Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Big Food, by Accident

Not sure how this transpired, but at eleven a.m. I was idly wondering what to get for lunch.  Then by 1 p.m. I had a giant Vegetable Roast and a giant Plum Cake there.  It just sort of crept up on me.  Big Food happened.

Here's the veggie set up 

I had just pulled out a lot of frozen veggies, farm stuff I mean, and thought maybe a stirfry.  Kale, onions, tomatoes, edible pod peas. There might be celery and leeks in there, too.  Then I thought why? you don't like stirfry that much, how about roasting them?  Looked up a recipe or two and found one for a roast vegetable pie.  But it involved making a pastry crust, nooooo, another day.  However, there were some great ideas for flavoring the veggies, so I studied them.

And after letting the vegs sit in a tossed olive oil mix, with baharat (that Ottolenghi spice mix, which I have to make again soon) and a big pinch of turmeric along with salt and black pepper,  here comes the recipe lady's idea:  I poured over a nice mix of chicken broth thickened with cornstarch.  Back to my ideas, then put a big twig of curry leaves on top, and a big sprig of basil, both fresh.   Roasted for about an hour at 325, and it was a treat.  Much more interesting than the run of roasted vegetables.

And while the oven was hot and I was waiting for the lunch to cook, I thought I might as well get around to mixing that plum cake recipe I make sometimes, since I had the plums prepped in the freezer, waiting for it.  

A bit short of butter, but it worked fine with half the usual amount anyway, and where she puts brandy I put red wine, and where she puts Demerara sugar I sniffed hoity toity and put white sugar.  

But I did buy this pan specially for this recipe and I'm glad I did.  It has to be just this thick and just this size in order to work.  If you're interested in trying it, I have completely forgotten who the writer was, but she presents it as Figgy Demerara Snacking Cake, so you can probably find it that way.  If I ever find her name, I will duly credit her.  

And since it needs a  400F oven, I had that heat up further after the veggies were done at 325F and I was eating lunch, so there was cake for dessert, more or less.  I like it best with plums on top, nice  tart contrast with the sweeter effect of the cake part, but I guess you can stud it with just about any fruit you have to hand.  It's made with wholewheat flour, too, so it's virtuous. Not that I think that considerations of health ought to enter into the consideration of cake.  Just eat a nice little bit and enjoy it.

So now there are many squares of Plum Cake in the freezer ready to bring out any time I need a little something with tea.  Or for a friend.  And a little plate of them is already across the street awaiting friends homecoming this evening. 

Always a good thing to have enough to share.  Some fresh scones with homemade strawberry jam found their way next door yesterday, where the little granddaughter was there for the day, wonder how that happened..it beats me how people living alone manage to cook for one, really.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rain's down, soup's up, spirits middling 6WS

Today needed a reboot.  I woke before dawn, still dark o'clock, to a chirp.  Gah, why do smoke alarms notify about batteries in the night time? the next chirp confirmed that it was no use trying not to hear it.  
So I staggered downstairs in search of batteries and stepladders, found a battery, stepladder nowhere to be seen.  Not in the place it spozed to be, nor anywhere else that I could see with half-open eyes. Upstairs again for a second sweep, chirp still going, then back down and found it, um, in the middle of the living room...I didn't notice it because it was in the wrong place!  it was there from another adventure last night, unhooking an S hook from the ceiling, to lend it to friend next door, too complicated to explain now.

 So I finally got the steps upstairs and situated in my least favorite place, at the head of the stairs, where the alarm is.  Replaced the battery, after prodding and banging to find out how the little door opens.  Climbed down again, all smug.  Chirping continues. Took out and replaced battery.  Chirping.

Realized it must be the CO alarm on the nearby wall.  Got that off, wrenched open the little door.  And found it needs three AAs.
Back downstairs, rifle through kitchen drawer full of seeds and clips and rubber bands and batteries, amazingly found three AAs.

Back upstairs, install them, more or less got alarm hung back on wall, silly keyhole openings in the back you can't see to hang.  Got out phone and put in note to self to get more batteries.

Then breakfast for all, and catch up on email.  This is where the morning suddenly sped past, since I found I'd fallen asleep upright and woke up about an hour later. So the day did reboot.

Made a wonderful spicy soup as a consolation prize and good lunch for a cold rainy day.  Can't reproduce this, since it included all the rest of the steamed green beans from last night's dinner with Handsome Son, a bowl of spicy vegetables donated by Indian friend, chicken bones from last night, two containers of the water you get when you wash the blender after making pesto, onions and garlic, usual base in olive oil.  And very good it was, spicy but not too much so.  Hot biscuit to go with.  This restored me a treat. And made me feel a bit less incompetent about being unable to find a stepladder in the middle of the living room.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Summer came back, but looking like October

Today was the warmest day in a while, high 80sF and a little breeze, perfect for people to do what I did, mosey over to Cranbury, for ice cream before the shop closes for the season, then walk about. 

Amazing how many people are free in the daytime to be out and about, all ages, reminder that everyone is not on a nine to five workday. This is my second positively last ice cream of the season, and I wonder now if I will make a few more positively final appearances, like an Italian tenor.  I'm not fighting it.

Anyway, after the obligatory icecream at the store all tricked up for Halloween, I went over to Village Park, to see sun on the water, a favorite sight. 

I notice yet again that I do like those empty benches in front of a view.  They suggest stories and happenings to me.  And sun sparkling on water.  And shadows in trees and of trees.  This is one of those days where I don't draw nor paint, but store up images which will later occur to me as I'm working.

Then home to the last of the fruit crumble and a cup of coffee, very Viennese, and an Emma Lathen.  If you have not read any of them, you might really enjoy.  It's a series of detective stories set in the world of high finance, but a lot more fun than that sounds, with great comic characters and dialog.  Written by two women, both from that life, it is as funny as it is wise.  I'm rereading, just to have  books I can laugh out loud at.  Urgently needed at this point in history.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tea's up! and visiting geranium too

So yesterday about 3.30 p.m. I thought hm, time for a little something.  Scones, maybe.  Jam, too, maybe.  But I didn't have either. However, in practically no time, amazing how fast it goes when you're hungry, I'd made a batch of golden raisin and walnut scones, and a pot of strawberry jam.  

I had a packet of strawberries in the freezer waiting for the moment I felt like making jam.  And the smell as they came out, pure summer time and hot weather. It's nice to remember hot weather when you're cool at the moment.

So by 4.15 I was sitting down to a nice afternoon tea, complete with hot scones, fresh strawberry preserves, and a great air of smugness.  Amazing how fast this is when you make small batches of everything.  And sb's taste better, usually, than massive batches.

And they'll be shared with various people, too.

I also have a visitor hanging out with me while the roof down the street is being repaired, well, several, but this is the most spectacular, the geranium.  

Also several of her friends came with her until their porch is uncovered and back in action.  Really improves the look of the place, I must say. 

Having a couple of computer setbacks today, involving losing and finding and accidentally deleting programs, dang, which is why there's no watermark on these pix.  But they're not good enough to steal, so I'm not too disturbed about this.  

But I wish I could find all my icons, which suddenly shot off my desktop!  SOS out to techie son for suggestions on how to do this. The solutions I've found look a bit dangerous to me, not wanting to dig this hole any deeper.  So I will breathe, and spin, and go for a walk and this too shall pass.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dessert for breakfast, life is good 6WS

Yesterday's dinner, for Handsome Son and self, was all about comfort food in the first chilly days of fall.  Pasta with red sauce of farm tomatoes, homemade oregano pesto, sausage slices, then a crumble of apples and blackberries, farm produce. Nice glass of red wine.  

 Here's the fruit looking like natural jewelry, and the bowl of melted butter with olive oil waiting to mix with the flours on the left
The crumble part was almond, walnut and oatmeal flour, which I processed from the nuts, in the coffee grinder, plus oatmeal flakes.

This not only made a very good supper, fresh grated parmigiano cheese and hot pepper flakes on the pasta, then the different texture of the crumble, but the dessert is good for breakfast, too.  

Because, you know, oatmeal, fruit.  So this morning a bowl of it with mango yogurt over it, cup of Vietnamese coffee. What could be better.

Now that the farmers' market is almost over, many vendors having finished for the season,  my mushroom and egg people sell to other stores, so I can still get them, I can look at the season and muse.  

Very glad to be out from under the onslaught of squash, zucchini and potatoes of last year's farmshare.  I have been given a few summer squash, but those I can manage. And I've had more variety of everything.  So all in all, it was a good move to quit the farmshare.  I still eat top of the farm, but my own choices.  

And the visits to the farmers' market were social events, too, with music, and bumping into friends and friendly dogs, and generally a value added morning. I guess this is an unsolicited testimonial.  I still buy from the farm where I had the share, though, but it's what I want to have, not what they want to sell me!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I write to you midst shot and shell, to quote the poet

So we are at the start of a long long long period of renovation in the development.  After years of prodding and wailing and pushing and generally being squeaky wheels to the Board, we have taken out a massive loan, and are now at work.  

Starting a couple of weeks ago, all the roofs are being completely replaced, yay, fixing the leaks in my ceiling, I hope, and all the wood siding, rotted and rotten looking, replaced with some synthetic stuff that lasts forever or near to it.

This will be great when finished, meanwhile, there will be a long period of noise and disruption and dust and sneezing and general chaos.  I have to move furniture off the patio, and put away my solar light for safekeeping, and generally hope my little trees survive having stuff flying down on them from a great height. Parking is always tight anyway, and with many spaces taken for vehicles and setup, even more so.  If you are out in the evening, your parking spots are gone before you get home.  

I don't store anything in the eaves, so I don't need to do anything about that, though I have neighbors frantically emptying out the storage of years from there and figuring out where it is to go, since it was in the eaves because there wasn't anywhere else...But this too shall pass.

Meanwhile, it's a kid's paradise to see all the big rigs and giant digging and pulling and hauling machinery, and all the huge chunks of debris flying down off the roofs.  I can't watch while men are trotting about on the ridgeline waving large roofing panels, though.
And they worry if anyone gets too close, hence the distance pic of the current roof under construction down the street.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Voting around here is Done and Dusted by Dollivers

The mail-in ballot arrived, and the Dollivers, always keen to exercise their fantasy franchise, clamored to get on with it, and assist in the photoshoot of the historic ballot.  Call Me Michelle made sure I knew whose name to check.  

Great excitement, particularly since today former GOP governor of NJ, Christie Whitman, announced she will vote for Hillary.  The Ds claimed to have called her and urged this action, for historic reasons if no other, she being our first female gov, but they tend to get carried away with these things.

So it's Done, the Die is Cast, and now for the wait..

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tonstant Weader and two gems

As patient blogistas who actually read in here know, I read in all forms, audio via Hoopla, audio via CD, Kindle, paper type books, depending on what I'm doing at the time.  So I consume large amounts of reading material, including Dorothy Parker from whom I swiped part of the blogpost title above, but I don't bother you with a lot of it.

Now and then I just have to, though, and this is one of those times.  I recently listened to an audio of Ann Patchett reading her book of essays and addresses, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.  And in there was a long account of the address she gave at a university, part of their program, on the subject of her book Truth and Beauty.

It is a moving account of her life and times in the company of Lucy Grealey, the poet and author of Autobiography of a Face. To her amazement, she was subject to great criticism and outright hatred, much of it from people who bragged about not having read her book. Politicians who wanted her banned from campus, her talk cancelled, mothers of students who demanded that the book be taken out of the roster of required reading, on and on.

From accusations of "unnatural behavior" odd considering that both were seriously involved with the opposite sex most of the time, but anyway, to trying to introduce sex to college students (as if), in order to lead them astray, accounts of Lucy's final days, when she was addicted to heroin, bound to lead their young to do likewise, and so on.  But virulent and pretty scary.  

Despite advice to cancel, not to subject herself to an audience which might heckle and harass her in  real time, Patchett bravely went, took her stand, made the speech and lived to tell about it.  She was determined that freedom of speech should not stop before her, and that the academic environment, above all, should be a place where ideas are freely discussed and shared.

So I had to read Truth and Beauty in order to find out what had got these good folks all of a dither.  But first I had to read Autobiography of a Face, Grealey's masterwork, in order to understand before I got into the friendship, what kind of person, and more to the point, writer, Grealey was.

And I'd say that's a good order to read in.  Grealey's book, ostensibly about childhood cancer, leaving her face forever marked, despite multiple surgeries to rebuild her jaw, is in fact about much more than the facts of her life.

She's a poet, you realize that very fast, and has the penetrating, unswerving gaze of the artist who can see so many layers of meaning and so many further questions, about her life, and how to be part of life, and whether looks are the only entree to love and acceptance, while pursuing her own inevitable path into writing.

It cost her dearly, and she struggled more than most of us can imagine, with pain, treatments, depression, and the overall load of a massive talent in a tiny body, finally overtaken by the drugs she resorted to for relief, after moving on from pain medicine.

You simply have to keep reading.  Except when you have to put it down to come up for air, and remember to breathe.  It's all distilled wisdom.  And she's a true Irish writer, from an Irish family, father a journalist, moved to the US young,  eloquent, unsparing, detached.

Then Patchett, who knew Lucy after college when they taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, as part of their tuition deal, while both seriously pursued their own writing, to the end of Lucy's life, never doubted that Lucy's talent was greater than hers, a generous woman always.  She herself has won many prizes in her own right, and has a major writing career, but is still able to love and respect a greater writer, and cope with the difficulty of being a lifelong friend to a complicated and demanding person.

She has very different insights into their friendship, and into Lucy's struggles, many of which Lucy simply doesn't refer to, just deals with, but it's worth reading to see what she had to rise above. And Patchett is worth reading for herself.  And Grealey's family got into the act, criticizing Patchett for hijacking their family's grief and accusing her of getting famous by knowing Lucy, sigh.  

I suspect it's one of those times when the family doesn't quite realize and accept what a public property a famous gifted relative has become, and that they can't stop people knowing her, writing about her with love, and generally being visible.  Nor can they realize that another famous writer was writing about Lucy. So there are many roiling parts to this story, a drama rushing forward all the time.

These are two books both of which I'd heard of and not read, and both of which I do recommend, but Grealey unreservedly, Patchett with a little admission that I had to skip when it got too long and editworthy.

So there we are.  One thing that I think disappointed Lucy was that her audiences for lectures and public events were often populated by people who wanted to compare notes as cancer survivors and didn't realize she was lecturing as a poet, more than as a survivor. But her readers who go to her poetry read her as a writer.  Her experience informs her writing, that's usually the case, but it's not the whole thing.

So if you have not read both of them, do.  I think you'll get a lot out of it.  Most people have read the Grealey, but if you look on the Patchett as a companion volume, that would work well, too.

And you might have comments to leave here, too. Open to hearing!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fall planting, and Fall tea party follows

So the long awaited Rose of Sharon arrived, and it's like getting a new puppy.  All the planning and thinking and ordering up and waiting (well, this is fiction in my case, my dogs have all been strays who showed up and asked to come in, but nemmind) and then the carton arrives and a tiny little tree lies there waiting for you to take over.

So I pulled out a lot of groundcover, and dug a nice roomy hole for Rose to climb into, while she soaked her tired roots in a bucket, 

and here she is with her new friends, looking small but determined 

She will have blue flowers, so let's hope she flourishes.  Behind her on the fence is the yellow climbing rose, starting to take hold, and around are the daisies and the dark pink sedum. On the right is the Japanese maple, and the jury's still out on whether it will survive the transplant, but there are a few nice new growth tips, so I'm hopeful.

The Dollivers flatly refused to take part in this rite of Fall, on the grounds that their gardening gloves keep falling off and it's annoying, so they decided that being hostesses to the Fall teaparty was more their line of country.

So here they are, all agog to meet Jeanne, in fact a couple of them already did, but don't mention that to the others, they hate to be left out, serious case of FOMO among the Ds.

Two views, so as not to exclude anyone from being in the foreground. Good thing there aren't more of them, or this could get tedious.

Jeanne was the perfect appreciative guest, came complete with handmade chocolates and the Ds are even now arguing over who should get the run of the box.  We enjoyed  some savory egg salad on wholewheat, banana bread, and raisin scones with tomato and lemon preserve.  It went down okay, and Jeanne left with a little care package for home consumption.  I do love to fix this sort of afternoon tea.  Don't do it often, but it's great fun with the right guest.

And as another mixed media artist, she was just wonderful to show around and let her see what was what around here, including the llama yarn, which, as a yarny person, she buried her nose in appreciatively.  And as a knitter, she had a funny knitting story, which I will not relay here, in order to protect the guilty.

Lovely afternoon.