Spring Flowers

I planted a bunch of bulbs last fall, and the flowers are blooming all over the yard. πŸ™‚ Here are some samples:

The daffodils have been blooming for a couple of weeks now, and are still going strong. I also have a pot of them out next to the front door.

Here’s one of the hyacinths, next to one of the last of the crocuses. The hyacinths smell so good!

The tulips are still to come, although we’re getting close.

Angie, feeling very springy today

Paris

Paris after 9/11.

Let’s keep these people in our prayers, who so graciously kept us in their prayers after one of the darkest periods of our history.

Paris, and everyone else affected by the attacks tonight, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Beth Greene on Tumblr

I’m not a “prayers” kind of person, but I endorse the sentiment wholeheartedly.

Finished an Afghan

I finished the afghan I’m giving my mom for Christmas. It’s pretty huge. Which was deliberate — I wanted it to work as a throw on her bed, and not just a lap-blanket sort of thing — but still, I was kind of O_O when I spread it across our king size bed to take pics.

This is looking up from the foot of the bed.

A closeup showing the pattern. It’s a basic feather-and-fan that I worked out on a paper towel, fiddling and swatching and fiddling and swatching till I had something I liked. One thing I noticed is that if you do a F&F pattern with a stockinette ground, which is how you usually see it, the rippled edges will curl up, which looks like a mistake. :/ I experimented a bit and found that if you knit that edge with a garter stitch ground, it lays flat, so the first few inches and last few inches of the afghan are in garter stitch, which you can see more clearly below. The texture is a bit odd, but I’ll take that in exchange for an edge that lays nicely flat.

This took me about six weeks or so to do. I’ve been knitting while I watch Netflix on my computer, and I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix. πŸ™‚

Angie

New Theme

Yes, I changed my blog theme. I’m not completely happy with it, but the main column is wide enough that the YouTube videos don’t overlap the sidebar like they did with the old theme, so that’s something. One of these days I’ll learn how to customize themes and come up with something that’s functional and looks good, but for right now functional will do. For now, carrying on.

Angie

The Best Turkey Soup

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is making turkey soup a few days later out of the turkey carcass. Usually I just make regular soup, like making chicken soup — carcass in a stock pot with a lot of water, plus an onion, couple carrots, couple stalks of celery, about half a bulb of garlic, salt and pepper, simmer all day, strain. (I have a stock pot with a strainer insert that makes this easy.) If you wait to fridge it all overnight before eating it, you can skim the fat off the top so it’s not as greasy. (Tall and narrow containers are better than short and fat ones; the thicker the layer of cooled fat is, the easier it is to remove.) Then sometimes I’ll add back the carrots, whatever turkey meat is left over at that point, and maybe some potato, and stick-blend it all to make the soup a little thicker.

This time, I was talking to my friend Mimi Tulane a few days ago, and mentioned that I hadn’t made turkey soup yet, and that I still had the sweet potatoes to do as well. (I have some health issues that make it not-smart (on a Running To The ER For IV Meds not-smart) to eat a lot at one sitting, so doing the turkey and stuffing and half a dozen sides all in one meal is kind of pointless.) So I was blathering away in e-mail and I guess I didn’t make things clear, because Mimi wrote back and said she’d never heard of turkey-sweet-potato soup before, but it sounded like it could be good.

Of course I’m reading this and I start laughing and go to type an explanation, but then I stop and think. Huh, that does sound like it could be good. [bemused smile]

I tried it. It’s awesome.

I made my turkey soup — the broth version, all the solids removed — then baked a couple of sweet potatoes until they were very soft. I heated up enough of the skimmed broth to fill a stew-size pot about two-thirds, then put the sweet potato flesh in and hit it (carefully) with a stick blender until there were no chunks visible. Then I added milk (about an inch and a half in that pot; probably like two or three cups? sorry, I don’t measure) and blended it again.

It was really wonderful. My husband was raving about it all day, and he’s not really much of a soup person. It’s meaty from the turkey, with some sweetness from the sweet potatoes, and some richness from the milk. I had more later with cut up pieces of leftover turkey in it, and that’s good too. I imagine anything you’d usually put into turkey soup would be good — potatoes, carrots, pasta, rice, whatever you’re into.

This is great. Seriously, next time you make a turkey, try it. And thanks, Mimi — you’re brilliant. πŸ™‚

Angie

Trying This Google+ Thing

Okay, so what happened is a couple/few months ago (don’t remember exactly how long) I came across this add-on for Chrome that’d let you use the old Compose box with Gmail. I really hate the new one, and a lot of people seemed to like this add-on, so I added it on. It had a quirk or two (like adding space between the lines in your in-box right after you’d used Compose) but I could live with that to have the old Compose box back. And all was well for a while.

Then like a month ago, I suddenly couldn’t get into Gmail on Chrome. First it was just my desktop system, but a few days later it broke on my laptop too. I had no idea what the problem was. I could get into that Gmail account just fine on Firefox, or even [shudder] Internet Explorer, but when I tried to bring it up in Chrome, it just kept cycling and cycling forever, as though it were processing the page but couldn’t get anything to resolve. I logged out and logged back in — nothing. I logged out, restarted the computer, then logged back in — nothing. I tried approaching Gmail from different angles — nothing.

Now all this time, Chrome had been bugging me to “complete” my Google+ profile for my AngieBenedetti mail address and, like, get with their system. I wasn’t interested in another social network thing, so I ignored it. But eventually, after trying everything I could think of, I though, Maybe Google’s messing with me because it wants me to do this Google+ thing? It wouldn’t be the first squirrely thing some huge company had done to try to get folks to use one of their products, and Google’s been closing its eyes on its “Don’t be evil” thing now and again over the last few years, so I figured I might as well try. So I set up my profile on the angiebenedetti mail account.

Nothing.

[sigh]

I moved on, and eventually figured out that it was the add-on that let me have the old Compose box. πŸ™ I turned that off and poof! I could see my in-box in Chrome again. I figured the most recent Chrome upgrade had hosed the add-on. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Google did it deliberately, either, because they have major issues about forcing everyone to do things exactly their way. But anyhow.

So I had this Google+ profile floating around out there, with basically nothing but my name on it. Then someone added me to a circle. And someone else added me. So I guess I’m sort of there whether I planned to be or not?

I decided to give in and at least try it. I filled out my profile a bit more, and added a couple of people to circles, but most of the folks it suggested to me to add weren’t people I know terribly well. If you’re active on Google+, even if only a little, and would like to add me or have me add you or whatever, let me know. I’m still woefully ignorant about how this system works — I’m not even sure if you’d look for me there as “Angie Benedetti” or “AngieBenedetti” or “Angela Benedetti” — so however you want to ping me about it, do that. πŸ™‚

We’ll see how this goes. If it turns into a huge timesink, I’ll probably walk away. But for now, it might be fun. Anyone else playing?

Angie

Almost Over

My husband had his second eye surgery a few days ago, the one for the cataract. The follow-up appointment looked good; there’s no sign of either infection or of glaucoma, which is a rare but non-zero possible consequence of this kind of surgery. If that particular number comes up, there’s nothing they can do, and all you have to look forward to is eventual complete blindness in that eye. It looks like Jim’s dodged that one, though. He’ll go back in a couple of weeks for another check-up, and to get a new prescription for glasses, once things have healed up and settled down.

He’s feeling good about the outcome. His left eye is a lot clearer than it was before this recent surgery, and we’re hoping that with his new glasses, he’ll be able to read paper books again. That’d be awesome. Positive thoughts in Jim’s direction greatly appreciated.

It’s funny, I was looking at my wordcount records just recently and realized that, one, I haven’t written squat this year (which I’ve been aware of for a while), and two, that the squat started right around April. Duh. πŸ˜› Dean and Kris talk about liferolls, and I hadn’t really thought about it because it didn’t happen to me, personally, but I’ve been stressed out over this since Jim’s retina tried to rip itself out of his eyeball back in April. I’m bipolar, which means my productivity is iffy at the best of times, dependent upon what my brain chemistry is doing on any given day. I don’t handle stress well at all, and this has been almost eight solid months of worrying and stressing out. It’s not quite over yet, but there’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel now, and there’s a decent chance it’s not an on-coming train. We’ll see.

At least I can look forward to 2013 being a much better writing year than 2012. It really couldn’t be worse, so the future’s looking good. That’s something to feel optimistic about.

I hope everyone else has been doing well, and has a great holiday. [wave/hug]

Angie

Wicked!

Jim and I went to see Wicked last night, at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. All I knew going in was that it was the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, with some hazy concept that it was her side of things, showing why she didn’t deserve to be considered the villain of the original book/movie. Which… yeah, that’s pretty much what it’s about. As with most storytelling, though, it’s the details that matter.

[Some spoilers, I guess, sorta.]

The characterizations were great, with no really cardboard characters among the main cast. Teenage Glinda (who starts out as Galinda) is first presented as a shallow, self-absorbed, tissue paper character, with her *Good!* persona deliberately worn in her quest to be liked. And while she’s pretty dim throughout the whole story, she acquires dimension as events progress, and turns out likeable. Even if I still wanted to smack her occasionally.

Fiero, the love interest, is a Winkie prince who’s proud of how many schools he’s been thrown out of. Glinda assumes that as the pretty, popular blonde girl, she must be the Heroine and is therefore obviously going to “get” the handsome prince. Looking back, I think Glinda’s major tragedy is that she’s trying to be genre savvy but is failing horribly because she doesn’t know what character she’s playing.

Which is a lot of time to spend on someone who’s not the protag, but in the original WoO, Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West are opposites, contrasting and balancing one another. If we’re going to change our view of the WWW, we have to change our view of Glinda as well, and the play spends a lot of time focused on Glinda, as the major supporting character, to do just that. The relationship between Glinda and Elphaba grows and changes, taking a couple of sharp corners along the way, and is arguably more interesting than the romantic relationship either has with Fiero.

Elphaba, the actual protag, learns the most and changes the least. Or rather, what changes is her understanding of how the world works and how far she can manipulate it, rather than her core personality. This is her story more than anyone else’s (although we get some great background on the other Ozian characters from the original story) and we’re focused on her throughout. I’ll admit I had tears streaming for most of the play — not sobbing or anything, but just overflowing, because although there aren’t very many out-and-out sad scenes, the play opens with the celebration of the Wicked Witch’s death, then goes to flashback, so through the whole thing, you know what’s coming.

What it comes down to is that Dorothy was duped into taking a paid hit on someone who’d become inconvenient to the ruling establishment. Which is, you know, a rather cynical but definitely non-fairy tale way of looking back at The Wizard of Oz. [wry smile]

Oh, and the ending works beautifully. πŸ™‚

Definitely see this if you have a chance. I hope they make a movie so everyone can see it without shelling out for expensive tickets, but for now, if you have the money in your entertainment budget, this is a great way to spend it.

Distractions

Jim had his surgery last Thursday and so far as we can tell, he’s recovering well. His vision is still significantly worse than it was the morning before the operation, but that’s to be expected; they took all the fluid out of his eye so they could repair the retina — which they did using a microscope, tiny manipulators, and a laser — then replaced the fluid with gas before sealing up. The index of refraction is different, so until the gas disperses (which it will do on its own, slowly) and the eyeball refills with fluid, his vision is going to be messed up. His surgeon — who was awesome — said that he should have most of the improvement within about a month, but that it might keep improving a bit here and there for the next year, so we won’t have the final word for a while.

His vision has improved noticeably since they took the bandage off the day after surgery. That’s a pretty low bar — he could only see high-contrast light and dark, or large-scale movements at that point — but still, any improvement is encouraging.

The big goal here is getting back to the point where Jim can read books. He can watch TV and pick up enough to enjoy it, and he can use the computer, leaning very close and with the text size cranked up. He can’t read paper books, though, and never being able to again would be bad. We’re both major book junkies, we have thousands of books around the house and spend a lot of time reading. If we have to, we could get him a tablet and switch him over to e-books, so he can enlarge the text and still have more than five words on the screen. That’s only a partial fix, though. Even now, only a fraction of the books he likes to read are even offered in electronic editions, and most of those are published by the big, New York houses who charge ludicrous prices for them. Having to pay thirteen or fifteen or eighteen dollars for a book that only costs eight dollars in paperback would definitely curtail a lot of his reading.

We’re hoping it doesn’t come to that, but at this point all we can do is wait and see.

Angie

PS — if anyone’s writing a character who has retinal surgery, I can tell you all about it from the patient’s POV. [wry smile]

Still Alive

There are a bunch of things I’ve wanted to blog about, starting with my trips last month, and in particular the Anthology Listings post that should’ve gone up a couple of days ago. We’ve had some medical issues around our place, though, most recently with my husband, who thought a cataract was getting worse and actually has a detached retina. :/ He’ll be having surgery on that next week.

I’m still around, though, and I’ll be getting the antho post up within a day or two.

Angie

PS — don’t sail with Celebrity. πŸ˜› Our cabin bathroom smelled of sewage the whole trip, despite broken promises to fix it. I got a case of e. coli and spent a chunk of the cruise on in-cabin isolation, the kind where if you leave before you’re okayed, they toss your butt off at the next port. Wow, fun. At least they picked up the medical tab.