Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yaktrax and skinny jeans.

A while back I tried to send myself to an early grave by going for a run on a particularly chilly and icy morning without anything between my feet and the slip-sliding ice crust but my good old Brooks'.

That was some scary shit, friends. Let me just confirm that for you now.

Thankfully, Lesley read my post and wasn't put off too much by my swears and whining to offer a keen word of advice. Specifically: Yaktrax.

Now, yes, this does on the surface, seem like a proprietary piece of running gear that I don't necessarily need since the weather rarely calls for it more than maybe twice a year BUT I am not just a NorCal suburban runner who has no call for ice-crushing foot devices otherwise.

HO HO no! I am an all-weather gal, people. An all-weather gal that finally put two and two together last weekend and remembered to pack the Yaktrax for a trip up to Tahoe where, dontchaknow, it was snowing like a god damned beast.

Yes it was. That is a way that it can snow - beast like.

The best part came when, in gathering myself and all my clothes to take the dogs out for a DOGS GONE WILD leash-free walk, I actually remembered to strap on the Yaktrax for an inaugural hike up the road.

Can I get a hell yeah? Come on - just this once.

Fine. It was still awesome though. Because I was able to descend the stairs in front of the house, then move down the sloping driveway and up and down the hilly roads which were thick with ice and snow without nary an awkward slip.

Seriously. None whatsoever.

The dogs, however, could have used some Dogtrax because their hysterical asses were slip sliding away, even though it didn't make a lick of difference to them or slow them down on their mission to sniff every muther effing snowball, footprint, tree trunk, other dog, pine needle or otherwise mundane item during our morning and evening hikes.

Dogs are funny like that.

Me, though? I didn't have ass-sniffing to distract my mind from the slick state of the roads, so instead relied on my Yaktrax to keep me upright and moving in a self-propelled direction rather than a direction dictated by the dimensions of the ice beneath my feet.

And, because I'm a fucking genius, I realized that when one returns to the house after a nice stable Yaktrax walk with the dogs, one needn't remove the Yaktrax from one's shoes. OH NO. Just leave those bad boys on the shoes and swap one's shoes for slippers. When one goes to take the dogs out again (which happens a lot more often when there's fun shit like snow and woods outside in which to cavort) one need only swap the slippers for the Yaktrax swaddled shoes.


The clicking that went on in my brain at this moment of realization was loud enough to be audible from outside my own noggin.

Impressive, I know.

Anyway, that's a long way of saying that I broke in my Yaktrax this weekend and I'm sold. 100% sold. Also, I got to snowshoe with the dog in the woods and, while I haven't made a big fucking deal about the snowshoes Bubba gave me for Christmas, you can all rest assured that I've now found a new hobby about which to obsess during the winter months because LO if that's not some awesome fun.

Though I could do without the buried Audi rescue mission interrupting our peaceful moonlit snowshoe. The poor dog - she could have gone on for another hour if it hadn't been for the jackasses who decided to drive their low-profile Audi wagon up an impassible and unplowed street.

Some people just have unreasonable expectations for their vehicles and their own driving ability. Especially when the driver in question is so obviously ill-prepared for a trip to the snow that he's out trying to free his car from the ditch by sweeping snow away with a housebroom while wearing an argyle sweater vest and skinny jeans.

By the way, I did say his. As in, this was a MAN wearing skinny jeans. And an argyle sweater vest. Over what appeared to be a Faconnable dress shirt. With penny loafers WITH socks.

I feel that perhaps the only reason I offered to help them by bringing a shovel and my keen un-fucking-the-car-from-the-snow skills was that they were bigger chicks than me and I feared their blood might be on my hands if I knowingly abandoned them to free themselves only to find them frozen to their broom and one another in the early morning hours.

Of course, you know that after we successfully freed the Audi, with all of its passengers from the set of 90210, got them backed down the impassable road toward the clear road and I began my snowshoe trek back up the hill with my shovel (you know I'm not leaving my shovel) for the third time in 30 minutes (HI, TIRED NOW), they then decided they would take another pass at the impassable road.

And you know they got stuck again.

And you know that I did not go back to help them once again because I can't be responsible for stupid people. And the concept of hiking back up and down that hill again rather than buring my face in a glass of champagne seemed idiotic.

It's champagne, people! Chilled right in the snow! It must be enjoyed right away - at its chilly-mostness.

Wow. There's a throwback term that I'm not even sure is a real throwback term from the old hip-hop days. Sorry for that.

So, to sum up - Yaktrax are broken in. Snowshoes are awesome. Dogs don't have built in foot treading. Metro dudes should carpool with capable snow people who drive cars with a clearance over 3". Always keep an eye on your shovel. I just made up and/or referenced an archaic and grammatically horrifying hip-hop term when referring to my evening's cocktails.

Thanks for playing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Soup Person [RECIPE]

Hello world, I am a Soup Person.

Did you know there were Soup People and Non-Soup People?

Yeah, me neither. I just assumed all people ate soup since, you know, it's soup and not, like, foie gras or veal or something all controversial with its own blood-throwing advocacy group or whatever.

In addition to being labeled a Soup Person (which I'm fine with, by the way, this wasn't like being labeled a Snooty Bitch, which I might very well be but don't want to necessarily be labeled), I've come to further label myself as a Tomato-based Soup Person.

Why all the labels? Well. Why the hell not AND it's one of those little things Bubba and I learned about each other after we moved in together and the wintertime came and I started making things like minestrone and chicken soup (which, yes, does not include tomatoes, but go with me, here) and he would get all, "Yeah, OK. I'll eat it." rather than, "Fuck yeah I want chicken soup!" which is what I was expecting.

See, when we moved in together, there were shockingly few things we didn't see eye-to-eye on, so this was a big discovery. I realize people have bigger relationship/marital discoveries than soup preferences, but we haven't had many, so this counts. For us.

Friends, Bubba is a Cream Soup Person.


So, when I was all, "Fuck yeah, it's raining and I'm making chicken soup and this is going to be perfect!", he was thinking, "Fine. I'll eat this woman's chicken soup and then I'll sneak into the kitchen and make broccoli cheese soup or some other creamy business that will illicit my current response from HER next time. Take that!"

Ok, so it probably wasn't that malicious, since Bubba's such a nice guy and barely ever sneaks into the kitchen to make creamy business (enjoy that last comment for a moment), but I definitely get more excitement from him when I produce a baked potato soup than when I emerge triumphantly from the kitchen with a perfectly recreated bowl of my mom's chicken soup.

Not that it matters to me at that point because I'm already head down in the bowl, but I register the lackluster response nonetheless.

Anyway, the point of all this Tomato-based Soup Person vs Creamy Soup Person (there are also, I've learned, Broth Soup People, Chunky Soup People, Seafood Soup People and Bisque People) is that I made a tomato-based soup that we both liked and which I've now eaten four nights in a row without starting to hate it.

Those are a lot of miracles for one soup, people, and I'll ask you to recognize the significance.

The original recipe came from a chef at my office who so kindly indulged my begging after I had the soup for lunch and decided immediately that I must make it and have it for four nights in a row.

I then adjusted the recipe, or so I thought, to accommodate the smaller crowds at my house (2) rather than the hoards of folks at the cafe for lunch (150+).

Plus, my adjustments also meant that the soup was thicker, rather than ahem, soupier, and sort of approached the creamy sensation Bubba's always looking for. This was because I omitted the 1/2 gallon of vegetable broth the original recipe called for. So you know. In case you want to serve this soup to your whole neighborhood OR want a soupier, um, soup.

What it comes down to is that I do most of the cooking, and I like tomato-type soups and Bubba will eat most anything anyway, so when I decide I'm going to make something that may not be his exact #1 choice of whatever, I have to find some way to make it seem like it's for both of us when really it's mostly for me and my desire to relive my lunch soup fantasies.

I know. I'm a sick person. With a small life. And boring fantasies.

OK, all Soup Person rambling aside, allow me to share with you my amended recipe so that you may serve it four nights in a row, or perhaps only one night in a row if you have a family of 10, and maybe most people will like it even if they're staunch Creamy Soup People like Bubba.


Chickpea and Tomato Soup
Original Recipe by Dennis Feray, Pure Ingredients Cafe
My changes in BOLD

2 cans of chickpeas (drained and rinsed well)
24 frozen whole homegrown tomatoes, thawed, skins removed, crushed (or 32 oz of canned, crushed tomatoes. Wendy says Muir Glen tomatoes are a good substitute for homecanned.)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T ground coriander
1 bunch of cilantro, washed & chopped
1 bunch of parsley, washed & chopped
3 oz butter
Juice from 1 lemon
1 jalapeno seeded and minced (FOR GODSAKE - WEAR GLOVES)

1/2 jar of sliced HOT jalapenos, drained
Kosher salt & black pepper to suit

To make
In a Large stock pot, on medium heat, sauté onions in all of the butter until translucent, add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 min.

If that's not the start of a fabulous meal, I don't know what is.

 Add coriander, cilantro, parsley, jalapeno (fresh and canned) and sauté for about 2 min.

This soup is also awesome if you're feeling choppy with your new knives.

Then add tomatoes and chick peas.

Bubba: "No tomatoes are as good as OUR tomatoes." but I still encourage you to make this soup.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.

Don't you just want to put your face in there? I know. Me too.

Simmer for about an hour and then remove from heat.

Add lemon juice and puree soup with a immersion blender. Season to your taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a parsley garnish and, if you're fancy and fabulous, a swirl of olive oil.
If you're EXTRA FABULOUS and/or serving this to me, for some reason, swap the olive oil for truffle oil and let the swooning begin.

Proceed to defend the Tomato-based Soup empire.

Oh - almost forgot - I had this last night with with a toasted pita filled with melted cheddar and goat cheese and it was pretty fucking good, so I recommend that, too. You know, if you're ever serving it to me and want me to get all swoony.

Also, there was gin, but I doubt that was related to the swooning. It was more to blame for my early 8pm bedtime.

That's all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I am One with the raincoat.

I'm pretty glad now that I took all these pictures of the garden's progress before our part of the country became soaked to the bone.

My neighbors tell me that NorCal is weird because our bulbs start coming up in January.

Because now it's been raining for about five solid days and I'm trying really hard to understand how people can endure places like Seattle (Hi, Chelle!) and Portland and anywhere else I don't know specifically that also experiences long periods of Rain Only weather.

It's downright soggy around here, y'all, and my run Tuesday morning was as much like swimming as any of my summers growing up except it was about 30 degrees cooler and I was wearing long pants. Or, more specifically, tights.

Ugh, tights. Soggy wet running tights. Just let yourself imagine that for a minute. It's truly gross.

Anyway, it's still raining here, which is great because it means my millions of bulbs and plants are getting their thorough soaking and, you know, instead of forgetting about all the photos I took with my new camera I can share them with you while also remembering what it's like to be outside without a layer of GoreTex between myself and the world.

Yay, it was a glorious time.

This is a flower on the peas. Can you fucking believe that? Where do they find the time?

And I'm really pretty impressed with these winter-type vegetables as they're all growing and producing flowers and not dying even though I was sure that our frost and short days would mean certain death to little green things, which it evidently does not.

That is a small broccolini. Which is why I believe they're called broccolini. The -ini means they're small. In some language. I think.

What it may mean, however, is that little green things may not progress past the Little Green Things Phase because, while our last frost date may be nearly two months off, I have already accepted delivery of the summer's garden seeds and YOU KNOW that once March 1st rolls around it's going to be Tough Shit time for little green things that aren't producing food yet.

Garlic, peas and kohlrabi. All in a race against time and my shovel.

Sort of sad, yes, that some of these plants might not make it to fruition in my race to get priority items like tomatoes and melons into the garden, but that is the plight of the winter vegetable in my NorCal garden - you have to be fast-growing or high priority to stand a chance. If you don't fall into one of those categories, well, then you must make due with my limited patience.

 Nothing is more high-priority than the kumquats. I mean, obviously.

 Poor things.

And if you're fava beans, with the specific purpose of replenishing the soil after a summer of The Great Corn Destruction, then you can grow as fast as you want but once you get to bean-setting, I will get to bean-turning-under, which makes some people like my neighbors very sad. And, as of when I took these pictures last weekend, there are definitely beans are on the horizon.

Or so says the Money Chicken, that sly bastard.

I guess we can queue the neighborhood howls of misery and sadness now because the favas are not long for this world.

But you won't hear any bitching from me. I mean, yes, technically I do experience a single moment of "Oh, but what if I just let one of these plants put out some beans for me?" before I ruthlessly turn them under and let them put some juice back in the dirt, but it's nothing a reminder of crop failure due to poor soil can't remedy.

I can't have that again. I nearly had to run headfirst into traffic. Tomato Sadness - it's a real problem.

So, I have already got my eye on the shovel and have warned my fava-loving neighbors that, once again, I will ruin their lives by dispatching my fava plants before their prime, and no one has called CPS on me so I think we're good.

Not that CPS could do much since I've been told by some crazy people that plants are not children, but I am choosing to still see it as a good sign.

And now that I've told you all about the winter garden I'm planning to destroy in the name of summer vegetables, you can begin preparations for Adopt a Crop 2010 in which you will be contemplating melons.

Yes, doesn't that sound fun? Contemplating melons.

I'll leave you with that thought. Naughties.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hick yards and gaping holes. This is a long one.

Remember how I did all those ridiculous things to my front yard?

Like plant 800 wildflower bulbs and landscape the sidewalk patch/pee hole with $.99 worth of random ass seeds?

Not to say anything about the 200+ xeric grass plugs...

Well, you remember. I'm sure you do.

And I'm sure at least some of you were thinking, um, Finny - aren't you afraid that it's going to look retarded even after it's done looking like the surface of the moon or some hick's front yard? And to that I say yes. Yes I'm always afraid of having a shitty looking yard or a yard that looks like it's totally out of place or was created by people with limited mental capacities.

Thanks for asking!

Thankfully, the yard is starting to show some promise even though it's only January, our contractor has been wandering all over it even though he *tries really hard* not to and the signs of life are coming up totally at random which sort of lends to the retardedness of it all.

I, however, am choosing to see these little sprouts as a good sign that all that shit I painstakingly planted while being made merciless fun of by my neighbors just might actually blossom into something aesthetically appealing.

Or at least it *might* not look like hicks live here in, say, four months. Meaning that I'm giving this yard until June to perk up and make at attempt at filling in with wildflower blossoms and livelier tufts of grass and, hey, a few poppies and iris would be good, too.

Secretly, though, I'm hoping that the off-hand comment one of my neighbors made, when faced with the confirmation that 800 flower bulbs were indeed planted in our small front yard, will somehow come true.

That comment being, "Shit! 800 bulbs? I bet it ends up in Sunset Magazine!"

Hey, a bitch can hope.

Meanwhile, our contractor is funny. Let me tell you more.

See, we're having our porch rebuilt because half of it was showing signs that it might go out for a pack of cigarettes and not come back. Like - it was starting to, on one side, sink into the soft it-used-to-be-all-orchards-around-here soil.


So, we brought in a contractor to do away with the existing concrete pad and rebuild our porch columns since that is a job that Bubba and I need to stay reeeeeeeeeeeeeeaally far away from.

We did have to make up a new mantra to get us started though: Just because the rental yard has jackhammers and concrete mixers available, does not mean we should rent them and then abuse our house and selves with them.

It was tough to resist getting in the truck and going to the rental yard *just to look* at the jackhammers. That much is true.

Anyway, the very skilled contractor did away with the porch concrete and, in its place, we had about a week where there was a nice gaping hole in front of our house.

The hole changed as the week progressed - one day it had a pile of dirt in it, one day it had crushed rock in it, one day some rebar, the next day a lot of rebar and some apoxied holes in the foundation - all kinds of progress. But the point is that for a solid week or so, there was a big hole in front of our house and, consequently, directly in front of our front door.

Now, in normal neighborhoods, this might not pose a problem, but in our neighborhood, where our neighbors are traipsing in and out of our house at all hours of the day and night (thankfully they still knock) and we accept daily deliveries thanks to our online shopping habits and we are constantly swarmed by solicitors, not having a front porch from which one can access a front door becomes a pretty obvious problem.

Our brainier neighbors just came around back and knocked on our back door. This is fine. Excellent, perhaps, and what we were expecting.

Our less determined neighbors have stopped coming by until such time as we can offer them a more hospitable entrance. We now hold our conversations in the middle of the street so that the local traffic can get in on the action.

Our Dutch door sharing neighbor uses the Dutch door.

Our shitty neighbors yell from their front porch.

All of these things are acceptable and were, mostly, expected reactions to the sudden existence of a hole in front of our house after they all got past the fact that there was a hole where our porch used to be and HEY, that's a nice scaffolding and what's it going to look like and so on.

You know, neighborly kind of things.

What I did NOT expect was the absolute brainlessness of delivery people and solicitors.

Let me share an example.

I did NOT expect that a FedEx delivery person, when faced with a giant hole instead of a front porch, would try to approach the porch from a side angle, thinking - I guess - that approaching the house head-on was somehow altering their viewpoint and that, by some strange mystery of physics, if they went to the side of the gaping hole, the porch would somehow reappear and TEE DAH they'd be able to leave their package in the only place they thought a package could go.

No, I did not expect this, but that is indeed what happened. As recounted to us through hysterical laughter by our amused contractor.

The best part was that, when our contractor suggested that they might drop the package in the backyard and Delivery Man agreed, he then returned to the front of the house with full intentions of hanging his FedEx tag on our front door knob (with Delivery Area marked "back door") by way of wading through wet concrete to do so.

Thankfully our contractor is not only a rational being, but also patient and possessing the necessary physical strength to restrain a FedEx delivery man hell bent on hanging a door tag where it did not belong. We came home to find all packages and associated door tags stacked by the back door and no sneaker marks in our concrete.

And that our contractor had tied yellow Caution tape around our front porch.


And, since I've decided we've got time for another, "And, this idiot..." story, I will tell you that I found myself really wishing I owned a shotgun/lived in a state where I could own a shotgun/wouldn't have a shotgun pried from my tiny girl fingers and used on myself if I dared to point it at someone, thanks to the stupidest solicitor on the planet.

See, you might have heard that we had a big hole in front of our house where our porch used to be. You've heard, right? Thought so.

Well, you can imagine that this situation offers up a unique challenge to solicitors because their whole goal in life is to get to your front door and then bother you endlessly about random bullshit you couldn't give a crap less about while you make up a hundred excuses for why talking to you is a waste of time.

My favorite is, "Oh, I'm sorry. My husband makes all the financial decisions in this house. I'm not allowed to handle money."

I laugh to myself every time, but only after the door is closed. I mean, really, if you've got one Jew in the house, who do you think is handling the money? Right. But they don't know that.


During our week of A Hole Where the Front Porch Should be, I found myself at the back of the house doing some random thing when I heard the dog start to lose her mind in the someone's coming to the door way that she does when, say, a neighbor approaches the front door.

But I thought to myself, no one can get to the front door, so they'll either go away or come around back, and I'll just go about my business here, hunting down some fabric for this hat, or whatever.

But then the dog didn't stop barking. And she's not an overly enthusiastic bark-for-no-fucking-good-reason kind of dog. So I was intrigued. I left my fabric bins and wandered out into the living room to find a solicitor limboing under the Caution tape and contemplating a precarious climb up the dirt and crushed rock heap to our front door with a Special Offer! door tag or some such nonsense.

I'll admit it to you here, I sorta lost it on him.

I mean, I'd had enough of people doing incomprehensibly stupid bullshit under such comprehensible circumstances. I couldn't, and still can't, understand how one would see Caution tape wrapped around a big hole and think, "Hey, that's fun! These homeowners have set up a little O-course for me. I shall enjoy it greatly before bothering them about a security system they've repeatedly informed me they do not want! Excellent!"

At first I just opened the door and told him to stop. Like, "Hey! Don't go under that tape! Just stop."

And when he kept coming, despite my raised voice and vigilant finger-wagging, I removed my censor.

"What the fuck are you doing? Don't walk in there!"

And when he stood there and tried to do the, "Hey, this will only take a few minutes." thing, I screamed at him to get off my property or I'd let the dog out. Thankfully, the dog was still barking because I had my hand on the doorknob as though I was going to open it and give her the opportunity to investigate the squirrels racing up the street tree.

But again, he didn't know that, so he finally retreated. While giving the dog the hairy eyeball. Whatever - it got him out of our porch hole.

Of course, I had to share this little interaction with our contractor who, after finishing pouring the new concrete yesterday, left us a little gift.

Well, if he's not the funniest contractor ever.

And, because I'd made all kinds of squealy noises about "Oh, Bubba, we should write our initials in the concrete wouldn't that be SO CUTE!" when we were talking about pouring the new pad, and even though Bubba looked at me like I'd just told him I was going to go vegan on him or something, Funny Contractor left us this gift as well, tastefully etched into an out-of-the-way corner of the porch:

To say that I screetched with delight would be wildly underestimating my reaction. Bubba just rolled his eyes in that way that tells me he loves me, but at this moment, he's trying really hard to remember why.

Alright, that's all I've got. You're free.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Running update: About that sub-60 10K PR, then...

With all my blathering about food lately (and, Hi - did you come here hoping NOT to see any more photos of Brussels sprouts because, I know) I feel obligated to tell you all that I'm still running.

Unlike previous years though, I'm not starting this year with any big mentally captured goals of setting a new half marathon PR or running multiple half marathons or, really, anything with the words half or marathon in it.

That is correct, friends, I *may* not run a half marathon this year. Like, maybe not even ONE.

Maybe. It's only January after all. And you know how I get when people start goading me about things and the Active sends me perfectly timed emails or I feel like a fatty or I haven't scratched the New PR itch in a while.

But, the moral of the story here is that I am, indeed, still running and doing so naked - without my Garmin or Camelbak or Luna Moons or other running sidekick accoutresmant.

Though, to come perfectly clean, I will say that I have signed up for my first 2010 race. And, truthfully, I've set my first 2010 running goal: to run an *official* sub-60 10K.

Now, yes, according to my own clock, I did run a sub-60 10K when I ran this race last year BUT the official race timers (who I'm not trusting because they were dressed in shiny mermaid costumes complete with seashell bras when it was 40 degrees outside so it's possible that their mental capacities were compromised) said I ran it in 1:01:37 which is bullshit because OH WAIT the course was .2 miles longer than it was supposed to be. And then there was some math involved that proved that if the course was its normal length (6.2M), I would have finished with a sub-60 time BUT WHATEVER.

Remember - I'm over it.

And, anyway, it gives me a nice goal to work on this year. Though, to be perfectly honest again (I'm all about honesty today - what WILL I say next?) I'm hoping to nail this one down at the 2010 Mermaid so that I can go on to lounge my way through the remainder of the year replete with self-satisfaction.

Or perhaps work on another PR. Or actually do that trail running thing I was all whimsical about as I was getting ready to drag my dehydrated carcass through last October's Rock N Roll San Jose.

Who really knows!

That's kinda fun, right? The whole Not Having a Very Specific Plan for Running thing. Right? Like, I'm not going to drive my whole 2010 into the ground without having a hard solid plan for it in January, right? RIGHT?

Sorry, I get afraid that I'm going to fall victim to my own lazy tendencies and find myself at the end of the year looking back over twelve months of What The Fuck Was That with nothing to show for myself.

But, if I, at least, manage to eek out a sub-60 PR I can feel like something was accomplished and I'm not just running the neighborhood to peep on my neighbors and scope out new front porch designs.

Not that that's what I do now. No, no. We're not being *that* honest today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What the F I do with a ton of Brussels sprouts.

Dear Donk,

It would appear that my new blogging format is just me writing you an old-fashionedy letter via the internets. Weird, that.

Anyway, the reason why this is Day #2 where I write to you rather than just blog indiscriminately for anyone who wants to correct my fuzzy math or tell me how I called the Kitchenaid attachment the wrong thing is because I actually did both of our ~along projects this month.

I know! Total crazy.

So, as you may have seen already, I finished the hat, which was perfectly successful in that it fits, no one died in the making of it and it's Hotness. Perhaps I was drunk with the success of our first ~along project or perhaps I just wanted to do something new with the third serving of Brussels sprouts taken from the stalk I got at TJ's for $2.99, but after the success with project #1, I went ahead with project #2 - the making of the spicy garlic dressing and, in case you haven't guessed already, there wasn't a normal "salad" to toss with this dressing.

I went against the grain of society and tossed the dressing with Brussels sprouts and. YES. GOOD.

And let's briefly touch on that, shall we? The fact that one can buy a stalk, or rather adult leg-sized LOG, of Brussels sprouts for less than a Happy Meal. I mean, sure, little kids aren't going to be like, "Hey mom, buy me some Brussels sprouts instead of a cheeseburger", after which the mom goes, "Ok, child. And then we will drive home and I will roast them up for you all tasty-like and serve them on a real plate for lunch.", but for a moment, while standing in Trader Joe's swaddling my stalk of sprouts, I had a little bit of hope for the future of America's nutrition.

Not that I'm going to forego my clandestine trips to Wendy's or In-N-Out, but all I ever hear is how we're all a bunch of fat Americans because fresh food is too expensive and WOE we can only afford to feed ourselves garbage that's not even food. Because I bought a stalk of Brussels sprouts for less than $3 and that's six servings of delicious sprouts right there. Amazing - six servings of fresh food for about $.50 a serving.

What I'm trying to say, here, is that I made your salad dressing recipe from our first month of the One Yard Wonders : Sew Along 2010 and rather than toss it with salad greens, I tossed it with Brussels sprouts and it was delish.

And that delicious dish probably cost me about 50 cents, fought cancer, filled me with brooming fiber, protected me from all my coworkers' germs with vitamin C and it tasted like a million damn dollars.

And, oh by the way, where do I get off being all fucking preachy about nutrition and food, anyway? Oh she of the Bacon Sandwich Where The Bread Is Bacon? Yeah, I don't know either. I was just struck by this situation and felt the need, I guess, to let it out for everyone to witness.

Everyone, please meet my Inner Crazy. Inner Crazy, please meet everyone.

Now that you're formally introduced, I can think about sharing all the pictures of my new knives and how I've let the Cuisinart rest quietly in the cupboard so that I can cavort lewdly with my knives and all of our vegetables.

Ahem. Not now though. Now is for the Brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts with Kelli's Spicy Garlic Dressing

1 cup of Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
1 T butter
1/4 c water
1 recipe of Kelli's Spicy Garlic Dressing

To make
Mix the dressing in a medium sized mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring water to a quick boil. Toss in the butter and pour the sprouts on top. Cover and turn the heat to medium-low. Steam for a few short minutes or until the sprouts are bright green.

DON'T LET THEM TURN ARMY GREEN. Then they'll taste like ass.

Drain the sprouts and throw them into the mixing bowl with the dressing.

Toss. Serve. Go to town with your fork. You know how to eat. Just do that.

That's all.


Monday, January 11, 2010

I guess it really was a good hat day even though it involved math.

Dear Donk,

I will say this, after I triumphantly decided that TEE DAH our first sewing project was going to be the Good Hat Day hat by Rebecca Malmström , I immediately regretted it.

Because I suddenly remembered that I'm lazy and this project had some seemingly complicated elements like heavyweight fusible interfacing and cutting of circles (fuck, math), two things that can confuse the simple-minded like myself.

But, not being one comfortable with flaking on my promises (or seeming like a big fat wuss), I forged ahead.

I did go to the One Yard Wonders Flickr pool seeking reinforcement from other crafters since SURELY someone had made this hat already and I'd be able to see just how great theirs came out so what was I so worried about, but, frighteningly, there was none to be had. No one had made this hat yet.

Sure, there were a million of those keyhole creatures and, LOVE YOU some people had already made my Not Ugly Car Trash bag, but no hats yet. Boo.

I was forced to go forward with no references other than the pattern and the book and, you know, lots of finger crossing and good trusty swears and by some miracle there were precious few fuck-ups that resulted in seam-ripping.

It was a miracle and I am grateful for these miracles (and my momentary ability to do math) and so I will share some things with you that I discovered while watching the Patriots lose in a most hideous game where they forgot to play football and instead fell down a lot.

Not that I'm a Patriots fan or anything, I mean, obviously, but I expected some good football out of Hotness Brady and, sadly, there was none to be seen.

Moving on to helpful tips you can use while making your Good Hat Day hat if you're making it to showcase the reverse side of the fabric, which I was. Because I think it's cuter. But if you think it's cuter to do it the other way then, whatever. You can ignore me. Also, you should know to just take my tips as you would tips from any low-grade lunatic and not equate them with The All-Knowing Truth or anything because, hello, I'm just one person and could be wrong. So, like, proceed at your own risk or whatever.

1. Sewing the band seams.
Where it says, in what I believe is Step 1, to fold your hat bands in half WRONG SIDES together and sew the short ends together, instead, fold your hat bands in half RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER and sew the short ends together. Kay?

Otherwise you'll end up with the wrong side of the seam showing on the right side (outside) of your hat. Which you don't want. That's a little *too much* wrong side on the outside for me even though you know how I love me some wrong.

Anyway, it's not the kind of wrong that I had in mind, so I had to do some mid-stream ripping and re-sewing of seams. No hard feelings, though, it took my mind away from the bloodbath on the TV (see: Patriots shit the bed, paragraph 7).

2. Measuring the circles for the top.
To measure the circles for the top part of the hat, I used this math and this method for cutting.

First, get the Diameter of your circle. Which is the Circumference you already measured (that's the inches around your noggin + 1/2") divided by 2. In my case it was 22/2 = 11.

Then, get the radius for your circle. 
For those of you who are math retards (like moi) or have been out of junior high math for a while (also like moi), the formula for that is: R = D/2 (D = Diameter, R = Radius) or 11/2=5.5. Then she says to add an inch or something, so do that and you're radius is 6.5.

Then cut a piece of string about an inch or so longer than your radius, so, let's say 7.5", and tie a knot in one end of the string. Pin that string (through the knot) down to your fabric, holding a fabric marker or chalk at the other end of the string, and draw a circle holding the string taught.

Like so:

Then double your fabric over, pin it together in the center, and cut yourself out two circles of the same size. Dandy.

3. Sewing your lid on so seams face in.
When you go to pin these top of the hat circles to your topless hat, pin the circles right sides together, and then pin them to the right side of the exterior band (that's wrong sides of the top circles TO right sides of the exterior band) so that when you turn it right side out, the raw seams will be on the inside.

4. Fuck the slipstitching of the interior band.
Y'all know I hate to handsew things and that hatred has done nothing but grow and intensify with time. I do not enjoy it, is what I'm saying. And, thankfully, I already had a similar hat on hand (made by the geniuses at Fossil) to which I could refer when debating whether it was necessary to handsew in the interior band of this hat.

My example hat, which I love very much, simply had the interior band folded upward and left unattached, a feature I'd never fully appreciated but suddenly came to love very much because it meant that TA DAH I was done.

And, you know, I left it that way and tried it on and totally dug it. So, there you have it, I don't think it's necessary. And it still looks finished inside and causes no issues from what I can tell, so you can decide whether you're willing to waste those extra minutes of your life and soul handstitching this interior band into place.

Your call.

OK, so that's all I know about the hat. I sewed it and it didn't take all day and it was pretty fun to make and I made it using all stashed items, so the whole de-stashing theme is safe with me so far. Even the heavyweight fusible interfacing was found lurking at the bottom of one of my fabric bins and the fabric I'd been coveting since Philigry so kindly swapped it to me was just waiting to become this hat so I had to make a big ZERO trips to the fabric store for this project which is YAY.

So, go on people, make yourselves a hot new hat and don't be all skerred of the math because, lord knows, if me, The Math Retard, can do it - y'all can, too.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

On burning the shit out of myself.

Right now I'm currently obsessed with three things; my new knives, my new camera and the fact that the front of our house has been ripped off to make way for a new porch and in the last 12 hours we've had at least two earthquakes, so you know, our house could be 100% porch, and maybe even "house"-free, at any point.


So, you'd think that I'd post about any of the above topics except that I don't have proper photos of any of those things and, without photos, I feel like their stories would fall flat. Mostly because I guess I need photographs to distract you from my poor storytelling abilities.

*Sigh* These are my short-comings as I've come to accept them.

So - in lieu of being able to show you the photo of my knives all snuggled up in the new drawer organizer or my camera producing something incredible (wow - the bells, the whistles, the WTF does *this* button do of it all) or my house without a front, I'll talk about pork.

Because obviously that's what a Jew would talk about in lieu of all standard subjects, right? Yeah, it makes no sense. Welcome.

In order to bring some semblance of reality to the purpose behind talking about pork, I'll preface this post (can it be a preface if it comes in the middle of a post? I don't know.) by saying that the pork isn't really the significant part of the story. No. The significant parts of the story are the rekindling of love with my favorite Brussels sprouts recipe (which incidentally includes bacon - appropriate) and the fact that EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I make this pork chop recipe, I burn the fuck out of myself because I'm retarded.

Let's start the FACE part of this story, then, since the PRE part has been so frankly put.

Once upon a time I didn't make pork chops until I'd skated by all my life into my 30s. Which, for the record, was just two years ago.

Not that I didn't like pork or pork chops or pork loin or bacon (obv.), but because my mom never made it and so, therefore, I hadn't the foggiest idea where to begin and, hey, we've got all this other shit to eat, so why bother with The Mystery Other White Meat That Sometimes Comes With Barftastic Cream of Mushroom Sauce Barf?

But, Bubba? Oh, he likes pork chops. Yes indeedy. (Sorry, I really felt like I had to say "indeedy" right there, even though I'm totally ashamed of myself.)

So, being the husband-pleasey wife that I am, I set out to make pork chops. Actually, no, I set out to make The Best Pork Chops because I'm competitive and egotastic like that. I MUST ALWAYS BE THE BEST IN BUBBA'S MIND. ALWAYS.

I'm a psycho.

Anyway, I came across a recipe in Real Simple that seemed promising and would lend itself well to a pan sauce I was certain I could master with little effort on my part. I was pretty cocky about the whole thing, really, especially given the fact that I'd never laid a pork chop in a pan in my whole life and what the hell does a Jewess know about cooking pork chops but I set out sure I was going to make them The Best regardless.

Sometimes I can really be delusional.

So, I procured my necessaries, which was really only two bone in pork chops and some olive oil and set out to make these magical The Best Pork Chops like I'd been doing it all my life which I plainly had not.

And while I was all flush with I'm The Bestness I hoarded up our farmshare Brussels sprouts for two weeks so that I'd have enough to produce the Brussels sprouts feast that we've come to love thanks to Dig and her fantastic recipe which also includes bacon (bless you, Dig).

Really, in my head, we were preparing ourself for a The Best meal like none other.

And then I burnt THE CRAP out of my left hand doing the stupidest kitchen maneuver short of jamming my hand down the active disposer.

See, this recipe calls for browning the chops in a pan on the stovetop and then sliding them into the oven to finish cooking. Fine. This is all fine.

But because I was getting all fancy and shit, I had it in my head that, yes, I will brown them on the stove, finish them in the oven and then remove the chops to individual plates while I deglaze the pan with some white wine and VOILA create a very tasty pan sauce for the chops.

Except that my brain does not comprehend the fact that once a pan has been in the oven at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes, that the handle will remain at or close to 400 degrees for, oh, I don't know, about 10 minutes or more after it's been removed to the stovetop.

Like, YES IDIOT, the pan's not technically IN the oven anymore, but the handle's probably still pretty fucking hot.

Which it was. Which is how I burned the crap out of my left hand when I went to reposition it on the stove to pour in the white wine from the awaiting bottle (but not my Drinking Glass because obviously I need all that wine for myself).


And, you know, on its own, that's not much of a story. Because who hasn't burned their hand on a hot pan handle at some point, right?

Except who, may I ask, has gone about making the same exact meal multiple times and burned the crap out of their same hand EVERY SINGLE TIME by doing the EXACT SAME STUPID THING because they just don't learn?

Well, I'll save you the suspense, it's me.

So, what I'm trying to say is that I've gotten really good at making these awesome Brussels sprouts and a white wine pan sauce while holding a bag of frozen peas in my left hand.

Also, I have a nice pan handle tatoo on my left hand into which my large sauce pan fits swiftly.

Yay for that.

Thankfully, after I did this last time and then saw my neighbors while still clutching the frozen peas, these same neighbors had pity on me, thought they'd save me from myself and came over for dinner the next night with a lovely and useful silicone pan handle cover so that I'd not burn my left hand down to a stump in the name of pork chops.

Merciful, these folks. I love them lots.

Anyway, as a thank you for sitting through this painful and rigorously mind-numbing post, I will offer up this menu as a token of gratitude.

Though I will warn you that you may want to keep that bottle of wine in the fridge until such time as you actually need it rather than doing a "one for the pork chops, one for me" dance with your wine glass because it can result in, ahem, impaired reasoning skills that may then result in burning the fuck out of your hand.

Just saying.

Pork Chops with White Wine Pan Sauce and The Best Brussels Sprouts
Pork Chops by Real Simple
Pan Sauce and all associated foul language by moi

Firstly, this is more an order of processes to a final meal than a recipe. So don't get all, what kind of recipe is this, loser? because I'll have to smack ya.

OK, firstly again, gather your Brussels sprouts up and trim and halve them so that what you have is a pile of perfect looking bright green gems with some loose leaves and IMPORTANT no little bugs hiding in their leaves. Yay. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil, lay out a few strips of bacon, per Nici's recipe, and slide them in the oven until they're roasty and not burnt, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling location. Leave the oven on 400 degrees.

Warm up your ovensave pan and add the oil, thus beginning the pre-oven portion of Real Simple's pork chop recipe.

Set out some plates for later because this menu moves pretty fast. Just make sure they're out of the way enough so that you can still function.

Add your pork chops to the pan and follow the recipe, turning when they've browned - about 2-3 mins per side.

Slide the pan into the oven. Turn the oven light on to remind you that HEY IDIOT THERE'S SOMETHING IN HERE.

Grab a good sized mixing bowl and pour in the ingredients for the Brussels sprouts' dressing except the bacon. Whisk it up, crumble the bacon, stir that all in and set it aside. 

Take out a small sauce pot and add about 1/4 cup of water. Throw your Brussels sprouts in there with a pat of butter. 


Put the lid on the pot and position that baby over one of your smaller burners and bring it to a quick boil over medium heat. Turn the burner off and let it steam briefly - only until the sprouts are bright green. Strain them and dump them in the mixing bowl of dressing. Toss. Set aside.

Return to the oven (about 8 minutes have passed) and remove the pan from the oven WITH AN OVEN MITT.

Place the pan over one of your larger burners (turned off) and plate the two pork chops, leaving just the pan goodness in the pan. 

CRUCIAL DETAIL: Slip the handly silicone handle sleeve onto your pan, grab the half-drunk bottle of white wine from the fridge and turn the heat up to med/high on the stove under your pan. Wait a minute and then splash in enough wine to despackle the pan of all of its porky loveliness. Allow it to boil and reduce into a lovely syrupy sauce.  Pour it in equal amounts over the two pork chops.

NOTICE HOW YOU DON'T BURN YOUR HANDS. Rejoice appropriately.

Spoon the sprouts onto the plates. Refill your wine glass. Serve your dinner and enjoy savoring it without having your left fist wrapped around a bag of Trader Joe's frozen peas.

The end. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Now we're cooking with beans! ...wait...what?

Firstly, don't get me wrong, I do not make new year's resolutions like every single person I've talked to this week.  Just, like, be advised or whatever, because if I get the question again I'm going to fucking lose it.

We all clear? Good, then.

However, I did do a thing that's New and Healthy that I'll share with you here, but my motivations were purely those of hunger for delicious things and curiosity about the unknown. Also, I had some time on my hands and thought it'd be fun to make a very chopping-intensive recipe so that I could use my new knives.

But AT NO POINT was I motivated by becoming a New You in the New Year or any other cliched new year bullshit. That's for Toyota commercials and aerobics instructors and other societal retardation I do my best to avoid.

The thing in question here, anyway, was to cook with dried beans.

Yeah, told you, not really a new year's resolution-y thing. Because what psycho is writing up their new year's resolution list going, "You know, I think the #1 thing I want to do this year is to cook with dried beans."? None. That's something so mundane that it can only occur to a random mind at a random moment and then just hang out there until presented with the proper circumstances.

And the proper circumstances presented themselves over my holiday break when I found myself with the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated, a new set of sharpasfuck knives that needed quality time with my cutting boards and a cold, rainy day that wouldn't be complete without a really good soup.

And some fresh-baked bread.

And some leftover blackberry crisp from the Christmas Eve Feast that was lingering in the fridge.

What I'm saying is that the Hunger for Delicious Things part was thoroughly satisfied. Obviously.

The Curiosity for the Unknown Thing, well, it also went swimmingly. The Unknown Thing being dried canellinni beans.

I don't really know why I decided suddenly a while ago that I should learn how to cook with dried beans, but it was in my head and when I ran across a third recipe calling for dried beans, I was like, OK, I get it World, I should learn how to do this. In case, like, we all go back in time suddenly and canned beans no longer exist.

So, now that I've made this recipe and gone through the motions of cooking with dried beans, I can sleep at night knowing that I won't show up in the faraway past without the basic knowledge of how to cook with dried beans.

Which I realize makes me sound totally nuts and I'll just say this, I know.

BUT - if you haven't cooked with dried beans and you're wondering what the process is like, let me explain it to you super quick so we can all be prepared for an unplanned trip into the past before the time when canned beans existed but during a time when eating beans is really important. I have no idea what kind of time this would be.

Cooking with dried beans
Dissolve some salt (1 1/2 T) in a bowl of water (2 qts), add a cup of dried beans (I used canellinni) and let it sit overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Rinse the beans well and pick out any bad looking ones. They'll be all wrinkly and fucked up looking, which is fine.

Use them as you would beans from a can.

That's all.

Now I sorta wonder what the big deal was all about. Oh well. Better than if it was a huge pain in my ass. Which is was not.

What also was not a pain in my ass was this recipe from Cook's Illustrated for Hearty Minestrone.

And if you're at all familiar with CI recipes, you then realize that my calling it not a pain in my ass is pretty significant because those recipes?

Usually, a total pain in the ass.

Worth it - for sure - but major pains. Mostly associated with the amount of dishes I have to clean and the amount of prep involved. Plus, there's always the procuring of random ingredients (salt pork? Is this the 1900s?) and the multiple cooking stages (stovetop to oven to resting on the counter to blowtorching)(just kidding about the blowtorch thing) that makes a CI recipe stand apart from, say, a recipe I make up in my head from shit I've got lying around the crisper.

BUT WHATEVER. This recipe isn't that bad. As long as you like to chop. And I have a whole drawer full of new knives (which I'll bang on about later when I have a picture of them in their new awesome organize-y drawer) that wanted to chop things - and not just my fingers.

For the record, I've only engraved one fingernail with these knives so far and I've used them quite a bit since Christmas Eve when I opened them and immediately went to the kitchen feeling choppy.

And thank you again to my MiL who keeps renewing my subscription to CI for Christmas every year even though I strayed from its instruction at one point and tried to kill her son.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

2010 Sew Along. Now with de-stashing power!

Dear Donk,

I'm sure that despite all my self-promoting this year you never would have guessed which book I'd suggest for our 2010 sew along.

Nope. No way you'd have guessed it.

OR - you totally would have guessed it with only one guess because BIG SURPRISE I suggested One Yard Wonders.

SHOCKER. I know, I should have told you to sit down so that you'd be able to bear the surprise. Apologies.

But, friends - to be clear - we're not just choosing it because I'm in it. On page 113, thank you Aunt Colleen for pointing that out to the family at Hanukkah because while I had the wherewithal to gift the book to everyone, I failed to find and mark My Page for their benefit. Which, if you're me, is pretty surprising given how self-promotey and LOOK AT ME I am, but that's how it went. My laziness won out and I left it up to the recipients to find my page. And then I failed to commit it to memory because I'm not such a good sales person.


We had many other reasons for choosing this book for this year's ~along. Reasons that also coincide with the other part of the ~along.

The cooking part.

Let me back up.

Another reason why we chose One Yard Wonders was because of its extreme stash busting power. We love to de-stash, don't we? Or at least we really like the idea of de-stashing and maybe doing something with that precious Never Going To Be Able To Find It Again So Better Do Something Useful With It fabric besides leaving it to crumble at the bottom of the sacred fabric basket in the craft closet while you instead make a hundred projects from that putrid pink and green striped vomit fabric bought for one project but now involved in all projects because GET IT OUT OF HERE.

Anyway - this book is a de-stasher like no book has been before. One yard of fabric, 101 projects - GO.

And, to go full circle on that de-stashing mantra, just try and tell me that you don't force the same kind of de-stashification on your fridge. Like, when you have dinner menus motivated 100% by your desire to get rid of the GOD.DAMNED.CHARD. Or maybe you have normal food lurking around your house like, I don't know, apples or half loaves of french bread or something that doesn't haunt you when you sleep.

Anyway, the point is this - we will de-stash the fridge while we de-stash the fabric - one month at a time.

Each month we'll have one fabric project from One Yard Wonders and we'll also have one recipe, from either Kelli or myself, derived from moments of fridge de-stashing. 

Whether your fridge includes one or more of the ingredients from the de-stashing recipe is not important. If you want to make the recipe and your fridge is mercifully devoid of the stashed food in question, you're well within your rights to procure all the ingredients and make it anew.

Meanwhile knowing that the leftovers may need to then be de-stashed.

Just saying.

You can do one or both or neither of the projects or work them up into some sort of unholy combination and load them into the Flickr pool by the last day of the month so that we can judge you and award a prize to a monthly winner and then come back again on the first of the month to do it all again.

Did you get all that? Those were the rules for the sew~along, in case you missed them.

They are basically the same rules we've had for the last three years (can you believe this is already our fourth year?). Now in bullet format for your (and mine - who are we kidding?) enjoyment:
  • At or around the first of the month, Kelli and I will both post the month's ONE sewing and ONE cooking project and one of us will announce the previous month's winner. It's possible that the number of projects might change and we'll just expect you to be adults about the whole thing. Embrace change and what not.

  • By the last day of the month, anyone who wants to participate will finish one or both of the projects and post pictures to our new One Yard Wonders : Sew Along 2010 pool for judging.

  • We will then show back up at or around the first, announce the winners and do the rest of the stuff I just said in the first bullet.

  • It will go on this way for the year and, at the end it will be the end and you don't need a bullet to tell you that.
And, these things are obvious, but I feel the need to have them in writing lest we get the questions; you need a copy of the book to do the sewing part, you do not need to sign up, you don't have to participate every month and there's no cookbook so don't worry about having to buy one of those, too. 

There will be other questions, I'm sure, but we'll just piss those people off when they show themselves.

And before I peel off of this long-winded Welcome to Sewing With Psychos 2010 post, let me share with you January's Projects:

Fabric de-stasher from One Yard Wonders: The "Good Hat Day" Hat by Rebecca Jo Malmström (and, no, I didn't choose this because she has the famed and desireable ö in her name. Though that didn't hurt.)

Fridge de-stasher from Africankelli: Spicy garlic dressing

1 tablespoon or more of Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons red vinegar
1 pinch of garlic salt
1 pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon honey
any fresh herbs you may have -- I used thyme

Blend this in a food processor, adding more red wine vinegar and lime juice if necessary. This is also easy to make if you want to omit the chopped garlic by simply adding all ingredients to the Dijon mustard bottle and shaking with fury. Then pour over your salad and enjoy.

And if you so desire, you may add this badge to your sites/blogs/Facebook profiles to pledge your allegiance to de-stashing in 2010.