Problems and Quests

Long ago (mid-late 90s) I gave a dinner party for all six of my friends.  One was vegan, and as I was setting out appetizers or something like that I mentioned that I’d checked a lot of labels to find crackers that were vegan.  She laughed and was appreciative, but surprised and a bit apologetic that I’d gone to the trouble.  Another friend of mine said, “Robin is a problem-solver. Of course she’d look for food that would work for you.”  I had never thought of it like that, but it’s true.

This story came to mind when I was looking through a box of yarns that are mostly 10-15 years old and wondering why I had so many of a similar color, which, while nice, isn’t really a favorite color.  And I remembered that I have a nice jacket that my mom made that I really like, and when I started knitting in 1998 or so I wanted to make myself a hat (beret) that matched it.  (I had already made coordinating beaded earrings that match it really well, that being my primary craft prior to taking up knitting.)  She’d made the jacket from, among other things, some Italian yarn she’d knitted into a fabric and then cut, and coordinating colors of woven wool fabric.  The yarn was black and grey mohair with dark magenta accents, and the jacket has a dramatic V of magenta fabric edged with the knit and then the charcoal grey forms the body of the jacket.

I had a bit of the yarn left over at one point in my life, which may not have ever overlapped with my knitting life. (I still hope to find it again someday, but it’s been 20 years.) Greys were not difficult to find. But I have SO MUCH magenta yarn that’s almost but not quite right.  I think I last purchased some around 2012.  No, the hat has never been made, and I haven’t worn the jacket in a while (though of course I still have it.)

This is less problem-solving and more of a quest.  And even when I’ve decided that I probably won’t make the hat it’s still sometimes hard to not get yarn that might work just in case.  It’s not the project that I kept buying yarn/fiber for even after mentally conceding that I won’t do it any time soon. (Another one was to make a cabled hat to match this shirt I bought my husband back in 2001, so he could wear his favorite shirt and the hat and match his Mii. Would he actually do this? No.  Yet, I have actually hand-blended fiber on my drum carder to spin yarn to match the shirt, which is cross-woven red and blue so it’s pretty much impossible to match.)  The quest never ends.

It was when I got to this point in my thinking about the yarn that I realized: I’m a NPC in my own life.  The story around me changes and I still have a (side)quest that will never end, walking in place in my house.

(That ending really calls for a wry screenshot from a game, but I don’t have one.  So here’s a cat photo.  Feel free to count them.)

cats in sun 2018-06-05 17.43.26.jpg


Watch This Space


neko atsume on watch 2018-02-01 01.57.39.jpg

I just got an Apple Watch.

When I told my husband I wanted a smartwatch, he wondered what use I would have for it.  Wait, that sounds snide, and he wasn’t.  But it made him think about what would he use it for, and after some time and research he concluded: nothing much.  And it’s true that I don’t have much interest in the functionality that seems to be pushed very heavily, namely, fitness and workout tracking.  I spent most of the first hour or so working out how to disable as many of those apps and displays I could find.  (I don’t need an external device telling me how much I’m falling short or failing to do constantly; that software runs natively on my brain.)

No, I got it for making lists and notes.  A particularly frustrating aspect of my ADD is that I can’t seem to keep more than three things — tasks to do, mainly — in my head at a time.  It has nothing to do with their importance; rather, it seems to be a FIFO structure.  New stuff overwrites old.  Unfortunately, I usually have more than three things to do.  So a list attached to my wrist seemed helpful.

The other thing is that I do a lot of my thinking in places where I can’t write/type stuff down: while driving; in the shower; when trying to sleep.  A few years ago I had a smartwatch, and it was nice to be able to dictate a note to it that would then show up in my email (although I almost never succeeded in the necessary part 2 of that endeavor and reading the note).  I wanted to be able to do that again.  And since I currently have an iPhone, it made the most sense to get the watch specifically designed to work with it.

Of course, one of the first things I found is that I’d have to enable Siri on my phone to dictate to my watch — and probably Siri would’ve served as note-taker in my car this whole time, since I have a phone holder in the car so it’s close enough to pick up voice address.  So I wondered if I’d been rather stupid in not exploring that option first.  But while taking a shower half an hour or so ago, I realized: since I got the series 3 watch, it’s functionally waterproof, for my purposes.  I could take notes in the shower if I want!  Of course, when I thought of this, I was not wearing the watch because it’s been many years since I had a waterproof watch, and then I had to try very hard to keep the idea in my head long enough to start this blog post, because see above.

I’ve only had it for about 48 hours, so I’m still figuring out how to use it.  (I may have hindered this slightly by setting the watch’s language to Japanese.)

And now I need to leave for dinner and I’ve forgotten what the next sentence was going to be anyway (things in brain: message from sister; dinner; sound of cat grooming), so this is going to stop here.  Better posted abruptly than a draft forever, right?

Weird Dinner

Back in college, after I learned how to make a white sauce, I started calling the concoctions I’d cook “weird lunch”.  “Wanna visit?  I’m making weird lunch.”  It was generally palatable enough; the weirdness was mainly the feeling that I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.

Last night I started with the plan of doing simple pasta with tomato sauce (which I do know how to do) and ended up with weird dinner.  It went something like:

“I need to cook something.  All I really know how to do is pasta and tomato sauce.  But I have Mizithra cheese and could find out how to do browned butter.  Oh, this browned butter instruction page mentions chicken and linguine.  Say, I have chicken (frozen) and linguine.  What else do I have?  Oh, here’s some really ancient cottage cheese that miraculously is apparently still edible…”

The result actually was tasty enough to be worth documenting, so here we go.

  1. Browned 1 stick unsalted butter in a saucier.  Spoiler: I didn’t actually taste it in the final dish.  Probably should’ve browned it more, but was worried I’d end up with blackened butter and erred on the side of unburnt.
  2. Put 2 frozen chicken thighs to thaw in bowl of cold water, and started pot of salted water to boil for linguine.
  3. Put cottage cheese (about a cup?) into bowl for later, and mixed tarragon, fresh-ground nutmeg, and a bit of light soy sauce in it.  (The nutmeg is because the person who taught me how to make lasagna used to mix it in with the egg/ricotta.  I never taste it in the lasagna, but I figure there must be some reason she put it in.)

    spiced cottage cheese 2017-08-15 20.50.07
    The cottage cheese had a date of Sep 07 on it.  While I know the 07 is a day rather than the year, I’m pretty sure the year isn’t 2017.
  4. Spouse came home so I asked him which oil to use for browning the chicken.  Then he exited to go to Home Depot to buy a ladder.
  5. Started tomatoes in saucier: olive oil, 4 largish cloves garlic, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, 1 can diced tomatoes, bit of soy sauce.  Usually I’d do two cans of tomatoes to one pkg pasta, but since I was adding the chicken and browned butter I stuck with one.  In future will probably do more, or add something else; we felt that more tomato taste or some other more intense flavor would have been good.
    tomato sauce and linguine 2017-08-15 20.52.20
  6. Linguine now in water.
  7. Pulled out chicken thighs, which were nearly thawed, after putting latex gloves on.  Patted dry with paper towel, then removed right glove to salt them.  Called spouse to ask whether it was better to brown them whole and then cut up, or cut them up first (with slight preference to latter because they were already on the cutting board and I’d need to use a different board or wash this one if I planned to cut them after cooking.  Turns out spouse was still at home because Prius’s battery was flat and that’s the car that would fit the ladder.  He decided to skip the ladder and just go to Target for some other stuff.  Also concurred that cutting up chicken first would probably be fine.
  8. Cut up chicken.  Because I am mostly not an idiot I kept my left glove on (for holding the chicken).  Because mostly != totally, this still happened.
    chicken cutting oops 2017-08-15 20.59.39
    After taking picture, I promptly lost track of the piece with the dot of latex.  Found it later but then couldn’t be sure at first that I’d actually removed the latex because it was invisible against the rest of the glove.  Spouse comes in at this point to bear witness to this and starts to give me a lesson on how to hold food for cutting safely, until I point out that the problem was that the glove is just a bit too big, not that I was holding it carelessly.  (My fingers were in no danger of being cut.)  Spouse agrees that that’s just bad luck with extra glove material, then departs for real this time, after helping me drain linguine.
  9. Mix tomato sauce and doctored cottage cheese in with pasta to get it out of the way.
  10. Pour teaspoon of oil from nearly-empty bottle into pan, then way more than that from nearly-full bottle.  Shout “WAH!” which is Robin for “HELP I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING THE HOUSE IS GOING TO BURN DOWN” and then get on with cooking the chicken anyway because there doesn’t seem to be much choice.  (Considered pouring some of the oil out of the pan, then concluded that chances of making a slippery flammable mess that way were higher than just going with the amount in the pan.)
    chicken in too much oil 2017-08-15 21.18.19
  11. Call spouse to request some sort of sparkling juice while he’s at Target, because I don’t like wine but feel like classy fruit-derived beverage would be appropriate.  Meat starting to brown at this point.  Reassure spouse that house will probably not be burned down by the time he returns.
  12. Chicken successfully burned, I mean browned.  Use slotted silicone spatula to transfer into pot of pasta. Mix in browned butter.  Grate a small mountain of mizithra cheese.  Start transferring pasta to serving bowl, sprinkling cheese after each tongsful of pasta.  Put remaining cheese on top.
  13. Spouse calls. Instead of hello, I greet him with “ON TOP OF LINGUINE, ALL COVERED WITH CHEESE. GOOD THING I HATE MEATBALLS, ‘CAUSE THEY MAKE ME SNEEZE. …I mean, yes?”  He’s calling about fruit beverage.  We settle on Izze blackberry sodalike liquid.
  14. Send photo of pasta to family, with slightly improved lyrics.
    mount linguine 2017-08-15 21.31.24
  15. Spouse returns. We dine. Spouse incredulously asks what the thing he’s tasting that seems almost like tarragon is; I inform him that it is in fact tarragon.  Later, I mention the nutmeg, which gives him a bit of a duh moment since it’s suddenly very obvious.  Incidentally, he added a bit of fish sauce to his, for real.

Overall verdict is that it’s a decent effort that could use some stronger flavoring, perhaps tomato paste or red wine.  I am not a wine aficionado even in cooking, but it probably would work here.  The recipe that reminded me that I have chicken included fresh spinach and pine nuts, which have some possibilities.  Overall I feel like it was a bit too oily, which leads me to the odd conclusion that actually the butter was unnecessary in this case.  Don’t know if I’m tasting the mizithra explicitly.  The cottage cheese presence is fairly minimal, but worked well as a carrier for the tarragon and nutmeg, and I think those were successful (spouse thought it was just enough tarragon, which worries me a little as I didn’t measure it).  Fresh mozzarella, burrata, or ricotta might also be good choices.  Spouse thought shiitake mushrooms would be good.  Now that I’m typing this, I think maybe I would’ve liked it better with white meat (I had the thighs because I wanted to try making karaage, which is better with dark), which is somewhat unusual for me.

Izze was good too.  Unfortunately, later in the evening I started feeling unwell, but I’m pretty sure that’s from motion sickness watching spouse play FF XII and running around at double or quadruple speed.

But yay!  I cooked!  All by myself!

Sorry there is no cat picture here.  I should’ve taken one of the audience I had, probably attracted by the chicken cooking.  Moonstone had the roundest, most dilated eyes ever.  She seems to have figured out that that’s the way to look especially pleading and hopeful when requesting food (which she does by purring affectionately while rubbing her face on my elbow or whatever she can reach).

Two Hamburgers

Spouse suggested that we eat at The Counter, which he had been to previously and I had not.

His burger:


My burger:


I may be a little unclear on the concept.

Thematically related (in that there are his and mine), here are desserts we ordered at a different place:


His, in back, is cheesecake “spring roll” (rather like a blintz) with vanilla bean ice cream, and mine is pineapple upside-down cake with coconut ice cream.  Both with caramel sauce.  Rather to my surprise, I liked the coconut ice cream best of all of these sweets.


A Dream Come True


A couple of nights ago I dreamed that I had a two-pound box of See’s chocolates.  It was really that specific.  Most of my dreams can’t come true (and a lot of them I wouldn’t want to), but this, I could do.  Mmm.  (And yes, it’s a two-pound box.  The other things I like are in the first layer.)

Changing Lightbulbs

Our house is largely an A-frame, and came with a chandelier to match.


(The thing hanging from it is a glass art piece, not part of the chandelier itself.)

We don’t use the chandelier often because it puts out a lot of heat and consumes a lot of electricity, at least compared to other lights in the house.  It’s a shame, because the room does get dark and the two lamps to either side of the couch don’t do much for the other half of the room.

So spouse replaced all 25 25-watt bulbs in it with 40-watt-equivalent LED bulbs.  And since he was up there on the ladder anyway, we decided to dust all 104 pieces of glass hanging from it.


(When we first looked at the house, I asked if the chandelier came with it, and the previous owner said, “Yeah, you get to clean it yourself!”  Of course, this had never occurred in the 4 years since then.  Fortunately, since the glass is vertical, there actually wasn’t much dust on it.)

The end result:


It’s now on, and the room has a comfortable lightness that isn’t actually that bright at the couch.  It’d be enough light to knit by and maybe read by (haven’t tried yet), and is definitely enough for laptopping.  And, of course, the two floor lamps are still on either side of the couch for when more light is needed.  Where it will really help is in playing games, because from where I sit the lamp at the other end of the couch reflects onto the TV and renders the upper-right corner very hard to see, which has actually made a difference at times.

I’m pretty happy.  It’s really nice to have light in the rest of the room, without guilt or overheating.

A Four-Year-Old’s Drawing of Trump

“Trump should be LOCKED in a BOX and sent to MARS!”

I visited my friend K and her daughter A a couple of weeks ago, and K told me that A had watched the (second?) debate with her father and did not like Trump at all.  So she drew this picture of him being locked in a box with eight locks, two on each side, and sent to Mars.  Why Mars, I have no idea.