Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Christmas Present Ever?

The Dyson vacuum, my friends, is a lovely bit of technology, which fosters geeky exploration of all its bells and whistles. We have vacuumed: the refrigerator coils, behind the refrigerator, the bathroom vents, under the couch, under the bed, in nooks and crannies in the kitchen, ad infinitum. It is quite likely that we have extracted from the carpet all the cat's shedded fur, along with the fur of the previous owner's cat.

We have also wish-listed attachments such as this.

It's sad, but if it brings joy, it can't be wrong, right?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DIY, Biking, Returning to Research, and Contemplating Novels

Well do I remember back when I thought working at home would be a grand adventure. Never having to change out of pajamas! Makeup a distant memory! Deciding to break up the monotony with a run on the beach!

Of course, the flip side to all of that is never changing out of your pajamas, never wearing makeup or real-person clothes, and, um, spending your time on the bike trail or various other procrastinating activities rather than on the fiction or the billable tasks or the job letters. It's a strange and difficult balance, and whereas I was once dying for this interim time, I'm now longing for the prospect of a normal nine-to-five gig, with structured days--and not just for the steady money, although that's a huge benefit too.

Of course, say that I hit the jackpot and was able to write for a living, publishing novels people wanted to read, or elegant short stories and essays published in well-respected magazines. I would have to face down my days and attempt to manage some structure! I would have to work toward deadlines in a way that didn't involve spending the three days beforehand frantically finishing up something new before resorting to a further-along draft of something else.

But I want to take full advantage of this interim time, scary as it is to be floating out and space and not knowing where the next check is coming from. So I'm contemplating the novel I want to write. That is, I know I want to write one, but what is it? What will it be about? I should perhaps take a poll. But I have been noodling around with a character from an older story, whom I felt had more going on in her life than just the one story I wrote. I don't know. I can't seem to figure out what I want to do, even though I want to be chipping away on that big picture.

I'm also, in small ways, returning to my roots as a researcher of facts. Yes, I'm writing a critical paper. But I'm also tapping into my experience looking up congressional activities (for genealogical research). Exciting! Well do I remember that satisfaction of a job well done, an elusive fact sussed out.

And to balance all the thinking, thinking, baking continues apace (moving on to rye bread this time, at the behest of others who are declaring an intent to help with the process). And this weekend, B joins me in biking fun. Or, we hope he does, if the ordered and arrived bike lives up to expectations. Why, yes, it's 75 degrees here. Perfect weather for biking!

Oh, and I'm also trying my hand with home repair. If you read about the tragic flooding incident online, please know that I tried my best.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You Know Those Squirrels Trying to Get to the Nuts?

I may or may not have mentioned that I'm on a mission to bake my own yeast bread from scratch. It seems economical! I've had The Bread Bible for ages and never ventured out of the quick breads. When you're being student frugal, are awaiting the arrival of the next freelance job, and have access to the whole new world of food processors, it seems like there's no time like the present. So I jumped in! This is how it went.

Friday, first attempt.
Mixed ingredients, per directed, in food processor. Extracted powdery unmixed blob that I proceeded to try to knead/mix by hand. Set it on the counter in a bowl to rise for the directed "at least 2 hours." Realized after 3 hours of nonrising that I forgot to add the sugar. Ditched dough.

Friday, second attempt.
Got new ingredients. Mixed ingredients, exactly as directed, in same order as specified, in food processor. Dough was proper consistency. Trying to account for potential temperature variables (i.e., cold condo), put dough in unheated oven for rising. Waited approximately 3 hours. No rising whatsoever. Ditched dough. Tested remaining yeast packets. Results inconclusive.

Saturday, third attempt.
Got new ingredients. Mixed ingredients, this time with white flour (whole wheat combo takes much longer to rise). Pretty dough ball. Put in unheated oven to rise. Again, after 3-4 hours, nothing. Read yeast packet. Realized yeast isn't "instant," as called for in recipe, but "fast rising" and requires procedure I didn't follow. Left loaf in unheated oven, figuring I'd throw the damn thing out later.

But lo! I came back hours later to discover . . . risen bread dough!!! It's a post-Christmas miracle!!! So I started at 9:30 pm with the "second rise," and after much waiting, shaping (FUN!), and baking, I had a loaf of very tasty bread. Which I triumphantly tucked into at 1 a.m.

I want to rush right out and do it again. Food processor plus squishy dough is absurdly compelling.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It Occurs to Me That Everything I'm Doing These Days Is The Hard Slog

Not to be a whiner, but it requires a certain amount of fortitude to power through the long haul, eschewing the immediate reward and working toward the ultimate payoff. Job hunt? Check. Writing? Double and triple check. Particularly if I veer toward the longer work that I'm contemplating (how in the world do people do these things??). All other school components, such as research papers and field studies? Oh, yes. These aren't things I can check off quickly and be done with. Even exercise is something that you have to power through the unpleasantness on to get to where it's actually fun (yes, illness plus holidays means that I'm an asthmatic wheezy mess and starting from scratch).

Obviously, I need to balance all this out with immediate gratification that doesn't cost me a fortune and/or set me back on personal goals. I need a low-stress hobby. I hear crossword puzzles are relaxing.