he forgot the most important one…

Beer is delicious.

But he can be forgiven I think. Click through for Twenty Things Worth Knowing about Beer from The Oatmeal.

beer

tsa inspired prose

I mean, the TSA has to be good for something, right?

In lieu of any real content for today, here’s a little writing exercise that I worked on after finally getting on a flight home on Monday morning.

There’s something bittersweet about watching the too-soon family reunions caused by canceled flights. We’ve had our holidays, spent quality time with loved ones, but the joyous emotions of the season do take their toll. There’s something to be said for going back… home? Not Home, where you were just welcomed and feted and feasted and hugged and kissed and gave and got, we’ve had our fill of Home. We strive now for whatever base is currently ours. The dorm, the first apartment, the starter townhouse. These places where we’ve crafted a life anew. They aren’t better, necessarily. Just not here. Not where the phone rings when we call to ask for the ride back from the airport. Not where the smiling faces of our mothers recall and foreshadow the sad goodbye which must be repeated tomorrow. But we can’t get there now, so we wait to be picked up on the departure level (which, at least, is a departure from the norm). We try to put on brave faces, we wish each other luck. We try to decide whether everyone gets hugs again when we walk back in the door. We know our destinations will still be there tomorrow — but where will we be?

I still don’t know why Northwest flight 3661 was cancelled this Sunday.  I do know that something went very wrong with the airline security system (worldwide, it seems) starting on Friday, and continuing through the present.  I’m not going to comment on any specific policies or news events, I’ll just say that I’m glad that I have no plans to get on a plane again any time in the near future.

csa thoughts

I pickled radishes this past weekend.

I’ve cooked raspberries down into the best ice cream syrup ever.

I’ve made friends with sweet potatoes (that thing that people do with the marshmallows? it’s kind of gross, really).

I’ve figured out what a sunchokes, ramps, and scapes are.

I’m pretty sure that none of that would have been possible without my membership in Harmony Valley Farm’s CSA this year.

csa1

To review, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Amber and I purchased a share of Harmony Valley’s output for the 2009 growing season, so just about every week since May we’ve been picking up a box full of veggies to share. With a CSA, you don’t get to pick and choose what you like, and you’re at the mercy of the tastes of the farmer (dude really likes radishes), and the ravages of the weather (it was a bad year for broccoli, a great year for onions).

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There are dozens of CSAs that deliver to the Twin Cities area (see the Land Stewardship Project for more details). We picked our CSA farm pretty much randomly this year, though our pick seemed justified by other bloggers who seemed really happy with Harmony Valley, and they were right.

We had the Full Season, Every Week share from Harmony Valley Farm. That means that our deliveries started in mid-May, and just ended this past week. The boxes at the beginning of the season were a little light. Lots of root veggies, some salad greens. By mid-June though, things had really started to pick up. Scapes, and then garlic, zucchini, cauliflower, snap peas, edamame, amaranth. August/September brought a flood of tomatoes and peppers (sweet, hot, pimento, you name it). There were some weeks that there were definitely more than the three of us (myself, Amber, and Mr. Amber) could handle, and sadly more food than I would have liked ended up in my compost pile. But what we could eat, was generally delicious (maybe not the pea vines), definitely nutritious, and certified organic to boot.

The management of the farm has been great too. Their website is well laid out, and it’s easy to find information about what to expect in each week’s box, and they have archives of all of their weekly newsletters (with recipes and veggie features) online as well. They also make arrangements with other nearby farms to buy their excess produce to help fill out boxes that would be especially light (a problem that seemed to plague people with other Twin Cities CSAs this year). Since Amber and I were splitting a share, we thought it would be complicated, but they are well set up to handle that, invoicing us separately via email, and making sure that we each got any necessary paperwork. One caveat though: Amber and I did have differing experiences with a couple of off-season orders (my beef freezer pack order seems to be fine, but items that were promised to Amber for Christmas won’t arrive until the New Year).

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Lastly, the farm encourages its members to visit, and Amber and I got a chance to drive down their for their Strawberry Picking day. It was great to meet the people who work at the farm and to really find out where our food was coming from.  They also have a small campsite near their creek, and host a Harvest Festival/Pumpkin Picking day in the Fall — both things that I’d like to do if I stayed with this farm in 2010.

So why I am thinking of switching next year?

  1. Location, location, location. I live in Blaine, and work in Shoreview. HVF is definitely light on pickup locations in the north metro, and while the Como location was mostly OK relative to Amber’s previous apartment, now that she’s moved there isn’t really a pick-up location that makes sense for either of us anymore (especially if we need to meet up to split the share).
  2. Quantity. It’s calmed down now (especially with the transition to storage vegetables), but as I said above, there were times where there was just too much food to eat in a week. Going down to an every-other-week share would probably help with this, but I’d love to find a farm that offered half-shares on a weekly basis.
  3. Curiosity. Harmony Valley Farm was amazing. But are they really the best out there?  With so many other options, it seems wrong to just stick with one out of habit.  Worst cast scenario, we have bad luck and have to switch back to HVF in 2011… at least I’d know, right?

So, there you have it.  If you have 4 adults to feed, and live within a convenient distance of Harmony Valley’s pick-up locations, I have zero qualms about recommending them.  I, however, am going to shop around a little and see what else I can find… any of you have suggestions?

because someone has to say it

Mark my words, this is going to be a meme someday, and I want to go on the record right here and right now as saying that:

Colonel Miles Quaritch > Chuck Norris

be afraid, little chuck norris man.

Justification after the jump, don’t click or read on if you haven’t seen Avatar yet, k?

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at first I thought it meant “maximum zoom”

TENSO may be my new favourite brazilian portuguese meme on these here internets.  More examples here (a bunch of these are NSFW).

Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up this Monday, and I’m hosting a little get-together to celebrate it this weekend. It’s a potluck, so I’m not getting too worked up about it, but I still haven’t cooked a turkey since 2006 and I’ve had enough bad turkeys to know that I wouldn’t want to inflict that on people who I consider friends.

I also happen to be a food nerd, so I have a lot of sources for turkey advice. And just about all of them suggest brining.  And of course, every food writer has their own take on brine ingredients/time.  Dry/don’t dry. Sugar/no sugar. Etc.  It started getting complicated. I started taking notes.  Then I figured I’d brave the evils of table layout in WordPress to bring you the combined wisdom of my Personal Pantheon of Gastronomical Greatness.  Follow the jump in order to:

Learn 2 Brine, Noob

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if a girl has a man cave, what do you call it?

The bad news? Goodwill doesn’t take computer monitors to recycle (in most of Minnesota)

The good news? Best Buy does.

The bad news? It costs $10.

The good news? They give you a $10 gift card.

The bad news? It’s a Best Buy gift card.

The good news? I no longer have a 40lb 19″ CRT monitor sitting in the middle of my office. It has been replaced by a USB hub.

That, plus the 3 garbage bags full of junk (not to mention the boxes of Goodwill-ables) that also got hauled out this weekend means that my Nerd Cave is starting to feel quite a bit more spacious.

let’s just not talk about the cornbread, ok?

Very few videogames actually have an “I Win” button.  Granted, every game that pits player against player will have an array of finishing moves, and every once in a while one of them will make it to launch in a woefully overpowered state.  If the game is patchable, you know this ability will be nerfed to the ground soon enough (especially if it benefits mages), or if it’s Starcraft, everyone will just choose the Zerg, forever.

But most of them time, what seems like a quick “I Win” was actually the result of the right ingredients, intense preparation and timing. Often (especially when I’m playing), any “I Win” scenarios are pure luck, and could never be repeated.  Luckily for us all, that doesn’t apply when the game is cooking, and I take notes.

“I Win” Button Harvest Chili

(makes 6 quarts)

The “I Win” button, here, is the second time you turn on the crockpot (yes, I said second). Sure, it will take another 5-8 hours until you can savour your victory – but once you dip your spoon in you’ll know it was worth the wait.

I should note that I have a 6 quart crockpot, and this recipe filled it.  If you have a smaller crockpot, you should buy a larger one. But in the meantime, maybe halve the recipe?

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too much fun

Not, I should note, Too Much Fun, which could be problematic.

I had tickets to Autumn Brew Review last year.  It sounded like fun and I had looked forward to it, but then there was a LAN party (in a frikking hangar!) and nerding out with friends won out over drinking with strangers, that year.

This year, things got planned a little better.  I invited more friends, and got my nerding quotient for the weekend filled on Friday night. So, early on Saturday afternoon (after realizing that I am apparently the only person living north of the 610 who possesses a working alarm clock, I headed out to the show).

Autumn Brew Review is a craft beer festival/tasting event that for the past couple or three years has been held on the grounds of the Historic Grain Belt Brewery in NE Minneapolis. Unlike Winterfest, which is an all-local event, ABR features brewers from across the US – chillin’ under a tent on a warm late summer afternoon, serving up their best to the appreciative throngs.

Now, I didn’t make it to anywhere near all 60 breweries — and likely would have died if I had tried for 200+ different samples, here are some of the standouts:

  • Barley John’s – Rosie’s Old Ale – Old Ales/Barleywines are one of my go-to styles of beer. Malty, high-gravity, over-the-top beers that should almost be something else.  I intend to drink many of them, so as to weather the MN winter.  If Rosie’s wasn’t $75/growler, I probably would add it to my rotation.  It’s a really good balance between the sweet (that can by overpowering in more naive beers of this style), and a nice hop bitterness (with a touch of citrus aroma).
  • Founder’s Brewing Company – Breakfast Stout – I like coffee, I like beer, I generally dislike it when they are put together (which a lot of brewers do, as the flavour profiles should be complimentary, but in fact when combined they make fail). But this beer managed to make it work — the coffee tasted like coffee (and not the sweepings from a Dunn Bros floor), and the chocolate malt really sang through.
  • Furthermore Beer – Thermo Refur – Brewed from beets of all things. With a description that includes words like “grammy’s purse”, and “horse barn”. I expected to hate it, but it was actually pretty good.  Complex, not something I’d drink everyday, and I’d want to be careful about what I paired it with… but good.
  • Horny Goat Brewing Company – Hopped Up ‘N Horny – because this list needs a session beer (I’m realizing that everything else on here is upwards of 8% ABV… oops).  Your standard American Pale Ale. Hops rule on this one, but not so much as a Furious, or Summit Extra Pale. Something to drink on a summer afternoon.
  • Southern Tier Brewing Company – Creme Brulee Stout – My (increasingly incoherent over the course of the afternoon) tasting notes include the phase “Amber likey”. I’m usually not a fan of “gimmick” beers like this (and the coffee beers, discussed above), but this works.  Really well.  The provided notes don’t explain how exactly they managed to capture everything that is good about creme brulee in a beer without it being too sweet/too burnt/fake syrupy tasting, but there it is.  This isn’t a beer to serve with dessert.  This is a beer to serve instead of dessert.
  • I could go on… there were lots of others that I liked (and lots that were just boring, and some that were just awful) — I think, now, I’ll devote some energy to finding out where I can even buy all these beers, locally… Alvey?

Notes for next year:

  • The Early Access Tickets were worth every penny.  It may be only an extra hour, but actually being able to hit Surly and Lift Bridge and the other really popular tables before the proles arrived.  To be honest, as much as I like Surly’s beers, no brewery is worth waiting 20+ minutes in line for a 2oz sample of (though, I did like the 2009 Darkness much more than the 2008 version last year).
  • Preztel Necklaces – I’m surprised none of the food vendors were selling these.  While I ate a decent breakfast, and knew that we would likely be doing an early supper someone in NE, I was definitely coveting something salty about 20 samples in.  While the food available (burgers, pizza, etc) looked good, I didn’t want anything so heavy, really.
  • Pedal Pub – I’m happy that the pedal pub seminars worked based on a sign-up list, as opposed to having to wait in line all afternoon to take a ride.  We were able to sign up relatively early for the seminar that we wanted (Tyranena Brewery + Legacy Chocolates discussed pairing the best things in the universe), and then do the tasting thing and take a break in the shade for a while when before we loaded up.
  • Take Notes – however illegible, the notes that I took in the program are the only thing that I have to help me remember all of the different beers I had.  Even when they are simple like a plus sign, or a DO NOT WANT, I can use them, combined with the notes from the brewers as a reference on my next shopping trip.
  • Plan Ahead – Some of the breweries posted their line-ups on MN Beer ahead of time.  I wish I had read them (or new someone who could get me an advance PDF of the program).  I would have loved to have a more detailed plan of attack for what I wanted to try during that first, precious hour, or to have a checklist of things that I wanted to get to (despite the crowds) before I called it a day.

All in all, it was a great time.  Thanks Amber, Jen, and Picasso for coming with.  See you at Winterfest?

one thing leads to another: part two

Right around this time last year, there was much internet wailing and nashing of teeth because some author who I’d never heard about killed himself.

Normally, I wouldn’t have cared much, but some of the wailing and nashing was being performed by friends of mine whose opinions of on things literary I’ve come to respect, so I allowed myself to believe that maybe there was something to this David Foster Wallace guy, but since I’m not the type to read books that are considered “literature”, I’d probably never really know what the big deal was.  I mean, his most famous work is a ridiculous 1000+ page (plus endnotes!) opus, that mocks the reader with it’s title and has defeated more attempts to read it than Pynchon and his god-damned rainbow1.

Fast forward to this spring — the letters DFW are showing up on my RSS feeds again.  The plan is to read the opus over the course of astronomical summer. There is a schedule. There are forums. There’s even a Ravelry group. The book, which is an unreasonable 9×6x2 inches in paperback2 is available for a reasonable price (under $10) on Kindle.  I like to read things in the summer, there’s peer pressure. So I dip my toes into the Infinite Summer waters.

And I like it. A lot. I can’t speak to it’s literary worth, but I can say that at 89% through it’s been both challenging and fulfilling. Funny and profane and sad and profound. And lots of other good words too.

So anyways, my favourite character (Michael Pemulis, for anyone who is reading, but doesn’t know me well enough to see why this would obviously be true) in a recent footnote dons a t-shirt that supposedly says (in russian): “Vodka is the Enemy of Production”. With a menacing looking glyph of a bottle.

I feel a deep need to own such a shirt.

Which leads me to Google. Which leads me to this gallery of soviet anti-alcohol propaganda posters. Which leads to me to determine that the decor of my basement bar (when it ever comes to fruition) needs to feature these posters heavily-to-exclusively.  Because they are amazing — even when you don’t know what they mean.

alko11alko01

Still no luck on the shirt, though.

1No… I’m not bitter about my inability to finish Gravity’s Rainbow… not at all.

2Seriously, there’s no way I would have read this book if I had to carry it everywhere.

one thing leads to another: part one

Jenni’s post does a better job of summing up this past Labour Day’s camping weekend that I possibly could.  There was looking, and card playing, and conversation on topics from the inane to the inappropriate.  Somewhere in between the subject of hick-hop came up.  I still don’t know what it is, really, and I wondered aloud if it was related to Nerdcore.

Which reminded me, that I’d recently acquired a new MC Frontalot album, but not worked it into my rotation yet.

In unrelated news, as some of you may be aware, my boyfriend is a Nerd (both capital, and lowercase n). And he’s currently in a place where bandwidth doesn’t really support the playing of more shall we say “graphically-blessed” games.  So he’s reverted in game technology about 15 years or so and is rocking the MUDs.

So, back to MC Front. I finally give Final Boss a listen, and found my new favourite song pretty early on…

The song calls out Zork, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, -and- Leather Goddesses of Phobos1. In the video, he duels with Steve Meretzky! This thing could singlehandedly resurrect Infocom.  How could a girl who grew up with an IBM PCjr not love it?

Now… if only I could find my old Wishbringer stone…

1I have to admit, I’m pretty sure that playing this game circa age 11 warped me in ways that are probably pretty self evident, today.