Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Move completed

Hooray! House move is done except for foodstuffs (tomorrow at lunch or Friday after work) and cleaning up rubbish for the bin man on Monday AM, which I will do on Sunday morning.

HOORAY!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Laugh out loud funny

My friend michaelg has been making me laugh now for well over 35 years. Today, he succeeded yet again with this.

That poor girl. Bless.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Using what's in the fridge, vol. 8

I am moving next week, and though you wouldn't know it looking at my house, at least my fridge and pantry are getting down to nothing. I'm especially trying to get things out of the freezer because those things are just a hassle to move. With a little planning ahead, I've actually eaten quite well for the last week or so. Tonight, I did this (FYI, the plate is a side plate size...these are not mushrooms the size of a human head):

Grilled portobellos with chorizo stuffing

Find:
4 decent size portobello mushrooms
Sundried tomatoes, which you rehydrate
a yellow pepper
two slices of bread
some spring onions
a clove of garlic
olive oil
a bit of chorizo, preferably the Spanish kind that is like a hard salami bologna ring, or thin slices of the salami kind will do in a pinch
Boursin light cheese

Preheat broiler

Chop the garlic, spring onions, part of the yellow pepper, the chorizo (maybe a thumbs worth if you have a ring chorizo) and the tomatoes into tinyish pieces. Heat a skillet, add a splash of olive oil, and saute the garlic, spring onions and yellow pepper until softened. Add the chorizo and tomatoes and keep sauteing. Meanwhile, toast a couple of thin slices of bread and cube that up into tiny bits. Add that to the pan. When everything is warm and seasoned and slightly browning take it off the heat and let it cool just a bit. All told, you should have cup and a half or so of this stuff when it's done.

Toss the mushrooms in a splash of olive oil, put gill side up in an oven-proof dish, and crack some black pepper on them. Broil to soften and mellow and then take out.

Turn the oven to about 200C (= hot). Spread about a teaspoon of boursin on each mushroom. Take 1/4 of the stuffing mixture and press it onto each mushroom. Put them in the oven for about 8 minutes and they'll melt the boursin and get a little crusty.

I had two for dinner with a salad on the side and saved two for lunch. You could serve one apiece for an appetizer, as well, but the flavours have a bit of a kick so it will be hard to pair this with something.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hmmmm

It's been four months since my father died. This has been a horrible couple of weeks. I've been really sad. I've been missing my father terribly. I cry for no reason. A lot. Hard. Sobbing, actually. But then I have to stop it and refocus, because I have gobs of things to do for school, as well as mountains of work sitting on my desk in the office. I want to be able to share the good things happening in my life with my dad and I can't. The emptiness is unbelievable. And if all of this normal grief stuff wasn't bad enough, this week I got pictures of the grave stone via email, which was finally put up earlier this month...and while it gives me closure it still leaves me feeling profoundly sad.

People always tell you that when a loved one passes they don't really leave you, that you can feel them with you. I so badly want this to be the case, but I've just not felt that. I feel totally and completely alone. And I'm far from everything that reminds me of my dad, so other than a few photographs I haven't had anything tangible to remind me of him.

On Sunday I was on the phone with my mom, and I was getting emotional and verbalised this. She's having the opposite problem...she's surrounded by memories all the time, so she can't escape even if she wants to. But she feels his spirit with her. It helps her when she's really low. It comforts her. I didn't have that.

And then Monday night I was sorting through some clothes to get them to the curb for the Salvation Army to take away. I made sure I was going through the pockets to be sure I didn't leave money or ID of any sort in them, since I don't know where they'll end up. And in a pair of black trousers I found this:


This is one of my father's prayer stone. There's a woman that goes to my folk's church who makes them...they're glazed clay and they fit between your thumb and forefinger and you can use them as a little meditative touchstone for prayer, collecting your thoughts, whatever. My father carried one in his pocket from the time he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he'd use it to center himself throughout his many treatments.

About four years ago he had a heart attack and was rushed to Rochester. I drove straight down from MSP to meet him in the emergency room, and when he emptied his pockets before he put the gown on he took that stone out. I gave him a really hard time about carrying the Swedish flag around...I mean, nothing against Swedes and all, but we're Czech and it didn't really make a lot of sense. He laughed. When he'd been picking out a stone before he started radiation, he wanted one with a cross and didn't actually put two and two together until he'd taken it home. So my mom had been ridiculing him for months, but he figured if it was helping him get through radiation he could put up with it.

He needed a quadruple bypass, and so when he went into surgery he asked me to keep it for him, along with his watch and his wedding ring...he thought it would help me not worry so much. I don't think I put the thing down the whole time he was under. I had to give the watch and the ring back but he let me keep this stone, maybe because he knew that I'd continue to worry about him and it could only help.

It's been in my pocket for every major presentation and event I've had until I lost it about six months ago. It's been really bugging me that I couldn't find it. In fact, I really wanted it with me when I flew home knowing I eventually would end up attending his funeral on that trip, but I couldn't find it so I had to fly solo. The stone he got to replace it is buried with his ashes.

Maybe I'm a sap. Maybe I just so badly want to have him here, I am letting myself be fanciful for a moment. But I've chosen to believe he heard me on the phone. And he helped me find it to make me feel better. And in a small way, it has.

End Product - vegetable beef soup



It was delicious, and is the first time I didn't put garlic in something in a very long time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Lunch

I find that on weekends where I'm stuck at my desk working on coursework I follow the path of least resistance and eat whatever's convenient, and unless I plan ahead it isn't healthy. I have a difficult week ahead, so I made sure I'd gone shopping and could cook ahead so I'd have something decent in the house to eat.

My mother used to make the most delicious vegetable beef soup. (She still does, I just haven't had it in awhile so it's a childhood recipe for me.) She'd use left over roast beef, frozen mixed vegetables, broth and some tomato juice or something red. (I am going to get clarification from her later today.) It was a great meal in one bowl, and will keep really well in the fridge for a fast dinner with a salad when I get home from a long day at work and need to jump straight into an MBA project. (Bubs, you're a wise, wise man for thinking twice about taking on school at this ridiculous age.)

The problem with this recipe is the requirement for roast beef. I think I've made a roast a total of once in my life, and that was a Christmas meal for my Mom and Dad 5 or 10 years ago. But they say roasts are actually pretty easy, so I got me a top loin rolled roasting joint and figured I'd give it a try. And since I wouldn't need the whole thing for the soup, I figured I'd have a traditional roast dinner for Sunday Lunch while I'm at it. Okay, I wasn't really in the mood for roast vegetables today, so I baked a small potato and stir-fried some vegetables with chili and garlic instead, but you get the idea. Here is the result:

I am now going to take pictures of my concoctions with the camera
my Mom and Dad got me for graduation. I don't have the food photography skills
of my friend PAM, but I'll learn eventually. FYI, she does some mean fish recipes each Wednesday, if you want some extra Omega 3 in your diet.


It was delicious, if I do say so myself. If that looks tasty to you, do this:

Poke a clean potato and put it in a pre-heated oven, say 190C. (= hot.)

Depending upon the size of the joint you have, you roast the beef at the same temp, 18 minutes per pound for rare, +20 for medium, +20 for medium well, etc. Before you roast it, do the following:
- rub with olive oil
- season with salt and pepper
- roll in a bit of dried rosemary or thyme

When the meat is done, take it out to rest. Heat a wok, add olive oil, and then add (chopped up, if sensible):
- clove of garlic
- carrot
- chili flakes
Pause
- zucchini
- green onion
- yellow pepper
Saute until done, and add a shake of salt.

Squeeze half a lemon over the beef, then slice thinly.

Plate. That baked potato can sit in the oven turned off while you're doing all that, if necessary. And if you have a giant roast or want it roasted within an inch of it's life, potatoes only need an hour, hour and a half at the most so plan accordingly and don't start them too early.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Creepy

Okay. I just got really creeped out. Here's how.

Click on my profile, read the movies and books, and then click on the book called "Squares are not bad", which is a favourite from childhood. There are two people in the blogger universe who cite that book. And the other one is named Melinda, which is not exactly a common name. Now, click her profile and read her movies and books.

Someone is playing a joke on me. I think it's Martha Dumptruck.

What separates me from the pack

I've just quoted Spider-Man in my Leadership Skills essay.

Swingers

I wish swingers would tell you up front about their interests instead of befriending you first. I mean, this seems like something you should disclose.

Leading by example

It is cold here. There is a skim of ice on the pond across the street. It gets dark by 6pm now. There is a distinct blusteriness about the wind. I have spent the day slogging through research and essays. I have completed my paper explaining what I've learned in Managing Mergers and Acquisitions, and am 1/5 of the way through the 2500 word analysis of my leadership skills. I am wearing yoga pants, wool socks and felt slippers, a black t-shirt and a variegated green-black wool jumper (that's a sweater to you yanks,) as it is a bit chilly in the house, even with the heat on. Therefore, I've decided to have a sidecar to warm me up a bit. It's the perfect elixer to defrost from a chill...you can feel it seeping into your bones, relaxing the tension and radiating warmth. It also conjures up a romantic expat exoticness, with a rich Parisian history that reads like a scene from classic movie, as described by Drinkboy:

"Recently, while talking with Colin Fields, the head bartender at the Bar Hemmingway at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, another very important aspect of the Quality cocktail was brought to my attention by way of the Sidecar. He commented on the importance of the history of a cocktail in order to understand how it was originally intended to be served. While the true origins of many cocktails are lost to the ravages of time, and others suffer from too many contradictory origins, anything that can help you put more behind a cocktail then just its list of ingredients, can help you to add a sense of character to your drinks.

Colin recites that the Sidecar was developed during WWI, when a certain regular customer arrived at the Ritz on his motorcycle (replete with sidecar), and asked the bartender for a cocktail that would help take off the chill. The bartender was caught in a dilemma, a drink to remove a chill would appropriately be brandy, but brandy was traditionally an after dinner drink, and his patron was wanting something before dinner. So he combined cognac, cointreau, and lemon juice to mix a cocktail whose focus was on the warming qualities of both the brandy and the cointreau, while the lemon juice added enough of a tartness to make it appropriate as a pre-dinner cocktail. So a properly made sidecar should betray its roots as a drink that warms your palate if not your bones."

Sidecars are velvety and delicious and they have a beautiful murky amber glow that looks like liquid fire.

I believe I will have another...I'm about to write about my leadership weaknesses. A girl can use a bit of fortification.

Follow my lead:

Classic Sidecar: One part cognac or brandy, one part Cointreau, one part lemon juice

Modern Sidecar: Three, two, one respectively

Either way, put it all on ice, and shake it like a hurricane. Strain into a glass and swoon.

Nutjob-san



They sleep in capsules, make you diffuse bombs when you wake up in the morning, there's that whole chindogu thing, and now this.

There is something seriously wrong with the Japanese.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More Quality Television

Tonight I am watching a show called Embarrassing Illnesses. If Tom were here we would watch it and cringe loudly, but without him I don't think I can make it through the whole thing. Here is the description from the digital synopsis:

"Patients include Teresa, who has something nasty in her ear, and 20-year-old Jack whose constant and very smelly diarrhoea is ruining his life."

There's another episode immediately after that wherein, "Patients include a man whose gigantic hairy mole covers his entire shoulder and a young woman whose life is being ruined by boils that constantly erupt all over her body."

What's not to love?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I am so cool

I am totally absorbed in the nitty gritty of finishing my MBA and have been too tired to think of something to say. Thank GOD Some Guy finally gave me a writing task!

TO DO: List 5 things you do, did or like that some may consider “totally lame,” but that you are totally proud of. Tag 5 others:

1. I am a Fanilow. Yes, I love Barry Manilow. I know pretty much all of his classics by heart, and have been known to sing them with reckless abandon in public when I am by myself. I haven't been to a concert yet, but the operative there is "yet." Seriously. Barry Manilow rocks.

2. When I first moved to Seattle, I was exceptionally broke. We had no furniture in my apartment, just giant fake fur pillows my mom had made when we were kids, plus mattresses to sleep on and a desk and chair. Oh. And an old dentist's side table we spray painted and tiled, plus a couple of chairs from Target. The building we lived in didn't have a buzzer, so when people came to visit they stood under our kitchen window and yelled, "Ball Peen Hammer!" up at us, and we'd toss the keys down. (My housemate Sonja came up with the password - she likes her tools and implements.) El Ben and the Bethanizer used to come over all the time, and we would feed them whatever we could make from the groceries we got out of the Safeway coupon book, and we'd drink Henry Weinhard's beers while sprawled all over the floor by candlelight. After a few beers, we would indicate that we were inebriated by placing the bottle caps over our eyes, because they had stars on them and made us look like drunk cartoon people.

3. I went pillow shopping with my friend Susan, and insisted that we lay down on the floor of the department store to test them so we'd be sure we got the best ones. It works, FYI.

4. I love going to Red Lobster. Tom and I go there and pretend we're suburbanites on a big night out...we order appetizers AND dessert because we can, and announce this to the waitress so she understands....Heck, we're at RED LOBSTER! We're gonna CELEBRATE! Of course, we do this because this makes us feel like we're cool urban hipsters, but actually we find excuses to go there.

5. I use all sorts of unfashionable expressions. I say things like cattywampus, kerfuffle, boy howdy, the skunk-eye, hullabaloo, groovy, foxy, dapper, peckish, and jeepers.
I also have ritual hellos, goodbyes and phrases that make no sense to anyone else. They include things like, "Leiderhosen!" (a fond farewell, to which one must reply "German Pants!"), "Yahweh!" (typical response to "no way!"). "You can't really digest corn," (which is used to point out that either a) you've stated the obvious, or b) let it go because it's out of your control), and "Chip?" (which should be said in a monotone drone and is the appropriate way to offer a friend any sort of food.)

I don't know who's been tagged, so I'm picking people some of you don't read, such as No Identifying Characteristics, El Ben, Kirstin, and MnMom. And CP because, well, he's CP.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Meet the folks

I am likely going to be talking about my friends John and Ed for the next few months because we're working together on a rather large project for Managing Strategic Innovation. (Basically, we're defining a process for assessing and implementing new energy technologies for a UK power company, and the potential for scope creep is phenomenal.)

Therefore, I thought I would introduce you to them.

This is John, who works at said power company. He is a most excellent dancer, has a dry sense of humour, and we expect him to be quite the taskmaster on the project.


This is Ed, who is the Managing Director of a waste management company. Ed is built for rugby but, ironically, might be the most chivalrous person I've ever known. (I mean in a considerate-polite-respectful way...last I checked, he does not joust, though I'm betting he'd look dashing on a horse.)

The cubicle we are in is one I seem to spend several hours in each Friday and Saturday. The chairs are not particularly comfortable, in case you were wondering.

Talk about a needing a better spam filter



When this shows up in your email, you know you can trust no one.

Come out and play the game

I am currently watching the movie Camp. My dearest Tommy turned me on to this, and now I watch it regularly. If you have not seen this movie and you fit any of the following criteria, you should rent it immediately:

- You were a teenage drama geek
- You were a band or choir geek
- You were a teenage drag queen
- You love someone who was a teenage drag queen
- You loved the movie fame
- You love musicals anyway
- You like mediocrely acted teen movies
- You loved Fame but you can't watch it anymore because of the leg warmers

And FYI, you will be happiest if you have creme de menthe and vodka in the house, because when the subservient girl gets hers on the sadistic queen bee, you will want a vodka stinger.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tonight on who do you think you are

Graham Norton called his great grandmother, "slutty, but nice!" when he found out that his great grandmother was eight months pregnant when she got married. He's quite grateful that he's not the first person to bring shame on his family with an unconventional life. Now he's talking about how his family's pew at church was a bit "ghetto" because some long lost ancestor carved their initials in it.

I love this show.

Using what's in the fridge, vol 7

I had to work late tonight, so I came home and took a gander at my kitchen to see what I could scratch up for dinner. Here's what I did:

Roasted butternut squash with pecans and blue cheese

Find:
a whole butternut squash
half an onion
some bacon
some mushrooms
some thyme
olive oil
salt
pepper
paprika
balsamic vinegar
some blue cheese

Deseeded and cut up a butternut squash. I was too lazy to peel it, but I suppose you could. Toss it in olive oil, some thyme, salt, pepper and a shake or two of paprika. Put it in the oven and roast it at around 400F for half an hour - 45 minutes.

NOW. Fry the bacon until crisp, and blot on paper towel. Get rid of most of the grease from the pan, and then put in a half an onion, and some mushrooms, all chopped to bitesize. When they start to soften toss in a handfull or two of pecans halves. (I'm assuming you know to get them out of the shell first.) Cook until all toasty and carmelized, sprinkle with some pepper and then put a couple of dashes of balsamic on there and stir off the heat...it will sizzle and steam a little and then be nice and sweetmellow.

Okay. When the squash is done, then you take it out, you toss in the mushroom/onion/pecan mixture and crumble the bacon into it. Grab the blue cheese a crumble a bit of that in, too.

Eat. Yum.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thanks, iPod

I'm gruelling through my Managing Strategic Innovation written analysis of case. It must be said, innovation audits using the Pentathalon Framework are great, but they are not the funnest way to spend a Monday night when you're getting a cold and have had a piss-ant day at work.

So just imagine my joy when iPod heard my silent cries and cranked out Superfreak. I flew up from my chair and have done a helluva boogie around the living room, momentarily becoming Milton Keynes' own Little Miss Sunshine.

Join me friends, for a bit of a Rick James spazzout. And shake a tail feather while you're at it, dammit. There's nothing like Superfreak to inspire a little soul train freakout.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Power ballads suck

I have been sleeping with the radio on lately. The CD player in my bedroom is broken, so I turned BBC 2 radio on the other day and have left it going since. (I know. I'm single-handedly perpetuating global warming. Sorry about that.) I am hearing all kinds of great things I wouldn't have, though. When I get up in the middle of the night for a wee, I hear it. When I am trying to calm myself down after hours of paper writing, I hear it. When I'm drifting in and out of consciousness during my AM snooze-fest (usually a good 45 minutes of alarms every 9 minutes), I hear it. (Apropos of nothing, why did they pick 9 minutes? Not 10, not 5, 9. And I think every alarm clock I've owned is a nine-minute snooze. ?!?)

Some of what I hear is good. Some is a bit odd. Some of it is Terry Wogan. But Sunday mornings are the biggest mixed bag of all. Early on, there is a show that is all religious music. It's gospel, it's classic churchy stuff, and it's a bit of pop-Christian stuff. Very little deviation from Christian thus far, but since there's a national church here I guess it's understandable. (That said, today they had an atheist and a Christian debating the acceptability of non-Christian faiths in the UK, and the Christian made my favourite point about how annoying it is that it is has become cool to assume all smart people are atheists or agnostics.) Not my favourite show on Radio 2, but not the worst, either.

The WORST one comes on at 9AM. It's nothing but love songs and dedications. Seriously. Love song. Dedication. Love song. Dedication. Repeat. Now, I have certainly been known to like a love song now and again. I have always been a fan of the soulful singer songwriter, and as was highlighted in my 40@40, the Quirky Love Song genre is one of my favourites. But I hate power ballads. Really hate them. Hate the over-singing. Hate the key of sap. Hate the slow-paced power guitar background. Hate the soprano saxes and the keyboard solos and the key-change bridges. Hate absolutely everything about them.

What a sucky sucky idea for a show. It's positively awful. I had to fly out of bed to turn the radio off so the woman screeching "Show Me Heaven" would stop. Which, by the way, seems to be a very frequent analogy in the power ballad. Lots of stars and moons and soaring through the heavens crap. Find a new metaphor for pete's sake.

But the one good thing that came out of this was that it helped me put my finger on why I hate Coldplay. They claim to be a rock band, but they're really just power ballad singers who don't bathe as often as they should. Martin is an oversinger extraordinaire. Not to mention a mumbly. Enunciate, man! It's not that hard!

Listen, Coldplay. It's nice that you love Gwyneth and all, but it still doesn't change the fact that she can't act and looks like she needs a sandwich. Shut up already.

Go Southwest Airlines!

Southwest Airlines once again censored a passenger for wearing inappropriate clothing. Last time it was the chick in the miniskirt and the boobie shirt. Now it's the guy in the "Master Baiter" t-shirt who was asked to change or get off the plane.

They're issuing an apology and trying to downplay the PR nightmare. Why???? I say, "Well done!" I say they're doing a public service here. I say let's send the Master Baiters and the Muff Diving Team and the guys that wear those t-shirts with a big NO sign over male stick figures engaged in intercourse straight to Greyhound where they belong.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying they don't have the right to free speech. I'm saying that morons belong on the bus.

The guy says he complied because he was afraid he'd miss the flight and didn't want to miss a day's work. Let me guess. Rocket scientist?

Chill out, guy. I mean, I know you think you were making a statement, but I'm betting we could tell by looking at you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday Snack

This weekend is all about the writing.

I had let the fridge dwindle to nothingness and I knew I needed a decent breakfast to fuel my brain, so I set my alarm for 8AM and hit the rode before coffee to get to Sainsbury's before the Saturday crowds. Perfectly timed, and I got out right as people were starting to come to brawls over parking in the lot.

I have many delicious groceries waiting to be transformed into delicious meals. This is one of my favourite things, actually...the knowledge that my kitchen contains the ingredients for any number of delicious treats, just waiting for me to decide what to do!

I'd gotten a Nigella Express cookbook through the Book People at work (they give us great deals on select items, kind of like Costco except in the lunchroom,) and when I saw that Nigella was beckoning I could not resist. She is my idol. And I've read (yes, read) most of the cookbook while getting ready to sleep, so I have made sure my shopping list contains items required to bring a few of the pages to life this week.

One of the recipes that fascinated me was for Smoked Trout Pate. I like smoked whitefish, and it sounded like a good way to get some valuable Omega-3 in my diet this week as well as a convenient food to feed me when I need a little something quickly, so I thought I'd try it out. I made it earlier this afternoon (with a few embellishments because that's the way I am), and it is delicious. You should have this spread on little bread or crispbread nibbles with a glass of chardonnay (you pack of chunts) and perhaps some briny olives with chili or baby dills before dinner tonight.

Smoked Trout Pate (as interpreted from Nigella)
- 2 smoked trout fillets (or smoked peppered mackerel if you're me)
- 50g of philly cream cheese (I used light and last I checked the sun did not fall out of the sky)
- 2T lemon juice
- 2T olive oil
- 1/4T cayenne
- 1T horseradish sauce
- grind of pepper (me)
- old bay....maybe equal to cayenne? (me)

Puree all ingredients into a pate. Put in a clay ramekin. Chill. Spread it on things. Eat.

Suffer, fools







Which of Henry VIII's wives are you?


this quiz was made by Lori Fury

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Winter made glorious

Winter is upon us. Our summer was crap, actually...cold and rainy and very little sunshine...but that happens in England sometimes. But now Winter is definitely here. It is cold. It is blustery. It is getting dark much earlier and a skunk of grey covers the sky. I finally gave up shivering under blankets three weeks ago and broke down to turn on the heat. The toilets at pubs and restaurants are icy-frozen-cold, and you best think twice before sitting. We are in for six months of this, getting colder and blusterier and drizzlier by the month.

But the swans are now south for the winter. It's just me and the ducks. We are giddy. There is a spring in our step. We greet the day with a smile. We can stroll at our leisure, knowing the nasty swans are nowhere to be found, threatening with their raised wings and poking necks.

Huzzah!!!!!

And the bastards didn't even have the decency to say goodbye.