Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mental Health Work, more printed books, less social media

So, after weeks of ever-intensifying need to be active, resist, and so on, I found myself deeper than I wanted to be in social media.  Still active, but not responding to every new outrage at the moment. Including those where people totally misunderstand my words and bring their friends in to hate on me!  No, I don't spend energy there, just block, delete, move on.  And I got back into extended reading in the last couple of days, to retrieve my longer attention span, and my balance.

To be exact,  to Margaret Drabble, a novelist I've followed since her first novel, having some fellow feeling for someone almost exactly my age, but with a very different life path.  We had some similarities in education, and our literary classics are about the same.  So, despite her determination to see the blackest side of everything, even her more lighthearted works more or less being cheerful in spite of everything, I still like to read her. Temperamentally poles apart.

She's a thrillingly intelligent writer, full of echoes of familiar literature, but she doesn't quote them, simply glances off them, the reader either gets it or doesn't, doesn't matter to the onward movement of the work.  



Her latest novel is The Dark Flood Rises, an examination of old age and how her different characters approach it. Her range of characters is limited, since she's always been an academic and doesn't seem to have much insight, or, I'd guess, interest, in other forms of work or of people, but never mind, good to stay within your limits, and know them. 

She does comment that she likes to muse on her own life and times. And I'm noticing that she considers herself old and a bit crocked up, as do most of her characters, though they are at most in their early seventies.  Which made me wonder if attitude is part of this, as well as good luck and good health or the lack of it. Interesting book, not exactly a novel, though, more a series of episodes, roughly interlinked.

The other Drabble I'm reading is The Pattern in the Carpet, a nonfiction work about jigsaw puzzles and other kinds of pastimes for all ages.  I read it partly to get some insight into why people like jigsaws, because she loves them, and I hoped her analysis would get me there.  Which it only partly did.  

I ended up concluding that people who love puzzles of this kind are at heart not interested in visual invention.  They are following the path laid out for them, fitting in the pieces designed to go only one way into their ordained places.  

It's similar to my puzzlement (!) at people who love patterns of any kind.  To me patterns are only momentarily interesting, giving way to variations that I would like to see there! very personal response. I know mathematicians and scientists who love puzzles and card games, and I think it's a similar response, the comfort of patterns and of correct answers.  Perhaps people who love and get great pleasure out of working kits are enjoying a similar experience.

Not, as Seinfeld would say, that there's anything wrong with that..and I conclude that I accept, well, I have to, but don't understand, the affinity for pattern.  Very good book for all that, whether or not you're a puzzle fan.

One interesting sidelight on Drabble: she's one of the few people I've noticed who is a Dame in her own right, and a Lady because her husband was knighted. So her title's a bit lengthy. I think it's Dame Margaret, Lady Drabble, or something like that.  Cool. No doubt there are books of etiquette prescribing when you use the whole thing and when bits of it are correct.  She's also the sister of A S Byatt, brilliant novelist, and probably a Dame in her own right, too, but neither of them likes to be asked about the other!  endless rivalry there, but two geniuses in one family seems a bit much for the bonds to handle.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rescued Fruit and Other Kitchen Capers

So today, I came by several pounds of perfectly good dessert apples, and a large whole orange, by rescue.  Without going into the details, if I had not intercepted them, they would have been thrown away.  As if they were, scream, garbage.  I understand the hectic time of moving when you have two small kids, and how after a bit you lose your sense of morality about food and waste.  But anyway, I stepped in and they came home with me.




And here are all the apples, washed, peeled, chopped, and reposing in the freezer for the next time I need them, maybe a crumble, maybe a clafouti, maybe applesauce.

The orange, I don't buy oranges, usually, since I tend to be allergic to them, I put aside until I thought for a moment.

Then I picked up Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal, cookbook, from the library, and you know how you can tell you like a book? when you instantly get an idea from it.  In her intro she mentions that you never waste food, and gives a few examples of items that can go into something else. And she mentions that a lonely orange can turn into a kind of marmalade...




No sooner said than embarked on.  I like this sort of cooking, where you do interesting things to your ingredients.  I scrubbed the orange ad infinitum, then peeled off the zest in strips, with a peeler, not the zester, wanted slices of zest in the finished product.  After the above pic, I ran the pizza wheel back and forth through the zest to reduce it to smaller strips. Then I supremed the inside of the orange, not too successfully. This was a large, rather dry orange, the kind that looks impressive but actually is not as good value as a smaller heavier one with a lot of juice.

I used to supreme oranges all the time for Handsome Partner in his last years, since he loved oranges and his hands wouldn't let him deal with them.  But supremed, that's with all the pith and the membrane cut away, you're left with a lovely bowl of orange slices and their juice, edible with a spoon, fine for him.  Not hard to supreme if you have a nice juicy orange.  This one not quite up to that, but never mind, did me best.



Made a syrup with water, sugar and the zest, left it to manage on a low light for about 20 minutes, just guessed at this when I set the timer.  I also had to guess at the amounts of water and sugar, since her directions need more than one orange!  Then, zest done, I just stirred in the rest of the orange, and put it in a sterilized jar.  



I could have used a jar half the size, but I don't have one.  I'm sure there's an engineer's joke about the relative size of the contents to the container, the sort of uproarious joke where he looks at your shoes instead of his when he tells it..



Anyway, between discovering this good book, from a recommendation on the Cafe website, from a good cook, and finding the fruit in need of a good home, this was all good.

Also the springlike weather brought masses of birds to the suet feeder. I'm guessing they're loading up before embarking on the mating season.  A pair of Carolina wrens have been around together, and one started shouting territorial calls from my gatepost, so I hope that means they plan to move in and nest here.

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ellen WIlkinson holds her first Town Hall

Ellen Wilkinson, fiery orator and politician, whom you met here revisited us to hold a Town Hall on this Presidents' Day weekend, to meet her constituents and hear their take on what she should do when she's reincarnated into US politics.  Modeling the behavior we hope for from our Republican members. And remembering that Abe himself was a Republican.

Here she is in her transporter, courtesy of a Minnesota fan, with her clipboard ready for action.



Light refreshments were served, and Constituent Stefi acted as hostess for the event, pointing out that this was real constituent service, coming right to the house to hold the meeting.  A kitchen cabinet you might say.  You will note the pussyhat pin in action here, too.




So, while Ellen delegated note taking to her advance woman, chauffeur and admin assistant, also knitting staff,  Boud, Ellen's constituent spox (Washington speak) set forth the agenda for Ellen's first four weeks in office, give or take a day.





First she will become our first female President.  Then she will outlaw all gun ownership. College tuition at public colleges will be taxpayer paid.  She will bid farewell to Pence, Ryan, and other people currently in the White House and environs.  She will recommend the abolition of the Electoral College.  This is an ambitious agenda, but she is undaunted, though small.  

To quote the Bard:  And though she be but little, she is fierce!

and, business concluded at the Town Hall, she waved goodbye to her audience, even if they didn't vote for her, she's there for all of them, and sped on to her next meeting, dictating more notes and thoughts to Boud who also had to drive.  Boud is also beginning to see what it takes to be around a real politician.  It's all go.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bright February day, rain in forecast, so seize the day! Carpe Preservum in fact

Today was bright sunny, a bit nippy in the wind, but all insulated and ready for anything, I set off for a hike on the Preserve.  Several other people with the same idea, all very cheerful, and getting the most out of the day.

There is nothing like walking and being outside doing it in lovely wild surroundings, for defragging my mental hard drive, Carol G., thanks for reminding me of that process when you were talking yesterday, and today did the job a treat.

Not many small birds around -- too windy for them, they hate having their feathers all messed about, and I think probably need to keep still to preserve feather insulation.  



Large flocks of Canada geese on the lake, occasionally rising up and shouting at each other and splashing then settling down a few yards away. The big alternate fact brokers, they call this migrating.



And in the beech wood, a new bench installed in a clearing.  This wood is a micro climate, always a few degrees warmer here in  winter, cooler in summer, than the surrounding areas.



Looking over the lake from a sheltered little area, another bench. They seem to have been listening when we asked for a few so people could sit and watch birds, or draw, or just be.


And taken from the bench which has been there for ages, near the nature center, and overlooking the lake from one end.  


There's a nice little trail leading off it, here, too, which winds about and is a great bird hide location, with yet another bench down there to settle down on. Around here, just the sound of small birds at the feeders near the building, geese out on the lake, rare human voices.

Lovely outing, and suddenly, thankfully, after a fallow few weeks, full of great art ideas when I got back, but you'll have to consult art the beautiful metaphor to see what that's about.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

So bring back the Pony Express 6WS

They do say that wearing tight shoes keeps your mind off your troubles.  And my local tight shoes have driven out a little bit the grinding worry and fear that is our daily lot around this nation.

Partly it's funny, since I went from bring worried, about my hitches, to being trumpishly enraged, to being long suffering, to finding it too funny and trivial in comparison to the rest of the world, to dwell on.

It went thus:  At the end of December, the coupon book came to start the new year of HOA dues, new booklet, preprinted address label, all that.  Duly wrote out the January fee, two weeks ahead of the deadline, stamped, sent via local post office, and waited for it to show up in my bank account. Did likewise with utility bill.  All preprinted, return address, everything, first class, no danger of my handwriting causing problems.  And likewise waited for the bank account to indicate the payment had been credited.

And waited, and emailed the HOA to say I'd paid them, and so on.  Three times.  One line response: we have not received it.  Oooookay. Since it was first class mail, I checked with my local carrier, nice guy, who had the boxes all open, had clearly already emptied the outgoing box into his official plastic crate, unlikely he was the cause.  Talked to the people at the PO who assured me that there was no way of knowing why it hadn't come back, or got there.  That they handle millions of pieces, etc.  I forbore to point out that my town pop 20K did not handle millions of pieces at the end of December, nor did the next stop, Trenton, nor the final regional center, Plainfield.  Asked him to alert the Postmaster of the problem.  He glumly agreed to do that once he got in.

Then two days later, amazingly, both bills were credited to my accounts.  Same day, totally different agencies.  Which puts the question mark on the post office.  And my dark suspicions on the fact that having sat on the mail for over four weeks, said mail suddenly arrived, unharmed at its destinations. Two days after my complaints.

Not before I'd had alerts telling me I was in arrears, and had sent in replacement checks to cover the difference, and gone on to start setting up direct debit instead of this malarkey.  So now both have received two payments onto my account, the utilities now three payments, since I paid up twice...scream. Hoping they will credit me correctly. It hit my bank account at a low point, but I did not get into an overdraft situation.  And today a letter from the HOA telling me I must have overlooked them, and please send in thus much by Monday...drafted before they received my payment, I suppose. And sent first class, but we now know that's no guarantee.

This reminds me of a similar deal years ago, when my favorite magazine was arriving creased and battered and pretty much worn out.  When I complained to the then postmaster, he said, oh well, you are the only people in town with your last name, so it gets put by itself in a huge mailbag and gets tossed about.  Just normal wear and tear.  

I looked at him steadily like a mom eyeing a lying toddler, and said, well, how does that account for the crumbs I'm finding in the pages?  there was peanut butter this time, too.  Oh.  Rubs size 12 shoe around, well, I'll check up on it.  And from then on not a moment's trouble.  Magazine arrived in pristine condition.  I became the first reader of it.  I did offer to bring it in if they wanted to read it in the lunchroom, as long as I got it first...silence, redness.

And I wonder if someone just hadn't taken care of all the mail until they were alerted this time. I say alerted, but I was pretty firm and relentless asking how could this happen, and what was the point of first class mail, and why didn't it come back to me, etc.  Poor Rich, he was the unlucky guy on the counter when I came in.  I bet other people are being surprised the same way with letters suddenly arriving.

It's a total round trip of less than fifty miles, door to door for each of my bills.  Pony Express would have it there in maybe a day or less.

Meanwhile, since everything is Too Upsetting and I'm doing my Bit but it's such a little Bit, I decided to start on my first WarmupAmerica blanket section. They have to be 7x9 inches, so I decided, after making a cardboard template to avoid a lot of measuring, to work corner to corner, to have a better shot at accurate sizing.  Here's one side



And here's t'other side




 No real front and back, random knitting, some open work, a bit of Shaker, whatever I feel like. It actually doesn't look very random, and you see where I am on this piece.  It does take a bit of calculating to get the rectangle right, when to stop increasing, sooner on one side than the other, etc.  And blocking will help, I expect. But anyway, it's under way. Working corner to corner always makes even a plain stitch look more interesting and mysterious.

And the library is starting a knitting circle, Friday afternoons from mid February, so I might join in there.  Probably everyone needs to Do Something, and this is my thing for the good cause.

 

Friday, January 27, 2017

As long there's soup, and friends, and art

The new normal around here is days divided into activism -- texting, emailing, signing, meeting, donating -- and then the blessed other time of making art, knitting, reading, lunching with friends.

Yesterday was the occasional lunch with a group of women artisans, who design, knit, quilt, stitch, make all kinds of art.  Mari brought her latest massive quilt, a tshirt quilt, with meaningful tshirts appliqued onto a wonderfully designed and quilted background.  So big it had its own chair at the lunch table.


The pix mostly were not good enough to share, but I did get a pic of Mari, the artist, to show you.  


Dark restaurants are not a great environment for pix, though they are great for renewing friendships and getting caught up.  And for being reminded to get cracking on knitting for Warmup America, as well as finishing the pussycat hat on the needles which will go around with me in search of a receiver.  



This is Shaker Stitch, which I like very much to do.  All garter, but looks more interesting. In fact I may do some WarmupAmerica rectangles in this stitch.  If they need machine washable yarn, I have to pass up my spun yarn, and use other stuff from stash.

Anyone who wants the hat, grasps the meaning, but can't make one for herself, will be the recipient.  This actually includes any blog reader who would like one, though I know the vast majority of readers are artists and crafty people, but still, if needed, do say. And I have several completed pussyhat pins for people who don't do hats, which includes moi. Again, just say.  You may have to spot me a few $$ for postage.

Meanwhile, good food is another way of self care as well as coping and actually finding something to enjoy.  So tonight, Handsome Son will be over for dinner, and has a nice menu awaiting.


 Started, on the stove


Served at the table. Just now for lunch, the cook's privilege preview.  Carrot, ginger and white bean soup, with a little drawing of coconut milk put on at the last minute.  Curried mushrooms, with salmon croquettes and mashed sweet potato.  And old fashioned comfort food cupcakes with icing for dessert, with a pot of tea.

The donation I mentioned earlier is a small one, what I can afford, to the legal defense fund of the Standing Rock Water Protectors, who are once again on full alert, still there in midwinter in the Dakotas, holding fast.  And may soon need legal protection.

Locally, since it's vital not to forget people on our own doorsteps. the Plainsboro Food Pantry is in for a donation this weekend, for the dozens of families in our little town who need assistance.  It's such a small thing, but it's my shrimp!  or starfish, depending on which version of the story you like!

And I've restarted my meditation practice, which had sort of fallen off the radar with all the recent anxiety about politics, and the building renovations, but that's exactly the time to revive it.  I use the Five Minute Meditation I found on youtube, just a bell striking, no annoying music, and it's very helpful at the start of the day.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The solution to hat hair: the Pussyhat Pin

I heard about these being made as a permanent item to wear even when warm hats are not on the program, and I made a couple today from a pattern I made up as I went.  Instructions below.  

If you're a knitter you probably don't even need the pattern, and if you're not a knitter you can maybe get a knitter to make you one. I plan on making a few and giving them to people I meet who see my pin on my coat and show interest.

This is protest knitting!  I also started to find local resistance groups, to get involved with, to help safeguard our rights, as well as reviving my donation knitting, possibly for WarmAmerica, as well as getting donations to the local food pantry.  I think local action as well as activism will be the key.

My spinning practice is coming in handy now, since I have yarn ready to knit, lovely soft warm stuff, friendly to handle, and I hope it will be acceptable for the WarmAmerica projects.

Okay, the Pussyhat Pin (side funny note: the NPR crew were told in their editorial briefing of the day, yesterday, that they could indeed say pussyhat "as long as the context was clear"  Heheh.  Inner evil Boud got a chuckle out of that).



 nyway, the pin: I used Caron Simply Soft in neon pink, sorry, all I could get hold of, size 5 needles, courtesy of Judy T.,  cast on 10 stitches.  I used dpns because this work is so tiny you need a short needle so as not to get all irritated with it.  

Then work four rows in single rib, then 10 rows in stockinette. Then four rows in single rib.  Cast off. Done. 

If you leave a tail at beginning and end, you can use them to seam up the sides.  You just fold it over so the ribbing forms the opening.  It's just a bag shape.  I stitched a pinback onto the back, and that was it.  

Since I wear the safety pin, I added that onto the thing in a couple of ways.  You could also use one to attach the pin instead of using a pinback.



So that's quiet activism and good use of your skills to use up bits of pink yarn probably lying around after the big push to knit the pussyhats.  Feel free to share this blogpost if you want to.  And to add whiskers or earrings, or whatever whimsy you like. Activism doesn't have to be solemn.

I did put the pictures of the  pin up on Ravelry, but didn't think of putting a pattern up, since it's so simple, and they are Serious Designers over there. And it's possible there are also a number of patterns of this sort there anyway! they're a seriously inventive group of stick wielders.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March January 21 2017, Dollivers do it their way

So we, the undersigned Dollivers, and our dowager doll, here leading the group wearing her custom knitted pussyhat, hereby proclaim, in our best dresses, never mind what color, that today we are officially part of the worldwide Women's Marches.  



Ancient Dowager doll predates women's suffrage in the US, which is why she got the hat. Boud yesterday got official recognition of the hat she sent off to the March to be given to a marcher on her behalf, and that of the friend Karen, from whose stash the yarn came, after her death.

And Elton and the bears are loyal supporters of rights for all humans and other beings.  Safety pin wearers all, metaphorically.

Elton, of course, is playing Our Way!  and Hail to the Dolls, and America the Beautiful.  The last is because despite all, we will go on, art will save us, we are strong.  Our Republic was built on dissent and dissent is a patriotic duty if we see wrong happening, at any level.

Boud completed her Protest Weaving while listening to the Inauguration on radio, feeling she had to witness, even with pain, the transfer of power.  
 
And we are all proud that even with this crisis in our country, there is no armed insurrection.  Peaceful marching and protesting, pressure through political and social channels, speaking our minds in order, among other things, to preserve the right to speak our minds.



Here's the Protest Weaving, a landscape of spinning, dyeing, weaving and  personal statement.  It's full of land, sea, sky, crops, the unfolding of r daily life.  Beads from K, the small amount of prespun yarn from Helen T.  All the rest spun and woven by Boud, the subtler colors dyed from local natural materials, the more vivid ones from predyed roving.  It's a women's cooperative artwork in itself!

Okay, Boud out! mic drop...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Of blazing trees, bean soup and cats in hats

This evening for a few minutes, there was a lovely phenomenon I see occasionally, for a few minutes.  Suddenly the trees out back appear to be blazing red with the setting sun.  But when you go out to see the sky, there's no sign of where the rays are coming from. Sky grey and cloudy.  So I guess the rays must be sneaking between buildings where they can't be seen from the ground.  It's usually five or fewer minutes and the show's over.



 When this happens, my living room is filled with pink light.

And since Handsome Son is coming tomorrow to dinner, I started thinking about the menu.  Made a big pot of kidney bean and tomato soup for starters.  Seasoned with sumac, baharat, kosher salt and black pepper, all cooked with the garlic before the onions are added.




And there will be  flounder baked with a bit of the savory mushroom roulade stuffing I made a lot of and froze the extra.  The rest of the stuffing, there's quite a bit, will go with the pasta you see in the background.  Rigatoni? ziti? Chime in if you know.  Dessert is snickerdoodles with a pot of tea and probably a Poirot video, son partial to them. 

And since Beautiful Metaphor is all full up with doings at the Plainsboro Library Gallery, I thought I would sneak in the almost finished second small weaving here.  I spun all of the fiber, dyed the parts with the more subtle colors, but the brighter ones were roving already dyed.  I plied several colors, too, to get shades that would suggest shape and distance.


It's a kind of landscape, stretching away to the sea and sky. The colors not true in the pic.  The top band is a lovely green.  And some people see it as a geologic formation.  Fine by me!  It's small,  13 x 8 height precedes width, inches.

The cats are getting in the mood for Inauguration Day, the Dollivers not very enthusiastic about turning out for it.  They said they'll wait till the movie comes out.

Anyway, the pink pussyhat made for, um, a cat, shows them at their least cooperative. Don't try grabbing either of these, um, cats...


 We'll get you for this, Boud..

But on less scary subjects, I make art to a background of audiobooks of some kind. Not music, never music. It demands attention from the same part of the brain that's trying to make art, and competes, so the art will never be as good.  I know when a writer plays music while they write, because the thumping rhythm rises above all the prose.Particularly a writer  playing Beethoven. It doesn't end well.

Anyway, the current book is the Essays of Montaigne, from my Hoopla library collection.  It's very timely indeed, about lying in politics, chicanery, death, lousy memory, and all kinds of subjects.  Amazingly up to date, too.  He never palls.  Highly recommended.  In translation, I have to say, since the days I could easily read this in the original are long behind me.

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.."