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Little things [27 Apr 2015|04:44pm]
I have found my missing oven glove, or gauntlet. It was in the cutlery drawer. In the front of the cutlery drawer. where I must necessarily have seen it half a dozen times a day, for all the week that it was missing. Where I must almost certainly have moved it around, scrabbling for the spoons beneath. Hey-ho. Very well, then. Duly noted.

The World's Tinest Rose(tm) has all unexpectedly put out two of the World's Tiniest Buds. Seriously, people, this thing was the size of a matchstick when I planted it last year; it's still smaller than a coffee mug, despite growing gangbusters this season. And now it's planning to flower. Hee. (We have no idea what colour it will bloom, let alone what variety it is. And we seriously didn't think it was old enough to be interested in sex.)

It was eighty-four degrees around here, when I checked half an hour ago. Eighty-four! That's a lot, in old money. In April. I am planting chilli peppers in the shade. Also I was unaccountably depressed this morning - actually, it's not unaccountable at all: I have lost my writing-mojo almost entirely, an unaccountable loss that makes me accountably depressed - but then I walked out of the library and oh, it was nice. I know there's a drought and everything, and we are doing our fair amount of worrying, but I'm still not going to curse the sunshine.

Like my wrists are really sore today, and I'm fairly sure that's an RSI flare-up on account of cycling (it can't be on account of working: see above, under mojo, absence of), but I'm not going to curse the bike. Or avoid it; my hands will just have to get used to stiff tyres and no suspension on jolty-bad roads.

Dinner tonight will be shrimp and asparagus on linguine, with a cool spinach-and-tomato salad on the side. Both with the same lemon garlic dressing, and basil leaves strewn about.
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Does a kale still fall in the forest, if there's no one around to eat it? [26 Apr 2015|05:09pm]
"Think, when we speak of kales, that you see them planting their proud roots i'the receiving earth..."

See this cruciferous gentleman?


All one plant. And we have six of them.


See? Told you. All one plant.


D'you think the council will still take him away...?
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Lost, stolen or strayed [26 Apr 2015|02:53pm]
It has been more than a week now since I last saw one of my oven gauntlets. I'm not quite sure which it is that's missing; "the other one" is an accurate but not a wholly useful descriptor. As witness, it has failed so far to lead to the discovery of the absent glove. It's very strange.

This morning I had a brief moment of inspiration, which led to a long walk which added almost nothing to my thinking, but did lead me via various merchants of garden supplies. What's the common or garden variety of window shopping, where no windows are involved? (They have six-foot-high tomato cages, made of very sturdy wire. I want one of those for my Chinese long beans - if the beans survive the sun. They're only six inches high at the moment, and it would look a little like overkill. Why does no one ever speak of underkill?)
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Rant, the expulsion of steam for the use of [25 Apr 2015|03:14pm]
As you may have gathered, I have quite a number of cookbooks. So many, indeed, that I sometimes* forget what recipe came out of which book. [Eat Your Books is a great help in this - but so far they've indexed less than half my collection, so...]

Sometimes**, however, I do remember which book I saw a recipe in. As, f'rexample, today. I had a steamed blueberry pudding in mind, and I knew just where to find it.

Until I opened the book, at the back, and consulted the index.

It's a steamed blueberry pudding. Is it under B for Blueberry? It is not. Is it under P for Pudding? It is not. Is it under S for Steamed? It is not.

It is under M. For Marion Carter's Steamed Blueberry Pudding.

Permission to scream, ma'am?

Relatedly, I also have an Indian cookbook where every dish is titled in Urdu and in Urdu alone (most of 'em I can work out on my fingers - "Murgh Methi Malai: okay, Murgh is chicken and Methi is fenugreek, so..." but Palak Chole? Not a clue, until I read the ingredients list), and the book offers no index at all, in any language whatsoever. I ... don't use that book much.

People. Cookbook-making people. Cooks need indices, and a tiny hint of common sense is also an advantage.


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It's quite easy, being green [24 Apr 2015|04:28pm]
Picture alert: here be pictures. Featuring greenstuff.

First, here be my bike, in its natural habitat (outside the library, since you ask, complete with yarnbombed bike rack and everything):


Aaaand here is a picture of the naanchos I fed people on Wednesday (naanchos, people: crisped-up triangles of naan bread, slathered with spicy ground lamb and cilantro chutney and mango salsa and yoghurt):


And here, by all that's holy, is my latest oh-good-grief-why-haven't-I-been-doing-this-forever: the stump of the last bunch of celery, resprouted in a simple bowl of water:


Stick it in the water, leave it alone. After a week, this is what I have already:

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I thought the only lonely place was on the moon [24 Apr 2015|04:00pm]
So Alan Rickman got married, relatively recently - but they've actually been together for fifty years.

Fifty years, people.

Alan Rickman is only thirteen years older than me. We were as it were children together, or at least at the same time. We're practically coeval.

This is trying to tell me something about the passage of time that I think I really do not want to hear. La, la, la.

(But hey: does that mean I get another forty-seven years with Karen? That would make me, what, 103. That sounds only fair.)
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"We have such gentle Sundays" [19 Apr 2015|05:42pm]
Today has been entirely domestic in its nature, to the point where I haven't even had time to ride m'bike.

By close of play tonight, I shall have:

Shovelled a load of corporation compost into the car, spread it and dug the whole bed over;
Planted out a dozen new herbs & veggies;
Run a load of laundry through washer and dryer;
Emptied, filled and run the dishwasher;
Watered everything in the garden, mostly with greywater hauled from the house;
Fed the roses and the citrus;
Yanked out more bermudagrass than I really want to think about, because we have a lawnful and I am losing this war by yards, while I win individual battles by inches;
Mixed, risen, shaped and baked a tray of sesame seed buns;
Smoked a joint of pork on the barbie;
Made a pot of beans;
Shopped twice;
Fed cats, wife and turtles.

There may be more that I am disremembering; there may be more that hasn't happened yet. Nevertheless. It's been a day.
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A gardening journal is another thing I'd never keep up [19 Apr 2015|01:15pm]
I have dug over the whole damn vegetable patch, and our local mockingbird is - I am sure - duly grateful. He is patrolling the turned earth, picking out bugs or seeds or whatever it is that mockingbirds eat.

I hope it's not worms, or he'll starve. It is still weird to my English sensibility that I can dig over sixty-four feet of garden soil and not see a single earthworm. I should probably import them.

In other news, digging is hard on a bad back. In honesty, I should probably have double-dug; but see above under "back, bad", for the subsoil here is like concrete. One spade's-depth is frankly as much as I can manage, this year. Maybe next year, after another couple of seasons'-worth of plants have tried to root in it? Maybe.

Come to think, that would be another reason to import earthworms. They might take it on. Oof.

(I believe there are machines that one can hire - but it's only eight foot square, and I am opposed to mechanical solutions to problems that lie entirely within the human compass. If I were making over the whole garden, I'd rotovate first thing - but no, this has to be spadework. Eventually. Not today.)
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Il faut cultiver notre jardin [19 Apr 2015|11:20am]
Yesterday morning was the Charles St Gardens plant sale. This is my third year, so I guess I'm a regular now. Came home with tomatoes and peppers (of course!), and a tomatillo and a butternut and holy basil and and and.

Before we went to the sale, I cleared vegetable bed #2 of finished fava beans and redundant cabbages. In the afternoon I ran away (or rather cycled away, obviously*) because the gardener was coming with his big machines to mow lawns and so forth, and I am that breed of Englishman that is terminally embarrassed by any contact with people we pay to do work for us (I am grateful daily to have grown up outside the era of servants); but I spent an hour out there later, digging bermudagrass out of the empty bed.

This morning I degrassed and fed the roses, and then we made a run to the dump for corporation compost (I love Sunnyvale: they take our garden waste away, and turn it into compost, and give that back to us for free), which I am now going to mix judiciously with my own compost and the vile clay that is our native soil, and dig the whole bed over before I get to planting out this evening. While I barbecue a hunk o' pork, because that's the other thing I didn't do yesterday, because of running away.

I really, really like working in the garden, when I do it. What baffles me is why I don't do it every day, or most days, or nearly enough, or or. I don't think I'm idle, but I continue to be a mystery to myself.

Right now, though, I am a mystery who needs another cup of coffee before digging.

*Tho' I very nearly typed "bicycled" there, because that's what Americans say; sometimes I have to actively remember that I'm British.
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Blatant exhibitionism [17 Apr 2015|06:15pm]
The problem, the outrage, the appalling injustice of my new bike? Is that it steals all my steps. My cycling registers barely at all on my Fitbit (tho' Karen gets plenty of credit for hers). All the while I am becoming lean & fit & healthy, all my friends will be condemning me as a couch potato, and I shall have no answer.

Still: for those of you who haven't seen it over on Facebook, here it is, courtesy - if that's the word - of m'wife:


- and here is a box of duck eggs, from the farmers' market. Aren't they pretty? I have no idea why they come out mottled in these monochrome tones, whether that's breed or diet or what; but whatever they're doing, those ducks, I think they should go on doing it:

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Toys, new, Chaz for the playing with [17 Apr 2015|11:30am]
I had forsworn and quite forgone riding my bike to the library of a morning, purely because a two-mile walk gives me space and time to think, where a two-mile bike ride calls for concentration (did you know they drive on the wrong side of the road here? still? despite my having pointed it out several times?). Ever since we had dogs, back in my teenage living-at-home times (they were my sisters' dogs, and it was somehow always my task to walk them), my whole writing process has been predicated on lots of walking; when I tried library-biking, I lost the thread of my work almost entirely.

That being said: yes, of course I biked to the library this morning. I know where I am, in each of the stories I'm working on; what I need above all is to find where I am with this bike, and what I need. I now have an injury and everything (I may have skinned my Achilles tendon, with a particularly awkward dismount. Still not quite used to how high the saddle is. I love this bike, but it is the Great Green Beast $666 of Elevation).

And now I have to bike to the bike shop, to talk about accessories...
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Turtles: apparently they're zombies in a crispy coating [17 Apr 2015|10:25am]
So I was just innocently poaching me some pig's brains for m'lunch, when Dymphna came stomping across the kitchen floor looking for breakfast.

I cast about hastily, because she's a sour creature if she doesn't get her brekkie on demand; and I was speedily slicing a tomato when my own brain finally caught up with my fingers. Turtles like a bit of protein on occasion. They go crazy for catfood, eg. So...

So Dymphna got brains-on-tomato for breakfast. And is devouring it with gusto. Good turtle.
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The bike is not a lie [16 Apr 2015|06:11pm]
M'wife may have posted a picture to Facebook, of me with a new bike. I am regarding it as a measure of how much California (or possibly m'wife) has changed me: because the other choice of colour was a gorgeous deep matt black, and I picked the vicious green. (I might've told Karen that was for safety reasons, for visibility. It certainly is very visible, I am just sayin'.)

It's also very light, compared to the previous chunky thing; it feels positively skittish beneath me. Tho' that's partly because the saddle is higher than I'm used to, and even then lower than the guy in the bike shop really wanted. I am leaving it as is for now, to see how I adjust.

It also has yet three more gears that I shall never use... (The old one has twenty-four, of which I use perhaps three. This has twenty-seven. It's just gear inflation for its own sake; around here, there really is no need.)

New bike! I'm very excited. And expect to be biking everywhere for a while, till the whee! wears off.
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Time, considered as a helix or Archimedes' screw [15 Apr 2015|12:04pm]
I have to wait in for a delivery, and you-all know how good I am at this. Grr. It's noon already, which means half my day has been slurruped up in packets which are not to be recalled. (I don't actually know if you can reverse an Archimedes' screw to have it bring the water back down again, but no one ever does.)

I have not been idle, exactly - I have a story (Oscar Wilde! on Mars!) which needs a little delicate redrafting, and I'm halfway through - but I could so have been doing other things. I could have gone to the bike shop and considered my acid-green new love object; I could have gone to the stores and considered what to cook for eight hungry people tonight. But no. I daren't even go out into the back yard and dig up my unproductive fava beans, ready for this weekend's major planting of the spring garden, for fear of missing a ring at the doorbell or a knock on the door. (It's weird, how many people - professionals included - ignore the bell and just knock.)

I do so hate being penned to the house this way. It has to be done - they also serve, who only twitch and wait - but oh, I am so very bad at waiting.
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That's what Bilbo Baggins hates [13 Apr 2015|06:44pm]
...aaand now the oven is working again. And the repair guy is coming tomorrow. And we're not going to cancel him; instead I am going to have all the pleasure of "Well, it hasn't worked for two weeks, but it started working again last night, so could you just have a look and see what's what...?"


In happier news, the boys know exactly - from the other end of the house - the sound of their food-dispenser being opened at not-meal times. With all that that implies.
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Back is what we are [13 Apr 2015|05:14pm]
,,,and in other news, Karen and I have come home. I was on Orcas Island! We were both in Seattle! Orcas and bald eagles and meerkats and trolls were seen, actual cats were introduced (CatOfSize and KittenOfThursday, since you ask). Vast engineering projects were visited. (Oh, come: how can a system of ship-sized canal locks not be relevant to Mars? This was totally research.) Foods were eaten, friends were visited, wines consumed. I even did some work, perhaps.

And now we are home, and I am fallen instantly into the classic trap of the man who wants more than his resources should allow. I virtuously dropped into the bike shop to ask about procedures for getting the machine thoroughly serviced; the nice man asked what it needed, and sucked air through his teeth, and allowed as how it might be that a new bike would prove more economical. And then he showed me some new bikes, and of course I fell in love with one that's twice the price I really need to pay. Hey-ho.
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221: not all it's cracked up to be? [13 Apr 2015|05:08pm]
Science may not after all be the reliable guide I was looking for. This is disappointing to me; I may be obliged after all to fall back on craft.

In January, I made my regular Seville orange marmalade; this week, I made kumquat marmalade, because kumquats.

In January, I trusted to science and boiled it to 221 degrees F, and bottled it up - and did it set? Hah! I laugh at your naive questioning, O Internet! I poured it out of the jars and boiled it again, and had to take it to 226 before achieving a decent set.

This week? I boiled it barely to 221 - and it's setting hard as rubber.

Presumably there is different levels of pectin somewhat to blame here (American Sevilles, I find, are very light on pips), but even so, I am disappoint. I wanted to be able to watch numbers. I like numbers. I don't like faffing about with cold saucers and dribbles and is-it-wrinkly-yet?
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Orcas! [08 Apr 2015|11:51am]
Yesterday I travelled most of the length of America, from not-that-far-from-Mexico to very-nearly-in-Canada. I travelled by car and plane and bus and shorter bus and ferry; and the greatest of these was ferry.

And as we came nosing into Orcas harbour, there was a flurry and a rush of passengers to the starboard rail, because out there in the water, just cruisin' the shoreline, a-huffing and a-blowing, was a pod of lower-case orcas, I am just sayin'. We may have whalewatched.
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A kumquat. Or more than one, actually. [06 Apr 2015|05:15pm]
Interesting fact of the day: the kumquat is no longer a citrus fruit. It's been reclassified, as Fortunella.

That being said, it does remain a very roly fruit. Theresa brought around a vasty bagful, gleaned from her productive bush. Unfortunately - most unfortunately - they were obliged to be left in their paper bag a day or two too long. When I went to lift it, the bottom of the bag remained on the freezer while the walls merely tore damply asunder. The kumquats, thus liberated, went naturally everywhere. I had to grovel about on hands and knees for some considerable time to recover them.

Oblige me by imagining just how much fun that was, in my current condition.

Thank you. I am obliged.

And now I have two and a half kilos of kumquats to slice, deseed and convert into marmalade. Tonight. 'Scuse me...
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Pain, I am in you [06 Apr 2015|10:53am]
Dammit, I had not budgeted for this. I am as unexpectedly and thoroughly broken as my oven.

We had Bryn & Kyle over for dinner and photography lessons last night, and - as I foretold thee - I cooked Spanish, and all was going well - and I put a dish of olives down on the coffee-table, and my back went sproing! and suddenly nothing was any good at all.

I slipped a disk fifteen years ago, and I'm fairly sure I have just done the same again. The pain-levels are familiar. I would resent it more - a dish of olives, for cryin' out loud! at least last time it was a stupidly large sack of compost I was swinging around - but actually I wonder if I'd already done the damage hauling a massive bucket of water around the back yard, and the disk was poised and prepared to slip at any moment. (I had no idea whether that's actually the way these things work, but it seems more likely, somehow.)

Anyway, there it is. I have an abundance of ouchie, and am shuffling about the house like a very sorry thing. Ray of the magic fingers is coming in a few minutes, and I am in hopes - but I doubt even the world's finest massage therapist can fix a slipped disk just like that. And tomorrow I have to be travelling all day, by aeroplane and bus and ferry too. That's going to be half a world of hurt, oh joy.
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