On cohabitaiton

Have you ever noticed that grocery shopping with your significant other is a lot like having tea with enemy soldiers? No?

Perhaps it’s just me.

No. I refuse to accept that I’m the only person who struggles with this. You just don’t want to admit it.

When I moved to Toronto, I had a roommate. He was a good roommate, but eventually we parted ways amicably, and I moved to my very own place in the city. Which was glorious. Total privacy, grocery shopping for just me and the cats, decorating to please myself alone. At times I felt a bit lonely, but I focused on being free, for the first time in a very long time.

There is something about buying groceries that I find ridiculously satisfying. I shan’t even try to explain, just know that I really enjoy it. Some of the stupidest, passionate, and most infuriating fights I’ve ever had revolved around groceries. Now that I live with Boyfriend, I am trying to remove the stick from my ass on this topic, but oh; it’s hard. How do I struggle with this? Let me count the ways.

1. Learning to share – combining two households into one means you have to put each other first. That lone waffle tempting you from the freezer? No longer can you just grab it. You ought to ask if the other person wants it, while secretly hoping they say no. I am convinced that sharing is one of those traits we like to think we have mastered, but take away the audience of friends and family, and we revert back to jungle law: leggo my eggo.

2. Learning to compromise – a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but compromise is a sanitized way of saying two or more people are in conflict, and to “reach consensus” at least one person must give in. When you like one brand of a particular food, and your better half prefers another brand, you’ll either spend double to buy both, or one person leaves the store unhappy. The battles we had over brand name ketchup versus generic were ridiculous.

How generous I felt on the day I announced that the budget would survive Heinz ketchup. And how infuriated I became, when Boyfriend spurned my gracious offer and said, “It’s okay, the PC ketchup isn’t that bad.” It took me a year of cohabitation to reach that moment and by the time I reached that selfless place, it did not matter.

Some time ago, as I was puttering around the kitchen, I noticed a dirty dish on the wrong side of the counter. Oh yes, there is a right and a wrong side, and I knew I hadn’t put it there. This transgression immediately opened the floodgates to mentally cataloging Boyfriend’s sins against the harmony of cohabitation; the ketchup fight, why is he a toothpaste fascist, is the convenience of pre-sliced bulk mushrooms was worth the expense, is the difference in said price actually worth a knock-down brawl in the grocery store? (This is not the first time I have clashed with a man over mushrooms, who knew they were so inflammatory?)

I had a brief sulk and got back to straightening up the kitchen. The only thing left to do was put away the huge bag of flour we picked up the other day. I hate transferring flour from the bag into the bin, it gets everywhere. I turned around to pick it up. And it was gone.

I looked all over. It wasn’t under the sink, or the microwave. It wasn’t in the living room where I left it. It wasn’t in the closet. I opened the pantry, and there is was, sitting in the flour bin. He must have done this while I was out.

My petty thoughts dissolved in a warm fuzzy glow. The happier you are with life, the more silly things you find to pick at.

 

 

Gender parity in video games

Last night I was playing Diablo 3 with my fiancé and a friend, when I was asked a question.

“Why is your barbarian a female?”

The reason is that since the option to pick my gender in a game happens so rarely, when I can, I do. My heart pumps purple blood for Mileena, I adventure with Celes and Terra, I pop heads as a female cyborg, it’s just how I prefer to play.

This morning we continued the discussion, why do I play as a female? Because “it’s 2016” and my gender remains staggeringly under-represented in games. Why is that?

I heard the argument that I could play Lara Croft games, Metroid, Heavenly Sword… and so what? I’m not saying that no female game protagonists exist. I’m saying there are precious few. The proof is on my shelf.

I own 132 video games. I like to play RPGs, tactical games, fighters, dungeon crawling loot bonanzas, solo games, co-op FPS, simulations, all sorts of games. This is my shelf:

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I pulled every game to the edge. Any game with a male protagonist was pushed back in, now 61 games remain.

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Of what’s left, about half are RPGs like Final Fantasy, where you play as a large cast of characters of both genders, and there is nearly always a main male character on a coming of age quest.  The remainder are adventuring games where you can pick your gender, like Oblivion, Dragon Age,or Diablo, and games where you choose a fighter like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter.

So I pushed back every game that did not have a clear female protagonist.

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4 games remain. Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII, and Final Fantasy XIII-2. Since FF games have a large cast that knocks FF XIII and XIII-2 out of the running. Sorry Lightning!

What is left?

2 games.

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Parasite Eve, and Final Fantasy X-2, arguably one of the worst, cheesiest FFs ever made.

Why is this? A mere 2 out of 132.

Hey Nintendo. While I was drooling over the E3 footage of your new Zelda game, I couldn’t help but notice that once again we’re going to play as Link. Where is “The Legend of Zelda: a Link in Chains“?  Where is the Zelda game where you get to play as Zelda?

This is not a problem limited to Nintendo. This is a problem and a responsibility shared by all game manufacturers. Not only is it a poor financial decision to continue making and marketing games mostly towards men (I’m looking at you Ubisoft), it’s a moral failing.

Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and the game manufacturers are continuing to perpetuate the myth that women don’t exist, women don’t matter. Why?

Dear video game industry, why don’t my dollars matter to you? Why don’t I matter to you? Where are our games?

I’ve shown you my game shelf. What does your look like?

It arrived…

… with a capacity of 1.5 lbs, running at 110 volts, and 60 Hz; what could it be?

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Boyfriend Unit asked me what I thought about the two of use purchasing this, as a Christmas present to each other. Would I?!

I asked him, “Are you sure?”

He said, “Yup, I’m sure.”

Stay tuned until tomorrow.

If you know what this is, click Like.

If you don’t, leave a comment!

Penuche fudge round 5

Pictureless post is pictureless. There are two completed desserts from last week that won’t be featured on my blog because I forgot to take pictures. Oops.

Last week I wrote about my 4th batch of penuche which was successful, and my 5th batch which was setting. I forgot to take pictures of the 5th batch later that day, because I was too busy eating pieces since it turned out!! I was so excited, it was delicious, and more importantly; it set.

Stopping for photos was the last thing on my mind. It had that gorgeous penuche taste, such an intriguing flavour. It was not as firm as I would like, and I need to master the beating and pouring process, but I’m getting closer. ^^

I became fudge-fatigued and ran out of dark brown sugar, so a break was needed.

The other dessert I wanted to post but forgot was the apple crisp that Boyfriend made for Thanksgiving, which was delicious. I am going to push him to make another one soon and if he cooperates I’ll have something to post.

It’s possible I have the energy to bake something today. You’ll have to wait and see.

Patty vs. Penuche

Oh fudge, indeed. What the hell is this?

Or this?

It’s certainly not penuche fudge, which I tried to make twice in 24 hours, and met with disaster both times.

Have you ever eaten penuche fudge? It is, hands down, the most delicious fudge of them all. It’s a sweet brown sugar fudge and while you are eating it all things seem possible: eternal harmony and world peace are within grasp. It is that good. I adore penuche.

It’s got to be the right type: golden brown colour, no nuts, firm consistency.

I used to have a best friend in elementary school. Her mother was an amazing baker, and she introduced me to penuche fudge and carrot cake. Her baked goods were so good, that to this day when I eat penuche or carrot cake, I take a bite and compare. Inevitably I think to myself, “This is good, but it’s not as good as hers.”

Sadly, I lost my best friend around grade 5 or 6, due to a small misunderstanding involving nun chucks, Mario Kart, and punching her brother in the face. Losing my friend was sad enough for an anti-social kid with just 2 friends, but to realize I would never again enjoy the best penuche on the planet was devastating.

"No more penuche", self-portrait, pencil

I have successfully made a simple chocolate fudge, and cookies ‘n cream fudge, and this my was first try to create the holy grail of fudge: my beloved penuche.

Right now I am following a Better Homes & Gardens recipe. It’s pretty straight forward, it says to add the white sugar, brown sugar, and cream to the sauce pot, and boil on low for about 10 minutes until you reach the soft ball stage. Once you get there, remove from heat, add vanilla and butter but do not stir, and leave it for 40 minutes to cool, then stir for 10 min before transferring to the pan to set.

On my first attempt, the candy thermometer was slowing inching up to 113°C, and then it just shot up an extra 10 degrees. In an instant the hot sugary syrup changed into something else, something bad. I decided to wait and see what would happen after leaving it for 40 min, when I came back it had hardened to this brittle mess.

I reheated it slowly, and once all the sugar had melted again I poured it into the pan. It set, but it looks like a giant brick of brown sugar, in fact it is sugar, not fudge. I scraped some off to add to my cereal this morning since there is nothing else I can do with it, aside from using it as a weapon.

On the second attempt, I thought I had it. I had double checked the temperature range for soft ball, I stirred as directed and watched the thermometer like a hawk, and removed from heat at the correct time. But when I came back after 40 minutes, it had cooled and turned into a weird shellac. You couldn’t stir it at all. I tried reheating a bit to get some fluidity back, then it scorched and mutated into this.

I attempted to scoop it out into the pan to set, but it set on the spoon.

The horror, the horror.

The worst part is, it smells like penuche! My entire apartment has been perfumed with two days of penuche-making, yet I have none to eat and THIS IS TORTURE.

Do you have a favourite recipe that eludes your grasp?

Visit to Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show

Yesterday I visited Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show, with my friend Hobby Victim. The show brings together a variety of bakers, artists, vendors, and suppliers, and is sponsored by my favourite sugar refinery Red Path Sugar.

I had a great time, and got to see lots of different vendors and products, but a few things about the show really surprised me.

The entrance

A large table of cakes (dummy cakes I think), marked with numbers. I looked but found nothing to explain who had made these cakes. Most were done in a Halloween theme.

I wish I had a clearer picture. it looked like a castle made of bones.

This giant Fabergé vase was topped with birds, the decorations were very intricate.

Next was an Alice in Wonderland cake, and a white cake with blue accents.

I’m pretty sure this is Alice. On a very complex tree and chair.

I admired the beautiful shades of blue and the lace string work here. You can’t really see the details at all, lighting wasn’t the best but this was a lovely cake.

A very eclectic mix of style and talent on display. I was impressed.

The vendors

I got to meet some very nice vendors, and see and try some delicious things. I also saw some vendors acting very strangely.

The shortbread cookies at Sprucewood Handmade Cookie Co. and Mary Macleod’s Shortbread were delicious. We purchased apricot shortbreads and raspberry shortbreads. I brought some home for Boyfriend as a surprise.

I saw extremely beautiful artisan chocolates at Mercury Chocolates. I don’t know how chocolatier Darren Johns makes those beautiful creations, but his chocolates look like perfect jewels, a variety of colours and flavors. I didn’t get to speak with him much because there was a woman who would not stop talking to him, so I moved on and viewed the gorgeous truffles at Old Firehall Confectionary. At Nadia Chocolates there were beautiful chocolate butterflies, very thin and pretty.

I saw some interesting cakes at Dessert Trends and beautiful custom cakes at La Casa Dolce’s booth. There was a tree of sugar ornaments at the Canadian Society of Sugar Artistry.

I saw an interesting presentation on fondant by Virgin Ice. They gave out cards which say: visit our website for vendors at libertygroupsugar.com but that URL does not work for me.

At the Bonnie Gordon College booth I met Susan Trianos! She was making gum paste chrysanthemums, and she was very friendly. She answered lots of questions and we talked about baking TV shows. It was cool to watch her make petals and assemble the flower.

I got to see a real Agbay at the Icing Inspirations booth. They had two Agbays and an airbrush booth.

I spent a lot of time in the Golda’s Kitchen booth. I wanted to buy 80% of their inventory, but limited myself to one item; the Fat Daddio’s sloped chocolate mould. This booth was very crowded. People could not navigate the aisles, and it was jammed with merchandise and customers. I suppose they wanted to show as much product to as many potential customers as possible but it was just too much.

What about the show surprised me?

1. The amount of vendors who did not give out samples. Of the vendors without samples, some were offering a discount if you bought their product at the show, but others didn’t. Wow.

I visited every booth at the show, and I know there were several cupcake bakers, but the only one I remember is Glady Cakes, because they had friendly staff, and they offered me a sample. I was happy to try one, but they insisted I try three flavours: Lemon Heaven, The Nut Bar, and Cafe Dulce de Leche.

As for the other vendors, what were they thinking? They had high prices, and no samples.

I realize that the profit margin on custom baked goods is not great, and the high price is a combination of quality ingredients, overhead, profit, and mostly time/labour. Nobody wants to work at cost or for free. But really? This is a trade show. I thought the point was to demonstrate your wares and get new business.

Adult tickets to this show cost $12 so why would a person spend another $20 to buy your product without tasting it, when the vendor beside you is letting them try a sample for free?

2. There were 5-6 vendors who did not seem very interested in being at the show at all. I walked up to their booths, waited a few moments to be acknowledged, but they were too busy texting. They never looked up from their cell phones. I walked away. If you can’t be bothered to put your phone away and greet people who are at your booth, why did you come?

Three vendors were loudly discussing their displeasure with the amount of teenagers in the crowd. They made a few unpleasant comments.

I am not a “customer is always right” person. I have worked in customer service, and I know that a lot of customers are assholes. Or pretentious morons. Or both. But it seems to me that if you are a vendor at a trade show, standing around insulting the people at the show is in poor taste.

3. Lack of food and drink available for purchase. I skipped lunch to get to the show early, and walking the entire floor made me very thirsty, it would have been nice to find a place that sold cold drinks and sandwiches.

Have you ever been to a baking show? Tell me about it.