Bees are in

We got up early and went to a site near Boeing Field to pick up the bees. It was pretty cool to roll up on a trailer full of bee boxes, and feeling the mild terror that two of them were ours. I added some more pics to the top bar hive album and there’s a video in there as well. If you look closely you may notice that P. and I have matching hats with bills to keep the mesh off our faces. If the mesh rests against your nose, you will likely get stung right there.

Franny was very brave and took pictures in her flip flops and shorts. She is the insect whisper. She was picking up loose bees off the ground at the pick up site and looked sad when P. told her she could not take a loose one home. Then her new friend flew off her sleeve and into our trunk as we loaded the packages in, and she beamed. “I always pet bees,” she said.

It’s really a perfect day to install them. Mild, clear, warm, not windy. The backyard is full of bees now as they get oriented in their new homes. The air filled up when the sun finally hit the hives. We didn’t get stung once, which was a relief. I was just kind of bracing myself for it.

The queens looked active in their little cages and we plugged the holes up with marshmallow, which she and her new friends should chew through in about 3 days. Shan’s coming in a bit to hang out and spend the night as she’s up here on a little business. Lucky me! Haven’t seen her for a year and a half. Very excited. I made sure she’s not allergic to honeybees.

Hello to Sring*

* The infamous “sring” cake in all its glory.

Busy weekend, and busy past couple of weeks. I guess I should start with Easter. What happened? Not much. I decided to see what would happen if I followed the recommended advice and set aside eggs in the back of the fridge for a couple of weeks. I was very surprised I was coordinated enough to remember to do this! As expected, the air bubble was bigger and they were easier to peel. Whoopie. Cross another one off the bucket list, I suppose.

Sometimes I like to show off my eggs because they turn out cool, but this year they were kind of a hash. I bought discounted egg dye kits a couple of years ago after the holiday (tie dye, marble, and glitter) and they were kind of lame! Next I think we will go back to feats with ordinary dye. These eggs were quickly ushered into an egg salad made with spicy chipotle mayo.

Other than dyeing eggs with the girls, and making some nicer dinner since lamb’s on sale and it’s a Sunday, I am wildly inconsistent about Easter. I don’t do a lot of candy because I feel like I have to draw the line somewhere–Easter really isn’t our holiday. But it’s nice to say hello to spring. And baths! Have some bath loot, girls.

I made Franny an Easter basket plate.

And also Strudel.

And then I roasted a lamb leg that I stuffed in part with minced preserved lemons I made in February. I got down to my last one-and-a-half and I sliced some more and added more salt to the jar while I watched part of Going Clear. I know Japanese pickles can be done in an “endless” way like this so we’ll see if the same is true of lemons. Between the acid in the salt I doubt I’m breeding new life forms in there. And it is FUN to dig around in a salty lemon-oily jar. It’s like beach mad scientist as a kid.

I was a Bisy Backson yesterday in the sense that I did all those things you put off in the week, because enough is enough in one day sometimes. I took Strudel out for a refurbed taller bike, which she named Dr. Krieger.

This will be her last bike before she gets a full-sized one, unless the frame explodes or something. Am I winding down on child ranching or what? There’s a lot of parenting left to do, but I cannot even pretend I have little kids anymore.

I also finished a mini-project last weekend: tagging the trees.

I used 18 tags, and only one of the trees came with the house (the Italian prune). We’ve been busy. To be fair, four tags went on the frankencherry alone.

I wasn’t as helpful with the beehives this weekend as I would have liked. We decided to divide and conquer. I helped where I could (caulk, moral support) and P. just hit it really hard. It was forecasted to rain today (and has) so we tucked them onto the porch for now. Franny is on deck to paint when it clears up a little later this week.

I ran out of caulk so I’ve not quite finished the roofs.

Hello have you heard the good news about beehives

This Saturday we’re going to pick up two packages of Italians and then bring them home and dump them into the boxes. I know people have done this thousands of times, but it still sounds bizarre. I will bring my camera so I can capture the site of a truck full of bees (I hope).

Franny has been in fine form lately. She was in a great mood on Sunday and decided to dawdle some before cleaning out the chicken coop by giving the dogs rides. Poor Edith was tiny terrified until Horace joined her.

Horace joins the fun.

Bonus party trick.

Her hair is full of Sucrets

Okay so. Come closer. LEMMIE SHOW YOU SOMETHING.* I remember when I was a wee blogging lass and I would actually write my face off on Saturday night, and then wait to post it until Monday. I wanted you to believe I had a life when I was 24. I actually did not. I was home writing most nights while my preschooler snoozed, which is really nothing to be ashamed of. I had this idea that I should be Having My Twenties but I was kind of born 57 so it worked out really. Last night P. and I went out to one of them drinking theaters to see Cry-Baby when the children left, which was fun. I HAVE CHILDREN WHO TEMPORARILY AND SIMULTANEOUSLY LEAVE NOW.

Tonight Franny went out to a potluck at her boyfriend’s house. P. gave her a talk that was funny but like the opposite of last weekend’s traumarama dad sex talk. “Aw that is so grownup that you’re going to a potluck,’ he said,” she told me in the car. We were on our way to upsize Strudel’s violin from a three-fourths to a full sized one and Franny was riding along. She thought it was very funny but I think she likes it. I sent her with flowers since her boyfriend’s mother insisted she did not need to bring a dish.

So Strudel and I stayed here alone. “What’s for dinner?” she said.

“PMS. I mean, cinnamon loaf.”

We were responsible and had some proteiny leftovers while it was cooling. Then I iced it. Hur hur. The icing was too thick and the hole was too big.**

“What is that pattern, Mother?”

“Uh…just going for coverage, I guess.”

“They’re chevrons,” Strudel declared, generously.

As soon as I cut it, she noted that it was underbaked. We’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off like WHOA and suddenly she’s an expert in these matters.

She pronounced her final verdict: “Paul Hollywood would say ‘two more minutes.”

This is what I get from a ten-year-old.

You might have noticed in the first loaf picture there was something in the corner…that something is…a shopping cart.

After date night on Thursday night I got a ride home in this from the bus stop. It was amazing. I laughed until I cried, which has not happened in a while. And now I have a cart in my yard. What to do? Return it in the Elco tomorrow when I run to the hardware store for more beehive parts? Turn it into a mobile planter??

On Friday morning Franny left the house and didn’t notice it until she came back after school. She promptly called P. and I, who had fled our jobs and were waiting for the bus. He answered and acted as if he had never heard of such a thing, and when we came home we had the fun of accusing her and her boyfriend of stealing it and leaving it there. I love an indignant Franny.

So, currently, Strudel is in the tub. She went to her first ever sleepover last night. We were nervous but they have allergies at their house too and we were super serious and we emailed and I thought we were cool. But they xanthan gummed her and she got covered with hives that started on her right arm and spread to everywhere.

I thought maybe taking the doges out for a walk and being distracted would help but she started to lose it and scratch and scratch. I understood–I am the person who could not shake poison ivy without steroids. I put her in the tub with, I shit you not, a coffee filter full of oatmeal rubber banded shut, some tea bags, some baking soda, Epsom salts, and apple cider vinegar, because fuck the inflammation police. She was eager to take a bath and I hear her splashing around in there.

So that is my hot Saturday night. In other news, there were parcels yesterday. My new running shoes came and I bounced around the neighborhood and then walked around Greenlake. There is a woman at Greenlake who is bodychecking people on purpose. I am not kidding. She is actually walking around the lake running into people’s shoulders. She did it to my walking buddy and now I have seen her do it to others. I kind of want to STOP her. What would you do?

* I, Asshole: The Motel 6 of the Lileks Experience
** That’s what she said

You acquire an item: guy made of bee pollen

I’m sure I’ll post pictures here ongoingly (I love this non-word), but I’ve also started a hive album on le flickrs. The set is fetal right now, and my first hive is still a pile of wood on the back porch. But, it’s supposed to be sunny on Saturday and we kind of know what we’re doing now that we’ve cut one out. I am also hoping to have a better camera soon so we can get some good bee and honey porn going.


I know it looks like I’m doing fuck all in these pictures, but he is the cutter. He has more practice. I learned to use power tools in art class in high school, but I used them then for dubious projects like “cut legs off thrift store Barbies for repurposing into angst sculpture.” GOD BLESS my high school art teacher who had a bandsaw and let 17 year-old stoners use it. I also sawed up all my Crown Hill coop parts myself. For this project, I did a lot of measuring. I am the measurer and he is the cutter. A shared duty was arguing about “What does this part of the plans mean?”.

I’m using these plans. They are in British but they are in imperial measurements and contain this note on dimensions:

The author still thinks in feet and inches, despite all attempts to modernize him, so that is mostly what you will find used here. As a concession to people who insist on using metric measurements (a wholly artificial system, based on an erroneous calculation of the circumference of the Earth), if you convert using 1 inch = 25mm or 1 foot = 30cm you will be close enough. Anyone pedantic enough to convert using several decimal places will get the result they deserve.

Awesome. We are keeping with the plans except doing a front entrance for the bees and hinging the roof so it doesn’t need to be lifted off and set somewhere.

We decided on top bar hives in part because historically both of us have had touchy/injured backs over the years, though they’ve been mostly fine since we changed our diets last year. This is a significant consideration, because the big hives that you may think of when you see bee hives, that look like file cabinets, can be quite heavy when they need to be opened and worked. You can be tasked with picking up a “file drawer” of ~60 pounds of wood and honey, whereas with a top bar hive you can open the roof like a treasure chest lid and pull out one comb at a time, which will be more like ~6 pounds. We could handle that, even with tweaky backs. So the bees will not ever be neglected due to illness or injury, I hope.

I realized as I was emailing with a Victorian Concerns friend a couple of days ago and nattering on about bees (just like now) that the Langstroths were invented in 1852, smack in the middle of Victorian things. It seemed so right, this idea of putting bees in tidy boxes (filed away if you will) with fixed-size frames that the bees must conform to, rather than letting them build free form combs. MAN’S DOMINION OVER NATURE.

The weather has been CRAZY here. Two days ago it snowed, lightninged, and hailed in various places in the city. Lightning is rarely seen here, and snow is extremely rare beyond February, let alone April. After we’re done assembling them, I am going to have Franny paint the hives over her spring break and I hope she’ll be able to do it unhindered and undampened.

This bee chatter is just me enjoying talking out of my ass though. Where the stinger meets the choad is the 18th of this month, when the two packages of Italian honeybees get here. Something we’ve been talking about for about ten years now! Boom, accomplishment’d.

The Devil’s Bargain

“How would you know you weren’t being a phony? The trouble is you wouldn’t.”

–JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Here I am behind a desk again. This is a strange one. No one really seems to know what the temp I’m replacing did, or who supplied her with work, or what I should be doing on a daily basis. I ask questions and my emails go unanswered. There are whole days where I don’t really speak to anyone. I am told I will be copywriting “soon” so that should be fun to exercise those muscles again.

I’d probably be panicking if I was trying to seriously get my foot in the door in marketing as an FTE, but. Eh.

So I have a love-hate relationship with situations like this. On one hand, I am making a paycheck again. On the other hand, it is taking me away from my precious math studies. MATH DELICIOUS MATH. I feel like I am not making progress towards my goals like I was, but it’s nice to have less financial pressure. I’m just going to ride this for now.

I know I have 3.5 hours completely alone this morning and no tasks, so it’s going to be a review of engineering and scientific notation. I cannot make this stuff up, folks. This is how exciting my life is.

We did St. Pat’s early because my sister comes on Mondays for dinner. I don’t know what possessed me to buy a lamb shoulder–so bony! But the meat was really nice. I did it pretty easy-style, no bells or whistles. We came home and went for a short jog–me, P., Strudel, the spaniels. I get a little kick out of thinking how ridiculous that little train must look galooping around the neighborhood, but I’m excited to run a 5K with Strudel in April.

When I got home I knocked together an “American” soda bread. Of course I had to add caraway, and I did sultanas and currants, which I think is more like the one in our ancient Joy of Cooking. I threw some fingerling potatoes, chunked carrots and onions, and wedges of cabbage in a roasting pan, and everything went in the oven. I had set the lamb on a delay so when I came home it had already been roasting slow and low. P. made a chocolate cake and frosted it with mint icing, and boom, St. Pat’s for people who are utterly mutts but the closest thing they have to a heritage is being told they come from Southern Irish trailer trash.

We did have some good news last night–the school district finally sent a letter saying Strudel was accepted to both tiers of advanced learning. The highest tier would require us switching schools, which we are not keen to have her do, so next year she will be in the rigorous program in her home school for fifth grade.

This is a long time coming–she’s been testing almost every year since kindergarten, and she had often fallen just one point short percentile-wise. We didn’t have her test last year because she was falling behind. Her terrible third grade teacher gave them ten minutes of math a day when she felt like it, and usually didn’t bother photocopying any homework for them. Strudel was put into a rigorous supplemental class this year and has caught up. I think she’s also doing so well in large part because of her diet. She has focus, energy, and is calm. (Like her mother, who can also math now.) I remember being her age and how hard it was to focus and take a test, even if I knew the material.

When we opened the letter I think we all expected disappointment again, secretly, but she SMASHED it. She was in the top percentiles and we did a happy screamy dance in the dining room. The only downside, and it’s a small price, is that she will have to retest every year to stay in the program. But she’s used to the testing and I hope she finds the challenge to be worthwhile.

Morgan was rather fried last night since she’s doing the morning shift of the pledge drive again at KEXP. She talks on the air for four hours and goes to her other job, and by the time I get to her she is pretty tired. I offered to let her run away after dinner and save more Twin Peaksin’ for next week, but we managed to fit in one episode anyway, before she had to run home and sleep.

Me being kind of fried and Morgan being VERY fried worked out, though, because Franny had a lot to say last night. She had another strange weekend at her father’s house. I feel funny about her weekend stories because it seems like she’s a terror over there, in part from how angry she feels about the situation. I was telling P. this weekend that I kind of feel for her stepmother but my loyalty is with Franny, of course.

“I feel like, ‘How can you not like and pet my flatulent, venomous snake?” I said to him, by way of explaining my attitude about it.

She was a little manic when she came back. She got into the bookshelves over there due to boredom and is cracking into Carl Sagan and John McPhee. Her father was always Mr. Popular Science guy, when I first met him, but after a few years the books weren’t read, they were just displayed. But she was full of ideas. It was very cute.

“I had no filter this weekend,” she declared. “My sister asked me if I like our room and I said ‘NO’ because I just feel like a guest and there’s always crap piled on my bed. And the kids just scream at the table through every meal.”

“You are sowing dissent,” I warned her, which of course fell on deaf ears.

“I was mean to my stepmother too. She buys all these dumb face creams and I walked in and she was piling some on, and I told her, ‘You know that stuff doesn’t work, right? You just get wrinkles anyway. She took a deep breath and she said, ‘Go. Away.”

OUCH. I am pretty sure that karmically, Franny just earned herself a face that will look like one of those dried apple dolls by the time she’s 32.

“AND SATURDAY,” she went on, “was kind of worse because they had dinner guests and right before they came my dad insisted on getting out a board game and setting it up so it would LOOK like we were doing something. I called him out on it. I said, ‘Dad, we never play board games’ and he said ‘So?” and I said, ‘It looks like you’re just doing this because company’s coming over and he said, ‘Ha ha ha’ like I said something funny!”

It got a little dark, then. She told us her stepmother asked her to fetch some pills out of her nightstand.

“There are prescription pill bottles EVERYWHERE–in the kitchen, the bedroom,” she told us. “Pills for anxiety, pills for depression, pain pills…she takes so many pills.” Her mother just had back surgery, and I think this is after knee and hip surgery a few years ago, and is laid up right now. Franny said there was some yelling from her stepmother about not being able to take care of one more person. And I knew from experience that SeaFed was numbered among those she is taking care of.

Strudel turned TEN last week and I was already feeling so grateful to have my youngest in the double digits. So grateful to have dug myself out of the health pit I had fallen into. And then to hear about how things are going at his house…I’m sure they will all muddle through, or they won’t, that’s life. But last night I had that “someone has walked over my grave” feeling, but not my grave. The grave I would have had, had I zigged and not zagged.

Hello Medlar

Funny day–I’m supposed to be at work right now, but I’m not in the system yet. The woman at badging said she saw all my other previous logins, but of course she could not reactivate those. This is my fifth go-round at this company, which I kind of cannot believe. I was sent home without being able to bill for any time. It took a while for my contact to collect me from the lobby where I waited, badgeless, and I had a moment where I wondered if there had been some big misunderstanding and I thought I had a job, but I actually didn’t?

Horace abed Saturday

I know this is a crazy thing to think, but I had those kind of nightmares all night where I was fighting with friends for no apparent reason, embarrassing myself with foot-in-mouth disease, and was many places I shouldn’t have been. P. had nightmares all night too–said he was stressed out by the time change.

I kind of hate waiting in the lobbies of these buildings because pretty much the only people who use them are people waiting to be interviewed, so there’s this thick tension-funk in the air and everyone is sitting up too straight. Then someone comes into the lobby, scanning the hopeful faces and calling out a name. Everyone slumps a little when it is not them. You will not be adopted today, eager puppy. The person who is plucked out of the riff raff immediately goes into showtime mode; they are on and will be for the next 4-5 hours in their bid to become an FTE. “I’M SUPER, HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY? TRAFFIC WAS FINE!!!” I do like criticizing sartorial choices and seeing who is rude to the front desk admins, though.

Normal dog for comparison

So I woke up after sleeping fitfully, discovered my period had started, and then was sent home. I have a slow cooker on the counter making ropa vieja right now, which is kind of awesome. I didn’t want to cancel Monday night dinner with my sister even though it’s my first day back, so I decided to make it easy.

Did I build a beehive this weekend? No I did not. I forgot to have the plans printed out. Ha! I ended up walking about 3 hours around and near Greenlake, and did some gardening. I took the dogs to the local nursery and bought some decorative plant things. I am the houseplant/flower person around here, and P. usually does more practical things like mows and grows food. My department is aesthetics.

I have killed some more house plants (sigh) and wanted to replace them. My next victim is club moss, which is supposed to be fairly hearty. I predict it will have a nice summer and then commit suicide in February or so. Who could blame it? This house can feel dark. P. reassures me that a thing on his list after the bedroom creation/remodel is those little tube skylights.

It was a nice mound when I bought it, but I split it up after being instructed to by the nice lady in the houseplant section. She said some stress to the roots will make it denser and mound better and faster than waiting for it to spread and fill the pot on its own.

It looks a little better from farther away, but I never mind some wabi-sabi. I also got something I had researched called a ZZ plant, which apparently tolerates low light well, and then I couldn’t bring myself to sentence it to my bathroom after the lady said it would “get leggy.” It’s so nice looking as it is. I love soaking down there, but I don’t think I would want to live in that room with the lights off. I got a pothos that I will have no such compunctions about. They are the pigeons of the houseplants world.

I got a flat of alyssum relatives/lookalikes from the clearance rack. I always like to plant sweet little flowers like this beneath roses. I bought one of those flower mixes that you sprinkle everywhere. I planted some giant sunflowers as well. I bought a couple of odd pansies and a ranunculus to spruce up my pots that were all scented geraniums last year. I am still way into scented geraniums but I need some variety this time out. I cut back the roses in the front that were a disaster when we bought the place. We are chipping away at the benign neglect that has been inflicted on this yard. It was nice to wander around and see the changes. The quince is leafing out and the leaves are so velvety, just like the fruit. Maybe this will be the year we get a couple of blooms. We walked around and looked at everything–the cherries, hazelnuts, and kiwis are budding, and someday we will be able to gorge ourselves out of the yard.

I had the yard all to myself yesterday and was puttering to my heart’s content, which is rare, because usually P. is out doing something on a nice weekend. He has been tiring himself out framing on the evenings and weekends, so he decided to give himself the day off yesterday now that the framing is done.

He’s been going slooooowly but it’s not laziness at all. When we got back from HI last year, the bathroom was being wrapped up for another month, and then I was ill all summer. He’s really only been hitting it hard recently, now that I am predictable and reliable again.

It was exciting to see the walk-in closet framed out. When the drywall’s up, I’m going to start looking for a chevron rug and a small Venus de Milo statue. I may have mentioned that I am turning my closet into The Black Lodge.

I’d like to get paid today and rip off the first day Bandaid, but I also feel like I’ve been given some kind of temporary reprieve. Maybe this makes up for the time change on Sunday? As soon as I got to work I saw an email that said my medlar tree was being delivered today, from a nursery that is located on a Butts Road (enjoyable) so I will be here to greet the tree, I suppose.

“…And a pot of coffee just like I like my women.”

Oh man. It is so gorgeous here I cannot even tell you. Weather in the 50s. Sunny errr day. It’s really hard to sit down and write ANYTHING, let alone DEAR MF DIARY stuffs. But if I don’t capture this, it will be gone. I feel a little more (self) pressure because apparently the post-holiday tech contract lull has ended and I am back behind a desk on Monday for a very short three week stint. I am replacing a replacement person basically. I like the short term stuff. My headhunter is urging me to turn my new resume back around to her immediately as soon as I know what my job duties are because stuff is cooking. This may slow down my career change, but will not kill it. I still have nights and weekends to work on my stuff. I’m in a tech math class and I have to be done by July, which I will be.

Let us rewind 3 weeks or so backwards to Valentine’s Day. I was interested in going out and doing an early prix fixe thing with the girls and all, but a place I thought was okay for that (dedicated gluten-free menu, extensive discussion with the server) made me ill recently, so I kind of gave up on the notion of returning anytime soon.

Naturally I decided to make an eight-course meal at home.

I wrote the menu on our chalk board both to pretend I was a little pop up bistro, but also because I knew my family would be asking me about the menu ALL. DAY. LONG. Especially La Dwarf, who is going through another accelerated phase of “mouth works faster than brain.” It is my very informal observation that kids get really rough sometimes after their half year and tend to improve after their birthdays (she is turning ten this month, WHEW).

It was fun, but tiring. I always say after my Victorian year, nothing seems too challenging at this point. I estimated it would take me about 4 hours to prepare and assemble everything, but that was dumb. In the past I would have purchased things like creme fraiche–but now I make things like that. I cooked for about eight hours. I’ve been exercising so much that I wasn’t that tired or sore really. I am sad I am going back to a desk. The company where I am working seems to have a trick of deferring contractor requests for standing desks until your contract expires. They don’t actually say no, they just delay it. This is a short one, though.

ANYWAY, food. I will try to be brief. First course was an amuse bouche.

“Caviar”, smoked salmon, potato cakes, dill, lemon zest, and vegan sour cream.

Franny was late due to shenanigans involving not catching the bus on time. She was out with her boyfriend. I told her SIX SHARP! No soup for you! Actually I think she arrived during the soup.

I made little mashed potato cakes and then stamped them with my heart cutter set. It’s hard to see them on the spoons above but they are nestled as a base under the seafood.

This is as smooth as I could get my “sour cream.”

Vegan subs are weird. You know you’re not eating dairy, but it’s…close enough? Kind of acts as a place holder. I couldn’t see doing an amuse like this without dairylike product.

Course two was steak tartare with homemade potato chips.

This was probably the most popular course. I am accustomed to eating it with toast, but I actually preferred this. Weirdly, doing it this way reminded me of getting burgers and fries, in a really good way. Yes, the meat is molded into a heart shape. I used a nice half-pound tenderloin.

Course three was a pink cauliflower soup.

I am just getting into cauliflower. I never liked it when I was a kid, I think because it came out of a bag in frozen florets and was boiled into moosh. Now I am all about roasting it, which, duh.

This was a vegan recipe I will not link, because frankly it was not that flavorful. I will use the excuse that I am still a little new at this veggie to make up for my poor choice of recipe. I had homemade chicken/random animal bits that made it into my freezer broth in the fridge already so I used that instead of veg broth, of course.

This may be a funny place to say this, in the middle of describing a very frivolous and indulgent meal, but since I’ve been out of work I’ve made using up every leftover I can into an avocation. I tease P. about being “Depression Era Dan” with his string- and twist tie-hoarding ways but I was really going for it. Going for it like, giving him shit about throwing out an orphaned tablespoon of lamb or something. So when I realized I had leftover whole roasted beets in the fridge, I knew they would be great for this meal.

I sent one of my cutters right down the middle of each beet and linked some of the courses together with beet heart coins. I also used one to dye the soup. The soup called for purple cauliflower, but it was expensive and looked pretty sad/brown in the store when I was shopping for everything. Far better to buy a nice-looking white one.

Each serving got dill arrow, negative beet heart cut outs, and a “sour cream” heart. It was edible. I will say now that this is the only leftover that didn’t get completely finished.

Courses four and five were a shaved fennel, blood orange, and golden and red beet salad, and a heart-shaped tomato aspic.

I’d had an individual serving of tomato aspic, I think from Mastering the Art of French Cooking at a Julie and Julia dinner party? Doesn’t that sound so 2009? I liked it a lot. Mostly that course was for me, so I bought it out with the salad.

I sort of made it up. It was some of my broth, plus spices and herbs, plus pureed tomatoes. And a buttload of gelatin. DONE. We just kind of sliced into it.

Course six was some gluten-free gnocchi. It was pretty good. It called for mochiko, which opened me up to the world of mochi style desserts (so easy). You can maybe tell from the picture they were a wee bit sticky or something but edible.

They did not want to hold their cute little fork dents per usual. I made a bog standard pesto, but with nooch instead of cheese. I vowed to serve small servings of everything, but this is where we tripped up. Course seven was taking longer than anticipated and we had a moment of weakness–Franny, Strudel, and I had seconds. Then the PAIN started. We were getting full! Crap!

Course seven is not pictured here. I made glazed five spice lamb chops and baby bok choi with forbidden (black) rice on the side. In my impending food coma I forgot to snap it. Let’s pretend it looked like this since it was based off that. Lollipops are like 4 million dollars right now so I bought loin chops. YUMM.

Finally I made a lava cake with raspberry sauce. I wish I had a picture of it “erupting” but I flinched and overcooked it (this was my first time doing a gluten free/vegan one).

It was good, though, and tasted like “flourless” chocolate cake. And that was the end and we were bursting at the seams. We spontaneously decided to teetotal that night, since it was Saturday and we wanted to not have a food AND champagne hangover on Sunday. This was a wise decision.

Here is the part like in the 80s movie when they do “Where are they now?” Everything got used up! (Except the boring soup.) On Sunday morning I woke up and gently panfried/scrambled the tartare and then cooked it into scrambled eggs. Wow that was fucking amazing and I recommend it. I don’t worry about saving raw meat/raw eggs combo if I’m going to cook it into something else in ~12 hours. Everything else just kind of got eaten.

Next up: Christmas pics from 2013. KIDDING. Hopefully next up is some beehive woodworky pics this weekend!!

You can’t go home again…but you sure as hell can’t stay here either

1. Cat Update

Goethe is doing well! She went into surgery on Friday early in the morning. They warned me in the estimate that they may find unexpected things, like a broken jaw or other problems. It turns out some of her incisors were cracked/smashed as well, so they had to come out. No broken jaw, but her lip was slightly ripped and had to be repaired. They also cleaned her teeth while they were in there.

Pictures of pictures, sorry, but I thought it was cool that they discharged her with pictures of the work. There were also xrays and after pictures. The vet tech was a really kick ass lady and I was happy Gert was her only patient that day (as she told me). I had not been fishing around in her mouth at all because I knew it would do no good, so it was neat to see these pictures.

I think she’s in decent spirits. She looks kind of funny face-on. I cannot tell if it’s a scab on her lip or if the change is permanent yet. Her face looks kind of elongated now, and she reminds me more of how her sister Matilda looked (left) before she vanished.

She kind of has a lisp when she purrs now. She’s been doing a surprising amount of purring as she sleeps on my stomach or feet at night. And she is eating an ungodly amount of wet food, which I had to buy special. I have also set up a spare litterbox at the bottom of the stairs. Usually one is sufficient since they go in and out, but of course Gertie is on house arrest right now.

We had a bonus incident on Friday when Gert was in surgery. I had the cat flap locked when she was home, but as I left to drop her off for surgery, I opened it to swing freely so the spaniels could let themselves in and out all day. I took the girls to an art museum while we waited to get the call about Gert (the girls had the day off as a between-semesters day).

For some reason (*cough* TINY BRAINS) the spaniels assumed they were locked in and did not even try the flap. They spent the day pissing on a bag that was in the downstairs bathroom, which we did not discover until bedtime Friday night. It was really a bummer because there has not been an accident in the house for over a year, when Edith first came home and was being trained. I know some little dogs can be nightmares about potty training but these two are great (Friday excepted).

“A LAKE of pee,” P. kept repeating gloomily as I mopped. My own personal sweet Eeyore who knows that when it rains, it sometimes golden showers.

Our first thought was that Mere was pissed off (ho ho pun). But we quickly realized it didn’t have that death ammonia cat smell, thank god, and then we realized it was our poor dumb dogs. Little animals cannot change routine well. We have been keeping the bathroom door closed post-cleaning and have been letting the uninjured animals out FREQUENTLY. We have the flap set to “in only” so they can let themselves back in when they are ready.

Between cat surgery and the hot water heater dying, January was an expensive month!

2. Not Yo Cheese

Second, thank you for indulging my Xtreme (90s style) whining the other day. I don’t want to make glib remarks about the scale of human suffering, but yeah, I am pretty low on it. Like I have said, I think this will all kind of inadvertently save my life. Except, you know, I am being advertent about it.

Today I found out that “advertent” is a word. I NEVER, EVER hear anyone saying it. I thought maybe it didn’t have a buddy, like “untoward.” WELL, you learn something new every day. And then forget it by 5 p.m. or so.

Speaking of things I never thought I’d advertent, I made…wait for it…vegan nacho cheese. AKA, “Just fucking kill yourself already.”

It was pretty fun. Start with a shit ton of oil, which sounds like cheese already.

Then add various aromatics and spices. Then cashews (and potatoes), which if you know anything about vegan recipe land, you know that cashews are kind of a staple in sauces and gravies. I always feel for the people in the comments who are like “I am allergic to nuts and three other ingredients in this five-ingredient recipe. What should I sub?” Um, here’s a carrot. Good luck. :(

Finally you add almond milk and some water and simmer everything until it’s tender. And then whirl it for a long time in your food processor.

The result is a lot like that classic mac and cheese made from a bechamel base. To be honest, I was never super keen on this particular “mother sauce.” I like the texture and adding things to it, but I don’t mind a vegan replacement one bit. I’m more about broth-based sauces or a nice hollandaise.

I made them to order. Ready, this is like a really boring story problem (oxymoron?): An asshole wants to make seafood mac and cheese. Strudel will not eat bay scallops, but loves crab. Her father will eat bay scallops but NOT crab. Franny and SJ are winners and will eat everything. What time will the trains collide and derail? A: Make four separate bowls with tin foil labels. I assembled the noodles, seafood, and sauce, and gave it a quick blast so everything was nice and toasty but not dry.

3. Boyfriend

I think it could have been a little better if I hadn’t held supper for so long for my dawdling daughter, who was downtown with her boyfriend. I think the two of them got together around Thanksgiving but he was a mysterious secret who I was not allowed to meet until Saturday. I think she was getting used to the idea she was having a boyfriend at all. At first, questions resulted in “MoooOOOOOoooooOOOOM” until she unclenched a little.

I, Nosyface, pelted her with questions from the get-go: what is his last name? (“Ummm…” She knows it now.) How old is he? (“Uh, 15 I think?”) So he’s a sophomore? (“Uhh yeah, is that tenth grade?”) It turns out he is sixteen and a junior. She knows many facts about him now. I forgot that when you’re a kid and this is new you don’t immediately need someone’s entire dossier–you just like someone.

I had the world’s most awkward talk recently while I was making dinner about not doing things she’s not ready for. “Like, um, sex stuff,” I said. Klunk. “Because it’s important to feel ready and like it’s the right person.”

“I know, Mom. He’s not like that.”

“And you can talk to me or your aunt if you need anything or have questions. And if you do decide to have sex, you can stop anytime. You can’t revirginize or anything, but you can stop and you don’t have to have sex with every next person. It’s a choice every single time.”

“Okay, okay.”

(It is important to pause here and note that Franny REGULARLY mocks me with this line, but I think she appreciates the check-ins.)

After meeting the boyfriend, I feel less worried. He seems like a very calm and friendly sixteen, with none of that oozing Lothario quality I used to go for. His mom dropped him off and she was nice too.

In failure news, I also decided to try making tamarind candy at home. Rather than using pods, I bought blocks of paste. My one regret is that I added the citric acid the recipe called for optionally, for “extra pucker.” It was TOO pucker. I had a couple of pieces last night, one sweet and one spicy, and it made my teeth flare up into sensitivity again.

It was a good reminder that I need to get a fucking grip (like always) because I was like ACK ACK ACK I am falling apart again!! And then in the next beat I remembered the citric acid and switched off my electric toothbrush to a regular one for last night.

Next time I will just have one! Tamarind may have replaced bergamot in my heart, now that they have long since stopped making bergamot gum.

Put your back into it

Kind of rattling around in my house today, making sure Gert doesn’t get into trouble and counting job rejection emails (or just the silences, same thing) as they roll in. I’ve been out walking almost daily for a couple of hours at a time so if she started vomiting suddenly or took a turn I feel like that would be too long. I always take to walking when I am unemployed longer than I like.

I had a funny experience last night being out at the emergency vet. Once we checked her in, one of the front desk ladies said, “There’s coffee and hot cocoa in the waiting area.” We walked over to hang out uselessly, as you do when a little creature or child you care about is in the back room and there is nothing to do but wait.

I took in the coffee machine–it was one of those big jobs that makes one cup at a time to your specs. It spat out hot cocoa as well, which is that powdered stuff sweetened with corn syrup and probably augmented with dairy. Does it come out of the same tube as the coffee? I have no idea. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee anyway. It was eight o’clock at night and I was exhausted.

I took in the sheer array of accouterments up on their coffee prep counter. There were huge pump bottles.

“Is that…ketchup?” I said stupidly, looking around for…a hot dog machine? No, it was giant pump bottles of artificial creamer. I did not know they come in gallon bottles now. Better than the wee cups I suppose, in terms of trash. There was a vending machine next to the coffee station. The top half was a typical assortment of processed junk food–candy, crackers, chips, gum. The lower half was all soda.

P. watched me look at the machines and took a cursory glance himself. “You can’t eat anything in this building,” he said.


“Well, it’s true.”

On the way home when Gert McDirt was doped up out of her teeny walnut we stopped at Albertson’s to get wet cat food for her sore mouth and an urge struck me–I was overtired, as I mentioned earlier today, and stressed out.

“I wonder if I can eat anything here,” I said. I am unhappy to admit that I used to stress eat sometimes when things were really bad. Skittles were absolutely my Achilles heel.

I looked in the candy section…no “hippy” candy. I looked in the tiny, quarter aisle gluten-free section.

“Hmm, nothing here either, unless I want to eat a bag of date sugar,” I said.

“You may have fruit,” said P.


I love fruit, but that has never been my go-to stress snack. I suspect if it was, I would have a very different-looking hind quarter. I ended up buying a bottle of wine, poured myself a glass, crawled into bed with a book, had literally one sip, and then abandoned it when I realized I was still pretty full from dinner and had already brushed my teeth anyway before I found Goethe in trouble.

“If I ever can’t have wine,” I told P., “I am going to, like, start taking ecstasy every day. Because I cannot have anything fun anymore.”

“If you take ecstasy every day, I am going to kick you out,” he replied. This, of course, is the correct response. He thought a bit. “You’d be screwed in the apocalypse, eh? Wait, maybe not, because people would be farming and stuff….” Sigh. I think I could hang on feeling crappy and working my way through the remaining processed food until we all started farming again.

I know there’s fat vegans and fat celiacs and fat all kinds of people, regardless of how “healthy” their diet is, but I’m losing weight. (Point being you can eat too much of a “healthy” diet even.) I’m sad that this is “what it took” but at the same time hooray for living longer? (Maybe?) I was on this cycle of feeling like shit, eating the wrong things constantly (i.e. almost any processed foods), having pain and not being able to exercise. So after my diet was forced to change it just didn’t sound fun anymore to eat too much. I’m sure someone like this is out there, but I don’t really know people who put on a movie at night and snack on sweet potatoes and steak. Just saying….

Well. I realized recently that since all my weird exercise hindrances (joint pain, muscle aches, random body parts popping in and out of joint) are completely gone I might as well step it up. So in addition to my doggy death marches I am back to yoga, dancing, stretching, all kinds of stuff. Let’s see how fit I can get, eh? Every night now and I am sore and it’s all good soreness.

After all this thought about comfort foods and big grocery stores and waiting rooms I found this Superbowl commercial today about how wussy being “afraid” of gluten is. When I first was diagnosed this kind of stuff used to really dismay me because I thought “Man we’re never going to get any respect from Big Food or ‘the public’ or even servers at restaurants….” And this commercial did super irritate me today, not going to lie. I can’t really get mad at Nick Offerman, because he’s riding the anti-intellectual American Fuck Yeah money train all the way to the bank. I saw him live a year or so ago and it was pretty terrible and I realized that thinking isn’t really in his job description. And if Nascar wanted to to hire me to mock, I dunno, otters or something, I probably would. Not gonna lie.

But I have come to realize that while I appreciate all the people who are working to not make gluten a punchline, I’m really outside the conversation. It doesn’t matter if restaurant servers and chefs “believe” me or not. I don’t really belong in their restaurants in the first place. It doesn’t matter if big grocery stories have a gluten free section or not, since what I need to get from there is whole foods only. No food is really marketed to me (when’s the last time you saw an ad for carrots?). I’m not going to stop taking care of myself and my family, but I am coming to grips with the fact that I often feel like some kind of tourist or observer everywhere I go that offers food.

I love food a lot and I miss having the choice of eating poorly, honestly. I don’t have religion. I’m not super serious about politics. “Having a career” doesn’t excite me. Food (trying new things and restaurants, doing things like mastering weird pastry) was my big hobby. Now I am trying to mourn for that and find new conversations I can be part of.

A Series of Small Controlled Disasters.

About to change my Yelp review for my jam service

When we last spoke, I was actually on my second full day of having no hot water. I hit “post” and was like OH YEAH, I knew I forgot something. I brought a basket of laundry downstairs on Wednesday and stepped in a massive puddle that had been sopped up by all my rando IKEA rugs that I keep in the very unfinished furnace room so it’s not completely dire to walk through. They also keep the kitty litter contained to that one room. My first thought was that the terrible plumber had done something stupid (again) a year ago during the basement bathroom remodel. I saw that water was dripping out of the bottom of the heater, so that answered the question of where the water was coming from.

I shut off the water supply to the water heater, and then shut off the breaker. Then there was the fun process of pulling up the rugs and mopping, and I set up a fan to finish drying the floor.

P. came home about an hour later. “Hey homeowner who doesn’t have to pay excessive rent or deal with landlords or anything,” I said by way of greeting.

“What happened?” he asked.

We set up a new water heater delivery and install that night, but they couldn’t come until Saturday. I knew my interview was on Friday, and I needed to be clean and presentable then. I took a cold shower on Thursday night and it was fine. My hair actually looked better than usual.

Here I am gussied up and spackled (pre-lip gloss and HIRE ME face). My “style” “inspirations” for the past year have been Jane Fonda in 9 to 5 and Lydia Rodate-Quayle from Breaking Bad. So, a lot of jackets with pussy bows and vintage brooches. Bonkers patterns. I really gave up on my hair on Friday. It’s a pretty decent length bob now, which wear loose pretty often, but the front still has a lot of damaged hair from when I was going red all the time a year ago, and that’s the first thing people see. I have the twitching hands of wanting to cut it so badly, but I want to grow it out. So, that thing.

The interview itself was kind of terrible. I think I was in denial about what I was in for. I had a phone screen, fine, normal for a contract. Then they asked to do a second screen with a second person. THEN they asked me to come in for a two-hour loop with four people. If there is a way to tell your interviewers that their process is above your pay grade and position as a feckless contractor, I have not discovered it. I got the full-court press as if I was interviewing for an FTE postion. One person looked over my resume and expressed confusion about my “career.” He read off it: “Uhhh, marketing, taxonomist, content analyst/xquery, writing, editing…” He did not know what to do with it. I refused to explain myself. I have learned to say, “I like a fast pace and the challenge of a variety of tasks” rather than “I get bored easily behind a desk and corporate life in particular bores the shit out of me. May I have a job at your Business Factory?” They are doing this to two other poor contractors so I won’t hear until the end of the week. I got this exact same job in the same department five years ago with a 40 minute phone screen and a writing sample. ANYWAY.

But enough about my TERRIBLE ATTITUDE. We had hot water again by Saturday night, which was great. Then I woke up a 2 a.m. on Sunday morning to the sound of really loud pops, like fireworks, amidst the sounds of a heavy windstorm. It turns out it was transformers blowing and the power in my house was dead. I got out of bed and threw on my coat and boots and went out the front door and I could see downed power lines leading straight to the ground. I called the po-pos and reported it, and a fire truck came out. Two guys jumped out and one said “Hi” to me as I stood on the edge of the lawn with a flashlight. Then they left. A couple of cars came and went down my street, trying to get through, and in their headlights I could see that a tree was completely blocking the road.

I pulled P. out of bed to come look as well. There wasn’t much to see other than a giant tree in the dark. The sky was beautiful and for once you could see every star. Orion was on his side, which is the best, because then he turns into Burt Reynolds. Another neighbor was out and he said “watch out for the low wires.” We ducked under and got close to the tree. I could see that most of my street had power except our end.

That giant Narnia-looking hedge motherfucker is actually the tree and is where cars are supposed to go. The police closed my street and they left when the power company came. For hours it was just guard trucks on either end of the street. I got a message on my dying phone that power would be restored by 1 p.m. so we went for a huge walk because we were bored and kind of weirdly anxious about first having no hot water and then no power. It made for a crap weekend.

We had the neighborhood to ourselves since apparently a football game was happening. I love walking on football days. We encountered some people getting into a car and they declared, “Wow, the only people in the city not watching the Seahawks!”

“Our power’s out,” we explained, so we would not be shot on sight or citizens’ arrested.

Taking the dogs out to a nearby park and back was a bit of a mistake since they were caked in mud when we came home. I washed them with some of the hot water we had left, but couldn’t blow dry them as usual. Horace followed me around with his confused face on until I bundled them up in the living room, where we had a fire going most of the day. They shivered a little and fell asleep. Later Horace spent a lot of time staring at the kitchen vent, which was not giving up the warm blowy goods at all.

I should say that overall this was a very minor inconvenience. It has been reaching almost 50F here during the day, and is sunny as hell today (I went out hiking for two hours earlier, listening to the newest Extra Hot Great). We still had the stove top, which could be lit with a match, so I kept mint tea going all day. After our walk we sat by the fire and read.

The sun started setting before five and a bucket truck appeared on our street. Strudel and I cheered and jumped around. I busted out all my candles and started making dinner. Chicken, veg, and yellow split pea soup.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this. This is awesome,” P. said. We talked about going to dinner, but knew we would just have to come back to our sad cold dark house. I carried a taper around with me to the pantry and to look in the fridge, and even knocked it over and spilt wax on my pants and floor. What a clumsy early Victorian I would have been. While I cooked, Strudel put on her boots and went out and spied on the grownup talk on the street. She came back in triumphant: “They say two more hours!”

It was less time than that. About three minutes before my soup was ready, the microwave and various other devices awakened with beeps and boops. I blew out my candles and cursed the darkness.

Other business:

I lost access to my old Twitter account (long story involving me being stupid) so I started a new one a couple of months ago at @theiasshole. I wanted to give it some time to see if I would get back into it, and I have been wading back in slowly after being a heavy user a few years ago. And then I got sick and went into Greta Garbo hermit mode, but I am climbing out again. I am even getting used to socializing a little again. I don’t have palpitations every time some emails me anymore. Sigh. Anyway follow along if you are a twitter type person or not. I am trying to refollow people I used to follow as they pop up and whatnot.