Category Archives: Random Reflections

Getting tired of “it”

I read the paper, old school I know. But Seattle is one of the few places that has an old-school, independent, local newspaper, which makes it worthwhile on several levels, and I like to do the crosswords on paper.

A local columnist named Danny Westneat wrote early this week about how we might be done with covid, but it isn’t done with us. He said we blew it by not getting enough people vaccinated quickly enough. I had a strong reaction to that:

WE didn’t blow it. A bunch of jerks did.

Continue reading Getting tired of “it”

Swiss Army knife?

I carry a Swiss Army Knife. I always check a bag so I can have it with me when I am traveling. The one above is kind of grotty from living at the bottom of my bag.

I use the knife blades to slice open that ridiculously tough plastic packaging that almost every thing comes in, or as a letter opener, or (after washing) to cut cheese, fruit and other snacks. My second most common use is as a can or bottle opener. Followed by the screw driver…then the corkscrew. Sometimes the tweezers come in handy.

One does not use a semi-automatic machine gun to open a letter, slice an apple, open a can, tighten a screw , uncork a wine bottle, or take out a splinter. Most importantly: No one has ever shot up an elementary school with a Swiss army knife. To compare an AR-15 to a Swiss army knife is a false equivalence.

The federal judge who made that statement is both irresponsible and dangerously wrong.

This is the second time this week that a ridiculous false equivalence about guns has crossed my path. The first was in the comments of a thoughtful post by Fandango: Second Amendment Thoughts.

That one bothered me even more: the person compared owning a gun, favoring the AR-15, to having a smoke detector. Excuse me?

The same person said that more people are killed with knives than rifles. I looked it up. If you are talking about gun homicides, the number was 10, 372 of 15,318 homicides total in 2016, the year that Breitbart’s bad faith narrative is based on. A far cry from the 374 deaths stated to be from rifles that year. It needs to be noted that, in many cases, the type of gun is not specified in police reports so the 374 number is not accurate. That year the number of deaths from knives was 1500 or so (10% of the firearm homicides). Fact check by Snopes. The beloved AR-15 is sometimes counted as a rifle, but not always, it is often classed as a pistol. The harping on this incomplete data is a bad faith, diversionary tactic.

The ridiculous analogies and harping on a single incomplete data point are a deliberate deflection from the serious discussion that needs to occur about firearms. People who do this are manipulative, evil and immoral. You cannot trust what they say.

The culture of video games and TV programs is a player in this mythology as well. Guns are often portrayed as sexy and cool. They are not.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a problem with people who own a gun, learn how to use it, store it safely, teach their kids that it is very dangerous and not a toy, then hunt deer, or ducks, or something-so long as they eat what they kill. I grew up in a rural area and learned to use a firearm, but that was long ago. These days, if I were to shoot at a squirrel, crow or rabbit I might hit a neighbor. A risk I am not willing to take. We chose to not have firearms in the house when blessed with a mechanically adept child.

These false equivalences, comparing guns to useful things and safety measures, are extremely dangerous. They encourage people who aren’t going to bother to learn how to use the guns safely, or store them safely, to buy one without taking adequate safety measures. A gun is as far from a safety device as you can get.

A gun is dangerous and children are often victims: Thousands of children, teens killed by guns annually in the US.

Owning a gun is a responsibility.

Anyone who can seriously compare owning a gun to having a smoke detector, a dog, or a Swiss army knife clearly does not get it…or worse, gets it and doesn’t care how many people die (the definition of a sociopath).

A year like no other

My niece graduated from college yesterday…Phi Beta Kappa (surely it’s okay to show a little bit of pride for this fine young woman that I love so much?).

The graduate.

The speech by the president mentioned this past year as a year like no other. The school is in Portland, a location that experienced wild fires and ice storms as well as the pandemic and rioting we saw throughout the nation. So graduation was like no other. We watched it on YouTube in my dad’s living room.

The watchers.

Probably if we had been able to attend we wouldn’t have seen nearly so well, and the dogs would have been left out, but it did lack a certain something.

Hopefully we’ll get to see her soon. We’ve all been vaccinated and she’ll be around this summer before heading off to law school at UCLA this fall.

Seems like only yesterday she was so small…but not afraid of a heavy load!

To April!

Martini night

We have a friend who hosts a Martini Night on the last evening of the month. When she lived near us we used to go, but after she moved to Oregon we did not. Recently they switched to having it via Zoom. I was at my sisters last month so missed it. But my husband joined in, except he didn’t have a martini glass, or a martini. He was told that he needed to up his game: the rule is that you can drink what you want so long as it is in a martini glass. We picked up a couple at a thrift store for this month.

Unfortunately they had to cancel last night because the hostess took a fall and broke her arm. We toasted her and health and healing.

Jacqueline is an old friend, literally, she will be 101 years old this summer. I’ve known her for about 25 years. She is a real character. Aside: doesn’t it seem like the people who make it to 100 or more still sharp are characters?

She is very social and has organized many movie nights and parties and, before our time, she hostessed the “Alki Opera”, a chance to dress in your best and watch an opera on VCR. For several years now my husband and I have met her and her family at Mount Rainier for a few days of mountain time. Last year they closed the lodge because of coronavirus, but we do have reservations for this year.

Jacqueline is an interesting mix of conservative and eccentric and you never know what you will wind up discussing when you walk through the door or pick up the phone. She always dresses in long skirts and looks very conservative by today’s standards. But when young she went to New York City (she is from Seattle so that was quite a journey) to study modern dance and was active in the promoting socialism. She also spent a good deal of time studying, and even published a book, about Newgrange in Ireland.

So, my last photo for March was taken to send to Jacqueline with a get well card: of our new martini glasses all ready to toast her and wish her healing and health.

Hanging out to air

For Monday Washing Lines by Have bag, will travel.

In the corner of a small apartment complex in Weifang, Shandong Province, China.

This make-shift washing “line” is a pole laid across the corner of construction fencing. Often times migrant workers camp at or near the site where they work. Winnie-ther-Pooh and Piglet always make me smile…how about you?

A reflection on being human

A laundry line is something you see almost every where you go. In some ways it could be a symbol or metaphor for being human. We all need the shelter of clothing and sanitation.

I took this photo on my first trip to China, in the spring of 2014. Since then I have been to China about 10 times, to visit my son who lives there and works teaching English. I have always found the Chinese people to be friendly, welcoming and caring.

Continue reading Hanging out to air

2020 Hindsight

A year of flowers, clouds, raindrops…

I just finished going back through the posts from this year, a longer project than expected. I posted a lot this year, including two months where I posted at least once a day!

Going through the posts, I noticed a few trends: lots of flowers, mostly taken while walking the dogs around the neighborhood:

Lots of sky photos with dramatic clouds, mostly taken locally (Puget Sound region), although New Zealand had some great clouds as well:

…And raindrops: a lot of pictures with close-ups of raindrops, perhaps a sign of spending most of my year in Seattle:

I’ve also been spending time learning about photo processing. I learned how to take things for a spin (and a lot about blending modes in the process):

…And spent quite a bit of time learning about black and white:

These experiments, and wanting to give myself some structure around keeping the experimentation up, led me to start a new monthly challenge on my other website:

The one-to-three photo processing challenge an opportunity to try out new techniques and share what you have created.

In conclusion

I was not in a great place as the year started, because of some turmoil in the family. Until I reread the first post from 2020 : Another year over…I’d forgotten how depressed I was! I even left my 2018 wrap up in the featured block because it wasn’t sad. Turns out my conclusion was almost foresight, although not in the way I would have predicted!

We were truly blessed to have been able to spend some time with our son over Chinese New Year, we met in the middle (more or less) in New Zealand, and the pandemic was rearing its ugly head as we parted.

Since parting we message daily and have a video talk once a week. We are so fortunate to have these connecting technologies. It was so much more difficult for families living apart during the 1918 flu…most people didn’t even have telephones in those days!

So ends 2020.

I am opposed to making New Year’s resolutions and too many things are up in the air right now to make predictions…maybe it has always been so and, until now, we just didn’t realize how fragile our norms were.

I wish you all happiness and health in the year ahead!

The changing seasons

November is a month that isn’t any one season, at least around here. It is a blend of fall and winter and spring.

The start of the month had spectacular autumn colors, but the winds and rains have been steadily denuding the trees. We have had some quite chilly days with the north wind blowing and also some nice balmy weather, enough to trick several plants into thinking it’s spring.

My advent “wreath”.

This year it feels like everyone is jumping the gun on Christmas…Encouraged by the advertising complex. I am more than a little cynical about that. Sometimes I refer to Christmas as “consumer-fest”. It really is not a religious holiday for most. I like to take things slower and celebrate advent, trying to find something less like jolly and more like joy.

My holiday window starting to take shape…with a little help from Max.

With no kids in our lives the pressure is off…but the dark days seem to cry out for something special, something hopeful and a little bit sparkly and fun.

It seems fitting that my last NanoPoblano post would be also a Changing Seasons post. Posting every day for a month is a real challenge for me. You’d think that with just dogs to walk and household things to do I’d find it easier.

It’s been great fun to read and explore the many different posts of all the cheer peppers, thank you all for enriching my month and to Rarasaur for the very cheerful and encouraging hosting of this event.

Wishing you all a joyous Christmas, or whatever mid-winter (or summer for those in the south) fest you prefer.

Another cranberry chronicle

If we were having coffee I’d offer you some cranberry upside down cake. It’s a hybrid of two recipes: one I copied out of a magazine years and years ago that became a family favorite, the other is a scaled down one from a Baking for Two magazine I got a few years ago, not long after our son flew off to make his own nest.

Cranberry upside-down cake.

It’s kind of fussy to make but worth it.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

The recipe makes a 6″ round cake, just right for two.

For the topping (bottom?)

  • 2 tsp (or up to 1 tbsp) of melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans and/or walnuts work well)
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Oil the 6″ round cake pan. Pour the melted butter into the pan and spread it out. sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter as evenly as reasonable. Heat in the oven for 2 minutes, then add the nuts and cranberries. Set aside.

For the cake

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup milk (I tend to use Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated, plus one large yolk
  • pinch cream of tartar

Whisk together the flower, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Whisk the milk and vanilla together in a separate bowl.

Beat butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Reduce speed to low then add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk mixture in two additions, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Beat the egg white and cream of tartar to soft peaks.

Whisk 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining. Pour over the topping layer in the pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then run a knife around the edge and invert it onto a serving plate.

Another cranberry idea from this week

I don’t have a recipe for this, because I made it up on the fly.

I used the crusts I cut off of the bread I used to make dressing for Thanksgiving to make a cranberry apple bread pudding.

Bread pudding ready to pop in the oven.

I cut about three cups of the crusts up, tossed them with a sliced up apple and a cup or so of cranberries. then put the mixture into 6 muffin cups and a mini loaf pan (grease the pans well). Whisked together a bunch of eggs, about 6, some milk, about 1 cup (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage), some sugar, about 1/4 cup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Pour the egg-y mix over the bread and let it soak for a while, then bake at 350 deg F until a knife comes out clean. This makes a nice breakfast, with a drizzle of maple syrup, or just a sweet, but not too sweet, snack.

Thanksgiving was fine for us

We went to my Dad’s (we officially designated him part of our household for pandemic purposes months ago) it was just the three of us plus one close friend of the family…plus the three dogs…and our cat.

We had all the usual suspects: turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce, with pumpkin pie after. Needless to say there were significant amounts of left overs.

It rained a bit, but didn’t pour, so we were able to walk on the beach when the tide was out. The dogs love that.

All-in-all it was a relaxed time, more so than the last couple of years, which included my grandmother’s last Thanksgiving in 2018 and our first without her in 2019.

How was your week? If you celebrate USA Thanksgiving how did it go?

For Weekend Coffee Share by Eclectic Ali.

It’s cranberry time!

If we were having coffee I would share this cranberry coffee cake.

Cranberry-apricot-almond coffee cake.

I impulsively bought a 2 lb bag of cranberries, an awful lot for just the two of us. So this will be a very cranberry holiday season. My first adventure was to make this cranberry sauce: the recipe intrigued me because it contained apricot jam and almonds.

The ingredients.

It goes like this:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 1/4 cup apricot or peach preserves
  • 1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds

Boil the water and honey for 8 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for about 4 minutes (until they are popping). Remove from the heat and stir in the jam and almonds.

Here’s what you get…I used chopped roasted almonds because I didn’t have sliced on hand.

I used the sauce in place of the fruit filling in a coffee cake recipe. It seems to work pretty well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the holidays this week. We did our shopping on Monday, because Tuesday Dad had a doctor consult about his heart test results (via Zoom), so we took the food over there (where we have Thanksgiving*). That shopping trip was when I grabbed the cranberries.

I looked back at a post I wrote about surviving the holidays last year: Aunt Kate’s Safe and Sane Guide to the Holidays. It really does seem SO last year!

Finding ways to have a bit of cheer and a break up of routine without doing anything much seems to be how I’m approaching this year. I made six bright holiday print masks from bits of fabric left from projects gone by.

Holiday cheer 2020 style.

How about you? Do you have any fun cranberry recipes? How about ideas to be merry and bright during the dark days of winter (obviously I am northern hemisphere).

For Weekend Coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli.

*I feel like I have to explain, so you don’t think we are cheating, that for pandemic purposes we define our “household” as including both our house and my dad’s. Since he is in his 80s, lives alone and I often need to take him to medical appointments.