Sunday, February 27, 2011

The little turtle that could... not

Does it look so unsurmountable? See the little turtle on the edge of the water, wanting to get to the top of whatever that thing is? How long before frustration sets in and he gives up?

Because when you see the bigger picture, it is daunting.

Maybe he's lucky he's so little and doesn't know he'll never make it to the top. That ignorance is not only bliss, but most of the time we wouldn't accomplish what we do if we really knew the odds.

Maybe he was just resting and couldn't find the side of this indoor pond inside NorthPark Mall in Dallas.

Or, maybe he just wanted his picture taken.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thank you, Hernando

Of course, that might not really be his name.

But I digress.

Seven years ago we had the opportunity to switch from dial-up to DSL. There wasn't any hesitation on my part and I jumped on the modem/router bandwagon and never looked back. But seven years is two or three lifetimes in the tech world, and my equipment was beginning to show its age. While the router was stable, the modem, supplied by the phone company and paid for by me, had decided to wink out on occasion and need to be rebooted. Maybe it would be a week or two between incidences and then maybe it would opt to nap all afternoon.

Obviously, something needed to be done to upgrade the reliability of Internet access in this house. Reluctantly, and with all foot-dragging possible, I called the phone company tech line. George (maybe not his real name either) was appalled that such equipment was still viable and hastened to send me (free, he said) a new one piece modem-router. Sure 'nuf, it arrived on schedule. But it was near the weekend and one of my friends had had an awful time setting hers up... and more foot-dragging on my part ensued.

Finally, on Monday, with all my excuses played out and nothing pressing on the agenda, I called tech support and gave them my sad tale: old equipment unreliable and I KNEW NOTHING about setting it up.

(In my defense, I had read and even printed the online manual of how-to. Oh, puh-lease. It was an August 2007 edition, and so technical, I was out of my depth by page 3 or 4.)

Lucky, lucky me--I had reached Hernando! He was patient and detail-oriented. We had problems, some on his end ("the system isn't reading the new equipment" and my favorite, "we have a bad connection, I'll call you back"--we did have a bad connection. Was I not talking to the phone company?) and some problems on mine:

H: "You need to pull the phone line from the back of the modem now."

Me: "Okay." Pull. Pull. Break: the wire comes out of the plastic thingee and no amount of fingernails are going to unclasp it. "Just a sec while I get the needle nose pliers."

(Thank goodness they work because by this time, the old system is totally disengaged and I will be big time outta luck, until they can ship me a new unit.)

It took 90 minutes. An ordinary citizen couldn't set this up. It had to be configured. And re-configured. Twice.

Then he did some sort of magic and took over my computer and finished the job. I would not let him go until I'd entered my brand new password into all the other gadgets we have which run on wireless.

And when customer service called yesterday to see if I was pleased, I praised Hernando. Or whatever his name really is.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why I was at Willow Bend in the first place

Technically, that's The Shops at Willow Bend. Something I know but tend to abbreviate. So, why was I there Tuesday? Surely not just for observing old friends in the food court.

No, got the iPhone 4. I've had an original since Sept 2007. I've loved it and dragged it everywhere, but as the new technologies and upgrades have come out, they've also come with this caveat: not for the original iPhone. So, I haven't even bothered to sync my baby for over a year! It was, alas, a phone. Emailed only if I had to; LOVED it to text; never on the web; a quickie camera whose output I could wifi myself. I hadn't even updated its few apps.

Poor thing. And now it's relegated to the iPhone 4's box.

Once again, the shiny new toy has put the other one away, no matter its length and durability of service.

I think there's a lesson for us all in there.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two women sit down in a mall...

Sounds like the opening to a bad joke, yes?

But yesterday I was at Willowbend Mall in Plano. It's a lovely place, pleasing to the eye, but I don't know that it's ever caught on with the public like its too-close kin, Stonebriar in Frisco. Still, I like it and I was there for the Apple Store, my "home" store.

After my purchase (next post), I decided to try the new seafood place. I had to walk through the food court, which itself seems to always have some new fast food there. I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see two women sitting companionably on a bench.

They were older than me, which I suppose isn't saying much the older I get, but it does narrow the field a bit, and they weren't eating. Indeed their bench was built for two and was placed so they faced the main aisle. They were turned a bit toward each other. Old friends, I thought, waiting for a third, or to get up and finish their shopping.

Went to lunch. It was good and interesting. I asked to see a dinner menu, found it concentrated which is probably a good thing. What they do, they will do well. Thirty, forty minutes later, I'm back in the food court and heading to my car.

And the two older ladies are still there! Still talking! They haven't moved an inch!

How delightful to sit and be so interested in someone else's ideas/problems/observations and to have them that interested in yours.

I wonder how long they stayed.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hardiest of the foolhardy

After our second round of snow, ice, and record-setting low temps, we are inching back into the 70s, which is a bit warm for February but I haven't heard any complaints from man or beast.

However, looking upon my flower beds I find that the bulbs have endured the snow and ice quite well. The daffodils are up over an inch in the old beds. The hyacinths are new and already breaking ground.

Alas, there are a few foolhardy tulips trying the same. Tsk, tsk. They won't fare as well if (when?) we have another round of it. They'll be making me work to cover them with newspaper and weight it down with brick, only to hope they don't get their little tulip noses freezer burned.

Welcome to Texas, I'll say. May your bulb be well fed enough to try again next year.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Savvy kitty

The weather is once again giving us a layer of ice and more snow than we want. (At this stage of February, any snow is too much snow.) The bright side of things--and that's saying a lot since we're to have record low temps--is that this is to last two days and not last week's four. Hope springs eternal in the house-bound breast.

I'm doing laundry and working on a freelance project, considering starting my way through the tax receipts. I've put out more bird seed and will have to do it again, I can tell. The outside kitties have been given food in a spot which won't get wet.

So I put the towels from the washer into the dryer. It vents into a sheltered corner of the patio which should be blocked by house and garbage cans from the worst of the wind. As if from thin air, the alpha female cat Duchess appears and takes her place under the hot air from the vent.

It may be a small brain, but it's dedicated. In this case, to keeping warm.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

It's like a holiday!

Cabin fever isn't pretty under any circumstances, but to those of us not used to being weather-bound-to-the-house for 4 days in a row, it's just pure misery. Even if there were things we could and better yet, should, be doing, we weren't. Or, at least, I wasn't. In retrospect, this place could be in a lot better shape if I'd stopped grumbling as I looked out at the snow/ice and concentrated on the inside instead.

But I didn't. It's a mess. That's all there is to it.

Yesterday however was a different story. The sun appeared and the temps rose and the streets cleared as if swept. It was time to leave the house and where better to go than Walmart.

It wasn't a singular idea. My first hint should have been the difficulty in finding a parking spot not still in snow-clutches. I drove around a bit, found something suitably close to a cart repository, and went in. There I found several hundred of my nearest and dearest friends, half of whom were already in line.

It would appear that the entire town had come down with the same solution to cabin fever: shop.

Not like it wasn't needed. Our cupboard was getting a bit bare itself. Scurvy could set in with the lack of fresh fruits and veggies. I pondered that there would have already been a run on such, but the stockers in the produce department were busy filling the bins. As were those at bread and eggs. Cheese was a bit thin and there was no house brand unsalted butter (makes one wonder, yes?), but I grabbed the last bag of the catfood I had a coupon for and bravely headed to the check-out.

All of the counters were open. I don't think I'd ever seen that. The lines snaked into each other, but by some miracle everyone knew which one they were in. More importantly, they knew which one their neighbor was in. There was actual camaraderie. We were all in the same boat and we were sailing together. I talked to people I knew and people I didn't. Twenty five minutes passed at a reasonable pace.

As I went out, I smiled at those coming in. Just a little smile. A knowing smile. A I'm-gone-you're-in-line smile.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Taking the blame

So a couple weeks ago, already tired of the Super Bowl hype and hypers on the media, I complained to an email friend in Connecticut that I wished it would snow!

Cue the old proverb: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Now, I totally and completely believe that God hears us all the time, that our prayers are answered for the good of us, and that sometimes the answer is no.

But how was I to know that He'd take me seriously this one time?

You see, this morning, on top of the crunchy ice, we have about 3 inches of snow here. At least the main roads are cleared out and you'll just be driving on/through snow, but the side streets--oh no!

But the Super Bowl hype is quieted down, like political ads the day after elections. We've been 24/7 weather around here.

I mean, I wasn't really serious, Lord. Not really. Just a little bit. Enough's enough?

Are you listening?

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

The ice days continue

This is the third day of ice. While schools are still closed, the roads are fairly clear and I will venture out today. For the last two I've stuck to sweats and no make-up and it is time to move on!

Yesterday I chipped nearly one-inch thick ice off the patio to make a path from the back steps to the gate in order to get the trash out this morning. (Also, I just wanted to get outside and do something and this I could do sitting down. Hammer, hammer, hammer, ice crack! Pitch the pieces into the flower bed. Next section.) I also baked a batch of cinnamon rolls from a really strange recipe which proofed the yeast first. I don't normally do that; I convert all proof-first recipes into the yeast-in-with-the-flour kind, except this recipe wasn't going to do that. Then there were a lot of spices in the dough, scads of ginger and cinnamon, and that was fine, but they were just... different. Doubt I'll make them again but they did keep me occupied through the three rolling blackouts we had.

Never had rolling blackouts before and the entire town wasn't subject to it, as I have friends who never lost their electricity in 15 minute increments. Today, we seem fine. I hope.

As to Tuesday's six loaves of yeast bread... so worth the trouble. SO GOOD.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

There was a reason I stopped baking that recipe...

...and now I know what it is.

With ice and snow on the ground, with the sun shining and the wind howling, with the temp at 22 and set to go lower, not higher over the next three days, it seemed like a good idea to bake bread.

I have several standard bread recipes which I'm quite good at baking. I'm also not afraid to try something new, but since most bread recipes of the white/wheat variety are the same and we certainly didn't need cinnamon rolls (although that may be on tomorrow's agenda--see the above paragraph), I decided to go for quantity.

Years--YEARS--ago, I had made a recipe which produced 6 loaves of bread. Six. I knew it took a bag of flour and assorted other staples I was bound to have on hand, and so I went hunting for it. Found it, with appropriate notes on flour cup variances and size of loaf pan, and the date: October 1977. Wow. I was a new mother. Wasn't I an adventurous soul.

But I hadn't had a Kitchenaid do-it-all mixer then. Surely this would be easier. But as I poured in the 8 cups of liquid and the half bag of flour, as the machine started making little grindy noises (it's at least 25 years old, it's allowed), as I remembered I hadn't put in any sugar (add, add, add), I also realized that this slurry of dough was going to have to come out of the bowl and onto the countertop.

I put on my kitchen-expendable gloves I use for messy things and plunged in, adding flour and lifting and pushing the dough around.

Then the phone rang. I was tempted not to answer it, but if it were my husband, he'd wonder why I wasn't and what was wrong, so I pulled off one of the dough-filled gloves with my teeth, and answered. My mother-in-law. Told her what I was up to, answered the question (called her back with more details later), and got back to the mess.

The phone rang.

Now I can go days without the phone ringing at home. DAYS. But I answered, the information from a friend made me glad I did, and I finally got back to packing probably a bag and a half of flour into these 6 loaves.

I dug out the stew pot, put the mess in the oven with the oven light on, and cleaned it all up. Less than an hour later, it is threatening to overflow the pot and I stop it before the dough, now sticky but more compliant, spills over into the oven.

Longer story short, there are now three 1-1/2 lb loaves baking and three 2-pound loaves rising.

This stuff had better be good, but I now know why I abandoned this recipe in favor of the three-loaf buttermilk bread which is standard here. I could have made it twice and been eating it now.

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