Saturday, October 30, 2010

Days like what we are experiencing right now are gifts. I'm off to take advantage while I can. Enjoy your Saturday!


Fresh Pond, Cambridge looking surprisingly like a Hudson River School painting.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The weather's been glorious lately, so I've been taking in as much sun as possible. Really does wonders for the mood, the muscles, the joints. Am looking forward to a weekend of being outside, if possible.

Anyway, can try to catch up in one area of the life.

Bird Log:

Thursday, 21 October - Fresh Pond, Cambridge.

3-4 coots
+20 ring-necked ducks

A Flotilla. I'd say that this was probably 1/2 mallards, 1/2 ringnecks with a few coots thrown in for good measure.

3 nuthatches (heard)
1 downy woodpecker (heard)

Roughly two dozen cormorants perched in trees near the shore.

Just one guy. Branches made it hard to take a picture to the gaggle of these birds in the trees, too. Some had orange beaks, others had black ones. They were also vocalizing quite a bit, too. Pavel read later that they talked a lot when they were roosting. Funny, never saw these birds in trees before. Only on lower perches like rocks, buoys and rafts.

Saturday, 23 October - Plum Island, MA

Large quantities of three types of birds:

-Gulls (black-backed, herring, ring-billed, common terns)
-Sea-Ducks (mainly common eiders, but I think I saw a juvenile scoter.)
-Waders (Plovers: 1 black-bellied in Winter colors, several semipalmated. Two types of sandpipers.)

Sandpipers! Lots of em!

Monday, 25 October - Lexington, MA

Another trip out to Great Meadows. This was kind of a spur of the moment thing at the end of the day. We were grocery shopping in Arlington, so decided to get a quick walk in before sunset. When we got there, started chatting with an older gentleman who visited daily. Talked about birds and favorite places to look at birds of course; learned a fair bit as well (namely what the little black and yellow birds were that we saw darting around in proliferation. I thought they were winter-colored goldfinches or yellow warblers. He said that those had gone away since about September and that those we were seeing were actually yellow rumped warblers).


+-10 yellow rumps
1 great blue heron
1 hawk - smaller than a redtail, but not a harrier.
3-4 dozen swamp sparrows
Lots of mallards, lots of canadas.

Quite a few canada rumps, too.

3 red-winged blackbirds (males)
2-3 nuthatches (heard)
2+ downy woodpeckers (heard)

The fellow we were talking to mentioned that he saw a couple bluebirds that day. Sadly, we missed them.

Tuesday, 26 October - Somerville/Medford, MA

Wandered around the Mystic. Did not see much aside from a couple chickadees, several song sparrows and a whole lot of starlings. Was disappointed to see that my crabapple trees didn't bear fruit this year.

Wednesday, 27 October - Medford, MA

Visited another part of the Mystic. Paul was hoping to see the mergansers, but I think it was a bit too hot out for their liking.

Thursday, 28 October - Revere, MA

Large quantities of three types of gulls (black-backed, herring, ring-billed)
Two large trans-Atlantic migratory types (Think both were Airbus types? That's the Frenchie's department, not mine. One was an Alitalia bird, the other was British Airways.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Every day, something new happens. Not necessarily exciting, but *spark* providing. That isn't a bad thing.

For various reasons though, have been kind of able to write.

Will attempt to get the engine revved up again. Really like it here. Think that its feeling like a stressor and a weight on the back is a temporary thing. (Hope that, anyway.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wanted to post some pictures from a recent Urban Expedition. Also wanted to talk about another added bit of fuel to my neurotic fire about returning to France in the near future. All this is getting put on the back burner, because Harry's back from Africa, safe and sound, and that trumps all.

a IMG_4919

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mind Over Matter.

I'm very happy to report that I've gotten past being Peed Off at knitting socks.

First Pair of Toe Up Socks

Turkish toe-up socks! Aren't they pretty? The color of the yarn, a worsted-weight acrylic, kind of reminds me of beach glass. For that and my change in attitude, am thinking of calling them "sea change."

With a bit of determination and a lot of help from some friends over at Ravelry, figured out how to do the Eastern style toe-up technique*, rather than work from the cuff down. Made all the difference in the world and I absolutely flew through these.

Don't know if I'm necessarily hooked on sock knitting like I've heard so many others to be. Will have to knit a few more pairs and get back to folks on this.


* I've heard it said that socks and (I think) mittens are knitted from tip to cuff, as the knitter always wants to be knitting towards the heart. I don't know if that's true, but it is awfully poetic.
I'm feeling a bit down today because, probably due to the strikes in France, a round trip flight is averaging something like three times what it would normally cost around this time. Spring break was messed up because of the volcano in Iceland. It's kind of a rough year, travel-wise.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pattern Recognition.

Heavens, don't know why, but there's just got to be a relation between this:

and this:

Musical Interlude.

Aww, Dad: I'm so sorry.

(Lyrics are here.)


Is funny to think that this song was conceived just between my and my little brother's conceptions.
I'm not even sure where I could begin on the Anchoress's piece on the tension between those she calls the Credentialed Gentry and the "Unwashed." Speaks volumes to my experiences here where I'm currently resting.

My Dad's a big fan of hers and he's a pretty sensible person. Don't know why I don't read her work more regularly.
It might be the ingrained Rust Belt Frugality, might also be that I grew up during the period characterized by what is known as Stagflation*; don't know. In any event, I've always been fascinated by the reduced meat/produce/bakery offerings in the littler grocery stores around here.

Anyway, the other day, while perusing the day old baked good bin**, I managed to find a reduced priced loaf of foofy bread, that is, bread so precious that it wasn't even called bread anymore, but pane mediterraneo. To go with the upmarket name, it was priced kind of fancily (or fancifully) at originally $6 a loaf.

By the time I got to it, was $2. Heck, for croutons, crostini and chapelure,*** that works. I think that's even less than a loaf of Wonder at this point.

On the walk back home, I gave some thought as to what to do with my happy little windfall. I certainly didn't need the several cups of breadcrumbs or croutons this would net me (have decent reserves of both in the freezer). I'm not much of a sandwich or morning toast person; the bread would be green before I got 1/2 through with it that way.

At home, checked out what I had in the larder and made my decision. Since we were just having soup that night, figured I could round things out with a slightly heavier than normal dessert:

Windfall Pudding

1 c. stale bread, cut into small bits and with the crusts on, gosh darnit.
1 c. milk
2 t sugar
1 egg (I used medium-sized)
1/4 c. raisins
1 t. extract (at this point, I've used both rum and vanilla.)
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
finely grated peel of 1/2 a small orange****

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a glass pan (or, in my case, a ceramic cereal bowl.)

2.) Beat egg; add milk, sugar, spices, extract. Mix until well-blended.

3.) Add bread, raisins, peel. Mix well. Let sit for 15 minutes or so to allow the bread to soak up the milk, the raisins to soften and the flavors to blend.

4.) Take this mixture, toss it into the greased bowl, then let bake for 35-45 minutes; until liquid is evaporated and a nice, toasty crust forms on top.

Serve with your favorite accompaniments. Most folks like this with ice or whipped cream and maybe a bit more of something sweet on top (like rum sauce, chocolate, etc). I've been serving it in a pool of buttermilk with a drizzle of maple syrup on top.

Serves 2 (protein-rich meal completing portions) to 4 (smaller, more dessert-like ones).


* Usually joke about growing up during The Depression. Heck, I feel old, but I'm not *that* old.

** Someplace I normally try to steer clear of. 1/2 dozen cheap cream horns only look good in the package. Unless you can cut them in halves or thirds and serve them at tea to a bunch of friends, they actually end up being pretty vile. Idem for the tub o' rugalach, etc.

*** Said with a wry smile and pronounced in what I'm told is a charming regional accent.

**** Regarding the last five ingredients: Mentioned already the extracts I've tried. I'd also like to tinker with the fruit, the citrus peel and the spices. I'm thinking that apples, cloves and / or cardamom might be good if I don't put any peel in. Taking things even further, I'm wondering how a 50:50 coconut milk:cow's milk blend with lemon extract, shredded coconut, ginger and lime peel would work out. Heaven knows I've got enough bread to try it. Also have a can of coconut milk that's just dying to be used before its fast-approaching expiration date. We'll see.
Speaking of books: we decided on Cabeza de Vaca's adventures, which are sort of turning out to be like the Keystone Kops or something (that's what it seems like right now at the beginning of things, anyway).

Monday, October 18, 2010

We hit a couple library sales as well: one in Belmont, the other in Burlington. Both were bag sales, which usually occur at the end of the weekend. Most notable for me were the first three from the series of Rabbi Small mysteries, some armed services editions of James Thurber stories and a couple cookbooks. Pavel got some books on programming and mathematics, and favorite book by someone he's a huge fan of.

Nothing really spectacular like what I found a couple weeks ago in Acton, but still nice.
Great Meadows.

This is becoming the default walk when we're slightly west of here and exercise time is limited. Like with the Mystic Preserve and the reservoir over near Alewife, it's always worth it to visit often, all year round.

Now's the time for greater contrasts and longer shadows due to the obliqueness of the sun's rays.


Local vegetation, already going out in a blaze of glory, seems further warmed by that gold light that one only sees this time of year.*


Saw a few birds: some coots, mallards and Canadas on the water. A crow, some swallows and (it was hard to tell) either yellow warblers or goldfinches with winter coloring in flight. We heard a downy woodpecker laughing at a joke that was clearly offending a mallard somewhere. Also, an odd call from what I thought to be a nuthatch**. Oh, saw a heron in the distance as well as some marsh wrens scritching around in the reeds.

Geese Overhead

Funny, but whenever I see a pair of geese in flight, I can't help but think of this poem.


* Here, it's gold in the Fall. Winter and Spring are pastels. Summer's primaries.

** Pavel said that it was too high pitched. Pitch aside, I think that it was the right cadence for a nuthatch.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Instead of turning on the TV and zoning out, the housemate and I like to either play a game of cribbage or scrabble, then read aloud to one another*.

We've gotten through quite a few books this way - mainly adventure/travel literature. For whatever reasons, this genre lends itself well to Pavel's delivery.

Anyway, last night, we finished a favorite story of mine: Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World. Pavel was a little surprised** at how much he ended up enjoying*** the old salt's accounts of the people he met and the things he saw during his three year voyage on the little boat he acquired and was required to rebuild down in Fairhaven, MA.

The tough thing about finishing a book is having to choose another. Since we've got our sea legs now, should we go back in time and read some of Marco Polo's accounts of his voyages in the same areas as Slocum's? Should we move up in time and cross the Atlantic with Thor Heyerdahl? Or maybe, should we put ourselves back on Terra Firma and follow Cabeza de Vaca across Texas on foot?


* It usually ends up that Pavel does the reading while I listen and knit. He does this very well, and I think he should consider volunteering to record books for the sight-impaired.

** Part of Pavel's surprise had to do that this was a Shambhala book. Generally stuff published by them tends to be a bit on the esoteric side, and I think he believed that I was forcing some sort of Book of the Dead like thing on him.

*** He's actually sort of researching a trip to Mauritius based on what he read. Slocum really liked the people there.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I'm guessing that an awful lot of 'true believers' in the neighborhood who hired landscapers to put food gardens in their lawns just couldn't keep up with the actual work it takes to grow food, given the number of such dilapidated beds I see on my daily walks. What kills me is, not so much the wasted work, but the wasted produce. Would consider gleaning the knocked-down unripe tomatoes for pickles, the squash, the haricots périmés, but I live in HLS territory and I don't want to have trespassing problems on my record*. Also don't know what the hired folks used as fertilizer. Then there's the problem of stuff being bitten into by potentially sick animals.

Such a waste.


* Made my voting choices public when I was younger and stupider. Was swiftly and loudly denounced as a "Republican" by a career Leftist in Europe in a country where the label "Republican" can deny you entry (interestingly enough, is one European country where I actually do business, to add insult to injury). Now, sorry for the TMI, but I'm what's known as an Independent in the US - no such thing in Europe - I vote as I see fit, based on actually looking at the particulars (In financial/technology terms, it's called "drilling down"- essentially, you question the 'global,' then research the details that compose that view.) Not based on Party Loyalty or If It Feels Good. Unfortunately, an awful lot of Credentialed, but maybe not so emotionally mature folks think that this is threatening. I have to be careful of this now. This strikes me as paranoia and I really don't like this. Have enough hormone problems as it stands.

Friday, October 15, 2010

While I was away, the kitchen and bathroom were slated to be renovated. For whatever reasons, those two jobs didn't happen. (Bathroom may start in a month or so; Kitchen's been put until next Spring.) Instead, some more work on the top floor of the house was done and a new roof was put on. Though this all was pretty painful to live through, the results are spectacular.

View of Medford from the new balcony

This is the view to the north of us from the new balcony that replaced the poorly-designed, rotten and dangerous spare room that was out my bedroom door. Dreams of conservatories and pergolas gave way to a nice, un-roofed space suitable for container gardening and basking. I think we'll be putting up a couple more bird feeders and some flower baskets as well.

New roof, Shingles, Door, Window...

New roof, new shingles, a new door and window. Take a look at that roof: isn't it beautiful? It's aluminum. Don't think that there are many of those in my neighborhood. Some informal testing with an infrared thermometer has shown that, under the midday sun, the aluminum is around 40 degrees cooler than the neighbors' asphalt one...let's hear it for early adoption of neat technologies!

Since the wall was going to be exposed again, it was going to need new shingles. I love the cedar and wish they weren't so expensive/labor intensive to pose. A whole house covered in these would be pretty impressive. As it stands, Pavel wants to paint the house blue. (Personally, I think Falu Red would be really nice with the white roof.)

The door and window got switched around in all this. Take a look at the window. It's important. (Here's a better view:)

There's That New Window.

When I first saw a new window go in, it was clear and fixed. This kind of made me sad, as I was hoping for another opportunity for a cross breeze. Little did I know that, hiding under a pile of old shingles and masonite, was this new take on the old stained glass that you find in lots of these late-Victorian era houses.

Window from Indoors

(View from inside - I put my bed right under it.)

Pavel likes stained glass a lot, and often, we'll take evening walks around the neighborhood just to admire the backlit windows often seen here. He particularly liked this window because it reminded him both of a rose and sunrise, both equally important as this is an east window.

Bit by bit, the house is starting to take on the personality of its owner. I'm hoping that he's starting to appreciate it; it's got a lot of potential just waiting to be released.
Well, one part of the house chaos came to a close, anyway. I've been kind of living in a nightmare lately, as my room was a construction site for the past 3+ weeks. Wouldn't be surprised if I'd breathed in enough plaster dust for a case of brown lung. Also, as the construction crew was coming around early (sometimes before 8:00 am and often on weekends), had problems getting over jet lag. Then there're the stomach problems that have been hounding me since a couple days before leaving Suresnes. I'm kind of worried about that last thing, though a recent doctor visit didn't show much of concern.

Now, am starting to clean up, a major task. Got about 1/2 the space worked over yesterday. Hopefully will get the rest done today. Then I can do a normal cleaning/rearranging sometime over the weekend.

Will be good to be settled again, if only for a little while. More rooms will need to be torn apart and I'll have more traveling to do. For a moment, though, there's a bit of calm.
Yesterday evening, my internal barometer felt the front coming in like gangbusters. Sure as anything, we had an entire night of fairly heavy rain. Today, it's dark, windy, cool and damp. Am wondering if we'll be getting more rain? Though I did manage some good sleep last night, am still tired and the brain still feels a bit flippy (as though some connections are wet). Don't like this feeling and I wish it'd go away.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This has to be about the best English language explanation I've seen on what's going on in France right now.

I can't claim to speak for All the French, but the few that I do know know that pensions, health care, education, etc need desperately to be reformed. Like here in the States, things are pretty complex and messy. I often wonder, too, if the French kind of got into the same mess that we did here, meaning that they hired people who turned out to not be up to the task of governing, much less reforming. It seems that way when conversations eventually turn to politics.

For what it's worth (and it's not worth much), I don't find this sort of commentary to be very helpful. Calling people leeches and telling them to grow up when there are legitimate issues at hand seems kind of like calling the Tea Party movement racist, radical, violent, whathaveyou.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You know, I just can't get worked up over this. I'm willing to believe that there are enough people in the community who celebrate this particular lunar holiday to justify it as a day off. Cambridge is pretty big and pretty diverse. A look at the school calendar shows that the other two of the Big Three are pretty well represented, so it doesn't seem like special treatment or anything.

The only thing I'd wonder about is, what about accommodations for other religious groups? Are there so few Hindus or Buddhists (or maybe neither celebrate in the same way?) that time off for Diwali or Tet aren't represented? This is one of the pains in the rear of being a religious pluralism in a devolved government system*. It can get messy.

Then there's this all. It's not like Campbell is forcing people to eat halal meat in their products. They're just marketing the vegetarian option differently (vive le capitalisme!).**


*This last point I think is lost on a lot of folks here who think that we should be more "European" in our approach to both education and dealing with religion. First, it's a big country - a continent. Can't see a Central System (like the Frenchie calls it - L'Etat) working here at all. Doesn't seem to work very well, even in smaller settings. Secondly, what's called "Secularism" in a lot of places is just preference for one faith/view over others - in the case of England, a lot of former Christian holidays are papered over with the term "Bank Holiday." In France, they don't even bother with that.

**I do think the problem of the British grocery chains not labeling meat as halal is problematic, though. Certainly, there is an 'ick' factor involved if you believe that this is torturing an animal to death. What bothers me about it is the potential level of adrenaline that secreted/diffused due to this method of slaughter. Adrenaline is a hormone, after all, and last time I noted, folks were pretty anti-hormone treated meat in that general territory.

Monday, October 11, 2010

By the way, just noticed that if my blog were a child, it'd be in second grade now. Maybe, to celebrate, I'll take it to Topsfield today for a cider doughnut and a ride on the ferris wheel.
O Fortuna.

I don't think I (or anyone else, for that matter) could have foreseen any of the turns life took the past few years. Heck, when I started the blog, I was embarking on a new career, in what I thought to be the relationship of my life. Family seemed to be doing well, too.

Now? Well, complicated. New loves. Illness, death, something awful and unexpected. The prospect of a long move, of graduate school maybe, of a new start. (Not from Point Zero, but with all my history trailing behind me).

Honestly, it scares the heck out of me.


By the way: I made a sort of daube for dinner; it ended up more like a cross between boeuf bourgignon and boeuf aux carrottes. Really good. Was really in the mood for mussels, too, but the ones at the grocery store were terrible. Steamed myself some littlenecks instead.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guess it's been a while since I've been 'round these parts. Have an excuse: was in France for a hair shy of three months and you can do things like that* there.

Came back to Boston and attendant mayhem. Am still trying to get out from under the (literal) rubble; loose-end tying-off is proceeding very slowly. Also have some major decision-making to do. The decision-making part is not a strong point. I like to generally let myself be pushed along The Way. Outside sources indicate, though, that that isn't always the best way to deal with life/treat myself.

Anyway - first major life-affecting decision for a Sunday afternoon: stuffed acorn squash or daube? I have a free evening and want to make myself something autumnal and a little special, I guess. Will be taking the walk in the direction of the grocery store and will probably be picking up the items necessary for both.


* "That," meaning, disappear for several months and say, "oh, I was away on vacation! What's your problem?" Yes, this is still possible.