Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year

Hoping for a good year for us all.  And thank you to everyone who's made this year a little better for us all.

And here's my latest fitness workout.

This is a mother and daughter team, daughter leading the walking workout, her mother working along.  I like this a lot, much better than young people issuing commands to older ones, without having any in the studio.  She watches how her mother is doing, and doesn't get her stressed out, though she's pretty fit, I must say.  It's ten minutes of perpetual motion, with a lot of variety in movement, which I thought I should try, out of a chair for this series. And if you read on, you'll see why this is important at this exact moment in time.

I made the Shortbread recipe from Tartine, seen here, dough pressed down into the pan

And here it is, cooling, scored for breaking, little fork marks.

At this point I had not tasted it, but it was cooling nicely, when friend from next door brought his two little grandchildren to the door to wish me Happy New Year.  Exquisite timing.  So they went home with a couple of pieces each, warm from the oven.  And they're all dark haired, so I counted them as my First Footers.

Scottish and north of England tradition, you need the first person to set foot in your house (here it was on the step, but who's counting), to be a dark haired man. Since nobody else will be in the house till (dark haired) son visits, I'm all taken care of.  And when the first footer comes in, they get things like this to eat, and adult ones get a strengthening tot of something, all in the name of having a healthy and wealthy New Year.

My dad was our first footer growing up, and he had to leave the house before midnight to join all the other first footers freezing out in the street until they were allowed in for the ceremony right after midnight, after they'd heard the ships in the river sounding their horns or whatever they call them.  Some guys used also to first-foot houses where there wasn't an available dark haired man, and I expect the glass of scotch was very welcome there, too.

Anyway, I tried a piece of the shortbread, and it literally did melt in the mouth.  Gosh it was good.  Posh, but good.

And then, since I need a bready something to go with breakfast, and just couldn't be bothered to bake bread, I made a recipe of hot biscuits with ap flour, no wholewheat this time, with sliced almonds and chopped walnuts.

So now you see why a walking indoor program in this soaking wet weather, is also on the menu.

I don't look back over the year, never have, and this one wasn't very thrilling to remember.  However, some good things came of it.

I got access to meetings, including my centering prayer group, because they went online.  I've developed more blog friends this year, thank you everyone who started reading back in March or thereabouts, you're treasured, as are your own blogposts, those who are bloggers themselves.  And thank you, long-time readers who are still faithfully checking in, after all these years.

And I've been able to take in concerts I'd never have made it to, if I'd had to get there in person. Last night Taiwanese Fusion Jazz, last week Indian Kathak dancing and music. And lectures from the Princeton art museum, The Rug Society, and Emily Dickinson's house. So I feel very enriched.

I hope we've all found some consolations for the anxiety and losses we've dealt with.

Happy New Year!  Hoping for a better one, as always.  And now I have to put the Christmas decorations back in the box for another year. If you were wondering why this is happening on New Year's Eve in the Northern Hemisphere, it's because we have readers in NZ and Australia, for whom it's well into January l, 2021. Being inclusive here! 

Happy New Year, and, in Scots fashion: Lang May Yer Lum Reek!  It means long may your chimney smoke, meaning long life to you.

Forthcoming attractions

This is a library borrow.  It's one of those cookbooks which look so beautiful it would be a shame to expose it to the thrills and spills of a kitchen.  But we'll see what's good in here.  I notice that right away she's using food processors and things I don't have. But my heart will go on.

 This is what I mean by posh.  A ribbon bookmark!  My cookbook book club chose this as last month's selection, and I'll see what I might be up for if ever I want baked goods again after the surfeit of the holidays.

Meanwhile, on an earthier plane, it's shredded red cabbage, steamed with chicken broth and berbere, buttered and maybe a bit of cheese grated over, for lunch, with slices of ham.  A lot of people on hearing cabbage say, ah, coleslaw.  I didn't grow up with it, and I am totally not a fan.

I think it's one of those things, like chatting on the phone and making meatloaf that if you didn't grow up in that culture you never really get it.  I know people who are devoted to both, but I've tried it, and oh well, not my speed.

I ordered a phone.  Here in two days, when the fun of transferring the number and the minutes begins.  But this is easier when the last phone is still working, which was not the case last time around.  They kept on asking me to call from the old phone to the new to establish something or other, and that was impossible.  Handsome Son came over and explained why he was calling from an unknown to them number, and we did eventually get it sorted.  But I'm hoping, famous last words, for an easier passage this time.

Anyway, it will be good to have a phone with all its buttons intact.  The rocker switch vanished at some point on my old one, probably through being dropped, and you can't operate the function, volume, by inserting even the cleverest ideas for tools into it.  Also the storage is small, and I kept bumping up against loud alerts telling me to remove stuff, quick. Including my virus protection.

Last time I did this, I had a funeral for the old phone. Not inclined to do that this year, since it's not actually dead, seems a bit heartless.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Fast food and the return of the light, oh, wait..

So I had a post thought up for today, peaceful, unaware that stuff might happen. Or not happen.  I went out for the morning start the car ritual, and it didn't.  Flat as a pancake. Oh.  So here was my chance to learn how to use the new portable charger.  I sound a lot calmer than I felt, literally dropped the cables once because my hands were shaking! such a great mechanic.

And studied the little book, remembered how to pop the hood, eventually got the power cable inserted into the unit, shaky hands not helping, and went to fiddle about trying to figure out, after red to red, black to black, exactly what I was supposed to attach the alligator clips to.

Eventually got it, not the bit I expected, much easier, and the green light went on, saying well done, thou good and faithful servant, go thou and start thy engine. 

See below!!

So I did and it started first try.  Yay me.  Then I had to study how to detach the unit safely.  Good thing, because you're supposed to separate the unit from the power cable before unclipping the ally clips.  Ah.  Done.  Now the unit's back in the house, charging, found out how to do that, too.  It had arrived 80 per cent charged, fortunately, because I hadn't had the chance to charge it fully anyway before I had to use it.  

Did I mention my phone's losing its charge faster and faster, meaning I may need a new one soon.  The proposed tablet is sliding down the list of priorities around here, I can see.

Meanwhile, nature knows what she's doing. As soon as the solstice was past, here come new blossoms on the primula, unfailing.

And yesterday I found to my surprise I was out of soup, right before I planned to heat some.  Needed fast food, soonest.  So a can of cannellini beans, mashed, with capers,  can of chicken, egg, potato flakes, and I had a set of fritter things ready to go, with steamed broccoli.

 Then I remembered scallions in the freezer, so added them into the remaining batter.  Scallions always make me think of Chinese food, I guess they come in there.

So here's yesterday's lunch, sans scallions but with pickled beets, remember those, they're still going. And above that, today's lunch, with scallions, and I'll add the beets again, I think.

Just as well I had a lunch already set up, considering the excitement earlier. There's a limit!

And now Blogger refuses to insert this pic where I asked, repeatedly. Bear with me, tech is not friendly today. But here's the operation in full swing.

I'm having a restful cup of tea now.  Then I'll go see about getting a mechanic's licence.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Holly, Jolly -- Murder

 First, here's my new lifesaving bit of equipment.  My battery jump starter arrived, and seems to be in good order.  So the borrowed one went home this morning.  This little deal also charges cellphones, that kind of thing, too, and has a bright light on the end, always a good thing if you're needing to start a dead battery at night.  It's like an insurance policy that I hope I won't need to use.

Meanwhile, among the cooking and spinning and visiting with Handsome Son, there has also been a jolly little murder mystery or several.  I've read several of the Annie Haynes mysteries, and they're really fun.  A good puzzle, and a kind of Victorian melodrama, along the lines of Maria Marten or Murder at the Red Barn, that audience participation murder mystery.  Anyway, aside from bits of Hallmarky stuff put in for the love interest, it's a pretty entertaining few hours with any of her books.

Then I finally, after a pandemic-long wait, got a copy of Richard Osman's Thursday Murder Club, and it's as funny and amusing as billed.  Set in an upscale retirement community, needs to be upscale, because they have to afford the shenanigans needed to follow up unsolved murders, it's a great sendup of murder mysteries, the quirks of retired folks, I'm a geezer, so I can laugh at geezers, and a politically leftish viewpoint. Highly recommended.  I see that Kate Atkins, one of my favorite serious writers, also likes it, so that's a point.  I don't believe he's written any more, yet, anyway, but I'm hopeful.

 About murder mysteries, I've noticed how many take place around Christmas, completely with snow and country houses, with the suspects all stuck in the same house together, and snow revealing a lack of footsteps, just a lovely addition to your holiday celebrations, I guess. Also I suspect a boost to Christmas sales for the book, but let's not get cynical here.  What every Christmas gathering needs, a nice cosy murder or two.

Yesterday, Handsome Son completely upended my sense of what day it is by visiting on a Monday instead of the usual Sunday, because of his work hours.  So today has to be Monday, because he was here yesterday, and it suddenly felt like Sunday. I was puzzled that the mail was delivered, until I remembered.

He also mentioned that he thought the almond crescents were terrific and could I make them again some time, maybe?  I explained the twists and turns to getting there, and he said, hm, too bad you didn't take notes..I'll give it a try sometime, but no guarantees are being offered.

And now the CDC tells us that the fear of contagion from surfaces is overdone.  At first they feared that was a prime source, so we've all been gloving and wiping and spraying everything that gets near us, and now we find it may not be necessary, since the prime source is now believed to be respiratory droplets.

Masks continue to be the answer.  They have apparently tested surfaces around actual Covid patients and found little to no contagious material, just the rna residue from the dead virus, not possible to get infected from it. 

I've had the cleanest groceries, though, I will say.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Signs of life

After bitter weather, low temps, freezing and thawing, some plants are just intrepid. Here's food getting under way on the patio.  Bittercress, growing well inside the patio, away from the demon landscapers' spraying.

Some of this will go nicely on my soup for lunch.  It grows prolifically around here, in grassy areas, but the only hitch is that they are also areas that get sprayed, so you have to proceed with caution. But I like it as an interesting addition to a green salad.  Or anywhere, really.

And when the leaves drop from trees in the fall, they leave behind the start of buds for next year, always a cheering thought. Here's the Japanese maple.

Then, reason #687878 why I love sedum, here's the Autumn Joy sedum rosettes already making an appearance, under ice and cold, see them, tiny blue green buds there? I'll remove the dead foliage from last year soon, after the rosettes start developing, but for now it's okay for protection.


All this burgeoning reminds me that in a couple of weeks it will be time for my Annual Witch Hazel Hunt.  The witch hazel blooms in January and there are a couple of bushes within walking distance, just right for me to go along and swipe a few little twigs to put in water.  Then the minute blossoms, perfect miniatures, develop, and a scent along with them. like this, about a quarter inch across, at least the variety I see.

Garden Variety: Witch hazel adds color to your winter garden | News,  Sports, Jobs - Lawrence Journal-World: news, information, headlines and  events in Lawrence, Kansas

Nature never seems to take a day off.  So much for everything closing down and sleeping through the winter. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

New daily ritual

Now that Advent's past, the main daily ritual around here, since the debacle of the dead battery, is to go out and run the car for a few minutes even when I'm not going anywhere.

It doesn't have the interest and variety of a daily calendar window, though, so I think this is the one and only entry about it.  But there's something to having a little activity  to look forward to doing each morning, usually in the arts, a drawing, or painting, or knitting or reading,or something that you will always do for a little while.  If you're a follower of  The Artist's Way, it's your morning pages. I think I'll get back into my Basho poetry  which I have on my Kindle.  Haikus are about the right size for this purpose.

In the evening, I've had my annual viewing of The Bishop's Wife, and it was as good as always.  Now I'm revisiting some of my own collection. Here the ever hilarious Mapp and Lucia, still as good as ever, humor intact, interiors and fashion wonderful, acting first class.  Five star viewing chez Boud.

And there's reading.  Winspear is the author of the Maisie Dobbbs books, to which I'm devoted, and here's her memoir, showing how she's always been interested in a good story without losing track of actual events in the process, and has done her own research from an early age.  Her path hasn't been an easy one, and you can see how she's been forced to consider other people's quirks as they affected her, all her life.  Also where she gets her grit from.

And the Maggie Rudy books, which I can't take back to the libe without showing you a bit more.  This is from The City Mouse and the Country Mouse, traditional meme written in her own take. This is the kind of illustrations that makes you sit like a little kid, noticing all the detail and finding one more thing, one more thing.  Here's the city. All the inventiveness in the dioramas!  The great observation of street scenes and people doing their daily stuff.

And a country scene, with tiny mice in proportion to enormous flowers and birds, seeing all there is to be seen.

Then there's I Wish I Had a Pet, which is a great intro to little kids into the realities of having a pet and how it's about taking care of them and enjoying their company and working for them, too.  This is one I picked out for knitters here!  And I, the insect lover, one of the first visitors to the Smithsonian Insect Zoo, appreciate that she includes all kinds of insects and beetles and other tiny life forms, as potential pet friends.

 Maggie Rudy isn't just for kids. In fact I wish a lot of people who ran to adopt dogs from shelters for company in the pandemic were aware of a lot of the advice in this book.  I hope they're all doing well, particularly first time dog owners not really knowing, until they got into it, what it's like to share your life with a dog.  As well as a lot of pleasure and fun and company, there's a lot of work and responsibility and expense.  Take this from a lifelong pet person who has rescued many a dog and cat and bird.

 Currently petless, because of age, don't want to leave an animal in need of a new home at midlife since they will almost certainly outlive me, ruling out a kitten, and because of finances, just couldn't keep meeting the vet bills, which are as high as human ones, why not, same machinery and skills, but without Medicare! Which rules out older animals.

I don't foster,because that comes with the obligation to load up the animals and crates and take them out regularly to adoption meets, in order to get them permanent homes.  More than I can physically do.  I'm not sure how adoption meets are working during the pandemic, come to think of it.

Anyway, I salute you dog owners for your care of your animals, especially people who have to get dogs out in zero degree weather no matter what!  Been there, done that, know what that predawn cold is like! And how dogs get you up and out early to walk them, then when you get home, cold, and it's too late to go back to bed, because the day beckons, the dog hops right back into bed to sleep till noon.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Lovely day, great food and company

 So Christmas day, aside from warm but rainy windy and grey weather, was great.

Here's the stage set for Handsome Son's arrival with food, which is still an unknown quantity to me, he not telling me ahead what to expect.

And here's the result, all shopped for, heated and served, complete with Colman's mustard made on the spot. Breadsticks and smoked Gouda, followed by  ham steaks, mixed veggies, garlic potatoes.  Eggnog and ginger ale, he thinks of everything.

And both desserts went down well.  We were lying about like pythons shortly after this scene, with pots of tea to go.

It was a lovely day, and the texts and emails and ecards on top of all this were just puhfect.  The first text wishing me a Merry Christmas was from a devoutly observant -- Hindu friend. Starting out the day on exactly the right foot, I'd say.

Today's about apple crumble for breakfast. It's fruit and oatmeal, it's breakfast, I maintain.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Last day of the Advent Calendar

 The last day has double doors, very dramatic

And it opens to the best tree ever, for the Snowshoe Hare and Santa Tomte to admire

And here's the whole season of Advent for us to see at once

Thank you all for following this, it's been fun opening a door each day.  And thank you Heather C., for giving me one of the best ways I've ever had of navigating the season which is a difficult one for me, with something to look forward to each day. You're a star, dear HGD.

And here's the stage set for the apple crumble Christmas dessert, along with the almond crescents. This is the setup for the apples, crumble topping yet to come.

Tomorrow, if I remember, I'll post a picture of the result before we dive into it.

Meanwhile merry Christmas if you celebrate it, TGIF if you celebrate other days. 

And, a la Tiny Tim, the Dickens one, not the pop one with Miss Vicky, God bless us every one! Trala. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Almost there, almond crescents, and Maggie Rudy


And I'm taking a leaf out of Shammickite's comment, to make almond crescents. She has a blog you might want to read.  I'm always glad when she posts.  About art, food, the state of the world, all sorts of things.  Go HERE

 Meanwhile back at YouTube, I found a recipe which was simpler than a few others I studied. I've left enough info for you to track it down.

Her results:

My start, grinding almonds to meal, adding in a bit of vanilla essence and lemon zest, not in the recipe but why not.

My dough is drier than hers, so I squeezed a bit to see if it would hold together, and it will. I'll just work it in my hands when I form the crescents, and trust it will work. 

Flours vary, I made my own almond meal from fresh nuts, might be different from hers. We'll see.

So after the half hour fridge time, the dough was really too dry to shape. So I added some whole milk, in little blurts, and made it more workable. I was beginning to have some doubts at this point, having noticed the baking time she says in the video is several minutes' different from the time in the notes below it.  Also I wonder about the oven temp.  And maybe the quantities.  But nemmind. Even Homer nods.

As you see before it goes in the oven

I got 18, and they may be bigger than the originals, so I'll bake them a couple of minutes more.

Some of them, after baking, became more like half moons than crescents, so I shaped them a bit with a wooden spoon. 

We'll see how they cool. And the dredging with confectioners sugar at the end will cover a lot of sins.

Later, after baking them five more minutes, and still not baked, I left them in the hot but turned off oven, while I went to the library for vital supplies, see below. This trick, the oven, not the library, often works to finish baking without singeing.

Came home, still not baked. Put them into a 380 oven for five minutes. Not done. Five more. Now they're more like it. Not without some imprecations not entirely in the spirit of Christmas.

And ready for Christmas serving. I bet Shammickite didn't go through all this, probably made hers with a lot less drama and more success.  Oh well.

A mouse ready to make inroads. Mice seem to feature a lot in holiday scenes.

Here, with two wonderful books, why I went to the library, is the cook's trial of the almond crescents
Verdict: very good, very almondy, slight whiff of lemon and vanilla, this is beginning to sound like a wine review.  Soft inside but definitely baked, firm outside.  They're unlikely to be repeated, since there were a lot of unexpected spills and thrills in the making, but they're very good anyway.  And there's plenty.  I notice that a lot of Christmas baking involves showering snowstorms of confectioner's sugar around.

Maggie Rudy is a wonderful artist, creator of children's books, makes dioramas with all her own creations, expressive mice in narratives, and if you go to her blog MousesHouses,  HERE   you'll see why I love her work.  Just a title and an illustration in each post, and all wonderful.
So I thought I'd like to read a couple of her books, don't know why they're marketed as if they're strictly children's books, since, to my mind they're artworks that belong in the pantheon, but, anyway. Unless you have an elastic definition of children.

And you see  there tomorrow's movie choice, the only really Christmassy movie I like, The Bishop's Wife, just lovely.  Every year I watch and wish an angel could get me to skate like that. It's totally Christmas for me.  Recently in our knitting group, one member said her tradition is to have Christmas breakfast, exchange gifts, then watch The Godfather!! She has some reason she says it's a Christmas movie, which I forget now.

Tomorrow I make the other Christmas dessert, apple crumble, which Handsome Son is bringing icecream for, along with the main course, on Friday. Yes, he gets the right day off!  The store closes for Christmas. So everyone gets the day, instead of  working to serve other people who get the day off. He works all the other holidays, so this is a treat.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

What's in the parcels?

 Santa, or Tomte, is still hanging in there, bringing his sled of gifts.  I always want to know what's in the parcels, when you see boxed gifts in the movies.

And meanwhile, chez Boud, yesterday I got back into tortilla making.  Using the masa harina, the official flour of Mexican corn tortillas, courtesy of Chris, thank you, and her handwritten recipe, I got under way

I was planning on tortillas stuffed with chicken salad, with lettuce and cilantro

So I set to work, making the dough, and rolling it out.  I had forgotten the resting period needed, so by the time I got to the rolling, I was starving.

And I instantly underwent a rapid education in the difference between rolling out a dough with gluten rich flour, and one with gluten free masa harina.

Big difference in how it handles and responds.  I had to add a few drops of water to get the dough working better.  And I had a bit of trouble getting it off the plastic wrap, even though I'd oiled it, and went over to parchment paper, which worked a whole lot better.

I tried slapping it back and forth in my hands, with some success, but I still needed more rolling work to make it thin and big enough to actually work.  And here you see my lunch.  Next time I have to use little to no oil on the pan.  I forgot this, and out of force of habit, spritzed the pan with olive oil.  They were still nice and flexible, though, and rolled very obligingly for me.  

They definitely taste different from the flour tortillas I made recently, a nice change, in fact.

 So here's another few, now in the freezer, waiting till I need another tortilla.  Thanks, Chris, that was a nice experience.  And with a dry pan, they'll work even better.

I really like a lunch I can just pick up and eat.  Better than sandwiches. Also making the tortillas postponed my having to bake bread, always a good thing.  It's so easy, I have no idea why I put it off.

Meanwhile, soup is happening.  Sweet potato, pumpkin, red lentil, with bits of stuff added in from previous cooking, including the liquid from the canned chicken, which has a good flavor, and the potato starch from making the vichyssoise, I think, anyway, various little flavor-loaded containers got into the soup.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Happy Solstice!

 Here's  Tomte Santa, with the snow hare and a furry friend looking out on the shortest day.

And here's a selection of books for you to consider, and to find out why, go to Art, the Beautiful Metaphor