Sunday, December 30, 2007

NYC Here I Come!

I am just minutes away from leaving for the airport and the plane that will take me to NYC, where I will rendezvous with Benjamin, Cousin Chris and Mulzer - who are going to show us the city (as much as we can see in three days, anyway). So, I'll see you all next year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Border skirmishes

Cleo and Creamsicle have begun a series of border skirmishes revolving around the bedroom. Since CS arrived, the bedroom has been Cleo's sole domain, but the last two evenings, CS has decided that she wants to see what goes on in here, and maybe sit on the bed. This produces much growling and hissing from Cleo. Annoying enough when I am awake, downright maddening when it happens in the middle of the night. The other night I had to lock the bedroom door to keep out the interloper, and then again last night.

In the meantime, Cleo has also started to emerge from the bedroom for business other than eating and catboxing, but only when she thinks CS is safely out of the way. I will be so happy when everyone has settled down. Oliver is back to normal, why can't everyone else just get along?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Awkward pause

That's what this week between Christmas and New Year's always feels like. You are done celebrating one holiday, but it isn't quite time for the other yet. Is it time to stop wishing people a Merry Christmas? Is it too early to say Happy New Year? What exactly are we supposed to be doing with ourselves? It is one thing if you go on a vacation, or visit relatives, or have a ton of parties to go to, but what if you just stayed home? For me, this awkward week is always compounded with a vague feeling that spring ought to start on New Year's Day - new year, new season - seems reasonable. But, of course, the new season we are entering is actually still winter. Most of the season's snowfall has yet to come, and by the calendar, we just started winter. Sigh. So now I have to find some way to make the house less gloomy, without Christmas decorations. Or at least, without the happy expectation that comes with Christmas, because I am going to leave the tree up with its lights, but no other decorations. The lights make the house a little more cheery, but after a while, you get tired of lights too...

The awkward feeling is enhanced this year because Benjamin departed today for Baltimore, and the APA - American Philosophical Association (or some such thing) - Conference. He has 7 interviews spread out across Friday and Saturday - so send your prayers, best wishes, happy thoughts, etc his way. Meanwhile, I am stuck at home with three cats (can we say crazy cat lady anyone?) who refuse to sit on my lap, twiddling my thumbs until Sunday when I head to NYC to meet up with Benjamin, Chris and Mulzer for *gasp* a fun mini-vacation. All I have planned in the meantime is cleaning house, reading (not going to make 100 books this year, but I might make 80 if I try hard enough), and finishing Benjamin's Christmas scarf (ran out of yarn on Christmas Eve - oops). I can't even treat you to pictures, because Benjamin has the camera.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Merry Christmas! It is a White Christmas here in Brockport, thanks to a lake-effect snow storm last night. We are about to go out to Indian food for dinner, then a candlelight Christmas Eve service. We are thinking of all of our friends and relatives all over the country and wish we could see you all. Have a wonderful holiday!

The joy of shopping locally

This morning we decided to end our 5 months of printerless status by buying a new cartridge (yes, we are so lazy that it took this long to get around to getting one). So, we walked over to Main street, where there is a cartridge store. And what a store it is: to give you an idea, picture a narrow space, made even narrower by the piles and piles of boxes - laser printer cartridges mostly. And fairly dim, because most of the lights weren't on. It was like something out of Dickens, updated for the computer age. Whew. Anyway, we entered the shop, but it was unoccupied. While we were standing back out on the sidewalk, trying to decide what to do next, the owner came back, with his cup of coffee from the cafe down the street. After a bit of searching he found what we needed - much cheaper than if we had gone to Office Depot - and when we confessed that we didn't have any cash on us, he told us to take the cartridge and come back before noon. No problems, no worries. So, we trotted over to the bank, got the cash, returned and paid. Whereupon, he handed us two coupons for free pizza slices at the place across the street. This is a perfect example of why shopping local is so much better than big chain stores! A mini-adventure, just to buy a print cartridge :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Which candidate do you match up with?

Take this test and find out which presidential candidate best matches your concerns. I match up best with Kucinich, which I already knew. He is the most consistent candidate out there, with respect to his beliefs and plans. Too bad this makes him unelectable in the current political climate.

Friday, December 21, 2007

50% is better than 28%

50%

Thanks to Annie for pointing out this valuable and important quiz - we should all be aware of the dangers!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Creamsicle carnage and snowmen

The above is a sort of before and after photo of what happens to toy mice that Creamsicle gets her paws on. The mouse on the right used to be the same size as the one on the left, until she eviscerated it...She sort of sits on them, like she is laying an egg, then she starts to kick them with her back claws and pulls all the stuffing out. Yikes!

I know I said I wouldn't talk about snow anymore for a while, but we made a snowman yesterday - the biggest I have ever made. The snow was perfect - not too wet, not too dry, and it rolled wonderfully. This is actually the second snowman we made - the first was on the canal walking path, and I didn't have the camera. We have both been surprised that there are not more snowmen around town. Is everyone too jaded by snow to bother? Do children not know how to make snowmen any longer? Are they too busy playing video games to come outside to play? Well, we had fun anyway.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

6 days and counting

Christmas is less than a week away now - have you finished your shopping yet? We are keeping things simple this year, and apart from stocking stuffers we are finished. Well, sort of. I am knitting a scarf for Benjamin, and I just started it on Monday. It isn't a secret any longer, because Benjamin is around the house all day, and walked in on me working on it. And I think Benjamin still needs to get something for his brother. But that's pretty good, because some years he hasn't started thinking about gifts until a day or two ahead of time - I have gotten a picture of my present a couple of times, since it had to be ordered and wasn't there yet.

As for stockings - they were always one of the best parts of Christmas morning. My mom is really good at filling stockings with fun stuff, and my dad was always good for candy and books, and gift certificates to the CD store. Because it was usually just the three of us, we had to find ways to stretch out the present opening so that we weren't done in 20 minutes. One technique we developed was to take turns pulling items from the stockings - because the stockings were rather large and often very full this in itself could take half an hour - and then go in a circle again while opening gifts. Very civilized compared to the wrapping carnage that occurs with small children and presents.

Anyway, my parents are going to Arizona this year, and didn't stuff our stockings for us (they have done a few times in the past - filling and then sending them to us before Christmas, when we would have to exercise a lot of restraint not to peek). So, we agreed to each take $10 and get a few small things for each other. I think we are both planning to do that shopping at the grocery store - mmm chocolate and candy...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why two Hobbits?

According to this article, Peter Jackson has agreed to make a movie version of The Hobbit, hoping no doubt to rake in another boodle of money. But, instead of one nice little adventure movie, he's splitting it into two movies. Huh? I like Bilbo, and don't really have a problem with the book, but does the world really need TWO movies to tell the story? Do any of you Tolkien fans out there (Annie, Chris, that's your cue) have any clue?

And while we are on the subject of making boodles of money, the Mariners are raising ticket prices by exorbitant amounts - if you buy your tickets before March the amount isn't so bad, but if you wait until game day it is a lot more. And certain games against the Yankees and the Red Sox will be considered "premium" games, and therefore cost even more. That doesn't bother me so much (partially since I probably won't be around Seattle to go to those games) since it does have a precedent in other sports. Hockey, for instance. If you want to go see a good team, or rather, a famous team, like the Maple Leafs, then you pay big bucks. You want to go see a not so good team, or at least a less famous team, like the New Jersey Devils, then prices are a bit more reasonable. But making people buy tickets so far in advance to get a better price is obnoxious. And they are going to raise the price of bleacher seats too. Blech.

And they think this will work?

The NY Times has an article today about how Scholastic books is trying to create the next book phenomenon, now that Harry Potter is done. They have it all planned out to include on-line components, game cards and other merchandise. The books will be written by a string of different writers. It is all planned out, by committee. As someone who has read a lot of kids books, and still does, I have to say that this sounds incredibly dumb. You can't MAKE a good series - it just happens. I suppose they don't really care if it is any good...they just want to sell books and make a lot of money. Blech.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Anyone need some snow?

We have plenty. Alas, yesterday was not officially a blizzard, and the airport only reported about 10 inches. We, however, have definitely had more snow than that, and it is snowing again, after a sunny, snow-free morning. This picture is the sidewalk, looking right (west) from our driveway. No, we didn't have to shovel all that - there is a sidewalk plow that comes by early in the morning to do that. Of course, as you can see, it leaves a ridge of snow to either side, which we do have to shovel out of the walk.

We took advantage of the break in the weather to attempt shovel the walk and the driveway. The walk posed no problems, but the driveway was another story. Not only was there a ridge from the sidewalk plow, but there was also one from the regular street plow too. That snow, instead of being light and fluffy, is heavy, and wet, and crusty. We were struggling valiantly with it (another problem, we only have one snow shovel so I was trying to use a regular shovel) when an older neighbor came by and said "I'm surprised you weren't out here last night shoveling" and after acting all smug about the amount of work we had left, offered to bring over his snow blower and help out. Ordinarily, I would prefer to do my work without the use of power tools, but it was a big pile of slush snow, and we'd already been at it for some time. He had the whole thing uncovered in about 10 minutes. You can see the large piles on either side of the driveway, and across the street. Now, several hours later, the driveway is fully visible. Or it was, before it started snowing rather heavily...

The birds seem unaffected by the snow. I spotted the woodpecker, towhees, and cardinal out at the feeder. One of these days I may manage to get a picture of the cardinal in the snow. And I promise, unless we have another foot or two of snow tonight, that I will not mention snow or shoveling!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The blizzard of '07

Well, not officially (it has more to do with wind speed and duration than snow volume, apparently), but close enough for blogging about. So far, we have at least 6-8 inches - can't be more precise since I haven't been out to measure for several hours, and it has snowed steadily since I was out. And the snow is blowing a lot, so the depth is different in different places. Here are some pictures from the last few days - a mix of Thursday's snow and today's snow (the only difference is the amount is greater today - but snow looks pretty much the same).

To the right is the view out of our front door. The plows haven't been by in a couple of hours. Some of the neighbors have made an effort to clear their driveways, but we haven't yet. I mean, it is still snowing, and shoveling in a blizzard is one of the most fruitless activities I can think of - and besides, we don't actually need to go anywhere for a while.
Here we have Benjamin braving the cold and blowing snow to go for a walk with me. This was Thursday, but as I said, it is about the same today. I went for a walk earlier today, in case there is too much snow later. The only people I saw on my way were busy snowblowing, apart from the one intrepid jogger. I guess she also wanted to get some exercise before it was impossible.

Not all of the ducks migrated south for the winter - in fact, the park across the canal still has a large number of them. I bet they were wishing they had (assuming of course, that ducks can feel regret). Quite a few of them had an accumulation of snow on their backs - I guess frozen water doesn't roll off a ducks back quite so easily as liquid water!


The canal level dropped a couple of days ago - after Thursday's snow sometime. The ice on the edges cracked, leaving slabs several inches thick on the rocks. Now it is all covered in snow again and you can't really tell.

Anyway, we are snowed in for the immediate future. We did all our grocery shopping yesterday, and took a trip to the library, so the necessities are covered. And we have fresh pumpkin muffins to keep up our strength.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hooray for Latin!

I am a big fan of learning Latin. I took four years of it in college, and just wish I could have started earlier, like Dorothy Sayers, who was reputed to have learned Greek and Latin by age 6. Maybe then it wouldn't have been such a struggle. Now, I can't say that I have a lot of use for Latin in my everyday life, but I am glad I know it. It comes in handy now and then, especially on word games. Here is an editorial essay from the NY Times that argues for more Latin education in our schools.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow watch

We are predicted to get 3-6 inches of snow today, and "the first big one" of the season on Sunday. I guess the snow we had last week doesn't count as "the big one." Lots of snow is fine with me, as long as the power doesn't go out! If it does we will be toast, or rather, frozen bread. I mean, we don't have a fireplace, and while our heat is a gas furnace, it has an electric starting mechanism, not a pilot light. But, that is jumping ahead of myself. If we do get a ton of snow, I will be sure to put up some pictures.

Update: It is now snowing, an hour after the first post. Creamsicle wanted to take a walk outside, but it wasn't very long before she came running up the front walk, ready to come back in. I don't blame her - it is cold out...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Knit-o-rama

This post is for Jennifer and Annie, and any of my other friends who knit. It seems that bloggers who knit (or knitters who blog) are required to post pictures of their knitting. Here are three of the scarves I have completed so far. The one on the far right is actually wider than it appears, but I haven't tried blocking it yet. The one on the left is made of fun fur or something and is very fuzzy. I don't have any pictures of the very first "creation" I knitted, since I unraveled it in order to make the scarf on the right. I've also made one scarf for myself that is very like the middle one (I'm wearing it in the previous post's picture), and one other one that has already been sent off as a gift. After I am done with my Christmas gift scarves, I want to try a blanket, or a Jayne hat...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Creamsicle settles in


As I mentioned a week or so ago, Creamsicle has now officially joined the household. While Mom and Dad were here, she got the full treatment at the vet, and was given a clean bill of health. I wasn't going to bring her in, but it go so cold and wet that I couldn't stand to leave her outside. At first, I only let her into the basement - with her blanket, food, and litter box. For a few days that was fine for her, and she seemed content just to be inside, getting occasional petting and so on.

After Mom and Dad left, however, she wanted more - she wanted to be upstairs with us. Creamsicle didn't like Oliver at first, even though he was nothing but friendly, but they now tolerate each other, and are sharing the couch as I type. Cleo is a different story - she can't stand to be in the same room with Creamsicle (unless she is eating, and then she doesn't notice anything except the food). This lead to lots of growling and hissing between the two, and occasionally at poor Oliver if he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. After several days, Cleo ceded the living room except as a pathway to the kitchen, and fiercely defends the bedroom from invasion. Cleo has gotten very jumpy, and will growl at the slightest movement once aroused. During the day skirmishes are generally at a minimum, since all three cats are usually sleeping. The most troublesome time is morning. All three are awake and hungry, and all three are wandering the house. Creamsicle occasionally invites trouble by traipsing into the bedroom and invading Cleo's territory. This can lead to some very disconcerting moments when it happens in the wee hours of the night. Hopefully, Cleo and Creamsicle will eventually tolerate each other, but I am not holding my breath.

In the meantime, Creamsicle is enjoying the laps, and the toys, and the food. She has absolutely no desire to go back outside, and miraculously, she has not attacked the Christmas tree yet! She is so sweet that I cannot understand why anyone would have left her behind - for she was obviously someone's pet.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas cookies time

It is that time of year again - time to make (and eat) lots of Christmas cookies. When I was little, Mom and I would make cookies and give them to the neighbors. We always made 3 or 4 types of cookies and decorated them all. I remember it as being a lot of fun, but then, I didn't have to do the cleaning up! These days, I tend to stick to one kind at a time, and do minimal decorating. Yesterday, Benjamin and I made our first batch of the year - gingerbread shapes. They weren't men, since I don't actually have a man shaped cookie cutter. Instead, they were hearts, bells, trees, armadillos, and geese. They turned out really yummy. Once they are gone, or next weekend, I am going to try out a recipe for almond crescents that I saw in the Joy of Cooking. And 0n Christmas Eve I am going to make our traditional sugar cookies with icing - teddy bears and cacti...Good thing we played racquetball today!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The power of the sun

The sun is out today, for the first time in over a week. Even though the temperature is still below freezing (it was 17 when we got up), the energy that comes from the sun shining on the snow and ice is causing a slight thaw. The roads are bare and dry (where they were previously plowed, anyway), the sidewalks are losing some of their ice, and the gutters are dripping. The snow itself doesn't appear to be melting - as I said, it is still freezing - but clear sidewalks would be nice!

I usually don't think of myself as someone who is affected by the lack of sunlight - I mean, I grew up in Seattle and didn't ever feel like I was suffering from and seasonal affectedness disorder. In fact, it is usually the opposite with me. The sun, especially in the summer, tends to get me down, with all that heat, and brightness, and the drumming rays trying to cook your brain and all that...but, after a week of grayness and blowing snow, it is really, really nice to see the blue sky again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nature in winter

We are up to 16 inches of snow now. This morning, after the night's snowfall, all traces of our activity the day before were erased. No trail out to the bird feeder, no sign of the cleared walkway. Yesterday was gray, snowy, and gloomy. Today, the sun has peeked through the clouds in between the occasional snow flurry. When it falls, the snow falls down today, instead of sideways, as it had been doing since Monday.


The birds and squirrels are out and about. The squirrels have set trails across the backyard, converging on the bird feeder. One set comes from the northwest corner, hopping from hole to hole - the bounds are quite long for such small animals, about as long as my stride. Another set comes from the east, circling a small spruce that provides a bit of shelter from the wind, and any watching eyes. Do all the squirrels use both trails, or are they different clans, only meeting at the neutral ground of the feeder?

Canada geese are still passing through. They fly over in mega-flocks, aggregated from small groups, honking back and forth as they prepare to land on the canal, or take off again. They never seem to actually fly in a southerly direction - is it the same flock, circling through, day after day? No way to tell from the ground, unable to decipher their calls - do the geese from different areas have accents?

The canal itself is frozen over, even under the bridges where open ice seems to remain the longest. The ice is covered with snow - hiding the remains of human activities that were uncovered when the canal level dropped - the two shopping carts, a discarded bicycle. The ice probably isn't very thick, or completely solid. It rained on Sunday evening, just warm enough to break up the ice and cause some small floes to form, and open areas that the geese filled. But that was before the temperatures dropped again, down into the 20s, and the snow started up again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Precipitation

It is still snowing here in Brockport - according to the paper's snowfall derby, we have now caught up to the "normal for the year." We are way ahead for December, after being way behind for November. At least 8 inches so far for the month. I am going to have to go shovel snow again. (I promise, I won't blog every time I have to shovel. But it is still new to me...)
Meanwhile, in the Seattle area, it is raining, and raining, and raining... Woodinville is inundated - I wouldn't be surprised if Mom didn't have to go to school today, since she works not far from some of the worst of the flooding. The Seattle PI has some amazing pictures of the flooding, here. Good thing my parents' house is on a big hill!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Decorating

Shoveling snow wasn't the only seasonal activity we did on Sunday. We also put up our Christmas decorations. As you can see, we didn't get a real tree this year. We stuck with the little tree we have used for the last 4 or 5 years. With three cats in the house - two of whom like to pull decorations off and play with them, and a wood floor, I figured it was a lot safer. And a lot less mess - no needles to fall off. I did get a real wreath though, so we get a little bit of the fir smell in the house. We went to a choral Christmas concert too, put on by the college and community chorus. A nice way to get in the mood of the season.

Winter wonderland!

Sunday morning we awoke to find ourselves in a winter wonderland after the first significant snowfall of the season. Above is a picture of the canal, frozen in places, and covered with snow. It only took one day of temperatures around 17 F to freeze most of the canal! It isn't thick enough to skate on, obviously, but it did take a biggish rock to break a hole in the ice when we were testing it.
Just about four inches of snow in the yard, as you can see by this high tech measuring device. While Benjamin grew up in the frozen wilds of northern Idaho, I grew up in the more temperate suburbs of Seattle, and we almost never got this much snow at once. I think we did once when I was really little, and then I know we did when I was in 6th grade, but it happened while Mom, Dad and I were in New Zealand on vacation. Usually, that area gets about an inch a couple of times a winter, and the entire region goes into panic mode. The TV stations are all sending their poor reporters out to send live shots from "Winter Storm '07" or whatnot. Here, nothing, apart from the weather man saying we might get some more later. No reporters out getting frostbite in pursuit of the story, no crisis mode. It is refreshing.

Anyway, all that snow had to be shoveled. Guess who got to do most of that? Yup, Benjamin. He is, after all, the one with experience in the job. The walkway in front of the house wasn't too bad, but the driveway is largish, and there was a lot of snow on it.
I did lend a hand though, for a little bit. Shoveling snow is harder than raking leaves, that's for sure! I can see how someone with heart problems could end up with a heart attack! No worries for us though.And the snow plows were out all over town, clearing the roads. There is even a special little plow for the sidewalks! It is one of those mule/gator tractor things - they are like the love child of a gold cart and an ATV - with an enclosed cab and tracks, and a small snow plow.

Such fun! I love new-fallen snow, because the whiteness makes the winter gloom a little less, and it covers over the brown raggedyness of the end of fall. You can't see that everything is dead, all you see is a lovely fluffy blanket of white. Everything is transformed, and you can see things from a new perspective, notice things that escaped your notice before.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Of furnaces, grout, and Christmas bazaars

Following up on the shower wall saga: the tiles are now set and I have begun the initial grouting stages. I was worried that the tube of grout patch that the landlady gave us wouldn't be enough, but it was, and the grout seems OK so far. I will be so very happy to have our shower back again!

Especially since our furnace is not working. A warm shower would have been really, really nice this morning. See, yesterday morning we woke up to find that the bedroom was a nice, cool 57, and that the furnace was not going. If it did go, it only blew cold air at us. So, a call to the landlady, who came out, took a look, pushed a button (after removing the panel on the heater that says "Do not remove until the electricity has been shut off. You could blow up the house and/or electrocute yourself if you do"), and made it go again. Since she really didn't do anything, I was a little skeptical that it would solve the problem. And I was right. I awoke this morning to the sound of a futile furnace. Since it had been going earlier, the house wasn't quite so cold, but still. So, another call, to the landlady (I am sure she is getting really sick of us this week). A furnace repair man should be coming soon...Of course, all of this wouldn't be as big an issue if it weren't 19 degrees Fahrenheit, and snowing (well, not at the moment, but it was snowing earlier, and may snow again later).

Last night we headed into Rochester to go to an alternative gift bazaar at the Unitarian Church. It was a lot like any other bazaar/gift market, but most everything there was locally produced, or at least fair trade etc. I didn't buy anything, except a cookie, but Benjamin did all his shopping for me. Yes, I sort of know what he got, but not exactly. It is a first though, he didn't wait until the week of Christmas to order something that won't show up until after... If I get done with the grout, furnace, and grocery store, I plan to head over to the little Christmas market here in Brockport. And we are going to a Christmas choral concert tomorrow night. I love this time of year.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Weather update

This is for my mother, who has been asking me every time we talk this week: It is now snowing. I don't know if it will stick yet, since it just started, but there is a chance that we will get around 6 inches this weekend. And it is snowing heavily...sideways as a matter of fact, since the wind is also blowing rather hard. According to the snowfall derby in the paper, we are at least 5 inches behind so far this year.

Brockport archives

I have been volunteering a couple of afternoons a week at the Brockport college archives for a couple of months now. It is a great way to get to know the area and the history of the college - both of the collections I have worked on so far have taught me quite a bit. For instance, Brockport hosted the Special Olympics in 1979, and it was a really big deal - Mohammad Ali came, along with other famous athletes. Also, Brockport used to be a Normal School - a school for teaching teachers - and was almost closed down by the state in the 1940s because it wasn't seen as useful, but the school president fought that, and the school survived. In the 1960s it became a liberal arts style institution, as it is now. All this, and more detail, is available on the archives website here.

Volunteering is also a good way to try to make contacts for possible jobs. Yesterday when I stopped by, the archivist invited me to come to a meeting of some of the local university and college archivists. Although there were only 5 other people there, they were all archivists, and it was really nice to talk to other professionals. I had begun to forget, since I am rather away from the field at the moment, that I actually like being an archivist. Two of the attendees had been to the big SAA meeting in Chicago, and were sharing some of their reflections about it. A lot of what they were talking about were things I had dealt with in classes - so it was also nice to know that what I was learning is actually applicable! That is not always the case with classes, and is not always obvious when you are stuck trying to understand something. It also showed me that I know more than I think, when put to the test. Too bad none of the other archivists had any job openings... But, they know who I am now, and might remember me if they hear of something.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A second bathroom would be helpful

Over Thanksgiving, an accident occurred with my dad and our shower wall. The result was that we now have a medium sized hole in the shower. We are in the process of getting it fixed, but it is taking a while. You see, every step of the process comes with a waiting period: the pvc paint used to prep the drywall (put in by the landlady yesterday evening) has to dry fully before we can put up the tiles. Once the tiles are up, we have to wait 24 hours before grouting. After grouting, we rae supposed to wait 72 (!!!!) hours before exposing the tiles to water. While this is going on, we don't really have use of the shower. The landlady came on Monday to assess the damage, and take down the broken section of wall. Then we discovered that the hole had gotten a bit damp, and needed to dry out. But, she couldn't come back until Wednesday. So, on Tuesday we went to the gym to play racquetball, and took showers in the locker rooms. Yesterday, she came and fitted the drywall. Now the paint is drying, and if I have time this evening I will put up the tiles. But I think we are just going to have to cover the hole with plastic again, because the gym is a long way away, and neither of us want to go that far for a shower... And we could both use one!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That's a big pair of dentures...

This elephant is in the George Eastman House here in Rochester. According to the guide who gave us a short tour, George Eastman shot the elephant on safari in Africa, and brought it home. But, it only had one tusk (which is on display beneath the elephant), so Eastman had the dental clinic at Kodak make the elephant two fake tusks.

This isn't the real elephant either - apparently, it was given to the zoo, by one of the later occupants of the house (it was used by the University of Rochester to house the president of the school), and when the house was restored and turned into a museum, they had a replica made. I much prefer a replica elephant, being rather strongly opposed to trophy hunting...

No matter what your feelings on elephants, fake tusks, and trophies, the Eastman House is well worth a visit. We will take you by if you come to stay with us!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pretty pictures

I promised to post some of my dad's pictures from Thanksgiving. He had so many good ones that I could easily eat up all my available space with them, but here are two good ones to start with. The one on the left is of the sidewalk on the way to church. We had a hard frost the night before, and all the leaves dropped at once almost. They covered the sidewalk and lawn so densely that you couldn't see them. The picture is more impressive if you see the full-sized version, but I think you can get the idea.

The picture below is from an early morning walk we took along the canal. There wasn't any wind, so the reflections were amazing. It was really cold, and I was getting hungry, so I almost tried to convince him to go home and come back later. I am glad I didn't - even if we had had another clear morning like that one, the canal level dropped about 4 or 5 feet, and the reflections wouldn't have been possible. Now there are even a few mud bars visible on the sides of the canal, where the rocks end. How low will it go, I wonder?
I will post some more pictures later in the week, and once Dad gets his own web site updated, I will provide a link so you can see more, in a bigger size.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving...the holiday that keeps on giving

We are on day 4 of turkey leftovers. The turkey we got was way too big for four people, so even with all the turkey we have eaten so far, I put enough turkey for at least 5 more meals into the freezer today. We will be making (but not this week!) turkey tetrazzini, winter vegetable and turkey chowder, turkey pot pie - any other suggestions would be welcome! Mom also made enough stuffing and gravy for about 10 people, so there is still a lot of that left as well... I used some of the left-over mashed potatoes to make potato bread this afternoon. It is really light and fluffy, and tastes pretty good. We will be having turkey sandwiches with it for lunch tomorrow, I am sure. And there is still a bit of pumpkin pie left, but I don't mind that so much.

Next year, I think we ought to go back to enchiladas, or go to someone else's house for Thanksgiving! I will bring a pumpkin cheesecake, if anyone is interested.

No fun activity of the day

And the award goes to...raking wet leaves covered in slushy snow! While Dad was here, he did a lot of raking, but there were still a lot of leaves on the ground in the backyard, and since winter is really starting to set in, I thought it would be good to get them off of the grass. Unfortunately, these leaves were in the shady section of the yard, and were still covered in the slushy remains of the Thanksgiving snow. Ugh. Wet leaves and slush are heavy! Luckily, it was nice out today, so being outside wasn't also no fun...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving adventures

My parents left for Seattle at 5 A.M. this morning, after a busy week here in Brockport. The house is so quiet now, and it feels much larger than it did yesterday! We did a lot while they were here - trekked the mall (pre-Thanksgiving), shopped at the Rochester Public Market, toured the George Eastman House, walked on Lake Ontario, drove up to Niagara Falls, ate lots of food, played some games (I won both games of Trivial Pursuit), and went to a movie. Dad raked lots of leaves for us, in the freezing cold. Creamsicle has now joined the household after a trip to the vet for vaccinations. The locally-raised turkey was very good and fresh. It snowed on Thursday, after raining buckets on Wednesday. It was a good visit, and I wish we didn't have to go so long between seeing each other.

Now we are returning to normal. I've cleaned the house, Benjamin made the bed (ahh, a real bed again! We've been on the air-mattress in the living room all week...), and the cats can find a place to sit without getting smooshed or moved every five minutes.

Here are a couple of pictures from the week: Benjamin continues his lawless ways during our visit to Niagara Falls...(look closely at the sign)Mom and her newly invented lip warmer (it can double as a mustache warmer for men and really hairy women) go for a walk in the snow on Thanksgiving.

Dad took a lot of good ones pictures - more scenic than these - and I will put some of those up later in the week.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Parental visit update

My parents arrived safely, and on time, on Saturday night. So far, we have taken several walks and gone holiday grocery shopping. Eek!! That was a scary experience - dodging everyone else doing their own holiday shopping - big carts, determined people. There was another hard frost Saturday night, which knocked a lot of leaves off of the trees. On an early morning walk Dad spent some time trying to take pictures of the leaves falling, don't know how successful he was.

Today we go pick up our turkey from the local turkey farm. It isn't a heirloom turkey or organic, as far as I know, but it is free-range and local - you can see the turkeys from the road.

No snow yet, although we might have some at the end of the week.

We head up to Niagara Falls on Wednesday. I'll add pictures when we get back.

Congratulations!

A big congratulations to all of my tai chi classmates who passed their black sash test yesterday. I wish I could have been there with you.

For those of you who don't know, the tai chi black sash test is a 4-5 hour culmination of many years of hard work, and it is a great honor to pass.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How much do you recycle?

Yesterday was (I think) America recycles day. We recycle about as much as we can - we have a worm bin to recycle food scraps (although we can't recycle all that we create with the bin we have, we do a fair amount), we recycle all our newspapers and other scratch paper, and I have started using the backs of envelopes to write directions and lists on, we recycle all cans and bottles that we can. The biggest problem here in Brockport, as it was in Austin, is what to do with the number 5 plastics. We can't recycle them here, and we can't really avoid them - the yogurt we eat comes in 5 plastic tubs (in Austin, I was able to get yogurt in glass jars, but not here) and cottage cheese, and sour cream too. So, at the moment, we are just holding on to all these containers. In Austin I saved these and sent them to my parents. My mother considers this to be rather eccentric behavior on my part, but my dad agrees with me. I don't want all these containers to go to the landfill, just because the local waste management company can't recycle them...We also try not to buy unnecessary items that we will then have to dispose of at some point, and we try to use everything we have for as long as possible.

Anyway, how much do you recycle? What is your impact on the planet? Here is a nifty little graphic/calculator to find out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The parents are coming!

Forget spring cleaning, it is time for Thanksgiving cleaning! My parents are coming on Saturday and will be here for a whole week. This means that I will be spending a good portion of the next few days cleaning everything I can possibly clean. It isn't that we are particularly messy, but my mother is super neat - she doesn't even have to try, it's like she has a clean field around her. And, I am definitely not like that, so super-duper cleaning here I come.

On the plus side, I won't have to do the Thanksgiving turkey this year, since she has promised to take over that duty. I have done it several times before, with varying degrees of success, but I would prefer to give it to someone else. For the last few years, Benjamin and I have had enchiladas and guacamole instead. I mean, a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and all the other fixings are just too much work for two people. But this year will be a "real" Thanksgiving. I even found a free-range turkey farm about 5 minutes down the road from us. We will miss the guacamole though...

Improve your vocabulary, feed people

I just learned about this new web site: FreeRice. It is a vocabulary game sort of like the definition section of the SATs, and for every correct answer you have, they donate 10 grains of rice. Not a lot on its own, but the more you play, the more rice gets donated. According to the web site, they donated almost 200,000,000 grains yesterday. It is paid for by advertising on the site.

How good is your vocabulary?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bird watching in Brockport

I have been getting some different birds lately, now that it is colder and I put out a suet feeder in addition to the seed. There are some downy woodpeckers, juncos, a white-breasted nuthatch, blue jays, the occasional cardinal, chickadees, sparrows, and a few doves. The finches that were the most abundant in September are long gone. And the woodchuck is definitely gone for the season - haven't seen it around since early October. The squirrels are still around - in fact, I suspect one of them of stealing the suet from the feeder one day when I forgot to secure it properly. It was a brand new block too - cheeky beggars! Mostly they stay on the ground though, and don't cause too many problems.

We had a hard frost on Saturday night that covered the yard in a thick white blanket, but since then it has been warmer - tomorrow might actually reach 60! It is amazing how quickly 50 becomes warm - last week the temperatures were in the 30s and low 40s, and it was wet, but Sunday, once the sun came out was practically balmy - at 50. Today is warm enough to go outside without a hat and scarf, and with only a light jacket. Let's hope we don't get to the point where 30 seems balmy...although I bet we will.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

Thank you to all those who have served this country in the armed forces, including my grandfather, Richard Van Dyke, and my cousin, Richard James Van Dyke.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Love Pumpkin . . .

I love baking with it - pies, cheesecake, muffins. I just made some really good pumpkin muffins. Nice and cinnamony and warm. Yum! I will be making at least one pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving - if there were going to be more of us, I would make a cheesecake. Dad gave me a pumpkin cookie recipe that I also have to try soon. And I have a pumpkin and black bean chili recipe I want to try...Ahh, pumpkins!

I love the way sugar pumpkins look - all orange and round. They are smaller and cuter than jack-o-lantern pumpkins. Ever since I bought my first pumpkin at the farmer's market in Walla Walla, I have only used real pumpkin - none of that canned stuff for me. I sort of bought that pumpkin just because the guy selling them was really cute, but after the first pie, I was converted, cute guy or no. It isn't difficult to use fresh pumpkin instead of canned, but it does take a few extra steps of preparation. You have to first bake the pumpkin (see Joy of Cooking for directions) and then puree the flesh before you can use it. But it is very worth it!

Overheard at the grocery store

I was doing grocery shopping yesterday when I encountered a sad example of stupid food choices. In the soup aisle, I overheard a woman and her teenage son. The son apparently wanted to get some cans of soup, but the mother couldn't find the store brand and announced "You are not getting any soup, not at $1.89 a can! Get some broth and make your own!" Later I passed her as she was trying to convince her son to buy the 40 cent boxes of mac and cheese, instead of the "expensive" Kraft brand. At first I felt sorry for them for being poor, but then I looked in the cart, and it was filled with 2 liter bottles of soda, frozen microwave meals, and other processed foods that barely deserve the name of food. Buy some fruit and vegetables, for Pete's sake!! Let the kid have some soup! Or get some real ingredients and make real soup.

With all the information available in so many ways these days, I don't understand why anyone persists in eating such junk...Yes, yes, in some poor areas, junk is all that is on offer, but that isn't the case at our Wegman's. Sigh.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Snow derby

Our local newspaper includes some interesting features on its weather page. A new one that just appeared is the Snow Derby. This is where the amounts of snowfall for Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse - the three largest cities in Western New York - are listed and compared. I guess the idea is to see who has suffered the most, so that city can boast about it?! Well, I guess if you have to live in a cold climate, at least you can have snow. Seattle had something similar when they were getting close to the most rainy days in a row (which, incidentally, was only a Seattle record, since Olympia and areas of the Olympic Peninsula had more already). So far, Buffalo is winning, with 2.6 inches. We have had only trace amounts. It doesn't appear that we will be getting any more for a while, since the forecast for the next few days is dry.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Book-related time waster

A friend (you know who you are) introduced me to a fun web site: www.goodreads.com. You can list books you have read, rate them, recommend them to friends (if you have any listed) and see what your friends are reading. I've only been doing this for a few days, and I have about 500 books listed. But it is a major time-waster, finding all the books and such, so if you ten d to get addicted to such things, like I do, don't start until you have some time available.

In other news, it snowed yesterday. Not enough to stick, but still, snow!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Winter forecast

Snow is in the forecast for the rest of this week. It isn't supposed to accumulate, but if it does, I will be sure to post pictures. My parents are coming for Thanksgiving, and my mom is worried that she will have to drive around in the snow. I doubt it will be a problem. Even if it does snow a lot, they actually plow the streets here, and know how to deal with it, unlike Bellevue, where everything shuts down if there is even a trace of snow on the roads...

Anyway, it is cold. And the leaves are supposed to be off the trees already, but aren't. I did finally see the leaf-vacuum truck yesterday. A big vacuum hooked to the back of a truck...Now I have to go rake again, but I think I will wait until the weekend - maybe it will be done snowing by then :)

Monday, November 5, 2007

We want real food!

Do you like real food? If so, you should be paying attention to the farm bill that is currently going through Congress. Michael Pollan writes about it here. Vote with your purchases - stop buying foods made with high fructose corn syrup, start buying local whenever you can, ditto with organic.

We do this as much as possible, but it has gotten more difficult, now that we are in New York and away from Whole Foods. I know, WF isn't perfect, but it does have more choices in these areas - especially in meats. Over the last six years, we grew used to being able to get grass-fed, locally raised meats from farmer's markets, and organic chicken, and wild caught fish. Here, all of these are much more difficult. Our local Wegman's does not carry any sort of organic or natural meats, except bison - and who knows where that is actually coming from. Just this weekend, Wegmans' recalled large amounts of beef products supplied by Cargill - one of the biggest (and if you've read Fast Food Nation, one of the scariest) "meat producers" in the country. . . and we had bought that meat - just once. Never again. We are really close to being vegetarian, because we cannot support the way the meat we have available is raised, even though we don't have an ethical problem with eating meat, if it is raised humanely and without contamination.

Fire, and marshmallows

Friday night we finally had our fire in the firepit, and made s'mores. We figured we'd better do it soon, because it is getting rather nippy out these days, and didn't want to be out in the snow trying to roast marshmallows. It was still pretty cold, even with the fire. This picture is taken with the flash on - I wanted to get a nice, artistic view of flames and Benjamin in shadows, but all I got was flames and darkness - so you will just have to imagine that it was completely dark, apart from the fire (and the light from the neighbor's giant light...). Flames and darkness are artistic, but not good enough to actually see anything or anyone in. As you can see, Creamsicle joined us, aggressivly claiming lap space. Any time she was in my lap and I wasn't petting her she would head-butt me until I took proper notice. I think she will probably end up as our third cat, once I get a chance to take Cleo and Oliver to the vet, and get her checked out as well.

Anyway, we had a good time roasting marshmallows. All of mine caught on fire, as usual - I am too impatient when it comes to browning them, but none of them fell in the fire or on the ground. And, best of all, there was no sand on them! Since I usually only made s'mores at the beach, sand was often a common element in any of my marshmallow roasting attempts. I am very talented at getting sand in my food...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saddest mascot ever?

This is the moose mascot for the Rochester Americans hockey team. It is SO sad looking, like the team just lost. When it came out on the ice at the game last night, after a big build up, Benjamin and I just looked at each other and started laughing. You see, what you can't tell from this picture is that the moose is decrepit - it skated around the ice like it was 90 years old, and the antlers droop, and the eyes are cast down. It certainly doesn't look excited to be at a hockey game...It rode a 4-wheeler during an intermission, but slowly, and carefully. The moose pictured on the t-shirts at the souvenir stand was a scary, buff looking moose. Fang, the Austin Ice Bats mascot, skated around like he had a jet pack on, and rode the 4-wheeler like he was trying out for the X-games. The Mariner Moose is athletic and crazy (almost ran over CoCo Crisp during a game this summer), and his antlers stand up straight. What's up with this moose?

The game was fun, even though I spent the entire first period feeling sorry for the moose! The arena is really nice here, a huge leap from the Expo Center and Chapparal Ice in Austin - no bleachers, a video replay screen, real concession stands... and Amerks won. It is always nice when the team you are there to watch wins.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ooh, ooh, ooh

Joss Whedon has a new TV series coming! Wahoo! You can read about it here. For those of you poor, deprived people who don't know who he is, he is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly (only one of the best shows on TV that stupid Fox canceled). Now, let's just hope there isn't a writer's strike to throw a big, fat wrench in the plans...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Merry Christmas, already?!?

I love Christmas, in fact it is my favorite holiday, and not because of presents and cookies (although those don't really hurt any). I love the music (well, the sacred music more than the silly, inane pop songs), the feeling of the season, and giving gifts. That said, I don't like Christmas before Thanksgiving, before Advent starts. The season has its place, and by not starting too early, I can stand the decorations, songs and whatnot for the entire season. Retailers, however, do not seem to see things my way. The Wegman's that we shop at has had fake Christmas trees on sale for several weeks. Today, Halloween, when I went to get some candy for tonight, I was lucky to find any - most of it had been removed in favor of Christmas candy. Honestly, can't they wait one more day, at least, so that it is November? And then I found this article in the NYTimes about how WalMart is going to jump-start the season by having its first big sale this weekend, instead of waiting until the day after Thanksgiving. C'mon! This is just encouraging rampant consumerism and obscuring any redeeming values of the season. Even if you aren't religious, Christmas ought to be about peace on earth and goodwill toward men, not shopping 'til you are so in debt you are in danger of losing your house!

Halloween Wednesday

Good grief! Tomorrow is November already, and Thanksgiving is only 3 weeks away! We are prepared for trick-or-treaters, and are likely to get more than we ever did in Austin (which was none - although I would have thought apartments would be prime pickings). Too bad, because left-over candy is as close to trick-or-treating as I am likely to get until I have children. Dad, dressed in a frightful old man mask, was usually the one who went with me when I would go ... Ah well, maybe there will still be some candy on sale when I go grocery shopping this weekend.

I have finished my first knitting project, although I hesitate to give it such a grand name. I didn't really make it into anything, and it is too short to be a proper scarf, and too narrow to be a place mat or cat mat. Oh well. Next up I am going to try a real scarf. But, that is about all I am up to at the moment, which is a shame, since there are so many interesting yarns at the store, and Benjamin and I only need so many scarves. Well, you may all be getting scarves as Christmas gifts, ha ha!

I put out a suet feeder this morning, now that it is cold, and I already have a new bird: a downy woodpecker! Wahoo!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Christmas picture, circa 1981

A few posts ago I mentioned my favorite leaf picture was one that we used as a Christmas card when I was a little kid. My dad has passed it on, so here it is, in case you were curious:
Our leaves (circa 2007) are still falling, and I will probably have to go rake them again soon. We had a light frost on the back lawn this morning, and it is cold, despite the sun. Time to break out the long johns (if only I actually had some already...)

Adventure report

Back from my trip across the state to visit with Catherine and Morrie. Apart from the rain that washed out our planned hike on Saturday (and then stopped just when it was too late to go), everything went well. The drive allowed me to see more of my new state, and the foliage. There were friends, good food, and a wriggly puppy - what more do you need for a weekend break? Saratoga Springs, where we spent Saturday and Sunday, was pretty, and warrants further investigation (preferably not in the driving rain!), as does Albany. I only got to see a bit of the downtown area of the latter during a nighttime walk, and would like to go back in the daylight to do some exploring. Fodder for future adventures!

Thanks again to Catherine and Morrie for putting me up and showing me around!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Off to Albany

No, I haven't joined the state government. I am going to visit Catherine and Morrie (who do have some sort of government jobs) and do some sight seeing. This trip is by myself, since Benjamin has opted to be a good professor and stay home to work.

Still knitting. I am not sure what I am making at the moment. It is too wide to be a scarf, and too small to be a blanket (since I only have one skein of yarn in that color). Maybe a kitty place mat. Cleo is certainly interested in my new hobby - she sits in my lap while I am trying to knit and attacks the yarn when I pull on it. Oliver just observes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Me, knitting??!!

Yup. I'm teaching myself to knit, using a book my mom sent me. It's really her idea - she says I need something to do with my hands and keep me busy. So, she sent me a book on knitting and a book on crocheting, some needles and some yarn, and now I am trying to figure it all out. I tried the crocheting first, since I remember doing that a couple of times as a kid, and my dad used to make granny squares (little squares that can be assembled into a larger blanket - whatever happened to them, I wonder?) while watching TV, but the diagrams were rather confusing, so I gave up after making a longish single strand. The knitting book is a little (but not much) clearer, so have managed to knit a couple of rows. Next up, learning to purl, then I will be ready to make a scarf. And then an afghan, and a hat, and gloves, and socks... No. I think I will probably stick to the scarf and afghan - not enough patience (or ambition) to do fancy stuff. But if I change my mind, you will be the first to know! Maybe I can Benjamin to crochet...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Leaves, leaves

If I had doubted the coming of fall, I do so no longer! I spent two hours today raking leaves. This is a picture of the leaves I raked up in the driveway. You can get a sense of the size by the baseball hat on the right. It is only a three day accumulation, since I raked it clean on Sunday afternoon. I also raked the backyard, or at least some of it. It took 5 wheelbarrow loads to clean up that pile, and another three for the back lawn piles. Whew!

I love the smell of drying leaves - sort of crisp, sweet - sort of indescribable. I haven't smelled it in years though, because the leaves on the live oak trees (the majority tree in Austin) don't fall in Autumn, and they don't smell like maples. When we went to Ithaca the other week, I mentioned the smell, and Benjamin said that he had never smelled it at all - that's what comes of growing up in an area with no deciduous trees! That smell of maple leaves transports me back to childhood, and fun of "helping" my parents clean up the yard. Dad would load up the wheelbarrow with leaves, and I would ride on top back to the compost pile. Grass clippings were another good cushion in the wheelbarrow, but a bit messier, since they got all over and in all your clothes. One of my favorite family pictures is one we used for a Christmas picture one year, posed behind a giant pile of leaves.

It is almost Halloween - not one of my favorite holidays any more. When I was a kid it was great, because dressing up was fun, and my mom made my costumes - I was a pilgrim one year, Laura Ingalls one year - and they were reusable for make-believe, and I got lots of free candy. Now, I am not as interested in dressing up, or my costume imagination has dried up, or something, I am really too old to go get free candy, and I am not much for parties. But, I do love pumpkins. I am a bit ambivalent about carving them, since my designs never turn out as I picture them, and I think that pumpkins are pretty, just as they are. Anyway, here is the pumpkin, as yet uncarved, that I bought over the weekend and put on our porch as seasonal decoration:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Weather weirdness

In a strange turn of weather events yesterday, Brockport experienced another summer-like day, while Austin had a typical Brockport fall day. We had sun and warm temperatures, Austin had cold and rain. Very strange indeed. Today we are supposed to have more typical, seasonable weather, but so far, even with the rain and cooler weather that arrived over night, we are still warmer than Austin, according to the various weather web sites I have consulted.

In fact, we have been having such nice weather this autumn that I find it hard to believe the scary winter weather stories that people have been telling me. 95 inches of snow?! Temperatures hovering around freezing or below for weeks? C'mon, tell the truth. No, no, I know (intellectually) that winter will indeed come, and when it does it will last for months, but with these balmy days and nights, it is just too hard for my (non-intellectual) mind to grasp. I am sure I am in for a rude awakening one of these mornings!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday, baking day

For the last couple of weeks, Monday has been laundry day, which meant I was schlepping baskets of dirty laundry out to the car and down to the laundromat, and then lugging the wet but clean laundry home to dry. Well, I managed to get all the various types of laundry done last week, so this Monday I am baking. Bread and snickerdoodles to be exact. I have been wanting cookies for a few days now, but hadn't gotten around to making any yet. I am not sure what possessed me to make them on the same day as bread, because it means several kitchen messes as once, and that I will be in the kitchen a good part of the day. At least the cookies are almost done, and the bread is in the middle of rising, which doesn't take any work on my part...

Yesterday I went to pick apples for possibly the last time this year. We shall see - there weren't many apples left at the farm I went to, but another farm may have more longer. It is certainly Fall now. Most of the trees are turning, all of a sudden it seems - at least, I didn't notice the day that they went from being mostly green to being different colors. And the leaves are most certainly falling. Several of the trees in the neighbor's yard are bare. I raked the driveway yesterday, and thanks to the wind, it was covered again within a couple of hours.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday and soup

Yahoo! Another Friday. Not that we have any exciting plans for this weekend, and not that my weekends are particularly different from my weeks. But, they are still nice. Tonight we are going to go see a student play at the college. I'll try to remember to give a review tomorrow.

There is a lot of soup at our house lately. Last night we made beet soup, which was tasty, and today I made a second batch of the butternut squash soup we had a couple of weeks ago (this was mostly because I was talked into buying far more butternut squash than I needed when I was at the farmer's market the other week, and I need to use some of it up). And because we are playing racquetball this afternoon, we won't have time to cook much before we have to go to the play, so we will be having soup from the freezer...

Oliver, who until last week refused to sit on laps or get on the soft parts of the couch (and never slept on the bed when we lived in Austin - something I think was partially related to his fear of soft things and partially because Cleo was territorial) has suddenly started sleeping in all the softest places in the house. This picture was taken last Friday. Since then he has not spent much time on my lap, but he has been sleeping on top of the big, soft cushion. I guess he just needed to be cold? He still does not like to be picked up or held...


Have a good weekend y'all! If we make any other good soups, I will be sure to let you know.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Green tips

Following on with the theme from yesterday:

After reading my post for yesterday, Benjamin pointed out that if there were only half as many people on the planet, everyone could live like us (needing two Earths). He did not have any practical solution (apart from global pandemic) for how to reduce the population, favoring the idea that everyone have only one child per family. Since I don't think the pandemic is realistic (or desirable), and I think it will be awfully hard to get everyone on Earth to agree not to over procreate, we will just have to work on other ways of saving our planet.

On a more basic level, don't use plastic shopping bags. Canvas or other reusable bags are available in most grocery stores for very little these days, and if you get one or two, stick them in a dark closet and they will multiply like rabbits. It's true - we started out with just a couple and now have 10 or 11...If you use the plastic bags for trash or animal waste, you can get a few, but do you really need the hundreds that come from one shopping trip?

Replace all your lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs. These do need to be specially recycled when they burn out, but they don't burn out for a very long time. You can get the equivalent amount of light as a 100 watt bulb, for only 15 watts!

Recycle. Everything you can. Try freecycling - this is where you trade or give away items you don't want to people who agree to use them, repair the items, whatever. Google the term for more information.

Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How green are you?

Blogger, the service I use to create this blog, encouraged its members to post about environmental matters on Monday. I missed it, but figure that better late than never. So here goes.

How green are you? Consumer Consequences, an interactive web site sponsored by American Public Media, has a quiz that you can use to find out how many Earths we would need if everyone lived like you. Benjamin and I consciously try to have as little an impact as is possible and practical - buying as much local food as possible, recycling, not buying disposable products - but due to the general American way of life, even we would require 2 Earths. This is appalling to me. Some of it we just can't do anything about right now, because we don't have enough money to completely change, and we are not given options by the people running our utilities, cities, car manufacturers... If we all get involved and tell these people that we are not happy with our choices, maybe we could make a difference. Nothing will happen if we don't speak up and act out. To quote Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Of course, one of the problems with getting more people interested in saving the environment is that there are so many of them just trying to survive. It is awfully hard to worry about how sustainable your food is when you can barely afford any to begin with. Thomas Friedman's column in the New York Times today points out someone who is trying to tackle both problems at once. I hope more programs like this can be put together, but it is going to take action at the grass roots level, not the government level, by the people who are directly affected. Get involved!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ithaca

We had a very nice trip to Ithaca this weekend. A big thanks to Hilary for providing us with a place to stay and for giving us an insider's tour of Cornell!

On our way down we stopped in Seneca Falls at the Women's Rights National Historical Park. This was unscheduled, but worth the detour. The Visitor's Center is next to the Wesleyan Chapel that hosted the First Women's Rights Convention in 1848, and the commemorative waterfall monument. Inside, there are life size statues of some of the leaders, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass - I was taller than everybody except him, and just about the same as him. People sure were short in the mid-1800s!

I am sorry to inform all the oenophiles among my readership that we did not stop at any of the many wineries on the Cayuga Wine Trail. Since neither of us drink much wine, the only one that tempted us was the hard cider store, but we put that off for another trip. The drive along the lake itself was nice and scenic. The leaves are still a week or two away from full turning (the paper this morning pointed out that this is because of the warm, dry summer) but there were enough to make the trees look autumnal.

We got really lucky with the weather - although it was a wee bit nippy, the sun was out for the first time all week. On our tour with Hilary we got to see the famous gorges and bridges of Ithaca, including the Bridge of Death from The Fool on the Hill, which we now have to re-read, so we can put the places together in our minds. And we got to have our picture taken with Ezra Cornell!


Dinner at the Moosewood Cafe was very good. Luckily we heeded Hilary's warning about getting there early - we arrived about 15 minutes before they began seating people - and were 2nd on the list. The place was packed soon after it opened. I think it is a good thing we don't live in Ithaca, or we would probably eat there far too often. The other thing that really impressed us about Ithaca was the Farmer's Market. I know we didn't see it at its best - a rainy, cold Sunday morning - but it was still very cool. It has a permanent shed, with stalls and booths, and is open several days a week. We bought some heirloom apples, and were tempted by much more, including the pumpkins and eggplants...


On our way home we stopped for a hike in Taughannock Falls State Park. The falls are the one of the tallest east of the Rockies. The mixed colors of the trees and the rocks were really spectacular. There wasn't a lot of water coming down - drought strikes again - but spring snow melt is supposed to be really something, and I would believe it. You probably can't tell in the picture above, because it is so small, but there are people at the bottom of the picture which might give you a sense of its height.

Anyway, we had a good time. I really liked Ithaca and the surrounding region - much more scenic than flat old Brockport, that's for sure! We will probably try to go back in the spring or early summer to do some more exploring.

Bananas

Why do the baggers at Wegman's continually flout proper banana bagging etiquette? The last few times I have purchased bananas, the checker put them in a bag first, and then proceeded to fill the bag with cans and other heavy goods. Why did these people not put the bananas on the top of the bag filled with fluffy and non-bruising produce? Today I took the bananas out of the bag after the checker's back was turned. Next time, I am going to demand that my bananas get the respect they deserve as a soft, easily damaged fruit!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

See you on Monday

We're off for a (short) adventure to Ithaca. On the itinerary: leaf peeping, touring Cornell, eating at the Moosewood Cafe, maybe visiting a farmer's market, and going for a short hike. We will take pictures, but I won't promise anything will be posted until Monday.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Worm update

Our new batch of worms arrived yesterday, and are now safely ensconced in their home. In order to provide them with adequate air flow, I had to drill a ton of little holes in the plastic storage bin I bought the other day. But, the new drill worked great, and there are plenty of holes. Now we just have to wait for them to get munching (or whatever it is that worms do, since they don't have teeth). I'll post a photo of their new set up one of these days...

And fall is definitely here. We went from having temperatures above average to having temperatures below average today. Huh. I'm getting what I asked for!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another sign of American Imperialism

Taco Bell is opening stores in Mexico. This is one of the stupidest things I have heard today. As one person quoted in the this article said: "It is like bringing ice to the Arctic." Yeah, nasty, contaminated ice. Taco Bell is so far removed from anything resembling Mexican food...I hope that Mexicans refuse to fall for such a money grubbing ploy and stick to their own real food.

Applesauce and soup

Yesterday I had two new recipes, and they were both good. One was my own invention (if you can call it that, and I am sure it was not really all that original, but it was new to me), and one was out of the new Moosewood Cookbook I bought last week. The first was warm applesauce with strawberries and honey. I made a batch of applesauce over the weekend with the apples Benjamin and I picked - it is pretty good on its own, but yesterday for breakfast I wanted something a bit different. So, I defrosted a few frozen strawberries, chopped them up, added applesauce and honey, and microwaved it for a minutes. It was absolutely fab.

Dinner was a butternut squash and bean soup. I wasn't sure if I would actually like it, since some butternut squash recipes end up too sweet, but this one was great - it had a nice balance of tastes, including tomatoes, oregano and garlic. It was very good with a salad and homemade bread on the side. I would have made foccacia if I hadn't just made bread on Monday. Maybe next time. Anyway, if you want the soup recipe, let me know and I can send it on.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Politics and religion

As a general rule, I avoid discussions of politics and religion because they tend to go badly. Either I disagree with the person I am conversing with, which only makes me think less highly of them and their intelligence - and I am misanthropic enough without any encouragement, or I agree with them and get tired of agreeing and rehashing grievances. Occasionally I can have a measured discussion, but this isn't common. Besides, my philosophy is that my beliefs on religion and politics are my business, not anyone else's, and most people probably do not want to hear me talk about them.

That said, I get extremely tired of people who claim that the United States is a Christian nation, and all that "God Bless America" rhetoric. I do not like that my religion is co-opted and twisted to serve political purposes. At the time this country was founded, almost everyone would have been considered a Christian, whether they believed in it or not. Thomas Jefferson is often described as a Christian, but he re-wrote the Bible to remove all the bits he didn't like. Don't believe me? Here is a modern reprint of it. This tendency to pull out the rhetoric is especially bad in election years (which this technically is not, but try telling that to all the presidential candidates...). All of this lead up is simply so I can recommend this op-ed article from the New York Times. It is, and has been for several days, at the top of the list of emailed and blogged articles. Read it. Give it to your conservative friends.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A note on October books

The more observant of you will have noticed that I only have one book listed for October, and it is already October 8. The problem is, I am in the middle of three books, and they are all over 400 pages long. One of them is closer to 750. Urgh. At this rate I won't be making 100 books this year either...

Fall is coming...really

According to the weather forecasts in the paper and on the radio, our extended summer will be ending this week. Today is supposed to be in the 80s and humid, but by the end of the week, it is supposed to be only around 60, if we are lucky. Sounds good to me. I am ready for cold (although, considering that winter can last until April here, maybe I shouldn't be so eager). I haven't seen the woodchuck in a week or so - can he be hibernating already? Probably not, but he will be soon. The Canada Geese are leaving in large groups, so maybe they know something. The gold finches that I saw at my feeder in August and September also seem to have disappeared, to be replaced by chickadees and sparrows. The cardinals and blue jays are supposedly the only birds that stay all year. We'll see.

Anyway, I am going to take advantage of today's weather and will be spending time in the yard - raking up some of the first leaves of the season and planting the bulbs that I bought. The major drop of leaves hasn't really started, but our driveway is covered. Most of our neighbors seem to use a leaf blower several days a week to remove every leaf - or at least to blow them into the road, where they just collect in the gutters. Ugh. I know they can save time, but I can't stand noisy power tools, and I don't see that a few leaves on the drive hurts anyone. The bulbs are a mix of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. I just hope the squirrels don't dig them all up, looking for the wild walnuts and horse chestnuts that they have buried.

The baking continues today also. I have a loaf of sourdough rising on the stove, and plan to bake that crostata. Several people have suggested Benjamin take some of the baked goods to his office to share with co-workers, but that will definitely not be happing with the crostata! Luckily, it isn't really large so we can eat the entire thing, and once in a while can't hurt, right? Just to be on the safe side, I am heading out for a bike ride first.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

13 pounds of apples

That's how many we picked today, on top of the 6 pounds I picked the other day... I've already made a batch of applesauce, and will be making an apple crostata tomorrow. I know, I said I would be cutting down on the baking, but Benjamin practically told me to! And who am I to disobey my husband (hee hee).

We will be eating apples for a while...maybe making some sort of apple muffins...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Rainbows and cookbooks


We have rainbows on our walls, thanks to a set of prisms on the windows. Mom gave me the prisms in a Christmas stocking a year or two ago, but until we moved into the house, I had nowhere to put them, since all of our windows faced one direction, and none of them got the right kind of light. Now, there are 4 prisms in the front windows that get morning light, and one in the bedroom. Like rain-caused rainbows, these are fleeting - they only last as long as the sun is coming from a certain direction (of course) but they are nice while they last. And they always come back.

I succumbed to temptation yesterday at the bookstore and bought a new cookbook - Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. Not a baking cookbook, although there are some baking recipes in it. It does have a very simple applesauce recipe (not that applesauce is hard in any recipe) that I am considering for this afternoon or weekend...Mmm. According to my parents, there was a time when I was a toddler when I would only eat applesauce and yogurt. Add a good loaf of bread and a cup of tea, and it still sounds like a good meal to me!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Horse chestnut season

Although you would be hard pressed to determine the season by the weather - we are in the middle of a lovely stretch of warm weather -, it is Fall. And Fall means it is time to collect horse chestnuts. When I was very small, my parents and I would take annual trips to Volunteer Park in Seattle and fill great baskets full of the chestnuts (which are NOT edible, by the way). When I went away to college in Walla Walla and rediscovered them, I was so excited that I brought a large paper bag full when I came home on break. They are lovely and smooth, and somehow soothing to hold in your hand in your pocket as you walk around - sort of like those stress balls you are supposed to twirl around in your palm. They signify Fall, and I have missed them in Austin over the last six years. (Of course, Fall in general is something that I missed in Austin. Although October and November can be nice enough, no one who actually knows what Fall is like would describe Austin as having one...) Anyway, there are two horse chestnut trees on our street now, and I have started picking them up again.

Autumn (to change my term for the time of year) is a good time to take an early morning walk. The dew on the plants makes for interesting pictures (ask my dad, he had several slide trays full of dew drop pictures at one point). I took this one today. The morning was foggy, although most of the fog had burned off by the time I got out of the house (OK, so it wasn't that early of a morning walk, but the dew hadn't dried yet!). I know it would be more impressive in a bigger picture, but I don't really want to take up all my storage space. If you want a larger copy, let me know.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bakers Anonymous

If there is such a thing, I think I should join. A support group that I could call whenever I feel like baking too much...I love baking desserts, breads, cookies. It is apple season, which means apple pie, apple bread, apple muffins. Soon it will be pumpkin time, which means pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake. It is always cookie time - chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, ginger snaps, sugar cookies with icing. And there is are all sorts of miscellaneous baked goods like spice cake, pound cake, gingerbread, and breads of all kinds. I want to make them all!

What is wrong with being a profligate baker you ask? For me, it is the fact that there are only two people in our house, and when I bake something, we have to eat it, all of it. Neither of us need the extra calories and fat that come from eating an entire cheesecake, nor do either of us really want to eat that much. And baking that much is expensive! Have you seen the price of good butter these days? What I need is a family of 10 to eat everything, or a small cafe! (Just after I typed this, I heard this story on NPR about professionals trading their jobs to become bakers.) No Mom, I can hear your thought right now, and am not going to open one. I will just have to continue to hold myself back, unless y'all want to come visit - then I will have an excuse!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Go read a banned book!

This is banned book week, and as a recent graduate of library school, I would be remiss if I didn't point it out, so go read something banned. If you need help finding a book, here is the American Library Association information page. This could be as easy as re-reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Where's Waldo, or Harry Potter, but try to stretch yourself a bit. I have to admit that I have only read about 24 of the 100 most banned books for 1990-2000 on the ALA list. I'm pretty sure that there are a number of books I have read that would be banned, if more people knew about them...

Remember, if you do not use your rights, they are likely to disappear!

Monday, October 1, 2007

We need more voices like this

The rhetoric surrounding climate change is far too often unhelpful and unproductive. We are all going to be affected by it, whether you believe humans have caused it or not. This editorial by Vaclav Havel in The New York Times is the sort of moderate, reasoned voice that we need to hear more of in the debates and attempts to find solutions.