Volunteering for Nerds and Shut-Ins

30 12 2009

This isn’t a typical book post.  I’m roughly 70 pages from being completely caught up with the Anita Blake series, which has really overwhelmed the rest of my reading.  I am also almost finished with Malcom Gladwell’s What The Dog Saw, which was a holiday gift and totally freaking rocks.  One of the most interesting and engaging books I’ve read in a really long time.  Go and read it!  But, really, this post isn’t about any book in particular – rather I want to talk with you about Project Gutenberg.

For those that aren’t familiar, Project Gutenberg, started in 1971 by Michael Hart, is working on converting all books into etexts.  They take scans of books that are in the public domain, meaning their copyright has expired, and transfer them into computer files.  The goal is to basically build a huge online library.  Everything is free and there are over 30,000 books to date with more being added all the time.  I’m personally not a big ebook reader, I don’t have a dedicated reader and I have a lot of trouble trying to read a book on a computer.  My brain simply does not want to do it.  However, I’m a huge fan of this operation and others like it – most notably Google Books (which, man, is that a controversial topic in the book world).  I think it is really important to make books available to anyone, anywhere and also to preserve those books that are older, out of print, not very popular and/or difficult to find.

So, with all that being said, I want to share my new hobby.  One of Project Gutenberg’s sources is Distributed Proofreaders.  People will upload scans of books, they have some sort of computer magic that converts it to text, and then volunteers proofread it and publish it.  And I am now one of those volunteers!  And you should be, too!  It’s super easy, takes literally almost no time at all, and is rewarding.  They recommend a page a day, which takes less than 10 minutes.  They have a great program for beginners – specific “beginners only” books and a network of mentors that double check your work and give you feedback.  It isn’t editing or anything, you don’t need to have a bunch of grammar or formatting knowledge – you basically make sure that the converted text matches the original scanned page.  Easy peasy, y’all.  So, if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to contribute to society more, or if you simply care about knowledge and want to make sure it is preserved, or if you’re just bored – go be a Distributed Proofreader.  Because if my lazy ass can do it, anyone can.


Dad Didn’t Drop the Cheesecake, or Xmas at Lo’s House 2K9.

27 12 2009

Despite the shitty rain we had (that got us out of shoveling our sidewalk from the remaining ice and snow), Xmas this year was pretty rad. Big Easy managed to get EVERY TOY EVER MADE, I got cute boots (and a fancy candy thermometer – watch out caramels, I’m coming back for your ass!), and the family got a delicious dinner. On the menu? Beef Wellington, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, and Kroger brand White House rolls that were brain-meltingly delicious. OH. And red velvet cheesecake. Since I was cooking the meal, I decided not to accommodate my pain-in-the-ass-cheesecake-hating sister like I did on Thanksgiving when I ran out of vanilla extract and made minty chocolate cupcakes. Also different from Thanksgiving, my father didn’t drop my cheesecake. In fact, he didn’t even come near it, except to consume it, so that was good.  My friend Shira was there to join us in our festivities, which was awesome because sometimes drinking wine with my mom could use a third party.  Also, she took pictures of the food I made which of course I fail to do at every turn because I am a big fail all over the place. Except for delicious meals that I make. Oh, and we can’t forget the sausage dip! I shall include this amazing recipe here because it is addictive and I DO NOT EVEN LIKE SAUSAGE. It’s pretty much the best thing ever. So, here’s my Xmas in a nutshell:

Dad’s Totally Bitchin’ Sausage Dip

  • 1 package sage sausage
  • 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
  • 1 can Rotel
  1. Cook the sausage til no longer poisonous.
  2. Add cream cheese.
  3. Add Rotel.
  4. Consume with Tostitos Scoops, then realize 5 minutes later it’s all gone and you need to make more. Start to weep.

And here are some phooootooooos (courtesy of Shira):

Yep...all the usual suspects are there...Man, that beef looks good. I wish I still had some.

I just thought you might want to see a shot where the wine wasn't clouding your judgment.

Theeeeeeeere's the RVC...and that pesky wine. Don't worry - it done got drunk later!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

24 12 2009

Oh mah goodness, my holiday season has be cuh-ray-zee.  A while back, I had the brilliant plan to make all of my Chrismakkuh gifts this year – but then about two weeks ago I remember I was incredibly lazy and hadn’t even really started.  YIKES.  So, the stress of randomly having to buy a butt-ton of gifts (I am the oldest of 8 children, y’all), plus 3 holiday parties in 5 days, plus Snowpocalypse 2K9, PLUS a wicked cold has all equaled me being a slackass and letting Lo do all the posting.  BUT!  Now I’m just waiting around for the UPS man to deliver my big package (heh – that sounds dirty), so I figured I’d finally share the recipes for all the deliciousness I made at the cookie exchange.

Mmmmm - Christmas Sangria

I’ll start with the Wassail, or as Kona so aptly named it, Christmas Sangria.  I got the recipe here.  I went and bought all the ingredients at Target (except for the brandy, obvs – what up, ABC laws??), so I used sherry instead of Madeira.  I also accidentally bought caramel flavored cider.  DO NOT REPEAT THIS MISTAKE.  The punch was still super yummy, but also super sweet, I think I only used 3/4 c sugar.  And the spices were pretty masked.  It was good, but it should have been better.  Ah well.

So easy, so delicious!

For the cookie exchange, I ended up making snickerdoodle blossoms, recipe courtesy of Abby Sweets.  The only adjustment I made to the recipe was adding half a bag of toffee bits – because snickerdoodle + toffee = yum and snickerdoodle + chocolate = yum, therefore snickerdoodle + toffe + chocolate = OMGYES yum.  (I’m a mathmagician!)  Trust me, make these – they were fan-friggin-tastic.

I was sooo stoked to find Hanukkah sprinkles! Way to go, Hoboken Target!!

I saved the best for last – and that is THE BEST BUTTERCREAM FROSTING I’VE EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH.  Seriously, I don’t like buttercream – I generally refuse to make it.  But I found some Hanukkah sprinkles and decided to make funfetti cupcakes and when I went to make the frosting, I realized I didn’t have any cream.  So, I turned to my personal favorite baking book, Baking Illustrated.  After I made it and had frosted my cupcakes, I actually had to throw away the rest because it was so delicious and I couldn’t stop eating it and I was afraid I’d go into a diabetic coma.  You’re either going to need a stand mixer or some serious stamina to make these – it takes a lot of beating to get a frosting this light and silky – and it is soooo worth it.  So, without further ado, here is my holiday present to you.  You are welcome.
Rich Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut in quarters [The softened part is really important]
  1. Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer [or large metal mixing bowl]; place bowl over a pan of simmering water.  (Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.)  Whisking gently but constantly, heat the mixture until it is thin and foamy and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  2. Beat the egg mixture at medium-high speed until light, airy, and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, one piece at a time.  (After adding half the butter, the buttercream may look curdled; it will smooth out with the additional butter.)  Once all the butter is added, increase the speed to high and beat 1 minute until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined.  (The buttercream can be covered and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

(All pictures taken by Kona – aren’t they good??)

Making Candy, or Lo’s Epic Fail

21 12 2009

I had this big dream of making ADORABLE little Xmas packages filled with cookies and homemade Mexican-chocolate caramels for people I like.

Sumsing eez not right!

That is what happened. This is the recipe I used (plus cocoa, chipotle, cinnamon, and a touch of cumin). I followed the directions. I used a candy thermometer (which met its maker shortly after pouring the caramels into the pan for cooling). I’m thinking that I didn’t cook it for long enough, even though I cooked it til 244 F. They tasted delicious, but…well…you can see:

Caramels don't taste good with foil and wax paper stuck in them.


This is what I feel like. On the inside.

Deeeeeck the Halls With Booze and Cookies!

14 12 2009

FalalalalaLALALALA! Hey! How ya doin’? Are you excited about the holidays? WE ARE! We are SO excited, in fact, that this past Saturday El hosted a little shindig at Kona’s house wherein we exchanged cookies, ate food, played Rock Band, and drank booooooze! Specifically, this booze:

The best part is the evil orange, riddled with cloves! EVIIIIIL!

I don’t remember what it’s called, something about wassel? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask El. Maybe she’ll post the recipe. Maybe she’ll punch you in the throat. It depends on what kind of mood she’s in. Anyway, everyone made some really, REALLY delicious cookies. Some were chocolatey and minty, some were chocolatey and cherry-y, some were white chocolate macadamia [drool]. I decided on one of my new favorite classics, Dorie Greenspan’s Midnight Crackles, wherein I just upped the amount of cinnamon and cloves (note: next time, I’ll make the same changes this person did – they could use a touch of vanilla). They got everyone’s approval, including my dad’s, even though he was not invited to the festivities due to the fact that he is almost a senior citizen and also a dude. (Hi dad!) El not only made the yummy Wassel-ish punch/cider, but also some yummy Hanukkah-themed mini cupcakes (the buttercream was to-die-for) AND snickerdoodle blossoms which were UH-MAY-ZING. After we ate hors d’oeuvre and cookies and properly exchanged what we were there to exchange, the REAL fun began when we got just a teeny bit tipsy and we rocked out on Rock Band. I learned that even though I am hopeless as a drummer, my destiny in life is to sing Ballroom Blitz. Anyway, I highly recommend doing something similar because it’s always nice to get together with your buddies and get drunk. The cookies just give you a good excuse.

A SMORGASBORD! Without, you know, sandwiches. Though I guess you could MAKE sandwiches out of the cookies...

Midnight Crackles. Not to be confused with me, the Midnight Rider.

Cranberry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Shockingly, I really liked these despite my fruit + chocolate aversion. Bravissimo!


White chocolate macadamia, all pretty and packaged. Note that mine came in a giant Tupperware. Gangsta, son.

This is what we think we looked like. Our band name? Crucial Taunt. I was BORN in Kowloon Bay!!

A Convo With El & Lo: Sometimes We Kinda Work

9 12 2009

I! Am! Your singing telegram! BAM!

Lauren: Okay, I’m back,
and with fresh breath!
Elizabeth: I’m chewing gum!
So my breath is also fresh!
Like my rhymes!
Lauren: So true!
I need to call people about their past due accounts, but I really do not feel like it.
Elizabeth: You should start sending them singing telegrams
Lauren: Singing telegrams!
Elizabeth: You know – the old “We’re In The Money” song
but with lyrics changed to “You owe us money”
Lauren: Why don’t you come here and do my job?
come down here and work as my singing telegram?
Elizabeth: What’s the pay like?
Lauren: Um…
how do you feel about stale muffins and hot coffee?
Elizabeth: Pretty good
Lauren: Then you will be very rich, madame.
Elizabeth: Sweet ass
Lauren: Indeed.
Okay, now I have to go call about our money.
I’ll use your tactics and let you know how it goes.
Elizabeth: luck!
Lauren: Thanks!

[Here’s the real reason for this post.  Maaaan, Thursdays on NBC consistently make us lizz all over the place.  As Salt ‘n’ Pepa would say – Get up on this!]

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Shit That Lo Likes

8 12 2009

Martha has Good Things. Oprah has Favorite Things. The Wonders have That Thing You Do. I have Shit That I Like. This isn’t necessarily a food post. It’s just a bunch of crap that I am really digging on today. Normally I spend my days filled with bile and vitriol, but in lieu of current events (i.e. The Holidays) I’m trying to be more positive. This is the best I can do. So here they are, in no particular order.

If you haven’t seen any of the videos this guy does, you’re a jackass.

Yes, I’m totally serious. Levi Johnston is the Dennis the Menace to Sarah Palin’s Mr. Wilson. Plus, he’s not a homophobe!

He may have never seen a gay in Wasilla before, but that won't stop him from being an icon!!

This site. Because OMG, 2/2/10!!!!!!!

You're welcome, ladies and gentlemen.

Because I cannot, in good conscience, dislike this woman.

El lent me this book and I am just loving it.

Shockingly, I liked Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette as well, despite Kirsten Dunst, who I definitely dislike.

This is no shocker.


And, finally, duh.

To clarify, that is my spitting image. From the lady to the bed. I am not making that up. Ahem.