Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wee Hats for Wee Ones

Lately, my favorite project to knit has been baby hats. They're quick, versatile, and fun - the pattern I use, from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson, allows you to do pretty much anything you want to the hat. For example, you can add stripes, as I did in this hat for my New Mexico Auntie's new grandbaby.


Pink was perfect for her, and I threw in a few green stripes to keep it interesting.


I much prefer challenges, though, so I also made her a strawberry hat. And yes, I know there are already patterns for this kind of thing, but I made this one from scratch, based on the same hat pattern. I had so much fun with it.



The one thing I might change about this pattern, next time I make it, is how far down the seed pattern goes. If this hat curls up at all, the black threads underneath show. Otherwise, I think it turned out pretty darn well. I'm pleased with the color combos, the innovation, and the way the green top turned out, decreases and all.


Gir prefers the pink one, though.

Next pattern I'll attempt: definitely not this one.


My God, it's terrifying.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Introvert vs. Extrovert: Which Am I? (Both!)

In my high school psychology class, we did a perception experiment one day. The teacher called out various adjectives, and the whole class wrote them down and distributed them to other students in the class. We wrote each word three times and handed each slip to a different person.

These weren't anything negative; we weren't calling each other names. They were personality traits, and I only remember two that were used: introvert and extrovert. I remember that because I received four of each. Some people in the class thought I was an introvert; some thought me an extrovert.

At that point, I was a senior. Some of the other students likely knew I was on the Forensics team and did competitive public speaking. They knew I raised my hand a lot in class - those characteristics, they associated with being an extrovert. Others had probably seen me in classes I cared less about, where I rarely spoke. They knew I didn't have many close friends and often spoke quietly - those people thought I was an introvert.

So who was right? All of them.

I'm more outspoken when I'm comfortable in my surroundings. I joined Forensics because public speaking terrified me and I wanted to be more confident with it - and also because I had friends on the team. I love my alone time and I am often the wallflower at big parties, and I even felt kind of awkward at my own wedding, where everyone was near and dear to me.

Lately, I've been much more in touch with my introversion. I'm in a new place, with uneven footing and a door that locks with a satisfying click. I've stepped out of myself several times since moving here, forcing the extrovert in me to come out to play. More often than not, though, I'm more comfortable alone or with Spousal Unit. New things and people are scary; routine and time reading are my friends. Shy is my most defining word, right now.

But I'm using this introversion to my advantage. It will be some time before Spousal Unit and I are finally settled in our new surroundings (yes, even though we've been in Madison for a year, it still feels new). So while I bask in the glow of my hours alone (but not always lonely), I work on my novel. I use this time to catch up on reading I've wanted to do. I have date nights with Spousal Unit more often and feel closer to him than ever. I make this time work for me instead of against me.

Yes, potential friendships have suffered a little, and that makes me sad. But I'm easing into this - when I at last leap out of my shell, I want to be able to talk to others, rather than just sitting in a corner, listening to others make noise and feeling like an awkward turtle. I've pushed myself to be more social lately; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm making the effort. (Otherwise, the extroversion won't necessarily come back on its own.)

In the meantime, I'm getting in touch with my quiet side. I'm listening to what my heart whispers in the silence. I'm creating, and dreaming, and breathing, slow and steady.

I'm loving the introvert in me.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Prime Time Lineup: Now with More Awesome


Hi all!  Spousal Unit here; Wifal Unit is taking the day off so you'll have to suffer through my musings instead.  I thought I’d start with a little television entertainment, which is odd because Wifal Unit and I hardly watch any.  What we have done is thought about shows that we would watch, and with the help of some friends, I have prepared the ultimate prime-time lineup. 

6:00 “Craziest Pet Grooming” Starring Alec Baldwin and Will Arnett
This would be a reality show.  An amazing reality show.  Imagine these two guys traveling the world, finding the most outlandish grooming styles (probably for dogs of rich people), and critiquing them.  If your imagination is having trouble coping with that much awesome, here’s a fake movie trailer made from scenes of them in 30 Rock.



Now picture them with a 30 minute show.  I like to think that at least once per episode, they’d get into a growling contest with an animal/each other.  And if that doesn’t rev your engine, you can replace Alec Baldwin and Will Arnett with Adam West and William Shatner.  Also, the season finale would have to be an episode where they meet their match: Edward James Olmos (it says a lot about you whether you remember him as Justice Mendoza on "The West Wing" or as Admiral Adama on "Battlestar Galactica").

6:30 “James Spader Explains Things”
I don’t think any elaboration is required for this show, but we’ll try it anyway.  20 minutes of Mr. Spader, at a place, explaining a topic to the audience. 


One week he could sit behind a desk, another he could be wearing jeans and sitting on a couch, and maybe they could do an episode on a beach.  In a speedo.  That could be a Mother’s Day episode.  Some topics might include: “Sports,” “The Rotation of the Moon,” “Bah Mitzvas,” and “When to use ‘Whom’.”

As good as those shows would be, they’re just the opening act.  Now that you’re good and primed, the piece de resistance:

7:00 “H. Jon Benjamin and Patrick Warburton Yell at Each Other”
Instant. Emmy.  Archer and Krunk; Coach McGuirk and The Tick.  These might be two of the greatest voice actors of all time (Vincent Price would be up there as well).  All that would be needed for this show is crappy animation, and lots of dialogue.  Seriously, picture this:

“How was your day, sweety?”

“Fine, how was yours?”

“Wow, do you actually care or are you just going through the motions?”

“Funny, I thought that’s what you’ve been doing since the honeymoon.”

Kind of a stupid exchange, right?  Wrong.  These two could announce a golf tournament and make it exciting.  This is such a great idea, I can’t believe that no one has pitched it to Cartoon Network yet.  Maybe they have, but until they get their own show, chew on this:  Patrick Warburton is going to be in season 3 of Archer.  We’ll get a preview of the divine magnificence of the two greatest living comedic voice actors.

For magnificence, click here or here.

Now that the finale has passed, and the people with more straight and narrow senses of humor have gone to bed, or wherever they go at 7:30 on Thursday evenings, the real oddball show can come out.

7:30 “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker”
There are several commercials from years ago about Terry Tate.  They’re marvelous.  Here, watch them.  In case you skipped the link and are unfamiliar with the genius of Terry Tate, the idea is this: an NFL linebacker (or maybe an NCAA linebacker who didn’t go pro) gets hired to enforce rules around the office.  Things like refilling the coffee pot, and putting covers on your TPS reports.  This premise could sustain a 60 minute show every week without getting old.  Especially when they throw in things like rookie competition, coaching/management changes, board meetings, and company picnics.  I’d love to write the episode where he referees the company kickball game. 

Well, that was my first post!  I hope you enjoyed it.  And as a preview of my next post (whenever Wifal Unit needs another day off), listen to this awesome song.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Moondance

I had fun with the moon last night: I taught it how to dance.


At first, it was a little shaky about the idea - it had been so long since the last time, and after all, its starry friends were all watching. But I finally talked it into trying a simple sidestep.




P.S. Sorry if I've been a bit uninspired this week - here's a preview of a post you'll see next week.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Book I Don't Want: Knight Light


The bookstore got an amazing piece of postcard advertising last week for the book Knight Light: The Powerful Story of Virgin Mary's Husband by Roger L. Bennett. It's an autobiography.

Yes, everyone, this means what you think it does. Bennett says he was married to the Virgin Mary. In the '80s.

Knight Light is narrated by star-crossed lovers quaintly identified as HE and SHE. He is the author, fate-appointed Knight on a King's quest. She is the Queen Mother, Virgin Mary in contemporary guise. What they did after their church wedding in 1982 is told in sizzling detail as a Royal romp in the hay.

But it wasn't until the Immaculate Conception of 1986 that Roger Bennett's second wife chose to reveal Her eternal self for that ONE night only. That's when his silver seed was gathered for a mysterious purpose known only to Her and (perhaps, perhaps not) to that Black African race God's evolutionary plan determined to be first-in and last-out.

Afterward his wife vanished, never to be seen or heard from again. Out of respect for the Virgin Mary (not Her earthly name) Bennett waited over two decades before writing the most intimate sexual details of their lives together. But how else to tell this incredible story so readers have the facts on which to form their own conclusions? His respect for Her was further shown by remaining the faithful husband ever since.

My first question: the Virgin Mary chose to reveal herself during sex? From what I know of the Catholic church, that is not only kinda blasphemous, but also something no Catholics are allowed to do (despite their being married - in Catholicism, sex is always bad). What does this couple's sex life have to do with her being the Virgin Mary? I haven't a clue, and never will.

Second: Royal romp? Silver seed? That's all I need to say about that.

Personally, if my Spousal Unit vanished, I might, you know, be a little worried. Go looking for him. Call the police. You know, the things you typically do when a person just up and vanishes. But Bennett is nonplussed, and just says hey, that's what happens when your wife is the mother of Jesus.

You can read an excerpt from the first chapter here - I promise you, it's... something. In the first paragraph alone, he references Deliverance, The Only Living Boy in New York, and Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls. I don't know what kind of mood he's trying to set, but it's freaking me out.

Other books with "Knight Light" in the title:



Now you know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roblets! (My New Name For Baby Robins)

Look what's out on our porch!


Mama's not too pleased with our afternoon porch-sitting, but she doesn't fly off when I just water the plants. Hopefully she will have beautiful, screaming babies soon. Right outside our bedroom window.


Thanks a lot, Mama Bird.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Letter to the Chalk Thieves

Dear Owners of My Apartment Complex,

You're outlawing sidewalk chalk? Really?

I can think of no more asinine, meaningless way to spend one's time than to remove an element of pure joy from a child's life, just because you don't want to clean the carpets. It's chalk - it will wash off. Your recent letter to tenants looks an awful lot like a tantrum to me.

Sure, maybe some kids got out of control with it and drew on the buildings. I still see no reason to make drawing with chalk a crime. A smaller measure should have been taken in between these steps - something like contacting the parents and asking them to supervise the kids more closely. (Which I doubt you did, since you won't even call me back to let me know when the A/C will be fixed.)

I've watched two six-year-old kids play out front with their chalk since the weather was nice enough. They've had a blast imagining so many different things, and I - yes, I, a 27-year-old child - liked watching them play and asking about their drawings. I'm sure there are two dozen others living here who love their chalk. They are creative kids, and now you're stifling them.

Perhaps the worst part of this is your reinforcement of a false - but unfortunately common - belief: that the arts don't matter. Yes, maybe that connection reaches a bit far, but it's not a short step in an impressionable child's mind. Schools are cutting art, music, and foreign language left and right, and now parents have to tell their kids they can't draw outside anymore - because you don't like cleaning.

Maybe you shouldn't have installed white carpet, geniuses.

This is a low-income housing block. Chalk is cheap. It allows kids to stretch their imaginations in a way that crayons and paper don't. Chalk is more interactive, and besides, it also gets them outside, which has become a more difficult thing to do, with all the video games, television, and internet in the world. Removing one of the best joys of summer is a crime.

Here's a better idea: have chalk-free zones (such as in front of your office door, since you're such stiffs about the issue). Designated chalk areas can be marked up as much as the kids want - sidewalks in front of empty apartments, or maybe just not on the sidewalk that turns toward a door. We have a pathetic excuse for a jungle gym, made of splintered wood and metal bars - maybe they can chalk it up over there. While they get tetanus.

There is a way to let them keep using chalk and their imaginations outside. With a broken A/C, neighbors screaming at each other at midnight, and frequent police visits, I had hoped you would find a way to avoid crushing children along with the adults.

Sincerely,
An advocate for children's well-being,
Allison

Friday, May 18, 2012

Excellent Spring/Summer Gifts

At this time of year, when I knit/crochet gifts for people, I always get a little flustered. It's not the right season for scarves, hats, and mittens, so what do you do?

You do this.

Rock Island by Jared Flood

I love the intricate details on this shawl! Lightweight, lacy shawls are perfect for summer days when you're wearing cool clothing, but are making a trip to an air-conditioned joint. Then you don't have to carry around a big, bulky sweater.

Unfortunately, this beauty is made with lace, which takes quite a while to knit up. Gifts are often last-minute surprises, but you still want to put effort and thought into it.


I love projects that allow you to choose your own color scheme. Imagine this in red and black, or maybe orange, blue, and yellow. So many possibilities - plus, the original colors are eye-catching and really pop! This bag is crocheted with Lily Sugar 'n Cream yarn - great for quick, durable projects.

What if you're making a gift for a guy? I always have trouble coming up with things guys will like - summer makes it twice as hard!

Tiny Cthulhu by Amber

If he's a Cthulhu fan, no problem!

Same if he plays video games - you can always find a Pac-Man to stitch up.

Ms. Pac-Man Amigurumi by Allison Hoffman

If you're knitting up a gift that needs to be versatile and ready to give to anyone, at any time, I highly recommend this beautiful piece.

Run Away! by Knitting Magic Girl

Everyone loves a killer bunny.

But maybe not as much as bacon.

Bacon and Eggs Pillow by Tamara Kelly

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Syttende Mai: Norwegian Independence Day

Today is Syttende Mai, Norwegian Independence Day! Today, everyone wants to be Norwegian. (Don't deny it!)

Nearby Stoughton, Wisconsin, is having a Syttende Mai festival this weekend, where you can compete in an Ugly Troll contest, eat more lefse than any other day of the year, and even watch the high school's Norwegian dance group. Sounds like an excellent way to celebrate.

Mmm, lefse.

If lefse isn't your thing, how about some fruit soup?

The Butterfly Jungle's fruit soup recipe

You could engage in some Norwegian knitting to celebrate, with a book like Norwegian Handknits, which has knitting patterns, historical photographs and stories, and recipes. Everything you could want in a Norsk book!

Norwegian Handknits: Heirloom Designs from Vesterheim Museum

How are icy streets, knitting, and Norwegian culture related? Check out Anne Landre's article on Knitty.com.

Eunny has some beautiful work!

Last but not least... my favorite song about lutefisk! (Okay, it's the only song about lutefisk.) According to various legends, someone tried to poison Viking cod by pouring lye over it. The sturdy Norsks ate it anyway - and liked it. (That, or they were starving and had nothing else to eat, so it was really good by comparison. Depends who's telling the story.)


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jazzy Eastern Metal


I've had a couple of very different songs stuck in my head lately, all for different reasons. Some have been really awesome to mentally play over and over.

Others, like "Too Darn Hot" by Ella Fitzgerald, have been obnoxious. Don't get me wrong; I love Ella, but...


Last night, at 4 a.m., the bedroom was sweltering. We've been doing our best to make the supposed air conditioning work, and to no avail. Last night, the air finally felt cool, and so we left it on overnight. Bad idea. Even if it was cool, it was certainly not AC. I turned it off, opened the windows (previously closed due to loud highway traffic), and lay in bed with this song running through my head.

For an hour.

I've had "Kese Kese" by DJ Sheb Sabbah in my head ever since I learned (finally!) who the artist was. Love its weirdness and the beautiful Eastern tune.


A friend gave me this song in high school, on a mix CD labeled "XXX: Porn!". It was all music and not skeezy in the slightest, but I still made sure my mom didn't see that one.

A recent discovery I've been enjoying is the song "Love Bites (So Do I)" by Halestorm. I dig the awesome lady vocals and the fact that it's a heavy song played very well. Even if metal isn't your thing, you can at least admit she's got a killer voice. Not to mention the song is kind of hilarious.


Doesn't hurt that her outfit is kickass too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cupcakes, Whips, and Transplants, Oh My!

Yesterday, I got the most glorious cupcake ever, from Market Street Diner.


Spousal Unit picked a chocolate one, and I picked vanilla. When we asked the counter-lady for them, her response was, "Do you want them with or without filling?"

Um, WITH.


Hells yeah. The frosting on top was creamy and perfect, and the cake was soft and moist. Perfect cupcakes.

Unfortunately, I cut this in half with all of the filling just on one side of the cupcake, and about 30 seconds after taking this picture, the filled half plopped onto the carpet, frosting down. The two halves must have had a symbiotic relationship. But I was able to salvage the cupcake and most of the frosting - hooray!

Other good things that happened this weekend:

We now own Indiana Jones, and spent an evening with The Last Crusade.


A robin started building a nest above our porch light.

video
(Video is sideways, but still full of nesting bird.)

He later abandoned the project, as the nest didn't seem to congeal well in that spot. But today, he's returned a couple of times - maybe the new suet cake and freshly transplanted primroses convinced him this is a good place to raise hatchlings. (He's in for a rude awakening when we go out to the porch with our beers.)

Speaking of freshly transplanted things, remember Kuzon and Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! ?

(You met them here)

After days of careful deliberation, they decided they wanted to be separated. The K's have been growing together for about three years now (maybe even four), so we weren't sure they would survive the operation. I admire their bravery, especially after seeing how much root they had - coiled and coiled on the bottom of the pot. After a much shorter surgery than anticipated, they are now living happily in separate pots... but they still like to be close to one another.


And, because I know you're wondering, Khaaaaaaaan! is on the left. Kuzon is on the right.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Letter to AARP


Dear AARP,

You really have a knack for pissing people off, don't you?

Take me for example. I am only 27, which (last I checked) really isn't that close to 50. I am young, I have a whole lotta life ahead of me before I get to retire and move to a quiet cottage by a lake, where I will spend my days writing, spontaneously dancing on the deck with Spousal Unit, and jetting off to awesome vacations whenever I feel like it.

AARP, you and your membership card are spoiling my daydreams. Also, right now, I'm not at all looking forward to my next birthday. Jerks.

According to the letter you sent me, I can get a free AARP Insulated Travel Bag. Tell me, if I send this letter back to you without payment, but with a copy of my birth certificate, do I get the bag for free? (I really ought to.) If you have AARP The Magazine (for those lengthy bathroom visits), I hope you also have AARP The T-Shirt (for bingo night), AARP The Lunch Box (for those days when you get lost in the mall), and AARP The Cane (great for shaking at those dang kids on your lawn).

I realize you probably have a computer-generated program that sends out these letters. Let me tell ya, it's broken and has been for years - it's time to add a human element. Around the year 2000, my ten-year-old sister got a letter from you. She was ten, not 100.

You're the one who's apparently old enough for your own services, AARP - not me.

Sincerely,
A young whipper snapper,
Allison

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Books I Want: Hooray Libraries!

I have not been reading enough. I intend to remedy this.

As a writer, one of the most important things for me to do is to keep reading. I need to see how other authors have done it in the past - how they've created worlds, characters, suspense, phrases, plot, and words. Aside from actually writing, it is the single most important way to improve my abilities.

I have read a total of six books this year - that's just more than one book per month. It's kind of pathetic compared to my usual track record. Along with that, I've had a pretty terrible case of reading apathy since the last book I finished. Thankfully, yesterday I got back into it again with Jem by Frederik Pohl, which won the National Book Award - one of few science fictions to do so.

But this book will only last me so long. Part of the reason I've been reading less is my new job, I think - it's the first bookstore I've worked at that doesn't have a check-out policy for its employees. Yes, I could take something home, but it's highly discouraged, and as a new employee, I don't want to put my employment at risk. (No, I would not get fired for something like that, but these are uncertain times. If I can avoid getting frowny faces from my boss, I will do so.)

What does all that mean? It means freakin' finally going to the library to check out a book. I've had a library card since we moved here, and I still haven't used it on books. For shame. I plan to check out a whole slough of books once I finish Jem, and hopefully one or two of them will stick.

Things I plan to bring home (provided the library has them) include:

Home
Home by Marilynne Robinson

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie
Passage of Darkness by Wade Davis


Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn

Hopefully, this will get me back into the glorious habit of reading again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can't Brain; Have Dumb


Yesterday, I was planning on cutting myself some slack and not posting a full blog. I still wanted to put something up, though, so I construed a wee paragraph or two and added a picture.

Then the internet crapped out for the rest of the day. Not even a blip of signal.

On top of that, my day was pretty similar to the above image. I got little sleep, forgot to eat for eight hours, bawled in a shrink's office, and learned that skim milk does not a custard make. (The latter one was, in fact, pretty gross.) Needless to say, I'm glad it's today now, and not yesterday again. Worst Groundhog's Day ever, if that were to happen.

It was obnoxious and disheartening to miss my first blog post since I started this thing, but today I take heart. Today, I will have had more than 10,000 page views since I started this lovely thing a year and a half ago.

My sincere thanks to those who have followed me on this bizarre and exciting journey. Here's hoping it takes even less time to reach 20,000 page views.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Menagerie of the Bizarre

Today, I have some pretty weird stuff for you. Like this plastic, upside-down half-lobster, found on someone's front steps as I walked to work one day. Because this is Wisconsin, and of course someone would have a lobster on their front porch. It's one of our major industries.


Or cranberries. I always get them mixed up, because duh, they're both red.

Here's my sister, impersonating Lady Wisconsin. (Click to enlarge; they're both pointing the same way, but Chloe does not have a badger on her head.)


Here's a close-up of Lady Wis.; not bad for a dinky little camera. She totally has a helmet and a badger on her head. Or maybe a three-headed turtle. But a badger makes more sense. Which is also weird.


Here's Lady Wisconsin again, on top of the capitol. Oh yeah, and Lady Forward, who thinks she knows where she's going. Which one does the government actually follow, I wonder? (Methinks it's the wrong one right now, whoever it is.)

"Follow me!" "No wait, this way!"


This picture is from the night I took down the Giant Anarchist Carrot Rooster of the Tropics (who was tormenting Madison) with only a golf club. You (yes, you, dear reader!) can recreate my magnificent adventure when you visit Vitense Golfland. But nothing can replace seeing my astounding feat in person. Maybe I'll tell you all about it one day, but to satisfy your chickeny desires for now, have some of this.


Last but not least: probably the best picture I took all day at New Glarus: it's artistic and modern. I must have Jeph Jacques's Butts Disease.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Book I Don't Want and Kind of Hate, But Still Might Read

Today's post is kind of bizarre because I'm running on very little sleep. Spousal Unit and I got all excited last night in our 80-degree apartment, because we thought the air had finally been turned on. So we closed all the windows and cranked it, but still didn't fall asleep till late (for us). And then we woke up at 3 a.m., realizing that it wasn't AC, but some weird form of cool air that just made it hotter for us. Finally, after camping out in the living room, hanging blankets to block the street light, and opening every single window, we got to sleep. But neither of us had more than a few hours of it.

So! Here's a thing I found out about yesterday, about which I'm kinda-sorta interested and kinda-sorta pissed.


This looks just like every other dystopian young adult book I've seen/read/heard about recently: Girl is young! Girl has a bright future in crappy society that she thinks is pretty fly! Girl is destined to be with Boy! Uh oh - Crappy Society intervenes and now Girl is fighting against what she once believed in.

More accurately, this book is about a society divided by a genetics test administered at birth: a test that determines whether the child is predisposed to mental illness. Ana should have been culled with all the other "crazies," (that's what they're called) but someone failed her genetics test, so she's been living with all of the "sane" people. And now it's up to her fiance whether she gets shipped off or not. (Read: if he doesn't want to marry a potential crazy, then she'll get locked up forever.)

Wow. So many things wrong with this book's idea.

1) Mental health is not based solely on genetics. Yes, there might be a gene that makes a person more likely to succumb to depression or schizophrenia, but often, it's a person's experiences that result in such problems. Merle, in writing this, is taking on the ages-old question of nature vs. nurture and declaring nature as the winner - or that's how it seems. I haven't read this, so maybe everything gets flipped around by the end. But that seems like an awfully big presumption to make.

2) Merle is writing about mental illness. Half the people in the world are going to be pissed off at this book for one reason or another, I'm sure, as it's such a sensitive subject. For example, one review on the book's Goodreads page. That is one angry reader. And others who haven't even read the book are already ticked. Bodes well for publicity, maybe, but not for people enjoying the book.

3) Just the summary alone makes me think this book is a catalyst for prejudice. Maybe it's not - that's why I still want to give it a try.

4) WTF? Her fiance gets to decide the fate of her entire life? Yes, he disappears and then she has to look out for herself, but it still sounds to me like any semblance of girl power is going right out the window.

That said, maybe this series is an eye-opening look at mental illness. The fact that it exists might shed extra light on a highly misunderstood community. There is incredible potential in this book... which is why I'm going to read it anyway, just in case it turns out to be the best thing that's ever happened for mental health. We'll see when the book comes out this summer.

But I have my doubts.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Zucakes with Tomato Confetti

My new favorite food in this whole wide world (until I eat too much and get tired of it) is zucchini pancakes.

I'd never tried vegetable-based pancakes before; the idea seemed kind of weird to me. Pancakes should be sweet and sticky and syrup-laden, not healthy for you. Well, these can be unhealthy too, if you top them with enough sour cream, but the recipe itself is pretty wholesome.

I found it in Mark Bittman's newest book How to Cook Everything: The Basics. I have not read the whole thing, nor have I cooked more than one recipe from it (I'm not the kind of person to spend $30 on a single cookbook). But from the once-over I gave it, it appears to be a great collection of recipes that you can modify in pretty much any way you want.

I don't remember what Bittman called the recipe (probably something boring like Zucchini Pancakes) but I've renamed it Zucakes. Makes them sound more fun and whimsical, like they actually are. The recipe suggests serving them with sour cream and salsa, but I didn't have any, so I created the tomato confetti (called such to keep the recipe fun).

I've modified the cakes by replacing the parmesan cheese with mozzarella, as we never have any at home and mozz is cheaper. He also calls for oil, to cook the cakes in, but it's not necessary, and healthier without the oil. On top of that, the grater I have turns the zucchini into more of a mush than small strips, but it works just fine mushed or grated.

My favorite thing about the pancake recipe is that you can make it with pretty much any vegetable and spices that you want. Add cumin! Use carrots instead! Replace the mozz with pepper jack! The one I'm most excited to try is a butternut squash version, served with a curry sauce.

(I'd have included a picture, but they disappeared too quickly for that!)




Zucakes
2 lbs zucchini, grated (so far as I can guesstimate, this is about 2 medium zucchinis)
2 eggs
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. mozzarella
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix it all up. Plop the mixture onto the griddle/pan, using the spoon to spread the mixture out into an even circle (or whatever shape you want). Flip when ready, just like regular pancakes.

Tomato Confetti
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 c. onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Hot sauce
Oil

Cook the garlic and onion in oil over low heat for about 5 minutes. Before they brown, add tomato, spices, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Heat and serve over pancakes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Mom Versus the Squirrels


Back when I was in grade school, my mom threw frosting at a squirrel.

She absolutely loathed squirrels. (She still hates them, I'm guessing; she's just not as violent about it now.) The reason for her disgust was twofold:

1) Squirrels liked to dig in her potted plants, hiding their nuts and various other small trinkets in them. In the process, they cut through roots and even completely displaced the flowers she had lovingly planted. Our deck out back had about ten planters throughout the summer - not including the ones around the rest of the yard - so they often visited the backyard to hide their stashes.

2) These nimble little rodents always stole from the bird feeder in front of our house, which, no matter how often she greased the pole on which it stood, no matter how many squirrel-proof shields she attached, no matter what terrible spices she scattered on the ground, could not be defended. The squirrels would still make death-defying EvelKnievel jumps from our roof to the feeder, always landing on their little paws and scrambling down to the succulent seed within. It ticked my mom off because they scared away the beautiful birds who usually visited us.

Whenever a squirrel appeared on the deck or in the feeder, my mom would become a different person. Her usually a sweet, happy demeanor would be replaced with a yelling, stomping, fist-waving version of the Black Knight, declaring to the rodents in her yard that none may pass. Her yelling in the front yard sent the squirrels from bird feeder to bushes, in an interesting imitation of their flying squirrel cousins. The same on the backyard deck would send them from the planters to the giant tree out back, scurrying past the big round thermometer we'd nailed to it and up to the safety of their nests.

Picture, if you will, the stereotypical cranky old man on his porch, shaking his cane at those dang kids running through his yard and trampling his lovely grass. Replace the old man with my mom, and direct the yells toward squirrels instead.

Now replace the cane with a can of chocolate frosting.

I don't remember why the can of frosting was so close at hand - maybe she was making a cake, or maybe she was reaching for something less deadly in the cupboard when the squirrel appeared on deck. She stomped out toward her nemesis, frosting in hand, frightening the squirrel from the deck to the giant tree. It paused on the trunk beside the thermometer.

Then, it taunted her with a fuzzy tail-twitch.

Maybe she didn't even register what she was doing. Maybe she was just in a blind rage toward the squirrel intent on destroying all her hard work, the squirrel who always retreated to a safe distance and then shook his fuzzy butt in her face. She pulled back and fired.

Luckily for Mr. Fuzzybutt, my mom's aim was a little off. Instead of hitting the squirrel, who scampered to a safer branch, she nailed the big round thermometer. A shower of chocolatey goodness spattered on the tree. The thermometer never worked again.

You'd think that would teach my mom not to throw things at squirrels. That incident proved that, unless you have a BB gun (like my grandma), you're not likely to hit them, and they will just come back and taunt you a second time. 

But my mom is persistent. Later that summer, a squirrel again raised her ire. She had just installed a corn cob feeder out front. Hopefully, she thought, the squirrels would be attracted to the corn and leave the bird feeder alone. She couldn't chase off the squirrels, but maybe they could cohabit peacefully.

No such luck. When a squirrel next appeared in the bird seed, my mom grabbed a corn cob and snuck out front. (Again, I don't know where her ammunition comes from; it just seems to materialize whenever she needs it. It's her weird superpower.) I followed close behind, hoping for hilarity akin to the frosting incident.

She was in front of the house, sneaking up on the bird feeder, one cob-laden arm pulled back to aim, when my grandma's voice called, "What are you doing?!"

We turned. Grandma had parked down the block, having come into town to run some errands. She came to our place to say hi, as she often did, only to find my mom about to commit squirrelcide. 

My mom quickly hid the corn cob behind her back. "Oh! N-nothing! Hi Mom!"

Proof that no matter how old you get, Mom can still make you behave. I never saw her throw anything at squirrels after that.
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