Friday, August 31, 2007
I've spent the morning baking bread. Sourdough, to be exact. I have tried over the years to make a good loaf of sourdough, and have had many problems getting the starter to work properly. Then I found the Tassajara Bread book, a bread cook book from a Zen monastery in originally printed in 1970s. It is very big on the sponge method of baking, where you mix some of the flour and the yeast etc together and let it sit to proof, before adding the rest of the flour and other ingredients. I had very good results with this as soon as I tried it. My bread looked as it came from a bakery, for the first time (usually the loaves taste fine, but look, well, amateur).
For this sourdough bread, you make the starter much as you do with other recipes, but when you get to the bread part, you mix the starter with flour and water, then let it sit overnight before mixing in the rest of the flour. I had a starter going in Texas, but something went wrong - maybe it was too hot, or maybe there were just some very funky yeast spores in the air - but the sponge always ended up smelling more like sulfur than sour mash or beer. I used it anyway, and the bread turned out OK, but not really good. So, I threw out that batch of starter when we left. This week I have been growing a new starter, and it smells just right. Last night I started the sponge, and this morning, it didn't smell bad! Wahoo! It was a bit thinner than the sponges I made in Texas, but since they didn't turn out well, that is probably a good sign. The loaf shaped up and rose nicely.
And, you ask, how did it turn out? Really good! It has a lovely color and shape, and it tastes like a nice, light sourdough loaf of bread. Much better than my last couple of attempts in Texas.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
- Label your stuff: This goes for everything you want to save/identify in the future, including pictures, computer files, and paper files. If your child can't identify those people in that picture, it will be useless, even if one of the scruffy little boys grew up to be someone interesting, or just their grandfather. Computer files easily disappear if they are not well-labeled. It helps if the file name is related to the contents, and if you fill out the "Properties" field (found under the file tab in Word) with some pertinent details. Dates are always good. The same goes for paper records - if your taxes are filed in a clearly labeled file, and you get audited, they will be much less stressful to find than if they are in a box labeled "old stuff." For your own personal records, there is no right or wrong way to label, but the idea is to make everything accessible and usable.
- Don't write on the photos when you identify the people in them. This ruins the picture for future generations, and will contribute to its general deterioration. There is no such thing as an archivally safe writing implement. Instead, you can photocopy the picture and write on that, or use a slip of paper that you can keep with the picture.
- Don't glue photos into an album. Don't use double-sided tape. Don't use those "magnetic" photo albums. Do I really need to explain why?
- If you intend to become a famous writer someday, and are producing lots of drafts and unpublished manuscripts, for the sanity of your archivist - label them! Give us a title, a date range that you were working on the draft, the order of the drafts, something or anything that will help us organize your papers. You don't need to change the way you work i.e. don't alter the original order, but once in a while, sort through the papers and leave some clues.
- Don't store your papers in the bathroom. It has been known to happen. As have the various water-related mishaps that occur in bathrooms. Besides being kind of gross, the water can severely damage your materials and encourage mold and insect damage.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
We started off the evening with a flowering onion...I really wanted one, and made up my mind that I was going to get one. As usually happens with such things, it was better as an idea than a part of a meal. I would have prefered ordinary onion rings. Oh well, you have to have some junk food at a baseball game! For MA and Liz, yes, I did also have a Zweigle's White Hot, and it was good. Now we just have to get some and cook them ourselves...
The great thing about minor league sports is how close you can get to the game. We got almost the best seats in the house (A little to the left would have been a bit better for seeing around the batter and ump, but I'm not quibbling). The guys in front of us were scorekeepers for the visiting team - the Pawtucket Red Sox. Otherwise, front row.
Monday, August 27, 2007
For years Benjamin has been trying (without much success) to get me to go for bike rides with him. It isn't so much that I don't like riding my bike as is that I don't like riding on big hills (I'm kind of a bike wimp) or in places with traffic. Well, we now have the solution right out our back door - the Erie Canal towpath/bike path. Yesterday we went for a ten-mile early morning ride...and I enjoyed it! It was great - no hills, a smooth path, and best of all - no cars!
We went early, hurrying through a brief breakfast, still in Texas mode and trying to beat the heat. We needn't have bothered. It was nice and cool, and because we were out early, the path was practically deserted. By the time we turned around and headed home, more people were out walking dogs and going on family bike rides, but it was still not very busy, compared to Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake) trail in Austin.
So, I may have found a new (well, to me anyway) way to get some good exercise. Now I just need to get a bike that fits me better...
Saturday, August 25, 2007
First - the lake picture I promised yesterday. I am not sure if you can tell from my posture in the picture below, but yes, Lake Ontario is cold - glacially cold, in fact. I had no need for the swimsuit, that's for sure. This is as far in as we got. Just down the beach, however, there was a group of small children happily splashing away, wet all over. Maybe you get more sensitive to the cold as you get older? I remember swimming in the ocean off the Olympic Peninsula, and never minding the cold, but I have a hard time imagining myself doing that now, at least without a wet suit. Anyway, we had a nice little picnic, attended by our own personal seagull, who sat and begged - if seagulls can be said to beg. He rather reminded us of Cleo when she wants cheese...
This morning we set off for Rochester, and the Public Market, which has been in operation since 1905. It is a lot like Pike Place Market, but with fewer flower sellers and no flying fish. (If you aren't familiar with Pike Place, it is famous for the fish sellers who literally sling fish about.) There were fish here, they just didn't get flung... Anyway, here is the crowd in one of the market sheds at 10 in the morning. The place opens at 5 AM...
Compared to the markets we frequented in Texas, everything was remarkably inexpensive. And it happens to be about the peak harvest time for lots of produce. The food in the picture below cost us less than $30. On the table are:
Asparagus ($1.50/bunch), peaches, grape tomatoes, regular tomatoes, eggs, 2 ears of corn, lettuce, apples, 2 eggplants, 4 green peppers ($1.50 total), a watermelon, honey, andouille sausage, a pound of fresh ground beef, and a cinnamon roll.
We passed up the giant boxes of tomatoes, peaches and apples, not to mention the multiple varieties of plums, shellfish, pasta, and prepared foods. Not to mention the cheese store, coffee store, empanada stand ... We are thinking of going back next week or so to get a large box of tomatoes to can or freeze for the winter. Yum!
Friday, August 24, 2007
I managed to get the insurance changed over today, painlessly! And we got our new bank account set up, almost as painlessly. But, since I am unemployed at the moment (only because I haven't started looking...) I am a homemaker, or as Benjamin sometimes calls it - the little wifey. I don't think I am really suited to being the little wifey though - Benjamin tends to do more of the cooking, and I am not really as good a cleaner as my mother would hope! See, I have too much of my father in me, and her genes aren't really enough to counter the messiness gene. Ah well. It is supposedly a temporary situation.
Pictures from the beach tomorrow...
Thursday, August 23, 2007
This first one is of our living room, taken from the corner. The couch is on the left, in front of the large window that you can see from the external picture a few posts ago. The door of the house is to your left, out of the picture. The visible door on the left goes into the kitchen. The door in the middle is a coat closet, then the arched doorway on the right leads to the rest of the house. As you can see, we still have some boxes to unpack.
This is our screened in porch. All the windows have both glass and screens, so you can close it up all the way, or open it all the way, or any combination in between. At the moment, we have all the plants out there, but some of them will be moving inside, once we figure out where they go and get some new saucers for them. The round chair is ours, the other one goes with the house. Cleo likes to sit on it. The picture is taken from the stairs that lead into the room from the study.
Here are a couple of pictures - sunset on the Erie Canal, out back of our house, and our woodchuck:
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We also have to register the car, which I think will not be a huge problem, but all the information on the web site is geared toward someone who is just buying a car. I am not buying a car and bringing it from out of state. I OWN my car. So I don't know if I have all the proper paperwork or not. And there is no DMV here in Brockport (see garbage pick-up below re services); we have to go to Greece or Rochester. Sigh.
Getting garbage pick-up is also complicated here in Brockport. The Village is not really big enough to have its own municipal facilities set up, so you have to contact a company yourself. But, they don't tell you which companies service the area. Luckily, today is garbage day, so I could see the trucks going up and down the street and then find their web site. But why is it so hard for someone to tell me who is available? And how much I should expect to pay? Another email that will be answered in 24 hours, unless it isn't. Sigh.
And I won't even go in to phone/cable/internet. It is as difficult here as it is anywhere, if you are trying to get a good deal. I know that getting the bundled package is theoretically a good deal, but I don't want caller ID, a billion channels, or unlimited long distance calling to Europe. I don't make that many phone calls, and don't get that many. I don't want to watch TV for 8 hours a day. I don't know anyone to call in Europe. Sigh.
But I have bread baking in the oven, and fresh bread can make most things right again... (Perhaps not so well as brownies, but I don't have enough chocolate for those, and I don't feel like going to the store at the moment.)
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The house is great. It is about the same square footage as our last apartment, but feels much bigger. I mean, there are windows on all sides of the house, not just the one that doesn't have neighbors attached. And speaking of neighbors, we have some, but they are not actually touching our walls. We have a great screened in porch (where I am at the moment), and a good sized backyard. The Erie Canal is at the end of the garden, and yes, we have seen a few boats go by. I saw a woodchuck in the yard this morning, strolling and munching his way across the lawn.
So, we are here, and almost settled. Cleo and Oliver have stopped hiding at every noise or movement, and are staking out their favorite places. We found the farmer's market on Sunday morning and got blueberries, peaches, apples, tomatoes, garlic, onions...
Here is a picture of our house, taken as we drove up for the first time:
Somewhere along the way I decided that traveling with cats is a lot like traveling with small children. First there is the gear: You have the special seat (cat carrier), the special food, the diaper bag (litter box). Then there is the attitude: Cats, like small children, do not like being in the carrier, the car, the motel room. They whine and complain. They may throw a tantrum. If you are lucky, they sleep most of the way. If you are unlucky, they get carsick. Then, when released from the vehicle, they wake up and jump all over the bed while you are desperately trying to get some sleep.
Cleo is a seasoned traveler, having moved with us to Seattle and back to Texas a couple of summers ago. This does not mean that she likes traveling, just that she seems to know what to expect. Oliver, on the other hand, has never traveled and never lived anywhere but in our one apartment. He quickly discovered that traveling is not fun. Cleo knew that if she protested enough, we would let her out of the carrier to sit on our laps and explore the truck. Last time we moved, she spent most of the time watching semis go by from the back window of the car. In a truck, there are far fewer places for her to go. Day one she spent a bunch of time under the passenger seat. But by day two this was already boring, and she mostly wanted to sit with Benjamin, while he was trying to drive, or on the dashboard. This was not allowed, which made her cranky. She would eventually give up and fall asleep in the carrier, only to reawaken if we went over bumpy roads. Sigh. Oliver spent most of his time looking shocked at his temporary incarceration, although he did relax enough to take a bath on the last day. He wasn't allowed out to explore, partially because it was difficult to open his cage in the truck, and partially because we weren't sure we'd be able to get him back in again. They both had to be dragged from under the bed each morning to be reinserted into their carriers. Sigh.
It turned out we had been very lucky with the weather on Loading Day, because Moving Day dawned in a deluge, thanks to Tropical Storm Erin. Benjamin got drenched running the last few loads out to the truck and hooking up the tow dolly for our car. Meanwhile, in the apartment, I was busy doing the last cleaning tasks. Note 1: If you plan to make snacks, like carrot sticks, for the road, it is good idea to leave a knife and/or vegetable peeler out until you have done so. Note 2: When moving, make sure you leave the cleaning supplies out until the very end. It is much easier to clean when you have the right sponge, brush, and cleanser for the task. Note 3: when planning to make a three-day, cross-country drive in a moving truck, try not to strain your back. I foolishly forgot that note, and ended up with back spasms after scrubbing the grout in the shower. Oops.
Despite the rain, back spasms, and general moving confusion, we managed to get the cats into their carriers and us into the truck and on the road by 10:30. Later than we wanted, but at least in one piece. We made it to Benton, Arkansas on Day 1. Here is the truck at a rest stop somewhere in East Texas:
I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now, but graduate school, work, tai chi practice, dog walking, bassooning and general overscheduling kept me from it. This past weekend, however, Benjamin and I moved from Austin, Texas, where we had been for the past six years, to Brockport, New York. As a result, I am currently unscheduled and have time to get blogging. Also, when we were saying goodbye to all our friends in Austin I promised so many people that I would start a blog that I kind of have to now.
The plan is to write about what Benjamin and I are doing up here, as we reacquaint ourselves with the four seasons (Winter? Snow? You mean summer isn't 10 months long everywhere?!) and as we explore our new territory.There will be no knitting stories, since I don't knit (sorry Bonny Anne and Jennifer), but there may be tai chi, bassooning, and cats (and a dog if I manage to get one at last). There will be pictures, assuming I remember to take the camera when we go on our jaunts...
So, check back soon for the tale of our trek from Austin to Brockport, 1600 miles through seven states in three days with two cats and a 15' truck.