carbonel: (cat with mouse)
I'm hoping some of the foodies on DW can provide some inspiration.

On Monday, I made this recipe from Hello Fresh. It's ragu spaghetti with zucchini, and comes with a little bottle of pepperolio (which appears to be indistinguishable from my Chinese chili oil) to spice it up.

Both Lydy (who had a taste) and I agreed that it was edible, tasty even, but bland. This despite the fact that it had onions, fresh garlic, and a generous helping of Italian seasoning (containing garlic, black pepper, parsley, basil, and oregano), plus some of the pepperolio. I don't remember blandness being a problem the last time I made this recipe. This time, the Hello Fresh had a rather larger onion and zucchini than the time before, but that shouldn't have made a significant difference. The only other difference I can think of is that last time I was on my own, and I left the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes; this time, I was running late, and I only went with the minimum mandated 5 minutes.

I still have more than half of the spaghetti left, so if I can figure out what I can add to it to improve it, that would be nice. I would appreciate suggestions. I also have lots more of the Italian seasoning, since most of the recipes that use it call for half a packet. I have a decent but not luxurious spice shelf in addition to that.

I know that a lot of spaghetti sauce has some sugar in it, but I'm loath to add that without a strong recommendation. I can add more pepperolio, but spicy hot isn't necessarily a substitute for flavor.

Any other ideas?
carbonel: (Default)
I'm not sure why I've been on a minor bread-making kick, but I have. A few weeks ago, I fired up my bread machine, after several years of hiatus, using a recipe I found online. The innards of the bread was fine, but the crust was dry and boring -- kind of like Wonder Bread at quadruple thickness. Also, the bread machine makes a cube-shaped loaf that's not optimal.

Just before New Year's, I had visions of making a batch of Tassajara bread, because that recipe makes four loaves, and I had three events, which would leave one loaf for my own use. However, I had to work on December 31, and I ran out of time. (It has a proofing step and a couple of rising steps, so it's a major production in time, if not actually in work.)

At the New Year's Day potluck gathering at the Minnesota Weavers Guild (Roc Day or St. Distaff's Day, though those technically take place a week later), someone brought a delicious chewy loaf of bread. I asked for the recipe, and she sent it to me.

Unfortunately for my uses, it turned out to be a sourdough recipe. I've never tried doing a sourdough starter because I don't eat enough bread to make it worthwhile (and I shouldn't, either). But the recipe was also a no-knead recipe. I've seen those, but never tried one. I was curious, so I went a-googling, and found this recipe, which looked so simple it was almost embarrassing. Three ingredients, water, and an overnight proof/rise, then bake in an oven-proof container.

I still managed to screw it up a bit: the recipe calls for "whisking" the water into the dry ingredients. My whisk quickly got clogged up with gluey dough. So I added another quarter-cup or so of water to thin it enough to deal with. Turns out (once I rewatched the video) that I should have used a rubber scraper rather than a whisk. So my dough was wetter than it should have been -- but the bread still turned out well. I'm guessing that this is a very forgiving recipe.

I could have baked it another few minutes for a more golden-brown crust.

loaf of bread

But it's actually bread. Tasty bread, even.

slice of bread

And it toasts up really well.

This recipe is definitely a keeper. And next time, I'll do it with the correct amount of water. But if anyone has other simple bread recipes, I'd be interested in seeing them.
carbonel: (tivo)
Two more shows just got deleted from the DVR "record series" listing, both for terminal stupidity.

I'd been annoyed with NCIS: New Orleans for quite a while, but I had hopes when Pride (the putative main character) was promoted to a supervisory job and was replaced by a competent non-cowboy group head. But clearly he was a victim of the Peter Principle: bored in his actual job and always sticking his nose into his old job.

The other one was The Resident, which is a medical show on FOX. I'd been dubious from the very start, but the idiot series arc plot with the money-grubbing incompetent head surgeon (to be fair, he had once been competent, but was in denial about an incurable tremor) and the oncologist who made money by diagnosing and "curing" cancer in healthy patients had mostly resolved by the end of the first season, so I gave the second season a chance. Now we have an even more idiotic series arc plot about inferior medical devices. And in both cases, the people investigating had zero sense of self-preservation or knowledge of operational security. I mean, really -- if you're in a facility where people are placing items made in China into boxes that say "Made in USA," the first thing a sane person would do would be to take a video and send it elsewhere. But no, instead she immediately goes running to her boss, who obviously has a well-covered-up good thing going.

On the other hand, I'm enjoying two new shows, FBI and The Rookie, rather more than I expected. And in both cases, it's because they manage to have interesting plot lines while still depicting the characters as competent at their jobs, instead of bungling into problems that they spend most the episode getting themselves out of.

Manifest is still on the bubble, but that's mostly because of my conspiracy anti-kink. I'll be interested to see what happens after the most recent plot twist, where it turns out that the NSA guy that appeared to be some kind of mastermind has just been made aware that there's more going on than he knows about -- and he's in a better position to investigate than the poor shlubs who were on the flight.
carbonel: (Default)
I don't know if anyone is likely to find me, but just in case...

I read SF/fantasy and fan fiction (mostly Harry Potter and Pros) and occasionally post about it.

I spin (on a spinning wheel, not the exercise kind) and mostly post about that over on Ravelry (same handle) but occasionally here.

I haven't been as good about posting as I ought since the Great LiveJournal Migration, but I have good intentions, and maybe I'll manage to do something about them.

I never became active on Tumblr because the nonlinear aspect of it and the fact that it was so graphic-heavy just didn't appeal. But I was one of the copyeditors for the Tumblr and Fandom issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, and it was a fascinating glimpse into the subculture.
carbonel: (Farthing photo)
I've been back for a week and a half, and I finally caught up with reading DW. I'm still behind on Ravelry, and will probably have to declare bankruptcy on a number of threads, which I really hate to do.

I was on the long-planned cross-country train trip with Pat WINODW. We started in Chicago (having driven down there from Minneapolis) and took the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles. It wasn't as spectacular as the California Zephyr (which goes through mountains) would be, but it allowed us to take the Coast Starlight up the California coast to San Francisco, which was spectacular. After a couple of days in San Francisco, continued on the Coast Starlight to Portland. From there, it was the Empire Builder to Glacier National Park (the original inspiration for the trip), and then continuing on the Empire Builder back to Minneapolis. (Pat's father drove her car from Chicago to Minneapolis.) It was an amazing trip, and I'd love to do something similar with the California Zephyr and maybe the cross-Canada train. But next year, my mother wants to do a road trip to South Dakota and Yellowstone, so that will have priority.

Because of the train trip, I only got to the Minnesota State Fair once this year, as opposed to my normal two or three times. The day before I left was my only day to drop items off for the Creative Activities competition, which I did. I entered four skeins of handspun in the four classes: fur/hair, wool, silk, and art yarn. I won first place ribbons in the fur/hair category (a skein of white lace weight cashmere plied with white silk) and the silk category (a gradient skein spun from hand-carded silk). I also won the Weavers Guild "best fine yarn" award for the silk skein. The wool and art yarn skeins won fourth and third place ribbons, respectively.

I'm hosting our tea group this Saturday, which was probably a mistake because I haven't had time to do the amount of cooking I'd really like, what with catching up with everything else. I'm about to head out to go shopping, and will see what TJ's and Cost Plus World Market can save me from preparing myself. Thankfully, I did plan ahead sufficiently to have the monthly cleaning person in yesterday, so while the place is sadly cluttered, it is reasonably clean. I'm hoping we're still doing this four years from now when I'm retired, and (at least in theory) will have time to spend the week preparing.

And coming up in a couple of weeks is a three-weekend-in-a-row marathon: the Minn-stf fallcon, Scintillation (convention in Montreal), and a spinning retreat in Alexandria, MN. I'm really looking forward to all of them, but not to the recovery period afterward.
carbonel: (Default)
Has anyone done this? What has been your experience?

I think about buying a season pass for Valleyfair (Minneapolis area big amusement park) every year, but I never have. The cost is $100, which includes admission and parking, plus discount cost for an accompanying friend on some days. That $100 is about what it would cost for two admissions plus parking. I've never gone more than once in a season, but if I had a season pass, the incentive would be to make more use of it.

I find it interesting that the cost for the season fast pass (that lets you go to the front of the line) is more than twice the cost of the season pass itself ($225 or so). I'm not considering that one.

It's about a 20-minute drive from my house to Valleyfair, which is a little far (IMO) for an impulse jaunt, but I'm not sure how much that would affect me in real life.

ETA: I bought the pass last night. Still interested in hearing about Valleyfair (or other amusement park) experiences.
carbonel: (Default)
I've been subscribing to Hello Fresh for a couple of months now. This is a service where you pay for (in my case) three bags per week, with each bag providing sufficient materials for two meals.

Sometimes the instructions say to use only part of the ingredients. When they send two garlic cloves and say to use only one, I ignore that and use both. But today's menu (mushroom ravioli) came with a large onion and said to use only half. That worked out well with the balance of mushrooms provided. So I have half an onion.

Later in the week, a recipe for pancetta macaroni and cheese calls for using only half the pancetta. This is probably both for balance and to keep the calorie count under 1,000 calories. So I'll have two ounces of diced pancetta, unless I decide to go wild and toss it all in.

I know I could make a lovely omelet out of it, but I'm interested in doing something a bit more creative.

I also have a quarter-cup of panko crumbs left over from tonight's dinner.

Any suggestions for how I could use these? It seems like the obvious thing is to sauté the onions until they're soft, add in the pancetta and sauté both for a while and then add stuff. But what can I add that's interesting?
carbonel: (Default)
I do not have the shopping gene. I especially hate shopping for clothes. Even when I was skinny, I hated it, and now I'm fat (and mostly okay with that) and it's even more no fun.

But I have my nephew's wedding weekend that I'm leaving for in a week, so over the past month or so I've been trying to amass enough to have decent clothes throughout the weekend. (My mother asked me a couple of years ago why I tend to bring so many clothes when I come to visit. I told her the truth: I was forever scarred by her asking me one too many times, "Are you wearing *that*?" I learned to come with options. She did stop doing that eventually, but I'm still paranoid.)

I semi-jokingly asked [personal profile] lydy if I could borrow a dress of hers. Turns out it looks good on me, and she graciously offered to loan me Angel (long lovely Elise necklace) and matching earrings. I liked that dress, but was worried that a long dress would be considered inappropriate. So I made an appointment with a Nordstrom personal shopper. The shopper came up with a variety of things. One dress was acceptable, though I wasn't wild about it. It needed some tailoring, but when the woman from alterations came over, she said what was needed was one size smaller. So that was ordered, since it wasn't in stock. I also bought a couple of new bras. That was painless: my size and favorite brand/style was available.

On that same trip to the Mall of America, I wanted a new pair of casual shoes from the Rockport Store. Surprise! It was gone. So I went to DSW Shoes instead and found a pair of Naturalizers that were reasonably priced and felt good. I also looked at dress shoes. But I was pretty much shopped out by then, and had to be somewhere, so I left.

This was about two hours of shopping, and nothing to show for it regarding the wedding.

A few days later, I went to a local Marshall's. I was hoping to find white silk (or otherwise floaty) pants to be part of an outfit for the rehearsal dinner -- which, as I understand it, involves no actual rehearsal. They didn't have white, but they did have gaucho pants in black. A size larger than I normally wear, but looking acceptable. I also bought four short-sleeved tops, one of which is white linen and I think will work with the gaucho pants for the dinner. That was fairly quick -- about 45 minutes to spend $90.

The only problem is that the linen top is kind of see-through, so I'll need a camisole, which is something I've never owned. Today, I'm heading to Kohl's to see if the one on their website a) is available in my size, b) fits, and c) doesn't show when I wear the linen shirt.

I can wear the gaucho pants with another top for the Sunday brunch, so that's sorted.

Yesterday, I went back to Nordstrom because the dress in the smaller size was in. In-between, I'd checked with my mother, and she said a long dress was fine, so I wasn't going to buy the Nordstrom one unless it was perfect. It wasn't, so I got a refund on that. Then I went back to DSW Shoes for another try at dress shoes. I'm seriously hampered there because I have very flat feet (inherited from my father), and have trouble with heels, and really need some support. Ankle straps are in this year, which helps, but it seemed like everything I could stand was a matte suede, and I wanted something a little more partyish. My mother happened to text me, and I ended up chatting a bit with her about the shoe woes. She suggested that heels were optional, and had I looked at the flats? I went over there and found a pair of gold Roman-style sandals that fit and were reasonably comfortable.

I then went to Chico's for an attempt at white pants, but no luck. And after that, home again.

That was another three hours, though at least I had something to show for it.

And finally, finally, I think I'm set for what to wear. Except for the camisole, that is. All told, I got off pretty lightly in cost -- about $140 for the pants, tops, and pair of shoes. Plus another $70 for the casual shoes from the first visit, which will also go to St. Louis with me. I had a $10 off coupon from that DSW purchase that was applied to the gold shoes. Buying the gold shoes netted me $25 in coupons, so I'll probably be going back there before it expires at the end of June. I guess I've accepted DSW as my feudal overlord when it comes to shoe purchases.

And I really hope I'm done with shopping for the next year or so.
carbonel: Hang in cat (hang in cat)
Ants

Not giant ants from White Sands, but little ants that appear in the spring (un-tra-la). It's ant season. The problem with ants in my house is that I generally discover them by checking the dish of dry cat food and seeing that it's covered by a swarm of ants. No matter where I put the cat food dish in the kitchen, the ants find it.

I called the exterminator in a few weeks ago, and he spritzed his nasty stuff along the baseboards where I'd seen ants. That lasted for a couple of weeks, but now the ants are back. Apparently he can't do anything more permanent until the ground thaws more. The last time he dealt with the invasion, the treatment lasted almost four years.

In the meantime, the cat is learning to jump up to the chair where I've been putting the food. She really wants me to hoist her up there. We've compromised; I do it once when I first put food in the dish, but if she comes back later, she's on her own.

I'm hoping it'll be warm enough for a longer-term solution soon.

Waterbed

For the last week or so, I'd been sniffing something untoward in my hallway. I thought perhaps the cat had found a mouse and it had not been completely disposed of, but I hadn't found anything to account for the odor. Then on Saturday, as I was getting to bed way too late and just putting on the CPAP, I realized that the CPAP hose smelled untoward in a different way, like cat pee. But it wasn't cat pee. It was a leak in the waterbed, and apparently the leak had marinated enough to get entirely funky. I abandoned the bed, went to the office, and place and order for a new waterbed mattress, liner, and mattress pad. I made up a bed on the living room couch, and finally got to sleep around 3:30 am.

On Monday, Lydy came over, and we emptied the waterbed and managed to wrestle the slimy odiferous object to the trash. She is a hero. Luckily, the liner did its job, and nothing escaped. That also went into the trash.

The new mattress and liner have arrived, and once I vacuum the accumulated dust and fluff out of the waterbed frame, I'll be able to fill the new mattress and sleep in my own bed again. In the meantime, this sleeping on a couch and making up the bed every night is getting old quickly.

Hello Fresh

This is the quotidia part -- nothing has gone wrong so far. I signed up for Hello Fresh a couple of weeks ago. It's a service where you pick meals from a bunch of options, and get enough for a week. It's more cooking than I'm used to doing (and more dishes), but out of three meals, two have been winners and the third was okay. It's really intended for two people, but I am willing to eat the same thing two successive days, possibly for lunch the second time. If anyone is interested, I can give you a discount code and I get a bit of a kickback, but you can also get the same discount just by going to the website, I think.

Pat WINOLJ has been doing the vegetarian option of Hello Fresh for almost a year. The vegetarian version only has three options per week, so no choosing from a bunch of options. I wish it was possible to mix and match, because some of the veggie meals look tasty and more creative than the regular ones. But it's an either-or thing.
carbonel: (Default)
First, a bit of background.

I'm a spinner. There's a spinning magazine called Spin-Off that comes out four times a year. I recently bought CDs of most of the old issues of the magazine. I want to read the issues on my iPad. This requires copying the files from the CD to my computer, and importing them (via Dropbox) to my iPad.

When I put the CD in the drive (yes, my computer is old enough to have a CD/DVD drive), it takes a significant amount of time for the contents of the available directory to show (like five to ten minutes).

Once it finally appears, the actual files are hidden. Instead, there's a master PDF that shows thumbnails of the actual issues, and when I click on one of those, it opens up a PDF of the actual issue. At which point I can copy the individual issue to my computer, go back and repeat for all the issues in a given CD. As copy protection, this is pitiful. As a feature designed to annoy me, it works admirably.

But I can cope with this if I have to. It's the slow slow slow loading of the CD contents that's driving me nuts. At the moment, the CD has been sitting there over 10 minutes while I wrote this post, and the contents still aren't showing. There's a gray highlight that creeps across the top of the Windows Explorer box. I assume this has something to do with the indexing function. I looked at the indexing options, and the CD drive (e:) isn't in the list, which means that I can't figure out any way to turn it off. I have this problem with other drives as well, but nowhere near as extreme.

So --

1. Is there some way to deal with the slowness of Windows Explorer? I've googled for settings I can change, and didn't find anything helpful.

2. I went to a command prompt, and used the attrib settings (attrib -s -h -r /s /d *.*) to view the hidden files, but permission was denied to copy them. Is there a way I can do that? That would simplify everything. But I don't know how to run as administrator in DOS offhand.

Any help appreciated.
carbonel: (cat with mouse)
So in our last exciting entry, I had a flat tire, and my garage door wouldn't open.

I texted Greg to tell him what happened, and that I wasn't sure whether in some metaphysical sense it was all his fault. He called me back and said he'd be over in half an hour to see what he could do. An hour and a half later, he arrived. He checked the garage door opener, and said that the spring was broken, so there was nothing he could do -- I needed a proper garage door service company.

He then tried to use his compressor gadget to reinflate the flat tire so I could drive to the auto shop, but at this point it wasn't holding air at all.

So I set up an online request to AAA, asking for either a tow or a tire change. Three hours later, the AAA guy arrived and changed the tire. I gathered all my stuff for the party, and got in the car. It wouldn't start; the battery was just alive enough for the dome light, but not to start the car.

I called a friend who lived nearby to see if he could give a ride to the party, and it turned out he'd just arrived there. He offered to drive back and pick me up, but I told him that would be silly. I took an Uber there instead.

The party was lovely, and my peddernodder were well-received, so the day wasn't a total loss. Also, the local friends gave me a ride to my usual Tuesday night trivia game, which was still in progress.

Now I'm home again.

Tomorrow, Greg will come over again if he's willing, give the car a jump, and follow me to Bobby & Steve's auto shop. Otherwise, it'll be another request to AAA. Either way, I'm not driving that car anywhere else until it has a new battery and all four tires have been checked over and replaced as necessary.
carbonel: (IKEA cat)
I hope everyone had a pleasant weekend, with or without Christmas celebrations.

Mine was quiet but enjoyable. On Saturday, [personal profile] 1crowdedhour came over and we watched several episodes of The Great British Bake Off, including the 2016 Christmas masterclass episodes that fortuitously were in the right order at the right time.

On Sunday, I spent most of the day spinning, and watched the DVR'd Vikings game from Saturday (they won). I had my traditional December 24 (Erev Christmas) dinner at McCormick & Schmick's with friends. I also made chicken stock and a batch of peddernodder. It was my first time making them, but they turned out well. Though they're more properly peddernotter, I suppose, because the recipe calls for cardamom, and I discovered I didn't have any after being sure I did, so I substituted some clove and allspice instead. I'm very happy with them, and this is going to be keeper recipe.

On Monday, I spent most of the time spinning and reading Yuletide fan fiction. Greg, who has been storing his motorboat in my garage for the past several years -- and never actually used it -- finally sold it, so it's out of there. He still has a big thingie (something to do with trains) that's in there, so I still get to ask him for handyman help as needed. (I don't charge him, but he takes care of minor household emergencies in trade.)

I'm almost two-thirds done spinning the second half of the cobweb Shetland/silk that I started last Monday. If I had the rest of the week off of work, I could be sure I'd have it done before the end of the year. I'm still hoping I'll have the spinning done, but the plying is going to probably bleed into next year. There may be some difficulties with the plying, because I had a broken thread on the skein as I spun, and I think I connected up to the wrong bit. I hope I'll be able to find the other loose thread when I get to that point. It's really a challenge dealing with plying uber-fine singles.

Today, alas, it's back to work, and there's a bit of a speedbump. Yesterday, my left front tire was a bit low, and Greg used an air device to pump it up. This morning, it was totally flat. I'm not sure whether to hold Greg responsible or not. Also, my garage, which opened fine for me to drive out, wouldn't open again to let me back in. It goes up a few inches, then goes back down again. It's probably not actually Greg's fault, but everything was under control before he started changing things.

There's a Boxing Day party this evening, but only if I can get there.
carbonel: Hang in cat (hang in cat)
I'm back from my trip to Skokie, IL for a very family weekend. I took the train this time, which worked out amazingly well. The price was a bit less than flying would have been, and I was able to get about three ounces of lace weight spinning done on my miniSpinner during the two trips. Because the return train gets in at 10 pm, I came back on the Saturday train, giving me an entire Sunday to myself. Also a win.

On Wednesday, I took the train in, and was met by my mother at the station. After a couple of hours at her place, we went to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner and then to see a play: The Book of Will. It's about the people behind the creation of the Shakespeare First Folio, and it was excellent.

On Thursday morning, we went bowling. This is a tradition going back over 50 years that apparently started with mothers shoving husbands and kids out of the house so they could get all the cooking done. Now that things are easier, we get entire families. It's also a cold potluck brunch, with bagels and coffee and bakery items.We took up 14 lanes at the bowling alley.

When I got back, I watched the Vikings beat the Lions, which was very satisfactory.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was at my brother's and sister-in-law's in Skokie, IL. My SIL is a so-so cook and apparently cares more about no-fat and no-salt than she does about taste. The turkey was okay, but the baked sweet potatoes were not quite done and the cut-up oven-baked regular potatoes were leathery and she didn't have any salt on the table to put on them. The stuffing she put in the turkey was just barely moist enough to eat; the out-of-the-turkey stuffing was chunks of bread and celery, literally. There were also three kinds of quick bread, all dry. My guess is that she just left out whatever fat the recipe called for and didn't substitute. (I'd kept all of this to myself, of course, but the day after, my mother said something about SIL being a terrible cook, and that the no-fat thing probably had a lot to do with it.)

There was plenty to eat, though. My mother brought her wonderful ratatouille and cranberry sauce, my cousin brought raw veggies and homemade hummus for appetizers, and for dessert one person brought cut-up fruit, I brought oatmeal ginger bars based on an Australian flapjack recipe, and my mother brought apple and pumpkin pie from Costco.

There were nine of us there, family and friends. It was supposed to be eleven, but the two Chinese students my SIL invited via the Northwestern foreign student office never showed. SIL was disappointed, but the rest of us weren't. It's really hard to have nine people who've known each other for years have to try to make conversation with total strangers. I've been the total stranger, and I'm not fond of being on that end of things, either. I'd much rather be at a "widows and orphans" dinner where everyone is a total stranger to each other. There was also a certain amount of elephant-in-the-room about the fact that my oldest nephew wasn't there. He was married last year, and this year he spent Thanksgiving with his wife's family. My SIL was very gracious about it, but with a certain edge in her voice.

(Lest anyone misconstrue things: I like my SIL a lot, but we have different views about many things (not politics, thankfully). And she and my brother raised three wonderful sons, so mostly I just roll my eyes and keep my mouth shut.)

On Friday, I made my annual Black Friday pilgrimage to Lands' End when they opened at 8 a.m. and bought two turtleneck tops, a fuzzy half-zip top, and two chamois shirts (to replace the one that wore out). Unfortunately, they didn't have any black shirts, so I settled for navy and charcoal. I mostly wear them as layering overshirts, so neutral colors are good. I also bought four more turtlenecks at the online site. Everything was 50% off, and the total damage was around $150.

Then we had lunch at a local deli with my mother's Hadassah group. We were a little early, and my mother suggested we stop at a game store and asked if I recommended anything that the family could play. I suggested Apples to Apples. The store was sold out of the full version, but they had the smaller "to go" one, and she bought that. The clerk tried to sell her on Cards Against Humanity instead, but I decided that that would definitely be pushing things. Lunch for me was soup (mushroom barley) and a half sandwich (corned beef), and chocolate phosphate -- all things I don't get in Minneapolis. My innards rebelled a bit about them later, but it was worth it.

In the evening, we had my brother's family over for Shabbat dinner (including the missing nephew and his wife), and played Apples to Apples, which went well.

On Saturday, my mother and I puttered around a bit, then she took me to the train station in the early afternoon. The train trip was properly uneventful, and my car was in the parking lot where I left it. I got home shortly before 11 pm.

All in all, a very pleasant weekend, but a bit stressful with all the socializing involved for the introvert I am.
carbonel: (IKEA cat)
I tried updating everything I could, and the last thing I tried was a recent Java update. Last, because that apparently did the trick. I haven't tried the new game yet, but the old one is working properly now.

I thought Java was primarily for web-based use, but apparently not.
carbonel: (cat with mouse)
I recently purchased a hidden object game from Big Fish Games (please don't judge).

When I start the game, it appears to be loading, and the game icon appears in the taskbar, but all I see is a black screen for a second or two and then it returns to Windows. I've updated Flash and Shockwave, and tried adjusting the compatibility settings to run in XP-compatible mode, but nothing helps.

I'm running Windows 7 on a desktop machine. Given that this game is from 2011, there shouldn't be any system or compatibility problems.

I sent a query to BFG tech support, and they sent me the same generic links I'd already found and tried, plus a coupon code for a free game. Which is nice, but doesn't fix the problem.

But then the mystery deepened. I went back to one of my tried-and-true games that I've played several times, and it had the exact same problem -- it appeared to open properly, then bounced back to the Windows screen. I had no problem when I played it last, maybe a year or so ago.

The only general system thing I can think of that's changed is that I'm now running Sophos instead of McAfee as my antivirus program. But Sophos has been very discreet and well-behaved, so I'm wary about blaming that for the problem.

Any idea what the problem could be? And, of course, how to fix it?
carbonel: (Default)
Remember that song pair I was trying to remember some time ago?

It's by Pure Prairie League: "Falling In and Out of Love with You/Amie." Pandora played the first half today, and that jogged the memory.
carbonel: (Default)
First of all, I should say that I'm a fan of the Great Indoors. I don't garden, other than a couple of minor attempts at the previous house over 15 years ago. I tend to ignore what's outside the house as long as I can. But that finally became impossible this year.

I bit the bullet and decided that I needed to find someone who would do a complete makeover on the flora on the outside of my house.

The backyard was truly scary, having mostly been overgrown with thistles and weeds. In front and back, were a bunch of bushes and arbor vitae that were shaggy and overgrown. And, most annoying, a few years ago the next-door neighbors put in a fence, and there wasn't enough room for a lawn mower to get to the strip of grass left between the fence and the driveway. It kept getting overgrown with weeds and volunteer trees.

A few years ago, I hired a local landscaper on the recommendation of a friend. It wasn't a success. Instead of giving the place the makeover I expected, she just did general lawn work and minor cosmetic stuff until the money I allocated was exhausted. It looked good while she was working on it, but it was all top-level stuff. This time, I wanted something more, and I'm going to commit to keeping it up.

First, I tried getting an estimate from a guy who did “organic yard work” that another friend recommended. He wanted $150 to give an estimate (payable as work credit after $2K), and I agreed, though I really hoped it wouldn't get that high. Alas, I knew we weren't a good fit about the third time he said "this really isn't the sort of work I do" and was giving open-ended estimates of tens of hours at $65/hour. I was thinking I'd have to pay the $150 just to have him go away, but he got annoyed at me first, said we weren't a good match, and walked off. Best for both of us, really. He's just doing mowing for the friend, so a different order of job and money.

So I went searching on Craig’s List, and found someone with a small ad, but the magic words “overgrown yards no problem,” and he’s been great. He gave me an quote, and stuck to it. When he wanted to do work above the original estimate, he checked with me first (and I agreed). It'll probably be around $2K by the time he’s done, but I’m very happy with what I’m getting for it.

The shrubbery got trimmed back pretty severely, and looks much better. The backyard and driveway got all the weeds dug up. The driveway area is now covered it with ground cloth (allegedly good for 25 years) and three inches of river rock. It looks so nice now, and it should be a reasonably permanent solution. Yesterday was the first rain after the rocks got laid down, and they look lovely now that all the dust has been washed off.

The backyard has been leveled and had broadleaf weed killer added, and will get seeded this weekend. I bought a sprinkler, which I hadn't owned, and will have to be assiduous about watering it.

Now I need to find someone to do mowing and ongoing yard maintenance. I’m out of the yard guy’s regular zone, and I suspect he prefers large projects to maintenance in any case. I recommended him to Pat WINOLJ, and she’s going to give him more work.

Maybe I’ll try Craig’s List again. But if anyone knows of someone who's local and affordable, I'm happy to take contact info.
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Lydy was kind enough to bring back some medium oatmeal from England. I've tried Andy Leighton's parkin recipe with other forms, and none was ideal. (The steel-cut oats were a particularly interesting failure; they never softened, so I ended up with something crunchy and more candy-like.) Unfortunately, if there's a place to get medium oats locally, I haven't found it.

Anyway, I had a kilogram of medium oats, so I made parkin according to Andy's recipe. It's unlike most in that it doesn't call for flour, only oatmeal. I don't know what Andy would say about the results, but I was very happy with it, and gave some to Lydy, who also approved.

But the recipe (as originally posted at my request in rec.art.sf.fandom, IIRC) has a note at the end: "This version keeps very well, and is very nice after a couple of weeks wrapped in greaseproof paper (don't keep it in a tin or plastic container it dries out)."

Why should greaseproof paper (which I assume is equivalent to waxed paper) be more desirable than an airtight container? Is the high sugar content supposed to cause it to suck out moisture from the air?

This batch is just over a week old, and I haven't seen a noticeable change after storing it in a tin. If I make another batch, I'm tempted to experiment by leaving some open to the air, some wrapped in waxed paper, and some in the tin as usual. Assuming it lasts that long, of course. This recipe makes parkin with the approximate density of very tasty neutronium (so I cut it into small pieces), but it's very moreish.

I'll add the recipe below, just in case anyone is curious. I don't own a 7x10 pan (I think I converted all the units from the original when I put it in my recipe file), so I use a 9x9 one -- and that overflowed a bit. I might try a 9x13 one next time, and cook it for a shorter time.

(By the way -- back to that common language thing -- I was always curious why black treacle was an optional ingredient if it was treacle parkin. Then I saw an episode of Great British Bake Off where the technical challenge was treacle tart, and it called for golden syrup. Apparently golden syrup is considered light treacle in the UK, and molasses is black treacle.)

Andy Leighton's Treacle Parkin

16 oz Golden Syrup
8 oz Butter
24 oz Medium Oatmeal
8 oz Brown Sugar
2 tsp Ginger (if you like lots of ginger add another tsp)

Warm the Golden Syrup and butter until just melted and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Grease a medium tin (about 7" by 10"), and throw the lot in a low oven (gas mark 2, 300F) for 2 hours. It is done when it springs back when touched, although don't be worried if it is a bit underdone and gooey in the middle.

Note: the above recipe is more or less how I (Andy Leighton) make Parkin, although sometimes I use less sugar and a bit more oatmeal -- I just throw approximate measures in and go from appearance. You can use half golden syrup and half black treacle if you want a more treacley taste. This version keeps very well, and is very nice after a couple of weeks wrapped in greasproof paper (don't keep it in a tin or plastic container it dries out).
carbonel: (cat with mouse)
Or possibly the flu. Normal people don't run a fever when they have a cold, but this is the thing where my brain turns to fuzz and my temp goes up to 102 or so. (Only 101 fondly Fahrenheit right now, but the evening is young.) I haven't been able to contemplate food all day, though I'm trying (not very successfully) to remain hydrated.

In the absence of someone to make chicken soup for me, I think I'm going to call the local Chinese restaurant that delivers and order some wonton soup.

I guess Lydy wasn't noncontagious on Friday after all.
carbonel: (Default)
The guy from Standard Heating came and installed the replacement fan, and the house is gradually cooling down from 86 degrees F (currently at 84F). That was $500, plus the earlier visit for $99.

The yard work guy (John) has made significant inroads in the my front yard, which is actually the least of the problems, but it already looks so much better. He also suggested some extra work for an additional $300, which comes as no surprise whatsoever, but which I think will be worth it. He did what he calls a California cut on my (IIRC) arbor vitae, which looks much cleaner, but sort of weird, but I approved him doing it for the rest of the shrubbery. He's going to do my gutters as well, which definitely need it. My next-door neighbor had a chat with John, and is (according to John) entirely approving of what's going on.

This is going to be an expensive week (including Ron the Sewer Rat for $160 last week), but at least I'm seeing results.

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