Donating Bread for United Way Auction

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  The United Way fund raising campaign is in full swing where I work.  Last year, one of the events that had good participation, was an auction.  I baked and donated three loaves of bread.  I received ‘the call’ earlier this week, from one of the auction coordinators, asking if I’d repeat my bread baking performance again this year.

So, starting this evening (since the auction is next Tuesday, only four days away), I’ll be baking bread almost non stop over the weekend.  A couple of these loaves I’ll make extras for my dad and husband (otherwise, I’ll get the usual grief).

First up, the basic melt-in-your-mouth white bread recipe I make for my dad, based on King Arthur Flour‘s ‘guaranteed’ White Sandwich Bread recipe.  When I take it out of the over to cool on a rack, I take a stick of butter and rub/melt it to soften the crust. I might be able to get two of these made tonight, one batch of dough in the bread machine and another in the KitchenAid stand mixer.

Saturday morning, I’ll take out from the fridge my crock of sourdough starter (also originating from King Arthur) and feed it.  After a couple of hours, I’ll be able to use the fed starter to make a couple of specialty bread recipes:  Rustic Sourdough and Rosemary Sourdough (that reminds me … need to pick up organic rosemary at Dillons tonight).

Since Sourdough takes longer than ‘normal’ breads, I’ll concurrently make up a batch of Honey Wheat Black Bread, which is fun to make (lots of honey in this recipe) because I get to braid the dough.

The final installment will be baked on Sunday.  My all-time favorite bread recipe and (so far) fool proof: Honey Wheat Toasting Oat (with Craisins).  This bread makes fantastic toast.

Perhaps I should make it an even half dozen loaves and bake one more on Sunday?  I could round out the suite of breads with my old standby honey wheat bread recipe, which we lovingly refer to as my ‘trashy’ wheat bread because it’s not 100% whole wheat (so it’s not like a brick or crumbly and dry) and it’s delicious.

So if you’re a fellow co-worker and you love home-made bread from great ingredients, be sure to stop by the auction on Tuesday and place your bid.

Photos of some of my braided bread:

If Only I Had a Retractable Roof Over My Bedroom

I couldn’t sleep.  Not surprisingly, insomnia occurs more frequently as I age.  Sometimes, an external force interferes with my snoozing, but I refuse to point fingers.

Laying in bed, staring at the vaulted ceiling in my bedroom, I wished I could wave a hand and temporarily retract the roof.  Then I’d be mostly above the treeline and able to setup the telescope for more comfortable viewing.

Sighing, I slipped on my clothes at 3:30 a.m. and retreated downstairs to the vaulted great room, grabbed the telescope I left mounted to the tripod there and took it outside.  I quickly realigned it roughly on Polaris and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.  I surveyed the northern sky, quickly found Cassiopeia and Perseus, but the light pollution from the Lansing Correctional Facility and the tall trees in my northern neighbor’s yard didn’t help find Comet Hartley 2.  I think a field trip to Perry Lake may be in order for this weekend.

Turning to the southeast, I quickly spied Orion directly over my chimney.  I aimed the telescope at Orion’s belt and may have seen a monochromatic glimpse of the Orion Nebula in his sword.  Both Orion’s belt and sword contain many nebulae, but I need a darker sky to view them properly.  I survey Rigel (beta Orion – brightest star in Orion (left foot) and sixth brightest in the night sky); Betelgeuse (alpha Orion – 2nd brightest star in Orion (right shoulder) and 12th brightest in the night sky); and, Bellatrix (aka ‘the Amazon star’  (left shoulder).

If you draw a line through Orion’s belt, it points to two of the brightest stars in the sky:  Sirius (aka ‘the Dog star’ – the brightest star bar none and only 8.6 light years away) and Aldebaran (alpha Taurus and the 13th brightest star).

I turned the telescope to the west, where I found Jupiter peaking through the branches of one of my pine trees.  Yep, it was still there and still had moons, although one of the four I observed earlier was hidden behind Jupiter.

I forgot my sweater so after about thirty minutes I brought the telescope back in and should probably retreat back to my quiet dark bedroom.  Nah … my alarm goes off in two minutes (it’s now 4:58 a.m.)

Good morning!

 

Wolves on the Prowl

Good news for Wolfguard fans this week.  The band shook off the rust tonight at  rehearsal.  Terry will be taking it very easy, as his back, ribs and ankle are still not fully recovered.

Tomorrow night, come out and hear them play a few songs for open mic night at Sweetwoods Bar & Grill in Leavenworth.

China Grove from June 2010

Wolfguard at Sweetwoods back in September 2009

First Attempt at Amateur Astronomical Telescopic Digital Photography

Waxing Moon
Moon Early Evening 13 Oct 2010

My first photographic effort using the Meade ETX90 and the Pentax K100D (on a two second delay shutter in an attempt to prevent blurring and shaking of the telescope) is above.  I chose the moon, because it’s large, bright and easy to focus and doesn’t necessarily need to be tracked.  I did not use the Autostar to track and sync the moon while taking both of these photos.

Waxing Moon (1/4 to 1/3 full)
Early Evening 13 Oct 2010 Moon (better focused)

I like the second moon photo (above) the best of the half dozen or so shots I took.

Jupiter Early Evening 13 October 2010

My efforts attempting to focus and track Jupiter did not bear good fruit.  Of the handful of photos I took, the one above is the best of the bunch.

That’s all the photographic practice I’ll get this evening.  I need to devise a counterweight for the telescope’s tube so the camera doesn’t pull ‘up’ the altitude.

I Can See Clearly Now … Or Not

The commute home provided false hopes for my star gazing this evening.  While light hazy stratus clouds filtered the sunlight sporadically, the skies looked promising as I traveled northward on K-7.

I stepped outside a few minutes ago to catch the moon before it set, but saw only gray clouds underlit with orange glow from the well lit Lansing Correctional Facility a few blocks north of my house.  I stepped out the front door and could still see Jupiter, but only for a few minutes as the clouds overtook even that bright object.  I spied no sliver of moon in the southwest or west.

Besides trying to locate Comet Hartley 2 (again), Earthsky earlier today mentioned Antares proximity to the moon.

Perhaps tomorrow evening will provide better weather and opportunities for gazing up and out and back in time.

9:00 pm update:  Let Apollo back in (I’d forgotten I’d let him out) and noticed a crystal clear sky.  However, Cassiopeia is dim as it hovers over the LCF.  If I can’t sleep or wake up early I’ll try for the comet then.

Life Events for Artistic Offspring

Derek Moss
Derek Moss, Environmental Artist

This December, my son, Derek Moss,  will do what I never did myself (nor that I thought he would do for high school, let alone college).  He will graduate from SMU’s Guildhall!

This last term he is focused on expanding and publishing his portfolio and pursuing career opportunities in the gaming industry.  He recently published his portfolio and resume online here:  Derek Moss, Environmental Artist

I’m excited, thrilled, overwhelmed, anxious … all the things a mother is when her fledgling soars on eagle’s wings.

… And Now For the Rest of the Story

Subtitled: Everything I forgot to mention in the previous post due to time constraints and memory overload.

I did lend a hand, at least temporarily, with reviewing and tweaking the old Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop.  I manually removed over 10,000 files from the temp folder after which my dad showed his brother how to use Window’s built in Disk Cleanup utility.  The laptop has only 512 MB of RAM, but could probably benefit from a memory upgrade to 2 GB if possible.  Both dad and uncle are pricing RAM this week.  The hard drive is anemic at 30 GB (and Office 2007 is fully loaded on it) and is using compression (ugh!).  Without more time and some of my normal utilities, I couldn’t accurately predict if turning off compression would result in a fully utilized hard drive (i.e. no free disk space for Windows to operate ‘normally’).  Granted, the laptop is over seven years old, so I’m not much that gone be done to improve performance without dumping too much money into it.  As with most electronics, it’s sometimes better to cut your losses and jump to new and improved hardware.  I suggested a netbook if 90% of their needs involve internet access (webmail, Googling, weather, news, etc.).

My uncle and I (both avid readers and he’s also an aspiring author) swapped several pounds worth of books.  I’ll do the inventory this evening and start sorting for swapping and trading via BookMooch and my local used book store.  My dad gave us both the evil eye, since I somehow ended up with about twice as many books on the return trip to squeeze into his car, along with the telescope and me.

I spied and watched some local fauna, including a large woodchuck, a small green and gray toad and a pasture of self-shedding sheep and their well trained unsupervised sheepdog.  On the ride down to Winfield, we saw many red tailed hawks in the pre-dawn life puffed up like owls, but later in the morning they were sleek or fast as the glided over the planes in search of breakfast.

And we ruminated squeaky floors and their cures and the consensus became you must pull up your flooring, use screws (not nails) and possible some glue to quiet those squeaks.

 

 

What a Difference a Week Makes …

This will be a conglomeration of star gazing journal and family events and I only have fifteen minutes to spit it out! So here goes:

First, the star gazing report:  My dad and I traveled to Winfield to visit my aunt and uncle for the weekend.  Since the weather was forecast to remain calm, clear and the moon was just barely a sliver, I took the telescope and accessories with us.  We spent the day visiting, enjoying experimental cooking from my aunt and uncle (which was delicious, don’t get me wrong) and doing fall tree trimming and another household repair a la my dad.  I have photos of a couple of the close calls my dad avoided, but that will have to wait for another post.

Later in the evening, after another wonderful new recipe for dinner, as the sun set and the moon quickly followed, we setup the telescope just in time to catch a glimpse of the craters of the moon along the terminus.  Everyone got a chance to view before the moon slipped towards the horizon and behind the tree line.

Now, we waited for Jupiter (which was visible already) and the first few stars (Altair, Deneb and Vega).  We relocated the telescope to the backyard (for a better angle on Jupiter) and my aunt invited a couple of neighbors to view Jupiter’s spectacular display.  We discovered, over the course of the evening, the Jupiter’s moon move quite fast, so much that when the evening began, we only saw three moons, and as it progressed we saw the fourth appear and a couple others move out and up in their orbits.

My personal goal for the evening was  a second attempt to find Comet Hartley 2.  So I was just killing time until the skies darkened enough to make the attempt.  In the meantime, I showed my aunt and uncle the double star in the Big Dipper (Mizar/Alcor)  and of course we began to see the great sweep of stars for the Milky Way.

We took a break (about an hour or so) to sit inside and rest our backs (tree trimming was only a regular activity for my father) and returned to hunt for the comet.  My dad and I tried for another hour, but haze, trees and light pollution were not helping us.  We finally gave up around 11:00 p.m. and headed off to bed.

I woke at my normal 5:00 a.m. timeframe and migrated up to the dark living room.  My uncle soon arrived and we both exited outside to determine the location of Cassiopeia.  That region of space was still not dark ‘enough’ I believe and clouds were rolling in fast from the west.  I did point out Orion and Sirius almost directly due south at that time of morning.

After another wonderful meal (this time breakfast of course), we visited and discussed books, movies, politics, religion … all the usual topics I’ve come to know and love with my close family.  Lunch was a local Chinese buffet followed by a mini-tour of Southwestern’s campus, where it’s celebrating it’s 125th year and Ron’s art (as an alum from 1968) is featured in Baden Hall.   Recently remodelled, it had formerly housed some of Arthur Covey’s artwork and still sports a block dedicating the fireplace from Arthur to his art professor Dunlevy.

Rain rolled into Winfield and followed Dad and I north along the turnpike, peaking in Emporia where we stopped for supper and Braum’s ice cream, but tapered off as we continued northeast along I-35 to K-7 in Olathe and finally reaching Lansing/Leavenworth by 8:00 p.m. — only one hour late mostly due to too much talking (missing exits) and stopping for gas and food.

A wonderful weekend getaway in Winfield I hope to repeat in the future.

Ciao,

Jon

Best Time to Spy Comet Hartley Two is Now

I tried several times this week to spot the comet Hartley 2 using my birthday preset as an assist.  According to EarthSky’s blog, you should be able to find it with binoculars near the constellation Cassiopeia.  Here’s a graphic from that blog posting to assist in pinpointing the comet:

Since tonight is October 9th, the comet is below the Double Cluster.  I’m taking all the telescope equipment with me to Winfield today so I can make the attempt again tonight (since the moon is still very new and the skies are dark).

Happy comet hunting and keep looking up!

What does the contents of my purse say about me?

While driving somewhere this week (either to training or home from it), I heard the DJs on KLOVE mention a new documentary entitled ‘The Contents of Her Purse.’  Apparently, the contents of a woman’s purse says something about her.  What, I don’t know, since I haven’t seen the documentary.

So, the DJ’s asked for women to comment on their blog answering ‘What does your handbag say about you?’.   It got me thinking.  I haven’t done much but stuff things in my purse for many moons, so I took everything out of my purse this afternoon:

 

My Mossy Mess
My Mossy Mess

 

So, briefly from top left to lower right:  my purse, my pick, my bifocals (in the case), my reading glass (also in a case), my wallet, my chapstick, my lipstick, my microfiber glass cleaning cloth in plastic slipcover, my brush, my ibuprofen, my mortgage payment booklet, my spare auto insurance card, a fine line permanent marker, a pen, two tissue wrapped coins from my father, a couple of hairclips, an old used up set of check duplicates, my water bill, my library cards (for Lansing, KCMO and Johnson County), my gum, salt/pepper packets, my keys, my St. Louis office security card, an old prayer request from this past March, an old bus pass receipt and a flyer that came with my new Price Chopper Shopper card.

I didn’t take everything out of my wallet, which is crammed full of old receipts, various plastic cards (debit, credit, shopper, membership, etc.) and checkbook and pen.

I’m not sure what this stuff says about me besides that I like to read (three library cards and two pairs of glasses).  Any thoughts?