Tuesday, April 29, 2003

A vigil, and a wake

Going in both the blogs in the same format. Normally I try to keep the food blog foodie and this blog freer of the kitchen details but I don't feel like separating this.

After working a lot of long hours at the office, I had big plans for cooking and cleaning consolidation over the weekend. I had done my marketing on Friday night, and my usual Saturday morning bread run (and picking up some unsalted butter since I spaced on it and wanted to try some baking).

I got some good cleaning time in on Saturday afternoon, was more or less at it from 11 am to 4 pm with an hour long "make lunch, eat lunch, and relax" break. (Hummus and Middle Eastern chopped salad again. The remainders have been a useful quick lunch/dinner since. Must send Ranee a thank you note for the recipe.)

In the late afternoon I girded my loins and braved the Fourth Street shopping hoo-hah. I had the notion that a piece of candied lemon would be just da bomb on the lemon truffles I was making, and the Pasta Shop has first-rate yummy candied fruit that would be just the ticket.

I also wanted to try to test drive pressure cooker lids at Sur La Table. So off I went. I obtained my groceries (at non-extortionate rates, amazing for PS), saw some interesting things but no pressure cookers at Surly Table, escaped from Crazy Touristland and then backtracked to The Art Store to get some boxes for organizing. As I was walking past the 24 hour vet hospital I thought of Poor Fred's diabetic almost-shock incident.

When I got home I checked my messages (and I'm glad I did). There was one from Elaine sounding very stressed. Ginger (her sole remaining cat, of the five she used to have) got attacked by something in the back yard and they were at the emergency vet at 10th and University. I called to confirm location and was there in ten minutes to provide moral support.

After discussing Ginger's case with the vet, and paying her a short visit, we went back to Elaine's, found the trompled catnip patch and fur leavings at the scene of the crime (confirming Elaine's suspicion about the attacker) and she nattered at me while the tea was in progress. I was starting to feel a bit peckish and suggested making dinner (I had chicken or steak waiting to be cooked). Elaine and I both thought the chicken was a good idea so I went back home to start it off (one of these days I am going to learn how to cut the back out of a chicken correctly) and she joined me later. This also gave me some time to clear out the decluttering clutter in the living room (one of my work zones) and notice HOW MUCH CLEANER the rooms were looking. This was a good feeling since a couple of weeks ago Iwas in "I'm doing a lot of work and not seeing results" mode.

I can't say how happy I was to be able to feed my best friend a nice dinner of roast chicken, rice pilaf (it was from a box but that stuff is pretty tasty), and spring-appropriate roast asparagus when she was worried about her cat lying in the hospital. It was low-key, we did not have to hassle with restaurant crowds and parking at 7 pm on a Saturday, and roast chicken soothes the soul. She told me later that she toodled right off to dreamland shortly after she went home (and checked on the cat's condition) when she has been staying awake till 1-2 am and later. I personally ate the remainders of the pilaf with the pan drippings and zoned out pretty quickly myself :-).

On Sunday morning I was up early because I needed to go into the office and do some system work. I had hoped to be out by 9.30 am, but one of the things I did turned out horribly wrong and I spent till 2.30 pm there, mostly on the phone with Microsoft trying to back out my changes. Which finally happened.

I had gotten an early morning email saying that things did not sound wonderful and Elaine was ready to Make A Decision. When I finally got home, hungry and frustrated, the Bad News was on my answering machine. Ginger's condition had deteriorated overnight, she had gone into a coma, Elaine had made the decision, and there had been a kitty funeral in my absence. Ayse and Noel were available and did the digging and distracting. When I caught up with her via cellphone I was told "Meet us at Kirin [her fave upscale Chinese restaurant] at four". We had a nice early dinner together, then retired back to the casita for truffles, and I viewed The Site. Sloped back home around 7 pm and retired pretty early because I was just wiped (and it had started raining. Fairly heavily. Again). No usenet, no blogging, no truffle scooping, although I did cook the steak and finish up the last of the household tidying since the cleaners were coming Monday. Food and friends in memory of a demanding but basically affectionate cat who was on her way out but deserved (IMO) a better end than being attacked by a CATNIP CRAZED MONSTER when she was innocently sunning herself in the backyard. I must say I was still a bit in shock since Ginger's prospects had been much better when I'd seen her just the evening before.

Poor Ginger.

Elaine wondered out loud if ginger would grow in our climate and I told her that I thought both the culinary ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and the Hawaiian flowering gingers (Hedychium) will grow. (Web research confirms this, although I haven't dragged out the Sunset Western Garden Book yet). Personally I think that "kahili ginger" would be spectacular, especially since it's yellow and red, like Miss Thing herself. And there are artichokes nearby, the contrasts would be nice.

This really is the end of an era; I didn't know Biggie (the first of the five) but have watched the other ones go. I just hope I'm as strong when it comes time for Maya.

Anyway. Love (friends and our furry pals), cooking, cleaning, and even some gardening (those cats all loved being out in Elaine's wonderful garden [which - MoreObFood -has asparagus and cute baby lettuces and artichokes and a lemon tree and strawberries and other wonderful things] all in the same post.

Goodbye, Ginger, you will be missed.


Friday, April 25, 2003


Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

-- A. E. Houseman

Thursday, April 24, 2003

It's becoming a habit

... "a happy habit", as the box of See's Candy always said.

I was at the office very, very, very late (into very, very, very early) last night. I had planned to be out between 11 and midnight but it ended up being half-past one when I left.

And just what did I do at ten to two after I fed the very annoyed qat? I opened up the dishwasher and loaded the breakfast dishes, that's what I did. Of course I had been SMRT and unloaded it in the morning.

And shortly before I left for work again far too soon in the morning (I was back in the office by eight), I did some mild decluttering, for about five minutes. Consolidated a drawer so that I could store my
sweater sets
in it, instead of draped over the footboard. Am considering a shopping trip this weekend so that I can get a small shelf for shoes and some other minor organizational stuff at Target or (surprise!) Marthaland aka Kmart. Anything to avoid filing (heh).

But I'm hoping the "fifteen minutes a day" really starts sinking in. I tend to do things in bursts, although I do spend a lot more time auto-tidying.

I don't feel too bad about not having the oomph to bundle the papers together for recycling: it was raining this morning.

Although I knew it was time to go home when I found myself researching spice racks on google. I think I found one, but still, it's a sign. Space out!

Spaced and didn't order my hummingbird mailbox last night when I was waiting around for stuff. No, it's not for organizing, but it's adorable!

Must sleep. Real Soon Now. Hope my books from my latest Amazon order don't distract me too much from the real business at hand.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Easter Monday

Had a most enjoyable Easter, although it was a long day - only in the house for about 15 minutes between 7.30 am and 8.30 pm. It was made longer by the #$@% traffic on I-80 - I dread returning on summer or holiday Sundays.

I didn't help myself by about 5 minutes there since I buzzed right by the exit for 113 south (the "causeway is crowded" detour). Ironically it was while I was thinking I was for once NOT contemplating lighting out for the True North of California and beyond ... my butt still remembered 14.5 hours in the car to Portland! Considered just buzzing on through to 505 and cutting back down there since I had a tank of gas but figured I wouldn't see the Sutter Buttes since it was overcast so I doubled back.

I did think of my grandparents a lot - the last time I was up there (over the Yolo Causeway and up I-5 to 99) was for Grandma's funeral. I thought of my grandfather then because of the time of year and the amazing waterfowl on the Yolo Bypass - he was a duck hunter.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Hot Cross Buns

again for Easter breakfast. Got five 45 minute cleaning sessions in yesterday - never did file since the struggles with "it's deductible" wore me out (slow, frequent drops). I had to go off to Black Oak to see if I could find a particular book (and got it used). Spent the later evening eating guacamole and chips (had 4 small avos that needed eating) and reading a good mystery. I did some entries this morning and it was ok, though, so the trick is to do it at off peak hours due to java being slooooowwwwwww.

Hoping to get home early enough tonight to get a half hour each in the office (dealing with the paper stack, not clothing donation tracking) and one other room.

Got a Sur la Table catalog yesterday and am seeing some incentive purchases in it :-). Actually I was thinking of how I could rearrange my cabinets to buy a stair-step spice jar rack. Definitely in Phase II (when the outside looks good enough that I start tackling the innards one drawer/cabinet at a time).

Saturday, April 19, 2003

It's a beautiful Saturday

And I'm indoors cleaning again. I went out in the yard this morning to check the new paint job and the weeds are just nuts. Will have to call someone since I can't declutter in the house and the yard at the same time - only so many hours in a day. The late rains have made it really jungly.

Elaine expressed an interest in going to the Cheese Board this morning and getting hot cross buns, so off we went. We came back here for coffee and she was kind enough to hang my new shower curtains for me. I told her that I was feeling a bit anxious since I hadn't done my "two bags worth of stuff" for the week but remembered that I was planning to spend all afternoon cleaning. Sure enough I did two bags worth of clothing to give away, one bag of house trash, and almost two bags worth of newspapers in the first 45 minute session. A bit off schedule since I am waiting for the painter to come by and get paid. Will start in the LR I think. But it's a good feeling.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Cooking nights are not cleaning nights

... but at least I have gobs of food left for tomorrow and through Monday. It was almost too beautiful for a fast day (indeed, I took a picture, not digital though). I should get busy and unload the dishwasher so at least I can have a clean sink.

And the A's pounded the Rangers 9-0 after returning home (and a bit of a slump). Should encourage lots of people to show up tomorrow (only 15,000).

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

No rain, no rainbows

Got home from work last night (after fighting high weirdness in the Berkeley Bowl parking lot) and fired up the computer to tell the blog that an incident that morning that might have upset me greatly (given my mood of the weekend) had made me howl with laughter instead. And I saw a rainbow on my way to work, which I took to be A Sign. I felt very well taken care of, which was useful since there was a lot of finger pointing at the office.

But the computer was dead (fan as it turned out). It was too late to take it to local repair stores so I let my fingers do the walking. And cooked. And listened to the ballgame. And retired at a decent hour with a book.

I didn't clean (the housecleaners had done such a wonderful job) and I'm starting to miss it when I don't. I even left the sink dirty since the chicken came out of the oven at about 9.30. Shocking for no computer to distract me! But I tidied up this morning.

The computer was fixed while I waited. Hooray!

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Weather report

Mood, like the weather, alternating sunny and soggy patches. Sunnier as the day progressed.

Talked to Ayse, talked to my mother, will try talking to Elaine and Alli before the day is out. Remarked to Ayse that I was not even interested in cooking ... and then finally made the soybean succotash I'd been planning to for a while, and cut up the rhubarb for the rhubarb compote. Not sure that I'll get to the spinach-potato soup (and tomorrow is going to be a big bear at work with the return of Slammer - not my systems but the finger pointing will no doubt be intense).

No filing but some productive shopping, and a big rose and sweetpea sniff at Berkeley Hort when I was getting more redworms to replace my little casualties. Sweetpeas remind me of my grandmother since I remember one of the last times I was at her house ... it was May (this may have been the Mother's Day I went to without my parents) and the sweetpeas were blooming by the garage. NEXT year, for sure!
The sun breaks through

It was raining on my way into San Francisco but there were sunny breaks (Potrero Hill for one). When I got out, the sky was blue and the air had that amazing fresh-clean-SF-after-a-rain quality.

We got a full liturgy and choir this morning for Palm Sunday. Was realizing that one of the things I do miss about 11 am service is the choral breaks - time spent listening to that (and the sermon) is time I usually spend talking with God about what's on my mind. Today it meant that I was crying in the pew a lot.

Wonder how much of this is occasioned by my cleaning, which really is propelling me down memory lane? Lots of fun stuff but stuff that gives me pause. Yesterday's was finding some unwashed fat quarters and a set from the last time I visited my grandmother in Fresno - Nov 18 2000 was the date, confirming that I hadn't seen her in the two years prior to her death. Guilt pang. Lots of that going around today for various reasons. But I'm glad the sun is out and hope it stays. Must steel myself since I figured I needed to suck up and do some filing today and those memory lane things are in the pile.
Adventures in home composting

I spent a big chunk of yesterday afternoon dealing with my brand new worm bin. I couldn't figure out just where to attach the clip-on legs but happily Elaine was available and figured it out. I also made a huge mess of my sink by soaking the coir bedding in there (couldn't find a bucket - hey, isn't that sort of thing what a clean sink is for? my strainer came in useful).
I also hauled myself hither and yon in the pouring rain to try to find redworms - two sources I had found on the web fizzled out and I did what I should have done first, call the Ecology Center. There is a bait shop walking distance from my house.

This morning I woke up early and went in the utility room to find the newsprint so I could dampen it and cover the wormies and their food. Lifted the lid to find several on the edge, making a break for it. Focused my eyes (hey, it was pre-coffee and pre-glasses) and noticed quite a number on the floor (also making a break for it). Scooped the live ones back into the bin (happily I am NOT squeamish about worms) and deposited the dried-out dead ones in the trash. Covered them all up. Not fun at four thirty in the morning!

Did make some progress with cleaning - had cleared out two bags worth of newspapers for the worm bin space, which Elaine promptly claimed for her incontinent cat's favored pee spots. But when I got home from my Worm Hunt, I was not what I would call in a good mood. Had a pleasant visit in the afternoon with Elaine and went over to her place later for dinner (we went to Fatapple's since I was in the mood for fries) and to admire her latest home improvement efforts. She has replastered (actually, taken the wallboard off and patched the original plaster), installed molding at about 1' below the ceiling, and painted (in colors - she is bold). The small bedroom is looking quite chic as her "seaside cottage" room - blue-grey walls, white ceiling and trim, blue-and-white striped curtains from Ikea. It's pretty sunny so that helps with the dark color. And I finally found the solution to my shampoo storage woes when I checked out the bathroom (previously done) - a net shower liner with pockets. Woohoo! Time to slog through the rain this afternoon to Bed Bath and Beyond to get one. At the rate the worms are going I might need to fight the spring crowds at Berkeley Hort for some more worms.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

April Showers

Things are better, and things are worse. Got bad news last night shortly before dinner. Considered getting stinking drunk (actually one beer would have done it) but was able to calm down and get to sleep (actually I was exhausted - dozed off at 8 pm listening to the ball game). I was able to get back to sleep when the rain woke me up (pretty intense) at about 2 but was thinking about the bad news again about thirty seconds after I woke up this morning.

Have been moping considerably because of that and the very wintry weather. Had a good cry on the way back from the grocery store this morning. It's starting to pile on ... the weather and the Easter lilies reminded me of my grandmother, who died on Christmas. I was also starting the Rock and Roll cure by listening to U2 ("Beautiful Day" and "Walk On" got me through that dark fall and winter of 2001/2). Now I really need to visit Mom and Dad next weekend - a mini road trip would be just the thing (and the valley should be nice and green).

The news might not be as bad as I first thought (my reaction could just be the old demons coming for a visit) and it *will* all work out in the end. In the short term, oddly enough, I do feel like carrying through with the cleaning program already planned for this weekend, which is unusual in two respects - I can't clean when I'm depressed and I don't like cleaning when it's gray and icky out. We'll see. Although I probably won't file. I also sort of got some of my ya-yas out when I took the trash can in from the street and found lots of snails crawling over my driveway from the neighbor's ivy. They are now ex-snails. Mwuhahahahaaa!

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like
It's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong (oh ho)

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can't steal it
No they can't even feel it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight

You're packing a suitcase
For a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed
To be seen [...]

From U2, "Walk On"

Friday, April 11, 2003


Man, have I ever had the bleary-eyed blues and blahs. The "Spring Forward" Sunday was bad enough, especially since I scheduled myself for system work. But I got called on-call Monday morning at 4 am and the cat woke me up twice at 2. At least last night I got smart and pitched her out. I even woke up in time to finally have a shower (bad hair days since I had been oversleeping).

New evening routine needs to include "give the cat a snack" again, I see.

But I have had no energy in the evenings, and have overslept in the mornings. I did get some cleaning done thanks to the increased light - sat out in the sunporch and sorted through newspapers. KQED is having beg week which increases my sense of unreality since the programs are at odd times. (Yes, I pledged last time!) So I have been listening to the ball games. Not bad since the A's have been kicking ass.

But I have no energy to cook, to the point where things are getting funky in my fridge and I'm scraping for work lunches (and dinners!). I blew off going to the store tonight because I was tired and wanted to bring the worm bin in before it started raining tomorrow.

Yoga for Wimps arrived last night (speedy - seller was in Gilroy). Will have to try it. Wished I had it today since I got very upset (crying upset) when I had to drop what I was doing (my almost-overdue projects) and do something for someone else (who should have been doing it themselves). This on top of two days of cleaning up after a department who, oops, didn't have antivirus on a couple of machines and got hit.

But I felt better in the afternoon. Got some high -tech attitude adjustment at thinkgeek.com. Am considering a "I read your email" shirt for work.

Okay, off to pick some roses and scrounge through the fridge for dinner.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Opposite ends of the food chain

The Sweet Potato Queens and Dr. Nicholas Perricone.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

One consequence of cleaning ...

is that that the cat has more clear surfaces to jump up on. I was distinctly annoyed when she hopped on the bureau but charmed yesterday when she found a Maya-sized hole about halfway up on one of the bookshelves. By the time I got the camera and got the flash warmed up, though, she had gone. Hope to catch her there again.

Not getting much done today - feeling blah. I will try speed-sorting newspapers after I get back from a shopping run since that should get me big results for not much work. Then I am going to make some pots de creme to have as rewards for doing the Evil Filing. (Big decision is "Lemon or chocolate?".)

I went to St. Mark's for services today because I missed early service at Grace due to scheduling myself for system work. I didn't want to cut up the rest of the day going to and from SF, although I wouldn't mind checking out the 6 pm service some time. (Actually, if it wasn't Lent, I wouldn't have bothered - I am still crampy and on call to boot.)

I did not encounter the serene church cat I met during Ash Wednesday service (surveying [her?] domain from on top of the children's toy basket) but was pleased to note that under the "Staff" header in the bulletin is the notation "Brigid, Julian Felines". Oh, Purr!

St. Mark's Easter Vigil is at 5.30 am, almost as daunting a prospect of being up till midnight and more at Grace, but they do have a parish breakfast afterwards. With champagne. I wouldn't be surprised if the parish bought the bubbly, either. Heh.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

I'm not the only one

Most of the people I talked with at work yesterday were awakened by the thunder last night and thought it was a bomb too.

Beautiful day - trying to get up the energy to sort through the paper stacks since the worm bin arrived weeks ahead of schedule and I want to bring it indoors. But I have low-grade cramps (and feel like catching up on my lost sleep). At least I'm better than last night when all I wanted to do was eat and sleep, or this morning when I had higher-grade cramps. I got my tax forms in the mail yesterday and didn't even pull them in to see if I got money back.

Am currently drawing a nice soaky bath and plan to relax with a book, then go thru the bills to pay while I'm steaming off (the tax form is worth a trip by itself, but I might as well consolidate). I might buy a bookshelf when I go over to the post office (store across the street) to organize my bedside.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Winter's Last Gasp

I was awakened at two this morning by something that sounded a lot like two jets flying very low over the house (I'm on flight paths for OAK and SFO but the planes have some altitude usually by the time they get here). I immediately thought there was something major wrong going on. I waited for the sound of a *boom* and it didn't come. Then the rain became very audible so I thought "either it's storm pattern at OAK or that was thunder". Fifteen minutes later (during heavy rain) there was a big thunder boom. Of course since it was the middle of the night and I'm already paranoid I thought "it could be a bomb".

It was also really cold - I slept under the fleece blanket and the cat spent all night under the covers with me, which is highly unusual since she is NOT an "undercover kitty". This worked to my advantage since I left the fish in the car accidentally. Figured it was the same temp as the fridge in there so I'm baking it up for my lunch.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

The Penny Drops

I realized yesterday that I am having an extremely diffuse, low-grade, but very definite anxiety attack about the uncertainty in the world. Primarily the war but now SARS too. The symptom seems to be that I am spacing out on really elementary things at work. Now if something happens that requires that I engage my research or troubleshooting skills, I can do fine with it, but things I should be able to do with one hand tied behind my back, LAN Admin 101a, are surprisingly difficult. Well, it's mostly that I do the right thing to the wrong object because I didn't read carefully enough.

It's not enough to hit my Atavan supply for; actually, once I get home, life is pretty good and I can get quite happily involved with house work or reading. Distraction maybe but at least I'm getting something (positive) done. And I don't want to take the meds at work since they have a tendency to knock me out. Time to start reading the Psalms daily again, I think.

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
If I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea,

Even there your hand would lead me,
and your right hand would hold me."

-- from Psalm 139

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Play Ball!

I missed a great game last night. The pre-game awards ceremony featured A's Greats of Yore Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, and Carney Lansford presenting the Cy Young, the AL MVP, and Golden Glove/Silver Slugger awards (which they, of course, had won) to Zito, Tejada, and Chavez. Although my decision to not attend was reinforced both by the weather (it did not rain but it was damp and chilly) and the fact that I am "on call" this week and actually did get a phone call almost before I left the office.

The A's thumped the M's five-zip. All five runs were slugged in by new acquisition Erubiel Durazo. I remember seeing him in Phoenix and thinking "who's he" (esp. since the announcer was doing a sorta cheesy Mexican-Announcer-On-Speed riff
when he was announced). I got that question answered.

No cleaning to speak of but I cooked (and stayed warm and toasty, it was 50 F at game time). Will have to clean in the bedroom and the porch for 45 minutes each tonight (will set timer). I can do that while listening to tonight's game, should I feel the urge, but I got real superstitious last night.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

I am a (weather) wimp

[Either that or "Why I Like Living In California, Reason #45,109"]

I decided to blow off Opening Day because it's threatening rain and I got rained on at Spring Training in Phoenix - once a year is more than plenty. Plus, I have a tickle in my throat.

But the Orioles had snow for their home opener. Yipes!