Sunday, October 31, 2010

In Which We Celebrate a Birthday

Mr. Knightley turned 1 today. Yes, I am one of those overly sentimental people who name their cars. Here he is in all his splendor. Ain't he handsome?

And RIP, Percy (Sir Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Which It Rains Yarn

Well, actually, the yarn was delivered by the United States Postal Service. My Internet buddy thepunkrockinchick held a giveaway of yarn leftovers, and so naturally I threw my name into the cyberhat--and I won! I was completely taken by surprise, as was Lalecka--you can read her little face in the photo: "What? More yarn??"  Thanks so much, C! Mother of Mossy and I will beusing this up to edge fleece blankets and make squares for Project Linus blankets.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In Which I Am ThisClose to Genius

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in graduate school, a newish professor from the next state over came to visit my dissertation professor, meet the faculty, meet the students, give some lectures, do what new professors do as they climb the ivory tower of academe. About 7 years later or so, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant--the genius awards, half a million smackers, given with no strings attached just because you're, well, a genius. I always thought, hey, I'm sure he doesn't remember meeting me, and having a beer with all of us grads (we were probably just one lump of seething graduate humanity, except for my friend Adam, who really is a genius and probably will get one of these awards someday), but I shook hands once with a real genius.

Friday night my friends, Lady Scientists J and B, and I attended a state Humanities Council awards and lecture. Every state has a humanities council, and they offer free lectures, programs, and events. Gary Paul Nabhan was the speaker, and he also won a MacArthur Foundation award several years ago. I was again in the presence of greatness! He spoke about heritage foods while wearing his grilling apron and wielding his favorite wooden spoon as a pointer. It was a funny and educational lecture. I strive for those two things myself when I teach, but I'm not sure I achieve it, much less as effortlessly as he did. Today B, in her capacity as Madame Director of a public institution that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, has a meeting with him. She'll get to meet greatness up close.

Both these men are perfect examples of what I've come to realize over the many years I've now been in science and academia: that really smart people, not the ones that think they are smarter than you, but really smart people, work really hard at something, and they love that something, and they love it so much they make interest in it infectious to everyone else they speak to about their subject. They never stop learning, and working at learning, or trying to solve a problem. They never think they have solved the question they set out to answer, regardless of years spent working on it (or the awards or prizes received), because so many other avenues open up and so many more questions are asked, they just find more to puzzle and intrigue and excite them. Arrogant people who let you know they're smarter than you--not real geniuses.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In Which I Bake for the Dogs

It's pretty obvious from these few months of blogging that we like to eat here in Nest. We like to cook and bake, too. And that includes baking for the canine and feline inhabitants of the Nest.

The big sister of Mossy gave us a book on baking homemade treats for your dogs a couple of years ago ("The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook" by Liz Palika). I decided this afternoon to make a sweet potato based treat for the Pups in the Nest. After all, I had the ingredients. I had the oven. I had the time.

What I didn't have was good luck. The batter was supposed to be thick and form drop cookies. Mine, despite using exactly the quantities printed, was thin and runny. Methinks there's a typo?

Luckily, the Pupsters are, well, dogs; they'll eat anything. We baked this batch up as big biscuit blobs instead of tidy little drops. After an initial worried look I translated as "Hmm...What is she trying to feed us?," the dogs were happy to provide their culinary assistance. The cookies were a hit. Ugly, not at all what they were supposed to look like, and rather a bright orange, but they must taste good since not a crumb was lost during canine mastication.

Forthwith, a photo of lumpy sweet potato blobs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Which I Change Weather

Okay, so Monday night, I made a turkey, potato, and rutabaga soup for lunch this week in the Messy Cubicle (yes, that's messy, not mossy).

Tuesday, the weather forecasters started talking about a Pacific storm coming down that may affect us here in the Southern Desert.

Wednesday morning it drizzled at my house.

Today, Thursday, it was raining all morning out here.

What is this power that my stock pot holds?

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Which I Hurt

...or, more accurately, am sore.

Last Saturday I missed my training walk for the half marathon because I was volunteering with the Delta Society tests. We had 14 dog-handler teams scheduled for certification testing or re-testing. Sounds boring? Not if you have secret aspirations of community theater! N, who bears a remarkable resemblance to my mother (originally from NJ, raspy voice, short, not the most patient in the world) and I are the designated arguers. At a particular moment in the exam, we start arguing very loudly in order to see how the dog responds to this audible distraction in the midst of other visual and audible distractions. Being me, I like to throw N curveballs and yell "How could you say that to her about me??" or "I hate anchovies on pizza! Who puts anchovies on pizza!" or one of my favorites, "No, I'm taking that dog home with me, you can forget about it." (That last usually throws the testee a bit and makes them relax.) This year, a woman with a giant mastiff was being tested, so I threw out "Now that's a dog! Not that little pipsqueak thing you call a dog!" N was startled and didn't know what to say (of course I didn't mean it, gentle readers. Her dogs are very sweet, and one is usually our neutral testing dog).  I also tried  a wailing "How could you??" with a tear in my voice, because honestly, we've never run across people arguing in the hospital, but we come across people crying all the time. As an acting improv, it flopped.  (Stinkerbelle gets very solemn when she spies someone crying and goes over to them and is quiet--a rarity for her--and tries to lick them better.)  I got to be flapper (hospital gown flapper, that is) but not bumper this time. But the test runs all day, and I left my house just after 8 a.m., so that meant no time for a Saturday walk.

Or a Sunday walk, as I spent last Sunday weed whacking my backyard down to the nub and raking all the grass up to get ready for this weekend, when I thatched, spread winter rye grass seed followed by a manure topping  mix. After cutting 7 bags full off my Texas Ranger shrubs the week before. Just call me Little Mossy Garden Busy Bee.

So that puts me and J one week behind schedule for our half marathon. But since the training schedule has two or three 6-mile Saturdays when you're supposed to work on pace, I decided to skip one of those designated 6-milers and just keep increasing distance so we'd be back on track in just a couple of weeks. J couldn't walk this Saturday, so I did my 7 miles alone, listening to an audiobook.

All was going fine until about mile 6, when my hips started aching really bad and I realized I'd forgotten to take a Tylenol before I left home. Luckily, I ran in to S and her dog R (R visits with Stinkerbelle at the local hospital) right about then, so I slowed to walk with them and chat for a bit. S has an ACL injury, so it really was a slow walk, then I took off and walked the last mile at a leisurely pace. And found, when I got back home, that I had to sort of pour myself out of the E because even though I stretched back at the car after that mile-long cooling off final walk, I still had stiffened up into pretzel as starched as a nun's veil.

Now I've spent half an hour researching hip pain on the web and terms like lordosis and sacroliliac joint dysfunction are skipping around my brain. So two pearls of wisdom to keep in mind from now on:
  1. Stretch, stretch, stretch!!
  2. Middle age ain't for sissies.
(The Mt. Lemmon marathon was yesterday, and the winner ran uphill, 26.2 miles, in the same amount of time I am aiming to walk 13.1 miles downhill. Harumph)

Monday, October 11, 2010

In Which I Confuse a Hummingbird

Mr. Hummingbird's feeder was low on sugar water yesterday, so I took his feeder down washed it, and made him some new dinner. While the feeder was inside drying and the water was cooling off, I was sitting on the patio. Up flew Mr. Hummingbird, looking for his feeder. He flew around in circles, obviously perplexed. In fact, he was so disconcerted that it was gone that he flew to the nail it hangs from and started pecking at that with his beak. Water from a stone, er, nail. Very pretty bird, but kind of dumb (Okay, kind of innocent, is that better than dumb?). 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In Which, If You Make Soup, Autumn Will Come

So October started off the same hot, disgusting way the summer had proceeded--with record high temperatures (102 on Oct. 1, 101 on Oct. 2). I was starting to despair of  autumn every arriving. Where are you fall? Why are you being coy and hiding?  Will it ever be 70 degrees again? (said with howl of despair)

Ahh, autumn, with its crisp, crunchy leaves (which we don't have here). Ahh, autumn, with the donning of light sweaters and corduroy clothes (you can still wear sandals and shorts here through New Year's holiday). Ahh, autumn, with the smell of burning fireplaces and crisp nights (these we do have here, and if you close your eyes, you can pretend it's really fall). Ahh, autumn, when my metabolic clock thinks "Eh? Winter approaching? Uh oh, better pack on some pounds to fortify her against the long, cold, dark winter with its scarcity of food to come." My metabolic clock still thinks I'm a hunter/gatherer from 20,000 years ago, but so be it.

So I rashly decided to make soup on Sunday for my workday lunches. My crazy metabolism and personal stomach preferences mean I love soup any time of the year, though, hot or cold (weather or soup), so this wasn't a stretch. Ahh, Taste of Home has a recipe for sausage and kale soup with chickpeas. I have a turkey sausage in the freezer, check. No kale at the grocery store (strange, as they normally do and I like kale), but I have a half a bag of spinach, so check. I don't really like chickpeas unless they and garlic and olive oil are made into hummus, but I have a can of nothern beans and they're the same color, so check. The rest of the ingredients I also have, so check, check, and check. I'm set.  Let's cook!

I grabbed my trusty stock pot and my knife and set about the task.

Step 1: Onions, garlic, potatoes, and spinach in olive oil.

Step 2 One can of chopped tomatoes

Step 3. One turkey sausage.

Step 4. One box of vegetable or chicken stock, followed by beans.

Step 5. Cook till hot and then ladle into pretty bowl (the last of my Ikea soup bowls, sob; it's 20 years old and starting to develop a crack in the bottom. Will I ever find soup bowls as pretty to replace this set?) and eat, slurping away if no one but cats and dogs can hear you. Pretend there are leaves falling lazily outside your window, and that the pumpkins will not rot two days after you set them on your doorstep, and that you could wear a sweater to work anyway (especially since the air conditioning is still on and the boys in the office like it set to arctic). Remember jumping in freshly raked piles of leaves, the leafless tree limbs jutting against the early sunset sky, the flocks of geese flying overhead, trying to outrace winter behind them.

And guess what? The temperatures started dropping. Yesterday it was below 90 degrees. Last night it was supposed to be 59 degrees. Shy autumn has finally arrived.
I'm not sure my soup had anything to do with it, and the timing could just be coincidental. I'm just saying...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In Which I Find a Mossy Nest

I spent a few hours this morning in my sadly neglected backyard, madly pruning my Texas ranger.Texas rangers are quite forgiving, and can stand a heavy-handed pruning. It had been 2 years since I did a really good trim of the bushes. Look what I found when cleaning up--a little hummingbird nest! It may have been from this year, or perhaps last. It's been vacated a long time, though. Naturally I then felt totally guilty at hacking down the scraggly, out of control shrubs that provided a safe haven. Ah well, maybe she'll return next spring and build another nest. By then, the bushes should have rebounded from my pruning and filled in nice and thick. I'm fascinated by how the lady hummingbird wove plastic into the nest matrix. I can't tell if any of my dog hair is in there. I hope so; it would make a perfectly soft and snuggly nest.