Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring bliss

Why I love spring in the Pac NW:

Storms, especially lightning storms.  They're rare here and seldom have ground strikes, so I consider them lovely rather than something that's terribly hazardous like they might be in other parts of the world.  

Those sudden, blustery winds and downpours followed by sun and rainbows.  If they're fast and hard enough, sometimes I can smell the ocean in the westerlies.

The contrast of dark-bellied clouds and bright blue sky.

Glorious heat to bask in one day, sweet coolness the next.

Flowers everywhere!

The first flights of bees at my tiny heather blossoms and pussywillow blooms.

Daylight stretching and opening up so fast it seems unreal.  We'll be gaining over an hour of daylight in a single month.

New leaves.  Bright greens, yellows, pinks, reds, purples, sometimes draped like lace, sometimes sharp and clean, always beautiful.

And I love spring fever.  Even the goats kick up their heels and dance in the field.

I love spring.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I had a big weekend, thanks in part to the boy and the girl.  Much gardening was accomplished by all, and man am I sore.  No one got sunburned, though.

Beans are in, broccoli is in, beets are in, radishes and turnips are in, we have borage planted at the ends of rows to attract bees, and we harvested some rhubarb in the process of cutting off flower heads.  I heard from someone that they have rhubarb that never flowers.  Must be nice.  Mine seem to always want to, but I foil their sexy plans as much as possible.

Also, big excitement (I know, I'm such a plant nerd) in the asparagus patch.  I've finally had my first good-sized spear come up.  Will I cut it?  Heck no!  I probably could, but these darned asparag--uh, asparagi?  Asparaguses?  Asparagus plants have been struggling for years, and I want them to get so big and strong that they become pests.

Looks like it'll be a good year for peaches, cherries, apples, pears, Asian pears, and marionberries (yum!)

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the garden will do this year.

Still to plant:  The darned tomatoes, eggplant and peppers I've been potting up, zucchini, cucumbers, sunflowers, plus some ornamentals and herbs I've started from seed.  It should be a big and fun garden this year, assuming our weather cooperates.  My soil is at about 60F.  Really, really good.  It's just a bit too cool for squashes and cukes, cooler than I like for tomatoes, and way too cold for peppers.  I'll try the eggplant about the same time as the tomatoes.  The peppers will have to wait.

So, I'm curious.  Am I pretty much the only person who goes out to the garden with a meat thermometer?

Friday, April 27, 2012

An Observation by Captain Obvious

More simple food:

When I'm not being lazy, I take lunch to work.  I was lazy for a long time, and I put on a lot of weight.  I didn't make the connection simply because my body's default is to gain weight regardless of what's going on.  Weekend off?  Weight gain.  Working seven days in a row?  Weight gain.  Visiting relatives, taking the animals to the vet for boosters, reading about food ... yep.  Weight gain.  I even gain weight when I start a new workout regimen.  For real.  (There's actually an explanation for that--I put on muscle much faster than I lose fat.  I have my father's super-athlete genes, and it's a good thing.  Once the muscle is on, assuming that I keep on working out, I burn fat faster at that point.)

Anyway, I just assumed I was gaining weight because I changed shampoos or something.  But it turns out it was the soup I had at lunch every day.  I tried to pick the lower calorie ones, and I always bought the smallest bowl.

Well, ladies and gents, I started bringing homemade soup to work and voila!  Weight loss.  I doubt that my soups have fewer calories than the store ones.  But they don't have a ton of salt, or added sugar, or any preservatives except what is found in the one tiny bouillon cube I put in.

Most people would probably find my soup gross, but here's the recipe anyway.  It's tasty enough (to me) that I can eat it every day.

A couple handfuls of frozen normandy mix veggies (less if you buy the veggie mixes with smaller chunks--I use the Kirkland brand which has big pieces.)
2-ish cups of water -- please don't measure.  Have some pride!  Eyeball what's going to fit in your soup bowl with all the veggies figured in and go with that.  The veggies don't have to be covered.
2-3 medium or large frozen ravioli--I like spinach and cheese.  Use more if they're small.
Dill to taste
Garlic to taste
Salt to taste (watch out! the bouillon cube has lots.  I use a small pinch)
1 bouillon cube (I favor chicken)

Put in the water, cube, veggies and seasonings and let it heat up a bit.  A few minutes later (mine usually hasn't started to boil yet) add the frozen ravioli.  

I top it with cottage cheese.  Seriously.  That's the part that my family and coworkers think is gross, but it is awesome.  The effect is similar to tortilla soup where they put in cheese and sour cream.  Same flavor family.

Regardless of what you eat, I think if it's more or less fresh and more or less homemade, you'll be better off.  You have to know that when they make soups and stuff in a factory setting, they watch the quality but they'll throw in stuff that's 'good enough' that you might, given your own choice, toss out.  Cooking my own food gives me lots more control over what I eat.  It makes my inner control freak very happy, happy enough that one of these days I really ought to try making big batches of chicken broth for the freezer so I don't have to rely on the bouillon cube thingy.  It's tasty, but I have to not think about what quality of chicken (and what parts) they used to make it.  Ick!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Silly Farm Stuff

Cute mental picture of the day, if you like chickens.

Beatrice, the buff orpington, and Sophie, the silver lace wyandotte, excited about strawberries.

I had about five strawberries leftover whose skins were starting to get dark and they were becoming unappetizing.  Not to the chickens, though!  They spear them and then run around with the strawberries stuck to their beaks before shaking them off.

Beatrice wasn't as thrilled as Sophie, for whatever reason.  She kept checking out different strawberries, as if hoping that the promise of all that red wonderfulness would pan out to something bigger.  She kept reacting to eating a bite with an expression I swear said, "Really?  That's it?"

I've been getting only one egg a day.  Comparing eggs, it looks like the biddies are alternating.  They both seem healthy.  I think it's the on-again, off-again weather.  After a couple of days in the 70s and 80s, we're back to the 60s and rain.

My tomatoes were terribly disappointed.  Their leaves looked very disapproving when I checked on them this morning.  Maybe even judgmental, as if the rain were my fault.  If they could have pointed at me, I'm sure they would have.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Exercise--It's not just for Brains

I'm thick in the middle (gawd, I hope I'm at least halfway done!) of the new Masks cover.  I like it a lot better already.  The tablet I got for cover-making is working very, very well.  It makes the process tons easier.  And, unlike what they say about old bitc-er, dogs, I am learning some new tricks.

As kewl as all this artmaking is, it's exhausting.  Like writing, art is a serious strain on the ol' muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, brain--everything.  Unlike most other physically demanding thingies, though, the way to take a break is not to put your feet up and have a cookie.  (Darnit, now I want a cookie!)  The best thing is to go for a walk, or a jog, or hiking, or swimming, or really pretty much anything that involves the big muscle groups for a change.

So, after being bad some more and typing here, I'm going to practice what I preach and take a little walkie in my garden.  Heck, I might even put on my good walking shoes and take the dogs for a walk.

Hmm.  Three dogs, one person ....

Maybe I'll just take me for a walk.

Evening Update:  I think I'm close to finishing the Masks cover.  I could use about three more days off to finish all the covers I'm backlogged on, but then if I got them all in a row, my backside would be really, really flat.  Even with frequent walkies.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sophie's in a Snit

Sophie, our little silver-laced wyandotte hen, was being especially poopyheaded today.  As the animals are my sole responsibility for much of this month, I decided to scrub all the water containers during the last moments of daylight and fill them with fresh water.  You'd think my biddies would appreciate this.  Sophie, not so much.  As soon as she saw me with their self-filling waterer, she started giving me 'tude, mainly in the form of stretching her neck and snaking her head side-to-side.  Then, when I turned my back to open the gate, bang!  Both feet and a bill, right into the back of my calf.  "Hey!" I yelled at her.  Bang! again.  I managed to get out and clean out the water container.  On the way back, I noticed she was waiting for me, so I set the waterer down.  As I came in the gate I scooped her up.  As usual, she submitted (cutely, btw) by crouching down and spreading her wings a little.  I petted her for a bit before I went out, picked up the waterer and carried them both back in.
Beatrice was happy with the fresh water, and sampled a bit.  Sophie started giving me 'tude again!  So I menaced her with my shoe.  She didn't peck it, but maybe I'll have her trained like we trained our old rooster.  He hated shoes and boots so much, he attacked them rather than our tender legs.
Silly Sophie.  I think she's laying kinda sporadically, too.  Tomorrow I'll set out some crushed oyster shells, and maybe I'll get them some sunflower seeds.  They might be getting deficient in something.  And if that doesn't fix her temperament, I'll know she's definitely deficient in one major area:  Manners.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A good day's work, plus dessert

Just finished editing (as finished as any writer is with editing, anyway--I'm sure something else will occur to me in the morning) Confidante, the sequel to Masks.  It always feels good to come to the end of a book, but then I want to start right away on the next one.  It doesn't matter if it's a first draft, an edit, a revision, whatever.  Same feeling.

We've had gorgeous weather, which makes me feel more tired after dark.  What's with that?  It's not yet 10pm local time and I'm ready for my hot bath and then a nice long snooze.

For those of you not allergic to strawberries:

I got a big pack of strawberries on sale the other day.  My favorite way of having them is to slice them up, put a little sugar on them (like, 1/2 a tsp), and then wait a couple of minutes for them to release some nice, red, sweet liquidy syrupy stuff that I'm sure there's a technical term for that I don't know.  That's the time to put either cream or ice cream on them.  Yum!  I had a bowl for dessert today.  Delicious.  And the best part?  Normally to feel sated I like to have two big scoops of ice cream.  With the strawberries, which aren't nearly as bad for me as ice cream, it took less than a quarter cup of ice cream and I was happy.  Healthier, yummier than just plain ice cream, and fewer calories.  Can't beat it; guess I'll have to eat it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Every Possible Combination

I haven't done a mean post about customers lately. See? I can be good! Except I had one the other day that I just can't resist being mean about.

She came in and let me know she was from out of state, which apparently in her language is code for don't hassle me with my return. (Now now, don't have too much fun guessing what her home state is. Be nice!) Whatevs, it's not like returns bother me unless they're clearly user-damaged and/or a form of free rental. Anyway, she puts a headlamp, like the kind you'd wear in a cave, and a very sticky hummingbird feeder--the easy fill kind--on the counter. "This doesn't work and this leaks," she told me. "I just want another headlamp, but the hummingbird feeder is my mom's and she decided she just wants her money back."

"What's wrong with the headlamp?" I ask, truly and purely innocent.
"It doesn't work."
"Maybe the batteries are dead. Here, let me test them." I start to open it up.
"Actually, I think they put in the wrong ones. Both of them are positive, and it needs one positive and one negative battery."
Luckily she didn't notice my eyes popping out of my head. I put them back in discretely. "Maybe we can try flipping one of them over," I suggest very, very gently, trying not to fall over and roll around on the ground laughing. And I feel bad for wanting to laugh, because seriously, lots and lots and lots of perfectly fine and smart people do just fine without knowing the first thing about batteries and how they work. But ... still. I would have laughed if I wasn't trying to figure out a way to help her without embarrassing her.
"Oh no," she said. "I tried that. I tried every possible combination and it still doesn't work."
"Okay," I said. "I'll tell you what. I'll test the batteries to see if one or both of them are dead, and you can go get another headlamp. Okay?"
"Okay. I'll want to test it first to see if it works."
"I don't blame you. We can do that."
So she leaves and true to my word, I test the batteries. And they are whack the top green, fully charged. I put one of them + side up, and the other I flip over. They're the flat kind with the rough bellies, so the stamp showing what pole is what is only stamped on one side. I close her up, click, and voila! There is light.
It's like magic. Seriously.
I knew then that the hummingbird feeder was perfectly and utterly fine. I bet that when they put it together after they filled it, one of three things happened. They put the gasket and the washer/bar thingie (see? I don't know what it's called but I'm not stupid!) in the wrong order, they misthreaded it when they put it together, or they either forgot to set the bar to 'feed' or put it together in such a way that the feed/fill bar were in the wrong place and couldn't be adjusted.
Was I going to say crap to her? Heck no! That would be truly stupid.
"Hey," I said when she came back. "I fixed it!"
"How'd you do that?" she asked, amazed.
"I flipped one of the batteries over. Do you want to see?"
"No, thanks."
"Did you want the new one instead?"
"No," she said, hopefully pleased that I was giving her power of choice and treating her like the good customer she was, "if it works I want it." She took the headlamp and clicked it on and off several times to satisfy herself.
We did the return on the hummingbird feeder, and she went on her merry way. And that's when I realized that she had said something kinda dumb.
She'd tried every possible combination, she'd said.
Sorry, dear. You should know better.
But again, to her credit, I have this terrible fear of electronic things blowing up if I put them together wrong. She may have been afraid of shorting it out or something if she put one of the batteries in upside-down. I don't blame her.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Weather Whiner

Here I am, suffering at our local McMenamins, eating fish and chips and trying out a new drinkie. (Bourbon Furnace--recommended as a nice alternative to a hot buttered rum or hot toddy if you like hot, sweet drinks with a little zip, which I do.) I've made quite a bit of progress on Confidante and I'm excited about re-releasing Masks with a new cover at the same time Confidante comes out. My DH is reading weird and funny facebook quotes to me. Life is good.

Life is also, apparently, cold. They (and we know they're all liars!) said that there would be some clearing today with an occasional shower. Well. My tomatoes and I are quite disappointed. They're all inside where it's relatively snuggly and warm, though I was shivering most of the day even with an extra pair of socks on, but the lack of light is going to make them all spindly and unhappy.

I know, I know. This is the Pacific NW. The weather doesn't really start to turn nice until June. Also also, we've had some very nice days, for which I should be grateful. I am. But really, isn't it kinda hard when you get a nice atta boy at work and then get yelled at for the rest of the week?

At least the rain doesn't stress me out, and I don't get depressed. But I do get whiny (obviously) and I'm tired of whining.

I'll still do a wee bit more, though.

I wanted to go fishing todaaaaaaay! Wah!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jay Lake

Just a quick note before I run out of battery power. Jay Lake had an article written about him in the Sunday Oregonian. There's an e-version on oregonlive. This is a great and very personal story about a smart guy and excellent writer. I hope this brings more exposure to his books. They're very strange and often dark, even horrific, but well worth your time if you don't mind fiction that makes you feel a little grimy afterward. But not grimy in a bad way. In that good way, like when I watch Brazil, or read 1984.

I hope the news re: Jay's liver is very, very good. He'll be updating his blog, which is entertaining, challenging at times, beautiful at others, and always readable. You can link to Lakeshore from my sidebar.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cover Art--I love my tablet!

I love my Bamboo Create. It has hugely improved my ability to manipulate GIMP. And yes, btw, I didn't have to do anything special for the tablet to talk to GIMP. Essentially, the tablet and little pen thingy (I'm so technically advanced!) work just like my mouse and my pad on my laptop and all that. In fact, I can switch between them quickly and smoothly, using whichever gets me where I'm going the quickest and/or the best.

I'm never sure how effective my covers are, but this was definitely the most technically difficult project I've done. The Masks cover (which I plan to redo pretty soon) involved a lot of repetitive, detailed activity, especially with the filigree on the dark half of the mask. This cover had many, many more layers and employed some skills and tools that I simply didn't have when I did the Masks cover.

Anyway, here it is. This, btw, will be an awesome, awesome anthology. It's not available yet. I'm sure it'll be all over Facebook and stuff when it goes live.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Free the Bird!

I have an excuse for not posting in a long time. No, really. And it's not that I've been working non-stop at my day job, although sometimes it feels just like that. I haven't even been sucked into garden-world, though I did rototill a bit during the good weather, opening up some more ground for the planting that will be coming soon (I hope!)

My Bamboo tablet came in, and I'm learning how to play with it. In the name of learning how to work with the stylus, I played a few rounds of Free the Bird. Man, is it addictive. And cute! OMG it's so cute. And in a couple of minutes I'm going to be searching around online to see if there are additional levels available, because apparently ten is not enough for me.

I'm so bad.

Anyway, I haven't tried the tablet with GIMP yet, but I'll be doing that very soon. Really. Just as soon as I find out about Free the Bird.

Because sometimes, ten levels of cute simply isn't enough.

Update: Wah. No additional levels seem to be available. Heart broken. Tears falling. Back to work, I guess. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiigggggggghhhhhhh