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Archive for October, 2007

I survived midterms. Sort of. I had two exams- one I did very well on, the other very badly. In my Anatomy class I had missed several classes because of a two-week-long black period, so I studied my ass off to make up for my missing lectures. I ended up with a 95%. Woot! My Chemistry exam is another story. This exam marked our transition from general chemistry to organic chemistry.  Literally, three chapters were general chem and the last one was organic. Yeah, I underestimated how much there was to memorize- gas laws, chemical structures, hydrogen bonding… it was awful. I missed half the questions. I had no idea what I was doing, I guessed on a lot of the questions. And to add to the bomb, I had to pee REALLY BADLY during the exam. I could hardly concentrate because my body was quivering with the need to PEE. God, am I an idiot! First, I stay up late “studying” (aka knitting and watching TV) then I take a FUCKING NAP on the day of my exam because I stayed up all night. Then I drink two cups of coffee before the exam and forget to pee BEFORE I LEAVE THE HOUSE. Jesus Christ! It’s ridiculous even to me.

So, my 97% fell to 82% with one exam. To get an A, I’d have to achieve 98% or better on all the remaining exams and projects for the rest of class. Basically, I’ve come to terms with a ‘B.’ Well, I came to terms with getting a ‘B’ AFTER eating half a gallon of Xtreme Moose Tracks ice cream. Now, if only the nursing program acceptance committee is okay with me having a B…

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Have you ever had a friend who thinks they’re a really great cook? They go on about grey salt and eating local and the beauty of rustic Italian cookery and then when you taste their food it actually kind of sucks? Yeah, I think I might be turning into that friend. Last night I ruined a perfectly innocent dish and about $25 worth of ingredients. It was edible, but nothing I ever want to eat again.

I love Cook’s Illustrated. They don’t just throw in something to make the recipe flashy, there is a reason why X ingredient exists in Y recipe. Without X, Y wouldn’t be a harmonious whole. Or so I thought. The last few CI recipes I’ve used have been duds. Or, it’s just me. There are two ways a CI recipe can go: 1. The recipe is easy-peasy with logical method and a simple list of ingredients or 2. The chefs at CI over analyze recipes to the point that the recipe becomes overly complicated, with too many steps, a menagerie of ingredients and a circus act of recipe execution.

Last night I cooked Beef Stroganoff from the Jan/Feb 2002 edition of CI. My favorite ’70’s holdover. I have very fond childhood memories of snarfing down my mom’s stroganoff that she made with cheap cuts of beef, tinned broth, “Lite” sour cream and .79 cent bags of egg noodles. Delicious stuff. I made CI’s recipe using $20/lb. beef tenderloin, 12 ounces (!!) of button mushrooms, luscious full-fat sour cream (I’m never eating Lite again!!), expensive German-imported noodles and a host of other ingredients. Quite a mise-en-place actually, for such a simple dish. That should’ve been my first tip off.

First of all, there were way too many mushrooms and not enough beef- the recipe calls for equal portions of both (12 oz.). I personally would’ve halved the amount of mushrooms and doubled the amount of beef. Secondly, while tenderloin is butter soft, there wasn’t a lot of beef flavor from the meat. I would go with a cut with more heft. The recipe instructed me to saute the mushrooms, remove them to a bowl, saute the beef, remove them to the bowl, deglaze with beef broth, reduce, and pour that over the mushrooms and beef. Geesh. Then, the recipe instructed me to saute a finely minced onion with a TBSP. each of brown sugar and butter, and and a teaspoon of tomato paste until the mixture lightly browned. This mixture produced a very bitter and yet overly saccharine quality to the final dish which I found so unpalatable that the meal was almost inedible. Finally, I added flour, white wine and chicken broth to the onion mixture to create a sauce, added the mushroom-beef mixture, and finally the sour cream. I would’ve included a larger amount of sour cream (a measly 1/3 c.). In the end, I was scrambling to correct the too- sweet and bitter qualities with salt and paprika before the sour cream curdled. After I served the meal, I returned to the kitchen and added more and more sour cream to my plate until the bitterness in the dish was reduced and I could finally eat it.

What would I do differently? First, I’d use about 4 oz. of mushrooms and 1 1/4 lbs. of beef. I’d still start out the recipe by sauteing the mushrooms and removing them, as they leech a lot of water. But, I’d saute them with the onions. Then I’d fry up the beef, add flour and deglaze with the wine and broth. I’d then add the sour cream and be done. No brown sugar, no tomato paste and hopefully, no bitter carmelization that made this dish so horrid.

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I turn 25 tomorrow (10 October). Here are a few things I’d like to avoid in the next 365 days:

1. Making Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Last year I spent $$$ on a hand-selected cheese table that I researched for months and in two instances had special ordered (“That ash-rubbed, cave-aged goat’s cheese from the south of France sure doesn’t taste like Kraft!!”), a case of Beaujolais Nouveau I schlepped home AT MIDNIGHT on Thanksgiving morning after harassing my local sommelier to hand it over, and rolled wee little truffles for two hours just so my pinheaded uncle could complain that they’re too CHOCOLATE-Y and he wuzn’t eating any! Oh, and BTW, fuck you, Aunt K who exclaimed in horror to her husband that I had no DIET COKE and that she couldn’t drink wine with her meal, it’d taste funny! I have no idea who’s hosting Thanksgiving this year, but it sure as hell isn’t me.

2. The subject of travel, Texas, tooth repair, great deals at Big Lots, what I could’ve done with that old hand towel, or garage sales with my grandparents. I know, Grandpa, that I’ve been to New Orleans before, and yes, it would be like seeing a movie twice, but I’m still going. As much as I’d love to agree that a $3 house tour in Galveston, TX would be so much better and culturally-enriching that revisiting a centuries-old, beloved city, but I’m going to have to pass. And I’m sure that the river canal in San Antonio is just like the ones in Venice. And yes, if ever I need dentures, I’ll be sure to look into permanent tooth caps from your 85 year old dentist. And damn, if only you knew that I was in the market for an oil-heater from 1978, you could’ve bought one for me- like new!– at that fantastic garage sale just down the street for $3. No, no, no, no, and no.

3. Errand running with my mother. This is a periennial mistake of mine. My mother cannot a.) leave the house before 1 PM, and b.) go anywhere and be back in less than 3 hours. My mom gets up at 8:30 every morning, drinks her coffee, gets in the shower, and proceeds to watch 4 hours of daytime TV. The Today Show, The View, Regis and Kelly- all of them, she watches. She even TiVo’s Martha so she can watch it in the afternoon. It drives me crazy. For example, today I didn’t have class because I’m on fall recess. I get up and fart around, get in the shower and start to get ready. I tell her that I’m going to the pet store to get some dog clippers. My mom leans over the computer and yells, “Oh, I’ll go with you! I need to return something.” That was at 12:30. Okay, I tell her, but I want to leave in 10 minutes. Okay, all I have to do is get dressed.

Cut to 3PM. My mom has called her mortgage company complaining about some insurance charge, made pancakes and burned some “berry compote” she forgot on the stove (this happens about once a week), visited with my grandmother, and is still in her housecoat. I’ve knit 3″ on a sleeve, watched a movie, and gone to the bathroom twice waiting on her. I’m so pissed.

We finally leave and I want to be home by 4 so I can study. She can’t find her receipt after pawing in her purse for 10 minutes and the store has no clippers. I’m ready to go. “Oh, can we just stop in Marshall’s for a minute?” I always lose my mother in Marshall’s. It’s like a blackhole for mothers. I have to call her cell phone, she won’t answer because she doesn’t want to waste minutes talking to me in the same store so I get her messagebox, and we waste another hour of my life in some shit store because she was “looking for a purse.” GODDAMMIT WOMAN.

We finally get home at 7 pm, we have to visit my sick grandfather for an hour, make dinner, attempt to groom the dog while watching “Dancing with the Stars,” (there is now white fuzz covering every surface of my living room) and before you know it it is 11 PM and I haven’t studied at all and it all started at 12:30 PM when I wanted to run to the pet store when my mom was on the computer.

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I really don’t like children. If I see a woman who is dragging around a bunch of kids, I take a moment and thank G-d that I’m single. I judge parents by their ill-mannered kids, something I wish I didn’t do. I just wish people didn’t procreate so much.

I live in Midwestern America, where there are a lot of families with 3 or more children, all lined up in a row like matryoshka dolls. Why so many? I can understand two kids- you’re replacing yourself and your spouse. But 4, 5, 8 children? I don’t get it. My friend E comes from a family of 4 kids, she’s the oldest. She told me a few weeks ago she always thought she wanted 4 kids like her Mom, but now she’s unsure. I have three siblings and I have always felt like I wanted no children. I feel like having so many children is a little greedy. There are too many people on Earth and no enough resources.

I don’t think babies are cute, I don’t think their mannerisms or poopy diapers are adorable. I think babies are stinky, soggy little humans. They have their good moments. I watched my nephew for a few days and I had some fun. I love him, he’s family, but being around him- and he’s a really good baby- made it that more obvious I am not maternal. My mom was talking baby talk to him, blowing raspberries on his stomach and tickling him while she changed his ever-poopy diaper. Man that kid can poop. Mucus-y, green, smelly poop five, six times a day. When I changed him I was all business, trying to keep him from rolling over and smearing the poo on his back and front. No baby talk, no raspberries. Just me trying not to vomit on a six-month-old. And did I mention how soggy he is? He drools constantly, and smears it all over his hands and face, making his appendages clammy. Ew.

I am the only grandchild on my mother’s side that hasn’t procreated. I don’t know if that makes me the pathetic one or the smart one. Given that they’re all divorced and living back at home, I’m leaning towards the smart one.

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Here for the duration

It’s midterm time here at Late Night Knitting. Fall recess to be exact. Two exams next Tuesday and Wednesday. Had my Lab Practical on Thursday 4 October. 95%, thankyouverymuch. I was so depressed leaving the lab after the exam, I hung my head and scuffed my feet, believing for the world that I had bombed, and would have to drop the course, pick another major and live with me Mom for the rest of my life. A little dramatic, but I really felt that badly about it. Then, Friday evening after a day of hard labor standing around like a twat, I viewed my score and did a happy little dance. HUZZAH!

So, these next few days I need to FOCUS. I have to slog through the rest of the gas laws for Respiration. I missed three classes during my black period (in which I sat around in my nightie eating cereal and ice cream watching reruns of “The Nanny” and “Scrubs”) and I desperately need to get a 95% or better on this exam. 17 October is Exam II in Chem., over, coincidentally, gas laws, states of matter, and solutions, chemical reactions and hydrocarbons. Christ, am I behind. I have only read 50% of the material.

Knitting has been slow. On the Cascade cardigan, I am 50% done with the second sleeve, then I need to block, steek and knit applied i-cord along the opening, then attach either a zipper or hooks and eyes. I was going through my stash the other day, and the only yarn I have a sweater amount for is Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora that I bought during my NOOB period of manic buying. I have 20 balls of the stuff! Knowing what I know now (hindsight and all that), Cotton-Angora is such a bad choice for a plus-sized woman. The cotton sags and is terribly heavy, especially on a 48″ frame, and the angora is hot and itchy. I think I paid $4/ball for it, and now that is about what it is going for on sale. So, I don’t know what to do- I don’t really want to make a sweater out of it, because my arms hurt when I knit with it, it will pill badly, and I’ll look dumpy in a saggy, heavy sweater. But, I wouldn’t get a profit off of selling it.

My stash is such a mess. Why do I have so much sock and lace yarn? I have enough yarn for 10 pair of socks, and a dozen shawls. I suck at finishing socks- I always knit one and then find some reason to not knit the other- the heel flap is too long, the leg too tight, etc. And shawls, well, I get bored and move on to worsted weight. And lets not talk about all the odd balls I have roaming around! Apparently I can’t leave the sale bin without buying the lonely skein of this or that.

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