Monday, February 20, 2017

Looks Like a Party to Me

The Sergeant was on the road for his birthday, so he had a belated birthday party today. Here's what it looked like. Yes, that's his whole engine on a hoist. A new, speedy one, supposedly.

Meanwhile, all the womenfolk were in the house with me, doing needlework. I kid you not.

We got 20 banh mi sandwiches for 15 people and they were all eaten. There's enough leftover beer that the Sergeant is considering having another engine-swap party next weekend, since this job wasn't quite finished.

Everyone had a good time!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yay! More Pokémon!

On Thursday, Niantic released updates to the Pokemon Go game, including a whole bunch of new Pokemon. That made my commute home fun. I'm not going to go crazy trying to catch all the new ones right away. It will take me a while to figure out which ones are which.

The one on the right is called Flaaffy. It's kind of sheepy, so it's my favorite so far. I caught it while I was on the phone with Mom. I usually chat with her as I'm walking home. She's going to give me a hard time about this post. She thinks playing Pokémon is dumb.

Tomorrow the Sergeant is having a party, so today I thought I'd better deal with Jackson's coffee stains on the carpet. He's developed a taste for my milky coffee and has managed to knock over a few cups trying to drink it when I've left it unattended.

Of course, my plan to just spot-clean was derailed by the general filthiness of the living room carpet (thanks, dogs), so I ended up just cleaning the whole room. Colorado is so dry that it will be ready for furniture again by morning.

Most of the guests will be hanging out in the garage, but the female contingent will be in the house. I plan to give darning lessons.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dumb Ways to Die

I needed to go to Union Station today to refill my transit card. I signed up for a pilot program last year that lets you load money on a card that you just swipe past a reader at train stations. (It works for buses, too.) The only drawback is that you can't refill the card online yet, so I have to make the trek to Union Station every month or so. But it's not that far from where I work, and I can play Pokémon along the way.

And I enjoy the safety signs in the bus terminal underneath the station, where the transit office is.

This campaign was borrowed from an Australian train safety campaign, which included a really cute music video:

They should play the video on a loop in the station. It would give people more context for some of the images.

Then on my way home from work tonight I noticed this ad plastered (ahem) on the car I'd just disembarked from:

Not as cute, but definitely appealing!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Little Zipper Bag

As I mentioned yesterday, I thought I'd take my sashiko stitching samples and make a little zipper bag out of them.

It turned out kind of cute! I'm not thrilled about the zipper color (it's more of a turquoise), but I can always make more.

Should I give it away?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pressed for Space

My cute little sewing nook is upstairs. My unwieldy monster of an ironing board lives downstairs in the laundry room. If I need to press a seam open or fuse some interfacing, as one does when sewing, I don't want to have to run up and down the stairs all the time, nor leave the iron unattended. Nor am I going to haul that ironing board up and down the stairs.

Happily, there are tools designed for such problems.

Here we have some 5-inch pre-cut fabric squares to which I would like to apply some fusible fleece.

And here we have the June Tailor Quilter's Cut 'n' Press, which has a small cutting mat on one side and a pressing surface on the other. It's a baby ironing board! (I don't know nothin' about ironing no babies, so hush; you know what I mean.)

Now we just need some steam. The Steamfast travel and crafting iron should be just the ticket. Let's take it for a spin.

Yep, works great! It gets quite hot, and produces audible and visible steam. That fusible is well-fused.

I crawled into bed with some more crochet cotton and a loooooong sashiko needle. This was the result. I think I'm going to make a little zipper bag out of it. That seems to be my default. Everyone likes a little zipper bag, right?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Darning and Sashiko Denim Repair

I've been researching Japanese boro and sashiko sewing techniques as an option for repairing my holey jeans. Sashiko is an attractive embroidery technique that's not super-complicated, and it might make the jeans looks trendy rather than just ... patched.

(By the way, it's not pronounced sah-SHEE-ko, as I thought, but SOSH-ko ... the "i" is almost silent.)

I also ran across a darning tutorial on imgur, so I thought I'd experiment with that, too.

Once upon a time, darning was a skill most women learned as children, and many men, too. I always thought it entailed just sewing a hole shut, or sewing over it. But it's actually weaving.

I cut a swatch from an old pair of jeans to practice on. The first hole I cut was too big, so I cut a second, smaller one and tried darning it with denim thread. Hmm, that didn't work very well. The thread was too fine. So I stopped halfway through.

I cut another small hole and used No. 8 crochet cotton with a sashiko needle (which is longer and sturdier than a regular embroidery needle, with a bigger eye).

That actually turned out pretty well! That will be a good option for fixing small rips in denim or other things.

For larger holes, especially if the fabric around them is weak because of wear, patching with sashiko stitching is an interesting effect. If you have to patch, you might as well do it stylishly, right?

I like the way that turned out, too. I folded the patch fabric so there were no raw edges, and whipstitched around the outside. I started to do the lines of sashiko stitching freehand, then realized I'd better mark the fabric with chalk. Next time I will try to map out my edge stitches, too.

It was interesting figuring out how to hold the needle and use the thimble. (This video, while not the best quality, shows how to hold maneuver the needle. Skip to 3:17.)

In the end, I also had to get some pliers to pull the needle through the mulitple layers of denim and quilting cotton. That's probably not standard.

A friend told me about an iron-on stabilizer called Cloud Cover that is designed to cover the rough stitches on the inside of an embroidered garment, so I ordered some. Soon I'll have those pants repaired!

I have this variety pack of blue batik-y fabric that should be suitable for all kinds of projects using sashiko stitching and boro techniques. I did a Google image search for "Boro" and have been exploring all the pages that come up. It's also fun to try using the Japanese characters for sashiko (刺し子) and boro (ぼろ) and explore that way. But I find that Google Translate really struggles with those pages, so I don't get as much out of them as I would like.

The Sergeant and I are hoping to go to Tokyo for a week or so just to explore. He went there for work last year and really liked it. I was jealous!

Friday, February 10, 2017


I use this crosswalk every day. It's the last street I cross on my way to the train. The street is a frontage road for the highway that cuts through Denver (I-25, once called the Valley Highway because it follows the Platte River through downtown).

I'm trying to decide what I think about this brick veneer that's being added to the crosswalk (taking a crew of five or more guys multiple days to install). Is it supposed to be an esthetic improvement? A safety improvement? Will it be applied to all the crosswalks at that intersection?

Is this the best use of my tax dollars?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Collect 'Em All!

I was excited to get Andrea Nguyen's latest, The Pho Cookbook, in the mail yesterday. I've watched her Craftsy classes (on pho and on dumplings) and enjoyed them a lot. Her cookbooks help round out the experience of, well, Andrea's experience with all aspects of Vietnamese cuisine.

If I were really ambitious, I would try cooking my way through all of them in a systematic fashion and blog about it. Once upon a time I thought I would do that with Donna Hay's cookbooks, of which I have many, but the URL was taken. So I didn't do it. Really, that's the only reason.

That kind of blogging would be a serious time commitment, though. Time that I don't have right now. I'll just try to report on a recipe or two in the pho book, once I've dived into it.

Meanwhile,  dinner tonight was a winter squash gratin to which I added diced ham, and a big salad.

One kabocha squash yielded the 2 cups of roasted squash needed. I roasted it over the weekend, and diced the onion and grated the cheese yesterday, so it was all pretty easy to throw together when I got home from work ... with another bag full of produce from the CSA.

I can see that the amount of lettuce they provide each week is going to be an issue. I'll need to up my salad game.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Tonight we went to see "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at the Alamo Drafthouse. If you're not familiar with the Alamo, it's a chain of dine-in movie theaters. All seats are reserved, and they have a strict no-talking, no-texting policy. We almost never go anywhere else anymore because of that. They often show interesting movies besides the current blockbusters, which we also really enjoy.

(The table service is so unreliable and the food so bad, though, that we have learned to get our drinks from the bar beforehand, and only order popcorn.)

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" was surreal and gritty and lovely. I wanted to see it when it came out in 2012 but never did. It's based on a play, which I find intriguing, since the landscape is such a character of its own in the movie. I'll have to investigate.

And didn't the girl who played Hushpuppy win an Oscar? No, Quvenzhané Wallis was the youngest ever Best Actress nominee, at 9. She was 6 during filming. (I'm looking at the Wikipedia page now.)

Have you seen the movie? Did you like it?

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Share and Share Alike — We've joined a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been around for a while. I remember splitting a CSA share with a friend of mine maybe 15 years ago. What I remember about it was that it was Too. Much. Food. And it was usually too much of one thing and not enough of others, like three dirt-encrusted rutabagas, a carrot, two radishes and 20 ears of corn.

I was cooking just for me back then. I didn't know what to do with all of it, and a lot of it ended up in the compost bin..

Then a couple of weeks ago Grant Farms gave a presentation at my company. They can deliver a small vegetable share, with sensible quantities and variety, directly to the office once a week. I decided to sign up. I've been making a concerted effort to cook healthy dinners for the Sergeant and myself most nights, and it's working pretty well, but I need to get better at menu planning, and I'm looking for inspiration.

The first box arrived Wednesday:

That's not an unreasonable amount of food for two people to consume in a week (nor too much for me to carry home on the train). Some salads, a pasta dish, maybe, and in a pinch, roast all the things that can be roasted.

Which is what I did on Sunday, because the Sergeant was out of town. I had some of the veggies for my dinner on Sunday, and the rest went into Monday night's yellow curry with shrimp for the two of us, along with the baby kale.

I used The New York Times' Shrimp in Yellow Curry as my starting point. I sautéed the aromatics, added the curry and red pepper flakes, then stirred in the extra vegetables before adding the coconut milk. I used the whole can, too, since I was adding a lot more stuff to the dish.

No shots of the finished dish, alas. We were both starving, so I was hustling to get it on the table. I have leftovers for lunch, though, so maybe I'll add a photo tomorrow.

It turned out quite well, albeit rather on the spicy side. I added some of that roasted poblano, minced, which turned out to have a lot more heat than I was expecting. Plus the red pepper flakes are made with peppers from our garden, including Thai bird chiles. Whoops. The rice helps temper the heat, though.

The roasted squash I'm going to turn into a Winter Squash Gratin for Wednesday's dinner, with a little diced ham added. Tuesday night we're going to see "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at Alamo Drafthouse, so we'll eat there. I haven't thought about Thursday yet, but another CSA box will arrive with something I can work with.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Pokemon Go Plus Review

The Pokémon Go Plus came out in September. It's a Bluetooth device you can wear on your wrist or carry in your pocket that lets you play the game in a limited fashion without having your phone open all the time. It vibrates and flashes green if there's a Pokémon nearby, and if you push the button, it launches one Poké Ball, then lets you know if you captured anything. It flashes blue if there's a Pokéstop nearby, and collects items from it when you push the button.

I couldn't really see the value in it; I was still enjoying playing the game on my phone. What's the point of just clicking a button blindly?

Points are the point, as it turns out. When you've caught all the things you can catch, and evolved all the things you can evolve (as I have since then), the only goal you can have is to get enough points to advance to the next level. Which is kind of boring.

So when someone posted in the Denver Pokémon Facebook group (yes, there are lots of Pokémon Facebook groups) that she'd gotten the Pokémon Go Plus from a local GameStop, I thought I'd take a chance and see if they still had any. Why yes, they did!

You see, the device has been consistently sold out everywhere since September. Sure, you could buy one for $150 on eBay, but the thing retails for $35. Places like Game Stop would occasionally get a shipment, and sell out in hours. So I hustled over and bought one.

It took me a little while to figure out the thing's quirks. The Bluetooth connection can sometimes be flaky; you have to tell your phone to forget the device, then re-pair it. It will only throw regular Poké Balls, so if you run out of those, you're out of luck (even if you have lots of Great Balls and Ultra Balls). If you get an egg from a Pokéstop, you can't tell unless you check your phone.

But it has some advantages, too. If you don't want to be staring at your phone as you walk, if you're in a hurry or if the weather's bad, you can still get credit for all the steps you're taking, and maybe catch some Pokémon and hit some Pokéstops along the way. If I need to check my email or make a call while I'm playing, I don't have to shut down the app entirely; it can run in the background.

As a result, I was able to hit Level 35 about three weeks ago, and I'm already a third of the way to the next level, even though you need more and more points to advance. In this case, I need 1.5 million points to reach Level 36. There are 40 levels in all.

What I'm really hoping is that Niantic (the company that launched the game) will add the next generation of Pokémon characters to the game. That will make it interesting again. But until then, I'll keep clicking that button. The game helped me lose 10 pounds, after all, plus gained me the admiration of my geeky peers.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Stolen Goods Replaced

My replacement thimble arrived last night. Annoyingly, the delivery person just tossed the package onto the porch, so it was sitting out in plain sight. But I discovered it before it, too, could wander off.

A co-worker told me that her mail carrier said packages would soon only be delivered before 9:30 a.m. and after 4 p.m., making it less likely that they would sit out all day, tempting thieves.

I talked to my own mail carrier and showed him how the bin on the porch can be opened (it tilts open from the front, rather than the top being lifted). He promised he'd use that in the future.

I also put a note on top of the bin explaining how to open it and asking that deliveries be placed inside. Happily, the UPS guy proved capable of following directions:

So the Sergeant's drill bits are now safely delivered as well.

I've yet to hear back from the postmaster (I filed a report online). We'll see if anything comes of that.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Package Thieves Are Jerks

I don't know what prompted me to look at the security camera footage this morning; I usually don't log in unless I have a specific reason. So it was a bit of a surprise when I saw this:

Yes, that's a picture of a guy stealing packages off our front porch yesterday. From what I can determine, he was walking past on the sidewalk, noticed the packages, turned around and came back to snag them.

Then he went around to the alley. I got a better, semi-recognizable shot of him there:

What was stolen? A leather thimble for sashiko embroidery that I had ordered for myself, and a nice set of drill bits that was a birthday present for the Sergeant from his mom.

Happily, Amazon guarantees delivery, so they are reshipping both those things at no extra cost.

Sadly, the police do not, as a matter of policy, investigate package thefts. The officer who came to talk to me didn't know why, but thought it might have something to do with interstate commerce. He suggested I contact the local postmaster general.


Why do we have cameras? Ever since we joined we hear about every package theft, car break-in, home burglary, etc. in the neighborhood. Plus the Sergeant is always paranoid that he forgot to close the garage door.

It's been useful in a few cases, particularly when we found out our dog sitter was being grossly negligent. And a few times when the garage door actually was left open. But in this case, they weren't much help at all.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Thai Chicken Burger Recipe

I make these super yummy burgers in bulk once in a while. They're nice to keep in the freezer (still raw), stacked in a Tupperware with waxed paper separating the patties. Transfer a couple to the fridge in the morning, and have freshly cooked burgers for dinner.

I call these Thai burgers, though they're generally just Asian. The original recipe (from Blue Apron) included lemongrass, which I usually don't remember to buy, and did not include shallots. I get ground chicken or turkey from Whole Foods (I trust their sourcing), but I prefer to buy things like garlic and ginger from the Japanese market near my office.

What you need to make 8-9 patties:
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch knob of ginger, minced
  • 2 pounds of ground chicken, ground turkey, or a mix of both. Try to include some ground thigh meat if it's available. (Not pictured above because not photogenic.)
  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use the low-sodium variety)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (more or less)
  • Oil for pan-frying
  • Burger buns, plus toppings such as tomato slices, lettuce, avocado

Also pictured: Wasabi peas to snack on while cooking, plus a bourbon and Coke. Substitute your snack and tipple of choice.

  1. Sautée the shallots over medium heat until browned and a bit caramelized around the edges.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and sautée for another 30 seconds or so until fragrant.
  3. Transfer the sautéed aromatics to a plate or bowl to cool. (I put it in the freezer to hurry the process.)
  4. Mix together the ground meat and panko.
  5. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha and the cooled aromatics. Mix thoroughly. Frankly, it's easiest to just use your bare hands, but a spoon works if you're squeamish.
  6. Form into patties.
At this point, I suggest you cook however many patties you're planning to eat immediately, so you can judge whether you want to add more sriracha to the remainder.

Heat a little oil in a pan over medium heat and cook for three minutes or so per side, or until nicely browned on the outside.

If you make your patties really thick, you should probably check the internal temperature (165 for poultry). But half-inch thick patties should be cooked through if they're well-browned.

I wish I had a better photo of the finished burgers, complete with roasted carrots, but we were actually in a rush to get out the door. We went over to our friends' house to watch "The Asphalt Jungle" on their big TV. (Our TV is in a wardrobe in the guest room and you have to sit on the bed to watch it, so we're not hosting movie nights anytime soon.)

"The Asphalt Jungle" is a good movie, by the way. It's one of the Sergeant's favorites. Marilyn Monroe has just a bit part in it, but they sure played it up on the poster.

Anyhoo, back to the burgers. I spiced them up with a little more sriracha and made the rest of the patties in the morning.

I have this gadget I got at East Bay Restaurant Supply that is useful for making consistently sized and evenly shaped patties. I wish it were a slightly smaller diameter, but I guess I could use a circular cutter to achieve that. Guess I have to go gadget shopping again!