Friday, April 30, 2010

Wherein I Become A Shill

I knew 120 million people were not waking up every morning and making dashi fresh with kombu and fish flakes.  It's not like it's super hard to make - though it is hard to make well.  Even so, I knew there had to be an instant powder that comes in a jar somewhere.


This "Amazon Associates" thing I'm doing now has definitely increased traffic to their site.  I'm going there daily now.

If you've been reading this blog for a while you will know I'm interested in Japanese cooking.  All of the cookbooks I have contain a recipe for tamago, the Japanese rolled omelette often sliced and made into sushi.  While I enjoy eating tamago it's the skill I'm after - I want to learn how to make it well!  So I searched Amazon (because you can find anything on Amazon and read the reviews before you buy) and I bought this pan:

Tamago Egg Pan #760005

I haven't used it yet but it's very well made and has a non-stick coating.  It's also tiny and cute as hell.  Kawaii!!!  A recipe for tamago came with it in the box.  The number two ingredient was "Hondashi (Japanese instant soup base)"!

There it was!  I knew it!  Instant dashi!  Thank you again, Amazon!  Well, thank you, House of Rice who included the recipe with the pan.  But I wouldn't have known about The House of Rice without Amazon.

So back to Amazon I went and ordered some:
Hon-Dashi (Bonito Fish Soup Stock) - 2.29 oz.

I think this discovery will open up a whole, new world of Japanese culinary success for me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April Snow

This is what yesterday morning looked like.

The water in the bird bath is frozen solid.  The pear tree is not just fluffy white with snow, it's fluffy white with snow-covered blossoms.  I have other videos from the same morning in which you can hear the frogs croaking.

Everything is back to normal today - in my neighborhood, at least.  The frogs seem fine, the pear blossoms are fine.  Some areas of Vermont got over twenty inches of snow.  Can you imagine the snow load a leafy tree could hold?  Lots of power-outages north of here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Food Groups

Agedashi Tofu

Drink Groups:
Hard Liquor

I've probably left something out.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Garden Report For 4/25/10, Etc.

Today's gardening was done in street clothes and flip flops because my entire body ached and I didn't want to get too serious.  I pruned the roses, cut back the physocarpus and planted the new viburnum.

Of course the area in which I planted the new viburnum will need to be thoroughly weeded in the next coming weeks.  I thought it and I could wait until after the mulch arrives.

I'm still a little scared about the butterfly bushes.  I'm also afraid that the place I've chosen for the irises will be too wet or too weedy for them.  I will do my best.  If it starts looking bad I'll just move them.

In other making news, I got fed-up and started a new Noro sock.  Just one at a time this time.

I'm still working on these knee socks.  They live in Cambridge and are what I knit when I'm there.  I'm making good progress on this - the back and sleeves are done and I'm just starting on the right front.  I just wanted to add a little, fun project so I started a simple sock.  The plan is to eventually finish a pair.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Raspberries, A Walk In The Park

No saga today.

I realized that I didn't have it in me to dig a huge trench and have a pitched battle.  Today I was going to just dig a good sized hole for each plant and stick them in.  If they had to fight with SATAN'S SPAWN I'd deal with that later.

Fortunately the second location, across a path, about five feet from the first, was much easier.  This spot is a little shadier than the first so it may not be as good for the raspberries.  It's certainly less friendly to SATAN'S SPAWN - I didn't find any at all.

There they are, all tucked in, mulched and cozy.

Now here's a photo of the cherry tree:

The cherry tree pretty much was plug 'n' play.

I promise that all of these tales are true and I didn't just stick sticks in the ground and make up dramatic stories about it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gothic Gardening

Boy, am I pooped.

I set out yesterday to plant my nine raspberry bushes.  They're bare root plants so you have to soak them "for several hours" before you put them out.  When I re-opened the box they came in, unwrapped them all and put them in the bucket to soak I discovered that - thank heaven - I really only had six plants.  PHEW!

My plan yesterday was to get 'em soaking while I prepared the spots I'd figured out to plant them in and actually plant them today.  Well, the spots I'd picked didn't work at all.  Finally I decided on a spot in the vegetable/flower garden that Michaela and I had prepared last fall.  I had myself a Guinness and pondered how much easier an already prepared spot would be.

I was feeling very optimistic today.  Only six plants and a prepared bed to put them in.  Plug 'n' play.  Ha ha ha ha ha!  What I riot I am.  I should have known better.

For you see, in my gardening this week I've been doing hand to root combat with SATAN'S SPAWN.  I knew this.

SATAN'S SPAWN is a particular kind of grass.  It looks like this:

Notice the robust pink color of the roots?  I find the color unspeakably chilling.  It is the sign of a grass root that can tunnel deep under your favorite sensitive shrub then burrow up  and entwine itself snugly into your shrub's root system.  You might, at first, admire the blushingly healthful appearance of the root until you go to yank it out and it's head snaps off in your fingers.  Congratulations!  You just made it stronger!  

These roots are total mo-fos.  To really get rid of this stuff you have to carefully dig up each tender root.  Any segment of root that you accidentally broke off and neglected to pick out produces another evil beast of a plant.  What's more, these roots are very good at appearing to be blackened and dead when in fact they are in fine working condition.

If you are (or are friendly with) a horror writer who is stuck for a good idea for a monster I strongly suggest spending about half an hour weeding grass roots out of a garden.  Different grasses have different alarming features.  That may be another story for another day.


Last fall Michaela and I did a buttload of hard work, spraying organic herbicide on the weeds then smothering them with cardboard and mulch.  The approach proved fatal to the majority of weeds that received this treatment but not to SATAN'S SPAWN.

So, today, out comes the shovel, up comes the mulch and the cardboard, open pops my mouth in alarm.  You guessed it - SATAN'S SPAWN.  No plug 'n' play for me.  Instead it was trench digging and hauling large clumps of root-infested soil up to a tarp I set out on the lawn.  

SATAN'S SPAWN must be killed, like a vampire, by exposing the root to plenty of sun.

Of course all of this took much more time and effort than I had planned.  I only got in half of the raspberries today.  I'm frightened for tomorrow.

Despite all of that this location for the raspberries is still better than the ones I was thinking of yesterday.  If I'd gone with one of those I would have had to remove a section of lawn about twenty feet long.  Then I would have had to remove rocks from and incorporate plenty of compost into the soil beneath the lawn.  At least this way I didn't have quite as many rocks to move.

My final horror for the gardening day occurred at the compost heap when I went to stab my shovel in and noticed a Spotted Salamander peeking out through the dirt.  I don't know what I would have done if I'd found salamander parts in the wheelbarrow.

I think I'll wait until next year to put in strawberries.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Joy Of Food-ish Substances

It has come out on Facebook that I make marshmallows.

I've been making them for years because I found a recipe for them in Martha Stewart's Christmas: Entertaining Decorating and Giving,
a book I bought a million years ago when it was new.  I probably bought it because of the marshmallow recipe (who ever heard of making them yourself?  They're not food.  It's amazing they're edible at all and not just playthings) but the book also contains an AMAZING recipe for egg nog.  Serve that egg nog once and people will beg you to make it at every other occasion.  They'll invite you over just so you'll bring the egg nog. As I recall there's an error in the marshmallow recipe (something like it doesn't say when to add the vanilla) but you can fake it.

These days I've been using recipes from this book:
Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats.  This book is a comprehensive marshmallow manual.  It has recipes for dozens of flavors, different marshmallow consistencies and - best of all - none of the recipes call for corn syrup.

You need a strong stand mixer if you're going to make 'shmallers (as I like to call them - obviously)  You're not going to be able to whip up the searing-hot sugar batter with your hand-held.  Other than that they are no harder to make than cake.

Then you can have yourself a good time decorating them as you wish:

Or you can spread the batter in a pan to cure then cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or knife.  I wanted to play with a pastry bag.

Then you can foist them on unsuspecting visitors and their gluten-sensitive children.  Or just whip them at people.  Marshmallows make such a wonderful, soft smacking sound when they come in sharp contact with human skin.

Oh yes, and since you made them yourself and they couldn't be fresher they also taste really good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Impulse Buys

I am the Queen of impulse buys.

Today I received six butterfly bushes and nine raspberry plants in the mail.  I ordered them (and some other plants) last month thinking that it would be nice to have more fresh fruit and pretty animals (you know - bees, bugs, hummingbirds)  around the place.

I think I'd only meant to order three butterfly bushes.  They came as a sampler of three and I must have ordered two samplers by accident.  Oh well, I've got room for them and they seem to do well here.  You can put them anywhere that's sunny and has well-drained soil.  They die back to the ground in the winter so you can pile all the snow you want on them and they won't know the difference.  They'll be fine next to the steps that lead to the walkway to our house - and then no one will have to string-trim around the steps in the summer.  The others I can put near the patio, even in the area that gets pounded by the snow that sheds off the roof in the winter.

The raspberries could pose a little problem though.  They need a bit more thought and attention than butterfly bushes do.  When I ordered them I thought, "well, I don't know where to put them right now but there's plenty of time to figure it out before they get here."  Did I use any of that time to figure it out?  Heck no.

It might have been good if I'd had a plan and decided where to put them before I bought them - like last year - so the soil could be properly prepared.  My thinking was that brambles do really well here so raspberries probably would too.  I am a lazy gardener.  Then once I've figured out where to put them I'll need to find/make some supports for them.

Actually, ordering plants through the mail is always risky for me since these days I can never predict where I'm going to be.  It can be a total disaster (a waste of plant-life and money) if you're not home when your live plants arrive.  It worked out well this year, thankfully.

In spite of the danger I order plants every year.

Last week the cherry tree that was part of the same impulse order came.  I had no plan for that either but I'm extremely happy with the spot I found for it.  Time may prove me wrong (say, if the tree languishes and dies) but for now I think I'm pretty clever.

Yup, gardening's an adventure.  Especially for a doofus like me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Well I Was Hungry

Minding my own business, eating my breakfast and looking on the web for a simple, cotton skirt that I could alter for the project I'm working on. "I know," I think, "American Apparel has plain, cotton clothes. They might have what I'm looking for."

Click, click, click... Click, click, click, women's skirts... "How the hell is that supposed to fit? They've got 'em all pulled up to their ribs. Try another style... She's sticking her ass out so far I can't tell how the damned thing falls!"

There are maybe two poses on the skirt page that aren't artificial "do me" poses. While we're at it, what's with all the visible nipples and see-through shirts? And it must be hot in the photo studio since they've all got their arms up over their heads, airing out their armpits.

I checked the men's section for comparison. On the pants page most of the men are shown standing like a normal person would stand, wearing pants. There were a mere two shots of men shirtless and semi-reclining.

I poked around other parts of the site to see how they were handled. Surprisingly, I saw zero shots of groups of semi-clad men lounging around on beds together or hugging in swimsuits. Not so for the gals.

Who is supposed to be shopping for these ladies' garments anyway? Or are these pages more for voyeuristic dudes changing things up with a little porn lite? I probably shouldn't try shopping there since I'm not an eighteen-year-old longing, yet not daring, to show off her naughty bits.

I really pity the young girls out there who just want to buy a simple skirt, like the ones all the other girls in school are wearing, and have to wade through all the "you are (should be) a tasty piece" crap.

While I'm at it, I pity the old ones too - like me!

Anyway, now I just feel gross.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Uuuhm... No, Really.

I almost don't believe this exists.

It's from the Zoogster storefront page on One hell of a comprehensive costume shop.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Spring Morning

Here's something I like to see when I open the refrigerator door in the morning:
A day with rice balls all ready to go can't be all bad.

Here is my breakfast kale:

I made a kale and feta omelette and used the first garden chives of the spring.

Today has been eventful in a way - there are ducks on our pond and they were quacking loudly this morning. Our pond has a major leak so I hope it stays full long enough for the ducks to do what they need to do. Also, it rained a bit today. That meant I didn't have to turn the water on and water the pea and lettuce seeds I planted yesterday.

My vegetable gardening has always been half-assed. I'd stick stuff in here and there and mostly it would get eaten by woodchucks. After last fall though, when Michaela and I prepared the vegetable garden, I should probably put more thought into it. I ordered some fancy tomato plants from White Flower Farm. I also bought some corn seeds. I'm interested in potatoes, kale and brussels sprouts too. Maybe I should think about broccoli? Oh, and garlic!

Jeeze, I just checked out the last frost dates in my area and one page said May 30th and another said June 10th. Guess I'll be waiting a while to put that corn in.

In the mean time I'm checking out the alpine strawberry plants I moved up from Brookline to see if they've flowered yet. I've got to take it easy.

Alright, now I'm off to work some more on the lust blanket.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Adieu, Vegas!

I interrupt this bummer to bring you the final installment of Our Trip To Vegas:

The image below is not Photoshopped (except to decrease the file size) Pete really did snap a photograph of this storm trooper enjoying the view of the fountain at the Bellagio.

If someone offers you a free "Velvet Emerald Isle" don't feel bad about saying "thank you, no." Michael Collins whiskey is fine - say yes to that, just avoid everything else on the drink menu below.

The party's over: Pete's last beer in Vegas.
Notice that there are only men in the background in this shot? Ladies, if you're going to Vegas to meet guys, don't stay at the Venetian, the Palazzo, or Paris. All the guys are at Treasure Island. Likewise to you men, if you want to see more hot chicks by the pool you might want to stay someplace a tiny bit girlier.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Heebie Jeebies

Last night Pete had his first art show. He's been doing a lot of photography lately so he joined a gallery in Boston's South End. Last night it was his turn to have an open studio at the First Friday art night.

He did a great job, the show went well and his gallery-mates are wonderful people.

For me though, it was a little traumatic. Among other things, it brought all the horrors of art school back to me. The very smell of oil paint wafting through the stairwell gave me the heebie jeebies.

I was trying to figure out what was so bad about art school. As far as "academic" achievement goes it seemed to me that I did pretty well in school. I loved my teachers and I learned a lot.

I think the hard part was that socially it was a nightmare. I have never in my life been around such aggressively conformist people. Most of the other students wouldn't talk to you if you didn't do work that was similar to theirs, if you didn't look like them or if you weren't in the same stage of life that they were in.

Maybe I shouldn't care what those dim-bulb people thought but it still sucked to be treated like nothing on a daily basis by the majority of people I came in contact with.

Yeah, that was really hard. That could explain why I want no part of any "art scene."