Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Because I am a lamecake, I didn't buy tickets to the local adult Halloween party (the Stardust Ball). I made up for it by dressing up at work. I am a sparkly fairy princess with Tinfoil wings!

And shoes I bought in Nice a lifetime ago. Oh, and a duct tape wand. Yay! recent picture of me that's not in the field covered with durt (dirt).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Octobers

I know I've crabbed about how slow and dumb people (me) get in the winter. What you may not know is the stupidity gets turned on October 26. Like a lightswitch. Monday was officially the first day of winter for me. I got a reasonable amount of sleep the night before, but I just couldn't drag my rear out of bed before 7:30. The absence of morning light just encourages hibernation.

No matter how much sleep I get or how early I go to bed, I don't wanna get up. It is just so hard (*sob*). It is not seasonal affective disorder (SAD), because I'm not depressed. Or maybe it is because all I want to do is stay in bed and watch Monarch of the Glen. Who knows. These brain cobwebs make me say and write incredibly stoopid things. At home, it's not a big deal. At work, it's slightly a bigger deal. If I didn't have to function at work, I would just go with it and really revel in the strange mind space. Unfortunately, the good people who employ me actually expect me to function for at least the time they pay me for (minus breaks).

I hear exercise helps. I guess it's time to start running again. Maybe I need a happy light. or some Dawn Therapy. Perhaps just a strict bacon diet.

Totally off subject: Ever been confronted with the 4 Generations In The Workplace talk? Here at my Congressionally-mandated PC workplace we had a training on this very subject. It sort of turns out that I am everyone's example of Generation-Y. (I did not attend the training, I had actual work to do.) Strange things afoot here in this office. We are all intergenerationally sensitive now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rhubarb cake

Talking to my mom one day (Hi, Mom) we started in on all the stuff I grew this past year. She began reminiscing about some sort of rhubarb cake her grandma used to make. A thin, moist cake studded with diced rhubarb. I decided I needed the recipe because, hey, I grew an absolute crap-load of rhubarb this year. And, my great-grandma was awesome.

Not that I remember her, I visited back in '82 when I was a three-year-old curly haired thing. What I have are all the stories my mom tells about Grandma Viola. Gosh, she was a salty no-BS woman. I think I would have adored her.

This cake, it turns out, it terrific! It is a really simple brown sugar cake made from both shortening and butter. (The recipe says 1/2 cup shortening, part butter). I think they used a lot of shortening in rural Wisconsin back in the day. I prefer buttery butter, but I'm willing to cede to my elders. It also only contains 1 egg, in typical frugal midwestern manner. (Also, I've been sort of fascinated with Vegan baking and think I could successfully convert this recipe, maybe.) The rhubarb is folded in at the very end. A topping of white sugar and cinnamon was sprinkled over the top.

It was very nice. I'm making it again tonight with come cod thingy. Photo!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Someone at JoE is getting cute

Ok, so JoE is The Journal of Ecology. As a nerd (and certified scientist) I read a lot of journals. I would list them all but I don't want you to nod off before I get to the punchline. Two articles in Vol 97 Issue 6 are:

"Socialism in soil? The importance of mycorrhizal fungal networks for facilitation in natural ecosystems"

"Parasite-grass-forb interactions and rock-paper-scissor dynamics: predicting the effects of the parasitic plant Rhinathus minor on host plant communities"

Right? Crazy! This is what passes for comedy in my dork-sphere. But honestly, have we really evaluated the political structure in the complex microbial relationships in the soil? Do we really understand school-yard hierarchy of the grass-forb communities?

Oh my gosh I missed one:

"Parasitic plants as facilitators: more Dryad than Dracula?"

Who are these people?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chez money pit

It has been an amazingly beautiful fall. Clear, cool days in September and October are the rarest of gems here. Typical fall weather is continuous rain under overcast skies that effectively shorten the day by 2 hours. Saturday we couldn't resist cleaning up the yard and putting the garden to bed instead of insulating the house. (I sort of am hating fiberglass.)

Yes, insulating. It is a step that means we have installed all the plumbing, heating, venting, electrical, and av systems. It means we can close up the walls and being to heat the place. The house part of our building has been an unheated since it was erected in 2006. I am excited.

The above picture is one of the 2 manifold banks for our supply plumbing. We're using pex in a home run configuration. It saves on copper soldering and there are no fitting that can break in the walls (we hope). Soon this will all disappear behind insulation and drywall. Soon there won't be exposed studs, just nice clean walls.


Until then, we'll continue to hemorrhage money at the local hardware store. Actually, we'll be bleeding into them much after drywall. IT NEVER ENDS. Gah. until there's drywall we have to spend glorious days like this past weekend inside rather than camping in the alpine in our new tent. Boo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Demi Glace

I am, how you say, French. Well, half french. And that half likes to make unnecessarily complicated french food. It's the best kind of french food. I have a huge Larousse Gastronomique that I read most Saturday mornings over coffee. Aren't the photos of the British, French, and American cow dissections neat? Love.

As a french, I look at all the typical Alaskan bounty (Salmon, Halibut, Venison, Berries) and try and frenchify it. Talking roast venison a la bonne femme. Or Salmon amandine. Easy peasy. Next on my list is making Demi Glace out of the long deer bones (legs).

Demi Glace is a thick reduction of meat broth typically made with beef or veal. Like meat jello/jelly. It used to be thickened with roux but nouvelle cuisine reduces the broth to a syrupy glaze. I made my first stab at broth over the weekend not wanting to do up Demi Glace because it needs to simmer for 12-24 hours. Had to get the broth right first. (Also, wild game has a tendency to go gamy and really stink up the whole house. Gotta prevent that)

So, early Sunday morning me and the husband tried to saw apart the two leg bones with: a pruning saw, a pixie knife, and finally the saw attachment on a leatherman. Guess who's getting a bone saw soon! With the bones all cut up, they and some carrots, an onion, bay leaf, parsley, and some thyme went in the crock pot to simmer away. (Next batch will use a leek and the bouquet garni will include leek greens. No leeks in Sitka last weekend.) It happily simmered while I unhappily insulated the ceiling next door. Also, I merrily skimmed the globules of fat. urk.

About half way through the simmering, I added a small can of tomato paste. Supposedly this "intensifies the flavors and color." I'm not 100% on the paste. The house smelled heavenly, like hearty broth and not nasty roadkill (as some wild game stews I've been exposed to). I guess I could have strained and reduced the broth right then, but I really wanted to eat it. Eating things are the real test of their goodness.

Next morning I threw some beans and diced venison shanks in the broth and let it cook all day. (Yes, crock pots feel as silly as hot dish but I don't really want to burn down my incomplete house yet.) After adding a little salt, this stew/soup was amazing. Way more complex than the usual crock pottery we eat. The soup was hearty without feeling like a slug of food was sitting in your gullet. No one flavor overpowered any other flavor, they were all pretty nicely balanced.

Now we just have to get another deer so I can make real Demi Glace.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Claudes: Norse discover America

Let it be known to all that we don't have cable, so all knowledge of movie comes from 1) me reading the Internet or 2) previews on movies we rent or netflix. The previews from Big Man Japan (not as awesome as a movie about an expanding superhero battling monsters with combovers should have been) we saw the preview for Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America. The preview was a series of shaky action shots interspersed with a long-haired Blond dude chopping down a tree. In the old Norse way.

My husband immediately demanded I netflix it. Ever the submissive wife, I did his bidding.

It was not good. Like really, really not good. Like strangling a chicken and watching a dude take a dump in the woods not good. Also, not making any of that up. I never thought a movie featuring Vikings could be so boring. It was yawningly boring.

The story, if you could call it that, follows 2 Norse warrior men in "Vineland" (the land of wine and natives we now call Vermont) left behind after a battle. These men, Blond and Dark, have some sort of Norse names but we never hear them so they will be Blond and Dark. The movie is broken up into chapters, because we the viewers are too stupid to understand how movies work. One title card is on the screen for a minute and a half and features Blond headbanging--in the old Norse way of course.

Blond, being awesomely viking

Blond and Dark set to making a camp and fixing their situation. They whack at trees for like 10 minutes, through a nauseating NYPD blue herky-jerk "Gritty" filter. It's like they shot this thing with the video option on a digital camera. Like a 2.5 mega pixel one. BAD.

Blond carves a spear (out of a 4 inch diameter tree) to stab fish. We wondered how big the fish were if they needed a spear that beefy. Pretty big, actually. Blond gets a salmon. They roast it over a fire, eating the fatty meat with all the grooming you might expect of the Norse: Open mouth chewing, food falling out of said mouth, face smeared with grease. We're treated to the old Norse for "that fish is killer" and "Don't eat it all, I killed the f*cking fish." Plus the old Norse is dubbed with completely wrong sounding voices, and it's hard to understand. Think the Wah-wah of the adults in every Charlie Brown cartoon but deeper, and with menace. Then record that on a tape player hidden in your pocket. And digitize that recording to replay over the shaky screen.


The other gritty survival activity we are treated to is the writer/director/star takes a wicked crap right on screen for us. They even manged to set the digital camera on a tripod to lovingly record this feat. No shaky cam for the gritty reality of poopin' in the woods.

Now, Blond and Dark have very different personalities. Dark's sister wanted to be a Christian and had a Christan boyfriend that made her a little straw cross necklace. Dark's on the Odin train so he killed the sister's beau. Sister stares at him then jumps off a cliff to her death. Poor, Dark. Such Baggage. also, FORESHADOWING

The Norse duo decide to walk north, back to their people. So they go on a 2-dude pillage streak up the coast of Vermont. They cut down a lot of trees, so enamored were the film makers with axes and trees. Eventually they stumble on a monastery and 2 runaway monks. What are benedictine monks doing in Vermont in 1100? They were slaves of the Norse and now they are on the run. How's that for an answer! Blond hates the monks. So he takes off after the younger monk (called monk #2 in imdb) and Dark takes after slightly fatter, older monk. Blond kills his monk and returns to eat all the eggs and kill a chicken, graphically. Dark can't bring himself to kill his old monk (because of his sister...BACKSTORY). He lets the monk go.


Dark then kills a chicken too, not killing builds an appetite. Burning of the "church" and chopping down the cross complete this chapter about pillaging (Chapter 4).

Off on more of their glorious nature walk through a lovely Vermont, er Vineland, country side. Dark stops at a stream to get a drink and wash his memories of the horrible monk trauma. Who's that staring at Dark? Why, it's old monk! Stupidly following the vikings on their journey. Monk thinks that not killing him=friendship.

Now is when I dozed off for a bit. The description talks about a seduction of some sort. So I'll assume a unicorn seduced a parrot into speaking old Norse in a RenoSmokerVoice. And there was someone that looked Vaguely Native doing some Vaguely Native things. I'm guessing one of them chopped a tree down too.

I awoke to find that Dark and oldMonk became friends! Their star-crossed friendship was cut short by Blond killing the oldMonk, you know, for Odin. Blond and Dark are still friends, of a sort. They sit together and grunt.

Finally, sad, sad Dark wanders into an opening where a Native (complete with feather) shoots him with an arrow. Blond builds him a raft, sets said raft on fire and pushes him out to see, like any good viking. Blond continues to hike north, eventually falling over in the snow and dying.

I'm left with a lingering question (yes, just one): did the vikings have arrows or spears? How did the natives kick their butts so soundly? All other accounts have the vikings as fierce warrior crazy killers, but here they just couldn't hack it? Was it all the trees (because the Norse were used to tundra)? Superior numbers on the Native side?

I encourage you to google Severed Ways and read the reviews. They are more interesting than this movie.