Thursday, December 15, 2011

Should I blame Delta or Virgin Australia?

I'm slightly peeved with an airline right now, and I'm not sure which airline I should be mad at.

I've never kept track of frequent flier miles before, because i've never come close to earning enough to get status.  But this year, with trips to India and Australia, that changed, and indeed, I made silver medallion status with the trip to Australia.

On coming back, I logged in to check my status, and discovered that Delta had not credited me with miles for the Sydney-LA leg of my trip.  I called, and was informed that it would be credited within 24 hours.

Three days later it was finally posted to my account, but they gave just 3700 miles credit for a 7500 mile flight.  Somewhat niggled by this, I phoned, and was assured that it was a computer glitch, and that all would be fixed within 24 hours.

Today, six days later, it was still showing the same discrepancy.  I phoned again, and this time was told that apparently Virgin Australia only gives half the mileage credit for cattle-class passengers.  I'm immediately pissed off at Virgin Aus for this, of course, but thinking back on it, I'm equally annoyed at Delta: they could choose to credit my Delta skymiles account with whatever they like!  I thought that I had booked a Delta ticket, and they have chosen to regard it otherwise.

Yours, gnashing my teeth.  About something that really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.  Grrrr.

Much has happened in months

Much has happened in the time since I last posted.   A trip to Seattle, a trip to Australia.  And they say "pictures, or it didn't happen", so here's some photos.

Baby emus


 There are more camels in Australia than people realise!

 More kangaroos

A wallaby, with a joey in the background

See, it did happen!

Yours, ready to travel again,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Remiss in posting

I've been terribly remiss in posting since this summer.  Not sure why I've felt unable/unwilling to blog, but clearly the effect is that I haven't posted.

Life is good, in most ways.  I'm doing some travelling, and fretting about that (having to write talks for my visits to exotic places, for example) and finding that I'm now more nervous about flying than I used to be.

Next week, I visit Australia -- my first visit south of the equator --- it's been an interesting year for me, with India this spring, and now Oz.  And while I doubt that it will be as life-changing as India, I'm sure that the visit will be a great experience.  Now, I have to just figure out what talk to give, and write the darned thing.

Yours, back, for today,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Palindromes and travel

A noteable date today: it is the same backwards as forwards, regardless of whether we write it in big-endian, little-endian, or the ridiculous US standard of middle-endian order.  (Think D/M/Y, Y/M/D, or the US M/D/Y).
This afternoon, I fly west to attend a conference, and to spread my wit and wisdom about math and computing.  I'm discovering how little I enjoy being away from home these days, although at the same time I do enjoy the travel itself in a way.  And there's a lot of travel coming up, including, if we can figure out how to pay for it, another trip to the UK for Christmas...  at least that one will be with LOML and the kids...

Yours, on the road again, or more precisely, in the air again, soon,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Boo!

Nine years old!  Wow!

Yours, wishing a happy birthday to my lovely little girl,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Anniversary

Seven years on, a very happy anniversary to us both! Even if you are out of town on a course!

Yours, as you are mine,

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Boo, Poet

Boo, inspired while emptying the dishwasher, composed the following poem:

Bowls aplenty, bowls galore. Bowls are knocking at my door.
Bowls, bowls, all you see.  Bowls at university.

Yours, proud of my little verser,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A quote from Boo

Boo and LOML and I were playing balderdash this evening, while Skibo was at cub scouts.  I've played the dictionary game many times, and assumed that this was just the commercialization of the same game: but it's not: it has categories, one of which is "it is illegal to:"

This led to Boo declaring that "I don't want to live in Fairbanks if it is illegal to sell a beer and a pickle!"  (The correct answer, by the way, is that it is illegal to sell an alcoholic beverage to a moose.)

Yours, still laughing,

Not caught up at all...

Clearly, I'm not caught up.

Yours, missing almost a month...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Catching up

Somehow, I missed blogging for a couple of days, and a couple of days became a week, and a week became two, and now it is twenty days.

I may fill in a few old posts for specific days, to remember what we did, etc.
But finally, there will be fairly big gaps in the blog, and perhaps I can no longer have to worry about missing a day.

Yours, back,

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Skibo's birthday, the school ediition

Skibo's birthday falls outside the regular school year, and so his teacher told us that we could celebrate is birthday at lunchtime sometime after the semester began.
We chose to go in today, so that both LOML and I could attend: we brought cookies (store bought), lemon bars (made by LOML)  and strawberries, just washed and hulled and sprinkled  with a very little sugar.
A lovely little gathering, and I think that Skibo enjoyed it.
I felt a little sorry for one girl, who was fasting for Ramadan, and had one more day to go before she could participate in such activities -- had we realised, we would probably have scheduled it for Thursday -- but I was tremendously impressed with how well she handled it: not a trace of sadness that she couldn't join in, just a strength of character that she could bring to bear.

This evening we went to our new favourite restaurant, the thai place downtown, and while the meal was delicious, we were rather put out that the service was dreadful.  And as this was the second time in three visits that the service had been awful, it may rapidly become our previously favourite restaurant.

Yours, happy with the day, except for the service,

Monday, August 29, 2011


A busy evening: the school district had a small get-together to welcome volunteers (which had been relocated  from the district offices to the school, at least partly because of all of LOML's hard work in the school's memory garden): we were surprised that they chose to take photos of us and give us permanent badges to wear when we are in the school.  Surprised and perturbed: had we known, we might have worn different clothes, brought hairbrushes, etc!  And I might not have cycled to the school!

We had to rush away from the gathering early (a shame, since the food was both nice and healthy) up the slope behind the school to the field for soccer practice.  I spent the best part of an hour walking, while LOML went back to get some stuff done at home.

Yours, rushing around, but fitting some exercise in there too,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pot roast and latkes

I like to cook.  And I'm not very good at thinking of gifts.  And so often I'll offer to cook friends their favourite dinner as a birthday gift.
This evening we went over to our friends the vets, since it was S's birthday yesterday, and cooked dinner for them.  Actually, we cooked most of it at home and then took it over: a slow cooked pot roast that I started at 9:30am, a bunch of different desserts that LOLM constructed with Boo (and to a lesser extent, Skibo) and then I made latkes at their house.

A lovely time, lovely friends, and, if I say so myself, quite edible food.

Yours, stuffed,

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, S!

Happy Birthday, S!  Since we can't hang out today, we'll go over to your place tomorrow and make dinner!

Yours, continuing the celebrations,

Thursday, August 25, 2011


We took the kids to soccer practice this evening: the first time I've been able to attend this year (it's only met one other time, with one time being rained out).
In years past, we've stood and watched  the practice for the whole time, or chatted to other parents: but tonight we realised that we could take advantage of the running track around the field, although we walked rather than ran.  LOML had to disappear in the middle (we needed to get some stuff from the store for some cooking that has to be done this evening) but I managed to fit in three and a half miles of walking.  LOML managed a couple of miles in spite of having to run off.

I think that this will be a nice thing to do for the soccer season, at least until matches against other teams start.

Yours, taking this exercise thing seriously,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet and greet the new grad students

While LOML took the children to soccer practice this afternoon, I had to go to a local park for a meet and greet with the new graduate students in the department.
Since the park is only a couple of miles away, I decided to cycle rather than drive: the weather was beautiful and it was early enough in the evening that it would still be light enough to not have to worry about lights etc.

Going there was not too bad: the hills were mainly with me, but on the way back, I had to admit defeat for a few feet near the top of one particularly steep stretch, and get off and walk my bike.  But I made it home okay, safe and sound, if a little stretched.

Yours, inserting exercise into the job as well,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Play Ball!

The summer is rapidly winding down --- the kids are back in school and work starts next week.  We'd talked about going to see a baseball game -- the local minor league team --- with our friends K&K, and today we managed, thanks to K&K's generosity and organizing of tickets, we squeezed the six of us into the van, and drove to the stadium.

It was a lovely time: hot, but not unbearably, and our seats were in the shade: the children behaved amazingly well, lasting the whole nine innings, and, I think, they enjoyed the game.  And they certainly enjoyed some of the snacks!

Oh, and the home team won.

Yours, having had a lovely day,

Happy Birthday, K!

Happy Birthday to our lovely friend K!  She and her lovely husband, K, are going with us to a baseball game this afternoon!

Yours, in continuous August celebration mode,

Friday, August 19, 2011

The return of potluck

Potluck is back!  Tonight I made spaghetti and meatballs, others brought bread, salad, desserts.  We've switched to Friday nights, which may or may not be better for some or all of our group: every night is bad for somebody or other, and so for a while we'll try Fridays.

Yours, happy to be back into the potluck season,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to school!

Another school year begins for Boo (entering third grade) and Skibo (going into second grade).  We're very excited for them, and they seem happy to be going back.

A big difference this year is that we are going to try to cycle to school as often as possible: together with a couple of other families, cycling in convoy.  The first day, it has been apparent that some bicycles need to be replaced, and the children need bike locks, and new helmets.  But given that, the cycling went relatively smoothly.

Yours, pedalling furiously,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meet the teachers

This evening we spent an hour or so at the school meeting Boo's new teacher, and getting Skibo re-acquainted with his teacher: she taught his first grade class last year, and has moved up, with an essentially intact class, to teach him in second grade too.

The kids are excited about getting back to school, and so are we!

Yours, in anticipation of the first day,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Skibo's birthday

Skibo's birthday was quite lovely!  Together with some of his friends, and their families, we went to a relatively-local water park, and spent several hours riding on huge inflated toroidal tubes, going down super-fast water slides, playing in fountains, and generally enjoying the park.
A lovely day, made possible by our friend E, to whom we give many thanks!

In the evening, we had friends over for pizza -- essentially all the folks from the earlier part of the day, plus some others who couldn't make it to the water park, but who were will and eager to help Skibo celebrate.

Yours, thinking that the celebrations were just right,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Skibo!

Skibo turned 7 at 7am!  Happy Birthday!

Yours, continuing the string of celebrations,

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wild Salmon

Last time we had wild salmon, it tasted, not exactly bland, but perhaps in need of a little brightening.  So, tonight, I'm experimenting: I juiced two small oranges, with the zest of one, and grated an inch of ginger into a small sauce pan: reduced it over low heat for a few minutes, then added a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce and a splash of toasted sesame oil.  Drizzled over the salmon, it is lovely.

Yours, playful in the kitchen,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reading to the kids

I have missed reading to Boo and Skibo for a little while.  Not that they don't get read to, but that they consistently want LOML (who is more likely to lie down with them and  fall asleep) to do the reading.
But the last couple of nights, I've read to Boo from the third Harry Potter book, and it has been absolutely lovely.  Hopefully, Skibo will turn around again soon too.

Yours, thrilled to be reading again,

Happy Birthday, Mum!

A very happy birthday to you, Mum!  Hope it's a wonderful day!

Yours, celebrating birthday number three this month,

Monday, August 8, 2011


I took the kids to Target this afternoon to get them soccer boots, socks and shin guards.  They are signed up for with the town recreation department to play in the kids soccer league, and their try-outs were this evening.
Unfortunately, Skibo got into rather a snit, and refused to go.  Boo just got back, having had a fun time: and fortunately for Skibo (who now does want to play, he says) they put him on the same team as Boo (to make it easier on us).
So, he hasn't lost the opportunity.  Yet.

Yours, occasionally finding his behaviour difficult,

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Heat of the day

In an attempt to outwit the weather, we gave in today and went to the pool at 1, in the heat of the day, and managed to stay for an hour.  And it wasn't even the rain that drove us away, it was other commitments that afternoon.
It almost looked like we might be able to go again this evening, but unfortunately, the rumbles returned, and we lost the opportunity.

Yours, only losing to the weather 1-4 now,

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rumble grumble mumble

Two attempts to get to the pool, once at 5-ish and once at 7:30.  The first time, though the sky was clear, we heard thunder just as we arrived.  The second time, no thunder, a little rain, but the pool was already closed.

Yours, getting frustrated,

Happy Birthday Dad!

Another birthday in August.  Have a very happy birthday Dad!

Yours, continuing the month of celebrations,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Grumbles of thunder

Attempting to go to the pool again this evening got shot down.  Rumbles of thunder again.  Of course, rain would be welcome.  Unfortunately, very little rain came.

Yours, gritting my teeth and grumbling,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rumbles of thunder

Finally, a little rain today: LOML and Boo have been making jewellery together --- mainly earrings --- and decided to sell them at the market on the square this afternoon.  Unfortunately, the skies decided half an hour into their sitting there, having only sold one pair, that it was time to drench the town.  Skibo and I had gone down to see how they were doing, and got there just in time to get wet.
Everyone there, dismayed as we all were to see the market shut down, was delighted by the fact that it was raining: we've had very little for the past few weeks, and while we're not in a drought like we were a couple of years back, it was beginning to get a little worrying.

Unfortunately, it also chose to thunder a little --- and only a little --- right at the time when we had planned to go swimming, and consequently we didn't manage to get in the pool this evening.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Yours, singing, and dancing in the rain,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, LOML!

Happy Birthday!  May it be a lovely day!

Yours, celebrating,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

And the debt limit deal is done.

What a disgusting show in congress.  The only marginally positive thing is that the debt limit has been raised, and the country is not in default.  But we are in a poor economic state, at dire risk of a double dip recession, and the republicans are forcing cuts in stimulative spending: not extending unemployment benefits is not just mean, it's stupid economics.
The way to reduce the deficit is for the economy to grow, to get people taking unemployment benefits to instead be paying income taxes.
But instead of a clean debt limit bill, we are forced to accept a disaster of a bill, sure to lead to ugliness in congress, and likely to lead to less growth, and possibly even a second recession.

Yours, Tunbridge-Wells-ishly,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Meet the swimmers

The last proper swim meet being over, this evening the swim team got together for a little party at the pool.  It was a very pleasant evening, culminating in the adults versus swimmers relay races.  I'd intended to swim backstroke, but there was no backstroke race: instead, there was dolphin diving, running (which I did), kickboard (get a kickboard from one end of the pool to the other any way you like), chain races (one swimmer swims with their arms, the other holds her legs and swims with feet), etc.

Yours, pleased to meet,

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Culture, entertainment, sport

In some sense, a day which went from high culture (we went to the theatre, to see a play), to entertainment (on arriving home, the kids insisted on watching television), to sport --- after dinner, we went to the pool, and enjoyed the water in the warmth of the evening.

Yours, thinking that all we were missing was bread and circuses

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our young artisan becomes a businesswoman

Boo has been making earrings for a few weeks now.  She has a lovely eye for ways to put beads together, how colours will work in interesting ways, and has constructed several lovely sets.
This afternoon, a friend of our stopped by, and on seeing Boo's work, asked if she could buy a pair of the earrings.
Boo set her price (and naturally, she had no idea for how much to ask for, but she will learn that in time: in this instance she came in rather below:-) and immediately made her first sale!

So, our young artisan has become a businesswoman!  LOML suggested to her that she split the proceeds into three chunks, placing each chunk in a jar: one for saving, one for spending, and one for sharing.

Yours, very proud of our little girl,

How is a pig's tail like getting up for a swim meet this morning?

To quote the old, and deliberately awful Noel Coward joke, "twirly!"

It was indeed way too early this morning to get up for swimming.  But get up we did, and we ferried the kids to another pool for their final swim meet of the season: both kids swam their hearts out, didn't come close to winning any race, but had a fun time.  And in at least one relay race, Skibo's team, aged six and seven, was racing against teams aged ten and eleven!

Next week the children are signed up for swimming lessons, which I hope will help improve their strokes: the swim team coach has been focussing mainly on getting them to swim laps, and hasn't  had the time for individual attention, but starting Monday, they'll have a great teacher, just for the two of them.

Yours, looking forward to seeing more improvement,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Another month has flown by

August is nearly upon us, and with it, birthdays galore.

Yours, thinking it is time to celebrate...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Prioritizing problems

It seems to me that the country is confused.  And not only that, the confusion is very very scary.

The deficit is an issue.
The debt is a problem.
The current debt ceiling is a crisis.
And the approaches being discussed at the moment are leading us down the road to disaster.

The solution is to pass a clean debt ceiling extension bill, or even, get rid of the debt ceiling completely.
As for the debt, the way to reduce that is to grow the economy faster, and to increase revenues, as well as by eliminating unwanted, unnecessary or ineffective spending and waste.
For the deficit, we should not be too concerned right now.  The country is still lingering in the awful after effects of a recession, and we should be spending sensibly to accelerate growth.  If we need to worry about the deficit, we should be returning to the pre-Bush tax levels, and using the resulting revenues in a maximally stimulative way, which, largely speaking, is helping the poor, the unemployed, building essential infrastructure, investing in education.  Tax cuts to the wealthy are an incredibly inefficient form of stimulus.

Instead, I remain

Yours, looking forward to disaster on Tuesday,

Khoresht e Alu

I've probably mis-spelled the title of the post, but I copied it from a friend's recipe, a recipe she copied down for me some twenty or more years ago.

I had lost the recipe, and discovered it hiding between the pages of a cookbook a few months ago, and tonight I decided to try making it again.

It's a Persian chicken stew with golden prunes: one of my main memories of it from decades back was a frantic trip to a shop in Washington DC which claimed to sell Iranian foods, and was only open for a few more minutes than it would take to drive there from the suburbs.  We made it that day, and the food was good enough I asked for the recipe: but I annotated the recipe with "dried apricots?" next to the golden prunes.

Needless to say, here in the wilds of the back of beyond civilization, there were no golden prunes to be had for forty miles, so I substituted dried apricots for the prunes.  The result was delicious, although neither child appreciated it.

Khoresht e Alu
6-8 chicken pieces (skinless thighs works well here)
2-3 onions, minced
1 tsp turmeric
Couple of cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 15 oz cans tomatoes
1tsp cinnamon
20-30 golden prunes
Oil for sauteeing the onions, browning the chicken

Brown the chicken in the oil on all sides.  Remove to a plate.  Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring, for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and add the chicken back in.  Simmer covered for an hour or so, then add the cinnamon, salt, pepper and prunes.
Simmer for another half hour or so, covered. 
Serve with rice (I used Trader Joe's Brown Basmati, which we love), yogurt and chopped onion.  I omitted the chopped onion, and added some toasted slivered almonds instead.

Delectable!  Thanks, Mairi!

Yours, reliving recipes from decades ago,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Boo is better again

It seems that Boo's virus has been vanquished.  She and Skibo were bouncing off the walls this afternoon (and literally, and annoyingly, climbing the furniture too).
Fortunately, by the time dinner was over, some order had returned to the chaos, and we all went to the pool, where the kids were able to get some of the energy out, and they went to bed surprisingly well.

I tried a new idea for a meal today -- and while it wasn't a complete success, I have ideas for how to modify it, and will give it another shot.  Inspired by The Minimalist cooking show a few days ago, (inspired but not copying: his recipe was quite different, beginning for example, with lamb) I made some spiced meatballs out of ground turkey, sauteed onions and pepper, an egg, cumin, coriander, paprika and sriracha.
I formed small cylindrical meatballs, browned them in a little olive oil over high heat, then rolled them in red lettuce leaves, to emulate stuffed  grape leaves, without using grape leaves.

The lettuce was not a great hit: the texture was all wrong, but the idea may work.  I'll try mustard greens next time, wilted in some boiling water for a few seconds: they should wrap around the meat more neatly, and give it a better package.

Yours, always wanting to try new things,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poor Boo

Poor Boo has a stomach virus: she'd been complaining of tummy troubles for a day or two, and LOML took her to the doctor this morning.  Nothing we can do, except encourage her to get some rest, and let it work its way through her system.  Apparently she shouldn't be contagious, so it really changes nothing, but knowledge of it is good.  She napped for a good while this afternoon, which is a rare occurrence.

All this put lots of other kinks into the day, from the kids not going to swim team practice this morning, to Skibo and me not going swimming this evening.

Yours, hoping to go to the pool tomorrow evening,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Garlic, basil, shrimp

No swimming tonight: the pool is closed on Mondays (although open for swim team practice in the mornings), so it will have to wait until tomorrow.
We had shrimp in a garlic, basil, tomato and wine sauce tonight, with brown rice, portabella mushrooms, and salad: very quick and easy, and delicious.

1 lb peeled shrimp (30 count, or so)
5 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
White wine
A cup or two of chopped tomatoes (we used tiny cherry
tomatoes cut in half, straight off LOML's plants)
Big bunch of basil, chopped or cut in a chiffonade
Sriracha hot sauceSalt, Pepper
A little oil for sauteeing.

Heat a skillet, pour in a little oil, just enough to coat the pan: saute the shrimp for a few seconds on each side, just until they start to change colour.
Remove the shrimp to a plate, put the garlic in the pan, and cook for 30 seconds or so, just until it turns fragrant --- not until it burns!  Add a cup or so of white wine, and cook until it reduces a little: just for a few minutes over high heat.  Add the tomatoes, a healthy squirt of sriracha hot sauce (as much or as little as you like) and season with salt and pepper. Add the basil, and the shrimp and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, just until the shrimp are cooked through.
(Please, never overcook shrimp!)

Yours, pleased with how this turned out,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spanish Gold

We made paella this evening: quite delicious, as I had hoped, although the soccorat didn't work out as well as I had thought it might.  I was happy to discover that a couple of local grocery stores sell little packs of saffron, and not hidden away in the back, either.  It used to be that the local stores were so worried about it being shoplifted that you'd have to ask for it, feeling rather guilty, as if buying some forbidden product.
And as for the title, spanish gold: it turns out that at current gold prices, saffron is rather cheaper than the metal: not much, but a bit.  Saffron locally sells for between $350 and $400 per ounce, counting sales tax.  Fortunately, I only needed half a gramme, or 1/56 of an ounce, so the cost was merely inhibiting, not completely prohibitory.

Yours, spinning the threads,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Texas displays some rational behaviour?

It troubles me that the current political wisdom seems to suggest that the Governor of Texas is about to jump into the Republican presidential race: after all, the last time a Governor of Texas ran for President it all turned out so well, didn't it?

Nonetheless, there is a slight glimmer of progress on the horizon: the Texas State Board of Education, finally showing sense, has decided to adopt textbooks that teach science, instead of insisting on anti-evolution pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo.

This is a huge deal, because they are one of the biggest purchasers in the US of text books, and what they decide to buy often gets foisted on lots of other smaller school districts by the publishers.

Yours, happy at a sign of sense,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Horrors in Norway

I can't think of a comparable act of terror to what has happened in Norway.  The fact that they were children, the fact that the killer continued his rampage over an extended period of time, the number slaughtered, all make it one of the most horrific acts of our time.  And the fact that it appears to have been politically motivated: that the children were among the best and brightest of the new generation for a political party, and the murderer slaughtered them because of this, adds a further sense of horror to an already horrendous crime.

Yours, saddened, and horrified, and grieving for the people of Norway,

And another

Another day ends swimmingly.
The end was fine.
Yours, thinking that the middle part of the day could have been better.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wondering about growing exotic plants

With the difficulty we have in procuring various ingredients for recipes around here, we've been kicking around the idea of buying some plants, and growing them ourselves.  We already have a good little crop of lemongrass (which LOML planted a few months ago, and is growing nicely): next time we get some galangal, we may save a piece and try to root it.  The current discussion is about curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves: they both are small enough shrubs that we could grow them in plant pots on the deck, and bring them in during the winter.  Not sure whether we'll actually follow through on the idea, but it's fun to contemplate.

Yours, wondering if this is a way to curry favour,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another evening of swimming

To cap today off, we had another evening of swimming.  This was a very nice way to end what had been a rather hectic day.  LOML drove a couple of hours to pick up a friend's child from the airport, getting stuck in unpleasant traffic on the way back, for a return journey of rather more than a couple of hours.  I spent the afternoon at home helping other friends out by watching three of their boys (four year old twins and a nine year old), together with Boo and Skibo, and one of Boo's friends.  Six kids who mostly played nicely together, but it was still rather stressful!
So, the relaxing nature of the pool was a nice way to destress at the end of the day.

Yours, wound down,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Evening swimming

One of our friends had expressed an interest in going swimming with us at the outdoor pool, and we had all decided that the most convenient (and coolest) time of the day to do so would be in the evening.
This evening, we went.  It turned out to be a delightful swim: the pool was almost empty at 7:30: the lifeguards could relax and joke with the children a little, and towards the end of our time there, the lifeguards taught Boo how to do a flip off the diving board into the pool.

Yours, at the end of an idyllic evening,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to work

Another Monday morning.  Back at work, teaching again, at 8am.

Yours, missing the summer of a few weeks ago.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wild salmon leftovers

Friday night we ate wild salmon, poached in white wine.  Tonight we reaped the leftovers: salmon fishcakes, made with the remains of the salmon and about the same weight in mashed potatoes.
Together with salad, and tomatoes from the garden, tossed with fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, a feast!

Yours, feasted,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Swim meet

Morning came around way too early today: we made it to the pool for the 7:15 warm-ups.  The meet, the second for the kids, but the first one I've been able to get to, was fun, and went mostly without a hitch.  I say mostly, because for Skibo's first race, he didn't realise that he was supposed to be in the water, and the other three swimmers left without him.  Fortunately there was an empty lane in the following heat, and he swam in that instead (and acquitted himself well, considering that the swimmers in that heat were all a year or two older than him).
Boo did really well too -- not winning any races, but swimming hard all the way, and she only lost one race by a tiny fraction of a second.

Really rather a fun way to spend the morning, if a little too early to be up.

Yours, ready for a nap,

Friday, July 15, 2011


What time do we have to be up at in the morning? 
We have to be at the pool by 7:15??? 
This is the less pleasant side of swim team: the pool opens to the public at 10, so the swim meet has to start at some awful hour.

Yours, thinking that heading to bed early has to be a necessity tonight,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day!

We failed completely to celebrate one of the world's better known holidays: with LOML out of town it didn't feel right to throw a potluck party, added to which so many of the people we know are away on vacation.  In the end I forgot to mention it completely to the children (who are still a little young to read Les Miserables, so it may be okay to not tell them about it yet).

Still, it might have been nice to cook up a batch of boeuf bourguignon, or something else in celebration of all things French. (Including, since I do live in the States, their team's loss to the US yesterday!)

Yours, thinking that I may just have to watch Casablanca later to get a fix of La Marseillaise!


The three of us are surviving LOML's absence quite well.  LOML, meanwhile, is enjoying learning about aquatic life for a couple of days in a state park.  The kids have a babysitter for the mornings, while I am at work, and then in the afternoons we try to do things like reading, not watching tv, and not hitting each other.  We have succeeded in reading a couple of chapters, and not watching tv for every hour of the day, so I'll count it as a partial success.

Yours, glad it's only one more day,

Beja Flor

I've been listening, as I may have recently said, to Zoe Lewis' lovely album, Rotary Phone, finding it a wonderful mostly light hearted piece of music.  Her songs really are stories: for example, the song Bollywood, all about an eight year old girl on a train in India, singing, with no shoes, but dreams of Bollywood sparkling in her mind.  Rotary Phone, the title song, is a lovely paean to the old days when one came home to one's phone, not carrying it around like an electronic umbilical cord.
One song that was not as obvious to me was Beja Flor.  It sounded as though it was about a hummingbird --- and when I finally remembered to google the term, I discovered that Beija Flor is indeed the Portuguese word for hummingbird.  So, today I learned a new word in a language in which I know very few words, and understood better a beautiful song!

Yours, always looking to learn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The beer necessities of life

won't come to you... at least, in Minnesota, that is: since the state government is shut down, and since the state requires beer labels to be re-approved every three years, and since that last happened very nearly three years ago for some major brewers, Minnesota is just days away from a massive "beer" shortage.
Of course, they'll still be able to get real beer, but the massive breweries affected will force Joe Sixpack to try a sixpack of something with real flavour!

Yours, happy to be in a non-shut-down state,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I apologise for how mundane my posts have been recently: not that I mean them to be mundane: but I frequently have ideas for a wonderful post, only to find that I am not at my computer.
And so I say "I have to remember that idea".
Only to forget what the heck it was when I am next at the computer.

Eventually I remember again, sometimes to post, sometimes to decide not to, and sometimes to be not at the computer, and to forget again before the next opportunity to post.

I've had similar experiences while exercising to Zoe Lewis' music: she has a song called Beja Flor, and I had not idea what it was about: listening to the lyrics, it sounded like it might be about a hummingbird.  But every time I exercised to the lyrics, I was still exercising when the song came on: I'd think "I have to check that" but by the time I had finished, the song was gone, as was the thought.

Well, a moment on google told me this afternoon that yes, indeed, it is a hummingbird.  A spectacularly beautiful one at that!

Yours, in memory of memory,

Monday, July 11, 2011

One year later

It's been a whole year since Neptune was discovered.  A year on Neptune, that is.

Yours, thinking that this needs cake,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The mystery is revealed

A month or more ago, the local transportation department people came round and put up poles for signposts.  And then -- when nobody was looking, covered them with trash bags.
Being a law-abiding community, a few people may have peeked, but nobody unwrapped the signs completely.  We were all left to wonder why they were covered.

Today, all was revealed: the signs are warning of road works along the street through town: presumably the fact that they've put in serious signs means that the road works are going to last for a little while.

Yours, curiousity satisfied, for now,

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturdays at work

My institution, in its infinite wisdom, chooses to observe Independence Day.
And when July 4th falls on a day in the summer semester, to make up for the missed day, we have to teach on the following Saturday.
This year, our schedule has changed slightly, moving about a week later: consequently the 4th lay outside the semester completely.  And to compensate, they are making us work two saturdays to make up for it.

Yours, completely confused by this,

Friday, July 8, 2011

Trader Joes

Took a trip to the big city today, to get some supplies: in particular, Trader Joe's cheap, but entirely drinkable wines.  Two buck chuck is actually $2.99 before tax, so it's really more-than-three-buck chuck, but even so, it's still a bargain.
And Whole Foods is just down the road, and with it, smoked trout and smoked mackerel.

Yours, wishing that they would open up their stores in our town instead, though,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back in the daily routine

Back to work today: I enjoyed lecturing (of course, since I like the sound of my own voice, and the way my ideas work) but at the same time, I felt almost disconnected from the process.
It's almost like the time off, the time spent not thinking about teaching, research, supervising, has left me unready to go back to my real world.
I'm sure it will take a day or two at most to reconnect, but the sense of distance was quite disconcerting.

Yours, working to reconnect for tomorrow,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Really enjoying Zoe Lewis' new album

I just want to plug my favourite singers newest album: Zoe Lewis released Rotary Phone a few weeks ago, and I've been enjoying it on a near daily basis ever since our copy arrived.  I sing along while exercising, and Boo comes into the room and sings with me. 
It's a lovely piece, nostalgic for old technologies and old places, and poignant with metaphors when describing the Bollywood dreams of a young girl in India.  A wonderful album!  You can buy it from CDBaby, or directly from Zoe herself.

Yours, reminding you to check this album out,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Last few days of freedom

In a couple of days, I get to go back to the salt mines.  Or I get to go back and assault minds.  Or something.
So today,  I went swimming with the children for a little while, folded some paper, and generally enjoyed the fact that it's still a couple of days away.

Yours, living in the moment,

Monday, July 4, 2011


Or more properly, a rat.  Designed by the late great Eric Joisel, folded by me.

Yours, happy with the result,

Happy Independence Day

As Flanders and Swann sang:

The war of American independence,
That was enjoyable, by and large,
Watching England's free descendants busy defeating German charge.

Yours, independently,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Preparations are underway

We've prepared much of the stuff for tomorrow's party: LOML's made a crustless cheesecake, I've put together the coleslaw, the ribs and chicken are marinating, ready to slow cook tomorrow, and a bunch of other stuff has been prepped and is ready to combine.

Yours, looking forward to the party,

Saturday, July 2, 2011


A very pleasant evening: we went to friends for a gentle outdoor meal: salad and chicken, with lots of watermelon for the children.  Met some new and nice people, three of whose names begin with Mary.
And then we walked down the street to watch the annual fireworks display (our town always celebrates the Saturday before July 4th). 

Yours, having enjoyed the fireworks,

Friday, July 1, 2011


Surprisingly, I don't seem to have uploaded this recipe before: it's the coleslaw recipe I prefer: no mayonnaise, tart, with a good little bite.

Non-mayonnaise coleslaw
    * 1 medium head cabbage, shredded
    * 1 large red onion, diced
    * 1 cup grated carrots
    * 2 stalks celery, chopped
    * 1/3 cup white sugar
    * 1 cup white vinegar
    * 3/4 cup vegetable oil
    * 1 tablespoon salt
    * 1 tablespoon dry mustard
    * black pepper to taste

 In a large bowl, combine cabbage, onion, carrots, and celery.
 Sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar, and mix well. In a small saucepan,
 combine vinegar, oil, salt, dry mustard, and pepper. Bring to
 a boil. Pour hot dressing over cabbage mixture, and mix well.

Yours, planning on making this Sunday, since it ages well,

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends (and even if you are not Canadian, or not a friend, feel free to celebrate!)

Yours, in a Dominion Day frame of mind,

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Preparing for the fourth

We are going ahead with our July 4th party this year, despite the fact that I don't have undergraduates studying with me this time round.  It's going to be the tenth year in a row we've held the party, and it's a tradition I'd like to continue.
As always, we'll go all out.  So far the menu includes (bearing in mind that it's a potluck, so others will be bringing food too)

Barbecued pork ribs, chicken wings and drumsticks
Vietnamese-style chicken salad
Pizza (for the kids: pepperoni, pineapple, cheese)
Flat breads (garlic, cheese, onion)
Hummus (perhaps one roasted pepper, the other cumin and coriander)
Allioli (spicy, with sriracha chili sauce)
Smoked trout and smoked mackerel pates
Harvest mix salad (about which I've written recently)

Crustless cheesecake
Roulade au chocolat

In previous years there would also have been sausage rolls as a staple, and I probably would have gorged mainly on them.  One of the changes I've made over the past few weeks and months is that I don't immediately think of preparing them for every party.  They may well get added to the menu still, in particular if the children request them, but they're no longer an automatic entry.

Yours, thinking that about half of the menu is rather healthy, and feeling that the other half is allowed on a feast day

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Incentive schemes

As I've been exercising, and losing weight (both in terms of pounds on the scale, and in terms of the way I look and feel), I've set myself a few incentives.  One of these is buying shorts in a size smaller than the one I currently wear.  And so far, I'm proud to say that I'm regularly wearing two sizes smaller than in February, and few days ago I bought a pair of shorts one size smaller than that.
Yesterday, I tried them on.  And while I wouldn't say that they fit, they fastened.  Of course,  I had a bit of a muffin top going on with them, but I wasn't having to struggle to get them fastened: they were tight, but not crazily so.  The last time I wore that size was probably fifteen or twenty years ago!

Yours, thinking about buying a pair a size smaller....

Final days of rest

I've been enjoying the past few weeks --- not the lack of income, of course, but the fact that for the first time in nine years I've had a few weeks to decompress, not to have to go in to work, not to have to focus on the job.  Of course, I've probably spent a fair amount of time thinking about mathematics anyway, but it's been my choice, not a requirement.
It all comes to an end a week tomorrow.  And one of the things I'll miss most is the time to exercise --- but I'm definitely planning to try to build it into my day (and evening) for the future.

Yours, preparing to hit the ground running,

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thai one on again

I mis-spoke yesterday, when I suggested that yesterday morning would be more complicated than the rest of the week.  Hopefully, today will turn out to have been the complicated day.
LOML turned out to have a cooking program to run today (two people signed up at the last moment, and so it wasn't cancelled) and so last night we had a dry run.  It didn't go so well: we forgot to add a couple of key ingredients to recipes, and while the food was edible, it didn't pop.
Well, today we both went (with Skibo and a laptop in tow, so he could play on the computer out of mind but not out of sight) and taught some lovely people to make some simple Thai food.
All in all, the class was a blast: everyone had fun, we put all the ingredients into each dish, everything tasted great together, and a fun time was had by all.

Yours, having enjoyed a few hours doing something I didn't expect to be doing,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summers are a busy time

This morning we did a run around, which we'll do for most of the rest of the week.  Boo is in drama camp, starting at 9, and she and Skibo are in swim team practice from 8 until 9.  Given that Boo changes from swimsuit to clothes at the speed of molasses, this means pulling her from practice at 8:35 in order to get her to the camp.
This morning was complicated by the fact that there was also a breakfast meeting of the parents at swim team to discuss the upcoming races, including the parent-kids race next month.  At least for the rest of the week it will just be competing swim-team/drama camp schedules.

Yours, everywhere at once,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Occasionally we try for good deeds

Yesterday afternoon we took the children swimming, and with us, we took Boo's friend A: Boo and Skibo are swimming like crazy these days -- far better than LOML or me, as is not surprising, since they are in swim team lessons every morning: but A had not had lessons in a long time, and was far less comfortable in the water.

LOML started out with her, trying to help her learn to find her comfort and safety zone, and then I joined in.  We tried to give her some lessons on how to float, and how to not panic, and by the end of the couple of hours we were there she was doing so much better -- trying to swim, putting her face in the water when she did so, and generally enjoying the whole experience.

Unfortunately, our attention to her didn't go down well with Boo, who attributed it to our loving her friend more that we loved her.  And as much as we tried to talk to her about it, she closed her ears and mind to us.

Later, friends offered both Boo and Skibo the chance of a sleepover: initially, Boo leapt at the chance, but later, she reneged, and decided to stay with mummy and daddy instead -- I'm pretty sure that it was because she felt in need of a little attention.

Yours, wishing this was not an issue, but understanding why it might be,

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Back home

Back home again, to running hugs and kisses from Boo and Skibo.

Unfortunately, just in time to not take delivery of a newly built desktop computer.  It seems that the frying of the video card a little while ago, which I'd deduced, and the frying of the rest of the motherboard, which my friendly local computer repair guy confirmed, was accompanied by the frying of almost all the other components in the box.  Including the wireless card, which is the current bottleneck, meaning that we won't get the new box back until Monday.

Yours, missing having the fourteenth computer in the house,

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strange political fact

Rick Perry, currently considering a run for president, was the state chair of Al Gore's presidential campaign in 1988.
I wonder how this will go down with the tea party.

Yours, quite surprised by this one,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hanging with students

For the best part of a decade now I've been working with undergraduates for two months over the summer, teaching them as best I can how to be a research mathematician.   I've loved doing it: even though it is hard work, it is very rewarding. 
This year our grant to run the program was up for renewal, and unfortunately our proposal was not chosen for funding.  This has had several consequences: firstly, that for the first time in a long time I have had time to just be over the summer; second, that I have no income for a couple of months (as you might imagine, this is a very negative consequence); and last, and another negative consequence, I've not had incredibly bright undergraduates around me all the time, wanting to discuss mathematics. 
Today, I visited a nearby university, one with such a research program running, and got to hang out with the students --- tomorrow I get to go and hear all about what they are doing, learn about their projects, their research, and, perhaps, put in a few suggestions to help guide what they do for the next few weeks.  It was a lovely day, and I expect tomorrow to be just as good.

Yours, reminded of what I've missed over the past few weeks,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Swim team, week 2, day 3

This morning, Skibo jumped out of bed, asking "where are my swimming trunks?" and ready to go at a moment's notice.  Boo was a little less enthusiatic, but only slightly so.  She was ready to leave well ahead of schedule.
They both enthusiastically got into the pool, and neither one showed any interest in leaving early!  They are, at least for today, hooked!

Yours, hoping tomorrow is as easy for me, and as much fun for them,

Revisiting the harvest blend salad

This afternoon I decided we'd try to have fish for dinner --- grocery stores permitting --- with trout as the first choice, and salmon as the fallback position. 
Unfortunately the grocery store had no trout, but they did have wild salmon, at a reasonable price, and it looked gorgeous, so I bought some.  I had decided to pair it with a variant on the harvest blend salad I made last week: replacing the pineapple with orange segments, and the rice vinegar in the dressing by lime and lemon juices (together with the zest from all three citrus fruits).  A small change, but it made a big difference in the flavour: not better, not worse, but different: and definitely very good with salmon.
The salmon I poached, in chardonnay and water, with dill and some of the citrus zest: deliciously delicate, perfectly flavoured, and beautiful to look at.

For the carbs, I threw together a couple of flatbreads dressed with garlic oil (using a no-knead bread recipe, together with some olive oil), which lent a delightful heft and earthy flavour to the meal.

All in all, a dinner fit for a feast --- except for Skibo, who has still to develop a sophisticated palate....

Yours, happy as heck with how this dinner turned out,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


We'd thought of celebrating the summer solstice, perhaps even with a small party.  And somehow, the approach of the day completely slipped by us.  And it wasn't until this afternoon that we realised it was the solstice, much to the children's dismay.
Oh well.  Next year.

Yours, on the longest day of the year,

Swim team, week 2, day 2

This morning there was still resistance on Boo and Skibo's parts to going to swim team.  The resistance, though, was light, and we got out of the door well in time to get to the pool, and they were quite happy to go and swim when they got there!
LOML's summer camp seems to be going well: we'd discussed whether Boo or Skibo should attend, and ended up leaving the choice to them: both days so far they've both chosen to do so, and have enjoyed themselves greatly.

Yours, thinking that summers were much less full of activities thrumptysevix years ago, but also thinking that the kids are enjoying these opportunities,

Monday, June 20, 2011

Swim team, with two participants

Skibo insisted today that he wasn't going to swim.  No way, no how.
Boo was happy to go, but wanted her brother to swim too.

How to resolve the issues?  Well, first, insist that Skibo have his trunks under his clothes, then make sure we actually ended up at the pool ahead of time.  After that, the coach persuaded Skibo to help him move some floats, and asked whether he'd help lead the stretching.  Skibo helped moved the floats, but put his foot down on anything more.

Boo joined in the stretching (she really wanted Skibo involved too, but at least she agreed  to do it without him) and then all the other kids jumped into the pool.

Skibo took one look at them, tugged my hand, and said "I'm going to go change", went into the changing rooms and took his clothes off --- which he could have done pool-side, since his trunks were on underneath --- jumped into the pool, and did a fantastic job.

I'm anticipating this battle happening every day until school is back!  But hopefully, I'll be proved wrong and they'll discover the fact that they enjoy swim team, and will therefore want to do it...

Yours, thinking "they've already discovered they enjoy the swimming" part

Experimenting with salads

Last week, as I mentioned, we experimented with a salad using Trader Joe's Harvest Mix of seeds and beans and orzo.  Today, having purchased some quinoa from the same store, I decided to try another salad: this time, a quinoa, roasted corn and tomato salad, with a cumin coriander lemon dressing.

I roasted (or rather broiled) a couple of ears of corn, and three tomatoes: seasoned first with olive oil and salt and pepper to help them roast.  I cooked a cup of quinoa in chicken stock, as per the package directions.  After mixing them together (this was the original inspiration) I searched my taste buds for what to season it with.

I had a couple of small warm peppers -- a serrano and a not-too-hot thai chilli, and I chopped those up (sans membranes and seeds -- I wasn't going for heat) and tossed them in the mix.  I chopped up a fresh tomato that LOML had grown as well, threw it in, and thought about the dressing.

The flavour was clearly in need of an oil/acid combination, but I wanted some spices too: and LOML and I decided that middle-eastern was the way to go, so I used lemon juice and olive oil for the liquids, and threw in salt, pepper and some cumin and coriander: enough to taste, but not enough to overpower: about a teaspoon of cumin, and half that of coriander.

Quite delicious -- though it could do with a couple of things: it needs more green (perhaps italian flat leaf celery) and more crunchy texture (I'm considering yellow bell peppers, diced, or perhaps cucumber).  But overall, I'm very pleased with my culinary imagination over the past week or two, especially since I've been using it to make somewhat healthier food!

Yours, patting myself on my back,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers' Day!

Happy Fathers' Day to my dad!  And a very happy Fathers' Day to all of you out there who are fathers, and also to all of you who are sons or daughters and have helped make their fathers know the joy of parenthood!

Yours, raising a toast,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A surprise outing

The children decided that they wanted to play with friends this morning, and so LOML and I got an unexpected, very pleasant opportunity to go off to lunch at the Thai restaurant with our friends the vets: now, S is not, by her own description, an adventurous eater, but today she decided she wanted to branch out.  And we are very proud of her for trying all sorts of new, exotic, scary foods: foods like Pad Thai (which was not actually that good), Massuman Curry (which was good) and Green Curry (which she liked best of these three), in addition to Chicken Satay (which she enjoyed tremendously).

So, not only did we encourage a friend to branch out, gastronomically speaking, but she enjoyed the experience too, and found some things she'd choose to eat again!

Yours, having enjoyed the surprise outing,

Friday, June 17, 2011

Boo is back!

And she had a wonderful week at horse camp (or cowgirl camp, or whatever the name is).   It seems that there was one day when she got a little teary and homesick, but by and large it sounds like she managed wonderfully!

To celebrate her return (and the return of her friend M as well), we had the family over for dinner this evening: I cooked burgers (laced with hidden vegetables for all except M, a dedicated carnivore who won't touch a trace of bell pepper, or onion, or garlic), and served up some more of the Harvest Mix salad I've been eating for a few days now (still delicious).  Delicious meal, if I say so myself!

Yours, happy to have Boo back,

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Since Boo is away for the week, with her friend M, and since M's brother A is Skibo's friend, tonight A is over here for a sleepover.
Earlier, LOML took them to the movies to see Kung Fu Panda 2 --- which is, apparently, very good --- and then we also gave them a movie night tonight.  They chose the next streamable movie in the Land Before Time sequence (it happened to be V, following I and III -- apparently II and IV are unworthy of our attention, or perhaps too well done to be streamed to the hoi polloi).  We sat and watched it, and ate popcorn, and had a lovely night.

Nonetheless, as nice as it has been to spend the best part of a lovely week with Skibo, LOML and I are both looking forward very much to getting our lovely daughter back tomorrow.

Yours, missing Boo,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Before Time

Today is the twentieth birthday of the son of my two closest friends: I remember visiting them a few months later for his baptism, and babysitting him for an hour, and having to rock him in his pram the whole time, hecause otherwise he wouldn't stop screaming... but when I rocked him he quieted down a little.
A couple of years later, when his family had moved to the US, I visited again: I have a very strong memory of sitting with him and his younger sister, watching The Land Before Time, or one of its sequels, watching the joy and fear and delight and suspense on their little faces.  Again, babysitting while their parents stole a few moments together.
And now, the circle turns, and this evening Skibo asked for a movie night, and since he'd recently watched TLBT, and there are multiple sequels, we watched the first sequel available for streaming on net flix.  And I watched his face, as thrilled, scared and delighted as another child's face had been long, long ago.

Yours, watching similarities across the years,

While the cat's away

the mice will play.

And in our case, while Boo's away, LOML and I will play with Skibo. 

In this instance, we were driving to the big (small) city to buy some things harder to find near home, and Skibo was not happy about the travel.  On the way there, he played with a birdsong gadget, making LOML and me realise how few birdsongs we can identify from memory.  I definitely need some practice on that score!! (Or would, if it mattered enough).

On the way home, Skibo kept asking how long it was till we got home: so we pointed out that the dashboard clock showed current time, and Emma, our GPS, gives an expected time of arrival.  And so Skibo started calculating how many minutes to go, subtracting times from each other with great skill!

A fwe minutes later, we started getting him to tell us how to spell words: he was fantastic at it (if not 100% correct --- but a good high accuracy rate, and we were giving him words like "magnificent" and "praiseworthy", which I think are tricky for a typical 6 year old)!

Yours, thrilled by the fact that he can spell so well already, and without a pen or paper at hand!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Swim team part 2

Skibo was almost eager this morning to go to swim camp!   What a pleasant difference from one day to the next!  And he seemed to do really well, as well!

Yours, glad to see his swimming skills develop,

Salad days

The weather these days is warm, although this morning it was cool enough to open the doors and windows and use the attic fan to pull air into the house. LOML and I loved the coolness, although strangely many of the parents at the pool seemed almost to be complaining about it!

Today felt like a day to eat salad (and also a day to eat steak, so not a perfectly healthy meal!)  We'd bought a package of "harvest mix" on our last trip to Trader Joe's: a melange of quinoa, baby chickpeas, orzo, and other similarly sized (and cooking-time-related) items.  I decided to cook it up and mix it into a salad: and it was quite magnificent!

1 1/4 cups Harvest mix salad
1 3/4 cups chicken broth

1/2 lb Trader Joe's Harvest Mix
Two ripe tomatoes, seeded, chopped into quarter inch dice
1 red bell pepper, chopped into quarter inch dice
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded, finely chopped
4-5 inches of hothouse or "English" cucumber, chopped into quarter inch dice
2 cups pineapple, cut into quarter inch dice
Handful fresh mint, coarsely chopped

Rice wine vinegar
Olive oil

Cook the harvest mix according to the package directions (simmer in 1 3/4 cups water or chicken stock for 10 minutes, covered).

Mix the vegetables and the mint together.

Make a dressing from 1 part rice wine vinegar to two parts olive oil, salt and pepper to taste: pour half over the vegetables, half over the drained harvest mix, then stir the vegetables and the mix together.

LOML was unsure about the addition of the pineapple, so I left it out at first: but at my urging she mixed some of it in, and pronounced it delicious!

Yours, glad to share a new recipe,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Everything seems to be going swimmingly

Boo and Skibo are signed up for swim team this summer: fortunately, the team is reasonably flexible about accommodating children who have other things on their schedule, and so it isn't a deal breaker that Boo is off at riding camp this week, and so can't swim.

Skibo was unsure about attending this morning -- very nervous about meeting new people, or trying new things -- but we managed to persuade him to go along.  The coach, a very pleasant young man in his early twenties, I'd guess, was tremendous: he immediately asked Skibo to help him with a simple task, and thereby earned Skibo's trust. 

Following this, the hour of training went really very well.

Yours, hoping that tomorrow will be much easier getting him there,

Not sure about the home made tonic

I made tonic water from scratch: I'm not sure that I really like the result, but I enjoyed the experiment.  And I'm going to continue trying for the appropriate sweetness level, and ratio of tonic to gin.  Perhaps I'll get it right soon:-)

Yours, in experimental mode,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pizza by the pool

We sat by the vets' pool this afternoon: Skibo play in the water with his friend A, and A's parents, the vets and LOML I me watching them.  And, of course, occasionally getting in to swim or dive.

And then we had pizza and fruit salad and chatted and laughed.

Yours, thinking it was a lovely afternoon!

Riding Camp

Boo has left.  She's gone.  For a week.  She's off at riding camp with her friend M, the only two girls from her Brownie troop who chose to go to the riding camp an hour or so away from here.

We're a little apprehensive about it: she's never stayed away from home for this long, but we're hopeful she'll have a lovely time!

Yours, missing her already!


My cinchona bark powder arrived yesterday -- the citric acid was on back order, though, so I was anticipating having to wait to try my latest culinary experiment.  But then I remembered the cheese kit having citric acid in, and checked, and sure enough, it does.
So, it's off to the store for some lemongrass, whole allspice berries, and some citrus.

Yours, thinking that making homemade tonic water should be a thrill!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lack of imagination

I had a complete lack of imagination about food today, and since Boo is leaving for riding camp tomorrow, LOML and I decided to ask her what she wanted for dinner tonight.
She seemed surprised when we said that "yes, LOML's spanikopita would be a suitable dinner": perhaps she doesn't think that her dinner should taste that good...
I threw together a hummus and tapenade and smoked trout pate to join the spanikopita, and we ate a lovely feast.

Yours, thinking that main dishes are overrated,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Potluck at a pool

Potluck tonight was at a new location: a friend of ours who lives a mile or so out of town, on a lovely piece of land, beautiful tree cover, pool, etc.
And it was delightful to see how many people turned out, given that the start time was 6:00, and at 5:40 the heavens opened and tried to persuade all of us not to risk the run to the car.
Heavy, heavy rain, thunder, and scary looking lightning -- enough that LOML and I didn't bundle the kids into the car until it died down a little, at about 6:20 or so. 
But a ton of people showed up, including some nice new folks.  The food was good, the people fun, and the conversations, as always, interesting.

Yours, enjoying this tradition we've helped to start,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Library

Another good way for the kids to spend some time in the summer is making regular use of the library.  We went down this afternoon, and the kids took out three items each (in Skibo's case, two books and a video): they also signed up for a reading program the library runs: read thirty books over six weeks, and win a prize.

On returning home, and before going swimming, both kids sat and read all their books, logged them on the sheet, and have hence made great progress on their thirty book challenge!

Yours, loving the fact that our kids love reading,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The pool

Our days in the summer seem to revolve around the outdoor pool: this year it is open every day except for Mondays, and we normally try to get a couple of hours in in the late morning -- avoiding the hottest part of the day, and enabling us to do something else in the afternoon.
Today we didn't manage that --- LOML and I spent a couple of hours working on the science lab for the elementary school: figuring out what was in all the kits, and trying to work out how best to make them most usable for the teachers.
We did get to go to the pool later in the day, though, and then cooked up mac and cheese for some friends who came over for dinner.

Yours, enjoying the summer,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Awards day in the classrooms

Today was awards day in the classrooms at the school: we turned up at Skibo's class right on time (according to the schedule on the web) only to discover that his teacher had started early.  That being a first grade class, she had concocted an award for each student, and thoughtfully waited until parents got there before presenting to students --- so we walked in, and immediately she presented Skibo with the best reader award.
Then we wandered off to Boo's class: her teacher had not decided to start early, so we had forty five minutes to wait for her session.  She gave out at least one or two awards to every student in the class, and Boo scored particularly well, especially in reading and writing.  Other friends of hers got nice awards too, which was great to see.

Yours, finding it hard to believe that she's going into third grade next year, and Skibo's going into second,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer fun about to begin

One more day for the children (actually, more like a quarter of a day) and then it's the summer for weeks and weeks and weeks....

Yours, hoping we can fill the days with fun and also make some of it educational,

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pools, pools, pools

We finally made it to the outdoor pool this afternoon: it had opened last weekend, but things have been so busy, and school is still not out, and we'd not had a chance to go.
It was not too crowded when we got there, though by the time we left, it had picked up substantially.  We usually try to get there right at 1 on Sundays --- so many of the other families have other obligations at that time of day, and it means that we get more opportunity to enjoy the less crowded time.

We're wondering whether to put Boo into the swimming team this year, or just to put her through lessons again: either way, she's a lovely swimmer, with great form, and I'm looking forward to watching her swim this summer!

Yours, in dolphin mode,

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Birthdays again

A month or so full of birthdays: today is LOML's friend J, tomorrow is LOML's father, a couple of days from now is my brother's birthday, all on top of the birthdays in the past couple of weeks!
A lovely party this afternoon and evening for J: the vets had everyone over, and we swam and talked and ate: the pool was full of children and a handful of adults for about 5 hours in a row!  This time of year is just at the tail end of lovely weather: still possible to be outside without melting, at least in the shade, and the pool makes it so much more bearable!

Yours, grateful for the opportunity to enjoy days like today,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Potluck? On a Friday?

Yes, potluck on a Friday.  A big success, down the street at friends with a huge field off the back of their garden: they put up a horizontal water slide ---- 30 some feet long --- and there was a great turnout. 
Thinking about it afterwards, neither LOML nor I could recall why potlucks were Thursdays, and not Fridays: there were lots of reasons not to be Tuesday or Wednesday this semester, but why we didn't go with Fridays, I don't know.

Yours, thinking Friday's the day from here on in,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More evidence of Skibo's ability

We had our parent-teacher conference with Skibo's teacher this afternoon: it went really well: he's excelling all of the things they are teaching him, coming in in the 98th percentile nationally in math and reading, which given the spread of abilities at that age, and the fact that he's one of the youngest in the year, is very promising.
It was a quick conference, followed by a lengthy discussion with his teacher: she's moving up to second grade next year, and Skibo will stick with her: LOML and I are very interested in helping her figure out the best ways to incorporate science into the curriculum, and to help all the teachers there make the best use of the rather well stocked and under-utilised lower grades science lab.

Yours, enjoying being involved with education,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A new month begins

And with it, a pancake breakfast in Skibo's class.  He got to show me a portfolio of lots of things that he'd written in class this year, and to take home a bucket full of educational games that his teacher had devised (or used of someone else's devising).

A lovely morning: so proud of the work that he's done!

Yours, finding it hard to believe he'll already be a second grader next fall,

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to our friend E!

Happy birthday, E!
We're cooking away like crazy, as are others, for a party this evening down at the cafe.

Yours, having done a cherry bombe, ribs, carnitas, halfway through a chocolate roulade,

Monday, May 30, 2011

A delightful afternoon by the pool

A rather lovely day: I got up late -- ridiculously late! -- and did little: I covered a cherry bombe with chocolate ganache, and put together the marinade for barbecued ribs for tomorrow's potluck for our friend E's birthday, but other than that was pleasantly just relaxed. 
This afternoon we headed over to our friends the vets, to swim and chat and just be: other than Skibo whacking his chin on the side of the pool (nasty little scare, which will probably lead to a nasty little scar) it was a lovely time.
And the children may just have new nicknames.  After discussing with Boo that she was nutty, we listed a bunch of nuts from which she chose her new nickname: Filbert.  And Skibo will be Dilbert.

Yours, feeling like today felt like a holiday,

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blue Garlic

I made a discovery today: it was, for a few moments, scary:  LOML and I were decanting the spicy concoction that we'd made yesterday, when we realised that the garlic cloves had changed.  More precisely, they had turned a rather lovely shade of blue.  Since we were planning on feeding friends soon after, and had intended to include some spicy goodness in it, we immediately turned to the net for information.

Fortunately, I happened upon this article, which reassured me, especially the use of the phrase "The garlic is still safe to eat".  So, rest assured gentle readers (I know there are at least two of you): if I offer you spicy goodness, and it contained a rather lovely shade of blue garlic, I'm not attempting to emulate Lucretia Borgia, I am merely feeding you wonderful food!

Yours, relieved, and rather impressed by the beauty of the result,

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Food discoveries

I've tried a couple of new things over the past few days:
a) smoked trout and caramelized onion pizza with garlic/sriracha mayonnaise
b) vinagre, after Viva Daisy's recipe, modified by a couple of additions:
I coarsely chopped a few inches of ginger root, and threw in a couple of tablespoons of szechuan pepper.  Absolutely amazing flavour!

Yours, spicing things up,

Friday, May 27, 2011

A trip to town

LOML and I took a trip to the (small-ish) big city this morning: we've done it three or four times recently -- we get to go to decent supermarkets and buy exotic things like smoked trout which are hard to find (read, impossible) in the local stores.

On the way back, we got caught in the last of the storms passing through here (we're fortunately well east of the really destructive ones): last night and this morning dumped a good heavy rain on the region.  Fortunately this storm was quick to pass through, and it didn't slow us down very much: we went on to the new Asian grocery near-ish us, and on the way back stopped at the new Thai restaurant for lunch (sushi, in my case).

Quite a lovely little day out!

Yours, knowing that these little trips will end once the kids are out of school in a couple of weeks,

Keeping the same teacher

We learned this week that Skibo's first grade teacher is going to be teaching second grade next year, and rather than the usual shuffling of classes that happens between grades, her students are being given the option of staying with her, or being shuffled between the other two classes.
LOML and I talked it over between us, and with her, and with Skibo, and decided that we were happy for him to stay with her: and then let Skibo make the choice.

Yours, happy he enthusiastically wants to stay with his teacher next year,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A pulse

One of the difficulties that many volunteer groups (and businesses, and organisations, and...) have is the following: once you are well established, and everybody is involved and engaged, things go swimmingly.  But how do you get there?  How do you get from just a handful of people trying to so stuff, to good, organised group?
One thing that seems to be really important is for the group, the community, the interested parties, to make sure that the organisation has a pulse: some reminder to everyone that it is time to be involved again: this could be a newsletter, it could be making sure that meetings happen regularly, it could be phone trees: there are lots of ways to make it happen.

This topic came up this afternoon at a meeting of the Parent/Teacher Organisation for the school: how do we make sure that the PTO has a pulse, to bring parents out, to get them involved and to keep them involved?
Do we really want meetings every month?  Is that too many?  I feel that it's perhaps more than we need in terms of what needs to be done in the meetings, but the "pulse" that they'd bring, especially if scheduled in a regular fashion (say, always the second Tuesday of the month, or whenever) would be worth the extra time.

Similarly, next weekend will be the fifth first-Saturday-of-the-month meeting of my origami group (we threw in an extra meeting on a non-first Saturday too, so it's the sixth meeting) and my first without the help of my co-founder, who has up and moved away for a new job. 

Yours, keeping up the pulse,

Academic Celebrations

The end of the school year is nearing for Boo and Skibo: only another couple of weeks to go: and this evening we had the Academic Celebration for the semester: in previous semesters each classroom has been festooned with samples of all the work that the students have done during the term, and there has been some sort of  presentation/dance/song session in the gym.
This time, however, the music/PE/art staff have been so pressed for time (they've all been pressed into doing double duty, at our school and at another elementary school) that they couldn't incorporate performances by all grades.
And the bigger, and better, change was that the school decided that all the classes should decorate the gymnasium with the examples of their work, grouped by grade level.
It meant that instead of LOML and me only seeing the sorts of things that Boo and Skibo have been doing, we got to experience the full spectrum of the school -- a great opportunity to observe, for instance, that the fifth graders are already studying the rudiments of cell biology.
It felt like a much more joyous event than previous celebrations, and I'm so glad that they made this change!

Yours, celebrating the students,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Persistent coughs and colds

Boo and Skibo have had a terrible time trying to shake off a persistent cough this spring.  For three weeks now, they've had a cough hanging on: not  bad most of the time, but a few times a day they'll have a horrible time coughing.
And often, it's at bedtime, meaning that they don't get a good night's sleep.
Hopefully once they are out of school in a couple of weeks they'll recover, if not before then!

Yours, feeling sorry for the poor little ones,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Birthdays, here and abroad, are piling up, it seems.  Today we helped a friend here celebrate her birthday: we threw a smallish dinner party: mushroom risotto, with sausages and chicken to go with it for the carnivores in attendance.  Today is also my cousin's birthday: tomorrow is my sister's, two weeks from then it is my brother's: and next week we are helping organise a rather larger potluck at the local cafe for another friend.
Lots of fun, this!

Yours, always happy to help friends and family celebrate,

Monday, May 23, 2011

You load sixteen tons, and whaddaya get?

Maybe not sixteen tons, but LOML and I probably moved the best part of a ton of dirt and mulch this morning.  The dirt was most definitely not soil: it was ground up pine bark, apparently full of nutrients, but not good at water retention: LOML tells me that when it is mixed with clay it becomes a good growing medium.
Anyway, we basically replenished an 8x8 bed which had been hollowed out to put in a pond which was subsequently deemed too dangerous for the school garden. 

Yours, hoping that it leads to some lovely growth,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Carnitas again

We are making carnitas in ten days for a birthday party, and I decided I needed another practice run first --- so this evening, carnitas it was.  Just as good, just as nicely warm and spicy, just as tender, just as delicious.

This recipe is really really good. 

Yours, saying "try it!",

The kids are home!

The children are finally home!  They went with friends to a water park for the weekend, and because there was so much to do there were a couple of hours later leaving than we'd expected.
But now they are here, home and healthy, safe and sound.
They've had a wonderful time, and hopefully will sleep well tonight!

Yours, glad to have them back,

Saturday, May 21, 2011


All week I've been hearing about this weekend: we're supposed to see some sort of raptors?  Haven't seen a one.

Yours, wondering if the lack of raptors might signify the end of days...

Friday, May 20, 2011


Boo and Skibo are off for the weekend, with friends, visiting a waterpark a couple of hours from here.  This gives LOML and me the freedom to go to restaurants, wander leisurely, sleep in tomorrow morning, and basically not be parents for a couple of days.  Apparently the children had a great time this afternoon, and are likely to be so worn out that they will get to sleep really quickly.

There were some moments of excitement earlier in the day: people not being where we thought they would be at the time we thought they would be there (including Skibo, who was sitting quietly in his classroom reading by himself when he was thought to be elsewhere, and couldn't be found for a few minutes: fortunately I only heard about this after the fact, and hence was not scared stiff at the time!)

Yours, wondering what to do with this freedom,

New Phones

LOML and I decided we needed to get new phones today --- we'd been working with old phones handed down from friends, and they were not what we needed at all: while I sometimes think it would be super cool to have a smart phone, what I really need is a phone that works as a phone, not a computer in my pocket.  And I don't want to pay the extra fees for data plans!
We decided to go with no contract phones and just put our sim cards in, rather than extending our contract with AT&T for another two years --- we sometimes talk about switching carriers, and there didn't seem to be any benefit at all to buying the sorts of phones we wanted from AT&T (in fact, it probably saved us ten dollars or so to get them from another store).
On the way home, we stopped at the Thai restaurant and had dinner, then wandered around another couple of stores, taking our time in a leisurely fashion, no need to hurry.

Yours, enjoying the leisure,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Birthday to our friend the vet!

No potluck to report on this week: we went out to dinner with our friends from the veterinary clinic, and a few others, to our old favourite Japanese restaurant.
We had a lovely time: the food was good, the laughter plentiful, and the company great.  The service was not up to the usual standards, though, and we came away muttering about how bad our waiter had been.
We then went off and had birthday cake, and finished celebrating, returning home late in the day.  The children had all been playing together with a babysitter, and by the time we got them home it was way past time for bed.

Yours, wishing the vet a very happy birthday,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Smoked Milkfish Pate

LOML and I made our long trip to by smoked fish today --- some trout and some mackerel, enough to last a couple of weeks --- and on our return, I decided to try making some pate with the smoked milkfish I bought yesterday.
For comparison purposes, I put together a batch of smoked mackerel pate as well.
I wasn't sure whether the milkfish needed cooking first, and the information I could find on the web was unhelpful (I suspect that it was already cooked, but every recipe on the web suggested that it needed to be cooked) so I decided that I would err on the side of safety and after thawing a piece, placed it in a small skillet and gently sauted it.
While doing that, I put together a smoked mackerel pate:
1 piece of smoked mackerel, skin removed (about 3-4 ounces)
1/4 cup of fat-free cream cheese (a quarter of a package)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of horseradish (the grated stuff, not the "prepared" stuff in mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
I blended them all together in the food processor (they fit beautifully in the small bowl which sits in the main large bowl of the food processor).
All the while I was gently making sure the milkfish was cooked through: turning it occasionally.  I took it out of the pan, removed the skin, and checked that indeed it had been boned already: I let it cool, then broke it into small pieces just to check for any bones, finding none.  I then made the same recipe, with the milkfish (about the same weight) substituting for the mackerel.

Dinner consisted of soup (Tom Ka Gai, a Thai chicken and coconut soup), and a baguette with the pates made earlier.  There is a slight difference between the flavours: I think the milkfish is a little smokier, and LOML claimed to taste a little more sweetness to it, and I can definitely taste the mackerel flavour I'm so used to from saba nigiri, mackerel prepared as sushi: but the difference is subtle, and they are both very good.  LOML has a slight preference for the milkfish, and I prefer the mackerel, but not by much.

Yours, very happy with the way this turned out,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New discoveries

LOML and I have made a couple of new discoveries recently: the new-ish Thai restaurant which we've eaten at a couple of times is one: it's only been open for six or seven months, and still has a "Now Open" banner by the street, so we're not too far behind the curve on that one.
A few weeks ago we saw a little sign on the street advertising a new Asian food market a little further down the road, and this afternoon I decided that I was going to check it out --- LOML was busy, so I had to go by myself.
It's a very nondescript looking store from the outside: in a little run-down strip mall just off the main road, a huge, rather empty parking lot, and little sign of life.
Entering the store, it appeared to have little character, and while the products on the shelves were oriental, the people in the store, three of them, were elderly southerners, deep in conversations about family and the past.
I was greeted with an offer of help, which I declined, happy to wander the store exploring the shelves.
The owner is from the Philippines originally, and that influenced, a little, some of the items she stocks.  There is a good representation of other items, though, especially Japanese, Chinese and Thai.  I was a little disappointed to not see many Indian items, but that's not a big deal: there are not too many things I've been unable to find elsewhere.
I did make one find, though.  We've been enjoying smoked trout and smoked mackerel lately, both whole and in a pate: unfortunately, it's apparently unavailable within a 30 mile radius of here, so we have to plan a special trip to buy it.  But the asian store did carry a smoked fish: a fish I'd never heard of before: smoked, boneless milkfish.  In a mood to try something new, I bought a package of it (frozen) along with some other things I was happy to find: wet tamarind, prawn crackers and garlic crackers, sheets for making thai fresh rolls, etc.
Now I just need to find the courage to actually try the new item!
Yours, waiting to report on the flavour later,