It’s full-bore autumn out here, and that means I’m cooking a lot. Autumn kicks in my need to be a homebody, to nest, to prepare and eat good foods. This weekend, I’m going to the farmer’s market to get all the supplies for pasties. Currently planning three kinds: beef/venison pot roast, chicken, and bubbly pie.
Remember kids, it’s not a real pasty if there’s no rutabega in it. Hm. Blueberry-rutabega bubbly pies?
So this morning, I wake up, go downstairs and make myself a nice big sippy-cup of fair-trade coffee. I use the last of the grounds to do so. I pour in the half and half, add the sugar, and as I’m going to screw on the lid which is ostensibly there to keep me from spilling, I dump the entire sixteen ounces of hot milky beverage all over myself, the counter, and the floor.
Cursing, as is my wont, I mop the floor. There’s simply not enough coffee for another cup, so I head upstairs, breakfast muffin in hand. I change my clothes, which are soaked to the underwear with coffee. I head to the library to start my work day. I set down the muffin, set up my laptop, and, not looking behind me, promptly sit down squarely on my muffin.
Second change of clothes in ten minutes, and I haven’t even started working. Yeah, this is gonna be a good one.
For the record, I ate the muffin anyway.
I dreamt last night that I was a wizard’s apprentice, in charge of cooking and cleaning and minor administrative things, along with some minor magic. Just like the young boy, Markl, in Howl’s Moving Castle.
Only the wizard was Neil Gaiman. And he didn’t turn into a bird-monster, but a big black amorphous Morpheous monster.
And then I woke up.
My brother says the newspapers are lying. The newspapers are saying that our natural gas bills are going to jump 50%. Heating and Cooling Journeyman brother says 70-100%. That’s $200 more a month, from November till April.
I’m also guessing they’re not liable to drop, even after the South regains its refinery capacity. Once they get homeowners used to paying insane amounts to stay warm, they’ll manufacture some reason to keep the levels there even if the costs drop. Hate to say it, but that’s sound business, even if it’s unfair. Supply and demand.
So, we’re starting to take more drastic measures with our house. It’s big — Kalamazoo’s el cheapo housing allowed us to buy a big ol’ barn of a house, close to 2000 ft2 — and we need to come up with ways to make it a lot more energy efficient. Praise God that Paul and I are still both employed, so that we can afford to do it.
1) Re-insulate the attic. This is a no-brainer. We’re having our builder put fiberglass batts on top of our current blown-in insulation. He’s even going to build us a nice platform so we can store book backstock up there if we need to.
2) Programmable thermostat. Just called today; they’ll have it installed in an hour and show us how to set it. We’ll keep the daytime set at 68 and the nighttime set at 60 or so. Paul is the human furnace, so once we’re both asleep we’ll still be toasty warm.
3) Fireplace insert. I used to want an insert just for the treehugger aspects of it. Now, we need to do something about the fact that there’s no damper in our chimney — it’s basically a big column of cold air through the center of our house. Regular fireplaces actually lose heat when you use them — inserts turn them into a highly-efficient cast-iron furnace. We’ll put a new fireplace in and I’ll get a nice, safe, 95% efficient woodstove — and a sizeable hole in our heating bill plugged.
4) New back door. The folks who owned our house before us left a 1/4 – 1/2″ stripe of daylight under the back door of our house. Paul and I took to plugging it with a towel last year, but this year we’re getting a new steel door with a proper sweep and jamb. I swear, you could feel a 5-degree drop in the kitchen because of that stupid door, and it’s right near the furnace, so it’s sucking out extra heat, besides.
So. Between all these and rope caulk and plastic on the windows, we should be set for many years to come.
We watched a rerun of Law and Order last night. Jerry Orbach’s character was investigating a murdered woman’s bedroom looking for evidence. Her nightstand held a diaphragm and birth control pills. “Suspenders and a belt,” mused Orbach.
Paul was out of town this weekend — and I kinda went feral.
Drinking out of the cartons, sleeping in the middle of the bed, keeping weird hours — didn’t leave the house much. Still, I got a crapload of work done. Problem is, there are two more craploads parked out back waiting to be dealt with. Hope I can chew through at least one of them this week.
I found chestnuts this weekend. Big, brown, shiny, squeaky-clean and the size of halved golfballs.
Not a single one was dried out or moldy. YUM.
I listened to a Liz Carroll album on the way in to work today. Man, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better musical pairing than her fiddle and John Doyle’s guitar. Their playing makes the hairs on my arms stand up.
1) Buy a box of Emergen-C.
2) Drink a packet every day for the three days leading up to the con.
3) Drink a packet every morning of the con.
4) Drink a packet every day for the three days after the con.
5) Force your husband to comply with the same regimen.
Knock wood, this is the first time I haven’t wound up with a case of con-crud. It’s especially nice because there were airplanes involved, which almost always do me in.
I’m back, more or less. Spent yesterday running around, catching up on little errands that got left behind in the mad run up to SPX. Post office, bank, library, groceries, taking in the last of the digita Wedding pictures for development, finally buying the monster 200G hard drive for the House Backup (Yeah, yeah, I know, shut up, at least we’re finally doing it now — John Gallegher’s panel at SPX scared the bajeebers out of me).
I also did “Harvesting”. We got an awful lot of food out of the garden, considering its tiny size, and now that I have a better understanding of how the light falls on the box, it should be even better next year — I’ll move the more forgiving peas and beans to the shady side, and the peppers over to the sunny side. Still, it’s regularly hitting 45F at night around here, so it’s time to do the last major harvest before things get frosty. I could prolly get one more tiny harvest, but I’d frankly rather be drawing now than dinking around with plants, so I uprooted a lot of the kids when I was done harvesting.
I got a whole lotta peppers, both hot and medium (the sweet ones dinna do well at all!) and chopped and froze those. I made one last batch of pesto, whirled up the dozens of cherry tomatoes into a base for chili or sauce, and snapped green beans. And then I was done. Not a whole lot left, but it was going bad on the vine, and better that it be frozen for the winter than wasted.
The other thing I did was make nut muffins. For those of you with a gluten allergy, these are great. I’m making them because I’m trying to get back to the low carby thing for a while longer, and having something baked really makes it easier.
Nut Muffins (Makes about a dozen small ones)
1 cup blueberries
2 cups nut flour (I used 1C almond and 1C pecan)
2 big eggs
2 big squirts of honey (probably 3 Tablespoons)
1t baking powder
1 c milk or half-and-half
Mix the nut flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix the eggs, milk, and honey together. Pour the wet into the dry, stirring. Dump in the blueberries. Stir. Pour into muffin tins. Bake about 40 minutes at 350F or until the tops are golden brown. Mine are showing a propensity to stick to the muffin tins, and because they don’t have any gluten, they don’t have the cohesive strength to be pulled out in one piece. You may want to consider paper muffin cups with this recipe.
The rest of the plan was to finally hit the desk at about 8pm and get crackin’. However, Neighbor Nora gave a call and brought us over Peach Pie, and we talked about plans, weddings, and the jerkoff who’s going round knocking on doors at 7am to see who’s home, presumably so he can break in. Asshole.
So, all in all a very good day, except for the jerk at the end. But at least we got pie.
Tonight: Drawing! Yay!
We’ve been married for one year, as of yesterday. I guess this means we need to tone down our diabetes-inducing cuteness.
Married life is so very wonderful, if you’re with the right person. This weekend at SPX did nothing but confirm that for me.
Love you, Paul.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush and Republicans in Congress have refused to consider rolling back the $336 billion in new tax cuts that the richest 1 percent are slated to get over the next five years. They say we need to pay for reconstruction not by asking the wealthiest to sacrifice just a little bit, but by massive cuts to spending. And now we see what that means: The Navy Times today reports that those cuts “include trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care.” This, while troops are in battle.
And with that, folks, I’m on the plane to SPX. Wish me luck, and if you’re in the area of DC, and not at the protest, swing by on the Metro line and say hey.
Here’s the press release for those three Manga sites that Paul and I built. Paul did all three designs, and I did the HTML coding and Movable Type wrangling. MT rules, by the way.
The folks at Random House were a complete treat to work with. We’re sure hoping that quote about what’ll happen if these previews do well will come true.
DEL REY LAUNCHES MANGA “PREVIEW” WEBSITES
(New York, NY; September 20, 2005)-Del Rey Manga, an imprint of The Random
House Publishing Group, announced today the launch of new title-specific
websites, each of which will allow manga readers to preview thirty pages from
the first volume of a new manga title-before the official publication date-in
an innovative ‘page-a-day’ approach.
Cited as the fastest growing category in bookstores today, the graphic novel
market has doubled each year for the past two years, leading to an estimated
$100 million market today. The vast majority of the growth in the market has
been due to the increased popularity of Japanese comics, known as manga, a
genre that Del Rey jumped on in the summer of 2003; Del Rey now has well over
one million manga in print in the United States.
Although other large manga publishers have offered preview content on their
websites, Del Rey’s approach is unique in that each day for thirty days, a
new page of manga content will be added for each individual title. In this
way, Del Rey hopes to encourage readers to come back every day, and to build
buzz for their hottest new properties.
“Our page-a-day concept goes beyond what the other large manga publishers
have offered on their sites,” said Betsy Mitchell, VP & Editor-in-Chief of
Del Rey. “We wanted to give our fans an opportunity-absolutely free-to sample
Del Rey’s new series before laying down hard cash. There’s a lot of manga on
the shelves these days, and this is one way readers can decide whether our
titles are the ones they want to spend money on. Obviously, we think we’ve
got the right stuff.”
“If this promotion is as successful as we anticipate it to be, we hope to be
able to provide preview websites-well in advance of publication-for as many
forthcoming new series as possible,” added Del Rey’s Manga Director Dallas
The first three titles to be featured on the title-specific sites – all
Kodansha properties – are GACHA GACHA by Hiroyuki Tamakoshi (on sale
September 20, 2005; ages 16+), GHOST HUNT by Fuyumi Ono and Shiho Inada (on
sale September 27, 2005; ages 13+), and SUGAR SUGAR RUNE by Moyoco Anno (on
sale September 27, 2005; ages 10+).
The URLs for the first three title-specific sites are
About Del Rey:
Del Rey Books (http://www.delreybooks.com) was founded in 1977 as a division
of Ballantine Books under the guidance of the renowned Judy-Lynn del Rey and
her husband, Lester del Rey. Del Rey publishes the best of modern fantasy,
science fiction, alternate history and manga. Ballantine Books is an imprint
of the Random House Publishing Group, which is a publishing group of Random
House, Inc, the U.S. publishing company of Random House, the trade book
publishing division of Bertelsmann AG, one of the world’s leading
international media companies. In the summer of 2003, Random House joined
together with Kodansha in a creative partnership to bring some of Kodansha’s
top properties to the United States, making Random House the first major
trade book publisher in the United States to do so.
About Kodansha Ltd., Publishers :
Kodansha is the largest trade and magazine book publisher in Japan. Founded
in 1909, the company by virtue of its long history, the quality of its
publishing, and its established network of sales and marketing is regarded as
the trade book market leader in the publishing business in Japan. Moreover,
Kodansha has been recognized as the leading publisher with a mission to
introduce Japan through its publishing business.
So September 18th is the Harvest Moon Festival, celebrated by all our Chinese buddies. I am too damn lazy and/or busy to make actual Chinese Mooncakes this year, but I still wanted to use my cool mooncake mold.
So I made Scottish Chinese Shortbread Mooncakes. Yum!
Jar of jam, the thicker the better.
Pound of unsalted butter, the fresher the better. Buy it the day you make the cakes, if you can.
5 cups white pastry flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Cream the butter. Add sugar, salt, vanilla slowly, then add the flour one cup at a time.
Heavily flour the inside of the wooden mooncake mold, then turn over and tamp out the excess.
Pack a golfball-size wad of the dough into the mooncake mold, and shape it up the sides, leaving a hollow depression in the middle of the mold. Make sure that there’s at least 1/4 inch of dough on the bottom of the mold. Spoon jam into the hollow. Take a smaller piece of dough and flatten it into a disc the same size and shape as the top of the mooncake mold. Press this down gently, compacting the cake into the mold. Trim off excess dough with your fingers and return it to the bowl.
Turn the mooncake mold over, gently, with one hand cupped underneath the cake. Give the far end of the mooncake mold a smart whack on your countertop and the cake should fall out neatly into your palm. Gently transfer the cake to a well-greased cookie sheet — the cakes are very soft and fragile so be careful not to distort them — and give each cake about an inch of space on all sides in case they decide to expand. Reflour the mold at this point — it’s essential that you flour the mold after each cake.
Bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes or until the edges of the cakes turn golden brown.
Makes about 15 cakes.
So, I keep getting emails and verbal thank yous from people who saw me give a bunch of hygene products to the American Red Cross. I appreciate the thoughts, and I appreciate those who donated even more. (You know who you are, and you all rock! ) However, I want to be clear about the whole thing:
Instead of thanking me, go out and do something. Yes, I did a nice thing, but I didn’t do it to hear praise, and it makes me a little squicky to keep hearing it. That which I did was small small very small. It makes me even a little embarrased that that was all I could do financially and timewise. However, life is made up of very small gestures. Tiny things that add up into big things. I’m not nacrissistic enough to think that my tiny bit of help would make anyone’s life markedly better, but my little bit added to the little bits that the dozens of ARC volunteers I met in Battle Creek, added to the little bits made by everyone else, adds up to a lot of help.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is, even though your bit is tiny, do your bit. Knit a baby blanket. Cook a meal. Contact your church and see if there’s a family who has moved into your neighborhood and see if there’s some sort of Adopt-A-Family thing for them. You may not be able to help all million-plus victims, but if you reach out to just one family, one community, one person, you can help. It’s just like any large project: If you look too hard at the whole, it’ll melt your brain and send you catatonic and unable to help anyone, least of all yourself. Focus on one small bit, one extended hand, and know that it counts.
Katrina: The Gathering. Genius. Pure, unadulterated genius. Hammers the left as hard as the right.
You know, Clinton wasn’t the best president we ever had, and God only knows he had his share of fuckups, but Lord above, listen to the man speak and ask yourself if you wouldn’t rather he be in office right now. O for a leader, instead of a glove-puppet.
So it’s almost hunting season, and we still have a few packages of last year’s doe meat in the freezer. Time for it to go, to make way for the fresh stuff, ergo, time for my favorite venison stew recipe. This makes a big darn pot; enough to feed a large family of hungry people, or two people for several meals.
6-pack of dry hard cider (I like “K”)
1 sweet onion, minced
Double handful of crimini mushrooms, sliced
other vegetables to taste (peas, beans, carrots, baby potatoes — whatever you have lying around)
handful of pearl barley
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 packages venison steaks (elk or moose would also do, for my Alaskan and Canadian buddies)
Place the thawed steaks in a tupperware container and pour in four bottles of the hard cider. Cover tightly and marinate the steaks overnight, turning them over once in the process.
The next day, pour off the marinade into your biggest pot and set it a-boilin’. Trim all the tendons and connective tissue and bones off the steaks. As you do, don’t throw them away. Toss them into the pot so they’ll add to the flavor of the broth. Slice the steaks into bite-size nuggets and brown in a little olive oil. Deglaze the pan with a little of the broth mixture, and add to the pot. Set cooked steak aside. Panfry the mushrooms. Deglaze. Panfry the onions. Deglaze. Set each aside with the steak.
Let the broth simmer while you chop up all the rest of the veggies. When you’re done, strain the broth from your big pot into a smaller pot with a colander in it. Make sure all the marrow’s out of the bones and into the broth; if it’s not, use a knife to poke the marrow out. Set aside the cooked, tendony steaklets and empty bones for your neighbor’s dogs. Pour the now-strained broth from the smaller pot back into the big pot and return to heat. Add miso paste to taste. (I like miso much better than boullion or canned broth — its earthy, fermenty taste goes especially well with this recipe. Add paste until the broth becomes as salty as you like it.)
Dump in the uncooked veggies, the onion, mushrooms, barley, garlic and steak. Cover and cook for several hours.
Eat. Drink the two remaining ciders from the 6-pack with dinner.
Fill the crockpot for the next day, and put any stew that won’t fit in tupperware and freeze. Cook crockpot all night and all day, adding water as necessary. It only gets better, the longer it cooks.