Recipe: Cranberry Sauce Bread Pudding

I made lots of cranberry sauce this year. I think I used too much liquid (fresh orange juice and mango juice that was lying around), so I strained the liquid out and ended up with a chunky sauce and a few cups of smooth sauce. What to do with it?

I also bought more bread than dainty little Anita and I could eat. So it was sitting there. What to do?

What a good idea!

Since I happened to have a dozen eggs, a quart of whole milk, and some butter, I declared it bread pudding time! (It’s my favorite dessert.)

Ingredients (approximately)

  • Enough bread cubes to fill a 9×13 pan. I had wheat mini loaves. Trim crust if desired (I did not)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups whole berry cranberry sauce (preferably homemade; see link above)
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 cups whole milk (adjust liquid if needed by adding smooth cranberry sauce or more milk)
  • 1TBSP vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar (optional if sauce is very sweet)
  • 1/4 cup sugar for topping
Pudding before putting in the oven. Cheerful.

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut bread into cubes and place in greased 9×13 baking dish or whatever baking dish you want — just fill the pan.

Drizzle melted sugar over bread.

Spoon cranberry sauce over bread and mix it up however you would like to.

Mix eggs, milk, vanilla, and optional sugar until well blended.

Pour mixture over bread and let sit for 30 minutes to soak. Mmm.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over soaked pudding. I forgot this, but it would make the pudding sparkle.

Place pudding in oven and bake at least an hour or until a knife comes out smooth.

It puffed up nicely in the oven!

Let cool a while and serve warm with ice cream or a sauce. Tell yourself what a good job you did using up leftovers.

Time to eat! It’s oh, so good.

Positive Unconscious Bias?

I got so involved with writing my previous post that I forgot to make one of my points. While thinking of types of people I might be biased against, I became very aware of some ways in which my subconscious biases me toward some people.

While out on a walk with Anita and Pickle, I even said, “I always think I’ll like anyone who has this sign in front of their house.”

The sign has all my buzz words on it. Plus I like the flag addition: it’s for all of us in the USA.

Now, there’s a positive bias! I just assume that, by buying one of these signs, they must be great folks. These must be fine people, too:

I happen to know the sign’s owner IS a nice person, but from actually knowing her, not from her sign.

This is just as inaccurate a way to judge others as lumping all people with Trump pickup-truck flags in the same boat. You really don’t know what a person is like until you actually get to know them (yes, I know their signs DO give a hint, but let’s not pre-judge!).

I tend to have a favorable bias towards dog lovers, too (which helps mitigate some other biases). And if you own a spotted mini-donkey…oooh, you must be GREAT.

Now you know why I fell for my spouse. It was the dogs.

I have some other positive biases, mostly based on education, career choices, and hobbies (I always feel betrayed when I find out a fellow knitter is actually creepy, but having read comments directed at some of my gay knitting heroes, I know they’re out there).

I blame my bias on Mike. Most things are his fault, after all. Here we are in 2013. Apparently I’d just given him a rabbit hutch.

Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure I’m positively biased toward gay men (more neutral toward others). I wonder if it’s because they’ve been kinder to me most of my life, in general, than any other group. Or it’s just empathy based on my family and past friends’ experiences. Of course I’ve known some unpleasant gay men, but my bias makes me assume I’ll like them. Like with any other group, of course, it’s better to get to know individuals than make sweeping generalizations.

Here we are again in February 2020, just before being attacked by the quarantine and becoming more…substantial. I have no idea where we are.

To be honest, after thinking about my positive biases, I can see that they can be helpful shortcuts to identifying potential friends, but they can also make you assume things about people that might not be true. I’m going to make sure I identify the positive ones as well as the negative unconscious biases.

Enjoy this cloud formation in far southeast Austin as you ponder bias.

What are yours?

Who Has Unconscious Bias?

The short answer to that question is: all of us. Bias is normal for humans, and there’s no way to eliminate it; it’s part of being human. There are, by the way, both positive and negative biases (we are biased toward the kinds of people who most resemble you or share your beliefs, while people who don’t fit into our ideas of “normal” often engender negative biases). Anyway, I’m not here to write a book about bias (go here for more info). I just want to make it clear that there’s no way to get around having unconscious biases, because all of us can’t be aware of everything that’s influencing us or we’d be bombarded by thoughts. Our unconscious biases are part of what led humans to succeed (being biased against funny-looking strangers probably saved a lot of past people).

The tattoo bias is one that comes up a lot in these trainings. Image by  @noralynepo58 via Twenty20.

Why I’m thinking about this today is that I have been helping out with a diversity and inclusion initiative at my job. One of the things I said I’d do was evaluate some potential training courses on unconscious (or implicit) bias. There’s nothing this old instructional designer likes better than evaluating online training, so I was happy to do so.

I went through two different courses. In one of them, the presenter repeated so many times that unconscious bias is normal that I’m pretty sure THAT is seared into my unconscious. But I see why they did that: you don’t want people feeling guilty or that they’re a bad person for having them. That first course reminded me that I’ve been reading a lot about unconscious bias in the books about race in the US, so I was feeling all good about myself. The course encouraged me to write down biases that might pop up into my head while I was learning, and sure enough a big ole list started growing.

The second training was more scientific than the first, and I enjoyed that. It also had some exercises in identifying bias that I really enjoyed. Sure enough, I have a bias toward males in certain roles (science rather than art). And I totally messed up another exercise that proved the same thing. These results make a good point, that many of us retain biases that aren’t even in our own self-interest, thanks to cultural traditions, media depictions, etc.

Am I Biased?

Heck yeah, I’m biased. Some of them I’m more conscious of than others, because, like the trainings pointed out, by introspection and careful observation, you CAN see some of your biases and make an effort to mitigate them in the workplace (and beyond). Also, by actually exposing yourself to members of groups you have an unconscious bias toward, you can start to see each person as an individual, rather than a group member. I’m eternally grateful for linguistics classes and factory jobs for exposing me to people outside my in-group and letting me see them for themselves.

Here are a few biases I’ve made an effort to work through, and how I think I got them:

  • People with tattoos (blame my mom)
  • Muslim men (blame a long string of horny married men in college/grad school)
  • Black people (blame growing up in the South in the 60s)
  • Fraternity members (blame college)
  • Smokers (also blame my late mother, who died of lung cancer)

I’m not saying I’ve eliminated my biases, but I know they are there, and now I can make a conscious effort to treat people as people. I’ve benefited from this a lot. Now the bias is just a twinge, which I acknowledge and move on really quickly.

How many irrational Suna negative biases are in this photo? A bunch. Will they affect my hiring practices? Nope. Image by @zelmabrezinska via Twenty20.

Now, other biases I wrote down I have a harder time with. As I wrote them down, I could readily see that some of these are really silly. I also can see where some of the biases are based on bad experiences, formed in self defense, and related to safety (like the Muslim men one, which required many years of meeting Muslim guys who did not try to proposition or assault me or my friends). Here are some silly ones that I need to work on. I have biases against people:

  • With strong body odor
  • With dirty hair
  • With tongue piercings
  • With poor dental hygiene
  • From New York (rudeness)
  • From California (constant bragging)

Who speak or write with poor grammar in formal/business settings (as opposed to cultural identity things like Tex Mex or Black English, which don’t bother me, or informal slang)

Mom also said that wearing curlers in public was trashy. How 60s.

A lot of these look to me like things my mother would have said denote “low class,” and I got it drilled into me that no matter what I did, I was not to appear like “white trash” (Mom’s words). This verifies that biases against “out” groups from your childhood are hard to get rid of, even in the face of experiences that prove them wrong. The New York and California things are based on personal experiences, and I know perfectly well they are stereotypes. They are just very sticky to me. Do you have any like that?

Biases That Protect

A couple of the biases I wrote down are pretty obviously based on protecting myself from negative consequences (real or imagined). For example, I am biased against narcissists, and that’s based on how I’ve seen friends treated and how hard these people are to eliminate once they attach themselves to you. Now, narcissists can’t help being who they are, since it’s a mental illness. And I need to not treat them differently in the workplace, but I’ll avoid them in personal relationships as much as I can, to protect me. Do you avoid people with certain personality types?

Here’s a negative bias I plan to work very hard to get rid of. I hope this goes both ways. We’re all citizens of the same country and want the best for our families.

While I’m being honest, I’ll admit to being biased against people who display giant Trump flags on their property or pick-up trucks. In my mind, I see them as the radical types who actually believe I have an agenda to take away their rights or force them to have an abortion. That’s probably not true of most of them. But, thanks to the media and reading comments on social media, this one is stuck within me. Note, however, that I am perfectly capable of working with, finding commonalities with, and even living with people who voted differently from me. How about you?

While waiting to give birth to my first child, I edited this book. I removed the word “basically” about 897 times. I did get a Society for Technical Communication award for it.

The final self-protection bias is one I am working really, really hard to get rid of, but it’s sort of funny. You see, I once worked for the great Stephen Wolfram, who is a certified genius with a heart of gold, but at least as a younger man was hard to work for. There was an incredible amount of berating, cursing, odd demands, and eccentricities to negotiate (I could write a book, but I won’t; we both have fond memories of each other…now). The thing is, he had a particular English accent based on where he was born and educated. Coincidentally, one of my coworkers at Planview has the exact same accent, being from the same area. So, every time this other person talks, I hear Wolfram. Everything that person says sounds like a criticism or a put-down (it doesn’t help that sometimes it IS that), but I have to make a huge effort to separate the two of them. My Wolfram PTSD is not doing me any favors!

I wrote this. It was very funny at the time. From Stephen’s website.

I wonder how many of us deal with biases like that? I’d love to hear some stories.

In any case, there’s no doubt in my mind that my biases that popped into my head are just scratching the surface and that there are many more hiding down deep in the recesses of my subconscious, helping me make judgments quickly, but not necessarily fairly. Acknowledging them is a good start, as long as it’s followed by making the effort to eliminate them in important business activities like hiring, reviewing, and such. I’m on it.

PS: I just ran across an article that provides some great ways to open up conversations with people toward whom you may have negative biases. Check it out!

Controversy? I Prefer Autumn Decorations in Autumn

Let’s talk about something less serious for once. To start of, I’m happy to say that the meal Anita and I created for ourselves yesterday was quite nice. I made a very moist and yummy turkey and am looking forward to a sandwich for lunch. I spent many hours turning the carcass into broth that will make a fine soup tomorrow, too. And we sat around being thankful we weren’t sick or endangering anyone else. Wow, such smugness. Moving right along.

Anita prepares to dig in. We brought out all the Fiesta ware, for festiveness.

Main Topic

Right now I’m going to declare that I am not one of those people with a compulsion to slap up my Christmas decorations the second they go for sale in the stores, nor mid-November, nor US Thanksgiving, and sometimes, not even in early December. Shocking!

I do allow some silvery items to accent the fall stuff. Who says you can’t mix and match seasons?

How can I be so un-traditional? First, for many families in the not-so-distant past, trees didn’t go up until December 24 and they went down at some other holiday in January, which I’m too lazy to look up (readers have helpfully pointed out it’s Epiphany, which is on January 6). So, this whole frenzy to decorate and keep the décor up for a few months is not a hallowed tradition; it’s a marketing thing. Granted, lights and shiny things are cheerful, and we could all use some cheer right now, so if it makes you happy, decorate away.

The fall and winter stuff are very happy together, so I say.

Second, and this is my big reason, so I have a legitimate excuse, I’m not someone who celebrates the religious Christmas holiday, given that I’m on a more Buddhist/tree-hugging path and growing fonder of some of the more “Christ-like” groups of Christians these days. So, I’ll decorate for winter solstice, for which there is no frenzy.

We secular people who like all traditions do sometimes end up with confusing items.

And another thing (like this matters one bit, right, but it’s fun!), I like to enjoy the autumn decorations while it’s still autumn, I think our tree is really pretty, and all we had to do is remove the overtly Halloween/Samhain decorations to create a lovely ambiance here at the Bobcat Lair (the poor ranch missed my decorative touch this year, which probably didn’t bother Lee one bit).

The seasonal tree in its fall incarnation.

Here in Texas, it just doesn’t feel all that wintry, so I don’t feel awful about enjoying the leaves, acorns and such.

On the Other Hand

I do have some winter decorations out all year round. I happen to love my green glass trees and peace plates from the late, lamented Pier One (the online version is NOT the same). And there are a few wintry bird items I can’t bear to put away.

I think peace, birds, and trees are appropriate all year.

And then there are all my glass pumpkins and acorns that never go away. Pumpkins are attractive year round, so I am not hiding them. I guess I just focus on the things for each time of the year, dragging flowery things to the foreground in the spring, etc.

These move around some, but they are always here. Sigh, no more pumpkins from Pier One.

Where Do You Put It All?

Something I ponder about the people with all the decorations, like complete re-decorating of many rooms for the Christmas period, is where do they put it all when it’s not Christmas? If you have separate linens, towels, pillows, rugs, and assorted décor items, where do they go? I know my friend Maggie has an entire garage for that stuff. At the ranch I happen to have a holiday closet, since we added SO MANY closets when we built the house that there’s space. And dear Aunt Margie in North Carolina had a “present room” in her house; now she had some decorations!

Not everyone has the space for winter, spring, summer, and fall niches in their living room. Also, aren’t these pretty?

But, these are all people who are, shall we say, privileged. The examples I gave have or had big ole houses with only two occupants. There was space to put all this excess stuff. I feel rather wasteful for having duplicates of my dishes and other items that I can drag out every year. Or maybe I’m just grumpy.

This winter bird is too lovely to hide for most of the year.

This year, with all the struggle going on, I’m going to tone things down. It just doesn’t feel right to wallow in excess right now. That’s just me, a person who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. I do like shiny things, and don’t hold it against any family that wants to decorate every surface of their home, inside and out, it just doesn’t feel right for ME.

Granted, as gloomy as this weekend is looking to be, some cheerful lights might be useful.

One Final Gripe

Plus, I really don’t like those inflatable decorations. They seem to spend most of their time as sad, deflates, non-festive lumps. Again, that’s just me. Feel free to convince me otherwise in the comments!

These things just don’t do anything for me. I must be too old. Image from @ginarossi via Twenty20.

Another Thanksgiving

Sure, weirdest Thanksgiving ever. But it’s an adventure. I’m making turkey and sides, but not dressing. I’m incapable of making small quantities of dressing. But it’s just me and Anita. Poor Declan can’t come, because there was an exposure at Rollie’s workplace. We will miss them.

Future cranberry sauce. Recipe.

Lee is at the ranch with his brother. My sister is alone at her house, but also cooking. And Kathleen and Chris are alone at the farm in Yorktown. Whee! But by gosh, we’re keeping our germs to ourselves!

Anita peels potatoes.

Hopefully after we eat we can visit neighbors in the cup-de-sac. That will be nice, even if it’s just us and Ruth next door. We have community!

And speaking of community, I’ve made a couple of calls to people I care about, as I said I’d do yesterday. And last night I went to a Zoom birthday party for my friend Mike’s mom. I laughed so hard at their Zoom confusion that my face hurt. But seeing the joy of the family getting together was worth it. Plus, I got to see the amazing cake her children got her.

All her passions are on the cake.

I hope you have things to keep you busy this holiday (or regular day if you’re outside the US). I’ve got that knitting.

It’s getting long!

And I have three new books. I’m so excited about the book about alphabetical order! But I’m reading the Obama book first. Wow, he is a good writer.

That’s it from me today. I’m grateful to have a blog and readers. And of course for having a healthy and safe family, which is quite extended. Virtual hugs to all of you.

I’m Not Sick, Just Tired, But I MUST Be Supportive!

Please let me first apologize for making my discomfort with plane travel over the weekend appear like I think I am sick. I have no symptoms of COVID-19, and have been taking my temperature. Still just fine, as far as I can tell. I was just really uncomfortable being around so many people in the Dallas airport and sitting next to a woman who was coughing. Like I’ve said before, I’m a special snowflake who believes the pandemic is real and would prefer not to take chances. But, I’m not sick.

As it does every day, noticing nature’s beauty keeps me feeling well. These are two red-tailed hawks circling above Marbry’s Ridge.

And by saying I’m tired, I mean I’m spending a lot of energy (and rightly so, I think ) supporting friends and family who are going through really hard times right now. It may be tiring, but it’s important work, and I don’t plan to stop.

Examples and Inspiration

For example, I know how to not get overly sucked in by others’ needs, but when your close friend’s husband passes away, you can’t help but send your energy out to them. My friend Vicki was the only person who came to my dad’s funeral to take care of ME, and she’s stuck with me since we were teenagers, despite our political and spiritual differences. That’s true friendship. I’m so sorry she lost her beloved husband so soon after finally reuniting with him. True friends need to be there for each other and truly listen, so I’ll so what I can in these WEIRD times.

A circle of friends surrounding a cactus seems an apt illustration!

Coincidentally, I just read this beautiful article in the New York Times, by someone famous, but who suffers just like us.

“[W]hen people ask how any of us are doing, and when they really listen to the answer, with an open heart and mind, the load of grief often becomes lighter — for all of us. In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing.”

The Losses We Share, by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, New York Times, November 25, 2020

She recently experienced a miscarriage, a devastating life passage she shares with so many of us. She shared that just having someone actually express that they care about how she is getting along was helpful and healing. And her overall point, that checking on others during this time of isolation is VITAL, is something we all need to think about.

I know reaching out is not one of my best skills, but I’m prioritizing it. I’m very GOOD at responding, though, and boy do I send out those healing thoughts (which I’ll go along with the organized religion fans and assume do some good).

This is where I send all my vibes to. Hee hee.

Another example: someone I know mentioned that none of their local friends had checked up on them during the pandemic until very recently. That hurt. It made me wonder who I should be checking up on (yes, I will call my stepmother). Who do you need to check on, just so they will know they aren’t alone?

As Meghan pointed out this morning, we need to really see each other right now, even if we’re covered up:

“We are adjusting to a new normal where faces are concealed by masks, but it’s forcing us to look into one another’s eyes — sometimes filled with warmth, other times with tears. For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another.”

Ibid.

I truly hope she is right. With so much loss and pain going around, we need each other to see us, accept us, and show we care.

A final example: a blog reader wrote me a long email yesterday, in response to one of my blog posts on Highly Sensitive People. He was worried that he was using his sensitivity as an excuse to indulge his other issues (fears of various things). Now, this man is also dealing with autism and other mental health issues, and I felt so bad to think he worried that his personality type was an excuse. I’m glad he reached out, because I think he expressed something many of us experience, which is that our thoughts or feelings aren’t good enough, or are a cover-up for something else. In reality, many people share the HSP trait, and some of them have other issues, too. It’s just who we are, and dealing with it becomes a lot easier if we accept our limitations and challenges, and work to be the best unique individual we can be. Who that man is, the way he is, is fine. No one should judge him without spending some time in his reality.

Of course, I told him this, in other words. It’s what we all should do, listen and be supportive. Everyone’s struggling with something!

Looking out my window, it’s easy to see how we feel isolated, each of us up on our own hills.

Listen to the Universe

Wow, it sure seems like the Universe is conspiring to tell me something this week. Clearly, the effort it takes to be supportive of others, to listen to what people are concerned about, and to reach out is worth it, even if it can make you tired. We’re all we have!

Just another cool hawk photo to enjoy. I like how the sun made the interesting effect. Nice to end on a note of beauty.

Missing the Ranch and Keeping My Spirits Up

It’s really weird to have not been at the ranch the entire month of November, especially since that’s usually a great month to be there (good weather, frisky pets, lots of time for walking). It didn’t help at all that I spent a good bit of time wandering around the area on Google Maps trying to figure out where those two people drowned. I think I got it located a bit further away from our property than I’d feared, but still adjacent. It makes me so sad.

In happier news, my one orchid that didn’t succumb to some evil scale has rewarded us with many blossoms.

I listened to a news report that said the victims had fallen out of their boat and got caught up in pond weeds. That’s exactly what I had feared. Even if you can swim, that stuff can get you. One guy had a young family and one was just 22, so young. They’re having a football game to raise money for their families. Traion Smith was just an amazing athlete in high school, and a nice young man. The news report showed the former Cameron coach breaking into tears at the thought of losing him. Life sure has its twists and turns.

Anyway, I ended up looking at what great quality the Google Maps images of our property are. I really liked how you could see each cow and all the cattle paths in the bottom pasture next to our house.

All the cows are at upper right, and you can see where they walk. The image can even get closer in! That’s Walker’s Creek and one of the streams that meets up with it.

I was disappointed that I could not see Apache or Fiona, nor the chickens. I guess the photo was taken just before we got the chicken house. So, you’re spared those images.

Sunset looking out by neighbor Ruth’s house. I love how the oak leaves are shining.

While I do miss the ranch (and its occupants, including my poor lonely quarantined husband!), I’m enjoying some time in Austin. We got to take a walk with our neighbor, Ruth, who regaled us with tales of trying to buy groceries at the H-E-B (we went a bit later ’cause I had to fill my prescription, and it wasn’t so bad). She went to the Randall’s store full of “old people” and it wasn’t crowded. That store is always full of old people! And, if you don’t live in Texas, we realize H-E-B is a weird name, but since it’s named after Mr. Butts, you can understand the choice.

Roses in my flower arrangement. They help me feel better.

And since I’m in Austin, we can have my son’s little family unit to eat out on the deck, to minimize germs and all, like we keep being told to do. It will be very small, but good.

Giant mum about to explode. This arrangement had such great autumn colors.

We will get through these challenging times. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I feel like all this practice of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness that’s come out of the pandemic, the election, and the personal issues of those around me will benefit me the rest of my life.

I don’t know what this flower is, but I love the way only part of it is in focus.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the flowers I got at the store and our sunset. I saw no sunsets in Utah, because the mountains were to the west. That’s okay, mountains are pretty, too. Share what’s keeping you happy and in the moment, if you want to!

Yesterday Was Rough

Whew, yesterday was not fun. In fact, I’m really sad today, because while I was having a hard travel day, two people drowned while fishing in a pond on the next property over from the Hermits’ Rest/Wild Type Ranch property. Here’s a better article. It hit really close to home, because while I didn’t know either of them personally, one was a friend of Mandi’s family and the other was one of the most amazing high school football players I ever saw. I have screamed the name “Traion” many, many times with my friend Cathy at games. He was only 22, and the other guy was only 30. I just feel so bad for their families. It’s hard enough right now.

So, that put my day in perspective.

A mourning dove, for mourning

It was just a series of the kinds of things that always happen when you travel.

Things were fine as long as I was at the resort. I packed up all the leftover food and took it to the staff, which made Q the concierge very happy. I was glad to not waste food, and even let Q hug me (I was so over-dressed that no germs could possibly have gotten through, I tell myself).

To start, there were no normal Ubers available, so I had to take a fancy one, which cost more than upgrading to first class did (that was only $80 and got my bags free, so it was a nice part of the day). The driver was nice, and his Suburban was so clean. He said he had over 250,000 miles on it! The secret was maintaining it, apparently. The only thing that had gone out on it was the air conditioning. Wow.

I’d had to check out at 11, which was fine, of course, but that meant I was at the airport REALLY early for my 3:45 flight.

The new Salt Lake City airport is really pretty, but not convenient if you have baggage. You have to go upstairs to check in, then back downstairs to go through security. My awkward collection of bags nearly threw me down an escalator, and by the time I checked in, I was covered in sweat, thanks to having to wear my heavy clothing and snow shoes (would not fit in luggage). I managed to break a nail under the gel polish, even. I know, first-world problems. I’ll live.

My favorite part of the airport is this sculpture, The Falls, by Gordon Huether.

The other thing about the airport is they do NOT have trams or any transportation, so you have to walk 20 minutes to get to the gates. That was a true joy carrying my heavy bag (computer and makeup weighed it down) and n the dang down coat. The good news is I got my steps in. I probably also lost a pound of sweat.

Once I finally got to a seat and took off many layers (including replacing my soaked face mask), I just worked on my knitting and watched football. I also watched many, many children. I was actually shocked so many people were flying with children. But, maybe they were like me and had no choice but to fly. I’ll assume the best. Still, some very charming children and some annoying ones were there.

The first flight to Dallas/Fort Worth was fine. They even gave us a sandwich. Considering it would have cost around $10 in the airport, I figure I just about broke even on the first-class upgrade. That made up for the fancy Uber.

In Dallas, the trams were my friends, and I easily made it to the gate, only to find the flight was delayed. Get this, a plane had blown a tire on the runway, and it took them FIVE HOURS to clear the plane and debris off. The people sitting near me had flown to Austin, circled for an hour or so, then gone back to Dallas. They’d all been traveling since the wee hours of the morning from LA. I sure felt bad for them! We all shared plane horror stories, and enjoyed hearing about the Amazon Prime series one of the guys we met is acting in (which I can’t find, but will look for later).

Poor Anita. I kept updating what time our flight was. She must have been so confused. In the end, we weren’t too late leaving, after all, but then the 30-minute flight took 20 extra minutes, because we had to go all the way around Austin to land on the only available runway. That flight was pretty annoying, because it was crowded, and the woman next to me ate and coughed. If I get sick, she’s to blame (perfectly nice woman, just germy). At least I got to meet lots of interesting people, but wow, I was sure tired by the time my luggage showed up.

Back to work today! I’ll be less than cheery while I isolate over in Austin, since I know Cameron is reeling today.

Book Report: A Perfect Shade of Red

Even with all this knitting, I am still reading a lot. This one will not be the last in my color series for a while, because I think there’s a yellow book in the queue at the ranch. But on to this one. A Perfect Shade of Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, by Amy Butler Greenfield (2005), was recommended in the Master Naturalist session I took on cochineal. I’m glad I picked it up and read it, even though I’ve already read two other books on the color red. The history part was a lot of fun.

The book, along with the back of the stole I’m working on.

This book concentrates on the ups and downs of using that little Mexican insect, cochineal, to dye things red, starting from the very beginning and continuing to current times. One thing I learned is that, unlike the wild cochineal that grows out at the ranch, the kind that has been developed in Oaxaca to produce the most dye is a finicky thing. No wonder Spain held on to its secrets for so long and monopolized its import (when those pesky English pirates weren’t stealing it). They just couldn’t get it to grow well other than its native territory for hundreds of years.

I wonder if they used cochineal to dye the leather for my journal?

Without the exact right climate with not too much rain, not too much wind, and not too much cold, they keel over pretty fast. The other books I’ve read didn’t go into as much detail about how many places tried to grow cochineal. It failed spectacularly all over the world, and was particularly unsuited to being grown by slaves like sugar cane, corn, or cotton. Oh well.

Random red objects for you to enjoy.

I did learn that eventually, patient people finally got it to grow in the Canary Islands and Guatemala, of all places. They even surpassed Mexico toward the end of the popularity of cochineal dye.

Another thing the other books didn’t tell me was that thanks to Red Dye No. 2 being identified as so poisonous, cochineal began coloring foods in modern times again, but it’s not popular with vegans and there ARE people allergic to it, too. Huh.

The book kept insinuating that red clothing can be gaudy. I don’t know where they get that idea. This is my holiday shirt for this year.

Even if you’re less than fascinated by dyeing things red with little insects, this book is a fun read, because you get an interesting perspective on European history from it. Much of the book makes England seen like a pretty nasty place, but the descriptions of Hapsburgs and their jaws made me rather sad for European royalty. What an inbred mess. All the intrigue between kings, queens, pirates, merchants, chemists, and others is a lot of fun.

It appears I have another race book and a novel ahead of me, though there IS a memoir I may sneak in. Thanks for bearing with me on these book reports.

Why I’m Staying in My Room

It’s my last full day in Utah, and I don’t have to work. You’d think I’d be going around seeing the sights, shopping, eating, etc. The ski area finally opened, so all those nice shops I’ve only been able to look in the windows of are open (with their ski resort prices, no doubt). But nope, I’m not going out today.

It would have been smart of me to take a video, but here are moving ski lifts.

I did take a walk yesterday, fairly late in the day. I just wanted to see what the place looked like when things were running. I got to see the ski lifts in action, with people actually riding on them.

ski people
Well-spaced people with skis and snowboards preparing to board ski lifts. Only parties who are together can share a lift.

There were actual skiers in their ski clothing. They sure look well protected with the boots, pants, jackets, hoods, goggles, and masks. Yep, I didn’t see one skier who wasn’t also wearing a mask.

These folks do not appear to be as well spaced.

The ski lift lines have markers for keeping people distant, and I’ve read they are limiting access to the mountains. That’s all good, I think. All the restaurants are limiting seating, but I predict the same thing that was happening downtown will happen here: people will line up for the restaurants in normal lines. That sort of defeats the social distancing purpose, right?

Something cheerful. People sledding. Note the distinct lack of snow. It’s supposed to be clear for quite a while.

After thinking about it and talking to Lee, I agreed to stay at the condo today, since I have a feeling the first Saturday of ski season will be crowded. Good thing I have that knitting project (and a lot of packing to do).

Masked people were putting these decorations together on Thursday, so I was glad to see them finished. It’s all real greenery. Tasteful.

So, it’s good to have seen the decorations, the activity, and the finished fire pit I watched getting built. But, I’ll be in my room.

There are lots of these benches that look like lift chairs now. This is the finished seating area, where they carefully put the rocks 6 feet apart. A friend points out that this is a lot of wasted gas and heat.

The good news is that I’ve been reading more and more about how planes are pretty darned safe. My main worry is being in crowded airports. On my way here, they were pretty empty. But it’s Thanksgiving week. I hadn’t thought of that when booking my trip. Going home last week would have been a better idea from that perspective, but things in Cameron are a bit of a mess, so it’s perhaps better that I stayed here. Sorry, I’m thinking aloud in my blog. I guess it’s allowed.

I’m going to ask anyone who’s reading this to take care around your friends and family right now. You don’t know where people have been and who they’ve been around. I know for certain that not all COVID deaths have been reported as such, which makes me think things may well be worse than they really are. And with so many people convinced they have a right to NOT take precautions, it really seems like a good idea to be careful. Sorry to be preachy, but I care about MY family, and I assume you care about yours.