Monday, May 31, 2010

Sugar on My Tongue

So long, Sunkist!

I found the perfect article for that person who is looking to cut down slightly on sugar in their diets, but not so much on tasty treats.

Some happy blogger over at Worldmysteries9 wrote "Harmful Drinks in America", an article that describes 20 delicious, sugar-dense drinks and their equivalents in desserts. That person also has suggestions for "healthier" drink substitutions, but that takes away from the article's most important point.

Drinking 20 oz of Sunkist is equivalent to eating 6 Breyer's Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches. That means you can eat 3 Ice Cream Sandwiches and still be ahead! Don't think too much about it.

Click here to discover more scrumptious sugar-cutting short-cuts.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Steampunk Guitar

Don't look too closely.

I found this Steampunk electric guitar hand-made by Buddy Blaze on a week ago and forgot to share it. I love most things Steampunk, and you should, too!

The guitar has been granted Steampunk-itude thanks to a custom graphic decal by artist Stephen Jensen. That's cool, but not Steampunk enough for me.

What would make it more Steampunk? Skip the pansy graphic decal, for starters. I'm thinking actual, three-dimensional clockwork gears on it, and maybe some antique-looking wires jutting about.

Sort of like this:

Via Slippery Brick. Ha.

See? That might fit in a Jules Verne novel quite nicely. I prefer it, but something tells me it would be slightly less commercially-successful than Blaze's version.

shameless plug | needs re-write

Delicious black bread via Yogurtland.

I've been reading these Russian posts on Sunshine Supercars (go visit, I guest blog there!) for over a year or so - stories filled with mad Russians racing their super-fast cars at evil speeds on public roads, seemingly without a care in the world.

They fascinate me, these Russians. I want to know more about them. How do they think? Where do they live? What - most importantly - do they eat?

You all should know I'm a bit of a foodie, so it seems a natural enough question to me. You should also know I have a real problem with Ohio winters, so how do these Russians get through theirs? By loading up on that superb Russian staple: bread!

I was as surprised as you probably are to learn that bread is one food item a Russian table is rarely without.

Now, we all know that no decent human can deny the satisfaction of a freshly-baked loaf of crusty bread, but the Russians elevate its importance to an intense level of seriousness. The Russian intellectuals have asserted that "the quality of bread is the quality of our life".

The importance the Russians have placed on their bread isn't recent, either. During the Cold War, the baking of bread was industrialized, and the Soviet government fixed its price, making a bland, homogenized, and stereotypically communistic sort of bread accessible to all.

In the home, more traditional wives and grandmothers prided themselves on their mad bredmakin' skillz. How did they organize culinary throw-downs in Russia? By pairing off a dense and chewy Borodinsky against a Chorni Chleb - a particular black bread with more than twenty ingredients, including rye flour, chocolate, shallots, coriander, and caraway seeds ... it sounds divine.

All this emphasis on bread and baking follows the Russian proverb, "bread is at the head of everything," and it seems to do a body good

And, finally, because I couldn't resist ...


... ah, Yakov. You taught us well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Personal Satellites Are Go!

I'm feeling a little artsy, but as I've taken on too many hobbies recently, I've decided to create vicariously through interesting people. Enter Hojun Song (Song Hojun?) a South Korean art futurist. I don't know whether to applaud him or to go Sarah Connor on his ass.

As you can see in the video, he's a cool, harmless geek. He's got long hair, he snowboards, and he's an artist/engineer with a mission: to help human beings create a relationship with the Universe via personal satellites. His name for them: Global Orbiting Device. Yep. He's just asking for it, isn't he?

His artwork is without any apparent irony, though. His Open Source Satellite Initiative, or OSSI, is his way of making space attainable for everyone. Everyone will have a satellite of his or her own to follow around the world, and it will possibly follow them. Here's the link to his free book courtesy of Google Books for all of you D.I.Y. types: "DIY Satellite". It's cheap, and attainable. You just need to find a a rocket to piggy back your satellite on.

What could possibly be wrong with that? These things are cute. They're made of aluminum, decorated with strong LEDs, and fit inside back-packs. The LEDs will be bright enough to shine out Morse-code messages over the world. Mr. Song touts them as "controllable shooting stars".

Say what?

What if your G.O.D. doesn't want to be shot to earth? What if each satellite acts as your own, personal spy? A satellite per person, spying on each person... A small voice in my head is screeching "Skynet" (oh, and it's probably happening.).

Here's a more practical concern: what if your little shooting star whacks a very expensive, government-owned satellite?

Granted, I don't know much about orbits or satellites, but I figure these are things to think about before you launch your personal satellite bombs.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Re:visiting Peru | Seco de Pollo

My mother knows there aren't many Peruvian restaurants in Ohio, so she sent me an old Peruvian cookbook. Now, I'd rather have a Peruvian cook than a Peruvian cookbook, but I guess visas are hard to come by (unless you're willing to marry the guy).

Regardless, my mom's little gift inspired my recent desire to push Peruvian cuisine through my "Re: visiting Peru" articles.

With that in mind, I took the cookbook on a test-run right away, making the Seco de Pollo shown above.

Seco de Pollo is a delicious, cilantro-infused chicken dish served with peas, carrots, rice and potatoes. "Seco" literally means "dry" in Spanish, but (if you do it right) this dish is anything but, with moist chicken and flavorful starches.

If you want to reproduce this dish, you'll need -

  • 6 pieces of chicken
  • salt, black pepper, ground cumin (to taste)
  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup of diced onion
  • aji verde (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup of blended cilantro
  • 3/4 cup of peas
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • lime juice (about 1 lime's worth)

    1. season the chicken with salt, black pepper, and ground cumin
    2. fry chicken in large sauce pan until golden brown; set aside
    3. fry the onion, garlic, and aji verde on lower heat in same pan until onion is translucent
    4. add cilantro, peas, and carrots
    5. add chicken and cook on medium-low heat for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is done
    6. squeeze the juice of the lime into the pot once finished
    7. serve with rice and potatoes

Cilantro can be difficult to find fresh. Try to buy cilantro when it's cheap, pluck the leaves off the bunches, and blend it with a bit of water. You can also freeze pureed cilantro in an ice cube tray, keeping it fresh.

Aji verde might be a even more difficult to come by. "Aji" is a pepper indigenous to South America, which has a very distinctive taste. You can substitute jalapeƱo peppers if you can't find any version of aji in the Latin section of your grocery store ... but if you want to keep the recipe fully authentic, you can always order aji verde online from Amigo Foods or Latin Market.

I hope you try this version of the recipe ... and let me know what you think in the comments!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Re:visiting Peru

It's great to see Peru finally moving up in the foodie world - historically, destination sites for gastronomic tours have been chosen from regions in France and Italy, or other commonly-visited European regions. Google "gastronomic tours" these days, however, and Peru actually pops up on the first search page!

Peru's not the first result (yet) but it's on the list now.

Peruvian cuisine is, IMHO, awesome - an organic outcome of Peru's rich history and a melting pot of the best that the cultures and races that have made Peru their home have to offer. It is an inter-weaving of ingredients and traditional dishes prepared by the descendants of the Incas, the heirs to the Spanish conquistadors, the sons and daughters of the African slaves, and more recent immigrants from Italy and France. The waves of Chinese and Japanese laborers brought to the Americas in the railroad days have contributed as well, making the land into a culinary equivalent of a military superpower.

Lomo Saltado: a gorgeous example of comida criolla

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Google's top gastronomic search results include Peru, since legendary chefs like Georges Auguste Escoffier have ranked Peruvian cuisine among the top three cuisines of the world since the 1920's.

Still, maybe Peru won't become the next "hot" gourmet destination, but I intend to add as much to its popularity as I can, so stay tuned!

¡Buen provecho!

Full disclaimer: I am the American-born daughter of Peruvian immigrants, so I may be a bit biased and more inclined to point out the finer aspects of llama gasbag soup than your average reviewer.

Friday, May 21, 2010

You Took My Brit!

Thanks to a little last-minute benevolence from my mother this Mother's Day weekend, I found myself on a plane to Miami.

As the flight filled up, a gorgeous young British gentleman sat down across the aisle beside me. After a few smiles and awkward glances, he started "chatting me up a bit" through the parade of legs and butts and stuffing of carry-on items in the overhead bins (which may settle during your flight).

Yup, this trip was looking pretty good ... until a rather unattractive family began to board the plane.

They were fat, loud, Whiskey Tango. They were trundling down the aisle - headed right for us. On top of that, one of the women was visibly, deathly afraid of flying.

"I'm glad I don't have to sit next to that mess," I said to British Guy, pretty sure that I wouldn't have to. Relate to this seating chart:


  • Blue = Totally Hot British Guy
  • Pink = Frankie (Yay!)
  • Brown = some guy
  • Empty = empty seats

    See? I thought I was safe.

    "Actually," said British Guy, "this isn't my seat."

    "!???!??" said I.

    "My seat is actually several rows back. I just sat here becau-"

    He was interrupted by a clasp of sausage fingers on his shoulder. "'Scuse me (sigh, wheeze) this is mah sit."

    My heart sank. My Brit was pushed back towards the tail of the plane. The three sisters made their way to their seats.


  • Red = Skinny, Frightened Whiskey Tango (FWT)
  • Gray = Loud, Enormous Whiskey Tango (WT1)
  • Pink = Frankie (Oh noes!)
  • Gray = Loud, Enormous Whiskey Tango (WT2)
  • Brown = some poor bastard being pressed into the window

    At this point, the flight became an exercise in phobia-exposure therapy for FWT and WT1. WT2 seemed content enough to Spread Out into my personal space, forcing me to adopt a strange, 30-degree lean into the aisle.

    Yup, this trip was gonna suck ... but don't feel bad for me. Sure, I "lost" my Hot British Guy in the shuffle and that was bad - but I could have been the poor bastard in the window seat.

    Godspeed, some guy. Godspeed.

  • Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    The Feve | Black River Belles

    The Feve is a local restaurant that is many kinds of awesome, if for no other reason than bringing tater tots back into my life after I'd convinced myself I'd outgrown them.

    The Feve is also the only cool restaurant/bar that's open past 11:00 PM in Oberlin's corner of northern Ohio, and it boasts a kick-ass micro-scene with patrons like Tym Switzer, Stevie Wonder, and Danny DeVito passing by to share chocolate and wine with Jason (the bar's owner) and his crew of pretty college-age employees.

    I was lucky enough to duck in during a Black River Belles concert last Sunday. The Belles are a terrific blue grass folk band made up of three cute Southern gals who Rock Out to the classics, but who are also capable of belting out a few originals which are equally convincing.

    Unlike Dave Matthews, this sounded better live.

    The Belles are fronted by Helena Thompson, who has become my heroin by virtue of her delicious butterscotch voice and tolerance for whiskey. She also claims to be a good kisser, but I will neither confirm nor deny this fact.

    Can you tell I'm a bit smitten? GIRL CRUSH!

    The other band members seem just as skilled and gorgeous as Thompson. Erin Lobb is on Cello and sings backup (listen to her version of Shankill Butchers), while Sara Sasaki's little red cowgirl boots lead me to believe that could pull off one of Paganini's violin pieces, no sweat.

    Overall, the Belle's performance was very involving - and it was refreshing to see performers who aren't afraid to sweat on their instruments.

    Really, I've seen so many "big, rich, rockbands" give half-assed shows at expensive venues with zero effort made to connect to the very audiences who paid for their Lear jets and Bluebird tour buses ...

    ... and that's my review of last Sunday at the Feve, people! I hope you enjoyed it and I can't wait to go again. See you there!

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Should I hope to die before I get old?


    I had a heck of a time making it to my connecting flight at Charlotte International Airport earlier today. I'd get into a good stride for ten feet or so only to be cut off by a series of elderly people casually shuffling around in circles.

    It was somewhat endearing. They dragged their little suitcases on wheels behind them, obstructing forward progress because they were distracted by food they couldn't digest properly and their youth passing by, or whatever sends them off on reveries.

    Please don't misunderstand; I love the elderly. I'm one of those rare chicks who can take a knee and listen to a good story from those with more experience (and hopefully more wisdom) than she has. I even fantasize about some older actors the way Umberto Eco waxed poetic about Granita.

    It's just that watching them move so slowly, and at times so painfully, got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I would like to be put down (humanely, like they do with horses) if I ever got to be that slow or physically dysfunctional.

    What fun would it be to reach 180 if I couldn't hurl cats across the room for fear of fracturing fragile, osteoporotic bones?

    I know what some of you are thinking. "Frankie, you'll probably be able to transfer your brain into a robot body in the near future." I hate robots, and am preparing for the inevitable robot rebellion. Transfer my brain into a potentially easily-hacked robot body? No thanks.


    If science fails me, and reaching 180 in a healthy human body that can still enjoy sensual delights turns out to be impractical, I'd like to make it to what remains of the Who's age and snag a major gig like they did with the Superbowl.

    Yeah, watching The Who perform for the halftime show last February was heartbreaking, cringe-inducing, and not a little ironic. But then, they got to rock out to millions with an all-expense paid trip to one of the biggest parties in 'Murica. They're clearly doing something right.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    The Amazon Rainforest | Intro

    It kind of is.

    On a small bit of land near the Amazon in the city of Iquitos lived a family of doctors who were kind enough to take me in for a week or two in 2003.

    I don't think they were quite prepared for my (proprietary!) mixture of self-absorption and unbridled enthusiasm.

    I had Ideas of what I wanted from a trip to the Amazon: a dip in the legendary river (I was younger and even stupid-er than now), a stay in the jungle, a burning romance, and maybe a visit to a shamanic village for ethno-botanical research.

    I didn't quite get what I wanted, but the "not getting it" wasn't so bad.

    I'll be posting little anecdotes about my time there in the coming days. In the meantime, enjoy the South Park song from their classic episode, "Rainforest Schmainforest".

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    Greater Cleveland Writer's Group | May

    Working Steampunk laptop. Not exactly relevant, but awesome.
    Via Geekologie.

    Twenty writers with all sorts of day jobs enjoyed the written word tonight on the top deck of the Keasarge, a converted steamship built in 1892.

    Our little group talked of technique, character development, markets and other Very Important Things while floating next to a rusting, brown submarine. The Cleveland skyline was at our backs, and small jets and helicopters zoomed overhead every ten minutes or so. If you squinted really hard through the setting sun, the whole of it could have worked as the background for a Steampunk novel.

    Happily for me, this was not like the college writers' groups I'd attended years ago. For one, there was enough wine to power a number of conversations that actually got somewhere (read: business deals). The group's organizer is a publisher who is working on projects with at least two of the writers.

    Almost as important, some considerable writing talent was present in the guise of Ralph Lauren glasses and video producers, ghost writers and chefs of Irish cuisine, a programmer or two, a nurse, a weathered gardener, and a linguist. My favorite character of the bunch was the aspiring finance guru whose car had just broken down.

    He read to us from a well-written, humorous first chapter about making a million bucks off a McDonald's salary with the right investment plan. The target audience is those people who are freshly out of jail with no higher prospect than working in a fast food chain.

    I didn't want to play group gadfly on my first encounter, so I let someone else raise the obvious question- being, of course: "Ha-HA! Why aren't YOU a millionaire?!". I mean, it's the first thing anyone should ask, and a major flaw in his case for getting it published.

    His response to that wasn't objectionably bad. He said it was a living, working plan, and he'd had some setbacks, which he'll also write about. This works because it's first going to be a class given in jails to get inmates thinking about jobs and saving or investing for their future. This author has experiences they can relate to, which is important for skeptical people.

    It's not my mess, but I'm looking forward to his progress and to his writing style as he's quite entertaining.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    Driving in a Winter Wonderland

    This would have been ideal.

    Now that the Ohioan winter is firmly behind us, I can turn around and stick my tongue out at it (figuratively, of course).

    A little context for you. I am a native Floridian. Worse, I'm from South Florida. Our driving exams are notoriously lackadaisical. I completed mine down in Homestead (our farming country), where the instructor was easily bribed by young women offering baked goods. I'm fairly certain I would have failed any driving test administered north of West Palm Beach.

    Miami in particular has terrible traffic at all times of the day, poor road quality, and people who feel entitled to reinterpret traffic laws. Heck, some Floridians don't even know how to drive in the rain, and it rains ALL THE TIME.

    See? It's not that difficult!

    Somehow, I relocated to northeast Ohio in July with nary a thought about the colossal pain driving in snow would be. Picture me in December sitting in a Dodge Ram 1500 (not a 4X4), with no sand bags or other added weight in the truck bed and no snow tires because I kept putting off their purchase. People started placing bets on whether I'd survive the winter or not.

    What saved me from almost certain death? I actually drive o.k. in the rain, and as it turns out, driving in the rain is similar to floating over snow. After months of sobbing in my truck during braving 45 minute to 1.5 hour commutes on snow-crusted highways, I've cobbled together some general survival tips for my lucky readership:

    1. Purchase the off-roading tiretracks (pictured above) from

    Can't, or don't want to for whatever boring reason? Then:

    2. Don't make any sudden accelerations
    3. Don't make any sudden decelerations, either
    4. Don't make jerky steering inputs
    5. Do follow in the path of other vehicles (mostly for snow)
    6. Invest in good windshield wipers
    7. Go at a pace you're comfortable with, even if your passengers call you a sissy

    If you happen upon a virgin expanse of snowy road, then you're unlucky. This usually happens around three or four in the morning, so it's usually not a problem for upstanding, responsible citizens.

    A note about number seven: I may not love driving in winter, but I am looking forward to the entertainment overly-cocky owners of jacked up 4X4s can provide. These monstrous trucks will scream by you on highways, but you'll invariably find them sunk in a snow bank a couple of miles later. You'll get to chuckle while they wait a long time for a tow truck. They felt comfortable at 50 mph in the snow. The point? Be realistic in your "comfort zone", and stay well below the speed limit.