Monday, December 28, 2009

Three people just don't do much damage to a twelve and a half pound bird

I don't have the patience to have the superior carcass picking skills that I recall my mom having, but that just means we got good turkey soup! The fact that the bird had been rubbed with a mixture of thyme, sage, ground juniper berries, fennel, and a few other things also contributed to the flavor of the stock. Mmmmm.

I'm thinking it'll be about ten meals off this bird. So far:
12/25 roast turkey
12/26 soup of the evening, beautiful soup
12/28 leftover soupy soup
Lots of frozen meat to use in the coming months.

You'd better have a Happy New Year, lest we sic Nimue on you

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Poem

There is a tree,
The tree is in a forest,
The forest is on a mountain,
The mountain is in the Sierra-Nevada mountains,
The Sierra-Nevada mountains are in California,
California is in the U. S. A.,
The U. S. A. is in North America,
North America is on the Earth,
The Earth is in the Solar System,
The Solar System is in the Milky Way,
The Milky Way is in the Local Group,
The Local Group is in the Universe,
The Universe is in all the universes around it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Dodo To Me

Happy dodo to me,
Happy dodo to me,
Happy windshieldwiper to no one,
Happy dodo to me.

Spinning rides

As a reward for being good when dragged to the holiday lunch at the museum Friday afternoon, I took Nimue over to San Jose's Christmas in the Park installation. She dutifully ran around admiring all the Christmas trees -- even took notes on all the kinds of ornaments she wants to make for our tree -- and then I bought her a ticket for the merry-go-round. Of course, then she started looking wistfully at all the other rides, and somehow I found myself getting on a brightly colored spinning rotating up-and-down flying balloon thingie with her. I haven't been on one of those for probably at least 10 years. We laughed maniacally, spun faster than anyone else, and stumbled off dizzily, cracking up even the dour jaded ride operator. However, to my chagrin, I realized my stomach is not quite as resistant to motion-induced queasiness as it used to be -- particularly not after having first a fine holiday potluck lunch in Nimue's classroom followed by too much addictive artichoke dip at the museum's Christmas lunch.

Ho ho oooooh...

Catching up

I realize there's been a big gap between blog posts lately -- as many of you probably realize, this happens when there's a lot going on, and then I never get around to writing about things that normal people might consider "events" because we're either in the middle of them or recovering from them. (Plus it's somehow more fun to write about reeking closet mysteries and squirrel wars than "What I did on my Three Day Weekend.") So to summarize some of the unwritten events of the fall:

In September my mom came to visit. Lots of good Grandma time for Nim; we enjoyed the visit too. Or at least I hope my mom did, despite the fact that we hurt her back by encouraging her to ride my mountain bike on the way over to school to pick up Nimue. (Ooops) At the very least, we got in a good trip down to the aquarium in Monterey, aka "The Fish Zoo", which my mom hadn't seen in several years. She was particularly inspired by the jellyfish, and I managed to keep Nim occupied looking at the anchovies while my mom exhausted her camera battery gathering photographs on which to base paintings.

October brought a trip to Downieville and an excellent mountain bike ride with a couple of Chad's friends; I achieved my two goals of not getting dropped behind (at least not too far) and not damaging myself (only one semi-controlled slide into a gully...)

In November, Chad and I were able to escape up to the coast near Jenner to enjoy a long weekend for our anniversary.
Lots of good riding, good food, nice views, and a delightful lack of responsibilities for a couple of days. Linda came down to stay with Nimue in Sunnyvale, attended numerous school events with her, and as a result is now known among the Cherry Chase moms as a "good grandma", welcome in the school garden any time.

There was also a Thanksgiving camping trip, but I actually managed to write about that one already.

Chad built a most excellent cage to protect the garden from the evil thieving scum squirrels; we've now covered it in plastic to turn it into a greenhouse for the winter. This also provides entertainment, as the squirrels, as deft as they are, still cannot scale the plastic, no matter how hard they try. They keep trying, too...yesterday I watched two squirrels on the fence harass a third, who then took a flying leap onto the side of the structure, where it proceeded to slide ignominiously as its frantically scrabbling claws found no purchase. Ha.

Handy rocket scientist spouse also deinstalled the hideous fireplace insert in the living room that had been bugging him ever since we moved in; it disappeared off the sidewalk out in front of our house gratifyingly quickly after we wrestled it outside. Peaceful candles now grace the fireplace, so we can enjoy flame without the mess.

Last weekend, Linda was again in town to visit. We went to see the Nutcracker up in SF (as usual, a fantastic production), and ate good food and goofed off for a couple of days before she headed off to Germany to visit relatives converging over there. She will pass back through Sunnyvale on her way back home right after Christmas.

The day after that, we're heading out to Park City to ski with Andrew Towle and his tribe; expect another gap in the news. Perhaps you'll get a New Years' letter that's not really a letter in the meantime.

A Rocket Scientist in the family

So Chad is now "officially" a NASA rocket scientist, having been recently published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets.

Dynamic Coupling and Control Response Effects on Spacecraft Handling Qualities During Docking
pages (1288-1297)
doi: 10.2514/1.41924
(Scroll down towards the bottom of the table of contents to see the listing.)

Now you know who to call when you need one. Tee hee :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Nimue and I enjoyed the first frost of the year sparkling in the sun this morning on the way to school, and appreciated the fact that we never have to scrape ice off the car windshield (always on bikes!). Yesterday, there was actual snow visible on the hills above us; I heard that in parts of the East Bay, the snow level dropped to a mere 350 feet.

Yes, I know all you grandparents have already gotten real snow in your very own back yards and are probably laughing at us warm-weather folk, but we have to take what we can get.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


What smells so good in the kitchen?Ma-Bread,of course!Ma-Bread is bread made by Ma.I love it!
If you ever come to our house you might get to eat it with your dinner.I always want the end piece.YUM!First prize bread!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New-fangled lights

Knowing that the Christmas box contained one string of lights labelled "DEAD" (why do I keep these things??), one labelled "White -- half dead", and only one that theoretically worked, we bought some new lights for the tree this year. Given their lower energy use and cooler operating temperature, we got a couple of boxes of LED lights. I'm still skeptical about their slightly excessive brightness for indoor use and the cold-seeming quality of the light, but they do cast delighful tree shadows on the wall and one's pajama-clad kid (latter not pictured as she couldn't stop dancing long enough for me to take a well-focused shot of her in the dark).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Country of Three" holiday weekend

When I was a kid, one of the most memorable Thanksgiving weekends we had was the year we ignored the extended family festivities, packed up, and went to the Oregon Coast to enjoy a relaxed weekend together as a nuclear family. Not that I am against all you extended family members, mind you, but once in a while it is a really good thing to have some relaxed vacation time to bond just with immediate family away from home, responsibilities, and all the normal patterns and habits that creep in during the day-to-day slog of getting through the work/school weeks. The hot dogs on the beach we had that year were an oddly festive sort of meal, too.

When Chad and I got married, his brother Frosty had a great phrase in his toast -- he pointed out that Chad, Nim, and I were forming a "Country of Three" by merging as a family.

This year for Thanksgiving, the goal was to celebrate our Country of Three and simultaneously relax and indulge in recreational activities that (a) weren't boring to anyone, and (b) included everyone. Those of you with kids know the challenges. Plus I just wanted to get out of the house lest I fall into doing chores by default.

Chad came home the day before Thanksgiving making wistful comments about all of the people that were going to get ride up Mt. Hamilton on Thanksgiving Day. This is quite a tradition around here among a certain set -- ride hard to work up an appetite, and then go feast. The weather was set to be gorgeous too. What he didn't realize was that I too had been having the same thoughts -- so had convinced Nimue that riding over on Mt. Hamilton would be a good adventure for the whole family.

One way to do this when one of the members of your Country of Three is only seven years old is to have a solid breakfast, load the tandem and another bike on top of the car with lots of leftover Halloween candy and toys, and head over to the hill. Our plan was that Chad would ride with us for the first third of the climb, at which point Nimue and I would stop at Joe Grant County Park to have a snack, play, and read until he climbed up to the top and came back down.

Fortunately, after about 45 minutes, Nimue got bored and wanted to get back on the bike. We went ahead and climbed up the second third of the hill, waving at cyclists. There were literally hundreds of people coming down at that point. It was sort of jolly watching everyone, both when riding and when waiting -- cyclists on the road ranged from those who were clearly giving their all to get back down the hill after the 4000 foot climb to those who fly up the hill on a regular basis. In general, people looked happy to be out -- none of that horrible grim "I'm too busy training to even respond when another cyclist says "Hi"" mode that one sometimes sees around here. Heck, I was ridiculously happy to be out too. It was Thanksgiving, we were having fun, and I was outside goofing off :) We eventually found Chad on his way down and rode back to the car together.

Yeah, maybe I'd have liked to ride my own bike and gone all the way up too, but it was a nice day, Nimue felt really good about riding even though I pushed her twice as far as we had planned, I got at least as much exercise going 2/3 of the way up on the tandem as I would have gotten going to the top on my own bike, and we all got out into the sunshine as a Country of Three. I count it as a victory.

But where's the turkey? Sarah and Todd were kind enough to invite us over for dinner, so we took our chocolate pie (made the day before) and a bottle of wine over to their place and feasted. The kids even all got along with each other for once. It rivals that hot-dog-on-the-beach day of my youth as the least stressful Thanksgiving day ever.

I still, however, had urges to get out of town. We had originally planned to head over and go camping at Mono Lake for the rest of the weekend, but it snowed there the previous week, and was forecast to snow again. Forecast lows were down around 10 degrees, which, combined with the possibility of getting stuck on the wrong side of the pass if it closed led to the need to pick an alternate destination at the last minute.

Krebs map to the rescue! For those of you not familiar with these maps, they are delightful cycling maps for various regions of California that point out all the good stuff you need when planning a bike adventure -- suggested roads to ride on, bike paths, trails, campround locations, where to get food, bike shops, etc. The roads and trail are all marked with arrows indicating where and how steep the hills are. Most useful. At any rate, I pulled out a map, looked at it for a few minutes, and was reminded that there is a flat 32 mile paved bike path along a section of the American river over by Sacramento that I had thought might be good to explore as a family. Even better, there was a campground that was still open for the year at Beals Point on Folsom Lake right at the end of the trail.

Never mind that the snow we were avoiding by not going to the mountains would likely give us less than perfect weather -- we packed up the car and headed off for some more fun as a Country of Three.

Shortly after getting there and setting up the enormous tent palace in a delightfully large campsite with plenty of rocks to keep Nimue occupied, a most impressive thunderstorm rolled in. We threw a tarp over the food on the picnic table and retreated to the tent to watch the lightning through the open door. The electrical activity stayed just far enough away to be exciting but not worrisome, and after about an hour, the storm rolled off and let us emerge to make dinner.

That evening and the next day brought crazy, crazy crazy wind. Nimue got to learn the joys of what happens to the tent if you ignore your dad when he says "Don't take out all the stakes", made more exciting by the fact that she somehow had enough time to get herself into the tent after taking out the stakes but before the next big gust of wind struck. She also got a good reminder of the difference between a headwind and a tailwind when on one's bike -- the section of bike trail we explored went both down river and downwind on the way out; we then had to fight our way back up on the way back. Lucky girl got power assists first from Ma, then from Chad.

I managed to catch this shot while I was still riding :)

We only explored part of the trail, as Nim was (mostly) self-powered, but it's clearly a place that could use more exploration. The notion brewing in Chad's brain is that a fun family weekend could be to take the train out to Sacramento with our bikes and camping gear in the trailer, and ride all the way up the bike trail to the campground. No car needed to get out of town.

Sadly, it's now back to the slog of all the stuff that happens in a more normal week for us (this week's list for the three of us includes school, rehearsal&concert, ancestor project, book report, Christmas shopping, too many meetings, teaching large numbers of crazed kids, decking the Christmas tree, making the lego rubik's cube robot work, and deferred house chores). Somehow, that's all fun too, but we really enjoyed our weekend off!

I suppose it's useful...

Despite the fact that I refer to it as the "devil-machine", I do recognize that Chad's iphone is occasionally useful -- in this instance, it captured a couple of good pictures at the Hitz wine bottling party a couple of weeks ago, including a rare shot of me.