myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
If you set a thing on fire once, you're a pyro in the collective memory forever.

I was minding my own business at work one day when I opened the warming oven to retrieve someone's cookie and found a happy little fire dancing on the edge of the parchment paper. Since it's generally good policy not to piss off your entitled customers more than necessary, I grabbed the tongs, retrieved the cookie, and shut the oven. When we opened it again (my shift supervisor was kind of worried when I said shit was on fire) it had gone out.

As it turns out, according to the person in charge at the time, you're supposed to grab a soaking wet cloth - probably from the sanitizer bucket, which seems like a bad idea to me, but WHATEVER - stick your hand into the oven, and smother the fire with the wet towel.

Sticking your hand in the oven sounds perfectly safe. Like a fantastic idea, even! Especially when something is burning.

I have my doubts as to the validity of this approach for the situation above, but a wet towel will probably put the damn fire out, so I'll give it that much credit. And I found out later that this isn't an isolated problem, so the way I see it, put that fire out any way you can do it, and discuss the merits of burning your skin off afterward. Then you can ask yourself why Starbucks hasn't formulated a cookie that won't spontaneously combust.

Fast forward several months. (At least this doesn't happen every one or two, am I right?) I'm pre-heating my oven, which I haven't used since early spring; it beeps to tell me it's ready, I open the door, and-- fire.

First thought: What the fuck, there's nothing in there to burn!

I slam the door shut.

Second thought: Shit, A FIRE. WHAT DO I DO.

Third thought: The internet will know. Ask Google!

Google told me I was right. I tried to be patient while the pretty little flames got smaller, and decided to text "lol, oven fire!" to my husband, because I do like to brighten his day whenever possible.

We went out to dinner that night.


First thing my former coworkers tell the noob baristas when I walk into the store now? "That's Amber. She sets things on fire! :D"

myaru: (VP - Mystina)
1. Japanese recipe site now in English~
If you're interested in Japanese home cooking, the author of Just Bento was recently involved with the translation of Cookpad, which she says is the number one recipe site in Japan. About 1600 recipes are available in English so far, with more to come. Looks pretty cool to me! I'm going to try some of them.

In that vein, I hear Japanese Farm Food is also pretty awesome. A quick glance through it confirmed that, but I don't own it, and haven't been able to try any of the recipes. Simply Recipes posted one (tomato salad with soy sauce) which I plan to try, but otherwise... :D

Even though I'm not going anywhere lately that requires I take a lunch, I really want one of these awesome bentos from Monbento. The price is the only reason I haven't caved and gotten one. :/ However! Jury duty may provide the perfect excuse - an excuse I'd rather not have, but we make do with what we've got, yeah? Maybe if I go in person and update my address a third time they'll finally get it right and send the damn check from last year, and maybe this year's too, which would cover the purchase! lololol bureaucracy.

2. Getting crafty.
We don't have much seating in our apartment. Space went first to bookshelves, then desks and related equipment (printers, scanner, etc.), and the remainder went to our console set-up. No room for a couch, or even an armchair. My tentative solution to this will be floor pillows - which I'll have to make myself, because the ones I find are either ugly, or not big enough, and always expensive. We're not fond of beanbags either. So this means I'll be taking one more reluctant step toward domestication and pulling out the sewing machine to make my own.

While looking around for examples, it occurred to me that if I wanted to keep flowers around the house, well, I can just make them out of cloth. Why not? Easy. Our cats won't chew on them then, I can wash them, they won't wilt and die, I won't have to remember to change the water so it doesn't turn ugly, unmentionable colors... yeah. Then I thought: curtains are easy too. And placemats, and dish towels and coasters, and they can match, omg!

This is a slippery slope. :/

It gets worse: I'm thinking of making my own conditioner and leave-in, also, because paying Lush $50 for every refill hurts. I've yet to find another brand that doesn't leave my hair dry and tangly, so until now they've had a monopoly on my money, but geez, why. So I was looking into this, and after an initial investment - which isn't really that much since you're buying ingredients in bulk - all I need to start doing this is time (which I've got in abundance) and a pan dedicated to this project, since I don't think either of us want to be eating conditioner residue by accident. I've got pounds (literally) of coconut oil I can use for a base, also, which means I don't have to invest in as much up front. I eventually want to switch to shea butter, but there's no point in letting this stuff go to waste when it smells so good.

3. Reading
I mentioned that I kinda fell off the horse with reading. There's a pattern to this: I'll do nothing but read for a little while, but then reach a point where I'm at a loss for which book to pick up, and I simply stop. Weeks usually go by. Then I catch a bug to read a book that's sitting on my shelf and it starts all over again.

This week I was suddenly inspired to read Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix, so I'm currently in the middle of that. A friend lent a copy of The Lone and Level Sands (comic), which I'm also very interested in reading because it hits on a topic I'm always interested in: the other side of the stories in the Bible. This one is about Ramses II during the events of the Book of Exodus which, for those that don't keep track, is the Moses book. Ten plagues, ten commandments, etc. etc. Since I'm currently writing a short story based on this general area of the Bible, I'm excited to see someone else's version.

Besides that I think I'm still at a loss. Since I'm procrastinating on the short story mentioned above, I've done an amazing job of avoiding the reading I should be doing - Egyptian Book of the Dead - which I'd otherwise be jumping into face first. It's hard to overcome that resistance. I think I actually have very little hope that I'll be "successful" publishing, which undercuts my motivation. But we'll see. I won't bore you with whining - nothing anybody says will help me with this. I have to help myself.
myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
Oh god, it's been more than a week. Again.

Let's see. Uhhhmmmmm.

Using a grill as an oven is the best thing ever. With the right pans I don't even have to clean it! I haven't tried any dessert or pastry baking on it, but this tomato cobbler looks incredibly good and there's no time like the present. It would've been nice to be baking outside earlier this week, when I was preparing treats for a gathering I went to on Saturday, and instead I had to make do with a sweltering apartment while they baked in a real oven. Sigh, the trials of my life.

But I mean, come on: when you get a basket of blackberries, you can't just eat them plain. No, you have to make something to put them in. HAVE TO.


So like. I'm writing. For some reason I fell off the reading truck, but I'll jump back on eventually, I think. The new daily writing exercises are working really well for me, and there happens to be somewhere else for me to angst about my attempts to write Silmarillion fic, so it occurred to me that... all I usually do here is angst about fan fiction. This would be why I have nothing to say now. That is, unless you're interested in Neverwinter.

Even though I've been playing LOTRO for... wow, almost two years now! Even though I've been doing that, I've maxed my character by playing solo. No instances, no raids; I haven't the first clue about MMO class roles except that the healer heals and the tank is supposed to somehow take all the hits, or something. Don't bother asking me how that works in LOTRO because I have no frigging idea. Recently I started thinking I might want to try grouping a bit, but the problem is, people expect a level 85 Minstrel (healer) to know what the eff they're doing, and I do not at all. But I still kinda sorta want to learn.

Fast-forward to Neverwinter! New game, new start, and a really brainless queuing system. The dungeons are 5-man runs, not the 12-24-whatever that I know I would fail at. You don't even have to talk to your teammates if you're feeling anti-social. Just do your job, and it's all good!

None of my complaints are about the development angle, excepting the damned Dread Vault. :D )


Gosh, this is more dramatic than what I usually post these days! So sorry.

Anyway, PvP and dungeons, man. Never thought I'd like them as much as I do.
myaru: (Food - green cupcakes)
I need a Chinese cookbook. A good one. Any recommendations? My mother-in-law has some really old ones from her mom, but I'm not about to grab those. :/

Since my dietary restrictions make it almost impossible to buy Chinese food, I have to make it from scratch - and I'd love to, because what I've tried is actually pretty easy, but that repertoire is limited. Normally I go to Rasa Malaysia or Appetite for China for recipes or ideas, but if my internet connection goes down or the power goes out, that's not an option. Besides, there's something nice about having a real, physical cookbook in front of you, complete with delicious-looking photos.

Anyway, today was clear-out-the-blog-feeds day. That means there are about a dozen new recipes I want to try, yet do not have the ingredients for.

Food that looks tasty:
- Shrimp with Spicy Garlic Sauce
- Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins
- Smoked Salmon Hash (shockingly, yes)
- Chocolate Buckwheat Cake
- Lemon Sea Salt Focaccia
- Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
- Rose Water Pistachio Fruit Salad
- Gluten-Free Flour Tortillas (oh my god, if these are any good at ALL, you don't even know. ;_;)
- Strawberry Bruschetta

My original purpose in searching my blog feeds had something to do with finding recipes for fruit, because that's about all I want to buy from the farmer's market these days. Vegetables? Who needs them. Give me cherries.

You can see where that plan went.

So now we have a pound of cherries, and I need a cherry corer so I can more conveniently use them for something not good for me. We also have strawberries so I can try out that roasted strawberry buttermilk cake (Joy the Baker will be the death of me), but I'm not sure I want to use the iron skillet. I was always told you're not really supposed to wash those, so much as wipe them off and then rub oil into them, and that means there's a lot of savory flavor left clinging to the iron-- to put it nicely. But there's a certain draw to baking something in it. You're supposed to make cornbread that way, for example, using bacon drippings, and you all know how this house loves bacon.

As for the focaccia, I can envision a way to make that with only one rise (GF bread only ever has one rise, unless you're way better at this than I am), so I might be able to make that. It's worth a try! I've successfully made several loaves of walnut bread, and now the cinnamon swirl bread (have to cut down on the sugar, wow, yikes), and I'll be making a sandwich loaf with olive and rosemary next. Why not focaccia? I used to love it.

We're going to have to keep the cherries out of reach of the cats. I've discovered that, when left on the table, Trixie will jump up and start flinging them out of the bowl by their stems.
myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
1. This is why I have the 'lolzlj' tag...
So... normally I don't care what LJ does with their site design, but the new cut links aren't that great. It's a lot less obvious what they are, for one. The little scissor icon doesn't do a very good job of contrasting cuts with external links. I suppose I'm so used to the old way (bolded in parentheses) that I can't say for sure if that would've been confusing to new users, but my gut says this way will be even more confusing.

Not sure why this seemed like a good idea. It makes cuts blend in with the rest of the entry, which isn't a good idea of you want people to click on them. :/ If the cut links would expand and collapse instead of switching pages, that might make it work, buuuuut they don't, unless there's a new option I haven't heard about because I never read the news comm. DW does it, though. Clearly it's possible to make it not-terrible.

I'd be interested to know what they want out of this, but am too lazy to dig through the comments to their update post, which has surely been flooded with complaints and cat macros by now.


2. Started Persona 2: Innocent Sin
I've only just now cleared the Zodiac. Somehow, Maya's character is a lot different than what I expected, and I'm not sure how or why. Maybe the jacket with the hearts on it gave me certain expectations I wasn't conscious of? For one, I thought she'd be a high school student like the rest of the party. (Minus Yukki.) This isn't a bad thing, mind you, just different and kind of funny. Yukki looks like a journalist/photographer for an anime, but the hearts, man... they're too cute to look professional, I don't know!

Anyway, Persona 3 and 4 have spoiled me. I prefer their methods of making persona cards. :/ This way is grindy, probably the way it was in the first game, and well, I just hate grindy stuff like that. I guess it's not as bad as FF8's magic draw system, which just bored me to death.

The opening did make me wonder, though: what the hell happened to Philemon in the later games?

I'm sure that's a spoiler. >_>

3. Food: I am not dedicated enough
I made hominy from scratch. Tastes pretty good! However, unless one can buy this stuff already peeled, there's no way I'm doing this again. Sitting down to remove peels from two hundred kernels of corn = way too much trouble, and you can't really eat it without doing this because corn casings (or whatever you call them) are an obnoxious texture, rather like eating plastic. I'll settle for the canned variety.

I thought I was taking a short cut by not cutting off the tips to make it "flower." Hahahahahayeahno.

I finally realized that Safeway sells "ripe" bananas in huge bags at a discount, and grabbed one to make banana bread and pancakes. I have a habit of forgetting bananas are there, so usually I buy them green and let them sit on the counter for three weeks before remembering and mushing them into some kind of baked confection. But see, that natural waiting period was a good thing; now I have to make a ton of banana bread so these won't get icky.

Life is terrible, I know.

4. The "100 Things" challenge
One hundred entries. That's right. I like to hear myself type, so this seems like it'd be up my alley, only... I would contend I don't have a hundred things to say that are worth saying. As it is, I feel I should just stop commenting on other entries because I don't have anything important to say. I certainly don't for LJ entries.

All I can think of is something related to gaming. Mythology in games, or history in games, or ten posts each for ten games that actually use mythology as more than flavor text. I don't know. Pretty sure I don't have 100 things to say about Tolkien, though that might change if I get off my ass and start reading the extra material. Once I might've had 100 things to say about Fire Emblem, but I don't think I do anymore.

This came at an interesting time, as I was actually considering an internet/journal/IM hiatus. I'm not doing anything important here, but there are things I should or could be doing elsewhere.
myaru: (Food - dumplings)
Homemade Japanese-style curry is just not the same as the packaged stuff.

Normally you'd see this sentence arranged differently, but I'm finding that because I got to like curry so much as it's served at the Mitsuwa deli, or at Curry House, or the way it tastes when you use those packaged chunks of curry roux, I'm not a huge fan of trying to make my own because it almost never tastes the same. It doesn't taste bad (in fact, the last one I made was actually pretty good), but it's just not the same. And sadly, I don't think I'm going to find a wheat-free version of the above any time soon.

I'm thinking it has to be one of a few things: I don't use fish/bonito stock, or it could be that I'm just not adding enough powder, and the recipe I have is a bit conservative. There's no way I can do the blend of light AND dark soy sauces (tamari, which is wheat-free, is flat out "dark" soy sauce). Alternately, it could be that all the varieties I've had thus far are packed with an ingredient like MSG.

The fish stock is the most likely problem. Sigh.

To top it all off, I can't find the right pickles. That's probably my fault. I don't know what they're called. :/ They've got to be in one of my books somewhere...


On a more cheerful note:

I didn't think I liked rooibos tea, but Lupicia's Sweet Autumn blend is pretty nice. I picked it up when I was looking for un-caffeinated tea because I liked the way the sample smelled, and it makes a nice accompaniment to these rosemary walnuts - and to writing late at night when it's rainy outside. We do have the usual selection of Celestial Seasonings bagged teas - chamomile, orange and spice, a bunch of fruity teas - but I'm not always in the mood for those, and they require honey (in my opinion), when I don't always want something sweet.

Also, kind of randomly, I guess, I decided to experiment with these Lupicia teas and see which ones are better hot or cold. Not surprisingly, they're almost all good both ways. The Momoko blend (green tea, plus peach with a bit of vanilla) is best cold-brewed because I think it comes out sweeter that way, and the new harvest sencha is best hot. I'm going to take a wild guess and say their genmai blends are best hot, but only because I can't imagine that tea cold, for some reason. Tsugaru (black tea + apple) is still best hot because it's such a mild tea to begin with, and that just didn't come out well in cold-brewing.

I can make a table if anyone cares, but I don't think many people out there are on the same Lupicia sampling spree I am, so.

I still can't get behind adding milk to anything but a chai blend. I know "chai" can refer to a lot of things; here I'm thinking of a general scale between Starbucks, Panera, and this one blend I got from a brand called the Tao of Tea. I know that's very non-specific, but I can't be sure what the former two put in their blend. Anyway, milk in tea always tastes watery and bland to me. I wonder if cream would be better? I think the problem is that chai the way I'm thinking of it is just a much stronger, spicier flavor, whereas most teas are not that. With green tea, the pleasure is all in the subtlety.

And occasionally the vanilla peach flavor. Don't judge me. :(

Note I consider "milk tea" to be different, because it's built more like a latte from what I can see - and also usually with stronger (artificial) flavoring. It's more like liquid candy than tea.

Thai tea seems to be a different beast altogether. I love that to little tiny bits.
myaru: (Tales of Symphonia - taste the rainbow)
1. Meme stolen from a bunch of people on DW:
Here's [a meme] where I'll post the working title of a story, and the first sentence, for (some of) my most current WIPs. No pairing or summary info. But you're welcome to guess.

I'm going to ditch the first two and rewrite them, but the third one might work. Maybe.

The Quintessential Raven:
Naesala liked to remember Lillia white and pure like her namesake, a lone, pale flower greeting him amongst the greens of the forest and glowing in the light of the sun.

Not long ago Rafiel thought he belonged in Hatari; the rainforests breathed with him, sang to him, while the land glittered under the rains like the wolf queen's jewelry, gold, green and brown.

Michalis the Great
The full assemblage of the Whitewings numbered just over three hundred once casualties, desertions, and discharges had taken their toll after the war.

2. Trends in the world of mpreg.
It's always Legolas. You don't see Aragorn getting pregnant, or Boromir, or even Sam-- just Legolas.

My only question is: did this trend start before or after the movies? If it started before, that's fucking amazing. If it started after, I guess I can see why.

3. Sweet AND savory.
I made brown sugar rosemary walnuts, and they're pretty good. I don't even like figs, but man. Yum. And I'm sure it doesn't matter in the slightest that I used rosemary from our own garden, but it certainly smelled delicious while I was chopping it. Nothing beats truly fresh herbs.

Now I kind of wish I'd gotten some of those roasted figs from Zingerman's. Sigh. The things I could've done.

There's another walnut snack recipe I've been meaning to try, also, and these are making me want to get off my ass and do it... except it's asking for deep frying. :/ Deep-frying can produce some delicious things, but it's a pain in the ass - hot, first of all, mildly dangerous (yay, potential for splattering), and it makes things oily.

I can do this without oil. WATCH ME.
myaru: (Food - dumplings)
Not having an air conditioner is tough when your roof is so old and deteriorated that instead of insulating you from the heat, it gathers more heat and makes the house hotter than it is outside! You can imagine the look on my face when someone tells me there's going to be a heat wave this weekend. Ninety degrees? Not bad-- if your house isn't a heat trap. We have window units in the rooms we spend the most time in, but the kitchen has nothing - it's too open to the rest of the house, and would never cool down. Using the stove is hot, and using the oven is almost intolerable if I have to stand in there and do other stuff. That's where this comes around to cooking.

Does anybody know any no-cook recipes? Veggie, dessert... I'm hesitant about doing it for the main course, since it's easy enough to drag the grill out and char some meat on that, but side dishes that don't require any heat prep would be awesome. At the moment I'm looking at insalata caprese (which I already tried and loved), cucumber salad, slaws (although I normally hate coleslaw), and fruit salads. Not a fan of fruit salads either.

I know there are soups like gazpacho, but while I'm willing to try it, I'm not sure anybody else is. In general my family will go along with whatever I do, but there are some textures or types of food that don't fly.

Hmm, maybe I should see if the library has any books on raw cooking.

Anyway, there are options like potato salad, too, which require some cooking up front, but then keep on giving once they're chilled. I'll be making a potato salad with apples and bacon (which is tasty~), and yesterday I had the luck to find this creamy avocado potato salad, which marries a bunch of flavors I really like. SR has other interesting stuff, like a cucumber salad with mint and feta, an asparagus artichoke salad, and arugula corn salad with bacon, which... well, bacon.

Cook's Illustrated also has some interesting slaw recipes available, but my big limitation here is shredding. I'm not really knife-savvy, as I'm kind of paranoid about blades as a rule. I tend to do it the long way and slice everything into strips. It's really tedious. I want a mandoline, but there are two problems with getting one: first, a decent one costs about $60 (while the really good ones are more like $200), and that's kinda steep for me personally; second, I hear it's pretty easy to slice one's fingers almost as often as the vegetables, even with the safety holders. I'm looking into cut-resistant gloves, but... ;_; If I spent between sixty and two hundred dollars on something I'm too paranoid to use half the time, that'd be such a waste.

You know, if I ordered some bagels from that custom bake place, got some cream cheese, and had a bunch of chilled salad available? That would be the perfect lunch. Anything I can pull out of the fridge without fanfare and eat = perfect, A++, my dream come true.

... right, so, instead of making myself hungrier, how about I just go eat lunch?

[ profile] amielleon, it's all your fault that my cheese shelf is overflowing with interesting things.
myaru: (Food - butterfly cupcake)
I promised Manna a post with all of my gluten-free links, so this is everything I can think of off the top of my head: blogs, stores, whatever.

Also, I feel like I should add a disclaimer: while I've used all of these blogs for information and/or recipe ideas, I haven't tried any of them extensively just yet. A lot of the time I take my GF flour blend, look at a traditional (wheat) recipe, and just substitute. I've had okay luck with that, so you don't have to jump through hoops to bake without wheat. The real problem is finding things you can eat that are ready-made, at restaurants, etc. - there are more options now than before, but the world still revolves around wheat flour and ingredients derived from it, and there aren't many places that make exceptions. Beware packaged food. I swore off it entirely.

So anyway, blogs first!

Gluten-Free Cooking School
Nice blog. I've been reading it for the information, especially on the topic of baking ratios. If you're concerned about soy, she has at least one soy-free bread recipe.

Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef
By far the most attractive of the blogs, and she also has a category for just about everything (including pie, I know you want pie - I want pie). I tried her multi-grain muffin recipe and it came out perfectly - they were good muffins, though I still prefer my old recipe. She also started the ratio rally, which is about baking by weight instead of the usual measurements; that might make her difficult to follow depending on how you cook. More on that here, but this is one of my favorites.

Gluten-free Goddess
Another good one with a ton of recipes, flour blends, advice, and information. This is the first blog I found, and it hasn't led me astray. Also a very attractive site, if you want to know. :D

Manifest Vegan
One of the bookmarks Raphien gave me, and it looks pretty awesome, but I haven't tried any of it yet. May be especially good if you also have a lactose or casein allergy. The Panera recreation challenge looks like it's right up my alley.

I can't even buy a chai at Panera, because the flour is in the effing air. It's in everything.

I still cry about that sometimes~

Wheatless and Meatless
Another bookmark that I... might have gotten from Raphien, or maybe I didn't. Come to think of it, some of the others up there might've come from her too. Anyway, haven't tried this one. In addition to recipes, there are also restaurant reviews.


Bob's Red Mill
They carry a huge variety of flours, baking mixes (gluten-free and not), whole grains, everything grain-related you could possibly want. Many of their products are also organic. Their prices are usually pretty good, and they're just awesome in general, even if you're not on a special diet. I love their GF brownie mix.

Mariposa Gluten-Free Bakery
These guys are awesome too. Their baked goods are amazing. I've sampled their cinnamon rolls, polar bears, sandwich bread, baguettes, and... that's about it, but the year is young. I wasn't as much a fan of their sandwich bread as the other stuff, but it wasn't bad; the loaf is small, so watch out for that, and they sell in small quantities.

On that note, keep in mind that pretty much anything/everything gluten-free is going to be more expensive than wheat products.

Gluten-Free from NYC
This person sells bagels (and other things) via Etsy. I'm a little put off by this because it's odd, but apparently she's good, and I'm contemplating a purchase in the near future. She makes things to order, so if you need to exclude other ingredients, just tell them.

Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery
This is my brand of choice for bread. Whole Foods carries it around here, but I'm sure they ship? I rather like their multi-grain.

Pamela's Baking Mix is pretty good, and other brands such as King Arthur's Flour, Kellogg's, Bisquick, and cake mixes (blanking on the names - Duncan Hines?) offer gluten-free versions of their products. You can get them via the manufacturer's site or Amazon, which is where I found them. Trader Joe's has a list of GF products on their website (there are a lot of them), if you have access to one of their stores.

So... yeah, I think that's all I've got. If I think of something else I'll add it.
myaru: (Food - green cupcakes)
1. Game stuff
This is a beautiful drawing of Caeda. Also, Lilina is made of awesome. And I don't know about you, but it looks like Wolt/Sue would work out pretty well. :P

I wasted half of yesterday on Pixiv. Oh well. :/ I'm at that point in my game when I balk at the idea of finishing and stop for ages. Since I still have Awakening and a bunch of DLC after this, though, I'm guessing this thing I do isn't entirely about not wanting the game/book/whatever to end.

Instead of moving directly to Mass Effect after this (since DA2 is still $60, and I don't want to pay that right now), I might try Warcraft III. Maybe I'll even do it between Origins and Awakening. It's another one of those games I always wanted to try but never had the system for, and a friend of ours lent us his copy because, in his words, "There's no way I'm letting you pay twenty bucks for a ten year old game. TAKE MINE."

2. Trying really hard to like fish.
Sooo... I'll be going gluten-free again for an undetermined length of time, which means I need to avoid almost everything I like, including both Chinese and Japanese foods. Overall the diet isn't that hard now that I know how to pull it off, but having to give up stuff like that kind of hurts. I can still go to a Japanese restaurant, but my choices will be restricted almost entirely to fish - salt-grilled stuff (unless that still involves soy sauce, oh god), or sushi.

This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't hate fish, but I do. I loathe most of it. With passion.

In an effort to get over this I ordered sashimi the last time I went out. Now... I do like tuna, maybe because I've been eating it out of a can for most of my life, so the tuna was great. Toro (fatty tuna) is especially good! That stuff melts in your mouth. Yum. But salmon? I'm eh on salmon. I found ways to prepare it here at home that I like, and it's okay raw, but it's a pain in the ass to chew that way and I don't like it enough to make the effort worth it. Haven't tried mackerel or any other type yet, as I tend to stick to the cowardly part of the sushi menu (i.e. california rolls and their infinite variations) as a result of my fish hate; I don't know if I'll like eel, but am skeptical, and I dislike shrimp unless it's ground up, smothered in white sauce, and stuffed into some kind of dumpling. I can eat one or two fried oysters, and then I'm done for the year. Sea urchin is a definite no. Clams, no. Sardines... maybe.

My mother ate sardines straight out of the can with crackers when I was growing up. I used to hate this because the smell was so strong, and I also thought sardines were disgusting. Now I'll go to her house and say "hey, I smell sardines! How nostalgic," but that's different - smelling is not eating. And I got into eating them with her for a while - I went temporarily insane or something - but stopped a long, long time ago. Like, when Xena was still airing new episodes - that long ago.

Today I pulled out a can and crumbled it up into some fried rice. It's not too bad. Still fishy, but edible.

Anyway, if I can't get over my fish loathing - and to be fair, it's been a long time since I've tried most types, so it's possible I might! - then I'll resort to ordering tons of tuna sushi and rice, and at least I won't have to feel too left out. In fact, others might look at my plate (full of bright pink, meaty slices of tuna) and feel envy.

Just like they're going to look at these gluten-free brownies and feel envy. HA HA HA ALL MINE SUCKERS.

Mariposa Gluten-Free Bakery is awesome. Thank you for existing to soften the blow.
myaru: (Fire Emblem - Altina)
1. In which I'm not really a coffee lover
The Coffee FAQ is pretty damn thorough! Color me amazed. However, they didn't have the answer to my question - that took four searches and several (unrewarded) leaps of faith. I really, really wanted to know what to do with a Turkish coffee ground, because I'm stuck with a pound of it and don't want it to go to waste. Can a fine grind like that be put through a normal drip brew process - i.e. will it work if I dump it into my regular coffee maker? This guy says it's a bad idea, but it doesn't sound like it'll turn to sludge and overflow, which is what I was worried about.

So. Hm. I guess I have to find a cezve and try making Turkish coffee first. Doesn't sound too hard. It does sound like a pain in the ass, but maybe the process is faster than it sounds.

This is what I get for being lazy. I thought, "hey, instead of doing all the work myself, I'll let Starbucks grind my coffee instead!" and the ever so enlightened barista gave me coffee powder instead of the coarse grind I needed for cold brewing, because their machine has three settings, and he thought I meant I would really steep it like tea. OH WELL. Not his fault, I guess. It's mine for not knowing what the hell Turkish coffee was, and that I should ask for french press instead, which is closer to what I need.

Maybe I should stick with tea.

2. History / writing source
I found Rome: Republic to Empire completely by accident while looking for Roman military structure, and it's a nice resource - better than the last one I linked to, written by a Classics teacher, and it comes with a ton of sources. It's still not a substitute for a history tome, but so far it looks good.

3. Fire Emblem, in regards to Ashnard...
This is going to sound weird, and I don't know how many takers I'll get, but... is there anything you guys would like to see written about Ashnard? Canon, AU, I don't care, though canon (or close to it) might be the most helpful.

I don't know what to try. It's hard to come up with ideas. Should I use Almedha? A prince Soren AU? Uhhh yeah. No idea.

Anything I write will be short, more of a snippet, and quite possibly full of fail. But I'll try. I need to learn how to write him.

Since this is public, the forum is open to anyone, including people not on the F-list, but anon commenting is disabled so I don't die of spam. :/ I got really tired of deleting stuff. Too busy playing Dragon Age.
myaru: (HnG - Fujuwara no Sai love~)
[03.12.2011: Charity information updated.]
[03.14.2011: Charities updated; Red Cross link updated to send to Japanese branch.]

Format of this post:
1. my offerings
2. recommended charities + links
3. topics and items I'm willing to write, draw, or cook for you
4. sign-up format

My husband has already donated to the Red Cross, but I personally do not have much money to add to the relief cause. I do, however, have the ability to write, draw, or bake on request. If a batch of chai-spiced snickerdoodles is enough inspiration for you to donate money to this cause, I will be happy to make them for you.

I know this is a long post, but I want to be specific.


What I'm offering:
Short Fiction: You may request a drabble or a oneshot, not to exceed 2000 words (unless my brain goes into overdrive or you make a big donation). This can be fan fiction or original fiction. Guidelines for what I'm willing to write are below. To be honest, I'm a bit leery about offering fan fiction because of the legality issue, but will do so because I'm not receiving any money. Electronic distribution only - i.e. it stays online in all the designated places and will not be used for profit. I reserve the right to copyright any original work.

Most of you are familiar with my fiction. If you're not, check out [personal profile] runiclore for examples.

Fan Art: I'm not a fantastic artist, but if you really want a drawing of Lethe, or maybe a Japanese miko, I can do it. Will be done with pencil, ink, and markers unless otherwise specified, and I'd prefer to limit this to 1-2 characters per piece. I'm best at drawing women and willowy pretty boys, so be aware of that if you make a request. My abilities with backgrounds are truly suspect.

Examples are here at DeviantArt. Distribution is strictly online.

Cookies: No, really. I like baking. Cookies are easy to ship, so those are my main offerings. Brownies may also be on the menu. All I can tell you, otherwise, is that nobody ever complains when I bring sweets to Game Night.

Beta-reading and review services: I will critique or review one story of your choice, preferably 10,000 words or less-- but I'll consider longer pieces. Both fan fiction and original fiction are fine. Please be specific about what you want - sugary praise, concrit with sugar, or straight-up nitpicking. I try to offer balanced critiques regardless of how "nice" I am, but if you're not ready for me to pick your story apart sentence by sentence and tell you to rewrite it from the bottom up, don't ask for it straight-up.

PLEASE NOTE: I'm offering one piece per donation. If you want cookies, I will probably ask to go half-and-half with shipping, because as I noted above, I am not exactly well-off in the financial sense. Packages aren't much by themselves, but if I'm sending ten, well, that adds up.

But whatever, the first few will go for free. That's a limited time offer.

Recommended charities, donation confirmation, information on what I'll write, draw, etc. )

Sign-up Format:

Donation choice: (for off-site donation, proof can be sent via AIM, Livejournal PM, or email)
Type of request: (fic, art, cookies, review/beta)
Content of request: (fandom, topic, character, recipe + any special needs*, what type of critique you want, etc.)

* If you ask for food, you'll have to be comfortable with giving me your address via LJ PM or email (

In the event you choose to delay donation, I will delay working on your request until I receive confirmation of what you want to do. I'm trying to be fair about this, but if by some freak chance I get a lot of requests, I'd like to deliver on the ones that are already "paid for" first, so to speak.

If you have any questions at all, please ask.
myaru: (Miang - I want to be myself)
I realize I was conservative in thinking about goals for 2011. My life doesn't lend itself to the really glorious stuff; I've given up on finding a job, and feel rather aimless as far as what I should be doing with my time besides writing. Like I've said before, I can't shake the assumption that I'm basically worthless to society without a) publication, or b) a job, never mind that neither one is really of worth to anyone but one's immediate family and dependents. I realize this is silly and destructive thinking, but it's always there in the back of my mind.

So instead of big goals - because frankly, I don't really want an office job anyway - I have smaller ones.

1. learn to make my grandmother's enchiladas
2. finish research for Primrose novel
3. write Primrose novel (doable regardless of quality/publishability)
4. learn how to make yokan
5. find a recipe for that pumpkin seed mole

Technically I've learned a lot about food in my non-existent family tradition. That is, I've learned to make the staples (red rice and beans), how to make my own tortillas (I'd still rather buy them), which chiles are best for my tastes (poblano and ancho... which are almost the same thing), red and green salsas, and stuffed peppers. In the last several years I've learned to make things that I don't think my grandmother does anymore: carnitas, chile verde, mole. Tamales would be awesome, but are way too work-intensive right now - and I hear they take arm strength, haha, which I have none of.

So here are the harder ones:

6. learn how to make bread
7. learn to make tamales
8. study Japanese for an hour every day, with an end goal of being able to read a Saiunkoku novel
9. write and finish one short story a month (can be a second draft, but try for new)
10. figure out those sweet potato cakes and make them

Before I stopped studying, my Japanese was almost good enough to read a light novel. There was vocabulary I was missing, and for some reason I have serious issues identifying subjects in complicated sentences, but my skill was nearly there; all I needed was practice in applying the grammar concepts I knew, the kanji I knew, and so forth. However, it has atrophied in the three years since I stopped. Much of my study will be review, but the vocab probably has to be built up more than anything. I'll be doing a lot of kanji.

My short stories don't often go over 6000 words. Technically this goal is doable, even easy - but it might also be really hard to motivate myself, inspire myself, or dig up workable ideas. That's always the trouble, right? Motivation. Mindset.

So there you go. I'm not calling them resolutions, and I'm not sure how many of them I'll achieve. I suppose it doesn't matter as long as I try.
myaru: (Food - obento)
Kabocha squash (sometimes known as a "Japanese pumpkin") has been growing on me lately. I don't much like squash, and foods that remind me of it - plain sweet potato, plantains - are also on my list of iffy things to eat, depending on how they're dressed or integrated into the meal. Frying, of course, makes everything okay - but frying is a love affair for a different post.

My quest for kabocha recipes started when I found a recipe for glossy pork and pumpkin stew in Elizabeth Andoh's At Home in the Japanese Kitchen, which is predecessor to her most recent book, Washoku, and now out of print. The recipe is just chunks of pork and a third of a kabocha, plus broth, mirin, etc. The problem, of course, is that our local grocery store only carries whole kabocha - there's no such thing as the convenient half- or quarter- piece you can find at Mitsuwa or Nijiya, which are specifically Japanese markets. At the end of the day I'm left with the other two thirds, which used to sit in my refrigerator and turn mushy because I didn't know what to do with it. I tried steaming, but didn't like the plain flavor-- predictable.

Just Hungry's sweet and spicy roasted kabocha recipe was the first one I found. It's tasty, but hard to pair with our other meal options, and almost always ends up left over for me to use in fried rice. Don't let that stop you, though, as it's pretty good by itself.

Next, some time last week, I had two pounds of kabocha cubes to use up and decided to try a milder, more savory recipe that I found at Lunch in a Box: simmered kabocha, which is flavored mainly by broth. This one is so far my favorite, because it's the simplest of the three I've tried, and also the easiest to integrate with everything else we eat. I used about a pound for this recipe and saved the rest for later.

Two days ago I tried a recipe from Washoku, because it looked good and asked for an ingredient I've never used before: Soy-Simmered Kabocha Squash with Red Beans. Having never used azuki beans, I thought it'd be a good thing to try. And it was good-- and also a pain in the ass, in case you were wondering.

If you cook with beans at all, you know they require some soaking time. Azuki beans are no exception. You can soak them the same day (for three hours) if you actually plan your day, or you can do it overnight in the refrigerator like I did. Then, they take about an hour and a half to cook. You need the broth to complete this recipe, so timing the kabocha just right really helps. The dish comes together nicely in the end - squash, beans, sauce, all make a very nice combination. It's also very filling. I'm a big fan, and will make it again just for the leftovers.

I'm going to paraphrase the instructions because they're really long. If you have any questions, go ahead and ask.

Soy-Simmered Kabocha Squash With Red Beans (Itoko Ni)
From: Washoku, by Elizabeth Andoh
Serves 4.

Recipe under the cut. )

The author's instructions are aimed at good presentation as well as taste, so I personally skip steps like straining the kabocha broth and simply skimmed out all of the bits of vegetable I could find in the space of about a minute. Her instructions also include beveling the pumpkin skin, which I just don't have the right tools for - I can't find a good peeler to save my life, although I saw a few recommendations over at Lunch in a Box. I'm just not willing to take that risk with a knife, so it's up to you. Kabocha is incredibly hard, so try cutting a bit of it up before you decide you're going to play with decorating the skin.

I should've picked up a half piece when we were at Mitsuwa today, but I was already spending enough money on Christmas stuff.


Related, I found a post about ekiben, or bento sold at regional train stations in Japan, that has some lovely pictures and makes me want to hop over the Pacific and take a few trains around the country. There are apparently some good ones around Kyoto, so I guess I chose the right destination for my so far imaginary trip. :P The sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves are especially cute and pretty.

Also, I'm a fan of milk tea. I don't really know why, as it's usually made with instant tea powder and artificial flavors, but it's like eating at McDonald's - you do it because the food tastes like candy and it's cheap, not because you think it's a valuable culinary experience. I went so far as to purchase lavender and jasmine milk tea powder at Marina (this is all Lorelai's fault, by the way), and then I went to the Lupicia store at Valley Fair and magically ended up with their Sakura Matcha Au Lait powder, which ended up growing on me once I figured out how to prepare it for real. (Their instructions are probably made for microwaves that don't heat your food with nukes, ha ha.) I figure regular matcha powder should work the same way, with some sugar if I really want it, but... but they have a soybean powder version that sounds kind of interesting. And strawberry. And--

Well, I figure... the ratio seems to be 1/4 strongly brewed tea (matcha, black tea, maybe jasmine etc.?), sugar if you need it, and then hot milk all the way to the top. Since matcha is so strong already, I'm not sure if other tea would work double-brewed, or if you should use triple the amount instead. Maybe it depends on the quality of your tea leaves. I haven't experimented much yet, but since I've decided to swear off coffee for a while and see if tea does caffeine better, I'll have the opportunity.

Tea recipes I might try:
- Ginger Milk Tea (I don't even like ginger, but, well.)
- Peach Oolong Almond milk tea
- Cinnamon Ginger tea (this stuff is just awesome)

I have some very strong jasmine tea I might use as my first experiment. It just kills me with the intensity of its fragrance (and it had better, since it's supposed to be high quality), but milk seems to tone it down to a tolerable level.

I know. Heresy. For what it's worth, I always drink my green tea straight otherwise.
myaru: (Food - obento)
Holy crap, look at this halloween cake. How many layers of orange and chocolate is that? It may be easy, but it still looks like a pain. A gorgeous, striking, and festive pain, but still.

Besides that, I have a recipe for beef bulgogi, transcribed from a cookbook aptly titled "Korean Cooking."

Recipe! Doing this on a grill is ideal, but the weather goes bad every single time I make this. )


Since today is Halloween and we're both cranky old people, we've locked the gate, and I made a batch of the SF Chronicle's Matcha Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats, which are surprisingly good. I loathe these things most of the time, but the matcha tempers the sweetness of the marshmallows (which are probably the reason I hate these things - because I hate marshmallows too) and makes the stuff edible. Um. No word yet on whether Zach likes them, and I admit my only taste has come from picking the remains off the spoon I used to stir and spoon it into the baking pan, but it was pretty good. >_>

Pffffft trick-or-treating. WHO NEEDS IT.

I wonder if barley tea will work with these treats, too. :D
myaru: (Tales of Legendia - Chloe)
1. Writing stuff, fic and original.

53756 / 70000 words. 77% done!

Oh yay, I'm back in that middle-of-project slump. Bleh. I get the feeling even 70K is underestimating, but if I change the goal now, I'll feel like I'm perpetually at 50% completion, and it's getting tiring enough without that kind of demotivation. This is an interesting lesson in structure for this specific story, though; mentally I had all three legs of the plot pegged to be the same length, and clearly that isn't the case. Even though this part has serious pacing problems, if I ever decide to rewrite and try to publish this, I'll know where my focus should be... I guess.

Besides that, I'm working on some old fic meme replies, so I have a scene between Midia and Maria (FE11) halfway done and am wondering if the awkwardness is all me, or if I'm just nailing it that hard. My guess is that it's me. :P I don't know either character. At all. I failed at Maria in my Minerva fic, and this is only a little better. (You'd think I'd find her easy, since she reminds me of Ovelia and people tell me I write a good Ovelia, but you know-- yeah. Never mind.) Also working on the Nyna idea, to see if I can make it go anywhere for challenge ten. Uhhh. Yeah. Besides my very short beginning to the Minerva rewrite, I don't think I have any other fic stuff going on. Just the ones I mentioned here, which I haven't worked on. I haven't actually started the peg sister practice marathon (FE11) yet, but plan to. In fact, I really need to.

So. I'm still not going to do Nanowrimo, but I think I might use November for a word sprint. I've been pretty lazy about my output the last few weeks.

2. Tales of Legendia: in the middle of Grune's quest.
AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHFG I hate the Wings of Light dungeon. Hate! Hate hate hate hatehatehatehatehatehate--

It figures the game would make me wait until the very end to solve Grune's mystery. If not for these character quests, she'd be the pointless addition to the party, the one clearly only there to tote a pair of big, bouncy breasts that make funny noises when she hugs people. Also, to inspire Norma and Shirley to be discouraged by their small cup sizes, even though Norma obviously doesn't care enough to wear looser clothing, go figure!

... then again, I guess that is logical, isn't it.

Holy Bottles barely do anything for the encounter rate. I'm really starting to get irritated with it. My hands are killing me from all the fighting I had to do in the damned Wings of Light, and-- and. You know what? Any game that gives me a recovery point and a save point, and then makes me walk five screens' worth of bridge and random encounters to get to the big battle is fucking with me, and I'm not a happy camper. That pissed me off the last time I was here, too.

DEEP BREATH. Phew. Okay.

So, I was wondering when the summon spirits would come in. Please tell me I don't have to run all over the place to go find those seeds Grune planted. Please? PLEASE.

3. Food
Consider this sesame chicken recipe highly recommended. It's one of my favorites, it's really easy, it's fast - and it's great over plain white rice. We also had a salad of mixed greens, but I admit that was the lazy way out.

A friend and I were talking about mayonnaise, and we got around to the unfortunate problem of corn syrup, and how it's IN EVERYTHING. My god, mayo? Really? Why?

So I started looking around on food blog search, and decided to try to recipes for homemade mayo - one vegan, one not, just to see what they taste like. The flavor is supposedly much better when you make it yourself, so it might turn out that I don't hate mayonnaise at all, buuuut I doubt it. I use the stuff when necessary, and sub other ingredients whenever possible. I can't see fresh eggs and olive oil - even good olive oil - changing that. Fresh stuff would be great in tuna, though! Or so I suspect.

Now, time to bake some pumpkin bread~

Oh yeah, and I finished Gankutsuou. More on that later.
myaru: (Food - butterfly cupcake)
Like this really needs an update.

I made the sweet and spicy roasted kabocha, which earned rave reviews from the rest of the family. It is indeed very, very tasty. Next time I'm going to use less sugar (as a matter of fact, I skipped the second sugar sprinkle she mentions in the recipe), and... well, having roasted vegetables before, I knew it would be smarter to do the tossing process backwards - i.e. toss the kabocha in soy sauce and oil first - and then add the spice, but my habit is to do all recipes exactly as written the first time I make them. That was obviously a mistake. If you add the spice first, it'll kind of coat the squash, but most of it will end up on the bottom, where it'll turn into spice mud when you add the oil and soy sauce. I should've obeyed my instincts, but whatever.

We served it with these pork chops, which happen to have some spices in common - cumin, at least, which is a strong spice, and turned out to be an adequate bridge between the two, although I imagine the kabocha will taste great with teriyaki or any of the simmered dishes we make from Washoku. It's also great the second day, chopped up and added to fried rice. Kabocha is really meaty - more than yams, I think, which is the comparison everyone at the table was making. The recipe can probably be used on sweet potatoes pretty easily, though.

On Saturday we went with some friends to the Calafia cafe in Palo Alto, which claims its fame from being home to a former Google chef. This meant very little to me, actually, but the food was great - creative and tasty. Since my rule going to places like this is to just splurge and not watch what I eat, well... I feasted on the biscuits and mushroom gravy with lamb sausage, and it was really, really good. ;_; I also had jasmine green tea, but that was nothing to write home about, as it was a bagged variety - not bad for that, but it still has nothing on the real thing. Zach got the crab cakes benedict (I don't remember the exact name), so I wasn't about to taste his food, but I bet it was great if you like crab.

I'm also thrilled that they serve buckwheat pancakes, but that's just me being a nerd. I would love to go there again.

For dinner we went to Bangkok Spoon for green scallop curry, basil duck (which had us joking that was the name of the duck we were eating, rather than the dish), a sweet/spicy chicken soup and crepe I can't recall the names for, and fried bananas with honey. They had coconut mango rice, I could have tried it, but... but... I love fried bananas. I just couldn't say no.

So, buckwheat. It's surprisingly good. Good to the Grain is an awesome cookbook just for introducing me to all of these different flours. So far I've only tried four of her recipes - three types of pancakes (multigrain, buckwheat, oatmeal) and the olive oil cake, and three out of four have been a success. I didn't like the multigrain pancakes because they were too heavily based on whole wheat flour, which doesn't make a great sweet, in my opinion, but it's up to personal taste - I happen to not like that flavor in my pancakes. The oatmeal pancakes are great, and the buckwheat and pear pancakes surprised me by not needing any syrup at all. They're good with just a bit of butter. Buckwheat has a deep taste I'm not sure I can describe yet, but it isn't overbearing and grainy like whole wheat. The grated pear added some interesting texture and a very subtle flavor; I think I'll just mash it next time, though. I hate grating things into cakes.

Next time we meet up for D&D I'm going to try either the spice muffins or the sand cookies. Or hell, maybe both. It'll all be gone by the end of the session.

I'm trying to get into the habit of having a cup of genmaicha during or after every evening meal. It goes with everything and gives me a tiny burst of energy so I feel like reading instead of just staring at the screen. :D This is still my favorite green tea. Really, after drinking loose leaf green tea, I can't stand the bagged kind. It's amazing what a difference having it fresh makes.

I want to try cold barley tea too, but I'm never going to get over to Mitsuwa at this rate. Maybe I should just order it online.
myaru: (Food - obento)
Last week - Thursday, I think? - I took a leap and spent two hours preparing SF Chronicle's Braised Chicken Thighs With Castelvetrano Olives & Toasted Almonds. Took forever, but the dish was delicious (garlicky, slightly buttery, which contrasted with the slight bitterness of the greens I used), and I'll definitely make it again. Just... not so often, because it didn't have enough downtime to let me get out of the kitchen and do other things while the food cooked. Maybe it happened that way because this was my first time with the recipe; maybe I can streamline the process next time.

Modifications made out of necessity:
- I used a blend of greens from Trader Joe's instead of escarole, which my mother-in-law wimped out of buying last time I put it on the menu;
- we only had six chicken thighs, which means zero leftovers;
- I added MORE GARLIC (I know, it sounds like an awful idea, but it was really good!);
- didn't have Castelvetrano olives. Alas.

I served it with plain white rice and used the leftover sauce to flavor pasta on Friday, which I had to improvise because the main ingredient of the dinner I'd planned didn't make it to the end of the week. Food has been going bad faster lately, and sure, it's probably not a great idea to stretch something like chicken for most of a week, but I don't have a car and can't go shopping every day - never mind the money. So anyway, above recipe is highly recommended, and makes great leftovers or additions to other types of dishes. And I bring it up because I realized something weird: I like olives now.

Olives and I had a bad childhood relationship. I was okay with the black ones - you see them all the time on pizza, nachos, dishes I'm not thinking of at this moment-- things kids love to eat. I was no exception to that. On Thanksgiving my aunt would put out a leaf-shaped crystal dish of whole, pitted black olives, and I was the one eating most of them. That lasted me most of the next year, though, so I never went out of my way to ask for them at home. As for green olives, I hated them - or thought I did. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I had even tasted a green olive, or realized I had, until a year or two ago. I had this impression that they would be more acidic, saltier, and-- I don't even know anymore. Seeing them stuffed with, well, stuff in jars at the grocery store also put me off.

My first olive experience was part of a greater recipe, a burger mix we found in Building a Better Burger. Olives, chunks of salami, and a ton of other unnecessary ingredients are added to the meat to produce an end product that's surprisingly good. The recipe calls for pimiento-stuffed olives, and I found out I didn't hate them as much as I thought.

Secondly, there was a chicken skewer recipe in a cookbook I found in the bargain section at Barnes & Noble, and picked up because I thought it'd be a good source of bento-sized dishes: Bite-Sized, which consists mostly of skewers, side dishes, and appetizers. The recipe in question has you marinate the chicken overnight in olive oil, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom, then grill it with bay leaves and skewer green olives onto the ends and sprinkle it with bits of preserved lemon when everything is done. I had this wonderful recipe all to myself until I made the mistake of letting Zach taste my lunch. It went from lasting half a week to one night.

Thirdly, there's a wonderful place in Mountain View called Cafe Borrone, and it just so happened the dishes I ordered the first few times came with fresh (sadly un-pitted) olives. I couldn't deny anymore that I liked them. They add a nice, salty tang to the sausage sandwich I had there.

So, now I wonder: what are the differences between olive varieties? Are some brands saltier than others? (Probably.) Are there subtle differences in taste between olives grown in Spain, versus olives grown in Italy, or Greece, or California? Probably. But what are they? Inquiring minds want to know and experience - and then add them to food here at home wherever I can get away with it.

Here I go, eating my words. This happens on a regular basis. I don't know why I'm surprised.

Are there any foods you liked or hated when you were younger, only to find you've changed your mind now? I can think of a few others, for my part - tofu, asparagus, strong cheeses like fontina (well, it's strong to me), shiitake mushrooms, lobster (shock!) aaaand...
myaru: (VP - Shiho)
1. Unlikely flavor combination?
Today was supposed to be reading and writing - mostly writing, since reading screws me over with backaches at every opportunity - and instead it was... Bake a Cake Day. Olive oil cake with rosemary and chocolate chunks, to be precise. My grandmother bought Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours for my birthday, and it just got here, so of course I wanted to make use of it! And the recipe I just happened to have all of the ingredients for was olive oil cake. Don't judge me, it was an accident. Someone put the recipe online here if you're curious; this one uses spelt flour, which I have sitting around in a ziplock in the cupboard, so it's about time I use it.

Note that, for a cake, it's not that sweet. The rosemary adds a savory note to balance the big chunks of chocolate, and the cake itself tastes golden and crisp, because of the olive oil. It's probably terrible for me you - but wait, olive oil is good fat, riiiight? Ha... ha. *guilt*

The book itself is as amazing as I'd hoped. There are several recipes I want to try, but since the majority of them are sweet, I'll have to wait a while, as I've instituted a rule that I'm only allowed to bake once a month - partly for health, and mostly because it's really freaking hot in the kitchen, otherwise. I might make sometimg to take to D&D meetings, but other than that...

Speaking of hot kitchens, I'm going to spend most of Friday in that misery while I make chile verde. Meh. At least the payoff is really awesome.

This makes me want to try those cornmeal thyme cookies again, but now I have to wait a month. The urge will probably pass.

2. Books and writing, books on writing.
The other birthday present was The 3 A.M. Epiphany, which was actually supposed to be the next book in the series. I've got a gift receipt in case I want to exchange them, but since I have The 4 A.M. Breakthrough in from the library, I'm going to use both of them and see if I'll benefit from owning both, or if one is better than the other. The names have nothing to do with the content, so far as I can tell, except maybe in concept; if the author came up with these exercises for his creative writing classes, no doubt many of his students were hacking away at them at all hours, including - maybe even especially - at three and four in the morning. I didn't know very many morning people in the CW program, though... to be fair I didn't talk to that many people, because I hate talking in general.

As you can see, I'm looking for new and interesting writing exercises. I'm not thrilled with the ones in my textbook, and when I flipped through these books, they looked interesting. I feel like I'm slipping in the craft department, but focusing on tweaking skills while writing the novel will just mean really slow progress. It's easier to just write something aimed at dialogue, for example, or rhythm, etc. I do pay attention to sentence and paragraph structure when I write, but I kind of do it by ear and who the hell knows if it's actually effective.

This adventure where I actually read all of my backlogged books is uh, interesting. I'm still in the middle of Name of the Rose - that's the book that made my back regret all of my reading time - and I can't help but resent all the latin just a little. I know I could plug some of these phrases into Google, but Google is evil, first of all, and secondly, I am way too lazy for that. I'm in the middle of day three, and Adso is really adorable. I like him. The library was an interesting concept, and I hope they'll revisit it and pick its secrets apart. I'm not that familiar with the historical setting, so you won't see much from me on the accuracy of it, though I'm really interested in their theology discussions, and will probably flip back to look at them again. I also... cough, have no familiarity with Aristotle. Shameful, yeah yeah. I'll just be over here enjoying this book like a mundane human being. Eco can write books steeped in Catholic theology, and sadly, my so-called expertise is elsewhere, sooooo there won't be any intelligent picking-apart from me.

I also got notebooks: small pocket ones, and bigger ones for actual writing. Notebooks are very important. Pens-- those are also very important. I'm picky. If I did a post on my writing tools, it'd make you laugh because I insist on the silliest things.

3. What happened to ToS?
Yeah... Alice. Alice and Decus happened to my playthrough of Dawn of the New World. I can only get my ass kicked so many times before I toss the game across the room and say fuck it, so at the moment I'm not doing anything in the gaming department. I have the ToP rom, but haven't done anything with it yet. I'm being lazy, as it requires me to install and tweak a new emulator, and then patch and tweak something else, and... bah.

Three RPGs in a row is pretty intense for me, though. Maybe I just need to recharge my gaming battery. Besides, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect are waiting for me. Also, only somewhat on-topic, I'm almost done with the Trinity Blood anime.

And then, haha, there are all those games I haven't finished yet. My FFT replay, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant, Crisis Core...
myaru: (Tales of Symphonia - siiiigh)
Totally not cutting for spoilers. Let me know if I should.

1. Tales of Symphonia: about ten hours in / Asgard Ranch
Hahahahaha, every time Kratos says something deep about fighting, and Lloyd is like, "Damn, he's right, I suck~~~" I feel like I'm watching the beginning of a slashtastic melodrama. But that relationship wouldn't work because Lloyd is too dorky. Kratos would snap. It might distract him from his angst, though.

Raine is adorable. I love her and her research/archeological geekery. She's my favorite of the party members, although Sheena is also really cute - and not a bad fighter, which is quite surprising considering the size of those breasts, wow. But anyway, Raine says all the stuff I would say, besides being really cute and nerdy. She's smart! She's ruthless! She pwns other researchers! What's not to love? I'd say she and Kratos are burning for a love affair, only I just pegged him as gay for Lloyd, and since I'm pretty sure Colette would croak if this weren't an RPG, someone has to be left for Lloyd.

Then again, for all I know, Zelos is perfect for that role.

So, you were all right - ToS is like a warped amalgamation of a ton of games I've played before. Not just FFX, but Xenogears. That moment in the Ranch where you find out about the nature of Exspheres? Let's just say I've seen that before. :P

Colette is... uh. I don't like her very much. I don't hate her, but her "I'm not telling you about my angst because I don't want to worry anyone!" thing is a little annoying. How old are she and Lloyd supposed to be? Fifteen or something? They're both so dumb. It's hard to stay optimistic, even when Lloyd shows progress in his involuntary journey toward being less-dumb. Colette's transformation is really interesting, though, and I'm looking forward to learning more about that and the nature of angels in this world, because-- sorry, Remiel is still creeping me out big time. It's a complex I have from reading the Book of Enoch in my young, tender college years.

I'm so-so on Genis so far. He's okay. I'm more interested in this thing about he and Raine being full elves, vs. half, and what that really means.

2. Writing: all right, fine.
Winternight doesn't require the drastic changes I thought it would. There are probably issues that could be solved by a really thorough editing process, and maybe rewriting, but I'm not willing to do that, and I will admit that it isn't bad enough to merit that much attention. My energy would be better spent on the Minerva fic, which is next in line-- and up for some rewriting. A lot of you liked the story, and it's not as terrible as I thought. The problem is, I finished it right when I sank into that hole of depression in February, and I might always hate Winternight because of that association. No matter how much time passes, I just can't evaluate it fairly.

But you know, maybe I should've just posted it as-is and left it alone, because working on it put me in a bad mood. I'm not sure if it's the fic that pissed me off, or if the dam has finally broken and all of my hate for FF.Net is flooding out.

I'm considering ideas for FE Contest #6, and writing my late entry for #5 slowly but surely. Once I get started I remember why I liked writing FE fic, but it takes a lot of effort to get started, even for my favorite characters.

As for projects I'm behind on:

27628 / 37000 words. 75% done!

I think the novel has another ten thousand words to its name, but only just.

3. Randomly, pickles.
Does anybody know what type of pickles they serve with curry in Japanese resturants? I thought it was ginger, but the ones I've got are spicier than I'm used to. This isn't bad, exactly - it's just that I think I got the wrong thing. Or hey, maybe it doesn't matter. :D They serve curry with daikon pickles too.

So yeah, I made curry. Excellent comfort food. It feels a bit lighter than other types of rice bowls. Like... katsudon.

Mmmmm, katsudon.


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