Thursday, June 30, 2016

Surprises in the plant kingdom

The Chinese evergreen, aglaonema to the initiated, suddenly bust out with a bunch of flowers this week.  

I noticed they're very similar to the flowers on other plants such as the spathiphyllum and the dracaena, and found that they're all members of the lily family.  Which I suppose is why they also look like arum lily flowers.  And I wonder if Jack in the Pulpit is a wild cousin of the clan?  

Anyway, nice surprise.  I always like it when plants bloom, just as when animals reproduce, it means they're happy in their environment.  And when they point out something interesting for me to explore, even better.

And the peacock jasmine, a mail order arrival, too small to photograph when she arrived, back in May, is now developing and has started putting out tiny white flowers, which have the most powerful scent you can imagine, like being in a jungle paradise. 

These are the flowers used in Hawaiian leis, pure white, scented, would be nice to wear.  If you could handle the scent at that range. 

This botanical excursion is meant to distract from the kitchen excitement of this morning.  My overhead light went a few days ago, the replacement has arrived, and I'm hoping my friend next door will get around to installing it.  He's been busy, and it's a favor, so I don't like to press. 

However, cooking by the light of the sink light and the stove light is getting old, particularly since this morning I was making a new recipe, partly to try on Handsome Son tomorrow, partly to have extra in the freezer. 

One of those recipes where you deal with opening canned salmon, wiping and slicing mushrooms, picking and mincing fresh herbs, cooking rice and combining it with yogurt, thawing puff pastry, frying onions, it better be good, that kind.

All went pretty much okay, and I made double the quantities, since the only can of salmon available was twice the size needed, and I am not budgetarily up to salmon steaks.  Sooooo, so far so more or less good, until I read the directions for oven temp. 

I thought they were a bit low, but needing new glasses, and the small type, and the suboptimal kitchen light, I soldiered on thinking well, perhaps they're right, but I thought this pastry needed a hotter oven.

Followed it to where it should have been all done, and it really really wasn't, looked pale and sad, not brown and joyful.  So I irritatedly shoved the temp up a good bit higher and now it started to work better.  I will finish the cooking tomorrow evening, so that it comes out fresh from the oven for dinner. And hope by then it works, because this is two complete puff pastry pie things plus another sort of quiche for the freezer.  All the ingredients were cooked ahead, really, so it's only the pastry that needs to step it up.

Then I was about to make notes on the cookbook indicating that it should be at the temp I put it at in the end, and realized, doh, they had put the celsius reading ahead of the fahrenheit, a reversal of what I'm used to, not being in a decimalized world here.  And the Fahrenheit temp I'd put it at was the one they'd said all now I've circled blackly the correct temps for my use.  Doh, again.

So this points up three needs: get the &*&**& kitchen light installed, make eye doctor appointment, and read the recipe a good light.

If it comes out well after all this, I'll pic it for you.  All good ingredients as my mom used to say if something came out below expectations.

On a different topic, yesterday was the  Feast of Sts Peter and Paul.  I've always thought this was a sort of canonical in-joke, since they did. in life.  So the Church makes them share the same feast day in perpetuity.  I wonder what Pope thought that one up.  Now, boys, you have to just learn to get along, see what you have in common, not what you always argue about. I bet they would have argued about the oven temp, too.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Closing talk for art exhibit, with surprise present, and food catchup

Wednesday was the talk for the last day of my textile art exhibit, and it went over so well, nice group came, everyone who promised to come and some more people who hadn't but came anyway, very knowledgeable group to talk with.  

And one guest, Cynthia C., came complete with a lovely present!  a solar light for the garden area, and here it is, set up right away, as soon as I got home, and last evening already charged and  putting out a steady glow.

I thought this was a good home, between daylilies and lavender, and kneedeep in pachysandra.  I will enjoy this for years.

Then, time for a bit of food catchup.  I whipped about in a frenzy and made hot biscuits with poppyseeds, a soup of farm-picked asparagus and red lentil, and a plum crumble.  Some of this is to feed Handsome Son, along with a main dish probably of pasta with my spag sauce,  when he comes over Friday, some to feed Boud anyway.  I make us a big meal on Friday evening, then I have leftovers for a few days!

The plum crumble is starting to be my own recipe, no reference to books or tattered copies now.  I macerated the fruit, great price on plums in the Asian store,  in fresh grated nutmeg, fresh ground cinnamon, a swoosh of lemon juice, and some honey and molasses.  Then reduced the liquid that came off it, added it in, mixed the fruit with cornstarch, just a dusting, and that was the fruit done.  

The crumble was equal parts almond flour and oat flour, both whirred in my coffee grinder from sliced nuts and oatmeal flakes, plus whole oatmeal flakes.  Tart enough to suit me but maybe not other people, so when it came out of the oven still hot, I sprinkled some sugar over, not much.  This is a gluten free crumble, I think, since cornstarch has no gluten as far as I know. And almonds and walnuts don't either.

So that was this morning's cooking done, on a comparatively cool day.  Now back to reading Nightingale, alternating with Buddhist Wisdom.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Done. Time elapsed 1.5 hours

Including finding the screwdriver to get the lid off the can.  All the bits the painter could reach, now looking very spiffy. It's some of what was left over from when I painted the studio.

Painter is v.v. chuffed about this, partly because it looks so much better, and partly because she lived to tell the tale.  The electric cords are waiting for the outlet to be dry and pluggable in.

So now I have ambitious plans to get on with the staircase, too, now that I seem to have established I can do this stuff again.  And the taping will be a feature there, too, since as usual, it's the bottom few feet that get the traffic, and the rest of it, soaring way up there, looks just fine.  

What I used today was one of those big pad things with a handle, rather than wave a roller about in such a small area. When I find a longer rod I can screw the pad onto, I might return and fix the bits I couldn't reach.  Not easy leaning over immovable appliances, and having rather short arms is a bit of a liability.

I rarely buy paint, usually getting full unopened gallons at the dumpster from the surplus bought by excited homeowners overestimating their area.  So the colors are a bit of a lucky dip. At the moment I have the rest of the flat latex in peachy beige, very nice, the rest of the shiny green from the kitchen, perhaps not for the stairs, though, and a full gallon of eggshell white, which might be just the ticket.  

Eggshell finish at the bottom of the wall, flat white at present the rest of the way up.  Might be nice.  And I might even get all carried away and put in a racing stripe of the laundry area color.  I think Handsome Son might be recruited to help with the taping, so as not to have wavy lines. 

Of course, if anyone suddenly puts out new colors at the dumpster, I might rethink my interior design ideas. You have to allow for these possibilities.

Total cost today: about ten dollars for the pad and replacement pad. Labor free. Well, two Advil for the laborer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cure for Dudgeon revealed

See I can do clickbait titles with the best of them..

Lately I have for various reasons been in a state of fairly low spirits and high dudgeon, partly because my aging bod is resisting doing as much as I like to do, and fighting back with some pain to the point where I have to choose what to do, rather than plunge in and do it all. And I have to time it, too, so as not to be all froze up at the wrong time.

One of my biggest grievances was the fear that I might not be able to get back to painting my own walls, a very therapeutic and satisfying sort of job, but hard on the very joints that are kicking and fussing.

However, I decided, heck, let's at least give it a shot and do the laundry area which has been annoying me for years.  So I emptied the shelf, chucked away some containers with a quarter inch of material in them, why do we do this, instead of just finishing it at a go, anyway, I did that.  And sorted out the painting stuff I'll need.

And realized that in fact it's not half as bad as I thought.  I must have painted it more recently than I realized. The upper half is pristine, no need to do anything with it.  All the bits I don't like are the bottom half.

So I had a rush of brains to the head and taped up where I will paint down from, nice peach color paint that I found I'd put up on the shelf for this very purpose.  Chucked a cloth over the appliances. And now it's all ready for me to work on tomorrow. And it's not half as big a job as I thought.  So this will be a test of whether I can do this.

I also retired the curtain that had been hanging across this opening (you can't have folding doors and cats), and have ordered a very pretty replacement with a design of green plants and things on it, fits right in with the plant-ridden upstairs.

Then, bloated with pride, I retired to my other vice, recorder playing.  I can now do this again, shoulder being at least willing to allow that, as long as I don't play the bass recorder, that being a bit heavy for my hands, and requiring some angles my fingers don't like doing.

So I practiced some Handel, largely because he's full of the blasted high notes that my playing partner and I are determined to master in this life.  I realize that it's not everyone who considers Handel a good fingering exercise, but he won't know.  And he puts a lot of notes in the C6 register, that's two octaves above Middle C., for them as cares about this.

And I sorted my lovely Elizabethan and late medieval music, the recorder being at home in this era, as I am.  So my Morley and Machaut and others are now organized in a way that means we can just play instead of fumbling about on the floor sorting pages. This happens when you play, you get into another sort of mindset that cares nothing for organizing bits of paper, then later you realize what a mess it is.

Oh, what a great day, such joy playing music. Woodwind is particularly good for your spirits because it involves using a lot of oxygen and breath control, and anyway it's just fun.  

You see here the three instruments I can still handle, well, there's a fourth, the sopranino, but its range is so high most people don't compose for it.  You know the Magic Flute? those high runs? that's sopranino territory.  

Anyway these here are the component parts of the soprano, alto and tenor recorders, the alto being what I was mainly playing today, the tenor being in two bits there.

And now I am going back to continue reading Donna Leon's essays on Venice, and checking various musical references on youtube to catch what melodies she's referring to.She would be horrified that I use Handel merely as fingering work, since she's a total Handelian oratorio nut, but she won't know either.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Berries and Biscuits

Here's the latest haul from the farm stand, strawberries, almost the end of the short season, and the first raspberries of the year.  They are precious, since you have either to grow them or get them from a local farm, since they are too fragile to ship, so you are unlikely to find them in a store.  I used to grow them back when I had a big garden, and give them away freely to very happy friends.

One year I offered a week of prime picking time in my patch as an auction item for a services auction in aid of a local women's organization, and that went for a nice price for the cause.

Back to my own current harvest here: you see that little bag of tiny bush cherries? the harvest in total to date.  But at least it's in double digits now.  They are tart and lovely, big pit for small berry, but okay, and I think they will make a great team with the strawberries I have lurking in the freezer for whenever I get the urge to make jam, a tart component of the flavor.

Not that you need to make jam.  Tip from a lazy cook: take a couple of berries, any berries, and squash them onto a split hot biscuit like the ones here, and eat and they're as good as jam with no labor and no added sugar.

These biscuits look pretty rock solid, but in fact they're a little crusty on the outside and wonderfully tender inside, since I use olive oil for the fat content, and skim milk soured with lemon juice for the buttermilk component.  They take about two minutes to mix, ten to bake, and they're very good indeed.  When you serve them later, about 15 seconds in the microwave gives your teatime guest the impression they just came out of the oven.  Oh well, now you know, if you've had tea secret is out.

And today's farmstand haul also included kale and broccoli, both fresh in from the field this morning, and prepped and frozen and in the freezer within an hour of coming home.

Tonight's Handsome Son menu includes a lovely kale and Chinese sausage soup, then breaded white fish name escapes me, possibly pollock, or is that an artist, and roasted french fries.  Dessert is about berries, with maybe a shortbread cookie or an almond macaroon.  They've been going over a treat.  Incidentally, for people for whom gluten is an issue, almond macaroons don't have any.  Homemade lemonade or moscato sparkling white wine to go with all this debauchery.

After all that effort on my part, slaving over a hot farm stand, then frenzied prepping at home, HS will be required to make us a pot of tea.  And carry a couple of heavy items for me. He's very happy when it doesn't involve repotting seven foot trees, complete with screams, I mean firm instructions, from Boud.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bloomsday 2016

Bloomsday again!  for those who weren't reading here last year, June 16 is the day on which all the action of James Joyce's novel Ulysses takes place in Dublin.  The protagonist is Leopold Bloom, aided and abetted by Stephen Daedalus (late of Dubliners), hence the name of the celebration. Joyce fans invented it.

And, I think they knew, my potatoes burst into flower overnight and here they are, celebrating their writer!  

who knows what Joyce would have had to say on this coincidence, probably a 600 page novel full of allusions to the potato, its vital significance to the Irish people, the tragedy of it, the comic sidelines, the in depth history of its literature, its current ironic imprisonment in a little American container situated on a huge continent, and who knows what else.

Anyway, as the granddaughter of an Irishwoman, I proffer my humble bit.  

You will see, bottom left of the Kindle, showing a high percentage read, that I'm getting down to the finish line on reading Ulysses, which I will do before it does me in.  You'll see the potato in blossom, down on the patio, to the left of the word "feelings".

It's wonderful reading, but so packed with allusions and references that you just have to find out more about, that it's slow going.  Good thing I have it on my Kindle, otherwise my shoulders, always a bit iffy nowadays, would have packed in completely holding it up. Each year I think I will have finished reading it by Bloomsday, and up to now each year I haven't managed it.

Well, next Bloomsday, perhaps that will be true.  Either that I've read it or haven't managed it. This campaign promise will work either way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Citrus Shortbread Cookies, Variation Two, Brown Sugar

Great time at the gallery today, with a scheduled friend and then two unscheduled, very welcome, friends to guide around my exhibit and talk with.  I love to do that, so as to provide a bit of information and insight into what's going on in my art.

Then perfect weather for sitting out and reading a mad series: Poirot detective short stories, Trollope (Anthony, very good, and Joanna, turned it back, already read and forgotten), and one of the Edinburgh series by the man who writes No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, name escapes me, also finished up a suspense novel by someone else whose name escapes me.  Total transparency around here, if I forget I admit it!  

The Trollope, Anthony, that is, is Dr. Thorne, reading it since it's the next selection at a local book group I'm going to try.  A good start for me, since I do like Trollope, very funny writer as well as serious and astute. There's a different group whose selections I like but they're in permanent conflict with the stitching evenings, not working for me.  The one I'm going to is a different night, and I think is not the same one as another artist group I really should get to now and then.  If this sounds busy and confusing, I think that's because it is.

Then realized when my eyes got tired and I finished reading,  omg no cookies nor cake in the house, disaster, this can't happen. What do I have with my English breakfast tea?  so I thawed the logs left over from the Citrus Shortbread cookies, and put a dab of brown sugar on each, for a change of pace.  I never buy brown sugar, just mix granulated white with molasses, just as good.

And it turned out pretty good. The sugar makes a toffee like effect. This recipe is rich, and though the cookies are small you really don't need many of them.

In fact there still one more log left in the freezer. This recipe is turning out like the loaves and fishes.  I already made about 5 dozen and there are more to go.  Yet I did make the logs the diameter of the recipe, and I did slice them likewise, but Martha only got about three dozen.  Perhaps her kitchen helpers snaffled them when she wasn't looking. 

So now I have a sense of security, coming from having a supply of nice bites for company available. Always a Good Thing, as Martha would probably say. I recommend  the log method, since it's very easy to have it in the freezer, and bake.  And it bakes up just fine after freezing, in case you wondered.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Citrus shortbread, just right for baking on a sweltering day, but I never claimed to be a good planner

So after a great morning at the farmer's market, with buys of local food from four different farms, and a steel band concert going, then a cooking demo, which involved being given a very nice shopping bag, I came home to the usual frenzy of prep and freezing.

Then since the giant plum cake is finally finished, I thought, hm, self, you need a little something to go with a cup of tea.  And leafed through a couple of books, then found a Martha recipe for citrus shortbread I've been meaning to try for ages.

There's an agenda here, too, since tomorrow's the reception for my solo exhibit at Plainsboro Library Gallery, and I'm putting up some very simple snack things, but it seemed nice to see if I can add in a dish of homebaked cookies, so this was the one. I don't like a lot of food in the close neighborhood of textile art, so the items are small, manageable and not likely to give me palpitations if they get near the artworks.

I never did one of those recipes where you roll the dough up and cool it then slice it.  Sounded like fun. And this is one of them. So now I've done it.  I've also found that half of the recipe made plenty of cookies to take in tomorrow, nearly three dozen, what do they want of my life, so the other log is now in the freezer ready to bake whenever the insanity of baking in 90 degree weather hits again.

I tested one, cook's privilege, and it seems okay to give to people. Well, actually, really good.  I used lime zest rather than the orange Martha likes, being allergic to orange, but other than that I actually followed instructions. And since I needed an airtight tin for them, and didn't have one, I recycled the spice container tin my Indian friend gave me,and it works a treat.

So if you are local and planning on coming to the reception, and to hear me chat on about my work, you may get one of these little shortbreads.  And you can review my art and my baking at one time!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Dollivers Celebrate A Historic Day

Today is NJ Primary voting day, and for once we're in the spotlight. Usually since our primary is in June, the whole presidential picture is signed and sealed, done and dusted, over and done with, and our votes are an afterthought.

Not today though!  And at the polls,  I met a very young woman voting for the first time, exciting for both of us!  I will bet any money our votes cancel each other, since she is of the Bernie demographic, but that might be assuming too much.

Anyway, the Dollivers broke out the moscato, for a glass of bubbly, to celebrate a truly historic day, no matter which party you vote for, in fact, first time in the history of our country for a woman to get the nomination of a major party.  

Elton tactfully left the field to the women this time, so we just talked among ourselves, no accompaniment needed. And honor all the women who went before this day, in all nations where even getting the vote was a battle, and the women fighting for fairness here and now.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A bit of fancy cooking ready for tomorrow's picnic

I thought it would be nice to make some Parmesan Crisps, from Ina Garten, for my part of a potluck event, annual stitchers' picnic.  And since they're not just anybody, I pushed out the boat and got the real Parmigiano Reggiana, to make the best.

So here are the workings:  fresh picked thyme from my front yard, growing very nicely after the long winter and longer spring, undaunted, fresh ground black pepper, bit of flour, bit of kosher salt, block of cheese ready to grate.

And here's the aromatic result

Let's hope I don't have to bring any home. I have a feeling I will be bringing an empty plate, though.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gardening teaching patience to the wildly impatient, that would be me

Here are two excitements from the world of gardening chez Boud. One, indoors, is the final appearance of a tiny baby begonia leaf, after waiting nearly a year for the planted leaf, which was broken off in a cat related incident from the parent plant, to show whether it was over it and ready to grow.  

This is thrilling, since I have no access to the plant form, to replace the parent, you never know, with cats around.  So I can propagate it the easy way, just stick a leaf into potting soil, keep it moist and wait.  This leaf has doubled its size since I spotted it yesterday, so it's serious about growing.

And here's lavender in bloom, after three years of growing this plant in a pot.  It suddenly bloomed yesterday

This weird winter into summer no spring season, evidently, is what she was waiting for.  This on top of the white and yellow iris showing up after years, is a rapid series of lessons in just waiting. Don't just do something, sit there, is the moral of the story, I guess.

I do love to propagate house plants, partly because all the greenhouses and hothouses we used to get plants from, and the supermarkets with garden sections in winter, all went away, so access is much more limited now.  

It's limited to gardener's larceny, that is, swiping cuttings from other people's plants, or being given them. Or, as in the case of the dracaena, cutting a leaf as rental for taking care of the parent plant for a summer.  I now have my own, several inches high, all the cuttings succeeded.  Or propagating from your own established plants.  I give away a lot of cuttings, too, I hastily add.

And the burlap hanging planter is working out pretty well. I find that the best way to water is to aim the hose at the bottom of each burlap container, so as not to jostle the soil or the plant, but getting it all moist safely. Even though we've had rain, these little containers dry out rapidly on that warm wood fence, so I need to water daily.