Friday, June 12, 2009

Still more random thoughts....

... I'm really glad I've been practicing my kimo (straddle) stance in TKD, otherwise my thighs would be screaming after picking berries for over two hours yesterday.

... speaking of berry picking, the rain held off long enough for me to finish picking, but not long enough to haul over 20 quarts of berries to the car. So much for "scattered showers": we got over 3/4 of an inch of rain yesterday, as it poured constantly for several hours.

... other television failures: why do morning TV hosts think this is a good interviewing style:

Host: So you were fishing in shallow waters when a tiger shark came up and latched onto you. You fought back, but it wouldn't let go.

Man: ... That's right. I tried punching it, poking it in the eye, but it wouldn't let go.

Host: So were you thinking, "Hey, I might not survive this"?

Man: Sure.

Host: But eventually you got free.

Man: Yes. I pried his mouth open and worked my arm free.

Host (to wife): Now you look over and see your husband struggling with a shark, and you steer the boat over to his side. He's bleeding profusely, but you manage to wrestle him back into the boat all by yourself.

Woman: ... Yes.

Host: How were you able to do that? Was it just pure adrenaline?

Woman: I think so. I knew I had to get him back to shore, so I just pulled him into the boat.

This style is used all the time, and explains why everyday people sound so tongue-tied on television: it's because the interviewers want to tell all the interesting bits, and rarely ask questions unless they're of the yes-or-no variety. I just thought I'd point that out, in case you're ever tempted to do a live TV interview.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Making up for lost time....

It's true what they say about your tastes changing as you get older—not just your preferences, but your actual sense of taste. I was a bit of a picky eater when I was a kid*, and even into my twenties I had a long list of fruits and veggies I didn't really care for. A few of those foods I now really enjoy, like spinach (raw), tomatoes, blueberries, honeydew melon, and onion (although I can't eat it raw). My biggest conversion, though, has been into an eater of strawberries.

When I was growing up, my folks kept a strawberry patch along with the huge garden on their property. There were many nights when we had strawberry shortcake for dinner: a tasty shortcake, warm from the oven, covered with crushed strawberries that had been lightly sweetened. I'd eat the shortcake happily, but avoided the strawberries, unless I could get some pulpless juice to put on one corner. I wasn't wild about the taste of strawberries, but I especially disliked the texture and would pick off any threads of berries that got caught on my shortcake.

Well, things are a bit different now. I learned to appreciate strawberries the way I learned to enjoy several other fruits: mixed in a fruit salad, or even dipped in chocolate. A few years ago we stayed at this wonderful B&B in Arizona and they served a delicious breakfast dish that was berries, yogurt, and granola. I liked it so much I started making it at home. I found other uses for strawberries, like making a tasty dessert with angel food cake, yogurt, whipped cream, and berries. When they got a little mushy, I'd freeze them and use them in smoothies. Take a can of fruit (peaches, pineapple, even pears), a big handful of frozen strawberries, and a little fruit juice, and you can blend up a tasty tasty extra big serving of fruit. (I'm not sure where rum falls on the food pyramid, but sometimes I add a little of that to the smoothie as well.)

So when my mom asked me to pick her strawberry patch while my folks were out of town, I said sure. Here's my share of today's haul, which I split with my cousin. I've got maybe 9 or 10 quarts of strawberries, and I'm going to have some with honeydew for my afternoon snack, berries and yogurt for breakfast, a few quarts to contribute to my TKD team ice cream social tomorrow, and some to freeze. In any case, I've still got quite a few more strawberries to eat to make up for the first 35 or so years of my life, when I didn't eat my share.

*My mom might take issue with the "a bit of" qualifier, but I was never as bad as some kids I've met who wouldn't eat macaroni and cheese because the pasta was the "wrong shape." I just knew what I didn't like, and that list included quite a few things.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Janespotting: Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris

This is the second in the "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries," a series that features the protagonists of Pride and Prejudice as they encounter various mysterious circumstances after their wedding. The first volume, Pride & Prescience, involved the Darcys solving the strange behavior of Caroline Bingley after her engagement to a mysterious American. I thought it was a pretty fun read, although I wasn't thrilled with the paranormal angle to the story. It was fun to see the Darcys as a married couple, loving towards each other yet still bantering back and forth.

In the second volume, Suspense and Sensibility, the Darcys encounter various characters from Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Since that novel was set 15 years before P&P, the character we first encounter is Mr. Henry Dashwood, the now-grown son of John and Fanny Dashwood and nephew of the three Dashwood sisters. He appears as an adult during the social season in London; there he meets the Darcys, who have brought Elizabeth's sister Kitty there to expand her horizons (and perhaps find a husband). Henry seems a little shallow at first, interested in little other than entertainment, but seems to become more serious after meeting Kitty and the Darcys. Mr. Darcy takes him under his wing, and by the time Henry proposes to Kitty, the young man seems eager to take up his responsibilities as a landowner and gentleman.

Of course, that's when things get complicated: Henry's behavior starts to change, as he drinks, gambles, and carries on in a scandalous manner reminiscent of his infamous ancestor, Sir Francis Dashwood. (Francis Dashwood was a real person associated with the Hellfire Club in the mid-18th century; while we lived in London, we actually visited the caves where Dashwood and his compatriots supposedly indulged in Satanic rituals—actually, probably just drinking.) Henry's actions force Kitty to break off the engagement, and he quickly descends into debauchery, going so far as to re-establish the Hellfire Club. Elizabeth, of course, suspects something strange behind the sudden change, and with Darcy's help manages to free him from the influence of a sinister mirror.

Now, I'm not giving anything away by telling you the problem is a sinister mirror, since we see Sir Francis and the mirror in the prologue to the novel, and that's the big problem with this mystery. It's really no mystery; we know from the beginning what is causing the problem, and so we're just waiting (and waiting) for Mr. & Mrs. Darcy to catch up. This giveaway isn't a fatal flaw; we still get to enjoy the interactions of Elizabeth and Darcy, plus we get to see them meet Elinor and Edward, still loving and practical, as well as the still-annoying Lucy Steele Ferrars.

So as a chance to revisit some of Austen's characters, this is a diverting enough book; as a mystery, not so much. I'll be interested to see where the author takes the Darcys when they visit the less well-known Austen works.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Photo of the Week--6/1/09

Maybe it's a cliché: the photo of the beach at sunset, a boy silhouetted against the water throwing a rock ... but something doesn't become a cliché if it doesn't have some truth or beauty at its core. And since this is my Boy throwing the rock ... well, that just makes it more beautiful. Plus, it proves you can have fun in Florida without being anywhere near Orlando.