work in progress

The last few weeks have been packed with activity. (Personal. Professional. Political.) I’ve been pulled in lots of directions with a variety of projects, and a few things haven’t quite gotten finished.

When my mother visited for Thanksgiving, one of our planned activities was to make gingerbread houses. We are not ones to buy a kit with a pre-baked house. We make the dough from scratch, and each design our house. (Or structure, which is not necessarily a house. Last year I made my town’s Town Hall building. This year my mother made a Japanese gate.) In any case, the way we do things, it’s a multi-day process.

gingerbread1-ingredientsHere we put together the ingredients for the dough. My photo library tells me this was November 30th. I then mixed each batch up to let it chill overnight. (Possibly a few overnights.)

gingerbread2-modelWe all designed prototypes for our structures using cardboard. I used a stack of leftover political mailers.

gingerbread3-cutThe cardboard/cardstock cutouts then served as the stencil for cutting out the baked dough.

gingerbread4-hardeningThe cut pieces then needed to dry out some more before assembly. They smelled amazing, but the particular gluten-free blend of flours I used was a bit fragile and persnickety.

gingerbread5-part-builtMy house took a while to assemble, as there were some breakages that needed repairing.

gingerbread6-undecoratedAlso, the thickness of the baked pieces meant that my walls and roof didn’t quite fit together as intended. I improvise by making a tower to cover for a gap between the walls. I was quite pleased with the new shape. All that was left was to decorate and embellish (and cover my messy seams), and my gingerbread house would be ready to display.

The trouble is, this project isn’t exactly the only one that I’ve been working on. The big “distraction” was a conference deadline, and three of the research groups I am involved with were planning to submit. The deadline for a 4-page paper was December 21st. (The deadline was then somewhat extended such that an abstract, title and author info could be submitted on the 21st, but the full paper could be edited until January 3rd before being sent out to reviewers.)

The loosening of the deadline left a bit more breathing room for things like holiday shopping and political protests. But in spite of getting our tree up and decorated right  after Thanksgiving, I haven’t managed to put up many other decorations. We are the one house on our little street without festive lights and/or other outdoor decorations. I find it amusing that my little gingerbread house is leading a parallel existence.

gingerbread7-with-candy-pile

Tonight I hope to do some decorating. Of the gingerbread house, not the real house. (The bulk of our Christmas decorations are staying in bins this year.) Phoebe still had plans for landscaping her gingerbread house that she didn’t have time for, so I am using that as an excuse to make up a batch of the appropriate icing so we can get to work. (But I’m also  prepping for Christmas dinner, need to excavate our dining room table, and need to wrap a big pile of gifts…So we’ll see.)

these books were made for walkin’

We got a puppy last summer, and I have become the primary dog-walker. Brodie is a border collie mix, a rescue from the south, and as with most herding dogs, he’s very intense. He was also an anxious and high-energy puppy. He’s mellowed quite a bit, but one thing that we learned is that he is much calmer and happier if he gets a morning walk. In fact, it seemed that if he did not get a walk, he would not settle down, and not let me get things done. So, I started building into my day that I would spend a good hour every morning on our walk. Often it was more than an hour, sometimes less. While I recognized that this was something good for my health, it felt like it was eating a big chunk out of my productivity. I’d start the day with getting the kids up and out the door, starting around 7, and by the time I came home from the walk, it would be 10 or later. I was starting to resent my morning walks.

This summer, though, John got me some fancy wireless headphones, and shortly after, it dawned on me that I could use them on the walks. I hadn’t been listening to anything on my walks, because I wanted to be alert to sounds from traffic or other dogs. With my new AirPods, though, I could easily use only one at a time, leaving my other ear open to the rest of the world. And I started listening to audiobooks regularly, on almost every morning walk.
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I’ve listened to a few novels, but the real win for me has been to listen to non-fiction audiobooks for books that I have been wanting to read, or have felt like I should read. I love reading, but non-fiction books don’t tend to hold my attention for long periods of time. (Or they put me to sleep.) As a result, it can take me a really long time to finish a book. On my walks, though, it’s been easy enough for me to listen to even a long book. And I’m definitely not going to doze off on the walk. Rather, I feel like I’ve been feeding my brain while walking.
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I’m especially pleased to have finished listening to Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, which is a fascinating look at the often surprising ways in which our minds work. I’m currently listening to a related book, Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, which talks about decision-making. I’ve also listened to both Don’t Think of an Elephant and The Political Mind, by George Lakoff, and Saving Capitalism, by Robert Reich. (In case you wonder about a theme, all of these books are making me think about ways I can participate in affecting positive social and political change.)

How about you? Do you ever choose to listen to audiobooks? Any favorites to recommend?

 

I’m putting up a post, but this post is down.

I have been sitting here struggling with what to put up for a post, and have had trouble coming up with one. Happily, my inspiration came in the form a photo. And while I am happy that I have a photo that I can post, I am not happy about the post in the photo. Because the post in the photo is definitely down. (The lamp post down here is in my front yard, and it is supposed to be upright. It was a bit on the wobbly side until some time on Monday, at which point a windy day fixed the wobbliness. Yay! It no longer wobbles.)

blank Friday

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After the push of the last few days, getting organized for Thanksgiving festivities with a house full of guests, it was nice to have a day that was almost entirely unscheduled. I did take my sister and nephews to the airport at 4 a.m., which was 2 plus hours round trip. And we had a puppy obedience class at 6. But between those hours, we didn’t have any scheduled commitments. What we did have was a bunch of things still to wash and put away.

In any case, the kids and I and my mother (who is visiting) played some card games and did a jigsaw puzzle together in between clean-up and organization tasks. At one point, my mother and I went in the kitchen to make some tea before starting a game, and I guess we were gone a bit longer than expected, discussing various place setting issues that had come up for last night’s dinner for 12. My daughter asked: “What were you talking about.”

“Oh, dishes,” my mom said.

“And utensils,” I added.

“I can’t wait to be an adult,” my daughter quipped.

It’s true. The ways of adulting are multifaceted and glamorous.

 

 

 

turkey feast

Our neighborhood flock of wild turkeys has been coming around frequently again lately. Their numbers seem to have increased, as well. About a week ago, I counted 35 turkeys in our back yard.

This morning, a few of them stopped by the bird feeders for their Thanksgiving Day feast. It’s fun to see them jumping to reach the bird feeders.

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My family’s Thanksgiving feast is also finished, and included fewer seeds, and much less jumping. We had family visiting from California, and a few local friends joined us as well for a total of 12 for dinner. It was another long day of cooking and such. Tomorrow morning, I have to drive my sister and nephews to the airport at around 4, so I am once more short on time to write.

10 birthday candles

Remarkably, I started this blog 10 years ago today. 10 years of blogging. Over a thousand posts (this one is 1333), over a million views (1,156,038 at the time I’m writing this), over 3000 photos shared. It has been a wonderful creative outlet for me. Additionally, through this blog and by connecting with others on their own blogs, I have made strong friendships (haven’t really counted how many). In the process, I have grown in my worldview (which I also can’t quantify).

Tonight, I am grateful for blogging. Both for this blog, and for connecting with others. I am so grateful to the friendships I have made through blogging. I am very glad that I have returned to blogging after largely neglecting it the last few years. I appreciate having the creative outlet once more, and the place to share my thoughts. As current affairs have been stirring me to take action, I hope to use this blog as a sounding board, and a way to hold myself accountable.

In case you are wondering, I didn’t light candles for the blog. Conveniently, I have a daughter who is just a few months older than this blog, and so had easy access to photos of 10 birthday candles. In case you were wondering what happens when you put 10 birthday candles into a mini cupcake and light them, you get a tower of flame that threatens to light your daughter’s hair on fire, and melts the candles down to stubs in seconds. Happily, this blog is mostly flame retardant.

information overload

Today I finally decided to delete the Facebook app from my phone. It was using more and more space on my phone, until it was gradually crowding out everything else. It turned out that the version of the app I was using was caching every single thing I was reading. So each article I opened through app was taking up space on the phone. (I was using an older version so as to avoid some privacy issues that people had complained about with the introduction of a separate Facebook messaging app.) In the last few days, I was reading more and more articles, until my phone reached capacity. I couldn’t take new photos without deleting apps. And then I’d run out of space again, and delete more apps. Finally, I decided that I just needed to break from it, and delete the app.

I realize that this is a good allegory, as all the articles I’ve been reading have also been crowding my brain, and I may be effectively deleting other mental applications as I work to process all of the election news. (Of course, I can and do still check Facebook on my laptop, and have continued to read articles and follow links there, but it’s a bit less all-the-time-always-in-my-pocket-always-in-my-face.)

Now I can take photos with my phone again without regularly running out of space. And taking photos is one of the things that brings me enjoyment. I like it that I have a pretty decent camera always in my pocket. (I like taking photos with my big camera, too, but it isn’t generally as handy. Also, the hard drive on my laptop is so full that I can’t import the larger files the camera produces without deleting stuff from my laptop. Sigh.)

The photos in this post are some I took a few weeks ago at our local diner. (A few weeks ago, my phone still had room to take photos, and my head was still full of optimism about the election.)

 

And on to my daily-ish gratitude. This post reminds me that I am grateful for photography, and the accessibility of digital photography. I love being able to so easily capture moments from my life. And I especially love being able to document the beauty that I see in the details of the world around me.

And since I skipped my enumeration of gratitude yesterday, I will offer a second serving. I am grateful to be alive in this age when so much information is available at our fingertips. While it is a double-edged sword at times like this, which overload us with news and opinion, on the whole the web (or the internet, in all its incarnations and implementations) offers us the power of knowledge.