What Do I Want To Do Today? Breathe.

I had started writing up a pretty lengthy post about a party I recently planned for a friend but as I was writing it I realized I might not be able to finish it to my satisfaction and also finish all the other things I have/want to do: make two kinds of mini tarts for my mister’s birthday dinner, start putting together the dinner part of the birthday dinner, clean, make the advent calendar I’ve decided I just HAVE to do, put out some fires surrounding the gift I put together for the mister (there will be a post about that, I’m sure), make a banner(s), maybe (big maybe, there) decorate, get stuff together for drinks for the birthday dinner, and do laundry all by tomorrow.

I’m pretty much the love child of those two. Hot, I know.

Now, I’m not trying to complain about how busy I am. I am somewhat busy for me, but I’ve also been busier and I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do then, so I’m not really too stressed about how much I have to do now, I just know that in order to get the most important things done, I have to prioritize. And that means making a shorter post now so I can focus on what I think is most important – that my mister has the best birthday. I’ll write up that longer post about the party later when I have time to focus on it. And you will LIKE IT, dammit. Or not, it’s about all the party stuff I made.. for a party, so it’s a toss up.

Thinking about how I need to focus (you know, when I actually focus) got me thinking about how to keep myself focused.  I’ve always heard that breathing exercises work really well and they have added the bonus of reducing stress.  So I thought I’d look up one of those and give ‘er a go.

Here’s a very general how to breathe, you dumdum from about.com.  It’s (clearly) easy to follow, but it’s nice in that even though it is simple, these instructions are a very basic form of the age old technique of ujjayi breath (that’s a wiki link) that is practiced during yoga asanas (or poses). Just fyi, yoga asanas are that stretching stuff that hippies and hot chicks do for exercise.

And sometimes hippies and hot chicks are one in the same

In case you’re interested, here’s a great instructional YouTube video about Ujjayi Pranayama. It’s great not in that it’s so awesomely informative, but that it’s so kinda hilarious. I mean, the video IS informative so you should check it out, but… I dunno, it makes me laugh.

Now I’m off to breathe and work on stuff.

What Do I Want To Do Today? Learn The Origin Of The Phrase “On The Fritz”

The other day, whilst speaking (look at my fancy language!) about something pretty mundane to the mister I used the phrase, “on the fritz.”  And of course, instead of letting him respond to whatever it was I was saying, I stopped him and asked him if he knew the origin. Because, of course, everyone should respond immediately to all my random, verbally puked out thoughts.

Not really.  Which is why I have this blog.  So, here I am looking for an answer to the origin of “on the fritz” because when I Googled “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” nothing interesting came up.

She’s in Moscow. There you go.

 

So, from whence (See? I’m fancy!) does this random, ubiquitous phrase “on the fritz” come?

NOWHERE.

That’s right.  There are three prevailing theories, but no true discernible origin.  The phrase itself can be traced to about 1902 or 1903 when it was first mentioned in reference to the poor state of domestic affairs, stage shows (that’s the moving pictures where there are no moving pictures, but instead real live people doing something called “acting”), and injuries (random phrase, random references).

One hypothesis is that the word fritz is connected to the WWI nickname for a German soldier… Fritz. Considering that the original phrase showed up in 1902/03 and the German soldierman nickname came into vernacular at around roughly 1914, that kinda makes it a bit of a stretch.

Sorry German dude, you'll become iconic for something else...

Another conclusion/argument/hypothesis from the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins is that the phrase references a comic strip called The Katzenjammer Kids, whose main characters are named Hans and Fritz. They get into a bunch of hijinks and screw up a lot and since this comic strip first appeared in 1897, it doesn’t seem outlandish to posit that “on the fritz” might actually be referencing the Fritz of this comic strip.

Those KRAZY Katzenjammer kids!

The last argument is that “on the fritz” is an imitation of the pfzt noise that faulty machines make. It’s quite an easy association to make and I can see how there would be a correlation.  The theory isn’t completely validated as original references of the phrase show no connection to jacked up machinery, but it’s definitely possible.  Here is a dude (from this site) doing a pretty good job of convincing me:

As some Internet articles point out, the actual OED quotation is in fact in reference to something to do with something “theatrical,” specifically an “open air [performance] that put our opera house show on the Fritz.” But as I read this quotation, I think it is silly not to see it as quite likely of metaphorical construction, primarily. Think about what happens when a stage play fails, or ends — yes, indeed, the lights go out. By about 1890, electric arc lamps in the United States were well on their way to becoming common “fixtures” in the theater, and until tungsten lamps were introduced in 1907, they almost certainly would have been equally commonly and perhaps even constantly “on the fritz.”

 

So what do I make of all of this?  Doesn’t matter.  What matters is what the people think.  Here’s a screen shot of the Google image search of “on the fritz”:

Puttin’ on the fritz. AHH, I got you with my horrible pun!!

 

 

If you’re interested, here are the sites I used to find this non-answer:

http://www.word-detective.com/101797.html

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/882/etymology-of-on-the-

fritz-the-usual-baloney

http://www.irosetta.com/questions/origins-of-on-the-fritz

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ont4.htm

What Do I Want To Do Today? Share The Verdict Of That D@mn Awesome Thanksgiving Turkey

In my last post I showed the brining process that I used for our Thanksgiving turkey. I promised that I would let everyone (all two of you that read this blog) know how it turned out.

But before I get to that, let me explain a bit about how we had to cook this bastard (I’m just assuming that the bird was born out of turkey wedlock, so there is a possibility I’m wrong on that one).

A.Brown instructs, as seen here in this YouTube video, that one should cook their turkey for 30 min at 500 degrees, insert a probe (hee hee) thermometer into the thickest part of the breast (hee hee), put an aluminum tent on the turkey, and then reduce the oven to 350 degrees.  It should, at that point, only take 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the bird is cooked (meaning the total cook time is 2 to 2 1/2 hours). Oh, and don’t forget to put some oil on the bird before you cook it!  Once the turkey is ready, cover it and let it rest for 15 min before carving.

Let me state, for the record, that I (and my mother) had every good intention of following this recipe to the letter.  This is partly because I’m a self diagnosed anal retentive – thanks WebMD! – and partly because my mom was cool with me doing whatever and I said whatever was doing what Alton Brown told me to do.

As we’ve all heard, the road to hell (and dry turkey) is paved with good intentions.

First, roadblock to turkey success?  My parents own what I think might be the first oven ever forged in the free world.  That bitch be old.  Not that she’s not still kicking – when we turn the oven on, everyone (who’s smart) stands back because, no shit, the oven SHOOTS FIRE.  Yup, the oven blows it’s doors open and shoots flames when the pilot kicks on.  If I had a video camera (or a phone with a video function), I would have taken footage.  It’s hilarious and frightening all at once.  As hot as you might imagine a fire-shooting oven might get, it actually doesn’t go up to 500 degrees.  That’s right, folks.  The oven only gets up to 450. We decided we’d cook the turkey for 30 min at 450 and then follow the rest of the directions as listed.

If only that had happened.  I had told my mom the directions, but since I thought I’d be doing the actual turkey set up/ cooking, I didn’t really stress how important I thought it was to follow said directions, nor did I bother printing them out or showing her how to find them online.

My mom, who is the sweetest woman in the world, decided she would let me sleep in on Thanksgiving day since she knew I had stayed up late to work on decorations for my niece’s birthday and that she would surprise me by cooking the turkey for me. So, for Thanksgiving (and every day) I’m thankful for a badass mom who is amazing and wonderful and tried her best to cook a turkey from memory the way her daughter insisted it was supposed to be done.

So, how did we (and by we, I mean my mom) actually cook the turkey?  It was put in the oven at 450 degrees for an hour (maybe an hour and a half, we’re not sure).  Then the oven was turned down to 350 ish (nothing is accurate in that oven) with no aluminum tent put on.  Thirty minutes later when I got up, we realized there was no tent on the bird nor was the thermometer inserted. Whoops. We fixed that posthaste. Then we also realized, since my mom was also doing all of the rest of the Thanksgiving prep by herself, that no oil had been put on the turkey.  Oven opened back up, and everything adjusted.  Oh, since the turkey was on a rack in a pan, we put stuffing all around and under it.  Total, I think we cooked the turkey about 3 1/2 or 4 hours – pretty much double what it should have been cooked. Oh, and then we forgot to cover it when we let it rest.

So with all that – I think it’s easy to see how the turkey would be kinda dry and not good.  WRONG.  It was effin’ delicious.  The breast was a little drier than I had hoped, but it was still really moist and better than most turkey I’d had in recent years.  The dark meat was insanely amazing, too.

So verdict?  I’m going to call this recipe “unfuckupable.” It wasn’t perfect, but we didn’t cook it perfectly and it still turned out really great.  My mom declared that from now on we are going to brine all the turkeys we cook. Then she told my dad that we were getting a new oven (she said this in kinda the same way I insisted we were going to brine the turkey.  Clearly I am my mother’s daughter).

In all the rush and bustle, I didn’t take many pics, so… sorry?  Here are the pics I did take:

 

What Do I Want To Do Today? Make A D@mn Awesome Thanksgiving Turkey

When I talked to my mom last week about how we were going to get Thanksgiving dinner together, I casually brought up that I thought it would be fun to brine a turkey. And by “fun” I meant, “come hell or high water, I’m going to brine a turkey because I’ve got it in my head that this is the only way to prepare a turkey and only savages eat turkey any other way.”

My mom was reluctant to agree, but I promised her that I had the power of THE GOD OF COOKERY on my side (without realizing it, every time I write GOD OF COOKERY, I do so in all caps, notice I’ve done so, and then decide that’s the way it should be) and thus will be victorious.  I’ve used Alton Brown’s recipes before and he has yet to fail me.

I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t have to send some hate mail all up in ABrown’s biz on Black Friday.

This is the recipe that I used and here is the corresponding YouTube video (it’s a great video, btw) from the Good Eats episode where the recipe was originally shared.

And of course, it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t make you look a bunch of random photos I took:

While waiting for the brine to cook, cool, and do it’s biz, here’s what I did:

Once the brine was ready, here’s how the mister and I put it all together:

On Friday I’ll post whether or not the briny turkey was successful.

What Do I Want To Do Today? Make A Tutu

On my very long list of things that I eventually want to learn, make or do (which I hope will forever stay a long list) making a tutu was pretty high up there.  I know what you’re thinking – that I wanted to prancy prance around with my homemade tutu, but actually I have a passel of nieces for whom I have been DYING to make tutus (then I can make one for myself).

My only regret is… that I didn’t make a tutu.

Luckily, I got better and got it together and made a tutu for my darling little niece who recently had surgery (no worries, y’all, she’s a tough cookie and came through with flying colors.  And a tutu.)

I used this YouTube video to figure out how to make it.  Here are a couple of photos (who am I kidding? there are a lot of photos) that I took just because I could.  Enjoy!

 

What Do I Want To Do Today? Figure Out Why Wood Rulers Have That Metal Strip

It’s been a busy and hectic last week – projects and stuff and some other stuff and world hoop day and 11/11/11 being a freaky date – so as you can imagine I’m only allowing myself time to ask the really hard-hitting, tough questions such as ‘why does my ruler have that metal thing in it?’

I don’t have time to wonder why we haven’t figured out anything better than this. I need to know about the questionable design of my archaic ruler!

Since neither my New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind nor my New York Times Practical Guide to Practically Everything: The Essential Companion for Everyday Life had any information on it (come on, guys, seriously?  This is a big question.  I mean, who really needs to know about Bertrand Russell?), I had to go search the nets.

Here are some of the possible explanations (since I couldn’t actually find a definitive answer):

  • the strip actually prevents warping of the wood and thus increases the ruler’s longevity
  • it helps ensure straight lines
  • the metal helps preserve the wooden edge from all those damn straight lines you keep drawing (which goes back to the whole longevity thing)
  • also, that strip can be used to help tear paper evenly

So what do I think about this clearly important piece of “maybe it’s right” knowledge I picked up?

I think the only real assistance it provides is to this lady, and she uses it for evil.

Also, stop buying wooden rulers.  Metal has the best edges and last the longest and plastic works in a pinch.

Oh, and one last thing: I am waiting to hear from several manufacturers (the ones that aren’t in China) to see if there is an actual answer.  If I find anything, I’ll update the post (because this is serious business).

UPDATE!  BIG OL’ UPDATE:

I’m so excited because one of the manufacturers I contacted actually responded to me.  I don’t know if you know anything about manufacturers, but if you ask a stupid question, they probably won’t respond. But, kudos to Del at the Ruler Company in the UK for going ahead and answering my kinda ridiculous question (honestly, he probably thought I was a 10 year old doing a science fair project).  Give them some love if you’re ever in the UK.  Here’s their site: http://www.rulerco.co.uk/

This is the company’s response:

‘The main reason is to provide and maintain a straight edge for drawing.

There are two possible problems with wood.

Firstly it can ‘move’ ( commonly called warping) if the ruler is used  in different temperatures and humidities.

Secondly the edge can be damaged by being dropped or struck.

The metal edging is a way of addressing these two matters, although it does not provide a guaranteed prevention.’

So it’s basically all the answers I found, just rolled into one. Good to know.

What Do I Want To Do Today? Read About Chinese Factory Workers

I recently joined a book club (I know, big surprise given the state of my writing abilities). But considering how many projects I tend to undertake, it’s rare for me to take the time (i.e. force myself to sit still long enough) to read a book so I figured this would be a good way for me to expand my horizons a bit.

Since no one wanted to read my books (yup, another big surprise considering that I recommended Bossypants and The Disappearing Spoon; two books that I acknowledge as probably wholly inadequate for a book club, but dammit I wanted to read them!), we’re reading Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China.

This is the real face of your Coach purse and Nokia phones, fat Americans!

Without going too much into detail, the Amazon review states that this book is “An eye-opening and previously untold story, Factory Girls is the first look into the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China.”

I suppose it is eye-opening in the fact that more than half of the book was not about “the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China.”  But, dear blog reader, I will leave that for you to explore for yourself.

To be fair, it was an interesting read and I learned a lot, but it just seemed that the writer got so lost telling the story she really wanted to tell that she then had to try to justify it by loosely interweaving it to the stories of the migrant workers. The connection felt tenuous at best.

Then again, I don’t read much anymore (and when I do, see my above recommendations) so maybe I missed the point.   Either way, this is going to be an interesting book club discussion.

What Do I Want To Do Today? Pay It Forward Project, Three of Five

I actually finished this third Pay It Forward project back in August as part of my friend’s ice cream social birthday party that I designed and decorated, but since I’m lazy I’m just getting around to posting the pics.

For info on the Pay It Forward project and the first two projects, click here and here.

I knew my friend liked tissue poms and that she had some interesting trees in her backyard, so I thought I would make these tissue pom vines so she could hang them up for the party.

That lady in the tissue pom vines link up there took a lot of great pics and explains really well how to make the vines, so Imma just post my pics (and of course comment on them because I can’t keep my mouth shut).

And here are pics of them hanging.  Sorry they aren’t great. Click the pic if you want to see a bigger version of a not great photo.

What Do I Want To Do Today? Admire An Amazing Event Designer

While tooling around on the internet, I learned about David Stark, the visionary behind David Stark Design. (check that site out – it’s amazingly creative and completely interactive)

I am seriously floored by this man’s vision and ability.  If it can be imagined on a grand scale, this dude can make it happen.  He has worked for almost every big name in the biz creating the most amazing events.

Here are a few photos of his designs that I thought were just incredibly stunning:

David Stark and his team created gigantic curtains made from 15,000 paint chips for the American Patrons of Tate Artist’s Dinner in Manhattan.
To celebrate the opening of the Walker Art Center expansion in Minneapolis, Stark created a paint-can cityscape on the tables.
For the Metropolitan Opera’s 125th Anniversary, Stark took all of the playbills and graphics from the Opera’s history and displayed them on large and small scale throughout the venue.
See that amazing cloud like thing? That’s shoes. Stark and his team constructed the sculpture for the Robin Hood Foundation’s Gala to help eradicate poverty. All of the shoes were donated after the event.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Originally Stark studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, but once graduated, he found his calling in working on large scale installations and eventually event planning.  When asked about his journey from artist to designer he says that his art career is still alive – it’s just expressed in the form of parties and events.  You can read more about his thoughts on his career here.

One last thing about Mr. Stark.  A quote from the intro to his book, David Stark Design: “My heart tells me to innovate and play without rules, make the sky the limit, and believe that there will always be an audience for fearlessness.”

What Do I Want To Do Today? Learn Common Design Patterns

For anyone who has done anything with fabrics, party planning, home decorating, or anything of that sort, you’ve probably come across an interesting design or pattern and thought, “I like that thing that looks kinda like sideways space invaders” or “that flowery French looking pattern is really cool”.

Here’s the deal, all that stuff has a name.  And if you’re like me, you had no idea because you didn’t get a fancypants degree in Design.  Well, I knew that the sideways space invaders were called houndstooth, but I was clueless about the Frenchy looking flowers (it’s called jacquard, which I had heard of, but never knew to associate with that pattern).

Lucky for us, Amy Atlas, the party planner extraordinaire, created this amazing board with a breakdown of the most common design patterns.  Here you go people:

clicky click click to read