Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vinegary Epiphany

My Thanksgiving cactus seems to be putting all its energy into growing new segments instead of blossoms this season. Thus, here you see the single bloom brightening my window, now that the amaryllis is done for the year.

I never could keep it straight, the difference between Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus, until I did a good Google session last year. Basically, the leaf segments give you the identification. The Christmas cactus has scalloped edges. The Thanksgiving cactus has toothed edges. Paul Brunelle has a page with photos and excellent information on some of the different flowering cacti.

Finished off the venison I'd chopped up for sandwich filling but I put it into a slightly different form. Whupped up a small batch of Yorkshire pudding batter and baked it in a couple of the Corning Ware bowls. While that delicacy was blooming in the oven, I tossed the minced venison and onion mixture into a smidge of olive oil in a small frying pan on top of the stove, dredged it in a bit of flour and added enough milk to make a lovely venison gravy. When the puds came out of the oven, one was turned out onto a plate and filled with half the gravy and, shazzam! I had lunch. Later, the second one and the final portion of gravy became dinner.

So you don't have to look it up, I'll remind you this is the Yorkshire pudding by volume version. I love this way of doing it because you can make different amounts of batter without doing any rocket science cogitating. Just remember to keep the volume of the main ingredients the same. Since I only wanted a bit of batter (that has a certain lilt to it), I matched everything up with the volume of the egg. One large egg equaled 1/4 of a cup so I whisked it with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup liquid (half milk and half water) and then added a pinch of salt and a capful of vinegar. And I think I had a minor epiphany as the vinegar splashed into the puddle of milk.

UK celebrity chef Brian Turner, commenting about the vinegar in the recipe, said he wasn't sure why it was there but his Granny used it so why change what works? Now, Coffee Mates, what do we use when the recipe calls for buttermilk and we only have regular milk on hand? Why, we splash in some lemon juice or vinegar and magically produce the clabbered goodness the recipe has requested. I'll betcha Brian's Granny made good buttermilk biscuits, too.

You think?

Earlier this afternoon the weather began to go from overcast to downright sloppy. Now the wind has begun to whistle about and rain is steadily splattering against the windows. Bah! This is when a good fireplace would be ever so comforting. I'll have to settle for curling up with a warm fleece blanket and a purring cat, with a mug of steaming coffee and a good book. A most excellent way to tune out the outside tempest.

WHOOPSIE ADDENDUM: Ava's comment made me realize I hadn't included baking info above. Sheesh. For the full tale of the individual Yorkies, go to the November 1, 2007 post, Another Addiction. Otherwise, this is the deal: I use the 5 1/2 inch Corning Ware baking dishes, the ones with handles. (One can use 6 inch cast iron skillets, too.) Put a teaspoon of olive oil and about the same amount of butter in the bottom of each and put in a 400 degree oven. Let heat for about 10 minutes. Pull the baking dishes out and pour in the batter. Put back in oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until sides are a rich brown. See photo at the link. It's important to pour the batter into hot containers, with the oil/butter sizzling. Also, it seems to help with the rise to have the batter sit at room temperature for at least an hour. Your mileage may vary. When the Yorkies are done, slide a table knife or thin spatula around the sides and gently lift them out onto serving plates, then fill with whatever you've decided to load in there. Happy munching!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The birch trees outside my dining area window are utterly leafless right now, of course. Still, on a rainy day, they look like some exotic variety of plant life -- like maybe a Diamond Tree. Too bad I didn't get that shot when the sun was out. The "diamonds" really sparkle and shine then. By the way, in case you've forgotten, if you left-click on a photo, you'll be able to see a larger version in a new window.

This is going to be a brief post because, frankly, I'm just full and sleepy. Big time. Today was my impromptu wake, if you will remember, and we most certainly did have a good time. Plenty of venison and biscuits and gravy, with appropriate adult beverages on the side and, most important, plenty of good conversation.

I just minced up my share of the left-over venison in my little food chopper and combined it with some onion and homemade mayo and made myself a most excellent sandwich with some freshly baked Anadama bread. (That's bread with cornmeal in it -- but I used cornmeal mush instead of the raw meal. Nom, nom, nom!)

So ... I am comfortably full, extremely sleepy and well-waked. Therefore, I do believe it's time to curl up in bed with a good book and see how far I get before my eyelids thud shut. I leave all of you in charge of the coffee pot. That's how much I trust you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Exaggeration du Jour

That picture is on the box containing this year's Maxine calendar, with a different cartoon for each day. It's a great gift from a friend who knows how much I love Maxine. Thank you, Pammie. I love you even more than her!

Remember the punch line above as you read on and you'll understand why I found it so appropriate to illustrate this entry.

There was a time when Mark Twain was compelled to inform the public, "The report of my death is an exaggeration." Strangely enough, I found myself quoting him this week, and thank heaven that I could. (Insert wry smile.)

It started on Sunday, when a friend from Bandon called me. The first thing he said when I answered the phone was, "I heard you'd died!" Since he often teases me about how hard it is to phone me when I'm on the Internet, I thought he was joking. I laughed, hah hah, and we went on with our normal conversation. I'd have thought no more of it except, on Tuesday, a friend here in Langlois called me up and said the same thing.

"Whoa!" I said. "Something is going on here." She didn't know where the rumor started but it was definitely a topic of conversation at the Greasy Spoon. I met everyone there for coffee Wednesday and we had a great time joking about it and celebrating our relief at being able to lay the rumor to rest. No one was more relieved than me, I'm sure.

Later, when I was at the market picking up groceries, Lee came over to me as I was examining the contents of the cold case, trying to decide which cheese to get. "I want to give you a hug," he said. "Great," I said, "but why?" And it turns out he was told I'd died this last Saturday. "Maybe I should have called," he worried. "Why didn't I call?"

Well, I thought about that and, you know what? I wouldn't have called either. When somebody tells me someone has died, I usually don't have any reason to doubt the information. Why would you call someone you believed was dead -- unless you had a really unusual long distance provider? And what are the area codes for Heaven and Hell anyway?

I'm awfully glad a couple of friends did decide to call, though. It gave me a chance to give the family a heads up so they wouldn't panic if someone called them with premature condolences. That aspect of the situation disturbs me. I can laugh about the rest of it but not that.

Ah well. This gives me an opportunity to attend my own wake. Yuppers. This coming Tuesday, some friends are going to be dropping in for one of our occasional venison biscuits and gravy breakfasts and I'm going to pronounce it a wake. We'll have a high old time celebrating Life, by golly, while we can all enjoy it. And that's no exaggeration.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Among other activities today, I tooled out to the lake for one of my random house checks, making sure there had been no storm damage. I also took the camera because, if I remember correctly, January is when the Canada geese come sailing in to take up residence for a few months, hatching babies and raising them and just being their picturesque selves.

There was a mild smoke haze over the lake. Folks tend to burn brush and windfall during the wet season. At first I was afraid my geese friends were elsewhere on the lake but, as I sat on the steps by the sliding glass door, just soaking up the sunshine, I finally spotted a few geese couples serenely gliding about. The above shot, taken from the steps, includes one such pair. It's hard to tell they're there so I helped you out a bit by drawing a red circle around them. Trust me. There really are two geese inside that circle. I just wanted to show you the difference in the regular shot and what happens when you fire up the 10x zoom.

I'm sure the photo would have been a bit sharper with the use of a tripod but hand-held works out pretty good with the aid of the Image Stabilizer. Anyway, the above is taken at full zoom from the edge of the yard and I didn't do anything to the photo except crop and skinny the jpeg.

Here is where I really had fun. Once I got the previous picture on the computer, I zoomed in even further with PSP and cropped some more. Then I hit it with the unsharp function and put it on a diet for uploading to the blog. I love it! The upper goose was busy primping for the shot but the lower goose thoughtfully presented its handsome profile and this child is happy. Armed with this kind of zoom power, maybe I'll be able to get some really special shots before the Canada goose season is over. Something to look forward to!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Little Dab'll Do Ya

The afternoon sun did a great job of lighting up the amaryllis. There was no way I could pass up this particular photo op. Just so you'll know, I did a bit of messin' with the stuff this time. Most of the background for the blossoms was a dramatic black -- except for the corner of the western window. A few passes with the spray-paint tool and the window was rendered null and void. Then I hit the blossoms with the unsharp filter and, shazaam! There ya go.

Then I clicked the mode dial to Program and started having fun with the Super Macro setting. I have to assume the Image Stabilizer is working up to par because all these shots were hand-held and I wasn't lollygagging. It was click-click-click and I'm-outa-here-Clyde because I'm also listening to the football games on my radio feed this afternoon and didn't want to be missing too many plays. As we speak, in fact, it's almost half-time in the Giants-Packers game. Which means -- did you notice? -- long gaps between sentences while I listen with bated breath and then shake my head and blink my eyes and recover my wandering attention so the next sentence can be typed.

This one is simply to appreciate how well the camera picks up the texture of the blossom petals at nearly point blank range. I'm also happy with the way the red tones come in so accurately, even in the bright light. Dayum. Gotta say -- this little ol' camera is some kind of kewl beans.

And now, back to our discussion of the clarity -- or lack of same -- in the incredible mass of instruction material we try to understand every day, whether it's how to use our cameras or how to do our taxes. The name of the game, of course, is communication and the problem is how well we achieve quality of same. All too often, quality takes a back seat to double-speak, insider jargon and ill-considered reliance on ten-dollar words when the fifty-center will do a better job.

One of the most interesting -- and fun -- online sites to deal with this is Plain English Campaign. I really recommend signing up for their newsletter and, while you're at it, browse around on the site. There's some valuable information there, not to mention free guides and software.

Hmmm. I haven't been to the web site in a while my own self and didn't know about that software. I'm eyeballing it with a certain degree of uneasiness. DrivelDefense, it's called and it's supposed to check readability issues on web sites. Do I want to turn it loose here? Eeek. I have enough trouble with Spell Check, for cryin' out loud. Don't know if I'm up to defending my drivel. Isn't a little bit of drivel a healthy thing? Can't we consider a dab of drivel to be like a pinch of spice in the stew?

In Search of Lucidity

Okay, in spite of the familiarity of the subject matter, this is not the same photo that opened the previous post. That picture was a zoom-and-crop job, this picture is a gen-you-wine, macro, closeup, in-your-face photo. Yea, verily I saith unto thee. I will also saith that this happy happenstance owes no thanks to the lucidity of the instruction booklet.

What is it about the instructions that come with our toys? I'm not even talking about the hilarious results of earnest-but-erroneous translations. I'm talking about the regular how-to stuff that is supposedly in our own language in the first place.

You know by now that I have come to adore Canon and I am certainly not bad-mouthing them here. But, boyhowdy, I really do believe Canon -- and other companies -- need skill training in clear communication in the user manuals.

For one thing, it's hard for a novice to understand the instructions when they are laid out in such a stuffy, dull manner, consisting of arcane lingo that reads like Watusi translated from Mandarin. If I were writing up the instructions, I'd make sure they came across like the latest Elmore Leonard or Sue Grafton. Instruction booklets should read like an Idiot's Guide meets Dave Barry. Ideally, they should be patterned after the Douglas Adams concept of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with the soothing mantra, "Don't Panic."

Take the instructions for macro photography. The Powershot S5 has two macro modes -- the regular one you access by pushing the button on the lens casing and then the Super Macro you get when you hold that button in for more than a second.

I have to tell you the regular macro does not impress me. No. At this point, I don't fault the camera but lay it off to learning how this particular camera likes to do things. I really wanted to check out the Super Macro mode because, as I've stated previously, Nikon's macro ability has spoiled me and I miss it. Pushing in the macro button and holding it for "more than a second" did not, however, take me to that particular Promised Land. What? But they said...

Frustrated, I fired up Mighty Google and began cruising through countless reviews of the camera, paying special attention to each reviewer's take on the macro mode. Out of all I read, only one mentioned that, to reach Super Macro, you have to push the button while in Program Mode. That's the P setting, one notch past Auto. Auto, not surprisingly, is where I had it set for the unsuccessful attempts.

Now, I'm not saying that informative tidbit is not actually in Canon's instruction manuals. I've gone back and checked and still can't find any mention of the need to be in a particular mode for that particular function. It could well be there and I've simply missed it. But I don't think that kind of information should be that elusive, you know?

Ah well. I'm just grateful I've been able to enter Super Macro territory and all the fascinations that entails. Although I haven't used it much yet, I'm pleased at how nicely the shots come out even though, so far, they've all been hand-held. It certainly impresses me that one can focus with the lens right up against the subject. Awesome.

If you happen to be judging quality, I should also point out that I've done nothing to enhance these shots, such as using the sharpen or unsharp settings. All I've done is crop and skinny up the jpeg. I'm in the process of climbing the almighty Learning Curve and sufficient unto the day is that careful little one step at a time. Later with the enhancements.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pointed Philosophy

This little guy sits on my window sill, utterly unassuming and modest. No bigger than a tangerine, his growth over the two years I've had him has been, shall we say, glacial. But, oh! What a fine crop of prickly, perforating weaponry he displays.

Don't mess with me, he says.

Don't tread on me, he warns.

No cuddle zone, he informs.

You know any people like that? The ones who are so afraid of being stabbed, they are constantly stabbing first, thus bringing on the very thing against which they thought they were defending. Terribly frustrating people to be around, especially if they happen to be people you like.

So I keep this little bristle-britches character around even though he does not do the touchy-feely scene. Just like the porcupine people I know, he has beauty and value and I can only accept him as he is. To do otherwise will simply be damaging to me and I tend to frown upon personal damage.

However healthy they may be for the rest of us, hugs don't necessarily benefit some creatures. Perhaps all their spiny spears will fall off if they go around hugging -- and then they would be defenseless.

(Insert startled blinking.) What's going on here? I take a simple picture of a totally ordinary little cactus and all of a sudden I'm practicing Ashleigh Brilliant philosophy without a license. Maybe it's what I've always suspected -- cacti are really alien life forms and even tinfoil hats will not protect against the influence of their mental rays.

That's why I drink so much coffee, you know. Caffeine is a natural cacti-oxidant at the synaptic level. Really.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Comfort Food For Jena

My friend Jena stayed home from work today. She never calls in sick unless she's really sick and today was that kind of day. In an effort to help, several of us bombarded her with thoughtful suggestions for comfort food, none of which seemed to appeal to her. As one of our number pointed out, our "help" didn't do our invalid any good but all of us knew what we were going to have for dinner tonight. The amusing thing is, I think every one of us went with one variation or another of the dish Wolfie suggested. She didn't name it but I've called it Wolfie's Polenta Pie and, in her own words, this am how it goes:

I brown some sausage (the recipe I have doesn't call for the sausage, but my family and I love it), then add the chicken broth and some water. Bring it to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring constantly. When it's all mixed in and starting to bubble and pop, take it off the heat and add some olive oil (or butter), salt & pepper to taste, and herbs if you want them. I usually add sage and a bit of thyme. Stir that up good, then add a big ol' handful of cheese, whatever flavor you like. Once that's stirred in and melted, flatten it out in the pan. I use a big, oven safe skillet to do all this in. Once you've gotten it flattened out, crack 8 eggs on top. I try to get mine evenly around the pan so each person gets a yolk on his or her slice. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. When you take it out, the eggs are still gonna look runny, but that's ok. Top the whole thing with another big ol' handful of cheese, and put it back in for another 10 minutes. The eggs will be perfect, the cheese will be melty but not quite crunchy, and the cornmeal mush will be creamy and yummy. If you can stand it, let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. That way you can cut it into slices like a pie. If you can't wait that long, use a spoon, and spoon an appropriate amount out on plates. YUM!!!!

Yum, indeed. Now, Wolfie has three big man-tummies to fill when she fixes a meal. Her version was a bit much for me. But I hauled out a couple of my six-inch Corning Ware bowls for Dee-sized portions and had at it.

There was no sausage, darn it, but I had a pound of hamburger that needed cooking up so I crumbled it into the frying pan, seasoned it heartily and set it aside. Then I did the microwave routine with the corn meal: in a large bowl, 3 cups chicken broth, 1 cup corn meal, whisk together smoothly. Cover loosely with a lid, nuke 5 minutes. Whisk again, nuke another 5 minutes. Take out and add grated cheese and either a pat of butter or a glug of olive oil.

I had carefully spooned portions of the polenta into the two baking dishes before I realized I hadn't added the cheese and butter. Yike! It's like a receiver in football -- you don't think of anything but that ball until you've caught it. Then you can think about running for the touchdown. There I was, thinking touchdown and the ball wasn't even there yet.

I sighed and scraped the polenta back into the big bowl and added the cheese and butter, then carefully portioned it out again. Then I cracked one egg on top of each. (Had I picked some up yesterday, I'd have spread a layer of salsa and then added the egg.) As I put the dishes in the oven, I was eye-level with the top of the stove -- that's when I realized I'd forgotten to put in the hamburger!

I looked back at the dishes in the oven. Back at the waiting hamburger. Muttered "Mein Gott in heffen!" and slammed the oven door shut. Set the timer for 15 minutes, added the rest of the shredded cheese and cooked the pies another 10 minutes.

Took some pictures. Here's where I learned the camera is smarter than I am. The quality of the photo in the LCD screen is not the same as on the computer screen. The camera told me to raise the flash. I said, "Nah, this looks like plenty of light," and merrily snapped off 3 shots. Finally, just to play fair, I took 1 shot with the flash. Guess which one turned out?

The Polenta Pie turned out, too. I didn't even lose out on the hamburger. Simply spooned a glob of it onto the pie and worked it in as I ate. No problem.

Except by the time I was halfway through, I was so full I felt like I was waddling while sitting still. Covered the dish and left it on the table. I'll go back and finish it off for my midnight snack. The other one should nuke up nicely for meals tomorrow. I'm in 'em.

Jena, I sure hope you feel better by now. I want you to feel good enough to have some of this scrumptious comfort food, too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rainy Day Blahs

The second flower stalk on the amaryllis got so tall it started to tip over. I've put the pot on one of the dining chairs so the back of the chair supports it. Looks like I have a really exotic guest for dinner.

I have to say this Canon seems to handle the reds better than the Nikon did. All too often, the Nikon added a yellow tinge to the mix, especially in full sunlight.

On the other hand, so far, anyway, I find macro shots to be much more difficult with the Canon. I have been getting my closeups by going in the back door, so to speak. Take the shot at the regular distance, then after the picture has been uploaded to the computer, I zoom in and crop. With this many megapixels, one can do an awful lot of zooming. Still, it's not the same. Something for me to work on because I've been terribly spoiled with the macro abilities of the Nikon.

Went up to the market to do some grocery shopping right about dark this evening. Didn't realize Lee still had his outdoor Christmas lights up or I would have checked out the protocol for night shots and taken the camera with me. Darn. Photo opportunity missed. Or maybe not. It was -- and still is -- mizzling out there -- not a nice situation in which to place a camera. Or a camera person.

Now I need to finish putting away the groceries. And I need to roast some more coffee beans. And fix something to eat for dinner. But first, I'll just sit and sip my coffee and sort it all out in my alleged mind. Gotta start somewhere, even when you have the rainy day blahs.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sarda -- Sorta

It constantly amazes me how vast is the range of food adventure in this world. I'm just talking about the simple stuff. Nothing fancy. Nothing exotic. Just good plain food. You'd think, after living nearly seven decades on the planet, I'd have sampled pretty much everything. On a regular basis, I keep discovering I'm not even close. Sometimes I think that's why the concept of reincarnation appeals to me. How else am I going to have enough time to try it all?

Take corn meal. One of the staples in your kitchen. Cornbread. Cornmeal muffins. Cornmeal mush. Tamales. Anadama bread. I know I've had corn meal in one or two other things but that's about all I can think of offhand. And yet, just today, my favorite Marine (you know who you are, Gunnymom) tipped me off to a dish made with polenta, cheese and spaghetti sauce. That's all she said about it but it struck me as a possible addition to my F.E.D. list. With that in mind, I fired up Google, typed in those three magic ingredients and sat back.

Wow! Knocked my socks plumb off. There are a ton of variations on that basic three-ingredient combo but they all start with the polenta. And polenta -- correct me if I'm wrong -- is simply corn meal mush. But, oh my, the wealth of polenta-based recipes is boggling. What follows is my adaption of one of the first recipes I ran across. It was simple enough that I was able to whup it up during half-time of the Bolts and Colts game today.

It appears to be what is perhaps a dim version of an old Sardinian dish called Polenta Sarda. One source insists it's best made with pecorino sardo, a Sardinian sheep's milk cheese. Philistine that I am (because one does with what one has), I turned my version into a three-cheese affair and not one of those cheeses were ever introduced to a sheep, Sardinian or otherwise. But I'm certainly open to a future acquaintance. Pecorino is a wonderful cheese -- when you can get it.

Three-Cheese Sorta Sarda

First you make your corn meal mush. Your choice of liquid is flexible. Water, broth, milk, combinations of these -- whatever works. You put 2 3/4 cups water in a large bowl, add 3 teaspoons chicken bullion powder and 1 cup of corn meal. Whisk them good, put them in the microwave covered with a piece of wax paper and nuke the mixture for 5 minutes, on high. At the end of 5 minutes, whisk mixture again, recover with wax paper, nuke for another 5 minutes. When time is up, whisk in 1 fat pat of butter and 1 cup shredded cheese, whatever flavor you have on hand. (I had cheddar.) The texture will be smooth and creamy. Test taste. You probably won't need any other seasoning but if you want, you can add anything you wish at this point.

In the meantime, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Add roughly 2 cups mixed veggies, whatever combo you wish (I had a frozen mix of cauliflower, broccoli, green and yellow squash and carrots, which I partially thawed by running warm water over the veggies in a strainer.) and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add about 2 cups of any pasta sauce you may like (I had some Ragu.), stir well, simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.

Plop two or three big globs of the hot polenta on a dish. Spoon some of the veggie mixture on top of that. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese, to taste, and a dusting of grated Parmesan. Try not to moan too loudly as you eat.

If you're serving two or more, there won't be any leftovers. Not the case with me, of course, so I did this with the leftover polenta: lined an 8" x 8" baking dish with plastic wrap, spread the polenta inside, flipped the ends of the plastic wrap over to cover and put the dish in the fridge. Later this evening, when I got hungry for supper, I took a table knife and cut a row of polenta cubes out of the dish and dumped them in a soup bowl. Then laid a couple slices of cheese over them. Then a layer of the veggie mix. Then 2 or 3 minutes in the microwave. Nummy, nummy.

Haven't decided what particular thang I'll do with the rest of the leftover polenta but there are intriguing directions to explore. Chocolate has not been ruled out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Modicum of Decorum

First, I've gotta tell you about the coffee cup. I've got a set of six, found -- lo! -- these many years ago in a second-hand shop. It's difficult to see in this photo but the side of each cup is etched with "Good Morning" in six different languages. This one does it in Hebrew -- Boker Tov. I almost always take my coffee in one or the other of these because they're smaller than the mugs and the coffee doesn't go cold on me before I get to the bottom.

Second, I've gotta tell you about the mini-platter of cookies. These were hauled out of the freezer this morning because youngest dotter Patti was coming down for a visit. Had to sneak this picture in now because, back in December, when I gave you the recipe for Mojo Cookies, I was sans camera and couldn't illustrate the results. If you want to reprise the recipe, look up in the left-hand corner of this page. See that Search window? Type in Mojo Cookies and click on Search Blog. You'll see an adorable little puppy instead of a plate of cookies but the recipe is there.

Third, I've gotta tell you I've been having a blast with the new camera. In between visit and football and eating and napping, of course. Must have snapped off a kazillion shots, trying different stuff and seeing what worked and what didn't. Lord, how I love digicams. There's no way in bloody blue hell the average person could afford to learn by wasting that much film. And I see where I'm going to get to practice-waste some more because Gordo enticed me with the link in last night's comments to some video he shot. (You really like that blow-'em-up stuff, don'cha, Big Guy. Well, so do I.)

I'm gonna get killed if Patti finds out I posted the picture below but I don't think she'll know if I don't tell her. My kids rarely check in at my web site. Nobody's a prophet in their own country, you know. (Insert smile.) Anyway, what I was doing was checking out how the camera did in Portrait mode, no flash, shooting into light. According to the manual, Portrait mode is supposed to give you a softer look. I cropped the photo the way I did because I liked the different textures in the wicker shelves beside her. And I like the way it turned out.

Of course, I'll admit to a certain bias. I like looking at pictures of my kids. Even when they're frantically warning me off. "Mom, cut it out! I don't feel like having my picture taken today! Stop with the camera, dammit!"

Heh, she's lucky I didn't pull the trigger when she flipped me a bird. Well. One of us needs to display a modicum of decorum, she said as she snortled and chortled and stomped her feet on the floor.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How To Pester The Cat

We're not doing LOLcats tonight, folks. This bad boy be my cat. Uhhh, I mean this is Ralph, His Royal Fluffiness, for whom I serve as minion. Or something.

And you know that means the camera arrived today and I was able to catch the FedEx fella before he drove away without leaving my prize, oh yeah, verily I saith unto you. I managed to bake a loaf of bread and roast some coffee while I was waiting but I had the cafe curtains flipped up over the rod so I could keep at least one eye on the parking lot no matter what I was doing.

Good thing, too. The very nice delivery man explained to me that my note wouldn't have worked (you were right, Becky) because he had to do the signature thing face-to-face. He also explained why I couldn't find their phone number. He said they really don't cater to individuals, preferring to have a business customer base. But if you need to call them, the phone number is 1-800-GOFEDEX.

The whole FedEx experience today seemed like some kind of trickle-down effect, going from large to small. At 11:05 am (I kept a notepad by my coffee mug) I spotted the big FedEx truck when it pulled up in front of B & B Farm Supply, on the corner of the next block north. Couldn't stand the suspense so I called B & B and asked if the driver was looking for me. Cindy giggled and said, "No, Dee. This is the big truck. You want the little truck."

Right. I knew that.

At 12:45, a medium-sized FedEx truck went past, headed north. "That's not the little one," I reassured myself. "Really. That's bigger than little."

Then, at 1:10 pm -- historic moment -- the FedEx small truck/van/whatever pulled up across the street and the man got out and began obviously peering at building numbers. "Oh, Ralph," I yelled, "that one is ours!" and I tore downstairs. By the time I got to the car port, my delivery man had turned around and pulled in on my side of the street -- but he parked in front of the building. He still hadn't figured out my address was at the back. No problem. I met him out front. And signed his little electronic thingie, restrained myself from kissing him, clutched the box and skittered back across the parking lot and up the stairs.

I didn't think I could get any more excited. I was wrong. When I opened the box, there was a zero-balance invoice tucked in between another box and a lot of ghost poop. I scanned it quickly and then did a double-take. It said: "We have examined the product according to your request and determined that there was a failure. Unfortunately, the parts needed to repair the unit are not available so, in order to minimize your inconvenience, we are replacing the whole unit." [emphasis mine]

"Well, isn't that nice of them," I said, and opened up the inner box. My eyes got big. Instead of the perfectly respectable silver finish that was on Lazarus, this new little guy was a sleek sexy black which, incidentally, I really prefer. My grin got bigger.

Then my eyes got bigger again and I did another double-take. Folks, Canon didn't just replace the other camera, they upgraded it with the latest model in the Power Shot S-line. Instead of an S-1, I was looking at the 2007 S-5! If you want to check it out, here is the review at Steve's Digicams.

Now, I have to assure you that the Canon folk have not lost their collective minds. The replacement camera is refurbished and "provided ... as a courtesy only," therefore there is no repair warranty on it. Listen, that's perfectly okay. My first digicam was a refurbished Kodak and I loved it. What I'll do is call Canon up and, after groveling at their feet with excess gratitude, I'll see if they'll let me buy some repair insurance.

I have spent the rest of the day, needless to say, immersed in the owner's manual and playing. Ralph has been extremely patient with me, especially when you consider that I spoiled his nap with all those flash pictures. I wish you could see the above photo in its original form but I skinnied it considerably to upload here. The camera came set at the Fine resolution and I haven't figured out enough yet to test out the other resolutions. So I took the picture with the camera in Portrait mode, just to see how it worked. Didn't do anything with the photo except crop and put it on a diet.

I'm lovin' this. Oh yeah. I'm also quite overwhelmed. This camera does so much! That is NOT a complaint. It'll be fun figuring everything out. Well, probably not everything. But lots. Yes.

Oh. If my favorite Old Grey Poet happens to be hanging around, please note the request below that I'm passing on from Ralph. Thanks, love.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Baby's Comin' Home

At the risk of behaving like a proud granny showing off kidlet pictures, I'm sorta-kinda borrowing a couple of shots from Steve's Digicams to show you what ol' Lazarus looks like. Please don't taze me, Steve.

I'm doing this in celebration of a very happy update on the shipping situation. See, I was expecting Canon to ship Lazarus back via UPS because that's what they offered me for free shipping when I sent him in. And, as you know, as of last night there had been no indication that the package was actually on its way.

Boy, did I get a nice surprise when I opened my email this morning. There was a message from Canon telling me they had shipped Lazarus out yesterday, via FedEx Two Day! Then they thoughtfully gave me the link to track what FedEx was doing.

That's when it got exciting. Lazarus left Aurora, Illinois at 2:31 pm yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon and arrived in Oakland, CA at 9:19 am this morning. Wowser! Over on the side, a notation on estimated arrival here was projected to be any time tomorrow (Friday) up to 4:30 pm.

Then I noticed another line which informed me I needed to sign for the package for the FedEx person to be able to leave it. That complicates things just a teensy bit. I live upstairs. There is no doorbell downstairs and I have discovered I can't hear anyone knocking on the door from up here. Folks have learned to give me a ringy-dingy to let me know they're coming so I can unlock the door, allowing them to walk in and come on up the stairs. That won't work for the FedEx person.

I think I have the problem solved, however. Besides frequent peeks out the kitchen windows, in hopes I time the look-see to the moment that delivery truck pulls into the parking lot, I've stuck a note to the door. It's addressed to Dear FedEx Person and thanks him or her most kindly, then explains the situation and leaves instructions for placement of the package. Then I added every conceivable number associated with the order and signed my name, big and bold.

I dunno. Maybe I'd better just park myself by one of the windows with a good book and drape the curtains so they're open. You think?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Four Days ...

The Canon repair center has an online page where you can track the status of your order. I've gone there so many times that I've actually memorized my work order number -- and I'm a person who has a terrible time remembering numbers.

The news hasn't changed since I started checking in there. It tells me the camera has been accepted and then it states "Not yet shipped."

Until this morning. To my delight, this morning's message read:

Current Repair Status




(Unit will be delivered to you within approximately 4 business days)

Shipping /

Not yet shipped

Yippee! Stuff is happening! It is. At last. Hooboy. I was so excited, I almost tripped over Ralph while doing a happy dance. Fortunately, Ralph has a long history of being almost tripped over, due to his very bad habit of stopping suddenly when he's walking in front of you. Consequently, he was not terribly startled and I remained vertical so it all worked out okay.

I confess to popping back to the tracking site several times over the course of the day, including just a few minutes ago. That last line continues to implacably insist: Not yet shipped.

Okay. I guess ol' Lazarus has to be sent to whatever department handles packing precious cargo into suitable boxes with suitable protective swaddling. Then the package has to go to wherever it goes to be turned over to the gentle care of UPS who, in turn, have to move said package into their routing stream with attendant scheduling and transport from there to here.

Four business days. Does that include today or do they start counting tomorrow? I'll give them today. That leaves Thursday and Friday of this week, skip the weekend, then Monday and Tuesday of next week. So I should see a most welcome package sitting beside the door step sometime Tuesday afternoon. Right?

If I plan on a Tuesday delivery, I can be pleasantly surprised if it actually shows up on Monday. I'll make sure the batteries are freshly recharged Monday morning. Just in case. And I already know the subject of the first photo session that will be required of Lazarus. There is an amaryllis in the window by the dining table that should be doing its second bloom right about then.

The first bloom stalk shot up and displayed four gorgeous blossoms in time for Christmas. Those blossoms did their thing and have been slowly withering ever since. In the meantime, a second stalk has shot up to half again the height of the first one and the blossom packet at the top is beginning to separate. I figure there will be at least one bloom fully formed by Monday.

In the meantime, I'm sending out virtual hugs to the phine pholk at Canon for being kind to Lazarus. More hugs go to UPS, of course, for bringing him back to me. (What can Brown do for you today?) Four days. Geesh. Four days ...