The monster is gone

One day she just walked in the front door and made herself at home. That home often became my shoulder. Or my lap. Or my keyboard. Or just near me.

Monster.JPG

If she rode in the car with me, she didn’t yell. She liked to lay on the seat next to me. Sometimes she’d get up and look out the windshield, sometimes she wanted on my lap, but the car itself wasn’t a problem as long as I was there.

The tumor was too much for her, and the monster who walked into my life has walked out again.

There is a place on the edge of heaven and earth bridged by a rainbow bridge. The heaven kissed land on this side is lush and fruitful, and all pets who have died go there. It is a place where their aches and and pains are healed, a golden land for playing and prowling — and waiting.

For it is also a waiting place. To each pet there comes a time, a hint on the wind or a whisper of sound, that causes them to stop, to look. And then to race in full gladness as their person approaches. There’s a time of joyous reunion, of pettings and snuggles, of purrs and yips, as the friends are reunited and the last ache is healed.

And together once more, they cross the rainbow bridge

See you at the bridge, Monster.

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A bit of bragging

My daughter will be graduating from Georgia Tech this weekend. She’ll receive a BS with high honors (read magna cum laude) in Mechanical Engineering.

I’d think I couldn’t be prouder, but she’s already headed upward from that in getting a research assistant position while she heads for a Master’s degree in Industrial Design.

Don’t congratulate me – I may have given a few pointers and proddings but the success is all hers. If you want to congratulate her, however, I figure she’ll be adding a ‘graduation’ post to her blog in the reasonably near future. That’s sleepyengineer.wordpress.com, by the way, over there on the margin.

Oat cakes

For the last several weeks, I’ve been making a simple oat cake (in various forms) for breakfast. I like oatmeal, but I find it messy. This has been a great alternative that gives me a meal that’ll keep me going till lunch. I thought I’d share.

Let’s start with the recipe.

Start a skillet (I use my cast iron) warming over medium high heat.
3/4 cups of rolled oats.
Approximately half that of water.
1 tablespoon honey or molasses (I prefer the latter in this, but your mileage may vary).
[optional] 2-3 tablespoons dried fruit (I tend to use dried cranberries, but everything I’ve tried works).

Mix and let stand for about a minute. Spoon or pour it into the skillet and lightly flatten (so one or four rounds as you prefer). Let cook for 2-3 minutes till browned, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.

Remove and serve.

I got the inspiration from a commentary on soldiers cooking during the civil war, where it was supposedly common for a quick breakfast to be some water and oats, cooked on a hot shovel. I can see it, though it’s hard on the shovel – but as normal I digress.

It’s fairly heavy. As a result it’s quite filling, and smaller appetites would be fine sharing this between two (or more).

I’ve used the smaller ones as a base for an eggs benedict type dish – a little ham, a poached egg, and some hollandaise sauce – but when I do I don’t have the fruit and reduce the molasses/honey by about half.

I’ve also used them to make “biscuit” sandwiches – put some sausage, or a scrambled egg and some cheese, or something like that between a split cake.

Both those add more flavors, but they also add more time and more calories. And, well, I’ve come to like my little oat cake.

Just a simple little ten minute breakfast bread. I’ll be interested to see if any of you run with this, and what you develop when you do.

small update

So most of you know I’m long term unemployed. Lots of little factors none of which should have mattered much met in just the right timing to make my life miserable.

I’m hesitant to say I have changed status, yet it appears I may have done just that.

The hesitation is due to the process. I have been hired in a temp-to-hire sequence for a company. I’m going to reserve naming the company for now. I’m presently training as a shipping clerk which is simultaneously easy and high stress. Well, I say easy, but apparently a /lot/ of people wind up walking off the job within the early days.

Driver comes in. Job comes in, maybe earlier, maybe later. Get driver and job together at the same door so they can leave together. Easy. (sigh). Make sure all the paperwork for all the jobs and the data entry is correct so billing can be done, make sure things are arranged so nobody misses deadlines, make sure … yeah, there’s the stress.

Realistically, I believe I have a handle on it. It’s honestly not that different from working blind and physically handicapped library or the holds and ILL sections of the library; just a matter of scale and particular details. And a few more dollars per job, of course.

But it is still officially temporary, and temp is not “employed” by pretty much any book you use.

The shipping clerk is (hopefully, and according to supervisors is intended to be) a stepping stone to a position I actually want more: CSR (Customer Service Representative). The current management’s position, in part due to the particular business, is that they have decided that the CSRs will do a better job of scheduling and dealing with customers if they have actual experience with various stress positions, of which shipping clerk is one. So /if/ I do well enough then not only will I be hired but I’ll be trained for my preferred position.

On the flip side of the same coin, if they decide I’m shipping clerk hire then I’ll take it – working beats not working.

I seem to orbit three fields. Computers, Logistics, and Information Services. I was moving furniture and assisting warehouses as early as 1979 (yes I’m that old), I started working with computers in 1981, and though my library degree began in 1988 I was doing field related instruction in 1984. I’ve dropped into all three fields multiple times since. It’s been interesting to watch this in progress, and I’m kind of curious where I’m going from here (when I grow up. grin)

Maleficent

I went to see this movie tonight. I’ll give the bottom line up front: Maleficent is magnificent and I liked her story quite a bit – despite the quibbling complaints that follow. And while I don’t really intend to spoil and indeed won’t be doing much beyond what should be obvious from trailers, read on realizing I might do so unintentionally.

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The minimum wage argument

I’m going to keep this one fairly simple.

The most consistent argument against increasing minimum wage is that cost of goods is increased to completely absorb it, which since the rest of us don’t get that increase hurts everyone else.

1. Does the price of goods increase when minimum wages are not increased? yes.
2. Is the rate of increase of price of goods more, less, or the same (on average) after a minimum wage increase? the same.

If the ‘problem’ happens regardless of whether the alleged trigger occurs AND when the trigger is pulled there’s no change in the problem, the trigger isn’t a trigger.

Now can we push it to absurdium? Oh, sure, let’s push minimum wages to a million dollars a day or something like that. At that point yes, we’d have forced in inflationary response.

But when the change stays low – to ‘minimum living standard’ or such – then it is neither absurd nor the cause of the problem claimed.

Are there other potential problems? Probably, but not this one.

Some crepes

So today I decided to make and fill a few crepes. Now, the thing about crepes is they’re easy – easier than pancakes, even – and yet have this reputation of being special.

The special is the filling. And the next nice thing about the crepe (in my opinion) is that it’s as thin and soft and flexible as a flour tortilla but (again) a whole lot easier to make.

The final nice thing about the crepe is that it works in small batches – meaning you can make it for one large or two small appetites with little to no waste.

One egg in a small to medium bowl. Whisk or beat it till it’s all one (yellowish) color. Get a half cup of flour and a cup of water-milk mix. (What mix depends on your taste – I follow Julia Childs and go about 2/3 milk to 1/3 cup water, common on the internets is half and half, Alton Brown is 3/4 milk and 1/4 water. They all work.) Add half the flour and stir it in. Add half the liquid and stir till it’s smooth. Repeat till it’s all smooth. Now stir in 1 tablespoon of melted butter and you’re done.

Now put that in the refrigerator and start getting the rest of your ingredients ready. Yep, that’s one of the big bonuses; you don’t have to prep everything up front because you want the batter to rest a bit. You want it to rest at least 15 minutes. If you’ll cover it so it won’t form a skin you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a day. (I’ve been told 2 days, I’ve never tried it so won’t promise.) This means you can prep the batter the night before which in turn is less mess in the morning. Or in the morning so you can make dinner crepes faster. There’s another time saving point I’ll get to, but this is the first.

Oh, the reason for resting is so the bubbles you formed by whisking have a chance to leave. You’ve developed the gluten in this by stirring so thoroughly. If you leave in the bubbles you’ll get something that’s light, fluffy, and weak. The first two are good, the latter – with one exception case – is bad.

So you let it rest and it’s cooking time. Preheat a skillet – 8 or 10 or 12 inch depending on how large you want your crepes. You want it hot. The droplet test is good here. Sprinkle a little water on the skillet. If the drops skitter about it’s ready. If they just stick and boil it’s not hot enough, and if they flash to steam you’re a little too hot – though this is less of a problem than it is for pancakes.

Lightly oil your pan (a dollop of butter tastes better, a spray of no-stick is healthier). Pour a small ladleful of batter into the middle and tilt your pan in circles till the batter’s filled the bottom and/or no longer flowing. How much si a ladleful? I use my 12 inch cast iron and get about a half inch gap around it when I use about 1/3 cup. If you’re filling an 8 inch a scant quarter cup will fill it.

Now that you’ve poured and spread, let it sit for a minute, maybe a minute and a half. You’re going to turn this while the middle is still moist but the edges are firm. If you’re really good you can flip it by tossing. me, I’m not so good so I use a spatula and maybe my fingers to help. Turn it over, let it cook for 30 seconds or so. Pull it out onto a plate, give your pan a few seconds to recover its heat (if you’re using cast iron don’t bother), and pour the next. When it’s done just stack it on the previous and keep going till you’re done.

The recipe I have makes two to four depending on the size of your pan and how heavily you pour the batter. If you’re making more, though, we’re off to the next nice thing about crepes – they keep. For a short wait, make the plate you put them on heat-proof. Put the stack in a warm (200 or so) oven and they’ll stay warm and ready for up to an hour — plenty for preparing for guest(s). Alternately you can put the stack in the refrigerator for a day or two. If you do, cover them so they don’t pick up funky odors. Just a quick reheat (oven, microwave, or even a toss into the skillet for a few seconds) and they’re ready to go. Finally, they freeze well. Meaning they lose very little quality when you thaw and reheat them. Yeah, I like crepes.

But let’s come back to filling the crepes. The basic principle is easy. Take a spreadable sort of filling and spread it on the crepe, then roll it into a tube like a burrito or, well, like a crepe. Pour a little sauce of some sort over the rolled tube if you wish.

You can get as fancy or as simple as you wish. Spread some cream cheese and your favorite jam. Or just the fresh fruit of your choice. If you’re feeling a little fancy fill with some marscapone and whipped cream, roll, then drizzle a little espresso and dust with cocoa powder. (Marsala is optional).

And don’t forget savory. Layers of thinly sliced meats and many vegetables, with or without cheese, work well. I’ve got a quasi-fancy recipe (not sharing) that amounts to a crab thermidor filling. It’s topped with a little extra sauce and cheese and baked long enough to melt the cheese.

Cold, they work fine for wraps. Well, some people think they’re a little gummy (due mostly to the developed gluten), so your mileage may vary.

Before I go, a couple of variations. First the easy one, the reason I mentioned the bubbles way back near the beginning.

Start making your crepes right away. Lay it flat on the plate, pour the next, and while you’re waiting spread your filling on the first but do not roll it. Just for reference a really easy thing here is just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but you can spread chocolate or nutella or jam or even a layer of fruit (slices of banana, for example). Repeat till you’ve finished making crepes, and you’ll have this stack of crepes and fillings. Oh – just so you have an idea, I’ve made this with bananas foster as my filling and topped it with the ice cream and final drizzle. Share. (or not, if that’s your pleasure. It /is/ really good.)

Final variation. Way back in the pan, while it was on the first side, beat one egg till it’s smooth. As soon as you flip the crepe pour the egg on top and spread it so it covers the whole crepe. Immediately add thinly sliced cheese to one half of the crepe. Once the cheese softens and if you wish add some thinly sliced meat or veggies (mushrooms, my favorite) over the cheese. Wait till the egg has firmed, and fold it over the top like a quesadilla. If you want, fold it once more into a quarter-circle. (If you’re doing this and you want to gild the lily, put a thin slice of cheese on top of the ‘bottom’ quarter before folding.) Let it sit for a moment both to let the egg finish cooking and to avoid burning your tongue while you eat. fork, or just tuck it into some paper towels and treat it like a sandwich.

Obviously you can skip the egg and/or use other fillings, but you get the idea.

Yeah, I like crepes. Easy, work for a small and large group cookings, and very flexible. (sorry for the pun).

Enjoy.