Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Alterations

Some things, like baking, require everything to be just so. Exactly one tablespoon of baking powder, exactly three cups of flour, exactly a quarter-cup of butter, oven set to exactly 400 degrees Fahrenheit, etc., or everything goes pear-shaped.

Other things, like cooking, are a little more free-wheeling. Casseroles and quiches are particularly flexible. Tonight's example: tuna noodle casserole. We're trying to use up food in the fridge and pantry instead of buying more, so the only item I picked up was dollar-store noodles, since I didn't have quite enough macaroni. (Besides, I like egg noodles for this dish.) The recipe calls for two cans of tuna, and I only had one, so I substituted 12 ounces of canned chicken chunks (thanks, Mom and Dad!). It also calls for a half-cup of milk, but I put in just a little bit more since I had some evaporated milk in the fridge that needed using up. I didn't have red bell pepper, but I had half a green bell pepper, so I threw that in. I had frozen peas, but I also had my eye on some fresh asparagus languishing in the crisper bin. We could have steamed the asparagus and eaten it on the side, but instead I cut the asparagus into small pieces, parboiled it for about a minute and added it to the casserole instead of the peas. And we're out of breadcrumbs, so I crushed up some cornflakes instead, mixed those with butter and sprinkled the crunchy goodness over the top.

I'm now sampling the resulting chicken noodle casserole. Guess what? It's tasty. It's really tasty. Casserole alteration to da rescue!

Life is like this. Some of it requires precision and fine-tuning, but usually it's more like cooking -- things don't turn out perfectly, you may have to alter your plans or your expectations a little (or a lot), but you can still use your head and solid advice to make good choices, learn from experience, and end up with a worthwhile outcome.

(Oh yeah, and add asparagus. Always add asparagus.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Riding a wave of ick

E
ARLY this morning I awakened to the enchanting sensation of extreme nausea. Ten minutes and lots of barfing later, I showered and promptly crawled back into bed. Since then I've been shaking and trying to take small sips of water, trying to keep liquid down. Not sure where I picked this bug up, but I'd be more than happy to drop it somewhere else.

Roxy-cat has decided she can best help by hopping up on the bed and sleeping next to me. (We have observed that, despite her timidity, Roxy is very curious about "her people" and wants to be wherever they are. No matter where CM and I go in the house, five seconds later she's there looking at us like "whatcha doin'?") She's a good kitty.

For the nonce, the queasiness has settled down, but I'm still shaky and dizzy. My head is killing me, but I'm afraid to take aspirin for fear it will come back up. Something tells me I'm not going to be terribly useful today.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Time travel

OK, right now my house is a midden. Seriously. Last week Captain Midnight and I pulled everything off the floors in the front room and our bedroom so we could get the carpets cleaned, an action sorely needed (ten years in the same place + lack of carpet cleaning in all that time = gross carpets). Now the carpets are clean and dry and the furniture is mostly back in place, but much of the "everything" that was on the floor has been temporarily relocated to the kitchen and the dining room table. You'd think I would be spending every waking hour attempting to find a place for all this flotsam. But no. Instead I went out yesterday and bought a blank book for the purpose of making a smash journal.

There is actually method to my madness. Most of the detritus we have on the kitchen floor is composed of half-finished craft projects in bags and plastic bins. If I finish (or get rid of) some of these projects, no more detritus. But the mess on the table, I've noticed, is mostly made up of items best described as "ephemera" -- old theater tickets, playbills, flyers from museums and churches and other places we visited on vacation, cable car fares, Oyster cards, BART passes, that sort of thing. They have no home, so they've been taking up valuable real estate all over the house. Instead of letting them continue to take up space or summarily tossing them out, I thought I'd give them a home by making a smash-style travel/tourism/theater journal where items could be pasted or slipped into the pages and given some explanation with accompanying text. Yeeees, I guess it's a scrapbook, but without the bajillion fancy papers and die cuts and stickers and other crafty cruft that, if I felt compelled to use it, would drive my tenuous sanity down to the piers and send it off on a cruise to Alaska.

How does all this relate to time travel? Patience, Grasshopper.

The oldest travel-related item I've found (I'm sure there are others that are older, but for now they remain hidden in the archaeological dig that is my bedroom closet) is a cable car fare receipt from April 1987, during my senior year of high school. I seemed to remember something about a choir-related tour around the Bay Area that spring, but my memories were hazy. So I found this.

Yes, it's my little red book! (Not to be confused with this little red book.) I have a habit of picking up magical-looking little blank books and turning them into diaries, and this one, about the size of my hand, with gold patterns stamped on the covers and spine -- well, I couldn't pass it up, obviously. This particular diary spans the period between September 1986 and June 1987, which was my senior year of high school and the brief period before I launched directly into college. It's short enough that I read the whole thing.

Teen angst galore, people. My first serious boyfriend going off to college, the subsequent breakup-by-mail, woe-is-me entries, plays, dances, TPing people's houses, multiple crushes, that sort of thing. A representative selection from choir tour, when we were staying in the barracks at the (now-closed) Naval Air Station Alameda, since it was cheap accommodation:
We were quite tired when we got back to the base, but we managed a few shenanigans anyway -- the boys' dorms are on the second floor across from ours, and there is a bit of yard between us. Naturally, they had to yell out their windows to us. One of the girls started to play [cassette] tapes and tried to do a dance [I remember she'd brought along a lot of Erasure], but it failed. Then the guys had to try to start a game of frisbee by throwing it between the dorms. All in all, things were weird but enjoyable. Not for Mr. Lindsay [our longsuffering choir director], though. He was tired and bummed out in the first place, and now here are all these nutsy guys flirting long distance and throwing frisbees out the window.
The memories started out hazy, but every word brought back another detail from tour. I remember the open windows, the guys and girls leaning out of them and yelling across the yard at each other, dancing around like goofballs in our respective dorms, the scent of blooming trees in the air, and a boombox playing lots of '80s synthpop. And the feeling of being young and giddy and willing to do anything. (There's a reason why tour romances are a thing.)

And that's why you keep a diary. It lets you time travel in your own life. Yes, like Quantum Leap, but without Dean Stockwell following you around like a creeper.

Having now read this diary in its entirety, two observations spring to mind: 1) I sure hope I've become a better writer in the years since 1987. 2) Though I think I've matured a bit, some things about me haven't changed. I still talk too much. I still worry too much about what kind of impression I've made on others. I'm still super socially awkward, especially around people I like. I still don't do housework as often or as well as I think I should. I'm still not fond of my weight, although oddly enough I worry far less about it now than when I only carried about 20 extra pounds on me. And yes, I still yearn for romance (oh, Captain Midnight, you're my hero!).

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Kabuki

Miss V is taking a stagecraft class this semester, so occasionally I get to see snippets of things she's worked on or is working on for the class. Last night she was trying to find the proper romanized version of a term that comes from Japanese kabuki theater: "bukkaeri," a type of on-stage quick change mechanism that involves removing basting threads from the top of a layered costume so that the costume top falls and hangs down around the performer's waist, revealing a different look beneath. It's often used to show a transformation or reveal a character's true nature, like a chick hatching out of an egg. Although it's a very old technique, when well executed it still has the power to mesmerize an audience:

Like most Westerners, I know next to nothing about kabuki other than the bits I've been able to watch on YouTube. I find it strange that it's been a part of the Japanese cultural landscape for about as long as Shakespeare's been a part of ours, yet it's still not well understood in the rest of the world -- probably because kabuki performances are highly stylized, are usually performed in an ancient dialect of Japanese, and feature stories that are well-known in Japan, but not elsewhere. These qualities create barriers to understanding and appreciating kabuki, at least for non-Japanese people, but it's clear to me that with even a little interest in the subject, one can surmount these barriers.

I kind of love the fact that "kabuku," the phrase from which kabuki originates, means "bizarre" or "eccentric" -- essentially, dressing and acting in peculiar ways to get other people's attention. The originator of kabuki, according to tradition, was a shrine maiden known as Izumo no Okuni, who would dress in unusual clothing and dance in unusual fashion in the dry riverbeds of Kyoto back in the early 1600s. Kabuki was originally a dance performance and was originally performed only by women. (These days it's only performed by men instead. Go fig.) I love that the actors themselves apply their own makeup, and that the highly stylized makeup conventions are meant to display to the audience a stock character's sex, social status and internal qualities or temperament. In some ways kabuki is like the Japanese version of Italian commedia dell'arte -- broadly performed, with known stock characters -- but the kabuki plays often feature more serious plot themes such as revenge, illicit love, suicide, etc.

I'm still not a huge fan of dance as a vehicle of creative expression, though it has its moments, but kabuki is visually beautiful, has recognizable characters, great spectacle, clever stagecraft tricks and the ability to bring old stories to blazing life, like an ukiyo-e woodcut presented on stage. And understanding kabuki conventions can, to some extent, transfer to understanding other aspects of Japanese culture. For instance, I've noticed that the kabuki tradition of mie or kamari, in which an actor strikes and holds a stylized pose for dramatic effect, is sometimes visible in anime, especially before a big fight scene.

Still not sure I'm ready to commit to a five-hour theatrical performance, though.

Friday, March 31, 2017

What do you know about Mormons?

Would you like to know more?

Though I don't talk constantly about my faith on this blog, it is a vital part of who I am. And you may be curious about what Mormons believe, without necessarily wanting to invite missionaries into your home.

So let me invite you to General Conference, which is going on this weekend. It's a twice-annual series of meetings (each meeting is called a "session" and is about 2 hours long) where Mormons and others receive inspiration and instruction. In addition to talks, you'll also hear performances by several choirs, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. You can watch or listen to as much or as little as you like, and nobody will contact you. It's a low-key way to learn about Mormonism from Mormons themselves.

Saturday, April 1 sessions start at 10 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time and 2 p.m. MDT.
Sunday, April 2 sessions start at 10 a.m. MDT and 2 p.m. MDT.

Here's the link to watch General Conference on lds.org.

No fooling. I promise.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Vertigo

It's hard to explain what vertigo feels like to someone who's never experienced it, but I'll give it a shot. Earlier today my brain was telling me the room was tilting at a 45-degree angle while at the same time my eyes were insisting that it wasn't. That disconnect between my brain and my eyes is what makes me feel dizzy and sick. I've had to lie down, close my eyes and just let my brain insist that my world was tumbling from the safety of my own bed. Eventually, I have faith, this will pass and everything will line up again as it did before.

Meanwhile, I think I could use some Dramamine.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Paddy's! Got any tatties?

I had one of those spit-in-a-tube, send-it-in DNA tests done a while back, just out of curiosity. Some of the results were unsurprising (31% Scandinavian? Yup.), but others took me by surprise. On my mom's side of the family, we're recent immigrants, Swedish and Dutch (read "Dutch" as mostly Dutch, with a bit of DNA from the Iberian Peninsula and Central Asia). But I wasn't sure about my dad's side of the family. We've traced part of the family line back to the 1600s, and they're still in America, so where did they come from?

Oh, and what about that Cherokee DNA claim? Everyone in the family knows the story of my great-great-something grandfather, a wild young man living on the edge of Indian territory, who stole a woman from the local Cherokee settlement and galloped away, had the whole tribe after him, yadda yadda.

Well, based on my test results (and a few of my siblings' test results), that was likely a story made up of whole cloth. I have no Native American DNA whatsoever in my profile. My brother, however, has a smattering of African DNA, which might suggest there are some other family stories nobody ever passed on. I'd like to hear about them.

Anyway, I also have about 18% English ancestry, which wasn't all that surprising. But the big surprise was the Irish ancestry: 31%. My genetic background is almost a third Irish. I'm as much Irish as I am Swedish. Who knew? But come to think of it, my dad's side of the family does have some very Irish-sounding surnames. Plus that's the side of the family tree that don't branch out much (say this with a Tennessee accent for the full effect), so it's very possible that the families that came over from Ireland who-knows-how-many generations ago largely kept that set of genetic markers undisturbed through intermarriage.

(Still trying to puzzle out that 1% Melanesian DNA result, though. Huh.)

Public domain photo by isjamesalive (flickr)
What does this all boil down to? Kiss me, I'm Irish (apparently)!

Speaking of boiling, off to cook some corned beef and cabbage and tatties. Because reasons. Tasty, tasty reasons.

ETA: This was the first year we made colcannon instead of potatoes. I think they're a once-a-year indulgence, though. So much butter. SO much cream. heck yeah.