coraa: (popcorn pinkie pie)
I have my new netbook! I decided to get an Asus eeePC, mostly because I've been quite happy with the one I borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] ceph, and it seemed smart to go with a known good. As an added bonus, they had one in pink!

The one I got isn't quite this one, but it's a close cousin. Since it's cute and pink, I had to name it Pinkie Pie, after the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic character.

Anyway! This means that I now have A Computer Of My Very Own (not a work computer, not a borrowed computer, but My Very Own) for the first time in... weeks and weeks and weeks. Today I expect to spend mostly getting this set up to my preferences, fiddling with settings, downloading stuff, etc. But tomorrow I'll get to work catching up.

Yay!
coraa: (more food love)
This time I know what we're having for the main dish. We're having lemony herbed lamb chops! Yay! But my side dish plans were contingent on a particular shop being open that was not open, and so I need to figure out what to have as a side dish (or dishes, I might make a couple things; I like to have one starch and one non-starchy vegetable where possible) out of the ingredients I have at home.

Unfortunately, I haven't shopped for veggies recently, so what I have is basically the following: frozen spinach, frozen corn, frozen edamame, canned tomatoes, fresh celery, fresh carrots, fresh lemons, onions (yellow onions and shallots), Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, wild rice, couscous, quinoa, emmer farro, sandwich bread, fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint and sage), sweet/hot peppers both brined and oil-cured, pickles of many types, plus a wide variety of spices, oils, vinegars, and condiments. What would you make of those?

My immediate thoughts are a) sauteed spinach, probably with garlic, possibly with tomatoes; b) corn and edamame salad, probably with garlic and lemon, possibly with spinach; c) some combination of roasted carrots, sweet potaotes, regular potatoes, and shallots, probably also with garlic; d) pilaf of some sort. But I am open to suggestions.

EDIT: Thanks to all who suggested things! I'm making a tabbouleh-style rice salad.
coraa: (bookworm)
Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones

After Diana Wynne Jones passed away earlier this year, I started rereading some of my favorites of her books. (Not in any kind or orderly or organized fashion; for that, see [livejournal.com profile] swan_tower's DWJ project.) It's hard for me to actually decide what my favorite DWJ book is. Archer's Goon is a possibility, Charmed Life is a possibility; Witch Week is a possibility. But Howl's Moving Castle is a strong contender for favorite. It's also one of the earliest DWJ I read: after Archer's Goon but before Charmed Life.

The book is set in a mildly fairy-tale-esque world—fairy-tale-esque enough that its protagonist, Sophie, knows that (being the oldest of three children instead of the youngest) she is not meant for great things, and is only going to get into trouble if she sets off to seek her fortune. So she settles into the boring but sensible work of trimming hats at the hat shop her father owned before he died. But the Witch of the Waste arrives on Sophie's doorstep with a curse, and sets her off to seek her fortune (and cross paths with the wicked magician Howl) whether she planned it or not.

I think the thing I love most about this book, have always loved most about it, is how grounded and sensible it is. For instance, Howl has a pair of seven-league boots that Sophie and Michael (Howl's apprentice) use to visit one of Sophie's sisters. Seven leagues is twenty-ish miles... and of course it's hard to steer or navigate if you go ten miles at a step. And the way Sophie justifies sticking around Howl's castle is by acting as a housekeeper... complete with details of exactly how much work it is to clean up after a layabout wizard and his teenage apprentice if they haven't cleaned in years. (It made me want to go do some spring cleaning of my own, in fact.)

The characters are really what make this book. Well, and the setting (I love the odd combination of fairy-tale and realistic of the world, and of course the castle is marvelous). There's a plot involving the Witch of the Waste and a missing prince, but it's really an excuse for Sophie to be clever and sensible and no-nonsense, and for Howl to be brilliant and lazy, and for Calcifer the fire demon to be... thoroughly Calcifer, and so on. Even the more minor characters, like Sophie's sisters and the dog, are so beautifully-drawn even in just a few lines that I feel like I know them, and would happily have tea with them.

This is part of the genre I think of as "cozy fantasy," and it's one of my ultimate comfort reads. It's funny and warm, tremendously readable, and I highly recommend it.

(The Miyazaki movie tends to split the opinions of fans of the book. While it has the same story, in fairly broad strokes at least, it turns the sensibility of the book upside-down: where the book is pragmatic and grounded even in its more magical details, the movie is dreamlike even in its more mundane details. I think that's why it feels so different—at least to me—even though the characters and plot are largely similar. I like both, but they are very much not the same.)

I have not yet read the sequels, partly because I'm afraid that very few things could live up to this book. Those of you who have read Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways: what do you think of them?

And now for some spoilery commentary:

Spoilers express their feelings with green slime )
coraa: (geek girl (uhura))
Word from the laptop shop is that while I may be able to find a fan for my laptop "eventually," I am not going to find one in the "next few months" timeframe. I think that means it's time to give it up as a lost cause, as I can't go that long without a laptop of my own.

That being said, I don't want to go into debt to get a new full-fledged laptop (where by 'full-fledged' I mean 'able to play The Sims 3 and Final Fantasy 14'). So I think what I'll do is get a netbook now, and save up for a new "permanent" laptop later.

So: I would love to hear your recommendations on netbooks!

For my purposes (and please, if this doesn't meet your/the Internet/slashdot/whoever's definition, you don't need to edumacate me because I don't care), a netbook is a laptop, usually small in dimensions, on which I can do basic word processing and access the Internet, but that does not have a huge onboard hard drive, lots of RAM, a beefy video card, etc. I have other borrowable computers for the occasions that I absolutely need something with more processing power, and a NAS RAID array for storage. Basically, I want something that I can write on and use to browse the web, and slip into my backpack for on-the-go writing, and that's it.

I am looking to pay $400 or less including tax and shipping. That means an approximate max of $350 shelf price.

I would prefer something with Windows 7, but it can be cheapo Windows 7 Home or Starter. (I am familiar in that 'broken-in jeans and sneakers' way with Windows, and Linux and Mac are like stiff uncomfortable work clothes with new high-heel shoes to me. I can live with them if necessary, but I'd rather not.) It must, however, have a keyboard; that is, I am not looking for a tablet.

[livejournal.com profile] vom_marlowe had good things to say about the Dell Inspiron netbook series, and I've had good luck with Dell in general. I've also used [livejournal.com profile] ceph's eeePC for some time, happily. But I'd be happy to hear other people's experience.
coraa: (han rocks)
May the Fourth be with you!

 
 
 

I couldn't help it.
coraa: (Default)
My laptop started making great crunching and munching noises, which turned out to be the fan losing it. It is now at a laptop repair shop getting fixed, but I probably won't get it back for a week at least.

So I will probably not be around as much online. I will still be around--it's not like we have a scarcity of computer devices in the house--just, not as much.
coraa: (more food love)
Bad news: My thyme died. Alas, poor thyme....

Good news: That frees up a pot for my brand new shiso seeds!

For those of you who aren't familiar, shiso (in this case, specifically ao shiso, which I believe means green shiso) is an herb used in Japanese cooking. Also possibly other Asian cuisines? But I know it from Japanese cooking.

Despite shiso being part of one of my favorite flavor combinations ever (shiso and umeboshi), I find it difficult to describe. Describing shiso to someone who hasn't had it is sort of like trying to describe mint to someone who's never had it: you wind up saying, "It's... minty, and sort of... mint-flavored." I generally wind up sounding like something out of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: it's an herb almost but not quite entirely unlike basil. Or I say, it tastes a little bit like basil and a little bit like mint and a little bit like green nettles, but mostly it tastes... like... shiso.

If you get the chance to order an ume-shiso roll at a sushi restaurant (it will generally be vegetarian, as it is shiso herb and pickled plum), that will give you an idea.

Anyway! I adore shiso, and it's kind of expensive to buy fresh. (Not much more expensive than any other herb, but not available at every grocery store, so both a bit expensive and a bit inconvenient.) So last time I was at Uwajimaya, I picked up a packet of seeds.

They are now (I hope) happily germinating in my pot. I hope I don't wind up killing them too.

Wish me luck!
coraa: (more food love)
Once again, it's Help Cora Make Dinner time!

This time, I have some chicken thighs I'd like to use. Also a vegetable side would be good. (I'll pick a starch appropriate to the combination, hence no starch poll.)

A note before we begin: I know that "curry seasonings" isn't a thing, nor is "Moroccan seasonings." I used those as shorthands, so I wouldn't have to type in a whole list of spices (and probably hit the character limit).

If you have a Better Idea, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Another note: if I roast the chicken, it will have minimalist seasonings (ie, it will taste mostly like chicken) and have a crispy skin. If I bake, it will have heavier/wetter seasonings, and won't be as crisp, although there may still be some crispiness. If I braise, we're talking mondo seasonings and totally moist/not-crispy chicken. (Biryani is its own thing, of course.)

[Poll #1731422]

(Dessert will be baked apples with cream, if we're hungry enough for dessert.)
coraa: (more food love)
Once again, it's Help Cora Make Dinner time!

This time, I have some chicken thighs I'd like to use. Also a vegetable side would be good. (I'll pick a starch appropriate to the combination, hence no starch poll.)

A note before we begin: I know that "curry seasonings" isn't a thing, nor is "Moroccan seasonings." I used those as shorthands, so I wouldn't have to type in a whole list of spices (and probably hit the character limit).

If you have a Better Idea, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Another note: if I roast the chicken, it will have minimalist seasonings (ie, it will taste mostly like chicken) and have a crispy skin. If I bake, it will have heavier/wetter seasonings, and won't be as crisp, although there may still be some crispiness. If I braise, we're talking mondo seasonings and totally moist/not-crispy chicken. (Biryani is its own thing, of course.)

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 2


What should I do with the chicken thighs?

View Answers

Roast with lemon and garlic
1 (50.0%)

Roast with lime and chipotle
1 (50.0%)

Bake with orange-maple glazeorange
0 (0.0%)

Bake with orange-sesame glaze
0 (0.0%)

Bake with teriyaki glaze
0 (0.0%)

Bake with miso glaze
0 (0.0%)

Bake with tomatoes and chipotle
0 (0.0%)

Bake with sauteed peppers and onions
0 (0.0%)

Bake with pickled plum and shiso
0 (0.0%)

Bake with lime chutney
0 (0.0%)

Braise with curry seasonings, onions and tomatoes
0 (0.0%)

Braise with red wine, garlic and onion
0 (0.0%)

Braise with orange juice, sake and shiso
0 (0.0%)

Braise with orange juice, dried fruit/nuts, and Moroccan seasonings
0 (0.0%)

Chicken biryani
0 (0.0%)

Vegetable side?

View Answers

Roasted beets and carrots
1 (50.0%)

Glazed carrots
0 (0.0%)

Green salad with vinaigrette
0 (0.0%)

Green salad with creamy dressing
0 (0.0%)

Pickled beets
0 (0.0%)

Minted peas
1 (50.0%)

Roasted asparagus
1 (50.0%)

Braised beet greens
0 (0.0%)

Radishes with butter and salt
0 (0.0%)



(Dessert will be baked apples with cream, if we're hungry enough for dessert.)
coraa: (food love)
I make no claims to authenticity for this recipe. I just like it.

It's both vegetarian and meat friendly, and, AFAIK, is also gluten-free friendly, as long as you use a gluten-free soy sauce. I think it's also kosher-friendly (but not vegan).

Fried Rice, Totally Non-Authentic Style )
coraa: (i'm a tiger!)
What's your favorite program/utility/doohicky/whatsit for un-rar-ing .rar files?

How about .tar.gz files?

Parameters: I'm running Windows 7 and prefer not to open a command line just to extract files. Free or inexpensive please.

EDIT: 7zip looks like it fits my requirements quite well, so I'm going with that. Thank you, everyone!
coraa: (food love)
Yes, another one! I'm indecisive.

This time I have a pork tenderloin. The method will be the same regardless (sous vide with seasonings, sear on all sides, make pan sauce with more seasonings), and the question is just: what seasonings?

[Poll #1718700]
coraa: (food love)
Yes, another one! I'm indecisive.

This time I have a pork tenderloin. The method will be the same regardless (sous vide with seasonings, sear on all sides, make pan sauce with more seasonings), and the question is just: what seasonings?

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5


Pork tenderloin with....

View Answers

five-spice powder, hoisin, and honey
3 (60.0%)

mirin and ginger
1 (20.0%)

shiso and pickled plums (umeshiso)
0 (0.0%)

apples and balsamic vinegar
2 (40.0%)

maple and stone-ground mustard
3 (60.0%)

apricot and orange
2 (40.0%)

maple, orange and chipotle
1 (20.0%)

bacon
0 (0.0%)

maple, smoked paprika and ginger
1 (20.0%)

sour cherries and port reduction
2 (40.0%)

currants and red wine vinegar reduction
1 (20.0%)

apples, sage and cream
2 (40.0%)

apples and smoked paprika
1 (20.0%)

apples, rosemary and maple
4 (80.0%)

ginger, sake and shichimi
0 (0.0%)

Actually, you should use....

coraa: (more food love)
This Alton Brown recipe is really good: Roasted Edamame Salad

Vegetarian, vegan, and, as far as I can tell, friendly to both kosher and gluten-free diets.

I modified it slightly (used a whole chopped leek instead of diced scallions, roasted an extra 10 minutes to account for the extra moisture in the leek, and used parsley instead of basil and white wine vinegar instead of red wine), but not enough that I think it made much difference. Very tasty.

(The one suggestion I would make is: don't do what I did. I used edamame in the pod—they were what I had on hand—and shelled them, which took for-freaking-ever. I'd recommend buying pre-shelled frozen edamame.)
coraa: (food love)
The cooking took a stupidly long time*, but I have finally worked out a vegetarian vegetable broth recipe I like—and with it, a vegetarian French onion soup recipe with good flavor. Yay!

* - Admittedly, most of the stupidly long time was making the vegetable broth, which could be made in large batches and then frozen in the future.
coraa: (food love)
I'm having a writing evening, but before I head out, I'm going to chuck a salmon fillet in the sous vide machine with some seasonings. Help me decide which seasonings!

It will be served with rice, with a green vegetable on the side.

[Poll #1716277]
coraa: (food love)
I'm having a writing evening, but before I head out, I'm going to chuck a salmon fillet in the sous vide machine with some seasonings. Help me decide which seasonings!

It will be served with rice, with a green vegetable on the side.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 6


Salmon with....

View Answers

Reduction of red wine, rosemary and garlic
1 (16.7%)

Balsamic vinegar and thyme
1 (16.7%)

Lemon and leek
4 (66.7%)

Lemon and stone-ground mustard
1 (16.7%)

Ginger, sake and soy sauce
2 (33.3%)

Reduction of red onion, white wine vinegar and butter
1 (16.7%)

Ume (pickled plum) and shiso
0 (0.0%)

Miso and brown sugar
1 (16.7%)

Reduction of white wine, chives and butter
1 (16.7%)

Orange juice, lemon zest and balsamic vinegar
2 (33.3%)

Orange juice, garlic and ginger
2 (33.3%)

Court bouillon
1 (16.7%)

Thinly-sliced lemon and red onion
1 (16.7%)

Bacon and diced tomato
0 (0.0%)

Reduction of white wine vinegar, garlic, and mint
1 (16.7%)

coraa: (food love)
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Chocolate mousse.
coraa: (house mouse)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O'Brien

When Mrs. Frisby's frailest child, Timothy, comes down with pneumonia, the doctor insists that he cannot be moved—cannot be taken outside—must remain safe and warm indoors. This presents a problem, though, because Mrs. Frisby is a fieldmouse, and the entire family must move house from the garden to the stream banks soon, lest their home be torn apart when the farmer plows the garden. Mrs. Frisby's quest for an answer leads her to a crow, an owl, and finally the mysterious rats who live beneath the rose bush... and who have an unexplained connection to Mrs. Frisby's late husband.

Oh, I adored this book when I was a kid. I read it for the first time when I was eight? nine? and then again every couple of years until I was in high school. This was my first re-read in a long while, though, and I was pleased by how well it stood up.

In a lot of ways, it's really a remarkable little book. If you leave aside the fact that Mrs. Frisby is clearly too intelligent to be a 'normal' fieldmouse, there's no magic in the book at all. Mrs. Frisby achieves everything she does through courage and fortitude, and the rats do their part through wits, intelligence and good planning (as well as a dose of bravery of their own). And, while the book does include unusual, even superhuman (superrodent?) characters, the heroine is a quite ordinary fieldmouse, a mother, sensible and kind and determined, and while there are other remarkable characters she remains central throughout. (Although I confess, I had a confused little cross-species crush on Justin. I still kind of do.)

Another thing about the book: there really aren't any villains. Even the humans who appear as antagonists are more like forces of nature than "bad guys," which makes perfect sense given their roles in the lives of the animals on the farm.

I think those two things are why I never really could love the movie The Secret of NIMH. On its own, it's not at all a bad animated film—and I'm not a stickler for accuracy in conversions of book to movie; I know that what makes a good book doesn't necessarily make a good movie. But The Secret of NIMH added both magic and a villain, and, to me, that took away a lot of what had made the book special.

Anyway. This is quite clearly a middle-grade book, but if you can see past that, I think it holds up quite well. I just reread it in one gulp, one sitting, one long bubble bath, and I'm glad I did. Highly recommended.

There is one way in which the book dates itself: the rats have gender roles, and the males seem to be in charge. I think the strength of Mrs. Frisby's character (in both sense of the word—she's as well-rounded, and as courageous, as anyone in the book) makes up for the implied gender inequity among the rats, but mileage may vary.

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