In Case of Sleep

May not stay awake enough to finish a more substantial blog post for today. Just wanted to put this here while I’m still able to type a sentence.

After a sunny, warm morning,  gusty wind brought cold air in a matter of hours yesterday. Today the wind continues to howl through chilly air. It feels like November. Winter is giving us a sneak preview.

Got some laundry done. Drove to and from dance classes. Rewatched Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Did some writing. Attended a Girl Scout meeting. Still fighting a cold, but better today than yesterday.

In the event that I’m catching zzzs, I’m setting the scheduler to post this mini post. Imagine something in this space that is interesting and inspired. While we’re at it, imagine humor and fantastic use of vocabulary along with beautiful photos.

I hope folks had a nice weekend and have a great week. Thanksgiving will be here soon.

This is for NaBloPoMo Day 20.

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The Snowy Village Saga

I once saw a snowy village of epic proportions.

By snowy village I mean a set of decorative miniature Christmas houses made of porcelain and resin arranged into little (or large) towns. You can see these houses in stores this time of year. The brand I see most often is Lemax.

The quaint little houses are embellished with wreaths and holiday lights — all set aglow by a small light bulb nestled inside. There are wee trees and playful accessories like animals, sledders, snowmen, ice skaters, and boutiques to help bring the village to life.

One day (many years ago) a woman, who was a client of the company I worked for, invited our company to her home to see her snowy village in its full glory.

Prior to our visit, we’d heard of the snowy village through the grapevine.

The woman often named a house in the little town for somebody she knew. She tried to tie the little structures to friends or family members. A red house was named for someone who had a red house in real life. Flowers and extra plants for somebody who gardened.

The houses were set up on little streets in little rows. There was a forest section and a graveyard section.

It had been an honor, a statement of fondness and loyalty, to have your “own” house in her snowy village.

One day, as legend goes, an employee left her company on not-so-great terms. So his “house” was yanked from the happy little rows of homes in her snowy village. His privileges had been revoked.

Rumors of the snowy village, and its rules, had spread and there was talk and pretty soon everybody had heard of the snowy village (and what could happen to your house).

One day we were treated to a field trip to see the village up-close and personal.

The ostentatious snowy village covered three banquet tables in her expansive kitchen. The village alone had more square footage than my entire real-life kitchen has today.

There were raised, snowy hills with skiers. There were landscapes and moving parts that came alive with the push of a button.

While I had no interest in having my own Christmas village at the time, it was fun and entertaining (in multiple ways) to see the make-believe town with all its joy (and missing houses). It was a bit of an oddity, but the idea grew on me (of villages, not yanking houses).

With the passing of years, I could see appeal in setting up our own, much smaller, Christmas village.

We can make a scene in a happy little town where I never need to vacuum the floor, empty the trash, or do the laundry to have it look pristine and well-kept. I can decorate an entire house with holiday trimmings by simply removing it from its box and plugging it in.

We do not name any parts or buildings after anybody in particular. But we like things that we can related to —a reminder of something we’ve done in the past.

Our newest addition is a mini Christmas tree sales lot. It reminds us of purchasing fresh-cut trees, and the time my daughter volunteered at a tree lot. We get a splash of instant holiday joy.

This week, I discovered that I can buy Lemax brand village items for a lot less.

Lemax products are often clever, but the paint is not the highest quality. It varies a lot (sometimes the little people have lopsided eyes). Most of the figures are resin, not porcelain. And I think all the pieces are made in China. So they shouldn’t be expensive, but prices have climbed over the years.

Our local Michaels craft store had been our go-to shop to see Lemax Christmas (or even Halloween) Villages. There are several Michaels stores nearby. But we’d limit buying to times there was a good sale or we had a good coupon (or those rare times when it’s possible to use a coupon on a sale-price item).

This week I saw that both Sears and Kmart carry Lemax. These stores aren’t as close to home, but their everyday prices are often less than Michaels sale prices.

Take the new Snow Angels figures for example. At Michaels they are $13.99. With the usual 40%-off, sale price that becomes $8.40. With a coupon and a sale price, on a very few days I might be able to squeeze that down to $5.60. At Sears the same item is a regular price of $6.99, and the Sears website currently lists them on sale for $3.49. Michaels, I’m disappointed in you!

Somehow, I feel much more holiday joy gazing at Snow Angels that cost $3.49. I think I’ll use our own full-size Sears and Kmart shops for future little Christmas village purchases. Maybe, I’ll yank the Michaels village store out of our options for now.

The WordPress Daily Post’s Daily Prompt was Ostentatious.

This blog post is also for NaBloPoMo, Day 19.

It Would Be Mythical

The WordPress Daily Post’s Daily Prompt is Mythical.

A few months ago I could have gazed to the future and fancied that one day, one glorious day, the Daily Prompt would be mythical. 

I knew today was different when I awoke. My head felt …. 

And so this sunny November day — it is the day of the mythical prompt. 

And it is a Friday which makes it even better. 

I have a sniffle and I ate too much yesterday, but I won’t let that stop me from making use of this mythical opportunity. This won’t be the last. 

Let That Percolate 

The WordPress Daily Post’s Daily Prompt is Percolate.

Percolate seems like such a lively word to me. Something will always happen if you let it percolate for a while.

My grandparents used to percolate coffee. They had a metal pitcher (the coffee pot or coffee percolator) with a metal basket and filter inside. At the top sat a lid with a clear knob which gave a view of the coffee once the water started to boil. Liquid popped up and down. 

The water was only lightly colored at first, but by the end they had rich dark coffee bubbling up inside, dancing away. It looked like it was trying to escape so many times over. One time it did. The lid popped off. 

Let that percolate in your thoughts for a while.

NaBloPoMo and NaNiWriMo, halfway update 

We are now past halfway into November, so everybody participating in either NaBloPoMo or NaNoWriMo should have a lot of writing done.

With NaNoWriMo, I should have over 25,000 words behind me. I don’t. I’m not surprised that I don’t. (I didn’t think I would.) So far I have more words for NaNoWriMo than last year. I need to figure out how to upload the words to make them official. I’m good with that. 

My NaBloPoMo goals are better, I had a few wobbly days, but I did write and post every day. Just a few days were light and a couple of times I mostly revised an existing post or started one but didn’t entirely finish before midnight. It’s not perfect but not at all horrible all things considered.

Right now, I’m tired and may be fighting a cold. So it’s challenging, but I feel very good when it’s done.

Sweet and Tart and Vegetal; I’m Your Garden Huckleberry 

For Novemeber 15, the Wordpress Daily Posts’s Daily Prompt is Tart.

This post also uses the Daily Post’s prompt from November 10, so I’m adding that. That Daily Prompt was Vegetal.

Both of these prompts work well to describe the second food experiment we did over the weekend. The first was the squash.

The next food experiment involved berries called Garden Huckleberries.

Raw, ripe Garden Huckleberries.

 

If you’re familiar with regular huckleberries, then you might think, “oh, yum.” I’ve had true huckleberries in Montana, and they are similar to wild blueberries. Sweet and very yummy.

The Garden Huckleberry is different. It’s a nightshade plant similar to tomatoes.

I think I may have had some of these self-plant in flower pots a few years ago. Once I identified them as from the nightshade family and realized they weren’t tomatoes or peppers, I wasn’t really sure if they were edible, and I pulled them. They were probably safe if birds left the seeds behind (which is probably how the seeds got there), but I didn’t want to take any chances.

These Garden Huckleberries were grown by a farmer, and I purchased them at a farmers’ market. So I felt pretty confident that we could eat them.

But they did come with special instructions, and I looked them up on the Internet at home.

Garden Huckleberries must be cooked before they are eaten. They also need to be fully ripe (the green, unripe berries are toxic). Raw they taste a little like a green tomato, except I’d prefer green tomato to the taste of a raw Garden Huckleberry. They weren’t just tart or sour, but also bitter with a strong, unpleasant vegetal flavor.

After removing the tenacious little stems from the Garden Huckleberries, we boiled them in enough water to cover and added a pinch of baking soda (per many instructions).

Blueberries and red cabbage both contain pigments called anthocyanins that change color depending on the pH. It’s redder in acid and turns bluish-green or green in alkaline (basic) solutions. It can be fun for at-home science experiments and can even be used to dye Easter eggs.

Garden Huckleberries have an abundance of anthocyanins.

So we got a little surprise as the water with baking soda boiled away. Green foam began to form on top of the water. And as the berries continued to burst, dipping a spoon into the water showed us a vibrant blue-green water.

As Halloween is not long gone, it felt like we were cooking up a strange and exotic witches brew that might be used for unsavory purposes. You might think I wouldn’t let that stuff anywhere near my mouth.


 

But we kept on.

Recipes for Garden Huckleberry all suggest adding lemon and sugar, so that’s what we did after straining out the creepy green water from boiling the berries. (And after doing a mini-science experiment before throwing all the fascinating water away.) Red cabbage can be these same colors. 

I tasted the cooked berries before adding the lemon and sugar and was not impressed. They were still somewhat tart, bitter, and vegetal tasting but much less so than when uncooked. Now they had a hint of berry taste & aroma to them. So we were getting closer.

Garden Huckleberries parboiled with a little baking soda.

Then we added the sugar and lemon juice and let them simmer away again. Adding the lemon juice turned all the greenish shades back to a reddish purple. The berries became a beautiful, deep, dark purple.

Now when I tasted them, some of them were delicious and others were still a little off. I’m pretty sure the best tasting ones were the most ripe berries that had also burst very early in cooking. While the ones that weren’t as good were either less ripe or didn’t burst (or both). Regardless, I decided to add more lemon juice and sugar and simmer longer.

The end result was fairly close to a fruit preserve or pie filling. It tasted a little like blueberries, but also had its own sweet & slightly tart berry flavor.


The longer we cooked with lemon and sugar the better they got. It wasn’t just covering up the weird taste. The end result didn’t taste like lemon really. But I think the combination of lemon juice and sugar transforms some component in these berries, so that the flavor actually changes. 

So Garden Huckleberries were good. We put the goop in jars. I may add some to a pie or fruit tart. I’m not 100% sure if I’ll get them again. I like berries that I can eat raw. But these were fun to try and the colors (all of them) were pretty amazing.

 

This post is also for NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

The Sleeping Fishes

The WordPress, Daily Post’s Daily Prompt is Fish.

This works out almost perfectly since I was just thinking about our pet fish. 

We have quite a few guppies. All of them are descendants of fish we got many years ago at my daughter’s after-school-care program.

They had both male and female guppies. Only they called them Glowfish. Again with mislabeled items. I think they purchased them someplace that had the wrong fish in the tank or vice versa. But actual Glowfish reproduce by laying eggs. These fish produce live young. Glowfish also glow. These do not glow, not even under special lighting, but they can be colorful.

Along with producing live young and the lack of glow, many parents commented, “oh, they look just like guppies.” 

And, indeed, they are guppies.

With all the live young, the after-school program had a fairly steady supply of fish for the kids to see and also for feeding to a small pet crab (of some sort) that lived in their aquarium too.

They also had extra fish that the kids could take home with them from time to time. So we did. And we got both male and female fishes because somehow I thought that would be such a cool thing.

It was. For a while.

Many, many fish later, I’ve tried to separate the females from the males and put a halt to the fish population (that also bread at least once with a pet-store guppy that gave all the subsequent offspring more color variations). 

So we still have lots and lots of fish. And, what a lot of people may not know is that fish sleep. 

I walked in on them again earlier this evening and got a little weirded out. 

At night when it’s dark, they stop moving and just hover in the water. It can be a little disconcerting to flip on a light and see a whole tank full of fish not move. They seem so lifeless. It can easily feel like we’ve had a mass die-off. But they gradually wake up if I leave the light on for long enough.

During the day when I walk in the fish are ready for food, so they swim all around and back and forth, much like our cats do when it’s dinner time.  It’s like a feeding frenzy. 

Life is a lot like that. We have times we’re so lively and thrashing about and other times when we just need to be still. And sleep. 

Squashed

Oops! I was trying a new squash, and there was a little incident.

This was labeled a Kabocha squash, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Red Kuri or orange Hubbard that had been mislabeled.

Kabocha have a fairly soft skin. Hubbards (and Red Kuri which is related to a Hubbard) do not.

The soft skin of the Kabocha allows the skin to be eaten once cooked and also allows the squash to split open easily so that pressure doesn’t build inside if, say, you put it in the microwave.

I tried my first Kabocha squash this fall. The local H mart had a great sale, and I was looking to try a new winter squash. 

Kabocha are wonderful. They’re sweet, flavorful, and dense. If you’ve never tried one and you like winter squash, this is hard to beat.

A few years ago, I started partially cooking winter squash in the microwave before slicing it open and scraping out the seeds. I poke a few holes — a lot easier than trying to cut an entire stubborn squash in half — then pop it in the microwave for 3-6:00 minutes. This softens the squash enough to cut a lot easier.

Then seed and cook the rest of the way in the microwave or roast in the oven.

So I was trying to soften this new squash which had been labeled Kabocha. I thought maybe it was an orange Kabocha. (I’ve only cooked green Kabocha so far). I’m not an expert. What do I know?

I could tell the shape was a little different. 

Another name for Kabocha squash is Japanese Pumpkin. They are shaped like a squat pumpkin and have dark green or deep orange skin. This new squash, however, was somewhat teardrop shaped — a shape much more common to hubbard or (I would learn) red kuri squash.

I only managed to poke just one smallish hole in this squash because it was one tough cookie, er, squash. I thought it would be fine. All the other Kabochas have been fine.

Then I put it in the microwave for about 6:00 minutes because I figured it was pretty big (and three minutes didn’t seem to have done much to soften it).

It was that second half of the time that did me in.

“Boom,” I heard from the the kitchen.

Then I heard the sound of the glass base rocking in the microwave. I hoped it hadn’t broken.

It turned out that the skin on this squash was hard, tough, and thick (even once cooked). It held the steam rather impressively even with the little hole bubbling a little.

The squash had exploded. The plate and microwave glass were fine, but squash guts were splattered all over in various sizes. I had a quite a mess to clean up … after I got done laughing.

Oops.

My family laughed too. Then my daughter helped me clean the squashed squash from the inside of the microwave.

(I once exploded an egg in the microwave on purpose. It was for science. Luckily the squash was much easier to clean up.)

This squash tastes quite yummy, but does not appear to be a Kabocha squash. So my guess is it’s a red kuri or orange hubbard.

Part of this bright orange exploding mystery squash (the parts that weren’t plastered to the inside of the mircrowave) went into a roasted veggie mixture. The rest went into a lovely squash soup (just bouillon and pureed squash). Yum.

I purchased two of these and the next one is even larger. So I better poke much larger holes — several of them — or watch out.

The Week

It was a busy week. With the election on Tuesday, I got up early to vote. Then, like a lot of people, I didn’t get much sleep that night. I dozed, looked at incoming election results, then woke up. Then dozed a little more. It was very surreal.

Wednesday, I had a meeting at my daughter’s school. So there I was talking with her teachers, and so very tired. Though, I think we were all a little tired. The teachers had very nice things to say about my kiddo, and I’m very proud of her.

Thursday,  before work I took the cat to the vet to get his blood drawn. Then dropped him off at home before I went to the office.

My daughter had Robotics club after school, so I had to pick her up.

The school was having an International Night that evening. Since it started several minutes before I arrived at the school, my daughter was already in line to sample the many tasty foods, and I went inside to see what it was like.

I’m so glad we went in. International night was really cool. Our area has students from so many places. We got to taste foods from around the world.

One of the desserts was called, Casery (maybe also spelled Kesari). It was from India and flavored with cardamom. It was different but yummy!

Then we saw a video the students made and watched part of a talent show the students performed.

Then I had pinball league. I stayed awake enough to play a few good games. Yay!

I came home and tried to blog. I. Was. So. Tired.

I kept typing and falling asleep mid-sentence. And I kept typing the wrong thing. Finally, I managed a couple of tiny sentences and was done.  I had to count that as my NaBlogPoMo.

Friday’s blog post didn’t go much better. I was so tired. But I was a little peppier since we got good news about our little old kitty cat. He’s a lot better. That made me happy.

Today is catch-up day … for many things. Laundry. Groceries. Blogging and writing. Resting. But still driving my daughter to and from places. At least I’m getting a few of these done.

Wishing everyone a great weekend!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

And an other (NaBloPoMo Skimpy Day 11 and Cats)

Hopefully, I can do some extra writing over the weekend. But Thursday and Friday were days of skimpy writing.

I got good news about one of our kitties. He had stopped eating several weeks ago and was otherwise not well. Blood work from the vet told us his liver enzymes were way off and his pancreas was off too. Feline Triaditis is what the symptoms seemed to be telling us. One liver enzyme in particular is considered high if it’s over 150. His was over 2,000.

He had to take 4 medicines for a while. And when I say he had to take 4 medicines, I don’t mean that he took them voluntarily. He’s a cat. So I mean that we had to give the medicine to him and this was not always easy. One of them involved plopping (or more often shoving) a pill down his throat as he tried to kick me away. Not fun for any of us.

But his bloodwork came back almost all normal today. We can drop the med that’s hard to get him to swallow, so this is a huge plus on many levels. Of the other meds, one he already finished and the other we get to taper off. The last one he will stay on for his Thyroid.

I hope he stays healthy for a good long while.

Yay!

 

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