Saturday, September 29, 2012

Italian-American Festival days

This region has so many ethnic groups that the big county park is one mad rush of festivals in the summer and early Fall, the Irish and Indian American and 4H, and fundraising regattas on the lake, and the greatest of these, probably the oldest established, is the four day Italian American festival, to which Handsome Son and I went this afternoon.   If I'd gone on Friday I'd have got in free as a senior.  If I'd worn my military uniform, I'd have got in free any day, unfortunately my Civil War duds were in storage..seriously, I like very much saying thankyou to the military in concrete terms like this.

One good thing about being old and grey and cheerful is the great attitude of young Ital.American men, stewards for the event, all treating me like a newfound grandma, it's lovely.  And what with the petting zoo,

perfect for tiny little kids, ducklings, a couple of rabbits, sheep, baby goats, young bullock, very peaceful Ferdinand type, little pony, little donkey, across from a large and loud midway

full of rides to look at them is enough, thanks, and great music booming over all, Italian tenors predominating, and as far as the eye could see, food.

All the restaurants of Trenton, it seemed, and this is a great location for this food, were out in force,

serving practically their entire menu, which we happily wandered about sampling, our choices, after long and serious consideration: vodka rigatoni, meatball sandwich with homemade meatballs and sauce, funnel cake with butterscotch dip, homemade cheesecake with cherry sauce (this came home with us eventually, and was devoured with a cup of tea).

In the indoor arena, usually the skating rink, were all kinds of art ranging from painting and on the spot sketching, to immense marble carving,

just what you want for your entrance hall, business cards available in case you wanted to order,  to tiles, to jewelry of all kinds, including some guaranteed to ward off the evil eye,  church sized statues galore, and I amazed HS by telling him who every single one was, Catholic girlhood coming back in a rush, and a great panorama of Italian American history, with newspaper clippings and posters up to a hundred years old, local and national Italian sons,  Antonin Scalia getting a prominent mention, he being a very local boy.  Well, what with all that, it was you might say a full afternoon.

And there was an organ grinder!

in authentic costume, with an authentic instrument.  I was so happy to see, while they waited their turn to perform, that the act before them was a young woman with a puppet, who with a very simple friendly act, had bleachers full of little kids totally rapt!   who said kids only like electronics, huh?  And this was a great place to take babies and strollers and wagonsful of kids.  Parents could eat good food and not worry about mess or noise or any of the stress that goes with trying to take little kids out for more than half an hour.  Vivid memories of how that went.
Click on pix to see better.
It's all go around here!  next week I'm off to an embroidery exhibit in Pennsylvania, but I think that will be a much quieter event than today.

Friday, September 28, 2012

NameMe gives a pasta workshop

What with one thing and another, nerves a bit wobbly these days, so NameMe, Baker in Chief (the Ds are all carried away with titles at the moment, Call me Michelle is Fashionista in Chief, Blondie is Firstborn in Chief, Dreads is First Dog Wrangler, Bette Davis declines to take part in such shenanigans, since she is a Star, no further title required.  Elton is First Pianist.) where was I oh yes, NameMe decided that since working in the kitchen is always therapeutic, she should show me how to make my own pasta.

Been thinking idly about this for years,then suddenly I realized I have the semolina flour, I have a pasta maker which has been sitting in the studio for years in case it might be useful in printmaking, which it wasn't, not enough pressure exerted, I have eggs, olive oil, salt, and a free morning after working in the studio.

I studied several recipes, and watched a couples of YouTube tutorials, and concluded that there is no agreement on how to make good pasta at home.  Not surprising considering how ancient pasta making is.  It sounds as if every family handed down a different version, all very dogmatically asserting that only their method would yield good pasta.  More eggs, fewer eggs, any old flour, semolina flour, food processor (gimme a break!, wooden spoon and hands, olive oil, no olive oil, salt,no salt.  the only thing they all agreed on was how to use the pasta machine.

So I did a cup and a half of semolina flour, since I had it to hand, some water, two eggs, salt, few spritzes of olive oil, mixed with a spoon till it was all crumbs,then sort of addressed it with my hands until it made a ball that didn't fall apart. 

Oh yes, everyone agreed to let the pasta rest at this point. I suspect it was a way of giving the cook a rest, this is pretty heavy work, so I did that.  Then had a ton of fun rolling it then feeding it through the pasta machine after NameMe and I finally figured out all the parts and how to attach it to the only place in the kitchen where you can clamp anything and still turn the handle. She had a bit of trouble turning the crank, but we made it a partnership effort.
She pointed, I cranked.

And you see our results:

  a nice helping of wide noodles, then some medium wide, then a bunch of ravioli cases.  I'm hoping this tastes good, since I love home made pasta I've had in local authentic Italian restaurants where there's a grandma in the kitchen working and grumbling and issuing orders.  Oh wait,I guess that's now me. Hm.  My first complaint is that NameMe didn't rush out for ricotta and parm. reg., to fill ravioli with, but she has a point, that she can't reach the steering wheel and the pedals at once.  So they're on my list.
Whether this becomes one of those projects you do once in a lifetime depends on how well it cooks. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Dollivers Advise Boud on the Proper Exercise of her Franchise

Absentee ballot arrived today. Never let it be said that the election powers that be leave anything to the last minute.  This is for the November election. Gives me plenty of time to study the public questions on ways the state would like to spend my money, as well as all the candidates, from President to minicipal lightbulb changer.

The Dollivers, of course, scrutinized the ballot to see if there was a party they could weigh in on, and finding no Dolliver Dems nor GOPs, pointed out that there's a write in section I could use to vote for them as a group.  NameMe also observed that it's in Spanish, too, always a point for her.  I explained that for one thing names don't change substantially to another language when you vote, and that the second thing was that all my picks are made, and sorry, no Dollivers this time around. But I commended them on their seriousness about the franchise.

An outcry of Dolliver suppression! arose, and I had to signal Elton to pound out Happy Days are Here Again, and It's a Grand Old Flag, and the Red, White and Blue,  and, here all joined in, This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land.

And I realized that here's another first: first time in many years I haven't assisted HP to do his ballot -- he filled in the blanks, I just held the paper in place so it didn't skid away.  A good citizen,he voted just as long as he was able to decipher the ballot and make his choices.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Late breaking twins! read on...

Remember my spring trip to the alpaca farm with my embroidery friends?

  go here:

for exciting late news -- Kizzy is one of the alpacas we met, and Commodore is the one we had to be a little careful around, since he's not keen on having his territory invaded.

Note the total calm and competence of the approach, this is her all over!  be sure and watch the video if you're okay with accounts of birth.  No pix of the birth, they were way too busy officiating, but a great narration.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Festival of the Arts 2012

What a success this was!  despite techy challenge on my part -- went there once, took two pix, camera battery went dead, returned home, came back with backup battery, why didn't I just take it with me, who knows, anyway, returned, took more pix and as I was about to pic old friend Bill Bauer at the piano, my memory card indicated it was all filled up, sorry....hastily deleting a couple of old pix, I made room for Bill and for the Best in Show People's Award winner, Kathleen Liao, of the Plainsboro Artists Group,  for whom I'm happy to say I voted!

I have now ordered two new bigger memory cards.  And once again wished fervently that humans came with insertible memory cards to prop up their failing faculties.

Meanwhile, many old and new friends on the scene, possible new members for the Embroiderers' Guild, and you'll see CoPresident Debi taking a break from her stitching to create a bracelet in Chinese knotting, wonderful music all afternoon, indoors and out, great art show and fun People's Choice voting, Chinese calligraphy and watercolor painting, giant weaving thanks to Scout troop, totem pole painting (cardboard cores from carpet rolls) found object art, Chinese knotted jewelry, Memory Bank of the township, outdoor clothesline art installation by Tatiana, mandalas by Julia,seen with little son on her lap, patiently painting the latest mandala,  jewelry making,  yo-yo demos by Chinese youth group, marbelizing, and there were probably many more events that escape my feeble memory.  Oh yes, Chinese artist inscribing a bookmark with Heather's name transliterated into Chinese -- this involved some hurried consultations with Iris C and other Chinese speakers fluent in English, to figure out the nearest symbols to those sounds unknown in Chinese! The bookmark will be on its way soon.  And lego building for little guys.  Stained glass. Food, too, don't forget the food.

Huge event, great success, thank you  Donna, Julie, Carol, Meena, and many many other people who all made it work.  Hundreds of volunteer hours in addition to very classy professional work from all the  library staff,  who looked composed and happy all day, while juggling the organizational equivalent of knives and flaming torches!  well, what can I say.  It was a wonderful day.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Dollivers celebrate the Autumn Equinox

The Ds have decided that summer is done, and it's time to settle down in the conservatory for a cool weather period of bickering, advising Boud of their Fall wardrobe requirements, and singing along to Elton's selections, and, just in time, a great Freecycle came our way.  This is a rocker, but it glides, safe for passing cat paws, and the Ds decided this was their new Good Thing.

And LittleDoll is gratified, because when I washed it down and had to tip it over to dry it, the words Made In Canada appeared!  she pointed out that it was high time some nice Canadian things, aside from her, appeared around here, to add to the carved wood deer, long ago gift of sister I., and the postcards and other interesting items that come in now and then.

So I tiptoed away leaving them singing O Canada, and Deep In the Heart of Alberta, and Stars Fell on Nova Scotia, Elton's adaptations to the moment.  But if they think we're doing two Thanksgivings, that October one as well as the November one, well, they may be a little mistaken there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chop wood, carry water, cut fabric, Part XXV

This morning I spent a fair amount of time in the studio, doing various things, such as climbing up and closing the skylight, now that the nights are cooler, and remembering to bring up water for the Boston fern on the big windowsill up there, and leaving a supply for next time, too.

Then I turned to what I originally went up for, which was to find and cut up exotic fabrics for use on the Earthloom next week at the Festival of the Arts, Saturday.  I had all kinds of sequined and brocaded stuff via Freecycle, and more muted batiked cotton, all interesting for weaving in as highlights.  So I'll bring this along next week and add it to the Loom Stash.  If I'm guessing correctly, it won't be long before kids insist on weaving in the sequined and glittery bits!

If you want to see the resulting weaving materials, go here

And if you're within traveling distance, heck, just come and join in!  no end of art related fun, music, dance, food, painting, baskets, embroidery, an art show to cast your vote on, and the centerpiece: the Earthloom.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Weaving at the Libe, go there!

For an account of a wonderful weaving afternoon at our local Library, thanks to the efforts of  our Scout troop and parents, with the chief participant creating this project as an Eagle Scout entry, please go here and enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Croque monsieur, aka this is all your doing, Jean C!

As I have mentioned rather too frequently, I have avoided baking bread for months during the hot weather.  Then a few days ago Jean C., a great cook, sent me the WS catalog, full of great food pix, utensils, all kinds of kitchen items, and recipes, wonderfully photographed, of course.

Including a very nice looking croque monsieur, a posh cheese and tomato sandwich, really, with a bit of ham, and a nice cheese sauce.  So I just had to bake bread in order to have the bread for the recipe.  And here you see the happy results.  Two slices of fresh homebaked bread, browned in butter and olive oil, sharp cheddar added to cook along, then cheese sauce spooned over once it's on the plate, followed by grape tomatoes sliced and sauteed, and added on top.  Nice glass of chablis.  Perfect late summer supper.

Note the loaf posing shyly in the background, taking credit for the whole thing.

The only thing is that, being a very rare eater of meat, there was no ham in the house, so this is a croque monsieur without the monsieur.  Sayings about fish and bicycles come to mind...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 11, one year now complete for my little family

Yesterday I was too exhausted to write anything.  Between the memories of the original 9.11 and the weather which was exactly as it was on that awful day, and the first anniversary of scattering HP's ashes, I crashed.  A friend, knowing all the significance, and an old friend of HP, came to visit a while in the afternoon, and endorsed the idea of simply collapsing for a while. 

But I did get my farmshare, though I couldn't work on it till today, except to cut up and cube a great canteloupe, and I did go out to play lovely Elizabethan recorder music in the evening, which took my mind very effectively off everything but fiercely concentrating and trying to get all the notes in and remembering the fingering for the rarely used (by me) high notes, and seeing my recorder buds for the first time since June.  So that worked.

Then today, much better, all the farmshare cooked (stuffed cabbage, much better with my own recipe this time) and a great invention which involved the remains of the stuffing stirfried with fresh corn kernels and ripe tomatoes, for lunch.  In the middle of all this cooking frenzy, I ran across the street and left a couple of ears of corn with a neighbor, to his great satisfaction. 

What I Stuffed My Cabbage With:  brown rice, all cooked ahead, unlike that glackily NYT cookbook which thinks you can gently simmer it in chicken broth and have it worth eating, anyway, where was I, oh yes:  rice, plus large amounts of corn kernels newly cut off the cob, onions, garlic, finely chopped frying peppers, turmeric,  dill and thyme pesto, tomato paste,  kosher salt, sharp cheddar, swoosh of Worcestershire sauce, worked very nicely.  And after the cabbage leaves were all stuffed and wrapped and in the freezer, there was stuffing left over, it never comes out even. 

So, fresh tomatoes and more corn kernels, added in to the leftover stuffing,  and it made a really nice lunch even without the cabbage.  More for tomorrow, too.

And this afternoon a reunion with my bookgroup, after the summer off, and this evening I go out and stitch and stitch with my embroidery group.  It's all go!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sags in the northern hemisphere

Today's astronomy column in the local paper tells us:  "This week is a good one to look for the constellation is difficult to imagine these stars as a centaur, so most stargazers look for a pattern of stars known as the Teapot."

Which all goes to show that the best Sags are Englishwomen...Sags unite, this means you, honorary Englishwoman,MAJ!

Not that I've ever seen either centaur or teapot, since once the constellation is high enough in our sky to see, which is never very high, either trees or rain or cloud cover gets in the way. 

Last time I was able to see any of the Perseid shower in August was about forty years ago, lying in a deckchair in the backyard.  I always thought shower meant shower, but in astronomical terms it means one falling star out of the corner of your eye about every twenty three minutes..not a shower to a carbon based life form such as I, more of an occasional event if you're lucky.

This sudden kindling of interest in the sky comes from it's finally clearing up after many and sundry weather events, real showers, letting us see a second full moon in one calendar month.  Not sure why this is exciting, since the lunar month is a different length and it's statistically bound to happen now and then, but it does feel like a bonus.

Naturally the Dollivers had to get in on the act, and rapidly scanned the astronomy column, then migrated swiftly to the astrology column in search of their fortunes. 
But to their chagrin, translation, screams of rage and disappointment, found there is NO Dolliver constellation or sign!  I tried to explain how the signs work but was shouted down and bowed to the pressure to create a Dolliver Constellation, rising in the armchair near the eastern sky this morning, amid a sea of stars all tiny in comparison, of course.

Elton struck up the piano
with a great medley of songs, ranging from Stars in your eyes, to Starry, Starry Night, to Smoke gets in Your Eyes (no connection, he just loves it and slips it in when nobody's looking).  He and LittleDoll point out that they are Geminis and Gs don't believe in astrology.