Sunday, November 22, 2015

1990's Teen Angst Cat

A touchscreen laptop seems like a great idea. However, when you have a cat who likes to sit on keyboards, the touch screen just increases the potential for chaos.

Within the past several months, Kokusho has developed an irrepressible urge to walk or sit on my laptop keyboard. I try to lower the screen when I leave my laptop unattended, but sometimes I forget, or think she's asleep, or think that in the short time it takes to refill a glass of water, there isn't much she can do. How wrong I am.

The first time I discovered the cat's proclivities, I was working from home, while I was new at my job and felt the need to prove myself not incompetent, working close to a deadline on some document that was near its filing deadline, with a group of attorneys--not just my boss. I had gotten up to refill a glass of water, during which time a group e-mail arrived. I returned to the keyboard to find Kokusho sitting on the keyboard, a reply window open, with all attorneys copied, and a message that read something like "zzzzzzzzxxxx x ffffdssfdlfjklrjirwedsesdfkjf " I carefully removed the cat from the laptop and discarded the draft. Panicked, I opened my "Sent" folder to make sure she hadn't sent a similar message to all of the attorneys for whom I was not yet familiar, to whom I was desperate to prove I was not a nitwit. At that moment--sometime between 2:30 and 3:00--Comcast began its frustrating daily reset.  "Connection lost," said Outlook. The four lights on the router went dark, then began blinking weakly. The next thirty seconds dragged on, feeling like thirty minutes. Finally, the router and Outlook returned to life, and to my relief, Kokusho had merely created nonsensical draft reply-all messages; she had not sent any of these strings of nonsense to the attorneys.

(A tangent - another time when I was working from home, I set out a pot of rice to steam while I edited a brief. Suddenly, a smell like burning hair wafted in from the kitchen. I ran in to find the cat sitting on the kitchen counter, looking content and perfectly healthy. Upon closer examination, however, I realized that the whiskers on one side of her face were much shorter--and singed. She blinked at me like, "What? I don't see a problem!" Her whiskers have grown back--both cat and brief were fine.)

Another incident--the one pictured above--showed me just how much damage a cat can do with a touchscreen. Luckily the damage was reversible. I'd left a PDF of my English Legal History reading assignment open, gotten up from my desk just for a moment, and returned to find the document rotated ninety degrees. Thanks to the touchscreen, Kokusho can rotate PDFs with her butt.

There's also the usual, expected cat+keyboard hijinx--sending Google Hangout and Facebook messages to my classmates. Intermittent strings of random characters punctuate discussions about journal or an upcoming assignment--that's Kokusho's contribution to the conversation.

But the strangest yet was the event that prompted the name of this post.

The program I use to listen to music is Clementine. It's similar to Amarok, which was my preferred program that I used on Linux, but designed for Windows. When I play a song or an album with Clementine, it gets appended to whatever playlist tab I have open. It's like a "now playing," list, but until I close the tab, it just stores whatever I've been listening to since the beginning of time/since I opened the tab weeks or months ago. Another of Clementine's quirks is that when the program re-opens, it opens all of the tabs that were open during the last session. So, I have things like "Work Playlist," "Quiet Focus Music," "Sea Creatures" (a mix of Sea Wolf and Seabear), and a few "Playlist 1" or "Untitled Playlist 2"'s of random stuff I was listening to at work.

Recently, I opened Clementine. My most recent "Untitled" playlist opened, with all of the things I had last selected or played. Or someone last selected or played.  "That's funny," I thought, "I don't remember listening to Pavement recently." I scrolled up to see that every Pavement song on my laptop was on the list. And above that, PJ Harvey. Above that, Tori Amos. Lots of PJ Harvey and Tori Amos. I had no memory of making this playlist. Kokusho!!!!!

And so, not only did Kokusho make a playlist on Clementine, by walking on my keyboard and bumping into the touchscreen, but also, she made a playlist with a theme. My cat made the playlist of an artsy, angsty 90's teenager. My cat has a 1990's teen angst heart.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

10 Things for Thursday

So many draft posts lingering in the drafts folder.  Some are completely written, and waiting for pictures.  Some are completely written, but are excessively wordy and waiting to be edited down.  Some are outlines.  Some are a mix of text, pictures, and outlines, such as my Salad Roll Tutorial that I started after a summer solstice party, to which I brought salad rolls that were such a hit that I felt I should share just how easy it can be to make them.

So, I thought perhaps if I gave myself permission to write up what's going on in the form of short list items, without the pressure of a fully developed and illustrated post, I might actually get some content published and get back into the habit of writing again.

1. Why blog at all in the first place, especially when law school and managing a home and garden makes me so busy?  Because every time I made time to blog while in school, I found that it improved my writing.  I was able to write more clearly and even more quickly for work and school.

2. Which leads to my other blog.  Intermediate Scrutiny is up!  For real!  We have content!  Why write a law blog (I refuse to write "blawg"...that is an unfortunate word that sounds like onomatopoeia for feeling ill) when I have so much actual homework to do, and real work; why give myself more homework?  Because it's good practice researching and writing about legal issues; I'm really enjoying doing legal research and writing on topics I picked myself (although my co-blogger actually picked our first issue), and I bet it will make me a better researcher for my real job after law school.  I think part of our delay in publishing is that we are really concerned about being accurate and precise with our facts, and conscientious with our legal analysis (that last one in particular, I think we're all concerned about, because we're still students and don't feel like we know as much as long-time-practicing (I'm sure there is an actually adjective for that, but I'm writing pre-coffee) attorneys.  But while not many people are writing approachable analysis, accessible to the layperson, of legal issues that affect people's rights, while not many long-time-practicing attorneys are doing it, we may as well.  A podcaster I like always says that if you have something to say, you should podcast--in this case, we are blogging.)  Oh, would you like a link to this blog I keep writing about?  Ok!  Here it is!   It is only a matter of time before I pick up the bad habits I see in so much legal writing, such as starting sentences with conjunctions.  Considering that I see this in Supreme Court opinions, I may be the only former English major bothered by this.

3. Which leads me to the social media thing I'm currently really into--Facebook's "On This Day" feature.  For all the complaining I do about Facebook, I have to give them credit for this.  I love going to my Gmail and doing date searches, to see what I was doing on September 10th on different years.  Today's included a Facebook comment exchange about how I was REALLY MAD at the feminist websites I followed and relied upon for updates about legislation affecting women's rights.  I hated its incomplete presentation of facts and even more incomplete (if present at all) explanation of the legal issues....which are pretty pertinent to things like legislation and judicial opinions.  While I didn't tell anyone at the time (or at least not post it to Facebook), this was when I started to have the idea for Intermediate Scrutiny.  Someone should write a website that presents these same important issues, particularly the ones that mainstream media aren't covering, with a breakdown of the legal background that's accessible for non-law-school-educated readers, with meticulous attention to the facts and coverage of all relevant facts that the writer can track down, with sources properly referenced and with an attempt to exclude their own bias or at least acknowledge it--with the goal not of preaching to the choir, without alienating anyone who might be on the fence, so that readers can make up their own minds and, if they want to do something about one of these issues, have the appropriate understanding of it to act effectively.  The article that apparently pushed me into a Facebook comment was this one.  That surprises me of 2015, because this isn't a terrible article.  What I was so annoyed about on September 10, 2012, was what I saw as an incomplete presentation of facts--did the woman appeal the unemployment decision?  What happened if she did?  (I could have learned this by just clicking the link to the New York Post article referenced by the Jezebel article, which still doesn't tell me everything I want to know about the story, but does clarify that yes, she appealed and won.  But why did she only get compensation for a few months?  I want to know!  And why didn't the Jezebel article mention that?  It's relevant that the state to some extent had her back when her employer flat out lied and said she quit.  If the state went along with that narrative, that seems to tell a different problematic story, one I want to know more about!)

4. Which brings me to my rant of 2015: New Google.  Or Newgle.  Noogle?  Whatever.  I hate it.  The only Google product I know of that has a "Complain to Google" button in the corner is this here Blogger which I am using to write this here blog post, and it takes some restraint, sometimes, not to click that button to make my complaints about unrelated Google issues.  I can't think of any problems I have with Blogger.  There are features I'd like--such as having the Stats broken down by post, rather than just being able to see, "Here are the posts that were popular this week" and "Here are the search terms that brought people here"; rather, being able to see "Here are the search terms that brought people to this specific post" but I digress, and in the middle of a sentence no less!--but for the most part, it's not Blogger that I want to complain about.  It's Google Maps.  It's the loss of Google Reader (I know that's like, a 2011 problem, but I know I'm not the only one who's still griping about this.  There is to date no replacement that is half as good as Google Reader, particularly if you want to read the archives of a blog that has been around for many years--or even more than thirty days).  In general, it's the way Google--going down the path of all computery businesses that Google was supposed to free us from--has become less customizable and more bossy.  The reason I don't like my husband's iPhone is because I feel like Apple thinks they are smarter than I am and are trying to tell me what I want.  Sometimes, yes, entrepreneurs and technology geniuses do know what people want, that they didn't realize they want.  But sometimes I really know what I want.  I used to feel that Google understood this, that it was intuitive, helping me figure out how to do what I want, that it did not try to think for me and boss me around.
     No more do I feel this way.  For example, this morning, when I was trying to search on Google for that September 10, 2012, Jezebel article about women getting fired for being pregnant, I knew that I wanted an article from Jezebel.  But when I searched for "jezebel pregnant woman fired" and change the date range to be September 2012, Google gave me a bunch of results for other websites, with a little note under each search result showing me "Missing: jezebel".  Every single search result had "jezebel" crossed out.  That was the main search term I was looking for.  THAT WAS THE ONE THING I WANTED, GOOGLE.  WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO DICTATE WHAT I WANT?
     Luckily, I know some advanced search functions and was able to revise my search to " pregnant woman fired" and get what I wanted.  But why do I have to do this?  I feel like Old Google would not have done that to me.

5. Back to what Facebook told me happened On This Day.  It's the two-year adoption anniversary of our cat, Kokusho!  Two years ago the little black cat who found her way from a parking lot into the hearts of someone allergic to cats, found her way into our home and hearts.  She immediately went into heat, before we could get her fixed, and kept us up all night meowing and crying and throwing herself at the back window where I guess there was a male stray cat lurking around.  It was the week my first (ungraded) legal writing assignment was due, and I was sleep-deprived and a little stressed out.  Here is a picture of her then:

and now:

It's not always easy to photograph a black cat.

One day I will take a video proving that she knows commands like "sit."

6. Also On This Day, five years ago, I wrote about going to Broder.  Broder is a Swedish restaurant in Portland, and it was one of my favorite Portland restaurants.  Around Labor Day 2010, they started serving dinner, on a sort of experimental basis with paper menus written the day of.  It was charming.  I've been having a lot of nostalgia for 2010 Portland lately, the year I became close with one of my best friends and the year I met my now-husband, a period in which I had a lot of free time to explore the city, go out with my friends, read, write, try new recipes, and secretly fret about having no purpose in life.  Now I have the latter and feel nostalgic for the rest.

7. I also keep thinking about September of eight years ago, when my purpose seemed to be continuing my study of botany, getting a PhD, and becoming a researcher and professor.  I've been doing a lot of useless "what if?" thinking.  There's really nothing useful to say about this.  Just that I've been daydreaming about places and people from the past.  I wish I could have a dream picnic where my friends from all of the places I've lived were in attendance, as well as my friend in Germany and her family, and everyone could make friends and play board games and ladder golf and it would be a potluck, it would be sunny and not humid, there would be no mosquitoes, we'd have a fire pit when it got dark out, and I wouldn't feel sleepy at 10:30 and be able to stay up waaaaaay past my bedtime.

8. I'll save most of this for the law blog--I don't write much about school or work because I want to keep my work reputation separate from anything silly I write here (like that time I thought a stranger going through the recycling was my now-husband and called him "Handsome Man"), and because there's a danger, when I get talking about such things, that I will drift...nay, plunge rapidly, into a loud, all-caps, table-overturning rant about something controversial.  That's not what people come here for.  People who come here at all come here for the bad stick figure drawings (those need to come back) of my dumb adventures (why isn't there a stick figure account of the time I thought the trash-sorting guy was my boyfriend?), accounts of my dumb adventures (see: man looking for returnables not my husband), pictures of cats and flowers and vacations, and rambles about cooking, crafts, and gardening. We don't need to talk about legal personhood or sad current events here.
      What I wanted to announce (blog-official!) was that I currently feel very committed--botany-nostalgia notwithstanding--to a career in civil rights and constitutional law.  I've spent my summer and part of this school year doing just that, and I don't want to give it up for something easier or more practical.  I really love it.  It makes me so happy, as happy as I was leading garden tours, doing herbarium research, or conducting research to track people down at my first law office job.  A year ago, this was what I wanted to do, but wasn't sure if it was a realistic dream.  But the only way to make it a realistic dream is to invest in it, so I'm fully invested (but not letting go of other issues that I think connect to people's rights and things that are important to me, such as consumer protection and land use.  In my dreams I will do what I am doing now plus things like fair housing and environmental justice work.)

9.  On a lighter note--banh mi!  I learned how to make it, and all components of it from scratch, and Handsome Man and I have been eating banh mi almost every day.  This deserves its own post.

10.  Along with the partially-drafted salad roll tutorial post and a partially-drafted post about buying new herbs for the garden at the Asian market between my house and my office.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

End of May Catch-Up

I started a post last weekend (or possibly the weekend before) that was called "Weekend Catch Up."  I thought, if I don't have a specific, focused topic, I'll just write about a few things that are happening and an update on some of my creative projects and maybe it will be boring, who cares, just write and and actual catch-up on what's going on.  A few weeks ago, I started something.  But like so many posts on this blog, it never really got finished.  The following will be a collection of those fragments

Monarda hybrida 'Lambada' started from seed this year; Asclepias tuberosa 'Hello Yellow' in the background

From the draft post - some thoughts about projects and law school and time management and life:

Now that the school year is over, I should be able to catch up on some projects.  What will most likely happen instead, what always happens, is that I jump into every project I've been wanting to work on for the last ten months, and then get overwhelmed, and then choose just a few to focus on.  Maybe I'll come up with a better organizational and prioritizing system, as one of my first projects, and avoid the usual chaos.

Plus, I no longer have that feeling like the next ten weeks are MY LAST CHANCE to work on projects for awhile.  First, projects got put off because I was studying for the LSAT.  Then applying to law school.  Then packing up my life and planning to move across the country for law school.  Then 1L year, supposedly the hardest.  Whoops, actually 2L year is busier.  Well, it sounds like even if I pile on extra coursework and volunteer work and academic projects, 3L year still won't be as bad as 2L year.  People talk about "having weekends" during 3L year.  So, I don't have that rushed feeling, that this summer is MY LAST CHANCE to do all the things I want to do.  Now I have the rest of my life...unless I decide to get another degree.  (No.  Do not let me.)

This is still true.  Part of what influenced that, I think, was that I hadn't started (okay, hadn't found) a summer position yet, and while I am very good at filling my time productively and I think I have above average time management skills, I was starting to get a little stir crazy being home all day.  While I am good at working from home and making my own schedule, I have learned that I do best with at least a little bit of structure.  I will be working from home today, incidentally, and am thrilled to have that balance of sometimes working from home but also having a flexible schedule and an office to go to.  (I also have an aversion to writing about my current work or school on my blog, always have, except in vague terms or code.  Some people can do it; it's not my style, and I'm not going to try anymore!)

The projects catch-up I started then is slightly out of date.  I was working on a secret baby project, which is now finished (but still not given to the parents; I'm afraid of it getting lost in the mail, and may try to either deliver it in person or give it to my parents if/when they come to visit.)  I had written:  I would love to work on something for myself.  I'll write a longer post about that sometime.  The second half of 2L year became a time when I could only handle easy knitting projects, because so much of my capacity to think was being directed toward other projects, and now I'd like to get my brain working on some lace or something.  Oh, every once in awhile I work on a rag rug, too, made of unwearable garments torn into strips.  It's been over a week since I finished that baby project, and I have made very little progress toward working on something for myself.  [Here is where I will deviate into territory that only my knitting readers will find interesting.  Non-knitters, scroll down.]  My summer goal is to work on the things I've been putting off, but wanted to do.  Things that will make me happy and also not involve buying anything new (other than needles/tools), things that I already own the yarn and pattern for and have had on my queue and been dreaming about making.  In 2013, I went to the Rose City Yarn Crawl and, because I was having a really shitty February, I treated myself to a lot of potential projects.  It is now 2015, and I am making slow progress on even starting those projects, but the yarn for each is in its own Ziploc bag that is LABELED with the pattern.  (Yes, I occasionally tell myself I'm allowed to change my mind and use it for something else.)  I think I've only completed two of my RCYC13 projects, both of them shawlettes.  If you are curious, here is one shawlette and another shawlette.  I was wrong, I actually completed a cardigan from my yarn crawl haul shortly after the crawl - it's here (don't mind the awkward pose - it was to show the sleeve detail but still fit in the frame.)
From my two-week old draft:
I have some sewing projects in mind, particularly a carrying case for my tiffin made out of old pant legs (but somehow in a way that it looks chic, and NOT like it is made out of pants) and lined with insulating fabric that I got months ago.  There are some embroidered gifts I'd like to make as well.  No progress on this yet, but I do have an office to which I can carry that tiffin.  Although I'm not taking MARTA, so the carrying case isn't necessary - just the insulated part (because the fridge in the office is currently not working.)

Sunset over Scottdale after a stormy day

Next, I started a Kitchen Projects update, but it became clear that this would become a long post.  The shorter version is that I have rediscovered a series of cookbooks that I really loved in college, about ten years ago.  In college, I was really interested in ethnic food, in going to restaurants to try new things and in learning to make things, both to replicate something from a restaurant and to make something I could only try by making at home.  It's funny how much has changed in ten years; things that weren't available at stores or restaurants then are much more common now.  If I was staying with my parents for a summer, it was much easier to find a cookbook and try to teach myself to make Vietnamese food than to go get it at a restaurant, because the Vietnamese restaurants were a long drive away.
But the cookbooks and even recipe websites (because there weren't even as many food blogs!) weren't very helpful.  It was my impression that they were giving instructions on how to make complicated stuff you would get at a restaurant, not just a regular Thai dish someone could make on a weeknight.  If I got an interesting ingredient at a grocery store, such as tamarind paste or galangal root, and tried to Google what to do with it, instead of finding simple preparation or ideas or just "tamarind goes well with ____", I was finding crazy complicated recipes that sometimes involved buying more things that were hard to find in rural Sussex County, or my least favorite--recipes nested within recipes.  Where one of the steps incorporates by reference a recipe and it's not a simple one like a five-ingredient hot sauce--no, it's some complicated thing that might involve overnight steeping or weeks of fermentation.
I'm so happy with the way things are now.  When I had a surplus of galangal (I bought large amount that was 50% off) two weeks ago, Google, as well as common sense, told me that I could just make a simple syrup out of it, which would go well with fruit and ice cream and soda water and cake.  If I were unfamiliar with how to use, say, tamarind, the Internet would now tell me that you can just use it in place of lemon or lime as a twist on a recipe.  Try it in a vinaigrette!  Try it in a smoothie!  Try adding it to a barbecue marinade!
But ten years ago, when it was not so easy, what came to my rescue were the books of Eng Tie Ang.  Sadly, they are out of print.  Ms. Ang wrote the Delightful Cookbooks series; I owned Delightful Thai Cooking and Delightful Brazilian Cooking in college, and at some point in Portland I found Delightful Tofu Cooking for practically nothing at Powell's.  I just completed the collection by getting Delightful Vietnamese Cooking and Delightful Chinese Cooking with Amazon rewards points.  The purpose of these books, which are about twenty years old, was to provide people with what someone in Thailand or Vietnam or China or Brazil would make on a normal day.  Some recipes are more complicated, weekend fare, but many recipes in the book are simple things one can throw together on a weeknight after work and school.  The recipes were designed to be somewhat healthy--with oil content cut down to what was necessary, not crazy restaurant levels.  (Although I did just make a recipe over the weekend that included deep-frying tapioca-flour-battered pieces of beef.  I had never deep fried anything before that!  A new kitchen world has opened up for me--although this may not be a good thing!)  They were also written based on what ingredients people could actually find either in a Western supermarket or mail order.  So one thing I noticed was that all of the recipes using galangal call for dried, powdered galangal.  Since the market I go to only sells fresh galangal, I've had to adapt the recipes a little bit!
I'm not sure what made me pull the book off the shelf and start looking at it again, but once I did, I found myself bookmarking many recipes to try.  As a result, we have eaten homemade Thai food at least three times a week since classes ended (because even with finals studying, I do projects like this to unwind--a thing I like about the finals period is having lots of flexible time and scheduling myself the way I want to), because I like trying these recipes and because my husband is still saying that he doesn't think he'll ever get tired of Thai food.
Since everyone I have told about these cookbooks seems interested in it, I will post later about what we've actually made, but that's a post for another time.  Tonight we are having green curry with shrimp for dinner.  A surplus of cilantro led to me making green curry paste last week, and we found Alabama shrimp (yes, semi-local seafood) at our local market for $4.99 a pound!!!!!  $4.99 a pound!!!!!
In other kitchen projects, I started some experiments with honeysuckle blossoms (inspired by the existence of Cathead honseysuckle vodka, mostly, a bunch of honeysuckle vines along the backyard fence) and I learned to make tortillas from scratch.  This was to make the breakfast tacos from Heidi Swanson's Healthy Breakfast Ideas, which were trending (was trending?) about a month ago.  Those breakfast tacos were how I got through the last part of final exams and seven days of Trial Techniques class.  When I have an update on the honeysuckle experiments, I'll post something, and if I can find a way for it to be not boring, I'll post about making tortillas.

The last thing I wrote about in my May catch-up was about the Myers-Briggs test.  I will save that for another time.

Another picture of the same stormy Scottdale sunset.

P.S. This was posted on May 31, but was written a few days earlier.  The delay was in remembering to upload some pictures. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Clafoutis Made Vegan, The Actual Recipe

One of the most common ways that people come across this blog is by searching for vegan clafoutis recipes.  Unfortunately, the four-year-old post that Google takes them to, Clafoutis Made Vegan, describes how I changed a family recipe, without including the actual recipe.  The actual recipe--not vegan--is one post earlier, as an example illustrating my Thoughts on French Cuisine.  The recipe is missing important details.  My mother provided those details in the comments.  To help out those Googlers, to save you the trouble of having to combine the text of two blog posts and some blog comments, here's my family clafoutis recipe, the original, and my vegan-ized family clafoutis recipe.

NOTE: This is not the vegan recipe.  This is the regular one, updated to include important information for some reason left out of the family recipe.  For the vegan version, scroll down past the picture of an unbaked clafoutis.

2-3 EGGS
a pinch of salt

MIX AND ADD FRUIT.  Fruit can be sour cherries (also known as "pie cherries," and purists insist you DO NOT pit the cherries), sliced pears, bananas, strawberries, or pretty much any fruit you want.)  This recipe does not tell you how much fruit to use, and for that I apologize.  As my Thoughts on French Cuisine have shown, my French family recipes are vague on important details.
COOK IN A PIE PLATE AT I don't have that. oops. 450F for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 325F and continue baking for 45min-1hour, or when cooked.  Again, this is vague, but I have provided a picture of the clafoutis cooked and uncooked, which might help.

Uncooked clafoutis.  Perhaps this will give you an idea of how much fruit to use?

Picture of cooked clafoutis goes here.

Now, the vegan version.  You only need to replace the eggs and milk.  Soy milk might have too strong of a flavor.  Almond milk is ideal, in my opinion, because almonds and cherries are closely related taxonomically and their flavors complement each other.  If you try this with soy milk or other non-dairy milk, please share the results in the comments--I'd love to know how it worked out!

CLAFOUTI-MIMA's Made Vegan by Sarah

2-3 FLAX SEED EGG REPLACEMENTS (see recipe below)
a pinch of salt

Recipe for 2-3 Flax Seed Egg Replacements
2-3 tbsp of flax seed meal (or flax seeds, freshly ground.)
6-9 tbsp of water

Put the flax seeds in a bowl.  Slowly add the water and beat it into the flax seed meal.  Keep whisking until the mixture gets gelatinous and starts to resemble egg whites.  See (3:1 ratio of water and flax seed meal--whisked until it gets a gelatinous texture, like egg whites.  See The Post Punk Kitchen for clearer instructions.

Vegan Clafoutis Directions
Mix all ingredients, and then add fruit of your choice.  Fruit can be sour cherries (also known as "pie cherries," and purists insist you DO NOT pit the cherries), sliced pears, bananas, strawberries, or pretty much any fruit you want.)  This recipe does not tell you how much fruit to use, and for that I apologize.  As my Thoughts on French Cuisine have shown, my French family recipes are vague on important details.
COOK IN A PIE PLATE AT I don't have that. oops. 450F for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 325F and continue baking for 45min-1hour, or when cooked.  Veganizing does not change the baking instructions for this recipe.

To Make Gluten Free
Clafoutis is not like bread.  It's a pancake-like batter poured over fruit.  I have never made it gluten-free, but I imagine it would be easy, that most gluten-free flours would work.  Almond flour would certainly complement the cherries.  Teff flour would be lovely with peaches or fall fruits, and I imagine buckwheat flour, with the right fruits, would be nice, too.  I'll update this if and when I actually bake a gluten-free clafoutis.

This is what a vegan clafoutis looks like when it is baked.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Garden Crazy

At this time of year, my garden occupies a large part of my mind.  I always want to spend more time in it than I am able to, and I wonder if I would ever get tired of being out there.
I hope that this summer, by June or so, I will be able to spend less time out being in the garden just because I feel like I have to.  I hope that the work of last summer and fall and this spring will have laid some kind of foundation, that that was high startup energy that will result in just maintenance work and optional projects for the rest of the summer.  Last summer, my husband and I turned most of front lawn into plantable space.  He built three raised beds, we built a hugelkultur-style bed (experiment), and the two of us spent a great deal of time digging up the weeds and grass on the front hill so that it could instead be planted with flowers.  This was because I wanted more space to grow things from my endless garden wish list, and because both my husband and landlord (that's right, we are doing all this work and change to a rental) opined that mowing the lawn on a hill sucks.
By the end of last summer, we had a (zany) colorful paradise of sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, one very aggressive yellow summer squash plant, and a few perennials concentrated in areas like the space around the front walk and a little border garden by the front of the house, under some hedges.  Nearly everything that was on the hills died out with the first frost, leaving our hills totally bare, susceptible to erosion, weeds, and repopulation by the lawn.  In the fall (and into the winter and almost spring, it took us so long) we mulched that hill with oak leaves shredded by our lawnmower.
Spring returned, and while our neighbors had daffodils and azaleas blooming, we had a lot of bare, golden-brown leaf-mulched hill.  And with heavy rains and wind of Atlanta springtime, leaves and mud washed down the hill and away, revealing dirt and making room for weeds.  Something had to be done.
So, this summer's project, in addition to trying to grow some vegetables in the raised beds and continuing to turn our deep shade backyard into a "woodland garden," is to get some attractive things with sturdy roots onto that hill.  I want to cover the hill with things that are beautiful and strong--plants whose roots will keep the hill from washing away; perennials to hold onto that hill all winter and return, bigger and stronger, next spring; annuals to fill in the gaps; flowers to attract pollinators and beneficial insects that will defend the vegetable garden; plants that are tough enough to live on a hill of rocky, red, clay-y, nutrient poor Atlanta soil; color to make passersby happy; and habitat to support wildlife.  I have planted (actually transplanted as well as encouraged the spread of) wild clover both for its roots' adaptability to poor soil and its nitrogen-fixing qualities, to help make the soil better for next year's plants.  I have planted a buckwheat cover crop which will theoretically do the same thing, but I've never planted it before so I don't really know what I'm doing.  It has nice white flowers, though!  I have planted flowers and herbs and even vegetables on the hill; I am testing to see what survives despite the odds.  I am happy to see that the leaf mulch has attracted worms to help aerate and fertilize the soil.  I am happy that when I dig a hole to plant something new on the hill, the first several inches of soil are brown, not red, which makes me think that even in just one season, a period of less than a full year, our work has managed to improve the soil.  Even though it is a rental, I want to leave this place neater than I found it (even when you drop out at the Brownie level, this Girl Scout lesson remains embedded in your mind).  I want to leave the soil healthier and the little outdoor space over which we have control a healthier place for wildlife and people.
Perhaps most of all, what I enjoy about my garden is hearing neighbors and strangers (because people driving through our neighborhood, sightseeing, often stop their cars to talk to me in my garden) say that seeing our garden makes them happy.  It makes me happy, but it was an unexpected reward to learn that it makes others happy, too.

Buckwheat cover crop with white flowers.

Butterfly weed aka Asclepias tuberosa, started from seed last year.  It died back completely, as did a happy yellow cultivar Asclepias in another part of the garden.  It died back to the point that there was no trace of these plants aboveground, and having never grown Asclepias before, I didn't know if they were coming back.  I was pleasantly surprised to see them return bigger than ever.  This one looks like it's getting ready to flower.  It will have orange flowers and attract monarch caterpillars and butterflies.
 One side of the front hill, with a few perennials and a lot of seeds planted.
 The other side of the front hill.  Last summer, my husband built a stone staircase and an arbor (on top of the hill, on the left, partially in the picture).  At the top of the staircase, on the right, is a lavender plant that overwintered successfully.

More pictures and specific plants planted will be in a follow-up post at some point this spring/summer.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mid-2000's Blog Nostalgia

     Hello again, after yet another long hiatus.
     I have spent the last couple of weeks reading all of the archives of this blog. This was one of my procrastination projects (the thing you do when you just don't feel mentally ready to study for finals, when your brain shuts down the second you look at words like "hearsay" or "market definition.") The reason I read every single post on this blog from 2005 to 2014 was to make sure there was nothing objectionable or overly embarrassing on here, things I wouldn't want legal employers to read. For example, when I dreamt only of being a botanist and imagined that therefore, no one would care what I had to say on the Internet (unless it was climate change denying or that I spray glyphosate on windy days), I became very angry at one of my state representatives for his stance on marriage equality, and I wrote something rude about it on this here blog. (It's depublished now.) It was not well-reasoned or well-written, no legal argument, just rude words. A law school friend told me that the presence of this post on the Internet would not hurt me, that employers might admire my early passion for the law, but I think that would only be the case if I had made an argument and also not used rude words. So, that was hastily de-published.
     Another sort of thing I edited (so much for authenticity) and de-published were the multitude of mentions of my dating and drinking life. I kept thinking, "Why did Sarah of the mid-to-late-2000's write this?" First of all, it was no one's business. Second, it was worse than the truth! It was hyperbolic--I wasn't some lush stumbling around day drinking and tripping and laughing about it. Why was I writing these exaggerated accounts that made me look ridiculous and imprudent?
Because I was going through my chick lit phase! The blog originally started as practice for writing a semi-autobiographical semi-fictional account of early 20's life, sort of like the chick lit I read at the time, but with also a literary bent and penetrating satire like maybe I could also be a modern-day George Eliot or Jane Austen (if Maggie Tulliver had access to jello shots???? Jane Eyre on OKCupid?????) and as a result, this was the life material from which I was drawing, and it also made sense to exaggerate it for comedic effect. I was making fun of myself, and I had different concerns then.
     I left up quite a few silly posts, such as the The Dollar Word Chronicles and the time I accidentally flirted with a homeless man that I thought was my now-husband. (In my defense, he was in front of my at-the-time boyfriend's house and they had the same jacket! In my non-defense, he was going through the recycling. Well, there, now you know the whole story.)  And as much as they embarrass me now, I didn't de-publish some of the unfunny, non-narrative stuff I wrote over the years about feelings.  Whenever I was changing jobs or moving, these sorts of things would come up.  Even though they give me a bit of a shame hangover, I left them up.  Ditto for things I wrote where I can see I was trying to be funny, but now I read them and think, "What a lame person."  Other things like that, things that show my faults, but not any particular imprudence or poor decision-making.  These things I left in place, because at some point it occurred to me that I'm probably among my harsher critics.  These things that I see and think, "What a loser," might be the things that my friends see and think, these are the flaws and quirks that make this person relatable and likeable.
      This whole process felt, at times, like too much navel-gazing.  It was weirdly self-absorbed.  On the bright side, I think it helped me write some cover letters!  Remembering things like, that's right, I was always interested in ______My concern for (____ social issue) goes back a long way!  Another benefit was getting reminded of recipes I meant to try and never did as well as recipes I made years ago, loved, and forgot about (why don't I make mujadara anymore?); interesting articles that were still interesting upon rereading; and blogs I used to follow and love and stopped following with both the death of Google Reader and my law school-era switch from blogs to podcasts.
     A side note on that: at some point, probably in 2013, I stopped reading so many blogs, just completely fell behind on the blogs I'd been following some of them since college, and began listening to podcasts the way I used to read blogs.  It started because I could listen to them when I went running or walking, and then I liked them so much, the same way I liked blogs, that I began finding ways to listen to them whenever I could, like while doing chores.  At some point I realized that podcasts had completely replaced blogs in my life, and at least in the first year of law school (when even the best time managers are faced with an overwhelming time management challenge) this was just because I had less time to read blogs, or so I thought--any sitting time where I could read would be for textbooks--leaving only the time where I was doing things I must do (such as walk to class) and could not possibly read a textbook, that was the time I had for podcasts.
     One of the results of this project is that I have resolved to once again make time for blogs, my favorite kind--the literary, narrative kind, the ones with stories--and to do what I always intended to do which is go way back to the very beginning of their archives and read from start to finish!  Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook in the mornings, this is what I will do!  I started today!  Would you like to know what I am reading?  Vespa Vagabond, Remember (a blog that was something else, like Domestic PDX, when I first started reading), and Orangette (a food blog, but one that tells stories.  I listen to the Spilled Milk podcast every week, and now it's time to start reading her blog again.)
     Why was I doing this?  Why did I embark on this long introspective project?  Because with two other law students, I've started a constitutional law blog.  Well, "started" is open to interpretation.  We have had a name picked out for over a year.   It came to me one day, a flash of inspiration in the first row of Classroom 1E while my Constitutional Law professor was lecturing.  I think it may have been one of the two days I said anything in class, the day I for some reason asked a statement-question as to why we have intermediate scrutiny (when in my opinion, it's subject to stereotypes being dressed up as "scientific facts of biological differences") or strict scrutiny or any scrutiny, why not equality all around, blah blah blah blah blah rant rant rant with an insincere question mark at the end?  The gender and law blog I'd had in mind for quite some time, something that would address the same issues as the feminist blogs I used to love and stopped loving, but in a different (and let's face it, possibly boring) way.  In my dream, this blog would present the facts, just the facts, or any facts that were unclear but with a statement that they were unclear, and then the law behind whatever was happening (instead of leaving it at, "this law sucks, these legislators want to control my uterus," some background in constitutional law and whatever else was applicable, explaining why and how this law was being proposed, and if it's unconstitutional, why it is, not just that it sucks because men don't have uteruses and there are too many white males in charge of us, their misogyny a rebuttable presumption but a presumption nonetheless, and also, religious people, their intolerance a rebuttable presumption but a presumption nonetheless.)  (That parenthetical is possibly more opinionated than I expect the blog to be.  But we'll see; I think my opinions will come out despite my best efforts.  I just hope to present them in a tolerant and open-minded way.)   The idea is to provide readers with information, not just opinion, and enough information to make up their own mind, not just fill them with righteous indignation.  This will give them the tools to, if they wish, do something about the issue.  I hoped to get behind the issues, to scrutinize them.  Since I intended to focus on gender issues, the name for this blog would be the standard of scrutiny applied to gender discrimination in constitutional law.  The name for this blog is Intermediate Scrutiny.
     (Another side note:  As this blog materializes, we may not be entirely limited to the application of constitutional law to gender issues.  There are three writers, and all three of us are interested in a multitude of constitutional and legal issues.  Sometimes, a narrow focus is better than being all over the place, but at this point, I don't see a reason to limit ourselves.)
     Shortly after, I excitedly announced my plans to a classmate with whom I often discussed constitutional law.  At some point, it was agreed upon that we would do this project together.  We talked about it on and off for an entire year.  It never materialized.  We were too busy!  Then one day this spring, in a different constitutional law class, I decided NOW IS THE TIME.  WE ARE MAKING THAT BLOG.  It will stop being just an idea.  It needs to be real RIGHT NOW.
     At this point, there were only two writers.  We resolved that we would tell our favorite professors, but that we would also wait until after we had some actual content on the blog.  We both broke that resolution, I believe the same afternoon that we made it.  Now that we had told our professors, we were locked in.  We had to follow through.  I set up a Blogger account.  I set up a Gmail account.  We drafted some posts.  Finally, this weekend, my husband designed our masthead and layout, and I threw up a temporary "Coming soon, we have finals" post.  The third writer joined us this weekend, too.
     Since Google no longer shows me posting as "botanylicious," but as Sarah Kelsey, and since we told our professors and others about Intermediate Scrutiny, it occurred to me that my personal blog would be linked to this account, all the dumb stuff I wrote in college and beyond linked for all my law school world to see.  That is why I went through the entries on this blog.  It seemed more likely now that someone might actually find this blog and the more imprudent posts, and not only did I not want that affecting my reputation, but I also didn't want that affecting the reputation or credibility of our new blog project!
     (It really wasn't that scandalous.  It can mostly be summed up as, "Omg, I'm 21, my friends and I went to a bar!  Someone said something silly and someone else tripped! HAHAHAHAHAHA!  Everything is funny and fun!  Someone spilled a drink!  HAHAHAHA!  There was a dog at the bar!  What was he doing there? HAHAHAHAHA!" and that little diversion where I got angry at a state representative.  Since these posts weren't even that funny, I took a "better safe than sorry" approach to de-publishing.)
     Another realization that came out of this project, in addition to how much I like reading narrative blogs, was how much I sometimes liked writing one.  There are a few golden periods in the archives, in 2010 and 2011 and a little of 2012, and many of my best posts were written while I was also overwhelmed with graduate school (not law school, an unfinished MPA program) and balancing graduate school with work and adult life.  The point is, I was busy then, too, but I made time to write, and at some point I observed that it was making me a better writer of things I had to write.  Writing "for myself," as some people call it, made writing for others easier.  I spent less time staring at blank screens while writing for school or work.  It was easier to get started, easier to find the words I needed, and easier to convey complicated ideas clearly.  What may have seemed like a self-indulgent hobby had some productive value.  So maybe I should try it again.
     I jotted down a few ideas, before starting this post (okay, okay, it was an outline), but this post has gotten long enough.  Plus, I have to study for my Evidence final.  They were "people might want to know what podcasts, so list them," "law school thoughts--the inevitable 'should I really be here?' crisis and its resolution (answer: yes)", and "green mango and green papaya."  The latter is about, along with this mid-2000's blog nostalgia, rediscovering my mid-2000's cookbook collection.  I've started making things out of an out-of-print cookbook series I discovered in college, Delightful Cookbooks by Eng Tie Ang.  If you can find cheap copies of these on Amazon, I highly recommend it, but that's a post for another time.  I won't promise "more on that later," because as I learned from reading ten years' worth of my own blogging, most of the time when I make that promise, the "more later" never materializes.  I will tell you about my first foray into cooking with green papaya and green mango later...I hope.
     And please check out our new blog, Intermediate Scrutiny!  You don't have to like con law to like it!  If you have a suggested topic for us, please send us an e-mail, or if there is a topic that you'd like us to illuminate (why is ___ constitutional issue the way it is?), e-mail us about that too!  Although we do have some ideas for post topics, I'd love to get ideas from readers as to what they really want to hear about.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Back again. And I made caviar.

It has been so long since I have written, that I get stuck trying to write a new post, torn between the kind of thing I'd write if I was writing regularly (a detailed account of a small thing in my life at the moment, or a small thing I'm remembering and think is interesting), and some kind of grand feelings-filled catch-up. A few days ago, I tried to write some kind of hybrid. It was terrible, a failure, and unfinished. I didn't want it to take up any more of my life, to finish it and then edit it, and I wanted to do some things off of the computer. It was some kind of summary of feelings and things having to do with just finishing a very busy and stressful semester (fortunately one person warned me about the first half of 2L year, that it can be more work that 1L year and that's all I'll say on that topic for now) and with a very veiled reference to current events in America, what sort of little things are making me happy. I meant to say, "For example, turkey stock!" It became a long story, with multiple nested stories, about this particular turkey, why I'm talking about a Thanksgiving weekend tradition now (we froze the turkey), how we once brought a frozen turkey carcass home to Portland from Hawaii to make stock with it, and all of the details of what we did this Thanksgiving weekend.

It might not have been a bad post, but as the first post in months, and possibly the only post for another several month!? Who is going to come here to read about turkey stock!?

And it was all to make the point that I like waking up on the morning that the turkey is still in the crock pot, and the stock is ready, and filling a mug not with coffee or tea but with turkey stock, and drinking a mug of it, sometimes two, and before starting the work that's weighing on my mind; before contemplating current events that make me sad, I have a brief moment to enjoy something small and nice in my life.

My technique to preserve sanity right now is to focus on small things and moments like that, sort of like looking at a photograph for awhile, and not contemplating what is outside of the frame, except for a memory of something similar to what is in the photograph. What a lovely cup of coffee I am drinking! And this mug, it was given to me by a dear friend. Remember that time dear friend and I had coffee together? rather than, What a lovely cup of coffee! I'm so glad it's fair trade! I hope it's fair trade, anyway. Remember the story that professor told about every drop of coffee representing a drop of peasants' blood?! My, the world is so horrible! Unfair labor practices! Environmental destruction!

Well, I can't do it--the latter. I need to take breaks, breaks that are breaks. Thinking only about the happy things in my small world, ignoring for a moment the ways in which I benefit from some injustice elsewhere, doesn't mean I don't care, that I'm ignoring it, that I'm going to forget why I went to law school in the first place (and government school before that) (and botany school before that even). I just need some calm time and space.

This is why I get so darn mad about Facebook. I wouldn't be active on Facebook at all if I hadn't moved around so much in my twenties. It's the fastest way to stay in touch with people, to see the content they want to share. My study break is seeing the new pictures my friends posted of their families, and exchanging some words with them. But this is not easy to do! I've managed to screen out what was distracting me a year ago--all the clickbait, all the news and "news" and random poorly written blog post rants. I managed to filter a lot of the sources out of my feed and just get better at recognizing them so that I didn't click on them anymore and get annoyed and distracted and waste time that I could be (as I wrote a few posts ago) reading Little Dorrit or knitting a sweater. Or doing my homework.

The first thing I did was start using Instagram instead, to share picture updates with my friends and family. Pictures of the garden, pictures of the cats, pictures of food we made, pictures of sunsets in Scottdale. (and that's pretty much my whole Instagram feed.) I'd share to Facebook from Instagram. But even then, if I wanted to respond to comments, I still have to go on Facebook and I can't find a way to get rid of that awful "Trending" tab. It's always got some bad, violent news headline! I'm not going on Facebook to consider societal problems! I want fifteen minutes to NOT think about them. I really don't want to hear about recent grisly murders! There's nothing I can do about them! Maybe I'm not that good at compartmentalizing, because seeing a headline can ruin my mood for awhile; it stays on my mind.

So, now when I want to share a moment or story with my friends and family far away, I've started to think, "But is it really worth signing onto Facebook?"

It's not.

A few days ago, I posted the following picture to Instagram:

And here's a link to it on Instagram, should you wish to see it there.

Between various forms of social media and some Googling, I tried to figure out what I was going to do with these salmon eggs. I made caviar at 5am today, and I wanted to share this information!

But was it worth going on Facebook?


And so, My Caviar Adventure. It was after I got home from the supermarket that I discovered that I had not purchased a container of salmon eggs, but rather a "skein" of them, and that before I could do anything, I had to separate the eggs from the "skein."

Something woke me up at 3:00 this morning, and at 4:30 I decided to just start my day. I made my husband's lunch, and at 5:00 thought, "Why not try to make that caviar now?"

The technique I used to separate the eggs from the skein was to put a cooling rack over a bowl and run the skeins across the wide mesh of the cooling rack, so that the eggs would fall into the bowl. "You'll break a few eggs this way," said the Internet. "You should remove all the little bits of membrane," said the Internet. Well, Internet, I broke most of the eggs, and how do I remove all those tiny bits of membrane? I don't see how I can without breaking EVERY egg!

I rinsed them with cold water, and then brined them in heavily salted water for about half an hour. I rinsed them again, hoping that would get the membrane off, and put the resulting caviar in a jar. At one point, I did take a picture of the brined eggs in the mesh strainer, a beautiful pink color, reflecting the light of the range hood like little gems.

Perhaps you can already tell from the picture what I am about to say--after all that effort, a fish-egg covered cooling rack, and all but two of my mixing bowls used and dirty--I have made about a tablespoon of caviar.

A dollar well spent!