Saturday, January 30, 2021

Self care on a winter weekend

 Bitter cold and windy, even the sunshine is not tempting me out.  But it's a good time to catch up on things I promised myself to cook.  Here are some of the frozen sweet potato gnocchi, and a couple of hot Italian sausages, plus while I was running a hot oven, heads of garlic roasting to make a garlic spread

The gnocchi were frozen uncooked, so they have to do the diving into boiling water phase first, before they go into a 400F oven to roast for about 20 minutes. I just plunged them in still frozen, made no difference. Sausage was frozen, just thawed enough to skin them, then same oven, same period.

The garlic needed about 20 minutes more, still in a hot oven, doused liberally with olive oil.  When it's cool, I'll squeeze out the softened garlic, great for a spread.  You can use this all over the place, specially good for garlic bread.

And here's lunch.  Also another helping of same for tomorrow.

 And everywhere is evidence of my industry, now doing humble duty in the kitchen.  Left a painted tote bag, I made a lot of these at one time, and taught other people how to, great fun.  Stuffed with my hand-knitted face cloths now relegated to be kitchen and floor cloths, but sturdy? you can't wear them out.  I made them in order to try out new stitch patterns as well as to have useful things.  On the right is the bag I wove years ago, using a pattern from the Weaving without a Loom book, and still holding up after much use, now stuffed with kitchen cloths.  I don't use paper in the kitchen, but I do use a lot of cloths.

Some blessed soul has suddenly started uploading some of my favorite books in audio form on YouTube.  Here's a Georgette Heyer. And they have excellent readers, who understand the text and the humor and where the  emphasis should go.  Which is more than I can say for a lot of the audiobooks on the library apps, which are strictly amateur night at the Bijou.  This book accompanied today's spinning, plying and cooking.

Onward, new reading on my Kindle, Lisa See never fails when I'm wondering what would be nice to read next.  And since I got it via the library app which lets me download onto my Kindle, not onto a device with a refreshing screen, which gives me migraine, all the better.

 So I guess I'm set.  Keep warm, if this applies!  Find your snowshovel, that's advice to me, since it's outside in the storage closet, and I may need it to dig the door open..

Friday, January 29, 2021

Misfits and Friday salad

The Misfits box arrived today, as you see

Looking forward to that cauliflower. And I might make garlic butter too. Which is just solid garlic, roasted until tender enough to spread. And there's a can of excellent olive oil with all the proper Italian credentials.

Meanwhile here's the traditional Friday night salad. Oak leaf lettuce, crisp, hard boiled egg, capers, love capers, cashews. Dressed with oil, mustard, garlic, vinegar dressing swiped from Mary Moon.  Dessert a lovely Pink Lady apple. 

In a couple of days the Roma tomatoes will be ripe enough to add.

All set,  ahead of the forecast snowstorm.

Hot biscuits for a cold day

 These are one half ap flour, one quarter oats, one quarter pastry flour, with walnuts and golden raisins. 

Good for winter afternoon tea. Especially with cranberry jam.

Update on the second pizza. I took it out of the freezer about an hour before needed, and did the final covered cooking. 

The crust was crisp and very good, especially  considering it had been partly baked then frozen and thawed. The fillings were fine. So if you try it, you know you can freeze the second one successfully. It was as good as the first one.

I suddenly remembered a long gone dear neighbor, out of nowhere, you know how that happens. Just brushing my teeth and thought of her this morning. Or rather an expression she invented.

Dot was a post office worker in our tiny local office for many years, and I remembered her explaining patiently about various post office things. My favorite was when she would say, you pay this up front, then later you'll be reinversed. Conjures up interesting visuals.

My Mom had a couple of great ones, such as: she suddenly sat up boltright!  Or my friend after her first visit to Paris saying she tried hard to use her French to talk to the Parishioners.

These malapropisms are funny, and dear, and not entirely inaccurate.  And they're a gentle memory of people who've gone.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

House Cleaner day adventures

The house cleaners were back today, so it was once more time for me to figure out an adventure to have so as to leave the house to them, without being underfoot while they go through the place like a family of whirlwinds.

Bitterly cold, also windy, not conducive to nice strolls, and it was grey out when I was making plans, not conducive to feeling like going out at all.  But still she persisted.  And I realized I still had not done the Annual Witchhazel Hunt.

Ah, here's a good thing to do, I thought. Usually I walk there, since it's on the edge of a local park, where the bus shelter is, which structure may account for its survival after a lot of severe weather.

But nowadays in extreme cold, that's a bit too far to walk. But why not drive there on my way to other destinations, self, I asked myself.  Parking lot right there.  And I did, and found that I was not quite too late to catch some of it in bloom.  I was a bit late to the party, since usually the first or second week of January is the best time.  But, as you see, I did score a couple of twigs, and scurried back to the car to get warm again.

I noticed that I'd got two species. Witchhazel grows a bit like forsythia, masses of branches coming up from the ground in parallel, so this may be two species that are just growing as close neighbors.  I picked the twigs off what appeared to be one bush.

And you'll see one set of yellowish flowers, one of the classic red wild starburst design.  You'll see how tiny these are, imperceptible if you don't know they're there. And you can see further down the stem, the bell-like shapes that appear after the flowers have blossomed and gone.  The flowers will smell interesting once they get warmed through in the house. It's always such a treat to find flowering shrubs in the depths of the winter, and this winter definitely has its depths, what with one thing and another.

Then came a couple of dull errands, dvd back to the library, Target for a couple of vital things I forgot to ask Handsome Son to pick up, including paper tape, that invention that people are now using to tape the top of the face mask so as to avoid fogging up your glasses.  This is very important right now, since as soon as I leave the house, the glasses, warm from the house, fog over instantly, and it's not just fog.  It's almost instantly ice, which is a different thing to get rid of.  Not good for driving.

Anyway, after that, off to find new views, and I decided to go up to Cranbury, since I was halfway there already, left Target by the back way, headed up a country road, to the old village of Cranbury where half the houses are Revolutionary period, complete with plaques to prove it, and the graveyard holds locals for three centuries. Including the person who was the first traffic fatality in the region.  Fell out of his carriage after a very good day's trading and celebrating in Philadelphia, a real own goal if ever there was one, he probably thought as the wheels passed over his helpless form.  Poor guy.

Anyway, that's for another time when the weather's nice enough to stroll about and take pictures for your viewing pleasure.  Today I thought it would be good to watch moving water with sun sparkling on it.

So I went here, the park on the banks of Brainerd Lake, moving water, complete with all kinds of ducks and fishing birds.  Many diving ducks today, too far for good pictures, but the very good part about this place is that you can sit in your car with a perfect view. There are benches near the water, where I like to go to and read in good weather.  

Handsome Partner, after he had lost a lot of mobility, loved to come here, and I could help him do just the few yards from car to bench where he could enjoy being out of the house, and with plenty to see on and around the water.

And this is where I came to sit after I'd made the arrangements after his death, at the funeral home just a few yards from the park.  It was a calming and helpful place that day, as well as many others.

I hadn't planned on birds today, so I didn't have my binoculars with me, so I'll have to look up the waterbirds by memory.  I think there were coots and some other species, all swimming together.

I came home to a clean house, feeling much better about everything.  Amazing what a bit of sunshine and fresh air, however frigid, will do for a person.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Of Cats and Stains and Biscuits and Jam

 I was talking today with a friend about talking to myself and to various animals at times when I've had animals in the house, and found I'm far from alone in that.  I do have conversations with myself frequently, partly because it helps me think, partly because if you don't use your vocal chords, and people alone have little opportunity when they are not telephoners, it's not good for your voice.  This is the kind of thing you don't think about unless you've lived alone for years, which some of us have.  Happily, for the most part -- this is not a complaint-- but there are adaptations to make.

And I used to have conversations with my own cats, and in earlier times, when I had a home petcare service, with client animals of all kinds, cats being the most conversational. 

Over the 12 years of the service, I knew literally hundreds of animals, many cats, since my typical clients had multiple animal households, far too complicated to board them when the humans had to be out of town, and certainly for corporate travelers, away two and three times a month, impractical.  Also many of them were single women who loved to come home to happy animals already there and fed and generally pleased to see them.

I developed a certain amount of knowledge of different cat temperaments, too.  As you know, chromosomes not only affect fur colors, but temperament that goes with it.  I literally never knew a ginger tom, they're mostly male, who was not a good guy, very laidback, very forgiving, just a nice feller even if you had to stick needles into them, and a number of my clients needed twice daily injections, the sort that the owner could do. 

And there were tuxedos, black and white cats, who were up to all sorts of shenanigans.  I never knew a tuxedo that wasn't planning some sort of caper at all times.  One turned on the electric can opener as I came in on my first visit.  He heard me come in, thought, oh the food lady, let's get this show moving, folks.  The owners had left it plugged in, and he knew I would head for food cans for him and his brother.  I made a practice of going round the house on my first visit unplugging items that the rush of departure had left plugged in.  Hairdryers, irons, can openers, a lot of things that are better unplugged anyway.

This tuxedo's brother used to leap into the fridge at the first opportunity when I'd opened the door and was distracted by another cat for a moment.  I learned always to count cats before I left and to re-open fridges, anything I'd opened and closed, to make sure nobody was trying to do themselves in.   They thought it was a great game. One used to get into the sleeve of my coat, which I'd put down when I came in, in the hope of an adventure traveling with me. So disappointed every time I tipped her out.

Then there were tortoiseshells, almost always female, who were a law unto themselves. Charming, actors, high strung, always at fever pitch of emotion, but didn't get mean, just very self centered and needy. And elegant and beautiful.

And calicos, also female, the only ones who ever seriously bit me.  One used to do a pre- emptive bite, as I came into the house, knowing the first task was to insert a pill into her.  Then she'd flee at top speed and hide while I got out the food and water and dreaded pill.

We did get to be friends, more or less. 

Then there were the ancient cats, who had their owners totally under their paws.  One, Wellington, aged 22, used to love drinking from a dripping tap.  So I'd put her in the sink first thing, start the tap, then get her food and water organized.  Her owner had explained she couldn't jump that high any more, and always had to be lifted. No problem.  

Then one day I was a bit slow getting to the sink, and she leapt in gracefully and patted the faucet  asking me to get a move on and turn it on..I told her owner that, and she fell down laughing, explained they'd been picking her up for years, thinking she couldn't manage.  I did pick her up, though, because she loved it.  I pretended I didn't know it was all an act.

One of the reasons I got on well with cats was that I have quite a soft voice, fairly high, and I would start talking as soon as I opened the door.  Animals like that, and respond fast, because they want the company and conversation.  Birds are particularly happy with women's voices, I found.  

And on my first visit with a new client it became a regular thing to have the owner explain I would never see their cat at all, too shy, so here's a picture just in case you're interested. At which point, said shy cat was already climbing up me and one made it to the top of my head and started grooming my hair to straighten it, cats not approving of curly hair.  At which point the owner would say, well, I think this is going to work just fine!

My own cats had a lot of debates with me, and each other. So now that I am catless, I have to fill in their parts, too. Except for my weekly visit from Handsome Son.

He visited today and got me all mixed up as to the day, since he usually comes on Sunday. I had baked a batch of hot biscuits with walnuts and golden raisins.  These went over well, split, buttered, and with cranberry jam, which he was surprised to find he liked. 

After he left I found ample evidence of cranberry jam on the linen napkin I'd used as a cloth, and got to use Boud's Handy Dandy Stain Removal Method for Red Fruit, or Wine, Stains, on natural fabrics.

This consists of a large bowl or pot, a big rubber band, and you set the cloth drumtight on the bowl using the rubber band, in the sink, then pour, top speed, boiling water over the stains.  Which not only gets them out, but is fun to do.  Then you use the boiling water for something else. In my case the dishes waiting to wash after the tea ceremony. No charge for this invaluable Pro Tip.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The never say die school of baking

 Full transparency:  not all of my cooking turns out as planned. Mostly it does, but here's a saga of the Pumpkin and Golden Raisin Bread that Didn't.  Made pretty much the way I make banana bread, I've done this with sweet potato, apples,various other things, successfully. Turns out pumpkin, even drained well, is a different sort of hanimal.

So I noticed that the batter was a bit wet, but confidently thought it would firm up in baking, and now I think I'd have been better advised to add flour, though you don't usually make big changes in the middle of baking.  Put it in the oven.  Then noticed I'd omitted the melted butter, still sitting on the counter.  Pulled the tin out of the oven, beat in the butter after the fact, but now find that's a bit late in the process.

So then I baked it for the usual time.  Still totally uncooked.  Baked for another 20 minutes. Now the tester, my little aluminum spud nail, came out clean.  So I brought it out and cooled and tried it.  Hm.  More like pudding than bread.

Tried a slice.  Not something you'd offer a person.  So last night I put it back in a hot oven and baked it another 20 minutes.  Now firmer, but a bit rubbery.  Oh. 

So this morning I toasted a slice, added cranberry jam, and called it Breakfast Bread.  Or something. It's edible if you don't realize what it was aiming to be in the first place. I wonder how many recipes are born that way.

Maybe I'll invent the TwiceBaked (biscotti) Postponed Butter Pumpkin Golden Raisin Breakfast Bread Slices. I'll be famous. And good cooks will try it and think, gawd, I could do better than this. Yeah, so could I!

Things can only go uphill from here.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Saturday, so pizza

I decline to worry today about any damn thing. Biden's taking the evening off, and I'm taking the whole day. 

Not knowing exactly what to have for lunch today, I thought, ah, I have mushrooms and sausage, in the freezer,  that suggests pizza.  So I made a batch of that yogurt dough I made once before, and set to work.  Skinned and chunked the sausages,  lovely hot chicken ones, mushrooms I'd sliced before I froze them, red onions and garlic cooked till nicely almost brown, tomato ketchup and paste mixed as a diy tomato topping, parmesan cheese grated ready.

 Here's the dough, kneaded, enought for two pizzas, resting under plastic while I get on with the toppings

Here's the first pizza dough ready to transfer to the sizzling hot castiron pan. I used all three of them for this adventure, and notice my bench scraper in the background. I got two of them, they came in a set, very cheap, from a catalog, and I have had amazing use out of them.  I feel like a carpenter when I use them, too.

Mushrooms sauteing in butter and olive oil, added Thai basil and a sprinkling of flour to make a sauce, sausage browning in the background, onions and garlic in waiting.

First side cooked, then turned over, toppings added, cover clapped on to let it cook about five minutes till everything's done. The second pizza I did likewise, to the point where the toppings are on, the second side still needs to cook, so it will be a fresh pizza when it comes out of the freezer, better than a warmed up one. I even remembered to leave a note to self reminding me what I'd done.

And a great lunch, after which I lay about like a python for a while.

Then tonight's viewing pleasure Gosford Park, which I've seen at least twice, but there are always more things to notice, and the production is beyond brilliant.

Not to mention that the cast is A-list start to finish. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Colin Firth had a walk-on part as an underfootman in this context..and Jennifer Ehle was understudying the housekeeper's assistant.

So there's where we are chez Boud this freezing cold January night.

Further medical adjacent adventures

 Nowadays it seems a good idea to have home medical stuff working.  I so rarely use my thermometer that when I saw this screen, saying L, I thought, oh, low battery, better do something about that.

 This entailed an enormous search for the tiny Phillips head screwdriver you need to get the microscopic screw out of the housing to see what sort of battery you may need to replace.  Success finally ensued, in the course of looking for something else.

So I took it all apart, and squinted at the battery to see what it was.  Noted. Trip to pharmacy to replace battery.  They didn't have it.  And Aaron, a lovely kid I always like to see, is a store clerk, not an electronics person, so he didn't realize they probably do have a modern equivalent with a different number.  So we didn't find the battery.

And then I did what I ought to have in the first place, I went online to find out what the L meant, and discovered it's not the battery. It means the ambient temperature. Meaning until you put the thing into use, it shows a low temperature.  Once you have used it, it shows your temp.  Ah.  So I reassembled it, and got this

A little bit high, after a bowl of hot soup, but clearly the thermometer is alive and well. So that was a fail that was also a success in a way.  I guess.

In other gripping adventures, the State health department emailed me to say you can go ahead and schedule a vaccine appointment, yay.  Overjoyed that they remembered I was registered, I quickly went ahead and went through all the hurdles, name, email, date of birth, etc., to get an appointment.

Nothing within five miles, which happens to include the large regional hospital right in my tiny town.  Whose website crashed on Wednesday noon, within two minutes of opening to offer appointments. I wonder if they innocently thought that the minute Biden was sworn in they'd have shipments of vaccine.  And who have taken down the form from the site, now operating again, because they have no further vaccine supplies to schedule.  

Nothing within ten miles.  Reaching out further, I checked the twenty mile radius. And found one location, in a county college, where visitor parking is a country hike from the buildings, three counties away, over some of the most accident prone highways in the state, a three hour round trip.  And they had nothing this month, nor next month, and that's as far as their calendar went.

Then there was a final screen saying, please keep checking, new locations and supplies expected I guess that's added to my schedule. Wake up, eat breakfast, check website, etc.  But I'm taking the weekend off, since nobody has any vaccine anyway.

NJ is being starved specially, I believe, because Kushner has a deep and abiding hate for us since Christie was NJ federal prosecutor, and caused Kushner senior to be jailed for some financial shenanigans. Before Christie was one of the most disastrous governors ever.  Current Dem governor Murphy still repairing the damage.  What's happening now with the Dem administration in Washington is NJ writ large.  

Kushner is probably the reason Christie was deep sixed by Trump, after hoping for the Veep job.  Not entirely a bad thing, maybe. Anyway, Washington flat out lied about supplies promised to NJ.  A tiny fraction of them ever appeared. We haven't even finished vaccinating first responders and medical personnel yet. Nor seniors in care homes.

Anyway, enough of the politics of health care, and I'm still perfectly well, and will try not to get too anxious about all the things that aren't happening.  I'm not a fan of looking at people who are worse off and feeling better.  That always seems to me to be a small spirited thing to do.  I don't feel better when other people are worse off or sicker or poorer.  I feel responsible for figuring out what I can do about it. But the idea of counting your blessings and comparing them to people who have fewer, no, that's a mean little attitude, to my way of thinking.

And there's always reading and spinning and other things.  

My latest reread was Maisie Dobbs, this one about an artist in the era of World War I and the surrounding politics and mysteries of the time.  As always, Winspear is worth reading.  In fact I reread her.

 Next reread is a couple of novels by Penelope Lively, which I've got on Hoopla, but can't transfer to Kindle, which I really like better for reading, but still, it's available, so that's fine.

It's cold, windy and just the weather for indoor exercise then reading, all wrapped in blankets. I'm getting quite fancy with my scarf flinging.  Now I'm doing figure eights with my arms, and generally thinking I'm all that. I might start naming the moves.  The Infinity!  The Double Silk Jerk and Drop! The Perpetual Motion!  It's really good upper body stuff, vital when you spend time knitting and spinning and doing the sorts of fiber work that tenses up your shoulders and arms without your knowing it.

And last night I dreamed about embroidery and discussing the Robe of Many Colors.  A big step up from dreams of fear and abandonment and being lost in a strange town and it's getting dark.  I'll take it.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Snowdrops, it must be January

 I love the arrival each year of whatever snowdrops survive. This morning I noticed these welcome friends

One flower blooms. Spring everywhere.

"Seraphs swing their snowy hats" Emily Dickinson. 

Nature and art always come through.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Takeaways from glorious day, and gnocchi

Yesterday turned out to be glorious beyond expectation, from the solemn ceremony, to a president with actual plans for governing, complete with powerful women there in their own right, to the young poet, Amanda Gorman's,  moving performance of her poem The Hill we Climb, to the celebrations later and the fireworks. A few takeaways, not good pix, but best I could do:

The artwork installation of 250K flags to represent people who would have been there

Amanda Gorman, brilliant poet with political high ambition

Words I love to type: The Vice President and her husband!  We're nearly there, folks  The glass bell was a symbol of the glass ceiling almost gone at this point in this arena, anyway.  Most of it was done online, and I really think they should always do it this way.  Instead of posh balls in the evening which hardly anybody can go to, and very nineteenth century, anyway, assuming het couples and touch dances, this was so much more inclusive, all kinds of people getting to be seen and heard. 

And today, on a humbler plane, I had an adventure turning Misfits sweet potatoes into gnocchi, using and adapting a recipe I found at AllRecipes

I didn't roast the sweet potatoes, just microwaved them tender.  Mashed with a fork. Here the egg's already blended in. Here's the nutmeg I grated, garlic ready to crush, salt, wholewheat flour. I liked this recipe because it didn't just say put them all together, flour an all.  It did suggest adding the flour bit by bit till a nice soft dough happened.  Which I did, and used a lot less than the two cups of the recipe.  I used some on my hands, some on the board.

And here you see the first batch, followed by two more.  This recipe made enough for several meals of gnocchi.

Two batches into the freezer, not cooked.  I'll cook when I use them eventually. For today's lunch, a few at a time into the boiling water, not too many, you don't want to take the water off the boil.

Then they float to the surface after a couple of minutes, always a period of wondering if they will until one brave soul goes first and everyone else follows.

Then some fresh grated parmesan, and it's lunch.  I don't buy grated cheese partly because it's not hard to grate as needed, partly because there's an additive in it to stop the bits of cheese from lumping up, and I'd just as soon not eat the additive.  No doubt it's safe but I doubt if it adds anything nutritious to the meal.

This worked fine, and the gnocchi did not come apart in the water, always a concern with handmade pasta dough.  It occurs to me that this might be a very nice addition to pumpkin or carrot or any soup in that family.  Cooked ahead and added after blending, just to heat through.  Yes, I'll do that at some point.

I can tell I'm recuperating from the glorious end to the bad four years, because this morning I had an ocular migraine, not long in duration, but a sign that there was stress and it's been lifted.  I had one similarly when Bannon was fired from the White House.

So now all's good.  I'm claiming the stimulus $ on my tax form, which  was already printed up with that line item included even before they were sending the stimulus $ out, a sure sign they did not expect to actually complete the job.  A bit of a giveaway, too.  Forms already printed here and ready to file once I get all the doings filled in.  But they won't accept tax filing before February 12, owing to a massive backlog of work from last year.  Millions of filings yet to be addressed. I don't envy them their job.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

All ready for noon

 The glass bell is ready to ring once the Biden Harris administration has safely begun.

Ring out evil, ring in better days. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Inaugural jam and hot biscuits

Also known as displacement activity.  So anxious about the safety of the inauguration tomorrow, despite the beauty of the 250,000 flags on the Mall to symbolize the people who would be there, and the memorial ceremony this evening for the Covid dead,  that I've been jolting about doing this and that.

Returns to the library, errand to get a power strip, for reasons too complicated to go into, then home and rapid spinning, very productive from that viewpoint.  Then rapid exercise with scarves flying about like rockets. You'll know how desperate I got when I tell you I did the rough draft of my taxes.  Found all the records, receipts, the lot.  Downloaded and printed out  forms.

Then I thought why not turn to something more soothing, and make some sort of comfort food for inaugural snacking purposes?  Some very American stuff.  So here are the golden raisin hot biscuits and cranberry jam that resulted.

 It's jam, not sauce, because I upped the sugar level, added lemon juice and boiled it for much longer than usual, to get a good gel.

 So here are the results.  I just hope the day goes off well tomorrow and we will be able to say once again Morning in America.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Winter soup, reados, and car fixes

 Last evening, I found there was supposed to be an easy fix for when the tire pressure light won't go off after the tires have been properly inflated. Mine was one, which made me very suspicious of whether the dealer guys had in fact checked when I asked them to the recent time I was there for a new battery, but anyway, there it was, it came on.

Neighbor took great care, found two tires a bit low, adjusted everything, he has a tool for everything, including a tire inflator thing.All the more suspicious that that couldn't have happened in the week since I was in to the dealership.  Rethinking my loyalty to them now.  Neighbor asked about the alert light still on.  Tires were fine, light was on.  I said last time I noticed that, I'd had tires inflated locally, then asked at the dealership, who said, no, the customer can't do that, we will do it for you.  I now realize they were treating me like a dippy old lady, and I absolutely could do it myself.  

So I went out this morning to find the button the YouTube video showed me, to reset the tire pressure system.  And there it wasn't.  No sign of it. Oh. So, determined, I went into vehicle settings and blundered about, found calibration, no idea what it was but said, okay do that.  It did, I guess, then an exit screen came up, and I exited. And the alert light was off, yay.

On the way there I'd accidentally found out various interesting things, including my oil level, fine, my average mph, also fine, and managed to get the total mileage restored instead of the trip mileage.  And did it all while keeping the English menu up. Phew.

Then I thought I'd better find out more, and between google and youtube found it's necessary to do this after any change to the tires. Calibration is the magic thing to do. So now I know.

Moving on from a minor success to more important things.  Lunch.  This is where I got out that broccoli leaf soup kit I put together, carrot, scallions, broccoli leaves, added chicken stock, and their idea of great seasoning was a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. So I did salt, but also a teaspoon of curry powder. That's not enough for heat, just enough for a lovely warm depth of flavor. Also chicken stock cubes.

And I decided that sausages, hot Italian chicken, would go fine in here, too.

So here's the kit cooking nicely, with the sausage chunks browning in the background, ready to add once the soup is cooked and blended.

 And here's lunch. Also it made five more lunches while I was at it.  And it's really good.  Definitely recommend you make a soup of broccoli leaves if you haven't before.  I will enjoy this. Must remember it.  It's a powerhouse sort of food, too.  And very welcome on another freezing winter day.

And I did another reado today.  I follow Moose Allain, a very funny cartoonist, and sometimes have to check the cultural assumptions he makes in order to get the joke.  Today the point of the panel was the word contraction.  Which I instantly read as contradiction..and had to see comments on it before I went back and saw the joke by, um, reading the word as written.

It strikes me that reados are a bit like my hearos, too.  I don't have volume issues with hearing, but slight distortion ones.  So if I heard contraction, it's very likely it would sound like contradiction, my hearing often adding in a syllable on the way to the brain for some reason.  Like the vision correction I need, to knock out the extra outlines caused by astigmatism.  I wonder if anyone has linked these up. Think of the credentials you could get out of this study. And the inventions you might trigger.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Reados, prayer plant, cornbread

Just to show, despite my brief stay in the  slough of despond yesterday, I do have a prayer.  Prayer plant, that is, seen here doing very nicely and soon to be potted up.  And the primula, blazing away.  Three lovely Roma tomatoes ripening on the windowsill.

And since I am completely out of bread-adjacent foods, I had to make cornbread, so as to have a little something around for tea.  And for Handsome Son, visiting tomorrow, which will completely upset my notion of what day it is, since he usually visits on Sunday when his working hours permit.

 I used pastry flour wholewheat, instead of ap or hard wholewheat with the cornmeal, and the result is very tender, and really nice.  It's a buttery recipe, and as always, baking in cast iron is a good idea. Usually when I use wholewheat flour, which I do a lot, my cakes are sturdy, pick up a piece and eat type of thing. These are more genteel, as in use a fork, for pity's sake, what would your mother say if she saw you?

The reados in the title are times when you misread a word and go on for a bit before realizing you've got the wrong end of the stick.  Coined by my friend Mare long ago, and cherished by me as a great version of typo.  There are also speakos when you say something wrong by accident, meaning one word, finding yourself saying another, oops.

Today's reado was a common one for me: reading photography as pornography.  I don't know what this says about me.  And there's friend R. who read a blogpost a while back about some announcement librarians had made, and made a series of angry responses, brandishing the wrong end of the stick, throughout, and jumping on her hobbyhorse at the same time.  A couple of us wondered why she was so upset, then it turned out she'd read it as libertarians, a very different kettle of fish. Or horse of a different color.  Or other end of the stick, your choice.

One of the best is one I heard on radio ages ago, Joan Rivers the comedian, subbing for a regular talkshow host, and reading a PSA about heating.  This was in New York City, where tenants, of whom there are many, can call a special number to report if their heating goes out in winter.  It's known as an outage.  So she gets the script, totally misreads, gets all actressy and says, if this happens to you, call 311 and express your OUTRAGE!  Funny when a comedian is funny without realizing it.  She was pretty funny on purpose, so this was a bonus.

Doing better today, and thank you all for your helpful comments yesterday, also the friends who emailed encouraging words, too.  I'm getting there.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Rain, better than ice

 I made a determined attempt to keep up my flagging spirits, feeling left behind in my inability to secure a vaccination slot, everything here so fully booked with people with higher priority that they're not even taking appointments, and the failure of the Covid relief $$ to show up in my bank account.  Deadline now past. IRS says they've finished doing direct deposit.  If it doesn't appear, claim it on taxes.  Meaning I have to file a tax return, despite being below the income threshold to do so.

So, anyway, I decided that a night of rain is better than a night of ice.  And that the trees wearing diamond necklaces are worth noting.

Then, after finally realizing my knives were little better for cutting than chunks of cardboard would be, hauled out the knife sharpener and got to work.

I now have two decently sharpened knives and a resolution to do this more often, despite not liking it.  Not a good cook if you don't keep your tools in good trim.

If you're asking why not get a sharpening steel and give the knife a few swipes before use?  Or, like my mom, give it a few left and right swipes across the back doorstep? because that takes a skill I don't have, is why.  You have to swipe at exactly the right angles on both sides or you knock the edge right back off the blade.  And I'm a person who was very challenged trying to keep a violin bow straight on the strings, definitely can't be trusted to work a steel any better.

The point of this sharpener is that it has magnets which place the blade in the right relationship to the sharpening steel inside.  And it's designed to make you insert the blade right each time.  On the left is a presharpening device, which gets the worse of the blunt off before you proceed to the sharpening on the right, then the honing slots on the far right.  For me this works.  So I'm hoping for better cutting with fewer curses for the next little while.

It's safer to work with a sharp blade than a blunt one, anyway, because the sharp blade grips and doesn't jump up and bury itself in your hand.  True of Xacto blades, too.  And ice skates, if it comes to that.  Although I was such a timid skater that I would lose my grip before the blades did, but moving along from there.

And another thing to be thankful about is that I have food to cut anyway.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Misfits and art materials

Misfits box was due today, so I built my strength before it arrived with the second bowl of Alfredo, and a hot Italian chicken sausage patty on top.  That was really good, particularly with the masses of garlic, always better on the second day.

 So I was ready.

And here's the unboxing.  Since I found there's no law against making cranberry sauce any time, not just Thanksgiving, I'm doing it again.  Maybe to go with oatmeal.  Maybe to act like jam, we'll see.

The stuff that looks like kale isn't.  I thought at first it was, then checked my order because I wouldn't order kale, not a big fan.  Turns out it's broccoli leaves, which I did order and forgot how big they are.  When you grow broccoli, you get these, but in the stores, it's long gone.  And they're great greens, much more tender than kale, but same brassica family.

People who've been horrified at the Twitter pictures of the supposed thirty pounds sterling boxes of food for covid homebound British children, arranged by the government, and containing enough to feed a snack to one teenager, presented as enough food for five children for a week, would point to this as more like the value they should have got. These are children who would qualify for free school lunches if school were open.

This is about $35 worth of fresh, organic produce plus oatmeal, the dollar and the pound being about equal these days. About five times as much food as in the children's boxes. And this is in the US, where the cost of living is supposedly higher than in Britain.

Somebody was making a ton of money off the backs of children there, until a couple of activists galvanized enough support to make the government back off and give back the cash vouchers people used to get before this bright idea.  Clearly friends of the gov. had the contract.  They were putting in, at best about $10 of food, most of it useless, and charging the thirty pounds.  School districts had switched to the food boxes, in good faith, parents had no say, and that's what happened. 

This all came to light this week in the UK while we were dealing with the insurrection.  One of the Tory ministers said well, they're just supposed to be lunch.  Five days, whole family of children. Literally not enough for one lunch.  Three apples.  One small can baked beans. Two bananas. Etc.   Dickensian.

Which reminds me that now, here in the US more than ever, there's hunger, and our food banks are overrun with requests and need.  We can help there.

I couldn't help thinking about this while I was unboxing.

And here's everyone in the pool.  You wash a lot of the farm off the produce when you wash it.  Grit, clean dirt. And that wonderful smell of fresh produce.

One of the produce items was a big bunch of spinach, and I was so tempted to divert it into the natural dyes section of the freezer, because spinach makes a wonderful green dye.  But I decided I really should eat it instead.

And  in the course of finding out about the broccoli leaves, which I had clean forgotten I'd ordered, though I used to use them back when I grew broccoli, I looked up a few recipes, and found one I liked, which involved ingredients present right here.

So, self, I thought, why not assemble a soup kit to save scrambling about looking for the moving parts later in the freezer?  One chopped carrot, one bunch scallions, etc.  So I did, separated them into their recycled bags, and froze them together, ready for when I make the soup, which will be soon.

And, after all the washing and tearing and chopping and slicing, this is the sum total of material to pop out back to feed the earth. Hardly any waste at all. The leaves look better here than they were, pretty rusty and outer.

These yellow onionskins did go into the dye section of the freezer, for next time I want to make yellow dye.

I was glad to sink down for a cup of tea after all this frenzied activity, which is in fact quite tiring and takes it out of you.  Especially when your knives so urgently need sharpening, I must do it, no matter how much I hate the sound of the sharpener, that you could bite through the produce faster.

Then here's tonight's viewing, from the people who made Downton Abbey.  Another costume drama to watch for the hats and horses and food and fashion.

So there's us just now.  Bella Donna is running fine now, and her owner is studying the ins and outs of the keyless ignition, which might have been the cause of the upset, not sure.  It's a mixed blessing.  It's not for the absent minded, that's for sure.