Friday, July 29, 2011

A Vegetarian in Search of Meat

Coming back to Wisconsin has made me fairly nostalgic for many things, especially things that tie to family or college somehow.

I've reminisced on days when I was still looking forward to having two digits in my age, lazing around Grandma and Grandpa's or spending time just with Mom. I've rejoiced in spending time with college friends again - or at least knowing they're much closer than two days away. I've thrilled at having a variety of good-quality fruits and veggies close at hand (the fridge makes my heart jump excitedly sometimes).

But there is one thing I've really been wanting and haven't been able to have, because it's a meat-product. Bratwurst is your first guess, I bet. Nope, not bratwurst. Nor hamburger or any other cookout food.

The food I've been missing and craving more than anything lately is pickled herring.

Such a delicacy is a thing often served at salad bars in Wisconsin (for some odd reason). There was usually a jar at Easter or Thanksgiving dinner, between the rutabagas and lefse. And it's definitely one of those Norwegian acquired tastes, much like a certain well-known stinky fish.

Pickled herring isn't nearly so bad as lutefisk, though. If you like fish and pickled things, chances are you'll like pickled herring. It's not the most visually appealing thing in the world, being white and squishy and kind of slimy, but most Norwegian food has at least two of those qualities.

I wasn't expecting to want that so badly, and I haven't really looked for it, but I'm guessing there is no humanely raised and slaughtered pickled herring out there. At least, not at a decent price. As I browsed the internet looking for something of the sort, I came across this blog (subtitled "A microbe herder's almanac"), which has a recipe for homemade pickled herring and shows how to filet fish.

I really don't think I could do that. Eugh. Maybe if this craving keeps on for several years, I'd be willing to try it. But definitely not right now.

In short, if anyone knows where I can get humanely raised and slaughtered pickled herring... I'll be here, waiting to give you my eternal thanks.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile

1. Going to the library. I picked up The Poisonwood Bible, the graphic novel version of Neverwhere, a book on card making, and a book on modular knitting - how to knit without a pattern. I've only looked at the card and knitting books so far, and they're both awesome. Side note: I asked the librarian for graphic novels, and she took me to the manga. There's a noticeable difference there, Librarian.

2. Having two interviews in one week. Sure, the one I had yesterday was a very low-paying thing, but it's still potential money being dangled in front of my nose. I have another Friday morning at a different place!

3. Those times when I feel like what I've made for dinner is going to fail, but it still tastes good. Last night was Thai Peanut Noodles - without peanuts, and with peas that were supposed to be shelled. Whoops. (The last ones we got didn't need to be.) We just stripped out the innards and it was still delicious.

4. Spousal Unit's love letters from when he was in France. He had an 11-hour layover in London, with no internet and no way to plug in his computer, so he wrote to me. A lot. They're very sweet, piney letters. I love Spousal Unit.

5. Rain. Even if I didn't sleep well last night, I'm glad it was in part because of glorious rain falling outside. Everything is so much brighter and smells better after a rainstorm. To quote e. e. cummings, "it's spring when the world is puddle-wonderful." Even if it's not actually spring, you get that feeling on mornings like this.

6. Dark chocolate. Yesterday I grabbed a Hershey's extra dark with cranberries, blueberries, and almonds in it, and it is amazing. That little bit of tart in it is perfect.

7. Being really close to done on a knitting project. Remember when I talked about making lace? Yeah, it's actually almost done now, as opposed to sort of almost done.

8. Living with friends who are miraculously not sick of us yet, after almost two months. It's nice to have other people around at the end of the day, for talking and hanging out and watching things like Frisky Dingo (by the creators of Archer).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Pink Cup

Once upon a time, ages and millennia before my current color preferences, I loved and adored the color pink from one end of the world to the other.

I'm sure this was in part my mom's fault - she practically rained a slew of pink upon me. Pink comforter, pink shirts, pink hair clips, pink My Little Ponies (although, my first one was blue and fuzzy). Pink was a constant companion and I loved it eternally. For years, my family even had a pink plastic plate, which was the "special" plate and you knew you were being honored and respected and eternally loved (for the evening) if you got to eat from it.

For those who know me, this may be surprising. These days, I pretty much wouldn't be caught dead in anything pink. At some point, I simply flipped a switch and gave up the dresses, the curly hair, the white tights, and even the pink comforter. I decided I couldn't stand that color, and started climbing trees and wearing holes in my jeans and hitting baseballs as hard as I could. (This may have been when I realized pink was "girly.")

Before that, though, pink and I were the best of friends. Even when I wasn't at home, I loved it.

I went to a daycare called Color My World. It was one of my favorite places - I could interact with other kids and play on all the colorful Fisher Price toys in the backyard. I could bring my blankie for naptime - it was primarily white, which now makes me wonder who made a white blanket for me and if it's still in my mom's basement.

When it comes to white, I either bleed on it or spill my spaghetti.

The daycare kids got to practice responsibility through chores. At snack time, one kid in a rotating schedule would hand out the pastel plastic cups to everyone. The color of the cup you got was always a big deal to each of the kids, and I never got the pink one. I mean, never. I was doomed to snack in a pinkless wasteland for the rest of my days.

Until the day I got to hand out the cups.

Looking back on this, considering I was four years old (five at the oldest), it was pretty shrewd and calculating of me. I carefully examined where everyone was sitting, decided how I would pass out the cups, and rearranged them so that I would finally, at long last, be the recipient of the pink cup I so rightly deserved. I would be queen of my little snacktime castle. And it worked.

As I handed out cups and other kids whined about getting yellow instead of blue, I repeated one of our most holy daycare mantras: "You get what you get, and you're thankful for it."

We sat at the kiddie picnic tables to eat our snacks, glasses filled halfway with delicious milk. I may have gotten one sip out of my precious pink glass before, to my everlasting horror, the boy across from me reached out for my glass. Distracted by something shiny - as even grown-up kids sometimes are - he wasn't even looking as he picked it up and brought it to his lips.

I stared, mouth open in sheer terror, as he drank, defiling my hard-earned (okay, shrewdly stolen) pink cup. My eyes were wide with shock - how could this have happened? I had finally earned plastic, pink-coated happiness - why was it being stolen away?

Why had he gotten his boy germs all over my cup?

Of course, the teacher saw this and took the cup away so as not to swap germs more than necessary. I may or may not have cried a little when she filled a blue cup for me, and recited, "You get what you get..."

My little pink dreams were crushed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ohayo Sunset

Pardon the terrible pun; I could not resist it. The first couple of photos are from the usual lookout, and the last one is Ohioan. Even if what I saw of the state was kinda blah, they still get sunsets right.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Surviving Toledo

Well, we survived our incredible getaway weekend in wonderful Toledo, Ohio. Here are some pictures to help you understand our trip and why Toledo is, as they say, "still a great place to live."

Really. That's what they say.

The first thing that told us of Toledo's excellency was the exquisite beauty of our hotel. Why, right outside our room were modern works of found art, such as our ceiling.

Gorgeous work. I can't imagine doing it any differently.

Another great piece we found was the Washington Township Fire Department. They seem perfectly content to ignore strange acronyms.

We went to Lake Erie - I'd never been there before. We drove past a very nice oil refinery to get there. The lake itself was kind of a sickly color, at least at that beach, so I did not wade in the waters. But I did explore a bit, and managed to find this odd little thing, henceforth referred to as "the barnacle."

We're not sure at all what it is. It looks like suckers from some sort of creature, but it's hard and broken off on the left. I don't recall there being coral in the Great Lakes, though... Maybe this thing was a mutation from the oil refinery.

We found pirates, too.

The wedding we traveled for was beautiful. The bride had a little trouble getting the ring on the groom's hand, and once it was finally in place, she patted it soundly, as if to make it stay put.

It was a very German wedding, complete with the ringing of cowbells as the bride and groom left the church, and lots of German dances and toasts at the reception, which was in a Hilton ballroom.

Very pretty. Even the butter was pretty.

Overall, though, our impression of the trip can be summed up by this one picture. (Click to view a larger version of this incredible piece of art.)

This car was in our hotel parking lot the first night we arrived. I bleeped out the first word on the trunk (you're welcome), but I think you can figure out what it says. Above that are portraits of black men - there are portraits like that all the way around the car - and above the portraits, it says, "Stop snitchin'."

The most glorious part came at night, though: the underside of the car lit up in a spectacle of multi-colored neon glory.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hyperbolic Sarcasm Will Save Us

I'm writing to you from the future, and the future is Toledo.

Be afraid.

It's an hour ahead here, and it was plain to see why the moment we pulled off the exit ramp and into our
Days Inn parking lot.
Looks very promising, doesn't it? At the least, the building shape seems to suggest a unique establishment bristling with interest.

Well, kinda.

We were astounded from the start. It's clear that this hotel sees routine maintenance. Why, even when we checked in, they were sending maintenance folk hither and yon on a mission to repair various AC units. Understandable, as there's a high of 98 today, and on the bright side, we were upgraded to a suite for free because our room's AC was also out.

In the hallway, I noticed several large, grey bells - the round ones you typically see in old cartoons, or in boxing matches. *DING* "In this corner, we have..." All I could think when I saw them was, it would really suck to hear that go off tonight.

In the room, we were further amazed at the routine maintenance in this place. Why, we immediately placed a call for the fridge to be repaired - and, as it turns out, one of the two bathrooms could use it, too. There's even plaster dust in an artistic little pile where the internet was drilled into the wall.

They've tried a bit too hard to furnish the hallways - they are filled with pleather couches, which don't really match the Asian decor. Nor do the various brownish water stains on the ceiling, peeling away from the foundation at the edges, screaming, "I never wanted to be part of this!"

We even have classy neighbors. We discovered an incredible smell on our way in - something rather skunk-like, usually smelled in a college setting.

At that point, we didn't think we could be any more amazed at our astonishing luck with this hotel. But the Miami Grille downstairs certainly took it up a notch. The booths were partitioned with faceted glass, through which the sun shone quite beautifully. The air was than the third floor hallway, thanks to an industrial-sized metal fan, whirring contentedly on a table in the bar area. The menu was a single sheet of paper, obviously well loved, with items which really suited the name of the estabishment.

Things like... hamburgers. And cheeseburgers. I am quite curious to know why their fries are more expensive than the $2.50 grilled cheese.

There are some well-to-do people staying here as well, with very nice vehicles. Honestly, you wouldn't believe me if I were to describe the car we saw, covered with portraits of "family" members (possibly incarcerated) and a spectacle of neon glory. There's more to it, but I think I'll just have to post a picture once I'm sure we won't be shot for it.

Remember those big grey bells that serve as an alarm system? Why yes, we did have the pleasure of hearing them go off. They were rather quiet. So quiet that if we were all sleeping soundly at that point, we may not have heard them. As it was, no one was seen filing out of the hotel, so we just waited a few seconds until the ringing stopped, then went back to waiting for the room to cool down, as the AC wasn't on when we arrived.

Overall, a very... exciting experience so far. I'll see you on Monday if we don't get caught in the middle of a gang war before then.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's a Weird Day in the Neighborhood

I've spent my morning looking for a bunch of random weird crap for you to enjoy.

You're welcome.

At Seventh Sanctum, you can generate weird names. Not weird like Severus or Zebediah. Weird like Ensorceled Duke Who is in the Vault. Or Haunted Emperor Caressed by Indigo Terror. Or The Innocent Chaotic Emperor, with Locks of Malachite and the Coat of Final Confusion. Great for games where you need an unusual name, or if you're planning to take over the world and need a new identity.

To the left on that website, you can find lists of other weird random generators, like evil animal minions and the B-movie film namer. These are my new favorite things on the internets.

Everyone loves those stories featured on slow news days - guy builds roller coaster in his back yard, Nessie on vacation, and the dog who wanted sushi. I think it's usually more interesting when legal issues get involved, hence my amusement with Legally Weird.

Things like... a porn bus full of ducks and geese. A woman who tried to sell her son at a Taco Bell for $500. And the moderate-speed drunken buggy chase. Way funnier and more bizarre than the roller coaster - sorry, dude.

There's always The Daily Weird, too - featuring... no, guess. I dare you. This is my favorite from this week so far.

Copyright not me.

You knew Weird Al was going to be in this post at least once. He will now demonstrate how much Justin Bieber really sucks (if you didn't already know). "Can't read my polka face" is a terrible pun, but I adore it. Don't forget the classic Fat. And Weird Al has a blog, too.

EBay has a weird stuff category, I guess, ranked slightly unusual, really weird, and totally bizarre. (Warning: a couple of those have nudity on the main pages.) One of the weirdest that I found was a spell offering to turn you into a werewolf (for the low price of $169.99). I think the pictures of wolves are a wonderful way to convince readers of its authenticity. Also, you can choose a vampire ability to throw in, including animal magnetism.

I think I won't buy that one - eating raw meat doesn't appeal to me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Letter to the Heat

Dear Obnoxious Heat Wave,

Nobody likes you, everybody hates you, you should eat some worms. Except don't, because then it will rain fried worms on everyone's heads.

Really, there is only so much heat we humans can take. Another day in the upper 90s? And tomorrow, too? This is fairly ridiculous. It's cooler in Panama City right now. It's cooler in the Everglades.

The one place it's not cooler is in Ohio. Which is where we're going this weekend. They have a high of 105 tomorrow.

Obnoxious Heat Wave, you are too large for your own good, and too angry. Bring that hot temper down a couple of notches. I bet you'd feel much better if you just sat on someone's front porch in a nice rocking chair, had a frosty glass of lemonade, and listened to an episode of A Prairie Home Companion. Only problem is you would evaporate the lemonade before ingesting it, and then the air would literally be sticky.

For comparison, try hiding yourself in someone's freezer for a whole day. Don't like it much, do you? Little frostbite on your tendrils of heat? I'm petitioning you, on behalf of friends who have to go galavanting about in this heat, earning something called "money," to take a lesson from the freezer and slow your particles down a bit.

Heat Wave (if I can get personal), what's your problem, really? I can't imagine you're like this all the time. Were you perhaps just inches away from a cold bowl of watermelon sorbet when some unthinking child whisked it indoors and away from you? Did that incident send you on a lifelong quest to bring heat and exhaustion to all, just because you couldn't have that delicious sorbet?

Perhaps you were waterskiing and lost your balance. You skidded across the surface, creating a fine mist in the air and bruising your hot little butt. Your companions laughed at your predicament, and to get back at them, you hung fiercely over the lake to force mist and misery into the air, until you felt revenge had been served. Boiling hot, with the help of little demons pulled up from cracks in the earth's crust.

Maybe it had nothing to do with others, but yourself. While meditating one day, you realized how pointless it was to maintain an average temperature because, hey, global warming's coming our way anyhow. Might as well start on the new tropical rainforest of Wisconsin as soon as possible.

The only way I'm okay with this is if I get a monkey. Don't care what kind. And I'm still waiting.

Really, Obnoxious Heat Wave, you need to get over it. At this point, the sorbet has already been eaten. Your waterskiing frenemies have gone indoors to hide from you. And the name change hasn't done you any favors. Couldn't you go back to being glorious Summer once more?

It is the name of your true self; you've only forgotten.

With lots of tolerance and a bottle of water,

P.S. Again, don't care what kind of monkey, as long as it comes soon. (But this guy's my favorite right now.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coucher du Soleil

Literally, the title means "sleep of the sun" in French, much more poetic than the German Sonnenuntergang. Below are some wonderful pictures, taken by Spousal Unit while he was in Grenoble, France. Most of them were taken from the dorms where he was staying. For a couple of weeks, he had a sunset in the mountains right outside his door every night, so it was like old times in New Mexico again. Except the sun was French, and so were the Alps.

Monday, July 18, 2011

We Can Work it Out (Even When We're Crabby)

This weekend, my beloved Spousal Unit came back from France, and we were absolutely horrible to each other.

Usually, we get along very well. Even when we're yelling at each other about something, it's with a teasing tone and we laugh and kiss and have done with it in a matter of minutes. And Friday was like that - we were disgustingly lovey, and Spousal Unit was crabby and tired but caught up in reunion nostalgia.

By Sunday, the tables had turned.

It didn't help that we drove back to Madison in 90-degree heat, the kind that raises the temperature of your cloth car seats so that your butt fuses to them when you sit down. The kind that makes AC obsolete if you're sitting in the sun. The kind that makes Spousal Unit decide that complaining about the heat will make it run away in fear.

Spousal Unit was still tired and jet-lagged, and didn't get to watch the soccer game, making him crabby. I was tired and not quite hungover from all the red wine Saturday night, but didn't feel my best. Plus, it was a weekend away from the reality of job searchyness and all the bills due at the end of the month, and Sunday was more than glad to slap me in the face as a reminder of what terrors awaited us back in the city.

Throw in Spousal Unit's repeated, "God it's awful outside," and we were absolute jerks to each other all day. This made for a pretty long car ride.

Times like that are bound to happen. We will have several more unbearable days like that before the year is out. That's what happens when you're with someone every day, month after month, year after year. It isn't all unicorn poop and rainbows.

In times like those, the true value of our relationship comes through. We can still work together toward a goal - even if it's just prepping the car for a three-hour drive - without taking each other's heads off completely. We still try to work through the problems we're having, even if we don't really know what they are. And we can still say I love you even if we're exasperated beyond all belief.

We always try to resolve things before bedtime, but it doesn't always work like that. Sometimes getting back on solid ground means a good night's sleep, a fresh perspective, and extra kisses in the morning.

Getting through days like those makes me confident we have many good years yet to come.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The End of an Era

While Spousal Unit was gone, I took a few pictures - with my film camera. I loaded it with black and white and took at least one picture every day. It was very exciting for me - something about film is so much more thrilling and tangible than digital, and I missed my old camera.

Unfortunately, the roll didn't come out as well as I was hoping. Some of the shots were still pretty good, but I may go strictly digital after this. (Takes me longer than most to catch on.) I'll try another roll before deciding that for certain, because maybe I'm just not used to my camera anymore after six months of disuse. But even I must admit there are certain advantages to digital versus film - like it doesn't cost $15 to develop 24 pictures. Ugh.

I'd still love to get the digital version of my camera someday - a Canon Rebel. My Rebel G - with me despite being dropped down a mountain - might have to be retired.

Spousal Unit is somewhere over the Atlantic right now. While I go to retrieve him, enjoy these shots in black and white. Enlarge to see the awesome.

There's a bee to the left of the flowers.

Do you see the spiderweb?

Grandma and Grandpa's farm

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Absence of Spousal Unit (Warning: Sap Ahead)

For those of you who don't know, the reason I haven't had my camera these last two weeks is that it's in France. So is Spousal Unit.

He attended a nine-day bioarchaeology field school, high in the Alps, where he's been measuring, analyzing, and learning about a large set of skeletons. The program was small and intense, lasting from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. That's not to mention the late nights he's had, where he didn't get back until three in the morning. I encouraged him in that - not that he needed my prodding. When you're in any foreign country for a limited time, the tendency is to live it up.

I've definitely enjoyed bits of the last couple of weeks. I went on a couple of outings - to see my family, the art fair, and the concert-esque thing at the capitol. Last weekend, I had the house (which is not mine) all to myself, so I spent a day watching bad movies in my pajamas and finished half a box of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It was delightful.

But I've still missed Spousal Unit the entire time. "Yeah," you might say. "We get it, you're in love, whatever."

No, really, I'm freakin' in love, dudes.

When he's gone, and I wake up alone, it's like when someone grabs your arm and squeezes an old bruise. During the day, when I'm used to him interrupting my routine or rearranging it, I feel a little lost, like I don't know what to do.

This is all with being able to talk to him via Skype almost every day. Skype is my new favorite thing, despite having pretty bad video quality. (I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it's because of the long distance.) It's still video. I still got to see and talk to him.

Tomorrow, I get to go pick him up at the airport. I am nearly bursting with excitement. I feel like a puppy whose treat is just out of reach, squirming anxiously and trying really hard to behave till it's time to be rewarded. (Yes, I just compared Spousal Unit to a dog biscuit.) For all that being apart sucks, that first moment of reunion is the sweetest thing I've ever felt, and I relish it every time.

Clearly, I can get by and even have fun without him around - I'd be fairly ridiculous if I couldn't. But having him with me is ten times more beautiful, ten times the excitement, and a hundred times more enjoyable. Why would I want anything else?

Marriage was a good idea.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Second Awkward Stage

*Many thanks to Miss Lizzy-B for this post idea.*

In high school, I thought that awkward teenager stage would never end.

I grew so fast I tripped over my own feet constantly. My clothes never fit well. I always thought the crowd over by the door was laughing at me. And I never knew what to say, which often resulted in the weirdest things coming out of my mouth. So... like now, but on accident.

When I got to college, that phase was stripped away in layers, like old wallpaper. I loved the color of the walls underneath: a sign that things were gorgeous on the other side.

That was until I realized the walls were plastered with spreadsheets, and I found out it wasn't over yet.

By that, I mean nobody told me there was a second awkward stage: stepping into adulthood.

Now that I'm 26, I feel like there are certain things I should know. What a mortgage actually does, why it's called a 401k, something - anything - about actually budgeting rather than just guessing how much to spend.

I know who to call if there's something strange in the neighborhood, but I think all my neighbors do too, so that doesn't count.

Mind you, I don't really want to know any of the stuff I mentioned above. Things like finances bore me to absolute death. I answer most interview questions by spewing out whatever seems right, not by prepping in advance.

And I still don't own a suit jacket. Maybe that would make me feel more grown up. But I'd just attach crazy patches to it and the illusion would be shattered.

I still hate small talk. Did when I had to do it in high school around recruiters, or distant friends of the family. Hated it in college, when applying for jobs or talking at customers. Now, I can partake of it to a certain extent, which helps me avoid the awkwardness of meeting actual adults. But I loathe small talk with a burning passion. I think if there was a general convention of adults somewhere, everyone would say the same thing:

"Look, we all know we're faking it. How about we cut the crap and talk about something real?"

Instead, we wander around with fake faces and say things like, "So... it's raining" to the stranger standing next to us as it pours, who knew it was raining 20 minutes ago and doesn't want to talk to us anyway.

To be a legitimate adult in society's eyes, I think I should know a few more manual skills. Sure, I changed the oil on my car once, but that was in high school. I also want to know how to stop a rabid washing machine from charging, what to do (besides panic) if water leaks into the basement (that we don't have), and how to not accidentally break a computer. And why bubbles are round.

That last one may not lead me out of awkward and into adulthood, but it might prolong the illusion.

Maybe the second awkward stage's exit door doesn't lead to adulthood. Maybe it leads to something better. I'd rather make it up as I go along than have someone tell me what adulthood is.

Who says I can't do that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Delightful Summer Meal

Last night, I made a multi-facetedly awesome dinner. (I now declare multi-facetedly to be a real word.) Above is not a picture of the dinner. Because I am cameraless, it's a picture of someone else's strawberry and tofu salad... but mine looked way better.

Usually, I at least pretend to follow a recipe or two when cooking. It's easier to build off of something that already exists, and if you don't know what else to add, there are suggestions ripe for the picking. This meal was unusual in that it wasn't inspired by another recipe - it came into my brain matter from nowhere.

That means, like usual, I didn't measure anything that went into the salad. The liquids are most likely to be off - feel free to adjust numbers if you make that one. I worried that this meal wouldn't be filling enough. It was plenty filling.

Friend whose house we've invaded started a new job yesterday, and it was ridiculously hot and humid, just like it's supposed to be today. I only went outside to get groceries and it was intolerable. But a light, refreshing meal like this makes you even more glad to be in the AC. We had lemon poppyseed tofu salad with strawberries, ginger-garlic couscous, and rhubarb sauce over ice cream.

Lemon Poppyseed Tofu Salad with Strawberries (serves 3-4)
1/2 14-oz container firm tofu
1/2 bag fresh spinach
1 small head of another leafy green (I used some stuff in the co-op veggie bag that was purplish)
8 oz. strawberries, sliced, plus extra for nibbling
1 carrot, peeled and shredded

3 T olive oil
3 T rice vinegar
1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
1 T lemon juice
2 T poppyseed
1 T grated ginger
Chopped walnuts (optional)

To prepare tofu: Drain water, slice into pieces 1/2 inch thick. Place in single layer on a dish towel. Put another dish towel over it, with a cutting board on top and a heavy pot (or the olive oil bottle) on that. This soaks out the water so that it will absorb the oil and spices. Cover the remaining tofu with water in a sealed container and refrigerate.
Leave drying tofu in place while preparing strawberries and carrots.

Add oil, vinegars, lemon juice, and spices to large frying pan. Slice tofu into pieces about 1/2 inch thick and two inches long, so that you have small strips of it. Add to pan and cook on medium heat. Stir and flip as needed until browned.

Meanwhile, toss greens, carrot and strawberries together. When tofu is done, pour it and any remaining liquids on top of salad mixture. If there is not enough to wet the salad, mix an equal proportion of the cooking liquids together for a dressing. Serve with walnuts if desired and a whole strawberry on the side.

Ginger-Garlic Couscous (serves 3-4)
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t shredded ginger
1/2 c. couscous
1 c. water

Simmer first three ingredients in a small pot until garlic and ginger are lightly browned. Slowly pour in water. When it boils, remove pot from heat, stir in couscous, and cover for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Rhubarb Sauce
I didn't come up with this recipe on my own - I got it from here. You don't even need the nutmeg or lemon juice for this one to be amazing, but it was yummy. We ate it over vanilla ice cream last night, but I think this would be great over lemon sorbet or sherbert, too - especially on a hot day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Poetry in the Raw

Today, I present for your enjoyment some poems I've written in the last several months. Only lightly edited, and they still need improvement, but I'm willing to let them see daylight.

Summer, 1990
Give me the farm
instead, fresh manure
on the breeze in bean fields,
the cloying oil of musty dog
stuck tightly to each finger
as I separate berries from the vine.

Give me the farm
and naked, dusty feet
where I search for burrs and snakes
but never broken glass
where love is all around
in a faded yellow jingle,
and no shattered paper cups
listing in the dust.

Give me the farm
and a broken grey barn
and a road where one car
is commotion. Where a mud puddle
stagnates midst corn all summer
and mosquitoes feast
on sweaty, red flesh.

Give me the farm
and you can keep the rest.

Overnight, my food
has turned to flower.
Damp roots have sprouted
deadly blossom
and stare out from the pantry
daring me to grasp
dark purple petals.
Tubers are now a morning
delicacy, a glory
I eagerly devour,
despite sly buds
that glare

We tumble toward
our futures, and
a current grabs hold
and shakes me,
a million volts
in a frozen core.
Grey is a burning nebula,
a grip that paralyzes.

And then there was you,
a tender touch
and the skies illuminate
detached palms.
Your eyes kiss mine -
a different song,
the same dance, and
I know it all by heart.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Evil, Hidden by Purple Wicker

One of the weirder things I've ever purchased was a lavender string-wicker bunny figurine, just after Easter.

The weird thing about this wasn't that I was 18 at the time, or that I was buying a bunny. It was made much like string art draped over balloons - you know, like when you dip the string in glue and wind it around the balloon, let it dry, and then pop the balloon so you have string art in its place.

The bunny's outer purple string was draped over innner wire. He had two little purple buttons for eyes. But none of these things were particularly weird, either.

This bunny was demonic, I tell you.

One of his little purple "eye sockets" must have been damaged during the original transit to the store, hence ending up on the clearance shelf. That one eye was sunken in, giving him an otherworldly, I-am-plotting-heinous-evil look. All it took was one glance at him, and you knew this little purple string dude was bent on world domination, killing puppies, and forcing you to watch Nicolas Cage movies. Over and over... and over.

It's like all those evil characters in comic books, who are twisted but still reasonable before the trip into a vat of acid, experimenting themselves into insanity, or being attacked by a prickle of rabid porcupines. (I think that would be my favorite villain, by default.) The damage wrought upon the bunny just pushed him over the edge.

My friend-sister Finnley and I were mesmerized by the creepy thing. It seemed to have come alive, reaching into our souls and taking a bite out of them, declaring us fit for demon consumption. His adorable little ears did nothing to quell the horror of staring into his eyes. I think he was $1.88.

"Oh my God, it's creepy," Finnley said.

"Totally. I'm buying it," I responded.

And so the wee bunny of DOOM came home with me. Not one to shirk my duties as Caretaker of Evil Holiday Decor, I spruced up the bunny to help him feel less purple and more deadly.

His eyes received a light coat of red glitter paint, because eyes are the windows to the soul, after all, and his soul was a gateway to Hell. Next, I found three toothpicks. Two of them were pierced straight through his nose. He bore the pain quite well... almost too well. He already looked like he could take over the world in one hypnotic, televised speech to the masses. But he needed a finishing touch.

I snapped the last toothpick in half, dipped the sharp ends in red paint, and stuck them up into his mouth: fangs, dripping with the blood of innocents. He was ready.

If I remember right, at one point I gave him my black spikey bracelet to wear as a collar - as if he needed to be more intimidating. Sure, he was purple - nay, lavender - but the evil exuding from the rest of him made me gloss over the color every time.

Instead, it was always those sharp fangs, evil piercings, and blood-red eyes I came to focus on. One of which was just a little too deep.

So, show of hands: who finds it odd that I do things like this, but can't watch Evil Dead?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This Day in History Should be on a Stamp

I learned something amazing about the history of today, and it makes me wonder about the integrity of our country. Knowing today's incredible past, as I do now, makes me wonder why it isn't a national holiday, or why the banks aren't at least closed. It makes me wonder if we truly appreciate what this day has given us, and if we would even notice it being yanked away from us.

So let us stop, at least for this moment, to savor the day's momentousness, to acknowledge its contribution to our society and, in fact, the world.

Ladies and gentlemen: I present the anniversary of sliced bread.

First sold to the public on this day in 1928 (not 1924 as Wikipedia mentions at first), you can read about it here and here while I go off to my interview and cry about the fact that this entry used to be twice as long, and I lost the whole thing for some inexplicable reason. Don't forget to read about the sliced bread ban on the Wikipedia page.

Write to congress and help sliced bread get its day in the sun, which it so rightly deserves.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Book I Want (and Already Have)

Among other things, I read John Scalzi's blog on a regular basis. He has a feature called The Big Idea where he lets authors plug their books, and he posts pictures of the stacks and stacks of advances he receives by mail. I love finding new reading material this way, and I trust his opinion of all things scifi (or bacon).

I first heard about Perdido Street Station in this blog post, where Scalzi talks about why his book isn't necessarily the best of the decade, and why he thinks China Miéville’s book is. Some high praise coming from a guy who knows the ins and outs of scifi and fantasy - plus, he mentioned world-building, one of my favorite elements of any book. So I grabbed a copy.

Months later, I've finally started reading. This book is amazing.

Lin, to her mortal horror, was running late.

It did not help that she was not an aficionado of Bonetown. The cross-bred architecture of that outlandish quarter confused her: a syncresis of industrialism and the gaudy domestic ostentation of the slightly rich, the peeling concrete of forgotten docklands and the stretched skins of shantytown tents. The different forms segued into each other seemingly at random in this low, flat zone, full of urban scrubland and wasteground where wild flowers and thick-stemmed plants pushed through plains of concrete and tar.

The use of language throughout is incredible. I'm at a loss with many of the words he uses, but I can tell they're the right ones. It reads like lyrical poetry at an open mic night - the kind that leaves you feeling small and totally mesmerized, not the 'bad teen poetry' kind. I love the attention he gives to each individual paragraph, each sentence, each word. This book is a feast of epic proportions.

The story so far: the society Isaac lives in is broken in several ways: as punishment for crimes, people (human and otherwise) are Remade. Extra limbs are attached to them in odd places, bodies replaced with mechanical parts, every grotesque, inhumane thing you can imagine. His girlfriend Lin (who has the head of a scarab) encounters a drug lord who is Remade so many times he is positively terrifying - but he Remade himself, on purpose.

Isaac is a backwater scientist, experimenting with this, that, and the other thing as whimsy takes him. A creature called a garuda comes to Isaac, begging him to take the job he offers. Garuda culture is different, but not by much: they still mete out lifelong torture for criminals. Intrigued and amazed, Isaac takes the offer, and sets a dangerous chain of events into motion.

One of the book's features so far is ignorant cruelty: judges who deliver Remaking sentences don't seem to realize the pain they're delivering. As Isaac begins his new research, there's a lengthy section about all the birds and insects who die (unbeknownst to him) for the sake of his new project. A circus full of Remade and other odd creatures are all tortured within, some by their own choice.

But there's also a latent beauty in all of this, mostly coming from Lin. She strikes me as a more graceful, charming character than the others. I'm only on page 94, and she strikes me as a puzzle piece that can only go one place, but still doesn't quite fit. Her delicateness is out of place, but a perfect touch at the same time.

I'm seeing so many parallels between Perdido Street Station and The Windup Girl that I can't help but imagine the latter was a strong influence for Paolo Bacigalupi's book. Ideas, certain characters, and the setting all seem so connected, that must be the case. I couldn't find any interviews to back me up on the notion.

This is the book I want to write. The world-building is immense, the characters twisted but meaningful, the themes an intense commentary on modern society, the language divine. Yet another one to go on my list of favorites - we'll see how I feel when I reach the end.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Contributor: Mom

Because I have no camera right now, there will be no sunset pictures for the next couple of weeks. I know, sadness. So instead, for today, we have some pretty awesome fireworks pictures my mom took last night at our personal little fireworks display. Some amazing shots for a little Nikon.

And last but not least, the picture my mom took of me:

Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters...

Monday, July 4, 2011

I Will Probably Not Get Bored for the Rest of My Life

My camera is rather far away from me right now, so for today's post, I shall use my powers of Incredibly Accurate Description to provide you with details. Also, that would be a great super power which would look really lame in the face of Flight or something.

I've been on a roll with the crafting lately. My recent decision was to do my best to work only on projects I already have going, and to avoid starting a new one till I finish some of those in progress.

Last week, I finished my grandma's shawl and sent it for her birthday. It's made of a French blue chenille-esque yarn, a slightly lighter shade than you would see on traditional blue-on-white china plates. It's long - about four and a half feet, I think - but thin, a foot wide at most. The pattern I made up features shell-shaped curves and loops throughout and includes three colors of beads along the length. Pearlescent green, purple, and silver decorate the edges, making the shawl look fancier than it is. Despite being somewhat small, the beads and thick yarn make it heavy, good to give Grandma extra warmth in summer air conditioning.

So. That's the only project I have finished so far. My incredibly inaccurate Ravelry page shows some of the things I'm working on, but not all. I'm making...

- A set of handwarmers for a New Mexico friend from Ohio, in the grey and bright red of Ohio State colors. They're striped and ribbed with just a thumbhole on the side - very simple, but cozy, like the pair I made for Spousal Unit in Packers and Bears colors (to show his conflicting loyalties).

- A lace shawl for myself. This is the one I mentioned a while ago when I talked about knitting lace. It's nearly complete - the pattern I found was pretty easy, the worst part being just keeping track of the freakin' stitches. I have at least twenty errors in this thing, so it's going to be interesting. Apparently lace is one of those things you shouldn't work on while watching episodes of Cheers, or anything else remotely distracting.

The needles I used were twice the recommended size, and the yarn is of the sock variety. Colors are a bright, almost royal blue, dusky purple, and black all twined together to make a gorgeous dark yarn with starry specks throughout. Wildfoote brand in elderberry, if you're interested.

- The Sweater The Universe Denied. Yep, still sitting in a bag, entirely too visible, waiting for me to work on it. Actually, now that we've moved, I'm not exactly sure where the pattern ended up. Whoops. But I'm not frogging that one: I am determined to make myself a sweater, even if I have to walk around doing the Kermit dance with the ridiculously long arms flopping about like separate living entities.

- A small pillow with fishies and bubbles. Hey, I have a picture of this one!

The back of the pillow will have flecks of purple and blue all over. This just needs another two inches of the back before I can sew it up. Maybe that can be my big project for the week.

- My Project Linus blanket. Project Linus is dedicated to giving handmade blankets of all kinds to children of all ages. I started this one several years ago, when I first re-learned crochet, so it's naturally kind of FUBAR-ish. Light blue and brown checker patterns, except I realized that with the way I made the checkers, when sewn together they would look like stripes instead. So I put the project away and haven't worked on it for quite a while.

- Finally, The Neverending Quilt. Thanks to being with my mom for the holiday, I now have three new colors of yarn to throw in the mix. Combined with all the other colors, this might be enough to finish off the quilt squares. Last night I finished a square made of deep red and an ivory-esque shade of tan. The other new color is a deep teal, more green than blue, which is called Pagoda. If you don't recall my post on the quilt, this one alternates colors for thick striping, with a black trim around the edges. My short-term goal is to finish six squares in the next two weeks.

Between all of that and the awesome exciting interview I have this week, I should be plenty busy. Not to mention the wonderful new book I'm reading, which I'll tell you about soon. For today, though, happy Fourthiness to you all. I'm off for a run.

Friday, July 1, 2011

An Ode to Casettes

On this day in 1979, Sony shared the marvellous idea of Walkman casette players with the rest of the world. This marked the invention of the first personal carry-along music device, leading teenagers everywhere to plug in, tune out, and generally annoy adults more than anyone had thought possible.

The Germans are responsible for mass production of casettes, starting in 1964, but true popularization thereof didn't happen until the Walkman was introduced. But I didn't come here to give you a history of casettes.

I came here to tell you about my favorite tapes.

Now that I've looked at that word for too long, it looks incredibly fake to me, and I don't know if I'll be able to use it again in this post. Looks like an extremely naughty word now, or something related to ant eaters. Don't ask me why; I have no clue.

One of the earliest casettes I remember owning was a book and tape set of Disney's Peter Pan. Or Cinderella. Or something like that. In any case, it was Disney, complete with the little Tinkerbell chime when it was time to turn the page. We also had 45s of some Disney tales - my mom probably still has them somewhere, unless she doesn't.

On a similar note, I also had a casette of Mickey Mouse songs that helped me become the writer and grammar fiend I am today. Songs like "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More." I remember loving that tape, even though I'm pretty sure that one was purchased for my little sister, and I was already five and a half when she was born - way too old for that kind of thing. Still, I figured she was too young to appreciate it, so someone ought to.

Another one I loved was a tape (see, it still looks wrong to me) of somewhat generic on-the-go songs and general kid silliness, from Discovery Toys. I still like a lot of those songs, with lyrics like, "I'm too full for broccoli / But I've still got room for some pie."

And who didn't say, while being pushed out the door to school, "Oh by the way, I need an orange juice can / Four cotton balls, and six rubber bands / And by the way, they're serving meatloaf today / If you don't mind a bunch, I'm gonna need a lunch." We are single-handedly responsible for every one of our parents' grey hairs, whether from saying things like that or listening to them over and over and over until the casette broke.

That's pretty much all I remember of my early casettes - I listened to the radio most of the time, but in high school I started a series called "Happy Music," which were songs from the radio or various CDs which I thought were the happiest sounds in the world. A few of them are songs that make me say, "Hey, I remember this one! ...I hope I don't hear it again for another ten years." But I still love some of them - songs like Cantaloop by US3 and I am in Love by Les McCann made both my original list and my remakes after college.

Of course, those remakes were on new-fangled compact discs, not casettes. Something about making a mix tape (okay, that looks a little better) is much more personal than a CD, but it sounds about ten times better. I'll take casettes for nostalgia, but when actually listening to the music, give me CD or vinyl any day.
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