Tuesday, October 30, 2018

RedOrangeYellowBlueGreen


We have had some sweet punchy color this fall. And all against that strong blue high pressure sky. The leaves are flying now and I will miss them when they're gone. The gingko across the street is turning yellow and I think of it as one of the later trees. I've collected a few and put them in a big book with wax paper around them. I like to string them up on thread by our dining room

We carved pumpkins on the front walk on Saturday afternoon. I got a mosquito bite on my right elbow but those bugs have been knocked back, it's much more pleasant to be out. I've been composting - I find the impulse is strongest in spring and fall when the trip across the yard seems short. Still not sure if I'm going to go get a new capsule one from the city. Ours is currently chicken wire and rotted planks that are subsiding into a low heap.

Yesterday's jogging was hard, glad I have a day off today. I am celebrating one whole month of spite jogging four times a week! Mom tells me that her blood pressure rose as soon as she hit menopause. I'm not there yet, wondering if I'll see that same change during The Change. I have felt like the process started as soon as I was done with 49. But there's miles to go. So mysterious, too bad it's not the fun kind of mystery.



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Focusing

We had four days of rains and now we're seeing sun but temps are much cooler. 50s coat weather. Daylight shortens the most during October I think at this latitude. I'm wrassling with some boring lifestyle adjustments (see section below divider). And deciding that it's time to talk about books and pop culch.

I'm reading The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break which is not as whimsical as the title makes it sound. The Minotaur is immortal and can barely talk and is good at cooking, sewing and fixing cars. People treat him like a big dumb guy with horns. It's strange and lightly mournful and very observant of ca. year 2000 restaurant employee culture in the southern U.S. But I fear that it will end with extra sadness. I've already skipped one scene of humiliation.

I'm also reading Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet. I thought it was going to be a romance story in a lightly sketched fantasy setting. But it's something else. I read the middle third last night in a rush and wish I could have finished it. I think I know what the story turns on now. It's good to be surprised by a book.

I've put a hold on the next Slough House spy book and am full of anticipation.

The Good Place is on tonight and will be my reward for mowing in the front.

Nod and I want to see Bad Night at the Rialto if the reviews are good enough.

I may take a shot at constructing a cardboard pinecone costume.

--------------------------

I am trying new ways of eating and more consistent ways of exercising. This is in response to my cholesterol numbers that got tested in late September and which I found infuriating. The numbers continue to go up and my vigorous cake eating and book reading habits have not had the effect I was hoping for.

My mother discovered that her body makes a lot of cholesterol, even when she sticks to a very low fat diet. Ah inheritance. I would prefer not to have - nor perish of - a heart attack. I am trying to improve my cholesterol #s by eating more sweet potatoes, beans and dark leafy greens. And eating less dairy, meat, bread and sugar. And jogging four times a week. I am fueling this effort with spite and anger that my 'better than most Americans' diet isn't good enough.

Nutritional understanding is lacking. We omnivores can eat almost anything and it doesn't matter what it is in the short term. But it does matter in the long run. Now I'm in my midlife slowdown and I need to adjust. Is low fat most important (no cheese / beef)? Or is low carb most important (no sugar / bread)? Or does that depend on the individual?

I am interested if I can keep this up for six months at which time I am supposed to have my blood tested again. Part of me thinks these changes will be dandy for my overall health but won't have an effect on my cholesterol #s. At which point I guess I can laugh hollowly and get back to my couch sitting.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Signs and portents

Pale yellow fuzzy caterpillar in the middle of concrete stairs. I put it on a piece of bark and tossed it over into the landscaped verge. At lest there's some chance of some vegetation to eat or to metamorphose on down there.

Turkey vultures circling high high in the vault of the sky in the late afternoon. Flashes of white show migrating gulls are circling up there as well.

One tall maple clearing its throat and starting some purply reds in the lower leaves.

My husband grousing about the shorter cooler days. Fall means death to him. It makes me feel more energetic so I can't really relate. January and February with nothing green seems more dead to me.

------------
In Kath and Kim season 4 Kath has a new wig! It's sort of sad, it looks too nice. But in another way it fits the sort of matron she is, she would pick a fancy wig. The finale of season 3 includes a dream sequence with Kylie Minogue and is righteous.

Things that are good: Ina Garten's Banana Cake topped with brown sugar Penuche frosting from Joy of Cooking. In the cake I used yogurt instead of sour cream and no nuts. I don't cook the frosting, just zap the butter in the microwave, use milk sparingly and beat in the sifted powdered sugar.


Friday, September 7, 2018

A voice in the room

Deep breath
It must be three weeks after the start of the semester because I have time to turn around and even blog post. I have felt pretty squoze out by the workety work as expected for this season. I also dropped a heavy pot lid down square on the small toe of my left foot last Saturday and have been a bit limping all week. Much better today finally.

Plants and their sensitivities
I did a big Labor Day yard work bonanza. I had let both yards go since we had such a hot dry spell that some grass had died and all of it was discouraged for a long time. My timing was exquisite and I'm so pleased to have it mowed and cut back. We've since had a week of steady soft rain. I hope the grass comes back as much as possible.

My red coreopsis is blooming again. The pink hyssop still has a few flowers and has not died! One of the two coneflowers I transplanted in the front looks vigorous and the other one is small but growing. I hope they will flower next year. My idea to throw two types of mint in with the lemon balm has been successful. Except that the peppermint at the front is super tall! I would have put it in the back if I had known, maybe I'll try to move some. Lavender looks quite happy and is flowering again. Oregano is not my favorite herb but the plant is pretty and low as intended. The dill went to seed early on and I tried to scatter it back into the bed. I'm also going to put some compost on the top of this bed in November in hopes that it will sink in gently, build the soil, make the planties happy, and all that jazz.

Down down down down
More podcast links, the metafilter requester asked for cheerful+hilarious, no heavy+politics. The modern dilemma is how to listen to all these podcasts. I dip into them only on occasion and haven't fallen fully into the rabbit hole but damn, it could take your whole waking life. As much as I love voices and the radio it seems a bit weird I haven't gone podcast crazy. I think it's because I don't like earbuds and don't spend hours in the car every day leaving me with things I'm willing to pipe out to the entire family or use my phone data on. Specifically recommended in that thread:

{Adding my own personal reactions in these curly brackets for the ones I try. So many men! I may need to search out more wimmin podcasters.}

Stop Podcasting Yourself "These guys crank out 60-90 minutes of fun, chatty humor, every Monday, more reliably than any other podcast I'm aware of."

[These two are described as similar] The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week weird facts from Popular Science writers.
No Such Thing as a Fish QI writers talk about stuff they've learned.

The Adventure Zone by the My Brother, My Brother and Me guys. Very slow and cheery D&D game.

 Judge John Hodgman. I listened to one of these and thought it was too flip but maybe...

[Naw] The Watch. Friend chemistry and pop culture dissection.

Omnibus! Ken Jennings and John Roderick. Strange but true stories assembled to preserve human knowledge. {I do like their wordplay. Laid back and rambling but they do have lots of history facts to share. Well educated dads my age flavor.}

Hello from the Magic Tavern fictional - our narrator finds himself in a fantasy realm and starts podcasting as a way to try to find his way home. (One filterer said to skip the homunculus ep.)

"John Finnemore's Cabin Pressure show from a few years back. Nothing but clever fun there." BBC radio show with the Cummerbund. Not available at LPL but it looks like the tubeu is my friend. This person also recommended Heaving Bosoms (best title!) for romance novel discussions.

[Yeah!] Do You Need a Ride? with Karen Kilgariff and Chris Fairbanks is reliably funny and good-natured. Two very funny people pick up and drive other very funny people around LA.

The All Things Cozy podcast is only 31 episodes in. Every other Sunday. {I like the idea but I think I'm too old for these 30ish youngsters to make me feel really cosy. I'm hoping for more depth.}

 I have never in my life laughed harder than while listening to Campaign. Star Wars universe RPG.

You Look Nice Today. Looks very nonsensical. Described as wacky/improvisational but well edited.

Nobody Listens To Paula Poundstone. Yay PP and Adam Felber! {So far not as great as WaitWait but still worthwhile.}

Good Job Brain! Get extra points for the bang. Described as 4 friends make up trivia quizzes for each other, sweet and fun.

The Incomparable is a popculch podcast portal if you need more and more and more and more rabbit holes.




Friday, August 17, 2018

Transcend

Surf
The beginning is happening. The construction on the little street I use to sneak into campus was wrapped up, thank the origins and powers. Next Monday should be the crazy day as everyone figures out their access for the first time. The girls both went to h.s. on Wednesday because K volunteered for freshman orientation. Went to the Ofc Despot that evening to get a scientific calculator and some other supplies. I think we actually got a good deal. K deserves to have her own for AP Calculus, I've made her check out a school calculator the past two years.

I felt like the week was a mountain on Wednesday evening and was grousing about it all. But after that I feel like I'm meeting the challenge and my spirit is light. Dancing into the future.

Queen
It's all Aretha all the time and that's what we need. Here's the metafilter thread with many links to many performances and remembrances: https://www.metafilter.com/175972/Until-You-Come-Back-to-Us. The New Yorker piece that quotes Etta James and Sarah Vaughn being blown away by (and professionally envious of) AF's Skylark makes me realize that it's almost time for me to subscribe to the New Yorker again. Rest in power.

Tangy
Note: always buy more rhubarb than you think you need.  I bought five large stalks and thought it would be enough for 2 recipes. Ha! Barely enough for one cobbler, supplemented by a couple of little apples. I used Better Homes' Cherry Cobbler recipe with some tweaks. I like to use 2/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of corn meal instead of all flour. I looked at Smitten's recipe but it involved rolling out my dough and I am a committed cobbler dough plopper. I cooked the filling a bit, I think in the end that wasn't necessary but I had a horror of crunchy rhubarb bits. I set the oven at 375 which is between the two of them and baked for 30ish minutes. And lo, it is lovely.

Banish
8/14/18 I subscribed to an app to block advertisers on tweeter to protest Alex Jones not being banned. Sheepily following Chuck Wendig who linked to Shannon Coulter @shannoncoulter. Here's the confirmation message I got:

Block Together will now block 462 users on your behalf. This may take some time. You can check on progress at the Actions page. When @shannoncoulter blocks new accounts, you will automatically block those accounts too. To stop auto-blocking accounts blocked by @shannoncoulter, visit the Subscriptions page.

Subsequently AJ was blocked for one whole week from tweeter. Inadequate, I'm not un-blocking.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fry fry again

Eyes closing...
Wrestling with afternoon sleepies right now. If my fingers are typing this then I can't fall asleep at work is my theory.

Warm enough to...
I heard that there is a tree that hasn't flowered for 100 years that is blooming in England right now. Also there are flamingos that laid eggs for the first time because the heat wave is closer to their preferred temps. All the eggs were unfertilized and would not have hatched but they've been swapped by zookeepers for fertilized ones (brought in from Cuba? Brazil? something like that). I got a little misty thinking about the flamingo moms. And that's a sign that I'm on a hormonal cusp.

Calm before the...
I'm reminding myself to appreciate the quiet streets, lack of traffic and ease of access to local businesses. It's going to change over the next week and I want to have savored some of this hot emptiness.

March yourself right down to...
Watched all of Marching Orders on nflx last night. Marching band, dancers and flag corps at a historically black college prepare for their first big performance of the year. It was delightful. I love Ebonee's accent and I am sure she has brilliant careers waiting for her.



Monday, July 30, 2018

Warming Trend

Done a Mistake
Today's forecast is gray skies and cooler than usual, high of 80. I wore a long sleeve linen blouse with the sleeves rolled up. But now I am too hot and full of regert. Short sleeves tomorrow, I promise.

I'm spending more time being warm. I don't have flop sweats or heart palpitations. I'm grateful for that. But I am such a menopausal minnie. Bring me a pool boy, a muumuu and some big jewelry, stat!

Summery
Friday we rode our bikes to the art stroll and saw lots of old friends. There was a dance studio - Nod says he's up for salsa lessons! Fire dancing and fire eating by the local circus gang. And cocktails including one of the coyote ugly girls who entertained us with her late 80s/early 90s NYC stories. I'll stop at one cocktail next time. But the experiment was fun.

Went to a minor league baseball game on Saturday so we could see their fireworks show after. They have a lovely ballpark and we three had a good time. The home team even came from behind to win in the 9th! With a controversial hit that may well have been technically a foul. But the crowd cheered our heads off because we were ready to a) win and b) finish the game and see those fireworks!

I may get another watermelon. It's funny that our grocery store sells them for $5 no matter how big they are.

Nod went swimming yesterday when it was only 78 degrees outside. He fears temps under 90 but is trying to revise his Texan expectations.




Monday, July 23, 2018

Camp and Cake

Band Camp, not a joke
We picked up youngest after watching her final concert band performance at band camp. It was a haul - about 3 and a half hours drive each way - so it took all day. She had a wonderful time and played more trombone than she had ever played before. Learned some techniques that will help her. I realized that she has never had a trombone lesson, only band classes. The fact that those classes were taught by an inspired and effective middle school band teacher still leaves much specific instrument stuff to learn. We watched the band director give the two Outstanding Camper awards. Then he and the camp director talked about a scholarship award that they give to a camper with good musicianship plus leadership -- and it was given to our kid! I cried a little bit. Sounds like she's up for going back next year and using the scholarship.

On the way home we made a flying visit to the Garden of Eden political sculpture site (including mausoleum!) in Lucas, Kansas. I think I'd like to go back when it's cooler and go through the whole thing properly.

Crummy but Cooler
I've been experimenting with non-oven carby food prep recently. One hot night I wanted chocolate cake and started hunting for a skillet cake. I looked at a number of recipes that used a cake pan suspended in a dutch oven with water at the bottom to steam a cake. They started with crumpling a length of foil to lay in a circle at the bottom of the pot to hold the cake pan up high enough and I realized this was more trouble than I was willing to go to. What would be a simple stove top cake-ish concoction? And that's when I remembered the existence of the pancake!! This recipe from Serious Eats delivered the goods even without the chocolate sauce.

For my next attempt I moved on to the rice cooker. That's a steamer essentially, so I was already one step ahead of the foil snake hack. I made a full recipe of this which is pretty much a Texas Sheet Cake. And boy did it take a lot of pushing the Cook button on my 6 cup rice maker. Five times I think. By the last time I figured it would either burn or be permanently gooey in the middle. But lo! The damn thing did cook in the end. And I frosted it for good measure. It was cake! Without the oven! I have made a note and will try a half recipe next time. Maybe that'll cut the button pushing down to 3?

Now for bread. I found slow cooker technique at Kitchn. For the dough I used a half recipe of my old reliable from Catherine Newman (with less salt, gottam that's a lot of salt). The first one I baked cooked for an hour and 15 minutes. The bottom was hard and the sides were still a little gooey. It hardened further in the air over the next two days. I didn't try broiling it because the whole point was not to turn the oven on. I told Nod I would be very proud of this bread if I had prepared it in an undersea cave. But it tasted good and was close to the carb treasure of my non-oven-using dreams.

We ate that batch up because this family can eat some bread, oh yes it can. I tried again yesterday giving a little more cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus five more minutes cooking with the top off. This was successful. Still not a perfect texture. But shit, it was yeast bread! And made neither by oven nor by standing over a hot pan. Have declared success!




Monday, July 16, 2018

Waves


Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia. A barrier island where pine and live oak trees meet the sea and there are beautiful twisty shapes everywhere.

I didn't succeed in getting any good pictures of the vultures (2 species!) and raccoons at the Florida springs picnic area. A little macabre for a picnic if you ask me. I did get to see a new-to-me species of butterfly, the Zebra Longwing which I learn is the state butterfly. My pics are terrible so here's a link to the image on the state website.

We drove all the way to St. Augustine and back. The drive was not so bad. Having three drivers helped a bunch. We drove in and out of rain but it was only a little troublesome on our way back. The beaches were lovely. St. Augustine combines history and tourist trap and lovely harbor town in an accessible funky way.

The streets in the old Spanish colonial area reminded me of the streets around the Santa Fe plaza. But the tourist approach is different. It's fun to contrast the somewhat snooty NM boutiquey feel with the friendly people pleasing (trolley rides! pirates! history! ice cream! cocktails! ghost stories!) style of Florida. Would love to go back again. I'd love to go back to the NC barrier island beaches too.

Jumping in the surf is endlessly entertaining for me. Watching the waves grow and deciding whether I can float on top or if I need to dive under is a puzzle that never gets old. Bravery and attention is required. There's the delight when I'm lifted up and the occasional sinus clearing tumble. Nod got enough fish tacos to hold him for a while. I had a peak snow cone -sour cherry- experience. Plus there was the champagne mango popsicle at the Hyppo. (It turns out to be a chain but I would happily work my way through their entire menu.) We all feel like we had a real vacation.