Friday, November 09, 2018

Thankful for home

I've really fallen behind here. Today isn't exactly a catch up, either, except in a very tangential way.

Our first measurable snow fell overnight, or rather, is still falling a bit. The forecast says an inch, maybe up to two. The trees are gorgeous, each branch picked out in snow, with snow even clinging a bit to the trunks. Positively lovely.

Measurable snow means pulling out the winter dishes for the first time this season. Aside from being pretty, they serve a practical purpose. The lip on the winter plates is fairly substantial, so the liquid from various winter stews and braises, pot roasts and mashed potatoes swimming in gravy won't just run off the edge of the plate.

The winter mugs are favorites, as they are lightweight (the set is porcelain, not stoneware) with a nice, large capacity. Hot chocolate is my favorite thing to put in them.

Which finally brings us to "home", today's thankful theme. While it has its quirks, is difficult to evenly heat and cool, is a lot of space to clean and is often less organized than I'd prefer, I really am thankful for my home.

First, for the blessing of being able to even afford a home of my own. So many in this world cannot, and here I am, wandering around in 1600 square feet all alone.God has blessed me mightily in giving me the resources to afford this condo.

Second, for the sanctuary it provides. I am truly an introvert; I need time and space away from people in order to recharge so I can be with people again. Home provides that. It also provides places to sleep, cook, create, write, sing, dance and wallow in front of the fire with some sort of beverage and a book.

I am very thankful for the fireplace (which is one of the quirkier elements of the condo).

Third, for the opportunity to open my home to others, in the hope it can be a place of rest and relaxation for them. It's been a while since I've "entertained" formally, though a few people have come over for coffee. The goal is always to make people feel comfortable, valued  and happy. I don't want people to feel obligated to return the hospitality - there really is no need for that.

It's going to stay cold for the next few days, though not cold enough for the snow to stick around. I'm already planning several sessions in front of the fire, sewing or reading or even just dozing. Simply enjoying the feeling of being home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


November blows in with a swirl of fallen leaves in only two more days. In keeping with the season of Thanksgiving, I'm going to attempt to play along with BohoBerry's daily gratitude prompts, with a short post every (well, most) day for the month of November.

We'll see how it goes.

Friday, October 26, 2018


There are at least three separate posts wandering around in my brain, but none of them are coherent enough to put to pixels. So here is a bit of a Friday brain dump for your enjoyment.

Preachiness - In the last week or so I've watched several television shows and movies that have a very, very preachy tone related to race. The most egregious of the bunch was the most recent episode of the new series of Dr. Who, where the bunch traveled back in time to keep a far-future racist from doing something to stop Rosa Parks from being arrested for staying seated on the bus. Not only is it very pessimistic (the idea that racists would still exist anywhere in the galaxy centuries in the future), we find that the (white and Asian) Dr. Who crew are all proud of themselves because they actually end up on the bus at the right time, and are being part of history by not going to Mrs. Parks' aid when the cops arrest her. I'm watching to be entertained, not preached at.

Mob mentality - How can anyone think that letting this approaching Central American mob into the U.S. would be a good thing? You give in to bullies once, they will keep coming at you. We admit just over a million legal immigrants annually - more than any other nation on the planet. The system we have for doing it may not be perfect, but that doesn't mean you are free to muscle your way in any way you want. And Mexico - what the heck is up with you? Why are you not turning these people away at your border? Why are you letting them traipse through the length of your country - is it that they've promised not to stay, but invade the U.S. instead?

Plant murder - The landscaping company took it upon themselves to cut back my lilac bush, in spite of the fact the HOA was notified last spring that they were to keep their hands off.  This is just the latest of the stupid crap the HOA has allowed. In the spring, they will get a strongly worded letter listing what is not allowed (keep your damn hands off my plantings) and reminding them that I will bill them for the damage if they don't abide by it. I have a sneaky suspicion there is a nosy, bossy, nasty neighbor at the root of this - she seems to think she runs our corner of the complex. Honestly, when I retire, I 'm moving out in the woods where the only people I see on a regular basis are the Amazon and grocery delivery people.

If you don't hear from me - Tomorrow I'm driving to Madison to meet with with a few people I only know in pixels. We are all part of a Facebook group dedicated to fountain pens - the acquisition, use and general love thereof. I used them for a while after college, but recently rediscovered the joy of good writing pens. We are meeting to show off our pens, try out the ones others may have that we don't, trade ink samples and generally have fun. But just in case one of them is an ax murderer, at least you know where I was going.

Pens - I think (well, ok, I know, because I keep an inventory) I have nineteen right now, though I'm planning to sell five of them. There is an incredible variety available in materials, types/metals of nibs and writing style, and it takes a bit to find what suits you best. I've pens made in the U.S. that have steel nibs that perform as well as the sleek Italian import with the gold nib. I've always done more writing than most people, and this makes it even more fun. There are even "capless" pens - retractable fountain pens. Even if you stick to one pen, the variety of inks is staggering. Colors, shading, sheen, shimmer...waterproof, water resistant, made to endure freezing temps, even invisible (black light). So much fun.

Kindles - There are three kindles on my shelf waiting for better homes. All three are Fires, so basically mini tablets. All three have nice cases. All are perfectly functional.Contact me here or email me if interested (7" is the oldest, then an 8.9". lastly an 8").

How the heck is it almost November? I feel like October has both gone on forever and flown by. I need to get my Christmas card order in.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Creepy magnet

I'm not sure if it this particular Starbucks that is a magnet for the creepy, or if this is a symptom of the state of my city.

Back in the spring sometime, I was sitting a Starbucks, reading, when I happened to look up. My seat was at a table that gave me a view down the entire length of the barista workspace. Directly in front of me was a counter with a couple of higher stools pulled up to it.

Seated on one of the stools was an older Asian man. I thought he was just holding his phone up at eye level to be able to see it...but I happened to catch a glimpse of the screen, and he was filming the baristas, four of five of whom were younger females.

Oh, hellz no. I went to the ladies' room, then on my way back flagged one of the crew down at the other end of the workspace to clue them in. My other choice would have been to call the police - frankly, this kind of behavior strikes me as never innocent and always creepy.

It was one of the women who approached the guy to tell him to knock it off, not the one male behind the counter, which I thought was interesting. She was polite but told him to stop filming. Five minutes later, they sold him another coffee - ?!

Me, I would have forced him to erase the video, then tossed him out on his ear with dire warnings not to come back.

Fast forward to late summer, same shop.

I am a creature of habit and spend part of Sunday in this same Starbucks, generally reading. I'd noticed that an apparently homeless man - tall, long hair, unshaven - was there about the same time as I was, always in the same corner, with a cup of coffee untouched in front of him, sometimes fast asleep. While it wasn't exactly the ideal situation, he didn't seem to be harming anyone. Every so often (when he was awake), he'd go outside for a smoke.

About a month ago, I pulled up for my usual reading session and found the doors locked, with a sign indicating that due to "an incident" the cafe portion of the shop would be closed indefinitely, though the drive-through was open.


The next time I was there, homeless guy...wasn't.

Today, however, he arrived about ten minutes after me. There were only two clerks on at the time, with a lot of traffic through the drive-through.

Another manager came on, though, and soon she (again, there was a guy working as well) was telling the homeless guy that he could finish the coffee he had, but that he could not be in the cafe and would have to leave.

Curious and curiouser, and an exercise perhaps in connecting the dots.

Think I'll have my coffee and do my reading at home next week.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Cooking fool

Taking a well-deserved break while the InstantPot does its thing on tomatoes, turning them into yummy marinara sauce.

Considering I got up an hour later than usual, messed around for over an hour, then went back to bed and slept until nine, I'm doing pretty well. By the time I'd gotten ready for the day and had a bit of breakfast, it was going on noon.

That's unusual for me, but has been a weekend habit the past several months. It's not sloth, but a medical thing that I'm hoping to have fixed after a doctor appointment Monday. Two meds are not playing nice with each other; my vote is to drop the one that is causing the other to be ineffective, but I fear this doc will think otherwise.

In the meantime, I've found myself dozing away the weekends, not accomplishing, well, anything.

I think I've made up for it a bit this afternoon.

- Cooked a dozen hard-boiled eggs
- Blanched/lightly steamed all the fresh broccoli so it is ready to heat up for dinners the next few days
- Made a batch of breakfast hash and portioned it out in containers for weekday lunches
- Prepared the stuff for the sauce and got it going in the InstantPot
- Prepped the food for Pumpkin Soup - it's really easy, but I may wait until tomorrow to make it
- Took two packages of Italian sausage links out to thaw, which will be cooked and portioned one link to a container, covered with a bit of the marinara and frozen

Makes me tired just typing it.

The soup or the eggs will do for lunches next week. I've shelled pumpkin seeds to top the soup, which is always fun. No cheese, though.

The temptation to order dinner in is strong, but the Italian sausage is really, really good, so I'm going to hold out for that.

It's been a blustery, raw day with reports of some wet snow that didn't reach the ground (I didn't see any here, la la la, I can't hear you...), perfect for messing around in the kitchen.

I may finish the evening with a glass of wine in front of the fire.

Welcome, autumn.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bit of an update

It felt like time to throw on a new coat of paint around here. The key to easy changes is to find a theme that works with the existing font colors. So much easier when all you have to do is copy and paste a little html to change the background.

I highly recommend The Cutest Blog on the Block, who make it very easy to spruce things up.

Flu Fighter

...not Foo Fighters, though they were in town the other night.

Last week, I had a case of the sniffles. Just a tiny bit of congestion, nothing to worry about.

Then, I shared a long aluminum tube with a bunch of people of varying states of health, followed by three days of thin, extremely dry mountain air and another stint in an aluminum tube. Yeah, not feeling so hot right now.

I do, however, have all the fixings for a soup that works well to clear out sinuses and make you feel a bit better. This morning I picked up some lovely brioche rolls at Panera (I'm still upright and mobile, but am anticipating a crash tonight - been through this before). Sickroom food is about to be prepared.

Flu Fighter Chicken Soup

Six servings

  1              pound  boneless skinless chicken breast
  2              tablespoons  olive oil
  1              teaspoon  garlic powder
  1              teaspoon  onion powder
     1/2        teaspoon  chili powder
     1/2        teaspoon  cayenne pepper
     1/2        teaspoon  dried oregano
     1/2        teaspoon  dried basil
  24            ounces  low-sodium chicken broth
  8              cloves  garlic -- minced
  3              stalks  celery -- diced
  2              each carrot -- diced
  1              teaspoon  dried rosemary
  1              each  onion -- chopped
  1              each  bay leaf
  1              each  lemon -- juiced
     1/4        teaspoon  red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375.

Season chicken breast generously with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne, oregano and basil, rubbing spices on both sides of chicken. Put on a large baking pan, and roast 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven and cut or shred into small pieces.

For the soup, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and saute onion, carrot and celery until softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste and red pepper flakes.

Add garlic and bay leaf and cook for one minute, or until fragrant. Pour in chicken stock and add pasta, if using.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until pasta is al dente. Add chicken, lemon juice and rosemary to the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Heat until chicken is warm.

NOTES: Add about half a cup of small pasta, if desired, at the indicated time.

This really is a lovely soup, warm and bright. Don't skip the lemon juice at the end, as that is what gives the soup a lift. I have a couple of pounds of chicken breast - I'm tempted to double the spices and put half the cooked chicken in the freezer, to save time the next time I need to make this. What I'm not sure of is whether all the herbs rubbed on the chicken will maintain their flavor if I freeze it.

Please, don't skimp on the garlic, either - yes, that does indeed read EIGHT cloves. Garlic is a cure-all. As an added bonus, you won't have to worry about spreading your cold to your loved ones (or being attacked by vampires) while you recover.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Just checking in

Figured I'd come by and give the tires a kick, maybe check to see if this thing still starts, in spite of the low battery indicator.

So how have you all been? I've been...meh. Maybe even less than meh. As yet unresolved medication issue is adding to the general fatigue, crankiness, depression and to-hell-with-it attitude. Yeah, it's been a barrel of fun around here.

Almost no "making" (Gosh, I kind of hate that term. I understand the idea behind it, but it really does sound kind of...twee). My poor sewing studio is languishing under a thick layer of dust. Every so often I pick up a fountain pen and do a few drawings, but those mostly consist of random leaves and flowers.

Adding to the general sense of "eh, why bother" is the state of the house. When I had the closet doors installed upstairs, I had to move my desk and computer (temporarily) to a different spot in the room. I've a shelf to put up for the router, a new file cabinet to put together and the desk move/rearrange to finish. Yeah, the closet doors were put in the week of Memorial Day.

When I had the living room carpet cleaned, I moved both end tables and the television and stand into the dining room, so the cleaners could just go for it. I also moved the couch and my favorite chair around in the room - ditto. I did put the chair, couch, television and one end table back, but the other end table (and the lamp that goes on it, as well as the quilting magazines that live on its lower shelf) are, you guessed it, still in the dining room. The carpet was cleaned...Labor Day week.

Meh. The only person these things would bother is me - and obviously, they don't.

A couple of years ago, after a thirty year gap, I went back to using fountain pens for my personal writing. I've a bit of a "collection", though I don't think of it in that terms, as I do use them all regularly. The herd does need to be culled a bit, as I've big birthday coming up and a rather large pen purchase planned.

At work, I'm mostly on the computer or messing around in pencil. But I do use a pen fairly regularly, and decided to bring something fun to work (heaven knows, I need some fun). The Pilot Vanishing Point and Decimo pens are retractable fountain pens. The Japanese cleverly figured out how to cover the nib when it is retracted so the ink does not dry out.

The clip is at the business end of the pen, so that when it is clipped to a pocket, the nib is up (for obvious reasons - they rarely leak, but why tempt fate?). The clip, therefore, is between your fingers when you write. After the first few words, you don't notice it; it serves the added purpose of keeping the nib in a decent writing position.

My phone won't do macro pictures, but you can see how small the nib is. Beautiful lines, though.

In the interest of keeping things simple, I use ink cartridges in this pen, rather than keeping a bottle of ink at work. Three seconds to change one out when it is empty. It's really not too much longer to refill from a bottle - just more potential for inky fingers.

I'd better hop to it. At least it is Friday, even though it tends to be the longest day of the week.