Friday, May 29, 2009

At Least The Turtle Doesn't Hate Me. Probably.

Work went about how I thought it would, but I made it through to the end of the day. Sadly, it was too late to run by the studio but I had another plan. I was going to go to our pathetic little mall and stock up on the "historical" scents currently at Bath & Body Works, hit the Waldenbooks and then maybe order a pizza or something. High times, I know.

As I zipped down the highway, I noticed a lump in the middle of my lane. Then I realized that the lump was a turtle - half a lane into attempting to cross 4 lanes of traffic - at rush hour. *sigh* I'm not capable of leaving turtles in danger like that. I was probably close to 15 yards down the road before I managed to safely get parked on the side of the highway. I trotted back toward the bump, who was a very huddled bump as cars went whizzing over his head. (He may have been reconsidering his foolproof moving scheme.) As I got closer, I recognized the shape of the bump. Drat. Snapping turtle. And me without my handy broomstick. (At one point, I found snappers crossing the street darn near every time I left the freakin' house, so I took to carrying a nice strong length of broomstick to assist in getting the turtles to the side of the road - both of us unhurt.) I'm told that other people find non-bitey creatures to rescue. I wonder what that's like?

So I got even with the turtle, tramped down into the ditch to find a stick, came back to the side of the road, waited for a likely break in traffic and zipped out into the middle of the highway to rescue the turtle, who promptly snapped my stick in half.

Damn! Need bigger stick. So, back to ditch for better stick, back to road, wait for traffic, zip out again and herd the turtle back to safety. (I have to confess, I helped Mr. Turtle a bit with the side of my foot. We had to HURRY.) Right, so now what? Well, the turtle had some scuffs on his shell and I got to thinking that maybe he had been hit. Clearly, I had to take him to the wildlife lady. She saved the last injured turtle that I found along the road.

This presented me with a slight logistical problem, given that the turtle didn't seem to be entirely friendly so I wasn't interested in just grabbing him. (Snapping turtles can reach practically any location on their shell, so there really isn't a safe place to grab them.) I gave him a firm command to stay, trotted back to the Jeep, dumped a milk crate of junk into the back, and trotted back to the turtle. I'm so glad I was still dressed for work in three inch heels and a long sleeved shirt - 'cause it was 82 degrees with VERY high humidity and I'm running around the highway chasing turtles. Brilliant. The turtle had spent the time coming towards me, along the side of the highway, so I had to overshoot him a bit to retrieve my stick. Since the turtle did not volunteer to hop right into the crate, some gentle persuation was necessary. That's went I realized that the turtle didn't exactly fit into the crate.

So, here's a picture for you - me, in business casual and nice shoes, walking along the side of the highway in the very bumpy grass, holding a milk crate in front of me with one hand and a stick in the other, which I was using to block the turtle's VERY active attempts to clamber out of the crate, which was not hard for him because he was kind of bigger than the crate. Weird how I'm the only one I know who gets into these situations. I finally made it back to the Jeep, jostled the turtle until he was sort of wedged at an angle into the bottom of the crate, then I wedged the crate between the dash and the passenger seat of the Jeep, put the stick within reach - just in case he tried to escape in the Jeep, hopped in and away we went to the wildlife lady.

Just about this time, my friend called to invite me over for dinner and LEGO PS3 games. I told her I had a pitstop to make, which led to her volunteering to come help me corral the turtle. Already done says I - I'm almost at the wildlife care center. So we decided that she'd figure out what her spouse was doing for dinner and call me back.

The wildlife lady was still there, which was fortunate 'cause the turtle would not have fit in the emergency wildlife drop box. She leaned into the Jeep, poked at him, said he was one very lucky turtle and he was fine and then she gave me directions to a park where I could drop him off near the water. *blink* But... um. I got him INTO the crate. Isn't that enough?? Apparently no. So I headed off to the park to drop him and my friend called back with ideas for food. When she learned that I still had the passenger, she asked if I'd bring him to her house. There's a little creek nearby and she wanted to see him.

She met me in her driveway and we each took a side of the crate and walked him to his new home. There a steep slope from the road down to the creek. Once we got him out of the crate and pointed downhill, a gentle shove sent him lumbering on his way.

The closer to the water he got, the faster he went. He was hidden, but we could see the weeds moving in his path. And plop! into the water and he was gone.

When I was eight or so, my father brought home a snapping turtle that was more than three feet in diameter - it couldn't rest flat in one of those large green trash cans, so I thought this guy was kinda small. He was probably 13 or so inches across, and 16 or so inches long, not including tail. Turns out, for this area, he was apparently quite large - my friend said that's the biggest one she's seen around here.

After releasing the turtle, we headed back to her house for stuffed chicken breast and the LEGO Indiana Jones game - which is so so fun. The little clips are HILARIOUS. And, once I got home, I broke out dessert - the first cherries of the year. Yum!

Tomorrow, I'll go play in the mud and then (maybe) to a coworker's daughter's birthday party. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One of Those Days...

I didn't take any pictures while at the Fossil Festival 'cause I was busy digging like a gopher, chasing teeny tiny teeth and eating and shopping and people-watching and enjoying the sun (a bit much) and and and it was a wonderful day, capped off by a slightly surreal visit to a winery. I'm glad my friend was with me 'cause I'd have probably bolted if I'd have been alone, and that would have been a shame 'cause that guy knows his way around a grape. I bought 3 bottles of his blush and 2 bottles of what he calls "Gold Crown." It's funny - the bottle doesn't have the fancy label that the wines do - it's just the name, with no identifiers. And this gold crown is not wine. He said it was something you sip, after dinner, like amaretto... except 36% alcohol. That's right, folks, I found "wine" that is 72 proof. Go me!

We followed the signs to the winery and found it not too far off the beaten path. We were skeptical - there's a faded for sale sign by the road, and the gravel drive is full of potholes. The trees overhang the ruts, which twist off unseen into the underbrush. Normally, the Jeep and I enjoy these little expeditions. My friend's Toyota wasn't sure. After all, this neighborhood is near the shoot-all-comers zone. As it happens, the underbrush was more of a tree line and the path soon took us past well-ordered vines, greening with new life. Then we passed a ramshackle barn and a couple of horses wandering around the driveway. And a bunch of chickens. And a faded, but lovely, old house. A small herd of enthusiastic canine greeters met us at another outbuilding - one with a very leafy patio. An old man met us out there and led us inside to a very low ceiling room with a fireplace at one end and a huge bar running lengthwise along one side. The bar was empty except for a line of bottles. We stood on one side of the bar, and Mr. Bennett stood on the other, pouring tiny gulps of wine into dinky plastic cups. He bought the winery after he retired and it's gotten too big for him, which is why he's selling. He was neat, and the wine didn't suck and it was a really cool ending to a great day.

I also have about four gazillion new pottery things to show. I'm told that I'm making progress. I'm not convinced. I have learned that glazing and wine are a bad combination. One helleva lot of fun, but not only does the productivity go way down, one ends up spending almost 2 hours during the following visit to the studio trying to undo what has been done. I do have a better understanding now of why the studio is sometimes in rather rough shape first thing Saturday morning. Given how much wine and chocolate and snacks we put away in less than 3 hours on Friday night, I'm not sure how it is that we don't find bodies strewn hither and yon some mornings.

The weekend was FABULOUS and I really needed it. I bounced into work all happy on Tuesday. That didn't last long. Splat! Oh, hi Reality. You bitch.

So today went as ever and then a bit after noon, I left to head to a supplier. I don't know what happened but less than 15 minutes after I left the plant, I was lost. This is my just in time supplier. I'm there ALL THE TIME. I drive nearly every time I go. This time? Totally backwoods-where-the-hell-am-I lost. Fortunately, I had the Garmin in the car and she got me back on track but I still don't know what happened. I mean, with my sense of direction, I spend a lot of time lost, and I frequently wander for a couple of hours trying to find my way back home FROM the supplier, but getting there is basically one road. And I managed to mess it up. REALLY mess it up. She got me back to roads I recognize, but it should not have been possible to get where I was from where I came from.

I called one of the guys that I was meeting, and told him that I was running late. He asked if I was lost... and I said something about how just because I was running late did not mean that I was lost and somehow, from my tone, he figured it out and apparently nearly fell into the press he was laughing so hard. When I finally arrived, I got to explain to a room full of tall, serious Germans that I got lost. On the one road that leads to the plant. On my (roughly) four millionth visit there. *sigh*

Unfortunately, that was about the last light-hearted moment of the afternoon because we have a HUGE new project that MUST NOT FAIL that starts production in less than 8 weeks and today I learned that we are really really really close to major disaster. I've been freaking out over this for months, but it's really crunch time now, and we are in hot water. And my supplier is stupid. Which makes me nuts. Dammit. This project is our future. We will rise or fall together and this has to work. Why don't you care as much as I do? How can you be so damn casual about this? "Oh yeah, I guess that is a problem." YOU GUESS?!!?!?!?!? We have less than two months before start of production of units to sell, you're looking at major problems that require major tooling changes, requiring a minimum of... 8 weeks and you'll give me an update on Friday. Or Monday. Depending. I don't F*CK*NG think so. I can't force you to care (although I will make us both miserable trying) but I can force you to move one hell of a lot more quickly than you apparently think you need to. *growl*

So after the visit, I went back to my plant (without getting lost, thank you very much) and sent off a bunch of not-very-friendly emails to some rather important (in my work life, anyway) people regarding the latest disaster that we're in. I imagine the fur will start to fly quite early tomorrow. Wish me luck.

When's the next long weekend? I need another one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I'm really really really looking forward to this weekend.

Tomorrow afternoon, I have scheduled an offsite meeting with a friend - at the pottery studio. Fridays are "bring your own wine" nights at the studio, and everyone brings wine and snacks and such. I'm not counting on being very productive, but I should have some cool stuff out of the kiln.

Then Saturday marks the beginning of the Aurora Fossil Festival. I've been looking forward to it since last year's was over. I will dig for more teeny tiny sharks teeth, and maybe find a cool rock or two to lug home with me. Can't wait!

And then, the toffee sprinkles on my little sundae... Monday off. Ah, blessed vacation! Have a great weekend! I hope to.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rainy Days and Sundays...

And today is both. Blech. As happens to me occasionally, all will drains out with the sun and I've spent the day curled on the couch, wrapped around a cat. While my house is still a mess, I've almost gotten through the pile of library books, and I'm up on the most recent videos, courtesy of one of the all-videos-all-the-time stations on the tv.

At least whatever feasted on my gerber daisies last year hasn't gotten the new ones. Yet.

Adding to the cheer, there's a stray cat outside who is rather desperate to move into my house. The Peanut's been freaking out over the interloper for days. Sophia doesn't care - it is outside and therefore not worth Her Highness' notice. Every day, around dinnertime, the cat starts circling the house and shrieking to be let in. It starts on the front porch, moves to the window in the living room and ends up on the back porch. Peanut then spends a chunk of time growling and yowling back, while throwing herself into the French doors. Given the condition of the glass in this house, I'm afraid that one day she'll end up breaking the door.

In the meantime, hope your day was sunnier.

BTW, if you haven't heard her yet, Anjulie has a very interesting sound. I like it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Froggie Came A'Courtin'

My parents were both biology majors in college. My mom is now a certified master gardener, and she spends hours and hours a day pottering around in the dirt. And they share a love of all things nature.

Gardens and bird feeders, toad houses and bat shelters abound. Speaking of abounding, frogs abound as well... toads, and leopard frogs and grey tree frogs - even the occasional bullfrog, wandering over from the neighbors' pond - they're everywhere. (Can you see all three in the picture below?)

When I was five, my parents put in a pool. Dad isn't one for small scale, so the pool is inground, concrete and fiberglass, 54000 gallons of water.

In the winter, the water level is lowered to below the skimmers and the winter cover is put on, and weighted down, and lashed to the fence. (The wind at home is fierce.) The easiest way to weight down the cover is to collect water on top of it. The end result of this is that the pool becomes a pond for late fall, winter and early spring.

When you mix many many frogs with a protected part-time pond, you end up with pollywogs. Lots of them. Millions of them - all gathered on the pool cover. Of course we had an aquarium every year full of them, and we'd watch them turn into teeny tiny froggies and then we'd let them go outside - but what of the tadpoles on the cover? Come summer, the pond had to morph back into a pool and that meant the polliwogs had to go.

So, every spring and continuing to this day, we launch one of our Spring Rituals - the Great Polliwog Rescue. We use nets, and friends, and spend the better part of at least one day collecting polliwogs into buckets and transporting them to the neighbors' pond. This is the 30th year of the Rescue and our friends' children are now helping with the netting and the hauling of the buckets. Of course, this year - for the third year in a row, I'll miss it because I live too far away to come home for the weekend. But I know it'll happen, and maybe next year I'll live closer. And in the meantime, yay for polliwogs!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Confessions from Cinco de Mayo

I don't have a drop of Hispanic blood anywhere near my veins. If you dig back far enough, you can unearth a lone Native American woman who gave her German husband 12 strapping sons... but that's about the extent of it and she was over a hundred years ago.

But, it's been AGES since the last lunch at work, and we needed a holiday so I grabbed this one in both paws and held on. (Although, if I'd have caught on a BIT sooner, I'd have totally made them celebrate Star Wars Day, which we will be doing next year. May the fourth be with you! And yes, someone did have to explain to me that it wasn't EVERY fourth but May 4th, 'cause you know, it mentions May right in the phrase. Sometimes? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. *sigh*)

So today's feast included homemade salsa, tacos from the authentic (and very yummy) restaurant down the street, homemade guacamole and assorted other treats. I made a flan cheesecake thing that turned out MUCH better than I expected. I also made an appetizer that was okay, but not really worth sharing.

I grabbed both of these recipes off of the internet. I'm not sure where the flan cheesecake recipe came from; the salsa bites were from Pampered Chef. I started with the actual recipe, then anything I changed is listed at the bottom. If it's in italics, I fussed with it - make sure you read below.

Flan Cheesecake

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1.5 cups milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set a large bowl of ice water next to stove. Put sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a pastry brush, stir the sugar occasionally, being careful not to get any grains stuck against the sides of the pan, until it has all dissolved. Swirl the pan every minute until the sugar becomes a golden reddish-brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Shock the bottom of the saucepan by placing the bottom in the ice water to stop the cooling and then equally divide into 10 to 12 (3.5 inch) ramekins and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat cream cheese with eggs on low speed with an electric mixer until combined then increase speed to medium high and beat to completely incorporate. Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk and vanilla extract and continue to beat together until everything is well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Ladle the custard over the caramel into the ramekins, filling them up to 1/2-inch from the rim. Place a kitchen towel in a deep baking dish in the oven and using a pitcher, pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins, taking care not to get water in the ramekins. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the flan is just set, about 30 minutes. When you tap the edge of the ramekin the flan should still wobble in the center.

Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven, remove the foil and let the ramekins cool slightly. Using tongs remove the ramekins from the water and set on a towel to cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Once cooled completely, the flan can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before unmolding and serving. To serve, run a thin knife around the inside edge of the ramekin to loosen the flan, and invert onto a plate.

Okay, there were several things in this that make me wonder if the originator actually ever made this thing. I've never shocked the pot before when boiling sugar. It starts to harden so fast normally that I totally skipped this step - just take it off when it's more golden, with just a hint of the reddish brown. And, I didn't use the pastry brush either - but I did add a dollop of corn syrup. (I happened to have dark in the cupboard, either is fine. Someone told me once that it helps prevent crystallization. I don't know if it's true, but it didn't hurt.) Once it has started to warm, but not yet bubble, stir it a couple of times with a table knife. After that, do not stir - just gently swirl the pan every minute or so. It'll take care of itself. Don't leave it unattended though - once it starts going, it gets where you need it quickly.

Don't get too uptight about the room temperature thing. I set everything out, then did my thing with the sugar then started mixing the rest of it. Then I realized that I needed another egg, and I didn't set the milk out so some stuff went in cold. You don't want it too cold or you may end up cracking your caramel layer, but don't wait for it to get to room temp either.

Also, I didn't use the ramekins. This recipe makes A LOT. I ended up using one 9" high-sided pie plate and 4 1-cup sized glass bowls, and I had enough left over that I made another one the next day using a normal 9" pie plate. I have an 11" x 15" x 2" baking pan that I used. I like the towel idea - it helps keep everyone where you put them and prevents the hot water from splashing all over the place. I put the leftovers in a glass bowl, covered it and left it in the fridge overnight. The next evening, I boiled more sugar, brought it out of the fridge, whisked it well and it turned out fine.

I put the kettle on to boil about the time that I started adding the milk to the mix. When it was time to add the hot water, it was boiling and I poured it straight from the kettle. BE CAREFUL. Preheat your oven to 340 or so. Then, pull the rack out and place the baking sheet onto the rack BEFORE you add the water. Add the water, cover it, push the rack GENTLY back into the oven and then turn the heat down to 325.

Several people in my office are dieting, so I used that 1/3 the fat Philly cream cheese, along with no fat evaporated milk and 2% milk. (The condensed was what I already had in my larder.) The 4 glass bowls were not originally planned and didn't have the sugar layer. They were served with a bit of whipped cream and were very yummy that way, so you could just skip the whole boiling sugar thing if you wanted to.

I have no idea how the person got it cooked in 30 minutes. That's nuts. Of course, I'm not really into wobble, and prefer mine a bit more cooked so that may be part of it, but at thirty minutes, this is still soup. Count on an hour. It's covered and cooking with water to keep the temperature constant, so it's pretty forgiving. Actually, at one hour and ten minutes, I decided it was mostly done. Then I turned the oven off and went to bed - leaving it in the oven. The next morning, I carefully removed the cool baking pan from the oven. This may be the best way to handle it. Heavy, sloshy liquids are not fun, especially when they're covered and you can't see how close they are to overflow.

Be aware that the sugar will be liquid underneath the flan so don't freak out, decide it's still not done and cook it for another several hours. It's okay. It's supposed to be like that. Since I had to transport mine, I actually drained most of the liquid off prior to wrapping it for the road.

It's not a typical flan - it's creamy, with a mild but rich flavor - VERY good. Once again, I brought back an empty plate.

I hope you had a great Cinco de Mayo, whatever you ended up eating.

Friday, May 01, 2009


Whatever bonehead came up with the script for Jurassic Park 2 - the Lost World should be taken outside and shot. The books were so good, the first movie ROCKED and this trash came along.

Every time I see that it's on, it pisses me off.