Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last year's resolutions

So, of my resolutions, the only one I filled completely was to read at least 100 books in 2008. The year still has some hours left to it, but I am fairly confident I won't finish any books today, so the grand total is (wait for it...) 121. This total is in large part due to the fact that I was not in graduate school for the first time in several years, and I was unemployed or underemployed for almost 9 months of the year. While I will try to match this total in 2009, I seriously doubt I will be able to do so.

I didn't do tai chi every day. I ate too much. The cats drove me close to crazy. But hey, we moved from New York to Arkansas, we both have full-time, professional jobs, we are all (including the cats) fairly healthy (I say fairly because we both have colds right now). Not a bad year over all.

I'll try to address 2009 tomorrow.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Wrap-up

So, Christmas is over for another year. My parents have come and gone; the tree and lights (well, all except one string above the window) have come down; the presents have been unwrapped and assimilated. My big present was a sewing machine - something I have been wanting for a while. I have already bought a pattern and fabric for a skirt that I hope to sew some time this week or next weekend. The cats got a great big climbing tree to keep them occupied. So far, only Oliver is taking advantage of its multiple levels, but hey, if it keeps one cat out of trouble. Benjamin got a new, very spiffy racquetball racquet - I was tempted to get a lesser quality one, so I would have some advantage over him, but I was a good Hopey and didn't do that.

Putting away Christmas wasn't very difficult this year, emotionally or physically. We didn't decorate much, so there wasn't a lot to put away. For some reason, I wasn't particularly into the whole thing this year, so I am not sad to see it go. Not that I didn't enjoy it, I just didn't get very excited. And I am actually a bit relieved that I have to work this week (although I am not going to complain about having Thursday off), because I really don't want to sit at home.

The picture is of the Arkansas Capitol at night. Thank to my Dad for taking it - I kept wanting to, but the lights haven't been on when I've been here. It took the work crew about a month, all of November really, to get the lights up. I wonder how quickly they will come down.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Traveling in December Stinks!

My poor parents! On the way down to Arkansas on Monday, they were delayed in Seattle because of the snow and ice. Today, on their way home, their flight into Dallas was canceled because of a tornado warning, so they had to rent a car and drive to Dallas instead. They have a flight booked out of Dallas for later this evening, but who knows if it will actually go. If they are lucky (and I think events so far prove they are not) they might get on an earlier flight.

Benjamin and I are thinking of swearing off all future December travel. Too bad we live so far away from all our relatives, or it might actually be a vow we could keep.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Merry Christmas! To send you off for the holidays, I am posting some pictures of the Arkansas Capitol, all dressed up for Christmas. (No protests or calls for atheist or Jewish symbols here).


This is the 2nd floor of the rotunda, with its tree and other greenery. School choirs have been singing here for the past couple of weeks. I went with a co-worker to hear her daughter and choir sing - the sound rings gloriously, but gets a bit too muddy. Ah well.


These steps go up to the 2nd floor from the first, and they too are heavily decorated. Take a look at the next picture and see just how big the balls and baubles are. Some of them are bigger than my head!


These snowflakes are great. They are suspended before the decorations on the first floor by a fine net of fishing line. Here is the first floor decorations. One day I went in to use the post office, and there was a school group taking pictures on the bridge. Neat.
That's if from me for a little while. Have a lovely Christmas - I hope you are with family and friends and are warm and safe!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Another day of cats


I used the camera a bunch last week, and I actually had time to get the pictures off the camera. As a Monday morning treat, I give you Oliver and Cleo. These two pictures really show the difference in their natures. Cleo is greedily gobbling down food that is not her own - I think I put it on the table for Oliver. She is the quickest eater of the three, and when we feed them, we have to chaperon them to keep her from forcing Creamsicle and Oliver away from the food. Never mind that Cleo is somewhat afraid of Creamsicle at all other times, never mind that both Oliver and CS have claws and she doesn't, she bullies them away and gobbles their food. Benjamin described her attack as a torpedo, streaking across the kitchen to get to the available food.

Oliver, on the other hand, is a thoughtful kitty. He loves to stare out the window, watching who knows what. When we had a balcony, he would go out at night and just watch bugs for hours. Here, he sits on the table and watches the parking lot. He doesn't really care a lot about food, and just loves having his tummy rubbed.

I am not intentionally stiffing CS; I just don't have any new pictures of her. She spends most of her time these days on the back of the couch. She loves being petted, but she also likes to bite the hand that pets her, so you have to pay attention and have fast reflexes.

Friday, December 19, 2008

SNOW in Bellevue

Here are a couple of pictures my dad sent from Bellevue. I am jealous. The last time there was this much snow there, we were in New Zealand, and missed it. This time, I am in Arkansas. We had snow like that last year in NY, but I doubt we will ever get any like that here. The hill at the top is my old sledding hill, usually a normal residential street. The bottom is my dad's car, the Donobug, in the snow. He has chains, so he can get around fine, for now. More snow is expected...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cat interlude


On a day that was cold just about everywhere in this country, and icy here, I figure that we could use a picture of kitties being nice to each other. Cleo likes to give Oliver a licking, cleaning his face and ears. She doesn't really like it the other way round though...Despite the look on his face, Oliver really does like being licked and loved on, until she starts biting.

I tried to get to work this morning, because work was on a 2 hour delay but not closed, but after getting a couple miles down the freeway I turned around. There was an accident or something ahead of me, and once I had waited 20 minutes without moving, I decided that I just don't care enough about work to spend another 1 or 2 to get there! So I baked banana bread for our office Christmas, excuse me, Holiday luncheon (yes, political blandness has struck our office), and ginger cookies for a get-together tomorrow. I also finished a book that has been lingering on my bedside table for far too long, and got all the Christmas cards ready to go out, assuming I can make it to work and the post office box tomorrow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Icepocalypse!

We are at the beginning of what may turn out to be Icepocalypse 2008. I am borrowing/adapting that phrase from a blogger in Seattle. People here at work are in full panic mode because we have an icy blast bearing down us that may be carrying freezing rain. Oh boy. It is the same in Seattle this week. And in the Northeast. Personally, I don't really care - there is nothing I can do to change the weather - but people at work are worried. They keep assuming that I am not accustomed to bad driving and ice - but I am - I saw it in Texas. The thing is, everyone says that "We are just not used to it here" and then in the next breath, "This happens every year." Well, if it happens every year, maybe they ought to get better prepared! Sigh. Maybe the Governor will close the government early today. That would be nice. And tomorrow. I could use the time to clean the house in preparation for my parents' visit next week...And to bake cookies...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ouachita pictures

Okey-dokey. I finally remembered my memory stick, and I finally got around to putting up some pictures. So, the day after Thanksgiving our tradition is to go for a hike and avoid the malls. This year, we went the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead. Donna and David took us to a part of the Ouchita Trail - a long trail that winds through the state and into Oklahoma. David is trying to hike the whole thing, in segments, and wanted to do a particular section, the Sandslip Mountain section. There was some climbing up to a ridge, and some climbing down to the creek (see below) but otherwise it wasn't too strenuous.

As you can tell from this picture, it was not warm. About 45, which was just about right for hiking (well, I would have liked 55).

This is Irons' Creek - which looks like it would be heavenly on a hot summer afternoon (assuming it has water in it at that time of year). A bit too cold for wading on this day, however.

And on the road to and from the hike was the marvelous little building. The Steve Church of Christ. We speculated about who the Steve was who gets his own church, and whether or not people not named Steve can attend. (The practically non-existent town nearby is named Steve). I thought it was so interesting, I made David stop the car on the way back so I could get this picture.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday, with new socks

OK, I didn't get around to posting last night, and I forgot my pictures again today. Sorry. But let me tell you about the great socks I bought that arrived yesterday. They are knee socks, and stripy. I decided that I want to jazz up my wardrobe a bit, in a grown-up and professional manner - I am tired of looking like a graduate student, and even more tired of getting asked if I am a student. Since I am not as good a knitter as Annie, I cannot make my own socks, so buying them is my only option. Jennifer La Suprema told me about an internet store called Sock Dreams, a dangerous and seductive store...Anyway, they have tons of socks. I bought a pair of tights and a pair of Dreamy Knees in the Metro color pattern. So far, I love them. They are keeping my legs warm on this dreary day. I think I will buy some more, next month, after Christmas is over.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday place holder

I intended to post some pictures of our recent hike, but I forgot to bring them with me to work, so you will just have to wait until I get home this evening.

This week looks to be fairly calm, after the busy-ness of last week. We had something to do almost every night. But we got to rest yesterday, so I baked bread and we had split pea soup for dinner. I watched an interesting documentary about Iran, The Color of Love and we watched the fun and silly Bride and Prejudice - yes, a semi-Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice. There was singing and dancing that was quite infectious. Not great cinema, but good for a laugh. The Mrs. Bennett character works perfectly as an Indian mother trying to get her daughters married off, and Mr. Darcy as an American works quite well also.

Anyway, I will try to come back this evening with some pictures.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Anti-Prop 8 video - hilarious



I first saw this over at Cogitamus, and if you had told me that I would like Jack Black as Jesus, I would have vehemently disagreed with you - but this works, it really works!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We're 43rd, we're 43!

Arkansas is ranked 43rd among the 50 states in terms of the health of its residents. Washington State is 10th. I can totally see that. Here, in the natural state, the majority of people do not seem to go outdoors except to hunt things. OK, OK, that is a gross exaggeration, I am sure. But it is true that on all of the hikes Benjamin and I have gone on so far in this state, we have never encountered more than a handful of people, not even on the overnight hike. That is almost unheard of on many hikes in Washington. And I am sure the legacy of Southern cooking doesn't help either. Hush puppies, biscuits in gravy, sweet tea, fried catfish...I am making myself hungry. There is a surprising (to me anyway) abundance of locally grown food in Arkansas, but it seems that not enough people have access to it, or know about it. When Wal-Mart is the best grocery store in town, something is wrong with your food culture.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I don't exactly see why Arkansas can't move up the ladder a bit more: there are lots of places to get outdoors and exercise, and there are lots of opportunities for good, healthy food. Here in Little Rock there is a good medical school, so we should have enough doctors and nurses. More money for preventative measures (and people willing to be given those measures instead of seeing them as an imposition on their "freedom") would help. But, it takes some effort and will to change a culture, and one lone liberal voice blogging in the wilderness isn't going to cut it.

Addendum: Texas is 46th! Huh. Well, I guess we have a smaller population here in AR, so less infectious disease? Check out the survey for yourself at America's Health Rankings 2008.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An ugly alternate world

When we first decided to move to Arkansas, I knew that we were moving somewhere unlike anywhere we had lived before. Somewhere more conservative, somewhere in the Bible belt, somewhere with a very dark racist past. But I didn't know just how backwards people here could be. The local/state paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ran a story on Friday about a motel owner in the town of Huntsville who is flying a Confederate battle flag in protest of Barack Obama's election victory. He says it is because Obama is a Marxist, and has abandoned the (so-called) Christian values of the founders, not because Obama is black. But the (so-called) Christian founders (TJ for one was not Christian - he was a Deist) enshrined slavery in the Constitution, so their values do include racism. And how in the world can anyone believe that Obama is Marxist? He isn't even that liberal, as far as liberals go. (Well, I'll tell you how - they just don't pay attention to reality.)

As if that were not enough, the paper has had numerous letters-to-the-editor from people who are angry that anyone would criticise the motel owner. Apparently, anyone who does so is anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-Bible, and so on and so forth. Huh? I think Jesus would be highly offended by the use of a racist and hurtful symbol against anyone. I think that people who say otherwise are blinded by their own arrogance and ego. Not to mention just plain stupid.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fabulous Food Frenzy

We had a weekend of good food. It started on Wednesday night, when we had buffalo burgers with homemade buns (courtesy of the bread machine and Benjamin). They weren't anything that special, but they were fresh, didn't have any high fructose corn syrup in them, and were made with love (aww...). Thursday, we had an organic, pastured chicken, raised less than 150 miles from Conway. We even know the farmer. It was very good - moist and tasty - and I bet it could walk around without falling over, unlike factory farmed chickens. We also had a homemade apple crostata, made with locally grown apples. Friday, we went over to Vicki and Clayton's for a post-Thanksgiving feast of bison steaks, cous-cous salad, homemade foccacio, and pumpkin pie made from a sugar pie pumpkin. Saturday we had grilled cheese sandwiches using locally produced raw milk cheddar. All this was capped off on Sunday with green chile tacos - made with locally grown poblanos, the left-0ver chicken from Thursday, and homemade tortillas. Yes, I made corn tortillas from scratch. It was a lot easier than I would have guessed. And I am making stock from the chicken carcass - it smells great. Next weekend, we plan to make chicken tortilla soup. Ahh...food.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Annie!


Tomorrow, Thanksgiving, is Bonny Anne's birthday! Hurrah! We have known each other since Third Grade, and I can honestly say that you have improved with age! (Of course, we weren't exactly friends back then, so maybe I am biased now.) You are a lovely person and a great friend. May you have lots of sailing ahead of you in the next year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fresh food rocks!

As my regular readers know by now, I love fresh fruit and vegetables. We have a bounty of it right now, thanks to our two local CSAs. On Friday, we picked up eggplants, bok choy, lettuce mix, sweet peppers, poblano peppers, cheese, and eggs. They added a new supplier who has an organic greenhouse, hence the slightly out of season (but oh so welcome) peppers and eggplant. On Saturday we picked up our basket, which had:
  • 2 bags (1 pound each) rice
  • honey
  • spring mix lettuce (lots and lots of salad this week)
  • 1 lb of cheese
  • 1/2 gallon 2% milk
  • a whole pastured chicken
  • apples
  • sweet potatoes
  • an Amish-baked fruit cake
Sunday night we had one of my favorite dishes: Greek-style stuffed eggplant. Ahh...The recipe comes from the old, original Moosewood Cookbook, and cannot be beat. It is just so good. We will be using the chicken on Thanksgiving, along with the sweet potatoes. The bok choy and poblanos are going into a wonderful sauce for fish. We are eating so well!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wah!

Pushing Daisies, one of my favorite TV shows has just been canceled. Why is it that the TV networks make these wonderful, creative shows and then break my heart once I am into them? The only TV series I have watched in the last few years that made it past two seasons is Bones. Sigh. At least I will be able to get it on DVD...

Friday again

It is Friday again. We have plans for tonight, but otherwise, I think we hope to have a nice, quiet weekend. There will be some grocery shopping, for next Thursday is Thanksgiving. We will not be having a turkey - too much food for two people - but we did buy a locally grown, organic, pastured roasting chicken. I have roasted a few turkeys, but never a chicken, so I am looking forward to it. I will probably make a pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin cheesecake, but again, with only two people, it is just too much - not necessarily in size, but definitely in calories. So, pie it is, made from scratch. A couple of weeks ago I cooked a pumpkin and pureed the flesh, so it is ready to go. And we will probably go on our now traditional day-after-Thanksgiving hike. It is a good way to avoid shopping and eating too much food.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Episode 309, in which we go to a saxophone concert

Last night, we had the pleasure of going to hear the Washington Saxophone Quartet in concert at UCA. They were artists in residence this week, giving lessons, a master class (which I would have liked to go to, had I not been working), attending classes, and giving the concert. It was quite a good concert, with music from Bach, Pat Metheny, Paquito d'Rivera, and Aaron Copeland, among others. My favorites were the Concerto by Allessandro Marcello - originally written for oboe and orchestra - that they played with the addition of the UCA saxophone professor, Jackie Lamar, the "New York Suite" by Paquito d'Rivera, and the one movement they played from "Songs for Tony," by Michael Nyman. I used to play the alto sax all the time - took classical and jazz lessons, played in band and jazz band - until I got to college and only had time for one instrument, and I used to absolutely love the alto. Now that I have been playing the bassoon for so long, I found myself more drawn to the sound of the tenor and of the baritone. Interesting. The size of the audience was a little disappointing, given that the concert was free, but not too surprising. I think it would have been better had the concert been in a smaller auditorium, so the crowd wouldn't have been so spread out. Oh well, we had fun.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Libraries are dangerous

Especially for a book-addict such as myself. I can never resist browsing in libraries - even highly specialized ones that don't really have books on topics I can understand. When I go to the public library I have to look around, and often cannot resist checking out a few books even if I already have 10 books (ha ha, that is a ridiculously low number! My Goodreads to-read bookshelf has at least 70 books on it.) waiting for me at home. Thank goodness they are free and I am under no obligation to actually read them. Book stores are dangerous too, but not quite so bad, since I am also incredibly cheap, especially now, since we are trying to save money to buy a house. Anyway, libraries are dangerous, and I now work in one...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Herding cats

Here is another sign that we are settling in here in Arkansas - I have made an appointment to take all three of our furry children to the vet. At the same time. I am not sure this is a good idea, but since I don't want to have to go more than once, I am going to risk it. At least we have three separate carriers. Now, if we could just get ourselves to the dentist...

Speaking of herding cats, I could really use a nice sheep, err, cat dog to herd the cats for me in the mornings. Now that I am working full-time, I have to get up around 5:30 if I want to do tai chi or pilates before breakfast. The cats, of course, don't understand that this is supposed to be a quiet time, so they (especially Oliver) grumble and talk at me, wanting breakfast. While it is distracting to be constantly meowed at while trying to concentrate on doing snake creeps down or golden rooster stands on one leg, it is more troublesome when it wakes Benjamin up. He is not a particularly good morning person when awakened too early, and meowing cats is not his preferred alarm clock. I am not sure if the cats are getting the message, or if it was a fluke, but they were quiet !! this morning. They didn't even demand wet food, once I made sure they had enough dry food. A miracle! Too bad I was doing pilates and not tai chi, because I bet they are back to normal tomorrow.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's that time of year

Christmas is starting to pop up everywhere. At the grocery store today, the sound system was playing bad versions of Christmas carols. Yesterday at Barnes & Noble, there were large tables full of gift ideas and cards and calendars. The catalogs have started to arrive. I am trying to ignore Christmas for now - it is easier now that I am working - but I have to admit I did do a little shopping this weekend. I bought two new sets of Christmas lights - LED lights that are supposed to use about 90% less energy than traditional lights. The last time I bought lights was back in college, when I had my first apartment and my first tree! I also bought a box of cards, since I found one that I liked. But that is it. I know what I will be getting Benjamin, and most of what I am getting my parents, but I haven't done the shopping. Actually, I won't be doing much shopping anyway, since I hope to be giving things that I have made myself for the most part. And no-one I know really needs any more stuff anyway.

Which brings me to the answer to the question, "What do you get the person who has everything?" - something for someone else! Every year, we make it a point to give money to one of a few charities in honor of our friends and families. A couple of our favorites are Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, and any local food banks. Whatever group you use, you can check to see how well they use your money at Charity Navigator - they rate groups based on a set of criteria that include how much money actually goes to the people they claim to serve, how much the CEO gets paid, etc.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I feel grown up...

I feel like I am really grown up, because I was born before the 1990s and can remember life before Clinton was president (unlike most or any of Benjamin's students) and I remember the debate about beta and VHS, but every once in a while I find something that makes me feel really young. For instance, I am reading Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger, and at the moment he is talking about the adoption of bar codes and the UPC - it didn't happen universally until the mid-late 1980s. I can't imagine shopping without bar codes. Yikes. I guess it makes sense that they wouldn't be seen as a time saver until computers were widespread, but then, I can't really remember life without a computer. Since my dad is a computer programer, and has been since the late 1960s, computers have always been in my consiousness. What will my (hypothetical, future) children use as time and memory markers?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday/Wednesday

So, after a day off yesterday, I head back to work on a Monday/Wednesday. A day at home is a lot more enjoyable when it is an occasional treat than when it is your normal way of life. I went to the gym, baked bread, cleaned off my desk, did laundry, and enjoyed being home on a week day. Now I am returning to work on Wednesday, a day that also sort of feels like Monday after my day off. Time is interesting that way - how we perceive it is so often based on the structure of life that we build around it. Because I was off yesterday, today feels like a new start, but since I was at work on Monday, it also feels like the middle of the week. When I wasn't working, I still created a bit of structure - doing certain errands and chores on certain days. When you are on vacation, and I mean really on vacation, time loses a lot of its structure, and it can be difficult to get back into the flow of work and day to day life as the vacation winds down. Time really is relative!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Capitol Tour, Part III

In addition to the monuments to the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy, there are multiple monuments to soldiers of other wars. The statue of the soldier on the left is from the Arkansas Vietnam Memorial. Like the memorial in D.C., there is a simple wall with names inscribed on it. The soldier stands atop a pedestal with the various branches of the armed forces named upon it. It is very tasteful and rather moving.

There is also a memorial to the various men from Arkansas (and they are all men) who have been awarded the medal of honor. I don't know how well you can see from this picture, but that is a statue of a soaring eagle.

It is surrounded by pedestals with bronze colored plaques for each man, with a brief bit of biographical information and a sort of silhouette. It is rather horrifying to see how many wars the United States have been in, and to think how many lives have been lost.

As an unrepentant pacifist, I believe that there is almost no time when war is an acceptable way to solve a problem, especially not when the problem is inflated, lied about, and almost completely manufactured. Today, however, on Veteran's Day, I do salute all the men and women, including my grandfather Richard Van Dyke, my cousin Richard James Van Dyke, my cousin Anna's husband, my friends Luke and Roger, and say thank you for being willing to take on the burden of service.

Addendum: And Owen. Thanks to Benjamin for reminding me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday morning

The sky is just starting to lighten as I eat my oatmeal and smoothie. It is cold - not as cold as it was in NY at this time last year, but cold enough to actually feel like fall. This is good. One thing that I disliked about living in Austin was the lack of real seasonal changes. It was generally only cold in January and February, and then only occasionally - I remember several years where it would be freezing cold on Monday, but 75 or 80 by Friday. Arkansas seems to be more steady, at least in its progression towards the proper season.

Anyway, it is Monday morning again. I get tomorrow (Veteran's Day) off, so Wednesday will sort of be like another Monday, but one with only a Wednesday and Friday to follow. (smile) I don't really feel like I need an extra day off yet - work isn't too draining - but I won't complain. Check back tomorrow for a post about some of the soldier memorials around the capitol grounds.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Capitol Tour, Part II

In honor of Barack Obama's win on Tuesday, I give you the Arkansas Flame of Freedom. I can't remember which group sponsored it, and I am not really sure what it stands for (apart from Freedom, that is), but here it is. The flame had a hard time competing with the sunshine the day I took this picture; I bet it is more impressive at night. Anyway, it is on the north side of the Arkansas State Capitol.

Too bad most of Arkansas didn't vote for Obama. Sigh.

My Grandma Loves Obama

Yup, my 85+ grandparents were so excited last night that Barack Obama was elected that they couldn't go to sleep. I think that is so cool. I admit that I was not always on the Obama bandwagon - not that I didn't think he was cool or worthy, I just happen to have a soft spot for crazy Dennis Kucinich - but now, I am so very excited. My Obama magnet arrived on Election Day (only 2 months after I ordered it...) - a sign? Things are looking up. Too bad we have to wait until January for the inauguration.

Hooray!

In case you missed The Speech last night, here it is. It is so nice to have a president-elect who is literate and intelligent.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Commuting to Little Rock

The commute to Little Rock can be a drag - lots of cars and trucks, and inexplicable slowdowns. People here slow down when they blink, it seems, and when the sun shines, and when it is cloudy, and if someone sneezed in the town nearest the freeway... You can see a little of the slowdown up above.
There are, however, some consolations. The view in the early morning light, with mist rising among the trees, is lovely. And since I am often slowed down or stopped, I can enjoy it. Yes, I took this picture while driving. I know, bad Hoperu... I am also able to listen to books on CD, and since I am in the car for an hour at a time, twice a day, I get through them pretty quickly.

So, today is the day - Election Day. If you haven't already voted, go vote! Stay in line, even if it takes hours - it is important!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Oatmeal

I am a recent convert to the joys of proper oatmeal for breakfast. You see, my only real experience with it before recently was the little packets of instant, pre-flavored oatmeal that we used to take backpacking. They were lumpy and goopy - something my texture-sensitive mouth couldn't handle very well. As I've developed a more sophisticated palette, they also revealed themselves to be overly sweetened with a somewhat chemical tasting aftertaste. And they just didn't fill me up properly. The large amounts of sugar and high fructose corn syrup meant that they were a quick high, but also a quick crash. I'd be hungry, starving, shaking with low bloodsugar within an hour.

So, I have started making real oatmeal on the stove (I have tried the microwave, but it always boils over - no matter what size bowl I use - and makes a big mess. Besides, I don't really like using the microwave to cook...feels inauthentic somehow.) I have tried it in the past, and wasn't impressed. No matter how much sugar and cinnamon I added, it never tasted very good. Well, I have discovered my error - no vanilla, and using water instead of milk. So now, I use Scottish oatmeal, which is not in flakes like "traditional" American oatmeal, or steel cut oats, milk, and a bit of vanilla. The result is creamy, flavorful, and filling. Yes, it is still a bit goopy, but as long as it tastes good, I can handle it. NOW I understand why people like eating oatmeal. Best of all, there I know what is in my food - no HFC, no chemicals. Hurrah!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I happy...


...because I found Creamsicle! She was hiding in a shed just next to our property, and was probably just too scared to come when we called her. I had walked out to check the mail, had a feeling I should look around the house etc, and there she was! Hurrah!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't let the Daisies die!

There are rumors swirling on the Internet that ABC might cancel Pushing Daisies. Don't let this happen. Sign a petition here. It is one of my favorite shows on TV - it is touching, and funny, and not gross or violent. If you watched Wonderfalls, and liked it, you should watch Pushing Daisies. Watch the show anyway, to get the numbers up. We must know more about Charlotte Charles, Ned, Emerson, and Olive!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm sad...

Because Creamsicle is missing. She got out of the apartment somehow, sometime on Tuesday night and hasn't come home. We don't know how she got out, or where she would go. She has never appeared to like our new neighborhood enough to be out for more than 10 minutes at a time. Sigh. She is street-smart kitty, and I hope she will be OK. If only she would come home.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Arkansas Capitol Grounds Tour, part 1

This is the first in a series of posts I plan to do about the monuments that are scattered all over the grounds of the capitol here in Little Rock. I walk past this statue - a monument to the Confederate soldiers of Arkansas - every morning on my way in to the office. It is not the only memorial to the Civil War on the grounds - sort of like the various Confederate heroes statues on the UT campus - which I find a little creepy. I mean, the area wasn't the capitol until more than 30 years after the war was over, and these statues were all put up after that. Why were they still trying to celebrate that dark period in their history? I am not sure I will ever understand the South.

Anyway, this is the first statue I see in the mornings. I am sorry it is sort of dark - I took this about 7:50 AM on my first day of work. The statue is quite nice, if you can ignore what it stands for - that being racism, slavery, oppression, etc. I've always been partial to Nike figures (that is, the winged victory kind, not things in the shape of the swoosh) and even wrote a couple of papers about them in a college art history class. My favorite is the Nike of Samothrace. There is something about the stance that I appreciate, and the fact that victory is a strong woman, striding forward.

Wassup?

Found this on the NPR blog Vox Politics. Tragi-comic humor and a message. It's great

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pork Milanese and mushroom risotto



We made one of my current favorite meals last night: pork Milanese with risotto. The recipe is one from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis. We have made it a couple of times, and it just blows me away each time. This time, we used some of the fresh local mushrooms we got in our CSA basket in the risotto - what a great use of fungus! Anyway, the greens in the salad were also from the basket. Too bad the pork was from the grocery store or we would have had a trifecta. Oh well, it was still good, and we had leftovers for lunch! Yum!

Terrible news

There was a shooting on the UCA campus last night. We were not anywhere near it, and I only found out this morning when I was reading the newspaper, although we heard the sirens. At the time, we didn't know what they were, only that they were persistent. 2 people were killed. It doesn't sound like it was a rampage or anything, but it is still horrible. For updated news, you can check the UCA website here.

I have always thought of the schools we were at as safe places. Yes, UT was the site of the infamous Tower Shooting in the 1960s, but it seemed like that couldn't happen again. I mean, UT's police force is huge. And Brockport and UCA are smaller, less volatile sorts of places. Even if this turns out to be a domestic disturbance or gang fight or something like that, this really shakes my sense of security.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Basket o' bounty

On Saturday we picked up our monthly basket of local food. We missed last month's because I never got the email, but that problem seems to have been fixed. Anyway, here is what we got this time round:
* 2 loaves of whole grain bread
* 1/2 lb yellow cheddar, 1/2 lb jalapeno cheddar
* Quart whole milk (used for some chocolate milk and fresh yogurt)
* Gallon sized bag of kale
* Gallon sized bag of mustard greens
* Bag of salad greens
* 1 lb beefalo
* 1 dozen eggs
* Peppers, various kinds and sizes
* Apples - Arkansas blacks, and something else
* Sweet potatoes
* 2 bags of Shiitake mushrooms (some used for a really good mushroom risotto)
* Pint jar of pumpkin butter
One loaf of bread is already gone (it wasn't very big), used for grilled cheese sandwiches and just for eating, since it was really good. The kale, mustard greens, and mushrooms will be used in various recipes this week, as will the sweet potatoes. As I noted above, I made a batch of yogurt using the milk - I am just glad to be able to have milk that is not ultra-pasteurized - that makes it impossible to make yogurt. All the groceries around here only carry ultra-pasteurized organic milk, except the Whole Foods, but that is in Little Rock, which is not very convenient. The apples will be eaten in lunches.

We are trying to decide if we want to renew our subscription for another three months after November. It is a lot of food, and a fairly good deal to get all that and get it delivered. We enjoy getting surprises that we have to figure out how to use. But...it is sort of expensive, and it only comes once a month. By next week, I bet that all that is left of the basket is the pumpkin butter, some of the sweet potatoes, and maybe a few apples. Oh, and some cheese. We shall have to see. In the meantime, we will just enjoy the bounty.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A cool new online resource

I found this resource reading through some magazines at work: drop.io. It is a free, private file sharing web site that you can use to share files, or just transfer them from one computer to another, without having to take a flash drive. I am trying it out as a way to share pictures with my parents. I know, I could use flikr or some such photo site, but I don't really want to set all that up, and neither do my parents. This is pretty easy. It has some bugs in it, but if you can get around them, it is pretty neat. And you do get what you pay for.

My first reference question...

And I screwed it up! Doh! Yup, I was sitting at the desk, got a call asking for a book. I looked it up, couldn't find it, told the patron so, and he hung up. But - I should have done it differently. I didn't look it up several ways, by author and title, because when I looked one way it didn't come up, but the way I looked after he hung up it did. Also, I could have, should have, looked at the local public library catalog too. Doh! And, I should have made sure to get his number so I could call him back to give him better information. Sigh. A learning experience. :)

Obama Endorsement

Today The New York Times endorsed Barack Obama for president. Read the full endorsement here.

Friday!!!

Wahoo! It is Friday of my first week at the new job. Fridays are much more exciting when you work than when you stay home all week. If all your days are the same, there is no reason to celebrate the end of the work week. Actually, my week hasn't been all that bad. Apart from the overwhelming feeling of trying to learn who everyone is, and having to get up early again, the job itself is going well. My co-workers are all very helpful and nice, and I am not being dumped into the shark tank of scary reference questions.

I do have plans for the weekend. I am afraid they aren't very exciting: Grocery shopping, early voting, cleaning, exercising, the normal sorts of things that working people do. We do get a new CSA basket this weekend, so that should be fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Which candidate do you match up with? (Take 2)

A while back I posted a link to a quiz that helped determine which presidential candidate you match up with. Well, now that the field has narrowed quite a bit, I have found another poll - www.glassbooth.org. It lets you set your interests among a list of the usual suspects, and then answer questions about them. I lined up with Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate. As much as I would like to vote for her, I am pretty sure (99.99%) I will be voting for Obama - simply because there is an actual chance he could win Arkansas if enough people like me vote for him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Episode 282, in which our heroine starts a new job

Yup, I started my new job today. I am now a reference librarian for the Arkansas State Library. Woo! Of course, being the first day, I didn't actually do anything resembling my job, since it was all paperwork, tours, introductions, and so forth. In lieu of anything interesting about the job, here are a couple of pictures. The top is the state capitol building in the early morning light. It is quite pretty, inside and out (that was one of the tours). It is supposed to be modeled on the capitol in Washington D.C. - but it mostly reminds me of the Texas capitol building (probably because I have never been to D.C.) only smaller. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas.


This is the outside of part of my office building. My desk is straight ahead, and a bit to the left, behind the tree branch. Yes, for those of you who work at the HRC, I have WINDOWS! This is a big deal to an archivist - we usually end up in basements or other windowless rooms - it is for the good of the materials, of course, but still windows are awfully nice...

Anyway, I am sure I will be telling y'all more about the job as I get settled in and actually start doing work. And I will post more pictures of the capitol as I take them - of some of the statues and so forth. I am not sure how much baking I will be doing now, or reading, or racquetball...at least not during the week. The commute is (so far) the only real bad thing about the job - it is around an hour from door to desk/desk to door. The long distance is the main culprit, since the traffic isn't anything to write about, compared to Seattle or Austin (my two main standards of comparison). Sigh. I guess I will be getting a lot of books on tape.

Butterfield Trail

Here are a couple of pictures from our weekend 15 mile hiking trip. Above, you can see my nifty backpack, as well as some of the rocks we walked through. The tree in front of me was knocked down in a windstorm, or bent over after another tree fell on it. (Can't remember which for that particular tree, but there were plenty of both alongside the trail).

This is a view down Blackburn Creek, one of two main creeks that run beside the trail. We camped beside this one on Friday night. The trees are just starting to turn - I am sure they will be gorgeous in another week or two. The moon was near full, and when I got up briefly around 3 AM, it was almost bright enough to read by - beautiful.

You can see all the rocks on this hillside. There were certainly a lot of rocks - on the hills, on the trail, in the creek. And there were a lot of trees. We saw about 10 deer on Saturday morning - otherwise, no wildlife. Not even a squirrel. No other hikers - apart from two groups we saw who were leaving as we hiked in, and three other people on the trail, who camped elsewhere. It was peaceful and just what we needed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Heading for the woods

Benjamin has a couple of days off for the mid-semester break, so we are taking Friday and Saturday for a quick overnight backpacking trip into the Ozarks. One of the first things we bought when we arrived was a guidebook to Arkansas hiking trails, in the hope that we would get out more. We did very well before school started, but not so much since early September. Ah well, this time we will spend the night in the woods on the Butterfield Trail at Devil's Den State Park. This is the first time since our trip to the beach in July that we will be using our nice new backpacks. If only I also had a nice pair of hiking boots to replace the pair that disintegrated in the Adirondacks. Hopefully my sturdy walking shoes will hold up. So, see you in a few days.

Wahoo!!!

I am no longer unemployed!!! I just got a call from the Arkansas State Library - I am their newest reference librarian. Hurray!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let them eat bread!

Since we moved away from Austin, I have been baking about a loaf of bread a week. Most of the time, the bread recipe comes from The Tassajara Bread Book, but once in a while I remember my favorite recipe from childhood, a three grain loaf that Mom used to make. I have no idea where she got it, a magazine or newspaper most likely, but I just love it. The bread is delicious toasted with Parmesan cheese on top, or spread with jam, or used in a tuna sandwich. I made a loaf this weekend, to have with vegetable soup, and was inspired to share it with you.

The original recipe makes two loaves, and since we barely get through one loaf before it starts to go bad, I have cut it in half. If you want two loaves, simple double all the ingredients. It also is rather crumbly, so I added extra wheat gluten. According to one of our bread books, whole grain flours are low in gluten, which is what helps the molecules hold together, so adding extra gluten to the mix helps attain a better texture. You should be able to find wheat gluten (also called high gluten flour or just gluten flour) in the baking section of the grocery store, or in the bulk section of a natural food store. It should be kept in the fridge. The recipe calls for rolled oats - do not use quick cooking oats - get the real thing. You could also substitute spelt flakes, or wheat flakes, if you can get some. They are sometimes available at health food or natural food stores. You could also substitute oat bran for the wheat germ, but the bread will probably be a bit heavier. This time around I used some egg substitute I had left over from another recipe instead of an actual egg, and it seemed to work fine. If you want to cut down on cholesterol, this is a good choice.

Three Grain Bread (slightly modified a la Hope)
makes 1 9"x4" loaf

1 1/2 - 2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons wheat gluten
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast
1/2 cup hot water (but not boiling - this will kill the yeast)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
5 oz can evaporated milk (if doubling, use 1 regular/large can)
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar
1 egg or equivalent amount egg substitute

1) Stir together 1/2 cup bread flour, whole wheat flour, oats, wheat germ, cornmeal, gluten, salt and yeast.
2) Combine hot water, butter, milk, honey, and egg. Stir into the flour mixture. If using a mixer, beat for two minutes at medium speed. If beating by hand, beat until well mixed, about 200 hundred strokes.
3) Gradually stir in the remaining bread flour until the dough is stiff and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured board or counter and knead until smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes.
4) Place dough in an oiled or greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour to an hour and a half.
5) Remove the dough from the bowl, knead a few times, then shape into a loaf and place in an oiled loaf pan. Let rise until the dough is above the top of the pan, or doubled in size. Begin to pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Once the dough has risen, you can make an egg wash with on egg and a tablespoon of milk, or simply brush with milk, if you wish.
6) Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 F and bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is brown and it sounds hollow when tapped. Let the bread cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My day away from the news

After my last post, I decided to take a day off from the news, in all its forms. So, I didn't listen to the radio, read the newspaper on-line, watch TV news, or read a several week old issue of the New York Times Magazine that I had lying around. I didn't even check my email more than about 3 times all day, which is a very low number for me. And it felt nice. While I missed having the radio on in the background while I got breakfast and tidied up, and I missed reading blogs, I did not miss hearing an endless repeat of the financial news and political yakking. The hardest thing really was not reading my email or repeatedly checking blogs, even though there wasn't anything to read. And you know what? When I did return to the news on Saturday, nothing had changed. No big surprises, no revelations; everything was pretty much as I left it on Thursday night. Maybe I will make this a weekly thing, until the election at least.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Make it stop

Okay. I have had enough - of the presidential campaigns, of the financial crisis, of the analysis of both on all forms of media. I think I need to take a vacation somewhere remote, where there are no TVs, radios, computers, newspapers, telegraphs, telephones... how hard do you think it would be to get a ride to the moon? Seriously, I cannot stand all the lies, spin, and analysis - I feel rather seasick.

Am I supposed to feel worried about the financial markets? I don't own a house, have very little invested (less than I used to, sigh), have my money in a small local credit union and a secure savings bank, and just don't see how it will effect me. Should I start hoarding food? I wish someone would give us some concrete advice, apart from don't panic. I don't feel panicky, I just have a headache.

Does anyone have a way to turn me into a cat until it all blows over?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ms. Maverick says that John McCain is no Maverick


It's true, there is an actual Maverick family, descendants of Samuel A. Maverick (see above), the man who's name came to be used as we know it today to mean someone who is independent minded. And they are NOT endorsing John McCain, in fact, their family has long (and by long I mean centuries) been associated with progressive politics and causes. Read all about it in the NY Times article.

This is a maverick.

This is a bunch of bull****
Images used under a Creative Commons License.

Latin es gaudia et utilis!

All hail Latin classes! This article in the NY Times says that Latin is growing in favor as a class in middle schools and high schools across the country (never mind that most of the examples they cite are in NY state...). I took Latin in college (met Benjamin there, as a matter of fact), and really wished it had been available at my high school. So did Bonny Anne, who went so far as to teach herself Latin in her spare time. If you want to understand grammar, and want to be able to decode strange epitaphs, Latin is the language to know.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Applesauce!

I haven't been writing much about my culinary feats lately, although there have been a few. (Well, perhaps feats is a little strong, but what the heck, it is my blog, isn't it?). Anyway, last week I baked molasses cookies on Thursday, zucchini/broccoli bread on Friday (my friend Jenn taught me that trick - you use broccoli in place of some or all of the zucchini in the recipe. She does it to get her kids to eat more vegetables; I did it just to give it a try. It isn't too bad, taste-wise, although it does smell strongly of broccoli) and a nice batch of plain old egg bread on Saturday. We have had several good soups lately too.

See the new cow crock next to the toaster? $3 at the thrift store

But today was all about applesauce. It was one of the few foods I would eat as a baby, according to my parents, and while I have branched out these days, I still enjoy it. Last year, I made several batches with the apples I picked, but never in large batches. This year, I decided to give canning applesauce a try, since I had such success with the peaches. Making applesauce is pretty easy: cut up apples, (remove skins and seeds if you don't have a food mill), put in pot with some water, boil until soft, mash or put in blender. Eat. Easy. Canning only really adds one more step - the water bath.


I made two batches of applesauce, since I wasn't sure how much the first batch would make, and in the end was able to can 7 pint jars worth. So now we will be able to have homemade applesauce this winter! I have plenty of apples left, since I bought an entire box last week, so I will probably have enough to make one more batch of applesauce to fill the last 5 empty jars I have, and still have some left over to eat and make a pie with. Yum. Apples - how I love them!

SNL does Palin-Biden

This is just great! I laughed so hard I would have shot beer out my nose, if I had been drinking...Maverick!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin bingo

So for those of you who are planning to watch tonight's vic-prez debate, here is something to make it more enjoyable: Palin Bingo! I was alerted to this great public service by one of the political blogs I read on a regular basis, Cogitamus. I might just print out a couple of these cards for Benjamin and I tonight. I am mostly just hoping that she says something that helps the campaign self-implode...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Go Barack Go!

I just finished reading The Audacity of Hope. I usually avoid books by politicians and celebrities, because they tend to be a rehashing of stories widely available in the press, or just bad writing. Not so with this one. I am glad I read it - it makes me more enthusiastic about Obama, and more hopeful that he can help to get this country back on track if he wins. On that point, however, I am very worried. I am just terrified that McCain will win and then become incapacitated somehow, and then Sarah Palin will be acting president. Please folks, don't let this happen. Vote for Obama and encourage all your friends and relatives to do the same.

We watched the presidential debate last week with a group of other like-minded people. I got a free t-shirt, the cops stopped by a couple of times to make us turn the TV down (we were watching outside using a projector and a garage door), and people drove by, honking car horns and shouting racial slurs at us. Welcome to the south. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Goodbye Carl

I just learned that my friend Carl Peters has passed away. Carl, along with his wife Margo, who passed away in January, were my first friends at the church in Austin. It was so nice to have someone familiar to sit with every week, someone who asked how I was doing, someone to share a hymnal with. When Margo became too ill to come to church, I began to visit them at their retirement apartment. They would take me to lunch at their fancy cafeteria and show me pictures from their many travels. Carl and I still sat together on Sundays - we told anyone who asked that I was his young "girlfriend." I know they were much loved by their children and grandchildren, as well as by friends in the church. They will both be missed.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Breakfast for dinner

Tonight, we had breakfast for dinner: waffles, scrambled locally grown eggs, locally raised buffalo sausage, and cantaloupe. I can't believe we haven't done this in a really long time, if ever, since we've been together. It is such a good idea. You get the best meal of the day, but when you are awake enough to appreciate it! Our waffles were enhanced by grape jelly we got in our basket of the month last month, and by the chocolate-hazelnut spread we bought at the University District Farmer's Market in Seattle this summer. Yum yum yum. Too bad we didn't have local peaches as the fruit, and it would have been all local. Oh well, one item trucked in from California in a whole meal isn't too bad.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Things that make me laugh

A group of guys on campus made a slip and slide on the lawn of their dorm. I love that. If I was still in college, I would have considered taking a turn on it myself. Of course, I am too shy to actually join in, but still...

I am a feminist

There, I said it publicly. I have been reading Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti this week, and it has made me mad. Do you know how much absolute junk and lies about women are out there? Do you know how much our lives are controlled by old white men? Don't let them. Get out and vote for Obama this election - and yes, I know that Sarah Palin is a woman, but she is a woman with mad wack, ignorant, hateful opinions. Just because she is a woman doesn't make her automatically good.

The book was making me reconsider my choice to change my last name when I got married. Benjamin said I didn't have to, but at the time I couldn't see not changing it. Now, it would take a lot of work to change it or even just to hyphenate. Besides, I didn't completely get rid of Donovan, I just made it a middle sort of name. It was a choice I made, so now I will live with it. But it was a choice made harder by all the insane rhetoric that I managed to absorb and all the worry I had about what people would think about me. Totally bogus. As I get older, I am slowly learning that it is better to, in the words of the snarky advice on a video game I play, "Don't worry about what others think; they don't do it very often." Hmm. Maybe we will just make something up for our (hypothetical) child. Or just stick to pets.

Anyway, if you want more information about being a full frontal feminist, you can check out Valenti's web site feministing.com.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sleeping cats

I am offering this picture of Cleo sleeping as a respite from the politics and downer news that are on offer everywhere (including my other post of the day). Everyone, on the count of three, say "Awww...)

Debate, debate!

Friday night is the first of the presidential candidate debates between Barack Obama and John McCain. I have avoided the debates of this political season until now, but since this is shaping up to be a very big election, I will be watching. In fact, we are planning to go to a debate watching party. Whee! To continue my politicizing of this blog (just for now, I promise), I encourage you to watch also. Get to really know what the candidates say, and perhaps more importantly, how they say it. You know it is going to be all talking points and prepared answers, but just how hard will they try to dodge the actual question that is being asked? Will McCain sweat and look shifty? Will Obama? Will one of them be poked and prodded so much that they turn into the Mayor from Buffy Season 3? Only one way to find out - watch!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Confused? You should be!

In this season of politics, it is easy to get confused about the messages of our politicians. So I want to thank Monique for pointing out this handy list from Black and Progressive Sociologists for Obama that clears everything up:

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'

Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that
registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor,
spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become
the country's second highest ranking executive (and according to the actuarial tables, a > 30% chance of succeeding the president during your first term).

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your un-wed teen daughter
ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community,
then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

If you're husband is nicknamed 'First Dude', with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.


Please, don't let McCain and Palin win this year. Please, make sure you are registered to vote, and then go out and VOTE. Not voting against them is the equaivalent of a vote for them. We cannot have another four years of anti-intellectual, conservative government. I am beginning to feel so strongly about this whole election that despite the fact that I turn off the radio far more often than I used to (sick of hearing about it) I have actually given money to Obama, I am reading his book, and written my senators and representative about the financial crisis.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Oliver loves his Pig

Oliver has a thing for this stuffed pig. Lately, he has been sitting on it, but he also likes to knead it, or what I used to call pussy-footing. If you have ever seen a truly content cat, you know what I am talking about - purring and using their paws to knead the toy, blanket, stomach, whatever they are sitting on at the time. Oliver likes to knead his pig, and when he does so, he also likes, no needs to have either an ear or the tail in his mouth. It is absolutely adorable, and just a little bit strange.
We aren't sure what attracts Oliver to this pig, because for the longest time he was seemingly scared of soft objects - he wouldn't get on the furniture, the bed, the softer of the two cat beds. Nothing. Now, he nests on the pig. Go figure. Anyway, he is currently curled up, fast asleep, on top of the pig. Aww...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jaw-dropping Friday night

I am not the sort of person who uses superlatives about entertainment and experiences very often, but last night deserves them. We went to see the Golden Dragon Acrobats, a troupe of Chinese acrobats doing absolutely amazing things. There was the guy balancing on top of 8 stacked chairs, on one hand. The couple doing a lovely pas de deux where the woman went en pointe on his shoulder, and then on his head. Women juggling end tables, with their feet. My jaw was literally dropping and my mouth hanging open through much of the show. Take a look through the pictures on the web site. Amazing! The most fun I have had a show of any kind in a long time. If they come to a town near you, I would strongly encourage you to go. The big question I have after seeing it is why the Chinese gymnasts haven't won all of the gold medals in the Olympics, with a tradition like this.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our weekend with Ike

It seems ages ago now, but over the weekend we had a brush with the remains of Ike. The weather was incredibly humid and icky for most of the day on Saturday, and by later afternoon the wind had picked up and the rain began. Our biggest worry was rain coming in the tops of our living room windows - the previous night we had a rain storm that sent rain pouring in around the window frame (so much for a well constructed new apartment building). As the storm struck, however, the radio and TV weather men began to warn of possible tornadoes. eek! Eventually, while we were making dinner, the warning sirens even went off - we stayed away from the windows and drank margaritas. The worst of that part of the storm was gone pretty quickly, without any actual tornado and without getting any rain into the windows. The wind and rain continued throughout the night, and I did have to get up around 2:30 to mop up water around the windows, but nothing more exciting. Ah well. Sunday morning brought sunny skies and cooler weather (hurrah!) and the damage was visible - mostly just small branches down, the occasional tree knocked over. So, we survived the hurricane aftermath pretty well - other areas of the state had flooding and power outages. That is as close as I want to come to a hurricane however!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This little piggy when to market

On Saturday we braved the pre-Ike humidity to take a trip to the River Market in Little Rock. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of locally grown producers selling, since we had heard that it was mostly people who bought goods wholesale, like the market in Rochester. No, several of the people who supply the two CSAs that we get were there, and there were some interesting looking vegetables. And they have a great pig statue. What is it with markets and pigs? Pike Place Market also has a pig statue...Actually, I think the River Market was trying to mold itself in Pike Place's image, since it had a big sign on the roof that was similar, a pig, and covered areas with restaurants and such. No flying fish though.
We had a good lunch at a bakery/deli, and enjoyed the trip out of Conway. We will be exploring some more this coming weekend - we have tickets to opening night of the Arkansas Symphony, and plan to go out to dinner in LR beforehand. Whee.

And I have one, possibly two interviews lined up at the University of Arkansas Little Rock library, so keep your fingers crossed that something good comes of them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Canned sunshine

Last week I picked peaches and apples - this is one thing that makes Arkansas better than Texas, the availability of fruit - at an orchard about 30 minutes from Conway. It was quite a large business - many different varieties that ripen at different times - bigger than any of the places I picked at last year in NY. I bought about 35 pounds of fruit in total. After eating some of the peaches, I decided that I needed to do something to save the rest of them for the winter. My first thought was to freeze them for use in smoothies and possibly pie, but then I decided to try canning. I have done it before, but only as helper to Mom, who did most of the work. Oh well, how hard could it be?

Armed with the Joy of Cooking and a convenient home canning website, I set out to can my peaches. It isn't difficult really, but it does take a bit of organization. First the jars and lids need to be sterilized, then the syrup needs to be made, and the peaches need to be peeled. Whew. As you can see, these steps took up all of my stove burners - at least I already had a canning pot and enough other pots to do it all at once. Boy, could I have used an assistant though! Someone eager and useful (like me perhaps) to help with the peeling and chopping of the peaches. Well, I survived and got everything done without cutting myself (peeled peaches are very slippery!) and without making too big of a mess.
I decided to use the hot pack method, which is where you boil the peaches in the syrup for a little while before filling the jars. It is supposed to help prevent air bubbles and keep the peaches looking bright and pretty. Neither Mom nor I can remember what we used the last time we canned peaches. Oh well, it wasn't that hard. Thanks to a lovely little canning funnel, I was able to fill the jars without making too much of a mess on their sides and the counter. One thing to keep in mind about canning though - it is a good idea to have a lot of cloth kitchen towels on hand to mop up spills and drips.

After the all-important water bath to help seal the jars, I was delighted to find that I had done everything correctly - the lids popped down the way they were supposed to. The only small hitch was that I didn't quite fill the jars as full as possible, so there is a bit of a gap at the bottom of the jars (see the jars on the right in the picture below). I was afraid to pack too tightly I guess. Since only about half of the peaches were ready at that time, I had to can another batch over the weekend. I made a few improvement to my methods (including adding an assistant - a more or less willing Benjamin) and the jars got packed a little bit better.


So I now have 12 jars of canned sunshine to help me through the winter when fresh fruit is in short supply. Yum! I also plan to can applesauce in the coming weeks, at some point. Now, if only I had a dehydrator - I could make the lovely dried peach slices that my dad used to make every fall...but that will have to wait until I have a house and more space. Soon. Next fall, I hope.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wry observation

Friday afternoon is not the time to go to the gym if you are tall, not tan, nearing 30, and not particularly perky. It appears that between 2:30 and 3:30 PM is work-out time for the entire UCA cheer squad. Huh.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Canning madness

On Tuesday I picked apples and peaches. Today, I am going to try canning them. I have canned before, with Mom, but never on my own. For peaches and applesauce it seems pretty easy, almost fool-proof. We shall see. Pictures will be forthcoming, both of the picking expedition and the canning, when I get around to firing up Benjamin's computer and taking them off the camera.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grasshopper memories

This little green grasshopper was resting on my catnip plant yesterday morning. I love grasshoppers - especially trying to catch them. When I was small and Mom and I would visit my great-grandfather at his farm in Nebraska, he and I would go out and catch them. He would point them out with his cane, and I would pounce on them. I always loved fluttery feeling of a grasshopper in your hand, trying to escape. I would usually let them go - the thrill was in the catch more than anything. I still get that thrill - on our recent hike I managed to catch a couple, although I seem to have slowed down and am no longer so close to the ground as I was at 7.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More local food

Despite the lack of a physical organic farmer's market in Conway, there is an on-line market. You log in, order what you want from the available products, and then go pick it up at the set time. The pick ups are available every other week, for now, although the organizers hope to go to weekly deliveries in the spring. It is like a CSA, except that you can choose what you want to buy, instead of just getting what is given to you. Thanks to one of Benjamin's co-workers, we discovered it in time to order last week, and this is what we got:
  • Natural ground beef
  • Buffalo summer sausage
  • Raw milk cheddar
  • Green beans
  • Squash
  • Eggs
  • Purple potatoes
  • Buffalo hot dogs
  • Heirloom tomatoes
I could also have ordered honey (but we have plenty of that at the moment), raw milk, a deposit on a natural, heritage turkey for Thanksgiving, whole chicken roasters, okra, grapes, and buffalo roast, and more. So, for now, we seem to have figured out where to get good food. We will get the basket once a month - have to see if it continues to be worth it during the winter - and order from this group every other week. And I have a lead on a local fruit farm that is currently picking peaches and apples! Don't worry, there will be pictures when I go.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Take that, you big sandwich chains

This lovely sandwich is one of the meals we had this week using produce from our basket. Roasted eggplant and onions with a balsamic vinegar dressing on a bed of spring greens, topped with feta cheese and fresh basil. Yum yum! Now that is something you can't get at a fast food sandwich place.

Most of the good stuff is gone from that basket, but I go pick up our order from the other CSA today. Not so many veggies though, mostly local, organic meats. I can't wait until we have our own garden.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hello Gustav


Tropical Depression Gustav is currently stuck over Arkansas, that is, over us. It has been raining since some time on Monday night, and boy is it wet. All the culverts that had been so dry when we arrived are full. All the low places in the parking lots and lawns are under water. Our house is full of wet shoes, socks and coats. I actually drove Ben to work today, so he wouldn't get soaked before starting a day of teaching. If this keeps up, we are going to need an ark!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Episode 251, in which we go hiking, again

Trust me, I am sweating like a cold glass of iced tea

In honor of the spirit of a long weekend vacation, we went hiking on Sunday. This time, we headed to Lake Sylvia, a nice little park on the edges of the Ouachita forest and hiking trail about 45 minutes from Conway. The trail itself was mostly not too difficult, with a side trail up to an overlook that included a little bit of climbing. Apart from that, it was mostly just a ramble through a mixed deciduous/evergreen forest. We started early-ish to avoid the heat and humidity that would come with the afternoon. Even so, I was dripping wet pretty soon after we started. Humidity and I just don't get along. I am pretty well adjusted to the heat here, but if it is humid I sweat. Sigh.

View from Chinquapin Overlook

Anyway, sweating aside, it was a nice trail in a calming forest. Plenty of fresh air and chirping crickets and cicadas. We have nicknamed the sound that they produce the alien death-ray. Seriously, if you have ever been around that sound, the whirring, chirping, buzzing noise, it sounds exactly like the death-ray sort of sound in certain alien movies. It really does get into your brain and make it feel like you could easily go crazy if it went on long enough. But the bugs stop just in time, and instead it is just the sound of hiking in the south in August. Apart from those bugs, the only wildlife we saw were spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. They particularly liked to spin webs across the trail, as if they might catch a careless hiker and eat well all winter (shudder). Since we still don't have a guide to the spiders of Arkansas, we treated them all with caution and ducked under or walked around. A stick comes in very handy on such a trail, for waving in front of the lead hiker to break the webs without having to use your body to do so.

Despite the fact that it was Labor Day weekend, we only saw one other hiker on the entire 5 miles of trail. The camp-ground around the lake had a fair number of campers in it, but no-where as many as I expected. A pleasant surprise really. Maybe it is because it was hot, or because people are camped out by this point in the summer. The lake itself looked like a pleasant place to swim, and there were a number of kids splashing around and jumping off the jumping platform. Next time we go out there for a hike (and I am sure we will return) we will remember to take our bathing suits.