn slabs of cheese and human arms into cheetoh-sized curds. Alojio (hope I spelled that correctly) is shoveling the resultant curds around and spreading them out.

The curds get salted, then this machine stirs them and stirs them.

Doug shoveling the curd into the cheesecloth-lined hoops.

Pat preparing a hand-bandaged cheese. Both this and the other cheeses get loaded onto a press that smooshes all the extra whey out of them.

Alojio is cutting a batch of drained curds.

Pat is moving the slabs that Alojio just cut. The curds are just smooshed together under their own power, which is crazy to me, and so cool to see.

Emily flipping the slabs.

Me flipping the slabs. You would have strong arms and a sore back if you worked here. Once the slabs have chillaxed for a while, they get sent through that cheetoh machine you saw earlier.

And that's cheesemaking! It was so interesting to see it on such a grand scale (compared to what I'm used to). And such terribly nice people who take immense pride in their work. They are super knowledgeable and very creative, and are full of percolating ideas about new cheeses and new ways to expand their business and challenge themselves. We learned so much (organic matter neutralizes chlorine! hot temperatures increase the efficacy of your soap!) and had a most excellent time--Bill and Ted excellent, not Mr. Burns excellent.