Busy, boring, busy

August 17th, 2014

Well, I’ve been working my way out of a job but they keep coming up with stop gap stuff when I think I’m in danger of them realizing they are paying me for not working. Someone tell me the one about how the economy is improving again?

Eh. Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot but it’s all been largely forgettable. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult is the only thing I’d recommend. I really enjoyed it.

I’ve managed to make it to the gym once a week for the last 3 weeks for a 1/2 hour stationary bike ride each time. I am losing precisely no weight but my hope is that I’m building a habit a little at a time.

I’ve got a Labor Day weekend jaunt to Vegas with my aunties, so that will be full of food, spa and giggly stupidity. Everyone needs some stupidity in their lives from time to time. Keeps you from getting uppity.

I’ve taken on a huge project that has been keeping me happy by testing my organizational skills (yes, I am that huge of a geek). I’m setting up a tea festival. There are tea festivals/conferences on the coasts, but none in the midwest. Yet Kansas City and the surrounding area have at least 5 independent boutique tea merchants/tea blenders plus several shops that resell teas from some of the bigger companies. And if I can help expand exposure to quality tea, maybe there could be more demand for it, which would mean more places for ME to get tea! So all I’m really doing is indulging my obsession for planning stuff and for drinking tea. There are tons of things to take into account for an event like this, new stuff to learn and many, many ducks to be prodded into line.

So in pursuit of input from those with experience organizing tea events, I’ve convinced my mother that she & I need to take a trip to the Northwest Tea Festival in October. Seattle in October. Probably not much more impressive weather-wise than when the OAM & I went in November, but I know with my mom along that I won’t be on a 2000 mile road trip after I get there. We will actually see stuff in Seattle instead of just everywhere around it. Don’t misunderstand, the road trip was interesting and enjoyable and we saw absolutely tons of cool stuff – just that none of it was in the city we were ostensibly visiting. :)

And that’s about it. It doesn’t sound like much but that’s what’s been keeping me occupied. I’m paying attention to the world in flames but I don’t have a damn thing original to say about any of it and talking about it on my little middle of nowhere blog doesn’t improve any of it either.

More beautiful places

August 12th, 2014
Peacock Room in Castello di Sammezzano, Tuscany

Peacock Room in Castello di Sammezzano, Tuscany

Gruta do Labirinto, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal

Gruta do Labirinto, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal

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Enter title here

August 8th, 2014

I’ve written 2 posts and deleted them both. Anything I say here makes me feel like a complete prat so have some pictures.

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Oh, and Guardians of the Galaxy is an enjoyable little romp.

Why does the food at large work related meals usually suck?

August 3rd, 2014

I actually got my bosses to send me to a work related conference last week. Sure, it was outside of Baltimore, and I had zero time for any sightseeing but it was amazing they sent me at all. Our management team is notorious for making any learning or training happen on your own time, for free over the internet or through (often) substandard in-house training. With the recent purge of almost all of our IT department there isn’t anyone around anymore to ask about more complex issues. Plus, after hemorrhaging a metric assload of experienced personnel they announced this year a “renewed commitment to the employees.” So, by leveraging those things and tying it to current projects I got them to agree to send me.

Anyway, it was well worth going. I picked up a lot that will help me and made some contacts with the folks who design and maintain our software. Super nice people and exceptionally customer oriented.

They fed us breakfast and lunch for the two days and dinner on the first night. It was all buffet style at the hotel where the conference was held. I usually expect buffet style meals to be pretty bland because they are catering to the lowest common denominator. So the Tex-Mex lunch was pretty flavorless but expected. The dinner where the only alternative to seafood were hot dogs, was not expected. At least the corn muffins were good from that meal. The Italian lunch was actually not bad for buffet Italian, I will admit. And the lemon cream cake was really good.

There was a decent tres leches cake with the Tex-Mex lunch as well. Got me thinking – I’ve yet to make a really good tres leches cake and I had cream from my last tea party that was about to go bad. So today I grabbed a recipe from the King Arthur Flour cookbook and whipped one up. And I do mean whipped. Whipped egg whites, whipped egg yolks, whipped everything. It is more like a thick sponge cake than I expected. Haven’t tried it yet but the batter was tasty.

And we also have a pineapple upside down cake. Hey, the oven was on. Gotta make good use of heating up the house, right?

That one came from the spa visit Mom & I had on Saturday. As part of the package we had Thai Ball Facials. Just the name sounded questionable but when I saw no Thai men at the spa I relaxed some about it. Turns out it was an assortment of herbs wrapped in soft muslin balls that were warm and damp (and that doesn’t sound much better, does it?). Those were then used as part of the facial massage. I’m really not sure what it was supposed to accomplish. I mean, it felt nice but I can’t see that it would have done anything for my skin.

But the herb… orbs (there, that’s better, right?) smelled like pineapple upside down cake. Which immediately gave me a craving. So we are set for dessert for a couple of weeks, I think.

 

Much yum

July 26th, 2014

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These little bites of deliciousness are super easy to make and even tasty cold.

4-6 medium white potatoes
shredded cheese (original recipe said gruyere but I used cheddar and parmesan mixed)
salt
pepper
rosemary if you like
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat oven to 400F. Grease 12 muffin cups. Slice potatoes crosswise into about 1/8 inch thick slices. If you have a mandolin slicer it makes it even easier to get thinner slices. Place 2-3 of the smaller diameter slices in the bottom of the muffin cups. Sprinkle with less than a teaspoon of cheese. Salt and pepper and rosemary. Layer in 2 more slices of potato, repeat with cheese and seasonings. One more layer of potato slices and seasonings then slowly pour 1 tablespoon cream over each stack. top with cheese. Bake 30 minutes till cheese is brown and stacks can be easily pierced with fork. Run knife around stacks to loosen and pop out.

You can make fewer than a dozen, but if you are already going to dirty up some of the muffin cups, may as well get them all! They keep well and reheat well. Even though our first dozen didn’t make it to reheating – they were pretty tasty cold for breakfast on Saturday morning!

I’m not sure where I saw the link to this recipe. Wherever it was, thank you! This one is a keeper.

 

In which I admit something I probably shouldn’t admit

July 24th, 2014

By the talons of Thong-Schwee Narbiscus, Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated is actually pretty good.

It’s hugely tongue in cheek, makes fun of itself constantly, and is surprisingly clever. The OAM had read praise for it on some sci-fi type websites and found it on Netflix. Tons of recognizable actors doing voices – Jeffrey Combs playing H.P. Hatecraft (who else could do it?), Harlan Ellison as himself, Patrick Warburton as the Sheriff, Amy Acker, Clancy Brown, Beverly D’Angelo…

I was never a big Scooby Doo fan as a kid. It was more something I watched to put off doing chores for another 30 minutes. This take on it, written by soooo many of the same authors as the original, is worth wasting 30 minutes on here and there. Even without chore-ducking as an excuse.

Dunno if it’s worth paying by the episode on Amazon Prime, but if you can find it free or with a subscription you already have, I’d give it a shot. :)

 

Old but new to me

July 22nd, 2014

In addition to really liking the music, I love the way it is being made. She is using foot controls to sample her own playing, then using those samples to accompany herself.

A warning: don’t watch this movie

July 16th, 2014

I see over at Ace’s that the overnight thread last night mentioned Snowpiercer and the high Rotten Tomatoes rating it gets.

I don’t understand why it gets such a high rating there. Normally we are pretty much in alignment with those folks and if RT gives it high marks, we’ll at least find it passable.

Snowpiercer is a truly awful, hole-filled bit of bullshit masquerading as “science” and “engineering.” It’s only a step or two above The Core.

I know it’s just a movie and just entertainment, but the bad things were just sooo bad I couldn’t get to my “fictional characters” place and enjoy it at all.

For the love of T-Rex! Don’t. Watch. It.

I know a lot of you who wander through here also wander through Ace’s so I thought I’d give a warning. :)

Wordiness and art

July 14th, 2014

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

Seyit UYGUR { Ebru Artist } from oguz uygur (ozzie) on Vimeo.

Trey Ratcliff. Amazing photos.

If you like photography, you really need to click that link.

If you like photography, you really need to click that link.

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So…

July 12th, 2014

I joined a gym again. Planet Fitness. This one is about 1/3 the cost of any I’ve tried yet and they are open 24 hours Monday through Friday. Access to a “personal” trainer at no additional cost. No long term contracts.

I decided that I have to make myself get in better shape. This is getting ridiculous. One flight of stairs should not wind me. That, and my lack of fitness is going to start impacting what I want to do with my life (as in my travel that I still want to do).

If work will just not go into overtime mode for long enough for a habit to form…

I just have to make myself turn right instead of left when I get off the highway to go home in the evening. That’s gonna be a big challenge.

 

Tea! Quality tea at that.

July 9th, 2014

If you are into tea, or even just curious about it, try Teavivre. They are a company with fantastic customer service, super high quality teas at reasonable prices (for the quality you are getting). They are having a 3rd Anniversary celebration this month and next with some giveaway contests and later in the celebration, sales! Their shipping is also awesomely fast for overseas shipping and with $30, the shipping is free. It’s pretty easy to buy $30 of tea, I am somewhat ashamed to admit.

I’m extremely happy that their sale on the black teas isn’t until August. After adding up my tea purchases for the year so far I have sworn not to buy any tea this month. None.

The tea my mom bought for me doesn’t count. She’s using that to pay for her part of the phone bill. Shut up. Obsession logic at work here.

 

Aging…and food stuff

July 5th, 2014

So, it turns out that a habanero ranch bacon cheeseburger with fries in Buffalo sauce followed by a half pound of Skittles and a Drumstick ice cream cone isn’t something my system is prepared to handle any more.

Man. This sucks.

But it sure was tasty at the time… :) And yes, as a matter of fact, that was my choice for an anniversary dinner. :)

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We are doing our cookout tonight. Last night we listened to the neighborhood explode. It was pretty cool. Grumpy Codger syndrome set in about 11 pm but before that it was all good listening to the idiots and waiting for ambulance and/or fire truck sirens. I hope everyone out there stayed safe and appreciated the rockets’ red glare and the reason for them.

This is a recipe that I got from Laura’s site and it’s become the go-to potato salad around here.
3 pounds red potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
½ cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped red onion

Wash potatoes, cut into large chunks and place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.
Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

I sometimes use stone ground mustard but I cut the amount to 1 tablespoon when I do that. And I usually skip the onions. Uncooked onions are De Debbil.

I also cooked up these spicy beans from Homesick Texan. I used black beans instead of pinto, but otherwise, followed recipe. And it is tasty.

Strawberry Cobbler also from Homesick Texan. This was pretty good. Needed about another 10 minutes baking time as the center was not quite set up. Had lots of sugar, but the strawberries were still tart so either needed more time to macerate or maybe it’s supposed to be like that. The ice cream definitely cuts the sweetness.

Creamy Stovetop Mac & Cheese. I didn’t bother with the ramekins stuff. We just dumped on plates. This was strange. I want to like homemade mac & cheese, I really do. I think I should. Cheese, pasta, butter. How can that go wrong? I followed the directions to the letter but the sauce wouldn’t adhere to the pasta. It just glopped into the bowl in a big mess and I tried to stir it around with the pasta but it just strung together and slid off the pasta. Eh. Maybe I just don’t have the touch to make homemade mac & cheese.

 

 

Best Action Movie Evar?

June 29th, 2014

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The Raid is not going to be for everyone. It is massively brutal, bloody and unflinching. But it is hands down the best action/martial arts movie I’ve seen to date. The fight choreography, the cinematography, the direction – all absolutely top notch. The production quality is amazing for the type of movie it is, equaling and often surpassing that of some big budget epic Hollywood movies.

We grabbed it off of iTunes last night along with the second one. The second is much longer on dialog (albeit subtitled) and shorter on action but what there is is still fantastic.

The first movie is very reminiscent of Judge Dredd (not the Stallone version). Group of cops go into a complex under the control of a crime lord and attempt to make their way up to the top to arrest him. The second is also familiar in plot. Cop goes deep undercover to expose dirty cops. The plots are not complex but they serve their purpose.

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There is an odd note in that Yagan Ruhian is used in both movies but as different characters. We thought at first that his character from the first movie had improbably survived. But no, he’s a totally different character. Well, not totally different. He’s still a tiny little terrifying ass-kicker. Who looks a lot like a male version of one of the OAM’s employees. Pretty spooky.

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Ruhian and Iko Uwais are both stunningly impressive and scorchingly fast. A vid of the two of them doing a ritual combat before Iko’s wedding, apparently.

Kitchen sink dinner

June 27th, 2014

I came up with a good dinner last night by throwing in bits and pieces of leftovers. Sometimes those turn out the best although reproducing them is impossible. :)

I had leftover lemon pepper rotisserie chicken, some Aidell’s Italian sausage and some bowtie pasta. I cooked the sausage in a skillet with the chicken to spread the flavor to the chicken and added some leftover corn – corn goes with everything. For a sauce I had some feta garlic dip (feta, cream cheese, garlic, dill, basil) that I thinned out with some milk. Poured it over the mess in the skillet, heated through and sprinkled with some Italian blend shredded cheese. Heated the pasta tossed it all together.

Even the OAM thought it was pretty good and this kind of pasta dish is not generally his thing.

Stinky the world traveler

June 20th, 2014

Okay, so he’s only a US traveler at this point. He has high hopes. First installment of New York trip is up!

Update: Installment 2 is up and so is the final chapter!

Totally worth the cavity search the poor lil' guy had to go through to get in!

Totally worth the cavity search the poor lil’ guy had to go through to get in!