Golden Brown Treats

My mum's yellow lab, Jag, tucking himself under my desk. What a cutie!
My dad decided to make bagels for the first time. They were horrible. I volunteer to dispose of them in a safe and sanitary way. ;)


Post Christmas Breather

Needless to say, I've been a bit busy lately.

As usual, work is challenging. Here's a photo of a column that was poured too tall and needed to be jackhammered down to the proper height. Time consuming and expensive? Yes.

One thing you may not know, however, is that I decided to learn to SCUBA dive. I had to do some book studying and some swimming and treading water prep, then a couple of pool dives for my confined water portion of the certification. Next weekend, when I go to Key West (for a wedding and a birthday party), I'll do the open water part of the certification. It's fun and a little scary. I'll make sure to give a good description of how it goes.

Then there's the usual holiday preparations: decorations, presents, etc. Christmas went great. Everyone loved their presents. The food was good. The house isn't as clean as I would have liked it, considering I have house guests, but hey - I'm working on it.

All in all it's been a busy busy month and I'm very happy with where I am and what I'm doing.

PS: Oh, yeah, and I've been seeing someone very nice for about the last 6 weeks. Thanks for trying to out me at the beginning of December, guys!


Another Picture and a Fun Quote

This is the coolest picture I could find from last week's site visit. It shows that we are working on the "3rd lift" of the elevator and stair core, which is made of concrete. There should be approximately 32 "lifts". 10% done, w00t!

And I saw this on a friend's email:

"A positive attitude may not solve all your
problems, but it will annoy enough people
to make it worth the effort" - Herm Albright


Quote for Me

"At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived."
- Rose Macaulay

My dear sister sent me the above quote. I think it's both lovely and true.


Damn big tank

I know some of you are really broken up about the dearth of construction photos lately, so here's a progress post.
A detention tank is where the storm water goes before being dumped into the storm drain system. It regulates the flow of water so that if we have a big storm, the system doesn't get overloaded with water.
The picture above shows them covering over the building's detention tank with gravel. The gravel is a slightly different color than the dirt, so you can see the extent of the tank. I'll see if I can find the volumetric size, but the description in the documents says 2 tanks, 66" diameter, 78 linear feet each.
You can get a feel for the scale of the project by the munchkins working on the job.



This has been a good year for a lot of things, but not for noveling.
Oh well.
I've been having some good fun lately that have prevented me from blogging or NaNoveling regularly. This weekend, for example, could have been spent virtuously laboring, but instead I went up to a friend's cabin in the mountains and hung out and snowboarded and whatnot. It was not my usual weekend thing, and that was a very good thing. I had lots of fun and was not at all virtuous.
Yay! It's about time! I've been working too much of late. I've been noticing a need for ever more frequent stress-relief.
If that means I won't "win" NaNoWriMo this year, then so be it.


On the Stove Again

...Just can't wait to get on the stove again...

I was trying to use up stuff in the fridge and made this delightful concoction:
1 red bell pepper
handful of snap peas
some carrots, chopped
handful of mushrooms, sliced
Sauteed in butter until they are tender-crisp.
Add some freshly cooked spinach linguini and some pasta herbs (oregano, basil, etc.)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Just before serving sprinkle on some feta cheese.



Busy Times

For those who know of my phone related woes -- hopefully they're over. I went to Verizon and got a new phone (pictured at left). Let's keep our fingers crossed on this.
The family (parents and tios) have come and gone. It was a great little break in the routine. We went on the Pike's Peak Cog Railway and visited Manitou Springs, Estes Park, and Rocky Mountain Park. We had dinner with extended family and ate out at some very good restaurants.
In all, it was wonderful.
They left early on Tuesday and I had asked for all of Tuesday off, so I decided to go snowboarding in the afternoon. I just went up to Loveland Basin, since I was concerned about my knee, full of trepidation. Turns out I had a perfectly lovely time. I got up there in 45 minutes, someone gave me their lift ticket in the parking lot (I lost it somewhere on the mountain, but that didn't matter, since I was already past the point that they were checking for lift tickets), I had zero problems with the knee. That's not to say I didn't fall down a lot. Somehow I'm still as novice a boarder as I ever was. I boarded for about 2 hours, and on the way back home stopped at Costco, where I saw they had The Complete Calvin and Hobbes for $80. Seeing as it's $100 on Amazon, I experienced a rare moment of allowed impluse buying and got it on the spot. I've been working my way through it, and it's all as delightful as I remember.
So you see, I had a good day.
Yesterday I went to see a couple of funky bands at Herman's Hidaway with my friend Kat. She's a lot of fun, and I'm really glad I went, but I'm also glad I got to spend nearly the whole day at home (see previous mention of a visit to Verizon's store).

The only downside to all this fun I've been having is that I haven't been very diligent about writing for NaNoWriMo. Let's see what I can do about that, shall we?

In the meantime, you can read this lovely excerpt on words by John Scalzi from a book he's working on. I can guarantee you that most, if not all, writers have felt this way at one time or another.


Accomplishing Much

This weekend, my lovely brother and sister and brother-in-law came over to help me finish project 2, painting the exterior window trim. It looks great, takes years off the age of the house. Like Botox! Then, my wonderful friends, JR and Stacey, came over to feed us dinner. The best thing is that two out of the three projects are done. The third, window coverings, is well begun. I decided upon cellular shades and ordered them from Home Depot. It cost more than I had hoped, but I didn't splurge on much, just cordless shades in the bedroom (where the cats would be tempted to play with cords) and "blockout" shades in the bedroom (where I might want to sleep during the day, when I'm sick or whatever). I don't know if they'll arrive in time though. I spent too long trying to decide what I wanted.

In addition, I went out for Halloween with some friends. It was a lot of fun. Ego boosting, for sure. I went as Miss America and was recognised everywhere I went. It's nice to be a celebrity.

This morning I goofed off for the first time in a while, then worked on my "apprenticeship" paperwork, which I have to do before being allowed to take the Architectural Registration Exams [yip-ee]. I feel pretty prepared for my performance review tomorrow.

And lastly:
I have discovered, to my disgust, that the copy of The Count of Monte Christo is *abridged*. [shudder] I shall have to see about replacing it with a more legit copy.


First Snow in Denver

The site yesterday afternoon...


NaNoveling Time!

It's two weeks until November and I'm starting to gear up mentally for National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who don't know the routine, this is an annual writing marathon (of sorts). Participants all pledge to write a "novel" of 50,000 words in 30 days (November). Fifty thousand words is a book about 100 pages long -- shorter than most novels, but longer than a novelette. It doesn't have to be good -- actually, the point is that it forces you to write more quickly than you might if you were not on a deadline. It's a way of bypassing the internal editor. There's no published book at the end -- just the pleasure of crossing the finish line and the accolades of your friends, family, and fellow participants.
I have participated in this for the last couple years. The first year, 2004, I succeeded in finishing a novel about a female bounty hunter in space. I think it was a little cliched and the story quality didn't hold up at the end as I tried to force it into the plot mold I had figured out beforehand. The second year, 2005, I did not succeed. I started a novel about a poor, blue-collar couple dealing with the sudden discovery that a whole world of magic exists behind the everyday world. I had to give up shortly after the halfway mark with only 20K words. Work was a priority over the novel, and to prove it, I checked my timesheets. I worked 55 hours per week for the remaining weeks in November. I reread that beginning of a novel again a couple months ago and was pretty pleased with the concept and the characters. I think it was better than the year before, mainly because I was getting used to the idea of the characters running the story. I didn't keep such a tight hold on the story or plot.
This time, I'm going to go even looser. I've been having some trouble with writer's block, mostly because I've been taking writing too seriously. I've decided to treat this "novel" as a creative playground. No plot necessary, just a main character (probably modeled on myself to begin with) and the same world I used in the previous NaNovel half fantasy, half reality. There are no rules except that I have fun. And no one else will read it. That way, I won't feel restricted to what people might expect from me. I might find a few excerpts that can be made public -- in fact, I know I will, since there is an excerpt opportunity on my NaNo profile. I'll put it on the sidebar so you all can find it if you like. Look for the writer "tattoo" and click on it.
Don't worry about missing out on any of the fun. Because I spend so much of my "free time" in front of the computer during this month, you'll be seeing more posts from me, not less.

Thier slogan this year: "National Novel Writing Month: Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon." It's definitely the appropriate sentiment.

[dances a jig] This is going to be fun! :)


Baba Gha-"No Thanks"

I thought I would like Baba Ghanoush. It's made from eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parley, salt & pepper. The reason I thought I would like it is the tahini, which is made from sesame, which I love.
Turns out I don't like it. It's watery and bland and pretty much an excuse to eat a pita chip -- and who needs that? Maybe it's the brand (Blue Moose of Boulder), but I'm not seeing a heck of a lot of reasons to keep trying it.
Sorry, gods of multi-culturalism, but I'm not digging it.


Productivity is Good

I have to be really productive this weekend, because in three weeks, my aunt and uncle are visiting Denver. They will see my house and my life in Denver for the first time and I want to make a good impression.
Trouble is, the house needs to be cleaned and I have at least three projects I wanted to get done before they came. (It used to be a lot more!) I have a lot to do and I have two weekends in which to do it. Next weekend I'll be out of town, so it's this weekend and the one right before they come. In the evenings I'm too pooped, though I'll probably be able to do some cleaning.
So, what did I do today? I worked on cleaning the windows (almost finished, but ran out of Windex), did laundry and dishes, waterproofed the deck (one of the projects), and am working on finances and A.R.E. paperwork. Tomorrow I plan to grocery shop so I can finish cleaning the windows, more laundry, work on stripping window trim - and if I'm lucky painting trim (project 2) - and repainting the basement. The following weeks and weekend can be for cleaning.

Wish me luck!


Review: Buenos Aires Grill

I've gone to this grill's older sibling, Buenos Aires Pizzaria, multiple times. The empanadas are great, the gnocchi fresh, and the pizzas delicious. The service can sometimes be slow, but when you go to a Latin restaurant, you can't expect Germanic precision.

The Buenos Aires Grill, at 2191 Arapahoe St., is beautiful. The ambiance is elegant and there is a gorgeous courtyard. When we arrived at 6:30 pm, the maitre'd gave us an inexplicable caution about making a reservation next time. Inexplicable because the only seating that was mostly full was the courtyard seating. Granted, it was a gorgeous evening and we preferred to sit out there, but it wasn't a requirement. Later in the evening the inside tables were mostly full, but goodness gracious, no need to lecture.

Anyway, I really shouldn't have gone to what is, in essence, a steakhouse when I am trying to eat vegetarian. (I just feel like I shouldn't be eating the flesh of animals at the moment, no biggie.) The steaks were very tempting. But, I managed to resist, mainly through the enticement of a delicious sounding "Butternut squash and walnut ravioli in a cream Roma sauce." It was delicious. I finished with thier divine dulce de leche helado, which I had eaten before at the pizzaria, and made all my dinner companions jealous. I'd describe what my dinner companions ate, but I didn't hear (or taste) what salad they shared and they got the ravioli the same as I did. Yes, we all had the same dish. Sad, eh?

The prices were ok, commensurate with the caliber of the the food and the ambiance. The service was decent as well. My water was filled promptly (avoiding one of my pet peeves). The empty plates were bussed in a reasonable amount of time.

I might prefer the pizzaria slightly, since it's more affordable, but the grill is perfect for a special night. I recommend it and definitely plan to return.


DAM, that's a fine building

I went to the new wing of the Denver Art Museum during thier opening weekend and all I have to say is "Wow!"

Ok, I have more to say than that.

I grew up near Washington DC and am used to going to the Smithsonian quite often. The Air & Space Museum used to be my favorite, but then it got too crowded. I really like the Natural History Museum, but even that loses something after a while, since how many times can you look at stuffed animals? So, eventually I went into the East Wing of the National Art Gallery. That's the one that was designed by I. M. Pei. I'm not the biggest fan of purely modern architecture, but I was eventually seduced by the cool traveling exhibits. The space is pretty cool too, though I don't have a strong mental picture of it, like I do of my favorite museum architecturally, the Freer/Sackler Gallery (more on that some other time). Actually, I do love the pairing of the Beaux Arts west wing and the Modern east wing of the National Art Gallery.

I digress.

The Denver Art Museum (Hamilton Building) is a bit monolithic and imposing on the outside. I think it was meant to be striking and attention getting... which it is. But it almost entirely ignores it's context. It looks like an alien spaceship that crash landed in the middle of Denver. There are a few lovely juxtapositions, but for the most part it is too self-concious for my taste.

After you walk inside, however, the true beauty of the building unfolds before you. It almost literally unfolds. It's a dynamic space/experience that is always changing and surprising you. Many variables are brought into play: the light, the movement of people, your own path through the space, and where you happen to be looking at the time. Turn around periodically or look up, you may be surprised. There are a few odd touches, like the wierd digital numbers, but I think they are part of the "modern art" interpretation. They also flubbed a little on the wooden "curbs" they put to alert people to the areas of low head room.

The final attractive point on the new DAM is the art. There is a fantastic Western American Art exhibit that I want to wander amongst when there are *a lot* fewer people. There are also cool interactive pieces for both adults and children sprinkled about the museum, which I also want to play with.

I think it's a place worth taking out of town guests, and I might even spring for a membership!

Edited to add: I forgot to mention my other activities of the weekend - standing in line to get the tickets, beginning to strip paint from my window trim, going to a great new restaurant (Buenos Aires Grill), walking the Race for the Cure with JR & Stacey, and working on the paperwork for the A.R.E.


A Rare Glimpse of Me

I know that select members of my audience (who shall remain nameless) think that construction photos and stories are boring. Hopefully this one will be acceptable. I rarely put photos of myself on this site, but for this one, I'll make an exception.
For those who have never seen a picture of me -- Hi! [waves] This is me. I'm not usually attired in such attractive safety wear, but on a jobsite, it's required.
Christina, the general contractor's assistant project manager, took this picture of me while we were doing our weekly site visit. She's a neat gal, probably my age, but with 4 kids - quadruplets - two pairs of identical twins. We joke that it's perfect preparation for her job managing construction guys.
The project is coming along pretty well. A few minor impending disasters, but we've managed to deflect all of them so far.
My mum wrote me a quick note that said, among other things, "I can tell from your blog that you're busy." I'm guessing that's because I'm too busy to post things as often as I'd like. I have been extrodinarily busy lately. I spent several evenings painting pottery for gifts (one is on its way to the recipients, the other has already been given but I need to get a photo of it) and last weekend I very industriously did household chores. Granted, they were outdoor chores on a gloriously beautiful weekend, but now I know why people pay other people to wash thier windows. I'm technically not done, since I need to finish washing the insides of the windows, but I'm thinking that won't happen until next weekend, when (depending on the weather) I may be able to continue/finish painting the fence and deck and maybe start on repainting the trim around the windows. Now that really is boring to read about.
I'm feeling like I'm accomplishing quite a bit, which is good. Next thing on the agenda, have more entertaining adventures to blog about -OR- start writing again so I can tell you all what the characters are up to.
And finally, I thought I'd include another construction photo, because I think it's beautiful:


New Friends

This post is to introduce a couple new links I have put on my sidebar:

All About Grayson is a blog by my childhood friend, Laura. She and I have known each other since kindergarten and now she's living in her parents' old house and has adopted a beautiful boy. This blog is all about that little boy.

Photos by Kero aka Kevin is a photographic blog by a fellow who frequents Scalzi's Whatever. His photos are beautiful depictions of the city in which I live.


Fantasies Tied to Gender

This morning, while eating breakfast, I ran across a pair of articles: Is He Your Dream Date? and Is She Your Dream Date? with a picture of a fire fighter and a stewardess respectively.

I read the first article, interested in how popular culture is currently portraying the dating scene. It was a series of brief interviews with women who had dated "fantasy" men. It was almost universally cautionary or negative, with only one woman actually marrying the guy in question. Most of the time it was: it was great at first but then I had to compete with the guys at the firehouse or the models he was photographing. Or the guy being too wrapped up in his job - like the comedian or the Hollywood screenwriter.
Curious, I wondered what guys would say about thier fantasy women. I did not really find what I expected. For the most part, they were positive and at least three were still with the women they described.

What does that mean? I find it hard to believe that men are *so* bad and women are *so* good. Of course, there's the possibility that such a small sample of interviews yielded atypical results.
I'm inclined to believe that men and women have different things in mind when they think of a fantasy date. In a way, men are more realistic by having what some might call lower standards. Dating a hot stewardess (excuse me, flight attendant) means getting good sex and high fives from thier friends. That's all they're really looking for. If he gets more, like the model that turned out to be a good friend and mate, he is happy and a little surprised at his good fortune.
Women, on the other hand, tend to set their expectations sky high. Romantic movies make every man into a possible Prince Charming. That rock star boyfriend gets her envious looks from her friends, but when he has groupies hanging on his every look, a lack of commitment becomes untenable.
Maybe it's less about the actual relationship and more about how men and women recall experiences. Men focusing on the positive aspects and the women focusing on the negative.
The final possibility is that one or both of the writers (Maggie Kim & Dan Bova) had different preconcieved ideas about what they expected to hear.

This analysis of course, contains generalizations. There are plenty of men who look for more in a woman, but they don't call those women a fantasy date. Dating is only that -- dating. And there are women who just want to date a restauranteur so they can be escorted about the city by someone with connections. There are always exceptions, but culture seems to perpetuate stereotypes.

Am I wrong? Why are those articles so different? If men and women are equal but different (Nature or nurture? That's another question.) as I believe, what does the results of this informal study mean?


And the Concrete Pours On

I didn't catch any pictures of the big pour of the core pier cap last Friday, but here's a slightly smaller one that's also near the center of the building. The draped black stuff in the background are insulating blankets on the earlier pour. They regulate the curing of the concrete and keep the outside portions of the concrete from cooling a lot faster than the interior of the concrete. The more evenly it cools, the better and more consistent the concrete will be. (The opposite would be bad, like having a cake that cooks too fast, so that the edges are done while the center is still raw.)


Katie Rebar The Door

I have not been inspired to cook much lately (been feeling a bit run down) but fortunately, I have construction photos to share.

This one I took today. If it looks like a cage of steel, you're partly right. The worker shown is tying together the rebar for a massive pier cap that is the foundation for the stair and elevator core for my building. Some of those 1 1/2 diameter pieces of steel can be seen on the bottom of the arrangement. Steel is included in concrete construction because while concrete has a lot of compressive strength, it has very little strength in tension. The steel keeps everything from pulling apart.

When we were out on the site, Mark (the architect) said something like "looks like a lot of steel out there" and Christina (the assistant project manager) said "I see a lot of money out there."

The concrete will be poured for this foundation in a week. I hope to get photos!


Progress at the Site

It's getting pretty impossible to take a panorama from the same spot I was, because of all of the heavy equipment in the way. So, I'm going to resort to taking interesting shots during my field trips to entertain you folks and let you see how the building is progressing.

This picture is of the giant metal sheathing for the caissons (typically 6' dia. by 80' long, though the one shown is not) being raised into position. It follows the caisson drill down to hold the earth back. Then, the steel reinforcing cage is lowered into the caisson hole. (The steel bars get up to nearly 1 1/2" in diameter!) An inspector goes into the hole to make sure the reinforcing and all is properly made and properly placed. Then, they pump concrete into the hole while withdrawing the steel sheath. It's quite a production.


Back from the Pacific Northwest

Two words: LOVED IT.

In a few more words: I went to Olympia, Washington, for my sister, Karen's, wedding. She got married on a sailing ship, The Lady Washington. It was so much fun. I enjoyed it even though I hurt my knee again while horsing around on a bike.
The next day we went to the shore, to a place called Westport. I enjoyed that too.
The third day we went to Seattle. I think I would have enjoyed Pike Place Market more if we hadn't gone on a holiday weekend. Plus, we were getting a bit tired and cranky. The day ended on a positive note, however, when we had a family BBQ with our new in-laws who are funny, lively, and caring - in a nutshell, damn similar to us. The other times we were travelling. And I've decided to get a rolling suitcase after my saintly brother-in-law toted my old (my dad's from when he travelled for work) suitcase around the airport.

I'm glad to be back though. I've got two happy cats that have been sitting on me all day.


Stew, the Anti-Stress

I've been feeling stressed out lately, so it was with pleasure I set aside time on Saturday to make beef stew. I chopped everything beforehand: onions, garlic, mushrooms (shitake, portabella, and white), celery, carrots, potatoes, turnip, sweet potato, broccoli, and cauliflower. (My officemate, Rachel, turned up her nose when I said I wanted to add broccoli and cauliflower.) Then I seared the floured beef (searing myself a little in the process) and then put it aside. I scraped up the brown bits in the pan with some butter, then added garlic and onions and some more seasoned flour. When that was soft and translucent, I added all the mushrooms, which took up half the pot before cooking down. That done, I added water and bullion, then the beef and the chopped root veg. I ran out of space before I got to the broccoli and cauliflower. I set those aside and left the rest to cook. When it was done, I added some seasonings, peas for color.
It's a very yummy stew.

Since I had left over broccoli and cauliflower, I had to do something with them. So I steamed them, topped them with some whole milk mozzarella I needed to use, and broiled it a bit to get the cheese melty and browned.
Do I need to point out it was yummy?

PS - You might notice this is a bit post-dated. I started it before I went on vacation, but only finished the post today, 9/4/06.


Good For You Eats

I had the funniest experience on Thursday. I mentioned to my friend, Stacey, that I had replicated a spinach and black bean quesadilla that I ate at a restaurant last weekend.
"Why didn't you put it on your blog?" she asked.
Good question, considering my recent entries.
"I didn't take a photo. But don't worry, I have enough ingredients to make another batch."

True to my word, I made another quesadilla this morning. It's remarkably easy. I sauteed a minced clove of garlic in olive oil, then added half a bunch of fresh spinach, washed and chopped. After it cooked down a bit, I put a white tortilla in a dry pan on med-high heat and topped it with shredded cheese - monteray jack and whole milk mozarella. When the cheese had half melted, I put on the spinach garlic mixture and some canned black beans, drained. Then I added a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and another layer of shredded cheese. On that I pressed on another white tortilla. By then it was time to turn it over with a spatula and a few minutes later, transfer to a plate and cut into wedges.


Mmmm... Butter and Cream...

Last night, in addition to helping a friend in crisis, I made peach cobbler for the office. This is my way of scratching the baking itch without plumping up too much myself. I also bought a quart of vanilla ice cream because I'm a perfectionist. Needless to say within the hour it was all gone. What makes this so yummy is the brandy and candied ginger in the peach filling and the butter and cream in the cobbler topping.
When I was heading in to work this morning, I thought "gosh, I'm surprised I'm not more tired!" Now, it's caught up with me. Thankfully, I have nothing scheduled this evening except making beef stew.

Yes. I'm obsessed with food right now.

Postscript: I'm adding a link to the Food Network site where I got the recipe. (I think Aileen found it in the first place.) I made the following substitutions: brandy for the bourbon and a few tablespoons of minced candied ginger instead of cinnamon.


More yummy dinners

Because I am enjoying a particularly good run of dinners and I'm remembering to photograph them, here's another yummy dinner I made last night.
It's a mushroom wine cream sauce on spinach linguini. The sauce was very easy. I started with chopped garlic and shallots (green onions) sauteed in butter until they were soft. Then I added a lot of sliced mushrooms (white and cremini), which I allowed to cook until they were close to done. I sprinkled on kosher salt and herbs de Provance (thyme, lavender, etc.) Then I added about a 1/3 of a bottle of white wine (dry Reisling, in this case), which I allowed to simmer until it had reduced by a third. Then I poured in about 8 oz (small box, right?) of heavy cream. I allowed that to simmer until it had reduced by at least half. Finally, I tasted it, adjusted the salt, pepper, and herbs and served it on spinach linguini with grated parmesan.
I had expected the sauce to thicken more, but overall it was attractive and very yummy. I think it could be adjusted to be a chicken and mushroom sauce, if necessary. I'd also add some more earthy mushrooms, like shitake. I'll have to think about changing the cream from a purely reduction sauce to a starch thickened sauce if I want it to be thicker. Honestly though, I don't think people would complain about this dish. The sauce broke down when I reheated the dish for lunch today, but the flavor was all there, so I didn't mind at all.


Project Update

I was wrong, it did get deeper! Now they're pretty much at the bottom. They've started pouring concrete for the caissons.

Yeah, I know. Big whoop. Big hole in the ground. But we've got to start somewhere!


Shown: Tomatoes on a bed of couscous, sprinkled with parley, basil and coarse kosher salt. Why? Why not?

Verdict: Delicious and light

Food, Sleep and Clever Advertising

Since I'm experiencing a bout of insomnia, I thought I'd post a picture of dinner that I took a few days ago and have been meaning to post.
It's pirogies (frozen, unfortunately -- maybe I should try making them from scratch) with sauteed mushrooms, sour cream, and parmesan cheese. Mmmmm. I'm making myself hungry now.

I also wanted to comment on a TV ad I saw this evening. I was in the kitchen when I heard the distinct strains of the Great Escape. You know, the whistley one. Yep, that one. It wasn't a fake version either, like the jeans ad that has the Johnny Cash song *not* sung by Johnny Cash. This was the real deal. By the time I had ascertained this, I thought, "what's this for?" I ducked my head around the wall and managed to see the last few frames. A blond security guard bouncing a baseball, a Hummer zipping out of a parking lot and off road, and finally, the H3 logo. It was an ad for Hummer 3 -- "Escape greatly." I'm not a big fan of the gas guzzler, but dang, I love that movie. The next time it came on, I saw the whole thing. It showed a bunch of office workers using various escape techniques to get out of thier cubicled office and out to the waiting Hummer. This press release has a pretty good description of it. I haven't found an online version of the ad, but I'm sure it'll show up on YouTube soon. It was positively brilliant. Keep an eye peeled for it!

OK, I'm going to go read in bed for a bit, hopefully then I can go to sleep. [crosses fingers and toes]


Blog Tag

I've just been tagged by my friend belsum in a game of blog tag.

The rules are:
1. Grab the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence (grab next nearest book if fewer than seven sentences found).
4. Post the text of the next three sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
6. Tag three people.

Why must I see this while at work? Why? Why?
Fortunately, equidistant from me are two books: Fundamentals of Building Construction and the more interesting one below...

The Collected What If? Edited by Robert Cowley

"Their hearts were torn out and their faces and hands flayed so they could be tanned and sent among the wavering towns as a warning. Cortes escaped this fate only through the intervention of Cristobal de Olea, who sprang to his defense, killed the four Aztecs who were dragging him off, and freed his leader at the cost of his own life. The very conquest of Mexico hung on this single act."

Couldn't have found a more compelling trio of sentences if I tried.

I tag the only other bloggers I know occasionally read my blog (besides, bel, of course): Reuben, Herdsman, Anne G. (keckler and voyageriniowa occasionally drop in too, so feel free to tag yourselves guys.)
Actually, I think it would be cool for the non-blogger readers to participate. Just post your book and your sentences in a comment.


I gotta make me some bread, man!

I watched Alton Brown make basic bread on Good Eats yesterday and was inspired to make it myself. I didn't go by his recipe, since he was using rapid rise yeast (I have active dry yeast) and honey (which is too distinctive a sweetness for *inside* my bread - outside is fine though). I found a pretty generic baugette recipe and made the bread shown. It was yummy this morning!
(Call me sophomoric, but I don't think bread when I hear the phrase "staff of life.")


One Hole in the Ground

As you can see, the hole is getting deeper. It's probably not going to get much deeper on the edges, but they need another 10' or so in the middle for the foundations for the core. Exciting!

Gas companies

As much as I hate to admit it, I think this guy's right:
Stop whining; ExxonMobil is doing its job
I mainly agree because higher gas prices is the only thing that will change consumer habits. And those who support a capitalist society shouldn't complain when it turns out to sometimes be not so great for them.


Not My Day

Today I turned on my personal computer and got the dreaded blue screen. It seemed to indicate that it was new hardware or software that was causing the problem. I managed to get Windows to open properly and I uninstalled McAfee, the only "new" (just updated) software or hardware I have. I didn't want to reinstall without knowing if I would just be creating the same conditions that caused the problem last time. So, I got online to ask "Tech Support". Chimps with 5 buttons for 5 questions, more likely. After waiting forever to get a person on the chat line, I went in prepped with all the info I had been told I needed to answer this sort of question. (I had found a page through a search that listed all the pieces of info I needed, but nothing about what to do after I found the info.)
Anyway, the chimp eventually told me that they're working on the issue and should have a corrected version in 3-4 days. Hmm... methinks someone wants off the line. "Yeah, uh... they're 'working' on it. Come back in a few days and it'll be all better." BAH!
While all this was going on, I was trying to record something that I had on DVR to VCR, except I couldn't figure out how I had set it up. I figured it out eventually, but not before knocking over the lovely bamboo arrangement my sister gave me as a housewarming present. It fell, top-first, onto the floor, scattering itty bitty stones everywhere and breaking the tops completely off the bamboo. I put the broken bamboo in water (perhaps it will grow roots?) and picked up a fair amount of stones.
Big ass bummer right there.

I'm feeling a bit drained now.

I was going to post about how heartened I am by the appearance of several spiders in and around the house. I'm so used to seeing them that the first 3 years in the house without them felt a bit odd. I've seen several now, so it feels much better.

Except for Blue Screens of Death and ruined bamboo arrangements, that is.



Not Clamming Up

When I saw the can of "white clam sauce" in the Italian food section of the grocery aisle, I thought "Huh! I don't think I've ever had that before." So I bought it and a can of artichoke hearts and a bottle of capers, thinking they'd make a good addition to the base sauce. I also got a box of linguini and, as a last minute thought, I bought a can of smoked baby clams.
So, tonight I decided to brave the unknown and invent a pasta dish -- not for the first time, but the first time in a long while. I started the linguini cooking and opened the can of white clam sauce and dumped it in a medium-sized saucepan. I tasted this new item and was severely underwhelmed. It was salty and tasted mostly of chicken stock, which I assume is the base for the sauce. Hmm... this was going to be tougher than I thought!
I rolled up my figurative sleeves and pressed on. I chopped up the artichoke hearts and dumped them in. I added a few capers and then tested the mixture. Hmm. Better. I also added the can of the smoked clams. It added a nice amount of protein that hadn't been covered by the teeny chopped up clams in the original sauce. Definitely better.
I remembered some leftover pesto and dumped it all in boldly. After all, the flavor certainly couldn't be worse. It was a surprisingly good addition and almost completely masked the chicken flavor. Yay!
Just as I thought I was done, I glanced at the linguini box and saw a good looking recipie for a clam sauce made from scratch. (That may be my next project.) One of the ingredients listed is white wine. Now there's a good idea! Wine makes everything better, trust me. I added a jag or two.
When the linguini finished cooking, I drained it and then put it back in the pot to have the sauce mixed into it. This is not my usual way of putting together pasta and sauce (I generally go the individual serving route) but this seemed like the right way to approach this. I served myself a small helping and [cue fanfare] tasted it. Hmm. Surprisingly palatable. It needed one thing more -- a generous dusting of parmesan gratings. OK, now we're talking! I ate the whole serving, and just as I was finishing it, thought of another addition that would make it not only better tasting, but more attractive.
For those who cheated and looked at the picture at the beginning, you'll know I'm talking about tomatoes. I chopped up a bit and added it to another serving, just to check before adding the rest of the chopped tomato to the pot of pasta and sauce.
I don't think I'll make this particular sauce again, but I might make a from-scratch version. It might turn out better if it's not working from a taste deficit.

And now I have to go to bed, since I'm due at my sister and BIL's house for brekkie early tomorrow morning.
One last fun thing: Subversive Cross-stitch
As a sometime cross-stitcher and friend of free-speaking ladies (sometimes one myself), I found this to be so funny and so appropriate for counteracting that illusion that only old ladies cross-stitch. Thanks to Diablo for posting this.


Partisanship and the Media

Here is a fascinating article from The Washington Post:
Two Views of the Same News Find Opposite Biases
It confirms what I've always thought, that people will see what they are expecting to see. I found the paragraphs about context to particularly enlightening.

Progress at the site

Here's a picture of the One Lincoln Park jobsite taken yesterday. As you can see, they've started digging! Yay! (On the other hand, there are issues with that digging that might get them into trouble, but that's another story altogether.)


Latest Activities

On Thursday I had fun going to a party, meeting new people, and dancing to some great 80s music (no, not a contradiction in terms). At least, I did until I put my foot wrong and hurt my knee a bit. Just enough to put an end to the dancing, not a permanent injury, thank goodness. We left at a good time. People were getting drunker and I wasn't, particularly as I needed to go to work the following day. Also, there was a guy whom I liked, but he was entirely too confident of his progress. It was better to leave and remove the temptation -- for myself that is. We'll see if anything else comes of it.

Today I've been cleaning the inside of my house. Tomorrow, my brother-in-law is coming over to help me clean the outside.

While I've been cleaning the house, I've been watching a dragon movies marathon on the SciFi Channel. Suprisingly, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God has been the best of the lot, with some truely egalitarian moves (there is no traditional romance, the main hero and heroine are already married, two of the adventurers are women, and not in namby-pamby roles). I liked it.

I have to admit I've been enjoying the Burger King ads featuring little people. Not only am I happy they've got employment, they're also darn funny. Certainly a lot better than the scary Burger King dude they had in thier last series of ads.

Lastly, you might take a look at the most recent addition to my list of cat pictures. Since I made a page devoted to Martin, I thought it only fitting that I do so for Matti as well.


I forgot to add that my friend, keckler's, post about corn has inspired me to eat as much corn as I can, even if I have to buy it in a grocery store. I recently found some lovely lovely white corn (my favorite) for 8 ears/dollar. See the proof of my enjoyment below. Delicious!


Purple horseshoes

A friend of mine invited me to a fundraiser this weekend. I was about to refuse, as I had wanted to be a hermit this weekend. Then she said it was a polo tournament. I did a mental doubletake. How often is one invited to a polo tournament? So, of course, I said "yes."
It was a lot of fun. There was a giant tent to keep us out of the sun - it was very hot (100 deg. F) - and lots of food and drink. After we stuffed ourselves, I turned my attention to the polo matches. The final game of the day (not the final one of the tournament, I believe) was the best. The teams were much more professional (instead of the more amateurish ones in the games before). Their play was a lot tighter, more skilled, better teamwork and their horses were all proper horses. The amateur teams had horses that varied in size more, mainly because they are the horses available. I think there were even a few Argentines playing in the final match but I missed the entire statement by the announcer. They had a British announcer, which made it all the more official sounding.
Between the games, they have a tradition of allowing the spectators to come out on the field and replace the divots. I did that once and while out there, I found a horseshoe! My first impulse was to return it, but my friends said I should keep it. After a moment's thought, I agreed with them.
When I got home, I investigated the "proper" way of hanging the horseshoe. I found that it can be interpreted either way, so I decided to choose by testing each way. First I hung it with the ends down (as they do in Germany, Italy, Spain, etc.) then I hung it with the ends up (as they do in Great Britain). Turns out I prefer the latter. Perhaps that's the way I'm used to seeing it, but I also liked the bowl shape it makes. The shape seems to be very receptive and that's what I'd like to promote.
I had fun, but now I really want to go riding!

And so it begins...

Here's the first of many panoramas I intend to take of the project I'm working on. As you can see, they've started to push dirt around and drill piers.
I've started going to coordination meetings, which are very interesting. I'm also starting to go to OAC (owner-architect-contractor) meetings which are scary as crap. There is a lot of money being handed around and mistakes can be costly. I feel very inexperienced at the OAC meetings. The coordination meetings are better. In them, I get to solve problems with the engineers and contractors. There are fewer bigwigs, so things are a bit more relaxed.
I am trying hard to keep a positive outlook on this project, despite the challenges we are experiencing now and will face in the future.

Gender Marketing

I noticed this in Costco on Wednesday. It was disturbing to say the least:

They are two different *packaging* versions marketed according to gender. I'm nearly positive that the disk itself is the same. The "Buttercup Edition" has a picture of Wesley and Buttercup on the front and text about the lovestory on the back. The "Dread Pirate Edition" has a picture of the masked Wesley and text about the adventure story on the back. True, the DVDs are not labelled "Boys" and "Girls" versions, but they nearly well did. Frankly, I'd rather have the boys version and there's nothing askew with my femininity. Take that [rude gesture] gender stereotypes!


Gender Inequality

As a female in a male dominated field, I found this article about the experiences of a transgendered scientist to be fascinating:
Male Scientist Writes of Life as Female Scientist


Italian Flair

Trust the Italians to do things properly.
Here's a photo of the Italian soccer players at thier triumphant return to Rome. They are all wearing matching all-black suits (Italian, of course!) that look [kiss-the-fingertips] perfecto!


Oh how I love a rainy night...

...when I'm asleep in my cozy little tent (pictured to the right).
It rained during 90% of my camping trip this weekend. Wacky eastcoaster that I am, I actually enjoyed it. We didn't get to do any hikes or outdoor activities other than gather round the fire and propane heater under cover of the shelter tent. As long as I was relatively dry and warm(ish), I was happy. I loved waking up in the middle of the night to a downpour. It reminded me of my childhood in a house with a metal roof.
Getting to the campsite was a bit hairy though. It was raining from Castle Rock to Colorado Springs and at times it was pouring so hard that I could barely see the road. I just followed the car in front of me at a reasonable distance. Thankfully, it stopped raining long enough for me to set up the tent when I got there.
I had lots of funs with my friends. Here you can see us setting up tarps to protect our cooking area from a potential rain onslaught (during the lulls we could never tell if it was going to clear up or continue). As you can see, we are an ingenious group.

Good News and Bad News

The Good News: Italy wins the World Cup! They played very well and deserved thier win.
The Bad News: The World Cup is over for four more years. [sniff] I'm going to have pick up watching European soccer in the interim.

The game was a real battle of giants. The Italians dominated the first half, but got tired. That meant the French dominated the second half. Thankfully, the Italians held on with thier awesome defense and eventually it went to penalty kicks. I say "thankfully" because I decided I was on the Italian side when the French got a goal off a penalty kick won off a dive. In fact, for all thier reputation for drama, the Italians were not the worst offenders for faking fouls. During this game, at least at the beginning, before the ref caught on and stopped believing thier tricks, the French were falling at the drop of a hat. The Italian goal was a real beauty, headed in off a beautiful cross from a corner kick. Then, in the second overtime period, nine minutes before the end of play and the beginning of the penalty kick "shootout", the French superstar, Zidane, lost his temper and headbutted an Italian player. It was caught on tape, but that wouldn't have mattered in soccer unless one of the officials saw it. Thankfully one did and reported it to the ref. Zidane was sent off the field with a red card. It was a stunning and horrible way to end his career.
On the plus side, I have a new love in my life -- the Italian captain, Fabio Cannavaro, pictured above. Not only is he a wonderful soccer player, he is a wonderful defensive player (my area of expertise). He's a great leader as well - cool-headed, enthusiastic, caring. He's a family man, with a pretty, but not super-model wife (you think I joke, but you should see the Italian goalie's super-model girlfriend!). He seems to be a great player AND a great person. (Plus, he's very good-looking, despite his decision to shave his head a la Sinead O'Connor.)


Rainy Nirvana

I'm so glad I hadn't decided to go anywhere to see fireworks yesterday. I was sitting at home, reading and watching soccer and then I heard the rain start. It was a lovely drenching rain. I pulled a chair over to the sliding door and opened it up so I could enjoy the sound and smells of the rain as I read. When the kitties came over to join me, I opened up the screen door as well. Of course, they had to go out. Martin did a little at first, venturing only as far as the roof overhang protected him. Then Matti showed up and decided that it would be better under the tree. He dashed out (I didn't move, since I predicted the outcome) and made it to the trees. Martin tried to follow, but only made it to the far side of the porch before deciding that no, this wasn't any fun. He dashed back. Not two seconds behind him was Matti dashing back. Turned out the rain was coming through the leaves. Anyone who knows cats knows that Matti's next move was to ask to be petted. In the cat world, humans are paw-warmers, food-getters, and fur-dryers. As a domesticated human, of course I complied with the request. So, they settled down by the door to watch outside from the comfort of the house. A couple times Matti ventured out, but never went outside the wind shadow of the house. This picture was taken after I closed the screen door to cut down on a bit of the cool air.
What with the feline entertainment, good book, and lovely rainy weather, I had a perfect evening!

Review: Cars

I saw Cars over the weekend. As I expected, it was a lovely example of Pixar's strengths: attention to detail, research, multi-level humor, and subtle characterization. I can't wait to get the DVD to find out what lovely jokes I missed the first time around. The voice talent was good, particularly Luigi (voiced by the incomparable Tony Shalhoub). The animation was phenomenal, particularly the scene when Doc Hudson shows his stuff. I've also heard the soundtrack highly praised.
That being said, I think the plot was a little bit predictable. I think Owen Wilson was well cast as Lightning McQueen, but it was simultaneously a little too easy a characterization for him. No stretch.
The jokes were great, particularly Mater's "happier than a tornado in a trailer park" and "he did what in his cup?" If you see it, make sure you see the credits. There's a great joke by John Ratzenburger. Also, the list of people they thank for the research portion is fascinating. Those who know of John Lasseter's obsession for research will not be surprised.
Overall, my feelings on the movie are overwhelmingly positive. I'd say it's a 3 1/2 stars out of 5, and I'll definitely be getting the DVD.

Sweets for the sweet

I made this Apple Cake with Caramel Topping for a BBQ yesterday and got many compliments on it. I'm going to have to remember it for the next office dessert contest. It's moist and cinnamony and has lovely bits of caramelization and pecans. I highly recommend it.

And this Honey-Lemon Baklava is one of my specialties. I usually make it for the Office "Holiday" (Christmas) Cookie exchange. I made it last week for a gal at the office. She says it's the best baklava she's ever had and requested it instead of birthday cake. (I am *such* a sucker for a compliment.)
My favorite moment in the making of baklava is when I pour the hot honey mixture over the fresh-from-the-oven baklava. The heat from the pan brings the honey back to a boil and the whole pan of golden baklava bubbles merrily for at least a minute or two. I tried to photograph it, but there was so much movement the camera had trouble with the shot.


Review: The Devil Wears Prada

Three Stars out of Five

It was ok. I like Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci. They did were very likeable. The fashion was fascinating to observe and I now have a new perspective on transformation stories. However, one of those three stars I gave is due entirely to the performance by Meryl Streep. Villans can be so easy to caricature and she did not. The ruthless and self-serving part was easy, but she also humanized the character. She was brilliant.
I won't buy this movie, but I will genuflect in the general direction of the amazing Meryl Streep. Brava.


Stress Nightmare About Stress

I have nightmares very rarely. This morning, I think my dream qualified.
I was at work, at a design review meeting that I was simultaneously not invited to, but everyone was there. The review was about our company website and not a building. I found that interesting, since web design is something I'm a little more conversant on than the initial design of a building. Plus, there were some cool programs they were using that I knew nothing about. For some reason, some of my friends showed up too, and I found it difficult to tear myself away from a gathering that I found so interesting. I really had to, since I had a ton of work to do at my desk, but I didn't manage it until the very end of the dream, when I yelled at some architect of the community for delaying me (it took him *forever* just to take a picture of me and a friend). To top it all off, I needed to pick up my mum at the airport and I had no idea when she was getting there.
When I awoke, I realized I was failing in three ways. I was failing my family, since I couldn't fulfill my commitment to help my mum. I was failing my job, since I wasn't getting the actual work done that was on my desk, despite being at work. This is a very real concern of mine, as I have been feeling less than effective at work. Oh, I've been getting stuff done, but I've not been getting enough (in my opinion) done.
And most interestingly, I was failing myself. My interests, technology and design, were not being fed. I felt extremely sad that I: a) wasn't conversant about the programs being used for the web design and b) wasn't being included in the process. I thought I was supposed to be at my desk producing work and not dilly-dallying with the design or the functioning of the office. I say "I thought" because there was no evidence that this is what the managers of the office thought.
I can still feel the weight of the dream pressing on me. "I really shouldn't be writing this in my blog, I should go to work early," I'm thinking. I'm temporizing. I woke up an hour early, so I'm using half of it to write this here and the other half to go to work early.


Knee Update

My doc is pleased with my progress towards healing. He said that I was doing better than he expected, as he had thought the tear was worse than it turned out to be. I was surprised, since he hadn't let on at all during the previous visit. It's good to have a doc who doesn't weigh you down with negativity. He also was pleased that I had gone to an acupuncturist, which was another positive point in his favor.
He said that if I proceed sensibly with my recovery, there should be no increased chance of injury once I return to my usual activity.
So, I'm doing well!

I also did a tai chi set for the first time since my injury tonight. I took it easy and was careful with my weight shifts. All in all, there was no pain, but my knee got achey by the end. It feels to me that tai chi is a good way to continue to improve the strength and flexibility of the knee, so I'm going to pick up my usual twice a week schedule, but do it carefully.

(Satisfied, Mum? ;)


A Concert I Nearly Missed

A couple weeks ago, I won some tickets to see John Hiatt and the North Mississippi Allstars. I asked several friends to go with me, but everyone was busy. It seemed not very efficient to ask people one at a time, so at the beginning of the week, I sent out an e-mail to family and friends in the area. Still no takers. People were either busy or didn't know who he was. That last is understandable, as I didn't know who he was either when I won the tickets.
How did I win the tickets, you ask? My buddy, Rachel, found out I had never been to Red Rocks for a concert. Not content to just arrange an outing to a concert or one of the Film on the Rocks series, she wanted to win us free tickets to a Red Rocks concert. She entered me in a radio (KBCO "select-a-set") contest. My entry did not win on the week she sent it in, but the next week, when the prize was different - the John Hiatt tickets.
So, I could get no takers to go with me. I even tried giving away both tickets, as did Rachel - still no takers. By Friday, I had given up. I didn't feel like going by myself and I was considering going to the venue at concert time to give them away. Then, I got an email from Kat: "did you find someone to go with?" Hurrah!
Yesterday we went to the Irish Snug, had a drink (beer for her, hard cider for me) and an appetizer (a yummy cheese quesadilla), then went to the concert. We got there early enough to get a really good standing spot at the very front. We did not get there early enough for the seated spots at the mezzanine level. My legs and my knee got really tired by the end of the concert, but c'est la vie.
The concert was great! The backing band, the North Mississippi Allstars, also played as the opening act, and I would go see them even on their own. They were obviously having a wonderful time playing together and the on-stage chemistry was great. When John Hiatt started playing with them, the chemistry continued to shine. He obviously took a lot of pleasure in the younger musicians' joy in music. They played long and hard and the notable songs were two that were made famous by other singers ("Riding with the King" by Eric Clapton and BB King and "Thing Called Love" by Bonnie Raitt), whom he thanked for putting his daughters through school, and two that I've heard him sing often on the radio ("Perfectly Good Guitar" and "Have a Little Faith in Me"). I found a really good review of the concert when it played in Orlando. It pretty much says everything I would say.
I had a great time, and I have to thank Rachel for winning me the tickets and Kat for accompanying me. Thanks, guys!


Fun Times at Lakeside

My friend, Rachel, discovered I had never been to the Lakeside Amusement Park here in Denver. She promptly organized a field trip, which was yesterday evening. It was a heck of a lot of fun. The park, originally called White City (presumably in honor of the Chicago World's Fair (1893), also called the White City), has been operating since 1908 and has old rides that give you as much fear about them breaking down as they do designed-in-fear. My guide was Rachel's son, Benton, who is 9 or 10. His mom and little sister, Ava (5), had to go on the kiddie rides, so he and I went on the big rides. We did the "Wild Chipmunk" (opened 1955) three times, the "Cyclone" (opened 1940) once, the "Scrambler", racecars, "Skooter Boats", "Matterhorn" (which I know I've ridden at Boonesboro Days), bumper cars (not the ones pictured, thank goodness), and some devilish thing that swings upside down. Fortunately that one was last. I thought the going upside down was fun but my stomach did not.
Some other people from the office came: my old officemate, Dee, and his two kids, Benjamin and Jonathan; also Scott and his fabulous girlfriend, Colleen. Because Benton wasn't amenable to sitting still, I didn't get to talk to them as much as I would have liked, but we have plans to go to Elitches Amusement Park together later this summer. I had lots of fun and hope to go again. Best thing of all, it's inexpensive and not crowded. If any of you are interested, just give me a call!
I couldn't resist including this photo. Note the fields beyond the roller coaster. My house is now located in the fields to the right (though off the picture's view). Cool, huh?


Disappointing Truth

Sometimes people are as shallow as they appear.



Alternative Medicines

I've already talked about my friend, Paden, doing Reiki energy work on my knee. That seemed to help a lot.

Then, on Tuesday, when I went to tai chi, ostensibly to check up on how the class was doing, but I admit I took my tai chi clothes along, "just in case" I could manage to participate. I couldn't, but a friend of mine suggested I go up and see the acupuncturist on the second floor of the same building. I did and he said, "well, let's do something about that right away." So, he poked me with some needles and temporarily made the pain diminish considerably. It came back that evening something fierce. When I say I was in pain, I'd like to clarify that it's not my knee that was giving me sharp pains (it aches when I over use it). It was my calf muscle that was tense and painful. Wednesday I decided not to wear the ACE compression bandage, as I disliked the side-effects, most notably increased swelling in my whole leg. I may have been putting the bandage on too tight, but what do I know - no one's ever shown me. As usual, my calf was stiff in the morning, but by the end of the day, it had loosened up to the point that I had reached with the acupuncturist - dull ache in the calf and knee, but able to walk without a limp. I don't know if it was the acupuncture settling in or the omission of the bandage, but I like it. I am going back to the acupuncturist today, for a followup session.

Also, I got my mum's promised herbs and oil yesterday. It's an Ayruvedic oil that is rubbed on the joint once a day. I faithfully did it yesterday and today. That might also be part of the improvement. Thank you, Mummy!

I'd like to point out that as a topical blog, this won't always be about my medical issues. I promise! ;)


Rebuilding Libraries

Here's a good deed for you:

Donate books (or money) to libraries in Mississippi that were damaged by Katrina last year.

Dewey Donation System has set up a way to send books from each participating library's Amazon wish list. It's cleverly set up and donations will be much appreciated by those hard hit by the hurricane.

I donated the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud to Saucier (children's) Library in Biloxi, Mississippi. I don't know if I've ever read it before, but the three books caught my eye and the author's name sounds familiar. I think I may have read something of his at one time.

Being an invalid sucks (plus, you don't count)

... get it? Invalid? [ba da bump]

My knee's getting better. I can put weight on it with no problem. The problem comes when I have to bend it a lot, like to walk up or down stairs. I went to a street fair yesterday and my knee aches today, but that might also be because I am not wanting to take Tylenol constantly.

Well, I couldn't resist going to a jazz concert in the park. I was tempted to go to my team's soccer game afterwards (to watch, NOT play!), but did resist because it was late, I was tired, and my leg hurt.
I am not a good patient.

Also, I now know that I'm a Tylenol addict. This evening, I couldn't find my bottle and felt a little panicy. Thankfully I found it.
At least I'm not popping Vicadin like Dr. House. ;)


What's up, doc?

I love my doctor. Not love as in marry ('cause if I married him, he couldn't be my doc anymore!), but love as in he-does-a-great-job-and-his-manner-suits-me.
He greeted me as one would a friend and I filled him on the status of previous issues before explaining the knee. He did some tests that surprisingly hurt very little. The diagnosis? I have injured my cartilage. That's generally a bad thing, as torn cartilage usually requires surgery. The good news is that I'm healing well already, so it's probably a very small tear that won't require surgery. Here are a few relevant points I found on a Knee Injury site:

"Meniscus cartilage does not heal very well once it is torn. This is mainly because it does not have a good blood supply. The outer edge of each meniscus has some blood vessels, but the area in the center has no direct blood supply (it is 'avascular'). So, some small outer tears may heal in time, but larger tears, or a tear in the middle of a meniscus, tend not to heal. "

BUT, read on...

"Non-operative treatment: Small tears may heal by themselves in time. Some tears which do not heal do not cause long-term symptoms once the initial pain and swelling subside, or cause only intermittent or mild symptoms. In these cases surgery may not be needed. You may be advised to have physiotherapy to strengthen the supporting structures of the knee such as the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. "

I have many friends to thank for the good advice about how to treat it. The site had this to say:

"When you first injury your knee the initial treatment should follow the RICE formula: rest, ice, compression (with a bandage) and elevation. This, combined with painkillers, helps to settle the initial pain and swelling. Further treatment may then depend on the size of the tear, the severity of symptoms, how any persisting symptoms are affecting your life, your age, and your general health."

And guess what? That's exactly what people told me to do! What great backseat doctors I have! ;)

This morning I feel ok. My leg muscles are a bit tight from the inactivity. I found a replacement for my tai chi duties. I wasn't able to baby the knee quite as much yesterday as I would have liked, but this evening should be pretty quiet. I'm hoping my friend Paden will be able to visit again and do more Reiki work, as I believe it helped a lot.



I've been hurt playing soccer before. I hurt my hand a couple (?) years ago when a ball hit my thumb and hurt the ligaments there. I also had a nerve pinch in my back that was exacerbated by playing soccer. Thankfully, my masseuse Aunt Ruth helped me with that one.
Now, I've hurt my knee. I stopped suddenly when running forward and my knee bent wrongly to the side (it felt like backward when it happened, but the ref said it was to the outside). The worst part was that I had to stop playing. My team was short on substitutes and I had to sit on the sidelines! :(
I iced it during the remaining game time and a friend helped me off the field and to the car. Many friends gave me much needed advice. I'm not practiced on this kind of injury at all. I am doing the RICE mnemonic (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) and my friend Paden (thank you, Paden!) did Reiki energy work on it yesterday. I am doing much better today than I was yesterday. I can put weight on it, when I couldn't yesterday. I am a little worried because I can't bend it as far as I should be able to.
I am going to the doctor this afternoon and will report on what he says.

A special thank you goes to my sister, Aileen, who came over and made a couple dishes for me that should last throughout the week. I strained my knee too much on Sunday night when I was going up and down stairs to do about four loads of laundry. The pain I felt that night convinced me that standing around cooking would not be a good idea. Aileen answered my call for help, angel that she is. She made beef curry (English version) and "Sonoma Chicken Salad", which has chicken, grapes, pecans, and a dressing made of mayo, poppy seeds, honey and cider vinegar. I had it today for lunch on a bed of greens and it was yummy! The curry, which I had with basmati rice and mango chutney was delicious too. Thank you, Aileen!


Am I a "Foodie"?

I'm not sure.
I went to a chili cookoff yesterday with some friends who were in the restaurant business. We talked about food and I certainly enjoyed the conversation, but it made me wonder later how I fit into the spectrum of food eaters/thinkers. I'd heard the term "foodie" before, but am I one?
First, we must look into the definition. Wikipedia (an online collaborative encyclopedia) says that "foodie" is a conversational synonym for "gourmet." And a "gourmet" is: a person with a discriminating palate and who is knowledgeable in fine food and drink. Well, that's a pretty exalted sounding definition. I wouldn't put myself up there. That would be equating myself with someone like Jeffrey Steingarten (a restaurant reviewer and a regular judge on Iron Chef America and the fact that I know who he is does add a mark or two in my favor). I do not think of myself as a gourmet.

I *do* like food, though not to excess. I like cookbooks and have to stay away from the bargains tables at bookstores because they're loaded up with cookbooks with interesting pictures. I like reading blogs about food (Megnut and Grub Report, for example) and websites about restaurants (Alinea, where I got the fabulous picture above). I like thinking and talking about food, much in the same way I like thinking and talking about writing. My attitude toward food is probably best described by using an example of chocolate. I love chocolate, but I'd rather have a small amount of a good quality chocolate than any volume of a mediocre quality chocolate. It's about quality and moderation, though it is tempting to want to be like a hobbit, with 9 meals per day. Our family tradition is to graze on Christmas Day (a dining style I prefer to Thanksgiving Day's sit-down-and-pig-out), but it's just not my habit to think about eating all day long.
The other aspect about my attitude toward food is that I like cooking for others. I enjoy having dinner parties and making food to take in to the office. I'm working on presentation of food and I do think about dinner parties quite a bit.
I'm beginning to think that it's not so much about eating, but more about appreciating fine food and seeking out knowledge about it. In that respect, I am a foodie. I would not say I am a gourmet, as I don't have enough knowledge yet, particularly with wine. Let's say I aspire to be a gourmet one day.


In the trough

Like a wave swelling and falling, my emotions dipped below equanimity today. Yesterday I felt great because I got some nice compliments on my appearance and had the lovely honor of having two far away friends comment on my last post within 24 hours of posting it. Today, in the middle of the day, someone reminded me of... well, let's just say an instance a few months ago when my jealousy got the better of me. The situation is gone, but just being reminded of it made me feel sick to my stomach again. It's bad enough to have experienced it once, but to relive the pain just from the memory of it... I just don't understand emotions sometimes.
Anyway, after work, I went grocery shopping. My heart wasn't in it at first. I didn't really feel like eating at all, so to plan something to eat was a bit of a challenge. I did find a couple things, and I tried to focus on the moment (my usual escape from dwelling too much on the past or the future). Then, the Universe helped me out. The store music started playing an instumental version of John Denver's "Annie's Song." It's one of my favorites, not only because it's got my name in the title, but because the words are so beautiful and the sentiments it speaks of are those I wish to have in a relationship someday. It focused me on what I really deserve in life, not what I see in others' lives and want for myself. It's a fine distinction, but an important one.
In the end, the Universe gave me another little reward. I had thought about buying a DVD for myself in Costco ($19), but decided to wait. And in Safeway they had DVDs "buy one get one free". So I got two classics - The Great Escape & The Magnificent Seven - for $10. Life is good.


An Unintentional Hiatus

I'm not sure how it happened, but I seem to have dropped the blogging for a couple weeks. Big apology to my readers, all two of them.
In the interim, I've had my annual Spring Dinner (pictured), made breakfast for the office, and gone camping at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Ok, well, I guess that explains the haitus.
The Spring Dinner was a success. Seven guests and I enjoyed a full meal of Argentine food, including sangria, empanadas, milanesas, chorizos and bread, grilled steak, green salad, ensalada rusa (potato salad), flan and gelato. The grill was acting up a bit, but we ended on a good note with the yummy desserts. I was much better prepared than last year (in fact, my sister and brother-in-law came over to help but ended up not having much to do), but the grill problem was frustrating.
My office has "donut day" every friday. An employee is assigned a week to bring breakfast for the entire office. Often that turns out to be donuts or bagels, but every once in a while, a culinarily-gifted employee will bring in a full breakfast. I happen to be one of those (big suprise, eh?). I made four different kinds of fritattas and mini chocolate croissants and served them with bagels and orange juice. This may seem like an unfair trade for what sometimes is a breakfast of a couple dozen Safeway donuts, but I get great enjoyment out of cooking for people and I only have to do it about every six months or so. I like being known in the office as a good cook.
And finally, last weekend I went camping with some good friends of mine. We camped for two days at Rocky Mountain National Park. The weather was lovely. It was hot in Denver, but at the higher elevation, the heat was blunted to a very pleasant level. It was a bit cool at night, but nothing a cozy sleeping bag, a thermarest, and a wool blanket couldn't handle. This year's annual camping purchase was a little gas stove and some camping pots. My first year not mooching hot water for breakfast! Yay! I had some of my favorite camping foods: bacon and hot chocolate for breakfast; summer sausage and cheese for lunch; steak, potatoes, and tomatoes for dinner; s'mores for dessert. (Krissy mastered the art of the s'more during our two evenings by the campfire.) We went for a short hike, but mostly lounged about and relaxed. It was nice to get away, but it was also nice to come back to my handsome boys (Martin pictured).
During the camping trip, Kevin asked about blogs and I revealed that I have this one. Wendy then described it as "pretty normal." At first, I was a bit taken aback. "Normal?" That's like saying "boring," isn't it? But, then I turned my ego down a notch or two and had to admit to myself that yes, this blog is pretty normal and no, that doesn't mean it's boring. At least, not boring to people who know me. I hope. ;)


One World, One Book

My dad sent me a link to a fascinating article about the project to digitize every book in the world. It explores not only the practical "how," but also the "why" and the "why not." I know most of you are probably not riveted by discussion of copyright law, so here's your warning.
It is a long article, but very well written. (It's a nytimes.com article, so I hope the link works.)
Scan this Book! by Kevin Kelly


More Internet Fodder: Gender and Reading

In clearing out some old "Favorites" links I have, I happened upon a discussion about Gender and Reading, or more specifically, images (paintings and photos) of men and women reading. I thought it was really interesting, so I decided to post it. The discussion reminds me of college, actually, where such intellectual ruminations are more common.

The beginnings of the conversation appear here:
Earmarks: The Gender of Reading (part 1) (04/19/06) and there is a bizarre post immediately before it "Anatomical Model of a Pregnant Woman"
Guardian Unlimited: Solitary pleasures (04/29/06) Apparently, there is a book coming out called Reading Women available at amazon.co.uk.

but the heart of the conversation are concluded in the following two posts:
Purse Lip Square Jaw: Reading: "a sense of belonging to herself" (05/01/06, amended 05/06/o6)
Earmarks: The Gender of Reading (part 2) (05/05/06)

It's been a long while since I've had the leisure to think along such lines and indulge in the sort of link pursuit that following such a discussion involves. It reminds me what is good about the Internet.


Aries the Scapegoat

I hate what generalist astrologers say about Aries.
Sure, I can be stubborn or adventurous or have leadership qualities, but I would hope that I don't have to dominate others or trample thier feelings or fight all the time.
I can't think of another star sign that gets as bad press as Aries does.
I hate the generalizations. It's one reason I won't read horoscopes anymore (the other reason being they're often the opposite of what I experience).
Pbbbbbttttt! :P


Feeling Human Again

My deadline was reached handily on Friday. I even had time to go back over the set and look for stupid stuff. Of course, we didn't really complete everything we really wanted to do, but we could work from now till the Four Horsemen arrive and we still wouldn't have every-single-little-detail worked out. I think it sufficient to say: I wouldn't be embarrassed to have someone senior to me look at it. Which is good, because a heck of a lot of senior people will be looking at it. This project has been really challenging, not only because of the size and complexity of the building, but because it was my first experience managing people and managing a project. It was really really really really stressful and scary, but I made it through without any major screw-ups (yet).
On Friday evening I was so numb I really didn't know how to feel. It didn't seem real. A friend and her husband asked me out for a drink and then we ended up having a very nice dinner (I treated myself to the filet mignon).
On Saturday I slept in (yay!) and had an interesting dream about a treasure hunt. When I woke up, I lay in bed thinking (yay!) for a while, because it seemed to me to be a great idea for a young-adult novel. Then I got up and went to my computer and started writing (double yay!)! It was such a relief after not being able to for so long. It blew to smithereens my fears of not being able to write again. I wrote a few pages, then the cats walking up and down in front of my face finally drove me to get up and give them breakfast and whatnot. Then I got dressed and went out and bought tires (yay!) and a few household odds and ends (including a silicone loaf pan, which I've been dying to try). When I got home, I baked (yay!) a pound cake while watching (yay!) Finding Nemo. I always rewatch movies when cooking, since I know what will happen and can leave the screen for a few minutes to check or stir something.
On Sunday I slept in again, then read in bed for a while (yay!) - L.E. Modesitt, Jr. The Ethos Effect, which I read while I was waiting for my new tires. Now I'm well into the book, so I can continue without too much self-reminding (yay!). I put together the ingredients for the dessert I was bringing and went to my sister's for lunch (yay!). Her wonderful chef/husband made ribs, BBQ and herb-encrusted, and she made grilled artichokes. Both were delicious. My brother brought salad, and I brought dessert: Grilled Pound Cake with Pinapple Salsa and Tequila Whipped Cream. It was yummy! (And I forgot to take a picture, darn it!) Then I went and played soccer. We lost, unfortunately (not yay), but them's the breaks. When I got home, I talked to my mum and dad on the phone and this evening I have been reading and tidying the kitchen (yay!).
I'm glad this weekend wasn't only lounging about, though there was a good deal of it. You may also assume there was much lounging on the deck while keeping an eye on the cats as they explored the backyard (mew!). I also got some household things accomplished. A well-balanced schedule goes a long way towards feeling normal again.


Busier than a One-armed Paper Hanger

or (one I heard just recently)...
Busier than a one-legged man in a butt kickin’ contest.

This latter is actually more accurate, since what's been keeping me busy is whipping a project into shape. We have a major permit set for a really big building (see the post called "Fan Club" (Mar. 16)) going out in eleven days. I've been working overtime, which I dislike doing and working on the weekend, which I dislike even more. It's not often that we have to do this though, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

It is taking precedence over my blog however, so I ask my two readers to sit tight for the moment. I'll come back soon, I swear!


Bare Truth

A male friend of mine recently told me that my flaw is that "you're not very... subtle."
Fortunately I had the self-composure to laugh and agree.
Upon reflection, it also makes me want to cry, as real truths often do.
I'm just going to have to find someone who sees lack of subtlety as a strength, rather than a weakness.


Independence Day

Oooooh, say can you see
By the dawn's early light
Anne paying off her credit cards

That's right folks, Anne is officially out of debt.
Sure, I still have a mortgage, student loans, and a home equity line of credit, but The Evil Credit Cards are paid off.

It's been at least 4 years since I started paying them off in earnest. (When I get home I'll look on my computer to figure out how long this journey has been and modify this post.)
Yesterday I got my federal tax refund and this morning I paid them off online.
I still have some money from the refund left, and I've been debating what to buy with it. I've come to the following conclusion:
- get new tires and a new battery for the car
- replace the remaining stolen CDs so I never have to say "I had that, but it was stolen" again
- put the rest in savings.

Yes, that will be my big reward for years of (mostly) good discipline - putting money in savings. Not only is it a good start on what I hope are good discipline years of saving, but it will begin the foundation of a real reward - never having to pay overdraft fees ever again. I'll actually have a cushion in my bank account, instead of a cold hard floor. One day I'll have a fluffy mound like The Princess and the Pea, but for now I'll settle for a darn good pillow.
I do intend to buy a few household items: a Dutch oven, a blanket, some curtain rods, and eventually some new bedroom furniture, but that will happen when it's convenient and appropriate, not as a big ticket reward. It will be part of the save *then* spend mode.

I really don't feel much different (after I purged images of a Paris Hiltonesque Anne parading around Denver), but I did have a dream last night that I moved to a new house. Not that I'm going to in real life; I love my little abode. It was symbolic. It's a new beginning. :)

Postscript: I just did the calcs on Amazon.com and found that buying the remaining items in my "Restore Annie's DVD collection" is no small matter. About the same as buying a modest piece of furniture. I did, I'll admit, add a few books (one I've been planning to give as a gift for ages, two Scalzi books I've been wanting too) and one cheap DVD (Shaun of the Dead) to bring us to a round number.
It's a big chunk of cash to spend on entertainment for a gal who's been on an Amazon diet for quite some time.

Postscript to the postscript: After some thought I remembered another book I've been wanting, so I took off Shaun of the Dead and added Candy Girl. I don't end up at a round number now, but whatever, it's just an affectation.