Thursday, March 29, 2012

After being so proud of our cat Nala's willingness to train herself to remain within our fenced in back yard, she blew it a couple of weeks ago and went on walkabout. It was the first really balmy evening and she REALLY wanted to go out. She bypassed the fence and was a house or two away when we called for her. She came back, but we whisked her inside and let her know that she was "grounded". Out came the leash and collar - which she hates. After a couple of experiences with the leash, seh quit asking to go out. Yet it was clear she wanted to. After nearly two weeks of no-outside, we started the training regimen again: Escorting her outside, short trips, and routine check-ups. Over a few days we made her forays longer and our spot checks less frequent (maybe every 15-20 minutes). Oh, and I repaired three spots in the fence that made it simple for her to walk out.

She is earning our trust again and being rewarded with time outside again.


To say she is loving it is an understatement. It works great for us too, as we can let her out and be (reasonably) confident that she gets it, and will not stray. We do not have to de-tangle her leash ever few minutes either. When we work outside on the gardens, she gets to be a companion.


Speaking of the garden, such a difference a few days make this time of year! The first ferns were just starting to unroll on Sunday, and now there are dozens (scores) unfurling. Everything is up!


Unfortunately that means the grass already needs mowing too. Ah well, the good with the bad. If it does not rain on Saturday, I will mow and enjoy the time outdoors.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Everyone was at the Arboretum

Everyone and her brother was at the UW Arboretum yesterday. It was no surprise, really. The gorgeous (freakishly warm) weather we have had for the last two weeks or so has made all the flowering trees erupt into bloom. The magnolias in particular are covered in blooms. Unfortunately the warm weather will also insure that the period they are in bloom is brief. So, smart Madisonians were out en masse yesterday to enoy them.


Magnolias always look a bit mess to me once they open up; they are such sprawling, slightly disheveled looking blooms. There is beauty there to be sure.


I guess I prefer them, or appreciate them more, when they are still budded, perhaps just starting to open up. Perhaps it is the potential of the flower I am seeing.


Not much else was really going on flower-wise this week. I saw one lilac in bloom, so next week should be great for them. There were daffodils and jonquils in bloom, and while I have those in my own yard, sometimes there is still an opportunity to photograph on in a different way.


Oh, and a pair of Sandhill cranes, the first I have seen this year, flew overhead while I was there.


Go outside! Poke at the dirt. Look and see what is coming up and what is already in bloom. Do not let the blush of spring pass you by!

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

No harsh shadows and rich, saturated color...

Today is one of those drippy, not-quite-rainy days that sort of define spring in Wisconsin. The light is diffuse and everything is wet with drops clinging and generally enhancing things. No harsh shadows and rich, saturated color ... perfect!


These cinnamon ferns generally unroll in a tight little circle. This one caught my eye because of the elongated curl. I suppose if it could speak it would holler at me for making it look fat!


Daffodils always look great when they are wet, but they also point their bloom at the ground so it is tough to get an interesting photo that captures the dewy wetness and the face of the flower. I tried.


I have a small patch of mayapples too, and they always delight me with their unfurling shape.


Happy spring!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Spring

SOMEbody really wanted to be outside this morning. Too bad for her that she blew it recently. She had outside privileges because she had demonstrated a willingness to stay in the fenced back yard. On the first really warm night, she went on walkabout. And then did it again.


So now we are back to square one. We put her on the leash a couple of times - which she HATES - and now she will not go outside at all. That is OK, but she had it sooo good. Bummer for her, and us too really.

Here is what she would have seen in the yard today.


Pretty sweet in that early morning light, no?

Happy first day of spring!

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cheap Stress Relief

Today was one of those suddenly-again rare days. The sort where, despite being in the midst of a tornado of activity and things that must get done, there is a calm spot, a brief moment where there are no demands on your time. Sure there is laundry to do and some spring yard work that would be good to get done, but no demands. What to do? Go for a ride!


Wisconsin has some really beautiful countryside and Madison is fortunate to be in a dividing spot. To the north and west it is hilly and the roads are serpentine. To the south and east it is flat and wide open. Naturally I headed northwest!

I headed to the Wisconsin river, crossing on the free ferry at the tiny hamlet of Merrimac. Waiting for the ferry is generally fun because people get out of their cars and chat. It is not the fast way to anywhere, so no one is in a rush. After crossing, I turned east and went to an old favorite family picnic area: Durward's Glen. I explored on foot for about 20 minutes, checking out some areas I had not been to in years. And I made a new friend. She seemed like a local.


I took the long way home, enjoying the complete freedom. I really only used about three hours and about two and a half gallons of gas. That really is cheap stress relief!

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bonus With The Burger

Who among my readers will be the first to notice what is so right about this picture of my work place? How quintessentially Wisconsin is this? We had a cookout today that just happened to coincide with a weirdly amazing summer-like day with blazing sun and 72 degree (F) temperature. Food was the usual Midwest picnic fare: Burgers, brats, chips, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, and dessert.

Good Workplace!

And beer.

Life is good!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Element of Surprise

A large part of my life is improvisational as a conscious choice. I try to not over-plan whenever possible. Of course, being in Imminent Show Mode means I have a lot less free time for spontaneity, but I still try to leave blocks of unstructured time for whimsy and serendipity.

Ah! The Element of Surprise
The Element of Surprise

Part of that desire is based on my experience with contact improv dance, though the roots are deeper in my experience. During the latter part of my martial arts days when I - like seemingly every martial artist - spent a bunch of time and energy thinking about my training and "what worked". As Bruce Lee stated when developing Jeet Koon Do, "Use what works and discard the rest." I started thinking about sparring and my approach to it. I began to realize that it was very difficult to control a fight - control it - if your opponent was anywhere near your level of ability. There were simply too many variables for control. Rather I saw myself as "guiding chaos" with a technique here and a technique there. While never a threat to any serious fighter, I began to have more fun sparring and got better at it.

After I hung up my gloves and moved from fighting to dancing, particularly the contact improv form, I realized that all movement and life itself could be smoother and gentler by employing that same thought process. Basically it boils down to understanding that there are many influences on one's life, and you cannot control all of them. What you can do is be flexible and roll with changes as they careen into your life. Rather than get upset and angry when your car breaks down (as mind did recently) just understand that cars break down, and almost never at a convenient moment. Rather than waste energy getting angry, assess what your options are now that the car is kaput. Can you get where you need to go another way (taxi, bus, bicycle, on foot) or reschedule the trip? Sure you might be delayed, and it might cost more (or less) than if you were in your car, but the failure of the car does not have to be the failure of everything.

As I have let this influence my life more and more, I find that I have more moments of "Ah!", experiencing the element of surprise in a positive way rather than negative. Give it a try. Push in your clutch, and shift your paradigm. Have more "Ah!" in your life.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Welcome Spring!

It looks like the Iris beat the crocus this year in the race to bloom. The crocus are sprouted all over the yard, as are day lilies, daffodils, hyacinth, and sedum, but this hearty little Siberian iris took the honors. Since it is only 33 degrees out there at 8:30 AM, that takes some inner fortitude!

First Iris of the Year (DS3_6663)

This starts a cascade of blooms in my yard that lasts until the fall frosts. I think we have something blooming all the time. Not a lot, but sufficient for enjoying most every morning while I blink awake with a cup of coffee.

Welcome spring!

UPDATE: It seems the crocus were only off by a day! This one will likely open up today. Woohoo! And Nala was enjoying smelling all the smells too.



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Sunday, March 4, 2012

It is going to be a good year of cooking

Twenty-three years. That is how long I waited to change from an electric stove to gas. When we bought our house in 1989, it came with a not-new refrigerator and electric stove. Okay. I had opportunities to cook on gas stoves and vastly preferred it, but this one was here, and electric, and after buying the house we did not have a lot of spare money. So I thought I would use the electric one until it died and then I would replace it with gas.

Twenty-three years.

The oven element was failing, and I probably could have fixed it - myself - for about $25. But when we determined that it was indeed failing, my heart leaped and I did a happy dance. Reena did not begrudge me the new stove.We bought one lickity-split, had a gas line run from the basement (furnace, water heater) to the kitchen. Delivery of the new stove (and refrigerator) was yesterday.

Now we are cookin' with gas. Yeah baby.

As it turns out, we were not home for dinner yesterday. Reena got to use the stove before I did - sheesh! - and we went to a pot luck party. Today...ahh, today. I had a brand new carbon steel wok from Blood Bath and Beyond, and today it was going to get used. But with a carbon steel wok, like a cast iron skillet, you first have to season it.

Seasoning the new Carbon Steel Wok (DS3_6160)

For those who do not know, seasoning means heating up the brand new wok, coating the whole dang thing with vegetable oil, and putting it on the burner until the oil cooks in and burns off. It smokes a lot, and definitely set off my smoke alarm. It changes the color of the wok from bright steel to blackened caramel. Done properly it will prepare the wok for a lifetime of non-stick cooking goodness.

Now mine has had its initial seasoning, and it was time to cook. Who knew that the first thing I would cook in it, on the new stove, was tofu? Not me!

Marinating Tofu and Freashly-seasoned Wok (DS3_6161)

I took most of a pound of tofu and squeezed the moisture out of it, then put it in a marinade of lemon juice, salt, lemon peel, garlic, cloves, onion, and ginger. I have peppers (red and green), mushrooms, baby corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and bean sprouts to add. A bit of rice, and voilé - dinner!

On my new gas stove with a newly seasoned wok. It is going to be a good year of cooking.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Twilight Snowfall

Last week was another busy, busy week. It is entirely possible that I have bitten off more than I can comfortably chew at this point in my life, and I feel stretched thin. I made a bunch of commitments before I got a day job because I had a lot of free time. Now I do not, and there are a lot of balls being juggled an it is a bit difficult to keep them all in the air. I have a couple that will resolve this weekend and that will help reduce the stress. And yet the world goes on doing what it does. Yesterday it snowed here in Wisconsin. I understand that some parts of the state got quite a lot, but after all was done here in the capitol city, we had about 2-3 inches of thick, wet snow on the ground.

Twilight On The Yahara River

It was really, really pretty, and I hope to get out later today to capture a bit more of it, perhaps at Edna Taylor Conservancy. Hard to say for sure. I have a stove and refrigerator being delivered today, and that takes a bunch of time to empty the old into coolers, clean under the old stove (ugh) and generally prepare so the delivery guys can get in and out. I have a bit of photo editing and DVD-burning to complete, and I have a poster for our upcoming aerial dance show that has to get done this weekend. And tonight there is a party!

Twilight Along The Yahara River

I also want to get to a store or two and find a carbon steel wok. The new stove is gas and my electric wok is going away. I have wanted a gas stove my entire adult life, and after 23 years the electric stove that came with our house finally started to fail. Yes, it could have been repaired, perhaps even easily, but when we realized it was failing I did a happy dance and my heart leapt with joy. Reena did not even challenge my expressed wish for a gas stove. She's the best!

The Neighbor's Tree

So it is possible I will not be able to take the time to wander in this winter wonderland today. It is a bit of a shame really. We have had so little "winter" this year that this may be my only real opportunity. We shall see. It would not have to be a long outing...

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