Last night I got a club sandwich at the Fox and Connaught pub out the east end of ExCel. The thing is, if you insist that bacon not be crispy, as the English do, then you really need your bread to be actually toasted in order to have a satisfactorily texture-balanced club sandwich. This was not. (Also the chips paled in comparison to the ones we'd had earlier in the day.)
Possibly as a result, I was in the mood for something crispy at lunch today. Walking down the interior of ExCel, I ended up having a pasty as the best apparent value, which was hot and crispy but was subtly, well, foreign-to-me in flavor. Not that I blame it!
So for dinner I ended up having a sandwich from something that may have been called the Upper Crust further toward the west end of ExCel, which was ham & mozzarella heated up to melting on a sourdough baguette, and was very simple and satisfying and also not ridiculously expensive.
Then I had what purported to be a chocolate orange cheesecake from a place that does make-your-own-sandwich at lunch (can't remember the name), which was a lot more like mousse than cheesecake and possibly didn't agree with me, causing me to leave early tonight. (But I felt better pretty quickly.)
Between panels, I went to a stitching meet-up in the fan tent, and I had such a good time. We commiserated over lessons learned the hard way, showed off projects (either what we'd brought to work on or through pictures), admired different techniques, and used the wonder of smartphones to show each other pictures when we weren't sure if we were using the same terminology. By luck I was sitting near several cross-stitchers, and now I've seen evenweave stitched in the hand, which I could never get the hang of, and which I will have to try again because it looks a lot faster. And a couple of the people were self-taught and identified as newbies, so we got to talk about things they'd like to know and give them a few tips and reassure them that they were doing fine, all would be well, and it was just really delightful.
. . . wow, I have no idea what I was going to type next, I think I really need to go to bed.
Four panel day tomorrow! Breaking out one of my new dresses to give myself strength.
Some links, first follow-ups or things I know some of you will be interested in:
- Etsy :: hansigurumi :: Where to buy the patterns for the awesome knitted cephalopods, and other cool things besides.
- "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," Ted Chiang -- Fantasy and Science Fiction :: Read the Nebula-nominated story free online.
- Gundam: How Much Would it Cost to Make a Life-Size Working Gundam? :: For the GW fans I know.
- TackyChristmasYards :: Hey, some of our neighbors still have their decorations up . . .
And a recipe for pan-roasted potatoes, cribbed from the TV show America's Test Kitchen. At present, a Google cached page contains a summary, but it doesn't have times and may go away:
- Get a bunch of baby potatoes (the recipe calls for Red Bliss). Halve or quarter them (cut pieces should be roughly 1 to 1.5 inches).
- Heat some olive oil in a big flat nonstick pan. The summary calls for high heat; just over medium was ideal on our electric flat-top stove.
- Put the potatoes in the pan in a single layer, cut side down, and cook for five minutes, or until the potatoes are nice and brown.
- Turn over and cook on the skin sides for another five minutes, or until the skin is darker and wrinkly.
- Drop heat to low, cover, cook for another five minutes.
- Stick a fork through to test doneness. Tip out on to paper towels (something I'm going to try next time). Serve.
These are so easy but have the perfect roast-potato nature. They made me ridiculously happy earlier in the week. (We haven't had the leftovers yet, so I don't know how they reheat, but if they don't, we'll just make less next time. Simple.)
Finally: the Patriots won, the Giants won, the Colts lost, the Packers won, and T.O. is crying on the recap show. A good football week.
We hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year on Saturday, for logistical reasons. I actually quite liked this, because it gave me extra prep time without having to take a vacation day (since I rather used a lot of vacation time this summer . . . ). The net effect is more relaxing.
So on Thursday, we cleaned and cooked, admiring our spacious new fridge (delivered Wednesday) all the while: it's the same volume as the old one, but much more efficiently arranged. Then we had some very nice steaks with caramelized sugar (online recipe). We also discovered that omitting the onions leads to the leftover sauce more or less instantly solidifying on the serving plate. It was impressive and amused me inordinately: I giggled all through the lengthy process of prying the candy off the plate with my fingers and a thin-bladed knife.
Then we had Thanksgiving on Saturday.
And a selection of links (11 this time):
( links dump )
Finally, does anyone have any good anti-static tips? My new winter coat generates so much static that my earphones crackle when the wire rests against it. And I hate the smell of Static Guard.
I don't suppose anyone out there has a jar of Dickinson's Premium Cranberry Relish and would like to tell me what's on the ingredient list?
(We had it last year, and it was a huge hit, but it's not being stocked anywhere around here this year. It appears fairly simple to make homemade relish, but it would be nice to know the main ingredients—apples, for instance, or just oranges? (I didn't have any; I like the canned stuff.))
We've been home from Japan for two weeks, now. I had an absurd amount of work upon my return (some of that is my fault; I should have known better). I also had jet lag by proxy, as it took Chad about a week to readjust. (My body clock seems to still be very flexible, for which I am grateful.) But we're pretty well caught up on sleep and work now and back in the routine.
In the anecdotal evidence file, I seemed to be coming down with a cold on the Monday we got back. I immediately started taking zinc and did not develop a full-blown cold. Perhaps it was just an abrupt reaction to local allergens, not a cold, but regardless, I'm grateful, because I really did not have time to be sick.
Random other things:
- Went to see Buffalo Tom last weekend; Chad has the report.
- Went shopping for exercise bikes yesterday. We're going to get some variant of Schwinn recumbent, as I don't have a bike and ellipticals (1) would make watching anime difficult, which is going to be my carrot and (2) take up too much room, including vertically as we're hoping to put the equipment in a room with a very low ceiling.
- Chad has a mystery anime query.
- I'm experimenting with del.icio.us these days. Does anyone else use Opera and find that changes made to the inline editing form aren't saved? Do you have a workaround?
- Roasted pork tenderloin with sage corn bread crust. Good even without the garlic.
- My mom is blogging. I particularly recommend Dog's Life (Top 5 reasons I wish I were my dog, Truman.) and Truman's Response.
- Finally, go, non-zero-sum football. The Giants made a great goal-line stand to hold off the Redskins, and the Patriots scored 38 points for the third straight game.
The most important news first: I'm an aunt! Six weeks earlier than expected, but the daughter of my brother and his wife appears to be doing well regardless.
Much cookout food the last two weeks. We held one here last weekend, at which the dog ate a piece of pineapple (from the ground) and half a piece of bread (from the hand of a small child, who would wave it in front of her face); people ate all of the mac and cheese, again (I keep thinking it's not a summer food and being proven wrong); people ate orzelc's spiedes and lbmango's over-bourboned pies; and I ate way too much baklava and contemplated learning how to make it myself. Yesterday we went to a cookout hosted by someone at work, at which the food was quite good but not nearly as interesting as my coming within twenty feet of a doe. Oh, and in-between we had deep-fried mozzarella sandwiches, among other tapas-y things, at Cella Bistro. If you live in this area you really need to be eating there.
And as Chad already said, we saw Richard Thompson perform live and electric last night. Impressive show, even though I don't like Thompson nearly as well as Chad does.
In non-weekend news, I have finally started working on learning a bit of Japanese, and can recommend the audio lessons at JapanesePod101.com (the audio is free; extra material requires membership, though you can sign up for a free trial). I find it a lot more appealing than my half-remembered college language lessons, and am planning to work my way through the "Survival Phrases" series. Someone here may well have recommended this, so thanks.
So, learning survival Japanese, doing a lot of Worldcon reading, eating a lot of cookout food. There was a disc of Princess Tutu in there too, but that's a separate post. And as always, I feel like I'm forgetting something, but if I am, how important could it have been?
I think I can best give the flavor of my work week by describing dinner on Friday night, tapas at Cella Bistro, at which I deliberately ate deeply acid-reflux-unfriendly food, on the grounds that stress had regressed my acid reflux all the way back to late November, when I had two weekends full of unfriendly food, and so how much worse could it be?
And it was worth it. Our menu:
- Small balls of goat cheese, deep-fried until melty under a light crisp crust, and then drizzled with honey (so good);
- Shrimp in a sherry sauce (and then a lot of bread to scoop up the remaining sauce);
- Spanish tortilla with lemon-caper aioli (not what I was expecting, but good);
- Mussels with saffron sauce (I've decided I don't like mussels, saffron sauce or no);
- Clams meuniere (which I didn't have because I don't like clams either);
- Beef rib with BBQ sauce (that was all Chad).
(If you're keeping score: alcohol, tomatoes, and onions in the sauce for the shrimp; onions and citrus in the tortilla. If they'd had anything I wanted with garlic, chocolate, or mint, I could've run the table, as it were.)
Yesterday, I got quite sick when giving platelets; I appear to overreact to the calcium deficiency caused by the citrate anticoagulant (yes, I'd had a milkshake beforehand, taken my usual daily calcium supplement, and eaten a good breakfast). Unless plasma donation involves less of the anticoagulant, I'll have to stop donating, which I'd feel bad about, but I can't keep wrecking my own health for this (whole blood is no good either, it's just too high a proportion of my total volume).
After a nap and a cautious meal, we headed to our friendly local travel agent, and assigned him the task of finding us options for accommodations in each of our projected stops in Japan. Speaking of which: we're thinking of either Kanazawa or Takayama for the last few days; anyone have relevant experience to relate?
Food in Review:
- Oatmeal raisin cookies are definitely better with half the cinammon (replaced with an equal amount of ginger), but they still need something more; I'm thinking of increasing the brown sugar (and decreasing the white) and increasing the ginger and vanilla.
- The baked potato soup tasted a lot less like chicken stock on reheating, so while I still intend to reduce the chicken stock relative to the milk, I won't need to do it as much.
- We attempted rosti this weekend and last. We'd had a fabulous version in Québec City, all melty creamy cheese-potato goodness with a lovely brown crispy crust, and I tried recreating it with the leftover potatoes from soup. Unfortunately all-purpose potatoes are very definitely not the way to go for this, but Chad's attempt tonight worked a lot better.
Sports in Review: speak not to me of football. I am strongly contemplating hiding in the bedroom with a book during the Super Bowl.
Work in Review: very hectic, though thankfully moving past the stuff that had me feeling flayed for much of the last two weeks. I was called for jury duty and rescheduled it for next week before things got crazy; I'm not needed on Monday, and I suspect I won't be needed for the rest of the week, which is kind of too bad because I'd like to serve on a jury, but is probably for the best because of the timing.
Health in Review: I have had a remarkable amount of medical stuff lately, all minor things, but it does add up.
Entertainment in Review: I did fit some reading in, and have a couple books to log. Also, I've put Genji on my Palm and got through the next chapter that way; post to come. (Anyone else want the .pdb file, let me know.) And the next episode in the Dresden Files was just on the background and didn't suck.
Weather in Review: it's been really freaking cold, I can't seem to find any satisfactory winter boots, boo hiss winter.
Clearly, I need to go to bed.
Thanks for the links to recipes, all. I ended up going with something from Cooks.com, but after comparing it to your links and other recipes to get a feel for what could be done with the concept.
I think, after making the linked recipe, that I will probably make the following changes unless someone can tell me why not:
- Boil rather than bake the potatoes. While I could peel the fresh-baked potatoes (yay, silicone oven mitts), I think that the ~1cm layer under the skin should really be discarded too, as it's different in texture and flavor; but trying to get rid of that resulted in the potato crumbling in my hand, which was annoying.
- Reduce the amount of chicken stock, as its flavor was still coming through, which is not what I want in a potato soup. Currently it's 4 cups stock to 2 cups milk; I'm not sure how far to push those proportions, though I see some recipes out there that don't use stock at all.
- Maybe some parsley? Bay leaf? I don't like celery and I'm not sure I want carrots or broccoli, but I think it needs something else.
Also, though this isn't a change to the recipe, next time I will mash some of the potatoes to thicken the soup, and get really really lean bacon and cook it just before the point of burning, to get it suitably crunchy.
Oh, and congratulate me: I successfully (as far as I can tell) made a roux!
- YakTrax are terrific lightweight easy traction-givers. Wearing them means you never have to worry whether that shiny patch ahead of you is water or black ice.
- Does anyone have a nice thick potato soup, something like the one you get at Panera? Nb. it should be a recipe will not be harmed by omitting onions and garlic.
Before the year in review, the last few weeks in review.
First, we have ( a not-quite Gift of Magi story )
As a general matter, we were better about dealing with holiday stuff in a rational manner this year: we did almost all of our shopping on weekdays, when things were less hectic; I actually wrapped presents ahead of time; I was able to take a reasonable quantity of time off for travel; and I made good use of my external brain, a.k.a. my Palm, to keep track of things. (In full geek-out mode, I created a database listing everyone we buy for and what we got them for Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries where appropriate. Next year I'll add new columns for 2007; never again will I say, "but did we get that for them last year?")
So while we had a lot of travel over Christmas, we were in reasonably good shape for it. Saturday and Sunday still passed in a bit of a blur: party with Mom's side of the family - crash for night - drive drive drive - crash for a couple of hours - Christmas eve with Chad's father's side of the family - CRASH. Good times, though.
As is becoming traditional, Chad's folks came up to our place for dinner post-holidays. Last year we had an awful experience at Buca di Beppo; this year one of our favorite restaurants, Cella Bistro, was a bit slow because they were really busy, and then was very slow because the kitchen had to re-do two of the entrees because (believe it or not) they weren't quite rare enough. Which is very unusual and welcome in a restaurant, but still, twice in a row is enough: next year we're cooking.
Last night I, err, was asleep at midnight. I'd been at a party next door, but started feeling a little unwell and came home to lie down. I made it to about 11:40 and then, despite my best efforts, I was out until Chad came home around 12:30. (His comment: "I knew you should've taken a nap."). Oh well.
It's cookie season again, and my old link for "the best cookies ever!" (according to Chad's students [*]) has died, so for your information: Skaarup’s Almost Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (you may need to scroll down).
Edit: that link appears to omit the [starred] substitutions, which are: for butter + butter Crisco, either 7/8 cup melted butter, or 1 cup butter Crisco; for 2 teaspons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda + 1 teaspoon corn starch. (I've never tried either of these.)
Edit again as note to self: dark brown sugar is better than light brown.
As you know if you watched that Good Eats episode, the shortening, the brown sugar, and chilling the dough means that these are poufy, dense, and a bit soft.
(I personally like a #30 scoop rather than Alton Brown's preferred #20, which gets me 32 cookies, but I concur with Alton Brown that parchment paper is better than the recipe's suggested wax or foil.)
[*] People made nice noises about them at the party yesterday, so it's not just starving students who like them.
Thursday three weeks ago, I filed a brief that literally had me up past 11 p.m. every night for a couple of weeks. Since something else had been delayed, I took Friday off to sleep.
It's a good thing I don't believe in karma, because I got a call at home asking me if I could take on a short-fuse project. And I didn't get to really sleep, either, because the Queen of Niskayuna was a horrible nudge in the way that only neglected-feeling dogs can be.
I forced a viewing of The Prestige into our schedule that weekend, anyway, as already reported. We also bought a new dining room set (not ready for Thanksgiving, but nothing suitable was) and looked at a bunch of cars.
Last weekend we went to Chad's parents for a surprise 70th birthday party for one of his uncles. The party was in fact a surprise, his uncle was very touched, and it was good to catch up with various family members and meet one of his sister's law school friends, even though there was very little acid-reflux-friendly food.
This week we hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. It went very well, even with some last-minute "Shit! The crescent rolls are burning!" and "Whoops, forgot about the squash and cranberry sauce." Menu with comments and recipes behind the cut for my own reference.
Post-Thanksgiving, we've done a lot of lying around, a lot of laundry, and a lot of writing for the Internet. I've been reducing my backlog of LiveJournal (yesterday, today) and booklog posts. I'd like to get a little more done tonight, but things are still very busy at work, and I should work on a thing that I've been resolutely ignoring all weekend instead. Well, it was a good long break from law, at least.
Lost my temper over not one but two online discussions, which is the first time that's happened since I can remember. Only SHOUTED in one; I'm not sure if, in the other, it was apparent to anyone other than Chad that I was truly angry.
I did come up with a ten-second theory on the predominance of women in fanfic, which is that it's more socially acceptable for men to channel those impulses into gaming. Over at Chad's blog, a commentor offered the same explanation, so if it's loony, well, at least I'm not a lone loon.
In other news, a new restaurant in Schenectady, Cella Bistro, is seriously yummy. Chad had, as an appetizer, mussels with a huge heaping of french fries, and as dinner, duck done two ways; I had two appetizers for dinner, filo-wrapped baked brie with greens and pear-Chardonnay sauce, and jumbo crab claws. They also have a tapas menu, which I am going to have to try just for the apple & brie panini. Mmmm, melty brie and fruit.
It's an odd location for an upscale restaurant, kitty-corner from a decaying strip mall, so, like Karavalli in the Quality Inn in Rotterdam (which I appear to have not written up: great and wide-ranging Indian menu, branch of a place in Latham that we really like, not near anything and almost always empty), we'll have to go there often to keep them open. Oh, the hardship.
Also, Animaniacs is brilliant, and I'm very glad that it's out on DVD now. Nevermind Tiny Toons, it's the true heir to Looney Tunes as far as I'm concerned.
Things I failed to do this weekend: write up the next chapter of Fellowship; booklog four books; draft the "you may not discuss copyright unless you can pass this test" list; read Inda; convince the dog that she need not bark before 7 a.m. on weekends, truly.
But I did get some work done, and now that I've dashed this off, as Yakko says—g'night, everybody!
Should never post while sleepy, because I forget things.
Mom and Dad brought me a flask-sized bottle of spiced rum (cinnamon and various other things; their open bottle smells lovely) from the Caribbean. Tell me, o LJ land, of the care and consumption of spiced rum. I am unlikely to drink it straight (I can count the number of times I've done shots of anything on one hand), though it's a possibility, especially if it'll keep for a long time opened. I believe the traditional mixer is Coke, but after that time with the Jack and Coke, well, no. What else can I do with it?
Chad was away last weekend on a debauch, and I took the opportunity to eat a lunch buffet at an Indian restaurant. I had lentil doughnuts (medhu vada, judging by the menu; surprisingly good), and something unindentifiable that was very much like a crepe with a dollop of mashed vegetable curry in the middle, and grilled stuff, and naan, and rice kheer (nice thing about a buffet, I could take just a taste), and then I rolled myself back home to lie in the backyard and read.
On the way to the restaurant, I saw two striking things: a wild turkey winging its way across the road directly in front of me—they seem even bigger than they actually are (which is not inconsiderable) for being so ungainly; and a truck that had replaced the knob below the license plate with a chrome skull, with red LED eyes that lit up when the brake lights did.
Chad got home around 2 a.m. Sunday (delayed flight), and of course the dog woke up when he came in, but she went back to sleep surprisingly quickly; I actually laid awake for about twenty minutes expecting to hear her start crying after him. Chad's theory is that she thought it was a dream, which would explain why she was so amazingly excited when I let her into the bedroom the next morning. She frequently orbits the living room and dining room, running full-tilt in as wide a loop as possible; but when her orbit expands to include the bedroom and the stairs (and she is not good with stairs), well, that's an excited doggie. It was ridiculously cute in a way that probably only other dog owners appreciate.
Chad's folks were up for dinner Friday night. It started inauspiciously, when I opened up the cabinet for plates and saw a house centipede scuttle away in that freakishly quick way that they do. Everyone else helped hunt it down, as I quietly quaked in the other room with the dog; Chad's dad gets credit for finally killing it. However, Chad assures me that this time, my freakout was justified, as the thing was huge, as big as his thumb.
On a more serious note, I was sorry to hear that a great-aunt of Chad's had passed away; though not surprised, since it had been about a year since she was given three months to live. I understand it was a good year, but she was a cool person and will be missed.
After that, though, dinner went fine. We were puzzled to learn of the existence of fat-free half-and-half, which Chad had grabbed unknowingly for the fettucine alfredo; I wouldn't have thought such a thing possible.
We went to the library book sale today, just on a whim, and found ourselves faced with a swarm of literary locusts. It was their bag sale—$2 for a brown paper grocery bag, which you could fill up as you liked—and people were filling those things up like there was no tomorrow. It was kind of heartening, in a way, that so many people wanted books! but it was also frantic and rather claustrophobia-inducing.
We picked up a few random things, and also two hardcover copies of John M. Ford's The Last Hot Time—they had four, which made me sad, so we rescued two of them. sloanesomething, you need one of these; do I have your address somewhere? The other free to whoever asks first.
And then we read in the backyard some more, and I booklogged a bit crankily, and watched an intense episode of Homicide ("A Doll's Eyes"), and now it's time for bed.
Pretty quiet week. We finished season 1 of The Wire (still very well done, still not entirely my kind of thing), started watching season 5 of Homicide (still very good), and watched more Fullmetal Alchemist (as previously posted about). I spent some time yesterday and today reading out in the sun; I realized this winter that I miss the ability to do that something awful when the seasons change, and have resolved to take better advantage of the opportunity (properly sunscreened, of course).
Even though it's spring—Easter, even—there has been a sad lack of Cadbury Creme Eggs. A lot of places seem only to be carrying the Caramel kind, and a couple places that were carrying the Creme have run out. You can't keep them for too long (they get thick and nasty inside), but I was hoping to get a few more, darn it. *sulks briefly* Oh well, Target was closed today but probably will have some still tomorrow.
Anyway, I went out for lunch today, which will more than suffice in the food department. I've not been to a restaurant since Boskone, and mostly I've been eating Chad's acid-reflux-prevention diet since then. I'm not nearly as much of a food person as he is (I keep saying we should switch ailments), but this week I found myself day-dreaming about dishes with intense flavor, so headed out while he was cooped up in his windowless basement lab. (Guilty, me? Just a bit.) It was only a chain, the Macaroni Grill, but I knew they'd be open and I really like their Penne Rustica (pasta, shrimp, chicken, prosciutto, baked with cheese sauce). Fortunately they had a bar area where I was not bothered by excited children out for Easter dinner.
More productively, I finished transferring steelypips.org over to the new web host (HostGator), and updated the DNS at my registrar. That should be fully propogated in a couple of days, so I'll stop putting booklog-in-exile posts here. [Edit 10:10: already picked up here, cool.]
Chad (who, as I may have mentioned, is both a better and more adventurous cook than I) decided to do a higher class of Super Bowl munchies tonight, and picked some appetizers out of Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. They were all damn good, so let me share them with you: