Friday, November 30, 2007

Weather update

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

Brockport archives

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A second bathroom would be helpful

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That's a big pair of dentures...

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pretty pictures

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving...the holiday that keeps on giving

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

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

No fun activity of the day

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

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving adventures

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

Parental visit update

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

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

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

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


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

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

How much do you recycle?

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The parents are coming!

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

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

Improve your vocabulary, feed people

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

How good is your vocabulary?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bird watching in Brockport

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

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

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Love Pumpkin . . .

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

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

Overheard at the grocery store

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

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

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Snow derby

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Book-related time waster

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Winter forecast

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

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

Monday, November 5, 2007

We want real food!

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

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

Fire, and marshmallows

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

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

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saddest mascot ever?

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

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

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ooh, ooh, ooh

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