Bread Pudding and Creme Anglaise

Well, my Instagram lately has largely been occupied with stuff I've been cooking while at home thanks to the Covid-19 shelter-in-place order for California. Last night I made bread pudding with creme anglaise and have had a couple of requests for the recipe, so here we go.

Bread pudding is tasty, and easy, and a great way to use up bread that's starting to get a bit stale.

Bread Pudding
half a loaf of bread, cut into cubes
2 cups milk
2 tbsp butter plus a bit more to grease the pan
2 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
handful of chocolate chips

  1. Grease a 9 x 9 pan with butter. Combine the bread cubes and the chocolate chips and put them in the pan.

  2. Beat the eggs.

  3. Combine the butter, milk, sugar, spices, and vanilla. Heat just until the butter is melted, then remove from the heat and stir in the eggs.

  4. Pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread in the pan.

  5. Cover the pan and put it in the fridge to soak for a bit. I've let bread pudding soak as long as overnight or as little as an hour.

  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Bread pudding is good on its own, but if you like custard, why not put custard on your custard and make creme anglaise?

Creme Anglaise
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Whisk the eggs and sugar together.

  2. Heat the milk until it's just steaming. (Not boiling).

  3. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg sugar mixture. Then pour it back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, while stirring, until the mixture thickens. Don't let it boil. It should reach about 175 to 180 degrees F. The mixture should thickly coat the back of a spoon.

  4. Take the mixture off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a bowl or other container and either use immediately or cool and refrigerate.

This makes way more creme anglaise than you will need for your bread pudding but I'm confident that we can all find uses for creme anglaise in the days ahead.

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More Adventures in Gaming and Aunthood

I had Younger Nephew over for a nice long gaming session today. I picked him up from his house, and he spent most of the half hour drive explaining to me that he knew that there had to be a "big plot twist" coming in Mass Effect 3, and speculating what it would be. Some ideas: We would discover some Collectors were still around, and they would help us fight the Reapers. The Illusive Man would turn into a giant monster and there would be a big boss fight with him. Or "I'll break the glass and he'll go flying out into space and I'll hang on tightly to a rope."

I suspect that some of his ideas are better than the actual twist ending of Mass Effect 3. Even if I'm not sure that a big boss fight with the Illusive Man would really constitute a "plot twist".

He also speculated about various plot threads from Mass Effect 2 that might come into play in Mass Effect 3. He remembers a heck of a lot more of the plot from Mass Effect 2 than I initially thought - there was quite a bit of time in the early days when I was pretty sure he was in it for the gun battles and nothing else, but he clearly has a good grasp on the story now. It's fascinating. I don't know if he always had this all in his head but couldn't articulate it at the time, or if he's refreshed his memory on the plot points somehow. (Perhaps by watching some Mass Effect 2 videos on Youtube or something.)

While in the car, he also improvised a long song about noogies and wedgies, and how the only way to avoid the coming noogie epidemic (yes, he literally used the phrase, "coming noogie epidemic") was to go bald.

This child used to be rather taciturn. He's become quite talkative. Although, on the drive back home, I used a lull in the conversation to attempt to ask him about what he does with his life while not playing computer games. After dutifully answering a few questions about summer camp, he said, "Could we stop talking about this? Because it's confusing. And you'll just be bored anyway." I assured him that I was curious, but I was happy to stop talking about it. "So, which other characters from Mass Effect 2 do you think will appear in Mass Effect 3?" elicited a much more enthusiastic conversational response. (I shouldn't be surprised, really. It's not like he can talk about the game with anyone else in his immediate social circle. Why waste valuable conversational time talking about summer camp when you could be talking about Mass Effect 3?)

Anyhow, we played for a good few hours, and were reunited with the characters of Mordin and Grunt from Mass Effect 2. Younger Nephew loves Grunt. Loves the Krogan in general. But really loves Grunt. Like, practically every line of dialogue Grunt gets, Younger Nephew gives me this wide-eyed look of, "Isn't he the best!"

Especially for the line: "I don't need luck, I have ammo!"

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Adventures in Gaming: A New Chapter

Checking my past journal entries, I see that Younger Nephew and I began playing Mass Effect 2 in earnest on January 23, 2017. Yesterday afternoon, we finished the game. There was much rejoicing!

And then we started in on Mass Effect 3. He was a bit frustrated with the length of the tutorial section and the number of extended cutscenes early on in the game, but he's pretty captivated by the story line of the Reapers attacking Earth. He's really eager to find his old crew mates: he keeps wondering aloud what Grunt and Jacob are up to, and when we met Liara again, he pumped his fist in the air and shouted, "Yes!"

This is all new territory for me, since I haven't played Mass Effect 3 by myself. I'm looking forward to experiencing a new story line.

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Younger Nephew Discovers Foreshadowing!

Played Mass Effect 2 with Younger Nephew today. We're getting close to finishing it. I'm going to have to decide what to try him on next. Mass Effect 3 is probably inevitable, but I understand the ending is disappointing. Then again, Younger Nephew might not care provided that there are suitably epic explosions.

Although his grasp of storytelling has grown by leaps and bounds. He has particularly latched on to the idea that certain scenes are setting up for or hinting at future events. In some cases, quite perceptively - he was very clear on the idea that when he intervened in the fight between Miranda and Jack, and sided with Jack, that that was going to cause problems between him and Miranda later. Other connections seem more dubious - he explained to me that it was obvious that the Illusive Man was a bad guy (something he has been insisting on from quite early on) because "his eyes are blue, and the Collectors...sort of bluish! It's obvious, really!"

He was also very emotionally engaged with the game events. He admitted to being "terrified" by the mission on the derelict Reaper ship, and almost decided to bail on it and come back when he had better weapons. I encouraged him to try again and he got through it. He was delighted by the character of Legion, telling me, "I don't know why, but I really like this guy!" (I really like Legion, too.) He was super-dismayed by the interlude in which Shepherd leaves the ship and you have to play as Joker. ("Aw, I'm Shepherd! Why do I have to be this jerk?")

I'm also really intrigued by how much he remembers of game events that he didn't seem to be all that interested in at the time. When we picked up the character of Jack, he didn't really seem all that interested in her. But today he suddenly informed me that we had to go "find the girl that we rescued from the prison" and do her loyalty mission. And when we visited the lab where Jack was experimented on, he turned to me and said, "No wonder she's a psychopath!" (He was a bit upset by Jack's tendency to swear. To be fair, I'd forgotten how salty her language could be. Younger Nephew turned to me at one point and exclaimed, wide eyed, "I only know two swear words, and she just used both of them in one sentence!" But he also told me that he knew those words because his brother had taught them to him. I want this on record so I won't be blamed if he uses those words later.)

Anyway, if anyone has any game recommendations for an increasingly sophisticated young boy, drop 'em in the comments. (I don't think I can interest him in the Dragon Age games yet, sadly - he's remained resolutely uninterested in any fantasy games in my collection except for The Witcher 3, and he is in not old enough for that one yet.)

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Not all those who wander are lost...

...but we may have forgotten when the pharmacy opens.

Yesterday morning, I got up and left the house at 9 am to walk down to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Only to remember before I got there that the pharmacy doesn't open until 10 am on Sundays. Ooops.

So, I took a walk down Stevens Creek Boulevard. Which is normally a very busy commercial strip, but on a Sunday morning, before most of the businesses open, it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. The sky was blue and the weather was lovely. I stopped in at one of the few places that was open, a Persian bakery and coffee house, and discovered that they bake a kind of Persian flatbread that I've never had before. It's a long rectangular piece of bread that looks a bit like lavash, with seeds on it. I watched the baker take the sheets of bread out of the oven and hang them up on pegs against the wall, and then take them down and slip them into long plastic bags. People came in and left with huge plastic bags of bread draped over one arm.

They make a good iced coffee and I'm totally going back there for breakfast and bread sometime.

I've forgotten how nice it can be just to aimlessly wander. And how many things I can still discover even in a neighborhood I've lived in for years.

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More video games with niblings!

Youngest Niece, who is six, has noticed that Younger Nephew gets to hang out with me and play video games, so she asked if she could hang out with me and play video games.

We went out for sushi first, because sushi is her favorite food. Daniel and I were reflecting that we didn't have such sophisticated palates when we were six, but sushi wasn't nearly as ubiquitous then either.

We played Lego Marvel Superheroes, which I think is not as good a game as Lego Star Wars (some of the puzzles are very fiddly to solve), but is still pretty fun. Youngest Niece got a kick out of being able to play Spiderman, a favorite character of hers. Like her brother at the same age, when she figured out that it's possible in the Lego games for the player characters to kill each other, she spent about 10 minutes figuring out every possible way to kill my character. Hulk Smash! (Death is very gentle in the Lego games - you immediately get resurrected. So this behaviour is not nearly as annoying as it might sound.)

We also messed around with a driving game that was part of some arcade game sampler installed on the XBox, which we were both hilariously bad at. (Like, driving off cliffs bad.) And we played a few rounds of Pac Man, and then she decided that she was done with games for the day and we went and got ice cream.

When we got in the car to take her home, I asked her if she wanted to listen to heavy metal or K-Pop. She unhesitatingly replied, "heavy metal," and asked me to turn up the volume. We had a rousing sing-a-long to Europe's "The Final Countdown", but the best was really when Darkthrone's "Valkyrie" came on and she started improvising her own vocal line. Which mostly seemed to consist of "Wooooah, woah, woah, woah!" at the top of her lungs. Clearly she's a true fan! (Or, you know, she's six and she's just enthusiastic about everything.)

A rollicking good time was had by all.

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Video Games as Child Development Lab, part n

Played Mass Effect 2 with Younger Nephew today. He seems to be grasping more of the larger storyline, and is also pausing more frequently to make comments about the plot and the characters.

Also, after playing through a mission where he basically double-crossed everyone (partly unintentionally, I think) and was awarded with many Renegade points, he looked thoughtful and said, "I think maybe I want to be nice to *some* people."

Certain types of foreshadowing, however, are lost on him. He cleared out a room, and got to an elevator at the far end. Garrus said something like, "Wow, we're really out in the open here, especially if there's somebody in the elevator." And Shepherd responded with, "Good thing there's plenty of cover around." Younger Nephew had Shepherd stand directly in front of the elevator waiting for it to open, and was astonished when a bunch of krogan poured out and killed him off. "They just came out of nowhere!" he exclaimed. (After a reload, he pushed the elevator button, got into cover, and handily dealt with the hostile forces.)

I still do the code-matching puzzles for him, but he understands how they work well enough that he sometimes tries to help.

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awkwardness, incapacitated

When the Easter bunny brings burpees

I've had any number of things derail my workout plans over the years, but this was a new one. On Thursday afternoons, I usually go for a long walk along the pedestrian footpath that runs along Arastradero Road, near where I work. This week, I was actually thinking of trying out a nice easy jog along that route. But on Wednesday, a jogger was assaulted at gunpoint right on a section of the path that I regularly travel, and the suspect hasn't been apprehended. So, I'm feeling a bit weird about my lovely solitary walks and jogs.

I brought my running gear to work yesterday, and was just going to go run sprints by myself on the soccer field, but then I remembered that my personal trainer teaches a bootcamp class on Thursday afternoons. I figured I would give something new a try.

The class setup was really fun - in honor of Easter, my trainer had written a bunch of different exercises on slips of paper, placed them in plastic Easter eggs, and hidden the eggs around the area outside the gym. We were divided into teams - each team had to find 5 eggs. Then we had a set period of time to do the exercises from all the eggs, and then the teams swapped exercises. (So we ended up doing 3 or 4 rounds.)

In general, the experience reminded me of all the things I hate and all the things I love about group fitness classes.

The things I hate:
1. Gratuitous appeals to weight loss/aesthetic goals. My trainer is actually really good about not doing this, but that doesn't stop the other particpants from shouting out things like, "We're doing this for our beach bodies!"
2. Random and haphazard exercise selection. I'm used to training with specific goals and progression in mind, and bootcamp classes don't really do that. You'll get exercises that you don't know how to do properly (Hello, box jumps!), exercises that you don't want to do (Crunches, for real? In 2018? Haven't you all read Stuart McGill?), exercises that are too hard, and exercises that are too easy.
3. Lifting weights and running are both almost forms of meditation for me. When I finish a session, I don't just get the physical benefits, but I usually feel mentally refreshed, calmer, and more focused. Doing burpees like a lunatic with 20 other people doesn't really have the same effect.

Things I love:
1. I like the novelty. It's fun to try new things.
2. It does get your heart rate up like whoah.
3. The cameraderie. There was lots of encouragement, high-fiving, and lots of commiseration in the locker room afterwards about how much burpees suck. (Yes, I hate other people and I love other people. Did you expect me to be consistent?)

Also, I managed to teach one of my teammates how to do a kettlebell swing without referencing anything NSFW, which is an achievement since a kettlebell swing basically consists of humping the air while holding a cannonball on a handle.

Group fitness classes also offer an interesting opportunity to measure up your fitness levels against a bunch of other people. I used to be able to confidently assume that I would stand out as the least fit person in any group fitness class. (Which isn't so bad - if you don't let it hit your self-esteem, you can serve a socially useful function.) Now, not so much. I'm still a noticeably slow runner, although my endurance isn't bad. I'm terrible at burpees and other similar exercises that involve flinging yourself up and down a lot. I'm reasonably good at anything requiring core strength. I'm unsurprisingly pretty darn good at anything that requires leg strength.

I don't think I'll do the bootcamp class on a regular basis, but I might join it now and again for a change of pace.

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weights, deadlift


I almost didn't go to the gym yesterday. I'd been at a conference all day. The room had been just slightly too warm, and I hadn't eaten enough protein at lunch, and so I was hungry, dehydrated, and slightly lethargic. But I made myself a deal that I'd drink some water, eat a snack, and go to the gym, and if I felt crappy, I could do a light easy workout and go home.

Apparently, water and string cheese is one hell of a pre-workout, because by the time I got to the gym and warmed up, I felt pretty good. So I decided that I'd stick to my original workout plan and do deadlifts.

What I've been doing for deadlift training lately is doing a couple of warmup sets, and then working with 185lbs on the bar, trying to increase the number of reps per set I can do. Over the course of the past couple months, I've worked up from 3 reps/set to 4 reps/set. And yesterday, I did a set of 5 reps. So, at that point, I put 205 on the bar. And did just one rep. But it felt pretty easy.

Then I thought, what the hell. Let's try 225.

For those of you who don't lift a lot, 225 is a significant number because the largest weight plates in the gym are typically 45 lbs, as is the barbell. So 225 = 1 barbell and 2 nice big 45lb plates on each side. It just looks cool.

I load it up, and another woman walks up to me and asks, "You can pull *that*?" And I'm like, "I don't know. I've never tried before!"

So, now I'm thinking, I have to make this. At the very least, I have to break the bar off the floor. It'll be too embarrassing if I don't even budge it.

I budged it. And completed the lift. And then I rested for a bit and did it again just to prove it was not a fluke.

I did take the rest of my workout pretty easy after that.

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weights, deadlift


I hit 220 lbs on the deadlift today. I may make that 225 goal my trainer and I set faster than we thought.

Possibly even more exciting: I am now capable of doing a 20 to 30 lb goblet squat to below parallel. Like hamstrings and calves touching below parallel. I can't get that low in a bodyweight squat, and I can't get that low in a back squat, but the fact that I can do it in a goblet squat means that there's nothing biomechanical preventing me from getting that low.

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