Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 10: Fab and Meh at Trader Joe's these days

FAB: 1. Wild arugala - in the bagged salad section. If you're in the Bay Area, give it a try. Wherever they're sourcing this, it's really good. It's not for you if you're into really spicy, stand-on-its-own arugala. This is a little more gentle than other arugala out there. But it's still got that distinct slightly peppery, herbal flavor. I had it paired with their yogurt cheese as a salad, with garbanzo beans and vinaigrette. Perfect.

2. Greek nonfat plain yogurt. Janny Hu delivered the good news-- TJ's nonfat Greek yogurt was deemed #1 by Bay Area food pros so I gave it a try. They didn't lie-- that was some creamy rich nonfat yogurt. Pair it with honey (locals, Terra Bella has some really lovely local honey) and granola- I could snack on this all day.

3. Frozen organic brown rice. Packets of 3, 3 minutes in the microwave, perfect. I don't mind making rice but when little kids are hungry NOW NOW NOW, this is so easy.

4. Roasted seaweed. Surprise!!! It is so good. And so cheap- 99 cents. But my kids could probably finish an entire package of it if I let them. It's super crisp, a tad bit salty, and so healthy. It's with the other snacks (popped popcorn, wasabi peas, etc.).

5. Chocolate oat cookies. These are A-mazing. They're 1.99 and I think pretty much the best cookie there. They're kind of hidden among the 52,935 other kinds of cookies and sweets lining the frozen aisle. But it is well worth seeking these little guys out. They're small and they are quality.


1. The spreadable blue cheese. I was excited by the possibilities they listed-- on pasta! on toast! on eggs! But it just kind of tastes wrong to me. Blue cheese is strong, yes, but this tastes strong in a flat way, not in a nuanced oh-look-at-all-the-flavors way, which is what I think strong cheese should offer. I can't get into it.

2. Raw milk cheddar. I was so excited to have a raw milk cheese option, especially after tasting some terrific ones at the various cheese shops in Berkeley (including the famous CheeseBoard). But those are carefully tended after and loved, and this was ... well... flavor-free.

3. Strawberry Joe's Os. Paloma was all excited about this because the box was pink and strawberries were all over and there were pink yogurt (aka sugar) chunks. It's an ok cereal. But a little more sugar-coated than I'd wanted. The freeze dried strawberry pieces are actually good. But in milk, this soggifies up so fast. Meh.

4. The box cake mixes. If you are looking for a sugar coma NOW, fix one of these. They are so sugary. It's not delicious. Same deal for instant puddings. (I know, how embarrassing, I should make that from the Jello mix scratch.)

5. The lowfat cats cookies. Ok, taking cover because I know a ton of people who swear by these and think they're great. But I just keep feeling like they should taste like the full-fat animal cracker version and then get all disappointed by the lowfattedness of it all, and they kind of remind me of those Snackwell's cookies that were nonfat but high sugar and you just wanted to eat them all for some kind of naughty satisfaction but you just had that queasy wait-did-I-just-eat-them-all-and-they-weren't-even-great feeling, and who wants that? I'm all about one or two full fat and fabulous cookies. Maybe not even from TJ's. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The world's best chocolate chip cookies. You're welcome.

I know, I know-- the one year anniversary passage of the Affordable Care Act is coming up on Weds, and I'm kicking off the week with an ode to treats. Never fear, ACA-related posts are on the way. But Monday, you just kind of want to ease into the week (or seek a sugar rush), so here you go. Many of you may already be familiar with the World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies a la Debbie Koenig of Words to Eat By. If not, and if you're a fan of chocolate chip cookies, these are definitely the ones to try. They are perfect.

I love Debbie and think you should click over and read her fabulous blog not only because you will forever after have dinner figured out, but also because for those of you short on time (hello everyone), you'll learn the art and science of Naptime Cooking, which is basically breaking up prep work over 5-10 minute periods and making the cooking easy. This has saved me from eating nothing but Trader Joe's frozen anything countless times. 

Don't get me wrong; Uncle Joe is still keeping my freezer well stocked. But it's not my go-to now. I actually fall back on Naptime Cooking skills and seriously think I can work all day and get dinner on the table and not go insane. (And the good news is my spouse can cook and does cook-- but the bad news is that he often doesn't get home in time. It's all so genderiffic, isn't it? I'm about to go over the art of slow cooking with him one of these days though. Happily, he's all about extravagant weekend breakfasts.)

Ok so. Back to those cookies. They are, as advertised, the perfect combination of chewy with a delicate crisp crust. Make them *exactly* as she prescribes. I did, including refrigerating the dough in the bowl. I was not sorry.

Dammit, it's already confession time. I made a couple modifications. I used King Arthur's 100% White Whole Wheat flour because we never have plain all purpose in the house (having a dad with diabetes got me completely out of the white flour habit-- just never had it growing up). And I substituted 1/2 c. of white sugar with quick oats. Just because I love oats and chocolate. Also, I probably went overboard on vanilla by 1/2 a teaspoon. It's crazy. I know.

They were still heavenly and I'd do it again. And I hope you do too! 

Who's made these? Give a woot woot below.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Local fashion bloggers make good! 3 Reasons why the SF scene is looking interesting

SF is chic and lovely and so crowded with design and people who love design that you can't swing an Eames chair without knocking into one. Interior design, theater/stage/lighting design, landscape design, cupcake design and every other kind you can think of (and some you probably wouldn't). Fashion design is yet another.

Hold up-- is this a WordyDoodles topic? Heck yeah. My co-blogger is infinitely more qualified to speak on this (her PhD thesis title has the words "Fashion Police" and "post-colonial" in it, so no doubt she's the expert. But one of the main themes in these parts is self-expression, whether it's in parenting or politics or style. Or chocolate or lip gloss. Clearly we are lucky to live in a nation where you can express yourself through chocolate. You get where I'm going. This is about discovering the good stuff wherever we find it, deep or light.

Anyhoo, SF/Bay Area offers such amazing style options and from a total and complete outsider's perspective, I think the industry here is on the up and up. Here are three reasons:

1. The Bay Area consistently develops local talent in academic settings like FIDM
2. There's a passion among Bay Area entrepreneurs to push creative limits while building a dependable customer base
3. There's no small interest among those who want to write about style and creative arts, as well as those who want to read about it.

1. There are some amazing shows put on by the talented students of FIDM. I still have happy memories of being visually blown away by their show when I went as a high schooler some (many) years ago. (Maybe because that was so impactful, but from the photos I see from professional runway shows, it looks like many of them could use the shot in the arm that FIDM seems to have in spades. I just love what they produce.)

FIDM Fashion Designer, Natalia Romano with her couture gowns inspired by Tweedledee and Tweedledum
How cool is this FIDM adaptation of Tweedledum and Tweedledee?
And SF Chron just covered a "packed fundraiser" fashion show. While I can't get behind lots of these looks (seriously, corsets?), I admired the feather mohawk and Catharsis dress and am glad to see how much fun folks had at a nonprofit fundraiser. :)

2. And we just had the aptly-titled "The Reinvention" of SF Fashion Week sponsored by the SF Fashion and Merchants' Alliance, which I hope continues to grow (I'm a fan of our local shops).

3. Finally, it was gratifying to see four Bay Area fashion bloggers highlighted in the Chronicle's Style section a couple Sundays ago. They seem to have come to the blogging world relatively recently, but their work has been picked up, passed around and resulted in invites to runway shows around the world. This is great for them but also for SF style in general, to bring some perspective from the Bay to the world and vice versa. They're definitely not the only, and not the first, but the fact that they got this traditional media coverage signaled that their distinct voices are heard. I loved that-- it's inspiring to me to think that good writing can stimulate good conversation. Which is why I keep with this Like I said, we're WordyDoodling on all forms of personal expression, from arts to parenting to politics to style. That's my definition of a holistic blog. :)

Got favorite style bloggers? Do share in the comments; I'd love to add some to the blogroll and maybe feature a couple in future posts. xo

Monday, March 14, 2011

farewell 102.1 kdfc-- hello public supported classical!

I know, it sucks as a blog title. But it's a big deal! I remember listening to KDFC basically since moving to the Bay Area in 1992. At first it was because it was the only station my dad ever had on at home or in the car. We had always listened to classical. It just fit us. This was why I was the kid who had to pretend like she knew about pop music -- I had to fake it so many times.

(True story: 4th grade, on the phone with a classmate and fumbling with the name of a pop singer and finally decided no glamorous pop singer would be named PaulA Abdul, so I said it kind of fast: "um that album by Paul Abdul." Nevermind that had I actually ever heard her sing, the very female voice should have given it away.)

But that's not how a 4th grader trying to look cool is thinking. Oh, the shame of not knowing MC Skat Cat.

But when I got old enough to make my own choices about what to listen to, though I kind of tried to keep up with pop, I got bored and kept turning back to KDFC (or Live 105.1, back during 90s alternative/grunge, which made me feel like I at least wasn't TOTALLY cut off from my age group and also actually had some fab lyrics. This was before I discovered folk-pop singers who are all about lyrics, a la Dar Williams).

So suddenly, Classical 102.1 was no longer Classical. At all. 102.1 was suddenly some jarring thing blaring from the speakers. There's an interesting story about commercial versus nonprofit airwaves, and what's accessible to whom. Here's the explanation email sent by Bill Lueth, the station's president, which I'm copying here both to provide that context as well as to give info to local folks who might be interested:

We are understandably receiving many calls and emails about our transition to 90.3 and 89.9 FM and our transition to nonprofit status.  We know this is a difficult transition and we wish we had more control and an opportunity to make a longer, smoother transition.  Here are some answers to common questions and comments we’re receiving. 
Why did this happen?
 KDFC’s previous owner decided to make a format change on the 102.1 frequency they owned.  KDFC’s staff and station name are now rebuilding KDFC as a listener-supported station on new frequencies.   KDFC was the last commercial classical station in a major US city still being operated by a commercial radio company.  In New York City, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Los Angeles, commercial radio stations have all disappeared, in most cases taking their excellent frequencies with them, and leaving nonprofits to rebuild noncommercial classical stations on lesser frequencies.  That is exactly what is happening here. 
Why couldn’t you wait to make the transition until you could cover the whole Bay Area?
 The Bay Area is an extremely expensive and crowded radio market.  Stations are not easy to come by.  Furthermore, once you purchase a station, the FCC requires you to operate it, making it impossible to buy a station and hold onto it while you wait to purchase others.  Therefore when we found 90.3 and 89.9 were for sale, and we wanted to buy them before someone else could, we had to operate them. 
If I cannot receive your on 90.3 and 89.9 what do I do?
 The response to this varies by region so look for your region below.  Later in this message we will provide technology options to help you receive KDFC in the interim:
South Bay and Peninsula:  It is heartbreaking to us that we will not immediately have a signal that serves the Peninsula and the South Bay.  We are already looking to buy a station in this region and the great news is that the University of Southern California has offered to buy a station if we can find one.  We have hired two brokers to contact stations and ask if the owners are willing to sell.  We wish we could give you a timeline but we are not in control of when a station will come on the market.  We have reports from some listeners in the South bay who have been able to pick up 89.9, but the coverage there is spotty.
East Bay:  Some listeners in the East Bay are receiving our 89.9 FM signal (and/or our 90.3 signal,) but others are not.  We have a plan to upgrade 89.9 soon and that should help, but we have to wait for the FCC to approve our purchase of the station to start the upgrade.  Until then we do not officially own the stations. As soon as they give us the word, we will upgrade 89.9 and that should help.  We are also looking for stations we could potentially acquire in the East Bay to round out our coverage in the region.
San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley:  We can ultimately get you a good signal on 90.3; however, we have to wait a couple of months for the FCC to approve our purchase of the stations.  Once they do, we can upgrade 90.3 FM and move the transmitter and antenna (it is currently on top of a building at USF), and solve your signal problems. Many listeners in your area are able to hear 89.9.
Daly City, San Bruno, South San Francisco, Pacifica:  We can ultimately get you a good signal on 90.3; however, we have to wait a couple of months for the FCC to approve our purchase of the stations.  Once they do, we can upgrade 90.3 FM and move the transmitter and antenna (it is currently on top of a building at USF), and solve your signal problems.
How will I know when you have upgraded the signal in my area?
 The best way is to join Club KDFC on our website.  We will provide regular email updates to our Club members.  You can also check our website regularly because we will post updates there as well.  And when we make progress we will do our best to get the word out to the media.
How can I hang in there with you while you are improving your signals and expanding your coverage?
There are a number of ways that you can access KDFC even if you are not receiving a good signal right now:
Comcast Digital Cable Television: Comcast carries KDFC on channel 981 in most of the Bay Area.
Internet streaming:  You can listen to KDFC on your computer by going to www.kdfc.com and click on “Listen Live” at the top right corner of the screen.
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad App:  Stream KDFC via our app, available at the iTunes app store.
Internet radio:  Listeners in the South Bay and elsewhere are reporting great success with the Squeezebox, a device that works like a radio but picks up the KDFC web stream.  It is available at Fry’s, Best Buy or any other electronics retailer.
How can I support the nonprofit KDFC?
We have formed a new nonprofit that is operating KDFC.  The entire KDFC staff is now employed by the nonprofit.  To contribute write a check payable to:
The Classical Public Radio Network
201 Third Street
12th Floor
San Francisco CA 94103
I have to say that although I know there will be pledge drives and such now, I do envision a cool listener supported classical station that works for the listener. KDFC as a commercial operation was an incredible station (I was elated-- ELATED-- to find it streaming online when I was in DC 2000-03). And the public classical stations have been of varying quality that I've heard. BUT-- I was sick of the diamond jewelry commercials, the Lexus event-of-the-year commercials , and especially cringed at the commercials that the talented radio hosts had to voice.

And KDFC the Nonprofit has such a great headstart. Those totally charming and brilliant radio hosts are key-- they were always friendly, funny, fabulous and they still will be. Their mix of music will still be amazing and now, if we're lucky, we'll be hearing even more of it.

I'm hoping this community that loves KDFC-- worldwide streaming! not just the Bay Area-- will step in to support the station we love, no matter where on the airwaves it lives.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tchaikovsky now makes me queasy. Thx a lot Black Swan.

SPOILERS! If you haven't seen Black Swan and don't know the story of Swan Lake and don't know why they call it a swan song and don't know about the swan dive and don't want to know the end or anything else about this film, please click away now.

Ok so. D and I finally went and saw Black Swan a couple weekends ago. I blogged about it -- oh wait, that can't be right...where's the effing time machine...Dec 23?!

Hitting the side of my computer does not, in fact, make this date change. Wow, it was really that long ago already.

Anyhoo! One of the things I really anticipated was the liberation Nina would experience, as I saw mention of this in some form or another in several reviews. So cool! Black, instead of symbolizing evil and darkness, would for once symbolize liberation. Something to aspire to. Forget the white knight in shining armor. The little black dress was coming, and she was going to bring feathers and fabulousness.

At least, that was my dream before I actually saw the movie. As most everyone knows, the movie (and Swan Lake-- why did I not see this coming) ends with Nina back in the role of the white swan, back to the little girl voice that barely forms the words: "I was perfect." The liberated angry face-netted black swan appeared for a moment, but she couldn't be sustained. The liberation was short-lived.

Or on the other hand, maybe the death of the white swan didn't necessarily signal the death of the black swan as well. I am no psychological expert but I could see how a mentally ill person, which is how a lot of the press around this movie billed Nina's character, might truly believe that stabbing herself as the White Swan might leave only the liberated Black Swan. I think it's possible that Aronofsky might have intended to leave that interpretation open-- did any of you see the end of "The Wrestler"? Talk about an ending that's not An Ending.

In a movie that's as filled with metaphor as this one, I could see that being a subtle implication-- somewhere roaming the streets of NYC, there's a dancer who once was obsessed with "perfection," who escalated her self-destruction in body and mind, until she realized that she could live free of all that if she destroyed that perfectionist inside, who's living a happy, more balanced and Lily-like life now. It's totally a rosy take on a Sweepingly Dramatic death scene, I know.

Or maybe the ending is literal-- she died, swan song, The End. She killed herself because she couldn't stand the thought of growing up and growing past the frightened person she was. But I like to consider the artistic alternative, too. It might be rosy, but I do think it's instructive and artistically truthful, too. There are instances in life when we have the opportunity to completely change, to transform and leave behind aspects of our old selves that no longer fit with who we are.

Ok, ok, someone is waiting for me to say it so I will-- motherhood can be like that. Giving birth was definitely like that for me, quite literally. To let go of our old selves can involve mourning and sadness and fear, but it can also be incredibly liberating to embrace a new role, a new way of being. And let the old ways go forever. There's even a certain beautiful discipline in that, in letting go, in living the life you have right now and not wishing for the past (or the future). And that idea of letting go is something I'll be carrying with me from this movie for a long, long time.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

chewy nubbins- couldn't resist!

Photo: Yunhee Kim; Styling: Karen Shinto Via Sunset mag
I love me some Sunset magazine. It's supposed to draw people to the West, but for those of us who already live here, it's just one big affirming love fest. And when it comes to the deliciousness of the flavors and cooking styles out here, it can pretty much work me up into a menu-planning frenzy. (Well, frenzy isn't the right word. I'm too low blood-pressure for that. Menu-planning rumpus? Better.)

Enter their issue featuring spices of the world and working them into your cooking. I was fascinated by the possibilities I hadn't previously considered, to dress up dishes both savory and sweet with spice blends instead of measuring out pinches of this and that. Don't get me wrong- I'm a fan of garam masala, we shake the Spike liberally over popcorn and pasta, and we've got at least two or three savory dry spice rubs. But somehow I'd skipped over Chinese five spice, French four spice, zaatar, and Bengali five spice (panch phoron). Wha-? How?!

But the time for wha how was over and the time for cooking it up was now. They said "chewy nubbins" in the description of the Bengali Five Spice Roasted Chicken and Vegetables and I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I left out the veggies they suggest (bell peppers and potatoes) because my kids are anti-potato somehow (except for french fries). They're pro-broccoli though, so we did that on the side. I threw in sesame seeds because I thought they'd make the chewy nubbins even nubbier. But other than that, pretty much followed the recipe.

Heaven. Heaven! The hot oven does the trick to make the yogurt sauce turn sublime. I thought this was easy to do as a naptime cooking-- or, since I no longer have tiny babies napping in this house while I work, I think of it as multi-tasking cooking (thank you for teaching me Words to Eat By!). Took a few minutes to fry the spices, let them sit. Took another moment later to marinate the meat, and then let it sit again. Preheated the oven while I did some work, threw it in and it was good to go.

And yes-- I savored all the brown bits and chewy nubbins. Results as advertised. So good!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Can your mom do it? Signs point to yes, geek friends.

Hat tip to Geekfeminism.org, which published this terrific quick observation on a terrible public transit ad: http://geekfeminism.org/2011/02/24/quick-hit-my-mom-has-a-phd-in-math/

Here's the photo from GeekFeminism that says it all:
That sticky note at the bottom says "My mom has a PhD in math."

HELLO-- "We're hiring hackers with people skills." Good idea- perhaps ITASoftware should think about hiring ad developers with people skills too. Or at least someone around who would have caught this ad and said, "My people skills tell me that we might want to find a different way to say this. Especially if we want people who are also moms to apply."

I don't buy the argument that the ad is just about seeking folks who can explain software in lay terms. It's definitely making the assumption that "mom"=nontechnical (at best), or anti-gadget, unplugged, behind the times. Someone who would need a clear, engaging lay explanation.

Have they not heard of the massive group known as "mom bloggers"?

There are millions of women and moms online and I will just put myself out there and make the bold pronouncement that many of them feel comfortable futzing around, teaching themselves some stuff about the Internet they use daily, and many might not be completely clueless when it comes to coding n stuff. I happen to know some brilliant moms who can go from 0-60 in 5 seconds flat on new technologies- AND utilize them to get real results in politics and beyond.

It's time to put this "can your mom get it?" thing to rest. I just saw it today in a tweet from someone who shall go handle-less, tweeting from DemoCon about MobileNation, "which makes it possible for just about anyone to build mobile apps, even "your mom.""

Ok, maybe by putting it in quotes he's acknowledging that it's a meme and not literally your mom. Fine. But the words (and now that I consider it, maybe especially with the quotes) still imply that "your mom" is shorthand for someone who doesn't know about building mobile apps. "Your mom" as that end user, the one who calls it "The Twitter," fears the Facebook and has you check her email for her. And that doesn't sit right for me. There are plenty of end users like that who are not your mom, not "your mom," and not women.

How about newbie? N00b? Novice? I know it doesn't have the same rhythm as 'yer mom' but maybe more classy. And definitely more accurate.

Got ideas for better names for the novice end user?