Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pancake rescue, and hope springs eternal out there

Update on the homemade curry powder: on the flounder, it was really good as a rub.  Interesting, not just hot.  And I made a turkey curry, using Bill Veach's recipe I showed you here earlier, which was the first one I'd given Handsome Son.  Handsome Partner and I used to eat it all the time before HS was born, but it's fiddly and I didn't make it so often after we had another person's taste to consider.

But I found he loved it, ate large quantities, together with the jasmine brown rice I'd cooked with raisins and almond slices, requested it in future, too.  And it made several more meals for me.  So this was worth doing.  I served banana chutney and sliced banana in lemon juice as condiments, and one of us liked them! I used to make other sides, too, but didn't go that far this time.

Then I was interested in something different for breakfast and found what looked like a good pancake recipe, involving the rest of the bananas, on a craft site.  

Now I now that this is like going to the hardware store and hoping for baked goods or something, and it was about as useful.  You'd think a simple pancake recipe would work.  It did not.  It was too thin, stuck, just troooooouble.  

So I turned the rest of the batter into the old standby clafouti, a la Julia Child.  I used a handful of frozen berries.  

And as you see, this was a real improvement.  Probably okay for breakfast, too, come to think of it.

Outside, nature never fails, and today here are the noses of my entire troop of snowdrops, bravely standing up to be counted.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Field and Fen lives up to its name for once

A couple of mild winter days is all it takes for me to get out, walking up a storm, observing, collecting, and generally liking the season and the freedom to see it.

I'm reading one of Tristan Gooley's books, and getting a raft of great ideas from it, some of them even useful.
This is out in ebook form, and I'm reading it via Hoopla at the moment. I tried to give you the full link showing the cover, but Blogger panicked and said, no, no, not secure, don't go there, sigh. Very readable prose, and though he's based in the UK, his observations are interesting for other parts, too.  He's walked and observed all over the world in practically every natural surrounding, and lived to tell the tale.
I already started noticing things about trees and mud and wind that I hadn't put together before.  Anyway, if you make art, you'll like these ways of seeing, and if you like walking, you'll like his approach, and if you're an armchair hiker, it's still fun to read. Some of his tracking skills are vital for readers of detective stories, where you have to see whether there were three people or four carrying another, or whether the bike or the car came by first..

I do a modest amount of tracking at the Preserve, since you can see traces of deer, fox and other animals, from footprints in mud, and scat and munched trees and shrubs, and this encourages me to continue.
Winter is a good time to observe the effects of weather on trees, since their skeletons are in view.  Around here the effects are as likely to be those of the power company as the weather, but you learn to allow for that, too. 
And yesterday I went in search of witchhazel, and may be a little early, since there were just buds, nothing open yet, but I brought a few twigs home in the hope that the indoor warmth would push them on a bit.  They're the reddish ones on the right, which will open into tiny shaggy blossoms, red and yellow, ragged petals.
A bit of fluff from a bird came home with it, so I left it in place.

In the same glass there is another shrub, too, the one with the yellowish cruciferous blossoms, and I'm hoping that maybe Quinn, or Judy, with much greater knowledge than I, can suggest what it is. Is it related to witchhazel? different blossom form, though.  And my searches have not turned up a possible name. 

I'm particularly happy to see anything that blossoms in January, anyway, even earlier than my six snowdrops, which I hope will return this year, despite being trampled on by the builders, and having equipment and materials shoved around on their territory.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January bits and bobs

Today would have been my dad's birthday. He was born in 1895, yes, hard to believe, I know.  Long gone now, but I always remember him particularly on his birthday.

Snow recently, then the wind and the temps changed its shapes.  Here's a longish view of the patio

and then if you zero in, you see accidental snow art

preacher and congregation?  dictator and rally?  duck and ducklings?  more ideas?

then the last of the Granny Smith apples bought for the chutney went to make a very good apple crumble.  

I don't use brown sugar for this, never buy it, in fact, just add in molasses to the mixture. The flavor is better than just from brown sugar, when you mix molasses with white.

And one of the advantages of a frosty upper atmosphere is the evening sky, many colors, some of which are not detected by the camera. 

This is the time of year for sundogs, too, so I'm looking out for them. Witchhazel, too.  It flowers in January and I'm often on the lookout for it.  There was a wonderful stand of it at the local college before Sandy swept away all the plantings of the area it was in.  But we have one here, too, near the bus stop. So I swipe a couple of twigs to bring home and observe.

And I kept my New Year's resolution, and brought home a little bunch of flowers for the house.  Yellow, carnation-like, not sure of their name. Sent out my January mailbag today, too.  I stuck address slips on them, not because I want to guilt people into writing back, but because a couple of people have been puzzled about who was writing, and took a while to realize it was me, so I thought it would be better to let you know, rather than recognize my drunken spider hand and eventually decipher it in order to see who it is!

I knitted another pink pussyhat, this one for home consumption, on the day of the march.  You'll see.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Meanwhile, there's chutney

This afternoon, very cold and windy, and errands done, car rescued from snow, I thought that banana chutney would be a good thing to do.  Accompanied by a great audio of Wind in the Willows, I assembled all the ingredients, and set to work.

This is in fact very simple to make. Just put all the items in a heavy pot, cook slowly for ages until it goes thick and spreadable looking, then spoon into sterilized mason jars.  

I boil the jars throughout the cooking time, then just use tongs to get them onto the cloth for the filling.  After they've cooled, they can be refrigerated.

Chutney really needs time to mature but I had to at least try it, and see if it worked, and found that it did.  

Here it's a little snack, yesterday's baked bread, with sharp cheddar, and a nice spoonful of chutney on top.  Sparkling glass of moscato, why not.

Chutney goes well with all kinds of meat.  I don't eat red meat, but I like it with cheese on good bread.  I plan a curry later in the week, when Handsome Son is up for it, his turn to be a bit seedy today, and chutney always good for that. I also got in a good bottle of ginger ale to go with. You can't drink wine with curry, clashes with the spices, but beer is good if you like it.  Ginger beer or ale next best.

The neighbor who kindly cleared off my car then moved it for the plow to dig out my space is on the list for a taste of this chutney. He is not too sure what it is, a good cook, but not a very adventurous one, but he'll taste anything.  And he can identify what's in it from tasting, which I am impressed by.

I'm noticing more and more parallels in literature and other reading to today's political scene. Toad in W in the W, I realized as I listened while cooking,  is a bombastic demanding, grandiose, easily upset character, bragging about exploits which were not quite as advertised...who can that echo.  

And Roderick Spode, in J and Wooster, the leader of the Blackshorts, originally a spoof on Mussolini, giving speeches about practically nothing to fervent followers, marching about but easily upset by people finding out the wrong things about him...again, that's another eerie reminder.  

Colonel Whatsisname, the one who gets murdered in the vicarage, looks as if Agatha Christie had the number of another bombastic, bullying type, proud of his showy home, bought from, it turns out, ill gotten gains.  It's all too eerie and upsetting and makes me long to survive it all. 

But meanwhile, there's chutney.  That would be a good novel title, or maybe a book of essays.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rare sighting, and the bread that snow brings on

After the forecast talked about occasional snow showers, and I planned on an expedition today, it suddenly changed its mind and was all about heavy snow all day, stay off the roads, and generally whatever you planned, change it.

I looked out later and saw this rare sighting.  A snowman-building monkey!  Now I'd heard of tool-using animals, but this seemed pretty advanced to me.  The resolution of the pic is poor, but so are the pix of Nessie and the Abominable Snowman, so I'm in good company.

And my plans for outdoor things changed to realizing I had no bread in the house, and needed to bake.  For a change from the one giant loaf pattern, I broke out the little pans, and made four loaves, easier to cut, with them.  

The reason they look so craggy artisanal, is that I changed the recipe.  Again. This time part wheat, part white, a lot of oatmeal.  Then I had to add another cup of flour, because oatmeal tends to absorb the liquid but not go doughy.   And it worked fine.  Came out with a very nice crumb, that's the inside bit, technical term, and a wonderful crust.  It's the oatmeal that makes it look all Scottish. If bread could talk, this would sound Glaswegian, like Handsome Partner.  And there are poppy seeds on top.

I was shipped these pans years ago by lovely friends who wanted to help me during the caregiving years and save my having to use precious minutes out shopping instead of getting a break when I had a couple of hours respite.  I love them, and think of Carol and of Mare every time I get them out.

If I have the energy left, and am not spinning, weaving or reading Barbara Pym or watching Jeeves and Bertie, I will make the banana chutney this evening from the Bill Veach book.  

The only drawback to reading is that I can't spin or weave or knit or cook, while I do it.  And I haven't found any Pym on audiobook.  There's a gap in that market.  I bet at least a dozen or so people would like it..


Friday, January 6, 2017

Pink pussyhat on its way to a Washington marcher

Today I finished up my pussyhat, just enough yarn to get it done. I did alter the pattern, though, since I'd seen pix of the finished ones in use, and they looked a bit big. So I took a couple of inches off the length, and that worked fine.

I had to model it for you.  Here's my I'm Wearing My Pussyhat, don't Mess with Me face

and the result of attempting to do that was the usual screaming laughing!

I pinned my info to the hat, and asked that the wearer be strong, and continue to fight to keep the gains older women like me have won for younger ones.  

I gave my blog address, too, in case anyone wants to check back and see what's up here.  So it's on its way, and will be there Monday, plenty of time.

I'll be tweeting the pix, too, and putting a link on Ravelry. There's still time for a rapid knitter to get a hat in under the wire. 

This has been a fun bit of activism, combining taking part in a movement of our time, using skills to do it, and sending a message to an individual wearer.  A hat trick, you might say.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

On Finding an Old Cookbook, and revisiting the recipes

This Bill Veach cookbook has been in my life for decades, but I hadn't realized I still had it till I suddenly wondered if it would be good to make a curry. I make a lot of spicy food, but not specifically curried this and that.

So I found it behind something else on the cookbook shelf, and set to work.  This is a lovely book, on Indian food preparation by a longtime resident, made for Western cooks to follow. Not sure if it's still available but if so, well worth the finding. It's friendly, chatty, and very well presented, lovely cover, typeface and all that.

And I found my old favorite, Buckingham Palace Curry. Plan on making that soon, with roast turkey I have lurking in the freezer. 

You can easily tell this page was a favorite in our house.

Meanwhile,  I also looked up chutneys and curry powders. I used to go the whole way when I cooked this stuff, making my own ghee (my Indian friend, who has eaten it all her life, never made it, was very impressed, but said, well nowadays we buy it made!)

I also made my own chutneys, unless we were going for Major Grey's Mango Chutney, than which there is nothing better.  And I made my own coconut milk, grating and squeezing fresh coconut. I must have been hyper enthusiastic.

Today, I decided, after noticing that I have all the spices needed to make Bill's No. 1 curry powder, that all I needed to was assemble them and set to work.

This started out as just a recipe, but became a wonderful aromatherapy session.  The scent of newly opened green cardamom seeds is heavenly, and all the other spices, as you spoon them out, are wonderful. On top of the jar on the left you see a cardamom seed, hull and contents. You need to get the seeds out for use.

I don't have a scale, so I went with his suggestion to sub teaspoons in the same proportions, easy, and it makes a nice small supply.
Ground it up in the coffee grinder, and here's the result

 The grinder needs serious wiping and cleaning and airing after this recipe, so that my next nut flour won't be curry flavored.

And here, in a jar is how my personal Curry Powder No 1.  will be on the shelf.  Glass jar, tightly capped. All the proud parents looking on at their little product.

I compared it to what's left of a jar of commercial curry powder, and found they use more cumin, but my mix is very good.  This is not sizzling hot, just very spicy flavor.  And I can always adjust as I go, after trying it a few times.

So I now have a dish of curried baby bella mushrooms in the freezer for when I need an interesting vegetable side, and a piece of flounder marinating in milk and a curry rub, in the fridge probably for tomorrow.  

The mushrooms were easy, just slice and chop, and wait till the mixture of butter and oil has stopped foaming in the pan, add in the curry powder, just a half teaspoonful this time, and let it cook a while to release flavor, then add in mushrooms. Cook till you like them, then stop! Cool, label and freeze. Done. 

It's usually a good idea to cook spices first, in the hot oil, before you add other items, better flavor that way. I do this all the time, even salt is better this way.  So if you happen to have a raft of spices, here's a great recipe which reminds you why you got them in the first place.

I can now take my proud place alongside Indian women who make their own curry powder, and masala and all that..and I'm looking at the banana chutney recipe now, too. Bananas are great with curry.

Next I need to sit a while. I'm doing better, antibiotics taking hold, but I'm amazingly tired after a bit of activity.  Might even take on Handsome's Son tactful text this morning: "maybe you can take time to rest.."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Pussyhat Project and other Good Things

I interrupted my weaving journey to take a short while to knit a PussyHat to send to be worn by any marcher in the Million Women March on Washington (and a lot of other cities) the day after the inauguration.Since I won't be there in person, my work can be. So I embarked on this today as soon as I found out about the project, yes, late to the party, it's been going on ages in Facebook, where I don't go.

Anyway, I have about half a hat done, and some yarn on order to do a bit more.  This yarn is significant in that it's from some I was given from the home of my late friend Karen, and I'm using it in her honor. She'd totally approve of this!  and it's a great way to take part, and to memorialize a great woman now gone. It's fine yarn, in peach and in pink, and I'm knitting both together, so make a warm pink and the right gauge for the hat.  And it will go as a gift to any marcher in the Washington group, to wear on the day, and keep as a reminder.

The pattern is uber simple, so even a new knitter can tackle it. It  needs to be pink, for symbolic reasons, and it makes up into a hat with pointed ears, as the pussy symbol, one which women are taking back big-time!  for obvious reasons.

If you want to be part of this, not a lot of time left to get a hat or more created and sent off, in good time to be received and distributed, go here. 

Needless to say the Dollivers all want one, but I think humans come first this time.  Several of them at once might model the hat before I ship it off.

Reading is always with us, and with the death yesterday of John Berger, I pawed through my bookshelves to reread Ways of Seeing, a brilliant and very approachable series of essays on art and how we perceive it, and how we interpret it without knowing, though the lens of our time.  Very worth looking at.  For artists, required reading, really, and for everyone, valuable.

Some chapters are all images, and you draw your own conclusions. A lot of it is about how women have been perceived, the assumption being that men perceive them, and that's what they're for. Berger eviscerates this notion, and goes beyond that into a very intelligent analysis of what we see and how and why we see it.

And the holiday stuff is away now, doesn't take long, just a couple of little bags, the gingerbread village leftover now hanging outside added to the bird feeders.  And the crystals are going to stay on the tree, since they catch the morning sun and rainbows flash around the room, very cheering for someone like me, who wakes up feeling rather glum each day. 

Having projects ready to dive into is always a good thing, especially this week, when I'm a bit housebound, under the weather a bit, but still knitting and reading and weaving.  

I'm rereading Barbara Pym, always a huge comedy cheering up project, currently on Less Than Angels, one of the best.  The character of Catherine Oliphant is one of the best in the Pym oeuvre, and if she doesn't exist in real life, well, she should.   

I love the way Pym creates an entire world by having characters move in and out of novels, some main characters in one playing bit parts in others, or even just being reported on by friends.  Sometimes she even describes characters without having her narrator know them, but the reader does, always a great touch.

So there are my current recommendations for making and reading, and decorating, for your entertainment!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year's Greeting to everyone from all the Ds and friends and animals

You know how it is in any large group, there are a couple of rugged individuals who don't want to pose.  Big Old Doll refused to leave her rocker, now ensconced on a very nice little quilt made for me long ago. She holds onto the arms of the rocker like grim death, as if someone might swipe it.  And Elton is busy on some errand involving other bears and bars, I think.

So all the others are rounded up, Bed Doll, Greensleeves, the entire Dolliver Kennel population, plus tiny dolls and various bears who invited themselves in.  A bit blurred, because I got caught by the failing light, keep forgetting it gets dark early, and the spare bedroom is not all lamped up.

And we all wish you a very good 2017, with perhaps less excitement than this year brought.  My New Year's Resolution is not about that staple of the bookstores, self improvement, but about just being good to me as well as to other people!  This may include fresh flowers in the house now and then. There's a chance that this resolution will be kept.

Not that I'm altogether hung up on dates and years.  They're only an invention, really.  I still haven't finished arguing about the millennium, which was not 2000, but 2001.  Anyone who can count should know that, but a lot of people didn't care, and thought it was nice and decorative to have that round number. 

Anyway, perhaps it's about time I stopped arguing that particular point..but all you have to do is realize that 2000 years would bring you to the end not the beginning of the year.  But very few of us celebrated it that way, sigh.  Yes, I'll let it go now. Otherwise a big hook might appear from the margin...

But thank you all, blogistas, commenters, emailers and personal chatters who follow in here, and enjoy.  That's why I do it, and it's great to know someone is reading out there!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Post Holiday Nice Simple Food

After the lovely feasting of the last few days, with all kinds of extras just because, it was good to cook something simple today.  And Handsome Son may be over for dinner tomorrow, so he can have some, too. Thinking of seafood pasta for our main course, in fact it's marinating in lemon juice with lime slices right now, but this soup, with hot biscuits, will come before.

This is chickpea and tomato soup, with added yogurt whey, curry leaves, rosemary and some chicken broth.  Very easy to make, no chopping of onions, even.  And not long either.  We are at the time of year when I have no more farm tomatoes, and use canned ones, since the tomatoid objects in the "fresh" food section are not really worth it.

The hot biscuits, this time with fennel seeds added in, waiting to bake, are a good partner for the soup.

So here's today's lunch

I did have a bit of chocolate for dessert.  Just to finish it off, neatly.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Catnip Capers

'Twas the night before Kitmas
And all through the house
Not a quiet moment anywhere
Since the kits found their mouse

Told it was catnip, they mewed "We can dream
Go away! let us play!" 

As they tussled and swiped 

and made off with their swag
Until the mouse took on the look of a rag

At length, all blissed out, they called for a truce
Pawsed to thank Santa Kate
Then with no further mews

Both sank happily into a dormant and a little bit glassy eyed  state.

So kitties and Dollivers, Elton and Boud
Wish you and your family a catnippy mood!

Enjoy the holidays, be of good cheer
For the end of this poem is finally near...

Monday, December 19, 2016

What you do when you lose it, your signal, that is

For various technical reasons, mainly that my friend next door unplugged the system he lets me into, while he works on the electrical upgrades he's doing, I had no signal yesterday and today. I'm at the libe, undaunted, blogging and tweeting and all the usual activity today, including dealing with an amazing buildup in the email inboxes.

But by last evening, no libe access, xfinity too feeble to carry a signal, I wondered, having watched a wonderful episode of Zen (have you seen it? great series about a detective working in Rome) and read a bit, what next.  And thought ah, here's a chance to do a little bit in advance of next Sunday's Christmas big deal meal.  

So I hauled out the Silver Palate and found a candied ginger carrot recipe.  Would never do this usually, since I don't go for veggies made into candy, but oh well, try it once.  It involves butter, brown sugar, caraway seeds and powdered ginger, and it now all done and sitting in the freezer ready to be reheated . We'll see if it's popular enough to repeat for special times.

I also found that reading a Barbara Pym in bed makes for much more calm dreaming than even the most peaceful audiobook. So that's something to be said for no wifi.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ice conditions require baking

Since the first half of the day was about ice and snow and freezing rain, it seemed like a good day to decide to be active indoors. Particularly since my neighbor brushed off my sidewalk, steps, and car before he took off for the day. 

I caught up on baking, both wholewheat bread and banana bread, and took out the yogurt cheese I'd had draining in the fridge for a couple of days.

The bread is from the Healthy Bread book, except that I change up the flour often.  You need 7.5 cups for this recipe, makes four sturdy loaves. Today I used 4 wholewheat, two all purpose and one and a half oatmeal. Cups, that is. I left the oatmeal as whole flakes, interesting to eat, rather than grind into flour.

The banana bread, baked in my trusty castiron baking dish, worked well.  I like to add stuff in to the basic recipe, today golden raisins and crushed walnuts. When I've used golden raisins I've been dusting them in the flour first, so they won't sink in the cake.  But they hung onto the flour, and tasted okay but didn't look so pretty.

So this time I mixed them into the mashed bananas, sugar and egg, beat them all together, then added in the flour, baking soda and salt whisked together.  Baked about an hour at 325F.  Worked a treat. They blend very well. So this is how I plan to do it from now on.

Then put up the oven heat to 450F for the bread, and baked that, in the usual nonstick casserole dish, about an hour.  I bake in the same dish I mix it in, works nicely.

I had put some whole milk yogurt, Dannon my favorite, probably because it was what I ate all the time as an au pair in France long ago, up for cheese a couple of days ago.  

This is where you turn the whole big container into a cheesecloth-lined strainer, sitting on a bowl.  Cover it, sit in the fridge for a day or two, so the whey strains out.  Then the solids make a lovely cream cheese.  I use it everywhere you might spread butter or cream cheese, and it's tangy and more interesting than either of them.  The whey is now in the freezer ready to use in soup.

Perfect for afternoon tea, as here.  As I picked up the tray to carry it through, the fork flew off across the room with a clatter.  I'd never get a job at the Ritz at this rate.

You did know that afternoon tea is what they serve at posh UK places to visitors? that's the name. It's not high tea, that's a kind of workman's supper deal, a knife and fork meal you come home from work to, involving meat and other stuff.  Poor man's dinner. So now you know.  And if you see establishments advertising high tea, you know they don't know their onions. Or their afternoon tea. The food might be good, though, so try it anyway.

So today's baking yield will go, some across the street to Rajiv, who is a keen fan of banana bread, some for Handsome Son, some for me. The bread, a couple of slices of lovely crusty stuff to neighbor for tomorrow's breakfast, to substitute for those "English muffins" he buys.  They remind me of hockey pucks, no matter how much jam you put on them.  

And since banana bread has bread in its name, I might have some toasted for breakfast, too. The bread police are out brushing off cars.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Birthday and future excitement

Last year I marked the day with a series of art suggestions for blogistas to try at home. This year, different stuff.  I was invited to offer another Artist In Residence series at the local libe, Plainsboro Public Library, gift to the township from me, and today I suddenly came up with a cool idea.

Artists' books, a series of four sessions of demo and teaching, for anyone who wants to try their hand.  Seemed very appropriate since it's taking place in the library.

This kind of thing:

Here you see some of my own books, some made from pages of my drawings, some from monotypes, a couple of small portfolios, these are fun to make, and in the top right corner, one made from a single sheet of paper.  And there are more forms, not too hard to create for a first attempt.

Can't guarantee that in one session you can learn the more tricky techniques, but it will be a good intro. And some of them kids will be able to do, in fact I've taught one type already to people of all ages, who did fine.  I have some excellent books to bring in with me, showing clearly how to make a range of forms.  And we'll xerox instructions to take away.

Speaking of first attempts. Ambitious mom last summer at the make and take paper weaving I conducted for the Festival day in September, looking over the more advanced samples I'd brought in of paperweaving.  I made samples that kids could actually make that day, too.

She passed over the kids' samples, and selected one of the artworks  that was pretty much professional level, brought in to show that paper weaving can be an artform,  and demanded that I teach her five year old "that one".  Very crestfallen when I explained that first you need to learn to weave paper, then you can progress to more advanced ways of using it..but she was reconciled and her little girl had a great time.  She made herself a little pendant and went away happily wearing it.

The Artist Book AIR will involve folding, stitching, beading, stamping, drawing, all kinds of artforms, and will be sometime in Spring.  I'm thinking that at least one of the sessions might be ahead of Mother's Day, so kids can make a present. Or maybe mother can make one herself in the free time she requests that day. Most moms really like a bit of peace and quiet as a gift.

Several blogistas own one or more of these, gift from the artist, and they are pretty acceptable as presents. Blank pages if the person wants to write or draw or do her own sort of thing, decorated if you just want to create an entire artwork.

So now I have some planning and prep to do, including making a couple of batches of paper, wonderful for artists' books.

So if you're local, try to stop in, and I'll keep you updated on dates and times.  Most probably on the ground floor of the library again, where you can see me at work as you come in.  No need to register, just show up.

And if you're too far away to attend, I'll blog as I go and you can bookmake along if you choose.  So this birthday gift is a bit in the future, but there you go, time is just an illusion..

Birthdays, Christmas prep and clam chowder

This latest birthday, always such a surprise to get another, is working out a treat, what with nice things arriving, and wishes and so on, for days now, I feel like the Queen, except she's more used to it.

Anyway, I have finally grown up to the point where I will allow Christmas decor to happen before the Most Important Day, so here's the total of my splurge.  

 Woven stars for peace showered down on the three creches in there.  And decorations on the ficus, which takes a seasonal job working as a Christmas tree.

This dumpster table is one of the nicest things I ever swiped.  So adaptable.  Side table at Thanksgiving, and now Christmas decor table. It has the extra added attraction that the kitties are not interested in it, saving me many hours of finding and replacing little items that have been played under the sofa. And the Dollivers are not in evidence. Judging from the racket upstairs, they're kneedeep in outfits, looking for their red festive ones, and jewelry, too.

Awaiting the surprise

Handsome Son brought dinner over a couple of nights ago, since he's working the other evenings, a lovely dish of roast chicken breast over noodles in Alfredo sauce.  Dessert was his own home baked, and his own recipe, chocolate chip cookies.  And he made the tea that went with them.  And brought the interesting soft drinks that went with the main course.  It was all a surprise, hence the empty table!

Then today is bitterly cold, high winds, too, very quiet since the reno contractors can't work in this weather, thankfully for them, I expect, so it called for soup.  

Ages since I made clam chowder, though I've had a little can of clams waiting for the mood for ages.  And Roma plum tomatoes from the farm, in the freezer.  And fish bits to make into fish stock in a bag in the freezer.  And potatoes already in the house.  And my homegrown thyme in the freezer. So clam chowder it was.

Like this

The fish stock was the simplest I ever did: just heated up the fish bits in enough water for the soup, boiled the lot, and added it after straining out the fish, flavor surprisingly good.

I did rescue the onions and garlic before they charred.  One of the drawbacks of being the cook and the photographer and the food designer is that you sometimes lose track.

Then, since I don't like soup that is liquid with floating islands of solid food in it, I did blend it a bit, just to change the texture, but not to lose all the interest. I had already taken out the floating tomato skins, but I like to cook with them in place, good flavor there.  So here's the finished Birthday Chowder

 Perfect insulation in this weather, reminds me of what my mom used to refer to as the weather of the  "poor sailors at sea" always making me include them in my prayers at night in winter storms.  We were close to the North Sea, historically a rough and dangerous sea where a lot of local fisherfolk worked their catch, so it was more than theoretical.

So I now have a large container, soup, not fisherfolk, for Handsome Son and me when he next comes over, plus several small ones just for me, in the freezer.

And I have art news, which is also birthday type news, for which you need to consult Art the Beautiful Metaphor.  Last year I gave out virtual gifts to blogistas. But this year, it's a plan.  Seems like a good time to plan for events I will be doing next spring, and this one is new hatched.  Since I will be blogging about it, and offering it in person for free, it's a gift to my township via the library.

But, last for best, here is a marvelous bouquet which appeared this morning at the door, from sister dogonart.  The smell is wonderful, the downstairs all now like summer.  And since it's in a rectangular container, it has two sides.  Here are both

And since I can never resist forcing information on teaching people
see the stripey tulips?  tulips and roses and other flowers were all stripey in the middle ages before they were hybridized and made into solid colors.  

You see them in old tapestries and paintings, and Ronsard mentioned this in his poetry.  And now the taste for them has returned so they're sort of reverse engineering them to get stripes again, and they're lovely.  I hope you're taking good notes, there will be a quiz.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Just never too old to love a parcel!

Such larks! to quote Dickens or someone.  There on the step a box, waiting for me.  Natal day is next week sometime, but this was sent early enough to be sure it gets here promptly.  And it did.

Soooooo, warned to open it on a counter, so does this mean it's a tiara and the diamonds might fall out if I drop it?  I knew it was not a doll, what a concept, a present that's not a doll.  Soooo, unwrap plenty of brown paper insulation.

Then come to bubble wrapped middle bit

Then get into that with care and see what emerged

It's perfect!  English bone china, lovely long pins already in place, semi precious stones in the heads, this covers several bases of my favorite things all at one time.  I wish I were as gifted at gifts as K is, but my part in this is just to say thank you, I love it! and had to open it right away, and not wait.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Early start on holiday doings

Today I got down to organizing a lot of small (physically small, that is) presents for local friends this year.  Party on Sunday, so I had to be ready ahead of time.

Stars are featuring largely this year, after an obsessive attention to making them from any paper at hand, or ribbon.  I tried fabric, but it didn't work so well.

Put out creche, few ornaments on ficus tree playing the part of a fir, and I think I'm done. Then I can just read, which is what I had in mind all along.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline Gets a Reprieve, and the Standing Rock Sioux a victory for once

Stars, they're all stars

Anyone who has been following the long and agonizing struggle to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing Indian sovereign territory, including their freshwater source and their sacred grounds, is rejoicing today at the announcement from Washington.

Months of peaceful protest on the part of the Water Protectors, acting on behalf of all of us, really, in the insistence on protecting our natural water resources, were met by violence from local and state police forces, using water cannon in subfreezing temperatures on unarmed praying people, firing rubber bullets and causing injury.  

Reporters were arrested for simply doing their job of reporting and taking pictures, the authorities illegally closed a highway with no right to do so, and in general there was a degree of lawlessness from the police, who described the protesters as rioters. Forgetting, perhaps that in the age of the smart phone, pictures and video demonstrating the falsity of those charges were flying all round the world.

So today came down the word that the administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, were not granting the easement needed to route the pipeline across the Indian reserved territory.  A new study was ordered, and the participation of the tribal leaders included in it -- this was not the case up to now -- to look for an alternative access route, and for the moment, victory is in the air.

Those of us who have been bombarding the Department of Justice and the White House with demands to look into the police conduct and restore order and proper treatment of legal peaceful demonstration, preserving that right, in the constitution, are happy this evening.  

We did our tiny bit. Nothing like the sheer bravery of the unarmed people facing down water cannon and rubber bullets and threats varying from criminal charges and fines, as well as being blockaded from supplies. At least we did what we could.  Nothing like the bravery of medics who were also hosed down in freezing weather and fired at while administering first aid to injured people in the early stages of hypothermia.  But we did what we could.

Cheers everyone!  good news for once for the native American heroes and the veterans, many of them also native American, whose wave of support this weekend seems to have tipped the scale. And we need to stay alert, to preserve this victory.

And to take the example of the tribal leaders who responded with dignity and decorum, graciously, certainly a model for us all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Meal for One, last minute thought

Today being dark and rainy and generally gloomy outside, it called for something hot and interesting to eat for supper.  So I made a greedy meal for one, one helping only, nothing to share, and it was good enough to tell about.  

It was a shiitake mushroom, grape tomato and two kinds of cheese pepper jack and sharp cheddar, bake, with an egg broken over it. 20 minutes at 385F in a glass dish, and it was ready.  

Before and after cooking pix. 

 Before shows the whole tomatoes, definitely better than cutting them up and losing the flavor in the cooking.  Cheese cubes about the same size as tomatoes, so all the ingredients are basically same size, so cooking will work best.

 Here, after cooking,  the tomatoes have exploded a bit, the cheese has melted, the egg cooked, and the flavor was great.

The tomatoes were in the freezer since July, from the farmer's market, and if you do this, the flavor is just like summer.  I froze them immediately I got them home.  No need for any seasoning with this meal. The mushrooms were cooked for Tgiving, and saved out, and the cheeses and tomatoes were enough flavor, along with that.  Plus a nice farm egg.

All in all, this is worth trying.  Over a couple of slices of homebaked wholewheat toast.  Accompanied by a glass of prosecco, which cheered me up no end. 

As did a visit yesterday from a friend to whom I'd given some Thanksgiving sponge candy.  She's Indian and we are constantly educating each other about various food items.  It's the place where we intersect best.  

And she said they were at a bit of a loss, since I didn't give any instructions with this box.  Usually, she pointed out, I say to nuke for 25 seconds or something, when it's a baked thing, but how to eat this?  I just said pick up a piece and bite!  it's like a candy bar, big enough for several bites, and better fun than breaking it up.  So she bustled off to try it out!  So now I know I should have included instructions. Reminds me of my first digi camera, which I loved because the first instruction in the box was: take camera out of box!

This post has been an exercise in multitasking, with many Skype messages to respond to, coming in at exactly the same time as uploading, labeling, writing and switching back and forth.  I must reread to make sure I don't have two streams of consciousness bumping into each other here.  I expect it's all good for brain power.  Or something.