Friday, February 29, 2008

A teetery day

Here is a better picture of the socks I made, now that both are done. I could not take a picture of both, however, because my model and I have not crossed paths during daylight hours for several days, and so I had to take my own foot. This meant that I had to stand on one and take a picture of the other. The socks were knitted with Jitterbug yarn, using my new Knitpicks needles. These needles are fabulous – actually the best I have used for this sort of knitting. Their new exchangeable points circulars are every bit as nice as my Audis. They are slick, and the points are very pointy. There are times when less slick is desirable, and then I would use wooden needles, but for this yarn and these socks, they were wonderful. The design, which was easy to memorize, and fun to knit, is from Interweave Knits “Favorite Socks” and these just might be – favorite socks, that is!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A comedy of culinary errors!

Well, I did work on the cake – nearly all day. I gathered my ingredients, discovered that an essential one was missing – rum extract, but then decided that it was all right, as Rachael, for whom I was baking the cake, does not like rum flavor anyway. This is the cake that I had always made for my mother’s birthday, as she really liked it, and since Rachael and my mother are little twins with an 80 year age difference, it seemed like the cake to make. As I was about to mix the dry ingredients, the phone rang, and it was my aunt with some interesting gossip (the subsequent events drove the gossip out of my mind, so I can’t tell you what it was), and as I was really on top of things with this cake, I continued to mix the flour, salt and soda as I talked. Well, I confused the amount of sugar and flour, and put in too much flour. What to do???? If I just took out the extra half cup of flour, the salt and soda would not be right. But there seemed no other alternative. So I took out half a cup and put it in my food parings bin. As I creamed the butter and sugar, my Kitchen Aid seemed to be acting a bit odd, but I thought nothing of it. I added the eggs and flavorings – the dough was oh so yummy! Then, time to mix the dry into the wet. I put about a quarter of the flour, turned on the kitchen aid, and shades of “I Love Lucy!” There was flour everywhere! The picture was taken after I had cleaned 98% if it up. Now the soda and salt were really off. Margaret was thrilled, and lapped up what was on the floor. I scraped up most of what was on the counter, and put it into the batter. I examined the flour that I had thrown away, and found that most of it had landed on a banana peel, and was still quite pristine, so I carefully removed it from the banana peel and sifted it into the cake. My secret for getting cakes out of those fancy pans is really greasing with shortening, and flouring the pan with bread crumbs. Well – no bread crumbs! In desperation, I ground up an English muffin. Well again! Whether this cake could possibly turn out was a question! What else could go wrong? My Kitchen Aid could go completely bonkers and fall apart, that’s what. My sainted Aunt, who called again at a more opportune moment this time, as I was in tears about the Kitchen Aid, came rushing to my rescue, and we thought we had fixed it. (However, making bread the next morning proved that we had not.) I am happy to report that despite all the chaos, the cake was generally deemed to be awesome, and was beautiful as well as delicious. A miracle!

Friday, February 22, 2008

A birthday couple of days

Unfortunately, both Rachael’s mom and I had to work on Wednesday, her actual birthday, so we are really celebrating on Saturday. Despite, or perhaps because of that, it has become a movable and protracted feast. On Wednesday, Rachael and I went to lunch on my way to work, and she went to dinner with her Rebecca on her way home from work. In between, she went to Lillian’s house and celebrated with Lillian and her mom. Today, Rebecca is fixing a birthday dinner for her and Lillian, and tomorrow, I will fix a birthday dinner to which the aunts, her mom, and some other friends will come.

Here are a few of the presents she has gotten so far – lovely anemones from her Granddenny, beauty luxuries from Lillian and Melinda, and a computer thing from me. The card represents a coupon for a haircut. Now I am off to work on the cake. Pray for success – I have not made a cake in many, many years.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I had planned to bring my camera on my walk with Rebecca to the University District, but alas, I forgot it. When I got to her apartment, we decided to bring hers so we could take nice blog pictures, but alas again, we forgot her camera as well. Then, as we walked along, she delightedly pointed out the interesting things we saw which would have made lovely pictures that we now could not take! Perhaps the most remarkable were some very yellow mushrooms nestled among the mosses and ferns on a fallen log. They looked like egg yolks in a bed of spinach – (ferns Florentine??) and were the brightest, most colorful mushrooms I had ever seen. The amanita muscaria are lovely as well, and fascinating in their sinister properties, but not so strikingly vibrant as these were. Sadly, they will be gone by the time we ever go back. Here then, is a picture from a previous walk along the same paths. Can you tell what it is? It’s a humming bird getting a drink from a University garden fountain!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A traumatic day

Oh my gosh! What an afternoon! I was making potato spinach soup and ciabatta this afternoon for our dinner, and now I am all atremble! First off, Rebecca had taken her couscous maker from an over the counter shelf, and that not being there caused another big metal bowl to fall down onto its bottom, and that caused a measuring cup to fall to the counter onto the area where I was cooking! I leapt four feet at least. Shortly after this, in my already trembling, shattered state, I started my potatoes in the pressure cooker, which would not come to pressure. I was standing (far away, fortunately) watching, waiting and wondering, thinking it had been far too long, and it should be doing something, when BANG!!!! An explosion of steam, soup all over, my plants scalded, and it came to pressure. I was not at all sure what to do next, so I crept up and slid it off the heat. It stayed at pressure for a while, and when I finally dared open it, the potatoes were nicely cooked. Rachael came home just then, and was comforting and cheery. The soup, at any rate, was delicious! And so was the ciabatta. Rachael, my aunt, and I had a pleasant dinner despite my traumas.

Any suggestions as to why this happened? Maybe I had the pot too full. The person who knows all will not call or answer email! Sigh!

A parti-luck day

Gosh – It started the evening before, or even the first teeny bit of the next day, when the trolley I was riding home from work came off of its cables, and stopped in the middle of an intersection – the one where this always happens if it does happen - and could go no further. The question was – whether to wait for the next bus, which probably couldn’t get through as that one was blocking the way, or to wend my weary way home on feet no longer fit for walking after 8+ hours of patient care. I opted to walk. Sigh. Then, when I got home, a cup fell out of the cupboard as I was preparing my evening milky drink. I was relieved to see that it didn’t break, but then noticed that it had ricocheted off my favorite mug – the one from which I drink ALL my tea. That didn’t break either, but got a seriously disfiguring chip. You can see it in the picture. The next morning, I made rice for my work dinner. I had made rice in the “Hello Kitty” microwave rice cooker several times, but never had much success. Rebecca assured me that it worked well if one followed the directions. Suspecting that this was my problem in previous attempts, I followed the directions meticulously, and found that, as usual, Rebecca was right! The rice looked perfect. However, later, when I set it on the counter at work to reheat, a new employee jogged it off. It fell “jelly side down”, so to speak. Had it been my own floor, I probably would have eaten it, thinking that the microwave would kill all germs, but there is nothing yuckier than a hospital floor – people tracking around poop, vomit, and other even worse bodily fluids. So, as the cute little person who did it was so horrified and devastated, I had to pretend it was no big deal. Actually, it wasn’t really, as I had hum bows to eat with it, and they were enough.

The “parti” facet of the luck was that I used my new scale, a late Christmas present from my friend Ana. You can see it measuring flour for the ciabatta I am about to make.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A hope filled day

The first crocuses (croci?) peeping up through the cold earth and the detritus of autumn give one a hint of the soon to be blossoming of life all around. This lonely lavender struggler appeared in a barren and well trodden path, and seemed to me to be the essence of hope against heavy odds.

The golden fellows showed more discretion as to where they were popping up.

Tangentially related – I was listening to a new-to-me Bach cantata and marveling how Bach could have churned out such infinitely exquisite and unique beauty, when a soprano voice blossomed from nowhere out of a tangle of violas and recorders – much like the mysteries of spring awakening. It was a transporting moment.

The cantata, by the way, was “Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn” - perhaps a precursor to “The Gospel train’s comin – Get on board, little children!”

Friday, February 8, 2008

A tearful and terrifying day

It’s not actually as ominous as it sounds. My friends Ana and Ken were coming for dinner, and as Ken does not like anything green, I decided to make barley soup. Scotch Broth was my top favorite Campbell’s soup when I was little, and I have not had barley soup in a long time. Here are the ingredients for the soup – minus the barley which was still in the jar at that point. I chopped a huge white onion, hence some of the tears, and I listened to Schubert while I was chopping and cooking – hence more tears. Bach and Mozart are my favorites, far and away, but they both make me feel elated and full of energy. Schubert’s melodies, on the other hand, sort of rip the soul out and turn it waxen, and all aquiver!

As to the terror – when I was a girl, my mother made my brother and I go outside when she pressure cooked anything. There may have even been an actual explosion, or else she described the potential horror so graphically than I envisioned it and now cannot tell if it was real or imagined. Anyhow, I gained a healthy respect for pressure cookers, and have inner qualms whenever Rebecca uses hers, which she frequently does. She is a real advocate, and so is my friend Tom. I have used the pressure cooker several times under their reassuring tutelage, but today, I did it all by myself. For the first time!! And it went quite well. The barley was cooked in minutes rather than hours, and the resulting soup was wonderful. And see—no green, at least not any showing. We had Russian beets which were really Polish, salad with lots of green, and a berry cobbler to top things off. Oh, and you can see the bread dough in the top picture – I branched out and made cracked wheat bread. It too was delicious! And very different from the Italian breads I have been making.

A lost day

I had been looking forward to today after five days of work, work, work! My plan was to have a nice cup of tea, read the paper, do the crossword, and then knit until time to get ready to go to the Family Kitchen. I had planned to start the mate to this sock, and get well into the pattern - at least to the point where the pattern would become a public knitting sort of thing, and then to make progress on a lacy scarf , which is private knitting, as I have to concentrate quite a lot more and get grumpy if anyone talks to me at an intricate bit. Well, I had the tea, did the crossword, and then decided to rest my eyes for a minute or two. Fortunately, I set my alarm for 1515, just in case. The alarm went off, just as a man in my dream was telling me that I had BO and needed a shower. Thinking that this might be true, I leapt up, took a shower and hurried off to my afternoon appointments. I had knit two rows of my sock! I don’t see much knitting time in the next couple of days, so this was rather a bummer.

The sock design is from Favorite Socks from Interweave magazine. It is knitted in Jitterbug yarn, and is actually much cuter than it appears in this picture. When I have someone else’s foot to photograph it on, I will post a better picture.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I decided that I needed to branch out, breadwise. So far, all I have made are Italian breads, they being my favorites. I considered making pizza for dinner, but then, paging through The Bread Bible, I was filled with a desire for Bialys. These did not have to be started the evening before, a good thing, since I had been working and unable to do anything but plop into bed when I got home. The bialys called for bread flour which I did not have, so I used all-purpose with a handful of gluten flour. This made me nervous, as I would not be following the chemistry-lab precision of the recipe, but I took a chance. Then when I was about to put in the poppy seeds for the filling, there were none. I had been sure that I had some, but they seem to have evaporated. Rachael was relieved about this, as she has a disgust for tiny black things in her food. This was the case even when she was a baby. She wouldn’t eat the rice in the Indian restaurant until we picked all the seeds out of hers. So no poppy seeds was a good thing.

For dessert we had Mrs. Beeton’s chocolate soufflé – a yummy “fix in minutes” sort of dish. Four eggs – beat the whites, and then stir two teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of flour into the yolks, mix 3 oz grated chocolate into the yolk mixture, and fold it into the beaten whites. Bake it in a soufflé dish at 375 for 20 minutes and voila! Not too sweet, so you may want to sprinkle a bit of sugar on it, and maybe even some cream. We had the soufflé with some nice Balmoral tea, a gift from my friend Eileen. All in all, a New York dinner, and a Victorian dessert. Yummers!

A dull day - a dull week, in fact.

No news this week – just cleaning the house and taking care of patients, both pleasant, but interesting only to those doing it. Here is a picture of my cranberry shawl which I finished just before Christmas. I made it from a lovely skein (only one!) of Fly Designs Lace Wing sock yarn – a present from Rebecca. It was wonderful yarn to work with - rather firm but soft, and the resulting pattern detail showed well. Unfortunately I never go anywhere fancy, so I have only worn it once – to a birthday party in a restaurant much too posh for my usual outings. Whenever I go to church – my only dress-up haunt – I nearly always have a choir robe on, so it doesn’t seem worth the trouble to really dress up to go there.