Thursday, November 6, 2008

Procrastination Blogging

Hi all. I haven't blogged in a while, blah blah blah. I briefly considered live-blogging the election returns but a) I was hosting an election party so it would have been rude to be blogging the whole time and b) I was pretty stressed out about the election so I needed to keep my thoughts to myself else risk losing my mind and c) I figured you could use a little less live-blogging in your life. The election went well, don't you think? If I could just stop my eyes from welling up every time I read about it or remember the moment the results were announced or see someone else crying about it, that would be nice. The thing that always gets me is seeing the first-family-elect all on stage, reminding me of the Kennedys. I love that we get a chance to start fresh every four years. It gives one hope.

Here are some photo memories from election night. Most of the partygoers:


Here are more attendees, demonstrating that old mantra, "Speak no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil". They got it right in the next photo but I thought this one was funnier. I purposefully hurried them so they would be more likely to make a mistake and my plan worked perfectly:

I'm leaving for a conference in Washington, DC a week from tomorrow (Friday). I have to have my presentation poster to the printer by Wednesday, and I haven't really started on it yet. Plus I don't have great confidence that the data looks good. Also need to do a lot of reading so that I can pretend to know the latest stuff about the topic. On top of that I've just come down with the flu, which has sapped all my energy. Right now I probably feel a little bit like the chimp on the segway (4.5 minutes but even in my weakened state I found myself clapping so it must be good):




So, what better time to blog than right now, when I really shouldn't be blogging?

After the conference I'll be visiting with my cousins who live in the area, and my sisters Janis*/Chicken Lady* and Jasmine*/Squiggley Worm* along with Janis/Chicken Lady's husband Grover* are flying out from CA so it will be a reunion of sorts.

Then comes Thanksgiving, when Stanley and I were planning to have a visit from Stanley's parents, but Mrs. Spupspe's knee is giving her some trouble, so they might have to cancel. Then comes Christmas. Hmmm? What's that you asked? What are our Christmas plans? Monty, show them what's behind door #2.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A TRIP TO LONDON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(and possibly also France).

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We had planned this trip even before the election but since the country has shown itself to be capable of electing an accomplished, even-handed person to lead the country, we don't have to pretend to be from Canada when we go abroad. So I'm even more excited about it now.

Okay, must work.

*Names changed and multiplied.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Design in a Box

What up my homeys.


About 15% of the time when I log in to post something, I have no idea what I--hold on, phone call.

That was a volunteer for the Minnesota DFL (Democratic Farm & Labor Party, a.k.a. Democratic Party). I was hoping she was going to engage me in political conversation, but she was only calling to make sure I'm registered to vote. I was actually glad she called because I have a confirmation card that tells me my polling place, but I wasn't sure if it was for one of the primaries or for the general election. I kept putting off checking on it. Crazy thing to do considering the deadline is really close for registering in advance. Sometimes you can register at your polling place but it's going to be pretty crowded this time, so doing it in advance is definitely a plus.

Anyway, as I was saying, I sometimes have no idea what I'm going to write, and this is one of those times. But I just thought of something.

My interior designer recently moved out of state. She's getting her business going in her new location, and in light of the state of the economy and the likelihood that clientele will not be easy to come by, she decided to try taking her business nationwide by offering a "Design in a Box" service: you send her pictures of a room that you want to change, and magazine clippings that inspire you, and answer a questionnaire, and consult with her by phone, and she sends you a box filled with everything you need to put a new room together: paint color swatches, fabric samples, furniture photos, and 2 space plans using existing or new furniture. It's ideal because I can shop, push a sofa and paint a wall. I just don't know how to get started and I need someone who has designed a lot of rooms and can predict what is likely to look best; otherwise I might waste money and time getting to the right place, and maybe I'll never get there.

I seemed interested so she asked for my opinion on the web page as well as the general idea. I immediately gave it, and long-windedly so. I think it's a great idea and could really take off. I emphasized that I thought the box itself (as opposed to the contents) should be cute (yes, cute) and in line with the colors/theme of the new room. I noted that I thought it was too expensive, because she specifically asked about that, but I also noted that I am not in an income bracket where I ought to be dealing with interior designers. I didn't say it quite that way, but my point was that things like that always seem too expensive to me. When I worked with her last year is was sort of a splurge, but I am sure it was worth it, because I learned a lot and I love my interior, and really it wasn't that much money in the grand scheme of things. But NEVER AGAIN! Except I can't resist the idea of saving up a little fun money so I can figure out what the hell to do with this bedroom:


It's next to our bedroom. We currently store all of our clothes in it and use it as a dressing room. It's very long but also narrow, 8' by 20', has a 7' ceiling. Dale is demonstrating how you have to walk in the middle of the room or else bump your head. Note that he also has to turn on his headlights because the lighting is less than ideal. I've thought a lot for over a year about what to do to make the room more inviting and cozy, so that it at least looks like it's being used for something, and I've googled "decorate awkward space" and similar terms many times, but I'm coming up empty. The ideal thing might be a big comfy sofa, but the cats would claim it as a scratching post. So how do I make it look cozy, or at least inviting, without upholstered furniture? Where do I put the furniture? This is where I think it would be fun to get a Design in a Box. And hopefully, the box and contents would be cute enough to put in the room as a design accessory. That would slightly make up for the high price of the service.

I would like to add that if anyone has any thoughts about what to do with this room, I would be very glad to hear them.

Stanley just got back from the sporting goods store. He bought an orange vest because he's going pheasant hunting with Dick Cheney this Saturday. He also went to the gourmet grocer and picked up dessert, so I gotta go.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Live Debate Blogging III: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ


8:00 I'm nervous again. Why do I get nervous for these things?? Tonight we've got a total of five people watching.
8:02 Jorge* is wearing his bracelet. Too.
8:03 Tom Brokaw is nervous?
8:04 Excellent question.
8:05 Kind of sucks but I have to pause to take some cinnamon rolls out of the oven.
8:09 Didn't they put a 35-year-old in charge of the bailout fund? Silly. Rolls not warm yet.
8:12 He was totally going to say "fundamental" and he stopped himself. Don't drink.
8:13 It's an infinite meanwhile regress.
8:14 Obama's actually explaining how the economic crisis can lead to personal crisis. Excellent.
8:15 Rolls should be hot; gotta check.
8:19 I just can't comprehend a trillion. Sorry.
8:20 I have to be honest; I'm distracted and not really listening. It might be boring. Annoying because they are talking about something really important.
8:26 The rolls were FANTASTIC. Also, kudos to Obama for actually ranking the issues as requested.
8:28 I can't believe Brokaw has had to repeat the rules so much. I can't believe I haven't listened to one whole answer yet. Just too much going on in Hazel's House right now.
8:31 Right after 9/11, when Bush told me to shop, I was totally on board. Whatever my President tells me to do, I'll do it, if it helps America. I feel different now.
8:34 I believe the phrase is "pretty high OFF the hog", not "ON the hog". Joe Six-Pack he ain't.
8:35 I'm not too sure about what I wrote at 8:34.
8:36 Everyone in the room thinks McCain's lying about Obama's taxes on businesses.
8:37 Nice of Obama to yield to the moderator.
8:39 Oh I guess he didn't yield after all.
8:44 Pretty much can't hear anything from the TEEvee because of the animated political discourse here in the living room.
8:45 I like how he pointed out that even though the climate (or was it the economy?) is a crisis, it's also an opportunity. Which reminds me that I've been wishing that Obama would get on a stump and fill us with hope and inspire us a little bit, like he used to. Be positive. Make us feel proud and resolved.
8:47 Should we do nuclear energy research...in our garages? Oh yes indeedy.
8:49 Yes, I believe health care should be treated as a commodity. Next question.
8:51 Let's do everything to change health care except give people more access to health care.
8:54 Earlier a blogger I read wrote "8:30 PM ... This debate's so boring I don't even know what to tell the staff to upload to youtube."
8:58 Come on. Say something insightful, inciting, inviting, invoking.
9:01 I'm glad he brought up the whole "Obama doesn't understand" thing and turned it on its head.
9:03 Take the Congo. Or take Rwanda. Please.
9:04 OOH! Check out the blond guy in the dark suit in the back with the porn mustache and the lime green tie.
9:06 McCain says we need someone with a cool hand. He doesn't strike me as such a person.
9:09 ZZZZZZZ
9:16 Yes mjb I can see how the town hall format would appeal to a politician. Sound bites. Jab jab jab. Repeat repeat repeat.
9:21 This debate is like an intermission in the middle of a horror film.
9:27 The horror film in this metaphor represents the state of the economy this week.
9:28 I do believe the audience is doing the wave.
9:29 YAY last question!! Go Peggy. Go Peggy.
9:32 "What I don't know is what the unexpected will be." Didn't Confucius say that?
9:33 Basically, he's saying "I don't know the future." That's a safe answer. I think I'll use that in a job interview for the weakness question. "My greatest weakness is that I don't know the future."
9:34 WOW that was awkward. Brokaw barking at McCain, "You're in the way of my script!" and McCain trotting out of the way. Actually kind of running a little. Brokaw just made an old man run.
9:36 I don't think I even want to watch that moment again on youtube.
9:38 Changed title to more accurately reflect the debate. I had heard it would be a "Character Assassination" but it was more like a nap.
9:39 TTFN


*Names changed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chickens and Chick Flicks

In a comment on yesterday's post, The Chicken Lady* suggested that one way I can avoid throwing out egg cartons is by getting chickens. When we went to Stanley's cousins wedding in Denver this past August, I met his other cousin Travis*, who had several chickens. I think he had driven them some long distance; not too sure. They were cute and made adorable noises and didn't mind being held. I felt drawn to them. Must be in our genes, Chicken Lady! But are chickens allowed in my back yard? I looked up the local ordinances and while I didn't find an official document describing the rules for keeping chickens, I did find a description on a non-government site. It said that for my city, a bloke "can have one chicken without a permit, but more than one you have to get permission from 75% of neighbors 150 ft. around, or proof you have no neighbors for 150 feet. No roosters, and no selling eggs without a permit." Fair enough. I will give the eggs away. Or trade them for gold and treasury bonds.

In my search for the local laws, I came across a (~10-minute) youtube video that documents the difficulties one guy had when he tried to find out whether he could have chickens in Chicago.



I also came across this awesome video.



If I have to watch one more rabbit fight in my back yard, I'll go nuts! I gotta get me some chickens.

I'm not sure what to do with the chickens when it gets too cold. Eat them? I hear they taste like rare and questionable delicacies.

I was a bit surprised to learn that there is another presidential debate tomorrow (Tuesday). Already! I haven't fully digested the last debate! I plan to liveblog it again. Why stop now? 9 p.m. MJB and Biden time. 8 p.m. Hazel and Amacrine time. 7 p.m. McCain time. 6 p.m. Chicken Lady, Jasmine, and Lotus time. 3 p.m. Obama and Palin time.

Stanley is out of town (not sure what town) at a departmental retreat. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've had the house to myself overnight since we moved in over a year ago. I'm trying to take full advantage of it. I've got a horrible chick flick playing right now: Dancing at Lughnasa, starring an underused Meryl Streep. Just really terrible. Painfully touching and cloyingly dramatic. I'm enjoying it. But I miss Stanley a little bit. Earlier this evening I tried to open a jar of pickled beets which I planned to put in a spinach salad. For the first time in my adult life, I needed someone to open a jar for me because I wasn't strong enough. I pride myself in not needing a man to open a jar for me, but I put all my strength into this one and used several tools but it just wouldn't budge. I was kind of getting angry and sad. But then I opened it. Independent reputation intact.

Just now on the phone I made tentative plans to entertain our friends Mike* and Carolyn* tomorrow night. Mike helped Stanley brew the latest beer, a Toasted Oat Cream Ale, and he's also going to help with bottling. Carolyn is the friend that I do the frozen meal prep with, and we're going to cook one of them up.

Yay the movie is over.

*Names changed.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hazel Talks Herself Out of Dairy Products

I've been thinking a lot lately about state of the economy and the planet. Since we might have to get used to getting by with less, I'm taking stock in my consumptive habits to see where they might improve.

REDUCING

Here's a Time article about a guy who kept all his trash in his basement for a year so he could watch it accumulate and see what kind of impact he has on the landfills. He said that most of the trash is from the first couple of months while he was learning to consume less and about various composting methods. I have no idea what our basement would look like if we stopped taking out the trash, but I have noticed that since we have cut back on spending for the last few weeks, our trash production has gone down by about half.

Amacrine, a friend, reader and fellow blogger, remarked in a recent entry that she was trying to cut back on recycling, for example, by buying shampoo (and I think conditioner as well?) that is not in packaging that needs to be thrown out or recycled. She says it's called solid shampoo. I'm intrigued and look forward to hearing more about it.

REUSING

My habit with lunches lately has been to put sandwiches and snacks in ziploc bags, and gloppy foods in re-usable plastic containers. I grab a plastic fork and spoon as needed, and sometimes a paper towel to use as a napkin, because I'm kind of a slob when I eat. I put all the items in a quart-size ziploc, or if I'm worried about keeping it cold, in an insulated lunch box. I used to use grocery bags but started to shun them a while back for several reasons, including: 1) we are trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to only shop with re-usable bags, 2) I use them for used cat litter so I started to associate them with used cat litter and 3) they are ugly. So, despite re-using some items, I often end up with a bunch of paper and plastic to throw out. I always felt that since it was such a small pile of trash, and it was all neatly contained in one of the ziplocs, and actually kind of a cute little package, it was not a big deal. Now I want to save money and reduce garbage by switching to re-usable containers wherever possible.

1. Sandwiches and snacks now go in plastic re-usable containers, just like the gloppy food. No more ziplocs.

2. No more plastic cutlery or paper napkins. I'm going to buy a set of used metal cutlery at a yard sale for cheap. I own cloth napkins that I don't use, and there is no reason I can't use them in my lunches, except that the 20-year-0ld lab assistants will ridicule me, but I've got to be strong and set a good example even if I must suffer insodoing.

3. I'm going to re-use the same lunch bags every day, either my insulated bag or something else. I bought some curtains that were packaged in a zippered plastic bag and the bag is the perfect size and shape for my lunch. It's shaped like a book and it fits well in my bag next to my laptop. Here's a typical lunch using my new method:

The carrots would have been in a ziploc bag before. I currently would throw out the apple core but eventually we would like to do some composting. The gloppy stuff is mashed potato casserole left over from Stanley's birthday dinner. The yogurt container is the only real garbage; our recycling program doesn't accept plastic food containers unless they have necks - ??? We could buy the yogurt in larger containers, but that still produces garbage, and often it's more expensive by volume, which makes no sense but that's how it goes. I could make my own yogurt, or stop eating yogurt. Or figure out a great way to use the empty containers. I will google that right now....

...I'm back. I found a bunch of uses for yogurt containers in a post on the blog EnviroMom.com. But really I think the best option is just not to buy the yogurt in the first place, but rather make it myself, which Stanley's sister's husband did, and it tasted great, and apparently it's pretty easy. Or I could just stop eating it, but it's a major source of dairy for me, although there is a theory out there that only babies need milk, and it's not the best source of calcium (broccoli has more), and it causes more health problems than it solves. So unless I quit dairy, which is more likely now that I've thought about it, the next best idea is to buy the big containers, which I will probably do. Then I will have fewer containers to figure out how to re-use.

RECYCLING

I wasn't sure whether I could leave small scraps of paper like grocery receipts and post-it notes in the curbside recycling, so I have been throwing them out. I've also been throwing out paper that is less than pristine, like with a coffee stain on it, because I wasn't convinced they would want it. But I've been recycling the cardboard tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls. None of these items are specifically addressed on the recycling company's website, so I e-mailed them to ask what I should be doing with them.

Here is the nice person's response. My comments are in italics.

*****************************

Hello (Hazel),

Thanks for your email and good questions (already I like this person). All the items you listed for small pieces of paper can be recycled! (So, good news for post-its, receipts, and cut up scraps.)

The paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls are a different story (uh-oh. A different story. I hate different stories). Each time paper is recycled, the fibers get shorter. Paper towel and toilet rolls are generally made out of fibers that have been recycled before (they may have first been used in office paper, then a cardboard box and then an paper towel roll). By the time paper fibers are made into paper towel roll, they have reached the end of their life and are too short to be made into new products. This is also why egg cartons can not be recycled. (Well that sucks. Another reason not to use paper towels. Or eggs.)

You can still recycle your paper if it is wet or has stains, but the more food; the more the paper starts to break down and cannot be recycled. So if you have paper that is full of food residue it is better to compost it.

Let me know if you have any other questions and thanks for recycling!

********************

What a nice, informative e-mail!

This entry is long enough, so goodbye for now. If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to share. I don't consider myself to be the epitome of earth-friendliness. But this has been on my mind lately so I had to go off about it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What Is the Sound of One Key Jangling?

I went to a Minnesota Gophers football game today, against the Indiana Hoosiers. It was my first time attending a college game. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most fun I've ever had, it was a 5. Actually, it was more like 5.4, so let's be generous and give it a 6. I went with my friend Loretta*, who had season tickets and hasn't been using them like she should. She was well trained in all the traditional yells and gestures, which was useful. If she hadn't been there, I would have wondered about a lot of things. For example, anytime there is a kickoff you have to take out your keys and jangle them. As luck would have it, I only had one key, because I wanted to travel light, and it wasn't attached to a key chain, so there was no noise when I jangled it. I felt about 20% more foolish than all of the other people waving their keys around.

It was suggested that I wear maroon and/or gold, but if I didn't have those colors, to at least not wear red and white, the Hoosier colors. I wore brown and blue. Pretty safe. We sat next to a couple of Hoosiers, one of whom was wearing a fire-engine red sweatshirt with the word "INDIANA" in emblazoned on the front in 400-pt font. He reminded me of the kid from the movie Superbad:

I was a little worried about these guys, especially the Superbad boy, because I had been told that there are special, rude traditions acted out on people wearing the opposing team's colors. I was also worried about Loretta and myself, since we were talking to them. I didn't have much to worry about; the crowd was well behaved, except for one Lord-of-the-Flies moment. A fan in the row in front of us had had a little too much to drink, and was passed out sitting up in his seat. Poor guy. He reminded me a little bit of this guy:

His "friends" were balancing bottles on his head and taking pictures of him, and the jumbotron camera guy suggested that we (the crowd as a unit) remove the Indiana sweatshirt from this guy:

and put it on this guy:

so that the camera guy would get some good fodder for the jumbotron. Superbad boy obligingly took off his sweatshirt (he kind of had to in this situation) and drunk guy's "friends" put the sweatshirt on him. Everyone was happy. It was like Christmas.


*Name changed, new friend, haven't mentioned her before.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Stanley's Birthday, Which Was All About Me

Stanley's birthday was Wednesday and I put forth some uncharacteristic effort for him. I woke up at 5:00 to bake the traditional Spupspe family cinnamon rolls so that they would be ready by 8:00, because he had to go to work earlyish. I could have baked them the day before, which is how they have always been baked, as long as any of the Spupspe's can remember. However, the last time I made them, at Mom and Dad Spupspe's house for the Fourth of July, Stanley's mom happened to have rapid-rise yeast. This shaved several hours and a couple of steps off of the prep time. It only took two hours. That's doable for fresh morning rolls. So I went for it. At around 5:30 it looked like disaster was imminent, because the yeast was not bubbling. It was just sitting there, dead in the water, due to some unknown reason. Was it already dead when I bought it? Did I inadvertently expose it to metal, which is clearly forbidden in the recipe? Luckily, I had bought twice the number of yeast packets called for, because I wanted to have it on hand in case I got a wild hair and decided to bake again in the next year. I actually do want to do more baking, and cooking in general. Actually, just baking. I have a kitchen with lots of tools. I know people who would eat baked things. There are several recipes I want to try. And kneading dough and letting it rise is strangely therapeutic. Anyway, I tried again with the yeast, and thank Sarah Palin, it worked.



One other minor mishap with the rolls was that I had less than half the brown sugar that was called for in the filling, so they aren't as sweet as they should be. I don't look at this as a bad thing. Less sugar makes them better for you, plus, now there is nothing stopping me from making cream cheese icing, aside from the high cost of groceries.

That evening, Stanley got home at 6:00 and was really hungry, so I cooked up some fried green tomatoes, which we will be having a lot of in the coming weeks as it gets colder. We've got 20 or 30 tomatoes on the vine and not a lot of sunshine and warmth for them. But you know, fried green tomatoes are pretty good, and easy to make. Dip in egg, dredge in flour, fry in oil.

To backtrack a bit, last Sunday I did some frozen meal prep with my friend Carolyn*, as we did a few months ago. One of the meals was spinach-mushroom stuffed pork chops in a white wine gravy, and mashed potato casserole. I cooked that one up for Stanley's birthday dinner. It was delicious, in my opinion, and according to Stanley.

For dessert, because I love tiramisu and Stanley loves lemon-flavored desserts, I made tiramisu al Limoncello, which was loosely based on a recipe we saw demonstrated by Lidia Bastianich on her PBS cooking show. I adapted her recipe to a tiramisu kit from a box, using lemon juice instead of espresso/coffee and Limoncello lemon liqueur instead of amaretto/rum, and omitting the cocoa, but adding lemon zest to the mascarpone mixture. I couldn't help but taste the approximately 1:1 lemon juice/Limoncello mixture before I soaked the ladyfingers, and it was so good it made me bang my hand repeatedly on the countertop. Really sour but just sweet enough to make you drink it anyway. Now that we have a bottle of Limoncello I'm going to experiment with lots of lemon cocktail and dessert recipes. OH! Lemon crepes! As Jasmine** would say, "That's what I'm talkin' about!"

The dessert turned out pretty well, quite delicious, nice and tart, but I detected a traditional tiramisu coffee/chocolate flavor in the cream. It hadn't occurred to me that there would be flavoring in there. It didn't ruin it, but it was distracting.

Here's the birthday card I gave Stanley.


Have a great day!

*Name changed.

**Jasmine = Squiggly Worm. Both names changed. Obviously.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Live Blog of the Harpooning Debate: Bidin' and Impalin'


7:50 Considering changing the title of this entry to a less obscure, less painful, less punny one.
7:53 I think I'm more nervous for this debate than for the last one, probably because of the huge uncertainty factor. Will Biden offend feminists? Will Palin get caught in an infinite loop of blather?
7:54 Getting on Facebook for the 214th time today.
7:59 On way to Facebook, saw on Yahoo! News that psychics say stars are not aligned for Palin. Even the psychics are in on the "lower their expectations" strategy. Must remember to look up how much money psychics have donated to her campaign. Also, what legislation has she passed that has benefited psychics.
7:59 Changed spelling of "benefitted" to "benefited".
8:00 OMG OMG OMG
8:01 Annoying, tell-them-what-to-think pre-game show from Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw.
8:03 Kind of weird open-mike moment. "Hey, can I call you Joe?" How adorable.
8:06 She keeps repeating the word "fear". It makes me feel afraid. Suddenly I feel like voting Republican.
8:08 Biden is pointing out relevant facts. Palin is appealing to emotions like patriotism and fear.
8:12 Biden is repeating John McCain's name and going after him, almost like Palin isn't there. I read several articles that suggested that would be a good strategy. Palin is focusing on McCain, too.
8:12 They told her to say "darn right" as often as she could. It's so cute and spunky.
8:14 Her strategy might be to say "well I don't want to talk about that, I want to talk to the American people about (whatever they crammed her with in the last few days)"
8:21 So far, no train wreck.
8:22 It's SO weird how good Tina Fey's impression is.
8:24 Biden is amused and confused. And mildly entertained.
8:26 "Rear that head of abuse"? Yikes.
8:27 I predict "Main-Streeters" will be one of the "words of the year".
8:29 Palin looks really nervous and intense.
8:30 Oh boy climate change (munches popcorn).
8:31 We have to drill for more oil, and we have to clean up the planet. Hmmm....
8:32 OOH. Biden was coached not to use her first name. Perhaps because that seems too familiar and disrespectful? But yet she can call him Joe.
8:34 She used the words "hungry" and "raping" when describing clean energy. Lots of emotive words.
8:37 She thinks homosexuality is a choice.
8:39 I guess it's still too risky to support gay marriage.
8:40 Let me just point out that nobody votes to stop funding the troops. When funding for the war decreases, they don't stop feeding the troops. They might stop passing out candy to the occupied kids, though.
8:42 "Governor?" "Um....."
8:45 I wish my hair could do that.
8:47 Just now saw that mjb tried Facebook chat a half hour ago; put FB visible so I'll see it if it happens again.
8:48 If they can't pronounce "nuclear", they have no business with the nuclear codes.
8:50 I think I just accidentally deleted something on Facebook before I read it! GAAAH! Okay back on track. GAAAH WHAT WAS IT? Okay, let it go, que sera sera. GAAAH!
8:55 Just replied to mjb the instant after he went offline.
9:01 Starting to feel fatigued with the rapid fire.
9:02 Angsting about what I might have deleted on Facebook.
9:03 "Oh, man, it's so obvious that I'm a Washington outsider and I just don't understand why you guys do stuff blah blah blah." I hate the airhead shtick. She's undermining my future.
9:06 I'm getting dizzy with her going back and forth between hockey mom and governor.
9:07 Nice question: "What if Obama was dead? What would you do then?" I guess it's a critical question but just kind of awkward. Good thing Obama isn't in the room.
9:09 Oh my God she winked as she described what she would do if McCain were dead.
9:10 WOW so many colloquialisms from Palin in 20 seconds I vomited.
9:14 Oh my God she's hitting her stride. She's really channeling "Tina Fey as Sarah Palin" right now.
9:18 I can't wait to hear what Biden says about his own lack of discipline.
9:22 Missed Biden's statement due to cat emergency.
9:25 When she gets "serious" she puts all the emphases ON the prepositions IN an effort to sound intelligent.
9:29 Such an honor FOR me.
9:32 Turn off the MIKES!
9:35 And..................spin.

Another Shot at Live Debate Blogging Tonight

I doubt anyone was watching my blog while I typed out my thoughts during last week's debate, but I'm going to do the live blogging again anyway because it was fun. Amacrine, sorry you missed it; I had sent you an e-mail earlier in the day to give you a heads-up, just in case you were interested, but if you didn't get the e-mail then we're going to have to figure out what happened. MJB, set an alarm for 9 p.m. Eastern time (8 Central, 6 Pacific. Hmmm. I don't think I have any readers in Mountain time. If I do, I apologize for not including your time zone in this announcement. It's just that I am in a hurry to get to work.)

To whet your appetite for the impending train wreck tonight, here's a five-minute clip of Sarah Palin's greatest hits. It starts off kind of weird, but don't worry, it's the right video.

Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain/Obama Debate Liveblogging


7:44 Got a pizza on the coffee table. Need some wine. Need to turn on the TV. Stanley's on his way home from happy hour. Apparently our friend Jorge* (pronounced "George") will be joining us as well. Yay. Debate party.
7:53 Got the wine. Still need to turn on the TV. Stanley still not home.
7:56 TV on. Plenty of channels to choose from. Hopefully it won't matter which channel. I just can't stand it when the commentators take over. Still no Stanley.
7:58 Wine poured. Here we go.
8:00 I'm nervous.
8:03 So nice to see them shake hands.
8:04 Eisenhower. Drink.
8:07 Jorge showed up with no Stanley.
8:08 They both sound cogent. (Late edit: I mean McCain and Obama. Not Stanley and Jorge.)
8:12 McCain jokes about his own age. Kudos to McCain. Drink.
8:14 Please say "fundamental" again.
8:15 Stanley showed up at 8:11.
8:16 Someone tell McCain that his VP nominee loves earmarks.
8:17 "To fill up on this gas that is killing them." Sounds odd.
8:20 Lehrer is like a marriage counselor.
8:21 "My friends"! Drink.
8:21 We should model ourselves after IRELAND?
8:23 Obama's quick.
8:25 I'm glad Obama is getting into detail about why he voted things down, annoyed by McCain's giggling.
8:30 The Little Combat Ship that Couldn't.
8:31 Obama called McCain "Tom". As in "Uncle Tom"?
8:32 Hmmmm. Spending freeze. Everything gets funded but defense. So no more education?
8:35 Obama took McCain's "who I'm fighting for" line.
8:37 Now he called him Jim. ???
8:40 Just say we won in Iraq and bring the troops home.
8:41 Pouring more wine. "Pizza Vino" 2004 California Cabernet. $2.99
8:48 Great discussion about Iraq. So nice to hear them talking at length about it. I'm not being sarcastic.
8:51 Stanley and Jorge are discussing the pros and cons of enlisting in the military.
8:53 I'm still worried about McCain's idea of freezing all spending except the military. What about science? How about welfare? What about disability payments?
8:56 Remember? Bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb bomb Iran.
8:57 He also supported the War of 1812.
8:59 Real person example. Drink.
9:00 McCain thought bubble: "Damn. He has a bracelet from a military mom, too."
9:03 I want Lehrer to ask, "How can the U.S. win back our good standing in the world?"
9:06 "Iranically".
9:07 This wine is actually pretty good.
9:08 I think he mispronounced Ahmanijihad (sp?).
9:09 Nixon. Drink. (Probably others previously as well.)
9:10 Tea with Mahmoud.
9:12 That's below the belt. McCain just sort of fogged up on the whole Spain/Venezuela confusion. It's a common mistake.
9:13 Reagan. Drink.
9:15 My friend. Drink.
9:16 The polls. The checks. 2008 in review.
9:23 It's like the whole world is at war. We should call it World War I.
9:26 He almost called him "Genital Joe Lieberman"
9:26 I like the split-screen when they are both talking. Helps me follow what both of them are saying.
9:27 I'm sad that it's almost over. I'm not ready for the spin machine.
9:29 Could everyone please check their suitcases for nuclear weapons.
9:29 Yes! Our standing in the world! Glad he brought that up. Thank you. The rest of the world is important. What they think is important. Thank you.
9:30 I'm tired of McCain's condescending references to Obama's supposed lack of understanding.
9:31 "Look". Third time I've heard it. Drink three times.
9:33 Imagine if someone tuned in just as Obama said "I've got post-traumatic stress disorder and yet I can't get treatment."
9:34 McCain. Comparing. Obama. To. Bush.
9:35 Yay. A 72-year-old who doesn't need on-the-job training. What a time saver.
9:36 McCain mentions his time in prison. Drink. But only half a sip; he barely mentioned it, on his way to talking about something else.
9:37 Debate over. Obama won.
9:38 Spin cycle.
9:39 Don't let them tell you what happened.
9:40 I'm watching ABC and they just showed the 6 people that are going to weigh in, then went to commercial. It's going to be crazy.
9:48 Have a good night.

* Name changed.

I'm Going to Try Liveblogging for Tonight's Debate


As you may be aware, John McCain and Barack Obama will be debating tonight at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Just now I had a frivolous idea: I'm going to post my thoughts on the debate while I'm watching, and update the entry with each new post. I've seen other bloggers do this for events such as this. So I'm going to give it a shot.

Speaking of shots, I did a google search for McCain/Obama debate drinking games, and the following is an amalgamation of the best rules I found, and maybe a few of my own if I think of them while I'm writing. We don't plan to attend a debate party, but I may have a glass of wine or two, so I might as well play a drinking game.

Drink once each time:

1. Either candidate uses the word "change".
a. If Obama says it, before you drink, switch which hand you're holding your drink in.
b. If McCain says it, don't switch hands. Easy way to remember: McCain, more of the same.
2. McCain says "My friends".
3. Obama says "Look." (This really annoys me. But it effectively gets your attention and makes you put aside what he just said, and get ready to listen to what he's about to say. But it's still annoying.)
4. McCain uses the phrase his people coached him to repeat over and over. It may take a few minutes to figure it out, but it will happen.
5. Someone refers to McCain's heroism.
6. Someone says "Let me finish." Actually, if this happens, you must finish your drink.
7. Someone uses the word "bailout".
8. Someone either hints at or makes direct reference to McCain's age.
9. Someone refers to a past president other than Bush.
10. Someone uses a real person as an example, e.g., Molly Smith works 3 jobs so she can afford to pay for nursing home care for her blind grandmother and her grandmother's twin sister who is also blind.

Okay I need to get home so I can cook dinner, but first I want to practice the liveblogging. Here goes.

5:52 I'm looking out the window.
5:53 I think I'll have to post more recent thoughts on top so I don't have to scroll.
5:53 (still) I'm clicking "publish" after each line, in case you're wondering.
5:54 Yeah this might work.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Time


I don't have much time, because Stanley is on his way home, and he's had a tough week so he would like to have a martini waiting for him when he gets home, but I wanted to let you know about a feature I have added to the blog that is going to free up a lot of your time. I know you spend hours hitting the "reload" button on my blog to see if I've posted something. If you enter your e-mail address in the box on the right, you'll get a message in your inbox when I post something. If I post more than once in a day, you will only get one message for that day. If I don't post that day, you won't get a message. I haven't tested it out but it should work.

Something exciting happened to me today. Basil*, my best, closest, most inseparable, friend from kindergarten through 8th grade, whom I had not had contact with since age 15, which makes 21 years, despite several attempts to find her on the Internets, SENT ME A MESSAGE ON FACEBOOK! She wasn't sure if it was me. I'm so glad she tried anyway. Here is her message, with some details changed:
"My name is Basil Halifax Tuesday and I am sorry to bother you, but I am looking for an old classmate of mine. Her name is Hazel Grant. When I typed in the name your name n pic came up. We attended ________ school together from kindergarten - 8th grade. If this is you I would love to hear from you. If this is not you very sorry to have bothered you.

Thanks, Basil"

I am so fricking excited. I can't wait to find out how her life turned out. I had sort of given up on ever getting in touch with her again.

So should I reply? Just kidding! I replied. Haven't heard back yet. It looks like she's new to Facebook so I hope she gets my reply.

It's martini time! Let me know if you have issues with the e-mail notify thing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stupid Hurricane


I've been preoccupied with thoughts of Ike. I'm sad that so many towns along the coast are destroyed, and people are waiting for help. I'm wondering what it is like to be living in a huge city with not much food or water, no power, no going out after dark, and the possibility of things staying that way for weeks. I'm worried about all my friends and family in Texas, reading whatever news I can find, which seems like not much, considering the scope of the problem, and dealing with bad memories of Allison in 2001 and Katrina in 2005. I'm feeling guilty that I get to continue on with life as usual.

Stanley's parents live in eastern Texas. Stanley's dad called us as the storm came through to ask us to check weather.com and see where the eye was at the time, since they had no power and hence no Internets. It turned out the eye was directly over them. Fabulous. While I was talking to him, suggesting we get off the phone to free up the airwaves for emergency calls, he started screaming something about a tree, and then the phone went dead. That was troubling. But I talked to him later and it turned out it was the neighbor's tree, and everyone was okay.

I thought he would appreciate an image of the hurricane as it passed over their house (see photo), and he did, a lot. He's one of those dads that goes crazy for things like that. There's no telling how long it will take to get power back up where they live, so they drove to Dallas to live with Stanley's sister for a while.

I hope it's not weeks until things get back to normal. I hope to get updates from people who live in Houston. Hey maybe they can blog about it, if they aren't too busy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Beer Cuts Cake

Yay, my first free weekend in a while. I hope to do a lot of laundry and work in the yard. Stanley is brewing beer tomorrow: a Toasted Oat Cream Ale. Finally, a breakfast beer. I haven't decided whether to be involved in this batch. On one hand, it's fun to help and nice to feel entitled to some beer. On the other hand, I'm not really into beer. On the other hand, Toasted Oat Cream Ale sounds wonderful. Toast. Oats. Cream. Ale. Mmmmmm.

My sister Jasmine* came to visit last weekend. It was a good time. We did the farmer's market, cooked up some fabulous meals, went to the biggest neighborhood yard sale this side of the Mississippi: truly phenomenal, covering blocks and blocks, every other house participating. We also made stepping stones out of poured concrete. It worked out pretty well, I think.



Hey. Funny story. Remember when Jasmine came to visit in May of '07 and cut her finger really bad with a bread knife while slicing a ciabatta bun? I do. I blogged about it. Here's the photo.


Well. Despite the fact that her finger is still scarred and somewhat painful from that incident, serving as a reminder to be careful with sharp objects while visiting Hazel, Jasmine unfortunately cut herself with the kitchen shears.

She wasn't very happy about it. It bled pretty badly, but fortunately this time it didn't hurt as much.

Poor Jasmine.

Okay so I guess that wasn't a very funny story.

Thanks Matt for trying out the cake and posting a comment about it. We tried it, too, and had the same results: a spongy browny. Not that great, but if you really want chocolate cake fast, it might do. I probably won't make it again, because I found it nearly impossible to clean the nuked cake batter out of the coffee mugs. 3 scrubbings and twice through the dishwasher, and it's still there.

Good luck to you Texans tonight! I'm thinking about you and wishing there were some way I could help (on top of sending money to the Red Cross). I'll be hungry for news on how things went so if you can let me know, and aren't too busy, please get in touch.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Cake"


I got this recipe in an e-mail from my sister Jasmine*, and I have to share it with you. My comments are in italics.


FIVE-MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE

4 tablespoons flour (that's plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa This is the only ingredient I don't already have.
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional) Jasmine contends this is not optional and should be dark chocolate.
A small splash of vanilla
1 coffee mug (probably fairly good sized!)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave ("my" mug? you mean "mug" as in "face"?) and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Okay, I will try to contain myself. Get it? Contain myself? Ha h ah aha ha. I'm punny. Allow to cool a little (that's the difficult part), and tip out onto a plate if desired.

EAT! (This can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous). It is not possible for me to feel more virtuous than I already do.




Okay it's me again. I think when I make this I will either make it for two people and pour half the batter into a second mug, or make a half recipe. The "one egg" makes halving the recipe difficult, so I will either throw the whole egg in or use applesauce instead.

I'm a little concerned that the cake might stick to the mug, making it difficult to "tip out onto a plate", but it's worth trying, although not really necessary, and actually kind of a pain since it doubles the dishes you have to wash.

I fully intend to add frosting. I mean, come on.

I normally like to have already tried a recipe or completed some of whatever it is I'm blogging about, but this just seemed too good to keep to myself.

Speaking of cake, I just remembered a blog about cakes brought to my attention last week by my friend Erin*, which I really enjoyed. Click here. The latest post on that blog (as of this writing) is a video about cake which isn't as good as the previous entries (in my opinion) so you can probably skip the video if you are in a hurry. Not that it's bad. It's kind of cute.

While on that blog I clicked a link to another blog about unnecessary quotation marks, which I also enjoyed more than I might have expected to enjoy a blog about punctuation. Click here.

There is a slight chill in the air today. Well, it's 70, but it's cooler than it has been in weeks. The timing is perfect because I was only recently starting to look forward to sweater weather, and wishing we could have a fire in the fireplace. And Christmas is coming, people!! Christmas!!!! You know, Santa Claus, and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe, and presents for pretty girls????

Gotta clean the house. Jasmine is coming tomorrow!!

*Name changed, hopefully in ways that please the named. If not, feel free to change them to something else.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nobody's Home


I submitted photos of the mystery bug to bugguide.net for an id request. I had done this about a year ago for what I learned was a globular springtail. Actually, millions of globular springtails, at our campsite. They were very very small, and didn't bite, and stayed on the ground, so they didn't annoy us nearly as much as the thousands of ticks. But look at me, digressing.

Click here to go to the page on the site where my id request is granted. Scroll down the page for the response.

Hannah, hello and thanks for the comment! I'm pleased you considered using my image for your lecture. Did anyone know what it was?

On another topic, I decided not to go to the RNC convention after all. No reason. Stupid anarchists. When did they get organized? I would like to have a word with their leader.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Completion

I'm happy to announce that the deck is finished, except for staining which will happen in October, and accessorizing with planters and what-not. We added railings to the sides and stairs. I'm using we in the marriage-as-a-parnership way, since I didn't do much to help except offer my opinion. I highly recommend this method of helping. It's pretty easy. Our friend Jorge* (pronounced "George") helped Stanley both Saturday and Sunday. It took longer than they expected.

Here we are enjoying the finished deck for the first time.



In this photo, Jorge demonstrates the most important use of the railing.





In other news, today is the last day of the Minnesota State Fair. I've been to it three times in the last couple of weeks. I want to go again but you have to draw the line somewhere. I'm going to miss it when it's gone. The entrance is only two blocks away and I like to sit outside and listen to the music from the grandstand, and smell the roasted corn. For some reason, out of all the food they serve there, the roasted corn fragrance is what reaches us. We're also lucky to be able to see the nightly fireworks from our back yard. They go off about 10:30 p.m. It's nice when you happen to be sitting outside, but when you are inside trying to sleep, or on the sofa with a cat on your lab, it can be distressing.

Speaking of corn, thanks to Colossal Waste of Birdseed '08, we have corn growing in the front yard.



But back to the fair. Some of my favorite memories of the fair, in photos.

The goats.

Wishing Al Franken good luck in his campaign for U.S. Senate.



The butterfly house.

I like most insects but butterflies are near the top of the list. For $3.00 we got to stand in a hot, steamy room filled with confused butterflies. They got to choose between landing on blossom-filled trees, the floor, or people. This one chose my face. I was flattered, but annoyed because I was in the middle of a conversation, and so of course the conversation had to stop.

Speaking of insects, look at the somewhat horrible creature I found in the back yard today, clinging to a hosta blossom.

To get the full effect, click on the image. Definitely one of the ugliest insects I've seen. He's fat and about an inch long. Some kind of locust or something. I'm pretty sure he came up out of the ground, in part because he had dirt all over him, and in part because a couple of weeks ago while I was digging dirt up so I could lay bricks, I dug up something that looked a lot like him.

My sister Jasmine* is coming to visit in 3 days and I'm pretty excited about it. I plan to put her to work.


*Names changed.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hazel on Deck

First let me say that Michael Phelps is amazing, and Usain Bolt, also amazing, has me really confused. Is he the fastest man alive even though he's super tall, and had a late start, and slowed down at the end, slapped his chest, waved his arms in the air, and had one of his shoes untied? Wha? Could someone please explain to me? Is it 'roids? Do you think it's 'roids?

Anyway.

An anonymous commenter on a previous entry turned out to be right about the tomatoes. We just needed to give them some time.

They started to show the faintest hint of redness about four days ago and yesterday we ate the first one. It was possibly slightly underripe, but not noticeably so, and altogether delicious. We enjoyed it with pesto and mozzarella. I am telling you. If I could only eat one dish for the rest of my life, home-grown tomatoes with pesto and mozzarella would be it.* There may be more ripe ones today; several of them look pretty red. There are 30 tomatoes on the vines in total, so we're going to have to think about how to use them. Maybe we could do something different with each tomato. Here are some ideas to start off with:

1. Sliced with pesto and mozzarella. CHECK! One down, 29 to go.
2. Tomato sandwich. Oh yeah. Actually, that doesn't sound so great. But maybe it will be surprisingly good.
3. Salsa! We've got a bunch of ripe serranos so perhaps we'll do that soon. And when I say "we", I mean Stanley.
4. Tomato omelette.
5. Stuffed baked tomatoes. With like crabmeat or some crap like that.
6. One thing I've never done in my life is pick a tomato off the vine and eat it like it's an apple. So tomato #6 is going to get a big surprise.
7. On a salad, cut in wedges. I think I might also put a hardboiled egg on this salad. Also cut in wedges.
8. Sliced up and salted or maybe with some balsamic vinegar.
9. Fried green tomatoes!! Never had that before. I have seen the movie. I was supposed to like it, but didn't.

Does anything else occur to you, tomato-wise? I need at least 21 more tomato plans. Please leave a comment.

Remember the fern experiment I started back in June? If you don't, here's the entry where I describe it.

And here are the final results:

They never looked as good as when I first transplanted them. The first fronds died, but others continued to grow and take their place, but they never really took off and propagated, and eventually the only things left were the little nondescript weeds that I only added to keep the ferns company (the weeds did pretty well), and then there was a big rainstorm, and the ground got soft, and the plant stand fell over, and I left it there for a few days, and then took a picture of it, and blogged about it. The end.

Note the bricks at the bottom of the photo. Every other weekend or so, I lay down about 30 more bricks, to make a walkway from the side of the house to the middle of the backyard where it will meet up with another, already-existing brick path. I wish it were the only thing on my to-do list because even though I sweat a lot, and shoveling dirt and lifting bricks makes my back ache, I kind of enjoy it.

We're in the process of building various things onto the deck. This sketch (sorry it's kind of hard to see; clicking on it definitely helps) shows the basic plan, give or take a few details. For example, I just guessed at the number and size of the posts, and we probably won't put finial topper things on the railing posts. Too fussy.



This weekend, Stanley built the bench on the right side of the sketch. Here it is just after he attached the frame. I was so excited I had to sit on it immediately. At this point it was not very comfortable but I was still pretty happy about it.


Here it is, completed.


Isn't it marvelous? It's the appropriate height for dining so we can pull the table over for extra seating. Or we can pull chairs up to it and use it as a footrest or coffee table. It's also ideal for naps. It's going to get stained along with the rest of the deck, and the deck box, sometime this Fall (what color??? Oh, no....).

The sketch calls for another, smaller bench on the other side of the stairs for some sort of symmetry, but it's not really necessary, and this one was kind of a pain to build, so if a stab at symmetry is the only reason to put a bench on the other side, it's not worth it. A long, rectangular wood planter, or three square ones in a row, from Home Depot or Menard's will do just fine to keep the drunks from falling off the deck.

Other plans include copious use of lattice. Lattice, lattice, lattice. Can't wait to get my hands on some lattice.

*Allow me to backtrack, if I may, on eternal meal choices. When and if I have to choose, I might decide on something else, such as tacos from the taco trailer in Gerber, CA, if that's still around. It seems like one could get sick of pesto under extreme circumstances.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Church Party!

After we landed in Denver last Thursday, as we waited for the bus that would take us to the lightrail that would take us to the hotel, I checked my phone and had a message from a lady from church. All I could make out over the sound of idling bus engines was:

"from church"
"wine"
"dessert"
"my place"
"Wednesday"

I immediately planned on going. Maybe it was the fact that it was on a Wednesday? I don't know. So that's where we went tonight. A church party. The hostess' house was in a nearby charming neighborhood, and the house was adorable, sort of a gingerbread house embraced by ivy. It was a lovely evening and people were sitting out on a deck on the side of the house, and everyone was very welcoming. But as I sat down I smelled dog excrement. Here is my thought process upon smelling that smell and doing the meet-and-greet.

"Oh that's a shame, otherwise the ambiance is great."
"Kind makes me lose my appetite."
"I wonder if everyone else can smell it."
"Where's Stanley?"
"Oh, he's dragging his shoes around on the grass."

The hostess was so nice about it and actually took Stanley's shoes and cleaned them up for him. She felt really bad that her dog, Moses*, had ruined Stanley's entrance. Moses didn't seem phased. He just wanted to mount Sinai, the other dog. I'm just kidding. There was no other dog.

After that fiasco faded into the recent past, we enjoyed the party. It was just like every other party except that the topic of religion came up a little more often. Okay, a LOT more often. I guess it would be kind of weird if it didn't. I found it refreshing to talk about religion at a party. Usually one is compelled to skirt the issue at social events, to avoid offending or igniting the theists, the atheists, or both. But I think we found a church full of people who want to believe but defy anyone to prevent them from questioning and exploring their faith.

So, it was a terrific evening.

When I googled images on the theme "church party", I got some pretty lame pictures, in addition to this blow-up church. Enjoy.



*Name not changed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Montana Painting

Hey. We went to Colorado this past weekend for Stanley's cousin's wedding. It was great to see and re-meet all the aunts and uncles and cousins and 2nd cousins. There are a lot of Spupspes and it's tough to keep track of them, especially the smallest ones. I was happy to get a chance to talk with several Spupspes that I hadn't so much as shared two words with before, even though they all came to our wedding. I guess I was busy getting married at the time.

You may or may not remember this painting that hangs over our mantel.


It was painted by "Grandma Theo", who was Stanley's great grandmother or great great aunt; Stanley is not sure which. It depicts a ranch in Montana that used to belong to Stanley's family. Apparently Grandma Theo had attempted to paint the house and/or barn but couldn't get it to look right, so painted over it with hills and foliage. She was also apparently not proud of it. I suspect this because she actually wrote on the back of the painting, "I am not at all proud of this picture - should not let it go, but as I am too old now to do much more, and Phil* (Stanley's father) likes it so am going easy." She also signed it and wrote "painted when I was 93 years old".

So check out this painting, also by Grandma Theo, that we saw at Stanley's Aunt's house. We hadn't brought a camera, so Stanley's cousin was kind enough to e-mail us a photo.


I think the trees in the foreground are the same trees that we have in the lower right of our painting, but I'm not really sure. It's interesting to compare the two paintings and try to get a sense of things.

Stanley's cousin mentioned that Lewis and Clark described the mountain in the background on their famous journey, and that it was called Square Butte. I used Google Earth, which is awesome, to fly over the area and I think I figured out where the ranch would have been, but the river seems to be dried up and there are no trees in the area that I can see. It looks like cropland mostly.

I'm getting over a flu. At least I hope I am. I'm weak and tired and stuffy. I took a nap today. That was nice.


* Name changed.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fruits and a New Bird

Hello! My wallet never turned up, but my identity is on its way through the mail in various envelopes.

Here's the birdbath of which I spoke in the last entry.

No birds so far, that I've seen. I guess it's a little scary-looking. I may transition it to a fruit feeder for butterflies, and probably ants as well. That reminds me to tell you that I ended up throwing out my hummingbird feeder because I couldn't keep the ants off of it; it had an ant moat but that always dried up faster than I could refill it, so the ants took it over, and many of them managed to get up inside it and drown. It was impossible to clean so I decided to forget about the hummingbirds until next Spring, and I'll do it right, e.g., get the feeder out there early, make it truly ant proof, and get some bright flowers such as fuchsia to encourage them to stop by. Come to think of it; screw the feeder, I'll just focus on getting flowers that they like. That will take care of the ant issue, and apparently they like flowers better anyway.

I like talking to you because you let me ramble on forever and you never interrupt.

What else can I tell you....how about a progress report on the garden. We have lots and lots of green tomatoes.

We haven't had the slightest hint of any ripening. Apparently that usually happens in August up here, so maybe we've just got to wait a bit, but some of them have been fully formed for a couple of months and yet they're not red. I've read both that they need lots of warmth and sun to ripen, and that they need coolness and shade. So that's a quandary. If any of them start to rot, then we'll start picking them, ripe or not, and try to ripen them indoors. I can't remember how that's done but I read it on the Internets.

Serrano peppers! With a daylily in the background. I'm not a big fan of the daylilies. They need a moderate amount of water, or else the foliage starts to look like crap, and the blossoms last for about one day, then dry up and look ugly, so you have to keep pulling the dead blooms off, and at any given time only one blossom in 10 square feet is blooming. Also, I don't really like the look of lilies. Too self-conscious.


American goldfinch!

So pretty. The female has a duller yellow back and no black on her head. We've been getting a lot of them lately. Apparently they have a later nesting season than most birds, so maybe that has something to do with it. It could also be because after I cleaned up the natural disaster of mixed seed, I switched to one type of seed, sunflower. Now there are a lot fewer birds, but I think it's because the sparrows and finches that by far outnumbered any other types preferred some other kind of seed, perhaps millet. So now the birds that do come by tend to be blue jays, cardinals, or goldfinches, or some kind of woodpecker guy which I'm too lazy to look up on whatbird.com. Or squirrels. Grrrr. But at least the seed is getting eaten, rather than flung around willy-nilly and turning into goo.

I discovered that a lot of people say birdfeeders aren't good for the environment. This is disappointing. This Wall Street Journal article from 2002 explains that it's an unnatural food source so it tends to increase the numbers of certain species artificially, thus increasing competition for birds that don't stop by the feeders. It also encourages birds to be closer to humans, which isn't good for them. Plus it spreads disease and increases window collisions. And it turns out that Americans spend $2.6 billion per year on birdseed. Yes, $2.6 billion.

TTFN

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Night Gardening

I've been busy. Kind of stressed out from work obligations and because I'm just generally prone to angst. But I've been mostly happy.

I lost my wallet yesterday. I had it when I got on the bus (I'm sure of this because it has my bus pass in it), but when I fished for it a minute after leaving the bus, I didn't have it. I was sleepy and it probably slipped out of my bag without me realizing it. I've contacted the transit authority lost and found and plan to do so again tomorrow in case it turns up today, and I cancelled my credit card and bank card and applied for a new license. My wallet also contained a fully stamped buy-nine-coffees-get-one-free card from the coffee shop where we have our lab meetings, and today's meeting was going to feature my free coffee. My labmates encouraged me to ask for a free coffee anyway, so I did, and they gave it to me! It helps that this particular coffee place bases itself on bringing people together in a spirit of cooperation and love. So if that means giving someone a free coffee, so be it. I refrained from ordering a large, but still felt guilty about asking for a medium rather than a small. A medium is what I need to get me through my day.

I'm considering adopting a new hobby: night gardening! I started working in the yard in the late afternoon today and had so much energy (thanks to the free coffee) that I continued working until after dark. It reminded me of when I was a kid and we would play outside well after the sun went down, and everything would take on a mysterious, almost magical quality. I swear I could run faster in the dark. At least it seemed so.

The only drawback to night gardening is that you can't see what you're doing. Otherwise, it's great. Very calming.

One of my gardening projects was to remedy the birdfeeder situation. The birds throw all the seed on the ground, and have, on occasion, used up a whole half-gallon of seed in one day. According to my googling, this happens when you use a seed mix; most birds focus on one type of seed, often black sunflower, which has the highest fat content of the typical bird seeds. My seed mix contained approximately 0.0000003% black sunflower. So the sparrows would sweep the seeds everywhere with their beaks, aptly imitating the SNL dance club skit featuring the song "What Is Love", and the seed would fly around like reflected light from a disco ball. "Baby don't hurt me. Don't hurt me. No more." Do you wanna dance? With me? No? Okay cool.

The suggested way to prevent this waste is to only put one type of seed into the feeder, and have two or more feeders, each with one type, so there is some variety and you don't exclude any birds, such as those that can't open the shells. This is more expensive than a seed mix but considering how much is wasted with the mix, it might cost about the same over time, with the bonus that you don't get a pile of seeds under the feeder, unless you have really stupid birds in your area.

I was not aware of the full extend of the problem until I attempted to sweep up the seeds. I thought the birds and squirrels hopping around on the ground were doing a good job of cleaning up, but I was wrong. The seeds were 4-5 inches deep and spread 3-4 feet around the feeder, inside plants, around rocks, and in the grass, and from surface to the deepest part went fresh wasted seed and sunflower shells, not-so-fresh seed, gray clumped seed, seed that had taken root and grown into a cute little grass, seed that was almost fully composted, and seed that was incorporated into a black wet substance that might have been mold. Just a huge mess. It was piled high and deep into the mystery plant with pink flowers that I blogged about a while back (that turned out to be apple blossom yarrow, incidentally). It was difficult getting the seeds out of the plant and I'm worried that I might have damaged it. Fortunately, I don't really like that plant. Anyway, I used a broom, a rake, and a trowel in turns until I filled up half of a lawn bag with seeds in various stages of decomposition. I'm not sure what to do with all of it; it's not allowed in the regular trash, since I think it qualifies as yard waste, and I don't think it belongs in the yard waste composting lot that we take our leaves and clippings to when the container gets full, since it's a strange material. I'll figure it out.

Another project I engaged in after dark was making a birdbath using a plant stand, plastic tray, bungee cords, sea glass, rocks and beads. I'll post a picture when I can. I'm thoroughly pleased with how it turned out, but all that matters is that the birds like it. If I were a bird, I would like it. If it gets any use I might make another one using one of our stumps-on-wheels.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stillness

Here's the kitchen floor with what was referred to on the swatch as "Blue Hue" but what turned turned out to be "White Fright".




No, that is not an abyss, it's the floor. We went through the swatches again and picked a color called "Stillness".





It looks lighter in the photo than in reality. Honestly, I thought it would be darker, but I'm still happy with it. We just finished coating it with polyurethane and we might put another coat of that down. I plan to add a 5' by 8' rug, probably sisal, and some accessories to bring in both paint colors. Compared to the original baby-poop brown, this is much less depressing, more light and airy, and almost beachy. But I don't want a beach theme. I live in Minnesota.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mistakes in Paint and Film

Just thought I'd check in. We painted the kitchen floor white this past weekend. I don't even want to take a picture. It was supposed to be light blue but it turned out looking decidedly white. I've seen white kitchen floors in the magazines but this is a cold bluish white, and it's already got dirt smudges and scuff marks on it, and it's supposed to be porch and floor paint. The paint matches the swatch, but somehow the swatch is blue and the floor is white. I just don't get it.

I was going to put a large area rug over it but Stanley wants to try again with a darker blue. I'm mildly discouraged and I don't want to have to go through the whole Home Depot paint dance again. My concern is that even if we put down the right blue, perhaps blue is the wrong choice. If you recall, the walls are green. It seems like a mistake but it just might work, you know? It was surprisingly easy and quick to put down primer and floor paint, so one more coat will be a snap. I guess. I just hope it looks a little better, and less sad and blinding. That's all I want.

We're watching the film Love in the Time of Cholera and it sucks real bad, don't bother.

But in general things are great. The day lilies and hostas (hosta?) are starting to bloom, and so are the zucchini. We've got lots of tomatoes trying to ripen in the shade and having a hard time. No hummingbirds at all but the ants are enjoying the feeder. OH the blackberry vodka isn't too bad, kind of sweet, rather drinkable, and as it turns out, it's actually black raspberry vodka. So if we added sugar, we would have Chambord.

Wow, what a bad film.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Today's Theme: Black

I finally got around to my Paint It Black project. All of the items are yard sale finds. The two lamp bases were originally white; I plan to put them in the bedroom. When I bought the bench last year, it was emerald green with the original white showing through the brush strokes; I think it was supposed to look shabby chic, but it was more like shabby shitty, plus it had other random paint drips on it since we used it to reach the tops of the walls when we did our move-in painting. I'm thinking perhaps the bedroom for the bench, but if that doesn't work there are a million other places I could put it. And the barstools will go in the kitchen. I ran out of paint in the middle of the second stool. I thought two cans would be enough for everything.


We have blackberries growing behind the garage, and the first ones ripened a couple of days ago. Based on the way they cluster, and their size, I think they might be wild blackberries as opposed to the garden variety. HA! Garden variety! I'm punny. The center one always ripens first. Aren't they cute? They taste pretty good.


We get about 5 or 6 berries per day; not enough to make jam or a pie, unless we freeze them, and then what's the point of having fresh berries? So we thought of how we could use them, and I suggested, we could throw them on a salad. Weeee, fun. Then Stanley had a better idea: make blackberry-infused vodka.



I love the color. We're going to throw in more berries as we get them. It should be ready in about a week, at which time we'll filter out the berries and chill it. I'll let you know how it tastes.