Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Honey Fig Muffins

I'm not quite sure where I lifted the original recipe from, but I modified it a bit.

Please note that these are better eaten relatively soon after cooking, as they are dry-ish muffins with low oil content. They will dry out mercilessly if left uncovered. They might dry mercilessly even if covered, as the fruit absorbs the moisture from the surrounding matrix. Dunno. Eat 'em quick.

Honey Fig Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
scant 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (adds a lot, but strength of aroma increases with keeping)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted (you could double this and they'd keep slightly better)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups chopped dried figs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a regular-sized muffin tin with 12 paper muffin cups.

Mix dry ingredients together, whisking well. If your baking powder has clumped as has mine, curse and break clumps with fingers. Whisk again.

Melt butter and add honey and milk to it in that order, stirring well. Add egg to this wet mixture with vanilla and whisk. Mix into dry ingredients. You may want a silicone spatula for this -- your whisk will not go through the thick batter.

Stir in fruit and nuts, and turn dollops of dough-like batter into the muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes. Makes 12 deliciously wholesome-tasting, iron-and-fiber-rich muffins.

Galactic Empire State of Mind

This link was stolen straight from Greg. I'm not sorry.

The costumed dancers make it all so perfect.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Can you believe this shit? (We've been talking about it for days, but link is once again lifted from Bill.)

In related news, relatives are staying in town and I am exhausted. I don't want to have to entertain, as I would prefer to take good care of myself -- healthy food, exercise, and the sleep I need -- instead. (As opposed to "as much as possible, on top of entertaining." Which isn't helped at all by snarky fam-isms like "you are barely pregnant -- you're gonna feel an awful lot sicker when it really gets started." Excuse me? Morning sickness happens EARLY.) And I am tired of wearing my bra, since I put on 2 cup sizes in 2 weeks. My hastily-ordered replacements haven't arrived and I am really getting tired of wearing my tight ones for hours and hours a day because I am amongst people who make comments about my body.

I am tired of putting up with: hatespeech; insane beliefs about the apocalypse being, like, tomorrow; denigrating my church; interrupting any comment I make that I saw a cool animal with stories about killing said animal; racist and other patently insane remarks; busybodyism (which wouldn't be so annoying except for...); knowitallism (with a healthy dose of THEY REALLY DON'T); and general inability to be courteous enough to inform people your plans. Grr.

Enough bitching from me, already.

Scrubbles is singing and bathing outside, I have honey fig muffins in the oven, and the new life in me has already begun development of every vital organ, and is starting on eyelids and tongue. Wow! Have you ever really thought about how fast babies develop in utero? It's fast -- crazy fast. My little spark of life is already starting to resemble a human; only a very few short weeks ago, it was only two cells who hadn't met.

Friday, March 26, 2010

An afternoon saturated with awesomeness

Out of focus but still kinda cute:

First, this alphabet of awesomeness by Neill Cameron, link stolen from Bill, who is also awesome.

Second, there was a lizard in my computer room. My carpet is less than fastidiously vacuumed, in this room in particular but everywhere right now, and since I knit and spin, there are little knots of fiber everywhere. I dodged stepping on one while racing for the phone, thinking, "that knot looks hella like a lizard!"

It was a teeny lizard. I caught him in a drinking glass (still had to touch him with my phobic, phobic fingers, though). He pooped in the glass and held very still. I took his picture. Then I put him outside near our mini-woodpile where there is shade and bugs. I realized that he looked shocky and listless, and might be thirsty after his Adventures in Shag Carpeting, and I sprinkled droplets of water all around him. He moved only enough to start lapping at the closest one, so I poured water plentifully near him. He ran to the edge and got a good long drinky. I feel good about myself. And he feels better than he would have on a warm, dehydrated afternoon -- particularly squished by my giant feet or slowly shriveling away in unvacuumed carpet.

So, awesome.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Perspective: big food companies, not evil?

The world is a-changing. For instance, in recent days, I have discovered that Wal-Mart is surprisingly green (they came to it late but with a fervor and the power of their commercial empire.)

Here's another article offering refreshing perspective on food corporations. Go read it, it's great.

Now, mind you... food LOBBIES are still pure, pure evil. They are about money, brainwashing, and turning tax dollars into obesity. Make no mistake. But the article linked above may make you feel more empowered and cheerful about the companies themselves.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My turn! Linkage!

Pathy pointed to me in his blog with a delightful review, so I feel the need to point back. One of these days soon, I will even update the links in the sidebar...

iNk (worksafe!)
I've been a bit, um, preoccupied, so I haven't sent you to Pathogen's blog yet -- I've been greedily keeping it to myself. Look, it's new enough you can catch up if you start now, prolific enough that you'll want to start now, and always has thrilling images and buoyant prose to give you moments of energized tranquility ... and afterimages of cussed creativity. Do you need mental rocket skates? Go.

The Roommate Chronicles (mostly worksafe, and never an image to offend)
Cindy was my best buddy in grade school, and I am thrilled to be back in touch. After a split with her long-term partner (don't worry -- the new girlfriend is adorable), she made the necessary mistake of taking in roommates. The snippets of dialogue and ranting that she posts on The Roommate Chronicles blog make me pee myself laughing. If you need a belly laugh... well. Go.

Thoughtviper (mostly worksafe -- but if it's not, it's sure to be in all-caps, because Bill is a man of passion)
Bill kept me sane during the 2nd Bush campaign and win, when I was trapped in Peru and gnawing my nails raw to the knuckles. He is a cat-loving liberal and I love him with all my heart for it. He's also very funny and talented. For acerbic wit, shithouse-rat-crazily infuriated critique of the far right and its ancillary artists, and a loving perspective on the world... go.

Oblio's Cap (almost always worksafe)
Robert is a consummate intellectual, internet blue-dog, and a joy to know. You will only ever see the tip of the iceberg -- his poetry, rife with allegory and experimental form, has deep undercurrents of intellectual struggle, mathematics, and computer science. He's also an amazing guy. Sometimes he doesn't update frequently, when he checks out for a vacation in "meatspace," vowing never to come back. Thankfully, so far, he has always returned. Go.

The Warren Ellis Dot Com (hardly ever worksafe)
Warren Ellis is a serious comic book artist and an author, and for some reason, I think that if he ever stopped cranking the (steampunk) handle, the Internet would stop working. I hesitate to give you this link because you will never think I'm sophisticated and cool again -- I do a lot of farming his site for links. This is an unhealthy addiction that I impart to you gleefully. Go. But not at work. (And if you click anything labeled "Conan! What is best in life?", don't say I didn't warn ya.)

Well Fed, Flat Broke (always worksafe)
Emily, aside from being just adorable, comes up with some of the most jaw-droppingly delicious recipes ... all within the grasp of the casual (and usually broke) home cook. Her blog is funny and sweet. For goodness' sake, go.

Now to the less personal stuff that makes me happy.

Cracked (not so worksafe. Enjoy from home.)
This is where two of my favorite humorists ended up, as editors (Seanbaby and David Wong). It's also the humor magazine that I collected (in paper format) as a young, freckled, red-haired rat-child. There are usually three articles a day, at least two of which are 1) funny and 2) at least in a trivial-pursuit way, educational. Go, learn something you can quote later, and then mumble "sompin I read" shamefacedly when someone asks you, "how'd you know that?"

Regretsy (sometimes not worksafe, and prides itself on "whimsicle fuckery")
Call me mean, but there's something excruciatingly funny about handicrafts gone wrong (or people reselling junk that by no means can be labeled "handicrafted." Etsy needed a watchdog, and I needed the laugh. Goodness gracious. My inner bully says you need this kind of schadenfreude in your life. So, go giggle.

Cakewrecks (almost always worksafe, sometimes not, so not really... and you will guffaw)
Again, call me mean-spirited... but when well-meaning "wreckerators" screw up cake decoration, it's just about the funniest thing since lolcats. You know you want to go look. It's a hoot.

Not Always Right (safe except for language)
Short stories, by retail employees, about how their customers have exhibited some of humanity's most baffling stupidities, crazinesses, and downright weirdnesses. Go, laugh. Funny and usually believable.

Go Fug Yourself (I'm pretty sure it's worksafe... at least all the photos in it were taken in public, but they may have body parts a-showin'. The site usually labels those.)
Do you always go for the People magazine at the doctor's office so that you can laugh at the famous people dressed badly? I do. So do the wonderfully funny ladies who run this site. Plus, sometimes there are haiku contests involving photos of bad fashion. And when you do go, click the Lady Gaga link in the sidebar and enjoy. Yowza.

The Escapist: Zero Punctuation (not worksafe and you need sound)
Yahtzee's reviews are gaspingly funny, and he doesn't need no stinkin' punctuation... or, evidently, to breathe. I love his stunningly stylish, simple animations, particularly when they get absurd. Do you like video games? Go.

Okay, okay. I'll stop for now. But do have fun with these. Pathy started it, and you should go see his WONDERFUL list because, well, he's got some there I would include too... and because you'll love him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Brewbaker's Brewing Company in Visalia, CA - REVIEW

Hey, on the other hand (see previous post for the other other hand), if you are in Visalia, for goodness' sakes go eat at Brewbaker's. Rob and I went in because it was clean, charming, and busy even during off-hours -- a sure sign that there are good eats inside -- and because the signboard outside had some delicious looking specials (none of which we ate.)

Since I am trying to eat my "Daily Dozen", I begged to share an order of sweet potato fries with chipotle dipping sauce, um, you know, for vitamins or something. Robert liked the idea. I also begged to share some Buffalo beer wings because, um, I needed to eat protein or something. He liked that idea, too.

Hey, yeah, I know they're evil fried foods and all and it's a mayo-based sauce, but they are sweet potatoes. Sweeeet potaaaatoes. The holy grail of mother-to-be nutrition. And I was on a road trip where wholegrain rye pretzels and carrots were my other nutriment... so I was sorta being good. And I had had a mango smoothie with flaxseeds for breakfast. Cut me some slack.

And both of us decided on salads for our main course -- him, a chef salad (probably his favorite food), and me, a "Cobb" salad bearing only partial resemblance to any Cobb salad I'd ever seen elsewhere (jack cheese instead of bleu? Tossed instead of composed?), but hey, it sounded great. I had a half portion because I knew I'd be stuffing my face with wings and fries too.

Oh. My.

The sweet potato fries were the best I've had anywhere, and were an enormous portion served with a cup of the spiciest, chunkiest chipotle dipping sauce I've had anywhere but home. Soooooo good -- crisp, creamy sweet inside, and nicely foiled against the garlicky chiles.

The wings were perfect -- fiery, tender, and salty. (Yeah, I know -- but when I'm sick, my idea of comfort food is kimchi soup, so morning sickness cannot daunt me from wings.)

And the salads were FREAKIN BOTTOMLESS and just delicious. Robert said, "This is the chef's salad I woke up this morning dreaming about." And they made their thousand island dressing (an abomination in my eyes, but Rob loves it) from scratch the old fashioned way, with hard cooked eggs and paprika, not ketchup-mustard-mayo-picklerelish like most restaurants do nowadays (and by nowadays I mean "after the 60s.") I had the tomato basil vinaigrette, which was, as the server opined, very good indeed -- nicely balanced and tart.

And we had DELICIOUS home-brewed orange cream sodas -- fizzy water with just enough orange and vanilla to be refreshing, and the clean sparkling sweetness of fructose, I think. With free refills. For cheaper than a plain ol' Diet Coke at Chili's (a.k.a. The Winchester even though it's big business and eew so many calories and yadda yadda... we are there a lot.)

We agreed that we would drive an hour out of the way to eat at Brewbaker's. Maybe not 6+ again, but if we ever had to be in Visalia again...

Yum. If you're ever in Visalia wondering where to eat, please check 'em out.

Dann's Discount Autosales - REVIEW

So, yesterday I accompanied my brother (for the second time) to Dann's Discount Autosales in Visalia, CA to try to get a car he wanted. We came home (again) empty-handed.

Let me give you some background: my brother is a giant -- 6'8" and over 600 lbs. Like all the men on my dad's side of the family, he is all torso -- his inseam is much shorter than mine (and I am 5'8".) That means that he must try on cars as routinely as the rest of us try on pants before he knows he fits them. The world is not built for people of giant stature or build, and that includes cars. (I personally have to wrestle with seat belts, and I'm nowhere near off the charts -- and am of totally average height.)

His car (a beautiful Chrysler 300), although he fits in it, is a little low for him to get into. After he sprained a knee, he has found getting in and out to be exceedingly painful and knows it is doing further damage (imagine doing a combo deep knee bend/600 lb. leg press a few times a day). This deepening injury impacts his ability to get out and exercise, so it is a serious quality of life issue. Additionally, because of his size, he must sit in the car with his left shoulder raised and canted forward at an angle. This, too, is taking a toll. The car is simply beating the hell out of him every day.

He knows a Ford Expedition of a certain year was the roomiest auto built in recent years. He knows that one of the engines used in the car that year was dramatically faulty, so he requires the OTHER engine. He KNOWS what car he wants. So when one showed up used, with few miles and reportedly in good condition, he decided to buy it.

Small problem: it required a road trip of 3 1/2 hours each way.

I went with him two weeks ago, after the dealership had had the car for about 2 months. The engine had just been replaced in the shop because it was hosed. They (salesman Steve and owner Dann) told him it was ready to test drive and purchase, and had approved his trade-in on the phone. We drove 3 1/2 hours in an unholy rainstorm.

When we arrived, the car was still IN THE SHOP. Steve explained that it needed new brakes because the ones on it were unsafe. He assured us that it could be done within the hour, and that the car would further need to be smog checked -- which would take 20 minutes. We went to lunch (at a Cajun restaurant where the waitstaff recommends against actually eating anything Cajun because it had been mildened to the point of unappetizingness for the complainant public -- I won't trash it, but go to Brewbaker's, instead.) When we came back, the car had still not been touched. We gave Steve a lift to the shop, 3 blocks away. The car had also never been detailed, and smelled of wet dog. There was dog hair everywhere inside, and the interior was downright grimy.

We told Steve that we were going home, and I scolded him (I felt I could be the bad cop) for having told us we should go ahead and drive out. He assured me he hadn't taken the call. Robert quietly told me that it had been Dann, the owner, who took it, and promised him that the car had been on the lot.

Dann came barreling out and tried to prevent us from leaving. He told us it could be done in an hour or two. We pointed out that it was 3:30 p.m., and we had a hell of a drive ahead of us in the storm. He backed and filled. I told him that we had been told to drive out, as I was feeling really irritated and Robert is such a teddy bear of a customer that I felt obliged to be a little mean. Dann hemmed and hawed, chewed out Steve, and when Steve protested, went looking for "whoever had answered the call"... (um, your DAMN self?)

And told us that he could not guarantee that the car would stay on the lot, as 4 other families had been looking at the car just that day!

I laughed. "The car has NEVER BEEN ON THE LOT," I pointed out. It had been warehoused and then in the shop -- and was filthy. Suuuuuure it had been shown.

Dann replied. Ohh, THAT car? He thought I meant the OTHER car.

Yeah. Not warm and fuzzy.

I asked if he understood that we had to drive 6 1/2 - 7 hours to come out, and that Robert had to take a day off work unpaid, and that we had to pay for gas -- and he promised to make it good when we returned.

Hmm, okay. But I wasn't tingly about the dealership -- it just had "Old Gil" desperation written all over it.

Also, not one of the sales staff could have been bothered to put on clean or appropriate clothing -- we are talking filthy tour t-shirts, too much Aqua Velva, and jeans that would have been more at home in a mechanic's shop. And the hourly-rental hotel pink neon sign of the dealership sent me into giggles every few minutes for the rest of the day. (To the good, their detailer breaks off his somewhat shoddy work every few minutes to do the Robot.)

So we drove 3 1/2 hours back through the sheeting rain, and Robert got a thunderous sinus infection with two very severe ear infections, as a result of our incidental stops to pee (see previous post -- I have to pee approximately every 2 minutes. Sorry, Rob!)

Rob let them simmer for 2 weeks while he healed from his ear infections. Feeling as he did, he was not eager to drive the two ear-popping grades between us and Visalia.

So yesterday, we finally returned. Guess what? The car hadn't sold. Quelle surprise!

When we arrived (after 3 1/2 hours' drive during a BEAUTIFUL day of wildflowers and gorgeousness), we were cheerful. And the car was on the lot.

But ... something was wrong. None of the doors would lock. Even I know that this is something electrical, but Steve assured us that it could be fixed, probably in ten minutes! It's probably a fuse! (Yes, sounds logical.)

So we agreed to go to lunch whilst they took the car to the shop again and got it fixed up. And they detained us for OVER AN HOUR trying to get Robert to sign all the paperwork, including the contract, before it was fixed.

And they tried to have us pay a $250 restocking fee ($200 would have been the legal limit IF WE WERE RETURNING THE CAR) for the vehicle as a part of the right to return (for which we had to pay extra.)

Uh, NO.

(Also, the car was filthy -- still covered in dog hair, but now also spooged with cheap canned carpet cleaner which Steve tried to pass off as "steam cleaner stuff." The doors and handles had been Armor-Alled right over the ACTUALLY TEXTURAL black grunge. The floor mats were lying in a pile in the rear just as they had been in the shop -- with dog hair unshampooed underneath, and with the top mat ONLY having been sprayed with carpet cleaner. The yellow paint splooge on the rear light hadn't even been swiped at, but might have been married into the plastic. At least the doggy snoutles had been washed off the windows. Yeaaaaah. To the good, it was probably thoroughly Robot-ed.)

We went to a leisurely lunch and came back at 3:30. (Next post-- recommendation of the place we went for lunch, yowza.) We sat in the car for a while joking around, because Robert was hurting too much to jump right out. We marveled that nobody was coming over to us.

Steve started fluttering around the back of the car on his cell phone. He avoided Robert's gaze. We jumped out and Robert said, "so I guess it was more than a fuse?"

Steve stammered. "Naw, no, Dann's going over to check it out."

Dann hopped in a car, drove off, and returned in the Expedition. Then he told us that it turned out not to be the fuses -- no, it was the after-market fob! I scoffed because the doors would not lock even from the interior controls. He responded, no, not the fob, the after-market alarm system. Ohhhhhh. But we should consider taking the car unfixed. I mean, after all, he just didn't know how long us folks would want to wait around...

(Meanwhile, Steve was at the other desk, selling another car. The customer was asking, "now, where'd the other thousand dollars come from?")

Something smelled like bullshit, and it wasn't just the feedlots surrounding Visalia.

I said, "God, no. Dann, I'm pretty sure we're done. Totally done with your dealership."

Then I realized that I wasn't really the customer. Robert was. I sneaked a glance at him to see if he was pissed at me. He wasn't -- but his sweet face was frozen in anger. Sweet relief, and proof that we are indeed relatives. "Yes, we are done. What I would like to do is to get my key back, and all the papers I signed either given to me or shredded -- and then to drive the three hours home, and never deal with any of you again."

Dann said, "wait, where's your key?"

Robert wagged his key. "But I had two and left one with you--"

And Dann exploded. "I was TALKing to my sales PERSON!" he yelled. And then he slammed the door to the little prefab sales trailer. And he slammed the door to his car. And he PEELED OUT with a great screeching of tires as he drove away to wherever big little boys have their tantrums, I guess.

Steve was very unhappy and could not meet our eyes as he (allegedly -- in another room) shredded most of the paperwork, strangely insisting on retaining the DMV transfer of ownership (on which Rob scribbled through his own signatures, since, um, no.)

Also, 3 pens blew up on Robert while he scribbled through his signatures, leaving him covered in ink.

It's the little things.

So, in review: FUCK Dann's Discount Autosales. If you're ever in Visalia, avoid it at all costs.

On the other hand, if you really want a lawn ornament of a car, in a few weeks maybe, a real fixer-upper, that comes with free DIY "chiengora,"** go right ahead. I won't stop ya. But I won't ride with ya, either.

**Go ahead. Google it. You know you wanna.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Awesome graphic on food subsidies

Yowza. Now you know why I bitch about the meat/milk lobbies all the time. Get involved, folks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Getting good at this

When my spindle was full and I had to wind off one cop of singles the other day, I weighed my bag of wool top (I didn't weigh it before I started, but I trust the shopkeeper to sell me very close to what I asked for -- and if there is a variation, it will be to the good). 3 oz., so I figured I had spun about an ounce. For the second cop of singles, I carefully weighed my top and made sure it was an ounce, since I wanted the cop sizes to match.

My spinning is regular enough that there was only about 9" difference in the two cops' lengths.

Oh. My. I am so proud.

Cheapskate lazy Kate

So I'm plying yarn, but after Friday's 4 1/2 hour plying extravaganza I did not want to do it halfassed or ... well, totally wrong ... again. (How do you do it wrong? All you have to do is assume a center pull ball will work ok for your singles if it is very very thin. Think sorting out a tangled jewelry box full of necklaces and angry scorpions after it has gone for a ride on the Gravitron. That's wrong.)

I don't have a Lazy Kate yet, but I admire the elegant simplicity of that tool. So I made myself a CheapsKate.

One dowel, a cardboard box, and two short lengths of PVC to act as spools made a dandy one. Mind you, it is untensioned and requires a lot of hands-on, but not the infinite suffering of Friday's marathon.

Witness the power of this fully operational CheapsKate.

'Course, it can be even simpler. While looking for a real Kate to link, I found a picture taken by someone even smarter:

Cry, little sister

Sad news. Corey Haim was found dead at only 38 years old.

Friday, March 5, 2010

For Pathy: some more jays

I didn't take this picture. But isn't he cute? Gray Jays show up in some of the places we go, but not tooooo close to home.

This fine fellow is, on the other hand, our very own California Scrub Jay. In our backyard. He's a cutie.

And here is one of the adorable Stellar's Jays that amused us last time we camped. Wait, no, time before last. He was at Big Sur and quite enjoyed the yolk from the seven million Easter eggs mom sent us camping with because it was Easter. Someone had to help us eat them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beauty! Springtime!

Scrubbles came and begged pointedly for suet whilst I was starting our lunch (boeuf bourginonne, oh yes), and I went and put some outside. He immediately came over to eat, loudly enching for his friend to join. When his friend arrived, both of them indulged in an orgy of croaks and creaks -- which are friendly sounds for blue jays.

(He fears me...)

(But will accept my offerings. Yum.)

While I had the sliding glass door open, I figured I would take a couple pictures of the goldfinches in the apricot tree, which is flowering beautifully. Yellow birds, pink flowers. Gorgeous. I got a couple of them, although they were shy of the camera beeps, and entirely missed the VERY yellow fellow except through the kitchen window screen.

Prettiest. Ever.

Blurriest. Ever. But also beautiful.

What I have failed UTTERLY to photograph are our two albino goldfinches, of whose presence I was totally unaware until today. Here's what they look like, images stolen from the web.

The partial albino looks a lot like this:

The seriously melanin-deprived "whitefinch" looks more like a white finch with a yellow blush and red eyes. I had a link, but I eated it. :)

Anyway, thought I'd share.


Warren Ellis has horrified me with an image today.

Erm, that is all, really.

Edit: the link is broken for the moment -- leaving this here in case it resurrects. Think elderly clown, blood-red makeup caking up around his mouth, tufted clown hair, clown outfit, wrinkled neck, looking intently and... hungrily?... at you with wolf or owl eyes -- something without sclerae, very VERY yellow and inhuman.