Culinary Ingenuity, Part 2

Tonight, I made a batch of crepes, and used them to wrap up some fried rice (made with leftover mushroom risotto, of all things, plus the requisite soy sauce and egg) and chorizo into breakfast-for-dinner burritos.  There were fridge pickles to go with it, and a sweet crepe for afters.

Am I

1) marvelously effective at cleaning out the fridge;

2) consuming four times the daily sodium recommended by the AHA;

3) profoundly disturbed;

4) terribly avant-garde;

5) overly fond of crepes and incidentally fresh out of black raspberry jam;

6) the single cause of every mess in the kitchen this week;

7) the reification of the American melting pot, at least where my dinner is concerned; or

8) all of the above?

Is this a beautiful example of household economy, or some kind of cry for help?

Is this a beautiful example of household economy, or some kind of cry for help?

On a less-rhetorical note: has this kind of madness ever manifested in your kitchen?  Odd as this concoction was, I still think my dad took the cake some 18-20 years ago.  He would always prepare a Sunday evening snack to sweep leftovers out of the fridge, but eventually found that some of the space was occupied by rarely-used, mostly-but-not-quite-empty cans of frosting.  One Sunday, he decided to serve them with graham crackers.  They sold, more or less, and so after that he put the frosting out again – which was great until we ran out of graham crackers and he put out saltines instead.  But it was, I suppose, ahead of the curve on the salty-sweet fad.  What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done to use up leftovers?

On the Purchase of Clothing

What do you find to be the most hateful-but-necessary task on your to-do list? Life is full of such errands and duties, but I’m convinced that shopping for clothes is the worst.  At least, it’s the most evil necessity that comes to mind. Shopping for food or household goods?  Not too bad, even if I’m a bit hungry and the shop’s a bit full.  Going to the credit union?  Pretty painless, honestly. Going through voicemails? Takes forever, but I can multitask.  Waiting at the DMV?  A rare occurrence, and you can always take a book.

Shopping for clothes?  I will be exhausted by the end.

It always feels too expensive, considering how cheaply made all the fabric is, and none of it ever looks good.  I increasingly need clothing that does the miraculous, and increasingly find tissue-thin polyester in weird colors and blindingly bizarre designs, assembled into shapeless garments: clothing incapable of achieving even the mundane goal of fitting, much less the miraculous of flattering.

Which means that I take a really careless approach.  If I took a careful approach – hunting for a particular color or style, hemming and hawing over each object as I pull it from the rack, pondering each outfit for several minutes in the mirror – I would never buy anything and, moreover, I would spend so much energy and so many emotions on the attempt.  I don’t have that time, or that energy, so I tell myself “Okay.  Grab stuff theoretically in your size that isn’t black or blue” – sane and generally flattering colors, meaning both fill my closet already – “and hie thee to the dressing room.”

At first I just thought it was a “screw it” approach.  But it’s also a “You won’t know until you try” approach.  Polka dots a size up?  Why not.  A dress that appears to have both splashes of Pepto-Bismol AND the vibrant green of Nyquil?  Sure.  Something virulently salmon?  Trying it.  A dress with the sort of line-based gradient meant to effect an optical illusion of some helpful variety?  Go for it.  Peach lace frock, stripy knit day dress, and a pair of linen pants? For all I know, they’ll work.  Desperation tugs me into a state of open-mindedness like nothing else.

https://twitter.com/SHORTGlRLS/status/486412754169761792

…of course, sometimes you do, in fact, know before trying.  I honestly did know the linen trousers and translucent silk shirts were not going to be winners.  There was a moment where they sort of approached success – grey and salmon were kind of fun and felt daring together! – except for all the spots that neither item fit.  And then there are the garments that are really REALLY long.  This comic? It is the truest thing I have ever seen.  Who exactly are the Amazon giantesses that clothing designers evidently focus on dressing? The fitting room attendant was concerned I’d trip.

All in all, I keep wondering if designers are insane.  Do they not believe in knee-length skirts this year?  Do they not have a full palette of colors to work with?  I hunted for “summer-y” shades, and found white, black, the aforementioned blindingly bizarre patterns, and a few silk shirts in taupe. Are we being punked? Did all the fashion people make a bet about who could get consumers to pay the most for the privilege of looking the stupidest? There are rompers on the racks, for Pete’s sake, and those stupid heavy shoes that look like hooves.

…and then I wandered past the men’s department on my way to the checkout.

There are button-ups in the solid, summery colors I was looking for. There are t-shirts which look to be opaque. The craziest designs in sight were straightforward plaid.

Catch y’all later. I’ll be in the men’s section.

A Long-Unexpected Illustration

I’m hoping it won’t be stepping over any bounds to say that Thalia and her Vati have spent the past several months working on some storybooks (if so, expect redactions in the morning, I suppose).  They tell of The Noble Adventures of Georges and Jean-Luc, and are (so far as I have seen and read) charming.

The thing about them is, Thalia writes the stories and G. R. T. does the illustration.  This is, I am assured, a wise division of labor.

But.  Thalia HAS done some illustration in the past, and whilst going through some older pictures on my laptop this week, I came across proof of the fact.

There was a day, nigh-on two and a half years ago now, when the two of us declared that we would Draw Pictures of Poetic Merit for the Baby Loon (now a much older Loon!  We shall have to call her something else) and mail them to her.

The pictures were duly drawn, but were never sent.

Our apologies, dear Baby Loon.  Here they are now, better late (we hope?) than never.

IMG_3282 IMG_3284

After she had drawn Methuselah with ice cream, a camel, and a tent, and I had drawn a peacock, a pelican, a phoenix, and an albatross around a cross, we were in a sort of groove.  So we kept drawing.

IMG_3278 IMG_3279 IMG_3308

The latter pictures weren’t necessarily meant to go together, but I find it amusing that the Jameson family crest (shown here according to the whiskey brand variation; typically there are 3 ships and a bugle) and the tale of the Nancy Bell are both rather maritimey in nature.   I suppose one could indeed say that James of the Nancy Bell is indeed Sine Metu: Without Fear!  Without any Dutch courage involved, even.

“Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain’s gig!”

Dilly-Dally

Typically when my sister muses leave me alone in the club too long, I start talking to myself and tend toward the confessional. That might yet happen this week, but first: yesterday’s festival of dill.

It could be said that this all really started back in May, when my housemates and I decided to have a somewhat formal tea. We prepared a couple different pots of tea, dairy-free coconut scones, and cucumber sandwiches in plenty. Thus my purchase of, and introduction to, fresh dill.  Prior to that, I’d only encountered dill as in a mirror, darkly: dried and faded and sprinkled on salmon. The fresh bundle was luxuriantly green and terribly fragrant in comparison.

Somehow yesterday demanded a reprise of that redolence, a reappearance of those feathery fronds. It is like having both delicate seaweed and a weeping willow inside one’s kitchen.

The first order of business was to mix some chopped dill into a bit of butter and a bit of cream cheese for English muffin purposes. That done, I decided to infuse a bit of gin with a few stems.

IMG_3310Then the requisite refrigerator pickles: some are garlicky, some are a little peppery, all of them are dilly.IMG_3313 After that, I still wanted to make something, but wasn’t quite up for baked salmon, borsht, or mizeria. Since the dill in the gin had only begun macerating…I grabbed a bit more dill, a bit more gin, and muddled them together. In went some lime juice and some liqueurs: honey, vanilla, ginger, and Chartreuse. The result was a bit like drinking in a sunlight field entire. It struck me as fitting; generally, smelling dill is like breathing in a forest and a field and the sea all at once.

IMG_3318What do you do with dill?

Adulthood & the Reverse Bucket List

One of the abiding questions of my life is “Am I grown up yet?” Not because I’m Susan Pevensie and super-eager to be An Adult, but because years have rushed by, and I don’t exactly have the best vantage for seeing how they’ve changed me. Am I really any different from myself at age 14? Surely I’m not old enough or mature enough to care about, say, insurance premiums or local construction projects?

xkcd 616

26-year-old me has a better vocabulary than 14-year-old me, that’s all.

Presumably certain people who are not me can point to their spouse, their children, or their 30-year-mortgage and stop feeling angst about this kind of thing. Some of them act like nothing you do in your life counts until you’re married with progeny. Maybe it’s unintentional, but it seeps through their words anyway, like one can’t really live without somehow being bound to or responsible for another person’s life.

This is false, of course; we’re not all stuck in a tower waiting for life to begin.  But the married folks sure have that clear milestone set in their past. The rest of us pass the seemingly-arbitrary government mile markers at 18 and 21, and then go “Um. Okay? I guess I’m in Adultland now?” We wonder “What am I doing with my life?” as well as “What should I do with my life?” And after such worries trails the dark shadow of fear, that one day we’ll sit somewhere, old and enfeebled, wondering “What have I done with my life?”

Such worries can serve as the catalyst to change, but they’re not helpful otherwise. So I was pleased to come across a different approach from Erika and others: taking a look at the experiences one has already had, or the goals one has already accomplished, praising God for them, and carrying on with a little bit more perspective. Erika also shared her thoughts on how this isn’t a brag list.

Here are some things I’ve already done. They may not make me an Official Adult, but they’ve all contributed to who I am. What’s on your reverse bucket list?

Shot a rifle
Saw an opera
Sang karaoke
Wrote a story
Went hunting
Learned to ski
Went canoeing
Went rappelling
Visited 32 states
Went ice skating
Marathoned LotR
Pulled all-nighters
Visited the Louvre
Enjoyed formal tea
Owned a dollhouse
Took a singing class
Rode a roller coaster
Went four-wheeling
Ran several 5K races
Went horseback riding
Took an overnight train
Visited the Eiffel Tower
Saw Billy Joel in concert
Got and held a job 5 years
Cooked a Martinmas goose
Saw Alcazar and Alhambra
Performed in plays/musicals
Attended a Steampunk Expo
Saw the Golden Gate Bridge
Sang solos in front of people
Learned to play the bagpipes
Walked the Mackinac Bridge
Touched the LeFay Fragment
Rode a bike on Mackinac Island
Went to (Motor City) Comic Con
Lived in an apartment on my own
Was a bridesmaid (five times now)
Was broadcast singing on the radio
Visited Portugal, Spain, and France
Went on a mission trip to Nicaragua
Painted and framed some watercolors
Climbed Laughing Whitefish 5+ times
Saw Devil’s Tower and Mt. Rushmore
Memorized some really lengthy poems
Graduated high school as valedictorian
Traveled to Yellowstone National Park
Learned how to do a fling and sword dance
Graduated from Hillsdale magna cum laude
Rocked some standardized tests like a champ
Swam in the Atlantic, dunked toes in the Pacific
Drove to Virginia, Ohio, and Wisconsin by myself
Learned about cocktails and designed several of my own
Made my own ginger beer, sushi, crepes, ricotta, grenadine
Joined a group blog and posted for more than three years on it
Traveled to Rome; ate gelato, drank cappuccino, saw sights, etc.
Swam in Lake Michigan, dunked toes in Lake Superior and Huron
Created a youTube profile and started making videos (really badly)
Was VPR and Fraternity Education director for my music fraternity
Visited locations from movies (namely, Harry Potter; possibly others)
Saw Coriolanus, and Shakespeare in the Arb, and other live Shakespeare
Attended a major league baseball game (with a squirrel on the field.  Can’t be beat)
Was an Intercollegiate Studies Institute Honors Fellow, and visited Cambridge, England
Visited St. Jeronimo’s in Lisbon, the Cathedral of Seville, Notre Dame, Ely Cathedral, and the basilicas of Rome
Was one of four students picked to go on CS Lewis trip to Oxford and Cambridge; met Walter Hooper, Jack’s last pupil, and Dr. Michael Ward (before Planet Narnia was published)
~~~
As Hyoi told Ransom in Out of the Silent Planet:

“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmãn, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of the poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes me all my days till then – that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.”

Culinary Ingenuity

At work, we have the standard Mr. Coffee Coffeepot. We also have a French press, which an associate brought in a few years back. She ostensibly brought it in so anyone needing an afternoon jolt, not a full pot of coffee, could make a quick cuppa. I’ve wondered since if she didn’t just want to unload an object taking up space in her home, as no one ever uses it to make coffee. The last time it was used as such was the time I grabbed still-warm water from the water-heater to make coffee during a power outage.

More frequently, I use the French press to bring the water-heater water to boiling point for tea. It probably resents me for being its only user and filling it with such existential angst (“Am I a coffeepot, or am I a teapot?  O, if my manufacturers were to see me now!  Alas”).

…less frequently, like today, I use it to boil broccoli, asparagus, or green beans for part of my lunch. It seems a bit odd, but it works better than microwaving my veggies, and hey, built-in strainer! I also maintain that it’s less odd than making salmon with a coffeepot, or bibimbop on a waffle iron, or grilled cheese sandwiches with a flatiron:

Do your circumstances ever call for cultural ingenuity?  Please tell me about it!

Pipes Up!

I came home to an empty driveway and darkened house tonight.  This did not alarm me overmuch, but I did wonder where my housemates might be spending their Friday evening.  Annnnd then I went inside and got on Facebook, which reminded me that ah yes, they have made their way to Mackinac Island for the weekend.  Which prompts the question: what to do with an empty house?

Obvious, really: listen to really, really loud music!  And maybe vacuum up cobwebs at midnight because I can.  Mix up some really weird drinks.  Do some utterly tragic dancing.  Shower with the bathroom door open.  What can I say?  I live dangerously.

So dangerously, a thought struck.

Why just listen to really loud music when I could make it?

I don’t mean singing at the top of my lungs, nor playing the piano exceptionally ill.  No, this goes further back, back to college days and a rickety old house.

I headed down to the basement and retrieved my bagpipes.

It’s been years since I’ve even touched them.  Hillsdale had a ramshackle house for the pipers, back in the day, such that one could go and practice at any hour without disturbing anyone (much).  Whether one sounded like Donald MacLeod or a dying cat, the Pipe House was there, a judgment-free zone that mostly muffled the sounds from the neighbors.  There’s been nothing like that since – not at my parents’ house, certainly not in the apartment I shared with Thalia, not at my current home.  Not until this moment.

Down the Bagpipe diagramstairs I went to fetch the silver case.  It’s been waiting patiently for me.  I opened the case, took the pipes gently upstairs, and hunted down my water traps (which protect the reeds from getting too wet and mouldering).  There are four, but I could only find the three for the drones; in my eagerness to play, my attempts to find the fourth were half-hearted at best.  I fixed them into place, attached the dangling top joint of the long bass drone, carefully put the chanter in without disturbing the reed, zipped the bag shut, stood and blew.

The bag didn’t inflate and the chanter didn’t sound, but the noise that came out the drones vindicated every joke comparing the sound of the Highland pipes to the shrieks of a thousand tortured souls.

My kneejerk thought was Oh no.  I’ve lost all strength in my diaphragm, so much so that I can’t keep the bag inflated.  But that didn’t make sense – partly because singing ought to have kept my diaphragm strong enough; partly because the bag is meant to serve as a reservoir, pressured by the left arm to press air through the chanter and drone reeds.  So the second thought was Oh no.  I haven’t played it in years, and the seasoning wore off so the bag’s no longer airtight.  That seemed likely enough, but some examination revealed that oh hey!  I failed to zip the bag completely shut.  No wonder the chanter wasn’t sounding!

Scotty...you must have known this wasn't going to work...

Scotty…you must have known this wasn’t going to work…

Zipped properly, the bag inflated and the drones…well.  The drones still sounded bad.  But then I adjusted the second tenor drone and voila: the golden ringing tone of drones which might, just possibly, be in tune.  Sure, the stock needs new hemp wound around it to keep the reed in place, but it can be tuned!

My fingers still remember Bonny Galloway, Abide With Me, and Amazing Grace.  I got out my binders of pipe music, and it’s amazing what comes back: the hornpipes that I loved despite their being too fast for me (Honey in the Bag!); the numbers we rehearsed so much that it’s abhorrent merely to set eyes on them (ugggggh, Mull of Kintyre); the songs that accelerate like a train; and the piobaireachd with its elaborate ornamentation.

So housemates, be prepared: my pipes are up, and I don’t think I’ll put them back down.

…well, okay, except for right now, because my lips just gave out.

Review: Pontypool

On Sunday, I saw an atypical vampire movie. The weekend prior, I saw an atypical zombie movie.*  Next up: atypical werewolf movie! I’ve no idea which one, though, so please comment with your suggestions, and in the meantime, let me tell you about Pontypool.

Were you to say “Hmm, you don’t strike me as a zombie movie watcher,” you would be quite correct. But Pontypool is a zombie movie the way Signs is an alien movie, which is to say that the plague-monsters themselves don’t get a lot of screen time. In an hour and a half of film, there are perhaps twelve minutes of shuffling revenants, and fewer of gore. There is neither a shotgun nor a cricket bat to be seen, and only a few splashes of red against a subdued background of bluish grays.

That said, there’s a lot to hear. The film is set in a radio broadcast studio built in the basement of an abandoned church, and most of the suspense and horror comes from what information can be gleaned from people calling in to the station, sometimes mid-attack, reporting a mob of people converging on the doctor’s office or a car being buried under a “herd” of people. Since none of it is shown, the mind is free to imagine just how awful those attacks might be. The responses and actions of announcer Grant Mazzy, his manager Sydney Briar, and assistant Laurel-Ann Drummond underscore the terror of ignorance and the slowly-dawning horror of understanding.

Even the former shock-jock is creeped out.

Even the former shock-jock is weirded out.

That creeping comprehension makes the movie. From the first two minutes, shown below, each little word is significant. The missing cat and its name; the people speaking French; the BBC broadcaster; the Valentine’s Day cards: all of it matters, and it takes watching and re-watching to understand why.

The pacing, the music (curse you, creepy violins!), the language, and silence all put the viewer in thrall. I had to talk to bring myself out of it a bit, had to eat my popcorn with determination, had to hug the friend sitting next to me whilst watching it. I’m no nail-biter, but it’s full of nail-biting tension anyway. There are those moments when one is left hollering at the screen, Don’t call him! No, hang up your phone! Such is the way of suspenseful movies: they mess with you as they draw you further in.

More thoughts and some spoilers under the cut.

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