thank god its back

The gmail outtage is making me twitchy (it’s amazing and sad how much this article explains about me, and everyone else I guess), so I figured it’s time to post.

Since we last spoke:

  • the gloves of pain took 2nd place in their category — I’m going to go check out what won first place tomorrow.
  • the ash tree in my backyard decided to do this:Bad tree!

which, really, is unacceptable.  So $600 later, my backyard is minus one tree, but plus a giant pile of logs and a big old stump.  I celebrated this with an impromptu bonfire and Picasso, Chele, Marshall & I had a good time chatting, drinking tequila, and working on cutting down on the size of my wood pile.  [Insert Settlers of Catan joke related to trading for wood here].

Looking ahead:

Camping with the usual suspects over Labour Day is officially a tradition now or something.  It obviously won’t be the same without Nerds 2 and 3 turning our camp fire into a foundry, but I might whittle something in their honour.

Willis reminding me that Surlyfest tickets just went on sale also reminded me that the Autumn Brew Review is coming up September 12th, and forward-looking me bought tickets before they sold out within minutes.  Pedal Pub! And over 200 beers to sample.  I’ve completely lost all desire to brew lately — hopefully this will snap me out of that.

I’ve started in earnest to plan for what Nerd 2 and I will do on our Autumn Vacation.  It’s funny how frustrating it is to buy plane tickets when your criteria are: get the best possible price, for a round-trip flight to “Europe”, leaving sometime the 2nd week of November, returning before Thanksgiving.  I’ve eliminated the idea of flying into London though, which is making things look cheaper and less complicated.

Speaking of Thanksgiving! There may perhaps be plans afoot, so if you’re in the area, keep October 11th free.

when hobby becomes obsession

I spent the vast majority of Friday evening at Chez Delobi doing things so depravedly nerdy that I don’t dare to mention them, even here.

Saturday morning’s class at Cassandra let out at 11:30, and I was home by noon.

I didn’t leave the house again until 4pm on sunday, and that was only to restake the tomato plants that did not fare well through Saturday evening’s storms.  My first journey off of my property in almost 48 hours was my drive to work this morning.

What was I up to?

  • It wasn’t catching up on Infinite Jest, which I’m about 100 pages behind in (btw, that thing with the Skydome… it actually happened.  I was in middle school, we giggled… a lot).
  • Nor was I catching up on the 5-a-day challenge.  I owe my “to go” box about 55 items.
  • I wasn’t doing laundry or yardwork or cleaning the fish tank either (all of these are also, woefully behind).

What I was doing, was fulfilling a promise I made to myself last year:  That after my stunning 2nd place (out of a field of at least 4!) finish last year, I would be entering the MN State Fair again this year.  Not really to win, but just so that I’d challenge myself to make something competition worthy again this year.

The problem with these year-long promises of course, is the procrastination factor.  It took me months to decide on the right project, and once I had project and yarn, it took me longer than it should have to start it.  Still though, I was proud of myself for starting over Memorial Day weekend this year, and I figured I’d have plenty of time to finish (I was even planning a second project, to be eligible for this year’s Bohus sweepstakes).  But I didn’t take into account the summer knitting slump.  It’s hard to stay inside and focus on cable charts and tiny yarn when it’s beautiful and sunny outside.  Not to mention other indoor temptations like Infinite Summer, and Ulduar.

So, even though these were the only thing I knit on this summer, they took me almost 90 days to finish.  And the final work my fingers to the bone sprint  (to finish, ironically, the fingers of both gloves) took almost exactly all of my free time this weekend.  But you know what?  I kind of feel like these were worth it.

click to embiggen!

click to embiggen!

This photo was taken pre-blocking (hence why they look a little claw-like here).  They are currently blocking between two layers of sham-wows (shut up) in a cat-free zone in the house, and they need to be dry by Wednesday at 8am, so I can deliver them for judging… so, any dry thoughts you wanna send my way would be greatly appreciated.

My thoughts? I love them.  I loved the pattern when I first laid eyes on it, and the yarn, when it first showed up in the mail (it was part of Sundara’s Season’s collection… yes, I was in a yarn club last year… shut up. again).  These may not strike the fancy of the state fair judges (who, I, in my sexist and ageist fashion imagine as little old ladies who will decry my break from knitting tradition by daring to do cables in dark, variegated yarn), but they are warm (too warm to wear to model for pics even), and probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever knitted. So, besides certain Nerd-related events this fall and winter, putting them on is the only thing that makes me look forward to the cooler weather this year.

So yeah, that’s this year’s State Fair.  Next year… I tackle the homebrew competition*!

*maybe.

i double dog dare you

To attempt to claim that the world is not a better place for the fact that this ad exists:

because i just can’t resist

I have a weakness for internet challenges. At least a weakness for starting them (I’m maybe not so great with the follow through). There was “Don’t buy stuff for a month”, “Post everyday for a month”, and “Make Stuff for People*”

This time around, the goal is decluttering, and the name of the game is “5 a day to keep the clutter away“. So, starting this past Saturday, I’ve put aside 5 things everyday that I want done and gone out of my house. If you’ve ever seen my house, you will understand the extent to which this will not really be a challenge at all… which is all the more reason why I should do it (along with Jenni, Wendy, and Amelia.

To make things a little more interesting for the first couple of weeks though, I’m going to concentrate on only choosing items that I could imagine being of value to someone. I’ve got plenty of junk in corners and closets and shelves in my office, and that’s just a matter of throwing it away. Parting with 155 items of actual value though… that might sting a little.

As to what to do with said items, I don’t really want to deal with eBay, and I might Craigslist some stuff if I deem it worthwhile. Otherwise, Jenni is having a yard sale in September that I might participate in, otherwise, the local Goodwill is going to getting a carload of fun stuff.

Here’s a crappy cellphone poorly lit picture of day one (the box is a fair bit fuller now):clutter1

  • Cheap buddha knife purchased from a street vendor in thailand.  Blade is sharp, everything else is plastic.
  • Picture frame which previously contained old-timey picture of me and The Asshole.
  • 3 Pack of highlighters
  • Candy dish from a Harry and David gift set
  • Masterlock padlock, combination unknown

Hey… I didn’t say the stuff would be of much value… just some.

*which I haven’t forgotten about. And totally have plans for, I just need to get my hands on a laser cutter… or a scroll saw.

worth doing right

breakfast of champions

Of the foods that I love a lot, that take under 10 minutes of actual cooking time, hamburgers are the one thing that I generally opt to go out for, as opposed to cooking at home 9 times out of 10.

It’s not that I don’t make excellent burgers (I do make excellent burgers). It’s just that if I’m going to be putting in the legwork myself, they are going to be made right. Dammit.

  • Right means cooking on the grill, not the stove. That right there eliminates six months of the year, here in the Snow-ta.
  • Right means a charcoal grill, not propane. Which means that it takes longer for the coals to heat up than it does to actually cook the food — even if you are a member of the Better than Briquettes Brigade.
  • Right means knowing what the hell is in your patty. Preformed, frozen blocks need not apply.
  • Right means not fearing medium-rare. This means that those pre-ground tubes of beef that have been sitting in the cooler at your place of grocery-izing for FSM knows how long are not appropriate. This means that you either have to be one of “those people” who pesters the butcher to fresh grind up a roast or steak for you, or you do it at home, with your handy KitchenAid Food Grinder Attachment.

All these caveats means that doing burgers my way… is a bit of a pain in the ass. But a worthwhile one, especially when you make more patties than you need, and freeze the rest for those “I’m-willing-to-fire-up-the-grill-but-maybe-not-hand-select-and-twice-grind-a-3-lb-roast-today” days.

While it was Alton Brown who first introduced me to the joys of grind-it-your-damn-self burgers, he is also a bit too much of a purist for me, claiming that the ultimate burger should contain only beef, salt, and maybe pepper. I can see where the man is coming from, and those pure burgers do have their place (especially when you don’t fear medium-rare),  but I do like to opt for a little more excitement. Be it the chives that are always thriving in my garden during the 6 months of reasonable grill time every year, garlic from the farmers market/CSA, or maybe, just maybe some form of anchovy by-product, I like my burgers like I like my men. Adult. err… Adulterated. Or something.

Also, when cooking for a group, I do like to err on the side of fully cooked. People are picky. People fear medium-rare (even when I explain to them that the bacteria in the average cut of beef, as opposed to chicken, only exists on the outside, so if the meat is fresh ground, the bad stuff doesn’t have time to multiply all the way through the grind the way it can in pre-ground meat). When there’s a lot of stuff on the grill and people to greet and sangria to serve, it can be hard to get the timing exactly right, so things might over cook a tad. So, I need a standby burger template that can hold up to such abuse.

So, to continue the series of things that made last Friday delicious, here are…

Adult(erated), Abusable Burgers

– makes 20, 1/4lb burgers

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s “Well-Done Burgers on the Charcoal Grill”, and “Grilled Hamburgers with Garlic, Chipotles, and Scallions” recipes)

(more…)

yes, i am that good

Pretty much the whole cage

Photo credit: Alex Barnes

Sometimes I need a nudge (and someone else’s photography) to remind me of it, but there it is.

In honour of Nerd 3’s1 all too brief return to the world, I hosted a little get together this past Friday.  Me being a single-woman living all alone this year, I didn’t want to go too all out, but what I did do, I wanted to do right.  So, a potluck was called for — with me handling the meat. *ahem*

Wanting to challenge myself a little (and feeling somewhat guilty that the side-box on my smoker hasn’t seen action in far too long), I figured that I should perhaps try to improve my grill-fu by learning how to make something that’s always intimidated me — pork ribs.  The plan was to do baby backs, since they are smaller and easier (shorter cooking time to get to that fall-off-the-bones tender perfection) than their spare cousins.  I’d even bought a rack a couple of weeks ago and did a test run (which while not anything to get overly excited over, was still pretty good).  So I headed to Costco to pick up a couple of chuck roasts (more on those another post), and 6 racks of baby-back ribs (I was feeding all of North Dakota, a bunch of Army Nerds, and a fair sized chunk of Brampton, ON).

Except that Costco failed me. Of the 6 racks of baby backs I needed, the Coon Rapids Costco offered up but 4.  And two of them (one of the two packages left at 7pm on a Wednesday evening) were looking mighty dodgy.  Not wanting to deal with venturing to other purveyors of massive quantities of dead animals, I rationalized to myself that spare ribs couldn’t possibly be _that_ much harder.  And variety is good, right? And worst case, I had five pounds of chuck roast that would end up as burgers anyways (plus brats in the freezer).

So, one 10 lb package of spareribs was added to the bill, along with 5 lbs of baby backs. Cooksillustrated.com and I spent some serious quality time together, and a 20 hour cooking odyssey was begun.  The results of which were some very happy bellies, and a crazy ass recipe, which out of sheer magnanimity, I share with you today:

There Is Nothing Prudent At All About These Ribs (TINPAAAT Ribs, for short)

(portions  adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s “Authenic Barbecue Pork Spareribs” and “Barbecued Baby Back Ribs for Charcoal Grill” recipes)

(more…)

things that i’ve learned since the last post here

  • That handicapped campsites are really only for handicapped people.
  • That you should avoid thinking about handicapped spaces, for fear of embedding Denis Leary’s musical masterwork deep into your head.
  • That taking delivery of a new fridge is significantly less traumatizing when you have a chest freezer and a bar fridge on your property.
  • That it is possible to feel condiment-related guilt.
  • That the best way to alleviate said guilt is to remind yourself that the bar fridge is not that big, and said condiments have maybe been in the fridge since the departure Nerd 1.
  • That pretty much the entire ass-end of a 2003 Suzuki SV650 is plastic.
  • That those bits that aren’t plastic are probably bolts in really hard to reach places.
  • That it is possible to have a great time camping, even if you can’t devote an entire picnic table to the bar area.
  • That sometimes, even when we bring The Ruckus, we are far from the most obnoxious campers on the St. Croix.
  • That it’s really hard to find fancy stationary that isn’t disgustingly girly, part of a wedding invitation kit, or  in the form of a pack of folded cards.
  • That not working on Fridays is amazing.
  • That’s it’s possible to bullshit your way through being on a Convergence panel.
  • That some nerds (small ‘n’) are seriously pretentious asshats — but most are not.
  • That Presence of Mind means that you can be running when you cast Arcane Blast.
  • That there is a time before the cafeteria at HedoCorp opens, and it is possible to get to HedoCorp before said time.
  • That when you have writer’s block, you should just misappropriate the style of another writer and go for it.

Well, I’m back (for now).  This week is going to involve taking delivery of a major appliance, a triumphant return to the Guthrie, and a BBQ for which my preparedness could be described as both completely inadequate, and also fairly average, considering that there’s still 84 hours to go.  Which means that I should lots to write about… let’s see if I’ll find time.

you can’t have my bass!

I can’t really put my finger on what it so funny about Literal Music Videos. I think a good part of it is that they usually seem to parody 80s music, and the thing that makes 80s music so awesome is that it is, in and of itself, so hilariously bad.

Anyways, if you’ve been on these here internets for any time at all, then I’m sure that you’ve seen at least one of Dusto McNeato’s seminal works in this genre.  What I didn’t realize is that others have followed his example and continued to blaze the path.

I have to admit being initially conflicted about this video. Seperate Ways is, of course, the superior Journey single. And its video does leave a lot to be spoofed. But the spoofer in this case? Cannot sing. And definitely cannot sing like Steve Perry (no one can really) so it hurts a little — until you start singing along (I dare you to try not to) and get caught up in the funny… of which there is much.

So, consider yourself forewarned when you experience the following:

oopsie

Well, the one good thing about being in a bloggy kinda mood this week is that I was relatively quick in noticing that Dreamhost suspended my account at midnight yesterday evening (so what if I hadn’t paid them since my CC expired last November)… Remember kids, abuse of email filters can by a dangerous thing.

In other news, those of you who follow me on the Twitter, or know me well enough to find me on facespace, already know that that 60lb mystery I was wondering about was one of these.  So it looks like I’ll be kegging before I start all-grain brewing after all.

Given that I’ve got everything I need to store, carbonate, and serve beer, the next step is to figure out how to serve it at a temperature that people will actually want to drink.  Beyond keeping a 25gal bucket full of ice at all times, my choices are a draft box, to chill the beer in real-time, or a fridge+taps (kegerator), to keep the beer at the appropriate temperature all the time.

The draft box is nice for the portability aspect (can you say “camping” boys and girls?), but the kegerator offers the advantage of being useable for lagering beers (which opens up the other half of the beer style world for me to play with). Also, the idea of a semi-permanent fixture like this in my basement is providing me with lots of other inspiration to do something awesome with the massive open space in my basement (can you say “Steampunk Bar + Home Theater” boys and girls?).  Add in the possibilities for a fun (and accessible for me) DIY project (take 1 fridge and/or chest freezer, drill appropriate holes, profit!), and a kegerator seems like the way to go.

Finding appropriate cooling units on craigslist is proving to be pretty fruitless.  Ads tend not to have pictures, or list useable internal dimentions (8 cu. ft. is not useful to me if it’s only 2 ft high inside).  Ideally, I’d like a standard chest freezer (not like the fridge-style one I’ve got in the garage), because then I can make/buy a tower to mount on top of it, and the surface of the unit can act as a general bar space (until a proper bar is built around it).  Something like this would be a great first attempt I think.  Something like this would be awesome for extra credit.

If I don’t find something used and not gross for a good price soon, I might just buy the bullet and buy new (though my kitchen might just get jealous if I don’t buy it a new fridge first).

owie

Note to self: you don’t go 2+ weeks of skipping workouts without it hurting when you get back.  Even if you deload.  So don’t let it happen again.

I let vacation, weather, stress, sprained ankles and general ennui get in the way of working out for a while and missed about 6 workouts.  I remember now why it’s so easy to give up the gym habit… every workout missed just makes the next one seem like it will be so much harder.  I was tempted to let things slide yesterday too, but I realized that it I missed another day, I probably wouldn’t be back for a while.  My reward for getting out of rut? DOMS (not the sexy kind), and the smug sense that I do have some willpower after all.

I’ve decided that I need to add some other activity to my regular exercise program besides just lifting, I just need to decide what and when. The biggest obstacles I have right now are:

  • I despise most cardio for cardio’s sake
  • I love the off days that are imposed on you when you do full body strength-training workouts, and the thought of having to work out on these “rest” days makes me sad, but I’m usually too drained post-lifting to do 30 mins of running or swimming or whatnot.
  • Outdoor activities which are fun enough to interest me (walking, rollerblading, biking), are easy for me to talk myself out of: the weather’s crappy, or if it is nice, maybe I should be doing something else (yardwork, riding the motorcycling, lying in the hammock drinking beer, etc).

I had some luck with swimming on off days, but got mega turned off 3 weeks ago or so when I noticed something unidentifiable floating in the pool — yes, I know the cholrine should have rendered it inert, yes, I know that once it got to the filter intakes it would be sucked away and never seen again.  But it got really close to my FACE. ew.

Anyways, I’ve started to look into the class schedules at the 3 branches of my gym that are within easy reach of work/home and maybe I’ll try Mat Pilates or BodyWorks or something cheesy like that some Thursday.  I’m also considering signing up for a class at the Cassandra school, since their summer session starts up soon-ish, and belly-dancing seems silly enough to keep my attention, and has some intriguingly rumoured benefits about which I have some curiousity.

Any of you guys doing structured, scheduled fitness activities that you find fun?