Sunday, April 26, 2015

Basic pic-spam from my new area

This is the river not too long before sunset. The shore you're seeing there is actually in another state. Unfortunately, so is the water, which is why we have nasty hard water on my side of the river. Our water is probably pumped from underground sources, like wells. Still...they can't stop us from looking at it, right?

About half an hour from the river within the bounds of a really big state park. Even this panorama does not do the vista justice, especially considering the reputation of Midwestern states from being flat and treeless. Anything but! At least here.

Also at the state park. The shelter dates back to the 1940s, but has been decently maintained. My camera gives a false impression of illumination, but the interior was actually fairly caliginous since it wasn't in use. I would love to the see the hearths lit, but alas! I doubt I ever will have an occasion to return.

The hill is pretty interesting looking. I saw it from both sides - in the park and the meandering drive back - and tried to think of what geological processes might have formed it and those like it nearby. My first guess was that they are moraines left by the outward edges of glaciers. Basically, just rock and sediment humps. But moraines are typically longer and rounded on top, not round. Who knows?

Anyway, this area is basically home for me now.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One weird and vivid dream

I usually don't record many of my dreams anymore, owning to a lack of time and frankly, most of them not being that interesting, even to me. This one, however, is worth it, I think.

The dream took place in some poorly defined era of early modern China - people who know me well will recognize that this is due to my fascination with the Eastern world in terms of history and non-modern culture - along the banks of an enormous river and surrounding areas.

Some kind of armed conflict was going on. I don't know if it was a civil war or invasion. Everyone looked Chinese/Asian to me, including myself. I was a young Chinese women, probably around the age of 20, in the company of other young woman that age and slightly younger. An old man was in charge of a small contingent of non-uniformed fighters, mostly young men in Western dress.

The dream really began taking shape once fighting reached our side of the river, thanks to women archers on the other side, who covered the crossing from boats. They killed the old man's infant/toddler son by somehow knocking his creche into the water, drowning him in the bassinet. That took the fight out of him.

What ensued was chaos and running. I ended up trying to hide behind a door in an upstairs bathroom - I could still see the river through a window covered with fluttery, translucent yellow curtains. Needless to say, I was found out pretty quickly and made prisoner.

At some point - it gets fuzzy here - we were given a last meal that included shrimp. I tossed the tails over an outdoor railing to a very ill-tempered cat below who had yellow eyes and long, faded black/brown fur.

Then one or two of the young women and I were taken abroad an enormous (and fancy) river barge that belonged to the victorious warlord. He was huge man in armor. The armor did not conform to any particular Asian style, according to what I have found on a google image search, but it sort of resembles this without the helmet. He also had a drooping mustache.

Anyway, the barge had a fire grate built into the floor/deck at one end, enclosed on three sides, but open to the main deck on the other. The idea was that the warlord was going to burn alive several young women from each province he had conquered. We were made to walk through a room that coated the bottoms of our feet with pitch. Then we were herded into the grate area. I think maybe a dozen of us.

We immediately began looking for things to put into the grate to cause smoke, so that we would choke or faint before being burned alive as that seemed preferable to most, but not all of us. I remember frantically scraping gray wood chips into the grate at my end.

Then the warlord came to us and asked each of us whether we could read and write, so that we could leave a record behind of where we had come from and so on. I told him that I could only read/write English. He told me that was foolish, but gave me a circular piece of paper and heavy writing instrument and ink anyway. The writing instrument was like a pointed ivory drumstick at least 18 inches in length.

I had a lot of trouble with writing and eventually just scribbled "remember me" over and over. I considered trying to use the instrument as a weapon in hopes of making a break for it or forcing them to kill me outright. Think about it - no one wants to burn, right?

As we were waiting for them to light the fire, I began wondering if I was dreaming and decided I had nothing to lose by trying to wake myself up. I succeeded.

So that was my night/early morning.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cooking lamb

I have cooked lamb before, but as part of a cassoulle type dish, so it wasn't front-and-center. Today, I actually am cooking an English cooking-inspired lamb shoulder and vegetables dish in the slowcooker. Happy Slowcooker Sunday!

Beforehand, I did some research on lamb. I had originally intended to marinate it overnight, but read in several places that lamb is so tender that a marinade can ruin the integrity of the meat. So I opted against marination.

Because I live in a small town in the Midwest, I didn't have the choice of cuts that I might have back home near Atlanta in an over-privileged suburban community. In fact, it was shoulder-steak or nothing. In a way, that made it easier.

Lamb has quite a bit of fat on it, and not knowing very much about the shoulder's origins, I opted to remove the fat pad thing and quite a bit of the other fatty bits. More on this later. After extensive handling, I understand why cultures that value cleanness also value lamb. Unlike handling chicken or pork, it has a nicer texture. I am not big on touching raw meat, but the lamb did not bother me in the least. It felt clean.

I couldn't determine the direction in which to cut the shoulder. The grain in beef is usually easy enough to find, although I'm a complete neophyte here, but the lamb was baffling. If it turns out that I did so badly as to render the lamb unchewable, I'll edit this post later.

The excess fat, shoulder bone, and a bit of attached meat are currently in the oven for the dog. She was very nice while I did my cooking and prep work, so I'm giving her the extras as her reward. Plus, yesterday was her birthday, and it wasn't a great one. I had to go into the 'office' for a half-day, so she spent more time alone than I wanted her to. Solution: lamb!

Anyway, the lamb is cooking and will be ready in about five hours.

I didn't work from a specific recipe, but rather read many recipes and noted the similarities, such as the inclusion of onion, garlic, and rosemary along with red wine. Potatoes and carrots are also popular. I added leeks and celery, along with black pepper and a hint of thyme.

I don't keep alcohol in the house on account of my ex and still being messed up and angry about that, but I found a sweet onion and burgundy flavor pack. I tasted it before adding and found the flavor pretty wonderful. We shall see.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but the lighting in my kitchen is terrible right now.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


I don't think apples are exactly in season right now, but a friend turned me on to eating more varies than my occasional Granny Smith. Because of that, I thought I would 'review' a few of them I have tried so far. Just for fun.

Pink Lady

These are generally a nice medium size with a pink to reddish color. In general, I have found them to be consistently good - flavorful and juicy with a decent crunch. I tried the organic variety by accident once and liked the smaller size, along with the retention of the good qualities of a regular apple.

Cripps Pink

These apples may look quite a bit like Pink Lady apples, although lighter in color, but the similarity ends there. They just don't have as much flavor. In fact, I'm not certain they actually taste like an apple at all. The Cripps are very woody. For those who want an apple that tastes like it came straight from an ancient forest, I'm imagining these are them, but not in a good way.


They are very small, mostly reddish, and incredibly inconsistent, but the worst ones taste a lot like a lunchroom apple circa 1987. The better ones are crisp and juicy, but the others can be so mealy, that I'm wouldn't take the chance myself. They are often quite inexpensive, so if a lackluster apple is better than no apple, go for it.


These are huge and have the visual appeal of apples from a storybook. They also require a napkin to eat as they are the juiciest apples on this list. I don't juice, but I imagine these would work well for that, although, of course, I would guess they are higher in sugars as well. Still, they're my favorite of the bunch.

Organic Gala

These seem unusually likely to have minor blemishes, but they have a really unique flavor, enough sweetness, and a satisfying crunch. The size is at the small end of medium, which is great for those like me who've started watching their calorie count.

But what about Granny Smith?

I haven't had one in over a year, I believe, so comparing memory to recent taste wouldn't be fair. If I have one, I may update.