Reason #2 to Have Guests

I get motivated to clean the house more thoroughly.

I had my sister (and the little prince) and my friend, Stacey, over to eat Brandied Peach Cobbler. Sorry, there are no pictures (I tend to forget when there are other people around). You may imagine that there is a lovely picture of a slightly too liquid peach filling (with bits of candied ginger) and a golden brown and highly fattening crust (made with lots of butter and heavy cream). See, you gain weight just thinking about it.

Edited to add: I just remembered I had a previous post about the cobbler (including a link to the recipe).


It Was a Green Kinda Day

Today, I splurged. I spent a little green to buy a little green.
I've been wanting to buy some herbs to keep in pots. I hate paying $2-3 for packaged herbs that go bad in a day. Today, on my way home from lunch, I stopped at Echter's, a very nice nursery near my house to see what they had. The plants were so happy and healthy, they were practically chirping. I spent a bit more than I had expected to, but I also got an awesome deal on a large glazed pot that was damaged. Those little plants are so cute. They are so excited to be alive, they sound like kindergartners. Take a look:

What chatterboxes. :D
Here they are in their new homes. So cute!

Let me introduce them (left to right): (back row) the parsley brothers (curly and flat leaf), spearmint, lemon thyme; (front row) Italian basil, Thai basil, and rosemary. With any luck, I'll manage to keep them alive for a while.

Then, for dinner, I made fresh spinach pasta. It was SO good. Mmmmm...
Here was the process:

The balls of dough.

Kneading the dough with the machine set at the widest aperture.

Cutting the dough. (I ended up needing to pull them apart a bit, since fibers would cross over a cut.) You can kinda see my fingers through the dough. That's partly because I rolled it one notch thinner (6) than normal linguini would be. I made it lingini fini -- which I'm so glad I did, because it kept it incredibly tender.

The final product. I am out of Parmesan, but butter and coarse salt was just fine. :D


And because no discussion of green can be considered complete without a reference to a particular song:

I love green.


Care Package Queen Returns

Back in January, right after I got laid off, the Brilliant Jen A sent me a fabulous care package, pretty much establishing herself as Care Package Queen.
Last week, CPQ struck again. I got the following little care package from the beautiful and mysterious Miss A:

The brownies (with orange extract! Mmmm!) were packaged in a cute little box with a cool paper accent. The mix CD is a lovely selection, including music from: She & Him, Secondhand Serenade, Kelly Bell Band, and Sugarland. No, I did not know who any of those bands (?) were before I got the CD. Also included were chocolates (Bailey's and Lindt Orange), a selection of herbal teas, a CD of photos from her visit in April, and a funny card.
When I called Jen to thank her, she suggested I warm the brownie in the microwave, top it with ice cream and melted Lindt chocolates. That seemed like a good idea:

And it was. Mmmmmm!


(I am, of course, plotting my "revenge". Fortunately, since I move a bit slowly, revenge is a dish best served after some time in the fridge. ;)


Sometimes You Can Go Home Again

But it's someone else's home now.

My brother and his lovely bride just got back from a trip to good ol' Maryland. It was, I believe, partly to see old friends and partly a tour of my brother's old haunts. One of the places they visited was Elkshire, the farm on which he and I and our sister grew up. Our parents started building it when I was in kindergarten. I remember being dropped off by the school bus at a neighboring farm and walking across the fields (nearly half a mile) to where they were working on the barn. The barn was built first, because, "hay," you needed somewhere to keep the animal feed.
[pauses for groans to die down]
While my parents built the house, we had a mobile home parked under the eves of the barn and my siblings and I slept there while my parents slept in the hayloft. I am quite sure they were thrilled to get a little peace and quiet. There were, of course, wonderful hijinks, like my two-year-old sister climbing up the ladder and joining my parents where they were working on the roof. (Now she has her own little heart-attack generator, muahahahaha!)
My parents moved away when the neighbors started getting too close (like a 1/4 mile away). They tried to make sure that they sold it to a) NOT a developer and b) someone who would appreciate it like we did. They found a couple like that. The husband is a woodworker and the wife keeps horses. It was the perfect place for them. That was after my sister had graduated from college. So, we were there a long time. There are a lot of memories there.

My brother, after he got back from the trip, kindly posted pictures and descriptions. If you'd like to see where I grew up, but kinda not, feel free to check it out.


Dry Well

I haven't posted much the last couple days, as you've probably noticed. It's not because I'm busy, but rather I haven't been feeling particularly creative. I even have a partial post started, but to finish it would require some other creative work. I'm compiling a list of meals I want to eat in the near future, but that's not going to help me now.
I know that I could post some pictures...

Like an update of the farm (now with 3 pigs, which will be my max.):

Or a cute picture of the cats:

Or, I could post an embedded YouTube video of one of my favorite Firefly scenes:

I could also put in a pimp link for my friend Jeri, who has a lovely quote by TDR about daring greatly. That is what I aspire to as well. :)

Sigh, I could do those things, but really what's the point? It's all filler. You guys are sharp enough to see that. So you're just going to have to wait 'til I come up with something more interesting...


Dueling Pursuits

I've been cracking the whip over myself to keep at my latest project, learning my way around Revit ("building information modeling" but you can think of it as hyper-informative 3D drafting). It's terribly entertaining, as you can see from the screen-capture above. The program itself is on the left and an instructional manual including tutorials (downloaded from the website) is on the right. I'm working with the 30-day free trial download. After that, I can still "use" the program, but without saving or printing, or I can buy it. (Ha, yeah right - I have $5,495.00 floating around here somewhere...) The tutorials aren't too bad, once you get into it. But I want to finish them with enough time left in my 30 days (already wasted 10) to play around with it some. Unfortunately, like languages, learning for computer programs is never really there until you have to use it for a project. But in theory, I'll be ready when I get my next job.

I was listening to the Star Wars and LotR soundtracks, but they were both too interesting. So, I switched over to some Hans Zimmer. It's still movie soundtracks, but much blander. (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (not Zimmer) used to be my go-to bland soundtrack on cassette.) The others are fine for repetitive work, where I don't have to think much, but for the tutorials I was reading the instructions aloud to myself to make sure I followed all the tabs and selections and other directional stuff.

I've been trying to be good, but there's another project I've been fiddling with... yup, my farm:

I've got more land and no house yet. I looked at the numbers for how long it would take for the new land to produce enough to pay for itself and found it was 6 days, way shorter than the approximately 12 days it'll take to save for the white farmhouse. That latter time frame will actually be shorter, since I only looked at crops (with average profits) and not tree harvests or my own harvesting work. Both are unpredictable, however, so I was doing a "worst case" scenario.
You may notice I've upgraded to two pigs. The farm seemed large for only one pig, so I kept a second gifted pig. We'll see how that goes before I add a third.

Edited to Add: Oooh, one of the patterns I planted three days ago just matured to 100%. Very cool! Take a look below:

Would Anyone Like Any Toast?

(And if you don't know where that's from, see this.)

Mozzarella on toast, broiled in toaster oven... mmmmm, comfort food. (This could be dressed up with a bit of chopped up fresh basil or a very thin slice of tomato. Added before or after the broiling? I'm not sure. Will have to run tests. ;)

Turns out that you can make Bisquick scones, freeze unbaked ones, leave 'em in the freezer for ages, take 'em out, defrost them, and bake them in the toaster oven. They are really quite good! Blackberry jam and cream help.

"I toast. Therefore, I am."
- Talkie Toaster


I <3 Legos

Frank Lloyd Wright Lego Sets = Too cool!

(This is not a wish list request. My 25th Anniversary Set is perfect for my needs, thanks.)

Thank you, Tania, for the heads up.


Farm Update

Since I haven't much time this morning, I thought I would post the following update:

I made sure the pig is visible (for Brenda)... :)


Mattimeo, My Boy

Matti, "helping" me study for the exam last weekend.

I don't think Matti is much of a ham. He ended up turning away from me, ostensibly to keep an eye on his brother, but I think he was unsettled by the pictures for some reason.


Serendipity Flower

Last week, when I mowed and weeded, I discovered an odd plant in the back. I didn't recognize it, so (as is my habit) I left it be. It looked like the above - funny, fuzzy plant.
Then, yesterday, I noticed something orange in the grass. I thought it was a toy accidentally thrown over the fence from the neighboring yard. When I got around to throwing it back over, I found that it wasn't a toy at all, but a beautiful poppy-like flower! Beautiful isn't it?

Farmtown Addict

Farmtown, the game I've been playing on Facebook with my family and friends, has a wonderful blend of social and creative aspects. The game itself is pretty simple. You have a small plot of land, which you cultivate through plowing and seeding. Each crop costs a certain amount for seed and takes a certain amount of time to mature. Once the crop is ready, then you can harvest it and make your money back plus some profit. If the crop sits in the field too long, it goes to waste. There are also animals and trees, which bear salable fruit, both generally given as gifts, but the nucleus of the game is the growing and harvesting of crops. They can be laid out in any means you wish (with certain graphic parameters, of course) and you may plant what you wish, when you wish. This is the creative aspect of the game, and I'll get back to it in a minute.
The other main force of the game is community. If you have people help you harvest, you (the farm owner) can make more money. And when you help others harvest, you (the hired hand) make money too. These can be neighbors (ie. FB friends playing the game) or strangers, playing from around the globe. There is a "market" that is a chat room. Players who would like to work as harvesters go to hang out there, waiting for players who need to hire harvesters to come along. It can get a bit juvenile in there, but you can meet some neat people (I've met and worked with a Kiwi and a Canadian there). Plus, Farmtown has the option to "buddy" someone, which doesn't require friending them in FB. Hallelujah! Another way to make money and garner experience points is to visit your friends farms and do tidying up tasks (that don't really affect the farm).
The chat room fuction is also available to people who are standing in the same farm. (The farm is the "room" so only people there can see the conversation.) So, when Karen invites me over to harvest, we can catch up on things, and when Aileen shows up, she can join the conversation! This, combined with the lovely farms that both these women have - farms that you are looking at as you type - makes the experience feel like you are there, together, in the same place.
Aileen has a particularly nice farm (though Karen and I are close on her heels!) and it took me a while to understand why I liked so much. It had a more naturalistic feel that my own did at the time. Trees were planted in a clump behind the house and fields were not perfectly efficiently laid out. Gaps in the fields had trees or a hay bale to add visual interest. It was in those first days, when I was attracted to Aileen's naturalism that I also noticed that some places were rigidly gridded and some were a hodgepodge. Some included patterning in the crops (checkerboard, for example), which Karen incorporates very well on her farm. I saw giant farms packed with crops and barns and animals and paths. One of the most beautiful I saw was packed with giant fields, but they were all patterned. So, I'd say that in addition to the lovely chat room and community aspect, my favorite part is seeing how different people express themselves through their farms.

Me, I decided to take that naturalistic style that I liked so much and run with it. The picture above is of my farm (double click on it for a bigger version). I mixed all the trees together, so that they resemble a forest more than an orchard. I created a gathering space in the middle, for chatting. I still have rectangular fields, but they're not all oriented the same way. And there are trees springing up all over.
I don't have many animals. In real life, I love animals, but the ones in the game are a little annoying. They clutter the landscape or require fencing. They make (if you have the sound turned on) lots of noise. So, I have one pig (see if you can find him in the picture above). He was given to me by my niece, and he is very cute, wiggling his nose at you and snorting every once in a while. The best, however, is when he flops over to sleep:
*Note the strawberry patch, which was all white flowers in the overall photo, but had matured to berries by the photo of the pig.
Everything is nicely paced (you could time things to visit once a week if that's the way you roll). There are fun details, like the windmill and fences, etc. If there are people bent on world domination through industrial farming, it's easy to avoid them or miss them entirely. Some people take the game very literally, rotating crops so as not to exhaust the soil, or putting up hedges in the horse pastures for jumping. I like that eye for detail, since every element builds up a story around it. For example, Aileen's windmill is for power, so that her farm can be off the grid. It's these kinds of things that make the place feel homey. But the realism has it's limits, since - sadly - in real life we cannot just pick up a tree and move it across the farm, not without seriously endangering the tree.
We're trying hard not to be addicts. When I find myself wandering around there without much purpose in mind and no fields to tend, I try and steer myself off. I like fiddling with the trees, making them artfully but organically arranged. It appeals to my artistic nature. After gaining a strip of land to two sides of the farm, I had to move a bunch of things around. It was out of balance! I'll take a "photo" when I'm feeling more settled about the new arrangement. And the beauty of Farmtown is that while my artistic side is fed, my organizational side gets fed too. I made a spreadsheet to track the profits of different crops.

My Farmtown name is Annie Oakley and I am a Farmtown Addict.

ETA: Here's an image from his morning. I had lots of mature crops and trees, which makes it quite a colorful image. (click to enlarge)


Quick Din Din

When I got up this evening to make something for dinner, I had it in mind to do something quick: reheat some leftovers or make some Ramen (you can tell I haven't been poor very often or for very long, as I still like the stuff).
As I was puttering around the kitchen, I remembered that I was going to share some of my Costco-sized bag of basmati rice with a friend. In the process of putting it in a Tupperware for her, I caught the wonderfully nutty scent of the basmati.

I certainly wasn't going to settle for Ramen after that, now was I?

I cooked the rice...

And added it to broccoli and mushrooms, cut small and sautéed in toasted sesame oil, along with a couple of beaten eggs. In retrospect, the amount I made would have been better proportioned with three or four eggs, but they're hard to add in a second batch. Live and learn.

The spicing was tricky for some reason. I didn't want to go to my old standbys (French or Italian seasonings) and I'm not a big fan of the Five Spice powder (at least when I use it, probably incorrectly), so I used salt, pepper, sesame seeds (next time, toasted ones), ginger, a sprinkling of parsley and a few (maybe ten) caraway seeds. Final touch was a little soy sauce.
It was nice and savory. Nothing too "loud." The sesame came out very nicely. I particularly like sesame and basmati together -- I think they compliment each other.

So here was dinner. Much better than leftovers or Ramen:

Facebook Games

This past week, in amongst the studying, I have been playing a fun Facebook (FB) game called Farmtown. My sisters first drew it to my attention and I finally succumbed. I sat down to tell you all about it, and got sidetracked into a related subject that I've thought lots about (as you will soon see). So now, the Farmtown portion of the story will have to wait until tomorrow while I get this piece out of my system.

I have played several different types of games on FB. Some are more combat based than others. Mafia Wars is probably the best of the "combat" games, though many, following the latest craze for anything vampire related, play Vampire Wars. Those games require that you collect a gang of some sort - the bigger, the better - to fight other gangs. I like the advancement portion, where you do tasks and accumulate experience points and levels. This type of game has some attraction for a while, but gets extremely tedious as one of two things happens: a) the game forces you to acquire more members for your gang or b) the predominance of other players with gigantic gangs means you get beat up more often. Acquiring more members is not fun because it means you either have to plead with your FB friends to join to help you (even if they don't particularly like the game or gaming) or that you start adding FB friends who you don't even know just to get their membership (and they get your membership in return). I don't really like this. It clutters my FB experience with people I don't know from Adam, and don't care to. I *have* done it a few times, but as my interest in these games wanes, so has my willingness to pollute the FB "friend" status.
There are pure "combat" games, like Motorcycle Madness (boring, I'd rather be on a real motorcycle and not racing), and social spinoffs to the Wars games, like Sorority Life (which I did not join, just on principle). There is every flavor of "combat" game imaginable: pirates, knights/dragons, science fiction, you name it, they've got it. All structured on the same base rules though.
Then, I discovered Mad Scientist, for which I had the grand fortune of joining an established group including my friend, MWT. There, you have a team of eight scientists who help you with experiments and constructing various mad scientific devices. You start out with a Frankenstein ("fronkensteen!")'s monster and progress to cloned dinosaurs (several of these is called a Jurassic Park), zombies (and a zombie army), robots (robot army), Skycom A.I, virus outbreak, time traveling device, etc. You get the idea. My favorite is the LHC-style particle accelerator that, when run, will occasionally produce black holes. Hilarious! This style game is more about making things and achieving the next great thing (the latest thing is an orbital ion cannon. One of my skill levels is not high enough to complete it, so I'm running around making stuff that moves those skill levels forward. It's a great game and I do enjoy it. However. (You knew there would be a however, didn't you?) However, the pacing of the game is off. Once you get up to high levels, it takes your team only minutes to do something simple. And it takes bunches of little tasks to work up to the big tasks. So, if your web-surfing and can come back every few minutes, this is OK. But if you're not spending much time on the computer or are trying to actually get work done that shouldn't be interrupted every few minutes, it doesn't. It's easy to let the game take over the pacing of your life.

Each of these types of games emphasizes different personality types. There are the acquisition or goal oriented types, there are the dominance types, there are the process oriented types, and there are the creative types. Few people are just one of these types, most have a blend of two or more. Sometimes a person lacks enough of a personality trait that even having a multi-faceted game can't make up for the predominant facet. Pacifist types, for example, won't find much entertainment in Mafia Wars (and truth be told, the "fight" aspect of it is kinda boring and frustrating in my opinion). I think I tend towards the creative side of things. For a time, Mad Scientist filled that role and I got to advance without crushing others in my path. As I looked at the different types of games, I found it fascinating how each of the types emphasized (or exercised) one or another type of personality. [Stacey, thanks for being my initial ear on this musing!]

There are other games. I didn't even get into Restaurant City (which is getting closer to the Farmtown model. Nice game, good graphics, but has limitations, some related to how many "friends" you have playing the game. There are also games that I've been invited to play, but have never joined: Robin Hood, Heroes vs. Villains, Fish Wrangler, Epidemic, etc. Too many ways to waste time.

But Farmtown? That feels like a good way to waste time... :D

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2.



I can now put the initials "AP" behind my name. Woo. Hoo.
Granted, this may make the difference when I'm hired, but truth be told, I'm not a big fan of proclamations of achievement. MD or PhD or Esq., I can see. They require years of study and rigorous effort. AP because I took one test? Meh. Not so much. And then there's the ones like AIA, which are just a notation of what organization you happen to be a member.

I studied for about three weeks or so. This was for accreditation for a sustainable building program, by the way. There was a lot of data and I wasn't sure what information would be tested. Buildings that are attempting to get LEED certified can accumulate credits toward the certification by achieving certain goals. As might be expected, in order to quantify these achievements, many of the credits require a percentage of improvement over baseline or a certain percentage of the cost to be spent on certain things. So, there were a lot of 5%, 7.5%, 10%, 50%, 75%, 95%, etc. to keep straight! If I don't see a percent symbol for a long time, I will be a happy woman. There were also all the credits and their interrelationships to keep straight. One of the things that popped into my head (because I was having trouble turning off the images in my brain of a game I've been playing lately) was someone telling me about a mnemonic device in which you imagine your memory as a big building with lots of rooms and each room contains a piece of information. Most big buildings with lots of rooms are, in my experience, pretty boring. I decided, instead, to construct a virtual landscape (the first one was a farm with a nine sectioned grid layout) that had the concept of a credit or prerequisite in each square. The concept was represented by an image (a stand of trees = density and connectivity, a police station = commissioning (police commissioner, get it?), etc.) and I could close my eyes and imagine the farm or town or whatever, and each piece would remind me of a concept. I had four of these, one for each major section (the fifth section had a small scale visual for its three parts). Being an extremely visual and symbol-keyed person, this worked pretty well for me, up to a point. I couldn't keep details memorized like that. One concept might include the information on the credits as being "achieve 10%, 20%, and 30% for each increment" and the one immediately next door might be "achieve 10%, 20%, and 40% for each increment". I just hoped for the best.

And I passed by a good margin. So some combination of my study methods worked! Yippee! I think I'll keep that virtual landscape in my bag-o-tricks, but I hope I won't have to take another test for a long time!


Duty and Procrastination

This weekend is, apparently, a study in opposites. I'm getting a little nervous about the LEED exam on Tuesday morning, and I'm trying to a) finish reading the reference guide and b) look a some of the supplementary study materials that a friend sent me.

HOWEVER, despite my anxiety, I am also feeling highly distractable by any of the following things:
- an emotionally charged (but trivial) discussion with someone on the internet
- Farmtown (this should have its own post) and any other Facebook games
- making a spreadsheet for Farmtown and figuring out how I could do a screen capture (for said blog post and desktop background)
- trying to figure out my mp3 player/PC interface problems
- snacking
- catching up with friends' blogs
- tidying up the kitchen
- etc.

I did go to see my Aunt Ruth on Friday to make a big pot of chicken and vegetable soup, then stopped by my sister's to say hi to my BIL and the baby, and had lunch with my Uncle Sam yesterday. So, not all of my time has been procrastinating!

I hate studying, by the way. Sigh. So back to the grindstone.


Getting Stuff Done

Yesterday, I had a pretty productive day:
- read for LEED exam
- weeded and mowed lawn (blech)
- walked to library to return audio book and get new one
- downloaded Revit tutorial material and installed
- got download from bank into Quicken for the first time (a kind of electronic balancing my checkbook)
- responded to some job search related emails

All that in spite of the fact that I was also wrestling with damn Rhapsody! For some reason, it locks up when I try to transfer stuff to my MP3 player. Grrr! I'd like to get it worked out, since walking is NOT the same without my stories.
Today will not be the day to get it worked out though. I have to get my reading in before heading out to do a couple of errands, go to see Wolverine this afternoon, and then to a presentation on India given by my friends. I'll be wearing my sari for moral support.

How about you all? Busy days?

Edited to Add:
I also got this great picture of the Fava Bean Salad that Susan made for our night of babysitting and gourmet food. Susan had enough ingredients that she made it the next day for her husband. Being a diligent foodie, she took a picture for me. :)


Stamp Day

I got my official architect stamp today. I had delayed, since I worked for a licensed architect who signed the drawings that were produced in the office. However, with the possibility of needing to start doing my own projects, I bought a stamp. Just in case.

It's cool, but it's a symbol of a lot of responsibility or rather, liability, that is a bit scary.


Walking Tour

I walk around two lakes, Rocky Mountain Lake and Berkley Lake, in a loop that is between 4 and 4.5 miles, depending on my route. The path is paved with asphalt and passes a beautiful little library (which I should photograph sometime), a community center, an off-leash dog park, and many people fishing. (I must assume they stock the lakes with fish.) It's really nice to see people and their families going out to walk, run, or fish, and just generally get outside.

Here are some of the views I see during my daily walk:


Audio Books

I've been listening to Neal Stephenson's Anathem (an 800 page doorstop in its printed form) while walking, and I have to say, it's been a rousing success.

There are certain aspects of the story that I know I am missing. Stephenson has invented some of the language, and I'm sure I'd be picking up nuances better if I could see the structure and spelling of the words. In fact, I'm tempted to borrow the printed version too, just so I could flip through and catch a few of the things I think I'm missing. The complexity of the story is begging for a timeline, glossary, and a map. I believe at least two of these can be found in the book.

Part of the reason I'm missing nuances is that listening to an audio book is a little like riding in a car instead of walking. When you read and you come upon a difficult or interesting bit, you can stop, digest it, read it over, puzzle over the words. Listening to an audio book, difficult or interesting bits just fly by. "I'll get the gist of it next time they mention it," you think to yourself. This is sometimes justifiable, like now, when I am "reading" a book that is the equivalent of Montana. Interesting and beautiful, but geez, just too big! (The book actually IS quite enjoyable, despite a tendency to wander off the main topic to explain some minutiae.)


Flexibity = Crucial

My dearest cousin, Susan, and I like to get together and do a little gourmet cooking together every once in a while. (And every time we do, we say, "we must do this more often!") She is a delight to hang out with and we always have fun cooking together. (I did, in fact, have fun cooking with my new sister, Jenn, on Friday too. Apparently I've been cooking for other people a lot. Not coincidentally, Jenn will be included on Susan and my next gourmet night.)

Then, an adorable wrench was thrown into our works:

My siblings wanted to go to a friend's BBQ and needed a babysitter (Alex's first babysitter!). Susan and I decided to combine the events and try to have some cooking fun and babysit at the same time.

[We will now pause while the parents in the audience laugh their butts off...

... feel better? OK, good. We're going to continue with the story now...]

Susan and I did try to take into account the split attention issue and planned some very simple recipes to try. Our menu looked a little like this:
Escargot in Garlic & Shallot Butter
Pan-seared Duck Breast
Lemony Fresh Linguine with Morels and Peas
Fava Bean and Fennel Salad (from A Platter of Figs, by David Tanis, coincidentally enough, the Fava Bean Salad is the recipe shown in the "Look Inside" feature)
Baked Pears with Butterscotch Sauce

All of these (with the exception of the fava beans, which turn out to be a lot of hulling) are super easy recipes. Yes, the pasta had an added element of making the pasta (which does take a bit of work, but not a lot). But, our dear little Alex decided to continue his routine of being fussy between the hours of 6:30 and 9:00. There were periods of quiet in between, but they usually coincided with times that one or the other of us was attending to him. So. I won't do a play by play, but we only got to have the escargot, fava bean salad, and pasta dish, and that last one was at about 10:30 when Alex's parents had gotten back. Fortunately, we don't mind eating on a Continental schedule.
Despite the challenges, Susan and I had a great time. The food was delicious. I brought my camera, but we kept forgetting to take photos. Here are a couple:

Fava Bean and Fennel Salad, pre-prosciutto garnish

Yummy yummy pasta (leftovers were eaten by my sister and BIL... he called from the second floor to remind her to bring up his portion)

Here's a hint: If I come over to make pasta, there will be leftovers and I will package it up to put into your freezer.

Fortunately, Susan was planning to stay the night. So, for breakfast, we had tea and toast (so Susan could have some of Janiece's famous apple-butter), then Baked Pears, homemade scrapple (made by Susan's dad, Mike, and brought for my dining pleasure), and pan-seared duck breast. Eclectic? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely.

And because we ate every dish as a separate course, I can say, "thank you, Susan for a gastronomic series." I look forward to the next time.


Cat Blogging Friday

In some parts of the world, it is Cat Blogging Friday. There are variants, like Boogie Blogging Friday, but I, myself, generally avoid doing what other people are already doing. I'm a bit of a contrarian, you see.
BUT, in order to be a true contrarian, you must occasionally be contrary to contrarianism. And so, with that double negative in mind (and a desire to post about the cats, as they have been pictorially absent from the blog lately), I bring you: The Boys Getting Some Yard Time.

Matti enjoys watching the birds, who stay damnably out of reach.

Martin doesn't like to lie or walk on crumbly, shifting things like leaves. He prefers more reliable surfaces, such as rocks, brick, and concrete.


Food Find

First, a little background: I was glancing over my Google Reader this morning, seeing who had posted and what they had posted. I like keeping up to date with some of my favorite people. Google Reader has a feature that allows you to "favorite" (or put a gold star by) posts. I use this typically, to identify stuff I want to be able to come back to - usually recipes.
For some reason, this post at HCDSM was starred. I don't recall why. In looking over the post, I saw something that hadn't been there when I had seen it before - Jim's comment. I clicked through on the link he'd provided and the heavens opened up and I heard angels singing. (Or was it Satan chuckling? Because *oooh* the gluttony and food lust that sprang up in me was like a tidal wave.)

Check it out (be sure to have a towel for all the drool): Foodgawker.com

So thank you, Jim, for pointing us to this site and thank you, Google Reader for inexplicably having a star next to Janiece's post prompting Jim's comment.


Insomnia Cure

A quote from my LEED certification studies. It's not really taken out of context, since the paragraph preceding and succeeding it do not enlighten the reader on any of the terms contained therein.

"Fan energy is separated from the cooling system in the Performance Rating Method. Thus, if the HVAC manufacturer provides an overall efficiency rating, such as an energy efficiency ratio (EER), it must be separated into the component energy using the coefficient of performance (COP) or other conversion (Equations G-A, G-B, G-C, Pages G-24 and G-26 of the ASHRAE 90.1, I-2004 User's Manual)."

[I yawn as I am poked awake]

Wha? Where am... Oh yeah... Anyway, I'm pretty sure this is a summary of a complex method to determine the relative efficiencies of two HVAC systems. However, it is meaningless without the actual method being described or shown in any way. Not to mention that it's buried in a pile of similar paragraphs trying to describe other complex methods for other components.

This particular section is NOT well written for the uninitiated.

If anyone is having trouble sleeping, give me a call. I'll read aloud from this book for a paragraph or two.

My Favorite Quote

I sometimes read this quote for a little perspective. It depicts the world as I see it: complicated, but ultimately balanced.

"For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace."
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Needless to say, one of my favorite songs is The Byrd's Turn Turn Turn. (Did you know they first came out with that song in 1965? Here's a clip from the Ed Sullivan Show. David Crosby was cute as a button!)

(No commentary on Christianity or the Bible intended here. I see this quote as being wonderful without any of the trappings of religion.)


Comedy Relief Time

Too much serious talk going on here... needs a little leavening:

Ah... much better... ;)


Walking It Off

I've been under a little stress lately: not having a job, working on my personal "issues", and other things (thank goodness the wedding/cake baking went well and is finished!). A few weeks ago I twittered about needing an outlet. Michelle's suggestion was best: exercise. Michelle knows about these things because her body's way of dealing with stress is "challenging" to say the least. She had to learn about alternative ways to process stress.

So, I've been trying to do that lately, mostly through walking (it's FREE!), but am sometimes reluctant, since a) I can always rationalize that I should be using that hour or so to be "accomplishing" something and b) I think too much when I walk, which contributes to my general thinking too much. Now that my computer is back in action (mental note: blog about computer's rejuvenation and praise BIL), I was able to get some books on CD ripped to MP3s so I could put them on my MP3 player and listen to something distracting as I walk. I first managed to do this yesterday. I didn't listen to the book yet (Anathem, by Neal Stephenson), instead I listened again to that D&D podcast I enjoyed so much (thinking I wanted comedy). Not a great idea, since it had lulls that gave me space to descend into too much cogitation. We'll see how the book goes today. I may need to do a little more thoughtful choosing of books (like maybe see if Bujold or Pratt are available on CD at my library).
Anyway, at the very least, I'm getting exercise.



What is it, exactly?
When I asked myself this question recently, it seemed to me that it was causing oneself pain or difficulty on purpose, ostensibly to achieve something desired.
Exercising at the gym
Watching the news on TV

However...the dictionary has several definitions, and three out of the four have one thing in common: *pleasure* is derived from pain, degradation, etc.
So, unless you're one of those crazy people who experience an endorphin high after exercising, that doesn't qualify, and honestly none of the other (admittedly humor-based) examples do either.
So though we joke that the friend who stays in the job with the craptastic boss is actually a masochist, that's not the description at all.

So what is? What makes us do things that are painful, tiring, saddening, frustrating, in order to reach a goal or obtain something that we think/hope will make our lives better?

(**Note: I am not a masochist myself, but there are times if I wonder if I am. ;)