Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring bulbs and Squirrels

If you're considering purchasing the Kaytee Songbird Cafe Wild Bird Feeder, I think you should know that the local squirrels figured out how to get the top off in less than 24 hours.  And it doesn't look like they chewed it open, so the top either comes off if enough squirrels throw their greedy little bodies at it or squirrels can use the twist and lock top just as well as a human.

I don't mind if the squirrels eat from the bird feeders; it's when they take all the damn food and destroy the feeders that I object.  Also, it amuses me to see them dangling upside down to gnaw on the suet feeder.

My elderly father has attempted to outwit the squirrels.  The most spectacular failure was mixing some squirrel repellent into a bucket of bird seed.  I first learned of this plan when I saw a squirrel eating directly out of the bucket after chewing through the lid.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'll show them how many dinosaurs the Kate can paint!

(Unrelated altruism: I'm offering a custom cross stitch over on help_japan.  If you've ever dreamed of forcing me to do you bidding and enjoy donating money for the privilege of an arts and crafts serf, the auction's open until March 31st.) 

Michaels was having a sale on those unpainted wooden animals, so I decided it was finally time to invest in a T-Rex.

Certain people have questioned the fact that I am painting a dinosaur.  And I say to you, internet, why are you not painting dinosaurs?  I mean, maybe it'd be sad and pathetic if it was one of the shitty dinosaurs, but this is the Tyrant Lizard King.  Tyrannosaurus bestrode the world like a colossus during the Cretaceous Era, slaying loser dinosaurs and crushing their bones with its six-inch teeth.

A smart person decorating a Creatology Squiggle Critters Wooden Tyrannosaurus might have used sandpaper on the Wooden T. Rex before painting.  A person as awesome as the T. Rex would simply just start painting--with awesome metallic paint--and figure that she could just paint over the rough spots later.

Since I knew I could probably find awesome metallic paint somewhere in the house, I didn't even bother to open up the 0.39 ounces of paint that help transform a wooden dinosaur into a wooden dinosaur kit.  If the paints are the same quality as the included paint brush, just looking at them has probably given me severe lead poisoning.

As you look at these pictures, imagine me singing the Jurassic Park theme.  (Which of course I am not doing as I paint, because who would do that?)  That will help you feel the majesty and awe of the first time you saw that big T. Rex robot in the Batcave.

You can tell that I am a responsible adult with a job and my own keys because I'm using the Business section of the newspaper to paint a dinosaur.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

The problem with Mardi Gras is that it's always on a Tuesday.  Maybe people in New Orleans can skip work/class the next day, but...actually, it might be easier to pull off in the 804 where Mardi Gras isn't really a thing.

But my better solution: Vendredi Gras, Mardi Gras on Friday!  And it would not be a Lent-violating extension without some king cake (Recipe here).

Kids, do you know what it is that makes like worth living?  Is it friendship?  Rainbows?  Kindness?  No, it's fermentation, the process that turns useless sugars into delicious alcohol!  Oh, and makes bread bigger and your kitchen smell like beer when you're making a king cake.

If I'd had a more leisurely week, king cake would've been a perfect Simonsen recipe.  Mix yeast, water, and sugar, go watch TV.  Mix some stuff, ignore it for a few hours.  Roll it out, fill it, shape it, let it sit for another hour.  But having work and class and karate, Thursday night king caking was kind of frantic.

Once the dough's risen for two hours, you punch it.  After punching it, in theory you split it in half.  Whenever I've made this, I split the dough up to make three king cakes.  Roll out one section and "sprinkle" your filling inside.  What this actually means it "attempt to use a spoon to neatly spread filling before giving up and using your fingers."  Other people on have used different fillings; I used the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans version for all three cakes.  Because pecans are awesome.

After shaping the cake and spending way too much time trying to keep the ends together, you're supposed to cut vent holes.  That probably represents something European and/or Catholic.  Or maybe the whole thing would explode it the oven if you didn't.  (A special Jupiter Star Power prize for our first reader to explode a holiday themed pastry in the oven!)

Things I've learned from rushed king cake making: you can totally use the slightly less rock hard brown sugar you find in the back of the cupboard, and if you  hastily add your filling without thoroughly mixing, it starts oozing out your linked cake-ends.

Part of the king cake tradition is shoving a plastic baby inside.  According to Wikipedia, this is a Southern US tradition (those losers in France and Spain use beans), and all your jerks who've found babies would owe me cake if I trusted you to make/obtain one.

Do not even consider putting the baby inside the cake before baking it.

After all the rising and the slicing, your deliciously filled king cake has the perfect opportunity to look like it's puking up brown sugar or oozing from its multiple wounds.

Even if you're in a hurry after 4+ hours of preparing/baking, you still need to take the time to decorate your king cake.  Which you can definitely rush because a properly decorated king cake looks like you were already drunk and had access to sprinkles.  Or get some kids to do it.  Kids love pouring sprinkles on things.

The frosting is confectioner's sugar and water.  Since this was the next day, I put the cakes back in the oven for a few minutes on 200-250 to warm them up a little.  Don't even bother with a knife; just spoon your frosting on and scoop up whatever tries to get away.

If I were smart, I would've remembered to shove the babies inside before covering the cakes with sticky stuff.