Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dueling Bus Rides

On the sad days that I don't bike to work, I take the bus -- two of them, actually. Most often I'll take the 21 and the 8BX, though sometimes I'll catch the 30 (or the F, if I'm feeling masochistic). Today's two bus rides were vastly different in quality and tone. Examples:

On the 21, the sassy lady driver remarked, "Oh, you look so cute!" as I swiped my Clipper card. (Nothing to start the day like a random compliment, eh? Note: I feel as though I should now spend more time planning my outfits to garner more compliments from city employees. Maybe. 2011 project idea?) Though the bus was crowded, each patron remained in his/her personal space. Bus was quiet, but for the sound of the wheels on the wet street and the occasional sniffle.

On the 8, I was pushed/jarred by a minimob of old, fish-smelling ladies. In fact, one of them [accidentally?] whacked me with her umbrella, which action caused me to glare meaningfully in said old biddy's direction. When I was finally able to snag a seat, I was promptly surrounded by a cluster of middle school boys who smelled like The Devil Himself. Don't kids these days know anything about hygiene? Has brushing one's teeth fallen out of favor among the under-15 crowd? Who knows. One thing is for certain: KIDS SMELL BAD.

I'm hoping for sunny weather tomorrow. Muni avoidance is my overall MO.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm BA-ACK!

If only to kvetch about a few things(!)

In all seriousness, I've lately been wanting to post about things unrelated to gastronomic happenings -- my recent move, what I'm reading, and Things I Find Annoying. (Note: My plan is to relay the Annoying Things in a manner both comical and straightforward. That's the plan, anyhow. Advance apologies if my kvetching gets way out of hand, but what are blogs for if not to vent one's frustrations to the world, right?)

So like, this afternoon, en route to Borders to pick up my holiday cards (watch yer mailboxes!), I decided to get my eyebrows done. It has been weeks since I've had my brows groomed -- eeeeek! -- and they were starting to look as they did when I was in grade school (i.e., before I was allowed to partake of any cosmetic rituals). No problem, right? WRONG! Not only did my brow lady bruise the hell out of my right browbone -- how? God only knows -- but she managed too to drip wax in my hair. How is possible? This lady grooms brows for a living! I'd assume that her fine motor skillz, after years of waxing brows (and other things), would be more honed, but no. Nope! To remove the wax from my bangs, the Brow Lady used oil -- a ton of it. Which was great, given that I was to leave directly for the mall. There are far worse things than going shopping with grease-slicked bangs, but let me assure you that the grease-haired shopping experience is not a pleasant one. I mean, in case you had any doubts.

Adding to my general bitchiness was the group of guys smoking a blunt at the back of the bus. (Note: I was sitting in the last row of seats; these duders were a seat ahead of me.) Don't get me wrong: hypothetically, I have nothing against blunts. Do what you feel, right? Just don't do it on the damn bus, especially if the weed you're smoking is skunky and terrible and clouding the rear section of the vehicle. ACK.

OK, I'm better now. Those were my two main gripes. They're over now. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. (Note: If you made it this far, mad props. I almost didn't make it through that bitch session, and I'm the aggrieved!)

Here's some good news: I registered for the Kaiser Permanente 5K, to be held Sunday, February 6th at Golden Gate Park. I've only run one 5K so far (the one associated with the SF Marathon), and while I achieved my goal of completing the race without stopping to walk (DER), my time wasn't what I'd have liked. My goal for this race is to shave 2:30 off of my previous time (which shall go unnoted). Lofty? Yes. Achievable? I think so, especially considering the amount of time I spend biking (cross training is good, right?), my renewed enthusiasm for strength training, and Hook's and my New Year's resolution to actually start the Insanity program. (Note: Since receiving my Insanity DVD set in the mail, I've done two workouts. OK, one. The other "workout" was the fit test, which I pretty much bombed.)

That's the scoop here. My plan is to reinvigorate this blog while continuing to update Garky Eats. Lofty? Yes. But lately, lofty is my MO.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Project Underway!

Hey, y'all! It has been a while since the last update here on Deciduous Trees Restock, but for good reason -- I've started a new food blog here, and I have actually been updating it. Food blogging is something I've wanted to do for quite some time (and I've made some half-hearted attempts on this ole' blog), but I've started in earnest. So check out the latest addition to the Garky blogosphere and let me know what you think(!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Restaurant Review: Roam

Having read the Chronicle's review of Roam, a new "artisan" burger joint in Cow Hollow, I cajoled Hook to take me on a date there! (Aside: not much cajoling was needed: Hook likes me almost as much as he likes burgers.) I was pretty pumped for my meal; Britt Billmaier touted the place as being both eco-conscious and offering healthy options*, and any place that makes their pickles on-site ranks pretty high in my book.

H & I arrived shortly after five; the dining room was about half full. We both ordered buffalo burgers: his came with just cheddar and mine was a "Pacific Blue," which came with blue cheese, watercress, tomato, caramelized onions, and steak sauce. We also shared an order of plain old fries. I seriously considered getting a milkshake with a bruleed marshmallow(!), but opted not to. Our food came quickly, the burgers nested in brown paper envelopes, 1950s-style, the fries garnished with parsley.

On the whole, I was pleased with our meal. My burger, which I'd ordered medium, had no pink in it, but oh, well. The bun, a chewy, pillowy, sesame-seed-encrusted delight, was quite evidently baked that day. The sweetness of the onions balanced nicely with the tang of the steak sauce, the peppery bite of the cress. I wish the burger had been served with more steak sauce; I am a steak sauce fiend, and this sandwich had just a dab poured onto the top of the bun. The tomato, too, was pale and toeing the line of mealiness -- not what I'd expect at this point in the growing season. Our fries were solid: crisp, uniform in size, and on the salty side. OH! I almost forgot this detail but I'm very glad I didn't! When ordering, I requested a pickle (wanting to see how these pickles measured up to Hook's and mine) and I didn't get it. Major burn.

Roam's atmosphere left me feeling ambivalent. The furnishings and decor were spot-on: very minimal with natural wood and light fixtures crafted from repurposed Mason jars. The music, however, was not. I don't know who thought reggae would be an appropriate choice, but it seemed really out of place, given Roam's focus. (After further considering the restaurant's location and the demographic of that area, I can see why reggae might be chosen. But really? Surely, there must be a musical middle ground that appeals to both aging frat dudes and also to everyone else.) I suggested that Iron and Wine or Bonnie "Prince" Billy or Bon Iver would have been a better choice. Hook agreed that the choice of music was odd, but I don't think it vexed him to the extent that it did me.

My overall rating of Roam is three and a half out of five. The burgers were solid but certainly not enough to warrant another special trip to Cow Hollow; quoting my dining companion, Roam is "like a more upscale Burgermeister." At the end of the day, I agreed with Hook when he posed the quasi-rhetorical question, "What makes these burgers artisinal?"

What, indeed.


*Looking back, I'm not sure what Billmaier was referring to as "healthy menu options." The Farmers Market salad, perhaps (sans sliders)? Or the seasonal veggies? Because everything else was pretty damn heavy. This isn't bad -- far from it! I like my burgers thick & juicy! -- but I find it strange that this restaurant was promoted, in the first paragraph of the review, as having healthy choices when the bulk of the menu items are fried, fried, fried.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yogurt Roundup


Like most people, I'm very fond of my routines. I look forward to my early morning bike ride, my post-workout tea and oatmeal, weekend walks downtown and evening "Forensic Files" marathons. (Aside: I realize that the elements of my routine listed here make me seem like a 38-year-old, but it's cool. I'm practically 38.) One major component of my routine -- weekday, at least -- is Greek yogurt. At some point, perhaps a year after trying and becoming obsessed with Greek yogurt, I became that Person Who Eats Yogurt Every Day. Prior to the transition, the exact time of which is unknown to me, I wondered about these yogurt-eating people always mentioned in women's magazines. Who the hell eats the same snack every day? I wanted to know. Well, I do.

Last week, Lucky (the [big] grocery store nearest my house) was sold out of Dannon plain Greek yogurt. This had never happened before, so I picked up a few Chobanis and decided to return a few days later, assuming the stock would be replenished. Yesterday morning, making a 7:30 run for coffee, milk, and Aquaphor, I checked the yogurt case. Still empty of Dannon! This led me to kvetch to Hook about how Dannon has the best product for the price point and shame on Lucky for not restocking like a normal store. My kvetchings, in turn, led Hook to prompt me to write about my system of evaluating Greek yogurt, whose intricacies I will share with you now.

Yogurt Roundup: The Best Greek Yogurt for Your Money

1) Dannon 0% Plain Yogurt.
In the early days of my Greek yogurt consumption, I would never have guessed that Dannon -- plain old Dannon -- would reign supreme in my self-determined yogurt hierarchy. While it's true that Dannon is the best-selling brand of yogurt worldwide (who knew?), it seems, in some ways, mundane. I grew up eating Fruit on the Bottom, you know? I didn't initially trust Dannon's ability to produce an authentic-tasting Greek yogurt because I'd come to associate the brand with the marginal yogurts of my youth.

But the product speaks for itself: Dannon's Greek yogurt is thick and creamy, possessing an almost custardlike consistency. There's very little excess liquid, and the yogurt is tart but never sour. Additionally, one six-ounce carton costs a mere $.99 at Lucky -- about half the price of other, arguably-more-desirable brands (which I'll get to in a moment).

2) Fage 0%. I love Fage: the texture is incredible, the taste is spot-on, and the packaging design is lovely to behold. I don't love that a 5.3-ounce carton of Fage costs $1.79. I'd have ranked Fage as my top yogurt were the price-per-package a bit lower, but sadly, Dannon dominates in the cost category.

3) Chobani 0%. Texturally, Chobani is very similar to Dannon and Fage; tastewise, it's a bit tarter. I've found that Chobani has more liquid than either of the two brands previously listed, and I'm not a huge fan of this runoff (which I either drain off or hastily mix in to the yogurt, though I've been told that one should never stir Greek yogurt prior to consumption! I do not remember who told me this.). In my neck of the woods, a six-ounce carton of Chobani costs, on average, $1.69 -- which means that, in a battle with Fage, Fage will win any day. (Aside: Chobani does have a Pineapple yogurt that is tasty as a dessert, but is a little too sweet for a coffee break snack.)

4) Trader Joe's Fat Free Greek Yogurt.
At $.89 per serving, Trader Joe's Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Plain variety) leads the pack in terms of price. In other areas, though, the yogurt falls flat. I've found TJ's Greek Yogurt to be runnier than the others listed, and the flavored varieties (Pomegranate, notably) miss the mark, both in terms of tangyness and in mimicking the flavor they're meant to mimic. Not wanting to be wasteful but also not really digging the Pomegranate yogurt, I actually left a carton of this in my office fridge last week, hoping someone would sneak off with it. As of Friday afternoon, it was still there.

5) Greek Gods Nonfat Plain Yogurt. I'd like to rank Greek Gods yogurt higher -- really, I would -- not least of all because their packaging is eye-catching (who doesn't love the bright colors combined with drawings of the gods?). My biggest qualm with this yogurt is its relative dearth of protein; yes, a six-ounce serving of the nonfat, plain yogurt is a scant 60 calories, but it also only has six grams of protein -- hardly more than a regular yogurt. Moreover, the flavored varieties (Fig, Vanilla, Honey Strawberry) are pretty damn caloric: one cup of the Honey Strawberry has 310 calories and 15 grams of fat (basically equivalent to a half-cup serving of premium ice cream, which at least seems properly indulgent, unlike this yogurt, which masquerades as a health food). At $1.49 for a six-ounce cup, Greek Gods is not the priciest of the competitors, but the quality of the product doesn't justify the cost.

***

So there you have it -- more than you ever wanted to/needed to/thought you'd know about my Greek yogurt preferences. I'm always on the lookout for new products and I'm planning to try two brands (Brown Cow and Oikos) that I haven't tried yet. For the time being, I'll stick with Dannon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I could use about two more cups of coffee right now: yes, please.

Haircut weekend was a success! The story is this: the story is that the salon I'd gone to for corrective color (and which I like quite a lot, actually - in theory, at least) canceled the cut/color appt. I'd made eight weeks prior. Their reason? "Oh, your stylist is going to be out of town." Really? I thought. Do stylists not have to put in for vacation time a few weeks in advance as do people in other trades? On account of this snafu/the fact that my bangs were getting out-of-control-long, I booked an appointment at the Chop Shop and I am so glad that I did. Betsy is not only a good conversationalist but an excellent stylist; indeed, she gave me angled, wispy bangs that I wouldn't necessarily have requested but that I love so much. So, yes: I guess it was fortuitous that the other salon bailed because otherwise, I might never have found this gem.

It was otherwise a pretty low-key weekend: Hook and I went to the Civic Center farmers' market yesterday and got about ten pounds of produce for ten dollars (I am dead serious). I love the Ferry Building's market, but it's more of an event than a practical means of produce acquisition. Every few weeks, I love to go and get baby white turnips and local, organic lavender and heirloom beans*, but the Ferry Building's prices prohibit buying in the quantities that I favor. While Civic Center doesn't quite have quite the variety and covetability of the Ferry Building's market, their vendors are no slouches: they have one local honey booth, a mushroom vendor, a baker, and several all-organic booths, one of which was selling baby greens with nasturtium blossoms(!) (Note: I totally tooted my own for correctly identifying the blossoms.) I still haven't been to the Upper Haight farmers' market -- travesty! -- but I'm hoping to make it there this Wednesday. I say that every Wednesday, but this time, I mean business.


*OK, I only bought those once, eight months ago, and they're still sitting in the cabinet under a partially-used bag of bulk quinoa. This is why I don't buy dried beans, people.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The best blueberry muffins ever.


A few weeks ago, I bought a 2.5-pound clamshell of blueberries at Safeway. They were $5! That's a hell of a lot of berries for $5, and I couldn't resist! After a longish bus ride home (any bus ride is longish when one is schlepping 15 pounds of groceries in a flimsy paper sack), I was like, "Man, what am I going to do with all these berries?" So I ate some and froze the bulk of them. Since then, I've been making delicious, delicious blueberry muffins. In addition to being lip-smackingly good, these muffins are also low-sugar and low-cal. Also, they're hella easy to prepare. Here, then, is Simple Daily Recipes' take on the traditional recipe:

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cups low fat milk
  • 1/2 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
Method:

Preheat oven to 400ºF degrees. Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Blend milk, applesauce, egg in a small bowl and set aside.
Stir flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and pour wet ingredients into the well. Stir with a spoon just until the flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in blueberries. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until golden brown; regular size muffins bake in 18 to 20 minutes, mini-muffins bake in 10 minutes. Immediately remove from pan.

***

Note: the muffins are really good when prepared according to the recipe listed above. My second time making them, I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon, and they were even better. You could probably add a quarter to a half cup more berries, too -- I haven't tried this yet, but I probably will, for batch #3.

Happy weekend!

And what a weekend it shall be! I'm predicting a three-day stretch conspicuously bereft of Fernet, Jaeger, and tortilla chips ground into Hook's area rug. (Wait, that sentence didn't make as much sense in person as it did in my brain, but I think you get the drift: there will be no powdered corn products dusting Hook's living room floor.) Yessiree: I have no plans for this weekend, other than a haircut at noon today (yea!) and a possible viewing of "I Am Love." Also, going to Nordstrom to return this North Face fleece I got online (during the Anniversary Sale, people! It doesn't count as shopping if it's on sale.), and by "return" I mean "exchange for the correct size." Also, cleaning the hell out of my room, poss. involving the use of Lysol and a power washer. (Note: my room is really not dirty -- certainly not dirty enough to warrant the use of harsh chemicals and heavy machinery, but I'm feeling dramatic this morning. There are a lot of errant issues of Runner's World that need to be re-stacked, however.) Also, I want to get a donut. I've been hankering for a donut so badly for the last week.

Plans seem to be forming themselves as we speak.

***

Sad news: Circus Bear has passed on. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my plants, Circus Bear is the Croton Banana plant I bought at the Galesburg Target during the spring of my sophomore year at Knox. He grew from a tiny (4") sproutling into a majestic mini-bush, and he survived several cross-country trips. At the agricultural checkpoint at the California border, the DNR worker commented on CB's impressive spread, noting too a bit of sun damage on CB's outer leaves (a prediction of the doom to come, perhaps?). I'm not sure what ultimately felled my plant; Hook suspects poor soil quality and possibly too much light, though I think Croton Bananas prefer high light conditions. I have suspicions that the clover that set up shop in CB's pot is some sort of parasitic species that diverted nutrients from my plant, suffocating it. I'll never know for sure. Now, I'm left with the sad task of depositing Circus Bear's corpse in the compost bin and cleaning the pollen leftover from the hell-clover. Sigh.

***

In other news, I want to go here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ooof.

Kind of a slow day. Hook and I hosted a party last night and it was a total success(!), but one that left me unable to do anything today besides reading and watching "Steak Paradise" on the Travel Channel. (Aside: I am totally, totally disgusted by the 72-ounce steak challenge at the Big Texan.) Back to the party, though: Friday, my food processor arrived in the mail, and Hook and I made good use of this new toy in prepping party foods. Hook made Lemonhead- and Red Hot-infused cream cheese frosting for the green velvet cupcakes; I made hummus. Both were delicious. I also made mascarpone-stuffed dried apricots, some of which were topped with chopped cashews and some of which contained a chocolate chip. I never otherwise have the chance to make the apricots -- what would I do with all that leftover mascarpone, you know? -- which is one reason why parties rock: I have the chance to make big batches of food that I'd never make for myself.

***

Right now, I am craving Twizzlers. I blame Lindsay Lohan*.

***

Last week, I read a NY Times story about the increasingly popular concept of the clothing diet, individuals following which devote themselves either to buying no new clothing for a specified amount of time (i.e., a year), or who wear only a certain number of clothing articles for a given amount of time (i.e., six articles over the course of a month). I'm fascinated by this concept: I know that I shop too much and don't even wear most of the clothing I own. (Embarrassing aside: in some cases, I've "discovered" in my closet clothing I'd forgotten I had.) While I'm not going to commit to wearing the same six articles for a month, I am going to become more conscious of what I buy and cut down on needless buying. That way, when I do decide to get a new pair of jeans, the event of selecting and purchasing the jeans will be a more enjoyable event. Wish me luck on this venture!


*On Friday, I read a news story claiming that L.Lo is spending her jail time writing and eating large quantities of Twizzlers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Tot Trot and other running adventures.

I realize that, in my last post (or my last post that mentions running), I presented a less-than-positive outlook re: my participation in the SF Marathon's 5K. Man, was I a curmudgeon! It is true that I injured my leg (though not debilitatingly) and that the doctor I saw advised me not to run on it (perhaps to prevent angry followup communication via email?), but I'm so glad I decided to run on Sunday.

When I woke up at approximately 5:40, I was more nervous than I'd been in months -- which, for me, is saying a lot. It took all the effort I could muster to make semi-normal conversation with Hook during our bus ride downtown, and prior to the race, I had a look of terror on my face (according to Hook). As soon as the gun went off and I started running, though, this fear dissipated. Miraculously, it seems, I made an instantaneous transition from a mindset of timidity to one of total enjoyment: it was fun running with a big ass crowd of people! The mix I'd prepared the night before was varied and upbeat and awesome! There were actual spectators, cheering us on! I picked another runner to keep pace with, kept my arms loose (i.e., as loose as I could), and made it through the race with minimal calf pain. I finished in 27:45, which -- while not super-fast -- is pretty respectable, all things considered.

I'm looking forward to my next 5K: on first allowing my leg to heal fully, and then on getting my time down. Meanwhile, I'll continue with bike commuting, ellipticalling, and yoga.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Almost-versary

Tomorrow is Hook's and my eleven-month anniversary. To celebrate, we are running the SF Marathon's 5K (in the AM) and going to a wine and dessert bar (in the PM). I'm hypothetically excited to run, though I'm worried that my recent calf sprain will force me, at some point, to walk. I'm very concretely excited for Candybar.

***

At the Ferry Building today, I bought a jar of cmb sweets' strawberry confiture from Carolina Braunschweig herself. Why is this so exciting, you ask? Well, aside from the obvious coolness of buying food directly from the individual who produced it, Carolina appeared on an episode of "Unwrapped" (the berries one, I believe) that Hook and I saw like, three days ago. Indeed, I walked right up to C and said, "Hey! I saw you on Food Network! You were buying berries at Civic Center!" To which she responded, "Yeah! I was at Civic Center." After this initial exchange, Ms. Braunschweig smeared some jam on my finger (the stash of sample crackers had been depleted). This jam is the shit.

***

As an anniversary gift, Hook bought me a raccoon skull(!!!) He is the best boyfriend ever.
Hmmm. My plan of updating more than once every two weeks seems to have gotten off track. But, here I am, awake on a gray, post-Fernet morning, updating the ole blog. Kudos to myself(!)

This week, I bike commuted for the first time. (Aside: I guess I should say, "for the first and second time(s)," since I took my bike to work twice, but that could get confusing. Confusing like this foray right here...) Since I bought my bike early in the year, I'd been planning to bike commute but had put off this transportational transition for various reasons, some more substantiated than others. While it's true that my old job didn't provide adequate bike storage for staff -- there was one rickety bike rack out on the yard -- it is also true that I harbored a major, major fear of riding on Market. And who wouldn't? Market Street is scary! Anyway, this Tuesday, when I woke up at 5:30 to begin my ride, I almost talked myself out of it. But then I didn't, and I ended up loving bike commuting and I plan to do it three times a week, on average. (I'd ride more often but for the fact that there is no shower at my office, so the commute necessitates my going to the gym before work to work out and shower. That, and I like my other routine of reading on the bus and I don't want to give that up completely.)

I also had my first yoga class this week. Given my fitness history of the past two years, I'm pretty surprised that I'd never tried yoga, but there you have it. After a bit of research (i.e., perfunctory Yelping), I signed up for an intro package at Bend Yoga on Hayes, my decision being informed primarily by the positive Yelp reviews but also by the studio's close proximity to my home and by the killer deal for the intro package. The instructor I had was pretty great: I told her that this was my first yoga class ever, and she welcomed me heartily and corrected my poses in a very constructive, gentle way. And I really enjoyed the class: the guided breathing helped me relax more than I've been able to in like, weeks, and the minimini massage at session's end was also good. So, yes: I think I may become a yoga devotee. Or as Hook says, I might just become a blissed-out hippie. It's casual, though: I can abide.

Status: morning is still gray. Headache is waning, though not disappeared. I have no formal plans for the day but feel as though I should clean the bathroom and maybe make Strawberries Romanoff. Over & out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

CookieCakes

Ueberproductive day, beginning with croissants with Hook @ Boulange de Cole, segueing to a brief mall visit (to return something, people!), oceanside bike ride, some tidying, and a bit of baking. My project today was gingersnaps; I used a recipe I found on AllRecipes. Shocked by the amount of oil included (3/4 cup!), I subbed in applesauce, which may have been a bad idea. (Note: substituting applesauce for oil is a legit thing. I mean, my mom used to do it all the time when I was a tot, and I corroborated the legitimacy of this practice using none other than Google.) The so-called cookies taste awesome -- gingery, but not overwhelmingly so, with hints of clove -- but texturally, they're more like cakes. Muffin tops, actually. In that way, they're a little weird. Not sure if I'll bring them in to share with the coworkers. Indeed, the only reason I deviated from the gingersnap recipe I used (and reused) last summer is that I don't have that recipe with me, here, immediately, though I'll get my mom to email it...

There are 31 gingery CookieCakes lined up on Hook's counter. At some point, I'm going to get a wire rack.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm digging Hook's new spending blog. I thought, so so briefly, that maybe I should initiate a similar blog in order to identify purchasing trends (and possibly curtail frivolous buying), but I already know what such an experiment would reveal: I'm a little too familiar with jcrew.com's online sale section and the Ritter Sport rack at Cindy's Market. So.

Went for a bike ride by the ocean this afternoon. The sky was ominously overcast, but there was no rain. From an apartment near Great Highway and Moraga, I could hear the cheers of people watching the soccer game.

Today's Sunday Cooking Project was a batch of Jane Brody's rice pudding! It is really, stunningly easy, and hella tasty, too. (Note: I added nutmeg, and I'm not sure if that was the best decision. Overall, the pudding is still better than most.) Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked rice (1 cup raw)
2 cups skim or low-fat milk
1 egg white and 1 whole egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan, and mix them well. Cook the rice over moderate heat, stirring it now and then, until it has thickened (about 5 minutes after the milk reaches a boil).

And that's it. In addition to my nutmeg experiment, I added a heaping half-teaspoon of cinnamon, which I would recommend. Next time, I might add a little vanilla extract...

***

Now that I have Mondays off, I love Sunday nights. They've become so much cozier, so much less anxiety-fraught. They're like the best possible hybrid of laid-back Saturday afternoons and...I don't know, Sunday nights. Sunday nights light.

Time for Kezar's beet salad(!) and the Pavement documentary.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

This weekend, I tried two foods I never expected to try: caviar and Ovaltine.

I liked them both. Indeed, I foresee more of these two items in upcoming menus. Maybe not both in the same menu, though.

Also, my keyboard is real, real dirty. How to fix? I will maybe consult the genius bar; surely, they have some overpriced wipes that will fix this bad boy up real nicely.

Also also, I feel like this post is written in a half-assed way, but I'm three minutes from sleep and so this half-assedness is acceptable to me now.

Dreamland.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

America Party!

Happy Fourth! Growing up, my family celebrated this holiday somewhat inconsistently: sometimes, we'd cook out (albeit in the backyard) and see fireworks; sometimes, we'd just do whatever else we were going to do that day (albeit with the addition of those red/white/blue popsicles). Consequently, I never get as excited about the Fourth of July as I feel I should; this lack of fervor always inspires a slight guilt -- am I not patriotic enough? Why am I not more excited for cured/grilled meats? -- which, in turn, usually prompts me to get off the couch & do something, mostly so that I can say that I got off the couch and did something.

That being said, I'm legitimately excited for this year's Fourth. Hook and I are having a picnic (w/pals) at Alamo Square Park, and we spent the better part of yesterday making an assortment of homemade treats. Hook made an entirely from-scratch strawberry rhubarb pie and also some ginger candy (which, oh. my. god.) and, with the syrup leftover from the production of the candy, some homemade ginger ale. I made a ginormous loaf of bread whose taste and texture somewhat mimic that of a pretzel. (Note: I accidentally added too much yeast to the recipe, hence the textural abnormalities, and I also brushed the loaf with olive oil/sprinkled with salt before baking, hence the pretzelness.) No matter, though: I will happily eat that pretzel bread to celebrate the occasion of our country's birth.

Re: homemade pickles, Eating Well has not posted on their website the recipe we used, but they do have this very similar/almost identical recipe. Check it out!

Here is the recipe Hook used for making his ginger candy and ginger ale. The homemade ale tastes more like a commercially-prepared ginger beer; the concentration of ginger syrup also increases as you near the bottom of the club soda bottle, so the last swigs are actually the best part. Haven't tried the ginger ale float, but that, undoubtedly, is next on our list.

Enjoy Independence Day! Wear sunscreen! And, if you're prone to that sort of thing, raise a lukewarm can of domestic lager to celebrate this great land of ours! I'm off for a run, and then begins the stretch of picnic greatness.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jam it, pickle it.

This past weekend was a culinarily exciting one, to be sure. Hook and I tried two new recipes, both from Eating Well. The first -- a salad of small potatoes, green beans, and sirloin in a creamy, horseradish-based dressing -- was good enough to warrant a repeat preparation. The second, a wheatberry & veggie salad, was not. I actually expected to like the wheatberry salad more, being a huge wheatberry fan (and not so much a fan of potatoes), but the dish ended up being too oily, the proportion of vegetables to grain out of whack. If I were to prepare it again (and "prepare it again" is a generous classification: what I mean is, if I were to use this recipe as a starting point for another wheatberry-centric salad), I'd use half the amount of oil and would add a more diverse mixture of vegetables: broccoli florets, lightly-sauteed mushrooms, maybe some fresh corn. Who knows?

More exciting is the fact that Hook and I made refrigerator pickles(!) This activity was also inspired by an article in Eating Well -- Hook was so excited about the prospect of homemade pickles that 1) could be eaten within 24 hours of preparation; and 2) would not require the use of proper canning techniques that he went out the same day and got a set of canning jars. We pickled cucumbers, beets, and jalapenos, all purchased at the Civic Center farmers' market (save the golden beets, which I got at Haight St. Produce); we prepared a sour brine and used a variety of spice blends, including a traditional pickling blend, cinnamon/clove, curry/ginger (for some beets), and fresh herbs from our small, new herb garden: thyme, oregano, basil. I know I run the risk of tooting my own horn, but the pickled goods turned out phenomenally well. The curry ginger beets are my favorite: the curry flavor is less dominant, and the ginger adds a kick. YUM. Be advised that, if you are in the SF area this summer, you will be goaded to try 27 varieties of homemade pickles. Just saying.

Last night

I dreamed that my hair reached halfway down my back. When I woke up, disoriented from a fitful night's sleep, I still believed that my hair was this long.

***

Yes, today I stayed home sick from work. I was feeling alright yesterday (though, in retrospect, I was feeling crummy enough to have allowed myself to predict that yes, indeed, I would be getting legitimately ill within the next twelve hours), but I was awake most of the night with a low-grade fever. And now, I will drink cup after cup of tea and catch up on blogging.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'm really enjoying my new, blonder hair (though I'm worried that the color is already fading: paranoia). Indeed, at my next scheduled color appointment (on August 2nd), I may become totally blond.

I haven't done any cooking projects in a while, this owing mostly to the craziness brought about by my massive job hunt, starting this new job, and so forth. But now that I'm settling into a routine, I'd like to get back to cooking more regularly. This weekend's goal is to make bread pudding - a favorite of mine, though maybe not of Hook's. I just finished reading Judith Jones' "The Tenth Muse," which includes a fairly straightforward recipe for the said dessert, and so I'll start there. Also on the docket: rice pudding!

It's true: I love old-timey desserts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

So much to report on this end that I don't know where to begin. (Note to self, others: it might be helpful if I updated this blog more than once a month, but oh, well. I'm still not convinced that switching over to strict use of my tumblr would encourage me to update more frequently. In fact, I tumbl even less often than I blog...)

The big news: I have a new job - my first actual adult job. By adult I mean 1) more than marginally related to my field of study; and 2) salaried, benefitted. Yes, friends: last week, I started working as a course captioning transcriber for the Academy of Art University. So far, so good. The work is interesting, the projects are varied; my coworkers are really friendly and stylish. This weekend, I bought a 4-cup coffeemaker for my desk! I commute! I just bought some office friendly wedges online!

Smaller news: I survived a legit hair disaster. Saturday, I went in to get highlights done. I asked for "sparse, natural-looking" highlights and ended up with hair that looked frosted and greenish. No joke, my hair looked like a toupee and/or an animal pelt. I did not cry, but I did wear a giant, decorated headband yesterday to cover the mess. Luckily, I was able to snag an appointment (today) at Edo, where Taylor reversed the horrible damage that had been done to me not 48 hours earlier. I kept the highlights but had the tone altered (they're now honeyish blonde, rather than chlorine-damaged grayblonde), the roots of my hair darkened/the ends brightened. Now, I'm happy to report, I look like a human again.

Medium news: Hook and I registered for the KP 5K (July 25th). Anyone wanna join us as we run?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Productivity!

I find that I'm productive in bursts: that I'll accomplish a lot for like, a week, and then the following two weeks are far less impressive. This isn't to say that I'm slothful during the post-productive stretch - I'm just...I don't know, more average. What I'm saying is, this week has been ueberproductive!

I've made my reentry into the world of running. Hook and I went running twice last week in the park, and I did a 5K (without stopping!) this morning on the treadmill. (Note: I feel like treadmill runs are "cheater" runs, but this morning I didn't feel like holding my giant-ass keyring and my iPod as I ran, so I opted for the gym instead. I'm paying for a membership, you know? Might as well use it once in a while!) I'm trying to take it easy & not be overly-zealous, but I have a good feeling about the the coming months and finally entering some races.

Despite my lack of formalized plans, I'm pretty excited about the summer. My dad and Donna and my cousin Matt have (tentative) visits to SF scheduled, and Ali might also come out for a weekend. Dan and Alison are taking a trip to Portland, and I hope that Hook and I will meet up with them there. I'm hoping too to go back to Minnesota for a few days (during the State Fair, ideally), possibly road trip to Galesburg. I can almost smell the green of the cornfields. As much as I love CA, there's something so perfect about late summer cornfields, their rustle and sway.
That said, I am never going back to Cincinnati.

Also: I love my Chacos. They are possibly the best shoes I've ever owned. One of the best pairs of shoes I've ever owned, anyway.

ALSO: anyone want to go to the Grand Canyon during the next few months?

Editing time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Appropriate Query

Does anyone else remember learning about the "combination" food group during elementary and middle school health classes? I was just talking to Hook about this, and he claims never to have heard of "combination foods!" WHAT? Who doesn't remember the doubtful logic used to cast pizza in a healthy light - a healthiness attributed to the fact that pizza contains elements of the grain, dairy, vegetable, and (possibly) meat groups?

Well, I do.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Sunday and happy Mother's Day ! Looks a bit overcast but I think the clouds might clear out before 9:00...

It was a good week, weatherwise and activity-wise. The first declaration mostly explains itself, but I will expand on the second. To start, I went running twice with Hook(!) This is notable not only because I'm not a huge fan of running outside (I know, I know: it's better than using a treadmill, but treadmills are easier on the knees - plus I like being able to regulate my speed), but also because I hadn't gone running in about four months. My knee seems to have healed satisfactorily: it didn't hurt at all after the two runs, though my right Achilles tendon was a bit twitchy. I'm going to sign up for the 5K (on marathon day); keep your fingers crossed that no further harm comes to my knee.

Continuing with the trend of revisited athleisure activities, yesterday Hook and I bought tennis racquets and spent a few hours playing in the park. I played as a kid - with my family and on school teams - but it has been a good decade since I've played at any sort of regular intervals, and it felt really good to start again. (Aside: did I really just say that it's been a decade since I've done a certain activity? OLD PERSON STATEMENT!) I'm glad that Hook had as much fun as I did, and I predict that post-workday tennis will become a trend. It is awesome that the courts are like, four minutes from my house! And that there are so many courts! Yass!

In other news, we went to TARGET yesterday. Score! (Aside: now that I'm living in a place with limited/restricted access to Target, trips to said store are most certainly blogworthy news. Oh, how I mourn the bygone days of recreational Target shopping.) Since I stocked up on granola during our trip last week, I didn't go too nuts yesterday, though I did get a 2-pack of Bumble & Bumble hair lotion. Bumble and Bumble, I heart you.

On the schedule for today: spinning, bronch, chamber music concert, a little shopping (perhaps), and some tennis! Oh, yeah, and maybe some laundry and grocery shopping, those lesser-but-necessary weekend activities...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dispatch from Stanyan St.

It is a beautiful Saturday morning (er, late morning) - cloudless and sunny, with only the usual amount of traffic noise - and I'm taking a break from the freelance work of the day. This week seemed like the longest week; work was hectic and I had a big pile of freelance projects that all had to be completed immediately, and I feel like I've never been so grateful for a weekend as I am right now. Even while I was in grad school (and presumably swamped with work), weekends never seemed abruptly different from weekdays. Now, though, I understand the difference.

The good news: I somehow received an extra-awesome tax refund, so Hook and I are planning a trip to Mexico for next month(!!!) I'm pretty excited: I've never been to Mexico, and I also feel like I really need a vacation - a beach vacation, with sunny vacant days and beers by the water. Maybe a little hiking, a little kayaking. This trip is going to rock.

In other news...life is pretty much the same. The end of the school year is approaching and the students are getting restless. The rainy season seems to have subsided(?) I'm psyched to do more hiking around here, and also have MORE PICNICS in Dolores Park. Even though this is the land of dubious seasons, it's starting to feel like summer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

For the first time this season, I (may) have a tan.

Oh, to be tan again! This weekend was gorgeous, and fortunately, I didn't spend the whole time indoors! Indeed, I made sure that my time was divided [sort-of] equally between work and bummin' outside, and now - finished as I am with my current freelance project - I'm relaxing on Hook's couch, a cool breeze coming in through the window.

Yesterday, Hook and I joined M. and P. for a picnic in Dolores Park. I'd only been to Dolores Park on a few occasions (read: field trips) - never in the picnic/beer context - and man, is it awesome. We chose a spot at the top of a hill (better for people watching), spread out our blanket, and sipped Tecate and ate cupcakes until the almost-evening. During our stint, we were approached by a canvasser, a lady trying to sell subscriptions to a CSA, a hobo asking for empties, and a grinning old dude selling pot cookies from a rolling suitcase. Indeed, I love everything about this park with the exception of its terrible, inadequate restroom facilities. But hey, nothing's perfect.

This morning, Drew, Hook and I ventured out to Muir Woods for a hike, which was equally enjoyable (though in a much different, read: more strenuous, way). I'd heard from a few people that the woods can be super busy on weekends - so busy that one has to park like, two miles down the road from the trail head - but we got an early start and snagged a primer parking spot. The hike was really good: I haven't gone hiking since last summer, when my mom, sis & I were at Yosemite, and some of the inclines were a little tricky. Overall, though, we did well, taking the Oceanfront Trail to the Lost Trail, continuing along the Ben Johnson trail to the Dipsea. (Note: I did not remember any of this, but instead relied on Hook for the names.) At the very very end, just before we reached the parking lot, we came to a creek that could only be crossed via log - the bridge was down. I did have a moment of panic & almost began crossing the log on my hands and knees (I was dehydrated, people!), but Hook came to my rescue and walked back across the log so that he could encourage me to walk like a biped. And so I crossed without falling into the creek, and the hike ended on a successful note.

This afternoon was mostly business: lunch at Squat and Gobble because the kitchen was empty, grocery shopping (to prevent unnecessary S&G trips), and the completion of this weekend's freelance project. My legs have the good tiredness in them, and I'm satisfied with the writing work that I did, and I think I'm going to have an awesome sleep tonight. This is all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weeeeeeekend roundup.

Weekend roundups: that's pretty much all I manage anymore, in terms of blogging. Ah, well: maybe I'll go the way of tumblr? We shall see. My tumblr has been embarrassingly dormant for like, 8 - 10 months, so I'd have to get it up and running before I even converted to that microblogging format...

It was an excellent weekend on the friendship and bargain fronts. Friday, Hook and I met some new pals for dinner @ Acme Burgerhaus (on Divisidero. $1.95 pints from 3 - 10! Excellent fries!), after which we hit the Page for drinks. M. and P. are both from Minnesota (I met M. while she was subbing at my school); they both like biking, good music, cooking, the idea of rooftop gardening, thrift shopping, and whiskey drinks. Good friendship times on the horizon!

The bargain front was slightly less exciting: mostly, I used a bunch of Gap/BR gift certificates I'd hoarded. Also, today I saved 41% on my grocery bill through my crafty use of coupons/noting of in-store sales. Yes, I realize that my mentioning of this on my blog renders me a total, total geek, but the savings! Oh, the savings!
Well, you understand if you know me.

Tonight, Hook and I made a from-scratch pizza that was totally badass; now, Hook is crocheting and I am scanning the internet, about to knit for a bit, and then it's baking time! I love domestic Sundays!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sentences to describe my day:

1) The transition back to work wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

2) My right hamstring hurts - maybe in a bad way?

3) I have rediscovered my love of pickled beets!

4) Ke$ha most certainly is a lesser Lady Gaga.

5) Ooooooooh, baby, did I stock up on clearance Easter candy!

6) Hook is here, reading a book of essays while I fritter away time in various online showrooms.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Also:

Happy Easter!

Indeed, spring break has been eventful, but not in the ways you might expect. My mom spent a few days visiting; we did typically-touristy things (e.g., multiple walks through Golden Gate Park, a Blue and Gold Bay Cruise, getting crappy Italian food in North Beach) and some untouristy things (e.g., making earrings, baking five-egg chocolate cupcakes, watching endless episodes of "Forensic Files" at Hook's). Besides hosting, I spent a bunch of time searching for new jobs, doing some much-needed spring cleaning, riding my bike, going to spin classes, and furtively eating Easter candy. Now it's the last evening before I return to work, and Hook and I have spent the whole day inside (it was downpouring) drinking Tecate and researching various budding hobbies/moneymaking schemes, and I think I'm ready to be back to my normal routine. As I typically am at the end of any sort of break.

Chocolate Cheerios don't live up to their hype.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scone Fail Continues

While stocking up on Buffalo "Chik'n" Nuggets the other day @ Trader Joe's, I happened upon TJ's mini cranberry orange scones and decided to give them a try. (Aside: the search for a suitable replacement for Panera's orange scone has begun in full force, and will not end until said replacement is determined.) They're tasty! And mini! Not as tasty as the product I'm seeking to replace, but pretty good. There's a unique set of drawbacks associated with the cranberry orange scones, though, these being:

1) They don't have as much frosting as I would prefer;
2) They come in packages of six, and six is too many scones for one person to comfortably eat in a few days' time (Hook doesn't eat scones);
3) They seem to spoil quickly. The package I purchased (on 3/23) had a sell-by date of 3/27, but the scones had gone bad by YESTERDAY. Believe you me, I'll be sending an email of complaint to Trader Joe's corporate to notify them of this mold problem.

***

Hook and I saw "Greenberg" last night and it was considerably better than either of us expected. We both had a hunch that it might fall into the "Away We Go" category - you know, movies that (based on their trailers) seem like they'd be enjoyable, but that are actually deflated by their own strained efforts at "quirkiness" and indielate20somethingsearly30somethingscuteness. On the contrary, "Greenberg" was mellow, plot-wise: the apparent paucity of a plot didn't announce itself as such, and Ben Stiller was the perfect casting choice. Hook was totally amused by the similarities between Greenberg and myself, these being:

1) Our tendency to write letters of complaint to major corporations;
2) Our sample shopping lists (His list included ice cream sandwiches and whiskey);
3) Our tendency to walk in pedestrian-unfriendly zones.

***

My mom arrives today! Our city-touring plans aren't totally solidified, but I think tomorrow is MoMA day (and, if my mom is up for it, a tour of the claw-machine floor at the Metreon). Today we'll probably walk through GG Park and visit the Tea Garden - a lot is blooming this time of year.
Holla for family visits!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Death of a [junk-food] era

I detest the idea of letting my blog go altogether - after all, I've been blogging for roughly eight years, and thought of being blogless (despite the relative infrequency with which I update) makes me uneasy - but lately I'm starting to understand how many of my favorite bloggers have gone the way of twitter/tumblr/long-ass facebook updates. Yes, there is exciting stuff happening in my life! Yes, there is mundane stuff happening in my life - mundane stuff I would like to share with the world! And yes, I do often catch myself thinking, "Okie, will blog about that later." Invariably, I'm then sidetracked by facebook (durrrrr), a crossword puzzle, a beer, a bird, or the outdoors.

But here I am, updating! Today's update - or the first of many updates, perhaps? Or perhaps I shouldn't be overly-ambitious? - regards something in the "Mundane Stuff I Would Like to Share With the Internet" category. So, ahem: those of you who know me know the purity of my love for Panera's orange scones. This is not a love of which I'm proud: this love, heretofore, was kept secret from all but a select few, the same select few who've seen me without makeup and have viewed the Most Frequently Played list on my iTunes. My embarrassment about this fondness stems from my recognition that Panera is not the classiest pastry joint around - far from it. As far as consumption of confections goes, I'm pretty well-traveled: I've had croissants in Paris, scones and clotted cream in England, Monhschnecke in Germany, Mozartkugeln in Austria, and so on. Despite my diverse pastry-eating experience and my knowledge that Panera's scone is composed primarily of refined white flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and orange dye, my love remains steadfast.

Strike that: remained. Yes, friends: Panera changed the recipe for their orange scones, and I am not a fan of the replacement.

Last weekend (weekend of awesomeness, incidentally, but maybe I'll get to that in another post), Hook and I walked to the one Panera location in San Francisco so that I could get an orange scone. I'd been craving one for some time, and hadn't eaten one since last summer (late July), and Saturday was an awesome day for a walk. Upon entry into the bakery-cafe, I sensed something was amiss. The scone, unlike its favored predecessors, was more oblong than square in shape, and its frosting was lighter orange than normal and flecked with largeish chunks of orange zest. Despite my rising anxiety, I ordered the scone, hoping that its unusual appearance belied the familiar taste I'd grown to love. Sadly, the scone had been prepared according to a different recipe. Its texture was flakier (less dense) than the original, the buttermilk flavor more prominent. Both the frosting and the scone were less sweet than the standard.

I was crestfallen. I'd walked halfway across the city for this damn scone, only to find that the recipe had been changed while I was unaware. Hook tried to console me by suggesting that maybe this was only a regional difference - chain restaurants, after all, are known to include different products in different geographic regions. At some level I knew that this assessment was false, that my treasured scone was gone for good. That evening, I sent an email to Panera re: perceived changes in the orange scone. (I also mailed a letter to the CEO.) Today, I received the following response to my email:

Dear Kate,

Thank you for contacting Panera Bread about our new Orange Scone. We
reformulated our Orange Scone to improve its texture, flavor and
appearance. After nearly two years of testing in both districts and
entire markets, the new scone debuted nationwide in January of this
year. Although we are sorry that you miss our old scone and
disappointed that you do not care for the new one, we appreciate your
feedback.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We hope you will
continue to enjoy Panera Bread.

Sincerely,
Jamie
Customer Comment Coordinator


Disappointed that I "do not care for the new one?" How about my disappointment? I'm not sure where/with what audiences this scone was tested, but those audiences were WACK. It seems to me that Panera changed its scone to appear "healthier" - the sugar content has obviously been reduced (if only marginally), the frosting is no longer neon orange, and the bits of orange zest punctuating the frosted top probably trick a goodly number of consumers into thinking they're eating actual fruit. I'm the first to promote healthy eating, and I'd say that my diet is healthier than that of 85% or 90% of the population. BUT, every now and then, I like to eat total, sugary crap, and Panera's orange scone was the sugary crap I loved the most. I loved the crunch of that godawful frosting, the crumbliness of the trans-fat laden dough. Never again.

I am adrift.
I am accepting suggestions for a pastry/baked good (nationally-available) to replace Panera's orange scone in my pantheon of junk-food craves.
This is all.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The one you really love.

The past three days have been packed with Stephin Merritt, and Oh! what a glorious three days these have been. Saturday afternoon, S.M. hosted a "DJ Set" at Amoeba; I use quotation marks here because the intent/outcome of said set were dubious. S.M. was onstage (in the presence of a bouncer-type person) for half an hour or so and played a few songs - some his, some not. Then, he signed autographs. Guess who got her copy of Realism signed? That's right! The procurement of the autograph was an experience not without challenges, however: when it was my turn to hand my CD to S.M., I could not speak. I mean this in the most literal sense: face-to-face with one of my musical heroes, I couldn't think of a single thing to say. And so I stood there, staring, until S.M. said, "I really like your earrings, but I wonder how they don't get tangled in your hair." To which I responded, "Oh, they do. But it's cool." And that was the end of the exchange.

Sunday night was the (unofficial*) world premiere of Strange Powers, Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara's documentary of the Magnetic Fields. The event was held at Mezzanine, which, despite its marginal utility as a movie theater, is a really cool space. The film** was really well done: Fix and O'Hara compiled footage and interviews during a ten-year period, and the result was smartly-edited and informative and funny and sad: just how you'd want a documentary of your favorite band to turn out. After the screening, Fix, O'Hara, S.M., and Claudia Gonson responded to questions posed by audience members, some of which (and of whom) were quite stupid. Referring to S.M.'s filmed description of the narrative arc of "California Girls," one audience member asked, "Did you really write a song about a fat Midwestern woman who hates California girls?" Um? Yes.

Yesterday was the finale of my own personal Merrittfest: the Magnetic Fields played at the Herbst Theatre***. The show sold out a few hours after tickets went on sale, but Hook got tickets on StubHub as an Xmas gift (thank ye, considerate boyf!); we were sitting four rows from the stage, which was pure awesomeness. The show was super-sedate: I was among the youngest people in attendance (ha!) and the sets were both mellow, featured lots of songs from the new album and from "Highway Strip." Not a ton from "69 Love Songs" or "I" or "Distortion," but this was OK: I was [mostly] OK with this. I could spend all day listening to Stephin Merritt sing. I knew what Hook meant when he said that, once S.M. left town, it would be as though an old friend had left town (though neither of us is acquainted with the man, obv.). Indeed, I have the same feeling now as at the end of a vacation. Fewer pictures, sure, and no sand at the bottom of my duffel, but the same contentment with the new-minted memories & time well spent.


*The official premiere will be at SXSW on March 15th.
**I hate using the word "film" when referring to anything but an actual art film, but I already felt like I was overusing "documentary," so there you go. I'm not an asshole, I promise.
***I also typically spell this word "theater," but the name of the venue is an -re.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ALSO:

1) Hook and I are starting a band real soon. Name: TBD. Instrument assignments: TBD. I'll sing mostly falsetto.
2) Lately I've taken to wearing large, windchimey hippie earrings. Who knows why, but the trend seems on course to stick around. Next, I'm gonna buy some Chacos.
3) Now more than ever, I resemble Chloe Sevigny. This is true: this is not just something I'm saying because that one facebook meme from a month ago caused me to start thinking a lot about which celebrities (if any) I resemble. I don't have any pictures to support this contention*, but the next time you see me, bear in mind this assertion and pay especial attention to my eyelashes, which are very, very defined.


*I do have one picture, but my face is real shiny in it and I don't want to clean it up (the picture, that is: my face right now is totally clean).

Music that I listen to might be classified as "classic rock."

Hook and I went to Amoeba tonight so that I could pick up a copy of "Cherry Peel," which I had years ago and loved, but which I lost when I ditched my last laptop. (This is one argument against buying all your albums from iTunes/stealing music: when you're as lazy as I am re: backing up music, you lose everything when you lose a computer. Most people aren't as lazy as I (in this regard; in most other regards, they are lazier), but the threat remains.) I can't say why I had the sudden urge to hear this album again, but last night I was so tempted just to download it and let the nostalgia wash over me. Hook urged me to resist and I did (though I caved and downloaded "Tanglewood Numbers") in favor of getting the actual CD, so that when this computer dies, I won't have to buy the album a third time. Foresight, man: it's what separates us from the animals.

I was first introduced to "Cherry Peel" in 2003 when I received a mix CD (from Hook, coincidentally) with "Springtime is the Season" as the first track. Also in '03, a few pals of mine loved listening to "Tim, I Wish You Were Born a Girl" while swigging Arbor Mist straight from the bottle. The album didn't realize its emotional-nostalgic potential until 2007ish, though, when I was in my second year of grad school. Nights that spring, I'd drive along Route 9 in the beige Toyota that is no longer mine, reveling in the balminess of the air, the waft of lilacs, the peculiar, constrained brand of freedom common to grad students everywhere. The album came to represent, for me, the contentment that can result from isolation - or, if not contentment, then familiarity. I had "Montreal" on repeat as I drove back from that namesake city, stilled by Vermont's tree-to-human ratio, the remoteness of my traveling companion. "I Can't Stop Your Memory" recalls my inadequately-heated tenement of an apartment, the paint peeling from the floorboards of my room; drive-thrus at McDonald's long after bar time; heartache of the brand that should have run its course years earlier. "Cherry Peel," in short, is the album that reminds me why I'm obsessed with certain albums in the first place: its personal contexts are so thickly sedimented that a full listen brings to mind two distinct and distinctly formative times in my life. I love that, that songs can become psychic shorthand and shuttle us back to what we sometimes think of as gentler times, but what were really times of equal indifference viewed with naivete and longing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Because I haven't updated in a while, I'm just going to post this picture of an awesome ring shaped like a stump:

This piece (and multitudes of other excellent rings, pendants, earrings, and so forth) are available here. Go to it! (Real update coming soon.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Like beating a dead horse.

I'm sure you all have facebook friends with whom you were never really well-acquainted in real life: people you know (or knew, or sort-of know, or sort-of knew) and added just because, hey, why in egalitarianism's name not? But have you ever had the experience of realizing that one of these people has really good personal style, and wanting to tell said person, but not being able to because you were never really friends with them in actual, oxygen-sustained reality?
Didn't think so.

This was a weekend of awesomeness, not only because of the sunshine (bright! sustained!) and the prodigious amounts of candy H. and I bought/consumed, but because Hook completed his first half marathon on Sunday. I got up early to see him off at the start, walked down to the ocean to try to catch a glimpse of him as he ran along the Great Highway*, and was there at the finish line to take some profile pics. Hook, I am ueber-proud of you: 13.1 miles is hella impressive!

In other news, I've been having oddly realistic, very disconcerting dreams lately. A few nights ago, I dreamed that I was accompanying Gaby's class on a field trip to a racehorse rescue farm - you know, where old horses go to die natural, unrelated-to-glue-or-dogfood deaths. Within my dream world, all horses were severely lactose-intolerant; knowing this, one of the students mixed a ton of butter in with the horses' feed and killed all the racehorses. The opening image of this dream was an aerial view of the rescue, the horses streaming in through the gate of a fenced pasture, waiting - an image not unlike slaughterhouse footage.
Last night's dream was slightly less menacing: first, Ali (who was visiting me in SF) kept wearing my clothes, despite my requests that she stop. Then, I found myself at a Jonas Brothers' show being held at a dilapidated farmhouse. I went to use the ladies' room before the Brothers began their set, only to find that the toilet didn't work! Naturally, the management asked me to fix it, and I got toilet water all over my coat with the fur collar. Siiiiiiiigh.


*This attempt was an epic fail: I either got there a few minutes too late, or was in the port-a-john when Hook ran by. Ooops.

Are we really so stupid?

This article discusses the FDA's efforts to reevaluate the serving sizes of some foods, thereby alerting consumers that these foods are more caloric than we (the collective we of the American consumer base) have been led to believe. Or, more accurately, as we've led ourselves to believe. I appreciate that the FDA is trying to keep current, but come on: does anyone really believe that, "If the serving size for cookies rose to two ounces, from one ounce, for instance, some consumers might think the government was telling them it was fine to eat more." The government is telling me it's fine to eat more? Let me just scarf a whole box of Triscuit!

Americans may be fat, but they're not [all] stupid. Most people know (I think?) that chips aren't healthy: that a serving of chips, as defined by the FDA, is about one ounce. Whether people choose to eat an ounce of chips or whether they defer to the "handful" method of measurement is a different issue. The bottom line is that people know what's good for them, but they don't always put this knowledge into action.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I was told there'd be culturally-relevant observations

I'll be damned if I end my 25th year without knowing how to make non-instant [i.e., "traditional"] rice.

As mentioned, Reading Program 2010 is going well. Working on Sloane Crosley's "I Was Told There'd Be Cake" and while it's not terrible, neither will it become a favorite (or even a volume to return to, infrequently). Since my completion of an M.F.A. in fiction writing, I've become increasingly more interested in genres other than fiction; I've turned to memoirs, cookbooks, magazines widely varying in quality and content, volumes of poetry, collections of essays. Crosley's collection I discovered via Goodreads and, based on the title (who the hell doesn't love cake?) and the glib combo of the cover photo/sans-serif font in which the title is printed, I decided to give it a go. [Aside: I realize that the preceding statement critically undermines whatever "cred" I have as a reader, if there is such a thing as "reader's cred."] Yes: so, the point. The point I'm getting at is that I can neither like nor dislike Crosley's essays because said essays are insubstantial: they don't give me enough to (dis)agree with. Addressing topics such as one's youthful envisioning of "Oregon Trail" as a means of gaining power over individuals who, in life, control and vex one, the essays are funnyish, cuteish, and short enough to be read during in-between bits of time [i.e., lunch breaks, the ten minutes between packing my lunch and having to leave for work]. I'll finish reading "Cake," but only because I'm 100 pages in and because I rarely, rarely quit a book.

Update: the rice burned. Again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

NEW! OBSESSION!

If you guessed "macaroons," you're not even close - though I understand your logic. No: my new love is spinning. (!!!!). I'd gone a few times last summer [in MN], but never got into it; back then, during that less-enlightened time, I considered the arc trainer the ultimate piece of equipment. Recently, though - perhaps because the instructors here are better, or perhaps because I can't run, due to my sloooooowly-healing knee - I just can't get enough of this class. Or, rather, I didn't get enough until tonight [i.e., my third spin class in as many days]. Tonight, I am bone tired. Tonight, I'm going to sleep the sleep of kings!

Monday, February 1, 2010

I have earned the title of Cookie Monster

...or cookie maestro: take your pick. As I mentioned, this weekend was a snickerdoodle bake-a-thon, and what a -thon it was! I made two batches (so that I could give a bunch to friends...and also freeze some), and both turned out superbly. Here's the recipe I used:


Ingredients

* 1 1/2 cups white sugar
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 eggs
* 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

(and for the topping)

* 2 tablespoons white sugar
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Combine 1 1/2 cups white sugar, butter or margarine, vanilla and eggs. Mix well.
3. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Blend well. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Roll dough in sugar/cinnamon mixture and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.

***

I will definitely be making these again; not too soon, mind you - there's a huge Tupperware of cookies atop Hook's fridge - but soon enough. In the meantime, I may try to master the art of vegan chocolate cake...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yesterday was the day of harassment.

Yes. So, yesterday was evidently The Day During Which Strangers Harass Kate; there were two separate instances of harassment. The first took place at a delicatessen: I had a paid holiday and met Hook downtown for lunch. We went to a deli near his office (this deli did not have great salads, but Hook liked his sandwich well enough and so that was good) and while I was at the register, paying for my salad and Baked Lays, a man slid a can of diet Sunkist orange up beside my food and said to the cashier, "Oh, we're together." In my mind I was all like, 'Dude WTF?' but then thought, 'OK, I can pay for this dude's can of soda I guess, it's a can of soda,' but before the cashier really had time to respond the dude smiled at me and said, "Gotcha." Elbowed me, retrieved his can of soda, and waited to pay. Mortified, I left the register without even taking my receipt and joined Hook at our table.

The second incident took place on the bus. I'd done a bit of shopping and was going to walk home but a drizzle started and then became a rainfall, hence the bus trip. When I boarded, I took a window seat; at the next stop, a man sat in the seat beside me. I didn't have my iPod at the time and so was fiddling with my phone, texting my sis, when the man beside me put his hand over mine and kind of jokingly tried to knock free the phone. No conversation, here: just the man half-slapping my hand, the phone. The man in the bank of seats directly across from me gave an alarmed look, which I returned. I couldn't tell if the man beside me was 1) trying, in some ass-backward way, trying to flirt with me; or 2) a legit psycho, so I said nothing. I kept texting. The man beside me leaned over and read all of my texts (none of which made mention of him), and then got off the bus three stops after he'd boarded.

These incidents left me profoundly unsettled: who are these brazen men, and why did they approach me from nowhere, on the same day?

I am glad to report that today has been a harassment-free day.

***

In more upbeat, sugar-related news, I am burning this soy-based, birthday-cake-scented candle, and it is just so excellent. My room smells like a beautiful cake! Speaking of baking, tonight is slated to be a snickerdoodle bake-a-thon, once I get to the store to pick up some cream of tartar.

***

Just finished reading "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men," which renewed my faith in contemporary fiction. Which statement may sound like an overstatement, but trust me, it is not.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I like rice.

One useful habit I developed in grad school, aside from my jaw-dropping time management skillz & my ability to wrangle any sentence, is the ability to find a use for leftover food. Having had on hand too much milk and not wanting that milk to go bad, I spent part of the evening making rice pudding. Some people think rice pudding is for geriatrics, but some people don't know what they're missing: rice pudding is the shit! Normally, I make the oven-baked variety, but I have no idea where my covered casserole dishes are & I wasn't sure if my Pyrex bowl is oven-safe. Therefore, I used the following recipe, taken from simplyrecipes.com:

Ingredients

• 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) of whole milk
• 1/3 cup (66 grams) of uncooked short grain white rice
• Pinch of salt
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cup (50 grams) dark brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
• 1/3 cup (40 grams) raisins

Method

1) In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk, rice and salt to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

2) In a small mixing bowl, whisk together egg and brown sugar until well mixed. Add a half cup of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, a tablespoon at a time, vigorously whisking to incorporate.

3) Add egg mixture back into the saucepan of rice and milk and stir, on low heat, for 10 minutes or so, until thickened. Be careful not to have the mixture come to a boil at this point. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from heat and stir in the raisins and cinnamon.

Serve warm or cold.
Serves 2-3.

***

On the whole, my pudding turned out pretty well (3.8 stars out of 5). I used skim milk because that's what was in the fridge, but this substitution compromised the pudding's texture; I also didn't add raisins because 1) I don't like them, and 2) I didn't have any in the cupboard, anyway. Had I used whole milk, this dish would have been perfect.

One other note: the yield also seems off to me. I'd say this recipe made at least four, if not five, servings - or two to three extra-large portions.

Sign it!

This, if you haven't seen it, is Jamie Oliver's proposed Food Revolution, a plan to redefine the typical school lunch. Working in a school, I have firsthand knowledge of what gets served in the cafeteria, and it ain't pretty. This isn't the fault of the individual school, mind you - Ellen, our cafeteria manager extraordinaire, does a great job with the resources she's given - but of the district. Of our country's way of thinking about school lunch. The entrees offered are prepared at a central location, distributed (in insulated bags of the sort used by delivery people) to district schools, and served hours after their initial preparation; roughly a third of the students don't even peel back the cellophane from their nuked main dishes - and can you blame them? Today's main course was some sort of pasta/chicken/zucchini casserole that was intermixed with a soggy breadcrumb paste. Mmmmmm.

Not trying to rant, here - just check out the Food Revolution & hope for a day when school lunch is made in the school kitchen(!)
Also, bookmark this shit.

RANT

A small rant: fuck those people who ignore the 30-minute time limit for the cardio equipment at the gym. Fuck them! I'll be the first to admit that the Richmond District Y does not have the greatest selection of ellipticals, that it can indeed be tempting to consider (at the end of one 30-minute stretch) hastily resetting one's machine & thereby clearing the elapsed time field, leaving no one the wiser to one's overuse of said machine. It can be tempting, yes, but I am not an asshole; once I've done my half hour on a machine, I'll move to a different type of machine (i.e., bike, treadmill, rowing machine) and if after that stretch of cardio I still feel the need to elliptical, I'll spend more time on the elliptical. OK. I won't, however, just spend a damn hour on one machine. Yes, chubby blond lady wearing a blood drive tee, this post is directed to you. It is directed to you and to anyone else who horqs the machines at my Y. Here's what I say: if you want to work out like a non-asshole, join a gym. If you want to dominate a single machine, just buy that machine for home use. The end.