Systems in Place

So, I am probably going to be a bit crazy and hopefully a bit more prolific over the next couple of weeks. The reasons are as follows (in a waterfall fashion):

  • My job is about to undergo a dramatic shift. The thing I have been working on for 18 months was precipitously finished, and I have a new thing to be working-on. While I am grateful to have a new project without needing to spend any time “on the bench”, it’s change and scary to me.
  • While I am still working for the CDC, I am working in a different department in a different building on a different campus… this will increase my commute time and probably make me leave earlier because there are notorious “parking issues” at this place.
  • New position also means new bosses, new clients, and much more trepidation about using things like twitter or meebo or Google reader or listening to my iPod or going to lunches with people who are not direct coworkers. Thus, I will probably not be as responsive during working hours. Although I still invite people to email or text me, I just have to wait until a break to respond.
  • I am not living in my house at the moment. I am getting the carpet in my house replaced with beautiful caramel-colored bamboo “hardwood” floors, and the carpet connected the bedrooms and the bathrooms and were on top of concrete that need to be prepped before the floor can be glued down and completed (and you can’t walk on them during this time). Thus, we are living with Araken while the process is completed. The process started last Wednesday and on Thursday I got told that the concrete floors under the carpet were horribly un-level, would need to get flattened out (with more concrete), and would increase the cost by 25%. I’m okay with the cost, but the floors were originally supposed to be done this weekend and I think the leveling increased it by a number of days and I don’t know how many days that is, and that makes me nervous… especially since I worry about overstaying our welcome at Araken’s place.
  • I also am going to be having the chimney cap replaced, and the little leak in the mini-chimney for the furnace started up again.
  • I am going to the dentist near the end of the month. The last time I went I had to get a crown and the hygienist made me cry, and I’m rather sure the hygienist was just being rough as an excuse to sell me expensive antibacterial rinse and expensive magic toothpaste.
A little bit more background on the floor:

I used quotes around “hardwood” because the processes of making the planks for bamboo floor involve growing bamboo (a grass) chopping it down, flattening it, cutting it into strips, sticking them in an oven (the “toast” or “caramel” color comes from essentially baking it), and then arraying the strips just-so and then mashing them together with glue. The end result is harder than oak when it is done if it’s not cooked (at which point it is a very light blond color) and less hard than oak when it is cooked (and we got the cooked stuff, so it’s more like teak). The stuff is considered cool and renewable (bamboo is a quick growing grass and you can get a lot of floor grade product faster than, say, oak trees), but I’m sure that within a few years the glues used will be found to be horrible, or the bamboo will be grown in areas full of heavy metals, or they’ll be stealing the bamboo from adorable baby pandas… But the main reason I am getting it is because it’s beautiful… and the main motivation for flooring listed on all the websites seems to be “get whatever the hell you really want because then you are much more likely to take care of it and keep it looking wonderful”.

I currently have no doubts that I’ll love the floors. The flooring sample (a box of the floor you picked from a swatch of floors) was delivered on a day when Eric and I were about to have a horrible fight, and we postponed it because we wanted to lay out the planks in Araken’s old bedroom and coo over it for a good twenty minutes before we remembered we were supposed to be yelling at each other. It’s just that pretty. It also smells like candy.

Speaking of Araken’s bedroom, we originally thought about redoing the floors because Araken moved out and several pieces of the larger furniture were his: The couch, two beds, and several book shelves. Since we didn’t have much big stuff we realized we could get everything off the carpet without having to rent a storage unit. Thus, I stayed home for some flooring estimates, selected a charming company full of wonderful people with Baltic accents (they sound a bit like Boris and Natasha. When they asked me if it was okay to go ahead with expensive concrete leveling… I almost asked “can I get a discount if is used as disposal place for Moose and Sqvirrel?”). One of the reasons we selected them is because they gave us the most competitive quote, but the real reason we liked them is because they were going to do all the baseboards and paint them and then smack ’em on the wall at perfect height, and they were willing to try and not use shoe-molding (AKA quarter round) and to lay down thicker wood without many qualms.

How the floors will make us better people:

So, all of the non-kitcheney belongings of Eric and I are stuffed into the garage at the moment. This means when the floors are done, we will have to move things back in. In contrast to just sort of flinging everything back where they were, we are thinking of taking a much slower approach. Eric wants a gradual approach because he wants to re-paint the master bedroom: upon realizing the baseboards get painted we painted the front and back bedroom/offices the colors of our choice without worrying about the outgoing carpet or trim, and now the master bedroom is showing the same patterns of scuffs and being-lived-in. The other reason is that the new floors will have to be protected with new rugs, little protective bits of felt, and rubber booties… and setting such things up require patience and at least two people. Thus, the first day we are back we will probably move in some clothes and the bed and continue to go out to the garage for random bits of things (like underwear).

The main reason I am taking my time is because I was greatly influenced by Marrus’ post on house systems and only keeping things you really found useful or beautiful in your house. Firstly, I have what I feel are superfluous desks… and my desks always end up covered in unruly bundles of paper and little trinkets. I don’t take umbrage with my need to spread bundles of paper and trinkets across my desks (creative chaos, coding is creative, etc. etc.) but I do sort of wonder if I need more than one desk per room to do it. Thus, in the office I think I am going to set up only one desk in the logical spot and do it in such a way that I have as much space as possible to put paper and crap and go “this is the part that’s allowed to be messy, and if it gets so messy I cannot find things or that it is spilling off onto the floor, it’s too messy and needs to be tidied up.” It also means that I’ll only have one spot per room that is allowed to get unruly that shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to tidy-up. It will also keep me honest when I go to office supply stores or come across an opportunity to get some cute little tchotchka: I’ll have to think to myself “I don’t have room anywhere for it, and nothing I already have is uncool/useless enough to be replaced by it” and turn it down. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the other desk. I kind of want to shove it off on Eric but if he doesn’t want it I might donate it or use it as a project-desk in the garage or something.

Speaking of the garage, the entire back wall has shelving, and most of that shelving is occupied by boxes and boxes of files that I’ve put out there. I apparently have gotten some of my mothers packrat gene, and it shows in a near compulsion to keep ANY piece of mailed paper that shows a financial transaction on it. While I understand the need to keep tax information and bank statements for at least 7 years (I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to chuck any of it, honestly) I’m sure the world will not end if I decide to chuck an old invoice from the exterminators from 4 years ago. Still, any thought of removing something brings up a whole ad baculam scene in my brain where I am horrified and embarrassed in front of all my peers because I *shredded* a *document* that was *mailed to my house!!*… But then I realize I own a pretty cool autofeeding scanner, and hard drives are cheap, so maybe I could just save off files and have a chance of actually finding them some day rather than them threatening to trap me in the garage or damage cars should a tremor occur. But that is going to be part of a long-term project (along with adding all my old posts to the wordpress blog like I said I would).

A more immediate solution I have for saving space and not letting my house re-fill with crap is to essentially look at it before it is allowed back into the house from the garage. This includes old clothes (“Do I really need this old t-shirt? can it just go into the pile of work-out shirts? Does this stained work out shirt need to be kept even though it is stained and threadbare? Will I ever be able to cram my ass into size 31 jeans again? No!” *toss*) old books (“Is this a nice copy of something I have loved for years and want to display, or is it some old college textbook or some crap from an airport bookstore I’m never gonna pick up again? I won’t read it and don’t want to be on display as the type of stuff I read!” *toss*) tchotchkas (“Do I really need a broken pen-holder likeness of Eric Cartman? No!” *toss*) movies (“Why do I have all these old videos? Oh yeah, because I accepted them from a friend who wanted to toss them..” *re-toss*) and bits of paper (“Why did I bother storing a stack of receipts in the garage like they were precious?” *shred*).

I also have ideas for saving future space by getting more electronicy storagey thingies (kindle, xbox for streaming video from internet) but that will need to wait for financial recuperation and settling of all the crap I already own.

Wish us luck. And reach out to me gently over the next couple of weeks. September was a month of stress I hated. I am hoping October will be a month of stress where I got lots accomplished.

Please feel free to leave a comment or discuss in the forums.

They Don’t Know Video #014; Confections Contest 7: TungstenCoil’s Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Tungsten Coil submitted a very easy to throw together chocolate cake.  The end result is pretty much a dark-chocolate super-brownie that is okay for people with gluten allergies or just don’t want to deal with flour (but don’t mind the messiness of alkali process cocoa powder).

I liked it, even though I am not a huge fan of dark chocolate, and Belfry and Spud thought it was pretty good too.

Feel free to leave a comment or discuss this in the forum.

They Don’t Know Video #013; Confections Contest 6: Braindouche’s Chocolate Chip Bacon Maple Cookies

About a week ago I made Braindouche’s Maple Glazed Bacon Chocolate Chip cookies. One of the side effects of such cookies is apparently a very delayed editing process, so I am getting the video posted now, way later than when I filmed it.

Chocolate Chip Bacon Maple Cookies

Ingredients for cookies

1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 cups cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
5/8 cups mini chocolate chips (or a pregnant half cup)
3/8 cups chopped macadamia nuts (or a pregnant quarter cup)
1 cup bacon bits*

*  You have a choice here.  You can either fry up your own bacon (one standard pack of bacon yields about a cup of chopped bacon bits) or you can use pre-cooked bacon bits (but not Bacos, obviously).  If you use pre-packaged bacon bits, add some extra butter, otherwise the cookies won't spread)

Ingredients for Glaze

4 tsp butter
4 tsp real maple syrup
1 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars.  Stir in eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add to wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Stir in chips, nuts, and bacon.  Using a small disher, drop dough onto greased or non-stick cookie sheets (or my personal favorite:  parchment paper lined cookie sheets) about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool on wax paper laid over a newspaper or kitchen towels (or pull the parchment paper onto cooling racks).

While the cookies cool, combine butter and maple syrup in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan and whisk until butter has melted and liquids are well-combined.  WHisk in confectioner's sugar.  Drizzle warm glaze over cooled cookes.  Allow glaze to set completely before packaging.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

The overall effect of the cookies was polarizing. While they weren’t bad or revolting in any way, they were pretty much chocolate chip cookies that melted away and left some bacon in your mouth. My final thought is tha they are novelty cookies. Great for a party so everyone can try one and comment on the fascinating strangeness of bacon-laced cookies… but not something you would make every weekend or try to sell off at a bake sale. Maybe they could be marketed as breakfast biscuits: Bacon wrapped in chocolate chip, macadamia nut pancakes.

Voicemail: 678 701-3371
AIM/YIM/Skype: epilonious

Feel free to leave a comment or discuss in the forums.

They Don’t Know Video #012; CC#5 Princess Honah’s Fabulous Chocolate Pudding Pie

Greetings everyone. Today we made the Delightfully Chocolatey Chocolate Puddin’ Pie, given to us by the lovely Princess Honah.

Princess Honah's Chocolate Pudding Pie

3 squares of Bakers semi-sweet chocolate - melted
1/4 cup canned sweetened condensed milk (not the whole can!!)
1 oreo pie crust
1/2 cup toasted/chopped pecans
2 cups cold 2% milk
2 small pkgs of Jell-0 chocolate instant pudding
1 tub of cool whip

Mix chocolate and condensed milk. pour into crust, sprinkle with nuts (no laughing!)

beat 2% milk and pudding mixes with whish for 2 minutes, spoon 1 1/2 cups of nuts. Stir half the cool whip into remaining pudding, spread over pudding in crust and top with remaining cool whip.

refrigerate for 3 hours and enjoy! (technically it makes 10 servings)

It was delicious. As was the witty commentary of Stephen who was kind enough to use his Film Degree to help me make the movie (notice the 15% Dutch tilt in every shot. I swear it was worse than Battlefield Earth).

Also, a warning: Make sure you use only a 1/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk. I had to make two pies and the first one was a horrible, horrible mess because I used the whole damn can. There is a shot of the blooper pie at the end of the video.

Otherwise. thanks for downloading, sorry these are a bit long, but I hope you like them anyways!

Voicemail: 678 701-3371
AIM/YIM/Skype: epilonious

Feel free to leave a comment, or join the discussion in the forums.

They Don’t Know Video #011; Confections Contest 4, Candyland’s Liquor Balls

Greetings everyone!

Today, because we were feeling sort of lazy and boozy and in need of several testicle jokes, we made the Ball recipe submitted by the lovely and wondrous Candyland:


1 box vanilla wafers, crushed
3 tbsp. cocoa (powdered... not sweeten hot chocolate powder)
1 1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
1 c. confectioners sugar (also extra for rolling balls)
4 1/2 tbsp. corn syrup
1/3 c. bourbon - brandy - rum

Mix together wafer crumbs, cocoa, nuts and confectioners sugar (this is powdered sugar). Add syrup and bourbon (or) brandy (or) rum. Mix well and form into balls. Roll balls in confectioners sugar. Finely chopped coconut may also be added if desired. Makes 50 to 60 balls. Enjoy!

Thank you very much Candy!

We made them with Brandy (newly bought Courvoisier) and had a lot of fun! Thank you Candy!

Voicemail: 678 701-3371
AIM/YIM/Skype: epilonious

Feel free to leave a comment or discuss in the forums.

They Don’t Know Video #010; Confections Contest Entry 3, John from Delaware’s Key Lime Cream Cake

Welcome to the yet another entry in the They Don’t Know Confections Contest. Today I make John’s Key Lime Cream Cake. John is a listener I didn’t know I had.

John's Key Lime Cream Cake1 cup graham cracker crumbs  (15 squares)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons Key lime or regular lime juice
1 package Super Moist butter yellow cake mix
few drops to your liking, green food coloring (if you want the cake to have the color lime and frosting, I did this, makes have a nice touch)

2 teaspoons of grated lime peel, I used three better taste
3 eggs


1 can 14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1/2 cup lime juice
1 1/2 cups whipping (HEAVY) cream

Heat oven to 350  Grease bottoms of two round pans 8X1 1/2 or 9×1 1/2 inches, (I USED PAM SPRAY,WORKED FINE)
Line your pans with waxed paper, just cut a circle out of the wax paper and place it in the bottom of the pans.
Mix cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl. Spread 2/3 cup of mixture in each pan.

Add enough water to your lime juice to measure 1 1/3 cups. Beat cake mix, softened butter, lime juice mixture
lime peel and eggs in a large bowl with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, the beat on medium speed for two minutes scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pans. (A TIP: pound the pan of mixture a few times on the counter top, it takes the bubbles out of the mixture)

If you use the 8″ pans bake 42 to 52 mins, 9″ pans 36 to 46 mins, Run a scarp knife around the side of the pans to loosen the cakes. Cool in the pans 15 mins. Remove from the pans to wire rack, placing cakes CRUMB MIXTURE side up, remove wax paper if it came out on the cake.
Cool completely for 1 hour.

Stir together milk, lime, food coloring, and lime juice in small bowl, set aside. Beat whipping cream in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until soft peeks form. Fold milk mixture into whipped cream just until its blended.

Place 1 layer, crumb side up, on serving plate. Spread with 1 cup filling to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Add second layer crumb side up, frost side and top of cake with remaining filling. REFRIGERATE 1/2 hour to set the frosting.

This one was really good if not a bit involved. Unfortunately, I think I let the cakes sit too long to cool and the graham crusts separated when I was de-panning everything. If you are making this you will probably want to be a slave to those 15 minutes. The whipped-cream icing is one of the best features of this cake… but it also means it will be in a fridge until it is gone, so make sure you have room before you make it.

Voicemail: 678 701-3371
AIM/YIM/Skype: epilonious

Feel free to leave a comment or discuss in the forums.

They Don’t Know Video #009; Confections Contest Entry 2: Mary’s Wacky Cake

Welcome to the next entry in the They Don’t Know Confections Contest. Today I make Wacky Cake as submitted by Mary from A Drink to Be Sober.. The Recipe is as follows:

Wacky Cake (doubled recipe)
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons coco
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons  (3/4 cups) oil
2 tablespoons brown apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups water

Sift dry ingredients into a 9x13 pan. Make three holes in the dry ingredients. In the first place the oil, second vinegar, and the third vanilla. Pour water over the entire mixture. Then stir well. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

I made it this Saturday which coincided with my Monthly Rifftrax Parties. The cake turned out pretty well (but had to be baked an extra 13 minutes or so) and I served it to my party guests in a bowl with half-n-half as suggested by Mary.

It turned out to be delightfully fluffy chocolate cake with a bit of zing from the vinegar. It was impressive considering it doesn’t have any egg, butter, or pudding in the mix (which I understand to be the usual requirements for something ‘cake like’). It also means it’s something you can make with the kids in your life because you get to play with the fun kitchen implements like sifters and you can let them lick spoons/bowls when they are done (with no egg, you don’t have to worry about salmonella.)

It seemed the half-n-half turned out to be the polarizing element: I liked it, Eric liked it, Joey liked it, but BelfryExpress hated it, citing his hatred of all “wet bread” type textures.

Check back next week, when I make Key Lime Cream Pie as submitted by a listener I never knew I had: flyerphan10!

Feel free to leave a comment, or discuss in the forums.

They Don’t Know Video #008; Confections Contest Entry 1: DQ Rick’s Fabulous Triple Chocolate Cake

As you know, last weekend I kicked off the They Don’t Know Confections Contest. Well, luckily, I had an entry from DQ Rick for Fabulous Triple Chocolate Cake. The Recipe is as follows:

Select all
The Fabulous Triple Chocolate Cake

1 large box Jello brand cook and serve chocolate pudding (must be cook and serve)
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 to 1 1/2 bags chocolate chips

Prepare the pudding mix as directed on the box (remember, the pudding must be cook and serve , the cake won't turn out if you use instant. Don't ask me why but, it won't)

Add the pudding to the cake mix and mix it well to make the cake batter

After pouring the batter into a square or rectangular baking dish, top with the chocolate chips (remember to leave a bald spot in the center to test the cake with a tooth pick)

Bake according to the directions on the cake mix box

Note: in addition to the chocolate chips, you and also top with nuts, heath bits or the peanut butter flavored chips as well

I made it this Saturday with the help of Mark, and I judged it with the help of Guest judges Spud and Akom.

It was wonderfully delicious. It tasted like chocolate cake, but it was a texture out of this world. The best way I can describe it is “candy topped chocolate jello”.

Check back next week, when I make Wacky Cake as submitted by Mary from A Drink to Be Sober.

Please feel free to comment or follow this discussion in the forums.