back again

Sep. 11th, 2017 02:37 pm
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I've fallen out of practice at journaling, which is never a good sign. Time to pull myself back into it. Part of the problem's that I've been running around mentally in crisis-management mode for about a month, for reasons that I am actively choosing to not get into instead of just sort of ignoring.

Today feels kind of bleh... but I did sleep pretty well last night, well enough for the light-alarm to wake me instead of waking up at random at four-thirty and not getting back to sleep. Though I did want to sleep longer. Which is unusual for me, I'm generally pretty good about getting up and moving after about five or ten minutes. More sleep tonight, I think.

Feeling a strong urge to hole up in my room or the bathtub and (re)read and do other distractionary things. July was lost to a haze of emotional overwhelm and also packing/moving, and August has been rough for mostly unrelated reasons. The Great Big Dragaera Reread has been a balm.

I went camping about a month ago for the first time since we moved, and I miss it. Thinking tentatively about going out backpacking over Canucksgiving. No idea where, or who with, though the answer to that one is likely "nobody, because I hate coordinating with people."

Still doing yoga though more erratically, still biking pretty consistently. The lovely bike basket I bought online doesn't fit over the handlebars of this bike, so I'm still looking for a better solution there. At least I've finally got a couple of bungee cords so I can pack things on the rear rack. I also need a better pannier: this one sticks up over the top of the rack, making it difficult to bungee things on properly.

Things like an Instant Pot, which I've purchased on the grounds that a) I wanted a rice cooker anyway, b) everyone I know who has one has sung its praises to the heavens, and c) being able to make more food and easier is almost certainly a Good Thing for me. I haven't yet figured out what I'm going to do with it other than "cook more meat faster," or even what sorts of meat-type things. Need to spend some time poking at crockpot-type recipes, perhaps.


Jul. 19th, 2017 09:37 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
"Impostors" are what the cookbook I pulled the recipe out of called them. I guess it's because they look like chocolate bars until you cut into the pan and discover the peanut buttery deliciousness underneath. I started making them in high school, when I needed a dessert to take to forensics potlucks and such. I've not made them in ages, though.

Last week I was going through the recipe box taking photos of the ones I wanted to save, and the impostors recipe was one of those. I transcribed it from the photo on the plane out here. And then in the grocery store I saw the boxes of Baker's chocolate and remembered that Erin, who doesn't normally like sweet things, likes Reeses's cups, and said "Hey, I could make impostors!"

The nice thing about this recipe is that it is basically impossible to screw up sugar, butter, and peanut butter. It's possible to ruin the chocolate, either by scorching it or apparently by allowing even a single drop of water to come in contact with it, but taking it slowly reduces the likelihood of that as well.

recipe )
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I am not sure whether the problem with having crepes and apples and good cheese for breakfast is that I promised I would save some crepes for [personal profile] uilos and thus can't eat them all, or that I'm stuffed but they were really good and I *want* to eat them all.

(Better would have been with berries and whipped cream, but I wasn't thinking sufficiently clearly yesternight when I hit the grocery store.)
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
One of the great disappointments in my life is that [personal profile] uilos Does Not Eat Eggs.

I am a big fan of Breakfast Any Time, and over the last holy cow ten years I've more or less perfected my pancake recipe. (Although these days instead of "1 cup flour" it's "5 oz flour," because flour should be measured by weight not volume.) I make pretty good crepes, too, and my waffles are only okay but I blame that on having a not so good waffle iron. Real Breakfast is a thing that happens, at least one day a weekend.

I don't get to make eggs for two, though. Which is a shame, because I like eggs, and there's an awful lot of things you can do with them. So I only get eggs when I'm willing to cook for just me, and also to do the dishes from actually cooking something.

Scrambled eggs are easy: skillet on low-medium heat, a little butter in the skillet, beat the eggs but not too much and mix in some milk and chili powder, and go. (I am not a believer in "cheesy scrambled eggs," mostly on the grounds that it's a pain in the neck to clean up melted cheese and egg.) Omelettes are harder, but the failure mode of "omelette" is scrambled eggs with stuff, so that's alright.

I've tried poaching eggs, and I mostly end up with a mess. A few years ago I got a couple of silicone "poach pods," which hold the egg and float in a covered pot of boiling water. This makes something close enough to poached eggs for my taste. I can never get the yolks right, though. Either they're too runny, or they're solid and I might as well have hard-boiled them. What I'm looking for is something Lewis Grizzard described as "over medium": "The yolk shouldn't run out when you cut it. It should ooze."

A couple of weeks ago Shauna ([ profile] idoru, not that she posts anymore) put up a link on Facebook to the basted egg. That's "basted," not "blasted" or "bastard," though I suppose [personal profile] uilos would disagree. It's sort of halfway between frying and poaching. I've tried it a couple of times, and their description of what happens to the yolk isn't really accurate. It doesn't so much "change colour" as it develops a sort of translucent skin of cooked egg-white over it. When the skin covers the whole thing, it's nearly overdone and you should have served it up about ten seconds ago. It's tasty, though. Served over toast the yolk sort of seeps in, and the whites aren't as crispy-crunchy as I get with fried eggs. It has replaced "scrambled" as my go-to egg.

I haven't tried the egg-over-tortilla-basted-with-salsa that the article describes. Maybe next week for lunch.

(happy birthday, sor!)
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Ice Balls: "That Saturday morning I saw our CEO glowing with ego and it occurred to me that maybe testosterone wasn’t that cute of a look. Maybe the estrogen my body makes naturally was what kept me from doing dumb shit like paying 50 people for 3 hours of San Francisco minimum wage so that someone would look at my wedding album."

David Bowie Writing New Musical Based on The Man Who Fell to Earth: "Inspired by the novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, Lazarus features a host of new Bowie songs, as well as new arrangements of previously recorded tunes."

The curious case of the disappearing Polish S: "This is a story of how four incidental ingredients spanning decades (if not centuries) came together to cause the most curious of bugs."

The Mystery of Lê From Hop Sing Laundromat: "Later, I would reach out and talk to Lê's friends, his regulars, some of his former employees. I'd ask each of them the same question: What do you know about this guy? And, invariably, the answer would be the same: Nothing."

Making Sense Of Maple Syrup: notable for a) a change in the syrup grading system, which makes me sad because now the uninformed will no longer buy "grade A"/"#1" thinking it's superior to grade B/#2 and leave the good stuff for me, and b) "Grade B is part of a popular cleanse with cayenne pepper and now we ship all of our Grade B to California because of that." *sigh*

Do not mess with the animal kingdom:

Angry badger shuts down luxury Stockholm hotel, forces police to intervene: "It remains unclear why the badger was angry."

Rogue owl caught after year-long reign of terror in Dutch town: "In one of the many assaults, two members of a local athletics clubs were attacked last month, with one runner requiring stitches for six head wounds caused by the nocturnal bird of prey's talons."

Squirrel blamed for car engine stuffed with nuts: "Evans says the driver recognized the nuts."
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Friday night I put a large number of things in a slightly less large number of boxes. Satyrday, tripped down to Bellingham with [personal profile] uilos and [ profile] culfinriel. Spent around $80 on the USPS because even with the car rental it's cheaper than shipping through Canada Post. Faster and less US Customs-intensive, too.

Bellingham has a new "game store." Disappointingly, it's actually a Warhammer / Warmachine store with a bunch of Magic cards and two shelves of boardgames. So that took about five minutes to peruse. On the other hand, Mallard's is currently serving frankincense ice cream (ETA: recipe courtesy [personal profile] thanate), which may be the best ice cream I've ever had. (The pomegranate sorbet from Moorenko's is disqualified on the shaky grounds that it's a sorbet, not an ice cream.) And the dueling used bookstores remain fine places to find any number of things. One, for instance, has volumes two through four of Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet, which I've heard a couple of people say nice things about and which I have resisted picking up because, hello, volumes two through four are of little use to me. I did pick up a(nother) giftable copy of JMF's Growing Up Weightless, because it's one of those books (along with The Dragon Waiting, and The Last Hot Time, and Heat of Fusion if I ever saw that in the wild) that I buy on spec because surely I know someone who needs it, and because I adore the cover. (Of which there is not a satisfactory image online, because much of what I adore is only visible in the wraparound.)

Since then I have been fairly brain-dead. Not sleeping well has been part of it; not sure about the rest, if there even is anything that's "rest." I did have a lovely evening last night with a handful of people I'd mostly never met before, at a small local poly meet... thing. The jury is still out but it may be the type of thing I'm looking for.

Also, as of season 4, Battlestar Galactica has gone so far off the rails that it can no longer see the rails from where it is, and in fact retains only a dim memory that once there were rails for it to go off of. Or, to quote Douglas Adams, "I think this is getting needlessly messianic."

... and we just had five minutes of snow hail downtown. All melted now of course, but still nice to see.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Last year we joined a community-supported fishery (like a CSA but for fish instead of veggies). It was pretty much awesome: the price was alright, the salmon filets were excellent, and most importantly they made lox. So we went overboard this year and bought two shares, to make sure we'd have enough lox.

We now have a freezer full of salmon, in various forms.

"I'm getting tired of salmon," says [personal profile] uilos.

"I can understand that," I say.

After some discussion I make chicken a la king for dinner. I've done this before and it's pretty easy, but I don't think I followed the whole recipe. There's a whole bit about "3 egg yolks" that I'm pretty sure I'd remember.

Anyway, I separate three eggs and fake it through the more awkward parts of the recipe (pimentoes? sherry?), and it turns out pretty good.

"What are we going to do with three egg whites?" [personal profile] uilos asks.

"You could make meringues," I say, dubiously. Three egg whites doesn't look like a whole lot. I figure that will make like six meringues. Maybe a dozen, since they fluff up a bit.

So I go and sack out on the couch while she does dinner and makes meringues.

Turns out the meringue recipe calls for two egg whites, to make two dozen.

Anybody want a meringue?

On maple

Sep. 24th, 2011 12:16 pm
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
When I was young my mother put me and my sister on the Feingold Diet. This was an effort to control hyperactivity by removing various things from our diets: no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, and no "natural salicylates." I'm neutral on whether it had any effect on me: I was ten, and not exactly the closest student of my own nature. It did have a number of negative social side effects ("oh, my kids can't have kool-aid / cokes / candy bars"), so that's shaped my opinion of the whole exercise.

It did have at least one positive effect: from about the age of eight, "syrup" to me has meant real maple syrup.

Mark Bittman, in the aptly-named How To Cook Everything, has this to say about maple syrup: "The difference between real maple syrup and the colored and flavored sugar syrup sold at most supermarkets is equivalent to the difference between butter and margarine: One is a natural, wholesome product, and the other is a nutritionally useless, not-very-good-tasting, unnatural substitute."

US maple syrup comes in four varieties: three levels of Grade A (light amber, medium amber, and dark amber), and Grade B (darker than any of the Grade A varieties). They're graded based on translucency: a darker syrup indicates a stronger flavor, and thus (as far as Bittman and I are concerned) a better syrup. Now, Grade B is inexplicably hard to find. The only reliable source I've found has been Trader Joe's, where they sell it in something like 30oz bottles. Unless you're me this will be enough syrup to last you for quite awhile.

When I first got here I thought Canadian maple syrup came in three varieties that get darker as you go down: two levels of #1 whose names I forget because honestly who even cares?, and #2 Amber. It wasn't until we were perusing one of the overpriced grocery stores (probably Urban Fare) that I found a large bottle of #3 Dark.

"O yes," I said, and immediately paid too much for a litre of maple syrup and brought it home, and tried it out on pancakes the next morning.

There is, it turns out, such a thing as too much maple. [personal profile] uilos has been known to describe gin as "chewing on Christmas trees." This was like chewing on maple trees: not exactly woody, and not exactly smoky, and still somewhat sweet, but... kind of like accidentally nibbling on a block of baker's unsweetened chocolate when you're expecting semisweet. We bought a bottle of #2 and combined them, and that cut the flavor down to where it was edible on pancakes and waffles.

I looked it up later. Turns out US Grade B is anything from 44% to 27% translucent. This is equivalent to Canadian #2; #3 is anything less than 27% translucent. (The US description of this grade is "Substandard," but what do they know?) So, you know, about twice as much maple as I'd been expecting. Yow.

On the bright side, the #3 does wonderfully in baking, or when mixed in with oatmeal for breakfast. So now we just buy two different (giant) bottles of maple syrup, and keep careful track of which is which when making pancakes.
jazzfish: Two guys with signs: THE END IS NIGH. . . time for tea. (time for tea)
In my defence, I don't make cookies very often, so four eggs sounded like a reasonable number. And somehow I read the lines "1 egg" and "4 c. flour" as "4 egg." It looked perfectly normal until I kept adding flour and it kept not turning into thick mixer-killing cookie dough.

On the bright side, it seems that the only difference between "cookies" and "cake batter" is the number of eggs you put in, and now we have a tasty maple sheet cake. Needs vanilla icing, but other than that.

Someday soon I will finish my post about maple syrup, about which Canada is unsurprisingly more serious than the US. Also someday soon I will rant about the difficulties of trying to buy food in Canada, with the Block O'Butter being the biggest offender.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Beaker, the Swedish Chef, and Animal singing "Carol of the Bells". (For traditionalists, John Denver and Rowlf with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".)

David Mamet: Chinese Restaurateurs Thank Jews of America: "We do not completely understand your dietary customs..."

The Greatest Letter Ever Printed On NFL Team Letterhead. I can't argue.

Goodnight Room: "The Old Lady is a hologram stuck on endless loop since the program froze. That is why she can only say, 'Hush, hush.' The clack of her knitting needles always plays the same short rhythm."

Digby's eggnog sugar cookies, mostly for my own reference. I thought about making theses yesterday or the day before, but there were plenty of cookies around so it's just as well I didn't. Maybe next weekend.

The Fear of Self: "What the soldier describes--accurate or not--is familiar.... A man of that particular stamp fears his own gaze."

Woke up around eightish yesterday to make gingerbread pancakes for breakfast, which were delicious. Snow started falling about the time I went to wake [personal profile] uilos, so we got to eat Xmas breakfast with big fat flurryflakes out the window. As it should be. Then we spent half an hour or so sitting under the tree, opening presents and generally being cute. There was something unutterably right about not having a ton of people around in the morning. And having a dozen or so over later for Xmas dinner and gaming was pretty much right as well, I think.

Best Xmas ever. My parents really did get me the best present of all.


Apr. 6th, 2010 02:19 pm
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I can tell it's running season again by how I'm sore all over today.

Friday and Satyrday night looked about the same: go to Silver Spring, have an excellent dinner at Da Marco, watch a movie at the AFI Silver (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Citizen Kane), and then go to Moorenko's for delicious ice cream. I can think of worse ways to spend an evening.

One of the ice cream flavors I tried was marshmallow. Very smooth, very sweet, perfect palate-cleanser between the peppermint-stick and the cinnamon. A-- noticed the marshmallow and mentioned homemade marshmallows are among the various confections she makes at Xmastime. Somehow that got stuck in my head yesterday and I decided to try making them myself.

I used this recipe from Cooking for Engineers, substituting maple syrup for corn syrup on the grounds that almost anything made with corn syrup would be improved by using maple instead. I dumped the gelatin into the water in the bottom of the big mixer bowl, stirred it a bit to get it uniformly wet, and poured the syrup, (more) water, and sugar into a glass pot on the stove and turned it to High. Then I sat back with the candy thermometer and watched.

The temperature crept steadily up from 77 to 208 and hovered there for awhile. Then the boiling began. The temp rose, as did the liquid. And rose. When the bubbles got to about a third of the way from the top, I grabbed the pot and lifted it off the stove. Thanks to Corningware's high heat retention, this had no immediate effect at all: the bubbles kept on rising, quickly spilling over the edge of the pot in sufficient quantity to put out the burner.

I think there was some amount of swearing and general despair at this point. But, hey, the dishes were already dirty, no sense in just throwing everything out. I poured what was left of the sugar/syrup into the mixer with a bit of salt and ran it on high for about ten minutes. It fluffed up nicely enough that I went ahead and added the vanilla, too.

Licking the beaters was a smooth sweet ride through heaven, with just a hint of maple.

[ profile] uilos and I poured/scraped them into a pan and left them to sit. They hadn't quite set by bedtime last night so I haven't actually tried them as marshmallows instead of as goop, but it's looking like marshmallows are basically impossible to screw up.

I think I know what dinner's going to be tonight.


Jan. 15th, 2010 02:35 pm
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
How to watch the football: "I write this article to explain how you too can have a good time watching the football that you care about not." A vital primer. In particular: "Beer is such a complicated subject that, at several points during the evening, even the television will express an opinion on it. Ignore this."

Soon to be the best cookbook ever. From the best blog post on cooking ever, which I've linked to from here before but which deserves extra exposure.

The newest Girlyman! I got to see JJ play with the trio last October, and, yeah. Their sound did in fact get bigger and better and generally even more awesome than could possibly be imagined. So, yay for more Girlyshows with "JJ, who communicates by hitting things." Incidentally, they'll be at Jammin' Java on March 13 although tickets are not yet available.

At Cat Vacuuming last night we were discussing writing-related New Year's resolutions. Renee said "I resolved to take some time each day to do something writing-related. This week I did something every day except Saturday." My immediate thought was "oh, i guess that didn't work, so maybe aim for five days a week or something like that?" Before I could open my mouth she went on, "So, it's really working! I'm doing so much more writing now!"

Which, yeah, it is. The point's not to do something every day, it's to get more writing done. I lose track of that. I focus on the metric rather than the goal, and if I were to write for six days instead of seven I'd be saying "okay, i guess that was alright, next time i'll make it seven," not "awesome, i did way more writing because of that!"

I'd really like to think of things like Renee does. To focus on the good things I do instead of how I didn't measure up to some arbitrary standard which isn't there to be measured up to anyway. That feels like something that requires a pretty deep rewiring of my brain.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Corporate meeting this morning. I took advantage of the downtime to read half of Michael Swanwick's The Dragons of Babel, a. . . companion volume, I suppose, to The Iron Dragon's Daughter. Then I came home and read the other half. Been way too long since I just devoured a book like that. It's pretty good. Definitely better than IDD. I don't have the same feeling of having missed something (which doesn't mean I didn't), and I have an active desire to read it again at some point, instead of just "i think i need to reread that to understand it."

Remade the maple pound cake, too, with a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon and a touch less flour. It's not as dry or dense this time and the bitterness around the edges seems gone.

And according to email the writers' group will be meeting tomorrow, and there shall be Plans and Excursions and probably Da Marco for dinner on Friday, and a houseguest on Satyrday for two weeks. It's too early to really say but I think the week may be looking up.
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
The weekend more or less improved from Friday morning, and my thanks to those of you who offered sympathy and/or listened to my whining.

it got better, at least )

I'd like to say "and now it'll be better," but I'm still too washed out from the weekend and the week before. Ask me again on Thursday.


Jul. 30th, 2009 11:38 am
jazzfish: an evil-looking man in a purple hood (Lord Fomax)
The weekend involved a visit from a black mood, about which the less said the better.

Monday evening I discovered that I can't read calendars and thus can't plan, but still get upset when the plan diverges from what I'd thought it was.

Tuesday morning I got a "you seem so nice but" message from someone who sounded really cool and vaguely promising.

Wednesday evening was bad in a way I'm not really ready to talk about. Plus the maple pound cake turned out slightly bitter around the edges of my tongue (in the same way that pancakes do sometimes, which means that all it needs is about a teaspoon of vanilla, but still frustrating).

Tonight is my first trip to a writers' group. I'm a little nervous about what happens if and when this trend continues.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
The rain falls down
The wind blows up
I've spent all the pennies
In my old tin cup.

I think that the next time I find myself at my parents' house I may steal back my copy of Father Fox's Pennyrhymes.

Acquired an electric crepe maker on Satyrday, and tested it out last night. It's a neat thing. Instead of pouring the batter into a skillet, you dip the crepe maker into the batter and lift it out and turn it over, and the batter adheres to the cooking surface. Makes for very thin crepes, which is all to the good. It speeds up the process a bit: mostly, there's no more wrangling with trying to get a crepe to come out of the skillet, just nudge at an edge until it falls off. Making crepes remains a lengthy process, though. At a minute a crepe there's just no way to speed things up. Short of getting a second crepe maker, I guess.

Fillings were traditional raspberry-and-whipped-cream, and apple-and-cheddar. Quite tasty all around. The pears didn't work out as well but then I'm not a fan of pears to start with.

Also acquired a Thea Gilmore CD with a bunch of covers. I submit that if you have not heard "Bad Moon Rising" sung as a lonesome dirge, you are Missing Out, in much the same way as you're missing out if you've not heard John Cale screaming his way through "Heartbreak Hotel," or Warren Zevon's "broken old drunk" rendition of "Back In the High Life Again." That the next track is a cover of the Ramones' "Don't Come Close" only adds to the surreal atmosphere.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
It's been a very long time since I carved a pumpkin. I'd almost forgotten how much it looks like a cavern filled with spiderwebs and hanging jewels, how goopy and stringy and squishy the innards are, how they coat your hand when you're cleaning them out.

I pretty well remembered my acuity with the pumpkin carving knife, which is why my jack o'lantern is a fairly normal triangle-eyed gap-toothed face. And also why the mouth is lopsided and one eye is slightly bigger than the other. It's got ears, though, which I've not come across in other pumpkins. Perhaps there will be a photo or two later.

I'd also not forgotten how good toasted roasted salted pumpkin seeds are. Like sunflower seeds, without the annoying fibrous hull.

Somewhere in a hidden memory
Images float before my eyes
Of fragrant nights of straw and bonfires
And dancing 'til the next sunrise

Lime bars are cooling on the stove, I have eBear's latest beside me, and I'm in the process of trying to meet more people. I'm not precisely content but good things are on the horizon.

pie / rock

Mar. 1st, 2008 11:59 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Pecan pie is trivially easy to make. I mean, really. Mix syrup, sugar, eggs, butter. Mix in pecans. Pour into pie shell. Bake. I suppose if you're making the crust from scratch, or hulling your own pecans, it's a bit trickier. But seriously. Why do people insist on making apple all the time?

It turns out okay even if you're using Karo syrup instead of either corn syrup or real maple syrup. (Karo tastes like plastic pancakes. I have no idea why my father likes it.)

Sadly, with Duke's passing last year I think we won't be randomly getting huge loads of pecans from the tree anymore. Oh well. I've got enough left from the last batch to make two more pies when I feel so inspired.

Off to execute Secret Project Rock. Update tonight or (more likely) tomorrow.


jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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