Next Step.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Rambling,Stress | Monday 26 September 2011 4:48 pm

The bookshelves are done, now we progress to the next stage in the living room and hallway… ceilings and walls.  I’ve already started doing patchwork — proper patchwork, not the stupid crap that folks pass off as patchwork, like, say, two layers of masking tape over a hole in the wall that was then painted over.

Fuckers.

The old molding is already gone from around the doors and baseboards.  I’ve tested a spot on the ceiling that needed some TLC to ensure that we can simply wet the old popcorn texture down and scrape it right off (this worked surprisingly well!).  Tomorrow we start laying down sheeting on the floors and taping it along the walls at the ceiling line, so that we can start scraping the texture off in earnest.  Then we can re-texture the ceiling with something more pleasant and subtle (a knockdown texture, also known as a “California Ceiling”… it’s pretty much what’s on the walls already).

Then we paint.  Ceilings and walls, two coats each.  Anything will be better than the “beige available in 55 gallon drums” that’s on the walls now.

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The Texas Baker’s Bill… Last Gasp!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Family,Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Wednesday 25 May 2011 4:34 pm

After fearing the Cottage Food Bill was dead in the House, turns out it’s still gasping for air!  It has actually passed the House, and is in the Senate as bill # SB 81, and has apparently gone round and round a few times already for amendments.  The unfortunate part is that we have less than a week for the Senate to pass it, or the legislative session will end and it’ll really be dead, not to be brought up again for another 2 years.

So, as before, I’m practically begging everyone to call and/or email your Senator and ask that they support SB 81 — specifically supporting it “as is” with the current crop of amendments, as there is little to no time to make any more.  The passing of this bill is the best chance for Sweets to get a legal baking business off the ground without having to scrape up  thousands of dollars in additional fees.  If you would like to help, I ask that you do so very, very soon.

Find out who your Senator is HERE.  More info on the progress of the bill is HERE.

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The Texas Baker’s Bill… Forward Momentum!

Posted by DmentD | Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Wednesday 27 April 2011 1:31 pm

Texas House of Representatives Bill #HB2084 (cottage foods, raw milk availability at a wider range of venues, Farmer’s Market support, etc) has been voted out of committee and is on its way to the House to (hopefully) be voted on.  Previously there were two bills supporting a Cottage Food industry in Texas — HB1139 and HB2084 — but HB2084 is the one that apparently got the most attention and support, so we’ll take any progress we can get.

This is the result of a lot of support from individuals contacting their Representatives and the Public Health Committee, and showing up at the public hearing for the bill and putting their names down in support.  This is way further than the bill got two years ago.

Now that the bill is out of committee, the broader membership of the Texas House of Representatives needs to be poked by their constituents, to be let known that they should support HB2084 when it comes up for a vote.  Again, the power of individuals holds a lot of weight here, and if enough noise is made the Representatives may just get the hint that the people they represent think something is important.  An individual voice doesn’t make a lot of noise, but thousands of them added together can raise a din and will start to get attention.

I am asking that you guys email, call, write… whatever, just reach out to your Representative and let them know you want them to support HB2084.  You can figure out who your Rep is HERE . While you’re at it, ask them to sign on as a Joint Author or Co-Author to show their support.  Forward this info to anyone you think may be willing to help out.

If the bill passes the House, we get to start over again with the Senate, but it’ll be a slightly easier road as it will already have momentum.  You can look forward to us bugging you again when that time comes.  *grins*

If this bill makes it through the House and Senate, this opens up a greater opportunity for Sweets to get the bakery business off the ground, legally and without the obnoxious start-up expenses it would take to operate out of a commercial kitchen environment – this would be a happy middle step on the way to that goal.  If you’ve enjoyed any of the yummy baked goods I’ve brought around, consider being able to get them all the time, and having that deliciousness unleashed in Austin.  Consider those treats you’ve already consumed as a down-payment on your willing cooperation in this matter. *grins* A lot of you aren’t very civic minded, so don’t do this for the greater good… do it for Sweets’ and mine.  It’ll only take a few minutes of your time.

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A Further Call To Arms! The Texas Baker’s Bill. Again.

Posted by DmentD | Aggravation,Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Monday 11 April 2011 1:05 pm

Well, the Cottage Food Bill is getting the runaround in the Texas Legislature again this year, and time is rapidly running out.  Shenanigans and stalling tactics, and it looks to be Rep. Lois Kolkhorst who has parked it in limbo again.  This blows.

So, the folks behind the bill are urging everyone to step up the game and contact (call and email) all the members of the Public Health Committee — the committee where the bill is stalled out, and that Rep. Kolkhorst is the Chair of.  They also encourage everyone to contact Rep. Joe Straus (Speaker of the House), Gov. Rick PerryLt. Governor David Dewhurst, and anyone else who will listen.

The email I wrote follows, if anyone is interested.  The full list of email addresses for the Public Health Committee is as follows (easy to just copy and paste as needed):

Lois.Kolkhorst@house.state.tx.us; Elliott.Naishtat@house.state.tx.us; Carol.Alvarado@house.state.tx.us; Garnet.Coleman@house.state.tx.us; Sarah.Davis@house.state.tx.us; Veronica.Gonzales@house.state.tx.us; Susan.King@house.state.tx.us; Jodie.Laubenberg@house.state.tx.us; Charles.Schwertner@house.state.tx.us; Vicki.Truitt@house.state.tx.us; John.Zerwas@house.state.tx.us;

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Dear members of the Public Health Committee,

In 2009 a bill was introduced into committee to provide for residential kitchens to legally produce low-risk baked goods — such as cakes and cookies, jams and preserves — and sell them directly to the public.  This bill stalled out in committee, essentially “dying on the vine” before it could even be considered for further action or a vote.

This year the community of Texas home bakers wishing to take their first steps into the light of legal enrichment tried again, and HB1139 was authored and introduced by Representative Eddie Rodriguez.  HB1139, after much outpouring of support from constituents from around the state, has picked up another author — Representative Coleman — and five additional co-authors —  Representatives Gallego, Gonzales, Jackson, Laubenberg & Schwertner (many of which are actually members of the Public Health Committee).  Additionally, and inexplicably, Representative Lois Kolkhorst, the committee Chair, has filed a similar bill in parallel, HB2084.

HB1139 was filed on February 7, then read and referred to the Public Health Committee on February 27.  Calls have been made and letters have been written in enthusiastic support to the various Texas Representatives by their constituents wishing to see HB1139 passed.  There has been copious media and internet coverage in support of this bill.  Social networks have been buzzing for months about this.

Unfortunately, both bills still wither on the vine, and as in 2009 Representative Lois Kolkhorst appears to be the leading source of the roadblock, while her parallel bill appears to be an attempt to dilute the impact of the original.  We, who have been following with great interest, have repeatedly been fed promises of “next week”, and “soon”, and we’re growing a little weary of being put off with friendly words and a smile.  This gives off the whiff of a stalling tactic so that these bills will just disappear once more, buried, while the public that yearn for it are placated like so many noisy children.

There are eighteen other States that have passed Cottage Food Laws, the most recent being Arizona in February 2011.  There a five other States considering Cottage Food Laws right now.  Why are we not being allowed to join their ranks, granting an opportunity for financial independence for individuals and culinary diversity?

The passing of a Cottage Food Law will allow individuals and small groups of home bakers to generate revenue in this otherwise tepid economical landscape.  That revenue is subject to local sales tax (more money for the State!), income tax, and spending cash in the pockets of the bakers themselves to help stimulate the local economies.  It would help build small businesses that may one day flourish into larger enterprises, creating even more jobs and revenue along the way.  It would allow individuals to ply a trade they truly enjoy, flexing their creative culinary skills, making for a happier person.  It would allow people to fulfill their dreams, to be independent, and to do what they love.

I can’t speak for the rest of Texas, but Austin is fiercely proud of its reputation for locally owned and operated businesses and the eclectic atmosphere that comes when the majority of the shops are run by individuals and not mega-corporations and chains.  Think of the vast variety of tastes and styles, ethnic and cultural confections that only ever get served up at the family table… then imagine those miraculously being available in farmer’s markets and little stalls and shops around town, all across the State.

Don’t allow the Committee to let this pass by — again — without giving it a chance to flourish.  I ask that you reach out to them and encourage the members of the Committee to nurture these seeds, water and feed them, bring them into the light of day and let them ripen into a glorious opportunity for individuals and the State of Texas.  They should bring this bill into the light and let the House have a chance to put it to a vote.  Please do your part and give these bills some forward momentum.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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A Call To Arms! The Texas Baker’s Bill.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Family,Friends,Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Friday 11 February 2011 8:09 pm

Yeah, I know, I’m likely to catch hell from you guys for this… but it’s worth it if it helps at all.

I spammed y’all in 2009 about this, but it’s come full circle again in 2011 – the Texas Cottage Food Law.  Currently it’s illegal in Texas for the operation of a food-based business from a residential kitchen, even if it’s “non-potentially hazardous” foods that are at a low risk for spoilage, specifically bakery products and some other foods — jams, jellies, and salsas — that are considered low-risk for spoilage because they are not able to support the growth of potentially harmful organisms and do not require refrigeration.  This makes it prohibitively expensive and complex to start up a small bakery business. The passing of this bill would allow, with appropriate licensing, home-based bakery style businesses.

Most anyone reading this post knows a married couple in Texas that have been trying to quietly drum up business while flying below the radar for some time now.  They can’t really advertise, as that would call unwanted attention to them, so it’s all word of mouth.  They can’t approach places like coffee houses or other little retail establishments to get them to buy their goods, can’t get a stall at a farmer’s market, etc.  Which means that growth is negligible.  If the Cottage Food Law passes, They could (as early as September) get started making a lot of noise and picking up some business.

What does this mean to everyone?  Well, to get the bill passed, those of you living in Texas have to let legislators know that they want them to support it, and to do that folks need to call and/or write them.  There is a site out there with info on the bill, and what to do/how to help.

Texas Cottage Food Law (they’re on Facebook too).

Those good folks are even providing a letter template, the best way to conduct yourself on the call, along with how to find who your local legislators are.

Even if you don’t intend to actually call or write (and I heartily encourage you to do so!), maybe you could pass the information along – email, Facebook, Twitter (there is a hashtag group on twitter — #texasbakersbill — so follow/use that if you go that route), etc.  The more people who know about it, the greater the percentage of people who will call/write.  C’mon, this is the modern age, and social networking rules the land… there’s no reason this information can’t be spread far and wide in relatively no time at all.

The passing of this bill will allow individuals and small groups of home bakers to generate some revenue in this otherwise tepid economical landscape.  That revenue is subject to local sales tax (more money for the Texas state coffers!), income tax (moolah for the Feds!), and spending cash in the pockets of the bakers themselves to help stimulate the local economy.  It would help build small businesses that may one day flourish into larger enterprises, creating even more jobs and revenue along the way. It would allow individuals to ply a trade they truly enjoy, flexing their creative culinary skills, making for a happier person.

I can’t speak for the rest of Texas, but Austin is fiercely proud of it’s reputation for locally owned and operated businesses and the eclectic atmosphere that comes when the majority of the shops are run by individuals and not mega-corporations and chains.  Think of the vast variety of tastes and styles, ethnic and cultural confections that only ever get served up at the family table… then imagine those miraculously being available in farmer’s markets and little stalls and shops around town, all across the State.

It was once stated (quite sadly by a member of the committee with her hands on the bill in 2009 — her name rhymes with “Lois W. Kolkhorst“) that home baking businesses were “the worst kept secret” in Texas, and it was asked why there was need for a law to make it legal?  Go ahead and read this post from the beginning again, I think I’ve covered that quite nicely already.  Seriously, who would oppose passing a law to let people come out of hiding, become legitimate, start paying taxes and earning income above board?  These legislators have other agendas… they simply must.

The bill has been filed with the Texas House of Representatives — HB1139here’s the text of it.  The next step is for it to get assigned to a committee, then read before that committee (which, by the way, is open to the public… so why not show up in support of it?).  Then it goes up for a vote, and if that works out well it gets passed to the Texas Senate to be voted on.

So, Texans (and family of Texans who can poke their kin with a sharp stick for us), we need to be BIG and LOUD about this.  This needs to be more than just a fart in a hurricane.  Put it on the radar of your legislators.  Make yourself heard, dammit!

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Idol Thoughts.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Rambling,Reflection,Stress | Wednesday 29 September 2010 11:11 am

I just realized that, in the wake of an worldwide apocalyptic event, I am going to be that guy who, amidst the rubble and debris will have lovingly, painstakingly and obsessively restored some ultimately useless item.

Humankind will have been reduced to a few surviving feral tribes, scattered amongst a shattered landscape.  My life will have been destroyed, I will be wearing only rags and be smeared with filth and soot and I will be living in a hovel composed of four crumbling walls and a torn tarp for a ceiling.  I will live a hermit’s life, one of solitary existence.

However, behind a carefully camouflaged door will be a compartment free of the dirt and madness.  A small altar will have been erected, and sunlight directed in from above using a series of mirrors and reflective surfaces.  Upon that altar will be a gleaming idol — an old world antique copper espresso engine.  Functional, but never used.  Restored to its pre-apocalyptic glory by any means possible, scavenging, bartering or stealing the parts and tools necessary.

I know with grim certainty that my next foray out into this nightmarish landscape may well be my last, but I am driven by an inexplicable, irrational desire to bring even this one piece of time-gone-by back to life.  I spend countless hours cleaning, shaping and polishing each piece by hand.  I improvise parts until I can one day find a real replacement.  I go hungry trading food for copper polish and burnishing pads.  I killed a man in honorable combat who was wearing the ornate copper eagle — the crowning decorative touch — on a band of aluminum around his head as an improvised crown and symbol of his tribe… I stabbed him in the lung with a spare frother tube that I carry for personal protection, and I watched as his life hissed slowly away.

My madness is what keeps me alive.  It gives me a purpose and keeps the fire that burns behind my eyes lit, and drives me on from day to day.  There can be no sanity in the world as it is, no rational existence exists any more.  There is only my gleaming god — my caffeine miracle worker, the copper altar upon which beans and water were once sacrificed, the once steaming idol, a bull for the modern age past.

I will resurrect this deity — oh yes — and He will smile upon me with beatific joy for my hard work and fealty, and grant me eternal grace at His right hand.  I toil and labor so that He may on day rise again.  He will smite my enemies with steamy vengeance and set right this world of chaos, and I will finally be able to be at peace.

That, and get a killer cup of joe… finally!

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*sniffle*

Posted by DmentD | Aggravation,Rambling,Stress | Wednesday 31 March 2010 11:52 am

All I have to say is “fuck pollen”, specifically oak and cedar pollen.

I never had problems with allergies or my sinuses until I moved to Austin.  Guess what Austin, you have no idea what humidity feels like until you’ve spent entire summers in 150% humidity and 100°+ heat, drenched with sweat .07 seconds after you emerge from your hermetically sealed, air conditioned cocoon of a home… so stop complaining, ok?  I mean, yeah, I’m sure it’s more miserable in certain other parts of the world… Ethiopia, Botswana, or some other technologically vacuous and environmentally hostile sinkhole, but they’re justified to bitch bout it.  No, spend a typical summer in the trench-rot friendly environs of Southern Louisiana, then come back here and we’ll have an educated conversation about humidity.

What does this have to do with sinuses and pollen?  Humidity keeps pollen from traveling very far — the pollen particles get saturated and just thud to the ground, listless.  It’s a wonder there is anything growing in SoLa.  Here, in Central Texas, the pollen sets new world distance traveling records every year… hell, pollen here comes equipped with jetpacks, a sinus seeking radar, and a giant red button labeled “Red Alert: Attack”.

It is so dry here in comparison to NOLA, that I was borderline for perpetual nosebleeds for the first 3 months until I acclimated.  All that dry weather causes your sinus passageways to contract, opening up a superhighway for the spores to travel, then they slam shut again.  The pressure builds up until your eyes want to escape your head for fear of being propelled at high velocity into your monitor, your nose is incapable of even the most pathetic wet gurgle, and dear jeebus it’s the 17th street floodwall disaster all over again when the dam finally breaks and you flood your nose and throat with shockingly fast moving fluid that leaves a fetid water-line down the front of your shirt.  All you need is the Army to come along and spray-paint an “X” on you, declaring how many bodies are inside and when they checked you.

A colorful description, I know.  Just thought I’d share my misery.

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Whassahappanin’, Hotstuff?

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Coolness,Friends,Homebrew,Links,Promotion,Rambling,Site,Stress | Tuesday 30 March 2010 11:07 am

Much goings on… er, going on in the last few months.  Once more, and to no surprise to anyone, I have sadly not reported any of it here.

Let’s see.  First and foremost, Sweets got laid off from the bakery she was at — who took her on as an extern when she was in culinary school, then hired her to do cakes, couldn’t give her a lot of hours, then realized that they were perfectly happy using the free extern labor from the school instead, and let her go.  Tears and curses aside, it was a fantastic learning experience for her and gave us the motivation to…

… start taking the first steps to get Curious Confections off the ground.  The first serious steps.  We spruced up the site — making it more making it professional in appearance — added a menu, and lightened up some of the ambiguous language about actually making product for sale.

Sweets is going to make Curious Confections a part-time job for the interim, while maintaining a second part-time job at an established business.  I will be moonlighting after work hours and on weekends as a CC employee.  We’ve started getting a few orders in — some of them steady — and friends and co-workers have rallied to the cause by ordering stuff from us, and pressing our business cards into the palms of everyone they know.  The goal is to eventually get enough business to pay Sweets a salary, making CC her full-time job.

We need all the help we can get to make this first step successful, allowing us to grow and evolve to the next level, and then the level after that, ad infinitum.  We’re trying to maintain a fine balance between slow, steady growth so we don’t overextend our current reach, and reaching just far enough outside of our current comfort level to force us to evolve.  Just as too much water, sun and fertilizer can kill even a healthy plant — we don’t want to die on the vine from too much of a good thing burning us out too early.

Sweets is also taking the role of food blogger more seriously.  There are a few reasons behind this: foremost, she really enjoys writing about the stuff we make (out of pride and great satisfaction), it’ll help direct more traffic and attention to Curious Confections, it’ll bring her and CC to the attention of other food bloggers (many of them local), and she can be a part of a community of like-minded people (which is always a good thing).  A fresh audience and new friends can work wonders on so many levels.

All cake, baked goods, and Curious Confections related projects will henceforth be posed over there, and links to said posts will be posted here.  I may even pop in and write about the things I have my snobbery badges in: coffee, beer, homebrew, and South Louisiana food.

On the topic of homebrew, we have two batches of beer in bottles ready for consumption by this weekend: the Belgian Devil (a Duvel-like Belgian golden ale), and the Bayou Headsucker (a crisp, clean, refreshing kolsch ale).  The Headsucker was specifically brewed for the crawfish season this year, and our first boil is this Saturday.

You may have noticed the unusual beer names.  Good for you.  We’ve decided to cater to my infantile obsession with zombies and theme all the beers that way.  Our “brewery” is named Ol’ Shambler Brewery.  While making labels for beer that will eventually be drunk, then have the labels stripped right back off again may seem a bit needless, we wanted to have fun with this hobby from start to finish.  To that end we have enlisted (entrapped!) two of our talented friends, Marty and Kim, to help design and color said labels… and they’ve done a hell of a job so far.  I’ll post the artwork separately, another time – gotta’ save some stuff for other posts!

We’ve also started fermenting our first mead — a traditional, sweet-semi-dry variety — using raw, unpasteurized orange blossom honey from a local apiary.  It’s coming along nicely, but won’t be ready to drink for till about this time next year.  Sadly meads, hard ciders, perrys, and wines of all stripe are not “young” beverages, and require an extended conditioning period ranging from a few months, to well over a year depending on the style.  Our patience should be rewarded, and is all the more motivation to have a number of batches going at once.

The downside to home brewing is equipment and supply storage.  It takes up some space, man, and it’s a struggle to store everything so that it 1) isn’t underfoot, and B) isn’t unsightly.  I don’t want to just plonk it all down in a spare bedroom and shut the door, but I don’t want it to sit in the garage or attic gathering dust and who-knows-what-else.  I also want to have access to everything as I need it without having to go dig it out of a storage area.  We have plans to, eventually, build cabinetry into the bar — when we build the bar — to store homebrew gear and fermenting batches out of sight, but accessible.

That, my little ones, is all I have to ramble about at this time.  Be good to each other, even if it means being naughty.  Especially if it means being naughty.

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Snakes On A Dog.

Posted by DmentD | Aggravation,Friends,Pictures,Stress | Thursday 3 September 2009 12:13 pm

Two of my dog family here in Austin — Niece Cleo and Nephew Puck — were both bitten by a baby rattlesnake last night.  On the face.  How humiliating… that little reptile punk didn’t even have the stones to wage a fair fight, so he had to resort to sucker punching them.

They’ve undergone treatments of anti-venom and after a scary-as-hell night, seem to be recovering.  I’m hoping for the absolute best.  For the moment though, I offer this as a response to the whole situation:

Snakes On A Dog

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All You Texan Voters…

Posted by DmentD | Cooking,Links,Stress | Tuesday 28 April 2009 10:56 pm

Most people I know have already been told about this, however, there is a bill trying to be passed to allow baking businesses from home in Texas.  Obviously Sweets and I are very eager for this to be passed.

Tonight this bill made it from the Public Health Committee to the Calendars Committee.  There is a call out now to inundate and overwhelm the Chair and members of the Calendars committee (and for the record Representative Lois W. Kolkhorst is one of the committee members actively, vehemently trying to oppose this — she’s a ball breaker — do what you will with that bit of information), with phone calls requesting that HB 3282 be put on the calendar immediately for floor debate and vote.  It must be out of committee by May 11 or it will die.  There are 7,000 bills filed this session, we must be BIGGER and LOUDER than all the others to get pushed to the front of the pack.

Please, please, please call them, it all helps, we want this to be passed.

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