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Oddball

I have this thing about the taskbar on my work computer — it has to be arranged a certain way.  My Outlook must be the left-most button.  My personal webmail is next.  It doesn’t really matter what comes after that since I’m opening and closing programs and spreadsheets all day, but if something goes wrong (like accidentally shutting down Outlook), I will not hesitate to close every window so I can put things back into the correct sequence.  I hate when that happens, but someone has to restore order to the universe.

Am I alone in this?  A couple days ago a former coworker of mine sent me a Facebook message just to tell me that he had eight windows open and his Outlook was number six or so.  He even sent a screenshot just to torment me.  I honestly don’t know how anyone can work that way.

Anyhow, it’s almost Friday and I’m ready to drop.  Would it be wrong to sleep through the whole weekend?  At the very least I’m not getting out of my pajamas without a very good reason!

Ah, that picture always makes me laugh.  Have a great weekend!

Night Flight earrings by Ornamental Things

Just a little treasure that I picked up in Austin at Parts & Labour.  They carry wonderful locally made things.  It’s very, very hard to choose just one or two items to take home, but if you blow your budget at least you can feel good about supporting local artists!  Click the photo to go to the artist’s site.

The cupcake capital

It’s a fact of life that Austin is a cool city.  It’s consistently ranked as one of the best places to live and retire, which is exactly what my parents are doing.  We went to visit them this weekend and Austin forever secured its placed in my heart with its cupcakes.

Oh sure, every city has cupcake boutiques these days, but it seems like most of these designer cupcakes are small in size and high in price.  Austin’s goodies satisfy and can be had for a mere $2.50.  Could I make my own for even less?  That is not the point.  The point is instant cupcake gratification.

If you haven’t already concluded that I probably brought a few home, then I’m afraid you just don’t know me at all.

Excuse me, I have some eating to do.

Hello, weekend!

No time to blog, big plans for the weekend and it starts tonight!  My sister is flying in at this very moment, and after Mark and I pick her up we’re planning to stop by the Houston Museum of Natural Science for a midnight visit to Lois.  The rest of the weekend we are having a little Lone Star State family reunion with our parents, who sold their house in under a week and are now posted deep in the heart of Texas (clap-clap-clap-clap).

How about you?  Anything exciting lined up for the weekend?

Feature films

Tonight I’m not going to bore you with more Hawaii photos; I’m going to bore you with some Hawaii videos!  Click the photos to go to the video.  I don’t have very good video editing software, so no color correction, sorry!

Balcony scene

I have a bunch of enticing recipes but no mojo with which to cook them, so let’s play vacation photos again…

One of the interesting things we saw from our balcony was the Battle of the Paddle.  They opened the competition with a Hawaiian prayer, which was pretty neat, and then they were off toward the enormous buoys (it’s hard to see in these, but try to compare the green cubes in the water to the people near them):

One early evening we noticed an incredible amount of boat traffic out past the reefs.  Just from my vantage point on the beach I quickly counted 26 sails, but when we got upstairs we could see that there was much more traffic than we thought:

Other assorted views:

And the strangest balcony creatures of all:

Dragon boats

Just some scenes of the dock action at the Hawaiian Hilton Village.  And yes, I’m still milking this trip almost a month after we got back.  With any luck, maybe I can keep this up until it’s time for the next vacation. ;)

Herman

We were hungry when we got to Hawaii, so one of the first things we did was sit down to eat a couple of the world’s most expensive hot dogs and drink the world’s most expensive half-cup of soda.  While we were enjoying our 36-dollar lunch, I spotted this odd, neckless bird eyeing a pond full of cichlids:

I was hoping he would go for it, but he just stood there watching for the longest time.  We kept running into him around the garden area and I was fascinated.  He didn’t seem to have any friends and he was a little creepy, the way he would just sit motionless and stare at the fish like he was willing them into his mouth:

I named him Herman.  Naming him seemed the polite thing to do, if I was going to stalk him for the duration of my vacation, which I did (Mark humors my little obsessions).  Every time we were out and about, my head was on a swivel looking for Herman.  Once we found him drawing a crowd as he paced excitedly next to a man who was sitting on the lanai and throwing bread to the cichlids.  I thought for sure this time he would try for a fish, but we gave up and moved on before he did.

By the way, Herman is a black-crowned night heron, but he can be found hunting (or hanging creepily in the shadows) at all hours.  And it turns out he does have a neck, but he most definitely does not have any idea how much smaller he is than the monster koi at the Hilton:

Wonder what Herman is doing right now.  Just kidding, I can guess exactly what he’s doing!

Smoothie of the week: when good strawberries go bad

Anyone can enjoy this smoothie, but the squeamish may not want to know how I made it.

One of the nice things about smoothies is that you can use them to hide overripe fruit or lots of other produce that is starting to go south.  When I pulled out all the ingredients for this one, the strawberries were starting to get moldy and some of them were a little mushy.  I cut off a few of the mushiest spots, pulled off the worst-looking leaves, and gently rubbed the mold away as I rinsed them.  Obviously you may not want to do this if you have mold allergies, and definitely not if the mold has been growing a while, but I knew these were recent so I took a chance and suffered no ill effects.  Use your judgment.

I recently made a smoothie with ice for the first time in a while, and I was disappointed at how the addition of ice seemed to blunt the flavor of the fruit, so this time I went back to blending my fresh stuff and then adding frozen fruit.  It came out perfectly, and it really was that red!

So here’s what was in it: a quarter of a papaya with skin, a thick slice of pineapple (core included), a banana, a ton of strawberries, a handful of fresh blueberries, a couple handfuls of mixed frozen fruit and frozen blueberries, and a splash of milk.  It’s generally the same stuff I always use, but much heavier on the strawberries than usual because I wanted to use them up before they got worse.

By the way, happy birthday to Mark!  We celebrated Saturday night at El Meson, a Cuban-Spanish-Mexican restaurant that is one of our favorites, but our brunch plans today were thwarted when we realized Beaver’s would be packed with World Cup watchers.  Oh well!

For the love of brown butter

Our love affair with brown butter began with the brown butter ice cream at Beaver’s.  Where had brown butter been all my life?

So I made financiers.  Delicious!  I need more brown butter in my life.  I think about this often (I really do!).  I knew it was only a matter of time before I would have to master brown butter ice cream.  One of our favorite waiters at Beaver’s assured us that they make it by ‘just pouring the brown butter in.’  Though I would love to believe it is that easy, this sounded unlikely, so I looked at recipes and they were all a little daunting.  I delayed until one day I could no longer not try to make brown butter ice cream.

When I make something, it’s usually because I want to eat it as soon as possible, ice cream being the sort-of exception since it needs to harden, though you could eat it right away if you wanted to.  So when I look at a recipe and see that I have to do this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

and then I STILL have to refrigerate it before I can get to this:

…well, that typically I don’t even read that far before I’m on to the next recipe.  But did I mention how much we love brown butter?  I was expecting big things.  I was going to be a hero in my house!  No longer would we be denied brown butter ice cream on Mondays when Beaver’s is closed!

Now, the ice cream was delicious.  Possibly one of the most delicious I have made, and the texture was perfect.  But it did not taste like brown butter, not even a little.  It didn’t even taste like unbrown butter, just sugar and cream.  I’m not sure what happened.  I browned the butter very cautiously and pushed it as far as I was comfortable doing without burning it.  I immediately tasted a little and it tasted correct, so what gives?  The recipe said something about straining, which I didn’t do because most of the flavor in brown butter comes from the solids.  I would say, “Oh, I’ll just double the butter next time,” but I have read too many tales of brown butter ice cream gone awry because someone didn’t account correctly for the extra fat the butter was adding.

I am not giving up, however.  This obsession demands no less than persistence (unless the ice cream shop up the street starts offering brown butter, in which case I will declare victory and keep a dozen pints in the freezer at all times).  Next time I’ll probably take a page from this and attempt to get browned solids from heavy cream.  Anyone have any other ideas about what I might do differently?