Thursday, January 27, 2022

Resting on Laurels today

Machboos rubyan was a great success. Handsome Son did it great justice and the evening went FIIIIIIINE.

The overhead light is a task light, very white, for working, so it washed out a lot of color.  But the dish, by the usual table light, was fine, lovely and golden and browned, sizzling hot, smelling like a Bahreini kitchen!

The halibut, a first for me, was just lovely, cooked along with the shrimp, both ready together. 

Anyway it came off really well. And the hand-dipped chocolates and tea afterwards were decadent.

I feel like someone who completed a big project! And we discussed other ways with the same rice, such as hot sausage..this has possibilities. It's definitely joined the repertoire.

Meanwhile, back at the Kindle, I'm reading this

I'm not a big Gilbert fan, usually find her too excitable and breathless and sound-bitey, but this came recommended by Flossie Teacakes, from whom I learned to love English paper piecing, so I thought I'd try it.

She has a couple of interesting ideas about creating. One is that it's not the realm of a chosen few, which I very much agree on. Another is that whether you make a living or not from your creative work, is irrelevant to the work, yes to that too. And you need to honor your ideas when they arrive, not set them aside for a better time. 

She notes the phenomenon where several unrelated people are seized by the same idea at the same time, no way of knowing about the others. Happens in science, math, writing. It can cause a lot of heartburn, too, people thinking their idea was stolen. 

Happened to her and Ann Patchett about a novel. They handled it in a very classy way. That's a story worth your reading.

So far, so good. I may take these pearls and let the rest of the book go. And she'd probably say fine, my work is done! She's nothing if not good natured. 

I have zero commitments on my schedule today. Maybe I will finally try one of those jigsaw puzzles I've been keeping for January, just in time for February..

And dinner is leftover spicy rice with some fresh cooked shrimp and halibut. Hygge.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Part Three of Boud's Excellent Yesterday

I did, after all, get power back in time for this Textiles and Tea, with Murray Gibson. Blogger refuses to insert the image here, so read on.

He turned out to be a lot less grim than his picture. His driving force as a tapestry weaver, is to create works that are best exoressed in cloth. 

This is not as obvious as it seems, as you'll see when you note people painting what photography can do, or drawing what weaving would do better, or stitching what painting would work better for. Every subject doesn't belong in any old medium.

He's also interesting  in that he's equally at home creating realistic images and abstractions. He explains this as realism seizing a moment in material life, and abstraction seizing an idea.

Left, realistic image, right abstraction.

The spider is his signature on every tapestry, signifying the weaver, spiders being the best weavers of all, even creating their own thread.

The bottom image is about the work done by young students in the l'Arche program, like ARC in the US, I think, an agency to support and offer opportunity to young people with cognitive disability.  He's very involved in spending time with the participants in this program, and finds that they love studying and working in tapestry.

He's very ready to acknowledge the teaching he's had and the debt he owes to great teachers. He seems to have continued the tradition of generous teaching, since a lot of the comments were shout-outs to his own teaching!

He currently teaches college level and is in fact teaching this morning on Zoom, and
 trying to adapt to this new way of teaching, enforced by Covid. 

Check his website. He's a very good tapestry weaver and a nice man, great combo.

That was part Three of yesterday.

Today is the next stage of the Dinner. 

Prepping the fish, and the halibut separated very easily, so the fish is all marinating now, to cook at the last minute. After which I'll dress it in the lemon juice and garlic mixture in the bowl.

The onions are not quite caramelized but nearly, and I'll reheat them with the rice this evening.

Meanwhile, here's what I hope to live by

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Boud's excellent Three Part Day

Not exactly planned that way, but here goes.

Part One was the rice part of the Dinner.

This took most of the morning, just as well I divided the cooking over a couple of days. It's not just about time, when a person gets older, it's about energy too. I need enough left to enjoy the meal and the company tomorrow.

Anyway, started with a debate. The recipe says firmly to leave the rice soaking in water for two hours. The rice people say never do that, never, you'll drain off flavor and nutrition. So  I  did soak and drain, but saved the rice water for soup, see below.

Then the assembly of the doings and the discovery that I didn't, after all, have ground coriander which I was sure I did. Much searching, and I concluded I must have used it up in a spice mix, reused the container and forgotten to get more. I also didn't have green chilies, no idea about them, but nevermind.

Well, considering all the flavors in this dish, one or two instruments missing from the orchestra isn't a problem.

Here's the draining of the rice to save the water.

Here's the onions and various other items, tomatoes, spices, garlic, ginger, cardamom frying together

Then the addition of the stock and several processes later, here's the cooked rice.

Now in the fridge to warm up tomorrow and it smells good enough to warrant the labor.

Tomorrow is about the fish, now thawing in the fridge, marinating, cubing the halibut, frying in another selection of spices, before heaping on top of the hot rice to serve.  There will be a lot. 

Then I thought, after a lunch of Red Chowder(!) I thought I'd start on the blogpost.

Then the power and wifi went out. This triggered a visit from next door and a call from down the street, was it just them? No, it was out all over.

So part two of the day was walking then dozing over  a Sayers book on my Kindle, and generally keeping warm in a cooling and darkening house.  It was very quiet with no systems running. I could hear geese flying over.

Power came back in time to catch Textiles and Tea, about which more tomorrow. I'm a bit spent, low in spoons right now. 

But so far so good with the Bahreini dinner.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Change of plans

 I originally was going to make a lasagna for Handsome Son's monthly dinner-with-Mom event. Then, the noodles made and stored in the freezer, logistics intervened.

His free evening is Wednesday, and some of the lasagna ingredients are in my Misfits box which arrives Friday.  They've extended their range to include dairy and eggs as well as fish and meat. This is good, if it works, organic food at reduced prices, at the door, saves me a big shop as well as $$.

I do like to get out and shop for a few items, since for a single older lady, it's a chance to see other humans, always a good thing. But a longer list means more exposure and more waiting at the checkout, which I'd rather not do 

So I took advantage of the chance of ordering eggs and dairy in addition to the produce,and changed my Wednesday plans. When the ingredients arrive, I can make the lasagna and freeze it for a future dinner.

Meanwhile here's the new plan:

To learn to pronounce it, go to the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen YouTube channel. The cook starts with how to say it. It's a recipe from Bahrain, where she's from.

It's also, like a lot of Ottolenghi, quite a performance to produce. Many ingredients, many lovely spices. 

I don't have access to prawns, so it's going to be the rest of my Misfits shrimp, smaller but okay. And I will add in halibut, diced.

Today I started with a vegetable stock I made from my frozen bag of peelings from recent Misfits boxes. There's enough over for a future soup. And specially for this recipe, it included a stick of cinnamon. The house smelt very savory today.

Here's the fridge shelf getting ready for the Big Cooking Caper

Left to right, stock, measured ahead, ginger, almond slices, golden raisins, cooked baby Bella mushrooms.

Then on today's abbreviated shopping trip, the all important basmati rice base

So posh it comes with its own recipe sheet and philosophy of life.

Tomorrow I'll get the fish organized.

What this is about is,: rice with onions, garlic, tomatoes and various spices, with heavily spiced and marinated shrimp, and here halibut, heaped on top of it.

This includes a lot of my favorite things. And I suspect it will make plenty. It will involve a lot of the contents of my three, count them, spice shelves. Including whole cardamom pods, a big fave.

It's just not for the faint hearted. 

Meanwhile I'd run out of bread, while I was organizing this fancy exotic stuff. So  I  made a batch of walnut biscuits 

while I was hanging about in the kitchen trying to conclude that this Bahraini adventure was a good change of plan. Some biscuits went next door, hot from the oven.

Whatever comes of it, and I have had good results from Ottolenghi recipes, I can always quote my mom: it's all good ingredients!

Dessert, in case you wondered, is that dish of handmade chocolates you saw yesterday.

It's all good, even while I'm wondering why I am incapable of just planning a simple, easy dinner for handsome Son. Since it's only once a month, it's an event, I guess.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Embossing the easy way, and surprise visit

As promised, I hauled out the tools for hand embossing, glad yet again of the Winnowing that made this a couple of minutes' search rather than a frenzied marathon of pawing through crates. 

You need a light source, stencils, as Becki astutely remembered, and an embossing tool. 

On the left here, that blue thing is a corner punch, a nice touch for handmade cards and books, gives a rounded corner, very posh.

These tools are known to people who used them im the olden days to transfer Chartpak lettering, as ball burnishers. When you use them to emboss, they're embossing tools. 

The advantage of having them is that each end is a different size, so you can choose according to the size of the openings you're drawing around.  But other substitutes are fine, as long as they slide on the surface and don't stick.

The process can be as simple as taping to a window, creating your own stencils or just using commercial ones, and if you don't have a burnisher, a blunt knitting needle or even pencil will work. Kids like to use a pencil so they can see where they've been.

You can make this as original and elaborate as you want -- I've done embossing into large watercolors as part of the composition, using purpose cut cardboard stencils -- or you can do what I did here, and had a nice time doing, a couple of greeting cards.

The procedure: tape your stencil to a light source, window, lightbox, whatever you're up for.

Then hold or tape your card/painting/paper/ envelope, whatever you're embossing, over the stencil. 

Now firmly run your embossing tool all around the inside of the openings. You need to apply enough pressure to make the image sink into the opening in the stencil. You only need to work on the edges. The center will follow without your touching it.

You need to remember that you're working from the back, and right to left for lettering, if you're embossing to get a raised image. If you really want an engraved, sunken, image, work from the front, lettering the usual left to right.

Here are both

This one's embossed, raised

And this one's engraved, sunken

The back of each is the other. You can have an embossed front to a card, open it and on the left is the engraved image. And you can make use of this to make mixed images using both embossed and engraved in one composition.

So that's pretty much it. 

It was good that this subject came up, because I had a sudden surprise visit yesterday afternoon from a friend I hadn't seen for years. 

She threw my 80th birthday party, lovely person, the sister of the friend I helped care for with her in her final days at home. She, sister, Gary, all friends.

Anyway she came bearing home-dipped chocolates

Intended for Christmas, and finally got here. 

So that requires a little thank you card, why not an embossed one. Timely. Plain unlined 8x5 cards are good for this.

While I was looking for the burnishers, I came across these pens. I'm digressing here, as I tend to

I used to cut these from the wild grapevines growing behind the building I lived in, diagonal cuts to make two ends, dry them, and use them for drawing with ink I made from black walnuts, also growing out back.

This is what van Gogh used in his early drawings. I used to give them to my drawing students, with samples of the ink. So they had an authentic experience.

These are what Blake called rural pens in his Songs of Innocence, except his was a hollow reed. Same idea, also making his own ink, in the narrative.  This whole background was very interesting to adult students, seeing the connections across arts and cultures and history.

Anyway, enjoy your embossing/engraving adventures if you give it a try. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Art equipment in the kitchen

Long ago, while I was doing printmaking, I saw some wonderful blind embossed work -- pressed without ink-- and fancied trying it. 

I didn't have access to a printing press, so I tried a number of techniques, standing on the assembled paper and materials, rolling them, various things, none of which worked.

I ended up getting a little simple pasta rolling machine, thinking maybe I could get that to exert enough pressure to emboss. The small width was okay because my prints were small, so I tried it, on the closest setting.

And it didn't work either. Just didn't have the required heft. So I moved on in  printmaking to other techniques. Including hand embossing done with a burnisher. I taught this to a few classes who were thrilled at how simple the technique is. I'll blog about this if there's interest.

Meanwhile I had a pasta maker clean as a whistle, only touched by clean paper, other materials sandwiched in, not touching the roller. It was not returning to the studio. One of the few times the kitchen has received from,  instead of giving to, the studio.

So I thought self, learn to make your own pasta. You've had marvellous pasta in Trenton restaurants, where there's an old Nonna in the kitchen making it old style. 

It totally beats even the best commercial pasta, which is made from a harder grain, and dried to be shelf stable. Your own pasta is cooked in a couple of minutes, very tender. So I did and loved it and then life intervened for a few years.

But yesterday I thought, I'll be giving handsome Son the monthly dinner soon, why not a from-scratch lasagna, noodles made to fit the dish.

And here's why I completely overlooked yesterday's knitting group, despite having decided after all to Zoom it. I got engrossed.

After mixing the pasta, added in a drop of water as I mixed, it needed resting for half an hour.

Then fun with rolling, starting at setting 9 then working down to setting 3.

Several layers. They're on parchment paper, and now they're bagged flat and in the freezer. 

I'm wondering if I need even to cook them before assembling the doings. They're much more tender than the boxed kind. I'll see.

Last night I only wanted a small meal, so here's a nice idea that really worked. 

Sweet potato, microwaved for a couple of minutes so I could make it into fries, then salted, chunks of fresh ginger I had in the freezer, harvested from my own pot, 400°f about 20 minutes. 

Enough for two helpings. I never roasted ginger before that I remember, but I'm going to do it again.

The weather's been bright but cold recently, in the teens Fledermaus, and suddenly there are birds at the suet feeder. I can't get good pix, take my word for it. 

Yesterday, first time in two years, woodpeckers showed up. Several visits from a red bellied, or maybe it was more than one, one from a downy. And the usual crowd of house finches, Carolina wrens, bluejays,  juncoes, and a new visitor, a white-crowned sparrow. It was great.

I finally gave up on the other feeder out front after several months of no traffic, and all this action was on the patio at the back. It's more protected, easy hiding places and shelter. 

Also I can bird from the sofa on freezing days, always a good thing.

Let me know if you wanted to see the embossing technique, and I'll set up pictures as s step by step. Maybe Valentine cards. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

All steamed up

About a couple of items. I did a bit of online research, the car maker being useless on this point, about my mysterious self-opening car windows.

My single window issue isn't the usual problem. Many people have found all their windows, including sunroof, wide open. 

One in a huge rainstorm, insurance company said no hope of avoiding rust and malfunction, several inches of water in the car, declared it totaled. And a lot of other sad accounts.

Turns out it's a feature of the fob. If you tap the door open function twice, the windows all open. It can happen if the fob's jostled in your pocket. One report was the family cat stepping on it, and the owner looked out to see all the windows opening. 

Honda offers no way to disable this useless "feature".  They don't even mention it in the fob instructions. What they call a feature others consider a design flaw.

Handsome Son had suggested that maybe I engaged just the rear window with my elbow, which I'll test, since the button's    very close. But since the windows won't open from the button unless the engine's running, I wonder. While I drive, my elbow's nowhere near the button. 

Anyway, high alert is the order of the day. Good thing I live in a quiet neighborhood where people are very unlikely to take advantage of an open car window. 

In other exciting news, I seem to have reverted to the food of childhood. First that pasta milk pudding recently, then barley pudding, and yesterday steamed pud.

Just got an urge. So I looked up a few sites for recipes and instructions. I vaguely remember my Mom doing this, using a pudding cloth and a steamer. 

My big pan is a steamer, too, with the second storey pierced pot sitting on it, the way I steam vegetables 

But what most of the sites called steaming was really a covered bowl standing in boiling water. No references to pudding cloths at all. So I thought I'd try it.

Recipe involved honey, sugar, butter, egg, flour, baking powder, promising mixture.

I put on the water to boil, wondering if I'd be waiting for it after assembling the bowl of pudding 

I needn't have worried. By the time I finally got the paper secured with string and the tinfoil over the lot, the water had been boiling merrily quite a while.

One host commented that getting the string on and knotted was the hardest part of the recipe. I even saw one chef channel where two people at once couldn't do it! The paper would jump away just as the string was being knotted or the  string would slide off after it was tightened. Over and over again.

Anyway, finally got it assembled.

Lid on, let it steam, they said, for twenty minutes. Which may have been a typo for sixty minutes, since that was the earliest it was edible 

It turned out of the bowl nicely, and

tasted fine. This was so filling it turned out to be two helpings. I dressed it with some of that barley milk, which had thickened to make a sauce, but which didn't look appetizing in a photo.

Verdict: this was far too much effort for a tiny result. Probably a lifetime supply of doing it. Unless I find pudding cloth instructions from some historical reenactment channel, anyway.

For now my inner child is satisfied. 

If you've been wondering, and I'm sure you've had little else to concern you, about my Sock Knitting Ministry, it hasn't yet got under way. 

I checked yesterday with the sister who was supposed to send yarn, and she'd been suddenly called out of town, just got back, will send yarn ASAP.  So my ministry will get started whenever it arrives. It's been over three weeks. I could have finished at least one pair, but oh well.

Happy Friday. I may not check in with my Zoom knitting group today since I have zero work on hand to do or show.

Happy Friday anyway, well, Saturday summer day to Kiwi and Oz friends.