Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day is a mixed sort of day, partly a serious remembrance of the military lost in war, and for me, also the civilians also caught up in wars, particularly children.  I try to be careful not to glorify combat and victory, so as not to be part of keeping it going, while honoring the suffering of the people in wars.

Then it's also taken as the first weekend of summer, joyful, weather permitting. This year weather was baking hot and between barbecues and various friend visits, I seized the day and the Dollivers.  

I set them up with a little patriotic flower arrangement, so that they could get in training for lying about in the sun, while Elton played a rousing series of Sousa and other tunes but failed to get any marching going on around here.  He tried Grand Old Flag, Stars and Stripes, My Country Tis of Thee, Star Spangled Banner, all to no avail.

The Ds were annoyed at being squashed onto one chair, wanted one each, but reluctantly agreed that a photoshoot with one D per chair stretching out into the distance wouldn't work so well.

But they did recover enough goodwill to send everyone for whom this is a holiday weekend wishes for a good weekend, a good holiday, and a good start to the season (summer up yar, fall down theah, where we also have readers).

Then last night, torrential rain, and this morning here's a wonderful Memorial Day observation:  

the iris, given me by a friend, neither of us knowing what color it would be, throwing out only foliage for a couple of years, finally bust out overnight in bloom with this result.  

This is enough to cheer a person up. Particularly when the friend, after seeing my pic this morning, mentioned that he would share more colors with me when he divides his iris this year.  This patio is going to be an iris paradise before you know it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mushroom quiche

This is in the nature of a Note to Self.  Last week at the farmers' market I picked up a lovely bag of mixed mushrooms from the Kennet Square people, famous mushroom source in Pennsylvania, and decided now was the time to make again that quiche which makes a mushroom crust rather than a flour one.

Then came a protracted search for where the &;*&;*&;* recipe came from, using every tag I could think of. Finally found it in my ancient tattered old Sunset cookbook, so now I know where to find it.  And my label on this post will help.  As will a tip from JT on using the search box which I had totally never noticed in all these years. And a thought that searching in my own blog would have been good. Too late smart.

I subbed sharp cheddar for their bland old Jack, fresh chives for their scallions, and omitted paprika since I didn't have any. But it still worked a treat.  Foreground cooking mushrooms with added cracker crumbs, on board chopped chives, shredded cheese, background eggs, cottage cheese and red pepper in blender.

It's one of those labor intensive deals that comes out smelling so great that it's worth it.  And it's more than filling, on account of all the cheese and eggs.  

So here's today's effort.  Since Handsome Son is not a quiche fancier, this is for me and any neighbors who happen to get lucky. 

Did I mention that strawberries came in this week?  

best I've had ever, I think, right from the farm to my mouth!

Monday, May 23, 2016

walking the labyrinth for H.A.S.

A few days ago, there was a tragedy in the family of a friend, and today I walked the labyrinth as an observance of the loss of a very young man.  

It occurred to me as I walked that there are now so many spirits populating these walks for me, of people who have left us, ages ranging from 23 to 93, all with such an impact on everyone around them.  Every time I walk the labyrinth, they accompany me.

This young man was only known to me by name, his mother being the person I was in contact with, in the art world, and others have been similarly removed from me, yet they all have such power over our lives, and how we live them from now on. Those who were close to me have great directive influence, in ways that don't become clear for a while.

Today's walk, among the ash trees and maples and shrubs, had musical accompaniment from nesting birds.  And as always, I entered confused and undirected, and left calm and with a sense that it's okay for me not to understand why such things happen.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tamarind and plum preserves

In the interest of using up the fresh tamarinds, which had been in the fridge a while, and the rest of the plums after making a giant plum-studded cake for the freezer, I realized I could make jam.

Haven't made jam for ages, and it's not so hard.  I used half a dozen of the fresh tamarinds, which I shelled and took the membrane off,  then sort of broke up and poured about a cup of boiling water over it. Once it was cool enough to put fingers in, I worked it over to release the pulp from the seeds, which it doesn't want to do, then strained the lot into a bowl.  The pulp goes through the strainer pretty well, giving you a thick liquid to work with.

And the plums were black dessert plums which I'd got at a good price, and I just cut them into chunks.  About a dozen plums in all. Then with just one cup of sugar, no need to go mad with the sugar, I boiled the lot together until it thickened a bit, then added in only half a pouch of pectin, and went on cooking for a while.

It mostly filled two mason jars, and the day after, once it had cooled completely, made a great preserve to spoon over hot biscuits, more of those I made recently and froze, the ones with the golden raisins and the chopped walnuts.  

Since there's no sugar in the biscuits, and not too much in the preserves either, you get the sweetness of the fruits, and a nice tang.  You could use this preserve as a sauce with meat, if you eat meat, too.  Or fish possibly.  Or give as a nice little gift to a lucky friend.

Anyway, it was pretty good, and not a massive enterprise, unlike the way cookbooks act as if you were about to embark on a space mission.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Three Good Things

This week, among a lot of other good things, three stand out nicely.

One is the shelf thing, made of actual wood, not mdf, found at the dumpster, needing only a dusting and damp wipe to take its place at the end of my bookcases, as a home for my collection of teapots.  I thought the pots needed a bit more visibility, since they're so good to look at, and the top of a kitchen shelf didn't do it.

Reading north to south: Japanese clay, probably antique, pot, then shelf with three milk pitchers, one a Wedgwood Queensware piece, on an Irish Belleek, one an unmarked, aka back door, Lenox.

Then recent thriftie find, Japanese architectural shaped pot, metal handle then one down, a Chinese porcelain one, courtesy of the Asian store.  Then at the bottom, a coiled pot with bamboo handle, might be Chinese, don't know, but signed in some way.

All very nice to see from the sofa. Interestingly,  they all make tea taste different one from another.  Same tea, same boiling water, different flavor.

Then there was a great lunch, salad of farm grown curly lettuce and scallions, with added homegrown romaine and curly, with chives, then dried figs chopped in.  With a bowl of carrot and red lentil soup, into which I put a rind from a parmesan cheese, first time I tried this, and now I see why they do it. Great flavor addition, and there's yogurt whey in there, too. Also homemade chicken broth. This lunch is a repeating event, plenty of salad greens and soup available.

Then yesterday, after a brisk wind, neighbor stopped by to give me these white iris broken in the wind and she thought I'd like to have them.  I will be drawing and painting and looking at these beauties for a couple of days.

So that's here for now.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Red Ted throws a tea before departing

This afternoon was a little tea for a friend, long planned, and finally it happened.  Red Ted decided he needed her as his new person, so I agreed that since we had been thinking about whose home needed a Red Ted, this would work.

So tea laid, with Red Ted presiding, and we had a nice spread of parmesan crisps, hot biscuits with golden raisins, crushed walnuts and caraway seeds, buttered, and mixed fruit crumble with mango yogurt added on top.  English Breakfast tea, two pots of same.  We had a Good Time.  Harrods had nothing on us.

Friend needed a respite from some major caregiving, and I decided this was a Good Thing, to cater to her, bake for her, and all that, just because someone should.  

She arrived with a lovely gift, to my surprise, a pot of petunias sitting in a basket of her own make, wonderful addition to my basket holdings.  

She's a great spinner, gave me my first spindle and sample of roving, basket maker, all kinds of talents, in addition to high powered day jobs.

So I guess we were both gifted today..and Red Ted couldn't wait to go home with her.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Long road to finding Etty Hilversum

This road started last August when Piper, who writes the Comptonia blog, encouraged various readers to go to Twitter to follow a drawing series, and take part in it.  Which I did, after a few minor struggles to learn Twitter, open an account, then fix the settings I'd got wrong and so on.  And I found a site that has a lot of what I want to see, aside from a community of artists I am in regular touch with now, and a community of sheep farmers in the Yorkshire dales likewise.

I found that Anne Lamott posts there regularly, with all kinds of wise and funny tweets, from one of which I was directed to Henri Nouwen, a contemplative writer I'd never heard of, but got a lot out of (his book Home Tonight, mainly), which in turn led me to Etty Hilversum, and I really think this journey was foreordained in some way.

She, and, again, I had barely heard of her, is one of the most luminous and profound writers, so worth discovering and studying.  I read her diaries, which are very dense and inward, to the point of being tiring to get through, since she was talking to her inner self, not an audience.

Then I went on to her letters, which are a wonderful jewel of a find.  Written to many friends in Holland not yet in the camps, during the worst of the WW2 Nazi occupation of Holland, they chronicle her own internment on Dutch soil,  the inevitable and terrible cattlecar transport to Poland, to Auschwitz, from which she did not emerge.  

We see through her eyes the crushing series of greater and greater restrictions put on the Jewish population culminating in the mass arrests and removal to camps, then transport to Poland. 

Even knowing that all this was going to happen, she writes cheerfully and in much more accessible language than in the diaries, for her reader,  tempering her prose to the person intended, apologizing for asking for small favors to help her frail parents.  Heroic. 

All her family perished with her.  She was 27, but in that short life packed more meaning than you can readily take in.  Amazing wisdom and the capacity to find joy even in the most terrible of fates, always  concerned to take care of her aged parents and her young brother, always able to stay ready for experience.  She had a total zen sense of life, in that she believed that heaven and hell are present always in every moment.  She lived that belief, rarely losing her good humor, sick, starving, cold, but undaunted, a social activist to the end.

She was difficult to read, but I felt I owed it to her and all the other Jews suffering then, to at least give it my attention now and get knowledge and direction from it, and to honor the writer.  And to note that sadly, this kind of history is not all in the past.

It was in a way, a literary duty, like reading Foulks' Birdsong, set in WW1,  about, among other things, the battle of the Somme, and the life if you can call it life, in the trenches,  equally agonizing reading.  I owed it to my dad who was there, and all the other young kids fighting in the trenches and not making it home, or making it home as a shell of the people they had been. 

So, odd though it may seem as a recommendation to suffering, I do recommend Hilversum, a brilliant intellectual force extinguished too soon, as not just a book to read, but guidelines to a life elegantly lived, too. 

The poetic coda, her last letter, thrown out from the train as they left for their sad destination, was found and mailed by a farmer, so the friend she'd written to in fact received it and understood the significance of it.

Bear with me if you have known about her for years, but I only just made the discovery and wanted to share, in case you didn't know of her.  For me it's the kind of writing that forms a watershed in the reader's life, falling into before and after.  It changes who you are.

It's great art, like many paintings and sculptures, that is not just an experience to have, but one that changes who you are and how you see the world after.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

West Windsor Farmers Market, and results

Perfect day today for the farmers' market at West Windsor, second week open but last week was rain and wind.  Today lovely, and I browsed among wonderful produce and flowers and smells and friendly people, and happy babies and dogs.

Then once home, I planted my burlap hanging planter with, north to south, you already know about the marjoram, nasturtium nasturtium, dill and dill.  

My next door neighbor and his visiting cousin admired the hanging garden, commenting that it looks Japanese!  and neighbor thinks he might try it, too.  Some basil came home with me, too early, but I couldn't resist, and more dill in containers.

In the kitchen, a frenzy of tearing and rinsing and cutting and admiring, ready for today's lunch. Curly leaf lettuce, scallions, figs (dried, not from market) tomatoes

The tomato is NJ, but hothouse, too soon for outdoor, but it still has that minty smell in the stem that you get only when they're fresh.  Asparagus soup, from the farm, matzoh, every year someone gives me a box, why, why..mystery. Every year a different person too, is this a plot?

Very good morning's work.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Vertical gardening revisited and an exotic arrival

I was at the plant nursery yesterday, stocked up on a few herbs to replace ones which didn't survive the winter.  Moseying round the place, I noticed on their greenhouse walls some black plastic hanging sleeves, filled with potting soil, with small plants inserted into slits at intervals down the length.  You could do it with newspaper sleeves, I imagine.  Old idea, but it reminded me that I would like to have a few plants hanging from my fence.

Then at home I remembered I had a few burlap pockets, given by an artist who had been given hundreds of them -- wrongly made for an order, given to the cause of art -- and who shared them around. thanks Art Lee!

So, I dug them out, found a roll of petersham ribbon from a stash gift, stapled five of the pockets at intervals down the ribbon, with a loop at the top, and hung the result on a nail already in the fence.  

Time elapsed: five minutes including finding the stapler. Cost zero.  Appearance pleasing, nicer than black plastic.  My kind of invention.

And the same idea as the hanging plastic sleeve, except I will plant each pocket.  Water will drain down from one to another.  And I remembered a little marjoram plant I've had rooting in water for months and now finally have given it a home, in the top pocket.

Feel free to copy at will! not my original idea, I'm sure, but it should be fun to see how this works. Oh, and I put a tissue soaked in peppermint essence in the top pocket to deter squirrels.  I have a feeling that if wrens choose to nest in a pocket I won't have much say in the matter.  If they did, there would be no squirrel problem, though.

And the mail today brought me the peacock jasmine plant I've been awaiting for months, so it is now planted, no, not outside, but in a pot safely indoors in a window that gets some sun.  It's tiny, so pix will wait till it's big enough to see.  This is the plant that flower leis are made from, nice scent, gets big, I'm hopeful.

Friday, May 6, 2016

It may be May, but it's still a soup day

Seizing on the farm asparagus, picked the morning they put it out, and eaten raw or steamed, I cut off most of the stems when I got it home the other day, to freeze right away.  Today was the day for a bowl of steaming soup, what with the raw, windy, rainy weather, which suits the dogwoods fine, the people not so much.

So here's today's lunch: asparagus, with plenty of onions and garlic, a little knob of butter in with the oil for the base, then once cooked and blended a shake of lemon juice and a grating of an ounce or two of parmesan.   The recipe says to strain the soup through a strainer to remove the fibrous bits but I didn't actually have any fibrous bits, maybe because this was the best fresh asparagus, maybe because the freezing broke them down.

I served this with a wedge of wholewheat caraway hot biscuit spread with yogurt cheese.  More in the freezer for future study.

And, since a day without any walking is no fun at all, I did take a walk, all muffled up against rain and wind, and heard a huge commotion in the neighbor's shrub.  Saw a little baby Carolina wren hurtling about, tumbling, running under a parked car, with a parent in hot pursuit.  I think they've nested there, and the babies are making a massive racket and trying out the flying thing.  

I envy the neighbor since wrens are fun neighbors to have and they are deadly on squirrels, who are mortally afraid of being dive bombed by them.  I've seen it happen, and I don't blame the squirrels for staying away.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Busy Day at Art the Beautiful

For the latest presser on the Embroidery Stand caper, go here

And if you're in the mood for an art exhibit review, go here 

And if the weather has got you down to where you can't be bothered about either, go make a nice cup of tea and put your feet up and read Scents and Sensibility, the latest Chet and Bernie book (no, not that Bernie) by Spencer Quinn, the adventures of a detective and his detecting dog, narrated by the dog.  

That's what I'm doing next.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Signs of Spring, at last

Today was full of hopeful signs of spring, after it seemed to have retreated again into cold, windy days.

It was near the first of the month, so time for a little bunch of cut flowers.  And iris were there, tightly furled, but very promising, with chrysanthemums.  True to form, as I picked and sniffed, sniffed and picked at the store, I had to have flowers with more than one purpose.  

The iris will make a beautiful dye next time I work on silk, which will be soon.

Then on the way home, the joyful sign at the farm for asparagus, first day of the year, was up, and I swerved into the farm and started scrabbling through my purse for the cash, not carrying much.  This was an honor system, no person there, just leave your money in an open box.  So I got my first asparagus and took the celebratory bite off the raw top of one, perfect.  

That will be on the menu today. Handsome Son will be here for dinner to help eat it.  And other items, jasmine brown rice cooked with Chinese spicy sausage in it, served with mixed vegetables and chicken on it.  Cake with mango yogurt cheese.

And a sudden wildflower burst out on the patio, must look it up and see what it is.  

Something about my camera doesn't like bright orange, and will only give a blurry yellow instead, but this flower is a wonderful brilliant color.  

Then there's henbit, I think, growing everywhere particularly in the pots I had put soil in for other purposes. 

And the couple of remaining branches on my wild cherry, blooming away, full of bees when the sun comes out, and with all kinds of birds pecking at them, too.

All in all, a good spring day, even if I was back in a winter coat to enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Field and Fen Breaks out into a poem

In the kitchen, with a big bag of spanish onions, partly for dye purposes, the outer skins, that is, and the rest for the freezer, I came over with a poem.  I wrote this right then, and have sent it, in response to listener invitations, to in celebration of National Poetry Month.  

Long time since I committed a poem, so I thought I'd share:

Today I brought home a whole bag of onions
ready to collect the papery golden skins
for the dye bag
and the food for the freezer to preserve
as memory, again, thrusts, fresh,
the onion-worked smell of my mother's hands
at my child's eye level, cracked and broken by
a lifetime of labor, many children,
no time to dye
barely time to live

Liz Adams, in honor of Lizzie Ryder

Monday, April 25, 2016

B in B, that would be Breakfast in Bed

On account of the fact that I woke early, and refrained from jumping up and doing things, in favor of a wiser approach of a leisurely start to the day, I decided on breakfast in bed.

Now, when you live alone, this involves more than having Jeeves or a nice lady in a frilly cap coming in and opening the curtains and presenting a nice cup of tea.  

It's about getting up, going downstairs, feeding the cats, poaching the lovely freerange egg, making the toast, fixing the coffee, arranging the tray, then staggering back up with all this, cats hindering at every point.

Then comes the logistical challenge of getting into the bed with the contents of the tray intact, and then the eating part is pretty easy.  Critical readers will note that the bread is, shock, horror, bought bread!  which shows how weak I've been ran out of bread, couldn't bake more, son provided slices of whole wheat to tide me over.

Also very luxurious on a sunny day with the cherry blossom, what's left of it, blooming outside.  

And, though you can't see her, a myrtle warbler breakfasting on the blossoms out there.  I guess it's either pollen or minute insects, rather than poached egg on toast. To each her own. Chacune a son gout, no accents, bring your own. I gave the feminine form as a default..don't tell me breakfast isn't political!

 Good news about prospective tenant for next door: single middle aged lady with cat.  This sounds like someone who's unlikely to replace the former occupants' blasting home entertainment unit, yay. Well, we'll see!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Field and Fen Briefly in the Kitchen

On the mend, more or less, cautiously eating a bite, and taking really short walks to remind my legs how to work, and today  I managed a little recipe for something I've been meaning to make for ages, usual story.

These are parmesan crisps, from Ina Garten, and since I happened to have a block of parmesan, about the right amount, and the thyme is all back in leaf, that and black pepper, kosher salt, and a tablespoon of ap flour was all that was needed.  I'm still as weak as a kitten, in fact a kitten could paw wrestle me and win at this point, so I had to rest a time or two in the grating of the cheese, but we got there.

Pretty simple, and as you see, the darker baking sheet made a crisper finish than the lighter one, but still all good.  I was able to take just a crumb to taste, not up to fat food yet, and can attest that they are good.  A little snack with wine, or in my case possibly to save in the freezer for a future teatime guest.  I like to offer something savory as well as a bit of cake.  I have a feeling that you need to make quite a few of these to have enough!

So that satisfied my inner cook.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Levels of activity and how to measure your health!

This week I've been out of action with a virus, I think it was, at any rate something that had my innards in great turmoil for several days and is starting to improve to the point where I can tolerate sitting up and writing.

It occurred to me that there are levels of illness that I tend to measure thusly:

Level One, disregard it, do the whole day's activities as planned, feel tired at the end
Level Two, try to disregard it, but find a need to sit down abruptly every now and then and wait for the feeling to pass
Level Three, cancel outside commitments, able to make it to the mailbox, a 150 yard round trip for me, and maybe do a load of laundry, feed the cats, eat a bit
Level Four none of the above possible, with the exception of staggering downstairs to feed the cats. 
Level Five call in reinforcements to make me tea and feed the cats.

This week has been largely passed at Level Four then Three, and I'm hoping that I will be reacquainted with food quite soon, and get away from various medications, and claw back my usual energy.

However, none of that stops me from reading, a great way to enter a world where current ailments lose their importance.  And I've found, amazingly, that some of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, never heard of her before this week, not knowing anything about kidlit, have had a lovely antidotal effect. Well written, astute and with interesting characters. Great illustrations. Also short enough to read before I fall asleep again.

And I'm in the middle of Agatha Christie's autobiography, much more interesting than I expected, since she jumps about, giving interesting anecdotes rather than a long chronology of name dropping, which bios often fall into.

Then I've watched a few episodes of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, very funny, bit hard to follow if you aren't up to all the details of current UK politics.  Watching YouTube on a tablet is a bit like following an animated postage stamp, but worked fine.

I did get one thing done last evening, finished the embroidery frame I was building with pvc pipe until I had to stop for parts to arrive.  And here, to show I'm still on the planet, it is

If you want to know more about this project, and see links to the plans and so on, go here

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Supper in Spring

Great day, chilly but bright sunshine, great lunch with Handsome Son, then trip to libe and found more Donna Leon detective novels, latest reading jag, great walk around park with people running jumping and standing still, kicking footballs and learning to ride tiny bikes.

Then home to Sunday supper in Spring, bowl of tomato, chickpea, red lentil soup, with hot biscuits, toasted, wholewheat with caraway seeds, spread with yogurt cheese, nice glass of Sangria.  Cheerful wine, not as heavy as a winter sort of red wine.  That's as technical as my wine talk gets.  

Piece of zucchini apple walnut bread for dessert. Lovely Vietnamese coffee.  Astute readers will note that this all bears a resemblance to the lunch menu, and you would be right up to a point.  It's selected leftovers.

So, perfetto!  reading Donna Leon, with bits of Eyetalian all over, her novels are set in Venice, you do pick up a word here and there..and a friend sent two chapters of her current novel not set in Venice, I think in Minnesota, to read,  great compliment, that, so that's next on the agenda.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

On Not Knowing Your Own Strength 6WS

This is not of those philosophical musings about endurance or dealing with the various blows of life.  It's about not realizing you're strong enough to bust a faucet handle into many parts just by trying to shut it.  See what remains on the stem? and the bits that cascaded down onto the tap?  there are probably other bits around which I haven't stepped on in bare feet yet.

All this artwork must be strengthening my upper body, dangerously so..or maybe it's mixing batches of bread and stirring big pots of soup. Or holding heavy books..

This is the same shower faucet that I went to all that trouble to fix a while back, taking two tries to get the right size handle.  Back to square one.  But I did have the forethought to save the little box the right faucet came in, with the item number on it. These items all look exactly the same, and it's only when you try to install them that you discover the stem and the socket don't match exactly, but you can't tell by looking, only by failing to get the one to seat in the other, since it's inside the deal.  And if they don't match up, you can't alter the temperature of the water.

So I have another faucet handle on order.  I can easily install it myself. And this is where it becomes a true first world problem, since I can just use my other bathroom until the new handle arrives.  

Meanwhile back at the pots of soup, today's soup is tomato, chickpea and red lentil, with a shake of fennel seeds in it, and a dash of wine sauce left over from herring a while back and frozen awaiting a use.  

Then tomorrow I'm feeding Handsome Son, aside from the soup, with hot biscuits with a dash of caraway seeds in them, crisp breaded baked fish and oven roasted french fries. Posh way of saying fish and chips.  Plum cake for dessert, yes it's still going.  It's like trying to eat a tennis court..

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Flowers, Simple Food, no fooling

White Rabbits!  April Flowers!  the first sprigs of thyme today, the warm weather having put the flavor back in them.

So here's my New Year's Resolution, the last one, which was to get a bunch of cut flowers on the first of the month, just because they're nice to have in the house.  I completely forgot it in Jan and Feb, and did manage a little bunch in mid March.  But today, I was in the, gah, ShopRite, a shop I postpone as long as possible going to,and they had some nice choices at the door.
And home to a very simple lunch, since today was a frenzy of squirrel in the walls eradication attempts, traps, neighbor up and down stairs checking, calls to HOA roofers to fix part of the corner, neighbor planning to get some mesh screening to fix over the inside of my roof fan in case that's an entry, someone swiping my parking tag from my car, different issue, the HOA requiring a raft of new paperwork to get a new parking tag, different issue again, the car dealership calling, another different issue, gah, I have to take it in next week and use a loaner, dreaded thing.  And so on.  

The car, oh yes, after much deliberation I decided I was not up for a car loan this year, and decided to swallow hard and have the expensive brake repairs done.  The car's running like a bird, a shame to turn it in when it's faithfully starting in any weather on the first touch, and generally doing a good job.  So the dealership has got the parts on order, I will take my dear old beater in next week and be without her for two or three days and a weekend. Hence the loaner. There just isn't a time on my calendar when I can be without wheels for that long a time. 

Newer cars are so much more sophisticated than my 99 Civic that when I have to drive one I feel as if I've come back from the eighteenth century, and seeing modern contraptions, what be this button for, then, prithee? mixed language but bear with me, I'm stressed.  This may account for my bah humbug attitude to April Fool jokes today, on finding that Blogger is fooling with my posts and losing them. Let's hope this one survives.

So, one thing and another, lunch was a plate of veggies from the freezer, celery, red bell peppers and watercress, with a pinch of new picked thyme, heavenly first smell of the year, and sharp cheddar grated over.  

In the course of grating it I found that I have three graters, no idea how I came by them all.  One flat, one round and small, one round and big.  I might have a grater giveaway at some point!

Take teapots, too.  I recently noticed I seem to have half a dozen of them. Now I do like my little afternoon tea with a little something to eat, but all those pots. I don't remember how they got there, since I don't collect them, on purpose, that is.  They just seem to be attracted into my orbit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Back in the Kitchen, with the Cake as Big as a Football Field

This month the Bite Club selection is Melissa Clark, whom I've often heard on WNYC talking at such speed that I rarely get more than a word here and there.  But her books are entertaining and very conversational in tone, and today I took a shot at a recipe from Cook This Now.  This was for a figgy demerara snacking cake.

Except I don't have fresh figs, nobody does in this region right now, and I didn't have brandy, which she puts in her baking.  So I used black plums, quartered and pitted, and subbed the brandy with merlot, figuring that if she's after an alcohol touch, that should work. And I didn't have demerara sugar for sprinkling over the top, so I used ordinary granulated.

And I had to buy a new baking pan to accommodate this giant cake, which she explains is so big because you can't reduce the recipe without ruining it.  Because -- one egg! etc.

Her instructions say, after making the batter, to nestle the fruit on top all over it.  And as I was nestling away, I realized I was making a giant version of Marion Burros plum torte...oh. I make hers in August using prune plums, but other than that, not a lot of difference.

Except that I actually like this one better, grainy with wholewheat flour, and at 18 x 13, enough cake for the foreseeable future, which suits me fine, needing a little something when I'm home in the afternoon for tea.  I did feel as if I were cooking for a summer camp, though. But I'm glad to have the new baking pan, since my old ones are not quite up to the task after decades of use.

I'm listening to The Big Short, about the financial prime mortgage collapse and what led up to it, very good stuff to bake by, even if I did get a bit lost in the financial technicalities, but since I remember it all coming down, it in fact worked fine for me, explaining a lot of what was mysterious when it was in the news. 

And when you're hearing about the blind greed verging on lunacy that brought about the housing finance collapse, it's good to be grounded and baking and generally doing something sane and part of civilized life, and with a desirable result.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter Sunday if you celebrate it. Happy Sunday if you don't!

Since the Dollivers had their big outing last week to the artist event, a mini revolt took place back on the bookcase.  Frilly Bear whined that she's never had a starring role, Greensleeves said she hadn't had enough pix, and Victorian Doll just looked hurt and put upon, despite her lovingly handknit outfit.

So they got to be the Stewards of the Eggs this year, and wish you all a happy Easter and a good Spring.  

This year's eggs are the bronze, gold and turquoise ones, yet to be distributed.  And you see the tiny painted eggs in the miniature teacup? from my long ago cockatiel Emily Hope.  And various other kitty and eggy items all with histories, sitting in an antique New Jersey spongeware dish. And you can see the White Rabbit, back to the camera, issuing instructions for his forthcoming role when the month turns again.  I wonder if he's hiring Frilly Bear for the heavy lifting?

They also took care of the miniature chocolate bunnies, which won't last long today.

Now it's off to the kitchen to finish the Easter lunch menu, part of which Handsome Son will supply, such as hors d'oeuvres and dessert.  Chocolate will feature in the latter, I expect.

Main event is ham with pineapple and with cherry sauce and mustard, scalloped potatoes, mixed vegetables.  Nice bottle of Prosecco brut. And I have to find the tablecloths and napkins and cheese board and knife, and various other festive items.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Dollivers Report on Their Residency this Afternoon

My dears, we are EXHAUSTED.  Such a long afternoon, so many admirers, we can't tell you.  It was Week Four of the Artist in Residence series at the library, Boud's series on the textile arts.  And of course we were the stars. We were dressed in knitted outfits, Boud needing to show them to the people who came to see us.  

And we brought along a lot of our knitted wardrobe, see it there next to our traveling hatbox, so people wouldn't think we were one-outfit yarn people.  We were introduced to our admirers, by name, and they were suitably impressed, we think.

We brought the Dolliver Kennels dogs, too, and it's too bad we don't do autographs, because we could have been signing and signing...

Boud of course, was messing about doing unrelated things like spinning to show people, and showing knitted art and crocheted art, and talking about the history of textiles and the physics of spinning, and who knows what else.  But we must say that our traveling hatbox made a great viewing area for us to observe the passing crowds.  We think it should have been nearer the front, but if you want a thing done right, do it yourself, and we let Boud set this up.

A couple of people decided they should check this blog to see our adventures, what Boud calls, rudely, exploits.  And we did observe library etiquette and omit Elton and the musical accompaniment, though we did think it wouldn't have hurt to have a bit of Ruffles and Flourishes when we arrived.  Considering we were the Main Event of the Day.

Nice glass of wine now, we think.