Three Down!

I completed my third AutoCAD class at CADTeacher/VBCI.  I was the last one out (the keyboard became unplugged from the computer for several minutes so until it was diagnosed and fixed, I was without a means of submitting my work), along with Lisa Mulvaney Gillespie, who stayed with us while I finished up.

AutoCAD 4 will be an online-only class, so I’ll see how well I can follow the videos, but I am (kind of) excited, nonetheless.  It begins 5 September, which is a Monday, and will run for two weeks, through the 19th.  I had really enjoyed the classroom setting, because I was able to get answers to questions immediately.  Taking the course online will mean submitting questions and waiting for answers, which will challenge my patience.

Last night, Peter and I had dinner with a very interesting and friendly man named Jason, who is a newer member of SDNA&A.  We went to what is rated the 10th best sushi restaurant in the United States, Sushi Tadokoro, on Old Town Avenue.  Located in an unassuming shopping center, Sushi Tadokoro is an intimate space serving well-prepared sushi along with wonderful sides and starters.  We all started with a bowl of miso soup, which Jason commented that he always does whenever he goes for sushi.  Peter enjoyed a serving of shrimp tempura and I, the seaweed salad.  I didn’t taste Peter’s shrimp, but it looked perfectly cooked, and he commented that the batter was lighter than typically served in Japanese restaurants.

The three of us walked back to the Old Town Transit Center, where Jason caught the trolley to return home (he lives to the south and east of Balboa Park, in Golden Hill).  Peter had driven us there, since the 150 stops running earlier than our departure time from the restaurant, so we rode back to mine.  Once there, I decided enough time had passed for our dinner to have started digesting enough to eat dessert.  I served us (and Kat) slices of the semifreddo, which was, as expected, creamy and delicious.  I love making dishes that come out well, and the semifreddo came out perfectly.  Five ingredients:  one can of sweetened condensed milk, one can of coconut milk, one cup of stiffly whipped heavy cream, lime zest, and a pinch of salt.  Next time, I will fold it more thoroughly to mix in the heavy cream more completely, as this semifreddo turned out more marbled than expected.

Peter commented this morning that we can make a point of returning to Sushi Tadokoro sometime by ourselves, and I added,”…  when we’re feeling flush.”  He agreed.  Not inexpensive, but sushi never is.  However, their prices were higher than other places I’ve been to.  Next time, I’ll order the uni (sea urchin) , which is my favorite.

Roasted Hazelnut Macaroons

Made a batch of these last weekend to bring to our picnic at the first of the La Jolla Concerts by the Sea:

12 oz. raw hazelnuts

1 c. granulated sugar

2 (large) egg whites at room temperature

Roast hazelnuts at 350 degrees F. for about 15-20 minutes, until fragrant.  Remove from oven, then use a kitchen towel to rub off as much of the papery skin as possible.  The nuts themselves will be a rich caramel color.  It’s all right if you don’t get all of the skins off, as a little bit adds color to the macaroons and does not detrimental to the taste.

As the nuts cool, add a sprinkle of Cream of Tartar to the albumen, then beat the egg whites until stiff but still glossy.  Grind/chop hazelnuts into a coarse meal (the small food processor I used, made by Krups, did a good job of not turning the nuts into a paste, which would have been too fine).  Stir in the sugar, and then fold in the albumen until the mixture becomes a loose, grainy mass.  Form into macaroons using your fingers to pinch together what appear to be miniature mountain ranges.

Place on parchment-lined or silicone mat-covered baking pan and bake for about 12 minutes, or until they turn a nice deep brown (watch them carefully so as not to burn, which happens in the blink of an eye!).  Remove macaroons from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.  Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea, or just as a sweet snack.

Unfortunately for Peter, Scott, and me, the flying rats (ie, seagulls) managed to open the plastic box I’d put them in while we were on our dive, so we didn’t actually get to taste them until I baked another batch in the evening!

The first week of the three-week-long Intermediate AutoCAD course has finished, and I feel okay about what I’m learning.  There are little things that I still want to practice (nice “tricks” that help save time and effort).  I just looked at the course catalog for the school, and the on-site Revit classes do not begin until October.  I’ve been on their website, and it appears that their only other software package training are all online, which does not really suit me.  I’m looking into test prep courses through everblue for the LEED BD+C AP accreditation, and it looks like there is one in a couple weeks, or else there is one in December.  I’ll contact my DoR counselor, Jeffrey, and program manager, Elizabeth, to make an appointment to adjust my IPE (Individual Plan for Employment).

 

Thoughts over Shortbread

I baked a batch of rosemary shortbread this morning:

1 lb. unsalted butter

4 c. a-p flour

1 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c. minced rosemary (I used dried, but fresh works just as well)

dash salt

Make sure you grind (dried) or mince (fresh) the rosemary into a very fine texture, or the oil and flavour won’t distribute throughout the shortbread as you’d really want.  Mix all the dry ingredients together, then cut in the butter until it looks right (you’ll know when you get there).  Press into a rimmed cookie sheet or baking tray (mine is something like 12″x17″) and refrigerate it while the oven preheats to 375 F.  Bake for about ten to twelve minutes, then turn the pan around to get the shortbread to bake evenly.  Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until the edges start to turn ever-so-slightly tan (you don’t want to overbake).  Take out and cut *immediately* into bars or diagonals, or whatever shape you prefer.  It’s important to cut them right away so they don’t crumble.  Use a serrated knife if you’re as paranoid about cookie crumbling as I am.  Allow to cool on the baking tray, then remove carefully to an air-tight container.  They’ll keep well.

While the shortbread baked, I perused facebook, almost always a time-sucker.  I read an article about women’s body shapes and body images, and finally read a post that made sense.  It’s another writer who also uses WordPress, so hopefully, you can find it to read.  If you can’t be bothered, I’ll just compact it into this:  treat yourself with respect, no matter at what stage of fitness or attractiveness you find yourself.  If you’re like me, you are on a continuing journey to find a better self, but are not totally dissatisfied as things currently stand.  I’ve been through the mill;  I’m not skinny-as-all-get-out, but I’m not curvy, either (most certainly NOT).  I wear a size “Medium” in most things, since I prefer to be comfortable rather than trying to squeeze into the smallest thing possible while sucking – or trying to, anyway – in my paunch).  I have a “medium”-sized frame, meaning that my wrist measures about 6″ in circumference.  I had a good friend in college who had the same size frame, and she was a 5′-10″ tall and totally muscular athlete.  So even among those who share the same measurement, we were pretty different in shape and appearance.

In other news, I’m almost finished with my first course in (re-) learning AutoCAD.  It’s gone pretty well, even though I needed help to log into the school’s server in order to complete assignments and take the required quizzes.  Monday is our last class for this course, and the next course begins the following Monday.  I’m having a pretty good time thus far, and expect it to go this way through the AutoCAD courses (each of which runs three weeks, two days per week).  I’m looking forward to learning the next program, Revit, which is more architecturally-inclined.  In the course of learning this new material, I’m also familiarizing myself (a little bit) with my new Windows-based computer.  It’s running Windows 10, which has a reputation of having a lot of bugs that are being corrected on an almost constant basis.  I’m logged in to get new releases as they come out (thank you subscription!), so I expect things to go as smoothly as can be expected…

Time to put the shortbread into a container to take to this afternoon/evening’s event.  That means I’ll have to put on clothes…

Experiment in Bread

300 g. a-p flour

100 g. corn flour (masa)

2 large eggs

1/4 c. EVOO

1 1/2 T. honey

7 g. yeast

15 g. salt

1 c. water

 

Stir together dry ingredients thoroughly.  Add liquid ingredients and eggs, and mix together until it forms a single mass – a few minutes in my stand mixer.

Place dough in bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise for about an hour and a half, then take out and knead gently, adding more flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking to one’s hands.

Shape into a round and place on a floured baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 375.  Allow bread to rise on the stovetop or other warm place for about 45 minutes before placing into oven.

Bake for 30 minutes, then check for doneness by tapping bottom.  If it sounds hollow, it’s finished in the oven.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, on a rack and covered by a teatowel, for at least an hour.

Kumquat Cookie Recipe

Produces about 42-48 cookies.

18 to 20 Kumquats, cut in half and seeded
1 c Granulated sugar
1 T Ground cinnamon
1 t Freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ t Salt
2 t Baking soda
1 t Almond extract
1 ½ c A-p flour
1 ½ c Masa (lye-treated corn) flour
12 T Unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Large egg
¼ c Coconut oil

Heat oven to 350°F.

Place kumquats into food processor and process until few large pieces of peel remain. Set aside.

In the bowl of stand mixer, blend butter and coconut oil for several seconds. Scrape bowl.  Add sugar and salt.  Pour in kumquats, and blend for several seconds. Mixture will resemble curdled milk. Add flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda. Mix until fluffy.

Line baking sheet with silicone liner or parchment. Place heaped tablespoons of cookie batter spaced about one-half inch apart. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until starting to brown. They may still be soft, but will harden slightly when cool, but remain fairly soft. Cool on pan for one minute, then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Enjoy.

Banana-Blueberry Cake

For my first recipe of 2016, I’m glad this worked!

Banana-Blueberry Cake

1 c. Maseca (Masa Flour)
1 c. A-P Flour
2 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Salt
2 Medium Bananas
3 c. + Fresh Blueberries
¼ c. Coconut Oil
¼ c. Grapeseed Oil
½ c. Brown Sugar
1 t. + Vanilla Extract
1 Large Egg
1  c. + Buttermilk
1 T. + Lemon juice

Note:  + (blueberries, vanilla extract, buttermilk, and lemon juice) indicates that a little more can be used with no ill effect.  Additional wet ingredients will make the cake more moist, so additional baking time might be warranted.

Spray springform pan, with ring insert, with neutral-tasting oil.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Peel and mash bananas.  Add vanilla and lemon juice.  Set aside.

Mix masa, flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Add blueberries, and toss together.

Pour oils into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add egg and buttermilk, and banana.  Mix thoroughly.

Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix well, making sure there are no dry bits remaining.

Scoop batter into pan, then tap on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake cake for 55 minutes, then check with toothpick for doneness.  If needed, bake for up to 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out batter-free (it’s okay if there’s blueberry juice on it).

Leave the cake in pan in the oven for thirty minutes with the door open and the oven turned off, then remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan on a rack for thirty more minutes.  May be served, warm, immediately, or sliced and toasted to rewarm before serving.

[I prepared this before going to pick up K from school this afternoon, and we just cut into it for a late afternoon snack (we’ll be eating dinner much, much later tonight!).]

 

Banana Muffins, Cookies with Berries, and Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Done this morning:

Place baking stone or quarry tiles into oven.  Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Place 1 T. flax seed meal into a small bowl and pour in 3 T. water.  Set aside.

Mash in a bowl:

3 medium bananas (about 1 c. mashed).

Add to bananas:

juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 T.)

1 t. vanilla extract

2 T. brown sugar

and blend together.

In a separate bowl, stir together:

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

2 1/2 c. a-p flour

1 t. freshly grated nutmeg

2 t. ground cinnamon

Add to flax meal mixture:

1/2 c. almond milk

1 T. grapeseed oil

and mix thoroughly.

To the flour mixture, add 4-6 oz. fresh whole blackberries (one and a half small containers).  Stir together to distribute the berries.

Oil or spray 12-muffin tin.

Add the flaxseed mixture and mashed bananas to flour mixture all at once, then stir together thoroughly, until all dry ingredients are mixed in and berries are well-distributed.

Place on baking stone in preheated oven.  Bake 25 minutes, and test with a toothpick.  It might come out moist;  that’s okay.  Allow muffins to cool in pan for one minute, then remove to a cloth-lined bowl, folding the cloth over the muffins to help keep them warm.

Serve while warm.  These muffins are completely vegan and definitely delicious.

I was in a baking mood, so I baked these cookies last night while K was at a band competition:

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Put about 1 c. unsweetened applesauce into a large bowl.  Mix in 1 t. vanilla extract, 1/2 t. almond extract, 2 T. brown sugar, 1 beaten egg, and a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg.

In another bowl, stir together:

2 c. a-p flour

1 t. salt

1 t. baking powder

Mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then add:

2 c. rolled oats

1/2 c. dried cranberries

1/4 c. dried blueberries

1/2 c. dried currants

Stir batter until all dry ingredients are mixed in.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner and drop batter, by tablespoonfuls, onto pan, spaced with about an inch and a half between cookies (I can get 15 on a tray).  Bake for 10 minutes, then allow to cool on pan for one minute before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.  These are a fruity alternative to the sweeter. chocolated version, in which I:

Blend

1/2 cup melted butter with

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce.  Add:

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 t. vanilla extract

1 t. almond extract, and blend well.

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat.

In a separate bowl, mix together:

3 c. a-p flour

1 T. baking powder

1 t. salt

Mix dry ingredients into egg mixture, and then add:

3/4 c. dark chocolate chips

1/2 c. butterscotch chips

1/2 c. white chocolate chips

Mixing thoroughly.  I have a measuring spoon that measures 2 t., and I use that to scoop out batter and place the blobs onto the lined baking sheet.  These cookies don’t spread that far, so can be placed fairly close together on the baking sheet.

Bake cookies for about 8 minutes.  The batter should look dry, and the chips may have melted slightly.  Cool on baking sheet for one minute, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.  These cookies were brought  to a potluck a couple weeks ago, where they were complimented by the host.

Wear What’s Comfy And Sod Those Who Think Otherwise

I read an editorial in a British periodical that bemoaned articles and features found in “women’s” magazines.  I, myself, don’t subscribe to any, nor would I encourage anyone else, male or female, to subscribe to them, for they appear to be (with the possible exception of “Ms.”, which, in the 1990’s, re-started itself as a feminist publication that actually dealt with real issues) glossy adverts for fashion houses who want to sell me an image and the publisher of recipes unlikely to be cooked outside of its pages or the culinary fantasies of its readers.  Specifically, the writer of the article didn’t want to read any more articles about what to wear, how to perform sexually with a man, or what a privileged “star” thinks about things about which they know nothing.  Okay.  I can relate to that – kind of…

I listened to an audiobook recently.  It’s titled Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? and is written by Jeanette Winterson.  A very well-written and read autobiographical account of her journey as an adopted child of a non-demonstrative (in terms of love), strict christian couple, Why Be Happy is a book I recommend to anyone who has ever experienced, as a child, the exquisite pain of feeling unloved and unwanted.  Whether this feeling is caused by external circumstances or internal anxiety, her words express the emotions clearly and thoughtfully.  K listened to much of it with me, and I think she appreciated it, as well.

A book that I recently finished is Why We Believe in God(s), by my former shrink, Dr. J. Anderson Thomson.  He wrote the book after 9/11, which he experienced through his son, who worked in a building across the street from the World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed.  I was actually gladdened by his development as both a psychiatrist (in reading what makes people tick) and as a thinker.  He now sits on the Board of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.  Dawkins wrote the Forward.  Thomson writes that humans are, in their very makeup as creatures who seek out patterns, more likely to believe in the existence of external entities with intent and meaning than not.  We must be able to get outside of our own instinctual desire to believe in some greater force or power to understand that there is, in reality, nothing that could lead one to supposedly “know” what so many religionists claim to “know” beyond the shadow of a doubt, though there is no proof whatsoever for the likelihood or existence of such an entity or entities.

Such faith in that which is perceived as spiritual or otherwise otherworldly knowledge is beyond me, as I’m sure you, as a reader, know.  I find myself bound by the scientific method.  I am willing to accept, not on faith, but on reason, such things as immunizations that are shown to decrease the likelihood of dreadful diseases, medicines that have been shown to lesson physical and psychic suffering, and the physics that enables planes to fly.

I heard an article recently that stated that although many people profess religious faith, we, as a society, live as though we are all atheists (except jihadists, of course, who might be the only ones who actually live the commandments of their deity whose dignity is threatened by virtually everything).  Why buy car/auto/life insurance if I’m confident that god will take care of me and my family/loved ones?  Why stop at red lights if my personal angel will make sure I won’t meet up with some nasty traffic incident?  Indeed, we must all, in reality, live as atheists.  Some of us just acknowledge it.  I’m willing to entertain all possibilities, so I will admit that I am, in essence, an agnostic, for I don’t profess to know that there is no “skydaddy,” but at the very same, I’m not willing to bet on its existence, either.  I’m not a gambler by nature (though some of my life decisions were, indeed, calculated risks for which I am now living the consequences), so I’m not betting on the possibility of there being a Supreme Being who takes an interest in my personal well-being, or that of anyone else.

There’s no eternal homecoming at the end of this world and universe (as we know it).  Our species might end, and we will take many other species with us;  but the earth, unless humans manage to create so destructive a force (like the Death Star of Star Wars infamy) that we manage to destroy it, this very planet, the Earth, as we call it, will continue.  If Gaia (if such a personification can be given to the living planet) could rid herself of us, the most invasive and destructive species known, then I think she’d be relieved and pleased.  It’ll likely be at a high cost (other species that will also be lost) to get rid of the human species, but, in the long run, the planet will be, on the whole, better off, and will, given geological time, rejuvenate and continue to evolve.

And So It Shall Begin

One week from today, I will board an Amtrak train, the Surfliner, and travel to Union Station in Los Angeles.  From there, I will take the Gold Line light rail to a neighborhood between Pasadena and Glendale (though the hotel staff liked to refer to its location as being in Glendale).  I will be taking an earlier train than I’d intended, but all of the reserved seats had already been taken on the afternoon trains that I preferred.  I suppose I could try to take one of the afternoon trains, taking an unreserved seat, but since those seats are not guaranteed, I’d be worried that no seats would be available at all, and that I’d be left with traveling on Friday night, arriving in LA very late, leaving me too tired for the all-day class on Saturday.  On Saturday, I will have an early breakfast (as early as it’ll be available, as my room rate comes with breakfast), then take a taxi into Pasadena for the first of two classes.  The course is a preparatory class for sitting for the LEED Green Associate Exam, which I hope to pass on the first go.  It’s $250 per attempt, but more than that, my continuing my vocational rehabilitation plan depends upon passing.  I am hoping to pass this calendar year, so that I may begin, in January, to take the computer software classes that will make me more employable.

There is quite a bit riding on this exam, and, naturally, I’m nervous.  One young man whom I met in a seminar at the Energy Innovation Center (on LEED Core Concepts) is studying to take the Green Associate exam and the Neighborhood Development Specialty exam in the next month.  We commiserated about how it is nearly impossible to find a job in architecture without holding some LEED accreditation, with the minimum being a Green Associate designation after one’s name.  Accreditation requires maintenance, as well.  There are, thankfully, free seminars that provide continuing education credits which one can use for the purpose of maintaining one’s accreditation.  In the past, I’ve already attended a number of these seminars, but since I was not (yet) a “LEED Professional,” I was merely enjoying learning the material.  Yes, I’m a little bit of a nerd…

The thing that will make the exam difficult for me is the terminology.  The difference between “integrated” and “integrative,” among other very specific semantics, will likely be tested.  I’ve had a mixed relationship with semantics, because, in some ways, I’m very nit-picky when it comes to certain definitions, but less so with others.  In some instances, I’m willing to accept the “well, you know what I mean,” notion of language, and in others, I’m insistent that no, I don’t know that is meant when the wrong word (or form of a word) is used.  This difference, specifically, if I understand it correctly, is that a method can be integrated into a process, whereas the entire process itself is integrative because it has the quality of being made up of several integrated disciplines.  In other words, architecture is, itself, an integrative profession because it encompasses so many different knowledge bases.  I’ve heard the phrase that an architect is, in essence, a “master of all trades,” having to take into account all of the various specifics that go into the construction of a building.

I will make the return trip, after each Saturday (the two first consecutive ones next month), in the evening after class, likely exhausted and sleepy.  I will need to keep at least part of myself awake so that I can listen for the announcement when the train reaches my stop, Sorrento Valley, since I will be leaving my car there to return home, since parking there is free.  Catching the train there saves me travel, since I don’t have to go all the way downtown to get the train at Santa Fe Station, and time, since I don’t have to travel further to get to the train at all.  Taking it “on its way” heading north.

I’m excited and nervous…  And, as I’ve already said, though I don’t believe in it, you can wish me luck.