bunrab: (me)

We are visiting fairs this summer - Larry's semi-retired, so we can travel in the middle of the week, when the crowds are reduced, though as it turns out later, that's not as important as we thought. What's more important is that he's over 65, so he gets senior admission rates every day (sometimes I qualify for them too) and we don't necessarily have to aim specifically for "Senior Day."

Week of July 19, we went to the Washington County Fair - in Boonesboro, in between Hagerstown and Antietam battlefield. About 60 miles, a very pleasant drive, since as interstate slabs go, I-70 is a scenic one. We went on Tuesday, which was Senior Day - free admission for 65+. So it cost us $7 for me to get in; Larry was free and parking was free. Now, the website http://agexpoandfair.org/ had told us that the fair didn't open to the public till noon - lots of 4-H stuff and judging in the mornings, but the public isn't let in for it. And the midway didn't open till 3 p.m. That seemed odd, but off we went. We got there about 11:30, and sure enough, no one at admission. So we spent half an hour in the Museum of Rural Heritage, which was nice. If we go back that way in September to visit Antietam, we might stop and look at a little more of that museum. They had some interesting types of looms, and lots of quilts, and a complete scale model of a farm, a set-up about 10 feet by 20 feet, in the years-long process of being built and improved by a local resident - a re-creation of his family's farm from the 30's. The ladies running the museum were very friendly.

Anyway, finally, at noon, a few guys appeared and opened up the booth in the parking lot that serves as admission, and we went on in. We were able to park right up near the fairground entrance because there was virtually no one there. Well, it being lunchtime, lunch was in order, and there was only ONE place to eat open - none of the midway food, and most of the tents for various organizations were closed up tight, too. The oyster sandwiches from JB Seafood were quite good, but we really would have liked a choice. Extra thumbs-up for JB's: they carried Gold Peak UNSWEETENED iced tea, which is drinkable and most places only carry the sweetened and diet stuff, so yay for unsweetened.

Well, the rest was a let-down; this is pretty much the teeniest fair I have ever been to. Really teeny. Home Arts was pitiful, not even a full table of jellies and canning, ONE quilt and a few beginners' crocheted things, really not much at all. There were some ladies demonstrating weaving; there's a strong heritage of weaving from the German original settlers of the area. The produce was also piffle, very few fruits and veggies. A few awards for decorated baskets of vegetable arrangements, but no decorated gourds or painted potatoes or weird mutant eggplants. The Rabbit and Poultry Barn - which was just a large put-up tent - was more rabbits than poultry, and most of the poultry that was there was plain white turkeys. There was a good assortment of rabbits, though, all nicely labeled; a few families of 4-Hers appear to specialize in them, and had dozens of entries apiece. Lots of Holland Lops and mini-Rexes, some meat rabbits. Anyway, that was the highlight of the livestock; there were a few goats and sheep; a few dairy calves, one cow barn, one small horse barn. One commercial building, and I have to say probably for me, the highlight of the fair was stopping and talking to the agent for Modern Woodmen - if you don't know what a fraternal insurance organization is, then you're in company - most people don't, but I of course do, having worked for the Texas Department of Insurance, and so I chatted with the guy for 15 minutes, and picked up some swag. I did get a tote bag from one of the county agencies that had a table, and a pen from an Allstate agent as well. No special activities or exhibits for seniors, even though it was senior day; they didn't have anybody from a county agency for the elderly or Social Security or Medicare or even anybody trying to sell Medicare Advantage health plans. Which is probably because they knew no one would be there; there were exactly TWO other seniors wandering around the whole fair. What, nobody over 65 in Hagerstown is looking for something free to do??? Anyway, in an hour and a half, we had done absolutely everything the fair had to offer, and didn't feel like waiting around another hour or so doing nothing until the opening of the midway. So we left, and drove over to the outlet mall in Hagerstown to shop for shoes. Overall? Not worth the price of admission. We were disappointed that a rural county such as Washington didn't have more to offer.

bunrab: (me)
We went to the animal fair
All the birds and beasts were there

Well, maybe not all, but lots. The Montgomery County fair is a big one, much bigger than Howard County (where I live, and which was back a week and a half ago) and almost as big as the State Fair. In some areas, bigger. Although the State Fair has lots more Home Arts (arts and crafts) it's got a really pitiful rabbit and poultry section, whereas the Monty Cty fair has an entire rabbit barn and an entire poultry barn. Now, I do miss visiting fairs with Steve, who would have looked at every single animal as closely as I do, and talked to every single rabbit, and laughed at every single chicken, but on the other hand, with Steve, I never would have gotten to the Montgomery fair at all - we only went to the State Fair up here. (Back in TX, we didn't make it to the State Fair every year - Dallas is a bit of a hike and hotels are often quite full those weeks - but when we did, of course that's an enormous fair, and some years we went to the Travis County fair, which isn't as interesting animal-wise but certainly had one of the hugest exhibits of new farm equipment I've seen.) And Steve really didn't care about the Home Arts stuff that much, despite that I do all sorts of crafts; it's nice to go through the quilting and knitting and needlepoint with someone who does want to look at it (if not quite as closely as I do).

So we got there shortly after opening, early enough to get one of the closest handicapped parking spots and to have first pick of the rental electric scooters, the availability of which at fairs is one of the great innovations of the 21st century, I think. The one I got was pretty peppy - it did hills surprisingly well compared to some. Not that great a turning circle, but I didn't get horribly stuck anywhere. Today was Senior Citizens Day - discounted admission for those over 62, which Larry took advantage of. One of the neat things about Senior Citizens Day is that lots of the old folks older than us just thought we looked harmless and therefore stopped right next to us at random moments to tell us interesting facts about how the fair was in their day, or to chat about whatever object we were all standing near. It's nice to be able to serve as a harmless ear for people who need to convince other people that they still have something worth saying.

There was a raptor show going on over at the community stage, with some lovely owls, and we stopped by their booth later, too, to peer more closely at the owls. Some interesting information about owl hearing and about owl flying, especially as compared to other raptors. They did have a red-tailed hawk, too.

The rabbit barn was dominated by Dutch, mini-lop, dwarfs, and mini-rex, but there were a couple of multi-colored full-size rex (polka dots in more than one color on white) and one really nice Rhinelander whose ears were a gorgeous tortoiseshell mottle. A couple of Jersey Woolies and an American Fuzzy Lop. And a few Lionheads, which caught Larry's eye. They're still a relatively new breed for showing, and there weren't a lot of them. One Flemish giant, a medium 15-pounder, not terribly big as Flemmies go. There weren't many of the giant breeds at all, that one Flemmie and a couple of NZWs, no Californias and no Checkered Giants (my favorite breed). Checkered Giants seem to do best further north - the Massachusetts state fair always had a good assortment of them when I lived up there. A full-sized angora and a fair couple dozen English lops rounded out the large rabbits. I gotta say, I've never been that fond of the really smushed-in faces of Netherlands Dwarfs of show quality. When we were looking at the Jersey Wooleys I was explaining about spinners who keep them and angoras as pets and then spin their own rabbit yarn.

We made the mistake of going in the "Chilly Mall" (the air-conditioned commercial vendors' building) before we ate lunch, which meant that the pick-your-own-candy booth sucked us in, and we walked through the maze of candy bins and came out with 3/4 of a pound of assorted root beer barrels and Squirrel Nut Zippers and caramels and Atomic Fireballs and so on. Other than that, we didn't spend any money on stuff or souvenirs, just on food, which was, of course, bad for us. Pit beef and sausages for lunch. Hey, at least we avoided corn dogs and fried Oreos. The county fairs have much less fried stuff than the State Fair or the average RenFair - no fried cheese, no fried ice cream, no fried peanut butter... We were too full to try the roasted corn ears and limeade when we got to them.

The Home Arts was, as I said, somewhat smaller than the State Fair, but there were a couple of nice quilts and a spectacular quilted table runner, and quite a few nice cross-stitch pieces. In the knitting and crochet, there were almost no sweaters at all - one women's sweater and a couple of kids' sweaters, that's it. There will be more of those at the State Fair, I'm sure. Some felted pieces that are best described as "interesting." And, there was a spinning exhibition, and sure enough, there was a lady hand-trimming her American Fuzzy Lop, who was mostly hypnotized lying on his back in her lap while she trimmed him. Very relaxed rabbit.

There were not many ducks or turkeys in the poultry barn - just a couple token ones. We saw quite a few sheep and goats being sheared over in the sheep barns, but that's not as funny as watching the rabbits. The only alpacas were the ones in Old MacDonald's Barn for the kids, where there was also one full-grown camel, but no llamas. I guess the camelids aren't as popular in Montgomery County as some places. There was a goat judging going on, and it was interesting watching the kids pose their goats, adjusting their legs a couple inches one way or another. Some nice large horses in the horse barn - a Belgian, a couple American Drafts, and one Clydesdale, and a Percheron who looked a tad small compared to those guys, though Percherons are not a small breed. You can tell I've been to more ag fairs than the average urban dweller; I can tell those apart, as well as being able to spot a Silkie chicken at 100 paces and tell a Barred Plymouth Rock hen from a Laced Wyandotte at 50 paces. I will say I remain as ignorant of cow breeds as ever - I know that Holsteins are the "cow-patterned" white and black ones, and recognize a Brahma, but other than that, I'm just, "oh, there's a brown one, there's a black one." Larry, on the other hand, can tell a Jersey from a Guernsey. His grandad had a farm, and used one of the red brand of tractors - I forget the name of it now, but one of the red ones. Me, I recognize big green, but really don't notice the other brands that much - though when I see the orange Kubota equipment, I can't help but think of kabocha squash, which is a Japanese pumpkin, not an orange one but a pumpkin which makes me think of orange and so... well, maybe that's silly, but I think of them as Japanese Pumpkin equipment.

Anyhoo, around 2:30 the overcast burnt off, the temperature rose 10 degrees in half an hour and I started to worry about sunburn, so we headed back to the midway, ate some fried dough - it ain't a fair if you don't eat fried dough or funnel cakes - and headed home around 3, with Larry a bit tired from doing all the walking and me a bit tired from that last half hour of heat and sun. I feel fairly well Faired.
bunrab: (me)
... rather than as the recipe I started with called for it.

Turkey bacon - 3 slices, cooked and crumbled
Leeks - enough to make 2 cups of chopped pieces from just the white and pale green parts (I found that one package of Trader Joe's trimmed leeks, 2 largish stalks, was a bit more than enough)
Thyme - 2 sprigs of fresh, plus a sprinkle of dried - strip the leaves from the sprigs.
1 tablespoon plain flour - white or "white whole wheat" (I used the latter)
One largish russet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2 pieces
12 ounces clam juice - I used the lowest-sodium version I could find. Clam juice tends to come in 8-ounce bottles,
12-ounce can of evaporated skim milk
2 8-ounce cans of oysters - drain and reserve the juice.

If you've got a 4-cup measuring cup, whisk together the clam juice, evaporated milk, and juice from the oyster cans all in the one measuring cup - it'll make it easier to add later.

Use a large, heavy saucepan - my huge 12" skillet worked well - to cook the bacon, so that you have a little bacon grease left over for sauteeing the leeks. Remove bacon from skillet, add a bit of canola oil if there's not much bacon grease, and saute the chopped leeks and thyme leaves until the leeks are soft, about 5 minutes if one is avoiding really high heat so as not to set off the smoke alarm, which seems to be rather sensitive in this condo.

Whisk the tablespoon of flour into the liquids, and slowly pour the whole 4-ish cups of liquid into the pan with the leeks and bacon, stirring steadily (I stirred with the whisk, as long as it was there). Heat to almost a boil, then add the potatoes (and add the bacon back in). Cover and simmer until potatoes are fork tender, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on your interpretation of 1/2 inch cubes, the type of potato you use, and the phase of the moon.

While that's simmering, cut the whole oysters into pieces of about 1/2 inch - that'll be either in half or in thirds, for most oysters.

When the potatoes are tender, stir in the oysters and cook another 3 to 5 minutes at a simmer (but not a boil) until the oysters are just firm.

Serve hot, with oyster crackers, of course, and salt and pepper for people to add to taste. Makes about 4 servings.
bunrab: (Default)
Cindy came over for supper this evening - I managed to find enough counter space and dishes to cook some chicken, chop it up and put it on a salad, and then serve it at a table that had room for us both to sit at and eat. This is an intermittent thing - I get the table cleared off of stuff, and then as I unpack the next box, the table gets loaded up again with "stuff I need to sort through." And indeed, after dinner, we unpacked a few more boxes, and the table is once again buried, though not as badly. Two loaded boxes of stuff I don't need went off with Cindy for various charities - her UU church supports a homeless shelter and a transition program that puts homeless people into apartments, so they always need contributions of food and of household basics - tableware, basic cooking implements, towels, etc.

One thing that has become increasingly obvious: I have too much tea. Every single bit of it seems interesting, and I hate to "get rid of" tea. But honestly, I have five shelves of my pantry cupboards filled to the brim with tea - there are hundreds of teas there. Most of it is well-stored in airproof, lightproof containers - tins or glass - and has not been exposed to heat, so it should still be drinkable. So, if you would like a fat Tyvek envelope full of various tea, email me your address (and full name; I don't always remember everyone's), and you will get a random sampling of stuff. If there's some kind you honestly know you can't stand, let me know that too, because otherwise the sampling will include a bit of everything - black, green, oolong, puerh, flavored, scented, aged, bags, loose, possibly even partial slightly flattened small boxes of something stuffed in there.

While I'm not as bad as some people I know, I do seem to overbuy on food. It's partly the low-sodium thing - when I order by mail, I order quantities that make it economical, and when I find something in a local market, I grab as much as I can because I'm sure they'll stop carrying it. As a result, I have way more canned goods and dried soups and slow cooker mixes than would normally appear on a single person's shelves. And I still don't eat at home quite as much as I should - although my impending budget crunch will help cure that, I suppose.

Steve and I used to joke about using up a lot of our vacation time and vacation money just 2 hours at a time, by eating out most nights. It was a habit we got into early in our marriage, and it stuck. We didn't eat expensive stuff out - just sandwiches, or cafeteria, or Tex-Mex. After I got sick, we still kept eating out, even though our income was less, because, well, we were still better off than average, and could afford it, and enjoyed it. Finding the lowest-sodium thing to eat at a given restaurant became a game. And when we moved up here, from cafeteria country to diner country, Steve absolutely /loved/ diners, and we would eat quite regularly at one particular diner on the way home from Monday rehearsal every week, another particular diner on the way home from Tuesday rehearsal every week, another particular diner on the way home from Wednesday rehearsal every week... usually splitting an entree, so not as expensive as it sounds, or sometimes getting breakfast for supper, which is also less expensive than regular entrees. Well, when Steve died, it was still quite a habit - particularly since I felt so absolutely awful eating alone, and eating at a diner where the wait people knew me gave the illusion of not being alone for a little bit. And in that manner, I ran up credit card bills of several thousand, because my tiny monthly pension doesn't cover that. Well, when I sold the house, I paid that off - but I can't do it again!! And I can't keep dipping into savings for regular monthly expenses - using principle for living expenses is a horrible idea. That stuff is ALL THE MONEY I HAVE IN THE WORLD and I can't eat it up. So this is the point where I have to really, really stop the eating-out habit. I think I can do it over the next few months, if I promise myself one lunch out a week and one dinner out a week for a period; that's an extravagance but if I try to quit cold turkey, as it were, I will feel so lonely and be sitting at home alone all day so much of the time that I don't think I can stand it. So the other thing I've got to do is find volunteer work that gets me out of the house a day or two a week for a couple hours, isn't too much physical labor, and preferably offers lunch or snacks as part of the deal. I suspect that soup kitchens or homeless shelters are too much physical labor (and probably too little air conditioning - I'm far more heat-intolerant than I used to be) so this is going to take some research and calibrating. There are a couple of places I that are of particular interest to me to volunteer; now to find out if they happen to keep iced tea and snack bars on hand for the volunteers!
bunrab: (Default)
When last seen, we were headed toward San Diego. We drove down CA-78, through a great deal of sand, some of which seems to be used by a great many dune buggies out in the middle of nowhere. Sand, sand, and more sand. Glamis, CA, appears to consist entirely of an RV lot and a place to start one's dune buggy/ATV off into the sand from. Finally we got down to I-8, to zoom into San Diego. We arrived early enough in the day to get in a couple hours at the Reuben Fleet Science Museum, before checking into our RV park down in Chula Vista. That museum is one of the other places we had visited in San Diego on our previous trip. We ate supper at a really good Thai place in Chula Vista. The RV park was quite nice, and quite large. Good laundry facilities, extensive, well-stocked store. Then Monday morning, the point of going to San Deigo: the zoo! Got there a little after 11; on a weekday, had no trouble at all finding 2 parking spaces for the RV. My scooter worked just fine. Weather was perfect - sunny, but never quite hit 70 degrees F. So, we started with the 40-minute bus tour, just to get a quick overview of where things were and what looked best. Capybaras, giraffes, lions, the big stuff, were easily visible from the bus. When we got back to the beginning and retrieved the scooter, we had to decide which way to go. We didn't so much decide as drift, and we wound up at the meerkats fairly quickly. Although the bus tour had mentioned juvenile meerkats, they hadn't mentioned what we found most interesting: a mother meerkat carrying an infant by the scruff of his neck, finally putting him down in a spot where she and another meerkat - dad? - could sunbathe. Steve got several good pictures of the baby, and I'll get them posted when we get home. We probably spent half an hour with the meerkats; this is why we almost never get to see a whole zoo; we tend to keep watching the animals being themselves. Anyway, there were koalas, doing the absolutely nothing that koalas do so well. And there was young panda - 9 months old, not exactly a baby any more, but sort of a panda toddler. Eating carrots and apples and climbing into a hammock and nibbling on his toes. And then there were the warthogs. The baby warthogs were actually just nursing on mom and occasionally wiggling around. Dad warthog had the most peculiar hair/mane cut. But it was the juvenile warthogs that kept us amused for quite a while. They were climbing all over a large stack of tree trunks, much as you'd picture goats would do. The young warthogs are pretty sleek, a reddish color with white stripes and spots, like baby deer and baby tapirs (we had fun watching a very large tapir wade through a pool, too!). And the juveniles were endlessly playful, playing tag, dashing over to annoy mom and then dart out of her way, back around the entire compound in one zoom, back up the logs and then a leap off of them... it's a pity the gift shop didn't have much in the way of warthog gifts. I nonetheless managed to find stuff to buy; the younger Schoenlebers will find themselves stuck with panda souvenirs.

Tuesday was our drive up to Sunnyvale and Oakland. Somewhere along the way we passed a car dealership called Mossy Toyota; we managed to make more jokes about that than we should have. Cindy, you should be quite glad you're not with us; our conversation would drive you *completely* around the bend. The less said about I-5, the better. It's a giant reminder that most of CA is desert or mountains or both, and should never have been densely settled, and *certainly* we shouldn't have tried to irrigate all of it and then have the farmers get upset when the water starts running out. Because Los Angeles apparently always has traffic jams, no matter what, and because the RV isn't very good at reaching the speed limit when doing serious climbing uphill, we got to Sunnyvale very late, and had a nice but hurried visit with Kartik and Usha. Thank you for the cupcakes, Usha! And then we drove up to Oakland, managed to find Jeremy's in the dark, managed to park the RV on their winding street, staggered in, ate a banana, and went to sleep.

We spent Wednesday hanging out and eating food, and playing with Jeremy and Brenda's new dog, a totally sweet Papillon named Yukon, who DOES NOT YAP. Seriously, Not one single yap the whole time we were there. An adorable dog. Emily and Anika were adorable, too, of course. It was great to get the chance to relax and talk. Family stuff, not really anything the rest of y'all need me to post about. Thursday morning, B packed us a whole bunch of tamales and rice for the road, which we have just finished eating here at the RV park in Elko, NV.

Nevada should never have been settled by anybody for any reason. It is completely ridiculous that places like Elko are here. I was ready to do a whole rant about that, but it wore off some. Really, though, there is no point to humans attempting to settle the area between the Sierra Nevada and Salt Lake City, and the fact that these towns are here and have casinos is proof that humans do not have enough common sense to continue to support the species for very long.

Tomorrow: more I-80! Contain your glee!
bunrab: (Default)
Van Horn is a little this side of El Paso - a little, meaning about 120 miles - so after today's 8 hours of driving down flat straight I-10, we will continue to drive down flat, straight I-10 to El Paso, through New mexico and Arizona, and as far as Blythe, CA. The way it works for where to stop, either today would have had to have been a 10.5 hour day and tomorrow an 8.5 hour one, or vice versa; we chose to make it tomorrow.

So, since yesterday afternoon:
We had supper with Fad & Rob, and Gwen. We hadn't actually meant to crowd total strangers to each other in like that but our time limitations and driving limitations seemed to work out that way. I got to give Fade our previous cheese grater, as we recently got an even spiffier rotary grater. Rotary cheese graters are truly wonderful things! If you have never tried one, you are missing out; freshly grated cheese on your spaghetti puts that stuff from the green plastic jars to complete shame, and as for having cheese melt nicely and evenly in mac-n-cheese, well!

When we got back to Connie's, she was still awake, so we got to chat a bit more. Connie has been wonderfully generous - not just her spare bedroom, but making sandwiches and other food for us to eat on the road today - and she gave me one of her wonderful needlepoint pillows! Y'all know I do little needlepoint thingies, but I never finish anything as big or detailed as the pillows Connie makes. This is really a one-of-a-kind. She keeps all her needlepoint yarn sorted by color in clear plastic storage boxes - and even has the same kind of rolling plastic storage cart I do. Definitely a fellow needlework soul.

We were supposed to eat Connie's sandwiches for lunch, but we wound up eating them for supper, because we realized that we were driving right through Fredericksburg at the beginning of lunch time, so we just had to stop and get German food from one of the many German restaurants in that town. (Yes, let's all hum "In the Chester Nimitz Oriental Garden, in Fredericksburg, Texas, we sat and ate breakfast...") We chose Auslander Biergarten, and enjoyed our lunch.

Shortly after F'burg, US-290 merges with I-10, and from there on, it's boring all the way. We made a point of stopping for gas whenever we saw it, on the theory that who knows how far the next one would be? When we stopped in Fort Stockton for gas, we took a break and sat down in a DQ for some ice cream, since Fort Stockton is an actual town with such establishments. Then it was my turn to drive again, and I got us the remaining 2 hours or so to Van Horn, here.

The campsite is rather desert-y, as one might expect. Nice breeze, though, and the higher altitude means it's cooler than Austin. Since we parked we've had the windows open, no air conditioning, and have been comfortable. We have a read a bit, computered a bit, talked to other people in the park a bit (RVers in general are a friendly bunch, and everyone wants to know about the features of everyone else's motorhome or trailer.) And finally we ate Connie's sandwiches, and she even packed dessert for us, fruit and minimuffins and candy. We'll eat the tamale pie tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow is our long day, so we're going to make at least some attempt to get to bed earlier so we can get moving in the morning.
bunrab: (bunnies)
I suppose that if one is supposed to begin as one means to go on, then the new year got off to a good start: I finished a classic nonfiction book (Steinbeck's Travels With Charley), finished a knitting project (a shawl, for me, in an absurdly simple lace pattern), and made supper at home, using leftovers (leftover turkey frozen from Thanksgiving, turned into turkey-noodle casserole, which is tuna-noodle casserole only with turkey) instead of eating out. And then on the 2nd, I finished another book, albeit not so classic or important (Benjamin Nugent's American Nerd), got a few inches done on another piece of knitting that was already in progress (rather than restlessly starting yet another new project), and made supper at home again, using still more leftovers (leftover mashed potatoes turned into fried potato cakes, to go with crabcakes from Trader Joe's, all topped with low-sodium but zingy Texas Sassy Tequila Ketchup). So I suppose I'm on a roll of good habits.

Not that I'm making any resolutions for 2009. I have a couple of aspirations, but I'm not going to go so far as to call them resolutions. One is to get the garage and storage shed organized enough that we can get everything out of the rented storage unit, and not have to pay rent on that any more. Another is to get rid of some stuff - say, 25 things: books that aren't among the paperbacks I automatically trade in/give to friends/BookCross; skeins of yarn that I will never do anything with; yardages of fabric ditto; stuff like that. I already have in mind a pair of boots I bought years ago, and have only worn a couple of times, which were quite expensive and very nice and made on a last that doesn't match my feet at ALL, so that every time I wore them, I had feet that hurt so badly at night that I had trouble going to sleep. But I have never gotten rid of them, because, well, they are expensive, well-made, nearly-new boots!! Now I am going to get rid of them. (Speak up, flist, if anyone wants a pair of Clarks, black leather, size 8M, side-zip, just-over-the-ankle boots. I'll ship 'em parcel post if you really want 'em; otherwise, they will go to a local charity.)

It was interesting reading Travels With Charley - I don't know why I've never read it before; possibly because it was assigned in school, which of course would have made me avoid it. Anyway, since the book takes place during the 1960 campaign season, leading up to the Kennedy election, it has a rather peculiar resonance right now, especially when Steinbeck goes through the deep South and talks to people about race. And there's a postscript about the Kennedy inauguration that's sort of nice.

More reading recently accomplished, to be posted soonly.
bunrab: (bunearsword)
So we went to the Winterthur on Saturday. They have really nice lunches in their cafeteria, including a fancy dessert table. I spent more time on the "Who's Your Daddy" exhibit than [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet or Cindythelibrarian did. We all enjoyed the "Feeding Desire" exhibit - if you're anywhere in the area, that's a great one to go see. Of course right now, the house tour includes Winterfest, which is always beautiful. And mid-afternoon, there was a concert by a Sa"ngerbund - I forget the name of the group, but it was a chorus of about 30 people. Mostly songs we did not know, many of them in German. When we crossed the driveway to the gift shop, we noticed the largest holly tree I have ever seen, somewhere over 30 feet and full of berries. I am used to holly trees being spindly 10 or 12 foot things, and in Texas holly is a shrub; this was most definitely a tree! We got a good deal of holiday present shopping done in the gift shop. On the way home we avoided the evil Delaware toll plaza - on the way up, we were so busy talking, we missed the exit for easiest toll avoidance.

Backing up a bit. I did not wind up making the corn pudding for Thanksgiving. It would have been the last thing to get started, and when I got to that point, I realized that I had every single inch of space in my oven and my toaster oven completely filled with stuff already, more stuff than 8 people could possibly eat. (So I used the corn to make corn chowder late at night for S & I for supper - so we didn't have to eat the leftovers the same day!) We had a nice Auslese Riesling and a lot of apple cider. The day went well. My 7-month-old nephew Luke seems to be attempting to bypass crawling altogether and trying to stand up by himself and learn to walk. We watched "Babe" after dinner, which was popular not only with almost-2 Kyla, but also with my dad. My stepmom gave us a housewarming present, a Tensor floor lamp with a daylight-spectrum bulb in it - and it's dimmable! That will be useful not only for all my needlework but also for S's fiddling with stereo pieces and with gadgets.

Currently reading: Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred - very funny SF graphic novel - and The Eight by Katharine Neville, a thriller about Charlemagne, chess, the French Revolution, and auditing. The number 8 has many meanings in the book, and one of them is the "Big Eight" accounting firms, back when there were still such. Our heroine works for one that is a roman-a-clef Peat Marwick, often known as KPMG; in the book, the names of the firm form an acronym of FCK-U, which pretty much describes the firm's attitude toward its clients, its employees, and everything else.

I love museum gift stores.
bunrab: (chocolate)
So the apple pie had problems - the crust started falling apart 10 minutes into baking, and after an hour, some of the apple slices hadn't cooked all the way through. I think I didn't add enough liquid to the pie. So anyway, rather than bake another whole pie, what I've done is scoop all the apples and stuff out of the wretched pie crust, put them in a casserole dish, and thrown away the crust. And what I will do to them is make an egg (well, egg substitute) custard, pour it over the apples, top it with a bit of nutmeg, and bake it, so that we will have baked apple custard (sugar-free, low-fat, no cholesterol) as one of our desserts. Am I brilliant, or what? What I am not is a good pie baker - I have the occasional success with pies, but mostly I don't do well; something usually goes wrong with the crust. Even though I am otherwise a decent cook and baker. My cobblers are always good. But pies? No. Once I did a very successful pumpkin-pecan pie, and a few years ago I had a cranberry-walnut pie that turned out nicely; one of the things those two pies had in common was no top crust, which may be the secret. Perhaps next time I try making apple pie I'll make a topless apple tart. Easier to watch the moisture, test the done-ness, etc.

The potatoes and parsnips are boiled, for mashing tomorrow; the cranberries are cooked for the cranberry sherbet; a loaf of bread is made and the frozen parkerhouse rolls are thawing. After dinner I will finish that custard and the sherbet, bake the rolls, and assemble all the ingredients for the stuffing and the sweet potato casserole in one place, so that they are ready to be deployed first thing tomorrow. The roasted veggies and baked potatoes take no particular effort, and the corn pudding (the clear winner!) likewise takes little effort, since I am using canned corn.

I am making the stuffing in casserole dishes rather than inside the turkey, so I guess technically it's dressing rather than stuffing. Whichever you call it, it's safer that way, germ-wise, than actually stuffing the turkey. One keeps it moist by covering it with foil, and basting it a bit whenever basting the turkey (every half hour or so.) Chestnut-mushroom stuffing, if anyone's wondering.
bunrab: (chocolate)
[Poll #1303720]
bunrab: (Default)
Watch the gap! is the LIRR's motto, apparently, and they repeat it more frequently than almost anything else. For that matter, Amtrak says it a lot too, although they are more polite and less New York about it: "Please be aware of the gap between the train and the station platform." I've just been in New York again for a few days, visiting my friend Sally-the-hoarder and helping her throw out some more stuff. We got a lot done. The upstairs of the house is *almost* empty, so that it can be recarpeted and repainted and rented out, which will help a great deal in supplying money for doing long-delayed maintenance and renovation to the rest of the house. We put a whole bunch of small furniture items out at the curb, and, since it's the weekend lots of college students are settling in, almost all of it disappeared within minutes. Except for a sofa in really bad condition, cat-pee-wise. Which is too bad, because other than that, it was in excellent condition. Oh well, it will keep the town sanitation department bulk pickup guys employed. And lots more papers went to recycling, and lots more stuff that she's keeping went into clear plastic bins where it can be stacked neatly and she can see what's in them, instead of losing track and buying duplicates. Progress! Next: convincing her to get rid of some of the downstairs stuff, where she has her grandmother's stuff, including furniture, and ALL her parents' furniture, as well as everything that she has purchased over the years. And she claims to love it all, including the 50-year-old lamps with brittle cords and shades that are in shreds. Sigh. Oh well. A little bit at a time.

I got back Saturday. Coming back on the LIRR to get to Penn, there were many, many college students, and many, many open cans and bottles of beer, and much shrieking. Which made the conductor change the announcements a bit: "Watch the gap. And take your crap with you. This means you. Take your beer bottles and crap off the train with you." The Amtrak regional back to here was quieter. Train really is a very comfortable and easy way to travel. And do it late enough at night, and the fares are less than half what they are at peak times.

Today we went to the State Fair, as this is the last weekend of it. I looked at all the "home arts" - needlework and cooking, mainly, and I was interested mostly in the needlework - and we went to the Sheep and Goats pavilion and the Swine Judging pavilion and the Cow Palace - skipped the horse barns, since there were signs saying no strollers allowed past this point, and I assumed that applied to my scooter, too. Yes, same scooter that I took to Europe. It makes wandering around several crowded blocks' worth of fairground doable. Let's see, then a tiny chickens-and-rabbits building, then the Exhibition Hall, with vendors of all sorts of stuff Ginsu knives!, waterless cookware!, handwriting analysis!, Jews for Jesus!, Electrostatic brooms! (we bought one of those); candy apples (I bought a couple of those...), cinnamon pecans, Jack Daniels mustard and barbecue sauce! For those of you not familiar with State Fairs in the USA, this is a pretty typical vendor selection. All sorts of crap, mixed with some good stuff, mixed with booths from the political parties and several government agencies and a few more charities and a lot more crap for sale. Then through the 4-H petting area, which included a very attractive llama and a snooty alpaca. Walked through the Midway a bit, and the food pavilion featuring locally made/grown foods - everything from corn-on-the-cob to lamb sandwiches to pit beef, not just junk food but some halfway real food - to get to the last hall, the Agriculture Hall, which featured lots more state agencies' booths, and a John Deere tractor, plus all the prize-winning individual pumpkins and apples and corn and flowers... chatted with the people from the Maryland Insurance Admin for a while, wherein we shared a few laughs about Inland Marine insurance. I don't often get to talk to other people who think Inland Marine is as funny as I do. Outside that pavilion were the armed forces recruiting trailers, and the Motor Vehicle Admin's trailer (guess how many people wanted to visit that) and the county fire department's safety training trailer. And then a last glance toward the Midway, and we were done. We would have spent longer, but they don't have as much of a rabbit show here as they have at the Texas state fair or the Massachusetts state fair, nor nearly as many hysterical-looking chickens. No emus. No pig races. And we skipped the learn-to-milk-a-cow parlor.

So, now that I'm back from being sick (previous post) and going to NY and going to the fair, I have about two weeks worth of y'all's posts to catch up on, ha ha. If there's something I absolutely need to know, give me a comment here so I can go check it out, 'cause otherwise I am going to just read the last couple days' worth.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Okay. Let's see. The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison - latest in her Rachel Morgan series. Urban fantasy set in Cincinnati, our heroine is a witch, and demons are - well, not necessarily the enemy, and elves are, well, not necessarily nice people. This volume ties up a few loose ends, and introduces a cool plot twist. I really still don't like the character of Rachel's mother, though, no matter what good reasons she has for being nuts. Oh, and revelations about Rachel's father - surprising but I'm not sure I like that direction.

Have I already mentioned Where the Heart Leads by Stephanie Laurens? Yes, it's a Regency romance - but it's part of a series that features crime solving (murder mysteries and other crimes) as a major feature; in this one, not only our proto-PI, Barnaby Adair, but also our proto-police-detective, get a romance going.

Right is Wrong by Arianna Huffington. Even though I'm on the same general side of the fence, this book is a waste of time, because if one reads any political blogs at all, one has already read all of this. As blog entries, fine. As a book, it's incoherent. And repetitive and redundant. Preaching to the choir. People who disagree aren't going to buy the book, any more than I'd ever buy Coulter; people who agree, well, nothing new here, just a jolly bit of self-congratulatory feeling if you want to read somebody famous agreeing with you; and as for undecideds, well, I have the feeling that most people who are still undecided at this point are unlikely to buy or read hardcover books to help make their decisions. Will be remaindered the minute after the election, and have trouble selling even at $3.99. And I say this who agree with the general gist of the book.

Also a couple knitting books - possibly I'll go into detail on those some slow moment.

Pictures: jumping around a bit, here's toward the end of our trip; we're in Vienna eating pastry at a sidewalk cafe.


And here's one from Slovenia, speaking of pastry: Bled is famous for its cream cakes. We had some, and it was indeed delicious.

However, mostly what we saw in Bled was this: rain. And more rain. Frog-strangling rain.

That's looking down the street from the covered outdoor section of the very good pizza place attached to the back of our hotel.

I really do have to get these pictures up on a page so I can show you all of them without breaking anyone's fpage.
bunrab: (Default)
New House: We finally got the contract negotiated, so we are buying the house with the garage! Settlement (closing) should be the last week in April. Whee!

Old House: Finished with the bathroom remodel! The contractors did it in less than a week! The bathroom no longer has dark brown indoor-outdoor carpeting, grey-and-white plastic wall tile, a mustard yellow tub enclosure, blue swan-shaped nonskid stickies on the tub floor, and pink ceramic towel bars. It now has white tile floor, new tub, white tile around the tub with an accent row of narrow tiles in a brown and tan design, which matches the brown and tan wallpaper. New low-flow toilet that works properly, new sink which is a pedestal sink rather than a vanity, so that one doesn't walk into the corner of the vanity cabinet every time one walks into the room, plus there's room on the floor for the scale. It's never going to be a luxury bathroom, not at 5 feet by 8 feet, but it's now reasonably attractive and efficient.

Music: Went to hear the Austin Lounge Lizards at Wolf Trap last Thursday. They're still good, still funny.


Books:
Rebecca York's werewolf series:
Killing Moon
Edge of the Moon
Witching Moon
Crimson Moon

A certain sameness to all of them - acceptable mystery plots, but the villains are pretty much all the same sort of serial sex pervert murderer who is trying to use kidnapped or controlled women to build up magical powers, and our werewolf hero who has trouble coming to terms with his werewolfness, plus the woman scientist-of-some-sort (medical researcher, botanist, etc.) who is in love with him, must defeat said villain, during the which it is revealed to the woman that the man she loves is a werewolf. They're not all identical, but similar. Edge of the Moon actually involves two non-werewolf peripheral characters from the first book.
Also on a Marion Nestle binge - she's the nutritionist/economist from whom Michael Pollan gets a lot of his stuff. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health is mostly a rant about how industrial agriculture and its lobbyists diluted the Food Pyramid to the point of uselessness - a good rant, but a rant. There are also bits about food terrorism and food fearmongering in there; I had a bunch of notes scribbled down of things to mention, but now I can't find the notes. What to Eat is interesting, but waaaay too long. The average grocery shopper is not going to wade through all of that, even though it's got some very useful information - for example, for people who complain that they don't buy fresh produce because it's too expensive, Nestle shows how you can eat seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day for less than a dollar per person, which puts it within the budget of most families. (The current recommended amount is 9 servings, but most people don't even get seven, so that would already be an improvement.)
The most recent two in J.D. Robb's (Nora Roberts) Eve Dallas series, Creation in Death and Strangers in Death. As usual, they're good, though not great literature. The usual mix of Rourke-owns-everything, Eve's-cars-fall-apart, hot sex scenes, and unlikely but fascinating villains.
Hitman, lastest in Parnell Hall's Stanley Hastings series. Hastings is confused, as usual, and there turns out to be more than one hitman.
bunrab: (alien reading)
In no particular order:
Dead of Night, an anthology of 4 novellas billed as "paranormal stories" - which mostly aren't. The J.D. Robb story, which has top billing, is an Eve Dallas story, and although it involves vampire wannabes, there are no paranormal characters at all. The next two stories are time-travel romances, and except for the device, in one, of a ghost giving the pretext for the time travel, there are no supernatural characters in those either. And the last story is a 21st century retake on "It's a Wonderful Life" - and again, except for the "magic carpet" that allows our heroine to see what life would have been like had she not married who she did, there is nothing else paranormal - no supernatural characters. So if the red cover with spooky illustration were leading one to expect vampires, witches, and midnight rituals, one would be rather mislead. OTOH, if one merely wants to read a decent installment in the Eve Dallas mystery series, then this would be it.
Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove. An alternate history, in which the east coast of North America is instead a separate continent off the eastern shore of NA in the middle of the Atlantic. It's not a bad story, though as usual with Turtledove, it is made into a fatter book than it needs to be by the addition of far too many battle scenes; there are several places where one can skim through 20 pages at a time by reading only the middle line of each page, to see whether anyone important has been killed, and avoid all the blood spilling in the mud and people discussing attack strategy. There are a couple of sly nods to our timeline. And a couple of fun hints at how Atlantis might resemble, say, Madagascar.
The Dead Travel Fast by Eric Nazum. Subtitled "Stalking vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula," this is nonfiction about the author's investigation of various parts of the "vampire subculture." He meets groups of people who think they are vampires, goes on a Dracula tour of Europe, attends a Dark Shadows convention, plays a vampire at a Halloween haunted house... it's a very funny book, but also sort of sad, as Nazum makes it clear that there are far too many people out there who don't just read fantasy; they spend a great portion of their time and energy being upset and unhappy that the real world does not contain their fantasy characters. Incidentally, though he sets out to try and watch every vampire movie ever made, "All told, I made it through 216 films - 389 films short of my goal. At first it may seem like a failure or cop-out, but 216 films is probably about 200 more than should be humanly permissible."
Downsizing Your Home With Style by Lauri Ward. I guess there are some people who need entire hardcover books to give them such common advice as "If you have a small living room, buy a shorter sofa," and tell them that built-in bookcases are a great storage idea. Oh, and a windowseat is a great place for additional hidden storage! Sheeee.
Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language by Seth Lerer. Though it's still a "popular" book rather than an academic one, it is less breezy and fun than, say, John McWhorter or Bill Bryson. There are many pages of line-by-line analysis of how alliterative rhymes work in Beowulf, the importance of subject-verb order in Old English, and vowel shifts from Old English to Middle English, and for that matter, deep comparisons between early Middle English and late Middle English. I think it's fascinating, but I wouldn't go recommending this to all and sundry as fun reading, the way I do with McWhorter. Later chapters deal with the divergence of American and British English, and use WW2 journalism to give some examples. Typical sentence: "Chaucer does not so much 'invent' a new English as much as he invents the pose of someone who invents a new English."
Food: The History of Taste edited by Paul Freedman. What this is, really, is the art history of food - the chapters are illustrated with paintings, from cave art to 20th century advertisements, and many of the authors concentrate on how the art of a given period can tell us a lot about the diet of people during that period. An illustration of a meal in a brothel from a German manuscript of about 1470, to illustrate the deadly sins of gluttony and lust. Lots of Greek urns and bas reliefs. Roman mosaics - dining room floors were often tiled with illustrations of food. One thing I noted is how many of the pictures, across continents and millenia, seem to include dogs at the table - apparently, up until our own time, a dining table would probably be more likely to have plates missing, than dogs. One of my favorite illustrations is from Philippe Sylvestre Dufour's 1671 treatise, Traite nouveau & curieux du café, du thé, et du chocolat, of a Turk, a Chinese man, and a Native American with their respective drinks. I wondered why the chapter on "The Birth of the Modern Consumer Age" about the period from 1800 to the first quarter of the 20th century seemed to have so many illustrations of advertisements in German, then I looked back and noticed that the author of that chapter was one Hans Teutenberg. Well, that would explain it. [livejournal.com profile] angevin2, you might enjoy the list, in the chapter on food fashions just after the Renaissance, of titles of dietetic manuals/cookbooks from England: Thomas Elyot's Castel of Helth (1534), Andrew Boorde's Compendyous Regyment of a Dyetary of Health (1542) and so on.

Whew, there's more, but that's the stack that is taking up the bulk of my computer desk here.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Monica Ferris' Sins and Needles, latest in her needlework shop series. OK, not great but decent; if you aren't interested in sock knitting, however, you'll have to skip about 1/3 of the book!
Barry Glassner's The Gospel of Food which I saw mentioned in a column that was reviewing four books about food/eating, supposedly all on the conservative side, supposedly all on the theme that big commercial industrial food is good for us, Americans aren't really obese, and in general the food equivalent of "there's no global warming." However, I suspected that the reviewer hadn't actually paid much attention to Glassner, since last I looked, he wasn't that kind of conservative, or much of any kind of conservative at all. As it happens, I was right - when I read the book, although there is a line of "not every bit of big-agricultural grown food is bad" in it, in general, he's pretty much on a line with Michael Pollan, pointing out that choosing between organic and local isn't easy, and that organic and "natural" have been badly bent out of shape. He does address the issue of fast food - and point out that for some people, fast food is an improvement over what they would be eating did it not exist, and that a green salad from a salad bar is a green salad, whether it's from a restaurant or from Wendy's. He digresses for a couple of chapters to discussing restaurants and chefs and food critics, which I felt was besides the point - way too much time discussing the ingredients in tasting menus at restaurants that will NEVER be in my price range or cultural milieu.
Emma Bull's Falcon - an older book of hers, that I found in a used book store, straightforward science fiction rather than the fantasy for which she is better known. Very little in the way of folk music; chapter subtitles are all excerpts from Yeats' poems; plot is pretty good although there's an improbably happy ending. To me, Bull's best fiction work is still Freedom and Necessity (co-written with Steven Brust), but that book isn't for everyone either; the odd aura of "there might be fantasy in here but there isn't, actually" could turn off those actually looking for historical fantasy, or some of those looking for plain historical fiction, who might fear that there IS fantasy in it. Also, the alternate history part of it is pretty subtle. And last, but not least, it's written in epistolary style, which is not to everyone's taste - not always to mine, even, but in this case, I thought it worked excellently.

I finally got around to getting my hair cut this afternoon; it's needed cutting badly for a month. I was starting to look as scruffy as those darn shedding bunnies.
bunrab: (chinchillas)
Let's see. Another magazine received, Skeptical Inquirer. (And all the usual weekly suspects.) Another catalog: Rejuvenation. Which, even though we don't own an old house any more, is still a gorgeous catalog full of stuff I'd love to have. (http://www.rejuvenation.com/ , for those of you who want the lure of Arts-and-Crafts chandeliers.)

We had lunch Saturday with the Mature Mensans, a monthly event. One of the guys, on the younger end of "mature" (those of us between 50 and 60, rather than over 60), has brought his teenage daughter to lunch in the past, and brought both her and his slightly younger son; both are nice kids, well-educated, literate, and properly appreciative of old farts who insist on telling them about how it used to be.

Saturday evening we drove down to Fairfax to hear the City of Fairfax Band, a community band about as large as the one we left in Austin, a good 90 players or so - and an extremely well funded band it seems to be. It was quite a good concert, though the trumpet soloist, the first chair from their trumpet section, seemed rather ordinary to us; there are a couple of players in the Montgomery Village Community Band who could have done Reed's "Ode for Trumpet" better. (The whole concert was a tribute to Alfred Reed.) A nice selection of music, and a rousing job on Reed's "Armenian Dances."

Today I finally got a bunch of the Elfa shelving up on one of the basement walls, and got a dozen or so boxes of fabric unpacked onto said shelves - not quite half filling them. How long have we been in this house? 15 months? 'Bout damned time. Anyway, the basement is already beginning to look clearer; those dozen boxes cleared up some walking space. By re-arranging the cats' accessories, then the big desk, we will clear up some more space, and can then start unpacking a bunch of the boxes labelled "desk stuff." (All those who think we're going to get that much more done immediately, I have a bridge to sell you.)

And tonight I made a casserole out of macaroni, shredded and grated cheese, and leftover meatloaf. It came out surprisingly edible. It may be a truism that enough grated Parmesan cheese will make almost any entree edible.

Oh yeah, did I mention additional book read? Dana Stabenow's A Deeper Sleep, latest in her Kate Shugak series. Good series, although reading about Alaska while it's winter here tends to make one need a throw or wrap for the armchair...

I think my favorite chapter in Trilobites! is the one about the eyes. Trilobite eyes are so cool.
bunrab: (alien reading)
First, several articles from a variety of sources, including the daily newspaper, about eating foods that are good for you for one reason or another. One about foods high in fiber. Another about foods known to lower your cholesterol. A third article about foods high in anti-oxidants. What's remarkable about these articles is that in all three, several of the top recommended foods are the same. To wit: nuts (especially almonds and walnuts), legumes (especially kidney beans and garbanzos) and berries (especially cranberries and blueberries). So there you have it. For a variety of reasons, eat your nuts and berries.

Next: a page in the 26 November 2005 issue of Science News, which has been buried on the dining table for far too long, summarizes the November meeting of the American Heart Association. some details )

And then, the "Feedback" column from New Scientist, 22 July 2006, includes this bit:several paragraphs long )

Last but not least, "Feedback" from NS 5 August 2006:
Searching for the meaning of life? If a higher power can't help, then there's always Google. Last week it transpired that people in India lead the world in searching for "nanotechnology" on Google. Now we find that the people of Brisbane, Australia, come top in their eagerness to type "meaning of life" into the search engine. (We also spotted that the city comes top for the word "aliens," but the two probably aren't linked.)

Hidden inside Google Labs, where the company road-tests new ideas and software, you can find out what the world is searching for. Which cities search the most for "forgiveness"? Top sinner is Philadelphia, perhaps unsurprisingly followed by Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, Londoners are probably too busy for penitence: they top the world in searches for "lost keys." In a city well known for its hellish driving, our readers in the Boston area are busy trying to find a place to put their car. Cambridge, Massachusetts comes highest for "parking space."

So who could be searching the most for Osama Bin Laden? Naturally, it's Washington D.C.


Oh, and when I spell-checked this post, among other things, "Wikipedia" came up checked, and here are the alternatives LJ suggests:
Wikipedia: Wiped, Wimped, Kipped, Wicked, Whipped, Skipped, Waked, Whooped, Wickeder, Warped, Wigged, Worked, Copied, Whopped, Whupped, Wakened, Whelped, Wiggled
bunrab: (bunearsword)
Let's see: large bowl of homemade potato salad, smaller bowl of homemade chickpea salad, bowl of homemade guacamole, two kinds of salsa, 4 kinds of chips, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, salmon patties, hot dogs for the kids, mustard, ketchup, relish, sweet corn, two kinds of homemade cobbler, couple gallons iced tea, couple quarts lemonade, couple bottles soda, 16-pound bag of ice. One purchased screen tent, 8 weird little outdoor folding chairs, another dozen indoor-type folding chairs that can be used in the basement or under the screen tent, the plastic folding table-and-benches-in-one we've had for ages, and the umbrella that goes in the middle of it. Three folding tables. One gas grill, 2 mini-bottles propane, burger-flipping tool, grill-cleaning tool. Toilet paper in the bathrooms. Clean towels. Clean basement family room, swept-up covered patio, screen tent on the deck. Pool toys in pool. We may actually pull it off!

Things I'll do last-minute tomorrow morning: clean guinea-pig cages and rabbit litter boxes.

Things we haven't accomplished, that relatives are just going to have to ignore:
clearing all the papers off the dining table and the sofa tables; finding someplace else besides the living room floor to store several of the musical instruments; uncluttering the living room in general.

Weather forecast: sunny, high of 89 degrees F (30-31 C), and lots of relatives!
bunrab: (krikey)
It's not like retired people can say they're truly busy. But I have had other things to do besides post journal entries. Some of those other things have included naps and sock knitting, which I'll admit are not real compelling excuses. Well, the socks are compelling to some people, not everyone.

long, boring, quotidian stuff. )

Sunday we're playing a concert at an Air Force retirement home in Virginia. Stay tuned, if you'll pardon the pun.
bunrab: (teacupblue)
We visited with [livejournal.com profile] fadethecat and [livejournal.com profile] landley this weekend. We set out at 9 Saturday morning, and arrived in time for lunch. We left Pittsburgh at 10:30 Monday morning, when it was 71 degrees there, and arrived home in Catonsville Monday afternoon to a temperature of 81 freakin' degrees fahrenheit. (That's 27°C, for you metricoids.)
what we did in between )
The driving there and back was nice. It's less than four hours. For our Texas friends: I've already mentioned, Philadelphia, PA is closer to Baltimore than Houston is to Austin. Well, Pittsburgh PA is just about the same distance from Baltimore as Dallas is from Austin. The highway is a heck of a lot nicer scenery, too. Hills, hills, hills. Pittsburgh itself is all hills, as I remembered it being from the couple of times I was there a quarter of a century and more ago. I like it - it forces houses to be close together and neighborhoods to be compact and stuff to be nearby; it discourages the building of sprawling McMansions. I could stand to go back there with an electric scooter or a Segway and just drive up and down every street looking at the architecture; imagine an entire city of houses like Travis Heights, except mostly brick rather than wood frame. Most of the houses are from between 1900 and 1929, and are absolutely charming in style.
A digression about stew: (vegetarians will want to skip this part) ) Many people think they don't like parsnips, usually because they're actually thinking of turnips. But turnips are big white beets, whereas parsnips are big white carrots, much tastier. I happen to like beets and turnips as well, but I am aware not everyone does. Parsnips, however, should be much more popular than they are; everyone I've ever tried them on turns out to like them. Try some! Leeks, of course, just automatically improve almost anything. Well, maybe not dessert...
We managed to leave a library book there. With luck, Fade can find it and mail it back... no trip is without its little adventures.
We all had a lot of fun arguing with the GPS unit. Ah, new forms of entertainment in the 21st century!

We ate lunch, arrived home, and I took a nap until rehearsal. Then, coming home from rehearsal, part of I-95 was shut down, for no reason we could tell - everyone was just being shunted off to the I-895 spur. So it took us a bit of exploration to get back to the Broadway Diner on Eastern Avenue, which has the best dessert case we've seen so far in the Baltimore area. (And thank goodness for the GPS unit!!)

Now it's time for more sleep.

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