Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Shoes, Part Two

In case you're wondering, yes, I decided to keep the new shoes mentioned in the earlier post this week.

After wearing them around the house all evening on Tuesday, I decided to put them on the pavement and wear them out of the house on Wednesday.

And, from a hiking/walking standpoint, they were great. Before leaving for work, I walked the dog while wearing them and I loved how light they are and how they feel.

But by the time I got to work... umm... well... let's just say they're not exactly driving shoes. You see, hiking shoes tend to have a higher - and more firm - sole around the heel. This is great for protection of your feet while hiking. But it's not great for propping your right heel against the floor while driving. In rush hour. In stop-and-go traffic.

Once I got out of the car and walked to work, I was fine, though. So I'm still glad that I decided to keep them. I just have to not wear them while driving until they're a bit more broken in.

Until then, I'm going to skip Paolo Nutini's song (from the last shoe post), and focus on this reminder from Nancy Sinatra, instead:

You may notice that she makes no mention of driving in her boots. Smart woman.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eight, plus 1

**Spoiler Alert** Schmaltz ahead.

(Not sure what schmaltz is? Click here for the definition.)

(Oh. Sorry. I didn't really mean the literal chicken fat version of the word. I meant the first definition on this page.)

Today is the eighth anniversary of the day after Christopher and I had our first date.

I know it's a little odd to mention that, but I think that, for me, it's kind of an important day. You see, when we met, I had been going out on a decent number of dates. Not long before, I had been going through a "dry spell" and had decided that I really needed to get out more, so I had set myself up with a couple of online dating sites and decided to just jump in with both feet.

And, mainly, all that got me was wet. (And not in any kind of adult double-entendre sort of way.)

And then I had a date with the most gorgeous pair of brown eyes I'd ever seen. They showed up at my door one evening for a night of pizza and beer and a movie. (Which, in retrospect, is kind of funny, because although we both love pizza and movies, we're not big beer drinkers - but I think that just sounded right when we were setting up the date.)

So, we had this really good date, and the evening ended with him leaving and saying we should get together again the following week. We couldn't make plans for the coming weekend, because it was Labor Day, and he was going to be out of town with friends.

And, anyway, I had two more dates set up with different guys for that weekend. (Like I said, I'd jumped in with both feet.)

Labor Day weekend rolled around, and this guy that I'd only had one date with was out of town, and I went on the first of my (scheduled prior to the date) dates. And for pretty much the entire date, I felt like I was doing something wrong. Like I wasn't supposed to be going on dates with other people.

I don't think I actually even had the second date I was supposed to have. I'm pretty sure I cancelled it in advance with an excuse of "something came up..."

But... anyway... The point of all of this is that, although the first date on August 28th was pretty darned good, I think that the fact that August 29th found me with someone new on my mind is pretty important, too.

So today I toast Eight Years, plus a day. Schmaltz and all.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Shoes

There is something about getting a new pair of shoes. Especially this time of year when it's time to go back to school.

And, no, I'm not going back to school any time soon, but I did get some new shoes the other day. I'm wearing them in the house right now to try to break them in a bit - and to make sure I want to keep them. (Since we all know that once they touch pavement, they're not going back to the store.)

I got these:

And I have to admit that wearing them makes me feel like this:

I suspect that I'm going to keep them. But I'm not going outside tonight, just in case.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Egg and Tomato on Toast

I had my dinner a bit late, tonight, and I wasn't even sure what I was going to have. Then I looked at what was in the kitchen and knew right away: Egg and Tomato on Toast.

I'm not sure where this sandwich comes from. I am sure it's not something I came up with on my own. But it's just so darned good. 

My version is open-face on white bread toast, with a little bit of mayo, then a slice (or two) of tomato, and a fried egg. All topped with just a little salt and pepper. 

I fully admit that when I'm eating breakfast eggs I tend to go for ketchup. But with these, it's just the salt, pepper, and a dab of mayo. 

And the tomato was fresh out of a friend's garden. So it had real tomato flavor. 

Summer can be kind of nasty sometimes. And we're looking at a full week of 90+ degree days with high humidity. But there's no other time of year for a really good egg and tomato sandwich. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bad Quote Quotient - This Time It's Titular

Sometimes the best bad quotes come in the most unexpected of places.

Today, while working on a cookbook at work, I came across the following chapter title. What makes it even stranger, is that the author had gotten this correct in the Table of Contents, but had gotten it wrong in the actual book.

The chapter was titled "Hard Working-Woman".

My immediate thought - which I did not write into the manuscript while suggesting that "Hard-working Woman" might be more acceptable under the chapter's circumstances - was "I bet she still had a heart of gold."

Either way, it made me laugh at work. I didn't share it at work, because I figured most people wouldn't think it was funny.

I still do, though.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Know It's Summer, But...

I know that summer in Minnesota tends to be pretty short. We seem to have winter for about 7 months of the year, damp pre-spring for about 6 weeks followed by 2 weeks of spring, and a couple of months of fall. That only leaves us with about a month to get in all of summer. 

And although I'm not sure I'm thrilled with the 7 months of winter (who am I kidding? I tend to really dislike about 4 of those months), I kind of like the short period of really hot, steamy weather. 

You see, I went to grad school in southwest Ohio, where the school was in an area where three rivers all kind of converged. It was medically known to cause major allergic flare-ups for people because all of the particulates would get trapped in the river valleys. And it also made for hot and humid days - and nights. 

After that, I moved to Baltimore. Which - for those who have problems with geography - is located on one arm of the Chesapeake Bay. It's coastal. It's south of the Mason-Dixon line. In the middle of summer it is downright swampy. It's the kind of place that is great to visit in spring (which starts in February/March) or fall (which goes all the way through November). 

Part of why I moved to Minnesota was so that I could have more liveable summers. And - for me - that means cooler, and less humid. Okay. So the whole "being on the Mississippi River" thing tends to add to the humidity, but it's supposed to be cooler, at least. 

And, for the most part, it is. Which makes me very happy. Even so, when it's really warm, it makes me whiny. So, tonight, I'm sitting in the air conditioned house, very glad that I'm not outside. And tomorrow, when the air conditioner at the office doesn't quite keep up with the demand, I'll be very happy that our office at least has a fan. 

And, yes, I know there are people who live here who really like the heat, so if you see me on the street, I'll do my best to say things like "It's supposed to cool off after a day or two..." instead of being too whiny. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stuff on Top of Trucks

I don't have a camera with me most of the time I'm in the car. And my phone is small and old and can only send photos to other phones. So you'll have to take my word on what you're about to read.

Lately, I seem to be seeing all sorts of things being transported on top of cars and trucks. And some of it is a little scary.

On my way to work last week, I saw someone had tied a mattress and box spring to the top of a Suburban. And, while it was well tied down, the front of the mattress was kind of rearing up, as if it wanted to get away. I did not stay behind it any longer than I needed to, fearing the worst.

The other most interesting thing I've seen was a Pathfinder with a "stand-up" bike rack on top. And, yes, I know you're thinking "lots of people drive with bikes standing up on top of their cars." But this one had 4 bikes on top of it. The mounting rack extended about a foot beyond the roof of the car on both sides. And the bikes on the outside (there were 4, remember), were actually mounted beyond the edges of the car, as well.

I was behind this guy and his bike-antlers for a while. And I kept expecting them to tilt as he went around corners, but they didn't. The bikes actually seemed sturdy up there. I still didn't stay behind him any longer than I needed to, though.

It makes me wonder, though... If these people were able to keep mattresses and bikes on top of their cars, why did I see couch cushions and a single shoe on the side of the road today? How can bikes stay mounted to a roof, but a cushion breaks free?

And what's with the fact that you always just see *one* shoe on the side of the road?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Short Battery Life

I seem to be having problems with my battery. I can get a full charge, but after shorter and shorter periods it just conks out.

What's worse is that it will sometimes go from a decent charge level to shutting down and going to sleep with almost no warning.

And, you know, my computer's battery seems to be doing the same, lately.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ripping Off the Scab

You know how everyone always talks about how painful it is to rip off a bandage, or to tear off a scab? 

Well, I have to agree with the whole "ripping off a bandage" thing as being painful. But only because... well... the benign Seborrheic keratosis on my chest just happened to be right at the top of my chest hair. So ripping it off was a tad painful. 

On the other hand, the bandages on my chin, which covered the space where the removed benign mole had been tended to keep falling off - not painful at all. 

Tonight, when I was scratching my chin, the scab where that mole had been came off in my hand. Also no pain. 

Odds being what they are, I have the feeling that I'm going to go to trim a nail sometime in the next week and have shooting pain. 

Or maybe I'm over-thinking this.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dotting My Ts, Crossing My Eyes

Luckily, I like to read. I really do. And I like to coach people on their writing. And, really, I like to coach people on pretty much anything - I like being able to have the "mentor" role in my life from time to time.

So the work that I'm doing for the writing contest judging (we talked about that last week, right?) is a lot of fun. And - if I'm being honest - so is my day job. (Okay, so maybe "fun" isn't always the right description for my day job if I'm being super honest, but I guess it could be a lot worse.)

But, right now, along with my day job, and trying to finish up the entry judging, I'm also trying to get through a book for my book club (which is due a week from tomorrow, and which I'm only one chapter into). And then a piece of freelance work came in on Thursday, which I just finished up.

And, somewhere in there, there is vacation research to be doing (details to come), as well as looking into some things for other events coming up later this fall.

Oh - and ever since we got a new modem my Internet connection has been a bit iffy.

Luckily, the book club book and the contest entries are all hard copy, so at least the modem issues don't impact those too much. (Although I was delayed by about half an hour tonight, because I couldn't get to the freelancing I needed to download...)

Now it's almost 11, and I want to turn in the contest entries tomorrow when I see the friend of mine who gave them to me, so I have to read and respond to two more of them before bed.

I'm going to try not to dot any of my Ts (my handwriting can be hard enough to read without that), but I'm pretty sure my eyes will be crossed by the time I'm done.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bad Quote Quotient - The Deep, Dark Kind

This one actually is from a little while ago, but I figured I needed to share it, because it was good enough that I printed it out and put it on the wall at work:

"Anya mounted the winged steed and flew into the dark, fiery abbess."

So many things to question in that.

Do they mean "flew into" as in running into someone while driving a car?

Do they mean "flew into" as in literally entered the abbess?

How is the abbess both dark and fiery?

And, yes, from context, I knew that it was supposed to be an "abyss," but that's half the fun.

Here's to the weekend - may you and your winged steed avoid any and all dark, fiery abbess-filled abysses.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Judgey McCoacher

I'm feeling very Judgey McJudgerson, tonight. But don't worry - it's tempered by the part of me that is Teachy McCoacher.

It's that time of year when - for the second year in a row - I've been asked to be a judge for a writing competition. Which, in many ways, falls right into my wheelhouse. After all, I spend my days as an editor, and - many moons ago - I was a college English teacher.

But it's a different world when you're judging adult entries into a writing contest. There's no interaction with the people, so even though they've entered the contest and know that they're going to be judged, I kind of feel like it's mean to score them. I always have this visual of some little blue-haired lady in a shawl who is going to read what I've written and hate me and vow to never send me cookies. (I have this in mind, even though I have no idea the ages of the entrants, and I'm guessing the median age is probably about my age.)

Consequently, I really kind of want to sit down with each of them for 15 minutes and say "Here's what's wrong with these 10 pages. But - don't worry - because here's what's right with them." After all, as a writer, myself, I know that one "this is wrong" comment can take the wind out of 257 "this is right" comments. And - for better or worse - that really sucks the big one.

So I spend a lot of time on these entries treating them as I would treat students - which is nicer than I treat many of the people I do edits for, since the ones I'm editing often seem to think they're hot shit, and - sadly - are only half right more often than not. So while I do my best to coach (or at least get through to) the authors I'm editing, with these entries I give hand-written critique, and I make marginal notes, and I put a little "Good luck as you move forward" note at the end of each - or at least most - of them.

And I hope that, when they all get my comments back with their entries they think "Hey, this is helpful, I see what he meant. I can move forward with this," instead of "Damn, I'm horrible, I should never have done this." (Which, really, is the same thing I'm hoping the other authors are thinking, when you come right down to it.)

Because, although I may sometimes feel that the authors I'm working with shouldn't have written what they've written, I'm always glad that they have written something. And I'm always kind of terrified that critiquing these entries - even though they've asked to be critiqued - might turn someone off from writing. And that - no matter how low the entry's score - would be a bad thing.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Taking a Little Off the Front

As we discussed last week, to take the bump off of my chin - and, coincidentally, to also take the bump/mole off the base of my neck - I had to shave my beard. (Well, I didn't really need to shave to have the mole taken off of my neck. Although it might have helped a bit if my upper chest didn't have quite so much hair, but that is due to the bandage, not the actual mole removal.)

It has been a number of years since my face was truly clean shaven. Usually, when I decide that I want to get rid of my beard/goatee/whatever I've got going on I simply set the clippers to "zero" and take it down to about a one-day shadow. 

So it has been a while since I've seen my full face only covered in skin. And, although I had every intention of taking care of this step in the doctor-visit prep on Thursday evening, it was almost stymied by a lack of razor. Luckily, I found one in the one-quart clear zipper-top bag I take with me when I travel. (Note to self: Buy more razors before travelling.)

Here is how I looked before I went into the bathroom: 

For the record, I don't think I usually look quite so "big-chinned." I'm blaming the angle of the camera. I'm not all that good with the whole "self-portrait with a digital camera" thing.

Although... I must admit... I do rather like my glasses.

Here's how I looked when I came out of the bathroom:

I walked over to Christopher and he looked at me and said "That doesn't really look like you." Sadly, due to the fact that my beard has gone so grey, it also didn't look very much like Wolverine. (Because, yes, the only thing keeping me from looking like Wolverine is the color of my beard. For the sake of this blog post, I'll ask that you kindly all agree with that statement. Thank you.)

OH. Look! The mole on the base of my neck makes a cameo in that picture. I hadn't noticed it before.

So I returned to the bathroom and did some more clipping and shaving of the beard. The Wolverine mutton chops got smaller and smaller, and I even trimmed up my sideburns.

I remembered, as I was doing all of that, that I really kind of like the act of shaving. I don't love the time it takes every morning to keep it all smooth, but I do like the activity. It's kind of a cool ritual of sorts. And, apparently, it's one I'll be keeping up for the next week, since I'm supposed to keep a bandage on my chin (and another on my neck - which Christopher said kind of makes it look like I had a tracheotomy), and they don't stick to stubble.

Oh. In case you're wondering what I look like without my beard, it's something like this:

Okay. So maybe that photo is actually from grad school back in about 1992. But it's totally what, in my mind, I figured I would look like when the beard came off.

Instead, I got this:

I'm happy to say that, after 4 days and some time for my skin to relax, my skin no longer looks red and irritated all over the place. And I haven't nicked myself and caused myself to bleed, again (that would be the dot above my upper lip). Although... throughout the day on Friday, and then a couple of times since, I have had a little bleeding from my chin - but that's covered by the bandage (which is the reason I can't grow my beard back, yet, as I'm sure you remember from just a few paragraphs ago). 

I think Christopher has gotten past the "You look weird" stage of this. And I think almost everyone in my office has seen me, now, and asked what the heck happened - prompted, in large part, by the chin bandage. (I've also gotten the I'm-going-to-take-that-as-a-compliment-style "you look so much younger - I mean, you don't look old with the beard, but..." comments at work.) And I've even gotten used to my current reflection in the mirror. 

Which does not mean that I'm staying clean shaven after this is done. But it does mean that I might be open to the options. Though probably not the Wolverine one. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

When Plans Change...

For a while now, I've had the following line as one of my email "signature" lines:

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I intended to be.
 -- Douglas Adams

And, while most days (assuming I even notice it) I mainly think of it as a kind of "every choice I've made has brought me here," statement, today it seems more appropriate than usual.

You see, after months (seriously, like 10 months, off and on) of vacation planning for Christopher and me - with the help of a travel agent, with the help of friends, and with a bunch of online research - we finally booked a vacation to celebrate Christopher's most recent milestone birthday (which happened last January).

It's not the vacation we had been most commonly talking about, but it seems like it might be a really good fit for us. A nice mix of chaperoned and unchaperoned. Do-nothing days and busy days. The assurance that we'll be near some great restaurants. And, above all, someplace with a personal connection for Christopher.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

8/28 Cooking Challenge - Highlander Homecookin' (and some other stuff)

Christopher and I have a bunch of things going on this weekend. They kind of mostly came out of the blue - including the fact that we're invited to FOUR events on Saturday, all within the span of about 3pm to 8pm. (Yeah... no... that's not gonna happen.)

For one of the events, we were asked to bring a sweet treat. So I started thinking of things to take and thought of some bars I had a while back that were cake on the bottom, but then a layer of half-melted mini-marshmallows, topped with salted peanuts. Basically, they're a Salted Nut Roll in a bar. But then other people started talking about bringing salty things, so I figured that the sweet things should probably truly be sweet.

But it's been one of those weeks where nothing seems to click, and I was stumped on something else to take. Christopher turned to me and said "Why don't you do an 8/28 thing?" To which I immediately replied "The next book I'm using doesn't have the kind of food that you can take to an event." (In case you're wondering, it's a book of abelskiver - aka filled pancake - recipes, which I was given for my birthday.) I went through a few dessert cookbooks I have, but no matter how I worked the 8/28, nothing was working (I kept getting recipes for frostings or fillings, for some reason.) As desperation set in, though, I realized that the cookbook I'd received just before the abelskiver one was a copy of "Highlander Homecookin'" from the Scotland (SD) Parent Teacher Organization, which my mom gave me.

I checked the Index's 8th page. It only had one column, so I counted down 28 items and found "Taste of Rainbow" on the second line from the bottom. I don't know if you follow much Minnesota news, or if you know that the gay pride flag has rainbow stripes (it does), but today is the day that same-sex marriages became legal in the state of Minnesota. I wasn't sure what "Taste of Rainbow" was, but I knew that as long as it was a dessert I was going to be making it.

Ingredients were few, since it starts with a box cake mix:

(Yes, we bought the jug o' oil at Costco.)
I love ingredient lists like this, because they're specific, and all right there in front of you.

Check it out, if Christopher and I had met on 8/29, we'd have been taking "Thin Pancakes", instead.
You start by simply making the cake batter, for which I used a whisk, instead of a mixer. Not because we don't have a mixer (which I'm sure you're thinking, since we don't have a microwave), but because it's a cake mix. How hard is it to whisk a cake mix? I mean... I was even able to whisk and shoot a photo at the same time:
(In all honesty, we have two stand mixers, two hand mixers, and a stick blender. That's what happens when you combine two households and both people like to cook.)
Then you separate the batter into six bowls (it ends up being right about 3/4 cup of batter per bowl) and add the food coloring, which I find is best added by putting the droplets in designs into the batter. While counting aloud, of course. (Count von Count sound effects and maniacal laughter is optional, though highly recommended.)

Then you stir both your set of primary colors and your set of secondary additive colors. (Check it out - color theory discussion along with the baking and the gay pride stuff!)

At this point, the colors looked really cool. The consistency was still cake-batter-y, but it just looked totally different. Like really thick tempera paints. I totally wanted to play with them, but I figured that would be a) really messy; and, b) detrimental to the finished product.

The recipe said that you should use 16 muffin cups, and fill them each a little at a time. I thought "16? The cake box says 24. I'll do 18, just in case." Umm... yeah... I should have trusted the recipe. I totally ran out of purple on the 16th cupcake.

I totally admit that I thought there would be enough batter of each color to fill the whole cup, so that you'd end up with layers. In my mind, I guess I was kind of expecting that when I was done, I'd end up with something like this:

(From my heroes in the Betty Crocker kitchens.)
Instead, as I added color upon color, I kept getting these weird, yet seriously fun, color palettes.

The red... umm... it looked a lot less "bodily" in person. But you can see how there is red, orange, yellow, and green visible in all of those. Kinda cool.

So, at this point, they go into the oven. Because, ya know, that's what you do with cupcakes. You bake them.

This gave me a chance to move the sprinkler out in the yard, and to do a little of the clean-up in the kitchen. But, first, I noticed how the dribbled cake batter on the sides of the white bowls kind of looked like something you see at a Disney park. There's always that set of props off to the side where you're sure that Mickey had just been there painting his heart out. And... well... that's what these looked like to me, so I took a picture or two:

I think that color of orange is totally Tigger color.
Don't those look like some kind of gas giant planets? 
Did I distract you long enough with those other pictures so that you've forgotten how gorgeous that rainbow layer cake was? You see, this is what they looked like when they came out of the oven: 

On the one hand, I really like the abstract nature of the colors. On the other hand, I looked at them and immediately thought "I wonder if the dye in them causes them to be different weights and so they bubbled up differently - or whether the outsides cooked first, and then they kind of shifted." Back on the first hand, I was a little bummed that they weren't going to be stripey, but I figured they would probably still taste good.

So of course I had to try one.

(I know that the plate really reflected the flash, but I love how the stripes showed up on the cupcake wrapper.)
Of course, if you were paying attention early on, you noticed the tub o' frosting. So these are now subtle, innocent white cupcakes. But if there's anything I've learned through the years, it's that the most subtle and innocent things - and people - are usually hiding something much more interesting inside.

So, here's to all of the people celebrating marriage equality, today (and in the future), in Minnesota. May your lives forever be filled with tasty rainbows.

And frosting. Obviously there should be frosting.