ok, i suck.

So here’s an article mocking modern hip DIYers, like I’m trying to be, except they are actually successful in their jam-making.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2012/01/the_foxfire_books_are_modern_diyers_just_play_acting_.html

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i post on wednesdays

…is my new plan. You might have noticed it’s Thursday, and yesterday was Wednesday, and there’s no new post up. That’s an aberration you should ignore, forthwith. I’m going to post today, which is Thursday, and I’m going to pretend it’s still Wednesday. If you could just go along with it…that’d be great.

also…i might be ambivalent about the little prince

So I watched the Golden Globes this week. In addition to the entertainment factor of Ricky Gervais’ snarky hosting – I particularly like that he starts drinking onstage near the end – it gives me a list of films with some of the “best performances of the year”, with time to see them before the Oscars. Since the studios now like to release the movies they think will be nominated near the end of the year to capitalize on awards show buzz, you find them in the theatre all at the same time. In some ways that annoys me; it would be easier for us the audience if they were spread out. On the other hand, how would we know they were good unless the awards show told us so? (At least, that’s how it feels sometimes. But I still hate The Ice Storm. No one will ever convince me that is a brilliant film.)

I loved The Descendants; I hear great things about The Artist; I’m psyched to see Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady; if I can get over my Keira Knightley ennui I might see A Dangerous Method. I’ll tell you what I’m not going to see, and that’s War Horse. I would never have admitted when I was 13 for fear they would revoke my Girl License, but the fact is: I’m just not that into horses.

I realize this is a horrible thing to say. Who doesn’t like horses? And it’s not that I don’t like them, exactly. I just don’t get the whole mystical connection we allegedly have, man and horse. I don’t feel a spiritual connection with a horse, I don’t think they are looking at me with intelligence and feeling, I don’t get tearful in movies about horses and how brave and noble they are. I don’t get it.

Specifically, here’s mostly what I don’t get: why are they so hysterical all the time? What is that about? Any book or movie involving horses has that scene when the horse gets “spooked” (they always use the word “spooked”, not “startled” or “temporarily and inexplicably frightened by small noise”) and throws the rider or scatters the cattle running off. You know it’s true. It’s not even something major and completely reasonable, like a cannon (horses are apparently fearless and warrior like and have that stiff upper lip thing going on in wartime and other real crises, as far as I can tell from the movies, which is an admirable trait they should totally put on their resume and then start applying to their everyday life); they are always getting freaked by stupid things, like a raccoon stepping on a twig.

Now, if a regular animal, or a person, heard a raccoon step on a twig, they would be startled for a second, maybe, jump, maybe utter a “yikes!”…and then get over it. Like, almost immediately. Horses evidently feel the need to jump, screech, throw a person off their back, and then run for 5-10 minutes. Seriously, I wouldn’t run for 5 straight minutes unless a murderously hungry zombie* popped out from behind a tree and then continued to chase me for the full amount of time.

[*Note: obviously, I am distinguishing Fast Zombies, of the 28 Days/Walking Dead variety, from Regular Zombies in this instance; the slow, staggering, muttering kind that are of no particular threat as long as you are mobile. My sister Katie and I agree: we don’t like Fast Zombies. We have no strong feelings about Regular Zombies, unless they get in the house, which is basically my policy about ants, too.]

I went to a steeplechase a year or so ago and one of the horses got loose after the race and went galloping madly through the course with a handful of trainers chasing him down before he trampled an unwary pedestrian. I went into pretty much this same rant to my friend Lauren, including the argument that other animals – squirrels, for instance – never got this distraught.

“Squirrels?” she says. “Your example of a rational animal is squirrels?”

Okay. Rational is perhaps not the best word for squirrels. (I have a lot of words for squirrels…more on that later.) I’m saying, they get over it. Unlike stupid horses.

On the other hand, I really did like Seabiscuit. Perhaps a Netflix date?

Update: Amanda went to see War Horse and said it was super cheesy, of the slow-motion-reunion-at-sunset-Lifetime movie variety. (No offense to Lifetime movies, because I secretly love you.) Maybe not even a Netflix date. I’m officially a bad person.

travel day: hotel housekeeping

Over the years our family has grown to the extent that the family homestead no longer sleeps us all, so during the holidays Other Half and I stayed in a nearby hotel. It turns out one of the many, many things that Other Half and I are not good at is coming up with the right thing to say when Housekeeping knocks on the door when we’re still asleep and aren’t going to be getting up any time soon. (Can I just say, first of all: housekeeping really should not come by at 9 am. That is too early. I really don’t think I’m wrong in that.)

Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
Wha-? Other Half and I look around in bleary confusion.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
“Uh- we don’t need anything! Is it ok if you come back –“
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
(Ok, that explanation was too involved.)
“We’re okay! We might just need some towels later or –“
(Too late! Door is being unlocked, hitting deadbolt.)
“Come back later?”
(Door slams. Wheels creaking to the next room.)
“Ok, then.”
“That was successful”, Other Half grunts.
“You know what, you think of something by tomorrow, then.”
“Fine, I will.”

So by the next morning you’d think we’d have thought of something.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
But no.
We snort awake and look at each other. What? Already?
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
“Go away!” Other Half shouts.
“Don’t say that! So rude!” I hiss at him.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
(I guess they didn’t hear him anyway.)
(Door unlocks, smacks deadbolt.)

“No!” Other Half shouts.
“We’re okay! We’re okay!” I shout in panic.
(Door slams. Wheels creaking.)
“You can’t say ‘go away’”, I tell Other Half.
“Well, start remembering to put out that Do Not Disturb sign at night, I can’t think of anything when I’m half-asleep.”
“Fine, I will.”

So by the next morning you’d think we’d have remembered to put out the  Do Not Disturb sign.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
But no.
We both sit up in bed.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
“Uh…we’re busy!” Other Half calls.
(What? I stare at him in disbelief and horror. We’re busy?)
“No we’re not!” I feel compelled to add.
“Housekeeping?” (Uncertain. Crap. Now I have to get up and answer the door.)
“We’re not busy,” I assure her as I open the door. “We just sleep late! That’s all! Late sleepers, that’s us, haha!” (Can I just reiterate: it’s 9 am. We don’t have children, ok?)
She stares at me. I look down at myself to make sure my pajamas are buttoned.
“Do you need anything?”
“Towels!” I say. It’s been 3 days, it would look weird if we didn’t need towels, at this point.
“Shampoo? Soap?”
“Sure!” What the hell, ok.
“Anything else?”
“Nope! We’re good! Just sleeping late, and now we’re going to get up! We’re good! Thanks!”
(Why is she looking at me like that?)

“I think we have to have a planned response,” I tell him. “Because you are clearly not good at improvising.”
“I still don’t see what was wrong with ‘Go away’,” he says.
“No. You clearly can’t say ‘go away’! How about ‘Come back later, thanks!’ I think that sorta worked.”
“Yeah, okay.”

We have a plan.
So we’re finally prepared by the next morning!

And then, naturally, they never come by at all. And then we check out.

So I guess the next time we stay at a hotel, with housekeeping that comes by at 9 am, and we forget to put out the Do Not Disturb sign just in case, and we remember we’ve had this conversation…we’re all set.

note:

I’d just like to note that yesterday – buoyed by recent successes, or possibly success in the singular, but why split hairs? why be that person? – I mixed up 2 more mustards and some almond butter which may or may not taste like anything I’ve had from a store but was definitely edible!! I feel I’m on a roll.

mustarding up the great pretzel experiment

These pretzels are not poisonous!

I just want to tell you that the mustard turned out great. Did you hear me? It was awesome! It turns out some people like Fiery Fire Sauce in their mustard, and I am related to a significant percentage of them. I am not incompetent at everything! Or at least, it didn’t suck too much, which is all I can hope for on most days, really.

Disaster nearly struck preemptively, as I’d originally forgotten the mustard when I left town before the holiday, which would have been a tragedy for the Great Pretzel Experiment we had planned for months. But my heroic Other Half, who had to work Christmas Eve and drove down the next morning, remembered to bring it with him, despite the unlucky – and really, unacceptably Grinchy – experience of a Christmas Day thief who snatched & grabbed bags out of our car while he was loading things from the house and got away with his laptop, SLR camera, and a backpack of library books. In addition to the financial hit (the insurance company is being cagey about the potential library fees…you know, that adds up), it just hurts us emotionally, man. Don’t rob people on Christmas, ok? The Hallmark Channel has entire movies dedicated to people like you and you always get your Just Desserts at the end, often including actual desserts, like pie in the face, because that’s how the Hallmark Channel rolls on villainy.

The mustard was safe, though. I just want to reiterate that, because I know you were worried. It was not stolen from the car, I don’t know why. Did I mention it was made with brown sugar?

The Great Pretzel Experiment turned out well, by and large (obviously, I had nothing to do with it). The tricky stage in pretzel making  is dipping them in lye, which has to be ordered from a chemical company; you can’t just pick that up at CVS like most dangerous drug ingredients. (Side note: I used to get this mud mask from CVS which burned like hell, tightened your skin until your eyes bugged out like a frog, and, if left on too long, caused minor chemical burns. I never knew why that stuff was legal, but it was the greatest facial mask of all time. It’s been discontinued now, alas.)

Since you’re handling lye, you have to wear gloves and not touch anything else. Pretzel making is not child-friendly fun. Amanda was our resident expert because she had made them before, with the assistance of a real German, so after the group rolled out the dough & shaped pretzels under her direction, she dipped them one by one and laid them out on cookie sheets. Something happened while baking – we’re not sure what, but they were only baking halfway down, leaving the lower half sticky and gelatinous. We turned down the heat on later rounds and it worked out, but we had a minor scare for a minute when Theron tried an early pretzel and started screaming that it was horrible and tasted like batteries. Amanda made everyone stop eating them at that point because she was afraid we were ingesting lye, but I think we later determined that Theron just doesn’t like pretzels. He was probably not a good choice for pretzel taster, in retrospect.

Dad and Erik made mustard too – delicious and totally different from each other’s (and mine). They both used the brown mustard seeds and a variety of vinegars, among other things, but no sugar.

Erik (believe this is from a vague internet recipe): 1/4 c. brown seeds, ground in a coffee grinder, 1/4 c. yellow mustard powder, 4 T. white wine, 2 T. water, pinch salt, stand for 10 minutes, 2 T. apple cider vinegar, microwave on high for 15 seconds, stir. Add 1 T. tumeric, refrigerate at least 2 hours. Keeps for weeks.

Dad (believe this came from the Joy of Cooking): 1/2 c. brown mustard seeds, 2 T. cider vinegar, 2 T. white wine vinegar, 2 T. water, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. white pepper. Mix in jar, allow to sit for an hour, stir again and cover and refrigerate 1-2 nights; blend until paste forms. Keeps 3-4 weeks after blending.

I think I’m going to try the Honey & Lime variation next, which substitutes honey for the sugar and fresh lime juice for the white vinegar. The book promises it will be sweeter, which should make Other Half happier.

[Are you wondering why I just provided you with several mustard recipes? It’s because I’m concerned about you, the reader. I’m afraid you’re going along thinking, “I just lost 6 brain cells reading this blog. I learned nothing. I might be dumber for the experience.” I want you to feel you got something out of it.]

Then along with the pretzels, we used the mustard with the sauerkraut and bratfest that followed for dinner, with a small keg of beer. Happy German Christmas, everyone!

P.S. We’re not German.

P.P.S., I also made kimchee, and hopefully that will turn out well too! We’ll check in on the Burned Walnuts Brandy next week. Who’s excited?!

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