Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to all - 2010

Twas the night before Christmas
And just like a louse,
I sneak open my laptop
and grab for the mouse.

A merry hot fire is
crackling and popping
on the screen of my TV
so it won’t be stopping

As I ponder the evening
with tired brain and eyes
I think of my folks
that are spread far and wide

So here’s cheers to you all
on a night merry and bright
Happy Christmas to all
and (YAWN) good night!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everything and the kitchen sink

I was recently reading some personality typing materials related to a test I had taken and was struck by a statement characterizing one personality type as becoming very focused on a project to the exclusion of all else.  Reminded me of a time when I was fully immersed in an art design project - thinking back on the time I think of it more as being in an eccentric artist space or an absent minded professor. 

Still pondering the execution of the next part of my design I decided to start dinner, and, upon encountering a suspicious jar of sauerkraut absentmindedly dumped it into the garbage disposal.  I was merrily grinding it away when I, again absentmindedly, wondered if I should have been better off putting it in the compost.  Duh...yeah.  The sink plugged and I was rudely awakened from my Artiste mode to a kitchen sink filling with totally skanky (that's a technical term, mind you) water.  There’s really nothing like the mundane-ness of a plugged sink to exorcize the airhead in you.

I am relatively handy, and was somewhat motivated to try to fix the gaff before Resident Spouse returned, so I dutifully wielded both plunger and plumber’s snake, but to no avail.  I woefully washed the dishes in the bathtub that night when Resident Spouse took over. I think I saw a black cloud forming over the kitchen and tried to maintain a respectful distance.  We finally resorted to the dreaded Drano and held our breath to see what the reaction would do to 80 year old pipes. 

Long story short, the Drano finally worked, the pipes held, and the kitchen sink drains better than it has for the entire 16 years we’d lived with the thing.  The drains probably were due for a routing out, but the compost worms were much more deserving and I’m sure there’s a less intense way to complete a home maintenance project.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The aftermath

I've clearly listened to too much news radio today as I went around my business but it kept bringing to mind a comment I received during election season.  I am still somewhat chuckling that I was accused of being anti-Republican.  I can understand why someone would assume that I'm not a registered Republican but I think about what spurred the comment and I'm a bit surprised at the implicit assumption.

I received this characterization of my character after I suggested that someone might want to think twice about voting for a particular candidate because of their ties to the local Tea Party movement.  My reason was that I have had personal interactions with some of these folks and found that they turned to lies, threats, slander (yes, it was verbal, to my face) and libel (accusations about me in writing) when they weren't getting their way over a politically charged issue. 

So why do I find it so interesting that I should be charged with being anti-Republican?  It's because of the implicit assumption that because I'm anti-Tea Party (yes, I'll fully admit that) that I am also anti-Republican.  But how was this person to know that the very first folks that I met who were active in the Tea Party, in fact just as the Tea Party was becoming a "thing," were registered Democrats?  I think they were actually Libertarians, but didn't have the wherewithal to register as such.  Even funnier, not long earlier, these "Democrats" had accused me of being a Republican.

My characterizer also may not know that the very first candidate fielded by the Tea Party in my county, before they knew to call themselves Tea Partiers, was a registered Democrat.  He tried to run as a Republican before he found out he couldn't (because he was a registered Democrat (duh)).  So, if anything, my commentator should have an issue with the Tea Party rather than me for any damages to the Republican party's image.

But all this gets away from what I think is interesting, which is the assumptions people make.  I didn't ask, but I do wonder if the person who assumed I'm anti-Republican would believe that I've voted for Republican candidates on more than one occasion and have been happy to do so.  And of course, in return, I made my own assumptions, that this person is a registered Republican, but I actually don't know that either.

I made as many assumptions as my commentator and it's interesting that we weren't able to have enough of a substantive conversation to really understand each other's perspectives.  It's like those ships that pass in the night where you can just see the lights in the dimness, but the waves in their wake keep rippling through the mind to make us think about what the passage truly meant.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Huckleberry Hill, Highway 101, Oregon Coast

     'Tween Newport and Seal Rock, Oregon, November 25, 2010

Walking on the beach
November 25
Skies above are grey
Sea below alive

A raft of sea lions
Is idly floating by
Seagulls land to watch
Score a meal on the sly

Eagles cry from sky and trees
Hummer's buzzing dive
In spite of freezing storm
That threatens our house to rive

Agates glisten on the beach
Clams as fossils hard
Bedrock juts like giant spine
An ancient land, a shard

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For mental consumption only

Long being an aficionado of the obscure word and terminology that is not totally trendy in a twitterpated kind of way, I was delighted recently to get a sales flyer in the mail.  "Huh?" would be an apt reaction, but this is a sales flyer to which I actually look forward.  (How many of you want to put an extra "to" at the end of that sentence?)

Normally, sales pitches leave me cold.  They are so banal with their overuse of succinct, terse, compact phraseology; "20% off!" is a typical offering along with a coupon and its little dotted line border.  But no, my favorite flyer contains no coupons, no short-winded exhortations of extra extravagance despite the puny prices proffered.  This flyer feeds the mind while tempting you with tasty morsels.  Where else can you find a sales flyer that talks about dimidiated turkeys or the divine trine of butter, crème fraîche and garlic, all paired with a hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica?  Not your typical big chain store, but Trader Joe's, that haven of modern and former yuppies and puppies alike.  Take a gander at the flyer, with dictionary handy, and enjoy the brain candy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hercule’s Love’s Labors Not Lost

Should I have worried when my mother laughed?  Perhaps, but I was undertaking a task that seemed to me of Herculean proportions, and she concurred by saying, “Well, that will be a challenge.”  When I told Resident Spouse of the exchange and the subject, the result was a laugh as well, then the comment, “Well, she’s acknowledging the challenge.”

So what was the cause of all this hilarity?  Baklava.  That ambrosia of the Greeks that I enjoy hugely, but that I've been disappointed with in its commercial form.  And yes, I call it Greek, although they, of that ubiquitous they, say that it is of Turkish origin, I call it Greek, because in the fashion of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” I would have been pilloried in a previous life if I had tried to point to historical evidence that it stemmed from any other culture.  But the analogy of Hercule’s labors is apt.

I have long been intimidated by phyllo dough and the dishes that are made with it.  They seem so delicate and intricate - not two words that can typically be applied to my culinary endeavors.  I am also particularly fond of brie, and when I encountered a phyllo wrapped baked brie accompanied by fresh grapes, apple and crusty bread, I was in heaven.  But this particular delicacy was spendy in restaurants and didn’t fit the budget of a single-income family where one major wage earner was no longer employed.

I hemmed and hawed for many a month, but the wheel of brie found its way into my basket at Costco not long after I had found phyllo dough in the freezer section at the neighborhood grocery.  I figured if I could pull this off, I would have my gourmet experience for a tiny fraction of the cost of my favorite restaurant version (which was made even more spendy by virtue of being in Wyoming with a view of the Tetons at sunset adding to the culinary fireworks).

In short, the baked brie was quite the success, especially when paired with crisp, tart red grapes, pomegranate pearls and a crackly crusted artisan bread.  A full meal deal for less than $10 for the three of us.

But the unexpected star of this story is the baklava.  I used about a quarter of the dough for the brie, but had enough of the package remaining to make a respectable baklava.  And so I set about preparing for my task.

In hindsight there were two things I should have done first: (1) take the dough out of the freezer earlier, and (2) turn up the furnace.  The first, obviously, to ensure the dough was completely defrosted before trying to work with it.  Nothing feels worse than cracking a roll of sheets because you were too impatient to wait.  The second, because, while the packaging said “NO TRANS FATS - NO CHOLESTEROL” the preparation of all things phyllo is with large quantities of melted butter, as in “brush each sheet with melted butter.”  And what difference does the furnace make?  Well, in short, when the house is at 66 degrees F, the melted butter solidifies more quickly than is productive.

So, after separating little strips of broken dough and shredding a few more sheets with a butter brush that was not conveying a liquid, I managed to cover at least the top half of the baking dish with whole or almost whole sheets of dough to camouflage the earlier missteps.

The result?  It turns out that phyllo is much more fun and much more forgiving than I expected.  And my first attempt at baklava was, using my mom’s word, “Beautiful!”


I used the recipe from by Diana Rattray which is inexplicably in their "Southern Food" section along with bourbon balls.  Resident Spouse thinks this makes sense because it does come from the southern Mediterranean.  I added a whole clove in the center of each piece before baking.  Next time I think I will add more lemon.  For phyllo, I used Athens Regular (Thin) phyllo.

For the baked brie, I picked a recipe from  There are 40+ such recipes of various sorts and so there is lots of room for experimentation.  I only used about 1/4 pound of the phyllo because I was having "issues" during my first attempt at working with the stuff.  It seemed a respectable covering once baked...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Name is Sherlock

I don't watch much TV - who's got the time?  But I have to say that the new Masterpiece Theatre version of Sherlock Holmes has snagged me.  Masterpiece has always been difficult for me to fit into the schedule because of it airing on Sunday nights at 9:00pm, right when we need to be getting to bed, prepping for the coming school day, etc., etc... and so we've been watching the show on at a much more convenient time. (If you've not been watching, you can catch up online, but only for a limited time.)   Resident Kid really enjoys it, although there's a fair amount of squirming going on during the suspenseful parts and so I would say perhaps PG-13 is an appropriate rating (Kid being somewhat younger but very much into action flicks and particularly fond of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.)

Anyway, the acting is first rate, the dialog snappy, and the stories full of all the twists and turns you want.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Season's a-Changin' - 3

When we moved into this house, there was a puny little crab apple tree smack dab in the middle of the back yard that someone in it's short life had tried to espalier.  I didn't understand it at the time, trying to make a tree flat when it wasn't standing against a wall or fence.  Actually, I still don't understand the attempt.  We  undid the flattening through the strategic use of ropes and pruning and we now have a large crab apple that pretty well dominates the yard. 

I gripe about it because it takes up much of the solar access for the gardening I would like to do, but I love the tree at the same time.  The fall is an exciting time in this tree's world.  The fruit is small and about the size of the pie cherries we grow nearby, and a huge favorite with passing and resident birds.

This morning we counted at least nine different types of birds simultaneously feasting on the apples, the more spectacular among them being the cedar waxwings and the varied thrushes.  LWK sat at the back door like it was the best drive-in movie ever.

It varies from year as to when this happens, but at some point, the crab apples ferment on the branch and we are subject to multitudes of birds flying under the influence.  One year, it was a sunny winter day and the cedar waxwings were feasting on the little hard cider bombs and I heard one hit the window.  I walked out to check on the damage and found a little bird sitting on the deck, listing slightly.  I swear I heard a little voice, "Whoa, man, I totally got the spins!" 

I grabbed it because it was a sitting duck, er, bait for the neighborhood cats and looked at it a little closer.  I couldn't see any major injury, just an inability to stand up straight.  It sat in my hand a little while and then took off, flying rather erratically to a branch where it fluttered frantically to maintain it's perch.  I watched it for a bit as it sat, listing to the side, and found myself tilting in sympathy.  Yup, been there, done that.  Though I don't think I've hit a window.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interspecies Contagion - 2

The other day, Resident Family was on the way somewhere - don't really remember where, and actually it's irrelevant to this story - the relevant bit is that Resident Spouse was driving and I was sitting in the passenger seat with the Mimsical Creature sitting on my lap.  Nice and warm, I might add.  The warmth triggered a jaw splitting yawn in me, which resulted in a thorough examination of my molars by the Creature.  I finished yawning and sat with my eyes watering from the effort when Resident Spouse looked over and said, "Hey, you made her yawn!"

"Tain't the first time,"  I responded and reminisced about a warm sunny spring day.  I was rather fond of my little ditty, but realize that Resident Spouse doesn't read my blog so in a fit of pride, I left the original post up on the computer.  The response?

"I thought you were going to say something about pupkus*."  My eyes stop mid-roll.  Hmmm.  I may have to add a stanza...

*  "Pupkus" is the result of a wet nose painting on the window.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Outside the Comfort Zone

I was recently exhorted to move outside my comfort zone by an anonymous "they."  Actually not totally anonymous because while I was peripherally in the know about this person, they don't know me at all, so it was an exhortation to the anonymous masses, of which I happened to be one at the time.  The interesting thing to me is that I perceive myself as tending to push the limits of my comfort zone, after all two of my primary hobbies are performance based and tend to put me out there in exposed situations.  But as I thought about the exhortation, I thought about what my comfort zone is and what makes it comfortable, or not.

Around the same time a friend posted her musings about her writing and publishing and agents, or lack thereof, and getting confirmation that what she is doing is worth the huge investment she has made. It occurred to me that pushing your boundaries or taking the leap to do what you love and taking the risk involves intestinal fortitude on your own behalf, but also some confirmation that you have something of value to offer the world.  After all, no matter how much I may love the work, patenting a new screw top lid to a bottle may not be the best use of my energy and dedication.

In the first case, my exhorter was encouraging people to take action to make their little piece of the world a better place ... to join a community of people working on a task within an organization to make things run.  Pick any organization, a social club, a community center, a church, 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy name it, and there are committees within the organization that need people to make things happen.  This is the exhortation I was hearing.  Find an action that appeals to you, join up and do it!  And this was considered to be working outside people's comfort zone or pushing personal limits.  I understood why I didn't understand.  This is what I do all the time.  I have to set limits so that I don't get eaten alive by hungry groups.  I pick and choose my actions to correspond to my needs, to those areas where I feel the need to grow.  This type of involvement does not threaten my feeling of comfort.

So what does?  My friend touched on it with her post - what is uncomfortable is not knowing whether what you do is worthwhile or an effort in developing a new screw top lid.  On some level, we need to do what we love and if we love it enough, we will take the leap to try to make it happen.  But on another level, we need to know that we are on the right track.  Or we need to know that there was a pebble we missed when we were looking under rocks for treasure.  We need guidance and encouragement and honesty.  Perhaps that's a "duh" statement.

Because I look for honesty in people's comments about my work, I am continually frustrated that the things I find easy in life (the join up and work stuff) gets all the praise and commendation.  The things that I truly love in life tend to be met with silence.  All sorts of things run through my head when met with these silences.  A big one being, "If you can't say something nice, don't say it at all."  Perhaps this saying is precisely why I tend to voice my opinion, it's that golden rule thing.  I would rather someone said something to me that was helpful in finding that perfect pebble than have them worry about hurting my feelings.

Another thing that runs through my head, and this is when I'm feeling optimistic, is that people don't say anything because they can't.  I think, well maybe what I'm doing is so far outside their realm of experience that we don't have a point of resonance.  In other words, that they are in some way intimidated because they can't relate.  And that is the edge of my comfort zone, right there.  How do I engage the people that intimidate me so that I can progress and learn from them or the opportunities that may arise?  How do I reach out for those opportunities that I want to take advantage of when I hate feeling like I'm selling myself as a bill of goods that may not have any substance?  In short, how do I know that what I do beyond the join up and work stuff is worth anything?

I obviously don't have the answers for myself. I am still utterly reliant on the rest of the world to tell me their opinion regarding my own efforts.  I have to continue taking my leaps of faith in a vacuum.  But it is a good reminder that I need to be aware of where others may be stretching their boundaries and needing the occasional or not so occasional good word and bear in mind that sometimes silence is a version of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Atomic scale megapixelation

I'm not usually into highlighting cool stuff, just for the sake of its coolness - BUT - the commentary was interesting and the images amazingly detailed considering what our modern cameras do.  I recommend zooming in and out to get the most out of these snapshots of long ago life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blatant nepotism - 3

One of the reasons why we operate a vacation rental, rather than a long-term rental, is because it's kind of like traveling in reverse. The world travels to us in the people we get to meet through our little house. Starting today and running through the weekend is the annual BendFilm Festival, a great opportunity to see the world of independent film in your own front yard. Here's some info about the film that's connected to me via my little part of the Bend economic scene:

SCREENING of World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements at Bend FilmFest

Charlottesville, Virginia (September 24, 2010) – Rosalia Films, Inc., announced that the documentary film World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements has been selected for inclusion into this year’s Bend FilmFest in Bend, Oregon. The film will have three screenings; Friday, 10/8 5:30pm at the Oxford Hotel, Saturday 10/9 at 5:30pm at the Tower Theater, and Sunday, 10/10 at 12:00pm at the Sisters Movie House. The one-hour film by award-winning filmmaker Chris Farina portrays public school teacher John Hunter and his 4th-grade students as they participate in an educational exercise that Hunter developed called the “World Peace Game”. The film follows the nine- and ten-year-old students over an eight-week period as they assume roles as world leaders responding to an ongoing series of military, economic, and environmental crises. This interactive experience triggers a transformation of the students from children of a neighborhood school to citizens of the world.
Hunter has created and refined the World Peace Game during his 34-year career as a method of teaching children global perspectives, collaborative learning, and problem solving. Born and raised in Chesterfield County, Virginia, Hunter began his education in segregated schools where his mother was his own 4th-grade teacher. Prior to teaching in Charlottesville, Virginia, Hunter taught in schools in Richmond, Virginia, and Columbia, Maryland.

World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements hopes to inspire wider adoption of Hunter’s efforts to teach children the “work of peace” and promote the replication of the World Peace Game. The World Peace Game exposes children to the complex issues of the greater geo-political world that they will one day encounter. An entertaining film with a positive message, World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements provides a timely reminder that the future truly is at stake as we educate our children.
The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas in March, 2010 and received an “Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking” Award from the Newport Beach Film Festival in April, 2010. The film has been or will be screened at festivals in Boston, Orlando, Arkansas and Palo Alto, and will have its international premiere in late October at the Bergen International Film Festival in Bergen, Norway. World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements is Farina’s 4th feature documentary. His films focus respectfully on people living and working in familiar American settings that often receive little media attention. Farina will be attending the festival screenings.

Visit the Rosalia Films website at for more information.

# # # #
For more information, contact:
Chris Farina
Rosalia Films
1209 Hazel St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 825-0972

Monday, October 4, 2010

Worth its Weight in Cheese

The Scene: Todd Lake
The Setting: Marmot tent, picnic table, tidy fire, and three backpacks with their guts strewn everywhere.
The Action: Dinner

Who knew that dinner would be the scene of a totally sublime gustatory moment worthy of Remy in Ratatouille? This little moment was brought to us courtesy of a local goat dairy.

Granted, everything was staged pretty perfectly for Resident Kid’s first backpacking trip. The hike was short, the weather mild, the menu included s’mores. But it was a last minute item tossed in the pack that stole the show that evening and completely obliterated the trail food we’d brought.

Resident Kid is pretty typical in that a favorite food is mac and cheese, so that was on the menu as being easy to transport and cook along with sugar snap peas with dip, grapes and the previously mentioned s’mores. But Resident Kid also likes more complex (and often stinky) cheeses and had talked me into buying a small chunk of Pondhopper made by Tumalo Farms at the St. Charles Farmer’s Market one Friday not long ago. The consistency is somewhat like a chedder with a rind but the flavor comes from goat milk and, as the label says, a local microbrew (Mirror Pond Pale Ale, I wonder?)

As I brought it out, Resident Kid helpfully pointed out that the chunk cost $5.00, to which Resident Spouse responded, “Then the dog doesn’t get any.” And indeed, the poor Mimsical creature didn’t get anything but a taste of some mac and cheese that night because we three were entranced with the Pondhopper. We savored thin and sometimes not so thin slices alone, or with sugar snap peas or, best of all red globe grapes. That flavor combination was the one that caused the fireworks and rendered the mac and cheese that was on the menu, completely bland.

For someone on a budget, the price is high, but this is a farmstead cheese crafted locally and definitely delicious. I’d say we got our $5.00 worth.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Season's a-Changin' - 2

The fallen autumn leaves crunching underfoot herald a much quieter exfoliation that occurs, year round, yes, but increases in intensity with the move towards colder weather. Ah, hairballs. Little White Kitty bequested us a lovely one yesterday evening. I can only hope she feels better now.

I don't really mean to gross you out, dear reader, but I was struck by a thought in the dark hours of the early day as I walked past the bathroom where Resident Spouse was coughing because of a speck caught in the throat. I turned into the living room and caught sight of LWK under the piano bench, spotlighted in the diffuse rays from a small kitchen light, in pose of slight startlement.

Perhaps she was startled by me, suddenly appearing from the dark bedroom, or perhaps it was a kitty horrified at the thought of the size of the hairball Resident Spouse would produce.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Season's a-Changin'

The season is a-changin' and I must be hankering to put on some fat because all I can think of to write about is food. And so here goes:

I made chopped bread a few weeks back for the first time in a decade or two. (Yessiree, I was baking as a toddler, that's right, uh-huh, yeah sure, you betcha!) At the time I would get the frozen bread dough from the store because my bread-making skills were somewhat hit or miss. Now perhaps I have more patience to let the yeasty beasts do their thing but still I have a breadmaker to make the dough for me. How much easier can it get? But still there is ample opportunity to screw things with a dash of impatience.

Essentially, chopped bread is a wad of bread dough that has been flattened out, filled with whatever goodies strike your fancy, rolled up, chopped up, and piled up on a tray, left to rise for an hour or so and then baked. My last two renditions have been pizza-ish in goodies because of a certain Kid's response to my decision to make pizza for dinner. "Fine!" I said, "It's not pizza, it's chopped bread." And I proceeded to take the pizza toppings and wrapped them up in the pizza dough, chopped it up and the end result disappeared so thoroughly, I was taken aback. Resident Spouse provided the prized food rating of "Tasty!"

The Healthy Portion of Patience part of the recipe comes in during the final rising of the melange. If you cut this short, you get a doughy heavy mass, but a well-risen blob of bits and pieces becomes light and airy, even when using 1/2 whole wheat flour, like I usually do, and even when using potentially heavy ingredients like meat and cheese. The coup de grace can come in the form of providing a dipping sauce of marinara or whatever goes with the fixin's in which to plop tasty bits of pulled apart bread with goodies.

I have to admit that I am limited by being tied to the breadmaker - it's hard to double the recipe for guests without the dough heaving out of the machine - but I'm thinking it might be fun to have multiple machines going at once and making a couple different varieties. And then there's the sweet versions...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Pie's the Thing, aka, All the World's a Pie

Yes, we've been on a modest budget over the last year or so, but one splurge we make is becoming an annual event when we travel over the mountains to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. We try to keep expenses down by camping and we buy, not exactly nosebleed seats because those don't exist in the Ashland theaters, but we definitely aren't in the front row. The trip also serves as a mini-family reunion with various members of Resident Spouse's family converging on Ashland at the same time.

But for us,as much a part of the Shakespeare Festival is the trip from Bend with the highlight being a stop at Farewell Bend campground and dinner and breakfast at Beckie's in Union Creek. Beckie's is named, not for the proprietress, but the former proprietor, Ed Becklehymer. It was his nickname that graced the cafe, and his wife, named Cecil, oddly enough, didn't take the name until after Ed died. Today, under newer ownership, the cafe retains the perfect name and boasts some of the best food along the road. The good food aside, which is well worth a stop on your way, the main draw for this Resident Family are the pies. I admit, I have allowed Resident Kid to eat pie for dinner. After all, I can't very well say that Kid can't have pie for dinner when I am. What kind of example would that set? Occasionally a bit of parental angst will strike and I'll dictate that Kid needs to split a plate of conventional dinner with me. The portions are big enough that sometimes even splitting a meal threatens to take up the space you intended for pie. But even in the event that the unthinkable happens, there is always the fallback plan. Take your pie to go. Strawberry pie is stupendous for breakfast.

Did I mention pie? Boysenberry, marionberry, berry berry, cherry, apple, pecan, pumpkin, peach, strawberry, I did say cherry, didn't I? Though the strawberry is threatening to become a new favorite, but only seasonally. Then there are the cream pies, coconut, chocolate, banana... Other seasonals are mincemeat and huckleberry. Resident Kid discovered coconut cream pie during this last trip to Ashland, that might be a new favorite there. I might have to YouTube a few vids of Gilligan's Island to show Kid my context for coconut cream pie.

Anyway, I highly recommend Beckie's. Stop by and eat yourself silly. And, if you forget to bring a sweater because you didn't think it would be so freakin' cold (the damp and the altitude makes a difference, then walk across the (two-lane) highway and buy yourself a nice Union Creek sweatshirt at the store.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Speaking in old tongues

I have long been a fan of those pop, or maybe not so pop, culture entertainments of the audio-visual kind. I enjoy the print versions, too, in a nod to a sibling that invests a great deal of personal and professional energy in the science-fiction literature scene. But I think my brain has been moving picture oriented since birth because I am constantly thinking how I would produce a live action version of what I am reading. In fact, that is often how I write, by using that little video camera in my mind to figure out how action unfolds.

I am also very fond of escapism, which has also been lifelong, but the preference has intensified over the last decade or so while I held a series of mentally and emotionally challenging jobs. Recently, I have been struck by the nature of language use in movies and TV. Being a lifelong Star Trek fan, and yes, I am of that generation that uses the term, "Trekkie," I followed the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise and all the movies. And Star Wars was of course on my radar beginning with a vivid memory of opening night of the first movie in Kansas City where a giant furry thing was handing out "May the Force be with you" buttons.

Star Wars unabashedly used Kikuyu (I think that was the language and have no clue how it is spelled...), a language from Kenya. While it produced some sniggers, it made sense to me not to spend time and energy in a new production to make up a language from scratch.

Then, in the Star Trek movies in the 1980s and Star Trek: The Next Generation, a whole new language came to light and developed a life of its own, Klingon. And the real die-hard Trekkers (as they prefer to be called) of this era would learn Klingon and challenge each other to duels at conventions. This was a created language with the creator, Marc Orkrand, drawing inspiration from Native American, Chinese, and south asian languages.

Fast forward to today and there is Avatar. The Na'vi language has garnered its share of fandom with people learning what they can of the language, even to the extent of e-mailing the language's creator, Paul Frommer, entirely in Na'vi. Another famous example of created languages was birthed in the Tolkien books of Middle Earth and which came to life for me in the movies.

It is a great and interesting achievement to so capture the imagination of people that they would adopt a new language and learn it as inside and out as you possibly can a language of perhaps a 1,000 words. But at the same time there are so many indigenous languages in the world, and so many of them in danger of becoming extinct. Would it be so unimaginative to use the time and energy that it takes to to create a language to catalog and record these dying languages and perhaps create a new population of speakers? What a way to raise consciousness about people on our own world that often live lives that are completely alien to so many of the new generations.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Different kinds of energy

Resident Kid recently took a short summer class from a local martial arts studio (Sorter Bushido Kai Karate) called "Hollywood Stuntman Training." Perhaps the course name created a bias because the class was predominantly boys. But it was fun to watch, not because the stunts were spectacular or even that apparent from where the parents could watch, but because of the different interaction styles amongst all the kids.

I walked in at the end of one of the classes to see bodies crawling up walls and ropes and appearing generally scattered, and then I heard the instructor telling the kids that they needed to focus on the task at hand and that if they were not involved in a stunt that they had to sit quietly and not make noise or motion that would distract from the scene that was being recorded.

Perhaps the kids, or perhaps the parents, assumed that they would be running, jumping, hitting, climbing, name it...for the entire class. But that neglects the "Hollywood" part of the class title, which implies movie making. Hollywood stunt performers do not spend their days running, jumping, hitting, climbing, name it...all day long. There are huge periods of time when they have to be quiet and wait for their turn to perform.

Resident Spouse commented the other day how the kids in a summer program at work had the attention span and retention of gnats. Resident Kid's dental hygienist had similar comments about issues she had with kids being able to sit still and cooperate. Twitter is the greatest because the messages are so short. Are we training ourselves to create attention deficits?

Hmmm. It occurs to me that I may be writing to an ever limiting audience because nobody wants to take the time to read more than one paragraph. Makes a person want to hide in a hole and read War and Peace.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Observations of the impatient ilk

Being on the dole of the unemployment kind and being a people watcher, I often get caught up in observing how people treat their fellow humans in different circumstances.

One theme I've been exploring lately is that of patience. I've been a variously patient and impatient sort. I surprise myself with the patience I have with young kids in a class and yet the Boston in me erupts when I encounter obviously non-thinking drivers.

But I have found the most interesting reactions from people who make assumptions about me, especially now that I am unemployed. I have long been active in the extracurricular activities that kept me sane during my previous jobs and those activities haven't changed because I have the need to stay sane now more than ever. What's changed is that instead of working 8 or 9 hours a day, I now look for a new job, I clean house (where I used to hire help there), mow the lawn (used to stimulate the local economy there, too), and cook (used to buy a lot of prepared or takeout to save time, now I cook from scratch). On a school day, I have less than 6 hours a day as opposed to my previous 8 or 9 to concentrate on what I need to get done, whatever that entails. And yet, many of my acquaintance think that I should be able to take on new commitments or somehow do more than I am. Is this a rant? Yes. I am railing against those people that feel they know I should be doing "better." I should be better at keeping in touch, I should be better at housekeeping, I should be a better community member, you name it, I should be better at it, just by virtue of being unemployed.

Why did the standard change from when I was being paid to work? I'm figuring out that it's the matter of perceived "free" time. I do admit that I can do things now that I could not before because I now have the time. But there is a balance sheet that comes into play. Take cooking for example. The fact that I am cooking our meals from scratch has meant a huge cost savings in our money budget, but, conversely, a huge expense in my time budget. The easiest meals I prepare are a minimum half hour prep and about a half hour cleanup.   So I can make a pizza for a couple bucks instead of buying a take and bake pizza for $10-$12 or a fully baked one for $20. I spend a half an hour prep (while the bread machine does the bulk of the work during the two-hour lead time) instead of popping open a box upon arrival. Another example is now I am the bulk of the after school and summer time supervision for Resident Kid instead of paying for lots of after school activities and summer camps.

I am one of the lucky ones in terms of mental health (Death and Joblessness) and yet still I suffer the impatience of those amongst my acquaintance that believe I should somehow be able to get myself into a different situation if only I were really trying. 

I, ironically, don't have patience with these sorts. I have found that my mental health improved when I realized that I don't need the added expectations from other people's measuring sticks. I don't need the ruler rapped on my knuckles to make me try harder. Ultimately, my motivation comes from the fact that it's my family's well-being that is at stake here and it is beyond me to understand why others believe that their approval or disapproval will spur me to greater deeds.

I use the unemployment situation as the example here, but really, doesn't this apply in other circumstances as well? I should be more patient with those sorry, inexperienced folks that believe I should magic a job out of thin air. But, by my sarcasm, I find I have a long way to go.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer haze

The dog days of summer, open windows at night, lead to indoor/outdoor experiences of many kinds.  Often these things happen at night, when you feel least prepared or least capable of dealing with the unexpected. 

A neighbor mentioned a sighting of a baby skunk the other day, one that apparently was too young to figure out how to spray the dog that was merrily playing with it.  This particular neighbor has successfully live-trapped several young skunks over the years and relocated them to the "wild" on some public land just out of town.

The middle of the night is often when we get a whiff of our resident odoriferous neighbors, the windows open next to the wildlife highway to the delectable goodies in the backyard garden allow sounds and odors to waft in to tickle our brains as we dream.  Dreams can become nightmarish, or at least unpleasant, as in the case of an encounter of the skunk kind several years ago when Resident Kid was but a toddler.

The Resident Cat at the time was a fluffy orange cat with a kingly white tuxedo shirt front.  This cat was a He Cat of the macho kind and liked to prowl the 'hood at night.  One evening we were hit with a powerful strong smell of skunk and went to the back door to see if we could catch sight of what we had caught wind of.  In came He Cat streaking through the house, and, in his wake, that powerful strong smell of skunk.  It didn't take long to find him hunkered down under Resident Kid's bed, squinty-eyed and drooling, obviously having taken the full blast straight in the face.  

Now He Cat was normally a cantankerous type that didn't appreciate even the most desultory grooming attempts on our part and as a a result his long fur was often matted because we would get scratched or bitten if we tried to brush him.  This night was a different matter.  Nary a growl as I picked him up and dunked him in the sink full of the special skunk remover formula that another neighbor had found after their dog was sprayed.  I scrubbed and washed and otherwise took action that would humiliate any self-respecting cat, but this cat was taken beyond humiliation by the utter misery of full strength skunk.  This cat didn't even care that his apparent heft was belied by wet fur that revealed the scrawniest kittenish figure beneath the fluff.  All he cared about was that the homemade skunk remover formula worked.

Homemade Skunk Remover Formula:
1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap

Mix together (it will foam up hugely) and rub all over skunk sprayed area.  Rinse well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

7-Day Forecast for Latitude 44.06°N and Longitude 121.3°W (Elev. 3598 ft)

First significant (nearby) fire of the season broke out west of town (lightning), fortunately the weather isn't so blazing hot as it normally is this time of year...

7-Day Forecast for Latitude 44.06°N and Longitude 121.3°W (Elev. 3598 ft)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I had the good fortune of seeing the Sara Bella booth at the Tour des Chutes post ride gathering recently.  Lovely merchandise made of plastic bags and banners that have been upcycled into tote bags, wallets, aprons, purses, and on into the imagination.  These items are well constructed for a multitude of duties with the designs from the "parent" materials whimsically built into the upcycled product.  I opened one wallet to find wee baby footprints walking across the interior.

Now I am a long time Sara Bella fan, having had the good fortune of receiving a Polartec baby hat from the original incarnation of the Sara Bella brand that included marvelous baby wear.  The hat no longer fits Resident Kid, but I've been holding on to it for perhaps sentimental reasons related to Kid's babyhood.  But them I am fond of hats and have quite the collection myself.

I asked Sara if she had yet considered making an upcycled hat.  "Yes!" came the happy reply.  There are design issues involved that need to be solved, but I look forward to the new fruits of Sara's lively imagination.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tour des Chutes

It is another crystalline blue sky day here in Central Oregon as I sit and listen to one of my favorite acts, Wild Rye, at the post-ride party for the Tour des Chutes. The Tour is a great event in the Livestrong tradition that brings together cycling and support for cancer care and survivorship.

Wild Rye does a wonderful cover of the Hanneke Cassel arrangement of Bono's "Mother of the Disappeared."* While the context for Bono's inspiration for the song did not relate to cancer, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the music and the sight of cyclists passing by with tags pinned to their shirt in memory of loved ones. The sight of these pinned to children's shirts tears at your heart. Those who succumb to cancer may disappear physically, but they live on in our memories.

* Recorded on Some Melodious Sonnet

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heat Wave 2010

We just came through our first little heat wave of the summer. I think the temps got into the 90's (F) and the highest overnight low was about 61. My own lack of planning and/or laziness got the better of me and contrived to settle all my errands on the hottest day of that period. Otherwise, we engaged in our usual "chill the house" routine at night with its concomitant annual discussion of what the best way to achieve this task.

I am of the belief that you chill the house fastest by putting the box fans in the window to blow out and exhaust the hot air. Spouse likes to feel the breeze and wants the fan blowing in for cooling effect. I don't prefer this because it cools the one room the fan is blowing in towards but the rest of the house stays warm.

So a few years back, after a stunning (I mean stunning!) demonstration of the cooling effect of two box fans exhausting the house, we compromised. We put one fan in the lee window of the house blowing out and one fan in our bedroom window blowing in. Resident Kid could care less what we do, because no matter what we do during these times, the house is too cold in the morning.*

And perhaps it is. After all, I feel victorious if we get the house down to 65, and one night this week, we kind of overdid it and the house was a frigid 62. Yes, a little excessive. The boon of these shenanigans being that the house rarely goes above 75 as it heats during the day. I revel in the natural air conditioning we reap in this region and that connects us so closely with the diurnal swings of the season.

Occasionally we bemoan the extra vacuuming and dusting that comes with open windows and the pollen season can be annoying, but I can't envision living with an air conditioner separating me from the outdoors at this time of year. The connection is too valuable to let go. Besides, who could miss the opportunity to be awakened by the local deer herd trying to sneak past your window to pillage the garden?

* Which gives me another glorious parental opportunity to exhort Kid to "put on a sweater." In July!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Asterisk Pass

Yesterday the fambly and I and my bro and niece headed to Smith Rock State Park for a little hiking and poking around. The day was drop dead gorgeous with crystalline blue skies and not a cloud in sight. The serrated rocks cut the sky with a crispness in sharp contrast to another day I spent at the Park. But I will defer that story for the moment.

Yesterday was just about the perfect temperature for the park. Warm but not roasting in the sun and cool but not freezing in the shade. What a Goldilocks moment. The Mimsical creature got a little toasty, being a black critter, but a dunk or two in the river seemed to cure that ailment and she scrambled up and down the rocks to Asterisk Pass like a little goat. I didn't quite make the pass, being on the road to recovery from a chest cold a couple weeks ago the lungs were willing but not able to sustain the effort. So I sat in the shade partway up and penned a draft of this entry.

As I looked eastward I remembered another day we had spent at Smith Rock with some friends from Hungary. It was not a perfect temperature day, I think it might have been August and the sky had that hot hazy look to it and the edge of the rocks were smearing against the sky. A stiff hot breeze kept the air moving and things somewhat more comfortable than if the air were still.

We had just set up a top rope on a short pitch and were about to do some climbing when we noticed little wisps of smoke passing overhead. Clambering up to the top of the pitch (and the parking lot) we found that the park was full of dark smoke so we pulled up our rope and headed for the car (which was all of perhaps 100 yards away). Driving back through the park, we were berated by park personnel for lingering so long in the fire zone, while we wondered why park personnel hadn't check the series of pitches where we were climbing because they were so close to the parking area and were popular climbing spots for that time of day (being in the shade).

Later we found out that the fire started because a park employee was welding a fee box for the bivy area and with the stiff hot wind caught the nearby grasses on fire and it spread fast through the rest of the park.

Yesterday, about 15 years later, it was hard to pick out signs of that fire. But maybe I missed a few as my lungs labored to recover from the trek back up the grade to the parking area. The Mimsical creature provided invaluable assistance by pulling on her harness to give me a little boost up the tough parts. I thought she well deserved the ice cream cone (minus ice cream) to chew up on the way home.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oxygen Deprived

I ponder the time I spend in bed,
Coughing up a lung, a gore I dread.
Why can't I use this extra time
To put down words in prose, in rhyme?

I stuttered my starts, nothing would click
Until, days later, it started to stick.
I find my pen can take off again
I chalk it up to lack of oxygen.


It's been an interesting exercise in observation noting the lack of mental fortitude that comes with lung congestion. I've just wheezed my way through my first chest cold in I don't know how many years, but I would have happily gone longer without the experience. I realized that I was mentally glacial in some small corner of my mind when I had to ask questions multiple times because I couldn't remember the response. I'm sure that certain critters made off with a few extra meals because I couldn't remember if I had fed them or not.

I noticed the mental impairment because it came on quickly and I was getting frustrated with myself. I cannot imagine not noticing a cognitive decline. But, I am assuming a person will remember how full their cup was at the beginning. I understand that early stage Alzheimer's sufferers do notice a change of some kind and may act out on their frustrations until ... they forget.

Eat right, drink plenty of fluids, move, use your brain, breathe.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Matter of Trust

Grunting I chunter, growl, complain,
I stomp my way on down the lane.
Pound stupid, because penny smart
Makes big oil leak money.  I find a start
I make to show how I care,
It turns out the Gulf can use my hair.

Matter of Trust

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spring in the High Desert - 2

Over a month ago I pondered the presence of spring.  Now, June 17, I have decided it is not coming.  Winter will be shading directly to summer it appears.  The only question is when.  Certainly not this week. 

The threat of freezing temperatures last night spurred me to cover the tender tater tops to spoil the prospect of wilted mush this morning.  I had already lost my tiny morning glory seedlings to the cold a couple days ago.  Don't know what I was thinking, not starting them in a more protected place.  The hardier starts in the garden, while surviving the frost, have definitely gone into no-grow mode.  Can't say I blame them, myself. 

The  rhubarb is glorious.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2010 Wild Rye.mp4

Here's a video of the local (Bend, Oregon) band, Wild Rye on YouTube.  This debut appearance at the Tower Theatre contained some technical difficulties, but the band played along, even if partly unplugged for a chunk of the performance.  I attended the gig the following night when they were spot on, technically and musically.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hick French Cuisine

I was cruising through my recent acquisition of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" when I came across a plethora of crepe recipes.  There are entree crepes and dessert crepes and and crepes for filling and for not filling...apparently never the 'twain shall meet.  I, being the hick cook, always used the same crepe recipe for all purposes and never thought twice about it.  How gauche! 

I thought it would be nice to do a family brunch for Memorial Day with crepes and assorted fruits and stuffings in a "build it yourself" crepe bar.  The fun with this approach comes from the different combinations that can be assembled and the various comments around the table of "Oooo, this combo is really good!  or  "Ew, don't mix these."

For the occasion, I settled on the crepe Suzette recipe rather than the yeast version because I wanted to make the batter the night before.  And with a nod to making a crepe for filling, I planned on adding the beaten egg whites to make a stronger pancake.  Well, the night before turned out to be about a quarter to eleven because we dawdled over dinner and a movie and so I can only guess that my cognitive powers were not at their sharpest. 

I started by following the blender instructions even though I was not using a blender and the instructions for not using a blender are quite a bit different.  I passed through that challenge with a reasonable batter, at least a batter that would fix certain problems as it sat overnight.  However, it was a slightly different matter when it came to the point of melted butter. 

I tend to keep my extra pounds of butter, no, fortunately for Irish dance, not on my hips, but in the freezer.  In this case I was working my way through a four pound batch of butter when I needed about 10 tablespoons for this recipe.  To my chagrin, I realized I would have to work with the frozen supply and stoically chipped apart a stick to make up my 10 tablespoons.  I then popped the bowl of frozen fat into the microwave to soften and melt.  Washing up a few things to tidy the kitchen before bed I heard the first pop in the microwave and turned to see there were four seconds left on the time.  My hands being wet I grabbed for a towel but, in the last second before the microwave shut off there was a loud thump and liquid butter erupted out of the bowl to coat the interior of the microwave.

I groaned, and I'm sure swore, and contemplated the mess.  The tired grump that I was wanted to leave it all for the morning, but I dutifully swabbed out the several tablespoons of melted butter dripping from the walls, ceiling and floor of the microwave.  Then I looked at what was left in the bowl and muttered under my breath as I didn't even bother to measure how much was there and dumped it in the batter, gave it a quick stir and shoved it in the fridge for the night.

It turns out it is too bad I didn't measure the butter because I don't think it's needed.  The crepes were very nice.  I doubled the recipe for the five of us and, barring the two first off the griddle that were shapeless masses, we finished them all and weren't really wanting any more when they were gone.  I might triple the recipe next time to have leftovers.

It also turned out that crepes not for filling are fine for filling because I realized I never added the egg whites later in the day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quality Water for Drinking - 2


About the same time, in 1996, Deschutes County embarked on a project entitled "Regional Problem Solving for Southern Deschutes County."  This project was funded by the state of Oregon to look at the problems in the region and work with the public to identify solutions that may fall outside the rulebook.  The job announcement came out a couple months after I started as a planner, but I hesitated to apply even though the job description read like it was tailor made for me because I was just beginning to learn the ropes and actually relished the idea of not being on soft money for a change.  I also wanted to learn more about the state land use system and the region in general.  So I kept on with my learning and working on the land use process. 

It turned out pretty well because the Regional Problem Solving Project (I'll call it RPS from here on out) convened some topic oriented working committees, one of which was water quality, and county planning staff were encouraged to participate.  I joined the water quality committee and started getting my feet wet, so to speak.

There was a huge amount of activity over the next few years, including a small memorandum type report produced by the Oregon DEQ that said their sampling and 2-dimensional modeling showed that the groundwater was becoming polluted from the long term use of septic systems.  At the time the region was not fully developed, which meant that there was actually a huge opportunity to change how much pollution was being loaded into the groundwater.  Not only were there opportunities to change sewage treatment practices, but there were opportunities to change development patterns in the region.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kornbluth review

Very nice review for Mark from Analog:

C. M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of
a Science Fiction Visionary
Mark Rich

McFarland (,
451 pages, $39.95 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-7864-4393-2
Genre: Nonfiction

Cyril (C. M.) Kornbluth was one of the pivotal figures of American science fiction. He was there at the beginning, those late-1930s days that marked the launch of Amazing Stories, the foundation of the Futurians, and the start of so many careers: Isaac Asimov, David A. Kyle, Sam Moskowitz, Frederik Pohl, Richard Wilson, Donald A. Wollheim. Kornbluth would easily take his place among those hallowed names. Two of his solo stories, “The Little Black Bag” (Astounding, 1950) and “The Marching Morons” (1951), are classics and as popular today as when they were written. His collaborations with Frederik Pohl, most notably The Space Merchants (1952) and Gladiator-At-Law (1954), are equally well regarded, as is his solo novel The Syndic (1953).

When Kornbluth died in March 1958, at the age of 35, his loss was felt throughout the science fiction community. If he had lived, he would undoubtedly have been hailed as one of the superstars of the field.

Mark Rich has written a very detailed yet highly readable biography of this exceptional writer, which is itself a mini-history of the early decades of science fiction. Along the way, he includes commentary on just about every short story, novelette, and novel that Kornbluth produced, alone or in collaboration, under a variety of pseudonyms. A scholarly text (with the requisite 40 pages of notes) that reads like a novel, Rich’s book is nothing short of a delight.

If you remember anything of that time, this will be a nostalgic journey for you; those of us who had the misfortune to be born after Kornbluth died can only marvel at this now-gone world and the geniuses who inhabited it. The book is a bit pricey, but no fan of the history of science fiction (you know who you are) can afford to be without it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quality Water for Drinking - 1

A while back, a fellow blogger exhorted me to write about my experiences in water quality protection.  At the time, my last job was a bit too fresh in memory to want to revisit or encapsulate those times, but perhaps now is appropriate.  My music endeavors are winding down for the year and I'm looking forward to leaving the frustrations of those endeavors aside for a while.

I earned a degree that combined natural science with applied science and economics and what they call political science.  To this day, I still don't understand link to science in the latter field, but perhaps it is an aspiration.  I rather like the term "geopolitics" used in "The Next 100 Years" by George Friedman.  Anyway, my graduate degree took me into the depths of hydrogeology and water resources management.  Again with a healthy dose of political science.

I had this idea planted in my head by a professor or two that I would be a good person to be a translator between the technical fields and audiences not immersed in those fields.  Looking back, I should have had my head examined, but at the time it made sense.  And it still does to a large extent,  I have some good skills and a crazy type and amount of experience.  So I headed down this path laid between science and politics and only occasionally looked back at some of the other paths I could have taken.  I do admit that those looks back occurred more frequently in the recent past than early on.

I will start this story part way through my career, for the mere fact that it seems expedient at the moment.  My spouse and I arrived in Central Oregon in the second half of 1995.  We had toured the western states in quest of our future home and finally settled on Bend, Oregon for a variety of reasons.  We thought we'd try it out and see if we could make it even though there were a dearth of professional jobs during that time.  We'd somewhat resigned ourselves to changing careers in order to live where we wanted to live.  Which, did happen, for at least the short term.

I ended up getting a job as a land use planner with the County at a time when the real estate market was starting to heat up in Bend and the surrounding areas.  I'd actually been interested in getting my feet wet in land use planning because I had this notion that land use was where the rubber met the road in terms of creating appropriate development.  Well, my thinking was about a decade too early.  In the mid-nineties, the land use modus operendi was still influenced by the "yeah, sure" attitude that was intended to move the economy along from the sluggishness of the cold molasses slow movement in the 1980's and the recession in the early 1990's .  Funny to think of that during these times.

The attitude was slowly changing, especially as people started reading the land use rules and compared that to what was being proposed and then started asking questions.  Well around the same time, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality also started asking questions.  These questions had to do with the environmental effects of land uses that were in large part established before Oregon land use law came into being.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A pitiful excuse...

...for not writing is the lure of the small outdoors.  Our yard, which in comparison with the terrain twenty minutes out of town, is miniscule indeed but it does take a relatively huge chunk of attention, particularly as we tend to live in our yard over the summer months.  The warm weather days are when we tend to do more entertaining and so I like to spend time sprucing up our outdoor living rooms.   Sprucing up is a bit of a misnomer because the rogue trees I find tend to be more amongst the Ponderosa pine, maple and ceder ilk. 

A bit of a shocker today as Resident Kid asked if there was any gardening I wanted done.  While I really needed some areas weeded or the compost turned, I didn't want to discourage such nascent gardening tendencies and directed Kid Energy to giving a few small shrubby herbs some haircuts.  Not a bad choice as the aroma of fresh thyme filled the yard.  It was cut short, pardon, when the Mimsical dog hauled some nasty stuff out of the pond and Kid started chasing said dog around the yard trying to get her to drop whatever nasty treasure she'd found.  The thyme does look better now.

All in all a lovely morning.  How was yours?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A big hoping of potatoes

For several years I have been experimenting with leftover mashed potatoes to make pancakes.  (I will come clean right off the bat by saying, "Yes, these are often instant mashed potatoes.)  I have made homemade mashers but when in a mad scramble to get something on the table, the taters may result from a shortcut, which these days happens to be Paradise Valley All Natural Creamy Mashed Potatoes from Costco.)

Because the packets are from Costco, they are on the larger size (8 servings per container), which is way more than the three of us can eat.  Not to say that I mind the leftovers, not at all, the scientist in me comes alive as I get the opportunity to continue my grand experiments.

The first attempts were bland, mushy blobs of starch.  These were the days before I realized eggs are an important structural element in many baked, as in this case, pan baked, goods.  My culinary training has been haphazard at best and mostly on the fly.

I was quite pleased with the last batch I made.  No recipe is available because I have no idea what quantity of potatoes I started with.  I can say that I put in one more egg than I thought would be prudent because the batter turned a lovely light yellow from the marigold of the yolks.  Add to that some lightly sauteed diced onion and Canadian bacon and fry dollops on the griddle.

That particular day was lovely and Resident Kid had taken on a backyard chore with surprising gusto.  Considering that Kid had already spent over an hour outside, I called out with what I thought was an irresistible summons, "Come and have some potato pancakes."  Duh, wrong approach.  Of course the answer was an upturned and wrinkled nose, a grunt and a query as to whether there were any mashed potatoes left.

"No, they're in the pancakes."  Silence ... then I sense the whine building.  I attempted the end run around the whine and said with a firm tone, "Come in for some lunch."  A grand show of dramatic foot dragging ensued, which I blithely ignored as I dished up pancakes.  Digging into my own serving, I declared, "Wow, they're pretty good with a bit of syrup on them."

Resident Kid takes a plate, disappears for a while and comes back with one cake (out of two) gone and puts the plate on the counter.  I droop a little, expecting resistance to my urgings to eat a little more.  But, fancy that, maple syrup goes on the second cake (the first having been eaten dry) and the plate drifts back to the living room.  When the plate came back the second time, I ventured, "Do you want a hot one off the griddle?"


"Two?"  Hope springs.

"One."  That's good enough for hope

Then in a totally blatant push of my good luck, I say, "Hey, those cakes are pretty good aren't they?"


"What?  You can't admit that you like them?"  I looked around for the response just in time to see a head duck to barely hide a grin.

"Needs more ham."

Good enough for this cook.  Score.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spring in the High Desert

This time of year is always a guessing game.  Is it safe to put seeds out?  (Not really, but maybe if you're lucky.)  Is is safe to put seedlings or larger transplants out?  (No, unless you have a greenhouse or other way to cover & protect seedlings from inclement weather.) 

Folks were complaining about the weather the other day, as folks everywhere are wont to do.  Here the complaint was snow in May.  I actually don't think that it would be normal to not have snow in May in Central Oregon.  After all, a significant family event was marked, eleven years ago, by snow.

The locals say not to plant until the snow is off of Black Butte, a local extinct volcano, but not being able to see Black Butte easily from my vantage point, I tend to rely on a nose to the wind and an eye to

Spring is more a frame of mind.  It must be spring, therefore it is.  We wear flip flops and short sleeve shirts and shiver in the still freezing temperatures but don't really care because, by golly, it's spring!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Locally Grown Rye

Wild Rye is defined in Wikipedia as "a term used for several grasses. They are natively found in parts of North America (as well as elsewhere) and are valuable in the control of exotic invasive plants and as a rotation crop."  A pretty boring description from a non-botanist's point of view.  Especially because the name itself connotes a certain image - full of waving tufted seed heads in a plains-y kind of land.  Wide open spaces and big skies.  The kind of place where a certain Mimsical dog would streak around with wild abandon until finally plopping down panting in the shade of a shrub.

The music that arises out of such a vision is also tinged with wildness and abandon that comes from the roots of the land, which is a reason that I think the locally grown band, Wild Rye, is aptly named.  The roots of this group's music reach into Irish and Scottish traditional fiddle music with strong influences from modern takes on the genre from the likes of Alisdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, and Hanneke Cassell (you can see a clip of Natalie and Hanneke playing at  Which isn't to say that the band's influences are entirely Celtic, because they've pulled Americana and rock songs into their unique style, including a great version of REM's "Driver 8." 

While there may be some resistance or perhaps bias in some quarters to being defined by the term "Celtic," I thought it was interesting to do a quick look at the history, Wiki-style, to find that the heartland of Celtic culture appears to have been southern France and: 
"Genetics suggests the Celts were descendants of people who originated in southwest Asia between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago.[7][8] Celtic origin legends recorded in Medieval Scotland and Ireland suggest a possible beginning in Anatolia and then to Iberia via Egypt. It has been noted [9] that the distribution of the gene for lactase persistence apparently originating near the Baltic Sea between 4,800 and 6,000 BP indicates a spread from there to both the British Isles and to Iberia."  
An interesting article, all in all, particularly given that one of the citations is entitled, "How did pygmy shrews colonize Ireland?"  But I digress from my point, which is that, given the historical spread of Celtic society and the more recent (the potato famine being recent in the grand scale of things) spread of the Celtic influence to the music and dance of southeastern states in the US, there are few cultures today that can't claim some tie to this heritage. 

And I think Wild Rye, the band, pays homage to these deep and varied roots by blending traditional musical elements with modern texts and tunes.  Take a quick listen.  Imagine those gently waving tufted seed heads...imagine that touch of wildness and abandon....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chicken feed for the soul

A brother blogger mentioned the joys of finding various soil dwellers in the course of gardening (Larval Thoughts) and the joys of bribing the local birds to be your friends.  Our urban farm has a flock of four lovely chickens, which we've bribed since chickhood to be our friends and give us lots of eggs. 

The issue of giving the chickens free range of our entire yard is a bit of a bone of contention in our household.  Resident Spouse likes to let them roam to eat fresh grass and find bugs.  I don't really mind it when I'm digging out sod or otherwise clearing out the detritus because they do a wonderful job of breaking up sod clumps in their quest for worms and other goodies.  I do have an issue when they tear out plantings.  A slightly cavalier attitude towards this behavior on the part of said chicks lead to me having to rebuild and replant a garden bed several days in a row before the issue became a topic of household .... uh.... discussion.

The joys of chicken ownership for any gardener are multitudinous and range from having a wonderful use for lawn clippings (in the coop) to the hottest compost pile you'll ever experience.  The egg shells create a calcium-rich compost that makes for lots of healthy worms to stuff a chicken full in no time flat if you let her at the bottom of the compost bin.  And I have to admit to a bit of vicious pleasure in hunting down that nasty cutworm who dared damage my cucumber and tomato vines. 

Lovely eggs.  Those cutworms do turn into mighty fine omelets.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chili dog

Not a foodie entry, but perhaps could be construed as food related...

Our mimsical dog is of indeterminate heritage.  Miniature pinscher is pretty well certainly in the mix but her other characteristics have connoted pug or chihuahua or some terrier sort depending on who is looking at the time.

Now the adults in this household are fond of food of spice, simplistically put, we like flavor and if the flavor has a burn to it, all the better.  Resident Kid, on the other hand, breaks out in paroxysms of coughing and spluttering if the slightest burn hits delicate mouth.  Sigh.

I ventured into burn territory recently by picking up a lovely chipotle powder, deep smoky with a hint of chocolate in the flavor.  But quite burny in proper proportions.  So I use it sparingly and even managed a few dinners with a hint of smoke that have gone over well with Resident Kid.

I also am fond of wasabi and, on a recent trip to Portland I picked up some little Japanese rice crackers flavored with wasabi.  I tricked...I mean persuaded...a certain kid to try said crackers and I swear I could hear a train whistle in the distance.  I also had plain rice crackers that were much preferred by kid and munched by dog when her begging got the better of us.

One day I was munching the wasabi version when  little dog came by and very politely asked for a try.  Not really thinking, I gave her one, and then paused to think whether that was a good idea.  (After all, Doppler had gone for a roasting pan with roast juices in it that was on the very peppery side and he gave a hoot like a freighter when the pepper hit his tongue.)  I was fascinated to watch this dog tongue and mouth the cracker.  She never made a sound but ended up crunching it down and asking for more.  Resident Kid should take a lesson.

Back to chipotle, I bragged a bit about my insidious use of chipotle and brought out the supply to be properly appreciated by the other resident adult.  Funny thing, little dog saw the spice packet and very politely asked for a taste.  I stuck my finger in the baggie and held out a sample for her to try.  She licked my finger clean and politely asked for more.

Aye, chihuahua!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A chicken with her _________ cut off

Now be nice.  Think positive thoughts when you fill in that blank.


We have a flock of four lovely chickens.  These are Wyandottes (both silver and golden), which were bred in upstate New York as a more cold hardy variety and we thought they'd fit in well here in high, dry and cold Central Oregon.  We raised them from chicks, first in our bathtub, which earned me the title of Extremely Tolerant, and then in a variety of enclosures, finally graduating to a lovely coop with run.

The chicken run encloses a few volunteer and transplanted volunteer trees that are going on a handful of years old now and who are really showing their stuff in growth potential over the last year or so.  As a result we left a couple of gaps in the "roof" of the chicken run.  The other major gap is in the area over the door to enter the run. 

A little while back, I got a knock on the door from a mom of a family who recently moved into the neighborhood.  Resident Kid was pleased because the new kids on the block attended the same school so there was an instant network.  I answered the door and she said hello and by the way, there's a chicken in the alley.  I stupidly responded, "Is it one of our chickens?"  Duh, we're the only chicken owners on that alley...

I grabbed a can of feed corn, their favorite treat, and went to investigate.  Sure enough, there was one of our golden-laced Wyandotte ladies wandering the alley near the fence backing her run.  I didn't even need the corn because she was very happy to be caught and carried back to the run. 

Later we debated how she got out but, without witnessing the event, couldn't really say for sure. 

A couple weeks later, I looked out the back door and saw one of the silver-laced ladies pacing the run fencing on the outside of the run.  Obviously distressed, she too was pretty happy to be caught and put back with her fellow ladies. 

Finally, Resident Kid witnessed one of the silvers hop up on the edge of some boards we leaned against the coop to shelter their watering dish from the snow and vault out over the run door. 

The motivation for this behavior is obviously a version of the "grass is greener" syndrome with a major drawback being that if only one chicken vaults out of the run, she is too distressed at being cut off from the flock to enjoy the greenery...Leading, course, to her behaving like a chicken with her flock cut off.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book report - The Lost Symbol

I just went on an escapist binge book-wise, perhaps a hangover from the nasty virus I dealt with early in pre-spring.  The latest in my string of perusings was "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown.  It has all the trappings of his previous thrillers:  the incredible deadlines, the frenzied dashes from place to place, the monstrous villains, the mistaken or hidden identities, the close calls, and the flashes of intellectual brilliance from our exhausted heros.  What fun!

As the wind dies down from the page turning race of Robert Langdon against the end of the book, I reflect on the ideas presented and enjoy watching for convergences in the information that flows through my life.  The PBS presentation on Buddhism was remarkably well timed for me to enjoy after finishing "The Lost Symbol" but I really don't want to say too much in the event that there are readers out there who are even slower at reading the best sellers than I am.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interspecies Contagion

A warm and sunny day
We're driving in the city
Off to do some errands
Boy, the day is pretty

Sunshine in the windshield
I'm feeling kinda groggy
A yawn soon splits my face
Look, the same with doggy

Monday, April 5, 2010

If cats could whistle - 2

During the time between the introduction of New Dog and LWK's shadow boxing, the household socks stayed securely in their proper places.  (Proper place in this context means "where they were last left by a human," not necessarily where they belonged.  Further, I make no value judgments about the quality of housekeeping in our home.)  I started to hope that things were approaching a new normalcy when the first sock appeared at the bottom of the stairs well out of reach of the baby gate at the top.  This sock, upon closer scrutiny, was recently laundered and bore the unmistakable signs of having been "plucked."  Wondering if it was a fluke, I took it back to the pile of laundry on the folding table and found its mate and took the opportunity to fold the rest of the pile.

About a week later, with a fresh source now piled on the folding table, I found two socks on the stairs.  Neither being the mate of the other, I took them back and, once again, folded the pile.

The following couple of weeks was somewhat disjointed in the household with outside obligations creeping in and distracting us from our normal household jobs.  We were getting the minimum done we needed to be able to function (i.e. have clean clothes to wear) but the folding the pile was definitely low on the list of things to do. 

It seemed LWK was taking full opportunity of the lull in our attention to laundry folding because large collections of 3 to 5 socks appeared at the back door.  In fact, so many socks were being hauled up the stairs that I collected a big pile by the phone and soon was able to match pairs.  I have often suggested that every member of the household should contribute to the laundry process in some way.  I didn't expect the contribution to come from such an unexpected quarter, especially because the helper doesn't even wear clothes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Old Found Land

I was cruising through my iTunes library this morning and stumbled across an album a friend had given me after her trip to Newfoundland a year or two back.  I had taken a trip there many years ago with my spousal unit and in-laws (though they might have been out-laws at the time) during the off season when everything seemed half-shut down.  We had a good time exploring the back roads and playing chess on a giant garden set that was the biggest I'd ever seen.  I'm a terrible chess player but that particular encounter left me with a much better understanding of the game, I think because I was actually on the battlefield.

Anyway, these memories came flooding back, not because the music triggered them in the way some people's memories are triggered by music from a significant high school encounter, but more in the way a string of related thoughts link together and tumble each other from the edges of your mind.  We were listening to a demo track that Wild Rye had recorded a week or so ago and iTunes popped up a tune by Great Big Sea after the demo track because I had left iTunes on shuffle.  Great Big Sea is a Newfoundland band that, on their debut album from the mid-1990's, sounds a bit like a collision between the Crash Test Dummies and your favorite pub stompin' ceili band.  Makes me wish I had been an Irish dancer back then haunting the pub scene in Halifax...

Friday, April 2, 2010

A read on the child side

I have a fondness for children's, or perhaps it's called juvenile literature...whatever...the stuff written for the 9+ crowd.  And it's not because I have a kid in the house of that general age.  I have found that this particular target audience has inspired some fun, whimsical fare. 

A few years back I stumbled across the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage.  I think I was actually in a Harry Potter withdrawal at the time and looking for something to fill the gap between books in that series.  I had passed over the Septimus Heap books (I seem to recall there were only one or two available at the time) because here was yet another series about magic and wizards and young wizards growing up, but I ended up buying the first book, Magyk, for kind of a silly reason.  The book was nice to hold, short, squat and fat.  It turned out to be a fast read and very fun.  I passed of off to my then precocious 7 or 8 year old reader, who read the first chapter and didn't want to read anymore because the main character dies in the first few pages.  What kind of a story is that?!

It was a couple years before I could convince a then older and wiser reader (who read the Fellowship of the Ring and loved it) to pick it up again.  Once the death scene passed, the rest of the story seemed to catch hold of that young imagination.

I don't want to talk too much about the story because of all the twists and turns and funky happenings (or are they fun key happenings?) and I wouldn't want to spoil anyone else's enjoyment but I recommend that you read it with a British accent in mind (assuming that my readers are predominantly of the US ilk) it seems to make the humour that much more funny.

We also are a fan of books on CD or otherwise electronic form.  You can probably track these down on CD but they are easier and cheaper to get from iTunes.  We had a great time last summer on a road trip listening to Magyk.  The person that narrated it produced some fairly unique personas for the various characters, but the most hilarious is the voice for Marcia Overstrand, the Extraordinary Wizard.  Perhaps I betray my age when I say that she ends up sounding exactly like Paul Lynde, but the effect is very entertaining.  Unfortunately, the narrator changes for the recording of the second book so perhaps someone else didn't think the effect was quite as charming.

Anyway, the series is fun overall and the stories are quite detailed and complex so you end up getting a lot of adventure in spite of the big type.  I hear a movie is planned for 2012 or thereabouts -  hopefully they don't Hollywoodize it too badly, but that may be a vain hope.