Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beauty, love, and dual fuel

I have a weakness for beauty.

A well-made piece of clothing, a stylish shoe, a stunning skein of handpainted yarn. My wardrobe - and my stash - did not end up the size they are on accident. This goes doubly for food.

I'm sure you're not surprised- do a search on Flickr for food, and you'll find enough glamour shots of food to make the most moderate eaters feel like gluttons. Check a foodie blog and you'll be drooling and gaining weight just *looking* at all the goodies.

This last week, everything I bought at the farmer's market was beautiful. Slender asparagus, perfectly round and cheerfully colored turnips, and multicolored potatoes.

I know. The potato is a humble vegetable, and the object of much anathema, given the carb-negative feelings people have these days. I love me some carbs, so how could I resist a bag of these beauties:

Purple, red, gold

I didn't have an idea of what I would use them for, but I HAD to have them. The gal in the booth thought I had LOST MY MIND. They were perfect and tiny - fitting comfortably in the palm of my hand, and SO beautiful. This picture doesn't do them justice, but my enthusiasm wouldn't allow me to photograph them one second earlier.

Speaking of beauty, I should introduce you to the newest man appliance in my life, Richard Blaze. But first you need to know what happened with Luke.

For those of you who were Luke fans, here's what happened. Luke was ailing. His temperature sensor had gone, and his timer was going. It was time. We called our home warranty folks to see if he could be fixed, but he was so old.

They suggested we send Luke to go live on a farm. A farm where old ovens can live out their days burning food without fear of reprisal. It was really what was best, hard as it may have been.

So, at the suggestion of the contractor, we made a pilgrimage to Airport Appliance, and lo and behold, there was the range and oven I have been waiting for my whole life.

Readers, meet Richard Blaze.

It was love at first sight. We saw each other across a crowded room, and that was that. It was meant to be.

He is named for my favorite Top Chef, Richard Blais [WARNING, noisy site]. In fact, the finale is tonight, and I'm rooting for Richard.

Permit me to wax poetic for a moment. I LOVE when people are good sports on shows that are effectively creative competition. Richard (the namesake) is affectionately referred to as "The Professor" or "Professor Blais" in the Top Chef kitchen, mostly because he's willing to help out his competitors when they need it. This means that everyone is competing at the top of their game, and that's more interesting for everyone.

He's totally brilliant, his dishes are inspired, and he is completely adorable. AND! He's going to have his own show on the Science Channel, Blais Off, which is the answer to the trainwreck that is Marcel's Quantum Kitchen. (Time for the tinfoil hat- I was complaining that Blais should be doing a show on molecular gastronomy, not Marcel.)

But back to *my* Blaze. He's a dual-fuel range and oven, and I love him. We have spent a lot of time getting to know one another. I read his manual and he delivers on all his promises, Itellyouwhut.

And see that drawer on the bottom? It's a BAKING DRAWER. I can bake one tray of cookies or biscuits without heating the whole big oven!!! And convection baking! I can't tell you how cool it is to bake three sheets of cookies or cupcakes at once. (The neighbors can vouch for it's coolness, since I've been sharing the cookie and cupcake love.)

Now, for the next frontier in earning my kitchen savvy merit badge: molecular gastronomy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tomfoolery and foolishness

The year is 2011. I have been working primarily in tech since 2000, and I am just now, today, figuring out how to use a feed reader to read my blogs.

I think my main issue was that I thought a feed reader is unnecessary. I had a folder in my bookmarks for blogs, would open them all up in tabs, and check my blogs daily that way. Verne, the 90-year-old man who lives in my head, thought that feed readers were fancy and pretentious.

Verne is the voice in my head that uses words like "foolishness", "tomfoolery", and "nonsense". Verne comes out - mostly - when there is something that offends my good sense. Like paying $4 for a hand-poured cup of coffee (which takes 15 minutes). Verne thinks that for $4, that cup of coffee should vacuum my car while I drink it. (He thinks other things along those lines, but the car vacuuming was the most polite, if you get my meaning.)

Don't even get Verne started on pre-chopped vegetables at the grocery store, or yoga clothes that cost more than work clothes. He is gruff and completely unapologetic about his opinions.

Verne doesn't like taking pictures with cell phones at dinner.
Verne is also the first to admit when something is a Really Good Idea. Like the green plastic doohickeys at Starbucks, that keep your coffee from spilling out of the drinking hole while you drive. He's also a big fan of the Cricket loom, cooking on a gas range, and TiVo. (He LOVES the TiVo. He's 90 years old and he doesn't have time for commercials. Nonsense and foolishness.)

I read the directions on how to use Google Reader, and Verne and I agree that it's genius. It's clean, easy to use, and best of all? A Really Good Idea.

Goodbye, bookmarks. Hello, Google Reader!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Jasminian Devil

At some point in the last week, my grey cashmere Looped Loop cowl went AWOL. It might still turn up, but I've already gone through the five stages of grief, and at this point I'm assuming it's gone. Forever.

The problem is that this cowl has essentially been part of my neck on every day where there was even the slightest chill in the air, and due to it's fabulousness, I can't imagine life without my precioussssss Looped Loop cowl. Even now, I clutch at my neck and feel the absence of a Looped Loop.

Last night, as I determinedly moved through the phases of my grief at Warp 9, I decided to deal with this loss the way any healthy knitter would.

I would knit a rebound cowl. This cowl would be *more* fabulous than the original cowl. This cowl would *really* show the Old Cowl what it was missing by being gone. The Old Cowl would see me in a crowd with my New Cowl and desperately wish it had never left me. This New Cowl would help me get over the Old Cowl, and would be BETTER.

I went stashdiving, into my Bag of Cashmere. I pulled out the two contenders that I had envisioned for the New Cowl, and checked the color in the mirror. (I bought most of the cashmere pre-pink hair. Matching color can be an iffy proposition, sometimes.)

They looked AWFUL. With my natural hair they would look spectacular, but until that point, they clashed something fierce. The whole point of the New Cowl was to look spectacular. This would not do.

I contemplated my options. I remembered some bulky Debbie Bliss yarn that I bought from WEBS in 2005- deep teal Merino Chunky, to be specific. I had given a friend of mine half the bag to finish her Cleaves, so I knew that what I was going to make needed to be smallish. (As opposed to a sweater.)

Teal is one of those colors that I've always worn very well. I wouldn't necessarily call it a neutral color in my wardrobe, but it matches a good cross-section. I love teal, and I don't wear it nearly enough.

I dove into the depths of my stash, and found the yarn pretty quickly. Five balls of the Merino Chunky. Perfect! I grabbed a set of 10 1/2 needles, did a little quick match, grabbed my skein of Fugly Acrylic for the provisional cast-on, and got in bed.

For those of you playing the home game, it's now 10:15 PM. Andrew has - very patiently - said NOTHING about the impersonation of the Tasmanian Devil I have been doing for the last hour and a half - running around the house, leaving messes and angry smoke in my wake. Perhaps "Jasminian Devil" is more apropos. For your safety, this is what the Jasminian Devil looks like, avoid her at all costs:

You'll know the Jasminian Devil by the crazed look in her eyes. Also, note the bared teeth. 

I climbed into bed, Elphie sprawled across my lap, Niki laid down on my feet, and I turned on an episode of Battlestar Galactica. Lest you think all Elphie does is bring me fabulous gifts, she is also a wicked snuggler - but there's a catch. Once Elphie is snuggling you, she usually decides (at some point) that she is done snuggling, gets up, and lays down elsewhere. We have a policy of staying put for snuggles.

I start trying to do the provisional cast-on, which I have done no fewer than one million times, and something is wrong. I can't get it. I have a dog sleeping across my lap and feet, and if I get up I will RUIN EVERYTHING. Seventy-plus pounds of dogs will be displaced, and the chaos of bedtime politics will ensue. After one episode, I finally figure it out, and get the New Cowl started. The dogs are still there, sleeping soundly on my feet and lap.

At this point, I fire up the next episode (I <3 Netflix Instant Watch!) and start knitting. In one episode, my cowl grew TEN inches. Bulky yarn and big needles are awesome. It is now Very Late, I am Very Tired, and neither of the dogs has gotten up to shift or get more comfortable. I am also out of yarn, since I only brought one into the bedroom.

Doing my best impression of an earthworm, I slowly wiggle myself down into bed, without displacing or disturbing either dog, give my New Cowl a longing glance, and turn out the light.

There is nothing like waking up to a beautiful new project on your nightstand. Take that, Old Cowl.**

**Old Cowl? I don't mean it. Come back. I love you.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bourdain, beets and bed

Since Monday night, I have been doing a fabulous impression of a zombie. I came down with the flu, and like every other time I get sick, I *might* have been a little melodramatic.

I *might* have told Andrew, "This is the one that kills me. I just know it," to which he lovingly responded (while rubbing my back and fetching and carrying for me) with something like, "That's okay, go into the light. I'll catch a new wife with your stash."

In any case, when I'm sleeping, I'm incredibly suggestible. Meaning, if I fall asleep watching The West Wing, I dream I'm working for President Bartlet. This goes doubly for when I'm sick. If I'm watching the Food Network, I dream about cooking, and if the stupid TiVo flips over to a show with zombies in it, I have wicked awful zombie nightmares.

Recently, I've been watching a fair bit of Food Network, mostly because of Laura'nge, the Joy of Cooking Fairy. Good Eats, Chopped, Cupcake Wars, Ace of Cakes, and No Reservations are all on the TiVo. Mom happened to be watching No Reservations, which is a great show, whether you're lucid or not.

In my case, I have been falling asleep to a No Reservations marathon (thanks, Netflix Instant Watch!) - which is not a comment on Mr. Bourdain's charisma or content, more a comment on how utterly wiped out I have been. I have had dreams of incredible foods in incredible places I have yet to go, usually with Tony. This is odd, since my chef of choice would ALWAYS be Richard Blais. (I *heart* his mohawk! And his mad skillz in the kitchen. Molecular gastronomy is the next thing I try.)

In one of my fever dreams, I was in Eugene, Oregon (one of my favorite places in the whole world), picking beets off of trees next to a stream with Anthony Bourdain. I know that this is a deeply flawed dream, the first issue being that beets don't grow on trees. Chances are also good that they don't grow by streams. And that Anthony Bourdain wouldn't be using kitchen shears to cut them down, even if they DID grow on trees.

But who knows? Maybe in a world where beets grow on trees, I'll be cutting them down with Anthony Bourdain. In my dreams, at least.