Sunday, February 28, 2021

Persistence of snowdrops

 Apologies to Dali for reworking his title. Remember the two brave little snowdrops who came up in January, frigid weather, they didn't care?  Then vanished under a lot of snow. Today the rain is washing away the snow, and here they are, still doing just fine.

 they stood straight up again as soon as the snow was melted.  And my chair is reappearing, too, finally.

So, after all the drama and excitement lately, I thought it would be good to peacefully mix up a little something in the kitchen.  I have nothing at all in the little something category, so this was urgent.  

And I found a recipe, sort of, on YouTube, for Pancake Cake.  I won't give you the reference because I found the speaker completely unintelligible, tiny childlike voice, and talking at such speed I just couldn't.  So I copied the recipe, which was not at all like what she'd done on screen, so I improvised a bit, and here's my version, I guess.

It's similar to a pancake, cooked on top of the stove, but supposedly cakelike. Hm.

I melted the butter, because I saw something liquid in addition to the egg and milk, going into the mix, which she may have explained and I couldn't catch it after rewinding three times.  So anyway, okay.

And you start it in a cold pan, which I found interesting, but tried it anyway.  Low heat, covered.

This lid is from something quite different but fits this pan a treat, so I often use it.

And she says to cook it 12 minutes.  Which I did.  Completely liquid.  So I raised the heat a bit, cooked for a few more minutes.  Getting there.  Then I ended up cooking for about 20 minutes, before it became something you could actually lift out.

Here's the pretty side, also the side that won't stick to the plate

So I turned it less pretty side up, and let it cool, to make an icing, yellow colored, with vanilla flavoring,using milk as the liquid.

As here. And cook's privilege, a slice to go with this afternoon's pot of tea.

I'm not sure if I like this or not.  I'll see what Handsome Son says, since it's mainly in his honor I'm making this before he visits Tuesday.  If it goes down well, I'll keep the recipe. 

It may be one of those novelty ideas that doesn't hold up very well.  It's also a bit thin, and I used the 8" pan she recommended, but if I do it again, I think I'll go one size smaller.  One good thing, it got me to use the giant lifter thing that came in a recent set of kitchen tools I had to get to replace my ancient rusty spatulas.  It was so big it lifted the whole thing easily, to slip it onto a plate. I don't usually buy sets of anything, art materials, kitchen tools, crafty stuff,crayons, pencils, pens, because I only need a couple of items and the others are surplus. But maybe this one was okay after all.

If it's a pancake type thing, I wonder if I can have it for breakfast? Asking for a friend.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Misfits Saturday

 My storm-tossed Misfits box arrived, a day late, but safely and in good shape.  So here's the haul this week.  Lovely blueberries because I fancied a little jar of jam.  And an array of apples, red pears, and yellow potatoes plus baking spuds.  Greens of all kinds, carrots to go with the in-house cashews in soup quite soon I think.  Honey.  Broccoli, spinach.  The potatoes might make a good soup with the leeks I still have in the freezer.  I have an endless appetite for soup when I'm too lazy to think up different recipes.

Everyone into the pool, to shed some of the farm grit and dirt.  Half an hour in cold water is good to make lettuce crisp again after traveling.

And here's the biweekly salad season starting again.  I usually eat salads for about three days before the supply runs out.  Here's nice bowl of leaf lettuce, carrot greens, Italian parsley, carrots, and Roma tomato.  Dressed with Mrs. Moon's incomparable dressing.

And here, I'm just sayin.

After many hours online and on the telephone, many heartbreaks at being shut out in seconds from supplies, over and over, since early January,  I finished up last night at midnight, then started again this morning at 4 a.m.  Since the state site is useless, the county not responding, the two hospitals now limiting their supplies to seriously compromised people, Walgreen's with no vaccine in this state, Rite Aid with a website and no supplies, I decided that the only hope was CVS.

I checked all the others, then got into the prewaiting room on the CVS site.  Two hours of refreshing and checking there, then I made it into the Waiting Room!  excitement. Half an hour there then I couldn't believe it, the screen changed and I was being offered an appointment.  I knew that they often open the portal at about 6 a.m. but knew from experience that's too late to try.  You have to be in the group long before that, in order not to be shut out.

 I knew from their website that this pharmacy was getting supplies, it's not the one near me, about half an hour away, I think, but never mind, they offered me next Thursday, and I chose the time.  The second dose is April Fools' Day, hm, not sure what that means.  But anyway, to prove it they sent a confirmatory text.  So I'm set.  Finally.  

My dear next door neighbor says he'll drive me there, since I'm unfamiliar with this location and he knows it well.  I put the text on my home screen in case challenged, since he had an appointment which they would not honor a couple of weeks ago, because they failed to send the confirmation.  Dodgy website. He ended up by the intervention of friends searching, in getting appointments elsewhere, two and a half hours away, one way.  With less than an hour's notice -- it was a cancellation.  So I made sure my confirmation is right there. And all the paperwork has been done online, including electronic signature for consent.  Much better than the county sites which insisted that the consent be downloaded, printed out, signed and brought to the site for the appointment.  As if.  This is a fairly small site, so I get to go into the store and follow the instructions there.  Like my local one, in fact.

So we're good.  All day I've been dropping off to sleep, partly because of being up since 4, partly the sheer emotional relief of finding an appointment after all this work and time. My life won't change dramatically for having the vaccine; everything I used to do is still closed, in-person is not yet a thing for my groups, the shops are  scary.  But it will lift that great fear that has been everywhere around me.  That's huge.  Then I can enjoy being at home, as I used to, because the Big Wide World is less scary.

So I'm turning my energy to helping a friend get her appointments, too, since I'm a bit more adept at the computer thingy.  Her daughter is helping, but she's got to work, and it doesn't hurt to have another pair of hands clicking away and holding and refreshing, and I'd like her to get it.  She's a true friend.  She was genuinely happy for me to have got my appointments, even when she still hasn't.  That's the mark of a friend. It's easy to be nice to someone who's having a hard time.  But it's much more challenging to be happy when your friend gets an opportunity you also very much would like.  I had emailed her as soon as I got my dates this morning, but by the time her daughter accessed it, they were gone.  The entire state's CVS sites were filled in less than five minutes from opening.

A number of my friends, some not yet eligible for some time, have been generous. It's been a good thing to experience.  I'm giving back by helping in my turn.

Friday, February 26, 2021

There's always soup

 After a stressful week, what with one thing and fifty others, I made a lovely pot of cream of celery soup this morning.  With a teaspoonful of Bill Veach's Curry Powder Mix, you mix it yourself from his recipe. And added milk at the end, and a dash of lemon juice.

And for lunch I had a bowl with a slice of wholewheat bread.  And pronounced it good for what ailed me.

Aside from Richard Rohr, whose The Art of Letting Go accompanies my weaving and whatever else I'm doing with fiber, because he's talking about contemplation, and at this stage in the jacket, it's contemplative work, I've found a new reader to listen to.

The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, to be exact.  It seems unlikely to have him as my reader, but I got there by circuitous paths.  I originally got onto their YouTube channel in search of a series of excellent lectures on Julian of Norwich, given by Dean Emma last name escapes me, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on Julian.  I was interested in knowing more about a mystic contemplative hermit, and learned a lot.  Including the fact that hermits get a lot more company, largely people in search of spiritual guidance, than we might think.  Also that she had a cat, who could come and go by the window in her walled up little room.  And how contemplation in solitude works.

Anyway, once on that website, I found that the Dean has a very young relative who can't visit at the moment because of lockdown restrictions, so he's reading The Wind in the Willows partly for her, partly for any other kid such as me, who wants to listen.  

It's peaceful, hearing him, in his agonizingly correct English, tell the story.  I love the first chapter, of Mole and the springcleaning and giving up and going out because it was better in the sunshine.  There are parts I don't like, such as Mr Toad, I find him very unsettling and distressing so I skip him.  But I love the carol singing fieldmice and Mr. Badger, living alone and liking it. And a lot of other things.  I've pretty much given up on analyzing the agenda of the whole work, as I used to, and just enjoy what's there on the surface. I know about the implications, and I'm good with all of it. 

So that's the evening listening at the moment.  Except that this evening is for a movie.  Searching for Bobby Fischer, which you can scarcely recognize after the library has finished stickering it and stamping it, and generally ruining a lovely design, anyway, this is what I'll watch tonight

I don't think you need to know chess to watch this one, either, just as you can enjoy The Queen's Gambit without knowing much, if anything, about chess.

But where are the Misfits, you ask?  Usually we come in here today and find a mass of vegetables strewn across the countertop.  This week the weather stepped in and put back the deliveries all over the place, particularly produce that might have originated in the south during their bitter cold spell.  Tomorrow, they tell me, it will arrive. Well, it won't suffer from the heat on the way, anyway.

So it will be a Saturday Salad instead, this time around.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Cleaning day

 My saintly housecleaners came today, and, as usual, I arranged to let them have the house to themselves. This usually entails more forethought than it got today, what with being distracted by paperwork, and needing to make a trip to the town hall about one lot, which worked out fine, and having to make copies and finish up my tax paperwork, which also worked out fine.

The day was beautiful, bright sun all day, temps in the 40s, so after a couple of errands, on one of which I saw a covid vaccine clinic in full swing at the local pharmacy, mixed feelings of jealousy of the people who'd managed to get appointments, and pleasure that if I can get in here, the travel is eliminated and it's a much easier thing to handle. Once I can get in, that is.  

Anyway, I thought I'd better get calm and go to the Preserve to see if I could walk. Which I couldn't much, because of the snow.  I'm not very steady walking in hard snow that lets your foot suddenly plunge as you go.  So I walked where there wasn't any, and watched the birds, a lot of activity. Virtually every tree packed with them.  A family arrived with little kids, all excited and shouty, and the birds promptly vanished. Lovely morning trip with kids.

Standing here, in the lee of the preserve building wall, to take pix.

Since I had taken no thought as to how to use the time if I couldn't walk, nothing to read, no wifi available, I decided to use it to breathe, in the car with the window open, just sit, not easy for me, and I took a few pix, then did a quick line drawing of trees opposite me, shadows lying along the snow.  A couple of minutes. All I had was a little jotting pad a couple of inches across,  and a ballpoint. That's why there are weird things at each end of the drawing, it's a St Jude little scratch pad.

Very much out of practice, and it reminded me to put a bit of real drawing paper and a couple of  pens and pencils in the glovebox for future times when I might just want to draw a little because there's a bit of time.  I'll do that.

 So here we are.  Calmer for being in the open air, in sunshine, and the family next door is back from India, kids already out playing again, yay.  It's good.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Silent Child

 I found this on YouTube, an Oscar winning short film, and really recommend it. It's beautiful, moving and very well done. A diamond of a work.  About a deaf child in a hearing family and the young woman who works with her. No, it doesn't have a happy ending.  But it's still hopeful.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Miss Peregrine and other thoughts on defense and attack and being open

I just finished reading, well, galloping through, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, and was amazed to find that I, this nonlover of fantasy, sci-fi, at all, was totally engrossed in this story. Full of adventure and angst, and relationships, and mystery, and fear and you name it, including some of my personal water-related fears, which I managed to read through anyway, it was a day of adventure.  

There's an element of Cassandra in it, too, speaking the truth and not being believed.  And an element of heroism, undertaken by a hero who does not see himself as any such thing. And a righting of wrongs, to some extent. And shape shifting, that ancient trope, seen all the way back to Greek and preColumbian mythology, used for very much the same purposes, too. And time shifts, which I usually find very irritating, very superficial, are here treated by a writer with much greater ability than the ones I've previously encountered who wrote in this style.  

It's not just a gimmick, the kind that annoyed me in previous attempts at scifi using time travel, but a pivotal idea in the novel.  He doesn't set up each part of time to mock the others and make fun of their primitive ways, nor have the earlier travelers gaping in wonder at how marvelous modern people are.  He knows that to everyone, when they lived was just how life was. They didn't dress in costumes and look quaint with their cute hand tools.  They just got dressed and went to work.  He has respect, is what I think I'm trying to say.

And it reminded me to be open to just trying books I come across even if they're in a category I thought I wouldn't like.  Sometimes I find I've missed something good.  I'm pretty good at giving things a try, but this was a little departure.  I thought I didn't much like books with modern Asian settings until I read a few of them. Some excellent Korean and Japanese and Chinese writers enlightened me on that point.

This morning's sighting on a walk on a grey, cold, raw morning: well, not a sighting, more a hearing.  A Carolina wren in the tree right above me, calling, and being answered by another wren from across the street.  Aha.  Soon there may be nesting and young to feed, and the squirrels, even Butternut Boy,  will be driven from the feeders if they get anywhere near a nest with babies.  

I've seen a tiny pair of wrens completely rout a sturdy squirrel who ventured too close, one pecking his head, the other his tail, as he galloped away.  They didn't stop until he was completely vanquished and hiding in the trees down the street.  Then they figuratively dusted off their beaks and went back to providing dinner for the family. Squirrels have pretty long memories, and once handled roughly by a pair of wrens, they don't come back, and their friends don't either, until the young have fledged and the danger is past.

So there we are, still listening to Richard Rohr and learning to let go, bit by painful little bit.  And seeing Josie George on Instagram, a long interview about her new book A Still Life, out in the UK, not available in the US yet, in any form.  She's a transformational thinker, not setting herself up to be one, she just is one.  

I follow her on Twitter, and am daily struck by the casual wisdom she expresses.  A person acquainted lifelong with disability and pain and restriction and yet able to create a life within tiny boundaries for herself, her son, and her long distance partner.  And to do it with grace and fun and humor, it's amazing to witness.  And recently, she's discovered miniature making, and is very excited about it.

 Her blog Bimblings,  here  is well worth checking into. Go there, you'll like her.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Squirrel Butternut

Hazy Sunday morning picture shot through screening, of happy squirrel breakfasting on the butternut squash seeds and rinds I tossed out yesterday while I made lunch.

A couple of minutes after this, he drove off another squirrel who showed up wanting to join in. I'd have thought there was enough for ten squirrels, but Butternut Boy begged to differ.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The queen's gambit and the noodles

Current reading is The Queen's Gambit, the original book.  I've heard a lot about the Netflix series, and don't watch Netflix, but thought I'd like to see the original book.  And I'm more than halfway through it after getting it on my Kindle this morning.  I don't think I'll try to see the miniseries, because I've now got all the characters and scenes working in my mind, and I don't really fancy watching actors playing at being people who know chess.

Long ago, I used to play chess with Handsome Partner. He was a pretty good player.  I was okay, very good opening game, very bold, then a decent middle game, then when it came to the endgame I would get so bored with the whole thing that I couldn't wait to get it over, win or lose, and go and make stuff, or draw.

We were caught up in the national excitement of the Fischer Spassky tournament in 1972, and HP started a chess club at work. I was the only woman invited to it, which was very uncomfortable, feeling a bit like a goldfish in a bowl, especially when the other men commented on my play as if I weren't there.  

But the best part was HP and I at home replaying all the Fischer Spassky matches.  It was an amazing insight into the workings of such world-class chess minds.  Even replaying the moves was tiring for your brain, trying to figure out why this move and not that, and so on.  And then it became a national craze when Fischer won the series.

In this book, they mention that if ever computers learned to play chess, and I was reminded that this was written in the 1980s before that had happened. Their point was that whenever the computer was white (the white pieces, after a draw to pick who played white, who played black, starting the game, first move, with the fractional advantage that always gives) it would invariably win, because of its ability to compute all the potential moves and consequences.  And it did.

I've been wondering as I read if this book would be interesting to anyone who didn't play chess and have the background to visualize the play as the narrative goes on. I know of people who found themselves caring about chess to their own surprise after they started watching the miniseries. Not sure. I do know this was back in the day when the lovely positions were still the poetic queen's bishop, king's knight, etc, where the squares were all named according to the ruling pieces.  And the gambits, like Ruy Lopez, Queen's Moroccan Defense Discovered, all those, like names from a fantasy tale.  

But they were replaced by numerals later, in fairness to people whose language was not English, but who could follow and play, unhampered, because they were dealing with numerals and letters, not ancient titles.  I miss those descriptions, though.

So I finally had to take a break and go fix lunch.  This was a blend of a few ideas, and I'd roasted a butternut squash last night, plus broccoli and leeks, ready to use today.  Basically it's just noodles with a sauce made like a cheese sauce but with the squash blended in. Then the roasted leeks and broccoli mixed in with the sauced noodles.

It's very interesting, and I used the last of the garlic in oil that I'd roasted a few days ago.  I really recommend using plenty of that, plus leeks as well as the broccoli, to lift it into the interesting flavor level, rather than the cheese sauce noodle level, which is okay, but this is a bit better.

Plenty of Vermont sharp cheddar and fresh grated Parmesan in the sauce.

375f for about twenty minutes, it's already cooked, but needs to be heated through to heat and blend it all together

And lunch is up.  Also several more.  The butternut squash lends a nice silky texture to it, and I think I may do this again some time.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Snow prep, vaccine routine, poetry and other thoughts about the universe

Another heavy snow forecast, which came true today, so yesterday I did snow prep, which consisted of doing the laundry in case power went out, unusual, but it could happen.  And finally, finally, getting around to baking bread. Thanks to Friko, whose comment reminded me that it would be good to have some around.

I don't know why I put off making bread. It's so satisfying, and when it's rising you can smell the yeast at work.  It's alive almost as soon as you've mixed the ingredients. Anyway, for whatever reason, here's the latest giant loaf, which is to be separated into four for freezing.  The sign of the cross is not only a thing bread physically needs, to break the rise, but can be a devotion, too, if you're inclined that way, which I am, thanking whoever invented bread and created the means of making it.

It's whole wheat and white, 5 cups whole wheat, 2.5 of white.  And it makes a lovely crisp crust, not as crisp as if I used some oatmeal, but this time I didn't choose to.  And the crumb is dense and great to eat.

I like a nice sturdy bread that looks like something to eat.  Not full of air.  Here you see the crumb, where the small airholes are the result of the ap flour. If I wanted an even denser loaf, I'd just use wholewheat, and have sometimes.

And here's comfort food last thing last night. Homemade strawberry jam spread on the first slice of the loaf.  Great.

So, here are the obligatory snow pix

Same as last time, basically, about eight inches to a foot, with ice on top eventually, just to make it shiny, I guess.  Every winter I marvel that there will be a time, dv, that I'll sit out on that chair reading peacefully and wondering if I should come in to cool off.

So this morning was all about morning routine, which is looking like this these days:
wake up, open window, breathe in lovely air, close window before house freezes, or this morning, bedroom fills with snow.
make pot of tea and pancakes, sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar, the pancakes not the pot of tea
eat in front of therapy lamp, to which I attribute my much better sleeping this winter
check in vaccine possibilities, state, nothing, county, nothing, local hospital, sorry folks, CVS scheduler down, sorry, Walgreen's nothing nearer than 25 miles, and they declined to tell me where anyway, RiteAid let me get as far as picking a pharmacy, then declined to continue.  Froze on the continue button.  Okay, done my best.  Again.
And today a friend whose profession is communications, commented that she had a very badly written user guide to a bit of medical equipment she's currently attached to, had to call the 800 number to find out how to proceed. She used to write stuff like this guide, only much better, and wishes fervently she could have got the job of writing this one.  Now here's the thing. She's also a poet.
At first I marveled that my friend the poet was very happy also writing instruction manuals, user guides.  Until it dawned on me that poetry is the user guide to the psyche, and, by extension, to the universe.  So, not so surprising after all, then. And her Twitter comments are often mini poems.  She's started incorporating them into her longer works, with quite a bit of success. In the sense of creating good art, not in the sense of getting famous, but I expect you know my definition of success at this point. Go, Kate!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The audiobook that's sustaining me right now

 I just started this, audiobook voiced by the writer, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, whose thinking I've been following for many years.  He's a calm,balanced, understanding personality, who is very much in the modern mode of including everyone.  Including referring to God as he or she.  And not pursuing an agenda, just examining our times and thinking and suggesting ways to get through our lives. Not trying to convert or proselytize.

So I'm listening to his thoughts on the commodification of life, everything in life, work, things, even other people, can they be "useful contacts" and the church, too.  He doesn't condemn, but examines the ideas, as if he were holding up an object and looking at it from every angle.

The commodification of religion reminds me of an old English Catholic joke.  When traveling in England, it was sometimes a puzzle to know if you'd found a Catholic, Roman rite, that is, church when you wanted to hear Mass, or if you've found a High Anglican church.  

Everything looks so similar, including the sacristy lamp showing the presence of the eucharist, all that.  So the advice is: go to a service, and if almost the first thing you hear is:  "The second collection is in aid of, etc."  you're in a Catholic church!

Said with great gentleness, because yes, fund raising is a perennial feature of a religion which is not state sanctioned.

Anyway, moving along here, it's Lent, and I just happened to have come across this audiobook, but it seems so timely, that I'm listening to it while I chop wood, carry water, spin, ply and all that.  I can't just listen without nodding off to sleep, hence the activity while I'm at it.

I have never understood about Lenten deprivation, giving up things you love, any more than I understand New Year's Resolutions, trying to improve our poor selves.  No disrespect to anyone for whom this is a valuable exercise, just it's not for me.  I'd rather do something positive, than avoid something.  So I'm trying to do better all around, is about the best way to say it, rather than inflict all the details on you, dear blogistas. And studying this audiobook is part of it.

And yesterday a wonderful sign of spring: at the feeder on the street, a goldfinch feeding. We have a couple of pairs routinely flitting all over the street, sometimes even accompanying me on walks, so seeing one was nice. But what was exciting was that it was a male, about halfway into his brilliant yellow mating plumage.  So the season is definitely on. It may be perishing cold out there, in the single digits, to be exact, but spring is supposedly on the way.

I'm so concerned about the people in Texas whose government has let them down so totally.  Here it's cold, but I have a warm house and I can cook.  I hope fervently that the people without power, particularly the relatives of people reading in here, are restored soon and safely. 

The notion of cutting the state off from the national grid, which is why nobody can get help to them, was partly short sighted, partly a literal power, and wealth, grab, by a group of fossil fuel magnates.  It's not the green energy that failed, it's the planning, the failure to pay the extra for coldproofed windmills, for protected gas lines and natural gas sources, a false economy for the people, but a great windfall, pun intended, for the fuel owners.

Okay, that's my saying done.  I'm off to spin a bit more, arm permitting, in the hope of finishing the small weaving I'm working on.  When it's done, I'll talk about it over in Art, The Beautiful Metaphor, but it's not done yet, so if you're already up to date in that blog, you're still up to date!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

See Forty Eight and Counting!

At year 48

Click there, for anyone wanting to see a wedding reception pic, also some repetitive blogging, just skip that if you've heard enough! It does amplify our rollercoaster relationship.  And there's a picture of us older.  This post was written just a few months before Handsome Partner died, on our son's birthday.  At that time we thought we still had years to go.

These last few days have been a whirl.  Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, Shrove Tuesday and wedding anniversary.  I don't know if I can handle the excitement around here!

 Here's the makings of pancakes for breakfast, complete with lemon juice and sugar

And here's breakfast.

One of my friends who likes seasonal decorating makes felt shamrocks to hang up. Now I'm thinking of a shamrock mobile in anticipation of St Patrick's Day, which I don't really celebrate, but I've nothing against shamrocks.  Meanwhile, here's a flock of birds to celebrate the return to the feeders. 

Each one has one white side, one black side, and they change with a breath of air. Here they're installed above a lamp, over the Dollivers and their dogs, and maybe a bit of heat will happen to move the air. There's usually hot air around the Dollivers. 
If you're new to this blog, check the labels on the rightmost column for Dolliver references, and enjoy browsing. It's a group of five character  dolls I knitted long ago, and costumed for various celebrations, who took on a life of their own, but are in abeyance just at the moment. Resting from their engagements.

And yesterday, when I opened the bedroom window earlier to breathe in the air, I heard a cardinal fluting away.  The birds seem to believe Spring will get here soon.

Every morning I open the window as soon as I wake up, to breathe in and smell the air and see what's up out there this morning.  It sets up the day. Today smells less cold and more damp.