Sunday, April 21, 2024

Alternative strawberries

Our strawberries are starting to bloom.

We don't expect ripe fruit for a while yet, but it's yet another sure sign of spring.

At her European duty station, Younger Daughter has a balcony off her apartment where she keeps a few potted strawberry plants. Interestingly, though, many of the flowers aren't white.

Some are light pink.

Some are dark pink.

Some are dark red.

And yes, some are white.

They're all strawberries – she regularly gets fruit – but I have no idea why the blossoms vary in color to such a degree. Does anyone know?

Friday, April 19, 2024

Inside a tiny home

Tiny homes are all the rage lately. We know a business in which building tiny homes is a brand-new side project. This is the company's first completed project, custom-tailored to one customer's specific requirements:

The business was having an open house before the customer took possession (hence the paper taped to the floor), so I took advantage of a tour. I'd never been in a tiny home before, and was surprised to see how spacious it was. Per the customer's instructions, it didn't have a kitchen range, but it did have a full refrigerator (with the blue protective film still on it). (That's my purse and visor sitting on the counter.)

Lots of light, and even a nice little porch.

Full, if compact, bathroom.

Good-sized bedroom, with windows on two sides.

The builder said the price was $100,000, which seems high for such a small (and mobile) space, but then everything is more costly these days.

On the other hand, I couldn't deny it was quite a lovely little home. Does anyone have experience living in one of these types of units? What are the pros and cons, besides the obvious issue of space?

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The sad end to a beautiful love story

I heard this morning that Samantha Davis, wife of actor Warwick Davis, has passed away at the age of 53.

Most celebrity tragedies kinda go in one ear and out the other, but this one hit me hard. They had a beautiful love story. They met on the set of the movie "Willow" and were devoted to each other for over 30 years.

My deepest condolences to the Davis family.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Signs of spring

Despite being in the middle of a chilly spell (windy, scattered rain, high of 50F), spring is indisputably here. One of the surest signs is the blossoming of the arrow-leaf balsamroot.

These large, showy blooms prefer shallow soil and sunny south-facing slopes. During this time of year, they positively carpet meadows and light up distant hillsides with color.

Another sign is deer. They're everywhere. I mean, deer are always "everywhere" here, but this time of year they're more "everywhere" than usual, if you know what I mean.

No fawns yet, though. It's too early for that.

the oak trees are starting to bud.

But the surest sign of spring? Turkeys.

Yes, the toms are strutting, and you never saw a more puffed-up crowd of self-absorbed grandees than these boys. I mean, they know they're hot stuff.

They always look so affronted when interrupted, glaring at you before closing down their feathers and slinking away.

I caught this fellow displaying below our deck. I was trying to sneak up without him noticing.

He may have noticed me, but he had better things to do. There were ladies present.

The ladies, however, didn't seem overly impressed. (They never do.) They soon wandered off, with our boy trotting in their wake.

Undeterred, he followed them down to the road and commenced displaying again. I admired his persistence.

Despite my poking fun at the toms, and however indifferent the hens may seem, evidently it works. You can bet we'll have lots and lots of baby turkeys trotting around in a few weeks.

Ah, spring.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

NaNoWriMo update

Thank you all for the well-wishes during my recent bad head cold. Except for a lingering cough, I'm feeling much better.

And I'm over halfway done with my NaNoWriMo project! I just logged in about 26,700 words (out of 50,000).

I emailed my editor at Harlequin yesterday, and she's looking forward to my proposal (synopsis + three chapters), which will lead to negotiating with my agent for a new contract, etc. It feels good to have the ball rolling again.

I'm also working on two articles both Backwoods Home Magazine, due at the end of the month. So yes, even though I was down sick for a while and unable to get any outdoor work done, at least I got some writing done.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Darcy at leisure

Just some random pix of Mr. Darcy at leisure. It's hard to believe this little puppy dog is now a middle-aged gentleman. We brought him home in August of 2017, so he's already seven years old.

Possibly his favorite resting position (weather permitting) is out on the deck, chin resting on the lower rail, alert to any turkeys he can chase off.

"What? You lookin' at me?"

Enjoy watching Darcy at leisure as I recover from this bad cold............

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sick (sniffle cough)

I'm sick.

I blame this very bad head cold on Don, who got it first and felt absolutely lousy for a few days. It was inevitable that I should get it next.

It's the usual head cold symptoms: scratchy throat, cough, sniffles, watery eyes, pounding head, bad sleeping. Don is on the mend, but I'm in the thick of it.

Ironically, the weather for the past few days has been gorgeous: sunny, warm, just begging us all to spill outdoors and get some spring projects done, especially since temperatures are dropping again starting tomorrow.

But Don is still recovering his strength and can't do much yet, and – as I mentioned – currently I'm in the thick of it, so it's hard to take advantage of the beautiful day.

So, to compromise, I did some writing outdoors. This allowed me to take advantage of the beautiful weather while still being productive. (I'm almost at the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo, so I gotta keep writing no matter how lousy I feel.) 

This too shall pass. Don's already feeling quite a bit better. I figure I have another day or two. Poor Older Daughter, though; she just came out and announced she has a scratchy throat. The next victim is chosen.

Friday, April 12, 2024

England vs. Idaho

Don stumbled upon a map of England depicting a cross-country trip across the length and breath of England. The trip lasted fifteen hours and doubled back and forth, zigzagging across the nation.

He got to wondering how such a trip would compare to Idaho, so he pulled up a map of the state and tried to recreate a journey of the same length, staying strictly within the boundaries of the state.

You'll notice the road is more of a backwards "J" shape rather than the zigzag. That's because there are many remote parts of Idaho that don't have roads, notably the massive Bitterroot Mountains in the central part of the state that straddle Idaho and Montana. There are very few passes bisecting these mountains.

So how does Idaho compare to England? Here are a few stats: 

England:    51,320 sq. miles
Idaho:        83,546 sq. miles (about 1.6 times larger)

England:    56,500,000 (almost 29 times more people)
Idaho:        1,950,000

England:    1,124 people/sq. mile
Idaho:        24 people/sq. mile (most of whom are concentrated in the larger cities)

As you can see, Idaho has a lot of catching up to do. On the other hand, it doesn't have the phenomenally rich history of England either (I'm an English history buff). Here in Idaho, a house that's 100 years old is ancient. England has homes dating back centuries and even millennia. How cool is that?

Lots to be said for both sides of the Atlantic!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Chocolate-chip cookies, production style

An older gentleman in our church passed away late last week, and his funeral is this Friday (Don is a pallbearer). I was asked to make some chocolate-chip cookies for after the service. Lots of chocolate-chip cookies.

For this task, I took the best chocolate-chip cookie recipe I've ever found, and multiplied it. It's kind of an awkward recipe to multiply, since it starts with 11 tablespoons of butter. I had a full two pounds of butter I wanted to use, so I had to figure out the ratios. A little cross-multiply-and-divide (for those who remember that classic high-school math trick) and I determined the recipe needed to be ramped up by 5.5 times.

I got the original recipe from a now-defunct blog called (oddly) "A Girls' Guide to Guns and Butter." The blog is gone, but the recipe lives on. Here's the original:

• 11 tablespoons butter, melted (hot is fine)
• 2/3 cup light brown sugar (do not pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup but scoop it out gently and simply level it off – it should be loose and fluffy, or you will end up using too much and your cookies will be tough)
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Dash of vanilla
• 2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Here's my 5.5x calculations, made a bit awkward due to the eggs and yolks:

The secret, apparently, is to melt the butter rather than merely soften it.

Brown sugar, white sugar, salt, vanilla, and baking soda:

Adding the whole eggs and egg yolks:

Mixing in the flour and melted butter:

Ready to add the chocolate chips:

This is the first batch. It's been a long time since I made this recipe, and I swiftly realized the raw cookies have to be much smaller, and more widely spaced, so they don't all meld together. I reserved the first batch for us; delicious, but not "pretty."

Thereafter I got the hang of making the cookies "pretty." The cookies are baked in a low oven (325F) for anywhere from 12 to 16 minutes, depending on oven particulars. I baked and baked, bagging up the cooling cookies, until the dough was gone. (The blue-lidded tub holds the misshapen first batch.)

This really is one of the best chocolate-chip cookie recipe I've come across. Just don't add too much raw dough – or overcrowd it – on the cookie sheet.