Monday, November 20, 2017

Holiday Penumbra

Distracted much
We're not all here. I'm mostly playing at working. A big holiday is almost here so we're marking time until we skip off thataway. I'm taking off Wednesday as well to try and get most of the feast prep done ahead of time. And be with the girls who are out of school after Tuesday.

I made good progress on housework over the weekend. I faced the inevitable realization that more cooking only leads to more cleaning. I made delicious cider caramels without a candy thermometer. I have more cider. I wonder if I can do it again or if it was beginner's luck. The caramels are cut up and wrapped in wax paper. They're in the fridge labeled "Do Not Eat".

I'm planning to get the kids to help with the room/table prep including washing china and silver. I'd like to get lots of the dishes cooked ahead of time. Feast of leftovers! is a rallying cry I can get behind. The bird should be roasted on the day to get the crisp golden skin. I'm still thinking of cutting it all up and roasting it flat as recommended by Jacques Pepin among others. Maybe I'll spatchcock again.   

I sampled comics again on Netflix and have my judgement to share. Iliza is talking to people at least fifteen years younger than I am. And she's coming from sort of a sorority sister angle. I liked her but I didn't finish the set. I only watched a few minutes of Judah Friedlander's America is the Greatest... His delivery is lots of jokes, real fast. I would save that for a short attention span moment. My bestest new talent discovery is Christina P. I loved Mother Inferior and need to look for her earlier stuff. Vicious and beautiful and smartypants.

I haven't made much headway with Middlemarch but I'll keep chipping away at it. Seems like a good winter project. In lighter fare I can heartily recommend both this fairy 'tec novel from Seannan McGuire: The Brightest Fell and Catherine Schine's The New Yorkers. Oh C. Schine, you and your light touch, comedy-of-manners, family novel ways. I have Alice in Bed now too so ol' G. Eliot will have to wait. Actually I picked up three or four other novels at the library yesterday. Because I do like a pile of books. After the cooking mania of the next few days I will swan dive into them.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fall and all

Am trying another run at Middlemarch. I have to admit that sentences like this one slow me down:
"Has any one ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb of pre-matrimonial acquaintanceship?" Something about how misunderstandings help romantic attachment, I think.

The Thirteenth Tale is turning out to be some good gothic fun. It's quite meta, a bookstore researcher is asked to be the biographer for a dying novelist. Swimming in literary references direct and oblique. Other meta books I've enjoyed:  The Storied Life of AJ Fikry and The Three Weissmanns of Westport . I know there's at least another book for this category but it's escaping me.

Justin Verlander pitched for the Astro's win in the World Series. And he earned his keep with such excellent pitching. Two days after the winning game he got married to actress/model Kate Upton in Italy. Which all seems to make for some serious hubris that the gods might be winding up to strike this marriage down. But on the side of good luck their bridesmaids' dresses were seriously pinkugly. To the happy couple!

Jackolanterns are sulking in the compost heap. A few uncarved squashes remain to decorate our front step. It seems to be November all of a sudden. I have been ready to fall asleep at 9:30 every night after the time change. But I have yet to feel the hate in my heart that time changes used to bring me. Maybe the vitamin D helps. That and the kids who get themselves up in the morning.


I have a feeling that I have posted six previous recipes for cooking black beans in the slow cooker. But I can't find any of them with a perfunctory search and that means that they may as well be lost for all time. Here's my latest attempt that has great flavor but needed extra cooking time.

Start with a bag of dry black beans. Pick them over, remove stones and broken beans. Rinse and soak in plenty of water overnight. Drain the beans. Turn on slow cooker and add a good glug of olive oil, a quartered onion, two peeled and flattened garlic cloves, a carrot in large chunks, a stalk of celery and some extra celery leaves, a bay leaf, a jalapeno and a bell pepper (both seeded), and at least part of a 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes with the juice (I only had half a can). Add beans and six cups of hot water. Cover and cook on medium heat for 4-5 hours. I cooked on 2 and my beans were not done at all when I got home. I put the pot on the stovetop and boiled them beans for an hour until soft. Add salt to taste (I added 3/4 t of table salt). Add lime juice if you have a lime (I did not - sob).

There. As I get older perhaps I will post my bean recipes with increasing frequency until one day every new post will be nothing but beans.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Turning of the year

The cat's scabs are fewer and I think she's going to outlive the awful itchiness of 2017. I had some serious doubts there for a while. I'm not a big fan of Sc1ence D1et but will give my testimonial for Sensitive Stomach & Skin dry food. I think it saved Zing's bacon. 

It was a treat to watch Mike Birbiglia's most recent standup things last weekend: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend and Thank God for Jokes. I laughed a lot and recommend them both. Am looking forward to Patton Oswalt's Annihilation. I had been saving it for a time I could watch with Nod but he said he thought PO's last one seemed like a sermon so I guess I'll watch this one solo. I understand the feeling. There are certainly some dangerously sincere pieces of art that have left me feeling full of good intentions but neither enlightened nor entertained. (Peter's Friends and Grand Canyon come to mind. Oh and Fry's Wilde, such a disappointing script, it was a part he was born to play.)

The Good Place continues to delight. I think it's on hiatus until January supposedly because of football scheduling but perhaps to make it a scarce commodity? Goodbye, Derek!

I made soda bread last night and it's always good. Nice to be able to have the oven on and not sweatily reget it later. 

I'm having to reinstate the chores after an outage in favor of schoolwork. Both are mostly caught up for the moment so it's time to share out the grubby jobs rather than having them all fall to me. 

I found it quite dark when I got home yesterday at 5:20. I lit candles and turned up more lights and the heat. Of course we'll get another hour of daylight for a while when we switch clocks on Sunday. When I'm tempted to complain I think of our folks in Wales who see the dark come in about 3:30 in the afternoon. Shiver!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Snow is on the...

Sit down kids and submit to a seasonal poem! I'll lock all the doors and belt out these four stanzas before they know what hit 'em.

When the Frost is on the Punkin by James Whitcomb Riley

I thought of it yesterday because it started to snow as I left work. Early for us but not outlandishly so. The temps were in the high 30s so nothing stuck but it was a novelty, first flakes to fly this autumn.

The Queen of Hearts and Margot Tennenbaum had a good time at their respective teen get togethers. K said she was lauded by her Wes Anderson loving nerds but then visited a more norm/jock group who had no idea who she was supposed to be. L didn't trick or treat at all I am a little sad. I thought I was sad for her but maybe am sad for myself. I'm having to do some conscious remembering that L's 8th grade experiences are not my own despite the invocation.

I enjoyed handing out the sweets chez nous. It's like a parade that comes and rings your doorbell! Our dog enjoyed all the visits too. The dog-kids connection was strong. The only trouble was getting Snickers back inside after each door opening.

My favorite costume was a girl who had a hoop contraption with rainbow sprinkles and a cherry on her head. My guess was wrong (ice cream sundae) but she said, "Close! I'm a cupcake!"

I enjoyed Max Gladstone's twitter thread about writing a novel or growing a mustache in one month. Very encouraging and focusing on all the ways to use this to productively spark your creativity and not be dismayed at failing to meet arbitrary volume or time deadlines.

For my own November creations I am finishing my 2-D paper hermit crab and adorning our dining room wall with it. More paper creatures may follow. This is the crab idea I had for a Halloween costume two years ago. I haven't ever made it to the 3-D stage but I am closer than I have ever been to 2-D accomplishment! Cutting out legs and antennae tonight.

Friday, October 27, 2017


Happy day
Seriously it is worth a scroll through twitter's black cat day offerings. Such excellent ebony cat frens. A good day to remember the heft of Jimbo and his bus engine purr. Best boy.

Our ginger cat is still scratching but I think we're at a better plateau. I've just cut out the wet food and have almost completely transitioned to the sensitive skin dry. Clearly the next step will be witchcraft.

Local wastes of space
Cars keyed and pumpkins stolen on my street this week. We woke up to three fewer pumpkins on our stoop this morning. Sounds like crummy teen boys to me. I assume their attentions will wander on to other targets soon. I guess I'm glad we hadn't carved our jack o'lanterns yet. Spouse and I are agreed we're going back to the farm and getting more pumpkins - mwa! ha! ha! Okay it's not revenge exactly but the farm's pumpkins are marked down and we want some to carve.

Bibbity Bobbity
8th grader is working on her Queen of Hearts costume. Not the murderous AIW character, to my sorrow, but a more pack of cards character. I'm making her a crown because she was threatening to buy a plastic one and that sticks in my craw. 10th grader wants to do a duo costume with her friend but doesn't have an idea yet. Nod was offering Casablanca or Star Trek og ideas but that won't work. I have half a hermit crab shell but it needs ironing. Maybe I'll feel inspired tonight. I'm thinking I may use chalk on it -- it doesn't have to last long anyway.

Monday, October 23, 2017


Great galloping cats
Chaos and the unknown predominate in our cat care at the moment. Zing scratched bloody spots in her neck. I temporarily made her wear a cat shirt to cover the worst spots. (Very proud of my improvised catwear - shoulder and sleeve of a 4 year old's shirt with holes cut for front legs.) This worked, the worst spots have healed now but she is still scratching and making scabs on her neck and head. I switched her cat litter over the summer, so I've switched it back. I started feeding her wet cat food over the summer and tried to switch her to a non grain dry food. I'm still giving her wet food but only bird-based (chicken and turkey) because I read that fish/dairy/beef are the most common cat food allergies. I'm moving her to a sensitive skin dry food. If she doesn't stop scratching herself bloody her days are numbered because I'm not going down the allergy testing road with another animal. I just can't. She's been discontent, so much scratching, I hope the dry food helps.

Wellness otherwise
Youngest had a fever over the weekend and has a terrible sore throat right now. I tasked Nod with taking her to the drop-in clinic for strep test but am unsure whether he will follow through. I will take her at 7:30 tomorrow if I have to. I started a sympathy sore throat last night but slept fine and it's gone now so that's good. The rest of us are okay but I guess I'm waiting for the next crisis.

Movie night
I went to see a free showing of Get Out at a local bar with a friend last Wednesday. It felt like such an accomplishment -- a topical flick I wanted to see and a friend thing. Before I went I asked Kat, but what if it scares me forever? It was really good and not as scary as I feared. Reminded me of a good Twilight Zone episode. And Rosemary's Baby of course. Gotta love the conspiracy-theory-spouting friend.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brassy celestial

Dark days
I'm reading a memoir about life with anxiety disorder. I find that I am learning a lot from this woman's experience of generalized anxiety disorder and the diagnoses and treatments she's had over the last twenty years. She's also included a history of the medical, neurological, pharmacological and psychological understanding of anxiety. I find those sections pretty skimmable. But the drug history has surprised me. I didn't realize that xanax and klonopin were cousins of valium. No wonder the addiction concerns. Sharing with a teenager who is wrassling with some anxiety of her own.

Hardly any substance at all
During a previous time of violence I was thinking about population density on the earth and wondering if we just had so many Americans per square mile now we are going to see more friction and mental illness and explosions of violence. Maybe we're driving ourselves insane being crowded. Or we're reacting to the fact that there are Plenty of extra humans, human life is no longer a precious resource, we have a surplus supply. But then I realized that Asia has a vastly higher population density than North Am and aren't experiencing these incidents of violence. So I'm putting the density theory away.

Warning: onion smell
I may try to make this slow cooker onion soup with mushroom/veg broth instead of beef broth. I do like the beef broth version but the other onion soup fan in my family is the veghead. I like the warning that this will make your living space smell like Onion Central. I don't really have a problem with that but I could put the slow cooker in the garage.

I don't know where the banner image came from but I like it very much. Maybe it's German? [Found a reference that says this is a gate inside the Kremlin.]