Monday, July 25, 2011

Flinch

My new position is starting up. There are a great many things to be learned and practiced. I have started doing half days there although I haven't got the offer letter in hand yet. I will have faith that the mysterious workings of the human resources department will be finished soon. I work the next two weeks then I'm off to Austin for a week. And then it's the week before classes start so the deluge will be underway. I won't be online much in August at all. In fact the new job promises to have ways of filling my days. It may be a whole new professional lifestyle.

Oh Norway, I'm sorry for your losses. Only a crazy person -- and not just a crazy person, but a crazy person with not enough to do -- would conclude that the way to a better life is to kill random fellow citizens. The news from Oslo was paired this weekend with reports of a shooting in Texas at a kid's birthday party at a roller rink. I think the difference was that the shooter in Texas told all the kids to get out of the building before he started. Misery.


Transitioning from murder is not my specialty.

Last night at dinner after most of a beer Nod described how he had given up on Coen Brothers films by saying that he'd broken up with them after Fargo, then had makeup sex with them when he went to see No Country for Old Men but he hadn't liked it so he's off them for good. He certainly can get everyone in the room to turn around and listen to him.

From a course title offered this fall: "From Dictionaries to Wiktionaries". Hee.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Big

is your vocabulary?

This test won't tell you exactly because it'd be too tedious to count but they give an estimate. It's the sort of thing I think is fun.
The site's authors request that more children and teenagers participate so if you have any handy you can sic them on the test too. It looks like it has a facebook page as well if you like that.

Last night I made what I will have to call Painful Eggplant. Here's the recipe, adapted from Barbara Tropp, which is always a good sign. It was lovely little asian eggplants (bought specially at the farmer's market except for the 1! from our garden) stir fried with a sauce that prominently features chile garlic paste. I had just received some homemade chile garlic paste from our Chinese neighbor. I knew it was hot, having sampled it at potluck but I put two tablespoons in my sauce anyway. It was almost too hot to eat. I'm a little frightened of the leftovers. But I'm going to find a way to eat them. Asian eggplants are one of my favorites and are not to go to waste. [Had some for lunch today, still alive.]

Guilty pleasure alert. During the royal wedding frenzy this spring I held out until the last minute and refused to be interested in the minutiae. But finally I cracked and wanted to see what the royals wore at least. While looking for stills, one of my finds was The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor blog which revels in watching European royal (mostly female) fashion. I cannot join the author in her raging enthusiasm for tiaras but I don't mind seeing pictures of them occasionally.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Orts

Reading about the physical response to eating rich food. The researchers gave rats fatty foods and looked at their physical reactions. The rats' bodies "immediately began to release natural marijuanalike chemicals in the gut that kept them craving more". It makes me think of my own eating patterns and how I try to at least keep an eye on my yen for sweets and fats. I love the summer when the watermelons are finally in (the ones before June don't count and are likely to be giant cucumbery disappointments). I will choose a bowl of sweet watermelon over almost any butter-based dessert. It goes without saying that I am very fond of most butter-based desserts and am likely to head toward them when offered. So it feels as though I'm throwing a healthy distraction in front of my body and its appetites when we're automatically headed for the more calorific stuff. Here -- have some of this pretty pink sweet stuff! I can eat a huge bowl of fruit and feel okay afterwards. I think I need to do more of this with vegetables. If I can get the plant stuff (prepared in attractive ways) tucked in my gullet first, there will be less time and appetite for the stuff that is less good for me.

Despite some concerns about fat and sugar as above, there are cooking things I am pleased about:
1) My chicken wings. I have a technique that makes crispy wonderful oven baked wings. Preheat oven to 425. Toss wings in flour, salt & pepper. Oil foil-covered rimmed baking sheet. Put wings on pan and bake 20 min. Turn with tongs and bake another 15 - 20 min. Pour on the Frank's Red Hot Sauce. mmmmm
2) Broiled tofu. Just tried it last night with soy ginger sauce and veggies. (I would eat my shoes if they were covered with ginger soy sauce.) So quick -- it's the only way to use the oven in the summer. (Unless you've got to have some chicken wings of course.)
3) Sauteed mushrooms with thyme. I can eat them straight but usually I put them on a baked potato with some plain yogurt and maybe grated cheddar.
Seems like a short list but due to summerness I haven't been cooking much lately.

Why you should read The Bloggess from time to time  
"...I am severely jet-lagged so I have nothing funny to say.  Except that I just looked up  “jet lag” on Wikipedia and it said that scientists have helped hamsters recover from jet-lag by giving them viagra.  Which means that at one point there were a bunch of people flying hamsters with tiny erections to exotic locations in the name of science. Which I think is just proof that scientists are high all the time."

Mah baybee is growing up! On Saturday, despite beesting and sunburn, we had a wonderful day at the pool. Katy was jumping off the high and low diving boards and going down the tall slide. I did a couple of low dives to prove I'm still tough enough. Lexi practiced her dog paddle and all of a sudden put her head down and scooted through the water. Like real swimming! Once she got the idea, she did it over and over again. She swam from the wall to me and from me to the wall. It's a breakthrough. Both kids are a little taller and more confident and it was a delightful family outing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bee Beets &

I stepped on a bee (or maybe a wasp) on Saturday at the pool. The pain in my foot made me think that I'd find a piece of glass stuck in it, but there was nothing there. After some moaning I was mostly brave and it didn't slow me down much. I was glad that I didn't have to walk miles to get home. I was surprised at how itchy the sting got as it healed. Yesterday it was driving me bonkers. Much better today and my charming limp is gone.

A neighbor gave me some beets harvested from the shared garden. I like beets, maybe partly because they are so unpopular. I always like to be different. But she told me that you could just peel them and eat them raw. That sounded crazy to me but I really liked the crunchy thin slices. I inherited another big bunch of beets from the harvest so I found a recipe for roasted beets with a mint balsamic vinaigrette. Mint is another thing we have in the garden in abundance. Instead of cooking the beets I just grated them and dressed them with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. My test batch tasted too strongly of balsamic so I cut it with some rice vinegar in the final dish. Good stuff.

Have I already linked to this history of punctuation marks site? I'm reading about the ampersand today. It makes me happy. I hadn't ever known about the Tironian et, another shorthand mark for 'and' that was used for centuries. It was invented by Cicero's scribe as part of his shorthand for latin. Cicero had seen Greek shorthand and had Tiro work up a system for Latin. I'm feeling very chummy with both of those characters as I've been reading about them in Saylor's Roman mystery novels lately.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Unleavened

My mother reports that they had twenty minutes of rain yesterday afternoon. That is good to hear. Crestone, CO has a fifty percent chance of rain in the forecast today too. Come on moisture. Here in northeastern Kansas we are under a heat advisory, highs around 100 and high humidity which equals awful. But as a neighbor observed, this is the weather that gives us tomatoes. You can practically see the corn and sunflowers growing.

Yesterday I took communion to the nursing home resident we visit. She is a small retired librarian with glasses that give her an owlish look. She is English and good company and I'm quite fond of her. I feel a little guilty because it's all so pleasant: she is in good health and is mostly all-there mentally and our visits aren't taxing at all. I receive a kit as part of the church service with a few wafers and a little wine in a flask. We have a mini service in Thelma's room and then I clean up the pieces and return the kit to the church during the week. Any uneaten wafers are allowed to hang out in their little silver box. But the rule is that the consecrated wine needs to be drunk or poured out onto the earth to dispose of it. Episcopalian holy wine is sweet but not too awful. Our kids don't mind it, they both take communion by dipping the wafer into the wine. The nuts and bolts of ritual.

I know that episcopalian churches can choose to use baked bread instead of wafers for their communion services. But they haven't had bread at Trinity in Lawrence as long as I've attended. I haven't had real bread for communion since attending the United Church in Los Alamos, NM. I see the storage and longevity advantages of the little dry discs. But why do we use these tasteless wafers? Today I stumbled across the explanation in a discussion of five great books about the history of food. (I want to read them all.) "...I wish that the Roman Catholic Church had followed the Greek Orthodox Church, which (and this was one of the reasons for the Great Schism) denied the continuities between the Jewish Passover and the Last Supper – and so even today, in communions, uses a fermented bread, the sort of wheat loaf that you can get in any really good bakery. The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, argued that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, and therefore that the bread was unfermented and thus akin to matzo. Because of this, the host as it’s offered today in Catholic churches is a bread that’s manufactured mechanically and industrially of wheat but without any fermentation – and it’s obviously much less attractive, much less interesting to incorporate into one’s body, than a real piece of bread." Aha! All this makes me want to do is go home and bake some bread. Maybe in September, the current high temps make baking contraindicated. I am all for acknowledging the Jewish roots of Christian ritual. But I'm also all for bread!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bounce Brew and Burn

Friday before a holiday weekend, this sounds like a job for super blogger! I haven't seen her so I'll just put up an update of my own.

Yesterday I met with my new IT managers. We reviewed the job description they gave me. They said that I met the requirements. I said that I am interested in doing the job. And I agreed to take a whopping pay raise. I am pleased. I am suddenly full of motivation for learning to work with IT. Instant attitude improvement!

We're talking about having me stay in the office where I am for the next 2-3 months in order to help with customer service for the beginning of the fall semester. That is everyone's busiest time at the university. The highest number of students are on campus, it's the beginning of the academic year and the highest number of brand new people (undergrads, grads and instructors) are here. It all sounds like a good plan to me. The most tedious parts of my job have gone away: fiscal and HR. It means that I am having a very quiet summer at the moment. I know some of you are boggling that I could work any less at this job. But it's just a temporary lull and it's threaded through with some cool and refreshing anxiety about learning how they do everything in IT.

I had my time off approved and will be going to Austin to see mother/brother/sister-in-law and my nephews August 6-13. I got cheap SWA tickets so I don't have to drive, by myself, thank the gods.Now we need a babysitter for the week before that and then I think we have the summer figured out. Nod won't be able to come to TX as he will be starting his new job. He ended up with two good offers and we've done some debating about which one he'll take. He's decided on the one based in north Kansas City. I am a little worried about his commute but everything else made it a better job than the one based out of Topeka. So here's hoping he clicks with those folks. It is all sounding so promising.

I am currently in love with cold brewed coffee. Our coffee maker died while I was in the Bay Area. (I owe a recap, don't I. Short form: perfect weather, dense traffic, chic wedding, glad to see my friend/sad to leave my friend...) And as we know I am spurred to learning new things only by the complete failure of my familiar coping strategies. So I tried the coffee grounds and water overnight thing. And it's amazing, not bitter. The filtering in the morning is a bit messy but that is the only even slightly difficult part. I may never need a coffee maker again. It must be the zeitgeist, The Pioneer Woman wrote about this too. Oh and I don't drink it iced, I microwave it back to hot coffee-ness and doctor it as usual.

I have been cooking against the season. Last night was tomato soup and the night before I made meatloaf. And I'm not sorry, they were both delicious.

My mother in law arrived yesterday. I am a little worried about a 72 y.o. on the road for such a long trip. But she does love to travel. It's good to see her. She'll stay til next Tues or Weds.

As a friend said on Facebook yesterday "I sure am sick of seeing my hometown burn down." It's an exaggeration in that no homes have been lost. In contrast to the 2000 fire which destroyed 235 homes. (Oik. I hadn't realize that was the total. Damn.) The town of Los Alamos, NM was evacuated last Monday because of smoke as well as being directly in the path of the fire but so far firefighters have established a burn line and no structures have been affected that I know of. The fire seems to be going north and south rather than directly east through the town. The intense national coverage about the fire is due of course to the lab's radioactive materials and concerns about fire getting to those. The big bad hot stuff they use to build bomb triggers is underground in bunkers, I have no worries about that. The low level waste that is stored in barrels above ground is more worrisome but it is receiving a great deal of attention from the lab's own dedicated fire and emergency crews. I'm more concerned about the peaks around the town being covered with black sticks again once the fire is done. There is no moisture in the forests and there is no rain in the forecast. This looks like a really long, bad fire. I saw a cousin at the wedding who lives in southern Colorado in the mountains and says she is really scared of fire there right now. The monsoons can't come soon enough. Shudder.