Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Out of season flowering

The warm weather and rain have brought out flowering cherry trees, out of season, and some bulbs are coming up. Forsythia is trying to flower, and my herbs have taken on a new lease of life. The pot of oregano is booming and the parsley huge, while the mints are taking off yet again.

Strange pictures for the end of December! the spring flowering cherries at the end of the street are putting in an encore performance


Monday, December 28, 2015

Update on closet adventures

More adventures in the clothes closet today.

I tried to remove the shelf, found that two decades of being in place on an outer wall had swollen it to the point where I'd have to saw it to get it out. Not up for that.  And it was too low for the unit to slide under.  So I removed screws and nails and hit it happily from underneath with the rubber mallet until it let go and moved up a bit.

Then I was able to slide the assembled unit thing into place, and stock it with clothes.  The snug fit under the shelf is good for keeping it stable, too.

And I managed to get all the computer bits and components happily transferred, working, and easy to get at, in fact easier than on a computer station.  So all is well.  It's also another of those lifetime supply ideas.  Not doing this again.

And the prospective car buyer, or Tappit Guy, is coming Wed a.m. to see about it. Meanwhile I did my homework on what to do when you sell a car privately, more work for buyer than seller, and will go get the title tomorrow from the safe deposit where it rests with all kinds of useless pieces of paper. It's time I reviewed what's in there anyway.

So I need to see how to orchestrate all this now.  I fancy keeping my plates for the next vehicle, battered as they are, since, frankly, they're how I find my car! bad enough losing my car in parking lots all the time, without even having a familiar plate to look for. 

If the buyer isn't up for it, I'll trade in.  But I will do a bit better selling than trading.  And this is all taking place at warp speed, to do the statutory Star Wars nod...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Some Assembly Required

So it came to pass that Handsome Son was in dire need of wardrobe space, he having filled his clothes closet with sundry other items or vital importance, and I sent away for a clothes hanging system  thing to give him as a present.  

Faced with the prospect of having to assemble such a thing, he reorganized his place, made plenty of room for his good clothes, suitable for job interviewing, to hang without being squashed up, and I had this thing on my hands.

So either send it back or make it work for me.  There's a long concatenation of items here, to wit: one large very good electronic keyboard, not used by me ere eons, complete with all the works and the stand to put it on, portable and just fine, in search of an owner. So I emailed an old freecycle friend to see if he had any ideas.  He works with church groups and all kinds of people who need stuff.

This keyboard had to come out of the place where I planned on putting the assembled wardrobe clothes hanging thing, because there was another concatenation here, too:  I would like to get rid of the clumsy computer station thingie which holds my laptop, scanner and printer, and takes up room in the spare bedroom beyond its scenic value.  

Soooooo, if I could assemble this clothes thing, and install it in the walk in closet, and hanging part can house clothes, and the small shelves at one end could house the computer and its friends, and be plugged in just around the corner, freeing up space in the room for other better items.  Or just space.

 Duncan slept through it all. You see him on the bed guarding my scarf.  He was wondering about these concatenations, in case they involved cats.

So the afternoon was spent banging and practicing vocabulary and studying tiny multiparted diagrams which were in English only, what a relief, and using my handy rubber mallet to make the metal things fit snugly into the plastic things, worked a treat.  Except for a couple of times when I got a thing snugly fitted in backward, the kind of thing that can happen to anyone.

And here it is, waiting for me to remove that shelf to the left and enable it to snug into that wall, after I've moved a lot of stuff, that is.  And got someone to help me remove the shelf.

While this was happening, freecycle friend got back to me to say yes he had a taker for the keyboard, and did I know anyone wanting to sell an old Honda but not as old as his 95?  aha, I wondered if this was the next home for my old beater, since Caesar is a crack mechanic on his own cars and could probably do the doings for a lot less than the garage charges, for himself.  Leaving me free to sally forth for a new one.  Well, at least I need the new one before I can part with the old one, but you get the gist.

So, keyboard waiting in the front hall, me waiting with bated breath, to see if the afternoon has turned out to be pretty successful all in all.  Not bad for a rainy old day.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What's Christmas Without a Murder Mystery? 6WS

Yesterday was wonderful. This year I was perfectly well and functioning and cooking and the food went over a treat.  As did the German dessert cookies and cake things brought by Handsome Son, also the eggnog, and his other offerings.

And we find that we can happily watch old murder mysteries together.  Only took us 48 years to find a common interest...he loves the ones set in the 30s and 40s -- Poirot and Marple, not just for the plot, but the settings and cars and historical clothes and all that.  So we indulged in a couple of them, only putting them on pause when neighbors stopped by to help eat our dessert.

To me a lot of the 40s and 50s is not so much historical. I mean, I wore stuff like that, in the 50s,  and the forties stuff is hairstyles I remember my older sisters doing (such as the Utility Roll, where you rolled up your hair around a ribbon like a sausage around your head), and those blouses with square shoulders and set in sleeves.  Twinsets and pearls and good tweeds for posh ladies, my teachers wore those.

I wore the wide collars and big ties and short skirts and colored stockings, all the rage at the Uni in the late 50s.  Earlier the white crocheted gloves. Hats, even, now and then. And earlier still I wore that Girl Guide uniform, gah.  And those awful school blazers and ties and panama hats and clunky shoes. And the ghastly knitwear with puff sleeves and ever so dainty lacework insets. To him it's the prehistoric olden days.  To me it's oh well, memory... 

 I can't wear hats well, just something not right, but I wish people still did.  I mean real hats, the felt or straw kind with brims.    They're fun, and a useful accessory if you're committing a murder..disguise, you know.   Not planning on a murder in rl, except I am really annoyed with that person who keeps pinching my parking place...no, no, tis the season of goodwill and good parking for all.

Anyway,  as we both suddenly thought, what did they do on Christmas before the murder mystery appeared on DVD...the doubtful joy of board games.  Card games. Jigsaw puzzles. Charades. Word puzzles.  All very low on my list of Things I Would Like To Do If I Had a Week to Live.

The rain has finally abated, and I'm off to get a bit of air, after I eat the lovely itlis and sauce that Girija stopped by to give me this morning. Rice and white lentil shapes, to put into the sauce stuff like a soup. She has family visiting, all cooking up a storm, and this is a South India recipe she doesn't often make.  This afternoon they're off to a local Hindi movie.  Now that's something you can do instead of a murder mystery.  And they go on all afternoon.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Xmas Day Anticipation!

Just stopping in briefly, before the cooking gets under way -- menu I take care of is:  rock cornish game hen, squash, corn, peas, chestnut stuffing, mushroom stuffing, cranberry jelly and sauce, baked potato with yogurt or butter, from my part.  Actually, written out that way it sounds pretty good.Handsome Son brings the hors d'oeuvres, eggnog, and dessert.

Morning of greetings, via text and twitter, great fun, couple of old friends planning to visit in the next few days, and here's the stage set:  

the cheese board/tea table waiting its occupants, notice the new gifted Indian tablecloth, I love it, will use it all the time, thank you K! 

and the dining table, with its Greek cloth, not new, but nice, with napkins, all embroidered white on white,  waiting for the board to start groaning and the sparkling white wine to be opened. You can see a bit of the kitchen bustle through the pass through.

Merry Day to you all!  if you are celebrating Friday of a long weekend, merry that, too!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Late breaking birthday, or pre Christmas present to you!

Just reminded in Rav of this great stuff, so I thought you'd appreciate it about now, too.  Little funny gift for post birthday pre Christmas, or pre weekend, whatever your plans.  Not that the animal in question observes any times other than mealtimes, but oh well...


Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, since I'd gone out to shop for ordinary items such as butter and milk, and yogurt (to strain and use like cream cheese on the festive baked potatoes) and noticed that the Asian store has chestnuts, who could resist, I ended up with some at home.

And since I'd forgotten how to fix them to add to my stuffing on the festive day, I checked Craig Claiborne, who said boil for five minutes.  That didn't seem like a lot, so I started boiling them, having cut into them to speed it up, not without hazard, I may say, not unlike trying to stab ice cubes.  

Anyway, I looked up a couple of other sources who said not five minutes but forty-five! hm.  So I checked Silver Palate's index for chestnut refs and found that her indexer is a big, well, it wasn't true -- it was all about store bought chestnut puree!  I ask you.  Anyway, I thought I'd test them after five, and it turns out Craig was right.

Sooooo allowing time for them to cool, with vivid memories of burnt fingers and tongue in childhood from roast chestnuts, except for the ones that exploded all over the living room, being roasted on an open fire.  Which tells me that the guy who wrote that song had little experience with roasting chestnuts on an open fire.  Not unlike culinary warfare, really.

Anyway, halfway through peeling them, I remembered why I don't often do this.  

Labor intensive isn't the word.  So I now have half of them chopped and ready to add to the stuffing, and half neatly bagged and frozen for later. This is why people like Claiborne had kitchen assistants.  Very smart invention, the sous chef.

More no-cost home improvements!

The old recliner is now history.  It served me well through the caregiving years, many brief naps without leaving Handsome Partner alone, my feet up, great relief!  and I was about the sixth owner of this once expensive item.  But the mechanism was failing, the footrest sort of jerking around unexpectedly, nuts and bolts falling off, and it was ready for the great showroom in the sky.

Neighbor and the son of the original donor lugged it out to be picked up, and now that corner was in need of some rethinking.  Meanwhile, some reorg at son's home resulted in a few items ending up here, including a giant basket thing, which turned out to fit the giant aglaonema, so I took it off its stand (borrowed for the winter from next door patio, due to return in Spring), and set it in the corner. 

Liking this a lot.  

And the stand became the concert platform for Elton whose fan club clustered all over it and the piano, bringing their dogs with them.  Greensleeves isn't boycotting them, just getting a break after days of being jumped on by dogs.

Once again frugality rules! a cheap sweep!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice Cake

Today's the winter solstice, longest night of the year, after which the daylight creeps up again, yay.  My 99 Honda Civic may soon be going into that long dark night.  I had her in for a pre winter inspection today, and found that to keep her safe and on the road will require thousands of dollars, which I'm reluctant to pour anywhere, much less into a rusty 16 year old beater.  Sigh. She's been a good car, never broke down nor failed to start once in her lifetime.  But bad winters, massive snowstorms and ice storms and floods and salted roads have taken their toll, and I am now looking at options.

These range from figuring out if I can manage without a car -- not very practical in an area where none of the local, rare, buses goes where I need to go -- or using the cost of owning and insuring a vehicle to pay for someone to tote me about to meetings, not sure if that's practical either!  Or if there are any other good ideas, short of being forced to buy a new car.  No mad rush on this. Just musing.

So it seemed like a very good idea, in the course of these musings on the turning of the earth and my car,  to make this festive cake, which is a five star version of this (from the Sunset Basic cookbook, owned by Handsome Partner in his single days, and with various dear notes in his writing in and on it)

Making this

you see the parchment paper, important if you are ever to get it out of the pan, and you see the fat raisins and the banana, which I don't mash into oblivion, keep a few pieces for the texture.

This is to the standard banana bread as my old beater to a new Honda, well, the other way around, but you get my gist.

What I do is to soak golden raisins in white rum ahead of time (friend gave me a fifth of this, very good stuff, from when he was in Puerto Rico, and I don't drink spirits, so I had the onerous task of figuring out ways to use it, beyond a swipe into hot milk at night).

Then I just drain the raisins (the rum goes into my jar of homemade vanilla essence) and add them in to the flour part of the bread. Mix all together, and you get a really nice sort of fruitcake, the kind that people would like if they got this instead of those dried out old building bricks commonly sold as such.  And you inject a drop of rum here and there, over the first couple of days, just to keep your spirits up, sorry, couldn't resist.

All in all, a good Winter Solstice Cake, I think you'll agree. Happy Solstice!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Greensleeves wins the day, see below 6WS

On the grounds that they weren't shown to best advantage, always the Dollivers are the main attraction, the Tinies, led by Greensleeves, in new gold festive bow, which did not placate her at all, requested firmly more pix featuring them.  The dogs backed them up, not being shy about pix themselves, being champions after all.  And they wanted you to see the tree with its snow leopard stars, and the hand carved llama.  

They appear to have been taking courses with the Ds, very articulate and organized and unstoppable.  So here are the demanded   gently requested pix.

Now I'm going to make a cup of tea.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Return of the Dollivers. With livestock.

So here we are again, as usual at this season, everything's left to us Dollivers to attend to.  What with Boud moaning all this time about her arm and her birthday (you'd think she'd had enough of them by now, but nooooo), and nobody giving a thought to us, waiting to get into our festive kit. 

Well, we took it into our own yarny hands and organized a thing or two.  Speaking of which, if we had a problem with an arm, we'd get Boud to just knit us a new one.  But she hasn't thought of that for her own arm, so typical.

Anyway, we broke out the red dresses, including the tinies who actually never got out of them from last year, so tickled with them, with our Dolliver Kennels Champions in attendance, plus Greensleeves, sporting a new gold bow for the occasion, and Elton.  

He refuses to give up his sweater and hat. He's afraid that the bear will come and reclaim them.  So we made a Dolliver Tree, as you see, with Blondie Firstborn, of course, grabbing the top position.  And the Irish Setter jumping up on Greensleeves, he's incorrigible, note the big word. You can't really see the ornaments on the ficus, which plays the part of a fir at this season, Boud being wildly allergic to the real thing

And Boud put out the creche with two babies, what's that about, is one an understudy? one is in the creche and the other couldn't even get a place in there, talk about hardship, and other characters, plus various animals.  Nobody knows how the dancing clock got in.

And since the temps have been in the 70s lately, the sparkly yarn is the nearest we've come to snow, but that's fine anyway.

So finally we get to wish you happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate, happy days and a good New Year. Actually we'll be back before New Year, but just in case, we thought we'd put that in.

And Elton serenades us out with O Christmas Tree, The First Noel (good job there is one, though, otherwise his name would be Eton and who wants that), and Silent Night, at which point Boud rudely commented that that would be the day in this house...and Deck the Halls, which we already did.

We don't plan to get Blondie Firstborn down for a while, in case you wondered.  And this transmission was interrupted as we all listened up for the sirens and bells and whistles and Santa riding past the end of the street on a firetruck! hope he remembers that yarny people like presents, too.  

Maybe a whole new approach to dresses could happen..don't tell Boud we said that, or she'll start up with we have such a lot already, the little dolls in other countries would love to have all our clothes, and maybe she'll send them off, and other such dangerous ideas.

But we were happy about the bears she knitted and sent off a while back, and the Izzy dolls she made, and now the ones that some of her readers are busy on. That's good.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hippo Birdies Day, and new small adventure for you

Thank you everyone, for flowers, which arrived five minutes after I got home, impeccable timing, lovely edibles,  good wishes, cards and other celebrations.  Great fun.  I must say this birthday is a lot better than this time last year, when I was deathly sick, also injured, and wondering if I would even survive the day, well, that's a slight exaggeration, but only slight. Anyway, today's great, I feel wonderful, energy back in full force, and I have a new Thing to offer you.

Okay, take a few sheets of paper, not smaller than 8x11, printer paper is fine, doesn't have to be special.  And a marker, preferably black.

Now face your Inner Critic.  You can see her right there, business suit, sharp white shirt, briefcase, highly polished closed toe shoes, looking grimly at you.  And turn her gently toward the door and give her a big shove out there, explaining she's not invited here right now. Her turn comes much later.

Okay, back to your paper.  Take the first sheet and using your whole arm, holding the marker very lightly, not in the deathgrip of writing, but the loose hold for drawing.  

Draw one curved line. Do it fast, without pausing. You can see two edges of the paper, to see the size of this one. Breathe.

Now do that again, but a different curve, different angle. Breathe again.

And the third one, crossing the others, to create a lovely little balanced drawing.  A little bend at the end of this one is nice, gives a natural effect. 

Continue breathing!  this is important, since as you draw you need to be relaxed, your whole arm involved, big generous movements.

Do several of these.  Vary the curves, as long as one clearly crosses the others.  I did thousands of these years ago when I was first serious about art and wanted to train my hand to calm down, focus and do what I asked.  You can do this with a nice fat charcoal stick, too, turning it to vary the width of the line, and indicate depth.  

This isn't a doodle, and it's not the sort of thing you just do in an idle moment, or on the phone.  Art is done with total focus even just for a few minutes.  You can do this as a meditation.  And you can notice it reminds you of Japanese art, of early drawings, of all kinds of art passages.  And of the rule of three.  

And it reads left to right. This pleases Western eyes, which tend to see visuals in that order, also top to bottom.  Hence the placement of news items in the paper -- big story top left, next big top right, below the fold bottom left next in importance, and last, just making it onto page one, below the fold bottom right. 

Readers of other languages see right to left, or vertically, but most of your viewers, if you're in the West, feel happy with the left to right emphasis, and a bit uncomfortable with right to left.

Anyway, this is a true piece of art you just created.  And no doubt you already have ideas on how to incorporate it into crazy quilting, and stitching, and painting and printmaking, or just to enjoy making these simple drawings for fun.

That's today's gift:  banish your inner critic, then just enjoy making your own way.  The thought police are on vacation for the foreseeable future.  In fact that's true of a lot of things in life.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cute animal pix, your next present!

I was at Terhune Orchards today, picking up two artworks at the end of an exhibit, and since the day was amazingly warm for December, 70F, seized the day and took a little stroll around the farm, checking in on various animals, pets and working, and kids of both kinds, to share with you.

One goat, two sheep, one goose who strolled across, timing it perfectly, the other goats out there somewhere

This might be pyracantha, more knowledgeable gardeners please chime in

 What dogs do on a warm day, completely blocking the steps

 And amusing a small visitor to the farm store

 At the other end of the porch, the cats groom and snooze

 And encourage recycling


 Small tractor driver finishing his day's work.

Me too.  Just a few images to amuse you! in a few weeks we'll probably look back in amazement at these pictures, warm, no wind, no snow.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Catnip Capers

So an interesting little package arrived today, early for Christmas, from friend K., who is evidently way ahead of the game on organization this year, and in it there was, . as well as one of the few interesting Christmas letters and great selfie card,  a parcel for the human, and one for the kitties, courtesy of Buddha, the Malinoisx.

I set the parcels on  the counter while I did some other stuff in the kitchen, and the first thing I knew was a plaintive cry from kitty Duncan, paw stuck under the toaster oven on top of the counter, this is the kitty who officially can't jump.  And on investigating found that the kitty package is stuck under there along with his paw.

Retrieved that and found that the ribbon is who knows where, the wrapping paper is a masticated heap, and the coveted contents, the best catnip, now has tooth holes in the package.  Marigold is highly involved at this stage, too, till Duncan boots her off.  I figured it was safer to put the nip and what was left of the wrapping on the floor, to save falls when they get spacy.

 This stuff is the BEST

 Spacy?  nah, I always look like, uh, what was I saying there..

 I know it was all here a minute ago..

I explained about the Christmas embargo, on till next Tuesday, and he explained in return that cats know not of embargoes, since every day is Catmas.  Which is a point.  Good thing I have the self control to restrict myself to sniffing my package, squeezing it, shaking it, holding it up to the light, and deciding I am further up the foodchain than the kitties, can leave it till the Proper Time.  There.

But I already had a great seasonal entertainment watching Duncan and Marigold going totally apecat over their early Christmas. Thanks for a great floor show, K and Buddha!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Goshawks, Fish Cakes and Pleasing Yourself

Some days are beset with worries of various kinds, this being one of them.  I don't usually use my blogs as crying towels, horas non numero nisi serenas, as the sundial puts it. I figure  it's not very interesting to readers, but now and then I do get anxious about my nearest and dearest, as now.  Then, when I've realized there's little I can do about that, and what I can do I have done, it's time to give myself a little present.

Today it was one to share with you in our monthlong celebration: a cookbook recommended to me by K, on not just cooking for one, but "The Pleasure of Cooking for One" by Judith Jones, quite a different thing.  

When I was teaching myself flute, using a high end silver instrument that was in my custody for a couple of years, I found a great book called How to Love Your Flute, an inspired title. Not how to get the better of your flute, or how to master your flute, or any of that warlike approach, just how to enjoy and love your time with it.  I already do all this, in art and music and cooking, but it's so good to find a book that validates the whole thing with great energy.

This cookbook is very much like that, how to enjoy and celebrate cooking for yourself, and remember you are worth it.  Streets better than those ghastly books that show how to cook at warp speed, or as simply possible because the writer thinks it's boring, or as cheaply as possible and nemmind the taste.

 Barbara Pym, herself a good cook in real life, often has her characters speak contemptuously of people cooking for one and setting the table for themselves.  An in joke, I think, perhaps a plot a clef, with real life friends in mind.  And she's very sharply funny at the expense of men who see a meal alone as "an opportunity to cook a small plover" when her lone heroine plans on a bit of cheese and maybe a sliced tomato!  Some very good lines, though.

Anyway, I also feel free to laugh at my own efforts, too, and the irony of talking about a book with a souffle for one on the cover, with a glass of good white wine, then proceeding to make fish cakes, does not escape me. But they were fun to make and pretty good, too.  Aside from being very meat heavy, something I rarely if ever have any interest in, it's a very happily written text, and worth the time to study it.

And while I'm foofing around in the kitchen, I like to have an audio book going, this week being a fine work by Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk. 

Aside from the gormless title, which nearly put me off completely, I decided that, since I love hawks and know nothing of falconry, this would be a good adventure. Which it is.  

It's about grief after the sudden death of a parent, mixed with the life of T.E.White, the writer, goshawk lover, and tortured soul, her life with her father, and the history of falconry, along with the writer's own adventure in taking on the taming and flying of a goshawk, and the emotional journey back to psychological balance in the process.  She's a professional falconer as well as historian, and knows what she's doing, don't try this at home folks.  

I have huge reservations about taking a wild creature and working with it or taming it, or using it for sport, so that was part of my reluctance.  But she's also a poet, and the recording was done by her, which means there is great understanding of the meaning, and of the ambivalence both of bird and falconer throughout the process. She has great powers of weaving all the strands of her narrative without getting us lost in them, and showing us eventually how they all work to illuminate one another.

Which puts it right up there in the ranks of good reading, despite some weird mispronunciations I decided were her own quirks, falconers not being your everyday run of the field or fen folks. And it reads like a long prose poem, full of exactly the right wording and imagery, but not in a self conscious way.

Anyway, take a look or a listen. My gift to you.  I am not recommending any other audio books at the moment, having been driven bonkers by people who can't pronounce the simplest words, even the name of the author, and haven't checked the way to say the slang words, or foreign phrases and so on.  Shoddy work, a lot of it.

But this one is good, melodious voice, very well phrased and cadenced, musical prose.  So there's a two-part birthday celebration: enjoy cooking for you, if, like many of my blogistas, you cook regularly for one, and treat yourself to this reading, too.  Both at once if you can.  Then you'll have an experiential diptych.
 High falutin' way of saying enjoying two things at once!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Aromatherapy, a gift to yourself

Today's natal gift to you is a few minutes of your time allowing your limbic brain to take over.  It's about the sense of smell, and what it can evoke.

I pulled out a few random spices in the kitchen, since it's winter, and not much to smell out of doors, beyond a bit of frosty air.  But if you do something like this, or use flowers and herbs if your garden is flourishing because it's your season, just give yourself the gift of a few minutes to sniff and enjoy.  

No need to be methodical just inhale the smells and let your mind go where it wants to.  Often this kind of pleasure brings up all sorts of buried memories, usually very vividly, and good ones.  Just a few minutes away from stress and into pleasure.

For me, nutmeg is about my mom, cooking with it, cinnamon from a later period, the Indian spices from early married life when I experimented with curries and had a great time doing it, garam marsala is about Girija and Shabnam, garlic about studying in France, coffee likewise.  The banana never fails to bring me back to the first time I ever saw or tasted one, at age seven when the Atlantic shipping lanes were open again after the end of WW2.

It's not just food, though. You can choose cleaning materials, if you like the smells, or things from your toolbox or your toiletries.  Turpentine swings me right back to early days of making art, Dove soap to bathing a newborn, homespun wool to my experiments with fleece, then Carol Q comes to mind as my spinning guru.  You have your own gallery already stored in your limbic brain, waiting for you to give it a chance on stage.

Just pull them out, set them up and sniff from one to another till your nose gives out -- this will happen fairly soon, so it will be just a short time for this experience.

And the other thing is that as you do this, you are laying down new memories for the future.  Years hence if you smell one of the items you choose today, that will be one of the memories it brings back.

I occasionally gave workshops when I had a large garden, about sensory memory to local groups, bringing in armfuls of herbs from my garden. People were amazed that some of the memories dated back to babyhood, before they were verbal, and certainly before they could read.  This part of the brain does that.  And you tend to form metaphors around it -- the smell of apple pie means home to many Western people.

This is a gift of just a few minutes to enjoy for yourself. Happy Natal Month!  and particularly to those people who also celebrate this month, I'm looking at you, Quinn!  And Tarang, my honorary granddaughter, and Gary, my next door neighbor.  Not to mention Jane Austen, Beethoven and other everyday folks..

Friday, December 4, 2015

Birthday Capers continue over in Beautiful Metaphor

To continue the Birthday Month Caper, go here for a five minute sculpture. Yes, you can do this!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Simple food and meditation

Such a relief to eat simple food after the Tgiving extravaganza.  Here's today's Alaskan fillets, with egg and panko breading, plenty of spices in the panko, especially turmeric, together with broccoli from the farm.  Also it's fast food, took about 15 minutes fridge to plate!

And here's day two of the Great Natal Caper:  a little thing to do for yourself, particularly if you have never managed to get okay with meditation.  It's very good indeed for your health, calmness, bp, all that, but the monkey mind tends to interfere with it.

So here's a new one I sort of hacked from a series of other attempts, and it works nicely for me.  I found that it reduced the pain in my arm significantly, probably because the related muscles and tendons calmed down, and only the actual hurt part hurts, much better to deal with.

Anyway, it's ten minutes twice a day if you can remember.  Usual getting very comfortable, lying, sitting, whatever works.  And start to count your breaths, one count for in and out, while you visualize scenes or items that please you, and are not related to your work or your worries.  

I find that the counting gives a structure that keeps my mind on the job and not galloping about on hobbyhorses, and if I lose track of the number, I just estimate where to start again, and resume the counting and visualizing.  If you make art you will have a bonus: great new ideas will swim up, but don't act on them right away, get through the session first.

I find that by about breath 80, I've reached the 10 minute mark, nice chiming bell timer on my Ipod tells me.  You may have fewer breaths to the minute, if your lungs are not permanently degraded by scars as mine are, misspent sick youth (!). 

But anyway, it's not hard to fit in, and it really helps with mood and ability to cope.  So here's a present from me to you-- just give it a shot and see if it's working for you, too.  I'd feel honored if you were to do that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

White Rabbits and other serious matters, including Izzy Dolls

 Since today is the start of my natal month, I decided to take my own advice to other people: celebrate yourself for the whole month.  And I thought, ha, here's a good start, after the White Rabbits ceremony, that is.

What I'd really like any or all blogistas to do, if you are interested in taking part in the Birthday Caper, is to consider making a few comfort dolls, the kind I made years ago and sent to Willie at ICROSS Canada.  It would be a gift to me, just to know it's happening. 

Here's a blurry, old pic, ancient camera long ago, of a few of the ones I made and sent to ICROSS Canada

 They are simple enough that beginning knitters can make them -- the shaping all happens after you've knitted and stuffed the doll -- and they are great fun to make, just a few inches high, right size for a little kid in need of a comfy doll to hold. using small amounts of yarn.   I like to make the faces a range of colors, too, to include all the groups of children we can.

Right now Canada is getting ready for an influx of child refugees from Syria, and the comfort doll is one thing that would be nice for kids tossed all over by political struggles they have no part in, to have on arrival.  

Or you can make and send to Willie at ICROSS. Or to the parent people in Canada, info in one of the links below.  And it doesn't have to be international shipping: you might find a local cause that might like them -- some police departments like to give these to kids they come across in crime situations. And even teens are not above liking them.

Whatever you feel like doing, please do that, singing Happy Birthday to Liiiiiz as you knit...or maybe not.  But here are the links you need to get under way:



Either or both links will give you enough to be going on with.  And it was a Raveler who reminded me of this little doll, also known as the Izzy doll, and I will credit her if I can find her name anywhere. Any other raveler who knows, chime in, and I'll update!

And thank you all!   Hippo Birdies to the Great Me!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Work of nature, best artist

Noticed this on the way in to the library to stop and chat and generally bother friend Carol Q. the director, soon to be retired, and delighted with it!  perfect work of nature, the fungus, not Carol, though she's not so bad either, look at that design, the fungus, not Carol.  This belongs in Beautiful Metaphor, too, come to think of it. I believe it's growing on an old remains of a tree.

But, having made plans with Carol for art and craft related expeditions once she's got free days, that's next spring,  I set off for the doctor's office to find out what's up with my arm. 

After she moved it hither and yon, noting at what points I screamed, she said, hm, this is bursitis in your shoulder.  What have you done for it up to now? so I recited the things that didn't work, Aleve, and the things that did, Advil and meditation, and she suggested a quick cortisone shot to clear it up fast.  Which would have been good if the cortisone doctor had been able to fit me in before another eight days...by which time it may have resolved on its own, but we'll see.  If not, I'll get it done.

It does feel like the ailment of a wimp, though, after a mere painting of a kitchen, installation of insulation, and two backsplashes along with various other physical jobs involving chucking heavy stuff around the garden and the studio.  And all the plans for painting the laundry area, and making yeah many artworks for next year to exhibit.  Not to mention carrying the Dollivers about loaded down with jewels.

Oh well. I guess I'm no longer 40, though it does come as a surprise. In spirit, I'm perfectly capable of continuing to paint and reno, and all that.  But perhaps I have to pace it just a little.  Well, we'll see about that, too... in fact the pacing has started. Instead of ordering kitty litter, which I have to carry up a flight of stairs, in 28 lb boxes, I've ordered it in 19 lb boxes. So that's a start. 


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Witch hazel, flowers in winter!

On a brisk chilly walk today, I remembered the witchhazel bush I spotted last year, and included it on the walk to see if it was in flower.  And it was. I love witchhazel for flowering at the most unpromising time of the year.  Early this year, too.  Usually I pick a sprig or two in January, and as it warms in the house, it scents the air.

So here's this year's sprig, in glass pebbles in water, along with peppermint from the patio.  And the other container has parsley.  t
They rooted in water so they may keep going for a while.  

Herbs need the hot sun to move the aromatic oils about and give that scent off, but they have a pale version of it indoors, too.  In the background you see the Russian sage, out in front of the window, now dozing off and ready to be trimmed back before we get snow.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rum Raisin Banana Bread -- Apres Tday! 6WS

So Tday is done, and the remains have become a very good turkey and mixed veg soup, to be eaten with caraway hot biscuits.  But there was a marked lack of the rum raisin motif up to now. 

That has now been addressed, with a loaf of Rum Raisin Banana Bread.  This came about while I was leafing through a few recipe books, dark, rainy day,  in search of something new to bake, and found a different idea, but which involved raisins in rum.

Aha, I decided that it would probably make a good addition to my trusty banana bread, and in fact it did.  Cup of golden raisins, soaked for about an hour in white rum, best Puerto Rico, drained, the rum going into the vanilla I'm soaking to make my own essence, and the raisins into the bread.

Worked a treat, it did.  And here's what I do after the bread is baked and cooling on the rack -- wash and dry the loaf pan,and then use it to serve the bread from. It occurred to me after I tasted it that this is the closest I'll ever come to making a fruit cake, and that's okay, too, to quote Stuart Smalley. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Leftovers and Postmortem

So the day was lovely, went well, remembered to serve all the food for once, having taken the precaution of putting all the items on a previously emptied shelf in the fridge, weather was nice enough for a walk between courses.

And here are most of the leftovers, not many this year, today's lunch.  

Shared with Handsome Son, who left me some pumpkin pie and cheese and crackers and took home a meal's worth of turkey and cranberry jelly but passed on the vegetables.  The turkey leg roulade was not an unqualified success.  For one thing it took much longer to cook than the recipe claimed, and the meat itself, while it tasted good, was not sliceable into the neat rounds they promised.  More of a good tasting shambles, to be exact.

Son suggested that perhaps the pix with the online recipe were not of a leg rouladed, but of a turkey breast,which I now think is correct.  Even they couldn't make this one look neat.  He also wondered if they'd actually tested this recipe at all, or just used clip art and a series of guesses as to how it would work.  We indulged in all this bitter dialog while whipping into it, I ought to admit.

However, the stuffing was good, and all that extra the recipe made  will go into some bird for Christmas, maybe cornish game hens, we'll see.  I still like the principle, just doubt whether the turkey leg is a good subject.

The cranberry jelly was out of a can, this being HS favorite, and I got a can of what claimed to be cranberry sauce, but which turned out to be another jelly. Hm.  Cranberry and raspberry.  Which in fact was pretty good, even if there was a big lie on the label. To me a cranberry sauce has whole fruit, and it pours from the can, as if you'd made it yourself, which I didn't this year.

The applesauce was excellent, great apples went into it, and it really paid off.  And the delicata squash and various other farm veggies played their part just fine.   In fact a lot of the veggies were finished on the day.  Handsome Son attended to the baking of the pie in between watching Poirot, causing him to miss essential plot points and be unable to fill me in on them, since I had fallen off into a little doze on the sofa..

All in all, a very nice day, and thank you all for the notes and emails and comments and texts on the day.  Also my friends who left a bag of Indian goodies to add in, hanging from the doorknob before they left for the weekend. Included was a little gold box of chocolates with a jingle bell attached, which has now become the first item on the ficus tree, which acts the part of a seasonal conifer.

Plenty to be thankful for, I'd say.  My birthday comes in a couple of weeks, and  Handsome Son is inviting me to his place to cook me lunch, his choice of menu.  Usually he comes here, but I thought it would save his carting about all the ingredients and tools (he doesn't trust my kitchen tools).  So that will be great.  This will be a double digit birthday, both numbers the same, and I wonder if there's a name for that?  any blogistas who happen to know, please say.  No, I'm not 99.  Yet.

No mention of Christmas is allowed until my bday is past.  Not that I have an exaggerated sense of my importance, at least that's my story, it's just that, well, the season doesn't begin till then.  Even if there's a jingle bell already in place.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pre Thanksgiving Turkey Dance

So here's the stage set for the Turkey Roulade caper.  The idea is to bone the turkey thigh, and roll it with a savory stuffing, tie it with string, roast, then slice it for serving.  

Boning was a first for me, also tying with string, and I was surprised that I was able to do it. Twice.  Two legs, that is.

The stuffing is all about sausage, mushrooms, egg, rosemary, thyme, breadcrumbs, red onions and garlic, quite fun to do, but I'm glad I'm not trying this on the day.  Took much longer than the recipe happily indicated.  Recipe written by an experienced chef, with hot and cold running sous-chefs, I'm guessing. And it turned out that there was a lot of leftover stuffing, which will be frozen for future adventures of this kind. You can stuff chicken breasts this way, it might even give them some flavor.

 So here's the product, resting seam side down, with a sprig of rosemary on one, thyme on the other, from my garden, and now resting in the fridge, to roast tomorrow.  I suspect that this is the kind of thing that's interesting and exciting to do once, but once might be a lifetime supply. Like tiling a floor.

And I have a list of items so as not to forget anything for the groaning board.  I often forget something interesting and the groaning is coming from the cook when that happens.  All the veggies are from the farm, always a happy point.

So Happy Thanksgiving, however you celebrate it, and if you don't have a special day tomorrow, Happy Thursday anyway!

And just so it's not all about food, I always remember you, dear blogistas, with great thankfulness that you're there and reading and enjoying and responding and adding more than you can know to my life!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Poisson et pommes frites a la mode de chez Liz

So, long time since fish was on the menu, and in anticipation of heavier fare later in the week, I thought I might make a nice fish dinner.  

Proceeded to marinate a piece of Alaskan pollock, which always sounds like an insulting term more than a food item, in cherry balsamic vinegar, later breaded it with panko, chunked up a scrubbed but not peeled potato, tossed the pieces in olive oil and kosher salt, sprinkled a bit of coarse sea salt over, and roasted the lot.  Well, the potatoes for about 45 minutes, and the fish for more like 9, at 425F.

Here the fish is resting on a rack for half an hour after the breading, so that it dries a bit and the breading is more crisp.

Served it with a nice glass of homemade lemonade (lemon slices from freezer, that way I always have some lemon around). 

And realized that this posh and labor intensive poisson et pommes frites a la mode de chez Liz really amounted to fish n chips and lemonade. Well, fish n chips maison, to hang desperately onto a bit of posh description.  But it was pretty good anyway.