Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Sunday Five - Focus on the Positive

Our lives are to some extent a product of the choices we make. I try to focus on the good.  

Sunday five:
  1. What is the kindest thing you have done this past week? 
  2. What are you most grateful for at the moment? 
  3. What have you done to simplify your life in the past year? 
  4. When was the last time you had to consciously practice patience? 
  5. What have you learned from listening? 
My answers:
  1. What is the kindest thing you have done this past week? Reached out a a work colleague to ask about a personal matter, to see if things had improved. 
  2. What are you most grateful for at the moment?  Being employed and having a comfortable home. 
  3. What have you done to simplify your life in the past year? I started setting up automatic payment on expenses.  
  4. When was the last time you had to consciously practice patience? Earlier today, sharing the tiny kitchen.  
  5. What have you learned from listening? The wisdom of age, the energy of youth. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Beaver Sex at Dyke Marsh

Over the past year, I have caught a fleeting glance of a beaver at the Marsh, always at a distance, usually just a head moving rapidly through the water, with an occasional long back or flip of the tail. Just a fleeting glance, until one morning recently.  

I saw the head moving rapidly along the surface of the water near the shore. Much closer to shore than I have ever seen beavers before.  I hiked down onto the beach looking for movement, and there he or she was. In and out of the water, up and over a submerged tree. Then there was a second beaver, entering the water from the beach just around the corner from a small point.  And the two of them, swimming in and around.  Unless I am mistaken, what followed was beaver mating behaviour, with one swimming up onto the back of the other, and well, doing happens like "Mammals on Animal Planet." I hope I don't have to add a adults only warning to this blog post. It didn't last long, they seemed to like one another afterwards.  A google search says that beavers are generally monogamous, and that the kits should be along in about 105 days, usually 2 to 4 in a litter.  The nest is clearly visible on a mucky point in the Marsh, a spot inaccessible by foot, you could get close when the water is high in a kayak.    

That chance encounter resulted in the best beaver shots I have ever taken. I almost didn't go for a walk that morning, I had started work early, the walk was later than usual.  I am so glad I went out. 

Well, a google search for beaver mating behaviour, should draw some interesting advertising for me over the next few days.  

Friday, February 26, 2021

Foodie Friday - Knives

 J sharpens the knives, and leaves me warning signs. This sign appeared on a photo frame above the sink in the kitchen.  When he is done, if you press your thumb against the blade, you will cut yourself. I have to agree it is true, if you handle them properly you are no more likely to cut yourself with a sharp knife than a dull knife.  

I grew up, learned to cook, as many of us did, in a family that really didn't have good knife skills.  My mother used a short paring knife for  everything, except slicing a roast or a turkey, and for that she used an electric knife.  Most of the knives in her kitchen, as my great-grandmother would described them, "were so dull, you could ride bare assed to Boston and back and not hurt yourself!" (I have a feeling she was a real wild one in her prime - she was frail and well into her 80's before she moved out to the farm.) 

As an adult, I started to read a lot about cooking, and almost every text on cooking technique starts off with knife skills.  They all say, get a proper 6 to 10 inch chef's knife and learn how to use it. Used properly, it becomes the go-to knife in the kitchen.  And I did. Starting at first with the big knife that came as part of a cheap set of knives.  Later moving onto better quality.  Learning to slice, chop, dice, and mince, and how the various cuts impact cooking and the finished dish.  

I have never spent hundreds of dollars on a knife, I am after all a little bit stingy at times.  But I have had some decent Henckels knives over the years.  Little stays in my kitchen that does not run in the dishwasher, so I generally stay with stainless steel.  High carbon steel they say will hold an edge better, but not stand up to the dishwasher as well.  Often the handle fails before the knife does.  My current go-to knives are from IKEA, in all stainless steel.  I have three of them, two with flat blades - a quasi Japanese style, and one more spear shaped or traditional chef's knife design.  

There are books, and tons of YouTube videos on knife skills.  Probably the best advice on learning knife skills, is study the pro's and practice.  Onions are a great way to practice, onions can be relatively inexpensive, and when you are done they are wonderful to cook with.  I have joked that all of my dinner recipes all start with "take one onion." 

How are your knife skills?  

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Brussels - Recent Random Thoughts

 Someone posted a video on Valentines day of a guy playing the cello in an arcade, on a distractingly complicated mosaic tile floor.  For some reason my mind stuck on the floor.  I thought of the hours, tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours of meticulous work that went into planning, designing, creating the tiles, the hours and hours spent on someone's knees placing the tiles, grouting them in.  I am not sure I could do that.  I wonder if when they place the tiles, they think, yes, but if I do it right, it will be here for hundreds or thousands of years (I have walked on tile mosaic floors in Italy and Greece that date back well over 2,000 years.) 

I recently learned the difference between a poisonous animal, and a venomous animal.  Many of us improperly use the two words interchangeably.  A poisonous makes you sick if you bite it, a venomous animal makes you sick if it bites (or stings) you.  Percision in the use of the language.  A comment on a post of mine, taught me the difference between a tortoise and a turtle (land and water.) 

I added to my understanding of the difference between a biography and autobiography.  The obvious is that a biography is written about the life of a person and an autobiography is written by a person about their life.   What I read said that beyond that we should consider the bias of the author.  A person writing an autobiography is going to filter the story to reflect through their point of view.  The biography is shaped by the bias or prejudice of the author, often without an opportunity for the person to offer input. 

I read something that made a lot of sense.  The question was how much should I spend on a camera.  The answer was the amount you are comfortable with using and not living in fear of it being damaged, lost or stolen.  The author wrote about buying his dream Leica, then leaving it home if the weather was not perfect, or the trip was complicated, or the neighborhood was not perfect.  He traded it off after a couple of years of dusting it.  Buy the best that you are comfortable using. There are a lot of things that this applies to in life. 

Why is this post titled, Brussels, that is where the floor above was found.  If I didn't put it down when I began, I might not have remembered by the time I got to describe it in the post.  The photo is in an unsorted folder of over 30,000 images, in context I can tell you where most of them are from, out of context, it is just another floor someplace I have been.     

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Cars and Trucks

This was taken sometime in the early 1970's.  The greenish chevy was my maternal grandparents.  I think it was like a 67 or 68.  They drove it for a few years.  When my grandfather developed serious heart disease in the early 1960's they sold the farm, bought a large travel trailer, and started touring spending summers someplace in Michigan, winters in Florida.  My grandfather was not happy with the way the car pulled the trailer, and after just a few years, they bought another pickup truck. 

The red pickup truck, was a 1965 Ford.  It was the farm pickup truck until my paternal grandfather retired in the early 1970's.  He kept it as part of transferring the farm to my father. He only drove it for a few summers, before his Alzheimer's and failing eyesight led him to the decision to quit driving (his choice - it was touching - and so nice that it was his decision.) The spring after I turned 16, my father bought it, made it mechanically sound, and handed my sister and I keys to it, and a key to the gas pump on the farm, and said, take yourself wherever you need to go.  The spring after my sister finished high school and left home, he sold it to a friend, handed me keys to the family car, and two other trucks that were parked around the yard. One was a monster of a Dodge with a huge engine, and an old Chevy flatbed that had been a utility company fleet truck - he bought at auction for something $500.  My sister was upset, she had never been given unlimited use of the family car.  The Dodge pickup truck, was way overpowered, I would go north a mile and half to the nearest paved road, turn right and floor it, and it would spin the tires for a quarter of a mile. 40 years later I admitted to my father that I took joy in that, he said, "I knew you did, I could hear it from home," he said he did the same thing. One of the reasons he bought it was it had a ridiculously huge engine.  


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Wensleydale and sheep

Back in 2007 (according to the photo data) we spent a week with friends in Yorkshire.  Duncan and Stephen live in London, Stephen is from Yorkshire.  We rented a house for the week, they rented a car and drove.  There was an ambitious plan of sightseeing, with stately homes, and ruined abbeys to be seen, even a short ride on a steam train.  We mentioned my love of cheese, and an outing to Wensleydale was planned.  I had never seen Wallace and Gromit, and my lack of connection with the creamery probably mystified Duncan and Stephen. 

Wensleydale ships cheese all over, it is a modern cheese making operation, making unique simple cheese, often with add-ins like dried fruit. Between the parking area, and the creamery, we walked across a meadow, a meadow kept trimmed by a small flock of very fluffy sheep.  There were sheep on the hillside behind the house we rented, waking each morning to their gentle Baahs, very fond memories.  I have a soft spot for sheep, and they provide wonderful fleece, and Stephen's mother told me how to cook lamb, so it does not taste sheepy, overcoming one of my childhood food prejudices.  In many ways the week there changed me, travel should change us.  


Monday, February 22, 2021

You Tube Monday - More Britcoms Hyacinth Bucket's Unforeseen Call with Mrs Slocombe

More funny British comedy this week, why? Well why not? 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Sunday Five - Ready to Fly

  1. Have you had a COVID vaccine yet, if not have you been able to sign up? 
  2. When do you think you will be able to get a vaccine? 
  3. Would you travel again without having a vaccine? 
  4. Do you have any travel plans for this year?
  5. Do you think the country and the world will remember and learn from this, the next time? 
My answers: 
  1. Have you had a COVID vaccine yet, if not have you been able to sign up? I have signed up for a waiting list,  
  2. When do you think you will be able to get a vaccine? About 10 weeks from now unless the supply increases drastically. 
  3. Would you travel again without having a vaccine? No 
  4. Do you have any travel plans for this year? I have offered to speak at a conference in Reno in late October, but won't make travel plans unless and until it is safe. 
  5. Do you think the country and the world will remember and learn from this, the next time?  No, politics got in the way of humanity. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Deep Thoughts From A Shallow Mind

I think the earth will survive, not so sure about mankind.  When we look to biology, an organism that overpowers it's environment, say Kudzu, the invasive vine that runs wild in some part of the southeastern United States, overpowers and kills the trees and shrubs that it grown on.   The vine then is forced into contact with the ground, and unfriendly environment, and it dies off. Then the forest and undergrowth can restart. Another example, in areas with no predators wildlife, like deer will overpopulate, overgraze, weaken, become vulnerable to disease, die off. When the deer population plummets the vegetation regrows.  

If mankind is not careful, we will die off, then the earth will regenerate and be just fine, without us.  Is this plague nature's warning that we are overtaxing the earth? 

When I started at this job 12 years ago, I actually thought I would work until I was at least 70, in a dark moment I would say that they would simply find me decomposing at my desk one day.  My work has long been an important part of my life.  But I have changed. There are things I want to do in life, that I can't do while working. And I want to do them while I am healthy enough to do them.  I am not the healthiest person, not that health is any guarantee of long life, I don't expect to be alive and vigorous at 80 or 90. There are a few people I work with that seem unable to give up working, they retire and continue to consult. One is resistant to engaging the next generation, circling back to her old friends, dragging them out of retirement at times.  We need new minds, new ideas, new voices.  

When I can get out, I will, and I hope to be replaced by fresh ideas.  A few years ago I asked a student intern to write a paper about securing the financial future of Social Security retirement income, what she emailed on her way to the airport at the end of semester, was an essay saying old people should retire or die, so her generation could find better jobs.  I never published her paper, it was not what she said, it was how she said it that was problematice.  Securing the future of retirement income, encourages older workers to retire, and you can hire almost two entry level professionals for what I am paid.  We have been interviewing in the office recently, the correct answer to where do want to be in five years, is having my job.  

Friday, February 19, 2021

Foodie Friday - Oysters

 I have to agree with those who say, who in their right mind, plucked what looks like a rock out of the waters' edge, cracked it open, to find a slimy looking center, and thought, I should try eating that? I wouldn't have been the first person to try that.  But oh can they be good. 

I like oysters raw - served very simply with a little lemon or vinegar, maybe a dash of hot sauce.  How can I describe this, despite the looks, they are not slimy, more slippery.  Bite into them, and there is a texture.  I find the Pacific coast one's more flavorful, more salty, than Atlantic or gulf coast.  I am cautious of raw oysters from warm areas, colder water generally is safer.  In New Orleans, order them fried. 

I like them battered and fried.  I can't tell you how to do that, as I have always left that the pros.  I have never opened an oyster, always left that the pros.  

I have to put oysters on the list of things that look weird, but taste wonderful.  Don't let looks scare you away. 


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Pretty Birds

I am always surprised when I post photos of birds online, pretty birds, the cardinals always seem to draw the most likes on Facebook, the most comments.  Cardinals have a unique shape, the crown on the top of their heads.  Their body is best described as round. They have distinctive black markings. But I think the thing that people love, is the red color.  Actually the males are bright red, the females are more brownish, with a red beak.  Logically the survival of the females is more important than the survival of the males, the females are better camouflaged into the landscape, the males stand out.  Though reading the bird book, the male feeds the chicks, while the female builds and broods the second nesting of the season.  Cardinals are very territorial during nesting season, and social the rest of the year. 

Funny, until the last year, I never paid much attention to the small birds, the small wonders that are all around us.  Not all change, is bad change.  

Any interesting birds near you? 


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Lunar Eclipse and Meteor Showers

 There was one major advantage to growing up on a farm in the middle of no-where, it was very dark at night. The bottom 1/4 of the moon is shadowed in an eclipse in the slide above from some time in the mid 1970's.  The nearest "streetlight" was in a barnyard nearly a quarter of a mile away. It was dark with very little ground light to interfere with the night sky. I loathe the term light pollution, light is not pollution it is something mankind has learned to control, but it does little harm. This was the best photo of that night, the clouds moved in rapidly after this was taken - and it was COLD.  

Standing in that yard, I saw the northern lights.  We were far enough north, without ground light interference to see the night sky pulse and glow with electromagnetic luminance.  The internet defines this as, "The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

We had a major meteor shower one summer.  We could stand out at night and see them flash by, one fragment streaked in through the sky, growing ever brighter and landed in a neighbors cow pasture, never to be found (either landed in a small creek, or deeply embedded itself into the ground.) That was a surreal experience.  I can easily understand how if you didn't know what was happening and understanding the basic science behind it, you would think that the world was coming to an end, or the gods where arriving.  

Can you see the night sky where you live now? 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Modena Italy

 How did we end up visiting Modena, Italy?  We started off in Rome, Jay was taking part in a conference in Rome, the conference dictated the location for the trip.  We were in Rome for several days, we talked about going south to Naples, or northeast to Venice.  I was reading mixed reports about Naples, most of them saying get in and see Pompey and get out, so we settled on Venice.  We took the train from Rome, changing in Florence, onto Venice.  Between Venice and returning to Rome to fly home, we had a few days.  I looked at the map for what was part way in between.  Modena caught my eye, because of Balsamic Vinegar, when I zoomed in on the map, there was the Ferrari museum.  A quick google search later, and I discovered the Ferrari history museum is in Modena, and the factory with the racing museum is at Maranello, with shuttle bus service between the two. The train connections were good, the mainline from Venice into Bologna, and a local train north from there.  

Modena is a neat city on it's own.  There is a large University, a nice pedestrian and shopping area - that had a street market on the day we were there.  There is Balsamic vinegar, and parmigiano cheese - lots of amazing food.  We passed the Maserati headquarters on our way to Maranello.  It was really neat. 

And we ended up there, because I needed someplace between Venice and Rome, and I wanted someplace we hadn't been (Florence was an option, but we had spent a week there once.) I need to pick more random places that just fill out the agenda.  

Monday, February 15, 2021

My Music Monday - I LIKE BOYS by Todrick Hall

I debated running this one on Valentines day, but that was on Sunday, and the Sunday Five is not My Music Monday.  This is a conversation I never had with my parents, when I brought the same man home for the holidays a couple of years in a row, they figured it out. Be true to yourself, love the one you love. 


Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Sunday Five - Happy Valentines Day!

In honor of Valentines Day, 
  1. Do you believe in love at first sight? 
  2. Did you exchange silly cards in school as a kid? 
  3. Have ever broken someone's heart? 
  4. Any idea what is romantic about Niagara Falls? (photo above)
  5. Have you ever been on a blind date? 
My answers: 

  1. Do you believe in love at first sight? Lust yes, love no, I need to get to know someone. 
  2.  Did you exchange silly cards in school as a kid? Yes, I remember making a heart shaped box to have cards delivered into. 
  3. Have ever broken someone's heart? Not that I know of. 
  4. Any idea what is romantic about Niagara Falls? No clue, it is cold and wet, reminds me of my ex and not in a good way. 
  5. Have you ever been on a blind date? No.
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Saturday Morning Post - Around the House

So what is new? Not much.  It is Valentines and President's day weekend, a long weekend that I often went to visit Jay at the other house when he was teaching.  I remember boarding at the airport one Friday evening of this same weekend to fly out, some enterprising person had brought a couple dozen red roses through security, and was selling them to passengers waiting to board flights home for the weekend, one rose at a time.  

I have been trying to recruit student interns for the office for the summer.  My first choice declined, after she interviewed for summer internships she decided that was not what she wanted to do this summer, my second choice - probably the brightest of the bunch, had multiple offers.  By the time I get to the second week of offers, the students know they were not my first choice.  I turned down a job about 18 years ago, for years I collaborated with the person who was hired, I went out of my way to never let him know he was not the employers first choice.  No reason for him to know.  Clifford (he has red hair and was affectionately referred to as the Big Red Dog) did a wonderful job, probably better than I would have. 

We have had some winter weather.  Snow is kinda pretty for the first day, then the novelty wears off for me.  The older I get the more I try to avoid slipping and falling, the thaw can't come fast enough for me. 

The experts tell us the Eagles along the River are incubating eggs, we can expect chicks in mid March. I am chronicling the year in the swamp, lots of photos, starting to draft text.  At times I have to work to find the beauty in the winter landscape.  It is more about the sunlight and shadows, and small birds that are easier to see without leaf cover. I look forward to the flush of spring.  This is a moderate climate, the grass will start to grow in March, the trees will leaf out in March or April, by May  the landscape will be dense and green again.   June will mark a year of my rambles in the marsh.  

I am taking an extra long weekend.  The office is closed on Monday for Presidents Day, I took Friday off, I am reaching the point on paid time off, of use it or lose it.  I will need to take 2-3 weeks off between now and the end of August.  Strange to be taking time off and not climbing out to 37,000 feet, at .9 mach.  

What is happening around your house?   

Friday, February 12, 2021

Foodie Friday - Pork

 I remember my first pulled or chopped pork, Jay and I were visiting Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and he said we have to go out for barbecue.  I was thinking smoked, glazed, boney - not necessarily my cup of tea.  The specialty of the house was whole hog, slow cooked, and pulled or chopped heaven on a plate, with vinegar based sauces. 

I don't know about you, but I don't have anyplace to roast a whole pig.  And good pulled pork is hard to find here, there are a couple of out of the way places, but not a lot.  And I do love the flavors.  So a few times a year I will buy a pork shoulder or pork butt, boneless if I can.  I mix a dry rub of salt, pepper, garlic and onion salts, a little brown sugar, season liberally with that, put it on a rack in a roasting pan, cover tightly, and put it in a slow oven 275-300 degrees fahrenheit, all day, the last one I did was 7.5 pounds (about 3 kilos) and it cooked for about 7 hours.  It should be falling apart when it is done.  Sometimes we buy sauce, sometimes I mix my own, a tomato base - either tomato paste or catsup, apple cider vinegar, dry mustard, honey, and spices to taste.  

I have never cooked a pigs head, there is a specialty shop nearby that will supply them if you are brave enough to face your fears, I am not, are you? 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

We Are DINKS again

 My Sweet Bear, retired from teaching two years ago, last month. Well sort of.  We worked out an early retirement buyout, and the University paid him for a year to be on special assignment, that assignment was stay home and relax. That ran out in December of 2019.  That is when we became SINKS. 

Before my midlife crisis, back in my home building days we did a lot of strategizing on market segmenting.  We started with newlyweds and nearly deads, also known as young couples buying their first house, and older couples buying their last.  Then there were empty nesters,  families whose children had grown up and left, or been forced out of the house.  We paid little attention to single people - looking back at it that was a failure to recognize a real market.  Most couples we assumed would have children. SINKS were couples with one income and no kids, more exciting (profitable) than growing families.  Then were were DINKS, double income, no kids, these couples could afford a home with more high profit margin amenities. 

So for over a year we lived on my income. Nothing to complain about, we lived well, took a vacation, even ended up with more cash on hand at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year. We were SINKS for a year. This month, Sweet Bear's retirement income starts paying.  He will be a Bear with an independent income. As a couple we will have a bit more discretionary income. It is good to be DINKS again. 29 months until my retirement income kicks in. Not that I am counting or anything.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Bees

The wood box, with the glass face, was known as an observation hive.  As this one was, they could be closed and moved around, or they could be connected to the outside, I have seen permanent installations that were five times the size of this.  I have written before about my father and grandfather being beekeepers.  I displayed bees one year at the county 4-H fair. Having live bees in the exhibit hall made a few people nervous, but came off without an issue.  I still have the best in class ribbon from that year. 

Have you seen an observation hive? 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Travel Tuesday - San Francisco

I love the electric street cars in San Francisco, they are a frustration for drivers, but a delight for riders.  The system has preserved old cars, from around the world, refurbishing them with modern updates like heat and air conditioning.  The  stops, have raised platforms, assuring accessibility.  The main line runs from fisherman's wharf, down around the waterfront, then makes a sharp turn at the Terminal and runs out Market Street to a turn around at Castro Street.  Yes that Castro Street, the center of the LGBTQ universe.  

Many American cities had electric street cars 100 year ago, most disappeared in the years following WWII, when every American family wanted a car, then two cars and a move to the far distant suburbs.  The sprawling of America.  My father spoke fondly of riding the Detroit system as a youngster.  For 5-cents he could ride for hours in and out of the city.  

I look forward to riding the street cars of SF, back to the future again someday.   

Monday, February 08, 2021

You Tube Monday - Bigger Picture | Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial

Honestly I can't tell you who played in the football game yesterday, I watch for the commercials, and mostly ignore the game, mostly, there men in tight pants.  The Super Bowl has become the super bowl of American television advertising.  I found this one touching, timely, important.  

Many years ago, I was building a house for a young woman, her father came in with her one day to take a look at what she was building.  I noticed a large and unique ring on his hand.  I mentioned it and he slipped it off and handed it to me, it was a player ring from the first Super Bowl, he had played professional football for a few years - and played in the first one.  Neat, and yes he wanted the ring back.  It would be worth tens of thousands of dollars to a collector today.  

Sunday, February 07, 2021

The Sunday Five - Questions Not Bound By Reality

 The ideal answers to this week's five questions are not tied to reality, time to let the imagination run wild, dream the impossible dream, hope for what is unlikely to happen. 

1: Other than places on earth, where would you like to visit? 

2: What disease, do wish there was an instant prevention / cure for? 

3: Would you prefer a horse and buggy, or a self-driving car? 

4: What person who is no longer alive, would you like to have a 15 minute phone call with? 

5: What memory or experience from your life, would you like a family member to hear about 100 years from now? 

My answers:

1: Other than places on earth, where would you like to visit? I'd love to spend a few hours on the moon, looking back at earth and taking photographs. 

2: What disease, do wish there was an instant prevention / cure for? Alzheimer's and other progressive dementias, they kill the person long before they kill the body. 

3: Would you prefer a horse and buggy, or a self-driving car? Bring on the self driving car, I enjoy life in the slow lane, but I don't want to be limited to the range of a horse. 

4: What person who is no longer alive, would you like to have a 15 minute phone call with? My paternal grandfather, I'd love to know more about his life. 

5: What memory or experience from your life, would you like a family member to hear about 100 years from now? Listening to man land and walk on the moon, I was old enough to know and remember what was happening. 

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, February 06, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Settling into a Rhythm

 11 months into the bold new society shaped by Covid-19, I have grown accustomed to working from home, settled into a rhythm.  There is a discussion going on in the office about an eventual return to the office, and something like 97% of the staff are saying, "do we really have to?" If we go back in time 100 years, three out of my four grandparents, lived on farms and worked at home.  Both of my grandfathers, and one of my grandmothers were raised where home and work were one and the same. The kind of farming my parents did (bee herding) was scattered, the business was centered at home, but the tending the bugs was spread over 100 mile radius.  When we were extracting honey, that was done on on the home farm, I would get up and go fire the boilers, go back the house breakfast, work, go to the house for lunch, or breaks, and when we were done, home was just across the field, not miles away. After I left the farm, I owned a small business for a couple of years, and sold real estate.  I had to get use to, no money was made at home.  And for over 35 years I had an office or a jobsite to go to (before my midlife change of direction, I worked for home builders and land developers with most of my work being in scattered onsite offices and inspecting construction sites (my that sounds butch!)  The clean line between personal life and professional life was the office door.  I had a policy for years that I wouldn't work at home, unless I started taking naps in the office.  

I have worked hard at setting new boundaries between work on personal life.  I use two computers, and log off of all work on my personal machine on weekends.  I often don't turn my cell phone on over the weekend, because it has my office email on it, and I find it hard not to take a quick read. I try to start work at a regular time, take a break and go in the other room for lunch, finish at a fixed time, and then not look at my office computer or office email on my personal machine in the evening.  The rhythm works for me.  I am not anxious to return to my daily commute.   

Many experts agree that it takes three weeks or so to establish a new habit, at 11 months, many of us have well established habits that will be hard to break, hard to change.     

Friday, February 05, 2021

Foodie Friday - The Key to a Great Fruit Pie

 My grandmother taught me to sprinkle flour in a fruit pie, apple, rhubarb, blueberry, to try to get it to thicken, and not be a runny mess.  Sometimes it worked, often it didn't, at worst the flour just sat there and baked into lumps.  The idea behind flour, was to get the starch to absorb the liquid from the fruit, the starch granules expand, and form a sauce.  Good idea, but not the most reliable in my experience.  Cornstarch is much more reliable.  For fruit like rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries I cut the fruit, add a little liquid (brandy, bourbon or water) sugar, and a heaping soup spoon of corn starch and pre-cook it while the pie shell is blind baking.  You cook it over medium low or medium heat, until the fruit starts to release it's juice, and the starch starts to thicken.  Put in the partially baked pie or tart shell and bake as you normally would. When cooled the liquid sets to a gel, allowing a slice to come out relatively clean, heaven on a plate.  

Fruit pectin will also thicken a sauce.  Cranberries, often have enough pectin to thicken without adding anything.  An alternative would be to add pectin to thicken a pie - has anyone done that?   

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Be Bold, Say What Needs to Be Said

 I don't talk about my work on my blog, because if I do, it becomes my employers blog, and this is mine.  But what I do 40-50 hours a week influences what I write, and the experiences there often inspire me.  I recently circulated for comments among coworkers a draft article.  I circulated it because it is bold, it says thing that I think need to be said, something many people know happens, but few speak up and call it what it is.  In the opening paragraph I say the first step in change is admitting we have a problem, we have a problem and it is time we become the agents of change. 

I received comments back from a couple of people.  One with a few technical corrections, and the other saying, if you say that people are going to be upset. I will do some edits, and explain why I am being bold, but sometimes we need to say bold things that some people will be upset by.  The people that will be upset are so invested in the problem, that they don't see the problem. I will make it clear that the system I am writing about works most of the time, but when it fails, it hurts people and that needs to be changed, and the changes may require changes in the system that works well for most, but destroys the lives of others.  Like the sheet of ice above, perfectly smooth, except for the rocks sticking out.  We need to address the rocks that break the perfect surface.     

Some times, we need to be bold, and say what needs to be said. One of the joys of getting closer to retirement, is feeling less constrained about saying what needs to be said, for fear of hurting someone's feelings.   

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Motorhomes

A few weeks ago, my Wednesday post featured a picture of my grandparents tiny Florida winter home.  Getting out of Michigan in the middle of winter was always a welcome idea.  My parents started doing it when they were down to two kids left in school.  My Aunt Edith and Uncle Dick, started going for 2 to 3 weeks at a stretch.  Accomodations in the tiny house in Istachatta, left a lot to be desired.  Dick was talking with a farming friend one day, who knew someone, who knew someone who had just died, owning a Winnebago that no one in the family wanted.  Now Dick was not really a farmer, he grew up on a farm, he spent countless hours helping friends on farms, in reality he worked in research and development for Ford, he ran cars on treadmill tests.  But many of his best adventures started on one farm or another. The Winnie was a few years old, and had less than 12,000 miles on it.  

This was not the first surprise that Dick brought home to Edith, at least this one didn't have four legs and a tail and go moo!  His thought was that they could drive it to Florida, and have reasonably comfortable place to sleep.  It worked, they drove the thing to Florida a dozen winters.  As their baby passed 6 feet tall and 275 pounds the accommodations grew a little tight, (my cousin is a giant of a man) so they traded it on a new one, one about 10 feet longer.  The next week, Dick's boss called him into the office and offered him an early retirement buyout. He said, "oh I can't do that, I just bought a new motorhome with three years of payments."  His boss came back a few minutes later and said, "we will pay you in a lump sum for those three years if you retire on Monday." He called Edith to ask what he should do, strange he called and asked first.  They moved to Florida that year.  

When I find a picture, I will talk about my parents misadventures with a motorhome.  It has a rather surprising ending. 

Any motorhomes in your family stories? 


Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Third Morning in A Row


Travel Tuesday - Five Guys

 A few years ago my office hosted a law student for a summer, from France.  While she was here, she fell in love with the greasy burgers and overflowing fries (chips) at Five Guys and said she wanted to be the first Five Guys franchise in France.  The company was founded in 1998 here where I live, by a father and his four sons, later joined by a fifth brother.  One of them recently bought an antebellum mansion overlooking the Potomac River just south of here, a deteriorating pile of bricks, pulled a demolition permit late one afternoon, and leveled the place before anyone could scream preservation.  He is building a modern greek revival manse, how big is it, it has a structural steel superstructure, it was too large for traditional framing to hold it up.  The pool house and gym, are something like 5,000 sq. ft.  It is gorgeous.  I wonder how many burgers and fries paid for it. 

The Five Guys at the top was going in near Tower Bridge in London last spring.  I will admit I have stopped at McDonalds a time or two or three when traveling, but usually not.  In a moment of confusion, it looks like a place for order and reason, until they ask if you want red or white wine with my Big Mac meal deal combo.  


Monday, February 01, 2021

YouTube Monday : An Unexpected Proposal | All Round to Mrs Brown's | RTÉ One

If we can't laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at?  The lead in Mrs. Browns Boys, is as Andrew described him, "a bloke in a skirt."  I have to admit laughing my head off at the politically incorrect, often off color, and totally irreverent humor for months before finding the man behind Mrs. Brown.  The show is filmed before a studio audience, the cast adlibs, and the editors include bloopers (funny mistakes) in the final edit of the show.  By some standards the show has low production values with minimal sets, unmoving lighting, and simple props.  But it is funny in a way that few modern sitcoms are.  Just my opinion, but I think it is good, even if a bit naughty at times. There are a ton of clips on YouTube in the USA, encouraging you to subscribe to Britbox.  

Don't we all need a good tasteless laugh sometimes?