19 February 2009

Oh, the Germanity!


My recent switch to digital television means that I no longer receive Saturday morning cartoons en espanol. I am pretty sure I can watch Spanish evangelists on one of my 9 religious channels, but somehow I feel as if this gringa could learn a broader vocabulary watching Las Aventuras de Piggly Wiggly.

I decided to fill the void with Spanish language tapes. So, on today's trip to the library I decided to put my latest obsession (cookbooks) to rest. It was beginning to get expensive considering all of the ingredients and kitchen gadgets this hobby caused me to purchase.

I looked through the aisles and I could not find a series that was at my level. Most of the books on the shelf were catering to the Introduction to/Traveler set. So, do I look at the Library catalog and attempt to find what I'm looking for? Maybe put something on hold that is more suited for my purpose?

Of course not. I decide to learn German. I pick out the Teach Yourself: Beginner's German and promptly play the accompanying CD in the car while I finish my errands. German has long been one of those languages that I know in bits and pieces-- mostly from music or from my sister (who is fluent in the language and would use her language skills to torment me). I saw the tape and thought, "Why not?"

It struck a chord of amusement to know that one of the very first phrases the series teaches (on page 5 of the book) is, "Ich habe Kopfschmerzen." Meaning, "I have a headache."

Is this a sign of things to come?

11 February 2009

Sleepytime Buster

I have many good things to say about living in 500 square feet. It keeps me from spending even more of my life cleaning. It makes me evaluate what I hold onto more carefully. All things told, a 500 square foot apartment is more than enough space for me.

But I'll admit, sometimes it is a little small for both myself and Buster. When I first adopted Buster, I had trouble coping with two things: near-constant allergy attacks and the fact that I was sharing my small space. While both problems have subsided significantly since those first few weeks, every so often I am reminded that Buster and I are individuals who need our space.

Buster's new habit is sleeping with his face nearly planted into a pillow. He will do this on the bed or on the couch. I caught him napping this way this afternoon and took some video. My apologies. This video is shot on a point and shoot type digital camera, and I shot it holding the camera perpendicular. Now I can't easily rotate the file, and I have no editing software.

Please note that this video features the embroidered "MEOW" pillow that my parents bought for me many moons ago and is shot on my faded rainbow loveseat.


video

Although I hate hate HATE listening to my own recorded voice, I should say that I am asking him, "Are you pissed?" But I'm saying it "Pee-yust?" because I am always asking him that and I know he is not really a pissed off sort of a guy.

Yes, it does seem a little cruel to be waking him up from his nap. However, before I grabbed the camera, I noticed that one of his ears is turned back, so I knew he wasn't actually asleep. After this I ran a few errands to give him some private time. When I returned he'd moved from his spot here to the pile of blankets in my dining room/bedroom. At least someone gets to enjoy laundry day. He's still there now, see?

Be Still My Heart (Trader Joe's edition)

I think I'm in love. This guy deserves a cool kid fist bump and a big fat paycheck from the Trader Joe's Marketing Department.

If I Made a Commercial for Trader Joe's



It almost makes up for the fact that Two Buck Chuck costs a whopping $3 in Oregon.

via Boing Boing via Coudal Partner's Feed Blend

09 February 2009

I saw the sign(s)

A recent errand took me out to the suburbs. Now, as you may know, it is no small fete to get me out to the 'burbs. My distaste for suburbia is great. Don't even get me started about strip malls, blurred boundaries or urban sprawl.

So, when necessity took me over the west hills to Beaverton, I decided to make it worth my while and try out the Indian food restaurant which so many have raved about, Abhiruchi's. The food alone is well worth the drive, but it was a couple of signs that convinced me to come back the next week for the lunch buffet along with my camera.

The first is inside the restaurant:



Ah, the homonym. Always a good source for amusement.

The second sign was located just a few steps away in the window of the Grocery Outlet:



I'm no marketing guru, but I don't think moving back in with one's parents was a good thing.

07 February 2009

Masochist's Macaroons

I've never had a problem with the French. Being an American citizen, I am vaguely aware that there is some sort of obligation to hold a grudge against the people of France. But I figure that our cultural differences boil down the fact that Americans and French are self-involved in a way that doesn't overlap well. In any case, I thank my lucky stars that I was abroad in the era of "freedom fries." What a bullshitty insult. The French don't even call them French Fries, rather the more apt (for their language, at least) Pommes Frites.

In fact, as a connoisseur of carbohydrates, I quite like the French and all they have done in the kitchen. O, Culinary Gods of the Land of Liberté, égalité, fraternité, thank you for buttery goodness and the like. And while I'm on an homage kick... O, sweet sweetness of the proverbial Sweet Tooth. My dentist gives thanks to you. My waistline does not.

In any case, I decided to channel my newest obsession--checking shit out from the Library-- into my ongoing obsession with baking cookies. For good measure, I also combined my waxing and waning obsession with PBS, home of my favorite cooking show (sans Julia et Jacques or Yan Can Cook), America's Test Kitchen by checking out its cookbook, The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.

But what's with this France business, you ask?

On page 192 is a recipe for French Sandwich Macaroons. I love Macaroons, particularly of the French and the Coconut variety. I look at the photograph on page 192 and the caption below says, "These French Macaroon Sandwich Cookies are well worth the effort it takes to make them and will even rival those you'll find in a French bakery."

"Oh, really?" I asked aloud skeptically. "As good?" I looked over the recipe. It wasn't as exciting as my more exotic macaroons from Portland's Pix Patisserie (the curry, pistachio and Fleur de Sel being my favorites), but it still sounded very tasty. I decided that I could probably make these cookies and it would be a lot less torturous than those evil Phonetician Walnut Cookies.

I turned out to be partially correct. I could make an approximation of the cookies pictured on page 192 and it would be a lot less torturous than those evil Phonetician Walnut Cookies.

Still, these cookies were a bitch. Not Hell and High-Water bitchy. More like Heck and Shoulders-Deep Water bitchy.

First of all, it required Almond Flour. When one bakes regularly, one learns that there are certain shortcuts not to be taken. If the recipe asked for Almond Flour, I was getting Almond flour. Luckily, I decided to pair this quest for Almond Flour with my "Minor Adventures" To Do List item #12, tour Bob's Red Mill.

The recipe also required some baking supplies I do not own. Namely, a pastry bag and (unbeknown to me for some odd reason) a food processor.

The pastry bag was a fiasco. In order to buy one pastry bag, one 1/2 inch plain nozzle and one screw top, I had to go to five different stores in four different corners of the city. Lame.

I tried to make due without a food processor by using the coffee grinder I'd received from Santa Claus. (Thanks, Santa!) Mixing almond flour and confectioners sugar by the two-tablespoon got very wearisome. I tried the blender, but my blender is of bottom shelf quality and is not good for much besides looking like a cheap blender. Nothing was working right and these cookies were turning out to be a pain in my tail feathers.

Eventually I went around and begged to the neighbors. The nice Italian lady didn't know what a food processor was or why I would want to use one. Luckily Upstairs Angela had a very nice one and was willing to loan it out. Dear Santa, I want one for next year.

Oh yes, I know it is oft mentioned, it bears repeating: Egg whites are persnickety bastards.

In any case. My cookies don't look or taste like the pros, and I almost set fire to my apartment building. Oops. Make sure your stove burners are off before getting lackadaisical with the parchment paper, kiddos!

The best of my cookies turned out like this:



I'd say my chemistry is off somewhere. Though they are still quite tasty.

25 January 2009

Blech.

It's official. I have my regularly scheduled end-of-January flu. For some reason, I always seem to be sick for a whole in the latter half of January. It be nice if the my immune system was dependable enough to schedule my illnesses, but I know this is just one long-running fluke.

On the up side of attempting to recuperate, I have been drinking up my stash of blueberry herbal tea. I can't stand the taste of this tea. I can't throw it away. When guests are tempted to try it, I steer them away to another caffeine free alternative. Fortunately, I'm so congested right now that I can't taste a thing. Who said I wasn't a positive person?

21 January 2009

Admiral Buster?

I'm attempting to write another entry here on crowcrastination, but Buster is letting me know that I am not respecting him by concentrating on something else (and thereby not paying enough attention to him). Perhaps I will have to get a Pets in Uniform portrait so he can get the respect he deserves. Everyone loves a man in uniform, right?



For those petless individuals, fear not! This website also provides signage for all your National Pancake Day needs.

19 January 2009

Dubya & Critters

Earlier today I called up a University in Texas about some "missing" paperwork on my application. I was routed through a phone tree, and eventually was hung up on after an abrupt, "The University is closed for the holiday." This did not deter me from calling up the initial (very lengthy) phone tree again and again.

You see, they try to direct most calls to the Graduate and International Admissions website by reading out the entire URL. But, with a Texan drawl, their address begins, "Dubya, Dubya, Dubya."

Being that this made me laugh in a way that made my morning coffee gurgle about in my sinuses, I had to hear it a couple more times. It seemed like a timely send off for Georgie. Yes, I do have too much time on my hands. Praise be for free long distance, no?

After the phone time fun, I decided to give Buster his daily brushing. What do I see in his pristine white coat? Little black flecks? "What is this? Flea poop?" I ask aloud. I don't go through him with a fine tooth comb, but I do pick at him like a monkey. I find and squish two fleas. And I am a little bit peeved.

I decide to get him some flea treatment pronto because if I've found two critters, there's bound to be more. I think all the fleas have moved indoors for the winter because I went to three different stores that were sold out of kitty flea collars. Lame.

Buster is pouting about his new collar. Well, not pouting, per se. This video of a kitty named Capone is pretty much what Buster's been doing. But Buster is not an orange tabby, and his collar is not a lovely lavender color. Watch:



Poor Bebop. Someday, when Mama's not a Broke Ass Ho, she will buy you some Advantage.

15 January 2009

Apply Yourself

My silence here on Crowcrastination has to do with the fact that I have been busy not procrastinating. My days have been filled with applications to both graduate school and to new jobs. Here's hoping the former is met with a little more success than the latter has been thus far.

Not to brag, but I even surprised myself by getting one of my applications turned in before the deadline. Here's a snippet of a conversation on this topic as shared with my dad when he called me up to let me know that he was playing hooky from church:

"Holy Moses, Miguel! I turned in my application three weeks early."
"Is it still considered early if you've been putting it off for years?"

Ooh. That stings.

I'm not sure how I feel about this new leaf. It means that I'm spending more time playing the waiting game. Plus, I missed out on some of my favorite delay tactics. In general, finishing early meant that I didn't have the same amount of steam built up for the grand finale. I submitted the application, breathed a small sigh of relief and promptly wondered, "What next?"

More job applications, as it turned out.

On the work front, I'm wondering whether it's too early to give up and go back to temping. I realize I've said that I'd rather die than go back to temping; but that was back in the days before Lexapro. And after all is said and done, temping proved to be excellent blog fodder. Sorry, dear readers. I am not sure if my delicate self is ready to endure that again.

Buster has been quite dismayed by this surge of my work ethic. He lets me know on a regular basis that all this time working on cover letters instead of worshiping the fur is NOT OKAY. He has taken up residence on top of my laptop as a revolt. This has only proved to be embarrassing once when I sent in a job application with an incomplete email signed 9j0 0999999999999-9oihiojjioluiilu. Viva la revolucion, eh Buster?

In the interim, I've been commissioned to write some skits for an elementary school assembly. It's very high brow stuff which is expected to be, "easy, didactic, using a small number of actual actors, and pulled off by 9-year-olds with zero rehearsal time."

This could be amusing...

04 January 2009

How I spent my holiday vacation.

I spent a majority of my visit to my parent's house cleaning out my room.

It's been years since my parents and I agreed that-- no matter the circumstance-- it is best if I only come to stay as a visitor and not as a resident of their house. Not that I don't love Miguel and Mama Crow to pieces; it's just a matter of keeping everyone a little more sane and a little less angry. It works well, even if I don't live within easy driving distance (as Mama Crow would prefer).

Cleaning out the old room is no easy task. Instead of rooting everything out to create an office or a guest room (as is the case in many of my friend's old rooms), Mama and Miguel kept everything about the same. Finally the shrine to my younger self got to me (and my allergies were going nuts with all of the residual dust) and I decided to do a massive purge.

It's hard to imagine that everything (which hasn't crept its way up to the attic crawlspace) still managed to fit in this 10 by 10 space. Indeed, it seemed as if every nook and cranny held some matter of importance dating back to my birth to my teenage years, with whatever other detritus left over from summers home from college tucked into the corners. Also, after I complained about the number of newspaper clippings I received in the mail, my parents started shoving a majority of this in one of the empty dresser drawers.

It took longer than I anticipated. Partially because I had a nearly 2 year old helper who would dump out whatever exciting treasures I had just sorted. Also, because I went through everything with a fine tooth comb. I read every saved letter and birthday card. I suffered through the half-assed journals of my youth. I carved out the copious notes from coursework long since passed.

I started to think about why I had put this off for so long, and why my parents didn't take some action to reclaim the space. I've decided that it has to do with a generational trickle down effect. My grandparents (the nicer, deader ones) were raised in the depression. At their home, not one piece of wrapping paper or small bit of string that may be put to use at some point was thrown away. I can see the effects of this in my parents (who still have all of their college papers and notes tucked in rotting trunks in the garage) and a little in myself.

I think I was ready on an emotional level to get rid of this stuff long ago. But I didn't have the know how. It wasn't long ago that my friend Jesse taught me the joys and pleasure of getting rid of shit. It takes time and dedication to collect these things and keep them somewhere. He taught me about the satisfaction of having and using what you need and replenishing it when necessary.

So, after many, many hours spent cleaning and many more sneezes to accompany the cleanup of the millennium, here is an inventory of what I left in my wake:

+Two city issued recycling bins full of mostly paper.
+Fifteen shopping bags of give away.
+One large box of my fondest childhood keepsakes.
+The best toys from my younger days, now willed to my nephew when he visits.
+A drawer full of usable office supplies, given to my parents.
+One box of stuff to be dragged up to Portland at a later date.
+2/3 of shelf of my mom's copies of classic fiction books.
+My grandmother's bowling shoes.
+My entire hedgehog collection.

Not bad, eh?

03 January 2009

New Name

Over Christmas dinner I realized that I had crossed the point of no return. I have officially teased my gullible brother-in-law so much that he no longer believes a word I say.

Brian gets a bad rap among my friends because he is often lacking in common sense and therefore "stepping in it" almost constantly. When I am feeling generous, I try very hard to think up something nice to say about him. Sometimes all I can come up with is, "It is fun to tease him." But believe it or not, I do sort of like the guy. I'm just a little incredulous that such a smart guy can constantly exhibit such tardtastic behavior.

Everyone had finished dinner and enjoying some conversation while dessert was being served. We were talking about a distant relative's new baby and the tradition of naming children after family members (this baby is named Xander after his grandfather). I just happen to be one of those people that was named after her father. But unlike little Xander, my namesake loaned and adapted his name for my middle name.

As it turns out, Brian does not know my middle name. As such:

Brian: You look like you could be a "Michelle"
Me: Really?
Brian: Yeah.
Me: Well, that is my name.
Brian: No it's not.
Me: It's one of them.
Brian: What?
Me: It's my middle name.
Brian: Not it's not.
Everyone: YES IT IS!

Then, because my sister and my nephew have two middle names, he asked if my second middle name was to honor my mother.

I lied and said, "Yes. Definitely."