Frost keeps giving me a chance

A prose poem about weather:

The first frost warning I covered the tomatoes. It didn't freeze.

The second frost warning I did nothing. It didn't freeze.

The third frost warning I cut all the green and half-ripe tomatoes off the plants. I packed them in layers in cardboard boxes, with newspaper between each layer. They'll off-gas next to each other and help each other get ripe. It didn't freeze.

Then I remembered my butternut squashes. I cut them off the vines and let them "cure" in the garden for a couple days.

The fourth frost warning I dug up and potted a parsley plant and cut most of the rest of the parsley. I rubber-banded it in bunches. I stashed it in the crisper to use or give away. I also brought in the butternut squashes. I put them in a box in the front closet (hoping it's cool & dry there). I brought in the 2 houseplants I'd forgotten were on the porch. It didn't freeze.

Playlist from Beef Jerky Time 9*16*08:
  • Strange Things Happen Every Day: Olu Dara
  • Mandinka: Sinead O'Connor
  • Spring: St. Etienne
  • Rasputin: Boney M
  • Big Time Sensuality: Bjork
  • More Than Words: Roxy Music
  • Early Hours: Strung Out
  • What Have I Done to Deserve This: Pet Shop Boys f/Dusty Springfield
  • A Selection: Fishbone
  • What's the Use of Getting Sober (When You're Gonna Get Drunk Again): Joe Jackson
  • (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais: The Clash
  • Sorted for E's & Wizz: Pulp
  • Take My Heart Away: Johnny Clegg & Savuka
  • Dil Nasheen: Bas Itna Sa Khawab Hai s/t

Woman craves new brew supply store

I'm such a wimp sometimes. One of my New Year's resolutions for 2008 was to make at least one batch of homebrew. Now it is September and I haven't even started yet. (Actually the timing may be perfect because fermentation can get screwy in summer weather.) So I went to the nearest brew supply store, which shall remain nameless. It's about 45 minutes away and I hadn't been there in years. I was happy it was still there, but, as in the past, I was not happy with the customer service. I got the equipment I wanted, no problem. The staff was friendly enough. But the staff also didn't really listen to what I wanted and, because I was shy, I walked out of there with an off-the-shelf "kit" when what I wanted was separate, fresh ingredients. I feel like I went in there expecting to get deli treatment (um, I'll have the Italian coldcuts, but can you put it on whole wheat, and yes I'd like mayo, mustard sure, can you throw on hot peppers?) and instead was handed a premade tuna sandwich from the refrigerator case. Yes it's kind of the same idea, but... not really.

Before moving to the area, my previous brew supply experiences were at the Modern Brewer in Cambridge, MA. The Modern Brewer is fabulous. You can pick your own grains in bulk and crush them on the spot in a cool noisy machine. You can open the tap and pour malt extract or honey into your own container. You can peruse the refrigerator section for the yeast of your choice. You can even measure out and label your own hops. If you need help from the friendly staff, they'll give it. If they see you made some strange choices, they'll gently steer you right. But they aren't trying to be the decision-makers, and the set-up lets the customer be hands-on and have fun picking things out. This nameless place--I have no idea if they even offer stuff in bulk. I didn't see anything like that in the store. Maybe if I asked they'd go in the back and get something for me, but it's not that hands-on participation that I like.

So back to the kit I bought. I started brewing on Sunday night and as I unpacked the kit I was even more ashamed at buying it. The brewing directions seemed poorly written. For example, no directions to take Specific Gravity readings (which are key for confirming when to switch fermenters and for calculating alcohol content). No directions to sterilize materials. Huge temperature ranges and very vague descriptions of some steps. If you're selling someone a kit, it's possible they don't know what they're doing, so why not provide blow-by-blow instructions that cover key points and are easy to understand? Heck, why not use BOTH SIDES of the page? Why make an amateur boil and strain the grains when they can just put them in a mesh bag? Does sparging make any difference in an amateur production like this? Also, I was sad that I bought something with pre-cracked grains and unrefrigerated unlabeled hop pellets. How long had these things been sitting on the shelf? And... what were they exactly?

Lessons learned: Stand up for myself. Have a clear idea what I want and why. Try to find other sources of brew supplies. Also, I think the kit is OK this time because I AM a little rusty at brewing. It's taught me stuff. It's a starter kit in the sense that I'm starting to remember the finer points of my old hobby. Thank you, stupid kit. (For all I know, this batch will turn out great and I'll get hooked on kits!)

Easy lentil soup with green beans and cherry tomato

This tastes very fresh and is also filling. It was a great way to use up some of the summer harvest from our garden (my harvest being a glut of cherry tomatoes & beans, obviously!).

First, take:
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 piece dried kelp
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Cook together for about 90 minutes or more, until lentils are soft (but still retain shape). The kelp will likely fall apart during cooking.

Then, take:
  • about 20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • large handful of green beans, chopped small
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt
Saute the beans and tomatoes in olive oil for about 7 minutes (until tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, but beans are still fairly crisp). If/when they start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add water. Add 3 cups of the cooked lentils. (Save the rest for something else!) Add the turmeric and salt and simmer together for another 5 minutes or so. I was really happy how well this came out given how simple it was to make--along with some roasted vegetables, this was our main course!

PS: I find the extra lentils plus some sticky rice seasoned with mirin make an excellent lunch on workdays.

I only feel alive when the VU's flashing

"What I like about of Montreal"

They are peculiar. They use words in a way I don't quite understand, but it sounds cool. (Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider? Butterscotching Mr. Lynn? Rapture Rapes the Muses? I'd be a Yellow Feathered Loon? Yesss!) They have an arty vibe and seem kind of insane, brilliantly so. They use the word "f#$%" sometimes, but are generally radio friendly. They vaguely remind me of The Beatles (in a good way) and Kleenex Girl Wonder (in a very good, cultishly adoring way). They are prolific--if you don't like one song/album, there's another coming right along. They make good videos. They wear awesome outfits. They seem kind of mysterious--like who ARE they? When I say "they," am I just referring to what comes from the mind of Kevin Barnes? In conclusion, they have a new album "Skeletal Lamping" dropping next month.

Here is the 9*10*08 Beef Jerky Time playlist:
  • Je Veux Te Voir: Yelle
  • Elevator Love Letter: Stars
  • Oslo in the Summertime: of Montreal
  • Vari-Speed: hollAnd
  • Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3: Ian Dury & the Blockheads
  • Antena Trash: Lali Puna
  • Komakino: Joy Division
  • My Mood Swings: Elvis Costello
  • Star Bodies: New Pornographers
  • Song of a Gun: The La's
  • Wait for Me (Please): Kleenex Girl Wonder
  • Crystal Lite: James Pants f/Deon Davis
  • Replica: Beck
  • Never/More: Takako Minekawa
  • Camions Sauvages: Amadou & Mariam
Here is part of what made me fall in love with of Montreal, even though both the video & sound are crappy.

Top 10 Imaginary Men I Have Loved

In random order:
  1. Sydney Carton
  2. George Washington Hayduke III
  3. Aragorn, son of Arathorn
  4. Indiana Jones
  5. George Emerson
  6. Gilbert Blythe
  7. Jake Ryan
  8. Heathcliff (from Wuthering Heights, not the cartoon cat)
  9. Doc (from Cannery Row)
  10. Tom Jones (the Fielding character, not the panties guy)
Questions? Support? Got your own list? Leave a comment!

Back on Track: Running again

As I mentioned in my Born to Run post over 3 years ago, I've been running for fitness on and off for years. It's my favorite way to try getting in shape. For example, it's free and can be done almost anywhere. It can be done during travel: I've run in Seattle, Portland, Dallas, Denver, Chicago and Edmonton, when I could have otherwise been smoking on the hotel terrace or watching awful cable in my hotel room. (Don't worry mom, my smoking days seem to be long gone.)

I think my body responds well to running. Makes sense, since my body type is designed to chase sheep around hillsides all day long, dodge gorse, roll in heather, then relax with smokey whiskies into the long northern nights. So it's not my body, it's my mind that's the problem. I am so BALKY! What secret or promise is there I can use to get myself to do what I want?! It's like a reverse addiction, I get 1 hit of running and want to not do it again for as long as possible. How can I addict myself to something I know is a good idea but just don't feel like doing? (A few spontaneous ideas based on what I've heard about "positive addictions"--tell a friend your exercise plans so you can get some positive peer pressure, write down every time you run so you can see a list of your accomplishments, throw money at it so it seems more valuable to you... like buy a magazine subscription or some fancy gear, train for a specific event like a local 5K, use a rewards system so if you exercise when you said you would, you get extra chocolate or something later.)

Playlist from Beef Jerky Time 9*3*08, end of summer recap... plus inevitable new stuff (Santogold remix YES!)

  • Youthless: Beck
  • GfC: Albert Hammond, Jr.
  • Balloons: Foals
  • Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa: Vampire Weekend
  • Kids: MGMT
  • Out there On the Ice: Cut Copy
  • Talk Like That: The Presets
  • Messenger: Pinback
  • Makeup Artist: Marching Band
  • Final Path: Yeasayer
  • L.E.S. Artistes (grahmzilla euromix): Santogold
  • Keep Your Eyes Ahead: Helio Sequence
  • House Fire: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
  • Free Tonight: Dri