27 February 2008


Somehow I had it in my head that today was my blogiversary, but it was actually back on Sunday. This little blog is now two years old, and I'm hoping there won't be any terrible twos. It continues to be a fun little pursuit, and I sure have met some very fun and decent folks, even if not all of you can appreciate the special thrill that is a fox poo photo (a photo which, I might add, still gets me an awful lot of Google hits.)

Anyway, I promised an accounting of my trip south, so I suppose I should get on with that. As I mentioned before, it was a good visit. My grandparents really aren't in the best shape these days. My grandmother (88) needs a fair amount of assistance, and since a mild heart attack two years ago, my grandfather (93) has been fairly limited in what he can do. Still, my uncle and his family live directly behind them and my aunt lives less than a half mile down the road, so they've got someone nearby to look out for them, and mentally they're both still fairly sharp. My other aunt, my mother's older sister, is mentally retarded and lives at home. At 69, she has health issues of her own, and with a mental/emotional age that's permanently at around 6 or so years, she's never really gotten out of the "Look at me! Look at me!" stage, which is its own challenge. Still, she's relatively functional and is able to help my grandparents out some with household chores.

My job while there was just to visit, and that's what I did. I also did some of the cooking - especially breakfast, though that was somewhat selfish on my part to ensure I got plenty of cheese grits. Mostly, though, it was pure down time. I made progress on the wedding vest and spent a fair bit of time studying Hindi grammar and just generally made myself at home, just as I've done since I first spent two weeks with them at the age of two. I only wish I'd been able to stay longer.

25 February 2008

Thoroughly Modern Me

Well, mostly.

You Belong in 1995

With you anything goes! You're grunge one day, ghetto fabulous the next. It's all good!

It's so true. Thanks to Mini for that one.



Don't worry. I ate a piece for you.

24 February 2008

Back Home Safe & Sound

I got home this evening very much on time, with the weather miraculously causing no delays with my connections in either Baltimore or LaGuardia. Of course, now I have a splitting headache and my goddamnedRESTLESSLEGSAREABOUTTODRIVEMEUPTHEWALL!!! So I'm sure you'll understand the brevity of this post. Suffice to say that it was a wonderful, though far too short, visit. There were cheese grits for breakfast every morning (I cooked just to make sure), and my grandparents are doing fairly well given their limitations. I couldn't find any Big Mo candy bars, though, even in the heart of NASCAR country. *sigh*

I'll have more later, but I did want to share my celebrity sighting on the last leg of my trip. I managed to snag exit row seats for the last two legs of the trip and was able to get on the LaGuardia-Boston plane fairly quickly and take my seat. As I was sitting there, who should file past me in the line but Ed Helms, whom some of you might know from his stint on The Daily Show or from the US version of The Office.

At least, I was fairly certain it was him, partly because I've crushed on him just a tiny bit (What can I say? I have a soft spot for goofy, nerdy types). So once we got to Boston and were in the baggage claim area, I did what any self-respecting knit blogger would do - I kinneared him (in the same airport where the practice was born, no less).


Okay, I know it's blurry, but I wasn't 100% certain it was really him, so asking was out of the question (plus he was talking into/listening to his iPhone, and it would have been rude, not to mention potentially horribly embarassing). After I got home, though, I found the fansite edhelms.org, which had the following video interview, which was done earlier in the week in Colorado. Same hat, same jacket (same jeans?). I got my confirmation.

18 February 2008

The Week Ahead

Many of you likely already know that this year's Spa, Knit and Spin is coming up this next weekend (Ravelers - there's also a Ravelry group for this here.). They've moved the venue this year from Portland up to Freeport, and I had been looking forward to attending, since it actually falls on my week off. This also turned out, however, to be the best week for me to go to South Carolina to visit my maternal grandparents.

It's been very nearly a year since my last visit, and since they're 93 and 88 and not in the best of health, there was really nothing to decide. So I'm looking forward to a few days of grits, eggs, and toast for breakfast, daffodils and Forsythia already in bloom, and spending time with my grandparents and my mother, who just retired three weeks ago and who is currently down there visiting.

News from the World of Candy Bars

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., recently entered the candy bar bidness with the Big Mo' candy bar. I wonder if he knows what "big mo'" means? Is he trying to tell us something? I suppose it doesn't really matter, since I now must buy one.

14 February 2008

A Special VD Announcement

Courtesy of my friend Glenn:

13 February 2008

The Accessory Ann Shayne Wishes She Had

Recently, my coworkers presented me with a new surgical cap and insisted that I blog about it.


What, you ask, is so special about that, and why the hell would Ann Shayne want it?* Here's a detail of the fabric:


I'm pretty sure she's jealous and doesn't even know it yet.

*hint: If you don't keep up with Mason-Dixon Knitting and have no earthly idea what I'm going on about, click on Ann's name in the title of this post

What Won't Those Brits Eat?

Since I work 15+ hour shifts and don't have the luxury of being able to leave the building to get food (which, at 4AM, would mean going to the convenience store up at the corner), I try to maintain a small stock of food here at work. Those stocks were running a little low, so I left home a little early in order to swing by a nearby supermarket to get some comestibles before my shift began.

Said supermarket is of a pretty good size and they have a decent-sized area devoted to natural foods adjacent to a decent-sized section of "international" foods, arranged by country. I ended up getting some ginger preserves from the Brit section and just happened to see this fine product.


Last I knew, you weren't supposed to eat it if it had spots, but then, the British aren't exactly known for their stellar sense of discernment where food is concerned. Anyway, since I work with a bunch of perverts, I did the only thing I could. I bought it as a gift for the hospital manager.

And, of course, when I mentioned "weird Brit food" to Rabbitch, she immediately guessed what it was. But is anybody really surprised?

07 February 2008

Vest Progress and Recipes

Here's a detail photo of the center front with steek.


As you can see, it's not very far along, but progress is being made a little at a time. Hopefully it'll be steady enough that I don't end up in a mad rush come June.


As promised, here are recipes for the sweet & sour tofu and the green beans. Actually, there's not really a recipe for the green beans, per se. I stir-fried them in sesame oil with tamari until they were hot but still had a little bit of firmness to them, then added a couple of crushed really-freakin'-hot little Thai chilies near the end, tossed them just a little bit more ('cause the chilies let off fumes and make me cough), then turned off the heat and sprinkled them with sesame seeds - a fairly basic Szechuan-style dish.

So here, then, is the recipe for the tofu (all measurements are approximate):

Slice a one pound block of extra-firm tofu into pieces (I did twenty approximately 1cm-thick slabs). In a bowl, mix to a fairly smooth batter:

- one cup all purpose flour
- salt, pepper, and coriander to taste
- one cup water
- one large egg

Dip each piece of tofu into the batter, then dredge through a second bowl of flour until the tofu is covered in a nice heavy coating of doughy batter. While you are battering the tofu pieces, heat a pan of canola oil at least a couple of inches deep to medium-high heat. Place the battered tofu pieces a few at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon when done and place in a colander or wire strainer to allow the oil to drain. When all the tofu has been fried, heat in a wok:

- 1/4 cup tamari
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 2 Tbsp. corn starch mixed into about one cup of cold water
- 2 cloves garlic crushed or sliced (I sliced, 'cause I couldn't find the garlic press)

Heat and stir until it begins to boil and the sauce clarifies and thickens. If it's not thickening sufficiently, you can always use a bit more corn starch. Turn off heat and add in tofu. Serve over rice.

And VUBOQ asked how the rhubarb wine tastes. In some respects it's not unlike a nice Riesling - a little fruity, a little tart (with a very light rhubarb-y flavor), and a little sweet - and it has a very slight blush to it. And since I have never met a Riesling I didn't like, this didn't disappoint, either (though it contains no Riesling grapes).

06 February 2008

Super Fat Tuesday

Despite my Southern roots, I don't usually make deep fried foods. It being Mardi Gras, though, I decided it was time for an exception. So I made:


Sweet & sour tofu, which I served over brown basmati, and


Stir-fried green beans, and washed it down with this


Blacksmiths is a Maine label based outside of Portland. I had the occasion to treat their dog once and had a chat with the vintner, so I was very pleased when I started seeing their wines in the local supermarket. They import the grapes from other states, primarily Washington and New York, but they also have some specialties, like this rhubarb, that are primarily or wholly from local produce. So far we've tried this one and their blueberry wine. Neither has disappointed. If you want to try it, though, you have to come to Maine, because they're currently not selling it outside the state.

That's it for tonight. I'll try to get the sweet & sour recipe written down, because it was yummy. I'll also try to get some pics of the wedding vest. I'm almost to the point of making the first increases and it's actually starting to look like there's progress.

03 February 2008

The Weekend Is Over

For me it is, anyway. Sunday evening sees me back at work after a few days off. It means, of course, that I won't be able to watch the Super Bowl, but you might imagine that I'm not terribly heartbroken at the prospect. I'd like for the Pats to win and all, seeing as they're the locals, but life will go on just fine if they don't.

There's been very little knitting this week, but it's been a productive one overall. On Friday, David and I sat down with someone at the bank and did a mortgage pre-approval. We've been in informal talks with Landladies Wendy & Paula to buy our little house for a while now, and the time has come for those talks to get a little more serious. I had sat down and crunched some numbers previously, and it turns out that the bank agrees that we can afford what I knew we could afford. This is a very good thing.

It also works in our favor, at least for purposes of negotiation, that the housing slump has hit our neighborhood (a nearby property on the waterfront with a separate rental-or-guest cottage has been listed for a couple years now and has dropped from $2.4M last I looked to $1.675M currently). There are no plans for this house to go on the market, but it does affect the appraisal. We live in a mostly high rent district, there is no doubt, but our humble little house is 300 or so years old and, as with many houses of a certain age, it has a fair number of quirks that make it a bit less attractive on the open market - like the non-accessible kitchen plumbing that runs along a poorly insulated outer wall. Or the somewhat leaky windows. Or the nonstandard everything. So hopefully we'll be able to work out a purchase price that is amenable to all parties and do so while interest rates are nice and low.

Aside from that, David & I did some reorganizing today to reduce the clutter in my little office space and to reclaim what has been a storage room for David's business as a guest room, so that visitors will have a bit more privacy. Since we're trying to have my 14-year-old niece visit more often to give her time away from her dad and brother and other uncle (They're all sharing a room at my parents' since my brother split from wife #2.), we felt it should be a priority. Doing so also meant moving a futon mattress out of its storage space under the daybed in our upstairs guest/TV room. This, in turn, meant that I was able to move almost all of my stash bins into that space and open up that room a bit more. This, as Martha would say, is a good thing.

And I don't really have time right now to properly acknowledge, but I've been given the You Make My Day blog award by both mollybeees and janel. Y'all make me blush, seriously. And then I really never properly acknowledged it when Mike nominated me for the Rockin' Guy Blogger thing way back when. I'm so bad with these things, really. And so, to seriously distract all of you, I am going to point out that Tuck is famous and then make my getaway.

02 February 2008

Ste. Brigid's Day

It is once again time for the annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading. I came to it a little bit late last year, so this year I'm trying to get a jump on things and posting in the wee hours. I started looking around a week or so ago for likely candidates and decided I wanted to post something by that "splendid bugger" W.H. Auden. And since Ste. Brigid's Day is the traditional (pagan) beginning of spring in Ireland, I thought this one was appropriate welcome to the season:

Unpredictable But Providential

Spring with its thrusting leaves and jargling birds is here again
to remind me again of the first real Event, the first
genuine Accident, of that Once when, once a tiny
corner of the cosmos had turned indulgent enough
to give it a sporting chance, some Original Substance,
immortal and self-sufficient, knowing only the blind
collision experience, had the sheer audacity
to become irritable, a Self requiring a World,
a Not-Self outside Itself from which to renew Itself,
with a new freedom, to grow, a new necessity, death.
Henceforth, for the animate, to last was to mean to change,
existing both for one's own sake and that of all others,
forever in jeopardy.
                                     The ponderous ice-dragons
performed their slow-motion ballet: continents cracked in half
and wobbled drunkenly over the waters: Gondwana
smashed head on into the under-belly of Asia.
But catastrophes only encouraged experiment.
As a rule, it was the fittest who perished, the mis-fits,
forced by failure to emigrate to unsettled niches, who
altered their structure and prospered. (Our own shrew-ancestor
was a Nobody, but still could take himself for granted,
with a poise our grandees will never acquire.)
may explain shape, size and posture, but not why one physique
should be gifted to cogitate about cogitation,
divorcing Form from Matter, and fated to co-habit
on uneasy terms with its Image, dreading a double death,
a wisher, a maker of asymmetrical objects,
a linguist who is never at home in Nature's grammar.

Science, like Art, is fun, a playing with truths, and no game
should ever pretend to slay the heavy-lidded riddle,
What is the Good Life?
                                           Common Sense warns me of course to buy
neither but, when I compare their rival Myths of Being,
bewigged Decartes looks more outré than the painted wizard.

And immediately following in the collection I own is this one, which I think Liz, in particular, will get a kick out of:

Ode to the Diencephalon

How can you be quite so uncouth? After sharing
the same skull for all these millennia, surely
you should have discovered the cortical I is
        a compulsive liar.

He has never learned you, it seems, about fig-leaves
or fire or ploughshares or vines or policemen,
that bolting or cringing can seldom earth a
        citizen's problems.

We are dared every day by guilty phobias,
nightmares of missing the bus or being laughed at,
but goose-flesh, the palpitations, the squitters
        won't flabbergast them.

When you could really help us, you don't. If only,
whenever the trumpet cries men to battle,
you would flash to their muscles the urgent order