Friday, September 30, 2011

Fighting a two-front war

To cut to the chase: Kay 0, Armadillo 1. Or, if you count nights of freedom and lawn-digging, since the rampage continues, the armadillo is 4.

My fruit offering has been rebuffed, so I'm upping the ante. I bought night crawlers at Walmart. Then the question arises, how to keep them from crawling away? Goodness knows, I'm not going to let them loose so they can crawl out of the trap! The internet to the rescue: nylon stockings! It just so happens that I keep a supply of mismatched knee-his.

As to the two-front war in the subject line: Tuesday morning who do I see dining on the back patio with the outdoor cats? A raccoon. Young and not very afraid of me, even though I did manage to make him skedaddle.

It's now a two-trap war.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Going on a grub worm hunt

Grub worms are the bane of any lawn. Around my lawn--and in my flowerbeds--they're ubiquitous. All I usually have to do to find one is dig a hole for a new plant.

Since this isn't the season for sprucing up my high-temperature-devasted flowerbeds, why would I be hunting for grub worms?

The answer is simple: we have an armadillo and it is time he went away. I'm going trapping and I need bait.

I first noticed a disturbance in my front flowerbeds about two-three weeks ago. There were holes and they weren't cat-potty holes. An armadillo was after my tulip and daffodil bulbs and if the number of holes are any indication, I will not have any bulbs left from last spring to enhance my next spring. I usually replant the tulips anyway, but I have (had?) so many daffodils. Hundreds. Really.

Obviously, I needed to do something about Mr. Armadillo, so I used my late neighbor's old wives' tale cure-all: blood meal. I sprinkled it liberally around the area and all seemed to be well until it wore off and there were holes again. More blood meal and this time it wasn't a week before there were more holes. Someone must have developed an immunity to it. Except now, instead of merely being in the flowerbeds, he'd branched out to the front lawn. It looked like a divot-pocked golf green. (Except the 60+ days of over 100 degrees have pretty well taken care of most green in our lawn, no matter the sprinkler system.)

I concluded that he'd eaten all my bulbs and was now after the grubs. Not that we mind him getting the grubs. It would have been nice for him to start there instead of the easy pickings of the flowerbeds. It would have been nicer had he covered up his holes. Good golfers repair their divots.

Despite my spouse's sympathy ("He's hungry and thirsty."), something has to be done. Perhaps he thinks all this grub-hunting is aeration?

So I went to dig grubs in the back yard where the armadillo, I think, cannot get in.

There weren't any that I could find. Instead I stumbled upon some bulbs and I hate to admit it, but that's what I've baited the trap with. My good bulbs.

He'd better be hungry and he'd better be there tonight!

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Clothes Make the Man

In high school, short stories abounded. I think in 9th grade it was de rigueur. Of the stories I remember were Guy du Maupassant's The Necklace and Clothes Make the Man. For x-number of years, I have attributed the latter to Guy also but have never found it.

So today the librarian and I are discussing books and stories as I'm labeling our older/rarer books for the used book sale with prices more in line with their value than a dollar per hardback. And I tell her of my quest. And she has the nerve to google it and voila! there it is: a short story by Henri Duvernois.

Right title, wrong author.

So in this short story, a gang of thieves is about their thieving, but one of them has to dress as a policeman. Pretty soon, he's acting as a policeman because he's getting the respect due a policeman.

Clothes have, indeed, made the man.

Dress the part. Act the part. Should be easy to remember. And to think I learned that at 14.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Sticking it" at Starbucks

I've wondered this for a while, whenever I'm at the Starbucks sweetener/cream/napkin counter: how do you choose a stirstick? You know, the slim pieces of unknown-variety wood all stacked together, end-up, in a metal container? Do you rifle through them? Choose one that's already "standing" up? Pick an outside edge hoping no one else has touched there?

And if you fumble and touch two or three, do you leave them there with your fingerprints on them?

I'm more inclined to take the one reaching for me, that's been lifted out of place by the disturbance of its fellow sticks.


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Monday, September 12, 2011

Be careful what you ask for

Two weeks ago, when we were one day away from tying the record for days over 100 and two days away from breaking it, in typical Texas fashion, we cooled down. Way down. Along with half the populace fond of breaking records (no matter their dubiousness), I kvetched why couldn't we just stay hot two more days. We had come so far...

Then we have 10 days of absolutely beautiful cool weather. Still dry, which is awful, but cool. So cool we're sleeping with the windows open. We got spoiled in a heartbeat.

Guess what?

It's supposed to be 100 today. Maybe tomorrow too.

Well, bring it on! Let's get this over with and go back to cool weather.

Now, if only talking about something would make it so... rain? Please?

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Is it brittle yet?

This isn't so much of a personal challenge (can I make brittle?) as a quest (how many different brittles can I make?)

But that's like starting in the middle of the story and it may get the reader's interest, but will it hold it?

Back to the beginning:
Last fall or winter, like MONTHS ago, I'm at my sister-in-law's and we're looking at a calendar cookbook she's just bought. Most of it is holiday and therefore I've seen it and seen it, but then there was this recipe for pistachio brittle. Now, that was different. Neither of us had heard of such. I got a copy of the recipe, told her I'd make it, and we'd find out if it was as good and different as it sounded.

It called for raw pistachios. How hard could that be? As it turns out, it was 8 months hard.

I fell in love with raw pistachios when my surrogate grandfather (had a whole surrogate family since the real ones lived far away), anyway, when my surrogate grandfather presented us (late '50s? early '60s?) with a mesh bag of this exotic-to-us nut called pistachio. We had to break them in two and there were skins and you'd get your fingers red eating them. Then, when pistachios really caught on there was, in the early '70s, the Watergate Cake, a cake made with pistachio pudding. It was green. And a Watergate Salad. And a Watergate scandal, but that's history.

It had been a while since I'd done anything with pistachios, so I set out to buy some. Roasted and salted pistachios were everywhere. Raw... no. Even at my favorite grocery store which stocks nuts in canisters, there was a sign that the nut was not about and they were sorry for any inconvenience. And so it went. For months. I finally caught a manager in the aisle and he said the shipment had been contaminated but the new crop was on its way. And, sure enough, the next week it arrived. At about $14/pound.

(Now the question could be raised that I didn't look elsewhere. True. Nor search on line. True. But if there were so many nuts available to roast and salt, why weren't there any raw ones? In other words, this tale maybe could have been shorter.)

I grabbed a cup's worth of raw pistachios and hunted up the recipe. Found it called for 2 cups. Well, piddle. I'd just cut it in half.

And I'm glad I did since stirring up that much brittle would have been a momentous job. Pouring it out onto two cookie sheets might have been beyond me for safety's sake. Half the recipe was enough anyway to know it was delicious and then whatever is better than delicious.

So, if it was good with pistachios, how would it be with almonds? Pecans? Hmmm...

A friend mentioned she'd made a walnut brittle and she gave the recipe. Well, it was different. No water. It was good, but I liked the texture of the first better. This sent me to Shirley Corriher's book on cooking and the section on candy in particular. Of course, she has a recipe for almond macadamia brittle. Just the idea takes your breath away, doesn't it? It contains water.

So now I'm on a quest. I'm going to make brittle for the library's annual Pumpkin Patch Bazaar. But what kind? Why not all? To that end, I'll need to experiment more. I've bought a new candy thermometer. It's huge. No more squinting to see that magic 300 degree mark. Not that I need that. At 300 is where it turns brown. According to my spouse's grandmother's peanut brittle recipe (no water), you toss everything together, heat it till it's brown, then add baking soda and pour. Not a thermometer in sight.

While my sister-in-law thought the pistachio brittle was excellent, the brittle connoisseur at this house has declared both of my so-far efforts very, very good. When am I making more?

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