Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
In case you didn't catch it previously? Something Blue, explained.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Fast forward several weeks later and all suspicions were confirmed. Despite that relative flimsiness the towels look great but are still somewhat stiff after weeks of repetitive use and washing. Most importantly, the towels are just not absorbent. That whole "soaking it up" part of the job a towel is created for? The wicking of moisture from one surface to another a towel is supposed to perform? Fuhgeddaboudit. The spills may move but they don't sop. These beauties simply don't roll that way.
My cousin, several years older and an only child, was only too happy to turn many of her usual chores over to me while she disappeared into her summer routines. I didn't mind a bit. I'd been playing second fiddle to my baby brother for the better part of a year by then, and as far as I was concerned, any attention from the great and powerful Dot was good attention. This was no less than a reordering of the universe back to where it once stood, with me in the center, as it should always be, forever and ever. (amen!)
I imagine my survival had something to do with how distractingly cute my baby brother was (and still is). Pretty irresistible, yeah? It's those baby boy curls. Plus the chubby cheeks. That combination'll sock you right in the heart every time.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
hash, throw a fried egg on top, and this iteration of Breakfast for Dinner is in the bag. Or rather, on the plate.
What makes for kitchen happiness in your eyes?
Saturday, July 28, 2012
As kids we worked tirelessly to enhance any aspect of the ride that might reinforce that idea of speed. Streamers were placed on handlebar grips to objectively demonstrate how FAST we were going, especially helpful for those without long hair to provide built in motion lines.
Playing cards were carefully folded with the top third clothes-pinned to the chain stays. We'd position the rest of the card body where it would lightly hit the passing wheel spokes to provide a percussive quality to our riding. The faster we rode, the louder and faster the rat-a-tatting.
We imagined it sounded like we were riding motorcycles. We rode fast. We looked and sounded tough. OK, OK. We rode fast. We sounded tough. We
We rode our suburban streets for the most part, rarely sharing the road with cars and never with trucks of any size. A major safety issue for us was trying not to tear off the tops of our toes when we rode barefooted, which we did a ridiculous amount of the time.
Summer in Texas naturally meant going shoeless. We were all proud of how tough our feet would get. Any and all other scrapes, cuts or bruises were simply the price of doing business as a kid in summertime.
The choice of whether to wear a helmet while riding our bikes, to reduce the likelihood of head injuries from collisions, didn't even exist as an option. Yet.
Fast forward mumbledy-some years and there I am, a grown type person, trying to make a convincing case to my own kids that they should do as I said, (not as I did) and routinely strap on a helmet while riding their bikes. My children were already familiar with photos of me riding bikes in my heydey. The evidence was clear. Helmets had zero entries in my own diary of cycling.
I made the case for how times, traffic patterns and safety standards had all changed. I duly reserved the "because I said so" argument as instructed to on page 43, Section D (Safety), Subsection 14 (Bicycles) in the Chapter titled "Now They Are Out - Let's Keep Them Alive" in my copy of the 27th edition Mother-Does-It-All-Handbook.
My children quickly enlisted all the other usual arguments against helmet wearing. Helmets are too hot, helmets fit way too tightly, helmets don't fit tightly enough, they are heavy, they are stupid, they are UGLY.
I couldn't argue with most of their objections. Helmets can be hot, especially in summertime. Helmets do need to be fitted well, and for big headed families like ours (I am talking physical dimensions here, not inflated self regard, though, sure, we might deserve both hits) that can be tricky. Helmets can be heavy until you get used to them but ideally, you ought to be able to strap one on and forget it is there.
We went round and round and if I remember correctly, at least some of the time my kids wore helmets when they rode their bikes. Since then, studies supposedly proving helmet use reduces injury severity have been roundly criticized for various reasons and the jury also remains out as to whether they provide any protection at all against neck or facial injuries. So even the basic idea of helmet use being smart or stupid either one remains a bit up for grabs.
But ugly? The "ugly" objection is now officially and forever off the table.
Bellehelmet. Hand painted by artist/illustrator Danielle Baskin in Brooklyn, these amazing helmets beautifully fulfill her stated goal, "Safety doesn't have to compromise style!". According to her website, Baskin will paint custom requests, and even provides a discount for customers who send in their own helmets to be painted.
|Artist Danielle Baskin finishes the helmets with a gloss finish so you always have a bright sun shining as part of your "sky" helmet designs.|
Full disclosure: I do not know the artist, I have not bought one of these helmets (yet!) and I received no compensation in any form for bringing these to your attention. I saw these, was gobsmacked, and simply had to share.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The tests measure different things, but they all work the same way. You answer a batch of questions, press a button, and whammo! You get your test result.
That result might reveal all sorts of fascinating, at times vaguely nonsensical factoids about you such as "What's Your Spirit Flower?", "What Hogwart's House are you" or provide insights on meatier topics such as "Where Am I on a global fat scale?".
Lately I'd been thinking about blogging, about writing, about why people do it and who they are doing it for. It seemed fortuitous when I ran across an opinion piece in the NYT about "Zombie Nouns" by University of Auckland professor, Helen Sword.
Sword writes, "Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. Academics love them; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. I call them “zombie nouns” because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings:
The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction.
The sentence above contains no fewer than seven nominalizations, each formed from a verb or an adjective. Yet it fails to tell us who is doing what. When we eliminate or reanimate most of the zombie nouns (tendency becomes tend, abstraction becomes abstract) and add a human subject and some active verbs, the sentence springs back to life:
A bit of a postscript at the end of the piece caught my eye. It read in part: "To diagnose your own zombie habits, try pasting a few samples of your prose into the Writer's Diet test. A score of "flabby" or "heart attack" in the noun category indicates that 5 percent or more of your words are nominalizations."
A test! Oh joy! I could take an online test! Based upon my test results I had no doubt I'd be able to turn around whatever flabby writing must be behind the disappointing lack of lively community building going on in my comments section.
Fast as I could I cut and pasted a chunk from a recent blog post and plugged it into the Writer's Diet.
Hey! Ta daaa! Lean! You guys! My writing came back lean. Furthermore, when I downloaded the pdf rendering the "full diagnosis" I was treated to two pages of color coded "Key principles". Sweet!
Now I've got both lean writing and key principles. What? You wouldn't have bothered with the download? Pish tosh. I am dead certain you would be similarly frantic to learn SPECIFICALLY how wonderful that writing sample you provided is. Was. Anyway, back to writing leanly about how lean my writing here is. Was.
If I heed the advice provided under the heart warming caption "No improvements needed"(hold it, I'm going to just sit here with that for a moment, you keep reading...), I will continue to produce "energetic prose". And won't you be grateful? Of course you will. The lean writing you are going to keep finding here will....I don't know.....guarantee your eyes don't get fat? Something. But something leanly.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
|Datura sends up a second set of blooms|
|Beauty Bush berries|
|More berries - the mockingbirds will be thrilled|
Friday, July 13, 2012
Recently we were treated to a mid-July rarity. Said rarity comprised of a run of rainy cooler days happening at the height of what is otherwise the All Death Star/All The Time season.
Our rain gauge captured a total of 2 3/4 inches across a three day span but as exciting as that is, it was not the most exciting bit of business we experienced.
One afternoon as we raised blinds to stand at our windows and simply admire the sight of rain falling on our parched surroundings, my daughter remarked, "Mom! I think I just saw a grey fox run under my car!" (said car being parked to one side of our driveway out front).
When I asked her if she'd seen it keep on running out from underneath, she said she did not, and we speculated the animal might still be hovering under her car to keep from becoming drenched.
Naturally, I headed out to open the garage door and see if I could snap a shot of the rain-averse fox for the blog. (What? You don't automatically think "this should be a post" when out of the ordinary events occur in your yard and gardens?)
|Pinky swear that semi-curved blur in the middle of the shot is the hind quarters of the animal.|
What we had hustling through our environs was not a grey fox at all but rather a good sized coyote, the first we've seen with our own peepers in these parts.
I'd been aware we had coyotes in our general area. Considering the mass quantities of baby deer currently stumbling around our neighborhood I guess I ought not be surprised coyote are coming in even closer, but frankly I was a little surprised and a lot disconcerted to see one out and about in our suburban area barely a block away from what on sunnier days is a very busy park, ball field and neighborhood swimming pool.
In this case, July showers brought about a coyote bloom.
This sighting provided a stark reminder there is a food chain at work all around us, including uninvited guests, who will participate with or without direct encouragement.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Other days, I am fortunate enough to receive Truth! Wisdom! Light!
If only I'll recognize them, that is.
I mean, how much misery might I have avoided if I only heeded this gem:
So remarkable. I'd credit the source for this but first saw it as a forward without citation from a friend, so will post it here with the following caveat. This flowchart is not my original content. There now, I feel much better. Go forth and have a better than usual Wednesday. Them's my orders. Obedience is all up to you. Just keep on keeping it real with the flow chart, please. It's the only way to roll.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
I'm talking about perks such as city water, paved streets, and proximity to the grocery store, pet store, bank and library. I can do most anything I need or ever want to do all while dealing with businesses situated less than 5 miles from our house.
As much as I might enjoy and even insist we are living La Vida Ciudad however, there are those moments I think to myself I may not have quite nailed that designation.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Friday, July 6, 2012
I kid you not. July 6th? It's not just the day you finally yank out all the little flags and fish those streamers and bunting back out of your trellis. Not any more. July 6th is designated, y'all. July 6th IS National Fried Chicken Day.
I'll admit, I didn't fry chicken at home for years. I grew up eating the eponymous Colonel's version exclusively, so I was cooking for a long while before I took seriously the notion that anybody fried chicken outside a restaurant chain. Eventually as I applied my eager "I bet I can do that better at home" willingness to try my own hand at frying chicken, I bumped right up against all the usual stumbling blocks.
2) Oil. (see Time).
3)A desire to eat healthy. (OK, healthy-ER) (see Oil).
I solved my original issues by cutting skinless boneless chicken breasts into strips, then breading and frying those. The smaller pieces obviated the need for mass quantities of oil, at least initially shortened the cooking time involved, and by skipping the skin, partially addressed the desire to come up with a healthier version of the old stand-by.
I say initially shortened the cooking time involved because as I fine-tuned my technique, the chicken strips became such a family favorite that leftovers became a requirement. Soon it was routine for me to make double or even triple batches to assure a sufficient surplus. My time spent standing around bubbling vats of hot oil expanded past the point it would be offset by my love for family. Home fried chicken went back off the menu.
|I am the ghost of FriedChicken Future|
The results promised? A beautifully crispy crust, moist tender meat, and a less-than-Valdez level clean-up. Their technique uses less than 2 cups of oil rather than the 5 cups typically called for.
[Sorry for any inconvenience but I won't copy their recipe here. The Test Kitchen has narrowly drawn views about unauthorized sharing of content. Here is a link to their site where you can sign up if you wish to view all the details.]
I am mostly doing it their way. I have a package of skin on, bone-in chicken thighs currently sitting in a cup of buttermilk to which I added a tablespoon of regular salt over and above the usual seasoning suspects.
The additional salt elevates the buttermilk soak to BRINE status. That promises to work in combination with the lactic acid in the buttermilk to keep the meat moist while cooking. Past that, the Test Kitchen advises double tweaking the breading step by adding a bit of baking powder and then working in a bit of buttermilk to the seasoned flour prior to dredging. They promise the reaction of the baking powder to heat and resulting extra floury clumps in the breading will allow the birdy bits to achieve the crispiest crunchiest nuggetiest crust ever.
Chicken pieces are to be fried about 3-5 minutes per side until nicely browned, then finished for 15 or so minutes in a hot oven until the internal temperature reaches proper doneness (about 175 degrees because I am using all dark meat).
Will it work? I can barely wait to see. I'll update with a photo of the finished product later, but for now? I'm dreaming of a brown Fried Chicken Day, just like the ones I used to know.
Update post prep, fry, bake and eat: Best fried chicken I've ever made. Close to the best I've ever eaten. I forgot to put baking powder in the dredge and it was still the crunchiest so far. If all the Test Kitchen recipe and technique tips are this successful, I may break a rule and pay for recipes again.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
To my surprise, while nearly all my attention and flowerly longings were directed towards those sunflower buds, a Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) plant I bought during Art Fest in Wimberly two years ago, recently decided it too would become an active contestant in the Waiting Game.
I kept saying to anyone who would listen (and a couple of family members who would not so much listen) that these blooms sure reminded me of plumeria. And no wonder, apparently Desert Rose is related to both plumeria and numeria (or oleander, as numeria is more commonly called).
So far the pink and yellow tubular bloom has been stealing the show for three days running, with more blooms hanging around just off stage, waiting their turn to shine. We might not have any actual fireworks this 4th of July holiday, but it matters not. These Desert Rose blooms in combination with the sunflowers will sure enough fill the bill.
However you choose to celebrate this Fourth of July, here's warmest wishes sent out from everybody here at Austin Agrodolce to you. May your dogs be hot and your mustard cold.
Monday, July 2, 2012
I also regularly use large mason jars to make sun tea.
The other day I was mindlessly setting up a jar with fresh water and tea bags. I set it out and forgot about it as is usual. But this time, when I glanced out later in the day to see if the steeping process had reached an acceptable end point, I was surprised to see barely any color at all.
As a matter of fact, it didn't really look much like tea at all. It looked more like, well, some other liquid that has barely any color to it.
I brought the jar in, took the tea bags out, and shrugged. I knew I'd drink the tea, super weak or not. Having left it out twice as long as usual already, I figured those tea bags had given their all, even if that all did not appear to be very much.
|The tea in question|
Yup - I could have left those green tea bags steeping in water for weeks and it would never have developed any more "color". Both varieties come from the same company so the outside of the bags look the same and you have to actually read the printed labels to keep things properly sorted out.
In other words, you, or in this case, I, must pay the teensiest bit of attention to what you are doing. Once I had Earl Grey tea bags back into the act in a new batch the next day I had nicely colored tea almost before I'd gotten back inside my house.
|Earl Grey after about three minutes steeping in the sun|