My Commonplace Blog

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May 2016

Thinking about going back to work. And watching The Borgias.

Sounds about right. . .

The Annual Dust Up Delayed


Each May for the past 20 years, give or take,  the hubs’ fishing buddy arrives for two days of fishing and male bonding for them, and blissful peace and quiet for me.


My home office/studio doubles as the guest room so there’s a major cleanup before said fishing buddy arrives.


This involves dusting the bookshelves that run along two walls. An annual cleanup is sufficient as there’s not much dust up there.


When a significant chance of rain moved the trip up by two days, less than a day was left for clean up. No, I do not work ahead on housekeeping.

Alas, the bookshelves did not get dusted. Oh darn. . .

Food Pass-Fail 5, the Trifecta

Wrapping up with Pass, Fail, and Incomplete.

My relationship with complexity pegs the extremes. The idea of immersing myself in a difficult task is so deeply appealing. The reality of doing so, meh, not always so much.

Cooking is a prime example.

Ice cream


The ice cream is a sure and solid A; missed an A+ for flavor strength.

The plan is to serve up only homemade ice cream summer. For ease I used Vanilla Bean Paste from the ab-fab local spice shop Allspice). Guessed at the amount and went too light. Easy enough to improve next time.

Even did a by-chance science experiment. Chilled one cooling tub in the upstairs freezer (not as cold) and one in the chest freezer downstairs (deep freeze). The churning took at least 5 minutes less in the super-chilled tub. But the less-cold tub added more volume with the extra time and has a lighter feel. Also, colder-tub batch chilled about 4 hours; the other batch chilled overnight before putting it in the ice cream maker.

Overall, worth the time and effort.

Rye bread. Incomplete.

Caraway seed

Finding the right flour required visits to several stores, and not sure what I bought is the best choice. For a first go, ordering a big bag off the interwebs seems folly.

Then the weather went chilly so starting the starter in a cold house seemed an exercise in futility. Mission temporarily scrubbed.

But a bowl is on the counter so that qualifies for an incomplete.

I’ll end this project on a glorious, uncomplicated fail:

Chip shelf

Lest anyone mistake us for food purists of any stripe,  please note the above. Our love of Tostitos chips knows no bounds. The only thing we’re fussy about is the variety: Restaurant style, please! Whenever they go on sale (3 for $10 or the ever-coveted, rarely seen 3 for $9), we stock up. Clearly there was a recent sale, so the hubs added a shelf in the basement specifically to hold the bounty. Even considering unfailingly regular consumption, this perfect corporate concoction of oil, salt, and probably a touch of sugar does not lose its appeal. And it comes in Party Size — Cheers!

Food Pass-Fail 4

Puff Pastry Waffle


A wicked, slightly naughty A for Puff Pastry Waffles!

In a bit of interwebs serendipity, I came across Puff Pastry Waffles as we plowed through a  Costco box of standard-issue waffles. If you ever want to take the joy out of a fun food, buy it in bulk. Waffles are a favorite, but as we approached number 72, boring became the operative word. Yes, just leaving them uneaten in the freezer was an option except for the room even the unboxed bags took up. Just be rid of them!

My love of waffles was reignited upon seeing the video. And the cosmos has saved me from myself: Our Costco does not sell puff pastry. Amen.

Food Pass-Fail 3

Asian slaw


Asian Slaw gets a solid C. The hubs thinks it’s a B, possibly B+ but that’s grade inflation to me.

Tasty, pretty easy to make, reliable results. That defines middle ground, thus the middle grade.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy a head of cabbage.

Food Pass-Fail 2


Fail. Spectacular fail!

A frequently cited rule for buying produce: Don’t buy the biggest d@#n one. Since this was an impulse purchase and I’ve never bought one before, I can kinda forgive myself . . .

Tough, fibery, nothing close to the jicama I’ve enjoyed in salads at restaurants.

Bonus fail: Apply cider vinegar is not the correct flavor profile. After whacking through this monster and almost removing a finger tip while peeling it, the marinade was happenstance at best. Not awful but not worth repeating.

I’ll give myself a D for trying and, since the unmarinated half went in the compost pile, environmental stewardship. The local woodchuck or a battery of squirrels no doubt had a good crunch.

A retry is in order but first a definite plan of action.

Food Pass-Fail 1

A week ago I spent part of Sunday afternoon watching The Great British Baking Show and knitting. More about knitting another time.

This past Sunday, perhaps more appropriately, I watched three episodes of TGBBS while baking cookies and a cake. The local PBS station probably calls it a marathon; more likely it’s a choice made to fill air time.

Clearly we’re set for a bit over a week with the hubs love of sweets, and I’m not joking. We might get two weeks, but that’s the longest it will stretch.

Poppy seed cake

Made me think it’s time for a review and rating of recent kitchen efforts.

This is a pass!

This poppy seed cake gets a solid B. With the cookie reserve, the day’s efforts get a B+. Maybe an A-. There’s a lot of dishes involved in the prep and I did clean up rather than my usual I-cooked-you-clean-up approach. That includes the cookie sheets for bonus points.

Poppy seed cake is on constant rotation here; the hubs pines and whines if he thinks it’s been too long since a cake graced the counter. He’s been known to employ the sad face in the grocery store to force the issue.

This time I’m patting myself on the back for exceptional texture and spot-on baking time. While mixing I feared the egg whites might not have been whipped enough (nothing like a beaten-to-infinity foam), but the results speak otherwise.


Making Do – The Spring Edition

Spring kludge 1

Spring into summer is kludging season for the hubs. A few years back, he and the neighbor created a spectacular pool-heating system kludge. Yards of garden hose winding aimlessly behind an array of old glass doors and windows, the whole thing baking in the sun so tepid water would (eventually) flow into their pool. It was a sight to behold, and damn if there is no photographic record. In my mind’s eye it was a glorious Rube Goldbergesque contraption. I’m certain notable lawn damage occurred and there was a minor injury. Or two.

This year’s project is suitably mundane: Divert the rainwater around the garden. Bonus: Helps keep out the rabbits. He cut a handful of old composite boards (stacked behind the deck for years, years I tell you) to a narrower width to cover more territory. The math of figuring out how much territory the boards would cover proved that an illustrator and a writer should never be in charge of such things. Thank goodness there wasn’t a time limit on that problem and we’re good with a tape measure. Only minor marital squabbling took place, mostly when ear protection was on and the saw was running.

And thank goodness there was enough board to go around.

Visions of Kerosene


I’m not a violent person, but when provoked my thoughts can go to a nasty place.

This year’s weed crop has driven me to mental extremes. These crawly weeds generally don’t take hold until June, but they’ve swept across the dry creek already thanks to an early spring. At least three times I’ve tackled the onslaught already. It’s hard to get hold of the slimy green b?#$rds with gloves on, so my bare-handed efforts have left me with shredded fingernails. The gloves stay handy to tackle the larger prickly invaders.


Each time I approach the task with a shoulder-to-the-wheel attitude. One hour of hard time today and another tomorrow. Fifteen minutes in and I’m tempering thoughts of why we try to be “environmentally friendly” and don’t just spray Round Up all over, everywhere, all the time. Half an hour in and I’m contemplating the cost efficiency of a flame thrower. Do those use kerosene?

As the end of the hour comes closer, the look in my eye is frightening the dogs and the neighbors have taken their children inside. My mental picture is me dressed in olive drab, viewing the scene through aviator sunglasses, and piloting a drone filled with napalm over the whole area — chin jutting out, chomping on a stogie, grinning and laughing. The 1812 Overture plays in the background. (Odd how I swap out details in my head to avoid the possibility of perceived copyright infringement. . . )

Then I stand up and walk away with a bin full of weeds. Tomorrow we shall meet again on the battlefield. Sigh. Or maybe the day after; the weeds will still be there.

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