Friday, September 19, 2014

Thinking well ahead

An idea kicking around in my head, which, if I start it very soon, should work:

Knitting some of my Christmas gifts this year.

I think my mom needs a couple more pairs of handknit socks. And I see at least one yarn in my stash that would be ideal for her, and I am quite sure I have others. I'm thinking one plain pair (I have a Continuum Striping yarn in colors that are ones she likes and wears a lot, and I have so many striped socks already) and one with a knit/purl pattern (maybe one of the Erica Leuder patterns, those always seem to turn out well for me - and a lot of them work with variegated yarns).

My sister in law would probably like a pair of fingerless mitts. I have something else for her already, and I may see yet another thing somewhere. And again, I have a yarn that is colors she likes and is easy-care (someone with a toddler at home doesn't need to be handwashing gloves).

The bonus: I get a few things out of my stash.

No plans yet for my dad or brother, but they don't wear knitwear as much. And no real plans for my niece unless I go a little crazy and decide to knit her a sweater. (She wears a 3 T right now, no idea how long it would take to make a sweater that large or slightly bigger - she is tall but a bit slender for her age). Though I now also kind of want to get her some kind of little-kid-appropriate book on nature or animals, seeing as she is interested in (toy) slugs and frogs. (Or, oh....make her a set of the "flapjack frogs" from Mochimochiland and find a book that would go with them.)

(Update: The more I think about that the more I like that idea. The pattern has been obtained. I'm thinking, make the lily pad and three frogs and then get one of those DK books on animals or pond life or something like that, and give her the set. Yes, she's going to have a lot of books. That's part of the plan.)

(Her birthday gift is already set: an R is for R2D2 t-shirt and a miniset of Beatrix Potter books, the most famous ones/my favorite ones - there's Jeremy Fisher and Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin and several others)

I've already got part of my dad's.

A lot of all of this is that I shop opportunistically - when I see something that makes me think, "Hey, I know someone who would like that" I buy it and put it aside until the next gift-giving situation.

Kids are funny

I do kind of wish I lived closer to my brother, sister-in-law, and niece. They keep me updated with e-mails and photos and video, but it's not the same.

My brother told me something funny/cute that happened recently: he found an old "sticky slug" toy I had got him years back. This is one of those things - like Willie the Wall-Walking Octopus - that is made of a tacky plastic that will stick to a wall and then gradually peel off and fall, if you throw it at the wall.

Well, he showed it to my niece. At first she was a little afraid of it, how it would fall down suddenly, but then she decided she really liked it. And now it's one of her toys.

Well, my brother found smaller versions of the slug on sale so he bought her a package of them.

She now says she has a mama slug and baby slugs. My brother sent me a picture of her looking up at all of them stuck to the ceiling.

She also has reached the stage where she "feeds" pretend food (she has those wooden fruits and vegetables that you can "slice" with a toy knife, they come apart with Velcro) to her stuffed animals.

I just barely remember stuff like that from my childhood. (Sometimes I wish I could go back.)

***

In other news, I'm guardedly optimistic about the vitamin D3. Almost no hives this week, and that was even with going out into the field one afternoon when the pollen was very high. I know they say it can take months for the detectable levels in the blood to change, but maybe, just maybe, it's helping.

And I haven't noticed any (noticeable) side effect. I mean, it could still be eating my liver or something but I haven't noticed any problems.

One of the other things upping D3 intake should do is help keep my bones strong; I have a pretty strong family history of osteoporosis, so that's something I am concerned about. I do other things (like weight bearing exercise) to try to help prevent it, but hopefully the D3 will help too.

Also these past couple days my mood has been better. But it's hard to say on that; my moods are so influenced by what's going on in my life that I can't tell for sure if this is a blip or a long-term improvement. I know I was in a really awful mood Monday/Tuesday because of events involving one class. (If I could just learn to be less reactive. And if I could REALLY learn "not my circus, not my monkeys." Someone on ITFF commented, apostrophizing to her students, "Get your act together, or you will be sad pandas." and I was thinking about how in my world, I find myself more commonly thinking, "I am a sad panda because my students don't seem to have their act together." I need to learn not to care more about their education than they do. But I do. And that's why it sometimes stinks to be me.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A whole range

It occurs to me I could make a whole range of those Flutterrage images.

Here's today's:





Yeah, kind of not a fan of grading other people's writing. (And I get that the "affect"/"effect" thing can be confusing, except in the case I'm looking at, it should not be. Things affect other things. They only "effect" other things in very specific neurological type contexts. Things have an effect on other things.)

Thursday morning stuff

* Well, the toughest lab (in terms of logistics for me) this semester is now over. No one got hurt, so I guess there's that. (One semester - this was not my lab - but a student in another lab refused/forgot to wear safety glasses, a pipette shattered, and the student wound up with a piece of glass in their eye. So I always get twitchy about labs where we use glassware or chemicals, and I tend to nag people about safety glasses).

* I still boggle at how some students can achieve Junior status in a science major and still be able to confuse a beaker with a graduated cylinder. I don't know if it's sheer sloppiness (not reading the directions or listening to my verbal directions at the start of lab), or compartmentalization of knowledge ("Welp, I'm done with Chemistry forever. Time to forget all that stuff"), or if they just genuinely never had to know. I can understand it in my intro bio students, some of whom have never had a lab science before, but someone who has presumably had the intro-bio sequence, plus intro chemistry, plus Cellular and Molecular....

* Maybe this is how I was a strange student; I always liked it when something in one class linked up to something I had learned somewhere else, it was like, "Oh, I already *know* part of this."

* Though I also know I have a freakish memory and maybe I need to expect less in terms of memory from other people. I don't know, though, you would think remembering the identifications of basic lab glassware would stick with a person.

* In crafting news (as much as I get done these days, she says bitterly), I'm still working on the tail for Queen Chrysalis. This pattern takes a looooooooooong time. If I had known how long it would take me to crochet all those dumb little holes I might not have been so eager to do it.

I will say that the amigurumi is as large as a small dog - in its unfinished state, it is standing next to my big chair and the head comes up almost to the armrest. Also, it does stand up on its own - I find that when I make amigurumi of acrylic yarn and stuff them properly, they do stand up on their own without any kind of stabilizer needed (lots of patterns tell you to wrap dowels with stuffing and insert them into the legs or neck, stuff like that. Generally I don't have to do that.)

* I guess the referendum vote for whether Scotland breaks from the UK is going on now. I have to admit, this is a position I don't take a strong stand on - I can see interesting things and bad things resulting from either outcome. And it's something that's not all that likely to affect me (at least directly), so it's something I can kind of sit back and watch. I hope everything goes okay, though I suspect that if a country exists where this kind of vote can happen peacefully, it's someplace like Scotland. (And no, I'm not exactly looking for commenters to give me strong reasons why I should feel one way or the other on this. It's actually nice to have an issue where I can go, "You know, I see benefits and drawbacks of both sides so I'm not going to come down strongly for one.")

* That said, if Texas were to try something like that, I'd be agin' it. For very personal reasons: I wouldn't want to have to show a freaking passport to go to the JoAnn Fabrics. (Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but considering that nearly all my 'good' shopping is in Texas, and the next city of any real size that has decent shopping is much, much farther away than Sherman is....)

* Also in Texas: This weekend is the Blackland Prairie Arts and Fiber Festival. At this point, I plan on going. But it's possible I might not; there's enough unsureness about if and when the remnants of Odile are going to dump on us and if it's raining cats and dogs Saturday morning.....well, nope. I don't like driving in heavy rain and I'm sure that even though most of the event is indoors, it just won't be as fun in heavy rain. (And I've had a few near-misses of late on 75 - people cutting me off, people tailgating me when I then had to slow down or nearly brake for something, and I don't relish driving in Saturday morning traffic in heavy rain). I hope the traffic on 75 isn't getting progressively worse (more like the near-Dallas traffic) but I fear it is. There also seem to be more people who are forgetting to "drive friendly."

I don't really have any plans to get anything; there is nothing I need in the way of yarn save for the time and motivation to knit up what I already have. Already I'm thinking that I will be "providing" for the bulk of my yarn in my will. (What to do with it? I don't, at the moment, know anyone else who's a committed knitter who is a lot younger than I am. I suppose what I could do was see if there was an arts center or something like a halfway house that had a knitting-therapy program and leave it there. Though who knows? By the time I wind up checking out of the hotel of life, maybe I'll already have found some way to give it away. My grandma gave away a lot of her things while she was still living because she said she wanted to know for sure that the person she wanted to have it got it, and I think she also wanted to have the feeling that the person was getting to enjoy the thing. )

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Little pet peeve

Presented (mostly) without comment






It's "dirt" if it's on your carpet. If it's in an ecosystem, it's "soil." If we're studying it in class, it's "soil."

Stuff read recently

Some nights, I mostly only have the energy to read. But at least I'm reading, I guess.


I re-started "Adam Bede" a while back after not getting very far into it and then losing the thread of the story. (It's actually a couple different stories - the Bede family, Dinah Morris' story, the Poyser's story, Rev. Irwine's story - that interweave in each other).  So far, Adam Bede seems to be the hero of the piece. (I say "seems to," because there are too many books - most of them more modern than this one - where a character who seems promising turns out to be a scoundrel. (Or, heh, a "rascal" - some movie I was watching in dubbed form on one of the networks had a character apparently calling another character an "a**hole" and they overdubbed it as "rascal," which is now what I think of someone when they really irritate me in a jerky way - "Oh, he's being a 'rascal'")

Anyway. Adam is a good, steady, hardworking young man. His father, who is a drunkard, gives him a certain amount of trouble because Adam often winds up doing both his work and his father's.

Relatively early in the novel (so it's not REALLY a spoiler), the troublesome father drowns in the flooded stream when he is coming home from the pub. Of course that upsets the family, even though the father has been somewhat of a wastrel and a problem.

But now, after Adam has had a chance to sleep (after a sleepless night when he had to finish some of his father's work, and then the day after the discovery of his father's body) and he heads back to work, and makes the comment:

"There's nothing but what's bearable as long as a man can work," he said to himself; "the natur o' things doesn't change, though it seems as if one's own life was nothing but change. The square o' four is sixteen, and you must lengthen your lever in proportion to your weight, is as true when a man's miserable as when he's happy; and the best o' working is, it gives you a grip hold o' things outside your own lot."


Yes, that seems true to me. How many times have I said I like knitting or making quilts because I understand how the materials work, and they don't change? And as a kid in school, one of the reasons I like math was, as Adam notes, the square of four is always sixteen (unless you change the rules in some way, like a different base system). What I find so frustrating about human interaction some times is that people behave in unpredictable and sometimes (to me at least) baffling ways.

Another truth in that statement: that having something to work on, does take you out of yourself (or "give you a grip hold o' things outside your own lot.") I know someone who, very shortly after suddenly losing their spouse, went right back to work. Lots of people who knew this person were aghast: how could they do it? But I understood: working is not sitting at home thinking about what happened. It is some semblance of normality in a world that's had its bottom drop out of it. I would probably do the same as this person were I in their place.

I also read a short article in "Real Simple." As I commented on Twitter, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit to reading this magazine, for two reasons - first, because it seems aimed at people whose lives are FAR more together than mine is and who actually have it figured out. And second, it's such a bizarre mix of conspicuous consumption (clothes that are close to half my take-home pay for a month) and mild environmental exhortations (the ubiquitous comments about recycling bins, which assumes every community has recycling with easy access to it*)  that it does give one a bit of cognitive dissonance.

(*We have recycling but you have to take your recyclables either to campus or to the main location in order to do it. I don't recycle *everything* I could because my house would quickly assume the appearance of the Collier brothers' apartment, but I do recycle some things. I'd be more prone to do more if we had curbside pickup, but I don't see that coming any time soon.)

But anyway. The article is by Andrew Doerr and is called "Costume Drama." In short, he recounts the story of a childhood Halloween where he was invited to a party with costume contest. Coming from a family not all that unlike mine (but much more so, apparently), where everything possible was home-made, young Andrew attempted a knight's costume. He had a grand vision of how scary and cool he would look as "the black knight." But of course, it doesn't live up to his vision (and it gets ruined because a rainstorm comes up on the way to the party). And he realizes, while at the party (and oh, how I remember that feeling - of having had an idea that seemed great, and it still seemed great while I was doing whatever it was, and it was only when someone else looked at it that I realized it was terrible) that his costume was terrible and a mess (and he winds up winning some kind of pity-prize like "most original.")

And in the last part, he brings it forward to adult life - his adult life, as a writer, and notes: "Even on my best days, I just manage to cobble together the failures of many other days and assemble an imitation of the original vision." And he later notes that "every songwriter, architect, actress, painter, chef, choreographer, teacher, and dreamer has been afraid her project would cave in" and also notes that most people who create "has wondered if the gods are snickering at her from somewhere just above the rims of the clouds."

And, I don't know. How do you go back - can you go back - and recapture that childhood feeling of "This is good!" (the knight's costume before the rainstorm and the judgmental eyes of the other kids, in their store-bought costumes). Because that's what's necessary to be able to create: not being afraid to fail. (I think I've ALWAYS been afraid to fail. Now, as much as ever, because I see "failing" at something being as much about "but I wasted so much time now on something that didn't pan out" as it is about the perceived humiliation of having failed at something).

I don't know. I'm struggling with a manuscript right now that all of my inner critics say isn't possibly good enough and doesn't possibly have enough meaningful results to be worth submitting. And most of the pattern-ideas I've had over the past few years have been forgotten or pushed aside as impractical, and "if it doesn't turn out and you have to rip it back, you'll have wasted all that time"

But yeah. The whole feeling-on-the-brink-of-failing thing is familiar, and the not being able to make whatever you do be as good as you envisioned it in your head is a familiar feeling.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Strength from weakness

If MLP: FiM has taught me anything, it's that sometimes a person's character strengths can turn out to be weaknesses (Applejack's sense of duty and "not askin' for help" leading her to work herself into a sleep deprived state) but that also weaknesses can sometimes become strengths, at least temporarily. (Rarity using whining and drama-queening to upset the Diamond Dogs to the point where they don't just let her go, they tell her to leave.)

Well, one of my weaknesses, one of the things I have excoriated myself for, served me well today.

As I said, standing there in my lab prep room: "Thank the good Lord that I'm a slob."

Yeah. I hadn't thrown out the soil leftovers from this past spring's Soils class (I asked the students to but many of them didn't). I had four bags that contained enough sievable soil that I was able to get what I needed for four lab groups (this is a small class). So that part is done and I just have minimal setting-up tomorrow morning. And feh to all those people who got all excited to get their soil analyzed but then never bothered to bring it. (If they do this afternoon, it will be too late - one part of the lab requires the soil to sit in a drying oven for at least 24 hours).

The bad thing is that the events of today are "training" me in two things:

1. "Don't ever expect anyone to do anything they say they will; therefore, don't delegate any important task." I have a really hard time asking for help ALREADY, partly because it seems so often when I do, that help never comes.

2. "Never throw away anything you could use again. And anyway, your prep room is out of sight, out of mind, so you don't need to clean it."

But boy darn am I glad I had that soil - saves me digging the wet stuff out of my backyard or trying to find a couple places on campus that differ in their soil association. (There's no WAY I'd have time to go out to one of our field sites to get soil.)

Ugh, it's Tuesday

Tuesdays are ninja Mondays: just as bad, but you never see them coming.

So far this morning, I've:

1. Dropped the box of cereal and then had to sweep bits up off the floor
2. Found a flea (????) on my ankle.(I do not have pets)
3. Knocked over the shampoo bottle and had to wipe up shampoo
4. Stepped outside and gone, "It smells like an armpit out here." Well, it does. It's super, super humid, and it's that kind of stale, no-breeze humidity that traps every bad smell and holds it in.
5. Found out the battery in my garage-door opener remote is dead (Note to self: go get new one after you get out of class)
6. While trying to deal with that (punching it repeatedly to try to make the door close), I ran up on the side of my lawn and probably have a tire track there now.
7. None of the promised soil for tomorrow's lab has shown up (sigh), so I will have to go and dig some out of my backyard and from campus and hope there are a few bags left behind in the prep room. (I'm just HALF tempted to change the lab and make them do a different lab, and shrug and go, "But no one brought me soil and three or four of you said you would.")
8. Got an upset, "YOU ARE BEING UNFAIR" e-mail from someone who misinterpreted how I entered the number of absences they had into BlackBoard. Granted, a big part of that is that BlackBoard is megastupid in how it allows you to do that and it's open to misinterpretation, but still, having someone immediately assume I'm trying to sink their college career on the basis of one tiny thing is not a good way to start the workday.
9. Got an e-mail alleging to have a (late) assignment attached, but nothing was attached. I am very suspicious of this because it seems like a plausible way someone could buy themselves some time and yet just look like an innocent mistake.

Ugh. I don't know. I think this overload - which is not even that great of an overload, two classes (one of which I merely co-teach) is doing me in. I saw a story in the new Mary Jane's Farm about a woman who works as an architect by day and makes incredible art quilts by night. And that makes me enormously sad; I count it as a good night when I have a half-hour to work on anything. I haven't "designed" anything in a long time (as much as I ever "designed" anything - mostly just plugging a fancy stitch into a standard 64 or 72 stitch sock pattern). I don't know what's wrong with me that I never seem to do anything meaningful. I feel like when I'm gone I'll be totally forgotten because there's nothing I'm leaving behind that matters. I'm not even doing that much research because it seems so much of my teaching life is running from crisis to crisis and just trying to keep the plates spinning.

I really wish when I was a kid growing up that people had said to me, instead of saying, "You're going to do great things!" they had either said nothing or have told me I'd never make anything of myself. That would have been more realistic and would have set me up for far less disappointment in life. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Making a schedule

Trying to take the advice of my colleague (Though I am not sure of his claim that "once I leave here for the day/week, I am done. I don't take work home, I don't come in on my days off" because he still publishes more than I do).

I'm trying to remind myself to do more stuff for myself. Both mundane stuff (doing the laundry more regularly so I don't have the Thursday-night freakout when I count brassieres and realize that I really, really need to do laundry) and slightly-fun stuff.

The bread turned out well (or at least the rolls did; I have not cut the loaf yet). I do think I'm going to work a Sunday (or every-other-Sunday) bread-baking into my routine. Because having bread I can eat (and not having to hope that Voldemart has actually restocked either of the two breads they carry that I can eat when I go there) is a nice thing. And making the bread is fun and satisfying.

I've also been better about weekly changing of the sheets. This started when I was having the really-bad-hives day a bit back (which was probably due to undeclared celery in food, but whatever) and I thought maybe I dragged in pollen or whatever and got it in my bed.....so strip the sheets off, wash them, put them back on. In the past I'd go two weeks or even three if I got REALLY busy....but I think it's nicer to have them cleaner more often. And probably better for my allergies, even though I do shower most nights before bed.

I also changed out my nail polish (I do toes only) tonight. I had used some free sample Clinique color I got - sort of a weird hot pink - and it began to wear on me, so now my toes have Essie's "Wrapped in Rubies" (a dark, slightly metallic, burgundy). Again, this is one of things things I COULD let slide as a "frivolity" but really, if I can't take 20 minutes to do my toes, that's just sad.

This weekend is the BPAFF - the fiber festival I went to last year. I am most likely going this year. (I won't if the weather is horrible - we might get storms - or if something just totally blows up at work, which seems unlikely)

I did get my big exam for later this week written Saturday (because there was no internet connectivity up at school, there were limitations on what I could do, but that was one thing I could). And my post-tenure review is in and I actually had my name on TWO presentations last year (I remembered the one but forgot about the second). And my faculty evaluations are still in the 80-90% range, if I were being graded, so I guess I'm okay. And the earburns (which is how I think of them - they are called early alert report or EAR) of all my students - days missed and grade earned to this point. It's a new thing to encourage student accountability but also in a way protect the profs, so someone cannot go "But I didn't KNOW I was failing! That professor is UNFAIR! They GAVE me a failing grade I didn't earn!" and also to protect us from people who would come down on us for assigning Fs in cases where the student never actually did any work in the class, and so there is no grounds to grade them.  (Really, we need two additional Fs, I think: an F-Dis (for dishonesty) for someone who failed because of cheating or plagiarism, and an F-wtf* for a student who never showed up to class once, but was still on the roster at the end of the semester.

(*there's probably a better, more campus-friendly term that would work, but I know that is kind of my reaction every semester when the person I have been e-mailing the registrar about ("THEY HAVE NEVER COME TO CLASS") since the first week is still on the roster and requiring a grade be assigned.)

(Some Canadian university proposed the F-Dis a few years back but I don't know if it ever got anywhere. And yes, I acknowledge there are problems with the concept of different "styles" of Fs, but some days, I think of how satisfying it would be to assign an F-Dis to someone. They usually wind up earning an F anyway, but....I tend to think academic dishonesty undermines it for all the people - the vast majority of the students - who are actually working to earn their grades.)

I've also tentatively contemplated coming home after class and office hours tomorrow and just doing a little clean up and being able to leisurely prepare for piano lesson for once. Last week was all kinds of crazy and it feels a little weird to be able to relax now that it's let up, but that's how my life is: weeks of all kinds of crazy interspersed with quieter weeks that make me feel guilty I'm not doing more.

Sighing. Just, sighing.

So, I had a paper due in one of my classes today.

This is a paper that was announced on the first day of class (18 August). It was discussed in some detail in the first lab meeting of the class. I reminded the students of its due date last week, and I reminded them again on Friday.

There are 19 people in the class. I received 10 papers and one "oops, it's at home, I forgot to print it out."

HOW? Just, how? I had NIGHTMARES (I still sometimes do) about being a student and totally derping on something I needed to get done. But how? I nagged these people endlessly about the due date of the paper. I know all of them were there on at least three of the days I remarked about the due date.

I hate being nagged at but maybe to some people it's not nagging? I don't know. I don't know how to deal with this. Maybe they thought because I allowed an "optional rewrite" that the paper wasn't REALLY due today? I don't know.

I set due dates based on when I can schedule time for grading. I always SAY I won't accept late papers, I think this time I will actually do that.

Because, seriously? A month is not enough for a lightly-researched 3-5 page paper? I've done last-minute small-grant applications ("They don't have enough people competing for money, your chances are good") in like three days and been successful. I don't RECOMMEND writing stuff at the last minute, but.

Seriously, this is one of those things that makes me wonder if I need to find a new line of work. What, I don't know; as I've said my set of "real" skills is pretty limited and unless I'd be willing to take a couple years of low to no pay while I apprenticed at doing something else (my latest crazy work-in-retirement scheme: learn how to tune pianos and become a piano tuner, because that seems like fairly low-stress work and I know the man who tunes my piano is in HIGH demand and he must be approaching retirement age....)

But really. If this is indicative of the coming generations....I don't know. Maybe I throw up my hands and stop having papers as a requirement. (And then the 'errorists' win).

I also had to call out a student for talking in class. Not whispering, talking at conversation volume. And this is someone who is taking the class for a second time.

I may be approaching the point where I just can't, anymore. Like I said, I don't know what else I'd do but I wonder how much longer it will be before I either start screaming at students in class or wind up just walking away and keep on walking and never come back.


Edited to add: I find myself thinking of Rev. Bretz, now. He was the one who always used to jocularly tell me to "teach 'em good!" (Oh, he knew the correct, grammatical way to say it; he was being funny) and how he told me to "keep fighting against ignorance." But some days, it feels like a fight that's very hard to win. And that it's maybe not so much ignorance I'm fighting, but laziness. (My biggest "problem" with some students: I know they're smart, but they seem to want to do the bare minimum of work possible. That's not how you get a good career, especially in today's climate. )

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I made bread

This time, I used the "quick light wholemeal bread" recipe - it's half white and half "wholemeal" (well, I used KAF's "white whole wheat" which has the texture but not the appearance of white flour). I also added some of the "fruitcake mix" (raisins, currants, pineapple, cranberries, and dates) and a bit of cake spice. And I used milk rather than water, and added a bit more sweetener (golden syrup).

The bread didn't rise as high as I was expecting in the pan. I'm wondering if using a glass loaf pan is the problem; maybe I would be better off getting a proper metal one.

fruity bread

Hopefully the bread will still taste good. (Sometimes when they don't rise as much they are kind of dense and not that good.)

The pink and white striped towel (I have two) are what I used to cover bread when it's cooling so it doesn't dry out. They came from my maternal grandmother; she used them for the same purpose. I guess my mom got a bunch of these when they broke up Grandma's possessions, so she gave me a couple. I like using them because again, there's that feeling of an unbroken chain of transmission. (My grandmother was a great bread baker; she used to always to bread for church bake sales and it was usually spoken for even before she made it). I'm still not as accomplished (sometimes my bread comes out dry or heavy) but maybe I can make up for lost time if I keep working at it.

I also made a pan of rolls. They rose better but aren't as photogenic as I'm still getting used to how you shape rolls:

fruity buns

I'm thinking I might freeze part of the bread. Or maybe I'll use it for cream-cheese sandwiches and take cream-cheese sandwiches instead of yogurt a couple days this week. (I also bet the bread will make good French toast).

I also worked some on the quilt in the frame (and may go back to that after I get done here).

And Queen Chrysalis is now a quadruped:

Chrysalis quadruped

I suspect I'm done with the hardest part of the crocheting though I still have a fair bit (the mane, especially, looks fairly complex) to do. But at least the bulk of the crocheting with black is done. (I do still have to do the horn and the ears).

I also mowed the lawn. It didn't really need it but it's supposed to storm/rain the times during the week when I might be free, and I didn't want it to get away from me. (I've talked to a few other people about that letter from the city last month; the consensus is that while it was OK for them to warn me "the grass in the back really needs cutting," it was done in a heavy-handed way better suited for someone who had previous infractions. But whatever. One thing I've learned, and this irritates me, is that many organizations have the default setting that People Are Irresponsible and Won't Listen, and so people like me wind up feeling inappropriate shame over things that maybe we should be reminded more gently about.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feels like fall

We had our first real fall-ish day today. (The Dallas all-news radio channel said this was the coolest - in terms of predicted low - since mid-May).

It rained quite a bit. It looked like we were getting all the rain we were supposed to have gotten over the past few weeks today. (It was about an inch and two-thirds).

It's also a LOT cooler. I approve of this. It feels like time to start wearing knitwear again and cooking "fall" foods and all that. I made chicken and dumplings tonight for dinner. It was pretty good. Not quite as good as my mom's, but still pretty good.

I might bake bread again this weekend.  Or do something else. I ordered some stuff from King Arthur Flour, including a traditional dry/candied fruit mix, and I have a bunch of British tea cake and bun recipes that call for candied fruit. I also want to try doing red velvet brownies sometime, after finding a recipe for them. (I also got special "red velvet flavoring" from KAF.)

The dental appointment was fine, nothing wrong with my teeth. I still dislike the sonicator because of the noise it makes and how that sound is conducted by my bones into my head. Luckily, the hygienist didn't need to use it much. ("Wow, you take really good care of your teeth." Yeah, after a childhood of fillings and three crowns (all to replace old big fillings) as an adult, I feel like that's important).

I'm caught up on my grading for now. I do need to submit quarter-term reports  (Attendance and all that jazz. Some of it is for the students on teams). And finish up my post-tenure review (I only have to add one thing to my vita and summarize my evaluation scores). And sometime write a biostats exam. But I'm going to take some time off this weekend and do....I don't know. Knit on something, or crochet on the Queen Chrysalis, or finally get back to working on a quilt top. Something.

Because this (spotted in my twitter stream):


I got nothing...

Or almost nothing.

Man, this has been a LONG week. I hate evening meetings. They might be okay if I didn't have to be at work until 10, and if I slept in until 8 or so. But when you've gotten up at 4:30, worked out, put in a full day of work, sandwiched in piano practice/grading/whatever else you have to do - it just feels very demoralizing to have to go OUT of the house again, more than 12 hours after you first got up.

At least next week, barring something crazy, I have no evening meetings outside of my evening class.

I notice my mood is far worse in weeks like this. I don't know if it's JUST having little free time, if it's not being able to do any craft-work, or a little of both. In the most recent Mollie Makes (At least in the UK edition, and yes, I still buy the UK edition even though there's a US edition, I'm a bit of a snob that way), they discuss how some mild mental....I'll say "difficulties," not "illness," because really, if something is impairing your day-to-day function, you need to be working with a doctor and probably either taking medication, seeing a counselor/therapist, or both. But anyway, for people with mild dysphoria, mild ocd-like tendencies, they were discussing how a study out showed that knitting (or other kinds of repetitive craft work) helped. With the knitting, it's partly the "linearity" of it - the stitches come off the left needle, they go on the right needle. And you can see your progress. And it probably sops up some of the hyperfocused attention that might go toward worrying or brooding over things.

I've said before that for me, getting out on a country road (where there's little traffic; I find driving in heavy traffic stressful) clears my mind and helps me think. Again, I think it's that those sort of lower-level attention-requiring functions (maintaining the right speed, looking out for other people, paying attention to your route, looking out for hazards) kind of occupy the hamster-wheel part of my brain that might otherwise be contemplating something someone said to me that sounded odd or worrying about what I need to do next week.

I admit, sometimes I do wonder if I have some kind of subclinical form of ocd. Oh, it doesn't interfere with my daily life; I don't do things like get up in the night to be sure I turned off the stove or things like that. But sometimes, my brain does grab onto a thought and not really let go of it. Or I catch myself doing things like repeatedly counting the students in the classroom when I am proctoring a test. Oh, I can stop myself from doing it if I notice it - I don't feel compelled to do it or like something bad is going to happen if I stop, or stop mid-count, it's just, it's like my brain gets slightly bored and it goes, "Oh, I know. Let's count something!"

I also wonder if sometimes my extreme rule-following and attention to duty is a part of this.

(I had my co-teacher last night, when we were sharing 'war stories' after class was over - I told him about my student who told me he was skipping class to go hunting and my dismay about how I sometimes even canceled stuff I was going to do for fun on my 'free time' because I felt like it was better to get grading done - and he said to me, "You take on too much stuff. You need to say no to something." Though I don't know; this is someone whose hobbies are essentially an extension of his career, and my hobbies could in no way be considered academically relevant, so. But yeah. I'd love to drop a responsibility or two but I just don't see that being able to happen any time soon, because I don't see anyone who would be willing to pick them up and they are things that can't not be done.)

But circling back around to "knitting may be necessary for my mental well-being" - I notice in weeks like this I am grumpier and unhappier and more prone to slightly lose my normal calm demeanor when dealing with the more egregious examples of student senses-of-entitlement. (I snapped slightly at someone yesterday because they seemed to be implying I needed to cancel my dental appointment this afternoon just so they could make up something that they missed the prior make-up appointment for).

Of course, there are a couple other side effects of busy weeks. I don't eat as healthfully because (a) if you have 30 minutes at home between work and meetings, you don't have time to do the whole "cook something up" routine, and (b) somehow it seems less appetizing to have to chew through a pile of vegetables when you're facing having to run out the door. (And eating takes me longer now - since I had the crowns put in I am FAR more cautious about my teeth and I chew more slowly and tentatively out of fear of breaking another tooth or "popping" a crown. And the crowns have slightly altered my bite.)

And it's hard to know which one of those things is contributing the most to my malaise: being over scheduled, or not having the chance to sit and knit and decompress, or not eating as I should eat. However, I'm unwilling to try the experiment that might present itself: take a week when you aren't over scheduled but ban yourself from knitting. Or live on a mostly-cold-cereal-and-dry-fruit diet for a week. And see how either affects mood. (And of course, factoring out the placebo effect would be impossible).

Probably I need just to make time to knit. Even if it means going to bed later. (Though getting less sleep than I need also makes me grumpy). Back when I first started the whole treating-high-blood-pressure thing, when my doctor thought it was mainly a case of me being too uptight (though I think she was wrong on that, based on the fact that my blood pressure on the medication and low-salt diet, without any other behavior modification, is pretty much what would be "normal" for a person without hypertension. I think my issue is just some unlucky accident of heredity, considering practically EVERYONE on my dad's side of the family has been on blood pressure medication at some point in time). Anyway, she floated the idea of my learning meditation or biofeedback or something like that and I remember thinking, "no, I just need more time to knit."

Of course, part of it could just be Too Many People. I'm a true introvert in the sense that being around people too much stresses me out - I can feel it. Even people I fundamentally like. I don't feel like I can relax around most people....I never feel like I'm quite being myself.

And there have been a lot of people this week - all the meetings at church, all the classes, faculty meeting, dealing with students who have problems (some problems are ones that I am genuinely happy to help out with, some, like Mr. Hunting, I'm not quite so happy about). (And this afternoon, the dentist.) It will be nice to be able to go home tonight and close the door and not interact with people for a while.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In mental background

Today is The Day. The anniversary of what happened thirteen years ago. All those lives lost.

It's strange to me: it seems so incomprehensible now to me. But it happened. Also, at times it feels amazingly distant - the incoming freshpeople I have now were in kindergarten when it happened, and I can think of the huge gulf between my kindergarten days and when I first wandered the campus of U of M....and that seems like an amazingly long time. But as I sit at my desk, the same desk, the same chair as thirteen years ago (heck, some of the paper in my office is probably the same paper), it seems not that long ago. (I'm getting old.)

The biggest thing I personally remember, in my individual reaction, was how so many things I was doing suddenly felt futile. I was trying to write a Biostatistics exam when my then-chair came around and told us they were closing down the university for the day and we all needed to go home.

(To this day, I don't know if that was done out of respect for the loss of life, or out of concern there might be more things going to happen.)

And I found myself wondering: In the world that is coming, will we need Biostatistics? What is the point of learning about probability when something that seemed impossible just happened? Shouldn't I rather be teaching my students what basic first aid I know, and what plants are medicinal, and how to grow and find and hunt your own food? That was actually where my mind went: "Could we be witnessing the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it?"

I also remember the concern and the planning - making sure I had enough water and nonperishable food and a tank full of gas. (There were lines for gas, and places jacked up prices. One station, which I have not bought gas from since even though they have probably changed managers, had it at $6 a gallon. Because people would pay that, I guess. (I think I  paid 3-something. Which is what I am paying now on a regular basis, but it seemed inflated then). Going to the credit union and getting a cashier's check to pay for the house I was in the process of buying just in case there was a secondary cyberattack on the monetary system. Or a run on the banks causing them to close down.

And it all seems very paranoid now. (I also tried calling, but could not reach, my brother and sister in law, to tell them to get the H out of Chicago....) But it wasn't, then, because we didn't know.

Another thing I remember was how all the "fluff" channels (HGTV, the Cartoon Network....) went off the air for a couple days, putting up a title card saying something like "Out of respect...." Pretty much only the news channels were active. (In retrospect? I wish there had been a fluff channel that kept going as a place to retreat to)

Anyway. It's still jarring to think about. I think I once commented upon watching the footage, years after it had happened, that if I had emerged from a cave and only seen the footage and not known the events, my reaction would be along the lines that "this is a hideously violent and awful movie" - that it just didn't seem real.

I think of this day every year. It's in the back of my mind. I still relive a tiny bit of that disbelief and concern and sadness.

And also, I feel terribly guilty when I get roped into the "stupid" stuff of life. The petty stuff. I should not react to the dumb petty stuff as pettishly as I do. I should feel grateful that I'm alive. I should feel grateful that this country didn't get plunged into war-on-its-shores or a police state be declared or anything like that.

And yet I do get pettish about the petty stuff, and then I feel worse because, as I said, I should be grateful, yada yada. (I snapped a bit at a student this morning who showed some mild entitlement to me. I should be used to it by now. I'm fretting about having a dental checkup tomorrow. I feel irritated by an article I read about some guy who is a famous knitter because his knitting is "not grandma's knitting" and there's a quotation in the article about how "knitting is brutal" and it just makes me sigh and roll my eyes because I knit because I need a respite from what I see as brutality in the world and I want my knitting to be the opposite of drama, not the cause of it. And I feel vaguely sad that so many people seem to get lionized and lauded and that even with all I do, very few people will ever give that much of a darn about it. And then I feel bad because I feel like I'm not recognizing the people who DO give a darn, few as they might be....and I'm unhappy because I've had almost no time to knit or crochet this week, and that damages my mood. And I admit I felt irritated (but did not express it) at a student who said, "Are we doing anything Friday? I'm going to miss class because I'm going hunting" and thinking about all of the things I would LIKE to be doing and even stuff I need to do (like laundry) but am having a hard time finding the time to do this week because of other obligations, and thinking how lovely it would be to think of my classes as something I could blithely skip - and be open about that skipping - because of something I wanted to do. But I can never say, "I won't be coming in today because I want to stay home and knit" or "because there's a big antiques show I want to go to" or whatever)

And yeah, all of that is stuff that normally happens from time to time. But I feel extra-worse about it today because I feel like I'm not enjoying the life I'm privileged to have enough right now, and I should feel chastened because there were some 3000 people who aren't here now who would be if things had gone totally differently that day 13 years ago. (And I tend to find myself thinking that every year, and just like those of us who at Christmastime remember, but then as the new year rolls on, petition Christ to be allowed to continue to be "His disobedient servant" (as WH Auden wrote), I try to resolve to be "better" but often wind up failing at it.)

Kelly Sedlinger has one of the most striking short pieces about this day that I've ever read; he posts it every year to his blog and every year it never fails to move me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A surprising memory

Elders/board meeting was tonight. For the elders meeting I have to do the monthly scheduling, so I always bring a calendar (and I'm old-skool; I use paper calendars).

A couple days ago, my old prep school (I was class of 1987) sent out their little calendar they send to donors. I like that; it seems less coercive than some of the "premium" gifts some places give, and it's nice to see photographs from my old school. (Unlike many people, I actually had a somewhat-positive high school experience. Mainly by comparison to how abysmal my junior high was. My prep school was kind of a nerd magnet, so I finally wound up somewhere where there were more people like me, and I actually kind of began to feel like I sort of fit in. And I was more academically challenged at prep school, which also made me happier. And the buildings were old and largely pretty beautiful, compared to the concrete-block junior high. And yes, that kind of thing matters to my general well-being when I am in a place. All else being equal I am happier in a pretty place and tend to feel like it is more "ideal" than it actually is, compared to an ugly place.)

Anyway, as I was flipping through, something caught my eye.

And suddenly, I tumbled back nearly 30 years.

It was 'Minerva's' dress. Yes, the dress still exists. It's been changed a little and gussied up to look more Shakespearean, but it's the same dress, the same mix of dark purple and some big floral that is kind of ugly and looks like maybe someone's former curtains.

When I was either a sophomore or a junior (I forget now), my English class did a production of selections from "Spoon River Anthology" (We were a smallish class, there were not enough of us to do them all. As it was, each person did two or three). A committee of students picked poems and assigned them to people.  We memorized the poems, created "characters" based on our interpretation of them. Then we planned an evening performance and got to raid the Theater department for costumes.

I did two "people." One of them was not terribly memorable - someone who lived a long and fairly uneventful life (I THINK it was Lucinda Matlock, because the phrase "Played snap-out at Winchester" sticks in my mind.

The one I remember, though, was Minerva Jones. Better known (well, to herself) as Minerva, the Poetess.. I remember her partly because she was so striking but also for the shock of realization when my rather innocent high schooler's mind realized that she probably died as a result of a botched abortion that happened after a rape. Pretty awful and tragic, and the fact that she may have thought more of herself than she actually was (how many people have "written poetry" that is not really that good, but who think of it as "eternal" and "deeply meaningful" and therefore requiring publication?)

Anyway. The purple and ugly flowers dress was the one "Minerva" wore. And seeing it again reminded me of something I had forgotten for a very long time.

The production of the poems (it wasn't a real play so much as it was each person coming forward, saying their piece, and then fading back into the trees - we did it outside.) I forget now how we did costume changes (I wore a much thinner and paler dress as Lucinda; as I remember I wore it UNDER Minerva's dress and just stripped out of the top dress behind the sheet we had hung up or something).

We did it at night, in a wooded area of campus (Maybe near the hockey pond? I don't exactly remember). It was an impressive thing to be able to do, especially for a fairly shy person like me who didn't go out for plays and didn't really go on stage. (Though then again, I really enjoyed giving my Senior Speech - a friend and I did it trading off lines - and we got laughs and groans of recognition and applause....the theme was Have You Ever Wondered and some of the statements that followed that were serious  and some were comic. Everyone had to do a senior speech at Morning Meeting or else introduce one of the weekly speakers....)

A small dilemma

My niece's second birthday is in less than a month, and I have to figure out a gift.

I don't want to even try making something; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get it done in time.

The thing is - my brother and sister-in-law have had such a grand old time buying stuff for her that (a) I suspect a lot of the common "popular" things are stuff she already has and (b) a lot of things I think of, I fear would be cast aside as "boring."

My initial thought also isn't possible: I was going to get her a set of the Beatrix Potter books (in the replica of the good old Warne editions) from Folio, but Folio doesn't carry them any more. (I should have ordered a set when they had them on a 50% off sale...) I suppose I COULD give her my set, but then I wouldn't have a set any more...

I think two is still a little young for most art supplies, no? I don't think she'd be ready for something like a potholder loom for a few more years.

I also had the thought of buying a bunch of the "classic" picture books in nice hardbound editions (this thought spurred by seeing a copy of Make Way For Ducklings, a book I remember loving as a kid, at the bookstore). But again, I don't know how those kinds of books play with "today's" kids.

(Then again, it looks like Amazon has copies of the Beatrix Potter book in their "small" format. Not quite the Warne reproductions, but still, in my mind, Beatrix Potter As She Should Be Read. So maybe get her some of those, maybe see if there's a companion stuffed toy, like a Tom Kitten or something).

I'll have to think on it more. I thought "Oh, it will be so easy to buy for a niece" but I'm finding that not to be the case. (I don't even want to TRY with clothes; the sizes are kind of unstandardized and she's tall but light for her age, so....)

ETA: They have Squirrel Nutkin. I think my niece needs a copy of Squirrel Nutkin. (And Peter Rabbit, and The Tale of Tom Kitten). Maybe I'll just buy her a bunch of the "little" Beatrix Potter books and maybe a Potter-themed stuffie.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

This is genius

A person who does ASL translated "Bohemian Rhapsody" into ASL:



(Over on YouTube, he gives a more complete written translation in the "about" section. It's interesting to see how different ASL and standard English (well, the 'standard' English in the song. Heh. The 'Queen's' English?) are)

I also like how he adds interpretive gestures during the instrumental parts, so someone who was watching but not hearing could maybe get a sense of the music.

ASL is something I've wanted to learn but time always prevents me from. (Why? Because it's cool to know other ways of communicating. And people who can translate spoken speech into ASL perform an important service. I've thought idly that maybe a retirement occupation for me would be to learn it, and if I got good enough, volunteer as an interpreter.)

Tuesday morning stuff

* I kind of hate the second week of every month. Last night was CWF, Wednesday night is Elders' and Board meetings. And of course this late-afternoon is piano. And Thursday is my night class. (And Friday is a dental checkup).

* I'm annoyed at the person in charge of computer stuff here. I e-mailed them last week about a student who had not been added to my roster for my BlackBoard page. They've STILL not been added, which means instead of just being able to add their exam grade to the online gradebook, I have to download the gradebook, save it as a separate file, make a special line for them, and, if they NEVER get added, then I will have more headaches in dealing with their grades at the end. And yet, every day, we get e-mails about the Great New Features! of BlackBoard.


* My neighbors mowed their lawn last night. That's the good thing. The bad thing? Much of the "hay" from it wound up on my driveway. If they don't clear it up today (I'm not holding my breath), I will probably have to sweep it up after my piano lesson. And, I don't know what. Put it in my trash can, I suppose. I hate sending vegetable waste to the landfill but obviously the brushpile was part of the problem so I can't let that build up again. (We don't have a municipal chipper/mulchmaking/composting operation. My parents' town does so at least all yardwaste you put out there winds up being turned into compost or mulch. Here, it just gets buried in the landfill.)

* I'm in one of those "people irritate me" moods this morning. Too many news stories about people just doing random cruel stuff to other people. (The story out of Ohio, where a couple of kids encouraged an autistic classmate to do the ice bucket challenge, and then dumped a bucket filled with human waste on him. I can't even. That's just so unnecessary and cruel. And disgusting.)

* Queen Chrysalis has her saddle and one back leg. I just barely started the second back leg. (After that, it's just the various "attachments" - ears, horn, wings, mane, tail. Though the mane looks like it takes a lot of work....)

* Discussion on a listserv I have been subscribed to about "faith vs. science." There's a lot of snark and ugliness, and mainly from one side of the debate.(And I wish the other side would politely ask not to be insulted. I don't have the energy to)  It makes me sad and tired. Yes, I do think it's possible to be a scientist and have faith. Maybe not be an absolute Genesis literalist and be a geologist, but still....you can do it.And I'm fine with people not having a faith path, just as long as they're not telling me I'm "stupid" (or denying me a job) because I have one.

I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if our culture is becoming more fragmented and if everyone is setting up their own little domain and digging a moat around themselves and not allowing anyone else in, and not allowing the possibility of other thoughts and attitudes. You see this a lot with aesthetic things - the shows people watch ("OMG, you DON'T watch 'The Living Dead'? What is wrong with you?") or the music they like or the food they eat. (the sadistic side of me would like to put a paleodieter, a vegan, and a locavore in a room together and see what happens). Or stuff like some people talking about how it's "regressive" and implying it's anti-feminist to want to do things like bake and knit. (People need to take a breath, and watch "Free to be, you and me" again). So maybe you don't want to bake or knit, that's fine. (More wool for me!) But don't deny that for some of us, doing those things is relaxing and rewarding.

I don't know. It seems to me, in a lot of matters of choice, what works for me, works for me. It might not work for you. So I'm not going to talk about the choices you make as long as they aren't hurting another person. I talk about my choices because they work for me and make me happy. And maybe they work for some other people as well.

I don't know. I don't know what the endpoint of it is but in my bleaker moods I can imagine the endpoint of increasing Balkanization of our culture not being good.

* Everyone seems so angry right now. (I guess I am too, though I would classify what I am as more "annoyed and dismayed" than truly angry). I'm guessing it's that a lot of things are going on in the world that we are largely powerless to help or fix. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

well, dang it

I covered dispersal *last week* in class, including a discussion of spider "ballooning."

Sadly, I didn't see this before now or I would have surely included it:


























(Credit, though I probably don't need to say it: XKCD.)

for future reference

I haven't even actually SEEN Guardians of the Galaxy (I want to, but there's no movie theater in my town any more, and it seems like when I am down in Sherman, it's not when I'd have time to go to a movie). But I have seen all the love online for Groot, and especially Baby Groot. (And all the love for the Awesome Mix Soundtrack. Which really is a pretty awesome mix and is full of feel-good songs I just barely remember from my childhood)

Anyway, a clever person came up with a crochet pattern for a poseable Baby Groot.

I'll have to dig in my stash a bit and see if I have some dark brown tweedy yarn in hand. I think I do.

And more cooking

I had roasted a chicken last week, so yesterday afternoon I took the bones (and the meat that remained on them) and threw them in a pot with a bunch of (low sodium) chicken broth, an onion, and some Herbes de Provence seasoning. Cooked it down for a couple of hours, pulled it off the heat to let it cool, picked the remaining meat off the bones.

I might make chicken and dumplings later on this week, I don't know. (The kind I make has "dumplings" as sort of a wet biscuit that's cooked on top of the stew. I know in some parts of the country, "dumplings" are just large egg noodles. Or some places do "dumpling squares," which are big squares typically made of noodle dough. I've even had "chicken and dumplings" where the dumplings were piecrust, sort of like a savory cobbler. (Actually, that's not too bad. It's not the chicken and dumplings *I* know, but it's still good - it's more like chicken pot pie).

I also don't put vegetables in mine. Some people do; I've seen it with canned peas and carrots (ugh) in it. I don't know, I'd rather have my vegetables separate and on the side. (And anyway, there's that food intolerance to carrots).

I'm the same way about most sandwiches: if I'm going to eat lettuce with a sandwich, I want it as a proper salad on the side and not some leaf, or worse, shreds of lettuce (which for some reason always make me gag), put on top of the hamburger or whatever. And okay, there are a few sandwiches where lettuce (but leaf lettuce, not shredded iceberg) improves it, but not most sandwiches and, IMHO, not a hot sandwich like a hamburger.



I also baked a loaf of bread. Once again, as always when I do this, I ask myself "Why don't you do this more often?" It only took about 2 1/2 hours, and most of that was "uninvolved" time while the bread was rising. I used the "Farmhouse White Bread" recipe from this book. I did cut back on the salt which was probably a mistake - 1/2 teaspoon of salt (what it called for ) is not much for 3 cups of flour (it's far, far less than commercial bread). I used a lot less and the bread came out tasting a little flat. Well, live and learn. Also, next time I am going to take the little piece of advice "for richer tasting bread" and add in some dry milk, or maybe use canned milk as part of the liquid in it. My mother tells me that "everybody" used canned evaporated milk in bread calling for milk when she was a kid - that may have been partly to avoid having to scald raw milk (raw milk contains an enzyme that interferes with yeast, I guess) and also, for people who still used iceboxes and didn't drink much milk, it meant you didn't have to keep the fresh kind on hand. (My mom grew up in a rural area and until she was 6 or 7, I think people there still used iceboxes. They had electricity, but refrigerators were expensive. Also, some remote areas, despite the rural electrification plan of the 1930s maybe didn't have reliable electricity until later on.)

I often use evaporated milk to make "cream" soups.

I make the single-loaf (small) recipe. I know it's probably more efficient to make multiple loaves but right now my freezer is full (partly frozen vegetables but also a lot of those frozen Bertolli desserts, which make a nice treat and really aren't any worse for you than a lot of sweet things) and I couldn't easily freeze an extra loaf. And I'm doing well if I use a loaf up in a week. (I refrigerate my bread even though "everyone" tells you not to, because otherwise it goes moldy before I can finish it. I know slicing and freezing is considered superior but my freezer is too full...)

Bread is fun. I know it's a lot of work and is kind of superfluous for most people (though for people like me, who need to avoid a common ingredient in most grocery-store bread, it is nice to be able to make your own). You can do so many different things - sub in some wholegrain flour, change the kind or amount of sweetener (next time, I might use honey, and use more of it, when I make the 'farmhouse' bread). You can even take plain bread and add raisins or a cinnamon swirl in the center. Sometimes my mom would make sweet rolls using plain old bread dough, and they were pretty good. (That is actually a reason do do the double batch that makes two loaves: make a loaf of bread and a pan of rolls)

I grew up eating homemade bread. My mom baked all (or almost all) of our bread. I'm not quite sure why; I don't know if it was an attempt to save money (it's probably still cheaper to bake your own bread, especially if you're comparing on the basis of quality - the most cheap-o spongey bread sold by the grocery store is probably cheaper than baking your own, but it's not that good. Comparing homemade bread to bakery or "artisan" bread is probably a fairer comparison, and in that case, homemade bread is cheaper, even using more expensive ingredients like the King Arthur Flour that I prefer.)

It may also have been a desire to occupy her time - my mom is one of those "can't just sit and do nothing" people. And she didn't work outside the home when my brother and I were growing up, so she found things to do - baking bread, having a huge garden. That those things saved money for us was a plus. Also, I suppose homebaked bread, especially back then, was better for you (in terms of not having weird additives) than grocery store bread was.

I may think about working some breadbaking time in either every other weekend or every weekend, depending on how fast I use the loaves up.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Other Saturday stuff

* In finishing the last of the summer's soil samples. These took me longer than I should have taken; there were too many days that I felt "meh, don't want to work on them." But once I get them done, next week I can get back to writing, because I already wrote the exam I give this coming week, all of my grading is up to date, and the decks are kind of cleared.

* I'm going to go to Sherman after this is done. I want to go to the natural-foods store and I feel like I just want to go and wander around the big JoAnn's for a while. Maybe see if the new Simply Knitting is in.

* I want to get back to cooking for myself more. I made a batch of Cauliflower Cheese (it's like macaroni and cheese, only with cauliflower instead of macaroni). It was pretty good but I finished it up last night. I have to figure out more main-dish type vegetable dishes rather than just scrambling to fix three or four "side dish" type things. Maybe if we get the promised "cooler" weather the end of this coming week I'll make pumpkin soup again. (Super simple:  saute a very finely chopped onion, add low-salt chicken stock and a can of pumpkin (NOT pie filling!). Simmer together a while. Spice as you like: I often put a little cinnamon and a little ginger in it, sometimes even a bit of chili powder to make it spicier. Towards the end I like to add either applesauce or cider (I have used the hard cider in the past, when making a big batch, with good results. If you heat the soup well most of the alcohol cooks out). At the very end, you add one of the small cans of evaporated milk or you can add cream (or, I suppose, Greek yogurt). I prefer smooth soups over chunky ones...)

* I might also make a batch of the (British style) flapjacks again. I was looking through my tea books ("Vintage Tea Party" and also "Tea at the Ritz" which are books I find a nice escape) and got to thinking about those kinds of sweets....the sort of British style "biscuits" which are less sweet and often have dried fruit in them, or things with lemon curd, that sort of thing.

I might get some of the tiny chocolate chips to put in the flapjack this time; that seems like it would be a nice addition. (The fun thing with flapjack is that you can add so many different things: dried fruit, or nuts, or spices, or even stuff like orange peel, and you get a slightly different flavor depending on the addition.)

* Speaking of substituting in recipes, the absurd extreme of this can be found at All the comments on every recipe blog it should become obvious this is a parody site, and yet, some of the comments are not too far off from actual comments I've seen, between the Insane Lifestyle Mentioning ("What? You don't make your own salt from scratch? But it's SO MUCH BETTER and really only takes a few hours per week...") to the people with extreme dislikes or sensitivities. (Not to make light of food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities: I know what it's like now. But....there comes a point where you just have to make peace with it and find a new path rather than trying to force the existing path to work for you) to the people who "don't like" a certain ingredient and therefore declare the recipe "terrible." And the concern trolls who misunderstand science or who heard something from a friend of a friend and didn't check it out on Snopes before telling everyone they would get cancer....

Friday, September 05, 2014

Let's try this...

Edited to add, Saturday morning: They're a lot better. Not gone, but better. Which makes me wonder if I DID get exposed to something Thursday (like celery) that bothered me. But, ugh. I'll be glad if the D3 works or if they ever DO go into remission (supposedly chronic hives can)

E-ETA: it is also cooler today, with a breeze from the north (which just feels different and better than the southwest wind we had) and it is far less humid than it was. I think sometimes high humidity makes my hives worse and that could have been part of it. (Yes, some people get hives from heat, humidity, pressure, cold, all kinds of weird things that aren't typical allergens. Supposedly strong emotions and stress can even bring them out in some people.)

(And if you're the praying sort, would you throw a little one on your list? I've been reading and it looks like 20% of people with chronic hives go into remission and stop having them around the five-year mark. I'm about a year away from that and am REALLY hoping I am one of those 20% of people. The good news is, I guess, only about 1% suffer for 20 years or more.)

***

So. The hives. They have been unusually bad this week. I am not too sure why, though I suppose "ragweed season" explains some of it. Also, the unusually cool (for some values of cool) and damp summer we had (well, up to these past couple weeks) probably let mold grow.

And in my building we have these new chairs in one of the classrooms where I teach. I suppose they are nice, they are fake leather and look very professional, but they stink. Some kind of outgassing solvent, I guess. I was getting headaches every time I taught in there (the stink seems to slowly be going away).

I also may have got something last night with celery in it. My mom has a celery allergy where she gets TERRIBLE hives if she eats it. (And do you know how hard it is to go to a restaurant and avoid celery? Pretty hard: no soups, nothing with stuffing, and no chicken or shrimp salad). I think I react similarly to celery. 

And I mowed on Wednesday.

But whatever it was, they were BAD today. I even wound up with one on my eyelid, which is kind of the freakout point for me. So after I got done with all my schoolwork (at 5 pm, sigh), I ran to the pharmacy and bought a new bottle of children's benadryl (the old one had expired) just in case (the PA I went to told me if the hives got really bad, to take a small dose of children's benadryl before bed, on top of the other meds).

But another thing I've been reading various places: Vitamin D3 supplementation may help. At first I was leery - D is one of those fat soluble vitamins that you don't want to take too much off (Things like the B vitamins, just leave your body via, uh, micturation, if you take too many of them. And C can, in really high doses, cause GI distress, but that's shortlived. Too much A - a fat soluble one - and you can fry your liver). But everything I read said the recommended doses for treating hives seemed to be "tolerated well" and they could not find any serious side effects. So, guardedly, I'm taking a goodly dose of D every day from now on (barring some weird side effect) to see if it helps.(They do say it takes a while to see an effect, so I am going to give it at least six weeks unless I have to stop for some reason)

The studies seemed solid, they were medical-journal-type studies, not "I have a nutrition blog so trust me" type studies, so I'm inclined to be hopeful. (One of them mentioned  inside using the D in conjunction with the other medications I already take for hives). Hopeful, because I'd love to get rid of them for good.

(I will admit in darker moments I wonder if this is some weird autoimmune disease, but: I think my blood work I had done recently would have thrown up something wonky and all the numbers were right in range, and I think if I were developing an AI disease I'd feel sicker and except for itching like a wench, I feel pretty much fine. And anyway, the hives seem to get worse with mold exposure and get way less when I stay home inside my relatively clean, relatively mold-free house. No, I can't notice any relation to foods I eat other than maybe celery, so I doubt it's dairy or grains or anything like that - I can get bad hives on a day when I barely touch milk and have few on a day when I drink nearly a quart. Mold seems to be the only correlate.)

Paging Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury once commented that "watching local news will make you stupid."

He may be right. (Then again, watching most news these days, I'm not so sure what it does to the little grey cells).

Yesterday afternoon, the CD sirens here rang a second time (after their normal test). I was concerned, because they seemed to be ringing very long (and given stuff going on in Ukraine and elsewhere, I could JUST imagine something very bad happening).

So I checked both the local news stations webpages. Once they loaded (after all the autorun ads and stupid graphic heavy widgets loaded), nothing. So, okay: try twitter. When I finally found the "follow us on twitter" address for the one that tends to have slightly more local (and slightly less stupid-celebrity-tricks) type news, I followed them.

The tweets I got overnight:

Michael Sam has been picked up by the Cowboys (yeah, already knew that, don't really care, the only question is "Is he a good enough player to help them out?")
Football season is coming! (you don't say!)
A couple of semi-local stories, mostly aimed at generating Parent Outrage! In at least one case, we may not be hearing all sides of the story....
News of a contest that is happening at a local football game
West Nile found in area (that is one that might actually be valuable to me, but I kind of assumed it already was)
Someone drowned in a  lake an hour distant from me (Sad, but....)
Because of recent drownings in N Texas lakes, they're now suggesting swimmers wear life vests to swim. (I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I get that swimming in a natural body of water is not like swimming in a pool. On the other hand, ugh, I'd be less likely to want to swim if I had to wear a life vest in order to do it.)

and on, and on. Reminds me of why I stopped taking the local paper. Very little of actual import.

I don't know whether to keep following them, or if something really serious happened that I had to deal with if I'd have time to wade through all the non-stories. (Also all the stories were for the slightly larger North Texas cities, not us.) I may just have to hope that if the Zombie Hordes are heading toward my town, that the city will actually bother to put it up on their disaster-preparedness Facebook page. 


Sigh.

Last night was long. I got home around 9 pm (earlier than I predicted, but still). One good thing: someone in my group who had had a recurrence of cancer and had to go through treatment, and things looked pretty serious at one point, was back and was doing well. And the woman who broke her knee (? I think) and had to have a full replacement (it was a serious break) was back. Not so good: one of our older long-term members (who had been too unwell to attend last year) passed away just a couple days ago.

Also good: the whole tax-exempt issue is totally sorted and we have been restored to tax-exempt status. (Well, considering our "profit" in the past 5 years was a grand total of $77 - once you subtract the scholarships we give out and the other donations we make to places like the Crisis Center - so I think we qualify. Well, yeah, I know it's a paperwork thing and a nature-of-the-group thing, but still, it's a relief to have that sorted.)

The new uni president's wife came and actually joined. That made me happy; she seems like a really nice person and it's good to see the new "people in charge" being involved.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fly on'na wall

Well, I ran home for lunch today.

There was something taped to the southern neighbor's storm door. I couldn't see what it was (it looked like a letter) and I wasn't gonna walk up on the porch to see. (It was gone - someone in the house took it down, I guess - when I left after lunch).

So maybe the city asked them to mow their lawn. I kind of hope they did. Not sure what they can use at this point; one thing I've learned with my little mower is NEVER let the grass get very high or else you either have to hit it with the weed-whacker first, or set the mower on the highest setting first and then re-mow several times, progressively lowering it, until you get the grass short enough. And as long as the grass is now over there I suspect it would choke a regular gas-powered mower.

I admit, I'd love to know what was on that paper....

back to grading.


****

I have night class (well, FSVO "night" - 4:30 to 6:30) THEN I have AAUW. I had to go home at lunch to make my salad as it is the Salad Supper and then bring the salad back here and stow it in the fridge HERE because I have to run out of class to get to the meeting. And it's probably going to be a long meeting. I'm not terribly happy. I don't like Thursdays this semester.

at least when I ran home for lunch I made the time to do the rest of my piano practice so when I drag home around 9:30 or thereabouts I can just go to bed.

But yeah. I admit I sometimes have little sympathy for people who say they don't get stuff done because they're "busy." one of the reasons I mowed last night was because I knew that was the last night I'd have free for a while (it's supposed to rain this weekend, so I figured I couldn't count on doing it then). My days are like a Tetris game where I have to fit all the bits in.

Not very nice

Okay,. it's come to this:

I hope my neighbors to the south get written up for their unmown lawn. The grass is at least 14" tall in spots, it looks bad, and grass that tall CAN provide hiding places for rodents. (It also looks like there are a couple fast food wrappers mixed in with the grass. No, I don't feel OK going into their yard and picking them up, nor should I have to).

I mowed my lawn last night. (The backyard, which is cooler because it only gets the morning sun, needed it more than the front yard). The policewoman next door mowed their yard. The guy across the street from me mowed the night before, the guy to the south of him mowed last evening. The person to the south of my southern neighbors had their service come in a couple days ago. So they kind of stick out.

Part of this is....sour grapes isn't quite the right term, but I feel like there's some fundamental unfairness that I got a "nastygram" from the city, which caused me a lot of worry and made me do work that probably wasn't necessary to be done RIGHT THEN....and then my neighbors just go about their lives, not mowing.

And yeah, I suppose it's possible my neighbors are overwhelmed, but it's been three weeks plus since I've been back (almost a month) and they haven't mowed in that time. It's also possible the mom is off somewhere and it's just the teen kids at home, and they don't pay attention to stuff like lawns - I haven't seen her around lately, just the kids, and while they seem to be decent kids (at least, there haven't been any loud parties or anything, which some kids would do in the absence of the parents), still...

And in a real emergency situation, you'd think a friend or someone would help out. I KNOW if I broke my leg or something someone from church would either call a service for me or send their son out to mow the lawn for me until I was better. 

I might be less irritated if it didn't feel like yet another instance of "person trying to be responsible, gets behind the curve a little, gets slapped" (me with the nastygram about grass that wasn't quite 8" tall yet in one corner of my backyard) and "other people flout all rules and social contract and it's just fine and dandy."

I also went back into the alley and cleaned up trash from my area and behind the policewoman's place. Someone had either dropped, or let blow in there, a few of those membranous plastic grocery bags and some fast-food drink cups. (people are PIGS. I'm sorry, how hard is it to hang on to your empty Sonic cup until you get home, and then put it in your trash? Instead, you make someone else go pick it up, or else it lies there forever being an eyesore)

I had to walk around the block to get there as the lock on my back gate does not work. I met up with the policewoman putting the mower away (their garage lets out on the cross-street) and I just mentioned that I was having to go 'round to get the trash because I couldn't open the gate. She said, "Wait a minute" and came back with WD-40, a crowbar, and a hammer.

We tried spraying the lock but that didn't work. So then she tried to beat it off the gate (yes, there's something kind of cosmically funny about an off-duty policewoman trying to break a lock) but it was too strong. (She remarked, "Wow. They don't make locks like this any more or our 'little thieves' would have a harder time.") So at some point I suppose I will need to get a locksmith in with bolt cutters. (They did not have them or she would have brought them). And get a new lock for back there, because as I told her, "I do want to be able to lock the gate; I don't want creepers to be able to get into my backyard easily" and she laughed and remarked that our alley was an unusually busy one. (So it's good to know that I'm not the only one who notices that, and that I'm not imagining things)

I do want to be able to open the gate easily; my gas meter and shut-off is back in the alley and while, in a real emergency, I could probably vault over the fence to get to it to shut off leaking gas, it would be easier to use the gate.

She also remarked on how good my backyard looked after the clearing out, so at least SOMEONE noticed all the work I did.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Don't like spam

Sharp uptick in spam, both e-mails and spam comments. (I moderate comments, so all the spammy ones wind up going where the goblins go, yo-ho, yo-ho....)

Anyway, it occurred to me this morning that if Charlie Brown were a modern sort, he wouldn't compare getting a chain letter to finding out you have gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe; he would say that an inbox full of spam comments to be deleted was like having gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

the original comic strip that inspired this thought. I used to read Peanuts obsessively as a kid; my mom had a bunch of the original compilations (the little paperbacks with the horrible, cheap newsprint paper) that she gave to me.

Wednesday morning stuff

* every week right now just feels long. Lots to do. Having two sections of one class, wow, I'm amazed how that one extra class eats up a lot of time and just makes me tired. I hope I don't wind up doing this kind of overload regularly. (We really, really need another person in the department. Ideally another tenure line, so we get someone who is fairly committed to staying, but at any rate, we need another person. Especially if we revamp the Master's program to make it better, which we want to do. Unfortunately, we probably won't get another person)

* I'm thinking this is the ultimate in social-media "WTH?" - a scientific supply house is sponsoring a contest on Pinterist. Yeah, Pinterist, which I think of as the place where women with too much to do but a desire to have a gracious life put up pictures of the kind of interior decorating, children's birthday parties, and craft projects they ASPIRE to do, but never get to in reality because they are too busy cleaning up puppy vomit, doing laundry, and making sure their children didn't lose their math homework. (And yeah, I know, there are other uses of Pinterist; apparently there are hipster corners of it where people pin "cool" tattoo designs or mustaches, and there are people who use it ironically). But it just seems strange to me for them to sponsor a contest on Pinterest. The contest on Pinterist is your "dream science classroom."

Considering I share classrooms and my big hope is that someone left a few whiteboard pens that actually work and bothered to erase the chalkboard, I think my "dream classroom" would be aiming very low. (Also, I tend to be low tech - my dream classroom would be chalkboards - those chalkboards on tracks where you can fill one up and BAM! push it up to the ceiling and have a clean board underneath it, and students who didn't quite get everything written down still have the material on the top chalkboard available. Oh, and a computer, a projector, and screen. That's what it would take to make me happy.)

(I'm not on Pinterist. Nor am I on LinkedIn, or Instagram, or whatever the newest ones are. I do twitter, mainly because it works as a short break during the day, and I'm nominally on Facebook (have an account, don't have a page). I'm not big on social media and it seems like it can be an awful timesuck. And in some cases, a source of drama: I've heard of Facebook stuff causing fights in families.)

I also get so tired of the "like us!" and "follow us!" demands that so many businesses and groups seem to make.

* We must have gotten a bunch of wind last night; I came out of the house to several largish branches down. Luckily, today is extra hauling day, so I just pulled them down to the curb and left them on the bags of yard waste that I want extra hauling to take. I did manage to drop one of the heavier branches on my foot (I was wearing sandals) but I don't seem to have done any damage.

* I worked a bit more on the Chrysalis amigurumi last night. I don't know why working on toys should make me happier than working on just about any other craft project, but it does. Part of it may be that making toys (whether by sewing or crocheting - I learned to knit later) was about the first craft I ever did. When I was six, seven, and eight, I was already making some of my own toys. When I was a kid, there was a real freedom in that, especially for a kid with almost no allowance and little access to shopping areas.

Once in a while my brother and I got down to "The Attic," downtown, which had stuffed animals and a few other things, and rarely, I had enough money saved up AND we were going somewhere like Gold Circle that sold toys. Though I don't really remember often walking into a store with money and just buying something; more often I saw something somewhere, wanted it, and then had to save up for weeks or months for it. And it was almost never that we just got a toy, I mean that our parents bought for us. At Christmas and birthdays, sure. And maybe something VERY small after a particularly painful medical thing or if we got straight As on the report card. But not always, and never a "just because we're at a store that sells toys" thing. Well, sometimes when my dad traveled he'd bring something small back as a gift, especially if it was something unusual - I think I got a bird marionette I used to have that way, as a "I saw this while traveling and thought of you" thing. But the little gift things, there was always a special reason behind it.

Which is why I kind of boggle at the kids throwing tantrums in the Target because they want their parents to get them a toy. When I was a kid, you just didn't do that, because you knew that not only would you not get the toy, but you'd get in trouble....

* One of the consolations of being a grown-up? You have a bigger allowance and, if you're single and without dependents, no one to tell you how to spend it. I wonder if I'd own so many tiny Pony figures if my parents had been the sort who bought toys for me "just because we're at a store that sells toys." I wonder if we do sometimes make up for things we missed in childhood as adults.

* Something I wonder about: on local news stories, how do they select the people they talk to as the witness/"I knew the alleged perp"/man on the street person? Locally, it seems like they find the MOST "backwoods" person in the town and talk to them. And it makes me cringe a little because I feel like it must just reinforce stereotypes. (Then again: if there were some crime that happened in my neighborhood and the local news pushed a mike in my face, I'd likely either decline to speak or say I didn't know enough about it to say anything useful.)

There's an alleged (well, it looks pretty likely, based on the fact that the perp was apparently photographed on an ATM camera during the time he had the victim in captivity with him) case of kidnapping/rape/attempted robbery in the area. They wound up interviewing the former girlfriend of the alleged perp. That.....that just seems all kinds of wrong to me. (And yes, she essentially said the "I can't believe this, he wouldn't hurt a flea" thing. I don't know. I think if someone close to me were alleged with strong evidence of committing a crime, my response would be, "Wow. You really never know a person, it's horrible what people are capable of doing.")

I also wonder how much making a big deal of these stories on the local news makes it hard to prosecute them later on, finding a jury that's unbiased.

* Honestly, the only thing I could see myself actually speaking about on the local news? Would be an area in which I was specifically an "expert" - prairie plants, or soil invertebrates, something like that. And even then I wouldn't be all that comfortable.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

One quick observati0on

Or: "Brace yourself, the first exam of the semester is coming."


Monday, September 01, 2014

a weekend break

I took Sunday afternoon and all of today off from work. (Part of the reason I took today off? I woke up with a horribly hived-up and puffy eyelid. It happens. It's ragweed season here. The eyelid is better now, I hope it doesn't re-hive up during my period of horizontalness tonight (It seems that being upright helps it go away. But I cannot sleep sitting upright no matter how I try)

I did get back to crocheting on the Chrysalis pony (is she a pony? Is a Changeling a pony? Or are they something else altogether? I guess I think of them as being kind of ponies that went bad, sort of like the whole fallen-angel thing in Christian scriptures and legend....)

Anyway. This is a HUGE amigurumi, the biggest I've ever made, so it takes a long time to do. And it's complex - the holes in the legs take a lot of time. (But I couldn't NOT do them. There is an alternate set of directions in the pattern if you want legs without holes, or are a less-confident crocheter, but....I really wanted the legs with the holes).

Here she is, with the front legs sewn on. I put a page of the pattern beside her for scale. (Yes, that is printed on standard US letter-sized paper, 8 1/2 by 11):

partially done Chrysalis
This is a close up of the legs, showing the holes. Yes, they go all the way through, you're seeing the paper on the other side:

cheese-legs
The next step is to make the saddle-thing she wears (it has to go on before the back legs). So, yay: something that's not legs. And yay, a different color. (Crocheting on black yarn: phoo. I have to have the light ALL THE WAY UP and take my glasses off to see it properly to work on it. Also it's a very harsh yarn and is hard on the hands.) At least I'm half-done with the legs, which I think are going to be the least fun part.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Because I'm TACKY!

Because I'm TACKY

So, I went to Lowe's this afternoon to get some topsoil and look at the ground cover/perennials as part of my attempt to begin "desirable plant domination" of my gardens (get lots of good competitive stuff in there so I have to weed less in the future).

I wound up buying some lysimachia nummularia (not shown; it's on the north side of the house) which is a shade-tolerant, perennial groundcover. (They had no liriope. Maybe it's the wrong time of year and I just need to wait). And here are a couple of gaura and three anemones. (The gaura were probably a good choice; butterflies were visiting them even before I had them in the ground).

And the flamingos. They were on an end-of-season sale. First I thought, "Nah" then I decided "yes." And they are the made-in-the-USA kind - I don't think the Famous Flamingo Factory of Leominster, Massachusetts is still in operation but I read about a nearby factory (Pennsylvania, maybe?) that now makes them.

And I thought: They're cheap enough. And they make me laugh. And yes, if someone from the city comes snooping over my back fence again this fall they will see two pink plastic flamingos. And if they think that's bad, well, they might just be tacky too.

"I put pink flamingos on my lawn/ after the city griped at me."

(And really, one reason I love Weird Al's "Tacky" so much? The narrator of the song is completely unapologetic about the ways in which he is tacky. He owns his tackiness, admits to it, and even revels in it. And I spend way too much time worrying about whether what I am doing is "proper" (essentially the opposite of tacky))

Heh. They do amuse me pretty deeply. (I'll probably take them in and put them in the garage over winter, so they don't get all sad and cracked in the cold). Hm. Maybe I do have my own brand of slight silliness and even happy-go-luckiness, just one that's less public and a lot quieter than some people's...
***

For future self-reference: Several sites said October is the best time to plant lilyturf. In fact, a couple sites that sell it won't even ship it until mid-September. So I just need to be patient. Maybe if the weather is good over mid-fall break, one day of that could be a planting blitz of perennial groundcovers in my yard. The more and more I think of it, the more I really like the idea of the north side of my house just being a groundcover garden that's a mass of things like lilyturf and lysimachia and, if I can find it, partridgeberry. And maybe in the slightly sunnier edges, stick a few aquilegia in there. All perennials, all stuff that spreads well.  Lots of the ground covers I'm seeing suggested are described as "tolerate foot traffic," which they will need to do a little bit back there.