30 May 2008

Christmas in May

I love how alike Kat and I are. We clicked right off the bat when we met in law school, the very first day she rolled into town and stopped off at the school. After a year with some pretty bizarre other roommate antics (including a stopover at the mental ward of the local hospital for one roommate), Kat and I shared apartments by ourselves for the next two years of law school. After that little nugget of information, can you blame us?

Anyway, besides just liking each other off the bat, we soon discovered we were born a day apart. So for both of us, birthdays are coming up within the next week. Happy early birthday, friend!
We also have tons of other things in common, one of which is our apparent inability to get gifts sent off in the mail on time for a birthday or holiday. (I can't remember exactly when I sent her Christmas package, but I believe it was late February.) A couple weeks ago a box arrived from Portland. When I opened it, I found a treasure trove of "Christmas" goodies! Wouldn't you love to have gotten all these things? And believe it or not, I love, love, love that my Christmas present came in May, because it's totally random and out of the blue and instead of being lost in the haze that is the holiday season, all of these great gifts stand out and will always be remembered.
So, my fellow Gemini friend, just know that come September or October, start looking for a package to arrive on your front porch. It'll be right on time.

Catchin' Up

Whenever I get into a conversation about food, I always tell people that I love to cook, but I don't bake. Not that I can't bake, I just don't like to. Mostly because I'm the only one cleaning up after myself in the kitchen and baking requires getting a lot of stuff dirty. Add that to the need to precisely measure ingredients and all desire flies out the window. The only thing that really has ever interested me in baking is bread. And by bread I don't even mean bread-machine quality bread, but artisanal quality bread. Suspecting it takes a lot of know how and talent to achieve that kind of bread, I kept going back to local shops and purchasing rather than trying my hand at it in the kitchen.
Then I came across the No Knead Bread recipe that's been storming through blogs for two years now (I never claimed to be cutting edge!). Flour, yeast, salt, water. That seemed simple enough. In the back of my mind I kept hearing this voice that said "Surely you could do that." And so I finally got up the nerve and tried. This loaf was my first attempt. It was delicious! I was so impressed with myself, even though it obviously is a pretty easy thing to do, given it's popularity. I've since made one other loaf, adding in some wheat flour to make it slightly healthier.
I've also recently purchased this book, again on the advice of multiple blog gushing (like this one) over its wonderfulness. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet. I'm doing what the book asks, which is that you read about why it works and how it works before jumping and with both feet and doing normal bread baking things that won't work with this basic recipe. Oh, and I also checked out the website along with the errors page that explains the mistakes in the book. Key things, I think, for making it work. I'll report back soon!

20 May 2008

Yo, Oregon!

Hope you voters and friends in Oregon are enjoying your primary day as much as we are here in Kentucky. Of course, in your vote-by-mail state, you've probably sent in your ballots already. We have way too much "vote hauling" (read that to mean, in most cases, "vote buying") to actually enjoy the luxury of sending in our ballots. I voted on the way into work, so I'm taken care of, too.

For those of you here in KY or in OR, get out there and vote if you haven't already. It's your civic right and duty, and personally, if you don't take advantage of this opportunity, I really don't want to hear your opinions on the state of the state or nation. You had your chance.

But I must say, it's kinda nice to be the center of the news media universe for something other than our lack of education, poor health, or post-storm trailer park interviews!

08 May 2008

"Sew? What Did You Say?"

And now for a little humor directed at myself.

I learned to knit last August. It was Kat's fault, really. When she came to visit last July she wanted to go to a yarn shop, so I took her to the Knit Nook. Petting the yarn, I was suddenly seized with the desire to learn how to knit. Weird, very, very weird. I don't do crafts. Never have, really, outside of Bible School and Girl Scout camp. But that's what started it all.

Since then I've learned the basics of knitting, and continue to learn (tomorrow starts a short "felting" class - woo hoo!). I don't yet think of myself as a knitter, but as someone who knows how to knit. And I've not yet decided what the difference is, but in my mind there is one. Along the way, I've searched out websites and blogs of other knitters, and slowly came to realize that along with knitting, I was beginning to get the urge to sew.

Sew. This was not a good development. After keeping the idea to myself for a few months, I finally admitted to Kat in a comment on her blog that this newest urge was taking over, and her response was that knitting was akin to marijuana in that knitting was a gateway craft to other crafting endeavors the way some say pot leads to other drugs. I tried resisting the urge to get hooked, mostly because doing so would mean admitting this to my mother.

And now, as Paul Harvey intones, is the rest of the story:

When I was 17 my mother informed me that I wouldn't be able to go on the church choir tour to Canada, that summer because my mom didn't trust the choir director. You can call up your own memories of being told "no" as a teenager and get a good idea of how well I handled this decision. Yelling and tears, and lots of both. Instead mom signed me up for a sewing camp at the local mega sewing store. To me, this seemed like further cruelty. I took voice lessons and sang in 3 choirs in high school, so singing was a big thing for me. Sewing...I had never so much as been interested in sewing for one minute of my life. To add salt to the wound, I was the oldest "student" by at least 4 years, and was actually closer to the age of the instructor. I went, because my summer would have been even worse if I hadn't (you didn't cross my mom, as cool as she was/is), but I wasn't happy. I clearly remember the various projects we did, including a tank top and shorts and a cloth bowl. I actually have always loved the cloth bowl, but it still didn't make up for the class in my memory.

As time passed and long after my mother and I both survived that very unhappy summer, I have been able to use my mom's idea that a sewing class would make up for a missed choir trip in a humorous way of pointing out "What were you thinking?" Soooo, the idea of mentioning to her now that I wanted to (re)learn how to sew was going to be a huge thing. She would now be able to lord this over me in much the same way as I have during the intervening years. Was I willing to give her this gift and live with the consequences?

I considered learning to sew "in the dark" and simply not telling her. Kat could teach me the next time I went to Portland for a visit. But sewing is a hard hobby to hide, when you consider the amount of equipment and raw material (haha) involved. The clincher was that my mother is the proud owner of a Bernina sewing machine and serger. I don't know much about sewing, but I know Bernina's a good machines (and expensive). If I really was serious and really was going to learn, I was probably going to want to use her machine...and maybe even borrow it for an extended period of time.

I commiserated with Kat over this dilemma last Saturday, and then suddenly found myself confessing my urge to my mom on Sunday when we went out to brunch after church. Despite having some pretty serious difficulties with her teeth that made her not want to open her mouth very much, my confession brought forth a very loud hoot on my mom's part. And I was clearly right, because when I checked in with her earlier today she asked if I'd blogged anymore and mentioned that she thought this would be a good story to tell. It's never going to end, and I knew this was the way it would be.

Now I guess I need to go sign up for another class at the mega sewing store where I went to sewing camp 18 years ago.

In the Wake of the Race

Since I mentioned that I was putting down a bet on Eight Belles for the Derby in my last post, I have felt all week that I needed to say a little something about her death immediately following that incredible race. She looked outstanding the whole way around the track, with only Big Brown (wow! What a horse!) looking better. Please understand, I know very little about thoroughbreds and horse racing. But you can't live in Kentucky and not be familiar with some of it.

For those saying that horse racing is the equivalent of dogfighting or a form animal abuse, all I can say is that I strenuously disagree. These horses are bred to do what they do, and yes, breeding may very well have something to do with Eight Belles's tragic end, since for years now thoroughbreds have be bred for speed over endurance. But these horses want to run, and most of them love the competition of the race. Certainly the ones entered in that race did - otherwise they wouldn't have even qualified for the race. You could see their love of racing during the Derby - she was as eager to chase Big Brown as all the other horses were to chase her. And these horses live very, very well. Trust me, many of the places they live are better than the house I live in; these horses are anything but neglected.

While it is shocking to watch a horse be euthanized on the track, and while tears sprang to my eyes, I am grateful to those who were there for responding as quickly as they did, as they probably kept Eight Belles from feeling a great deal of the pain of her injuries. I am sorry for the owner, trainer, and jockey, all of whom are being put under what seems to me to be an unfair microscope. I am sorry for horse racing, but I hope the industry can find a way to learn from this tragedy, as they did from Barbaro's injuries. Most of all, I am sorry for Eight Belles, who was a beautiful horse who went down in one stride. I would have enjoyed watching her continue her career.

The money I won on her last race will be donated to a group here in KY that takes care of retired racehorses... it is not much (just a $2 across the board bet) but it's the least I can do to honor her life and the joy she was to watch racing against the boys.

01 May 2008

Run for the Roses

Mare and foal, originally uploaded by kyredbutterfly.

I couldn't resist adding a picture of this little foal and his mama for my Derby post. Just like Dan Fogelburg (R.I.P.) sang, "From sire to sire, it's born in the blood - the fire of a mare and the strength of a stud. It's breeding and it's training and it's something unknown, that drives you and carries you home," I bet this beautiful young one is already dreaming of his chance to run for the roses on the first Saturday in May - maybe as soon as next year.

I've made my Derby picks for this year - Eight Belles and Monba. Why these two? Nothing "scientific" - not that picking horses is scientific, especially in a field of 20 horse all of whom are running further than ever before - but because Eight Belles is a filly and I always bet the fillies, and because Monba is a gray and I always bet the grays (in loving memory of my great grandfather). The last time a filly won in 1988, Winning Colors, I won big by betting on her and really annoyed my father in the process. It was great.

Both are currently at morning line odds of 20-1, so neither are supposed to win. But that won't stop me from putting my meager $2 bets on each of them!

Whatever else you're doing on Saturday, I hope you turn on NBC and watch "The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports." Raise a class (filled with a mint julep, or at least a good Kentucky bourbon drink of your choice) to the beautiful horses, and hum a few bars...

And it's run for the roses
As fast as you can
Your fate is delivered
Your moment's at hand
It's the chance of a lifetime
In a lifetime of chance
And it's high time you joined
In the dance
It's high time you joined
In the dance.