Friday, September 26, 2008

I has a bank - noo they be stealin mah bank!

No bank. Not as of last night. Okay so no job (check), no bank (check). Looking sorta bleak these days. Oh wait! I just checked and my unemployment funds came through. YAY!! Okay, that provided happy feelings for about 30 seconds. Then I remembered these are unemployment funds. Sigh.

But cheer up bitties, because tomorrow is College Football Saturday! And you, sad little unemployed girl, have a ticket to a game at your alma mater on Saturday afternoon! Hooray! So tomorrow morning I hop in the car and drive east a little ways and then get to root, root, root for the home team. Until about halfway through when they start really bombing (they're not so great these days), at which point I will start craving a sports bar something fierce, so I can switch over to a game that's a little more exciting.

Kinda like I did last weekend. How 'bout that LSU-Auburn game?? I love when they come down to the wire like that. Sweet. Speaking of, did I really miss that Oregon State-USC game last night? WTF? How did I miss that game? Oh right, because I never would have thought to watch that. I mean, it's USC. They beat everyone. Man, do I love upsets. Wish I had watched that one. Well I guess maybe there's hope for my team after all, then, if the Beavers can take down the Trojans.

Okay enough football. Today's subject is now.. clothes! Wha?

For five years while I was in New York, I was always having to squeeze in visits to The Limited when I was out of town. I had shopped there since I was in high school and suddenly there were NO Limited stores nearby. So then I move back to Austin, and finally they open their online shop. Ta daa! Um, thanks.

There's not a ton in there, but they're adding more. As I type, it seems. And maybe it'll be like J. Crew where I can raid their sales online. Speaking of J. Crew, they have a chiffon trim cardi, much like J. Crew has right now, except at the bargain price of $27.65! Way to shop for a bargain, girls. The economy is not in a good place right now. Save your nickels.

Seriously, though, I've had some major brand loyalty to The Limited for easily 10 to 15 years now. They're very consistent. Back in high school I was all over the Limited and Express. Now, I can't even go into Express stores anymore cos the music is too loud (makes me sound like an old lady, but it's true). Plus all the pictures of the models look like they want to kill me.

Okay, much to do before I leave tomorrow for the game, then around town to visit friends in Houston before coming back on Monday night. Must pack. And cook those collard greens in the fridge so they don't go bad while I'm gone. That'll be my debate activity.

One last thing. There are these shorts that it seems like every girl on the UT campus is wearing these days. Seriously, you drive up Guadalupe, and every fourth girl has em on, in various colors. So I get on the interwebs. They're Nike Tempo track shorts. How did these become such a fad? Are they some sort of uniform?

Oh, I see. Jessica wore 'em. Now I get it. If you're in your late teens or early 20s and wear these shorts, please stop. Or buy another pair of track shorts. You look like a lemming.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Unemployment is a drag

Is it ever. You're like, "Oh you get to sit at home all day and do nothing [not true] and sleep in all you like and blah. Gee poor you!" No really, it blows. I'm so tired of it. The funds from the state are coming at total snail's pace. I got this wee bit and now they're withholding an amount approx equal to my rent because my wee severance money came in and they want to make sure that wasn't payment for work I had done. Um, it wasn't. So pay up.

Speaking of work I've done, I'm doing freelance bits and odds and ends, but as is the nature of magazine freelance work, you don't get paid til the fat lady sings. So none of that has come in either. Which leads me to: living in a town where you don't know many people + no job + no money (which = no shopping) + mild case of depression + stress of job hunting = a really rotten time for all.

But enough of that sob story. Lately I have been a crocheting fool (possibly as a result of above - I am a stress crocheter). Therefore, I am getting way ahead on the ol' Christmas presents. Went back by Hill Country Weavers today to exchange some Cascade 220 for another color for yet another Xmas gift I'm working on, this one in a dear friend's school colors. And that's all the details I'm putting on here. Although I don't think she reads this. But you never know. And I hate ruining a surprise.

As for projects for me, I can share those freely. Like this hat.

While mom was here we stopped by Hobby Lobby and I fondled this yarn just like I always do and mentioned how pretty it is and mom bought me a skein. Score. So I came home and cranked out this hat. I had to add a few extra rows to the pattern because my noggin is so big, plus I like my hats to cover my ears. I'm still considering making a little flower or some such and stitching it on there. I do have some yarn left over. Right now, it looks like a snowboarder's hat. Especially when I wear these sunglasses.

I do most of my crocheting in the evenings while watching tele. I was terribly excited earlier this week when Netflix delivered the last DVD of season one of Mad Men. Now that I have cable I can start trying to catch season 2. Oh wait, season 2 marathon on this Thursday on AMC? HOORAY!! Oh, damnit. Thursday night is the one night this week I actually really wanted to watch TV. And it's premier night. And I don't have one of those fancy devices that allows one to watch something on one channel and record on another. We do things the old-fashioned way around here. You watch what's on, when it's on, on the channel that it's on. That's it.

So now I've got a decision to make. Geeze. This guy is such a dreamboat.

Then again so is this guy. Essentially that's what I'm choosing between. Trust me they both have their charms.

Okay one last bit here. It's.. recipe time!

These are so easy and so addictive. You know those Walkers Shortbread cookies that are so good? Yeah they taste like that. When we were in London they kept a little basket of them in the hotel room and every day, mom and I would empty the basket and stash the little packets away so that the next day, when they came in to tidy up the room, they'd fill the basket again. This continued for several days.

When mom came to visit in August, she brought this recipe, which belongs to the mother of one of the guys she was working with at her last post. His mom would send him these cookies and he'd share with the office and everyone went gaga over them. And eventually, distribution of the recipe followed. It's so simple as to make one suspicious. But really, what's not to like here? Of course they're going to be good.

Shortbread Cookies

2 cups of butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then stir in vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Spread evenly into baking sheet (9 x 13, which I had, although mom determined this would have baked a little more evenly if I had a jelly roll pan. So FYI on that one).

Bake about 30-35 minutes. Take out and sprinkle with sugar. When coolish, cut into finger-sized pieces. Brew tea. Pretend you're English.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Micro machines

My poor cherry tomato plant has had a hard season. It was doing great in mid-May when the big storm came through and snapped it in half. Just the day before I'd used some of that velcro stuff to attach it to the railing because the bundle of tomatoes ripening on it was weighing it down. Bad timing.

This was one of the tomatoes that survived the storm and was allowed to ripen. Doesn't it look fine? So then the poor thing started its season anew. And grew to be full size again. But then I kept going out of town for a few days and when I'd get home, it'd always be all shriveled up. I did my best though. Watered it really good when I was here, and fertilized it too. Then it got mealybugs real bad so I went over every inch of it, applying alcohol with a swab to try and keep them at bay. Tried tried. These days, though, the fruit turns out like this:

I had just taken a picture of it the other day and then I saw that Amy Elizabeth was having the same problem. Aren't they freakish, these tiny tomatoes? Oh well, there's always next summer.

As for the big tomatoes (those came from the grocery store), I finally got around to making this tart. It has a very small window. I wouldn't dare make it outside of the tomato-and-basil season. (The basil did come from my balcony.) I found this recipe last year but didn't yet have a springform pan. So I made sure to get one earlier this year. This was its first test run.

This one is on the Martha website this time: Tomato-Ricotta Tart. Their photograph is so much prettier than mine. The tart turned out really well. My only foul-up this time was that my bread crumbs were not "fresh" as they requested. Specifically I used a baguette that had sat around a bit too long and was all dried up. So, as would be expected, the crust was all crumbly and didn't hold together well. No matter, the slices still made it to the plate fine. And really, all I wanted was the ricotta and tomatoes.

When I have leftover ricotta around, I love to slather it on a slice of bread, then layer fresh basil, slices of tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper on top and just eat it open-faced. It's amazing. So this was basically a tart version of that. What's not to like?

Okay one last thing. I'm going to take a page from Mary Beth's book and from the Postcards From Yo Momma book and share a recent chat exchange with mom. This was in response to me sending her the link to this pattern for a crochet Obama logo. I was beyond excited about making one. Mom is a McCain supporter.

Me: Look what I found. I'm gonna make one!!!
Mom: Okay, I am stupid. What is it (a basket?) and what does it have to do with Obama.
Me: It's the Obama logo!
Mom: oh Had not seen it. I guess I need to go to his web page and see it cos I still do not know what it is.
Me: It's on everything they put out. Scroll down to the store items at the bottom and you'll see the button.
Mom: Yep I see it. I guess it is not really supposed to be anything. It is just a logo.
Me: Yeah. It looks like a sun rising over a flag. Like "hope" or something.
Mom: Okay. I was thinking the round thing at the top was for Obama.
Me: All I'm saying is that I am excited I can make one out of crochet! That is BAD ASS.
Mom: Yes you can.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Owls and a-holes. Oh, and pie.

Oh goodness, being in NYC was such a treat last weekend. Highlights = my friends' wedding, Thursday night at Il Bambino with the Astoria crew, the cold (yet still delicious) Shack Burger on Saturday, and eating pizza in the conference room with all my old coworkers on Friday. Just like I never left. Lowlights = stumbling around on Saturday evening in the rain in the West Village trying in vain to find a friend's apartment, and - oh yeah - barfing my brains out Sunday morning. Whee! Apparently old age means I can no longer hold my drink. Or at least not practice safe-drinking techniques (such as not mixing one's liquors). What a dingbat.

Thankfully I did make my plane on Sunday afternoon and did not manage to barf on the way home. Possibly the best part of the trip was bringing cool weather home with me. Yes, I did that. You're welcome. I've slept with the windows open and the AC off for two nights now. Even the ceiling fans are off. And of course cooler weather means the kitty returns to the bed with me. He doesn't do that in the summer - too hot. But in cooler weather my bed becomes his favorite spot in the apartment. Guess that makes two of us.

Speaking of beds, have you seen this bedding at PB?

I'm like, "Great, new sheets!" but no, just duvet and shams. I hate it when that happens. I just love 'em. They don't really match any of my bedding, though. It's like, great for the guest bedroom, yeah? Oh right, I don't have one. Eh, oh well. I will simply admire from afar.

What is it with the f'n owls lately? I feel like they're so cliched these days. Do you think the polar bears will think I'm cheating on them? Oh well, I still love this, and it's on sale. Saw it on Whorange. This would be nice for my "back" door, ie the balcony. I do track a lot of dirt in there, come to think of it. But the front door belongs to my little astro-turf-with-a-daisy mat. I've had it for years and I love it to bits. It sat in front of my door in both Brooklyn and Astoria and is cheap enough that no one thinks to steal it. Great when you live in a building full of thieves (I'm talking to you a-hole who stole my shammy that I left out to dry after washing my car).

Okay, moving on from owls and a-holes. I figured I had better post this pie now. I made it a while ago and have just been sitting on it, not putting it on the blog. All the while realizing that that wasn't such a good idea because blueberries have a season (have a flavor too) and when it passes, this recipe isn't really helpful. On that note I should post that tomato tart recipe pronto.

I first made this pie last summer for a going away party and just thought it was the bees knees. So when mom arrived from Houston in August bearing one of these Costco-sized containers of fresh blueberries, I knew I was making the pie. I guess you could put any fruit on top, right? So long as it works well with lemon. Maybe other berries? Get creative, I say.

Blueberry-Lemon Pie (from some very old Target summer recipes flyer)

Crust (of note here - I am lazy and use store-bought, so I've never tested out the crust. Also of note, the first time I made this I bought whatever popular brand crust was out there. Not sure what brand but you'd find it in the baking aisle in any regular grocery store. It was awesome. The second time I used some fancy organic one from Whole Foods and it was so not as good. So make your own or buy the "regular folks" pre-made crust, you dig?)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons canola oil

1 can (14 oz) nonfat sweetened condensed milk (another note, first time I made this I couldn't find nonfat so used regular. Of course that makes it taste even better but probably isn't so good for you.)
2/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 pint fresh blueberries
confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional - you can see I never bother)

Heat oven to 350. Lightly coat 9 inch pie plate or springform tart pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat and brown lightly, swirling so as not to burn. Remove from heat and set aside. Whisk egg white until foamy, then blend in cracker crumbs, oil, and browned butter until well combined. Press into your pan of choice and bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.

In a metal bowl, whisk condensed milk, yogurt, lemon zest, and juice. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons of water; let soften 1 minute, then set the bowl in a skillet of simmering water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Whisk gelatin into the lemon filling. Chill filling until it begins to set, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Spread filling into the shell, arrange blueberries on top. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

See, if you don't make the crust yourself, you don't even have to turn on the oven! This is a perfect summer pie, I say. Too bad it's fall already.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I heart blogs

I just finished reading this story in The New York Times about Stephanie Nielson and her family. What a wonderful article. Certainly I'd heard about what happened to her before now. Lots of blogs I read have mentioned it and encouraged helping her family in any way we can. But seeing a story like this in The New York Times for pete's sake. Well, that's saying something. I mean, does that blow anyone else away? That it's gotten this big?

And I love that the story is also about the connections people make through blogs. How people find other people out there in the webs, and those people influence and inspire them, and then, of course, that leads to a connection. A strong one at that. I mean, think about it. What is a blog, really, but a glorified diary? And if you were reading someone's diary for a month or a year or even more, wouldn't you feel like you knew them - their mind, their heart - so very well?

I didn't read Stephanie Nielson's blog, so this hasn't affected me as strongly as it has others, but I can certainly think of some people out there who, if something happened to them, it would affect me. And I have never met these people.

The only reason I even crochet (and now knit!) today is because of Alicia Paulson and her blog. I have drawn a huge amount of inspiration and comfort from her, as do many. Not to mention an obsession with steel cut oats and the color pink. I've been reading her blog for about a year and a half now and have introduced her, in a way, to many others. Her book is out this fall and I am just itching to buy it. Can't wait.

And in planning for my trip to NYC this weekend, I literally pulled up Jessica Schroeder's blog What I Wore and went back and forth from my computer to my closet, trying to think of outfit ideas. That's her above. I love that she is incredibly stylish and cute and yet, her style isn't out of reach. I've watched her How to Tie a Scarf video like five times. Similar to the Sartorialist, she gives me ideas, but in a more attainable way. And for someone who used to absorb the streets of New York as if it was my own personal fashion show, her blog has been a nice way to fill that void.

Speaking of New York, tomorrow will be trip-planning mania. The freelance bits keep coming (thank you thank you!), so I am still not out from under that stress cloud. Won't be, really, until I have a job and stuff. Know that feeling you get when a weight just lifts off of your shoulders? It's awesome. I'm looking forward to it. So, New York here I come. I have scheduled every second of this trip to try and work in time with all my friends up there who I miss in just the most severe way. Hopefully without shirking my bridesmaid duties too badly. I am just so thrilled to see everyone. Plus the weather looks like it will be glorious. And I'll be escaping Ike and his potential wrath.

P.S. My pick of the John Derian Target collection is this one:

When does that stuff go on sale again? Do we know? I know I'm unemployed and all, but $6 ain't gonna break the bank or nuthin'.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Head over heels

80s videos continued. I just can't get enough of them. It's really all I can process these days blog-wise. I'm at my computer all day every day and stressing about a number of things. Who knew unemployment could be so busy?

This one's fabulous. Things I love about it:
-the Red Sox monkey
-the keyboard jam at the librarian's counter (his fingers are just sorta hitting random keys there, what's up with that?)
-the foxy librarian never transforms into "the fox", which I appreciate. Plus she grabs the lead singer's nose.
-the Hasidic Jew drum solo
-that any of this scene would seem perfectly normal in a New York City library. No one would even blink. Okay, maybe at the monkey, but only cos he's wearing a Sox jersey.

Friday, September 5, 2008


"The unemployment rate jumped to 6.1 percent in August, its highest level in five years, pushing the job troubles of American workers onto the political stage as the presidential campaign enters its final eight weeks.

So far, 605,000 jobs have disappeared since the start of the year, with employers slashing 84,000 jobs in August alone, the Labor Department reported on Friday. And even Americans who are still employed are facing tough times.

Raises have not kept up with the rising cost of living, putting more pressure on workers as high gasoline and food prices curtail their spending power."

-Jobless Report Becomes an Issue on the Campaign Trail, The New York Times, 9/5/08

I guess this makes me feel better. I'm not sure. It's always nice when a whole bunch of people can sympathize with what you're going through. Although I sorta already knew that. Since early July, I've personally known of three other people (besides myself) getting laid off. Plus did I mention that everyone at my former workplace had to take a paycut? As if we were rolling in it to start with.

"Economic downturns are almost always bad for the incumbent party."

Man, sucks to be you Sen. McCain. It's a hell of a year to run as a republican. Good luck and stuff. PS - Gov. Palin, America raises good people in big towns too. Snap.

How did I miss this? Oh the agony. It would have been such a nice pick-me-up. I will watch her store for more. Maybe she will make another one? That would be swell.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Love him

Was just thinking, if I opened a pizza box and found John Hodgman, that would be like the happiest day of my life. Wouldn't you be excited? I know I would.

Houses, halls and oates.

I have a big fat soft spot for Hall and Oates. I just needed to admit that right now.

I also have a crush on this house.

I think it's just the way things go that when you have no money, and no leads at the moment of ever making any ever again and will likely be a ward of your family and the government indefinitely, that you start to get crushes on $1.445 million houses.

There was a story in the Statesman about it recently. About how it was built in 1910 and how all those years it has only had two owners. Well, three, if you want to include the woman who bought it last year and renovated it. According to the article, she didn't change the footprint of the house or move any walls, kept its longleaf pine floors, beautiful leaded glass windows, tile floors and cast iron tubs, and brick fireplace in the living room.

Of course everything else was updated. Plumbing, electric, heating and A/C, etc. Plus added surround sound and all that fun stuff. But all that aside, the most painful part of this crush is that the house is a block away from my apartment. In fact, were it not for all the mature, leafy trees, I could probably see it from my balcony. Or at least see the big, beautiful blue house that sits next door to it, whose paint job I have long admired. That one is just kitty-corner from my building. And this one is just on the other side of it. It would be an easy move-in..

What a dream. Great neighborhood too, if I do say so myself. Except for the hair of closeness to the university, and the mix-in of condo-type buildings (like I live in), and others converted to apartments. Which resulted in the late-night party on Saturday night just across the street from us. And the evidence in the morning of the scattered array of red plastic cups on the driveway. Aw man, I miss those parties.

Hope you're havin' a good Wednesday.