Category Archives: Annoying Things

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.

 

Just Saying

(Occasional expert advice on how to be thoroughly disorganized.)

Are you doing laundry today? Do you expect to do laundry some time in your life? Here’s why the truly disorganized person should never check pants pockets:

Because it’s so much fun to find scraps of Kleenex stuck all over everything.

Because it’s even more fun finding that a cough drop (the one that was in the same pocket as that Kleenex) has unwrapped itself and glued itself to a sock.

Two guesses how I know this. Come on, nobody needs three.

Arrrggghhh, Part 2

So, last Monday raindrops kept falling on my bed. And the roofer was too busy to come fix anything until next Monday (day after tomorrow, now).

(This is going to be one of those good news-bad news jokes, only not very funny.) The good news? Yesterday morning, the roofer turned up, discovered that a large branch from the maple tree next to the house had punched a hole in our roof, heaved the offending branch out of the way, and repaired the hole. That left us with some water stains on the ceiling, but basically life was good.

HoleInTheCeiling20130614Until about four o’clock. I was just settling down to read other people’s Friday Fictioneers stories when I heard a loud rumbling thud, or thudding rumble – a very strange noise. What was it? The sound of a chunk of ceiling splattering itself over the floor and the nightstand and half of the bed. Oops.

It took about five hours to clean up the mess of wet wallboard and wet insulation and to patch the hole by covering it with a four by five foot piece of plywood (with help from our local son, who came over and helped his father hold the plywood over their heads while bolting it to the ceiling joists). It’s kind of odd, right now, to walk into the bedroom and smell freshly cut wood.

Well, at least now all we have to do is move everything out of the room and find a drywall contractor who can rebuild the ceiling and parts of the walls (unfallen, but wet). It hasn’t been a good week around here, and we’re still luckier than the tornado victims in Oklahoma and the flood victims in central Europe and the hurricane Sandy victims at the Jersey shore.

Arrrgh.

May2007JamestownShip3Mateys, I’m in a bad mood today. A bit piratical, out for revenge, ready to hoist the Jolly Roger and set sail and chase down the weather and make it walk the plank. It deserves it.

We had a whole series of very heavy (as in, “no, you can’t see to the other side of the street right now”) rainstorms yesterday here in the Philadelphia area. A nuisance, but there are worse kinds of weather. No, what fried my Cheetos was going upstairs in the late afternoon and discovering that it was raining inside the bedroom. On the bed. Turns out that, sometime during the recent storms, our roof developed a hole.

Arrgh.

So here’s my pirate photo. Please picture me pacing the poop deck with a pair of pistols. And a cutlass in my teeth, not that my dentist would approve.

May2007JamestownShip2(All right, this isn’t a pirate ship. It’s a reconstruction of one of the ships that brought colonists to Jamestown, Virginia, back in the 1600s. But it’s the best I can come up with. Give me a break, okay?)

And yeah. This isn’t just a first world problem, it’s a lucky-part-of-the-first-world problem. There are lots of people in Oklahoma right now who would be glad of a house with a roof that only leaked in one room (or glad of a house with a roof, or glad of a house) and lots of people in Central Europe who would be delighted with water that gurgled away down the storm drains within ten minutes of the end of the storm instead of sticking around rising higher and higher.

But I still have a soggy bed.

Hooray for the Taxman

NotExactlyWritingYet

Not really writing yet – but somebody was counting sheep and cows

Today is April 15 – and here in the U.S., that means we all have to get our income tax filed by midnight. Yes, it’s tax day – a day all us bloggers and writers should celebrate.

I can hear you now, all of you. Has she lost her mind?

No, or not any more than usual. If there’s one thing everyone who enjoys writing or reading (at least, everyone who speaks any of the various European languages or Hebrew or Arabic) depends on, it’s the alphabet. But where did the alphabet come from?

It seems that several thousand years ago, people in what’s now Iraq started building cities along the rivers. (Well, to them they were cities – clusters of buildings where so many people lived that you were likely to see strangers almost every day.) They needed to work together to irrigate their crops, and somehow they had to feed the people who organized the irrigation system – so they invented taxes.

They hadn’t invented money yet, though, so you had to pay taxes in farm produce. You might owe five sheep every year, and your neighbor might be taxed twenty bushels of barley. Of course, right away people started arguing over whether the taxes had really been paid or not, so some clever collector came up with little clay tokens shaped like sheep (or whatever). When you brought your five sheep in, the tax collector set aside five sheep tokens to show that you had paid.

Only, how could you tell which tokens applied to which person? Pretty soon somebody figured out that you could wrap your five tokens in a clay “envelope” to keep them separate from everybody else’s. And soon after that, collectors started making marks on the outside of the “envelope” to show how many tokens were inside, and what kind. Then they realized they didn’t need the separate tokens – it would be easier to just make marks on a piece of clay that stood for the tokens. By now we’re halfway to inventing writing.

It only took another century or so of people inventing ways to add more information to these lists of tax payments – for example, maybe an explanation of why somebody had only paid part of what they owed – before they started using this wonderful new technique to write down important information like what towns the local king had just conquered. And after that, well, the rest was history.

At first the symbols on the clay were pictures, quick ways to represent whatever they stood for. But as time went on and people got busier and busier, they made the pictures simpler and simpler – and after centuries, they just stood for sounds. They had become letters, like the ones this post is written with. And it all started because of people who didn’t especially want to pay their taxes if they could avoid it, and tax collectors who needed a way to keep track of who really had paid.

Thank you, all you ancient taxmen. 😉

Small stone 4: 3 a.m.

It’s dark, it’s quiet. Why am I awake?

Oh, that’s right. I have to cough. Again.

What time is it, anyway? That early? How can I be awake after only two hours of sleep? I’ll just lie here until the world fades out.

No. Cough. No, I won’t. Cough. Cough.

You know, I’m not having a good January.

Arrgghh.

I meant to have some interesting stuff to post today. I really did. I even stopped on the way home from the dentist yesterday – getting an old filling replaced – to take some photos for Myfanwy Hart’s 100 step series.

Then I got home and discovered that my camera had somehow vanished into thin air after I nestled it carefully next to my coat on the car seat. (Well, either that or I put it down on a Flat Surface and have been looking straight at it without seeing it. Which is obviously impossible no matter how many times I’ve done it before.) Anyway, there are a lot of promising brand new shots on my camera, wherever it is, that I can’t show you without locating it.

So one of the projects for this afternoon was to FIND the camera. Instead, to everybody’s surprise, I spent the afternoon back at my dentist’s getting a (different) broken tooth patched up until it can be crowned.

First world problems. But frustrating.