Sunday, January 22, 2017

Where have you been all My life?

Weary of being weary, and sore about being footsore, on the last two Sundays I've made efforts to get outside and actually try to enjoy winter in Winnipeg.

It came on as an urge one week ago, in the early morning hours of January 15, so rather than let the urge go to waste I jumped in the car and headed out to the Windsor Park Nordic Centre to have a second go at cross-country skiing -- this time with skis and boots that actually matched and actually stayed on My feet long enough to get somewhere.  Weather was the way I like it, not too cold and not too windy, and other than a total inability to get back up a small hill without removing the skis, I kind-of-sort-of got the hang of it.  My knees struggled with trying to keep the skis reasonably parallel and reasonably close together, but when I was on the flats in nice parallel grooves I could actually do something that resembled skiing.

I also noticed that on Monday, rather than aching all over, My sore right foot felt notably better than it has in several months.  I think it had something to do with giving the Achilles tendon and the bottom of the foot a really good stretching.

Well, today I explored a new vista of outdoor winter fitness.  This time I drove down to Fort Whyte Centre, a huge place dedicated to nature conservancy, hiking and such, and rented a pair of snowshoes.  The weather couldn't have been stranger:  +2°C, melting, misty and occasionally outright foggy, with very light drizzle.  The middle of January in Winnipeg, and it's raining.  That can't be right.

Anyway.

Suitably equipped with warnings about ice on the trails, and a suggestion to avoid the paths and stay on the snow, I put on a pair of snowshoes and headed out to do some exploring.

I. Love. It.

There is something amazing about being able to walk on top of snow, rather than sinking into it up to one's knees.  The snowshoes made a satisfying crunch as they bit into the slightly sticky white stuff, the kind of snow that makes for perfect snowmen, snow forts and snowballs.  Occasionally I had to cross or briefly follow one of the heavily-travelled paths, and did a very small amount of impromptu skating on an icy patch, but otherwise I found the snowshoes much easier to manage than the skis I used last weekend.  Winter-friendly birds, including chickadees, were out and about.  I even saw a deer, quietly watching from a cluster of trees.

I think it's safe to say that I'm going to be looking for My very own pair of snowshoes sometime very soon, as this is an experience I want to repeat.  I don't know where I'm going next weekend, but I do suspect these Sunday outings are here to stay.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Steakout

There's been a phrase from Michael Pollan that has been running through My mind for a few months now:

"Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."

I have a longstanding love-hate relationship with edible plants.  I've been a vegetarian in the past, once for a 10-year run, but in the end I was done in by a craving for barbecue chicken.  I've blogged about My reticence for making salads, and written a how-to on how to sneak up on vegetables.

Well, I'm back on the veggie wagon again, although with an intention to reach out and snag the occasional bit of animal flesh on the way down the road.  Yes, I can haz cheezburger.

I'm just tired of mediocre meat products, much in the same way as I recently tired of mediocre wine.  Few things are as frustrating as spending good money on an alleged piece of steak, only to cook it and find that you actually purchased a piece of shoe leather.  I do make a pretty good beef stew, but that's not exactly the kind of thing one can do at 10:00 on a weekday night if one expects to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Chickpea curry, however, I can have on the table in 30 minutes flat -- including rice, chutney, and other accoutrements.

Springy G:  Now with 30% less carnivore.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I think I'm developing a tic(k).

This evening, in the spirit of "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more," I spent some more quality time staring in abject terror at the clarinet part for Holst's First Suite in E♭ Major.  It was back in October 2016 when I first blogged about the daunting task of learning the Suite, and about struggling with the utterly preposterous five-bar run of high-velocity 16th notes in part 1, the Chaconne.

I'm happy to report that I now have semiquaverphobia mostly under control, thanks to diligent use of a [redacted extremely rude Old Norse profanity] metronome.  Little blighter is sitting right on the coffee table in the living room, so I can no longer use the excuse that it`s lost under something on My desk.

Even better, I'm starting to actually like working with that little so-and-so.  It just might have something to do with the fact that I can now play that five-bar run -- in fact, I've almost got it memorized now.

Life is good.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

The fine art of curating jelly beans

In the aftermath of the after-Christmas candy sales, our household acquired a large container of gourmet jelly beans.  It's one of those assortments that comes with a visual reference so that you can supposedly tell the brown cappuccino beans from the brown cinnamon beans from the brown kiwi fruit beans from the brown cola beans.

Not a chance.

The yellow ones aren't much better.  Reach in for a lemon and end up with pineapple, or perhaps even popcorn or Tropical Punch.  If the lights are low, one might even mistake pale orange for yellow and end up with passion fruit instead.  The only guarantee is that the dark blue ones are always blueberry, but only because there are no other dark blue flavours in the assortment.

Overall, though, the beans taste acceptably pleasant -- except for them.

The speckled bluish-white mint ones were nasty enough, but I couldn't even figure out what flavor the yellowish-green beans with brown speckles were supposed to be.  Suffice to say that I made a lot of interesting faces while trying to figure it out.  The closest match I came up with was some industrial solvent that I used while working in a print shop back in the late 1980s.

I had no recourse but to pour out all the beans and evict the ones that were particularly vile.  While I was at it, I got rid of all the licorice ones, too.  Not a fan.  I kept trying them, hoping that one of them was actually grape.  Never did find any grape in there, although I'm still hoping that one of the many shades of red is wild cherry.

Next time, I build My own assortment -- and unlike this one, there will be cherry and grape in there.  


Monday, January 2, 2017

It's a crazy idea, but it just might work.

Spent about an hour and a half working through new community band repertoire, with an eye towards the Pinawa Band Festival this spring.

Because we're a bit light on clarinets at the moment, I made a preemptive strike and started learning the first clarinet parts instead of the usual seconds.  If When I've learned them, I'll be ready for those nights when no one else can make it -- and as a bonus, the harmony parts will make that much more sense.

(Oh, and I get to play the Friendly Giant closing theme, too, in the form of "Early One Morning" from a medley of Percy Grainger folk songs.  Epic win.)

Goddess for hire

In the long, cold slog between Yule and the Vernal Equinox I've been experimenting with divine side gigs to while away the time.

Effective immediately, and for as long as meteorologically necessary, I am the Goddess of Picking Things Up Off The Ground So That No One Slips On Them.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Yule! Pass the soy sauce, please.

(raises mug of home-brewed mead) Gleðileg Jól!  2016 has been a very strange year -- strange even from My admittedly odd perspective -- so I thought I'd celebrate appropriately.

I made a pot of hot and sour soup, using this excellent recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  About the only Old Norse ingredient in there is the pork shoulder, although one could probably make a good case for the garlic.

The community band Christmas concert season also ended this evening with one last show, and one nervous Springy G as first chair clarinet.  (wipes brow)  No, wait; that's the sriracha sauce in the soup making Me sweat.  I was only slightly terrified playing first.  Amazing what actually rehearsing the material can do for one's nerves.  Once the holidays are done, though, I'm hoping the rest of the section will be back and I can resume being the Lovely Assistant for the firsts.  Second clarinet is, after all, where all the cool harmonies live.

The very best of the season to all!