Thursday, July 24, 2008


Last night, after work, I scooted downtown to the local used bookseller. She bought back five of the seven books I had in my tote. She was tickled with three of them; she knew she'd move them quickly. I felt glad to help. I felt thankful that this is the little town I live in.


I rounded the corner from the bookstore to the food co-op. I needed some spices, and the co-op is by far the best deal in town for spices. I was also looking for tomato paste in a tube, and thought they might have some.

The co-op had their fresh produce and dairy shipment the day before. There were local eggs for sale that had been gathered just two days earlier. I picked some up; I knew exactly what I would make with them.

As I was checking out, the young lady at the register asked if I wanted a bag. I said no, just place the eggs on top of the books in my tote so I don't squish them. Then I thought I'd see if she wanted the books. Turns out she needed one of the books for a fall class and was exited about the other one, too. "You don't want any money for these?" she asked. I assured her I was delighted to see her take them. Again, I felt thankful that this is my home.


I arrived home and pulled one of the two volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child off the cookbook bookshelf. I'd checked these out from the university library a few weeks ago. They are the original editions, one orange and one blue. I am still working up the nerve to attempt to make Julia's french bread recipe. But last night I wanted to dive into Oeufs en Cocotte. Julia Powell** claimed they were divine and could cure a hangover. That was all the convincing I needed: this was a recipe I just had to learn to master.

In fact, I've been obsessed with making this recipe for a couple of weeks. I even went and purchase a set of four porcelain ramekins, specifically for this recipe. (Apparently, I am not as innocent in the Clutter Situation as I'd like to believe.) And I didn't want to make it until I had super fresh eggs, either.

Julie Powell didn't lie. These eggs baked in a ramekin with heavy cream are divine. Really. Outrageously yummy. I am positive the super fresh, local eggs made a difference.
I made my first recipe from Julia Child. I was high from my accomplishment ALL NIGHT. I was happy to be home.


After I'd washed up my dishes, I settled in with my laptop and reallocated my retirement funds. I heeded the advice of my recent dream. I am not longer investing like an 85-year-old.


It was a very, very good evening.


Oeufs en Cocotte (Baked Eggs in Ramekins) From the Art of Mastering French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
[This is from memory - so forgive me if I leave anything out! Also - this is so easy. It was a great selection for my first Julia Child Conquest.]

Preheat the oven to 375ºF

For each serving, you will need the following:

1 ramekin or small Pyrex bowl
1 or 2 eggs
1/2 tsp butter, divided
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided
salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare:

With a bit of the butter, butter the ramekin.

Place ramekin in a larger baking dish filled 3/4 inch high with simmering water. (You may need to keep the baking dish over medium heat to keep the water warm enough. I did.) Pour one tablespoon of heavy cream into the ramekin. When the cream is hot, gently drop one fresh egg into the ramekin, taking care not to break the yolk or splash the cream out. Cover with the remaining tablespoon of cream and remaining dot of butter.

Insert the ramekin and baking dish with water into the hot oven (make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven). Cook 7 - 10 minutes or until the egg is just set but still a bit jiggly.* (I had a hard time figuring this out. The cream moves around the top! At 7,200 feet, I had to bake them for nine and a half minutes.)

Remove from the oven and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and rejoice in the creamy goodness.

* According to MtAFC, you can under cook the eggs a bit, remove them form the oven and leave them in the hot water for up to 15 minutes before serving.


My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a fantastic read. I was able to get to know Julie rather quickly. Reading about her journey as she travels through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child was a wonderful literary turn.

I whole-heartedly recommend this to one and all! It is an especially delightful read if you love to cook (or are just now falling in love with culinary pleasures).

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Great Decluttering, Week One

Clutter makes me crazy. Clutter makes me want to hyperventilate. Clutter keeps me up at night. I feel twitchy, and itchy and scattered when I am surrounded by clutter. I feel like I have no air when I am around clutter.

A. does not have this problem.

You can see where this is going, right?

To be fair, A. has made genuine efforts to knock down the clutter in the household a few notches for my comfort and well-being, and I do appreciate it. He's done this solely for my sake, and it speaks volumes of how generous and thoughtful he is. (Well, it speaks volumes if you've ever witnessed me flipping out at 4:00 a.m. because of the clutter. I know, I know. NUTCASE.)

I still think there is too much clutter, though. Because I am a pain in the ass that way. After nearly four years, this is not a surprise to A.

I think clutter is unhealthy, for lack of a better word. It requires that much more time be spent in keeping the house together and keeping the cluttered ordered and put away. When there isn't somewhere to put it away, it takes up our space for living, for relaxing. It drains that much more energy -- mental and physical -- just so it can be dealt with. I even think it clutters your brain. Just scanning the room your brain registers that much more stuff. Why not free up that space, and allow our minds to contemplate something other than the Minnesota Vikings Culpepper bobblehead? No, really?

(Ok, let me make this clear: we aren't living in a pit of junk and there is no hording going on. If I am honest, my definition of "clutter-free" is EXTREME. One might say I am on the verge of a hording problem but in the wrong direction. Anyway. I'd say we are probably well within the range of "normal" right now. Just clarifying.)

Last night, I made the suggestion and A. agreed that each of us will give away, post to Freecycle, post to Craigslist, recycle, donate, or throw away at least two things every week. These items can be anything. They can be small, large, expensive or worthless. The items can be a receipts, or beds. Whatever. Steady progress is the goal, not overnight success. That is okay. It just needs to be moved out of our lives.

I will post my items in The Great Decluttering Effort once a week. I can't imagine this will be all that interesting to you (maybe it will, kind of like those "what's in your purse" posts, but it will keep me moving along.)


Items from Week One:

Given to a co-worker: Fit & Fresh Salad Shaker with Twist and Shake Dressing Dispenser

  • This gizmo seemed like a great idea. I've never used it and it has been taking up space in our kitchen for almost two years. Bye-bye!

Posted to Freecycle:
A pasta scoop thing.

  • I never use it and I hate fighting to get all the utensils to fit in the damn utensil crock. Forks and spoons work just as well!

A. is dontating an old twin bed and accompanying sheets.

UPDATE: This post over at Crazy Aunt Purl's says it all so well. Check it out!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Five

1. I changed my own engine oil last night! A. was there to show me what to do, warn me of certain things (such as, if you don't unscrew the oil filter fast enough you will have oil shooting everywhere. He was right.) and loosen the a couple of things I couldn't quite budge. It is super easy. I saved myself about $25 and strutted around feeling TOTALLY AWESOME AND HARDCORE.  This has been on my list of things to learn to do myself for about a year now.

2. After I changed the oil, A. and I drove the car into town (so I could rest easy knowing I did it right and that the engine wouldn't seize up) and saw the movie, Wanted. I felt decidedly less hardcore after that movie.

3. I still haven't worked up the nerve to dye my hair, and forgot to do a test patch yesterday. (I really don't want to find out I am allergic by having my entire scalp peeling away. GROSS.) So, I will do the test patch this weekend and have every intention of trying this out on Tuesday night or so. I will post before and after pictures, and maybe some action shots of the madness that is sure to ensue.  Thank you for all of your suggestions and tips!! I really appreciate it. Oh, my, I have a nervous tummy.

4. One more hair dying question: I should probably try to keep the dye away from my scalp -- especially my hairline -- right? Is this hard to do? Any bits of advice anyone?

5.  I had a dream a couple of nights ago about reallocating my 401(k) contributions. Really. Weird, yes? Last night I dreamt that Belle found and itty bitty fuzzy kitten who had gotten stuck in a soccer goal net. She wanted to play with it and it just pranced off, all fuzzy and tiny. The grass was very, very green. Then both Belle and I almost got run over by a John Deere tractor. Wierd, yes?

What have you dreamed about lately?

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Oh, I'd forgotten how very much I love the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The very first time I'd heard their music was when I saw them play at the 9:30 Club in DC; they were absolutely hypnotic.  I was totally overwhelmed. I mean, I utterly lost myself in their music. Time and place had little bearing on my awareness.

It doesn't seem to matter where I find myself or in what circumstances; when I hear their music I am engaging in this world from another plane.  It sounds corny, but it is true. I can't really say that about any other band. They are atmospheric and thrilling and delirious.

Thanks, Josef, for reminding me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Honor by August

A friend of a friend's band is in a competition to open for freakin' Coldplay! They would sure appreciate your support. If you are so inclined, please vote for Honor by August here (third from the bottom)!


There is No Dainty Here

Check out this blogger's take on an --interesting -- practice in some circles of yoga. Very. Funny. If my instructor introduces this pose in class, I'll respectfully meditate instead.

Worst. Fear. Ever.

Sure. To. Happen.


I love Fitness Fixation, by the way. it came to my attention via Tessie. Thanks, Tessie!

++ +

I mistyped the website above as "Titness Fixation." Ha! Oh, it is a silly morning.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Five

1. There is still no sign of the tree sparrows.

2. The City never sprays for mosquitoes as far out as our house (seven miles). However, the City has been getting some mileage out of The Impending West Nile Catastrophe Fear Mongering and has drummed up lots of support to spray. They are now spraying the river about a mile from our house. It is not helping. Last evening, A. came in the house mid-way through watering the trees of our new live snow fence to get extra layers of clothes because he was being eaten alive. He does not get bit as much as me, and then when he does he usually possesses this superhuman ability to block it out and ignore it. He said he'd never seen the mosquitoes so thick before. THEY BEAT HIM DOWN.

A. wonders if the spraying isn't what killed the sparrows. They live off of insects. (They were fascinating to watch, darting and swooping in the air, munching up bugs midair and midflight.) Maybe they were victims of secondary poisoning? Oh, God. Mountain Bluebirds could be at risk then, too, as they also eat insects.

3. This has me sad and funky and I can't shake it.

4. I am leaving work a bit early today to go fly-fishing. I am PUMPED. Except for my zippy pants shrunk just enough in the dryer and when I sit I look like I have two, green stuffed sausages protruding from my lower body. Also, I can taste the yucky Neutrogena Ultra Sheer 55 SPF sunscreen I put on my face. I CAN TASTE IT. GROSS. It is making me feel nauseous and has all together ruined my morning coffee. [UPDATE: I just went to the ladies room and scrubbed my face in the sink. So much better.]

5. I am not in quite as bad a mood as this list would imply. It is Friday, after all, and in just a few hours I will be fishing. Woo hoo!


Bonus Blithering Note Number One: I have done a bit of Thesis Crap this week. Mostly I've still been sifting through loads and loads of random ass articles I found during ill-advised lit searches by Former Thesis Advisor #1 (FTA1). I find I am getting more and more angry at the amount of time and energy I wasted working with FTA1, not to mention how much time and energy are now required to get my ass back on track and to mend my broken Academic Spririt. Bah.

Bonus Blithering Note Number Two: So, I am going to take the plunge - I am going to start dying my hair. I think I have finally, adequately mourned the loss of my natural hair color (which I love, by the way.) I have some gray hairs showing up and I always thought I'd be okay with that. I always thought I'd be in my 40s when I encountered my first gray hair. I am neither.

I'd love to have the salon color my hair (or, more accurately, have salon highlights), but with our current income situation I just can't validate spening over $125 a month on my hair. I don't fawn over my hair so there is really no way I can, in good conscience, fork over that much money every month. So, I'll continue to spend $40 on good cuts and will spring $10 or so on home coloring stuff. I've decided to go with semi-permanent color so that when I get too lazy to color regularly and my natural color (plus gray, :-( ) shows up it does so somewhat gradually, rather than having stark, horrid roots. Bah.


So - those of you who have colored before or color regularly: Please, please leave comments or e-mail me with tips and advice! What to do and what not to do! Also, if you are so inclined, I'd love an absurdly detailed Step by Step description of how the hell to actually do this. The stupid little insert in the hair color box makes it look too easy. BAH! THANK YOU.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In My Affinity with the Bionic Woman, I Was Sad to See the Series Was Cancelled

I suppose to start this story, you need to know that I have a plate and seven screws in my left ankle.

Fifteen years ago I slid into second base a bit too late and broke my left fibula and crushed my left ankle. I was really, really lucky I didn't blow out my knee, too. It was during the state softball tournament (FAST PITCH, slow pitch is for sissies) and we were playing our rival team. I was safe.Yay! Until I lifted my leg off the bag to see if the bone I HEARD BREAK was breaking through my skin. DEAR GOD.

Clear as day, as if the words were typed in the air in front of my face, I thought:

"If there is blood on my sock then I know it is a compound fracture and I will pass out."

There wasn't any blood or broken skin, but there was a really, really grotesque bump where the bone was sticking out. *GAG* Anyway, the second baseman tagged me out when I lifted up my leg for a better look. Bitch. I was so furious I elbowed her below the knee, brought her down and started crawling after her, ready to kick her ass. I used to be rather -- spunky. The umpire, a kid who was probably 17 years old, didn't have the slightest idea what to do with me.

The fractures were enough that I had to have surgery. Surgery, based on what the doctor I saw last week said, that was "major" and "traumatic." I was too young (17) and oblivious to really have thought all of that through. Good thing. The surgeon told me I could leave the hardware in there unless it started to bother me.

Well, it's been bugging me.

So, last week I went to an orthopedic center 60 miles away to have an orthopedic surgeon with an ankle specialty take a look. One of the screws had migrated out a bit (but not through the skin!) a few years ago and I've been worried it would keep going, break the skin (DEAR GOD) or cause infections in the surrounding tissue, plus all sorts of other overly imaginative possibilities inspired in no small part by the X-Files and CSI. Also, I've been getting some tenderness in the area every now and then, especially during and after exercising. I thought it might be time to have all that hardware removed.

The good news is that my ankle recovered from the trauma and surgery 15 years ago like a total champ. I've never had bad arthritis or really any stiffness.  The doctor was seriously tickled and said he rarely ever sees anything look this good. Yay! I told him about what activities I am able to participate in, including volleyball, hiking, yoga, fly-fishing in sandals in uneven, rocky streams, etc. and he was really impressed that I have such a pain-free ankle with so much movement. Apparently, I could have been hobbling around, wracked with arthritis. I was pretty ignorant of that possibility. Thank goodness I broke the bones when I was young, healthy and active! So, I am very, very pleased to hear this. And truly, I can't say that my ankle has ever held be back from doing anything I've ever wanted. (Except is is really uncomfortable to wear hiking boots, it really, really sucks to shave over the bump where the screw is *shudder* and to sit in Hero Pose.)

The kind of bad news is - I can decide to have the hardware taken out or not. My decision. The doctor thought there were some good reasons to take it out, including that he could scope around and remove some scar tissue and something else while he was in there. But he also thought it was a really wonderfully healed ankle and that it is not necessary. This was the worst possible news for someone as indecisive as me.

One of the screws has broken.

Graphic evidence for your viewing pleasure.

I guess this happens all the time to the screws that cross a joint. Anyway - GROSS. So, the head of the screw that broke did indeed move out a bit but most likely is done migrating. HOLY HELL, I sound like I am writing about an alien in me or something. Oh, the nightmares.

There is also some calcium/bone tissue growing around that same screw. This didn't overly concern the doctor, and he didn't think it would turn into an issue down the road. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around this. It really won't -- say -- fuse to the other bone or grow large enough to start to impede my range of motion? This area (and the fact that the screw that has migrated rubs on my hiking boots and HURTS A LOT and totally grosses me out) leads me toward considering surgery.

I am young enough that supposedly I am still able to deposit calcium in my bones. Wouldn't it be a good idea to have the hardware removed now, while my bones can heal while adding calcium rather than later, when bone density and strength are a much bigger concern? But - I healed wonderfully from the first surgery. Should I leave well enough alone? Argh. Plus, going under again? Scary.

I have lots of thoughts either way, and of course, have come up with a slew of questions I couldn't think to ask while at the surgeon's office. I have copies of my x-rays, so I think I am going to get a second opinion. If it looks like I should have surgery, I will go back to the OCoR to do it. (Many colleagues and friends have gone there and every last one of them has been very pleased with their care and results.)

(A surgeon friend showed another ortho my x-rays and they agree that just removing that one screw would be best. Leave a well-healed trauma site alone, and all that. Also, they are both wary of scoping if I am not actually having trouble with the ankle. I am really leaning toward this decision, myself, and plan on calling Consulting Surgeon Number One to discuss this.)

Oh, the indecision!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Silence is That Much Greater After All That Singing

The chattering and singing outside our bedroom window was astonishing. It was delightful. I routinely woke up with a smile on my face, comepletely out of character. The chirps and tunes from the two swooping little tree swallows that had taken up residence in one of our birdhouses were nothing less than wonderous.

Inexplicably, the birdhouse -- with itty bitty eggs in a full, cozy nest -- has been abandoned. A. and I are truly befuddled. The male sparrow always kept an eye on us when we were doingyardwork in the front, but he didn't seem anxious. We all cohabited in the front yard for weeks, each minding our own business. Why did they leave? Did an evil minion of the devil cat get them? Maybe a larger bird of prey? A snake? Did they decide they really couldn't raise a family with neighbors the likes of A. and I?  Did our driving by their house every morning become too much?

I know I am secretly worried that our activities around the birdhouse may have driven them off,and I have a hunch A. feels the same way. Randomly, while in the middle of a project, A. will pause, look up and ask aloud: "I wonder why they left? I really wish I knew." I feel tremendously guilty that my insistence on living so close to that birdhouse drove them away. I know this reaction is a tad ridiculous and a bit melodramatic, but it is how I feel.

I feel the same way -- that my insistence on living the particular way I do on this land and in this landscape has destructive consequences on our non-human neighbors -- every single time I see a dead (or, worse, injured) animal on the side of the road. My insistence that there be a road right here, right now, and that I have unlimited access to a vehicle that can (should?) travel upwards of 70 miles per hour endangers these non-human neighbors who are simply trying to live. They aren't asking for much. They are trying to find food, water, care for their young. They generally respect our space though we don't return the courtesy.

Does the highway I travel to town have to be right here? Right in the path of that mama and baby fox? That antelope? Raccoon? Badger? Snake?  Isn't there a better way?

Frequently, sometimes daily, I experience this crisis of a lack of imagination and guilt. There has to be a better way for all of us to live together.

(Personally and on a super nerdy note: I think overcoming the bifurcated paradigm of Us/Them is the place to start, but that is kind of a Big Thought. I my mind is wee little. So, that's all I have to say about that.)


A. takes this even further, or at least, differently. (I think. This is what I understand him to think and feel and I am (foolishly?) carrying on with sharing it anyway. I know I won't do so with the eloquence or subtly his thoughts require, but here I am - typing away anyway. Maybe I'll ask him to guest post about his thoughts, but I don't think he will go for it.)

My understanding is that A. does not think that when it comes down to the right to life of a human or an animal that the human automatically trumps the animal. Think that through for a bit, follow this train of thought through to some of the logical extensions and you will start to understand the daily quandaries and struggles A. finds himself in. At times, with every detail of our daily lives. I don't say that with sarcasism. I say that with awe and respect. The philosophic battles can be mighty, indeed. It also gives some insight into just how seriously and carefully he takes hunting. It is not a carefree jaunt in the woods for this man.

(Also, how thoughtful, generous and just all-around-amazing is this guy? Holy hell, I love him.  Also, he not a brooding party-pooper. He is a helluva lot of fun to be around. No, really!)

A few weeks ago, A. drove by a female antelope that had been seriously wounded by a vehicle not long before A. passed her. He called me after he had pulled her off the road. He didn't have anything with him to take her out of her misery (which, though the compassionate thing to do, I think it is illegal). He was very upset. (A. doesn't get hysterical or anything, but you can just tell when he is upset. It is gut-wrenching.) He said she was hurt, frightened and screaming. It was him relaying to me that she was screaming that stuck. That he was there, wanting nothing more than to help her, hearing her scream. God. I have real, full tears in my eyes as I type this.

He was on his way to a class and couldn't stay any longer and he was going to be out of cell phone range within a mile or two. He asked me to contact the highway patrol or game and fish department so they could come help her (kill her). He gave me his location with the mile marker and highway.

I made the call. The highway patrol contacted the area's Game and Fish warden and they tended to her immediately.

It took days for A. to come back from that strange, distant funk he gets in when he encounters something like that. In his words, "It is one of those things that never leaves you, you know? I'll just always carry that with me."


I carry all of this with me when I gaze through my kitchen window, out on the silent birdhouse.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kenny Chesney is On To Something

I would LOVE to see A. on a tractor. I mean, I would just dieDamn.

I realize this reveals -- well, something about me. I am just fine with that.

A. is in the kitchen, making dinner. He just took a swig of good, microbrew beer, and told me about the electric fence he put up a couple of weeks ago makes Star Wars-esque shooting-laser-beam-sounds.  He mentioned how the other guys he works with were "horsing around on tractors and shit."  I don't know. Seeing my baby in the kitchen, making dinner for me, relaxing, enjoying a beer and then my imagining him on a tractor has me, well, feeling frisky.

A Project Just Up and Smacked Me Across the Face, Demanding Attention

I've been reading Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, and I absolutely love it. I'll write a bit of a review in a couple of days when I finish it, but I bring it up now because part of her experience in her book is her first blog. Not only is the blog centered around one aspect of her life, it is focused on a single project.

How brilliant! What a surefire way to beat writer's block! Also, you'd have something to update the folks about besides, "Buster decided to eat his own poop today...." 

I find myself toying with the idea of making this blog more focused and carefully crafted around a particular theme, but then I remember why I started this site to begin with. I started throwing poorly written posts out into The Internet to keep in touch with old friends and quit shoving My Thesis Whining in their protesting in-boxes. I thought then they could check in on my progress, rather than be force feeding it to them. There was the intention of a bit of a focus, a category of posts, I suppose. But rules never said anything about forbidding ridiculous posts about the dogs and my fear of the treadmill. So, I am not going to filter my posts based on some category in my life. At least, not for now.

So! Worry not, you will still be regaled with tales of the life with dogs, the fish that got away, life with A., attempts to break my neck at the gym, as well as some occasional musings about the landscape I call home. It is a mutt of a blog, and it will stay that way.

However, I am still struck with the desire to have a project that defines a part of my life. In the book, Julie decides to prepare all 500+ recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. What a wonderful idea!

Then it hit me, as much as I'd been trying to avoid it (even just a few paragraphs earlier!). In the gut. Hard. I have such a project: The Thesis.

So, I will be writing more about my progress (or utter lack of) on The Thesis Front here at S&S. While I am certain these posts will be positively riveting, I'll include something in the titles so you can easily skip or skim those posts, if it suits your fancy.

Carry on.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Catching the Midsummer Light

The green on the hills and off the highway is dulling bit. The land shines in the sun more like a peridot and less like an emerald. The rain has stopped, for the most part. There is still the occasional 10-minute afternoon thunderstorm/rainstorm. The ground is dusty and dry, there is a crackling in the grass when it sways in the summer breeze.

This is the summer I grew up with; these are the warm months that filled me with nostalgia when I lived in DC. Here there is a distinct smell of dust in the air when it rains. I don't know how to explain it. The rain here is almost dry. The air does not become humid with the rain. You can literally smell the dust being displaced by the raindrops, swirling up in the air. It is very, very different from the rich, thick smell of rain on the East Coast. When it does rain here, if you get caught in it you are dry in 10 minutes. The rain just evaporates off bodies and clothes.  I was so surprised the first time I got caught in the rain back East. First, it kept raining -- it wasn't just a small afternoon storm. I understood the phrase "pouring rain" for the first time.  Second, I couldn't get over how I would never dry off. It didn't matter if I'd been soaked in the rain or just misted. The rain had nowhere to evaporate. The air was saturated and couldn't accept another molecule of water. I never did get used to staying wet and miserable if I got caught in the rain in DC. 


Often the land I live on gets described as "empty," "desolate," or "a wasteland." I vehemently disagree with assessments like these.The land all around is constantly transitioning. It is never static.  Right now, all along the highway to the house scores of delicate, lavendar flowers are exploding in bloom. Antelope are dropping babies -- tiny, tiny antelope babies!! Every time I am on the highway I find myself swerving all over the lanes, craning my neck to see the little ones wobbling around in the tall grass. The other day I saw itty-bitty twins run up to their mama.

My heart soared.