It’s back

…and this time, with backup.

I lost the blog late last year due to a missed notification of my hosting expiring, but really, I lost it due to a lack of backup.  Seriously?  And how often do I nag others to back their stuff up?

Trying this again.  Rebuilding old entries scraped together from other sources, so many old posts will pop up soon.  New posts coming, as well!

…and I’m backing my blog up each time I update it.

Hello!

I am a member of species Phidippus audax (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phidippus_audax), also known as the bold jumping spider because I can leap a distance of up to 50 times my own body length!

Favorite pastimes include:

  • twirling around in circles in an eerily calculating, ratcheting fashion;
  • actively hunting prey during the day, since I do not rely on webs to collect food for myself; and
  • startling unwitting building residents who didn’t expect to find me at eye-level on the glass exterior door in midday!
    I love to hang out high up on flat vertical surfaces, since I can easily spot my next meal that way. I have stereoscopic (depth-perceiving) vision, just like you! Which means that we can both identify when we’re suddenly mere inches from each others’ faces!

    SURPRISE!  

Taco Tuesday, interrupted.

It’s rare for me to time a taco purchase with Taco Tuesday, but I did so today on the way home, and “set the table” on my front porch for dinner. Opened my styro takeout container and started inhaling tacos like I do, ladylike, nobody look at me, don’t make eye contact, and halfway into the last taco, something started buzzing around me. I ignored it for a moment, thinking it was a fly, until I saw it pause in flight — yellow jacket.

I have a severe venom allergy that likely includes yellow jackets, so I calmly rose from my chair as it whirred around me, closed the styro container to protect my treasured remaining half-taco, and stepped out of the immediate vicinity to give the bug time to finish his investigation and clear out.

Oh, but he was investigating my dinner. He made a beeline (yes) to the closed container, DIRECTLY TO THE LATCH, and shoved his volatile butt through the tiny, flimsy gap in the styro closing mechanism. So now, I had a container of forlorn taco + driven yellow jacket.

I pondered a moment, and weighed my options. Give up remaining half-taco. Or, OR — hear me out — put some big-girl panties on and gingerly unlatch the container and run like hell, then maybe eat half-taco? I mean, I was still hungry for tacos, so I opted for the latter. I’m not proud.

Except that when I leaned in to unlatch the thing, jiffy-pop noises started coming from the styro. Dude got mad. Maybe he doesn’t like carnitas? who does that? but welp, I wasn’t about to unleash him. So, um, I left the container there, figuring it would be even lamer to try to get assistance to rescue my remaining half-eaten taco so that I could just finish eating it in the presence of whomever i recruited to help rescue it, because what am I going to do, wipe the half-eaten taco off on my jeans and offer sharezies for a helper’s efforts in fending off an angry wasp?

And then I went to yoga class. The container was still popping then, 30 min later.

And it’s still out there, on the table.

He stopped popping by the time I got home, but I could still hear him motoring around. I don’t exactly have a special place in my heart for wasps out of all the stinging insects, but he just wanted taco tuesday, and I can’t really fault him there, I mean, look at me, weighing my life against eating those two bites (okay, who am I kidding, that ONE remaining bite) of taco. I guess corn tortillas have sugar, no? he has all the taco he wants until morning, and a pillowy pillow of carnitas to snooze on. I figure I’ll open/toss the container in the morning, leading up to trash day, or in the meantime, if a bear happens by my front porch in the dark of night, hey, free taco, and a wasp means nothing to a 250lb animal.

So anyway, what I’m saying is, if you’re my neighbor and you’re reading this, now you know what that styro container on my front porch is, and I mean, if you’re really hungry, you’re welcome to my half-eaten taco. but you’ve been warned.

It’s So Awkward When

you’re too tall to fit in the photo, so you have to yank your face down

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but it’s a lovely day for tea, ah-ah-ah!

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oh, and here’s what this looks like on a night-vision wildlife camera.  not that I ran through my neighbor’s yard at midnight or anything

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p.s.:  i made sure to check the live feed before venturing out, to make sure i wouldn’t be sharing the stage with non-extinct species

p.p.s.:  turns out the costume creates a good amount of drag when trying to run full-tilt down the street, reached warp speed and almost got knocked backward.  would have been a soft-ish landing, tho’.

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile:
I’m out here feeding a visiting Phil walnuts at my table. I go inside to get another memory card for my camera, come back out and he’s running around. Okay!
So I sit and drink my coffee while I watch him. A few minutes of this and I happen to look down and see tiny coffee handprints leading away across the table and in his direction. So basically, I’ve been drinking squirrel-mitt-flavored coffee this morning.

The culprit:

I got lucky today

I recently started a course on wilderness travel — basically, How to Not Be a Moron in the Outdoors.  Tonight’s the second class session, so there’s a whole lot of material yet to be covered.

In preparation for a day-long (~15-mile, ~4000ft elevation gain) group hike that’s coming up in two weeks as part of the class (as well as the outings that will follow), I have been gearing up per the course instruction thus far, and set out yesterday morning to climb Mt. Wilson for conditioning.

I had my new daypack on, full of the basic essential hiking items listed by the course instructors.  I even went out at the last minute on Sunday night to pick up a light waterproof rain jacket at REI, and rolled it up and stuffed it in the pack with my other gear, since yesterday was going to be “overcast with a light chance of drizzle in the afternoon” in Sierra Madre.

I left my home at 8:00am to walk to the trailhead and start the hike.  Before I left the trailhead, I texted my sisters to let them know where I was going, which trail (just this one up and back), and when they could expect to hear from me again.  I told them that I wasn’t sure how far I‘d make it up the trail, but that Iexpected to be back off the mountain around 4:00pm at the latest.

I enabled GPS on my phone and started up a hiking app, recording my hike time on the trail.

At ~11:30am, with much of the 4700ft elevation gain behind me, I was very winded, but otherwise okay — no muscular issues, etc.  But I didn’t factor in how much colder it gets as you get higher… I‘m quite new at hiking, and quite devoid of common sense.

I reached the summit at 12:00pm.  The fog was so thick that when I stepped onto the summit, I couldn’t see more than about 20 yards in front of me.  And it was cold.  Very, very cold for a naive sunny-foothill-dweller like me, wearing thin synthetic hiking pants and a UV-rated longsleeved t-shirt.

About this cold:


Oh nothing, just some glaciers in the parking lot at Mt. Wilson Observatory.

And then, it started to rain.

I found cover in a picnic area on the summit, and sat down to eat, drink more water, and lace my boots tighter for the descent to avoid smashing my toes (three of my toenails are still on the way out from smashing them into the Mt. Wilson Trail in December…I only went halfway up at that time).
I dried off with a small towel in my pack, and put my rain jacket on over my tee — luckily, it’s the “cheaper” kind of waterproof that doesn’t breathe, so that started to warm me a bit.

Feeling miserable at the prospect of NOT being able to magically teleport myself back to my warm home, and instead having 7 miles of cold, probably wet trail ahead of me, I started back down from whence I came, hoping to get down and away from the summit and into warmer temperatures ASAP.
(It did cross my mind to call for a taxi to drive me back down from the summit…. but alas, no signal.)
My phone’s battery had been drained to less than half due to the hike tracking on the ascent, so I powered it off to conserve power in case I needed it later.

I got a decent way down from the summit, where it began to get warmer.  However, I started to feel like something was up when I didn’t re-encounter a section of the trail where I had to scramble sideways for a few steps across rock face with a steep dropoff on the way up the mountain (quite memorable for someone afraid of heights like me, though oddly, it didn’t scare me).

I powered my phone back on and logged back into the hiking app to locate myself on the trail.  I wasn’t on my original trail.  I had made a wrong turn, and was now far east in the middle of nowhere in the satellite map view.
I looked back up the trail from where I‘d come.  It had been a series of very steep descending switchbacks…. I doubted that I‘d have the energy to go back up and find my way back to up the original trail, given that the 7-mile ascent up the mountain in the morning was relentless.  My legs were very tired.

I checked the hiking map and found that Chantry Flat to the east looked like it was the destination for this trail that I was on.  I was vaguely familiar with Chantry, having been there when I was…six years old.  Okay.  I continued down the trail, descending.
My phone’s battery was at 14%.  I powered it off to conserve power.

Forging along in a determined yet clueless manner, I was soon overjoyed to hear human voices coming from ahead.  I passed the hikers on their way up the trail, and asked them if I was headed in the right direction to hit Chantry.  They confirmed that I was.  So I continued…

Some time later, I hit a junction with a sign that pointed me in the direction of Chantry Flat… that way… three miles.  I looked at my watch.  It was 3:15pm.  Ihad told my sisters that I would text them around 4:00pm.  I had no signal here in the mountains…
I took off, powerhiking as fast as I safely could down the trail.

I hadn’t ever hiked this trail before.  It was beautiful.  The sun even broke through the clouds a bit.  I even passed someone sitting near the trail, playing a Native American flute.  It was haunting, and beautiful… the notes alighting upon my ears, but not quite absorbing, as I tried not to panic, speeding along.

I reached the trailhead at 4:00pm.  Turns out I was on the Upper Winter Creek Trail.
I could see the Chantry parking lot nearby, and started to head over, half-jogging as quickly as I could on exhausted legs threatening to cramp.  I powered my phone back on:  12% battery life remaining.  Absolutely no signal.

I reached the parking lot at 4:10pm.  Still no signal.  7% battery life.

I wasn’t going to be able to text my sisters to let them know that I was okay.  I wasn’t going to be able to call a taxi.  I wasn’t going to be able to use the Uber app to get a ride the rest of the way home.
I figured in a worst-case scenario, I could walk down Little Santa Anita Canyon Road from the parking lot to Sierra Madre proper, and walk home.  I wasn’t familiar with how long the road was into town, but at least I knew where it would go, since I drive past the big US Forest Service sign at Grand View and Santa Anita all the time…and I had a headlamp to get around in the dark…and my rain jacket was still keeping me pretty warm, albeit sweaty.
I had also made a conscious decision to go for a visible (light grey, almost white) color of rain jacket, figuring visibility is good in the wilderness…

Then, I turned and saw a family piling into a van parked in the lot, ready to head home.  Desperate, I started to approach the mom getting into the driver’s side, but stayed back a bit (because I feel like everyone is paranoid about people soliciting help…or at least, I can be), and yelled to ask if she had a phone with signal.  She turned to check her phone and her daughter’s, and said no… and then she got out of the car and ran up to me, and asked if I needed help.  I must have been pale as a sheet, having just realized that I was in real trouble.
“Do you need a ride out?”

I hesitated for a split second, due to my own complex about weirding people out and taking advantage of others.  But then, I just nodded, my pair of trekking poles shaking in my hands.  “I don’t need to go far, just down to where this road meets the neighborhood proper, where I‘ll have signal to let my family know I‘m okay.”

She rearranged her kids, husband and dog in the car to make room for me, and we set off down the road.  It took 20 minutes of driving to get out of the mountains and back into my neighborhood.  That would have been a long, incredibly dangerous walk down a narrow, winding mountain road… in the dark.
I looked it up in Google Maps today.  It would have been about 1.5 hours walking.

I asked her to let me off once we reached the first intersection at the mountain’s edge, when I got signal on my phone.  “No–” she looked at her husband. “No, we will take you home.  It’ll only be few minutes out of our way.”  Overwhelmed, I wanted to cry, but was just numb.  I just kept thanking her, and them, and my hands were shaking so hard that I nearly jabbed her daughter’s foot in the backseat with my trekking pole.  They dropped me off right in front of my apartment.

I didn’t ask for their names.  I wish I had.  I wish I had done something other than act oddly cool (but profusely thankful) considering what they had saved me from.  I just felt weird asking about them, when I was some hitchhiker.  The first time I‘ve ever hitched a ride.

I got very, very lucky yesterday.  I didn’t freeze at the summit, or slide off the wet, rocky, narrow trail.  I managed to get across a wholly different trail at a fast clip despite my exhaustion.  And by the grace of timing and someone or something looking out for me, or just sheer dumb (and I mean…very dumb) luck, I did not end up dragging myself down a winding mountain road in the dark after a 17-mile hike.

It could have gone so very badly at so many points.

I was so very grateful to return to my warm bed last night.  I have some aches and pains, but they will serve as important reminders.

My class session tonight will focus on navigation using a compass and topographical map.  And not a moment too soon….

signed,
Moron

Ninjabread Poop Cookies, Part II.

I owe a formal (weak) apology to gingerbread.  I badmouthed it as a relative baking newbie.

Second time around, I used SO MUCH powdered sugar to prevent stickage during rolling.  It totally didn’t prevent stickage, but it helped.  I was too stingy the first time.

The second time making the dough went much quicker thanks to my new, fancy, $15 electric hand mixer!  Having to mix things manually the first time contributed to my bad mood….

However,
with the first batch,
I didn’t try to make royal icing.

A haiku:

Meringue powder, soft
Sweet smell
Coats lungs like drywall.

Another (freeform) haiku:

Electric hand mixer
False sense of security
What is this concrete

Once I got the icing into a freezer bag and cut the tip off, though, I managed okay.  Of course, I didn’t really get the hang of piping until the very last cookie.

Here’s the outcome of the second batch:

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and then I had some extra icing, which was good because I wanted to doll up the “normal” gingerbread cookies that I made once I ran out of energy to make more men

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I’m supposed to go eat a polite dinner with my family very shortly, coming off of having poison-tested a crapload of these…. please send help

Ninjabread Poop Cookies, Part I.

I decided to make a very thoughtful Christmas gift for a friend.  I found a kit to make “Ninjabread Men,” complete with gingerbread baking mix and a set of four ninja-pose cookie cutters.  (We have an inside joke about him being a ninja.)

But using the mix wouldn’t be thoughtful enough, I decided (even though the recipient would have no idea…).  So I decided to work from scratch.  And here is the tale of my test batch.

Gingerbread Cookies 101 recipe from Food Network, only I doubled all of the spices except for salt and pepper, as many reviewers recommended.

Did you know that if you don’t have a flour sifter to mix all the dry ingredients, you can just pour everything into a bowl and wire-whisk it with abandon, causing a cloud of cinnamon and cloves and allspice and ginger to billow up at your eyeballs?  I do, now.

I now call it crybread dough.

And did you know that it has a very small temperature window at which it can be reasoned with while rolling?  Whatever the recipe said, I’m not sure, because I tore up my handwritten copy to soak up the tears that streamed down from my inflamed eyes.  But I gathered that once the refrigerated dough discs were removed from the refrigerator, I had roughly 2.875 minutes to prepare myself while they un-chilled just enough not to crack under the rolling pin, and then about FIFTEEN SECONDS of quality rolling time before the dough continued to un-chill itself into a gooey paste that no flour or powdered sugar could repel from the pin.  And forget removing the cut cookies from the rolling surface and moving them…. nope.  I’m glad I bought a silicone baking mat at the recommendation of a recipe reviewer and did the rolling on that, so that I could scrape away the excess pasty, melty dough from the little man armpits and just toss the mat on a pan and shove it into the oven.

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I guess I couldn’t really go wrong with gifting my friend with poop cookies.  I mean, what guy doesn’t appreciate poop humor?

The upside is that once I hacked them apart with my spatula, they did taste like gingerbread!  and I’m glad I doubled the spices.  Definitely gingery and a bit spicy, but not overly so.  I imagine the original recipe would have been a bit bland.

The “real” batch, which I’ll make on Wednesday, will be rolled out a bit thinner so they’re less of a poop pile and more of a ninja shape.  And then, the royal icing adventure begins…