Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Last Post. Of the year, that is.

The Dollivers, pianist Elton being on vacation until Monday he tells us, union rules, did an a cappella New Year's party, complete with garlic butter and paneer snacks and a nice Prosecco.

 Paneer, made this afternoon and mixed with walnuts and honey highly recommended.

Note the roasted garlic head in the blue bowl, also made this afternoon, wonderful spread on toast.  And I managed to open the Prosecco, despite a semi wonky hand, amazing what determination will do.
Wishing us all a great new year, and good things in 2015, they posed before the ceremonial opening of the bubbly, then after a swig or two each, lost a hat on the way back to sit a little glazed and happy on the sofa. 

Marigold had doubts about their sobriety but ignored it on the grounds that she's been known to enjoy a little catnip now and then.

And they spent some blissful time, see Bette Davis minus hat,  after singing Auld Lang Syne, and Champagne Charlie, and I'll be With You in Apple Blossom Time, getting the seasons a trifle mixed,  deciding on New Year resolutions.  

They resolved that Boud should make them new outfits, that she should arrange a ski trip on the first fall of snow, and that she should have bubbly all the time.  Duncan tested the glass and reared back in alarm at the bubbles, so he's not in competition for it. In fact he went and got under the quilt upstairs so as to be safe from them.

And we all shouted out good wishes to you all!   Since blogistas are celebrating the incoming year at many different times, we struck an average.  The wishes are good for the whole year.  And at 10 p.m. EST we promise to shout it all again!

Happy Hogmanay!  Lang may yer lum reek!   translation: long may your chimney smoke, i.e. long may you live in good health.

Bite Club and Bittman

The current choice of the Bite Club for the January meeting, yay, it's continuing, is Healthy Eating, various books by Mark Bittman.

He's a scream, really.  After many years of cooking and writing a food column he suddenly discovered he was overweight and out of shape, and began to pay attention to healthier eating.  

Fine up to that point but then he does the classic little-kid thing: he discovered healthy eating, assumed nobody else had and therefore he had to Write Books About It!  about the sort of eating a lot of us have done all our lives...but anyway.  

It's the kind of book that appeals to people who already know all this stuff and is probably ignored by people who are not much into healthy food, figuring it's all about green salads.  Like those articles about safety tips, which only the conscientious ever bother reading.  I know about this, I used to write them for mags...

This is in fact quite a useful book, and I did make a great pizza last evening using cornmeal and my own homeground lentil flour.  But he can't resist the sort of advice where he says hot soup is dangerous to carry, gosh I'd never have guessed...but at least when he says to cover the pizza dough bowl with a cloth he refrains from saying a clean cloth. 

I often wonder what cookbook writers THINK you're going to cover your bowl with -- the doormat?  the dog's bed? Yes, I'm guessing it's their lawyers who insist on this ridiculosity, but I still retain the right to roar in annoyance.

Anyway, here's a really good pizza for one, see the book title in the upper pic, and the actual page where I got the pizza recipe in the lower one.   I used my trusty castiron skillet, a nine inch, slightly smaller than his pan, to heat the oil on top of the stove, then pour in the batter and transfer to the stove already heated to 450F.   

He suggests what I think really is dangerous, that you heat the oil in the pan in the stove, then bring it out then add the batter then put it back.  My way made one move, not two, with a hot pan and hot oil.  But that's the advantage of using cast iron rather than a pizza pan, perhaps.

All that said, this pizza is definitely going to be on my regular menu from now on.  I used rosemary, which had been bottled airtight by a friend who grew it and gave it to me, and the scent as I uncapped it was wonderful.  Winter joy.

And the toppings were a mix of tomato paste with my basil pesto, both of which I keep in the freezer, plus bits of Vienna sausage (one can of this goes to a lot of flavoring in my kitchen) and chunks of cheddar cheese.  

I didn't put it under the broiler as Bittman suggests, since it was already in a hot oven, so I just left it in for five more minutes, and that worked fine.  Last evening I had two slices, and today's lunch will be the rest of it.  For some people perhaps the whole thing would be one meal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Food again!

Getting back to normal health, and food has reappeared in my kitchen.

Here is a weird dish, the kind of thing it's best to live alone to cook, no need for comments from roommates (!) which consists of what was originally going to be sausage and mash, Vienna sausage, that is, and potato flakes.  Not enough energy for more elaborate food prep, aside from wrist still out of action which precludes a lot of things such as peeling, chopping, etc.  

Anyway, turns out there wasn't enough in the potato flake box, after I'd boiled the milk, always make it with all milk, so I added in some orzo, and here's the second day result, using up the leftovers.  Few chunks of sharp cheddar on top, and finished it in the oven.  I heart my cast iron pans now developing a great nonstick surface and making wonderful crisp outside to this kind of dish. Top pic shows the start, before the cheese began to melt in.

 Second picture shows right before it went into the oven.  You'll see a lovely crust developing underneath it.  It made a very interesting meal, despite the unpromising start.  Ketchup on the side.

Then my dear friend G. came over a couple of days ago with my regular supply of curry leaves, along with a great helping of some spicy veggie dish of her own cooking, which vanished before I took pix, oh well, and I have to tell you that since she's introduced me to them some months ago, curry leaves are now my secret weapon.

Any place you might use a bay leaf for flavoring, I use curry leaves, a sprig of them.  The flavor is wonderful, deep, interesting in vegetable dishes, no wonder vegetarian G uses it a lot.  Kardi Patta in Hindi, in case you have a local store where you might find them.  G. always gives me them since the smallest quantity they come in is too large for her small family, but works for both of us.

So here's the fastest soup in the world, perfect for a day, of which I've had a few lately, where you just can't be pestered to cook seriously.  I use very few canned goods, but in winter I do get diced tomatoes, not worth using those red bullets in the stores, and I do like canned chickpeas, though I  cook them from scratch when I remember the day before I need them.

Anyway, rinse the chickpeas very very well, add one can chick and one can tomatoes to pot, rest a twig of curry leaves on top, heat to boiling, turn to simmer and let it do that for a while, to let the curry leaves work.  I happened, this is unusual, to have some Swiss Knorr chicken bouillon cube things, and crumbled part of one of them in, with about a cup of water at the outset. 

Then after it's simmered for a while, remove about half the soup, blend and return it to the pot. You take out the curry leaves and discard them before serving, and this makes a really good soup.  Thick enough to be interesting, but with whole dice and chickpeas in it for nice texture.  Enough for two days for one person. Highly recommended. 

And when I don't put in the chicken bouillon, this is a soup I can share with G. who is a religious vegetarian, very careful about it.  I like in winter to leave her a little pot of homemade soup to come home to after her brutal commute, so she can have an instant hot meal, and share with husband R.  Just a little friendship thing.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pansies and Russian Sage stepping up

I noticed, finally noticing stuff outside, must be feeling much better, that my winter pansies are still blooming happily, but a bit far from the window to really see.

So I hauled them to the outside of the patio door, Little Match Girl style, to look in at the lucky indoor plants, and remind the indoors that they'd better grow or they'll be outside...

And here's the cut down Russian Sage, from the front yard, getting a bit scruffy looking out front, but doing nicely in this group of dried flowers out back, the ones I failed to make into a wreath (!) and still smelling strongly of sage, even at this season.  It will spring up again out front, and meanwhile it looks a bit better out there now.

The birds love the dried flowers, and I've seen Carolina wrens swinging from them and pecking at what I suppose are seeds still in them.  So I imagine that if I'd manage to make a door wreath using them, the birds would have played it to bits in no time.

In the background you see in the ground the new one I put in this year, in the corner near the fence.  Not big enough to warrant cutting back, since it's sheltered from wind anyway.

What with the sage out back, and other herbs, and the spice bush in the other corner, I'm going to have a very scented garden in a few months.  A couple of Adirondack chairs might join them, too, from across the street, looking for a new home.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Party's on.Come as you are 6WS

Time to plan ahead.  Which I think is a silly expression, because unless you live in some alternate universe, you can hardly plan for the past, but I digress.

Anyway, Wednesday is New Year's Eve, and those of us whose celebration consists of a nice glass of something sparkling and then off to bed long before the year actually comes in, might want to party together.

So here's the idea: you're invited!  All you do is raise your glass of whatever you drink, at 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday December 31st and wish us all a Happy New Year.  You can point your glass in any direction, since we're all over the planet. That's it.  My sort of party!   fun for introverts.  Post a comment to let us know you took part, if you can.  

Blogistas in far-ahead-of-EST time zones are welcome to toast us five or six or seventeen hours ahead, whatever is your 10 p.m., and let us know! that would be very cool. You get to be our virtual first-footers.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Survivors and Rescues

Two shots of the remaining lovely birthday flowers. There are always survivors continuing to look fresh and lively long after other plants have gone their way.  

And yesterday Handsome Son found the plant stem outside on the step, evidently left there by a  neighbor for me to do some magic with, he has great faith. No story on how it came to be separated from the parent plant, but I suspect that the two resident little dogs are involved. And I'm not sure what the name is, but any blogistas who can tell me, please do.  It's a pretty common houseplant, name escapes me.

So I'll give it a chance, and put it, in water, among the other houseplants.  I think plants like to be in a community of plants.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas, Cool Yule, y'all

This has been one of the lowest key Christmas seasons ever around here, which is saying something, since it's always low key, not being a shopper or a ritual keeper or anything of that kind.

But I've decided it's fine.  It's enough. Son happy, coming over tomorrow with cooked food to heat and eat, my wrist not yet up to food prep, nice cheerful fake fireplace thing going, no more lugging wood, and the ficus playing the part of Christmas tree again.  

On order is a lovely DVD of old Alec Guinness favorite movies for  winter watching pleasure.

The Dollivers are not pleased about the lack of attention to the Great Them, but they did get a look in at the tree pix, and will make a comeback soon, at least they threaten this.  Elton says even pianists get vacation time now, and he closed the lid and is sitting out the season.  And note the new frilly bear which has joined the company.

Good wishes to us all!  if you celebrate Christmas, have a merry one, if the Equinox is your time, enjoy, and all of us can look forward, at least in this hemisphere, to longer daylight.  The houseplants are already cheering up and putting out new leaves.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Life improving daily

To the point where I have laughed at two jokes:

What did the zero say to the number eight?  Nice belt!
thank you eepy!

There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't.
thank you Marlise! 

And I have to insert the first knitted piece I ever made from yarn I'd spun.  Shroedinger's Mouse.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Belated Birthday and Turning a Hard Page

The last couple of weeks have been a bit challenging as they say, what with a flu bug that hit suddenly, caused a faint that left me with badly bruised and useless left hand and black eye and bent glasses and various other woes.  

Mostly fixed now, but it will take a while for my face to recover, and my general energy to return.  It takes a lot of energy, I've found, to recover from injuries at the same time as the flu.  Much help from neighbors and Handsome Son, too.

However, glasses now straightened and operating correctly, completely with message sent via son from optho:  remember to eat and here's your glasses!  and wrist now functioning about 75 per cent again, and eye looking better, down from my entire right face bruised and ghastly looking, now it's only a black eye.  Arnica and Aspercreme have been my friends.

So, resting, bored, unable to stitch, or do anything requiring two hands, typing okay for a few minutes, can't hold Kindle long, can't play recorder, and realizing this is going to take a few more days to come back from, I've been lying about lazy and making Plans for When.

For one thing, I realize I will not be doing studio art again any time soon, if ever.  I've moved into textiles, happy there, and now I need to empty the studio of unused materials and tools and bits of spontaneous furniture.  It's holding me back having all that personal  history lying up there.  Lesson plans for drawing workshops from long ago, that kind of thing.

Son's Christmas gift to me, I always ask for services and time, not stuff, will be to help box, sort and clear what's up there.  He's already claimed my clay tools and parts of a stacking bookcase for his own use, yay, and will help me recycle and generally move on items that should be in the hands of other artists, not mine, so they can be used.  

He'll help me unframe many pieces of finished art which have done enough for me, so I can either use or give away the frames, that kind of help that I simply can't do with one good and one wonky hand.

And today, speaking of service gifts, he came over to celebrate my birthday belatedly, cooking me a wonderful dish of chicken, garlic, mozzarella and toasted bun things, with enough for leftovers. 

 Bringing all the ingredients and tools, doesn't trust my wooden spoons.. And Ben and Jerry joined us for dessert, Cherry Garcia to be exact.

Then another difficult page turned: Karen's house is to go on the market, open house today, with it all painted and bright and lovely ready for its next life.  

This was hard, yet a good thing, and her sister, seen in the last pic showing to a possible buyer,  allowed me to make pix for your benefit so you can turn the page along with us.  

The work to get to this point has been unbelievable, mostly on her shoulders, some small parts done by me, and has impelled me to clear out my own studio as one task done before I move on (!) 

Next week I realize is Christmas.  Since I can't do food prep yet, Handsome Son will organize a lovely takeout Christmas lunch for us, so nobody has to cook.  This is a great idea of his and will make it so much easier and more fun all around.

And I've had time to think about my no good very bad horrible day last week in the middle of all the flu and injury stuff, when suddenly my phone ran out of minutes.  I'd been in too much of a blur to realize it was time to refill. No other phone available.  So I tried refilling minutes at the wireless website as usual.  And my credit card was declined.  

Neighbor across the street most unusually home on a workday, lent me her phone to get HS on the case, after I staggered over there, first time out in days. He went off and bought a card of minutes, refilled the phone, picked up my glasses to get them fixed, another neighbor meanwhile brought me his housephone to use to call the credit card company.  They found no problem at all, they were baffled as to why the wireless company had refused their card, etc.  Checked next with my bank account and found I was locked out of it, their website not operating normally.  

Glasses fixed and returned by son, I could now see to call the bank, spend half an hour punching in numbers and being cut off before finally getting a snippy operative who finally unlocked my bank account, no apologies, no explanation.  

They heard about it when they sent me an evaluation.  Amazing contrast between the kindness and helpfulness of the Chase card rep., and the high speed brush off approach of the Bank of America person.  Son meanwhile got onto the wireless service and they were unable to explain what the problem was, couldn't promise it would work next time, etc.  No reason at their end, they claimed, for the decline of the card.  In the end it was the Chase people who figured out that there was a corrupted file at the wireless site end, causing fake declines.  I heart Chase.

So at the end of the day, literally, all my high tech life was back in order, and I now see what first world problems these all were, upsetting as they were at the time.  And despite having been very ill, what luxury to be able to stay home until I get well.  Food in the house.  Friends and son available and willing. Another friend insisting on being put on the A list, on son's phone, to be called on as and when.  Good to remember all this.

It's the Equinox, light will soon return, and optimism, too. In fact I think it's starting already.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hippo Birdies to me!

Struggling back to health, and getting there.  But meanwhile, lovely birthday greetings from blogistas and neighbors and HS and here's what just arrived from sister dogonart, aka Irene:

 I'm blessed!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I know, but I've been sick 6WS

Another of those jokes that few people other than self find funny:

Elephant meets with mouse, looks down and sniffs, hm, you're very small, aren't you? mouse looks up and says, well, I've been sick.

And I have.  Completely out of commission for several days, not back yet but hopeful.  Bigger than a mouse, though.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen and across the street and all over the place

Today was supposed to be the onset of a nor'easter, one of the days-long storms we specialize in at this time of year, but beyond a bit of rain and cold, not much happened.

I got to the library to stock up on Father Brown DVDs, never having seen them and thinking that would be good for a stormy day. Then I came home, made yogurt, hummus from scratch i.e. involving chickpeas soaked since yesterday then boiled for ages, cut up and froze the bread I baked yesterday, and made chickpea/tomato soup, using the remaining chickpeas.

Then in the middle of doing some serious stitching on my current artwork, C., Karen's sister, texted to ask me to cross the street if I was interested in yet more freecycling. Cookbooks.  Boxes and boxes of them.  

Sorted many many books, into cook and other, friends summoned to choose what they could use, I put in an email to local libe to see if they'd like some boxes for upcoming sales, these being books in perfect, unopened condition.  Then I freecycled one box of them, and brought home four more, which are now in process.

As you see.  ALL those boxes are full of great cookbooks, longing for a new home.  Even nowadays there are collectors of cookbooks, despite the internet recipe availability.  Which makes me wonder if there are collectors and there are cooks.  Karen, the original owner, rarely cooked but had a worldclass collection of books!

Not bad considering I'm officially on the sicklist, coughing helplessly  and  all congested.  Oddly I feel okay, though, but annoyed by the endless coughing and I hope it doesn't keep me away from my two meetings tomorrow.  

And then again, it might be socially responsible to reconsider whether to go there at all.  I'll see how it goes overnight.  I wonder if I picked up a little cold at my party on Sunday.  Oh, if you want to know more about that, the party, not the cold, go here.

While I was in the freezer looking for soup ingredients I found my frozen lemon slices, which was great, so I made a large amount of lemonade with hot water, great for coughing and congestion. Must remember to take some to bed with me, too, for night application.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Weather plans and food

Since a nor'easter is on its way, with the usual high winds, shrieking rain, possible sleet and snow and wintry mix, where M and Ms and peanuts and raisins fall all over you, it's a good time to be thinking about cooking.

And I'm happy to report that the cast iron pans are proving to be as good as promised.  They are beginning to be really nonstick, and give a lovely browning and flavor that Teflon just doesn't.

I've been faithfully scrubbing all three pans with kosher salt, and coating with oil and so on, and they're responding now very nicely. At this point I only need to wipe out the pan with a paper towel, leave it with a film of oil, and it's good to go for next time. Definitely worth the trouble of working with them at first.

So here's a cheese omelet, turned over from each side and see that lovely netting of browning.  Served with a toasted hot biscuit and a glass of Merlot, Yellowtail, if you wondered,  nice supper while I peruse cookbooks.

This omelet was a quick meal because I couldn't think what to cook. Two eggs, some milk, fresh ground white pepper, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of kosher salt, even smaller pinch of cumin, extra sharp cheddar grated in, and that was it.  Really good.  

I have a batch of bread dough rising at the moment, and that will bake this evening, warming the house as it goes. Tomorrow I'll probably make yogurt and maybe more soup or something. We'll see.
Currently I have boxes of cookbooks to go through and pick what I'd like before putting a lot of them onto Freecycle, to continue helping to disperse Karen's household.  These book are all in mint condition. 

She was a collector rather than a cook, though she did love the food I gave her in her last weeks, carefully chosen to be very digestible and easy to swallow, nice soups, that kind of thing. she was a foodie who appreciated flavor and ingredients but didn't actually cook!  

So passing on her cookbooks is nice, since they're in beautiful condition, unopened, and many are classics.  I'm hanging onto The Joy of Cooking, latest edition, though, and a couple of Marthas, and the original Moosewood books. But others I'll peruse then pass on.  There are, at last count at least ten more boxes, after all the boxes I already processed..however, I have found collectors of cookbooks who will be thrilled to take them.  

And as one freecycling person said, who took a bag of brand new, still with labels attached, clothes, to donate to a parish in Trenton, and a huge bag of bears, they will be presents now, just as they were probably going to be if she'd had the chance.  The freecycler is buying gift boxes so that the people who get them really get a nice boxed present, rather than a handout.  I like this.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sign of Peace, what's yours?

This little scene, yesterday's teatime setup, with homemade yogurt and a spoonful of homemade apple jam, with a few lychees gift of unknown friend, together with Chinese porcelain teapot, Williamsburg souvenir Jefferson Cup used with filter, on tray from Karen's house, and the little potholder made on my tiny loom, all spells peace to me.

It's a mixture of friendship, good food, excellent tea, made Downton Abbey style, with good English breakfast tea leaves, pot warmed, and, sitting on the mission style oak coffee table found many years ago at the dumpster, it's also about found objects.

My other symbol of peace at home is a cat on a windowsill.

What's your favorite symbol of peace and home?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gotta go! That's my pantleg ringing.. 6WS

New entry in the pantheon of Jokes Which Hardly Anybody But Me Finds Funny:

Little elephant drinking at the river, with his trunk under water. Little crocodile comes swimming along, catches trunk in his teeth.  Elephant says "I subboze you thig that's fuddy!"

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 and attendant excitement

Exciting evening before Tday, when I went to use my phone and it was
gone.  Massive search of the house for a couple of hours,  for my only phone
communication form, yielded nothing.  Emailed son explaining not to
expect early a.m. text in case I hadn't found the phone.

Hadn't even left the house, but I'd done a ton of things, on all three
floors.  Searched every single drawer, every piece of folded laundry, all the
prepped food, bathrooms, cupboards, art supplies, even riffled through the
groundcover near the front door, in the sleet, in case when I threw
out my tea leaves the phone sailed with them...

Finally gave up and decided to go to bed, all disgruntled. And when I
undressed found my the inside of my pant cuff!  no way of
guessing how it got there from the little pouch around my neck it
usually lives in.  Then I was overcome with falling-down-laughing at having 
carried the phone around with me for all the hours I spent searching for it. 
Then I did get to bed, and was promptly woken by smoke alarm chirping
every couple of minutes.  Had to get up, and it being way too wrong a
time to ask neighbor to climb up and replace the battery, did so
myself, climbing bravely up a set of steps placed at the head of the stairs, 
and actually managing to get the little door open and the battery replaced
without actually being able to see it properly, wrong angle for my specs.

Then figuring it was about midnight and realizing I'd forgotten my night
decongestant, took a pill and went to bed, then noticed it was 5 a.m.
 So that made it impossible to get up for a few hours, this stuff
rendering me practically comatose...

Up then finally, and glad most of the meal prep was done yesterday! looking
forward  son's early afternoon arrival.  Snowing gently, very unusual
for us at Tgiving.
Wonderful Tday with Handsome Son.  All the food went over very well,
and a large plateful all set up went home with HS for today's post
Tday meal for him.  And he left me some of the pumpkin pie and cheese
and crackers.  All very happy.

Except for one minor excitement: in the middle of things, a sudden
CHIRP!  OMG, it started again, but this time good old HS with better
directional hearing than I tracked it down to the CO alarm, changed
the batteries and blessedly it went quiet.  Enough excitement from
alarms.  But why it should go off so soon after the other may only be
a coincidence.

I remember the last time we had a CO chirp event, after a couple of
chirps from it, ALL the smoke detectors began to chirp, even though
they're not connected with the CO at all. 
I wonder if there's some sympathetic vibrations between computer chips, 
since the same chip seems to be used in all these alarms, that starts them up in a chorus.
 Or they have ambitions to be crickets in a future life...and I wonder
why the chirping typically starts up in the evening and into the night.

Well, after all the lovely day and the excitement and lack of sleep
yesterday, I slept in today and woke feeling very rested, two hours
later than usual.
And had a nice postTday breakfast
And found a nice flock of emails in my box from freecyclers wishing me for the holiday and reminding me of the transactions we'd done!   bonus there.

Memo to self: put batteries on shopping list, all kinds.  

Also check why my fonts keep changing in size without my asking them.  Perhaps a sympathetic vibration with the alarms.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 indoors and out

Indoors food prep to save work tomorrow, a chicken/ham/swiss cheese thing, with flavored breadcrumbs including lemon zest, all the pounding and spreading about and rolling up and crumbing and buttering done.  

Ready to bake tomorrow. And I remembered to put a tape on it reminding me of the temp and time for baking, to save scrabbling through the cookbook to find out.  I must invent a fancy title for this, Thankful Chicken! Or possibly Poulet au jambon et fromage et miettes de pain!  Hm, by the time you've finished saying it, it's gone.  And you will note that there will not be endless leftovers to deal with.  Some to eat tomorrow, some for Handsome Son to carry off home, a bit for me for the day after.

Then the squash, already steamed, just add butter and nutmeg and heat up, mushrooms and onions to be sauteed together, potatoes ready to bake or roast, or maybe both, corn, a legal requirement in this state, fine diced green bell peppers because otherwise the whole meal might look golden.  So far so good, great fun to do in a leisurely sort of way.

Then outdoors it looks as if we are in for a very unusual white Thanksgiving.  

Handsome Son is one of the people who drive for the holiday.  Almost two miles, clear across town!  And he brings the hors d'oeuvres and the dessert, his decision as to what.

I like Thanksgiving very much, no present pressure, giving them, that is,  and no  history of Tdays of childhood, all that, since I didn't grow up with it, but like it a whole lot more than Christmas. 

There's a lot to be said for arriving at a holiday for the first time in adulthood.  Not unlike arriving in a new religion at the same time of life. I notice that people who have converted seem to be a lot happier with their religion than people who were born into it.  Probably because they chose it, didn't have it thrust upon 'em, to misquote a bit.  And I don't hear people like me fussing about having to see relatives and who said what to them as kids, and all that.

Anyway, what I'm grateful for this year:  still alive and well and active, still have friends in same situation, still live in a great neighborhood, have constant support and encouragement and good humor from blogistas all over the world, still have lovely Handsome Son coming faithfully to celebrate with me.  In fact I have a lot to be thankful for.

So if I don't make it in here tomorrow for some reason, thank you all for being in my life and allowing me into yours!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cold Day Cooking

Also known as catching up on vitals.  Here's bread dough, ready to rise for a while, using white wholewheat, ap flour, lentil flour and split pea flour, using the basic recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but as you see, with major adjustments.  Not before time for baking, out of bread of all kinds.

 This nonstick finish gives the best crust ever, a Jacques Pepin tip, and you mix and bake the bread in the same container, always a plus.  And once baked, bread removed, the pot just needs to be wiped.

And here's a quart of yogurt working magic for the next seven hours at the end of which bells will chime on my Ipod, and I'll wonder wildly why there's a church service going on on a cold Saturday night before I remember it's my alarm.

And here's lunch, well, two lunches

a veggie bake with broccoli, finely diced red bell pepper, with an egg beaten with fresh-ground pepper, kosher salt, drop of milk, few chunks of sharp cheddar, poured over, baked at 375F for about 15 minutes, or whenever you remember to look in. Always fun to eat colors, as well as being a nutritious advantage.

So the bread and yogurt will do their work for me while I eat my lunch, this bake being two meals for me, followed by the rest of the yogurt I bought as a starter, having forgotten to keep some of the last batch.

Bear Withdrawal Equals Two New Dolls 6WS

Although I'm not at all a conservator, never anxious to preserve and collect and keep, and usually have little trouble in passing on items to better homes, the departure of the bears was a bit different.

Bears have character the minute they're completed, and they definitely took up a bit of psychic real estate around here.  So the large empty guest bed where they were all nestled until I got them all assembled now left a psychic space for me, too.

Which resulted in doing a bit with yarn and a curtain pull, and some pipe cleaners, while sitting up in my own bed last night with a Miss Marple on the DVD player.  And a bit of lovely merino roving.

Smaller doll does not yet have a head, so her hair had to stand in. I was in bed and the wooden beads are one floor up, and require a search.  But she still has character, even headless, oddly enough.

Reader Donna might recognize the Greek cloth, now starched and doing its bit to render my home a bit more gracious, and Judy might remember the curtain pull -- the other one went into a little denim purse I made for K.  The merino roving came from the yarn store in Cape May, and I think the yarn is from the Red White and Blue thrift store.  Sourcing is everything, heh!

So: when in doubt, make a doll!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We're going to new homes! we've been picked! The Great Bear Farewell

The large contingent of bears sitting around on the  spare room bed these few months are about to be launched on the world.  

Tomorrow, off in the arms of a wonderful freecycler who will distribute them to families who really need a bear.  Bears have a presence, and we're all sorry to lose them. Well, maybe the Dollivers thought they took up too much time and attention, but, supervised by Marigold,  they still put on a good show and a party.

With Elton playing a brisk accompaniment, the assembled company of Dollivers and Departing Bears broke into song, ranging from Teddy Bears' Picnic, to Off we Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder, and If My Folks Could See Me Now, and with shouts of bear with me, I'm being borne away, beary Thanksgiving to you all at Boud's, they leapt into their carrying bag ready for the Bear Ride.

The house will be a lot quieter now, though a couple of bears did vote to remain, to keep an eye on the household.  Not pictured, because the Ds might not approve.  They fancied a  clean sweep and a bear-free environment, but since they caught sight of the new ski caps, they have enough material for complaint already.

Thank you Freecycler C., for always being willing to take and distribute good things to good people.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Breakfast chez Liz

I just realized I never did a breakfast post. Probably because my eyes aren't fully open at that time.  But today there's a picture

pumpkin/walnut bread, toasted, with paneer, both homemade. I'd already made inroads on the bread before thinking of a picture, in case you think I have mice.  Nice strong cup of Vietnamese coffee, which I do by passing the boiling water once through the grounds, makes great coffee. Skim milk, no sugar, sugar ruins hot drinks for me.

 Paneer is almost too easy to need a recipe: boil your milk, sour it with lemon, save and drain the curds and press with cheesecloth, eat! save the whey for soups and sauces.

The bread was from America's Test Kitchen but the recipe had what I consider a major flaw: it called for a CAN of prepared pumpkin.  And failed to say how much volume that would be, for a girl like I with no kitchen scale and with homegrown and diced pumpkin ready to use.  So I guessed at it, and it worked out okay anyway. I still maintain that a can of something is not an ingredient, but that's me.

I took a dozen pieces of it in to the Bite Club as a sample last evening, and it all vanished pretty fast.  The BC is a wonderful group, and I've learned not to eat dinner before I go.  

Last night we had, all in samples: onion jam on cream cheese on crackers, beer cheddar mix with crackers, white bean and greens soup, chicken and fruit on sticks, poor man's beef stroganoff, sweet potato chips, beet chips, blondies and my pumpkin walnut bread.  

Massive exchange of ideas about the current series of cookbooks,all from America's Test Kitchen,  and what it's good at - ATC Family Book is a compendium of cooking tips which are great, Lost Recipes revived some recipes which are not, Vegetables did great job on vegetables, identifying, explaining, and so on.  

And we found that next month, baking and holiday desserts,  using books by Dorie someone and Martha someone, is the last currently planned meeting.

So we strongly encouraged the PTB to continue, since this has been such a success, hardly enough furniture to accommodate the people, even.  I guess they only scheduled a few meetings to see how well it went, so we're hoping they see it ought to continue. It's rapidly become one of my favorite events, even bringing me out on dark curvy roads in freezing weather like last night.

One of the teen volunteers did a series of pix of cooks with their dishes and candids of us all around the table talking and eating at once, so let's hope that ensures our continuing as a group.  I didn't do any pix, since I don't blog about people unless they agree, and it's a bit delicate when some people would rather not, but don't like to say, and so on.  So this is one of the times I just don't.

The Dollivers are wondering if they will get a trip there.  We'll see.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Upcycling for socks

I knitted quite a few pairs of socks for me and others a while back.  Some I liked so much that I wore out the heels

what with all the walking I do, and these were too nice to scrap, and no fun walking in repaired heels, so I decided to upcycle them.

And here you see one of my new fingerless gloves on my gnarly old hand

and naturally the Dollivers wanted in on this

and two of them got new ski hats, which used to be sock toes, despite the pouring rain going on, because they figure sooner or later there'll be snow and skiing.

I warned them not to mention the new hats to the others, since I don't want to have to upcycle three more socks..

Survivor Spaghetti and Meatballs

I rarely have any interest in eating meat other than chicken, but with the long season of vegetables and variations thereon, I suddenly thought, hm, get some nice Italian sausage, make meatballs.  Using breadcrumbs from my homebaked bread. To go with the spaghetti sauce I have in the freezer, made from farm tomatoes.  It seemed like such an innocent decision.

So I made the meatballs, which involved baking them in a very hot oven.  Which started up the smoke alarm.  Much waving of newspapers, then blessed quiet while I got on with my cooking, only to start up again once it got its breath.  

Meanwhile, under all this row, don't ask me why the builders put the smoke alarm so close to the open kitchen that a slice of toast will set it off, anyway, I took out the bag of frozen spaghetti sauce and put it in the microwave to start thawing.  

Then, while I was watching and checking the progress of the spaghetti, and waving newspapers at the smoke alarm, I noticed a red tide in the microwave.  The bag had opened, ziploc fail. 

So now I had to rescue the sauce, clean up the microwave, watch the meatballs and the spaghetti and wave newspapers at the smoke alarm. No, you can't turn it off by removing the battery, it's wired into the system of the house.

Finally, meatballs done, last blast from the smoke alarm as I took them out of the oven, spaghetti just right, sauce recovered and heated, red peppers found for sprinkling with parmesan cheese, and I served myself a nice dinner.  

Before putting it on the table I thought I should close the curtains where all the plants are, so as not to be eating on a lighted stage.  And found I was standing in a puddle of water.  One of the big plants had burst its banks.  So now I had rapid cleanup, since laminate floors and flooding hate each other.

Finally, dinner got on the table. Too spent to make pix at that point, but here's the leftovers for today's lunch.  

And I must say it tasted wonderful. Best meatballs evah.  Which may be as much a reflection of what I went through to get them served as anything. Like a nice glass of water at the top of a mountain.  And the glass of red wine that went with wasn't bad, either.

We are survivors!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tuesday Tea Outside, Thursday It's Snowing 6WS

That's the local weather report.  Tuesday was so warm and sunny I took a cup of tea outside, reading and having neighbors stop by to chat, one of them commenting that this was the last day this year I'd get to do this.  So true.  The cold wave arrived, and Thursday we had snow.

So the indoor garden comes into its own.  And the Dollivers show off their potting-up skills, with the cactus, ow, stickers, see what she made us do

from bits of a huge plant that fell off the parent plant on a friend's truck and he gave me to do magic with, and the relative of the sweet potato,  grown from prunings from same friend's giant version of the same plant. 

 I grew these on in water until there was a major root system, and now they're trying to adapt to potting soil.  The sweet potato family is very tough, so I expect they'll make it.

The Ds insisted on a serenade from Elton, on the grounds that plants like to be talked to, so singing probably even better.  

So under the close supervision of kitty Duncan, here seen giving last minute instructions, and then presenting him, he gave us Yellow Rose of Texas, and Last Rose of Summer, and when the Ds protested that roses didn't come into it, switched to Just a Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch, and The Biggest Aspidistra in the World.

And, knowing the Dollivers' insistence on being included in every ceremony, they offered their 6WS:  Dollivers Are Good Gardeners, The Best.

So modest, so self-effacing..muffled screams from Call me Michele and Bette Davis as the dreaded philodendron ties them down.

 At which point Elton switched without missing a beat, into Don't Fence me In.   

 And demanded a close-up, as a tribute to his pianistic skills and endless patience with Dolliver demands.  And commented bitterly that even in his own close-up he couldn't get free of Dollivers.  

Dollivers?  Everywhere, Everywhere, I Tell You, he shouted, thus creating his own 6WS.