Friday, May 18, 2012

This Week Got Away From Me

You know how they say time flies when you're having fun? Well, that ain't nothing to what it does when you're busy with... And that's the problem. I don't know what exactly has been going on. I just know that it is Friday today, and I haven't got a review to post here, and it seems like I've gotten little else done, either. I mean, there were dishes, laundry, vacuuming, making dog food, all the usual stuff, but it also seemed that there was no time for reading or other leisure activities. It's just weird how some weeks get away from you.

On other fronts, following up on my blog from the beginning of April, the new diet and exercise program is going pretty well. As of right now, I have lost a bit over 15 pounds. I have been more regular about exercise, and have started working some strength training into my week. The less alcohol policy has been going OK, as well. I didn't quite hit all of April with none, but there wasn't much, and I've been into May with the same policy. Our "diet" plan has been good for us. We, as most people who know us are aware, like to eat, and eat well. So going with a typical diet wasn't going to work. I don't want to live for as long as this will take on salad and carrot sticks. We still eat well, and use real butter, cream, and all that. It's mostly portion control, and substituting what we can. And at least for me, I have not felt deprived in any way, and it is working. So onward!

I also managed to add almost 2000 words to the short story project this week. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some of the time was spent reading and making revision notes. I am a little behind where I wanted to be at this point, but not too bad. I should be able to catch up fairly well.

I spent some time yesterday just  brainstorming ideas. Took pen and paper (yes, those things do still exist!) and just jotted down an idea that has been floating around in my head without much coherence. Then I just started noting down the ideas that came as I thought about it. Not sure there's much more coherence, but there are some interesting directions to think on.

On to the weekend. The projects on tap are a run to the town dump with more junk from upstairs, getting a Rubbermaid small shed to store the bikes in, putting in the fence posts in the back of the yard for closing in the chickens, and getting some seedlings set out and some more stuff planted. Oh, and fitting a bike ride in there somewhere, too! That ought to keep me busy, and at least I will know what I did!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Another Traveling Weekend

This time to Milford, CT for the Platt Tech "Doc" Dowling Memorial cook off. This was the first cook off this season where the BaldMan competed. It was a little bit weird, setting up in only one booth. Since I'm not cooking this season, we don't need to put up the second canopy. I took charge of the People's Choice for the day. I also judged the salsa category, since the BaldMan has already won that one.

Here's a picture of me, serving our People's Choice:

And I got called into service in the judging area, also. The scorekeeper for the event was not feeling well, and they called the paramedics, who thought she should go to the ER to get checked out. Of course, her husband went with her. He was Chief Judge for the event and this happened just as we were judging the salsas. So when I finished with my ballot, he asked me if I would take over as Acting Chief Judge until he knew what was happening with his wife. Of course, I did. First time I've been a Chief Judge, but I've seen him, the BaldMan and others do it so many times, it wasn't a big deal, really. All I had to do was have a short refresher meeting with the chili verde judges to refresh them on what they were going to do, and oversee the judging process. We had two great helpers step in to do the scorekeeping part. Steve was back for the red chili judging. Audrey was fine, and was released from the hospital later that day. All was well!

At the end of the day, the BaldMan took third place in red. A good thing! The new verde recipe seems to be good, though it needs a bit of work on color. The less than good part is that his fancy new thermometer froze up and let his chili overcook some. And, of course, it happened while I was away from the booth and he was busy with People's Choice serving! It was a good day overall, and good to  be on the cook's side of the competition again.

The BaldMan with his trophy:

We went to a surprise 60th birthday party for one of the cooks afterward. It was fun- and there was far too much food! Very nice to be able to just sit and relax after a long day of cooking.

We are serving as Chief Judge and Scorekeeper at a cook off to benefit the Meriden, CT Humane Society in June and the organizer of that event came to Saturday's cook off to judge and pass out flyers for his event. He had his bull mastiff with him. What a sweet dog! 150 pounds of mellow, laid back cutie.

Speaking of dogs, mine is back on antibiotics and drops for his ear. Those nasty cankers are back, so back to the meds. He isn't happy about the drops. The pills I can just mush into a bit of his food and he doesn't even know he's getting them. But it's helping. The ear is better. I hope we can figure out how to keep them clear. Ear infections are no fun.

I need to get out into the garden this week. I have more lines for the drip irrigation to run, and some planting to do. The seedlings are doing nicely, and I'll start hardening them off for planting soon.

Another week done, and another on the horizon. What are your plans?

Friday, May 11, 2012

At the Movies: The Avengers

My middle daughter asked me the other day: "Want to go see Avengers 3D for Mother's Day?" My response? "Yes, please!" We went on Wednesday afternoon. Good choice. Almost empty theater, no distracting kids or teenagers disrupting the movie. I rather like matinees. So what did I think?

Let me start by saying that I was looking forward to this movie. A lot. Way back when I was just a slip of a girl, I loved my comic books. Ok, so I was more of an X-Men girl than Avengers. My must-have comics were X-Men and Fantastic Four, but I read my share of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, etc. (We won't talk about what happened to those comics. Those and the baseball cards... *sigh*) I have not been reading or collecting them for many, many years, but I do remember and these movie realizations, while not all stellar (oh, boy, can we say NOT to some?),  are reminders of my youth. Yes, I am a geek. And proud of it. So.....
Have I mentioned Joss Whedon is a genius? No? Let me correct that oversight right now: Joss Whedon is a genius. If not a genius, he is absolutely freakin' good at not-quite-but-almost-over-the-top fun. I was a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse so I guess it's not a surprise that I liked Avengers, as well. Was it perfect? No. Did I care while sitting in the theater? Not one tiny bit.

The plot is a pretty standard superhero type story- bad guys trying to conquer and destroy. In this case, it's Loki and the Chitauri, a warring alien race. Loki is sent to retrieve the Tessaract, a source of limitless power that is in the hands of Shield. In exchange, the Chitauri promise Loki an army with which to conquer and subjugate Earth. Some of the background of this story is fairly directly spun from Thor, and while it is not necessary to have seen that movie prior to Avnegers, it might help understand some of the backstory. Although, anyone with a basic grounding in Norse mythology would get the major points, even without seeing Thor first. (Well, except the aliens, but we'll forgive.) Otherwise, even though most of the rest of the cast has had their solo movies, those are not crucial to this one. If you have a comics background, you know a lot of it, anyway, and if you don't, it won't get in the way of enjoying the film.

There is, of course, a lot of action. Many things get blown up, tossed about, knocked over, punched, kicked, and shot. And there lies one of the problems. Some of the scenes, action packed as they might be, did drag on perhaps a bit long. The final battle with Loki and Hulk absolutely makes up for all of them, however.

Whedon's hand is obvious in the humor in the film. There were as many chuckles as starts and jumps sprinkled throughout. Just one tiny sample:
Thor: Take care how you speak. Loki is of Asgaard and he is my  brother.
Black Widow: He's killed eighty people in three days.
Thor: He's adopted.
And that's just one. The one-liners and bantering dialogue is well-balanced with the action. You don't get tired of either.
The CGI is quite good, although I did think there were a few, but only a few, moments when it was a bit too apparent, compared to the majority of the time when it was more seamless. The Hulk, in particular, was impressive. All CGI, his face looked like Mark Ruffalo, and since they used Ruffalo's actions to pattern the Hulk after, the two characters felt like one. I do have one quibble with the Hulk, however, and it's writing, not CGI. At his first appearnace, he is portrayed as mindlessy raging and destructive, which leaves room for a nice, messy chase scene, but when he shows up for the final confrontation, he's directed and obviously thinking. Just a little disconnect that stuck out to me.

3D was very good, with only a few moments of popping off the screen, and those were well done.
I have to say the 3D was better than some films I've seen, as I have in the past not really been impressed with the 3D effects. But that is completely my issue- apparently, the fact that the vision in my right eye is so bad at this point makes it hard for me to see really subtle 3D, so don't take that as criticism. Actually, it was quite the opposite here- I thought the 3D was apparent through most of the film.

The movie was full of geeky goodness. Did I mention the flying, stealth aircraft carrier? Be still my heart.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Avengers. It had action, humor, and some pretty darn good biceps! An afternoon well spent. Thanks, Stephanie! Oh, and if I ever get the chance to swoop in and save the world, I am SO doing it while blasting heavy metal!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another Week

They seem to go whooshing by lately. We got home last Sunday evening from the New England Regional Cook Off. We didn't cook, but did help out in the judging area. It was a two day event this year, and let me tell you, we were pretty darn wiped by the time it was over. It's a different kind of tired, not so much physical, since you are not hauling all the "stuff" around. It's more mental, but it's tired just the same. We grabbed a pizza on the way through town and just did a quick, simple dinner.

The rest of the week was rather quiet. It rained most of the week, so no outdoor work got done. Saturday, I started cleaning out the pond, getting the dead leaves and gunk out of the bottom. It needs to get pulled out every year, or the pump and filter get too clogged up. I also got the reed trimmed back. They survive quite nicely in the pond over the winter, but the dead, dried stalks from last year do need to be trimmed out to make room for this year's growth. And it looks like there is only one fish left in there now. We had a great blue heron in the yard several days, and it looks like he got most of the fish. Darn bird! We've had that pond in the yard for many, many years and not a single heron until this year. I'm not adding any more fish until I can get floating cover plants in there. Most places around here won't start selling those for a few weeks yet.

Yesterday, we did a lot of yard work. I got the bed around the aspen at the driveway cleared out of the miscellaneous growth that springs up, so that the vinca I am trying to encourage has more room to grow. I put the big stone mushroom I bought last year out there, and I got three glow in the dark smaller mushrooms at Christmas Tree Shoppe and those went in there, too. We'll see how "glow" they are tonight. I also trimmed in the front foundation bed. A lot of the crap that Kleber cleaned out for us last year is sprouting again, because we just couldn't get all the stumps and roots out. So I trimmed it back again and pulled more roots, hoping that if I keep that up, eventually it will die. Five of the six mums I planted last year survived the winter, and are leafing out nicely. I will add more this year to fill the front edge. The dwarf burning bush, echinacea, and lilies are also coming back nicely. I need to get a couple azaleas in the back, and fill in the rest with flowers, mostly perennials. And I want to add some bulbs in the fall for Spring color.

And then we started clearing brush for the new fencing. We are going to try to really keep the chickens in our yard this year, so we are putting up five foot plastic mesh fence across the back. That should be high enough to keep them from flying over. Chickens can fly, but not that well. I will anchor the bottom as well so they can't slip under. The front part will eventually be split bamboo, which will look much nicer. We decided on the mesh for the back so that it doesn't interfere with what little view we have out that way. And the BaldMan mowed the lawn, which sorely needed it after all that rain this week.

Now we need to cut his meat for the coming weekend's Doc Dowling Memorial cook off, and get all the rest of the chili stuff sorted and reloaded for the season. This is the first cooking competition this year. The BaldMan is the cook this season. I'm not cooking this year. I decided to take the season off and get some other things done with the time I'd spend on cook off prep. I will be back next year, however!

On to another week. I hope it's a good one, for all of us!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Blackbirds (Miriam Black #1) by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miriam Black sees death. At least, she sees the death of people she touches, skin to skin. She knows the date, time, and circumstances of each person's death. She's tried to change things a few times; to cheat Fate, as it were. But she has become convinced that Fate will not be cheated, and her attempts only make the inevitable more so. So she has become a sort of scavenger, gleaning enough from the corpses of those whose death she's seen to just get by. In the course of her endless road trip with death, she meets two men: Ashley Gaynes, who sees in Miriam the chance to run the ultimate con game on those whose deaths Miriam will see, and Louis Darling, a trucker in whose death vision Miriam hears him calling her name, as if she were there. It seems Fate may have plans that even Miriam hasn't figured out.

I really enjoyed this book. Wendig is rapidly becoming a favorite author. His stories are provocative, funny, visceral, bloody, and engrossing. Miriam Black is certainly damaged goods- abusive childhood, teen trauma, and cursed with a psychic ability that would freak the pants off most anyone else. She's a wise-cracking, hard-ass, chain-smoking, hard-drinking woman far older than her years who has figured out a way to live with her visions, or so she thinks. There is confrontation on many levels, and a final push to redemption.

Character is everything in this book. Miriam, Louis (even "Dead Louis"), and Ashley have depth and personality. The secondary villains are chilling and pretty much ooze evil. A little stereotype? Maybe, but it doesn't hurt this story at all. In fact, it may help, as these darker characters embody what Miriam could be (and in some ways, may think she is) until she is confronted with them.

Setting is less important here, as Miriam is essentially a drifter, and never stays in one place longer than she needs to in order to collect her scavengings. It is, in many ways, a road trip story, and the journey is the real setting.

One more thing- the cover. A truly outstanding job by Joey Hi-Fi. One of the best and most effective covers I've seen in a while.

I should warn potential readers that the book would be rated for language, violence, and some mild sexual situations. But it should also be rated for intelligence, provoking thought, and just general goodness.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Day Late

Sorry. It was a long weekend and I decided to use Monday as a recovery day.

This past weekend was the New England Regional Chili Cook Off. This year it was a two day event. We did not cook this one, but we did help out in the judging area both days. On Saturday, the BaldMan was a wrangler/table monitor, and I helped with scorekeeping. On Sunday, I was Head Scorekeeper and the BaldMan wrangled/monitored again. It doesn't sound like a lot, does it? Let me tell you, those were two full bore, exhausting days. It is amazing how much work you do in that judging area. All in all, it is a good tired, and I do enjoy doing it. At least until I stop and realize just how tired I actually am!

We used the BaldMan's scorekeeping program this weekend as well. Saturday, we used it to score the Youth Division for under 18 year old cooks, and Sunday we used it to score all the preliminary tables as well as the Youth Division. It worked perfectly. A few things I noted and mentioned for refinement, and he does have to get the printing "prettied up," but as far as functionality, it was great. It's going to be timesaver at cook offs where it can be used. There are cook offs where electricity isn't available, so laptop battery life could be an issue, as well as printing, but where it is used, I think scorekeepers will find it very slick.

We drove home right after Sunday's cook off, as it is only about two hours to Somers, CT from here. And decided to just pick up a pizza when we got to Londonderry, so we didn't have to think about going out again. It was a good idea. We both turned in early on Sunday night.

In other news, my poor pond has been stripped of fish. We had a heron in the yard a few weeks ago, and I am pretty sure he got some of them. I thought he must have been back since then, because I haven't found any fish in there for a few days. Got the proof today. When I came back up the driveway after walking the dog, there he was in the yard again. I am sure he must have been disappointed that I have not restocked the sushi bar yet! I have no plans to until I can get some good floating cover plants in there. And I will put a plant pot on its side on the bottom for an extra hiding spot, as well. Dad-blamed bird! There is a huge pond not far from here- go fish there!

Nothing is getting done outside for now. It is raining now and the forecast has some rain for most of the week. We do need the rain, so it's okay with me.

Today will be spent catching up on the mountain of laundry I have, and grinding and packaging up more dog food.  I have to say that with all the recent recalls of dog food, I am really glad I got Murphy on a raw diet. At least I know where his food is coming from and exactly what is in it.

Looking forward to a somewhat normal week for once!