Sunday, July 28, 2013

What-What?! Week of July 28th

This week, my eldest ruined my couch.  Then my youngest threw himself off of it.  We no longer have a couch, and I'm not sure what we'll replace it with.  Possibly floor cushions, or bean bag chairs.  Maybe we'll make the living room into a giant ball pit?  It'd keep the kids busy, that's for sure.

News: Firefly Videogame Announced via Kotaku
I like Firefly.  I named one of my children after a character from it, I have a rare piece of paraphernalia from the original fan ‘site (that Nathan Fillion frequented, oh yeah!), and so on.  However, the headline that most summed up my feelings about this game was: “Firefly is Getting a Video Game, But Not the One You Want”.  This will be a multi-player online social game specifically for cell phones and tablets.  The setting of Firefly would make a wonderful action roleplaying game, a first-person shooter, even a card game, but not this.  While there is the possibility of this social MMO being good, it’s pretty slim – Fox never understood Firefly before, and it doesn’t look like that’s changed much.

Product Review: Chex Vanilla
My family eats a lot of cereal, and that’s actually one reason that we tend to eat new cereals as soon as they come out – through coupons and sales, these new varieties are usually what I can get the cheapest.  This past week, I bought a few boxes of General Mills’ Chex Vanilla, because the other specialty varieties of Chex we’ve tried (Apple Cinnamon, Honey Nut) have both been pretty good.  The first bowl of this Vanilla variety I had blew me away.  It is so sweet.  Looking at the nutrition label, this is what I found: 8 grams of sugar for a 30 gram serving.  Cheerios have 1 gram of sugar for about the same serving size.  Eating this dry is like eating “puppy chow” – you know, during the holidays when you douse cereal with chocolate and powdered sugar.  It’s not bad if you consider it as an indulgent snack, rather than a breakfast food.  However, the vanilla flavor is sadly lacking, so mostly it just winds up being sweet.  Overall, I think General Mills had a miss with this one.

Review:  Captain Bogg and Salty’s Emphatical Piratical via Amazon
Emphatical Piratical is Captain Bogg and Salty’s most recent album, self-published in 2009.  Unfortunately, there is little on the internet available for this band, so I actually had to buy the album (spend money, what-what?!).  The husband and I really liked this album, and my children very much liked it as well, though I will say that I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I’d heard it first.  It is kind of odd, but entertaining, mildly historical, and a good, fun romp.

Luckily, I was able to find the song Emphatical Piratical on YouTube, though without a video:

At this point, I would like to point out the word “paralogical”, which means:
Paralogical:  Of or relating to a form of reasoning that does not conform to the rules of logic.
I think that this term is itching for a comeback in modern use.  I hereby pledge to use it more often in my everyday speech.

The other song I found on YouTube is from their 2005 album, Pegleg Tango, titled “Pieces of 8ight” – my kids especially liked this video.

If you imagine a hybrid of these two styles, that’s about what the rest of the album sounds like.

Portland’s Pirate Festival
In researching Captain Bogg and Salty, I stumbled upon Portland’s Pirate Festival.  Most years, it is a fine festival full of music, and so on.  However, this year the event has been canceled, due to a member of the crew passing away, and the group’s replica pirate tall ship (the Royaliste) having had been almost completely destroyed by the Portland Sternwheeler (though these events were not inter-related).  The group has my sincerest condolences, and I hope they are able to repair their ship.  They are planning on having the event next year, which I would love to attend, though that will have to wait until the children are older.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to work on my scone recipe (kept forgetting to buy flour), but hopefully I’ll be able to work on it this coming week.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What-What?! Week of July 21st

I was really, truly going to cook this week, but then I didn’t.  Recently, my husband has spent more time cooking than I have; I’ve been tired and honestly rather uninspired by the ingredients I’ve had around.

I have a subscription to The Progressive Grocer magazine, which covers grocery industry news and trends; along with that subscription, I also receive The Independent Progressive Grocer, which is specifically for smaller chains and independent stores.  I really like The Independent, because it discusses issues on a store-level, as opposed to more general trends and news.  This past issue discussed the topic of cleanliness, especially in how it relates to appearance – a store cannot just be clean, it has to look clean.  Many times, a customer can’t tell if the store is being cleaned properly, which creates a situation where customers are dependent on cues from how things look.  In the article, store owners talked about the importance of how employees are dressed, how the floors look, and designing a store so that customers can see the food prep areas.  By having sharply-dressed employees, the least important parts of the store looking great, and having transparency, it builds consumer trust, which is incredibly important in the food industry (I’d never buy food from someone I don’t trust, that’s for sure!).

T rex tooth embedded between hadrosaur vertebrae
Now for something awesome!  A skeleton of a Hadrosaur was found with a T-Rex tooth embedded in its spine.  This find has the possibility of settling the long-standing argument of whether a T-Rex was a hunter or a scavenger.  I am very excited by this – I grew up watching dinosaur documentaries arguing about this, and would love to see it put to rest.

Food:  Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese
After last week’s post about instant mac and cheese, I decided to make some of the real deal.  The method that I use is adapted from White on Rice Couple, though I only followed the recipe once, then never bothered to measure again.  This recipe is brilliant because you make the sauce while you cook the noodles, in the same pot!  The downside is that it takes near-constant stirring for 15 minutes, which is difficult when I’m home alone with the children.

Ingredients:
  • Noodles (as much as you want; I use 1/2 pound)
  • Milk (enough to cover noodles in pot; I use 2-3 cups milk)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (Dijon, yellow, brown, whatever’s in the ‘fridge)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (Cheddar, Monterey jack, etc.)
  • Salt
  • Nutmeg, if desired
Add noodles, mustard, salt, and nutmeg to saucepot, and fill pot with enough milk to cover.  Heat on high until simmering, then immediately turn down to low.  Continue to simmer, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, until milk is thickened and noodles are nearly cooked (add more milk if needed).  Stir in cheese, then cover pot for 3-5 minutes – the noodles will finish cooking and absorb more of the sauce.  Give one final stir, then enjoy.

Disney:  Boxes with Humor
I had ordered some toys from Disney to put away for birthdays and Christmas, so when we received this box, we put the kids in their room and opened it up (because we like to look at toys, too).  When the husband started opening the wrong side of the box, we saw this beauty:

 “Open other end, Dopey”.  Someone, somewhere made the decision to put that there.
Next week, I’ll be reviewing Captain Bogg and Salty’s most recent album, talking pirate festivals, and perhaps a scone recipe that’s currently in the works.  ‘Til then!

(img via guardian.co.uk)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What-What?! Week of July 14th

I have done a lot of nothing this week – that is, other than driving back and forth to Gilroy.  In the last week, I’ve been four times.  Not that I mind Gilroy, it’s just unusual for me.  Not much by way of freelance work, or sales on eBay, which generally kind of sucks.

We went to Happy Hollow, and had a good time with the kids.  Then we had dinner at Marie Calendar’s, which was not a very good experience – somehow, they managed to make my son’s macaroni and cheese taste odd.  Like a weird, metallic taste.  It made my Gordon Ramsay senses tingle (‘cause I’ve seen enough of those kitchens to think twice about off-tasting food), so we left.  Not sure we’ll be going back.
Oh!  Last week, I updated the key words on my posts, and consolidated the recipe-related ones on the right column.  Now, both you and I can easily find the recipes I review!

Mac & Cheese:  Some Nutrition, Please?
Sometimes, when the husband is gone and the children are misbehaving, I cook something fast and easy for dinner.  Lately, that something has been Kraft Mac & Cheese, which is not the most nutritious food.  So lately, I’ve been working on easy improvements to the nutrition content and flavor, without the bother of making real macaroni and cheese.


Any other ideas?  I know some people suggest adding pureed cauliflower or squash, but I find that it adds an off taste.  One thing that I haven’t tried is adding a bit of nutmeg, which is one spice I add to real macaroni and cheese.

TV:  Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Netflix added more Disney shows, so the kids have been watching Jake and the Neverland pirates – now, understand that I am very picky about children’s shows, because I simply find most of them to be obnoxious.  The current approved list is Kipper, Super Why, Timmy Time, and My Little Ponies.  Jake and the Neverland Pirates is suitably exciting for children, while still managing not to be annoying.  My kids love pirates, so they’re totally into it.  There’s a fair amount of singing in the series, which I enjoy.  The two singing pirates in the series are actually a real pirate band, Captain Bogg and Salty, originating from Portland, Oregon; they have self-produced four albums, which I admittedly have not listened to yet.  Look for a review soon. ;)
(imgs via businessinsider.com, disney.wikia.com)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What-What?! Week of July 7th

This week was wonderfully less searing than last; the winds were up, the clouds were in, and we had a nice holiday.  Saturday morning, I was actually cold when I woke up.  It was a nice change.

News:  Invesco – An Opportunity  Lost?

Ever since I posted the foresight goggles ad that Invesco had in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago, I have had visits from people specifically looking for that ad.  So, I went onto Google and typed in “invesco foresight goggles” – which took me straight to Invesco’s main page, which was horrendously disappointing.  One of the things that attracted me to the ad in the first place is that steampunk is mostly a young people’s interest; however, when you search for Invesco using those terms, it takes you to the same website that they have for the company’s target market, who are older.  It doesn’t take you to a special website set up for young people who are interested in investing (but not investing yet), or who are early enough in their investment relationship that they can be easily stolen.  I think this could have been a great opportunity for Invesco to snare some younger customers, or at least get younger customers thinking about them and investing; instead, they didn’t take the extra few steps to make this marketing campaign into something truly special.

a mess of carnita
The other day, my husband decided that we should have pork carnitas for dinner – so I went looking for recipes, and knew I had hit the jackpot when I saw that Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen had posted such a recipe.  While it was delicious, ours didn’t come out with quite the right consistency (ours looked nothing like the above), but that’s because we didn’t have the proper cut of pork – we were just using what we had.  The lime in this recipe adds a great tanginess that goes well on tacos and burritos.  If you don’t have the cumin by itself, then I’m sure you could probably sub a general taco mix and be fine.  We’ll be making this one again, for sure.

This article, about the upcoming book The Rise of the Naked Economy, discusses changes in how businesses operate today, including using more freelancers, offsite personnel, part-timers, and so on.  The authors of the book view this as a positive change; people are valued more for their skills and what they bring to the table, and are more free to manage their work themselves.  However, I think that this change has negatively affected young people, because to be hired as a freelancer, previous skills and experience are a requirement.  When fresh out of highschool or college, or just a few years into your career, that’s a huge hurdle.
One thing that the authors discuss that particularly resonated with me is the discussion of young people’s priorities changing; people in their 20s and 30s who have children are looking for better ways to balance life and work, because they place a higher value on family time.  That description fits me and my husband very well; sometimes we’ve sacrificed getting ahead because we thought being with our children was more important.  I think that freelancing, and part-timing allow a greater level of flexibility that previous generations didn’t get – of course, those of us who are younger or just beginning our careers might not get this option because of our lack of experience.  It seems to me that people have to get experience in the conventional way before becoming a freelancer.  You have to do your time, so to speak.

'Til next week!