Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The biscuits, the recipe, with notes

I had a request for the recipe for the reluctant hot biscuits. Ages since I gave it, so here's the original

I've made changes though: whole-wheat instead of ap, homemade buttermilk, 5 tablespoons olive oil, no vanilla. No sugar.

So there it is. And this time I used cupcake cases. Split and cashew cheese spread on, nice breakfast. Pot of tea.

I have a new early morning ritual I learned from my cats: just breathe in outdoor air for a minute before I do anything.

 I started doing a few minutes on the patio and as the weather's changing, just at the door. It's good to smell the outdoors, hear wind, birds, crickets. I'm a slow, cranky, riser, and this is a good thing for my spirits. Just a couple of minutes before I eat breakfast. 

The reluctant baker tonight

Just thinking about tomorrow's breakfast when I realized, shock, horror, so busy today I forgot I'd run out of bread.

Just couldn't be bothered to bake bread, but I needed something for breakfast.

 Hot biscuit recipe, with fresh dates cut into the dough, whole-wheat flour. In cupcake cases.

This takes about five minutes to mix, ten to bake.

 Even a reluctant baker can manage it.

I must  look up date recipes. These. Medjool are really good, fresh and moist. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Vote cast, flu fighters wheeled in

So I found the drop box which was not where I thought, but not far off. 


Stopped on the way home at the new Asian store and found pretty much the same stock, huge produce department, live fish etc,  but much brighter and lighter and I got my flu fighters. 

I can't get a flu shot, past serious reaction, so I practice covid-19 type care every flu season.

However if you can safely get a shot, please do, for yourself and the community of folks who can't. That includes infants, just sayin'. I seem to be doing a lot of PSAs nowadays.

Ready to vote and other, less important, things

So here's my voting outfit. Ballot, mask, gloves.  I'm ready.

Meanwhile last night's supper, half of which is tonight's supper

Shiitake mushrooms, plus mixed mushrooms, farm tomatoes, sharp cheddar, egg, 400 till the egg cooked. Technicolor food.

I had fried the mushrooms in butter and oil first, then added them in. Then the liquid from the tomatoes was a bit too much, so I spooned most of it out, did a reduction on top of the stove, which powered up the flavor, poured it back over the doings. Very nice on top of a slice of whole-wheat bread.

Took about 20 minutes total.

About teaching, yes, I seem to have been doing it one way or another starting back in schooldays. It's mostly been art workshops for the last fifty plus years. My art blog Art, the Beautiful Metaphor is largely a teaching and sharing blog, same idea.

Originally, back in the pleistocene era, I arrived in this country with a terrific degree, figured teaching might be good, French, Latin, English lit, did a teacher training in Wisconsin where we lived then, complete with classroom teaching resulting in job offers, but we left Wisconsin for husband's job in NJ. 

Wisconsin ed people assured me they had teacher licence reciprocation in all states, it was portable, no worries.  And, once in NJ, I started the process of getting a NJ licence.

Only to find I'd moved to one of two states which will not issue teacher licences needed for public school teaching to noncitizens. The other is Texas. Or was at that time, mid sixties.

So I searched the statute and came up with an exception: I was certified to teach French. Foreign language teaching was exempt from the citizenship rule. Whereupon they came back smartly and said only if it's your native language. Oh.  And by the time we qualified to start the citizenship process, my Wisconsin licence would have lapsed couldn't be renewed from out of state, nothing then to reciprocate with. Catch 22.

So I taught Latin and English in a private middle school at approximately half the salary of a public school teacher.  In the end it was okay because I was finding adult instruction much more interesting, and kids not so much. I've taught kids now and then, special workshops, homeschoolers, etc, but my energies have gone into adults.

This was in addition to full time work in various organizations.  Yes, I've done a lot of things. 

Not just art. Antique identification, freelance writing, other material. This was professional paid, work, sometimes very nicely, when the organizers wrote me into grants.  But I've done a lot as a volunteer, too.

The thing I object to is the, frequent, assumption that  artists should be happy to teach and demo for nothing, on demand. For "exposure".  I usually point to my fee schedule and explain I can't buy groceries with exposure. And that my volunteer plans are already filled.

No, I will not donate a large artwork for permanent display in the Town Hall, if you can buy furniture, you can buy art.  No, I will not make videos for your library YouTube channel for free! The most recent outrageous request, couched as a terrific honor for me, hehehe.

People who know better typically do better, though, as when my embroidery guild chapter paid me to teach workshops. No question. And fellow artists always pay for individual teaching.

End of rant! 

Back to checking if the rain has let up so I can go vote, and save the world.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Short term freezing

Making celery soup, with scallions and potatoes, cashew cheese whey, yogurt whey, chicken stock, onions, garlic, white pepper, kosher salt.

 You'll notice that a couple of these ingredients have been in the freezer only briefly. 

So why freeze them at all? It takes the pressure off, so if I didn't feel like using the celery (half of it in fact), soon, I wouldn't risk wasting it.  This happens fairly often around here. And there's half a bag back in the freezer now.

Ready for lunch. And pretty good. Plenty for the freezer.

And I test-ate a plum last night, very good, will make a good Marian Burros plum torte or tart depending on where you saw the recipe.

I'll freeze them till I need a dessert. Plenty of banana bread right now. So now you know intestate means never sampled her food, or something. Yes, yes, I know the Latin words, used to teach Latin, where was I..

Update on the outside faucet: dripping steadily. I'd put a bucket under, so I used the drips to water houseplants.

Then upstairs to the valve for another tightening episode, with rubber glove for traction. A bit better now. I think I'll have to do this at intervals to keep the line shut. 

Gardening chat with neighbor last evening, he wanted a plant like my blazing chrysanthemum. I don't like abbreviating plant names as if they were my toys, so I had used the full name.

 He said well, I was looking at the garden store, and all I saw were mums. I explained it's the same so now he's going to get a couple.  Didn't mean to confuse the issue. 

I've already knocked off using the Latin names for plants, which comes more readily than common American names which are different from Brit names, so I have to keep learning.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Repelling a boarder, INSECT ALERT, and Red Food

 Warm humid day, so it was time to do a bit of garden cleanup.But first I captured and took outside this little friend, found exploring the kitchen 

I reduced this picture in size in case people would rather move on by. I love them all, but I get that not everyone does.

The coneflowers are about done, so I cut them back and brought in a few late ones.

And the Montauk daisies are finally budding, the latest of my flowering plants, so I cleaned dead foliage off them

and, as usual knocked off a head, which is now in water and may be too tightly furled to flower. We'll see.

Here's the result of cleaning dead foliage and flowers off the chrysanthemum. All those buds it exposed are here, blazing away.

Then it was lunchtime. Some foods just need to be put in a dish, they're so good.

 Here's my Red Salad, diced beets, farm tomatoes,  a rainbow carrot. Dressed with Mrs Moon Dressing, and lovely Tellicherry pepper fresh ground with the new toy grinder.

Did I mention how good this pepper is? Several times? Aren't you glad you don't live here, and hear me going on about it and moaning in ecstasy? 

I've never been a fan of beets. This beet shows me how good they can be. It's really better than ones I grew in the past, or the ones at the local farm. I think maybe the soil composition and climate must be why.  Anyway if they were all like this one, I'd like beets.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Produce box arrived

My first box of produce showed up this afternoon, and it looks as if I got all my picks also the extras. 

This is the smaller box, which I've arranged to receive every two weeks. There are choices within the selection, and a new feature which is a marketplace of extras, which, if you select before they sell out, are added in to the box and onto the bill.

It arrived with a freezer gel bag on top which had thawed a little but no harm done. Produce still cool. 

Then followed an afternoon frenzy of sorting, scrubbing, peeling, chopping, slicing, steaming (giant beet), and packing and labeling and freezing and fridging and countertopping. I had to take a break in the middle.

All the food is either certified organic, or sustainable, coming from the farm or ocean to the company then the consumer. A pretty small food chain. It's discounted because although it's perfectly edible, it's not always pretty. So instead of having to dump good produce which high end markets won't take, the farmer has another outlet.

I don't have any relationship with this company other than being a new customer. I just like it when people come through.

There was no waste at all in my box. Everything fresh, no sneaky overripe fruit. 

So I'm happy.

And I vowed yet again to sharpen my knives. I have a very good knife sharpener, which I postpone using because of the noise. But at this point you can hardly tell back from front of blade, so I really have to.

Now the fun part. Deciding what to cook.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Ballot arrived

 But first, reading and learning goes on.  I'm reading the Ta-Nehisi Coates, but in short bursts. It's so intense and so true, that it takes some digesting.  It's written as if to his son, and it's very moving. Particularly a propos at this moment.

Then, to recover, I'm catching old radio drama on YouTube.  This is BBC Saturday Night Theatre, a staple of my youth, when if you didn't go dancing, you might tune in. Great actors and very good productions.  This is one celebrating Sybil Thorndike, who plays the lead. It's a Margery Sharp novel dramatized. Sharp is entertaining, very astute, with less asperity than Muriel Spark, but similar time period, and similar social assumptions.

And my mail-in ballot has arrived.  As you see, I live in Middlesex County, and since counties send out ballots in waves, you may not have received yours yet if you live in another county.  

It looks so slight, but this is the lever of power, literally in our hands.  Please note: this year the ballot has two sides. Remember to turn it over and continue, so as to register your votes for local issues such as Fire Commissioner, School Board, and most important for all of us: public questions.

On the public questions, we get to vote on legalization of marijuana, on property tax refunds to noncombat veterans and their widows/widowers, and a constitutional amendment to adjust the schedule for legislative district reorganization as a result of the census. The census count is late this year, because of all the court fights, so the Governor may not receive the information in time to follow the normal schedule.

Anyway, read the instructions that come with it, to be sure you know what you're agreeing to or dissenting from.

Before you're done, sign the certificate attached to the enveloped into which you've put and sealed your completed ballot.  DO NOT TEAR OFF THE CERTIFICATE. I think people do this from force of habit from paying bills, tearing off the stub that accompanies your payment.  But in this case it's vital to leave it attached. They say this on both sides, in several languages!

That's because it's the proof you give the election officials that this is your own ballot.  They then remove and preserve the certificate and accept the sealed ballot into the stream of ballots to be counted.  But if you've torn off your certificate, you have voided your vote.  This year with all the attacks on the vote, the last thing we need to do is suppress our own vote!

So there's my public service announcement to you if you're a NJ voter. If you vote by mail elsewhere, you know to read the instructions!  And today, the day of RBG's official lying in state service, is a good day for me to do my little bit to shore up our country's strengths and try to mitigate its weaknesses.  We're a young country, still with much to do.

But every woman reading this in the US who has taken out a loan, a mortgage, a credit card, in her own name, has RBG to thank for a lot of it. There are so many paths she broke for a lot of us, not just women, that it's good to remember she used to say that lasting change takes place a bit at a time.  We can remember that as we face massive tasks in the near future.

Bit by bit. Bird by bird. We can do this. Blogistas in other countries, send good vibes!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Soup and crackers

 Cashew carrot soup, whole-wheat crackers with cashew cheese. A five C lunch.



I'm taking the afternoon off now.

Say cheese!

 First thing this morning I checked on the cheese happenings, and found

Cheese happened! Quite a bit. It's a spreading consistency, like cream cheese. I'll probably sprinkle a bit of seasalt, too. Tastes fine. And I did get more than in the video, probably from adding in more cashews for the fat.

Happy Cook.

Now I have to make crackers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Technical wins and a accidental cooking

 So, last evening I got the DVD player hooked up to the ancient little TV upstairs. Ages since I'd used it, found I'd started up a videocassette which was lurking in there. Then did all kinds of plugging and tracing cables back to their source, the printer and scanner cables complicating the process.

Finally got the DVD player and the TV on at the same time. Then ensued a lot of juggling with two remotes, one does one kind of channel, one the other, one does volume, finally got the channel changed to the one designed to transmit DVD signal. 

Then spent a nice evening learning how to sit and watch TV. And to figure out what the people are saying, not knowing a lot of the references.

Today, technical triumph numero duo, got the outside faucet drained and shut off. Usual trips up and down stairs. The last person to adjust the valve was the plumber who said he'd tightened it so the leaking would stop. It did.

 But it was not easy to switch the valve back off now that it was tightly fastened by a burly guy. Water on the patio everywhere. Two trips up to try switching it off further. Rubber glove for traction. Finally it stopped. The line is now empty, the faucet open for the winter, the valve upstairs shut. 

Today I had no intention of doing anything about food, in fact I was looking for something different on YouTube. Famous last words.

I found this cook, he's vegan, I'm not, but some of this is really good to try. This dish comes in later, read on..

I first got an alert about vegan cheese, hm.

But first..

I've been thinking about some soft cheese, paneer or labneh, but don't have the doings in the house.

Then when I saw this great vegan cheese idea, food started to happen. I do have cashews, so I did this paneer kind of thing, added lemon juice to curdle it.

 I didn't see curds, but I went ahead and gently squeezed the bag of cream, as per instructions, like paneer,  and now it's draining, like labneh, overnight.

That's a yogurt container full of water to weight it for steady draining.

 I'll show you tomorrow if it worked.

I didn't have the cashew milk he used, so it was one of those but first times again.

I made cashew cream from just nuts and water, blended and left standing couple of hours, while I made another dish from his channel.

 I used four parts water to one part nuts by volume. He did eight to one but that looked a bit thin to me. He made cashew milk, I went for the cream, figuring the more fat from the cashews, the more cheese would result. We'll see. If it does I'll make crackers to celebrate.

Then suddenly Chickpea Masala happened

Look at that list of ingredients

And all the stages

Except I didn't have chickpeas, used cannellini beans and chucked in that little can of mushrooms I had tried, and decided better in a complicated dish, thinking it would add nicely to texture without being obvious. I did have most of the spices, though, including the pink salt and cardamom pods.

Since I'm not vegan, added in a little can of chicken breast. And subbed curry leaves for bay leaves. And cayenne for paprika. Otherwise it was exactly the same..yeah.

It made three meals. I might serve it over rice. And noodles. But today I ate it as it came.

And wondered again about the nonlinear shape of my days.

In the middle of this, I stopped to watch an online event from Princeton art museum, which is closed, but anyway closed long before the pandemic, being totally rebuilt much bigger. For years it's been a favorite Sunday afternoon destination.

 Sir David Adjaye is the principal architect and today's lecturer with all sorts of slides explaining his intent with all the design features. You can't help but learn from him, and he's careful to talk in terms that people can follow without being architects.

 They record these events, and I expect you can find this and a lot more on their website. Princeton is making a serious effort at inclusion in how they're designing this place, not favoring european and us art over the rest of the world, opening to women and minorities much more effectively. Bit by bit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Kitchen Toys and other diversion

 I've been thinking about graduating from my  forty year old coffee grinder with two broken blades to something posher for hard spices such as nutmeg and peppercorns. The other stuff can still go in the old grinder.

But when you break out and get really good pepper like this, why not go for it.

So here's the result.

I love this. It has a kind of matte finish which means less chance of having it fly across the room in use.

You yank it apart, drop the spices in, close it, then grind by hand the usual way you do with a mill. It says dans le sens horaire, and you find that's just clockwise. There's also a little graphic with a harrer an everything. Nothing left to chance in the instructions.

So I brought out the little company of grinders, white pepper, black pepper, for ordinary peppercorns, allspice. 

All fit in your hand. This is for cooking not showmanship like those peppergrinders like bazookas they flourish in restaurants.

And when all else fails, tiny mortar and pestle. You really feel like an alchemist when you wield these ancient things.

And a libe pickup scored this week's evening viewing.

 If I can get either of my options working. One's my laptop which might track better now that I replaced the giant battery which is about a quarter of the device. 

The other is the ancient little TV to which I've attached a DVD player. It works but the sound quality is a bit blurry. We'll see. Or maybe not.

I've started the book. That works fine.

Monday, September 21, 2020


We're ready. Pussyhat time.  Ursula (which means little bear) pointed out that small isn't powerless. And asked where her pussyhat was.

 She's ready for the SCOTUS fight.  Along with Ruth Bear.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Soup's up

 First soup in ages.

 I like to have soup in the freezer, for when I can't think what to cook. This is carrot, cashew, ginger and sweet potato. It used up the rest of the cooked sweet potato, frozen after the patty caper for when I felt like sweet potato again. One helping in the fridge, three in the freezer. It looks well stocked, but only the top third is food. The rest is art materials.

But what I'm thinking about a bit is a convo I had recently with a friend, where I explained I can't recognize people, even people I know well.  I identify them by gesture, or voice or some such cue. But their faces are not recognizable at all.  I have a number of friends, mostly in the art world, with the same issue.  It's a brain function, and there's a huge long Greek name for it, which, translated, simply says difficulty in facial recognition. I'd be a hopeless witness. Heck, I don't even recognize relatives. I am comforted by the knowledge that Oliver Sacks had the same issue.

The other day I saw a man on the street, thought at first it might be my son, then realized he doesn't have a jacket like that! So I didn't greet him, perfect stranger anyway. I even once failed to recognize my mom on a bus. She came and sat beside me, and I was sort of trying to ignore this woman shoving at my elbow.  Wasn't till we both stood to get off at our stop that I realized it was her. She was cracking up laughing about it.  If a longtime friend suddenly puts on a hat, I've had it.  No idea who they are.

Case in point: next door is a Boston terrier -- I have zero difficulty identifying animals, probably because they have constant movement and gesture going, and don't wear hats usually -- anyway, one day a man appeared at my door, holding little Bennie in his arms, a man in a baseball cap.  I instantly thought oh heck, something's happened to the neighbor and they need me to take the dog for a while, I reached out for Bennie, then the man spoke, and I realized he was the neighbor, who never wears a hat.  He'd just picked up the dog so he wouldn't run off while we talked. Ah.

One time I was in one of those cafes that looks out over an open space and a park, with a friend. A woman appeared, far off, with two dogs.  Whereupon, I said, oh, there's Rosie, haven't seen her in a while, and the GS, so I guess that woman must be Barbara.  Friend says, you're not kidding, are you? you identified her by her dogs? Well, yes.

It can be socially awkward when people just don't understand I'm not snubbing them.  People who really know me just call out and identify themselves as if on the phone, very helpful.  The way I would to a blind person rather than make them guess from my voice. But I've got into the habit of looking smiley and friendly all the time, just so people at least don't think I'm mad at them when I walk by!

This is in part a public service announcement. Please don't assume someone is deliberating cutting you.  If a friend just walks by, give them the chance to say hi by doing it first, with your name.  That would be great.  It's difficult at work.  After a while your boss really expects you to be able to pick her out at a meeting, while you're desperately hoping for clues, a word or movement that will tell you which one she is.

I wonder if it's connected to the sense of direction, which I also don't have? I can read maps and get around,but I can never know what compass point I'm heading in, or whether the next turn should be right or left.  The same street, seen from two directions, looks totally different to me. Could be two streets.  I can't just retrace my steps.  My late husband used to get a charge out of going for a walk with me when we lived in a city, round a few corners, then back home, saying, go on, walk in.  I can't walk in there, I don't know who lives there!  We do, you chump, that's our front door!

Not a huge problem. I just hope it isn't taken for dementia!  It's been with me forever. As my son says, when I fret over something I can't remember or got mixed up with, nah, Mom, you've always been this way!