Bullet-Points, we got Bullet-Points

  • The brush piles did not get ground up this weekend, for boring reasons.
  • I did get cleaning done in the dining room, and Robin worked on the spare bedroom, since we weren’t out dealing with brush.
  • We found floors!
  • I got pictures of Buford the very shy snake with his enclosure door open. He did not approve.
  • Baljeet the snake seems to have resumed eating after the trauma of mites and mite treatment.
  • Caudimordax was pretty good about getting a snake sauna and having stuck shed removed from his head.
  • Tommy earned himself the name “Mousebreath”.
  • Kajura the snake was fed on Thursday, as the mouse they were supposed to get on Tuesday “mysteriously” disappeared.
  • Pumpkin pie spice mix is appropriate any time of year, and yummy, on baked apples.
  • Baked apples would have been even better with Granny Smiths than Honeycrisps, and could have used a tiny pinch of salt.
  • Another round of baked apples, happened, because a bag of small back-yard-tree sweet apples of unknown type appeared at work. Cut in chunks, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, butter, baked, then topped with salted caramel coconut milk ice-not-cream was yummy.
  • Chicken fricassee-like stew made with coconut milk instead of cow milk is pretty good.
  • Not sure the little new potatoes in it are usual, but I put them in anyway, and don’t regret it.
  • Leftover Minimalist Potato Salad is pretty good for breakfast.
  • I need to pick up more eggs, potatoes, and mayo next time I get groceries.
  • Lummy the tortoise doesn’t care if other tortoises think prickly pear cactus is wonderful, he wants his greens, dammit.
  • I prefer the original “My Singing Monsters” to the “Dawn of Fire” sequel.
  • I blame Robin for Singing Monsters infesting my iWhatsit.
  • I need more keys to buy more Dibblers!

More Blogging! More . . . Snakes . . . and CHRISTMAS!

Yes, another week, another blog entry! I’m on a roll! Or a chair.

A couple weeks ago I got a copy of “The Sand Boa Book”. The day I got Scatha I was also looking at a sand boa, so this is not out of the blue. Sunday . . . a sand boa did not happen. *Two* sand boas happened. Shai-Hulud and Danger Noodle (as previously posted, see G+ for pictures), both boys. They’re tiny, 10 and 15 grams each. For comparison, I just weighed some quarters, and two quarters are 11 grams; add a dime or penny to get 14 grams.

I got the boas from a breeder downtown, he had them in shredded aspen. I’d bought a box of sand at the pet store, but discovered on getting home it was not a recommended type – too dusty. So the boys were put in aspen. Monday morning I looked on-line, and determined that the sandblasting sand at Menard’s and Home Depot is coal slag, which although should be inert is not what I want. I then exercised my Google-Fu, after a hint from Berland’s, found a materials supplier in Wheeling, and ordered 150 pounds (minimum order) of clean, graded, screened blasting sand. Yes! More weird shopping!

The boys disappeared into the sand rather promptly. Ron and Robin have decided that “Shai-Hulud and Danger Noodle” sounds like a superhero team, with Danger Noodle as the sidekick. This is/was prescient, and Shai-Hulud seems to be the braver one – last night he was out on top of his artificial succulent (pics were blurry, sorry), despite being the smaller one.

Ron and Robin picked up the sand Monday afternoon. Ron was coming home early because still not feeling well. He is, however, finally slowly improving.

We all had or took yesterday off. Dinner was potato sausage (a Swedish thing, and kind of a Christmas Eve thing in my family), mashed rutabaga, and pecan pie. Robin did manage to leave some potato sausage. I pointed out that when I’m looking for dinner ideas that he could suggest it, potato sausage is not particularly a special occasion food. Last night I also made gingerbread.

Yesterday morning we went to Honeybaked Ham to pick up some ham for today, looked at the line outside the door, and decided to push ham off to New Year’s Day dinner, so we could get it when the store is not insanely busy. None of us had our hearts set on ham today, so it was an easy decision.

So on to Eurofresh, where I found a nice standing rib roast, instead, and picked up baking ingredients (I never said this was a chronologically coherent post!);  brussels sprouts, bacon, and blue cheese for last night’s dinner; and other sundries. Then we forgot to make the brussels last night, so Ron and Robin will have them today (I am definitely not a fan of tiny cabbage).

Currently cooking for lunch are Scotch eggs and spatzle. Breakfast was gingerbread waffles. Beef shank bones have been roasted and are cooling for the dogs. Also cooking are ox tails for gravy stock, and cranberry-apple sauce. We also have ingredients for sweet noodle kugel, which will probably happen tomorrow or Sunday.

My son got me a copy of “The Ugly Renaissance” for Christmas. He knows my tastes!  Got several other books and goodies.

Earlier this week we had a data issue in our reptile record-keeping app, related to a Dropbox synchronization failure, and lost about a month’s worth of data, grumble grumble grumble. Trying a different app, in which data lives on an Amazon-owned server, and which has lots of people who like it on ball-pythons.net. And now all the snakes have labels with their names, details, and QR codes on their cages.

And now, time for lunch.


Another Bullet-Point Update

I really don’t mean to keep forgetting to blog, but here we go again.  Since the last post, on January 22nd:

  • I have obtained a backpack for future short trips.  The next expected one is the floodplain managers’ conference in March, which will be two nights, in Bloomington, to which I am taking Amtrak again.
  • MuseCon grid build on the 24th was not going to happen, so I stayed home and worked on things for Military History Fest. Also did not attend the follow-up on the 8th.
  • Military History Fest was the 30th through the 1st, at Pheasant Run. Yes, the weekend of the big snowstorm. In 20/20 hindsight we should have packed up Saturday night, and taken the trailer, etc. home then. But we didn’t, see the Otter Blog if you want more natter about that.
  • Biffed a curb Sunday morning of that weekend with the Kia on the way to Pheasant Run, couple days later noticed a shimmy in the steering wheel and slight pull to the left.
  • Spent the 7th baking for the Capricon Cafe. IIRC it was 3 ginormous (4x) batches of bacon-cheddar scones, and 2 ginormous batches of Heath Bar scones.
  • For future reference, that’s the basic King Arthur Flour scone recipe, using sour cream for the dairy, and 1/2 of a big GFS bag of Heath Bar chips – 5-6 cups. Bake the at the same temp as the bacon-cheddar scones, for 25 minutes (5 less than bacon-cheddar). Total: 5-6 dozen scones
  • Heath Bar scones are really really good.
  • Robin made a triple batch of banana bread (5 loaves).
  • That took 5 pounds of margarine, a stupid-size tub of sour cream, and about 4 dozen eggs, about half of a 25-pound bag of pastry flour, a big bag of bacon pieces, most of a bag of shredded cheese,  and a big hand of bananas.
  • On Sunday we moved Elrond’s crate to the living room, since he’d stopped coming upstairs, and was getting more and more fussy if he couldn’t sit on the couch.
  • He only had to be shown where his crate was once, and remembered.
  • He still prefers the couch, but now has somewhere to go when he can’t have it.
  • Wednesday I dropped the Kia off at John & Scott’s (see above).
  • One rim bent, front tires worn to wear bars, one rear tire suffering belt slippage, so since they can’t match the other rear tire, that’s 4 new tires and a new rim. I’d probably have had them replace the 4th tire anyway.
  • Also need to replace (front) ball joint, and yes, need an alignment job.
  • And the oil change I requested.
  • They won’t get the rim until Monday, which is OK, since I have Monday off.
  • Ouch. I was pretty much expecting to need new front tires, but was hoping for just those, alignment, and an oil change. I expect the bill to be $850-ish.
  • Because of a scheduling issue on the part of the hotel, I helped set up the Cafe Thursday, since I had the day off.
  • Because of time off issues as a result of the ‘flu in December, I’m not taking any time off for Cap.
  • Last time we boarded Elrond, the dropping-off process was stressful, so not taking time off means the dogs can stay at home with me.
  • The scones, both flavors, seem to have survived freezing and subsequent thawing fine.
  • I had to work yesterday.
  • Today and tomorrow I’m working on the program book for the floodplain managers’ conference.
  • Last night I got an e-mail that I’m taking to mean that the conference chair had gone into labor. This was not unexpected, and AFAIK not an emergency. Hopefully labor is done and baby and mother are happy and healthy.
  • Will be taking a break tomorrow to pick up Ron, since I took the truck after helping with Cafe setup, and Robin will be going with Dave to help unload all the A/V equipment into Dave’s locker, which Ron would rather skip.
  • On the way home Thursday I stopped at Fresh Fields, at the corner of Dundee and Milwaukee.
  • I was expecting a Whole Paycheck-style store.
  • Nope, more like Eurofresh on steroids.
  • Escaped with just pork for stir-fry, polish sausage, and thin-sliced short ribs.
  • Made rice pilaf with the pork (because there were no reasonably-sized packages of chicken thighs) Thursday night.
  • Had the polish sausage last night, and some of the leftovers diced up in an omelet this morning (2 really big sausages – about 4 average-sized sausage equivalent).
  • Short ribs are marinating, to be something like Korean-style. Which I’ve never had, thus “something like”.
  • This morning Duckon announced on Facebook that there will be no Duckon this year, but working on 2016.
  • I have my doubts they will pull off a convention in 2016, but I wish them luck. Really. I’m sad/sorry that Duck has been having problems.
  • The dogs have taken control of the couch, and are sound asleep. Unless/until I move toward the kitchen, of course.
  • And now, I think it’s time to get back to the program book.


Catching Up

Oops, I see its been over a month since I last posted. I blame the journal app I got for the iWhatsit (Day One). So to recap:
 Mid-September: Cleaned the dining room and the front entry. I can now use the dining room, and the doorway between the front entry and dining room is actually passable. IIRC I posted on the Otter Blog about it.
 Late September – Early October: The HVAC system at work went berzerk. It was up over 90 degrees F for a couple days. It still isn’t exactly fixed, but it is back to the same chronic state of not-quite-broken we’ve been living with for something like 10 years now. Low bid system, etc. etc.
 Various personal things were personal things. There’s been angst and ups and downs and Ron’s gotten really sick of not getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night. I suppose we should just admit than the term I’m avoiding is “insomnia”.
 Otter Necessities stuff has been happening. See the Otter Blog for that.
 Also for making chocolate babka. Or rather, marzipan-chocolate babka. Yum yum yum.
 Pippin is Pippin. Elrond is old, weak in the back end, has questionable vision, and is more or less senile. Back-end weakness means we’ll be replacing throw rugs at some date in the future, but for the moment he seems comfortable and reasonably happy, so we’ll put off the replacing of the throw rugs, thankyouverymuch.
 Been calling arborists today to see about getting the Tree of Damocles removed. The one right by the power and phone lines to the house. Fortunately, the neighbors are OK with having the work done from their side of the fence (which is only inches from the tree, at best). Yes, finally. I didn’t realize how long it had actually been since the Tree of Damocles incident.
 Guitar and banjo lessons are going well. I’m up to playing 5 of my 6 strings, and I expect to be formally introduced to string #6 in tomorrow night’s lesson. Working on learning “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”. Got the triplets (faster) down, now working on the slower bits (which involve things very like chords, except they only involve two strings at a time, not 3+, and which initially broke my brain when I tried to wrap it around actually playing two notes at a time – in theory was fine, execution not so much).
 Robin seems to be one of the more dependable employees at “his” Little Caesar’s, including understanding the operation, disassembly, and reassembly of dough-mangling machines. AFAIK he hasn’t learned to run the register/customer service yet, because he’s been too busy trying to keep up with making dough, pizzas, and doing dishes. See above, re: dependable.
 We’ve discovered that there’s a pretty good Indian restaurant 2 or 3 doors down from Little Caesar’s. Unassuming/unimpressive little hole-in-the-wall with the simple name “Indian Bistro”, but clean, the food is good, abundant, and more or less cheap. Ron and I like the Aloo 65, which I’ve taken to calling “danger potatoes”, which are bright screaming red, spicy, and served with raw onions. The (vegetable) samosas are big. Like half a pasty in size.
 Last week I was watching something Bollywood while waiting for our food. Not sure what was happening because I don’t speak Hindi (I assume it was Hindi), but I was able to identify the smart (-aleck) kid, the heroine in the form of his beautiful older sister or mom, bumbling pickpockets who were outwitted by the kid, auntie/grandma and her comic-relief spouse (gargling floor cleaner instead of mouthwatch, thanks to kid), handsome hero (possibly kid’s dad?), and the Other Woman who the hero was romancing at that point. And then there were the musical numbers. I have no clue what they were about, I really don’t know the tropes. But they rival, no, exceed, any of the big Hollywood musical production numbers.
 I think . . . I think I need to watch some more Bollywood stuff, with subtitles. I expect American pop culture is equally inexplicable if you don’t know the language.
 Saturday night we went to see “Young Frankenstein”, the musical, at Cutting Hall. It was pretty good. It wasn’t a complete re-do of the movie, but it was clearly a direct descendant. Ron, Xap, and I all want to know how in the world they were stuffing all those sets back in the wings. We’ve been back there, we know how much room there . . . isn’t. And nobody was bitten by bats.
 Saturday and Sunday we worked on garb, a vest for Xap that didn’t go quite as planned, and had the side seams and front buttons replaced with lacing. But it came out pretty well, I think. Xap did the majority of the work, I advised, did a little pressing, and some top-stitching.
 Cut a Folkwear-pattern vest out of muslin, and tried it on Ron and Robin. It fit Robin with relatively minor changes needed. Not so much Ron. Teslacon is coming soon, so I didn’t want to wait to mail-order a pattern that went larger for Ron, but Reconstructing History had one I could download, print, and tape together. Which we did. And despite adding 4″ in length, it still was too short, too tight in the arms, and needed other changes. Printed out another copy to go up one size, decided what additional changes to make, and Ron and I have been puzzling over the collar. Today, after fussing about with muslin pieces and puzzling some more over the directions, I determined that the pattern and directions for the collar are . . . pretty much useless.
 I did find one blog/review about the pattern, and the author also had collar capital-I Issues. I’m going to have to come up with the collar on my own. I think I can do it, but it annoys me.
 3rd annual staff meeting for work on Thursday. Meeting stuff in the morning, in the afternoon we’ll be seeing the a project to burn off coal tar underground/under water (I think) in the City of Ottawa, IL.
 – Posted using software from hardware

Downtime Week Natter

Wednesday was Part One of our anniversary (we had separate legal and ceremonial bits), so Ron took me out to dinner at Siri Thai. Pot stickers, cucumber salad, and the house fried chicken, which is strips of boneless/skinless white meat with a tempura-like batter. Very yummy.
 After dinner we went home and read. It was nice to be a vegetable for a change.
 Last night I took the MuseCon grid Excel spreadsheet and made it into a handout for the WisCon party tonight. As I mentioned about this time last year, the plan was that Someone(s) Else would be in charge of the MuseCon party at WisCon, as ACen and WisCon back-to-back exceed my capacity for socialization.
 It was a good plan, and it was proceeding along smoothly, until the person who’d volunteered to be in charge of the party had a work-related monkeywrench happen. A good one, fortunately, but it took that person out of the picture. Someone else stepped up, but there were still insufficient bodies volunteering.
 The result is/was that Ron and Xap headed up about lunchtime to get day badges and help with the party. Bleah. I’m trying not to be cranky about it, but not entirely succeeding, since that means Ron probably won’t be home until late morning or mid-day tomorrow.
 Yesterday I started attacking the pile of clean laundry that’s been accumulating for a week or so. I’d gotten it down to a manageable size this morning, we’ll see if Robin made it bigger over the course of the day. I know he was baking this morning for the party, so he may not have done laundry today.
 Getting fed up with the mess in the living room, which is better now that Max has moved out to the trailer, but is still suffering from the pre-ACen chaos. Had Robin make a start yesterday, I’ll probably attack it more this weekend, especially since the Cleaning Fairies come Tuesday morning.
 Still waiting to hear about the result of my “Titanic” audition. I used a contact form on the theatre group’s website this morning to ask what kind time frame I should expect, with the excuse that I forgot to ask at the audition. First rehearsal/read-through is Tuesday evening, so presumably they need to let people know Real Soon Now.
 The network fascists at work have locked down internet access fairly tight, which is in keeping with the internet use policies, but that seems to include almost completely disabling anything but IE. The stated reasoning for the lockdown is to prevent malware infections, so by that logic they should be killing off IE and encouraging use of Opera or Firefox, not the bass-ackwards way they’ve implemented. Which is about par for the course for CMS. Grumble.
 – Posted using software from hardware

Survived Capricon, Mostly

We have mostly survived Capricon. I still wouldn’t mind falling over and sleeping for several days, though. Doing Military History Fest and Capricon back-to-back is not a good idea. If they’re on consecutive weekends again next year I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

Baked Stupid Amounts ™ of scones Tuesday and Wednesday nights last week. Quadruple-batch production again. On Tuesday night it was three runs of bacon-cheddar, for 10 one-gallon zippy bags. Wednesday night I did one ginger-curry and one of cinnamon, for three-plus bags of each. A quadruple batch of bacon-cheddar scones is:

  • 12 cups flour
  • 1 lb margarine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup baking powder (no, one does not usually measure baking powder in cup, or even fractional cup, increments)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups of liquid (sour cream/milk/water), plus whatever more to hold everything together
  • 4 cups cheese
  • 4 cups bacon.
  • Mix dry ingredients, mash in margarine with a potato masher, stir in liquid, add cheese, add bacon, pat out onto three parchment-lined sheet pans, bake for around a half hour at 450-ish, with breaks to rearrange pans.

The ginger-curry scones had more sugar, a bunch of curry powder (couple tablespoons?), and 6 eggs as part of the liquid. The cinnamon scones had a bunch of sugar and cinnamon. At least two cups of GFS cinnamon sugar mix (which also includes a little cornstarch), but it wasn’t cinnamon or sweet enough, so we tossed more of each in. The cinnamon scones needed more liquid, they were rather crumbly.

Ron went to the hotel with Cafe supplies Thursday morning. I packed and did things around the house until Robin was done with classes, then we dropped the dogs off at the vet’s and got to the hotel about 3:30-ish in the afternoon.

It was a Capricon, spent mostly in the Cafe. Marmaduke joined us for much of the weekend and worked for Dave with Robin doing AV. I was mostly underwhelmed by the Dealers’ Room, didn’t make it to the art show. Most of the concerts in the Cafe were good. Never saw Con Suite, because I was in a room with munchies already. For form’s sake I let the Capricon advertising person know that we were not pleased with the pixellated bad-contrast mess that was the MuseCon ad. For form’s sake, because I knew she knew it was an issue (it wasn’t just the MuseCon ad).

I also mentioned to some other people concerns I have about how the Lake Woebegon programming (a running joke of non-existent programming in a non-existent room) is being presented.

I left Sunday somewhere between 2 and 3, picked up the dogs, and headed home. I thought I was going to make curry stew-ish substance, but it ended up being Italian-ish vegetable soup.

Stayed “home” yesterday, although it was not exactly a sitting-around-relaxing sort of day. After going with Ron to the doctor’s office for a routine blood draw, we went to breakfast, then down to the Container Store, for, I thought, a particular thing or two. But we were seduced by the annual Elfa sale (ends today!), and had a change of plans.

Back home to measure things. We also decided to get a storage locker, so started that process. There was a stop at Ace Hardware in there somewhere, too, and an aborted attempt to finalize the locker paperwork (manager of the facility out). Once Robin came home we did the locker paperwork, went to Menard’s for Rubbermaid bins, a set of shelves, a lock, and some other things, then back to the locker to put up the shelves. I was too pooped to cook, so we got delivery. After dinner I took a bath while Ron and Robin packed books in the spare bedroom.  Pictures and more natter upcoming on the Otter blog.

Ron is emphatically stating he is not sick. He does not have an upper respiratory thing that he did not catch from his co-workers who’ve been passing it around the office. And I’m not getting a sore throat, dammit. Its just that the air in the Cap hotel was so stinking dry. I insist.

Robin and I have tomorrow off, for Lincoln’s birthday. Maybe I can sleep in.

Pasties and Printing

Friday night started out with a trip to the Schaumburg Rockler woodworking store for threaded inserts, so we could bolt the presses down, and an oak board to bolt the little press down to.  After dinner (Chinese, Hunan Beijing), we went to Ace Hardware for bolts. When we got home Ron warmed up by setting up the board for the small press, then put the big press in place on the workbench. We had a small oops in location, as the press runs into the blind in operation. Robin took the board downstairs to trim to length, use the router on the edges, and finish it while  I started setting up my press for Christmas cards. It involved a fair amount of flailing around, but I finally got it done.

Saturday morning I started printing. Several test cards and 50 cards didn’t take long to do, and covered most of the horizontal surfaces in the room, which includes the 2’x4′ table we’d put up opposite the bench for the paper cutter and creaser.  Meanwhile, Ron was working on calling cards for Xaplet Minor.

Saturday afternoon was Cookie Lab and the vague skeleton of a MuseCon meeting. Robin made ginger cookies (not gingersnaps, he wanted something more chewy), while Ron and I socialized. We headed home about dinner time.

Saturday evening I carefully removed the Santa Claus block from the chase for my press, filled in the space where it was, and put the words “Merry” above and “Christmas” below.

Sunday morning started out with breakfast at Billy’s. Over breakfast we discussed what to do for dinner, and pasties came up. Robin agreed to make pasties under my guidance, and then Ron came up with idea of curry pasties, made with ground lamb. Robin countered with ham and cheese pasties. And the next stop was the grocery store.  Ron also suggested that  “Pasty Lab” could be fun.

Pasty fillings procured and dropped off at home, Ron and I ventured out to Office Whatsit for bulldog clips, to string on a line to dry printed things on. I’d first thought of binder clips, but I was afraid they’d leave pinchy marks.  Unfortunately, Office Depot only has packages of 36 bulldog clips on-line, not in their Arlington Heights store. So we got a package of tiny binder clips and a package of coated large paper clips. Also a couple more cartridges for the label printer, and some more inexpensive cardstock for things like test prints and putting on the top and bottom of a stack to be cut. I suggested not-white to make it easier to tell from the good cardstock I bought, and the Neenah Astrobrights “beige” looked too yellow, so we got light gray.

Back home again, Ron strung up a line by the spare bedroom door, over the table with the cutter and creaser:


It’s hung down low enough I can reach it to hang things on.

Then I started printing the words on my cards. The Santa was printed in red, the text in black. This is a test print, before I had the ink quite evenly distributed on the ink disc, so the letters are a little light. Its printed on French Paper “Smart White”, which is a very bright white in person. The inside is blank:


Folded, the card is the size of a quarter-sheet of paper. After cleaning up my press, I went downstairs to help begin pasty production. While Robin and I were baking, Ron set up and printed samples of all our type (which he’d actually started setting up Saturday night), as well as some of the cuts (image blocks), as you can kinda see in the first picture above, hanging on the line.

We need to get at least one font of a nice large type. “Merry Christmas” is in 14-point, and my Parsons is 18-pt (waiting for my spaces . . . not patiently), I’m thinking something in the neighborhood of 30-point, maybe 24.

Pasty Purist Warning

Pasty Purist probably want to just look away for a while.

We made Stupid Amounts ™ of pasties.

First up was the curry pasties. We’d gotten ground lamb at Eurofresh, as well as Dal Tadka, which is yellow lentils in a curry sauce (Swad brand, microwave and eat). I chopped up a big onion, and we cooked that with the lamb, then added the Dal Tadka. It wasn’t a lot of legumes, and we were out of canned white beans, but Robin found another Swad meal of garbanzos in sauce. He added that, and cut up paneer (amazingly tasteless Indian cheese), and let it cook to get some flavor into the paneer and to reduce.

As I was finishing chopping the onion for the curry, I had the “duh” moment of using the food processor for onions. So we did that for the next two flavors. Which meant the onions were finer than I usually cut them for pasties, but it was much faster.

(Understand that we were actually working on all three varieties of pasties we made simultaneously, in various stages for each type, not linearly as described)

For the ham and cheese pasties we cooked the moisture out of the onions, and diced the canadian bacon or eastern-European bacon-ish hammy yummy pig substance. Once the onions were done we added the pig, let it cool a bit, and added the shredded cheese.

For the traditional pasties we had beef (coarsely ground skirt steak), a half a rutabaga some potato in chunks, and onions. No carrots and we limited the roots in general to try to keep the carbs under control. I sautee the onions and meat together, and boil the roots until mostly done for pasties, as it happens.

I demonstrated how to make the first double-batch of crust, then put that in Robin’s charge.

I rolled and filled the curry and ham and cheese pasties, although Robin had said he’d do the ham and cheese and traditional pasties. But I had him helping on the curry pasties, so it seemed fair. I did a couple traditional ones, then turned it over to him while I took a break. Then he rolled out dough while I filled – which my wrists appreciated.

We made the pasties small, so that a dozen fit on a half-sheet pan. We had a 14 curry, 8 ham and cheese. and 17 traditional. We ate three of the traditional for dinner, and about half of the remaining traditional and curry went into the freezer. I had a ham and cheese for breakfast, it was good. So was the curry one I had for lunch. Fortunately, the filling seems to have mellowed, or the crust helped tame it, I wasn’t sure from tasting the filling alone if it was going to be too spicy for me.

Pasty Purists can now safely resume reading

Purist-safe summary: we made 17 mini traditional pasties, a little light on the carbs in the filling. They were yummy.

Yummy, but could have used more black pepper. And I’d forgotten that we were out of ground celery seed. But not-quite-perfectly seasoned homemade pasties are still pretty good.

And before the last batch of pasties was baked I’d done the dishes. Go me. And now Robin knows how to make pasties, at least as far as I can demonstrate, since the only recipe I have is for the crust.

Stiff back this morning. I think its complaining about all the pasties. Last night Ron said he hadn’t meant Robin and I should do “Pasty Lab” right then and there

After dinner I went upstairs and cut and creased paper for more cards. I’d been thinking of doing the snow/winter goddess in blue, and I thought she’d look good on the grey paper. Although both it and the better white paper are both 110 pound, the gray is only half to 2/3 the thickness of the white. I suspect the ink is going to take longer to dry on it than the white, as it does on the other, mystery cardstock we had floating around the house. Anyway, here’s the block locked up in the chase:


I think I’m going to put “Happy Holidays” on the inside of the card for these. Our blue ink is pretty dark, I’m thinking of lightening it up some for the image, and using it straight up/darker on the inside for the words. I’m probably going to do them in two passes anyway for various reasons.

For the white cards I cut & creased last night I’m thinking of using one or more of the two-color sets of blocks we have. We have holly leaves with berries, a wreath with, IIRC, berries, and poinsettias and candles. I’ll have to mix up some green, and be careful about setup and registration for the second passes, but I’m gaining confidence.

Class Survived, Busy Weekend, and Accidental Strudel

I survived the class last week. About 20 people, in a room where we weren’t too crowded. I sat in back, because its easier not to be self-conscious in the back. The example problems we did were good, not busy-work in the form of stupid amounts of repetitive data-entry, like some classes I’ve taken. But it was all pretty technical, from 8 am to 4:30 or a little later every afternoon, so it was three long days.

Stringy Bits

I worked on my mitten thumbs during breaks and lunch Wednesday and Thursday, and got them attached to the hands on Friday. I made the thumbs a bit too long, oops. Over the weekend I got the hands done, and am down to about 4 pattern rows on the second cuff, then braid around the bottom of both and binding off.

Once I finish the mittens I have to decide what I’m going to knit next. I have a pair of kilt hose for Ron that would probably be good to take to MuseCon with me, as kilt hose are fairly amenable to setting down and picking up. But colorwork is calling to me. I bought a pattern from Ravelry, but apparently missed the ability to change the PayPal payment method from eCheck to credit card or something else instant, so I’m stuck waiting 2-5 days for the {expletive} eCheck to eClear so I can get the ePattern. eDammit.

I also bought a PDF of a book I already own in dead tree format. The older edition I own a hard copy of is “Knitting Marvelous Mittens”, the updated edition that I got the PDF of is “Mostly Mittens” by Charlene Schurch. The update consists of new samples (and yarn specs) for several mittens, deletion of the only sock pattern, and adding two more hats and some more discussion on adapting mitten patterns to hats.  Which is not why I bought the PDF; I bought the PDF because I’m lazy and it means I don’t have to photocopy or scan my hard copy any more.

MuseCon Preparation

Saturday I thought I’d finished making all the signs I needed for MuseCon, but this morning I found notes for one more. It shouldn’t take me long to do. I also need to upload the larger signs to get them printed, as I don’t have the capability to do 11″ x 17″ color printing.

Yesterday we unpacked Thing 2, got together tools and materials for the classes Ron and I are teaching, and started re-packing Thing 2. Yes, we’re taking one of the road cases to MuseCon. Because its easier to roll it in than schlepping a big pile of bags and boxes and whatnot.

Friday night we went to GFS and dill pickle spears and supplies for a baking binge for the MuseCon Hospitality Suite. Also some food for us. The monkey bread we made last year was popular, especially the savory, so we did that again. Last year we baked in a couple non-reusable pans, which we filled too deep, so they didn’t get quite done in the middle. This year we got foil takeout trays, about 5″ x 7″. We used 17-ounce balls of pizza crust dough again, one per pan, margarine, and various add-ins.

On Saturday we made 4 pans of sweet monkey bread, using GFS Cinnamon Maple Sprinkles (flavored sugar, spice section), two of them with raisins. Then we did 4 pans with granulated garlic and minced onion, and to the second two we added Penzey’s Pizza Seasoning. For all of those we added the flavorings to the melted margarine, which thickened it up and was generally messy. I also did two loaves of bread with bacon and cheddar cheese.

Yesterday we made 2 pans of plain (just margarine), and 6 where we kneaded shredded cheddar into the dough, then cut it up, dipped it in melted margarine, yadda yadda yadda, with more cheese sprinkled on.

So, the total of bread in the freezer is 16 pans of monkey bread in various flavors, and two loaves of cheddar-bacon.

The case of dough was 20 balls. What happened to the last two?  Yesterday we actually made a pizza for lunch with one, and we made one loaf of monkey bread for breakfast for Robin (although Ron and I did try it). I managed to stretch the dough out nice and thin, and draped it over the edges of our big wooden cutting board. On it we sprinkled a good layer of cinnamon maple sprinkles, more cinnamon, brown sugar, and a little water. I rolled it up, then I had Robin hold one end while I twisted and stretched.

At that point I should have started cutting it into bits to dip into butter. Instead, I let the twist curl back on itself, much like a skein of yarn, at which point another good option would have been to bake it as-was. But I let it sit while we worked on cheddar monkey bread. When I tried to knead it some more and cut into chunks, it got kinda messy. No, very messy – the sugar and moisture had made a very nice sticky syrup. But the results were yummy. Had we just baked the skein, we’d have pretty much have had strudel. So we may have to try again, because it turns out that when you don’t know you’re making strudel, it isn’t all that scary or difficult.

Signal Returns

Sorry about the radio silence, we got busy.

Looks like I last posted on Wednesday, January 30th. That weekend (Feb. 1-3) was Military History Fest (formerly Reenactor Fest), at Pheasant Run in St. Charles. I posted at least a partial report over on the Otter Blog.  Then I had planned to take last week off to recover from MHF and prepare for Capricon. Shit happened, so took off Monday and was a slug, other than researching military cartridge boxes. Tuesday I had training  at work. Wednesday was a baking binge, more about that below.

Thursday, instead of dropping the dogs off at the vet’s once Robin was done with his one class (which ended at 9:15), dropping off the dogs, and heading to the hotel, I had a conference call from 10:30 until noon. But I got some signage done while I was listening to other people natter. Fortunately, the crappy weather hadn’t quite turned to completely craptastic freezing rain and snow by the time I got to the hotel, but close.

Anyway, on Wednesday I had a baking binge. Primed with a 25 lb. bag of flour, 4 or 5 pounds of margarine, lots of sour cream and buttermilk, I made scones. Quadruple-batches. Six of them. 1 of ginger-curry, 3 of bacon-cheddar, and 2 of cranberry. Each big batch did at least three dozen scones, so 18 dozen plus. Ron (who’s week of baking and relaxing at home was also clobbered by work), got home in time to help with the last batch of scones, and then made a huge batch of candied cashews.

MuseCon, you see, was sponsoring the Capricon Cafe. Food-wise, we had Stupid Amounts, although I don’t think anyone went quite as overboard as I did. I think Dale was in second place. Good thing we had Stupid Amounts, reports were that the ConSuite wasn’t very good. In 20/20 hindsight I should have made one more batch of bacon-cheddar scones and one less of cranberry, we gave away a couple bags of cranberry, and brought home about a half-dozen. Other than that, I think there were maybe a half-dozen cookies left?

Pretty much spent the weekend in the cafe. I did take, and play, my soprano ukulele and mandolin/mandolele. In the cafe. I even sang, a little bit. My projection needs work. I didn’t have enough energy to go to filk circles, 10:30 pm start time was just too late. I also got my fingerless mittens almost finished. IIRC I have 6 rows of ribbing, casting off, and darning in ends and the thumb/hand join left to go.

Took yesterday off to recover, and today is a holiday for me and Robin. Picked the dogs up from the vet yesterday. It appears that Pippin was too happy to be rescued to have a snit. Ron took the dogs out to the car while I paid, and when I came out of the building Pippin was telling me to HURRY UP! He had a pretty serious case of Happy Tail all day.

Quick catchup on eating our way through “One Pot of the Day”, which starting this week will be bolstered with entries from the companion book, “Salad of the Day.”

Never did make the ricotta and spinach-stuffed pasta shells. Note to self, do those this week if the ricotta is still good (which I think it is). Using canned red sauce, because the home-made is probably defunct at this point.

Last week Monday: Baked Rice with Chickpeas and Chorizo: Yummy variant on spanish rice or beans and rice. The “cured” chorizo I’d bought was indistinguishable from the fresh chorizo I get from Eurofresh. Next time I’ll just use Eurofresh’s chorizo.

A week ago today: Beef Stew with Mushrooms, Carrots, and Bacon: substituted pancetta for the bacon, because the package size was better. Robin did most of the cooking. Added Penzey’s turkish seasoning. Much better than the horribly bland Irish Stew of the previous week.

Wednesday: Spicy Red Bean & Chorizo Stew, served with rice: Kind of a thin chili, which you’d think would make a nice red beans and rice. You’d be wrong. Not actively bad, but nobody really liked it. I gave up after a few bites and just had a bowl of rice, I think Robin did too.

Tonight is a chicken tagine. Chicken has been marinating in a paste of cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, ginger, olive oil, tumeric, cumin, and honest-to-Ghu saffron since last night. Not sure if we have cous cous to serve with it, but rice should do if necessary.


Weekend Report, Part Umpty-Whatever

Thursday afternoon my boss called and asked if I could make a meeting downtown on Friday, which I could. Ron took Friday off to take Robin to get his drivers’ license, and the last train I could catch and be on time for the meeting left Palatine at 8:30, so we had an un-hurried family breakfast at the Great American Bagel shop.

The meeting started at 10:00 and dragged on until 1:00. After the meeting my boss and I and people from FEMA and the State Water Survey went to lunch at a rather slow TGI Friday’s.  By the time I got back to Palatine my options were to head to the office, then turn around and come back home, or just go home. I think you can guess which I chose.

Ron and I went to Cabela’s and bought a cot we’d seen in a sale flyer (Outfitter XL cot). It should hopefully last better than air mattresses have a habit of doing with us. It’s a fairly wide cot, about the size of a single air mattress. Bigger than an air mattress, but not too bulky. It should be more comfortable than the futon couch, the matteress of which is getting kinda lumpy. And the cot can be set up in the spare bedroom, which provides more privacy than the living room, which also features umpty-zillion blinky lights on various electronics. Comfort of the cot could also be increased by adding to it one of the thermarest pads we have (we looked at the cot mattress Cabela’s has for the cot, but it’s big and pricey, I thought).

Robin failed his driving test on Friday, he hit a curb (not just a slight scuff, in which case he might have passed).  Ron took him to the Sec. State office in Elgin Saturday morning for another attempt, and he passed. Um, yay?  My enthusiasm is muted in part because that means about $220/month more going to Allstate. Ouch.

Saturday morning while they were out I considered cleaning my side of the bedroom, but realized that to do so with any hope of success would mean completely unloading the two sets of shelves that hold our clothes, sheets, etc., sorting, and re-loading. I was not enthused. At all.

So I considered starting ginger-pumpkin birthday cheesecakes, but the kitchen was a disaster and I had to go to the grocery store for ingredients.

Vented via text at Ron, who said he’d help with the bedroom.  I decided that starting the bedroom by folding laundry was the least unattractive option.

After Ron and Robin got home Ron and I went to the grocery store, while Robin put away clean dishes and some other odds and ends. Between that and the load of dishes I washed when I got home the kitchen wasn’t quite so dreadful, and we made cheesecake.  The recipe called for a graham-cracker crust, but we decided to substitute gingersnaps. Unfortunately, the gingersnap crumbs, brown sugar, and butter seem to have made themselves into a yummy caramelized toffee which doesn’t want to let go of  the parchment I lined the pan with. But the cheesecake itself is yummy too, so we’re not complaining.

In the afternoon Ron and I attacked the first set of shelves in our bedroom. Ron got smart, and had Robin fetch the package of dust masks, so he could actually breathe! We got rid of quite a bit of stuff in the process – a bunch of bags for charity, and several of garbage. Then Robin decided to go through all his clothes, which enlarged both piles, even after shifting several pairs of jeans from the charity pile to Robin.

Saturday night we went to dinner at the local tiny hole-in-the-wall, Sushi Asahi. We started out with vegetable tempura and gyoza. Ron and Robin had combination plates, I had two servings of ebi (cold cooked shrimp, on top of rice), and a beef teri-maki roll (california roll topped with lightly seared mostly-raw beef. Yes, I am a carnivore), and pan-fried veggies. It was all very good.

After dinner we went to Games Plus, where Robin got one of the Palladium RPG expansions (Yin-Sloth Jungles), and I got a miniature – a geisha assassin. Without watermelon-chest!

Sunday morning we attacked the second set of shelves in our bedroom, which went fairly quickly. More bags of donations and garbage. After that Ron cleaned up the spare bedroom, one of the tasks being clearing out the corner where the air conditioners spend the winter.  Oh joy and happiness, a bird had built a nest on the windowsill under ours. I got to deal with it, as I couldn’t find the box of XL gloves.

Robin then cleaned his room, as he’d made a mess clearing a path to get his AC unit out.  So all the bedrooms are at least somewhat clean. Still need to lug Kirby up and vacuum, as the accumulation on the floors made the little non-powered carpet sweeper lay down and cry. Note to self: use sweeper more often.

In 20-20 hindsight this morning, I think a slight rearrangement of what is on which sets of shelves is in order, based on frequency of wearing/use and ease of access. But that’s minor compared to the overall project, and should be fairly simple.

After lunch (which I went to the grocery store to procure – it was a busy morning!) Ron went to a CapriCon meeting.  Robin and I idled around until the beehives were in the sun, then went out and took the supers off. I was afraid the girls would be crabby, but there was only a little honey in the super we took off the east hive, and almost none in the super on the north hive, so they weren’t feeling too protective. And apparently haven’t been being pestered by skunks too much this fall – last summer they were being pestered by a skunk, and were very cranky as a result.

By the time we finished, I was tired and didn’t try to work on leather. I looked for old leatherworking books on ABE, but didn’t buy anything. I did order a copy of a book that I think is about making saddles. But I’m not sure, as its Swedish.  Here’s the relevant bits of the description that I can get post-order (the title below is truncated, and also had words that I guess-construed as relating to “saddle”, “adult”, and something like “hand-worker”, based on not knowing any Swedish but a little German):

Title: Intet är som Läder: En bok för alla vänner av ett
Description: Rikt illustrerad, några sidor i färg. Originalhalvklotband, fläckade pärmar. 30 x 22 cm. delvis i färg. 80 sidor. 4:o. Förlagets illustrerade pappband. Published by the Swedish Saddlery Palmgrens. All text in swedish but lots of illustrations, partly in colour 8.5 x 11.5″.

The seller is in New Mexico (Outside of a Dog, Books…), and I should have it in 5-14 business days. I resisted paying for speedier shipping, but I may regret that. Curiosity killed the cat, and all.

I meant to go to bed early, but I got distracted by listening to the first available episode of the “Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap” podcast, by artist/author/cool person Ursula Vernon and her partner Kevin Sonney. They’re up to episode 95, I think I’m just going to go through them all. The current episode is: Episode 95 – The Narwhal Episode  No, we did not actually eat anything Narwhal in this episode, but they are discussed. Other things discussed include a new load of compost, why Ursula is so drunk this time, and the merits of Hot Pockets as ‘not food.’  In between all that we eat more things from our friends in Chicago, try a new cider, and review more Hamburger Helper. All this and more, when We Eat It, So You Don’t Have To!”