O rly?

No-spam

I get a lot of spam coming in on this blog, but my spam blocker catches 99.99% of it.  It does allow me to look over most of what comes in just to make sure it’s not a false positive, and I’ve been perturbed and a little confused by what I read on the spam page.  That’s pretty much given way to amusement, though, and I figured what the hell?  Why not share some of the funnier ones with you?  So here are the texts to a few of the spams I found in my spambox today:

“Wonderful paintings! That is the type of info that should be shared across the internet. Shame on the search engines for now not positioning this put up upper! Come on over and consult with my website . Thank you =)”

Damn Google…

“Hi my family member! I want to say that this post is awesome, great written and include approximately all vital infos. I would like to peer extra posts like this.”

I’m fairly certain we’re not related.

“I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether or not this publish is written by him as nobody else realize such exact approximately my problem. You are wonderful! Thank you!”

No, this publish is not approximately written by your cousin.

“????????? ????????? ? ?????????”

?

 

Get It Out and Let It Go Day

Nothing says holiday magic like a giant burning down your house.There’s always a lot going on these days.  This morning I found out about Get Your Words Out and went to sign on only to find that it’s closed to new members.  Okay I get that; it’s about what you write in a year.  But if I make my goal, say, 100k words in however much is left of the year then it’s a goal, right?  It’s not a contest, but a way of pushing myself to be productive on a month-to-month basis.  Anyway, I decided that I didn’t matter if membership was closed.  I set a goal of 150k for 2012, and I’ll be tracking it on the new spreadsheet I created earlier.

 

Why only 150k?  Well, a couple of reasons:  First, I’ve already made it my goal to do a short story a month.  If I do that, I’ll probably do 150k pretty handily and yeah, I should push myself more, but the thing is, I have other projects that I’m working on.  I have to revise the sequel to Suffer the Little Children and see if I can find a home for it.  (Depending on how long I think it’s going to take, I may send it to the same place I’m sending the Scrooge book.  More I will not say about that right now.  I don’t feel like jinxing myself.)  In any event, I don’t want to be unrealistic about what I can and can’t do.  I want to do NaNoWriMo this year, do it properly in spite of the editing job which really slams me in November, and if I do, that’s a third of my goal right there.  If I do, if I manage it.

 

So after I did some paperwork, I girded my loins and went out to the kitchen to do some more cleaning.  I have the remains of a rotisserie chicken in a pot of stock that I have to dismember as soon as it’s cool, and a quart of yogurt in the oven.  It has about an hour to go before I need to take it out and strain it.  But I also really, really needed to do a load of dishes, so I finally cleaned out the fridge.  That’s when it occurred to me that I was doing all this on the last day of the month, and I thought: How perfect.  I couldn’t join Get Your Words Out, but I can have a get it out day anyway.

 

I’m declaring that the last day of each month is going to be my Get It Out Day.  What that means: I clean out anything that’s been in the fridge too long.  I put away any story that’s been kicking my butt for too long.  I stop reading any book that has been dragging on for too long.  I make sure my kitchen is clean, I make sure all my garbage is out, I get the last words of the month written, the last story of the month finished, and anything that’s finished and hasn’t been earmarked for something special gets sent to a publisher.  Eventually I’ll reach the point where I can make sure that by the end of the month I have all the chores finished for at least that day.  Maybe.  I’m not going to kill myself doing this.  That’s not what Get It Out Day should mean for me.  It should mean doing things that really need doing.  Getting rid of stuff that’s been around for too long.  Lightening the load, not making it heavier.

 

Get It Out Day can be a lot of things.  Today I very nearly started a fight with an idiot on a local forum.  He deserved a slap-down, but my snark got axed by one of the moderators.  I gave her grief for it and asked what I could say that wouldn’t get pulled, and she advised me to let it go.  I didn’t like the idea.  I wanted to get it out, get it off my chest, give the moron what he had coming to him and not let him think he won a point on me.  Man I hate that.  I hate that in myself I hate it in other people, that inability to let things go, to let others think that maybe they’re right when I know they’re not. (Or think they’re not anyway, which amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?  Yeah, you know it does.)  When I see other people doing it, I roll my eyes and think “What the HELL is wrong with you, just let it go! Stop being so tiresome.”  I’m actually thinking that Get It Out Day is a good time to sit back and force yourself to get rid of the resentment that’s built up in the last month.  Refuse to engage in arguments no matter how righteous they seem.  They rarely are.  I need to Get It Out of my system.  I need to Let It Go.

 

Maybe Get It Out Day will prove to  be a good day to pay bills.  I scheduled payments today to pay off my Christmas debt.  It felt good even though it left me that much poorer.  The money was spent anyway, who am I kidding.  I need to stop thinking that I have what I don’t have.  I need to Get It Out and Let It Go. And right now I feel like I want to scream into a pillow because this is freakin’ scary.

 

Cuisinart, the sequel

So I took that photo, the one I posted online, and I attached it to an email to Cuisinart customer service basically saying to them what I said in my post.  How I didn’t really mind shipping the pot to them at my expense, but not the postage for a new pot should it prove to have been a manufacturing defect. (Which I knew it was; I don’t use my pots to put up picture hooks.) I also mentioned that their customer service rep might want to learn to alter his tone if he doesn’t want customers to come through the phone line to strangle him.

Today I got a response:

“We would like to think all of our customers are satisfied customers. It always concerns us when we hear of a product that has not met this ideal. If we are not providing you with the product you have come to depend on for quality and value, we are truly sorry you are not satisfied with our products. We welcome and invite your concerns. Your comments will be passed along to our Marketing, Engineering and Quality Assurance Groups for review. ”

 

I’m sorry, did you confuse my email with someone else’s?  Are you a machine? Are you smoking crack?  What part of that response actually addressed anything I said in my email?

Honestly, I’ve reached the point where I expect to have to send at least two emails to any customer service or tech support address because the first answer is always a cut-and-paste from a manual.  If I get a proper response, I usually thank the person who sent it for having actually spent two minutes reading my email and thinking of a response.  That’s why I tend to prefer phoning; I have much better luck on the phone, and almost without exception, I find telephone customer service people both willing and able to work with me to solve my problems.

That’s another reason this incident has left such a bad taste in my mouth.  I know that indifference and arrogance comes down from on high in corporations.  When it shows up in areas where there should be a real effort made to solve problems for the consumer, then you know the company as a whole has no interest in doing more than selling product.

Cuisinart may make decent products; I have a number of their small appliances and have been happy with them.  But given the cost, and the possibility of a terrible support experience if something should go wrong, I can’t help but feel that I’m making the right decision to not buy from Cuisinart again.

The Pantry Project — Jan 27th

Hershey's Syrup, circa 1950s

As Glinda quite rightly pointed out to me last night while we were waiting for the bread to bake (Fair loaf, can’t say I’d do it again.) the month is nearly over.  That means that unless I want to continue on with this project, I don’t have to after next Monday.  The thing is, I’d like to.  It’d have to be a modified project; I really will have to buy some new stuff to replace what I’ve used or tossed (about which, more later) but I’m willing to give it my best shot.  I think what I’ll do is limit my grocery spending; I’ll need to check my expenses for this month to see what I’d need to limit it to.  Anything would be better than my normal spending.

I’m working on getting dishes and food swapped.  There’s a load of dishes in the washer right now, and the counters are covered with packaged food.  In one case I mean covered covered.  The black rice bag was open.  I didn’t realize it.  Yeah.  I’m also tossing out a prodigious amount of food, which chaps my hide.  But I had stuff that had “Use by” dates of 2006!  That’s before I moved here!!  I’m so embarrassed.  I was going to make bread today but I’m thinking it’s not going to happen, which is fine.  I do still have part of that so-so loaf I made yesterday which is a bit of a reminder that I need not to muddle up my work space, and my brain, when I’m trying to bake.

However, before I went to bed last night I made homemade chocolate syrup.  Why? you ask, when there are perfectly good syrups on the market.  Well… thing is, most of them use HFCS, which I try to avoid for a lot of reasons.  (I’m not really up for a debate on this subject either.  Let’s just assume that everyone has the right to use or not use as they choose.)  So I googled on “homemade Hershey’s syrup” and found a recipe that seemed cheap, easy and fast.  It took me a couple minutes prep time, and five minutes to cook.  Then I left it to cool, bottled it and put it in the fridge.  I have to tell you that this is the best damn chocolate syrup I have ever tasted.  The cocoa I used was a raw cacao powder from Navitas, and the flavor is just superb.  Yes, it’s expensive but the two pounds I bought in July of 2008 have lasted me quite a long while.  I still have a cup or two left before I have to buy more, but I won’t hesitate to purchase Navitas products again.  It made a glass of chocolate milk that was heavenly.  I’m going to guesstimate that even with the very pricey cacao powder, my 16 oz (approx.) bottle of syrup cost me less than a dollar.  Caveat: It cooks up thin.  Really thin.  Trust me, if you follow the instructions, you’ll have a nice, thick syrup when it cools.

Tomorrow I’m buying really good vanilla ice cream.  The experience makes me think that giving a shot to homemade Nutella (which can contain palm oil, the thing that makes me not want to buy Girl Scout cookies in spite of wanting to support them.) would be a good idea.  You can control what goes into the things that you snack on and snack more cheaply.  The only thing that could be better is to not snack at all.  And honestly? I’ll stop snacking when I’m dead.

Keep your fingers crossed that I can get my fridge cleaned out over the weekend.

 

 

Oh Cuisinart, you so crazy

I purchased a set of Cuisinart cookware a couple of years ago and I really have been happy with it.  The other day, though,  my 2-quart saucepan started bowing on the bottom, complete with some scary cartoon sound effects that made me wonder if one of the metal rivets had shot off the back of the pan.   Nope, it was just the pan bottom swelling up.  If you think that isn’t a scary sight, let me tell you that the photo above was taken when the pan was cold.  When it’s hot, it rolls around on the stove like a top, making cracking and popping noises.  No, I don’t use it anymore; it’d be useless anyway since only a small part of the pan actually touches the cook top now.

So I contacted Cuisinart about this and received an email asking me to call them to set up an evaluation. Well, okay. It’s supposed to be a lifetime warranty, but clearly they need to know if I went at it with a hammer or something, right? I mean people do that to their cookware all the time, don’t they?  (Actually I fear some people do, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant.)  I phoned and got a decidedly casual response telling me to mail it in (I pay shipping… again okay, I suppose that’s fair. A steel pot with a bottom that blows up like a balloon might be my fault, right?. /sarcasm) and to enclose a check for $10 for return shipping. If it’s a manufacturer defect they’ll replace it.

Whoa there, old hoss, sez I. I understand paying to ship it to you. I don’t like the idea since I think you all should stand by your products 100%, but I understand it. However paying you to ship back a new one? I don’t think so. If it’s your fault, you pay the shipping. If it’s not, and I want the pot back (I do not) then I’ll happily pay you to ship it back. I don’t think I should have to pay shipping on a new pot if the defect is your fault.

Not surprisingly this suggestion met with a less than favorable response. Even less surprisingly their response met with an even less favorable response on my part to the tune of, I think I’ll just pass and buy from a different manufacturer in the future. The rep’s reply “Okay,” with a distinct note of “Whatevah, we already have your money.”

So no, Cuisinart, I will not be paying to send it to you and get it, or a new pot back from you. I will be leaving it out for the metal scavengers, and in spite of the fact that I actually liked this set of pots and pans — I’ve never had problems with things sticking or anything else — my next cookware purchase will be from a company like Le Creuset which though pricier has always proved completely dependable. Thanks so much. Have a nice day.

Sorting and schlepping and pouring and washing

I am seriously sick of schelpping stuff from one end of the kitchen to the other and sometimes back again.  This week I’ve been rearranging all my cabinets, and in the process, washing every dish and glass, and wiping down the insides of the cabinets.  I’ve moved half the dishes into the cabinet where I kept my packaged food, and all my baking supplies and part of the packaged food over to where the dishes were.  It’s really a much more efficient use of space, but boy it’s a boring process. My friend, Karen, would say otherwise; she loves cleaning and organizing things. When confronted with a household task that chaps my hide, I ask myself, What would Karen do?

I did actually enjoy the part where I found jars for all the bagged spices and herbs I had sitting here, and then made labels for them with our Dymo label maker.  I felt so accomplished as I surveyed the rows of neatly labeled and stacked jars!  I also made an inventory list of what I have in that cabinet.  Karen would be so proud!

Needless to say, now virtually every flat surface is covered with stuff waiting to be put away.  I got the herb and spice cupboard assembled thanks to a new two-tier lazy susan I found at Amazon.com for $12.  Everyone was complaining it was too big for their cabinets, but because I was going to put it into the corner of a corner cabinet, it was exactly what I needed.  The cabinet holds two of the two-tiered lazy susans, and two one-tier ones, plus a lot of plain old surface space on the second shelf, so I’ve got all my oils and vinegars in there as well as extracts, salts and
syrups.   The best thing is that now I have more room, so if I need some ground this or cracked that, I have a space to put it, and I won’t lose it.  (I swear I had ground ginger at Christmas but I can’t find the jar anywhere.  It’s gone on my Spice House shopping list.)  I was sad to find that my vanilla beans had all but dried out so I’m going to be making a jar of vanilla sugar with them.

In any event, the whole point of this is that I’m sick of arranging and incidentally also sick of editing.  I have four of the five sections on the Scrooge book edited and I think they’re in good shape now.  The middle one — Adagio: David Tarried at Jerusalem — was the worst, but it was the last to be finished and the one that had kicked my butt right from the get go.  The emotions I’m trying to deal with there are difficult for me because I’ve felt them, and it’s hard getting that down without making it sound whiny and self-pitying.

So what did I do to ease my ennui?  I baked.  When I was cleaning the cupboards I found a package of Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain bread mix, and figured I’d give that a shot since I could just reach my mixer. I added millet, oats, chia seeds and raw honey to it, and for the oil, I used some herbs de Provence olive oil that Glinda’s sister had given me.  It’s in the oven on proof right now, and should be finished rising in another 30-60 minutes. Of course there was a lot of stuff added and I’m not sure how old the mix was so who knows if it’ll turn out?  The dough was awfully wet, so I had to add about two tablespoons of flour.  Eh, what’s the worst that could happen?  I could end up with a high fiber brick.

It actually looks pretty good, I think.  Now if it’ll just rise.

Oh, and that red and purple thing in the first photo?  That’s my vacuum.  If it wasn’t enough that I’m cleaning all the cabinets, I spilled a lot of mustard seeds and had to vacuum them up.  I had to sweep anyway, but I’d have preferred to wait until all the schlepping was finished.  Basically there’s nowhere to walk in my kitchen and nowhere to set anything down.
I’ll get there.  I always do.  And when I do I’ll have a much better arrangement for my kitchen than I do now.  Moving from a larger place to a smaller one means you have to find analogs for the space you had or get rid of a lot of what you brought with you.  I’ve already done the latter; it’s time to make a real effort to do the former.

I need some motivation-go-juice today

Kitchen, bread and cake baking

Seriously, I have no motivation at all. I’m trying to do an edit on the Scrooge book which has been re-titled, but my decision not to enter it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest (It wasn’t really feeling finished, and there was a good chance that it didn’t fit the requirements anyway.) has slowed me down a lot.  Still, I like where it’s going now, so that’s the most important thing.

I made chocolate bread over the weekend from a recipe by David Lebovitz.  Now I think he’s absolutely tops when it comes to baking, but I wasn’t impressed with the result of this endeavor.  The bread took forever to rise, and even then it didn’t get very high.  The result was a surprisingly light loaf which had a texture that was something between bread and an over-cooked cake or brownie.  And it was much too sweet with hunks of chocolate floating in it.  The latter isn’t entirely Lebovitz’s fault; he did say not to use chocolate chips, but they’re what I had, so they got used.

My baking guru, Jeannelle, told me not to put the chocolate in until after the second rise because the sugar robs yeast of its will to live. If I absolutely had to add it to the dough while kneading, she suggested starting with a poolish, which is something I’d wanted to try anyway, and since my original inspiration was Zingerman’s chocolate-cherry bread, which appears to be sourdough-based, it makes sense to consider something like a poolish in this context.

The housemate and I made a chocolate cake from one of the mixes I had in the pantry.  We added chocolate nibs, chocolate extract and candied orange peel, and the result was a wonderful cake with a lot of flavor.  Mixes have their uses.  I may actually pull out the wheat bread mix I have in the pantry and whip it up this afternoon.  Or not.  I’m really quite happy just sitting here at the desk and my heart tells me I’d be even happier stretched out on the couch watching a movie.

The clock at Marshall Field's State Street store.

We went shopping on Saturday in spite of the snow since we’d planned to take her sister up to The Spice House in Evanston and then go to lunch at Smak-Tak, a little Polish place near our house.  It was too crappy out to even consider anywhere with street parking, so her sister bowed out, and we took the rental car on down to Mariano’s on Western and Roscoe, a lovely supermarket which is the brain-child of Bob Mariano, ICEO of Wisconsin-based Roundy’s and former CEO of Dominick’s a Chicago-based, (formerly) family-owned supermarket chain that was bought out by Safeway and utterly ruined.  (Chicagoans are pretty unforgiving about stuff like that.  Count me as one who will never set foot in Macy’s after  they changed the name of Marshall Field’s on State Street.)  For those of you old enough to recall Dominick’s before the Safeway debacle, it was Bob Mariano who was responsible for the Fresh Store concept which Safeway shut it down.

It was rough holding to my pledge not to buy anything but fresh things that I’d use up quickly, and in fact I ended up buying a couple of non-fresh items: V8, lemon juice (I use a lot of it.) and tuna.  But nothing frozen, nothing prepared — not even from their excellent deli — except a rotisserie chicken which I needed to make stock, and which we’re both eating. I was proud of myself.  I still spent $85, but that included a bottle of wine because, dude, wine…  However what I got will help me get through another couple of weeks without ordering anything but maybe some milk and butter.

I got some bread flour while we were out, and the loaf of millet bread I made with it was spectacularly good.  I used the King Arthur Flour basic white sandwich loaf recipe and just added about half a cup of millet during the knead.  The loaf had loft, beautiful crumb and crust, and a fantastic flavor.  The millet gave it just a bit of crunch and a little bit of a toasty flavor.  It was easily the best loaf yet.

So here’s what’s on the agenda for this week, if not today:

  • I have decided to clean out my cabinets and move everything to the open shelves near the door.  It will give me a clear view of what I have, and force me to make informed decisions about what I need rather than wild guesses.  It’ll also be a better use of the space I have.
  • I’m going to try making homemade Greek yogurt.
  • I’m going to make cheddar-mac salad
  • More cucumbers in sour cream because they are good noms.
  • More bread.
  • Clean out the fridge.
  • Change over the shelves, wash all the dishes on them, and put them away in the cabinets which have been similarly cleared and wiped down.
It’s already past three; I’m not going to get this done today. *g*
Last night Glinda and I ordered supper from Saigon Grill because it was Chinese New Year (Year of the (water) dragon, YAY!  I’m a water dragon, and the last time there was a water  dragon year was the year I was born.)  Sonny brought the food over himself, and it was fabulous as always. Kung Hii Fatt Choi to you all!
Water dragon