I will not be a horror movie victim. I won’t.

September 16th, 2014

We have had a garden spider making its home on our porch for several weeks now. I’ve been bravely ignoring it for that long as well – just keeping an eye on it getting ever larger. It never made a web where I ran into it in the dark mornings and had to do the frantic arm waving dance of panic. It wasn’t inside in my territory and it wasn’t invading my walking space all sneaky like so I figured I’d go the live and let live route. Heaven knows I’ve sent enough spiders to the Great Beyond this summer when I found them inside (or more accurately, when the useless cat alerted me to their presence by following them but not killing them).

We had new windows installed last week. I’m working my way around to getting new blinds put up in the living room. One miserable failure a day is my motto. First day it was measuring the holes in the wrong place. Second day it was skipping a step in the installation and thereby messing up being able to attach the wand to raise and lower them. Today it was not being tall enough with a step stool high enough to see well enough to take the blind down to attach the wand correctly.

Anyway, first day up on the step stool, measuring my placement incorrectly, I noticed a garden spider between nickel and quarter sized (Legs included. I always include the legs – those are the scariest part. Naturalist type sites that give the size as “legs excluded” are totally missing the point. The legs are attached the the crawling, jumping horror – they matter when deciding how big it is). Looked pretty much like the one that was on the front porch. Eh. Outside, not even near where I walk – no problem. Then… on the second day I noticed another one, same kind, about the same size, on the other side of the eaves. So… that makes three. I told the OAM that he should put his plans for garage expansion on hold. If one more spider appeared – well, I have seen that movie. We are burning the house down and moving.

Today I got home and not only were the two out front still there (although I think one of them was the dude from the front porch who had relocated) but there were TWO more down at the end of the eaves! When going out onto the back porch to tell the OAM we had to commence operation Burn-Salt-Flee-Like-The-Wind I spied yet another spider!!!!

So I am now officially creeped out for no logical reason. For another totally illogical reason if they had been the Argiope aurantia garden spider, I’d be fine. For some reason those lightning spiders don’t bother me in the least. But this is the European garden spider. (Fair warning, pictures at the links. I nearly made myself ill doing image searches on garden spiders since I couldn’t get an in-focus shot of one of the Occupiers around my house. I am that dedicated to providing Quality Content.)

Autistic man turns his house into a cat play tree

September 15th, 2014

After having had to corner one of mine in a hallway with closed doors to get her to the vet for shots today, I shudder to think what has to be involved in finding a cat who doesn’t want to be found in that house!

An otterly good time

September 9th, 2014

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In case you are interested, Stinky & the Aunts made a quick trip to Vegas over Labor Day weekend.

Lemon curd for Fillyjonk

September 7th, 2014

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup melted butter

In microwave-safe bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs till smooth. Stir in lemon juice and butter. Cook in microwave for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute till mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from microwave and pour into storage container. Cover with plastic wrap directly on surface of curd till cool, then cover tightly. Store up to three weeks in refrigerator. If you overcook the mixture a bit or forget to stir, you can pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the bits of cooked egg.

You can halve this (since it makes 2 cups as is) by using 1 egg and 1 egg yolk instead of the 3 eggs. Halve all other ingredients normally.

I usually microwave 1 minute, then 45 second intervals, then down to 30 as it thickens a lot. Especially if I’ve halved the recipe. You can of course do this stove top as well, just like a pudding. Stir constantly, keeping just at a low boil or a bit less until it thickens.

This is sooo good. And much more lemony, less sweet than the stuff you buy. It really does last 3 weeks, too. I’ve never eaten it when I’ve kept it longer than that, but I’ve also not noticed it smelling strange or looking bad when I throw it out. So it’s highly possible that it would last longer than 3 weeks.

Good on almost everything. Brownies, cakes, biscuits, scones, pancakes, waffles, breads, carrot sticks, cookies… Okay, mainly good on things that are already not good for you. Also good by the spoonful as pudding or in a crust like a pie. It won’t set up as well as pie filling, though.

And easier than making your own salt. I swear. :)

Awesomesauce

September 4th, 2014

No, really. Awesome sauce.

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Got some of this at Hershey World last weekend (not the one in PA, the one in Las Vegas). I have never seen it in the stores around home. I will be sad when it is gone. It is fabulous on vanilla ice cream. Add brownies to the bowl and even more yum occurs. I know – brownies are always more yum. But with dark chocolate peppermint? Wow.

If you mint chocolate is your thing, keep an eye out for this stuff. Om nom nom.

This is totally the face of my work week

August 28th, 2014

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So, how’s your week been?

Loss of convenience is bad on two levels. At least.

August 27th, 2014

So, the dishwasher (that was here when we moved in 8 years ago) has finally decided to quit washing stuff even moderately well. Pieces of the racks and silverware basket have been breaking off for awhile but it’s been okay at the washing. This weekend it left black stuff all over everything. Done dealing, apparently.

I remember when we got our dishwasher when I was younger. I think I was in 8th or 9th grade. It was one that you rolled over to the sink and hooked up to the faucet with a hose. I hated emptying it. But since I had been the dishwasher up to that point, it was better than the dark old days.

I didn’t have a dishwasher again until we bought this house. I think. There may have been one at the first duplex the OAM and I rented when we moved to The City. I remember things about that place, but a dishwasher doesn’t jump into my head. Broken water heater flooding the downstairs, OAM pissing on a stray cat who kept hanging around, Azathoth (cat, not elder god) peeing on my papasan chair multiple times until I got tired of getting new cushions for it and threw it away (apparently there was a lot of peeing going on in that duplex). OAM buying his Camaro and putting it in the ditch that winter, making margaritas for the first time and hating them – tequila, blech. A cat – not sure which one anymore – falling off of the stair railing, OAM pinging and hucking the fire detector into the woods across the street when it wouldn’t stop beeping at 2 am. But no dishwasher memories.

Anyway, I’ve been doing dishes by hand for the last several nights. And because we have a tiny ant infestation that is not being eradicated by Terro, my normal ant scourge, I’ve been having to do them every night after dinner. First bad thing.

Second bad thing – doing the dishes every night means that I have it put in my face every night that we really don’t need more than 2 plates. Which is bad because my regular grocery store is next to Pier One.

So to sum up, my dishwasher broke and now I have to find a new grocery store.

Watermillions

August 25th, 2014
Now ain’t you ashamed er yo’se’f, sur? I is. I’se ‘shamed you’s my son!
En de holy accorjan angel he’s shamed er wat you has done;
En he’s tuck it down up yander in coal-black, blood-red letters—
“One watermillion stolen by Wi’yam Josephus Vetters.”
En what you s’posen Brer Bascom, yo’ teacher at Sunday-school,
‘Ud say, ef he knowed how you’s broke de good ole gol’n rule?
Boy, whah’s de raisin’ I give you? Is you boun’ fuh to be a black villion?
I’s s’prised dat a chile er yo’ mammy ‘ud steal any man’s watermillion.
En I’s now gwiner cut it right open, en you sha’n’t have nary bite.
Fuh a boy who’ll steal watermillions—en dat in de day’s broad light—
Ain’t—Lawdy! it’s green! Mirandy! Mi-rand-y! come on wi’ dat switch!
Well, stealin’ a g-r-e-e-n watermillion! Who ever yeared tell er des sich?
Can’t tell w’en dey’s ripe? W’y you thump um, en w’en dey go pank! dey is Green;
But when dey go to punk! now you mine me, dey’s ripe—en dat’s des wut I mean.
En nex’ time you hook watermillions—you heered me you ign’ant, you hunk,

Ef you do’ want a lickin’ all over, be sho dat dey allers go ‘punk!”

I read this poem as a child.

I didn’t grow up in a racist household. My parents actually never said a word about race. It would never have even occurred to me to think anything in particular about someone because of skin color. People were people and were to be treated with respect and kindness. My community was not diverse, I’ll admit. We had one black family and one Mexican family in a town of 6000.  Otherwise we were pretty pale folks. I didn’t hang out with the kids because they were popular clique, sports clique and stoner clique and I was neither. I will also admit that I didn’t travel in large circles when I was in school. There could well have been, and undoubtedly were, people with racist outlooks.  But my family, my church, the friends I ran with – we just never even talked about it.

There are those nowadays who would point to that as evidence that I’m racist. After all, if you don’t notice race and go out of your way to make a big deal out of noticing it AND you like a poem from a racist era AND you like Brer Rabbit stories… well, isn’t it obvious?

All I know is that this is the way I still remember how to tell if a watermelon is ripe. Not that I can tell “pank” from “punk,” though… And Mom & Brother & I occasionally will reference “coal-black, blood-red letters” and we still call them “watermillions.”

I notice that a lot of the poems I loved as a kid are written in dialect. I wonder if that’s where my love of dialect in writing began.

Awesomeness

August 24th, 2014

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Took me a few to get it. Teefury has it today in silver, black & sand backgrounds. Firefly fans… get ‘em while they have ‘em! :)

A quick thought

August 23rd, 2014

So there is all this uproar in certain circles (circles that have nothing better to do apparently) about the wasting of water in the ALS ice bucket challenges. To these people who are advocating sending bottled water to Africa instead… #1: you can’t send enough bottled water to Africa to save anyone. #2: you obviously have never tried to send any package of any weight to Africa. I spent $30 last year on a printer paper box full of supplies to send to a school in Tanzania. It would have cost me $167 to ship that package. I ended up sending them money via Western Union instead. They got a lot more benefit out of that. But even that was a drop in the bucket. Africa’s issues go far beyond money or even access to clean water. It is absurdly simplistic to think that even ten thousand people sending water there would make any lasting impact beyond making the donors feel good about their Selflessness and Awareness.

Lastly, get a life. Seriously. Quit harshing on people who are doing the same thing you want to do – raise awareness for a cause they feel strongly about.

A good chocolate cake

August 22nd, 2014

Not as good as the Best Chocolate Cake Ever but really good.

They call it a Dark German Chocolate Cake but I’m not sure why. If it doesn’t have German chocolate in it, this recipe is pretty much a sheet cake recipe.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup hot water
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9 inch pans, two 8 inch pans or one 9×13 pan. Combine oil, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Beat 2-3 minutes till well blended. Gradually add water till well incorporated. Combine dry ingredients. Add to wet mixture and beat till well blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes till tops of cakes spring back when lightly touched. Time may increase a bit for 8 inch or 9×13 inch pans. I can’t remember. Cool cake completely before frosting.

If you aren’t frosting the cake, adding salt is a good idea. There was also some speculation between me and my mother about using Dutch processed cocoa or not. Conventional wisdom is that if relying primarily on baking soda for rising, you need the added alkali from the Dutched cocoa. I did not find that that was the case but Mom did. Her cake didn’t rise. Mine did fine. Her baking soda and baking powder are new so it isn’t that. I’m down to thinking it’s her oven.

If you are frosting the cake, this is a nice take on the traditional coconut pecan frosting that usually goes on German chocolate cakes.

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 cups shredded or flaked coconut
1 1/2-2 cups chopped pecans

Mix powdered sugar and cornstarch together in saucepan. Whisk in cream till smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, till mixture boils and thickens. Whisk and cook one minute longer. Remove from heat. Add coconut and pecans. Cool before frosting cake.

Busy, boring, busy

August 17th, 2014

Well, I’ve been working my way out of a job but they keep coming up with stop gap stuff when I think I’m in danger of them realizing they are paying me for not working. Someone tell me the one about how the economy is improving again?

Eh. Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot but it’s all been largely forgettable. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult is the only thing I’d recommend. I really enjoyed it.

I’ve managed to make it to the gym once a week for the last 3 weeks for a 1/2 hour stationary bike ride each time. I am losing precisely no weight but my hope is that I’m building a habit a little at a time.

I’ve got a Labor Day weekend jaunt to Vegas with my aunties, so that will be full of food, spa and giggly stupidity. Everyone needs some stupidity in their lives from time to time. Keeps you from getting uppity.

I’ve taken on a huge project that has been keeping me happy by testing my organizational skills (yes, I am that huge of a geek). I’m setting up a tea festival. There are tea festivals/conferences on the coasts, but none in the midwest. Yet Kansas City and the surrounding area have at least 5 independent boutique tea merchants/tea blenders plus several shops that resell teas from some of the bigger companies. And if I can help expand exposure to quality tea, maybe there could be more demand for it, which would mean more places for ME to get tea! So all I’m really doing is indulging my obsession for planning stuff and for drinking tea. There are tons of things to take into account for an event like this, new stuff to learn and many, many ducks to be prodded into line.

So in pursuit of input from those with experience organizing tea events, I’ve convinced my mother that she & I need to take a trip to the Northwest Tea Festival in October. Seattle in October. Probably not much more impressive weather-wise than when the OAM & I went in November, but I know with my mom along that I won’t be on a 2000 mile road trip after I get there. We will actually see stuff in Seattle instead of just everywhere around it. Don’t misunderstand, the road trip was interesting and enjoyable and we saw absolutely tons of cool stuff – just that none of it was in the city we were ostensibly visiting. :)

And that’s about it. It doesn’t sound like much but that’s what’s been keeping me occupied. I’m paying attention to the world in flames but I don’t have a damn thing original to say about any of it and talking about it on my little middle of nowhere blog doesn’t improve any of it either.

More beautiful places

August 12th, 2014
Peacock Room in Castello di Sammezzano, Tuscany

Peacock Room in Castello di Sammezzano, Tuscany

Gruta do Labirinto, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal

Gruta do Labirinto, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal

Read the rest of this entry »

Enter title here

August 8th, 2014

I’ve written 2 posts and deleted them both. Anything I say here makes me feel like a complete prat so have some pictures.

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Oh, and Guardians of the Galaxy is an enjoyable little romp.

Why does the food at large work related meals usually suck?

August 3rd, 2014

I actually got my bosses to send me to a work related conference last week. Sure, it was outside of Baltimore, and I had zero time for any sightseeing but it was amazing they sent me at all. Our management team is notorious for making any learning or training happen on your own time, for free over the internet or through (often) substandard in-house training. With the recent purge of almost all of our IT department there isn’t anyone around anymore to ask about more complex issues. Plus, after hemorrhaging a metric assload of experienced personnel they announced this year a “renewed commitment to the employees.” So, by leveraging those things and tying it to current projects I got them to agree to send me.

Anyway, it was well worth going. I picked up a lot that will help me and made some contacts with the folks who design and maintain our software. Super nice people and exceptionally customer oriented.

They fed us breakfast and lunch for the two days and dinner on the first night. It was all buffet style at the hotel where the conference was held. I usually expect buffet style meals to be pretty bland because they are catering to the lowest common denominator. So the Tex-Mex lunch was pretty flavorless but expected. The dinner where the only alternative to seafood were hot dogs, was not expected. At least the corn muffins were good from that meal. The Italian lunch was actually not bad for buffet Italian, I will admit. And the lemon cream cake was really good.

There was a decent tres leches cake with the Tex-Mex lunch as well. Got me thinking – I’ve yet to make a really good tres leches cake and I had cream from my last tea party that was about to go bad. So today I grabbed a recipe from the King Arthur Flour cookbook and whipped one up. And I do mean whipped. Whipped egg whites, whipped egg yolks, whipped everything. It is more like a thick sponge cake than I expected. Haven’t tried it yet but the batter was tasty.

And we also have a pineapple upside down cake. Hey, the oven was on. Gotta make good use of heating up the house, right?

That one came from the spa visit Mom & I had on Saturday. As part of the package we had Thai Ball Facials. Just the name sounded questionable but when I saw no Thai men at the spa I relaxed some about it. Turns out it was an assortment of herbs wrapped in soft muslin balls that were warm and damp (and that doesn’t sound much better, does it?). Those were then used as part of the facial massage. I’m really not sure what it was supposed to accomplish. I mean, it felt nice but I can’t see that it would have done anything for my skin.

But the herb… orbs (there, that’s better, right?) smelled like pineapple upside down cake. Which immediately gave me a craving. So we are set for dessert for a couple of weeks, I think.