Looking at Bubbles

I like bubble tea. Actually I love a good taro slush with boba. Living in the Midwest does not afford me with the opportunity to have a really good bubble tea until recently. Ever since Bobby went back to Cambodia and closed the Sweet Moon, there hasn’t been a bubble tea place in town. I’ve had to venture far and wide to find this delicious treat. There are several places in Atlanta, GA that are good. I found a place in San Antonio, TX. There is a shop in Chicago, IL that is really good (but much more expensive than even Atlanta). There is one place in Elkhart, IN that is delicious. Since Sparky doesn’t work in Elkhart any more we never have a reason to visit. However there is now a place at the mall! It is not as good as Sweet Moon was but it is still very tasty – the Icy Bar.
  
A friend got me a Bubble tea kit for Christmas. I’ve tried it out and it is good but it doesn’t have the taro flavor. Instead it has chai and green tea along with the tapioca boba. I tried it out after I got home from Florida (where my niece made taro bubble tea one evening that was delightful). I won’t go into the whole process (and it is a process). I did have to make tea. We used to have a tea ball. I can picture it in my mind. I can see it in the drawer. But it isn’t there anymore. I was very distraught because I rarely make tea (like once every 15 years) and when I have made tea I used a tea bag not loose tea! But the kit had loose tea! I went to 2 stores looking for a tea ball. I finally found one – sort of.
  

  

This little bunny was so cute that I couldn’t resist. The ears hook over the edge and the little bunny sort of has a relaxing soak in your cup! The only drawback is that the holes are so large that a fine tea sifts out and you get grit. I ended up having to pour the tea through my strainer to filter out the bits. I tried the black chai first because it smelled so good. The next time I make it I’m going to have ice and attempt a slush version… Still it was tasty.
   

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Looking for Serenity

She sighed deeply as she turned off the ignition and closed the garage door. The interior car light was on and she paused to savor the quiet and calm. When the light turned itself off she headed into her house. She had only two keys on her ring, the car and house key. Prying her boots off on the door mat, she steadied herself on the arm of the sofa. The interior darkness wasn’t complete. The blue light from the DVD player cast a glowing circle. As she moved through the hall she could see the reflection of the microwave display in the glass of the wall clock. She sighed again. This time it was the sound of satisfaction. All was as it should be. There was serenity. Even the air was welcoming. A small smile played across her face. The crease between her eyes relaxed and the tension in her muscles eased. Silently she hung her purse on the back of the kitchen chair and shed her winter coat. She stood motionless for several minutes letting her eyes adjust to the dark and her ears pick up the subtle sounds of the house. She waited. It had become a game she played, marking the time from opening the garage door to when he would finally realize she had come home. She savored the delay, amused at how quickly he would appear. She jumped with the light touch on her arm. He was a marvel of stealth and it pleased her that he greeted her with this gentle gesture. “There you are, Mister.” she whispered. He responded with a soft touch and was gone. She knew where he went. Reluctantly she turned on the light. She had installed dimmer switches throughout her home. She preferred a soft light to the glaring white in her office. Mister seemed to prefer the shadows too. His sleek black form rarely ventured into the center of a room, preferring to hug the walls and navigate behind and beneath the furniture. If only she could have been born a cat she thought. With a relaxed motion, she gave Mister his dinner. While she watched him eat she pondered her own dinner choices. She wasn’t usually lazy when it came to meal preparation but today had been a trial. The choices were slim, leftover quiche or cereal. “Eeny-meeny-miny-moe” she intoned and then decided that a scrambled egg on buttered toast sounded better than either of the other choices. Mister appeared on her lap as she started to take the first bite. She was never sure if he just wanted attention or if he was after her food. It didn’t matter. She willingly gave him the second bite. He was a dainty eater nipping off just one little corner before curling up on her lap. It was as if he knew that she savored the silence. Everyone always talked about their cats purring loudly but Mister didn’t make any noise, only a constant vibration deep in his chest. In fact he was so quiet that most of the time she couldn’t determine his location. He could be lurking under a chair or stretched behind her head and she wouldn’t know until he tapped her ankle or her shoulder.

This is episode #2 of “An Introvert’s Story”. Some people are dog lovers and others are crazy cat ladies. You can draw your own conclusions.

Looking in the Shrubs

Last week we had a day of freezing rain. It came down in the early morning before the sun had come up. There was still ice falling from the sky in waves of freezing rain or little ice pellets when I had to leave for work. The driveway is slanted but not steeply – just enough for little kids on tricycles to be able to coast down with feet off the pedals and gain a touch of speed. I backed out of the garage and had a moment of free fall as the car slid off the driveway. I didn’t have an accident. It was more like momentum carried me into the street like a boy on a tricycle. I managed to get to work without any death, dying or destruction to me or fellow motorists (not that the man in the lifted pick-up truck didn’t try – but that’s another story). The walk from the parking lot was treacherous. I had made the poor choice of wearing my favorite booties (2.5″ heels that zip up the back). I skated into the building. But not before I took a few photos. Like so many things in life we can look and not see. We can focus on the beauty or the inconvenience. That day I decided that I wanted to capture and hold onto the wonder and let go of the anxious feelings left over from the drive…
  

   

Looking Good

The ceramics studio has announced that they are going to hold another student show in the spring. Of course I plan to enter a piece. The problem is that I can’t decide which piece to enter… I finished another orb that actually made it through the kiln. There have been some issues related to the cold weather. The kiln is in the basement of the conference center/museum and it vents to the outside. There is a damper that permits the steam to exit and then closes to prevent critters and unwanted weather/debris/miscellaneous stuff from getting onto the vent. With the cold weather the damper iced up and prevented it from closing. This allowed very cold air to flood into the kiln. It wasn’t too much of a problem when the kiln was running (took longer to get to temperature). When the kiln was no longer actively firing and the pieces were supposed to be SLOWLY cooling the cold air caused some fragile pieces to shatter, others had some ugly cracks, and a lot had the glaze craze. Crazing of the glaze is where it develops a web of tiny cracks in the glaze. It looks pretty but it makes pieces unsuitable for using for food, they may not hold liquids, and many will break if placed in the microwave or exposed to extreme temperatures. The mug makers were a tad (understatement) irate. As it was I lost a piece that I had experimented with made of half white stoneware and half porcelain. I regret now not taking a photo. It had come out of the kiln intact. Until it was placed on my cold metal shelf it looked like it had survived. Once in contact with the shelf (under the exhaust fan that draws outside air) it made a couple popping noises and fell into 5 or 6 big chunks with a handful of tiny slivers. I didn’t try to pick them up – I swept them into the trash barrel with the whisk broom.

Anyway, here is the latest survivor. It is a half white stoneware and half porcelain body with Royal Blue glaze and red iron oxide stain on the tips. It is my interpretation of the pollen of Arnica chamissonis also known as American Arnica. It is a bright yellow flower that grows native to California and blooms in June/July. It is sometimes used as an anti-inflammatory in topical applications. It is considered toxic if taken internally. Others are sensitive to the plant and find it does not have soothing properties but instead have a reaction similar to poison ivy…
    

Looking at a New Story

I used to write stories on Xanga. They were of various length, with a variety of characters. The feedback suggested that my protagonists were endearing and relatable and above all memorable. I had one reader nearly hurt herself when Maisy Duchenne got into some trouble. Another was so enamored with Detective Evans that they made me promise not to killer her off in the story! It was the story of Rose that made several confide their stories of domestic violence to me. All in all I had very positive reactions to my stories. I have decided to post another story. Like all the previous stories, this one will be posted in serial format with one episode/chapter a week. If it goes beyond March 31, I will put it on hiatus so that I can post a poem in its place to participate in April’s National Poetry Month. So without further ado here is the first entry for “An Introvert’s Story”

It was snowing. Her back was tense and there was a dull ache below her left shoulder blade from gripping the steering wheel so tightly. The seat belt was rubbing against her jaw as she leaned forward to see through the only clear spot on the windshield. She had turned off the radio since she couldn’t hear it over the sound of the heater and the wipers slapping against a ridge of ice along the far edge of the windshield. She wanted nothing more than to get home. The frustrations of the day dogged her flight from work. It was as if the snow and ice were aiming for her and her alone. She sighed and muttered under her breath, “Stupid drivers.” It wasn’t in anger but a statement of fact. Her opinion of the human race as a whole was not positive. Sure there were a few people she could tolerate, in small doses, but by and large she preferred her own company. The traffic was heavy and moving at a crawl. She sat at the light counting the cars ahead of her. If she was lucky she might make it through. She wasn’t lucky. “Idiots.” she intoned. It was getting dark and the neon lights were fuzzy beacons shining though the falling snow. Taco Bell or Wendy’s she asked herself. But the cars started to move faster. Her desire to get home trumped her hunger and she drove without stopping for what would only be the irritation of additional human interactions.

Looking at Buttons

Lost buttons and metaphors for life. That is the unraveling of the thread that holds all things together. Buttons and breath. A stitch in the side and the thread that rubs against the sharp edge of a metal button. Eventually the thread breaks and even with sewing it back on it is only a matter of time before the thread is worn through again. If you are fortunate the button falls off in your hand. Without luck, the button is lost to the snow or dark or the deep pile of luxurious carpeting. No matter it is still lost. In the end it is lost and there is no chance to recover it. We can replace the lost button. It might not match the others. If you want to stay warm it won’t bother you that the coat has an odd grey button among the black ones. I suppose all of life is making due with mismatched buttons and searching for a needle and thread. How often do we put a button in our pocket because we don’t have time to sew it back on? How many buttons fall out of pockets when we pull out gloves? It is all coats flapping open and buttons found lonely on the sidewalk. So many lost buttons. So many lost people. So many.

Looking at Little Feet

The snowfall has revealed some unexpected traffic on my front porch. When I was checking Sparky’s progress on shoveling the driveway, I noticed foot prints on the porch. At first glance it was evident that a cat had slinked its way across the porch. Closer examinations showed where it had squeezed through the rail at the far end and hugging the house walked to the door. From there it cut across the door mat, down the single step, and then through the flower bed toward the garage. However the dainty cat paw prints were not the only ones there! There were some fairly large bird prints. I’m guessing a large crow or two. They took steps instead of doing the song bird hop. There were a few rabbit prints at the edge of the porch – just far enough to get out of the wind but not too close to the door. Rabbits seem to be much more wary than most of the other critters. I would have missed it entirely but there was a good chunk of snow missing from the railing. I thought at first that the wind had swept the accumulated snow off the top rail or that snow had fallen from my wind chime. I was wrong. It was obvious that a larger animal had danced on the railing. I can’t be certain but it looks like a raccoon hopped onto the rail and examined the wind chimes – possibly thinking it might be a bird feeder. On the other side of the garage from the porch, it was a veritable highway of animal tracks. I suspect that the pile of old wooden fence and assorted garden accessories (chicken wire and tomato cages) is housing a large colony of rabbits, chipmunks, and rodents. I really don’t mind as long as they don’t get any ideas about coming into the house!

Caught in a trap of wire and wood
Pinned and crushed it couldn’t move
The soft fur crumpled and red
Where the neck had snapped and it had bled
Eyes once bright and shiny black
Blinked and dimmed and closed to a crack
Shutting out the glare and light
Welcoming the eternal night
Stiff and cold the animation gone
A little mouse, a little life, a little song
The feet once dainty pink and frail
Now deaf ears, dead mouse, uncurled tail
Noise and nonsense echo here
People push and hurry near
The world rushes on unaware
That a little life had once been there

Looking at Foul Weather

No gentle kiss blown sweetly from your lips
Not the zephyr of spring awakening the bud
Nay, you are more fierce a breeze
Yes a howling wind demanding entrance
Yea, you pound on the door “Let Me In”
You push at the chimney and pull at the latch
Jealous that I hold onto summer in my soul
Determined that you will gust and blow
Removing not only summer but marrow from my bones

We are in the midst of Chillageddon according to saintvi. The wind chill is in the extreme range. I subscribe to a safety newsletter and they had dire warnings (with some gruesome photos) of cold weather injuries. They cautioned that 15 minutes was the maximum exposure time when the temperature reached -20 degrees F. When the wind chill gets to -50 your time outside should be less than 7 minutes to avoid frost bite. The moisture on your eyeballs will freeze at -60 causing damage to the eye (possibly permanent)! It has been cold last week and is thankfully warming up. Of course the definition of “warm” is relative… I’m not ready to put away any of my winter duds. In fact I pulled out the Cozy Spot hand warmers so Sparky and I can keep our mouse hands warm while working at the computer!

Looking at the Souper Bowl

This last Sunday was the Super Bowl featuring the Rams vs. Patriots. In years past Sparky’s family has gathered to have a Chili Cook-off. This year we decided to forego the chili in favor of a larger variety of soups (see title). I opted to wow with Minnesota Wild Rice Soup, Son#2 made Spicy Lentil Soup, and Sparky Unabashedly Spicy Chili. Others contributed Split Pea Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup (probably not trying to win), Black Bean Soup, and Chicken Corn Chowder. The only soup that was not permitted was New England Clam Chowder – there are no Patriot fans in the family.
Among the soups the Minnesota Wild Rice Soup is the only one that is guaranteed not to be spicy. This of course is because it is in keeping with the tenets of 1. Spice is bad. 2. Spice leads to rebellion. and 3. Spice will ruin your digestion. The original recipe called for several ingredients that are impossible to locate and would turn off most to considering trying it. For that reason I opted to forego the 2 T. Spider legs and 1 t. fly wings.
The recipe is as follows:
1 lb. Wild rice mix – cooked
1 lb bacon – fried crispy and crumbled
1/2 sweet onion – saute until soft and translucent
4 c. milk
2 c. water
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
2 cans Cream of Potato soup
1 lb Velveeta cheese (OK I know it isn’t technically really cheese but bear with me)
1/2 to 1 t. ground black pepper
In a large pot add rice, bacon, onion, and soups. Stir to mix. Add milk and water stirring. Bring the pot to a boil stirring to avoid sticking. Slice Velveeta thinly and add to hot soup stirring to melt and mix cheese into the soup. Add pepper to taste.
Sure it doesn’t have the heat of habanero peppers, it won’t cause you to breathe fire, but it is a hearty soup that has the comforting flavor of bacon and cheese. This is one that even the youngest Super Bowl fan can eat without problems. I’m counting on the votes from the picky eaters, the folks with delicate digestive systems, and the older crowd who can’t take the heat of the spicy stuff… I think I have a really good chance at winning!

Looking at Troubles Three Times Three

As we exit January I’m feeling grateful that I have survived. They say that bad things happen in threes. I’m not completely convinced but it seems to be holding true.
1. The boys’ house was rammed by a car. Seems the driver had a heart attack (at the age of 30). He will live. We are still waiting on the prognosis for the house. A structural engineer looked at it for the insurance company and we are still waiting on the report. Do they total houses?
2. Son#2’s car battery died stranding him on campus. His brother however was available to give him a jump and follow him to the auto parts store for the purchase and installation of a new battery.
3. My birthday was a bust due to the polar vortex. I didn’t get to visit with saintvi, I didn’t get my Chick-fil-a birthday freebie, I didn’t get my Panera free bagel – because everything was closed including all the restaurants. So I had a frozen pizza at home. It was a deluxe self rising crust with 4 meats. I had to pick off the pepperoni but it was still good.

So I thought I had reached the requisite set of three and there wouldn’t be any additional trauma. I was mistaken.
1. Our little space heater croaked. It had been a real workhorse for many years (10?). It was one of the first ceramic heaters and really did a fine job – until it didn’t. Then it’s twin started sputtering. We are down to a single space heater. We have been moving it around. As soon as a new shipment arrives at Lowe’s I’m snatching a couple to hold in reserve!
2. When it shorted out it caused my computer to have a seizure. I lost some files and had to reinstall a driver. I think it is O.K. now. Maybe. We were looking at new computers and Sparky is considering making the leap to an Apple product.
3. I caught a massive head cold from Sparky. The usual progression is: he has a mild cold, mutates it into a killer virus and then passes it to me where I suffer mightily. I am suffering still but not as much as when I discovered we didn’t have any cold medicine left. Sparky used ALL the NyQuil, all the cough medicine, and made a huge dent in the stock of antihistamines and decongestants. It took 2 days but we now have all of the above in sufficient quantities to provide some relief.

What more could go wrong? I shouldn’t have even thought it!
1. My sister’s father in law passed away suddenly. She and her husband are going to travel to Ohio for the funeral. From Atlanta to the polar vortex. A shock to the system in more ways than one.
2. We had water in the basement! I went into a panic (well as much of a panic as a heavily medicated zombie is capable of). I thought the worst but it wasn’t a burst pipe – it was a small pin hole leak. The plumber was able to come out and replace a length of pipe and it was under $200.
3. I had a fraud alert on my credit card. It turned out that the notification was a phishing scam. I was wary and instead of responding to the message, I had Sparky call the credit card company directly. With some hoop jumping we got everything sorted out. Our cards are safe and our information is secure. At least for now.

I’m hoping February shows me a little more love than January.