Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rolling my warm, moist balls around

So my apartment has a pretty small combo washer/dryer, which for the most part isn't a big deal, but combined with the fact that it's ventless, it tends to take basically forever to properly dry clothes and tends to leave them pretty wrinkled.

The problem is that the clothes don't really tumble, pushing hot air around and through the fabric, but instead just basically rotate. This isn't how a tumble dryer is supposed to work.

So the idea came to me to get some of those dryer balls to try to help the clothes tumble properly. I checked amazon and wasn't really too thrilled with what I saw: lots of hollow spiky balls that people complained tended to lose their spikes. After a bit more searching I found some felted wool balls that looked a bit better, but for $30 for a six pack they didn't really inspire me to buy.

Then I thought to myself "I'm a man, I have a perfectly good set of balls I can use", specifically the set of lacrosse balls that I bought a few years back for juggling. They're nice and heavy, rubber, and Canadian, the three qualities that matter the most.

I gave them a try last night, and they seemed to work quite well. The load came out dry after about an hour of drying rather than coming out with damp spots after 2 hours. I'm not sure if they'd make much of a difference in a dryer that isn't painfully undersized, but if you find yourself disappointed with your drying performance, you can do worse than taking a chance on using your balls.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Salting my nuts

Ok, that title sounds a lot dirtier than it really should.

A little back story first: I love pistachios. Like seriously love them. If there's nuts in my mouth, they'd better be wrinkled and green or someone's got some explaining to do!

But there's one thing I don't love about pistachios: the shells. For some completely inexplicable reason, someone at some point decided that pistachios, unlike virtually every other nut on the planet, must only be sold in-shell. Now these days they're thankfully no longer dyed neon red, but pre-shelled pistachios are still as rare as chicken teeth.

So it was with great joy that I discovered that Trader Joe's sells pre-shelled pistachios. Hurray! I bought a bag, brought it home, and further discovered that they're unsalted pre-shelled pistachios. Slightly less hurray.

Now the trouble with unsalted nuts is that if you try to just add salt you end up with a bowl full of unsalted nuts with a pile of salt at the bottom. Similarly if you follow the internet's advice and coat the nuts with oil before salting, you'll just end up with salty, greasy fingers.

The answer is that we need the salt to crystallize on the nuts themselves. To do that, it's really just a simple matter of making an over saturated solution of saltwater by mixing a good heaping tablespoon of salt with just enough water to make it liquidy, then tossing that with the nuts.

Of course now we have well salted but entirely too soggy nuts, and one must never tolerate having soggy nuts. So it's onto a baking sheet and into the oven on the lowest setting for an hour or three, stirring occasionally to keep things drying evenly.

And at the end of this long, arduous journey, we have a nice pile of well salted, pre-shelled pistachios. Mmm.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Flexing my green thumb

(Post is backdated because I'm a lazy mofo)

Today I finally got around to doing something about my barren, desolate patio. (Pretend the pots in the corner aren't there yet)

I started pretty early in the day to avoid the heat, and set out to a garden center in search of bamboo. The first place I tried had some, but none of it was suitable for the planting I had planned. It was either too wide, too tall, or too invasive. The story was much the same at the second place, but they off hand mentioned that there's a bamboo specialty grower over the hills in Aptos, so after mulling it over a bit I decided to take the plunge and head on over.

I initially made my way over to 17 to get across the hills to Santa Cruz, but given it was the 4th of July weekend, the traffic was backed up all the way past 85, so I quickly ducked off again and took highway 9 instead. I have to say that 9 is a very, very pleasant road, and for future reference looks to be quite bikeable.

It didn't take me too long to get through Santa Cruz and over to Aptos, and just after lunch I arrived at Bamboo Giant. After discussing the various options with the staff there, I settled on getting 3 small pots of Alphonse Karr bamboo, and loaded up to head home.

On the way back, highway 1 was a bit clogged up heading towards Santa Cruz, but 17 was basically clear sailing all the way back into the valley, so that was nice.

Finally arriving home sometime mid-afternoon (around 3:30 according to the timestamp on the first picture), after a quick stop off at Home Despot for some appropriate tools, I set to work getting the bamboo into the ground. It would be a simple matter of turning the soil, dividing the 3 bamboo into 6, and then planting them.


Turns out that the dirt along the fence where I was planning to plant the bamboo hadn't been dug up since sometime in the 60s or 70s when this apartment complex was first built, and was additionally used as a bit of a construction dump for the plasterers to dump their excess materials. Lovely. Digging up that 20 cubic feet of dirt took a solid 2 hours of work, but once it was done I was only left with the relatively simple task of dividing and planting the bamboo.

I say relatively simple, since this bamboo grows a rather tightly bound wad of rhizomes that was a hell of a challenge to cut through. I did manage, though, and the results can be seen here below.

If the label on the side of the pots is to be believed, these will eventually grow into a lovely 10 foot wall of green, giving me a nice bit of screening that the low fence rather lacks. Hurray! Provided, of course, that it doesn't object to growing in a bunch of barely organic construction debris. Oh well, if it dies I'll go get some compost to turn into the now much looser dirt and try again.