February 26th, 2011

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Diary the First: Food and Fun at Moomba

Life in recent weeks has been Crazy. Mostly in a good way, and mostly by intent -- I'm staving off depression by keeping almost ridiculously busy and overcommitted. Sooner or later I'm going to need to take my foot off the gas a bit, but for now it seems to be what I need. It does mean that I've been too busy to actually write down what I've been doing, though, so let's catch up a diary entry or three.

The past two weekends were somewhat Moomba-focused. First there was Cooks Guild, which consisted of mermaidlady, Aaron and myself attempting to do strange things with alcohol. We did manage two clear successes: Aaron and I tried two variants of the same Posset recipe, and both came out quite tasty -- mine was a sort of Ale Milkshake (which even Morwenna liked, despite a professed dislike of beer), while Aaron's was a thick sherry drink, of the "drink it with a spoon" consistency. Both sweet, although his was especially so. Less successful was the attempt at a posset with no egg and red wine: this turned, quite instantly, into a fairly horrible-looking purple cheese. We're not actually sure this was wrong -- the original recipe is clearly talking about a pressed-curd dish of some sort -- but we couldn't bring ourselves to take more than a tiny taste, especially once Aaron demonstrated that, by rolling it around properly, it could be made to look *just* like brains.

(There was also a "medicinal" drink that Morwenna made, that apparently tasted so bad she didn't allow us to try it, and the first iteration of Aaron's Hypocras recipe -- quite tasty, if almost overpoweringly gingery.)


Last Friday was Morwenna's birthday party, a "dress your best -- leopard print preferred" affair. I experimentally tried taking my standard Pecan Pie recipes and adapting them to little finger-food tartlets. This proved to be more of a project than expected, since nobody seems to sell real, non-fillo, mini pastry shells any more. So I bought a few good tart trays and some Pillbury dough (since I was too low on time to try making my own dough), blind-baked those for four minutes, and filled them.

The results were solidly good, although they need work. As usual, I made half Pecan Pie and half Bourbon Pie, but I decided to step both up a bit. For the Pecan Tarts, each got one pecan and one chunk of good Lindt 70% at the bottom -- the dark chocolate complimented the sweetness nicely. For the Bourbon Tarts, I bought some almond paste, rolled it thin, and put a square at the bottom of each, resulting in a sweeter flavor, and a slightly more pervasive but subtler nuttiness than the pecan.

The tarts need about 17 minutes to cook (down from an hour for the full-size pie) -- the pecan ones were a hair overcooked at 20 minutes, the almond slightly too blond at 15. But I'd chalk both up as successes, just needing some tweaking to get just right. I'll undoubtedly refine this recipe and do it again.

(I continue to ponder the notion of trying to make them with the standard Cooks Illustrated Pie Crust, only substituting bourbon for the vodka to kick the flavor just a hair. ladysprite is skeptical, and may well be correct, but I may have to try it out and see what happens, just to satisfy my curiosity. For my future reference, one full pie-worth of filling makes about 48 little tarts.)

Other foods of particular note were ladysprite's Maki-Roni -- high-quality mac and cheese rolled up around red pepper and pickle, sprinkled with panko and baked -- and the second incarnation of Aaron's Hypocras, this time made with fresh ginger, which came out *much* milder. (The consensus was that mixing the first and second versions produced the best results.)

The party was generally a fine time, an even mix of SCAdians (mostly close friends) and Babydolls folks who I didn't know, all chatting up a storm. I need more good parties in my life right now...
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Diary the Second: The Felding Winter Ball

Last night's project was an event sponsored by Felding, proving that they still exist.

This brewed up at the last minute -- it went onto the schedule all of ten days ago -- and I went in with modest expectations. Since it was a Friday evening, Aaron couldn't easily attend; however, my Fridays are now gapingly open (it's going to take a *long* time to get used to Friday not always being Date Night), so I volunteered to run dance. Given the short notice -- and moreover, the fact that it was snowing heavily in Towers -- I was expecting it to be lightly attended, a cute gathering of 15-20 people.

Nothing of the sort: in fact, the event was a good size, and proved a total blast. This was largely because Wellesley turned out in force -- Juliana, the current Provost, did a great job of publicity, with the result that we got 25 or so eager students there. I don't know how many had previously done anything with Felding, but this will hopefully prove a short in the arm for the borough. Combined with a roughly similar number from the Barony and environs and we had somewhere in the ballpark of 50-60 attendees, most of them doing most of the dances -- a fine size for a local dance event.

I ran about 15 dances, teaching everything as I went; I went fast, and occasionally pushed the crowd a little too quickly, but by and large folks seemed to be keeping up and having fun. I strongly favored easy crowd-pleasers, and those went over magnificently: Pinwheel nearly devolved into chaos, but the crowd cried out for more when it was done.

Overall, it was a great time: just the sort of small but energetic and focused event that I most enjoy, with everybody up and *doing* stuff instead of just sitting around talking. I'm grateful to Eowyn for putting the thing together, and Juliana for doing all the borough-side work: both did a great job.

(Following the event, several of us repaired to John Harvard's for a wind-down snack and drink. Note to self: they close the kitchen at midnight, and the pub at 1am. Not too bad by suburban standards, but I must remember not to expect city hours of them.)
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Diary the Third: Gaming

The other major thing that's been taking up my time has been a *lot* of gaming, mainly with mindways. Besides routine Game Nights, I've also fallen in with the local game-design crowd, doing a lot of playtesting of games that he and others are gradually polishing up to publishable state. I have to say, this is a heck of a lot of fun: while I'm not quite as good a player as the hardcore players who are doing most of the game design, I'm good enough to generally hold my own, and at least periodically win. Overall, it's teaching me a lot about the fine details of game design, which is a hoot...
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Diary the Fourth: Ants

Of course, *something* had to be going wrong. My life lately has not permitted a streak of simply good days. Fortunately, as badness goes, this one is much more an annoyance than an actual problem.

I seem to have developed *quite* the remarkable herd of ants in the past couple of weeks. For a little while I was worried that they could be carpenter ants (which *would* be an actual problem), but tpau pointed out that it's fairly easy to tell the difference. And fortunately, these are pretty clearly normal garden-variety (as it were) ants, mostly clustered around the kitchen.

It's not precisely clear *why* I have such a sudden ant problem -- the house and kitchen aren't that much of a mess -- but it appears that the issue is the dishwasher. There are a fair number crawling around the kitchen in general, but when I open the dishwasher there are a downright squicky array of them on the door.

My guess is that it comes down to a good idea gone wrong. Jane was always the one who did the dishes, because she liked doing so, and she always did them by hand. I have no such fondness, and I've had years of people telling me that running a full dishwasher is more ecological than doing dishes by hand. But I'm not home much, and only cooking for myself, so I'm just not generating dishes very fast. So my guess is that the dishes sat too long in the dishwasher, and attracted the ants.

So now I'm fighting them off, mostly by removing the attractants. I finished filling the dishwasher, ran it, and am now getting into the habit of doing my dishes promptly by hand instead. Combined with a bunch of ant traps, that will hopefully get rid of the problem reasonably efficiently.

(Although it's remarkably hard to find glue traps, I have to say. I prefer not to use poisons -- with pets in the house, it always makes me nervous -- and glue traps work pretty well with ants. But the supermarkets seem to have stopped carrying them. I may have to resort to Amazon to get some more...)
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Diary the Fifth: Sleeves

Finally, the one depressing note of the past few days, yet another instance of "It's the little stuff that gets you".

As I got ready for the event yesterday, I came to a distressing realization: I can't quite dress myself. Most of my garb shirts have sleeves that tie at the wrists; while it's just barely possible for me to do so while wearing them, it's very difficult and I don't do a good job with it.

Of course, I've built up all these shirts because getting ready for events has always been a joint project, with us helping each other get dressed. Me asking her to tie me up was always good for a smirk on both our parts, an inevitable part of prep.

Of all the little daily inconveniences of dealing with bachelor life, this one's surprisingly high on the list of things that are actually a hassle. Some tasks really called for both of us...