Month: November 2012

Review: Zona Rosa Cappuccino (Zona Rosa Caffe, Pasadena CA)

Given the amount of Starbucks stuff on this site, you might think I do my coffee drinking exclusively at one of my many local Starbucks locations. This isn’t true. I go there a lot, because it’s the closest coffee joint to my house, but living in Pasadena I do have a large number of independent coffeeshops available to me, and I visit them when I can. So, in the spirit of Small Business Saturday, here’s a review of a beverage from one of those local, independent coffee places. Zona Rosa Caffe is a great little shop in the Playhouse district. I’m linking to the Yelp page, because their website is one of those Flash monstrosities with autoplaying music. That tasty-looking drink in the picture is a Zona Rosa Cappuccino. The first thing anyone with barista training will notice is that it is not, in fact, what we would normally call a cappuccino — there is far too little foam. Given the ratio of milk to foam, and the presence of chocolate, this is more of a mocha. But Cappuccino is what it’s called on the menu board, so that’s what I’m calling it here. The Zona Rosa Cappuccino is a mix of espresso (their own roast), steamed milk, and Mexican chocolate (probably Ibarra). Usually there’s whipped cream on top, but I’m avoiding that particular temptation these days. Like a...

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How Blinkie completely lost her groove

One thing has become abundantly clear to me as I’ve spent time staring at a blinking cursor over the past couple of months — my writing flow is pretty much gone. I’ve been making sure to update this blog a couple times a week, but each entry just seems to be a bunch of disorganized thoughts haphazardly blathered into the text editor. There’s no hook, there’s no logical progression, there’s no flow to anything. My non-Starbucks stuff pretty much only gets traffic via pityclicks from friends, but that’s no excuse for being boring. Plus, I’m not exactly gonna get any new readers with these yawnfests. Likewise I’ve got a monthly podcast stalled out mid-script, because I just can’t get any momentum on it. I’ve got ideas, but I just can’t get them into words on the screen. And I find myself spending much more time going “I need to write something” than actually writing. The usual recommended cure for this sort of thing is more writing, which for obvious reasons is easier said than done. Or maybe I need to spend more time planning things out, so that when I do start making words they’re in a logical order. Or maybe there’s just something missing somewhere that’s throwing me off. All I know is, it’s taken me forever just to write a blog entry about how I can’t write these...

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The Bland Rolls of Blandness

In my last post, I mentioned that my Thanksgiving menu included Pumpkin Pull-Apart Rolls. This is one of my favorite recipes — they’re easy to make and they come out perfect and delicious. Basically you mix all the ingredients, let the dough rise for an hour, make them into balls and stick them in pans, let it rise for another 40 minutes, then bake. Having mapped out my cooking down to the minute for today, I noted the two easiest options for baking — do everything the night before, or do the mixing the night before, stick the pans in the fridge to slow the rise, then throw them in the oven while the turkey is resting (it’s tired, poor thing). For simplicity’s sake, I decided on making them last night. So there I was, balling up the dough and putting it into the pans. As I pulled out the canola oil to brush the tops, I thought to myself “Hmm, why wasn’t this out already? I thought there was oil in the dough …” Realization dawned. I looked at the recipe, and yup. I had gotten so spaced out watching my Kitchen-Aid dough hook do all the wrist-breaking work for me that I had completely forgotten to put half the ingredients into the dough. Salt, sugar, and oil. They rose perfectly fine, or I would have realized earlier....

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Eat all the eats!

For most of my life, Thanksgiving dinner has been lovingly cooked by my mom, for my immediate family plus whatever strays we happened to pick up. Last year, sometime during the summer, my dad tactfully observed that they hosted a fair number of family dinners and barbecues, and wouldn’t it be nice if someone else hosted something for a change. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was volunteering to host Thanksgiving at my place. And despite small emergencies like the cat coughing up Lovecraftian horrors the night before, I managed not to eff it up completely. That may have been a tactical error, because now I’m pretty much on the hook for Thanksgiving until the end of time. This year I started pondering the menu partway through October. By the beginning of November I had a menu planned out. Two weeks in advance I got the turkey and a bunch of the ingredients. Once my brining plans were finalized I got the rest and mapped out my time with military precision. I’ve got one oven, two slow cookers (one on loan), a five-burner stove and a fridge so big I keep feeling like I should attempt no landings on Europa. On the pretense that you care, here’s what’s on the menu this year: one 14-lb turkey, brined and roasted the Alton Brown way turkey gravy made...

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Maybe I was bitten by a radioactive trivet.

As some of y’all are aware, I have an unusually high resistance to heat. I enjoy 100 degree weather. I never notice getting sunburned until I’m in lobster territory. Touching hot things only rarely leaves a mark. I call it a superpower for a reason. You may scoff at my hyperbole, so let me tell you a little story that happened to me today: I was making chicken for lunch. Used a potholder to take a pan out of a 400 degree oven. Upon inspection, it was clear the chicken wasn’t done so I’d need to move the pan out of the way and finish it in a skillet. I actively thought to myself, “That pan is still hot from the oven. I need a potholder.” And lo, I put a potholder on my hand and moved the pan safely like a motherfucking adult. Not five goddamn seconds later I thought “I’d better move it over a little more” and sure enough, I grabbed the pan with my bare hand — potholder still on my other hand! — and moved it. End result of grabbing a 400 degree pan? A brief pain and not a single mark on my hand. Doesn’t sound like a superpower? Consider the fact that I do stupidass things like that all the time, and I still have full mobility of all ten fingers. I’ve grabbed a hot...

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Operation Stop Being A Blob update

So not too long ago, I stepped on the scale and discovered that I’d hit 200 lbs. Everyone has a different ideal weight, but for me at 5’7″, knowing what I used to weigh, that was the last straw. I’ve struggled with my weight since I moved away to college and immediately slid into the soda-and-chips diet. I’ve done Weight Watchers a couple of times with great results (lost 25 lbs each time) but inevitably fell back into my old eating patterns. I like chips and fries and white rice and soda, and I drink sugary caffeinated drinks the way a lot of people drink alcohol. I work a desk job at home, in an area full of coffee shops and restaurants. I’m a decent cook but often lazy as hell and I get bored with things if I eat them too often. Pretty much a recipe for blobularity. To make matters worse, 90% of my extra fat goes straight to my gut, pretty much the least healthy place to be carrying it. Add in a family history of diabetes and hypertension, and you get a lot of reasons to lose weight. After seeing the scale hit two bills I decided to start on Operation Stop Being A Blob. I started it gradually by attempting to make better food choices and starting on the Couch to 5K running program....

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“I think there was something funny in that potato I ate …”

By popular request, and by popular I mean the two people who responded to me on Twitter, here’s a post about the tabletop rpg I’m part of. Better known as #rpgfuckyeah, in our caffeine-fueled midgame tweets. It’s set in the retro post-apocalyptic world of the Fallout video games, with atmosphere provided by papercraft and an iTunes playlist of period music and radio transmissions (awesomely voice-acted by some Pendant folk). Instead of meeting a mysterious person in a tavern, our little band of adventurers was chosen by (possibly rigged) lots to leave the safety of our vault to find a new supply of food. That’s kind of faded into Macguffin territory during the rest of our exploits. During the first session we nicknamed our group the League of Extraordinary Assholes, because we discovered that all of us had treated Charisma as a dump stat. The most charismatic member of the group has a completely-average Charisma of 5 out of 10. She’s also the one who started our first fight by telling a guy “I’m going to stab you in the face” and attempting to make good on it. This hasty sketch blatantly traced over a picture of Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove is my character, Joe. Joe is not the brains of the operation. His Intelligence score is 3 out of 10. I’m not a big minmaxer but I threw most...

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What I’m drinking: Venti two-pump no-whip Gingerbread Latte

For most people, the big drink of the holiday season is the Eggnog latte. Not me. No, after all the time I spent listening to eggnog steaming (it’s way louder than milk) and making these drinks, and fielding questions about nonfat or soy eggnog lattes, I’m pretty much done with eggnog forever. That doesn’t mean I have to Scrooge my way through the season, though, because the return of the Eggnog Latte means the return of my true holiday drink obsession: the Gingerbread Latte.  A normal GL is topped with whipped cream. Since I’m trying not to expand to spherical proportions over the next few months, I order it without whipped cream. And since I prefer my drinks less sweet these days, I get it with two pumps of syrup rather than four (grande) or five (venti). They still shake the nutmeg on top, though, so it retains most of its festiveness. For an extra treat, try a gingerbread latte with one pump of Chai. The verdict on that from everyone who tries it is, “It tastes like Christmas!” Because it...

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Review: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Chai mix

This may seem shocking, given the amount of coffee I drink, but I’m one of those rare people who likes drinking coffee and tea. And given my love of the Pumpkin Spice Latte*, it’s only natural that I was dying to try out Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice chai mix as soon as I saw it. Basically it’s a canister of powder, made with mostly normal sounding ingredients (with only a few polysyllabic chemically things, and tame ones at that). It’s got sugar, nonfat milk, tea, spices, coconut oil and a few random gibs and gobs for flavor and shelf stability. You mix it with hot water and bam, instant chai**! There’s times in my life when I want a sugary, caffeinated drink with a minimum of effort. This mix is almost perfectly suited for those times. The flavor is good, if a little sweet for my liking. The spices are spiceful. If you’re not big on tea, don’t worry — you won’t really taste the black tea in this. American chai tea lattes tend heavily toward spice and sugar rather than tea flavor and this is no exception. 23 grams of sugar per serving, according to the nutrition facts. If you’re looking for something less froufrousugardrink and more tea-like, you should probably leave this on the shelf and look for unsweetened Chai you can brew from loose tea. The powder...

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First string post in the new blog!

Another day, another theme. I like this one a little better, don’t you? And to keep my momentum rolling, here’s a new blog post to go along with the new theme. Today’s Topic Nobody Gives A Crap About But Me is: what I’m knitting! Right now I’m forcing myself to use up the huge Smaug-like stash of yarn I’ve acquired, and not buy any new yarn. As a string addict, this is tough, but I’m digging in with the four(!) sweater-sized piles of yarn I acquired for various sweater ideas. This bad boy is Aidez, a free pattern from Berocco, made with Berocco Peruvia Quick. Thickass yarn = faster sweater! Except “fast” is a relative term when there’s this much freakin’ cabling. This is the back of the sweater, and I’ve just gotten to the bit where the armholes are gonna go. The rest of the sweater should go faster. There’s two screwups in the cable crosses, can you see them? I don’t cable stuff often enough to catch these things until it’s too late. Luckily I don’t really care much, it’s one of those “nobody will notice unless you point it out, and then they won’t care” sort of things. You can’t tell from the crappy iPad picture there, but the yarn itself is kind of a decent olive green that sort of matches my eyes. Got it...

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