Friday, November 30, 2007

A Quick Gulp of Air

Anna's Madarin Monkey sculpture.

Doesn't have anything to do with this post, I just like it.

No, I haven't died or fallen off the planet.

Life is just big, here on the Ranch. Really big.

Thus, the neglected blog.

I have stories to tell, but they will have to wait until I find a worthy vessel, or the tide turns benevolent and gently deposits me on the warm, sandy shore of "the usual chaos."

Until then, I've donned my snorkel and am vigilantly scanning the horizon for any encouraging sign of terra firma.

Since it is ME we're talking about, however, a "dingy" would be probably be the most appropriate form of rescue.

Peace, Ya'll.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Bling's The Thing

I tried an experiment over the weekend and it worked beautifully!

As you know, I'm big on trying out non-toxic ways to clean stuff.
Among my faves are baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

Well, let me just tell you that when it comes to cleaning all the gunk and bread-flour-turned-to-glue out of every nook and cranny, hydrogen peroxide is amazing!

I tossed, um, gently placed my rings and James's into a small bowl of HO2 and kinda forgot about them for a couple of hours. When I finally remembered and dug them back out again, I was astonished! I expected them to be cleaner, but MAN! They looked brand new and were sparkling before I even got them all rinsed off and polished up.

You know what I discovered?

There are actual DIAMONDS in these rings! Whoa...

Now, if you'll excuse me I must get back to geekin' out over the *Panther OS I just installed on my MacPro. (Do you smell another rave post coming...?)

Cheers, Y'all!

*EDIT: Make that LEOPARD!! I'm such a dork. What's with Apple and all the cat names... the cats... THE CATS!!!! TOO... MANY... CATSSS!!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

For Grammar Geeks Only

From the NY Times online...

Joke of the Day:

It's not who you know; it's whom you know.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What I've Learned From Our Cows...

... so far.

I get the impression they really enjoy "teaching me a lesson" whenever they get the chance.

#1. Over-Grazing is BAD: And I don’t just mean stuffing yourself on appetizers to the point of excruciating pain. It is what happens when good people are forced to do bad things with cows… like having too many of them in too small of a pasture for just long enough that they totally mow down every edible blade of grass that competes with the weeds that aren’t. Among other infestations, it can lead to… and don’t even get me started on... the scourge that IS, Tar Weed.

#2 Tailgating can kill you: Never walk behind a cow or calf closer than about eight feet. One sharp noise or rude comment about their weight and you’ll be waking up, flat on your back in cow poo wondering how to spell “Fractured Sternum.”

#3. Avoid butt-heads: A full-grown cow’s head weighs, I’m guessing, about 60 pounds all by itself. When attached to an irritated bovine, in addition to housing all that pent-up angst and resentment for being treated like some kind of common farm animal, it can also, when swung properly, act as a very effective human catapult capable of slinging the average 150-pound individual roughly six to eight feet. I have personal experience to back up this assertion, in case you’re skeptical about my authority on the subject.

#4. Beware of sticky situations: Cow poo is the lesser-known forerunner of Velcro®. Just try to get it off your boots.

#5. Watch your step: No matter how much room they have. No matter how many times I muck out the barn to keep it a pleasant, healthy place for them to sleep and eat. Every… single… day… somebody leaves a “pie” RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DOOR WAY. I have come to believe this is their idea of a joke. ha. ha. ha. See lesson #4.

#6. Don't let yourself be intimidated: Staring down 600 pound animals on a daily basis takes a certain amount of panache... or at least it does when you're a chick who has only been living closely with cows for about three years. Any large animal vet can tell you that cows are prey animals and they know it. All you have to do is act like you're bigger than them, they believe it and that leaves you pretty much in control.


I use a combination of a firm tone of voice, sharp movements and bribery to get them to make me think they're submitting to my will. I don't even feel the need to carry a baseball bat when I get anywhere near them anymore so I think I've made brilliant progress... I am, however, not above leaping to relative safety over a stall gate with the grace and agility of a drunken hippo should my projection of confidence and superiority prove unconvincing.

Truth is, I love the big hairy dears. I think they can sense that and choose to let me feel like I'm in charge... at least as long as I keep making with the cow candy and sweet talk...

That's all the barnyard wisdom I have to impart for now.

Until Bossy, Princess and the Girls school me further... Ciao, Yall!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I almost spit coffee out my nose.

Some things are just *naturally* funny... juvenile, perhaps, but really, really funny nonetheless. Make sure all liquids are at a safe distance and enjoy.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Happy Friday!

It's okay if you need to smirk... you can even chuckle if you want!

Personally, they make me laugh right out loud... but then, I live with them.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shameless Filler

Joke of the Day

A guy walks into a bar with a priest, a minister, a rabbi, a Polish guy, and a duck. The bartender says, "What is this, a joke?"

— Joke told to by the "Nip/Tuck" actress Joely Richardson.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Walking In Your Footsteps...

...and trying not to trip in your very big shoes.

I would never dream of flattering myself by believing I could ever take my Grandmother's place in this world since her departure from it. However, since she left us about a year and a half ago, there are certain things that I feel compelled to do, have strong feelings about or have experienced that have the very distinctive "Esther Rueck" brand upon them. I sense her presence in a very tangible way when I do these things. It feels very right and like a natural progression for me to attempt to emulate her in their practice. As though the "torch has been passed." (This feeling is not diminished by the fact that I am her namesake, Esther being my middle name.)

Aside from when I'm brushing my teeth, a time when I am most aware of her is when I bake bread. Gran and I had sooo very many conversations about baking, but we never really got to do it together when I was old enough to actually know a little about what I was doing. We did lots of theorizing and comparing notes verbally though. So now since her departure, it doesn't matter what kind of bread I'm making, she's there with me.

That being said, you might imagine how much it meant to me when, upon pulling the new coffee maker my folks gave us from its box, I noticed an old yellow recipe card laying face down in the bottom of it. Since the box had never been opened, for a split second I thought Grannee had been up to her tricks again and miraculously dropped it in there for me to find... Upon an excited call to my mom, however, I learned that she had been startled to discover Grannee's Rye Bread recipe in an old canister she was about to give away...
*gasp!* that was close! ... and had wedged it under the lid of the box as a surprise.

She may as well have sent me a Portkey* to my Grannee's kitchen. I was giddy with excitement, but wanted to wait until I could give my full attention and focused intention on making this special, magical recipe for which my Grandmother was renowned. It was like no other bread you could get anywhere. Grandad always said it was better than cake... and he was right.

This bread was something much more than the sum of its ingredients. For her, it was a meditation. A profound demonstration of love for her family and guests... and you could taste it. We begged for this bread. No one ever felt the least bit gypped if they got it for Christmas in stead of some *thing*.

Everything that left her hands was completely imbued with love and intention. To both of my Grandparents, if anything was worth doing it was worth doing well and she had refined this basic human nourishment and item of sacrament to an art form... and the rest of us have never been able to duplicate it to her level of mastery.

It was her own special kind of magic.

This time, when I set out to make my attempt at Her Rye Bread, it wasn't with a recipe dictated over the phone and written in distracted haste, but with her very own card. Written in her own elegant hand. There are no instructions, just measurements of ingredients, temperature and cooking time. This card served only to jog her memory of the details of a process she could do in her sleep... and often did once she became too frail to wrangle heavy, awkward dough.

When she wrote this recipe down, her penmanship was still pristine, not ravaged by age and weariness. She was vibrant and brimming with passion, generosity and grace. I could feel her vivacity resonate as I carefully held this precious artifact as I read it, intense thoughts of her washing over me as I assembled the ingredients. I felt her standing right next to me and she was as excited as I was that we were *finally* getting to bake together. I couldn't stop myself from smiling and even let a little laugh escape my lips at how much fun we were having, the two of us.

As I prepared the dough, I could hear in my head little comments she had made to me over the years about how the dough should look or the fact that it's pretty sticky. I made only the tiniest adjustments based on my particular circumstances. Alterations with which I felt she would agree.
Though there is no way I would ever make notations on the recipe card. I'll keep those notes in my head for now.

I was so excited to give my little family a taste of Grannee's Rye Bread and every aspect of what that means. Yes, it's amazing in flavor and texture, very nutritious and its aroma is what I think Heaven must smell like, but mostly what I want them to taste is my intention, my meditation of love and the same blessing that Grannee put into everything she fed us.

The bread I made doesn't taste *exactly* like Grannee's but it's very, very close. I have only my hands, pans and slightly different ingredients to work with so, I guess it's becoming My Rye Bread now... but I will always bake it (and enjoy that first, warm heal) with Grannee.

* For you non-Harry Potter readers: a Portkey is an enchanted object, often a piece of supposedly worthless junk, which when touched will transport a person to a preprogrammed location.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"Crack" for Voyeuristic Graphic Designers

I feel dirty and exhilarated all at the same time.

I have just discovered Coudal Partners' Layer Tennis.

Layer 9

It's really kinda hard to get your head around if you're not a designer... and even if you are... but thanks to the I-can't-even-believe-how-lucky-I-am-to-be-alive-in-this-technological-age wonder that is Adobe/The Internet/Blogging/Freakin' Genius... there exists this ongoing weekly, live competition where two designers in different parts of the world exchange layers of a design document, this time in Illustrator. You can click through the volleys at the right side under the header.

One designs something for 15 minutes, then shoots it over to the other who then takes the design and works on it for another 15 minutes and so on for ten volleys.

The whole thing is commentated on, like a sports play by play, by another blogger... this time Heather Armstrong from dooce. You see the whole thing come together, layer by layer, comment by comment.

Watching that much talent slinging back and forth while Heather commentates... Ahhhhhh! It's just... well... GAH!!! I can't even describe how euphoric it is.

Like the best graphic design class you ever had moderated by one of your funniest, most irreverent friends.

Okay, I gotta go check back at their progress... they're on layer NINE!! Yikes!!

What's Next, Cat Juggling?!

Wondrous Gift From Above or Evil Implement of Kitty Terror?

The nights have gotten quite nippy of late here on the Ranch, so one or more of the four members of the outside-at-night contingent have started weaseling their way into sleeping inside the house.

Sometimes it's blatant. More often, it is a covert operation involving diversion and subterfuge.

They all usually prefer to roam the shadow realm when night falls, finding refuge in the hay bales in the barn when the temps take a dip. But if the weather takes a turn for the very wet or extra chilly, the finagling begins.

Two of the four are very well behaved and can be trusted indoors. The other two are menaces who, after having successfully achieved bedtime invisibility, will make their presence and strong desires known somewhere between 4:00 and 6:00 AM in a most raucous and boisterous display that, should I choose to turn a deaf ear and continue soaking my pillow with drool while pursuing that ever-illusive French truffle the size of an ottoman, will give way to retaliatory vandalism.

We have recently discovered however, that there is, in fact, such thing as Kitty Karma.

Not long ago, our dearly beloved and faithful, fairly low-tech coffee maker went kaput. It was simple featuring only a thermal carafe and timing capabilities, but made great coffee. Upon its demise, my folks generously gifted us a new, state-of-the-art, fancy schmancy model that had been languishing unopened in their garage. It not only brews your coffee and holds it at the temperature of your particular preference, it even grinds your fresh, whole beans and dumps the fragrant grounds right into the filter for you at the precise moment and grind consistency to achieve the most technologically perfect cup o' joe ever devised by a team of overpaid engineers.*

So, there I am, post-alarm, cozily drowsing in eager anticipation of the joyful sound of our new java droid awakening to begin its life of servitude when it happens...

The timer hits 6:55, the grinder whirs and clatters to life and, at that exact split second... the unmistakable sound of 16, startled and terror-filled paws frantically scratching their heated exit from the still-dark kitchen, then thundering down the hallway toward our bedrooms and presumed sanctuary.

In stead of comfort and consolation, they found me, standing there in my jammies, laughing at them in unexpected, payback bliss!

Apparently the sneaky ones had somehow *overslept* and got a taste of what it's like to be startled awake by a harsh and unexpected racket...

"HA!" I say. Double "HA!"

Though I did feel kinda bad for the good, polite, quiet kitties who let me sleep, I savored that first cup from the shee-shee machine with great relish and just a bit of sick satisfaction.

"The new coffee maker is so fast, why don't you set the timer for when you're already up and the lights are on so it doesn't come as such a shock to them when it starts up?" my kind-hearted husband asked.

"What? And deny myself all that sadistic pleasure? Are you nuts?"

Poor kitties. Poor, poor traumatized little kitties...


Now, where did I leave the vacuum...

* Don't get me wrong, it's really a nice machine, but it cracks me up how this thing is supposed to make "making coffee" so much more convenient. Now, instead of: grind coffee the night before; place in filter; pour water into reservoir; activate timer; upon finishing coffee toss used filter... I get to: place beans in grinder the night before, pour water into reservoir; activate timer; upon finishing coffee dismantle the entire machine, clean five separate pieces and dry thoroughly before reassembling... so I can have my coffee ground for me and drink it five minutes sooner! I have to laugh at myself that I love it so much.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Outta Nowhere

The answer to yesterday's question "Will Grace go trick-or-treating as The Big Wiggly Puppy she was when she went to school?":

Drum roll, please...

That's a big, fat NO!

After torturing me with a re-visit of the very-time-worn ladybug costume, and throwing in a previously-never-even-hinted-at "I WANNA BE A KITTY" (which I have absolutely NOTHING from which to manufacture a costume) Anna strolled into the room offering her old dragon costume and saved my life.

NOT that I would drop everything and suddenly produce a kitty suit out of thin air to spare myself the agony of prolonged whining mind you, I was just getting weary of the fervent mind-changing. I didn't care if she wanted to be something else as long as it was reasonably easy and wouldn't make us late... er, any later... to the pre-trick-or-treating party at Auntie Dawn's house.

With this decision *final* we dashed out the door and up the hill for pizza and candy corn flavored (EWWW!) soda. She had a great time collecting candy, as did all the kids, and was, of course a KICKIN' dragon. :)