Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Window into the soul




Somewhere along the line my library practically did away with limits on audio materials. You can check out up to 50 (!!) CDs and books on tape. I was a bit floored. I used to get around the limits by picking out a few biographies or nonfiction works on CD for road trips. No more!

Yay!

Another thing that's changed over the past few years is that all the books on tape* are unabridged. (*Yes, I'll continue saying it that way even if I get them in CD format. Kind of like "album.")

Yay!

Wait. Yay?

Gotta say, I'm a bit self-conscious admitting this, but I prefer the abridged versions on tape. Cause, see, it takes a really long time to read a book out loud. (Aside--I just tried to look up how many hours the audio version of The World According to Garp was. I swear there's no easy way to find the answer to that sort of trivia.) Anyhoo, a 354 page book takes over 11 hours to listen to. No, that's not how long Garp is. Silly reader! Didn't you at least do a hover over the link to see?

Rambly Rambly.

My point. A longish weekend road trip (like say, to Georgia) is about 12 hours round trip. The first hour or so you want to listen to NPR. See how the convention is going, maybe do a little Mandalit del Barco name mimicking--that sort of thing. Same with the last hour. Then you need to factor in the "I really should pay attention" times. Traffic. Construction. Rain. Phone calls. Detours. And sometimes you just want music. So really, chances are good you won't finish a 12-hour audiobook on this sort of trip. The abridged versions, however, last only about 4-6 hours. You can get one of those done. Sometimes two.

But maybe a better argument is that I don't like every single book. So if you begin the 12 hour one and don't like it, then you have to switch to one of your backup books. Repeat that a couple of times, and again--you won't finish.

Of course the reason why I'm embarrassed about this is that abridgement is inherently bad, to literature purists. It tastes of censorship. And smells of bowdlerlization. Enough of my identity is tied up in the insecurity of not being smart enough that I get twinges about this. See? I used the world bowdlerize, fercrissake.

I know I'm overthinking a plate of beans. At least maybe that tendency of mine will help stave off dementia.

These are the books and CDs I checked out today (see blog post title).

Books:
A Spot of Bother
Lost and Found
Conception
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger
and
The Boyfriend List
The last two are short. Four and six hours, respectively. We've got a book about religion and Young Adult Fiction. Rawk.

CDs
The B-52s Funplex
The Smiths The Queen is Dead
The Cure The Cure
Johnny Cash Love, God, Murder

What do you think all of this says about me?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Accomplishments

The small project yesterday ended up being my bedroom. I didn't finish it entirely, but I did make the bed, put away the laundry and pick things up off the floor. That was nice.

You know how sometimes certain problems seem like such a pain in the ass that they're not really worth dealing with? Until the annoyance/inconvenience overtakes the difficulty of the problem, well, I often put things off that are hard. Many times the hard thing *is* really hard. Other times, though, it's less difficult than it may have appeared at first.

Since I got back from MI, I've been without audio for my commute. Somewhere along the line of charging me $1200 for various maintenance work, the mechanics must have pulled the battery, which made my stereo decide it had been stolen. I made a couple of half-hearted inquiries about how to fix it. The manual said you need a code. I looked for the code. I didn't find the code. I must not have inherited it from the former owners. I called the shop, and they said you could get the code by calling the company's customer service line if you had the serial number of the stereo. I had no idea where that might be. I figured I'd have to take the stereo out. I didn't relish being on hold, either. No NPR during the hour a day (at minimum) that I'm in the car has been Ugh, but not Ugh enough, apparently. I needed more motivation.

I'd been tossing around the idea of running down to GA for the long weekend, and my recent thoughts have been very UGH at the idea of a 12 hour trip with no distractions. I was leaning towards just not going. But then Jamie emailed, and bingo I had the motivation. I've missed her! I've missed Nemoid! I've missed Bhanu! All those GA folks would be SO FUN to hang out with.

I turned to the internets for help, and for once it was easy. The code was on a sticker inside my glove compartment. Nice.

Friday morning it's off to GA I go!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Something to do

I'm trying to figure out a small project that I can complete today without going crazy that will help put me in a better frame of mind. Any suggestions?

Yesterday was pretty much a write-off as far as accomplishments go. I spent a lot of time doing sudokus and napping on the couch.

The house is a mess (surprise!) in part because we're still rather overcome with boxes from the recent move-in. The other part is that we need to make room for much more *stuff* I also have a few pieces of furniture I'd like to be rid of. Actually, there's a lot I'd like to get rid of. I've been considering a yard sale for a while now. I'm living in an environment that's about 15% comfortable.

The yard is a mess as well. However, I think cleaning something might just be the winner in my plan to deslothify. The problem is, I think, that once I start to clean, I tend to get distracted and move my focus on to other projects, resulting in often unnoticeable dents in many different areas.

Total change of subject. Does anyone else feel self-conscious when wearing a red top and khaki bottoms? I once got mistaken for an employee when checking out at Target in such an ensemble. Problem is, that combo is really really common and fits well with my default fashion technique: mix and match neutrals.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bleh

Yuck. I'm sick. At least I think I must be. Yesterday I took a nap, and today I did the same, only for much longer. I'm feeling out of sorts, very under the weather, and also quite down, which I alluded to yesterday. Down enough to be concerned. Bad thoughts are beginning to invade my quiet (when healthy) mind.

I just deleted a long vent about work. Let's just say I'm not very happy right now, and I'll leave the specifics inside of me, where they belong much more so than here on a blog. Oh how I wish I could rant. I wish I could responsibly feel comfortable detailing the whys of my work malaise. Ah well.

Ok, enough of the bad.

The good:
Our Marianne was kind enough to let me swing by this morning to pick up a large, heavy sack load of pears from her tree. She's had a bounty crop this year, and I appreciate the donation. They'll ripen up in the next couple of weeks, and then I'm considering canning them as whole fruit.

I planted beets, radishes, broccoli and carrots in my community plot today. I purchased cabbages, broccoli, carrots, kale, and probably 90 more things to plant at home, but I've not been able to drag myself out there.

Ok, the forced reporting of The Good feels just that: forced. Again with the invasive negative thoughts (Hey! Pessimism is catching! I'm surrounded by it daily, so no surprise, I suppose). Might as well roll with it.

Birding yesterday SUCKED. The trail I took hadn't been trod since Spring migration, I'm pretty sure. The waist-high weeds hiding the trail were the main tipoff. There were screaming children, a couple of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, and weirdest looking mottled-breasted, quiet-voiced Carolina Wren I've ever seen. I realized I've not seen the majority of summer residents even once this season. No Indigo Buntings. No Tanagers. Jeeze.

I let a few kilos of beans rot rather than find time to process them.

I don't have a working stereo in my car.

Bubba is so chill as to seem absolutely insipid when I want him to be cheery.

I went out to meet a girlfriend for drinks last evening and had zero fun. This despite her buying me a drink and appetizer at the extremely fancy restaurant she'd chosen. And also despite being hit on by a good-looking man whose middle name was literally Danger. He handed me his bank card as proof. My reply (out loud, even) was that I felt like I was in a bad movie. He swore we'd met before. We hadn't.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"I'm running out of things to say," or "Looks like I'm depressed again."

How It All Works:

1) Copy the list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results

The 100

1. Venison

2. Nettle tea

3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile

6. Black pudding (I think. It was in Spain.)

7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp (Maybe?)

9. Borscht

10. Baba ghanoush

11. Calamari

12. Pho

13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi

15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses

17. Black truffle

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns

20. Pistachio ice cream

21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras

24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn or head cheese (Thanks to Jamie!)

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper

27. Dulce de leche

28. Oysters

29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda

31. Wasabi peas

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (I've had both, but not together)

33. Salted lassi

34. Sauerkraut

35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar

37. Clotted Cream Tea

38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O

39. Gumbo

40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects

43. Phaal

44. Goat's milk

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more

46. Fugu

47. Chicken tikka masala

48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin

51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone

54. Paneer

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (HA HA HA HA! I've never had a Big Mac!)

56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini

58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine

60. Carob chips

61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin (This one confuses me)

64. Currywurst

65. Durian

66. Frogs’ legs

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis

69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings or andouillette

71. Gazpacho

72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe

74. Gjetost or brunost

75. Roadkill

76. Baijiu

77. Hostess Fruit Pie

78. Snail

79. Lapsang Souchong

80. Bellini

81. Tom Yum

82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky

84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu

85. Kobe beef

86. Hare (If they mean rabbit, consider this bolded)

87. Goulash

88. Flowers

89. Horse

90. Criollo chocolate

91. Spam

92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa

94. Catfish

95. Mole poblano

96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor

98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

How many have you eaten?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Again?

Whoa. Fall planting has crept up on me. It's hard to remember that August is the time to start everything from a second planting of summer squash and cukes to cold weather greens. Yikes.

The problem with my minuscule garden space is that I often have to rip things out in order to fit the new season's crop. Eggplants are already out, as are the cukes. Figuring out the logistics of ripping out my non-productive tomatoes while still supporting the sungold is going to break me.

To plant--today? Beets, carrots, cukes, greens, radishes, summer squash and turnips. To plant when the supply store opens and I can get to it: Brussels sprouts*, cabbage, broccoli.

Oy!

*Why, yes, I AM a glutton for punishment!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Burro

Dude. Bubba and I are home alone tonight, and I just played the video for him. OK, well, not FOR him, but just to see him again. He BARKED! A LOT!

And earlier when I had my friend Suze over for dinner after a matinee, he nicked the half loaf of bread we'd left on the table when we went outside to enjoy the fresh air for a bit. BUBBA! You're not supposed to do that. You don't eat steak scraps from the trash, after all. I suspect you're as carbo-loving as I am. The only time you seem to beg is when I've got crackers or an english muffin in hand.

Speaking of carbs, my oh MY. You have to make this for your loved ones. Don't let tell them the ingredients. For that matter, you might want to blindfold yourself AND cover your ears and sing LA LA LA while you make it. I'm not that dexterous, so I just resigned myself that it had better taste DAMN good. Instead of canned tomatoes, I used sauce that I had made yesterday, boiling down fresh tomatoes until they were literally half the volume they were to begin. There was an unfortunate forgot-to-stir incident during the sauce making. Just for the record, burning tomatoes onto the bottom of a pan will not ruin your sauce so long as you don't try to scrape the crap while the sauce is still in there. Just dump the sauce into another pan and cry that you've perhaps ruined your stockpot. The sauce will even be better for the burning, though, because it will taste as though you've roasted and caramelized the tomatoes somewhere along the way. Crazy.

I've never ever made a pasta dish that was so simple and so delicious. Actually, I may have never eaten a pasta dish that was that good, period. I tossed a handful of fresh basil in at the end, which made it even better. Suze and I both had two gigantic helpings, and I'm barely restraining myself from going into the fridge for a snack.

Do it. Seriously.

p.s. Suze never comments, but she does lurk. Just for that, here's a bit of dirt on her--she cried during the matinée of Mamma Mia we watched today. Somehow I did not, though I got a bit misty. Really, though, I think I may have just been lusting after Pierce Brosnan. Twentyish years older seems less of an issue than it did in the Remington Steele days. It left me so overcome that I spilled an entire HUGE Diet Coke on a young girl as we walked back to the car. Then I knocked my glass of wine onto the tablecloth. Thank god the wine was white, because so was antique linen table covering. More about Suze: she loves Bubba, too, and commented that he was rather catlike, for a dog. This as he lolled on her lap, paws up.

Excellent. Twenty minutes to write this means I still haven't gone back to the fridge for that leftover pasta. I might have to make that sauce for the next 12 meals in a row. I'll put the cardiologist on speed dial, don't worry.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not stupid. Just slow. There's a difference.

Let me introduce you to Bubba, The Most Relaxed Dog on the PlanetTM.


video

(Can you tell I've been in Michigan recently?)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Art (Not that kind)

As long as I've been alive enough to remember, my dad has been enormously overweight. Back at the end of January, as I believe I mentioned, Dad had some kind of gastric bypass type surgery. There was quite a long time where he felt like extreme crap, but it looks like that part is over with for the most part.

One hundred and fifteen pounds later, he looks like this:

I can put both arms all the way around him when we hug, and he's a handsome devil, but by far the best part is that he's been able to go off of almost all the medicine he took as a result of being so overweight. We went to lunch, and he ate 1/4 of a sandwich and two spoonfuls of a divine strawberry soup. Cheap date.

And......more.

This is definitely a house of the 50's. Linoleum, shuffleboard court, and a brick BBQ structure in the backyard where many teenagers stashed beer cans and cigarette butts.


I have laid claim to this still-working gas stove. Pedro used to cook dirt in it.


The beer cans got stuffed down the chimney. It wasn't me. Just to the behind is the woodpile that housed (probably still does) chipmunks and squirrels. My doggo growing up used to tear back and forth trying to get them.



However, there are many remnants of the 1980's here and there as well. I've brought out two of my prom dresses. I recall being very proud that they were "couture" dresses (I was snobby that way). I also know that I got them on sale. I've retained that sense of thrift. Actually, I think I've refined it down to "buys all her clothes at Goodwill" status, which is fine by me.

Anyhoo:

9th grade. Fuschia Victor Costa strapless. No bows, but the ruffly top is presh. I was the only girl there in a full-length dress. Ah well, at least I had my princess moment. There's a photo somewhere of me and my sister when I'm wearing this dress. She has a surfer girl haircut and is making a hang ten sign with one hand, with a glass of red wine in her (underaged) other hand. I'm wearing aviator Ray Bans.


Senior year: Alfred Sung bubble dress, in a very nice peachy color. I was a bit mortified to see bubble dresses back in style recently. I had a perm when I wore this more understated dress. Note that both of these dress designers have no true connection to "couture" as far as I can tell. More like wedding and bridesmaid dresses.

We'll see what else we come up with.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A day at the farm in Ionia. More of my favorite things.

Welcome to my aunt and uncle's 250 acre farm in beautiful Ionia, Michigan, home of the Ionia Free Fair.


The farmhouse is real old. It's kind of not my style on the inside, and I wonder if there are hardwood floors under the carpet. The well water is very very full of iron, which is difficult to get used to drinking.

The barn is really old, too. I love it. Blue silos rock.

Flower mix of goodness.

Oh, my, how cute?!

Uncle Evan. Over the course of my life they've had normal farm crops (wheat, soybeans, corn, etc.) and always animals. The best ones in my opinion were the angora goats. I mean, look at how cute the kids are! Evan and Linda used to have huge numbers of cattle for beef, but now they just have about 14 head that they breed for stud. One roan got out of the barn while I was there, which was very exciting. Aunt Linda and I had to chase the poor cow back before it decided to cross the street onto someone else's farm. Evan's not in the best of health, but he still spent the day spreading manure. Like I said, the farm is 250 acres, but Evan rents about 175 of them out to other farmers. The rest is for pasture, hay, and maybe grain.


Steer. Soon to be MEAT. Less than a month, dearheart. Enjoy it.



I wish I had gone up in the hayloft yesterday, but here's a shot of where the cattle go to feed once they've had their fill of pasture.



Grandma and Aunt Linda pick some strawberries. I came home with more vegetables than I know what to do with. And a pressure canner! And a ton of rhubarb seeds! And onion sets! Lots to do today. I might take the beans home in my suitcase and process them at home with my new pressure canner.




Isn't she lovely? Born 1919. Grandma kept telling me that if I was tired I should take a rest. There's another photo on flickr of her that I couldn't get to rotate correctly on my computer. It shows Gram's beauty even better. An added bonus is that you get to see a monster beet.


What a fantastic day.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Coming up: A few of my favorite things.

I suspect that this photo might cause someone in the household to look for the nearest trash can. I can't help, though, but love this bottle that has graced "my" bathroom closet since at least high school. Really. I adore it.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Shelby

It's raining! Not the crazy pouring storm type of rain, but it has cut into my birding a bit.

Yesterday morning I headed out to the nature preserve first thing, and immediately spotted a slew of female or juvenile American Redstarts. There were some of the usual suspects as well--Red Eyed Vireos galore, for example, and titmice, chickadees, bluejays and the like. By far the most exciting were a pair of Hooded Warblers. My Sibley's says they're not usually up here in this part of Michigan, so I'm interested in checking out their distribution in more detail a bit later.

That is if I don't run out of time. I'm at the small library in the small town closest to the cottage, and I have about 10 minutes left of computer time before they kick me out. So this entry will be brief brief brief! Both of the librarians have really cute hair and were kind enough to refer me to their stylist down the road. $14 for a haircut is really unheard of. I'm up for it.

I'm sure I have 90 zillion more things to report (of interest to few, but hey, that's my MO) but neither the time nor the memory to flesh them out.

Oh, Marco? I'm noting things for you. There were a bunch of cyclists I passed on the way into town. I bet you've done that route before.

Much love to you all,
Stew

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Not supposed to be doing this.

At this moment my mom, Pedro, Annie, her three boys and my Grandma are all up at Lake Michigan, enjoying a temperate, sunny day, cool breezes, hammocks, hugs and snuggles, fresh cherries, wildlife, sand, outdoor showers, cold waves, and a new spa. Look at the weather up there. Sigh. 


I'm inside at my mother's computer, doing research on public health issues, catching up on the time sensitive tasks I didn't get done before heading out of Cackalack. I was hoping to finish up before lunch, stop for a wet burrito to go and be on my way. 

This is taking longer than I expected, likely due to my perfectionist tendencies. Luckily, I came across sustenance in the form of Diet Vernors and a wild rice, almond and morel pilaf from the freezer. Two of the three main components of the pilaf are local, I suspect.  Little by little I've ingested about 3 cups of this manna so far, which is keeping me sane as I bemoan my delayed gratification. 

Get me out of here!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rand (om)

  • I got up at 5 a.m. for the third day running!
  • That makes me an early bird!
  • I like birds!
  • It's going to be migration in Michigan!
  • Coffee is a great way to wake up, but when that's not available, tea tastes good, too!
  • You can spend your 4-hour layovers at the Cincinnati airport with free wireless!
  • And beer! (Not free.)
  • I saw Emily last night!
  • She gave me presents!
  • One contained the phrase "Brass Cupcake!"
  • Also: "His finger looked like an uncooked enchilada"!
  • I can't decide whether the exclamation point goes inside or out of quotes in the above two points!
  • She also gave me a companion piece to FOJ and Paster of Paree Mary!
  • There are a lot of cool things coming up for this buhcayshun!
  • Like Grandma!
  • And seeing the skinny Daddy!
  • And snugglin' the boys!
  • And Stella Bella!
  • And maybe a rendezvooz with an old friend!
  • A dog will be part of the household when I return!
  • I'm mildly dreading the transition from living alone to being bombarded with people and talking!
  • I get to
OOPS FINAL BOARDING!