Cool art

September 25th, 2014

crystalplantnecklace

necklace

seednecklace

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Blah

September 20th, 2014

 

notlazy

-Work has been kinda nuts lately. Deadlines stacked on deadlines. All of us working like crazy to be out of work in a month or two. Seriously, I hope this “recovery” is happening for some of you, because it isn’t happening at my job. I’m not terribly concerned on a personal level since I’m the only one who does what I do, though there are always other departments who have excess personnel who do what I do and I’m far from irreplaceable. Overall the bigger picture economy scares the poop out of me. It seems like “our betters” are perfectly content to play and screw around as long as they get theirs before everything implodes. The little people can go on the dole that they will graciously provide in exchange for any small remaining freedoms we have. Until I’m willing to give up things like all the conveniences that come with Being On The Grid though, there isn’t much I can do about it except cross my fingers and hope I guess.

-Guardians of the Galaxy really needs to come out for purchase. Need moar happy. I had to resort to an entire box of Wild Cherry Pop Tarts on Friday to assuage my anxiety and anger. I need to learn how to manage myself without using food…

-I just finished reading Stiff by Mary Roach. It’s an interesting book about what happens to bodies after death, how things like gross anatomy class, body donation and crash test dummies work, various ways to handle final remains and medical treatments through the ages. Interesting approach the material. She’s just a persistent someone with a lot of questions that people don’t often ask. Her writing style is a bit more casual than I care for but her research appears to have been thorough and the material holds up on its own.

The book before that was The Art of Hunting by Alex Campbell. The second in the Gravedigger series. I really like the idea of this world. Science (of the fictional variety), ancient civilizations, vengeance, the Common Man surpassing expectations, mental hoodoo powers, and alternate dimensions. Problem is that the series is still in the process of being written and now I’m caught up again. Good and bad, I guess. I can re-read the previous books whenever a new one comes out to refresh my Bear of Little Brain memory.

-After trying to understand tax regulations for this tea festival, I don’t understand how anyone sets up a small business. You pretty much have to talk to an accountant and an attorney. Just another way the system milks producers of profit I guess (Not that I count myself among those – I figure I’ll be lucky to break even) – being so convoluted that you have to pay other people to even get started. I found a nice accountant who was willing to consult with me on my best tax options for nothing more than a maybe of hiring him for tax help on a once a year event and a review on Yelp. All I really want to do is share some tea, increase my own tea options by improving appreciation for tea in the community, indulge my sick need to organize things like events and vacations, not spend much of my own money on it and not risk any of my own personal assets due to not fully understanding all the regulations to which every little thing we do is subject. I guess this is easier than learning how to write a business plan to start up my own tea biz. I’ve tried to teach myself that stuff but it bores me even sillier than the taxes and business regulations do.

And that whole “Paperwork Reduction Act” that is cited on all IRS paperwork? That’s just insulting. The only thing the IRS is good at (besides being used as a tool of political vengeance) is killing trees. If all of this is reduced paperwork, I truly shudder to think of what it would be like prior to reduction.

-The OAM took a circuit around the house and spritzed the arachnid invasion to Kingdom Come. I think he was probably tired of me peering paranoidly out of the windows.

-We do have car news coming soon. Hopefully on two fronts. A new arrival and the pending return of a paperweight to active duty.

-Got a fambly visit coming up this next weekend. Just a quick trip to Dallas for tea & chocolate.

-And that’s my life of late. Reading, tea, taxes, research, work, anger, depression, retail therapy aka distraction via consumption as conspicuous as we can manage, seek solace in food, repeat. So I don’t really have content to throw on here. Life is not bad, especially compared to some other situations, but it is routine. Pretty soon we’ll be down to cat blogging again and chronicles of laundry day. I’ll try to pick up a more interesting hobby than reading and playing the Carcassone video game app. :)

 

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

IMG_3623

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

sitting-cat17

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

2014-08-24 11.23.05 am

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

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