Thursday, July 02, 2015

Whole lot of nothing, July 2nd edition

1. It's only 8:27 9:38 a.m. and I want to go home. Early release (it sounds like we are being let out of prison, no?) means only six five more hours left in the work day. That's five four hours, fifty-nine minutes too long.

2. Will finish up the tshirt quilt tomorrow, going to its owners on Sunday afternoon. Then it's on to machine quilting a gorgeous appliqued wall hanging for a friend. I'm fairly certain that one will be an award winner in any competition in which she cares to enter it.

3. The sewing studio is pretty warm in the summer. I put it down to the wide expanse of south-facing patio doors, and just dealt with it. Well. I finally looked up at the air vent (I'm only 5'4" tall; the vent is over the door, well beyond my reach) and realized it was completely closed. That explains a lot. Lazy me took a spare extension cord, looped it over the lever and pulled it open, all accomplished with both my feet firmly planted on the ground. The studio is now quite comfortably cool.

This does present a bit of a conundrum, and most likely a need for not one, but two trips up a ladder or step stool to resolve. The studio is directly underneath my bedroom. The vent in the bedroom (even higher than the one in the studio, as the bedroom upstairs has a cathedral ceiling) has been full open since before I took possession of the condo. The bedroom is (to me) unbearably hot in the winter, leading me to leave a window open from October through April. Conversely, in the summer, particularly if I shut the door most of the way, the room is refreshingly icebox-ish (which I like).

Since opening the vent in the studio, it hasn't been too bad in the bedroom, but it's gone down into the mid-fifties the last several nights, so the a/c hasn't been needed. I'm thinking that I need to climb up to set both vents at the halfway mark for summer, then climb up again in late fall to close the bedroom vent entirely. Thanks to the open nature of the living room to loft configuration, a lot of the heat rises; thanks to my love of sleeping in the cold, I won't mind it at all if the bedroom is chilly in the winter. And I'll get to shut the window!

4. I'm contemplating putting a small, solar light on the flag holder. I haven't been putting the flag out as often as I'd like, mostly because I tend to forget to take it in. It's an all-weather flag, so I can leave it out it in the rain, but can't leave it overnight without a light on it (why yes, I received a history award in high school and one of the prizes was a copy of the flag code. It was 1977, back when those things mattered). Before doing so, though, I want to talk to the neighbor across the way. Thanks to the odd configuration of the buildings, I think the window directly across the path from the flag is her bedroom window. Don't want to offend. (catch the irony there?)

5. The plants aren't dead - yet. Need to water thoroughly today, then keep at it over the next week. Summer is about to descend, with temps in the high 80s on the 4th, continuing for about four days thereafter. On the plus side, it will be warm enough to pressure wash the patio without risking hypothermia. This time, I may actually do it.

6. I've not finished a single non fiction book this month. Instead, the flood of fiction continued unabated. I highly recommend Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles (Magic arrived in the world in the mid-1800s and has been growing, courtesy of a symbiotic relationship with an alien being. But that being is being chased by the big evil, and Earth is in peril. Set in the early 1930s as an interesting slt-history, with dirigibles and lots of weaponry).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Where was I?

Eh. It's been a week. In no discernible or rational order:

- Tomorrow will be day seven (and a half) of not having my computer at work. I'm brilliant, though, and snagged the departmental laptop (we have one for people to take to meetings and use for presentations, or for travel) and set that up on my desk. My own 'puter got snagged by a virus, along with half the campus, it seems. The first time I asked when I would get mine back (they took it Thursday afternoon and said it "would be a day"; I emailed on Monday afternoon) IT was, as usual, rude and condescending. When I asked again this Friday, pointing out it had been over a week, they were a bit more polite. My boss comes back from vacation on July 6th; if I don't have it by then, I'll bump it up and let him deal with it. It's not as if I don't spend all day, every day on it.

- For the last seven and a half days, I've had no music at work. I listen through the 'puter most days, although I do have an ipod sound dock. I just kept forgetting to bring the ipod. The first couple of days were torture (no idea why I kept forgetting to put the ipod in my purse, except that it lives on a sound dock at home), but I kind of got used to it. My productivity seemed to go up, too, though that could be a fluke.

- While I often have odd dreams, especially when I'm sick or getting sick, nightmares aren't something I have often. But last week, I had two. One came at the end of a half hour long nap last Saturday afternoon - bad enough that I woke up in a panic, with the distinct feeling I may have been yelling. The second, the following Sunday night, or rather Monday morning, just before waking. I don't remember details of either, and frankly don't want to remember. Life is actually fairly calm and stress free right now, and has been for a while. If I knew what prompted the fright fest in my head, I'd avoid the trigger.

- I'm not surprised SCOTUS ruled the way it did last week. Mostly, it makes me sad. The depths to which this country has fallen in just my lifetime are staggering.

- Unhealthy coping mechanism in response to all the furor last week: Watching all six Star Wars movies this weekend. Not quite as much of a marathon as it may seem, as I started Friday and didn't finish until this afternoon. I hadn't seen the original movies since I saw them in the theater. I'd seen parts of The Phantom Menace a couple of times (the pod race uses Champ Car turbo-charged engines for the sound effects), but had never seen the other two of the "prequels". Longer post on the experience later.

- Trying to cook more at home. Weeknights, it's just more convenient to pick something up on the way home. But I'm trying to put together a downpayment for a new car, and eating at home more consistently will help that fund considerably. There are a few things in the freezer already to make weeknight dinners a bit easier. Given that it's going to be rather cool this week, I'm thinking the chili will be thawed for a couple of dinners.

- Spent the afternoon cleaning in the sewing room instead of actually sewing. Put away some things, restacked and sorted some others, cut smaller scraps of fabric into 2 1/2 inch strips to add to the already stuffed box of strips (eventually, they will become a scrappy log cabin quilt). Realized I may never run out of Swiffer duster refills (the fact that I can rarely find one of the four - FOUR handles I have when I really need one may contribute to the glut of refills), that I have enough 100 watt light bulbs to last at least another couple of years and I've accumulated enough decks of cards to supply my own World Poker Tournament. All that stuff wasn't actually in the sewing studio, but in the half of the full wall width closet that is not devoted to sewing stuff. It's pretty well organized, but every so often needs a straightening.

- Next Friday is craft day. The Hawaiian applique will go, along with a tied wreath I'd like to get on the front door asap. It's red, white and blue, and I meant to have it done before July 4th. I may just make it.

- Need to finish up the outside and clean up the inside - a couple rounds of entertaining coming up. The old card group is getting together in July, I think on the 17th, and sometime the first two weeks of August I'm finally having the neighbors over for dessert. On a side note, I finally, after almost four years of living here, saw the woman who lives on the other side, end unit of our building, to talk to. "Talk" is probably a stretch, since I had just pulled in and gotten out of my car when I saw she was out of her car, in her parking bay doing something. I called out a hello, and she said "hi"...and promptly scooted back into her unit. Another neighbor says she has almost never seen this woman, and that neighbor has been here more than ten years. Let's just say I'm not expecting the ghost lady to RSVP in the positive.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

How does your garden grow - June edition

Apparently, gardens grow a bit better when they are actually planted. Who knew?

A couple of weeks back, the Mr. Bowling Ball arborvitae went in the front bed, along with the Bloomerang Lilac. All seemed to be doing well, thanks to the nearly daily rain we've been having. They looked, however, as if they were gradually becoming just a tiny bit dehydrated. As I've mentioned, the overhang of the roof at the front of the condo is abnormally deep, so only the front six inches of a three foot deep bed gets direct rain.

In addition, the Knock Out rose was still in its container, sitting in the middle of the patio, where it has the advantage of getting a lot of water when it rains. It's been blooming continuously, but was starting to look a bit leggy, and pretty much cried out in plant-language "put me in the big container, fool, so my roots can spread out!". Who am I to ignore a plant's tirade?

Besides, the covers were still on the table and settee/deck was time to get to work.

Yesterday would have been a perfect outdoor day, but it didn't happen (and why should I make this easy on myself?). Today the forecast called for a high in the low eighties, with quite a bit of humidity. Ugh. So I toddled outside just before 8 a.m. this morning, planning to do what I could before it got too hot/humid.

For all that I was outside just over an hour, I managed to accomplish exactly what (little) I intended to do. The front bed, with the new small bushes and the lilac, has been thoroughly watered, using a small, cheap little sprinkler head picked up this year. It let me get other things done while the water ran, though keeping the spray low enough not to water the sidewalk meant the bed had to be done in two sections (and the entire bed is only about six to seven feet wide).

The rose is finally planted in one of the urns. Those knock out roses are a hardy bunch. It's gotten plenty of water (it's rained pretty much every day for over a week), but it was obvious it felt a bit pot bound. Still, it has been blooming continuously.

The hydrangea that I thought didn't survive the winter, did survive and needed a trim. The canes from the previous year die off, and you get all new growth the next year. It got a nice pruning and a bucketful of water, to boot.

A general clean up was in order. Dumping out the dirt from last year's hanging baskets, emptying out into the urns and front bed the tail end of not one, but two 2.2 cubic yard bags of dirt, pulling the covers off the furniture, folding them and stowing them in the (now uncovered) bench deck box...all done.

It doesn't sound like much (and really wasn't), but it was about all I had energy for at one time. Not to mention it just kept getting warmer.

Yet to do: Mulch the front bed. Get a plant for the shepherd's hook. Get a plant for the last urn (blazing sun until about 1 p.m., then full shade - suggestions?). Sweep the entire patio (the biggest tree between our two rows of condos is one that creates those lovely "whirlybirds" - gah).

That can all be done after church tomorrow, which is supposed to be a "nice" day - 75 and sunny.

Depending on how I feel, I may try out the pressure washer on the patio tomorrow. The patio has always been a bit grungy, with a little dirt embedded in the concrete. Washing should help. There are a number of mossy/mildewy looking spots, so I've picked up a gallon of Wet and Forget to mix up and spray. Who doesn't love a product that you can spray and then ignore as it works? Safe around plants, too.

By this time next week, the new chairs should be out, the grill brought up from the basement and the new umbrella with its LED lights firmly in its holder. Probably early than next weekend; Wednesday through Friday look to be pretty nice days, and it would be great to have dinner outside, and read by the light of the LEDs.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week's beginning

I'm really hoping that slightly burned smell is coming from the new-to-me hair smoothing oil I used this morning, and not my coffee.

Happy Monday.

Ugh. It does seem to be the coffee. Must have gotten the bottom of the pot, though the McDonald's I stop at is quite busy, meaning the pots shouldn't have a long time to sit and stew. Saved it up especially for me?

Mini rant on scents and personal care items - I like to smell nice. I am willing to spend big bucks on perfume that smells good, lightens my mood and generally makes me feel happy. It's more than a bit frustrating that many of the personal care products that work the best don't come in unscented versions.

Just recently I discovered the world's best body lotion. Really. It starts out a thick crème, goes on smoothly and absorbs quickly, leaving no residue. It also instantly softens skin, with the effects often lasting through the next day's shower. Even after skipping a week, my skin (really, really rough ankles) is smooth and soft.

The one drawback? It smells like suntan lotion. At least a little - a "tropical" scent. Unfortunately, the scent does linger a bit. In the interest of not making the noses around me go crazy, I try to forgo other scented stuff when I use it.

The price we pay for smooth skin.

Anyway, it is Monday. Both my boss and the other coworker who get here ungodly early in the morning are using up vacation this week, so I'm the first one to arrive in the office. In addition to undoing three different types of locks (number pad, swipe card and traditional key lock) to get into my office, I need to remember to turn on all the lights, and possibly prop open the outer door (that I just used my swipe card on) to let the cleaning lady (who starts at two in the morning, cleaning another building before she gets to ours) in. The doors unlock automatically at seven; the cleaning lady isn't authorized to have this particular lock on her card.

She is efficient, cheerful and a hard worker; we do everything we can to keep her happy to work here.

I get to take my team out to lunch before the end of June. Apparently we have money left in the budget; all the various groups in the office have gone out. I've been waiting for my boss to say something to me, as I had heard about this from someone else in the office over two weeks ago. Why yes, I could have asked him about it, but I was curious to see how long it would take him to remember to tell me. And yes - he sent me an email after I'd left last Friday, half an hour before he left for two and a half weeks of vacation.

At least he remembered to tell what this year's merit increases are, so I can pass those along.

This two weeks will be great for getting things done without odd interruptions. Maybe I'll even clean up my office...for all that we are moving toward a truly "paperless" office, and for all my efforts at keeping scanned, rather than paper copies, the dead trees do rather pile up.

Better get to it. The door lock just clicked open - our wonderful cleaning person has been on vacation herself, taking three weeks to go back home (Serbia or Croatia, I think) so I left the door shut this morning...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Good work

I shared this over on Facebook, but wanted to elaborate a bit on my thoughts.

The linked article is a bit old, but deals with reaction to Shia LaBeouf's conversion to Christianity last year, and his continued potty mouth, even when describing the event.

The money quote from the article:

"It’s even worse when Christians expect instant holiness from recent converts..."

It's no wonder people resist the idea of coming to Christ. We preach total acceptance by Christ, "just as you are" - yet as soon as someone professes faith, we expect their behavior to change overnight.

God is a deeply personal god. He knows every bit of my history, my darkest thoughts, the things that make me happy or drive me to despair, the things I don't even want to admit to myself. He understands exactly where and how I'm broken. He forgives my sin, past, present and future, and commits to working in me to conform me more to the likeness of Christ.

Don't you think we should let Him work on us in His time, in the areas He sees our greatest need? That area and that timing are as personal as His knowledge of us. For some, the heart attitude needs to change before behavior will change. For others, the change of heart follows after the outward change of behavior. It's different for each one of us - and that is exactly as it should be.

Rather than picking at people, or even questioning the validity of their faith, we should be celebrating the work of God in their lives. Instead of scolding someone for continuing to swear, we should be asking. "So how is God working in you today?" Encourage growth, but let God choose the class schedule and curriculum.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:3 - 6

The "good work" that God is doing is that of transforming our lives. Rejoice with one another that He continues to work individually, personally in us.

Pray for that work to bear fruit in our lives.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

What a tart

A real tomato.

Tomato tart, that is.

I finally got around to making the tomato tart whose ingredients have been hanging around for over a week. It's pretty simple, but the end result looks fancy and tastes divine. It's about time I shared the recipe, isn't it?

Tomato Tart

1 pie crust for 9" pie pan or fancy tart pan with a removable bottom - you can make your own, use a mix or use the unfoldy-type ones, or keep it really simple and use a pre-made, unbaked kind - whatever floats your boat (note: you can use puff pastry, but pie crust works better)

About one cup of shredded swiss cheese (do yourself a favor: buy a block and shred your own for much better taste)

One small to medium onion, diced fairly small, or cut in half and sliced thinly, your choice

One or two tablespoons of butter

Quarter cup of dry white wine - optional

One pint or so of cherry tomatoes, or twice as many grape tomatoes, or the awesome campari tomatoes, or regular old on- or off-the-vine tomatoes

About a teaspoon each of sage, thyme and oregano

Salt and pepper

The ingredient list is a bit floaty; trust me, you can't mess this up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Put a tablespoon or so of butter in a nonstick pan. Throw in the sliced or diced onion and cook over a low heat until they are caramelized. Toss in a half teaspoon of brown sugar to help the process along if you must.When they are almost done, you can put in a quarter cup of white wine and cook until it evaporates, but that's up to you, as the tart tastes just as great without it. Let the onions cool (throw them in the fridge for a while).

2. When the onions are cool, lay them in the pie crust, covering the bottom. Layer the grated cheese on top. Now for the fun part...

3. The goal is to cover the cheese with the tomatoes. If you happen to have both red and yellow cherry tomatoes, you can cut them in half and lay them cut side up in a fun pattern. Or you can just use the red ones. If your cherry tomatoes are on the small side (or you are lazy like me), you can leave them whole. If you only have standard size tomatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick and lay them out, cutting the slices as needed to cover all the cheese. Really, the only way to mess up this step is to layer the tomatoes on too thickly.

4. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the thyme, sage and oregano. Add a shot of salt, and more of pepper.

5. Bake at 350 for an hour or so, watching during the last 10-15 minutes in case you need to cover the edges of the pie crust to keep it from getting too dark.

Serve either hot or at room temperature.

I still want to try making these in the little individual, fluted edge ceramic pie plates I have, for a fun course for a dinner party. The first time I made the tart was for an opener for a dinner; I set it down, went to the kitchen to stir the stew, and by the time I came back, the tart was gone. It's that good. It's a great change from salad or sauce once the tomato crop starts coming in.

Sorry about not having a picture...I may have cut into it the second it came out of the oven. Leftovers (assuming there are any) should be refrigerated and gently reheated in the toaster oven or oven for about five - seven minutes at 250 for optimal taste. I've even taken it in my lunch, and eaten the leftovers at room temp.

So happy we are heading into fresh tomato season.

May reads read

Sigh. Only one nonfiction book finished in May, though I've good starts on two more. The book below puts my count for the year at nine nonfiction books, one behind my goal of two per month. Never fear, I'll catch up.

In my defense, I had a week's vacation at the end of May. Around the second week of May, I realized I'd have plenty of vacation time, so I could relax and enjoy some fiction. No harm in that, right? So I jumped over to Amazon and picked up Heinlein's science fiction classic, Starship Troopers. Somehow, I missed that one when I read most of his work back in high school. Oh - and there was a fantasy series that looked good, a kind of updated, scifi/fantasy riff on classic fairy tale characters. Then there was the out-of-my-usual chick lit novel...Oh, let's not forget the Allingham 1930's mystery.

All told, I think I read seven novels, mostly in May.

Sheesh. I'm a fiction junkie.

On to the lonely nonfiction read.

Seams Unlikely: The Inspiring True Life Story of Nancy Zieman, Nancy Zieman - If you have spent any time watching public television in the last twenty years or so, the chances are you have at least a passing knowledge of who Nancy Zieman is. She is the on air and behind the scenes organizer for Sewing With Nancy, one of the very first sewing shows of its kind. Nancy is a local girl, growing up and eventually returning to the West Bend area, north west of Milwaukee. Not just local, but a true Wisconsin farm girl. The 4H program provided the first outlet for her sewing talent.

Life was far from easy, though. As a young child, Nancy was struck by Bell's Palsy. She is one of the very few sufferers who do not improve at all, leaving her with facial sagging that most people assume is from a stroke. That wasn't the end of her medical issues, however, as she's undergone numerous surgical procedures on her legs.

In spite of it all, Nancy just...keeps going. Rather than bemoaning the things she couldn't do much about, she found ways to work around them, reaching always for the next goal.

The book is indeed inspiring, though the prose is a bit clunky in spots, tending to jump abruptly between time frames and subjects. If you are prone to whining about your circumstances, reading this book is a sure cure.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

That didn't take long

Two days back at work, and the crazies are coming out.

First off, I think someone replaced my computer keyboard with a different one. Every third or fourth letter doesn't register. I've been a touch typist since sophomore year of high school; while I make mistakes, I don't completely miss letters this way (and yes, I've knocked the crumbs out of my keyboard, just in case).

Someone in another department sent me some paperwork they didn't know what to do with (an audit confirmation for a grant, which is clear if you read it), instead of calling to see if it is something I deal with (it isn't). Essentially, it's a "here, you deal with it" paper dump. Had she called, I could have told her who to send it to (again, not me).

A coworker who has a very, very long fuse and doesn't get fussed by much, just came in to my office to vent. One of our student employees - the daughter of a different coworker - brought a friend in to work today. Apparently just because? Coworker one tried to call the mom, who was too busy eating lunch to respond. So coworker one politely told the student that the "friend" needed to go somewhere else, as the student, presuming she was actually working, was dealing with confidential information. Ay.

Our financial system crashed just before one o'clock. Word is it may take a couple of hours to fix. So much for productivity.

Like an idiot, I let my sleep pattern change over vacation. By the end of the week I will be fine, but right now, the urge for a post-prandial nap is almost overwhelming.

Someone came to me looking for 2012 payroll reports. I don't have anything directly to do with payroll, and any returns I sign for them are scanned and put on the shared drive. Someone else keeps the hard copies...yup, the very person who came to my office to ask if I had the hard copies.

I think I'd like my job a whole lot better if I didn't have to deal with people.