Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yogurt & Stories

While in Washington, DC last week, my coworker mentioned that making yogurt was really easy. So I found a recipe online - from a woman who used her crockpot every day for a year. She had a very simple way to make yogurt in your crock pot: put in the milk, heat for 2.5 hours, unplug crock pot let cool for 3 hours, add yogurt to milk, wrap crock pot with towel for insulation and let sit for 8 hours.
It really is that easy. I tried with whole milk - it said that would be easier. And it worked really really well. Now I have two tupperware tubs of yogurt ready for dog feedings. I think tried it with non-fat yogurt, for me. I added some gelatin with the yogurt, as suggested, but it didn't come out as well as well as hoped. It was runny and not as tangy as desired.
I found this online:
A yogurt sieve. I may have to try it. While I don't really resent buying yogurt, I dislike throwing away a plastic container every few days. As a result, I'm now going to make my own! I am excited.

With this victory comes the celebration of my birthday (today). I'm happy to be turning 34. My mother once told me I was more agreeable when in an even year - we'll see. But with my happy day is some sadness. My good friend's brother is in the final stages of with terrible cancer. I'm sad for him. I'm sad for my friend. It leaves me feeling so helpless. I did find my friend on IM and was amusing him with silly thoughts & ideas. I felt like I was cheering him up - I think that is all I can do.

I read this:
Garrison Keillor's essay on losing his brother. He writes with such clarity. I want to share with my friend, but his brother isn't dead yet. It might be pre-mature.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dreams Come True Even on Morning Runs

This morning I jogged down to the mall, past all the museums, to the capital, right as the sun was fighting up over the dome, back down the mall, around the tidal pool, waved at the Jefferson Memorial, was almost lonely as I passed the FDR monument, trekked cross country to the reflecting pool, looked right to see the sun, the Washington Monument and the Capital Dome gleam, then paid my respects to Lincoln, jugged back up the reflecting pool to the WWII monument and thought, you know, we’re running out of space for monuments, we might want to hold off on any more wars for a few decades, then tried to jog up and around the White House, but found it was barricaded & protected in such a way that I wondered what sort of statement it makes for children & foreign visitors to see, so up 15th St and then back to the hotel.

I have dreamt of seeing the Capital with the cherry trees in bloom. They are primed and ready. A few trees have popped early, erupting in white – when I do this jog again in Friday morning, I hope more have opened up their flowers. I feel so blessed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Washington Wonders

I definitely get star-stuck. Not by celebrities (who cares about Brad Pitt's thoughts on Fathering or Nichole Richie's lastest blunder) but by places. For me, few places have the dazzle of Washington, DC.

Last night, driving into the city, with the lit-up monuments and glorious buildings that house our government, I find it overwhelming. This building, here, shelters the Congress while they debate and make deals. Over here the world impacting monetary policy gets decided.

Funny - I didn't have this same "oh my god!" feeling while walking around London. Not sure why. I did get to go into Parliament once. Back when I was 17, my mother and I were ogling the building and the nice guard told us we could go in and watch the meeting of the House of Lords. What fun! They heckled each other! Boo's rang out during while a well dressed man orated.

But there wasn't the same aura. London had a different glow. The "oh my god! I'm in London" feels different than, "oh my god! there is Obama's house!". The Awe tilted towards the strangeness and far away.

Some of it must come from the icons. The Washington Odalisque honors my 1st president. Trafalgar's column - um, Trafalgar - he lead the Navy, right? It is as if we both like the same sport, yet cheer different players.

I hope to eke out a few hours when I can see a sight or two.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Green Paint is Greener on the other Side

So last week Marc took me on a quick run through of the model homes built & decorated to sell the homes in our little complex. They have 4 floor models with all the bells, whistles and features. It was wild to see them. The one of our house was a mirror image, which made it familiar and not at the same time.

What I came away with was the desire for $20k of upgrades. I almost wish I hadn't gone in, as I was very content with our house. We have been nesting and getting things just so, but then I see what professionals can do with triple our budget and I'm now sad.

Some things I didn't like, as they were just over the top a faux flag/brick wall in the family room? why? And some of the fixtures screamed, "I have no taste, just some extra cash to burn!" But then there were small things that did work. Mostly these had to do with furniture - not the look of the pieces, but the size & placement of them. The colors and details of the wall finishing and how the colors echoed in the pillows to make a very cohesive look. I was wrap!

I also saw how themes could take shape and be echoed about. One theme I want, and I have a feeling my civilized British-mate will not appreciate is my enjoyment of the West & Dessert. Like worn wood, polished smooth with age, bleached in the sun. Colors that give the feel of desert rocks, sky & vegetation. Yes, I wouldn't mind a cow hide on the plank wood floor; Sedona & Santa Fe without the Cowboys, Indians or knotty pine. I Hate knotty pine. Rough, smooth & warm.

Not that I would try such a task without a professional. They have a way with things. Little things, like putting a edge-thingy (yes, I know the technical terms) as a band around the room, and at what height and then what to do above & below the band in terms of color & smoothness to make it all work. It amazes me. Marc says it is simple, I'm not convinced.

All that to say, I don't have the time, energy or money to take the house to the next level. I'm stuck now, knowing what our house could be - yet unable to get there. Why are we humans so programmed? Or is it that we've totally hone our marketing skills to the point that executives can just push the average Joe's buttons? I recall my ex-husband having a fear of psychologists, as he thought they could get inside his head. He was right on getting in our head, just wrong about who had the skill to do it.

One Last Strike for the Composter

So, I decided to give the composter one last go. I put in the bowl full of scraps I had from 2 days of cooking, plugged it in and let her rip.

I came out the next day with a few more things to add and her red light was flashing - Jam. It was late, I was tired and I just unplugged the thing.

I'm dreaming of getting a composter on my way home. Our kitchen produces such a volume of scraps, I feel bad NOT composting. Putting all those things into the grand dumps around my great state.

I just need to shake off my city-girl limitations and go green.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kindle me Not

My birthday is in 2 weeks and I'm all atwitter with excitement. In the past I've given my father a present suggestion that I want but wouldn't indulge myself in. This year, I thought it would be the Kindle 2. And then I was discussing it with Marc on our long Sunday walk.

The Kindle 2 looked slick - you can download almost any book in a matter of seconds. Talk about instant gratification. I want, "She was a good reader" on my tombstone. However, I can't really flag pages for future reference. Also, after finishing a book I might want to share with Marc, I'd have to lend him my Kindle. What fun is that? We already struggle over the Nintendo DS, "Where did you put it?" "Are you finished with that Soduko yet?" "I've got the highest score in the 20 math calculations, ha!" Does the Kindle record how long it takes to read a book? That could be trouble for this hyper competitive duo.

Then, even if he were to get a Kindle 2 for himself, that wouldn't solve the problem of sharing a good book - as the books aren't transferable. What happens when the Kindle 3 comes out? Can I transfer all my Kindle 2 books? Probably not. This device is sounding less & less appealing.

On the 1/2 filled shelves of our new bookcases sit books from all parts of my life. A picture book of Italy given to me by my Great-Aunt Zada, edited with postcards she had collected on her trips. Across the room are the Greek Plays next to Herodotus - a book that I occasionally reference. My philosophy shelf houses the Bible, a book on Zen, The Elegant Universe and God's Debris. Even if the Kindle let me create virtual bookshelves, they wouldn't be there to amuse my guests. Nor could it provide me with the small and leather-bound book from 1750 that my Grandmother Polly gave me. I haven't been able to read it, as the S's are sometimes F's as was the printing tradition back then, or was that due to their not having formalized spelling by that time?

I imagine that, one day, I will have to switch over to a new book technology. I don't yet think that the Kindle is it. Instead, I'm asking for a larger, traditional composter - something along the lines of this Wibo - sorry NatureMill. It is made out of recycled plastic - all the better! And then, I'll see if my dad is up for giving me this, I think it is a ready to go garden plot, but I need to go check it out. I'm not sure if dirt is included.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Composter Woes

I peeked. I opened the composted to check the status of my compost before a full week had gone by. The excitement got to me.

Sunday I took a gander under the lid only to find nothing there. The compost was gone. For a fleeting second I thought that Marc had stolen it as some odd joke, but no. All of the compost, in a nearly undigested state, had been dumped into the "done" tray. How did it come to that conclusion?? In my perplexed state, I contemplated tossing it all back up to the top for another session in the mixing chamber.

Then I spotted the evil white fuzz and knew that I couldn't. The mold had returned. Unfortunate.

Yesterday I buried it. Load #2 of half digested food waste now lays in the back yard. I am beginning to wonder what the archaeologists of 2250 will think of the dirt around the future ruins of our current home. "Strange how this house shows garbage disposal so close to the foundations - totally non-typical for primitives of that era."

I will begin agian this weekend - after a good dosing of 409 tonight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Road to Bliss

A few weeks ago I purchased, "A Brief History of Everything" on CD. I didn't like it. There was an excessive amount of odd jargon used to reinforce an odd construction of how to view the world. With each CD, the little voice in my head kept saying, "You know Jennifer, you don't have to finish every book you start." and I would reply, "Maybe the next CD will be better."

But last night, as I was driving home, the book reached a point where the framework developed meaning. The ideas swam about and one came up to me - that in X & Y Buddhist traditions that the path to enlightenment was just that - a path. The follower never arrives at a destination. The idea I caught next focused on how adherents to some Eastern traditions were required to take an oath where abouts they, as they found enlightenment, did not drift off into the bliss, focusing only on their path. Instead, the practitioners were required to teach and enlighten others so that all humans travel the path to nirvana.

I had put these thoughts away until I picked up little Tsui this morning. After spending a little time trying to face the mess that is my list of renewals for 2009, I decided to get me some dog love to lift the spirits.

Tsunami fits on my chest and she does this thing where she puts her nose down, covers it with a paw and then bursts out, and tries to kiss me - the french kind of kiss. Her attacks come at my mouth with tongue extended. She takes a few stabs at getting me and then ducks down again. I pet and nuzzle and she attacks again.

Everything else in the world vanishes. I'm left with Tsui and love. The future disappears, the past fades. She lives like this all the time. Just in the moment. This moment she sleeps at my feet. The next moment she sits & waits while I make her breakfast. Another moment she's got a leash on and we're out about town. I think she's already on the Zen path and clearly she's helping me along.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Gay Marriage Again

So, I thought the justices were going to rule on gay marriage yesterday, but they only heard arguments. And from the gloomy news, it sounds like they are going to let that razor thin majority vote hold.

My question to all of us interested in equal rights, for gays, women and minorities - where are we in the initiative process? Please send me a roster for getting signatures to put another measure on the ballot voting to legalize gay marriage. Let's start the campaign now. Let's start raising money. Let's start educating the people. And let's right an initiative that is compelling to centrists, liberals and independent voters.

I think we can do this. I have hope.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Gay Rights Day

I was reading on the NPR Website about today's decision regarding Gay Marriage. I very much hope that the court agrees that the state should not be able to restrict minority rights with a simple majority.

Reading the article, I was surprised to see this:
"This seems to be an effort to indiscriminately go after anyone who contributed money, regardless of their position on gay issues," says Frank Schubert, spokesman for the Yes on 8 campaign. He says the backlash has endangered individuals who exercised their constitutional right to freedom of religion.

The Supreme Court has effectively said that contributing money to campaigns is similar to free speech. It follows that those who contributed money to the campaign were, effectively exercising their right of free speech and stating that they believe that gay people should have their right to marry removed. I don't know how else to interpret a donation to "Yes on 8" other than as a statement against equal rights for Gay people.

I believe in transparency in campaign financing which was what happened here. The names of the contributors were made public. These people effectively stood up in the town square and stated their opinion on the matter. As a result, those who did not agree with their opinion made their thoughts known. Several people had to resign. This isn't surprising to me. If I were to make racists statements in my blog or on Facebook, I shouldn't be surprised if my employer called me in to HR to address the issue.

And where does religious freedom come into this? Were these people who donated money restricted from worshiping? Where they forced to do something against their beliefs? No, they brought their religion into the public sphere and then complained when others had beef with their actions. Likewise, the pious often have beef with those who wear skimpy clothing in the public sphere as it, while unfortunate choice of attire, is offensive to them.

Where am I going with all this? Not sure. I believe that we all should be held accountable for our actions, be it fashion mistakes or making racists, sexist or anti-gay statements.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Brain Train Status

This morning I did 100 simple calculations in 1 min 59 sec with 1 error. Pretty good, I think, especially as that includes a turn of the page. So far, I have seen improvement in my brain training. I'm doing it both in the book, Dr Kawashima Train Your Brain More and with his Nintendo DS game (that you Marc!).

Now I'm curious if I will quickly master these games. The simple math challenges me every time and my times are holding somewhat steady with big fluctuations clearly tied to coffee intake, sleep intake and previous day's alcohol intake. Drinking, even 2 drinks in one evening, will slow me down the next day. Then there is the reading aloud and finding techniques to do that quickly. Also, I'm an ace at the syllable count. I find the party game to challenge me the most, as little people are put in the house and hidden. Then people come in and leave and I am required to keep track of the number of people in the house - by far the hardest.

Whether or not I master then, the games amuse me and look forward to them. I'm not sure if my brain is getting stronger or not. I do the brain test every 5 days or so with the book and I try to keep it to the same schedule on the Nintendo. The Nintendo announces my brain age - which currently is 26. I'm excited about that. My first brain age was in the 60's. I'm not sure if I'm sharper in daily life. Yet so far, I have not found a way to check this. Let me know if you think of any ideas.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Written on the Body

Today Marc & I did 12 miles on the treadmill. As you all know, we're training for a May Marathon and our goal today was to transport our bodies over the equivalent of 12 miles. We had wanted to take the dogs for a hike for some of the trek, but the weather was wet & gray when we woke and our only training option was the gym.

In addition to the gym, I've returned to weight watchers. While I'm no big fan of portion control, I do believe it is the healthiest way to get down a size or two. With the combination of marathon training & healthy eating, I'm targeting a BMI of 22 or 23. Which would be amazing for me. I'm below 25 - which qualifies me as No Longer Obese. I'm down to about 23% body fat - another clear sign of No Longer Obese. Yippee.

The strangest thing is the subtle changes in the physique. I'm slimming down in different places - this time my arms have more definition that I've seen in the past. My coworker was harassing me the other day when I went to the office in a sleeveless shirt. Evidently my guns are looking pretty cut. I didn't think much of it until this morning when, while drying my hair, I saw the birth control in my arm. The little match stick was articulated from beneath the skin. Not the most attractive thing, yet I did feel a little bit proud.

We'll see if I can fight my way down to the svelte figure I want. Keep those fingers crossed for me.