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Ladle Research

I would be horrible at five-minute shopping sprees–the ones where people race around stores blindly and desperately stripping products from shelves.  I’d probably stand there comparing goods and looking up reviews online before cautiously plucking, say, a vegetable peeler from its hook and placing it gingerly in my cart. Ding! Shopping spree over.

I like cooking and I like good deals, which is why the wedding registry thing is stressing me out. I realize that the registry is basically a shopping spree in slow motion, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I now feel compelled to research dozens of products to make sure people are getting the best quality kitchenware for the best value. Even though these will be gifts from my family and friends, I can’t break the habit of shopping as if I’m spending my own money. And really, I don’t want someone to buy me (i mean, us)  a pizza stone that costs $120 when I could just get some kiln tiles from Home Depot for ten times less.

After spending about two hours hemming and hawing about which Kitchen Aid stand mixer to choose, I decided to tackle something easier: ladles. Brainless, right? But instead of just committing what looked like the best choice (great ratings and a reasonable $9.99) I had to read the reviews:

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

The Best Ladle in the Universe, May 11, 2010

By (Seattle, WA) – See all my reviews

This review is from: Oxo Good Grips Brushed Stainless Steel Ladle (Kitchen)

If I had to rate this ladle (which I just did) and only had 5 stars with which to do it (also just happened) I would be very disappointed that one thousand stars weren’t available, for this ladle is by far the greatest invention of all time. Traditionally, I have assumed ladles were used only for pulling large amounts of liquid from pots, but then I discovered the massive amount of heroin that can be “cooked” in a ladle, and let me tell you, it changed my life. That eureka moment for me happened when I got a bunsen burner cheap at a yard sale and rigged it to the gas line at the motel where I live. The bunsen burner (which rocks, by the way) melted every spork I lifted from discarded pancake containers I fished out of the MacDonald’s dumpster, and it totally torched the three stainless steel spoons that I save for when the pure “Afghani Snowfall” comes around. But let me tell you something: this Oxo Good Grip Stainless Steel Ladle, which my sister threw at me when she kicked out of her shed, proved to be the only recepticle to both withstand the immense heat of the bunsen burner AND have a handle long enough not to singe my fingers. With this ladle, I could cook half a kilo, if I were so inclined. Thanks Oxo! Keep up the good work.

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Thought process: 1) Hilarious. 2) Haven’t blogged in a while; must put on blog. 3) Apparently there is an activity even more pathetic than scrupulously researching ladles, that is, writing fake reviews on Amazon about said ladles. Yay! 4) But even worse than that is blogging about fake reviews written on Amazon about said ladles. Darn.

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Until now, I’ve been keeping the fact that I’m engaged off the blog (and neglecting the blog in general, but not on purpose) because I wanted to make sure we told as many people as possible in person. Now that it’s been a few months, we finally posted our engaged status on facebook (at his insistence–I would have preferred not to) and I feel like I can join the droves of brides-to-be who blog about wedding prep.

I consider myself a financial middle-of-the-roader when it comes to splurging on the big day. I’m also pretty non-traditional, but not in a dogmatic sense. I’m not pointedly trying to buck tradition. I just like what I like.

Case in point: the engagement jewelry.

I didn’t want a ring. I barely wear them. And I didn’t want diamonds. They can be gorgeous, but lack personal significance to me. Instead, I took a cue from my Chinese name, Jin Yu, which means “Golden Jade,” and chose a jade bracelet with a gold clasp  and gold hinge. My pre-husband* added even more symbolism to the piece by finding one made of Alaskan jade. (We met in Alaska and will most likely end up there someday.)  If I hadn’t been named after a gemstone and a mineral, I probably would have gone with my birthstone, the topaz, which comes in a variety of colors.

I am getting a wedding band. Probably gold with a Hawaii motif, like a lauhala weave or flowers.

One thing I’ve never understood is why people put so much emphasis and spend so much money on the engagement ring. I really like my bracelet, but isn’t it just a placeholder for the real deal? And isn’t it the lesser of the two rings in terms of significance?

*We think the term “fiancee” and its synonyms (“betrothed”, “intended,” and the like) sound a bit too staid and formal for the likes of us. A friend came up with “pre-husband” and “pre-wife,” which we like, although at home Bill occasionally refers to me as his “rent-to-own girlfriend.”

Snow Pictures

Starting the tramp through Rock Creek Park on Sunday:

Loaded tree branches grazing the creek below Embassy Row and Whitehaven Street:

During the second storm (Tuesday), about 30 red robins sheltered in the trees and on a ledge outside our building. The view from Ashley’s window:

I kept scaring them away while trying to take pictures. Imagine a lineup of these plump little guys huddled outside your kitchen window:

Our basement neighbor, Judy, with her pink umbrella…

made me think of this woodblock print:

“Great Bridge, Sudden Shower at Atake” by Hiroshige

Better than Gumby

More cool stop-motion animation. Afraid I’m experiencing a bit of a geek-out…

Poignant Cupcake

I’ve been looking at stop-motion animation videos, wondering whether I can put one together myself, and came across this amazing one about a cupcake. Even the sex scene between it and the butternut squash is rather endearing. Cuts the saccharinity, ya know?

Stop-motion animation looks hard.

Milwaukee

Before last week, my experience in the Midwest consisted only of a smattering of layovers at Chicago O’Hare and Minneapolis. But then my good friend Alia decided to have her wedding in Milwaukee in January. After a relaxing two weeks in Hawaii, I flew back to DC to collect my wedding duds before heading westward again (but only fell back by one time zone instead of six).

I’ve always wanted to visit Wisconsin, mainly because I have a great uncle who moved there from Hawaii for college and stayed. He married his college sweetheart, Cathy, and opened a Chinese restaurant in Milwaukee. Because of this uncle, Walter, I generally tend to think of Milwaukee over Madison whenever I am reminded of Wisconsin’s existence. (Wisconsin? Oh, yes, that’s where Milwaukee is.”)

But don’t mistake me for the typical East- or West-Coastie, who, though hailing from north Jersey or Los Angeles, habitually and casually lobs snide remarks at the Heartland. I was once one of these people; Hawaii folk are generally among the nicest you can find anywhere, but can be quite snooty when it comes to place of residence. I don’t know. I guess living in an unobviously pleasant place like Anchorage can make you impatient with people who all but force you into being an apologist for your beloved city.

Descriptions of Milwaukee from friends ranged from “a bombed-out shell of an American city” to “really nice.” Maybe the dressing of snow helped (snow is nature’s airbrush, after all), but I thought it was charming. Industrial chic is all the rage there as old factory buildings–tanneries and such–are being converted into funky urban spaces. We stayed in one such place, the Iron Horse hotel, about a block from the Harley-Davidson Museum. One regret is that I didn’t get to the Warhol exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, which overlooks Lake Michigan.

Instead, I went cross-country skiing on the Whitnall golf course with my friend, Kelly, and the aforementioned Aunty Cathy (who, I quickly discovered, is one of my sweetest, most fun relatives). I hadn’t skied for at least 18 months and it felt like showering for the first time after going double-digit days without any form of bathtime. But 100 times better.

Bureaucrats Got Talent!

One of the perks of living in Washington is encountering the humanity behind government. Seeing up close that bureaucrats are people too goes far to demystifying the system.

Before coming to Washington, my mental shorthand for government bureaucrats came straight out of Russian literature. I would flash on Mr. Anna Karenina, geriatric and cuckoloded, or the pitiable protagonist from Gogol’s “The Overcoat.” I still thought of them as people, but only as character-people from a land far away. (Weird, on many levels: I’ve never been to Russia. In fact, my exposure consists of exactly one class in college, plus a James Bond movie. Oh, and in Alaska you could sometimes smell the vodka and fish fumes wafting over from Vladivostok. Not.)

A few months ago, Bill became a government bureaucrat. And the other day I went to watch him perform in the Interior Department talent show, which included lots of piano players, a flautist, some really good renditions of James Brown and Nancy Sinatra, and a magician with rings. There was also a well-executed non-G-rated rendition of MJ’s “Billy Jean,” with lots of sparkly-glove-on-crotch-action + generous thrusting of said crotch. And, an ensemble performance of “Thriller” by the much-maligned (during the Bush administration, to be fair) Minerals Management Service. Lots of humanity at its most human. I hear there’s a video of the whole show coming out at some point, but in the meantime, I got Bill’s permission to put up his video on YouTube and post the lyrics. He had a clever slide show too, which my pitiful camerawork didn’t completely capture. (There are a couple classic pics of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar thrown into the mix.) I must say, even from an objective standpoint, it’s a pretty good primer for what the Bureau of Land Management actually does. (I know a fair bit about Interior, having covered it back before the ol’ ball and chain started working there.)

“Land Management” to the tune of “Home on the Range” (my own comments in parentheses)

Oh, I want a home where the buffalo roam

Where burros and wild horses play (two controversial animals managed by Interior)

Oh where should I be in Washington, DC?

The ghost of Ickes* showed me the way (Harold Ickes, Interior Secretary under FDR, put much of the New Deal into action)

He said: Land, land management!

It’s the bureau where you should be

They manage the herds on land patterns absurd

In accordance with land-use plans

(Spoken) With robust public and intergovernmental (meaning Indian tribes) input processes

Now this you should know, there’s just one bureau

Not NPS* or FWS* (National Park Service; Fish and Wildlife Service)

Who from desert to coast, manages most

But we can’t move without getting sued (Federal land managers are responsible for both resource development and environmental conservation, so are pretty much guaranteed to piss off either conservationists or industry no matter what.)

(Spoken) Still, more than 253 million acres. That’s more than California, Arizona and Nevada combined.

It’s land, land management

It’s the bureau where I go to work

We’ve got lands you desire and we fight wildfires

And we’re closing the new energy frontier

In our ties bolo, we ain’t no sideshow (Interior is sometimes called the “Department of the West” because most of its land holdings are in that region. Secy. Salazar, a rancher and attorney, has a well-known penchant for Western wear.)

Most of your lands were once ours

We kept old routes for the mail and the Iditarod Trail

And we’re part of the department family.

Interior, the “department of everything else” (Interior contains a rather random mix of agencies, some with competing missions. A former department historian, Robert Utley, gave it the “everything else” designation.)

Everyday you and me come to MIB* and Salazar shows us the way. (Main Interior Building)

People, lands and water since 1849…