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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Swim Class Update

My swim class is almost halfway done. I was mistaken in my original blog - it meets three times a week, not two. So far, we've covered freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. With each stroke, we learn the individual components, and then put it together. I've learned a lot. Backstroke took about two classes before it sank in. Breaststroke is a lot harder. It's different now than when I learned it, and I've had to relearn it. I'm hoping it gets easier soon.
It's interesting to learn a new sport or physical activity as an adult. It's very different than it was as a kid.
In any case, it's a buttkicking one-hour workout each class. I'm in a lot better shape now, even though it's only been a few weeks. Much to my annoyment but not to my surprise, I've gained two pounds. My midsection is trimmer but my arms and shoulders have bulked up. This is pretty typical for me - I build muscle very quickly.
We start learning butterfly next week. The one good thing is that I've never learned it so at least I won't have any pre-existing bad habits that I'll have to break.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recipe Geek Extreme Edition: Chocolate Almond Pie, aka Vomit Pie

Sometimes I go overboard when I try new recipes, and make stuff that just doesn't work out. Usually this happens when I am trying to cook something extra nice for a special occasion, like the Valentine's Day Steak Disaster. Last weekend I made chocolate-almond pie in honor of my mom's birthday. It sounded so good - the filling was supposed to taste like cannolli filling, and contained ground almonds, ground chocolate, mascarpone and ricotta cheese, and whipping cream. The filling was put inside a cookie crumb crust and chilled. I improvised and made a crust out of some leftover biscotti. That part worked well, at least.
The proportions and order of addition for the filling seemed a bit off, but since i don't make a lot of pie fillings I ignored my instincts. Making matters worse, I messed around with the recipe and scaled it up slightly non-proportionately. It tasted great, but had the color and texture of vomit. It was kind of curdled, rather than smooth and creamy I filled the pie crust and chilled it. It firmed up but still looked nasty.

I covered it with grated chocolate. It looked slightly better but was still disappointing.

It tasted ok, but even the combination of cannolli-filling and biscotti flavors couldn't offset the weird texture.

Tempest Concert, Redwood City "Music on the Square"

Last Friday, T and I met up in Redwood City for the Tempest concert at the "Music on the Square" series in downtown Redwood City. A lot of local cities have similar programs during the Summer. The formula is simple - a free outdoor concert in the early evening to get people to come downtown and spend money. Redwood City takes it a step further and has movies, dance, plays, etc on the other nights, as well as lunchtime concerts.
In many ways, Redwood City is a typical of the towns along the San Francisco peninsula, which sprouted in the last 100 years. There is a downtown that is bordered by El Camino Real and on the other side by the Caltrain tracks. During the 70's and 80's, the downtowns were pretty stagnant. My own town, Sunnyvale, actively changed its downtown by building a mall in the middle of it. (What can I say - the Sunnyvale City Council has a long record of stupidity regarding the downtown area.) Most other cities, including Redwood City, just ignored their downtowns. T still calls it Deadwood City* - old nicknames die hard. Lately there's been a bit of a Renaissance.
The concert was at the Courthouse Square from 6-8 PM. I had swim class from 5:30-6:30, so there was no way for me to get there before 7. I didn't want to drive all the way up there if they were going to be done by the time I got there. Fortunately, through Facebook I was able to verify that they would play until 8. I got there around 7:15. T had gotten a good seat by the fountain. I couldn't look up the fiddler's kilt like i normally do, but it was a prime spot for hanging out and people watching.
There were a couple of thousand people there. The whole square was packed. A lot of people had brought food and wine and were picnicking. It was a more diverse crowd than is typical for a Tempest concert. Afterwards, I bought a Tempest T-shirt and T and I went for dinner. It was a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One Small Step...

It's almost the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, which means that it's almost time for another important anniversary. Yep, I'm talking about me starting toilet training.
On July 20, 1969, my mom was watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on tv. I was 7 months old. She was 2 months pregnant with my brother. It was a hot humid July day in the Washington DC suburb where we lived. It must've been time for me to pee or poop, and my mom decided to put me on my little baby potty and see what happened. The astronauts did their thing, and I did my thing. Mission accomplished, or at least, mission begun.
In my mind, I like to imagine that she put me on the potty right when Neil Armstrong was giving his "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" speech. I'll have to ask her. Most likely it was during one of the more boring moments.
So, of course, because of the moon landing, I get to hear this story every year. Now it's your turn. Hah hah!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Recipe Geek: Noodles with Red Curry Almond Sauce

It should come as no surprise that I enjoy reading cooking blogs. 101 recipes is one that I like. It's all vegetarian, mostly vegan, but the blog is well written and there are some interesting recipes. This week's was soba noodles with almond sauce. It sounded good and I'm a big sucker for noodles with nut based sauces, having subsisted on noodles with thai peanut sauce and tofu in my grad schools years. $2.50 bought a big portion from the food truck - it was enough for lunch and dinner. You can still get similar lunches there, although the price has risen to a whopping $4. $1.50 bought a massive slice of spinach pizza, which was my other favorite lunch. I was mostly vegetarian back then. But enough of my grad school nostalgia.
Now, one of my problems with the 101 recipes recipes is that they usually call for unusual ingredients. Believe it or not, I had most of the ingredients for this recipe*, save for the pea shoots. I decided to substitute baby spinach instead. Upon closer inspection, my soba noodles really weren't soba, but that wasn't a big deal. I cooked them up and then made the sauce, which contains almond butter, red chili paste, water and lemon juice. I wasn't paying close attention to the recipe, so I misread the amount of red curry paste to add. I added 3 tablespoons instead of two teaspoons. Ooops. Fortunately for me, my red chili paste is fairly wimpy. The sauce was very red and moderately spicy. I mixed it with the noodles and braised the tofu and spinach. It was tasty, and only a slight bit too spicy. (Disclaimer-I did eat a bowl of jello to quell the burn). If I were to do it again, I'd add less curry paste and would maybe add some ginger and sesame oil, because everything tastes better with ginger and sesame oil. I'd probably also go back to using peanut butter, since it reminds me of grad school.

*it was purely random that I had all the ingredients, but I guess it's like the proverbial monkeys typing - given enough time and they'll replicate Shakespeare's works, and given enough time I'll have all the ingredients for a 101 recipes recipe.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Swim Class

I signed up for a swim class. It starts tomorrow and is twice a week for two months. It's geared towards people like me, who want to improve their freestyle technique and learn or improve butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke . In theory, after taking this class I will be ready to participate in the Masters' Swim program at my gym, which meets practically every day, is free, and takes over the pool at prime time (6-7 PM). I've been trying to find a replacement activity now that I'm not playing soccer. Ideally, it would force me to work out harder than I do on my own, and maybe help me meet new people, and it wouldn't be hard on my knee. Masters' Swim may fit the bill. There's nothing like a little bit of competition to get me to work my ass off, and everyone seems to sit around in the hot tub for a long time afterwards and talk, so it looks pretty fun. Also, there are hot swimmer dudes for me to ogle. But even if I'm not ready for Masters' Swim once the class if over, I think it will be useful for me.

Tomato Geek

As most of you probably know, I'm a little bit obsessive about my tomato plants. I plant about 6-8 plants per year, mostly heirloom with a few early hybrids thrown in for good measure. I'll plant a few token squash,eggplant, herb and pepper plants, but they all play second fiddle to the tomatoes.
My dad is pretty much the same way about his tomatoes, so we have a friendly competition. The two main differences between us are that he only plants hybrids, and that his garden has a lot more sun. So the typical outcome is that he gets a lot more tomatoes, but my plants are bigger and my tomatoes have more flavor
Because I was out of town for five weekends in a row, I was very late in planting them this year. As usual, I planted them in a rich mixture of dirt and aged manure, with an added dose of abalone guts for good measure. They grew like gangbusters right from the start, but it wasn't enough to make up for lost time. It's currently early July, and it'll be at least three weeks until I get rip tomatoes. That's about a month behind schedule. Its been relatively cool so far this year, so that hasn't helped things. My dad isdefinitely winning the tomato competition so far this year.
Nonetheless, I have high hopes for my tomatoes. I've got a lot of interesting hybrids I haven't tried before, including several purple varieties, such as Black Trifele and Black Krim, as well as "Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato" (a big orange variety) and something called "Red Fig", which makes small pear shape tomatoes which can be dried in sugar to makes sort of a fake fig. Not that I'm going to do that. The big tomatoes don't have much fruit - it's been too cool for them to set much fruit. I'll report back on the results once the fruit is ripe.
If you're a tomato geek like me, the tomatofest web site is a fun way to waste time.