Monday, July 27, 2009

Soft Organ

This weekend I had the good pleasure of visiting Mother and Father Edit in California. It's always nice to go home, and even nicer when it means you get a break from playing the organ. Not that I don't like playing the organ, mind you--in fact I rather enjoy it--it's just nice to get a break for a change.

My pleasure at not playing the organ vanished quickly, however, when the organist began playing the introduction to the opening hymn: I could barely hear it. The organist sounded good, she was hitting all the right notes and everything, she just needed to turn up the volume.

When I complained to Mother Edit that the organ needed to be louder, she pointed out that this was not their usual organist. Small consolation.

The problem with a quiet organ is that in order to stay in pitch with it, you need to sing very softly. And the problem with singing very softly is that most people don't. They just sing however they sing.

By the middle of the first verse I was cringing, and at the end of the first verse, Queen Tuffett (who is back in America now--HURRAY!) and I glanced at each other in alarm.

"We're like 50 cents off!" she whispered.

"I know!" I whispered back. I thought it was closer to a half step, but anywhere between 50 cents and a half step is way too much.

I didn't really sing the rest of that hymn. I mostly just listened to see how far off we'd get, and whether or not the organist would increase the volume. She never did.

Alas for the soft organ, as it defeated the purpose of the hymns. I ended the sacrament hymn laughing, the rest hymn cringing, and the closing hymn nearly crying. Well, ok, maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but it certainly didn't get any better throughout the meeting.

And I had so been looking forward to a break from the organ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Brother, Flash

When I was little, Father Edit used to drive this big commuter van. I loved that each little seat had its own air vent and reading light, and I loved that the back of the van felt so far away from the front.

Once, I rode in the back with my friend Deborah, and I don't remember how or why, but I remember that Flash was back there too, and he was teaching us how to slap a man, in case we ever needed to do so. He had Deborah actually practice on him, though she was (gratefully) somewhat halfhearted in her efforts. I declined to try.

Another memory I have is at a birthday party one year. Flash let my friends paint him up with makeup all over his face. He resembled a garish clown when it was all over, but he was a very good sport about it.

I thought of those two memories today.

Good memories.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I have been using the same shampoo for 15 years. That's over half my life.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Following Blogs

I've decided that I prefer to no longer show links on the side of my blog. If you would like to find any of those links which previously were located on the side of the page, just click on "view my complete profile," and look under the heading "blogs I follow."

The end.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Bread Pan Runneth O'er

I recently received a bag of liquidy mush from elegyrl. It was the starter for the food item commonly known as Amish friendship bread, or cinnamon friendship bread, or Amish cinnamon friendship bread. In elegyrl's case, it was called something else entirely, but that's what it was.

I've actually experienced such bread before, and I remember it was quite tasty, so I was glad to get to make it again. Since I still had the recipe on my computer from that last time, I decided to compare my old recipe with elegyrl's new one. They were more or less the same, except that elegyrl's said to use baking powder and baking soda, whereas mine said just to use the one (can't remember which one).

I don't know whether using both baking powder and baking soda was what caused my problems, or whether it was the fact that I filled the bread pans over halfway full, or whether it was something else entirely (the fates ganging up on me, the oven cursing me, etc.), but the bread... didn't exactly turn out the way I meant it to.

I started off, filled up three bags for new starters to give to friends, made the batter, pre-heated the oven, poured the batter into the pans (one regular size and two disposable mini-loaf pans), and licked the bowl. Man, that batter was delicious! I put the pans in the oven, and decided to tackle the giant mound of dishes while they baked. I suppose I could have used the dishwasher--we normally don't use it as we don't create enough dirty dishes to fill it before we run out of clean ones--but I have a general mistrust of dishwashers, and am picky with what I put in there.

Halfway through the bake time, I checked on the bread. Holy mackerel! It had puffed up, and one of the mini loaf pans was on the verge of running over the side. It was so bubbled over that it looked like if I poked it with a chopstick it might explode. However, being the very intelligent person that I am, I figured that by this point in the baking cycle the batter should be done puffing up, so I closed the oven door and resumed washing dishes.

Phew! I thought. That was a close one!

Ha, ha, ha. Little did I know...

A bit later I decided to check on them again. This time when I opened the door I yelled in surprise--they had ALL puffed up even more, and overflowed their pans. The regular-sized bread pan had created a six-inch fritter at the bottom of the oven, and the little pans had contributed their own smaller pancakes.

Something must be done immediately, I decided.

I took Tree-hugger's big cookie sheet and stuck it at the bottom of the oven--on top of the nasty spilled-over batter and the oven's heating element--and shut the door, hoping that would be enough.

Eventually the timer rang, and I was glad to be able to see whether the bread was near done or not, because aside from looking not even close to done when I checked on them before, it looked like they were browning too fast on the top. This time when I opened the oven door, a little bit of smoke came out, along with a whole lot of nasty burned smell.

That was the point at which my poor little brain went on overload. I like to consider myself a pretty good baker, despite the fact that I only bake/cook once in a blue moon, and usually only for other people. But look at the mess in my oven! Look at those failed loaves! And this was something I'd done before! So humiliating.

Oh yeah, and I burned my wrist on the oven, too.

I didn't know what to do. I couldn't try to keep cooking them, because I didn't want to start a fire. But I didn't have time to really do anything else--I had to get ready for work. After a tearful phone call with Olive (yes, I cried over my bread, ok? What can I say? I'm a wimp), who helped calm me down, I took the loaves and cookie sheet (singed black on the bottom) out of the oven, wrote an apologetic note to Tree-hugger--Dear Tree-hugger, Sorry for the mess. Don't look in the oven--and headed off to work. At least the dishes got done, right?

The good news:

-I noticed as the "loaves" cooled that their crusts were actually done, so I picked the crusts off and ate them.

-They were pretty near to done in general, just a bit more moist than usual. The next day I was able to salvage one of the mini-loaves and most of the big loaf. And by "salvage" I mean re-bake it into a thick mass of consumable substance, which is perhaps not entirely healthy, but does at least taste good.

-The oven really needed to be cleaned anyway. Really. And now it has been.

-I saved a starter for myself so I can try it again. I shall not be beaten by a bag of mush.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sugar Snap Peas

I've recently had this discovery of sugar snap peas. They are the most amazing things! Aside from just being cute (admit it, peas are cute), they are fascinating to me:

-You can open a pea pod by running your finger down the spine. It slices right open with a fresh crispy sound.

-While the pod is still closed, if the peas come detached from the wall of the pod you can shake it around and it makes a hollow thunkity-thunkity sound.

-When you have a whole bunch of pea pods you can shake them in your hands or in a bowl and they make a clean thooka sound.

-After you split open a pod along the spine, as you prise open the two halves of the pod, the peas separate, and you are able to see that they actually grew every other pea to a side.

-If you pull a pea one way from inside the pod, it releases easily from its little stem. But if you pull the other way, it usually takes the stem with it.

-Did you know you're supposed to eat sugar snap peas in the pod? I just discovered that fact. I like them that way, sure, but I so love the sound and feeling of slicing open the pod with my finger, and pulling them off the little stems the right way, and the taste of the little peas, that I find myself doing that first; then I eat the pod.

-Sugar snap peas taste best when they are not fully mature. When they get big and the pea shapes are defined, they are good for use as edimame. Aha! Now I finally now what that stuff is!

-A pea pod is such perfect packaging. I can't remember if it was Olive or Tree-Hugger or someone else who told me, but they said that God was really good at packaging foods. And it's true. I mean, look at bananas. Look at pea pods. Look at oranges and melons and coconuts. I love pea pods because I can just throw them in a bag and be done with it. Perfect.

I don't especially care for peas--cooked peas, as featured in Geoffrey Hayes' Patrick Eats His Dinner ("little green balls of mushy poison")--but I can say I love sugar snap peas. They are a lovely little vegetable.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tip for Future Fourths

If you go on the roof to watch fireworks, wear some sturdy shoes with good grips. That way you won't be worried about slipping down the roof with your sweaty bare feet.

On the other hand, fireworks are great from the roof, and since they were going off all over the valley I got to watch multiple fireworks shows at a time. I kind of wish I'd brought up my ipod so I could have listened to some great Sousa marches while watching, but that would've been another thing for me to worry about not dropping, so it's probably best I didn't.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Reserved Parking

At my work I park in a parking structure that is shared with other companies. Each establishment has a designated section in which to park. Our parking spots are marked with little plaques on the wall that have our logo on them and say "Reserved: Faculty/Staff."

I generally drive down the second row of cars and park wherever I can, but sometimes the end space is open.

"Hooray!" I say on these ocassions. "They left my spot open for me."

It's really quite convenient, that spot.

Last week, however, as I was returning to my car on one of those days when it was parked in "my" spot, I looked at the little plaque on the wall. It looked exactly like all the other little plaques, except it didn't say "Faculty/Staff" on it. It said "Director of Studies."


No wonder they always left my spot open.

Good thing I take Trax when I can, eh? I may have been booted by now.