Thursday, July 29, 2010

Text Message Conversation

To my coworker:
"Why is your Bella doll making out with your sunblock?"

The response:
"Who knows why Bella does these things?"

So accurate, really...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bread 2, Shawn 0

Shawn attempted to make bread again yesterday.

It wasn't quite as bad as the first time in some regards (there was no yeast being thrown all about the kitchen), but it was worse in others.

Shawn has a case of ADD. This is the reason, he believes, that he does so well with drumming--it keeps him focused, and it's something that he can do mindlessly with his hands while his brain is elsewhere. Back in high school and college I remember that he NEVER stopped drumming. EVER. He'd be doing homework and his left hand and legs would be tapping out some rhythm, he'd be reading a text book and there'd be some tribal beat, and if his hands and feet couldn't move, then his tongue was always clicking away - seriously, he'd be good at speaking Swahili, I swear.

So it comes as no surprise that he needs a recipe to look at when he's making food. He just can't add things because he usually forgets that he added them in the first place. A recipe provides a nice little list that he just has to go off of. So now the problem is that the recipe that he keeps using for the bread is a recipe that makes 2 loaves. we only have 1 loaf pan. So he just halves the recipe. His brain can't do this because it's like "okay, the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of sugar in 1 cup of water, so I need to put in 1/2 tablespoon of sugar and Oh Look! Shiny!"

so he managed to make the recipe correctly, but used a full cup of water instead of half a cup. Which means that he added more flour to get it to the right consistency, but once again, by the time he got to adding the flour he forgot he was halving the recipe so he didn't think of it until he was cleaning up the kitchen while the dough was rising.

He was so mad at himself and could not be made to feel better (though I'm sure the fact that every time he started cussing himself out I would laugh and tell him that it wasn't that big of a deal and I'm sure the bread would be edible didn't help much. But I was helpful in so much that I went and re-wrote the recipe for one loaf of bread instead of 2, maybe it will help). The dough rose, and it fell. Half was put in the loaf pan and the other was left to its own devices on a cookie sheet (looked roughly like a loaf of french bread). The loaves were allowed to rise a second time (as the recipe calls for).

and then the oven was turned on.

I have crappy cookie sheets and so the smaller 2 always make a large clanging noise and torque themselves into a funny, non flat shape when the oven gets above 250. And of course the oven was above 250, so it caused the French bread loaf to fall. And all of Shawn's hopes and dreams with it. (okay not really, but you get the gist)

In the end, I think it turned out better than the first time--some of it was probably because the bread wasn't as overcooked (I made him check the internal temperature about 10 minutes before the timer went off because I said it smelled like it was done to me). The French Loaf is all flat and looks a lot more like a biscotti loaf than a French loaf. The regular loaf looks like a brick.

He keeps insisting that it's him. I keep insisting that he try a different recipe. I figure he's got one more time in him before he calls off making bread of any kind for good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I found this spider out by our compost bin. Because I'm nice to insects outside, I refuse to break its web in order to spin the composter so the the compost is just sitting in there getting all nasty. The web is set up so we can still add stuff to the compost, we just can't turn it.

To give you an idea of how big this thing is, it's body from head to butt is about the size of a quarter. It is a Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia), and supposedly it is not prone to biting, and when it does, the bite is no worse than a bee sting.

Still. I think I'll keep my distance.

[I'll add a nostalgia section here about spiders, but I won't do it tonight, so check back later]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blogging Mojo

I'll start blogging soon as I finish re-reading the Twilight Saga... Again.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


In Cow News, our beef is bing picked up as we speak. The prices ended up being very good. I think it's closer to $6.18/lb

But I digress.

A few weekends ago, Shawn attempted to make bread. If you know Shawn, then you know that he is a rule follower. A recipe is needed for things and you must follow the recipe. If there is no recipe then it is the end of the world, or at the very least it means that I must be the one cooking because I view recipes more as guidelines. Especially when it comes to bread items.

I view bread recipes as guidelines mostly because of my great-grandma's roll recipe. It's a recipe that she would use to make dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls. The problem with this recipe, however, is that it makes a very soft dough. A dough that does not lend itself to being rolled out very well. Which means that more flour is added just to get it to not stick to the rolling pin. This can be up to 2 cups of flour. But of course no one ever wrote out the actual amount to be added when making cinnamon rolls, just a note that the cinnamon rolls would use more flour. Shawn, however, cannot do this whole "well, I'll just add more until it doesn't stick" thing. If the recipe says let rise one hour or until double in size, that means one hour; no more, no less. The recipe says knead for 5 minutes or until elastic and tacky. That means knead for 5 minutes, not 6, not 4, but 5. He is also very precise in his measurements whereas I am not. I will use the same measuring cup for everything, and the same measuring spoon (hey man, some of my greatest foods came from mistakes--the chocolate chip cookies I made all the time in high school had 3 times the amount of vanilla in them than they were supposed to).

3 weekends ago when he attempted to make a whole wheat loaf of bread, the recipe from our KitchenAid Stand Mixer book o recipes, it didn't go so well (not that it was an epic fail either). He only broke with the recipe in one spot. the spot where it said to bake for 40 minutes. He broke with the recipe because the top was getting EXTREMELY done (read just shy of burnt).

When we tried the bread, it was okay, not the greatest, but not too bad either. the crust was very brown and thick, the bread itself was dense and I thought a little on the dry side. But Shawn dutifully used it for his sandwich bread for the week until the last two slices went moldy. It is apparently quite common for all whole wheat loaves to be very dense, and is the reason why most whole wheat bread recipes are actually half All Purpose flour.

This last weekend, I decided to make dinner rolls. Originally I was going to make the dill rolls from The Spiteful Chef (which, by the way, there's a very similar recipe in the Colorful Colorado cookbook), but the Black Swallowtail Caterpillars changed my plans so instead I opted to do Great Grandma's Rolls.

First I substituted Whole Wheat Flour for half of the All Purpose Flour, second I put the dough in a bowl to rise and then went and did stuff out of the house for an hour or two and then came back and kneaded the dough (the original recipe calls for rising overnight), broke it into largish balls, and let them sit on the cookie sheets until Shawn was ready to start grilling the chicken (about 20 minutes). I also had to cook them about 2 minutes longer than was written in the recipe (probably because of the largeness of the rolls). I made roughly 16 rolls instead of the 24-30 the recipe is supposed to make. I did this intentionally as I figured that they'd make good rolls to turn into sandwich rolls. Shawn, however, was a little disappointed I didn't make them slightly larger since then they would have been hamburger bun sized. But now I know--tennis ball = hamburger bun.

They were probably some of the best rolls I've ever had. Shawn made me promptly freeze 8 of them lest they go bad. I have a feeling that it's good that I made the rolls and that they turned out so well, otherwise I think Shawn might have given up on homemade bread (I have told him time and time again that bread is one of those things that you just have to keep trying to make it because it will take a dozen attempts before you get good at it).

Another month or two of bread making and we might just have the hang of it...then we can move on to making homemade pasta.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Yard Mateys! Part: the third

Today we will pick up where we left off:

Are the aforementioned Skil Shrub Trimmer and the Fiskars Momentum Reel Mower so easy to use, that even a baby could do it?

Today I will review the Fiskars, the Skil review can be found here

And as I edited in last time, I'm doing this of my own volition and was not paid or compensated in any way by Skil or Fiskars. We paid our own hard earned cash for these products, so they damn well better work.

Shawn had finished mowing the yard and I had finished using the shrub trimmer, when I looked out into the side yard and noticed some random blades of grass that hadn't been cut by the mower. I guess this is a common complaint when people first start mowing their yard with a reel mower after using a gas powered mower for years. It appears that grass needs to be 'trained' to be cut by a reel mower-mow one direction one week, a different direction the next until the grass learns to grow straight up (i get the feeling that the gas mower either blows the blades multiple ways so they'll get cut down by the blades, or it creates a mild suction which accomplishes the same thing). I figured that this was as good a time as any to start pushing the mower through the grass to see how it handles. Though I guess I should really wait until the grass is taller so I get the full experience rather than the grass is already cut and I'm basically just pushing a mower through it for no reason. But we'll deal with that later.

Oh I should mention that we've got St. Augustine grass. And, if you want to get a reel mower, you should really do some research beforehand to make sure that the mower you get is good for the grass you have. I believe the Fiskars and the Scotts are good for St. Augustine but the Brill isn't good for it. (thankfully the Fiskars and the Scotts are much cheaper than the Brill.) from the research Shawn's done, it sounds as if the thicker the grass (St. Augustine, Zoysia, and basically the grasses used in Austin), the tougher it is for the lighter mowers to cut. All this means is that for our grass, you want something that is a bit heavier so it doesn't just rest on top of the grass not cutting anything.

So I start 'mowing the lawn' and let me just say that while it's nowhere near as easy as a self-propelled lawn mower, it is a hell of a lot easier than our current gas mower. I can barely push that thing up the small hill we have--I have to get a running start. No such need with the Fiskars. The Fiskars is apparently easier to push than other reel mowers because it's a 'touchless' system. All that means is that the reel and the stationary blades are insanely close together, but they don't actually touch. So there's no blade friction, and you can go YEARS without having to sharpen the blades.

The mower is obviously very quiet. Much quieter than the gas powered mower, and much quieter than the neighbors and their damn jackhammer. I don't know why they were jackhammering, but it was loud and it was annoying. Thankfully it was also 10 in the morning on July 4th when they started doing it.

The Fiskars throws the grass clippings in front of the mower so there's no green grass stains on socks...or grass clippings in shoes. Though to be fair I think ever since we've gotten this thing, Shawn's mowed in bare feet.

The only downside I really noticed was that it doesn't handle corners and edges very well. It's tough to get it to follow a curve (but then I'm not sure I would have done better with the gas-mower). And we've got the area by the drive way where the grass is currently growing sideways and the other mower pulls the grass up enough that it can get trimmed--with this one, we have to go out with the weed whacker if we want the grass along the edges of the driveway to get trimmed.

Overall I'd give it 4.5 stars out of 5. It gets major points for ease of blade height change (you can change it with one hand and without tools--there's a little knob that changes the height of the front wheels which changes the height of the blades), ease of pushing it (I'd never mow the lawn with the other mower), and quietness. Plus the touch-less system is pretty freaking cool, as is the spitting the grass blades out the front - makes it a lot easier to tell when an area is done. It loses points for the cement edge mowing, and lack of being able to cut up the long 'strings' of St. Augustine grass.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Yard Mateys! Part: the second

As I figured that i couldn't really do a true review on the new yard tools ifin I haven't used them, I decided that I should try them out to give you an idea on how well they REALLY work. Because, as we all know, sometimes Shawn thinks things are all unicorns and rainbows when really they aren't. Take linux for example. While I like linux and I willingly use it at home, the vast majority of the world does not use linux and thinks people who do are computer nerds (which, yes. that's true), and are a tad masochistic (that may also be true).

So, are the aforementioned Skil Shrub Trimmer and the Fiskars Momentum Reel Mower so easy to use, that even a baby could do it?

Today I will review the Skil, and I'll have the Fiskars post tomorrow or something.

And as I edited in last time, I'm doing this of my own volition and was not paid or compensated in any way by Skil or Fiskars. We paid our own hard earned cash for these products, so they damn well better work.

It's kinda hard to see in the pictures on Amazon, but the Skil, as with any other motorized, sharp bladed/pointy tool that could require a visit to the emergency room if you decide to use it while on valium, ambien, or some delicious adult beverages, has a safety switch. Now then, this safety switch doesn't require that you hold it down the entire time the tool is in use (like a gas powered lawn mower), but you do have to hold it down and pull the trigger to get the tool to start up, then you can let go of the safety switch and the shrub trimmer can trim the shrubs as desired. Every time you let off of the trigger, you will have to hold the safety switch down again in order to re-start the blades. Doing this action isn't too difficult, and I could easily do this all one handed, but I do have the habit of just holding down the safety switch (essentially treating it like a gas powered lawn mower)...which requires some hand strength. Hand strength which I do not posses. I guess it could also be larger hands which would making holding down the safety switch easier as well since I had to stretch my finger to do it. OR maybe I could avoid being a dork and only press down the safety switch when it's actually needed.


I tackled the Scourge Released Upon Central Texas by an Idiot aka Asian Jasmine. I actually did quite a bit in the amount of time it took Shawn to mow the lawn, and was quite proud of myself. With the regular pruners we used to use, I would MAYBE finish going around the berm in the amount of time Shawn mowed the yard. With this little Shrub Trimmer though I got both Hell Strips, the Berm, and partway through the Rosebush area all in the amount of time it took Shawn to do half of the front yard and the entire back yard. [Insert picture of front yard here - see? I get so used to linux that I can't find any of my photos if I'm not using it. So I have to put notes to myself to do anything other than check my email on this silly windows machine]. I wanted to continue working and do the two crepe myrtle bush areas too, but Shawn told me to wait until next time.

Now then, as you can imagine, since I insisted on holding down the safety button, my hand started getting tired. so I switched hands. Only I'm not as dexterous with my left hand so I had to use both hands to hold the shrub trimmer. This worked out quite well, though as I was STILL stretching one of my hands to hold the safety switch, pull the trigger and still be able to hold onto the tool, I did end up with sore hands. Specifically a sore left hand. My right hand is perfectly fine.

After using the shrub trimmer for about an hour, I was finding it tougher and tougher to hold down the trigger. But this, I'm sure, is due to my wimpyness and not the Skil itself. Shawn's suggestion is that we should get a rubber band and put it around the trigger to hold it down. Yes, THAT sounds safe. Next weekend when I'm in the ER, you'll know why.

Overall: I'd give the thing 4 of out 5 stars. The battery lasted the whole hour, it's a much better design, and more powerful than the little edge trimmer thing I used to use as a kid. The thing is just top heavy enough that I find it helpful to use both hands to hold it.

I'll be interested to see how the battery holds up.