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marence, an eternal student

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Turn and face the strange changes [Jan. 11th, 2016|11:50 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , , ]
[Current Mood |nostalgicnostalgic]
[Current Music |Bowie songs running thru my head]

When I was 13, I gave myself a shag haircut over Easter vacation. (They published the how-to instructions in Young Miss magazine.) When I came back to school, they made fun of me because I looked like David Bowie on the album cover of Hunky Dory. I didn't mind - he was a British rock star! That was cool, not hurtful!
At the beginning of 1976 it happened again. I got the newly famous Hamill wedge cut, and leaving the JC Penney's salon, walked past the record display, where I was immediately mocked for being a twin to the cover of Young Americans. This time, I not only didn't mind, but actively took fashion cues from his androgynous style. When you're a teen with a figure described as "flat as a board" and still taller than most of the boys, androgyny was pretty natural.
Bowie influenced me in more ways than just fashion. Back in the 70s, I only knew what I read in the music magazines; in the 80s, what was reported on MTV and VH1. I pictured him as a chameleon, a rebel, someone who could fluidly change from one style to another, never caring what the Establishment thought, only following his muse. I wanted to be that, to do that, and in many ways, I've incorporated that feeling into my life.
Thank you, David, for sharing your alien creativity with the world.
I always say I have no heroes; but we can be heroes, just for one day.
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Climate change is real. [Aug. 4th, 2015|02:08 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Mood |annoyedannoyed]
[Current Music |birds and fans]

I don't do this much anymore, but I felt the need to rant after reading a Q&A with Senator Cruz this morning.
He actually believes that there is no global climate change going on, because one measurement (satellite temperature graphs) shows to appreciable temperature change over the past few years. He basically says, no global warming, haha, you people are wrong.
For anybody who believes "global warming" is some kind of liberal elite plot to make billionaires and their businesses suffer unnecessarily, I have something to say:
Global climate change is real, measurable, and not just an opinion. It is a fact.
We have imposed our big, plastic, artificial footprint all over this planet. We have destroyed the natural regulatory systems, like forests and fields and waterways, that used to keep the atmosphere and the air and the planet all balanced and able to support a diverse ecosystem.
If you think pumping pollutants into the air for a few centuries, removing most of the greenspace, and killing entire species for sport or convenience doesn't mess things up, you're either naive or delusional.
I don't have an answer for how to fix this (okay, maybe I have an answer, but it's radical, impractical, and would require accountability), but I have a way for everyone to take a bit of personal responsibility for their own space on this planet.
Do something about it every day. Don't litter. Walk instead of driving if the trip is close. Pay attention to your local politics, and support those people & policies that encourage sustainable practices. Recycle more. Use fewer disposables. Buy local wherever and whenever possible.
Maybe you feel that other people have fucked up our planet and it's not your fault, so why should you care? Because by not paying attention, by not caring, you're contributing to the fuck-fest. Pay attention to your acts and actions, and if you're already doing this, hooray! thanks! congrats! and all the other affirmations that you need. Keep keepin' on, as they say.
Climate change is real, it's here, causing everything from droughts and wildfires to ice cap melting and sea levels rising, and if you deny that, as I said earlier, you're either naive or delusional and I will give up on you.
For the rest of you, keep living responsibly on this planet. And look around you - or on Flickr - at how quickly nature takes over man-made structures once they're abandoned.

x-posted, LJ & FB.
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2 deaths, no funerals. [Mar. 27th, 2015|12:15 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Mood |melancholymelancholy]
[Current Music |Beatles, All You Need is Love]

Two weeks ago, my husband's guitar player died in a house fire. Tragic, stupid circumstances, and his surviving girlfriend (that word sounds stupid when referring to over 50s) will have to deal with the karma on this one - she woke in the middle of the night, and took off her oxygen mask to smoke a cigarette (I know, I know) and then fell asleep. Fire started, she got out, he didn't. The end. Bad story. Bad thing. Bad week for my husband and his bandmates. Chuck was a founding member of Sosumi, and these guys had been together since the 80s. There are gig pictures with weird hair and weirder clothes to prove it. My husband took it hard, and the 'memorial service' last weekend turned into a drunken weepy hugfest for the remaining band members. Extremely drunken, extremely weepy. It was a good thing for them, and helped all of us mourn the passage of a truly gifted and kind human being.
Then, my daughter calls, late, asking if I saw the message on Facebook from my cousin's daughter, Mandy. It turns out, my godmother (and first cousin) Audrey has died. She had lung cancer and stopped her oxygen this week. Done. No funeral. No family & friends celebrating her life. At least none that anyone told me about. But that's somehow right.
My mother's family was close-knit. Her mother and two sisters were always talking, visiting, having family things. They regularly saw the dozens of cousins and their assorted offspring - my grandparents had more than 2 dozen siblings between them, many surving into adulthood and spawning many immigrants to the Great Lakes - and the big family picnics at water parks were unending blurs of "you remember your cousin Peggy? Aunt Stella? Uncle Stan? little Cathy?" I didn't appreciate the closeness, the feeling that family trumps all, the standard passive-agressive conversational style, the criticism disguised as niceness, that was the core of all family get togethers, whether a simple dinner with one of the aunts (and the granparents, and the cousins, and probably the other sister and her family too, just a small family dinner for 12 or 16) or the big summer picnic for 200.  I was different. I was adopted.
Audrey was different, too. She wasn't adopted, she was the eldest of her generation. The youngest sister was the first to have children, and Audrey was the first. All the other cousins of our generation fit right in to the family dynamic, following the paths laid out for them and having the same mindset as all the other family members. Audrey was different. She went away to college at OSU, majored in Chinese Studies, and moved to Taiwan for 3 years. When she returned to America, she stayed in San Fransisco, a city she fell in love with on her way to Asia. She stayed away from the family dynamic, which was toxic for anyone who disagreed with them. They knew best; they knew you better than you did; they knew what the world was like; they knew where you'd fit best in it. If you decided to make your own path, go your own way, you must be crazy. Or something.  So Audrey moved halfway across the world the first chance she got.
That probably wasn't the whole reason, or even most of the reason, but that's how I see it, in mythology of my godmother. My godmother, who was also my first cousin and only 13 years older than me, was my babysitter and carer, my teacher, and my idol. She bought me my first Beatles album for my 4th birthday. She took me to all the Beatles movies the weekend they opened, until she went away to college. Her parents lived in the apartment above my dad's butcher shop (we lived behind it), so she was always there. Then we moved to Seven Hills, they moved to Warrensville, we both had nice brick ranches to live in and only saw each other on the weekends, and then only during the summer, when Audrey would come back into town. The summer before she moved to Taiwan, she taught me how to use chopsticks. The summer she came back from Taiwan, she was with a strange Austrian guy named Randy, who had long henna-ed hair, because he wanted to drive across America, and they took me to Coventry and bought me beads, and I had my first vegetarian lunch at Earth By April. It was one of the coolest days of my life.
We almost never saw each other. By adulthood, I was only doing the bare minimum of family stuff, and only because I possessed my mother's only grandchild. If I could have, I would have liked to moved across the country, or across the world, to get away from these people who loved me and only wanted the best for me, and only they could see what that was. so I should just do what they wanted. But I had other ties, other responsibilities, and I was in my 40s before I came to peace with them. In my mind. I never came to peace with them in person, because they wouldn't have that. That would be alien to their minset. That's okay. They're mostly dead, now, anyway, and I don't have to worry about accidentally insulting them through my choice of clothes, or saying the wrong thing, or just being belittled in the nicest way ever.
Note: if you are fortunate enough not to come from a family like this, and can't understand what I'm talking about, watch a few episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond." Marie, the mother, perfectly portrayed by Doris Roberts, is like an Italian amalgam of the women in my family. You may find the show funny. I can't watch it - too many triggers. Really.
I always thought I should look up Audrey, maybe send her an email, maybe visit, something. I was always put off by my thinking that she worked so hard to stay away from the family, and made no effort to reach out to me, I should just leave her alone and let her be. So I did. The family gave me an address for her, when I got married, but I don't even know if she got the invitation. I never heard from her.
And now she's dead. I can't tell her how I appreciated that she got out, that it was possible to escape the family smothering. I can't tell her how she was one of my role models of Independent Woman, that I hoped someday to have the fascinating life I imagined she was living.
She was born and raised in Slavic Village, above a butcher shop. From there she moved to the suburbs for high school, and then to OSU. Then 3 years in Taiwan, teaching English to diplomat's children.Then to San Fransisco, where she shared a Victorian on a hill with 5 other people, and became part of the group of docents who helped researchers teach sign language to orangutans. Then she went on to being city manager in cities all over the US, from northern California to near the Atlantic shore in North Carolina, back to the Great Lakes in Michigan, where she ended up.
I hope her life was as fulfilling and exciting as I imagined. I hope she had friends and loved ones on her journey. I know she usually had dogs.
I'm going to miss her, my godmother, who was resposible for my spiritual upbringig. She gave me the Beatles, and she gave me the hope for freedom and indepence. What more could a kid ask for?
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(no subject) [Dec. 5th, 2013|09:57 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |hopefulhopeful]

Hooray! We got UVerse! (with, of course, the AT&T stupidity package included at no extra cost!)  Perhaps I'll be able to have a long-term, working connection to the Internet! Now, if LiveJournal will only cooperate, too, I can catch up on 3 months of stuff.
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Thankfulness and thankful-ish [Nov. 28th, 2013|01:18 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |thankfulthankful]
[Current Music |faint strains of Doctor Who from the living room]

Happy Thanksgiving! It's that time of year, the start of the HorribleHoliday Season. As you may know or have guessed, I hate this time of year for a number of reasons. But this isn't the I Hate the Holidays post (yet).

I'm thankful for lots this year.
I'm thankful that this year was moderately better than last year.
I'm thankful-ish that we're above the poverty line but not so far above it that we don't qualify for free medical help.
I'm thankful for the husband, who continues to be my best friend and best-ever lover and all that other stuff that sounds like sappy anniversary cards.
I'm thankful for still being vertical.
I'm thankful-ish for my diseases, because they make me appreciate what I still have.
I'm thankful to my #1 daughter, who continues to make me proud of the way she's blossoming as a human.
I'm thankful for #1 grandson, who makes me laugh and think and develop new recipes.
I'm thankful-ish for the whole extended family, who make me appreciate the fact that we're empty-nesters.
I'm thankful for good coffee, and good chocolate, and good food well prepared.
I'm thankful-ish for American Spirit cigarettes, because at least they're not filled with chemicals, and they send me coupons sometimes.
I'm thankful for my LiveJournal friends and acquaintances, who keep me connected with the wider world, give me new ideas and opinions to think about, and share my love of [fill in fandom name here].
I'm thankful for LiveJournal, for still being around to be a more intelligent choice for social media.
I'm thankful-ish for other social media, because it reminds me why I don't like people in general.
I'm thankful for fall produce, especially apples, pears, and pie pumpkins.
I'm thankful-ish for Thanksgiving, because it means feasting.
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Recently [Oct. 26th, 2013|12:50 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , , , ]
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

Recently, a lot has happened.

I've been a terrible LJ friend, due to lack of spoons and distractions and a continuing AT&T problem where we get spotty connections, call them, they remotely connect, and automagically they see no problem. Then hours later, no connection, rinse, repeat. We don't even call anymore. Sigh. And then they send letters saying Uverse is available and we call and they say no not for you. I'm __( )__ this close to switching. And then I think about email accounts we've had since the nineties, and wait to see it maybe it'll get better.

So - congrats on the new job, Dutchess, and I'm sending evil killing thoughts to jadie_jamie and ace_lightning's mutant cells, and I'm glad the universe is occasionally being nicer to people like rowan, and don't worry, the Doctor will return, and regenerate, and we'll love him.

I was accepted back to Bloodview, thanks to unknown-to-me machinations, and I decided to try and see if I could withstand the rigors of being a monster for fun and charity, or if I even still wanted to do it. No question, I'm hooked again. Horror improv acting and SPFX makeup is so much fun, an great creative outlet, and yes, a great way to take out all of the frustration of the past 5 years. It hurts, though, and I do mean physically -- like almost every other time I start up something physically demanding, I overdid it. The first weekend I was ok, because I only did Saturday night, and then there was a week of rest, and then....

One of my favorite cities in the world, just like Cleveland only sideways and bigger, and with a lot more going on in the city center. Cleveland's downtown looks like a ghost town next to it. And, while visiting said city's center, we got to meet the delightful kaffyr for coffee at Lavazza (which lives up the the hype in its reviews, thankfully). She is as erudite in person as online, and I was happy we got a chance to meet up. While we were chatting, a demonstration against US drones in Syria marched by; scores of people with signs and pamphlets, including one in the mandatory death's head rubber mask, and I was momentarily transported back to the seventies. Then I realized I couldn't smell the mimeograph fluid on the cut-and-paste manifesto poem because it was laser printed, and I came back to the present.

The 3D Printing Experience was everything I wanted it to be and more. We were able to see the printer I wanted in action, and determine that it's not really the printer I want. Even better, there's a lower-priced, better performing one. The husband quizzed the kids* on the mechanics of scanning that they use, and I was able to touch the guts of the machines and ask all the "whys" and "hows" and get real, practical answers.
I also saw a big nylon 3D laser printer, and fell in love. The patents will be expiring in a year or two, I was told, so hobby/start-up versions will be coming out then. Oh, how I love living in the 21st century! And if I can get a WildCat**, I'll stop asking for a flying car.

We did not get to do much of what we intended to do (steak dinner, lunch at Lawry's, river architecture cruise, segway rental) because of an organizational snafu involving credit cards left behind ("out where I'll remember to get them before I leave", he said, sigh) but we still managed to have a great weekend getaway - the Aloft at O'Hare was far more comfortable than I expected, and the clientele were mostly amusing, not annoying, and more hipster-wannabe than hipster. And it gave me a great piece of weirdness to end the weekend:
Waiting for the shuttle to take us to O'Hare, a guy in his early twenties in expensive casual wear who I had seen out in the courtyard earlier was out front, talking with a man in Aloft-branded suit jacket. The guy rushed inside to me, and stuck out his hand to shake. Startled, I shook his hand. "Matthew Lucifer. You remember? We talked? See? See?" He let go of my hand, and showed me the Dolce and Gabbana tag in his windbreaker, and a number of business and credit card in the unzipped pocket underneath. At that moment, the suit came up, hustled "Mr. Lucifer" away, and came back to apologize profusely. Evidently the guy had tried to check in earlier, had all his cards declined, and so he just hung around the lobby area til someone complained, and he was thrown out. The manager had been in the process of walking him out when the guy spotted me & said I was the owner of the hotel, and I had given him permission to stay there, and dashed back in. Far from being offended, I was amused, and I am still amused when I think about it. I've given him various backstories in my head, and I think this could be part of a cute short story. Well, cute in my twisted brain. Remember, I was amused by the crazy man, not terrified.

Then I worked at Bloodview for 3 days in a row. Yes, I was in pain. Yes, I overdid it. Yes, I kept going back. Yes, I'm having fun.
So... I've been poking zombies with a stick*** and other fun things. I'm trying to do a selfie every night that's there's not a professional photographer there. I've posted them all on Flickr in a set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marence/sets/72157636263026824/

And I have a new granddaughter, 11 weeks early. They want to keep her for 6 weeks from delivery, so maybe Thanksgiving but before Christmas if all goes well. She's currently a bit over 3 lbs, up from a birthweight of 2 lbs 6 oz.

So that's recently. I live in interesting times.

*Four staff members, all male, all under approximately 22. From our elderly vantage point, they're kids. This is not meant in any derogatory way.
**Remember the creepy BigDog robot Boston Acoustics made for DARPA? This is their new one. I want one real bad.
Poking Zombies With a Really Big Stick
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Just one day in the life. [Jul. 14th, 2013|12:57 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Cleveland, Ohio, USA]
[Current Mood |complacentcomplacent]
[Current Music |birds and fans]

9 AM - the grandson requests peanut butter pancakes. I melt some peanut butter in the microwave, add it to pancake batter, and the result is "just what I wanted! Thanks!"
10 AM - We all watch COPS:Skyrim together. We all laugh at different jokes.
Noon - Off for a drive after dropping the grandson back home. Where to? West Virginia, to buy a replacement coffee cup. We take the scenic route.
Weirdest thing seen this time: a huge construction site in the middle of nowhere, with giant steel tubing frames and strangely shaped enormous tanks. It was either a spaceport or a natural gas and/or oil storage facility. Probably the latter, since we were deep in fracking land, but the first glimpse made me think of the covers of old pulp paperback sci-fi books. I'll keep believing the spaceport idea.
4 PM - at the Homer Laughlin China company, we find the Fiestaware cups we had are no longer being made. After a search through the seconds outlet, we find one cup that will suit, and a match for the bowls we bought last time. Now we have 4 of those restaurant-type bowls with the huge rim around it instead of 3.  Success!
8 PM - back home, and attempting to coax the landlord's volunteer pumpkin patch to stay out of my raised beds. By next week, if we keep getting rain, those pumpkins will be taking over the entire garden area.
10 PM - Exhausted but happy (or at least content), I watch "Sleepwalk with Me." It's a humorous-in-an-awkward-way story about a guy who sleepwalks. Or about why we stay in relationships. Or about how to be a performer. Or about how to accept personal responsibility for your life. Or how to get famous by slagging your nearest and dearest. Or all of the above.

Coming soon - gardening updates.
Now that I've said that, I'll have to actually get all the pics off the camera and phone and into the computer and up to Flickr and stuff. Or not. At least I'll feel guilty if I don't do it. 
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TRAVEL HELP NEEDED [Jul. 6th, 2013|12:35 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , ]

Due to a long story that I don't have the energy to type, we're going to take a long weekend vacation in September, flying somewhere.
All we have to do is figure out where to go.
not New York City
not outside of the US
not any place we could drive to easily (say, 2-3 hours away from Cleveland), so e.g., not Pittsburgh or Cincinnati
not any place that costs more than $400 roundtrip

If you could have a long weekend (either Fri-Sun or Sat-Mon) in a US city, where would you go?

ETA: Thanks for the great suggestions! I'll let you know where the winning city is after I negotiate the labyrinthine rules of airline mileage points. 
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(no subject) [Jun. 25th, 2013|12:59 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , ]

Catching up on a few days of blogs, feeds and miscellany, I ran across yesterday's Whatever by John Scalzi, asking for deep cuts. I read all the comments, remembered a lot of great stuff from my early days of musical appreciation, and saw a lot of Rush listed. A LOT of Rush. No, really, LOTS. And Queen's "39". If you've never heard it, go to YouTube.
Which is what I did; not for Queen but for Rush, and because my particular deep cut choice from that band wasn't listed. (If they ask for deep cuts, never released as a single and largely forgotten, I turn to "Raviole" by Audience off of House on the Hill, one of my All Time Favorites. But I digress.) And of course there's a story that goes with it.

When I was a teenager, way back in the seventies, 8-track tapes had just arrived. For Christmas, I got a Dynamite 8 player. You depressed the plunger to switch tracks. If you don't get it, here's a picture of the player
Go look up 8-track tapes on Wikipedia if you still don't understand.

Anyway, a few days later at the dime store (I'm amazed. Another thing to look up. I didn't realize my teen years contained so much obsolescence!) where I bought my singles (yep, another one), they had a box of bootleg 8-tracks by the counter. These only cost 2.99, as opposed to the full price of the album on vinyl, cassette, or 8-track (4.99). The first one in the stack was Fly By Night by Rush. I liked the title song, so I bought my first 8-track. And fell in love with another song on the album. "Rivendell." This 5 minute acoustic epic about Tolkien's elves entranced me. It was at the beginning of track 4, and I'd often just play the song, hit the plunger 4 times, and repeat. If I only hit it 3 times, it would land on Fly by Night, which was OK once in a while. But I loved Rivendell.

It's probably been 25 or 30 years since I heard Rivendell. I went to You Tube, typed in "rush rivendell", and...
About 3,740 results.

So it seems this is a popular song, and many many many guitar players have videoed themselves playing. Others have put it to scenes from LoTR, or display the lyrics, or... I clicked on one at random and listened. I was back in the woods behind the house, secretly smoking and listening to Geddy Lee. I waited for the bridge, and caught my breath. This was it! This is where I got my Ultimate Life Goal from! The source was found!
When I was trying to get a divorce from my first husband - an asshole who I once loved & gave me a great daughter - he asked me at a meeting, "What do you want?" I knew exactly what I wanted, so I told him. "Peace of mind." He left the meeting shortly after, still confused. He expected an answer like "child support", or "a Sportster." He never ever got it. I eventually did.

When I heard the lyrics, they sent chills through me. As a fifteen year old, sitting up a tree with a Dynomite 8 and a notebook and pen, I had stored these words away as what my Ultimate Life Goal would be. Back then, I thought that first I'd be a rock star, tour the world, then write the Great American Novel and finally settle down in a stone cottage.
"You feel there's something calling you
You're wanting to return
To where the misty mountains rise and friendly fires burn
A place you can escape the world
Where the dark lord cannot go
Peace of mind and sanctuary by loud water's flow"

On the page, it looks stilted, almost pretentious in an English Literature kind of way. But to my ears, it sounds like retiree heaven.
And I've learned that peace of mind is more important than Big Experiences. As a matter of fact, I achieved a warped version of my dreams after I had peace of mind - I got to be  a rock star, I got to travel a lot of the US if not the world, and I'm a published author.

I've still got time for the novel & the cottage, one hopes. If not, that's okay too. I still have a community of wrens outside the window keeping me company, and an entire library including archives and a concierge and geographer and photo/film lab and even a phone in my pocket, and a husband who amazes and amuses me. Life in the 21st century is good, mostly. I have peace of mind, and 3,000 different versions of Rivendell.
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Game of Thrones [May. 16th, 2013|06:33 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |half in love with Tyrion Lannister]

Al of you, out there, all over the world: You were right.

Now, I'm going back to finishing Season 1.
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Updating [May. 2nd, 2013|11:15 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Mood |lethargiclethargic]
[Current Music |birds and neighbor boys]

I am a terrible LJ friend. I lose track of people, I don't respond when I should, hell, I don't even post after I've written a long, erudite, and impassioned rant. OK, the world is probably better off for not having to suffer thru bi-weekly rants from me - most, on re-reading, are nothing but emotion dumps. Impassioned, yes; erudite, no.
So instead, how about an update? Well, you're getting one anyway.

  • It is May. Finally, it's Spring in Cleveland. We've had a couple of 70 degree days here and everyone is breaking out the tank tops and shorts. Silly people. It will get cold again. Or, as John's Katie would tell me, winter is coming.
    (We have many Katies. They are referred to by possessives according to who they are most closely related or attached to.)

  • I have read the first 4 books of A Song of Ice and Fire. I will be watching the show soon, during the long summer of no new Who. Also Once Upon A Time, and the rest of Black Books and Archer, which Netflix now has. I've been recommending Archer, but only if you can appreciate literary references shoehorned into dead hooker jokes in an animated spy spoof. Yeah, very very wrong. And hilarious.

  • My bed of winter greens is sprouting! I may have spinach, lettuces, and herbs in a few weeks, the gods be willing and the weather be cooperating, neither of which I can depend on. Strawberries and blackberries look hopeful, and the rosemary overwintered undamaged for the second year in a row. That alone tells me that climate change is real.

  • I have a diorama in progress, which the husband has convinced me to put on Etsy for sale. I'll also be selling painted bottles, but not just any painted bottles. Someday there will be pictures, and then there will be shameless self-promotion. You've been warned.

  • Speaking of shameless self-promotion,. Ask Mama Mary.

  • Still looking for another place. If anyone knows of a fixer-upper house/building/storefront/warehouse/whatever in the greater Cleveland area that hasn't been sold because of ugliness or proximity to train tracks/traffic or the Cleveland school district and they're willing to do creative financing, please let me know.  Somewhere out there (in this crappy housing market especially!) there's got to be someone who inherited grandma's bungalow & can't sell it. or bought someplace as an investment & wants to get it off their hands, or something. We're willing to look at anything as long as it's structurally sound and not right in the ghetto.

  • Speaking of ghettos, my old neighborhood has turned into one. A couple of weeks ago, I drove all thru Slavic Village, and the stores where I bought candy and my grandmothers bought religious stuff are gone. Mr. Steve's butcher shop, Mr. Ed's service station and the bakery - all gone, demolished and empty lots. The houses and building near them are all boarded up and graffitied. In 10 years, it's gone from being a poor and neglected neighborhood to a slum. It makes me cry.

So here is where I promise to be good and write more and comment more and be a better friend and stuff. And we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 
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Another meme, this time Kitcheny! [Mar. 21st, 2013|11:26 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, ]

Yeah, I'm a sucker for kitchen stuff. I have many small appliances and gadgets that most people couldn't identify at first glance, but I use them. Or most of the, or rather, all of them at some time. I use my bread machine twice a week, at least, for dough processing. If all I have to do is shape it, let it rise, and bake it, then we can have fresh bread all the time. And do.

Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicise the ones you have and don't use, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of, and colour the items you'd like to add to your kitchen arsenal:
I wonder how many... pasta machines, breadmakers, juicers, hand-held immersion blenders, stand blenders, stand mixers, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers, sandwich makers, pastry brushes, cheese knives, cheese domes, electric woks, salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, cleavers, mortar & pestles, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic presses, garlic keeper jars, margarita glasses, tea strainers, bamboo steamers, pizza stones, pizza peels, coffee (spice) grinders, milk frothers , piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers, rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers, spaetzle makers , waffle makers, cookie presses, gravy strainers, double boilers, sukiyaki stoves, food processors, ice cream makers, takoyaki makers, fondue sets, soda water chargers, and mandolines ...languish dustily at the back of the nation's cupboards.

Hmmm, I use my (non-electric) wok a few times a year, sub one of my cutting boards as a pizza peel, and I thought that a egg boiler and an egg poacher would be a pot of water on the stove. I don't know why I don't use the blender, except we don't usually drink the kind of stuff that requires a blender. Everything else is done with the food processor or the mixer (my inherited 1942 Sunbeam Mixmaster, still going strong, with the husband's mother's 1950 Mixmaster as a backup).

We're not even going to get into jello molds, angel food cake cutters, and souffle pans. And a number of specialized cast iron pans. And my collection of bakeware in general. I should just stop.
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March already [Mar. 6th, 2013|10:01 am]
marence, an eternal student
Random thoughts:
I have tried to write something here twice before since January. Both times got eaten. Third time's the charm?
Life goes on. I hurt, I take medication, I hurt less.
All of my friends are obsessing over FaceOff, because we know House (Dave Greathouse). I seem to be the only one who isn't watching, and people seem to think I should ignore my abhorrence of reality shows because a friend is on. Sorry, no; but my daughter has promised to give me the condensed version at the end of the season (or the end of House's run, whichever comes first) - just the competitions and any time Dave is featured. She did this before with a movie I wouldn't watch (Titanic - saw the script, know the ending, ha) and turned the excruciatingly long love story into an action-packed adventure of 30 minutes or so. I look forward to a season of FaceOff in 30 minutes or less.
I'm back to doing promotional work for a volunteer group. The previous leadership fucked me over & I walked away for 5 years, but the new administration asked, so I said yes like a good volunteer and got sucked back in. It's web stuff and flyers and such, nothing I have to leave the house for.
I hate Cleveland winters
I hate steps. I used to love steps and stairs, as a form of exercise and a way to combat my impatience at elevators. I miss running up stairs almost as much as I miss rollercoasters. Speaking of which, maybe this year will be the year I really make a padded suit so I can enjoy Cedar Point again.
 I really appreciate you, my LJ friends, for being there and having lives and telling me about them. I want to comment on everything, and get too exhausted, or the squirrel brain takes over.
Hey! there's a whole flock of chirping birds outside, fighting over crumbs thrown to them by the bakery workers!
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100 Things I've seen while out for a drive - the first 10 [Apr. 12th, 2012|12:01 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

We go out for drives a lot. Sometimes we just explore the back roads of northern Ohio, sometimes we end up in other states. There's almost always some weirdness that we pass as we are out, and most of the time, I have a camera with me to document the weirdness.
This first batch of 10 things will be signs and billboards. First one below, the rest under the cut...
Jesus Is Finger Lickin Good
Somewhere in northwest Ohio

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs...Collapse )
More Things coming, including pictures (of course!) and improbable but true stories.
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(no subject) [Apr. 12th, 2012|11:12 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Mood |hopefulhopeful]

{Take the 100 Things challenge!}

Yep, I'm challenging myself to post 100 Things I've seen while out on drives.
Stay tuned for pictures and stories!
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All About Audiobooks [Jan. 9th, 2012|07:13 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |soresore]

Audiobooks are a wonderful thing. Since I don't get out to the library much, I can't consume "regular" books like I used to, but I can download audiobooks from 2 different library systems (CLEVNET and Cuyahoga County) with one library card and minimal trouble. I listen to books all day, and that's the big difference for me - it takes ALL DAY to listen to a book. I could have read it in an hour or two, but it takes six or eight hours to have it read to me. Usually I can gather patience, and enjoy the narrator's voice and the aural experience, but sometimes it just doesn't work for me.
The biggest problem I have is with familiar books. If I know the story, I want to speed up the boring bits to get to the good part. Or worse, the narrator mispronounces words, or names. Example: Nancy McKeown, who is most famous for being Jo on Facts of Life, read a J.A. Jance mystery. Just one, and you'll see in a bit why they got professional voice artists for the rest of the series. The series takes place in Arizona, and one of the police officers is named Jaime. Listening to the book on an mp3 player, I could be heard yelling out loud, "It's Hi-Me, not Jay-me!" every five or ten minutes.
Usually, it's not so bad. Sometimes an audiobook is a surprise, like the Stuart Woods mysteries read by the husband and wife team of Dick Hill and Susie Breck. Between the writing and the excellent voice acting, it's fascinating enough to get you through Iowa.* Sometimes, it's a pure delight, like most of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Nigel Planer brought the characters to hilarious life, and Stephen Briggs made them even more human and outrageous. Sometimes, it changes the way you interpret a book, as when you hear memoirs or autobiographies read by the author, and there are obvious points where you hear the thickening of a voice and know the material is still emotionally effecting; other places, the warmth or coldness of the reading gives more insight than the actual words into the mindset of the author.
An omnivore of books, I consume mysteries, science fiction, humor, biographies, and popular fiction and non-fiction as mood and opportunity allow. Because of the bizarre workings of waiting lists at the library, I often get a chunk of notices for books almost at once - for example, over the past three days, I've downloaded Pioneer Woman, the first Hunger Games book, The Impossible Dead, and Quantum Man. I started with The Pioneer Woman, because I love the recipes on her blog, but soon found out it was little more than a romance novel in real life, although an interesting one. So I moved on to Quantum Man, the sort-of biography of Richard Feynmann by Lawrence Krauss, and ended up staying up late last night because I was fascinated by the science in the story.** I'm not sure if I'll finish that before starting on the Hunger Games, one of today's downloads, because two of three daughters and a dozen other friends have recommended it, and by recommended I mean comments like "you haven't read it yet??? [look of astonished disbelief] It's fantastic, awesome, and other superlatives!!!" The Impossible Dead might come first, though, because I love a good police procedural, and I'm an Anglophile from way back, and it's narrated by Peter Forbes, who also read The Complaints, the first book in this new series by Ian Rankin, which I really enjoyed.***

*True story. And a long one. And now, 6 years later, it's funny. It wasn't then.
**I can't do the math anymore****, but I'm still intrigued by quantum mechanics and the whole idea that observing changes the observed as well as the observer.
***Too many commas?
****My math brain is gone, taken by fibromyalgia and/or the medications. Y'know those obnoxious people who can do sums in their head with no thought at all? I used to be one of them. Now, I need a calculator for anything that can't be rounded to tens. To be honest, I really wasn't any good at the math required for physics, and that's what made me drop out of engineering school ("I don't want to calculate where an electron is at any given point in time, I just want to know it'll be there and doing what it's supposed to do.") but I've always understood the concepts. My brain is so convoluted that quantum mechanics makes sense. I'll explain it to you someday over drinks. Drinks are necessary to explanations of quantum.

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What I am Thankful for, 2011 Edition [Nov. 24th, 2011|10:40 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |thankfulthankful]

Yes, it's that time to reflect.
Usually I do this while the turkey is roasting, but for the first time in over 20 years, I'm not making Thanksgiving dinner. I feel a bit lost, with nothing in the oven or on the stove. The husband says I should enjoy "not making yourself crazy cooking." I'm not sure I can be thankful about no feast, no leftovers, no happily overstuffed and satiated family members fighting over leftovers - yes, holiday cooking makes me crazy, but I love it.

But I am thankful for: My husband, who gives me perfect moments, usually without nougat
My #1 daughter, who still surprises me and makes me proud and is the best thing I've ever produced
The other daughters, who give me love and questions to answer
Gardening and farmers markets, and Trader Joe's, and Fowler's Mill
Doctor Who
Places online where I can read and write and discuss and comment and laugh and cry and get upset and rant (these places are not Facebook)
My weird walkable neighborhood
A continuing sense of wonder about the universe, which makes life worth living even when it's pain-filled and frustrating

and this.
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The Story of the Birthday Daleks, or, why all the mini-Daleks are messy. [Oct. 28th, 2011|10:56 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , , , ]
[Current Mood |amusedamused]

My son-in-law the Whovian's birthday was approaching, and my daughter commissioned a TARDIS cake for him from a friend. In a fit of insanity, we decided that we needed Dalek cupcakes as well, and that we should be capable of making them. After all, we had both seen a few beautiful large professionally done cakes as well as any number of messy mini-ones, and we thought it could be fun.

I found Dalek plans online so we could plan the scale properly. The one thing she was adamant about was that they taste good. After a series of simple (to me) yet indecipherable (to her) sketches, we were ready to bake cupcakes and buy the other pieces-parts. I own weird diamond-shaped silcon cupcake molds, which worked well for the skirt. A halved regular cupcake made the collar section, three wafer cookie the base for the cake-ball head. It would be frosted with a buttercream, and the arms would be crafted out of white chocolate. Since they were going to be standing out at room temperature, I decided to try a stablized buttercream. (Very long and involved process, and next time I'll just go with a regular buttercream.)
I put together the cupcakes with ganache and frosted the bases, and here's where the problems started. The dalekanium spheres were Sixlets, bought in bulk from B.A.Sweeties, and a mess to put on, being slippery, and the frosting wasn't thick enough for them to sink in easily. This resulted in little silver spheres bouncing around the kitchen (buttercream frosting is buttery, resulting in slick fingers.) Equal amounts of hilarity and frustration ensued.
The second messy part was the arms. Both my daughter & I had worked with white chocolate before, and both of us were magically unable to do so for this project. The gun arms ended up being pieces of paperclips messily bonded with dabs of white chocolate, rather than the elegant design on paper. The plunger arms were chocolate cigarettes with chips attached rather than white chocolate creations. The only good part of the white chocolate fail was having a supply of broken white chocolate pieces to make the collars, rather than piping it in buttercream. The heads went together more-or-less as planned, and with copious amounts of frosting were stuck to the bases. They were shrouded in wax paper and stuck in the freezer until party time.

When they arrived at the TARDIS, they were exactly the right size. They surrounded it, and when my big brother spotted them, he yelled in his best Nicholas Briggs voice, "MASTICATE!"
TARDIS cake  & Dalek cupcakes
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Karaoke contests [Aug. 18th, 2011|02:14 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |pissed offpissed off]

The first time I ever won a trophy was in 1994. My whole family had trophies, lots of them, mostly for bowling and baseball. I won nothing. I was poorly coordinated and not a team player, especially when the team saw I was uncoordinated and therefore a liability to them. In 1994, trying to be divorced and with nearly no self-esteem, I won a karaoke contest. My prize? A trophy. It still holds place of pride in my living room, next to the other two trophies I've won - another for karaoke and one for special-effects makeup. I feel a glow when I look at those trophies, won at ages 34, 35, and 41, ages far beyond when most would have put away thoughts of being recognized for excellence. Competition is a young man's sport, after all. But the happiness of earning acclaim for something I've been working at all my life made me confident. Well, until I entered other karaoke and singing contests. Imagine being told you're a shoe-in. Imagine hearing 10 tone-deaf singers out of a field of 12. Imagine thinking that talent counted for something. Imagine thinking that the judges really meant what they said to you. Imagine not hearing your name. Imagine hearing the names of the tone-deaf, the off-key, the obvious buy-ins who kept the judges in drinks being announced. Imagine the feeling of worthlessness when the totally talentless contestants go on to the finals, but the talented are passed by. Why? Big boobs. I swear, it's all about big boobs. I have small boobs. I keep them under a shirt. I do not have big bouncy boobs I can flaunt, nor do I offer blowjobs. I have no money to bribe judges with drinks; I'm too honest to offer sex or drugs or alcohol or favors, so I go by talent alone. Over the past 14 years, talent alone has been downgraded. Tonight, this was forcefully brought home. Out of a field of 14, I didn't even make it into the final 7. Sour grapes? Yes, but I know I was one of 3 contestants to stay on key, and one of 4 who dressed up. My cheering section was louder than than all but 3 contestants. This, according to the rules, should have gotten me close to a win, but I didn't even get into the top 50%. I have determined my shortcomings. 1. I do not have big tits 2. I do not flash nor show off my (non-existent) big tits 3. I'm not sucking anyone's dick 4. see #1,2, and 3 5. I didn't buy the judges drinks tl;dr - To win a karaoke contest, show your tits, suck the judges' dicks, and buy them drinks. No talent needed. Yes, I'm bitter.
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A common sense explanation of the government's financial mess. [Jul. 31st, 2011|12:45 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |uncomfortableuncomfortable]

Got 10 minutes?
Watch this video. No partisanship, no stupidity, no excuses, just a simple explanation of debt and deficit and what this political crap is really all about.
And you don't have to know a thing about math, economics, statistics, or politics to understand it. Well done, Khan Academy!
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Cleveland - a City in Chaos [Jul. 28th, 2011|02:52 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Music |fans and birds, the usual summer background music]

Now, don't look at me like that. I mean chaos in a good way, in an ever-changing amorphous thing from which comes order, of some sort.

We once were a consolation prize for having property destroyed in a war. Then, through time, immigration, and the industrial revolution, we became a global supplier of stuff, steel and meat coal and and parts for machines and the machines themselves. As machines evolved, so did our factories. We built and ruined and built more and ruined more, and soon we were one of the biggest, dirtiest cities in America. You gotta be tough.

And we were, through the decades of decline, the shuttering of shops and abandoning of factories and warehouses, through the void of not knowing what to produce, now that our usual productions were obsolete. The core became pitted with hollows, and the edges became more like fortresses, but the walls were built to keep out the urban, not the rural.

Now we are in flux, while the infrastructure rusts and turbines begin to turn on the lakeshore. Crackhouses are ever so slowly turning into gardens, and more ethnic enclaves are beginning the long hopeful transition to hip urban centers, artists and community activists making way for developers and promoters chasing the next trend, and someday gentrification, a beacon to lure the suburban back to the urban. Holding on by our fingertips, poised on the edge while searching for the industry to succeed steel, knowing service industries can't fill the gaps by only serving each other. Holding our breath while bridges are replaced, the Flats rebuilt, a casino where we once made Christmas pilgrimages.

The chaos of Cleveland, which still rocks, where you can still find a half-dozen different kinds of live music performance any night of the week, festivals both traditional and bizarre all summer, sports teams with fanatic followers, a rotting, ruined hulk of a manufacturing city with an immense amount of small growing things inside, is starting to visibly change.

I'm truly curious to see what kind of order develops.
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First thing in the morning [Jul. 19th, 2011|12:07 pm]
marence, an eternal student
Most mornings start with coffee, a piece of bakery, and the PD*. This morning, front page, below the fold, "Cleveland library offering music downloads for free". So far, great! The article explains you can get Sony music, through a partnership with the Rock Hall*. Let's let my just-sent letter to the editor tell the rest of the story:

"In a PD article this morning, the Cleveland Public Library's director Felton Thomas announced that the Library now has free downloadable music from Sony and the Rock Halls, and that "there will be a time when people will be able to download books and other material from the library." Someone should tell Felton Thomas that the Library DOES have downloadable books and other material, and has had them for years. Just have him check the website noted in tthe article (clp.org) or, even better, ask one of his friendly and knowledgeable library staff. They'll be able to tell him that Cleveland Public Library was the first public library to use e-media, way back in 2003."

Yes, I actually called the library to get the date they started offering e-media, a term which by the way I personally despise but is rather useful anyway. The pleasantly informative man I spoke to also told me that after they started offing books in the Nook's ebook format, book downloads exceeded audiobook downloads. And OverDrive, the (local) company that digitizes stuff, will be offering books in Kindle's format soon, and they expect another huge increase in digital book circulation. I love our libraries.

*note for not-Clevelanders: PD=Cleveland Plain Dealer, Rock Hall=Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
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It's July already. [Jul. 2nd, 2011|03:54 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |amusedamused]
[Current Music |Fans whirring and birds chirping and either fireworks or guns popping.]

Things I wanted to share:

Reading a friend's post brought back a memory I had mostly forgotten - playing "Born Free" over and over on the piano while secretly reading Nancy Drew on my lap. I loved reading more than anything else, and didn't like practicing piano for an hour a day. I memorized "Born Free" and read while I played. My mother would yell downstairs "Don't you know anything else?" but I ignored her, as I was busy figuring out the mystery of the locked clock.

Pockets! Women's clothes need usable pockets! I need more skirts with pockets!

I had a whole long essay on FB vs LJ vs whatever in my head when I fell asleep yesterday, but it's gone. Just take it from me it was erudite, witty, and insightful, and had something to do with personality types and adopt/adapt and the FCC being the reason we didn't have SMS when Japanese schoolgirls got hooked. I should probably put the iphone near the bed and dictate this stuff.

Soon I will be a published book author, not just a published author. Being second or third author of a peer-reviewed journal article has cred in some (very limited) circles, but holding up a slim paperback courtesy of lulu.com seems to have vastly more prestige. More horn-tooting coming soon.
visit askmamamary.blogspot.com

The book is being finished mostly as a gift to the daughters, but partially as an affirmation that I can still do something besides cook and/or bake. My physical condition is so damned limiting, yet I'm still an independently functioning adult, overeducated and unemployed. I hate my fibromyalgia, I hate my arthritis, I hate whining even when I do it so I'll stop now.

We drove out this morning with the grandson to get grass-fed beef and locally-milled flour. These aren't certified organic, but they truly are - Amish farmers have been producing on and with the land out here for 150 years. We see the cows out to pasture as we drive by, and they all look so fat and happy. Happy cows make the best meat and milk. I think my message of eating healthy and as locally as possible is reaching the grandson - he brought up high fructose corn syrup as something he avoids. I did have to point out that it's in almost all the sweetened drinks, so he decided to drink more water and read labels better. He's 10, BTW.

NADWCON is a no go. I'm disappointed, but we did get to meet Sir PTerry back in 2009, so I guess I'll just stay home and wait for the Guards!Guards! game to come out.

Note for next year - plant fewer spring greens. Anybody in my area, you're welcome to free greens for the next week or so.

Tomorrow, a Budweiser BBQ House Party at the daughter's. I am bringing grass-fed beef for the burgers, continuing my stealth campaign to change the world, one burger at a time.
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(no subject) [Apr. 19th, 2011|11:49 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |pensivepensive]
[Current Music |wrens and sparroes]

There were mourning doves on my windowsill a few days back. They looked in at me, and cooed; I cooed back. Then I went for the camera and they flew away.

There was an article in the paper the other day about a body being discovered in a Seven Hills backyard. I alway read Seven Hills news, since I grew up there and especially loved juicy stories about people I might have known. The article mentioned the body may have been a homeless man, and that no one had seen him out riding his bicycle recently. That hit me - could it be Joe? I felt a weird flop in my stomach.

Last night, the news identified the body as Joe Kopp. Joe was older than me, and his parents and mine were friends through the church. Joe was "slow", "different", "odd", but never called retarded; as an adult I'd guess high-functioning autism and schizoid type stuff. He rode around Seven Hills and up and down Broadview Road on an old, battered but well-maintained bike with homemade rearview mirrors - the first mirrors I'd ever seen on a bike. If Joe saw you, he'd have to stop and talk. He was funny, and kind, and often annoying, but never mean. I hung out at Pleasant Valley Shopping Center, and often saw Joe there.
One of the strangest things about Joe was that the bullies never picked on him. The tough guys in the neighborhood always seemed to look out for him, teaching the younger bullies that Joe was to be left alone - they could throw gravel at any other weirdo riding a bike (like, me, like my little brother) but never at Joe.

Olga Kopp, his mom, was one of those no-nonsense, organizing women who ran the Ladies Guild, and after she died I guess the safety net was gone for Joe. I hear he was more-or-less homeless for the past ten years, being taken in by acquaintances whenever needed. I've read a dozen little eulogies on Facebook, from people who don't normally go out of their way to post anything serious. I've found out Joe saved up and donated his money to the homeless, even when he was sleeping wherever someone let him. I'm pleased and surprised by the outpouring of grief and outrage and memories coming from the community. I'm a little surprised by my own deep feelings about someone who I haven't seen in a decade, someone I was never close to. I guess it's because Joe was a childhood fixture, part of growing up in Seven Hills. Now, like Manners and the muscle cars, the empty lots and the woods, Joe is gone but not forgotten, and part of my memories and stories of growing up in Seven Hills.

I'll be watching the news for more on this. Why did someone, possibly the guy who took him in, shoot him and bury him? I can only hope we find out, and that whoever did it gets justice.
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Facing my kitchen fail [Feb. 15th, 2011|05:35 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |coldcold]

I have conquered my one kitchen fail - pie crust.
Everyone loves my pies. Only a few know that my standard pie crust is the pre-made rolled-up kind. Since I am trying to eliminate as much processed food out of our diets, I figured it was time to face my nemesis, the home-made pie crust.
Of course, I had to research it. I scoured cookbooks and the Internet, and decided the secret to flaky, tender crusts was lard.
Of course, I had to make my own lard. So, I bought pork fat at the West Side Market, and rendered it down all day. Result - a jar of pure white animal fat goodness.
Then, the experiment. I went with a 50-50 proportion of butter and lard, and used the same method that Julia Child and Altn Brown use - the food processor.
2-Half Lard,Half Butter
It's incredibly easy to just pulse the dry ingredients, add your fats, and pulse til it's pea sized.
3-Pea Size
Add your ice water, pulse some more, and it's crust! No pastry blender, fingers, or two knives, no chance for mixing too much - I can't believe I was stumped by this problem when the solution has been in my kitchen since the 80s.
4-Pouring Ice Water
The only old-fashioned thing left in the pie crust making was rolling out the dough. Eh, so there's still one pain-in-the-ass step.
Filled with apples and spices, the pie went into the oven, and came out looking perfect.
6-A Is For Apple
The crust was indeed tender and flaky, with a subtle savory bacony touch that worked perfectly with the Melrose apples. Husband and grandson both declared it my best pie ever.
Now if I could just get the husband to stop asking me to make another pie for him...

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Pilot the Nautilus. Today only! [Feb. 8th, 2011|11:18 am]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |amusedamused]

Really. Here.
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(no subject) [Jan. 11th, 2011|11:48 am]
marence, an eternal student
Princess Fiona
This is Princess Fiona. We got her from McDonald's 3 years? 4 years? anyway, a few years back. Our grandson was so enamoured of her 3 stock phrases that he wrote them on our whiteboard.*
This is the whiteboard.
Yesterday morning, Princess Fiona started to speak spontaneously. At first, I blamed the cat. He didn't normally make any loud sounds, and never before uttered a "hiieeeaaa!", but I was alone in the room except for the cat. About twenty minutes later, though, I heard "hi, honey!" as John walked towards the office. Since it was said in Princess Fiona's voice, I realized she was the one making the sounds. A bit later, as I was reading the latest on the Arizona shooter, she commented "you've gotta be kidding me!"
Why did Princess Fiona start making random comments? She's just been sitting on the shelf in our office, quietly, for years. John theorized it's because her battery is running out. Why oh why would a battery running out of juice cause random spurts of comments? especially since you're supposed to move her arm to make her talk? There was no one in the office with me, except the cat, who was nowhere near the shelf? Is one of the ghosts here animating her? Inquiring minds want to know, but aren't really sure they'll like the answer.

*The whiteboard was supposed to be a large to-do list, but turned into a place for the kids to write us messages that we never erase.
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Countdown to 2011: Day 2 [Dec. 22nd, 2010|03:17 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |amusedamused]


Day Two: Nine things about yourself.

1. I am a coffee snob.
2. I am turning into a localvore.
3. My left leg is 1 cm longer than my right.
4. My favorite color is shiny.
5. When I'm bored, I change my hair color.
6. Glee is my current favorite TV show.
7. I read all the time. No really. I do.
8. I know the harmony part for nearly everything that was on the radio between 1965 and 1995.
9. My eyes are green and brown. A ring of green, a ring of brown. There is no form that allows you to choose two colors for eye color.

http://marence.livejournal.com/114381.html has the meme info if you're confused. My goal is to do this every day. We'll see if I make it.
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Thankful, 2010 Edition [Nov. 25th, 2010|01:10 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Current Mood |thankfulthankful]

I am thankful this Thanksgiving Day for:
(in alphabetical order)

Amish turkeys
Apples from Eddy's Farm
Bacon from D. W. Whittaker's
Local foods
Theramics heating pads
West Side Market

and this picture.

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Weird Wisconsin Weekend [Nov. 2nd, 2010|12:42 pm]
marence, an eternal student
[Tags|, , , ]
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

When we heard that Neil Gaiman would be doing a convention-type thingy at the House on the Rock, one of our favorite roadside attractions, we decided we must attend. When we heard that there would be a costume contest, and the winners would get to Ride The Carousel, we decided we must try. It's been my dream since I first saw that huge, bizarre, magical thing to ride it.

Well, we didn't get to ride the carousel. The rest of the story, with pics if LJ and Flickr play nice.Collapse )

That, and the over-long ride home, were the only disappointments of the weekend. Even John leaving his laptop's power cord at home wasn't a disaster - we found a computer place that fixed us right up. I knew we'd be okay when I saw the license plate on the SUV out front.
An Ogre
Our room at the House on the Rock Resort turn out to be a 2 bedroom suite. We checked in, dropped the bags, and headed to the House on the Rock.
HOTR Welcome Center
If you've never been there, I can't possibly describe it fully. The house itself is sort of a bachelor pad built in a Frank Lloyd Wright style via the Flintstones, and filled with stained glass and Tiffany lampshades and bizarre collectibles from around the world. But that's only one part. After this crazy visionary built his house (on land he didn't even own) he started building warehouses to hold his weird collections, which include 19th century automatons, more creepy dolls than you can count, an entire street of early American shops, Burma Shave signs, lighters, ceramic and porcelain knickknacks, a multi-story mini-carousel with even more creepy dolls, two Esmerelda fortune teller machines, and I'm only scratching the surface here.
Then there's the carousel.
The Carousel
Friday night was a reading/Q&A by Neil, and Saturday night was the costume contest and Banquet of the Gods. Saturday during the day was a scavenger hunt through the area, and here's where I really fell in love with the town of Spring Green. Everyone we met there, whether they were a part of the weekend's festivities or not, were unfailingly friendly, nice, helpful, and artsy. If it wasn't even colder than Cleveland in the winter, I'd move there tomorrow.
On Sunday morning, we had our signing with Neil. We got to the table, I told John to move in closer so I could get the picture of Neil signing for John. John doesn't take direction well, so it took a bit to get him where I wanted him, while Neil looked more an more exasperated. How exasperated?  See for yourself.
Neil is exasperated

Now, I'm pretty sure the way technology is working today that these pictures will not show up in this post. If not, you can see these and more (including our costumes and a video) at my Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/marence/sets/72157625291505488/

The weekend was magical, and I learned much:
  • the new Challengers get 28 mpg with a V6, and have 260 hp standard
  • it is possible to go south and north while traveling east
  • Muscoda is the home of the Morel Mushroom festival
  • Culver's Butterburgers are second only to In-N-Out (and not by much) as the best fast food ever
  • in the Wyoming Valley, in the 1800s, blacks and whites farmed together
  • Neil Gaiman's fans run the gamut from suburban families to old hippes to earnest students and everything in between
  • Arena is the home of CoJack cheese
Finally, I have cheese curds in the fridge, and intend on deep frying some of them soon.
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