Friday, May 21, 2010

You say banana, I say banana.

On a scale of one to ten, I'd have to say that my culinary skills rate about a three. I'm not very handy in a kitchen. However, I make a few things well enough to earn those three points, and my banana bread is one of those things.

Ya'll are probably miles ahead of me on this one, but it wasn't until (embarrassingly) recently that I found out that I could freeze my overripe bananas and stock up for banana bread. It just hadn't occurred to me. This is especially convenient for me as I prefer to eat fresh bananas that lean towards underripe vs. overripe, and every time I buy bananas, there's always ONE that ripens past my point of tolerance. Into the freezer it goes! As soon as I have a frozen bunch, I pull out the ingredients and preheat the oven.

  • 2 c flour           
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt                               
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten (or substitute applesauce)
  • 2 1/3 c mashed bananas     
Optional (required!!) add-ins:
  • walnuts/pecans
  • raisins
  • honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9"x5"(-ish) loaf pan. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the butter and brown sugar, and then stir in the eggs and mashed bananas. Combine the ingredients, and add the optional goodies. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan, and bake for 60 to 65 minutes. When it is done baking, let the bread cool for ~10 minutes.

Mmmmm. So good.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Plan B.

Right now, I am more than a little frustrated with this PhD business. This could be a major rut, or maybe I need to do something else. Maybe I still need to finish, and then do something else. I don't know. I don't expect to figure this out any time soon. I think it's healthy, though, to reexamine where you are and explore options from time to time.

I like to research other possibilities. All kinds of things.... plausible careers, not-so-plausible careers (i.e. the circus), because it makes me feel better about my choices, whether I take them or not. Sure, it can be thought of as an escape, but it also helps me figure things out.

I have figured out, for example, that I like problem-solving, especially when I can help other people. Once upon a time I was more shy and reclusive, and thought that I would never want a people-oriented job. Now I'm ok with that.

I have also figured out that I need to make art a component of my daily life.... not "when I have time" or "when the mood strikes", but a regular practice. So, in keeping with that goal, I crafted a "Plan B" notebook in which I can write down all of my musings about being an astronaut or a house painter or whatever. All my research goes in there. It's a simple little book with my personal touch added to the cover. That is all. But it makes me happy, and serves its purpose.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Wuthering folk reach impressive Heights in the world of self-pity. But I like the book anyway.

Wuthering Heights is a beautiful book, uniquely narrated and rich in gothic character. Well done, Emily. I read it in high school, and I am reading it again. As much as I enjoy the atmosphere of the novel, however, I have to say that the characters make me want to throw things. They are self-absorbed to the point of silliness, and I can't help but roll my eyes. A lot.

While Miss Linton moped about the park and garden, always silent, and almost always in tears; and her brother shut himself up among books that he never opened; wearying, I guessed, with a continual vague expectation that Catherine, repenting her conduct, would come of her own accord to ask pardon, and seek a reconciliation; and she fasted pertinaciously, under the idea, probably, that at every meal, Edgar was ready to choke for her absence, and pride alone held him from running to cast himself at her feet; I went about my household duties, convinced that the Grange had but one sensible soul in its walls, and that was lodged in my body. (Wuthering Heights, Chapter XII)

Yes, Nelly Dean, you are right. They are all quite ridiculous.

If you can get past the absurd personalities, though, it is easy to lose yourself in the landscape. I've never seen the English moors (aside from those portrayed in the film), but when my nose is in this book, I can smell the heather.

Both of these photographs were taken in Utah, and I am well-aware that the landscape of the American Southwest is a just a wee bit different than that which Catherine and Heathcliff roamed, but I think the lonely, stormy atmosphere is still appropriate.

I started a landscape painting last month, and I think its continuation will be greatly influenced by this book. Maybe, someday, you will see it! The Jane Eyre project is nearing completion, so there's a chance I'll pull these projects together.... in this lifetime...

Until then, I leave you with the semaphore version of Wuthering Heights by Monty Python. If you are finding Miss Emily's novel to be trying at best, this will surely add some levity.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's a bird.... it's a plane..... no, it's a weather balloon!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to launch a weather balloon. Yay!

Mel fills the balloon. Dave approves.

The balloon is made of latex and filled with helium (or hydrogen). You have to be careful not to touch any part of it except the neck, because the moisture on your hands can transfer to the surface, freeze at high altitudes, and cause the balloon to burst prematurely. That would really suck. We were very careful, however, so we could collect as much data as possible.

 It's aliiiiiive!

The balloon is secured to a lever system with weights. When the balloon lifts the weights, we know that it is ready to go. The amount of weight you use is determined by: 1) the weights of the radiosonde and parachute, and 2) weather conditions.

 Dave attaches the radiosonde.

This radiosonde measures temperature and humidity (though some measure aerosol concentration and other things). It looks like a Chinese take-out box or a milk carton. But it's more costly. Don't confuse it with last night's leftovers.

Sean ties the parachute. 

The parachute prevents the radiosonde from falling out of the sky at terminal velocity (yikes!). It reminded me of the parachutes that came with G.I. Joe paratrooper action figures when I was little. The radiosonde parachutes are, fortunately, more durable and effective.

Tom checks the humidity sensor on the radiosonde. Dave still approves. ;)

The radiosonde will provide a roughly-vertical atmospheric profile over a few thousand meters with temperature and pressure information. A GPS system in the radiosonde unit allows us to track the until it bursts, so we can apply the data spatially.

Kym lets the balloon sail off into the sky! Wheeee!

The balloon survived for about an hour before it burst over the mountains.  An address is provided on the radiosonde, just in case someone stumbles across it and feels compelled to return it. I am told that about 30% of weather balloon radiosondes are returned. Maybe you will find one in your backyard someday.... who knows?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

indoor greens

Plants usually die in my care. Or, they did, anyway. When last year's lavender started to come back in full force, I took it as a sign that I was no longer cursed as the gardening grim reaper. Soon after receiving assurance from the lavender, I spied Jen Wallace's post and decided to grow some indoor greens of my own. Additionally (and oddly), I found some Swiss Chard seeds on my art table that same week. Where did they come from? Did I buy them? Did my mom send them to me once upon a time? Pushing aside my fears of early-onset Alzheimer's for the moment, I set to work with my little patch o' greens.

As suggested in the aforementioned blog post, I re-purposed a plastic spinach container to host my indoor greens. I punched some holes in the bottom, and used the lid as a tray for collecting water. Before you do this, though, be sure to make yourself an awesome salad.

Add some soil, and plant your seeds as instructed. I just planted what I had and crossed my fingers.

I was a little intimidated when I noticed the word 'giant' on the seed package, but I've read that Swiss Chard does just fine indoors. Some thinning will probably be required later, but I won't count my chickens (or chard) before hatching.

I found a home for my seeds by our living room window on a bookshelf. They tray receives plenty of sun. I also acquired a misting bottle to spray my little seed-babies.

2 weeks later.... wee sprouts! Woohoo! I am very proud. In my world, this is a major accomplishment. If I can add them to a salad someday, that will be epic. I will keep you posted.