Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Spicy Soup Protocol

My throat hurts and my ears ache and my tonsils are probably huge.
(I'm too whiny and lazy to find a flashlight and look in the mirror.)

Given that it's allergy season and contractors made big holes in my house today, it's reasonable to start with the assumption that it is allergies. But just in case, I'm pushing fluids and started my Spicy Soup Protocol.

In my experience, almost any spicy soup will help--clears the congestion, is tasty even when I can't smell, and keeps my mind off things.

The must-haves are pho tai (all the condiments) and tortilla soup.
Seaweed-eggdrop soup works well if you put enough pepper oil in it.

What would go on your Spicy Soup rotation?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Only Way Out...

It's not every day that a bird taps at my window, but this fledgling showed up this evening. He seemed quite lost, dashing along the length of the window and screen and then he lost himself in the boxwood as if uncertain which way was out.

Not long after, I saw him thrashing against the fence.

Instinct only gets a bird so far. There's an awkward time of flapping about, gaining both coordination and sense. 

Hopefully this little guy will make it safely through the next few weeks, and he'll take to the skies gloriously. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not Bad For A Tuesday

1) The tires my car needed were in stock, not the special order we expected.

2) A sale price meant the tires with the 60k-mile warranty were less expensive than the 20k tires.

3) The forty-five minute appointment only took thirty minutes.

The Brave Little Toaster has sweet new tires! 
And I got "Being a Grownup" points!

Monday, April 27, 2015


Born and raised in Wisconsin, I take my melted cheese seriously.

This week I got a bag of sodium citrate, AKA, Magic Queso Maker.

Heat up the liquid of your choice, add just a bit of this food grade salt, and then the shredded or sliced cheese of your choice. Even the crumbliest, crackliest of cheddars will melt smoothly, rather than turning into an oily and grainy concrete. You can do this in five minutes in a regular saucepan, or even with a microwave--no need to unpack the fondue pot from that cluttered cabinet above the fridge.

I'm not going to get too much into the molecular gastronomy/modernist terminology, but sodium citrate acts as an emulsifier, helping things to combine rather than separate.

It's been a week of rough news--painful demonstrations around the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the earthquakes in Nepal, yet another school shooting, and the usual confluences of snarky partisanship and reactive fear.

It would be reasonable enough to want to distract ourselves with melted cheese and go no further. But how can I, how can we, act as an emulsifier to bring people together, to combine creatively?

I do not claim to have all (or even a hefty minority) of the answers, but I continue to listen, to look for opportunities to engage, and to boost signals.

And maybe I'll bring queso.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Never the Bridesmaid...

Greetings from Austin, Texas, where I'm preparing to celebrate the installation of the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church.

In our denomination, this is the ritual celebrating the formal tie between a minister and a congregation. It is a very special relationship, and the quickest (if not the most accurate) analogy is to a wedding. 

So I've been making wedding jokes for weeks.

And then it struck me--I've never been in anyone else's wedding, so I am going to count my chalice-lighting role as being a bridesmaid. 

Big Bang Theory fans, I am playing Amy Farrah Fowler for drama here, and really hoping I get a tiara. If we make that happen, I'll update this post with a picture.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ryan Gosling in a downpour...

Our favorite movie theater has a bar and kitchen. Some films inspire drink specials. This one made me laugh out loud.

No, I did not order one. It sounded a little too sweet. Not unlike every Nicholas Sparks movie I've ever seen.

(OK, so I've only ever seen The Notebook. As much as I like Gosling and McAdams, it was mighty cloying.)

Wow. I just did a Google Image Search for Nicholas Sparks movie posters. Whee, kiss with hands on head, biceps.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Double Whataburger Weekend

Yes, I've lived here long enough that Whataburger is my go-to fast food restaurant. Delicious, freshly made, and a little different from the norm.

Breakfast, I get the bacon egg and cheese on a jalapeno cheddar biscuit. As in, jalapenos and cheddar mixed right into that biscuit dough. Mmmm.

I do not eat burgers very often, and Whataburger is pretty much* the only fast food place where I'll get a burger these days- specifically, the junior (small) Monterrey Melt--melty cheeses, two small burger patties, onions, and peppers. So good.

With onion rings. Yesssss.

I stopped in for breakfast this morning, and already have a road trip plan for the burger on Sunday.

I solemnly swear I'll eat some fruit and veg at some point this weekend.

*If I am in an airport with a Burger King, I'll get a Whopper Jr. w/ cheese.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

In the "Ideas I Wish I'd Had" Category

A friend pointed to this Twitter account.
With algorithms subtle and discrete / I seek iambic writings to retweet.

Yep. Really. Mining other people's tweets for the right syllables. Nearly fifty-four thousand retweets.

And some of them get reassembled into poetry/stories like this fine example.

Hilariously geeky.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When my Uncle Joe was a kid, he would trade crayons with his siblings-- they got his red and blue and green and yellow, and he claimed all the black crayons. (I hate to think what his teachers assumed. )

He did not live long enough to see these monochromatic Crayola packs, but I am certain he would have loved them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Whooshing All Over

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”                                                                        -Douglas Adams

It's the third Tuesday of the month. 
Newsletter article deadline. 
And board meeting day, so a board report needs doing.
And any info submitted for the weekly e-news.
And weekly Order of Service deadline...

Meanwhile, I'm sending emails and calling the folks who still need to send me things--RSVPs, resumes, service information.

My imagination has dozens of balloons, blown up and left untied, to flrbtbrtbrrbtbrt their ways across a room, bouncing into one another. 

Perhaps tomorrow they will be inflated, securely tied, and all find their way into the correct email boxes.

Please don't pop my delusions.

Monday, April 20, 2015

First Bloom

Behold, the first gardenia bloom of the season. Not the most lush or symmetrical, but given the weekend's storms, this seems miracle enough.

The weather has been warm enough for flowers for weeks--I've seen gardenias in flower in my neighbors yards. I've been checking this bush every day. So many buds, so tightly closed... until now.  

There are ways to force a gardenia to bloom, I'm told--most involve narrow temperature ranges and restricting access to light. Difficult to bring about in an outdoor plant, and quite honestly, it sounds like plant torture.

Alternately, I could give up, turn my back in frustration. The plant would not care, and I might miss out on something remarkable. 

Patience is rarely my strong suit, but nature has plentiful reminders that these things cannot be rushed or even planned for. Just keep your eyes open to joy when it comes, and breathe in the sweet fragrance when it is available to you. 

And then keep hope--that more blooms will follow in the weeks to come, and with a certain nurturing of the plant, again next year.

The Blank Screen

I did not update this blog last night.

It wasn't that our power was out (that was Friday.)

It wasn't that I couldn't get to my computer (it was next to me on the couch.)

I just couldn't think of a single thing worth writing. The screen was blank blank blank and what few ideas I had seemed insipid or ridiculous.

Ironic, considering that I've spent much of the past month talking to the eighth graders preparing to present their (short) credo statements to the congregation. In that setting I can be Miss Inspirational, full of affirmations and strategies. I tell the youth that everyone's theologies are forever in flux, and that we all have truths to share. I remind the youth that the congregation already adores them and really DOES want to hear what they're thinking. 

Sunday night, Miss Inspirational had checked out.

So I write this morning, and maybe again tonight. Life goes on.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Diluting the Message

Ever watch an R-rated movie on network  TV or basic cable, and realize that half the dialogue has been bleeped, omitted, or replaced? Zack and Miri Make a Porno is on Comedy Central and it's actually sort of fascinating to see what is left out and what passes*. 

Of course, most of us have our own censoring process, articulated or not. Whether it's manners or fear, we do not say every thing that pops into our head. But how often does it mean that a message is lost? Does our etiquette or self-preservation mean that truth is left unspoken?

*Apparently sh!t can be used as a general noun, but not as a scatological term. Go figure.

Friday, April 17, 2015


"Let's see- what flavors do we got? Cinnamon apple...French vanilla...pumpkin pie. Oh, we got to do that!"

Another night of thunderstorms and tonight we've lost electricity.

The guys are enjoying the search for candles, and my house looks quite romantic.

Good thing I didn't start that load of laundry.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Thunderstorms tonight.
Flashes of lightning and the thunder claps and rumbles.

Spouse's voice startles.
Out of place from the storm's chaos, neither loud nor wet.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"I hope that's not a hostage"

Yes, I'm watching Die Hard again. It's a film full of lessons.
  • Hollering while shooting really improves your accuracy.
  • While you were shooting up Vietnam, your coworker may have been in junior high.
  • Double-crosses have a high rate of blowing up on you.
  • We can all do our part, even if it's driving a limo into an ambulance.
  • The same traits that make you a hero can make you very hard to live with.
What else have you learned from this classic?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I've got a number of events I'm planning for work, and I sent out evites to possible participants. RSVPs were scarcely trickling in. Rumor has it that the RSVP is dead, but this was worse than usual.

On Sunday I learned that almost no one had seen the messages.  No, they weren't just ignoring the invitations or postponing a decision--responsible souls had no idea I had sent anything. I'm guessing it was a widespread junk/spam folder issue.

So I spent part of today today reworking the invitations into email form and sending them on to the affected parties. The RSVPs may not be automatically tallied, but at least I am hearing back from people.

Sometimes the tools we think will simplify our lives don't really make it there. "Time savers" take extra time.  Inanimate apps can seem to thwart us. (And then we realize how ridiculous we sound, and do our best to fix things and get over ourselves. Probably with a little stomping and cussing.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pizza Is Grilled Cheese, Right?

We're told that today is National Grilled Cheese Day.

Mmm, grilled cheese. Those are good. But there's no sliced bread in the house.

But we made pizza--on the grill!

Sourdough crust that's been curing in the fridge for a few days, veggies, anchovies, and three kinds of cheese-a little sharp cheddar for bite, a bunch of Scamorza (think smoked mozzarella), and some freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano.

So very delish! Since we can make a big batch of dough and have it last several days, pizzas on the grill may become the go-to meal, especially if I can convince one of the young men in my house to do the grilling while I stay in the air conditioning.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Twenty Years, More or Less

A little over twenty years ago, I saw Pulp Fiction on a date. It was over the top, overly bloody, but a few lines became part of our common dialogue.

It's on now and I'm half-watching, half-listening as I do some late-night renovations on the house I bought with that date (now spouse), while he and our kids sleep.

I haven't seen it many times over the years, but we've got the album, so the soundtrack is familiar. Music to work to, with goofy dialogue amidst the ultraviolence.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Writing in the Digital Age

Remember handwritten assignments? Multi-page papers that had to be done longhand. If you made a mistake, there would be a scratch-out, or White-out or maybe even "erasable ink".

My family got our first computer when I was in the second grade. It was for video games and basic programing, so my first typed pieces were on a green travel typewriter. 

By the time I was in middle school we had a computer with a printer and word processing programs to type up papers. But research and rough drafts, worked on in class, were handwritten, usually with highly specific methods (note cards, graphic organizers, 'double spaced' rough drafts) according to the individual teacher. 

I was in high school before I truly started from a blank computer screen, coming up with the words as I went, then editing on screen. 

It's a different sort of process. For one thing, there's no real need to start with a first line and go in a particular order. It's easy enough to start in the middle and rearrange as needed. No pressure to spend hours getting your first line perfect before going on to the next three hundred.

Not everything is perfect. There's that whole distraction of the internet, or even if you turn that off, the choice of fonts and a hundred other formatting decisions.

Whenever I cannot think about what to write next, I hit the enter key. I won't realize sometimes just how many times I have hit it, until a fifty-word post takes up a full screen.  Sometimes I remember to go back and edit. Other times I do not.

(I still proofread from a printed copy. And yes, my default is two spaces after a period. I'm working on it.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Church Weekends

'Tis the season of concerts and youth services, auctions and plays atop the usual rich tapestry of meetings. And so very much of it takes place on the weekend.

Here's my starter list to myself--ways to maintain some sense of life:
1) Share responsibilities whenever possible
2) Date on Thursdays (or whenever you don't have a meeting)
3) Figure out what you can say no to

4) Bubble bath or what creature comforts you can fit in
5) Keep in touch with the people you live with. You need them for #1 and because you like them
6) Vegetables, water, sunlight. Not just melted cheese, coffee/beer, dank cave.
7) Sleeeeeep

Thursday, April 9, 2015

And Now, The Money

Background: A few weeks ago my son was rushed by ambulance to a local emergency room, quickly determined to be Very Very Sick, and transported via specialized ambulance to the ICU of one of the best children's hospitals in the world. It took ten days full of care and meds and tests before he was able to come home. He is doing OK and back in school.

And now the bills begin to come. It took some courage to look at all the claims.

The full list of charges for the ER visit totals something over seventeen thousand dollars.  We were there less than three (frenetic) hours.

The children's hospital total is approaching ninety thousand dollars and it's still in processing.

What started as some congestion and a headache developed into something life-threatening, and the skills and tests and meds to save and heal my child had a price tag over one hundred thousand dollars. I hate to think how much more it would have been if he had required surgery or long-term treatments. 

We are so very lucky that my spouse's insurance covers most of this. The deductible is not painless, but it's something we can handle. And thankfully I'm salaried (and have understanding employers), so we do not have to worry about lost wages for the days I had to be away from the office.

I recognize my privilege, and realize that the situation is far different for many.

Medical expenses (and the resulting medical debt) far exceed anything a normal household budget can absorb. A single event can drain retirement accounts, cause people to lose their houses, and add tremendous stress to families already dealing with the trauma of illness and injury. The Affordable Care Act is a start, and there is much to be done so that all people and families can make it through.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Late Night Bargaining

My alarm goes off at 6:30 AM.
I know I need to get more sleep.

But I'm watching a movie. And yes, I've seen it a dozen times, but I want to finish it.

The responsible part of my brain says, no, no. You have seen this before.

Buhhhht, MOM! I want to watch it!

Fine, negotiates Responsible Brain. You can stay up for the end, IF you tidy the living room while you watch. And no fair getting distracted with blogging.

*sigh* Responsible Brain never lets me have ANY fun.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Musings at the Shopping Center

Even ugly ancient fish want flowers now and again.

(Pansies are growing nearby. It is possible that the wind blew the flowers into the fountain. But I like to imagine the fish dining "I Feel Pretty" and breaking free of this unnatural posture.)

Monday, April 6, 2015


A friend recently admitted that she hated dropping in at another friend's house--because the house was always tidy, even when visitors weren't expected.

She adores the friend, but it is a reminder that she is not the most tidy of housekeepers, and the idea of people dropping in on her makes her shudder.

In reality, her house is not filthy, just lived-in. Sure, there are piles of mail and projects on the table, but there are always seats open on the couches and the coffee maker is easy enough to find. What else do you need for a visit?

It is so easy for us to see where others are doing better than we are, and for that to race into our deepest anxieties and shame. There's no checkpoint on that route where we stop to consider our own strong points or how our realities might be different from someone who seems to be exceeding our abilities. Because those would be rational things to consider, and neither anxiety nor shame is especially rational.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


"We have no front door," explained my husband when I called home after work today. He was surprised that I took the news so calmly. He forgot that I'd talked with my dad about some painting.

Sure enough, the door and the hinges were completely missing, the door and frame scraped and ready for priming and painting.

A curtain and a few closet doors propped across the space kept the bugs out and the dogs inside (to be fair, the dogs were eagerly waiting for Easter dinner to hit the table, and perhaps a few morsels to gravitate to the floor.)

The work is not yet done, but the door is back up for the night. Keeping out some of the humidity and mosquitoes, and any other mayhem heading our way.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Life Messier Than Toys

Remember those sticky rubber octupi toys? You could throw them at the wall and they would stick and tumble their way down.

It turns out that a dollop of cream cheese-based dip will do the same thing.  Messily.

As I knelt down to clean the counter and the cupboard and the floor, I noticed the tiny drop off to the side--this picture doesn't do it justice, but it looked like a lovely little leaf.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Maybe Next Year

My partner sent me an email today. "Hey! Passover starts today."

I sent back a quick, "Yeah, I'm not going to get around to that this year. Good thing you bought yourself (half-sour) pickles."

Seriously. Store-bought pickles are the closest I'm getting to doing a Seder this year.

Easter's only happening because my mother's in town and we already had a turkey in the freezer. 
But there will be no dyeing of eggs, no carefully arranged baskets, and no way will I attend sunrise service, even though it's half a mile from my house.

I'm a Sunday School director, so there will be some amount of Happy Bunny Land at work.

Getting back to 'normal' is hard work. Getting to full holiday observances? Another mountain entirely.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Note to Self

Dear one,

When you are tired and not always sleeping well, go to bed as soon as you're tired.

Dozing off on the couch during The LEGO Movie makes for odd sleep.

But on the plus side, everything is awesome...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Perfect Easter Weather

What would perfect Easter weather look like?

Warmish, but not too warm. And not too much sun either-- makes the chocolate in the eggs melt.

Definitely not raining.

Rain, rain, go away--no one wants an indoor egg hunt.