This and That and Some of Those

Every now and then, I come over all cosmic and philosophical, zen out and have a grasshopper moment. Usually, if I hold real still and be very quiet, it goes away.  Occasionally, I’ll have a literary manifestation.  Had one the other day.  It was about keeping a record of your life — a diary, a journal, blogging. . . .

Think of the chambered nautilus’ shell — as the nautilus outgrows each chamber, it walls it off and builds a newer, larger one. Yet it retains the record of its life in the spiral of its shell. Once it was there, and then it was there. It’s important, I think, to chart our progress in some meaningful way as we travel through life, to remember the way we came and what the journey was like, so that we can remind ourselves, once you were there, and now you are here.

In other news, my BFF came over last night for a Sunday TV evening.  We had a beef, rice and broccoli frozen bag thing, with a side of asparagus spears for supper, and almond M&M’s for dessert.  She wanted to watch some more episodes of  Warehouse 13* — I’m trying to get her up to speed for the new season.  We were watching episode 16 called “Age Before Beauty” in which the artifact was Man Ray’s camera.  Turns out that if you use the camera to take a photograph of an old person, and double expose it with a photo of a young person, the old person becomes young and the young person becomes old.  Fashion models were dying of old age and Myka went undercover as a runway model to find out why.

All afternoon yesterday, the weather had been glowery and threatening, and acting like it wanted to storm, and shortly after my BFF came over, it started thundering and then sprinkling, and as we were sitting down to supper and TV, it began raining in earnest.  We were hot on the trail of Man Ray’s camera (fortunately, I have all these episodes recorded on my DVR) when my mom calls and says a tornado has been spotted southwest of town. So, I change over to one of the local channels to get the local Doppler radar pictures and the weather forecast, and we’ve got “watch” boxes and severe weather alerts all over the place, but all the action seems to be south of us.  The TV station weather guy is alternating between the Doppler weather feeds and live camera feed from a weather spotter who’s southwest of town, and is talking live with the spotter on-air.  The spotter has seen a wall cloud and has seen some rotation, and the Doppler radar is picking up rotation, but it’s dark, and the spotter’s not getting enough lightning flashes to tell if it is anything definite, and there are no big sparks going off as there would be if there was an actual tornado on the ground plowing through electrical wires and blowing transformers, as it would do this close to a city.  There have been reports of high winds of up to 80 mph/129 kph in outlying communities, and multiple reports of hail — some ping-pong ball size mixed in with marble sized.  While the weather guy is talking to the weather spotter, it starts to hail on the spotter.  So, the weather spotter goes off air so he can move his vehicle to cover, and before he can, his windshield gets taken out by baseball size hail.  By then, it’s plain that all the fun and games are going to stay south of us, so we go back to the regularly scheduled programming.  We were fortunate this time.  At my house, all we got out of the storm yesterday was a really good rain. (Yay!)

We take our weather seriously out here in the flatlands. No matter how you slice it, we are in Tornado Alley and May is a bad month for tornadoes.  I was in the F5 tornado that hit my town on May 11, 1970, an experience I do not care to repeat.  There was a massive tornado outbreak in Oklahoma on May 3, 1999, and several since.  Our local TV stations here have separate broadcast feeds that are nothing but weather 24/7.  You better believe I have a weather widget on my desktop and a Doppler radar gadget on my Google homepage.  Tomorrow is May 1.

Oh, and Man Ray’s camera was snagged, bagged and tagged by Secret Service agents Bering and Lattimer and is now safely stowed away in Warehouse 13.

*At the end of the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the ark was crated up and put in this “big government warehouse,”  — Yep.  Warehouse 13.  If you like clever dialog, “out there” plots with a liberal seasoning of history, SciFi, and a soupçon of “frantic scrambling about,” you should check out Warehouse 13.  You can see episodes here.

Identity Crisis

“Be yourself. Everyone else already is taken.” — Oscar Wilde.

“Don’t forget your roots.  There’s nothing wrong with being who you are. ”  ~ WOL
“Always be the best you can be.  You never know when somebody might be looking up to you.”  ~ WOL

These are not necessarily mutually exclusive ideas.

The Brainwashed Trained Chimpanzee

I was watching the latest episode of “Once Upon A Time,” which I follow primarily because Robert Carlyle has a recurring role in it.  I like him as an actor and I like both the characters he plays on that show.  During this last episode, his character encountered a man who he believes is his long lost son.  It was quite a dramatic scene shot in close-up; however, about halfway through I noticed that Carlyle’s lower front teeth are crooked and crowded, and caught myself thinking, “He should have his teeth fixed.”  It bothers me when I catch myself being distracted by the less than perfect appearance of an actor.   One of the things I like about British actors is that by and large, they look like real people, the kind of people you might meet on the street, as opposed to the tooth-capped, nose-jobbed, toupee-wearing, breast-augmented, hair-extensioned, liposuctioned “perfection” of American actors.  Having crooked teeth has no bearing whatever on his acting ability.  It’s just I’ve been so brainwashed by the “cult of perfection” and the unrealistic expectations foisted upon us by Hollywood, advertising, the fashion industry, the cosmetic industry, etc., that even though I’m conscious of it and try to fight against it,  I seem to be entirely too cognizant of physical appearance and I’ve become so “fat conscious” that I look at women of normal, healthy weight like a young Marilyn Monroe (left) and the first thing I think is “thunder thighs!”

While I’m being put out with myself, I have to own up to something that happened this past week.  A couple of days ago, I went to check my cellphone to make sure it was charged as I planned to go out later that evening.  I opened it to check how many “bars” were showing, and got a blank screen — no display at all.  I immediately assumed that it had completely lost its charge, so I fully recharged it again and thought no more about it.  Yesterday, I checked the charge, as I always do when I’m planning to go out, and the screen was blank again.  When I tried charging it, the little outside display informed me that it was fully charged, but the larger inside display remained blank.  I pressed the green button and the red button and the menu button, and various other buttons several times and nothing happened.  That convinced me that the inside display screen had stopped working, and that I would have to buy a new phone.  So while I was out and about, I stopped by Radio Shack, where I had gotten the phone to begin with.  The clerk looked it over, took the battery out and put it back in, played with it a moment, and the display lit up! I immediately wanted to know what she did — the answer?  She’d pressed the red (on/off) button and turned the phone back on! — So embarrassing!

By way of extenuating circumstances, I keep the ringer turned off on the wall phone by my bed, and keep my cell phone under my pillow when it’s not in my pocket.  I never turn my cell phone off so if there is a family emergency of some kind, and if my family can’t reach me on my land line, they know I’m either asleep or out and call my cell. Sometimes the cell phone slips down in between the mattress and the headboard, which it had done when I went to use it last, and apparently the edge of the mattress had pressed across it just right and turned it off.

What makes it even more embarrassing is this:  My mom is a very intelligent and savvy woman, who is also a classic visual learner. If she has to use printed instructions or read a manual to do something, forget it.  She’ll have a great deal of difficulty making heads and tails of them, become totally frustrated, and go get one of us to do it for her.  Of course, once somebody shows her how to do it, she picks it up immediately because, according to the standing joke, it’s so simple a trained chimpanzee could do it.  Over the years, what with my dad losing his vision, I’ve become the default trained chimpanzee.  I decided to go public about my little cell phone “Duh!” moment because as much teasing as my mom has gotten over the years, it’s only fair she get a little of her own back.

Fresh Bread, Apple Butter, and Historical Revisionism

I’ve been enjoying my first bread machine loaf– a little chewy, as I mentioned, and as close grained as banana bread or date-nut bread, but very tasty as well.  I ordered the scale and a cooling rack just now.  I’ve got to go out and about tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll pick up some honey and unsalted butter so I can try a loaf of white.  For breakfast, I had two 1/2-inch slices of the bread, one slathered with the last two spoons’ worth of some apple butter one of my mom’s friends made that my mom had shared with me (she knows I love it!), and one with a lashing of peanut butter.  Not only tasty, but very fortifying.  I’ve got just enough of the loaf left for supper.  Think I’ll try putting it in the toaster and then melt some cheese on it in the broiler (n.b., since proved to be a good idea!).  And with the next loaf, I’ll try taking out the paddle before baking.  I’ll still get a hole in the bottom of the loaf, but it will be just a very small round one instead of the larger “L” shaped one the little paddle makes.  There isn’t a recipe for ciabatta bread in the booklet that came with the bread machine.  I need to see if I can hunt one down.  I suspect it will require butter.

I caught the aft end of a British TV miniseries based on that Dickens classic a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve just downloaded a copy of that novel to my Kindle Fire to reread — I didn’t remember the plot being quite like that.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that David Suchet of Poirot fame had been cast as Jaggers, and Ray Winstone who played Will Scarlet in the Robin of Sherwood series (and a great many subsequent roles),  was cast as the convict Magwich.  Anyway, it’s been quite a while since I read the book, and it’s one of those that holds up well to multiple rereadings.  Dickens belongs to a time when authors were not hesitant to employ the richness of English’s vocabulary in the service of their narrative, confident that their language would not go over their readers’ heads and that it would be noted and appreciated as a part of a good writer’s skill and art.  It will be a pleasant change from what I’ve been reading lately.

Of Sport Spoiling and Exercises in Solid Geometry

Yes, I am a spoilsport.  I freely admit it.  Yesterday I’d gone out in the late afternoon to do a bit of errantry, and it was after dark when I barefooted out to the mailbox by the curb/kerb to bring in the mail.  I’d turned on the porch light which almost immediately attracted a frenzy of moths.  In their frantic orbital momentum, at least two of them managed to slingshot themselves into inner space when I opened the glass door to slip back inside.

As you may well imagine, the shambles potential of 2 moths + 3 cats rises steeply when the local landscape includes low tables, lamps and breakable objects.  The black cat is particularly hot in his pursuit, and when 18 lbs of cat traveling at a dead run goes ballistic off the back of the couch, the stage is set for some pretty spectacular demonstrations of Newton’s Laws of Motion.  The grey cat probably only weighs 6 or 7 lbs, but she’s agile, lightening fast and climbs like a mountain goat.

The wild hunt careened and caromed through the living room/lounge and into the kitchen.  However, with the advantage of my human ability to pick out static objects from a background, or in this case, 1 dazed moth from a very busy kitchen carpet and a second battered victim from a kitchen cabinet door, I was 2 for 2 in the contest for apex predator. Both moths were pretty much hors de combat by the time I was able to perform the coup de grâce with a small caliber paper napkin/serviette.  Thus was the sport spoiled and there was no joy in Mudville.   Needless to say, there was more than a little grumbling in the ranks.

At some point when I was aged between 3 and 4 years old, I decided that those frantically fluttering things with the fatal attraction to porch lights were called “blumblumlies,” a coinage which quickly crept into the family dialect, and the usage persists to this day.  All I have to do is mention that a blumblumly got in, and my mom immediately understands that pandemonium has ensued and we have met or exceeded our minimum daily requirement for excitement.

As I mentioned, I had gone questing earlier that afternoon, but before I set out, I let my fingers do the driving, and tracked down some Anchor Hocking canisters (two 1-gallon and one 2-gallon), which I purchased on line for in-store pickup at my neighborhood Wal-Mart.  I then went foraging for unbleached flour and acquired same, as well as whole wheat flour, and “breadmaker” yeast, which comes in a little glass jar.

The bread-making machine that is my early birthday present arrived Saturday.  I have a “galley” style kitchen with a good deal of floor space, but counter space is at a premium.  I have four 32-inch long stretches of counter.  Period.  Two on either side of the sink, and two on either side of the stove.  The patch to the right of the stove is completely occupied by the microwave.  The patch to the left of the sink contained toaster, blender, can opener, paper towel dispenser and a large glass cutting board. It is bounded on the left by the pantry and it is the designated food preparation area.  The one to the left of the stove, between the stove and the refrigerator, is my beverage preparation area.  It has my coffee pot (which I never use), a small sugar canister, and tins of tea.

The patch to the right of the sink has radio, cordless phone handset in its charger,  a pencil and paper holder in the event jotting down is called for, and a tissue dispenser.  Just past the refrigerator, the flooring changes from sheet vinyl to carpet and becomes the dining area. I have a little console table just to the right of the counter by the sink where I have my copper kettle collection.   Well, you know how it is.  You get one new appliance, and you have to practically rearrange the whole kitchen to accommodate it.  The coffee maker was removed to the designated garage sale staging area, and the blender and radio were relocated to the beverage preparation area.  The tissue dispenser was relocated to the place formerly occupied by the blender.  The clock that was on the stove was relocated to the window ledge above the sink as the radio has a clock.  And the bread maker’s new home is to the right of the sink beside the phone.   I shall relocate my tea kettle collection to the top of the fridge and the top of the little console is now devoted to bread preparation.

I like the clear glass canisters a lot.  Anchor Hocking makes good quality glassware, and these are just perfect for holding bread ingredients.

Wal-Mart had them for a third of what wanted for them and I picked them up in-store less than an hour after I ordered them on line.   The drawer of the console holds the measuring cup and measuring spoon that came with the bread maker, as well as the jar of yeast.  However, I am told both by the lady who recommended this particular make and model of bread machine and by the manufacturer of same that exact measurement is key to making good bread, and Amazon has a nifty little scale for measurement by weight.  I also don’t have a cooling rack — I had to put it on the oven rack to cool.  However, I get paid Wednesday evening. . . .

I assayed my first loaf of bread today.  It was rosemary bread without the rosemary (didn’t have any).  My maiden effort was a little dense grained and chewy but nonetheless tasty and redolent throughout the house was the baking there.  I made a 1-1/2 lb loaf, which tells me I should test recipes using the 1-lb size, and graduate to a larger size if I like how it turns out. I chose this recipe as the rest of the white and whole wheat recipes call for unsalted butter, which I don’t have either — as yet. I also need to add honey to my shopping list.

I don’t know where my mom gets “messing up the whole kitchen” to make bread in a bread machine.  In my first foray, I dirtied a set of measuring spoons and the bread pan.  I measured out and dumped in the ingredients in the order specified — very important! –, put the lid down, punched some buttons and went on about my business.  It beeps (loudly and about 15 times) at the point in the bread-making cycle where you can tip out the dough and remove the little paddle if you choose, and beeps again (loudly and about 15 times) when it’s done cooking.

In other news, the early indications are that we will be digging in and hunkering down for another long hot summer.  When I booted up the computer to source and price the canisters, I glanced at my weather widget.  Then I picked up my jaw off the floor!  It’s supposed to get up to 101F/38C tomorrow and 98F/37F Thursday — and it’s not even May yet!  I’m assuming we reached, if not exceeded, our predicted high of 92F/33F as it’s 7:30 pm now, and it’s 90F/32C outside, with 12% humidity and a 17 mph/27 kph movement of air — which out here in the flatlands doesn’t even qualify as a light breeze. It is supposed to get back down to 82F/28C Saturday, however.  Thank goodness the DVD I ordered has gotten here already.  I have a metal mailbox. . . .

Roses From The South

They’re from my back yard, actually, which is on the north side of the house, but be that as it may.  There’s a Strauss (Johann II) waltz, “Rosen aus dem Süden” which is a personal favorite, and, as is well known, das, was wir fordern eine Rose von einem anderen Namen would still stuff up your sinuses.  Nur eine Rose is exactly what I don’t have at the moment:

And a little salvia thrown in for good measure. 

After putting it off for days, I finally sucked it up and washed a load of clothes this afternoon and hung them out on the line to dry.  The sky was growly looking all day, and was downright glowering by the time I nipped out to bring the clothes in.  If the weather holds tomorrow, I may do a load of linens.  While the clothes were washing, I made a big bowl of tuna salad.  While I was at it,  I made two sandwiches for later which are biding their time in the refrigerator, and dished up a small bowlful to spoon on crackers for immediate consumption.

Needless to say, when I started opening cans of tuna, I attracted a crowd. . . . Yes, I have open, empty cardboard boxes in the floor of my kitchen, but only two.  They are, I am assured, absolutely essential to the ongoing game of kitty tag, serving as bases, goals,  king’s X locations, or any or all of the above, according to whichever rule they’ve just made up.  I have also noticed that when the grey one is sitting in a box, the flaps on the box seem to keep the black one at bay.  The black one evidently belongs to a long tradition of obnoxious little brothers whose raison d’être [2] seems to be to make their sisters’ lives miserable.  He’s bigger than she is, only outweighs her by about twice, and lives to lurk in ambush. However, he is an equal opportunity annoyer, and will waylay the white one whenever the opportunity presents itself.  At odd moments, I will hear kitty swearing from some other part of the house, and know he has struck again.  (I have been chastised for not referring to my kitties by name, but the kitties (and Neil Gaiman) both assure me that cats don’t need names.  They know who they are.)

Another of my favorite authors, whose blog I follow, has been talking about her bread machine and how cost effective it is, and what good bread it makes.  My mom had mentioned earlier that my dad had bought a bread machine, made a couple of loaves of bread in it and then it sat on top of the broom closet (typical) until my mom sold it to a friend — she didn’t think it was worth messing up the kitchen when you could just go out and buy a loaf of bread.  I said I wished I had known she had one to sell as I would have bought it.  I’ve wanted one off and on for a while.  I showed her the one I wanted and told her that’s what I wanted for my birthday next month.  She said order it now and charge it to her card!  I’m expecting it to arrive daily.  Wouldn’t you know, I’ve got a freezer full of bread. . . .I may give some to the couple in “A” — they have two boys, one 4-year-old and one who’s almost a year old, both of whom are big for their age.   Still most of the bread in the freezer is tandoori naan, English muffins, and sandwich thins, which you can’t make in a bread machine.  I’ll have to find a good recipe for ciabatta.  I’ll also have to see what it takes to make gluten-free bread, as my BFF cannot tolerate wheat gluten.  I’ll also have to investigate what kinds of flour I can get — We have several stores here that stock Asian and Indian food items and we have at least one health food store that I know of — surely they sell flour.  However, my author friend says you can buy all kinds of flour from  Hmmmmmm.

View From The Top Of The Week

The Siberian irises finally got planted Thursday (to the left of the red climber). The day lillies I planted in the climbing rose bed have come up. Both the red and pink climbing roses are blooming, as are all the “bush” roses.
The white roses are JF Kennedy roses.  The “rose lore” is on Mother’s Day, if your mother is still alive, you wear a red rose.  If your mother has passed, you wear a white one. White roses for remembrance.

The yard guys haven’t mowed yet, so the blue bonnets are still bonneting along.

The salvia has started blooming.  I can see by the weed between the edgers and the sidewalk, I really do need to get some Roundup.  I wonder if Roundup will kill these stupid “tree of paradise” seedlings that are all over everywhere.

In the front yard, the honeysuckles are blooming, and the yellow rose is all over buds.

Yesterday was windy and blustery with blowing dust.  I ate my last container of yogurt yesterday so I had to go grocery shopping.  I waited until after dark to go, but the wind was still up, strong and gusty.  While I was putting the groceries in the car, I could hear thunder, and as I was unloading the groceries into my Radio Flyer wagon (see below) to bring into the house, it started hailing.  Hard.  The hailstones were cracking against the cement like rifle shots, shattering on impact.  They looked about marble size as best as I could tell.  Thankfully, it didn’t hail for more than a couple of minutes.  We didn’t get much rain out of the storm cell, alas.  The little desk in the picture above is a bird’s eye maple escritoire.  It has a drop down writing surface.  I stash my purse inside it and the dish on top is where my keys live.   The front door is off to the left behind that little bit of green pony wall.  I have no steps up to my front door.  It sits right on grade, so it’s very easy to pull my wagon out into the carport, load it up, and pull it right into the kitchen to unload it.  I can usually unload the car in one trip.  Very handy.  I keep it there in my entryway since I don’t have a garage.  My “little red wagon” always makes me think of the nonsense rhyme,

Thirty days hath September
April, June and no wonder.
All the rest have peanut butter
Except my granny.
She has a little red wagon.

Gleanings From Hither and Yon

Warning:  You may consider some of the language in the following video to be offensive.  You may also consider some of it funny and/or laughable.  Ah, semantics. . .

I found this video here, along with much else of interest.

Continuing the French theme, this little tidbit.


And lastly, here is information regarding the Save Sean Bean Campaign.  Fans of Sean Bean may wish to participate.  He did survive a number of “Sharpe’s Rifles” episodes, which leads one to suspect he needs to be a title character more often.  I would be in favor of that.