Sylvan Points at Stuff, First of May Edition

Here are some things the internet gave me!

Did I mention I have a food blog now?  I do.

I’m (very very slowly) working on a cookbook project, so it’ll be the repository for essays, recipes, and whatever else food-related I feel like writing about.

Ever wonder what the Imperial March sounds like played on a sitar?  Sure you have.

28 Parts of Depression that Often Get Missed

Space Jam.

This had me giggling for days:

Two Medieval Monks Invent Bestiaries.

“It is incredibly worrying when the bedbird tucks you in.”
Meanwhile, lookit my adorable new shirt, BB-Atsume:

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That’s not me wearing it, that’s just some dude.  I have much bigger boobs. Via Redbubble.

Your Silence is Deafening: An Open Letter to the Target Boycotters.  This entire made-up bullshit issue infuriates me.  (Not the issue of transphobia – that one’s obviously not made up. I’m talking about this bullshit ‘WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?’ people are spouting when there is NO EVIDENCE trans people ever do more than go in the bathroom to FUCKING PEE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.)  In fact it makes me so goddamn mad I can’t write about it, but this letter does a pretty good job saying what I’d like to say.

I think after that I need an adorable, hopeful puppy.  Let’s have an adorable, hopeful puppy.

There, that’s better.

And just to be sure a better mood is achieved, let’s go wash a sloth.  Wednesday is bath day!

This week is the 20th anniversary of The Craft.  No, seriously, 20 years.  Feel old yet?  That’s the year I graduated high school.  Here’s the review I wrote waaaaaaay back in 2010.

I have, at long last, found the dairy-free ice cream of my dreams, and no, it’s not the new Ben & Jerry’s almond-milk flavors (turns out I just don’t like almond milk as a base for frozen treats):  So Delicious’ Cashew Milk flavors.  OH MY GOD THE SNICKERDOODLE.  YOU MUST HAVE IT.   I want to try them allllllll.  So far I’ve got containers of the Chocolate Cookies n’Cream and the Vanilla, but I’m hoping to find the Cappuccino at the Big Freaking Whole Foods.

Fond of Instagram and cosplay?  You must check out @queenofluna – she does absolutely gorgeous and amazing work with makeup and hijab.  Her painting skills are a thing of wonder.

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Ten Favorite Kitchen Items – Food!

Everyone’s got that weird little spice mix or particular variety of noodle they reach for over and over again.  These are ten of the food items I find myself using more than any other – and one gadget I totally forgot to mention last time that is kind of important, whoops.

1. Kosher Salt, and my Salt Cellar

Kosher salt is kind of a no-brainer for the modern cook; you’d be hard pressed to find a cookbook that doesn’t demand it.  Why?  The larger flakes dissolve differently than those tiny little table salt crystals, and if we’re talking sea salt instead of regular kosher, the mineral content can veeeeery subtly affect flavor. I just like the texture of kosher much better in cooking, even though let’s face it, it’s all going to dissolve.  

What I forgot in my last post was this:  The thing I keep my salt in.  It’s handy to have your kosher salt close by and easy to access – obviously using a shaker with the stuff is a problem, and it’s much harder to measure accurately shaking or grinding.  You need something you can both stick your fingers in for a pinch and scoop out of with a measuring spoon. Enter the salt cellar.  They come in a million different varieties, but the one I love most is my Alton Brown model:

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Made by RSVP, not only does it have a removable bowl (dishwasher safe), the bottom is weighted so you can flip it open without the whole thing flying across the counter.  It’s easy to reach into, keeps dust out of the salt (unlike an open bowl type cellar), and came with an adorable little spoon I have never, ever used.  

2 –  Nasoya Tofu

Easily available at the megamart in an array of styles, this particular tofu is thus far my favorite to cook with.  Nasoya makes both regular and silken tofu, but I haven’t tried their silken yet (regular is what you’d cut into cubes and fry; silken is kind of cream-cheese textured and usually gets blended into stuff).  Their organic extra firm is my fave, and after a night in the freezer and a day in my tofu press it has a truly badass texture.  I want to try their superfirm variety but haven’t seen it at my usual stores – one of these days when I can afford to set foot in Whole Foods or our local food co-op, Wheatsville again, I’ll find some and report back.

3 – Nielsen-Massey Mexican Vanilla Extract

Vanilla is, of course, indispensable in baking.  There are three well-known types:  Madagascar (Bourbon), Tahitian, and Mexican.  Madagascar is the most popular, but Mexican has always been my favorite – there’s something robust and rounded-out about its flavor that I love.  Not to mention I was raised on it; living in Texas means access to a lot of cheap, horribly low quality “vanilla” that probably has a thousand toxic chemicals in it, but also to good quantities of the real thing.  Generally I advise against buying it out of the back of a truck.  But Nielsen-Massey is a well known brand of fabulous quality, and while I use other brands depending on available funds, it’s my favorite.

4 –  Jarred Garlic and Ginger

Lord, we thank Thee for whatever genius decided to sell pre-minced garlic and ginger in jars.  Sure, garlic is cheap and easy enough to smash, but being able to scoop out a spoonful without peeling and mincing is one of those little conveniences that makes a huge difference in my culinary enthusiasm.  I don’t care what the hipster foodies say – not every ingredient needs to be fresh-picked and peeled by hand.  Is it better? Probably.  But it’s not always realistic. When you demand that kind of labor and inconvenience you end up with piles of takeout containers.  Pick your battles, guys.  

Jarred ginger is an even bigger helper.  If you make much Indian food, or Asian of any kind, you need fresh ginger, but you have to peel it, mince it, measure it if it’s called for by the teaspoon (most decent recipes specify a size, like a 1″ knob)…or you can open a jar.  I recommend the jars from The Ginger People, who also make medicinal candies (I keep Gin-Gins on hand for motion sickness – a godsend), jarred sushi ginger, ginger syrups, and crystallized ginger.  

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5 – Vadouvan Curry Powder from World Spice Merchants

Curry powder is a curiosity to actual Indians. They don’t use it.  It was in fact an invention by the English to try and recapture the flavors of the subcontinent they’d subdued; in India, home cooks make spice mixes from scratch, usually starting with a base of Garam Masala (“warming mixture”) that they then add to.  Even garam masala varies from house to house; everyone’s granny has her own recipe.  But curry blends can be awesome if you get them from dealers that understand the value of fresh spices (as opposed to a can of yellow dust that’s been on the shelf ten years).  I’ll talk about curry and spices more later, of course, but right now, I have to recommend this particular blend.  It’s a bit different from most masalas in that it originated in an area of India with a lot of French immigrants, and often includes dried shallots and herbs in addition to the spices.  

I used to buy mine from Williams-Sonoma, but apparently they quit making it.  Any excuse to visit World Spice Merchants’ gorgeous website is a good one, though.  It’s beautiful, and their selection is amazing.

6 – Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips

The first Gardein product I tried was their chicken, and I thought it was absolutely gross.  I’m not sure what possessed me to give the “beef” a shot months later; their stuff isn’t cheap by any means, and I was still mad that I’d wasted whatever it was.  Turns out, the beefless beef was a totally different story, and these spicy, sweet-ish, easy and effortless to prepare strips are a thing of beauty and a joy forever.  I eat them at least once a month, and would more often except that 1) I don’t want to get sick of them and b) as I said, they’re not cheap.  But I can make two meals off of them if I add in a bag of frozen Broccoli Normandy mix and some rice, and it ends up being about five bucks a meal, which still isn’t cheap but is way better, and less horrendous, than anything takeout.  Gardein has a crapload of new products coming out in the wake of this year’s ExpoWest – VegNews.com has been posting all the fun new foods over on Instagram.  I’m particularly jazzed about the two-person frozen skillet meals.  Convenience is important, and convenience with a modicum of nutrition is always a welcome sight.

7 – Frozen Bananas

I’m a relative newcomer to the whole frozen-banana “soft serve” craze that flew around Pinterest for a while.  But this past Christmas my mom gave me my Ninja blender, as noted in my last list, and I became a fool for smoothies; obviously I had to at least try the banana thing, since I already had frozen nanners for smoothies.  Holy crap it was tasty!  My favorite combination thus far is frozen bananas, vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract.  Om nom slurrrrrp.

8 – Haagen Dazs Sorbet – Raspberry and/or Lemon

You’d think with the proliferation of vegan frozen treats out there I’d have a favorite in one of the dairy-mimicking lines, but no, my favorite nondairy frozen thing is raspberry sorbet (with the Zesty Lemon coming in a face-puckering second place.) In fact, I have a little song I sing when I eat it, thanks to Prince:

She ate raspberry sorbet
The kind you buy at the grocery store
Raspberry sorbet
And once it was gone she’d go buy some more

Yeah, I’m weird.  I also have a taco song, to the tune of the Dreidel song:

Taco taco taco
I made you out of soy
Taco taco taco
You give me taco joy!

And let’s not forget the immortal Choppin’ Broccoli:

9 – Frozen Veggie Mixes, Especially Birdseye’s “Steamfresh”

Me and früzenveg are like *that.*  (So are me and making up silly words like früzenveg.)  Our local grocery chain, HEB, has a great store brand of veggies, but my favorite mixes are still the ones from Birdseye’s Steamfresh line:

Asparagus, White&Gold Corn, Baby Carrots
Broccoli, Cauliflower, & Carrots (aka Broccoli Normandy in other brands.)
Italian Blend
Baby Potato Blend

10 – Soy Sauce.  Any Soy Sauce. Dear God.

A few years ago I started taking lithium as a mood stabilizer, and two things became apparent within the first few days:  One, it made me pee like a racehorse; and two, it made me crave salt like a madwoman.  I’ve always been a salt slut, but Lithium actually sucks salt out of your body (partly due to all that peeing), so they warn you to keep an eye on your intake and make sure you’re getting enough.  Finally a legit medical excuse to eat more salt!  Suddenly I found I wanted soy sauce on EVERYTHING. I’m not a big rice eater, but I’ve discovered one of my favorite things to fill up on when I “don’t have anything to eat” is a bag of früzenveg with a mess of rice soaked in soy sauce (the traditional kind, shoyu; or tamari, which a lot of people favor – I honestly don’t care which).  

I’m sure there are like a dozen other things I forgot to list, but lucky me and lucky you, I have full editorial control over this blog!  MUAHAHA!  LISTS FOREVER!

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Now Click This! a Link Roundup

Time for a semi-periodic roundup of links I thought were cool!  I always want to share nifty stuff with people, but given Facebook (and apparently Twitter now) is determined to keep people who follow me from actually seeing what I post, I figure that’s what m’blog is for.

Et voilà!

How to Use Pinterest to Meditate.  The title sounded so odd I had to look (score one for the author’s marketing acumen), but it’s a neat concept – everyone has a Pinterest board of inspiring quotes or pretty scenery, but what if you made one specifically to use as a meditative trigger?  BRB, gotta pin.

France has banned supermarket food waste.  One of the big obstacles in battling global hunger is distribution; it’s one thing to have a football field full of food to give away, but if you can’t get it to people who need it, it will rot.  There is plenty of food grown on this planet (or there would be if we weren’t feeding so much of it to animals to kill later), but there also has to be cooperation between producers, distributors, and charities.  Often supermarkets want to donate, but can’t spare the manpower, transportation, and time without screwing up their entire supply chain.  But France is making markets work with food banks to come up with a larger-scale system, and it will likely provide a model for future efforts in other countries.  Notice that the article says “no such law is being considered in the US” even though supposedly we’ve pledged to reduce waste by half.  Color me shocked as shit.  Go France!

This Hobbit House is adorable and beautifully made, but what really got me about it is that the door is made from a giant cable spool.  Anyone remember the spool, aka your first coffee table in your first college apartment?

5 Ways to Teach Body Love to Children and Teens in the Real World by Jes Baker, one of my favorite people.

The newest thing in nondairy ice cream: Avocado-based.  As someone who hates avocados, the very idea makes me queasy, but they’re such a big deal right now I guess it was only a matter of time.  Avocados have been used in nondairy desserts like cream pies for years. I say BLECH, you might  say YUM!  I wonder if they have a guacamole flavor.  *shudder*

By the same token, I am SO EXCITED for the new vegan Ben & Jerry’s flavors.  The Coffee Caramel Fudge sounds amazing.  Those are three of my favorite things on Earth in one pint!  I can’t wait for them to get here to Austin.

One day I brought home some french fries and sat down on my bed to check my email while nibbling at them.  I looked up and saw this:

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(That’s another dog in the hallway, and the other two cats are behind me.  Clockwise from the white dog:  Daisy, Stella, Rory, behind him Shelly, and Rabi.  Owen and Gypsy bring up my rear.)

Every time I finish writing a book I think, “Wow, I’m gonna take a break from that storyline for a little bit.”  Then this happens.  Yes, gentle reader, Book 7 is underway – in fact this image is a couple of weeks old.  Chapter 1 is almost done.  In fact, if you’re one of my wonderful contributors on Patreon, you’ll get to read it as soon as I have it ready.

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Lastly, happy birthday to the lovely and immensely talented Tom Hiddleston, who turns a whopping 35 years old today.  He and Hugh Laurie will star in the BBC’s adaptation of John LeCarre’s The Night Manager very soon, but in the meantime, let’s have Tom read us Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18:

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Sylvan Points at Stuff, 9/4

Hello again!  Let’s start with what may in fact be the best song ever.

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I love that different parts of the world have their quirky trends – Japan has washi tape, and it turns out Korea has diary stamps. They’re itty bitty (usually 1cm x 1cm x 3cm) wood-mounted stamps with tiny symbols to use in planners and diaries, indicating dates, appointments, weather, all sorts of stuff. If you don’t want to bulk up your planner with stickers, you might try some of these adorable little dudes:

While we’re on the subject of adorable things, I give you puffy manatee stickers.  Pink manatees.  Wearing pearls.

Pink Freaking Manatees!

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Hey, anybody need some Uranium?

Great Product, Poor Packaging.

Seriously, you have to read the reviews.  I love it when Amazon customers gang up on crazy-ass products like those “Bic for Vaginas” pens and the banana slicer.

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All right, stop

(collaborate and listen)

(sorry)

whatever you’re doing because DANCING BABY GROOT CUPCAKES.  There’s even a how-to video.

Don’t forget, you can also find me:

On Pinterest, where I post dozens of images of the same sort of stuff for a few days and then move on to something else.

On Tumblr, where I reblog inflammatory political stuff on occasion but mostly just enjoy the gay porn.

On Flickr, where there are lots of pictures of stuff I’ve made.  This may in fact include the Littlest Tofu Ever once I bust out my polymer clay tools.

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Ten Things I Love: Midwinter Edition

1 ~ I love, love, love Pink’s new single, “F*ckin’ Perfect,” and I also love the video. It’s so rare to hear a female artist sing about self-love outside the particular context of a relationship with a man; usually it’s all about how “my ex boyfriend made me hate myself, but you’re such a great guy you totally make my life worth living, which I could NEVER DO alone.”  “F*ckin’ Perfect” is about the way we treat ourselves, and it brings me to tears almost every time I hear it.  Here’s the video and an excerpt from the lyrics:

(WARNING: Video may be triggery for those with self-harm issues or eating disorders. May also make you bawl like a freaking baby.)

You’re so mean when you talk
About yourself – you are wrong
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead
So complicated – look happy, you’ll make it
Filled with so much hatred – such a tired game
It’s enough, I’ve done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons – let’s see you do the same

Pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel
Like you’re less than fuckin’ perfect
Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel
Like you’re nothing
You’re fucking perfect to me…

(If you prefer a profanity-free sort of perfection, the radio edit is clean.)

2 ~ I love fingertip-less gloves. Although I love cold weather, my hands tend to freeze even when the rest of me is toasty warm.  Regular gloves, of course, are impossible to type in, but the rising popularity of the fingerless variety has been a godsend to me.  I seem to have lost most of my gloves but I do still have one brown pair, which you can see in my Twitter userpic if you’re so inclined.  After the lovely snow that happened here in Austin this past week I’m going to put in a big order to SockDreams for more knee socks and some more gloves so that next time I’ll be set.

3 ~ I love not being bothered by Valentine’s Day this year. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a crass commercialized bid to reinforce heterosexual norms and make single people feel like crap, but it’s just not making me angry this year the way it used to.  I think it’s because of my declaration of celibacy, as I wrote about a while back; my outlook has shifted from “nobody will ever looooooooove me” to “thank Goddess I’m single!” Removing myself from the mainstream viewpoint on relationships, much like stepping back from fat-phobia, has been a tremendous relief.

4 ~ I love that Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are working on an entire cookbook about vegan pie, and that Hannah Kaminsky has another cookbook coming out this year.  Woohoo!

5 ~ I love that, though I’ve fallen short of all my health goals in the past…well, ever, I’ve learned so much about my body that now I’m self-aware enough to really feel the difference that little changes make. I think that all my flitting about from branch to branch has helped get me to a place where when I do make those changes, they’ll stick, because I know how I tick, I know what to expect, and I know I have to be patient.  I’ve been off caffeine for a week, for example, and I’ve noticed quite a few positive alterations in how my body and mind feel without the spike-and-dip of energy during the day.  I honestly expected to have more trouble with it this week, but I’ve felt great, and that encourages me to take additional steps…one at a time.

6 ~ I love my car. Strange thing to say, I know, but it’s true.  I drive a 2006 Pontiac Vibe (same color as in the pic) named Nani (Hawaiian for “beautiful”), and I’ve enjoyed her so much.  She gets 32 MPG (about 30 in the city) and has been virtually headache free aside from the usual brakes, tires, and oil changes that everyone has.  (Knock wood.) The Vibe is actually a Toyota Matrix with a different outside, so she’ll probably last a million years, and even though Pontiac has ceased production finding parts won’t ever be a problem.  Having had cars fall apart on me over the years it’s so nice to have one that I can depend on.

7 ~ I love this article at Fat Nutritionist. The author is a sensible, practical gal with a  refreshingly sane approach to food and fat, and with all the DEATHFAT! hype drenching our culture it’s a relief to know there are at least a few health professionals who are more concerned with real health than ass size.

8 ~ I love the look of incredulity I get from normal people when I have no idea who’s playing in the Superbowl.  It’s the Padres and the Knicks, right?  *laugh*

9 ~ I love this Zen kitty:

10 ~ I love crossword puzzles. Screw Sudoku; I want good old-fashioned New York Times Sunday edition crosswords.  One of my greatest pleasures is a brand new book of puzzles, especially if I find it at Half Price Books where they’re only a couple of dollars for days of happy dorky fun.

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