Friday, February 25, 2011

A Quick Note

Lest I lose one of my, oh let’s say ten readers, I thought I should post something up.  Yes, I am supposedly in the midst of a “12 Days of Christmas” series, but I’m also in the midst of the busiest three months of work (possibly about to become four months) I’ve ever had in my life (why is my wallet not correspondingly full?), and although I have been doing some behind the scenes work on this series, you already know that I’ve still only put up the first two installments.  Perhaps I’ll get them done by May, at which time I can start telling you about what I did last summer.  Sound familiar?

Anyway, here’s what I haven’t been doing:
  • Posting further installments of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  Although I swear I am working on them in a piecemeal sort of way…
  • Posting recipes like so many of you have requested.  I haven’t forgotten you.
  • Riding my motorcycle.  My butt has touched the seat exactly twice so far in 2011.  Once on my 12th Day of Christmas and the other over a month ago.  To add insult to injury, the weather has been, oh, perfect.  This pains me more than I can possibly say.
  • Cooking, aside from basic subsistence needs (if that).  This is when  my once fully stocked, but now beginning to dwindle somewhat freezer really shines.  I had prepared for The Rapture.  One exception to subsistence cooking is noted below.
  • Spending any time whatsoever getting the spacing between photos of this post to look right.  Deal with it, okay? 
  • Taking many photos.  Most of these are archival, and those that aren't were constrained to a 10 minute work break. The archival ones probably were, too, come to think of it.
  • Geocaching, hiking or any other stuff I like to do for fun.

Here’s what I have been doing:
  • Working and practicing like mad.  10-15 services a week for numerous organizations (that's music talk for "a whole heck of a lot"), plus students (every musician has a least a few), plus meetings for various things (some good, some eye rollingly awful), plus some frequent and recurring appointments.  And that doesn't count actually learning all that music (brand new stacks for each week!), most of which, by pure chance, happens to be new to me.  You do know I’m a flutist by trade, right?  I can’t remember if that’s come up or not.  Work is a good, good thing, I keep reminding myself.  But a little balance (or at least that correspondingly full wallet) would be nice about now.*
  • Icing down my overworked chops sampling fancy ice cream at The Hub, the new ice creamery/meatery/boozery that recently opened a short walk from my house.  I efficiently combine this task with walking my dog.   I love this place.  I may move in and sublet out my house.  Open 'til 2am every day. 
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages to get me through the day and through insane high speed make it to the next gig on time commutes.  Actually, that’s a lie.  The caffeine part, not the crazy commute part.  I’ve got another one of those tomorrow, and have posted Facebook messages seeking out a helicopter in order to do what even a Ducati can not.  Anyway, I do very much enjoy my morning latte, but that’s typically about it as far as caffeine goes.  I just said that so I could post this photo.

For the record, this is my morning coffee set up.  It’s a “Brikka” pot, which is basically an old fashioned stove top moka pot (no, I don’t care what anyone says, espresso can not be made stovetop, not even by Jesus), with a funny little pressure valve inside that somewhat approximates the crema of an actual espresso.

    Brikka Pot with Frother Attachment

    • Gazing fondly at my motorcycle stuff, since I don’t actually have time to ride the thing.  Special ride coming up March 21, about which I’ll get around to writing probably some time next fall.

    • Making my own thin mints.  That’s the cooking exception I mentioned.  I did this over about four different kitchen sessions (during which I listened to recordings of music I was working on) since I didn’t have the time to make them in one sitting, (or standing, to be more accurate).  Aside from the batch I burnt thanks to my kitchen timer that sporadically stops timing, they came out pretty good. Next time I’ll put a little more mint in them.  And make them a wee bit crunchier.   And not use Ghirardelli chocolate.  I'm not a Ghirardelli fan, but this was an experiment - not something to use the expensive stuff on - and besides, it was on sale.**

    • Coming to terms with the fact that, on top of everything else, I have to do my taxes next week (hah!), because of the old wiring in my house (don't ask).

    Here's a photo from one of the days I was stocking my freezer for this very moment.  A double batch of ravioli - some pumpkin, the other mushroom.  Now you know what I'm having for dinner tonight.  But you don't know which variety, do you?  A girl has to have some secrets.

    Okay, this post took all of ten minutes.  That constitutes my work break for the day.  Back to it.

    * I should say I am really, REALLY grateful to have all this work, and am finding it quite rewarding.  Just so you know.
    **Incidentally, my nails are rarely (that means never) long, much less red.  It was a colliding set of unusual circumstances that led to this state.  I kept looking at them with a strange sense of fascination, both good and bad.  In any case, I find them so odd, and to be such a gross mis-representation of myself, that I couldn’t post these pictures without mentioning it.  For the record, the nail polish has since been removed.  The nails will likely break before I hit the "publish post" button.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    The Twelve Days of Christmas

    Days Two and Three: Floods and Astronomical Phenomena
    Chiricahua National Monument and Mount Graham

    Well would you look who the cat dragged in? My touring partner of years past landed some work here in Tucson.  I learned to love motorcycles from the back seat of his two-wheeled BMW (since replaced by a KTM 990), and although I have my own bike now, you already know that I still enjoy being a passenger from time to time.  Even so, it's been a number of years since we've been on a proper tour together.   The timing could not have been better, since for the first time ever, I was staying home for the entirety of my Christmas break.  I just spent any money I would have used to fly back east on a monumental shopping spree.  Turns out, I was going to put my newly acquired motorcycle jacket and cold weather gear to use sooner rather than later.  We decided a tour was in order, after our work for the year was complete and, once again, it was unseasonably cold weather.  Not without some doubts, I decided to retake my role as pillion (passenger) and leave the Ducati at home.  It seemed like a good time to get its nagging little oil leak looked at, plus the days are short in December and you know I can't ride after dark.  In addition, the KTM's pilot put some real street wheels and tires on his machine (it's a dual-sport bike, meaning it's designed for both on and off road riding), and was eager to convince me that his KTM would be just as fun on the street as his BMW had been.  I am a very discriminating sport-touring passenger and to date, I've been less than awed by the KTM's value to this particular pillion in regards to the sporting end of sport touring.   I must be fair and add that it is, without question, a great motorcycle for its particular owner.

    Our goal was Death Valley National Park.  And though it's known for its extreme heat, it can get plenty cold there, too.  We needed to be prepared for subfreezing temperatures (good thing I just bought that EN tested zero degree sleeping bag, huh?).  Less common is rain.  Surprise!  All of southern California, including Death Valley, was under water, thanks to rains that were severe enough to make national news.  I'll ride in the rain if need be, but it seems silly to point yourself in the direction of bad weather on purpose.  Our strategy?  Go east (the only dry direction) until the bad weather reached us there, then go west!   Chiricahua National Monument, here we come!

    We found ourselves at the lovely Massai Point for the simultaneous astronomical trifecta of a complete lunar eclipse and the Ursid meteor shower, both occurring on the  the winter solstice.  How many people can say that?  I'll tell you.  Two.

    Oh celestial enchantment!  Silvery, shimmery, liquid moonlight gently spooned by angels over earth, trees and rocks, over motorcycle tires, faces, and yes, even my heart - crisper and sweeter than a caramel coating, softer and dreamier than any meringue found here on our humble earth.  Now, a dark chocolate shadow melting across the moon, unstoppable, dimming its sugary light - do not despair!  Stars appear, ever more numerous, twinkling salt crystals on the tongue,  gasp!, chile pepper hot! - one obliges to streak across the sky.

    Despite all the wonderful experiences I have shared with you, the year 2010 was a painful one on so many fronts.  I'll take this lifetime event in the sky as a convenient sign that 2011 will be better.  Why not?

    We watched the entire show in the sky, and took a little nighttime photography, too.  I like to use my own photos on my blog, but when one of you has a digi point and shoot (my Canon G11 is nice and little more complicated than that, but...) and the other an expensive dSLR (Canon EOS 7D), and there is only one tri-pod between the two of you, guess which camera gets priority?  I can at least say some of the photos were to a certain extent, a joint effort.  "What if you shine the light more here, instead of there?  What if you change this setting to that?"  And so on.

    The next day, a hike amongst the "hoodoos."

    The the plan for the evening?  Ride to Bisbee, AZ (it's only 50 or so miles, right?) and check out Cafe Roka (about which I've been curious.)  Note to self:  it's more like 90 miles each way,  and Cafe Roka (along with practically every thing else in Bisbee) is closed on Tuesday nights.  The burger at Bisbee Grill was fine, I guess (most burgers are, especially when you're as hungry as I was), but not particularly notable.  The ride back to Bonita Canyon Campground was... cold.  Incidentally, if you find yourself really, really cold and you think absolutely nothing will warm you up, you can always push a 600lb motorcycle around a parking lot while wearing your awkward riding gear.  It's surprisingly effective, even for me.  We resorted to this tactic more than once over the week.

    By the next day, we knew the aforementioned weather was approaching, so it was time to head west, via one night at home in Tucson.  But first, some playtime on the Mount Graham Swift Trail Parkway and a surprise drop dead run for your camera sunset like I've never seen in my life (as if the sky didn't serve up a five course dinner the previous evening).  We didn't quite get to the cameras in time, but other than that, our timing for the day was good.   The road up Mount Graham is closed in winter, and we may have been the very last up there for the season.  Not only was it the first official day of winter, but just as we reached the bottom, it started to rain just a bit.  No doubt that rain was snow higher up.

    And how did the KTM fare in my estimation?  It earned a star, but...  Well, like I said, I'm very discriminating.   More on stars later.