Saturday, May 31, 2008

Whew!

Hi! I have had a great day so far, despite it being 80º inside and rising. I started out at the farmer's market, because I have (count them!) two different potlucks to go to this weekend.

So I've spent the morning so far all about food. I used my new immersion blender to make my first mayonnaise, ruining two batches along the way. Apparently it can fall out of suspension if you look at it cross-eyed. I'm now just about out of oil, which is fine. I don't use it all that often anyway.

The mayo is going into a fab potato salad I've whomped up, containing radishes, green onions, garlic scapes, carrots, dill, hard boiled eggs, salt and pepper. And potatoes. The second dish is another of my faves, curtido. Cabbage, onions, garlic scapes, carrots, cumin seeds, jalapeños, adobo seasoning and vinegar. I'm glad I made the curtido a day ahead of time. It takes a bit for it to infuse with the goodness. Wish I'd done that with the potato salad; as it is I'm afraid it won't cool!

If you didn't get this part, all ingredients minus the oil and vinegar are local; I only contributed the dill from my own garden.

I have a bunch of dishes to do now, and then it's time to mix up a batch of dough. I'm going to try out my new dutch oven with the no-knead bread tomorrow. I'm quite excited about that!

Friday, May 30, 2008

One by one

I'm doing it again. Sleeping on a bed with no sheets, because I just can't be bothered to put them on. And the other half of the bed is full of clean clothes. As are the baskets all over the floor. I did, however, put up a new shower curtain this morning. Yay for switching from mold to vinyl fumes!!

I need a haircut, too. I tried to get one in DC, but it was a holiday. The only places open were more barbershop than beauty parlor, and I suspect they'd have been hard pressed to deal with such fine hair as mine is anyway. It's all about texture specialization. Tried for a pedicure, too, but was underimpressed with what I perceived as unimplemented hygiene practices.

I'm working from home today. I only have a couple of hours to put in (thanks to another 12-hour day yesterday!), and it didn't make sense to drive 50 miles (RT) to do things I could just do here at home. Luckily, the boss saw things the same way, so here I am.

Good thing, too. I got my car inspected, which I'd been half putting off and half too busy to get done. Check another item off of the list! And it was severely cheap. Only $30? Nice.

While waiting at the mechanics, I realized that I could and indeed *should* nip across the street to check out a restaurant I'd heard great things about. Wimpy's Grill has always kind of scared/intimidated me, to tell the truth. It's so...beaten up. And dingy. And windowless. I couldn't find any photos of the place itself, but the sign pretty much says it all. It's one of those places that closes by 2 p.m., so it always seems closed, too.

All that angst for nothing!! Superb burgers. The meat is ground fresh daily. They also have biscuits and open at 7 a.m. weekdays. I think I know what I'll be trying next!

Another jaunt this a.m. was to my favorite discount/closeout store for a look around. I went small-appliance happy. I got not only an iron (Rowenta!), but also another toy I've wanted for ages--an immersion blender.

Gazpacho, here I come. Now, peppers, cukes and tomatoes? Do your thing already! Tired of waiting!

(Garden update: The volunteer dill is much taller than I am, and I suspect that I'll have ripe tomatoes within a week or so. Peas look like they're done with, and I'm hoping the blade-like things that are coming up where I planted the corn are indeed corn. Peppers have buds, and the cukes are nowhere near ready. I don't know what all I've planted, so I might have some more to do.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Waiting to leave

Isn't he a handsome guy? A good friend, too. I've had a fantastic almost-week here in DC, mostly due to the company. Yes, Toby Toberson was a highlight, as he let me snuggle him half to death and loved it. But Marc, well, Marc was the best part. He's a fantastic host, and really easy to share living space with.

Other features: good eats, good drinks, afternoon naps, crosswords, and of course walks both with and without the Tobinator.

I was originally only going to stay until Sunday, but then we learned that our sweet Nem was coming into town yesterday for a conference this week. So with very little arm-twisting, I stayed until this morning. We all had dinner last night at a rooftop restaurant in Marc's neighborhood, and for the first time in ages I felt at home. Emily and Marc and I all met at around the same time at the same workplace almost 10 years ago. Others from that time are no longer much in my life, but those two have staying power. We haven't all lived in the same place for years now, and life gets complicated as we get older--jobs, families, moves. So it was a really, really nice reunion.

I never much remember the sightseeing I do on trips like this. I did go to the National Portrait Gallery, as well as the aforementioned trip to the zoo and Natural History Museum. I suppose if I lived here, I'd ignore all of that--it tends to be my M.O.

Yesterday afternoon I had a small attack of the blues. I tried to stay mindful, but I knew I was going home today, to a job that doesn't pay as well as I deserve, a messy house, a lack of companionship, and not much motivation.

My reaction to being in a city was one of pure joy at first. Built-in exercise, interesting sights, seemingly HUGE numbers of hot, single men, and a whole world outside my door. But there's also a part of me that knows that even if I moved here for good I'd still be the same person. A person in a major rut.

I have to get out of it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Can't forget her




Dammit, Janet? Why so cute??

I must have been really allergic to Bobo, rest in peace. Janet hasn't bothered me at all.

(p.s. I have no "cats" tag, and I won't make one. So here's Toby.)



Awesome


So...Marco talked me in to staying until Tuesday morning. See, my sweet Nem is coming to town for a conference on Monday, so we're going out to din din that evening for old time's sake. I met both Marco and Nem when I was temping at an organization that led to my eventual job track. The agency had a big USAID contract to do work in developing countries in the area of maternal and child health. Or as Marc put it last night, "We're in the business of saving mothers and babies." I worked in the resource center, i.e. tiny library. It was pretty easy work, and fascinating to boot. I read journal articles and then routed them around to the more senior staff to see who wanted to read what. Believe it or not, we did have the internets, but dead tree was still standard.

Anyhoo...

Yesterday I think I walked at least 10 miles. By the time I got home mid-afternoon, my legs and feet were so tired I thought I was going to die. Of course I didn't. But I did have to take a nap and bunches of ibuprofen. Which reminds me, I need to put some in my backpack.

The itinerary yesterday was the National Zoo and then the Museum of Natural History. Both were full of rambunctious children with their contact information pinned or stickered to their clothes. They screamed a lot. The zoo took up a lot of time and walking, so by the time I got to the Museum of Natural History I was pooped and not particularly interested in wading through the throngs. I sought refuge in the only unpopulated exhibit: DC Birds.

Hidden away in the basement was a somewhat grisly collection of taxidermied remains, poorly lit and locked in display cases. The birds were dusty, faded and rather gross. The owls in particular were lacking tufts of feathers, and the brighter warblers were barely showing their colors.

I was surprised, however, at the sizes of the birds. None of them was as big or as small as I had always typed them. There were also a number of extinct specimens, such as Passenger Pigeons and a Carolina Parakeet. I tried my hand at IDing some of the warblers, but was not particularly successful.

Hippo, above, taken for Nemoid's sake.

Off to the Portrait Gallery.

Friday, May 23, 2008

good dog

I hadn't seen Toby in two years. He had become African Diplomat Dog, with his own full time bodyguards. He supped on mutton, rice, carrots and yogurt. When I first knew him, he was a Country Dog, living near folk artists and peacock tenders. Then he became Suburb Dog, with a greenway to walk on and ducks to drool after. Now, after his stint on another continent, he's City Dog. He trots along with his mid-day dog walker, who I imagine has twenty dogs on the same leash. Who knows if that's accurate. But I like the vision.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crazy Making

Did I mention I've been working a lot??? 10 more hours today. The day ended with me walking with overweight teens in high humidity until 5, at which time I boogied across town with the windows open, frantically hoping my sweat would dry, for a "State of the County's Public Health" forum. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't hear about the forum until yesterday (and then only via a forward of someone else's forwarded invite), considering that we set the county agenda tonight for the next few years.

I came out of there both depressed and invigorated. Depressed because my agency apparently has so little visibility in the community as to have been overlooked with a direct invitation. Invigorated because the workgroup I was in set some kick-ass priorities: 1) to increase effective prevention efforts for communicable diseases (i.e. STDs including HIV/AIDS) and 2) to implement strong advocacy measures at all levels (*cough* state law *cough* schools *cough*) to eliminate barriers (*cough* abstinence until marriage *cough*) to service delivery.

Oh, and I don't think I like fava beans very well. They're bitter. I have a lot of them. Crap.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pant pant pant pant

Excuse me here while I catch my breath. Since last Tuesday I've worked 70 hours. I have about 20 more to put in in the next two days, and then I'm taking off for our nation's capital.

Marc will be hosting, despite the upheaval caused by the arrival of all of his sea freight just a few days ago. I'll be couching it. I love couch sleeping!

Along the way I'll try to have lunch with Michele as well as stop by Ikea. Anyone in the area have any requests for me to pick up there?

In DC I plan to take off and sightsee for once. I've been to DC a number of times, but I always seem to be enmeshed in random Madonna concerts, marching on the mall or drunken St. Patrick's day festivities that involve eggs and Guinness at breakfast time. It hasn't left much time for your general Smithsonian goodness.

OK, just got done with mowing the lawn and attempting self-surgery on a skintag-like mole that I hate. I didn't succeed. Ah well. The sound of blood pounding through my ears must have been a sign that I was crazy. No harm, no foul, and not much blood. Damnit. I want that thing GONE.

I bandaged it up, but after a recent email conversation with Ols, I'm going to find some thread and try the tie off method. If that doesn't work, there are other options.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Unexpected Glory


What a great end to a long day! I knew I had berries popping out, but none of them were even close to ripe.

No, it's not a strawberry. I have a few of those, too, though.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gag me with a spoon?

Good news and bad news.

First the good. I found my phone. Whew. It had gone dead, so there was no ringing it up and looking, unfortch. But it came to light later last evening, so all's well there.

The bad: I'm throwing up this morning. I don't feel bad--not too nauseated, just weak. But I keep gagging until I eventually puke. There's nothing in my stomach to purge, though. I suspect it's (EW!) excess drainage from allergies making its way into my tummy and throat. This happens from time to time when seasonal allergies are at their worst.

No, I'm not pregnant. I know how that happens, and let's just say it's unpossible for a number of reasons.

This is really gross though.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Phone

I've misplaced my phone. I can't call the moms I need to call. Just FYI.

To all the Moms I've loved before...

Mumma and Li-Li (4 years ago, maybe?)


Annie and Gigi.




The only mothers it is safe to forget on Mother's Day are the good ones. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

It's a good thing that all the mothers I know are good ones. See, I don't forget the important days so much as I don't get things together in enough time to do something about it.

Of course MY mom is the most important and best mom in the world. After all, she made me carob-chip wheat germ cookies when we were little! (Hey mom , do you still have that recipe? It was really good except for that carob part. Lots of butter and a nice sandy texture.) And she sent my sister to get piano lessons at a woman's house (Heather Halstead?) who kept owls and made her own yogurt! (Is it true that there was bird shit everywhere?) My mom's the one who comes to take care of me, even now, at the drop of a hat when she's needed. Gallbladder surgery, major depression--you name it. She bought me Zork for our Apple ][+ (A trendsetter, she was.) Thanks for taking me to the farmer's market, Mom.

My Sea Star is also on my top list of fave moms. Her Three Sons are so cute and nice I can barely barely (stand it). See, that's the thing. Annie has a fantastic sense of humor, and makes up her own language. I can't tell you how many of my friends now say things that began with an Annieism. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be Stew. Or Tiny Cutie. Or Nen. Or Little Juan. Or any number of the zillion nicknames she's made for me. Her boys haven't escaped this, of course, nor would I want them to have. She's the Big Jose to my Little Juan.

Tiny Grandma (nickname courtesy of Anko as well) is the powerhouse, though. She's going to be 90 in January, my sweet grandma. I love love love her so much. Gram, Gigi, Izzy, Zet, Izetta. She's the best. I really wish I had more time to just sit and talk with her, because Gram has the best stories ever. We can talk about anything. She taught me to sprinkle sugar on a lettuce leaf from the garden, roll it up and eat it. She always had Chef Boyardee ravioli for me, as well as sugar cereals in the tiny boxes you could make into bowls. And a garden. Yum. Gram also taught me how to peel the fibrous membrane away from a shelling pea's pod to make it edible. She showed me wintergreen in the forest.

Keashie is my other mom. I'm not sure I know many people who are more down to earth than she is. It was really interesting growing up with a stepmother. The relationship, in my case, walked the line between parent, aunt, and friend. Not having the traditional parent role takes some of the pressure off, I think. At least from my point of view it did.

Many of my friends are moms. I salute you, Nem, Pinky, JeniQ, jj, Nemoid, Jisook, Nicole, Marianne, minty, Helene, Alexia, Clella, Maggie, Peaceable Imperatrix, and anyone else I inadvertently leave off.

Brenna, KW, Ols--you're all about to become moms for the first time. Savor it, even when you curse the late nights and nipple chafing.

Love,
Stew

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy. ~Spanish Proverb

No one in the world can take the place of your mother. Right or wrong, from her viewpoint you are always right. She may scold you for little things, but never for the big ones. ~Harry Truman

Friday, May 9, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Annoying the Mockers

It was raining lightly this morning, and I needed a break from work. So I went to score some hallucinogens. Well, not that I knew that or anything--jeeze, my mom used to encourage me to take them when we'd find the pushers at the farmer's market in good ol' GR.

After all, they were free. Typical marketing; get you good and hooked for free and then raise the price.

Wait. They don't raise the price on this one. What's that about? Maybe they weighed the drug against its beneficial component, Resveratrol. It extends your life! Prevents cancer! Increases your athletic performance! It increases the potency of your HIV antiretroviral drugs! It blocks the flu!*

*NB: I make no claims to the veracity of these statements, other than that I read it on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's done

So I voted this morning. I know many who voted early, but I'll tell you, I LOVE voting the day of. There's such fantastic community where I live, and it's really a social activity as well as one of civic responsibility.

I ate the donuts. I drank the coffee. I talked with neighbors about some of my yet-undecided races. I saw the 17-year-old voting for his first time. I met a new dog.

For the most part, I think I made well informed decisions. Cool.

Monday, May 5, 2008

All het up

SO! Tomorrow's the first big day of the election here.

I always find voting kind of scary. Who can keep up with every single contest out there? I consider myself pretty aware, but I also know that I've been plugging my ears and shouting LA LA LA LA LA for the last few years in order to maintain my sanity and equilibrium.

Mind you, I've just been avoiding outrage fatigue. I do listen to NPR daily, so I'm not entirely cut off. And being online as much as I am, well, let's just say I do know what's going on, pretty much. Nationally, that is.

Locally, I'm a bit less aware. How do normal (e.g. non-plugged-in-to-local-politics) people make their decisions?

I'll look to some of my normal resources for election decisions sometime before tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, why don't you all try to persuade me to vote for YOUR candidate?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Two in the bush

The Chinese honeysuckle had taken over the Northeast corner of my backyard. I'd left it mostly alone since moving in, rationalizing that surely the birds needed that brushy habitat to be happy. The vines hid blackberries that seemed to delight in sproinging out to get me on my legs, my arms, my hands and one especially lovely time near my eye. Yes, it was out of control.

But it smelled so good.

Then a few weeks ago I looked back into the wild corner, that from a few half-hearted reconnaissance missions I knew also hid a tangle of rusted fence, and saw that the noxious invasive had taken down a sapling, bending it down from the back to kiss the edge of the brush.

When I woke up this morning at 6:30 without an alarm, I knew that today I had to do something about it. I figured I'd grab my loppers and just get the worst of it down, to let the new tree stretch back up. Coffee first, of course.

It's really a perfect day today for yardwork--76º now, and sunny, but with a light breeze. So I got to work. I've been such a slugabed all winter, and my stamina needs to catch up with my zeal. Already, though, I've noticed that my pants are too big, and I've had to resort to digging through my donate pile just to find something that wouldn't fall off of me. I'm OK with that.

There's something really meditative about snipping vines the size of large man's thumb. Despite the shade, I soon was covered in sweat, and wiping my face was serving to do little more than leave mud streaks. I didn't stop when I thought I would. Two and half hours later, I had cleared the entire 60 square foot area, but for the trunk of the sapling. My biggest concern, that I'd inadvertently disrupt an active bird's nest, didn't happen. There was a nest, but it was clearly not inhabited. That didn't stop me from noticing the alarm calls of every single towhee, cardinal, robin and wren. My greatest hope, that I'd find the bunnies and ruin their lair, didn't happen either. Ah well.

Now there's a two-foot high pile of sticks, vines, leaves and canes running along the entire back of the property line. My shoulders are sore already, and I smell of clean sweat. When I get up from my chair out here on the deck, I notice that I leave a damp spot from my back. The inside of my nose is coated from the billows of pollen that puffed with every snip, and I'm just now noticing the scratches on my forearms and ankles. The sweat is drying, and I feel good.

Soon I'll take my harvesting knife to a head of romaine and a head of butter crunch, pick some immature sugar snaps, root up a couple of tiny carrots, and pull the rest of the turnips for a salad. I have a thick NY strip that needs grilling.

Life is good.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Eight legs

One thing I always forget about summer: I spend half my time freaking out at my moles.

Because, you see, they could be ticks.

Like the one I just pulled off of my head.

Squawk!


Did the CH bird count this morning. Well, half of it, anyway. I stopped when I realized that despite a liberal coating of SPF 30 I was quickly becoming a rotisserie chicken. So I boogied after about only 4 hours.

Birding was slow today, for migration season. Even though I accompanied quite elite birders, there just weren't many birds out. Nonetheless, I got a good look at a number of migrating warblers and sparrows.

Super Meh
White throated Sparrow
Cardinal
Carolina Wren
Eastern Towhee
Carolina Chickadee
Titmouse
American Crow
Turkey Vulture
Canada Goose
Blue Jay

Slightly meh but first of the years
Indigo bunting
Red-eyed vireos (galore)
Blue Grosbeak
White-eyed vireo (nest!!)
Common Yellowthroat
Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Catbird

Cool
Black and White Warbler
American Redstart
Yellow-breasted Chat

Very cool
Northern Parula (Great long look of it singing)

Possible Lifers (Lost my Sibley's and thus lost my life list)
Swamp Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Prairie Warbler (Fabulous song!)

There were a ton more seen but not heard, including Blackpoll Warblers. I've probably forgotten quite a few as well.

Swamp Sparrow photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Motherfucking BUNNIES

So you dug up all my beans, eh? Did you find them yummy? I sure fucking hope so, motherfuckers. This means war.

Chickenwire. Posts.

Five words.