Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Whining Day

Sewing together parts of a sweater --- essential, but essentially boooring!

When folks retire, they are supposed to have tons of time to relax and do whatever.  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to be the case with me.  I never have any spare time, and I also don’t feel like I ever get anything done.  You have probably noticed the scarcity of blog posts telling you of my fabulous accomplishments.  I am always thinking about things to say, but never am able to set aside a few minutes to say them.  Rebecca and I have been running (actually trotting) twice a week, and that takes some time.  But not that much.  I had some Lenten practices that took a bit of time, but again, not that much.  The best of the Lenten practices was macaroni and cheese every Friday with The Twins.  I used a different recipe – none of them very healthy, but all of them very yummy – every week, and am now trying to decide which one I liked best. But that too, didn’t take much time.  One of my Lenten penances – well, to tell the truth, my only Lenten penance – was to give up my computer card game of Skat with the little mousies Rachael and Lillian.  That in itself should have given me lots of extra time, as  I am such an addict to card games. 

I recently told you about my gardening, and sadly, that one hour or two is the only gardening I have done this season.  The grass is now ankle high in the best spots, and knee high in others.  Gaaaaaah!!

One tiny accomplishment!  A year or more ago, a bunch of friends and I (including Rebecca and Ana) all knitted the same sweater – a rather complex Alice Starmore pattern, for those in the know.  Everyone else’s was adorable – sleek, chic, and well fitting. Mine would have fit an orangutan! With horror, I realized that I had made a tragic gauge error.  Major Bummer!  I was filled with envy every time they wore theirs.  I finally started wearing mine to bed, so as go get some use out of it.  Then I decided to make another one, just to show that I could, and this time, use the proper size needles, so as to get the correct gauge.  I knit the body and sleeves of the sweater (i.e., 95% of the project) relatively quickly, but I think that fear of another failure stalled me completely at that point.  I just kept making excuses (Christmas knitting, just have to make this scarf, really need another pair of gloves, Becca needs new socks, etc.) and so not doing the collar.  Finally I knit about half of the collar and then found more excuses.  When I went back to the collar, I couldn’t figure out where I had left off and so had to start it over.  Another reason to put the whole project aside.  Realizing how silly this all was, I put the parts of the sweater in a box, and put the box in the middle of my dining room table where it could nag me.  The nagging didn’t really help. Then my pal Peggy came over for a knitting morning.  The perfect time to do an hideously boring task.  Charming company makes light work of the odious. I got the sweater body half sewn together.  Another visit from a friend, and I got the second half and the sleeves done.   At that point, I could see that the sweater would probably fit.  Finally, I was inspired to do the collar, which I just finished.  Now I am on the home stretch, and expect to have the whole thing done any day.  If the horrible weather holds up, I will even be able to wear it this season.  So, I feel like I have accomplished at least one thing.  Yay!

The light at the end of the tunnel has finally come into view.

I even had prepared some flashback photos of my darling little Easter Mousie Rachael for an Easter message, and then was too lazy busy to do the post. 

Rachael with her chocolate bunny.

Gathering Easter Rabbit largesse.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Sunny Day

I just detest gardening.  In fact, I don't really like to be outside at all, for the most part.  I like a walk in the woods or on the beach, but that is somehow quite different from toiling over weeds among bugs and thorns in one's own garden.  I enjoy having things look nice, and I love being able to run out and grab some herbs for my soup, or a tomato that actually tastes like a tomato.  And I even like sitting on my garden swing, reading a book and communing with the birds, but only for a very, very short time.  But working in the soil and getting dirty?  Ugh!  It would be so nice if someone else would do it.  But no one will.  

Social pressure drove me to haul out my lawn mower and take the first swipe of the year at my grass, which was getting to be knee high.  I felt that I was being incredibly virtuous somehow and that this might even garner a star in my heavenly crown. I suppose that is being overly optimistic. There were, however, some other rewards in the sweet little flora peeping out from beneath the leafy clutter.  

One young fellow was piteously crying out that he would be very happy to help me if only I would let him.  But alas, I would not.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Very Special Day

There are so many wonderful things happening at St. James, but sometimes something truly eclipses the day to day wonderfulness.  That is what happened this Saturday at the Mass for the Special Needs Community.  I had planned to go to this Mass in the past, but either work or inertia seemed always to prevent me.  I heard that one should bring a hankie if attending, but I felt that I am so hardened that I wouldn’t need one.  Silly me!  I was overwhelmed.  Fortunately, I was prepared, as I always carry a hankie,  sniffles being constantly just around the corner lurking on a pollen grain. 

Marie Claire helped carry in the icon.

Most of the servers and ushers were from the Special Needs Community, and their reverence and attention was a lesson to us all.  Our Music Director, Jim, marshaled together an orchestra comprised of musicians whom I believe were from the L’Arche community.  Many of them are frequent participants in the Friday evening TaizĂ© services.  Jim is at his most wonderful in these situations, and seems effortlessly to bring out the best in the musicians around him.  Some of the Cathedral Choir members joined the L’Arche orchestra, which was one of the most joy filled musical groups imaginable.  Their enthusiasm was unparalleled.

The bell ringers were wonderful!

While the entire Mass was moving in so many ways, the emotional highlight was when Stephanie, one of the bell ringers in the orchestra, presented Archbishop Sartain with her Special Olympics gold medal.  He said that it was the best gift he had ever received, and I am certain that this was true. 

Stephanie Soha, second from left, about to make her presentation.

What a wonderful morning this was!  I feel so fortunate that I was able to participate. 

The K of C Honor Guard

Our own Stacey and her Sophia Grace (sorry for out-of-focusness)

You can see more pictures here.

Thanks to Joe MacKenzie for taking pictures for me, and to Maria L for lending me one!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Some Busy Days

There have been complaints!  No blog post for two weeks.  Is all well?  What is going on?  Well, I’m not sure.  I have decidedly been well, and I haven’t done anything really special or time consuming, but I have been doing lots of time nibbling things.  In short, I have been kind of a busy bee, buzzing about my little hive, but have not much to show for it.  Except maybe a smiling face, as I have been having a very good time doing not much whatever.

I have been cooking!

Felting with friends!  You can see a marvelous movie here, and an even more marvelous movie here.  Be sure to look at both of them!

The little pink eared mousie at about three-thirty is my contribution.

Helping Barbara the Choir Librarian.  We filled seventy-five choir books for the coming liturgical season, and took apart the choir books for the previous season.  This is a rather mind-numbing job, as one has to take care to get everything right, but it is hours of repetition.  The last season, we probably handled 4,000 pieces of music.  The Lenten and Easter books were not so onerous.  This may sound dreadful, but actually, it is not.  I look forward to spending the day with Barbara. It’s an opportunity to help with the music at the Cathedral, and even better, an excellent opportunity to gossip chat with Barbara! 

Back to cooking – The Twins and I are conscientiouely and religiously I observing Lenten practices some of which involve food, and most recently, we observantly ate this cake (hence the photo of the tiny bit that is left.)  I think it is now my favorite.  The original recipe, which I made a few weeks ago, called for a root vegetable – specifically, turnip, rutabaga, or parsnip and whole wheat flour.  Last time, I made it with turnips and it was super.  This time, I decided to be daring and try beets.  As I didn’t have any whole wheat flour, I used regular all purpose.  I expected the cake to turn out red, as was the dough - actually, it was a murky maroon - but I guess the molasses trumped the beets, and the cake came out brown. While not red, it was fluffy and delicious. 

Gingerbeet Cake (adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

2 eggs
100g dark brown sugar  (1/2 cup)
100g molasses (1/3 cup)
150ml canola oil  (5 oz)
150g grated beets*  ( about 2 medium)
about 2T chopped stem ginger
175g all purpose flour (1 ¼ cup)
2t baking powder
1t baking soda
2t ground ginger

About 3/4 cup powdered sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
Lemon juice (start with 1 tsp)

Line a 20cm cake tin - either spring form or one with a removable bottom – with baking paper. Grease the pan and the paper.

Heat the oven to 350°.

Separate the eggs, reserving one of the egg whites for later.  Beat one white and the two yolks into the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the molasses and oil and beat well.  Add the grated beets and the chopped ginger.

Mix the dry ingredients well, and add to the wet.  Mix that well. 

Beat the remaining egg white until it forms stiff peaks.  Gently fold this into the bet mixture.  Carefully pour into the prepared pan and bake until the center is firm and a knife inserted into it comes out clean – about 45 minutes. When the cake is cool, remove from the pan and slather on the lemon icing.  Yummmmm!

Lemon icing:  Whisk the lemon juice into the powdered sugar and zest, starting with one tsp, and gradually adding lemon juice until icing is the right consistency.  

*I could not bear to grate them, so they were finely chopped in my food processor.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Dried Up Day

About a million years ago, my mother gave me a dehydrator as a gift.  While I was thrilled with the present, I don’t think I ever used it, at least not beyond a dehydration test drive or two. Rebecca, on the other hand, was a dehydration enthusiast, and was drying things all the time. A year or so after she moved into her own apartment, she called to see if I still had the dehydrator.  Of course I did, I said.  But when I went to find it for her, our basement was in such chaos that it didn’t seem to be there at all. You will have an idea of the basement mess when I tell you that I also had not been able to find her sewing machine.  The dehydrator is about the same size. A former friend who had worked on my basement, had made free with many of my tools and equipment, and so I was sure that he had taken it. Nowadays, whenever Rebecca, my aunt, or I can’t find something, we immediately say that J must have made off with it.  Usually we find it later, but we are not ashamed of our rash assumptions, as they were not only rash, but reasonable.  

Anyway, I could not find the dehydrator.  She really wanted to dry some vegetables, so, I took one more desperate look for the big machine, and there it was. I happily called her, but in the meantime, while it was still lost, she had purchased a new one.  This was just as well, because mine had been a Ford Model A version, and she got herself the BMW variety, which more suited her needs.  So there mine sat, still collecting dust.  Rebecca frequently encouraged me to use it, tempting me with some of her dried concoctions.  Finally, a dried pineapple slice did the trick.  She also mentioned that dried bananas are particularly good – a thing apart from the ones you buy at the grocery store.  Here are the results of my first foray into the land of dehydrated fruits.  Yum!  The pineapples are super good, but the bananas are out of this world!  When I told Rebecca that a downside of all this was that I ate an entire dried pineapple in a day, she replied that that was okay.  She did it all the time.

Those little brown things on the right don't look like much, but they are the hyper-flavorful bananas!

A bargain box of mangos fits into a bowl! Along with a few pineapple bits! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Highly Crummy Day

Soothing picture to soothe on an unsoothing day

It started off badly.  Rebecca wanted to go on our jog early, so I programmed myself to get up sort of early.  Instead of sort of early, I awoke at five, feeling only minimally alert, but knowing that this was it.  I was awake for the day.  Bummer.  I lay snuggling in my cozy bed, trying to lure Morpheus to return, but he apparently had business elsewhere.  I finally gave in, made my tea and read the paper.  Then tried to snooze again.  Still no luck. By early, Becca had meant in the vicinity of nine!!!  So I puttered around, accomplishing nothing, and then started off for her house.  As we had shopping and a trip to the dreaded car emissions place on our agenda, I was going to drive instead of cycle.  I was backing my car out of the garage when, fortunately, I noticed that some other car was obstructing my driveway.  But unfortunately, I decided that I could get out of the garage anyway, using a bit of clever maneuvering.  With my eyes totally on what was behind me, I scraped the car’s side mirror on the edge of the garage door.  There was a hideous scrunching sound from the car, and an ugly profane sound from me. Rats!  Our run was not terribly successful, and involved way too much winging and gasping from me.  I just didn’t feel up to it, and Becca was not terribly understanding about this.  She just kept urging me on and I just kept complaining.  

When our run was finally over, and I was about to collapse, we went to the car emissions place.  You can read one of my last hideous trips here.  I had come out of their driveway, and whoosh, I was on the freeway headed south.  Becca is a real little Sacajawea, and is usually the navigator.  I warned her about the freeway.  “No problem,”  she said.  “Go that way.”  I was skeptical and reminded her again about the freeway.  She rolled her eyes.  I obeyed her, and whoosh!  We were on the freeway headed south.  But unlike Margaret, God rest her little soul, Becca was able to direct us back to town efficiently.  We went shopping without disaster, and then went to her apartment to recover and knit.  I quickly discovered an appalling knitting error, and decided that I had to be all alone to fix it.  So I went home, and when I got there, the car which had blocked my driveway was getting a ticket and was about to be towed.  I had mixed emotions about this.  That fellow deserved a ticket, but towing seemed a little extreme.  Then I thought about my squashed side mirror and how much it was going to cost to fix it, and felt a little better about the towing.  I came in, and looked for my phone to text Becca about the tow truck.  I looked and looked.  Then this sad picture popped into my head.

  My scrambled knitting and phone sitting on Becca’s table.  So another trip out!   Aargh.  Home again at last,  I decided that the best thing to do would be to go to bed.  So I did.  And I knitted until I made another hideous mistake.  Not up to an immediate repair job, I went to sleep.  What a relief that was. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Happy St. Patrick's Day

Not Ireland, but it looks like it, doesn't it!

Happy Saint Patricks Day, all you Irish and also you Irish wannabes!

Yesterday, the folks at St. James celebrated the day with the annual St. Pat’s Day Pancake Breakfast!  (See photo album here.) As I said in a recent post, I am not a big fan of pancakes, but I am, being Irish, quite a lover of the humble potato, and there were great roasted potatoes.  And, even better than the potatoes, there was a group of lightening footed Irish dancers.  They were wonderful to watch and listen to as their heels clicked to the whirling rhythms.  But they brought to mind events that, I fear, long ago had scarred me for life!
Sr. Hilda Marie would have been in Hibernian Heaven 

I am not sure how many pancake breakfasts I went to in my youth – no doubt many – but the main Catholic fundraising meals that I remember are the corned beef and cabbage dinners served by the Knights of Columbus.  How I loved them!  However much I loved the corned beef and cabbage, there was one facet of them I did not love. The school students were expected to provide some entertainment! That was in the days when the priests were treated as gods who must be constantly propitiated, and the nuns in my school were among the primary vestal virgins appeasing them.  Sister Hilda Marie, a Teutonic dragoness, was their leader, and a very enthusiastic propitiator, as well as an enthusiastic folk dancer.  This year it was Irish dancing, as a tribute to our Irish priests.   We were always being tormented with dancing lessons, and I often had to have her for a partner, a signal humiliation, as besides being the teacher and a nun, she had a very generous bosom. Poor me! In addition to no sense of direction, I have always been blessed with two left feet when it comes to this sort of thing, and I just could not do the dances.  Sr. H was determined, and unmoved by my whining,  took no excuses.  On the dreaded night, we lined up on the stage in our horrible little outfits (actually, I don’t even remember what we wore, but I am sure it was horrible) in front of, I was certain, the whole parish, and as the others tripped through their paces, I stumbled around at the end of the lineup, a complete klutz, my face burning in humiliation, mortified and in agony.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me to call in sick.  Probably the allure of the corned beef and cabbage.

The Propitiator and the Propitiated 
A tiny photo of Sr. Hilda Marie.  I remembered her as being much older, much larger, and much more terrifying.  Well, actually, she does look pretty terrifying, don't you think?

Thanks to The Twins for the Irish Dancers Photo!