Thursday, November 12, 2009

Amazing Quote

My friend has this quote on his desk in a little frame. It is really quite wonderful:

It is truly strange how long it takes to get to know oneself. I am now sixty two years old, yet just one moment ago I realised that I absolutely love lightly toasted bread. Simultaneously, I also realised that I loathe bread when it is heavily toasted. For almost sixty years, and quite unconsciously, I have been experiencing inner joy or total despair at my relationship with grilled bread.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Cambridge, 27 April 1951

Monday, November 9, 2009

My favorite soups (1 of 2)

It was cold today, finally, so to honor that I'm making soup.

I love thick soup. I love soup that you put in the fridge as a liquid and come back to find it in a solid state. My favorite way to achieve that is pureeing beans. I have two favorite bean-based soups: one is chickpea, the other is black bean.

Today I'm making the black bean one because celery was on sale this morning. I got the recipe from my favorite en masse recipe website recipezaar. It's a Panera Bread Co. copycat recipe. We don't have Paneras down here, so I can't say how close it is to the original, but it is really really delicious.

Here's the recipe as it appears on recipezaar.


Here's how I make it:

  • 1-2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • Tiny bit of vegetable oil (1-3 teaspoons)
  • 2-5 garlic cloves, hacked at a little
  • 2 celery ribs, like I ever have celery in my house, also hacked at
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped into at least 12 pieces
  • tomatoes, carrots, petit pois, anything else vegetable-like in the house
  • 2 small chicken bouillon cubes, I prefer the veggie ones but my store quit carrying them
  • 1-1 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, undrained
  • salt
  • cumin
  • healthy dash of lemon out of the bottle, or the juice of half a lemon, if I don't forget it
  • spoonful of cornstarch
  • food processor or, better yet, emersion blender

This recipe is really versatile. I usually don't have celery or red peppers on hand, but it doesn't matter. As long as you've got an onion, some garlic, cumin, salt, and beans you're off to a good start.

1. First thing's first. Get chopping. Cut up anything that looks like you can (onion, garlic, pepper, carrots, tomatoes, celery, etc), but don't worry about mincing or finely chopping anything.

2. About halfway through the chopping, heat up a splash of oil in a (preferably nonstick) pan. When you're done chopping, add the veggies to the heated oil and let them get some color.

3. Move things around in there every so often.

4. After the onions and garlic look goldenish add about 1.5 cups of water and the bouillon cubes and let it come to a boil. Turn the stove down and let this simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

5. Add 1.5 cans of beans, a good pinch of salt and a couple of heavy shakes of cumin. Stir all of this together and then get out the emersion blender.

6. Liquify your heart out.

7. Now it's time to add the cornstarch. But first, a word about cornstarch. Think back to grade school, do you remember making paste? Yes? Ah, that white powdery stuff was cornstarch. It turns into a non-Newtonian fluid (very exciting) when you mix it with water. And it forms nasty clumps when you mix it with hot water! Let me tell you, it is tremendously unpleasant to bite into a clump of glue. You should sift your cornstarch into a small dish and mix it with cold water. Make sure there aren't any big clumps, then pour it into the soup. Blend in with the emersion blender.

8. Add a splash of lemon juice (which I almost always forget and it's still great) and do a taste test. Need anything else? Salt maybe? Black pepper? I don't know, it's up to you. Let it cook for a few minutes longer so that it will thicken up from the cornstarch.

9. Go to town on that stuff. It's great!

It's particularly good with a slice of toasted bread and a drizzle of yogurt.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

About linguistics

So, this blog claims to be linguisticky, but I never talk about linguistics. Well, folks, heres a tasty morsel.

I edited the last post like 5 times because my spelling is bad. My spelling wasn't always bad, and it has ironically gotten worse since I started studying linguistics. I don't care too much; orthography, especially English orthography, is kind of arbitrary anyway. Then again, it can make you look like an uneducated idiot if you can't spell.

Anyway, like I said, I blame linguistics.
  • First, it has instilled in me the idea that orthography is arbitrary.
  • Second, and more importantly, it has taught me about voicing. A lot of my spelling mistakes involve mis-voiced consonants. Consonants are either voiced or voiceless (all vowels are voiced) and a lot of them come in pairs. Try it - /f/ & /v/, /k/ & /g/, /p/ & /b/, /t/ & /d/, /s/ & /z/, /θ/ & /ð/ (as in "thanks" & "these"). The first one in each of those examples is voiceless, the second is voiced. Put you hand on your throat as you sound them, you will feel a vibration for the voiced ones and nothing for the voiceless.
I must sound out words as I type, and my fingers, attempting to hit the right key, occasionally pick the oppositely voiced consonant. A minute ago I wrote "stable" instead of "staple"...go figure.

I aboloshise now for any mizzbellinks.

Something successful!

In happier news (not failed reupholstery news), I have made a Christmas ornament for my mother. I found the tutorial over at Retro Mama. Super cute - and free! My mother has a masters degree in home economics with an emphasis in textiles and she knows a thing or two about sewing, or at least she used to. Thus, our Christmas tree is lousy with handmade ornaments. In fact, at some point, my parents decided that the ornaments on our tree had to be handmade. No plasticky kitsch; it's wonderful. Anyway, when I saw this tutorial I realized that it was my time to contribute to the tree. So here's what I've made:

So cute

I'm really pleased with the results! I didn't do it exactly like retro mama did, but this suits me just fine. I did have to learn how to do a blanket stitch, iron on interfacing and use Fray Check; not that any of that's hard, I've just never done it before. Regardless, this was super easy to do. I think I'm going to make a flock! I also think I'm going to make my own pattern for a whole slew of animals and things...why not?


I think I want to be an upholsterer. OK, maybe not really, but I am completely intrigued. This grad school thing is really cramping my creative muscles. I picked up a nice straight-back chair at an estate sale for $10. (They were asking $30, but I'm good...and it was the end of the day.)

It's the one on the left
It had OK fabric covering the box cushion (light blue, scalloped, stained), but I thought this would be a perfect time to test out my reupholstering mettle. It took me hours and hours (8+) of sewing. Well, that's not true, it took me hours of staring and measuring and staring and measuring and then finally a little sewing. There were lots of firsts. I cut my first bias strips to make my first piping/cording. I put in stripes/panels (they are straight and centered!). I sewed in piping/cording in for the first time. I've never done any kind of upholstery, and even though this is lightweight, I'm really proud of what I ended up with:

Looks pretty good...

...except it doesn't fit!!!


I didn't see that I needed to ease the fabric on the side panels because the bottom of the cushion is wider than the top. Actually, it's not a full cushion; there's a piece of plywood on the bottom; the fabric goes over the wood so it doesn't show and then you just staple it to the bottom of the wood. Nice, except the wood is kind of big and, obviously, much less forgiving than foam. I haven't worked on it in about a week, too much work and too frustrating. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do either. I will try to sand down the corners on the front just a little bit. If that doesn't help, I will have to do some serious un-sewing. I'll have to take out most of the side fabric, ease it at the corners and re-sew it. Totally doable, totally time-consuming. When it's not way too tight, I have to then add piping to the bottom and staple. That won't be too hard. I can see the light at the end of this treacherous path, but with my workload as it may be another 2 weeks before I can mess with it further.