Category Archives: Odds and ends

Adsensical

Probably should have picked the Giants to win last night. Once again, just as they did in Green Bay, they came to play with much more intensity than their opponent. One of the better games over the years I’ve been watching football.

The ads, however, left quite a lot to be desired. No Budweiser frogs, no office linebackers. Instead, a mostly uninspired and, at time, downright offensive collection of ads.

The worst of the bunch: the salesgenie ads, with their strange insistence on stereotypical, annoying caricatures. The Audi ad, which was just plain awful. The E*Trade baby ads….creeeeepy. IceBreakers, completely forgettable. Shaq and the tiny horse in the vitamin water ad. Doritos’ “Message from Your Heart”, which could be a good song, if sung by someone else. PepsiMax and the bobbleheads. GoDaddy with yet another attempt at T&A, just as stupid and sleazy as everything else they do. UnderArmour. Ray Lewis leading what resembles nothing so much as a fascist mob.

The WTF ads: Gatorade’s water drinking dog (although this did make Mickey perk his head up, since that is exactly how he sounds when he’s slurping up water). Naomi Campbell dancing around with a bunch of fire-farting lizards for SoBe Life. Planters Nuts with Frau Unibrow. The talking stain for Tide to Go. Dell Red: if you buy this laptop, people will cheer you for no other reason when you’re walking down the street – and as a bonus, will slap your butt?

The movies: Iron Man. Yes.

The snoozers: Claritin. Sunsilk. Drug dealer: thanks for alerting the kids that they can go raid the medicine cabinets in their parents’ bathrooms. Bud’s Rocky-inspired Clydesdale.

The “Eh, you could have done better, but these were mildly amusing” group: All the Bud Light ads. The CareerBuilder ads (the “Follow your heart” ad was better than the firefly ad). Cars.com (the deathmatch in the circle of fire was better than the witch doctor). PepsiStuff, which only made it into this group because Justin Timberlake got racked in the crotch. Coke. Toyota Corolla, because the world needs more face-eating badgers. Gatorade and the path of green.

The best:

Bridgestone’s screaming squirrel (if only for the almost-too-tiny-to-hear screaming cricket). Not so much their unexpected obstacles ad.

Doritos’ “Mouse Attack”.

Garmin (gar-meen), with Napoleon zipping around in a tiny car, background soundtrack a perfect French cruising tune.

FedEx, once again checking in with a good one: giant, mutant pigeons creating havoc in the city when used to deliver packages.

The NFL ad with Chester Pitts playing the oboe: awesome.

Likewise, the T-Mobile “Fave 5” ad with Charles Barkley and Dwayne Webb: “I don’t want to look too fat in high-definition. That’s what HD stands for. Did you know that?”…”And that’s why I don’t eat shrimp.”

Frosty mornings

Our freeze/no-freeze/frost overnight betting pool – wouldn’t you love to be the weather person, where you really don’t need to get it right, ever? – turned out to be frost. I stepped outside with my sister as she was getting ready to head to classes: lock frozen, windows iced, clear and very cold. The veggies were covered in ice crystals, but not rock-hard frozen, and I suppose they’ll make it. The garlic is really the only thing that concerns me. I don’t eat collards, the broccoli, as I mentioned before, isn’t right, the brussels sprouts I don’t eat and are not doing anything from their transplanted states, and the lettuces/spinach seem to be just fine, although they also seem to be frozen in time, having not changed in size very much over the past couple of weeks. Looking across the road to our neighbors, I saw the western side of their roof covered in frost and glistening as the sun came up.

Standing outside for less than ten minutes made me appreciate even more having the ability to work from anywhere there is a connection to the internet. Even right at home, at my desk, with my heater going full blast under my desk to warm my feet after being outside.

It’s a tough job

But someone has to be the Princess.

The Princess is not amused.

Now that I’m no longer watching Food Network and football season is drawing to a close, I have discovered some of the strangest shows I’ve ever seen – they’re new to me, since I rarely watch television other than sports, documentaries, and movies. Among these are shows like Clean House, Clean Sweep, and the one on right now called Wasted Spaces where I gather they usually help people turn wasted space into something useful but on this one are showing a junk-filled house like the other two do normally. I’m sure everyone else is up to speed on these shows, but they surprised the hell out of me. Not because I don’t think people won’t watch them. On the contrary, I have no doubt that there are people quite unlike me, who tune in to every episode of these shows in the same way people tune in to whatever their favorite sitcom happens to be.

What I do not get about these shows is why on earth anyone would want to display their junk for the world to see. Some of these places are hideous, and quite honestly, I’d be ashamed to let anyone see crap piled up in every single room in the house. There is no way I’d be able to live like that – just looking at it gives me the creeps.

At the end of all these shows, the result is pretty much the same: the house is in order, nice and clean, and the people are happy to have their junkiness taken care of for them. What I’d like to know is what happens six months down the road. Does anyone know if these shows go back to the places they’ve cleaned to show what these people are doing now?

Cleaning house

Or at least some files. Being able to take a bazillion shots with a digital camera means there are a bazillion images to sort through “later”. And by “later”, I mean “at some point, probably, when you’re bored out of your mind, taking a break from answering tickets and doing server/network maintenance, and have turned off the tv and disabled the news crawl on the computer screen because it’s all about Heath Ledger dying”. That kind of later.

Awhile back, I had posted a picture of our spidery neighbor, who hung around the front of the place all season. That spider put up a couple of egg sacs and then promptly did what spiders do a few days later. Died.

Dead spider

The eggs are still up there for now, although we’re probably going to have to get rid of them.

Newton likes the organic veggie juice that, coincidentally, my mom also likes.

Newton likes the juice

I’ll add that while I will eat after the dogs when they have had something off my fork, mom refused to drink after Newton. Sissy.

Funny face

And finally, say hello to my nephew, due in a couple of months. Yours truly will be cooking for the gaggle of girls appearing on the doorstep here for the baby shower.

Baby boy

Here’s your heart

There are some days when you’re just convinced that the world is full of asshats. The worst is when one of those people manage to fuck up your evening by being total douchebags. I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but some days it gets to me more than others – when all the cosmic shit going on happens to align just so.

Today did not start as one of those days, but it surely did wind up being one. I still cooked, though.

After putting together the dough for the doughnuts – and more about that fiasco later – I started prepping everything that could be done before the time for dinner actually arrived. One of those things was the assembly of the shrimp cocktails.

I also boiled some shrimp with Old Bay and set aside some to marinate. The latter were sauteed as we were sitting down. Much of cooking for a crowd means getting everything to the table at the same time. This is no easy task if you’re an idiot and completely forget about the asparagus, thus holding everything else and thus letting people start in on the shrimp before everything is ready. But since that was minor and asparagus doesn’t take all that long to cook (nor did the sauce), it wasn’t too bad.

Broiled lobster tails, shrimp three ways with cocktail sauce, ginger dipping sauce, rice pilaf with sundried tomatoes, parmesan, and almonds, and asparagus with a mustard-lemon nappe.

After everyone had eaten all of the food – a bit of the rice was all that was left – it was time for doughnuts. The first batch of dough sucked and I tossed it in the trash, where one of the dogs prompty stuck his snoot in and grabbed a piece, swallowing it down before I could get a word out. Fortunately, while I was kneading the first batch, I realized that it would indeed suck and that a backup batch was in order. I had run out to the store to pick up a couple of things, and picked up some fresh flour as well. It made a world of difference. I knew the flour I’ve been bitching about since we got it was to blame for the bready misfortunes I had been encountering.

The dough had gone through the first rise, was rolled out, and went through the second rise.

While they were resting, I put together the glaze, the ganache, and got the oil heated. Now, most places say 350 for the oil, but I’m convinced that a slightly lower temperature is in order, especially seeing how brown some of the pieces got while frying compared to the lighter, doughnutty color we’re all used to when the oil had cooled a bit. Not that it mattered all that much, since it’s hard not to like fried dough. The Boy handled the glazing duties.

Other people volunteered to handle the sampling duties. Sometimes they go a little crazy while doing that very dangerous, thankless job.

Some had to wait a little longer for their tastes, relying on other species with opposable thumbs to bestow their samples.

The doughnuts turned out very well indeed.

The scraps from the first cutting I kneaded back together, then rolled out and formed into crullers, churros, and vague blobs of doughy things.

I think people were happy.

After all, what’s not to like about doughnuts?

Defenders of the home front

Sometimes, you just can’t help yourself. You might start off small, never intending for things to escalate. and then, before you know it, you have a full-on episode.

Take the humble strawberry. Or, rather, take a humble strawberry. Like this one.

Simple enough. A test of chocolate dipping in a semisweet ganache. Nothing more. But then, quite suddenly, there are more.

And even more, lined up like soldiers.

The supporting troops arrive shortly thereafter.

It’s all fun and games until the chocolate takes over the world, isn’t it?

Every day’s a birthday

Saturday night, my uncle said he’d never appeared on the blog. I told him he’d be first up with the next update. Here he is, hanging out by the ribs.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

The Boy turned 21 the other day. When he was growing up, we thought he might never make it that far.

Since it was his birthday, he got to request the dinner menu. Kebabs, he said, and some corn to go with it. We went with that.

I made bread earlier that day, adjusting the recipe so the dough was a bit firmer than the last time. I also rolled it out a bit more thickly than the last time, trying to keep the raisins contained and the dough from splitting

The final proofing.

Much better than the last time.

All four loaves went into the oven, and came out about an hour later, nicely browned and with the hollow thunk that means they’re ready.

Very pretty. I could pick around the raisins and try the bread, but that seems like a lot of work (and bread’s a hard food for me to eat anyway), so I’ve yet to actually taste the bread.

That evening, we had the kebabs. The original plan was to grill them, but Mother Nature decided to give us some winter rain, so they went under the broiler instead. They turned out well.

My aunt also had a birthday this week. Her party – her 29th birthday! – was Saturday.

Way back at the 4th of July party at her house, she’d suggested ribs and shrimp for the party. Since this party was going to be fairly large, we picked up 27 pounds of ribs – six slabs. I brined those for about ten hours, then rubbed them about an hour before putting them on the smoker. Four and a half hours later, the ribs were juicy, smoky, and ready for gnawing.

I carved them into manageable pieces, put out a bottle of homemade barbeque sauce that I’d made the night before…

…and we were set.

There is more to life than smoked ribs, hard as that is to believe. We also had a broccoli gratin.

This disappeared very quickly.

Cole slaw, scratch from the vegetables to the dressing.

We also had shrimp and various munchies. I’d also made a chickpea salad and hummus, and at the last minute decided to make some bread and butter pickles, which you can see peeking in at the bottom.

The slaw, assorted crudites with fresh dip, and nuts to snack on.

No birthday is complete without a cake – carrot cake, requested by my aunt and made by my mom.

And no birthday cake is complete without candles…

…which then have to be lit.

Eventually, the fire is put out.

And then, it’s time for the goodies. This is just a sampling.

Let the games begin!

A lot of people showed up for this fiesta.

Continue reading Every day’s a birthday

Ride ’em, cowboy

Flipping channels tonight while waiting for some damn server thing to finish, I stumbled across Cowboy U. Take eight people, put them through the motions of being a cowboy on a working ranch, and one of them gets $25,000 at the end (at least that’s what I think they said). I’m not one for reality television in general, but this one caught me.