March 18, 2015

  • Tea Party

    I invited a friend over for lunch and decided to try out some new recipes and have a tea party.  I made an easy tomato basil bisque, made even easier by the lack of fresh basil in our local grocery stores. I just used the dry stuff in my spice cupboard. I also substituted lactose free milk for the buttermilk.

    tomato-basil-bisque-sl-x

    To go with the soup, I made orange and cranberry tea sandwiches. The "orange and cranberry" part was in the spread that I made last night. I bought a small loaf of thinly sliced white bread - possibly the first time I've ever bought white bread - for the sandwiches, spread the bread with the orange and cranberry spread, and added smoked turkey and a cheese made with bits of black pepper. Of course I cut the sandwiches into triangles. They were delicious. A few sweet, seedless red grapes completed the main course.

    tea-sandwiches-sl-x

    For dessert I made Chocolate-Espresso Pots de Creme. I had to make a couple of substitutions to this recipe. The half-and-half was substituted with lactose free milk. I couldn't find instant espresso, and not sure I would have been willing to pay for it if I'd found it since I only needed a half-tablespoonful. I substituted what we had in the cupboard - vanilla flavored instant coffee. I had all the other ingredients on hand and made the dessert last night. I poured it into three mismatched antique teacups I've had for years and never found a good reason to use.

    chocolate-espresso-pots-de-creme-sl-x

    At nearly the last second, I realized I hadn't thought about what to drink with our 'tea' and had a moment of panic until I remembered the little tubes of Crystal Light in the cupboard. Each tube contains just enough powder to flavor a 20 oz. bottle of water. I mixed three bottles of raspberry-lemonade Crystal Light and poured them into my glass pitcher. Voila!

    crystal lite

    Since there were only two of us, I cut all the recipes in half, but there was plenty of sandwich spread leftover, along with a small bowl of the bisque, a handful of grapes, and the last teacup I filled last night which was only about 2/3 full. So I made an extra sandwich and cut it into triangles, reheated the bisque and my husband was able to enjoy 'tea' when he arrived home from work. It was a fun and different thing to do and I plan to keep a couple of those recipes in my repertoire.

March 15, 2015

  • Pi Day

    3.14 Pi pie

    I suppose it's fitting that Pi Day seemed very long - indeed, at times unending - to me. It was a day of fun and work, pleasure and pain, uncommon activities and common chores. The day started early, after my all too common struggle to fall asleep last night. When my alarm went off this morning, it took five full minutes for my tired brain to stop incorporating Stairway To Heaven into whatever I was dreaming and tell me to wake up. It then took another 15 or 20 minutes for me to gather the energy to stand up. Needless to say, I was a bit later leaving the house than I'd planned, and I'd made it as far as the township park a mile or two away before I realized I'd left my phone on the charger. Luckily, the park was a good place to turn around.

    Once I was finally underway, it took an hour to arrive at my first destination - a Wendy's in Kalamazoo. I just needed their parking lot, which was the closest place I could leave my van so I could walk down the road a bit to find a puzzle cache. In honor of Pi Day, geocachers were encouraged to find a puzzle cache today to earn a virtual souvenir, and attend a Pi Day Event to earn another. I had the puzzle cache coordinates figured out, thanks to a friend who is much smarter than I. Perhaps if I'd consulted with my friend before leaving the house, he would have suggested I bring a pair of snow boots with me. I didn't even think of it, since pretty much all the snow in our yard melted this week (Brett says, "FINALLY!"). I was more concerned with mud than snow, so I was wearing my old, worn out hiking boots and because they're worn out I had the foresight to toss some dry socks and a pair of sneakers into the van before leaving The 'Duh. I stood on a little stone wall and stared down a slope covered in deep, crusty, icy, filthy snow. I stared at a particular spot and my geo-senses were tingling, but thought, "I really don't want to walk down that slope. Maybe the cache is up here, somewhere in the wall." I stuck my hand in various cracks and holes, but I knew in my heart I was going to have to go down that slope. So I did. And the snow was well above the top of my hiking boots. But I found the cache exactly where I knew it would be and earned my souvenir, and did it quickly enough to make it to my next stop...

    3.14 gtpc

    This is where the event was being held. A geocaching event is a group of geocachers getting together to sign a log and socialize. Sometimes there is food, sometimes geocaching, sometimes games, and sometimes just the log to sign and everyone rushes off as soon as they've written their name down. Today there was pie. The bakery/restaurant was having their own Pi Day celebration: A free slice of pie with every purchase. There was quite a crowd of geocachers there when I arrived. This was the nearest Pi Day event to my area an hour away; judging by the big turnout, I suspect it was the nearest event for at least an hour in every direction. I saw some people I know, and some people I'd met once or twice, and some new people I'd never met before. I had my hand crushed before I could block the handshake. I had some good conversation and signed the log. Then I stood in line to buy a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie and get a free slice of ABC pie (apple blueberry cherry). I was going to eat my pie for breakfast, but there were too many people and I was on the verge of an anxiety attack, so I got the slices to go and left. I'd had to park in the IHOP parking lot next door. On the other side of IHOP was an Arby's that was no longer in business. In the Arby's parking lot was a geocache. I walked over and found the cache, then I stood and looked at the IHOP and decided it was a sign from God that I'd had to park there. Who am I to ignore a sign from God? So I went inside, got a nice, quiet table for one and ate breakfast.

    Once I'd eaten, my business in Kalamazoo was complete and I headed home. I spent the hour or so before Brett got home starting laundry and pulling a package of hamburger out of the freezer and sitting in a sleepy fog, staring into nothingness. Once he was home, we headed off to Berrien Springs to find an easy puzzle cache in the library so Brett could get his souvenir. It was a quick find and we were back in the truck and pointed home in no time, but Brett was hungry for lunch so we decided to stop at Baguette de France for sandwiches on our way out of town.

    Here's the thing about Berrien Springs; it's the world headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Even though Baguette de France serves meat sandwiches (the SDA encourages vegetarianism), they were closed today because Saturday is the SDA sabbath. Okay, we'd passed a Pizza Hut... we could backtrack and get sandwiches there. Nope. It was a carryout Pizza Hut and they didn't do sandwiches there. So we backtracked again and went to Subway. As we were getting back in the truck, Brett said something about salsa and it reminded me that I needed some white pepper in order to make another batch of salsa. So we backtracked again to the local grocery store and I grabbed a jar of white pepper and went up front to pay for it. There was a customer dawdling at Register 1 and a cashier diddling with the bags at Register 2. Nobody was at the other two registers. I went to Register 2 and the cashier ignored me, so I moved to Register 1 and stood behind the dawdler. Just as the person in front of me FINALLY handed over her check to pay for her purchase, the cashier who had ignored me at Register 2 decided I needed to step down to Register 4, where I had to wait while she logged onto the register, and then got shoved aside by the cashier who had appeared out of nowhere to remove the drawer from Register 3. Now I remember why I don't do my grocery shopping in Berrien Springs.

    So we came home and I logged the puzzle cache and then started chopping peppers and onions and tomatoes to make the salsa. It's a lot of work, but it's not hard work. It's tedious work and I have to wash my hands a lot. I wash them before I handle the veggies, I wash them after chopping the peppers so I don't accidentally touch my eyes and get them irritated. I wash them multiple times while chopping the onions because... onions... I wash them several times while chopping the tomatoes because they get covered in tomato juice. Once the veggies are chopped and simmering, I wash up the knives and the cutting board, the measuring cups and spoons and the canning jars and lids. By the time I'm done with all the hand washing and dish washing, my hands are so dried out the touch screen on my phone won't respond to my fingers.

    Making and canning salsa takes about three hours from chopping, to processing, to washing the last of the dishes. While the salsa was still processing, I started making tacos, frijoles and rice for supper. That took about an hour. We ate while watching a movie and Brett washed the supper dishes when the movie ended. I am exhausted, but I enjoyed geocaching again after a long winter hiatus, I enjoyed our outing to Berrien Springs in spite of being pushed around by grocery store cashiers, I enjoyed making salsa, the tacos were okay and the pie was delicious. Now I am blogging about my day because I'm too tired to get off the couch and go upstairs to bed. Plus my feet hurt.

    How did you spend Pi Day?

March 10, 2015

  • An Open Letter

    Dear Justin Harris,

    1327425394-harris

    I am not giving you the title of “Rep.” Harris because I’m pretty sure by this point most of the citizens of Washington County, Arkansas would like to “rehome” you to Oklahoma.

    Everything I’ve read about your situation boils down to the simple fact that you, your wife, and presumably your three sturdy looking boys were terrified of a six-year-old little girl. (From the timeline of events, it appears she was actually only five at the time, but I’m willing to give you that extra year if it makes you feel better about yourself.) Or maybe you were really terrified of the bad publicity of an elected state official, on committees dealing with the welfare and education of children, returning two tiny little girls like we used to return empty Coke bottles to the gas station back in the 60s.

    Here’s one of the things that bothers me most about this debacle; when you adopt a child, you are her parent. Not her “adoptive” parent, just her parent. And she is not your “adopted” daughter, just your daughter. And when your child has a serious problem, it is the responsibility of the parent to move heaven and earth to fix it and keep on loving her regardless of anything and everything. Had one of your sons developed emotional problems and disruptive behavior, would you have given him away? Do you think for one second that your sons haven’t wondered the same thing? You have set them such a sterling example of love and responsibility.

    Here’s another thing that bugs me. When this story broke a few days ago, you were quick to throw Bible quotes at reporters seeking a statement from you. Quotes about persecution. Poor, poor Justin Harris can’t understand what all the fuss is about. Guess what? That Bible you like to quote has a thing or two to say about adoption.

     Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” John 1:12

     Here's another one:

     “14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:14-16

    So, you are an adopted child of God who has behaved reprehensibly, blaming everyone else for your poor decisions, which resulted in the sexual assault of a kindergarten-aged child. More than that, until the internet backlash, you stated that you and your wife were the victims in all of this. You’ve been such a naughty, unrepentant adopted child of God. Do you think He will rehome you? You do realize that Protestant fundamentalist Christian theology only leaves one option if that happens. Oh, I forgot! Protestant fundamentalist Christians don’t believe in rehoming. Because…

    28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:28-30

    Okay, just one more Bible quote and then I’m done with you.

     It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:2

    I’m going to give you a nickel’s worth of free advice, and I’m going to do it in one word: Repent. Not that I’m judging.

    Okay, maybe a little.

    Okay, maybe a lot.

    I’ll do my own repenting just as soon as I post this letter to the internet.

     

March 7, 2015

  • Irrational Euphoria

    DSC08147

    This photo was taken on Thursday evening. Poor Boo should have been wearing his sweater, and not just because he's approaching the end of his grooming cycle and starting to look scruffy. It was windy and very cold.

    Today, the sun was shining, there wasn't any wind and it got up to 40 degrees. We were warned by the media to beware of "irrational euphoria." Let me reiterate: the sun was shining, there wasn't any wind and it got up to 40 degrees. I don't see anything irrational about ripping off my coat and one layer of clothing and frolicking in the sunshine.

March 5, 2015

  • Snow & Ice

    We still have quite a bit of snow on the ground. Earlier this week, we had a day that began with snow and moved through sleet and freezing rain, and eventually rain. It then got quite cold overnight and everything that had melted in the rain refroze. So now we have deep snow on the ground with an icy glaze on top. Yesterday the sun came out for awhile. At the end of the day, the icy glaze reflected the setting sun and the snow looked like water, reflecting everything. I wasn't feeling well, but when Brett came inside and told me what it looked like, I grabbed my camera and stepped onto the back porch to grab a quick photo. Our yard was already shadowed and much of the glory of the reflecting sunset was gone.

    DSC08141

    Brett left, but pulled over when he got out on one of the main roads in our area. The snow-covered farm fields on the west side of the road looked like lakes in the setting sun. He stopped long enough to snap a quick shot with his cell phone.

    3.4.15 sunset on ice

    Someday all this ice and snow will melt and that will really be water standing in the field. Today is not that day.

March 3, 2015

  • Not Today

    frozen lake-001

     

    The lake is frozen all the way to the horizon. I don't think it's completely frozen all the way across, but hopefully enough of it is frozen to keep lake effect snow bands from developing.

    Getting through February brings us hope that spring is near. Now that it's March, I find myself counting each day closer to summer instead of spring. Each day brings us one day closer to color and warmth. Soon a day will come when I will be able to put away my Cuddle Duds and wool socks, push my sweaters to the back of the closet, and remove the electric mattress pad from the bed. There will be a day when I shake the wrinkles out of my capris and sleevless blouses, shave my legs and oxters, excavate my sandals from the bottom of my closet,  and throw off the comforter to sleep under the merest corner of a sheet. But today is not that day.

     

February 27, 2015

  • Feeling Foggy

    I am in the early stages of a cold. I think I've been fighting it off for the past week, but last night my final defenses fell and the virus defeated me. It's amazing how quickly that happens; one second you're feeling as normal as someone like me ever feels (which is to say, what the heck is normal, anyway?), and the next second you start sneezing and your nose is running like a faucet and suddenly your throat is hurting and it takes a few minutes to convince yourself that this is not just a really, REALLY bad allergy attack, but your stupid body waving the white flag and surrendering to the enemy hordes. So you go digging through the basket of miscellaneous leftover blister packs of over the counter drugs and miraculously find four doses of Tylenol Cold medicine - enough to get you through the night and into the next afternoon, but the next afternoon you feel all foggy, like you're locked in the bathroom after a hot shower and there's so much steam in the room you can't see anything clearly and it's getting so uncomfortably hot you can't think clearly and you just smeared lotion all over your body and you can't turn the damn doorknob to get out.

    So here I sit, aimlessly poking around on the internet when I need to go out and buy more cold medicine... and maybe some applesauce... and a banana. Here is what I have learned in my foggy aimlessness:

    • The dress is blue with black lace, but it's also available in ivory, pink and red - all with black lace.  No white and gold, no blue and brown, just a lot of people screwing around with the color saturation in the photo.
    • Ostriches are strange beasts. Very not normal (whatever normal is). I like that.
    • Interstates should be shut down when they become snowy and icy, no matter what part of the country.
    • FREE THE LLAMAS!!!
    • While the world mourns Leonard Nimoy, my heart is with the friends and family of an old farmer in Pennsylvania whom I never met except through photos and stories.
    • My aunt has rallied from her deathbed once again. I hope someday I'm as tough as those Daniel sisters.

    That's enough learning for one day. I'm going to eat the last of the corn and hominy chowder my friend dropped off the other night, and maybe one of the butter cookies with raspberry jam I baked yesterday, and curl up on the couch with J.R.R. Tolkien. The fellowship is broken and evil is afoot in Middle Earth. I'm trying to take my time and read the books slowly this time; a foggy brain actually makes that easier, so I've got that going for me, which is nice. I should probably make a quick trip to Walgreen's for more cold medicine at some point, which is not nice, but necessary. Bleh.

February 24, 2015

  • Arctic Amusements

    How does one amuse oneself when one lives in an arctic wasteland? Okay, maybe not a wasteland, but sometimes the snow is so thick in the air it's hard to tell the difference between frozen cornfields and wasteland.

    It's really cold. I know this because when I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I noticed that the wind wasn't blowing hard enough to cause the whiteout conditions that were in the forecast, so I threw on some clothes, shoved snow off the van and drove to The 'Ville to pay an insurance bill. Yep... maybe not quite as windy as expected, but ridiculously cold anyway. I was wearing my super insulated parka that only comes out when it's super cold, and I didn't start feeling overheated until I was nearly home.

    I was about to go straight to the insurance agency when I thought to myself, "Self, you are already out, the roads are relatively clear and visibility is good; you should go pick up that prescription your doctor has waiting for you at the clinic." So I turned right instead of going straight and headed toward the clinic.

    Before I got there, I saw the grocery store and thought to myself, "Self, you forgot to look for cinnamon chips for those muffins you keep thinking about making. There's the grocery store, right on the way to the clinic; you should stop and look for cinnamon chips." So I stopped and sure enough, they didn't have cinnamon chips, either (I'd looked for them at Meijer when I did my major grocery shopping). By then, the idea of muffins had taken hold, which may have had something to do with me rushing off without breakfast, so I grabbed some chocolate chips and some butterscotch chips and some brown sugar and headed to the checkout. One register was open and there was a line of people with full shopping carts waiting, so I went to the customer service counter. The person at the counter was doing something Very Important and didn't even acknowledge that I was there. If she'd said, "I'll be with you in a moment," I would have waited, but being ignored completely pissed me off and I went back to the baking aisle and put everything back and left the store. The customer service person tried to say something to me as I went past on my way out the door, but I didn't pause to listen.

    I drove on to the clinic and picked up my prescription, then headed toward the insurance agency, except I screwed up and turned right instead of left because after 23 years I still think the clinic is further south than it really is. No problem, I could just go up a few blocks, turn left and make my way to the insurance agency. This route took me right past Meijer, so I said to myself, "Self, you are still wanting to bake those muffins. You should stop and get some baking chips and brown sugar." So I did, and I was able to check myself out without waiting.

    I finally made it to the insurance agency and paid my bill. It only took a couple of minutes. I decided I was too cold and tired to stop at the gas station on my way home, but I managed a quick stop at the post office to pick up yesterday's mail. None of this, however much time it burns on an otherwise cold and boring day, is what I do to amuse myself. If you know me at all, you know what I do.

    2.24 muffins

    I bake! When I got home, I whipped up some butter rum muffins. They turned out pretty tasty. In the past few weeks, I have also made at least three types of bread and one batch of cookies. It's getting ridiculous. Yesterday I had two overripe bananas and, since there is already a loaf of banana bread in the freezer, I used them - along with some peanutbutter and oatmeal - to make dog treats.

    2.23 dog treats

    I've made two other types of dog treats in the past week or so. If I'm going to get as big as a house eating homemade bread, muffins and cookies, Boo is going down with me.

February 22, 2015

  • Slipping Standards

    Something is very, very wrong when you look at the weather forecast for the coming week and decide to go out and run several non-urgent errands now, before it gets cold and they become urgent, and it's 17 freaking degrees outside, but it feels so warm you aren't even wearing an extra layer between your clothes and your underwear. My standards of warm and cold are slip sliding away like my van did when I had to make a turn too quickly because of a giant, tailgating pickup truck that was about to drive through my back window. Boo still has his priorities straight, though; he's had enough of this nonsense.

     

    winter face

    Time to hibernate!

    1.13 Boo nap

     

February 20, 2015

  • Hibernating

    The weather here in my little corner of Michigan has been, to use the scientific term, sucky. The unrelenting snow is pretty typical for this miserable time of year. The cold is bitter even for February. My van has a mountain of snow covering it; I haven't left the house in three days, except to walk to the post office yesterday in sub-zero wind chill. I had a piece of junk mail and a reminder of a dentist appointment in my mailbox. Woot! It snowed again all night last night. This morning it looks like the sun might be shining, but it's too cold to open the drapes and blinds to check it out.

    I'm going to have to go out eventually to buy groceries... today... I don't wanna! I've spent a big chunk of my hibernation baking - Amish cinnamon friendship bread, white bread, Anadama bread, chocolate chip cookies, cakes, buttermilk biscuits, dog biscuits... I've done something I haven't done in many years; I ran out of flour. Just another reason I need to do the grocery shopping today. I have a new cookie recipe I want to try, and I want to experiment with the dog biscuit recipe. (I'm really tired of worrying about what is in Boo's store-bought dog treats. You can't even trust the ones that say Made In USA anymore.)

    I'm still in my pjs and robe, but I've created a 2-week menu, put together a shopping list and clipped virtual coupons. Now, if the bathroom is warm enough, I need to take a shower, pile on layers of clothing, shove the mountain of snow off my van, and slip and slide my way five miles to Meijer. I so, so, so don't want to, but the temperature has risen from -7 to +5 degrees and I should get it done while the sun is shining and it's above zero.