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« January 2012 | Main | March 2012 »

7 posts from February 2012

Nothing in The House Spicy Cabbage SoupFebruary 29, 2012

I just made the best soup, and as is my wont, I'm jotting it down here, because I guarantee if I don't, I'll never remember this. 

I'm still sick--this flu has beaten me to a sweaty, gibbering pulp (seriously, some people throw up every time they get the flu? I cry. I'm a crier. The more I cry, the more feverish I know I am, and the more pathetic I know I am. Luckily, I rarely get sick because no one wants to see me sitting in the bed WAILING over the fact that I'm out of Kleenex). 

Lala's out tonight and I could have had the chicken she made, but I wanted something garlicky to burn away my sore throat. And we have practically zero in the cupboards. But I pulled this together (almost magically!), and it is DELICIOUS. Seriously. Cabbage is rather a new thing to me--I thought it was stinky and bad. But it's not stinky, cooked like this: it's delectable, sweet and delicate. Mmmmm. 

Cabbage


Nothing in the House Spicy Cabbage Soup (to Cure What Ails You)

Heat 3tbs olive oil in a pot good for soup. Chop half an onion or a shallot and 3-6 cloves of garlic (I used the shallot and 6 cloves), cook and stir until the garlic starts to darken. Add 4 cups of water (or stock! I had none), a teaspon or so of salt, red chili flakes to taste, and pepper. Bring to boil. Add two handsful of chopped cabbage (I had the prechopped bag from TJ's), bring back to boil. Cook ten minutes at simmer. Add 1 tbs+ tomato paste and whatever else you like (I added a can of sweet peas which turned out to be a stunning addition), cook fifteen more minutes or so, till it tastes delicious. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream. 

Okay, now I'm exhausted from working so hard and rather than overdo it, I'm going to sit on the couch and maybe eat a little more of this stuff. Enjoy. 

Mutant February 27, 2012

Just a brief hello to whinge. I'm sick, people. Just run-of-the-mill flu sick, but I haven't had a cold or flu in so long I'd forgotten how crappy it feels to feel this crappy. 

Deep, innit? 

But THIS JUST IN: I just found a flashlight and took it in the bathroom and looked at my throat. I swear to god there are little prehensile* tonsils back there. 

Do you know how I jumped backward? Now, it's probably just that I'm sick and my throat is SUPER swollen. But I know from tonsils. I had mine out in 2002. And then again in 2007 after I had month-long bouts with tonsillitis for that went untouched by antibiotics. Yep, the regrowth can happen. Okay, I've only ever heard of it happening to my dad and my uncle, so apparently it can happen to Herrons, but tonsils regrowing twice? (Edited to add: I just googled it and there are quite a lot of people on the interwebs saying What the hell? Mine came back, too! Sneaky buggers!)

Anyway. I'm taking to bed as soon as I can (can't go there quite yet, but soon). And I'm going to think very clear, non-tonsily thoughts. 

* Lala reminds me that: You know that prehensile means they can be adapted for grasping or holding, right? Cause that's super creepy and probably means you're the host for some invading extraterrestrial species. Just sayin'. To her I say, My tonsils are much like Digit's extra toes. They both get stuck in the bedspread and make us grumpy. 

Officially a FanaticFebruary 21, 2012

So I've tumbled head over heels into the world of fiber preparation. 

I wasn't really ready, I know I wasn't. But I wanted a Cormo fleece because I'm so in love with the fiber itself lately. And I knew Brooke could get me one, a local one, a fleece from a sheep with a name, and then Kira kindly brought it to my sister's place, which is how I ended up with this much awesome in my house. 

This is from Karo (like the syrup! Five pounds of sweetness!): 

IMG_1804

Look at that crimp! Could you die? That's what it looked like when I peeked into the bag. 

I did a bit of rudimentary research online (thanks, Ravelry!) and decided to go for the quick-and-dirty top-loader method of washing. I got the water in the washer as hot as I could (by turning off the cold tap entirely), added some liquid dish soap, and threw some fiber in to soak. (This isn't actually that much; I wasn't going to risk much of it, I swear. But it looks like a lot.) 

IMG_1810

Oh, GOD, was it disgusting-looking in there. It got worse the wetter it got: 

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That's poop, people. Okay, not much poop because it was beautifully skirted, but there's oil and vegetable matter and dirt from the field. Lemme ask you this: but do I want to re-skirt it before I wash more? I do plan on getting lingerie bags and using them instead of letting the fleece roam free in the washer. I didn't agitate it (of course), I just spun the water out for all five (FIVE!) soaks, but I was completely convinced I'd felted the whole thing, because you know what? When you pull wet fleece out of a washer, it's flat and thin and looks irreparably felted. I asked Twitter, which told me it was normal to think that and to stop panicking. 

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And it WASN'T felted, as you can see here on my uber-classy drying rack. 

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Uncarded, just dried Cormo. Almost clean. Ish. 

So: there's still a little dirt on some of the tips. Is this normal? Should I have clipped ALL the darker bits out before washing? 

And for something like this, how do you prepare it? I bought two dog combs, figuring worst-case scenario we'd have better-groomed dogs, and I've decided that making rolags is what I like best at this point:

  IMG_1834

I think the way I washed it caused me to lose too much of the lock definition to flick it, so carding it what I should do, right? (Ignore the little neps you see. I think that's because I over-carded that bit. As in, I carded it about forty times instead of five. I'm getting better at the motion.) 

And here's the first bit, spun up: 

IMG_1836

I'm thinking three-ply. Oh, yeah. 

(For those of you who warned me against starting with Cormo, bless you. Yep, I see what you mean. But you know me, I like to jump in with both feet until I'm underwater and fighting my way back up to the surface. It makes breaking into daylight and fresh air that much sweeter.) 

Rain and WritingFebruary 15, 2012

Mmm. It's pouring outside. We have the window open, and the occasional shuuush of late-night drivers going by punctuates the tapping of the rain. I love it. What is it about rain and writing? 

It reminds me of something I learned not all that long ago when I was walking one evening with Lala in Rockridge. It was that magic moment when lights come on inside houses but the curtains are still open, when you can see fathers coming home, kids racing around living rooms, mothers putting fresh-baked bread on tables (yes, because this is the way I was raised, my brain still sees the world this way although it decidedly is not this way in most cases). I love that moment, spying on that snapshot of families being together. 

Every once in a while when you're walking at that time of night, you'll notice a light shining, high above in a third story window. You can see the ceiling, and maybe the top of a painting, but from that angle you can't quite make out what else or who's in the room. 

In my head, there is always a writer at that window. I think there's always been a writer at that window for me, ever since I was a child, and I mentioned it that night to Lala. 

"You know," she said, "not everyone thinks there's a writer up there." 

"Really? No, of course they do." 

"Nope."

She's an artist, so I asked, "Do you think there's an artist there?" 

"Sometimes. Sometimes I don't think about it." 

This was something I had never considered. That window was a beacon to me. That was the dream. Someday I'd have a garret window, and I'd sit at it, writing late into the night. 

Then I realized I did have that garret window once. When I was about ten, we moved into a farm house on an old, overgrown Christmas tree farm in a small, coastal town. We had a barn, and a horse, and chickens (oh, I hated those chickens). I had the attic bedroom, a tiny cramped space with sloped walls and rafters that even at ten, I had to duck to avoid. It was tight and compact, and I loved it. The back of the chimney formed the back wall of my closet so on cold winter mornings, my clothes were pre-heated for me.

Even at that age, I sat at that window and stared out at the canyon late at night, and I felt what I should write. I attempted it, over and over again. "Once upon a time..." I'd get two or three pages in and I would fail to convey what I'd meant to, and I'd give up and get back in bed with a book, a real one, one that told the story to me the right way. 

But I tried again, over and over again. In a way, I'm still sitting there, even though I usually write in the cafe now, or in my car, or on my breaks at work. No garret window necessary. The writing gets done anyway. But I still long for that, to sit at a high window overlooking over a rainy street filled with pedestrian traffic. And maybe, just maybe, the people below would be wondering if up there behind the glass was a writer, or an artist, or a photographer, hoping for a window of their own, too.

IndieBoundFebruary 12, 2012

Okay, this is awesome. I just found the IndieBound app! I put the app on my iPhone (it will work on other smartphones, too, as well as the tablets, iPad, etc.), then I went to the website for my favorite local bookstore (which at this point is Books Inc. but I have so many awesome local bookstores that it's hard to choose) and ordered a Google ebook (Journal of Best Practices, a memoir about marriage and Aspergers's). 

Then, on my phone (while on Books Inc's website), I downloaded the book, and it opened automatically in the IndieBound app. 

I don't read a lot on my iPhone, but many times I use it to read what I'm reading on my Kindle. Now that's over. I'm hereby vowing to read more on my iPhone when out and about, and I'm only going to read books I've downloaded from local stores. 

Confession: I still love my Kindle (and its intuitiveness -- I had to fight my way through the first purchase I just made, above, but it will be easier now that I know how to do it). But I can make a little, tiny difference this way. And we know this: tiny things add up to big things over time: words add up to a book, stitches add up to sweaters. Buy local more often than you do now, and create change in YOUR world. 

Thus endeth my soapbox. On tap today: writing (natch), and some accordion playing, I think! I'm gonna be playing around with Garage Band with my friend Camilla, who can be seen here singing with Female Trouble, Lala's band (Camilla is the piano player, La's on the far left). 

"I'm running out of tissues and you're boring me to tears." (Worth watching past the minute mark, when they start ROCKIN'. As they are wont to do.)

Some Things I'm LovingFebruary 5, 2012

First: the winner of Extra Yarn is Samantha E. Woot! Congratulations!

[Edited to add: Mac will be SIGNING Extra Yarn at Copperfields in Petaluma (and they'll be yarn bombing the store, contact them if you want to help) on March 4th at 2pm. You should totally go if you have a chance.]

Now I want to list a few things that I've been loving lately that you might like too. Some are free, some aren't, and all are things I think are worth it, whatever the cost is.

1. Sanebox.

Casey of Ravelry first turned me on to this. It's a program that works on any email platform, and it makes your inbox sane. And seriously, that's exactly what it does.

Screen Shot 2012-02-05 at 3.23.58 AM

This is what my inbox looks like right now. It's hard to see, but I have nothing in my inbox, 1 in SaneLater and 1 in SaneNews. (Often I have 50+ in each, it just so happens I just cleared both.)

See that? It creates labels (for Gmail -- I think it does other things appropriate for other clients) ALL ON ITS OWN. I don't know how it knows that it should stuff all my Twitter and Flickr and yarn store sales into SaneLater, but it does know that. All my newsletters go automagically into the SaneNews label. And all the good stuff? The important stuff? From friends, family, readers, editors, my agent, and my bank (oh-so-important)? They go into my inbox, where I can see them without looking around the clutter.

If it messes up, you can train it easily: just drag and drop the email into the right folder, and it won't make the same mistake twice. You don't have to learn the system -- it's intuitive, which is somthing they tout, and something that I've found to be true.

So I easily keep on top of my inbox, and once every other day or so, I flip through my Later and my News labels to make sure I haven't missed anything (usually I delete everything in there, but I want to look at them, at least briefly).

Bonus: Best thing? You can defer email, send it away, giving it a time to land BACK in your email inbox (Tuesday at 1pm, say) and get it OUT of your inbox. You don't have to remember to do whatever it is you have to do -- it just lands. We have dinner reservations tonight, and instead of leaving the email sitting in my box all day, I set it to re-land at 6pm tonight so at that point I can look up driving directions and delete it.

Cost: 4.95/month, FREE trial for 30 days. I just bought two years' worth -- that's how much I never want to be without this thing. (I think this is what Gmail was going for with its Priority sorting thing that I thought was such a ugly mess.) Sanebox = Highly Recommended.

 

2. Shoeboxed.

I've filed my taxes last week, they're all done and I can relax. However, pulling together all my receipts from last year was HORRIBLE. Every year, I vow I'll stay on top of them, and every year in January, I pull out my box of receipts that look like this:

IMG_1692

Did you know that New York taxi cab receipts are almost unreadable after only a few months of being stored in this manner? I know! I was surprised, too!

With Shoeboxed, you can email yourself all those receipts you get in email (for example, I just send the receipt for my purchase of Sanebox to them), and they file a pdf image of it for you while stripping and logging the information. It already knew that I'd place that charge in my Computer/Internet category, it knows how I paid, and on what date.

If I get a paper receipt, I use the app on my iPhone to take a picture of it and it does the same thing, almost instantly. So, theoretically, by the time I get home from a business trip, I could have all my receipts logged already. I LOVE THIS.

It's not cheap, at 9.99/month, but for me, Shoeboxed is going to be worth it.

(Oh, and to celebrate the fact that we didn't owe money, I bought a pair of Fluevogs: Zazas)

IMG_1723

Love.

 

3. Remember the Milk

I love this reminder app because I can have it loaded in my email, on my home screen or on my phone. I put everything into it, even things like Trash Out every Sunday. Every day it emails you with what you need to do that day, and it's so SATISFYING to cross things off.

Cost: I think they have a free version? But I got the Pro account, $25/year.

 

4. IAlertU

I just installed this, but I love the idea of it. It's a car alarm for your computer. I'm SO often at the cafe, and I stay there for long periods of time, and I drink a lot of coffee. Naturally, I gotta pee. Usually I ask someone to watch my computer for me (and I know most of the people sitting around me, at least by sight). Even though I do it, it still makes me nervous and I'm always relieved when it's still there when I come out.

IAlertU makes a squealing sound if your computer is moved or unplugged. You can set it so that it doesn't turn off even if the computer is closed. Oh, and it snaps a picture of the person who moved the computer and emails it to your phone!

I see the problem here, of course. I'll be in the bathroom and some kid will hit the table, setting it off, and then I'll be that jackass with the too-sensitive car alarm. But oh, well. (And I know a thief will grab and run and won't care that much, but at least people will notice. And hell, some thieves do that while you're sitting at the table with it, so you can't worry all the time, right?)

Cost: Free!

 

5. Prey Project

If the thief DOES get away with my computer, I'll get HIM. Using it, you can find where your computer is, see who's using it (and take pictures of them using the camera!), lock your info, take screenshots of their sessions (computers have been retrieved when the thieves log into their Facebook or email accounts). The recovery stories are fun on their site, and this story is fun, too.  Nosepicking thieves!

Cost: Free to install, $5/month if you need to activate it to find your computer.

 

So there you have it. My five favorite new computer finds. But really? My two all-time favorites remain Write Or Die ("putting the prod in productivity") and Mac Freedom (which removes me from the internet entirely for any length of time), without which I would get no writing done, ever. Lately I've been going in for 15 minute sessions, much shorter than I normally do, with a goal of 250 words. This is so easy I always blow past 250, get to 350 or so and realize it's not far to 500. Do this four times, 2000 words. It's like magic. I love tricks like this. (Both free.)

Anything else I need to have?

EXTRA YARN GiveawayFebruary 1, 2012

ALERT! This is important! There is a new kid's book in town, and it's AWESOME.

Extra Yarn

Extrayarn1

What happens when a little girl find a box of yarn THAT IS ALWAYS FULL?

Yeah, you want to know, right? It's pretty great. You'll love it.

And I have one to give away! Just leave me a comment below to be entered. (You know I never add commenters to my mailing list, right? That you have to do for yourself, up there in the upper right. But I do give presents from that list from time to time, too. Just sayin'.)

Because the author also lives in Oakland, I was able to drive to his house and knock on his front door until he answered (I knocked a really long time), and then, while he glared at me from his handknitted bathrobe, I asked him a few questions.*

1. First of all, where do I get a box that holds an unending supply of yarn? (No, really. WHERE?)

Oh that's easy. They're usually out in the field, just to the right of the old fence by the house with the barrel out front.


2. Do you knit?

No, but I did darn this sweater!

Extrayarn2darn

Interviewer's note: Nice job!

I probably should have put 20 Hipstamatic filters on that shot to make it feel cozier. I'm quite proud of my work, but to your readers that picture probably looks like one of those horrific botched plastic-surgery photos you see on gossip blogs.

3. Now that you're a New York Times bestselling author, will you take me up in your private plane?

Sure, here it is:

Extrayarn3airplane


4. OAKLAND REPRESENT. What's your favorite thing in Oakland? (Interviewer's note: Mine is Mountain View Cemetery. No, it's not creepy! I swear! It's gorgeous! A great place to walk dogs or steal character names.)

That's a good graveyard. And it's close to Fenton's, for when all that death makes you feel like an ice cream. I think my favorite spot in Oakland is the Paramount Theater. It's a spectacular art-deco movie palace, and on certain Fridays they show classic films. Five dollars gets you an old picture, newsreel, Warner Brothers cartoon, Coming Attractions that may or may not come to the theater, and, of course, Dec-O-Win, a raffle presented by gentlemen in tuxedoes and ladies in evening gowns. My life dream is to win that raffle. I even tried bribing the staff by paying fifty bucks for a box of Red Vines. It didn't work. Those people have a lot of integrity.

 

So, thanks, Mac! And readers: leave a comment to be entered to win (I'll draw on Sunday morning) or just go buy the book at your favorite bookseller. You won't be disappointed.

* This is not technically true. But he does live in Oakland. Or at least he says he does. (What if he said that to all the reviewers? Yeah, I live in Tulsa/Peoria/Brooklyn. That would totally WORK.)