Month: January 2017

A note about Badlands National Park

Several national park rangers have made it clear that they disapprove of the current political climate, especially with threats to keep the EPA hushed, sell off public lands, and keep citizens uninformed (misinformed?) about climate change. The park to start it all was Badlands, and it happens to be one of my very favorites. I figured I’d share some photos since lots of you probably haven’t been there.

It’s been several years since I’ve been to the Badlands. According to our friends at Flickr, I took this photo in 2006. I think I’ve only been there once since, in 2010. It’s situated about an hour southwest of Rapid City, SD, which is in the southwestern corner of the state. That’s also the same vicinity as Mount Rushmore, though the landscape looks entirely different. The mountains pretty much start just on the western edge of Rapid City, the very quickly end with some smaller hills extending into the flat prairie you see surrounding the Badlands.

Suddenly, that prairie cuts off, and it almost feels like you’ve teleported to the surface of the moon.

The National Park has a windy road that snakes through the canyons and around the higher edges with overlooks and interpretive signs. There’s also a small but impressive visitor center with a museum and a gift shop. Somehow, I’ve only been inside once.

The rest of the photos are ones I took the last time I was there, in 2010. I took these with an iPhone and used a filter in Lightroom. I wish I remembered what it was called because I still like how they turned out.

There’s fungus among us!

Last Sunday, Palmer and I went to Walter B. Jacobs Nature Park, one of my very favorite places in the general vicinity of Shreveport, for a presentation and hike called The Fungus Among Us. Turns out fungi are a lot more complex and diverse than I realized. While I can’t tell you much about the various types of mushrooms, I did learn that, for me, at least, going mushroom hunting for dinner is a very dangerous idea. I also got some reasonably good pictures.

Penny didn’t get to come along this time because it wasn’t exactly a pet-friendly topic and there’s no way she could have sat still for the presentation. That’s for the best, though, because it was a dreary, rainy day (which I guess is good for mushroom-viewing) and she would have tested every

single mud puddle.

Palmer was also taking photos. He got this pretty amusing one of me being all excited toward the end of our hike.

Palmer and I discovered the fungus among us this afternoon in the rain! 🍄

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He also made this pretty awesome video and posted it on Youtube:

When we got home, I wasn’t done with Happy Mushroom Time. I went over to Whole Foods and got groceries to make Kale and Mushroom Stroganoff, a recipe I found on Chowhound. It involved dried porcini mushrooms, which I don’t think I’d ever tasted.

There was also the half-pound of fresh baby bellas and a bunch of kale and various other yummy bits.

Excuse me a minute while I drool all over again. This recipe is going on my shortlist.

So is Walter B. Jacobs. Palmer and I are going back tomorrow for a Winter Tree ID Workshop. I’m really looking forward to it! I think the weather is supposed to be nice, so expect some sunny pictures!

Seedlings and projects and ethics, oh my!

Now that Christmas decorations have been stowed and the surprisingly calm (for me) Mardi Gras season has begun, things have calmed down, and we’ve been able to focus on more mundane, non-family-related projects.

As usual, Palmer did an excellent job decorating the mantle.

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I’ve been up to my usual crafty shenanigans, at least for this time of year, crocheting things.

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This is the beginning of a temperature afghan. Each line of single crochet represents a day. The color is chosen depending on ten-degree variations in temperature. You can see that January has been a little crazy. For instance, the temperature yesterday hit 76. In the middle of January! The wind was also raucous, though of course it refused to perform properly when I took out my camera.

In other project news, I’m attempting to grow herbs from seeds. I planted seven pots – five with basil, two with dill.

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I put them in my kitchen where I’d see them often, and Palmer was kind enough to mount a grow light on the wall behind them. And surprise, surprise, I have a sprout!

One of my basil seeds has sprouted! 🌿

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Three, actually. I’ve forgotten how to use manual focus on my good camera (and am obviously too lazy to figure it out today), so you only get to see an Instagram photo from yesterday. Isn’t it glorious!

Palmer has also been up to his own projects, making diorama model scenes. A few amazing trees and ginormous spiders were involved.

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There’s also Louise, who you see in the featured photo. She’s her own project. I promise she’s not always angry, though she is always angry if I’m trying to get anywhere near her.

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Hopefully she’ll come around eventually.

omnivoreIn other news, I finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma, of which I was downright terrified. It had been on my TBR pile for well over a year, but I was under the impression that it would instantly turn me into a vegetarian, and I wasn’t sure that was the best idea. Turns out that’s not what it’s about at all, really. Yes, it details some of the terrible things that happen to industrialized farm animals, but it also explains that there are relatively humane options, say, from small local farms like Mahaffey. You can actually visit them – I have. The animals are in pastures and eating what they’re supposed to eat: there are no cows piled into disgusting feedlots being forced to eat corn and beef fat. Mahaffey’s cows eat grass. That’s what The Omnivore’s Dilemma is about: knowing where your food comes from so you can make informed, ethical decisions about where you’re willing to spend your money and what you’re willing to eat. The best option for those criteria seems to be places exactly like Mahaffey, as “industrial organic” has its own problems. Anyway, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a book you should probably read, whatever side of the vegetarian/non-veg or organic/conventional arguments you fall on. It’s good to know what happens to your food before it reaches your plate.

And with that, I’m out. School has just started, and I’m taking three classes again, so we’ll see how much time I have to write blog posts. I’m already waffling on my 50-book reading commitment because I’ve made my massive school to-do lists, and there’s already too much reading on that end. Hopefully I’ll handle this semester a wee bit better than I did the last. Wish me luck!

Time to put up the Christmas decorations

 

Yep, it’s Twelfth Night, the proper day to put away your Christmas decorations until the day after Thanksgiving this year. It’s also time to pull out the Mardi Gras decorations and eat every available piece of king cake. Shreveport’s Whole Foods, for one, is prepared. They’ve actually been prepared for a few days – I just wouldn’t let myself partake until the Proper Day, which happens to be today. Guess who’s going to Whole Foods.

Christmas this year was blissfully uneventful. You saw the beginning and Penny’s second-long tolerance of Santa. (Yes, she’ll be doing it again next year.) After that was a flurry of family-related activity that left everyone exhausted, as the holidays tend to do. At least I ate well.

Guess where I am. ❤️❤️❤️

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That, by the way, is arguably one of Shreveport’s greatest delicacies: the marinated crab claws at Ernest’s. Palmer’s parents took us there a couple days before Christmas. Yurrm.

Until just a few days ago, it still looked like Fall around here. I took this picture on December 22 while I was walking Penny:

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The temperature was in the 70s on Christmas, so I didn’t even get to wear my ridiculous kitten sweater. Penny has taken advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures for some surrious backyard play time, though I’m sure she’d be willing to roll around and play fetch even in below-freezing blizzard conditions.

Really, she might prefer below-freezing blizzard conditions. Hopefully we’ll find out at some point during her lifetime.

In other happy(ish) pet news, Louise appears to have figured out how to play:

I turned on my webcam when I saw her play for the first time. She was especially angry for a few days after I took her to the vet for her shots, but she seems to have calmed down again.

Aaand I just realized that I only took a couple pictures on Christmas. I have to be better at pulling out my camera. Here’s the highlight:

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Last year, I got a box of Christmas crackers and forgot about them, so this year Palmer and I opened all six at once. A good time was had by all.

In other household news, we tried unsuccessfully to complete a 1000-piece puzzle. We gave up after only a couple days of kitty helping.

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For New Year’s, Charlotte visited from Portland, and we had a time unlike I’ve had since I was about 25. It was an…adventure.

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She also finally got to meet Penny, which made everyone happy, especially Penny.

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So, now that Christmas is over, what’s next (besides a hunk of king cake)? I’ve got a few projects. There’s the 50-book goal, school’s about to start again (UGH), and I started a Massive Craft Project that I’ll blog about in the near future because I think it’s pretty neat. I’d also like to carry my good camera around everywhere and Take All the Pictures, but as only one of the photos in this post were taken by said camera, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Happy Mardi Gras!

It’s 2017. In other news, I read a book.

Yeah, I’m a little bit late on this one. I’ve been a little bit late for a while. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this blog and with my year in general because, you know, that’s what one does this time of year.

I only made one formal resolution: Read that damn pile of 50 books again.

If you’ve ever looked at this blog for more than two minutes, you probably know that I used to read a lot. I signed up to read 50 books for the Goodreads Challenge and completed it every year for several – I even hit 64 one year – and then I totally fell off the wagon. I’m not quite sure what happened, but it probably had something to do with starting round two of grad school. That and being bored with blogging and feeling like writing about every book had become a job.

Translation: I’m going to read fifty books this year, dammit, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to write about them.

Some of them, the particularly interesting ones, I might. Who knows, I might even get back into book blogging. (Really, though, that’s doubtful, as my final year of grad school – it better be ever – begins in about a week, and this lovely excess of time I’ve been enjoying for just under a month is about to end. Meh.

As for the blog, I’d like to post more. Note that I haven’t turned it into an Official Resolution, but I’ll call it a plan. (I also plan to spend less time in the Facebook Black Hole, but I’m already failing miserably at that one, soooo) I have some fun stories and photos from Christmas I’d like to share, but we’ll see if I get around to it. This post is a good start.

wildwoodOkay, I’ll talk about books for just one minute. I just finished my first book of the year last night, Wildwood by Colin Meloy. Yes, the Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, and no, until about three weeks ago, I had no idea he’d written a book or I would have read it a while ago. If you’re familiar with the Decemberists, this book is just about what you’d expect if the lead singer wrote a children’s book (that really fits better into YA but the main characters are 12 and no one asked me, etc). It’s dark, it’s fantasy, and there are beautiful illustrations throughout (by Meloy’s wife, Carson Ellis). (Carson  Ellis also did the illustrations for The Mysterious Benedict Society, a fairly popular kids’ book that I really didn’t like. The illustrations were lovely, though!) You don’t have to be a kid or a teenager to enjoy this book. And even better: it’s the first in a trilogy. I’ll be reading through those in short order, though I’m diverting to the much less fantastical The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which downright terrifies me.

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