Monday, August 28, 2017

Blessings for a Marriage - A Wedding Doubleheader

Excerpts from Blessings For A Marriage  
by James Dillet Freeman

May you always need one another - not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less, but more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it. So let it be with you and you.

May you need one another, but not out of weakness. 
May you want one another, but not out of lack. 
May you entice one another, but not compel one another. 
May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another. 
May you succeed in all important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces. 

May you look for things to praise, often say "I love you," and take no notice of small faults. 

If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.

May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy.

May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.
I had the joy of attending two wedding ceremonies this weekend.
They were both so different and both so brilliantly suited for the happy couple.  It was a splendid illustration of how a wedding can be whatever you wish it to be, whatever suits you and the life you're building together, of the astonishing variety of forms love can take.
It is always a delight to me, being a part of such an occasion.  An entire day (days!) of love and family, where hugs and tears of gladness abound, where friends new and old gather, where cooperation is key and teamwork so evident, where love is so obvious and in-your-face it is hard not to get carried away in the tide of beauty and promise and hope.  My heart is overflowing with happiness.
Love.  The world can always use more open, unabashed demonstrations of love and devotion.  Of people caring for each other.  Of life and community being built right before our very eyes.   What a glory to behold!

Game Review: Rewordable

This was something fun and new for me.  Instead of another book to review for Blogging For Books I was able to choose a new game to review.  What a swell turn of events!!  I love games.

There were two games to choose from, actually, but of course, I went with the word game.  Word games almost always rank at the top for me.
Rewordable came about following a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.  The game is card based with each player creating a set of words in front of them.

It had a couple things that stand out as particularly amusing components and which make it a unique take on a word game.

Players can steal words from each other.  You don't have to, but you can.

Players can focus on collecting reward tokens for specific types of words (5+ card words, words made just with pink cards, words with 6, 7, or 8+ letters) OR players can focus on just making (and stealing) a lot of long, high-value words.

The value assigned to the word segments is based on their actual frequency in common speech.  Which means, in theory, that is is easier to make high point words.  Whereas in Scrabble the high points are assigned to the J and X, say, that isn't the case in Rewordable....which is an interesting twist.  As a frequent Scrabble player this is actually a little extra challenge, I think.

You can change the words as you go.  If new cards you draw build on your word (or an opponent's word) you can make CHAT into CHATTER into CHATTERING.  This sort of piggybacking is pretty much my favorite thing to do in Scrabble and Rewordable is just made for it.
The cards are attractive in a bright and bold sort of way.  The whole game is rather small making it highly portable.  The instructions were direct and well written.  At only one point were we uncertain (it was the common-pool cards) after reading them, but it became immediately clear once we started playing.  That is so often the case with new games.

The first game was a little slower as we got used to building words from the fragments on each card.  Some word fragments are certainly easier than others--and the point values seem to change accordingly.  But, then we played several games in a row, once we got the swing of it.  All three initial testers gave it very good marks.

Rewordable is designed for two to eight people.  I like a game that can scale up like that, but which is still enjoyable with only a few.  Most of the time it is just Matt and me playing, but I do love a rowdy game night with my friends, too.  Matt and I are glad to have this new addition to our game-playing repertoire.
Disclaimer:  I got a copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program.  The review and opinions here are my own and were not influenced by that fact.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

America's Test Kitchen Local Vegetarian Eats

We're in the produce sweet spot right now.  There are so many yummy gifts to be picked from the garden daily.
It is a thick, riotous jungle of vegetables and flowers back there.  The bees are buzzing on the blossoms.  Each day my plate is full of bright, glossy peppers, luscious  and beautiful eggplants, tender green beans, magnificently aromatic garlic, and so on.  It is just delightful.  And delicious.  And tremendously satisfying.
We've been using this abundant variety of veg to work through this rather fantastic book--The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen.  My dad had a friend who didn't want it and so he snagged it for me, because he's a thoughtful fellow like that knowing how I like my vegetables, books, and cooking.
Now usually I'm not much for plain ol' vegetarian cookbooks these days.  I've got enough vegan cookbooks and recipes under my belt and enough family recipes to veganize that I don't actively seek out non-vegan cookbooks.  Too much cheese to work around more often than not.  My dad actually commented on this when he offered it to us.  However Matt and I both appreciate the scientific approach taken by America's Test Kitchen so we opted to give it a closer inspection--and man, oh, man....what a great cookbook!
Everything we've tried has been incredible.
The lo mien, tempeh tacos, fried tofu fingers (so chewy and delightful in their light dusting of cornstarch), fideos, vegetarian fish sauce (which really takes our Drunken Noodles recipe up a notch, I gotta say), sweet potato fries, Thai-style curry over these magnificent little fried rice cakes....every single thing we've tried we're excited to make again and again.
Except the sweet potato fries which Matt said were too much work to fry.  (I'm devising a method to bake them instead.  The crispy coating was perfect, but I can see Matt's point.  I want more sweet potato fries in my life, but I don't care if they're actually fried.)  We also refuse to use anything but extra-firm tofu.  We don't care what the Test Kitchen says.  We find the texture much more pleasing.
Of course--full disclosure--we're only partially following the directions on some recipes because that is how we roll.  
I mean, so what if the curry doesn't really call for cauliflower?  We love curried cauliflower and we have cauliflower so curry with green beans, peppers, and cauliflower it is.  And sometimes they're just a little too fancy in their preparation methods.  I'm sure their way is marginally superior--taste tested as it is and all--but my way is still fantastic and considerably fewer steps so....
It is a swell cookbook--tasty, flexible recipes, instructive tips and techniques, and helpful and appealing photographs.  I highly recommend it. I gotta lay hands on the Test Kitchen's Vegan for Everybody collection!

Friday, August 4, 2017

I'm a Happy Camper Saurus

The tooth was both longer and thicker than my thumb.  It had been unearthed just a week ago after spending the last 150 million years tucked away underground--preserved at first in mud and then in stone.  The tooth is the first example ever found from a haplocanthosaurus.  The very, very first in the whole wide world--that we know of, at least.  I held it in my palm in awe.
The dig site.
Vertebra, cleaned up and ready for display
For the past few years I've been assisting a geologist in obtaining theses and journal articles for his research projects.  He calls me his "research assistant," a title I am very keen on actually.  This summer he invited me out to the dinosaur excavation site he's been working on for the past six years along with his partner, an area paleontologist.  He wanted me to see how the information I was obtaining for him related to the work he was doing out in the field.  
Me, digging!
So, for two days I worked alongside amateur dino nuts and professional and student paleontologists on the excavation site.  I thouroughly enjoy being surrounded by people so clearly passionate and excited about something--even if I don't quite reach their level of enthusiasm.  Their delight is just about contagious.  Some of these people had come from far, far away--Germany, New Jersey, Georgia, California, Texas, etc.  They'd talk dinosaurs for hours on end.  I mostly listened and absorbed as much as I could.  Their depth of knowledge was staggering to me, a rather casual participant in the whole paleontology arena.
A freshly "rolled" bone case.
At the quarry I learned the basics of excavation.  I dug and hauled buckets and buckets and buckets of rock.  I was taught how to carefully build a plaster case around the bones and then watched as they were "rolled" and removed from the site so they could be sent to the lab for further study.  I observed bone mapping in which the interns methodically drafted beautiful renderings of how the bones were arranged in the ground.  This map will be used back at the lab, too, in trying to sort out and reassemble the collected specimens.
Adding a 2x4 to act as a a protective splint on a long pubic bone.
On the second day I even found one rather small piece of bone making all the digging certainly more than worthwhile.  Small though the fragment was it was rather staggering to realize I was the very first human to ever lay eyes on it.  I'd been quite nervous that I'd not know a bone when I saw it and just toss it out in my discarded rock bucket.  The team kept reassuring all the new diggers, myself included, that we'd know--and they were right.  
The bones were a total jumble.  It is astonishing how much they're able to pick out, separate, and identify.
What a delightfully unexpected opportunity!  Never in my life would I have expected the chance to dig dinosaur bones to just fall into my lap this way.  I learned so much and had such a pleasant time.
One of the interns about to start bone mapping the area under the grid frame.
It was cool.  Just really, really cool.
Me and the vertebra.  It was heavy.