Sunday, August 31, 2008

Name That Art

The New York Times Arts section has been running a weekly series showing details of pieces of art at a New York museum and challenging readers to guess what artwork each is from. An earlier week highlighted animals. This week's theme is pattern. Lots of quilt inspiring goodness.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Me, I'm a Part of Your Circle of Friends,

and we notice you don't come a-Round Up.

OK, that was just pathetic. Please comment with zesty blog titles related to "round up." It takes a village to raise a blog.

Inside: home improvement lifespan, DIY laundry soap, consumer safety legislation, Barney Frank sound bites, new to me food media blog, not your ordinary army surplus, paper downloads, floor tile quilt inspiration, baby sewing, sheep quilt block, and a surprise wedding.

This Old House has an article about how long various stuff in your house is supposed to last. Via Re-nest.

Contemplating making laundry soap.

Yay! Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was signed into law on the 14th! Consumer Union is so happy.

The Citizens collect the yummiest Barney Frank sound bites from his address to the Democratic LGBT Caucus. My personal fav, about the alleged radical gay agenda:

What agenda? We want to get married, join the Army, and get a job. Some agenda!
In my desperate attempt to find decent places to eat in the culinary wasteland that is North Orange County, I started to peruse Chow. Not nearly as deep on NOC restaurants as I'd like. But Chow also has a blog, The Grinder, about food in the news. For example, a recent post talked about the Marketplace piece on rising commodity costs leading manufacturers to substitute cheaper ingredients in processed foods.

Kind of like an international, higher quality, higher priced American Science & Surplus, Deutsche Opticks carries all sorts weird things you'll want to look at, if not purchase. Looking for a Belgian Postal Musette? Look no further. And how much do I want to make a quilt based on the designs of Czech Army Cold War Field Maneuver Warning Signs? Via Letter Writer via Angry Chicken.

Less expensive, free in fact various formats of paper you can print on your home printer (or sneak into work and print on their color printer) at the aptly named Printable Paper. Again via Angry Chicken. Reminds me of the free online graph paper that makes quilt design so much more fun.

Tile floors = quilt inspiration. I haven't a clue what the blogger is saying. Something in Portuguese maybe? Design is a universal language. Via Wee Wonderfuls.

Amy Butler has just come out with a book of baby-oriented patterns. I love her fabrics. I'm working on a baby quilt using her Midwestern Modern collection in the Ohio Skies colorway. Via Not Martha . . . but don't post a comment to win that book unless you plan to give it to me, please.

Loving Spirit Cloth's sheep quilt block. Who do I know that might like a sheep quilt?

Allsorts describes and ingenious surprise wedding. Not that I'm in the market for a wedding, but I have been on the periphery of my maid of honor's nuptial planning and I wonder if this little ingenious plan wouldn't have been exactly what they wanted had they not gone and spilled the beans to everyone already. Again via Wee Wonderfuls.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Furry Friday: My Dog is the Tiniest Dog of All the Dogs

Calphalon, Take Me Away!

Somehow David needing back to school pants led to me buying a bunch of cookware with a Bloomingdales gift card. There was a logic to it at the time. Regardless, bask in the glow of my shiny new Calphalon Contemporary Stainless 10-inch omelette pan!


I don't feel horribly guilty about the omelette pan because it's a replacement for our very old non-stick frying pan which is kinda scary, what with the non-stick stuff all coming off regularly in our food. That pan needs to be retired to non-edible crafts. Granted, the Calphalon Contemporary Stainless 10-inch omelette pan at $49.99 probably cost about five times what I paid for the old non-stick pan, but (a) giftcards aren't made of real money, (b) I got the stainless steel because I figure it will last approximately forever, and (c) it was the least expensive 10" frying pan that didn't have a non-stick coating available on Bloomingdales' website.
I do feel slightly guilty about the Calphalon Non-Stick Baking Mat. It's basically Calphalon's version of a Silpat baking mat. This is not something I NEEDED. But the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe recommended it. Honestly, this is something I should have registered for when we got married. I'm a little bummed that it's pink. And I'm a little bummed that Bloomingdales doesn't carry Silpat. But I'm really excited to test it out with my next batch of cookies! And unlike the ice cream maker and overpriced slow cooker I contemplated purchasing, the Calphalon Non-Stick Baking Mat should have a high usage-to-storage-space ratio, which is my primary metric for kitchen supplies.
I probably could have picked this up cheaper somewhere else. This OXO Good Grips 8" Strainer was $19.99 at Bloomingdales. But I don't have a gift card somewhere else. I feel almost not at all guilty about buying this because our straining apparati are insufficient. We have one plastic colander with holes that are a wee bit too big for spaghetti. We have one strainer with a metal mesh but plastic ring and handle, which makes me nervous with really hot stuff. And also we use those two strainers a lot, so having another one, which I think will be the primary straining tool, is not a bad thing. I do kinda want an old banged up aluminum colander like Mom's. Not a shiny new enamel number. No. Banged up and old. Like the one Bob used as a helmet for his knight costume that Halloween, with the garbage can lid as a shield. We've got a picture of that somewhere, don't we? Meanwhile, this can unobtrusively hang, as opposed to taking up a ton of shelf space like a colander.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Bob does when he should be working

Feel free to follow along with Bob's websurfing -- it's almost like being there!

As you know, I follow Matt Yglesias (who has a new bloghome), and he posted this reference/comment on university education, in which he notes that Brad DeLong, in this "excellent post on the origins of the large lecture course",
observes that large lectures had a compelling logic in the pre-Gutenberg universe....Modern practice, by contrast, is a bit puzzling.

So I went and read DeLong's whole post, which is deliciously concise, which doesn't make for really effective procrastinating, so I read on and found my ego vicariously mollified in this comment:
Brad, if you are seriously interested in this, you should speak to Carl Wieman....
The comment goes on to summarize Carl's take on university ed, and suggests you can hear it direct from him:
You can hear him discuss what he is on about here:
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=95882746&s=143441&i=1556149
This link, it turns out, is on iTunes, which I don't have installed, at least on this machine.

The rest of the websurf into the blogshore is less interesting -- Googling "is iTunes evil?" convinced me that it was, but not so much that I shouldn't install it to hear a (presumably free) podcast of Carl. But I'm not currently logged in with privileges enough to install it, and so then I figured I'd blog my experience for you to share.

The "large lecture" issue doesn't come up at my place o'business, but it does at Rebecca's. But the general concern of "is this the way to teach?" is the Pressing Issue of Our Time. Feel free to put your random thoughts or suggestions in the comments, and maybe you will start a voyage of webby discovery for some other slacker!

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Product Review: La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream

I swear the more I see of southern Californian women, the more I moisturize. It's like the attack of the Leather Zombies out here. I swear our waitress the other night could have been carved out of beef jerky. So I give you another night cream review: La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream. This one really could give the reigning champ, Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +, a run for its money. (That's foreshadowing, just so you know.)

Cellular Night Repair Cream is part of La Prairie's "The Swiss Moisture Care - Face" Collection. La Prairie's website describes its Cellular Night Repair Cream like this:

  • Enhances natural skin repair for face, neck and décolleté
  • Protects against accelerated skin aging
  • Skin looks repaired, rejuvenated and replenished
Of course, La Prairie's website can't be bothered to contain ingredient lists. No. That would make this too easy. Running La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream through The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database was a challenge, but what am I if not up for a challenge? I emailed La Prairie's customer service for the ingredients and this is what I found. (Click here for the full ingredients list as I copied and pasted it from the email from La Prairie's customer service into Skin Deep.) Skin Deep gives it a whopping 8, which falls into the high hazard category.

To put La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream's 8 in perspective, please recall from the post in which I first explored Skin Deep that a similar product, Fresh Repair and Restore Face Balm, scored a 7, while Seikisho Mask White and Method Hand Wash Refill Sweet Water both scored 5s. Clinique's repairwear intensive night cream received the best score yet, a 2, which is an even better score than the reigning champion Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +, which scored a 3.

I applied La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream, after using Clinique's 3-Step Skin Care System, avoiding the immediate eye area, exactly like every other product I've tested for you, Gentle Reader. Applying La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream was very similar to my experience with Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +, even more so than my experience with Clinique's repairwear intensive night cream. I had to apply multiple dabs to cover my face and neck. Unlike Clinique's repairwear intensive night cream, La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair did not feel like a layer coating my skin. It soaked into my skin almost like Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +. La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream didn't cause my skin to do anything odd, as opposed to Fresh Repair and Restore Face Balm, which made my skin wish it were on another face. La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream's smell was not quite as strong as Fresh Repair and Restore Face Balm, but the fragrance wasn't nearly as mild as Clinique's repairwear intensive night cream, not to mention Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +. La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream has more of a fancy grandmother smell, whereas Fresh Repair and Restore Face Balm has more of a lemon fresh toxic waste dump smell. I wonder if both of these products dumped their not so endearing fragrances how much lower their toxicity would be?

Due to their similarities, I actually did a half-face runoff between La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream and Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +. La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream actually felt a little more present than Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +. Though I thought I thoroughly covered the left side of my face with Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +, it almost felt like I hadn't put anything on at all, which is certainly a vast improvement over feeling coated, but it almost felt insufficient. Maybe it needs to be translucent black like Seikisho Mask White so you can tell when you've applied it completely. That might cause pillow staining though, this being night cream and not a mask. After an hour or two an independent cheek softness tester determined that the right cheek, which had been covered with La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream, was the softest. And I have to agree. While Kiehl's Abyssine Cream + had no negative side effects, I wonder if it had any effect at all. La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream had no negative side effects (that I could feel) and did seem to make my skin a little softer to the touch.

I think La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream might have even decreased the appearance of what few lines I have more so than Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +. Not that I have a lot of lines to compare. And I wonder if I sleep more on one side or the other and if that has any effect on lines. My Russian aesthetician in D.C. was convinced her eyebrows grew differently because she slept on one side more frequently than the other. Who am I to doubt a Russian's knowledge of female facial hair? Anywhoodle, maybe all the chemicals in La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream caused my skin to swell up enough to make my crows feet disappear.

At Neiman Marcus, my source for all these fabulous free samples (well, technically gifts with full-priced purchases - all the links in this paragraph go to their respective pages on Neiman's website), La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream costs a whopping $200 for a 1.7 oz. jar or $117.65 per ounce, which even puts Fresh Repair and Restore Face Balm ($95 for 1 oz.) to shame. Mind you, if I'm going to pay almost $100 per ounce I'd be willing to pay the extra $22.65 for a product that doesn't feel like a chemical spill took place on my face. But for the money, I think Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +, which costs $32 for 1.7 fl. oz., or $18.82 per ounce, is a much better buy.

So this leads me to a conundrum. Do I recommend the possibly effective but definitely toxic, more expensive, and smelly La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream? Or the possibly ineffective but definitely less toxic, least expensive, and unsmelly Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +? I mean, if you're just going for moisture and don't really care about the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, then Kiehl's Abyssine Cream + is clearly the winner. But if you want your wrinkles to promptly disappear, toxicity and frugality be damned, then La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream is for you. As I'm not so worried about the appearance of lines and wrinkles, so much as I am concerned about the future onset thereof, and I'm a big fan of lower toxicity, I think I'll stick with Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +. I'll save the remainder of my La Prairie's Cellular Night Repair Cream for the night before some big photo op.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Independent lab results

 

By rights, this is Rebecca's post. She's the one who made the cookies, and took the pictures. I did eat a couple, though. So I guess I'm entitled. :)

More pics below the fold...

 

 


Rebecca's burning question is: if we use the premium chocolate chips and the cookie salting with the Toll House recipe, will that be just as good? Clearly an avenue for future research.

Incidentally, from my own point of view, I thought they were pretty good. I could see how the salt and chocolate need to be carefully balanced. Why not just lightly salt the chips, guaranteeing the salt/chocolate balance in every nibble? :)
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More Clothes Out of Loops of String

Just when you thought Gentle Reader had reached the apex of knitting creativity with yoga socks she designed and executed all by herself, she just pushes the ceiling a little higher. It is my pleasure and my privilege to share with you The Fingerless Mittens.


You can tell you're under the weather when your first thought upon receiving an amazing gift from a crafty friend is, "Now I'm behind TWO thank you craft projects instead of one." Geez. I need to turn that frown upside down because these knitted fingerless mittens, a.k.a. gauntlets, are super fantastico!
Not that I'm complaining about the yoga socks, because I'm totally not, but I LOVE the colors in these Fingerless Mittens. And it's so perfect from Gentle Reader since I'm pretty sure our collective wardrobe from eighth grade was exclusively this color palette. It is also the color palette I plan to use for the background of the now doubled in planned size thank you cubiquilt that I'm working on for, well, shh, it's supposed to be a surprise.
I wonder how Gentle Reader is coming along on those apple sweaters. Edited to add: Vegan Lunchbox has free knitting patterns for apples sweaters, via Craftzine.
Fingerless mitten attack!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cooking Update

Sarah requested some photos of my cooking efforts this weekend. There's a photo of blueberry focaccia and the butternut squash soup below.




The focaccia was yummy, but it took about 6 hours to make. Given that, I'm not sure I would make it too often.



The price of the whipping cream in the cute glass bottle was the same as the normal kind (provide I return the bottle and get my deposit back). I was too tired today to make a good whipping effort, so it's not as peaky as I would have liked.

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Beanerific





The CSA had butter beans today. Yum. They are now all gone.



I bought jalapenos to make pepper jelly and the sweet red peppers for lunch.



Bought a range of tomatoes. Cherries for lunch, romas for sauce, heirlooms for sandwiches and salads. I'm going to be sad when summer's over and there are no more good tomatoes. I need more storage containers so I can freeze enough tomato sauce for the winter.



Off CSA, I bought some potatoes to make gnocchi tomorrow night. Also, I couldn't resist the purple hulls. They are now shelled and ready to cook. I might freeze them though since we have a bunch of food in the fridge still and we're headed to MD this weekend for Labor Day.

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Round Here

I'm clearly at the end of my creativity as far as round up post titles is concerned.

Propaganda portraits, stopping propaganda, green travel wetnaps, online farmers market, NYT chocolate chip cookies, ogee, new to me DIY/craft site, Biden not so hot on crime and punishment issues.

So a few years back, when I subscribed to Vanity Fair, they had this big long article and photo spread about the then new wave of Russian fashion models. I had this vision of painting each photo like a Soviet propaganda poster. I did a bunch of research on Soviet posters and everything. Nothing came of it. Well the folks at Maopost had a similar idea but China and just regular people, maybe even you. Via Photojojo.

Speaking of propaganda, Nieman Watchdog has an excellent article on how reporters can stop inadvertently reinforcing misinformation.

OCD + Green. Biodegradable travel towels via Re-Nest.

An online farmers market in Maryland. Yes, Gentle Reader, I said Maryland. Via Re-Nest.

Not Martha did a comparison of Valhrona feves to Ghiradelli 60% Cacao chips in the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe. I didn't quite follow her pre-scooped experiment. Anyone care to interpret? For the ongoing saga of my adventures with this recipe, check here. And we eagerly await Rebecca's first batch report!

My word of the week: ogee. For a definition and fabric examples, please see True Up.

What's that phenomenon when you've never heard of something and then all of a sudden it's everywhere you turn? I'm experiencing that presently with the website Threadbanger. Threadbanger describes itself as

a network for people who love to DIY, recreate, refashion and craft. Forget about corporate stores, we’re here to help you create and find your own style! From our episodes, forum and blog to our newsletter and contests, there is something for everyone. Our goal is to bring together people who can share their ideas, tips and advice with others and help make the world more fashionable – Threadbanger style!
Should I like this site? Or is it just an attempt to be a cool version of Whip Up? Does craft have to try to be cool? Or is my real problem that I fear knit fabric and garment sewing so much that sites like Threadbanger just give me anxiety? I should really take an intro to knits class somewhere so I can just get over it.

My dreams of a revolutionary presidency in terms of law and order issues is somewhat tempered by the selection of Senator Biden as Senator Obama's running mate. For full details on my potentially dashed hopes, please see Prof. Berman's post.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Reusable Shopping Bag Collection

Many moons ago I posed the following question.

Anyone interested in reading about my collection of reusable shopping bags . . . ?

To which I received the following answer.
Um, me!

Currently I am torn between knitting up reusable string bags (light, convenient, inexpensive, but cut into scarce knitting time) and/or buying lovely tote bags on etsy that I can use over and over.

Quandry!

Add that to California's contemplated 25 cent bag tax and here we are.

Right from the start, let me make my position clear: I am in favor of using resuable shopping bags. Plastic bags are bad for the environment on a lot of levels and paper bags aren't perfect either. Really, reusable shopping bags make a lot of sense. But I'm not so sure that rampant consumerism is the solution.

I lack the knitting skills of Gentle Reader (or the average Simian, frankly, as my knitting awe is well-documented). Nonetheless I have been fascinated by the folks who have knitted plastic grocery bags into reusable grocery bags (though digging them up on WhipUp is not nearly as easy as it should be with its site search). Along those lines, I found a tutorial on fusing grocery bags together to piece together into reusable grocery bags.

However, there are two reasons I haven't pursued transforming plastic grocery bags into reusable grocery bags. First, we have dogs. "Huh?" I hear you cry. Every plastic bag we get that doesn't have a hole in it is used to pick up dog waste. In fact, some family members have even taken to saving up their plastic bags and bringing them to us when they come visit, which is awesome. While in Bloomington, as we started to use reusable bags and shopped minimally at mainstream grocery stores, we actually regularly ran out of poo-bags.

Second, the few bags with holes in them we use to line the bathroom garbage cans, which green or no, I don't think I could live without. If someone can suggest a SANITARY alternative to lining your bathroom garbage can with some kind of bag, I'd be happy to hear it.

Of course, as plastic grocery bags go the way of the dinosaur (petroleum product goes the way of petroleum source, kinda ashes to ashes, get it?), we've started to look into alternatives like Bio Bags for our dog poo and bathroom garbage can lining needs. But those don't seem like reasonable alternatives to plastic grocery bags qua grocery bags.

I, too, contemplated buying tote bags for the purpose of carrying groceries. But the idea of buying something that isn't entirely carbon neutral, and in the long run might be more difficult to recycle to replace something that is relatively easy to recycle, seemed wrong. At the same time I was contemplating these options, I received my first free bag.

Whole Foods back in Silver Spring, Maryland, gave away these insulated bags with purchases over some gawdawful amount. As it was Whole Foods, that amount was easy to reach. This bag holds a TON of stuff. The zipper is on the fritz, but that doesn't really impact its ability to carry said TON of stuff. And if you get just the right OCD bagger, they'll actually put the cold stuff in the insulated bag. There was this one bagger at Bloomingfoods who I seriously stalked just so she would bag my groceries because she was SO OCD and packed this bag like nobody's business. I miss her so. One tip: with bags this big, suggest the bagger actually put it in the cart prior to filling it. Otherwise fitting into the cart can be a challenge. Sometimes for their spine's sake, baggers won't bag in the cart, but some spry young things will.

If you're the first person to sign up for a People's University class through Bloomington Parks and Rec, you get a free tote bag. How awesome is that? I got this one for a People's University class at Bloomington Cooking School with Chef Matt O'Neill. It was an awesome class. The meal we cooked alone was worth the money, especially if one partook of the accompanying wine. I've seriously used the skills he taught me every time I've cooked since that class. And though this is the least sturdy of my totes, it has held up fine. I think most baggers understand that this is not the canned goods tote.

I can't say that going to SXSW is the most economically or environmentally sensible way to get reusable tote bags, but it is by far the coolest. This draw string bag was stuffed with other random promotional nonsense, like a t-shirt and a DVD, and one was handed to every person who came into the Village Voice Media day show at La Zona Rosa. The line up was Health, The Cribs, The Black Keys, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and ... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. I'll save my review of the show for another day. But the bag is great. Truly ingenious baggers will even use the exterior pocket.

Like the SXSW tote, procuring this tote was neither economical nor green. But that's where the parallels between SXSW and The International Quilt Festival in Chicago come to an abrupt end. This gusseted tote was filled with class schedules and the official IQF/Chicago 2008 pin, not babydoll t-shirts and R-rated DVDs. The line up was Kathy Kansier's Quilts With Great Edges, Wendy Butler Berns' Unabashed Free-Motion Quilting/Specialty Threads, Sue Nickels' The Scalloped Edge, John Flynn's Confessions of a Non-Traditional Quilter, Diane Ricks' Microwave Dyeing for Cotton, and Susan Purney Mark's Stamp it Up. I'll save my review of the show for another day. But the bag is great. With that gusset it expands to hold quite a bit. And it lends me some street cred when I bring it to quilt guild meetings.

So I guess the moral to my story is: use what you have. If you go to events like this, take the free tote and ask other folks who are poo-pooing their totes (quite common at SXSW, NOT common at IQF), if you might have theirs. You don't need a ton. These four bags almost always suffice to carry my weekly groceries for two. Especially if you don't bother bagging well-contained things like milk, potatoes, and chips.

If you don't go to functions with freebies and you're goal is to reuse, start at the beginning: buy a used reusable bag. Get thee to Salvation Army or Goodwill. If your place of work hosts events with tote bag give aways, ask what they do with the leftovers. And if you do go the etsy route to support indy crafters, buy a reusable bag made from recycled materials, like monkeylandoriginals bag made from grocery bags and old sheets, or sewinspired bags made from t-shirts.

If you do choose to purchase a new reusable shopping bag, I would be remiss if I failed to refer you to Not Martha as she has obsessed over them like no blogger I know. Additionally, check out the plain canvas totes available from Dharma Trading Company. The prices are quite reasonable (some under $5) and the company is eco-conscious.

If you're super crafty, you could make your own reusable shopping bag. Molly over at the Purl Bee has an excellent tutorial on how to make what she calls an apple picking bag, but it would be perfect for a grocery tote.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spicy!



We have achieved spice level 10. Bob persevered in the battle of screw vs. drywall and got the spice shelves up today. Happy day in cooking land.

This weekend saw lots of cooking (even pre-spice organization). There's a fridge full of tasty goodness to get us through the week. I made blueberry focaccia , butternut squash soup , NY Times chocolate chip cookie dough (cookies to be made for the first math tea on Friday), homemade grape juice from the grapes out back that will be transformed to grape jelly once I get some jars, a zucchini and squash casserole and some tomato sauce to be put on gnocchi later in the week.

I actually squealed when I got to the soup recipe in Gourmet because I had bought some chestnuts while in Montreal and I had just gotten butternut squash from the CSA this week. Bob mocked me, but I will note that he enjoyed the soup.

Just Chillin'

As I completed my energy usage analysis for my post about my new washer and dryer, I realized another big factor in our reduced electricity usage has been our snazzy new refrigerator. Also, my in-laws are in the market for a new fridge, so here's a review of possibly my most favorite new appliance: my Amana ABB1921DEW.

When we were negotiating the terms of our purchase of our current abode, we tried to buy the refrigerator off the sellers. They declined. This was a good thing. Why? Because it gave me the opportunity to purchase a new efficient refrigerator.

We considered CR's GreenerChoices' suggestions about buying a greener refrigerator.

Type makes a difference. Consumer Reports has found that on average, top- and bottom-freezer models cost less and have generally been more reliable than side-by-sides. They also tend to be slightly more energy-efficient, saving $5 to $20 per year in electricity usage. You’re likely to save even more with a smaller model.

Think twice about add-ons. Icemakers and dispensers increase energy usage by up to 20 percent. Plus, they can raise the sticker price by $75 to $250, and Consumer Reports surveys show that they increase the likelihood that your refrigerator will need repair.
So we went with a small bottom-freezer without an icemaker or dispenser.

The little Energy Guide yellow label says that its Estimated Yearly Operating Cost is $51. Well, that's based on a probably accurate estimated yearly electricity use of 476 kWh and an incredible $0.1065 per kWh, which was allegedly the national average electricity cost in 2007. This has me convinced that utility companies are paying people to use electricity in other parts of the country because here in California, we pay, bottom line $0.18 per kWh. But the point is the cost range of similar models is $47 to $61 per year, which translates to an estimated yearly electrical use between 441.3 and 572.8 kWh per year, so this baby, at 476 kWh per year, is near the bottom.

Moreover, Consumer Reports included the Amana ABB1921DE as a Quick Pick. CR rated it Excellent for Temperature Performance and Very Good for Noise, Energy Efficiency, and Ease of Use. It's overall score was a 77, just two points (and $1400) below the top scorer. Of the 30-inch wide refrigerators scored, it had the second largest Total Usable Capacity at 13.4 cu. ft. It's dimensions are 30 inches wide, 69 inches high, and 31 inches deep.

We love the top fridge. We've had side-by-sides and we've had top-freezers. Side-by-sides leave you with narrow shelves that don't fit, say, large pizza boxes or turkey platters. Here you can see the top shelf contains both the mixing bowl (full of New York Times chocolate chip cookie dough, Dough 3) from my KitchenAid Standing Mixer, but also our tupperware full of homemade dog food (another post for another day), along with a ton of other stuff. And by the time we left Indiana I had just about had it with crawling around on my hands and knees to get into the veggie drawers at the bottom of the top-freezer fridge. The two produce drawers in our new fridge are easily accessible and you can set one to the correct humidity for leafy greens and one to the correct humidity for fruit and veg with skin. And it's not just the top fridge-ness of it that we love.

The adjustable shelves on the door are AWESOME. They can really hold gallon containers of milk without groaning. And the butter unit has the neatest little flip top. All of the adjustable shelves are quite easy to adjust. Anyone have any suggestions for how to rearrange the door shelves or the other interior shelves to maximize efficiency and ease of use?

We love the bottom freezer. Initially I was charmed by the idea of a drawer freezer, but the swing-open freezer door makes more sense, and there's a pull out drawer inside. There's also a really wide and pretty tall fixed shelf, for when, say, you want to freeze individual slices of cake on a cookie sheet, or whatever other large precarious thing that needs to be frozen. And the pull out drawer is a wire basket, so you can see what's on the bottom without having to dig.

The freezer door also has a fairly substantial shelf that is just perfect for our frozen dog treats (more on that in another post) and ice packs for when I break my toe (be thankful I have not posted "broken toe pictures of the day" to catalog the ever expanding technicolor nightmare bruise that is my pinky toe).

One interesting thing I found in the Refrigerator User Instructions was under Refrigerator Care. Specifically, to clean your refrigerator the manual admonishes the cleaner NOT to use window sprays, bleaches, or paper towels. A spritz of Windex on a square of Bounty had been my refrigerator cleaning tool of choice. And to really impress landlords on inspection day, I have been known to deploy Clorox and a scouring pad - also a no no. The manual offered a clean sponge or a soft cloth as an alternative to the paper towel. But no Windex? What is a girl to do?

I called the Amana customer service line and asked just that. An EXTREMELY nice customer service representative also expanded the list of prohibited cleaners to anything containing ammonia. But she did offer a solution.

Amana's Cleaning Solution
  • 1 qt. water
  • a dash of dish soap
  • 4 Tbsp baking soda
You can use this on every surface except the door gaskets (which can be cleaned with soapy water without the baking soda). Then rinse with plain water and dry immediately to prevent spots on the glass shelves. How good for the environment is that?

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Free Obama/Biden Sticker

MoveOn.org is giving away free Obama/Biden stickers. It takes 4-6 weeks for delivery, so order yours today.

Also, check out the New York Times chocolate chip cookies Dough 3, Batch 3 report.

Laundry Adventures

Many moons ago I posed the following question.

Anyone interested in reading about . . . my adventures with my new front-loading super efficient washing machine?
To which I received the following answer.
Um, me!
So here we are.

When we were negotiating the terms of our purchase of our current abode, we tried to buy the washer and dryer off the sellers. They declined. This was a good thing. Why? Because it gave me the opportunity to purchase a new super-efficient washer and a new as-efficient-as-these-beasts-can-be dryer.

The Washer
Consumer Reports rated the LG WM0642H excellent in water efficiency, gentleness, energy efficiency, and capacity, and very good in washing performance and noise. It received a rating of 81 out of 100, which was the highest rating for front loading washing machines (the highest rated top loading washing machine received a 75). The average user rating at Consumer Reports was 3 1/2 stars out of 5. CR's GreenerChoice's site gave the WM0642H its highest score.

When browsing through consumer reviews of the LG WM0642H the biggest complaints were noise, a mold or mildew problem from water remaining in the door seal, and the length of a wash cycle. In fact, my sister-in-law, who is not Rebecca, had a similar front loading washing machine and returned it because she felt like an airplane was taking off in her laundry room every time she used it.

Ours runs almost entirely silently. Some of the folks in the CR consumer reviews suggest putting noisy machines on stable mats, but we didn't bother. And I can't imagine how anything could make it much quieter than it already is. The only noise-oriented issue is the adorable little song it plays when a load is done. It sounds like the ice cream truck has arrived in the laundry room. And if that bothered me, or if I was less amused at how it bothers my husband, I could easily turn that feature off by pressing the Beeper button (shh, don't tell him).

As far as the mold/mildew issue is concerned, I wipe down the washer door opening, door seal, door glass, and inside the rubber seal after every load, as directed in the Care and Cleaning section of the manual. Also, when I'm done with my washing for the day I leave the door open, as suggested by CR. Having done this since day one, I have noticed zero mildew/mold or smelliness.

Regarding the cycle time issue, the manual says
The cycle time displayed may appear much longer than that of a top-loading washer. The displayed time is for the complete cycle, rather than just the agitation portion of the cycle, as is typically shown on a top-loading washer.
Well, yes, but I doubt the folks at Consumer Reports relied solely on the displayed time to determine the length of the cycle. Frankly, I don't care how long the cycle is so long as I have a display that accurately tells me how long I have and an adorable little song at the end of a cycle, so I can plan my day around my laundry a little better. One thing that you could do to reduce the length of your cycle is sort your clothes by soil level. Unless you're a manual laborer, it's highly unlikely that your work clothes are anything more than lightly soiled. Another cycle time reducer is increasing your spin speed. Unless you've got delicates, permanent press, or a comforter in the wash, your spin speed should be High or even Extra High. The manual notes that
Washing time can be reduced significantly for small or lightly soiled loads by selecting the Speed Wash cycle and setting the Soil Level button to Light.
I haven't tried the Speed Wash cycle yet as I'm not really ever in a hurry of any type. But now that David has some work clothes that are not the same thing he walks the dogs in, I might give it a try, just for you, Gentle Reader.

As far as usage goes, I've washed everything from dog-hair covered comforters (on the special Comforter cycle) to a sweat encrusted Tilley Hat (on the special Handwash cycle), all with great success. The manual even has a whole page-long chart describing what fabric types should be washed on what cycle. I've been looking at the Perm. Press cycle on washing machines for a LONG time and never realized it was for "dress shirts/pants, wrinkle-free clothing, poly/cotton blend clothing, and tablecloths." A good 90% of the time I just pop it onto Cotton/Normal cycle and switch the Wash/Rinse Temp. from Warm/Cold to Tap Cold/Cold, thinking it will save the planet from heating my wash water to warm (though see the gas usage comparison below). If I really wanted to get fancy, I could store a Custom Program that would set it to the Cotton/Normal cycle with the Wash/Rinse Temp. set to Tap Cold/Cold with the touch of only one button (as opposed to two). But I like playing with the buttons. They make such happy sounds.

In my perfectly age appropriate no need to get all judgey I-want-to-have-a-baby crazed state, I am particularly excited about the Sanitary Cycle which is apparently for, "Heavily soiled underwear, work clothes, DIAPERS, etc." I TOTALLY want to be that mom whose kids wear cloth diapers that she washes herself. I don't know why. I even have a now-defunct website all about cloth diapers on my main list of bookmarks. A quick reminder: I do not now, nor will I in the next year, have a baby. It's one of those aspirations that should have me looking for a Sanity Cycle.

At first I was a little intimidated by the laundry product dispenser array, pictured at left. But I read the two whole pages in the manual dedicated solely to the dispenser and that boosted my confidence. Plus I only use detergent in my main wash, which really does make life quite simple. If I ever decide to get fancy with the pre-wash and the liquid bleach, I'll let you know how it goes. Oh, yeah, and most importantly, us he detergent, i.e. detergent designed specifically for high efficiency front loading washing machines. Apparently using inappropriate detergent can lead to the smelliness issues described above. I imagine it would also leave your clothes wicked crusty. Consumer Reports rates Tide 2X Ultra Concentrated With Bleach Alternative With Color Clean HE highest among HE detergents (actually it scored 2 points higher than the highest scoring conventional detergent, so there). We've been using Tide 2X Ultra Concentrated Original HE, with great success. CR's GreenerChoices suggests consumers
[a]void NPEs in laundry detergents. Nonylphenol ethoxylates, also known as NPEs, are recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as toxic to aquatic plants and animals. Some detergents still contain those chemicals because they cost less. But in our tests, the performance of NPE-free detergents was rated very good to excellent.
A number of HE detergents do not contain NPEs. Unfortunately neither Tide 2X Ultra Concentrated With Bleach Alternative With Color Clean HE nor Tide 2X Ultra Concentrated Original HE are on GreenerChoices list, so I'm thinking they might contain NPEs.

The Dryer
The LG DLG5988 is the top rated dryer at Consumer Reports. But that's not what we have. We have the LG DLG5966, which is the closest model number we could find. Scientific, not really, but we're doing the best we can with what we've got. Also, you might notice that the controls are on the front of the dryer while the controls are at the back of the washer. Aesthetically pleasing, not really, but we're doing the best we can with what we've got.

We had hookups for either gas or electric for the dryer. We went with gas because according to GreenerChoice's, CR's environmental site,
gas dryers are generally cheaper to run and have a lower environmental impact, contributing about 60 percent less carbon dioxide. Gas dryers cost about $50 more than comparable electric models, but the savings in fuel costs should more than make up the difference.
GreenerChoices gave a very similar model LG dryer its top score. Though given the results of our gas usage comparison below, I'm not so sure that this particular gas dryer is all that more efficient than the standard model we had in our rental in Indiana.

Again, the dryer operates completely silently except for the adorable song when its done drying, which I could turn off by pressing the Damp Dry Beep button for 3 seconds, but shh, don't tell my husband. One time my husband thought the dryer suddenly got really noisy and was shaking the whole house, but it wasn't the dryer. It was an earthquake. So while I'm screaming and running for a door frame (which I have since learned is the WRONG thing to do; instead you should hide under a desk or table); he's sauntering up to the laundry room and turning off the dryer. Anywhoodle, the dryer is quiet. To my knowledge, it in no way sounds like or causes earthquakes.

Another handy page-long Cycle Guide chart in the manual conveniently explains all the options matched to the appropriate fabric types. A difference I would like to note is between the Sensor Dry cycles and the Manual Dry cycles. The Sensor Dry cycles are what makes this dryer more efficient than dryers without sensors. They stop the dryer when your clothes are dry rather than when some random clock runs out or when a thermostat hits a certain temperature. So you don't waste energy overdrying or running extra cycles due to underdrying. The trick is, some stuff it doesn't sense well. For example, pillows may read on the surface as dry when the interior is still damp. The key thing to remember when your pillows come out damp after the initial Sensor Dry cycle is DO NOT try to run them through another Sensor Dry cycle. The sensor thinks the pillows are already dry. So the cycle will stop after just a few minutes. This will drive you crazy. Well, it drove me crazy, until I realized I needed to run the pillows through on a Manual Dry cycle, specifically Time Dry, in which the time, temperature, and other settings can be set manually. Yay, dry pillows! That is the only tricky thing about this dryer. Otherwise I've dried everything from comforters (no special Comforter Cycle, like on the washer, but Cotton/Towels Cycle did fine) to unmentionables (Delicates Cycle), with great success.

Energy Usage Comparison
The LG WM0642H (i.e., the washing machine), is Energy Star rated, which means that it's better for the environment because it uses less energy than standard washing machines. In fact, its little Energy Guide yellow label says that its Estimated Yearly Operating Cost (when used with a gas water heater) is $10. That's right $10 per YEAR. Pretty cool, huh? Its estimated yearly electricity use is 135 kWh. Huh, that math doesn't add up based on the amount of money we pay per kWh here in CA. Ah, I see, the fine print says this is based on a 2007 national average electricity cost of $0.1065 per kWh. National average? What, are utility companies paying people to use electricity in other parts of the country? But the point is the cost range of similar models is $10 to $71 per year, so this baby is at the bottom. It is the most efficient. Cool, no?

Unfortunately for the purposes of consumption comparison, the most efficient aspect of the washing machine cannot be monitored effectively as the condo association pays our water bill. So really more of our condo dues are going to pay for other people's inefficient appliances, which is quite aggravating. Don't tell my husband. Add that to our wall-sharing neighbor's intense subwoofers and, well, we can't afford to move, so just don't tell him.

Also, unfortunately for the purposes of comparison, I don't have ready access to my gas and electric bills from July to August of 2007, what with that being two moves ago.

But if I compare August through September of last year at our place in Bloomington, Indiana, with whatever the heck standard washer, dryer, and refrigerator to July through August of this year at our current residence with our fancy new washer, dryer, and refrigerator (more on my super awesome and efficient fridge in another post), here are the results:

In Bloomington we used 0.65 therms of gas per day. In California we used 0.7 therms per day. Huh. That's not such a radical improvement, in fact it's not an improvement at all. We have the same gas-powered appliances here: the water heater, the furnace, and the dryer. And we didn't have the furnace on in either place for the months at issue. Does our water heater here suck that much worse than the water heater in Indiana?

In Bloomington we used 66.12 kWh of electricity per day. In California we used 41.75 kWh of electricity per day. Wow, that's a pretty impressive improvement. Especially considering we still have a bunch of conventional light bulbs that we're waiting to burn out and replace with CFLs. But of course the cost of those kWhs is A LOT higher in California than it was in Indiana. Comparing the bottom line: I paid $0.10/kWh in Indiana. I pay $0.18/kWh in California. (2007 national average electricity cost of $0.1065 per kWh, my ass!) Yeah, that's about twice as much money. Well, doesn't that make me glad that I have a super efficient washer and more efficient than most dryer? Yes. Does that gladness outweigh my rage at the electric company? Hmm . . .

How much do you pay for electricity?

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Furry Friday: Starring Izzy



In other news, I tried another round of the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe. For all the gooey details, scroll down to the Dough 3, Batch 1 report.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Upside Down, The Way You Turn Me,

Inside Out, and Round and Round Up.

Green pet blog, skin creams cause tumors, cheese making, electricity, Tom's of Maine, and pieced quilt backs.

While perusing my weekly e-newsletter from the Organic Consumers Association I found this adorable blog about green pets apparently written by Augie's doppelganger.

Also via the OCA, Reuters is reporting that a group of scientists recently found four skin creams containing mineral oil and sodium laurel sulphate caused tumors in mice.

Angry Chicken shares her adventures making a quick cheese, which totally reminded me that I should get obsessed with cheese making again. Via Not Martha, Cupcake Show also blogged her cheese making efforts. For a great how-to, check out Prof. Fankhauser's Cheese Making site.

Contemplating something like the Green Monitor discussed at Re-Nest due to the myocardial infarction causing electrical bills since we've moved to California.

Am I way ahead of the curve or is Re-Nest way behind the curve in adopting Tom's of Maine as their toothpaste of choice? Skin Deep has ratings for over 100 Tom's of Maine products. I'm surprised Tom's of Maine had any products above the low hazard range. Their least healthy products scored 5s on a scale from zero to ten where zero is pure as the driven snow and ten is made by Satan out of the elements of hell and packaged in the carcasses of spotted owls by child slave labor.

Following up on my post regarding pieced quilt backs, Pink Chalk Studio showed her process of deciding how to arrange a Denyse Schmidt style pieced quilt back. Gorgeous!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You Spin Me . . .

. . . Right Round Baby, Right Round like a blog round up right round, round, round.

In this round up: quilt inspiration, stamps (not postal), koalas, opting out of phone books, spinning yarn out of newspaper, knitting for Terry Pratchett, Complete Embellishing, fabric swatches, and fabric beach balls.

Potential quilt inspiration from a Hermes skirt, an article about Bulgari jewelery, and a Miu Miu dress. OK, the New York Times Fashion Magazine isn't technically a blog, but I plead poetic license.

I love the Yellow Owl Shop landscape stamp set Angry Chicken is playing with. I always have great stamping intentions and very little follow through, but then I took a fabric stamping class at IQF/Chicago with Susan Purney Mark, which boosted my stamping confidence both in terms of execution and permanence.

Adorable koala post cards via Re-Nest.

As a follow up to my post about opting out of unwanted solicitation, consider opting out of receiving the phone book. Our house currently contains at least ten different phone books, mostly thanks to the previous owners, but we exclusively use the internet to look up numbers. It's one thing to recycle your phone books, but imagine how much more planet you can save by not receiving one to begin with?

Spinning yarn out of newspaper via Whip Up. Seriously. Gentle Reader (a.k.a. Gentle Spinner), can you whip me up a sweater out of the Sunday NYT? Or better yet, out of my dozen phone books?

Gentle Reader participated in a group knitting project to honor Terry Pratchett. Very cool all around.

Not Martha is giving away a copy of Complete Embellishing, which was written by someone involved with Anthropologie, so if you like that aesthetic, get thee to Not Martha and post a comment by Thursday. Not Martha wrote a good review of Complete Embellishing if you're not sure you can commit to a comment just yet.

Contemplating buying a Kona Cotton Swatch pack via Pink Chalk Studio due to my overwhelming disappointment at the too pale blue I ordered way too much of from a different online vendor. Though I should really venture out to find a locally owned quilt shop. Or better yet, unpack my nascent quilt studio already and use the yards and yards and yards of fabric I already have.

Fantasizing that I'll make fabric beach balls to go with each and every one of the innumerable baby quilts which are currently in various stages of production.

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Silverdocs Update: God Provides in the New York Times

One of the shorts I reviewed from Silverdocs 2007 was just mentioned in a New York Times article on films about Hurricane Katrina. I have to say, I'm fairly surprised God Provides, a nine minute film which the Silverdocs program described as "In Katrina's aftermath, an exploration of faith and loss in Louisiana," rated inclusion in the article (though I wonder if its inclusion was the result of a Google search rather than actually seeing the film). It wasn't a bad film by any means, but it didn't convincingly convey either the lyric poetry or the gritty realism that seemed to be its goal. Maybe if I had seen it all by itself it would have made a better impression.

Unfortunately for God Provides, it was shown at Silverdocs with some of the best shorts in the festival. A Son’s Sacrifice by Yoni Brook conveyed its message more poignantly and more visually than God Provides - if you want gritty realism, goat slaughtering is definitely one way to go. Alternatively, Orishas are Our Saints by John Kane and Paradise Drift by Martin Hansen were beautiful poem-like films - both achieving the art that God Provides attempted to attain. In the middle, The Days and the Hours by John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson conveyed both political message and stunning beauty. In the context of these films it almost seemed that God Provides was a failed attempt to exploit the subject matter, which I'm sure is not what the filmmakers intended.

I included my transcription of the Q & A with the directors at the end of my review of the films. There's a lot from Brian Cassidy, who directed God Provides with Melanie Shatzky. But his comments seem like post hoc rationalization for a film that just doesn't quite work.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Creative Writing

Via Serious Eats, Rebecca found this little piece of brilliance. Matching the dark mystery of chocolate with the yet darker stylings of H.P. Lovecraft leads to horrifyingly delicious reading.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic Fabric Awesomeness

Enough kvetching about the Chinese exploiting their adorable little girls via gymnastics or opening ceremony lip synching.

Let's cheer Team Finland for their snazzy female athletes' opening ceremony togs done up in Marimekko's Pisaroi print! For a picture and links galore, please see True Up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cute Dog Picture of the Week

So Rebecca has her weekly veg pic, Bob is gearing up for his weekly garnish pic, so what can I post pictures of weekly? That's right, my cute dogs.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Informal Product Review: Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel

(1:48:37 AM) me (goog): As a metrosexual wannabe, I want to moisturize, in the hope that this will help control the rampant acne which apparently thinks I'm about 24 years younger all of a sudden. But moisturizer makes me feel like my face is oily and needs to get washed. Is this simply something I should get used to, or are moisturizers supposed to make you feel clean while tricking your oil glands into thinking they can go on holiday?
(1:50:38 AM) Sarah: No, it's a sign you're using the wrong moisturizer. I would recommend Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel.
(1:51:08 AM) Sarah: It's designed for oily or combination skin and once it soaks in you really don't feel like you have anything on your face.
(1:51:52 AM) Sarah: If you'd like, I can send you my almost empty bottle so you can test drive it. I've got to order a new bottle anyway.
(1:52:41 AM) me (goog): It seems like a bit of a waste to send an almost empty bottle. But if it's cheap, then I have no objection to you giving me free stuff. :)
(1:52:59 AM) Sarah: I do think it will make a HUGE difference for your skin. I find it especially helps to keep the areas that you're treating for acne with Oxy or whatever from going all red and dry and flaky.
(1:53:18 AM) Sarah: It's probably got enough for two weeks, twice a day application, I'm just lazy.
(1:53:29 AM) Sarah: I mean my 3/4 empty bottle.
(1:54:01 AM) Sarah: They don't sell sample sizes of it, and it is pretty expensive for you to buy if you find you don't like it.
(1:54:14 AM) Sarah: Though I suppose you could always give your leftovers to me.
(1:54:14 AM) me (goog): As a follow up, moisturizers for men all have some sun protection and occasionally say they're ok after shaves too. Is this multitasking counterproductive, or brilliant? And why don't they combine acne fighting with all that other stuff?
(1:54:40 AM) Sarah: Those questions actually go hand in hand.
(1:54:53 AM) Sarah: The reason they are not acne fighting is because all sunscreens clog pores.
(1:55:27 AM) Sarah: Also, all moisturizer with sunscreen does not let your face breath as well as moisturizer without - so you get that "I need to wash my face" feeling all day.
(1:55:48 AM) me (goog): Ahhh...I begin to see how this all ties together.
(1:56:05 AM) me (goog): Clogging pores, it is bad, no?
(1:56:28 AM) Sarah: I do have one moisturizer that I have used for over three years that is 25 SPF and doesn't make me break out, but it's discontinued and I plan to secretly buy up all the remaining bottles on the shelves, so I can't tell you what it is.
(1:56:37 AM) Sarah: Clogging pores is very bad.
(1:56:47 AM) Sarah: But skin cancer is bad too.
(1:57:32 AM) Sarah: I use the Clinique before bed or when I know I'm not going to go outside and the super secret SPF 25 moisturizer when I know I'll be outside.
(1:57:58 AM) me (goog): I'm not against sunblock qua sunblock, but clearly moisturizers that feel like they have to be sunblocks too are defeating my purposes for moisturizer.
(1:58:16 AM) Sarah: I am not entirely clear what an aftershave is supposed to do, so I'm not sure whether a moisturizer could also be an aftershave.
(1:58:28 AM) Sarah: Yes. I think you'd be better off going with the Clinique and a hat.
(1:59:11 AM) Sarah: And only going in for sunscreen when you're planning to be outside, then when you come home, immediately wash your face, apply toner, then apply Clinique.
(1:59:32 AM) me (goog): I could do like you do, if'n I was being outdoorsy. But I've often felt "why am I SPFing myself right before I go to bed?"
(1:59:41 AM) Sarah: Right on.
(1:59:53 AM) Sarah: You should NOT SPF yourself before bed.
(2:00:31 AM) Sarah: And you probably don't need any moisturizer heavier than that specific Clinique I recommended before bed or any other time.
(2:00:37 AM) me (goog): I feel much more knowledgeable about the value and lack thereof of macho moisturizing, and look forward to trying your castoff gel.
(2:00:47 AM) Sarah: Excellent!
(2:01:12 AM) Sarah: I think products for men inadequately address adult acne, but I'm glad to hear they're finally addressing sunscreen.
(2:01:31 AM) Sarah: Though for folks with adult acne, that just puts you another step backward.
(2:05:08 AM) me (goog): Also, this whole conversation will be blogged in 3...2...1...

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Housewarming cocktail

 
A friend of ours, lets call him Norm, got our "here's our new address" note and decided to give us some housewarming gifts, namely some margarita glasses and mixers. [Note to everyone: housewarming gifts are not at all expected, but if you've already sent something, we're totally not going to send it back.]
 
Specifically, the mixers were Agave15's Elderflower Twist [top] and Cherry Blossom Sling [bottom]. Both were interesting and drier than a margarita. New and worthwhile things to mix with tequila.

Being a housewarming drink, I tried to do a house-shaped lime peel for garnish.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic jingoism poisons Olympic spirit

So, the women's gymnastics team competition is going on, and they just showed the Chinese vault. One of their competitors, Deng something or other, is remarkably short, apparently even for a gymnast, according to the commentators.

So one of the commentators helpfully pointed out that all the gymnast's ages are "quote, verified, unquote" by their passports, so that on paper at least Deng Xiaojie is at the required age of 16.

What the heck is up with the scare quotes? If you're supplementing the commentary with the note that all the competitors, including this short one, are 16 or over, then you'd just say "verified". So you're snarkily implying that maybe the Chinese are faking their documents.

Got any evidence? Care to follow up? No? Then maybe you should have KEPT YOUR TRAP SHUT in the first place. Jerk.

Exciting opportunity!!!!!

So, most of our posts are directed at our Gentle Reader (fear not! more about you further down!), but this is primarily directed at Sarah&Spouse.

You like food. You have a car. You now live, more or less, in Los Angeles. Clearly, this was meant to be. (Hat tip to Serious Eats, via Researchin' Rebecca)


The Food Network is currently casting foodies of all kinds in the Los Angeles area to be a part of a fun and exciting new TV series!

The show focuses on two teams who race through many of LA’s culinary hot spots competing in challenges in the ultimate chowhound smack down!


And this could be just the beginning...

I am absolutely confident that everyone who reads these words will agree that Sarah&Spouse would generate the dramatic excitement that this "Amazing Race of Galloping Gourmets" thing is obviously going to need. And we all know that every possible form of success is achieved in this day and age through charismatic chutzpah on reality shows. Ask Judd Winick.

And after the first strike, what happens? A follow-up reality show, of course. More of a "Life with those kooks you loved to watch on that other show" thing. But instead of fizzling out like all the other follow-up reality shows, this one will keep it fresh with new characters, like the House Leech -- I mean, the Gentle Reader! Literally EVERYONE wins!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Green Maps & Prison

While flipping through Re-Nest the other day I came across a post about The Green Maps System. At first I thought, "I hope this has my town on it, because I have the need for green." Then I read this,

These maps highlight a community or city’s sustainable resource such as farmer’s markets, gardens and wildlife, bike paths, healthy dining, recycling centers and green businesses. The maps even identify places to avoid such as toxic wastes sites, nuclear facilities, poor labor practices, and prisons!
Prisons?!? OK, I understand not everyone appreciates a good prison like I do, but do prisons really warrant being on this map?
The implication is that prisons aren't green. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and its employees have received numerous awards for building state of the art environmentally friendly facilities. Compared to the suburban sprawl of McMansions most freeworlders live in, prisons use space more efficiently than pretty much anywhere on earth. Collective locally sourced food production is again more environmentally friendly than most public institutions.
So I sent the following email to Green Maps.
Good morning,
I was wondering why Green Map includes prisons as places to avoid? Obviously none of us would like to be imprisoned. I'm just wondering what led you to add prisons and not, say, bankruptcy courts.
Thank you,
Sarah
And they replied.
hi - the prison/detention center is in the Landmarks section, which means they can be indicated to help people navigate maps that don't have many streets labled, rather than really saying they are places to avoid. I guess a courhouse would be indicated with Governmental Office,,,,many thanks Wendy
Wendy E. Brawer
Founding Director
Green Map System
So the misconception of prisons as not environmentally friendly lies with the poster at Re-Nest, not the folks at Green Map. Though the lack of sense of humor - you know, we'd all like to avoid being inmates or bankrupt, you got my humorous parallel, right - is clearly located at Green Maps.

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Bernini at the Getty


Last Thursday my friend Mary and I, the last remaining members of the Art History Reading Group (a.k.a. A(rg)H), went to the Bernini exhibition at the Getty Center. The above picture is not in the Bernini exhibit, where photos were not allowed. Rather it is of Mary thanking J. Paul Getty's bust in the Museum Entrance Hall. I attempted to capture her "lips . . . parted as if hanging slack or caught in mid-utterance, an effect that Bernini would repeat, to dynamic effect, many times."

When I returned home on Friday, what did I spy in the New York Times but a review of that very show. What a small world!
The NY Times review describes the exhibit "[a]s the largest show yet of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s portraits," which I find surprising. It wasn't a huge show. Maybe my art exhibit stamina has increased what with all my A(rg)H training. The upper level of the Getty's Exhibitions Pavilion is not a huge space. But it did have a lot of busts on podiums, so that probably fits more works into a small space than if they were all large scale paintings. And the ample signage did note the many times when works appearing together constituted a first of some kind.

Speaking of ample signage, the curators did a great job connecting works to one another in terms of subject matter or style. This was true not only in the Bernini exhibit, but throughout the Getty. I found this incredibly helpful both in keeping my attention and in improving my understanding of all of the pieces.

If you're going with small children or the easily bored or on a potentially awkward first date, consider these two scavenger hunts to keep you or the person you may or may not love paying attention. First, sculpting eyeballs is challenging. Sometimes, they're just blank spheres. But not always. One could ask the big questions like why did the artist choose to make this bust's eyes one way and another another? But one might have more fun if one ask the question, why does one bust CLEARLY have a smiley face in each eyeball? Why does one bust CLEARLY have a Mickey Mouse head in each eyeball?

Second, button, button, who carved the button. Most of the busts are of mucky mucks in the Catholic church, so they're usually in uniform. One would think Bernini outsourced that part of the manufacturing process, like those portraits where clearly the heads were painted by a completely different person than the rest of painting. But according to the signage he didn't. Moreover, he seemed to take a VERY realistic approach to the buttons on the vestments. For example, the bust of Scipione Borghese, "a cardinal with intimate links to the Vatican," which the New York Times describes thusly.

If any of Bernini’s portraits can be said to convey affection, the one of Scipione does. Or maybe it’s just a sense of relaxation. He presents his old friend as he saw him — corpulent, loquacious, hat tipped back, lips pursed in a quip — but also as he envisioned him: the rock-solid source of stability he had been for a young artist making his way. And this blend of realism and idealism, of fleeting impressions and monumentality, instantly expanded the possibilities of sculptural portraiture.
So corpulent that the buttons on his vestments are practically bursting. It's a big tent and he's even bursting the buttons of that?!? Other clerics missed a button, or haven't mended a button whose thread is clearly loose. We didn't have time for a full survey of eyeballs or buttons, so we'd appreciate it if someone, preferably a field trip of small children, did so and shared the data.

Continuing the theme of connections (and segues apparently), instead of just having works by Bernini, the show included a number of works by contemporaneous artists to great effect. At first I thought, "Dude, I came here for Bernini, why am I looking at stuff by Anthony van Dyck, Alessandro Algardi, or Giuliano Finelli?" But then the signage compared and contrasted Bernini's work with these other artists' works in a way that made me understand Bernini better than I would have in their absence. In fact, this has now convinced me that all "solo" shows should include such supplementary material. As I haven't quite wrapped my brain around portraiture in sculpture, the fact that the first few rooms were particularly heavy on the non-Bernini painted portraits of the same sitters in the Bernini busts was very much appreciated. Similarly, the collection of Bernini's sketches was very helpful to understanding his focus on "kinetic emotionalism," which is harder to see in the hyper-static medium of stone or bronze.

The exhibition took the time to explain the medium of stone more so than any other exhibit I've seen anywhere. There was a whole room, granted a small one, dedicated to the craft behind sculpting marble. It included a piece of marble to which various techniques had been applied and the tools used with captions explaining how and why. It also included a video showing real craftsmen plying their trade. How many times have I seen a sign next to a piece of art which says the piece is an exemplar of a particular technique and yet gives me no insight as to what that technique entails and what makes this a virtuoso? Would that every art museum dedicated a section to technique. It would make better art appreciators of us all.

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