Friday, January 22, 2016

These Are A Few Of My Most Hated Things

There are a lot of things that annoy me. One might even say they unreasonably annoy me. Many of them involve grammar. The rest can be lumped into the general category of dumb human behavior.  I'm trying to learn to ignore them, but I can't be the only who hates these things, right?

Men Who Always Squint

What is this? Why? I hate it. The guys who always look squinty but have wrinkled foreheads from raising their eyebrows are extra irritating.  It especially seems like guys in New York/New Jersey do this a lot, as I don't remember it being as prevalent elsewhere. I think they're trying to either look sexy or tough. It's not working. Below are two examples I found online - there are so many people who do this in real life, but it was actually hard to find photos since 'squinty man' doesn't really turn up the right results. I should just snap photos of random people throughout my day and call it a win.

Manspreaders Who Won't Take a Hint

I've started passive aggressively standing my ground when manspreaders push their legs into me on the subway. I'm tired of trying to make myself smaller just so I don't have to touch them.  I'm sorry, but no one's balls are so big that they literally need to make a V with their legs.  If they are, they should see a doctor. I think some of them may think I'm flirting when I push back a little, but I do my best to make eye contact and give them the flattest, most stone cold look I can manage before pointedly going back to whatever I'm reading.  If I have to be uncomfortable, I try to make them uncomfortable too.  Luckily, it seems the MTA is on my side with this one. 

OK Cupid Hypocrites

These are the guys who are heavy themselves but announce they'll only date someone skinny. Or the guys who say god is important to them, they believe women who have had too many sex partners are bad (a real question), and yet are "seriously interested" in a threesome. 

Or, and this one particularly irks me, they answer a question a certain way (there are a LOT of questions you can answer) but indicate they won't accept the same answer from a potential partner.  I don't get it. It's so annoying.  See below for some examples. Faces covered to protect the innocent (me).

So he wants to be rich and knowledgeable but I can't be? The hell??

Autoplay Videos or Ads

WHY does every news site do this? I've stopped reading any article but ones that absolutely fascinates me because the autoplay drives me crazy. I'm trying to READ here. If I wanted to watch the video, I'd press play myself!  Ads with audio on random pages are even worse. I usually have several tabs open, so it can sometimes take me a good 20 seconds to find and silence the offending ad. If I'm at work it's embarrassing. If I'm at home, it's still annoying. And you had better believe I'd rather cut my hand off then buy anything from those ads or click anything on those ads. I hope all those companies go out of business for being overly aggressive jerks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

All My Favorite Authors Are Dead

Ok, maybe not quite all. I quite like Diana Gabaldon, for example. And Marian Keyes books are both entertaining and though provoking, in a stealth kind of way, and she is still very much alive. I'm sure I could also think of a few others who have yet to depart from this mortal coil. But, unfortunately, it does seem that MANY of my favorite authors are no longer in the land of the living. Selfish though it is, it makes me sad that no new books will update me on the lives of my favorite characters, and I will never again laugh out loud at some of the witty descriptions found in these books.

Terry Pratchett

I've been tearing through the Discworld series in the past few months and I'm almost at the end. Which is awful. The fact that Terry Pratchett was able to write over 40 books about the same world, with many of the same characters, without becoming stale or repetitive is an amazing feat. His stories are hilarious but still have this grain of truth within them, not to mention an amazing understanding of human nature. Yesterday I found out that he passed away recently, at a relatively young age, and I am already mourning the lack of new books even while still finishing up the stash I have. 

Elizabeth Peters 

I discovered her books when I was still in middle school, and have read every single book she's published under this particular pseudonym since then. While she also wrote books as Barbara Michaels, those books have a thread of supernatural spookiness running through them that I don't enjoy quite as much. Her Elizabeth Peters books are a triumph of comedic genius, however. They are generally mysteries or adventure/mysteries, but the witty and charismatic characters are what take center stage.  In particular, her Amelia Peabody Emerson books and her Vicky Bliss novels were extremely entertaining, and I've reread 'Street of the Five Moons at least 10 times.  Alas, no more books will be forthcoming, as she passed away in 2013 at the age of 85. I still feel sad about this, as I used to await her annual release for months in advance.

Mirion Zimmer Bradley

Another fantasy author I have loved and lost. Many people will know her for 'The Mists of Avalon,' but my favorite of her literary works was her Darkover series.  'Exile's Song' in particular grabbed me, and I reread it several times. I got news of her passing while living abroad, and had a minor existential crisis at the thought of no longer getting updates on the Alton family.

P.G. Wodehouse  

This author died before I was even born, much less had read any of his books. Nevertheless, I wish I could look forward to new releases. Like many of the other authors on my list, he had a knack for writing stories that combined dry humor and spot on characterizations.  I'm hoping he was somehow reincarnated and is just now getting ready to start publishing new novels. 

There are probably others I'm blocking from memory for my own emotional well being.  When an author dies, in a sense all their characters die too, so it's a mini genocide.  On the other hand, they are also immortal, as these books will hopefully be around for generations to come.  Regardless, no more authors are allowed to die. I don't think I could handle it.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Furry Freeloaders - Cute Cat Edition

I have cats. Not a crazy cat lady amount, just two, but that is plenty in a small one bedroom apartment.  They are adorable. They sleep on my feet at night and purr in my face in the morning.

However, sadly, they are also freeloaders.  It has come to my attention that other cats pull their weight. I'm not even talking about Grumpy Cat, whose popularity seems to be due to a genetic fluke of nature. I can't hold my cat's inherently cheerful visages against them.  No, I'm talking about actual working cats.  I'm going to need to let my cats know that the free ride ends now.

For instance, my cousin recently brought Maru to my attention. Maru seems to be famous simply for liking boxes. Cardboard boxes that is. Now, my cats like boxes too but not in a particularly photogenic way.  Rather, they like boxes in a way that knocks things off tables or wakes me up in the middle of the night. They like boxes in the absolute opposite of a helpful way.

(Quick aside here to note that one of my cats just walked up to me and started headbutting me and purring. She's trying, bless her heart. I tried to videotape it, but she's all black. It's like a black shadow where cute is supposed to be. How am I supposed to work with that?)

Then there's Nala. I have to give her owner some credit for this one. The videos don't show her doing anything particularly spectacular, but they are nicely edited with music. I mean, my cats (if you could actually see them in videos) do basically the things this cat does.  But my cats do not have a twitter feed. Lazy.

Then we've got Chris Cohen's cat (a personal favorite of mine). It talks. I mean. My cats meow plenty, but they have yet to learn English, much less delightfully accented English.  I'm thisclose to signing them up for some ESL classes and hoping for the best.

Anyway, my cats are lucky they have good personalities. I've been covering their share of the rent for years.  Here is the failed video I took of my cat, if anyone wants to see a cat doing absolutely nothing.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Reimagining Risotto, Budget Style

I love gnocchi. And risotto. And polenta. And just about all the traditional Italian food that my parents would occasionally make and that I would gorge on when visiting relatives in Italy. However, a lot of it is a little bit time intensive when I'm cooking just for myself. I just had a cousin visit from Italy, however, and that's inspired me to get off my (figurative) ass and actually have something other than an egg burrito or aglio olio for lunch.

Happily, while a little time intensive, most traditional Italian recipes are also cheap. That helps. They are also flexible, and you can usually substitute some ingredients for others. I usually make risotto alla Milanese, since that's what my mom always made, but when my cousin was here he made a great version that used the veggies I had in my fridge and red wine instead of white. Very easy, and the most expensive ingredient was the arborio rice, which can be bought at places like Whole Foods pretty affordably.

Simple Risotto:

Chop up a stalk of celery, half an onion, and half a carrot pretty fine. Start to fry them up in olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet, but not cover the veggies).  Add a little chopped garlic if desired. If you have other non-mushy veggies in the house, throw them in too. Things like mushrooms should be added a little later, since they cook so much faster.

After a few minutes, add in the rice. I made enough for two people, which is about half a pound. Fry that up for another 2-3 minutes. This will allow the flavor of the veggies to really get into the rice.

Start pouring in whatever wine you've got. My cousin used some Trader Joe red wine, which was great because we were then able to finish the bottle with dinner. Add a generous splash, the equivalent of a large shot or small wine glass.  Measurements don't need to be precise.

Let that all soak in. Stir occasionally to keep any rice/veggies from sticking to the pot.  Now the rice will have flavor from the veggies and the wine.

Once the rice has absorbed almost all the wine, start to slowly add broth. My cousin used beef broth from Whole Foods. I made it again later that week and used vegetable broth. I'll admit the beef broth had more flavor, but if you jazz up some basic veggie broth it should be fine too. Chicken broth is fine as well - whatever your preference is.  Add a ladle full at a time. The rice should never be swimming in liquid. Stir every minute or two. If the broth is bland add some basic spices and salt/pepper. This is where the majority of the final taste will come from, so make it good.

After a few ladle-fulls of broth you should see that the rice is looking more cooked, and softer. Go ahead and try a small spoonful to check if it's ready. It should be soft and creamy without being mushy. If it's just a tiny bit al dente, that's ok too since when it's time to turn off the stove you can add one final ladle of broth and then let it rest a few minutes.

Grate some Parmesan cheese in. How much depends on how much you like it. Don't go too crazy though - if all you taste is cheese you won't taste the rice itself. Stir it in. You can grate a bit more on for decoration when it's time to serve.

And you're done! Like I said, the most expensive part of the dish is the rice itself, or maybe the wine if you don't already have some in the house. But since you only use a little wine there's plenty left over to drink.  Traditional risotto usually uses white wine but the vegetable risotto my cousin made for me with red was delicious. 

Not a usually food blogger - excuse the crappy photo.