Crate dates matter.

Turns out, eggs DO expire!  I had always been under the impression that eggs don’t expire, and boy did I have that notion dismissed fully and clearly.

Last Saturday,[info]coco_b mentioned that she would like to use some elderly bananas we had around for some banana bread.  So I whipped some up from a recipe we had gotten from our friend Audra.  I quickly dismissed the expiration date from some time in September on the egg crate and baked the bread.  Corinna ate quite a bit of it but I only had one slice.  A few hours later I started feeling ill, and an hour after that I started experiencing a very sharp 10-15 second pain in my lower abdomen every 1-5 minutes.  This continued all night, completely eliminating any chances of sleep.  I had hoped that by morning this would pass and we could stick to our plans of meeting up with at Six Flags.

I “woke” up feeling just as terrible as I had the night before, so Corinna called Tom and told him we wouldn’t be meeting him.  I sat around the house in pain all day, pretty miserable.  Tom came to stay at our place after he spent the day at the park, and we just chatted it up for a few hours before bedtime.  He half-joked that he could take me to the hospital in the morning if I needed it.  After another painful, sleepless night, I almost took him up on his offer..   I called my GP who was unavailable, and decided to go to the ER.  It occurred to me that if he drove me to the hospital it would completely eradicate any chance he would have to visit Boston during the day.  So I called a cab at 8am and went to the ER, and Corinna met me there around noon.  After lots of waiting, some X-Rays and CT Scans, and continuing pain, it was determined that I had an inflammation of my ileum.  The ER doctor speculated that it might be Crohn’s disease or IBS, but he deferred to the GI doctor I’d be seeing once I was admitted. After a full day in the emergency room, much of it on a stretcher in a hall, I was admitted in the late evening.

I went up to the 7th floor and put in a room, and like my stay a year or two prior for my appendicitis, I had a beautiful view of the Charles river.  It took awhile for a doctor to come and see me, and a bit longer for the nurse to finally bring something for my pain. Each individual spike of pain probably ranked 6 out of 10, but after feeling it every few minutes for 2+ sleepless days, it was really starting to break me down. The GI doctor I talked to said that he thought I was probably suffering a bacterial or viral infection, likely caused by bad food. He said he had no reason to suspect Crohn’s or IBS given my history (or lack thereof).  He said they would run some tests and keep me overnight.  He also put me on a clear liquid diet, which meant I was able to eat for the first time in 2 days (even if it was broth and jello).

I woke up feeling better, and more importantly, pain-free, and after lunch they advanced my diet to BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast) before discharging me.  Well, the pain returned after a few hours and they kept me another night.  Fortunately, I woke up without pain again (although still tender) and they once again advanced my diet to BRAT at lunch, and this time I tolerated it just fine. The doctors determined that I had a viral infection of my Ileum, and that it likely came from food, although they said it was also possible it had come through one of your usual viral vectors (handshakes, etc).  It would take a few days to clear up and some continued pain was to be expected while it did.  Finally after 2.5 days in the hospital, I went home with Corinna on Wednesday evening.

When I was first discharged I thought there was no way I was going to make the yearly Halloween Party up near Ithaca.  But after feeling solid on Thursday and waking up and feeling pretty well on Friday, we decided to give it a shot.  And I’m glad I did..  While it was odd not really being able to eat or drink anything at the party (We brought ginger ale and chicken soup for me), it was fantastic getting to see all my friends.  I even did an epic live edition of my radio show/podcast featuring live music.

Back to work today and slowly advancing my diet to normal food…  Still not quite feeling 100%, but getting close.   This would have been much more awful and difficult if not for Corinna.

Prattling about Profound Productivity

I’ve been really productive lately… Witness the complete success of my pulled pork experiment, fixing the sinlaws DirectTivo (I think I fixed it, at least), sprinting towards deadlines at work with reckless abandon, and traveling all over the place to be with family and friends.

I made a mad dash to get my project to Alpha release by the end of June, and managed to demo it at our weekly development meeting on the 30th. I think I impressed everyone in on the demo, I’m pretty sure several of the people who were doubting whether or not I could deliver on my performance and compatibility claims were put in their place. And really, while I referred to this as an Alpha release, imho it is Alpha-in-name-only. While it’s the first release to grace the hands of the testers, it’s feature complete and has been pretty well beat-upon by me and my fellow developer. Hopefully they will beat the hell out of it and track down anything I missed, but I feel great about the quality as it stands now (not quite shippable, but definitely branchable).

The pulled pork has been going over like gangbusters (with everyone besides , that is, who isn’t a fan)… I brought some coworkers home for lunch and each had a few sandwiches… For my entire life I thought Barbeque was some kind of voodoo art which required tons of specialized equipment, but it turns out you can make the real deal with stuff most people have access to.

Pulled Pork: Coda

The pulled pork turned out great, although not exactly as I expected.  I estimated it would be done in about 14 hours, which should have been ~8pm.  I figured it might go until 10pm, but I figured that was definitely the outer bound.  The internal temperature seemed to park itself at ~160F, and I really needed it to get up to 190-205F.  It stayed around 150-160 for the final several hours I left it on the grill.  Finally, around 10pm without any temperature movement I moved it to the oven.  As soon as I moved it to the oven the temperature slowly started to move up.

I suspect that the grill was too cold, even though I had a probe thermometer telling me the temperature of the grill.  My current thinking is that the probe was reading wrong; perhaps the probe needs more density (than air) to get an accurate reading.  Which might have meant that my temperature was off all night.  The thermometer on the grill lid read just under 200F the whole time while the probe was reading around 250, so it’s very possible that the lid was right and the probe was wrong.

Regardless, after I moved it into the oven I set up the remote probe to beep when the pork got to 203F.  This happened at 4am, and the remote woke me up to attend to the pork.  I let it rest for about 30 minutes then started to pull it.  And it was like heaven.   It just fell off the bone and pulled apart like nobody’s business.  It tastes delicious, although at 4am I only had a bite.  I’m very-much looking forward to lunch today. :)

My journal, oh how I have neglected you!

I’ve been ultra-busy lately at both work and home, but looking back at the journal, I haven’t written anything other than movie reviews in over a month.  I’m even way behind on the movie reviews! Christ I wasn’t that busy, I’m just neglectful.  I’m sorry journal.

In the past month, I’ve been working on a fun project at work that has occupied quite a few cycles.  My plan is to finish it by the end of June, and I don’t think that is an ambitious goal.  The sin-laws visited over the Memorial Day weekend, and while it was part social visit, it was clearly also part indentured servitude.  coco_b has wanted to better utilize the awesome evening light that was hitting the street side of the house, but much of it was sequestered in the front bedroom (which is her little yoga/reading/working/office/chill space).  After some discussions, we decided to replace the lame slab door (in the distance in that photo) to that room with a set of french doors.  This way the room was still a defined, separate room, yet open or closed, we still get the beautiful evening light and both rooms seem bigger.  Corinna’s parents have done a ton of work on their home, and her stepfather does cabinetry and woodworking as a hobby.  Even better, they always seem willing to help us out on whatever crazy projects we dream up.  :)

So they drove all the way down (er, over?) from Michigan, arriving Thursday evening…  We figured that if they were coming to give us so much free labor and advice, the least I could do was make sure they were well fed while they were here.  The night they arrived I whipped up some cheese fondue from scratch and we had some fresh bread from one of the local bakeries.  Even if it isn’t hip anymore, Fondue is a great way to eat and socialize at the same time.  Over the weekend I also made my signature pasta+cauliflower+cheese+onion dish, as well as some mediocre skewers, swordfish provencal, and I don’t remember what else (if anything).  My vacation time isn’t as copious as Corinna’s, so I worked on Friday while they begun demolition at the house. The door was significantly wider and a bit taller than the existing door, and we also had to relocate a light switch.  While I somehow optimistically thought that this would be a one or two day project, it ended up taking the entire weekend (not including jointing and painting).  We still managed to have fun, watched a few movies, ate lots of food, and just hung out, but I still think it’d be nice if we didn’t enslave them next time they visited. :)  Corinna finished most of the finish work this past weekend, and the end result is awesome.

Last Friday, jeffm was in town, and he suggested we all go to Fenway to see the Sox.  While this SHOULD have been awesome, the lineup was a little shaken up with injuries, and they got completely destroyed by the Mariners.  It was still a fun time, I had never been to Fenway with such a large group (8 people) before..  Afterwards we hit up Precinct in Union Square, which was quite a bit of fun, although it was a little out of the way for roryk and I.  Jeff’s friend Christen went to the game with us and works there, so we got a serious hookup.  New people, old friends, and good drinks ALMOST make up for shitty baseball.  Almost.

Left Door

Left Door
Originally uploaded by seangraham

I’ve been griping about how my spices have been completely unorganized since we moved into this house almost a year ago. I finally ordered a large quantity of metal tins to solve this problem.

Taking a cue from Alton Brown and Good Eats, I purchased small 4oz. metal tins and used Velcro to fasten them to the inside of the doors to one our cabinets. Originally AB used magnets, but recently I noticed that he silently switched to Velcro. I’m guessing that the adhesive magnetic strips simply weren’t strong enough and the tins migrated down the door over time. The velcro seems to do the job nicely, and also allows me to stick non-ferrous objects (which you can see in one of the other photos in the set).

Catching up

My birthday was bad-ass, really went above-and-beyond to make me feel like my birthday lasted forever. She had already gotten me Rock Band earlier in the month, which we’ve been playing the hell out of. She also threw me a killer birthday party, where a bunch of people joined us for a bit of the game as well as the final “Greatest Action Movie Showdown of All Time” between “Die Hard” and “The Bourne Identity”. Coco has maintained for quite some time that Bourne was superior, but we all know the truth. I think everyone had a blast.

On my birthday, Corinna got me yet another birthday present, a Japanese Peace Lily. Admittedly, I was unable to identify the plant on my own, but as soon as she clued me in I started dying. I got a bunch of other gifts as well, including a meat manual and a few more seasons of South Park from the fam.

Other than that, the baseball season has finally fired up. The Sox opened the season in Tokyo a week ago, which meant for very early games here in the States, 6am. To help celebrate the Great Day, I woke up at 4:45am and whipped up 40-sum pancakes (from scratch) and 3.5 lbs of delicious bacon. 10-12 people joined us in watching the Sox win. Afterwards there was Rock Band to be played and we took a trip to Kelly’s Roast Beef for the goodness. Sorry if I wasn’t able to invite you, but our living room is only so big and it was tough enough managing three electric griddles…. I was pretty much at the limit of my pancake fabrication abilities (18 pancakes at a time).

Tomorrow I’m heading out to Austin for the nuptials of Nate and Lilly. I’ve never been to Austin before, and I’m expecting it will be more enjoyable than that of my other trips to Texas.

Christmas 2007 Report

Here’s a quick highlight reel from the past few weeks. I’m sure I left out some important details, so please forgive me for the quick buzz:

Dad drove up from NJ on the 20th, and after a quick meal at the Halfway, I took the wheel and drove us back to Hopatcong. It was snowing in Boston-land, but once we got a bit west it mostly ceased. We made good time and didn’t really encounter any big problems. Getting home we were greeted by Mom, Aimee, Aiden and the dogs. It was the first time meeting Aiden and he was just as cute as the avalanche of pictures have portrayed him. Aimee and Aiden had to fly back to Tennessee before Christmas, so we celebrated early. Saturday morning we drove down to Grammy and Grampy’s neighborhood for lunch with them, and then returned to Hopatcong to sit down around the tree and open gifts. Everyone seemed to enjoy the gifts which were exchanged, and I got all kinds of stuff. I got a bunch of cooking-related books and items, which was cool. I also got a few more seasons of South Park to further round out my collection. went above and beyond and got me a Donkey Cigarette Dispenser. While I don’t smoke, I love donkeys, so this alone would have been an awesome gift, but she then instructed me to operate the dispenser. A pencil shot out of the ass’ ass (haha) and it was wrapped in a piece of paper reading “Good for One Xbox 360”. I had been talking about getting one for awhile now, so this was a real nice surprise. While it was weird to me to celebrate Christmas a few days early (and at night, to boot!), I soon got over it and enjoyed spending time with kith and kin. We popped in Christmas Vacation and dug in for the night.

The rest of our time in NJ was great, I even had the opportunity to make attempts 3 and 4 at “Mission: Kolach”. 3 continued the improvements I had managed with attempt 2, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I think everyone else was more forgiving of it than me, but I intend to keep working on it until it’s perfect. But I was able to get the crust much less thick by kneading less. I’m going to knead even less next time and see what happens. Attempt 4 was somewhat of a disaster in my mind. I mis-measured the butter and added 8 tbsp. instead of the 6 I had been working with. I’m also going to get a second loaf pan so I can make a double-recipe. I took the original recipe, which made 4 loaves, and quartered it, but that left some of the measurements odd (1.5 egg yolks, for instance), so by making two loaves I can eliminate those weird measurements (which I ended up rounding up to avoid having to deal with it).

On Christmas Day, Dad took Corinna and I to the Newark Airport for our flight to Michigan. When we got to the airport we found out our flight was delayed by two hours. We went to the bar for a few drinks to kill some time, and while we were sitting there I saw David Zayas (a.k.a. Lt. Angel Batista from Dexter) approach the bar, I did a double take, but without mentioning anything to Corinna, when he stepped away from the bar and sat in the booth behind me, she saw and heard him and came to the same conclusion. We didn’t bother him, but we just silently geeked out in our booth.

We arrived at Coco’s parents’ house around 9:30pm, and much of the family was already there. We mostly just decompressed and hung out with everyone. The next day we observed Wigilia, and everyone was there. It was really cool, and it was fun watching all the kids open their gifts. The Wigilia meal was huge but delicious as always… I actually felt like I was going to explode. This probably wouldn’t have been considered very festive, so I managed to hold myself together.

We spent the rest of our time in Michigan visiting friends and family. We drove up closer to Detroit to visit Corinna’s Great Aunt and Uncle. Her great aunt has been ill lately, so it was important that we got up to see them. Afterwards we headed over to the Raz’s abode to visit , Andy, and Colin. We headed for dinner over to Game Works, which is kinda like Jillians’ used to be, an adult arcade with several bars. The food was only so-so, but it was great catching up with the Razzies, as the past few visits to Michigan we’ve had limited exposure. Their kid could easily be the “token cute kid” in a sitcom if he developed a catchphrase (although “I SIT DOWN I SIT DOWN” might be a good start). Also, I can’t remember the last time I was set loose in an Arcade, so I had a great time. Corinna and Amy kicked it DDR style a few times. Andy and I stuck mostly to vehicle games, although we did go for a few rounds in that Jurassic Park shooter. When we got back to Chelsea, we dug into the Pats game with Kim. The rest of our time in Michigan was pretty laid back and quiet (at least in comparison to having 19 people sleep in one house!) We had a wine and cheese movie night with Corinna’s parents and watched #99 and #100 on my video list for 2006.

The trip back to Boston was pretty uneventful, occuring mostly on time and after a short taxi ride to Watertown we were home. I turned right back around to go to the markets to get supplies for our New Years party, and afterwards crashed into the bed for a nap to recharge. Everyone came over around 9pm and seemed to have a great time. The party broke up around 2am, and while we had a ton of leftovers I was actually expecting worse. The next morning I went out first thing to redeem my Xbox voucher, and after some AV-setup wrangling (and a trip back out to Best Buy for a forgotten accessory) I was up and running. I basically played with it for the rest of the day… You can find me on Live as “dos burros”.

Kolach: Attempts 1 and 2

My grandma used to make this bread called Kolach every holiday season..   We’d always get a few frozen loaves to thaw and enjoy throughout the Christmas.  When she passed away a few years ago, obviously this tradition was disrupted..  We even found a recipe filed away with all the other recipes in her collection, but it was handwritten and tough toread and selected words were in Hungarian slang. 

Every once in awhile I would think about how I’d love to eat a toasty slice of this sweet bread, smothered in butter, and bust out the recipe to give it a swing, but I never would have enough confidence in my interpretation to start..    A few weeks ago I threw caution to the wind and figured I’d just go for it.  This first attempt ended up in complete disaster.

First off, without really thinking about it, I followed the recipe verbatim, but it soon became clear that this was a “big-batch” recipe.  Before I knew it I had amounts of ingredients mixed together that would soon overwhelm all my mixing bowls, etc.  I tried to divide the dry ingredients before adding the wet works, but things just ended in disaster.  Second, the dough was way too wet, it was more like cake batter than dough.  Third the first rise was a complete failure, nothing rose at all, and I got pissed off and bailed out.

On Monday night, I saw the yeast packet sitting on the counter taunting me, and I figured that since I had enough ingredients, I’d give it another go…   I decided to quarter the recipe, guessing that the amount of dough I had made the first time around would have made about 4 loaves.  I spent some time triple-checking all of my conversions and started in.  Everything divided pretty evenly, except for my need for 1 and a half egg yolks…   I figure that if I actually get reliably successful at this recipe, I can just double it and use 3 egg yolks, but for the time being I am just going to cut one of the yolks in half… 

Following the directions I had divined, I set back in, this time applying some experience and rational thought into the process.  I warmed the milk for the sponge to 110 Fahrenheit Degrees, which allowed the yeast to actually bloom instead of remaining in hibernation…  I also warmed the milk that formed the bulk of the wet ingredients (but that was called for in the recipe).  This time around, when I brought all the ingredients together, I still got cake batter-like dough.  I was trying to knead it in my stand mixer, but I eventually dumped it onto a board to try and salvage it.  I kept adding flour trying to get it somewhat dough-like and kneadable.  Eventually it sort of formed together into something I could work with and after a little kneading I set it aside to rise.   But once again, it didn’t rise…  Now, I’m no bread baking expert, but I had baked a few loaves back in 2001 when I first got my mixer..   I had totally ignored the fact that the yeast like a somewhat warm environment to rise and we keep our house at like 65 Fahrenheit Degrees…  So after waiting for it to rise an hour, and still nothing, I “punched down” the loaf (even though it hadn’t risen so there wasn’t much to punch down) and put it in a loaf pan.  This time, however, after remembering what yeast like, I ran the oven up to 170 Fahrenheit Degrees and then let it cool down with the door open so it was just warm.  Then I put the loaf pan with dough into the oven.  An hour later it was fully risen.  I resumed the recipe and baked it for 45 minutes at 375 Fahrenheit Degrees after giving it a brushing with some egg whites..  The recipe called for an egg white/milk wash, but I had run out of milk.

What came out of the oven was promising:  It actually looked like a loaf of bread!  I let it cool for a few minutes on a rack and cut into it.  Oh. My. God, it was almost exactly as I remember it.  It was a slight bit denser, probably due to the lousy first rise, but the meat of the bread was perfect.  The flavor spot on.  The only problem with this loaf was that the crust was way to hard and thick.  My next attempt I’m going to have to figure out what I need to do to keep the crust thin and soft (think less hearty bread, more Wonder bread; Suggestions welcome!).  Maybe in my attempt to get the loose dough together I over kneaded it, forming too much gluten?  Suggestions appreciated…  Not sure, will have to do some bread reading..  Also next time I am going to cut back the amount of milk in the wet ingredients (the original recipe was bracketed 1.25-1.5 cups, and I went with 1.5, which was obviously a mistake), as well as reserving some of that 1.25 to make sure it’s not too wet before adding the rest.