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So this is grief.

It feels a lot longer than slightly over two weeks since Sif left us. My brain tells me it has been about a month, my calendar says otherwise. I still look around expecting a fluffy cat with the best tummy waiting to be rubbed just behind me. Since I hardly ever leave the house, most of the last bunch of times I've left, I've wound up strongly associating with the times I left the house right before Sif died, which is to say, all the trips to the vet, including the very final one. Even if all I'm doing is going out to grab some milk, I'll cross a street and feel really, really sad. I finally stopped breaking down into tears at random times last week, I think. I knew this process would be sad, it's just always surprising how much.

Dorian has been a sympathetic only cat. In spite of his protestations at being treated like a teddy bear, inclement weather has meant most of the last two weeks were spent roasting me in my skin on the couch. We've only just sort of agreed I don't have to be fully robed and arm warmer-ed and blanketed (although this is the ideal). And although I try to keep this to a minimum, occasionally getting up for some water is probably okay. He continues to be disappointed that our opposable thumbs cannot turn off the rain and cause environmental warming on demand. I wished he would sprawl out in a ridiculous fashion a bit more so I have a belly to rub -- he's more of a curly cat. 

I swear what I'd really rather be talking about is my obsession with Atelier games and how much I love crafting in MMOs, specifically how much I love crafting in Final Fantasy XIV. Or how crafting in Atelier games cause me to not craft in FFXIV. Look, one of them is on the PS4, which enables me to enjoy my ridiculously warm couch cat, while the other needs me to be at my desk, which may allow me to have Decorative Dorian beside me gnawing my hand while I'm about to start some hilariously complex raid with a whole bunch of other casual learners, sometimes. Decorative Dorian also has a habit of getting pissed I'm not on a couch, so papers go flying from the desk while I'm trying to dodge floor lasers, ensure the healers have enough mana and make sure I'm in the right position for the upcoming pushback mechanic. Cats qualify as one of the most common reasons for death in dungeons. Sif hated me being in dungeons almost as much as Dorian. Her keening wails serenaded many a thing I attempted. "Hey, this is your two-hours-early reminder I'm hungry!" "You're up late and Seth is in bed!" "I will photosynthesise your stress by yelling at you!" Yeah, I miss that. 

The Day the Empty Carrier Came Home




Listen with pain. On my birthday, we discovered that Sif had lung cancer. It looked like it had metastasized from her belly. The doctors told us that we would decide when to let her go. 

The photo above was the very first picture I ever took of Sif nine years ago. She was a loving cat, who only wanted to be loved in return. She was also a difficult cat. When Seth adopted her, just a few months before we started dating, she had already been returned to the SPCA twice. Although we never found out exactly why she was returned, it was quickly apparent she was a very anxious cat. She hated being left alone --an unavoidable situation if as Seth did, you worked long hours away from home. Sif knew the moment Seth walked up to the front door of his building. She would cry at the apartment's door until he was inside. The plaintive crying only stopped after I fully moved in. One of the real benefits of working from home for me was the ability to walk away from my desk just to kiss a kitten behind her little petal ears. I am biased to think her presence was more calming to me than I ever was to her, but the warm, loving household we created together was a good thing in the lives of her two very damaged people. She had the best belly of any creature in all of existence. We spent many long hours with glazed expressions on our faces just rolling around soft surfaces while I rubbed her belly.

The world I'm living in now is the world the fluffy cat left behind. Sif died on Halloween. For the last two weeks of her life, we watched as she steadily got thinner and more frail. She stopped grooming completely. We did what we could with wet wipes, but her paws were blackened and ragged. The day she left us, she was having trouble breathing. She wasn't able to eat. She could no longer mew -- her chest was too tight. I remember that she slowly followed me around the back of the house. When I realised she wanted to be near me, I saw down against her to read, what was one of, and still is, the greatest pleasures in my life.

Because of that, I had some vague hope the trip to the hospital would be okay. She was in bad shape, but maybe she would still leave quietly in the night. Instead, she went immediately into ER. The doctor came in ten minutes later to tell us her quality of life would not improve. It was time. Seth and I spent the last hour of her life sobbing uncontrollably, while our confused and upset cat kept trying to leave our arms and hide under a sofa. I stayed with her till the end. It would have been unimaginably cruel to not be there for her. To be honest, I expected the sedation would happen slowly. That I would watch her go over the course of a few minutes. The two injections she got actually worked immediately. One minute she was there, the other she was gone. 

I remember the last time she purred. It was Tuesday morning, and she was hungry, so I would add a dab of food to her bowl, and she would purr to let me know I was doing the right thing. I remember the last time I rubbed her belly, on Tuesday night. She had flopped down in front of the telly to nap, as she liked to do, so I wandered over to skritch her tummy. She had a little kitten smile on her face while she slept. I still feel terrible we had to wake her up to give her meds. I should have let her sleep.

I remember the last time she visited me in the study to scold me for working late. That was Wednesday night. I couldn't sleep, and work was something I did when there was something left at my desk. When she comes to squeak at me, I usually pick her up so I can hug her on my lap and listen to her purr. Because she would have trouble breathing, we could no longer pick her up. But she was there, she wanted me to know.

Sif was one of the first people to make me feel loved and wanted when I didn't think I possibly could be loved or wanted. There is a fluffy, triangle-shaped hole missing in my life. I look up from my screen and see that fluffy triangle looking up at me, expecting kibble for supper, her most important meal of the day.

A few years ago, I bought an S-roller for the cats to play with. It's a set of interconnected tubes with a ball cats can reach in and chase. Dorian played with it for about a minute. Sif was unimpressed. In the spring, I noticed this toy under our dining table gathering dust and took it apart to wash. When I put it back together, I managed to snap it into a question mark shape and being too lazy to take it apart again, I added some treats and hoped a cat would find it. The next morning, the treats were gone and Sif was napping in the centre of the question mark -- now officially her personal ergonomic palanquin. When she felt too sick to move, we would find her there, and now her question mark still sits in a corner of our living room. It's her spot, it's not going anywhere. If I were to be cliched, it's like a question hanging in the air. In reality, it's more a string of regrets -- hours where I was too busy working to nap with her when she wanted, or stuck in complex and frustrating raids while she cried at me to stop and not stress out. She was a good, loving cat. I wished I was better to her.

Bitey Chai

So I got into this chai thing fairly late into the game. It started with some tea bags the spouse got me from Numi, which is out in Oakland and whose loose leaf teas I am very fond of. Their tea bags tend to be on the weak side for me, unfortunately. It's even sadder when you consider that most of their weird, creative tea mixes only come in tea bags. I'm still bitter they stopped selling their ultra-luxe vanilla tea. It cost about $80 a pound, so I bought it on Earth Day at a discount once a year, then saved it as a pricey treat until the next. I am thinking I will never get a vanilla tea quite so flavourful and strong ever again. But anyway, that chai.

Rambly preamble.Collapse )

Recipe for Bitey Chai.Collapse )

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The short and somewhat tedious Tart Saga

After learning rather recently that the spouse loves pineapple, and knowing that I only eat pineapple in jam form, preferably on jam tarts, I have resolved to make pineapple tarts at some point before the end of the year. Pineapple tarts are a staple festive biscuit in Malaysia during Aidilfitri. It's kind of like love letters for Chinese New Year and muruku for Deepavali. My mother makes amazing pineapple tarts, which she sometimes sold. The delicate, buttery biscuit dough goes amazingly well with a fruit that makes your tongue feel as scratchy as a cat's -- a trait magically tempered by cooking pineapple and blending it to a mush. (Just cooking cut pineapple pieces doesn't seem to help as much -- though it does make for painfully tart curry, which is great if you're say, cooking a particularly strong-tasting fish.)

Mom shaped her tarts two ways -- the traditional shape, which is a flat, round piece of dough with an indentation in the centre for the jam, and wrapping the jam in a circle of dough, snipping "scales" into its top side and painting on a crown so that it looks like a mini-pineapple. Suffice to say, the traditional tart shape is faster to make, especially if you have a tart tamper to knock out the dough en masse. When I was a kid, I remember my mother using a purpose-built tart stamp, which was a plastic tube with the stamp face on one end and a syringe handle on the other. The idea was that you stamped out individual tarts from a suitably rolled piece of dough. The problem is, I've not actually seen one of these devices since I was maybe nine. I wasn't even sure if it was something only available in Malaysia. A cursory search online, once I figured out the right keywords, brings back a cookie cutter with a similar idea. Unsurprisingly, most shops online ship it from Malaysia.

When I have made jam tarts before, it typically involved either cutting out circles of dough and pushing an indentation in the center with a smaller item, or just rolling the dough into balls and sticking my thumb into them. I much prefer the latter, seeing as how I am lazy and would like cookies faster. This is possibly the same reason I thought a gadget or mould would be nice.

So I wandered down to Sur la Table, because it has everything from plastic ice cream sandwich shapers to autumn leaf-shaped tart stamps no one could ever need, thinking someone out there must have invented something of a rough approximation. I knew they had tart tampers, which are basically a wooden tool handle without the tool head and flattened ends. I have resisted getting these before because it still involves cutting out circles of dough manually and seriously, why am I paying $12 for a wooden tool handle without the tool head?

Shop assistants are Sur la Table have their hearts in the right place -- they're always trying to help. The first person I asked about tart moulds led me to their shelf of fluted tart pans. This was simply a vocabulary error on my part. In American, tarts are firstly a sort of really flat pie. Once I explained that these were jam tarts, the nice lady then offered I could just use my thumb to make a dent in the dough. I carefully explained that I'd already tried this, and what I was looking for a gadget that would shape the dough. She then asked if I wanted a cookie cutter. I was about to explain it was a tart cutter, not a cookie cutter, and had to stop myself halfway because again, an American tart is a very flat pie, and all their biscuits and tarts are technically cookies. So, okay, a cookie cutter. Cookie cutters in America are honestly what they say they are, fancy pattern stamps and cutters shaped like Christmas trees. We tried, but there didn't seem anything that would fit. She did show me their autumn leaf tart stamps, which I admit I was tempted by because they're super pretty, but had to be honest with myself about how often I would actually use one of these guys.

Eventually, we flag a more senior assistant at the store, who first asked why didn't I just used my thumb to make an indentation. I was starting to feel slightly stupid, I mean, why didn't I just continue using my goddamn thumb? He did make a great suggestion of using the back of a measuring spoon, which I thanked him for because that's a smashing idea and I feel like I was dumb for wanting a fancy gadget. It's only a step up from rolling dough into balls and using my thumb, and I really got to respect these guys -- they didn't immediately recommend product, even though they could have, and tried to help me find a product when I insisted on one. Thumbs up! (I will now cease to use the word "thumb".)

Sur la Table is basically a sort of elaborate Afi trap. It's almost as effective an Afi trap as a random and unexpected cat belly in my path. They were having some sort of up to 75% sale. I'm lucky I only came out of it with a cake slice server for myself instead of something loony like a medium sized La Creuset dutch oven. What would I do with a dutch oven? Bake a chicken in the oven. Other than that, I don't exactly know. Maybe talk the spouse into making his treacly baked beans. I was genuinely tempted by the non-stick, dishwasher safe porcelain skillets, because I have always wanted a replacement skillet for our worn out non-stick pan I could roll omelets and crepes in. Moral of the story, question everything I want to buy at Sur la Table (that's most of the store), and think creatively about how to make stuff, because gadgets are mostly for the weak. As I type this out, I'm already seeing that cutting out squares or circles of dough, folding up the sides and fluting it all around with a fork could technically create something like what I'm after. Maybe someday, I will even have the patience to make those mini pineapples.

The Return of Food Inspector Cat

Early this morning, Seth rolled me out of bed to see something, "disturbing but also adorable". When I trudged into the kitchen, a small grey creature was sitting above our kitchen cabinets (the world's most ignored dust trap) making angry noises at all and sundry. My perfect, beautiful cat had probably gone up there to check for breakfast. My perfect, beautiful husband had to grab a cat throwing a small tantrum while trying to avoid his reach (only Seth is tall or long-armed enough to get to the top of the kitchen cabinets).

We haven't yet figured out if a) Dorian hopped up there and got "stuck in a tree", which means both us humans didn't hear him crying for a bunch of hours or b) Dorian hopped up there and could get down perfectly fine on his own; he was yelling at us so we wouldn't bring him down.

I do know that previous to this, I've found treat bags I had safely stored on top of the fridge with its innards ripped out on the floor. Yesterday, he tried to supplement his diet by tearing a hole in a new bag of dry polenta I left on the dining table. A couple of weeks ago, he managed to pry our dried goods cupboard by jumping onto the counter and pushing out the cupboard door with his...paw? Head? Who knows? And we found a ravaged bag of dried anchovies, a broken bag of unpopped popcorn and cat sick probably as a result of trying to eat unpopped popcorn. He likes popcorn. Popcorn is the best, next to pizza, and whatever else I'm eating, because stuff I eat tastes good.

When cr0wgrrl and spouse showed up at our address with meat buns and strawberry sponge cake roll, Food Inspector Cat pattered right up, stood with his face on her knee and tried to nip the meat bun from her hands. He spent the next two or three hours trying to sneak away with a slice of strawberry sponge cake roll when we weren't looking. This is possibly more entertaining than it should be. The farthest he got was getting a slice close to the edge of the table while I was on my laptop.

He is also fully cognizant that items like pizzas and sandwiches require both hands and my mouth to eat. I don't have to pinch off a piece for him, even, he can just nibble the other end of whatever it is I have. My mouth is occupied, so I can't warn him off. I need both hands to operate the average American pizza slice, so I can't shove him away. Naturally, if Seth happens to walk by while this is occurring, Dorian switches back to being a perfectly gentlemanly loaf next to my plate. Such a perfectly gentlemanly loaf is fully capable of looking up at us with loving eyes and wait until we are done with our portion of the food before nibbling the leftovers. He doesn't even mind if he has to lick our bowls clean. This is one of his free services, apart from intense kitten masseuse sessions. He loves us so much. And my Rice Krispies too.

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Robo-woes

So, Robomaid, our Neato XV-11, seems to have finally coughed up its last hairball. Over the past year, it was giving out more frequent and more difficult to diagnose "My brush is stuck," error messages. Usually, this means cleaning under the ball bearings on either side of its brush, as well as the brush itself. About 3 months ago, no amount of cleaning would help. I finally managed to see that the shaft attached to the drive belt seemed to have accumulated hair around one end. The shaft itself is a solid piece of forged metal with no open ends, so I tried using tweezers to reach through the narrow opening and pinch hair out. This was a good idea in theory, but the tweezers weren't strong enough to pry open four years of twisted hair.

I then figured that if I could remove the bottom casing, I might have a chance of cutting away the hair completely. But even after taking out what I thought were all the screws, there was no conceivable way I could see to remove the top and bottom casing from each other. I tried this twice, once on my own and another following a video to figure out which screws I missed. Even then I was doubtful I could remove the top casing without actually breaking something. Plus, it wasn't obvious to me that the bottom casing would come free the way I thought it would, with an obvious entry to the shaft for cleaning.

An online search gave some suggestions. Among them, I tried using WD-40 to melt the hair (this seemed chemically implausible), or loosen it. This totally didn't work, although WD-40 is good to help clean out dust that might be blocking you from seeing straight down under the drive belt. I tried Nair on a cotton bud for the same purpose -- which sort of worked. Unfortunately, Nair is an opaque cream that is more trouble than help. One of the suggestions was to use a Havel's Ultra Pro Seam Ripper, which is basically a thin scalpel with a hooked end (like a very tiny halberd). Apart from the sheer fun of wielding a small scalpel, it wasn't entirely obvious to me at first how I was supposed to apply it to the shaft. What you have to do is essentially run the hooked end facing downwards to catch on and rip into the ring of hair. Any hair that comes loose needs to be tweezed out. About 2 hours of sawing later, I finally saw the glint of metal in the darkness. A test drive of Robomaid suggested she was cured.

Then I tried running it for real to vacuum our bedroom. Five minutes later, Robomaid stopped with "My brush is stuck." In a house with two cats and two people, I can sympathise if a wee robot vacuum decides to face down the dust under our bed and get a heart attack. I tried cleaning the brushes, pulling out a little ring of suspiciously beige fur from under one of the ball bearings. No dice.

At this point, even though a tiny part of my soul goes, "You cannot win overly-sensitive precision tool!", I am leaning on just getting the pros to pry the damn thing open and figure out what I couldn't. Mind you, this is cautious optimism. Robomaid has served us well for the past four or five years. But if the problem is hair, and I can't remove it, we could be looking at something that will repeat itself later. I mean, I just replaced the batteries with new ones! So a part of me wants to spend the night sawing at the drive shaft some more, and a part of me is like, "I'll just pay someone $95 shipping included to fix that in the morning." Seth leans in favour of the latter. He also suggested three months ago that I should get one of the newer Neatos, which comes complete with Wi-Fi, a mobile phone app, telescopic brushing arms (those make me go oooh!) and a better battery. Given that Black Friday is coming up, it seems a good idea to save up for that. Honestly, a second robot vacuum isn't a terrible idea. Owning one has been a real quality of life improvement. It's near impossible for me to reach into the places Robomaid could with a normal vacuum, and a normal vacuum is great for specific narrow places, but gives me tinnitus in the process. Also, cats. One of my cats is the fur of three cats. The other one seems to like rolling in dirt. And leaves. And bits of cardboard. I can see Robomaid just scanning our carpets and blaming us for all the injustice in the world from the crumbs. The crumbs!

We should just assume I come from that generation of people where electronics don't go tits up on you after five years.
For my birthday this year, we decided to head to Vegas for the FFXIV Fan Fest -- an incredibly impromptu decision that was all the more amazing in that we actually got tickets (all the tickets apparently sold out in 2 hours). I hadn't been to Vegas before, so for me it was a kind of sociological experiment. I also hadn't been to a gaming convention before, being that for the vast majority of my game-playing life, they were either a) too far or b) too expensive. That I had a buddy with me honestly helped.

Some back story here: Seth and I have been playing FFXIV 2.0 since beta, or roughly around the last 3 years. It's been the keeper MMO for us, and we've been playing a lot of different MMOs. The primary draw is the system (you can play every class/job (specialisation) you want on the same character) and in particular, the crafting. Three years in, my end-game goals are still primarily making furniture (more on that later). It's also an amazingly tight game in terms of writing consistency and bugs (or the remarkable lack of them per patch). The graphics and soundtrack are on par with the current Final Fantasy games in general, which is to say they're gorgeous. I believe the "Yoshitaka Amano designed the title graphic" thing is still alive. Again three years in, I still catch myself wandering around some zone and suddenly realising the horizon or the plants are breathtaking, even if I've passed that place hundreds of times before. Yes, it's kind of a resource hog, but it's also worth the good graphics card.

So the game is something close to both of us, and we never thought we'd ever make it to the Fan Fest, but we did.

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Adventure in the kitten papoose

 Yesterday I decided to strap Dorian into a backpack-type cat carrier and carry him to the SPCA hospital for his shots. He howled sadly for three blocks and anxiously piped down. Dor was quick to realise that shifting his weight in any one direction would cause me to tilt, so he tried to stretch out and balance his weight as much as possible. Good job, cat!

This kitten papoose thing is really neat. Technically it has a telescopic handle and wheels, but I don't trust our pavements with it. I also think that having the cat against my back goes some way towards calming him down. It is pretty big though. It's built tall enough for cats to sit up in, and in theory it's large enough for a cat to curl up rather than constantly sit in a loaf. I felt really tiny carrying this thing uphill. If it were an emergency, we could probably chuck both cats in here and go... slowly.

I don't consider carrying my cat eight blocks a terrible hardship. And it's much cheaper in the long run than maintaining a Zipcar account for those three times a year we drag the cats kicking and screaming to the vet. It also saves the amount of times I need to apologise to cabbies for my sad kitten. Mind you, I have large cats and they aren't light -- I haven't had to carry a backpack this large or heavy since secondary school, but I need the exercise. It will be... interesting when Sif's turn in this comes up. Dorian is a champion vet visitor. Sif we've heard trained technicians yell for spare hands to hold down the wailing beastie with for routine shots. 

Either way, I like the walk to the SPCA. It's nice broad sidewalks through the industrial edge of the Mission, which reminds me I have always wanted to catch a show at the local theatre companies in the area and put my name down for the Charles Chocolate hot cocoa high tea. I kept maneuvering around to keep the sun out of Dorian's face, but the weather was nice. Seth met me at the vet's to help carry Dorian home, which made it easier to share the load. 

It was the worst day ever for Dorian. But I think the seven consecutive treats went some way towards atoning for my sins...
So, Melbourne CBD. It's a weird place. Within the span of a four block radius, we've found more game, comic and anime stores than either of us could have guessed would exist in one city. The laneway shops and upper storey stores that stack haphazardly upon themselves sometimes rely on the smallest of signage -- if such a thing is even visible at street level, so more often than not, we literally walk past a store before we know it's there. Once, I spotted a guy carrying what was clearly a fresh comic store-labelled bag. A few doors down, we spot the signboard that lead us up the narrow stairwell that went totally not into a small comic store in the wall. The shop was gigantic and alphabetical, with a Previously Owned/Discounted bin bigger than the stock in some of the (what I previously thought were) large stores would have. You just wouldn't see it past the narrow stairwell from street level unless you were looking for it.

Seth found a place called Dungeon of Magic on Google Maps, which turned out to be literally a dungeon store of Magic: TG. We wandered down another basement to Minotaur, which is what I can only describe as a Tower Records of all the merch there ever was. They had sections for novels, models (anime, TV and random game franchises), DVDs, manga, a large shop in itself of comics (excellent indie section) and the best part was that it was all patronised. Like, not by a bunch of old guys people our age poking around the corners, although we were clearly represented, but also schoolgirls shopping in groups for the latest anime, families with kids buying cards and other women just picking up models to put on their shelves at home. In the span of the next 3 hours, we walked out of a Hungry Jack's and up the decrepit lift to a tiny anime store whose dusty signboard was smushed between ads for beauty parlours, and passed by what we thought was a closed board game store on the way to dinner. By our reckoning, the tiny anime store was probably surviving on mail orders, but even that store was patronised, albeit by a much more specialised breed of Idolmaster fandom than the average bear.

The closed game store, Mind Games, which we visited during business hours the next day, was definitely worth the look. a) What we thought was just another board game store was really a board and card game store, role-playing bookstore (with models) and tabletop wargame specialist (with everything); b) The wargame stuff took up a whole separate floor we once again didn't immediately spot at street level; c) Never before have I seen all the Citadel paint colours together in one store, alongside at least four other brands of model paint and equipment. I picked up two Gloom add-ons (Nightmare on Cthulthu Street! Something to do with vampires!) and Seth picked up a Warhammer40K novel, and both of us tried not to bring home 24 colours of unusual pastels or something. Yes, we could and should just mail order the paint, but they're right there in a jar if we wanted.

I think at some point, we might want to pick up souvenirs for friends. I'm told the proper way of things is to get people Tim-Tams.

Note: On the way home from dinner, a giant pink signboard happened across the street that read: "Nekocards -- Trading Cards". I now feel like there are roaming armies of M:TG and Future Card Buddyfight players all around us seekritly prepared to pull out their spell circles at the drop of a hat.

Jun. 29th, 2014

Ah, Masseuse Cat. By day, he is a fearsome predator and guard cat, killer of vermin, eater of bugs. At night, I am to be scolded to sit still so he can knead up my arms with all four feet while climbing backwards then stick his bum in my face. And then we repeat that for each arm, until he is convinced I am suitably macerated, based on his vast knowledge of Traditional Cat Medicine. Interestingly, if I have a sick belly, Masseuse Cat will make sure my stomach is carefully kneaded of its ills. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but Masseuse Cat knows best.

Meanwhile, Sif rolls luxuriously into old age, being quite happy with four meals and a nap. And belly rubs. And chin rests. And treats. And love. More love. All the love.

I plot many things I do not quite get to. I think I have frozen enough berries to last us a year. But most days I lack the energy to cook, much less make mythical cherry pies. Trying to keep us in home cooked meals is going to take rather more effort than I'm putting into this right now.

I am hoping to make a pie this week. Or brownies. I have a diabolical plan of garnishing the brownies with a small amount of shaved hard cheese and sugar. I can attest to the fact cream cheese tastes awesome in brownies. So, salted caramel cheese topping isn't that far fetched. When I do make this thing, and if it turns out good, I should bring some to the cheese guy at the farmer's market. His cheeses are magical, he chats much about cheese pairings and won't stop feeding people samples. Someday, he intends to bring out his bottle of chocolate syrup to prove that cheese really does go well with fudge sauce. Don't hate the chocolate-cheese. I convinced Seth sliced pears and cheese go well together by making a pear and cheese sandwich for dinner once. I wonder where the really bored Chinese dude who sells pears at the farmer's market went to? He's the most bored pear seller ever, but if you ignore that, the pears themselves are amazing.

You know those organic cherries in fancy bags you get from the greengrocer's? The stone fruit guy makes cherries that, pound for pound, make any cherry organic or otherwise look like green peas. Seriously humongous cherries. I could not pass those cherries and not buy them. They're twice the size of the average cherry and I swear they're just normal Rainiers and Bings. Also, he sells very nice peaches and apricots, and plums close to summer. I'm not a big fan of plums (well, in puddings and meat sauce maybe), but I do really like cooking with peaches and apricots. A long time ago, my friend desertwolf coined me up to stir frying peaches with chicken. Garlic, peaches and chicken really work. Actually, I can't think of any meat at this point that tastes bad with peaches.

Someday, I will buy a whole duck from the local organic market. Those darn things mock me from the chiller case behind the butcher every time I visit. Also, store-made bottarga. They sell duck fat by the tub. It is utter deliciousness. I bought a tub to make pie with, but I actually haven't made pie crust with it yet because I get distracted and use it in other foods. Hopefully, I make the pie before I go buy another tub. This could be a challenge.

Also, dulce de leche is caramel sauce in a can. I consider this a form of genius. Instead of butterscotch nibs, I can mix it into chocolate chip cookies, replace the sugar and satisfy my poor husband's love of caramels (they're too sweet for pure burned sugar!) all at the same time.

Did you know it is remarkably easy to write ramblings about food? It is.

Now, I must go sit on a couch and become limp, because Masseuse Cat is bored and if he gets any more bored, he'll knock things off shelves.