Friday, April 30, 2010

Television: A Week of Glee

I guess "Glee" came back from a long hiatus this week... FOX decided to have musical episodes on a lot of their shows to plug celebrate, including "Fringe".  There must have been some kind of financial compensation for participating, because the episode "Brown Betty" has to be a low point in the "Fringe" series.  Don't get me wrong, it had its cute moments, but honestly you could tell that there was no effort to integrate the singing with flair or panache.  They had a minimum to achieve, and they stuck to it.

"Supernatural" is kicking ass... and apparently, they can say "ass" on the CW now, because they said it with serious punch at least twice during "The Devil You Know".  Mark Shepard made the episode, though.  His portrayal of Crowley was snarky and fun as usual.  "Oh, I may have let it slip that we're lovers in league against Satan... Hullo Darlin'".  If you want to relegate an upper-level demon to a tormented future, I think that's the way to get it done.

I think the dueling hellhounds would have been more impressive if we'd actually seen a glimpse of one once in a while.  You know, "Hollow Man" style.

LOST took a week off, inexplicably.  I think there must have been a delay somewhere in the post-production pipeline, because we were promised an interruption-free end of the season.  Oh well, I'd rather have it polished and late than on-time and sloppy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Knitting: Always an Option

So I've changed my mind... I have 11 and a half squares done for this afghan and I think I'm going to do the original 12 squares and call it good.  The nature of the assembly of this thing means I can always add to it later, but for right now, I'm sick of working on this thing.  The sheer number of ends woven in so far is staggering, and I have about 12 ends per square more to weave in with the neutral color borders, plus the stitching together of the squares.  It's going to take me at least another week to finish this thing.

I like the end product, not the entire process of knitting.  Knitting is cool, it's the finishing that makes me grind my teeth.

I did break down and cast on a girly top in orange.  It's soothing to just knit, knit, knit in the round without having to stop and count or weave in any pesky ends.  Plus, if I wanted to take it somewhere, I only have one skein of yarn, as opposed to the six for the afghan.  Seriously.  I have the colors set up in a little pyramid on the end of the couch, so I can just grab an end.  Want to pack all that up to go to the bus stop for fifteen minutes?  No way.

Plus, I figured out after five squares that the ones with the purple chevrons in the corners I was counting the number of rows wrong... by about half.  No way am I going to perpetuate that mistake for another four squares or so.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Food: Leftovers Management

Sometimes it really stings when you go through the fridge, cleaning out the old stuff, and you find something that was really delicious the first time around, only now you have to throw it away because it's three weeks old or you can't even remember when you made it.

You don't have to come up with an intricate system of recipes, or a fancy interconnected menu, to make efficient use of your leftovers... just have a handful of recipes for each type of meat, fish or poultry that you cook regularly.  Like my Easter ham to ham and egg fried rice, or roast chicken to chicken chow mein. 

But have I mentioned my grandmother's standby, the Gooey Bun?

No, it's not a breakfast roll.  It's gooey from layers of meat and cheese, and it's actually quite tasty.  The original recipe calls for ground up meats such as hot dogs or baloney, but damn... aren't those ground up enough?  And what the hell's in them?  No, no... I use real meats for mine.

Take a pound (or whatever you have left) of cooked roasted meat (last time it was a combination of ham and roast beef) and run it through a blender or food processor until it's shredded.  Add half that amount of shredded cheese, whatever's appropriate for the meat, like cheddar or swiss, and enough mayonaise to moisten, plus a dollop of prepared mustard to taste.  Sometimes with roast beef, I'll throw in some horseradish.  Mix this all together well.

Take this mixture and apply a generous portion to sandwich rolls or hamburger buns.  Wrap each bun in foil, and heat in a 325° oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese becomes melty.  If you want freezer snacks for later, put the foil-wrapped bundles in a gallon freezer bag before baking.  Add five minutes or more to the cooking time for cooking from the frozen state. 

Everything in this is fully cooked, so the spread is also good cold, but believe me it is much more delicious when melty and inside toasted bread.  And the added bonus of being frugal makes it taste that much better.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Television: Time Travel in the Modern Age

This week was Fringe, Fringe, and more Fringe.  Trying to get hubby caught up to where I am was both fun and frustrating at the same time.  As a result, we did not watch last night, but at least now he's finally seen the very moving "White Tulip" episode.  It involved time travel, so you know I'm all over that.

I sometimes have this theory that I'm so fascinated by time travel because my life has untapped potential... if I hadn't done this, if I hadn't met this person, or joined the Army, how different would my life be?  Would it be better?  Worse?  Where would I be living right now?  It's a fool's game, but it does make the time-travel genre fascinating.  Speaking of which...

The new season of Dr. Who has premiered on BBC America, complete with a new Doctor.  I  don't care for him.... he looks young enough to be playing Harry Potter.  And his companion is equally young.  I think the BBC has a case of that CW disease I'm always complaining about... too many very young, pretty people.  And I don't think it's because I just got older; their faces have no character.  I must say that the story for the season premiere was quite good though.  I shall just have to get used to these new faces.  And thank goodness the companion doesn't have a family this time around... I was getting tired of the other companion's trips "back home" to see their moms, boyfriends, and grandfathers.  Can we stay out of Cardiff for a while now?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Knitting: Still Going

I now have a total of seven squares completed.  That's not a lot this week is it?  Between the dentist, the nap sneak-attacks, and other crap, I haven't gotten much done.  I did receive my order for the extra yarn, so I will be making it a 4x5 quilt for a total of 20 squares.

Oh for gosh's sake, coffee... finish brewing already!

I decided it would be fun to list any items I added to the tail end of my Ravelry knitting queue.  Added this week are:  The Know-it-all Programmable Felted Bag and Anthemion.  The Know it All is really interesting, because it's an electronic pattern-keeper built into the bag, with the pathways to the LED lights stitched by you in metallic thread.  It sounds crazy, but it works!  At least from what I can tell on the video on Knitty.  That speaks to the freaky crafting geek within me.

What's coming up in the Ravelry queue:  Girly Top (about six of them if I ever finish this afghan) Monkey Business Kit, and the Carmen Banana kit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gaming: The Cake is a Lie... err, the candles are lying.

Sometimes I feel like I fell through a portal, and my life has flashed away past me in an endless loop.  Happy 42nd Birthday to me!  I expected to wake up knowing the answers to life, the universe, and everything, but I don't.  Maybe my towel is broken.  And now between this blog and my family, I've gotten all the usefulness out of that "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" joke I'm ever going to get.  And if you don't get the title or the first line of this post, then run, don't walk, to get yourself a copy of Orange Box or the stand-alone version of "Portal".  Really.

Not much in gaming this week, since I'm trying to clear the decks.  Yes, I finally managed to get my hands on "Bioshock 2" but I won't crack the plastic on that bad boy until I finish "Bioshock" to my satisfaction.  Yes, I'm an Xbox 360 Achievements whore, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I've also gotten distracted by life and the joys of a couple of casual games, mostly "A Kingdom for Keflings".  It's a $9 XBL Arcade game that uses your console avatar as your game character.  You're a giant helping some little Keflings build their village back up to its former glory.  Seeing my knit-hatted little me running around gathering wood and stone and building buildings is surprisingly entertaining.

I'd stay and chat more, but before I can enjoy my birthday, I have to go back to the dentist and get my stitches out.  Joy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Food: Recipes for Survival #5: Continental

The last of my Recipes for Survival series is more of a food style change than a recipe.  You can teach your kids how fast food and a good, home-made meal don't have to be mutually exclusive.  One of the ways you can do that is with a European custom... that sometimes you can have a simple dinner of nothing more than a good loaf of bread (real, honest, crusty bread... not Wonder bread), a good cheese, and some fruit. 

Dozens of times my daughter and I will sit down with a cheese plate I've sliced myself, a good italian or french loaf of bread, and grapes. cantaloupe, or pears.  We often like a good, smokey cheddar, some quality mozzarella, or those soft mini-cheeses like Baby Bell.  We'll dip the bread in italian dressing.  The adults can have a nice wine.  It's all very homey.

Best of all, it takes maybe five minutes to prepare and if you watch your cheeses, there's very few preservatives or additives involved.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Miscellaneous: New Book

My real birthday is coming up this week (I got my gift a few weeks ago, a brand new Nook e-reader, which I am enjoying a LOT.  My dentist even commented on how neat it was.) so I treated myself to a new weaving book.  It's an actual paper-in-your-hands book, not one for the Nook.  You don't get many weaving e-books.

The title I got was "Woven Treasures", a book about weaving bags on a rigid-heddle loom.  As you may have guessed, I am seriously neglecting my Kromski Harp loom, which was my birthday gift last year.  My first project is still on it, untouched.  Why?  I did my usual thing and started too big too soon.  I warped enough for six placemats long side to long side.  While I enjoy the process of weaving, the stick shuttle provided with the 32" loom was as wide as the loom itself.  I hated dealing with it.  What I should have done was purchased, or fabricated, some smaller shuttles.  And I should have started with a much smaller project, to gain confidence.

Besides, we don't have a dining table... when was I ever going to use placemats?  :/

The woven treasures book not only shows simple 1x1 weaving, but has projects that use two heddles, plus some old-world techniques such as soumak, a kind of method where you twine the weft around pairs of warp threads as you go across, and piled weaving, such as is used in persian rugs.  You're getting into bags that look like latch-hook at that point, but it was still neat to see an example of the technique.

Now I'm itching to try the beginner's bag, a small 3x6 woven bag with woven strap handle.  My problem is that I only got one heddle with my Harp, and I would need to purchase a second heddle and a second heddle block.  Add in a few smaller shuttles and you're talking about an investment of $85 on a device I've hardly used. 

I'm going to have to think long and hard about this one.

The thing is, though, project bags are something I've always wanted to do on my Etsy shop, but my problem is that even commercial patterns like Butterick or Simplicity have end-user restrictions on whether the sewn items can be made for resale.  Some of them are very explicit about it, some will say its okay, and some don't say one way or the other.  If you really want to protect yourself from lawsuits, there's very few pattern options I'd feel completely comfortable using for the shop.  And three guesses as to how many of them are even attractive or functional!

The solution of course, is to not use a pattern at all, or something so basic that no one can claim it.  A woven, folded, and stitched rectangle fits that bill nicely.  Add in some of my own designs for the decorative panels of fabric, and I'm golden.

But is the $85 investment a wise one?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Television: Not your average apocalypse

Supernatural surprised me this week with a relatively cerebral 100th episode.  I was expecting a condensed version of "Die Hard" and instead we got something thoughtful and poignant.  Jim Beaver, who plays Bobby, amazed me with his subtle facial expressions.  Sam and Dean actually *talked* for the first time in a long time.  Sure, there was a crap-ton of angel-slaying, with Misha Collins as Castiel kicking some major ass, but all-in-all this was a thinking-person's episode.  Very cool in my book.

I did not get to watch V this week.  Getting  my husband hooked on the same shows as me is both a blessing and a curse.  I like having an in-house sounding board for all my crackpot ideas and theories, but if he doesn't have the time to sit down and watch with me, I'm kinda screwed.  I'm just getting him caught up on Fringe right now, I'll see what I can do about V this weekend.

LOST finally answered the question of what's going on with the whispers.  I'm a little surprised they went in the direction they did, because it's still feeding that whole "the island is purgatory" nonsense.  Maybe they denied it was purgatory way back in season one because they were peeved people figured it out so fast.  Dunno.  I won't pronounce anything proven until the credits roll on the last episode.

On the DVD side of things, I've re-watched the first season of Fringe, the first season of Castle, and gotten farther in the old canceled "Witchblade" than I did last time.  All to serve my afghan knitting.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Knitting: Bugging me

Tuesday was day one of weaning myself off the pain meds.  I have another half-day left, but I'm a bit paranoid about any medication I get that's a controlled substance, so I try to make the switch to OTC early, saving the powerful stuff for later in the recovery when the ibuprofen won't cut it.  Though I think this procedure finally has me to the point where I'll be pain *free*.  Yes.  I wonder what that's like?

I'm also happy to report that I have finished FIVE squares of the new afghan project.  I think I'm averaging one and a half squares a day.  I think they'd go faster if I wasn't obsessively weaving in all my ends as I go, but once the blanket is finished, the last thing I'm going to want to do is weave in a bazillion ends.  Anyway, there are 12 squares total in the project, although I'm thinking about ordering extra yarn and making it a 4x5 (20 total) afghan instead of a 3x4 (12 total) afghan.  I don't like having to stretch a blanket to cover my toes.  I like being totally swathed in them, without fiddling and effort.

I was tempted to cast on my next project, a Girly Top cotton tee, but even though I threaded the size four tips onto one of my circular needle cords, I stopped there.  Yay me!  I am determined to not let the Classic Lines Cardigan undo my so-far successful New Year's resolution to knit one thing at a time.  I have slipped on buying yarn, but at least I'm still practicing serial knitting monogamy.  

The tee pattern looks simple enough, though, that I may get bored with it.  Right now I'm frustrated with the start-and-stop nature of the modular knitting of the afghan.  I'm hoping they will balance each other out.

As soon as the exterminator (he STILL has not made his visit, the idiot) leaves tomorrow, I will be setting up my table again and possibly take a small break from knitting to make a nice tote bag out of the ultrasuede I bought a few weeks ago.  It looks like a half-day project... square cuts and straight lines.  I shall also set up my lighting for taking pictures and maybe get some shots of the finished CLC, my afghan in progress, and some hand spun yarn to show off.

Quite honestly, if he is a no-show again tomorrow, I'm giving up and putting all my pots and pans back in the cupboards.  He can bite me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gaming: Love for the Xbox 360

Since I've got this whole droopy-eyed thing with my medications going on, I have not been gaming as much as I would like to.  The mind is wide awake, but it's like my eyelids have weights attached to them.  As you can imagine, it makes gaming difficult.

I've been trying to do a bit of Lotro's Spring Festival every day, in short bursts, but mostly I've been putting about 20 minutes every morning into console gaming.  Most notably, I bought a used copy of "Prototype" for the 360.  I have it on Steam for the PC, but I'm finding that using the controller has its perks.  There's a section where you're fighting infected creatures in a military base, where they just keep coming in wave after wave until you blow up some fuel tanks.  I had an impossible time with that section on the PC version, but it was relatively frustration-free on the console, mostly because of the targeting system.

Unfortunately, my Star Trek captain has been neglected.  I've been waiting for my husband to catch up.  It's going to take a while.  LOL

Monday, April 12, 2010

Food: Recipes for Survival #4 - They're Not Crabcakes

My dentist did a royal number on me... I'd swear he was trying to kill me if I didn't know that my teeth were trying to do it first.  NEVER get your kids three sets of braces... by the time they're 40 the enamel is going to be shot anyway apparently from the cement they fix them on there with.  I'm having a bridge installed to replace a missing tooth that was originally a mistake another dentist made over ten years ago.  I won't tell you how much money we're dropping on this little venture, but think very nice used car and you might be close.  He has me on the good drugs and it's a little strange... weird things taste sweet, and while my eyelids refuse to stay up, my brain is still running as normal, so I'm mostly stuck listening to music or audio books.

My focus is a little fuzzy too, so while I'd like to provide a meat-free alternative this week, I just couldn't come up with one.  Falafel perhaps?  I don't have a tried and true recipe for that though, so we'll just have to muddle through.

This recipe is another family favorite.  My daughter would live on these if she could.  My grandmother used to make these all the time with canned salmon, a holdover from her days living in Alaska, I think, but they are just as good with tuna.

Fish Patties with creamed peas

2 - 15oz cans Pink Salmon or 4 - 8oz cans of tuna, water-packed, drained well
3/4 - 1 Cup crushed saltine crackers
1/4 C mayonnaise
2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
2 whole eggs or equivalent egg substitute
2-4 Tbs milk
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes

Place crackers, egg, mayonnaise, and Old Bay seasoning into a medium bowl and mix well.  Add enough milk or additional crushed crackers to make a mixture that's about the consistency of raw meatloaf, if needed.  Add the parsley flakes and tuna or salmon.  Mix thoroughly and set aside to let the crackers soak up some moisture.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, start the creamed peas:

2 Tbs butter or margarine
2 Tbs flour
1 C Milk
1/2 C frozen peas (NOT canned.  They're too mushy to hold up to the stirring)

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat.  It should barely foam, and definitely should not start browning at all.  When the butter is melted, add the flour, creating a paste that's called a roux.  Turn up the heat to medium-high, stirring constantly until the mixture has bubbled at the bottom of the pan for a minute or so.  If it takes on a little color at this point, that's okay.  You want it to look kind of foamy.  Add the milk all at once, still stirring continuously, and turn the heat up to high.  When the milk has thickened properly, it will look like a thick gravy in consistency.  Let it bubble and thicken for one minute, stirring constantly.   Reduce the heat to low and add the peas, still in their frozen state, barely stirring them in.  They're fully cooked already, and will absorb the warmth from the white sauce while you're making the patties.

Time to make the patties.  Divide the fish mixture into even patties about the size of your palm, less than a half-inch thick.  Fry them in the non-stick pan with a little butter or oil until they are firm to the touch and browned well on both sides.  Do NOT flip them too often or they will fall apart.  The milk in the mixture will make them brown quickly, so test done-ness by poking them gently with your finger in the middle.  They should feel just as firm as the pad of your thumb.  If they get too dark too fast, turn your heat down a little bit, but make sure they are cooked until firm.

Taste your creamed peas and add salt and pepper to taste at this point.  Serve by placing one or two patties on the plate and cover with the creamed peas.

*End of recipe*

When making the white sauce, it's important to keep stirring.  It will stick to the bottom like nobody's business.  You can also add some shallots or green onion, but I don't like to complicate it too much.  I usually serve this with an orange or red veggie, such as cooked carrots or red bell-pepper strips or tomato wedges with a little italian dressing.  Bread or rice on the side is also good, mostly for soaking up the rest of the sauce.

While this sounds complicated, you'll find that once you have the cooking principles behind this down pat, you can get this from can or freezer to plate in less than 20 minutes.  Just make sure the patties are reasonably thin, so that the raw egg in the middle gets cooked in a reasonable amount of time.

I'm doing this from memory, and as I've stated I'm a little off my game right now.  If you try this recipe and it goes kerflop, please let me know. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Television: Gobsmacked?

**I have a dentist's appointment early Friday morning, so this is being written Thursday night.  Please excuse any errors in... continuity?  Tenses?

Well if you read my food post on Monday and my Knitting post yesterday, you know I went nuts on TV watching over the weekend, and this week's normally scheduled shows were right in there.  There's a lot to cover so I'll try to stick to the high points.

I had a serious backlog of "Caprica" episodes... the last six of the season, I found out.  Whether this is a normal season, or an "extended hiatus" as seems to be very popular lately, I don't know.  But the show has gotten really good.  Not just my usual "ooh it's techy and cool" good, I mean "wow, these characters are going to some very interesting places" good.  The Adama father going into V-world to find his dead daughter Tamara's avatar, only to be rejected when he finds her because he's killing himself spending so much time in the virtual world.  And to be pushed out of it by Doc Fraser from Stargate SG-1, well that's just a shocker.  Clearly she's had her eye on him for a while.

"Fringe" finally told us the story of how "our" Peter died and Walter crossed over to a parallel universe to find his alternate.  It might be more accurate to say that Walter told Olivia the story, and we happened to be observing at the time.  Either way, my empathy for Walter's predicament was played upon just right.

"Supernatural" is heading down a dark path.  While the boys were in heaven, they didn't see much that would make them want to strive to be there.  And the angels were just rude.  As I mentioned in the Ravelry SPN group, I don't see Dean wanting to help out God's warriors any time soon.  But I'm keeping an eye out for a trumpet player all the same.  The showdown isn't far away.

In the crime-procedural oeuvre, CSI: NY now has Madchen Amik in a recurring guest-star spot as Mac's new love interest.  Lucky girl.  And "forgotten"'s Christian Slater has a new gal on his team as well.  Wasn't Valentine's day a few months ago?  What's with all the detectives getting dates all of a sudden?  Even Bones and Booth are getting frisky-ish.

"V" has come back with a bang, thank goodness.  They can stop splashing big bright red letters all over my precious "Lost".  We know it's still here... shaddup about it already.

This week's LOST was excellent, too, offering great insights into Desmond's role in everything, just WHO the heck was sitting in the rocking chair way back when Locke was still Locke and not Smokey, and tiny subtle clues as to how it all ties together.  The conversation on Ravelry this week turned to the rabbits in the lab, and I made an observation, which I will cut and paste here: 

One of the chapters in Stephen King’s “On Writing”, a non-fictional book about his thoughts on writing and how he thinks he became a writer, there is an exercise where he’s trying to illustrate how writing a novel can be a form of time travel and telepathy at the same time. The exercise asks you to picture a rabbit in a cage, on a table with a tablecloth. The rabbit has a large number 8 painted on its side. His point is that he, the writer, wrote this several months before you read it (that’s the time travel part) but you’re both seeing pretty much the same thing in your heads (the telepathy part). Some small details might be different, such as the shape of the table, the color of the cloth and so forth, but you’re essentially picturing the same thing.

When I read “On writing” for the second time, it was after several seasons of LOST had passed, but it was written in the late 90s I think, and I was struck by the similarity with the rabbit, the number, and the concept of time travel/telepathy all tied together.
I don’t know if it means anything but I thought I’d throw it out there.

Chuck, unfortunately, did not record properly this week because COMCAST sucks.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Miscellaneous: The Lists

... and now I have that Hall n' Oates song stuck in my head.  At least it's not the Weird Al Yankovic version of "Happy Birthday"

For my loving friends and family who read my blog, here are the wish lists I have scattered like errant apple seeds all over the internet.  Have fun, and thank you for asking.

Barnes and Noble:  These goofy people put my full name in the link.  No posting it here.  Plus I don't think you can purchase their ebooks as gifts, which is mega stupid.  I would love a gift card if it can be used online for ebooks though! 
(The Jinx one is acting a bit funny, but if you search for my email address I think a corrected one comes up)

I must say, most of these places make it really, really hard to share your list.  I shouldn't have to email my own list to myself just so I can get the damn link... the html code should be right there, but no.  They hide them with javascripts and all sorts of nonsense, and insist that you email the wishlist to someone directly instead of being able to just slap it on your blog.  I think that's intrusive.  It's the difference between leaving a list typed up on your desk, that someone can come by and peruse at their leisure, as opposed to typing it up, carrying it to their desk and shoving it under their nose, saying "Here, buy this for MEEEEEEE!!!"  Ugh.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Knitting: The End is Near

No, I'm not standing on a street corner with a sandwich board sign, and this is not the movie 2012.  I am THIS close to being done with the Classic Lines Cardigan.  In fact, by the time you read this, I may already be done.

As I mentioned in my food post on Monday, my family was marvelous on the holiday weekend and let me have run of the livingroom TV for almost the entire weekend.  And I went nuts.  By the time I caught up with my backlog of "Caprica" episodes (Eric Stoltz has aged well, yum) I had joined the sleeves to the body and begun the raglan decreases.  Amusingly, my next show was the latest episode of "Fringe" where Walter goes to an alternate universe where "Back to the Future" starring Eric Stoltz is playing.

Aparently he was originally cast in the role, but focus groups didn't like him.  Can you imagine the classic lines with him in the role?  Boggles the mind.

At the end of "Lost" last night, I had not only finished the raglan decreases on the sleeves, and knit the collar band and sewn it down, I had picked up and knit the right side band and knit the turning row for it.

Actually I probably would have been done with it at that point in time if I hadn't waffled so much about the STEEKING.

I am expecting the exterminator tomorrow, so I had taken down my sewing table and sewing machine so I'd have room to pull all my pots, pans and dishes out of the cupboards.  I did NOT want to hand-sew the reinforcements for the steeks, and my machine was unavailable.  After waffling, procrastinating, and whinging for a half an hour, I finally said to myself that the yarn stuck to itself so much while I was knitting, it will stick together without reinforcing stitches.

So far, I was right.  I'm not going to be shoving it into a project bag and taking it down to the bus stop tomorrow morning though.  I'm not that stupid.

So next week I expect to be reporting to you how many squares I've gotten done on the New Traditions Afghan kit.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gaming: Dragon Age Continues

So not too long ago, I bored all of you with my endless gushing over Dragon Age: Origins.  Well, there was an expansion pack, Dragon Age: Awakening, and so far it's a good one.  I still have to play "mash the ESC key" over and over because I can read the dialogue faster than the voice actors can speak it, but as an RPG, it's still solid.  You can import your characters from the first segment, or start fresh.  Any weapons I was carrying that had runes installed were emptied of the runes, but otherwise I had all my gear after the import.

The game also remembered that my imported character had married Alistair, who was now King of Esteldin.  There was some smoochy talk at the end of a cut scene and some dialogue options that supported this status.  I won't give away much of the plot, but it seems interesting so far.

I have not played it all the way through, so I can't tell if the expansion has enough entertainment hours in it to justify the hefty price, but so far the quality of the voice acting and encounters is just as solid as the base game.  I recommend it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Food: Recipes for survival #3

I caught my first episode of Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" this week... one of the few reality shows I will watch.  It was kind of funny to see the local radio host, Jim, really riled up by Jamie's presence in his town.  I think he thinks Jamie is going to personally come and take away his deep-fried doughnuts.  He's clearly upset and I can't figure out why he feels threatened by Jamie's food program.  It's for the kids in the schools... what's his problem with that?  It makes Jim look childish.

This week's recipe... Chili.  You can do a meatless version of this with a meat-substitute, lentils, or leave the "meat" out altogether.  Personally I'm a carnivore, but if I were to go meatless, this would be one of the foods I would miss unless I worked up a meatless version.

K's Chili

2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic (or more to taste), minced
1 pound ground beef or two cups textured soybean meat substitute or two cups cooked lentils
1- 32oz can petite diced or crushed tomatoes
1- 16oz can tomato sauce
1- 8oz can SPICY V8 juice
2 Tbs. Chili powder
1 Tbs. chopped jalepeno pepper, or to taste
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper to taste
16 oz. kidney beans or black beans (optional, but good)
16 oz can corn (optional, but also good)

Brown ground beef in a dutch oven, and drain the fat.  (If you're using a meat substitute, follow the preparation directions and add to the dutch oven.  For lentils, add 2 TBS OLIVE OIL.)  Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they look translucent and start to take on some color.

Add the garlic, but do not allow it to brown, as it will get bitter.  Immediately add the chopped jalepeno pepper, and the tomatoes, sauce, and V8 juice.  Stir together, and turn up the heat until it comes to almost a boil, then turn it back down again to a simmer, stirring frequently.  Do NOT add beans or corn yet if you are using those options, as they will stick and burn at the bottom of the pan.  Season to taste, adding chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Allow to simmer for one hour, stirring every ten to fifteen minutes.  At this point you can add the corn and beans.  Heat and stir for another ten minutes, or until they're warmed through.  Serve with corn bread or tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, or with a sturdy crusty bread.

*End of Recipe*

When I make this myself, I use dried beans, but it takes longer.  I take the dried beans, bring them to a boil with lots of water, and simmer them for an hour or until tender.  When using dried beans its important NOT to add them to anything containing salt, or salting the water until they have been cooked to tenderness.  If you add the salt before they're tender, the way salt acts on moisture doesn't allow water to enter the beans properly, and you end up with "bullet beans" as I call them.  So make them tender first, then flavor them however you like.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Miscellaneous: Greedy Reader

 I have a confession to make.  I got my birthday gift (a Barnes and Noble Nook) a bit early... like, three weeks early.  Now I've been going through about a book a day, and charging the thing at least once a day too... I'm assuming because I've been using it so much.

I've not used a Kindle, but from what I can tell, I made the right choice.  I've already added a 16 gig micro SD card to expand its capacity (Amazon was really stupid to take that option away from Kindle users in the redesign of the Kindle 2nd gen).  The touch screen to make menu choices or flip pages with a gesture is awesome.

And though I haven't used it while knitting, I *can* put my PDF knitting patterns on it, and they look great.  I think I'm still going to need to print charts however.  Can't use a magnet strip to mark my place, heh heh.

My one complaint is that the clicky buttons to turn pages are really loud... that kind of plastic-flexing, icky squeak sound that sets teeth on edge.  Which is why I was relieved to learn you could flip by swiping the touch-screen... and it feels more natural, too, like the kind of swiping gesture you'd make with a fingertip on a  paperback.

B&N was giving away a free copy of the first book in one of those ubiquitous "alternate history" vampires-live-among-us-and-everyone-knows-it fantasy series.  I've now gotten through book five in as many days.  I can't tell if it's because I like the series (I do, but not *that* much) or because I'm avoiding knitting that sweater.  Probably a little of both.

Today is Thursday, and so many TV shows are making their reappearance tonight, it's going to be insane.  I still haven't watched the V episode that aired this week, and I'll have Supernatural, Fringe, the Mentalist, and a score of others to catch up on.  Hopefully that will speed up the knitting, or at least kick it into a slow first gear.