Category Archives: Personal

Wow, that actually worked

Last year, I found Breaking Bread by Martin Philip a frustrating book. As I discuss at the link, when I followed Philip’s advice on keeping the dough at a precise temperature the dough rose much more than usual. But as my other bread books don’t specify a dough temperature, that didn’t seem to do me much good. Even so, I’ve had the urge to try and see if I could get the same results with other recipes. So last weekend, I gave it a shot.

Reading on the subject online indicated most bread doughs need a temperature between 75 and 78. Picking a whole-wheat recipe, I somewhat arbitrarily set the target temperature at 75 (75 to 78 is not a big difference but apparently it can make a big difference in the results). With air temperature at 66 and flour at 68 that meant the water temperature should be 91 degrees to get 75 degrees in the dough (I used my kitchen thermometer to figure all this out).

I actually miscalculated and made the temperature higher, but the bread still came out much larger than usual with my baking. I was able to use them for the sandwiches I made that evening — usually the slices are a little too small to be satisfactory.

I look forward to using this approach again.


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A dog with a ribbon in his hair. And then Wisp.

I’ve had this photo on my laptop since Christmas, but I forgot to post it. Better late than never, right? For the record, we didn’t keep it on more than a second, otherwise it would have ended up in Plushie’s mouth.

Now, the Wisp stuff. Last weekend, Wisp’s habit of mewing for attention in the middle of the night left me really wiped out. My friend Dana said if I just stay upstairs and don’t come down, eventually Wisp would give up. I decided to try that — she’d still wake me up mewing but I’d just have to go into my room and write instead of going downstairs. No chance to brew any tea, but Dana was right, I couldn’t keep letting Wisp wake me up at 12:30 or 1 AM.

Next night, instead, she came right into the bedroom and joined me (I was in the spare bedroom after the dogs’ restlessness forced me to relocate). First she tried snuggling close, then she settled onto the comforter at the foot of the bed and I went back to sleep.

Monday night she came up again, but I couldn’t make it back to sleep.

Tuesday was … nuts. Plushie was restless and woke me up. I went downstairs and read for a bit, started to feel ready to go back to sleep … and Wisp showed. Later I went to sleep on the couch and she, after an hour sitting on the far side of the room, decided to perch on the back of the couch right over my face. Distracting. Tuesday night, though, she went upstairs when I did and settled in quite comfortably. I slept like a log.

Wednesday night, Wisp was in the bed before I was but I didn’t sleep so well. I’m not sure if it was the cat lying next to me inhibiting my normal shifting in sleep or just random bad sleep luck. Last night I took an Ambien so when this goes live I may still be asleep.

We’ve also bought a laser pointer to tease her with. Wisp loves chasing the red dot; what we didn’t expect is that Trixie interprets the cat rushing around as a sign she’s ready to play. Trixie ends up giving her a play  bow or similar gestures, and gets a little baffled the cat doesn’t respond the way Plushie does.

It’s remarkable to look back at some of my cat videos from a couple of years ago and see how far Wisp has come from when she could barely bring herself to cross the threshold. It’s been her choice, but I feel absurdly proud of me and TYG for bringing her this far.


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The Mousse Is Loose!

So for Valentine’s Day, TYG asked for chocolate mousse. I’ve never made it before and I’ve never had much look making anything that requires whipped egg whites, but of course, I gave it a shot.

Turns out that the cookbooks that say a mixer works better than a food processor for whipping eggs were right. They came out firm, and much faster than any other method I’ve tried. I whipped some cream as well, mixed them with the melted dark chocolate, set it to chill and voila! Mousse.

We’ve now been together roughly 12.5 years. Because of TYG, a year of confinement due to the Trump Virus has not been the worst year of my life. Nowhere near as bad as some where my friends were preoccupied and I felt alone (no disrespect to friend intended — life gets in the way sometimes). Or when I was single and convinced I’d always be so. Having her, the pups, and now Wisp makes all the difference.

“Down where the clouds lie on the sea, I found my sweet Penelope, with buds of roses in her hair, and kisses on her mouth.” (paraphrased from Henry Herbert Knibbs).

Oh, and TYG also got me a Spider-Man pop-up Valentine’s Day card. Take a look.



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Our neighbor has a very small dog

Chiquita is a maltiepoo, barely six weeks old at the time of this photo.One of the minor frustrations of the pandemic is that normally I’d have been petting the dog — well, once she’d had her shots — but TYG and I take social distancing very seriously, so countless puppies have been denied the pleasure of my petting.

The hawk in this photo, I am fine with not petting. They have many sharp parts and I suspect they’re not as asocial as Wisp turned out to be.#SFWApro.

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Let’s discuss pandemic hair

Plushie hasn’t been this hairy in a long while.And neither have I. I can’t quite decide if I’m looking more wizard, wacky inventor or 1700s composer.Come the spring, Plushie will get shaved down a lot. I’ll probably wait until I’m vaccinated and can safely get my hair trimmed by a professional. Given that I’m only slightly elevated risk, not a frontline worker and under 65, it’ll be a while.



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Lost and found (my wedding ring that is)

Yep, Wednesday I came in from walking Plushie and as I was getting out dog food, discovered the ring was no longer on my finger. PANIC! I went back outside, couldn’t find it, searched in the house, couldn’t find it, but my gut instinct said it had to be indoors. I’m so used to it now, I don’t think I could go very long without noticing it was off my finger. And sure enough, Thursday I found it wrapped up in the hand towel I’d used — it had slid off my finger during washing. Which has happened before, but not usually without me noticing at once. TYG says I need to get it resized after the pandemic is over.

That was the most dramatic event in a week that was, while not dramatic, quite wearying. TYG took and passed a certification test Monday, after a weekend of cramming. Which is very awesome — I’m proud of her — but the cramming, the testing and then catching up on work sucked up a lot of time. I wound up with lots of extra dog care, often starting early in the morning, which always makes it harder to get my head in the game.

On top of which there was extra Wisp care. It was a cold, snowy week ——and she found central heating much preferable. Which is fine, except that the dogs seem to get more excited about dealing with her the longer she’s in the house (I pray to God this wears off!). Plushie, in particular, freaks out when Wisp has food and he doesn’t, or if she jumps onto the arm of the couch (“The not-a-dog flies! AAAAAH!”). This requires me to put in a lot of time making sure they’re getting along. So far, when the dogs do chase her, they don’t seem to be aggressive as much as playful, and she doesn’t claw or bite. Still when they’re sitting and staring at each other I have to worry. Monday I dropped out of my Shut Up and Write meeting early because I was watching the dogs (usually TYG takes them) and when Wisp came in there was no way I could focus on writing.That uses up a fair amount of mental energy and time. And while Wisp stayed in a couple of nights without mewing for attention, last night she woke me around 11:30 and I could not get back to sleep, even after she left. So feeling really beat today on top of everything else. However we’re going to keep letting her in unless I absolutely can’t stand it — if we want her to be more of an indoor cat (and we do) then I’ll just have to approach this as a transitional period and hope things improve.

And did I mention snow? Which is fricking cold to walk dogs in! Today, when it dipped to the mid-twenties, I had to walk both dogs at breakfast. Not comfortable.

Despite all of which, I did get a fair amount done, though my schedule was a crazy patchwork (up early, then nap, do exercises mid-day instead of morning, etc.). I got a full quota of Leaf articles in and I watched a lot movies for Alien Visitors. I’d hoped to write some chapters too, but while I was capable of noting down observations about the films, I didn’t have enough energy or focus to actually write them into even a rough chapter draft. And my cover artist emailed me back about Questionable Minds but I haven’t been sharp enough to really respond.

I intend to rest up this weekend, then start fresh on Monday if, as they say, the good lord is willing and the creek don’t rise. And our menagerie is reasonably cooperative.

At least I’m confident I won’t lose the ring again!


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Here’s why I always wear a mask walking the dogs

I didn’t use to. Our streets are broad enough that I can socially distance quite easily, even if I run into anyone. Even on the narrower walking trails, it’s possible to get off and stay away from people. But I kept noticing that I’d run into people I know, sometimes with adorable dogs, and I’d wind up petting the dogs and chatting and breaching social distance. So, masks, every time.

And then recently I had an experience that confirmed I was right. I was walking Plushie (though he’s way fluffier than this old photo) and we passed a woman walking two dogs, around 40 lbs each. I went off the trail into the grass so they could pass, but the dogs decided Plushie’s butt required sniffing and came after us. Not at all belligerently, but it was still a little alarming, particularly as they were dragging their unmasked owner with them. I backed off further, trying not to slip on the mud, they followed and we were suddenly encircled with the owner in their leashes. Did I mention she was unmasked? I’m sure she didn’t expect a situation like this either, but it didn’t make it any less alarming.

Finally she had a bright idea of just sitting down, providing a dead weight that kept her dogs from chasing us further. Plush and I went off. I ran into her sans dogs when I was walking Trixie, and she apologized, adding that she’d only walk them one at a time in the future.

Like I said, I’m glad t least one of us was wearing a mask.



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Flow my tears, the Plush Dog said

I made Dutch cheese and potato soup last week. Plushie stuck around in the kitchen all through the cooking yet I didn’t give him any of it! Is that a dog dwelling in the dismal depths of despair or what?

Mr. Squirrel wasn’t too happy either. He tried really hard to bite through the steel mesh around our bird feeder but it was not to be.I hope y’all’s week is going better than theirs.


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Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better

I have a lot of little goals in my 2021 list, as I always do. Work my brain by doing puzzles. Observe people in the street — their body language, their clothes, their faces. Walk further; I do a lot of walking with the dogs, but it’s rarely as much as two miles. Take more photos and improve my photography skills.  This is stuff I easily fall behind on, but I think I’ve found a way to keep up: make them something I do daily.

Not that I have “do it every day.” as a goal in my list. it’s just that if I shoot for daily, I’m sure to get it done weekly. Well, pretty sure; last week’s chaos almost threw me off but Monday – Wednesday were enough to get ’em done. This is advice I’ve seen in a lot of books: if you need to make $10,000/100 cold calls/write 50,000 words, approach the project as if your goal was $20,000/200 cold calls/write 100,000 words. That way no matter what the setbacks, you’ll have budgeted enough time and effort to make your real goals.

I’ve never found that good advice. Whatever the fake goal I set is, my mind insist on interpreting that as my real goal. As it’s higher than I can make, that ends up making me feel I failed. In this case, however, it seems to be working (of course, the week’s young). Maybe because they’re relatively simple goals, on stuff that isn’t vital, so I’m not stressed. And they don’t require the same level of thought and creativity as setting really steep writing goals does. So I doubt there’s a lesson I can apply to my bigger ambitions.

Eventually if they become regular enough I can stop listing them as goals. With meditation, for example, it’s now part of my regular routine, even if I don’t write it down as a goal. Ditto bread-baking: I resolved to bake bread (including muffins, rolls and scones as an option) at least twice a month last year; I think it broke me out of a slump, so that’s not on the list this year either.

Now if only I could be as efficient in my writing goals …

To wrap up, here’s a photo showing how shaggy Trixie is these days, and one of Wisp sprawled in her favorite snooze place, on the back of the couch.#SFWApro.

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I like tea. I like Sherlock Holmes

So when my sister got me a gift certificate to Local Spicery, which sells both spices and tea, I couldn’t resist buying this one.A satisfactory blend, in case you were wondering. I’m also pleased with the others I ordered: Assam, Darjeeling and Brobdingnag tea (an Irish breakfast blend). Though the latter should, of course, have come in a giant size tin.

Due to becoming caffeine sensitive with age, I have to drink all my day’s tea in the morning, which is occasionally frustrating, but better than getting even less sleep than I often do. I’ve begun having a cup first thing in the morning, which lets me squeeze in extra. And I love starting the day with tea, so hey.


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