Stuff and Nonsense: October 2016


Wordless Wednesday: 2 Cats, 1 Chair

Two cats, one chair. This can't end well.

I watched a SciShow recently and learned that cats prefer much warmer temperatures than most humans keep their houses -- between 86°F and 97°F -- and now, every time I look at one of my cats, I wonder if its cold!


Phoebe & Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

About a month ago, I stumbled across Phoebe & Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle in Children's, screamed at the sheer sparkly cleverness of it, and brought it home.

Where I devoured it.

So I acquired the second book, Unicorn On A Roll: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. And devoured that.

And then ... what??? My library did not own the third book, Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure! So sad. So I had to wait for another library to send their copy along. And, eventually, they did and I devoured that ... but maybe a little more slowly, because I thought it would the last volume for me.

But, lo, the Children's librarians had ordered the fourth book, Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure, (still no third book) and there it was on the shelf earlier this week ... sparkling at me, tempting me with snarky unicorn whispers to take it home. And I did.

And then I finally came to my senses and subscribed to the daily update at GoComics. Because, you see, Phoebe & Her Unicorn is a webcomic created by Dana Simpson and I could have been reading it a leisurely pace since 2012. Rather than gobbling it down like so much delicious leftover Halloween candy. But then, you know, I'd have missed all the fun forwards by PETER "I WROTE THE SEMINAL UNICORN NOVEL" BEAGLE, Corey Doctorow, Lauren Faust, and the author herself. Also, the books come with activities, recipes, and vocabulary lists ...

Clever, cute, and laugh-out-loud funny (seriously, I don't recommend these as quiet, waiting room reading) Phoebe & Her Unicorn is reminiscent of Calvin & Hobbes and, indeed, I believe anyone who adored C&H will adore this comic. Also strongly recommend it to socially-awkward nerd girls with too big vocabularies.

The illustrations are well done -- simple but very expressive and I love that Marigold is a proper unicorn with cloven hooves and a tail more reminiscent of a lion's than a mare's. Also, she's very swoopy and curvy -- like a swan or a delicately carved carousel horse.

Yes, I'm quite enamored with Phoebe & Her Unicorn and can't wait for the fifth compilation to come out next year.

Simpson, Dana. Phoebe & Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle. Andrews McMeel, 2014.

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn On A Roll: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel, 2015.

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel, 2016.

Simpson, Dana. Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel, 2016.


Improv Challenge: Carrots & Curry

I wanted to make something really fabulous with October's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients (carrots and curry), but I left everything to the last minute (again) and so you're getting a simple salad. It's pretty, easy to assemble, keeps well, and tastes good -- both sweet and tangy with a gently kick from the sweet curry powder -- but I am still not 100% certain it is worthy of the challenge. Especially since I didn't even grate my own carrots, but bought a bag of pre-shredded rainbow carrots.

I used a medley of raisins in this salad -- Jumbo Golden, Crimson, Thompson, Flame, and Golden Flame raisins -- but the yellow ones kind-of disappear into the salad when you're looking at it, so next time I might stick with just dark Thompson and Crimson. Or maybe currants? Hmm.

Soaking the raisins helps them plump up a bit, making them tender and even more delicious than usual. The cider vinegar makes them a bit tangy, yes, but that works well with the honey and sweet curry flavors. Why sweet curry? I wanted something very fragrant and flavorful, but with only a little heat.

Curried Carrot & Raisin Salad

Yield: 4


  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sweet curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah]
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 lb grated carrots
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. In a small mixing bowl bowl, soak raisins in vinegar for 20 minutes. Drain vinegar into another small mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk together vinegar, curry powder, and oil until combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine raisins and carrots. Pour vinegar mixture over and toss well. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

For anyone new to my blog, Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.

improv cooking challenge logo (aqua rolling pin, spatula, fork, whisk suspended from rack)


Wordless Wednesday: Autumn Rose

Autumn is really here now and with it, the last of the roses.


In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Seemingly out of the blue, Nora is invited up to a cottage in the wilds of Northumberland to celebrate the forthcoming nuptials of a once-friend. She's reluctant to attend, but Florence (the woman organizing the hen) is very persistent and it turns out one of Nora's current friends is going so ... why not go?

Because someone at the party has arranged a murder, that's why.

What a delicious thriller. And, yes, I'm saying that as someone who doesn't read many thrillers or mysteries so ymmv, etc, but wow. An absolute page-turner. Not at all creepy, but very psychological with lots of unreliable characters (including the narrator) doling out dribs and drabs of the story until a truly startling denouement when all those bits come together. In some ways In a Dark, Dark Wood felt like a rather old-fashioned mystery -- a house party murder à la Agatha Christie or Georgette Heyer -- but if that was ever Ware's intent, then it's a well-done homage.

tl;dr: I cannot wait to read Ware's latest, The Woman in Cabin 10.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Scout Press, 2015. Kindle file.


Around Connecticut: Goldburgers

Whenever we hit the Newington Farmers Market, we stop at GoldBurgers for lunch. As good as a really good homemade burger can get, Goldburgers is always miles above. These are the freshest, juiciest, most flavorful burgers going and, trust me, we eat a lot of burgers.

One of my favorite burgers off the regular menu is the "Twice Roasted" -- two beef patties layered w/ provolone, CRISPY bacon, roasted red peppers and onions on a sesame seed bun (ridiculous amount of seeds on that bun!) spread with a schmear of roasted garlic. All burgers can be customized, so if you prefer chicken or need MOAR GARLIC or want to skip the bacon, they'll accommodate you. (The Husband occasionally orders bacon-y things sans bacon and I've finally trained him to ask for bacon on the side so I may enjoy his bacon and mine).

The daily specials board is always worth checking out, too, as it always contains interesting stuff. Of the daily specials I've tried, "Fried Chicken Mac Attack" -- fried chicken strips, fried mac 'n cheese square, tangy slaw, blue cheese, and hot sauce -- is probably my favorite as it was totally yum with perfectly balanced flavors & textures.

We've also shared the poutine a couple times. While I feel the gravy could have been beefier, the salty fries and squishy cheddary curds were omnomnomilicious. The first time we ordered these, the man behind the counter was happy to tell us all about how Goldburgers makes its fries -- hand-cut every morning, blanched, and fried as needed -- and what they're doing clearly works as Goldburgers' fries definitely vie with Five Guy's as my favorite fry.

Fountain sodas are all provided by Hosmer and the assortment is fairly good -- in addition to safe standards like Pink Lemonade and Cola Red (Coke analog), there's more interesting flavors like Black Cherry and Birch Beer. Goldburgers also offers freshly brewed unsweetened iced tea, bottled water, and a few other beverages I don't pay any attention to ... because Goldburgers' unsweetened iced tea is good.

tl;dr: Everything at Goldburgers is good. Go there.


Wordless Wednesday: Mooch

Very much an "if I fits, I sits" moment. Also, long cat is loooong.


Spicy Shrimp & Snap Peas

This savory dish is based on McCormick's "Asian Style Sugar Snap Peas" recipe, but I chose to go with different flavor base and added shrimp to turn it into a main course. It reminded me a lot of Chinese takeout, but much less salty, and I know I'll definitely be making this again ... maybe, with broccoli. Or asparagus. Or bok choy. Really, I think it would lend itself to most any "stir-fry" type vegetable. The flavors are great -- very aromatic with just a little kick -- and the whole dish goes together easily, with minimal fuss.

While I ate this as it was, you could serve this over rice or another grain for a more filling meal. I was simply too lazy (and hungry!) to take the time to make rice.

Spicy Shrimp & Snap Peas

Yield: 2


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz finely chopped red onion
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp five-spice powder
  • ½ tsp dried minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 8 oz trimmed fresh snap peas
  • 8 oz thawed frozen cooked shrimp [domestic, if you can find it, to avoid supporting slave labor]


  1. Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes until tender.
  2. Stir in soy sauce and seasonings. Add sugar snap peas and stir to coat well. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, 1 or 2 minutes or just until shrimp is heated through (you don't want tough shrimp).
  4. Adjust seasonings as desired.


Katawa Shoujo; or, Being the Puppetmaster of Love

I've recently become obsessed with Katawa Shoujo, a "dating sim visual novel" from Four Leaf Studios that looks and feels like a lot of the high school manga/anime I adore but has interactive elements scattered through -- a virtual "Choose Your Own Adventure" where the goal seems to be to help the protagonist, Hisao Nakai, cope with life-changing cardiac arrhythmia, make friends, and find love at Yamaku High School for disabled children.

The graphics are flat -- static backgrounds with an animated character or two layered over any particular scene -- and each character has a very limited range of expressions and movements. Indeed, if you were tempted to turn Katawa Shoujo into a drinking game, it would be very easy to get very drunk very quickly.

I've been playing the game for about two weeks now and I think I've been moderately successful at making friends. Hisao often seems deliberately written as an ass, but I refuse to let him make asshole choices (when I can actually make choices) and, indeed, Don't Be An Asshole is my entire strategy for "winning" the game.

Katawa Shoujo contains some "adult content" (primarily fan service like "accidental" female exposure and upskirt shots) though there is an option in the setting menu to disable it. I have not disabled it in my game, because I'm not really bothered by it -- so far, it's no worse than what I've seen in a bunch of anime -- and I want to see how far the game will go with it. I know Katawa Shoujo isn't an erotic game like the forthcoming erotic visual novel, Ladykiller in a Bind, so will not be that interesting, but I'm still curious.

So far, my choices have Hisao spending a lot of time with Rin Tezuka and Emi Ibarazaki and I'd be happy if he successfully develops a romantic relationship with either (or both) of them as they're both really nice girls who care passionately about their own particular interests. They're the kind of people I'd steer myself toward, so I guess it's no surprise I keep throwing Hisao at them.

However, I frequently feel the game would like Hisao to hook up with student council members Lilly Satou and Shizune Hakamichi -- both of whom I find rather annoying. Oh, I know fictional passionate love is frequently built on a platform of "I can't stand you! Don't ever leave me!" but that just doesn't work for me. I'm almost 40, you know. The mere idea of a tempestuous teenage love affair makes me tired.