plans are in motion

  • Plane tickets so I can get to the cruise in January? – booked.
  • Swimsuit so that I can snorkle with the stingrays? – chosen, not quite ordered yet.
  • Plane tickets so I can go see my family before the cruise? – trying to find an excuse not to buy them.
  • Cookies? – for sale.
  • Provisions for coming snowpocalypse? Ramen – check, movies (featuring a surprising amount of Charleton Heston)? – check check, booze – checkcheckcheck.
  • Watching hockey in the wrong team’s section? (give me a few hours).
  • NaBloPoMo finished? – check to the motherfuckin’ check.

craft fair quickie

This weekend is looking pretty good if you want to look in the handmade direction for your gifts this holiday season.

Starting tomorrow, and running through Saturday, the No-Coast Craft-o-Rama will be taking over the Midtown Global Market again this year.  My recommendation is to go tomorrow, or as early as you can on Saturday to avoid the crowds.

I seem to remember seeing a flyer for another craft fair in the cities on Sunday the 9th, but I can’t find the info for that one anywhere…

i understand what the fuss is about

I think it was last year around this time that everyone (and by everyone I mean the few blogs and magazines that tend to have the most influence on my spendthrifty side) was in a tizzy about “aztec” hot chocolate. People were up in arms about Starbucks over-the-top Chantico (something about the 400 calories in a 6oz serving), I’m pretty sure Lynne Rosetto Kasper interviewed some dude who was extremely militant about the virtues of true hot chocolate, as opposed to the hot cocoa “abomination” that we’d been taught to drink. Drinking chocolate, sipping chocolate, chocolate the way the ancients liked it, ad nauseum. They were even talking about chocolate having terroir, for Xenu’s sake.

It was during this time, that I’d read a few gushing review about MarieBelle’s Aztec Hot Chocolate. I assumed that it was just another case of a fancy five-dollar-a-truffle shop wanting to cash in on the latest craze. Having tried Chantico (come on, weren’t you curious to know how they got 400 calories into 6 ounces?), I had decided that drinking melted chocolate bars wasn’t really my thing, and scoffed at MarieBelle’s $20/10oz price tag. That ended recently however, when Nerd 2 was foolish enough to allow me to enter Kitchen Window on a particularly spendy kind of afternoon. In all this time, I hadn’t seen a tin of MarieBelle in the flesh (not saying that I tried at all), but when I walked into KW and saw a little display, I remembered my previous curiosity. “It’s research,” I rationalized. With xmas coming up, a nice tin of fancy chocolate is a good default gift for when you can’t be super thoughtful…so long as it tastes good.

So, I ponied up the money (easier to do since I’d saved even more than that using my super l337 haggl0ring skillz at the shoe store just previously), and brought the tin home. And, in a bout of insomnia at 3am that night, I decided that I wanted to try some of this stuff (I was looking for something warm to help me sleep, and it was just sitting on the counter, staring at me). Reading the directions, and deciding that the “American” version with it’s just boiling milk would obviously be superior to the Europeans and their namby-pamby water, I reached for the jug, and found it rancid (ewww). Ok, lets try the water thing (I’d rather use the kettle than the microwave anyways). It wasn’t until I was pouring the water in that I realized that the instructions were calling for a 1:1 chocolate to water ratio. And it wasn’t until I’d heated and stirred it twice to dissolve every last chocolate chunk that I realized just what I was getting myself into.

Like with Chantico, the MarieBelle dripped in globs off of my spoon but while Chantico reminded me of drinking Godiva bars, the latter tasted, well, it was like the best parts of chocolate liquified. Not like something melted, but like a mousse or torte just made to be liquid, never intended to be set or baked. Like something that you would order at a fancy dessert place, as dessert, and not feel stiffed if they brought you half an espresso mug full. And, given that even a chocolate fiend like me could be satisfied with a 1/4 cup serving, all of a sudden, that 10oz tin looked worth every penny. This stuff was good.

A little experimentation has proved that, at least in this wussy 2% milk drinking household, the european version is superior. This kind of chocolate can really only be stood up to by a nice fatty cream, and if I had that, I’d be making whipped cream to put on top anyways since this is not something that you want to be drinking everyday.

So yeah, if you’ve got a chocolate lover on your [insert winter solstice derived holiday here] list (even if that someone is yourself), know that MarieBelle’s Original Aztec Hot Chocolate is worth the price – I can’t speak for the other flavours, though (the spicy looks interesting, however).

“you know,”

She said, not necessarily to anyone in particular, “if I keep this up for just a few more days, I’ll have done it.”

“Done what?” no one in particular queried.

“30 days, 30 posts. They once said it couldn’t be done.” The smuggest of smirks growing was on her face. “They said I couldn’t stick to any of the challenges that I set to myself on this blog.”

No one gestured about the screen, “Well, it’s not as though assumptions weren’t based on empirical evidence of past behaviour.” That’s when she remembered the sidebar. There was a progress bar there, one she’d almost forgotten. It documented for the world to see her lack of dedication, motivation, time in the f-ing day.

“Damn you 1000 mile goal! Damn you right in the ear!” Her smile was fading, but not the mischevious glint in her eye. “At least I made it a damn bit farther than the progress bar ever showed, it was probably for the best that I stopped keeping track, it would have just demotivated me.” She expertly swiped her mouse across the screen and executed the sequence of clicks and key presses required to remove the slanderous control.

“Hmmm,” she pondered as she playfully bit her lower lip, “whatever shall I replace it with now….?”

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.

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Please pause for a moment and envision 50,000 words of that. Then thank me profusely (in your head is ok) for knowing how to pick my battles. And yeah, I have no idea of the correct punctuation rules for dialogue, and I’m just fine that.

it’s almost cruel you know…

compost.jpg…posting something as awesome as this to taunt the garden geeks at the end of November.

But I’m a cruel kinda girl, so click on the right for a full image of just some of the critters found in 1 cup (250ml) of compost.

[via]

slowing it back down

I started making my own stocks well before I’d heard of anything called “slow food”, and when I still though that slow-cookers (which were all Crock Pots) were only for potlucks.

Having finally moved into my own apartment, working a real job, and feeling that subsisting on student food was no longer acceptable, I stumbled down to Barnes and Noble in search of a cookbook that would teach me how to cook, well, everything. I found it, btw. As Mark Bittman baby-stepped me through things like stir-frying chicken, baking banana bread, and roasting a whole bird on a weeknight, he kept referring back to one strange activity. Why on earth would anyone want to make homemade chicken stock? Isn’t that the stuff that comes in cans?

But I tried it, and it was easy, made the apartment smell awesome, and, well, it was good. So I became one of “those” cooks. Scoffing at bouillon cubes, looking down upon those who stooped to prepackaged chicken broth (regardless of how low-sodium it might be). Real Stock or Bust was my motto… Until I bought a house. And started grad school. And found myself not cooking at all due to a lack of good stock. Which was silly of course, so I opened my mind a little. Found a broth or two that I didn’t mind. Maybe purchased a case of the stuff at Costco. Lost the art. I haven’t made a stock (with the exclusion of the neck+giblets mini-stocks for Thanksgiving gravies) for well over a year.

That’s ending today. With a little advice from Mark, some pointers from Alton Brown, Harold McGee, and a swift kick in the pants from Anthony Bourdain (who is speaking at the Triple Rock at 1900 tomorrow, btw) I ventured into the depths of my freezer, and pulled out some chicken carcasses that I’ve been saving. I headed to the store and picked up another whole chicken to help augment it, and reached for some onions, shallots, garlic and celery that I had lying around. The meat and the olive oil tossed veggies roasted at 400F for an hour or so, ended up in The Big Pot covered with the coldest of water, and have been just barely simmering since about 1430 this afternoon. I figure I’ll give it until about 2200 – I’ve been told that you can tell a stock is done when you can snap the bones in half just by squeezing them with your tongs (and I’ve got pretty cheap tongs).

Simmering done, I’ll strain and chill (I’ve got weather and a garage on my side for an easy cool-down session tonight). And tomorrow? Some reduction if necessary, then Mexican Chicken Soup.

I haven’t been this hungry for tomorrow’s dinner in a while.

so here’s what I want to know

First of all, how much markup do most specialty shoe stores make on a regular basis that they can offer you a 20% discount, just for asking? I was at Marathon, I’d found a pair of shoes that I was willing to buy, for a price that was $25 lower than I had expected. I was ready to buy, the (super helpful, btw) salesman was walking me to the register, and since I’d seen someone giving up their 25% off loyal customer coupon, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if maybe they kept them behind the counter. They didn’t, but hey, he could knock $10 off, which would have been awesome, and then Nerd 2 pipes up enquiring about a military discount (comes in handy at certain liquor stores), and what do you know, they don’t have one, but would it be ok if he just took 20% off (more than doubling the previous offer)?

You would think I was a master haggler. But I’m not, the thought of bargaining makes me nauseous. Or maybe there really was a sale, but the same escalation of discounts happened at a different store earlier in the week (though I wasn’t quite as committed to the purchase, which the salesdrone could probably tell). I guess it really does never hurt to ask.

Secondly, what was wrong with the old days of MP3 players which had simple, directory based file management? I’m not down with these interfaces that want to talk about “Albums” and “Playlists” and such. I just want a nice, simple player, with USB Mass Storage support, and the ability to play a directory of songs at once. I refuse to use iTunes, Songbird won’t play nice with my new Zen, Winamp, well, blows, and don’t even get me started about Windows Media Player. Is it really necessary to sell your soul just to have portable music these days?

there’s too much confusion here…

Waking up at 10ish, doing…stuff, breakfast at Key’s, shopping at multiple stores that didn’t have anything on sale, dessert at Wuollet, curling up on a couch-like object to watch half a season of sci-fi…

I may be experiencing the best weekend ever.

it’s still thursday

I’m just up a little late checking on all of those great black friday deals…not ;)

I hope everyone who had today off had a good time of it.

thanks for constantinople

Given that tomorrow is american turkey day, I figured it would be appropriate to make a list of those things that I’m thankful for.  So I started, and it was long, and it was cheesy, and not as funny as I might like.  And then, just as I was about to save, Feline Unit A (aka tigger) decided to practice the new trick she’s learned…

Climbing onto my lap, via the front of my case, expertly landing a paw straight on the power button. Yeah. The worst part is, that she realizes that she gets all sorts of attention when she does that, so she does it all the damn time.

I love cats.

Anyways, I hope that everyone, regardless of where you live or what you celebrate, gets to feel thankful for friends, family, good food, and good drink over the next few days.

And if you can’t, at least be thankful for Rudy and Winston.