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.

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.