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Fred’s folks came over to our place for Yule this year. I made the roast (tofurkey!) and cranberry sauce, while they brought some squash, some potato pancakes, and the dessert.
The food turned out great, though I had a bit of a problem with the nifty cranberry-sauce recipe I got from Whole Foods. Turns out that, while it’s great fun to attempt to puree crystallized ginger, it’s also futile; the bits become sticky and merge into large clumps. I didn’t really notice this as I was cooking the cranberries, though, and added everything as the time demanded. When it came time to eat, the ginger flavor was quite nice in the first couple bites — subtle and enhancing the cran-flavor. And then I hit the first big chunk of crystallized ginger.
INTENSE. WOW. I like ginger, but not that much. Sadly, the rest of my portion was rife with big chunks, which soured me on the leftovers.
Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson: “pulses” means “seriously, don’t lay on the fracking ‘chop’ button”.
Fred’s folks did come through on some extra-awesome kitcheny gifts: an electric kettle, a French press, and an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. We’ve used them all, and so far they’re all making the kitchen easier to handle.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m always interested in re-interpreting my family’s traditional New Year’s black-eyed peas into something tasty. In my childhood, we always had a fifteen-bean soup that was disparagingly bland; I remember drowning it in so much ketchup that the otherwise-off-white broth became blood-red. Most of my attempts have involved replacing another sort of legume with black-eyed peas; this has had mixed results, including a strongly-worded rebuke from somebody who didn’t like me replacing the pigeon peas in his curry recipe.
Since we’ve vegetarianized the house, Fred and I have taken a new approach to menu planning: each night of the week is a different cuisine, and whenever appropriate we stick to said cuisine for holiday meals. As it turns out, 1 January 2009 is Indian night, and I am pleased to report that black-eyed peas are a common component in many traditional curries and that it is not necessary to substitute them for anything else. After a little Googling, I found a suitable recipe (though I feel compelled to point out that that should be “Masala”, not “Marsala”) and hit the store.
I’ve got all my ingredients now (including ghee! I LOVE GHEE!). We already had some nice brown rice in the cabinet, some heat-and-serve naan in the freezer (um, duh), and some India pale ale in the refrigerator, so we can round out a nice complete meal without too much trouble. (I will confess that the IPA is a bit of a stretch, but damn if it isn’t good stuff.) The recipe doesn’t call for an overnight soak, so I can leave the black-eyed peas alone until mid-afternoon on the day proper.
So far this recipe shows quite a bit of promise. If it works out, then I might just keep it for next year. I’m already thinking about growing black-eyed peas in the garden, which would make this even awesomer, but if that doesn’t work out then the bulk section at Whole Foods has dried organic black-eyed peas for pretty cheap.
Since I mentioned Whole Foods… If anybody from said establishment is reading this, then please give a substantial bonus to whomever came up with the quickie “hearty winter vegetable soup” package in the produce section. The soup was fast and delicious and smelled SO GOOD as it was cooking, and I didn’t have to chop anything or even learn what a whole rutabaga really looks like. My only suggestion would be to find some way to better sequester the onions from the other components; that would make it easier to get the onions into the pot without accidentally dropping in some parsnip or sweet potato.
Finally, my mother gave us all bottles of rosemary-enhanced olive oil for Christmas this year, in a brave attempt to use some of the rosemary that’s taking over her front porch. We used some to sauté the onions in the aforementioned winter veggie soup, and it worked out beautifully. Good call, Mom.
We’re gradually assembling ourselves for our upcoming trip to the Inauguration in DC. It looks like we’ll be road-tripping with a few other people from the LGBA contingent, and will be staying out in Fairfax with much of the rest of the band. Fred’s working on bringing all the color guard members up to speed, and it looks like he’ll be writing one of the routines (probably for the Washington Post March, which always reminds me of rhubarb tart).
Speaking of the band, though, I did take possession of my old cornet and my younger brother’s trumpet, along with a few mouthpieces, so that I can perform with our friendly local gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender band this spring and/or summer (still uncertain). It has been a long time since I played, so it’s going to take a little while to get my embouchure back; I also need to clean both horns rather thoroughly and re-lube the slides and valves.
I think that I’m going to try to recover my embouchure better with a few bugle calls. I don’t need valves for those, since they rely entirely on tonguing and embouchure changes, and they do work the transitions rather heavily (especially “To the Colors”).
On a whim, I invited my parents to the Band Together holiday concert…. and neither one winced during the show. I’ve never experienced such a thing, so I’m not quite sure how to interpret it.
And yes, I am adding a “band” tag.
Neither Fred nor I sang in the last chorus show; the house stuff was too much on its own without adding a full program of (memorized!) choral music. We went to the performance on Saturday night, though, and the boys did a great job with a lot of interesting material. I will confess, however, that it was a little disconcerting to be questioned by other audience members at intermission: “Why aren’t you doing this show?” “When are you coming back?” etc.
I won’t be able to sing with the chorus for the spring show (and possibly the Pride show) because of classes. Fred has no such burden, but he’s still on the fence about this show, and will make up his mind after seeing some of the music.
Science doesn’t take a holiday (or at least it doesn’t in my new catchphrase) but many scientists do. As a result, my boss and I are doing significant projects while most people are out of their labs.
Last Friday we re-wired most of a network closet. It was tedious, but since very very very few people were using the network at the time it didn’t really cause any problems with ongoing research, and the results are considerably prettier and easier to work with than the old ‘wherever it fits’ approach. I’m not sure when we’ll finish that closet, though.
We’re also working on a new file server for one lab in particular. They have a lot of proteomic data, so they need quite a bit of storage: twenty terabytes. (I am quite certain we’ll all laugh at this capacity in ten years: “OMG can you believe that we thought that was huge?!”.) My first task was explaining what a terabyte is; all these scientists deal with milli- and micro- and nano- and pico-, not with mega- and giga- and tera- and peta-, so the scale of the new array is a bit beyond them at the moment.
The new server arrived fully assembled from the vendor, but apparently nobody warned my boss that the package would weigh about 150 pounds (i.e., as much as me). Turns out he’s never done any sort of weightlifting, so I had to kind of walk him through a rudimentary squat move so we could get it off the floor. I will confess that I found his expressions pretty amusing; however, his cursing remained in English and did not slip into French, so apparently he didn’t find it that bad. (He did revert to his native language once we got the stupid thing into the rack: a curt “Bon.” summarized it for both of us.) When it came to installing the new server, though, I wound up climbing very carefully through the tangle of wires behind the rack to connect the new server to everything. Joy. I don’t mind the small spaces, but I HATE thinking that my misplaced foot is going to knock out a cable and therefore destroy fifteen years of research data.
I might have some interesting news on the work front soon, but I officially know absolutely nothing of the situation so I won’t comment here. In the meantime, though, I still have plenty to work on, so I won’t lose myself to speculation.
The new house is coming along. We’ve — or, rather, Fred and his folks have — pulled up most of the carpet on the main floor. Sadly, it looks like the original hardwood underneath is in too rough a shape to just sand and refinish, so we’ll probably be installing a floating floor on top of the existing wood floor and subfloor. Add this to the other “soon” projects (tankless hot water heater FTW) and the to-do list is starting to look a bit daunting.
That said, I did receive power tools for the holiday (so lesbionic, non?), and I’ve already used them. We had purchased new handles and locks for the two screen doors, mostly so that we won’t need a key to operate the locks from the inside, but the new handles didn’t fit in the existing holes. As a result, I got to break out the new drill and new bits and work my way through the doors. It felt mindlessly Republican, like I should be chanting “drill, baby, drill” or something, but I managed to get through the task without starting any poorly-managed wars or demonizing any minorities.
I think the next project is going to be re-re-caulking the bathtub; I can already see a few gaps where water can get through, and the whole roasting-pan-on-the-kitchen-floor-during-showers thing is getting old fast. After that, who knows?