29 April 2009

Weekend, Plus a Little WTF

My weekend off, which included Monday, was primarily devoted to some much-needed yardwork and left me sore, sore, sore. On the plus side, I did some hard pruning of one of my apple trees and used the twigs to make this cute little woven trellis for my sugar snap peas.


And before any of you go telling me that sugar snap peas vine a lot higher than that, it's a dwarf variety that should do just fine. The front soaker hose has parsley planted along it, and I also planted lettuce mix in with the red leaf mustard that's coming up from last year's seed and some Sugarsnax carrots in amongst my garlic, which I'll have in spades (Get it? Spades!) this summer. There's quite a bit more yet to be planted outside the raised beds, too, so I'm going to need to get butt in gear and start preparing the ground.

The bulk of the soreness, though, came from doing battle with a couple of huge stands of multiflora rose behind our shed and along the road that we let go far too long. David got out and snipped a lot of the individual branches a few weeks back, but I lopped off more, pulled a bunch down from where it was intertwined in the sumac trees, and got some triclopyr stump treatment to try to kill it off at the roots. While I was at it, I also treated some of my arch-nemesis, bittersweet, which I hate with the passion of a thousand suns. As bad as the multiflora is, it at least provides nectar for bees. Bittersweet is good for absolutely nothing, period.

Hopefully, though, this weekend's endeavors will help us get both scourges under control and, eventually, eradicated from the property. I expect, though, that they'll give my back plenty of reason to ache for at least the next few years.

Um, Yeah

I was just going back through old pages on Fail Blog and just happened upon this one, which is only a couple of miles from where I went to high school.

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Actually, considering the sizable influx of workers from Mexico and Central America over the past 10-15 years, that sign isn't terribly surprising. When you're used to a barter economy and the bulk of your income goes back home in remittances, you're likely to - what else - barter for goods and services. It's still kind of funny, though.

But not as funny as this:

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27 April 2009

Hurdy-Gurdy Man

I just rediscovered this video on YouTube. I first heard the artist a while back on Late Junction and absolutely loved his playing. In this particular clip, he's playing an electric hurdy-gurdy that allows for some funky sounds as well as some looping.

25 April 2009

चाई मसाला

One of the things I learned to do properly while I was in India was make chai masala - which basically means spiced (or spicy) tea - so I thought I'd do a little photo tutorial for folks who might be interested. Everybody has their own preferred blend of spices and if you've read this blog for a bit you know that I'm not big on measuring things, so this is just a very rough guide for how it's done.

First, you pound your spices:


This blend contains cardamom, mace, peppercorns, fennel seed, allspice, clove, and Ceylon cinnamon*. And yes, I brought my mortar and pestle to work with me. What of it?

Then cut up a bit of ginger:


Only chop it up into smaller pieces than this.

Put it all in a saucepan with some water, tea leaves and sugar:


Bring to a boil:


Then add milk, preferably whole (tastes ever so much better with the fat):


While this is heating back up to just about boiling, you should be getting something ready to strain your chai into. Here at work, the pans don't have a good lip for pouring neatly and I don't have a good strainer, so I went with these:


Which fit together like so:


And now that the chai is heated back up, turn the stovetop off and strain the chai:


And if, as in this instance, you're sharing with someone else, decant into a mug or mugs of your choice:



*Most cinnamon sold in the US is cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is a different, albeit related, species which has a milder, more citrus-y flavor. I got mine from Penzey's, where it was actually cheaper than I'd have paid in a grocery store (where you'd be hard-pressed to find it anyway).

Spring Brings...

...My Birthday!

Which was, I know, three weeks ago now, but my surprise (except for the date) party was only last weekend, and I don't have pics from that yet because my dad hasn't e-mailed me any. I neglected upon the date to post this photo of what David had waiting for me when I got home from work that morning.


The cake was from our local bakery and was so rich that it was almost too much even for me. That's damn near impossible!



These are my florentine tulips, Tulipa sylvestris, which I got a couple of years ago from here. They make me think of little Dutch girls' caps and they smell wonderful, so I think I'm going to need to get more of them to plant this fall.

...Warm Weather!

It was so nice when I was getting ready for work this afternoon, that somebody got to go naked!


And this weekend's weather is promising a lot more nudity, too. Whoo hoo!

23 April 2009

Mel Is the Rarest Gas in the Periodic Table

Thanks to GayProf for this, since I'm too tired to come up with anything else.

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Mel!

1. The canonical hours of the Christian church are matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, Mel and compline.
2. Ostriches stick their heads in Mel not to hide but to look for water!
3. If a snake is born with two heads, the heads will fight over who gets Mel.
4. Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are Mel.
5. Mel cannot swim.
6. Mel can jump up to sixteen times his own height.
7. If you chew gum while peeling Mel then it will stop you from crying.
8. During severe windstorms, Mel may sway several feet to either side.
9. Some birds use Mel to orientate themselves during migration.
10. The fingerprints of Mel are virtually indistinguishable from those of humans, so much so that they could be confused at a crime scene!

Find out everything you didn't know (and maybe a few things you did) about yourself here.

21 April 2009

Electronic Babysitter

I'm at the tail end of my second night on in a row, I have two of my own pets here with me, and my camera with pretty flower pictures on it is at home. Plus I still haven't gotten any photos from my "surprise" birthday party on Saturday because my dad hasn't sent me any of the ones he took. So I'm doing the video thing for you yet again. This first one is a quartet of cute Swedish boys dancing naked on a TV program.

And this one, in case you haven't seen it, is this past week's episode of CSI, which is the first one I've ever watched in its entirety. The storyline revolves around my cousin Liz's character and one of the other lab characters and has some really funny fantasy sequences. I snorted.


17 April 2009

A Little Dab'll Do Ya

I seem to recall having mentioned a story about my bicycle, which I subsequently failed to deliver because of a screaming mimi of a headache. Likely due to a combination of something getting tweaked at my chiropractic appointment and breathing the cold air on my bike ride later that afternoon, but I was very, very happy when sleep came last night.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I recently bought myself a used bicycle after not owning one at all for 9 or 10 years. Disgraceful, really, but I gave the last one away to a guy who was looking for one for his son, and then life sort of kept me too busy to think about it much. Times being what they are, a new model was most certainly not in the cards, particularly not in the recumbent style that I would most like to own.

So after a bit of research into what's happened in the world of bicycles since the banana seat and handlebar tassels, I started doing a bit of searching on Craigslist and found someone with bikes for sale. Quite a lot of them, actually, so when the one I initially inquired about got snatched up, he still had a few other options for me, one of which is a model that had generally gotten good reviews and was very much in line with what I'd decided would be the best option for me to do a bit of casual cycling around.

Of course, it needed a few things, including a rack (hooray for my REI dividend!) and panniers so that I can, theoretically, use it to do a bit of grocery shopping in the warm weather. I say theoretically because it's a 12 mile round trip to the supermarket and I could stand to get into slightly better shape first, but seeing as I spent actual money on the panniers (cheap ones, mind, but it was still money), now I've really got no choice. Especially since I went to Homo Depot today and got a new Allen wrench set so that I can affix said rack.

Another thing it needed was new handlebar grips. The foam ones that were on it had seen better days and were close to falling off on their own. So along with the rack, the panniers, headlight and tail light, I also ordered a new and inexpensive pair of rubber grips for the handlebars. Basic black, no fancy tassels, just nice, cheap, unassuming handlebar grips. Which I decided I'd just pop in place before going out for a ride last week.

Except, of course, it wasn't that easy. Grip number one went on about halfway and got stuck. It wouldn't push farther up on the handlebar and neither pulling nor pushing to get it off would work. And like many bikes these days, there is no kickstand, which meant that in order to keep the bike from rolling away and flopping over on its side like it was going to die, I had to straddle it and then brace the top tube against my inner thigh, all the while contorting my upper body to try to jam the goddamned grip down on the handlebar. I was working up quite a sweat, and hoping that none of the neighbors were watching, because I'm pretty sure it looked I was doing something obscene.

Meanwhile, I was thinking to myself, This is taking forever and the neighbors are going to come home and what will they think and I can't do this a second time because it'll be dark and I'll still be wrestling with the goddamned thing and this is going to leave a hell of a bruise on my thigh and what I really really need is some way to lubricate the next one so that at least one of them will go quickly. And then I started going down a list of options for lubrication.

Water-based, of course, would be a bad idea to use on metal, especially since it would likely stay damp underneath the rubber grips and make the handlebars all rusty. Petroleum-based lubricants, on the other hand, would be a bad choice with the rubber grips. What I really needed to use was something silicone-based. And then it hit me.

I do, in fact, have a silicone-based lubricant in the house.

Um, yeah, that kind.

And you know what? It worked like a charm. Just a drop smeared around inside the second grip, and it slid right onto the handlebar as nice as you please, leaving me with enough time for a nice bike ride.

Honestly, though, that is how I got that bruise.

15 April 2009

Cute And Not So Much

There continues to be relatively little to blog about Chez Tête-de-Laine, but this is my off week and my surprise birthday party is Saturday (the date being the only thing that won't be a surprise). Aside from it being porcupine season again (I treated 10 dogs with quills last week, including two who belong to a famous actress. And who were brought in by her less-famous male partner, but now there's only one degree of separation between us. And that last sentence contains a clue to whom I'm talking about.), it is also apparently baby animal season. The other night some dude cut down a tree and found a nest with these in it.


Baby squirrels are just too freakin' adorable to step on. They wag their tails when they're nursing! They're also very unsentimental and will suckle food directly from a hard plastic syringe. Who cares if it feels like mom? It has food! I handed this lot off to the Center for Wildlife, where they are sure to do well and grow up to be happy and healthy poofy-tailed rats. And since it's tax day, I'll just point out (yet again) that Center for Wildlife is one of those non-profit-y type places where you could make a tax-deductible donation. And we all know what a difference just $5-10 can make.

Speaking of which, Nyondo informed me last night that y'all have donated around $700 to the Tso Pema Medical Emergency Fund since I wrote this post. It's still a ways from their funding goal, but that amount will make a huge difference - $5 here and there adding up to something big and wonderful. You rock! And if you haven't donated a spare $5 and would like to, head on over to Joy's blog, where there's a Paypal button.

On a less happy note, Tuck started coughing again a few nights ago, so I took him in to work with me Monday night to take some x-rays and his lungs look like this:


I'm feeling too lazy to draw a circle around it, but there's pneumonia in his right caudal lung lobe. I'm a little bit encouraged that it's in a different location from before (and a bit milder), but that may also mean that he's got a congenital problem that's going to keep predisposing him to this sort of infection. We're still waiting on culture results, but I'm hoping to have more information by tonight or tomorrow. Meantime, he's responding well to the current antibiotic regimen and is still giving lots of sweet kisses.

And now I need to go for a bike ride while it's still warm-ish. By which I mean above freezing. And then maybe later I'll tell you a funny story about my new used bike.

09 April 2009

Busy, Or Just Tired?

Either way, I haven't managed a post in the past week. Work seems to be slowly picking up a bit, which is a good thing considering how sluggish things were last fall. It's also a good thing seeing as how I'm likely to continue to be the sole source of household income for the foreseeable future. Things are quite rough for David's business right now, so it's something of a day-to-day process trying to figure out if RedMaple will survive. Seriously folks, if you're getting a few $$ back from your tax returns this year, go buy a pair of socks.

Aside from that, today is the 12 year anniversary of The Big Wreck, the nasty head-on collision that really set me down the road to developing fibromyalgia. I always remember the date, though emotionally it's not that big of a deal. I've always figured that since I can't go back and change the event itself, it's not useful to dwell on the what-ifs.

What I am ever hopeful for, though, is the chance that somewhere, someday I'll find a way out of the pain. That is something that absolutely would reduce me to a happy, blubbering mess, because this shit is seriously no fun. I started going to a chiropractor (young, cute, married - just like me!) last week, and he has at least been able to help in just a couple of sessions with the restless legs, which were really getting bad lately. I'm also looking into microcurrent therapy, which is a modality that has shown some promise.

Anyway, that's enough of that, and since I don't have anything else of substance to share, I'm giving you this photo of Tuck and Cougar that David took and sent me while I was in India. Give in to the cute.

03-20-09 Tuck & Cougar2452

02 April 2009

Birthday Wishes

So today is one of those millstone milestone birthdays. I am now 40, which I understand means that I am officially ancient. Not quite as old, mind you, as Joe, who turns 50 on Saturday, which I'm told is just past decrepitude (He's a huge attention whore, btw, so go say hi). Since I'm between nights on at work today, things will be low-key, but David is planning a surprise party for me on the 18th - the surprise, of course, being that I only know the date and none of the details. I wanted, though, to share a little (pre-)birthday surprise and a birthday wish.

Last night I had a visit from Phoebe!

040109Phoebe! 001

Funnily enough, I was thinking about her just last week before I came home from India. She's doing great other than some significant arthritis in her left hip from the fractures, and she's scheduled for surgery to deal with that next month. Her owner is still going through issues of his own 15 months out and has only just graduated from an external fixator to a splint. All things considered, though, the family seems to be getting along well, and it is due in no small part to all of you readers who contributed to Phoebe's care.

Which is actually why I was thinking of her last week. While I was in Riwalsar, I met this lovely Tibetan couple:



That's Sonam Yutron and her husband Lobsang. Those of you who read Joy's and Nyondo's blogs will have already read about Sonam Yutron's medical problems. If you haven't, though, take a few minutes to go read this post, and I'll wait here for you.

All done? Do you see now why Phoebe came to mind? It's because all those little $5 and $10 donations really added up to something simultaneously tangible and transcendent. A latté here and a burger there actually changed people's lives. While I was in Riwalsar, Sonam Yutron was doing even more than leaning on someone else. She was out and about under her own power, puttering and sweeping and doing all sorts of little things she'd been completely incapable of for years until all these tiny little donations added up to something far greater than their sum.

Unfortunately, right now the Tso Pema Medical Emergency Fund is bust. What little has come in this year has already gone to help people in need. The Feral Wives have dipped heavily into their own pockets to keep things going for the people who really need their help and have had to be very selective about what they can and cannot help with. Obviously this is in no small part due to larger economic forces, but that doesn't mean the need has gone away, and clearly a lot can be accomplished with even small donations.

So my birthday request for all of you is to see if you can spare a venti mocha or two to help replenish the fund (Paypal button on Joy's blog). Even $5 can be enough to buy a few months worth of meds for someone, so it's not an insignificant amount. There's no tax deduction to be gained, but there's a very sweet elderly Tibetan couple, among many others, who will be eternally grateful and say prayers for you, which is really a far richer reward.

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