Thursday, April 30, 2009

Of donuts and cookies

I don't eat donuts very often, and I don't buy cookies very often, but Ed's Bakery in Conway makes me wish I did both a whole lot more often. Benjamin wanted to take donuts to his class today, since it was the last day for the semester. Because I have the car all day, the best solution was for me to go get them this morning, before I left for work. We called last night to find out what time they opened, and got an actual human being on the line, long after they were closed. That was pleasant surprise number 1. Pleasant surprise number 2 was the friendly, cheerful, helpful woman who packed up my 2 dozen donuts, dozen pecan sandies and apple fritter. It was 5:30 in the morning, for pete's sake, and she was more cheerful than many people are at noon. She suggested I try the apple fritter sliced, like a loaf of bread. When I said I had never had one that way, she said "Where have you been, girl? Once you have it sliced you will never go back!" And she is right. Somehow, the fritter was more delicious because it was in thin slices.

Oh yeah, the cookies. I got a dozen cookies while I was there to take into work. We have had a busy/difficult week at work - two vacancies in the circulation deparment, one reference librarian out sick, a supervisor out one day, and constant threats of thunderstorms - and needed some reward. I haven't tasted them (that apple fritter for breakfast...) yet, but everyone who has says they are amazing.

And the best part? It is a local bakery, staffed by local college students and the owners (the lady was one of them) who know their patrons. My favorite kind of place. Now, if only I had the metabolism to eat donuts every week...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Humdrum Tuesday

I wish I had pictures to show you today, or a recipe or something. But I don't the pictures from this weekend are still on the camera, and I haven't done any interesting baking lately. It is rainy and warm and humid here in Arkansas, and that's about it. Benjamin is almost finished with the semester - this is the last week of classes and then a week of finals... So soon, and not soon enough! As soon as he is truly finished, we are going to get serious about looking for a house. I still need to find us a real estate agent so we can get the inside scoop on the houses we are looking at, and we need to do more than just look at them online. If all goes well, we should be in a new house some time in June or July. I can't wait - the first thing we will be getting after we move is a dog. It is a promise, and if it doesn't happen, well, I can't be held responsible for the consequences!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breakfast at Ashley's

I had to get up at 4 AM this morning to take Benjamin to the airport. Urgh. We got him there at 5, and presumably he is on his way by now. On a normal day, I would have had to keep myself busy until 7:30 or so, and then head to work. Today, however, I am attending a seminar at the downtown public library, and it doesn't start until 9. So, yes, that is 4 hours to kill between drop-off and start time. I didn't want to drive home, because that is just a waste of time and gasoline. Since it was so early that nothing else was open, I decided to take advantage of the free wi-fi at the airport for an hour or so, and play on my Facebook page. I just started one yesterday, so I am still exploring. And that was fine, but I also needed breakfast.

Now, I like eating breakfast out, but I prefer it to be a good breakfast. Except when heading out on a camping trip, I don't want just a sausage biscuit from McDs. And I don't want waffles - we make those all the time at home. I need a nice sitdown breakfast. What to do? Where to go? The answer: Ashley's at the Capitol Hotel. We ate dinner there with my parents at Christmas and were suitably impressed. Benjamin was even convinced to give up his prejudice against fancy restaurants on account of Ashley's. And they serve breakfast. Lovely, lovely breakfast. I had sourdough buckwheat pancakes, with syrup imported from Vermont. Topped with baked Arkansas Black apples and a tangerine-cinnamon whipped cream. With locally farmed bacon. So, so good! The pancakes weren't big fluffy tasteless things. No, they were light, but substantial, crispy but tender. And the apples and cream...I could eat a big bowl of them just on their own.

I can't wait for another opportunity to have breakfast there again. With Benjamin.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day!

It is Earth Day today. I wish I could say that I will be planting trees all day, or picking up litter, or working in a solar office or something like that. I am not. I did carpool, and I brought my own lunch, and I am using my own mug for tea here at my desk. But those are things I do on a regular basis.
I guess that is the point of Earth Day though, to make you think about what you do on a regular basis that could be greened up, made cleaner. At the moment, I think Benjamin and I are about as green as we can get. I suppose we could ride our bikes to the grocery store, but given the amount of groceries we buy at one time, and the fact that I do the grocery shopping on my own, that isn't very practical. If we were going to be living where we are for a long time, I might invest in panniers or a cart or something so I could get all the groceries home, but we will be moving this summer. And it gets really hot in AR in the summer, hot enough to melt any frozen goods between the store and home.

But, we do buy as many groceries as we can from our local CSA, including grass-fed bison, raw milk cheese, and pastured eggs. And I bake our bread, and we dry clothes (not all, but our apartment is small) on racks and hangers hung throughout the apartment.

Want more suggestions and tips? Check out the Sierra Club Green Tips Library. And use your own God-given common sense. If you have something reusable that could replace something disposable, use it. If you don't need to buy something, don't.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bluebirds and red clover

I am very excited because we have bluebirds here in Arkansas. I have never lived anywhere with bluebirds, and now we appear to have a pair nesting within sight of our bedroom window. The house behind us (with the shed where Creamsicle holed up during her AWOL stunt last fall) had a large garden with a few nesting boxes, and that is where I have seen a male bluebird several mornings now. Alas, they are just a bit too far away for my digital zoom, so all I get are little blue blurs when I try to take a picture. Instead, here is a picture from Bill of the Birds that is pretty similar to what I can see through binoculars (picture from the April 3rd blog entry).

We also have carpets of crimson clover along the roadsides that I am dying to take pictures of. Alas again, it is only on the roadsides. I may have found a patch that I can reach safely for picture taking - if i do, you will be sure to know. For now, the pictures on Wikipedia will have to be enough.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On Turning 30

So, I turned 30 on Wednesday. I didn't immediately sprout wrinkles, and I didn't suddenly become wise. 30, it turns out, it an awful lot like 29. Huh. Actually, I sort of figured that out a while ago, when I started having friends who were 30+. What's the big deal then? I still get carded if I want to drink alcohol, I'll still get ignored by the sales people at obnoxious stores. Maybe the difference is that now I can look down from my lofty age and call people under 25 punks, and say things like "Kids today, I just don't understand them." And I don't. I may be tech savy, have a blog, use a cell phone, know what Twitter is, know how to IM, but I really don't understand a lot of younger people. Of course, I don't really understand people in general...

Anyway, I am 30, the sun is shining, the azaleas are blooming, and today, life is good.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Reference: Science is Fun!

For today's Wednesday Reference I present to you Everyday Mysteries. This website is put out by the Library of Congress and contains all sorts of interesting and fun science facts. For example, did you know that a coconut can be considered a fruit, a nut, and a seed? It's true. The questions and answers are sorted into 12 major categories ranging from agriculture to astronomy, to motor vehicles and chemistry. Each answer includes a list of related websites for more information, as well as a bibliography for further reading. This could be a useful site for science teachers and students looking for interesting topics for papers or experiments.

Monuments and memorials

OK - at least one more DC post for you today - the Monuments and Memorials. It seems impossible to see all the monuments and memorials in DC, especially in the space of one afternoon. Despite the short time frame, I did manage to see quite a few. You can't miss the Washington Monument, since it towers over DC, and the mall in particular. It was so omni-present that I took far too many pictures of it.

I did not do anything on this list, however, but then, I didn't go up in the monument itself. You have to stand in line to get tickets (and then stand in line with the tickets, just like at Disneyland, but without the music and scary, life-sized cartoon characters). No time for that for this blogger, so I just took the pictures and moved on.

Nearby to the Washington Monument is the World War II Memorial. The columns with wreaths stand for each state, and continue all the way around the fountain. It is tasteful, but somehow it was far less moving than the Vietnam Memorial.

Seeing the sheer number of names alone is striking, sobering. There was a volunteer with a handy-dandy little computer index who would look up names for you, if needed, and help you find them on the wall. The wall itself is a mirror, and a blackness that absorbs the light.

The Lincoln Monument is also quite striking, and I would have liked to sit there and watch it for a while, but without all the other people.

This strange monument was in Alexandria, near our metro stop. It is the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Hmm. Just what is it with all these pointy topped monuments?!

I didn't get to see the Capitol Building, except from afar, and never got close to the Jefferson Memorial. And there are countless other memorials and monuments that I would like to see, whenever I get back to DC...So I guess I had better go!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Did you think I had forgotten about my promise (or was it a threat?) to tell you about my tour of NPR? Anyway - NPR is my favorite radio station. It is about all I ever listen to, apart from the BBC Radio Scotland feed on my computer. The first thing we do when we move or travel is figure out where the NPR station lives on the dial in the new location. So, I was thrilled when I discovered that NPR does tours of its studio in DC every Thursday morning. Right then and there I determined to skip whatever session was on tap at the seminar and go to the tour.

All these pictures are from Studio 4A - the studio where they interview musicians. It was the only room we were allowed to take pictures of. Ah well. We got to see the office areas, where the reporters and researchers and producers work, and we even got to see Scott Simon working on an interview! He was in a studio, and we were int he observation room, and he waved! For NPR geeks, this was a swoon-worthy event.

Studio 4A is an amazing space - the floor, ceiling, and walls are acoustically designed to provide perfect sound for radio, so you can hear every note as it was intended. They have a specially room with a Plexiglas shield for drummers, when they have rock bands. This is as it ought to be! Keep the drummers separate.

If you are an NPR geek like me, and are in the DC area on a Thursday, take the tour! It's free. If you listen to NPR and don't give monetary support, please reconsider. The tour guide told us that only 10% of listeners donate to their local stations, and NPR has not been immune from the current economic climate. They have had to lay off reporters and other staff. We need their special, balanced (or at least biased in the proper direction) reporting on issues.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

DC Buildings

The Smithsonian Castle - no two turrets are the same!
DC has an abundance of really interesting buildings. There are the official buildings - White House, Capitol, and so on, there are the museums - Smithsonians (all of the various branches), the National Archives etc, and the private houses...I could go on, and I only saw a small portion of DC! Here are a few of my favorite buildings - the White House you saw in the magnolia pictures, I never got close to the Capitol building, and I didn't take any pictures of the really cute townhomes in Alexandria's Old Town area...

Here is a not very good shot of the National Archives. As an archivist (I haven't relinquished that title, even though I am currently masquerading as a reference librarian) I was excited to see it. Too bad I couldn't go inside - you have to apply for tickets 6 weeks in advance! It is a nice, impressive looking building across the street from the Mall.

This building is where we spend most of our time during the week: the United States Patent and Trademark office. All the buildings on either side were also USPTO buildings - what do all those people do?

The Jefferson Memorial. S. and I elected not to walk that far, so we only ever saw it from a distance. I see it every once in a while on Bones, which is set in DC - now I can say I have actually seen it!

This is perhaps the most important building of my trip - the headquarters of National Public Radio (NPR). I listen to almost nothing else on the radio. If my tuner broke and was stuck on a station, it would be whatever NPR is in the town I am in. I took a tour with a group of like-minded public radio geeks (proudly self-professed) on my last day in town. More about that in a later post.

And here, not too far from NPR, is the entrance to DC's Chinatown. I didn't have time to go in, but the gate was pretty cool. All the signs on the surrounding buildings were in English and Chinese, including the one for a Chipotle and the Verizon Center arena.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cherry Blossoms, oh my!

When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to DC at the end of March, she told me that I had to make sure to see the cherry blossoms. I looked at the cherry blossom festival website, and figured it would be worth a trip, but I didn't really think it would be all that impressive. I mean, so many festivals turn out to be disappointing. Well, I was wrong. The cherry blossoms were incredible.

S. and I ended up going to see them twice, once on Sunday when everything was gray and misty and dew-covered (see final picture), and once on Tuesday, when the sun was out and the blossoms were all fluffy.

There were a lot of people both times, out enjoying themselves and the sights. And I can't blame them. The only thing that would have made it better was if the cherry trees smelled as good as lilacs!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Magnolias in DC

DC is a couple of weeks behind, spring-wise, to Arkansas. This was great news for us, because it meant that all the flowering trees were at their peak. The famous ones are the cherry trees, and I will get to them later in the week, but the other beautiful ones were the magnolias.

S. and I set out to explore the Mall area, and our first stop was the garden outside the Smithsonian Castle (picture of that later in the week, with the buildings themed post). There, the trees were thick with blossoms - see top picture - and the ground was covered with a light snow of petals. We have this variety of magnolias in Arkansas, but according to S., the frost always gets to them before they can come to full flower - and that is what happened this year. So it was nice to see them in such numbers in DC.

Later in the day, we came to some large building, surrounded by a fence - I wonder what it could be? I was excited to see the bee hive in the grounds, right next to another magnolia. The hive was busy, and you could see the bees going in and out, even from a distance.
By this point in the day, the sun had come out, the dew had dried, and the flowers were wide open. Just lovely.
Stay tuned this week for cherry blossoms, interesting buildings, monuments and memorials, and a tour of NPR.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I'm back!

We (my co-workers and I) made it back from Washington D.C. safely last Thursday. Our plane made an unscheduled stop in Little Rock, instead of Memphis, because the Memphis airport was closed due to bad weather. At first, the Powers That Be said we might be able to get off, instead of going back to Memphis, where we would have had to wait until Friday for a flight or rent a car to get home. Then, They said no, we had to stay on the plane, because there weren't any stairs available - which was completely bogus because I could see 4 sets just sitting there out my window. When the 25 or so of us for whom LR was our final destination started to protest, the flight attendant and pilot got working and eventually we were allowed to get off. Our luggage, however, had to go back to Memphis. The very unhelpful woman at the airline desk said that there was no way to check if our luggage had arrived, apart from coming back to the airport. This is not correct, as I learned by pursuing it on the computer and phone on Friday morning.

Anyway, we got back, and got our luggage. I'll be putting up pictures all week. Now, it is back to work. Whee!