Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sigh. Day off.

I have today and Friday off as vacation days (there is a method to my madness). Since I got up this morning - a whopping fifteen minutes later than I would on a normal weekday - I may or may not have:

-Picked up the bedroom and made the bed.
-Picked up the upstairs bath and done a quick counter-mirror-shelf wipedown
-Browned ground turkey, chopped carrots and onions and got everything in the crock pot for soup, turned on by 6:30 a.m.
-Picked up the living room, did a light vacuum.
-Put away one strainer of dishes, washed the few hand wash dishes remaining.
-Loaded the dishwasher with everything else - still not quite full, so didn't run it.
-Cleaned the downstairs bathroom.
-Put away everything on the dining room table, wiped it down.
-Put all the tools in clear plastic toolboxes (they've been living in a basket in the dining room, well, at least half a dozen screwdrivers, the allen wrench set, a hammer and three or four boxes of assorted screws, nails and hangers - it's much nicer to have them in boxes).
-Picked up a bit in the sewing studio...it's a start.
-Entertained my aunt and cousin for lunch and a tour of the condo.
-Cleaned up after lunch, finished loading the dishwasher and ran it.
-Opened up a couple of boxes from Amazon. Put the batteries in the cool, light-and-motion sensor lights. Tested it in the (already at four p.m.) dark kitchen.
-Dealt with the cardboard from the order.
-Came upstairs...while watching two episodes of Extant, polished all my jewelry. My hands hurt.

In between all this, I managed to watch about five episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef. Now I want to make croissants.

Back to work for tomorrow, then craft day at my place Friday. Another quick clean Thursday night, then I'll make ham and potato soup Friday morning for lunch for craft day.

Saturday?

I'm planning to take several naps.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Change of season

Needed something less fussy, calmer. I've a different colorway of this as the background on another account - taupes and a darker, dustier gold, there. I like the chrysanthemum-ish look of the flowers.

As always, free background from cutestblogontheblog.com.

New Old year resolutions

Back at the beginning of the year, I set a loose goal of reading a book a week in an attempt to reduce my kindle's backlog of purchased but as yet unread books.

So far, so good.

By my count, I'm about a week ahead of schedule on the total book count. I'm not entirely sure the number of books in the queue has decreased, as I've picked up a few more, but at least I'm making an effort.

It's worked so well, in fact, that I'm setting one more challenge-type goal for 2014. I'd like to finish one sewing/quilting project a month between now and the end of December. Including August, that would be five projects.

Hah! you say - you call yourself a quilter? Most true quilters' volume would be more than twice that!

Yeah, but they don't live my life.

It's been busy, I've been extremely tired, and sewing is on the bottom of the activity list most of the time. At the moment, the studio is in a shambles. I remember the last thing I worked on - the Zentangle-like soon-to-be-a-pillow quilting piece, but I think that was sometime in May, since the class in which it was begun was May 10th.

Yeah, a summer with pretty much no sewing.

I'm giving myself the freedom to count pretty much anything as a "project". For instance, I have four sets of martial arts thingees (the technical term for the ... thingee) on which to shorten both sleeves and pants. Since the hems need to be rather deep and reinforced with a total of four lines of stitching each (four times four hems per set, times four sets is sixty-four total lines of stitching), it takes a while even with a machine whose top stitching speed is 1,100 stitches per minute. Unless my double needle is the right width (woo hoo, only 32 lines of stitching!) I think I can count that as a "project".

There are small and/or easy things that aren't part of the dozen or so in-the-works things that, if I complete them, will give me more room in the studio. Four throw pillows (the pillow forms take up a lot of room hanging around the studio) for one, the valance for the patio doors another (four and a half foot tall roll of decorator fabric leaning up against the wall).

The first order of business: clearing out the discombobulation in the studio. I've guests coming for lunch Friday, but after they leave, I can start shifting things around in there. The following Friday I'm hosting a craft day; that gives me a target for actual project progress.

We'll see...

Of Mice and (wo)Men

When I came in this morning, my coworker, who gets to the office ridiculously early, popped out of her office when she heard the door lock click. Now, this woman is one of the calmest, least excitable people I know, but this morning she was practically vibrating.

She had gone into the office kitchen to put her soda in the refrigerator, and on turning the corner after flipping on the lights, found a mouse, apparently dead, on the floor.

She flipped out a little bit; it's not so much that she is afraid of the little critters, but that they "skeeve her out". She checked back in the kitchen about an hour after she first saw the mouse, and it was still laying there, leading to the determination that it was "probably" dead. That was also the earliest she could call Facilities to come and deal with it (see comment about being "skeeved" out). (note that she gets to the office before 5:30 a.m.; I arrived just before 6:30, shortly after she placed the call).

She wanted me to look, to be sure it was dead (um, if it hasn't moved in this amount of time...), so I took a look.

Poor thing. It's little eyes were wide open, but no life was in them. It was sprawled out on its belly, tiny legs all akimbo, as if it were struck down in the midst of running.

I'm not exactly surprised. We are in an older building, and mice are simply a fact of life. That the problem is made worse by certain other coworkers is a point of vexation. Eh, I don't keep any food in the office, other than some protein bars (individually wrapped and boxes) that aren't very tasty.

The powers that be have unintentionally made the matter worse, as they have decreed that our trash (the baskets in the offices and cubes, not the one in the kitchen) is to be picked up only once a week, rather than daily. I'm not so sure everyone else is doing what I do - taking any food related trash to the basket in the kitchen.

It's a bit of a shame the mouse couldn't have been left until the people who leave so much food lying about came in to see it; maybe an actual visual would be more effective than just telling them to clean up their act.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year

Rest easy, folks, I'm not trying to rush the seasons here (though I did actually see a "Christmas in July" promotion just before July 1st - I'm still trying to forget that). While I do very much love the (appropriately timed, after-Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve) Christmas holidays, there is a season that runs very close to it in my affections.

Back to school time.

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) to Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan), You've Got Mail

School supplies make my heart sing. Unlike Christmas, where the retail experience is fraught with the mind-numbing need to find the "perfect" gift for that cousin whose name you picked in the exchange but haven't actually seen or spoken with in three years, back to school shopping (at least for those of us with no children) is done purely for personal enjoyment.

A pack of new notebooks in your favorite colors, smooth pages crying out for creative stories, thoughtful essays or even grocery lists and a reminder to pick up rat poison.

Silky writing pens, with points that don't glop ink every time your cursive changes direction.

A fresh supply of lead for your best mechanical pencil, along with a new eraser, not so much because you need it, but simply because it is pretty.

That lunch box you've been eyeing, the one shaped like a Minion that squeaks "Bananas!" and is guaranteed to drive your coworkers...nuts.

Then there are the supplies for the college bound. The plastic shoe boxes, perfect for organizing the tool box at home. The torchiere lamp with the attached task lamp, perfect for the under-lit sewing studio. An inexpensive task chair for extra seating in the studio, too.

Everything points to fresh beginnings, the promise of new horizons.

Um, yeah...I need to do a Target run for other things this afternoon. Care to place a bet on how many "school supply" items I bring home as well?

Friday, August 08, 2014

The end is nigh

No, not THE end, but the end of the-summer-that-wasn't.

Our weather pattern has been one of a long period of rainy, cooler than usual days followed by very brief warm ups. We have yet to have any day at ninety degrees or higher; that isn't unheard of, but is infrequent enough to be surprising. People who enjoy hot, steamy days and temperate nights have not had much to be happy about.

That group doesn't include me.

In fact, I've been thinking about fall decorations, food and activity for the last month. Now, it seems, others have gotten into the autumn spirit.

On the way home from work last night, I saw a flock of geese.

This wasn't a rag-tag, motley little five bird crew wandering from one urban watering hole to another, but a twenty-five or more bird, v-shaped, turning and wheeling, ready-to-migrate flock.

Woo hoo!

There are, of course, two sides to this. While I applaud the early end to summer (and honestly, summer has been so much like the indian summer days of early October there won't be much of a transition), my fear is that the early migration preparation indicates what will be an early, snowy winter.

Eh, whatever. Snow means more inclination to stay inside, in front of the fire with hot chocolate and a book.

Time will tell whether last night's flock was a sign of fall or an aberration. Me? I'm pulling out the fall themed linens tonight.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Speedy drive by

I'm out of work in fifteen minutes, so this is a quick one.

Off to finally pick up a picture I had framed. It's been done for over a month, but I've been avoiding the fabric store. The framing booth is aaaaaaall the way in the back, so you have to walk past all the tempting stuff on the way to your destination.

Fortunately, I have a treasure in my possession: a coupon for 25% off my entire purchase, sale or regular price. Woo hoo! I planned to pick up some decorator fabric to make a valance for the bedroom windows. That fabric is currently 60% off, so with the other discount stacked, the total savings will be 70% (do the math).

I took a quick look at their website, looking to make sure the fabric I've been craving is indeed on sale. It is, but it is available on-line only.

Where the coupon is not valid.

Rats.

I'll be looking for a different choice once I get to the store. If need be, I'll just get the one on-line for 60% off. I have a free shipping code as well, but I doubt I can stack them.

Cleaning, an oil change and some sewing for the weekend. I have an aunt and a cousin coming to lunch in two weeks, and I'd like to have everything really spiffed up by then. The first floor is fine, but the loft is rather disorganized. And dusty.

Assuming the hit or miss showers forecast for tomorrow are mostly misses, I'd like to made dinner on the grill. It's easier for me to grill a lot of stuff infrequently, if you follow me. It's pretty silly to fire up the grill for just one, maybe two servings, even if it is a smaller grill. But if I cook an entire package of Italian sausage at once, and maybe a couple of chicken breasts, grilled goodness is available for meals all week, without having to use up more charcoal. Smarty-pants me, huh?

Do scroll down - I just realized my scheduled July book post didn't actually post - I've got it fixed so you can see it.

That's about it. I'm planning to enjoy this weekend, as it's the first "summer day" weekend I've not had plans right after I get off early on Friday. Of the remaining four, I have events on two. Need to hang on to this summer treat, even if we haven't actually had much summer weather (July finished 3.6 degrees cooler than average - no 90 degree days at all yet this summer).

July reads

July was a high volume, low stress month for reading. Most of the list is fiction, but I'll blame it on the fact I've no less than three rather lengthy non-fiction books in process right now (One I've been picking at forever, one is written at a PhD level on a complicated subject and one just popped up quickly thanks to a group I'm in). Here we go:

Nonfiction
Lincoln's Battle With God: A President's Struggle With Faith, by Stephan Mansfield - Our faith lives are a never ending journey, one complete with lost paths, retracing of steps and long pauses. The Abraham Lincoln during his years in Springfield argued forcefully against the tenets of Christianity - so much so that friends branded him an infidel. How is this the same Lincoln, who, in his second inaugural address would acknowledge that "...the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether..."? Mansfield explores that journey with an eye toward using as much factual, rather than fancied, evidence as possible. I highly recommend this book.

Help for Women Under Stress by Randy Alcorn - I adore Alcorn's writing, as it's humble, full of Scripture and always both practical and uplifting, but boy, does it take forever, even for a quick reader like me, to get through his books. This is an updated version of a book he wrote fifteen years ago or so - an excellent, practical guide to reducing stress. There are study questions at the end of each chapter, making this an excellent choice for a women's small group.

Fiction
Takedown Twenty and Top Secret Twenty-One, by Janet Evanovich - Alas, I fear reading Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels has deteriorated into a bad habit. The books, while amusing, are no where nearly as fun as the first five or six in the series. The plots are predictable, the characters do not develop or move beyond where they were in the previous book. I think I said this after reading number nineteen, but I don't think I'll keep on with the series.

Love Mercy, by Earlene Fowler - He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 I have to admit to a prejudice here: I've avoided this novel simply because the co-opting of the verse from which the title (and main character's name) is taken by the social gospel people really, really annoys me. But that's a rant for a different day. Fowler's writing just keeps getting better. Unlike the books in her Benny Harper series (all the titles of those books are quilt block names :) ), this is not a mystery, but a straight up novel about family, both biological and chosen. Excellent read.

The Saddlemaker's Wife, by Earlene Fowler - Another of Ms. Fowler's novels I skipped when it was first published. Big mistake. Again, a straight up novel about family. Faith elements run through both this and Love Mercy, though much stronger in that book than this. There is a recently published follow up to this book, which I just downloaded tonight. I've started writing this post on the 29th; it's entirely possible that book, too, will make July's reading list.

Someone Else's Love Story, by Joshilyn Jackson - Jackson is truly a writer in the Southern tradition. SELS is about love, maternal and matrimonial, friendship, secrets and a possibly immaculate conception. I didn't think I'd like Jackson's novels when I first started reading them (gods in Alabama), but her quirky characters and incredible ability to draw the reader into their minds has grown on me

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Feeling feisty

I've mentioned several times before in this space that I'm actually an introvert. While I function well in social situations (presently, at least - it's taken a long time to get to this point), dealing with people exhausts me.

It's not just dealing with people in person, either. Apparently, people wear me out on social media as well. Or maybe I simply have no patience for people who open their mouth without thinking, then persist in insisting they are right about something they don't fully grasp.

I'm being a bit vocal over on Facebook today regarding Israel (Israel is the victim here, not the Palestinians, in spite of what the liberal media (and the POTUS) may be feeding you). I'm biting my tongue hard not to respond to someone who made an utterly wrong statement regarding the reason God blesses on another post.

On the theory that I'm feisty simply because I'm hungry, I'm going to go raid the candy machine. It isn't exactly a great choice for me, health-wise, but it will keep me from reaching through the computer to choke people.

World peace, one candy bar at a time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Stacked up

It's probably unwise to start cooking an unfamiliar recipe later than your normal dinner time, when you are already both tired and hungry.

Eh, what's life without a few challenges?

I picked up an eggplant last week. Eggplant was a staple when I was growing up, and I hated it. Peeled, layered in a colander with tons of salt, left to dry out, dredged in eggs and breadcrumbs, then pan fried, and finally layered in a pan with tomato sauce - ugh. Eggplant has almost no taste of its own, and by the time you suck out all the moisture and otherwise abuse it, well....

A few years back I tried a casserole that used cubed eggplant, along with sauteed ground turkey, some other veggies and a sauce. Eh. The flavor was fine, but the eggplant was a bit spongy. Yes, I realize it's that way naturally, but Texture Girl here just couldn't handle it.

So a different recipe tonight, Mario Batali's Eggplant Parmesan. It's different from my family recipe, as the eggplant is baked separately first, then layered with mozzarella, basil, Paremesan and sauce before being baked again. The only breadcrumbs are a little bit as a topping.

All right; I really chose the recipe because he makes them in cute little stacks, kind of like those cute little stacked up caprese salads.

Only my eggplant was a tiny, baby one. And I found out later - too late to stop - that my stash of good Parmesan cheese was completely depleted. Oh, and I didn't have any jarred sauce in the house (don't judge) and no frozen homemade stuff, so I had to make a quick tomato sauce as well.

It's a miracle I ate dinner at all tonight.

Actually, it didn't take very long at all to make, along with some whole wheat spaghetti as a side. Taste? Pretty darn good, though next time, I'll bake the eggplant a little longer the first time around, use a full size eggplant and put another layer on.

The finished product:

Objects appear larger than they are. True size about 1 1/2 inches
in diameter.