A Week in Bullet-Points

I feel like doing some bullet-points today!

CDL training:

  • Ron’s been driving on the road, and “real” driving, out on “real” roads, not just circles around the industrial park.
  • Saturday’s instructor thinks he needs just a few more hours and he’ll be able to pass the test.
  • Which is good, because he tests a week from today.

Drawing:

  • Saturday night I started coloring the large version of “Shai-Hulud and the Fremice”. I’d had some reservation about a change I’d made to once of the mice’s legs, in ink, but decided to carry on.
  • And discovered that the reviews that said to use the back side of the Bienfang marker paper (relative to how it is bound in the pad) were correct.
  • So I abandoned that drawing, and will try again, soonish.
    Instead, I did “Smaug has a Flower”, pretty much a copy of a photo we took a couple years ago, with a baby Smaug peeking around a plastic aquarium plant.
  • I modified it so the flower is more like an impressionistic peony.
    Got carried away with the green around things, but not horribly.
  • I need to go back and add some darker shading on a couple of Smaug’s light spots. Which may not true to the photo, but as-is they look wrong.
  • Ordered three books (by one author) for myself, two on imaginary creature design and science, and the third a gallery of the author’s imaginary creatures.
  • A couple weeks ago we were at Dick Blick, and Ron found a good sized (11 x 17-ish, or it may be the A-series paper sizing analoge) LED-driven light box on sale. I said get it and call it my birthday present.
  • It is nice – Ron didn’t see a point in making me wait to use it, so I traced the Fremice using it. IIRC maybe half an inch thick, and adjustable brightness.

Weekend Natter:

  • Friday night I was pretty much a slug.
  • Saturday we were pretty much slugs, until it was time for Ron to go drive, when I worked on drawing, as nattered about above.
  • I did get my hair cut on Saturday.
  • Yesterday we were less slugly.
  • Robin had to go to open at Pizza Workplace (after closing Saturday night, boo hiss), and Ron felt like getting out of the house.
  • We waffled between Brookfield Zoo and the Field Museum, with extra “do-anything-at-all?” waffling because my back was stiff.
  • I was leaning toward the Field Museum, which led to “drive or train?” waffling.
  • I checked the Metra schedule. Train was leaving Palatine in 13 minutes. Fortunately, the dogs were already in their crates and we had our shoes on. To the Mongo-truck! (Trains only run every 2 hours on Sundays).
  • Yes, we made it, with a few minutes to spare.
  • Free parking on the weekends, lots of open spaces in the garage, and the Ventra app for ticketing helped make it easier.
  • Brunch at Ogilve station, then a taxi to the museum.
  • Since I couldn’t find my Field Museum membership card, which I never remembered getting anyway, we approached the member service desk humbly, craving their assistance.
  • Which was very pleasantly rendered. Cards should be (re-) sent.
  • We saw the “Tattoo”, “Specimens”, “Cyrus Tang Hall of China”, and some other bits of regular exhibitions on the way in and out of the named ones.
  • Those all happened to be on the west side of the museum, which is where I spent my visit last time. Next time I need to go through some of the stuff on the east side. Just because.
  • Ron took some pictures, mostly playing with his new wide-angle lens and the automatic HDRI mode on his camera.
  • Decided it was time to go, stopped at one of the shop for a couple books that called to me and weren’t available as e-books, and was also called to by another book that was available as an e-book, which I got that way, then out to a taxi.
  • I’d been pointedly not checking the Metra schedule at all until we got into the station and checked the board at the foot of the escalators.
  • Next train on the Northwest line was leaving in 5 minutes. Made it, but without time to get something to drink.
  • Got home, found and consumed beverages, and were slugly for a while.
  • Then I made dinner, loaded the dishwasher, and we were slugly for the rest of the evening.

Critters:

  • Beagles are snuggly creatures.
  • Pippin contends he’s not snuggly, he’s just forced into contact with us because we don’t give him enough space on the couch or bed.
  • Lummy has apparently decided he does not like radiccio this week.
  • Snake enclosure rearranging (moving a couple from the bedroom to the living room, who’s in which, and upgrading Kajura) following on from moving BPs to tubs has not proceeded. See above re: “slugly”.
  • The largish enclosure that’s been on order for a couple months arrived last week. Still un-assembled, re: slugly, again. I think Fezzik will be moved to it.
  • Nor have vacated glass enclosures been removed to storage. Yeah, slugly.
  • Got some indented kraft paper to try as a substrate for Buford, who has a certain special scent all his own, and which is probably best dealt with by more frequent complete substrate changes.
  • Large sheets of paper should be faster/simpler to change than shredded aspen, which is best removed with a shop-vac, and fresh stuff always always escapes and gets spread around the room while being put in enclosures.

Aaand, I think that’s about it.

Long Weekend with Nesting Bullets

The weekend was good. Not too busy, but we did get some things done:

  • Clipped dog claws
  • Got the first spots on the new couch
  • Need to get another cushion/pillow or two for the lounge side
  1. Or make stuff/compression sacks for one or both spare body pillows
  2. And make covers for the blue bolsters that absolutely don’t go with the blue couch
  3. I worked on books (see Google+ for pictures):
  4. Three books completed (including tail end of last week)
  5. A squeegee works better than the brush I’ve been using for glue for large areas
  6. And results in less glue loss than the mini paint roller I tried previously
  7. Obtained a small plate for a glue palette (yoghurt lids are a bit small for the squeegee)
  8. Buying one small plate that isn’t a replacement confuses Crate & Barrel clerks
  9. Used my sewing frame for the first time
  10. And the second time, after some hardware tweaks that improved things
  11. Ace Hardware staff (not just Modelmaker) are used to us shopping for unusual projects and are rarely confused by said shopping
  12. Making progress on adding new techniques
  13. Started using my bookbinding press
  14. Thinking about getting yet still another type of press
  15. Bought some paper which is somewhat outside of my usual color/pattern comfort zone – pastel teal with elephants
  16. But not the paper with cutesy pink elephants and glittery red hearts
  17. Successfully worked with off-white book cloth without getting it grubby
  18. Discovered that text weight paper from Papersource differed in weight between two colors
  19. Made the Halloween book with it anyway
  20. Need a second tube to keep rolled paper/book cloth in
  21. May liberate a cardboard tube from work, until I get to Dick Blick for a nicer one
  22. This will not be a problem – every so often we thin the herd of empty tubes and other packaging that the office packrat has stockpiled
  23. Thinking of making a portfolio/folder to keep smaller flat pieces of paper in
  24. Which may require purchase of some larger plain paper
  25. And follow-up to a smart-aleck comment that Ron made will require purchase of thread
  26. Have three book blocks (interiors) ready for casing-in, and paper, cloth, and board cut for cases (covers)
  • Straightened up the bedroom while changing water in the aquaria:
  1. Beagles were napping in the sun and had to be coaxed in with snacks
  2. Put bins in the attic stair closet
  3. Was sensible and removed Nageswari’s water dish before moving shelves to get to said closet
  4. Put other bins on shelves
  5. Moved dog crates off register
  6. Brought my white drawer unit up
  7. Put garb “away”
  8. Other general straightening-up in the room
  • Cooked a ham in the crock pot:
  1. The “Cook on low for 8 hours” found repeatedly on-line is excessive – meat was a little dry
  2. But there was plenty of liquid to help
  3. OTOH, the bone just fell right out, so that was a plus
  4. Need to obtain split peas for soup
  5. Do not add ham to the soup until *after* applying stick blender
  • Got the AC units out and taken to the storage locker, and:
  1. Sandbags put in Mongo
  2. Retrieved my bookbinding books
  3. Improved labeling of some boxes of books
  4. Forgot a table and some other odds & ends
  • Issola brand gluten-free mini gnocchi are pretty good. Buy again
  1. (Didn’t buy because they were GF, noticed that when making soup)
  2. In the refrigerated case above the eggs at Eurofresh
  • Survived the monthly tedium call this morning
  1. Chocolate. Chocolate would have helped
  2. Chocolate because alcohol is not allowed at work
  3. Drat, forgot to break out the conference call bingo card a co-worker made
  4. Some day I’m going to work from home on conference call day…
  5. …and use the bingo card as a drinking game guide…
  6. …and get stupendously drunk
  • Achieved minor office hero status for dealing with a stench.
  1. I won’t subject you to the details, but I have smelled worse things in my time
  2. One of my super-powers is Taking Out the Garbage

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New Year’s Eve and Day

Ron’s investigations with the AT&T store near his office revealed that I could get a new 16 GB iPhone 5C for $100 and a two-year commitment to my contract. And the way the contracts run, which is by phone/number, not by whole bill, we can wait and upgrade Ron’s in a month or so.  The store near home was only open until 5:00 on New Year’s Eve, and the store in Vernon Hills was going to be open normal business hours New Year’s Day, so the plan was to go out in the morning and procure my new phone.

Tuesday night Ron printed up some calling cards for me, while I played around on the computer with laying out short poetry on smallish pieces of paper. I set the type for and Ron printed “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat” by Lewis Carroll:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.

Then we went to bed, well before midnight.

Yesterday morning I decided I wanted to procure some patterned paper for bookbinding experiments. The paper crafting store at Deer Park Towne Center was closed for the holiday, but Dick Blick in Schaumburg was open, and there is an AT&T store nearby. So off we went.

I should have called to confirm the hours for the AT&T store. Normal Wednesday opening time is 10:00, but they were opening an hour later yesterday.

It worked out, though, as Robin wanted to hit a fabric store or Hobby Lobby, Robin wanted to get another couple slinkies for print drying racks, and I was in quest of a Monster High doll, and the Hobby Lobby and Toys R Us were both open. Robin got a half-yard of green fleece (instead of felt) for making forest blobs for wargaming, and I found some decent fabric remnants for my costuming thing at MuseCon at Hobby Lobby.

Ron found Slinkies at We Be Toys & Shit, but I struck out on Monster High dolls – they didn’t have any single dolls, only more expensive playsets. Not many Barbies, either – no more Pink Aisle of All Things Barbie. Even Robin was aware that Monster High and other dolls were taking a bite out of Barbie.

On to the AT&T store, and only a few minutes wait for them to open. I got my new phone, without the salescritter wasting too much time trying to sell us UVerse or other things we didn’t want. I got a blue phone, and a blue and green Otter case for it, which was half as much as the phone. And a new cable for at work, since the new phone uses the new tiny connector. A cable I promptly forgot this morning, oops. In the Otter case, the new phone is about as thick and as wide as my old one in its cover, and a little taller.

Had lunch at Olive Garden, then hit Dick Blick. The designated “bookbinding paper” was stupidly expensive ($15 or more for an 18″x24″ sheet{, so I got a couple sheets of “gift wrap” instead (same size, $3.50/sheet). I may be willing to buy the more expensive paper later, but for the first attempts, cheap is just fine, thanks. I also got some pH neutral white glue, bookbinding cloth, and another exacto knife (since one has permanently moved to the printing bench). I did not buy an awl, needles, thread, or bone folder, as we have those at home. I may have to split the linen thread I have down by a ply or two, but that’s OK.

Got home, and while Ron went upstairs to come up with calling cards for Xap, I went hunting for shorter poetry by Kipling. I decided on two Seal Lullabies from “The White Seal” in “The Jungle Book”:

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!

and

You mustn’t swim till you’re six weeks old,
Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
And summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals.
Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be;
But splash and grow strong,
And you can’t be wrong.
Child of the Open Sea!

I decided to do the first lullabye. I ran into two problems. The first one was that the lines of metal type ended up shorter than the lines in the digital font I used for layout in InDesign. That was relatively minor, it just would have meant a little more fiddling about setting up the press.

The second problem was more serious.

Over the weekend Ron had written a perl script to count characters, but I didn’t run it. I counted the lowercase As in the poem I was doing, and compared it to the count of the font I’d planned to use (metal type for English has a fairly predictable distribution of letters, so they’re sold as x-A, y-a fonts, where x and y are however many of each type of A). I thought I’d be fine.

As you’ve probably guessed at this point, I wasn’t. After the first four lines I was looking at the number of lowercase Es I had left and getting worried. Ron counted Es left in the tray and I counted Es in the last four lines. Then I pouted while putting the type I’d set back away, because there weren’t enough Es left.

I’m not sure if that font has an add distribution of letters, if the poem does, or if I checked the a-count on the other size of that font.

I suppose this means that I should start the quite possibly long tedious process of counting all the letters in all our fonts and entering it into my type spreadsheet. Or at very least, count the upper and lower case As for every font – the fonts we got with the presses we’ll have to do that physically, the ones we’ve bought separately we should have at least the A-counts in the listings. Grumble.

And we probably need to pick one font and buy a bunch of it, so that we can set more than an 8-line verse at one time.  Like these from Kipling:

HARP SONG OF THE DANE WOMEN

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

She has no house to lay a guest in—
But one chill bed for all to rest in,
That the pale suns and the stray bergs nest in.

She has no strong white arms to fold you,
But the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you—
Out on the rocks where the tide has rolled you.

Yet, when the signs of summer thicken,
And the ice breaks, and the birch-buds quicken,
Yearly you turn from our side, and sicken—

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters.
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables—
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow.
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

LUKANNON

 

 

I met my mates in the morning (and oh, but I am old!)
Where roaring on the ledges the summer ground-swell rolled.
I heard them lift the chorus that drowned the breakers’ song—
The Beaches of Lukannon—two million voices strong!

 

The song of pleasant stations beside the salt lagoons,
The song of blowing squadrons that shuffled down the dunes,
The song of midnight dances that churned the sea to flame—
The Beaches of Lukannon—before the sealers came!

 

I met my mates in the morning (I’ll never meet them more!);
They came and went in legions that darkened all the shore.
And through the foam-flecked offing as far as voice could reach
We hailed the landing-parties and we sang them up the beach.

 

The Beaches of Lukannon—the winter-wheat so tall—
The dripping, crinkled lichens, and the sea-fog drenching all!
The platforms of our playground, all shining smooth and worn!
The Beaches of Lukannon—the home where we were born
!

 

I meet my mates in the morning, a broken, scattered band.
Men shoot us in the water and club us on the land;
Men drive us to the Salt House like silly sheep and tame,
And still we sing Lukannon—before the sealers came.

Wheel down, wheel down to southward! Oh, Gooverooska go!
And tell the Deep-Sea Viceroys the story of our woe;
Ere, empty as the shark’s egg the tempest flings ashore,
The Beaches of Lukannon shall know their sons no more!

THE POWER OF THE DOG

 

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

 

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

 

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair,
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

 

When the body that lived at your single will,
When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!),
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

 

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

THE RETURN OF THE CHILDREN

 

Neither the harps nor the crowns amused, nor the cherubs’ dove-winged races—
Holding hands forlornly the Children wandered beneath the Dome,
Plucking the splendid robes of the passers-by, and with pitiful faces
Begging what Princes and Powers refused:—’Ah, please will you let us go home?’

 

Over the jewelled floor, nigh weeping, ran to them Mary the Mother,
Kneeled and caressed and made promise with kisses, and drew them along to the gateway—
Yea, the all-iron unbribeable Door which Peter must guard and none other.
Straightway She took the Keys from his keeping, and opened and freed them straightway.

 

Then, to Her Son, Who had seen and smiled, She said: ‘On the night that I bore Thee,
What didst Thou care for a love beyond mine or a heaven that was not my arm?
Didst Thou push from the nipple, O Child, to hear the angels adore Thee?
When we two lay in the breath of the kine?’ And He said:—’Thou hast done no harm.’

So through the Void the Children ran homeward merrily hand in hand,
Looking neither to left nor right where the breathless Heavens stood still.
And the Guards of the Void resheathed their swords, for they heard the Command:
‘Shall I that have suffered the children to come to Me hold them against their will?’

Busy Weekend, and Recap of Last Week

When I got home last Monday, I found a layer of half-thickness concrete blocks at the foot of the new front porch steps, so now there’s not so big a first step.  We decided not to do any more to the front steps, as they’re temporary anyway, so there’s not a lot of point in dressing them up. And we’re kinda lazy.

I wore my polyester taffeta tartan hakama and coordinating kosode to work on Halloween, but changed into boring mundane clothes when I got home because I was soggy from the rain that I thought meant we’d get no trick-or-treaters. Fortunately, the rain did let up and we did get the kids from our street, including the little guy (18 months-ish) from next door, who was going to come in and say hello to the dogs.

Friday night after dinner we went to Menard’s and got a new screen door. I chose the handle style (rotating horizontal bar, not a push-button), and hardware color (brushed steel), Ron liked the kind where the screen is connected to the sliding bit of window and rolls up, so we got that, and the door color (white, which matches the house trim). I pointed out Pippin would appreciate one where the window came down lower than the old one (which he could see out of, but barely), and Ron agreed, so that’s how we chose the door.

Come spring we’ll probably replace the side (and possibly back) screen door with a new one with a dog door built in.

Saturday morning, after getting groceries, Ron installed the new door, with help from Robin and instruction-reading from me. It went in with no major issues. It looks very nice. It has two piston closers, and works very nicely. I considered getting a quart of paint and re-painting the thresholds (on all the doors), but Ron pointed out the wood was probably too wet. Maybe the weekend after Windycon.

Yesterday we went to the Container Store, and got Ron some narrow Elfa drawers to keep his slide rule collection in. Robin looked at storage/stacking options for miniatures, but decided not to get anything until he checked heights.

When we got home, Ron and Robin took the air conditioners out of the bedroom windows. Robin had to clean his room to get to his unit, and they cleaned the spare bedroom as that’s where the units live for the winter. Our room got cleaned as a side effect of getting to our unit (which is behind a dog crate), and rearranging part of the room to put up the slide rule storage. And then Ron moved the slide rules to the spare bedroom. But things in our bedroom stayed rearranged, with the effect of feeling like it has a new chunk of floor space (not really, but it is in a better shape).

I’m eating real food now, yay! Had some trouble with a Chicken Kiev Friday night, mostly I think because I’m still learning to eat slowly/chew thoroughly. Had the leftovers for lunch today with fewer issues.  Still having trouble with not drinking while eating: not that I need to, but I want to.

Normally Robin and I don’t like cooked sweet peppers, but we Saturday at Eurofresh we got chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta, some other kind of cheese (parmesan, IIRC?), peppers, and some red onion. And we liked them. I think it was because, unlike so many frozen meals with added gratuitous and tasteless peppers, this was a dish that was supposed to have peppers, and they actually had flavor. The peppers were diced fairly fine, which may have also made a difference.

Did some leatherworking, also, will natter more about that on the Otter blog.

Just finished reading “Ten Second Staircase” by Christopher Fowler, one of the kind of quirky/odd Peculiar Crimes Unit/Bryant & May mystery series set in London.  Next up is Mira Grant’s “Parasite”, which came out last week, IIRC.  Pre-surgery and while I was home afterwards I read Mary Roach’s “Gulp: Adventures in the Alimentary Canal”, which was kind of an interesting choice for that time period.

Class Survived, Busy Weekend, and Accidental Strudel

I survived the class last week. About 20 people, in a room where we weren’t too crowded. I sat in back, because its easier not to be self-conscious in the back. The example problems we did were good, not busy-work in the form of stupid amounts of repetitive data-entry, like some classes I’ve taken. But it was all pretty technical, from 8 am to 4:30 or a little later every afternoon, so it was three long days.

Stringy Bits

I worked on my mitten thumbs during breaks and lunch Wednesday and Thursday, and got them attached to the hands on Friday. I made the thumbs a bit too long, oops. Over the weekend I got the hands done, and am down to about 4 pattern rows on the second cuff, then braid around the bottom of both and binding off.

Once I finish the mittens I have to decide what I’m going to knit next. I have a pair of kilt hose for Ron that would probably be good to take to MuseCon with me, as kilt hose are fairly amenable to setting down and picking up. But colorwork is calling to me. I bought a pattern from Ravelry, but apparently missed the ability to change the PayPal payment method from eCheck to credit card or something else instant, so I’m stuck waiting 2-5 days for the {expletive} eCheck to eClear so I can get the ePattern. eDammit.

I also bought a PDF of a book I already own in dead tree format. The older edition I own a hard copy of is “Knitting Marvelous Mittens”, the updated edition that I got the PDF of is “Mostly Mittens” by Charlene Schurch. The update consists of new samples (and yarn specs) for several mittens, deletion of the only sock pattern, and adding two more hats and some more discussion on adapting mitten patterns to hats.  Which is not why I bought the PDF; I bought the PDF because I’m lazy and it means I don’t have to photocopy or scan my hard copy any more.

MuseCon Preparation

Saturday I thought I’d finished making all the signs I needed for MuseCon, but this morning I found notes for one more. It shouldn’t take me long to do. I also need to upload the larger signs to get them printed, as I don’t have the capability to do 11″ x 17″ color printing.

Yesterday we unpacked Thing 2, got together tools and materials for the classes Ron and I are teaching, and started re-packing Thing 2. Yes, we’re taking one of the road cases to MuseCon. Because its easier to roll it in than schlepping a big pile of bags and boxes and whatnot.

Friday night we went to GFS and dill pickle spears and supplies for a baking binge for the MuseCon Hospitality Suite. Also some food for us. The monkey bread we made last year was popular, especially the savory, so we did that again. Last year we baked in a couple non-reusable pans, which we filled too deep, so they didn’t get quite done in the middle. This year we got foil takeout trays, about 5″ x 7″. We used 17-ounce balls of pizza crust dough again, one per pan, margarine, and various add-ins.

On Saturday we made 4 pans of sweet monkey bread, using GFS Cinnamon Maple Sprinkles (flavored sugar, spice section), two of them with raisins. Then we did 4 pans with granulated garlic and minced onion, and to the second two we added Penzey’s Pizza Seasoning. For all of those we added the flavorings to the melted margarine, which thickened it up and was generally messy. I also did two loaves of bread with bacon and cheddar cheese.

Yesterday we made 2 pans of plain (just margarine), and 6 where we kneaded shredded cheddar into the dough, then cut it up, dipped it in melted margarine, yadda yadda yadda, with more cheese sprinkled on.

So, the total of bread in the freezer is 16 pans of monkey bread in various flavors, and two loaves of cheddar-bacon.

The case of dough was 20 balls. What happened to the last two?  Yesterday we actually made a pizza for lunch with one, and we made one loaf of monkey bread for breakfast for Robin (although Ron and I did try it). I managed to stretch the dough out nice and thin, and draped it over the edges of our big wooden cutting board. On it we sprinkled a good layer of cinnamon maple sprinkles, more cinnamon, brown sugar, and a little water. I rolled it up, then I had Robin hold one end while I twisted and stretched.

At that point I should have started cutting it into bits to dip into butter. Instead, I let the twist curl back on itself, much like a skein of yarn, at which point another good option would have been to bake it as-was. But I let it sit while we worked on cheddar monkey bread. When I tried to knead it some more and cut into chunks, it got kinda messy. No, very messy – the sugar and moisture had made a very nice sticky syrup. But the results were yummy. Had we just baked the skein, we’d have pretty much have had strudel. So we may have to try again, because it turns out that when you don’t know you’re making strudel, it isn’t all that scary or difficult.

Cave Art and Other Natter

Grumble grumble grumble, the good fairies haven’t induced Picasa Web Albums and WordPress to play nicely together again, so you’ll have to point yourself over at the Otter Necessities blog for pictures of the gloves and Christmas stockings I mentioned in my last post.

Elrond seems to be back to normal. He had no painkillers and his last antibiotic yesterday, and he seemed fine this morning, we’ll see how he does (we’d had him down to PM painkiller only for a few days).

Ron’s still sore and tired, but getting better.

I’d said that for my birthday I wanted to go to see the Lascaux cave art exhibit at the Field Museum, and given how busy May was, I wanted to go sometime in June. Oops, didn’t happen. But yesterday when we were nattering about how to spend the day, Ron asked if the exhibit was still at the Field. It was, so off we went.

Although our route wasn’t quite as planned once exiting the expressway, courtesy of the maze that is Lower Wacker Drive, we got to the parking under Soldier Field without too much trouble. I bought our tickets on-line before we left, so we didn’t have to stand in line.

Robin went off and did his own thing while Ron and I ambled around. We saw (not in this order) a small exhibit about CT scanning two mummies, and reconstructing their faces from the resulting replica skulls; a short 3D movie about Great White sharks, which mostly avoided gratuitous 3D tricks, except with toys during the opening credits, so they were silly and not scary; kinda blew through an exhibit about bioluminescent critters; and didn’t go to a short 3D film about ice age megafauna, as I didn’t properly grok that an “All Access Pass” gets you into only one movie, not both, and wasn’t quite interested enough to go buy tickets for it, too. Also went to an conservation-ish exhibit, and saw bits of various permanent exhibits on the way out of some of the ones listed above.

The Lascaux exhibit was good. The reproduction quality of the cave sections is amazing. However, I was distracted by the lighting, both glare from the actual fixtures, and the levels, which rotated through three different levels, On the one hand, the different light levels showed the art in different ways, but . . . I’m not a multi-millionaire, so we couldn’t dictate when the lighting changed. Nor did we have the exhibit all to ourselves (although nobody was annoying, which is better than some trips/exhibits).  The art can be hard to make out, between wear and color (or lack of), and even on one bedroom-wall-sized section there can be a lot going on, so I could/should have spent more time. Simple black-and-white line drawings/tracings of each section would have been helpful.

The radio ads really hyped how realistic the exhibit is. Err . . . yes and no. Except for one seam running through a panel, the surfaces looked real. OTOH, there are constraints on public exhibition space and accessibility – we were on a runway between the re-created sections, with a fairly consistent ceiling height above our heads, so it in no way felt like a real cave.

Fortunately, I got a grownup picture book a few years ago, entitled quite simply, Cave Art, which has lots of good photos, both from Lascaux and other caves in the region.  I picked up a coffee table book on the modern history of Lascaux and its reproductions (this is the third, which re-creates sections not done for Lascaux II, which was built in a quarry near the original, and Lascaux III and IV are planned for more sections), and two e-books of books about cave art in general, and Cro-Magnon/Modern man (both those were on sale in paper at the Field, but they don’t have a lot of plates, so e-books are fine. They also had Cave Art, but I don’t need another copy).

Hmm. Looks like the Field was out of another pictoral book just about Lascaux. I may have to get that, too.  Except it’s in French. Maybe not.

Weekend Catchup

Cleaning:

Saturday Robin was a lot of help cleaning up the dining room, more natter about that and pictures on the Otter Blog. Part of that project was going through the things I’d evicted from the kitchen a week and a half before, most of which did not return to cluttering up the counters. That in turn ended up extending to going through the stash of spices and seasonings. I threw out a bunch of McCormick bottles of great age and dubious remaining flavor.

I wasn’t able to bring myself to be quite so ruthless with the stuff from Penzey’s, but I did end up with  a big pile of empty Penzey’s jars to wash, which one of these days we need to refill from the stash of things still in zippy bags.

Sunday morning we picked up the living room. It still needs a date with the vacuum cleaner, but the mess has been beaten back a bit.

In the last week my side of the bedroom has been overwhelmed with clean laundry in need of folding. What fun.

Other Natter:

Had a MuseCon meeting Sunday. When it came time to discuss how MuseCon sponsorship of the Cafe went, I think a couple people were surprised to hear Ron, Xap, and I, wearing our Capricon hats, pronounce it not a perfect success. The food was great, and several people put in amazing amounts of time and effort running the fan table, demos, etc., but there were some bugs in terms of staffing for the regular Cafe operations.

Ron and I had yesterday off. Ron spent some time in the morning and bits of time in the afternoon working on getting the shopping cart system set up for this year’s MuseCon classes. I worked on a leather project.

Van Dyke socks (toe-up) are up to the heel turn. Being sport-weight and a pattern that was fairly easy to memorize they move pretty quickly, when I’m not distracted by leather projects.

This morning Pippin stole one of the sandwiches Robin had made for his lunch. I believe the sandwich had been left, unwrapped, on the kitchen counter while Robin went upstairs for something, so I wasn’t terribly sympathetic.

I have checked out and read an e-book from the library, and have several more on a wish list on my library account. The web interface they use (Overdrive “My Media Mall”) is not the greatest, and as of last night was driving Ron around several bends and up and down trees, but at the same time free is good. I also had to install Yet Still Another E-Reader on my iThingy, which is also somewhat annoying, and sign up for an Adobe account. Ron has an Adobe account, which is what I usually use, but I thought it might cause issues to try to tie the same Adobe account to two different library cards/accounts.

Food Recap:

Friday dinner: Aloo Gobi, which in the Indian cauliflower and potato dish I referred to Friday. Rendered shocking yellow by tumeric, it was mild, and tasty. Marmaduke was over for dinner, so it ended up being a side dish with bratwurst.

Saturday dinner: Finally did the stuffed shells. Filling was ricotta and spinach, with some nutmeg. Italian-ish food without garlic just seemed so wrong, so some garlic paste also snuck in. I used Prego mushroom red sauce, which was too sweet. I stuffed the shells with a spoon, which was a mess. I should have put the filling in a big zippy bag, cut one corner off, and used it as a piping bag. But I didn’t think of that until for too late. I could have cooked the shells a bit longer before stuffing them, but they finished off in the oven OK.

Sunday dinner: Thai Brisket. The sauce had some Thai flavor, but the meat alone was just . . . brisket. Not bad, just not memorable. We also did salad, mostly ignoring the instructions of “Salad of the Day” and making our own dressings. I re-discovered that mustard oil has kick, by putting too much on my salad.  Oops. Mayonnaise helped, but I didn’t quite finish my salad.

Monday dinner: Coconut Curry with Winter Vegetables. A vegetarian curry, with winter squash, sweet potato, and I substituted potatoes for celery root, as Ron and Robin weren’t any more enthused about trying celery root than I was. We added onion, as it seemed Just Wrong not to have onion in curry. Squash was butternut instead of delicata (which is an acorn variant, I think?). Just before serving lime zest and juice were added. We used an entire 4-ounce jar of red curry paste, instead of just two teaspoons, because the red curry paste was anything but spicy. Interesting, a little sweeter than I expected, definitely more Thai flavor than the brisket. We ate it over rice, Ron and I took leftovers today.

Dinner tonight is probably chickpea curry. Stopping at the grocery store for chicken, because I don’t think I can do vegetarian two dinners plus plus the breakfast and lunch between all vegetarian. Or maybe we’ll do Thai grilled lamb salad (which I need to get lettuce for, so I’m stopping at the store either way). Yeah, we seem to have hit a south-Asian-ish streak in the recipe books, considering we’re skipping things like Tentacles ala Somebody or Other and Fancy-Schmancy Scrambled Eggs (aka Cheese Souffle – I made a cheese souffle once. Tasty scrambled eggs, but a hell of a lot of work).

Bonus Food Things:

Friday night I threw together a breakfast casserole, mostly of Capricon baking binge or Cafe leftovers: eggs (only not-leftovers), buttermilk, bacon, cheese, and bread cut into cubes, which we had Saturday morning. Usually I include onions, but that was more work than I wanted to bother with.

Sunday afternoon I made scones, with some some fairly dried out currants we’d found on the cleaning binge. Just a single batch! My right shoulder complained at me. Well, one giant scone, that we broke pieces off of and nommed. Apparently I was not scarred, other than shoulder grumpiness, by the pre-Capricon scone binge. The currants re-hydrated and the giant scone was yummy. We ate it as snack before the MuseCon meeting and as dessert in the evening.

Updates, Chicken Coconut Curry

Took Alleve last night and this morning, ear and throat are feeling better. Not perfect enough to say it wasn’t a problem, but cautiously optimistic.

I was the first one home last night. Opened the crates and two black-and-white streaks disappeared downstairs. Smaller streak reappeared while I was in the restroom, checked Robin’s door, then disappeared again. When I got downstairs both dogs told me how terrible their day cooped up in their crates had been. Pippin repeated for Ron and Robin.

Eowyn and Elrond rarely went in Robin’s room. Pippin doesn’t see why he shouldn’t, and Elrond is also getting the idea that its OK to go into Robin’s room. Robin, I think, quickly learned that he can’t leave things he doesn’t want dogs stepping on down on the floor. Elrond still won’t try Robin’s door if its shut, but Pippin will.

This morning I had a response to my e-mail to the ebook.inquiries address for the UK publisher for “The Fishing Fleet”. They don’t have US rights (which I’d assumed), and the author’s publisher is still trying to sell the book to a US publisher. the Audio & Digital Manager who sent it also said he’d let me know if the situation changed and an ebook became available (I’m assuming he means from his firm). So, not the answer I’d have liked, but I can’t otherwise complain.

Chicken Coconut Curry

This recipe called for browning boneless skinless chicken thighs, adding shallots, garlic, spices, coconut milk, chicken broth, and 1-inch chunks of carrots and sweet potato, and simmering until the vegetables were very tender.

I’d gotten pre-sliced carrot chips, so I cut the cooking time for the rest down by cutting the chicken up, and cutting the sweet potato into smaller bits. My cunning plan of letting it simmer in the oven at the same time as the rice worked, the curry and the rice were done at the same time.
I thought three pounds of chicken was a bit much for the three of us, so I cut that in half, and eyeballed what seemed to be about half the carrot called for. I didn’t cut down the sweet potato, shallots, spices, or liquid. I used dried lemon grass instead of fresh, which was a mistake, as it was still pretty chewy. Next time I’ll use fresh lemongrass stalks, which should be easier to fish out or avoid.

Flavor-wise this was more of a Thai than an Indian curry – ginger, garlic, fish sauce (skipped), lemon grass, shallots, and curry powder (we used Penzey’s Maharajah).

It was yummy. I have some of the leftovers for lunch.

Tonight is the shepherd’s pie.

This, That, and, Chicken and Leek Gratin

Woke up this morning with an earache and sore throat. It persisted long enough that I couldn’t wave it away as a result of drainage or dry air or whatever. Got into the doctor, she didn’t see anything. Continue with NSAIDs (had taken one this morning to try to head off TMJ issues during/because of the dental cleaning that I also had this morning), call if it gets worse.

Harper’s spring session started today. Ron ran him down this morning (I decided I needed moral support to go to the dentist), so tomorrow it’s back to dropping him off in the mornings. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Pippin had his Disapproving Dog face on this morning.

Got our WisCon memberships, made a room reservation, and put in to throw a MuseCon party yesterday.

Reading a biography of Rudyard Kipling, “The Long Recessional”, by David Gilmour.

Perturbed that it seems to be impossible for me to get an electronic copy of “The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj” by Anne de Courcy. There is an ebook edition, but its unavailable in the US as there doesn’t seem to be a US publisher/licensee. I think I may e-mail the UK publisher and see if there’s any hope of a US ebook (I’d even swallow hard and take a Kindle version) coming out. Barring that, I’ll have to get a copy via ABE.

Cod Chicken and Leek Gratin

I made the gratin for dinner last night. I’ve been programmed by my childhood. A gratin with a meat other than ham (or turkey ham, which is what my grandmother used) is kinda odd. Not bad, but not as expected.

I didn’t weigh the potatoes, I probably used more than the recipe called for, because I was going by eyeballs. Recipe called for two leeks, but they came in a bundle of three so I used all three. No apologies for that, we like alliums. I ended up using some coconut milk in addition to the heavy cream called for, because of the extra potatoes. I also added some leftover swiss cheese to the top for the last bit of cooking, because it sounded good.

Overall good, although it could have used a little more time in the oven. Ron says cod would be good in it.  I was thinking perch. My problem is not that I don’t like fish, but that I’m very very fussy about it.

Last night I made the mashed potatoes to top the shepherd’s pie. Not sure if we’re doing that tonight or a curry.

A New Subject

Sorry about falling off the blog. First Ron was sick (probably flu), then I got it. Main symptoms were sick and tired and tired and sick. Think I’m about over it.

Saturday morning we went to the bookstore (a less-common event what with the rise of e-books), and I broke my self-imposed cookbook moratorium.  I picked up a Williams-Sonoma title, “One Pot of the Day: 365 Recipes for Every Day of the Year”.   (I hereby award a whack with the cluebat to the editor: Needs a comma or something between “Recipes” and “for”)  The book is laid out by month, with a one-dish meal for each day of the year, which is supposed to be appropriate to the season in terms of weather, produce availability, blah blah blah.

When we got home I was trying to decide what to do for dinners this week, and jokingly suggested I just go through the book.

Ron said “Sure, go for it.”

So that’s what we’re doing, sorta-kinda. I grocery-shopped for the first 6 recipes, and started with last night’s dinner. I’m taking things a bit out of order, since last night’s dinner, for instance, wasn’t friendly to weeknight cooking.

Last night was Italian-style braised short ribs. In other words, pot roast. It was pretty good, but a bit sweeter than we liked. Ingredients included carrots, a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, and a quarter-cup of balsamic vinegar. Also a tablespoon or two of sugar, but I decided to leave that out right off. Next time I won’t bother with the tomato paste, either. Served, as suggested, with polenta.

I had originally planned a half-recipe, but when Marmaduke popped up I grabbed a small chunk of brisket from the freezer, cut the fat off, hacked it into pieces about the same size as the boneless short ribs, and made a full recipe. Good call, there were enough leftovers for lunch for Ron and I, but we’d have run short if I hadn’t added the brisket.

It was Marmaduke’s first exposure to polenta, but he says he’s never had anything at our house yet, so he was game to try it. IIRC he went back for seconds.

Some of the recipes are meatless, so I think I’ll try to alternate meaty and meatless dishes. Tonight I think I’ll do cauliflower and ziti with a gruyere cheese sauce.

Last year I started trying to plan dinners more, making a  list and sticking it on the ‘fridge of ingredients targeted for specific things (also doubling as the grocery list). I haven’t been doing it consistently, but cooking through the book will fit right in with that.

Link to the B&N listing for the book: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-pot-of-the-day-kate-mcmillan/1109224973?ean=9781616284336