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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


The Emmy Awards were apparently awarded last night. I haven't watched award shows in years, though I usually get around to reading who the winners were.

This year, though, one of the winners did something rather...well, selfish and stupid, in my opinion.

He proposed to his girlfriend during his acceptance speech.

Pressure, much?

Proposing in such a public way (sporting event scoreboards, surprise announcements, all that stuff) has always seemed to me very risky. I'm sure the people doing the proposing would not go through all that trouble if they weren't pretty sure their intended would accept. But there is still a chance, albeit small, that she/he will say no. Or freeze up and not be able to answer. Or have their life pass before their eyes and faint, robbing the hundreds/thousands/millions of people waiting breathlessly for their answer of satisfaction.

Secondly, it is inherently selfish. Unless your intended has specifically said, "Hey! It would be great if you could propose to me at the Emmys!", your method of popping the question is truly more about you than about them. "Look at how cool I am! I was able to propose to XX at XX!!".

Given the high rate of marriage failure these days, are you really sure you want to spend the rest of your life explaining that you planned for months to make a grand gesture in order to propose, but failed to put any planning into your marriage, divorcing after only a few years?

Bah. It's not that I'm against heartfelt, meaningful proposals, but more that I firmly believe they are a very personal, private event. Two people are committing to spending the rest of their lives together - while this is a wonderful thing, is a very serious moment.

Should it really be shared with twenty thousand drunken fans during the seventh inning stretch in game seven of the World Series?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Blowin' in the wind

Quite a few years ago, a friend and I went to Myrtle Beach (the week before the "season" opens, and blessedly uncrowded) by way of Charleston.

We spent about 24 hours in Charleston all told - flew in there, spent the night, did some sightseeing, then drove up the coast. But that 24 hours was enough to fall in love with the city.

One of the places we visited was the Charleston City Market. At the time, it was mostly open air; it looks as if significant improvements have been made to the building.

On a tour we took before we started shopping, the guide pointed out a spot on the brickwork where there was a slight color change, the bricks on the lower section being a slightly darker red. That color change marked the high water level during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

That mark sat twelve or so feet up.

It is amazing the devastation that water and wind can produce.

As Florence takes pinpoint aim at the Carolinas, put up an extra prayer or two for safety, for people to obey evacuation orders and take commonsense precautions, for the many first responders who are required to go into danger instead of fleeing from it. If you have family or close friends in the area, arrange a check-in schedule.

May God grant Florence a severe right turn before she makes landfall.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Seventeen years


It's a bit surreal to think that the current crop of high school seniors were, for the most part, not even born when one of the most significant events in our country, certainly in my lifetime, took place. A rising generation that may know the facts of 9/11 (at least to the extent their schools teach actual facts, rather than whitewashed, politically correct "history"), but not the gut-wrenching emotion of it.

Shock. Horror. Disbelief. Confusion as conflicting information came in on that day. Finally, outrage.

Tell them your stories, where you were, your reactions. How your life was changed, how your understanding of the world shifted, how your belief in the safety of our country was shattered.

Remind them of the human toll. Read stories of the victims. Read about the first responders. Realize that there is still a human cost being exacted today, as many who worked in and around the site are now manifesting various cancers as a result of breathing in dust contaminated with unhealthy construction materials.

Explain why we go through security lines at airports, have the size of our bags limited when entering festivals, have them searched before entering a stadium. Active shooter drills are now part of their regular school experience - do not let them laugh them off.


Do not let 9/11 become for them what Veterans' Day became for much of my generation when we were their age: a somber paper "holiday" commemorating events long ago with no current relevance.


Sunday, September 09, 2018

I'm so dizzy, my head is spinnin'...

Rather literally. Spinning.

Though actually, it is much better today.

One of the disadvantages of having both generally unhappy sinuses and seasonal hayfever is the tendency for fluid to back up into my ears.  There isn't any obvious sign that it is happening - no pressure, no particular feeling that says "beware the backup!".

In other words, no notice before I'm dizzily reeling across the room like a sailor at the end of a three day shore leave.

Sigh. I woke up early Saturday morning for my usual middle-of-the-night trip to the loo, and found that I was more than a little dizzy. Figuring it would pass, I took care of business and went back to bed.

I really should stop being an optimist.

It was worse when I got up for the day - I zigzagged across the bedroom, aiming for the bathroom and the tube of Dramamine pills in the medicine cabinet. This is not my first round of fluid-filled ears; my doctor had recommended using Dramamine to dry up the fluid and restore stability to my world. It actually does work, though this time it took multiple doses all the way through this morning. I still feel a sheet or so into the wind, so to speak.

The world-rocking put paid to my plans for the last couple of days of vacation. I'll manage to make lunches for next week and cook something for dinner that will give leftovers for the next few nights, but that will be about it.

Eh, what are vacations for if not for resting?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

This and that

Thousands of motorcyclists and hangers-on have descended on the city for the 115th anniversary of Harley Davidson. Two years from now, if Milwaukee has the winning bid, it could be thousands of Democrats for the National Convention ahead of the 2020 Presidential election.

One group rides Hogs; the other deals in pork.

Of the two, I vastly prefer the motorcyclists.

Milwaukee's mayor is desperately trying to erase the preconception that Milwaukee is a small town without enough resources to host any sort of national event. He's right that the city is capable of much more than most people outside the five county area think, I'm just not sure hosting the convention is the way to show everyone.

On a related note, the first canvasser of the political season showed up on my doorstep the other night. It was, of course, dinner time. Now, my doorbell has mind of its own, peeling only when it feels like it. When it rings, however, it belts out the eight notes of the Westminster chimes in a slow, measured cadence, loud enough to set dogs to barking in the next county.

Yup, this was one time the doorbell did work.

The young lady with the clipboard and lanyard-strung ID badge said she was with the campaign for the Democratic candidate for US Senate, and she wanted to ask me some survey questions.

"This entire complex is posted no soliciting."

"I'm not soliciting - I'm not selling anything."

Well, nothing other than a load of garbage too many people are happy to buy into because it promises them something for nothing (which is actually something taken from those of us who work for something).

I am now scouring Amazon for a slightly rude "No politicians" sign for my front door. And maybe an NRA sticker. Note I'm an equal opportunity curmudgeon: I don't want people from either party bothering me.

On vacation next week, finding it difficult to concentrate at work this week.  I'd planned an outing to a fountain pen retailer a couple of hours north, but the pen I want is no longer available in the nib size I want (they only have extra fine left; the pen is not technically a limited edition, even though only 800 are available worldwide, but it means other sizes won't be restocked). There is, however, someone in Madison with the the pen in the nib I'd like, who wants to sell it. The up side? We'd meet in between, in the town that has a quilt shop I love. I still need to give her a firm answer. Her price is reasonable, and the pictures of the pen show it in great condition.

I first used fountain pens back forty (!!) years ago when I was in college. Did a bit of calligraphy as a hobby, then moved on to other things. The pens have found a great resurgence over the last ten years or so, with a staggering number of pens and inks available, expanding all the time. I use them for journaling and sketching. I'll eventually post a few of the pens I use, but will leave you with a teaser: one of the pens is made from basaltic lava from Mount Etna in Sicily.