Another three day weekend has passed in our house. Lately it seems like Chris spends more time at home on the weekdays than he does at work. I’m not complaining. It’s awesome that he has so many days off. Especially since he’s a government employee, so he’s paid for his time regardless. I’m just saying that when he’s home it’d be super awesome for all of us if he didn’t get mired down in neurosis and start making blanket statements like “I think it’s time we cracked down on the pets behavior” or “That’s it! Today we have to do the laundry.” I mean, threatening me with laundry seems unnecessarily harsh, and cracking down on the pets is about as likely to happen as, oh, cracking down on me. So then sometimes there are arguments, invariably ending in us NOT doing the laundry, but instead investigating laundry services that come to your house, get your dirty clothes, and then bring them back clean and folded. If that means an underpaid teenager is folding my skivvies, well, I’m just going to make peace with it.
Sadly, there are no good laundry services in San Antonio. Who does these peoples’ laundry? Who??
So we end up back upstairs, angrily sorting the laundry into piles of colors vs whites. Then Chris tries to sort the colors into piles of light blue, dark blue, red, pink, green, gray, etc. And then I get semi-irate because COME ON. Colors are colors and whites are whites, and I’m not trying to incite race riots, just to make a statement about laundry piles.
So the bedroom floor is littered with eight thousand piles of laundry, waiting to be washed, dried, and (hahahahahahaha) put away. At which point the pets start nesting in and on the piles of laundry, because they’re big and soft and smell like us, and because we haven’t really cracked down on them at all, and they still feel entitled to sleep wherever they please.
And the male cat (Mao) and the dog (Willie) have devised a clever system wherein Mao knocks things off of tables and counters, and then Willie eats them. This satisfies both of them immensely, because Mao loves nothing more than knocking things off of surfaces, and Willie loves nothing more than eating whatever gets dropped on the ground, even if it’s the packet of food for my Sea Monkeys or the mail key.
But none of this is the point of the story, you see. On Saturday, instead of doing any cracking down or laundry sorting, Chris and I dropped Willie at his daycare and drove up to Austin for the day. I love Austin, primarily because it is the polar opposite of San Antonio. Everything that San Antonio is (inactive, dirty, socially conservative, Palin-bumper-sticker-having, super-religious, homophobic, fast-food-eating, animal-rights-ignoring awfulness), Austin is the exact opposite (smart, clean, organic, socially liberal, dog-friendly, gourmet, open-minded, gay-embracing goodness). When I go to Austin, I can easily pretend I’m not in Texas. I have far more friends in Austin than I do in San Antonio, and it just seems so EASY to make friends there.
Also, the flagship WhoFo is in Austin, and it’s fucking glorious. Every time we go in, I get overcome by the bright colors and selection and freshness. I can spend 15 minutes staring at a perfectly organize shelf of fresh fruits, lined up symmetrically, by color. It’s just so soothing. I love organized food. My pantry is the only place in the house that Chris never suggests “cracking down” on, partially out of fear but also partially because it is always perfectly faced.
So WhoFo was great, and we bought a couple dozen tiny cupcakes to bring to the French Onion Soup party that we were attending that night. One of my friends who lives in Austin, Katina, hosts this party yearly. We were unable to make it last year, but this year I was really looking forward to it. Partially because I love French Onion Soup, but also partially because it gets really, really lonely down here, and it’s nice to remember that I have friends and am capable of getting along well with groups of people and am not completely feral after two years of isolation. The party was great fun, with lots of awesome people. All of whom were either engineers or the spouses of engineers or at least sleeping with engineers. If anything needed engineering, I felt we were in good hands.
Ooooh! And Austin has a bone-fide organic fast food chain called Terra Burger. Can I tell you how much this blew my mind?? I haven’t gotten to eat fast food in months upon months, since we gave up factory-farmed meat. This place offers only humanely-raised meats and organic veggies. I was in hog heaven. I love fast food from time to time. The greasy fries and terrible-for-you meats are sometimes just what the doctor ordered. It’s so nice to be able to indulge after such a crazy-long hiatus! I got the chicken nuggets, made from free-range chicken, and they were bar-none the best chicken nuggets I’ve ever had. Salty on the outside, crispy and fried, with succulent, juicy interiors. OMFG. And the fries were ugly–I thought they looked soggy and old–but it turns out they were crispy and super-flavorful. They still had some skin on, but that just added to the texture and naturality of them. Delicious. The place offered sweet potato fries as well, but I was having none of it. I gobbled my chicken nugget kids meal down with gusto, and drank my entire fructose-free root beer in no time. So good. So, so good.
The point of this story, and there’s really very little point, is that we also stopped at Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma in Austin for some shopping. I had some errant gift cards to use up, and we had free time. At Sur La Table I bought a couple of those cast iron skillets for cornbread sticks that are shaped like corn on the cob. Judge not, my friends. Cornbread falls apart like a little bitch every time I try to eat it, so thinking about a sturdy cornbread stick dipped in my chili made my heart go pitter-patter. At Williams-Sonoma, I bought the iSi soda siphon, because I’ve wanted to play with those for some time.
At home, the next day, I brought out my flavored syrups from the coffee shop and started making Italian sodas. Weak. Sauce. The iSi barely managed a soft fizz, much less a solid carbonation. After some heart-to-heart with Chris, we decided to return the iSi and purchase the Penguin soda fountain. It costs more than twice as much as the iSi, but if you’re going to have soda-making capabilities in your bar, you might as well be able to create something satisfying and exciting, right?
I won’t lie to you–a major selling point of the Penguin is that it looks like…a penguin. A penguin butler, to be precise. And it’s just an incredibly cool device. An incredibly cool, incredibly eco-friendly device. Because with it I can make hundreds of colas and tonic waters and italian sodas and seltzer with lime and wine spritzers, all without purchasing aluminum cans or plastic bottles or whatever. The reusable glass container has an indefinite life-cycle, and the CO2 cartridge is refillable.
So, here’s the recipe for a classic Italian soda. Is it a cop-out recipe? Yes. Can your three year old make it? Also yes, although I’d recommend helping them. But is it delicious and satisfying and non-alcoholic and pretty? Yes.
6 oz fresh seltzer water (or club soda)
1 oz heavy cream
2 oz flavored syrup (Torani makes like 6000 different flavors)
Pour flavored syrup and cream over ice. Stir vigorously. Add the seltzer. Admire. Stir. Imbibe.
With the fruitier syrups, especially if you violate the proscribed order of mixing, you may see something akin to curdling. You can’t taste it, but it’s not pretty. Be sure to mix the cream and syrup first to help avoid this. Also, using amaretto, vanilla, almond, root beer, or whatever non-fruity syrups you can find will prevent this.
This is the Penguin. He’s sexy, but dignified and efficient. He has no name yet, but I’m open to suggestions. Jeeves, maybe? I’m thinking of gluing felt wings on his sides and possibly draping a bar towel over one of them.
Here is a side view, showing us that possibly also I’ll need to add a bow tie. The little silver button is the gas-release button that gets pressed and sounds like the brakes on a semi after he’s charged.
The bowels open up and a heavy glass bottle, filled with cold, fresh tap water is inserted.
His beak is pressed in short, firm spurts, until three whistles are emitted. It’s the kind of noise I imagine a penguin emitting in the wild. A mating call, if you will.
After releasing the excess CO2, the bottle is removed and beautiful, highly-carbonated seltzer water bubbles cheerfully. This always reminds me of Roald Dahl’s BFG, and the frobscottle that induces whizpops. What a great book.
In a very cool move, the bottle dons a battle helmet to preserve the fizziness in the refrigerator. If you don’t drink it all in the first hour or so, that is. It holds its fizz remarkably well.
The final result: a delicious cherry Italian soda, with a touch of cream. I didn’t stir it, because I think it’s visually stunning before it’s stirred.
Now ask yourself this: can YOUR arctic pets make you delicious fizzy drinks? Hell no! Our arctic pet is remarkably productive, which is one of many reasons why I think it’s silly that Chris insists on cracking down on all of them. I’ll in no way be shocked if I find the Penguin nesting on one of our piles of laundry in the near future.