Monthly Archives: January 2015

Cake of Catastrophe

I keep making promises and getting myself into these situations that end in one kind of catastrophe or another. Last weekend, I had promised to provide a cake. After all, I had a recipe for glazed lemon bundt cake that sounded appealing. And I have a bundt pan – a bit more elaborate than the standard ones, but how could I have resisted buying a pan that looks (sort of) like a rose in full bloom?

CakeOfCatastrophePanThe cake wasn’t that hard – it’s basically a half-pound pound cake, with a bit of baking soda and some buttermilk and some lemon juice and grated rind added. And while it baked, I mixed up the glaze – butter and confectioner’s sugar and more lemon juice. Everything was going smoothly.

At first. The recipe tells you to let the cake cool just ten minutes, then turn it out of the pan so you can pour glaze over the hot cake and let it sink in. Only the cake refused to leave the pan. I tried cautiously running a knife around the edges to loosen it. No good. I shook the pan good and hard. The cake didn’t budge. I banged the upside-down pan on the counter a few times and whacked it with the palm of my hand while shaking it some more.

CakeOfCatastropheTopNope. It wasn’t moving. Total failure. Catastrophe, in fact. Finally I admitted defeat and spooned glaze over what was supposed to be the bottom of the cake. I was too tired to try something nice and foolproof, like brownies, so I just didn’t show up with a cake at all. Instead, we had some of it for dessert last night. Now that it’s cold, the slices come out of the pan nicely. Well, almost. Except for the parts that stick.

CakeOfCatastropheTopPartlyEatenIt does taste good. So maybe it wasn’t a complete catastrophe after all.


Travel Theme: Industry

Ailsa – remember Ailsa? She has a really nice blog about all the amazing things there are to see in this world – is asking for pictures this week about “Industry.”

Oddly, my industrial photos all seem to be related to transportation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a nearly endless freight train…

IndustryCamdenWaterfrontAnd the Camden docks, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd even though these grain elevators aren’t going anywhere soon, there’s actually a train track running next to them. So the wheat can be loaded up and move on to the flour mills.


Wordless Thursday – Jan. 22, 2015, or July 10, 2014


The Hundred Day Cleanup: How Not to Do It

UPSwampI’m already twenty days into my big clear-out-the-house-in-100-days project, so things should be starting to look good, right?

Wrong. I haven’t made much progress at all in draining my swamp. It’s time to figure out why and decide how to do things differently. Let’s see, the first thing that went wrong – back in the first week of January – was that I had to spend two days (there were problems) updating the financial and payroll software on the PCs at my church. Things like this happen a lot – I have a habit of accepting responsibility for all sorts of stuff that later makes demands on my time.

What can I do about this? Right now, not much. One of the skills I need to learn is how to judge how much time I have that’s unclaimed. Meanwhile, there are various things I promised to do that people are depending on, and I’ll just have to work around them.

Then I tried to catch up by following the suggestions in one of my how-to-get-organized books – the Don Aslett one that calls for spending two days working as hard as you can. And that tipped me over the edge into what was probably a mild case of flu. So much for most of the second week of January.

What to learn from that? Pretty simple: know my limits and respect them.

Wellll – respect my limits when I can. Last Thursday was devoted to the usual trip to work on clearing my mom’s house, a project that set me right on the ragged edge of physical endurance several months ago and has kept me teetering there.

And this is another unfortunate situation in which I’m not free to learn anything, or at least not free to apply what I learn. The house has to be cleaned out so we can put values on what’s left and pay the state of Pennsylvania its estate tax; they want their money by the end of next month. It’s the kind of situation in which you just sacrifice whatever else you can sacrifice and force your way through to the end.

After the trip to my mom’s, as usual, I wasn’t good for much for the next day and a half. By then, it was the afternoon of the seventeenth. All right, said I to myself, let’s do something that isn’t strenuous; I started trying to follow Marie Kondo’s advice to clean out and organize everything in a specific problem category at one time. I’m overflowing with paperwork, some of it mine, some my mother’s, and some paperwork of my grandmother’s that my mother never disposed of after she finished settling her mother’s estate, thirty-five years ago.

So much to shred.

So much to shred.

Oh, there’s a lot of paper.

Too much paper, it turns out, for me to start with the Kondo method. (Though I’m still fond of Kondo’s book – probably because she tells you, step by step, how you ought to clean. Yes, I do need that level of detail right now.)

I’ve seen houses that are messier than mine is at the moment, but not many. There isn’t enough room to work. I can throw paper away, but there’s no space to sort and organize the keepers. After a few days of fighting with the mess, I was frustrated, angry, exhausted, and depressed. What to do, what to do?

Time for a little creativity. If I can’t get the house clean and organized by forcing myself into working strenuously for several days, and I can’t make any progress by dealing with all of one problem before moving to another, what can I do?


I can do the easy stuff. I can grab an armful of my own papers, and throw most of them away. Do that a few times and I’ll have an empty shelf to work with. I can take the books that are lying here and there and put them back where they belong. I can find the things I was too hopelessly exhausted to clean up last fall, at my low point, and take care of them. And as more space opens up, I ought to be able to tackle problems I can’t even make myself think about yet, like how to file the estate paperwork appropriately.

We’ll see how well it works.

Friday Fictioneers: The View

Friday, and the Fictioneers; about 100 words inspired by the photo below. (I know, I know. But this story started out at almost two hundred words; 130 is a lot of trimming.)

Of course, every person who looks at this week’s picture will take something different from it. You don’t want to settle for just my version when you can find links to all the other stories at Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ site. Check out what all the other Fictioneers came up with – but first, please tell me what you think of my story.

dining-roomThe View

The wall of gray blocks; the grayish tan blocks of the neighboring building. Charcoal gray flagstones paving the courtyard, stripes of pale sand marking their junctions. But the light would go soon.

Quickly, neatly, he stacked the dishes, carried them out of harm’s way, set up the easel. Time blurred like the paint sweeping over the canvas. Noise, a doorbell, brought time back.

At the door? Ella, her husband, a strange girl. Pretty. He grinned at the girl, studying the colors of her face, her hair. Ella pushed past him. “Some host you are,” she said. She turned to the stranger. “I warned you how my brother is. He can paint, though. And he can pay to take us to a restaurant. Once he finds a shirt that he hasn’t wiped brushes on.”


Wordless Thursday – Jan. 15, 2015


This is not…

…a political blog. But some things go past politics to basic issues of right and wrong.

Murder is wrong. Censorship by fear is wrong. So today,


Edited on Jan. 9 2015, as more information has become available:



Because the issue isn’t “Let’s hate and fear Muslims”. The issue is “Let’s not be controlled by people whose own lives are ruled by hatred and who want to fill us with hate and fear like their own.”


Wordless Wednesday – January 7, 2015


Warming Up

I’ve been suffering from a bout of brain freeze lately, for reasons I’ll go into when I can figure out how to make them interesting. Meanwhile, the weather is getting cold. Really cold. Miserably, dangerously, frostbite and hypothermia cold.

So let’s relax with a few pictures of people enjoying the summer of 2010.

WindsurfingMykonosWindsurfing off Mykonos (Greece)

RuinsOfEphesusExploring the ruins of Ephesus (Turkey)

DriftingAtKrkaFallsDrifting at Krka Falls (Croatia)

Ahh, that feels better.


Wordless New Years’ Day