Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lentil stuff

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="403" caption="The best part is getting ambitious with the hot sauce and then drinking a lot of water because it buuuurns. The other best part is taking GREAT PHOTOS."][/caption]

This recipe is from The Hairpin, but with some modifications.

Mostly, measure NOTHING. Just use whatever onions and carrots you have in the fridge. Then forget what kind of tomato stuff you're supposed to use, and use whatever you have in your pantry. It will be fine. I'm serious.

Ingredients:
onions
carrots
lentils
garlic if you have it
tomato stuff (I've used tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and probably tomato paste, too, at various times, and it was always fine in the end. Different, but delicious. OK, maybe not tomato paste)
other stuff that you want to use up, like, maybe, meatless "ground beef" from Trader Joe's

Slice the onions and cook until soft in a pot of appropriate size for the random amounts of stuff you're going to be cooking (olive oil or butter...do you want to be vegan? or not-vegan?)
Slice the carrots and add them to the pot
Add whatever weird other things you've got sitting around but aren't sure what to do with. Stir.
(wash the lentils) Add the lentils to the pot, along with an appropriate amount of water for the amount of lentils
Cook for a while.
Add some hot sauce (sriracha, random very hot hot sauce in your fridge that your mom made, both, whatever)
Cook longer until the lentils are soft.
Did you put too much hot sauce in? Maybe you should have made some rice! You can make rice later and have it with leftover.

This stuff keeps for a really, really long time. And I think it gets better as it ages, like chili.

I don't have a good way to work pictures of cats into this.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323" caption="...but I won't let that stop me!"][/caption]

 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snow snow snow

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="I love shoveling snow!"][/caption]

We got about 10 inches of snow last week, which was exciting and pretty and all of the things that go with snow. It also caused a number of businesses to shut down (mine included, but we all just worked from home anyway) and many, many buses to slide off the road. 10 inches of snow on a north-facing driveway means lots of snow-shoveling. Which worked out fine, because I have excellent snow-shoveling clothes (they include a Columbia ski bib from the one time I went skiing in 1999, excellent snow boots, ski gloves - also used only once for skiing, but many times for shoveling - and a very heavy hoodie. Plus heavy wool socks, because I am obsessed with SmartWool socks and have many, many, many pairs. Pairs I never thought I would use, they are so warm!

I have a couple of neighbors who do things like shovel other people's driveways and mow the lawns of the elderly (I live on a block with many retirees, which is something I'd highly recommend, as they keep an eye out on EVERYTHING, but they're not great at shoveling because it is cold and difficult!), and one of them has a snowblower. I was offered the use of this snowblower, but refused because I am stubborn and young enough to shovel my entire double-wide driveway ON MY OWN! I am also young enough to SLEEP ON A FUTON for no good reason! What I am saying is that I am young enough to make terrible choices, and also my back hurts a great deal now.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Go KU! (my neighbor made this!)"][/caption]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Here's a novella about my Spectrum live feelings!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="376" caption="Spectrum Live!"][/caption]

So aside from my day job, which is basically the coolest job I can think of (yet describe in the most boring way possible, and will not talk about in this space, probably), I have been working on Spectrum Fantastic Art Live for the last few years.

What is it? It's an art show with a focus on fantasy and science fiction. It includes concept art, three-dimensional art, oil paintings, sketches, digital art, bronzes, dolls...it's a long list. If it can be imagined, it's probably represented.

Basically it's a spotlight on art and artists, and a way to bring these artists and their art to the public. If you're a nerd like me, you'll love it. Trust me.

It all started at a Dead Dog Party at San Diego Comic Con in, oh, probably 2009 or 2010. I was talking to Arnie and Cathy Fenner, and they floated the idea of a convention centered specifically around artists. If you've been to SDCC in the last ten years, you know that there are MANY areas of focus, and some (Hollywood, video games, television shows) are taking over more and more attention and floor space. The Fenners thought that an art-focused show would be great for fans and artists alike, and I thought it was a great idea.

If you aren't familiar with the Fenners, they publish an art annual called "Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art," and they have been doing this for the last 20 years. 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the book, and it's an amazing publication. If you've never seen one, go to a bookstore or comic shop and find one (and buy it). It's an amazing collection of art. I was lucky enough to be a judge for Spectrum 18, and it was both an amazing experience and quite an education into the kind of work that's being produced. Amazing. Fantastic! (if you find a copy of Spectrum 18, you'll see my photo in the jury section, wearing my Carrie Donovanest glasses.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="409" caption="It's this one!"][/caption]

Anyway, they know their stuff, and they've been focused on this art for a long time. A year or so after our SDCC conversation, they asked if I would be interested in being involved in making this theoretical show happen, and I said yes. Of course.

We had to put together a show from scratch - getting the word out to potential exhibitors, figuring out the floor plan, scheduling programming, everything...not to mention the logistics of finding a venue, figuring out all of the little details (insurance! security! how money works!) that add up to a show. We thought it would be hard, and we were totally right! It was super hard! We had weekly meetings for more than a year leading up to the inaugural event, which was May 18-20, 2012, in the Grand Ballroom of Bartle Hall in Kansas City.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="408" caption="The scene of the convention...pre, you know, *convention*."][/caption]

We also put together a number of events around the show. We had a special screening of "Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffery Catherine Jones," by Maria Paz Cabardo. It was inspiring and bittersweet and just remarkable. If you ever have a chance to see this film, do it. We also had a late-night live drawing session at the top of one of the convention hotels, which drew a great crowd, and I missed because 1. I don't draw 2. I was soooo tired.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="376" caption="This was obviously staged, but I WAS very tired."][/caption]

I did, however, make it to the first ever Spectrum Awards.

Each volume of the Spectrum book includes category winners, and the winners have always been announced in a press release. Because we had a physical event, we decided that it would be a great opportunity to finally have an awards show to celebrate the winners of these categories. We booked the Midland Theater, planned even MORE stuff (Quixotic performed! My favorite thing about this was that when they were announced, the crowd was kind of "I have no idea who this is because I am not from the KC area, but okay, polite applause," and when they finished, the applause was deafening. Way to go, Quixotic. Way to be awesome!) and all these amazing artists, art directors and other people involved in art community managed to tear themselves away from KC's famous BBQ to give speeches, accept awards, and have a great time.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Phaedroid also performed. Amazing."][/caption]

So we did this amazing show, we had over 250 exhibitors from all around the world, art directors from every discipline (comic books, video games, board games, movie studios, AND MORE!) and people like me! Fans. Well, I was technically the "special guest wrangler" which sounds a little weird, but I got to have walkie-talkie conversations that went like this "Does anybody have eyes on Mignola?" "Yes, I see him...3 o'clock...where's his panel?" etc. Best guest-wrangling experience was being told that the Shifletts hadn't showed up for their panel yet, and finding Jarrod watching Iain McCaig's presentation. Artists are fans of each other! It's so obvious, yet also so wonderful to see in action.

Looking over that "from every discipline" bit reminds me of an article that ran in my college newspaper back in the day. I lived in the scholarship halls at KU, which was kind of like the Greek system, without the money and the social skills. And nerdier. The newspaper would sometimes run profiles of rooms, and they ran one of a room in Battenfeld, which was the schol hall next to mine (Watkins!). The money quote was one of these young men saying "We have over 200 pounds of books, and we have everything from science fiction to fantasy."

(200 pounds of books is not that much, dudes. come on.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="324" caption="Imagine that I'm also holding "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes" and "The Complete Far Side" and that's 200 pounds of me, cats and comics. Not that impressive."][/caption]

This is so rambly...I'm so sorry. I'm just trying really hard to not let it turn into marketing text. It's like finding religion, or drugs, or being on fire, or having an experience that you want to share with everyone but you just know you won't be able to explain it sufficiently. I want, so badly, to convey how important, wonderful, energizing, amazing this show was, and I know that nothing I can type here is going to make you feel the way I felt at the show.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Just like how nothing I post can make you understand just how fuzzy James' belly really is. Language has failed me even more thoroughly than T9 predictive texting when it was pretty sure I spent all my time playing "videohands.""][/caption]

Sunday night, everybody hung out in one of the hotel bars to drink and talk and decompress. This was the first SFAL ever, and no one had known what to expect. I went around and asked for feedback, and I honestly expected a mix of good and bad. What I heard was overwhelmingly positive (and some constructive criticism which I did write down and we took to heart for 2013). I had been really tired, and I thought about just going home, but all I could think was that this was happening in MY CITY. And I helped make it happen. And there was no way I was going to miss out on the last night with all of these amazing people.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Paul Tobin! If I remember correctly, we were talking about Frank Lloyd Wright, and I was probably talking about how he never made livable spaces and was a huge jerk in his personal life. Because those are the kinds of conversations I insist on having with talented artists from around the world."][/caption]

I was overwhelmed by how amazing the show was, and how uplifted I felt during and after the event. I was seriously dazed for a month after, because I couldn't believe it had really happened, and it had gone so well. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, for me, it was a life-changing experience.

I'm one of the organizers for Spectrum Live because sometimes, the only way to go to the kind of show you want to attend is to build it yourself.

We have a Facebook page.
And a website where you can buy tickets to the show and book hotel rooms if you're coming from out of town.

The show this year is May 17-19.
I really can't wait.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Christopher Walken is amazing

"Bear costumes are funny... Bears as well."
-Christopher Walken

I watched "Seven Psychopaths" a couple of days ago and was struck by how nice it was to see Christopher Walken in a role that understood what a *good* actor he can be. He's in a lot of movies. It is said that he never turns down a role, and this seems likely. He's often the best part of a bad movie (often the best part of a good movie, frankly) and I always enjoy watching him, no matter what he's doing. But he's a really talented, award-winning actor, and that sometimes gets lost in the sheer volume of work that he does.

He's also a fantastic dancer, but I don't think anyone really forgets about that. If you haven't seen "Pennies From Heaven," well, I wouldn't really recommend it, because it is a disturbing, unsettling movie, but he has an amazing tap-dancing/stripping scene on a pool table that must be seen to be believed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kind of about handbags, kind of about the difficulties inherent in replacing things that are perfectly functional when you are a terrible cheapskate

I like handbags. This is becoming a blog about things I like! I do like handbags, but I don't tend to buy handbags. I look at handbags, I think seriously about purchasing handbags (when they are sufficiently on sale) and I admire the handbags of stylish people. When asked what I did in a given day, often, "I looked at a handbag and then didn't buy it" is part of my answer. ("long story about my cats" and "made juice and/or chili" are also popular answers)

The problem ("problem") is that I like very expensive handbags, but I can't ever justify paying a great deal of money for a bag. Even when a nice bag is on sale, it's still ridiculously expensive. Compare this to, say, socks. I can understand why you'd want nice socks. Socks are very, very useful. You need multiples of them! They come in handy for hiking and really anything you'd want to do outside that involves feet. When they go on sale, they can be very reasonable. I could get a whole new sock-robe (ward-sock?) for far less than the cost of one nice, on-sale bag.

Of the bags I like, I'm most conflicted about Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. line. They veer from "that is the best bag I have ever seen" to "that is the worst bag I have ever seen." Sometimes I need a second opinion to make sure I'm not accidentally filing one of the latter items into the former category because I have been blinded by the label. Just because Gwen Stefani can pull it off, doesn't mean that I should make the attempt.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Oh sorry, were you talking about handbags and materialism? I was reading this informative pamphlet about Harvesters and thinking about charitable giving."][/caption]

I think the post I originally intended to write was really just about how I'm weirdly fascinated by handbags while simultaneously mentally unable to justify purchasing them. But another blog I wanted to write was about how it's really hard to justify purchasing nicer versions of things I already have. When you set up a household initially, you get things that are functional and you think "I will replace these later when I have the money to get what I really want." Easier said than done, younger self! This is very difficult for me to do. I am pretty sure that I will eat off of the stoneware my mom got me from a church sale in 2003 for the rest of my life. I will look at new, elegant china sets, and I will think "but I have a perfectly functional stoneware set at home which is both microwave and oven safe!" Similarly, "I would like to get a nice new down comforter for the nautical room, but instead, I'll just put four blankets on this bed!" Works great!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Donald doesn't mind that there are a bunch of blankets under here!"][/caption]

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Could God make a bar of soap so big he couldn't use it without dropping it?

One of the things I like is nice soap. I think it's in response to a childhood of very sensitive skin, which drastically limited my soap options. Now that I am older and less allergic, I can appreciate a fancy soap. I usually just get Dial glycerin soaps, because they are nice, not too strongly scented (I still have a fragrance sensitivity, and a tendency toward migraines. A winning combination!) and cheap. The cranberry soap is very nice in the winter - it's festive.

When visiting my parents recently, I discovered that my father has gotten really into going to T.J. Maxx and finding ENORMOUS fancy soaps.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="377" caption="This soap was not made for human hands."][/caption]

I took several minutes to stare in horror, take photos of the soap next to other objects, and determine a strategy for using a soap so unwieldy.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="This is one of those bars of Dial cranberry glycerin soap I mentioned. Such a reasonable size!"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="These are not travel-sized tooth-brushing supplies. These are full-sized tooth-brushing supplies!"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="377" caption="Do you know about "Cul de Sac"? It's the best comic strip ever, and its collections are slightly larger than this soap."][/caption]

 

It's very nice soap, especially if you want to feel very, very small.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The charm of a good potato

I'm still working on that chili I made a couple of weeks ago. I talk about chili a lot, but I don't think I give enough credit to really good potatoes (and, honestly, it doesn't take a lot to achieve "good potato" status. Is it recognizably a potato? You're all set! Good potato!).

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="509" caption="This is a bad potato. Actually, this is David Foster Potato, my desk friend potato from 2011."][/caption]

There is a certain, boring thrill I get when the microwave (I'm lazy) beeps and the floury smell of potato wafts out. Then, I cover it in chili, pickled jalapenos and hot sauce. It gets a little less thrilling after the second week, but on a cold night, even leftover leftover leftovers have their charm.

 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Many paths to happiness

One of the things I wanted when I got a house was to have a dedicated guest room, so that if my friends wanted to visit, it would be easy for them to do so. I just had a friend from New York stay with me for the weekend, and it was awesome. I got to show off my house, Donald and James got to make a new friend, and visitors are always a great excuse to go do things in Kansas City that I might not normally do. Things like driving around at night and pointing out the different awesome buildings and neighborhoods (Kauffman Center, Bartle Hall), going to special occasion restaurants (Port Fonda), seeing the symphony (okay, that's a normal one for me) and going to pop concerts (Lady Gaga!). We'd stay up late watching movies, then I'd wake up in the mornings and make coffee and juice, sit in the breakfast nook, and generally have a nice time.

Sometimes I worry that I'm too excited about showing off my life, if that makes sense. This is where I live, these are the things I do, this is the city that I love...I know that I am very fortunate to be in this position, and there are many factors that play a role in it. One of them is that I'm just happy with things as they are. I like it here. I don't spend a lot of time wishing I was somewhere else, I can't image a job that I'd enjoy more (and I have side projects that I'm just as excited about) and I make an effort to become friends with people who are interesting and uplifting.

I believe that there are many ways to be happy.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="One of James' paths to happiness involves helping make the bed."][/caption]

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Breakfast for dinner

When I was in grade school, once a month, the cafeteria would offer "breakfast for lunch." This was one of the most popular lunches, and looking back on it, I have no idea why. We'd drown the Eggo-style waffles in so much maple-flavored syrup that they were totally soggy, the sausages were okay but not amazing, and the eggs were standard scrambled eggs. I distinctly remember being fairly unimpressed by pancakes and eggs at home, so I don't know why, when breakfast was moved to lunch, it suddenly became an amazing culinary event. My conclusion is that kids are weird, and I don't understand them.

As an adult, breakfast for dinner is definitely awesome. It's an easy thing to put together if you* want to invite people over, it's novel enough to be appealing yet easy enough to be quick and fairly cheap. (If you're buying fancy local humanely raised guilt-bacon, like me, you may need to add scare quotes around "cheap." However, and I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, this was probably some of the best bacon I've had.) Fancy glassware can be used to serve orange juice, which is delicious, and waffles are a treat for the waffle-iron-less. Waffles are also incredibly easy to make, even when you have a very finicky waffle maker with no timing element, a tendency to get hotter the longer it's on, and an undeniable bent toward destruction. Even slightly over- or underdone waffles are delicious.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Faaaancy glassware"][/caption]

I don't really have a point. It might have something to do with "night coffee isn't a great idea, and now I'm writing this at 12:30 am instead of sleeping." Also, if you're going to do breakfast for dinner, a dishwasher is a very nice thing to have.

The only bad thing about breakfast for dinner as a social event is that you'll probably have to eat in the dining room, as opposed to the breakfast nook (if you have a breakfast nook). This ties into my earlier post about houses, though...breakfast nooks are delightful. Not a dealbreaker for a kitchen, but an unexpectedly delightful bonus.

*I have no idea why I'm writing this with a prescriptive bent. Obviously, I am talking about myself. I do appreciate any opportunity to use my fancy glassware. And my waffle maker is obnoxiously tricky to use. It makes a lion, an elephant and a clown. The clown is the smallest, and always ends up a little burnt, like the bucket brigade didn't quite make it in time.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Breakfast for breakfast at the breakfast nook.This clown is a little deformed, but pretty perfect as far as "not horribly burnt" goes."][/caption]