May 27, 2010

Photo Op

This is the box I used to bring home my Costco purchases.

Somehow a blanket was folded up and put in the box and somehow the box was put on the floor and somehow it was placed near the baseboard heater.

And somehow it became...

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fur-lined.

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Posted by Ryan at 06:34 PM | Comments (14)

May 26, 2010

I Continue My Costco Education

Now that I’ve eaten two cans of black beans and only have, oh, eight left, it was time to put on my safari hat, grab my elephant gun, and venture back into Costco. Self-control-wise, I do pretty well there, buying only things that are standard fare and guaranteed to be used, but something peculiar always makes it into my cart, which I discover when I get home and causes me to make a slight moue of confusion and say, “Huh.” This time it was a large container of mango peach salsa, medium hot. I have absolutely no idea what to do with it, but there it is, sitting in my pantry. Any suggestions? (I tried looking online for recipes but when you Google mango peach salsa recipe you get, no surprise, recipes for mango peach salsa which I already have, thank you very much, Google.)

I’ve also discovered the Costco Trance, the weird place your head goes when entering a place so industrial, sterile, cavernous, and reeking of bigness, muchness and pure consumerism. It’s as if you check any shred of a deeper, more philosophical, more spiritually and emotionally enlightened self at the door and embrace the notion that you and your hundreds of fellow Costco Borgs were created to do nothing but buy, BUY, BUY!!! I almost feel as if I don’t start breathing again until I walk out the door. Bizarre. But it’s a useful place. I think of it fondly and often as week after week goes buy (yep, actually posted that typo) by and I never run out of toilet paper. Or black beans.

On the blogging front, I’ve been memed by Cat! It’s been years since I’ve been memed. The deal for this one is you need to write ten things your readers don’t know about you and five things you hate. Having had a blog for seven years now, I've been a fount of T(oo) M(uch) I(nformation) but I’ll try to cobble something together for my next entry. Thank you, Cat!

Posted by Ryan at 10:07 AM | Comments (12)

May 18, 2010

Miserly Me

Know those seed-starter kits that you see at all the nurseries? As much as I’m drawn to them because they smack of miniature green houses—and anything miniature makes me go all goofy with its cuteness—I think they’re expensive for what amounts to a box and some dirt. Sure, we’re talking maybe $10-$15 for all the bits and pieces you need, but when my brain can’t reconcile what I’m paying with what I'm buying, no matter how inexpensive, fuggedaboudit. (I've even been known to walk out of a dollar store empty-handed.) Problem is, see, I needed a seed-starter kit for my latest Gardening Grand Experiment, growing lavender from seed to get—continuing the something-for-nothing theme of this entry—for around $7 the 12 lavender plants it would cost me $120-$170 to buy at a nursery. So the (large) portion of my brain that specializes in miserliness started churning away at this problem and came up with a cheap, or at least cheaper, solution.

Casting about for something box-like, I grabbed an inexpensive, large-ish rectangular plastic container and used the bottom to soak the peat pellets and hold the pellets and seeds. But the real challenge was getting the required greenhouse effect—letting light in, not letting warmth and moisture out. I usually use plastic wrap to cover my seed-starting arrangements but keeping the slippery, light wrap in place has always presented a problem. Solution? Cut away the middle of the box lid, put the wrap on, snap the lid back on the box, poke some holes in the wrap for aeration. Ta-da! Container, protective transparent cover, easy way to keep cover on—a seed-starter kit for maybe $4.50, including the pellets, $7.50 if you include the seeds. (Or $5.50 if you take into account the fact that I only used some of the seeds—but that's just miserliness and creative financing taken to a fussy, finicky, ugly nth degree, and I don't want to be that guy.)

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And today, I discovered this—lavender babies!

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What’s that? Did I hear someone say, yeah, whatevuh—what's with all this cooking and gardening crap; this is supposed to be knitting blog, dude! Knitting has been happening—one sock down, .5 of the second one under my belt. This was knit using Trekking XXL, color 298, size 1 needles, 72 stitches, stockinette, eye-of-partridge heel. The picture makes it look a non-descript gray but it's actually a very nice pointillistic blue, green and cream which will go with anything. I haven't knit socks in about two years so it was very satisfying to just grab the needles and churn these babies out.

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Posted by Ryan at 09:48 PM | Comments (6)

May 12, 2010

More Kitchen Experiments

I had a variety of ingredients, including some red wine, left over from the beef stew, so I experimented with a chicken recipe which called for red wine and brown sugar...and ended up with something that tasted like candied chicken. Seriously. You could cut off little bits, wrap it up in pretty twists of foil and give it out at Halloween as an exotic sort of caramel, it was that sweet and stringy-chewy.

On to the next experiment...

Posted by Ryan at 04:08 PM | Comments (5)

May 11, 2010

My Second Stupidest Thought Ever

For anyone interested in my first stupidest thought ever, I refer you to #32 in this entry. But last night something flitted through my brain that truly gives The First Stupidest Thought a run for its money.

I’ve been going to the gym regularly for stress reduction, nothing else, not to tone up, not to lose weight, not to turn myself into an alluring babe. (As I explained on the day I joined to the earnest, if slightly robotic, young salesman who wanted to know what my “fitness goal” was, my “fitness goal” is to walk in the door of the gym. So far, so good.) However, the call of the scale is strong, is it not?, so I took a peek last night and was highly distressed to see that my weight had gone up. Desperate to avoid the obvious--which involves self-discipline and eating less--my mind cast anxiously around for a reason why, why, why?, since nothing had changed except that I had added the gym to my weekly routine. Was it all the water I glugged down while working out? Did I forget to take off my shoes to save myself those few ounces? Was I carrying my knapsack? Were my floofy, flimsy nylon shorts too heavy? Would it help if I got my hair cut?

Continuing its desperate and lightning-fast race through ideas, my mind finally glommed on to the only other thing that had changed since the last time I had weighed myself: I had added songs to my Shuffle. Yes, indeedy, I went there. My brain actually thought, hey, you're wearing your Shuffle; maybe it's those two songs you downloaded to it last night (each of which, apparently, weighed a pound).

There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start, not the least of which is that, if my Shuffle theory were true, since the Shuffle holds 1,000 songs, eventually I'd have to buy a pack horse to carry it around which negates the whole point of buying something that teensy-weensy in the first place. Not to mention the fact that I work in IT and I know damn well adding songs to your Shuffle doesn’t make it weigh more. Still, my brain Went There.

Sheesh.

Posted by Ryan at 11:40 AM | Comments (10)

May 08, 2010

Benny Goes Ballistic

During a Seattle spring, there is one moment everyone waits for: The first day it remains warm and sunny all day. There are many runner-ups to The Day, and your heart flutters with anticipation before each one, but they inevitably disappoint. Still, The Day is always worth the wait. The Day is what makes life worth living. The Day is what gives us Seattleites the cojones to say to those who would tease us about our rainy weather, "Yo' mama!"

Today was The Day. I knew it was going to be, thanks to our friendly local weathermen, and, oh, I had such plans for the garden! Weeding, cleaning, planting, counting of tiny dahlia shoots, tying up the profuse new canes on the Urinal Cake Rose…but it was not to be. At 9 a.m., my neighbor revved up his hellaciously loud pressure washer for a day of manly cleaning of patio, deck and house. (He has now been at it for 8.5 hours.)

What was astonishing was the bizarre effect this had on Benny. The noise, and the way it curtailed my plans, and made my already twitchy nerves even more twitchy, annoyed the bejeebers out of me, certainly, but Benny came completely unhinged. He would puff up his tail, arch his back, and make that stiff ridge of fur along his spine, like a cartoon of a Halloween cat, then smooth out…then poof!...then smooth…then poof!...then smooth…then poof! He was almost like a furry, blinking neon sign: on, off, on, off, on. I managed to calm him down by putting him over my shoulder and carrying him around the house for a while, but I’ve never seen a cat do that before.

In the end, my need for quiet won out and I left the house, treated myself to leisurely donuts and tea, and then gave a new nursery a whirl. The nursery left me unimpressed but, still, I came home with some seeds, some chives—because I was sure I hadn’t planted any this year, but guess what was staring up at me from the herb bed when I arrived home?—some gorgeous burgundy-red lettuce starts, onion starts, and a bunch of those little brown, hard, round peat pellets you use for starting seeds (I have this crazy idea to try to grow lavender from seed because I need 10 or 12 plants and they are ridiculously expensive). The mofo pressure washer was still going when I came home but at least Manly Man had moved to the other side of the house to annoy the other neighbor for a while, making the noise level manageable. Most importantly, Benny seems to have regained his sanity.

Still, going out to a movie sounds good about now. Let's see what's playing at our $3 theater.

Posted by Ryan at 05:32 PM | Comments (7)

May 07, 2010

My Day So Far

You know your day can only get better when the first other living thing you touch in the morning, when you're still a little groggy, is a large slug. (Courtesy of lifting up the lid to my compost bin, unaware that he/she/it was squelching around on the underside. On the other hand, albeit unintentionally, I gave it a pretty good poke; I think I heard it say, "Oof.")

Posted by Ryan at 11:01 AM | Comments (4)

May 01, 2010

I Must Be Crazy

Wish me luck. This someone who can't even microwave stir-fry is going to try to make beef stew from scratch today. This could get ugly.

Five minutes after the first posting: Recipe said I needed to coat the beef in flour by mushing meat and flour around in a plastic bag. I didn't have the right size plastic bag so I cut a long one bag--the kind you use for roasting things in the oven, I think; it was old, I don't know--into a smaller size. Didn't realize that out of the two halves of bag I had chosen the open-ended piece and immediately poured the cubes of beef straight through the bag and all over the counter.

Half an Hour In: It's as if Lisa was reading my mind, although this time the problem wasn't my fault. I think the recipe didn't tell me to heat the oil enough. Threw some of the beef in for browning and it did nothing, just looked at me as if to say, "And....?" So I just cranked the stove up, and things got better. Some of the beef is well seared, some is pantywaist pinkish-brownish but it will do.

(Cooking is temporarily paused while I go mediate a fight between the cats. Went into the back bedroom and there was black fur everywhere and Joon is missing what amounts to a cat's eyebrow. Not pretty. Benny, always the aggressor, has been relegated to sleeping somewhere else; Joon gets the bed all to herself. Back to cooking. Browning the onions now.)

45 Minutes In: Things have started to go a little hinky and I've just taken to throwing ingredients in willy nilly. This is typical. About half-way through cooking something, I lose complete control. In this case, I was supposed to saute the onions in butter but I forgot, so I just plopped some butter in the crockpot after the fact, in case its greasy, fatty goodness was important. I was supposed to use the wine to scrape up the bits in the saute pan, but I forgot and scraped up the bits while I was cooking the onion, so I just threw some wine straight into the crockpot along with the butter. But it's just stew, right? (The fact that the recipe was originally for a crockpot the size of Alaska and I had to cut everything down by two-thirds probably didn't help since that requires me to be good at cooking and math. Many a slip, as they say.)

In the CrockPot: Here it be, ready for six hours of chugging along. Will report. Something doesn't feel right.

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Three Hours In: Something is most definitely wrong. I lifted up the lid to give the stew the one stir I usually give my crockpot recipes...and it smelled good. Something is definitely wrong.

8 p.m.: Noodles are cooking, stew is thickening. Drum rrrrooooollllll.

8:15 p.m.: Ta-da!

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Posted by Ryan at 11:31 AM | Comments (9)