Monday, May 31, 2010

Cooking: Day of the Grill

Ah, Memorial Day.  Not only a day to reflect on our heroes in the armed forces who died for our freedom, we get to exercise our freedom by burning grilling meat in the back yard and drinking beer till Aunt Ethel starts looking thin. 

What's on the menu today?  Steaks.  Potato salad.  Two kinds of home-made dip.  And oddly, mini-eggrolls I made from scratch.  Since there are probably going to be leftover steaks, here's my favorite day-after-steaks meal, the Shooter's Sandwich as originally presented by the famous british cooking team, the Two Fat Ladies.  I've modified and rewritten it, but it's the same in taste and spirit.

My Shooter's Sandwich

1 whole loaf of unsliced bread
1 lb. boneless steak, as tender a cut as you can afford
1 lb. mushrooms in season (I most often use white button or portobello or a combination), sliced
1 large yellow onion, or a Vidallia if possible, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Slice one end off the loaf of bread, and make a hollow in the center that is just large enough to hold the piece of meat, reserving the crumb for later use.  Sprinkle the steak liberally with salt and pepper and sear over medium-high heat until medium-well done.  You don't want it any more done than that, or the sandwich will be dry. Once the steak is done, set it aside wrapped in foil so it can rest.  Don't cut it!  You want those juices to end up in the bread.

Add the sliced mushrooms and onions to the hot pan, adding additional fat if necessary.  Sautee these until they've gone very soft and taken on some brown color.  Spread this mixture all through the hollow you made in the loaf of bread.  Then fit the steak inside.  Add the end crust back on, and wrap the sandwich *very* tightly in plastic wrap or clean butcher's paper.  (The Two Fat Ladies even suggest compressing the loaf with books or heavy pans at this point.  It's up to you.)  After all, the idea was that this sandwich was taken out into the fields by hunters, carried in his pack, until lunch time.  It's supposed to be smooshed.

After no more than twenty minutes out on the counter top, I suggest refrigerating it until the next day.  Depending on your appetite, I'd then cut this into thirds or fourths and share with someone, but then again it's so delicious that half now, half later is always an option.

*End of recipe*

If you can't afford a steak that is tender enough to place in a sandwich whole, I have also used slightly cheaper cuts of steak, but then cooled the steak almost completely and sliced it thin before placing it in the loaf.  I'd slice it on a clean board meant to catch the drippings, and then pour the juices into the sandwich.  This sandwich is NOT as good if the bread hasn't soaked up an insane amount of yummy goodness from the juices of the meat.

Enjoy your food and the start of summer.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Miscellaneous: It Lives!

My PC is still alive!  The power supply came in a semi-timely fashion, installed without a hitch, and is now purring along in my old case.  The new one, also, has the added bonus of being 90% quieter than my old one.  I am so glad I know how to diagnose and fix these problems, because this was 1000% cheaper than buying a whole new machine.  And I'm not pulling that number out of my... um, ear. 

It has been almost two weeks since I asked maintenance to fix my faucet, and almost a week since the garbage disposal tried to make a break for it, and has been sitting on the floor of my cabinet ever since.  Maintenance STILL has not been to my apartment.  I think it's time to start looking at Texas renter's laws on the internet, and sending certified mail requests for service.

In other news, little Monkey Pants is due to be out of school soon... goodbye 6th grade, hello 7th.  We apparently need some immunizations before next year, which seems weird to me but okay... our Dr.s office is terrible about keeping us informed as to when these are due.

Also, yesterday's link to the Gabriel's Wings Shawl is now fixed.  I don't have a clue how it got sent to my "drafts" page, but I suspect it might be some kind of programming weirdness.

Tomorrow, some more television season finale thoughts, and discussion of the "New Summer Season" they're touting on some of the networks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Knitting: Flying with Nadine

Well, I still did not decide to focus completely on the Girly Top... although I have been adding to it steadily.  There was a pile of Knit Pick's Cottlin in the "Planetarium" colorway calling my name, so I decided it was time to cast on the Nadine tunic tank from "French Girl Knits"  I did mention I wanted to knit every single item in that book?  I think I'm well on my way.

I'm maybe halfway done with the Nadine.  How, you may ask, am I getting through these DK-weight projects so fast?  Well, my desktop power supply died yesterday, so no gaming...  I think I put in a twelve-hour day on my knitting.  It wasn't as wonderful as one might think.  :D  When my PC is back up and running, I will post progress pictures, but for right now I'm stuck blogging on this lousy laptop.

There is a KAL I'm possibly going to join for the "Supernatural" knitter's group from Ravelry.  The pattern is going to be the "Gabriel's Wings" shawl.  Come on over to the group and join in if you like... should prove to be fun.  And goodness knows I have enough sock yarn to do twenty of the darn things.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Televison Special Edition: LOST Finale

Last night's LOST finale came with huge expectations... both from the fans, and the network.  I think we can all agree that the extra half-hour was tacked on simply to extend the advertising time.  Some of the ads were worth it though... Target showed true creativity in their LOST-themed ads, using elements of the show to provide humor.  I especially liked the wild boar ad for barbeque sauce, but the smoke monster selling smoke detectors was pretty funny too.  I would not be surprised if they were all floating around on YouTube somewhere.

My problem with the finale is that, although it was a moving, fitting tribute to all the characters we've come to love (and hate) over the last six years, it answered *nothing* about the island.  It answered plenty about the flash-sideways reality of this past season, but almost nothing about the five years before it.  If you ask me, it was a huge slap in the face of some of the fans.  It's Faith vs. Science all over again... and what we got hit with last night was a big dose of faith, and very little science.  Five years of electro-magnetic pockets, time-traveling rabbits and people, name-changing scientists, whispering in the jungle, pneumatic tubes dumping observational journals into the middle of nowhere, and we get no more than the equivalent of the deep philosophical meaning thought up by the two plumbers who wrote the Matrix.  What is the matrix the island?  Well apparently it's still the question that drives us... whatever that may be.  I'm thinking it might be "What the heck have we been doing for six years?"

Worst of all, there are long-time followers of the show that are confused by the ending.  Have they been dead all along?  Did Hurley create the sideways reality now?  I guess the dog distracted them during a key conversation.

The main questions I wanted answered, such as where the island came from, why do ghosts sometimes get stuck there, why does it heal people, who originally built the temple and the statue, and what the heck was that huge bird that called Hurley's name all about... why, those things are apparently unimportant.  No, clearly what's important is that our castaways created such a deep, lasting bond that they can't go anywhere unless they go together.  Just like teenaged girls at the mall.

The show IS a journey, and one that I think is worth taking... just so long as you can easily "Let Go" of all your questions at the very end.

Food: Pressing Business

My kitchen has been in upheaval for two weeks now... I had a leaky faucet and then my garbage disposal *fell off*.  Has maintenance been here to fix it?  Heck no.  Meanwhile, I can't wash a dish, because the dishwasher drains into the garbage disposal.

How have I been coping?  Paper plates and a new waffle iron.  But not just any waffle iron... the Black and Decker G48TD Grill and Waffle Baker.  This thing has saved my butt, mostly because of the inter-changeable plates that let you do waffles *or* panini press sandwiches.  The non-stick plates mean I don't have to wash a pan, just wipe down when cool.

I just have to remember to check which way the plates are flipped *before* I heat it up.  Flipping them with oven mitts on is NOT recommended.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Television: The Meaning of Spring

For all of us living here on this planet, usually Spring is the time for new beginnings... green things start growing, new babies and animals are born, we clean out the stagnation of winter in our homes and begin letting air and sunshine in again.  So it seems odd that while new life is springing up all around us, in television it's a season of loss and endings.

Several shows have wrapped up their current seasons over the past two weeks.  Supernatural, Fringe, and V are some of the compelling season cliff-hangers I count among those.  This Sunday also marks the end of the era for LOST.  Some fans are excited, some are cautious, knowing either all things will either finally be explained or amount to a tremendous disappointment, depending on whether you trust the writers or not.  This very day I have seen people discussing things that confused them about Tuesday's episode, but claim that *something* will happen on Sunday that will tie it all together, and make it click for them.  I don't have their faith.  I think the writers *think* they've explained things satisfactorily, but honestly there are layers and details that they've either just plain forgot about, or don't care about.  And I don't think they're going to wrap them up.

I'm firmly in the "Science" camp.  I know the frailty of humans, and when it comes right down to it, even famous bigshot writers are human.  They'll forget things.  They'll explain something in a way they think is crystal clear, but is inscrutable to some or all of us.  They perceive their characters one way, while we perceive them another, and then they build on their own perceptions while leaving the rest of us confused when what they do doesn't mesh with our expectations.

The explanation of Adam and Eve?  I believe I've mentioned what a big disappointment that was to me... not in terms of plot, but in that it was supposed to be this big, huge proof of "a plan".  Dude, Adam and Eve could have turned out to be time-travelling Rose and Bernard, and you still could have intercut scenes from season one and it would have had the same amount of relevance.  That's not proof of a plan... that's proof that you own season 1 DVDs.

I've been burned by Bad Robot before.  The whole run of Alias after season two was a tremendous disappointment.  I just have zero faith that this ending on Sunday is going to be anything more than a big "Huh?" at the end of the day.  Maybe Jimmy Kimmel will wrap things up for them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Knitting: The Right Motivation

     I guess I *can* knit fast when properly motivated by luxurious, expensive yarns.  Dammit.  My knitting habit just got way more expensive.
     I finished the "Wrenna" in two days.  Pretty darn fast for a cardigan.  I'm now 90% done with "Jewel" in Noro Silk Garden 84 Reds.  I started that after I finished the Wrenna.  No, really!  Now, the Wrenna I understand... that was done in super-bulky yarn at two stitches to the inch.  But the Jewel?  That's worsted.  Also, I don't get the fascination with the Silk Garden yarn.  It's anything BUT silky.  This is my first time working with mohair though... does it get softer once you wash it?  Because otherwise this is going to be one very pretty sweater that I won't wear because it's scratchy as hell right now.

     Meanwhile I'm still chugging away at the "Girly Top" in DK cotton, still working towards 14" of stockinette before I start increasing for the sleeves.  Somehow, I don't think I'm making six or seven of these in various colors.  Just... no.  *Maybe* if I did a multi-color intarsia version, something that's not all "knit around and around and around until the tube is 14inches long" I might not be snoring through it.

Next up is the sock monkey extravaganza... I have to stop putting it off.  I don't even know why I'm putting it off, except my little MonkeyPants kid is now 12 and probably too old for such things.

I haven't given up on the weaving, I just don't have the space for it right now.  You wouldn't believe how much room you need to work a 32" loom!  I need to pack up or use up some of my yarn, and then I'll be able to breathe again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gaming: It's the little things...

This week I have been splitting my gaming focus between two things:  Royal Envoy, a time-management/building game, and Tropico 3, the banana republic sim, where you rebuild your island and get the economy on its feet without losing the hearts of the people.

Tropico 3 is just how I remembered its predecessors, with updated graphics and a smoother gameplay experience.  The economy and infrastructure are still rich and intricately woven together, and the hearts of your people are still fickle.   There is a sturdy single player campaign, and excellent resources for multi-player and player-created scenarios.

I recommend it highly.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Television: Finale Time

Season finale of "Supernatural" aired last night.  It felt like a series finale up until the last ten seconds, but it's been confirmed that there will be another season next year.  Eric Kripke is no longer the show-runner, however, and with this season's big Apocalypse showdown, one wonders what they're going to be able to follow that up with.

I don't want to put spoilers in my blog... with DVR technology, and sites like Hulu, people can wait weeks to watch an episode.  I don't know why they'd want to with "Supernatural", but they can.  Let's just say the season finale was emotionally draining, in the most wonderful way, and they didn't go for the obvious "brotherly love saves the day" ending that I feared they would.  It was more subtly elegant than that.

"Fringe" was interesting this week, with a Peter-centric episode.  Martha Plimpton as a small-town Washington sherrif was very compelling... I smell spin-off potential.

"Chuck" is getting bizarre.  For a secret agent, I don't think Chuck is very secretive.  It seems like everyone who knows him (except the two goofy guys at the Buymore) are going to know his secret.  There seems to be a reappearance of Scott Bakula as Chuck's father in our near future, and I'm always going to be excited about that.

LOST was... confounding.  As Jimmy Kimmel said, if this had been "Seinfeld", this would be like the third-to-last episode being all about the soup nazi.  I get that a big part of understanding the series is understanding the island, but the huge focus on Jacob and his brother (and after 12 years they still didn't pick a name for him?  Ridiculous) was an odd way to go.   I still maintain they wasted half of this season on nothing but crap, now they're rushing through the end.  And the "Adam and Eve" thing is supposed to be proof that they planned this all along?  Bull.  All it proves is that they own a DVD player and re-watched the first season.  Anybody can write crap to fit after the fact.  Unless the man in black and his mother are named Adam and Eve (which would still be stupid) a handful of lines from season one spliced in doesn't prove anything.

A lot of people disagree with me on those points, but it's how I see it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Knitting: Wrenna... holy cow!

I finished the New Traditions Afghan early yesterday morning, and with several interruptions, started in on the "Wrenna" from French Girl Knits.  Holy cow... this thing flies along!  I mean, I expected it at one stitch per inch, but I'm through 25% of the yarn already.  This is the progress of maybe four hours of knitting:

I realize it's hard to see scale despite the book being in the picture, but that's the beginning of the whole sweater, raglan sleeves and all, not just the back.  I've got a good six inches done.  In one day.  Mind boggling.

The Twinkle yarn, though insanely expensive, is soft to knit with.  It is very, very easy to split, though, especially with the number of decreases that call for passing slipped stitches over.  This stuff is more like pencil roving than yarn.  It is also hard to fit an entire hank onto my ball winder... I have to stop when I'm close to the end and wind the rest on by hand.  Fortunately it only takes four hanks.

It's so much fun to make such fast progress, I may be done before next week's scheduled knitting post!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Knitting: Thiiiiis Close

The New Traditions afghan is almost done.  I would probably have been done with it last night if I hadn't messed up aligning two strips of the squares and had to undo an entire strip.  They've all been pieced together in strips of three squares, and I'm halfway done putting those strips together.  Depending on when you read this, I may be completely done.

Once it's finished, I'm diving back into the Girly Top, and then it's up in the air.  I've completely warped up my rigid heddle Kromski Harp loom for a large tote bag, but honestly I like the immediacy of sewing much better than weaving, especially since with two heddles the warp yarn is sticking in the heddle slots and I'm having a hard time getting a clean shed.  I did splurge on two Interweave Knits CD collections... all the issues from 2004 and 2006 in PDF format on CD.  Why those two years?  I had queued items from them on Ravelry, and now I have the patterns without tracking down  out-of-print back issues.  One of the items is the Threepenny Pullover.  I have way more than enough yarn to make two or three of them, assuming I would want to.

I have also decided that I have WAY too much yarn.  I need stash-busting projects, and I need them NOW.  I am not good with sticking with them, though.  I always get bogged down in mixing fiber content worries, differing weight problems, etc.  One of these days I'm going to figure out how to weave all my leftover odds and ends together in some kind of fabulous scarf, or something.

If only my color palette wasn't all over the place.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Miscellaneous: Thoughts not of Gaming

I have been really wrapped up in my knitting and weaving... gaming has been left behind for a while.  So I'll take a day to write here about all the stuff I've been doing that I normally don't talk about.  I know... you're thrilled at the prospect, right?  (We really need a universal sarcasm tag... I'd use the hell out of that thing)

Yesterday I finished three more squares of my afghan while watching old DVDs of "Friday the 13th: The Series"  OMG I had forgotten some of the fashions of the '80s, but there they are... all immortalized on disk.  If anything evil needed to be put back in the vault, it was those chunky earrings and off-the-shoulder sweaters.

After I finished the squares, I sat down with some scraps left over from a pair of jeans I sewed myself last week and slapped together this little cutie:

It's just from straight cuts, with a folded-over pair of handles, and a small applique flower.  I even managed a pocket on the inside, although I didn't plan for a closure on the pocket so it's just there.  I'll remember next time.  Right now though this is all mine.  :D  The flower should fray around the edges the first time I wash it, so it should look really cute.  From concept to being done, it took maybe an afternoon, and it would have been less if I hadn't screwed up with the handles a bit.  Apparently I don't know the difference between thirds and fourths.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food: It's almost the season...

... for canning.  Heck, if you're like me and living in an area with an early-starting growth season, you may already have some green fruit or veggies ripening on the vine.  One of my neighbors starts plants indoors in January and he already has golf ball sized tomatoes.

This year I vowed to start my canning and preserving early... last year I got caught at the tail end of summer, scrounging for jars and lids on the internet because they had stopped selling them locally.  Try to guess how much shipping is on a flat of quart jars.  Shipping companies are cracking down on large, empty containers being shipped, so by the time you get them here the shipping costs more than the jars themselves.

Last year I did apple butter, carrots, and grape jelly.  The apple butter is completely gone.  I have one jar of carrots left and the grape jelly didn't set properly.... I underused the pectin.  This year I hope to do more.  But first, I have to shop for the jars and lids, and I'm determined to have enough for the entire season.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Television: Honestly, I'll be glad when it's over

If there is one crazy, insane, totally around the bend group of fanatics out there, it's "LOST" fans.  And "LOST" fans who are knitters?  The worst!

I hope the fact that I am one mitigates the harshness of that statement.

We're a couple of episodes away from getting all the answers... or at least all the ones we're ever going to get.  Are there still people with outlandish theories still clinging to one word utterances from season two to prove they could still be right?  You betcha.  People who think Mock-Locke couldn't possibly be the evil one when there are dead bodies staring them in the face?  Yep.  Well, maybe not after last week.

I don't think I'll ever understand how I ended up being one of these people because I will never understand them and their ways.  I feel like I'm an anthropologist plunked down in the middle of crazy-town, only to discover  I was born there.  Kind of like the end of Nicholas Cage's version of "Wicker Man".  Something's burning, dude.

Sun, Jin, Sayid, and Lapidus are all presumed dead, stuck in a watery coffin at the bottom of the ocean.  There are fans out there right now depressed about this, and swearing they are giving up on the rest of the show because of it.  Did they think everyone was going to be happy at the end of this thing?  And if anyone is hoping that Jack will be the one to carry on after everyone else, might I remind them that his character was supposed to die in the *pilot*?  If they've truly been planning since the beginning, then I'm thinking Jack is toast.  Then again, the original plan was for Kate to be the big leader, so maybe they just transferred their plans from her to him.

There are rumors that next week's episode will provide proof that the entire show was planned carefully from beginning to end.  I'll believe it when I see it.  And I'm telling you, if the end of "LOST" is as disappointing to me as the end of "Alias", then I am giving up on Bad Robot productions for good.  Yep.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Knitting: The Afghan that will Never End

I am still working on the New Traditions Afghan.  I've done all the block outlines in cream, and done half the outlines in Snickerdoodle.  There's just the rest in Snickerdoodle and then all the Bittersweet Heather outlines, stitching them together and I'm done.

Now that my yarn order has arrived, I may be warping that bag project I was talking about since my extra heddles and heddle blocks also arrived yesterday.  Gonna wait till I'm done with the Afghan though.  This plague has slowed me down enough, imagine if I also started another project?

Alright, now I've made a pot of strawberry-flavored black tea.  It's time to snuggle down and knit.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Miscellaneous: Not as Dead as I Thought I'd Be

I think I'm on the upswing... blog may possibly be back to normal tomorrow.  After all, I managed to notice a sale on Rowan yarn, I can't be that sick, right?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Miscellaneous: Ugh

It was TAKS test last week, the school's annual testing evaluation of the childrens' education.  So naturally my daughter came home sick with something last Thursday, the last day of testing, because absenteeism is strongly discouraged during the actual test days.  So some sick kid came to school and infected the rest.

And now I have it.

You know when you get a sore throat and it makes you swallow weird, so you swallow air every time?  Yeah.  I haven't had a sore throat like this since I was in my teens.  I think this may be one of those things I have to put on my "Murtagh" list.  Now if I can just convince the germs to never set up shop in my vicinity again.

This is my long-winded way of saying if you don't hear from me for a few days, I'm wrapped up on the couch with a pot of tea and a DVD set.