Friday, April 30, 2021

Asparagus is in!

What opening day is for baseball fans, first asparagus day is for local farm fans. The farm team.. couldn't resist.

Honor box in place under the roof there. You make change using what's in the unlocked box, put bigger bills in the locked one. 

Now to decide. Some steamed with lemon butter, the rest in a cream soup, I think. First to make sure all the sand is washed off.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

I'm old, but evidently haven't made the proper application for my porch rocker

We've had a few exciting days, in the landlady community, by which I mean me and the tiny rental condo where there's Always something.

As you know, I've been quoted a wildly expensive dryer for the condo, and a wildly expensive installation fee for removing the old wall mounted one and stacking the new one.  No longer is installation part of the price. It's a separate career path now.

So far so, if not good, at least okay.  Then friend came over to see the outlet that the old dryer fried when it died.  And concluded that it looks bad, burned, etc., but in fact is sound and perfectly safe now that the sparking dryer is not plugged in.  We tried plugging in the washing machine, no problems. But he would still replace it for me.

He then went to find new bits for the outlet just to make it look better, and found that Home Depot, in the place on the shelf, where they would have had them, had a space, and nobody knew if or when they would restock.  The supply chain has a lot of broken links these days.  

So he came back and said, never mind, I'll try again, meanwhile I'll leave my current tester thing here, and I'll use it when I come over after I get the doings.  After he and I both left, Handsome Son thought good, now I can continue loading the washer and get my laundry done.

Next morning he texts me to say, um, did anything happen to the valves and knobs last night?  This is very characteristic, that when he's stressed he hits on fairly obscure terms to describe a situation. Turns out he meant the shutoff, which was now in the usual off position, he does this as a safety precaution (advisable for everyone to shut the washer shutoffs when it's not in use, as you would know if you'd ever had a hose burst unexpectedly and an instant serious flood under way, which I have, in that very, upstairs, condo) where was I, oh yes.  Then he said he'd tried to turn it on as usual.  And the shutoff had come off in his hand.

Now I know this can happen, flimsy plastic stuff, I've done it myself.  The good news was that it was broken in the off position.  I've had the experience, in this  townhouse, of a shutoff in an upstairs bathroom breaking off in the on position.  

This resulted in a Three Stooges type scene, water following the line of least resistance, the electrical channel, through the ceiling, and filling the dining room chandelier with water before I could hurtle down the stairs to the whole house shutoff.  Modern building gives you a lot of plumbing experience.  I think the builders and plumbers are hand in wrench, if you ask me.

So anyway, I said well can you just do the laundry with whichever shutoff works, cold, hot, whatever? I only use one,  ever, for my machine.  Whereupon he breaks it to me that this fancy machine I installed there, the only one that fitted in the space, is so high tech that it will not fill unless both hoses are engaged and supplied with water, even if you're only using one of them.  Oh.

So he ended up spending his day off bring his laundry over here, doing the lot, and we had the last of the plum torte and tea. That part was good. The torte went over great.  Then I had him to a small job of chucking for me from the patio, rotted wooden chair needed to go.  And the next door neighbors were out, potting up seedlings and labeling and generally going at it with the fervor of the first warm day.

Then followed one of those characteristic neighborhood conversations, which intertwined plumbing questions and answers with gardening questions and answers. Friend was the plumbing answerer, I was the gardening answerer. Other friend was the commiserator about the cost of every little plumbing job.  Son was valiantly trying to distentangle the plumbing thread since that was the one that interested him. It was a wholly antiphonal experience, very funny, and probably unintelligible to anyone not from around this street.

So friend said he would go over today, not wanting to waste the sunshine yesterday, since it was to rain.  I was out all morning, getting my Annual Wellness Check, is what Medicare has started calling it, complete with new forms to fill out. Sounds like an HVAC idea.  Anyway, he would come in the afternoon with me to the condo while Handsome Son was at work.

That was before his own life got incredibly even more confused with various real estate lawyers and daughters and all kinds of things suddenly totally tying him up on the phone all the afternoon. By the time he was free, I was about to be in several meetings.  So he figured HS was home, he would go over there and just get in and check the shutoff to buy the right one for me. Never occurred to either of us to give him the key.

But HS was out food shopping, so there was a whole round robin of texts, where are you now, can I get in, no, hold the fort I'll be there, but I'm not there I'm in meetings online at my house, etc etc etc.  Finally, later in the evening, they landed.  And now Gary knows what to buy and will do so, tomorrow, or maybe Saturday. Joy, it's not one of the welded on shutoffs that only a plumber can repair. Then we'll know if the machine only needed that adjustment or if something more ominous is at work. 

I took a brief rest before my planned meeting roster started up, all good stuff I'd been waiting for.  One from Princeton U. Art Museum on Chinese bronzes of the Qin or maybe Han dynasty, that was the research, anyway, 2,000 years ago, a bit too centered on the construction of the works for this artist's taste, looking more for the history, but they're excellent researchers anyway.

And there was another Zoom, on the White House gardens under various presidents, which would have been much better if the presenter's voice had not been so muffled as she peered down at her keyboard, that it was almost impossible to decipher.  She was lovely and so were the photographs, though.  I especially like the sheep introduced to mow the grass during WW1.  No pix, since my computer was in breakdown mode, and I was busy just trying to access.  And you've probably seen pix of the White House gardens before, I rationalize.

Along the lines of things yesterday that could have been a bit better, but eventually improved, here's rigatoni with a cream mushroom and scallion sauce.  Which was okay, plenty of grated parmigian, good milk, excellent mushrooms.  But in the end I found I really like rigatoni best smothered in tomato stuff.

So the next day I did so.  Got the container of tomato/sausage sauce from the freezer and improved this dish quite a bit, a good rescue.  Rigatoni needs a lot more sauce than the original recipe offered, is the main thing.

However today, a fraught day, what with the physical this morning, complete with being hurled from here to yon getting every part of my bod counted and assessed and stuck with needles and sensors, and then the excitement of the afternoon, I thought I needed a treat.

Which see:

Medjool dates, pitted and stuffed with yogurt cheese.  Three is plenty, these things are filling.

And, just to show there's hope everywhere, here's the base of the recent Misfits romaine lettuce head, started in water, and leafing out nicely. Two days.  So I might have a bit of lettuce before the next Misfits box arrives.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Donna Leon, EFBenson, Italian as she is spoke, Marc Levy and P D James

 More Donna Leon, all of whose books I've probably read and never tired of. It's a mixture of Venetian history, social science, ancient wealth, poverty, mystery, and police procedural. With the great novelty of a chief character, Commissario Brunetti, who has a happy married homelife. Leon is always readable, and I prefer reading her than the audiobooks which I find depressingly voiced.

And since Paola Brunetti, the Commissario's wife is a great cook, learned from her wealthy parents' resident cook,  when she's not a tenured university professor, we get the names of the dishes. In Italian, not translated, not described. 

So I do a bit of looking up and translating. My Italian to date therefore consists of food terms, which would work if I visited Venice to dine mainly.

I am undyingly proud of not having to translate meluzzo. That's because I learned it from the Lucia books, where she and Miss Mapp are trapped on an Italian fishing vessel for months and ate little else. Oh, you don't know it?? Dear me  It's cod. And the Brunetti family had it for dinner.
Then there's this intriguing book, translated from the French, very well indeed, and following a strange picaresque line of narrative. It starts in London shortly after the second world war, dashes off to Brighton, then to further fields to discover her roots, encouraged by a fortune teller in whom she has little faith.

Really engaging storytelling with interesting characters who, blessedly,  speak in different voices, the mark of a good narrator.

Then I return to P D James again, for another Adam Dalgliesh police mystery. He's a well known poet as well as a high ranking police detective, a weird combo that works to advance the atmosphere and philosophy as much as the plot.  

She's much more than a mystery writer, more of a novelist whose work includes mystery, both physical and existential.

All come highly recommended, especially since I could borrow them all on my Kindle.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Plum torte or tart, and Mitered Square Jacket progress

This is the Marian Burros recipe that appeared any number of times in the New York Times, and was reprinted in other people's collections. 

I think my copy is from Arthur Schwartz, who credited her and pointed out that it sometimes appeared as tart, sometimes as torte. I think tart's a misprint, because this has a cake dough, not a pastry one.

Anyway here it is, been waiting ages for plums to make it with. They've been hard to find for a couple of years, wonder if there were late frosts cutting back the harvest.

I divided the butter half and half Kerrygold and regular supermarket, mainly because I forgot to thaw out butter to use ahead of time, so I used what was available.

Here's the doings. The lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar are for sprinkling after it's mixed and assembled. The plum pits went out for the squirrels, who will probably run away in top of the fence and bite into them, leaving the shells for me to sweep.

And here's  how it looks with the halved plums studding the batter. One hour at 350°f.

The house smells lovely right now.

And here's the result

I expect Handsome Son and maybe a neighbor or two will help with this.

Meanwhile I've been stitching Mitered Squares. 

It's like stitching your way out of a maze. Very confusing. I think I may be about a third done but who knows.

Rainbow soup and visual aids

Complete with newly blooming dandelion. Is this not a lovely edible landscape? The dandelions self established in my pot of chives, now in its maybe tenth year with no care whatever other than being cut and eaten, as you see.

This is what happens when you make carrot cashew soup with rainbow carrots, all shades from darkest red to pale gold including a couple of the orange colored ones. 

Old Bay seasoning, onions, garlic, cubed yellow potato left from having slices removed to plant, some small hard shell green squash, name escapes me,  Swanson vegetable broth. I've definitely forsaken the handy broth cubes except for digestive emergencies, in favor of this stuff.

Speaking of potatoes, I noticed when I went out to throw out the squash seeds and rinds for Squirrel Butternut, that he or a crony, had dug up the container of my newly planted potato sections. 

I remembered that I should have put out my sovereign squirrel repellent, essential peppermint oil, on half a dozen q tips, buried around inside the rim of the pot. That usually works. 

My hands will smell of it for ages, also the Mitered Square Jacket I was stitching on, little brag inserted there, but it's an okay scent really. 

This is the real thing, not a food for eating, not the pale imitation you get in the baking section. You need to get it from your local herbalist or online. Not cheap, but effective. I expect it has other uses, but this is the only one I have for it.

Which warning about essential peppermint oil, and other absent mindedness, brings me to visual aids.

I like to transfer grains and pasta to glass containers to outwit ants and others, and always think it's obvious how long to cook them. It would be if I stuck around watching and testing, but I wander off and get involved in other things, and the timer recalls me to the stuff on the stove. So in order not to be guessing and missing, and forgetting it entirely and being alerted by the smoke alarm, I attach the instructions Dick and Jane style, to the container. So clever.

And a stern reminder on the inedible peppermint oil that this is Not Food, if its position next to the qtips weren't enough.

This is what I've come to, yes.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Processing of various kinds

I got a quote for a dryer for the condo. Twice as much as I'd expected. Installation will be another chunk. I think I'll go with it, though, since this guy has never steered me wrong, with several appliances. Sigh. I buy appliances so rarely it's always a shock to see the price.

I'm about to become a statistic, someone whose relief check, and some, was converted into a long needed appliance. Good for the economy. And my tenant has been without a dryer since March 2020, in a place with no outside drying possible.  He's been very patient about it.

In turn though, it may mean that another thing I wanted to do for the condo, a new mantel to replace my 25 year old diy one which finally fell off the wall, goes on hold. We'll see. I was thinking of getting my craftsman friend to make and install one like mine in the townhouse. 

It lifts the tone of the place.

Today we're recaulking  the bathtub over there, plumbers wanting incredible $$ amounts to do it.  It seems as if the condo is getting all the focus at the moment.

Plus there's a special HOA assessment since this year's snow removal far exceeded the budget. Because previous years hadn't been so snowy, it was a bit optimistic. So I'll have to write yet another check for this tiny condo.

When I lived there, my downstairs neighbor, who had all kinds of problems, dryer fire, swarm of bees, flood, commented "this place is the size of a shoebox, and there's still always something!"

Then, back at home, there's my little Oskar food processor which I was given about twenty years ago by a friend emptying her aged parent's house. She already had one, and gave me the one her dad had for many years. I rarely use it, usually find it's not much trouble to use a knife, though it's a sturdy old item, well made.

But yesterday I was a bit tired, and after washing and chopping a lot of Misfits items, especially ginger, which is a real bother to peel and dice.

I got distracted by the ginger and thought I'd start  bit of it as a houseplant, with a possible long-term hope of harvesting a bit. Since this is organic it won't have been treated to stop sprouting. I've been wanting to do this for a while. 

I ordered plenty this time, so I could pick a section with little growing eyes and plant that. 

The ginger we eat is a rhizome, like iris, and is planted similarly, very shallowly. It grows sideways and sends up foliage on the way. It's strictly tropical so may need more heat for growth of the rhizome  than our summer will offer. I'll put it outside once the weather warms up. Meanwhile I'll watch with interest to see if it starts.

After that I peeled and diced and froze the rest of it.

Then I thought I'd drag out Oskar for the carrots. They were long and slender and I needed to shred them. I thought I'd spare my knuckles,  and go the high tech route.

First I had to find the moving parts, study the booklet to remember how to proceed, and translate the booklet (translated from the German, I think) into usable English.

There are two options, two different food containers, one for slicing and shredding, one for reducing to smithereens. I thought I'd try the shredding option. 

All set up, chute pointing at the bowl, vivid past memories of missing the bowl and  chuting fragments at high speed all over me and the floor. Oskar is small but powerful. 

Anyway all set, everything correctly in place, and I couldn't get it to start. I couldn't push hard enough to engage the start mechanism. 

This involves turning the bit holding the food through a counter clockwise half circle and into a slot with some force. I remember this was stiff last time. 

That bit sticking up is a pusher you use to keep the food moving into the blades. It's not part of making it run. But it needs to be ready there on the offchance you manage to start O.

Soooo I decided on the smithereen option instead, and did get that to work. A bit finer shreds than I wanted, but at this point, I was past arguing. 

I now have several cups of rainbow carrots shredded together, looking very pretty, for carrot cake, salad and maybe the leftovers in soup.

Oskar and I declared a draw. And his various parts are all washed and back on the shelf, the counters are all wiped, and the floor swept, and the carrot shreds wiped off my glasses. 

I have a Donna Leon ready as first aid, reading style

Friday, April 23, 2021

An encore post. Misfits musings

 I completely forgot it was Friday when I wrote earlier. Then my Misfits box arrived several hours early, and I set to work prepping and photoing. So you're stuck with a second post 

I like this handy sheet. On the other side it tells you how to use them. Judging from the questions on the Misfits Twitter account, a lot of people are unfamiliar with varieties of veggies and need a bit of a tute  I suspect it's because they haven't seen veggies as they grow, with roots and outside leaves. Nor a large variety of produce unless they have a local Asian market.

When I first started buying mushrooms from the Kennett Square growers at the local farmer's market they would hand out mushroom guides with cooking suggestions for people who'd had white button mushrooms and not much else in stores. Great idea. 

So here's today's lovely haul. I was able to buy extras of some items with the new setup, so I got extra carrots, plums, ginger and onions as well as various other great stuff, including huge dandelion greens. Spring tonic.

And I got a supply of quinoa at about literally one fifth of the cost locally, where I've only seen it in tiny expensive amounts. I've wondered how friends in other states could afford to eat it so casually. Now I know. I guess I don't live in a target market for it.

After a lengthy period of washing and draining and chopping and wiping and peeling and freezing, I had a very good lunch.

These greens were as crisp as if I'd just run out back and picked them. Strawberries totally ripe.

Salad of leaf lettuce, dandelion greens, celery, roma tomato, rainbow carrot, dressed with crumbled blue cheese, ribbon of mayonnaise. Dessert was perfect strawberries, labneh, chocolate chips.

Fit for a queen. Because I'm worth it!

I have plans for various meals. Plum torte, which I make any year I can get plums, carrot cake with labneh frosting, celery and dandelion soup, for starters. My neighbors are in for a few treats, too.

Watch this space!

Simple food, a good book, simple stuff I'm not good at.

Out of soup yesterday and out of clever meal ideas, I assembled a mushroom omelet, sliced baby bellas from the freezer, two eggs, no fancy seasoning, whole wheat bread spread with labneh. Easy. Ready in no time.

And it didn't take up  time from the latest reading. I found a Leon I hadn't read, a Brunetti, and it's very good.  Reading it comfortably on my Kindle. I can't read ebooks on any device with a refreshing screen, migraine ensues.

A lot of reading reminds me of two things, one being I need a new rx so I have to see the eye doctor. The other is that one of the sorrows of losing Handsome Partner is that until his last years he used to clean my glasses, and that's gone.

He'd worn glasses since early childhood, was totally used to the care of them. I started in my fifties and was hopeless at remembering to wash them. 

I'd be peering through a fog of crumbs and thumbprints, and he'd give a roar of exasperation, whip the specs off my face and clean them. He took to doing this whenever he washed his own specs. I got used to this, and, solo again, I've slid back into my slovenly ways. 

I'll mend my ways when I get new glasses, honest. I say this every time. It doesn't last long before I'm squinting through buttery smears, but I always mean well.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Cleaners day adventure

 Except they didn't show. I book for every four weeks, and I think they've decided on last Thursday of the month, which is sometimes five weeks.  A couple of times I've checked and found they're all set for the next week. This time I didn't check, not wanting to bug them, they're wonderful workers..

Anyway I went out for the morning, and quickly discovered that winter is back. Sunshine was deceptive, with temps in the low 30s and strong winds. Earth Day on the calendar, back dressed in layers again. 

Off to the Preserve anyway, and found whitecaps on the lake, a first. Blowing right in my face, no shelter just there. 

No birds either, smart guys shelter from wind. Woodpeckers busy calling in the woods though.

So I took refuge in the beechwood where it's always a bit warmer in winter -- it makes its own microclimate -- and it's always cooler in summer, then returned by a trail sheltered from the wind by trees and shrubs, to read in the car. 

So warm in there that I ran the window down while I read a P D James, Death in Holy Orders. I also borrowed the audio version so while I'm stitching this afternoon, I can go on with it. 

I've read it before but don't remember the outcome. Anyway James is more than a mystery writer, a lot of moral and ethical dilemmas in her work, too, and many motives.

I didn't get the house cleaned but I did get a walk for Earth Day. And a view of the newest foliage in the woods. Good day. 

Home for hot tea and to continue joining up the Mitered Square Jacket bits. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Watch this space

 It looks as if nothing is happening here. 

Yesterday I planted a couple of sections of yellow potatoes, already sprouting. So potatoes will happen fairly soon. At least that's what usually happens.

And here's the honesty plant faithfully coming through again. 

Eventually I'll be able to add to my dried honesty collection, the silver discs I love.

After the high tension yesterday of waiting for the Chauvin verdict, then getting the right one, the arc at least starting to bend toward justice, there's a big exhale. Only a tiny start, though. Much to do yet.

Meanwhile nature doesn't fail, no matter what humans do. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Mitered Square Jacket

It looks as if the mitered squares are becoming a jacket. I laid it out to see if it needs more squares, then loosely basted it together. This involved quite a bit of moving and rearranging the design. The original four joined squares are on the back.

Here's the squares just laid out, to see the design. They're on a sheet because that way I can roll it up to move the project to the table easily. You know you're at an advanced stage when your project needs its own sheet.

Basted loosely, here's the back. Those big orange stitches are the basting, which will be removed when I join the squares. All the trailing yarn ends will be used as joining threads.

And the front

Here you see it flat, from the front

And, side and sleeve seams not yet attached, here are the fronts opened.

I need to keep it flat for the next stage, the attaching together of squares. And the finishing of yarn ends. After that I can close the sleeve and side seams.

I think I may add a row of squares to the hem, since I like a long jacket. And I may still change the position or direction of a couple of squares. You can't really see the design till this stage, when it takes the shape of a jacket.

This went faster than I thought. I'm not ready to stop knitting squares! But I do plan on pockets.

Wondering if the pockets should match. And if the hem should be solid colors. And when I'll be stitching on my Coat of Many Colors and Stitches. And if the cold spring weather will continue so I can wear the Mitered Square Jacket before next fall..

Questions, questions.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Walking out in spring

 This is what happens in this neighborhood about now

Violets, not scented, just wild, dog I think, all over

First day of the dogwoods opening

This little feller's been there for years. I don't know if anyone owns and wants him -- he's a few yards outside a fence, on the edge of the trees -- so I end up leaving him there. I hope he doesn't get tossed.

Blossoms, maybe flowering crab?  Please correct if you know better.

More violets everywhere underfoot, which tells you this is damp ground.

Woodpeckers busy all around, crows shouting, Carolina wrens organizing territory, cardinals singing all their songs, a tree packed with mourning doves, like a convention bus dropped them off.

No toads yet. I expect to see one on my front path any day now.

This year the 17 year cicadas emerge. We don't get a lot in this neighborhood, just enough to know they're there and find them lying about on the sidewalks. 

I used to work in an office in cicada territory, old trees,  and the noise was dangerous to hearing. All doors and windows tight shut, still loud. Running to the car hands tight over ears. A few days of being reminded of the power of insects!  Every 17 years, long enough to forget from the last time.