Story time

September 17, 2014

I have, like, a thousand things I need to be doing right now that do not involve dinking around on the Internet, so obviously this is the optimal time to tell a story.

My best friend in high school was a quiet, unassuming Muslim girl who made good grades; said “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” at appropriate times; and basically did whatever she wanted, because adults always assumed that whatever Saadia was doing at any given moment was precisely what Saadia was supposed to be doing at that moment.

Saadia and I were pretty good kids, but by November of our senior year, we figured we had some comp time coming for all the extra hours we’d put in writing papers for honors classes and doing extracurricular activities while the cool kids were out getting drunk and pregnant and stuff, so we started cutting class and going out for coffee whenever we could think up an excuse. We always took the backroads to the coffeehouse, and if we hit a pothole too hard on the way, the glovebox in my 1985 Nissan Pulsar would pop open, and a box of Dramamine would fly out and land in Saadia’s lap. Which in no way should be construed as a reflection on my driving skills. But I digress.

This story isn’t about Dramamine or our senior year or the many ways one can traverse Southern Illinois on county roads to avoid being busted for truancy. It’s about our sophomore year, when we hadn’t yet figured out we could get away with cutting class, so we settled for blasting the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack on my parents’ stereo and making outrageously inappropriate sexual innuendoes about Michael Crawford while we did our homework. As one does.

We had biology together that year, and let me tell you: We were amazing at dissecting things. And by “amazing,” I mean we sucked. Which may or may not have been* my fault, because the day we dissected a shark, I inadvertently disconnected every vein and artery in its body with one ill-advised swipe of the scalpel.


We obviously performed very well on the practical exam for that unit.

We squeaked through the next unit by the skin of our teeth, and by the time we got to the final project in the cutting-up-dead-animals series — a fetal pig — I was starting to worry. I was on a field trip the day our irascible but hilarious biology teacher handed out the pigs, but when I returned, Saadia knew everything there was to know about porcine anatomy.

I later learned the following exchange had occurred in my absence:

COLLINS: (Puts pig in front of Saadia)
SAADIA: (Stares at pig)
COLLINS: What’s the matter with you?
SAADIA: That’s a pig.
SAADIA: I’m Muslim.
SAADIA: That’s a pig. I can’t touch it.
COLLINS: Your brother touched one. He didn’t have any problem with it.
SAADIA: (Shrugs) Yeah, well, he’s probably going to hell.**

So Collins ended up dissecting the pig for Saadia and showing her what all the parts were, which she then showed me.

And that, kids, is the story of how Saadia and Emily passed sophomore biology.


**Last I knew, Saadia’s brother was a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai. In retrospect, I probably should have been more careful with that shark.

Lots of projects

September 15, 2014

As we wind down our weekend (our days off are Sunday and Monday), I’m pretty happy with our accomplishments.

Ron worked late Saturday, so I made breakfast while he slept in, and then we went out searching for Gone Girl filming locations for an article he’s working on. We followed that with a trip to the hardware store to pick up materials for a small project I needed to do: The exercise bike we bought last weekend is great, but it didn’t have a shelf or ledge or anything for my iPad, which meant I couldn’t watch Netflix while working out — kind of a big deal, since I rely on a humanoid alien in tweed and a bowtie to keep me motivated.

I wouldn’t exactly call this an elegant solution, but it works, anyway:

Red Fork engineering.

Red Fork engineering.

Matt Smith is an excellent personal trainer. A 45-minute ride goes by much faster while you're watching the Doctor save the universe again.

Matt Smith is an excellent personal trainer. A 45-minute ride goes by much faster while you’re watching the Doctor save the universe again.

I stayed up late last night to add a couple more short chapters to my novel. It’s still not quite where I want it, but it’s inching closer. Which is good, because I have ideas for two others that are much more plot-heavy, and I’d really like to get this one done and either shopped or Kindled and off my plate so I can start the next.

We slept in again this morning, took the dogs to the park, and headed to Giant City to shoot some more Gone Girl sites. We spent a few minutes on the Makanda Boardwalk, made a pit stop at Lipe’s Orchard for sweet potatoes and chrysanthemums, and had dinner at Quatro’s before heading home, where I insulated a few pipes in the basement. Not the most productive weekend ever, but not bad.


Eco-Saturday: Canning salsa

September 13, 2014

Homemade salsa makes a great Christmas gift, and it’s nice to have on hand for unexpected potlucks and such.

OK, so canning salsa isn’t really much different than canning pickles, which I showed you how to do a few weeks ago, but tomato season is winding down, and if your garden has been very successful at all, it’s really worth taking an afternoon to learn how to put up salsa so you can have a little taste of summer when the sleet starts coming down. (Alternately, you can buy tomatoes at your local farmer’s market or make friends with a gardener.)

This post is kind of long and detailed, so I’m putting the rest behind the jump to keep from scaring off the tl;dr crowd.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vegan Friday: Too lazy to experiment

September 12, 2014


Y’all, I’m tired. Long week. Lotta crap to keep up with. Long day scheduled for tomorrow. I didn’t try any new vegan recipes this week. I just made a batch of black bean chili tonight for dinner, added some leftover Boca crumbles I had in the freezer to give it extra protein, and diced up some avocado on top when it was done cooking. If you haven’t tried my chili recipe yet, you really should. It’s quick and nutritious and nice to warm you up on a cool evening.

I saw a picture of an ice-cream sandwich somewhere the other day and have been craving them ever since, so instead of a recipe tonight, you’re getting a product endorsement: Tofutti Cuties.

At a little over $4 a box, Tofutti Cuties are rather pricey, but you seriously cannot distinguish them from regular ice-cream sandwiches, and if you’re going full-time vegan, they’re about the best thing you’ll find to take the edge off a craving. At 130 calories a pop, they’re not horribly fattening, either. Just, y’know, don’t eat the entire box at once.

And lest you feel cheated: Assuming I get a hand free tomorrow, I’m planning to post instructions for canning salsa — which is completely vegan — as this week’s Eco-Saturday offering.

I really want to post my adventures in soapmaking, but I’m waiting until it finishes saponifying so I can vouch for the finished product before I go bragging on it. It certainly looked and smelled nice when I unmolded it and cut it into bars, and it was a much easier project than I anticipated.

I’m confident enough in the recipe that I’ll probably start another batch this weekend to hand out at Christmas. Might even do a Christmasy scent if I can rustle up some pine essential oil. We’ll see.


Folk Thursday: Playing for Change with Keith Richards

September 11, 2014

This was Ron’s suggestion for this week. Y’all know how I feel about Playing for Change. And y’all know how I feel about Playing for Change covering Bob Marley. So obviously the only way to make a video of Playing for Change covering Bob Marley any cooler is to let Keith Richards play with ‘em.

Also, I know I’ve been neglecting this blog horribly. I’ve been too busy gardening and harvesting and canning and harvesting and canning and harvesting and buying apples and pressing cider and fermenting cider and hanging out with the niece and nephews and making cupcakes and bottling home-brewed green chile beer and making soap and shopping for exercise equipment and setting up a mini-gym in my house so we can cancel our little-used gym membership that we barely use because the hours are stupid and helping Zaphod with his dissertation and reading and chasing stories and … and … and …

Yeah. Been busy. But I have good intentions and a couple of killer salsa recipes, and I hope to have some good stuff to share with you this weekend.


Folk Thursday: Phil Ochs

September 4, 2014

I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t posted any Phil Ochs before. Let’s rectify that.


Soap update

September 3, 2014

So my boss let me take today off because Labor Day fell on my regular day off, and we’re supposed to get an extra day off when that happens. You might think I’d spend the day relaxing, but you’d be wrong. Instead, I went out and got a kitchen scale and some olive and coconut oil and started a batch of soap. I managed to do it without maiming myself or damaging any kitchen surfaces, so we’ll put that in the win column. It’s in a cooler in the basement now, setting up overnight. I’ll check it tomorrow, and if it’s set up properly, I’ll slice it into bars, wrap it in waxed paper, and ignore it for a month and a half while it saponifies.

Once I finished my soap project and got the kitchen cleaned up, I brought in some tomatoes and pecans from the garden (the neighbor’s tree has thrown a few nuts into the far corner of the garden) and transcribed an interview for Zaphod before heading out to pick up groceries.

I really don’t understand the concept of rest, apparently.

In unrelated news, remind me next week, and I’ll post a different sort of Munchkin Tuesday. The kids redeemed some of their coupons the other day, and we did an awesome science project that needs to go at the top of your to-do list if you have any children in your life. If I still taught, I’d be finding an excuse to do this with my sophomores — possibly as a sensory-language exercise or something. It was that cool. 



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