Gayle Madwin's Journal
                              25 MOST RECENT ENTRIES
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 5:01am
Garden Bloggers' Wildlife Day

I didn't actually take a single photograph this month that was of my garden plants themselves - only pictures of the wild animals inhabiting my garden. Almost exclusively birds, in fact. I guess I'll return to photographing plants for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day when my plants get around to looking photogenic again. This month so far, here are the major events in my garden: my pecan tree dropped most of its leaves, water fell out of the sky (we Californians have ceased to regard this as being in any way an expected event), and a whole bunch of birds dropped by to visit. (And some of the birds are, I think, more than visiting; some of them spend more time in my yard than they spend anywhere else.)

My most interesting bird of the month was a northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), a member of the woodpecker family. I only saw it once, during a rainstorm - rainstorms often seem to bring out different birds than usual - but luckily I had my camera handy. It fluttered down from the pecan tree to the leaves that had fallen on the lawn beneath. It captured my attention instantly; it's a larger bird than most (certainly larger than my Nuttall's woodpecker, more the size of my Eurasian collared doves, or like a fatter version of a Western scrub-jay), and the undersides of its wings flash a brilliant red when it flies - the characteristic from which I assume it takes its common name. This particular northern flicker appears to be a male of the red-shafted race, based on its red "mustache." (Males of the yellow-shafted race have black mustaches; yellow-shafted females have no mustaches, and red-shafted females have pale tan mustaches.) Northern flickers will peck loudly on wood or metal to announce their claim to their territory, but they hunt for the insects they eat (primarily ants) mainly on the ground, not in the trees. They can live to be about eight or nine years old.

Colaptes auratus (Northern flicker)

Click for lots more birds and some squirrels!Collapse )

Mood: okay
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
Tuesday, 2 December 2014 12:53pm
Tundra Swan Tour

In mid-November, I went with some relatives to photograph the tundra swans and other migratory waterfowl that descend upon my neighborhood each winter from the Pacific Flyway. The tundra swans are the largest and most visually obvious of the many birds that overwinter in the Sacramento Valley. Before the Gold Rush, the Sacramento Valley had a significantly higher water table than it had today; much of it was wetlands that amply supported these birds. Since then, people have drained much of the wetlands and filled the area with agriculture and cities. However, in recent decades, the rice farmers who cultivate many of the lowest-lying areas have agreed to flood their rice fields during their winter offseason so that migrating waterfowl can use the rice fields as habitat. These pictures are from the rice fields directly on the border of Marysville. The nearest of the flooded rice fields are within easy walking distance for me, and none of the pictures I took are from much farther than five miles from my house.

In this picture, the white birds are tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) and the majority of the brown birds are greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons). There's a Northern shoveler duck (Anas clypeata) toward the left, with a green head, white breast, and brown underside; and a bit right of center, I can pick out a Northern pintail duck (Anas acuta), with a brown head, white breast, and grey sides.

Ellis Road: Cygnus columbianus (tundra swans), Anser albifrons (greater white-fronted geese), Anas clypeata (Northern shoveler), Anas acuta (Northern pintail)

Click to continue the tour!Collapse )

Mood: busy
Speak Your Mind
Friday, 21 November 2014
Friday, 21 November 2014 1:16am
Fishy Identity Issues

I have a fish. Actually I have several fish, in multiple fish tanks, but I have only one fish that has lived long enough to establish a name and identity for itself, and that is likely to continue living long enough to potentially establish new names and identities for itself. Here is a picture of this fish of mine.

red devil cichlid

This fish is a red devil cichlid. I have had this fish since March 2009, when some neighbors gave it to me. I thought at first that it was a female fish, though it was too young for a non-expert to really be able to tell the difference. Susan named it Muffy, because she thought that sounded like the name of a mean girl, and the fish is quite an aggressive fish. (We quickly learned not to put any other fish in the same tank as it, because it will kill them all. It also follows humans from one side of the tank to the other and makes biting motions toward them.)

As the fish grew, it developed a bulge on its forehead that is typical of males of the species. I began to suspect that it was really a male fish. I said so to Susan, but she brushed this aside as something she didn't feel like questioning. I, however, became more and more convinced, over time, that the fish was male. Eventually Susan asked a science teacher friend of hers to settle our dispute over the fish's sex. He looked the fish over vaguely and ventured a hesitant guess that Susan probably knew what she was talking about.

Then we called a plumber to fix a pipe, and the plumber happened to notice and exclaim over the fish. The plumber told me that he and some friends of his made a hobby of breeding red devil cichlids. I asked the plumber his opinion on the fish's sex. The plumber first said that at first glance, the fish appeared to be male. Then the plumber took the time to actually inspect the fish's plumbing - its genital papilla - up close. After a close inspection, the plumber declared the fish to be quite definitively male.

Susan was not there during the plumber's visit. When I informed her about it later, she opined that her science teacher friend was far more educated than the plumber. Well, not about this breed of fish, he wasn't. But Susan could not believe her friend capable of making any mistake, and she declared that the fish would remain Muffy and would remain a "she," whether I liked it or not.

Then Susan left me, and I kept the fish. I decided, during the separation process, that the fish could keep the name Muffy but should have male pronouns now. Then a year passed, during which the only people who came to my house were people who had already been to my house before and had seen the fish before, so I never had occasion to use any name or pronouns at all for the fish.

Last weekend I finally had occasion to introduce the fish to some new people, my relatives. I did not use the fish's name, but I did use pronouns - and the pronouns that came out of my mouth, from force of habit, were female ones. I then immediately felt foolish because, in the unlikely event that my relatives happened to know how to identify the sex of a red devil cichlid, they would think I didn't know that my fish is male.

This is, of course, a silly thing to spend time worrying about. Still, I've now realized that if I don't change my fish's name, I probably won't remember to change my fish's pronouns, either. And if I do change my fish's name, I can give it a name that is more characteristic of my own naming tastes, rather than Susan's. (This is likely to mean that its name will be derived from a David Bowie song lyric, as Stardust's is, and as my former cat Spider's was, but, well, anything could happen.)

Of course, my fish has been living a genderbent life for so long now that maybe it's gotten used to this and prefers to maintain its existing identity. Also, cichlids do sometimes spontaneously change sex, even in adulthood, so I could change its name and pronouns and still have them end up being cross-gendered again. So, I don't know what I should do. What sorts of names or pronouns do you think my fish would like?

Poll #1989673 Solve My Fish's Identity Issues

Should my fish's name be changed?

No, your fish's name is already established.
3(27.3%)
Yes, your fish should have a male name.
1(9.1%)
Yes, your fish should have a genderfree name.
4(36.4%)
Yes, your fish should have a brand new name that is still a female name.
0(0.0%)
Yes, over and over, until your fish is thoroughly confused.
3(27.3%)

Should my fish's pronouns be changed?

No, your fish's female pronouns are already established.
0(0.0%)
Yes, your fish should have pronouns that match its male sex.
0(0.0%)
Yes, your fish should have genderfree pronouns.
5(45.5%)
Yes, over and over, until your fish is thoroughly confused.
3(27.3%)
Your fish should have pronouns that match the gender of whatever name you call it by.
1(9.1%)
Your fish should have pronouns that conflict with the gender of whatever name you call it by.
2(18.2%)

Would you care to suggest specific names or pronouns for my fish?



Mood: silly
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 13 November 2014
Thursday, 13 November 2014 11:29pm
Garden Bloggers' Wildlife Day

It's supposed to be Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day tomorrow, but although I do have some flowers flooming, they're all the same flowers that were blooming last month, and it's not all that interesting to photograph them all over again right now. Especially when I have something more interesting to photograph instead: wildlife! Wildlife of various sorts, but one sort has been especially prominent. My yard has been taken over by squirrels!

I'm not entirely sure how many squirrels I have, but I know I have at least one male and at least one female. It seems like I may have more than that, because lately I nearly always see at least one of them in my pecan tree whenever I go into the back yard. I've also seen them in the southern magnolia, in the columnar cypresses, and running along the fence line around the entire perimeter of the property, and I see Boston charging at them multiple times per day whenever they venture onto the ground. They don't venture onto the ground very much, because of Boston. I hope she doesn't actually catch them, but if she didn't chase them, they'd probably venture onto my patio and steal birdseed from my bird feeders. So it's helpful of Boston to keep them confined to the trees for me. Now, let's just hope they don't catch on that Boston comes indoors at night.

The squirrels are here for the pecans. They're eating every pecan in the entire top half of the tree, while I'm eating every pecan in the bottom half of the tree. I don't mind sharing with them. They usually trade me two or three walnuts each year for several hundred pecans. I have no idea where there's a walnut tree anywhere near me, but the squirrels know, and they bring me walnuts. Or at least they did for the past couple of years. This year they haven't paid up yet, but I'm trusting that they will.

I'm pretty sure my squirrels are Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), which are not native to California but have become the most common squirrel species from Northern California to British Columbia. So they're an invasive species. But they're not an easy species to resent.

Sciurus carolinensis (Eastern gray squirrel) female

Squirrels! And birds and insects and other stuff!Collapse )

Mood: busy
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 1 November 2014
Saturday, 1 November 2014 5:57am
Toxic Masculinity

What is the deal with all the misogyny on the Internet lately? Everywhere I look, there are comment threads full of men spewing angry bile about how women need to stop complaining about, well, any manifestation of sexism at all, from discriminatory hiring to street harassment to Internet harassment to rape.

And yes, in virtually all of those comment threads, there are also some men posting from a feminist point of view as well. The thing is, I don't find it surprising to see that there are men posting from a feminist point of view. This is the behavior I normally expect of men. Because like most people on the Internet, I generally try to spend my online time safely ensconced in a bubble of more or less like-minded people. And in my little bubble of more or less like-minded people, men's opinions about feminism range anywhere between "extremely vocally and committedly feminist" and "does not really understand or care at all about feminism but has enough sense to pretend to because otherwise everyone he knows, and especially every woman he knows, will think very much less of him for it and might possibly ostracize him forever."

And this is an okay world to live in. I'm not saying it's perfect. You have to remember to be wary of the guys whose only feminist issues are the ones that pertain primarily to the youngest and most conventionally attractive women, such as street harassment (not to imply that street harassment isn't a serious problem, because it totally is! just that it's not the only one), and who surround themselves with women half their age who all look like they could be professional models. Still, there's a real limit to how scary those guys can be, since by the very fact of recognizing one of them as being such a guy, you render yourself no longer susceptible to being fooled by him. You can even call him out on it to his face, if you choose - and if you do, you can be fairly certain that he'll feel embarassed or even humiliated by it, to one degree or another. Because in the bubble in which I live, being publicly identified as behaving in a sexist manner is not a good thing.

What I do find surprising - shocking, even - is the evidently vast numbers of men who are eager to associate themselves with extreme misogyny, often apparently under their real names and in front of all their friends and family and co-workers and so on, on Facebook. These men are not supposed to be visible from inside my bubble. Why do they keep making themselves visible lately? Who are they? Do you know them? I don't know any of them. I suspect that very few people I know know any of them. Who are they, and why do the people who know them allow them to feel free to post such things without fear of public reprimand or retribution from friends and family and co-workers? Please explain how it is possible in 2014 for large numbers of men to feel free to state publicly, in writing, in front of virtually everyone they know, that women deserve to be subjected to rape and domestic violence and murder and so on. I do not understand.

I mean, I'm not completely unfamiliar with the concept of males ostentatiously insulting or oppressing women as a way of seeking to establish their masculinity. I have encountered it at times . . . but mostly in men who are senior citizens by now. Among men my age or younger, I have never observed it to be the done thing. Yes, there are tons of sexist men my age or younger! But normally they make some effort to disguise it at least a little. Don't they? In my bubble, they do. If only because most of them care about being able to persuade women to have sex with them. Now they seem not even to care about that anymore! And although I know that in theory, there's something to be said for getting to see people for what they truly are, I think I would really prefer for them all to go back to having some sort of shame. Can whoever knows these men please hurry up and say whatever it takes to make them just shut up and pretend to have some sort of respect for women? It would improve my Internet experience. Thanks.

Mood: disturbed
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 27 October 2014
Monday, 27 October 2014 4:55pm
STRESS

I have a job interview tomorrow. And another two job interviews that I'm in the process of scheduling for sometime next week. So far I've landed an interview for every job I've applied for. Of course, landing an interview is always the relatively easy part for me, since written expression for me is easier than verbal expression. But that's probably fairly common among people who apply for editing jobs, right?

At least they're only phone interviews. That simplifies things somewhat. Hopefully phone interviews will be enough, considering that the jobs themselves are full-time telecommuting jobs, but I don't know for sure. If they want me to travel across the country for an in-person interview I'm in trouble, because I have no idea how to get any time off work to do that. Also, my hands are stained from harvesting pecans and also covered in glue and paint primer from attempting to finish home-repair projects before the weather gets too cold for it to be convenient to leave windows open. I would not make a great visual impression at the moment. Can we make it fashionable to wear gloves during job interviews? It would be helpful to me. Seriously, my hands are dark brown with white polka dots (paint primer). The rest of me is white with brown polka dots (freckles). It's an awkward combination.

In the meantime, did you know that working 60-hour weeks, anticipating a layoff, going on job interviews, and having dealt with nearly constant major stresses for the past year does not actually result in a free pass on all other stresses in life? It doesn't. My automatic sprinkler system decided yesterday to fail to turn off, ever again. I fiddled with the sprinkler system (replacing the battery, manually resetting all the times) and had no luck. I asked Google to tell me how to shut off all the water to my house. Google told me how to shut off all the water to a whole bunch of other people's houses, but none of the explanations seemed to apply to my house. I called a plumber, offering to pay emergency weekend fees to get him to come shut off my water. He was busy and did not want to bother showing up, but he did talk me through the process of figuring out how to shut off all the water to my house. Great! Now every time I want my water to work, I have to walk outside and flip the switch, and then my sprinklers will go on again and remain on until I shut off all the water again. Apparently most houses have separate switches for the water in their house versus the water in their yard, but for my house . . . no such luck. And I still need someone to come fix it. Supposedly someone will come this evening. I hope they can fix it this evening, because you know when I really can't deal with getting my sprinklers fixed? In the middle of a job interview.

Also, my washing machine has decided to flood the laundry room whenever I use it. This means the pipes are clogged again, which means I need to call a plumber for that too. (I tried buying drain cleaner fluids already, but they weren't adequate. There's a pipe in the laundry room that needs to be totally disassembled to be cleaned, and I'm not sure I'm up to the task.)

The good news, house-wise, is that Project Frantically Throw Away All the Food in the Cupboards appears to have had considerable success in ridding me of my sudden infestation of Mediterranean flour moths. After I finished killing all the moths I could see, I bought some glue traps with flour moth pheromone. The traps have only caught one single moth in the past couple of weeks, and that's the only sign of moths I've seen. However, Mediterranean flour moths (and all other types of pantry moths) habitually disappear at this time of year anyway due to the temperature change, so I'm still worried that they may come back next spring. I plan to continue keeping everything in my cupboards packed in airtight containers for at least a year. It's difficult, though, because my house was built by some sort of cabinet fetishist who equipped it with more square feet of cabinet space than many people have of living space, and although this is lovely under most circumstances, it tends to tempt me into buying and storing entire grocery stores worth of dry goods . . . and now I have to let most of that space go to waste, because I don't want to have to buy entire grocery stores worth of canning jars to seal all my dry goods in.

Speaking of grocery stores, I really need some time to go to one. And I don't have any time to go to one. And I have no idea when I will have time. Why are there so many complications to deal with at once?

Edit: Sprinklers have now been looked at. Water is now shut off only to my yard, not to my entire house: this is possible after all, for people who are better at finding the appropriate switches than I am. But it's going to cost about $300 to make the sprinklers work right again. And will involve replacing ancient metal pipes from decades ago with modern PVC. The metal pipes look so much sturdier! I want to be able to fix them. I want to be able to fix everything myself. Why am I not able to fix everything myself? Because modern technology is complicated. And I like modern technology. But I do not like being unable to ever fix anything myself.

(Except paint. I'm really good at painting walls and ceilings, and getting the paint all over my hands in the process. I will try to take comfort in this. Also, it's okay not to know how to do these things, because the jobs I am interviewing for are not jobs doing irrigation system repair. If I just get hired for an editing job, I'll probably feel much better about not knowing how to do all the other jobs in the world.)

Mood: stressed
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 18 October 2014
Saturday, 18 October 2014 12:42pm
October Garden Pictures

I'm three days late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I suppose that's still a significant improvement over recent months. I still have a garden! I haven't had much time to get out in it lately, but when I do get out in it, this California fuchsia (Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray') is my favorite plant lately. California fuchsias are typically low-growing plants, sometimes only a few inches tall, but there's significant variation in height among the different cultivars. Even so, they're rarely said to grow much more than two feet tall. The 'Carman's Gray' cultivar is not advertised as being any exception to this; most websites describe it as growing about two feet tall. Well, this plant was labeled 'Carman's Gray' when I bought it a year ago, but if its stems are pulled out straight, some of them are taller than I am. (No, I am not actually under two feet tall. I am 5'5".) It is a strange and unexpected experience to find a plant blooming at eye level that isn't supposed to grow above knee level. I have no idea what inspired my plant to grow so tall (there's really nothing unusual about the conditions here, and other California fuchsia cultivars nearby are growing at their usual expected heights), but I'm extremely pleased with it. Nothing makes a gardener seem so impressive as plants that grow to three times their normal height.

The California fuchsia cultivar that is said to be the tallest is 'Catalina,' which is said to grow usually about four feet tall but occasionally up to five feet tall. Perhaps my plant was mislabeled and is really a 'Catalina'? I've never purchased a plant labeled as 'Catalina,' but if I see one in the future I'll check for a resemblance.

me with Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia)

More fall garden pictures.Collapse )

Mood: busy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 16 October 2014
Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:38am
One Year Later

One year ago today, Susan informed me that she was leaving me. For another woman, whom she would marry less than a month later, with whom she now lives in a house she bought on my street, four houses away from mine. Four houses away from the house that she bought with me only a couple of months before she started intensely flirting with the other woman.

I have some things I want to say about that, to the world in general. Specifically, to anyone who might ever be tempted to do anything even vaguely resembling what she did. I want to stop you from doing that to anyone.

First, I want to clarify specifically what you should not do. And for that discussion, I want to take the focus off everything that happened at the end, because the end was not what created the problem. The end was just what revealed the problem for me to see. I want to focus on what occurred much, much earlier.

I want to talk about abuse. There are many kinds of it. What is the common theme among physical abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, and so on? I believe the common theme is that one person aims to forcibly circumscribe the other person's power to control their own life. If you make someone live in fear that you may hit them, you make that person feel afraid to speak freely. If you constantly insult someone and make them question their own worth as a person, you make that person feel unworthy to make decisions to protect themself. If you restrict someone's access to their money, or use their credit cards to spend their money against their wishes, you make that person less financially independent. There are other forms of abuse too, that don't all have clear category labels associated with them, but that we all recognize as abusive behaviors: If you try to control someone by restricting their access to their car keys when they're sober and competent to drive, or you demand that they call you six times a day to keep you constantly apprised of their whereabouts, or you throw a gigantic fit whenever they want to go anywhere without you, or you deliberately alienate them from all their friends and family to cut off their social support network . . . these are all ways of taking away someone's power to control their own life. And that is how we know that they are abusive behaviors.

These are distinguished from mutual agreements that people freely enter into as signs of commitment to one another, which can involve willingly and mutually giving up some freedoms: both members of a couple may agree not to have sex with other people, or not to make large financial purchases without consulting one another in advance, and so on. The borders can get a little tricky occasionally, because if both members of a couple mutually agreed to call each other six times a day to keep each other mutually apprised of their whereabouts, I would be inclined to wonder whether this was really more the idea of one of them than of the other, because I have a hard time believing that both of them could be that ridiculously insecure, but I suppose anything is theoretically possible; and, too, it's theoretically possible for both members of a couple to agree that only one of them has the right to have sex with other people, but here again I would be a little suspicious about quite how mutual that agreement really was. It's possible, though; perhaps there are other factors in the relationship that help to counterbalance that particular imbalance and keep everyone satisfied with the agreement.

In any case, the salient point is freedom of choice: willingly committing to something versus being forced into it. Consent, in other words. And when we talk about consent, we talk about informed consent.

When you get engaged to someone, and move in with them, and buy a house with them, these are all supposed to be commitments freely entered into, with informed consent. You should think carefully about what is at stake for the other person - emotionally, financially, and otherwise - and about what is at stake for you - emotionally, financially, and otherwise - and you should think carefully about whether you can fulfill this commitment. And if you have hesitations or reservations or uncertainties about that commitment, you should inform the other person. Talk about it. Use actual words. Explain exactly where you're at and make sure they understand, and ask them whether they're okay with where you're at and whether they're willing to make this commitment on that basis, with informed consent.

Let me clear: this is necessarily going to be scary, and the more you've failed to be clear about these issues in the past, the scarier it will be. If you've already spent years misleading someone into thinking you're more committed to them than you actually are, then it's very likely that admitting you're having some doubts is going to significantly upset them. It makes sense for you to dread doing that.

But that is what informed consent is about. You have to actually inform them. And yes, they might end up breaking up with you over it. And yes, that might be very upsetting to you, because even though you're having doubts about commitment, you might still prefer to keep this person around until someone you like better comes along. You might in fact find the possibility of being dumped by them extremely horrifying. But you still have to take that risk. You still have to tell them. Because they have a right to make informed decisions about their own relationship. They have a right to know every single thing you know about exactly how committed you are or are not to this relationship. Before they announce their engagement to you, before they move in with you, before they invest their life savings in buying a house to suit your tastes and your needs and a budget based on the assumption that you'll be around. Before they invest years of their life in you. They have a right to know the honest truth about how committed you are to the relationship, because if you withhold that information from them, you are manipulating them into staying with you in every bit as bad a way as if you were throwing a gigantic fit whenever they wanted to go anywhere without you and deliberately alienating them from all their friends and family to cut off their social support network. Arguably an even worse way, because if you were doing those things, it might at least be easier for them to see what you were doing and recognize that they need to escape you.

In short: you should never, ever buy a house with someone under the pretext of monogamous marriage-like commitment if you can't promise not to start secretly flirting with someone else two months later.

That's the first mistake I want to urge everyone reading this to avoid making. Now for the second.

Suppose you've already made some form of the first mistake. Suppose you're in a relationship that you just don't feel very emotionally invested in anymore, and someone else starts flirting with you, and you realize that you're tempted to leave your partner for this new person, and that scares you because your current relationship is longstanding and stable and comfortable in some ways . . . but you just don't feel like you can really talk to your partner anymore, because you've somehow fallen out of the habit of doing so. Because it's just so been easier for you to avoid telling your partner certain things, and maybe you convinced yourself they were just little things, but now they've built up to a substantial wall between the two of you and you're not quite sure how to surmount it. But you're also not quite sure you want to destroy your existing relationship, so you start looking around for ways to try to fix your relationship.

There is only one way to fix your relationship in these circumstances, and I will tell you exactly how to do it:

Tell your partner everything.

I know: that's exactly what you don't want to do. Perhaps you can't imagine that your relationship would ever survive it. And I suppose there's a possibility that it won't. But there's also a pretty good chance that your relationship will survive it, since, well, how many times have you heard about couples breaking up because one member of the couple felt tempted to cheat and resisted the temptation and confessed everything to the other person, only to have the other person break up with them for it? That's not usually the way it works.

But here is what I absolutely promise you that your relationship cannot survive:

You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you ask your partner to come watch you coach the basketball games where the other woman has been flirting with you . . . but your partner is working 50 to 60 hours a week and has trouble finding any opportunity to go, and you never provide an honest explanation of exactly why it's so important. So your partner does intend to go at some point but postpones it until near the end of the season, and then the last few games of the season get unexpectedly canceled at the last moment, so then your partner can't go after all.

You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you mention that you're having trouble feeling excited about the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon finally make it legal for the two of you to get married. You say that if this had happened years ago it would have been incredibly exciting, but after this many years of frustration and waiting, you already feel thoroughly committed and as good as married already, so it seems kind of too late for the ceremony to have as much meaning as it would have had if it had truly marked the beginning of a new commitment, and mostly right now you're just dreading all the bother of wedding planning. Your partner is understanding about this because she's also frustrated that whatever wedding you can have now will never be the same wedding you could have had if you could have gotten married at the time you actually first wanted to get married, and she's also dreading all the bother of wedding planning, and she accepts your statement about feeling as good as married at its reassuring face value because it matches how she feels and also matches every single thing you've ever said about how you feel. You misinterpret your partner's failure to panic at your declaration that you're having trouble feeling excited about planning a wedding five years late as proof that your partner has fallen out of love with you just like you've fallen out of love with her.

You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you try to arrange to go on a romantic camping trip with her. The camping trip gets called off because your partner's employer begs and pleads for her to postpone her vacation time until later because her help is needed to meet an urgent deadline. You tell her wistfully that you're very sad about the camping trip being canceled, and that you feel like both of you have been spending too much time working lately and really need a break from it to spend some time together as a couple. She takes this statement at its face value and believes that there's nothing wrong in your relationship that taking a vacation together won't solve, and she figures that rescheduling her vacation time for a month in the future will still suffice to provide a vacation soon enough.

You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you try to fix your relationship by taking your partner back to the place where the two of you went on your first date together, and you wait for the location to strike sudden romantic feelings into your heart again, but nothing really happens, so you just go on saying nothing and pretend you don't feel disappointed.

You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you plan a romantic hotel trip with her during her rescheduled vacation time. You go lots of exciting places and see lots of exciting things, and you still don't actually tell her anything at all about what's going on with you.

You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you take her to a bridal show to research wedding venues and services, hoping that this will strike a romantic mood into your heart. It doesn't, because, well, listening to sales pitches and contemplating burdensome expenses isn't actually especially romantic. Meanwhile, your partner is very confused about why on earth you wanted to go to this bridal show, because it seems so obviously the complete opposite of anything you'd ever want to go to, and she questions you about it, but you deflect all her questions and reveal nothing.

You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you decide to tell that other woman who's been flirting with you all about the problems in your relationship that you haven't told your partner about and have detailed planning discussions with the other woman about exactly what new things you're going to do in bed with your partner to try to regain some semblance of interest in having sex with your partner again.

And so on.

Don't be stupid about this. There is exactly one way, absolutely only one way, to fix the problem that you don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore. Tell her everything.

That is all. Go forth now, and talk to your partners.

Mood: font of wisdom
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 27 September 2014
Saturday, 27 September 2014 12:48am
Summer Garden Pictures

Both of the nearest chapters of the California Native Plant Society that have annual fall plant sales are having those sales this weekend! They've never had them on the same weekend before, at least not in the six or so years that I've been attending them. This is going to be a very busy plant-shopping weekend for me.

And I'm still trying to catch up on posting months-old garden photographs. This post will cover July and August. I'll start with two pictures that encapsulate those months for me. This is July: my Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasicarpos) plant in full bloom in front of a broad expanse of lawn. I don't have many plants that bloom in July; the last of the spring flowers have withered by mid-June, and the first of the fall flowers don't start opening until August. But the Sacramento rose-mallow is very much a July plant, and it's pretty enough to just about make up for the absence of anything else.

Hibiscus lasiocarpos (Sacramento rose mallow)


This is August. The first of the fall flowers are open - California fuchsia (Epilobium canum × septentrionale 'Bowman's #1') and, if you look closely through the grass, a little clump of yellow from an elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) - but the flowers aren't entirely the point anymore; the huge clumping grasses somewhat steal the show. The grasses here are deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the lower right and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides) a bit to the left, in the middle distance.

Epilobium canum x septentrionale 'Bowman's #1' (California fuchsia)

More pictures of my garden in summer.Collapse )

Mood: busy
Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 12:05am
June Garden Pictures

It's absurdly late to be posting these pictures; the garden no longer looks anything like this. Most of the plants pictured here are no longer blooming, some are completely dormant and leafless, and a few are dead, the victims of the same neglect on my part that prevented me from getting around to posting these pictures. What can I say? It's been an extremely stressful summer. I've been working impossibly long hours for many, many months, and nothing else has gone very right either. But I want to catch up on posting my garden pictures, so here are the ones from June. I hardly managed to take any in July because July was so horrible, so I mostly have just August and September left to catch up with.

The plant I got most excited about in June was death camas (Zigadenus fremontii). Its intimidating name comes from the fact that when not in bloom, it closely resembles camas (Camassia quamash), a bulb that the indigenous Nisenan people regularly dug up and ate. Death camas is also a bulb, but if you mistake it for camas and eat it, it can kill you. So if you decide to forage for California native bulb to eat, make sure you don't get any death camas mixed in with your camas.

As long as you don't eat it, death camas is perfectly harmless. I only grow death camas, not regular camas, because regular camas doesn't grow as well in my area as death camas. So there's no danger of me mistaking my death camas for regular camas. And I grow my death camas in a large pot so that Boston can't easily get at it.

Zigadenus fremontii (death camas)

More pictures of long-gone flowers!Collapse )

Mood: busy
Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 14 September 2014
Sunday, 14 September 2014 6:25am
Books To Be Read Survey

gamesiplay tagged me for a meme about books To Be Read. Yay, I get to talk about books! Without even actually getting around to reading them!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I have a floor-to-ceiling bookcase next to my bed filled entirely with books I haven't read. Once I read them, I move them to my other bookcases in other rooms.

Is your TBR list mostly print or e-book?
It's essentially all print. When I occasionally read books online, I just leave them open in my web browser until I finish reading them. (I don't have an e-book reader.)

A Book That's Been on Your TBR List the Longest
Since I have hardly any idea which books have been in my TBR bookcase the longest, for this question I'll turn to my Amazon wish list. The book Post-colonial, Queer: Theoretical Intersections by John C. Hawley has been sitting on my wish list since October 21, 2004.

A Book You Recently Added to Your TBR List
The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality by Suzanna Danuta Walters (because I was thrilled by the articles "The Power in 'Choosing to Be Gay'" and "Why Rick Perry Is Beyond Repair" by the same author).

Lots more information about books I haven't read!Collapse )

Mood: distracted
Speak Your Mind
Monday, 1 September 2014
Monday, 1 September 2014 11:23pm
Wildlife in My Garden

It's been several months since I last posted garden pictures, and I have rather too many of them saved up to fit them all in one post, so I decided to separate the ones with animals in them and just post those for now. I have quite a few of those right now, because I recently put up a bird feeder. So I have birds!

Passer domesticus (male house sparrows)

Birds! Insects! And more!Collapse )

Mood: busy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 25 August 2014
Monday, 25 August 2014 11:42pm
Um.

Today I made the mistake of glancing at my junk mail before throwing it in the recycling bin. I immediately regretted this.

Could someone please explain to me why apparently real CPR classes and healthcare equipment are being advertised using a picture of a woman in a ridiculously hypersexualized nurse costume?

Plus random, totally unexplained football helmets?

If I wanted to learn CPR, you know what I wouldn't look for in a CPR class? Advertising aimed at attracting incredibly creepy straight men and giving them misleading ideas about whether CPR actually has anything to do with saving lives or is just a fun excuse to feel strangers up.

Advertisement

Mood: aggravated
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 21 July 2014
Monday, 21 July 2014 12:11am
Birthday Loot

I am 38! And about time too, since 37 was hell. Here's what I received:
  • Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions by Arthur M. Shapiro and Timothy D. Manolis
  • Field Guide to the Common Bees of California: Including Bees of the Western United States by Gretchen Lebuhn
  • Wildflowers of Northern California's Wine Country & North Coast Ranges: A Photographic Guide to Native Plants of Marin, Sonoma, Napa & Mendocino Counties by Reny Parker

  • The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
  • Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z kitchen Reference by Becky Sue Epstein

  • Half of a Yellow Sun: A novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie

  • this poster print photograph of wildlflowers on Table Mountain in Oroville, California
  • four stone coasters with pictures of cats on them

  • an automatic door closer (for the door between my garage and my house; recommended by the home inspector for fire safety)
  • two backflow preventers for my garden hoses (recommended by the home inspector for indoor water safety)

  • the CD The Most Incredible Thing: Complete Ballet Score by the Pet Shop Boys
And I've read To Kill a Mockingbird before, but not since eighth grade, when it was assigned reading, so I figured it was time to read it as an adult.

The very most exciting present was the Salman Rushdie memoir; I've been so eager to read it that I barely restrained myself from just buying it for myself rather than waiting to receive it as a gift. I already read the first chapter or so of it tonight while at my parents' house.

And this is a picture my mother took of me while I was at my parents' house, not for my own birthday but for my little brother's birthday, which was earlier this month. My own birthday was much the same, so this can serve to illustrate both.

at my parents' house, July 2014

Mood: tired
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 7 July 2014
Monday, 7 July 2014 11:26pm
Swimming!

Yesterday I went swimming! In Dry Creek, in Spenceville State Wildlife Area, near the extinct gold mining town of Waldo. First I had to drive my poor little Nissan Sentra over about four and a half miles of gravel road - so, about nine miles round-trip, which is probably the longest stretch of gravel road I've ever driven it over. At the end of this gravel road, when I was sure I was miles from the nearest human being, I arrived at a dirt parking lot completely full of cars. (I wasn't entirely surprised, because I've been here before, though not alone, not as the person doing the driving, and it always turns out to be crowded.)

There's a swimming hole there, a very popular one with a huge rope swing dangling from an oak tree, which I had actually never personally seen before yesterday, although I was dimly aware of its existence from having seen photographs of it, and also a smaller, nearly always empty one a bit upstream of the other, which was where I always swam before. Yesterday I started out at the smaller one but wandered downstream (walking on the creek bottom) until I discovered the larger one. I then went back and forth repeatedly between the two. Unfortunately the trip from one to the other was a bit bothersome each time, because the creek is about one foot deep for much of the distance between them, so I had to walk most of it rather than swim it, and the rocks are hard to walk on, so I fell down many times. It never really hurt, though; I only ended up with a few tiny scratches on one knee and a bit of a bruise on that knee.

The smaller, empty swimming hole is under a bridge. The underside of the bridge is covered with hundreds of cliff swallow nests, from which the cliff swallows were coming and going continuously, one or a few at a time. I floated beneath the bridge and watched the cliff swallows, and watched various fish in the water, and watched dragonflies and damselflies and honeybees and, once, a hummingbird, visiting the flowers of the buttonbushes lining both sides of the river. I helped myself to the Himalayan blackberries and examined the non-native grapes, though the grapes weren't ripe yet. On my way to the larger swimming hole, I discovered some very large tadpoles, approaching frogness.

In the more popular swimming hole, I watched people swinging out over the water from the huge rope swing. They would hold onto the rope with their hands, jump off the high part of the riverbank, and swing out as far as they could over the water before letting go. Most people made this look easy, although there was one woman, similar in age to me, maybe a little younger, but heavier than me, who dragged her feet along the bank the first time she tried it and let go of the rope before even hardly reaching the water at all. She was immediately coached in how to do better, and the second time she tried it, she made a very passable effort.

Getting tired of being surrounded by people, I returned to the more private swimming hole. On my way upstream, I suddenly found myself face to face with a muskrat. It was swimming straight toward me from about two feet away. We both noticed each other at the same moment, and we both swerved to avoid colliding. The muskrat then dived underwater and did not resurface within sight of me.

Eventually everyone else went home. I then returned to the popular swimming hole to have a try at the rope swing myself, now that there was no one around to embarrass myself in front of. (I prefer to embarrass myself later by describing my misadventures on the Internet.) I did exactly the same thing that I had watched the other woman do earlier. Except that I didn't get any better on the second try . . . nor the third. I gave up. It was terrifying each time, even though I never got more than about an inch off the ground. I think the problem was that I simply don't seem to be capable of holding myself up with my arms, not even for the tiniest fraction of a second. I couldn't do it in high school P.E. classes either . . . I remember that we were supposed to climb ropes one day, and I simply couldn't do it, by which I do mean that I literally never got off the ground.

But . . . muskrat! Cliff swallows! Hummingbird! And so on. There was so much that was lovely. I should go back again soon. Though it does mean driving my not-at-all-off-road-worthy car over an awful lot of gravel.

Two picturesCollapse )

Mood: uncomfortable
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 5:19pm
Farewell to Spring! (Or: May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day)

Yet again, I'm quite a bit late to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Well, despite what it may look like at times, gardening isn't actually my number one priority in life; sometimes things like earning my living have to take precedence.

People in more northern parts of the world may say their farewells to spring next month at the summer solstice, but around here, the farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) is at its peak right now. Boston has been enjoying the show in the back yard.

Boston under the pecan tree

And here are lots more pictures of how pretty the garden isn't going to be for very much longer.Collapse )

Mood: exhausted
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 5 May 2014
Monday, 5 May 2014 10:30pm
Dead Snake and Various Neighbors

During my work hours today I was looking forward to plugging in my laptop outdoors and sitting in the hammock on the back patio with it after work. This is a delight that I have discovered only quite recently, within the past month. But although I managed to finish my workday while the sun was still up, the moment I finished work, the sky started flickering and growling and dumping massive sheets of water everywhere. It was a fairly brief thunderstorm, but it lasted just long enough to deprive me of outdoor time until after sunset.

Yesterday I saw the snake again that I saw last weekend while mowing the lawn. I got a very long, up-close look at it this time . . . but I wish I hadn't, because the only reason I did is that it was dead.

It's definitely a gopher snake, not a striped racer as I had thought when I caught only a fleeting glimpse of it. Closer inspection revealed that it had some orange markings between its yellow stripes that clearly identify it as a gopher snake. So the range maps were right, and I was wrong. I probably should not presume myself knowledgeable enough to doubt the range mappers. I mean, I know the plant range maps are sometimes a little off, so it stands to reason that the animal range maps would be too . . . but I know so much less about identifying animals that my odds of correctly identifying animals would probably be improved if I trusted the animal range maps completely and only dared to question the plant range maps.

Anyway, it's now a dead gopher snake, dead in my food garden. It was partly hidden under a log that I had used to edge the path. It appeared to have slithered there of its own free will, but I'm not sure why it died. The skin around its neck appeared to have been eaten away, but I think that may have happened after it was already dead, because it had clearly been dead for a few days by the time I found it. Either a neighborhood cat got it (Stardust is innocent because she does not go outdoors) or it died of an illness or just starved to death. I wonder whether it was feeling ill when I saw it last weekend (maybe that's the only reason I was able to catch sight of it at all) or whether its death is related to the destruction of its habitat . . . my next-door neighbor is a 90-something-year-old lady who had a hugely overgrown thicket of blackberries and mulberries and other invasive weeds on the other side of the fence from my food garden, and both times that I saw the snake, it was right next to there, so I suspect it was living in that thicket. This week her grandson came over and hacked away the thicket completely, cut it back to the ground and dug out the roots so there's now nothing left but bare dirt. If he used herbicides that might explain the snake's death, but my impression is that they didn't, since the weeds remained healthy-looking right up until they were cut back and dug up. Maybe the snake just couldn't find a new source of food or shelter when the thicket was removed. But if that was the problem, it ought to have tried wandering farther afield. There are plants it could have hidden among in my front yard. Or in my back yard, as long as Boston didn't notice it, which she didn't when it was in my back yard before.

Today I made a discovery about my next-door neighbors on the other side of me: they are selling their house. Generally our houses are very comparable. They're asking $15,000 more than the asking price on mine in 2012, so perhaps I've made some money by buying at the right time? I'm not sure how to feel about the neighbors moving out. They're devout Christian homeschoolers, but they were actually perfectly polite about having a lesbian couple move in next door to them, and they've been quiet neighbors, and they take good care of their yard, so I really don't have any complaints about them beyond the fact that they and I are not destined to become personal friends. (It would never have occurred to me before I moved from Sacramento to Marysville that anyone could ever regard their neighbors as personal friends. I doubt that I will ever have a neighbor I would count as a friend, but still I have become sufficiently rural that the theoretical possibility of such a thing now seems real to me.) Whoever buys the house next could easily be worse. I do kind of like the idea of not being the newest neighbor at the intersection anymore, though.

I've decided I need to introduce myself to whoever owns the house with the native plant garden in downtown Marysville. I keep driving past it and admiring it and noticing ever more plants that they've squeezed into their tiny yard - redbud trees, toyon, deergrasses, lupines, even (somewhat ridiculously) several redwood trees, all on a lot half the size of mine, with a house larger than mine on it. It's a pretty house, a two-story Craftsman-style house that looks well maintained. I just don't live near enough to be able to catch the residents outdoors and start a conversation. Maybe I could resort to mailing them a letter? Just to compliment them on their garden and offer to give them a tour of mine. It would be nice to be able to exchange notes with them about which plants can be grown here.

Mood: sad
Speak Your Mind
Friday, 18 April 2014
Friday, 18 April 2014 12:48am
April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I'm not sure whether I've ever been quite this late in arriving to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day before! It couldn't be helped, though. I've been working long hours, spending two and a half to three hours every weekday getting radiation treatments, meeting people for dinner, going on hiking trips, planting new plants, taking pictures of plants . . . how was I supposed to fit in any time for actually posting the pictures and writing about the plants? Especially with as many pictures as I have this month to post and write about . . . the garden is looking quite photogenic right now!

Boston under the pecan tree

Garden pictures galore!Collapse )

Mood: busy
7 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 30 March 2014
Sunday, 30 March 2014 2:15am
Animals in McKinley Park and Discovery Park, Sacramento

On Friday after radiation I stopped at two parks in Sacramento and photographed animals. I didn't exactly plan to photograph animals; I wasn't sure I could count on seeing many animals, so mostly I just planned to photograph the parks. But there turned out to be animals! All sorts of unexpected animals! So animals were what I photographed.

cats and geese

Squirrels! Geese! Magpies! Robins! Cats! Skunks!Collapse )

Mood: cuteness!
7 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 16 March 2014
Sunday, 16 March 2014 1:00am
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's time for March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but the garden doesn't look like any March I've ever seen before. It doesn't look like any month at all that I've ever seen before. For one thing, there've been no baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) at all this year. For another thing, the mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) is starting to bloom more than a month earlier than usual. I assume the strange garden behavior is due to the drought. Should I be concerned about the survival of baby blue eyes all across the state? Well, at least it's a species that gardeners have collected a lot of seeds from.

The plant I've been most excited about this month is glassy onion (Allium hyalinum). My degree of excitement about plants is generally closely related to how difficult it was for me to obtain and successfully grow the plant. Glassy onion is hard to find for sale. I did find it for sale once when I lived at the duplex, and I planted it in little plastic pots, and some tiny seedlings sprouted, and I transplanted them into the ground . . . whereupon they promptly died, as so many plants did when transplanted into the ground at the duplex where there was no drainage. Well, I finally found it for sale again last fall, and this time I planted it in a large ceramic pot on my patio where I decided to plant most of my native bulbs (and a few native non-bulbs) that can't handle any summer water. The pot keeps them away from the sprinklers, and they all seem happy enough to grow together. This is the first one to bloom.

Allium hyalinum (glassy onion)

Other March flowers!Collapse )

Mood: busy
10 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 17 February 2014
Monday, 17 February 2014 7:03pm
Desserts! And Some Gardening

I've been trying a lot of dessert recipes lately. My dinner efforts have subsided (hopefully temporarily) into routine repetition of already familiar recipes, but my desserts have been adventurous. First, a few weeks ago, I tried Claudia Roden's orange almond cake recipe, which is a very strange cake recipe because, first, it does not contain any flour (which means I can serve it to my gluten-free friends!) and second, it does contain two entire oranges . . . including the peels. You're supposed to remove the seeds, but I used homegrown oranges that didn't have any seeds. Also, I substituted homegrown pecans for almonds, so what I made was actually orange pecan cake. It turned out quite well. Grinding the pecans into tiny bits was a lot of work, though. In the future, I should probably just buy pre-ground nuts rather than grinding my own.

orange pecan cake


Next, I followed a recipe called Impossible Pie. The recipe claims that although you just mix all the ingredients together, the "flour will settle to form crust" while the "coconut forms the topping." The different ingredients didn't really look to me like they separated much at all though, nor do they look to me in the pictures online like they separated much for anyone else either. I don't think it deserves to be called either impossible or pie. It turned out to be a perfectly delicious custard, though, and very easy to make.

coconut cream custard


Then yesterday I followed a recipe for Nutella cheesecake, except that as with the orange almond cake recipe, I didn't actually follow it. I substituted a Nutella-equivalent chocolate-almond spread for the chocolate-hazelnut that the recipe called for, and I substituted chopped homegrown pecans for the chopped hazelnuts on top. (I never miss an opportunity to use up some of my pecans.) It turned out extremely well.

nutella cheesecake


I also gardened a bit this weekend. It will be interesting to see what sort of results I get from my garden this spring, considering that I spent all last summer taking obsessively good care of it in anticipation of a backyard wedding, then completely ignored it from late September through late November while dealing with having the wedding called off, managed to pay more attention to it in December when I was starting to feel better again, and then promptly resumed completely ignoring it for the next month and a half due to being diagnosed with breast cancer. And then there's the drought; I provided absolutely no supplemental water, not so much due to eco-consciousness as due to being completely distracted from the garden. Hopefully my two huge 60-year-old trees (pecan and southern magnolia) will forgive me for leaving them to suffer through the drought without help. They seem all right. A few of the smaller plants I put in last summer are dead, but all things considered, the garden is in much better shape (and a lot less hopelessly overrun by weeds) than it easily could be - my December efforts must have helped.

A few of the plants are starting to suspect now that spring is on the way, but they're mostly the non-natives that came with the house. plant pictures!Collapse )

Mood: accomplished
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 10 December 2013
Tuesday, 10 December 2013 11:26pm
Apple-Pecan Cooking Efforts, and One Misguided Carrot-Pecan Cooking Effort

My major cooking theme has now shifted from oranges and pecans to apples and pecans. I need to buy more ingredients, though, because there are several apple-pecan dishes I want to make that I don't have the proper ingredients for. So far I've followed two recipes, one for "nut-filled baked apples" (in the crock-pot) and one for "caramel apple and pecan bread" (in the bread machine). Both are pictured below. I was fairly happy with the the nut-filled baked apples, but not as happy with the bread. My bread machine breads practically all come out denser than I want them to, to one extent or another, and this bread was no exception. I think I need to experiment with shrinking the recipes slightly, because lack of sufficient space in the bread machine might be what's causing the problem.

Caramel Apple and Pecan Bread with Nut-Filled Baked Apples

Diverging from the apple portion of my theme, I pulled up another monstrously humongous carrot from my garden and attempted to make dinner out of it tonight, but things took some unexpected turns. I followed a recipe for carrot salad and somehow accidentally made pasta sauce instead.

The recipe called for a mix of shredded carrots, dill, and raisins topped with a salad dressing made from lemon juice, mustard, honey, garlic, and olive oil. I skipped the dill because it's green, thereby turning this into my perfect idea of salad: one with absolutely no green vegetables whatsoever. And I added toasted pecans because I'm adding pecans to everything until I use up all the homegrown pecans.

However, things went rather wrong with the carrot. I remembered that a month ago I successfully shredded carrots in the blender by cooking them slightly beforehand to soften them up, so I thought I would do that again this time. Unfortunately, this time around I forgot the "slightly" part and cooked the carrot very thoroughly. As a result, when I put it in the blender I got liquefied carrot rather than shredded carrot. So I stirred the liquid carrot into the salad dressing and tried to turn it into carrot-raisin soup. Unfortunately, the lemon juice was way, way too strong for my tastes. So to dilute it to tolerable levels, I used it as a pasta sauce instead. It was actually a fairly decent pasta sauce. I don't think I'd intentionally make it again in quite the same way, but it might be worth experimenting with variations on it.

Mood: creative
Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 7 December 2013
Saturday, 7 December 2013 1:37pm
It Snowed! It Snowed!

It snowed! It snowed! Real snow, not just a large amount of hail that sort of looks like snow, which is somewhat less unheard of here. But real snow! I don't think it's ever before snowed this much at my home in my adult life. It snowed about this much once when I was a kid, and also once in the first winter after I was born. But not since then.

It snowed for about 20 minutes! And then it stopped for about an hour, and I took pictures. And then it rained for about 20 minutes. By the time the rain stopped, the snow was all gone. Then the sun came out, and it hasn't stopped shining brightly ever since.

But look! It snowed on my very own house!

snow in the front yard!

Snow! Snow! More pictures of snow!Collapse )

Mood: ecstatic
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 2 December 2013
Monday, 2 December 2013 7:57pm
Orange-Pecan Cooking Efforts

The theme of my cooking efforts lately is oranges and pecans. It's a particularly appropriate theme for me since I have both a pecan tree and an orange tree in my yard. I didn't go looking for orange-pecan recipes, though; I went looking for pecan recipes, and they turned out to frequently feature oranges. I used homegrown pecans but not homegrown oranges, because none of the ten oranges on my orange tree are ripe yet. Well, and neither of the recipes I tried used actual oranges anyway.

Yesterday I made chicken with orange-pecan rice. This is only a little advanced beyond Rice-a-Roni; it comes from a boxed mix, but rather than following the recipe on the box, I followed a recipe in a cookbook that said to add orange juice, chicken, and pecans, and then bake the result in the oven. It tastes fantastic. (And while you're looking at it, you can admire my new china. I love that it has insects on it.)

chicken with orange-pecan rice


I also started some orange-pecan buns yesterday, and finished them today. I've owned my breadmaker for about eight or nine years now, but this was the first time I've ever used it just on the "dough" cycle and shaped the dough by hand and finished the cooking in the oven. They're filled with a mixture of toasted pecans and orange marmalade; I cut one open to try to show the filling, but you can't actually see much. They're okay, but I was more thrilled by the orange-pecan rice. The marmalade is a bit more sugary than I would have preferred.

orange-pecan buns

Mood: accomplished
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 30 November 2013
Saturday, 30 November 2013 11:44am
Exciting New Household Chores

Today I mowed the lawn for the first time ever! My first time mowing any lawn at all, ever. I'm sure it will be less exciting in future times, but it will probably also be less confusing in future times. I had to stop several times to read the instructions manual to figure out why the mower engine was stopping and refusing to restart.

It's a self-propelled mower, so I still have no idea how much harder it would be with a non-self-propelled mower. But my house is on more than a quarter-acre lot, so it was still a fair amount of work. Midway through the task, I figured out that wearing gloves is extremely helpful for reducing hand fatigue. I also took a five-minute break between the front yard and the back yard, which seemed to really help. And I'm extremely glad that I dug out as much lawn as I did over the past year to install garden beds. The lawn is still huge, but it's a little bit less huge than it started out being.

Immediately after I finished the mowing, I also edged both yards with the weedeater. I've used a weedeater before, but it's been a while, and I found that it was a lot easier than I remembered. The weedeating really required practically no effort at all.

Yesterday I achieved another major first by using my new crock-pot for the first time. I followed a recipe that came with the crock-pot, for barbecue pulled pork. Except I didn't actually bother with much pulling of the pork, and I decided not to make a sandwich out of it as the recipe suggested. Also, the warnings in the crock-pot directions to make sure to always include enough liquid caused me to question whether even the recipes that came with the crock-pot included enough liquid, so I added some apple juice just to be on the safe side.

And then, just to make myself feel like I'd prepared more of a fully developed meal, even though there was already so much food that it's going to take me all weekend to finish the leftovers, I also put together a side dish. A spontaneous side dish without any particular recipe: a red potato and a sweet potato, baked and mashed together with butter and the now-pork-flavored apple juice/barbecue sauce on it. I was pleased with the results. I was also pleased with the way the crock-pot made the entire house food-scented.

I also weeded the garden a bit yesterday, harvested some more pecans, and raked the back lawn in preparation for today's mowing. It's been nearly two months since my fingers were last their normal color; they get permanently stained dark brown or black by pecan juices, and I keep re-staining them every few days, so the stain isn't going to get a chance to wear off until the pecans stop falling.

The pecan curing and storage process doesn't seem to be going as well this year as last year, though. The pecans are supposed to cure for several weeks and then go into storage in the freezer, but some of them seem to rot before I get them into the freezer. I'm not sure why. Last year I didn't have this problem.

I also did one load of dishes and two loads of laundry today, and changed the bedsheets. All this when I also worked half a day of overtime today and another half a day of overtime yesterday.

Jessica is coming over tomorrow afternoon, and I'm hoping to get her help in figuring out where to hang my various pictures on the walls. If I get up early enough, I may also go hiking in the morning before she arrives, probably at Daugherty Hill State Wildlife Area again, just taking a different path than last time. I'm not sure whether I'll end up actually having time for that, but if I do, it would be nice to get a chance to use my new hiking backback with hydration reservoir for the first time.

Stardust seems to be really enjoying being the only cat of the household now. Wherever I go, she's constantly within a few inches of me and usually purring very loudly. Right now I'm on the couch, so she's sitting behind my head. She's made it very clear that she does not believe in sitting on the actual seat of the couch, ever. She always sits behind my head. Then if I don't pay enough attention to her, she squeaks plaintively directly into my ear until I pet her. Then she starts purring again.

Mood: accomplished
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