Sunday, December 30, 2012

I am the Captain of My To-Do List

It is time once again.  Time for a New Year's Accounting. 

Another year in the can?  How can this be?  

This year more than ever before I face the coming turnover with a greater measure of anxiety than in the past.
"ohh, I'm too blue for work... oh wait, I don't work, I'm a dog."

I know that a small life is nothing to be ashamed of.  And yet I feel like this past year has been filled with more disappointments than happy accidents.  More missed opportunities than bridges built.  

Still, I think this past year I have planted seeds.

I have broken down obstacles, and I have swept away the dust.

Each year I try to say I will do something I've never done.  
  • I got a new job.
  • I volunteered with the elderly (once only, I admit)
  • Went to a Reds game (twice)
at least the weather was nice
  •  Took D to a soccer match (twice)
Columbus Crew: Rentariaaaaa!
  •  Went to a Seahawks game (in Detroit)
Nailbiter game
  •  (Finally) went to Shakespeare in the park
Taking the dog seems like a good idea: it is not.

Each year I try to go somewhere I've never been.

And I try to accomplish something.

Completed Home Improvement Projects: 
  • Planted the front garden. 
  • Built a small plot where once there had been a vine orgy and assorted buried bricks and trash and a laundry pole.
  • Built and installed closet shelves for office.  
  • New external doors to replace some really crappy doors in pretty poor shape.
  • Massively de-junked and reorganized the basement storage (thank youuu holiday vacation)
And what do I want for 2013?

  • Help the front garden survive and thrive.  
  • Replant (the poppies didn't make it.  dunno why...) (and the irises never flowered...)
  • Hopefully the lilac survives, and it should, since we murdered the honeysuckle that was choking it.  If it does,we will finally prune the lilac in the spring after it blossoms.  Because as of now, it still looks like an unholy mess. Albeit slightly less unholy now that the honeysuckle is gone.
  • Plan and plant the veg garden.  (we are weighing options to keep the groundhogs at bay...)
  • Replace the gutters. 
  • Paint the basement floor (it's gross)
And other than this?  This, which is really just a home improvement To-Do list?  Isn't there more?  
Of course.  I have things I want and the means to walk the road to get them.   

I am still and always a work in progress.  

I have some regrets, but here at the end of the year I want to lay them down, in the hopes that they create a more fertile ground.  So that next year is better.  Braver.  Stronger.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

(Invictus, William Earnest Henley) 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fall Preparations. Of the Raking and the Baking.

A few weekends back was the 25th annual Prepare Affair.

This year Cincinnati's non-profit construction company People Working Cooperatively coordinated around 3,000 volunteers providing assistance to low income elderly and disabled people.  This year volunteers raked leaves and cleaned gutters and helped out at 1,000 homes in the Cincinnati area.

A charitable endeavor, and more about what you can do with your own hands than how much money you can give.  It was quite stressful playing coordinator for an army of Good-Deed-Doers.  But our good deed was done by noon, with plenty of time to enjoy the gorgeous day we were blessed with.  

Ye, this is how we did procrastinate away from our own leafy mess

Then there came the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving.  In years past we have gone hither and yon, to D's parents and to my parents, which are both hours away and hours apart.  This year my parents (and my aunt) made the drive down to us... and then slept for a goodly portion of the visit.  I'd like to call "Do-Over!" .... But (sadly) I'm pretty sure this was a one-time Thanksgiving at Casa de O-Town.   

We prepared a dinner of turkey chili and turkey soup for my parents, and a cookie plate.  But the cookies were the real stars, and no mistake.  

punkin cookies and backup tollhouse cookies
The first to disappear were the drool-inducing Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies stuffed with Nutella by AmbitiousKitchen.  I did not add sea salt per her awesome recipe, and only used dark chocolate and milk chocolate chips.  No semi-sweets were added.  These cookies suffered no detriment from my subtractions.  "Enjoy," Monique says, and we did.  There were no survivors. 

By no means do I wish to deter you from making these.  They are my new favorite cookie.  They would have been a knockout without the nutella.  Here I mean to caution you.  When you are trying to delicately ball up chocolate chip cookie dough around nutella, you may suffer a Rage Embollism.  I so nearly did.  D got so enraged that he shook off his hands and stomped out of the kitchen.  The cookies are not pictured in the photo above.  (Those are the Safety Measure Tollhouse cookies that D bought just in case we were Recipe-Betrayed by the internet. ) 

Au contraire.  These cookies were perhaps the best I've ever made.

I took no photos because I was exhausted after handcrafting these Holy OmNom Grenades. (There is Recipe and CookiePorn to be found at AmbitiousKitchen's blogsite) I may not add the nutella next time I make them, but the chocolate chip cookie dough itself is strong enough to stand alone.  But as a Share-Type cookie, these nutella babies will wow your friends and enemies alike.  

The second batch, only slightly less awesome but also a new O-Town Tradition are the Iced Pumpkin Cookies from AllRecipes.  The dough is pictured above.  

These are crazy easy, and gratifying.  They smell and taste fantastic.  We will be making these again too, they are perfect for fall or whenever you want a bit more spice along with your sweet.  
We added cardamom, because we put it in everything we can conceivably put it in.  

Happy Cookie Season!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blog Cabin in the Woods

Everybody knows that once a holiday has hit, all of the remnant holiday gear goes on sale.  Our purchase was completely not pre-meditated, and probably not driven by the digression in my last post.  

Best $2 ever spent.  ha ha.  Poor Max.
Digression concludes.

And now for some autumn color, eh?

With my new job and D's new position and other family responsibilities, we elected to spend a weekend away from all the stress and chores and all.  So we whisked Bobby dog away to Hocking Hills. 

We rented a cabin with Old Man's Cave Chalets, and were really pleased with the place.  It was peaceful and quiet, and despite the cold and rain, we spent a lot of time outdoors in what has ended up to be one of my favorite memories of this year.

Ash Cave was just beautiful, and the scenery had us talking about Thoreau (of whom I am no fan), and Emerson (of whom I am); 

about the scary horror movie Cabin in the Woods, which, I mis-remembered to be the horror movie about the flesh-eating disease that was written by a guy who suddenly and horrifyingly caught a flesh-eating disease that almost, well, ate him (*it was Cabin Fever, my bad);

and also about fortifying a secluded cave-type dwelling in Native American times/in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  

Obvious downside in that the valley backs into the huge cave and cliff walls.  

Well, it would be good in that you know the direction of enemy approach, because there is only one way in to this valley that leads to the cave.  The cliff walls at Ash Cave are so sheer that your enemies would be daft to try scaling down them to surprise your forces on the sides.  Spelunking attacks weren't a successful old-timey battle tactic to my knowledge.  Still, you have no plan B.  There's no escape.  

 The cave itself would have been excellent protection against the elements, plus a fresh water source.  

Isolated for sure.  Great tree cover.  Terrible acoustics for keeping a low profile though.  Bobby was bound and determined to leap off of the cliff to play with the dogs barking in the cave below.  Voices and bird calls (and dog barks) bounce from rock to rock down into the cave and from the cave out of the ravine.  Nature's own fun little echo chamber.

And at one point we heard kids whistling and hooting and whooping from the other side of the ravine, and D hooted back at them like a monkey.  This continued for awhile, much to Bobby's utter glee.  Here was a primate symphony echoing all around us.  

And when we finally hiked down into the cave, we found that some poor people had been trying to get married in the cave, their ceremony surrounded by inescapable and untraceable monkey calls.  

But I bet the wedding photos will be nice.  

So there you have it.  Hocking Hills.  Not so far from Cincy.  

A beautiful way to spend a day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Fail (Year 2)

All Hallow's Eve.  I love Halloween.  As a kid, of course I did.  The candy.  The pageantry.  The candy.  And the cartoons (candy candy candy!).  But as an adult I rediscovered the awesomeness of Halloween through new eyes.  No, not the eyes of a child but through the eyes of a former colleague, a Japanese man experiencing his first Halloween.  Every time he opened his door he was so completely and genuinely bowled over.  

"Aww, you're an alien!"  "Oh man, I love batman!"  "Are you a carton of milk??? Oh wow!"  

And really, how awesome is it that we as a nation come together to celebrate making robot suits out of cardboard boxes, or applaud dads who transform wheelchairs into ice cream trucks?  

are those... robot boobies?  (a)
Yeahhhh baby, you like mah ride?  (b)

I had hoped that this year's Plan B would trump last year's heartbreak, eagerly watching out the windows for trick-or-treaters who would never come.  I thought hey, let's go to one of the local squares, have dinner and watch the boys and ghouls in all their finery.  Oakley Square.  Bullet Proof.  

wah wah.  

We did see three or four teenagers in outfits.  But maybe they dress like that nowadays.  
Three or four total is still a total improvement over last year.  Seems the rain and chill wind kept a lot of kids from covering the ground they normally could.  Frown.  Maybe if the weather was nicer we'd have seen more, or maybe trick-or-treaters don't cross Oakley Square as much as I'd imagined.  I'll need to have a think about next year.  How can I see people* in costumes when they don't come to our block?  Ideas? 

I don't mean watching Cats or Thriller.  Although I should totally watch Thriller, as I have yet to do so this season.  I mean Kids, in costume.  Obviously.  Not people in general.  Because this is wholesome.  Your child is a cat.  Bam.

Look at this.  Adorable.  (1)

Grown people in costumes?  No.  
Do not bring to my door.  No. (2)  
This appeals to some people, but it's not something I enjoy looking at.  
Now, cats in costumes, by contrast, are pretty enjoyable.  

Apparently this is Anne of Green Gables (3)
I mean, which would you rather look at?  
More of this stuff.  Yeah. 

hee hee hee hee (4)

Wow.  this post was 10% content and 90% tangent.  
Sorry about that.  Next time:  Fall Colors

Photo Credits 
1) cannot find source...
3) Slate

Friday, October 26, 2012

The 100

Here we all in fall.  A gorgeous fall.

I have three unfinished posts saved as drafts on my blogger account, but keep getting derailed. By life.  By responsibilities.  By the new job, you know.  But nothing has been so diverting and consuming of my free time lately than scifi.

For some reason, it became imperative for me to read the books on NPR's top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy (circa 2011).  Perhaps you've seen this?  

I have been reading science fiction and fantasy since my girlhood.  Loved the stuff.  My enjoyment tapered. Got burned.  Burned by my love for scifi.   The quality of books I picked up seem to wane, and sometimes to plummet. This or that book had been well -reviewed but turned out to be crashingly awful.  For example, a friend of mine swore to me that the Host was good science fiction (blergh).

For awhile I would chose authors based on their track record with me.  If they had written good books in the past I'd gleefully pick up their newest book and think "Yay! It's like being reunited with [trusted and interesting friend] or [musician cousin with anecdotes far more awesome than my own]."  Sometimes it paid off.  Sometimes: wham.  Poorly-written novel after poorly-plotted linear fantasy.  Cringe-worthy dialogue and recycled characters.  Now that I think about it, it didn't occur to me that maybe my selection criteria was flawed.  How did my choices turn out so poorly?  Did I take home books based on pretty cover art?  Or intriguing title font?  Not that I judge books by their covers.  (sometimes I do.)  

Fail to pick a winner a few times, and it's just no fun to gamble anymore.  So I stopped picking up scifi and fantasy.  Little did I know, I just needed to be pointed in the right direction.  

SF Signal has this flowchart for you
There were books on NPR's list that I had read, of course.  Like I said, I've covered lots of literary ground in those scifi/fantasy stacks.  But there were so many more on the list that I hadn't.  I was surprised by how many I'd never even known about.  There are some real gems out there!  I've been so pleased.  Not with Asimov's Foundation, mind you. Not pleasing, that one. Nor the plodding and yet smug Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell.  By and large though, I have this list to thank for reacquainting me with Heinlein, and introducing me to some great classics that I'd never heard of (!).    

36 down.  64 to go.  

Don't think that all this reading means I haven't been enjoying the beautiful autumn colors outside.  I have gotten out.  I multitask.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dayton Ale Fest 2012

Can't believe how quickly this year has gone.  It feels like only the blink of an eye, yet it's time for Dayton's Alefest once again.  

'Nother year, 'nother glass

Last year we knew not the wisdom of those who had come before us, and were without pretzel-garb.  Not this year, no sir.  

Pretzel necklaces are an essential part of maintaining stamina

It's not a bad setup at the Dayton Alefest.  It's bottle-pours as opposed to tapped kegs, which is no big deal to me. I'd rather not have double or triple the wait outside.  

However, it was mid-nineties and broiling hot under the cloudless sky.  More tents would have been nice.  One of our friends is sporting a lobstery-red glow for the next few days thanks to minimal relief from the sun.  

Even so, the lines were nowhere near as long as they were at the Cincy Winter Beerfest.  Many lines seemed longer than they were because after a moment you would discover that the people before you weren't in line, they were merely hiding from the sun.  

But everyone was so darn nice, jovial, which is as it should be.  We're all just here to have fun, right?

O-Town's Menu :

Spaten Dunkel : Win
Konig Ludwig Weiss Hefeweizen : Win  
Hinterland Bock : Win (a bit too sweet to drink overmuch)
Wychwood Hobgoblin : Win (I knew this, and should have tried the Wychcraft.  Alas, I lacked good decision-making skills whilst inebriated)
Bell's Oberon : Win (I knew this too.  Continued bad decision-making)
Rockmill Tripel : Win
Something from the Brooklyn Brewery, maybe the Sorachi Ace... I can't remember : Good
New Holland Beerhive Tripel : Really special win 
Troeg's Troegenator Double Bock : Really special win


 Southern Tier Pumking : god-awful.  Smelled like a cheap seasonal autumn candle, which is sort of nice.  Sadly, it tasted like it too, which is less than nice.

Just like last year, a good time was had by all at the Dayton Ale Fest.  For a lightweight like myself though its a great opportunity to get a sippy-cup-sized taste test of many brews at one location.  Price of admission was somewhat high, seventy for the two of us.  That's nothing to sneeze at, and for my husband, it may prove to be prohibitive.  

This year's list is shorter because we got there an hour late this year (Had to help out at the old job Saturday morning) plus it was an hour shorter than last year.  I wonder why...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ogunquit 2, 450am

(I wrote this post in June and never posted it.)

Yes, you read that title correctly.

At around 430am (suspend disbelief if you can), on Saturday during our vacation (months back), we roused ourselves from the black depths of the slumber of those who have eaten and drunk far too much the night before at a piano bar.  

As it was also our belated anniversary, we brought with us not only our cameras and coats, but also a bottle of bubbly.

The predawn was absolutely beautiful along the Marginal Way.  

We hurried, inconspicuous bottle in hand.

We were looking for something in particular,

on the morning of this particular day.

To mark all of the beauty and promise of their new beginning, 

at 515am on the day of their wedding, 

we sat on a boulder by the sea, 

at the edge of a day, and also of a brave and wonderful new journey,

and captured a moment in their history.