Month: July 2014

Action Heroine (Or Not)

I was innocently turning my key in the lock on Sunday evening when I felt something give. Expecting the door to be unlocked, I gave it a push and when there was still resistance, looked down to see that rather than open the door, I had snapped my key in half.
One of the unfortunate consequences of working the evening shift is that by the time you get off of work, all the people who can fix this sort of situation have already gone home. Somewhat despairingly, I retraced my steps and returned to the restaurant, knowing that there, at least, would be other awake and functional humans who might have some ideas for solving the problem.
My sous-chef immediately suggested climbing in the window, so I turned around and traveled back to employee housing. (In the moment I was just happy that someone knew how I could access my bed. On reflection, I’m not sure how comforting the readiness of the answer should be.) It was easy enough to step through the shrubs lining the side of the house and then to pop a window screen out and leave a space large enough for myself to crawl through. This is possibly due to years of being taught by my parents that window entry is an acceptable substitute for carrying a key.
The next bit was somewhat trickier. Most of my previous window entries have been performed either by a brick wall – easy to get toeholds, by planter boxes – easy to step up on, or at basement level – no climbing involved. My room here, however, has a flat wall, a window-sill higher than my reach could easily manage, and no nearby ledges. After a few abortive attempts to swing a leg up, I discovered that I could pop the screen on the other window out as well and use the central bar as a post to hang from as I walked up the side of the house. Safely inside, I dusted myself off and went to bed, leaving the broken key as an issue for the morning.
Down at the shed, I left my broken key and explanation and was assured that someone would come by to fix it. Finally, at 1:30 p.m., just as I was getting ready to leave for work, a repair man came, removed the bolt/lock from the door and disappeared. When I returned, I was able to get in quite easily, because my door still had no bolt and as mentioned previously, never had a doorknob. Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to work, wedging my door shut with a scrap of polar fleece only to return and find the same hole in the door. Besides the fact that the door does not easily remain shut and I have no true wedge to help it do so, I was rather discomfited by the fact that the removal of the lock left a hole large enough to see through quite easily. As I have said, my door opens immediately onto the public laundry area and fridge and freezer. Convenient at most times, but without a solid barrier, it felt rather too open.
Fortunately, the repairman stopped by again this afternoon and replaced the lock and handed me a fresh key. More than this, I learned that we have no doorknobs because they are afraid that we will lock ourselves out and decide that the best solution to the problem is to kick the door down. Sadly, this had not occurred to me as a method on Sunday night and now I have no excuse to try it. On the other hand, it would likely be easier right now, because when replacing the lock, the repairman carried away the metal plate that is the door frame half of the lock. He’ll probably be back in a few days, once I’ve gotten accustomed to the gentle knocking sounds the loosely secured door now regularly makes.

Revising Peanut Butter Pancakes and Fueling Running Results

I revisited the peanut butter pancake recipe today and there were successes and backslidings. To review, the last batch of pancakes were very peanut buttery, but the batter was overly thick and the crumb was quite dense for a pancake. This go round, I reduced peanut butter by 1/8 cup to help with batter texture, used baking soda and buttermilk to increase fluff, and kept the other components stable.

The newly revised recipe reads like this:

Whisk together

1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup peanut butter

Sprinkle over the top

3 TBSP flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk again, until combined. Drop by 3 TBSP sized gloops (technical term) onto a hot, oiled griddle or sauté pan. Cook as though they were pancakes. Eat. Yields 5 pancakes.

20140717-152938-55778209.jpg

I know the photo only shows four pancakes, but I was pancaking post run today, and in my exercise induced hunger ate the first as soon as it came off of the griddle. Results were mixed. While the last batch smelled like peanut butter cookies as they cooked, this batch smelled more like a half-melted Reese’s. The batter was certainly more pancake-esque, spreading without any threats from spoons. The final products looked a bit less squat and brown up at bit more prettily in the pan.

20140717-153403-56043818.jpg

Flavorwise, they were slightly disappointing. I could certainly taste the peanut butter, but it was much less vivid than the peanutiness of the first batch. While I ate the entire last batch unadorned, these had enough of a traditional pancake taste that I almost wanted maple syrup for them. The crumb reflected the previous findings, lighter, more traditionally pancaked, and with fewer chunks of peanut drifting around.

20140717-153644-56204105.jpg

It certainly looks like further testing will be required, but that’s okay, I’m willing to sacrifice myself in pursuit of the purest peanut butter pancake philosophy. I’m currently considering several solutions, ranging from spending more time in the philosophy chamber during the mixing, to upping the buttermilk and peanut butter in tandem to preserve texture, but increase nuttiness. I confess that the pancakes were a bit of a side project today, as I was actually roasting off vegetables from the fridge and pantry in order to create room for the results of today’s shopping trip. A bit more attention to detail during the creation process and we will hopefully gain transcendence on this path together.

20140717-154055-56455529.jpg

In other news, this morning’s run was lovely. Delayed by a day, due to a work event, and reduced by a mile during my mental pep talk so that I could convince myself to get out the door, it was the fastest run I’ve managed for quite a while and very encouraging training-wise. Last week was a slog, I didn’t manage to increase my distance on my long run even though I felt like I was pushing a bit harder than was wise. My mid-week run was decent, but not as fast as it had felt to me. Two weeks of feeling like my efforts were having no effect on fitness and simply exhausting me were making me grumpy where the half-marathon plan was concerned. I even cut off distance on two runs because of muscles that felt like they were straining wrong. Monday’s long run, however, turned out to be an even 13.1 miles (the park signs that I was trying to base my distance on disagreed with my mapping app and I went further than planned) . Not only was it the full length of my race, but I managed an average pace of 10:45 which seems decent, considering that I still have three months left to train. Today, after I took the hardest steps of any run – those from my room to the employee parking lot – I managed to get in 5.5 miles at an 8:54 pace while still feeling controlled enough to push into a sprint for the last few meters. I also got a nice breathing workout on a 300 ft hill just before my turnaround point.

20140717-155204-57124263.jpg

The obligatory weekly portrait is me after the red face and salt sweat tracks on my cheekbones had worn off a bit and I got dressed up to come into town for the day.

Continuing to count the positives of this week, today marks 50 days until Mother Hen and Father Bear show up for a visit and Tuesday will mark the halfway point in the summer. I’m only about 700 words behind goal in CampNaNo at the moment, a deficit that I hope to make up as soon as I put this blog to bed. If I can build a small buffer over my two days off, that will be even nicer. Right now, there’s this odd conflict where I want to count down the days until I get to go home, but then panic because I’m also counting down the days until I’m supposed to have 50,000 words written. Fortunately, the NaNo pact is very similar to the blogging pact, in that it’s more about getting words on a page than it is about getting sensible or coherent words on a page.

Until next week, then, strange and stranger peoples who happen upon these words of the odd creature known commonly as the Ronibird. May the days of the coming week be most felicitous.

Tan Lines, Deadlines, Countdowns, Word Counts, Detours, and Delays

Greetings, random residents of the internet and welcome to your weekly update. Today’s update is sponsored by the 3,250 words that I should be trying to write for Camp NaNo, but have successfully avoided so far today. You can get quite a bit of sympathy out of people by telling them you have to write 3,000 words, but it tends to evaporate when you explain that “have to”, really translates to “I’m doing it for fun/competing with my sister.” So I am giving myself sympathy, now that I’ve driven off the sympathy of others, and procrastinating for all I’m worth.

First, there was the sleeping in. Sure, I could have gotten up and written in those lovely morning hours when the brain is fresh and energized and the birds would have sung outside my window. There might even have been hot chocolate. Or I could have driven into town immediately after I finally did get up, gotten my writing station set up before noon and cranked out at least a thousand words before the clock switched over to p.m. I could have begun writing as soon as I finally did arrive in town, rather than carrying my fifty pounds (approximate weight) of library books across town and then carrying ten pounds of fresh books back. The detour to sit in the park and watch the hikers climbing the hills was probably procrastination too, but I refuse to regret the lovely conversation with my Mother Hen that occurred during that time. Now, of course, I have finally gotten my writing equipment set up, drunk my coffee, checked Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, various blogs, and email. Things are becoming more desperate on the procrastination front.

20140710-164254-60174020.jpgI already took about half an hour to comb these Raggedy Ann curls out of my hair…

My cellphone is at the point of near death, so texting as a distraction is out. There is the possibility that if I delay long enough, I’ll get kicked out of the shop at closing time, before having to buckle down and actually work – but although I’m not sure what time they actually close, I have over two hours before that rescue is a possibility. Also, I think the latte is beginning to kick in, which means that if I don’t expel as much energy as possible through rapid typing, I’ll inadvertently start climbing the walls. And even in a tourist town like Jackson, that might cause some raised eyebrows. There doesn’t seem to be much point in holding out any longer. But I can leave you, friendly and nonjudgemental internet, with a few more nearly coherent sentences before I give in. That should show my work of fiction who’s really in charge around here.

My tan lines are beginning to resemble a cubist painting, which makes me unreasonably happy. For one, it’s nice to not be the color of a pale marshmallow any longer, for another, I find the overlapping edges and shades amusing. I have the traditional runner’s wristwatch tan, the less traditional running sandals’ strap tan, and a fairly typical summer clothing tan from shorts and tee-shirts in additional to the intersecting lines caused by various blouses, dresses, and tank tops. Lacking the traditional familial tan-line scale to use as a comparison (from tannest to least tan – oldest brother, youngest sister, mother, etc.), I merely measure myself again my winter photos and feel accomplished.

Mother Hen and Father Bear have made reservations to come visit in September, giving me the project of arranging expedition plans for that time. Another way to procrastinate? No, I think I’d better hold that in reserve for another day. Still, after the promised 4th of July visit from extended family, it’s nice to have another date, closer than the end of my rotation, to count down to.

The no-fixed-address beast has been rearing its head again, as I suddenly seem to have multiple entities bent on communicating with me through snail mail. They send their important documents (the envelopes say that’s what they are full of) to Home Base and Mother Hen drafts various members of the household to stuff them in bigger envelopes and stamp them and send those envelopes off to my current mailing address. Each new missive that arrives at Home Base sets off the age old discussion – to forward or not to forward? Mother Hen has recently taken to simply opening most of my correspondence for me. It’s sad, how there’s no privacy in this modern day and age.

And now I’m twitchily scrolling back through my writing thus far, wracking my brain for any amusing little anecdotes from the week. It was a good week at work, I didn’t cut any fingers off or set anyone on fire. We’ve been getting steadily busier, although still not approaching the levels of crazy that were present in my last two rotations. June and July look like the busiest catering months on the work calendar, so I’m not sure if business will continue to build through August or not. The biggest stress is knowing whether to prepare a lot of food and risk it spoiling due to a slow week, or to prepare a small quantity of food and risk running out in the middle of the night. Most nights, however, I’m happily low in the decision making process and therefore blame and/or credit for the results of these debates does not fall on me.

And that’s really all I have to say for the moment, gaping void of internet. You may dissolve my words in your massiveness, or preserve them for the next generation, as you see fit. I’m off to convert the single sentence of inspiration that has drifted into my head in the past two days into 3,000 or so riveting words of adventure and daring-do. You’ll have to procrastinate by yourself from here on out.

Sagebrush and Other Exciting Sights

plain jane adventuring

plain jane adventuring

As an employee, I am allowed to participate in many of various activities that my company provides to guests at no cost to myself. Free means that I am only allowed to attend if there is space after all the paying guests have signed up. Despite having a wrangler as a roommate last summer, I never attempted to go out on any of the horseback trail rides. I probably wouldn’t have gone out this summer either, but one of the Russian workers at the golf course assumed that I would be excited to go with her and made all the arrangements almost before I had time to register what was going on.

It isn’t that I don’t find the idea of riding exciting and fun, but I knew from last summer that these were the kinds of horses that walk the trails two or three times a day carrying chattering tourists and all kinds of young, old, and inexperienced riders. I didn’t imagine that there would be much excitement once all the usual safety precautions were taken. I wasn’t far wrong. The wranglers had already gotten in their first month and a half of practicing their shouted park tour – presented half-turned from their saddle at the front of the line. After getting off work at 10:20 the night before and waking up at 6:45 for the hours drive up to meet with our 8:00 a.m. riding group, I was mostly feeling like I could easily fall asleep as my horse (he went by the name of Gibson, if you were wondering) walked slowly through the trees, lead by Izzy and followed by Opie. The horses seemed quite disinterested in the entire affair as well, only occasionally causing excitement when they split up the group by stopping to go to the bathroom or stepping off to create a side trail to avoid puddles.

 

The weather was beautiful, even though it was a bit chilly in the woods. I felt like I could have enjoyed the views more if I had felt more balanced on the horse. The angle the stirrup forced my left knee into was immediately aggravating to the area affected by my ACL surgery and Gibson wasn’t particularly careful about allowing enough room for both him and I to pass by the tree trunks. Our group consisted of five girls, one Russian worker and one American worker from the immediate area, myself and my Russian co-worker, the wrangler, and one elderly male guest. The wrangler and the two employees I hadn’t previously met seemed to be acquainted and between chatting with her friend, the wrangler would occasionally point out landmarks and comment on what wildlife it was possible to spot in the area. The fact that I’m not really all that far from home was reinforced when she mentioned that you could spot Canadian Geese in the area and gave a detailed little spiel about sagebrush.

just to be clear, we took no pictures and saw no wildlife on this trip. I'm garnishing with unrelated photos.

just to be clear, we took no pictures and saw no wildlife on this trip. I’m garnishing with unrelated photos.

Just as we were stopping at an overlook to take photos, in the rockiest bit of path yet, the saddle beneath the only guest on the tour twisted to one side of the horse and he slid off in slow motion as we all watched helplessly, our inexperience with the whole affair leaving us stuck on our horses. After a moment of horror, it became apparent that he wasn’t badly hurt and as he walked off the fall, we sat on our assigned animals until a relief wrangler could come and lead us back to the corrals. The second half of the ride was subdued in the way things often are in the aftermath of an accident among strangers and we missed any opportunity to take pictures. The only photos that I have of the day’s adventuring are from when I pulled into a turn-off so that my co-worker and I could admire the bison and their calves next to the highway.

baby bison are quite cute

baby bison are quite cute

 

So, I have once more been on a horse, although I can’t say the experience was particularly fun or memorable. I limped back to the car after dismounting, since my left knee was too stiff and pained to walk on properly for an hour or so after the ride. My co-worker is friendly, but her English is limited enough to make communication more of a strain than casual conversation. I still prefer less organized adventures and spur-of-the-moment is not something that is included in these guest activities.

I remembered to admire the Canadian Geese and sagebrush as I spontaneously biked into town today, though. After all, it would be a pity to fail to appreciate the local wildlife during my stay in the Tetons.

reflecting on the week's adventures in my cafe.

reflecting on the week’s adventures in my cafe.