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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

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The Lazy Cook

What with work and all the other stuff of life clamoring for my attention and zapping my energy, the joy of cooking has eluded me for months. Fortunately, the cooler days are perking me up a bit. A bit. Let’s not overstate the case.

So I’m adapting my cooking ambitions – Welcome to The Lazy Cook. Once again, the interwebs provideth.

The Lazy Cook 1

First up, the laziest cookie recipe ever – plus I found it on Nordic Northwest‘s* Facebook page so it pings the Nordic cooking button, too!

Mash together oatmeal and banana, then toss in a flavor. Here, I added mini chocolate chips because this was not an exercise in creativity. Blop vaguely round mounds on a cookie sheet and bake for the usual cookie-baking amount of time at the usual cookie-baking oven temp.

The result: Edible and not entirely unpleasant. Chewy would be generous assessment; after a day rubbery is pretty much spot on. But if mid-morning you need a big snack, you can eat several of these (providing they hold together) and not feel guilty.

I’d make them again but maybe add a little water or yogurt to help hold the dough (if it could be classified as such) together. But maybe not because, well, you know. . . The Lazy Cook.

The Lazy Cook 2

Next, falling in with the sheet-pan cooking craze: Blueberry muffin blob from Food 52. Since I didn’t bake this when blueberries were in season, out came the humongous bag of frozen wild blueberries from Costco. And if you keep ingredients like this a smidge (spelled W-A-A-A-Y-Y) past the best-by date, you get the bonus frost that melts when mixed, giving that ‘unique’ (yes, that’s the word I’m looking for. . .) purplish haze to the batter.

I couldn’t even be bothered to get out the mixer and just mixed it all together by hand. Rise and fluff wasn’t the aim because, well, you know. . . The Lazy Cook.

The result: Color notwithstanding, actually quite tasty. I unnecessarily fretted a bit about over baking, so a few minutes longer would have crisped up the edges a bit more. And I’ll aim for a thicker, smaller blob. Mebbe get out the mixer for some added fluff factor.

I cut them in squarish pieces – like Chicago pizza the way it’s supposed to be cut, ahem! – and can stack two in a container for a portable snack.

I’d show after pics for these but, well, you know. . .The Lazy Blogger.

What’s next? Maybe a whole meal on a sheet pan – most likely a gooey mess. And granola in the slow cooker. Yes, that’s a thing and, like the sheet-pan muffins, why not?

*Yes, I see the apostrophe is wonked. I tried three ways to correct it. Obvs, unsuccessful. Left as is because, you know. . .The Lazy Editor

It’s Not a Competition

But it does require effort and human nature makes comparison inevitable.

Friendship.

In the area of friendship, I find myself in a sweet spot these days. Over time I have unburdened myself of the needy and greedy. Now my contact list has only people who are delightful, talented, and generous of spirit. They challenge me, and therein lies the rub. While I decided these wonderful people worthy of my time, do I put sufficient effort into making myself worthy of their time?

For example, I recently had lunch with someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. Let’s just call her Wonder Woman. After she indulged my prattling litany of since-we-last-met woes, she shared what she’s been up to.

Thank goodness I quickly realized responding with interested, enthusiastic non-verbal noises was the smart option. Great job — Hmmm, Ooohhh. Serious yoga six days a week, four when time is tight — Aaahhh, hmmmm. Making art dolls, particularly (rightfully) proud of one of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, one of her role models. Hmmm?

Ms. Gilbreth was a woman of accomplishment in home and work in the early- to mid-20th century. Among other important things, she found time to invent the foot pedal trash can and develop the kitchen work triangle. Wikipedia has a good entry on her, worth a read. Wonder Woman’s art doll of Ms. Gilbreth has a tipped-up toe poised to step on a trash can pedal.

Let me be clear: There was no bragging in Wonder Woman’s comments, simply sharing her life. Still, I was exhausted just listening. That’s when the measuring-up anxiety crept in.

Thank goodness I didn’t blurt out. . .

I found a Tostito chip in the shape of a cat!

Hmmm. Ooohhh.

Sigh. I really need to get out more.

Meanwhile, I best head to the library and scan my podcasts — since a bit of humor and reading/listening suggestions seem to be my strongest contributions. And I need to stay on top of those to stay in the good graces of my friends.

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Dandelion Blivet – or – I Can Handle the Truth, I Just Don’t Like the Maths

dandelion blivet

A highly technical military term (wink, wink), as my father explained it to me, a blivet is ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag.

This weekend produced a close-to-real-life example: I took that leetle beety plastic pot out front to hold all the dandelions I’d dig up. Surely there weren’t many so early in the spring. . .

To loosen the nasty weed’s grip on the good earth — the over-wintered ones had roots the diameter of small carrots and I’m not talking baby carrots — I used the Japanese all-purpose garden knife available exclusively, in the 1990’s, from Smith and Hawken. Now available fine big-box stores everywhere.

And pardon the Britishism, too much Masterpiece Theater, but the blivet wasn’t the maths that were getting to me. The truth is, by trading a large chunk of my time for money these days, only so much of anything gets done. This weekend, the dandelions. Not enough time to do a proper weeding. Other items on the weekend to-do list loom large and the hours vaporize quickly. A time blivet of sorts — how much to cram into a too-short timeframe.

The dandelions, however, don’t care one whit about my schedule. And I’m gonna need a bigger bucket.

Is It a Fabric Yip?

Back in the day, yip was the term for a mental hang-up experienced by sports pros and amateurs. Accomplished golfers who suddenly couldn’t swing or their swing suddenly went wonky being the main use. The term was also used for other sports; I recall seeing footage of a catcher who couldn’t release the ball on a throw back to the mound.

While not a perfect use of the word, I call the experience of being unable to bring myself to cut a piece of fabric a yip. It is especially acute when I haven’t sewn anything for awhile or I’m about to cut a special piece of fabric.

charley-harper-fabric

I yipped last week. I decided to make a top from a piece of Charley Harper fabric,and the dilemma was twofold. There was just barely enough fabric and the fabric is a cotton knit. I love wearing knits but sewing them is another matter entirely; I’ve never been completely satisfied with the outcome.

In this case, I created a pattern from a dress-turned-tunic I liked but hardly wore. The dress fabric was lovely but rather thin for the cut. Previously I had cut the dress to tunic length thinking the shorter, lighter result would work better for the fabric but it still just drooped. The Charley Harper fabric has a bit more heft, and thus began the new project.

And then began the fretting. The pattern pieces sat on the fabric for a day or so when I finally took a deep breath, rechecked everything six times and started cutting. Then I pretty much forced myself to finish the project in two days, concerned I’d stall out and the thing would sit there half finished.

charley-harper-tunic-sleeve

And there’s a charming little cheat: The original sleeves have a lovely zipper detail that I doubted I could repeat. Since I was short on new fabric, I simply used the original sleeves and added a matching trim detail to the pockets. Nothing like a well-executed hack!

charley-harper-tunic

Well, I did finish it, and it’s lovely. And since coincidentally the new tunic is red (the project has been sitting around for half a year), well, that’s just a bonus for my Ben Ming Nian.

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Urban Legends of the Trail

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I hear tell a tale of two folks and a dog who done wandered off the paved trail one day and pert’ near disappeared. It was a mighty fine adventure that took ’em ’bout an hour, or possibly much, much longer, to find their way back to civilization.

Seems it all started when them folks and the pup got on the trail only to be  confronted by two unleashed dogs whose disinterested humans followed a goodly distance behind. Leashes, people! Leashes! What in tarnation is so difficult about leashes?! With a large barking labradoodle headed right at ’em, well, the easiest thing to do was head up the dirt trail before things got ugly. Couldn’t be far before that trail intersected with the pavement again; they’d seen other folks re-enter the main trail with their dogs lots of times.

So they wandered up the hill and within a few minutes were surprised at how far away from civilization they felt. The constant presence of street noise on the main trail disappeared. The trail went up and it went down — steeply. It switched back and forth repeatedly to get to the bottom of a ravine, then repeated the process to get back to high ground. And the trail slanted deeply sideways, putting one precariously close to a rapid, tumbling descent with every step. After the third or fourth ravine, well, only the pup was still running strong.Yes, the mini fjords of the Midwest can be taxing on human and, eventually, beast.

And the lady adventurer, well, not having planned on this excursion, quickly realized these were the wrong boots. Oh, they had plenty of much-needed tread, but they were heavy. And while the thin socks were warm enough, her feet slid inside the boots requiring extra effort for each step. She cursed not being more diligent about yoga for the flexibility needed for grabbing branches and taking high steps up, and the balance for taking sliding steps down. But she did become reacquainted with her glute muscles.

Figurin’ the rescue squad might find only their cell phones, she wanted to take more pictures. But her main goal was not going arse over tea kettle down the hillside.

Also with surprising quickness, the nearby rich kids academy (because rich kids don’t go to a school), and the parents’ fancy homes had disappeared from view; all the trio of accidental adventurers saw were trees and snow. And snow and trees. After cresting more than a half dozen hills, houses blessedly reappeared. But these weren’t the same houses visible from the paved trail. And the railroad tracks were nowhere to be seen. Where exactly they were was, and remains, a mystery.

At this point, the couple drew on the wisdom they had gained from many years of riding bike trails: The trail is just as long back to the car as it is going out — only you’ve got less energy. They turned around. Funny thing, though, it was a cloudy day so they didn’t really know which direction they were headed, and pretty much every snow-covered tree looks like the next so every direction looked the same. And there were a.lot. of trees. As well, they had made several choices at Ys along the way, which had to be properly re-chosen on the way back.

Why just look at this Google Earth pic – you can’t even see the dirt trails!

ashworth-park-google-maps

Now even the pup was showing some stress. She’d been wary of the narrow bridges crossing the fingerling creeks on the way out, and was even less inclined to cross them on the way back. And the snow was starting to turn to ice balls between the pads of her paws; her people not thinking she’d need Musher’s Secret on this excursion, left her paws bare. Problem is, that paw problem only gets worse over time and the party came to halt several times on the steep slopes to clean the pup’s paws.

‘Bout now, the fun aspect of this adventure was wearin’ pretty thin. But the car doesn’t get any closer by whining, so they trekked on. First the chimney of the academy appeared through the trees. And soon the Rock of Gibraltar came into view. OK, it was a rough tree stump that reminded the gentleman adventurer of the Rock of Gibraltar. Sorta.

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That was funny on the way out, but it was likely delirium talkin’ on the way back. Soon the car – with its heated seats – came into view. Rarely is a sight so devine. With only themselves as witnesses to these events, the couple and the pup headed home.

So how do I know this tale is true? Well, I listened to them retell it to each other with great animation as they stood in line at the donut shop. Seems the lady adventurer was sure she’d used up all her carbs on the adventure and felt it imperative to replenish. The gentleman adventurer indicated he was feeling the same deprivation.

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Ben Ming Nian or Seeing Red or Don’t Ask Me About My Underalls

what-fresh-hell

This card was made for me by a friend who enjoyed my use of the famous Dorothy Parker line. We laughed when I opened it. Then came Chinese New Year. No one’s laughing now.

For a reason that also includes Bastille Day (for another time), I like to indulge in a little celebration on Chinese New Year: the first bike ride of the season. Because here in the Midwest the holiday often falls in early February when it’s a tad warmer and less icy than January 1, so taking the bikes out now is smarter – or a touch less stupid. This year, the date was immaterial.

Several pop-culture-y sites also make a minor fuss over the holiday, which lead me to discover that this is a Ben Ming Nian for me – my zodiac year of birth. A good thing, you’d think. Not so much. Talk about what fresh hell! Don’t start a job or change jobs, don’t buy a house — or even move, don’t get married. Those are just the things one can control! Every move pretty much torques off Tai Sui, a mysterious power that controls people’s fortune.

Then, in an odd, third-rate-motivational-speech turn, challenges and opportunities may come one’s way “with efforts and firm belief.” I might be able to see the opportunities if I could bring myself to get out from under the bed.

I was ready to brush it off as superstition until I recalled my last Ben Ming Nian, and I wanted to grab a brown paper bag because hyperventilating was a possibility.

What to do? Wear red. Lots of red. Especially red underwear. But I can’t buy it myself; for maximum effectiveness, red clothing must be gifts. Oh yea, I can see the hubs flipping through a rack of panties . . .

If you need to find me, I’ll be back under the bed facing east (another trick to assuage Tai Sui).

What fresh hell indeed. See you in early 2018 — as an added twist of misery, this lunar year has 13 months. Send red socks!

 

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Woodland Worry Walks

winter-trail

On a recent flight I read the airline magazine. A pleasant read, well-suited to the audience and timeframe. The article on forest bathing stuck with me. Forest bathing is a health activity of Japanese origin that is, in brief, a slow, mindful walk in the deep woods. Look around, take in the details, and breathe deeply because apparently there’s some very good stuff in forest air. While I’d heard the term, I hadn’t paid it much attention, but on this short flight there wasn’t much else clamoring for my attention.

Our daily dog walks are not slow, and since we walk the same trails frequently there isn’t much gawking at the minutia. The story brought to the fore how I actually walk in these familiar woods — in cold weather head down to be sure I’m not stepping on ice, (as noted) always quickly, usually discussing daily woes with the hubs. At least twice a week either or both of us gets worked into a froth about something.

Occasionally I snap out of it and snap a pic of something interesting — at least I’m somewhat aware of my surroundings. So while I may be getting the aerobic benefit, I am clearly missing any additional benefits. Plus, these walks don’t take us into anything that could be labeled a forest, just some well-wooded acreage.

On the New Year’s Resolution list: Enjoy the great outdoors. With the crazy pup’s high energy, a key reason for the activity, that won’t happen on the dog walk. But I’m pretty sure nature is available to experience at almost any other time. . .

 

 

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The Eagle Has Landed! or More Bad Nature Photography

“Look – out on the ice. Is those hawks or eagles?”

Another matching bird flies low overhead and lands near the others.

“Eagles, they’re eagles.”

“Let me borrow your phone to take a pic.”

“We’re too far away, you won’t get much.”

“But I’ll get something.”

 

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“Let’s walk a little farther down the bridge. We’ll be a bit closer so you can get a better shot.”

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“Now you can see them better. Slightly.”

One bird flies away, another takes to the air swooping over the open water closer to the bridge.

“Take a video.”

“By the time I get the phone out again, the eagle will be gone.”

After almost a minute of watching the bird, reach for phone.

Bird immediately flies back to the resting spot on the ice.

Some things are meant to be enjoyed in the moment.

Nature Stinks

The trail we most often use for dog walking runs along a river. Several times a year sections are closed due to flooding, and frequently after a good rain we’re dodging puddles and commenting on which areas have gone boggy. Last year the mosquitoes were almost unbearable. I’m particularly appealing to the little buggers and the hubs would have to wave them off my back as we walked — even after applying a healthy (unhealthy??) coating of OFF!

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For all the dampness this year, the mosquitoes are thankfully few. Recently what’s almost unbearable is the smell. Not, mind you, at the height of heat and humidity. Rather now, when tempuratures are moderate but the humidity still hangs thick.

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Even the mushrooms keeled over in a day or two.

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