Monday, May 31, 2010

Confused Tomato: Defying Gravity

Several weeks in, and Confused Tomato remains as confused as ever. He knows where up is; he wants to go where up is, but somehow, no matter how many times he twists his stalk, he just can't get where up is. I try to explain, I really do.

"C.T.," I say, "This is a good thing, I swear. Your leaves are never going to end up touching the dirt and getting leaf rot, your stem won't have to be strapped to a stake for support. You're easy to water, your roots have lots of soil, and if you just reach down and out a bit you can have all the sun you want. Don't you think that sounds nice?"

But Confused Tomato won't listen. Partly because he's a tomato plant, and therefore has no ears, and partly because it's all just so darn confusing.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Lost Weekend

Lost to madness and debauchery? To an impromptu trip to Vegas that ended with a near-arrest at the Neon Graveyard with a half-dozen Elvis impersonators, an aging showgirl and three German tourists? To that spot behind the dresser where the cat likes to put things? No, to Salmonella poisoning*.

We were going to spend this weekend out at the barn, in Bodega Bay, sipping wine, looking out at the ocean and listening to the distant sea lions and enjoying a few rare sunny summer days on the coast. But, thanks to my unfortunate encounter with some tuna salad with homemade mayo, we've spent it sitting on the patio in San Mateo, sipping mint water, looking out at the Wheel Works and listening to the truck motors left running by old guys going in to the American/Vietnamese market to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets.

It hasn't been all bad. (At least, since the excruciating stomach pain stopped. That was nothing but bad.) Cameron is an excellent caretaker of the sick and delicate, and it turns out that Columbo mysteries on Netflix streaming are exactly what you want to watch when you aren't feeling up to much of anything. Plus, we didn't have to pack, or get stuck in traffic, or any of that other annoying vacation stuff. So, really, what am I complaining about?

Oh, right, Salmonella poisoning.

*I'll spare you the details, because I like you, and just say that I am happy to be up and about and eating again, if not in quite the quantities I am accustomed to. Also, I think I'm going to lay off the mayonnaise for a while.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Due to a severe bout of food poisoning, this week's Shoefinder post will be delayed until such a time as I can sit up for more than ten minutes without feeling like I have a stomach full of angry badgers. The management apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thurscheese: NYC

For dinner on the Monday I was in New York we ("we" being myself and the VanCorvies of Murray Hill) went to a restaurant that takes its cheese plate seriously. How seriously? Well, here's the cheese menu:

I didn't get up to go examine the cheese table, but fortunately I didn't have to, because there was a mirror over it that was angled so that the entire dining room could gaze in wonder.

Obviously, "one of everything" was not going to be a reasonable order, so we limited ourselves to four, with some quince paste*. And, once I was forced to admit that I only recognized one cheese on the menu, we let the on-staff expert do the choosing for us, with the specifications of no goat cheese and  one blue.

Here's what we got:

Clockwise from the top we have:

Etorki-- Sheep's milk cheese from France. Described on the cheese menu as "compliant, sweet, chewy." Only one of those adjectives should be used by reasonable people to describe cheese. Described by diners** as "smooth, mild," "nice with quince paste but overpowered by it" and "really nice version of laughing cow". (That last one was mine.) Ryan pointed out that as you got closer to the rind, it came across as more like a mild manchego, and chose this as his favorite.

Langres-- Cow's milk, France. "Like affinois, but better" (me again). "Creamy, buttery, rich, mild." In a close contest, it was my top choice.

Tete de Moine-- Cow again, this time from Switzerland. Cut so that it came in little ruffled cones. It drew comments like "subtle," "different," and "meaty?" and a discussion as to whether there was a hint of mushroom in the flavor, but in a good way. The quince paste really proved itself with this one, making the cheese taste creamier in combination. Lisa liked this one best.

Valdeon-- Source unknown (either sheep or cow, as the goat had been helpfully crossed out on the take-away menu the waiter gave me), from Spain. A serious blue. We had some trouble finishing this one; it got kind of foul towards the rind. The only cheese that there was anything left of in the end, though even that wasn't much. From Ryan, the quote of the night:

"Tastes like my grandpa's basement, but in a good way."

*Quince paste will be discussed here at a later date.
**I took notes!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whinesday: The World's Most Irritating Pants

Let's talk about pants. In general, I'm a fan. They are frequently flattering, keep your legs warm and leave you free from the fears associated with skirts and windy days. But sometimes, at the hands of an over-ambitious designer who has confused the concepts of "innovation" and "crackhead stupidity," pants can go horribly, horribly wrong.

This is one of those times.

This item was being sold at Barney's in New York, as pants. Which, technically, I suppose they are, what with their leg-covering properties and all. But on closer inspection, they prove to be both more and less than that. More because they include components of at least three different pants in one, and less because they are just so incredibly stupid.

Perhaps you think I am overstating. "Oh, that Daisy," you're thinking. "Always overstating things."

"Really?" I respond. "Okay then, let's break this down."

Starting from the top:

Which is sweatpants, or at least a portion thereof. Now, sweatpants are fine things; exceptionally comfy and perfect for those days when buttons and zippers just seem like too much work. But in this Frankenpants situation we only get part of the sweatpants-- the top part, to be specific-- grafted on to a heavy, almost-denim fabric with a pointless, asymmetrical button and inexplicable beltloops*.

From there we proceed to the crotch:

Which is dropped, of course. Because when you are dressed in the finest mixed-material, inexplicably-beltlooped Frankenpants money can buy, the last thing you want is to not look like you're wearing a diaper.

And now, the back:

Which, if you can't tell, is made of the material normally used for lining things like suit jackets. These pants are like a mullet, except instead of being party in the front and business in the back, they're stupid in the front and crazy in the back.

A lot like a mullet, actually.

Oh, and before I forget, the bottom:

Cropped, rolled and bunched, for that insouciant "my kitchen flooded and I had to wade in and save the toaster oven and I forgot to roll my asymmetrical mullet Frankenpants back down" look.

At the time that Lisa and I encountered these pants, I was on the fence about buying a (very cool) coat at the same store. I was actually carrying the coat with me when we examined them, but the pants-- their very existence and the fact that the store was actually attempting to sell them for $455 (shockingly, they have since been marked down)-- offended me so much that I couldn't bring myself to make a purchase, and I left the coat hanging there on the rack, so that the pants might know what they had done, and be ashamed.

*"Inexplicable Beltloops" is what I am going to name my alt-country band, when I have one.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shoesday: So Awesome I Could Cry

I mean, I won't, because I am a tough and battle-hardened blogger who is totally above that sort of thing. But I could.

These shoes are the crown jewels of my New York acquisition-spree, purchased at the Sigerson Morrison store, where I was helped by (by his own admission) the only gay man in New York who had never been to San Francisco. I told him he should visit; he would like it here. After all, the residents have excellent taste in shoes.

p.s. It doesn't show up very well in the picture, but the shoes are actually a gorgeous shade of navy blue, which makes them even more awesome than you thought they were.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Into the Tomato Forest

Back home to my tomatoes, which appear to have thrived in my absence, thanks to Cameron's help with the watering. I returned with a renewed vigor for my gardening, and some new information, thanks to Lisa, apartment-gardening maven with the blog* to prove it. From her I learned useful things like "you need to keep your tomatoes off the ground or they'll get leaf rot" and "if you see mold on any of your plants you had better get rid of it" and "get that mint (not pictured) out of your herb pot or else it will take over and choke everything else out" and other things that someone who actually knows something about gardening knows.

So I have been employing her suggestions, and I think my tomatoes should be much healthier for it and give me lots of fruit all through the summer. And, if not, maybe she will mail me some of her extras.

Confused Tomato (not pictured) remains deeply confused.

*My favorite bits so far: "Roquette Man" and the view from the strawberries.**
**Also, the somehow-familiar footnoting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Etsy Surfing

All next week is going to be about stuff from my trip, which means I don't have a Shoefinder to do today. So I thought I'd go with something different, and spend some time at my favorite shopping website where I never buy anything: Etsy.

For those who are unfamiliar, Esty is a sort of marketplace for craftspeople and vintage retailers to sell their goods online all in one place. There are no selection criteria at all for what gets listed, it can take a while to wade through the dross and find something for which you would actually like to exchange money. But I still think it's a good idea, a kind of "sell them all and let the market sort them out."

And, if you are willing to put in the effort, you can find cool things in surprising ways. For example, I searched "McDonalds" in hopes of finding dumb stuff like this I could make fun of, and happened to come up with these rather gorgeous silver earrings. On the other hand, there are a lot of items that may have seemed like a good idea at the time to the seller, but when you come right down to it, there aren't a lot of people who are in the market for a silver clutch shaped like a terrified dachshund. And if there are, there shouldn't be.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that one of the largest single crafts groups on the site is the knitters/crocheters. The offerings vary from simple hats, to extremely simple paper cup sleeves, to a hand-knit Captain Jean-Luc Picard, to, erm, a custom-knit garter belt. Or the pattern for making a bag to put your baby in so it looks like a football. Something for everyone, I guess?

It's not all low-end stuff. A necklace like this showed up in this month's Lucky, from an etsy seller, who I am going to assume now has a three-month backlog (a little big for me; I think I'd prefer this one to wear). And some of the things on the more artistic end are really lovely, like this vase or this painting. (And the number of pages I had to go through to find those examples are exactly why not everyone is shopping here; store buyers and gallery runners earn their money for a reason.) But, this being the internet, the geeks get their place, in this case an entire category of "geekery" featuring items like circuit board cufflinks, a Gameboy iPad sleeve, tetris earrings and, for some reason, bugs.

In the end, I suspect that Etsy works best for sellers who are able to direct their customers there from somewhere else, or whose goods are so specific that people will find them directly, because otherwise it is just to easy to get lost in the sea of bad.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some vintage how-to books to browse.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

And We're Back

Sorry I didn't update too much while I was in New York; I was too busy having an incredibly awesome time. Details to follow.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New York Update 1

Eaten: cafe near hotel with good chai and ESPN Deportes on the TV (2x), Asia de Cuba (turns out I recognized the name because there's one in SF)

Purchased: hairbrush, lipgloss, underwear (not forgotten, just needed to replenish and found a good price), raincoat proven unnecessary

Done: "The Addams Family Musical" on Broadway, complained about the humidity

To Come: the Met, the Fluevog store, donuts

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Notice of Service Interruption

I am just about to take off for my red-eye flight to New York, once I finish packing, which will happen after the dryer finishes, at which time my internet access promises to become somewhat unreliable until at least Sunday night. So there will be no official Shoefinder post this week-- though I may try and do something I'm calling Shoefinder Live! on twitter, especially if I can figure out how to handle the pictures, and there will obviously be no tomato status update on Monday.

I just don't know how you'll survive.

Thurscheese: I Forget What This One's Called

I'm pretty sure it starts with an "M" and I know it came up when I was playing Cheese or Font*, but I accidentally threw out the label before I wrote it down. I do remember that I enjoyed it-- for all it's resemblance to cheddar*** it has a flavor more reminiscent of a milder, softer Parmesan. Goes well with a nice crusty bread, but then, what doesn't?****

Wait, I just remembered something. Is it Mimolette? It is!

My powers of cheese are not to be underestimated.

*"Cheese or Font" brought to my attention by Ryan, husband of Lisa, who also helpfully points out that someone has started a market for cheese futures**, which are generally, in my opinion, "sandwich."
**There is, as he helpfully points out, some questions as to whether investors will cover the spread.
***Not that there's anything wrong with cheddar.
****Nothing, that's what.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Winesday: Small Town, Big Cab

Val du Vino Cabernet Sauvignon

I think I mentioned that a couple of weeks ago Cameron and I took off for a long weekend in Murphy's, our favorite winery-infested town in the Sierra Foothills. We were lucky enough to catch one of the few outright-beautiful series of days in this strange and damp spring, and we divided our time between  visiting tasting rooms up and down Main Street (a distance of about five blocks) and sitting out on the porch of the rental cottage, reading and drinking our finds. The only real downside was that the cottage didn't have cable, and since Murphy's isn't much of a nightlife place (the restaurants, we discovered, tend to close around eight), we were left with the network offerings on TV. And all the good movies were in Spanish*.

We really shouldn't have been surprised by that, because for all it's having of some nice restaurants and a place where you can buy fancy olive oils, Murphy's is at its heart a small town. We saw one aspect of that on Saturday night, walking back from dinner past the hall of the local chapter of the Native Sons of the Golden West, which was entirely packed with people. The doors and windows were all open and inside a band was playing and there seemed to be something going on up on the main stage. Someone was selling tickets at the door, but I didn't get up the nerve to go over and ask what was going on. We found out the next day that it was a benefit for a local man who had been diagnosed with leukemia, and they were raising money to help pay his expenses. Apparently, there had also been a bake sale.

On the other hand, the place isn't all small-town charm and togetherness: At dinner that night we were seated near a bachelorette party from Modesto, who were having fun with the grim determination of women who haven't seen the near side of twenty in quite a while, but haven't let that information reach the part of the brain that picks their clothes.**

But the best small-town moment, and the one that actually brings me back around to the subject of this post, was when we went to the winery mentioned here and bought a few bottles of wine. Or, rather, after that, when we got home later that afternoon from our wanderings and found a bottle and a note at the door. The note was from one of the people at the winery, who realized that they had given us the wrong bottle in our purchase (a Mourvedre, I think) instead of the Cabernet Sauvignon we had bought. The bottle was our replacement Cab, and the note said to just leave the other (wrong) bottle with our rental agent, who conveniently lived next to the cottage and was a friend of the winemakers. The whole incident just warmed my cynical, big-suburb heart, all the more for the fact that it really is a very nice wine.

*Fun fact: I retain enough knowledge of the Spanish language from high school to be able to mostly understand what's going on in Lost Boys.
**Actual quote I overheard, "Well, I had to try botox. Everyone else was doing it."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shoesday: Decisions, Decisions

Glamor! Excitement! Culture! Belgian Fries!

That's right; as of Thursday night I will be leaving on a trip to New York City, to celebrate Mary's bachelorette party and visit with Lisa. This is, of course, an excellent thing, and like so many excellent things it requires a careful choice of shoes.

In a perfect world, no choices would be necessary, and there would be no extra bag charges on airplanes, and helpful attendants to carry things everywhere. But on this imperfect plane (and the very imperfect, and overcrowded planes it takes to travel across it), decisions must be made.

I'm fairly sure I want to bring these for evening wear, especially if my outfit ideas pan out. I'm also inclined to bring my other Bloch shoes (not pictured) because they are comfortable, reasonably cute and exactly the right height for my best pair of jeans.

But then we come to the questions. Do I need sandals? Do I need more comfortable sandals?

And what about boots? Do I need boots?

There's also the question of weather. According to the Weather Channel there are thunderstorms forecast for Friday, which would indicate that I should have something waterproof on hand.

If there has been one consistent factor in my visits to New York, it has been walking. So maybe something in the sneaker family would be a good idea to have on hand. On the other hand, we have my vanity to consider, and I've worn these enough to be confident in their comfort.

(continued after the jump, because I just discovered I can do that)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stake and Tomatoes

Having determined that, like ducks and small rocks, tomato plants will float, I have tied them to stakes. Now awaiting further developments.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Shoefinder: A Flip-Flops Rescue Mission

Today's subject is Beverly, pictured here with her husband, my college friend Ben, who she married despite no obvious evidence of a head injury:

Beverly, like so many of us these days, needs some new summer sandals. I was sympathetic to her plight, but didn't realize how serious the situation was until she mentioned that, in the absence of something better, she was in the habit of occasionally wearing Old Navy flip-flops. To work.

I should say, unlike Crocs, I have no intrinsic objection to flip-flops (though I personally do not wear them due to the fact that they tend to grind off all the skin between my first two toes and fly off my feet at inopportune moments). They are perfectly fine for their intended uses, such as keeping you from burning you feet on the sand at the beach, or infecting them with the dangerous foot germs of communal showers. But work, even work at a tech company deserves something a little better, a little more stylish, a little less. . . plastic. Here, then, I offer some alternatives.

I realize, in some ways, this is an uphill battle. There is nothing easier to put on, or more summery to wear, than a flip-flop (and I'm not even going to contemplate competing on price). So let's start slow here, with a shoe that's just a simple step up in shape. Isn't that better? And so easy! Not a work shoe for everyone, of course, but we're talking about an industry built around the distribution and wearing of free t-shirts here, so it should do fine. For a similar, if slightly dressier look, we also have these, or, if a buckle can be admitted, these or these or these, which have the advantages of hailing from comfort brands while not being ugly.

But, as I have mentioned before, there are different kinds of comfort. And really, what could truly be more comfortable than the knowledge that, on your feet are adorable sparkly ladybugs? Nothing, that's what.

Or, if we would prefer a more subtle, less scratchy approach to glamor, perhaps something almost sculptural, like these, would do the trick.

And then, we really should consider the question of loyalty. Why should a faithful employee of ebay leave the corporate nest to look for footwear, when there is so much right there on the site?  Not that the auction model is without its downside. Some of what's available is shockingly awful, other things are just gross.

But there are good things too, cute and comfortable and often a great deal (though you do have to watch out for those shipping costs. They really try and get you on those).And how can you get in trouble for shopping for shoes at work, when you're shopping for shoes from work? It's a win-win!

Which is better than a flip-flop, and doesn't make nearly as much noise when you're walking down the hall.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thurscheese: Gringo de Mayo

The Cheese:

Peppadew Havarti

Your standard mild havarti, spiked with bits of peppadew peppers, a variety specific to South Africa. Very sweet, noticeably spicy in their straight form, they don't dominate the cheese so much as add a touch of piquancy.

The Dish:

Chicken with stuff, Mexicanish Edition (with couscous and a mixed-greens salad)

Hey, it's a weeknight, okay?

The "recipe" is loosely adapted from one in Sunset, approximating a chicken cordon bleu by taking pan-cooked chicken breasts, topping them with ham and cheese and finishing them in the oven. I've been taking the idea and running with it, because once you've topped a chicken breast with one combination of flavoring/cheese, it quickly becomes clear that there's no reason to stop there. Tonight's combination is the aforementioned havarti over green tomatillo salsa (which is, I realize, the only thing even vaguely Mexican about this dish), with chopped peppadews added to the salsa. (See? I got all the colors of the Mexican flag in there! It almost works. . .)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Kitten: 3D!

THRILL as the claws come right at you! GASP at the whiskers protruding from your screen! DUCK as he attacks your head!

No, seriously, duck. He got me full on the nose once while I was sleeping.

These USB Chairs Are Such a Pain

Plus, you know in about six months they're going to come out with a wireless version.

Whinesday: Of Gym Lockers And Head Injuries

Today's inaugural Whinesday was going to be about leggings, towards which I feel a very strong and entirely reasonable animosity, but recent events have compelled me to make it about something else that is very close to my heart: public gym locker room etiquette.

Honestly, I wouldn't think a post like this should be necessary. Who among us is not aware that, when sharing a small area where sweaty strangers must gather and undress, a certain degree of courtesy should be expected? As it turns out, many; therefore, this post, with a few key rules.

(I should note that the following rules are derived from the ladies' locker room at the gym in the office park where I work; naturally I am assuming that the apply equally to everyone else, everywhere.)

1. If, in an almost totally empty locker room, you enter the one bay of lockers that has a person in it, Do Not take the locker next to her but one up, forcing her to choose between finishing her changing facing you at close quarters or turn and face the mirror, because a) this is creepy and b) if I liked looking at myself in the mirror while changing, then I wouldn't have spent the last hour on the treadmill, now would I? I don't care if that is your best, most favoritest locker in the world; find a second favorite or deal with it. Minimal distance in an empty locker room is five lockers.

2. If you come back to your locker and find yourself lucky enough to have the whole bay to yourself, Do Not assume that it will remain that way for the foreseeable future and spread all of your stuff (bag with lotions, wet bathing suit, gym bag, shoes, clothes, underwear, lunch) over the entire bench area, and then go off and dry your hair. And if you do, and if someone else comes along, with the entirely reasonable expectation that she is going to be able to find somewhere to put her stuff down, and stops with surprise upon seeing your mess and says something to herself like, "Whoa, what exploded here?" Do Not give her dirty looks in the mirror as she goes by again on her way to the shower.

3. When selecting a locker in a room where no more than one tenth of the lockers are occupied, Do look around and try to make sure that the locker you are taking is not directly adjoining one that is already in use (you will be able to tell by the fact that the key is missing). Failing to do this can result in the occupant of that locker returning while you are starting to change and have already taken up all of the nearby bench space and have your locker door open to entirely block her locker, causing her to have to move your door back to a right angle and try to work out of her bag while it is still in her locker, causing some of her makeup to fall out onto the floor, causing her to lean down to pick them up, then whack her head on the corner of your locker door, then drop back to the floor, swearing loudly*.

Honestly, is that too much to ask?

*Sorry, Mom. But the Mythbusters proved that it helps**!
**Actually, I have some concerns about their experimental design there.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Shoesday: Let's Pretend It's Arty, Okay?

You know what's tough? Taking a picture of your own feet. That's right, I forgot to take more Shoesday photos again, which is why you are getting poorly lit and improvised shots instead of the usual high-quality photography.

If you could see the shoes clearly, though, you would be able to see that they are some nifty forties-style black patent pumps, with suede trim and a grosgrain bow, which are going to look awesome with some sort of outfit, as soon as I figure out what it is. True, even then you wouldn't be able to tell that they are actually shockingly comfortable and made by a longtime ballet shoe manufacturer*, but these would also be true.

Pictures: Occasionally worth a thousand words, but not always.

*Causing me some minor flashbacks to my childhood tenure as an attempted ballerina, which was based far more on fantasies of wearing pretty clothes than any love of or aptitude for dancing.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Confused Tomato Is Confused

Poor Confused Tomato. There aren't a lot of things tomato plants know, but one of them is that when you are growing, you grow up, away from gravity. And roots go down, because that's where the dirt is, below you.

Confused Tomato just doesn't know what's going on here.