Sunday, May 24, 2020

What's that smell?

Pic of the week 


Cue funky smell in the kitchen.  I cleaned out the fridge, the garbage can, the disposal, my ears, all to no avail.  We finally tracked the smell to underneath the fridge.  There's a little collection tray under there that catches condensation runoff from the cooling coils.  Usually it just catches water which then evaporates off and no one is the wiser.  But sometimes stuff starts growing in there and it can smell...not good. In a stunning example of bad design, on this particular model of refrigerator, that tray is not removable, and is nearly inaccessible.  See that hole there?  That's essentially the only way to get at the tray.  On top of that, if you want to remove that metal plate to give yourself a little more room, that essentially requires disassembling the entire front of the refrigerator. And you can't see it from the picture, but once you actually get through that hole, there's only about an inch and a half of space between the top of the lip of the tray and the bottom of the refrigerator.  So I had to attach a piece of string to a rag and shove it through that hole with a Swiffer handle, then kind of wipe it around the best I could to try and clean out the gunk. (The string was there because the tray actually extends back a ways, and I wasn't sure I would be able to get the rag out with just the Swiffer handle.)  Then I soaked the rag in some alcohol and tried to wipe it down the best I could.  It was quite an adventure, but it seems to have worked. I ended the ordeal by writing a somewhat strongly-worded letter to Frigidaire.  Hopefully we won't have to deal with this again.

What's going on?

Things are starting to slowly and cautiously open back up around here.  The park by my house with the giant set of stairs that I like to run on is still closed, but the beaches are all open.  I went running on the beach yesterday and it felt great, and my calves are SO sore today.  There were lots of people out there surfing, and SO MANY people had their dogs - which is incredibly annoying because most of the beaches in LA - this one included - are not dog friendly.  And apparently no one realized there isn't an asterisk on that law that makes it non-applicable during a pandemic.  And I realize I sound like a curmudgeon when I say that, but frankly I don't care.  You decided to get a dog, so you don't get to come to this beach.  There's a dog-friendly beach 30 minutes away.  Don't be lazy. I don't want to have to watch where I step because some slothead (thanks for that gem, Grandpa Great) didn't pick up after his dog.

Rant over.

Things I miss: Watching a movie in the theater, hugging friends, going to a play, performing on stage, wandering along a crowded boardwalk, going to the grocery store for only 2 things, making plans.

Things I'm grateful for: Still having work, my stockpile of puzzles, the chance to eat better because I'm almost exclusively cooking at home, the plethora of shows available online, virtual movie nights with friends, beautiful weather, close parks, fudge brownie m&ms.

What I'm watching



She-Ra!!!  This is a Netflix reboot and it's so fun!  The transformation sequence from Adora to She-Ra is over the top and ridiculous and everything one could dream of.  It's a show about sparkles and glitter and rainbows and friendship, but also gets a little bit real.  Check it out.

What I'm reading



This was an interesting read.  It's sort of an alternative England in maybe the 1600/1700s or so.  The dominant religion has a concept called a "sin eater" who is a woman that eats foods at your funeral to take your sins from you when you die.  Though the book centers more on a kind of political plot.  Good, breezy read.  I finished it in a couple of days.  I also think it's so interesting to read things that have a strong religious component and see parallels in my own life and beliefs.   

What I'm listening to


This is one of my favorite podcasts and they're currently doing exclusively COVID-related content.  They look at the science behind it all to give you the best information/advice with experts and citations and balanced information.  This week's episode, Coronavirus: The Mask Wars,  is about masks.  Apparently the science is spotty at best about whether masks are helpful.  But I think the main takeaway is this: wear a mask, but act like you're not, i.e. wash your hands, stay at least 6 feet back, etc.  Also, check out this article that I found informative and helpful.  Mostly it just made me feel okay about not wearing a mask when I go running or cycling.

What I'm cooking


I haven't had this stuff in YEARS, but randomly got a hankering and thought I'd buy some.  Turns out it's pretty difficult to find.  But I broke down and bought a pack of four boxes online.  Worth it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Arachno-indifference

Pic of the week 


Just some lighthearted Instagram filter fun.

What's going on?

Two different spiders - though oddly the same species - invaded my life this week: 


This is known as the audacious jumping spider (Phiddipus Audax). I did not take this picture. One appeared on the bread in my shopping cart at the grocery store (not inside the bread, just on the package, then proceeded to adventure around the shopping cart.  Luckily he didn't disappear and I was able to transfer him to a bush outside once I paid for my groceries.) The other fell on my head at the park. I am not necessarily overly-friendly toward spiders, but they also don't really scare me.  I'm happy to pick them up on a piece of paper and help them find a more convenient spot to hunt that isn't my bedroom, or a shopping cart, or my head.  Adventures!

The mayor of LA has officially extended our stay-at-home order until the end of July - at the earliest.  *sigh* I miss hanging out with friends.  What a summer it will be. 
I decided while I'm hunkering down at home that it would actually be a really good time to get back on the better nutrition train.  A lot of my personal problem with eating healthy is that I'm often out and about, so I eat out a lot, and I also like to stop in at my favorite treat places while I'm toodling about.  But since I'm mostly just at home, it's actually a lot easier to plan and eat more healthy stuff - for me.  I know this is a stressful time for a lot of people and not the best to add trying to watch what you eat, but for me it's been great!  I'm eating TONS more vegetables than I used to and I feel great!  Sunday is my cheat day and I've noticed that when I indulge in a lot of sugar on Sundays, my body isn't the happiest.  What do you know?!  I'm gonna enjoy those brownies though.

What I'm watching


This is a beautifully done series on Amazon.  It's based on series of sci-fi paintings by Simon Stรฅlenhag.  It messes with time, consciousness, alternate universes, etc.  Heads up that the pace is pretty slow, but I actually found that kind of refreshing. It's not the most amazing series ever created, but I think it explores some interesting ideas around life and humanity in a fun alternate setting. Also, the teacher in the series is a friend of mine!

What I'm reading



This is cute.  It's a collection of stories from a girl about the neighborhood she lives in.  It kind of feels like narrative poetry.  There's not really a cohesive through-line, but you get a sense of her life and family through the short snippets she shares. 

What I'm puzzling


2,000 pieces!  Many of which are just blue.  This is gonna be a fun one.  It takes up 80% of my huge desk.  ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

What I'm cooking


Fried Rice!  I discovered making fried rice at a home a year or so ago. For some reason it had never occurred to me to make it at home before then, but it's so easy!  And the great thing about it is that it's so versatile.  You don't have to just throw in peas and cubed carrots.  You can use literally any vegetables you have lying around!  I also used wild rice instead of white, so it was a bit healthier.  Veggies this time around were some yellow squash, mushrooms, cauliflower, fennel, and broccoli.  I sometimes throw in shrimp, if you're a meat-eater you can obviously throw in some beef or chicken.  I've also used carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, beets, radishes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, the possibilities are really endless.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day

Pic of the week 


California's famous poppy super bloom is happening right now!  I drove up to see them for myself.  It's the end of the bloom season, and many of the weeds have grown pretty tall, and the actual poppy reserve is closed, and it was VERY windy the day I went so the poppies were closed (they don't do well in the wind), so it was less-than-overwhelming, but I could see how it would be quite breathtaking.  It was still a really nice drive up through the mountains.

What's going on?

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms!  This year I am especially grateful for the incredible women in my life who continue to support, love, and inspire me.  I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a child.  A couple of years ago I went to see some Shakespeare in the Park here in LA.  Halfway through the show, the power went out and the stage went dark.  The actors bravely soldiered on in the darkness.  Suddenly everyone in the audience started pulling out their phones and turning on their flashlights.  Each light on its own didn't do much to help, but the combination of hundreds of lights was enough to light up the stage.  It was a beautiful and moving moment. My mom's bright influence on my life is obviously immeasurable, but so are the influences of each smaller point of light - especially since my mom is gone.  So many women continue to light up my life and help make me a better person. Thanks and love to all of you.

What I'm watching

The news around Ahmaud Aubrey's shooting.  I know a lot of people who roll their eyes at every mention of racism in America, as if it doesn't exist.  And while overtly racist actions are certainly rarer than they used to be, systemic and institutional racism - subconscious though they may be - are still rampant.  This is a perfect example.  If two black men had shot a white jogger in their neighborhood for these same reasons, they would have been arrested almost immediately.  It took four months to arrest these men and it only happened after concerted social media pressure.  Likewise, if a bunch of black people had occupied state capitols carrying guns, white people would be clutching their pearls and crying foul.  Y'all, I just want my friends to feel as safe.  We've got work to do.  You can start by going here to learn about your own implicit bias, and how it subconsciously affects how you view and interact with people.  It's pretty eye-opening.  Also, read my book rec from last week: The Warmth of Other Suns.

What I'm reading

All of these articles about the Plandemic "documentary".  It is saddening and frightening how many people I know who are giving credence to a baseless conspiracy theory.  The virus is real, and it is dangerous.  Stay home.  Wash your hands.

What I'm puzzling


This is a fun one!  It's called "Authorful puns" and contains such gems as 'Putting Out Fires' by Rex Stinguish, and 'How to Get Groovy' by Buster Moove.  It's apparently out of stock everywhere, so you may have to wait if you want to get this one for yourself.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

And suddenly it's May

Pic of the week 


It's a bit hard to make out in this picture, but what you're looking at is a bioluminescent wave.  Every once in a while we get a bloom of bioluminescent plankton here on the Southern California coast (I'm not entirely sure how often it happens, but I've lived here almost 10 years and this is the first time I've seen it).  They light up as a defense mechanism, so when a big waves crash, cue the fireworks.  Not every wave was bright blue, but when they lit up, it was honestly magical.  Adding it to my list of most beautiful things I've ever seen.  If you ever get a chance, I'd highly recommend it.  It was also nice to just get out for a little while, even though the beach and boardwalk paths were technically closed, *most* people were pretty good about keeping their distance. Here's a video of some dolphins swimming in the water just south of here and lighting it up.


What's going on?

Another week in quarantine.  Not much new to report.  I've been watching a lot of TV, continuing to sew masks, and puzzling it up!  I discovered that there is a perfect pair of trees in the park by my house where I can hang my hammock for some reading and nap time.

What I'm watching


This is the sequel to The Last Airbender and is honestly just as good as the original series. 

What I'm reading


Several people have recommended this to me and I finally got my hands on a copy. I'm only a few pages in, but this already feels like it should be required reading for every American. It's the story of the migration of black people from the south to cities in the north and west from 1916-about 1970.  Such an interesting perspective shift. 

What I'm puzzling


Birthday present from Andrew.  Gotta love that Eric Dowdle.  

What I'm cooking


Two-ingredient cookies! I'm leaning into the fact that I'm mostly eating at home and that what I eat is something I can control in this time of uncertainty, so I'm trying to be a little healthier about it.  I've done enough reading and experimenting with different nutritional plans over the years to know that giving up treats is not something that's sustainable for me.  I like treats too much.  And I'm talking REAL treats - rich bread puddings and gooey cookies and melt-in-your-mouth brownies, not stevia/almond flour substitutes.  BUT that doesn't mean I need a Levain Cookie every day, ya know?  These were a passable alternative to enjoy after dinner without breaking the calorie bank.  I read a few different recipes, but the general consensus seems to be:

1 large overripe banana mashed
1 cup of oats (most recipes recommend quick oats, but I used old-fashioned and they worked just fine)  

Mix it all up and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.  And that's literally it!

Of course, these are just a base cookie and you could really add a million different things.  I threw in some cinnamon, vanilla, and some sugar-free chocolate chips I had laying around from when I was doing keto.  Next time I think I'll add some nuts and dried cherries.  ๐Ÿ˜‹

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Hello carbs, my old friend.

Pic of the week 


A friend of mine - the guy in the white sweatshirt you see there in the distance on the left side of the picture - had a birthday this week and decided to do some socially distant socializing, so we all met up at a drive-in theater that's still open.  Double Indiana Jones feature - Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade.  It's been YEARS since I'd seen either of those.  Didn't remember how many Nazis were involved.  It was a fun outing, though, and so nice to have some human interaction, even if it was a car-length away.  Apparently while we were there, LA had an earthquake.  This theater is far enough out of town that I didn't feel it. Also, these movies made me miss practical effects. 

Quote of the week

"And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?"
-The President of these United States, the leader of the free world, that paragon of calm, mature, measured advice, suggesting this week that maybe we ought to inject disinfectant directly into our bodies.  *earth-shaking facepalm*  Y'all. Don't drink bleach.  K?


What's going on?

Eat, sleep, sew, read, nap, TV, lather, rinse, repeat.

Nothing new to report around here, really.  I've managed to kill another air plant.  Honestly, I don't know how I do it.  These things are supposed to be nearly indestructible.

What I'm watching


Andrew Lloyd Webber is helping to raise money for the arts and artists affected by the pandemic by putting a filmed version of one of his musicals on YouTube for 48 hours every weekend.  It's called "The Shows Must Go On."  So far he's done Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with our very own Donny Osmond, Jesus Christ: Superstar, and The Phantom of the Opera. This weekend's offering was Love Never Dies - the sequel to Phantom.  And folks.  It was bad.  If you ever see this show advertised anywhere and think to yourself, "Ooo!  Maybe I should get tickets!"  Save yourself the trip and book a massage instead.  

What I'm reading


Reading this one for a book club.  I just started it, so I don't have many thoughts to share yet, but it's good so far!

What I'm puzzling


This one is beautiful, and fun, but challenging.  Lots of amorphous color blobs.  

What I'm cooking



Snickerdoodle bread pudding with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and cinnamon drizzle. I kind of made this up.  I love bread pudding and over the years have discovered that it is actually quite easy to make a delicious bread pudding out of lots of different things (I've used old bread, croissants, brownies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, etc.  Basically anything that was baked will work as a base for bread pudding.).  Very basic bread pudding is eggs and milk with a little sugar poured over bread and baked. A good friend of mine, who knows me oh-so-well, sent some of my favorite Ruby Snap cookies from Utah for my birthday.  My roomie was having a pretty rough day this week dealing with the anxiety of a global pandemic and so I whipped up a little bread pudding using some of the cookies as a way to have a little moment of joy among the chaos.  Bread pudding recipes vary in what they use, but here's what I did:

Snickerdoodle bread pudding with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and cinnamon drizzle for 2 (Honestly, this was rich enough that probably 4 people could share it, but who are we kidding?)

3 Snickerdudettes broken into pieces

1 egg
1 cup whole milk
3 tbp brown sugar
However much cinnamon you want.  I think I put in a tsp or so.

Mix the egg, milk, sugar, and cinnamon together and pour over the cookie pieces (I have a little baking dish that's probably 1 pint that I used. Because it's so small I could actually only fit about 2 and a half cookies.  Had to take one for the team and eat the rest of the 3rd cookie plain.). Let sit at room temp for an hour or so, or in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the cookies soak up all that saucy goodness.  Bake @ 350 until a knife inserted comes out clean: 45-60 min. 

Frosting:

4 oz cream cheese @ room temp
1 T butter @ room temp
1 T brown sugar
1 T honey
1 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon - or however much you want.  Up to you.

Mix it all up until smooth and slap that madness on to your bread pudding.  I used a LOT of frosting and still had some leftover, so make some pancakes for breakfast the next morning and go to town.

I also happened to have some of Trader Joe's cinnamon bun spread on hand and topped it off with a little drizzle of that.

This sauce was a little thinner than I would have liked, so I'd recommend substituting part or all of the milk with cream, or using 2 eggs and less milk.  Honestly, you can google "basic bread pudding recipe" and find 1 trillion recipes, so do a little experimenting and find something you like!  One of my faves is this one from the book Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, and I ESPECIALLY love the custard sauce that goes with it, but I didn't have any cream on hand, so I went a different route.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What week is it?

Pic of the week 


Spent some time in the park this week.  The weather was the loveliest and the park wasn't very busy and it's walkable.  Don't worry, I kept my distance from any other people and had my mask handy.

Quote of the week

"Pull the lever, Kronk!"
-Izma.  I haven't watched The Emperor's New Groove in YEARS and did it for a movie party with some friends this week.  It was so fun!  I think it's one of the most underrated Disney movies.

What's going on?

The days are all bleeding together, ya know?  Let's see...this week was filled with laundry, reading, watching TV, sewing masks, a couple of fun movie nights with friends, puzzling.

I did discover a social media trend called Dalgona Coffee which is a Korean whipped coffee.  I adapted it for chocolate milk and it's super tasty and fun!  You take 2 T of cocoa powder, 2 T of sugar, 2 T of hot milk (the original recipe calls for instant coffee, sugar, and hot water, but using water with the chocolate ended up not working out so well) and whip it up with a hand mixer for a few minutes until it's foamy and delicious.  Then you put it on top of a glass of cold milk and mix it in.  Honestly, it's essentially just chocolate milk, but more work, but for some reason it tastes so so good.

Also.  Can we talk about all of the treats?  There are so many.  I ordered myself a batch of brownies from a baker in Utah who makes the most delicious things, and then a friend of mine sent me cookies for my birthday, and also I may have picked up a little bit of Easter Candy, and THEN my roommate made some cookies the other night and there are just so many treats!  I'm not really complaining, but also, so many treats.

What I'm watching



Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Fun series!  They made a movie of it a few years ago which was garbage, but the animated series is a lot of fun.  It's giving me something to watch while sewing all of these masks.

What I'm reading



Language warning on this one.  And a bit of content.  Honestly, though, it was a really interesting concept.  The idea is that women develop this ability to build up and use electricity in their bodies, thus instigating a shift in the power between men and women in the world.  This book looks at how that might play out and I think it's a fascinating thought experiment.  

What I'm listening to

Continued advice from experts to remain at home as much as possible.

What I'm puzzling


This one was so pretty and fun!  I don't generally do puzzles more than once, but I might make an exception for this puzzle.

What I'm cooking



Homemade pasta.  Easier than you think, and SO delicious.  Plus, it freezes really well!


Sunday, April 12, 2020

All the media consumption

Pic of the week 



It's been rainy this week, but the sun came back out yesterday, and what with this weekend being a holiday and my birthday, I decided to get out of the house for a drive.  This is a shot from the side of the road by Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu, which is normally an awesome place to go check out tide pools, but all beaches in Southern California are currently closed, so I just had to enjoy the view from the roadside.  Plus it was a fun drive and nice to get out of the house and get some fresh air for a couple of hours.

Quote of the week

"May 15."
LA county extended our stay-at-home order until the middle of May.  And apparently you will soon be cited for not wearing a face mask in public.

What's going on?

It's my birthday!  I'm 37 today.  At this age my parents had 4 kids - two of whom were teenagers - and moved us all to Richfield.  I, on the other hand, have plants that are several months old, and just moved one of those plants from the floor to a plant stand.  Now, you tell me who accomplished more with those 37 years.

Breezy week.  Not much going on, honestly.  Some movie nights with friends, puzzling, reading, sewing masks, and generally trying to keep spirits up.

What I'm watching


I don't know that this documentary is changing anyone's mind about anything, but I found it insightful and humanizing of one of America's most polarizing political figures.

What I'm reading


This was kind of a...cute?...murder mystery.  Don't know that it's a must-read, but it was fun.


What I'm listening to

This episode of Hidden Brain, which essentially talks about the difference between rule-following vs. free-flowing cultures.  I love insights like this that help to provide perspective for systems and beliefs that I don't necessarily agree with.  Helps to build empathy.  

And this episode of Brene Brown's new podcast.  This episode specifically talks about grief in a really interesting and helpful way.  Especially relevant as we seem to be experiencing some collective grief at the moment.

What I'm cooking


Carrot apple salad. Or slaw.  It's all the same.  I used this recipe as the base, but adapted it based on what I had available. I got a BUNCH of carrots in my produce box this week and they usually go to waste because I don't eat a lot of carrots, but I didn't want that to happen, so here we are.  I substituted the craisins for sunflower seeds, and put some turmeric and chili pepper powder in the mayo.  I used this slaw to top some crispy tofu tacos and it was honestly heavenly.