Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What to do when you have a bag of vegetables and no plan

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="639"] Vegetable dinner.[/caption]

My friend Steve came over with a bag of vegetables, and we managed to make an awesome dinner of kale stuff, Brussels sprouts, stir fry and rice.

Rice:
Make some rice in whatever way you usually make rice.

Brussels sprouts sauteed in butter, with salt and pepper. A classic, but delicious.

Vegetable stir fry:
Ingredients:
Broccoli
Asparagus
Onion (diced)
Garlic (minced)
Olive oil
Sesame oil
Fish sauce
Sweet chili sauce
Soy sauce

Everything is pretty much to taste. This is how stir fry works!
Saute onions and garlic in oil. Add broccoli. Add asparagus. Add sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce and some water. Cook until broccoli and asparagus are ready.

Kale with stuff:
Onion (diced)
Garlic (minced)
Olive oil
Chicken broth - 1 can
Dijon mustard - 1 tbsp
Apple cider vinegar - just a quick dash
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Kale - as much as you can fit into the pot
Lingonberry preserves - 1 tbsp

In a medium pot, saute onions and garlic in oil. Add broth, vinegar, mustard, sugar. Bring to a boil. Add kale. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes (or until kale is done). Add preserves and stir in. Serve over rice!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Things You Can Do Over a Weekend

1. You can go see a play!
I saw "Slashdance" at the Coterie After Dark. For anyone living in Kansas City, the Coterie is an institution. Their not-for-children productions are often very original and very good. The set design is inventive and the performances are excellent. I have never seen "Flashdance," so I don't think that I fully appreciated all of the jokes, but it was still an excellent horror/spoof/comedy. As good as "Sorority House of the Damned," and better than "Children of the Damned Corn."

2. You can subscribe to a hippie magazine!
After spending some quality time in the Barnes and Noble in Zona Rosa, I was sufficiently intrigued by "Mother Earth News" to subscribe for a year. Things I said to Mike this weekend, after reading the latest issue: "You could raise chickens!" "We could build a greenhouse!" "We should go to this hippie fair in Lawrence in October!"

3. You can prepare for a storm by going to the store!
I got chocolate milk, marshmallows, Reese's peanut butter cups and Kit Kats. Prepared!

4. You can make a terrible mocha and drink it very quickly.
Maybe don't do this one.

5. You can watch "Safety Not Guaranteed."
I didn't know what to expect going in, but it was so much more, and so much better, than I could have imagined. Given that the three leads are fairly prominent presences on sitcoms, their performances were familiar but not expected. Everyone was excellent. The story was interesting and emotional without being maudlin or overly contrived. There were two very slow chase scenes, which were unexpectedly hilarious. I felt more feeling than I expected to feel. The description of longing for something that has gone away was achingly poignant and beautiful. I really liked this movie. You should watch it.

6. You can shovel a driveway.
Ugh.

7. You can almost buy a mo-ped on Craigslist.
Don't do this one. You don't need a mo-ped. You have a bicycle! (right? no? get a bicycle! they are so great!)

8. You can do laundry.
Maybe it would be a good idea if you have some time!

9. You can get very paranoid about a wall in your basement that has ALWAYS bulged a little bit, to the point where you call your neighbor who knows about this stuff to make him come over and look at it and tell you that it's okay.
This is another one that I can't really recommend, but it's certainly how I spent part of my evening! (and yes, it is okay!)

10. You can sit on a couch so your cats can hang out and fall asleep on you.
This is probably the best thing you can do over a weekend.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When bored in gloomy weather, make some food

A few things happened today.
1. I have been reading too many finance blogs, and feel a little bit bad about driving to the grocery store, which is only a mile away from my house. Mostly because the one I stayed up until midnight reading last night is written by a bike evangelist. Bike everywhere! Stop driving! Why do you keep driving places?
2. It snowed and was all gloomy and grey all day.
3. I had a discussion with a friend about how it is much, much cheaper to bake an ENTIRE cake than it is to buy a single cupcake. Also, I don't particularly care for cupcakes, on account of the frosting to cake ratio (it is too high!). She pointed out that the downside to baking a cake is that you then have an entire cake. You could eat an entire cake. I disagreed with the "downside" assessment.

Because of these things, I ended up coming home from work, walking (I'm still sick! Biking was too much!) to the grocery store to get supplies, then making chili (I had meat in the freezer from my "I think eating meat is a great idea!" days and I hate to waste things. Also chili is one of my very favorite things to make and eat) and baking a cake.

The chili won't be ready for a couple more hours, which is disappointing, but I'm excited about lunch tomorrow. Also, this is a HUGE batch of chili. It's going to see me through the last of this lingering winter weather. It's not even my usual oddly vegetable-heavy "recipe." ("Would you like some chili?" "Yes. Wait...did you put a bunch of vegetables in it?" "No. Well, carrots." "You always put carrots in chili!" "Well I always have carrots in the house!" This is true. Sometimes I put broccoli and cauliflower in chili. That's...not the best. At some point, it just becomes an aggressively tomato-heavy vegetable stew.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Chili without a bunch of vegetables. Aka "actual chili.""][/caption]

The cake was supposed to have chocolate frosting, but the frosting I had was very, very old, and I didn't trust it. I thought about making frosting, and then decided to just have plain chocolate cake. Because that's totally good too!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="The cake, in this case, is not a lie."][/caption]

Recipes!

Actual meat-heavy chili without a bunch of vegetables (this makes a LOT of chili. As they said in "Jaws," "We're going to need a bigger crock pot." You will, in fact, need a very large crock pot. You could also make this in a very large pot on the stove, but I like the crock pot because it requires very little supervision)
Ingredients:
1# ground turkey
1# ground sausage
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 onions
5 or 6 medium sized carrots
1 cup assorted dried beans (in this case, half Great White Northern beans and half pinto beans)
1 can light red kidney beans
2 largeish (14 oz) cans of diced tomatoes
2 small cans (4 oz? 6 oz? they were little) tomato paste
1 small can of sliced mushrooms
1 can cheap beer (Budweiser is great for this)
1 tbsp cumin
lots of chili powder
pickled jalapeno brine if you have it, to taste

Slice onions and carrots. Thaw meat, if necessary.
Saute the garlic and onions in a skillet until fragrant. Add ground meat and brown (I had to do this in 2 batches, it'll depend on your skillet).
Put everything in the crock pot. Add water if necessary, so that there's a good amount of liquid (you'll need it for the beans). Cook on high for 5-7 hours, or until the beans are done (the Great White Northern beans are the best ones to test, because they take the longest). Add water if necessary. Stir occasionally. Add hot sauce at the end (preferably something with cayenne and vingar).
Eat.
Feel better about this whole "cold weather in what is now technically Spring" thing.

Cake:
It's a box cake mix. It was $0.99. Read the box. Make the cake. Let the cake cool before you try to cut it or it'll just be a mess.
Eat some cake.
Think about how awesome it is that you have a WHOLE CAKE now!
Package up majority of cake to share with others.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to make, and then make better, some gravy stuff

Last night, I essentially made a roastless pot roast in the crock pot. Sliced carrots, celery and potatoes, with half a package of stuffing mix that I'd had in the cupboard. I added water, set on high, and cooked for several hours. The result was uninspiring, as you would expect roastless pot roast to be.

Today, I took that disappointing roastless pot roast and turned it into chickenless, pieless chicken pot pie. I did this by cooking butter and flour in a skillet, then stirring in the stuff from last night.

Delicious. Given the various names, and math, all you are left with is "pot." But I'm going to call it "gravy stuff" instead. It is the latest addition to a proud line of "what do I have in the house, and what can I make with it? And can I use my crock pot to do this?" recipes.

Gravy Stuff Recipe:
Whatever conventional vegetables you have on hand (carrots, onions, celery, potatoes). Slice them.
Cook on high in crock pot with spices, or stuffing mix, along with enough water to cover about 3/4 of the vegetables. This will take a couple of hours, but not too long. It's just vegetables. You could also do this on the stove. Once they are done, stir butter and flour into a roux in a skillet, then pour in the liquid from the crock pot. Stir until the consistency you want. Add salt and pepper.

If you had cooked chicken (or canned chicken) handy, you could easily add that and end up with a "chicken a la king" type dish.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Some observations from a tv/nap weekend

My cats can outnap me. I know that shouldn't be surprising, but I've been sick. I didn't get out of bed until 2 pm. Then, I watched television for almost the rest of the day/napped. Because I did this on a sofa, my neck hurts. Most of the TV/naptime was spent with one or both of the cats sleeping on or near me. I really thought I was going to outnap them. It didn't happen.

TV shows that I have been watching:
Parks and Rec
New Girl
Mindy
Community
Suburgatory
Raising Hope

"Suburgatory" and "Raising Hope" are new, surprise favorites. They initially seemed very cartoony, but I have come to love them. They have overarching storylines (sometimes buried beneath wacky one-off type episodes) and the casting for both shows is amazing. I'd encourage anyone looking for a new sitcom to give both of these a try, with the caution that you have to give both shows a few episodes to grow on you. Unless you start with the "Raising Hope" episode with Christopher Lloyd. If you aren't immediately won over, then I don't know what's wrong with you, but I feel sorry for you.

I have spent the last two days watching marathons of all of the aforementioned shows on Hulu Plus, which I sometimes, in the past, haven't thought was worth however much a month it is. I take it back. It's great, and I'm so glad I got it. It's the difference between hooking my television up to my computer, and just watching things via my blu-ray player. It's a tiny, tiny thing, but it makes binge-watching television so, so much easier.

Another thing I have learned this weekend is that I am loathe to get into hourlong shows, even when I am interested in them. "Once Upon A Time" and "Revenge" used to be my hourlong go-tos, but I haven't watched either of them in ages. I am very interested in "Nashville" and "Heart of Dixie" (in no small part because of recaps from The Fug Girls) but I just can't bring myself to start watching them. I have no idea why this is. I watched HOURS of television today...but it was presented in half-hour chunks. That, for some reason, is totally fine.

Enough rambling! Back to television! Or napping! Depending on when this Sleepy Time Extra tea kicks in.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Robot and Frank" review

It's not JUST a review. It's also an outline of how to still have a lovely Saturday night when you and one of your friends are very sick! Sick date!
Ingredients:
two or more similarly ill people
pho
tea
movie
supplemental materials:
SNL "Pirate Convention" sketch with Peter Sarsgaard
SNL "Old Glory Insurance" sketch with Sam Waterson

Tonight's movie: "Robot and Frank" starring Frank Langella and a Robot voiced by Peter Sarsgaard. Also other people (Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Jeremy Sisto, some other jerky dude). Main plot points (these are in the trailer, so I don't consider these to be spoilers): Frank Langella has something elderly dementia-y. The robot is supposed to help take care of him. Frank Langella is also a former cat burglar. In many ways, the movie plays out the way you would expect it to. However, the performances by everyone, especially Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, turn the movie into something that is somehow more poignant and depressing than you could have guessed. It was excellent.

This review would be longer, but I am still sick.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SXSWi

I went to South By Southwest Interactive. It was awesome. I attended 14 or 15 panels. Some of them were good (Survey Monkey CEO talk! Behavior Change As Value Proposition talk!) some were terrible (WEATHER COMPANY CEO I AM LOOKING AT YOU. No umbrella could make up for making us watch not one but TWO actual commercials FOR THE WEATHER COMPANY. Terrible!). Austin as a city is lovely, and I saw the bats at twilight, and I walked around City Lake (which is really the Colorado River). Ate at a lot of food trucks. Got a lot of interesting receipts (sorry, accounting department).

The meet-ups were all really helpful, and I met a lot of really interesting people. I learned that people who work at Campbell's Soup have amazing business cards. I also learned that the American habit of not dancing to bands is very weird to Europeans. "You all just stand there and kind of nod your heads. It's very weird." - Swiss dude I kept running into in panels. We both agreed the Weather Company panel was terrible. Also I lost the umbrella they gave me (wellll...I left it in the Comixology panel because I didn't feel like carrying it anymore).

On the last day, I got a sinus infection. I had to travel sick! It was terrible. I'm still sick. It's still terrible.

SXSWi: pretty awesome. Would go again. It has a very steep learning curve, and I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing until the second day. It's very spread out, and there are way too many fascinating presentations going on all the time, so it's impossible to see all the things you want to see. I eventually settled on a strategy of focusing on a certain geographical area, and only trying to get into panels that I found personally interesting. The descriptions are often incredibly inaccurate, so things that you might think would be useful for your job often end up being long commercials for services you won't use. It's a much better idea to just go see things that are interesting. Dynamic speakers will have things to say that apply to whatever it is that you're doing. I definitely learned a lot. I also ate a lot of food.

This would be a better-written blog post, but I've got a killer sinus infection. Blargh.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"The Flying Dutchman" (subtitle suggestion: "Not the best, but technically an opera!")

Kansas City is fortunate enough to have a wonderful arts center and an opera company, as I have discussed in the past. I have enjoyed almost every production they have put on. UNTIL NOW.

The opera playing currently is Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman." I have many thoughts about this production. The nicest things I can say are: It was very German. Everyone sounded very good. It certainly was an opera.

This is similar to my mother's review of the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which went "Well, the background music wasn't too loud, there wasn't any bad language, and Keanu Reeves looked nice in his suit."

All of these things are true.

This is not a criticism of the performers. Everyone was in good voice, and the acting was fine. This was a failure of direction and staging. It's also, frankly, a failure inherent in the opera. The story is weak, and at times laughable. It's a flimsy foundation.

If you're not familiar with the story, a dude declared that he'd sail around a cape if it took forever, the devil heard him and cursed him to sail the seas forever, every seven years he goes on land to try to find a faithful wife who will love him unto death, he meets a sea captain with a daughter who has been obsessed with his legend and his portrait, he marries her, he thinks she's been unfaithful but she hasn't, she vows to be faithful unto death, and then...it ends! It just ends. It should be so dramatic and interesting, but it's just not. It reminded me of nothing so much as this "Cul de Sac."

None of the performers seemed to connect to any of the other performers, and this disconnect seemed deliberate. There were moments that were clearly meant to be mysterious or moving, but instead were unintentionally hilarious. If the Dutchman is going to appear and disappear from dark doorways, it doesn't add to the drama when I can see him running from one doorway to another like someone in "Hee Haw." When a ghost chorus appears, and living sailors drop to the floor and raise their hands dramatically, it shouldn't bring to mind a badly done Lady Gaga video. When Senta declares her faithfulness at the end, the Dutchman, who has JUST SAILED AWAY suddenly appears next to her, takes her hand, and then a giant picture frame is lowered so that they are now in a "portrait," and all the actresses portraying Senta at various ages appear in front of the "picture" and turn creepily toward the audience. AND THAT IS IT. That is the end of the opera. I still have no idea what happened. I guess it worked out for them? The people behind me were pretty sure that Senta should have stuck with her non-cursed hunter boyfriend. I agree with them.

It was entertaining, but certainly not in any of the ways it was supposed to be. This was a rare misstep for the Lyric Opera, and I look forward to seeing their production of "The Mikado" in the spring.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Twas the night before Spectrum judging and I got to go to the dinner

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="I get to do neat things."][/caption]

My favorite thing about working with the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live show is getting to know people in the industry. Well, my favorite thing might be the art. But it's tied for first with getting to know people in the industry. Everyone has amazing stories, and in many cases, I'm getting to talk to people whose work I've been impressed by for a very long time. This is a neat thing. (My job is like this too, but as per usual, I won't be talking about that. Suffice to say, my job is awesome. My work with Spectrum Live is awesome. My cats are awesome. Caffeine is awesome. Why is it so late? I have to get up early tomorrow! Look at my life! Look at my choices!)

Tonight, I got to have dinner with Tim Bruckner, Irene Gallo, Tim Kirk, Mark Nelson, Michael Whelan, John Flesk, and Arnie and Cathy Fenner. I can't even get into the stories because there were too many of them, and they were all hilarious and amazing. I've been a science fiction and fantasy (and comics) fan for as long as I've been able to read, and to get to listen and participate in these conversations is very, very cool.

Also, I got a shout-out in a ridiculous holiday video that I somehow managed to miss when it was posted! Clearly, I should set up a google alert for my name (I'm not going to do that, that sounds terrible).

Seriously, though, art is clearly #1