Lumpy (Sometimes)

Ooooh! I’m so frustrated with this energy shake mix! It said “no blender needed, mixes instantly,” blah blah blah, and I tried to mix it with a spoon while the blender was in the dishwasher and it’s a huge mess of lumps, blargh.

It’s delicious stuff and makes great shakes… in the blender. Use a blender. Oy!

Update: I rescind my previous statement. If you shake it in a shaker glass with a top, it works great! I am going to put this down to my inexperience with shakie drinks… Ha!

Spider Warfare

All right: I promise I’ve slept, and the universe is functioning properly again. I’m hungry, without any kind of appetite for food, but otherwise… back to normal.

Sunday night I wrote—wrote—from 11pm until 4:30 in the morning. Marty and I had been discovering baby spiders everywhere, at least twenty-five and counting in the preceding 48 hours. Earlier that day, he had killed five of them hanging from the top edge of his laptop screen, all in a row. But when I finished writing at 4:30 (what was Monday morning), I stood up from the couch and realized that there was an infestation of baby spiders in my living room. They had begun to create webs across the space between the wall and the lamp, and the couch, and the computer, and, imaginably, me.

The spiders themselves were tiny and very difficult to find, but the webs were pretty… obvious. I would wipe them away, or fluff them away with a dishtowel, and ten minutes later they’d reappear. Industrious little monsters. I am pretty tolerant of spiders in usual scenarios, but it was early in the morning and I hadn’t slept yet, so I was starting to feel… intolerant. (That’s safe. “Intolerant.”)

After some ill-conceived (and ill-advised) target practice with an ancient bottle of bug spray—useless, and toxic—I gave up and took a shower, thinking I’d go to bed.

Of course, showers wake me up. And so do apartments full of tiny spider webs.

I read for a half-hour; Marty woke up, got ready for work. And left me to my war.

I moved into my office, away from the source of contention. They obviously wanted the living room. Okay, I said, you can have the living room. I worked for awhile before discovering that they’d made little homes in here, too: My standing lamp was a great source of webbish innnovation! I became furious. I vowed to take back my home.

I read up on spider shooing. Lots of people had interesting things to say about how to keep spiders away and although that’s not normally something I’d care about—spiders eating other bugs, and all—this was absolutely unreasonable. (I’m afraid I also came across plenty of information on brown recluse spiders, which was NOT what I needed to see. Dear God.) I bought a dustbuster. It will probably arrive today. I thought, hey—I can barricade myself at my desk and suck them up as I see them! (I ordered the one that seemed to have the most possible suck—here’s a link, if you’re curious.) I appropriated my bottle of eco-friendly cleaning fluid in a handy-dandy spray bottle and read the ingredients. All safe, mostly essential oils. In fact, many of the same essential oils listed as anathema (and deadly) to spiders: peppermint, citrus, etc. I added a healthy dose of tea tree oil and shook the whole mess up.

Then I sprayed my whole house with it.

It smelled great.

It took a few repeat applications. I couldn’t get them to leave the living room, although after a few pushes they stayed around the tree. In fact, after awhile it was really clear that they had made the tree home-base, whether or not they came from the tree originally. (When we bought it, the Christmas tree folks put it in a machine that shook it back and forth, violently, to divest it of loose needles, hitchhikers, etc., but Mom is convinced that such a thing wouldn’t have loosed egg sacks or nests inside the tree. Sigh!) One portion of the bottom of the tree was covered in a gradually-thickening layer of spider silk—it was impossible to see from most angles, but with the light streaming in from the window, it was right there. I abandoned the living room again.

Eventually my office was livable, so I stayed there. I hadn’t seen any incidence of eight-legged inhabitants in my bedroom (THANK GOD) so I sprayed there too, just to be safe. Eventually Marty came home and dealt with the tree, vacuumed… and it’s been much, much better since then. But you can imagine how all of this felt on almost zero sleep—in the trenches, man!

Since the tree’s exit, I haven’t seen any more spiders. I’ve seen webs—and seen them rebuilt—but that has only happened once or twice and I have my spray bottle handy. The Pest Control Dude came this afternoon and he told me that I would have far more success (and less exposure to awful chemicals) filling a spray bottle with salt water and spraying spiders with that. I was astonished. He said it really worked, that he used it in nursing homes where he couldn’t use chemicals. He said that the salt touches the spiders and leeches the moisture of them (what a way to go! But even so, I imagine the tea tree oil burns them, so…), and that keeps them away or kills them, or whathaveyou. So I think I will add a spray bottle of salt water to my arsenal, and keep watching for the little bastards.

All in all, I’m fairly pleased with myself. But I’m really, really glad it’s over.

Sleepless in Meganville

I may or may not look like a girl who has not yet set head to pillow, but I promise you, that is most assuredly the case at hand.

In Defense of Food

God, I like food.

I like thinking about it. I like talking about it. And to be fair, I don’t exclusively mean the preparation and cooking of food, though that is a totally neat thing and often very exciting. I’d like to make it even more exciting. But what I really mean, right now, over all, is the concept of food.

The meanings I had for food growing up were so different from the meanings I have now. I don’t know if anyone ever taught me where my spaghetti came from, or maybe I just didn’t let that information in. Maybe it wasn’t interesting then. I had a (very) brief vegetarian phase in grade school, but I still ate the lamb my mother made for her dinner party—I just complained about it. I don’t remember that lasting very long, but at least then I seemed to realize where the food had come from.

These days I am fascinated with the dichotomy between what we eat and how it grew. Often the thing we’re eating bears no reasonable resemblance to the actual organism it once was. It was only in the last few years that I realized how anti-conscious my meat-eating had become, food is something you buy from a store, an object or faceless element, like pumping fuel into a gas tank. What is this funny pile of molecules called “chicken”, completely separate from an animal I’ve never met of the same name? But meat isn’t faceless (or shouldn’t be) and I am coming to believe that even a humble green bean or asparagus deserves more than the lot we offer them—as Reel Big Fish has suggested, even lettuce is worthy of a little consideration. If I’m going to respect a cow or a pig for its nutritional content and creatureness, I can likewise respect a handful of sprouts, or a cucumber, or a carrot. And I think I want to.

So finding Michael Pollan came at a really good time for me, a few months ago. I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, having seen it mentioned in one of Violet’s articles, as well as having been recommended it by friends in passing. The message I got from this book was all about respecting food, and respecting myself, and being really conscious of the complex systems in the universe that led to me being fed at all—and conscious, too, of the additional complexity added by commerce and industry. And how complexity itself can sometimes be awe-inspiring… or scary. (Or both!)

I looked for Michael Pollan’s blog, feeling that he must have one. But he didn’t. (Or at least, I couldn’t find one.) So I was sad. I wasn’t sure if his other books were anything like this one, so I let it go. But a few days ago, Missy pointed me to Science Friday—and an interview with Michael Pollan! It is this interview I point you to now, because it’s a great interview, and it’s about his recently released In Defense of Food. This vibes perfectly with the way I’ve been feeling lately and I am really excited to read it. In any case, you can listen to the whole interview right on the Science Friday website. (Please do!) It’s super awesome.

Science Friday: Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food (Friday, January 4th, 2008)

I am really interested in your thoughts on this whole issue, if you care to comment on it. Food is awfully exciting lately!

Klimt (For Real)

I’m a great fan of Klimt. Many years ago a convention friend introduced me to his work and it’s always been something that particularly appealed to me, all those patterns, everything fitting together in impossible but perfect ways. My favorite painting was my friend’s favorite, too: Klimt’s Danae.

I keep a number of sexuality and art feeds in my newsreader, and this week something especially fabulous came up—a set called La esencia de Klimt, by a photographer named Moises González, basically a live recreation of many of Klimt’s works. They’re really gorgeous, and although they’re not quite accurate down to the tiniest detail, they’re beautiful in the same way and really, really enjoyable to look through. They do contain nudity (as you might surmise if you are familiar with Klimt’s paintings) but hopefully that won’t keep you from browsing. I think they’re just amazing.

Link: La esencia de Klimt, Moises González.

Pretty Lights

Pretty Lights

Sick World

“Wal-Mart: Save money. Live better.” This sickens me. Not only in light of all the reading I’ve been doing lately, but as an overarching theme; I am sickened by Wal-Mart. And lots of other things.

If the market follows our lead, friends and neighbors, we are doing a fuck-awful job.

So… how do we fix it?

Wild Red Sockeye

I’ve been doing salmon research. I’ve set my sights on wild red Alaskan Sockeye, and although I already keep my freezer stocked with Copper River filets from Costco, I’d like to keep canned salmon on hand, too. I have lots of ideas—salads, sandwiches, wraps. Hell, I might even eat it out of the can. This stuff is great.

So I embarked on a quest to find the best salmon, and the best prices available. At first I thought it was an obvious situation—the high quality salmon was super expensive, and the best deals seemed to be of negligible quality, or at higher risk of unreliability. (For instance, I’d never heard of “” before, and I’m not sure how comfortable I feel sending them money.) But the more numbers I worked out, the more I discovered that even the high quality, highly priced salmon did pretty well in bulk. Here’s what I came up with:, Bumble Bee Brand, 14.75 oz cans
$0.3498 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Not sure I trust these folks yet.), Bumble Bee Brand, 7.5 oz cans
$0.4848 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Not sure I trust these folks yet.)

Vital Choice Brand (highest quality, say several sources), 7.5 oz cans
$0.4944 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Expensive but the more I buy, the less expensive it is.), Raincoast Brand, 5.65 oz cans
$0.6888 per ounce, including shipping to Austin (Amazon Prime)
(Amazon is convenient, trusted, but expensive.)

Vital Choice Brand, 3.75 oz cans
$0.7666 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Quite a bit more expensive than buying larger cans.)

Now, I’m pretty thoroughly certain that Vital Choice is the best quality, after the reading I’ve done. I’m fairly sure that Bumble Bee has reasonable quality salmon, and is a responsible company; I know almost nothing about Raincoast, though what I have found seems to suggest that they’re okay. I already know that Amazon is most convenient for me (and I bought a Prime account, a long time ago, which proves it). I expect good service from Vital Choice, no issue there. I’m pretty paranoid about, having not heard of them, so I’m not sure I can bring myself to give them a try.

The only reason to buy canned salmon on the internet is to buy in bulk, unless grocery store prices are dramatically higher (I’m betting they’re not). And if I’m buying in bulk, I can get good lower prices per can while I’m at it. So the logical choice seems to be to purchase 48 cans from Vital Choice, since they are the best amalgam of trusted and reasonably priced (at least in bulk). Of course, Vital Choice is quite expensive in smaller quantities, even at 48 cans—as you can see from the last item—but who cares, if I’m buying cases anyway? And I don’t mind buying larger cans, really, either.

Amazon would get my shipment to me the fastest, but I’m still not completely sure about Raincoast… and the Amazon option is the second most expensive on the list.

I didn’t expect to settle on Vital Choice, but it does seem obvious. How bizarre! And I don’t mind buying two cases that will likely last me a good six months. Forty-eight cans for $178 over half a year… sounds like a really good situation to me.

Of course, I may go to the store next week and find out that the prices are much better off the shelf, and if that happens the only reason to buy off the ‘net would be to save myself having to lug all the cans home. Not entirely unreasonable, but maybe I’ll take a look before I go buying anything. Still, it’s interesting! And I got to exercise my questionable math skills. ;}

Update: I picked up three cans of Raincoast salmon from Wheatsville, and their off-the-shelf price is fifty cents higher than Amazon’s—and Wheatsville’s prices are quite low, in the scheme of things. It’s possible that, if unable to spend almost two hundred bucks to buy in bulk, picking up five cans from Amazon at a better price makes sense. Something to take into consideration! Of course, then I’m supporting a great company with lots of money—instead of a small community co-op. Pros and cons all over the place!

Greek Yogurt

Last week I discovered Fage Greek yogurt. Fah’-yeh. I’d never heard of Greek yogurt before.

The reason I looked for it in the first place was this entry in Kalyn’s Kitchen; she is not kidding. Wow.

I haven’t tried to cook with it yet, but it’s super delicious; the zero-fat version is unbelievable, and I’m embarrassed to admit that the full-fat version is maybe a little much for me. It’s… obscenely creamy. It’s wonderful, but I don’t think I can eat more than a few spoonfuls of it; it’s like eating butter. (Em and I did eat butter out of the dish when we were little, but that was then and this is now. Unless she still eats butter. I’ll have to ask.)

My favorite part of pouring agave over plain yogurt—instead of mixing it in—is that the whole dessert doesn’t taste sweet across the board, the same sweet everywhere. If you don’t mix it together, you can taste the whole spectrum from the rich, tangy-sour taste of the plain yogurt to the sweet and syrupy taste of the agave, and all of the little changes in between. I never thought of liking tastes that way before, but I really love it now.

I’m sure my dramatically decreased sugar intake has something to do with how scrumptiously I adore this recipe, but I think that’s okay with me. I can’t imagine this not being delicious, even to someone who does consume more sugar. Someone will have to let me know. ;}