Monday, November 30, 2020

A tiny flare of encouragement from nature, and the one and only Olive and Mabel

This morning, when I think both Mrs. Moon and I were asleep at the switch, since the sun completely failed to rise, instead, pitch dark and slashing rain everywhere, all the houselights on, I trudged gloomily to the kitchen to put on the kettle and found the primula had done this

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Arne and Carlos and Advent

 Arne and Carlos, pandemic style, no crew, just Norwegian speaking Arne operating the camera with one hand while, in English, explaining the function of a drill to Carlos who has never held one before, with the complications of trying to remember the English for DON'T DRILL THROUGH YOUR FINGER. It's a live video, and one of the best comic turns for a while. 

At one point, Carlos -- they're out in the snow by the lake in Norway in winter -- finds that he can't screw two pieces together because there's ice in the joint. So he grabs Arne's hot tea, not his own, I notice, and pours it over! It works, too.

Just go to YouTube and see how a knitting designer assembles his first giant star for the outside of the house. He had said it was easy, expecting Arne, the handy one, to do it. Not how it worked out. And their dog photo bombing throughout. They have the first candle lit, for the first Sunday in Advent as you see.

There's Helmer the dog, checking 

And it works!

Friday, November 27, 2020


 In the mail today:

One early birthday present from me to moi

For the reveal, go to Art, the Beautiful Metaphor  It's my other blog, and some people aren't aware that it's as active as this one. So if that's you, why not stop in and see what's there?

And, perfect timing, December will be here any minute,  an Advent Calendar. 

Complete with original decoration on the envelope, which is now enshrined here, traditional gallery for grandmas to put favorite artworks from beloved grandchildren of any age.

Very nice haul from a mailbox usually more inclined to yield grocery ads, catalogs, health magazines, invitations to visit retirement communities and explanations of hearing aids.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Telephones, Thanksgiving and other aimless thoughts

 Happy Thanksgiving  to people in the US who are also celebrating on the day.

And for people being in electronic touch, I remember way back in the medieval period, when I was growing up in England, with family all over the known world and we finally, after years of waiting, long story, another time, got a telephone.

 The number, which you usually recited on answering it, was Middlesbrough 44444.  That was it.  Because of the family diaspora, at holiday times my mom wanted to place transatlantic and transcontinental calls.  At that time you had to book them, way ahead, and were instructed when you could expect to make the connection, Probably days later.

Anyway, it involved dealing with snooty London telephone operators, who never missed a shot at us poor Northerners..and they'd ask for your number and you'd say, British style, four double four double four.  Little pause, and she say, aow, yew mean, dabble foah, dabble foah, foah.

So next time we'd remember that and do the double four double four four thing and this operator would crisply say, thet's foah, dabble foah, dabble foah.  Could not win! All this for a four minute call, all that was allowed, most of which we wasted asking about the weather. Is it hot in Africa? Well, yeah, it's Africa!  is it cold there in Canada at Christmas?  well, yeah, it's Canada at Christmas.  Etc.  Vital communication.

I was once engaged, another story, another time, to a man whose mother was a total delight. If I could have had her as a mother in law without marrying him, I'd have done it.  Anyway, their number, in a village in Cheshire, was Hooton 2.  She had a posh fluty voice, and when you called she'd come on with Hoooton Twoooo.  Her sons used to say they thought they'd been connected with an owl.

Here's a lovely new find on YouTube

VoxTox, who simply sits and talks entertainingly at the camera on books, history, quirky little known stuff, the environment, feminism, why we should write bits of Wikipedia if we know women who ought to be recorded and acknowledged in there for their accomplishments.  She's lovely.  Crisp British speech, which I run at 75% in order to catch it, having lost the knack of understanding them furrin folks.  It's largely about what she's saying, no changes of scene or special effects or pictures, so you can treat it as radio or podcast and do other things while she's on.  I found it by accident last night, and was so happy.

Then today, not being Thanksgiving celebration day, since we already took care of that, and Handsome Son is at work, I realized I had nothing to eat for lunch.  

Meaning nothing planned and cooked. There's quite a lot of prepped nothing in the freezer.  Soooooo, I made a vichyssoise soup, with fresh picked thyme, still going on out there, and chives, recovered after the recent raid.

The flavorings are the aforementioned thyme, and those leaves are curry leaves, a great alternative to bay leaf, which I don't like as much. 

 I was introduced to them by an Indian friend who gave me a supply.  I wanted to buy my own, and she waved me away, with don't even try!  the shop people speak mainly Hindi, the labels are in Hindi, they'll never know what you mean if you ask for curry leaves.  I'll supply you, stop fussing. 

 Which she did, and I still, long after she moved away, have a supply in the freezer.  I fish them out before I serve the food, since they're a bit too fibrous for me, just like a bay leaf, in fact, and I recommend them if you can find them.  Or get a nice Indian friend to give you some.

And here's the result, with just a dash of milk added at the end.  It's quite rich enough, because there's butter and oil already in there. And the flavor is just lovely.  All the veggies, onions, celery, leeks, potatoes, are from Misfit Markets, and they have definitely lived up to their billing.  The potatoes were this week, the leeks and celery from a previous one.

And I was even out of a nice something to go with afternoon tea, disaster.  So I thought I'd try a new thing I just found out, since St. Catherine of Egypt's feast day was yesterday, and this is Catternmas, celebrated by lacemakers.  The cookie/cake things are Cattern cakes, in her honor, being a way of saying her name. 

With caraway seeds, almonds, raisins unless you don't like them and leave them out a I did, cinnamon, caster sugar, butter, all kinds of nice stuff. If you like raisins, well, currants were the authentic fruit, add a third of a cup. 

The recipe is a Tudor one, and is also associated with Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first unlucky queen, who was very good to lacemakers, commissioning work from them to keep them employed.

St Catherine of Egypt is the patron saint of various people and things, including unmarried women. Also associated with wheels, hence the Catherine wheel fireworks.

Since Nottingham UK was a lacemaking center, and  lacemakers were typically unmarried women, it fitted in, the cakes, not the fireworks, and they celebrated St. C. at her feastday with these cakes.

I suspect either pretty affluent Tudors could afford all the sugar and raisins and almonds, unless poorer people saved up for ages collecting the ingredients. I also wonder if the recipe originated in and around Egypt, Catherine's territory, what with the almonds and raisins. Anyway, they're very good.

They also use self rising flour, which I didn't have, so I had to look up how to make that, no trouble, just add baking powder and salt to your flour.  And I had whole almonds, so I had to sort of crush them up a bit. I didn't blanch them, because there's no point in chucking out perfectly edible almond skins, and since the flour was brown, it wouldn't spoil the look of it to have fragments of brown almond skin.

An interesting point here: the recipe says one third  cup of chopped almonds. Meaning after they're chopped, it's one third of a cup.  Not one third of a cup of almonds which you then chop.  Wouldn't come out right at all.  This is what divides good recipe writers from the others, knowing the difference, which this one did. Just for interest, I measured out one third cup of almonds and busted them up, and when I measured one third cup of the resulting debris, there were leftovers, now in the freezer in a little container.

My recipe didn't work out exactly as per instructions.  You're supposed to roll it out flat, then roll it up like a jelly roll, and slice through to make the cakes.  Mine wouldn't roll up, too rich, I think, maybe because I was using wholewheat flour, too, not as soft as white, so I just cut them out with a glass.  And as always, there's an extra which needs its own little tray.

Despite all this, they came out well, and I got about 17.  I supposed I could have stretched it to 20, but it's okay, really. 

Considering I planned to loaf around all day,  not to wake  at 5.30 a.m. ready to go, this turned out a bit different than planned, but very good all the same. Including weather in the high 60s with sunshine, despite forecast of daylong rain, so I got out and walked after all this frenzied activity.

I'm sitting down next.  Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving stage is set

 Thanksgiving has happened chez Boud.  And a lovely one it was.  We had a crowd, see below

*The complete turnout of Dollivers, left to right Blondie Firstborn, Dreads, NameMe, Call me Michelle, and Bette Davis.  With the complete Dolliver Kennels in their train. Left to right Shaggy Dog, see other pix for better views, Red Setter, Whippet and Wire Haired Terrier. Blondie Firstborn with Yellow Parakeet, NameMe with Turquoise Parakeet, Call me Michelle with Blue Parakeet.

Here's the table, set for action

And after asiago cheese and breadsticks, and a toast to us and Thanksgiving in the pomegranate juice cocktail,  Handsome Son off in the kitchen, starting to organize this

Is this not a sight to gladden the heart?  Piping hot, served to me without my lifting a finger.  What a treat. 

We finished up with the Victory Cookie and pots, plural, of tea. The VC started as eight pieces, and after eating and sending home with Handsome Son, now is two lonely pieces waiting for me to take care of them, not too hard, I think.

This was the most relaxing holiday I think I ever had.  The cheese and cracker starters were lovely, just chatting and munching, no concern about  things in and on the oven, timing them, watching the clock, just enjoying.  Handsome Son had everything organized, declined my offers of help.

Both very happy about various political outcomes and feeling much better about everything, especially the prospect of a vaccine not too long hence.

Lovely time.

*The Dollivers knitted and named by me, adapted from Knitted Babes, by Claire Garland, aka dotpebbles on line, likewise the parakeets, her pattern, my adaptation. The Dollivers have many outfits, mostly designed by me.  Knitted dresses and Bette Davis' hat from patterns in Knitted Babes.  Straw hats by me.

 The dogs are from the Knit Your Own Dog book, by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne.  The polar bear you saw a few weeks ago is from their Knit Your Own Zoo book.  Great fun. 

As is a lot of life at the moment!  

And here's what also happened: Handsome Son said he thinks this is how we will do holidays going forward.  Fine by me.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Monthly adventure

 The house cleaners were here this morning. So an outdoor time was needed. And though the day started out grim and dark and rainy, it suddenly broke out into sun and wind, and after a couple of boring errands, I was able to get to Plainsboro Pond, and do the walk of what used to be known as the Island.

This is the way in from the main road, the official entrance, I suppose.  Great caution is to be observed here, because of the flock of Canada geese, who love it here, reproduce like mad, since they're protected, and make walking a hazardous endeavor, and you have to watch you don't skid.

This is a lovely walking path, water on both sides, different view every time you turn your head. Several runners today and one old party creaking along on an ancient bicycle, having a fine time.

View looking left.  A lot of people living over there have kayaks they put on the pond in season.

View looking right.  I really love to see sun sparkling on the water where the wind is whipping it up

Worlds of interest underfoot, too, this being a damp area, plenty of lichen and fungi and tiny plants

Getting near the end of the path now

And the bridge, looking like something from an impressionist painting.  Before this was built, the piece of land we just walked on was a peninsula, very safe for letting dogs run.  I had a couple of dogs accidentally learn to swim by not realizing the land was coming to an end, and they flung themselves into the water.  One couldn't wait to get back in, loved it.  The other was furious, very offended, demanded to be fished out again NOW and never willingly went in water again.

Now, with the bridge joining to a long walking path for runners, walkers, bicycles, running several miles, it's become a favorite place. No dog running now, though. It was windy today, but the trees on both sides of the path create a shelter from the wind, very welcome to this walker this morning.  Once across the bridge, I turned and retraced my steps back to the other end, because that's where I was parked.  Sometimes I do this walk the other way, park on the street you saw earlier, then start at the bridge, and end at the entrance, then loop back.  It's a couple of miles, I suppose, round trip.  Long time since I measured it with a pedometer.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Thanksgiving, the prequel

It's official. Chez Boud, Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Tuesday, since that's the day Handsome Son is free. 

He's doing the shopping as usual, so we simplified things. He has asiago cheese and bread sticks to start. Then heat and eat ready cooked food, his choice, I won't know till I see him, and ginger ale.

I've made the the pomegranate juice to serve in Fancy Glasses and the dessert giant cookie. There will be tea, too, he being a tea drinker, true to his roots. I'll haul out the red cloth and the white cloth to go over it, and the cheeseboard, and I'll polish up the best wine glasses, all the doings.

It will be wonderful. Cleaners coming Monday, great timing, so even the house will be ready. 

And, since we're early with our celebration, I'm getting in early with my thankfulness.

We're both keeping well, up to now, solvent, housed, know where our next meal is coming from.

 His main job, food store, is unaffected, essential worker, though requiring high level of precaution. His part time gig, once his full-time job, is in software, so it's online anyway, continues as usual.

I'm old but keeping well, very capable of living alone and enjoying it, a blessing during a time like this.

Our work to eject the present administration has been successful. Rocks ahead, but not the despair we were feeling just a few weeks ago.

I'm thankful for faithful friends who haven't fallen away when things are tough, neighbors who are fun to be around.

And I'm thankful, too, for the readers of my blogs, long distance friends,  who take part with energy, commenting, advising, suggesting books, emailing me with their own pictures and even sending me things they know I'll like and use. You can't know how much it means to have your friendship and know you're reading here.

Such generosity of support over the twelve years I've been blogging and recording some major and dramatic events in my household. Also some funny ones, where I did not cut a dignified figure, but oh well.

Thoughtful and timely gifts that have kept me going. From lint for art use, cashmere combings for spinning, Kool aid for dyeing, books, all kinds of yarn, fabrics, stitching and knitting materials and tools, handmade books, lace, scarves, ecards, and here's the latest, from dear C

She'd followed the flour tortilla adventure, and thought it would be nice for me to make corn tortillas, too.

But since the official masa harina is available in big quantities, she kindly not only measured out enough for a single person's recipe, but handwrote the recipe, and sent it off like a care package! The note will be inserted into my Big Binder right away, for safety. Is this not a gesture to make a person happy? Yes, loudly!

And yes, it's all a two way street, but here I'm talking as recipient.

Then I looked at my plants this morning and saw this bud just beginning on the white primula.

See it down there, right at the base of the leaves, juuuust visible? Hope in plant form.

All in all, plenty to be thankful for, and I am, I so am.

I wish you all a happy week, coming into summertime for some blogreaders, winter for others. Let's find joy even in dark times, if we can.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

From walking to pomegranates with tangents thrown in

 I've been walking outdoors most days as usual, but I haven't been doing much other exercise. Walking's fine, but it's just one form of movement, and it's good to have more.  I was getting bored with the Hasfit series, good as it is, and tried a couple of yoga ones, which were good, too, but today I thought I should do something involving not being in a chair.

So I found this mother and daughter channel.  Really good stuff.  And, instead of a young athletic person instructing older people how to go on, she has her mother working out alongside no, great illustration of what to look out for, how to pace it. I don't know the age of the mother -- often people are presented as seniors and turn out to be my son's age, but never mind.

I just did the ten minute walking workout this morning and I'll do more of these.  It's walking types of movement, but sideways, backwards, using arms, lifting alternate knees to touch, a variety of movements, punctuated by marching in place.  I think this is a great one for people who don't walk outside, too, especially when the weather gets a bit trickier, and there's ice.  And it exercises your thinking, too, to keep doing the actions without mixing yourself up.  At least for me it does.  Not gifted physically.

And then I needed some good music going while I was dressing and generally getting ready for the day.  This is Pinchas Zuckerman with a Korean prodigy, SoHyun Ko, when she was 12, playing Bach's Concerto in D minor, in Korea.  He's conducting baroque style, from his own instrument.   He's a great promoter of young musicians, offering opportunities, founding programs to help them get established.
He recorded this same piece with Midori when she was about ten.  When she was an adult, she performed locally and I got to see and hear her in person, unforgettable.

And while I was in search of more information, I came across a great don't miss it opportunity to add Samuel Pepys to my emergency Kindle reading.  He lived through the Great Plague, and the Fire of London, and various other disasters, and still kept on writing his diary.  Not the nicest of chaps, but an interesting writer to dip into. I doubt if he'd been happy at the price I paid, though.

Then, since food inevitably makes its way into everyday life at regular intervals, I thought I'd do something with the pomegranates from yesterday's Misfits box.  I looked at a few ideas online, found them way too elaborate for what I was looking for, and decided just to juice them.  

Way back in history, I made a peach curry, using canned peaches, and drained the syrup off the peaches thinking I could freeze that and use it one day.  Today turned out to be the day.  And I bust up the pomegranates and separated out the seeds, like little rubies, from the pith and the rind

and blended them briefly with the peach syrup.  I didn't want to blend too long, because each little ruby has a seed, which I didn't want to crush, probably bitter, just blend enough to get the jelly like part off the seeds. 

Then I strained it, with a lot of help from a spoon to push the material through leaving behind the seeds

Here's the debris from that operation, except there wasn't much waste, since the rinds on the plate are now in the freezer for future natural dyeing experiments.

And here's the result, two cups of the most wonderful juice, nothing better than fresh. Worth all the fiddling about that preceded it.  Not that I'm rushing to do it again very soon, I must admit.

But, having done all that prep, I can see why pomegranate juice is expensive, since I doubt whether there's a machine that can do all those stages without ruining something. It's very fiddly getting all the little bits of membrane separated after you remove the rind.

Like asparagus, which grows like a weed around here, but there's no machine that can harvest it successfully, since it has to be cut stem by stem at just the right place.  So the labor adds up and it sells as a luxury item.  I see the local farm family in spring patiently harvesting their field by hand.  It used to grow wild around here before development happened.  And I had a huge unruly bed of it in my backyard at the first house we had, used to invite neighbors to come and pick, since they were countryfolk and knew how to pick without damaging the plants.

Walking, to Bach, to Pepys, to pomegranates, to asparagus.  You can't say I stay too long on one topic!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Misfits day mostly good

 Misfits box arrived today, this morning, several hours earlier than expected. Usually I think I'm the last stop of the day in this area.  Only one minor problem, a dented can, which they're attending to now after I sent them a pathetic picture of it. 

Today, the cornucopia includes a couple of pomegranates, first I've had in years, and I'll have to review how to eat them.  And what looked like more potatoes than I'd ordered, but I can deal with them.

Fnally the mushrooms showed up, so there will be soup in the near future.  And I invested in some more of that Aurora Mills wholewheat flour, this time pastry flour, to see how it goes.  I plan to pickle some of the red cabbage you see there, also some of the red onions. So see what happens to the skins, etc., go to Red veggie future

And here's tonight's salad in the works, celery, carrots, oakleaf lettuce, scallions, sliced dates.  Isn't that a lovely box design for the dates?

Since the box arrived early, this setup had to wait its turn in the wings, and it's now baked and about to emerge.  It's the Giant Cookie, for Thanksgiving.  Since I don't know what day that will be for Handsome Son and me, except certainly not Thursday, I thought I'd better get ahead of things and bake it now.

Like this

It smells excellent. This one I made with Gold Medal flour, less soft than the White Lily I used last time, so we'll see how it works.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Vanishing beets and other likely stories

The weather has turned cold, and there's nothing I like better than a hot bowl of soup, for making a person feel fit for whatever happens.

Today it's green soup, carrot tops, leek greens, tons of garlic, couple of red potatoes, chicken broth, basil pesto, seasoned with Bill Veach recipe curry powder, (let me know if you want me to give the recipe, it's very good, and fun to make at home) turmeric, kosher salt, and with added pumpkin water and beet juice, dash of lemon juice.  The beet juice is very fugitive, so where you see a rather lurid red here,  the color will vanish on cooking and become green. Likewise the seasonings were very golden, and they blended in to the green.  And I added in a handful of noodles.

Pumpkin muffin to go with.  Salty P. suggested it was a muffin type thing, and I agree, not to be presented as a cupcake, despite the paper case.  It's more savory.  She should know. Pumpkin is her last name.

This is a great soup.  You can feel strength flowing into you as you eat.  I did fish out a bunch of ultra fibrous remains from the carrot greens, and what's left is very manageable. 

Tomorrow my Misfits box arrives, complete with celery and lettuce, so I'm signing up for a few days of salads, too, ready for them at this point.  Misfits has certainly taken a shopping load off Handsome Son, who now has weeks with just a couple of requests, and one week with none, but an invitation to tea anyway.

The leader of my online Thursday centering prayer group got in touch, with today's link, and a question about whether we wanted to meet next Thursday, given that it's Thanksgiving.  I said no, I'd leave the Zoom traffic to people who really needed it for seeing family at a distance, since I'll be seeing Handsome Son in person.

My hidden agenda was to try to give her an evening off, by not obliging her to sign in.  However, one other person insisted they needed to meet, so she will try for it.  I wish they'd thought first, though.  Sometimes it's kind to agree to let something not happen for once. Leader Chris has family Zoom meetings, and now she'll have to juggle the prayer group as well.  I have a feeling that Zoom will be overloaded anyway, so it's possible that people may not manage to get online. Anyway, I did my tiny bit.

I'm definitely getting more absent minded.  To wit, ready to walk the other day: coat, check, hat, check, gloves, check, mask, check, phone, check.  Stepped out, ouch, this path is really hard today.  Look down.  Oh.  Shoes, check.

I'm about to go walking now, and this is in the form of reminder to self.  Shoes, Lizzie, shoes.  Always useful. Especially when the temp is about freezing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Escape into hats

Since my Christopher Guest film festival is waiting for the next offering, Princess Bride, to come in to the library, I thought I'd branch out into the frivolous (!)

Royal stuff.  Mainly about the 1936 excitement of the English  abdication when the King wanted to marry Mrs. Simpson.  There's a lot of constitutional history wound into this, and the second World War plays a role in the real life version, but the movies don't usually get into that very deeply.

No, we're in it for the hats.  At least I am.  Wallis' clothes are wonderful, and the interiors, and the cars, and the men's fashions, even, since Edward was a bit of a clotheshorse, too.  So this is my critical analysis and comparison and contrast of these three major artworks, and their production values. Or something. Hot chocolate may be involved.

I think I already saw Wallis and Edward on YouTube, but never mind. Anyway, if I have time in the evenings, I'll be watching them.  My evenings seem to get used up with reading and emailing and spinning and messaging and keeping in touch with people, and various other things.

Including baking.  In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving, I baked a dozen pumpkin cupcakes.  Just the usual old banana bread recipe, only cooked and mashed pumpkin substituted for the bananas. Jury's out on these. The pumpkin may work best in soup.

The flavor is not as good as the sweet potato, but the texture works okay.  I think Handsome Son will like them, because they're not too sweet, since the sweetness of the banana was absent.  And, for once, I omitted inclusions, since I have walnuts in the house and I'm saving them to use in the Giant Cookie for Thanksgiving Day, whichever day that turns out to be for us.

He's working on the day itself, as usual, so we'll just fit in wherever we can.  I hope it's not Monday, since the cleaners are coming that morning, but even if it is, I expect we'll manage. And there will be a clean house, no matter which day we celebrate, always a Good Thing tm.

I said a dozen, and eagle eyed readers will note that there's one missing. That's the cook's privilege, first try.  Usually eaten too hot, can't wait.

Still reading Maisie Dobbs, yet another.  This one A Lesson in Secrets is excellent, and I hadn't read this one before, a plus right there. It's set in Cambridge University, and involves not only the Secret Service and the police force, but the powers of academia, too, all very complex and interwoven.