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It Never Hurts to Have Another Place to Buy…一些非常不尋常的物品

Recently, the humans heard about a small Oriental market tucked away in a little strip mall they have never been to. Apparently, it has been there for quite some time but they hadn’t been aware of its presence. They were quite excited, the male especially, since he would eat Asian food every day if allowed. (I suspect that if he had to give a blood sample, it would prove to be 87.4% soy sauce, but Sigyn says I’m not allowed to poke him and find out.)

Of course, we are all here now, checking out the wares. It is indeed a very small market, but for all its quaintness, it has a surprisingly large selection of items.

Sigyn has not made it past the cookie display.

Good choice, my love! Neither of the humans can eat chocolate, and the female is allergic to hazelnuts. You and I will be able to eat all of these ourselves.

There is a large assortment of snack foods.

Sigyn was greatly relieved when I told her that these are not made from actual pandas.

We are not sure what is in this package.

It’s either polar bear brand orange snacks or orange brand polar bear snacks. I’m not sure which option is more frightening.

The coolers are well-stocked.

Mushrooms, bitter melon, fresh noodles, and more. Sigyn thinks the lotus root slices are pretty. I have to concur. They look like little, crunchy wheels. I have been reliably informed that that is not also how they taste.

There are various sorts of fish in the freezer.

I…I don’t quite know what to make of that name. Little yellow croaker… I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere…

I think they have every sort of noodle and soup produced by humankind.

I googled… That’s tripe.

無意冒犯,但我盡量不吃可以消化我的食物。

There are beverages here I have never seen in any other market.

*I’m* an alien. I might have to buy this.

Now, this one I have questions about.

Is it A) an uncommon beverage made from soybeans, B) a beverage made from uncommon soybeans, or C) a beverage made from under-cooked soybeans? And is it basically an edamame milkshake?

This is intriguing.

The human female says that prickly ash, slanty name Zanthoxylum, is a member of the citrus family. The leaves contain chemicals which cause a numbness or tingling of the mouth when chewed. A most unusual condiment!

(later) So, did we actually purchase anything? Of course we did! The human female selected some non-fried ramen-type noodles, Sigyn went with the hazelnut cookies, I brought home the alien energy drink, and the human male furthered his quest to eat every weird flavor of potato chip there is.

He says they were a bit warm, but not really hot, and not at all mouth-numbing.

Perhaps if he added the prickly ash oil…?

He also bought these because he cannot resist wasabi peas.

They’re the extra-mischiefy kind…

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A Culinary Undertaking, Part II:

به نظر خوشمزه می رسد، اما من ظرف ها را نمی شوم

The rice dish had a lot of steps. With that taken care of, we can get started on the other recipes

The chicken dish actually had a sticky note on the page, put there by a previous library patron.

It looked so good, the humans didn’t bother to read many of the other entree recipes!

Looks simple enough.

It’s just chicken sauteed with turmeric, sumac and lime juice. The humans don’t actually have any sumac (unprepared, as per usual!), but they do have za’atar, which is a Turkish dish whose principal ingredient is sumac, so it’s a reasonable substitution.

Chicken thighs cooking. I’m glad the recipe doesn’t call for them to be cut up into bite-sized pieces because, frankly, boneless chicken thighs are a mess, a real labyrinth of different muscle groups and connectivey bits.

Time to make the salad! A specific amount of cucumber is called for. Is our one big cucumber equal to the three small ones the recipe stipulates?

It is! Now we peel and chop, then chop the tomatoes.

We’re omitting the raw onions (because –bleargh!), but we are including the lime juice and the minty mint from the side yard.

Mmmm. This is going to be good, trust me. Not at all like toothpaste!

We’ll let the salad ingredients get to know one another for a while,

While we reduce the cooking liquid from the chicken.

Everything is done!

Zero points for plating, but it all smells so good that I’m going to let presentation slide— just this once.

Time to feast!

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A Culinary Undertaking, Part I :

هی، احمق، این زردچوبه نیست!

Pull out the fire extinguisher, locate the first aid kit, and put EMS on speed dial–the humans are cooking again!

Every now and then, the mortals get bored with the same old menus. Then they put their pointy little heads together and come up with something new to make. The male gathers recipes online like a magpie hoards shiny things, the female likes to change up old favorites or recreate things they’ve eaten in restaurants, and both of them have discovered the library’s cookbook section. Recently, the female was returning books to the library and spent exactly two minutes in the cookbook section before she grabbed the first thing that caught her eye. Tonight, we’re having Persian food! Sigyn wants to help, so you can be sure I’ll be around to make sure she comes to no harm.

They are making three things out of the book—a rice dish, a chicken dish, and a salad. The Sweet Rice with Carrots and Nuts (Shirin Polo) looks very complicated, so we are going to start that first. The rice cooker is going, and we have some butter melting in the big enameled iron pot.

Careful, my love! Not only would a hot buttered Sigyn not be a Good Thing, that handle is going to get more than a wee bit toasty in very short order.

Time to show an onion who’s boss!

Have dagger, will stab.

stabbity, stabbity, stabbity…

While those are sauteing, it’s time to locate all the spices.

Good thing we started early! We need cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, and saffron. I see Garam Masala, Rocky Mountain Seasoning, French thyme, lavender, peppermint extract, and purple sugar. This may take a while…

Oof! That was close! There’s a bag up in there with something yellow and powdery, and they almost grabbed it, thinking it was turmeric, but look at the faded label:

Masala curry. Absolutely guaranteed not to be a good substitute for what they want. Keep looking, you morons.

Great Frigga’s Hairpins! Don’t the humans ever label anything?

This also came out of the spice cupboard, but is is 100% NOT peanut butter. It is very, very golden and doesn’t smell like much, so I’m going to say this is the long-lost turmeric…

I think we have most of it now.

Ah, but do we have saffron?

We do! Saffron is more per ounce than gold, did you know that?

Norns Nighties, Sigyn! What are you doing in there? Whatever you do, don’t inhale. We can’t afford it.

We are grinding up the saffron and will soak it in some hot water to draw out all the yellow, musty goodness.

The carrots need to be shredded. Bring forth the Grater of Death!

I swear Sigyn is trying to give me a heart attack. Dearest, do be careful of those precious digits of yours.

Time for honey…

Someone has been reading too much Winnie the Pooh. At least this one is labeled. It’s all crystallized, so rather than pour, we can just scoop it out with a spoon.

Next, some orange zest.

There you go–one nekkid orange. The microplane is not as bloodthirsty as the Grater of Death, but it has been known to sample human flesh from time to time.

There are almonds and pistachios to chop.

I do love pistachios! One for the rice, one for me. One for the rice, one for me. One for the rice, two for me…

Now the cooked rice gets combined with the onions-spices-honey-nuts mixture. Mmmm. Smells delicious!

Time to make the chicken and the salad!

(To be continued…)

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Philatelic Flotsam, Part I: The Fun

The human female is still adding more bits of colored paper to her collection. Every so often, a plump envelope shows up…

Often, the sender has twigged to the fact that the human female is collecting plants and the stamps used to send the stamps are good for her collection as well.

See? Berries. (But she actually has those already.)

African violets!

Just like the ones the felines keep tumping over:

Sometimes, the stamps on the envelopes are not as interesting.

It takes long enough for the packets to arrive that sometimes the human female forgets what she’s chosen. There could be anything in here!

There contents of the envelopes are from all over Midgard.

Lots of stamps from the other side of the globe in this lot.

This group is from a mix of places.

Some of them are from a place that uses a funny alphabet.

Δεν είναι ωραίο να κοροϊδεύεις το αρχαίο αλφάβητο, αλλά τα γράμματα φαίνονται πραγματικά ανόητα.

One of the countries calls itself “Nippon” and is famous for its flower stamps.

As well as some popular cartoon characters.

Sigyn, that bunny is bigger than you!

More stamps.

Supposedly, this one is part of a scratch-and-sniff set.

Sigyn is testing it out. Does it smell like blueberry, my love?

“It does!! Loki, you need to try this!”

(sniff) She’s right! What will they think of next?

Each stamp gets a careful examination so that it can be properly identified.

Still more stamps!

And they keep coming!

It’s like an addiction. Most of the stamps cost only a few cents, but some are more, and I’m sure it all adds up.

Sweet Sif on a Cracker! Did she really pay that for this envelope of stamps?

I am informed that she did not, that this is an envelope which has been reused. In fact, none of the contents are from Honduras at all. Whew! For a minute there I thought she had real cash I hadn’t managed to sneak out of her purse.

Not everything is costing her, though. One of the members of her online stamp club noticed that she is collecting plants. They’ve had an e-mail chat or two about plants and gardens. He used to garden in Kensington, London, about four blocks from where we stayed when we were there. (Midgard is a very small place.) He has sent her two fat envelopes of free gifts from his own collection.

Quite a few of these are things she doesn’t already have.

And he even sent a polite note on paper with flowers.

These stamps are “on cover.” I.e., stuck on an envelope.

The human female already has these mint (uncancelled). She says she might make this set into a bookmark.

All in all, it is an awful lot of little bits of paper. Sigyn and the human female are certainly having fun with this philatelic garden. Too much fun. I shall have to see what I can do to make this whole process more interesting–for me.

Esta es la Boda Más Extraña a la Que Me Han Invitado. Ojalá Que al Menos el Pastel Sea Excelente.

Everyone knows by now that I’m not much for hail-fellow-well-met and social gatherings, but I do receive the occasional invitation which I cannot refuse. And by that, I mean that sometimes Sigyn receives an invitation for something she really, really wants to attend and I’m obliged to go with her just to make sure she comes home in one piece.

Today, horrors, I have been dragged to a wedding. And not just any wedding. Oh, no, this is a seasonally-and-ethnically themed wedding. Sigh. Cultural sensitivity is so not my “thing.”

This looks like a very, er… colorful event. There are a lot of people beings assembled, and all of them are quite festive.

We are waiting for the ceremony to start. Sigyn is telling the bridesmaids–Great Frigga’s Corset, there are eleven of them!— how much she likes their dresses.

I assume the bride couldn’t decide which dress she wanted them to wear, so she did the “Both? Both! Both is good” thing. And apparently the picture hats cost enough that there wasn’t money left in the budget for all of the bridesmaids to carry a bouquet. Or maybe those are groomsmaids and the tradition is for floral necklaces? I don’t understand, and I can’t be bothered to find out. And anyway, the processional music is starting.

Great Frigga’s Hairpins! Sigyn has been made an honorary flower girl.

Here comes the bride now!

Wow. I have heard of brides crash-dieting to be slender for the Big Day, but this young lady seems to have carried that to the extreme. She looks positively skeletal. Let’s hope she eats some of the fertility symbols she’s carrying.

(later)

I was hoping we could get home early, but no. Here we are at the reception, a genuine fiesta with all the trimmings.The room is full of people and food.

Though if these two are the latter and not the former, they are definitely underdone…

The Mother of the Bride seems very stressed, making sure everything goes according to plan. She’s been chain-smoking since we arrived.

Perdóname, señora. Sabe que esas cosas son malas para su salud, ¿no?

There are mariachis and almost everyone is dancing. (I’m not, and they can’t make me.) Sigyn isn’t wearing a flouncy skirt, but she’s doing pretty well.

There is a lot of food and quite a bit of cerveza. Sigyn, you might want to opt for the plain tres leches cake and not the one with the red decorations.

I think they must have used too much food coloring in the icing. (Either that, or someone is passing out those disclosing tablets that you usually get at the dentist.)

(later still)

I think this fiesta is going to continue into the wee hours. The band is still playing, los invitados todavía están bailando, and some sort of petting zoo is happening out in the side yard.

Come, my love. Gather up your crepe-paper flower party favors and your take-home piece of cake and let us bid everyone adios.

Deberías haber estado en la cama hace horas.

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Of Zinnias and Mooncakes

I do soooo much mischief that sometimes I can’t keep track of it all and I fall behind in writing about it. No rest for the wicked! And sometimes it’s the little, not-especially-mischiefy things in life I don’t get down on paper. Or electrons. Whatever.

ANYWAY. This is by way of being a catch-up. None of this is recent, but it made Sigyn smile, so it’s important.

The human male came home one day with some enormous zinnias (plus some thistles) that someone at church gave him.

There was a red one AND a yellow one, so Sigyn was extra excited.

That right there is some pretty decent camouflage.

And one day, somewhat after the traditional equinoctial celebration, the human male came home from the oriental market with the biggest, last-chance-for-this-year mooncake Sigyn and I had ever seen.

It was enormous.

Could Sigyn and the human female eat it in one go? They were certainly willing to try.

(poke, poke poke.) The wrapper said it was filled with lotus seed paste. But I didn’t trust it, because I know that often there are other things hidden inside.

The human female, pretending she wasn’t going to eat all of it, cut herself a slice. (She wasn’t fooling anyone.)

See?! I knew there was something else lurking inside! Vindication! People really should learn to listen to me.

But what was the orange stuff? The human female took a bite and said she thought it tasted like egg yolks. Sure enough, she did a little looking online and learned that mooncakes are often filled with salted duck egg yolk. She and Sigyn didn’t care for it much and didn’t eat it, but they ate the cake and the lotus seed paste, all the while reading about Mooncakes and What Goes In Them. Apparently, the really fancy ones have two egg yolks inside.

Then the human female read how many calories are in one of these things, put her fork down, and turned a funny color. She and Sigyn by this point had eaten most of it between the two of them, so they shamefacedly put the rest in the cold box to save for another day. Sigyn, of course, doesn’t need to worry about her figure, but the human female is a different story. She consoled herself by thinking that since they didn’t eat the egg yolk and saved a bit for later, it was probably only million calories instead of a million and a half.

The only person who believes her lies is her, but then, she’s extra-gullible.

Anyway, we had two fall treats, one colorful and one sweet. Which brings to mind the ancient Chinese saying,

更明智的做法是在远处吃花和欣赏蛋糕,这样裤子才能继续合身。

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Agalinis navasotensis–Scientia Versus Tempestate

It is a lovely early fall day. The sun is shining and it’s not brutally hot. The calendar has rolled past the third week of September, so it is time for that annual botanical adventure, checking up on the rare Navasota False Foxglove, Agalinis navasotensis that the human female discovered. We are all headed to the outcrop in the next county over to see how many there are and how they are doing.

(a bit later)

Things actually look pretty good. There is a lot of grass this year, since the summer was wet. The human female and two other plant nerds have counted over 100 plants in flower.

A good year, if not great. The usual fall flora is in evidence too. The blue sage is open for butterfly take-out dining.

Or is it dine-in? Except the lepidopteran is not sitting down. How does it work with bugs anyhow?

It took a bit of looking, but we found the little cacti again.

The plant nerds have located the endpoint stakes of a sampling transect that was run in 2006 and are going run the transect again so they can compare results.

That’s the human female up there at the top of the outcrop. If you could see her any more clearly you might be turned to stone. You’re welcome.

Ugh! This science is tedious! Every half meter along the line, we have to note what is touching the line between 0 and 0.5 meters, between 0.5 meters and 1.0 meter, between 1.0 and 1.5 meters, etc., all the way up to the canopy. I think that at most of the points along line we are going to have…grass. It’s not in flower, so we won’t be able to write down what kind it is. Grass. Grass. Grass. And we have thirty meters of this to do? The plant nerds will be at this all morning and I will die of boredom. Time for a little excitement!

And here it comes! I’ve noted before that, while I cannot really control the weather, I can certainly nudge it along. (You don’t grow up around my stoopid brother Thor without picking up a few tricks.) So I think I will take advantage of the forecast “chance of precipitation” to see how dedicated botanists conduct a transect in the pouring rain.

Vera quaestio est quousque perstent antequam cladem agnoscant.

Norns’ nighties! They are actually doing it. The human female is crouched under a car windshield sunshade, trying to keep her notes dry, her partner is completely exposed, holding the height pole, and a third intrepid plant nerd is marking a GPS record of groups of Agalinis plants. Everyone is soaked to the skin and I am laughing so hard at the human female slipping in the mud that I almost fell down myself.

Sigyn and I, of course, are under a magic umbrella spell and are perfectly dry.

(later)

The botanists and all available paper being sodden, they have decided to call it a day and not set up a second transect. Farewell outcrop! We shall see you again in the spring, perhaps.

(later still)

This is what the human female’s notebook looks like–after drying out a bit!

The notes themselves are barely legible.

I am grudgingly impressed, though. Her cheap little ballpoint did a pretty good job of not running.

When all typed up, the transect results look like this:

Prope est ut si quid agerent sciebant.

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Another Sign That Autumn Is Upon Us

There’s another way I can tell that it is autumn. It’s migration time! The last hummingbirds are tanking up on nectar for their long journey south, wild geese will soon be honking overhead, and we are experiencing the annual running of Carassius auratus subsp. caseus.

This species of small fish returns to the same spawning grounds every year. Nature is cruel, though. Not all of them make it home. Sigyn and I have just encountered one such on our walk this morning.

It must have been a very good jumper to have made it here.

I know it’s sad, dearest, but it’s all part of Nature.

Great Frigga’s Hairpins! There’s another one!

Oh, now my sweetie is really upset. Come along, love. Let’s go home and eat something pumpkin spiced and talk of more pleasant things.

(later)

I know! We can log on to the Fat Bear Week website and see who won this year. My money was on good old 151.

What a prodigious embonpoint! You can see that the migrating salmon that didn’t make it just ended up as plump, chunky, huggable bear.

Hmm. I wonder if something similar happens with C. auratus subsp. caseus?

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Pensé Que íbamos a Visitar Solamente Una Mesa Vieja, Pero en Realidad Hay Aquí Una Ciudad Completa, Part I: A-Shopping We Will Go

The humans have proposed a day trip. When I heard them discussing it, I was under the impression it was just to the local furniture store to buy a table, but we are going to visit Old Mesilla, a town which, even though it is in a completely different state, is closer to the city we are in than the city we are in is to any other city in Texas. Sometimes Midgard just doesn’t make sense.

We are taking the long way there. Sigyn is entranced by the fields of cotton and the orchards of pecan trees we are passing, all watered by cleverly constructed canals that tap from the Rio Grande. I am busy planning how best to annex this territory when I launch my final push to take over the planet. From what I can tell, whoever controls the supply of three vital commodities—water, adobe, and Hatch green chilies—can be king in this part of the world.

We have arrived. It’s a small place, but apparently “rich in history.” Its main claim to fame is once having housed the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid. Well, now it has housed me, so it is even more significant.

There is a bi-towered church on the main plaza.

I know Sigyn would like to see inside, but unfortunately the doors are locked. That is fine with me. It doesn’t appear to be the sort of place that would welcome a Norse God anyway.

The human male wants to take some photos of the outside. I have other plans for his camera.

The square is surrounded by quaint little shops. Sigh. I just know I’m going to be dragged in and out of each and every one of them, but for my sweetie’s sake I will paste on a happy face and tag along. Besides, I might be able to find a good present for her. Yule is only three months away, after all.

This shop seems to be full of very… colorful knicknackery. Some of it is tasteful, if a bit religiously offensive to someone of my godliness.

I haven’t the heart to tell her that the little well is meant as a receptacle for holy water, not an observation post…

Great Frigga’s Hairpins! Such gaudy papier mache’ pussycats!

The human female’s mother is in the market for a new feline. But I do not think this is the sort she has in mind. Still, I might buy her one of these. She’d have to display it, out of politeness, and either one of them would clash wonderfully with all of her eagles and blue and white china…

And I might invite these fine fellows home for dinner.

We’ll have a jam session afterwards and all the neighborhood dogs will bark. It’ll be great.

Sigyn has discovered some more sedate companions.

Licking Sigyn on the forehead in 3…2…1. Slurp!

This next emporium has a selection of woven end embroidered items.

Those are so bright that I bet even the human female couldn’t manage to lose the glasses case in the black hole that is her backpack.

Jewelry store.

Store with spiced pistachios and local wine.

More knick-knacks.

Gallery.

And our penultimate stop, the building that used to be the jail that held that famous outlaw. There is some very touristy stuff here, as well as a little something that I think will need to make an appearance in the human female’s stocking

After all, Yule is only three months away…

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Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose, Part II: Of Plants and Owies

Oh. I see we have to look at the outside of the house as well as the inside, to see if anything has changed.

For starters, the big mulberry tree that was in the backyard is gone. Sigyn, the human female, and the human female’s mother are all in mourning. Borer beetles, I think they said.

The “dwarf” arborvitae trees in front of the house are bigger than ever.

Never trust a plant salesman out to make a quick buck, unless you don’t mind having to prune things every year…

The pomegranate bush in the front planter is also still thriving.

Reddish flowers and good for dangling–in Sigyn’s book this is the perfect shrub.

The human female says the Virginia creeper vine that is swallowing the back of the house wasn’t quite so rambunctious the last time she saw it.

She says that tomorrow she’ll drag out the stepladder and trim it away from the eaves and windows. I think that is a very good idea. Not that I care about possible damage to woodwork and masonry from the vine’s sticky little aerial rootlets, you understand. I just like to sHaKe ladders when she stands on them, especially if she’s holding sharp tools while she’s up there.

Of the multiple four o’clock bushes that used to be under the bedroom windows when the human female was a sprout, only one remains.

Sigyn, I know the human female says they are pollinated by big, fuzzy, night-flying moths that look like hummingbirds, but do you really want to sit and wait to see them? There are hours and hours of daylight left.

It is getting warm out here! Shall we go inside and look at the houseplants? I don’t care if they’re real or artificial, as long as air conditioning is involved.

Hmm. New cactus in the kitchen window. New schefflera in the bathroom. Same old ficus in the den. And Great Frigga’s Hairpins! Hanging from the shower curtain rod is the same oak-leaf ivy that the human female had forty years ago!

It isn’t much larger than it used to be, but look how thick the “trunk” has become!

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Later. Much later.

I think my heart rate has finally come back down to normal. I don’t want to spend an afternoon like this ever again!

I was just about to tell Sigyn to be careful climbing around in that ivy when she suddenly lost her footing or her grip or something and took a tumble right onto the tile floor! Even with my godly reflexes, I wasn’t quick enough to catch her, and we got to see a part of the human female’s natal city neither of us wanted to.

It’s a nasty break in her upper arm. I’ve been speeding the healing along with my magic, but she’s still going to be in a cast for a while.

I’m so sorry, my love. I just wasn’t fast enough.

The only good thing—if any part of this can be called “good”—is that it’s her right arm and she’s left-handed. The human female’s mother has administered healing hugs and is feeding her to “keep up her strength”. The human female, though, she’s going to pay. After all, it was her stupid ivy. Dangerous plants like that need warning signs or something. Just you wait, mortal. Revenge, served hot or cold, is one of my very favorite dishes, and I’ve been taking cooking lessons…

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