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Darwin did it, so I did it.  Just for fun, I sent my DNA in for ancestry testing at ancestry.com .  The results came back a few days ago, and they were surprising in that there were no surprises:

  • 49% Europe East (Latvia)

  • 23% Europe West (France and Germany, mostly)

  • 28% Other regions (England, Wales, Scotland)

The half Latvian side is what I expected.  Lots of farmers in my family over there, and they didn't move around much.  But considering the number of times Latvia has been invaded and occupied, I was wondering if some DNA from farther east might have wandered into the bloodline.  Nope!  My dad's side of the family seems to have avoided that.

The other half did surprise me, but it was the lack of surprise that was the surprise.  The Drakes and Bacons (my mother's side) have been in North America for centuries and at least one Drake owned slaves--plenty of time and chances for African and Native American genes to enter the family.  But nope!  Nothing there.  The web site gave me some more specific information, too, which said my mother's half mostly arrived in New York and Connecticut, which I knew already.

Interestingly, I came up less than 4% from Ireland, even though Darwin found a great-great grandmother of ours from Dublin.

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A couple weeks ago, while Aran was at camp, Darwin and Max and I went on vacation.  I didn't report it here well, did I?

We rented a cottage up near Harbor Springs for a week.  The cottage overlooks Lake Michigan in the northern LP.  The cottage was very nice, but not situated as well as we had hoped.  It didn't have much a lake view, and to get to the lake, you had to go down many, many wooden steps, which were picturesque but serious work on the way back up!  Also, that far north, the lake is still cold and not very swimmable.  The beach itself was beautiful, though, and private, with only the occasional bear to keep us company.

It was a relax-acation.  We slept late and drove to nearby towns for window shopping and movies and walks on their piers.  I picked up some books at a used book sale at the local library and turned down an invitation to appear at a local book festival.  (Forty other authors were going to be there, so I'd be one face in a huge crowd, and anyway I've never known book festivals to even pay transportation and hotel costs, let alone noticeably boost sales). We ate a lot of ice cream and I cooked local foods in the cottage's well-appointed kitchen.  My mother and her husband Gene came up for an overnight visit as well, and we played euchre well into the night.  Later, we hit Mackinaw Island, which is one of our favorite day-

Darwin and I explored a tiny local cemetery at one point and had a misadventure.  The cemetery hadn't been mowed a while, and I stepped backward onto what I thought was level ground.  It turned out to be a collapsed grave with grass that had grown up to ground level.  The unexpected level change made me lose my balance, and I reflexively snatched at a pillar-style headstone in front of me.  But the pillar turned out not to be fastened down to the base by mortar or metal bars and it tipped right toward me.  I felt my ankle give way.  I managed to twist a little, and both I and the pillar, which weighed several hundred pounds, landed in the collapsed grave with a thunk.

Darwin thought the pillar had landed on me.  It had missed me by a hair.  But my  ankle was sprained.  I couldn't get up at first.  We were a gazillion miles from nowhere, and Darwin had visions of trying to carry me to the car.  But I managed to stand.  My ankle was weak and sore but functional. 

The pillar, which was shaped like the Washington Monument and for an 80-year-old grandmother who died 100 years ago, still lay in the indented ground.  Darwin and I tried to lift it, but no way.  Too heavy, and my ankle was an impediment.  Feeling bad about it, we left.  What choice did we have?

But a couple days later, we were driving around and passed the graveyard again.  My ankle was much improved and Maksim was with us.  The pillar was still down.  We decided to see if the three of us could right it on its base.  And lo, we did it!  Granny's grave was restored!

At the end of the week, we came home.  It was a nice break!
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Aran is at Camp Grace Bentley for a week.  CGB sits on the shore of Lake Huron and is a little clump of old-fashioned summer camp cabins with six beds and six closets in each cabin, old wood floors, and high, bare beams.  They have that old-building scent to them, too.  The main building is a huge, beautiful wood-paneled house that overlooks all the other cabins like a hen over her chicks.  The dining room (in said house) has a half-circle of bay windows that look out over the lake.  CBG specializes in young people with disabilities, giving them a week of summer camp (and their parents a week of respite) in a world where most places don't accommodate special needs people. 

Aran loves it there.  He's been going for four years now.  They allow people to continue going even into adulthood, since special needs people so often have no place to take a vacation.

Aran is able to pack for himself.  He could also drive himself, really, but the camp has no parking facilities for campers (it's generally not an issue), so he has to get a ride.  On Wednesday, he and I drove out in perfect weather.

At the camp, Aran greeted most of the counselors by name, with enthusiasm.  We registered and got his suitcases into the cabin, said our good-byes, and I left.

Next week, Darwin, Max, and I are going up to Harbor Springs for OUR vacation.  (Aran wanted a deliberately separate vacation from ours, as a way to have his own grown-up space, which is why he went to GCB at the same time we planned our up north vacation.)

Aran's grandparents are picking him up when camp ends next week, and he'll have a few days at home by himself before we get home.  Let the parties begin!
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You know the old joke. The lady calls the repair man and says, "My refrigerator won't stop," and he says, "Then you better catch it!"

This is us.

The refrigerator won't stop running.  Or rather, it mostly won't.  It runs, then clicks audibly off for a second, then clicks back on, then clicks off, then on, then off, then on.  It still keeps food cold and merrily makes ice, but clearly there's some kind of problem.

Meanwhile, the dishwasher went on strike.  It operates with pushbuttons atop the door, and abruptly none of them worked.  We were forced to wash dishes in the sink.  (Oh, the humanity!)

I called an appliance repair place, and they dutifully sent out a repair technician the next day.  After some rummaging around with both appliances, he said some wires had burnt out on the dishwasher and needed replacing.  An easy fix.  But the fridge had problems with its circuit board.

"The factory that made the boards was wiped out in the Japan tsunami," he said.  "So the part is really hard to get.  We're talking $600."

Eep.

So he fixed the washing machine, and next we have to hunt for a new refrigerator.
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Last weekend, Darwin and I went down to Ypsilanti to visit Sasha.  We had lunch, we discovered a really BAD buffet (and got our money refunded for it when we complained), and we went shopping.

After we dropped Sasha back at his place, Darwin and I decided to drive to Belleville, one town over, and check out their annual Strawberry Festival.  I'd visited it once about 15 years ago and remember liking it, and it sounded fun.  Street fairs are usually kind of cool, and we could get some strawberries and/or strawberry treats.

When we arrived, we got parking at the local high school, which was right next to what we assumed was the Strawberry Festival.  It turned out to be more like a county fair, with rides and games and animals and such.  What we didn't see were strawberries.  Finally Darwin found a building labeled FOOD BARN, which was selling strawberry-themed items: strawberry sundaes, shortcake, shakes, and so on. They also sold hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, and other foods.

That seemed to be the extent of the strawberries.

Eventually, we realized the carnival was separate from the actual festival, and it was a bit of a hike toward town.  Gamely, we struck out and, after about a ten minute walk, we found the real festival.  It was a lot of booths selling arts and crafts, and LOTS of churches who wanted to convert passers-by, and local businesses who wanted to re-do your gutters, and food trucks selling barbecue and junk food and lemonade and smoothies.

No strawberries.  I mean, NOTHING. 

I was thinking we'd find strawberry pies and jams and salsas and gelatins and ices and strawberry-themed crafts and . . . well, you know.  But, nope!  Not one strawberry anything in sight.  Why they bothered naming it a strawberry festival, we couldn't tell.

We also noticed that downtown Belleville is . . . dumpy.  Almost all the buildings took the worst of 1954's blocky, dull brick and lumped them together into a string of boring offices, with a few liquor stores and tattered bait shops mixed in.  The city hall, which stands on the corner of the downtown, should be an arresting piece of architecture, since it's the first thing people see when they arrive in downtown Belleville, but it's nothing more than a dull pile of brown brick.  A good chunk of the main street sweeps past a magnificent lake, which begs to sport a boardwalk and a boat rental place and some delightful pub/restaurants and at least one night club.  Instead, we have a guardrail, a dead parking lot, one bored-looking restaurant, and a run-down liquor store that looks like it deals heroin out the back door.  What a waste!

We did score a few burping cloths from a craft booth for the upcoming baby shower, and we had supper at an antique A&W, which was giving away free root beer floats in honor of the strawberry festival.  And I got to spend an afternoon with my dear husband and see Sasha.  So the day wasn't a total loss!

Jubilee!

Jun. 14th, 2017 08:37 am
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It's cherry season!  I love cherries and will eat them like popcorn when they come in.  So will Darwin.  But last week, I bought two pounds and told Darwin to keep his hands off!

"I'm making Cherries Jubilee," I told him.

I've always wanted to make Cherries Jubilee, and I decided to go whole hog.  I took down my ice cream maker and whipped up a batch of home made vanilla ice cream, though I found to my dismay I was nearly out of vanilla extract.  I used almond extract to make up the difference, and discovered that vanilla almond ice cream tastes fantastic!

While that was in the final stages of freezing, I pitted the cherries and put them in a frying pan with some sugar and lemon juice.  I cooked them down until the juices ran tart and scarlet, then hosed it carefully with rum.  With Darwin and the boys watching, I flicked a long lighter over the pan.  Blue flame fired upward.  I swirled it all around until the flames died down and spooned this over chilled bowls of vanilla almond ice cream.

Aran looked askance at the whole thing, but once he tried a taste, he said, "Wow!"  He kept saying "wow" all the time he was eating.  The tart, hot cherries mixed with the sweet, cold ice cream into a delicious dessert.

Oh, yeah!
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Saturday morning, I dragged Darwin to the hardware and garden store.  He always complains about these trips, but once I get him there, he doesn't want to leave.  So many pretty, shiny things!

I needed to replace the hanging plants and planter flowers that our unseasonable frost had killed.  We also needed rocks to line a gutter overflow area and a new hose caddy.  We spent considerable time collecting all these things and gently arguing over what color flowers worked best.

When we arrived home, it started to rain.  And rain and rain and rain.  This meant I couldn't do anything with all the stuff we'd just bought, but that was okay--I had a huge pile of papers to grade.

It's difficult grading freshman research essays.  They range wildly from really good to barely legible.  The biggest problem is that there are so MANY of them.  Thanks to budget cuts, I have over 130 freshmen.  They rightly want feedback on their essays, but with 35 students in a class, I simply can't give the careful critique I did back when I had only 21 or 22 students per hour.  I'm forced to read quickly and rely on circling numbers on a rubric, which isn't nearly as helpful.

I already had about a quarter of them done.  I spent the entire rest of the afternoon, evening, and night grading these.  I started before lunch and finished at 11:00 PM, in fact.  Now you know why teachers have summers off.

Sunday, I refused to have anything to do with work or writing.  The guy we hired to power wash the deck came and set to work, with water rushing in all directions while I caught up on small things around the house.  When he was done and everything was sparkly clean, Darwin and I put the front porch furniture out and hung all the plants.  The front porch is shaded all day in summer, and I use it as a second office.  It stays cool all day, it has an electric socket for my laptop, and it's screened from the neighborhood by generous foliage.  The plants everywhere make it feel even more homey, and I sit out there quite a lot.

Out back, we put out the patio furniture.  One project for this summer is to re-furnish the back deck.  We need something to shade the back deck--in summer it gets a lot of sun and is flatly unusable.  I want to get a cantilever umbrella and some more comfortable deck furniture than we now have.

I also set more potted flowers about the deck, then planted the rest in the old tomato boxes.  Two years ago, Maksim and I tried to grow tomatoes in big boxes, but our yard just doesn't get enough sun, so the plants died.  The boxes have been sitting with their dirt, unused.  I dragged them out and planted purple petunias in them, and they contrast nicely with the yellow ones in the pots.

Just as I finished, the rain arrived again.  It poured!

But that was okay--I had to make supper.  The menu: roast lemon and herb chicken; grilled naan bread; baked carrots; roasted asparagus.  The latter was because Maksim had never had asparagus and wanted to try it.  Darwin said he hates asparagus, but I told him that's because he's never had it prepared properly.  "I'll bet you've always had it steamed or boiled at a restaurant with a glob of margarine on it," I said.  "Nasty!"

I tossed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper and put it in the oven for ten minutes.

Everything was tasty.  It was a seven-pound chicken, and almost nothing was left by meal's end.  And even Darwin liked the asparagus.

Whew!
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Saturday, Darwin and I continued the Great Car Hunt.  We went down to the Ford dealership on Saturday to haggle over an Escape and a new C-Max.

Always a pleasure.

Car dealerships are always busy on Saturdays, especially in spring and summer, yet they always close at 3:00.  This strikes me as foolish.  Darwin says it's to prevent you from shopping around in your excitement--you don't have time to go looking if everything closes at 3:00 instead of 5:00 or 7:00.  This may be true, but when I go car shopping, I go with the attitude that I'm going to be at the dealership for several hours.  My phone is fully charged, I have a book for backup, I eat a big meal before I go.  And if 3:00 comes and we're still talking price and stuff, I'll keep going.  No skin off MY nose.  (This happened the last time we were there--we went for a test drive at 2:30 and kept the salesman there until 3:30.  Tough titty.  When I'm dropping several thousand dollars, the dealership can do things on my time.)

Anyway, we arrived at 12:30 and "our" salesman was duly summoned.  We told him what car we'd settled on, that we wanted to trade in our current car and truck, and the numbers began to fly.

The trade-in numbers on the F-150 were initially scandalously low.  This was, the dealer assured us, because the truck had a lot of rust on it and needed new tires.  I know exactly how much rust there is, and tires are not a real factor in trade-ins.  They also ignored the upgrades and repairs I'd put into the truck since I'd bought it.  So I pushed the paper back and said they needed to do better.  The salesman did the "call the manager over" thing, and he did the little "I don't know what we can do" thing.  Darwin and I smiled and nodded and said he needed to do better.  (Darwin quoted him a number three thousand dollars higher than we expected to get.)  The manager said he could make some phone calls.  We told him to do so, and off he went.  I know he wasn't making them and he knew I knew he wasn't making any phone calls, but I suppose he had to dance the dance.

We waited a long time between spurts of number activity.  I calmly played video games on my phone or chatted with Darwin.  Meanwhile, the salesman was juggling two other sets of customers and he was growing more and more frazzled.  I did not offer to let someone else take out place at his desk.  I did not ask if we could speed things up.  Time was on my side.  Tick tick tick. Is it 2:30 already?  Oh, did that customer grow annoyed and finally leave?  What a pity.  I'm just sitting here, waiting for some favorable numbers.  I'll be happy to speed things up, but . . .

Eventually, the sales guy came back with a much higher trade-in on my truck.  Way higher than we expected.  Very good!  The truck continued to pay off for us.  (When we bought it, the credit union loan rep was shocked at how little we paid for it.  Now we're getting more on the trade in than we owe.  Ha!)

But the trade-in offer on our current C-Max was startlingly low.  It was so low, in fact, that Darwin snapped, "Absolutely not!" and snatched the paper away.  He crossed his arms and refused to discuss the matter further.  The manager was duly summoned, and he said this was the best he could do.

"Then I'll be keeping my car," Darwin said, and they lost the sale of a new C-Max.  Suddenly the salesman's commission was cut in half, despite all his work.

But we have a good deal on the Escape.

Now we're waiting for the processing of the loan paperwork.  We have to go back one more time on Monday to finalize everything and get the actual car.
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Aran turned 20 last week.  Wow!  Now I have two sons over twenty!

Aran didn't make it easy.  For his birthday, he wanted to eat at the Tilted Kilt.

Sigh.

The Tilted Kilt is a half-step above Hooters.  Well, a quarter step.  Eighth.  It has a psuedo-Scottish theme in that the waitresses wear tight plaid mini-skirts and bikini tops under knotted shirts. 

And my mother wanted to come.

So we all went.  (I think my mother's husband Gene was a quietly happy man that day.)  We all had a birthday dinner with chocolate or salted caramel sundaes afterward.  Aran posed for photos with several of the waitresses.

And now he's 20!
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Maksim has basically outgrown all his t-shirts.  When he puts one on, he looks like the Hulk.  So I took him to the store to buy replacements.

First up, of course, we had to figure out what size he wore.  After minimal trial and error, we realized he now wears a men's medium.

This is Darwin's size.

They can trade clothes!  Max can dress like a little businessman, and Darwin can be a skater in training.  I'll post pictures.
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Darwin is City Manager of Ypsilanti, but we don't live there.  For city managers, this is problematic.  Whenever a city manager makes a decision that affects residents (including tax policy), the residents like to say, "You don't really care--you don't live here and this doesn't affect you."

However, we aren't portable right now.  Maksim is in high school, and we don't want to uproot him.  Also, much as I love Ypsilanti, I'm living in a place where I have a short commute after 15 years of a 45 minute commute.  I'm not willing to move back right now.

Hence The Condo.

A while ago, I called our old realtor, the one who brokered our houses in Ypsilanti before, and the search began.  We were basically looking for a condominium to be a rental property, with the rent going to pay the mortgage.  That way, Darwin would be a homeowner in Ypsilanti and could rightfully say, "I own a home here, and these policies affect me, too."

Since I know Ypsilanti, though, most of the searching fell to me.  I wanted something close to Eastern Michigan University for the simple reason that it would be easy to rent out and the resale would be higher later.  But there aren't many, and when one does show up, it goes fast!

And then we learned about one.  It's right across the street from the University.  I wasn't able to get out to see it, but Darwin was, and it was exactly what we were looking for.  Except it's occupied by tenants--the people selling it are the landlords.  Apparently the tenants had no idea the landlords were selling it, and they were moire than a little shocked when the realtor called to arrange a showing.  (Their lease ends this fall.)  The landlord did give them the option to buy first, but they didn't want to.

Anyway, we put an offer in.  After the usual wrangling, it was accepted. 

And then there was the mortgage application.  After a 20% down payment (required by the type of mortgage you can get on a rental property), the amount we'd be borrowing for the mortgage fell below what Quicken wanted to loan us.  In other words, we wouldn't be borrowing enough money and paying enough interest.  Quicken compensated by offering us the scandalously high rate of 6% over 30 years.  Darwin was shocked.  Not only was 6% way, way higher than what our credit rating should have given us--or any other human being in America--they were requiring 30 years, and we wanted 15.  Darwin went back and forth with the loan officer for about half an hour on this, and finally snarled that we'd find someone else.  He snapped the connection shut and ended the relationship.

The next day, he talked Marj, our realtor, who said, "Oh my!  You need to talk to =these= people."  And Darwin did, and they trotted us right through a proper mortgage.  Sheesh.

So we're looking to close soon, and we'll be property owners in Ypsilanti again!
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Maksim has his learner's permit now.  The youngest is now driving.

He run hot and cold about it, actually.  One moment he's snatching the keys from my hand, the next he flatly refuses to take the wheel.  The road that winds past the lake makes him nervous--he feels like he's going to drop into the water.  He's not wild about highway driving, either, but who is?

He didn't go to school Monday because he was sick with my cold.  Tuesday was his first day back, and he drove us to school in the truck.  For various reasons, the seniors had that day off, so traffic was light, which made it easier.  He did perfectly fine, including the parking.

I'm keeping track of his time with a driving app made just for this purpose.  It's very handy!

Sometimes people ask if it's strange being driven around by my youngest, but it isn't.  This is the third time I've gone through it, and out of all three of the boys, Maksim has been the easiest to deal with in this arena.

New Cat

Apr. 8th, 2017 08:40 am
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We finally have a new cat.

It was an unexpectedly laborious process.  The cat rehousing people (I don't like calling it an adoption--adoption is for human beings) wanted three references, the name of my veterinarian, and a signed contract stating, among other things, that they could enter my house to inspect it any time over the next four years.  What are you, the Gestapo?  Seriously, people--it's a cat.  It's not a human child.  It's a freakin' cat.  I changed the inspection clause to remove its teeth and crossed out a few other clauses.  (One read, "I understand cats are animals and that they do not react the same way human beings do."  No, really?)

I also had to promise to send them vet records showing I did regular vet visits for the next four years.  Sure.  I'll get right on that.

In reality, though, I think they'll forget about it.  Lots of other cats to rescue, you know.

Anyway, we now have a new kitty.  She's a black shorthair, about 10 months old, and extremely shy.  We put her in one of the bathrooms with her own litter box, food dishes, and a cat bed the cat lady said she used a lot.  We put the cat bed in the tub.  The first day, new kitty refused to leave her cat bed.  She let us pet her, but she didn't respond.  After a couple hours, we let Dinah into the bathroom.  Dinah sniffed her way up to the tub, peeked over the edge, hissed once, and stalked away.

The second night, we left the bathroom door cracked open.  In the morning, new kitty had vanished.  Later, we found her in various hiding places--under the bed, behind the dryer.  Each time we found her, she moved to a different hiding place.

Dinah's personality instantly changed, which I find interesting.  When she's the lone cat in the house, she's Needy Kitty, Greedy Kitty, demanding attention and petting, to the point where it gets annoying.  You can have her on your lap for an entire two-hour movie or a three-hour nap, and the moment you get up, she demands more attention.  But whenever there's a second cat in the house, she becomes quiet and reserved.  Right now, she's sitting on top of the cat tree, surveying the house.  Watching.  That other cat is here somewhere, and damned if she's going to let it get away with anything!

We're thinking of names.  The cat's original name was Little Black, which we don't like.  Darwin has plumped for "Fraidy," since she's so shy, but I don't know.  We'll have to think some more.



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I make a Ukrainian dish which is wildly popular in our little household. It's just sausage crumbled into a big pan and fried up with onions, garlic, chopped peppers, and a whole pot full of potatoes (boiled, drained, and cubed), spiced with salt and paprika. I call it Ukrainian stir fry, and it's everyone's favorite food, even Darwin. The latter is most surprising, since Darwin generally dislikes foods that are mixed together. This, however, he likes.

Thing is, it doesn't matter how much I make--it always gets eaten. I mean, ALL of it. I noticed this trend, and started experimenting. At first, I was putting in one large potato for each person at the table. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Then I tried one and a half potatoes per person. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Then I tried two potatoes per person. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Today, I used two potatoes per person again, except I forgot Darwin had a council meeting and wouldn't be home for dinner. Then Aran got home from work when I was halfway through dinner prep and announced he'd stopped at McDonald's for supper already, so he wasn't hungry.

CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Geez.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Every so often I'll see a TV show or movie that mentions a food I've never heard of.  Since I'm Adventure Chef, I get intrigued and wonder how to make the food and what it tastes like.  Back in the Old Days, this would take considerable research.  I'd have to ask friends if any of them had made it, or go to the library and look up cookbooks from the culture.  It would take hours or even days.

Nowadays?  Easy!  The Internet is the biggest cookbook in the whole wide world.

Recently, for example, I heard a reference to tres leches cake (three-milk cake), an hispanic treat.  The name sounded interesting, and I wanted to see what it was about, so I just checked Google.  I found several recipes that ranged from overly simple ("take one box of yellow cake mix...") to foolishly complicated ("after the custard has cooled for at least three hours in the dry ice, slice all six cake layers in half with a silver-plated knife sharpened under a full moon...")

Basically, tres leches cake is made with three kinds of milk: regular mlk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk.  The first two milks go into the cake batter.  The third is used to make a pseudo custard that your pour over the baked cake, which soaks it up like a sponge to make everything rich and moist.  Whipped cream, technically a fourth milk, is used to frost it.  The great debate about tres leches cake is whether or not it's worth the effort to separate the eggs and beat them separately or not.

I grabbed a middle-of-the road recipe, complexity-wise, and went to work.  Yes, I separated the eggs.  I baked the cake in a square pan and then realized if I poured the soaking filling over it, the filling would overflow.  What to do, what to do?  I finally removed the cake from the pan, put it in a 9x12 pan, and poured the filling over it.  To ensure the filling wouldn't pudde in the vacant half of the pan, I set the pan on a tilt with a trivet and left the whole thing on the back porch for chilling.  Then I whipped some whipping cream and sugar and frosted it.

Whoo, it was good.  But rich!  A small piece is plenty!  Maksim and Aran loved it and ate it steadily for snacks until it had vanished.

All thanks to the biggest cookbook in the whole wide world!

Moving Dad

Mar. 22nd, 2017 08:30 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
My father needed moving.  His then-current relationship ended, but the house was only hers, which meant he had to move out.  He was living with his brother temporarily, and finally he found a small apartment up in Saginaw.  But Dad is in his 70s and has mobility problems and couldn't move by himself.  And so my brother Paul and I went up to handle it this weekend.

This is the problem when you have a truck--you're stuck helping people move.

As moves go, this wasn't =too= bad.  Very little furniture was involved.  Dad had arranged for a couch and love seat to be delivered, so the only furniture we had to move was a small kitchen table and chairs and a rocking chair.  This is good--I'm fifty years old and at my age, I don't move furniture.  I hire people to move furniture for me and watch them work, thanks.

Anyway, Paul and I met up at Dad's brother's house and loaded his belongings into the truck and hauled them over to the new apartment.  The place is very nice--bright, airy, balcony, fantastic eighth-floor view of farms and woods.  Paul and I approved.

We hogged one of the elevators and got everything upstairs, then went out to Dad's storage unit for the rest of his stuff, and hauled that up.  Dad didn't have a bed, so we called around and found a furniture store that was open in downtown Saginaw.  Here's where we needed the truck for sure!  We got a basic bed, squeezed it into the elevator, and set it up in the apartment.

Paul and I left Dad in the apartment and went to Meijer, a 24-hour grocery and department store, where we bought a bunch of basic apartment stuff Dad didn't have.  It was like setting up a college freshman in a new dorm!  Dad can drive and shop on his own, but he's literally never lived on his own in his entire life, and there's a bunch of stuff it would simply never occur to him to buy until he actually needed it (like a shower curtain, bath mat, spray cleaner, etc.).  So we got him those things, along with a few groceries to get him through a couple-three days.  This we delivered back to the apartment.

I put sheets on the bed while Paul whipped his computer together (no Internet yet--he'll have to do that on his own later) and helped Dad put the food away.  Then we set up the bathroom.

By now it was 9:30, and we were exhausted.  The only thing we didn't do that was on our list was get him a dresser.  Well, you can't get everything done.

Now he's safely ensonced in his new place, with a lot of unpacking to do to keep him busy!  :)
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I subscribe to three different news feeds that specialize in media news so I can keep up with the latest media information for my media literacy class.  For weeks and weeks, a single story has dominated the headlines: the "gay moment" in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

By "dominated," I mean the top four or five stories EVERY SINGLE DAY discuss this topic.  If you read media news, there is IS no other story.  They do try to vary the narrative.  How is the lyingly-named One Million Moms reacting?  What about that drive-in movie theater in Alabama that won't show the theater?  How much gay is there?  Is LeFou an appropriate LGBT breakout character?  Gasp--Malaysia won't screen it.  Gasp--Russia is slapping an "adults only" label on it.  Can we squeeze another interview out of a cast member?  How many times can we re-quote the director's original statement?  And on and on.  The news eats a sandwich, vomits it onto a plate, eats it again, and barfs it back up, fork at the ready.

Really, the only question is: will this have an impact on the box office?

Psh.  No.  It won't.  Did you see how much extra publicity this whole thing is getting?  No one is talking about anything but this movie.  Every network and news outlet has done multiple stories on it, and consumers are snarfing the vomit sandwich right down.  Couple that with nothing else opening this weekend (because no studio wants to compete with a major Disney opening), and you have the perfect set-up for a record-breaking blockbuster.  One Dozen Moms has their boobs in a bunch over this, but they only helped it happen, so maybe they need to learn from their mistakes and shut up.  They won't, but they should.

Anyway, we got a close up and personal dose of the phenomenon.  I wanted to go see BEAUTY AND THE BEAST because I use the 1990 movie in media literacy class to talk about abusive relationships--Belle is trapped in a relationship with an abusive beast who isolates her from friends and family, won't let her work or leave the house, expects her to fulfill his every wish (breaking the spell), pushes for a fast commitment, threatens violence, and shows sudden mood swings.  Textbook abuser.  In the end, Belle loves the Beast so much, that she literally changes him into a kind and gentle prince.  Great message to send our girls: when your man abuses you, it's your job to love him enought that he'll reform.  The abuse is YOUR fault.

Did Disney change this around for this new version?  I doubt it, but I want to see the movie so I can comment appropriately during the domestic violence unit.  Darwin and Maksim came along for the ride.

When we arrived at the theater for the 1:45 matinee, however, the ticket seller said, "We only have a few front-row seats left for that showing."

I conferred briefly with Darwin and Maksim, and they said they were okay with that, so I asked for three tickets.

"Oops!" said the seller.  "It just sold out!  And so have the 2:45 and the 3:30 showings.  The 3:45 still has some seats."

We didn't want to wait around two hours, so we decided to wait until next weekend.

If this is any indication, however, One Dozen Moms and the other groups did their job--the show will shatter all kinds of records.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We still don't have a second cat, if you can believe it.

One person I came across had a cat for adoption.  No, actually her son has it, and he lives in a different town.  Wait--they're going to take her to the vet early next week.  Could we put this off until then?  Wait, I don't have his email address.  Wait--yes, I do.  Can you email him and let him know you're interested?

Another lady had an ad on Craigslist.  Her cat had just had kittens and she was looking for homes.  She wanted proof of home ownership or a letter from the landlord saying you're a good tenant, a letter of recommendation from your vet (no brand new cat owners allowed), a signed statement saying you wouldn't declaw the cat or that you'd return it to her if you decided to, and . . . and . . . and . . .

Sigh.

Windstorm

Mar. 10th, 2017 12:13 pm
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
A massive windstorm blew through Michigan yesterday.  Winds gusted at 70 mph.  People lost parts of their roofs.  Power lines came down all over the place.  Detroit Energy reports that two-thirds of its customers lost power at some time or another.  A lot of places still don't have power and don't expect it until the weekend.

Traffic lights are out all over town, and people act like they don't know to treat the intersections like four-way stops.  I've seen two accidents--one fender-bender, and one that totalled a truck.  It makes driving in the area tricky and even dangerous.

One of the big pine trees in our front yard went down, too.  We got lucky.  It didn't hit the house, break any other trees, or block the driveway.  If it had to fall, this was the way for it to happen.  I called a tree place, but they're understandably busy and won't be able to deal with it for a day or three.  It's an unnversing sight, the tree lying in the yard with its roots up in the air.

We did lose power, but only for a few minutes, and that while I was at work.  I only know about it because the digital clocks were blinking when I got home.  We got lucky there.  A fair number of my students and fellow teachers don't have it.

On the other hand, our Internet went down.  Strangely, it happened a day after the windstorm ended.  How on earth a windstorm can take out the Internet in hindsight, I have no idea.  It's annoying in the extreme.  My computer won't talk to my mobile hotspot on my phone, so I don't even have that.  I spent too much time trying to restore my access and finally had to give up.

Meanwhile, I was stuck in the house with two teenaged boys who didn't have wifi.  The awful!

With global warming being what it is, it seems like line worker would be one of the most stable careers out there.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Over the weekend, Aran and I looked at a potential place for him to live.

We got a referral to the place from his new social worker.  It's a sort-of boarding house.  Six (Aran would be number seven) people live there, and the landlady/aid is in and out constantly, as are the social workers.  The rent includes utilities and Internet, but not food.  The house is in a good neighborhood, a subdivision with sidewalks and a nearby park.  A Kroger is a five-minute drive away, so Aran could probably transfer there and continue working.  We met some of the residents, and they seemed nice.  I liked the landlady very much.

There were a few things I didn't like about the house. One was that it wasn't cleaned well.  The landlady explained that she did some cleaning but she expected the residents to do most of it, and they . . . didn't.  This could be remedied, really, with an afternoon's work and putting Aran in charge of keeping the common areas clean.  (By "clean," I mean dusted and vacuumed, which were definitely lacking.  There wasn't any clutter or junk lying around.)  Although the house has a no-smoking rule, the residents often "sneak" smoking, as the landlady put it, when she wasn't there, and the house smelled of smoke.  Kala, who was also there, said this is very common among such living facilities, and we'd be hard-pressed to find a place where no one smoked.  The bedroom where Aran would be staying had a resident in it, and he didn't smoke, at least.

I have enormously mixed feelings.  I don't know if this is a good place or not.  Part of the problem is that I have no frame of reference--I haven't seen any other facilities.  I'll try to see some more.  Part of the problem is that this would be the next phase of Aran's life.  He'll be living in a place like this . . . . well, forever.  I don't like it.  He'd be more independent, and he definitely wants that, but his standard of living will drop sharply and stay there.  On the other hand, he can't live with me forever.  One day I'll be too old or too dead to help him, and he needs to be set up to be all right on his own--or state-assisted on his own, anyway.

This isn't an overnight process, either.  There are many steps here.  Even after he moves in, he (we) will have to apply for food stamps, get different furniture (the stuff that's already there isn't acceptable), find a doctor, learn how to handle his own money more than he already does, and so on.

Like I said--conflicted.

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