Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Now I remember what I didn't like about long hair. Bats and things get tangled up in it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pumpkin carving, ulterior motives department

I came home from yoga tonight to find a pumpkin lit and glaring at me on our front porch. And a bowl of pumpkin innards waiting for me in the kitchen.

Zorg had insisted last night on buying a big pumpkin at the Ballard Market and tonight he carved it, giving it a particularly crazed expression that I suspect had something to do with his day at work.

My job was to separate the seeds from the pulp and toast the seeds -- with a little olive oil and salt -- in the oven. Fortunately, pumpkin seeds float; I floated them out of the pulp, dried them with paper towels, and tossed them onto a foil-lined baking pan. Toasting them took about 45 minutes in a 375-degree oven, and the house smells great. (Particularly after I carted the pulp off to the compost bin.)

Happy Halloween!

(cross-posted on Food, Fitness, Fashion)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shoe shopping in Mukilteo Saturday?

Info just came in on a warehouse sale of Asics, Dr. Martens, Keen, Merrell, New Balance, Dansko, Rockport, and other shoe brands taking place in south Mukilteo (south of Paine Field) this weekend. And I have early bird tickets to get in at 10 a.m. (general public is admitted at 11).

I'm looking for one other intrepid shopper to set out from Seattle with me promptly at 9 a.m. -- or to meet me in Mukilteo a little before 10 a.m. If you are interested, click the "email the mysterious traveler" link (on the right) and let me know.

Please note: Having not been to one of these sales before, I can't make any promises about the prices or the selection -- I'm going out of pure curiousity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beyond Craig's List

When I want to get rid of something, the first place I consider is eBay -- for lightweight, brand-name items in near-fine condition.

The second place is Craig's List, for large items that I know will sell quickly (TVs, computers, dining room tables, sofas, lawnmowers, etc.).

The third place is a local consignment shop, Classic Consignment, for furniture, clothing items, and small household items in good shape and fairly trendy. The advantage to taking something to consignment is that you don't have to "babysit" the item or worry people coming to your house.

Items in decent-but-not-wonderful shape, or in good shape but out of fashion, go to Goodwill or another charity.

Recently I came across a fifth option for "giveaways" that are just too odd, or unwieldy, to take to Goodwill: The Freecycle Network -- specifically, the local Seattle chapter. What do I mean by "odd"? Check out Freecycle.

If someone likes something you have listed, they email you. You wait a few hours, sort through the emails, pick a likely recipient (someone who lives near you, or who wants to pick the item up at a time convenient to you), and email (or call) them to set up a time for pickup. Or list a want and see if someone responds.

It works.

Getting down with the raccoons

This summer we had a bumper crop of raccoons: Two moms, one with five babies and the other with two.

Two weeks ago, while we were on vacation, our catsitter reported seeing the five young raccoons sitting on our patio.

Tonite I followed Kaylee, our small tabby, to the back door and saw a young coon coming up the back porch. It hesitated when it saw me in the kitchen. Then I did what I do when I'm approaching a timid cat: I got down on my hands and knees.

Seeing me shrink down to its level certainly reassured the raccoon, which came right up to top step and peered at me. A moment later, it was joined by a sibling. They seemed to be doing little bows or push-ups on the top step. Then they went away.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ballard and beyond - Oct. 19 update

Archie McPhee's annual Halloween blood drive is today, noon to 6. They vant your blood! Call to make an appointment: 206.297.0240.

After you've donated, you could get your energy back up with espresso at Cafe Fiore or dinner at the new Zayda Buddy's Pizza --- both in the refurbished historic building at 5405 Leary Avenue NW, across from the massive condo construction project.

Cafe Fiore is my favorite place to meet clients; Zayda Buddy's "pizza" identity is a bit puzzling to me, because much of their menu is comfort food (the Weekly dubbed it "enlightened cafeteria"). We had hot sandwiches there Wednesday, and my dining companion said their grilled cheesed -- puffy toasted bread, just oozing with melted Velveeta, is the best grilled cheese she's ever had. The Reuben sandwich was headed in the right direction, but not East Coast enough for me. But it's a friendly place, and I'll be back to try their thin-crust "Minnesota-style" pizza.

On the Ballard shopping front, I'm hearing about The Sneakery, a new shoe store on 65th, near Cafe Bambino. Anyone been there yet?

Finally, some news from slightly outside of the Ballard area: The wonderful Gypsy Trader Consignment, which had two incarnations on N 45th St. and two on Stone Way North, is closing. My informant tells me that a pool table has moved in, to be followed by other pub trappings.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yes, I know they're just dishes

After dithering for a couple of years, I finally picked out some new dinnerware. It's Denby Fire and the coordinating Denby Fire Chilli, English stoneware. It isn't cheap, but it is extremely durable.

After examining the Denby at Macy's, I came home and created a spreadsheet of all the basic pieces and serving pieces, with color choices, and priced a bare minimum service for 8 -- dinner, salad, and dessert plates, cereal bowl, pasta bowl, and coffee mug. No serving pieces at all. Then I priced it.

The total was, well, shocking.

Macy's will have the Denby on sale this weekend, 25% off -- but of course, when you add in our local and state sales taxes, it's only 16% off.

Dismayed, I went online, where the picture changed completely. Chefs Corner was offering some of the basics at 35% off -- no sales tax, and free shipping. Shepherd Hills had "factory seconds" of the salad plates for 60% off (they also have firsts). And the mugs and cereal bowls I wanted were on eBay...brand new, from a highly rated shop in Maine. If I get them at the price I bid (and there were no other bidders) even with shipping they'll be close to 70% off retail.

It will take a few weeks to have all this stuff shipped from the various vendors (Chefs Corner has a three-week delay while they order from the Denby factory) but I'll be paying exactly half of the retail price. High quality stoneware, with only half the guilt. And I even bid on a serving dish! Whoo-hah.

Monday, October 15, 2007

One sentence

We're back from Kauai and I'm up to my ears in new projects. All the work I didn't have in August and September is here. Now.

But I couldn't resist applying for a blogging gig that asked applicants to write one sentence -- about their favorite food. I wrote:

"The aroma of warm olive oil and roasted chickpeas wafted through the air on the tightly packed commuter train, and suddenly I realized that everyone, from sleek businessmen in cashmere overcoats to elderly nonnas bundled in sturdy winter wools, was greedily eyeing the waxed-paper package of farinata I held on my lap."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Slideshow of photos from thousands of blogs

Goggle's Blogger site has just released an app they call Play Blogger. It's a slideshow of photos being uploaded to thousands of public Blogger blogs worldwide. And it's fascinating.

(Blogger users who don't want their photos to be part of the photostream can change their blog settings from public to private.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Brutti ma buoni

There's a type of cookie in Italy called "brutti ma buoni" -- a plain cookie with nuts, dropped from a spoon and baked. It looks like a jumble -- hence the name, which translates as "ugly but good."

I'm doing a lot of "ugly but good" cooking today. We're going out of town next week, and I'm madly trying to use, or preserve, perishables in the refrigerator and the garden.

Right now, all the cherry and pear tomatoes are being cooked down to be frozen for use in soups this winter. Natalya, the four-year-old next door, commented that the kitchen "smells like Spaghetti-Os." Hmm...The tomatoes look a bit weird because the pot contains equal amounts red, yellow, and orange tomatoes.

Finally, I took the last of a batch of brown rice out of the fridge and turned it into a pudding with eggs, milk, rum, brown sugar, golden raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. There was a lot of liquid in the mixture, so I have it cooking very slowly at 300 degrees, like an Indian pudding.

In and around the cooking, I climbed up on a ladder in the side yard and hunted through a great snarl of grape vines to pick the Candace grapes -- which Natalya was eating almost as fast as I could pick them. Last year was a bad year for grapes; this year, the grapes are good, but sparse. (August didn't get hot enough.) There are still ripening grapes on the vine, and they won't need to be picked until a freeze is imminent.

Although rain threatened all day, it didn't show up until dusk. The afternoon was all "oyster light" -- that luminous, mother-of-pearl light that makes green plants seem to glow all on their own. Many of my flowers are still blooming, so there's a mix of bright pinks and purples with the yellow and orange autumn leaves. The pleasure of working in all that beauty manages to balance out the experience when the patio cushions I was storing released a few gallons of water onto my sneakered feet.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Lost and found (unfortunately)

My friend Geoff Duncan has blogged most amusingly about the ugly brown station wagon that sits abandoned on his street. One of his latest posts documents its disturbing similarity to the Microsoft Zune music player.

Over dinner Sunday evening, our friend Barry told a story that holds out hope that the owner of the lost Zunemobile and its owner may eventually be reunited.

Stopping by a rental property he owns, Barry noted a strange car sitting in front of the house. He mentioned it to his tenant, who said it had been there for several weeks. Barry called the police to report it.

It turned out the car had been stolen three months earlier from the parking lot of a shopping center a few blocks away. The owner had reported it stolen immediately, but the police had been unable to locate it. (Hmm...)

After Barry called police, and the police called the owner, a locksmith was dispatched to open the vehicle. That's when things got very bad. The car had been stolen with the owner's groceries inside, including a large turkey. It had not aged well.

You had to hope that the insurance company had already paid the owner for the car and that the turkey now belonged to them.

Now I know why they call it a "Fit"

Still no sign of my new car; the old one is getting increasingly rebellious, though I never take it further than Fremont (or anywhere I could simply walk home from).

My mother took her 2005 Honda Civic in to the dealership for maintenance. The dealership called a few days later, wanted to make sure she was happy with the service (yeah, right) and (here we go) asked if anyone in her family might be interested in buying a new Honda.

Yes, my mom said, my daughter wants a Fit.

Pause on the other end of the line.

"Would she like a manual transmission?" the salesperson asked, hopefully.

No, an automatic, my mom replied.

Another pause. Then, cheerfully, "We could get her one in two or three months!"


What's causing the shortage of this hot little station wagon? Apparently, it's that Honda is building the Fits in Japan and shipping them over. (Fits built at Honda's Chinese facility, are being shipped to Europe, where they are sold as the Honda Jazz.) An rumored Midwestern Fit plant won't come online for another year or two.

I just checked a town-talk forum at the consumer automotive site and was amused to follow the stories of people who are ordering Fits, getting a VIN number, tracking it as their Fit is built in Japan and shipped to the US. It's like reading blog entries from grandparents expecting a new baby.

Now if only the interior of the Nissan Versa weren't so clunkily configured and so pseudo-luxury car tacky...