Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day

The good thing about waking up at 2:30 a.m. and being unable to fall asleep is that when you finally decide to go in to work (2 hours early) at 4:00, you're not at all too sleepy to get out of bed like you usually are. This is how I spent my morning. In spite of the 6+ inches of snow blocking my exit, I trudged to work in the wee hours because I figured getting paid would be better than rolling around in bed failing to get comfortable.

If it hadn't been for the snow, I wouldn't have woken up so ungodly early in the first place. You see, I have this wonderful alarm which wakes me up gently every morning by slowly brightening a lamp over a half-hour period. I find this an infinite improvement over the near heart attacks that used to ensue every time my auditory alarm went off in the middle of my deep sleep. They sell these special clocks for anything from 40 to 200 dollars, but I am a cheapskate, and I didn't want all the fancy features that come with a typical alarm clock, including an LED display (lately I shun these because they shine in my face and make me constantly aware of how late/early it is when I am unable to sleep). Fortunately I was able to find a device for just 20$ that simulates this sunrise using the power of my own bedside lamp. Unfortunately, you can only set it by plugging it in at bedtime and letting it run on its internal 24-hour timer. It works fine after the first use, but if there is a power failure because of a snow storm, and you forget to reset it, it does crazy things like wake you up at 2:30 in the morning.

Following my unwelcome (though gentle) wakeup, and my trek to work, I didn't have much to do. The delivery truck was late to the store, so after packing all the backstock I had available, organizing the cheese case because the cheese packer had called out, and cleaning my area, I was quite ready to leave after 4 hours. I usually only work 4 hours on Thursday, anyway, but usually those 4 hours are over at 10, not 8:30. Just as I was rolling out the door, the truck rolled into the parking lot. I pretended I didn't see.

I got home from a complete day's work before my housemates had even gotten out of bed for theirs! That's always a pretty gratifying feeling. Following this, I had a 1.5-hour nap, and now, at 1:30, I am ready to begin my day!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Flying biscuits

It's time, yet again, for Valerie's Adventures in Cooking!

Today's recipe is for a thing I like to call "Flying biscuits." That is, biscuits made on the fly. Here's how you do it.

You don't actually need to read this, since the required quantities are in the recipe, but go ahead if you're so inclined.
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 stick shortening
  • a good bit more flour than butter and shortening combined
  • a smallish palmful of salt
  • another smallish palmful of baking soda
  • no egg
  • water
  • water
  • more flour
Get home from work and decide you'd really like to eat some biscuits with cheese for dinner. Search through all your recipes, but fail to find one for biscuits. Spend a moment thinking how odd this is, since biscuits are one of your favorite things to eat that can be easily made at home, but then remember that you used to make biscuits so often that you could do it without a recipe. Decide, instead of wasting time searching the Internet for a recipe, to channel your past self and do without one.

Start with shortening and butter, one half-stick each. For the purposes of this recipe, they shall henceforth be known collectively as "shortening." My apologies to the butter, which may feel slighted by this. Most biscuit recipes recommend that you slice these ingredients into the flour, but since you are so excited about finally being able to use them after they've been sitting around since Thanksgiving, you may forget this and dump them, intact, into the bowl. Follow this with flour, in a significantly larger volume than the shortening. Add salt--a teaspoon, measured in the palm of your hand. Begin to cut the flour into the shortening when you remember that biscuits need baking soda to rise. While you are getting the baking soda, wonder whether you are supposed to add an egg, but decide you are not. Toss in some baking soda in about the same amount as the salt and mix thoroughly.

Add water. Mix. Add a little more water. Mix. Add too much water, which you only realize when your biscuit dough becomes a gloopy mass. A good rule of thumb when deciding how much water to add to a recipe is to draw on your extensive vocabulary and recall whether the pre-cooked version of your product is called "batter" or "dough." Gloopy masses are good for "batters," but a little more viscosity is required for "dough." Dump in the rest of the flour and mix with your hands until the dough clumps together in a soggy ball.

At this point, remember to preheat the oven. Almost everything bakes at 350 degrees, so you can be reasonably certain that that will be an acceptable temperature for your biscuits.

Most of the time, biscuits are supposed to be rolled out and cut into circles. Your time is more precious than that, so feel free to grab slightly-less-than-biscuit-sized chunks from the dough ball and splat them onto the baking sheet. Pat them down into shapes that somewhat resemble biscuits.

Because you began the preheating process approximately 40 seconds before being ready to bake your biscuits, the oven is only going to be at 110 degrees. While you're waiting for it to pass through the next 240 degrees, you may clean up your mess! At 285 degrees, decide the oven is hot enough, and slide that pan into it! Whoops! First, I guess you should remove the two partially eaten pizzas that your housemate apparently decided to store in the oven.

How long do biscuits bake, anyway? Well, surely long enough for you to take a quick shower while you're waiting for them to finish. Shower away, and get out just in time to hear the oven beep to let you know it has reached temp. Clearly your biscuits are not finished yet.

Because you are starving to death, take your biscuits out of the oven every 5 minutes to see if they are done and eat pieces out of them. After 20 minutes of this, declare them officially done and eat them. Next time, use more salt.

Friday, January 7, 2011


I caught a cold a few days ago.

This is not big news, since I catch approximately four colds a year (one for every season). However, this cold topped the charts in terms of vocal destruction.

Monday, my throat felt a little wheezy. Tuesday, my voice got a little raspy. Wednesday, I suffered through a day of work in intense pain, unable even to complain because my voice had been depleted to a whisper, and every whisper hurt like a scream. Let me tell you, as someone who talks to herself pretty much continuously, I found it nearly as painful mentally to endure a full day of silence. My internal monologue was obliged to stay internal--and that hurt! People would come past my work station and make little comments--comments to which I usually make other little comments in reply. But this time I could only smile, or nod, or wheeze out a little laugh. I felt so isolated!

The worst part was about midway through the day, when one of my coworkers came by and decided to have a conversation with me. The conversation mostly consisted of me trying to explain what was wrong with me, without seriously injuring myself in the process. I failed miserably. When I turned to put away a bag of sesame sticks, I whacked my hand hard into the shelf--in the exact spot where I'd cut myself and gotten stitches the previous Sunday. When I took out the stitches yesterday, I was surprised by how much my finger still hurt, until I remembered this occurrence. I had hit it so badly, I bruised the entire knuckle.

Maybe it was a good thing I had no voice right then, because I would have screamed bloody murder if I could have. As it was, I had to choke it back and stomp on the floor instead. As one of my friends commented later, "Not a satisfying way to express pain." And of course I wept bitter tears in front of my coworker. But that happens so often that I'm sure he wasn't surprised.

By the time I left work that evening, my throat hurt so badly that my entire body hurt. Or maybe I had a fever, since I also felt chilled to the bone. My walk home in the cold was torture, but a few minutes of inhaling steam from a teapot followed by a good long huddle in bed set me to rights.

Yesterday, my throat felt much better (although all the congestion had moved up into my nose), and today, the average listener probably can't even detect anything wrong with my voice. But I have learned a valuable lesson. I should never take a vow of silence.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

VMA's are early this year!

It is the beginning of a brand new year, and in the grand tradition of my fellow blogger Geoff, I am going to start it off right by sharing some of the best songs of the prior year! That's 2010, folks. Your time is valuable, and I'm not exactly on top of the music scene, so I'll limit my selections to the top three. That's about as many new songs as I take notice of in a given year anyway. Welcome to the VMA's (Valerie Music Awards)

Third place: "We No Speak Americano," by Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP

Halloween this year kinda sucked. I had a not-too-fun choir concert at which the zipper on my skirt broke, and I only made it to the Halloween party after all my friends had left. Its one high point was when, on my way to the party, I heard this song playing on the radio for the first time. As soon as I got home, I feverishly searched the Internet for the only lyric I remembered: "Americano." Obviously, the song was more popular than I imagined, as, even with that meager input, it was one of the first results on Google. Sifting through several YouTube versions and finally posting one on Facebook kept me up til almost 2a.m.—and it's not for just any old song that I'll stay awake that far past my bedtime! My taste for dance tracks and music that sounds like it's being played backward made "Americano" a shoo-in for one of my favorite songs of the year. Unfortunately, it only made third place due to the fact that it's not really my style. Not quite enough beats per minute to keep my attention very long once the novelty wears off.

Second Place: The TRON: Legacy soundrack, by Daft Punk

Is it cheating to pick a whole album as one of your favorite songs of the year? Because almost every song on this soundtrack is digital awesome! Dramatic classical music of the sort you hear on every fantasy soundtrack, combined with synthy melodic basslines and blips and bleeps galore! Yum! But if I had to choose just a few must-downloads, I'd tell you to definitely not miss "The Grid," "The Son of Flynn" and "Derezzed," which is the song that you'll hear if you click the link.

First Place: "Break Your Heart," by Taio Cruz featuring Ludacris

Considering all the breaking of hearts that goes on in Valerie-Land, it's no surprise that the Grand Prize Winner of this year's VMA's goes to a song about that very subject. It's also no surprise that the chosen song happens to be extraordinarily danceable. Without the beat and the super-fabulous synthesized background music, this song would be totally unremarkable. But add those things plus the delightful interjections by Ludacris and you've got a real winner! Normally rap goes in one of my ears and out the other, but the priceless gem, "I may break your heart, but I don't really think there's anybody as bomb as me" has introduced me to my new favorite adjective! And then there's the part about how he's gonna "shatter and splatter it all into little bitty pieces!" Took me weeks to learn to say that line, but learn it I did, and now I can sing along while I dance to the song. And I do. At work. My coworkers watch me and laugh.


Since I'm always a little bit behind the times on most things, it's often years after its release that I learn about a song I absolutely fall in love with. Two of these shall be presented today.

One, I only missed by a year. It's Andy Moore and Ashley Wallbridge's "Faces."
The other is an older remix of a video game song called "Dreaming on Distant Shores" by the artist known as Rellik. Both of these are archetypal trance pieces that you'll love if you love trance.

Until next year...
Or until the next time I get the urge to gush about some disco-fabulous song I found...
Valerie signing out.