Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Art...or, You Know, Astrophysics

I just watched Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the Daily Show. He's awesome. I was also talking to Blake today about Dr. Riban, the Astronomy teacher at DSC, since he (Blake) is taking that class this semester. He (Dr. Riban) is also awesome.

I really enjoyed Astronomy when I took it last semester and if I ever have a chance to I would like to take another class. If I thought I could hack it, I might toy with the idea of switching majors (again). But I can't (hack it), so I won't (switch).

Nobody said I couldn't still love it, though.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I just found out that tomorrow (January 27th) is National Chocolate Cake Day. Kyle's going to hate me but I think I might just have to celebrate this. Maybe I'll try out that recipe for Guiness chocolate cupcakes again. Anyone know a good chocolate frosting recipe?

Yesterday I got in the kitchen to use up some stuff that Mom gave us when she came to visit. She gave us a pound of strawberries that we hadn't even STARTED eating so I cooked them up and made a pretty awesome strawberry jam. It's thick and sweet and a little tangy from the lemon juice I squeezed in.

Once I had jam, I figured we would need something to put it on. So, I made vanilla scones. I love vanilla so I added more than the recipe called for. They're not too sweet and the vanilla still came out pretty subtle but I think they're perfect for jam!

While I was looking up a recipe for vanilla scones, I found a recipe for Cheddar Dill scones. We had a bunch of cheese leftover from when we made macaroni and cheese, so I made scones with emmantalier and gruyere, sage, rosemary, basil and oregano. They are sooooooo good!

Does anyone else find the sexy M&M commercials really creepy?

100th Post!

Here we are at number 100. What have I said in all these posts? Who knows!

When I liveblogged the election, I mentioned that before Obama's acceptance speech, they played a little video thing and used one of my favorite songs, "Fake Empire" by the National. I've been meaning to post that song ever since and just haven't gotten around to it, so here it is, along with some other videos just for fun.

This isn't an official video but rather a fan made one. Ignore it or not, the song is the important part.

Another song by the National - Apartment Story:

One of my favorite Radiohead songs. This is also a fan video but I think it's beautiful and works really well with the song. This is "All I Need":

Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal:

That's all for now. Here's to 100 more.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Complaint Box

I hadn't made soap in over a month, mostly because we were out of town for three weeks and because, after the rush to finish all of my holiday gifts, I was a little soaped out. But today I decided to haul out the ol' bucket and scale and make a "just for me" batch. Good thing the intention was always just for personal use because this went terribly!

I was running low on pretty much everything. I decided to do a mostly olive oil recipe and use up what I had left of coconut oil and palm kernel flakes with just a little bit of sweet almond oil to round it out.

I wrote up my recipe, ran it through a lye calculator and got to work. Right away I could see that things weren't going to go well. I ran short on palm kernel flakes and WAY short on coconut oil. After converting grams to ounces to percentages, I ran a new recipe through my lye calculator and added sunflower oil and a little castor oil to make up for the missing amounts.

I melted my palm kernel flakes and added it to the rest of the liquid oils. Then I realized that I had forgotten to line my molds. Then, while I was lining my molds, I cut the paper wrong and had to improvise, taping on pieces to cover bare corners. When I was finished, I turned back to my oils. The palm kernel flakes had started to solidify, making my oils look rather like egg drop soup. Dammit!

I put my pot of oils on the stove to warm the whole thing and remelt the PKF. Yay, ok, remelted, add lye water, begin to stick blend, OH NO WAIT!!! I forgot to prepare my fragrance and color. I was using a small bit of gold mica leftover from another project so I didn't really need to do that and I added 2 ounces of French Vanilla and Oak fragrance so that and stirred it together. Meanwhile, my raw soap is sitting and waiting, already at a very light trace.

I added the fragrance and color and began to mix but suddenly my very lightly traced batch was well beyond trace and into lumpy, curdled territory. WTF?! Oh, right, French Vanilla and Oak fragrance has VANILLA in it which accelerates trace to about a second and a half. Crap!

Quick, pour everything into the molds!!!

My soap is now in the molds on top of the dryer with a towel over them to keep them warm while they sap. My hands smell strongly of French Vanilla and Oak and will for the rest of the day, and I've got a small but stinging raw soap burn on my wrist. Hopefully, the soap will be at least usable when it's finished curing. We'll know in a month!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Too Late for Yelling

Wherever we end up living after we move away from here, really the only thing I hope for are neighbors that don't frequently stand in the parking lot and SCREAM at each other in the middle of the night.

Who never learned that isn't acceptable behavior? Oh, right, my neighbors.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

For Mom

First day of school, Spring '09

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Collectible Plates

Karlen: "What is wrong with the world?"
Kyle: "I don't know. Why do people buy collectible plates? I think when you can explain collectible plates, everything else will fall into place."

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Full Moon

On Saturday evening, my mom called me and said "I just left the store and saw the moon and you have to go look at it because it's supposed to be the BIGGEST MOON EVER!" so I said "Like, in the history of the world?!" and she said "YES!?". Anyway, Kyle's dad bought him a pretty cool little telescope for Christmas and we figured it would be a good time to try it out! We tried three different cameras with it (my dSLR, my P&S, and Kyle's cell phone camera) and the ones from the P&S came out the best. I didn't have the proper lens on my dSLR and couldn't get a good zoom and a good focus at the same time. Oh, well. Next time.

Greek Pasta Salad

This recipe is adapted from a Cuisine at Home recipe for Greek Salad with Garlic Croutons. I decided to make it a pasta salad instead of using arugula and made a few other modifications to fit what I like and what I had on hand. This is a great dish to pre-make for snacks or lunches, since it gets better the longer it sits together, and also for taking to dinner parties or potlucks, since it makes A LOT.

To make it vegetarian, I left out the anchovy paste in the dressing from the original recipe so it's really more "fake Greek". This is also one of those recipes that, while there are (approximate, sort of) measurements in the recipe, it is better made "to taste". Add more of what you like or have! Leave out what you don't! Try adding pickled beets or red onion, use red-wine vinegar (or a little balsamic?), or fresh herbs. Make it yours!

Greek Pasta Salad
(adapted from Cuisine at Home)

1 C extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 C white-wine vinegar
2 1/2 Tbs finely chopped shallots
2 Tbs dijon mustard
1 Tbs kalamata olive brine
2 tsp dried oregano
freshly ground pepper & salt to taste

Mix together and set aside. Boil water for pasta.

1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 large cucumber, seeds removed and chopped into bite-size pieces
half of one 8 oz. jar of PITTED kalamata olived, quaretered
(Note: Don't be like me. Make sure you get the pitted olives because standing there for 20 minutes fighting with olive pits isn't fun. And if you end up with the kind with pits, wear protective eye gear while smooshing out the pits).

8 oz crumbled feta

Prepare 1 box of rotini pasta according to directions on package. Rinse with cool water. Add vegetables and feta and slowly begin to pour over dressing, tossing salad gently. Allow to chill in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Kyle stopped by our local used book store the other day and while he was there he picked up this book of Modigliani for me (he said he thought I would like it because it's expressionism and because the woman on the cover has armpit hair. It's nice to have a man who knows what you like).

Anyway, he was right, I love it. And I particularly adore this piece:

I told Kyle I wanted a big print of it and he said "Great, then we can replace the hideous clown!" but, alas for him, my repro Rouault goes nowhere.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Ok, I was trying to sum up why Obama selecting Rick Warren to do the invocation was a piss-poor political move and Rachel Maddow did it for me a couple weeks ago!

If we really HAVE to do an invocation (we don't), there is no reason that it needs to be this jerkwad.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What Will You Get?

I just watched the video for Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole" and began to ponder this line:

"You're going to get what you deserve."

Now, obviously, I don't think Trent Reznor meant it to be the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" catchphrase of 1989, but the phrase itself has neither positive nor negative connotations. Rather, when left without context or inflection it really has no meaning other than what is given to it by the one to whom it is directed.

Basically, if you were to see the sentence "You're going to get what you deserve" on a billboard while walking down the street, how would you take it? Would you think someone was saying "Hey, keep doing what you're doing. It'll pay off!" or would you see it as something more sinister?

Friday, January 2, 2009


Happy New Year! I know I haven't posted in a while and this won't be a long visit, but I've got lots in store for the coming year. With a couple new baking/cookbooks, a few new soapcrafting books, and several new crochet books, plus a new sewing machine, video games, art history and American history books (and a themed discussion group), and a whole new exciting semester ahead of me (including a creative writing class), I will have much to say. Plus, I have a plan for slow posting times so that there aren't periods of stagnation but we'll talk about that later.

Anyway, at dinner tonight Aunt Jean told us about the "flavor trends" for 2009. Some of the flavors I'm already pretty familiar with but I think I will try to incorporate them more (chimichurri and masala in particular) and try out the ones I don't know. The trends are:

1. Persimmon
2. Lavender
3. Cactus
4. Starfruit
5. Chimichurri
6. Masala
7. Peri-peri

I already have Aleppo peppers on a list of things to try and between that, the Peri-peri and the Masala, I guess we'll be having lots of spicy foods!

Some of my family and I have decided that 2009 will be American History Year and that we will all read books on that general topic and discuss them through our email group. My first book is San Francisco is Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires by Dennis Smith.