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2018 Reading List

I’m moving over the few books I didn’t get to or finish from 2017. And it looks like I need to go to the used bookstore!! I read almost everything I bought last year! 27 books!

As it was last year, the books I have started are in bold. I’ll give my opinion and a short description of the books I read. Anything not bold is in queue. So far, I’ve got about 43 books lined up!

Close Range, Annie Proulx – Started this book Dec 2017. It’s a collection of short stories all having to do with cowboys on the range. Many are set in the early 1900s. Not what I usually read, but so far, they are so well written that I’m really enjoying the book! ** OMG! I just finished this book [Jan 24 18] and guess what the last story is?? BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN! Yep, this is the short story that the movie was based on. I love finding gems like this from a random book! I highly recommend this book. Really great characters and stories.

Ready Player One – Didn’t re-read before the movie, but the movie was great, will re-read Ready Player One this year. BTW, this audiobook is read by Wil Wheaton, who KILLS. If you like audiobooks, DO THIS ONE.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by ND Tyson


I picked up Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson at Costco and LOVED IT! It’s a slim book (cuz you’re in a HURRY, get it?) and you will read it in his voice. It’s great, you should read it for SCIENCE.

Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake. It’s the out of print version, the new version is called Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd. It’s just OK so far. Very English and very dry. This is my treadmill book. Abandoned. Too dry. Who cares where these people went to primary school? Not me. HARD PASS.

We hit Goodwill yesterday! I got 21 books for the queue!! I’ve included the books I’ve already read for this year in the stacks. As always, I count cookbooks and restaurant books, since they are relevant reading for me.

My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor – It’s the book that the TED talk is about. The TED talk is here. MEH. Just do the TED talk. The book devolves into some sort of lecture on how everyone should try to control their brain parts and feel the love. I stopped reading it.

The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain – Started this one! I love Tony’s sarcastic wit! Finished 4/23/18. Pretty good, but not as good as Kitchen Confidential, IMO. [RIP Chef Bourdain 6/8/2018]

Continue reading 2018 Reading List

Looking for VSG/Bariatric info?

Hi there! If you’d like to see ONLY my extensive research on Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, bariatric diet and managing GERD (reflux), you can filter out all my other posts and see just those by clicking HERE. You can see my vlogs about my VSG journey here.

To see any category (recipes, for instance), use the drop down menu to the left labeled “View Posts by Category” and select the category you’d like. Thanks for stopping by!

Speaking of Fair Treatment…

Just re-read this post from last year’s DragonCon shenanigans and I thought I’d post a short follow up to that.

We did not attend DragonCon at all this year. While there was lots of FOMO and pouting (on my part), overall, I don’t feel we missed much. What did happen was that our biz partner, who works with the bar that wanted us to do the whole con FOR FREE, actually got PAID. Yup, so while we were vilified for bowing up and not wanting to do a con for free, they ponied up real money for our biz partner to do the con. SO I GUESS WE WERE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, EH? I fucking hate that con and the people who treated us like shit, THEN turned around and did as we asked in the first place.

Which is the lead in to the fair treatment post from last year. Turns out that fair treatment is actually possible from the very bunch of folks to said it was “impossible” a year ago. Goes to show that you should not give in when you know things can be better. I’ve got a history of stirring the pot, and I’m glad that this time someone I know gets to benefit. We are VERY happy that our biz partner got the gig, got paid and got another gig out of it. He deserves it!!

Fair treatment is not an option. Our pub will be a harassment free zone on both sides of the bar. Our employees will have a colour coded system to subtly notify management if they are being harassed by a customer. Customers who harass my employees, use hate speech or abuse our games will be asked to leave. Simple. We are actually going to post the Rules of the House on the front of the menu (a là Vortex), so there is no confusion about what we expect.

Here are the Rules of the House you’ll see on the menu:
1. We have a zero tolerance policy for harassment towards our employees. If any of our employees feels harassed, you will be asked to leave. We reserve the right to eject anyone for bad behaviour.
2. We also have zero tolerance for hate speech of any kind, which includes offensive clothing. You will be asked to take off the hat or turn the shirt inside out. Or you can leave.
3. We will not tolerate abuse of our games. These games are expensive and we’ve spent hundreds of hours refurbing them. If you beat on the games, you will be asked to leave.
4. We are a no kid zone after 8pm. We are a pub, after all, and we want to allow adults time to play without children around. Teenagers are OK. We are open during the day Saturday and Sunday, so we feel there’s plenty of time for kids. We’ll also have restrictions on special events such as Drink n Draw, etc. We hope you understand that we’re trying to be fair to all.

I think that upholding our core beliefs is essential to creating a great work environment. We’ve even gone so far as to not have certain shooter games (Police Trainer, for one) that involve shooting people. We feel that this type of game is inappropriate with the current atmosphere of police shooting people in the face and rampant mass shootings. We have shooter games, but they are alien and/or carnival based ONLY.

We think that being aware and treating people fairly is just the way to run our business. We hope that people appreciate our efforts to start this pub up with the right attitude from the get-go.

We can’t wait to serve you!

Ponderings About Food

We were watching my current favourite TV food show, Ugly Delicious with David Chang the other night. It was the Home Cooking episode, and it brought up some interesting thoughts about food and our relation to it.

First of all, let me go on about Ugly Delicious. This show is probably the most cerebral food show I’ve ever seen. Bourdain’s No Reservations was along the same lines, but Ugly Delicious really gets into some deep thinking – which I adore. (Chang was a friend of Bourdain’s and had a chapter in The Nasty Bits.) David’s partner in this show and his magazine Lucky Peach, Peter Meehan, is a food writer who also owns a huge food oriented book store that I really need to go to. These two explore food in a way I’ve never seen in a show before. They look at the roots of it, the people who make it, the people who consume it and the social contexts of all this. It’s brilliant, really. You should watch it.

Anyway, aside from my fangirling, this show always leaves me thinking about it after I watch an episode. The episode we watched the other night was about home cooking, and it in, Chang and Meehan go to Chang’s family’s Thanksgiving feast. They cook the “white people” food and Chang’s mother does the Korean food. (The spread was MASSIVE!!) During the episode, Chang talks of his childhood spent watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen, learning how to do the family recipes. He went to culinary school, where the French methods rule, and felt that his Korean food heritage was somehow less than the fancy French cuisine he learned in school and cooked in the restaurants he worked in. It took him a very long time to come around to the fact that his family’s comfort foods may not be pretty, but they are ugly delicious and they deserve to be represented in the world of cuisine. That’s what spurred him to open his first restaurant, Momofuku.

All this discussion about home cooking, made me reflect upon my own upbringing and the foods that I remember the most. I mostly remember my grandmother’s cooking. It was never fancy, but always good. We always had a massive garden (1/3 – 2/3 acre or so) and I clearly remember watching my Gran putting up Silver Queen corn (cream style), green beans, tomatoes (YES Alton Brown, you CAN can tomatoes!!) and making blackberry jelly. I also remember her making fudge and what she called cream puffs, but were actually éclairs, and chocolate pie (my favourite!). She’d make Stack Cake with homemade apple butter at holidays.

Speaking of holidays, my Aunt and Uncle (mom’s brother) would always host the holiday family gatherings. It was mostly Aunt Vera’s family and my grandmother’s sisters and brothers. There’d be a HUGE buffet with turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, all the standards. Some of the women would bring things, but it was mostly my grandmother and aunt who did the cooking.

Years later, we were visiting a friend’s grandmother during Thanksgiving and of course, we were encouraged to eat. So we did and I was surprised to find that her grandmother’s cooking was almost identical to what my family made. So, there’s your proof that cooking is indeed regional, perhaps more than even I suspected it was!

So, back to the family foods thread. My mother was not what I’d call a great cook. She knew all the standard stuff (regional dishes), but when she married my father, he demanded that she cook like his mother did. Apparently his mother was a fan of overcooked, very greasy food. So my mother cooked the stuff that he liked and in the way he liked it. Then came the 70s and casseroles – OY, so many casseroles. My mother could make a good fried chicken and a good turkey, but most everything else was mush. And she did not like to cook, so I really believe that her dislike of it is what ruined the taste and made her food unremarkable. My dislike of her food is why I started cooking for myself. I tell you, if the food culture back then had been what it is now, I’d already be a chef with 35 years experience. I watched Julia Child and Jacques Pépin when I was a kid and was fascinated, so the desire was there even then.

Then a friend on FB mentioned kids’ anxiety and how it seems to be related to being over scheduled, and how this has made them anxious if they don’t have something to do. She mentioned sitting on the porch snapping green beans with her grandmother as a kid – as I did. THAT got me to thinking about how perhaps all this stimulation and busy-ness could have something to do with the proliferation of all these chef boxes with prepped food that you just have to cook. For me, food prep is my happy place. I don’t listen to music, I just get into a groove of cutting and measuring and enjoying the process. I think that kids who’ve been brought up with helicopter parents and every minute scheduled and monitored don’t have the ability to just BE. They really can’t just do nothing or enjoy the simplicity of snapping green beans for an hour. We were never scheduled as kids. We thought up things to do or wandered around the neighborhood. I remember making up commercials and acting them out when I was bored. Kids don’t do that now, they are scheduled, anxious and antsy. No wonder the thought of an hour of standing in one spot cutting veg is horrifying to them!

It makes sense to me that kids brought up with never having downtime would be terrible at food prep. It is a meditative process. Ask anyone who does it for a living! Anne Burrell once commented on her cooking show that shelling peas is one of her favourite things to do, but she “doesn’t get to do it” now that she’s an executive chef. Notice the GET in that sentence. It’s not a chore, it’s something she LIKES to do. I totally feel that way, too. I can’t WAIT to do prep all day. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. (Now, ask me that after doing it for six months in a restaurant kitchen! LOL I might have a different view!)

The idea that I’d like to get across in this post is the thought provoking nature of Ugly Delicious and how much I really do think about food and how people relate to it. Everyone feels that their home cooking and comfort foods are no big deal and not worth cooking in a restaurant. BUT. Look at how dining out has changed in the last decade! Comfort foods are everywhere. There are grilled cheese restaurants FFS!! Pretty much all the ethnic foods you seek out are comfort foods for that culture. Western (European) cuisine has been about fancy and pretty for a very long time, and I, for one, am glad that we’re moving away from that. I really detest fussy food. Which is why I’m a great cook, but a terrible “Foodie”. I don’t like spending $100 a plate for things that I can replicate (even if they are fancy). I am almost always let down with fancy places, honestly.

I’m very, very happy that comfort food is its own culinary thing now. It is what I cook, what I’m good at, and hopefully what my customers will like. My recipes are literally from my kitchen. They may have exotic Asian ingredients, but they are truly what I cook for us. I don’t make much of the foods I grew up with, but I intend to remedy that. I’ve done canning for years and I’m going to try to see if I can channel my Gran and make some of her favourite desserts – especially that stack cake, which is an Appalachian regional item. I won’t make my own apple butter, but I am pretty sure I can make the cake part – it’s basically spice pancakes. I am a horrible baker, but I think I can give pâte à choux a go, and I know I can make pastry cream for éclairs. I’ve made chocolate pie before – it’s just pastry cream with chocolate in it. I am good with pies, madeleines, galettes and biscuits, but cookies elude me! Oh, and I can make lava cakes. I can even make soufflés, but cakes and cookies? Not so much. Come to think of it, Gran didn’t do cakes and cookies much, either. Perhaps it’s genetic! :D

I encourage YOU to think about the food you grew up with and your relationship with food. If you don’t cook, why not try some simple recipes? I’ve got dozens on this blog that are easy. If you do cook, do you make foods from your culture or region? Why or why not? Food sustains us, but it’s also a big part of our upbringing. I think that it is also an important part of our culture(s). I’m going to get out my Gran’s cookbook and see what I can find in there. I encourage you to do the same with your family’s cuisine. Bon appétit!

Cajun Shrimp Chowder

Cajun Shrimp Chowdah!



Angela’s Cajun Shrimp Chowder

3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2″ lardons
1/2# large shrimp or 1# small shrimp, cleaned (cut large shrimp into 1″ pieces), retain shells for stock
3-4 cloves garlic, whole
1 med onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2# baby yukon golds, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 sm pkg mushrooms, diced *ALL veg should be approximately the same size dice of about 1/2″
1 small banana or jalapeño pepper, seeded and very small dice (optional, but adds a nice level of spice)
2 green onions, 1/2″ slices
1 can sweet corn
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp smoked or plain paprika
2 tsp Badia cajun seasoning (more or less to taste; also, Badia is not very salty, so if you use a salty one, be careful with added salt!)
2 tsp Old Bay dry seasoning
1/2 tsp white pepper
Shrimp stock (below)
2 tsp L&P
3/4 cup heavy cream
S/P

Put shrimp shells in a 4 qt saucepan and fill with water, whole garlic and 1 tsp salt. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer uncovered until about 20% reduced. Strain out shrimp shells and set aside.

In a medium stock pot, cook bacon until all the fat is rendered out and it’s very crispy. Remove bacon and set aside for garnish. Add butter to the bacon fat over medium heat. Add onions, and garlic and sauté until onions are getting translucent. Add flour and cook for a minute or two. Add thyme, paprika, cajun, Old Bay and white pepper, stir. Add dry sherry to deglaze and add potatoes, carrot and banana pepper. Cook a couple of minutes then add shrimp stock, L&P and mushrooms. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Hold at medium simmer, partially covered until potatoes and carrots are cooked and soup is very thick, about 10-15 mins. When veg is cooked, add in corn, green onions and shrimp and simmer 4-5 mins. Lastly, add heavy cream and kill heat when it comes back to a simmer. Check seasoning. You might need more cajun seasoning, I used 2.5 tsp. Serve with crispy bacon garnish.

**Potatoes and cream will suck up all the salt, so you will likely need more when you reheat this soup.**

Nov 1st!

So, after much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes, we decided to send one final impassioned email to the landlords to find out if we are IN or OUT.

WE ARE IN!

As I said in my previous post, change is the only constant. To that end, I’ve unloaded a pile of people who were apparently fake friends and it feels good. I find it very odd that people get personal things all mixed up with professional things. I had a personal issue with one of these people, yet another one in the group, that I don’t know, engaged us for games – but then felt the need to bully and demean me and my business for the personal issue that I’d talked about on my PERSONAL FB feed. I have a right to my personal feelings and opinions. This is pretty much why I deleted that whole group. Not liking me as a person has no bearing AT ALL on our games. If the threats and bullying I received is indicative of that group’s mentality, then I’m glad to be gone from it. I was threatened directly and warned to “watch what I say on social media” and several others in that group agreed. Um. ? It’s my PERSONAL FB, not the business one. But thanks for the heads up, I guess? It seems odd to me that I get a beat down for voicing my feelings, yet it’s perfectly fine to threaten me on the same social media? Yeeeaaahhh. Double standard much?

Anyway, we’re off to the races with the pub. I’d say we’re looking at Feb/Mar 2019 for opening. If anyone wants to work for us, there’s your timeline. I severely need a chef/kitchen manager!

I can’t wait to get going and spend ALLLLL our money! Squee! We SO look forward to serving you! (Bullies need not bother! We are a no bullying workplace and no bullying will be tolerated on the premises!)

My Philosophy

There are some things that I’ve learned over my 52 years of living. The main thing I’ve learned, above all else is:

Change is the only constant; roll with it and keep moving.

This pretty much covers it. I had a long winded post all thought up, but really, it boils down to this one statement. Change is constant. Fighting it is a recipe for unhappiness. I’ve seen it 1000 times.

And here’s the long winded post anyway! ;)

So many times I’ve counseled friends who are miserable, feeling stuck, convinced that nothing will ever change, with this advice: CHANGE YOUR MIND.

I think that people who do the same things for years, running the exact same scenarios but with different players, are people who underestimate the power of their minds and allow fear to squelch their intent. If you want to do something else, then change your mind and DO IT. Banish that soul sucking fear – learn to ignore it! No one can change your mind for you. You have to do it yourself. No amount of counseling will help you change your own mind to achieve your intent. I’ve spent so much of my time over the years repeating this mantra. It is the truth!

If you want to change your life, change your MIND.

I swear it! I’m not immune to getting stuck. Trust me, my 40s were all about it. I’d done pretty well in my 20s and 30s with changing my life and doing new things, but the 40s tanked. What changed all that? MY MIND, that’s what. At the age of 50, I decided I was done with being fat and being stuck. I got VSG. It changed EVERYTHING. Yes, it was a HUGE thing, but that’s what it took to shake me (and Nick, too) out of our torpor. Sometimes you’ve got to GO BIG. For us, we usually have to GO BIG for it to kick us in the ass. [See: pub scheme]

Sometimes random quotes stick with me:

“You get what anybody gets – you get a lifetime.” – Neil Gaiman, Preludes & Nocturnes

“No fate but what we make.” – Sarah Connor, Terminator 2

“If you believe in fate, believe in it, a least, for your good.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Habits change into character.” – Ovid

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have trying to change others.” – Arnold Glasow

That last one is one that I have to remind myself of often. I want so much to help friends out of their particular self made tortures, but alas, I cannot. All I can do is keep repeating the mantra: CHANGE YOUR MIND. And entreat them to use their stubbornness to their benefit (CHANGE) rather than to fight to keep things the same. I see people use all their strength to remain in the exact same state they have been in for as long as I’ve known them. It’s not unique, no, I have many friends who are exactly where they were when I met them 15 years ago. It pains me. I want them to MOVE FORWARD. But I can’t make them move forward, can I?

I think it’s hard for people to realise that life is all about trajectory. It’s not a smooth straight line, hells no, it’s a jagged thing filled with false starts, U turns, backtracks and other jackassery. BUT as long as it is still going forward, I call it good. So what if you try something and it doesn’t work? So what if you see something shiny and it turns out to be just the glimmer of a bad idea? SO WHAT? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You’ve got a lifetime. USE IT. Don’t sit on the same goddam sinking ship, rearranging deck chairs! JUMP THAT SHIP!

CHANGE YOUR MIND. Stop fighting change – use it to your advantage.

The rest will follow.

I promise*.

*Don’t believe me? Just WATCH as Nick and I open a pub. WATCH. We decided that is our hill to conquer and we’re going to DO it. Are we ready? Nope. Do we have enough money? Nope. But we have faith in ourselves to figure it the fuck out. If it fails? Welp, we’ll find another battle. We won’t die. We’ll pick up the pieces and move forward. Like we’ve done before. WATCH US. We live by these tenets. Every day. It’s taken us 20 years to get our shit straight, so it is not instant, no, but by the gods, it’s worth it. Just watch and see.

NB: This is a general post, not directed at any one person. It’s directed at the MANY persons I know who are stuck, afraid, mired in their dramas. I love you all. Your journey is your own. This is just MY PERSONAL writ of intent. I try very hard to live by these tenets. You do you. I’ll help you if I can. <3