Bread pudding

I roasted a ton of sweet potatoes last week for snacking on, but my interest in them has waned. To prevent the rest from going bad, I decided to turn them into dessert. Sweet potato pie was the first option, but I also wanted to use up some waffles that had been languishing in the freezer, plus some milk that was getting old. The stars aligned for a batch of sweet potato-waffle bread pudding!


There’s no recipe; I just threw the ingredients together based on my last memory of making bread pudding. Bread pudding usually involves: milk, cream, sugar, eggs, butter -> custard; bread -> bread; cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, and raisins as extras. In my case, I replaced the custard with sweet potato pie filling (using homemade evaporated milk!), and the bread with waffles. Sadly, I forgot about the nuts and raisins 🙁 and we don’t have any rum on hand. Next time!

Clothing repair

I regularly patch clothes – mostly the knees of J’s jeans, and recently some of J’s socks. I do boro-style patches (like this but less polished) and other forms of visible mending. They never look super awesome, but they are durable. (I’m going to look like a hobo one day, though.)

An earlier knee patch. More recent patches blend in better and have taken less time.
Maybe I should try other styles of patching. This one is particularly pretty 🙂
The height of my patching attempts! I used this pair of underwear to pad ceramics for shipping. Unfortunately, a dish broke and made lots of tiny holes and some medium-size holes all over the butt of the garment. I really like how these fit and they were in good shape besides the holes, so I decided to patch them! I turned them into an under-the-sea scene, with the small holes turned into bubbles and the larger holes turned into fish. I made two jellyfish, a sea urchin, a squid, some seaweed, and 5 other generic fish. The patches are holding up well!

If you aren’t sure how to repair an item, take a look at Make Do and Mend. It is a British WWII booklet on caring for and repairing clothing. It is super detailed! I’m sure everyone could learn a new technique from it.

Hiking and yakiniku with friend A

A few weekends ago, friend A (the one who likes bugs and Bitcoin), J, and I went hiking at Stevens Creek County Park. It’s near the mountainous origin of Stevens Creek, which goes down through Cupertino and Mountain View and into the Bay. The creek is dammed up at the park for flood control, I presume (the dam doesn’t appear to have any hydroelectric turbines).

The rest at the end of the hike.
The reservoir and dam. Lehigh Permanente limestone quarry and cement plant is off to the left.
A flower.

The trip was nice despite a bad start. Due to a navigation mishap, we took a 1-hour detour up a windy mountain road, only to reach a dead end.

Afterwards, we got grilling supplies at the local Korean grocery store to make yakiniku, Japanese-style Korean grilled meat!

Steamed packet of enoki mushrooms+butter and soy sauce.
Beef shortribs, tofu, zucchini, eggplant marinated in Korean BBQ sauce (found in the freezer; recipe from Maangchi); shiitake mushrooms. We had kimchi, cold barley tea, and J-made sauce on the side.

In the background of the above picture, you can see a little blue ink bottle, a pen laying on the table, and a big white canister of soylent.

I got the ink and fountain pen (vintage Esterbrook lever-fill!) from someone on Freecycle, but didn’t like the style of nib. It’s some fancy kind that wasn’t super easy to write with. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to get rid of – friend A’s sister is into fountain pens, so the pen and ink are going to her.

The soylent is leftover from a J attempt to not have to cook. It turns out that soylent tastes like pancake batter (kind of powdery and tasteless), so it was cast aside… and given to A, who doesn’t want to cook either. We’ll see how he likes it.

Imperfect Produce delivery!

We get a produce delivery every other week from Imperfect Produce. You can choose among the available items, which include fresh fruit and veggies, and special items: mushrooms, defective pasta, mill-grade rice (high broken-grain content), dates, and more! They don’t carry dairy, eggs, or meat, but maybe in the future!

It’s rare that we get something truly imperfect. Most of the produce is surplus.

Found food

I find abandoned food a lot. Whether it’s luck or a skill, finding food makes my diet a little more exciting!

Fancy gummy bears. They were even made with renewable energy.
Cupcakes in Sacramento. They looked fresh! I didn’t eat one, but regretted it later.
A quinoa-kidney bean-beet salad and baby carrots, found separately but on the same day.

In the past week, I’ve found an apple, an orange, and Turkish delight (which I haven’t had before!). In the last few months, there’s also been a giant protein bar chocolate chip cookie (surprisingly good! And also made of real ingredients), string cheese, trail mix, and loaves of bread (in Sacramento). All this without true dumpster diving!

Just who leaves these things behind?? Sometimes, like with the salad, food is placed on top of a trashcan as a sign that the original owner didn’t want it but didn’t want to waste it either. Most other food was dropped…

Maybe the flu

J has been sick for the last few days with a fever, headache, etc. Sounds like the flu to me, although he did get the vaccine. Get better soon!

J wondered if he should get Tamiflu, the antiviral treatment. Out of interest, I researched it and… it doesn’t sound that good. It only shortens symptoms by 1/2 – 1 day on average, and has side effects of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and trouble sleeping (much like the flu). It isn’t recommended for otherwise healthy people, but it also doesn’t decrease the risk of hospitalization or death in high risk people, so…

The most interesting thing about Tamiflu is that it was originally synthesized from a compound found in star anise. So maybe you can just drink star anise concentrate (that sounds like pho!) to get better?

Homemade yoghurt made easy, no special equipment needed!

My kefir culture (bought from a neighbor on Craigslist!) is no longer usable. The active culture went bitter somehow – probably contamination; the backup culture in the freezer died, apparently. I tried to make several batches of kefir with it, hoping for a revival, but nothing happened 🙁

Although kefir is easier to culture than yoghurt since it is mesophilic (grows optimally at room temperature), I prefer the flavor and texture of yoghurt. Unfortunately, yoghurt cultures are thermophilic (grow optimally around 110°F). It is difficult to maintain this temperature without special equipment (yoghurt maker or water bath) or lots of fiddling (e.g. with oven settings) for the 5-10 hours needed to make a batch of yoghurt. A recent read gave a good tip for getting around this: put the heated milk and starter culture into a thermos. Even bad thermoses are capable of keeping their contents hot for 5 hours, so it works out perfectly, no additional energy input necessary!

I tried the thermos approach with a squat, wide-mouth thermos from Goodwill ($2.19! Stainless steel! Thermos brand! Oddly, it is branded with images from some car movie). It worked really well! The yoghurt turned out thick (even thicker than the commercial variety I used as starter) and creamy. I will definitely do this again!

New Austin main library

J and I visited my family in Austin for Thanksgiving. One of the cool things we did was visit the new main public library! The opening was overdue by about a year, but the building and landscaping are pretty awesome.

The building is at the intersection of one of Austin’s major creeks and the river in the middle of the city, so it gets some very nice views and hopefully a lot of business!

The front.
The back and side, looking from a new bridge that goes over the nearby creek. That lowered sidewalk goes along the creek for a ways.
A view from the roof of the library, looking south across the river and over to the Long Center and the Palmer Event Center.

The library has an awesome rooftop garden à la green roof and a solar panel array as an awning to provide shade (sadly, I don’t have pictures). There is also a screened porch, so that you can enjoy the weather, but the mosquitoes can’t enjoy you!

Looking down in the central ‘shaft’ of the library. That art clock features grackles, a local menace that, much like corvids, survives very well on human refuse.
Looking up into the central shaft. The staircases and bridges are very Hogwarts-esque. The stairs and floors of the building are much too creaky for my tastes. They feel like they’re going to collapse one day…
Weird street art that we saw nearby :S

Sacramento last day

Our last day started off with a tour of the Stanford mansion! Apparently Leland Stanford (Sr) was the governor of California for a time and lived in Sacramento. The house, originally pretty modest at around 2000 square feet, was expanded to 4k and then 19k square feet.

Front of the mansion in the Second Empire architectural style.

After a really bad flood in 1862, the house was raised up and a relatively low-value ground floor added. That particular flood was so bad that Sacramento was about 10 feet underwater for 3 months. Afterwards, the entire city was raised a story, buildings and roads included. There are tours of the subterranean areas available during the summer.

The alleyways were not raised, which you can see evidence of in the still-present sloping.
A view of the Sacramento River with weird pyramidal building in the background.
Complete with abandoned stroller.
Pizza for lunch! J got a slice of garlic chicken pizza in addition.
Full-size model high-speed train at the State Railroad Museum. There’s a big room full of train cars from different eras.
Snow plow car, essential to rail travel through the Sierra Nevadas.
Dining car with historic train dining car china patterns.
Mail car, back when trains were used to transport mail. Apparently they were vulnerable to robbery.
Shinkansen training simulator. J did it and says its super easy – all you have to control is the brake.

Dinner for J. I had leftover burrito from the previous day.

We took Amtrak home in the evening, and then Caltrain back to our place!