Archive | June 2010

If you have a bit of a stomach ache, IHOP probably isn’t the best place to go.

I’ve been stuck pretty close to the toilet all day.  But, on the other hand, the lemon pancakes they have right now are delicious.  I have a goal to find/invent a recipe duplicating them.

Montaigne and I have been becoming good friends, to the point where I found a used copy of the book I checked out of the library on Amazon for a song.  I’m excited to have a copy that I can highlight and make notes in.

While reading Montaigne is slow going, I’m enjoying it.  His essays came about because, after a lifetime of public service, he did what all proper French Noblemen did in the 15oo’s.  He set about to write a book.  The problem was, he didn’t know what to write about, so he wrote about being Michel Montaigne.  (That sounds familiar, somehow…)  It really is like the 16th century version of a blog.

I’m only about 30 pages into the essays, but what I’ve gleaned of his philosophy so far (and what the program that got me interested in reading them in the first place) can be summed up as: “Life is tough.  You’re not perfect.  Get over it.”  Good advice, no?

I need to decide quickly what I’m going to do for the 4th.  Probably nothing.  Sis is going camping with the folks, but, after driving to her house only to be ignored by G yesterday, I’ve decided that I need to give myself some space from her family.

I could go to my hometown, for the cheesy little parade that the citified B-I-L laughs at (Really, the cheesiness is part of the charm), then stick around for the fireworks, but, I have a gun shy little dog.   Right now, I’m listening to thunder and having my shoulder massaged because Lulu curled around my neck and is just shivering.

Between the seasonal thunderstorms and the fireworks that won’t stop throughout the month of July, it’s a bad time of year at my house.

Dis-Orientation

Hey, look!  It’s not a Plinky post!

I had my orientation today.

When I was ready to go at 8:10, I just left.  I found plenty of parking–and was the first one there by more than a half hour.  It’s a good thing I brought a book.

My big concern was that I would be the oldest student attending–and I wasn’t, at least, I think I saw a guy that I originally thought was the father of one of the other students there signing in to get his picture taken for a Student ID.

I wish I had done an orientation for Utah State.  Maybe I did, and I’m just not remembering.   I was one of those kids who graduated high school thinking that she knew it all.  The past ten years have proved otherwise.

I’m proud of being able to get out the door this morning.  There was a moment when I seriously considered pushing the orientation back again–the next closest one will be on July 15th, but then I decided that I really couldn’t.  If I got into that habit, then the school year would start, and I wouldn’t have done the things that I need to to register for classes.

I guess that’s really what I need to be doing in my life.  I need to figure out a way to overcome my fears and anxieties, and just do the things that need to be done.   I spent the day, first in a room full of people, then wandering around with a teenage smart ass who was spent all of the tour flirting with the teenage rodeo queen, until we got back into the room full of people.

I only had to pull out my stress ball once.  I wasn’t happy about my surroundings, but I did it.

Now to translate that into going to church…

Because I don’t like being around people, I spend my Saturday nights watching TV.  Because I’m a nerd, that TV tends to be PBS as much as anything else.  Last week, I caught a series of shows about philosophers, and one, Michele Montaigne, peaked my interest.  So today, after orientation, I went to the library.  I was a bit thrown off–the book the host of the TV program was holding to illustrate Montaigne’s writings was a 100 page pocket-book.  At the library, the one I found is bigger than the bible.   It’s overwhelming, but I have full confidence in myself to conquer all 857 of 16th century French philosophy.

After all, it doesn’t involve dealing with other people.

Whistling at the Northern Lights.

I’m a geek. More than that, I’m a nerd. I love most things science, and meteorology/astronomy are no exceptions.

My whole life, I’d dreamed about seeing the northern lights. There were times, when the news said that there was a particularly violent storm on the sun, and we might just get some auroras when my dad, sister and I would drive out to the desert to escape the artificial lights, and watch for them. All with no luck.

When I received a call to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was ecstatic. I was called to the Canada Winnipeg Mission, which covers Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the eastern third of Ontario. The mission also goes north to the north pole, but (at the time I was there, anyway,) there aren’t any missionaries in the territories.

My first area was in Saskatoon, which is why I chose that as the location, but really, the first time I saw the northern lights was in Winnipeg. It was the second night I was in Canada.

During the summer, the northern lights usually came out after we had to be home for curfew, and it was hit or miss if the apartment I was living in at the time would have a view of them. During the winter–well, we were more concerned about preventing frostbite than watching the pretty lights in the sky.

One time, in particular, I remember well. I was just assigned a senior Sister as my companion (young missionaries are assigned companions, which can change every six weeks. Senior missionaries–usually retired couples stick with their companion for their whole mission. Men can only serve with their wives, but women can come out by themselves or with a friend.) My new companion, Sister Place, had come with her friend, but Sister Hillman elected to go home about halfway through her mission, because her daughter was having a difficult, life-threatening pregnancy.

For a few days, Sister Place, Sister Hillman, myself, another of Sister Hillman’s daughters, and one of Sister Hillman’s grandson’s shared a small apartment. One of these nights, I couldn’t sleep, and looked out the window to see the northern lights. I could hear the daughter moving around so I alerted her to the fact that they were out. The display wasn’t very spectacular, but it was the first time that the daughter had seen the northern lights.

One of the things you learn quickly when working with the people, especially the natives of Canada is to never whistle at the northern lights. The story I heard says that the northern lights are your deceased ancestors coming back to visit, and whistling at them would be very disrespectful.

Although, come to think of it, I never heard what would happen if you whistled at the northern lights…

Evey new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

The phrase “end of an era” reminds me of a line from the Semisonic song “Closing Song”, ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Now that we’re out of that forest of quotation marks…

I have a hard time with change. I’m one of those people who craves stability. It make sense, I suppose, stability isn’t something that I can find in my own head, and, at the time of this story, was in short supply in my personal life. (This was just a few years after the end of The Experiment that consumed most of my teenage years. People who know about it will know what I’m talking about, and those who don’t, well, the memories are too painful to share.)

It was the day I graduated from High School. I had already been accepted into college at Utah State University, and would be starting classes there in a few weeks. I had housing lined up, and was, in theory, ready to get out of my parent’s house.

This night, when I should have been out celebrating with friends, I was instead trapped in a deep depression. (It was one of the first times I could actually feel the depression coming on. I’ll never forget it–I was standing on stage, pausing for pictures, and feeling my mood drop. I had been ecstatic a few minutes before, and now, I was fighting back tears.)

Upon returning home, I went into my bedroom, turned on the radio so my family couldn’t hear me crying, and collapsed onto the bed. I was terrified of what happened next–the ceremony I had just participated in literally marked the end of my life as I had known it. All of a sudden, I was facing a big, scary unknown.

Then the song “Closing Time” came on the radio, and the line “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning end” struck me. I shouldn’t be thinking about the end of my High School life, but the beginning of my life as an adult.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” has become sort of a personal mantra for me in the eleven years since I graduated High School. When I’m faced with a change in my life, I remind myself that I’m facing a beginning, not an end.

If I had easy access to a helicopter, I'd fly to up this weekend

Who needs a destination?

If I had easy access to a helicopter, I wouldn’t go anywhere in particular–I’d fly around just for the fun of being in a helicopter.

Although the map seems to think I need to go to San Francisco.

Nate, if you’re reading this…

Writers Block

I’ve spent last night, and most of today unsuccessfully trying to figure out something to write about.

I’ve started and discarded a half a dozen entries.

I’ve dabbled in my fictional worlds, but nothing seems right.

I was thrilled when I opened up WordPress, and the notification at the top was talking about Plinky.  I signed up, scrolled through the prompts…and nothing.  At least nothing that I thought was worth sharing. (If you’re interested, you can follow me on Plinky here.)

So, to the writers out there, what do you do to overcome writers block?  How do you get that spark of inspiration back?  What unleashes your creativity?

I traded in my shih tzu, and got a chihuahua.

Not really.  But a bald shih tzu looks like a chihuahua.  See?

Max is looking much more like a proper shih tzu.  The groomer even left him a beard.  The goal is to get Max looking like a member of ZZ Top.

In an effort to negate the loneliness that always comes with doggy haircut day, I headed up to see my sister.  Mom had also decided that she needed to see her grandchildren, so she was there too.

Mom and Sis quickly reminded me why I’m so laissez-faire when it comes to my looks.  Mostly, because they’re not.  It took less than a minute after walking in the door before they started talking dye and mousse and experimenting with my hair.  In fact, when I left to rescue Max and Lulu from the groomers, they were planning on heading to the Wal-Mart to find dye for my hair.

Sigh.

This morning, I got up, got ready and went to go to orientation.  I thought  I was smart in giving myself an extra ten minutes to find where I needed to be and a place to park.

That is, until I spent a half hour (unsuccessfully) looking for parking, before giving up and coming home.

So, the orientation is back on for Monday.  And I learned to head to campus at 8:20 not 8:50.

It’s probably a good thing, though, because today is the day that I’m really feeling the marathon of wakefulness in an attempt to re-calibrate my body.  I know how sad it is, but I’m just hoping that I can stay awake long enough to see the Futurama premiere tonight.

I’m not sure I can.

There are some things that you probably shouldn’t do when you’re in your 30th hour of wakefulness.

You know, like, fly a plane.  Or preform surgery.  Or drive a car.  Or drive your car to a salon where walk-ins are welcome, and get your hair cut.

Guess what I did today, in my 30th hour of wakefulness?

Backing up a bit–when 2:30am rolled around last night, and I was still awake, I decided to go for the long haul, and stay up all night and all day today in order to reset my internal clock.  I’m now at hour 35, and when I’m finished with this post, I’m going to bed.

In the middle of the night, trying to find things to do to keep myself occupied (heaven forbid I clean–I used the excuse that the cleaning that needed to be done was stuff like vacuuming and laundry, specifically forbidden between the hours of 11pm and 7am by my HOA) I found a website where I could give myself a virtual makeover.  I learned four things–1) I have a very oval face.  2) My eyes are more blue than green or gray, the colors I’ve been claiming for the past 15 years, 3) taking a picture of yourself when you’ve been awake for 24 hours is never a good idea, and 4) I can’t pull off the Carrot-Top look.

After a two hour nap that I’m totally not counting, and chatting with/being egged on by Sis, I decided that I really was ready for a haircut.  I went to the website where Sis found the inspiration for her Halle Barry short hair cut, and found this:

With some persuasion from Sis, I headed down to the Fantastic Sams (I know–but I’ve never had a bad haircut from this particular location.  I even once had a stylist from a much more expensive salon complement the job that a Fantastic Sams stylist did on my hair.)

And then a detour to a drug store to pick up some makeup (!) and hair product, and I ended up looking like this:

When my hair is that short, It  has a bit of natural curl, which the model’s hair doesn’t–which is fine, I like the tousled look.  I also love the blue hairspray, even if it smells like old-lady perfume.

I cut of so much hair (that I didn’t realize I had) that I’ve actually had a headache ever since because me scalp isn’t used to not having the weight.

Moving on…

So the orientation that I first scheduled for tomorrow, then was told it was pushed back to Monday is actually happening tomorrow.  It’s a good thing I’m too tired to be nervous–though I am a little concerned about this huge change to my look the day before I have my picture taken for my student ID.

I have confidence it’s confidence I lack

If the response to yesterday’s post is any indication, I’m not the only one who loves bread.   I’ve boughten more yeast, and feel like I should try again, but I don’t want to heat up the house with the oven.

Last night was rough.  I couldn’t sleep, despite being exhausted and having been awake for the previous 20 hours.  I was stressed about having lost my GPS (really?  How can I have lost the one tool I own who’s sole purpose is to help find things?) and school.  But I fixated on the GPS, even getting out of bed at 3:30 am to look for it.  I literally had a dream about looking for my GPS.

School is was really has me worried.  I was supposed to attend an orientation on Thursday, but it’s been pushed back to Monday.  I was looking into where I was supposed to go, and found a link with brief biographies of the orientation advisors.   There are eight of them.  One is my age, one is 25, and the rest are 19 or 20.

Crap.

I’m fully aware, if not really comfortable with the fact that a lot of the people I’ll be surrounded by when I go back to school will be ten years younger than me.  I’m not really happy with it, but I can live with it.  I wasn’t expecting the people helping me to get adjusted to going back to school to be ten years younger than me though.

It makes me feel old.

And I’m fully aware of all of you out there in Internetland laughing at the 29 year old woman for feeling old.

And I know that if I don’t go back to school and get my degree now, I’ll never do it–that the longer I wait, the harder it will be, and the bigger the age gap between me and the other students will be.

I guess I’m feeling like I’ve lost my twenties to depression.  I was never interested in doing all of the fun, crazy stuff that college aged kids are supposed to do.  It’s only begun to bother me recently, and I guess that’s why I get uncomfortable around young adults–I look at them, and I see all the opportunities that I missed because I couldn’t leave my room.

I know it doesn’t do anybody any good to dwell on what might have been.  Except, you know, speculative history writers.   The best I can do is to make sure I don’t lose the next ten years, or twenty, or the rest of my life to depression–I know I need to get out there and do the things that I need to do to be happy, to improve myself, and to be comfortable around other people.

I just hope I can get some sleep in the mean time.

Bread of life, salt of the earth.

I love bread.

I always have.  One of my favorite childhood pictures of myself features a 3-year-old Corianne wearing pink footy pajamas (the bane of my young existence–I still can’t stand to have my feet covered when I sleep).  I’d gotten into the bread drawer, and broken in to a bag, and have a half-eaten slice of Wonder Bread in my hand–still chowing down on it.  That picture sums up the relationship that I’ve had with bread for my whole life.

I love making bread.  I don’t have a bread maker or a stand mixer, so I make bread the way my grandmothers did–with a mixing bowl, a wooden spoons and my hands.

I love kneading.  Even when I’m making bread somewhere where I do have access to a stand mixer, I’ll usually turn the dough out early and knead it by hand.  I love the way that kneading unlocks the power of gluten, turning a sticky glob of wet flour and a few other ingredients into a beautiful ball of bread dough.  I love the workout to my hands, arms and shoulders that kneading provides.  I also love that kneading is a wonderful way to work out any frustrations. I love how when the dough has come together the way it should, just at the point when it is ready to rest and rise, it feels like a living thing.  In fact, I love that due to the yeast, it is a living thing.

Yeast holds a magic of its own.  In my fridge, the yeast appears to be a crumbly, beige powder that smells like it’s started to turn.  But, when mixed with warm water or milk, and a little bit of sugar or honey, it springs to life, raising the bread, making it light, airy and delicious.

I love the way, once the dough comes together, that you can cover it, and leave it in a warm place for forty-five minutes, it will double in size.  You can then punch it down, and come back in another forty-five minutes, it will have doubled in size again.

I even love the way that bread dough tastes–it reminds me of days spent at my grandmother’s house, when she would make bread.  She would slip my sister and I bites of bread dough–which, to most people, is pretty nasty stuff until it’s been baked.  To me, it tastes like childhood.

I’ve been wanting to make bread for a while, but it’s usually too late at night when I think of it. Bread is simple to make, but it takes a long time–however most of that time is waiting.

Yesterday, I thought about making bread at 7pm.  I thought about the three hours it would take, and decided that 10pm wasn’t unreasonably late to be pulling something out of the oven.

And so, I mixed, and scalded milk, and used up the last of my yeast. I happily stirred, then kneaded, and set the dough aside to rise.  At that point, I wondered if I had remembered to put in any salt.  So, I tasted the dough, and sure enough, I’d forgotten the salt.

What now?  The dough had come together, it was too late to mix anything in.  I pulled it out, and kneaded a little salt in, but I didn’t dare add too much, because I didn’t want to over-knead, and I didn’t want salty pockets of dough.  So I just hoped it’d turn out.

Long story short, it didn’t.  The bread looked and smelled beautiful, but the taste is off.

Salt is easy to overlook, as my recent baking misadventures have proven.  It’s only 1 Tablespoon of white powder in a recipe that calls for cups and cups of various other white powders.  It isn’t essential to the chemistry of baking, it doesn’t affect the appearance or texture of the baked good.  My bread is perfectly edible.  In fact, due to the over-abundance of salt in the processed foods that are so much a part of the western diet, it’s probably healthier than a normal loaf of white homemade bread.

But still, salt is essential.  Salt heightens sweet, and deadens bitter.  It adds the finishing touch to meat, vegetables, and yes, even bread.

In baking, I suppose, leaving out the salt isn’t as big of deal as leaving out, say the yeast or the flour, but it’s a big enough deal.  Salt may seem like a small thing, but without it, the time, energy and effort that I put into baking bread last night was wasted.

The little things are important.  Big things are just made up of a bunch of little things.

Thinking along those lines makes the big things easier to tackle.

White Bread

1 c milk

1 c water

1 Tbsp shortening

1 Tbsp margarine

2 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp salt

1/4 c warm water

1 Tbsp yeast

6 1/2 c flour

Scald (heat until just before it starts to boil) milk; add 1 cup water, shortening,  margarine, sugar and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, put the 1/4 c warm water and 1 Tbsp yeast, stir to dissolve.  Let sit for 10 minutes. (This is called “blooming” or “proving” the yeast, it a) gives the yeast a head start before it has to raise the bread, and b) lets you know that your yeast is good before investing the next three hours of your life to the project)

Combine the cooled milk mixture and yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in 3 c of flour, and blend well.  Knead in enough of the flour to make the dough come together.  (this is hard to explain.  The dough shouldn’t be sticky, but it should hold its shape.  The best way to find out if the dough is coming together properly is through trial and error.  Sorry.  Kneading by hand is simple, you fold the dough in on itself, then push out with the palm of your hand.  Fold and push, fold and push.) Knead for 10-15 minutes. (Just think of how much more bread you can eat because of the calories burned by kneading!)

Place in a greased bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and place in a warm, draft free spot.  Let the dough rise until double, (about 45 minutes, I start checking after 20) punch down (just what it sounds like; take your fist, and punch the bread dough once or twice. It should collapse on itself) and let double again.

Shape into two loaves, and place in greased pans.  Let raise, then bake at 450° Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then at 350° F for 30 minutes.

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