November 5, In Retrospect

Vallejo 94

November 5 is a strange day, in Retrospect. In the UK, it’s Guy Fawkes Night, which means that pretty much anybody with something to burn or explode is out, burning or exploding. Here in California, though, it’s pretty tame, as evinced by the picture of the California hills (2012), which D. took from the car on the way back from a Novato. He took this shot to demonstrate how utterly boring his drive there was. Notice that there’s a small flock of sheep upon the hill. It was quite reminiscent of Scotland, actually.


Hayford Mills 160

In 2011, we were living in Hayford Mills / Cambusbarron, outside of Stirling. It was a Saturday, and still a teensy bit sunny, so of course we decided to take advantage of the weather and read outside on the porch. You can see how bright and sunny things are – and also how much insulation was needed to manage being outside!


Cranberry Orange Bread 3

In 2010 we apparently we had a party of some sort, involving tootsie rolls, tea, and cranberry-orange bread. This was probably in preparation for going out to see fireworks.

Glasgow Fireworks 2010 012010 Fireworks

And, in 2009 we also went out to see fireworks, down near the People’s Palace, from a bridge over the River Clyde.

Glasgow Fireworks 2009 D 822009 Fireworks
Glasgow Fireworks 2009 D 842009 Fireworks
Glasgow Fireworks 2009 D 772009 Fireworks

Of course, in 2008 we got our first real taste of Guy Fawkes Night by watching the neighborhood hooligans burn things, when we lived on Kent Road. Below is a shot of a mattress and a shopping cart / trolley being burned … on the grass, in the neighborhood park.

2008 Guy Fawkes 4Because mattresses and shopping carts need to be burned, apparently.

This November 5 we’ll be … not burning anything, nor watching any fireworks. Perhaps we’ll make some cranberry-orange bread, though, and sit upon the deck, in the sunshine, wrapped up in blankets.

-D & T

Posted in In Retrospect | Leave a comment

Shadow Shot Sunday

Last weekend we spent some time up at Leoni Meadows, north of Sacramento. After the fog burned off, there were some great opportunities for pictures in the incredibly bright sunshine.

Leoni Meadows 32
Lamb’s Ear growing by the train tracks.
Leoni Meadows 27
D’s shadow on the tracks.
Leoni Meadows 8
D’s shadow in front of the lodge.

It was a beautiful, if chilly, weekend.

-D

Posted in California, Photography, Shadow Shot Sunday | Leave a comment

Ambling into Autumn

Skyway Drive 256

Unsettled weather, cooler nights, random thunderstorms and finally coaxing a few flowers out of the bedraggled looking nasturtiums in the backyard: this is how we know it’s autumn. Oh, and the calendar says so. Otherwise, it’s still bright, warm and sunny as ever. The leaves are coloring up and falling, and we see this as a hopeful sign.

Oh, and the turkeys are still wandering … this isn’t really a sign of autumn so much as a sign of them finding ripe olives, seed pods, and other things they can dig up, scratch out, leap up for, and otherwise desecrate everyone’s yards over. It’s a hard job, but someone has to be the high-pitched barking, early morning wandering, “threatening” car-chasing, feather-ruffling and intimidating neighborhood watch.

We’ve been quiet these last few weeks, but things are rolling along. D’s been THRILLED TO BITS to have secured a contract for Thing 1 at his company. This is a classic example of how we get our friends in Scotland to visit us: we get them contract work here so that they can fly out to their “overseas office” from time to time. (Regardless of the paintings the Cube Dwellers leave on their cubicle walls, they don’t program video games at D’s office. They’re just kind of …addicted to Mario. And Pokémon, apparently. And doodlings with Dry Erase markers when they should be working. This may have been the morning after they got the new espresso machine…) D will be glad with the legal paperwork is all figured out (grrr) and Thing 1 is looking forward to popping in when the weather is at its worst in Glasgow. We’re hoping to have some rain to offer him in California, but …well, it’ll be warmer rain, whatever the case.

Vacaville 86

As you know T has been trying to beat a deadline all summer (she lost – the baby came early, so her editor went on maternity leave unexpectedly). She’s also been attempting to organize a conference on diversity in children’s literature, and has spent the last month twitching under increasingly rising levels of anxiety. She walks around muttering comments like “how do I get roped into these things?” and “I will NEVER do this again.” She harasses sub-committees and micro-manages, she has accumulated boxes upon boxes of swag from publishers in the entryway, she worries over gift baskets, keynote speakers and generally makes a pest of herself to all involved, but everyone WILL have a good conference, or someone will bleed. Fortunately, for all, the angst ends the second week of October, as T’s desk is metaphorically cleared again. For however long that lasts. (Until the January deadline for the next novel. Eek.)

Vacaville 87

D., meanwhile, is a third of the way through teaching his class this semester, and he’s fortunately remarkably calm this time around (not team-teaching will do that for you). He coaxed T. out to paint some pottery in the relaxing quiet (once the hen party finished up) of a Benicia art center, and we’re now enjoying our little coffee pot and ginormous mug. Many more will come to join that one – there’s nothing like a full liter of tea all at once! He’s enjoying all the cookbooks and kitchen paraphernalia received for his birthday (and the lovely herb planter full of growing things), and the cooling temperatures are at last tempting us back into the kitchen.

Which leads to one of our most recent purchases (aside from the necessary purchase of The Fridge of Fabulousness which replaces the 1990’s second-hand fridge we had that gave up the ghost in a puddle of sticky oil and water last month): a doughnut pan.

(Point of interest: To us, doughnuts are the proper spelling, and donuts are …some self-stable, powdered sugar abomination on a grocery shelf. No one else says so, and it’s ridiculous, but why else are there two spellings except to allow us to mock one? That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.) The doughnut pan purchase is, like so many things, our friend Jac’s fault. She got a couple of pans last year, and we watched with interest as she tried vegan and non-vegan recipes in them, with varying success. And then, she went mad and pointed out a TON of recipes all over the web. And T. kept saying, “We do NOT need a doughnut pan. If we had one, then we’d eat doughnuts.

This observation seems to have some merit.

Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts

    Skyway Drive 251
  • 1¼ cups almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a doughnut pan (6 regular sized donuts) with cooking spray. In a food processor, pulse together almond flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs, ¼ cup of melted butter, honey, and vanilla extract. You want all ingredients to be smoothly blended together – and prepare for them to be super, SUPER sticky. Divide batter into prepared doughnut pan (and smooth them out with wet fingers). Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let doughnuts cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges and then remove gently from pan.

Skyway Drive 258

NB: OBVIOUSLY, we diverted from this plan at the last minute because who would we be without totally skiving off and deciding to do our own thing? First, we used Truvia sweetener – and somehow T. only used a couple of tablespoons, thinking that it might be too sweet. It…wasn’t. Also, the recipe calls for honey for a reason. Two sugars help to keep a pastry moist and chewy because science. Next time, perhaps some of us might follow the recipe here. (*cough*)

Next deviation: we sliced a peeled apple into rings, filled each of the doughnut spaces halfway, pressed in an apple ring, and then filled in the rest of the batter. If you’re going to have cinnamon, you may as well have apples, no? Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Pink Lady bake up nicely.

For the topping, pour melted butter butter into a flat bottomed bowl. Combine sugar and cinnamon in another flat-bottomed bowl. Dip your warm donuts in butter then in cinnamon/sugar mixture.

As you can see, we didn’t bother with the cinnamon-sugaring, either. Because we feared the thick batter would make a crumbly, dry doughnut, we whipped up a quick creamed-cheese-cinnamon frosting. The apple actually came to the rescue — adding sweetness, moisture, and overall tastiness to an experimental treat. A lot of baked doughnuts rely on the frosting – and neither T. nor D. are huge frosting people – so this was a gamble that paid off well with a mildly sweet, you-could-eat-it-for-breakfast doughnut. Further Fiddling (veganizing as well) with the basic recipe to follow!

Skyway Drive 259

Happy October.

Posted in Arts & Crafts, Artsy Things, Baking, California, Food, Life, Recipe | 3 Comments

And so, this morning…

To Scotland, however you should find yourself, this morning:

Oh, the many faces you showed us in our five years of living with you, Scotland – quirky, bloodyminded, crazed, strange, silly, ferocious, friendly, angry, vivid, cautious, different.

Kilsyth 24

Town ride, Kilsyth.

Stirling 264

A Shopping Fool, Stirling

IMG_8046

Hens night oot! Bishopton

Stirling 219

Springtime STYLIN’ in Stirling.

Alec's 3rd Birthday 079

New friends, Quayside, Glasgow

Charing Cross 418

Friendly adversaries, Charing Cross.

Alec's 3rd Birthday 108

Old friends, Quayside

Uisge Beatha 01

Sassy. West End, Glasgow.

IMG_9395

Silly…Largs.

IMG_7927

Sweet. Bishopton.

Each face is you, and what makes you, you.

And, on this first morning, when neighbors step out to the newsagent together, and eyes meet over coffee, when the endless news reports are spilling through the airways, we think of lovely, complex, vital you, and with your wise poet, we say:

The Morning After

Scotland, September 19th, 2014

Let none wake despondent: one way
or another we have talked plainly,
tested ourselves, weighed up the sum
of our knowing, ta’en tent o scholars,
checked the balance sheet of risk and
fearlessness, of wisdom and of folly.

It’s those unseen things that bind us,
not flag or battle-weary turf or tartan.
There are dragons to slay whatever happens:
poverty, false pride, snobbery, sectarian
schisms still hovering. But there’s
nothing broken that’s not repairable.

Read the whole of the poem by Christine De Luca at the Scottish Poetry Library, or listen to new voters recite it below.

To this varied and rich — and yes, freezing cold, gray, and hard-to-live-in-for-sun-hungry-Californians nation, today we say you have indeed dragons yet to slay, no matter what – regardless of what must be staggering disappointment for some, we Americans, accustomed to bitterly picking up and going on as well, salute you. You have done what we cannot – you have galvanized voices, and made people care. 97% voter registration throughout the country is AMAZING. Look at you! Now that your nation is awake and engaged — you have new eyes open, and new voices speaking and new hearts boasting of courage. We fully expect you to embrace the democratic Utopia America has not as yet – and may never – achieve.

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit


Charing Cross 546

Good on ya, Scotland, no matter what.

Posted in Glasgow, Life | Leave a comment

Dear, beloved Scotland,

Culzean 094

…thinking of you this week.

Posted in Glasgow | Leave a comment

“They looked up, and twenty years had passed.”

Kent Road Flower 24

This is a week for remembering.

Twenty years ago today, we reached the end of one story, and began another.

The previous story began when T. was a college senior, avoiding 8 o’clock and a very BOOMING-VOICED PROFESSOR who just thought he was the Universe’s ultimate gift and knew it all. T. couldn’t stand his homophobic, misogynistic self (perhaps he wasn’t truly homophobic and misogynistic, but Walt Whitman certainly seemed to bring it out of him…), so though her usual habit was to be on the front row of everything (a holdover from having squinted her way through three years of school before anyone noticed she needed glasses), she slunk to the back in self-defense – the back where Mr. Man in Black, a seriously Goth/shaved hair/eyeliner/myriad earrings/gravelly morning voice wise-guy type sat with his feet propped on the desk in front of him. Despite being so far away from said professor, he would, nevertheless, Hold Forth from the very back row – while the whole class turned and craned and looked at him. So, while T was avoiding the professor and his big, stupid voice, she had Mr. Man next to her, assertively booming up toward the front, and attracting everyone’s attention.

She was not happy.

The professor really was a piece of work, and as a result of the myriad arguments, and other less academic concerns (READ: Eight A.M. when one is nineteen is REALLY early. Some of us love our sleep) Mr. Man frequently absented himself from those 8 a.m. classes fairly regularly. Being brilliant, however, it didn’t matter, he was still making the grades. (Also, the professor had taught at Oxford, and the British educational system is structured so that professors only rarely show up to teach – they have lecturers for that; professors research. So, our professor – minus his lecturer counterpart – was missing class about as often, too – it was really insane that quarter. Anyway.) Once Professor Blowhard showed up and announced an exam, through sheer chance (yeah, right) T ran into Mr. Man and advised him the impending threat to his grades. He wrote his number down (in eyeliner) and suggested she phone him and he could pick up her notes. …and, of course, D. and T. ended up chatting and chatting and ignoring all other responsibilities to chat some more.

Awww.

A year and a half of chatting, and D and T decided not to end the conversation. And, so, twenty years ago, on a Tuesday afternoon in a skateboard park, with a pop bottle tab for a ring, D&T promised to keep talking… and then, went back to work. Because, bills, people. No one who gets married in their barely twenties actually has, you know, money.

To celebrate the sweeping romance of those twenty years, on Monday, they went to the endocrinologist. As one does. Because, lab tests and appointments wait for no man.

Kent Road Flower 20

Okay, so we’re not the most romantic people ev-ah, but honestly? There’s nothing intrinsically romantic about relationships. They’re work. Even one’s relationships with one’s favorite shoes are work – you polish them, you keep them out of mud and water, you re-sole and re-heel as necessary. In return, the shoes look nice on you; they keep their grip on the pavement, they ornament your steps. It’s a relationship, of sorts. There’s nothing inherently fuzzy or starry-eyed and sparkly about not slamming a door or kicking someone in the shins, when you feel they could so richly benefit from this behavior (and, doing so would so richly enhance your feelings). There is nothing effervescent about explaining something to someone who doesn’t get you, in unloading the dishwasher when someone said they’d do it, and doesn’t, in wiping up after someone else cooks, and cleaning the shower after someone is sick in it (oh, one memorable winter in Glasgow …ugh. Let’s draw a veil). Sometimes, not even the love that you have nurtured is enough. Sometimes, a relationship is all only bloody-minded, jaw-clamped, relentlessly civil, grimly optimistic… work.

Fortunately, if you keep chatting, it all gets easier. Listening, more than speaking. Opening hearts, and not just ears.

Twenty years. Twenty – when some of our friends didn’t even make it to ten. My God, we have been blessed. Thank you.

?

Posted in In Retrospect, Life, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“…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
Posted in California, Life | Leave a comment

Dear Future Students of D…

digital citizen

…heads up, please. Thank you.)

(via Get Educated.

Posted in Ethics, Law, Life | Leave a comment

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.

Skyway Drive 243

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.

Skyway Drive 238

(…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.

0011

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.

Skyway Drive 223

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.

Skyway Drive 229

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.)

Posted in California, Critters, Life | 1 Comment