Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bad Day, Good Day

Yesterday was a bad day. Depression reared its ugly head and stole all my motivation and self-discipline, leaving me to binge-watch Netflix and knit all day. The only up-side is that I took a shower, got most of the way through a knitting project, and took a picture of Kira being cute:

Today is going a bit better. So far I've cleaned the litterboxes, started laundry and dishes, unpacked a shipment of fabric, and... baked! Last time I was at Aldi I picked up a bag of nectarines on a whim. I'm usually reluctant to buy fresh produce or meat because using it requires mental energy I can't count on having before the stuff spoils, and I did lose four of these nectarines to mold before I got around to opening the bag, but there were enough left to make this slightly over-filled galette:

I cheated with the pie crust, because butter and I have never gotten along in a pastry context, but Jiffy's pie crust mix works just fine. Now for the hard part: waiting until it cools before digging in!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Conditioned Air

I hate air conditioners. They're noisy, inefficient, expensive, bulky beasts, and I don't own any (technically I suppose there's one in my car, but it hasn't worked since I bought the vehicle, so it doesn't count). When it's warm, I close all the windows, and draw the curtains on the sunny side of the house, letting insulation do the rest (downstairs, the temp stays under 70 even on 90-degree days). As the temperature drops in the evening, I open a downstairs window on the shady side of the house, then open an upstairs window on the sunny side, and put a box fan in the upstairs window, blowing out. It draws cool air up through the house, doesn't use much electricity, doesn't make a ton of noise (and it becomes white noise because it's constant instead of stopping and starting every few minutes), and takes two seconds to install or remove.

At work, though, it's a different story. I wasn't pleased when I saw the bosses' son installing an AC unit in the tiny window in shipping a while back, and figured I wouldn't use it. Boy, was I wrong. Shipping is the hottest part of the facility, being a single-story addition on the south side of the building, and there are no fans available to do what I do at home, pulling cool air from other parts of the building and blowing it out on the hot side, so I end up using the air conditioning a lot more than I thought I would.

One of my coworkers, who covers for me in shipping when I'm on vacation or out sick, runs a lot hotter than I do, and when she was in shipping all day Monday, she set the AC's thermostat to 65 degrees. When things started to get toasty (and humid, which is the bigger problem) yesterday, I turned on the AC, noticed the temperature setting, and immediately put it back where I like it: 74F. That's the point where I'm still a little warm, but walking from shipping to the stockroom (where there's no climate control at all) isn't a huge shock. I hate that wall of hot or cold air as I pass from one zone to another, so I try to keep shipping as warm as I can while still being comfortable.

Now if only I could convince stores to do the same. Leaving the grocery store today, going from 65F to 85F as I crossed the threshold, I instantly broke out in a sweat, and it took 20 minutes of velocity-based cooling (half of my drive home with the windows down) before I was comfortable again. A few degrees higher in the store wouldn't make a huge difference to the food, but it would make a difference to shoppers as they leave the store, not to mention the store's electric bill... but I guess that makes too much sense.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Good War

When one "plays" in the SCA (something like medieval reenactment), there are a few different tracks one can follow to attain prestige: one can serve (helium-handed volunteers favor this track), focus on studies (known as Arts & Sciences or simply "A&S"), or pursue champion status in one (or more) of several martial styles (heavy, fencing, archery, thrown weapons, equestrian, or siege warfare). The martial path is extremely popular, to the point where most events feature at least one-on-one bouts for points and glory, and frequently giant melees where armies of fighters attack or defend some ideal or property. You know you're around SCAdians when someone says, "have a good war!" before an event.

This weekend was the Great Northeastern War in Hebron, Maine, and it was, indeed, a good war. I don't pay attention to any of the means of attaining status that people who "play" follow, but my patch on Merchants Row, which happens to be between the fighting fields and the showers, lets me see fighters on their way to and from battle, and I saw a lot of smiling faces going both ways. The weather was lovely, apart from an hour-long thunderstorm Saturday afternoon, but even that happened at just the right time, when people were either in the barn attending Court, or back at their camps taking a nap before dinner.

My personal goals for events like this are generally threefold: did I earn enough to cover my expenses, did I get to hug all the friends I wanted to hug, and did I get enough sleep. That last one is the only part where I fell short this time, but it was more than made up for by the beautiful moon I stayed up late to admire last night.

This morning, I packed up my slightly damp tent and thoroughly saturated awnings, along with the rest of my gear, and made the four-hour drive home. I unloaded the Jeep, put in a fabric order because this event nearly cleaned me out of arming caps, and then dragged all the canvas out to the back yard, set up my firepit, pulled out some knitting, and decompressed for a few hours while the canvas dried enough to avoid mildew when packed back into its giant plastic tub.

It was a very good war, and I'm glad to be home. I'm also glad I had the foresight to take tomorrow off work so I didn't have to scramble to do laundry, dishes, and cooking tonight. Experience has taught me that I need a little down-time before easing back into mundane life after a few days away. I'm going to savor it, and then throw myself back into work on Tuesday.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Call Me Cordelia

Call me a curmudgeon (and a purist, and a pedant, among other things), but I'm halfway through the first episode of Anne With An E, the Netflix "reboot" of Anne of Green Gables, and already there's plenty to gripe about. From Marilla's leather belt (chosen, I imagine, to play up her utilitarian preferences, but it looks like it came straight from a renfaire) to Anne's PTSD flashbacks (her previous caretakers' treatment of her was hinted at in the book, but never mentioned after that, yet the series makes it a focal point), the exaggeration of Anne's selfishness and vanity and Marilla's coldness (taking nuanced, three-dimensional characters and rendering them flat and trite), the ham-handed way the writers shoehorned in a new scene to serve as a turning point in Marilla's respect for Anne, the use of an over-decorated sapling prop where a large old cherry tree should be... it's all giving me fits.

I didn't have high hopes for this series ("reboot" culture is an issue in and of itself, but this particular story is especially dear to me), and while it's not nearly as bad as Reign, it doesn't live up to its predecessor. I'll take Colleen Dewhurst and Megan Follows over this any day.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sweet Experiments

Today is one of those not-even-remotely-going-to-plan kind of days. The rain prevents my mowing the lawn, my brain prevents me doing the work I should be doing in shop and studio, but there's still an impulse to do something, even if it's not what I ought to be doing. So what am I doing? Tinkering, that's what.

At work (which, for those I haven't told, is Halladay's Harvest Barn), one of our product lines is "cheesecake" mixes -- sugar and flavoring that one mixes with equal parts cream cheese and whipped cream to make a no-bake mock cheesecake. They're delicious, but there's only so much cheesecake a gal can eat, and I'm trying to devise other ways of using the product, since I have access to so much of it. The ladies in production give me all the leftovers (quantities too small to package at the end of a batch), and I bring home all the damaged product I end up with in shipping (the way we store the product can sometimes puncture the bags, making for a sweet, sticky, powdery mess), so there's a growing pile of "seconds" on my kitchen counter.

Yesterday's experiment was chia pudding. If you like the texture of tapioca and don't mind the subtle nutty crunch of the chia seeds, you might try chia pudding. It's dead easy to make, and, as it turns out, the cheesecake mixes work wonderfully with it. A scant cup of milk, three tablespoons of chia seeds, and a tablespoon of any of the cheesecake mixes go into a bowl and then into the fridge. Stir every so often to prevent clumping, letting it chill for at least a few hours if not overnight, and you've got a tasty (and fairly healthy) dessert.

The experiment on the stove right now is a version of rice pudding -- no egg, no baking, just three cups of milk and a third of a cup of rice simmering in a saucepan for a while and a quarter-cup of sugar and a splash of vanilla mixed in at the end. I'm going to try one of the cheesecake mixes instead of the sugar and vanilla and see what happens. I predict I'll eat the whole batch in one sitting, as usually happens when I make rice pudding. I really ought to adjust the recipe so a batch is a more appropriate serving size, but I haven't gotten around to that yet, so there'll be a tummyache along with it... but happy taste buds.

My other idea, untested as yet, is to substitute one of the cheesecake mixes for some of the sugar in my icebox cookies. I don't quite have the energy to make the attempt just yet, but maybe it'll come to me sometime over this long weekend.

What would you do with flavored sugar? I'd love some new ideas.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Impending Weather

Get out of work early on a hazy Friday afternoon, and wonder if I should mow the lawn.

Nope. It'll be here before I finish, and I don't fancy getting soaked trying to put the mower away.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sibling Rivalry

When I first got my cats, they were close as could be. They had each other, and they had me, and all was right with the world. After a while, we moved in with two other cats, both about as unsociable as could be, and my girls still had each other and me, so everything was fine as long as nobody pissed off the other cats. We moved back to my childhood home for a few years, where my girls were kept apart from the two resident cats in order to avoid squabbling, and that mostly worked.

When we moved back to Vermont, though, the dynamic began to change. We had a sociable cat to share the new house with, as well as another cuddly human (my now-ex-husband). I'm not sure if Kira and Maeve decided that there were things in life worth fighting each other for, or if they got used to having someone to look down on (my ex's cat was the baby of the group, and utterly submissive), but after my ex and his cat moved out, my girls were suddenly not friends with each other anymore.

They'd fight over cuddle time with me, they'd fight over prime napping or bird-watching spots, they'd fight over darned near anything, despite the fact that the house is big enough for them each to have several rooms worth of territory that don't overlap with the other's. I played referee every so often, but knew they had to work it out for themselves.

It's been a few years now, and while things aren't back to the way they used to be, they're better. Kira still throws a yowling fit if Maeve claims my lap first, and they don't cuddle or groom each other the way they did when they were little, but they can be next to each other without it ending in hissing.

That said, there's still some tension. This may look cozy, but those paws are engaged in some passive-aggressive behavior. One pushes the other to say, "this space is mine," and the other pushes back to say, "no, it isn't." Sometimes this is as far as it goes, but other times it'll progress to paws on faces, and then one or both will realize it's about to get dangerous, and beat a hasty retreat.

Still, they're both on my lap, and they're not hissing at each other, so I call it a win.