Sunday, August 02, 2015

Did you know toads scream?


A few years ago they did some work near my place to help deal with a flooding problem we had. They put in new drainage and as part of it put in a beautiful pond/ runoff ditch. What has happened over the following years has been amazing. They didn't plant anything. They didn't bring in any animal species. Yet the tine place, it can't be more than a couple of acres, has blossomed with an amazing diversity of plants and animals.
We have ducks and geese but also beavers, toads, herons, and loads of other birds. So what's this about toads screaming? Well, often when I would walk near the pond I would hear an eeeek and then a small splash. I finally caught sight of what was making the eeek! The toads scared by my presence were screaming and jumping in the water to escape. When I looked up what Herons eat I realized they had a lot more than me to worry about.

Here is a bunch of photos I took (I tried to get a picture of the Heron but she was never around when I had my camera):









Need to click to see the toad

The aforementioned toad 











Tuesday, July 28, 2015

That was the week: July 20th to July 26th 2015

Well Blogger decided to eat yet another of my posts.  I am thinking about moving to another blogging platform. I need something that does some sort of version control so it won't delete an entire post. So sadly you get a mostly truncated That was the week.  I decided to write more during my lunch break.


I was sick on Wednesday and didn't go to work.

On Friday I moved my desk and computer back into the living room from the bedroom because the cat didn't like me hanging out in the bedroom.

Saturday, I drove over to Bloomington to hang out with a friend and have dinner.  We spent time wandering around a mall. Yes they do still exist. It was like the mall time forgot. It had a Sears and even a Spencer's gifts. I wore my ancient sandals.  I believe they were something like 15 years old. I wore them for the first time this entire summer. Why? At 15 years of age they had started to fall apart. If you look at the picture below you will see that they are held together with tape. After many uses the velcro attached to the sandals ripped off. I first tried glue but then ended up using gaffer tape to hold them together. This worked ok as long as no more velcro ripped off.  Afraid they would rip more I had dumped them in the closet and refused to wear them.  While at the mall, I  found a twenty dollar pair of sandals to replace them and decided that was cheap enough even for me. On they way home I decided to start wearing the old taped up sandals  to see how long they would last.  At home I went to take them off and with a loud rip, the other piece of velcro came undone.   So I threw them out. Hurrah for new 20 dollar sandals. I doubt they will last 15 years.



Sunday night I sat watching Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit ( passable movie 3 out of 5 stars ) when Jobu came up all whiny. He wanted out into the hallway of my apartment building. If nothing else I am subservient to a cat. I let him out and he walked about a foot away from the door and fell asleep. I left him out there for almost an hour and he just slept. That boy ain't right.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

That was the Week: July 13th through July 19th 2015 FAILURE!!!




BLEEPING BLEEPING BLEEPING BLOGGER ATE MY THOUSAND WORD POST

Here is my annoyed quick roundup of what I had written.

Jobu at streamer/ribbon. Worried I would have to take to vet. Watched him closely. Days later he pooped it all out

Friday really hot. Went to specialist doctor. He said I no longer had to come see him and could just see my normal doctor yeah. Went to party at my bosses' place.  Ate Chipotle and sweated. At Chipotle leftovers for days.

Saturday: Went with my mom down to my Grandpa and Grandma's and spent time with them. YEAH!  Helped my Mom buy them a disabled access van.. those things are expensive. 

STUPID BLOGGER.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Food Friday: Pizza Margherita

Any good pizza begins with good dough. I am not talking some store bought mass produced item. I am talking about hand made goodness from flour.


I have been making my own pizza dough for a few years now. I started making it about the same time I discovered you could bake your own bread. 

Dough Ingredients: 
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup warm water, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
First we need to proof the yeast. Why do we proof yeast? What even is "proofing" yeast? Yeast is a living organism. Dry yeast is in a dormant state. When we proof yeast we are making sure it hasn't died and bringing it back to an active state. Yeast eats sugars and produces carbon dioxide. Warm water activates the dry yeast and we give it a form of sugar to start eating.

In a mixing bowl add the packet of yeast, 1/4 cup of warm water, and a tablespoon of flower. Mix it all together and then put it aside. After about five minutes check back to make sure your little yeasty beasties are alive and working. The mixture which was a flat tan color should look like someone has poured some cream into it. I tried to capture it in the picture below. You'll hopefully know it when you see it.


Add about 1 1/4 cups of flour, a half cup of warm water, the salt and oil. Stir everything in together. Then keep adding in more floor, it might take up to 1/2 a cup of additional flour. You want to keep mixing in the added flour bit by bit until the dough ball can be pulled away from the side of the bowl. It will still be a bit sticky to the touch.


Now is the part where you put your expensive mixer with a dough hook to use.  Oh wait, the only mixer I have is my hands. Pick your work surface something nice and flat. I've recently started spreading some wax paper on the work surface to make cleanup easier.  The paper slides around a bit but it is manageable.  Spread some flour about the surface. The flour will keep the dough from sticking as you knead it. That flour will get incorporated into the dough as you knead so you will need to keep putting flour on the surface. Also flour your hands so your hands won't stick to the dough. If the dough does start to stick to either your hands or the work surface, add more flour to them. Pizza dough needs to be very elastic so you have to knead it for a long time. I use a simple process to knead.  I pull out a piece of dough, then fold it over and push it in to the rest of the dough using the heel of my hand.  I move about 90 degrees on the dough ball and repeat.  I do this for eight minutes. I even set the timer for it.

At this point I have tried  different approaches to get a thin crust. The result for either way have basically been the same. No thin crust for me. I have taken the dough covered it in a mixing bowl and let it sit aside for an hour to rise.





Or you can just go straight to the rolling out phase.  I don't do the whole toss the pizza in the air thing. I roll it out to generally be the shape and size of my pizza pan.  I oil up the bottom of the pizza pan and then put the dough in it. I use my fingers to push out the dough till it fits the pan. I like to build up a little edge on the outside for a bit of crust to hang onto. 
Now we make the sauce. Actually I had already made the sauce. It can be made earlier and stored.  This makes enough sauce for two pizzas. I us half and usually freeze the leftover since I don't like to let it sit in the fridge for more than a few days.

  • 1 Can of diced tomatoes.  I thought these were 16 oz but they are actually only 14.5.  I actually prefer to use the canned tomatoes instead of the bad greenhouse tomatoes you can get from the grocery store. Obviously the best would come from tomatoes grown locally.  
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Italian seasoning to taste( oregano, basil, thyme) I use a lot.  probably about 3 tablespoons

I dumped everything into a food processor and ran it until I had a nice paste. 



Pizza Margherita is just pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil.  I got the basil from my balcony garden. I spread the sauce over the dough. I then place some basil leaves.  You should really use fresh mozzarella cut into slices and placed over the top. I didn't have that so I just used a bag of shredded mozzarella.


Some final basil on the top and we are ready for the oven.


I preheated the oven to 425 F and cooked the pizza for 15 minutes.


Much nom noms

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

That was the Week - July 6th through July 12th 2015

My post where I highlight bits and bobs that happened to me throughout last week.


Car Dealers, rain and buses:


Tuesday I needed to leave my car at the dealer all day so they could do a recall. The dealer is not far from my place and even closer to the bus stop near my place. Every night when I go to bed I promise myself that I am going to take the bus to save gas/money.  I never do take the bus. After they checked my car in I was told I could wait for the shuttle. I had other plans. It was raining. This may be the first time I have ever mentioned this on the, which frankly would shock me, but I love love love walking in the rain. Give me anything from a mist to a shower and I'll be out in that for hours. I knew a bus would be coming in a about ten minutes so I slowly walked to the bus stop. I did forget that the bus took an extra 15 minutes to get to work so I was later than I should have been.  Hope my boss doesn't read this.

When I took the car in they gave me to possibilities. It would be an easy fix and only take an hour or they would need to have the car all day.  I waited all day but never did get a call from them saying it was ready.  When I left work I still hand't heard from them.  So I hoped on the bus going the other way and went to the dealer since it's on the way. If nothing else I thought I could get an update. Maybe I should have called.  When I got there the guy gave me the keys. Not sure why they never called and I didn't asked.

Goodbye to an inspiring internet friend


On Wednesday I read the very sad news of a death.  I didn't know Lisa in real life. I had only been reading her blog since 2012.  She died after a short battle with an aggressive cancer.  After the initial wave of sadness, two thoughts kept going through my head.  Way too young and way to fast. She was only 54 and she had only been diagnosed about 7 months earlier.  I never doubted that she would beat it. From reading her blog I got the impression of someone who just conquered life and got what they set out to get. I was certain that I would be reading about her life in Paris for years to come.

As a kind of tribute I have been going back and reading some of her older posts. I knew the basics of her story but more has been filled in. She found herself at 43 with no marriage and no kids. So she decided to work toward her dream of living and writing in Paris. She moved so she could save money and starting working up the type of career that could be done in Paris. It took almost 2 years but in late 2006 she was living in Paris. In what seems like no time at all she met the man of her dreams and was married into a pre-made French family.

I found some great quotes from the post in 2005 where she announced her plan to live in Paris:

What I want more than anything is to EXPERIENCE more of life, more of the world.  I want to create a life that is BIGGER than the norm, where I have the opportunity to meet people and go places and experience things that will take me beyond my own back yard. As I near the end of my years, I want to be able to look back and have no significant regrets about not having done things that were really important to me.  I want to be someone who is bold, who is able to take chances and willing to experience new things.  I want to broaden the scope of my horizons.
And:

It's not that I want to run AWAY from my life -- it's not a bad life at all and I'm very blessed in many ways.  It's that I am now running TOWARDS my life.  I think we all have to decide what our lives are about... and I think mine is about a JOURNEY, both in the literal and figurative senses.  I am more into the process than the outcome now.
She accomplished her goal. She lived her dream. It may have only been a for a too short 8 years but how many of us live our dream for 8 minutes let alone 8 years. Just imagine if she had taken the easy road and just kept putting of attaining her goal.

She could change her life after 40 so why can't I.. or you.

Mr Von grumpy meow:


Usually Saturday, or as it more correctly known around my place Caturday, is one of Jobu's favorites. If I am around I open up the balcony door and let him just hang out out there. He loves it. He sits out among the plants and sleeps. He basks in the sun and watches people go by.  But sometimes we get Mr Grumpy Meow like last Saturday. He just moped around. He would whine at me to let him out on the balcony then he would come back in a minute later to whine some more. He actually can be pretty good at communicating what he wants. If it's food he will run over to his food dish. If he is having his poopy trouble he'll run over by the liter box. I think he wants me to squeeze it out or something. Silly cat. For four hours he moped and whined. I thought maybe something was wrong with him but how do you tell. Finally he went to sleep and the rest of the day was happy and playful.


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

That was the week: June 29th - July 5th 2015

My post where I highlight bits and bobs that happened to me throughout last week.


The weather this entire week has been almost perfect. The temperature has been in the high 70s, with lowish humidity and a slight breeze.  I walked a lot this week. I mean a lot.  I am sure I got in almost thirty miles of walking.  It was just to perfect to be inside.

The first fruits of the balcony garden are starting to come in. I got a bell pepper getting close to pick-able and the first tomato has started to form. I have been harvesting and beginning to dry some of the basil and oregano.  The closet I hang them up in smells really nice now. The cilantro I have basically let go to seed. I don't know if that means I will have cilantro next year without planting. I guess we'll see.

I finished moving the furniture around and really cleaned up. I even scrubbed stuff and I never scrub stuff. I finally donated a bunch of stuff that had been sitting in boxes by my front door for months and months.

Saturday was the 4th of July and I had plans.  All my plans fell apart because of me and my forgetfulness.  I moped around my place for a bit trying to find a cook out or something to go to.  Finally I decided to just go for a run until something came up. I put on my running clothes and grabbed my Tom Tom gps watch. I had not run in awhile but I was doing ok. I looked down at the watch and thought that it must have been in kilometers because I know the path were I run and It wasn't as far as the watch said.  After I finished I hooked the watch up to my computer to upload the run. Clearly something had been screwed up. The watch had me starting my run on the completely wrong side of town and then proceeding through several fields until I ended up in the middle of  an empty field.



Sunday I woke up early. Well early for me. I am sure many people are already up by 7:30 but that is almost unheard of for me on a Sunday. So I hung out on the balcony with Jobu listening to the birds. A girl cardinal hopped around on the tree next to us as Jobu wanted to eat it. The cardinal flew away and Jobu had to find a new thing to distract him.  There shimmering in the morning light was a spider web.

I have to insert a digression about spiders. I really like spiders. They look freaky and scary but the are wonderful little creatures that eat the other insects that I hate. As a rule I am totally fine with spiders in my house or elsewhere as long as they don't invade human land. Stay in your little corner or behind the thing and kill the little bugs, but if you starting crawling out around where I am.  Squish!


Jobu's eyes got all big as he wondered what was this new shiny floating thing. He inched closer to it, sniffing at it. He touched it a few times with his paw. Then he stuck his face in it. He pulled back and began trying to clean the sticky menace off his face. It was attacking him. He licked his face and tried to use his paws. While enjoying a good laugh I came over and helped get the web off him.