Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pancake Day!

Breakfast in progress.  

Pancakes, with wildflower honey, to celebrate the fact I just realized it was Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day.  And anyone may eat pancakes, no need to be religiously observant.  Shriving no longer a part of my life, I went ahead and just made the pancakes.

Saved some batter for Handsome Son when he pops in tomorrow afternoon for a spot of tea.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mental Health Work, more printed books, less social media

So, after weeks of ever-intensifying need to be active, resist, and so on, I found myself deeper than I wanted to be in social media.  Still active, but not responding to every new outrage at the moment. Including those where people totally misunderstand my words and bring their friends in to hate on me!  No, I don't spend energy there, just block, delete, move on.  And I got back into extended reading in the last couple of days, to retrieve my longer attention span, and my balance.

To be exact,  to Margaret Drabble, a novelist I've followed since her first novel, having some fellow feeling for someone almost exactly my age, but with a very different life path.  We had some similarities in education, and our literary classics are about the same.  So, despite her determination to see the blackest side of everything, even her more lighthearted works more or less being cheerful in spite of everything, I still like to read her. Temperamentally poles apart.

She's a thrillingly intelligent writer, full of echoes of familiar literature, but she doesn't quote them, simply glances off them, the reader either gets it or doesn't, doesn't matter to the onward movement of the work.  

Her latest novel is The Dark Flood Rises, an examination of old age and how her different characters approach it. Her range of characters is limited, since she's always been an academic and doesn't seem to have much insight, or, I'd guess, interest, in other forms of work or of people, but never mind, good to stay within your limits, and know them. 

She does comment that she likes to muse on her own life and times. And I'm noticing that she considers herself old and a bit crocked up, as do most of her characters, though they are at most in their early seventies.  Which made me wonder if attitude is part of this, as well as good luck and good health or the lack of it. Interesting book, not exactly a novel, though, more a series of episodes, roughly interlinked.

The other Drabble I'm reading is The Pattern in the Carpet, a nonfiction work about jigsaw puzzles and other kinds of pastimes for all ages.  I read it partly to get some insight into why people like jigsaws, because she loves them, and I hoped her analysis would get me there.  Which it only partly did.  

I ended up concluding that people who love puzzles of this kind are at heart not interested in visual invention.  They are following the path laid out for them, fitting in the pieces designed to go only one way into their ordained places.  

It's similar to my puzzlement (!) at people who love patterns of any kind.  To me patterns are only momentarily interesting, giving way to variations that I would like to see there! very personal response. I know mathematicians and scientists who love puzzles and card games, and I think it's a similar response, the comfort of patterns and of correct answers.  Perhaps people who love and get great pleasure out of working kits are enjoying a similar experience.

Not, as Seinfeld would say, that there's anything wrong with that..and I conclude that I accept, well, I have to, but don't understand, the affinity for pattern.  Very good book for all that, whether or not you're a puzzle fan.

One interesting sidelight on Drabble: she's one of the few people I've noticed who is a Dame in her own right, and a Lady because her husband was knighted. So her title's a bit lengthy. I think it's Dame Margaret, Lady Drabble, or something like that.  Cool. No doubt there are books of etiquette prescribing when you use the whole thing and when bits of it are correct.  She's also the sister of A S Byatt, brilliant novelist, and probably a Dame in her own right, too, but neither of them likes to be asked about the other!  endless rivalry there, but two geniuses in one family seems a bit much for the bonds to handle.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rescued Fruit and Other Kitchen Capers

So today, I came by several pounds of perfectly good dessert apples, and a large whole orange, by rescue.  Without going into the details, if I had not intercepted them, they would have been thrown away.  As if they were, scream, garbage.  I understand the hectic time of moving when you have two small kids, and how after a bit you lose your sense of morality about food and waste.  But anyway, I stepped in and they came home with me.

And here are all the apples, washed, peeled, chopped, and reposing in the freezer for the next time I need them, maybe a crumble, maybe a clafouti, maybe applesauce.

The orange, I don't buy oranges, usually, since I tend to be allergic to them, I put aside until I thought for a moment.

Then I picked up Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal, cookbook, from the library, and you know how you can tell you like a book? when you instantly get an idea from it.  In her intro she mentions that you never waste food, and gives a few examples of items that can go into something else. And she mentions that a lonely orange can turn into a kind of marmalade...

No sooner said than embarked on.  I like this sort of cooking, where you do interesting things to your ingredients.  I scrubbed the orange ad infinitum, then peeled off the zest in strips, with a peeler, not the zester, wanted slices of zest in the finished product.  After the above pic, I ran the pizza wheel back and forth through the zest to reduce it to smaller strips. Then I supremed the inside of the orange, not too successfully. This was a large, rather dry orange, the kind that looks impressive but actually is not as good value as a smaller heavier one with a lot of juice.

I used to supreme oranges all the time for Handsome Partner in his last years, since he loved oranges and his hands wouldn't let him deal with them.  But supremed, that's with all the pith and the membrane cut away, you're left with a lovely bowl of orange slices and their juice, edible with a spoon, fine for him.  Not hard to supreme if you have a nice juicy orange.  This one not quite up to that, but never mind, did me best.

Made a syrup with water, sugar and the zest, left it to manage on a low light for about 20 minutes, just guessed at this when I set the timer.  I also had to guess at the amounts of water and sugar, since her directions need more than one orange!  Then, zest done, I just stirred in the rest of the orange, and put it in a sterilized jar.  

I could have used a jar half the size, but I don't have one.  I'm sure there's an engineer's joke about the relative size of the contents to the container, the sort of uproarious joke where he looks at your shoes instead of his when he tells it..

Anyway, between discovering this good book, from a recommendation on the Cafe website, from a good cook, and finding the fruit in need of a good home, this was all good.

Also the springlike weather brought masses of birds to the suet feeder. I'm guessing they're loading up before embarking on the mating season.  A pair of Carolina wrens have been around together, and one started shouting territorial calls from my gatepost, so I hope that means they plan to move in and nest here.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Ellen WIlkinson holds her first Town Hall

Ellen Wilkinson, fiery orator and politician, whom you met here revisited us to hold a Town Hall on this Presidents' Day weekend, to meet her constituents and hear their take on what she should do when she's reincarnated into US politics.  Modeling the behavior we hope for from our Republican members. And remembering that Abe himself was a Republican.

Here she is in her transporter, courtesy of a Minnesota fan, with her clipboard ready for action.

Light refreshments were served, and Constituent Stefi acted as hostess for the event, pointing out that this was real constituent service, coming right to the house to hold the meeting.  A kitchen cabinet you might say.  You will note the pussyhat pin in action here, too.

So, while Ellen delegated note taking to her advance woman, chauffeur and admin assistant, also knitting staff,  Boud, Ellen's constituent spox (Washington speak) set forth the agenda for Ellen's first four weeks in office, give or take a day.

First she will become our first female President.  Then she will outlaw all gun ownership. College tuition at public colleges will be taxpayer paid.  She will bid farewell to Pence, Ryan, and other people currently in the White House and environs.  She will recommend the abolition of the Electoral College.  This is an ambitious agenda, but she is undaunted, though small.  

To quote the Bard:  And though she be but little, she is fierce!

and, business concluded at the Town Hall, she waved goodbye to her audience, even if they didn't vote for her, she's there for all of them, and sped on to her next meeting, dictating more notes and thoughts to Boud who also had to drive.  Boud is also beginning to see what it takes to be around a real politician.  It's all go.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bright February day, rain in forecast, so seize the day! Carpe Preservum in fact

Today was bright sunny, a bit nippy in the wind, but all insulated and ready for anything, I set off for a hike on the Preserve.  Several other people with the same idea, all very cheerful, and getting the most out of the day.

There is nothing like walking and being outside doing it in lovely wild surroundings, for defragging my mental hard drive, Carol G., thanks for reminding me of that process when you were talking yesterday, and today did the job a treat.

Not many small birds around -- too windy for them, they hate having their feathers all messed about, and I think probably need to keep still to preserve feather insulation.  

Large flocks of Canada geese on the lake, occasionally rising up and shouting at each other and splashing then settling down a few yards away. The big alternate fact brokers, they call this migrating.

And in the beech wood, a new bench installed in a clearing.  This wood is a micro climate, always a few degrees warmer here in  winter, cooler in summer, than the surrounding areas.

Looking over the lake from a sheltered little area, another bench. They seem to have been listening when we asked for a few so people could sit and watch birds, or draw, or just be.

And taken from the bench which has been there for ages, near the nature center, and overlooking the lake from one end.  

There's a nice little trail leading off it, here, too, which winds about and is a great bird hide location, with yet another bench down there to settle down on. Around here, just the sound of small birds at the feeders near the building, geese out on the lake, rare human voices.

Lovely outing, and suddenly, thankfully, after a fallow few weeks, full of great art ideas when I got back, but you'll have to consult art the beautiful metaphor to see what that's about.