“…the report is greatly exaggerated.”

For those of you elsewhere who see the repeated loop of footage of the recent earthquake and wonder, …we’re fine. It was, indeed, a doozy, and nearly threw us out of our beds, and the aftershocks kept us jittery and awake for hours… but, this being California, you learn to hang your pictures well, make sure your bookshelves are bolted to the walls, and do your best to be prepared for the worst. With the exception of the water bottle that fell over and broke its lid, no damage. We’re safe, our power is on, and are keeping a good thought for our neighbors eight miles down the road in Napa.

The U.S. Geological Survey mentions the possibility – a more than 50% chance – of a 5.0 aftershock between now and Friday.

With that thought, let’s look at something pretty…

Napa County 14>
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Dear Future Students of D…

digital citizen

…heads up, please. Thank you.)

(via Get Educated.

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Thus Explaining Those Huge Holes in the Turf…

Don’t look now, but the Big Bird of Unhappiness has taken to hanging around out back.

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Y’know, urban turkeys are a lovely… idea when you see them up on hillsides and such, but when they’re DIGGING HOLES in the lawn, making 4 a.m., high-pitched waaaark-ing noises, and flinging dirt out of your potted plants, going out of doors with the push broom and a fierce expression seems quite a good idea.

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(…and, if you do that, do let us know how that goes, won’t you? We don’t quite have the courage, as Mr. I’m Not Afraid Of You tends to bat his wings about if anyone goes out into the yard and says “Shoo” and makes abortive gestures in his direction. T. decided that it would be not only rude but stupid to make him annoyed enough to chase her… she has bad memories of geese, thank you. And those vicious swans in Holland… So, the turkey gets to wander where the turkey wishes to wander, we guess.

Alas for the strawberries and the asparagus plants. And all the flowers… Why do we even bother? Between the drought, the squirrels, and the wretched birds…)

Hard — so, so hard — to believe it’s August already, and the light is swinging toward autumn. The backyard is super busy, and full of beeping, peeping and whistling as the birds (those not currently ticking us off) continue to take over. Returning from some summer vacationing are our woodpeckers — collectively called a “descent”, a “drumming”, and a “gatling” of woodpeckers. We’ve got a drumming of Nuttall’s – at least four – and an every growing and ridiculously noisy collection of Lesser Goldfinches.

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It’s additionally hard to believe that D. is getting ready to teach his last online course for the summer already. He’s doing a lot of muttering under his breath has he deals with the kludgy web interface the university provides, and mumbling as he roughs out a course outline and selects books… meanwhile, it seems odd to think that T’s brother and sister have been to the college bookstore, too. Youngest sister was bemoaning her strapped and cashless state (“Mom says she owns me now into the next life,”) after buying textbooks… hard to imagine that she is starting her own collegiate experience … on Friday. o_0 Seriously seems possible, since it seems like just the other day, she was this precious round-faced little thing, babbling nonsense and squealing at the drop of a hat. (Oh, wait…she still does that…)

*cough*

ANYWAY! Happy term time to all of our friends who are off to learn a few things, off to teach a few things, and off to leave the rest of us in the shade. Good luck, all.

Posted in California, Critters, Life | 1 Comment

NB: the title of this blog post is NOT “Hanging With Mr. Cooper.” That title has been strictly prohibited. Thank you.

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This is a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). Or, a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), but we’re pretty sure it’s a Cooper’s. Mostly positive, almost. (How can we tell? Well, the Sharp-shinned’s tail is squared off when he’s at rest. Of course, our wretched bird wouldn’t …rest, but we sort of assumed. On the other hand, a Cooper’s is supposed to have more white on the tip. This is a juvenile, and the juvenile of the species of BOTH hawks are speckled and striped and much more brown than their adult black-and-brown, which completely screws up our reckoning on it either way. We’ll have to wait and see who he turns out to be – and we do think it’s a male, as the gents are much smaller than the ladies.)

This primping, fluttering, shrieking, refusing-to-turn-and-face-the-camera hawk is our newest avian yardmate, and has taken the place of our fascination with the steadily fattening house finches and the swift-as-a-blur goldfinches (who still refuse to be photographed. What is WITH that attitude?). It lives in the pine tree outside of our deck — and we mean right off our deck. As close to the little glass birdbaths in the corner as it can possibly get. It is vastly blasé about our sharing its space, and almost totally unafraid, likely owing to the fact that it dines daily on a diet of hubris and field mice, and thus its overheated little brain convinces it that all things fear it, and it could totally eat us.

Cooper’s hawks are medium sized, agile, and slightly mad (as evinced by the piercing golden eyes). Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest hawk in North America (about the size of blue jays), quick and loud, and also quite mad – really, all hawks are. Either are a good sign for urban wildlife and ecologically balanced yards, but this one’s really only here because Accipiters as a species are indeed deeply attracted to yards with… birdfeeders.

Yeah, so make that, “…it dines daily on a diet of hubris, field mice and the odd robin.”

Some homeowners are mightily incensed by that, but then, these area also the people who you see running down the street at six a.m., chasing the thuggish groups of wild turkeys who maraud around here every October. (We saw our first group of juvenile males just yesterday. Oh, it’s going to be a very thuggish and aggressive autumn in this hood.) We, however, are perfectly happy to have rapacious raptors – and we’re okay with them eating songbirds, too. We figure we’ll have fewer ginormous rats and digging squirrels, and if we have to miss the odd dove, seagull, mockingbird or a jay, well… we’ll also be able to sleep in past 4 a.m. as well. Win-win. ☺

Okay, we take that last part back.

Mostly.

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Behold my mad yellow eye.

(HM. This picture is much more Sharpie than Cooper’s. ::sigh::
Oh, look A HAWK. Maybe we’ll just leave it at that.)

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Summer Rolls On

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Come in! Sit down! Have a cuppa.

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Welcome to midsummer – the middle of this strangely mild season, full of foggy days, overcast skies, and a persistent 10% chance of rain in the forecast that never materializes. Obviously, as SOON AS you buy deck chairs that you quite like, the breeze decides to pick up and the fog roll in. Ah, well. Deck chairs are also perfectly useful with a blanket in the autumn and winter…This summer has also been full of annuals that are coming up for the first time since we’ve moved to this place. We’re LOVING the surprises of flowers blooming where we’d previously thought they never would.

Low-Carb Waffles 1

Since we’ve kept our gardening minimal – due to the drought – we’ve gotten our excitement out of planning for a winter garden (purple carrots! kale! kohlrabi! radishes!) and seeing a long-term plan begin. We’re growing asparagus – which is a three-year crop. You can’t really EAT them for the first couple of years, because they have to die back and reseed themselves, but the little ferny, delicate looking bright green stalks are awfully pretty. We have fourteen! T. says they’re nasty enough that the squirrels should leave them alone, too, but D. has decided to ignore the haters in the house. Our blueberry bush is not doing much this year – we didn’t expect it to really put out fruit yet, but we have high hopes for next summer. Sadly, the borage, mint, and even the roses right now have the tell-tale perfectly round bites on the leaves — we may have leafcutter bees. Honestly, we’re sympathetic to bees and are trying to be willing to give up nice-looking foliage for them, but it is a struggle.

You’ll be amused to know that D. has finally solved the issue of the jays swinging happily from the feeder and dumping it. He’s wired a brick to the base of it, and defies their little lightweight, nut-stealing selves to swing on it and dump piles of seed on the patio now. If they manage, we’ll be shocked and figure that they’ve hired a raccoon and a ladder. So far, they’re just glowering at the feeder, and refusing to eat. Typical pouting jays.

It seems impossible that the days have gone by so quickly, but they have — we’re already nearly in August, and D. is still recovered from finishing his first batch of final papers at the beginning of July for the class he taught. One more class is scheduled for August, and then he can safely say that he’ll never teach for this University again. Nothing wrong with them, just that he’s not really a fan of online education, especially the way this is set up, and, after reading a few recent articles, believes that he’s actually part of the problem in education… the huge number of adjuncts who are forced to work without benefits or reasonable pay allow universities and colleges to continue to devalue education. Since things are going well at his other job, he’s willing to give up using his PhD in the classroom for awhile longer. He’s also quite willing to get through life with never having another week of marking student essays, ever again. (Meanwhile, T. had been smugly reminiscing on why teaching the fifth grade was a much better option — until D. said “lunch duty,” and then oddly she found something else to do…)

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When we’re not having wars in the backyard, or when D’s not either grading papers or photographing the awesome that is “Cat Shirt Wednesday” at the office (no, seriously. Cat. Shirt. Wednesday. Because… you never have enough cat shirts? Or Wednesdays?), we’re still in the kitchen. D. has perfected a sourdough rye bread that he bakes in an old factory pan from Wonderbread, so it’s easily fifteen inches long. Its high sides and narrow base (around four inches) make all of the slices look “professional.” Our pan was really used in a factory, but we discovered King Arthur Flour sells shorter pans which are equally as narrow for baking gluten-free bread. Apparently even the pan shape/size makes a difference there.

D. has been using our generic (non-Silpat) silicone baking sheets for a tasty new purpose – rolling sushi. We mislaid our traditional bamboo mat, and the silicone makes nice and tight sushi rolls. Now we need to perfect the rice-making technique, and we’ll be golden. Meanwhile, T. has been taking advantage of all of the berries out this season (except for cherries, which she hasn’t seen much of yet. What’s up with that?) and is attempting to use them as part of every meal. Her goal is to make this scrumptious looking strawberry cheesecake two ways – one vegan. That means experimenting with vegetarian/vegan gelling agents – and agar powder works as long as you don’t have to have leftovers. It “weeps” too much for a really stable gelled dessert.

Some people suggest chia and xanthan gum, others cornstarch. There are options – weighing the healthiest and the one that works best is the trick! Part of the fun of these experiments is eating the flops, though. Usually…

Veggie Sushi 1

Recently we’ve been working on actually hitting some of the “tourist” areas in our neck of the woods. We FINALLY got to Greens Restaurant at the Ft. Mason Center in San Francisco. The restaurant has been open since 1979 (and at Ft. Mason since the 80′s) and somehow T’s family, who even lived in SF — and T., who was born there, never managed to go. We found an excuse – T’s mother’s birthday – and wandered over one misty morning — to find the Avon Breast Cancer Pink Ribbon walk going in full stream around Ft. Mason and the Marina. It was awful timing, awful traffic, and really, kind of typical SF summer weather, in that it was pretty cloudy and foggy – but the food was really lovely, and even the vanilla roiboos tea was rich and dark and smooth. T. has decided she now needs one of the little iron kettles that they serve in – no idea where she’s going to put it, or how she’ll use it with an electric range, but she’s putting it on her mental list.

Our final month of summer is drawing near, and we’ve reconsidered our trip to Scotland. We’ve waffled back and forth, but it really doesn’t seem like a good time to go. Between the cranky cabbies — who will be well cross after dealing with the fares from the Commonwealth Games, the difficulty in finding lodging — and the difficulty in staying with even people we like for three solid weeks, and the Referendum vote, it seems a poor idea. Visiting a country whilst it grapples with its place in the UK is the equivalent of going to visit friends while they’re trying to decide if they want a divorce – and some days they’re feeling acrimonious, while other days, they’re positively nostalgic and maudlin… and all the neighbors and relatives have stopped by to say their piece for or against. Oh, no. No, thank you. Scotland, our best to you as you do your housekeeping; we’ll catch you later in the Spring.

Which leaves us kind of at a loose end for vacationing. We’re thinking of grabbing a map and taking a road trip — a short one. We’ve got friends in the Midwest and on the East Coast whom we need to see – when they’re not having hurricanes – and we also have friends in the Canadian prairies we’d like to see. Decisions, decisions! Have map, will travel, though – and we’re looking forward to something completely new.

Until then, enjoy these summer days. Hope this is the loveliest day yet.

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In Retrospect – Bagels, ALA, Mongolian Food

Because looking back across the years is A Thing around here, we give you a short video of D. making raisin bagels. Five years ago today, this is what we were doing with our afternoon. (We’ve since decided that poking a hole and stretching the bagel is a better method – but, hey, we were just getting started way back then!) Lately, the siren call of poured fondant is sounding again, and T’s thinking of re-imagining a recipe for Strawberry/Blueberry cheesecake. But, since there are peaches in the house, this might have to wait…

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wishiwerebaking/3663172988/ is the video as hosted on Flickr.

Four years ago today, we were at the American Library Association, in Washington, D.C. for T. to receive an award (the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, for Mare’s War). This reminds us of the hundreds of people, and the ease with which we got lost, wandering around the huge conference center. This year, the ALA is in a massive conference center and hotel in Las Vegas… whoever had the idea that people should flock to the Nevada desert in the middle June… should rethink. Next year the ALA Annual meeting is in SF, and T. has decided that sounds much more reasonable.

ALA 2010 007

Three years ago, we were in Glasgow, wondering about the Glaswegian version of Mongolian food (and this restaurant’s choice in matchbooks). We’d visited the restaurant during a break before performing Pirates of Penzance (which we blogged about at the time and again back in January, when we found the video footage of the performance).

Khublai Kahn Restaurant 10

And today, we’re enjoying the break in the heat, here in California. Even at D’s office, which tends to be twenty degrees warmer than at home, it’s a balmy 25°C/77°F, and at the house it’s 20°C/68°F. The weather has remained mild and breezy for days now, which is really helping the soil to stay moist during our infrequent watering. The strawberries are producing, and the asparagus is …deciding that maybe it will come out of hibernation. Maybe. T. is working on a novel revision, D. is tinkering with things at work (and waiting for his final batch of papers for a course he’s teaching), and life is just moving along. Our worm bins are coming along nicely, we’ve solved the mystery of our birdseed being scattered in piles on the patio (the Blue Jays take turns tipping over the feeder! Politely! We have such odd wildlife around here. Oh. And we’ve been gifted with a mockingbird as well. Nothing like hearing him at 4:30 a.m., staring to greet the dawn with the sound of a cell phone), and in the garden the gourds and squash are limping along as gardens do in their first year (the soil really is horrible, having been neglected for so many years). Ivy is trying to grow through the lawn with the clover…

Just another typically disorganized summer at the Hobbiton. And, how are you?

-D & T

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In Retrospect – Mid-June Crossroads

Apparently June 23rd is a big travel day for us. No idea why (maybe the lengthening summer days, ending with Solstice), but we’ve tended to bounce around towards the end of June over the past few years. (The small voices in our heads point out that, well, we’ve just plain bounced around. Ahem.)

When we travel, though, we like to try to capture something interesting about the pit-stops along the way. Airports are the perfect crossroads, the perfect jumping-off places to any given city. Filled with slightly unremarkable art exhibits and city information, they give the traveler a chance to find where they are, and what’s unique about it, before they wander off again. Sometimes, the traveler is a little less… left of center than average, and then they end up finding pretty much only the “weird” in any place, instead of what’s carefully being pointed out… For instance, in Glasgow, “interesting” took on a whole new level one day, because, we found Good Housekeeping. Who knew Michelle Obama would be on the cover of a Good Housekeeping magazine in another country? Why does anyone care? Why do they even have Good Housekeeping outside the U.S.? Good Flatkeeping just doesn’t have the same ring…? (Additionally, why are there still even magazines with titles referring to keeping house?! Unless they put back Heloise Hints, there’s nothing about housekeeping even in there. But, we digress…)

Miami counts as a very brief stop in our “crossroad” travels in June, as the first thing we did when we got out of the airplane was to arrange tickets to leave. Truly, coming from Scotland and arriving in Miami, in June, to the boiled-flannel heat and humidity was the worst idea, ever. We have no idea how the Scots, who reportedly love to vacation in Florida, can do it – it’s such an enormous and awful weather change. And yet, most Scottish folk we met told us that they have been to or plan to visit Florida – and a large number of them own condos there. Not something we and our humidity-avoiding selves could do, no.

A June afternoon in Schiphol is just … an ordinary, passing-through, although we haven’t been there in many, many years. We used to fly KLM every time we went to Europe, even tried to save up our frequent flier miles, but, when we hadn’t flown in awhile … they expired our miles. We tried to phone, and would have had to pay a per-minute charge to even tell them why they’d lost our business…! KLM gives new meaning to the idea of customer service. :|

These final shots are from …Detroit. Do we even remember that we passed through Detroit, once upon a time? When? Why? You know, it’s very bad when you vaguely remember the place, and only really remember it because of some survey they asked for us to take (yeah – ask people survey questions when they’re jet-lagged. That’ll be coherent). If not for the pictures, we’d not even have a clue that we’d been there. Sorry, Michigan. We’ll have to give you a better viewing at some point, outside of a crowded airport.

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“…well, it tastes like peanut butter. But, it isn’t sweet.”

Portland 057

Happy Summer – we ARE still alive, despite the two month lapse that somehow happened. Our roses have bloomed now three times since the season turned – and while this rose is safely in the Portland Rose Garden, we’re getting lovely-smelling ones that look nothing like it (ours are more peach shading to pink edges than white). We’d like to point out that this one is too beautiful to look real anyway.

It’s been now a year and three months since we changed the way we eat. Not a diet, not a “movement” or a “challenge;” not “clean eating” or “Paleo” or anything else with a title and achievable goals except, “maybe we shouldn’t eat ourselves into an early grave, you think?” These things are easier to leap onto when you’re feeling like sick, and easier to become zealous and self-righteous about when you look like runway models. (Looking at you, annoying celebrities writing cookbooks when you clearly don’t eat.) The funny thing is that, now that visible results are achieved — you really can’t lose three or four stone and a few sizes without someone noticing — people are eager to eat with us. We’re receiving a lot of invitations… because apparently, we look good enough to where eating in public is now safe?

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Unfortunately, most of what we’re offered, we don’t eat. Not never-ever, because we do enjoy moderate amounts of everything – but generally T., at least, since she’s most apt to keel over genetically, plays it super-super-SUPER safe and says “no, thank you.”

Pub grub? Is mostly out. Pancakes? Not even a stack of super-granola-crunchy-whole-wheat. Mac and cheese cupcakes, even the Gouda ones – definitely out (and let’s take a moment to shake our heads at … mac and cheese cupcakes. Because EVERYTHING can be made into cupcakes and NEEDS TO BE. Not). Balanced atop the stunning pile of things which we don’t, as vegetarians, eat anyway, with our food …weirdness, we’ve become the Unfun People again. Which is fine. T., at least, is generally not fun anyway, she’s cranky, and she likes it like that. But how funny that for a moment, at least, we must have looked more fun than usual. Or else, maybe the invitations correspond with it being summer? Yeah… that sounds reasonable and less paranoid. Summer. *cough* Not suspicious of anyone’s judgment here at all.

Happily, some of the people who don’t live in our heads have become helpful in us achieving our goals in eating differently. COSTCO – generally supremely indifferent to anything but providing massive boxes of Halloween candy months before the stupid holiday and muffins the size of your head – now sells our almond flour. Smaller bags than we used to order from the company in the Midwest (who helpfully opened a California store, too), but still! Even more convenience! And, if you haven’t noticed, Smuckers has jams that are both Low Sugar – 50% less – AND sweetened with Truvia AND sweetened with Splenda. T. is confident that the raspberry one is just copying the flavor of red Kool Aid for fun (how is it that everything raspberry tastes artificial? Even freeze-dried raspberries tastes suspiciously like Kool Aid… which leaves you to wonder more about Kool Aid, really, than raspberries), but wow — suddenly, other people seem to be sharing our delusion that bleached everything/high fructose corn syrup/sugar not be super awesome all the time. Imagine.

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So, Summer’s been dancing along delightfully, for the most part – we’re really grateful to live in a fogbank much of the time, and are surprised to waken mornings when we can actually see the street below our house. Despite the moderate heat, T. has killed several pots of greens and poppies so far, which means it was too exposed on the deck when she started, and the idea of winter gardening is looking more and more attractive (although the news continues to warn of the approaching El Niño cycle… ::sigh:: SOME OF US cannot win.) One superior success for this summer so far has been our little worm farm. The disturbingly large, red and burly worms in our little bin have been eating egg shells, tea bags and every vegetable matter but onions and citrus peels (too acidic) and have provided us with a horrible smelling but really nutritious “worm tea.” Our plants (that T. hasn’t yet killed, anyway) are very happy, and we’re really hopeful to continue to enrich this HIDEOUS soil in this area.

Every summer (winter, autumn, spring) day needs treats – little things that you can eat with one hand, while with the other you pull weeds around your blueberry bush which isn’t going to produce this year (unlikely) or water confused and shock transplanted strawberries (and beg the green ones to redden up) or wave away ginormous flying insects and wonder why outdoors is so…full of… things on which to inhale and choke (DAILY). T. has been cheerfully churning out kitchen faves, perfecting her pastries, and altogether enjoying herself because D. is too busy hating the stacks of papers he’s grading to interrupt her in the kitchen/save her from the kitchen. T’s actually a tiny bit reluctant in her baking, because D. has always been the kitchen king, and his love of things with noisy engines and buttons and blades sort of overshadows T’s hesitant forays into the culinary world. But, now that D.’s even been too busy to feed the ravening hordes at his office, he recently swiped a few of her cookies to hand around. She was… okay, more than a little worried.

T: “No, you can’t take those. The recipe is still In Tweak. (An official state, wherein notes are scribbled in the margins of spattered pieces of paper then shoved into random kitchen drawers and utterly lost.)”

D: “It’s just a couple for These Guys From This Trailer And Those Guys There, and one of them is even gluten intolerant. He’s allergic to everything. He’ll be fine.”

T:“…But…”

Low-Carb Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies 3

T. moped about for days, when one of the guys said of her cookies just tasted like… peanut butter.

You may have noticed that we mentioned “pastries” a few lines back. Amusingly, we eat more pies, shortcakes, cookies, pastries, fats, nuts, and eggs and all than we EVER did before – happily. It’s not that we don’t eat treats, but we eat treats WE make, and we really scrutinize ingredients, and there’s a lot of Tweak. Well, over time… our tastes have changed. Without noticing, because we eat so much less sugar, we don’t need things as sweet. Which means that occasionally? Our cookies are … apparently not really sweet to people.

Which T. found bewildering.

T: “But, there’s more than peanut butter in there. There’s sweetener. There’s jam in those. Regular jam, with regular sugar. You gave him the regular ones, not the Truvia ones, right? Just jam. You can’t make blackberries not sweet.”

D: “Well, he only said — “

T: “I mean, it’s fruit. Fruit is automatically sweet. What does he mean, it’s not sweet. They’re COOKIES. Did you tell him they were vegan? Is that it? People are always so hostile to vegans.”

D: “Oh, were these vegan? Huh. Well, anyway, he said — “

T: “It’s YOUR fault. I told you those cookies weren’t ready! Now nobody likes my food.”

Fortunately, D. knew better than to pursue conversation with the irrational. Finding lemon scones on the counter some days later, he ganked a half dozen for the ravening hordes which were cherished and passed around and hoarded and everyone said very sweet things about a professional baking career, and “best scones EVER IN THE WORLD,” so some of our egos are finally somewhat mollified. *cough* Until next time.

Low-Carb Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies 1

Have a cookie. No, HAVE ONE. What, you think I can’t tell you hate it? What? Oh, you’re allergic to peanut butter? …oh. No. I’m not trying to kill you. No, really, it’s fine. We can just sit here and watch the grass grow and have water. Oh, look, a squirrel…”

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Around and About

It’s really been awhile since we’ve posted anything, and it’s not because we haven’t been up to anything, either. No excuse, really, other than life rolling by, without even pulling the pictures from the cameras. Well, D. finally got around to going through all 1,200+ photos he’d been dragging his feet on working through, and we can finally tell you a bit about the past few weeks (with pictures).

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Two weeks ago, on the way home from church, we happened to see a bunch of sailboats coming up the bay. So of course we had to go grab the big camera & hope to catch them before they were out of sight. We present to you: sailboats with oil tanks. Thank you.

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Last weekend we were in Portland, visiting our friends N&K (who came to visit with us in Scotland, and whom we visited when they lived in Holland). All of you other friends: this is a hint to travel to interesting places. Like, for example, places with pretty volcanoes in the distance.

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Of course, Portland is very proud of being weird. Hence this guy, geared up for the naked bike ride (we don’t know why he’s clothed, no – but we’re kind of glad he didn’t embrace the “naked” in the “naked bike ride”).

Portland has lots of interesting architecture, strange but nice people, and is difficult to negotiate with a car. Apparently their public transit is quite good, though. It was Fleet Week, so there were sailors; there was a rose parade; we saw waterfalls. It was a very busy weekend!

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Also: there were lamprey.

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-D & T

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Raspberry chocolate chips

Raspberry Chocolate Bar 1

…well, they were supposed to be raspberry chocolate chips. Somehow, they never got to the “chipped” stage. They were nibbled and tasted and outright hoarded, and then, they disappeared into rich, chocolate cookies – there was no “chip” about them. But, they started out life as a ginormous hunk of baking chocolate.

We’ve always tried to eat seasonally, which for us means not splurging and buying strawberries or tomatoes or whatnot in the middle of winter. When a season is over, it’s over — there’s not much sense buying something which is three times as expensive as usual and tastes horrible anyway. There’s always frozen and canned stuff to fall back on, especially with things like berries. T stocked up on frozen, but decided to see if she could do something with freeze dried. Honeyville claims that their freeze dried fruit, hydrated, tastes fresh. Not to do a commercial, but it’s surprisingly close, and these were on sale. T. decided to experiment. (As usual.)

Raspberry Chocolate Bar 2Raspberry Chocolate Bar 4

We used our lovely 1940′s double-boiler – and this thing heats up FAST. As soon as the water boils in the lower pot, be wary. These aluminum double boilers have to be taken off of the heat almost IMMEDIATELY, or your chocolate will seize. Word to the wise there!

After adding a third cup of sweetener and some very hasty stirring, our chocolate forgave us for being too warm, and got glossy and pretty – so we dumped in a load of very dry and crunchy, freeze dried fruit. And it confused the chocolate entirely. T. stirred and stirred the mixture, and then we dumped it out to set.

And, it wouldn’t set.

And, it wouldn’t set.

And, even an hour later, it wasn’t even remotely firming up, and T. threw up her hands and said, “So, you think I could just stir this into cookie dough, and it’d be all right?”

Raspberry Chocolate Bar 5Raspberry Chocolate Bar 9

And, then, she wandered off to bed, and forgot she’d set it on the dining room table, until the following morning after breakfast… when she went in to put it away…

And it was solid. Lumpy, and not really as well-tempered and shiny and good-looking as store-bought chocolate, but it was done. The flavor was semi-sweet, and the raspberries added a sharp, tart-sweet and tasty note.

They never ended up being used for their original purpose, but it was a good reminder of how easy it is to make one’s own chocolate bars… you can control everything going in – how sweet it is, if it has peppercorns, nuts, or coconut flakes, if it’s got coconut milk, dairy cream, or no milk at all… sometimes, it’s just a lot easier to do it yourself. Meanwhile, we’ll be looking for what other trouble we can get into…

Posted in Baking, California, Food, Life | 1 Comment