Fake food = weird

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:58 pm

Shouldn’t there be some sort of law against having more than 2 meetings on the Friday before a long weekend?  That’s what I think.

I admit it, I do eat packaged foods sometimes.  Freshly prepared is better, of course, but you can’t beat packaged stuff for convenience and portion control.  I eat a Smart Ones meal just about every day for lunch.  I also incorporate “lite” products into my diet pretty often.  Fat-free sour cream is one of the greatest inventions of our time, in my opinion, and I don’t remember the last time I ate full-fat mayonnaise (oh wait, yes I do.  It was on a BLT at Denny’s parents’ house.).  Still, I do draw the line.  I don’t like to eat foods (other than, say, water) that have zero calories.  It just seems to bend the laws of nature, and if there’s one thing I know about bending the laws of nature, it’s that it always come back to bite you in the ass.  Haven’t you seen The Butterfly Effect?  I haven’t, but it might have been about something like that.  Final Destination, too, I think.

These products the sort of thing I try to avoid.  If they’re fat-free, calorie-free, and carb-free, what on earth is in them? OK, I found the nutrition information and ingredients.  The “bleu cheese” dip (quotes mine; I’m not sure why they don’t have to put them in quotes, because I’m not seeing any actual bleu cheese involved) contains water, vinegar, salt, and lots of things I can’t pronounce.  I wonder if there are actual lumps in it, to mimic actual cheese.  I kind of hope not.  Oat fiber seems to be a popular ingredient in these dips.  Very peculiar.  Also, someone should remind their web designer that the millennium has, in fact, taken place, and it’s ok to move on now.

I am concerned by the fact that the chocolate syrup and pancake syrups do not have ingredient lists available.


Pretty picture

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:56 am

Remember how I promised Denny would have a nicer picture of the cupcakes?

Here it is. Be sure to click on the image to see the larger version; the detail he got is really beautiful. He’s so good.

I would also like to reiterate my assertation that planning ahead rules. Over the last 5 days, I’ve made approximately 1 billion empanadas, .5 billion phyllo ice cream cups, and .5 billion bases for teacakes. If I had tried to do all of that Saturday afternoon, I would have been a tired, grumpy mess by the time the guests arrived.

In sadder news, tomorrow is my friend/coworker Kaspar’s last day at work. Kaspar is the one whose wedding in Norway we’re going to this summer. Norway is his home country, and his fiancée Sabine studies Norwegian film. He found a new job in Oslo, so after the wedding, they just won’t be coming back. I’m happy for them but sad for me.

Fun fact: I was chatting with Sabine, and she mentioned that it was at our wedding that she and Kaspar decided to get married (they’re a long-time couple who had been sort of ambivalent about marriage, but I guess we pushed them over the edge). Denny noted that in a way, we engineered our own trip to Norway, since we’d have no reason to go were it not for their wedding.


Gym floors and raspberries

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:20 pm

I’m in lovely Cedar Falls, Iowa, at a meeting with IT reps from UNI and Iowa State.  UNI has a really beautiful building that their IT staff works in.  It’s a former gymnasium that has been remodeled; they did a really good job keeping certain elements like the wood basketball floors and high beamed ceilings, while adding a very high-tech, metal and glass aesthetic.  It’s cool and I would enjoy working in such a building.

The guy sitting next to me cut his hand and is bleeding.  I hope he’s OK.

I picked a whole bunch of raspberries from the bush in the back yard last night.  I need to do something with those.  There are probably not enough for jam, but probably enough for a tart or something.  Maybe I’ll make a nice lemon curd and raspberry tart.


Jessica Simpson vs. Madonna

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:09 am

I will admit from the start of this that I am prejudiced toward Madonna and prejudiced against Jessica Simpson. Wait, does it count as prejudice if it’s based on actual evidence? I don’t know. But I basically like Madonna and I basically dislike Jessica S. They do have their similarities, though. Source: lots of “Behind the Music” and “E: True Hollywood Story” and similar shows.

Humble beginnings: Madonna grew up in Detroit with a strict but loving widowed father. Jessica grew up near Dallas with a financially-struggling minister father and Sunday school teacher mother.

Early struggles: Madonna packed up everything she owned and moved to New York by herself, often not having enough to eat. Jessica tried out for the Mickey Mouse Club and didin’t get in.

Breakthrough hit: After several low-level club hits, Madonna made it big with the album “Like a Virgin.” After several low-level pop hits, Jessica made it big by exploiting the loss of her virginity on the reality show “Newlyweds.” Her mental virginity remains intact.

Role in music creation process: Though they’ve both been known to “collaborate” and “co-write” songs, neither is primarily a songwriter.

The big screen: They are both terrible actors. Swept Away? The Dukes of Hazzard?

Political wishy-washiness: Despite participating in the 1992 “Rock the Vote” campaign, Madonna did not actually cast a ballot. Despite singing at George W. Bush’s 2000 inauguration and uttering the words “George Bush, I think I’m in love with you!”, Jessica Simpson declined a 2006 invitation to the White House because she preferred to keep her political views private.

Uncanny overlap between “Holiday” and “Public Affair”: Check it.

I’m still going to have to side with Madonna. One of my favorite things about her is her consistent stand that a woman can be smart, strong, and sexy at the same time, a trifecta that doesn’t seem to interest Jessica in the least. And even though neither of them wrote either of the above singles, Madonna sang it first.

If all this is doing is depressing you about the state of music in the world, I will lift your spirits by pointing you toward the super-awesome video map dredged up.  I like how Stevie didn’t change his song to make it more kid-friendly; he just threw a few “Sesame Streets” into the jam session at the end.  Stevie Wonder is one of my absolute, all-time favorites.  Funk is such a life-affirming musical style.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:42 pm

Best wishes to my coworker Matt, whose last day at work is tomorrow.  He’ll be starting a faculty position in Michigan in the fall.  I made cupcakes to mark the occasion.  Note the sugared cherries from my Mub’s tree (I did the sugaring, she did the providing of cherries).

With Calcium, Iron, & Zinc

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:16 pm

I feel like I haven’t had a vacation in a long time.  The last one I took was in February, which I realize isn’t that long a time for most people who only get 2 weeks vacation a year, but I get really antsy if I don’t get away more than that.  Also really awesome is a vacation where one stays home.  Travelling is very fun, but it’s also very tiring, and just having a few days at home can be wonderful.

To that end, I am taking the 3rd of July off, which will give me a 4-day weekend.  I’m excited.  Maybe we will go for a cavey hike at Maquoketa.

Also, have you seen the Nintendo DS Lite?  It’s really cool.  My coworker Greyson just got one for himself for a birthday present and he was showing it off.   That would be really great for plane trips.  Maybe Denny and I should get one for ourselves for a joint anniversary present.

Double also:  in the “you know you’re a big geek when…” category, I was feeling self-congratulatory about all the advance cooking I did over the weekend for the partay next week, and I actually verbalized the phrase “Planning ahead rules!”


Yay! Baby! (2x)

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:34 am

Last night, Danny and Tiffany (more the latter than the former) had a healthy baby boy named Oliver James. The family’s doing great. Big brother Aidan is excited about the middle name because, apparently, there is a train named James.

Haha…I started to fill in a title for this post, and my auto-fill suggested the title “Yay! Baby!” Apparently I am consistent in my baby-related enthusiasm.

Now comes the fun of buying baby gifts. There’s a store in town with really great stuff. I’ll have to stop by there over lunch.

In other wonderful news, Denny’s mom heard from Denny’s brother Michael (a Marine in Iraq) yesterday, for the first time since Easter.  I guess he got moved to a rural area, so his communication options have been limited.  It was a huge relief to everybody to know he’s ok.

This is the way I like to start a weekend.


Adventures in meat

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:51 pm

Denny and I took a stroll through Tait’s Natural Foods today over lunch, because I forgot to pick up tilapia for dinner at Hy-Vee and I wanted to see if it was available there. It is, in fact, and I got us sufficient fish for the evening.

Even more exciting is the fact that they carry whole duck breast and rabbit. I have had a hell of a time finding duck breast. Whole duck is easy to find (and in fact there is one in my freezer right now, waiting to be smoked and turned into smoked duck empanadas for our party), but the the breast doesn’t generally offer enough meat to be served whole. And I seriously love a nice seared duck breast. I’ve come >this< close to ordering it online before, but the idea of meat sitting on my doorstep all after while I'm at work squigs me out. Therefore, I am very excited to have found a source. I am perhaps even more excited to find rabbit. I have never cooked rabbit in my life, and I haven't eaten it since the World Cup was in France (1998; the only reason I remember that is I happened to be in Spain near the French border at the time and it was World Cup mania). Any good rabbit recipe suggestions? -- Also: Tiffany, our friend Danny's wife, is in labor.  Yay!  


Reviving Brando

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:50 am

This is a really cool Quicktime movie that explains/shows how the special effects team resurrected Marlon Brando from the dead to put him in the new Superman movie. I wish I knew how to do that. Marlon Brando was still reasonably hunky in the 1978 footage. Things went terribly wrong for that guy, in terms of physical fitness. It’s always a shame when people go out with a whimper. But what’s the alternative? Dying young? That’s no good either. If Marilyn Monroe hadn’t died young, she might be like Elizabeth Taylor now, all drug-addled and weird. Buddy Holly might be like Michael Jackson. Aaliyah might be like Whitney Houston.

Maybe Brando’s role in the new Superman movie will help people remember him closer to his prime.

It was really hard to get out of bed this morning. A loud thunderstorm woke me up a few times during the night, so I was extra groggy, plus it was really dark out. I like weekend mornings like that, when I can just cuddle up and go back to sleep. Wednesday mornings like that are not quite so good. I had coffee, but it still isn’t quite doing the trick. Too bad I don’t like crystal meth.


Fashion for the diaper rash cream set

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:17 am

OMG, I’m so buying one of these for Denny when we have kids.  Get them here.

My favorite part is when Laura Dern makes her mouth so weird.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:50 am

Do you ever wish you had a quote or noise from a David Lynch movie as your ringtone?

Now you can.

Unfortunately, the choices do not include the memorable “Baby…” line Dennis Hopper delivers shortly after huffing in Blue Velvet.


Mysteries from notes-jotted past, and heat proof desserts

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:26 pm

I glanced over at my bulletin board next to my desk, and here’s what I thought I saw, written in my own handwriting:

“ITS-AT-IS indulges students.” [Emphasis in original. ITS-AT-IS = Information Technology Services – Academic Technologies – Instructional Services, aka my work group]

Now, I admit that it’s a pretty sweet deal to be a student employee at AT. You get to use a pretty darn good computer (not as good as full-time staff, but close), use non-pirated versions of nearly any software title you can make a case for being work-related, you have nice coworkers who don’t treat you like a stupid kid, and except for a few weeks a year, you don’t even have to work that hard.

That said, I don’t think we go so far as to indulge students. It’s still a place of work, after all. Also, it’s weird that I wrote that down.

Upon further reflection, I see that it says “ITS-AT-IS includes students.” I was referring to an email list.

In other news, I’m menu-planning for a shindig we’re throwing some time reasonably soon (details TBD), and every freaking recipe I see is something I want to make. I think I have the savory stuff decided upon, but I’m not sure about dessert. I had an idea to make cool combinations of ice cream flavors, inspired by a thing I saw on the Food Network, and serve them in mini phyllo cups. However, I’m afraid those wouldn’t hold up well at an outdoor buffet-style gathering in the summer. I guess I could get them out of the freezer and carry them around on a tray after it looks like people have finished their savory stuff.

Alternatively, what are some good desserts that could stand to be left out on a warm-weather buffet table? Mini-pies would be cute, but awfully labor-intensive. Cookies from our favorite bakery? The budget is already getting on the high side. Maybe just brownies or something. If I cut them into triangles people will think they’re fancy.


The Internet saves the day

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:52 am

So there’s this application I administer at work, and it’s one I almost never use, because the particular one in question is the backup for a service that’s very little-used in the first place.

However, it requires some annual maintenance, and I’ll be damned if I could remember the administrator password.  Naturally I don’t write these things down, because that’s a big faux pas in the password world (almost as big a faux pas as writing about it one’s blog, you might say).  All I could remember is that it was related to a particular musician I like, so I googled for that person’s discography.  Once I saw the search results, it triggered my memory and I was able to log in.

Good old Internet.  Without it, I would be unable to use other aspects of the Internet.


Dòve sono i bambini dei famosi?

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:47 pm

I’m not sure about that accent mark.  My Italian’s not so hot.  But it’s better than my Swahili.

I had a friend who was working construction one summer, and he got friendly with a lady who was also working construction.  Lo and behold, they both spoke Swahili (as second-language learners; neither was a native speaker), so they bonded on the construction site by speaking Swahili exclusively.  I think they even dated for a while.
Don’t ask me how two Swahili speakers ended up working construction together in Iowa.  It just happened.  Too bad it didn’t work out with them, because that would have been a great story to tell at their wedding.
Anyway, the question I’m asking is about one of my guiltiest pleasures, Celebrity Baby Blog.  Not only does it have frequently-updated information about the babies of celebrities, it also has links to cool things celebrities buy for their babies.

Oh, excuse me, did I say “buy for their babies”?  I meant “get for free because for some reason the richest people in our culture get comped everything.”  Anyway, not all the stuff is outrageously expensive, even, such as these cute baby shoes.

I thought there hadn’t been any updates on that site for a few days, but when I visited it just now to make sure I had that link right, I see that it’s actually my RSS feed that’s not working.  Hm…I hate to think of all the celebrity baby-related news I’ve been missing out on.  Must fix.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:11 pm

Humid days give me weird hair.  Boing boing boing.  Bouncy fluffy puffy boing boing boing.  Also, I often go to bed with wet hair, because I exercise in the evening and it’s not dry from my post-exercise shower by bedtime.  Let me tell you, the results are hilarious.  Even when I go to bed with dry hair, it still gets fairly outrageous.  I was self-conscious about it as a kid, and at sleepovers, I would work it into a braid before hitting the sleeping bag to try to keep it from looking like the Bride of Frankenstein by morning.

I don’t care anymore.  The only one who sees it in the morning is Denny, and he’s not usually wearing his glasses then so he can’t see it very well.  I probably look like an out-of-focus puffball, like a dandelion in its seed stage.

I’ve always admired people with straight, sleek, glossy, Marcia Brady hair.  Alas, it shall never be mine, unless I wear a wig.


Soap Operas Gone Insane

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:39 pm

Oh my lord, what is with soap operas nowadays?

And to think, I gave up on soap operas back in ’83 when Annabelle kept having those dumb headaches on Guiding Light.

This clip from Passions is truly bizarre.  I mean, seriously.  You think you know what soap opera thing is going to happen, and then you’re completely wrong.

Citrus mysteries

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:34 pm

How do you pronounce that Euro car, the Citröen? And did I put the umlauts in the right place? And should the word umlauts have umlauts? Ümlauts? And does Citröen mean lemon in whatever language it’s in, like citron does in French? And do other cultures use the word lemon to mean a bad car? And how did that get started, anyway? And is that urban legend true about the Chevy Nova being renamed in Spanish-speaking countries for obvious reasons?

I wish I had a car that was a lemon. I’d bring some Splenda and we’d have a joyous lemonadey day as I zoomed around town, chewing on its inner surfaces.

Also, I like lemon curd. Maybe when our garden raspberries are ripe, I’ll make some mini cheesecakes and top them with a layer of lemon curd and some raspberries.

This post has been brought to you by the letter Spazz.


What do you wish you smelled like?

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:23 pm

I stopped by Osco over lunch break today, and I spent a few minutes sniffing various bath gels. I realize there are better places to go than Osco if I want a truly luxurious bath gel experience, but it’s very convenient, and I figured I’d be able to find something not-vile.

No such luck. Well, to be fair, lots of them were not-vile, but none of them really made me want to lather up, then and there. I found lots of your typical flowery crap, like “Jasmine Blossom Bliss” and “Rose Rendezvous.” Maybe a pricier brand would smell more like actual flowers and less like old lady perfume; I don’t know.

I think that I would prefer to smell like a food item, anyway. There were a couple of mango choices, but I prefer my fruits later in the day. In the morning, I want some sort of nutty, cinnamony cereal and coffee.

Denny doesn’t like coffee, so even though mocha-scented shower gel sounds great, it’s probably a bad idea if I want to maintain his affections. Is there such a thing as Honey Bunches of Oats shower gel?

I think Philosophy makes a Cinnamon Buns shower gel. That sounds good. Ooh, I see they also have Waffle Cone. Yum. I know I said no fruit, but banana would be good for a p.m. shower. And how about Sugar Cookie? In my perfect world, I would eat sugar cookies for breakfast.

The obvious answer here is that Osco needs to start carrying Philosophy products.


The garden after a rain

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:18 am

It’s cool and rainy today, which is not so perfect for Angie and Ransom’s wedding (though it’s all indoors, fortunately, so I’m sure it will be fine), but it’s beautiful for the garden. I love how the colors all seem so vibrant after a good rain.

I’ve been deliquent in picture posts, so here are a few:

This strawberry appears to be a volunteer. I found it down by the flowerbeds.

Pretty lilies

A baby robin must have hatched nearby and left its shell.


Rangie’s Wedding

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:45 pm

Tomorrow is Angie and Ransom’s wedding. I’m extra happy about it, not just because they are both lovely people and I’m happy that they’re happy, but also because they met at Academic Technologies, just like Denny and me. ITS is seriously the place to meet your spouse! There are a lot of couples floating around here.

They’re having their reception at Brown Deer, which is a place we seriously considered. I haven’t been to a wedding there yet, so it will be interesting to see how it all goes. It’s a really lovely space, so I’m sure it will be great.

Archive Check: One year ago today, I was talking about the library and pricing out tickets to Japan (not that I’ve ever seriously considered going to Japan, but I’m always game for a new adventure).

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