Friday, January 24, 2014

Quick Takes 8

1.  Any weekend which includes some of this is, by definition, a good weekend. 

Yep, that's my target.  *beams with pride*  Not bad for someone who, until that weekend, hadn't been shooting in *mumblemumble* years.  Need to do that much more often!  I've since pointed out to TheAccountant that a night at the range makes a great date night, and that the range has a thrice-weekly Ladies' Night on which Yours Truly would get to shoot for half price.  Hey, I'm not so much of a diva that I don't appreciate a good deal, and that goes double for when the deal involves shooty goodness.

2. Does anyone know if there's a way to turn off Etsy's new and highly annoying tendency to create an activity notification for your feed?  I didn't really want a feed in the first place--it seems to have been foisted upon me--but there are few things more irritating than checking my store and seeing what would have once been a notification of either a sale or someone "favoriting" one of my products, only to find that it's yet more random pictures of stuff I'm not interested in.

3. The Houston area had an actual, honest-to-goodness freeze last night combined with a 1/2" of sleet/freezing rain.  See, I have pictures to prove it!

Yep, those are icicles on a palm tree.  Look, and be amused.  Be even more amused, all you Yankees (and I are one, technically speaking, though I did move to Texas as fast as I could), by the fact that a huge number of the major local employers have told all their employees to either take the day off or work from home rather than try to drive in.  Not a bad idea, that--I've ranted about the utter lunacy of the average Texas driver here before, and can't imagine that ice would help the situation in the least--but for those of us who've spent significant time in rather more northerly climes, the idea of a 1/2" of winter precipitation leading to all this is more than a bit amusing.  The Houston area just doesn't have much of a system in place to deal with this, and I guess that's a good thing.  I mean, do I really want my tax dollars subsidizing salt/sand trucks that might be used once every 4-5 years?  Nah, not so much.

4.  Brigid at Home on the Range wrote a post on cake a few days ago, and it had me drooling.  I mentioned in her comments that I'd made our wedding and groom's cakes, and also mentioned the cookbook which helped me do it.  Then I realized that I'm pretty sure I've never talked about this cookbook, which is so awesome that I give it as a gift to anyone at all interested in baking.

Yep, TheAccountant is a proud Florida Gator, in case you couldn't tell.  Naturally, this required a "swamp" groom's cake, complete with gators.

Let me introduce you to Rose Levy Beranbaum, a woman who literally got her master's degree in cake.  This book is sheer genius for all sorts of reasons.  First, it's just plain written well: when I first bought it, I sat down and read it cover-to-cover because the author is one funny lady.  Second, the instructions are so detailed and minute that you can't screw them up.  Finally, and most importantly to my mind, she lists measurements by weight rather than mass.

Think about it: in a recipe, you're usually told to add two cups of flour and a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of baking powder and so on.  But the actual amount in those measurements can vary wildly.  If you scoop flour out of a bag or canister, there will be a lot more in the cup than if you spoon it in, and MUCH more than if you sift it in.  What one person measures as a cup, another may measure as a cup and a half.  As you can imagine, that makes a lot of difference in baking, and especially when baking something like a cake, which can be pretty finicky.  If you're told to measure 40 grams of flour and 20 grams of sugar, though, a gram is a gram is a gram.  Unless your food scale is broken, one person's 20 grams of sugar is another person's 20 grams of sugar is another person's 20 grams of sugar...see what I mean?

This might sound really OCD until I tell you that the cakes I pictured above have three layers of cake in each tier.  That's 18 layers total.  The bigger layers had to be baked one at a time because I made those cakes in a tiny little apartment galley-style kitchen with a similarly-sized oven.  It took quite some time, as you might imagine...and yet none of the layers, not even one, turned out badly.  In order to get these cakes baked, I'd written out a schedule and included in it time to rebake layers which I assumed would turn out badly just by law of averages.  Not one needed to be rebaked.  I credit that entirely to exact measurements and Mrs. Beranbaum's suggestions on how to get layers to bake evenly.

The book also includes a section on fillings and frostings, and let me tell you that the lemon curd recipe is to die for.  Not too sweet, and very tart and lemony.  Mmmm--mm!

The author has also recently released a book on pies which I'm lusting after. 

5.  Something to be filed under Things I've Learned This Week: if you like to pop your own popcorn (I do) and think to yourself "Aha!  I shall save myself some calories by popping the popcorn in a nonstick pan, thereby not having to use oil"...rethink this, and quickly.  You'll need the oil as a sort of barricade between the pan and the kernels, or you'll have a pile of burned, dried corn kernels rather than tasty, fluffy popcorn.  Especially if you like to add butter (real, thankyouverymuch, not that fake oil crap they give you at theaters), just accept that Popcorn Is A Sometimes Food, with all the caloric implications that has.  *sigh*  I dearly love a bowl of freshly-popped popcorn, though.  I don't like most other salty or greasy snacks, but popcorn has a special place in my heart.  Unfortunately, it also has a special place on my hips, so yes, Popcorn Is, Indeed, A Sometimes Food.

6.  TheAccountant wasn't here last night, so I decided to pop some popcorn (see #5) and watch a movie.  Out of morbid curiosity, I chose Star Wars II: The Attack of the Clones.

Goodness, it really was as bad as I remembered.  Oh, the teenage angst.  THE TEENAGE ANGST.  And the whining.  And the phenomenally awful puns and one-liners.  But most especially THE TEENAGE ANGST.  If any teenager of mine ever whines and angsts that much, I'll send him outside to repaint the house and mow the lawn.  Take note, oh future children!

The question is: do I watch The Revenge of the Sith tonight?  *grins*  Mind you, I'll be cheering for the volcano...

(Question: if I were to sacrifice a whiny, angsty teenager to a volcano in order to appease the volcano gods, would it actually appease them, or would they chuck it back at me and proceed to melt my village?)

7.  As I posted on Facebook a few days ago, but must post again here to express my utter joy at this turn of events...

We. Got. Tanaka.

For those of you who aren't moderately rabid baseball fans, let me give you a quick summary.  Masahiro Tanaka is a Japanese pitcher who had a bloody impressive season last year--he went 24-0 with an ERA in the 1.2s.  Yeah, he's that good.  He decided to come to America to play ball this year, and my beloved Yankees, channeling, for the first time in a loooooooong time, the attitude that just possibly they'd like to have a chance at a post-season, snapped him up.

Bonus: his quote on why he signed with the Yankees was to the effect of "he's coming to New York to win a World Series."

See, that's the sort of mentality I expect from my Yanks.  May it rub off on the rest of them.  (And may we get rid of that spectacular menace to my sanity, David Phelps, sooner rather than later, but I digress.)  66 days until opening day!

For more Quick Takes, head over to Conversion Diaries!


  1. Lol at #6. The teenage angst in that film made me cringe even when I was a teenager myself. As an adult it's nearly unbearable. I especially remember the way Anakin whines in one scene, "It's not fair!" Good heavens.
    Even as a kid I wanted to reach into the TV screen and slap him in the face.

    1. Obnoxious, wasn't he? I still am shocked/amazed/horrified that I once knew a woman with a HUGE crush on the guy, to the point of having a life-size cardboard cutout of him in her bedroom. (Yes, I thought that was TMI, too.) Personally, I've never found whining to be much of a turn-on. *shrugs*

    2. Also, say what one likes about Darth Vadar--not a pleasant guy, tyrannical, very monochrome in his dress style--but one thing he did *not* do was whine. I'd like to think that the Darth Vadar of IV-VI would have administered a proper force-choke to Anakin.