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Friday, July 16, 2010

Pod People, Mr. Bacon, and My Whole Foods Mugging

My husband may have been taken over by a pod person, but it's cool - this pod person is awesome!

About a week ago I made a tea and lunch date with a good friend of mine that I haven't seen in possibly two years (said date had to and was cleared by the boy since all money of my own comes from Etsy - and there's pretty much never any of that).

Lunch at 12 is usually no big but I had stuff to do before I got that far.

Little known fact. I actually get up around 5 - 6:30 AM. Why? Because it's when my husband gets up for work and if I sleep in too late then I will want to stay up later. And I can't be left alone to stay up late. No no. I insist he stay up with me and keep me company. Because I "like-like" him you know?

Before meeting up with Misty A. (initial added because some of you may remember it was a "Darling Misty B." who supplied me with dreamsicle cupcake info) I had to get in a work-out, shower/wash my hair, go grocery shopping, and take the dog out for her second walk of the day. I'd also planned on a trip to Hobby Lobby but ended up choosing not to go today.

We have been running low on a few items and were totally out of even more so for the last three or so days I had been warning the boy that more money than usual would be spent on groceries. Groceries ran over my quoted price and he was kosher with it. SCORE! I realize they are just groceries but we have been so poor for long I usually feel guilty spending any money.

The chosen lunch spot was a favourite to so many women that I know here - Zen Cha Tea Salon (where you can easily get a pot of tea for around $5). I tried their beef sukiyaki and was far from disappointed. We didn't get any knitting done but we didn't really notice or care. Yet again, the final price ran over my initial quote. He said it was fine and he loves me anyway.

From lunch I headed over to Whole Foods in search of a grouper burger. Giant Eagle used to sell these and loved them but I haven't been able to find them anyplace in over a year - not even Giant Eagle.

Going to Whole Foods can be a dangerous endeavor for a foodie but thankfully I was at least full from lunch so part of the danger was removed.

I hadn't been there long (all I'd picked up at this point was a sale bottle of beaujolais-villages and two packages of Snøfrisk (a Norwegian goat cheese I am particularly fond of). While I was still standing at the mouth of cheesetopia I notice the woman next to me is staring, and not that try-to-hide-it-side-stare but an unapologetic, carefree stare. I move to the other side of her, because it will take more than a bit of staring to scare me away from cheese, but her head continues to swivel and follow me. Pretty sure it was at this point I just look right back at her. I now have a clear view of a middle-aged Asian woman (later she told me she was from Hong Kong).

She tells me she likes my hair and goes on and on about how very different and pretty it is. She also seemed convinced it was some sort of extensions and was not my own hair. Had it not been still wet and up in buns I probably would have let her touch it for herself. I got the very distinct impression she had never seen dreadlocks. She made a few remarks about being sure she would never be able to wear hers the same way.

Usually this is where a conversation would end.

She asked me if I were a student, about the tattoos on my leg, and a bevy of other things. The two things she seemed to focus in one were:

1) I live in Whitehall - which is nowhere near as safe an area as the online crime reports had made it look. For instance, just two days after moving here the boy and I were jumped by six people - and those people even managed to get away with it all.

She asked how much my rent was (cheaper than our house on campus had been). And insisted I move to an apartment complex that was pretty much right across the street. She told me they were cheaper or at least as cheap and much safer. I then received repeated offers for her to go over there with me now to go look at these places. Repeated, insistent offers. Later I got the impression she may live there as well.

2) I used to be a culinary student.

Here is where the "mugging" began. She wanted to know everything. Where I have been to school? What sort of food do I cook? Have I cooked anyplace? She even looked over each item in my cart and asked questions. Like how to make cheese - specifically the Snøfrisk.

[I'm going to add here that this morning at the first grocery store I visited I was asked about the tattoos and if I were a chef and where I currently work.]

Then she started pointing at what seemed like everything in front of us saying that everything there was too expensive and how does she make that (assorted raviolis stuffed with tasty bits) and that (egg noodles).

At this point I'm haphazardly throwing out answers (I went to school in Philly. I can cook pretty much whatever anyone wants. No I do not cook anyplace here. Egg noodles? Those are totally easy for you to make!), not considering the possible repercussions, and leaning in for her to repeat things that didn't seem to make sense to me. Thankfully I didn't speak of having studied to be a sommelier. I can only imagine explaining it and the questions that would ensue.

Somewhere around this time I am looking for a way out and see none. Not even when a Whole Foods employee comes by and asks how we are doing or when my phone started madly bleeping with text messages.

I have no idea how I managed it, but what I sensed was a reasonable time to make a short break away from her (remember people there is still cheese at arms length that I have yet to even look at! I can't leave now!)

This was still not the end of the conversation for her. I had nearly nabbed my first piece of sweet, sweet cheese to ogle, and apparently this was a too daring and vulnerable move. She moved around to the other side of me, not quite but nearly blocking any escape that doesn't involve my interest in the cheese.

I should teach her to cook. It is not a question, but a statement. The haphazard answers are now no longer a problem. I have them in check - or so I thought. She begins asking specific but still very vague questions mingled with statements like "how do I cook fish? I do not know what spice to use. What spice do I use on fish." I tell her there is no one way to make fish and that she will need to first decide how she wants it prepared before spices are an issue. Her response? "I know you use bay leaf in soup." What do you say to this? That had nothing to do with fish. I said the first thing that came to mind that didn't invoke any further fish conversation, "well ya' can".

Shortly after she cornered me I started treating her like someone handing out fliers I have no interest in. I did my best to make very little to no eye contact. The questions keep flying. Now they are about chicken and turkey (which I now notice is all she has in her cart).

I have no idea how it happened. But the storm was winding down. But it still came with some damage. She wants my phone number so I will teach her to cook. I tell her what is actually the truth, "I have no idea what my phone number is". And I honestly don't, I haven't known what number someone can reach me at for well over eight months now. She doesn't understand. I do my best to explain that I don't know what it is because I never bothered to learn it. Before I had a chance to do a thing about it, another haphazard statement flies out of my mouth. I have e-mail and she can e-mail me. Mind you, if she is willing to correspond this way I think there is a chance that I could survive it ([in]famous last words). I give her the e-mail for Om Nom Nom Studios, she mentioned the apartment complex once more and once I (again) declined - she went away.

I was now let alone with the cheese.

In the end my trip to Whole Foods, despite how few items I bought, was more than I expected or wanted to pay. Again, the boy was fine with it all (in addition to okaying my purchasing some knitting patterns online as well as a little bit of yarn from Knit Picks).

Believe it or not kids that was the abbreviated version of all that happened with the nameless woman from Hong Kong.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wha Ha Happened!?

You may have noticed that recently I have been online less and less. Part of this is because I am working on new designs and the other part is because I am trying to prepare for fall.

But yesterday in particular it was because of AT&T.

You see, My neighborhood is in the middle of a service provider price war. When we moved here our only option was Insight. Being people who love options we weren't thrilled but we dealt with it. After a while our television would cut in and out.Eventually during a program the screen would go black and there would be no more television for the rest of the evening. Which in some ways is great - it would keep us from vegetating in front of the idiot box for too long. But again there goes those options we like to have.

Finally AT&T seemed to have found a way to loosen the tight grasp of Insight on our neighborhood and sent people around to get us to switch. Less money and a DVR? Yessir I'm interested in switching!

To remotely protect the man who came to our door to convince us to switch I will not say exactly what practice was used, but I will say he went out of his way to make sure we got our serviced by circumventing requirements to do so. And he also made it clear that if they knew, he would be terminated.

For a lower bill + DVR we switched and it was a magical time filled with me doing my damnedest to catch up on shows I was behind on and new shows just beginning their lives.

Not unlike what happened to use a few years ago with the Ohio State campus area WOW/Time Warner Big10 network wars we began getting lots of mail from our old provider begging us to come back.

Insight sent one of their fella's around last week and I was already fully prepared to have none of whatever he was peddling and send him on his way. Thankfully, instead of giving him an earful (it's not his fault we had the issues we did last time and he was very, very polite), I chose to talk with him about the price war. He asked why we left in the first place. When I explained to him about the all too frequent loss of the use of our televising he was surprised (but I doubt he'd say, "Oh yes, you'll have that when you choose us"). I also made sure to let him know that we were quite fond of the DVR option, to which he quickly told me that if that was what we wanted it was absolutely no

Now instead of just running off and switching once more we did what we thought was the next best step to make. We called and spoke with AT&T about Insights visit and asked if they were changing any package deals. At no point in time did we say "we are thinking of switching providers" or anything of the sort. We just wanted to know what was going on on AT&T's end.

The very next day our television and Internet was suspended.

So I write this now in Notepad while I wait for the Insight man to set up our television and Internet once again. This time under a "win back" package which will cut our cable/Internet bill in half.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mr. Bacon at My Cousins Graduation Party

So yesterday Mr. Bacon met the family. But I think he was partial to Lizzie K.

She seemed to like him as well.

I made sure to introduce him around and everyone seemed to approve.

Even this cute doggy was able to find some non-chompy enjoyment from him.

Lizzie also agreed that Mr. Bacon should meet Katasaur. Who knows what adventures Mr. Bacon's future may hold

Friday, July 9, 2010

Om Nom Nom Meets Mr. Bacon

My friend Wendy over at Dollfoolery has been good to me in many ways since pretty much the day I met her. I'd like to add that on the day I met her she introduced me to Malabrigo which to a lot of knitters is particularly nommy yarn. It was a very good start.

Over the past couple of years I have known her she has always managed to give me a birthday prezzie (which is particularly sweet of her bc I am usually too broke to do anything on the scale of awesomenicity that she brings.) This year was no exception.

Today I got my belated birthday prezzie from the Wendy-lady, what she called "a box full of bacon." (I know right? What's not to love about anyone who will send you something called "a box full of bacon")

Possibly without realizing it, she'd sent me a box (mostly) full of things I have an online cart full of but had yet to be able to purchase. SCORE!

I texted her almost as soon as I got it (I took a break to take a picture and post it to the Pro-Portional Designs Facebook fan page first.) When she responded she once again was on the ball with something that had already occurred to me. Mr. Bacon needs to go places and be photographed like the celebrity he is.

To insure I don't forget to do just that I put him in my purse to begin his adventures.

Only adding to how amusing all of these coincidences are is this: April before last I went on a vacation with my family. My oldest brother-in-law brought along the Om Nom Nom Studios model, Lizzie K's wooden toy which we call "Katasaur" and took pictures of it just about everyplace we went. He even put together a vacay video and posted it to YouTube.

I give you . . . . Katasaur:

I think Mr.Bacon and Katasaur need a play date in the near future.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

The winner of tonight's war would have their cupcakes at a gala in L.A.'s Museum of Natural History.

The taste challenge revolved around two of the largest mammals the museum has to offer - the elephant and the giraffe. As always there were tables of ingredients to choose from that fit this challenge. Among the ingredients for the elephant diet were pumpkin, bamboo, and peanuts. And for the giraffe's diet there was wheat grass, alfalfa, and orange blossoms.

Jeff Martin (Smallcakes) chose the elephant diet and chose to make a pumpkin cupcake with white chocolate cardamom butter cream. This sounded like a cupcake I would love to see at (my personal favourite holiday) Thanksgiving. Sadly, some of last weeks bad mojo must have carried over because poor Jeff was so focused on his cardamom butter cream (which was met with rave reviews) that he forgot the pumpkin in the cupcake!

Lisa Cowden (Lulu’s Cupcakes) also chose the elephant diet and came up with the mouth watering idea of a kumquat cupcake with hibiscus puree center topped with kumquat peel infused pastry cream that was lightly caramelized. Did I mention it was also beautifully decorated with a hibiscus flower and just a bit more pastry cream? I didn't? Well I should have. At first I was worried that it sounded like she was planning to top it with a bit too much. My worries and apparently my trust was misplaced. It was as eye catching as it was (or sounded) mouth watering.

MaryAnne Tongko (Cupcakes & Co) chose the road less traveled and picked the giraffe diet. At her mothers insistence she chose to make a lemongrass cupcake topped with an orange blossom whipped cream and gold sanding sugar. Mama was against the sanding sugar and it seems this time she may have been right because the judges didn't seem to feel bling conveyed that earthy natural feel they were looking for this rapidly approaching event.

Wendy Jones (Whodidily Cupcakes) stayed the elephant diet course and made a chocolate cupcake filled with a peanut butter cream cheese center, topped with a peanut butter butter-cream sprinkled with sunflower seeds dipped in ganache.

Next the remaining bakers were supposed to "capture the wonder of the museum" in the taste & presentation challenge.

In case anyone was worried an episode of Cupcake Wars would go by without a red velvet cupcake Wendy Jones insured hers got their day. Her choices to bake red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting as well as yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate butter-cream were uninspired and a bit boring. However, she brought a little interest back when she chose to give her vanilla cupcakes with vanilla butter-cream a pumpkin cream cheese center.

Lisa won me over in the first round which is a rarity. That's right, I am still completely obsessing over Hollis Wilders salmon based cupcakes.

The two cupcake choices from "team Lisa" that won me over were the blackberry margarita cupcake and the apricot cake (complete with apricot seeds for crunch) with Swiss butter-cream topped with a white chocolate poppy. Sorry Lisa, when you're offering those two it's hard for me to notice their mousy friend with the sweet caramel center they've brought along.

MaryAnne chose to make a cream cheese filled black bottom cupcake with chocolate ganache, a blue velvet chocolate cupcake filled with marzipan that was topped with almond whipped cream, and strawberry cupcakes.

That bad mojo was back again and this time for MaryAnne, with only 40 minutes left her blue velvet cupcakes had yet to see the inside of an oven. They didn't come out until there was only 2 minutes left in the challenge to be decorated and plated alongside the others. Her choice to use a layer of marzipan as a buffer for the still rising heat was creative but sadly not enough - all toppers melted down by the wayside. It was no surprise that MaryAnne was next to bite the dusting sugar.

Presentation, the final and deciding challenge is next and I am feeling completely confident with "team Lisa."

When fellow baker and competitor, Wendy, planned to recreate the actual museum it felt very reminiscent of Hollis Wilders choice in the first episode to replicate a golf course. But when I saw her huge, glittery, eye-catchingly whimsical "Museum of Cupcakes" I was once nervous for my top pick.

Lisa chose to have a giant, "gnarly", "prehistoric" tree which once it arrived on scene Wendy likened to "the tree of life." My mind instead connected the choice a bit to the movie Avatar and its "home tree."

Congratulations to tonight's extremely deserving winner, Lisa Cowden.