Saturday, February 29, 2020

March flowers, oh, right, it's leap year.

Sadie Hawkins Day. When wimmin can git up and ask for a guy's hand in marriage.  Me: I'll pass, thanks doing fine.

In fact I'm ready for March, and here's the Monthly Buncha Flarze. P. G. Wodehouse reference.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Still winter after all

It looks sunny and mild out there. Fake news. It's icy and a brisk wind. Walk reduced to a trip to the mailbox.

And since there were no breadlike items in the house and I didn't feel like seriously working on bread, I made a batch of hot biscuits, whole-wheat and oats.

 With golden raisins and walnuts.

The interesting piece of architecture on the plate is a biscuit, very tender, hard to split, containing butter and marmalade. Nice pot of English breakfast. Taking a break from the portable studio in the background.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

New sweater rack built and in action

Just sayin'

It's 10.35 and I'm taking the rest of the day off.

Pancake Tuesday

Pancakes in the evening, too busy to make them for lunch. Kind neighbor did the PVC connector shopping, found the bag of stuff on my step when I came home.

So when I made my pancakes, half a dozen went next door for him and friend, sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice.

Made thin, and rolled. I like pancakes like crepes more than like stacks.

Then after delivering the guest pancakes, came home and made my own.

Enough batter for breakfast tomorrow.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Great audiobook reads

One of my real needs in the studio is to have language going while I work. It's like giving a little kid, my left brain, something to occupy her while right brain surges into action. And I've been very productive lately planning, spinning and weaving my Little Book project. So I've needed listening material.

I used to listen to public radio discussion programs, but these days it's audiobooks.

Currently I've just finished a P.D.James, Original Sin. She works very well in audio, with a good reader, that is. I reject a lot of audiobook productions with irritating narrators, especially those who can't pronounce the damn names. But don't get me started..

Anyway, this was good, very thoughtful, dark, better not to listen late at night, or it will get into my dreams. James is a novelist around mysteries, not a mystery writer where the puzzle is the main event.

And then there are audiobooks which just have to be heard, not read in print, like those of Isabel Allende, who's really an oral storyteller.

Here's my current, wonderful one, where the writer, Robin Wall Kimmerer is the narrator. She's descended from the Potawatomi people, a scientist in botany and ecology, a lecturer, and a learner of her true native language. So you need to hear her speak it here and there, to grasp her intent.

It's a series of essays, full of wisdom, very accessible and good humored, no patience for self important academic writing.

And I think it's really vital reading for us, to understand our history at this juncture in order to save all of us. She talks botany, ecology, Indian history and culture, and the relationship between the native people and the natural world.

If you enjoy the analysis of language and cultural meaning of Robert MacFarlane, you'll enjoy and get a lot out of  Robin Wall Kimmerer. In fact it was through his Twitter feed that I discovered her.

All my audio is free of charge,  via library, YouTube or Internet archive. With the last you need to know your exact author or title, because it's very clunky to browse otherwise. But a lot of good radio plays are available there.

 Just enter the words internet archive and the title you want into a Google search. Let me know if this is news to you, and if you find interesting items.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Further PVC fun. Well, maybe.

So I needed a second sweater rack, taller and wider, for bigger sweaters. And I had a nice 10ft length of 1.5" PVC pipe just standing about waiting for work. And a bunch of connectors.

Note the spare bed is a workbench.

So I cut one 36" and two 30" lengths, still have a bit left over. And went and attached a wrong connector to the end of the longest piece, the crossbar.

Which wouldn't have been a problem if I'd had a spare connector of that type. I only needed two, I only had two, and I found I'd picked up the wrong section, doh. Because they're close in size I thought I'd picked up a side member, which would have been fine.

It still wouldn't have been a problem, if there hadn't been the remains of masking tape on the pipe from the days when it was a curtain rail. Said tape clung fiercely, I couldn't shift the connector even with pliers. Took it to my strong nextdoor neighbor who also couldn't.

So it needs a shopping trip. For one connector.  Insert profanity here. But dear neighbor says he'll pick one up, and cut this one off the pipe. It will shorten it slightly but it's not significant. Then maybe I can get on with this fifteen minutes tops (!) project.

That was a first.

So now I'm going to flounce away and make egg and chips (fries) for supper. With ketchup.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Cast of characters awaiting their cues

Today's soup involves red lentils, yellow split peas, garlic, onions, diced tomatoes, navy beans, turmeric, kosher salt, Thai red curry paste, some leftover lentil flour, chicken stock. Basically just what was lying about. I needed soup.

I simmered it for 45 minutes, fished out the chicken bones, then blended it all. Then 30 minutes more.

Very filling lunch, particularly with a slice of cornbread.

And enough for half a dozen more meals. Handsome Son might get some of this.

Friday, February 21, 2020

I've been reading lately, too

This is a book recommended by a writer friend, a southern woman, and I'm into it now.

It's a memoir, stretching back generations, of a black New Orleans family, written by Sarah Broom, a descendant; the Yellow House of the title was a casualty of Katrina.

 It's  brilliantly written, meticulously researched, dialogue rendered so that you quickly get to know and value the people.

  I'm only partway through, got it transferred to my Kindle to save my eyes, so I can't show you a cool printed book, but what I can show are some of the cast of relatives.

They're all stars. I don't want to spoil your journey into this world by saying more. Just start reading. Just do.

And then there's this beauty, referred to me by my library lady who knows me (!)

Just one tiny flaw in this great feast of weaving styles and history and characters, is that the photography is so good that you want immediately to try everything.

And pictures of cool tools, that you need right away. Like this lucet.

I plan to make a lucet just to see if I enjoy making square cord. It's got to be better than kumihimo, which in my hands was more kamikaze, but we won't go there. I don't think I can make it from PVC pipe though. I have to branch out.

This book is like a degree in weaving. You can learn enough about a range of weaving types to know if you want to pursue it further. You can try various skills as you go. It's just a lot of fun. In fact you can enjoy this without ever making anything, just for the ride.

Very different books, very different passions, let me know if you read either or both, and what you think.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Unbiased verdict on the second cornbread

It's: bready rather than caky, buttery, moist and the bottom is brown and a bit crisp, thanks to the cast iron, preheated in the oven as it warmed.  I think if I hadn't used butter and buttermilk, it would have been a different story.

This recipe, with subs, is worth repeating. Buttered cornbread with afternoon tea.

Meanwhile I have my latest library treasure to study, thanks to my librarian treasure who decided I should see it and directed it into my account, total surprise.

It's a physically lovely book, well organized, great photography, and I'm ready to dive in and see what I can learn here.

Happy camper.

Another day, another cornbread

I needed to bake bread, just didn't feel like handling the big recipe, so I thought cornbread, I thought.

Then found I only had 3/4 cup of cm. Soooo I looked around for a recipe that that amount would work in. And found one on the cornbread container. This one needed exactly the amount of cornmeal I had and 1 1/4 cups ap flour.

I thought it was a bit mean, as these things go. Skim milk, vegetable oil.. I did agree with low sugar, since this isn't spozed to be cake.

So I subbed unsalted butter and whole milk butter milk. Made by mixing a spoonful of lemon juice into milk powder, stirred up with warm water.  It seems to work if you sub fat for fat, liquid for liquid, dry for dry. Not as random as it seems.

Cast iron pan in action

 Ready for my closeup, complete with villainous grin

It's smelling good, looking ok. But I won't know till it cools enough to try whether this is worth repeating.  Meanwhile the recipe's cut out and inserted into my big, fat three ring binder of items I've made and liked. If I like this, it stays. If not, it's recycled.

And as you see, I used my trusty cast iron pan. It's wonderful for baking, makes you look like a good baker.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Speaking of PVC piping, here's another invention

Some talk on another blog about PVC pipe, to use as a frame for embroidery got me thinking.

 I love this material because you can build endlessly with it. I've made embroidery frames, a niddy noddy, several tapestry looms, all from the same basic bits and connectors. Since I can easily reassemble them into what I need,they can shape shift at will.

Here I deconstructed parts of a tapestry loom to get the members, and searched my bag of connectors and was able to create a hanger system for cardigans, now installed in the right closet.

I still have a couple of 8ft pipes which I can cut down to complete the base of this gizmo, to make it more stable, and make another for other sweaters.

This came about as I was wondering about buying a rack like the handy pants rack I bought a while ago. But I thought it would be more fun to just assemble one and see how it works. No tools needed.

No lights in the closet where it's set up, so I did the pic where I built it.

Rube Goldberg would be proud.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Honey toast. Comfort food

Between the bitter weather stopping my walking, the endless political disasters, friends in serious medical trouble, inability to get into stitching or spinning, around here comfort food has taken priority.

Here's my patented, very complicated recipe for honey toast for tea.

Slice bread, spread with chunks of cold butter, pour a bit of honey over. Shove in the toaster oven at 425f for three minutes. Serve to needy person.

This is so much better than toasting then spreading. That's why I patented the recipe.

Pot of English breakfast tea. Mystery novel of your choice.

A few minutes of pleasure ensue.

There are other things in my world than food, but a lot of them are sad and difficult things befalling friends, and today a poignant anniversary for me, so not blog material.

The Valentine's day bark got very good reviews, by the way. So that was a community service in a way.

We shall rise above it all. As soon as the weather warms up!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Soup for a bitter winter's day

Today sunny with a breathtakingly icy wind. great day for soup.

Here's carrot, cashew, sunflower seed, ginger soup. With onions, garlic, plenty of fresh ginger, kosher salt, dash of cayenne. Chicken stock. I expect it would be vegetarian or maybe even vegan if you used water.

This is thick  and warming, very welcome. And, as you see I made a big pot, several meals there.

 And with whole-wheat/oat bread, it was great. Some of this may go to friends, too.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Robert MacFarlane

I just started reading his Landmarks, a book of essays and glossaries about the largely Scottish, and some other UK areas, landscape, and the language used to describe it.

Wood engravings by Jonathan Gibbs.

He has a great love of the exactitude of terms used, and now falling into disuse, to show the details of the features of the countryside. It's a great journey into the importance of language not just in preserving meaning, but in adding to our experience of the natural world.

 He is trying to preserve important meaning in our lives, by having readers be aware that there are, for instance, many words for parts of fields, varying with appearance, history,  and function.

He shows that we don't just act on nature. Nature acts on us, too. The landscape we encountered in early childhood stays with us as the backdrop against which our lives are enacted, even if we're far from it in later years.

And that knowledge saves us from the ignorant take of  describing areas we're not able to perceive, as wasteland, wrecked, barren.  He has great respect for the writers and language experts who continue to preserve this treasure. Nan Shepherd, on the Cairngorms, Anne Campbell and Jon MacLeod, who saved a Shetland island from engineered destruction by using language to educate the authorities in the value of what engineers had dismissed as waste, only useful for digging up.

Language is powerful and we need to preserve it.

My only quibble about this lovely work is that the only form I could get it in is very small type, tiring to read. So I broke down and bought a big magnifier for the whole page, been wanting one for ages.

 It's  only 3x, but that's enough for my need.  Comes with built-in LED lights. This required a trip out for AAA batteries, after my battery-drawer search yielded two. Needed three, sigh.

I also plan to study other things under it. And maybe get pix of plants and flowers which defeat my modest camera phone.

Many uses possible. Do consider reading MacFarlane. What he says matters.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Full disclosure ahead of Valentine's day

That batch of chocolate peppermint bark I made? I kept testing it, a piece here, a piece there. Until I discovered I'd tested it all.

I blame it on the white chocolate which I find I love. I don't like "real" chocolate with the high cacao content that's good for you.

So, today I thought I'd better replace it, this time for other people to eat.

And I had a great time, three layers swirled and marbled, too hard to break by hand, my thumb being a bit out of commission.

 Hence the mallet in the picture. Hitting is fun.

It looks like a stone quarry at the end of a shift. The pale areas are the white chocolate with red food coloring and a bit of the dark mixed in.

This was a consolation for bad weather, wind, rain, falling tree warnings, keeping me away from my knitting group.

And I will be sure to share.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Cornbread seems to have happened

Aka don't ask me, I only work here.

However one thing is clear. Chili and cornbread for dinner tonight.

Chili appears to be happening

I shopped this morning for the items I still needed for chili. Cold, damp day, seemed like a good idea.

I thought I'd make it at the weekend. Around here, future planning is doomed. Whatever the opposite of procrastination is, I have. Doitnowism.

 I suddenly found myself, a hapless prawn of fate, working like a maniac, as if everything depended on getting this done right now.

It's about 40 years since I made it, so you might say I was a bit rusty. I compared all sorts of recipes, and ended up deciding for myself. I just needed the order of appearance set up.

Various members of the troupe, some of whom didn't make the cut, stood around waiting for their cue.

As usual there were substitutions. I don't do beef, so turkey sausage meat, and chicken broth. I fancied more than one bean, so small white as well as kidney.

 Hauled out frozen oregano from last year's garden, chopped it, along with chili bean from freezer, garlic likewise.I like to use a pizza cutter for this kind of mincing.

And in the interest of zero waste, I cut all the onions in the bag in two to freeze.

The skins bagged and frozen for future dyeing. Then I chopped the one I needed here. I freeze halved onions, easier to chop frozen, less tearful. And if they're in soup to be blended, no need to chop at all.

And the tomato paste, new can, scooped out today's need, then put the rest in a Ziploc bag to freeze. Next time I need any, I can just break off the amount called for.

as they say grandly in cookbooks. Note the big screwdriver, a kitchen staple for those pesky cans that won't open all the way round,  This one had two places that just bent instead of cutting. An irritated bang of the sd took care of that.

The water from rinsing out the tomato paste can is now in the freezer, labeled to tell me what it is and how it's to go in soup.
I find it's good to tell myself why I did this, on the label, as well as what it is. Saves puzzling.

As you see, it's not just about cooking in my oh, look, a bird! world. But I do get things done.

In the middle of this circus, I stopped for a bowl of soup, needing to restore my strength, also sit down a minute.

I cooked the garlic and all the spices first in the olive oil, then added the onion then the ground turkey. I like to cook spices first to release the aromatic effects.

In this case it may have had the unintended consequence of heating the chili a notch more than planned. Not dramatically, but hotter than I meant. But it's still good.

Then beans and can of diced tomatoes, tom paste, chicken broth, all that. At that point the counter was empty, so I think everything got in that shoulda.

And here it is

Plenty to share and enjoy and freeze. When I recover, I'm making cornbread to go with it. That's another thing I haven't made in decades. Must find recipe. No, no, not right now..