Sunday, August 23 2020

spiders, fescue to the rescue, and orange dumplings



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Hope the weekend is treating you well so far. Here’s to fresh coffee, leftover bacon, and stroopwafels to make waking up a little easier.

Madison has a lot of mosquitos during the summer. The upside of that is every now and then, we get to see some really cool wildlife further up the food chain. A few weeks ago I noticed a garden spider setting up shop outside our kitchen door. She’s relocated her web a few times already, almost like she could overhear Marissa sharing her very justified concerns.

“The web is at my eye level,” said Marissa anxiously. “And the other side is held up by the potted plant? The wind is going to knock it into my face, and I’m going to freak out.”

I like spiders, but I’ll also admit that the sensation of walking into a web, or feeling legs scamper across your neck is unnerving. Which is why I was grateful that my spider friend took the initiative and voluntarily scooted the web further off the deck.

Taking a good picture of a spider poses a challenge. With the subject hanging in mid air on a translucent web, it’s hard to get the camera to focus in the right spot. This is the best I could do last night.

2020 08 23 spiderbro

Trigger warning: big hair spider

Calling it a “garden spider” is just a guess. I’m having a hard time identifying this one. If you’re brave enough to zoom in on this beast, I’d appreciate any help. Her legs are striped, her body is a rusty red & brown pattern, and her web is the large spanning type with the pretty design.

Sip. Sufficiently creeped out? That’s fair. Let’s talk about the weekend instead. We’ve had a pretty relaxing weekend so far. It almost feels unfair that I have off Monday as well, but I’m not complaining. It’s not like I picked the day I’d be returning to work. Blame my baby for the timing.

We’ve spent a lot of time outside this weekend. Having the pool filled with water and ready to rock at a moment’s notice is a great incentive for working outside with Rodney. Yesterday, wanting to take one more stab at improving the grass coverage in the backyard before the summer came to a close, Marissa asked Rodney and I to put down a bag of fescue seed. And thus was born the catch phrase fescue to the rescue.

Rodney and I knew the drill. We flipped each bag of dirt in to the wheel barrow, tossed it with a few scoops of grass seed, and threw it around the yard on the bare spots. Most of the seed made it to the ground, but Rodney, convinced that it was best to roll in the dirt and seed after application, picked up some in his hair and clothes.

When we were finished, Rodney cleaned off in the pool while I enjoyed a cigar. “And a beer wouldn’t be terrible either,” I said flagging Marissa down like a waitress.

Marissa joined me outside with her laptop just in time to tune into Jordan and Vanessa’s live streamed wedding ceremony.

“I feel so bad for them,” said Marissa. “It must be hard taking pictures with masks, keeping distant from each other.”

“It’s inconvenient, but something about the masks and the sparse church adds an intriguing eeriness to it,” I said. “These pictures are probably going to be really cool to look back on.”

It was a beautiful ceremony, but I felt bad for Jordan and Vanessa. I choose to believe that everyone like them who is getting robbed of a special milestone during all of this will get their time back with interest. It didn’t feel right to watch my beloved friend and roommate get married over YouTube, but what else can you do? Get married now - we’ll celebrate later.

After the wedding, I got started on making dinner. Dinner was kind of a disaster, so let me break this down for you. Last Friday I baked five large yams and left them in the fridge, planning on turning them into hash for dinner when we returned from the biergarten. Cooking after happy hour never works out, and I should have anticipated the afternoon sun and crisp beer lulling me into suggesting takeout food. Marissa placed an order for Burrito Drive on our way home.

“I’ll make the hash tomorrow,” I said, assuring myself.

Whether it was the extra day in the fridge that caused this, or it was just a bad idea to begin with, the yams were not in shape for hash. Removing the skin with a pairing knife, they were so soft and bruised that I was sure I wouldn’t survive being cut into cubes and fried.

So I pivoted, deciding to mash the potatoes together and turn them into sweet potato dumplings. I added two eggs, a few heaping scoops of Greek yogurt, and a squirt of honey. And adding one cup of flour at a time I was on my way.

I finished my bag of flour. The orange puree, now completely filling the mixing bowl, was still a sticky mess. With a huff, I scooped half of the congealed mess into the garbage can, wiped off my fingers, and reached for a new bag of flour.

I was feeling angry about wasting so much flour, and I unconsciously took out my rage on the dough, kneading with tough and short punches. I beat the dough into submission and angrily sliced the tube into dumplings. I would boil these little orange dumplings and add them to bacon and vegetable soup.

“It’s not bad,” said Marissa, sensing I was upset. “The soup was a good idea.”

“Thanks,” I said wearily rubbing the back of my neck. “I’m more just disappointed that I lost my temper. Thanks for hanging with Rodney outside.”

Rodney aimlessly jabbed at the tart, rubbery orange dumpling on his plate. He reached for another slice of bread instead.

After dinner, Marissa took me outside to show off what her and Rodney finished. They had dug out an overgrown corner of dirt in our driveway and redid it with rocks and pavers. Rodney happily tagged along, playing in the big dirt pile with his toy excavators.

2020 08 23 before after

Corner pavers: before and after

Rodney also found a worm, which he used as a conversation starter with a lady who was walking her dog. Watching out the window, I could tell from her body language that she did not share Rodney’s enthusiasm for half dead worms.

2020 08 23 worm

If this kid put a worm in your face while you were out on a walk, what would you do?

Marissa offered to put Rodney to bed. I appreciated the extra time to recover from a rough dinner.

“Are you sure?” I pressed. “You were with him all afternoon?”

“Yeah I got him,” said Marissa. “I’m in a good mood because I cleaned the fish tank today.”

I laughed. “So that’s a good indicator for how you’re feeling at any given time?”

“Yes,” said Marissa. “That’s always a safe bet.”

It’s funny how your mood gets tethered to physical things, like a clean fish tank or how good dinner tasted. Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone.