Camera Roll

Dundee 245 Glasgow Botanic Gardens D 25
Glasgow Botanic Gardens D 54 Reche Canyon 94
Cranberry Apple Flower Tarte 1 Portland 134
Vacaville 105 Vacaville 148

As the heat wave continues, we find indoor things to play with… and we’ve started messing with this new feature Flickr has called Camera Roll. It basically shows you an organized view of your pictures, based upon some machine-vision thing they’ve got going on, that shows every shot with People in it, or Arches, or Trees, or Flowers, or any number of other odd ways they have of lumping things together. It’s quite fun, and if you’ve got a Flickr account, you can play along, but if not, it’s not publicly available for you to just go through anybody’s photostream and see what’s what, thus we’ve included a few of our grouped shots here. These to the left are a bunch of pictures that were lumped together under Style / Bright, I think. It really does provide a different way to look at your photos, and probably means you’ll look at more of them, and more frequently.

That’s actually one of the questions that we get frequently in the Hobbiton: “Do you guys actually look at all those pictures after you take them?” Short answer: yes. Longer answer, we have them on a slideshow on a screen playing in our living room whenever we have guests over, so if you’re lucky enough to be invited, you could look at them, too! We really do look at them a great deal, simply because they keep us connected to our travels and to our adventures, and reminds us that being home, plugging along through work and whatever other mundane thing is just what one does between trips…

For those of you who do the twitter thing, we’ve finally given in and joined — T, under deepest protest, because the entire thing makes her break out in hives. We’re at @david_t_macknet and @tanita_s_davis if you’re at all interested. Still not quite sure what the point of it is, and still find the limitation on length to be somewhat of an annoyance, but hey, when your agent throws you under the bus says it would be good marketing, you listen, and your spouse joins in sympathy for the pain you will suffer from being on social media again. True love, that.

-D

Upcycle & Gratitude

Upcycled Placemats 2

Okay, seriously, placemats are… kind of a conspiracy. It’s apparently not enough that we moved from crouching over a fire and eating from a communal bowl with our fingers. Now we have a plate and a table — and utensils, progress indeed — but currently we apparently need a little square of …something on which to set said plate atop said table. It’s kind of crazy, and at the end of the day, placemats are completely ridiculous and unnecessary. (Please, please do not get T started on charger plates and table runners, either.) All that being said, we have twelve of them…because T has sisters, sisters who have Things and must give them. Sometimes T is happy to take Things, because free Things and paint and glue go well together. (And if she can use buttons or magnets or felt or glitter? Bonus.)

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Commonly accepted as ideal for children, in the vain hope of containing the messes they make, for preserving tables from water rings and heat marks, and for dressing up a casual-but-bare eating space but at D&T’s table, placemats are less for protecting the (Ikea, aka “seriously, does that plastic need protection?”) kitchen table and more for cramming more color into a 1970’s era very beige-and-white room. (We do love our bizarre faux marble counter, though. You just don’t see weird goldish-brown veins running through white Formica counter tops anymore. Probably a good thing.) We need the color. It’s gray here a lot lately. The gray foggy marine layer keeps things quite cool – and since we last month turned off the heat for the season, it is downright nippy in the morning – not that we’re going to complain about the muffling, insulating fog that keeps Spring sunshine from catapulting us straight into summer. (It was 80°F/26°C in parts of the East Bay this past weekend, but we drove the ten miles over the bridge to find it a balmy 70°F/21°C at home.) The fog rules here, with the sun emerging around lunchtime usually, so it’s hard to feel like leaping into the day when it’s chilly. Thus the placemats are really about making a bright start to the day.

Upcycled Placemats 1

To get that “bright” start to the day, of course we could have used the original pictures printed on the placemats… but we felt the leering, winking scarecrow on its bright pink and yellow background would probably put us off eating entirely. Since these are cheaply made (Kmart) canvas rectangles, treated to be water resistant, it was simple enough to flip them to their neutral side, give them a quick sponge wash, and then apply masking tape in random patterns. We chose five colors from a box of textile paints we had on hand, colors that would contrast brightly with anything (and not clash with the red table – but not match it, either) and just went for it. This was entirely random in the maybe-this-will-work,-maybe-not sort of way that the best art projects have. And, it’s a little rough and messy, but really worked out. T. only did six, since the pattern on the others isn’t quite as egregious as the leering strawman, but she’s tempted to do a more autumnal palette for those.

So, yes, yes — placemats are a racket, a silly bourgeois affectation, an upper-middle class pretension to fancydom. But. Every meal can have moments of the sacred and beautiful. Every moment at table with family and loved ones or with an interesting book, eating nutritious and delicious food should be noted, elevated, celebrated. Life is precious. Light your candles, pull out your pretty tumblers. Throw down those bright squares of linen and bamboo — or those laminated plastic maps depicting the fifty states. Then, fold hands and breathe, close out the noise and the traffic, the speed and the blur of your days. Deliberately see those cherished faces, deliberately experience those scents and flavors, exhale and murmur, Thank you, thank you. I am still here. We are all still here.

New Photography Toys

So, our favorite camera store was having a sale the other day, and we picked up a new lens. It’s a ProOptic 500mm f/6.3 Manual Focus, T-Mount Mirror Lens, which … is essentially a telescope that mounts onto your camera. Because it’s a reflector lens, it’s actually fairly short, and not weighty at all, so the camera is fine mounted to a tripod (rather than having to mount the lens to the tripod). We’re still waiting on a Bower SLY2X 2x T-Mount Telephoto Extender for T-Mount Lenses (it was on back-order). With that 2x extender, we’ll have a 1,000mm lens!

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What does this mean for our photography? Well, first off, it means well be using the tripod a whole lot more frequently, as it’s nearly impossible to shoot a non-stabilized 500mm lens, never mind trying that with a 1,000mm lens. Second, it means we’ll be able to get a lot more detail out of our pictures of hummingbirds or the moon or anything else we can think of which would be better much closer in.

It’s quirky, and has a very narrow depth-of-field, but it’s also quite nice to sit here in bed with the camera set up next to the bed, focused upon the hummingbird feeder.

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

-D

Projecting Sunlight…

T. doesn’t get angry that often anymore. D. maintains that this is because she is too busy wearing out the thesaurus with Annoyed, Aggravated, Bellicose, Belligerent, Caustic, Churlish, Exasperated, Frustrated, Indignant, Outraged, Perturbed…, to actually use such a pedestrian word. But, every once in awhile, anger sneaks up on her and the lava erupts. Usually into incoherent sobbing, much to her disgust, (and the open-mouthed astonishment of those around her). The latest thing that made her ragingly gut-punched, breath-stealingly, word-sobbingly infuriated was a story she heard on The Moth Radio Hour, about a woman who was denied help from her insurance company when her comatose son needed care. Stephanie Peirolo was evaded, lied to, set up, and abandoned by a for-profit system which decided her son was a loss, and wrote him off. As T tried to explain the story to D, she was vibrating, hands were shaking. She burst out, “HOW COULD THEY DO THAT TO HER?”

Things make us angriest in life when there’s no one to hit.

Fortunately(?), along with crying when she’s mad instead setting someone on fire as they might so richly deserve, T also tends to write poetry – once a month, with six other slightly insane people. This month’s offering has razor teeth and shiny claws and it exhales righteous FLAME. Or, it thinks about it, really, really hard, and scowls a lot, anyway.

After the hideous incidents in the story, Stephanie Peirolo went on to make sure that, should someone else need it, there was help for anyone whose criminal-behaving insurance company was violating their rights and keeping them from care. Because she didn’t let the world incinerate her, but held up a torch against the night, that insurance company – and the executives at her old job – can’t get away with their disgusting business practices. It’s not enough — oh, it’s hardly enough — but it’s a start.

project sunlight


How far that little candle lofts its light –
And darkness-dealers cringe against its beam.
Its spark of hope ignites against the night.

“Walk in the light,” shine, noonday-justice bright;
Numinous blaze, come banish spiteful schemes.
How far that little candle lofts its light –

Candescent day this nightmare dream rewrites –
Defies the dark, its thousand points agleam;
Ignites our hope, to burn away the night.

So shines the good, in setting wrong to right,
Against unending gloom and bleak extremes:
So far, that little candle lofts its light.

Illuminating — putting shades to flight
Erasing shadows for a hopeful scene
A flame of hope, which luminates the night.

Deep calls to deep, as zenith calls to height,
In times of doubt, in Stygian extremes,
How far that little candle lofts its light —
A blaze of hope held up against the night.

torch-e1296579151390


If you’ve enjoyed this little snippet of What T. Does With Her Weird Friends In Her Spare Time, you might also enjoy the poetry efforts of the other people in the group – some actual published poets: Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s villanelle and cool story about a chateau; author Sara Lewis Holmes taking a page from the birel-ing playbook of Ogden Nash; Laura Purdie Salas’ brilliant science in rock stories; Andromeda Jazmon rhapsodizing about seeds, growth, and — peppers; East coaster Kelly Ramsdell Fineman writing an UNTITLED villanelle reminding us dark winter is gathering light, and Liz Garton Scanlon writing cleverly about King Tut — and beards, in varying meanings of the word.

Thanks to They Might Be Giants, there’s even a SONG about villanelles. Because, poetry.

Happy rainy afternoon,

d&t

Ambling into Autumn

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Unsettled weather, cooler nights, random thunderstorms and finally coaxing a few flowers out of the bedraggled looking nasturtiums in the backyard: this is how we know it’s autumn. Oh, and the calendar says so. Otherwise, it’s still bright, warm and sunny as ever. The leaves are coloring up and falling, and we see this as a hopeful sign.

Oh, and the turkeys are still wandering … this isn’t really a sign of autumn so much as a sign of them finding ripe olives, seed pods, and other things they can dig up, scratch out, leap up for, and otherwise desecrate everyone’s yards over. It’s a hard job, but someone has to be the high-pitched barking, early morning wandering, “threatening” car-chasing, feather-ruffling and intimidating neighborhood watch.

We’ve been quiet these last few weeks, but things are rolling along. D’s been THRILLED TO BITS to have secured a contract for Thing 1 at his company. This is a classic example of how we get our friends in Scotland to visit us: we get them contract work here so that they can fly out to their “overseas office” from time to time. (Regardless of the paintings the Cube Dwellers leave on their cubicle walls, they don’t program video games at D’s office. They’re just kind of …addicted to Mario. And Pokémon, apparently. And doodlings with Dry Erase markers when they should be working. This may have been the morning after they got the new espresso machine…) D will be glad with the legal paperwork is all figured out (grrr) and Thing 1 is looking forward to popping in when the weather is at its worst in Glasgow. We’re hoping to have some rain to offer him in California, but …well, it’ll be warmer rain, whatever the case.

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As you know T has been trying to beat a deadline all summer (she lost – the baby came early, so her editor went on maternity leave unexpectedly). She’s also been attempting to organize a conference on diversity in children’s literature, and has spent the last month twitching under increasingly rising levels of anxiety. She walks around muttering comments like “how do I get roped into these things?” and “I will NEVER do this again.” She harasses sub-committees and micro-manages, she has accumulated boxes upon boxes of swag from publishers in the entryway, she worries over gift baskets, keynote speakers and generally makes a pest of herself to all involved, but everyone WILL have a good conference, or someone will bleed. Fortunately, for all, the angst ends the second week of October, as T’s desk is metaphorically cleared again. For however long that lasts. (Until the January deadline for the next novel. Eek.)

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D., meanwhile, is a third of the way through teaching his class this semester, and he’s fortunately remarkably calm this time around (not team-teaching will do that for you). He coaxed T. out to paint some pottery in the relaxing quiet (once the hen party finished up) of a Benicia art center, and we’re now enjoying our little coffee pot and ginormous mug. Many more will come to join that one – there’s nothing like a full liter of tea all at once! He’s enjoying all the cookbooks and kitchen paraphernalia received for his birthday (and the lovely herb planter full of growing things), and the cooling temperatures are at last tempting us back into the kitchen.

Which leads to one of our most recent purchases (aside from the necessary purchase of The Fridge of Fabulousness which replaces the 1990’s second-hand fridge we had that gave up the ghost in a puddle of sticky oil and water last month): a doughnut pan.

(Point of interest: To us, doughnuts are the proper spelling, and donuts are …some self-stable, powdered sugar abomination on a grocery shelf. No one else says so, and it’s ridiculous, but why else are there two spellings except to allow us to mock one? That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.) The doughnut pan purchase is, like so many things, our friend Jac’s fault. She got a couple of pans last year, and we watched with interest as she tried vegan and non-vegan recipes in them, with varying success. And then, she went mad and pointed out a TON of recipes all over the web. And T. kept saying, “We do NOT need a doughnut pan. If we had one, then we’d eat doughnuts.

This observation seems to have some merit.

Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts

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  • 1¼ cups almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a doughnut pan (6 regular sized donuts) with cooking spray. In a food processor, pulse together almond flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs, ¼ cup of melted butter, honey, and vanilla extract. You want all ingredients to be smoothly blended together – and prepare for them to be super, SUPER sticky. Divide batter into prepared doughnut pan (and smooth them out with wet fingers). Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let doughnuts cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges and then remove gently from pan.

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NB: OBVIOUSLY, we diverted from this plan at the last minute because who would we be without totally skiving off and deciding to do our own thing? First, we used Truvia sweetener – and somehow T. only used a couple of tablespoons, thinking that it might be too sweet. It…wasn’t. Also, the recipe calls for honey for a reason. Two sugars help to keep a pastry moist and chewy because science. Next time, perhaps some of us might follow the recipe here. (*cough*)

Next deviation: we sliced a peeled apple into rings, filled each of the doughnut spaces halfway, pressed in an apple ring, and then filled in the rest of the batter. If you’re going to have cinnamon, you may as well have apples, no? Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Pink Lady bake up nicely.

For the topping, pour melted butter butter into a flat bottomed bowl. Combine sugar and cinnamon in another flat-bottomed bowl. Dip your warm donuts in butter then in cinnamon/sugar mixture.

As you can see, we didn’t bother with the cinnamon-sugaring, either. Because we feared the thick batter would make a crumbly, dry doughnut, we whipped up a quick creamed-cheese-cinnamon frosting. The apple actually came to the rescue — adding sweetness, moisture, and overall tastiness to an experimental treat. A lot of baked doughnuts rely on the frosting – and neither T. nor D. are huge frosting people – so this was a gamble that paid off well with a mildly sweet, you-could-eat-it-for-breakfast doughnut. Further Fiddling (veganizing as well) with the basic recipe to follow!

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Happy October.

Life & Color

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Just out of their hot soak in vinegar and vegetation.

A joyous greeting of the season to you – especially to our dearly beloved in the North, who may just now be getting the faintest hints of green fuzz on trees… We are today hefting pickaxe and hoe on the incredibly-ridiculously-oh-good-grief-REALLY!? hard clay soil of our garden space, covered, as it has been, with black plastic in someone’s SUPER-lame attempt to kill the stupid ivy. Yes. Well. It didn’t work.

At any rate, whilst we worked, T. had some experimental eggs soaking away in natural dye solutions. Pille explained how to do it with onion skins, but T. had forgotten that egg and skin need to be boiled together, and opted to simply do a hot vinegar bath. The rest of the ingredients she assembled were chopped red cabbage, chopped chicory root, turmeric, and, the perennial favorite, beets.

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Interestingly, the colors changed as they dried.

Dyeing with natural dyes is tricky – not just because it’s messy (all dyeing is messy; fact, you live with it), but also because there’s the niggling suspicion that one is wasting food. If you can, plan ahead and save ends and bits of prepared veg for this project. Certainly start collecting the onion skins WELL in advance.

The chicory created an intense, deep brown, and because we used it chopped and buried the egg in it, the texture is very mottled. Turmeric is reliably yellow- butter yellow, from a quick bath, or a mustard shade, for longer exposure. T. impulsively dipped a scarf in the chicory/turmeric mix and the dye actually heat set. She was unsurprised, considering how hard it is to get curry stains out of shirts.

The chopped red cabbage is our favorite. Instead of producing a red, the delicate, robin’s egg blue is just gorgeous. We may try frozen blueberries another time, for a deeper blue. We have plans to try the onion skins again — and like their streaky/mottled browning effect. The beets are a reliable pink, as were our fingers.

We love the colors. We would (and will) dye boiled eggs with natural dyes for no particular reason except that they’re beautiful, for the rest of the season. After using natural shades, synthetic ones just aren’t really as visually appealing.

♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦

Today we found a nest of what we think were California Slender Salamanders beneath a rock under our lemon tree. We put them carefully back (they didn’t even want to stick around for pictures, they were completely freaked out) and just marveled at how alive our backyard is suddenly becoming, sans black plastic… unfortunately alive, in terms of the ginormous spiders invading, and the Norway rat we saw cruising around beneath the birdfeeder, (who might have found his way indoors, oy), but life is life, eh?

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Exuberant, joyous rebirth to you.

Holiday Lounging!

Our Christmas decorations weren’t all that complete, as we’re not entirely sure where some of them are stored … well, in the garage, yes, but we didn’t want to open every box to find them. Nevertheless, we did have a bit of fun cutting out stars and snowflakes – from paper recycled from our Christmas Cracker flyers, pulling out the whirling pyramid Christmas thing (Weihnachtspyramide) that we got from a Christmas Market in Germany in 1999, and making a clove orange to hang in the entryway. Now T’s reading the last of her Cybils nominations and working on book reviews in preparation for tonight’s midnight (well, between 5-7 p.m. for everyone else) meeting with her judging panel, and D’s catching up on fiction reading, and generally enjoying some time off. D. has a telephone interview-ish thing today with a professor from Puerto Rico – and we’re dreaming of warm places for our next location!

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It was nice not to feel the need to do much of anything – while J. was here, we mostly sat around and chatted. J. crocheted up a flower for T.’s felted hat, D. nearly finished up another knitted-felt project (yet another hat – but an actual hat, rather than merely a cap), and T. has taken up a striped cabled scarf on her knitting loom.

Apple Raspberry Pasties 4
Apple Raspberry Pasties 2
Apple Raspberry Pasties 5

Of course, no one should visit without us using the occasion as an excuse to do some baking. We had a lovely basket of raspberries and a pair of old, wizened apples, so we made Raspberry-Apple Pasties. We also made some savory ones, with a curried lentil-carrot filling, but the filling just wasn’t as picturesque as the fruit ones. No sugar, only 4 ingredients, and they were fabulous: apples, raspberries, cranberry wensleydale cheese, and a crust. Pinch them up, bake them until golden, and you have a pie!

And if we might say so: Scottish raspberries are a blessing from God. Amen. Amazingly sweet, even for so early/late in the year. We get them from the farm folks, so someone still has them growing – and we’re really, really glad.

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Today we’re being thankful that the incessant wind has stopped (which sounded rather like the ocean, it was so loud) and working our way through those things on the to-do list which have been delayed for too long. T’s been muttering about finally trying out a faux Goldfish cracker recipe to give away paired with her painted glass jars of layered soup ingredients, and we’ll try to bake up another batch of gingerbread cookies later on, or perhaps watch a movie – although hopefully our second one is nothing like that dumb one with monsters and aliens…

Our families all have this week off as well, so we suspect there’s a great deal of lounging going on all around. Hope you’re able to kick back a little bit, too.

-D & T