until I’m free.
God, it’s gonna be so nice to watch RedTube and have my choice of hands again….
until I’m free.
God, it’s gonna be so nice to watch RedTube and have my choice of hands again….
For my buddy PoundHeadHere. The rest of you should avert your gaze.
OK Poundy, get out your Hitachi Magic Wand and make sure it has fresh batteries.
My collection has grown a bit since that last shot:
Not all of them are Le Creuset (bonus points if you can identify the 4 that aren’t), but each of them that are, were given to me on a birthday. NewWifey(tm) began the tradition of giving me one piece a year when we first got together and I told her how much I wanted one. Now I’m swimming in them. I wish she’d stop already!
Underneath that bottom row of pots are two shelves filled with cookbooks, including every issue of Cooks Illustrated, half in a bound set, an *almost* complete set of the 70’s classic “Time-Life” food and wine series, and 3 copies of “Joy of Cooking”: one mine, one my mom’s, one my grandmother’s – a 1946 edition that is the most, um, “educational” of the bunch to read*.
There’s a matching unit on the other side of the room. Both were built by NewWifey(tm) out of solid oak. The other one holds various other playthings: Romertopf, ice cream maker, stovetop smoker, the microwave, and more cookbooks (I have around 400 in all).
Those two are up against the back wall of the kitchen, one on each side of a bay window, under which is our casual kitchen dining table. Face forward and you see where the magic actually happens:
Interesting side note: NewWifey(tm) LOATHES this kitchen. It is one of the few ongoing points of contention in our entire marriage.
“Those cabinets are sooooooooo 80’s!” She HATES them. Hates the almond color, the slotted handles instead of knobs, the light wood trim. She’s also irked that I keep so much gear on the counters (“Why the hell do you need BOTH stand mixers out?!“). She also hates the wonky electric stove, but there’s not much she can do about that, since no gas lines run through our little mountain community and she’s scared of propane. So it’s electric, or raw.
But she does like the overhead pot rack, probably because she built and installed it herself. Women!
BTW, much as you may covet my Le Creuset collection – and well you should – my real kitchen workhorses are hanging in that rack. Those pots and pans, many from my chef days, a few purchased since, see probably 75% of the action at meal times. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can’t make something phenomenal just because you don’t have enameled cast iron. I made my living pumping out gourmet fare for years, never once owning even a single piece. Don’t get me wrong, they are GREAT to cook with. But technique trumps everything. I know we’ve gone over this before, o’ Queen of Substitutions, but I just wanted to underscore it. Plus, I like hearing myself type🙂
Ooo, I wanna quick zoom in on a piece you probably can’t see in the full kitchen photo:
I put a vampire fangs sticker on my garlic holder! God, I’m endlessly entertaining….
And this classy little number normally takes pride of place on the side buffet, but I’m forced to hide it when any of NewWifey(tm)’s friends drop by. They, it seems, have a different definition of “entertaining”. Bitches.
I was gonna wrap it up here, but since I have the folder open…
You deserve Champagne and a slice of pear-and-almond-cream tart after an orgasm like that. So here ya go:
Now go wash that thing off and put it away before the kids show up.
And that’s just one of many….
Yup! Finally. I bet you never thought you’d see one, huh?
Anyhoo, the Photo Challenge of the Day today is “Frame”. I was gonna take a pic of my bike frame or my wife’s Size-6 frame or my framed court order from the time I got framed for Grand Theft Manatee. But I went with “cat”. You’re welcome.
I was really into photography when I was a kid because my dad was really into photography when I was a kid, and I loved my dad. He gave me a little 4th-hand Brownie when I was around 6 or 7 and I toted that thing around everywhere, snapping pictures of…well, none of us were exactly sure. Not at first, anyway. But after a little practice you could definitely make out the frog I was aiming at, or the neighbor’s dog, or whatever caught my 7 year old eye. At that point my dad gave me a light meter and a book by Ansell Adams, and later initiated me into the ways of the mysterious darkroom he’d set up in the basement.
That carried me through high school, but no further. Away at college there was lots of studying, lots of chicks, lots of fencing team, and, crucially, no darkrooms. By this time I’d upgraded to an Olympus OM setup, but adding film developing costs on top of tuition, booze, Trojans, and all the other necessities of student life just wasn’t happening. I had to f-stop. (Ho ho ho.)
Moving up to the present, what do I – middle aged, married, middle class – now take pictures with?
A Nintendo DSi that I got for Christmas in 2010.
I never did get on board with digital cameras when they came out. I did buy one, some Samsung thingy that looks like a DSLR but isn’t, featuring all kinds of fancy options like filter effects and so on. But I just haven’t been able to get comfortable with it. I still want to play with the shutter speed and the aperture and use my gel filters and all that other stuff I spent so many years getting good at. I want to bracket my shots and manipulate things in the darkroom. I want the fun of figuring out depth of field settings given my available light and film speed.
I wanted my Brownie back, in short.
But seeing as how that wasn’t gonna happen, and I can’t really afford the better DSLR’s that do let you manipulate as much as a film SLR, I just hung it up.
Then I got that DSi, a hand held video game device…with a camera! Granted, it’s not much of a camera. You can’t set shutter speed, film speed, aperture, or anything else. There’s no flash, and the viewfinder is only a ballpark approximation. Focal length? What focal length? And I don’t have any editing software, so what I shoot is what I get.
I got my Brownie back, in short.
Despite my initial apprehension/derision, I actually have a lot of fun taking pictures with the silly thing. I’m forced to go back to real basics, like composition, lighting, etc. On top of that, with a shutter speed of – I’m guessing – somewhere around a tenth of a second to get enough light through that pinprick it calls a lens opening, you even have to concentrate on correct posture (no tripod mount here!), elbows in, and even that time honored trick of pressing the shutter between heartbeats to cut down on vibration. Mess up any of them, and you’ve just added another piece to your Abstract Expressionism folder.
Getting back to my pic of “Gloria in Repose” up top, I had a spotlight set up to the left of the shot, bouncing off the ceiling to compensate for the strong back-light coming in through the right side of the window. I framed the shot so there’d be a nice diagonal line working from the bottom left to the upper right. I gave the cat 50 cc of Benadryl to keep her in place. And I got off a vibration free shot. Despite all that, the technical limitations of the camera are still pretty evident. Nonetheless I’m pretty proud of it, in the way my mom was proud of me even if it took me 3 years to get through 5th grade.
Now, as a reward for reading through all that stultifying hubris….more cat pictures!
Really terrible shot technically (I really had to go to the bathroom), but I love it. So did Gloria:
This one needed TONS of light, but look at that color saturation. You go, little DSi! Oh, and yeah…can’t crop:
Ok, off I go, Gotta see if there are any more pictures of cats on the internet. I heard rumor there might be….
NewWifey(tm) is gone.
For the next 6 – 7 weeks, anyway.
Make no mistake here, it wasn’t something I said. For once. Her mom has developed a health issue and needs a caretaker for the next fortnight.
Mom lives in Arkansas, deep in the wilds of Ozarkistan.
NewWifey(tm), despite being the sibling living the farthest distance from Arkansas AND THE ONLY ONE WITH A SPOUSE WHO HAS JUST HAD ELBOW SURGERY AND CAN’T FEND FOR HIMSELF, volunteered for the job.
Hmmm. I wonder if it was something I said.
The kicker is that after her Mom duty is done, NewWifey(tm) then embarks on a month long cross-country tour in support of her little stitching business. She’ll be exhibiting and vending at 2 trade shows in Missouri, then one in Pennsylvania, one in New Hampshire, and one in Maryland. In between she’ll be traveling to other loser states where she’s been invited to teach classes at independent venues.
I’m on my own ’til October! And already it looks like downtown Aleppo in here.
Anyone out there who’s ever dreamed of sponge bathing a fat middle aged Italian guy in the paradise destination of New Jersey, complete with Happy Endings, now’s your chance! As a bonus you’ll also get to do laundry (yours AND mine!), cook, do dishes, run errands, shop for groceries, pour drinks, answer fan mail, and mow the lawn. Accommodations will be provided: your choice of motorcycle themed garage or tastefully appointed walk-in pantry. And did I mention Happy Endings?
Please? I have cookies.
See ya soon!
Another week and a half to go before I get the cast removed and can be unhooked from the ice pump. In the meantime that does mean I continue to be confined to this here recliner 24/7, with no real adventures possible.
So allow me to reminisce about a previous one instead…
A little while ago I was asked to give a “Careers in Radio” speech at Gallaudet University in Washington DC. Gallaudet is the oldest all-deaf college in the United States
To deaf people.
I should end this entry right here. I can’t top that.
This all started years ago when I was dating a girl who had two deaf brothers and a deaf sister. She wasn’t afflicted herself, nor were her parents. Her siblings just happened to luck out in the Recessive Gene Lottery.
They were a pretty cool bunch, although I have to admit it was VERY hard to not view them as “stupid” rather than the more accurate “retarded” sometimes. They even had a little terrier that they taught to follow sign language commands. (I had a lot of fun screaming counter-commands out loud while one of the deaf kids was signing “sit” or “come here”. The dog didn’t know if visual or audio took priority and froze in place every time. The deaf-os never caught on.)
I learned a few signs myself, along with that whole ridiculous hand alphabet thing. By contorting my body and comically (to them) o-ver e-nun-ci-at-ing I could usually, eventually, make myself understood. I was at least able to master swear words and foods signs, both of which were very important to me.
So after one brother, then the other, then sis, graduated high school and shipped off to Gallaudet, girlfriend and I would occasionally drive down for a visit.
Here’s the one thing you need to know about Gallaudet University if you ever go: it is the single loudest place on the face of the earth. You interned in a howler monkey sanctuary next to a Quiverfull daycare center? You worked at a vuvuzela factory? Used to moonlight as a crash test dummy for Conrail? Pah. You were in a sensory deprivation tank compared to lunch hour at the G.U. cafeteria.
See, when you can’t hear anything, you have no idea how much noise YOU’RE making. Slamming something down – a book, your fist, a baby – is the same as gingerly placing it, as far as your concerned. So imagine you’re in a tiled room with 8 or 9 hundred people all making those comical deaf people mouth noises – and by “making” I mean “bellowing” – while simultaneously banging on every horizontal surface trying to alert another deaf person via vibrations that they wish to converse, stomping on the ground for the same reason if there’s no other surface.
Over that din the hearing staff, teachers and scullery worms, are screaming to each other at the top of their lungs in a usually vain attempt to make themselves heard. And all this is combining to make 8 – 9 hundred tables, place settings, silverware, glassware and serving trays jump, skitter and shatter from one end of the resonating chamber to the other. Why the hell don’t they give these people plastic, and make them eat standing up? They can’t talk with their hands full.
Don’t think it’s appreciably better outside the cafeteria, either. Pretty much all the same factors are at play, just minus the toaster pizzas.
Suffice it to say that I emerged from my first visit almost deaf myself. But I was better prepared on subsequent trips, packing along a set of Army surplus earplugs, the type issued to tank crews.
But time passed, the girl and I parted ways, and I lost touch with her siblings and the rest of the arm waving crew. Probably 15 years went by before I thought of them, or Gallaudet University, again.
Then, out of the blue, I got a phone call from one of the teachers I’d developed a passing friendship with all those years ago. She’d was visiting friends in New York City and heard me on my morning show. I’m not on any social media, but I am in the phone book (to NewWifey(tm)’s ongoing consternation) so she gave me a ring. She was still at G.U., but now held a department chair.
“Hey Danger, how’d you like to take a trip down to D.C. and give a careers talk?”
“What? Tell deaf kids – deaf kids – to consider a job that doesn’t hire deaf kids? What the hell?”
“We’re not asking them to consider it. We’re getting professionals from as many fields as we can, even if it’s something they can’t do. The kids need to learn about more than just their own microcosm.”
“I don’t really remember any sign language. Other than ‘dick’, ‘puke’, and a few other things.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll have translators. Bring your wife, too. I’ll treat you to lunch.”
“Only if it’s not in the the cafeteria.”
“What, did you lose your earplugs? Ok, fine.”
So I agreed to go and give the talk. Professor Lady also threw in a room on campus for the night to sweeten the deal. A couple of Fridays later, then, NewWifey(tm) and I took the 5 hour trek down I-95 to our nation’s capitol and America’s premier institute of Higher Learning for the deaf.
To tell them how great it is to be a hearing person, because they can listen to me on the radio. Nice.
But actually the “talk” went very well. The kids paid attention, laughed at my jokes (“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “A deaf person.” “A deaf person who?” “What?“) and asked pertinent questions at the end (“What does ‘listen’ mean?“). Even the meal afterwards was nice. And quiet.
NewWifey(tm) had a good time too. She got to make fun of people who had no idea she was making fun of them, and she got free food. Show me a woman who doesn’t consider that heaven.
Afterwards we repaired to the room the professor procured for us. It was a vacant dorm room on the second floor of a student apartment building, sparsely furnished but clean. Bunk beds. I claimed top.
Unfortunately, unlike the restaurant, it was anything but quiet. With deaf kids above, below, and to either side of us, it sounded like they’d put us up at a bowling alley. There was no way we were gonna be able to sleep.
I was just about to suggest we bag the dorm and find a Motel-6 when NewWifey(tm) said, “Let’s fuck.”
“WHAT?” I said.”Now? Here? In a student dorm room?”
“Why not? It’s not like anyone’s gonna hear us. C’mon, we can play a role playing game. I’ll be the little deaf girl, and you can be the fat middle aged guy she wants to fuck.”
“Why am I always typecast?”
“Shut up . Take your clothes off.”
What could I do? The poor girl was deaf.
I gotta hand it to NewWifey(tm), she’s a quick study. She was waving her hands around and grunting incoherently just like a native. I really felt like I was taking advantage of some poor differently-abled waif. We let it all hang out, bouncing off walls and furnishings without any care that people in adjacent rooms would catch on.
And they didn’t. Until….
NewWifey(tm) had just climbed up onto the to top bunk and was lying over the side on her back with her head down by my waist, locking her feet into the headboard slats so she could work hands free. I was standing in front of her, cordless Hitachi Magic Wand ready to go.
And then the door opened.
We heard the “snick” of a lock behind us, then a quick creak of door hinges. And just like that there were three young deaf ladies in the room with us, staring open mouthed at NewWifey(tm) hanging upside down and naked from a bunk bed, and me apparently about to bludgeon her with a miniature Louisville Slugger.
We found out later that there had been a mix up at the front desk. The three girls – visiting students from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in New York – were supposed to bunk in the room next to ours. But were given our spare swipe card by mistake.
And that’s how NewWifey(tm) learned the signs for “Oh my god!” “Ewwww!” and “RAPE!!”
Have a good night kids , ya hear?
A few years ago my buddy Mike, upon becomming engaged, decided to bulk up for the Big Event. Not by lifting weights, but by lifting beers. And anything else that wouldn’t stretch his esophogus to the tearing point.
Maybe he was trying to see if his betrothed really loved the INNER him, and not just his $8/hour Radio Shack assistant manager’s salary. Whatever the motive, he was successful. Between his initial tux fitting and the wedding day he had to have his suit pants let out three times. His neck was thicker than my thigh. (Mike and Spouse are also devoutly religous, although I try not to hold it against them.)
For a wedding present, rather than cash (which would only be sunk into canolli, I’m sure), I penned this heartfelt opus and had it nicely framed.
(I wrote this in his bride’s voice):
My Biggest Love
Would Gluttony were no great sin!
So plaudits heaped upon the thin
Could stretch beyond their sallow skin.
And Heaven’s gate could open wide
To carry you, my Love, inside.
But rules He mad we’re bound to keep,
So next to you I vow I’ll sleep.
‘Tho it worries me that as your wife
I’ll have to use the Jaws of Life
To extricate you from your Jeep.
Some say your life will end in fire,
Some say ice.
From what I’ve seen of your desire
For tacos heaped as if a pyre
Tall as any steeple spire,
I side with those who favor fire.
But then I think of how you drink
Milkshakes seeming from a sink.
You’ve never, ever skipped a slice
Of some dessert you thought was nice
(or even had to be asked twice).
So now I side with those who argue ice,
As arteries do also close from sweets
And will suffice.
To show you the mettle he’s made of, Mike now has it hanging in a prominent spot in his broom closet. He’s still fat.
Unless this is your first time here, you’ll have read this list before. Maybe lots of befores.
And here it is again.
This is the pre-nup division-of-labor contract NewWifey(tm) and I agreed to the day before we got married:
I will do all the cooking, including shopping for said, and all cleanup afterwards. In return, NewWifey(tm) will mow the lawn, repair cars and motorcycles, shovel the drive in winter, do any house repairs needed, and take care of all paperwork and finances. (These were ALL her suggestions, btw. As she put it, “I will probably only have to re-shingle the roof every 15 years. YOU have to cook every fucking day. Sucker.“)
I hasten to add – yet again – that NewWifey(tm) is not a bad cook. It’s just that 1. She has to have a recipe, and it damn well better have pictures and quantities accurate to 1/64 of a teaspoon or it’ll be ruined, just ruined!, and 2. She haaaaaaaaaates cooking.
I, meanwhile, 1. used to be a snooty toque wearin’ French chef, and 2. still looooooove to cook despite that. And I don’t need no steenkin’ recipe.
For just over 15 years that list has been strictly adhered to, with only the rare exception due to illness or stint in jail (stupid paternity suits).
This is one of those exceptions. And not the jail one. Sorry.
Just before I went in for my elbow surgery 3 weeks ago I crammed our freezer to near bursting with stuff that could be easily microwaved and enjoyed for the duration, provided we doled it out prudently.
Of course, we did not dole it out prudently. I’ve been eating like a starving Sudanese refugee out of sheer boredom to the point where I can now see the back wall of our freezer. And I still have 3 weeks to go in the cast.
On top of that, NewWifey(tm) is getting antsy. She misses the sorts of dishes I didn’t make because they don’t freeze well. Things like fresh veggie things, steak, and especially
“Ricotta cheese” she said.
“Ricotta cheese?” I said. “You’re going to the store for ricotta cheese?!”
“Yeah. I gotta have something other than microwaved frozen paella, or daube of beef, again. I want a simple bowl of ricotta cheese with honey drizzled on it, maybe with some sliced almonds. And a peach.”
“Yeah, but, those tubs at the store go for something like 8 bucks now. And they’re terrible! I’m telling you, you’re gonna be really disappointed when it tastes nothing like mine. The plastic tub will probably taste better. Why don’t you just make your own?”
She looked at me like I’d just asked her to perform her own hysterectomy. “Are you nuts? Make cheese? From SCRATCH? Me?? Forget it. I’ll eat that plastic tub first.”
“No! NO!” I begged. “Really, it’s not complicated at all. Even you could -“…oops… “I mean, ANYONE could do it. You just heat some milk and a little buttermilk, add some acid, and poof! You’ve get a raft of pure ricotta cheese floating on top, ready to be scarfed.”
NewWifey(tm) looked skeptical. “Do you have a recipe?”
“As a matter of fact I do.”
‘Skeptical’ morphed into ‘incredulous’. “You don’t use recipes” she said.
“You’re right. But a while back someone asked me how to make it and I posted a step-by-step photo tutorial for them. I’ll send you the link. C’mon, give it a shot. We’ve got all the ingredients.”
It took a little more wheedling and massaging, but she finally, grudgingly, agreed to step out of her comfort zone and enter the kitchen for something other than a frozen daiquiri.
And what do you know, less than an hour later NewWifey(tm) was face down in a trough of warm, freshly made ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and sliced almonds. Five minutes later she was all over FB gloating about having mastered the “unbelievably complicated” process of making homemade cheese. With no help from her husband!
Whatever. If it saves me 8 bucks and keeps us from eating a tub of factory extruded glop, she can say whatever she likes.
Now then, should you care to try your hand at this incredibly UN-complicated curdish delight, I’ll post those very same pictures here, along with the original captions.
Do this! Refuse to get in the tub!
And here we gooooooooooooooooo………….
1. Mise en place: Gallon milk, ~2 cups buttermilk, 2 tsp. or so of salt, coupla tablespoons of plain white vinegar. Strict measurements don’t need to be adhered to – hot milk plus some acid and a bit of salt is gonna make ricotta whether you want it to or not. Also have a strainer, and some cheesecloth or muslin to line it (along with a deep bowl or pot to set it in), and a good heavy duty cooking pot. The most important ingredient here may actually be the thermometer:
2. In a heavy pot, place the milk and buttermilk over a medium heat and bring the temperature up to between 185 and 190. You should stir fairly frequently towards the end to keep the bottom from scorching (the pot’s, not yours). Gotta say, enameled cast iron is da bomb for this:
3. Once you’ve pulled the pot off the heat, stir in the vinegar and salt. Admire your manly-yet-delicate grip:
4. After about 10 minutes, give or take, the curdling starts to solidify. (If it doesn’t, add a good slug more of vinegar. There can be a fair amount of variation between batches of milk I’ve found, so play it by eye.)
The curds are large enough here that you can see they’re not falling through the gaps of my spider (skimmer):
5. Gently ladle the cheese into the muslin lined strainer (make sure the strainer doesn’t sit in water – use a deep enough pot). Let it sit for 5 – 7 minutes, but not much longer or it will get too stiff as it cools. Then just turn it out into a bowl:
6. That’s it! The difference between this and Cheese Factory Inc.’s “ricotta” is the difference between Charleze Theron and a bucket of tapir entrails. And you should – you MUST – try it while it’s still warm, with honey drizzled over the top and maybe some sliced almonds. Or I’ll hunt you down and force feed you some of mine:
See? It’s whey easy.
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