Monday, March 31, 2008

An exciting evening!

Wow! And double Wow! For years, I thought I wasn’t interested in seeing the movie Cabaret. First off, it all seemed a bit depraved and tawdry. I am not a prude (my daughter, granddaughter, and even the folks at my job would all no doubt disagree) but I hate nightclubs, even in movies. They just seem so oppressive. And Nazis are, of course, even more oppressive. I didn’t care for Liza Minelli, even though I had never seen her in anything. It was that eye makeup. Shades of Harriet Miers! I felt that I couldn’t enjoy watching that eye makeup. Well, Rachael’s favorite movie is Cabaret, and she persuaded me to watch it with her. Now it is not my top favorite movie, but it is definitely high on the list. I could not believe Liza Minelli - what incredible talent! She seemed superhuman. But I just didn’t think it would be that special onstage. How could the magic of Minelli be reproduced, and how could it be good without that? So, when my online German newsletter announced a contest for Cabaret tickets – a drawing really, since all you had to do to enter was know the name of the Kit Kat club – I was going to ignore it. But Rachael said, “Enter it, enter it. When you win, we can go!” I entered and thought no more about it. Meantime, Rachael bought tickets for herself and her adorable friend Lillian. When the email announcing that I had won came, I was disappointed that Rachael already had tickets and I couldn’t give them to her. The only thing to do was to go, but with whom. Rachael already was going. My friend Ana is a huge fan of musical theater, and is fun to go places with, so she was the obvious choice. After the show, we were both stunned. It was beyond fabulous! All red and glittery and lightening exciting. The emcee was played by Nick Garrison, and – dare I say it? – he topped Minelli in a thrilling and incredible performance! We left the theater babbling about how wonderful it was, and kept up on the same theme all the way home. And as you can see, I am still babbling about it!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A shopping day

This was not really a shopping day, but a sick day with an expedition out for emergency provisions. Prodded by Rebecca, I crawled from my sick bed and we went to Grocery Outlet. This is the favorite grocery store of Rachael, her adorable friend Lillian, Rebecca, Tom, me, and most of our friends. Only one person I know does not like it, and this is related, he says, to his eccentric father and a horrible childhood gastronomic memory. I have never heard the true – or actually any - story, and I am very curious. Rebecca just alludes to it, but it is shrouded in mists. Anyhow, Grocery Outlet is a funky, friendly store in our neighborhood. Grocery Outlet is a chain, but ours is funkiest and best. The one in Tom’s neighborhood is not funky, and not a favorite of anyone. The funkiness is essential. Apparently it buys up rejects or outdated items from non-funky stores, and sells them at fabulous bargain rates. There are many very odd foods as well as non-food items. Last time I went, there was a table with CD’s, mostly Gospel or Country Western. The next time, the table was gone. On some days, there is a hot dog stand with a vendor whom Rachael and Lillian love. Once I got Jacob’s Cream Crackers, my most high favorite, and only bought four packs. The next time, they were gone. One must act quickly at Grocery Outlet. A few months ago, I was making a macaroni dinner for Ana and Rachael, and suddenly I had no macaroni. I went to Grocery Outlet, and the only macaroni was tennis rackets. Rachael is a very sensitive eater (remember the poppy seeds in the rice), and had a difficult time eating tennis rackets, but she soldiered on, since the overall dish was good despite odd macaroni.

In addition to a passion for Jacob’s Cream Crackers, graham crackers (must be Honey Maid!) are also my favorite cracker. It is possible for them both to be favorite crackers, because they fill completely different cracker niches. Only a true crackerphile will understand this. And I love ginger. What a find these were. They had a high awfulness-potential, but on the other hand, they might be wonderful, combining two of my top foods. They appear to be a seasonal treat, so I probably will never see them again either. Well…….. I tried them and they are …. Wonderful! Super Yummers! Will I ever be able to have more? One can only hope, and scour the aisles of Grocery Outlet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A blobby day

I made Easter bread, but did not show it because it was rather weird looking. Rebecca, who was working and was only able to dash into our Easter dinner when it was pretty much over, heard all about it and asked me why I hadn’t put it on this blog. “It was a big blob,” I told her. “I want to see it,” she said. “I’ll send you a picture. It’s really ugly, and the picture is ugly even just as a picture.” “I want to read about it on your blog,” she said.
It had been destined to be Challah, and had two cubes of butter and four eggs in it. I worked on it over three days. The first day was not much work, I must confess, and the second wasn’t really either. I was wavering between anxiety (Rebecca usually makes the Easter bread and it is therefore always fabulous! A very tough act to follow-) and high hopes (my Bread Bible never fails.) It looked lovely going into the oven. “It’s a big blob,” I told Tom when I was taking it out. “I am sure it is not,” he replied, but when he came in to look at he had to admit that it was a big blob. None the less, it was delicious, and the gigantic blob was gone in no time. I didn’t tell everyone how utterly unhealthy it was.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A delayed day

Every year on Holy Thursday, my friend Tom and I, and usually Rebecca attend the Morning Praise service and then walk to Chinatown for lunch. Sadly, this year I was sick (for all the Holy Week services) and so I thought, “That is that! We have missed our annual outing!” I have the idea that if it is not done on Holy Thursday, it can’t be done at all. The more practical Tom said, “Let’s go on Monday.” At first this idea seemed outrageous to one so tradition bound as I, but then I realized that it was eminently sensible. So off we went this morning. Our route takes us through the Danny Woo garden, which is on a steep slope and divided into small plots for the nearby resident gardeners to plant vegetables or flowers, or usually, both. This year, Easter being so early, there was not much vegetibular progress, but the cherry blossoms were exuberant. We had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Hing Loon, and as usual, it was scrumptious. You can see past outings when the gardens were more plush here.

We stopped in a sort of art gallery which occupied the site of our favorite variety store, Higo. Over the years, we went to Higo’s frequently. It was the place to find what you could not find anywhere else – from lovely handkerchiefs or exotic Origami paper to Asian dishwashing scrubbers. If we brought Leslie, my Cairn terrier, with us, the lady proprietresses would titter in delight, caress him, and rush into the back of the store to get him a cookie. Here is a picture of some dolls on display in the gallery today. And a picture of lovely greens from one of our previous – later in the season – walks.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A disappointing day

I look forward all year to Holy Week, and Holy Thursday in particular. This has been one of my most favorite services since I was in grammar school. I told you how droopy I was on Wednesday. I attributed this to work and to not sleeping, but actually it seems to have been the beginning of a bad cold. I am snuffling, coughing, and generally feel horrid. I couldn’t go to Holy Thursday, and am going to miss the Good Friday service (today) as well. This service at St James is truly beautiful and one of the most moving I have ever participated in, (and also not too long.) My meager consolation was that I could work on the glove I had tried to start earlier. I purchased this Japanese knitting book, because many the folks in my on-line group were doing Japanese knitting and assured everyone that the charts were enough. Well………. The primary charm of this book was these gloves, and the primary charm of the gloves was the braided cast on. I spent three hours trying to figure out how to do it, as the instructional pictures were incomprehensible on their own. I tried finding a tutorial on line, but no luck. Part of finding things on-line is knowing what to call them. My friend Ana was confident that we could figure it out, or if not, find directions. So, I tried again and actually did find a tutorial here. Once the braided beginning and the flowery wrist border is done, they go rather quickly. It may be another story when I try to do the fingers without any words to help me along. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A muggy day

Actually, the day was beautiful, weather-wise, with daffodils blooming, forsythia frothing, green everywhere. The thing that was muggy was me. I worked the two previous evenings, and my patients seemed to suck the life out of me. I was fortunate in that they were all pleasant, but last evening especially, they were very sick and required a lot of care. I had no breaks and left an hour late, missing the bus and hence walking home. Uphill. With sore feet. Ugh. When I got home, since I had missed my tea breaks at work, I had a nice cuppa, and I fear that this may have been a mistake. I read a few pages, went to sleep, woke up two hours later, and was sadly fully alert. I read some more, had some Ovaltine – usually effective in these cases – and read, did the dishes, and read, etc.

Poor Rachael has been sick for the last couple of days and to celebrate her feeling better, I made some focaccia. It was quite good, but not nearly as good as the focaccia that Rebecca makes. So Rachael and I had bread, wine, and cheese for dinner. Unconventional but extremely satisfying.

My plan for today was to show the progress on my new glove, but I was too droopy to knit a stitch. So far the glove is one and a half rounds long. And so to bed. Hopefully to sleep.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A wondrous breaddy day

Rachael wanted bread that was not Italian, not crusty, not artisan, but was white, soft, and normal. I looked through the Bread Bible for white, soft, normal, and found a bread which the author said was “what Wonderbread, in its soul, always wanted to be” – white, soft, and normal. The rising time was supposed to be four hours, given that one started a sponge the evening before, but there was another thing one did with the sponge which took several hours, and I had not counted this into my program for the day. As usual, I got a late start, and I shortly realized that I had seriously miscalculated the time it would take to make this bread. Oh well! I hadn’t had my sainted aunt to dinner for quite a while, and so I invited her, and as I was measuring out the 341 grams of flour called for on my nice little kitchen scale (a gift from Ana), I realized that I should invite Ana as well. I was planning to make Eggs Benedict, and use the bread for the toast under the eggs, but it was quickly clear that this was not to be. Fortunately, I had English muffins, the more traditional Eggs Benedict base, so we had the bread for dessert, so to speak. And it was quite yummy – white, soft and normal. It was the softest bread I had ever made – rather a miracle of whiteness, softness and normalcy in fact.

A not very interesting day

Well, I looked at the directions to my camera and it was total gobbeldy gook. I need instructions which say “Press this button to turn the camera on; press that button to take a picture.” I was rather upset, and tried to figure it out based on the old camera, but could not. This one is totally different. I couldn’t even turn it on, in fact. Defeated, I looked through the box again for quick-start directions (for the 25th time) and finally found them between the Vietnamese and Somali directions, or so it seemed. I took camera and directions to my favorite place, my bed, thinking that I would practice taking pictures of my foot. The first picture I took with my previous camera was of Lila, who was old and ailing, and died about three days later. I am a superstitious person, and so I did not want to take a picture of one of the vermin as it might bode ill. In a former life I bought a huge bag of dog food for one of my darlings, and he died shortly thereafter, so I never again bought large bags of dog food, thinking that it might be bad luck.

This is my first picture, not of my foot after all, and not too attractive either, of the pair of gloves I finally finished. One of the fingers is oddly longer on one hand – perfect for rude gestures. I don’t know how that happened, as I kept trying them on and on I started the finger end half way up my fingernail on each finger. I am very pleased with them anyway, and the long finger seems fine when I have them on.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A mixed bag day

I had been looking forward to today for about two weeks, as it was the first in that much time that I had absolutely nothing that I had to do. I had such great plans! The day started poorly when I was awakened by a crunch and then a knock on the door. The garbage man had run into my tree with the top of his truck. He was stuck there for several hours, until a tree man came and cut off the branch and chopped it up and took it away. This was a relief to me because the last time I had a falling tree problem, it was rather expensive to deal with. Then, as so often on days after working the evening before, I had a very difficult time getting moving. I planned to knit and read all day, while I awaited the UPS man who was to bring my new Kitchenaid. Somehow I did not have faith in him to come and he was demanding a personal signature, so I had to be there to greet him. He had already made the “ultimo intendo”, but I called and whined to the folk at UPS, so he was making one more “intendo”. He was to come before five, and I had to leave at 5:30 (see, even today was not a totally free day), so this was giving me some more anxiety. One would think that I could have knitted happily even while waiting for the UPS man, but another UPS man brought my new camera! This was a real anxiety producer, as I was going to have to upload something into my computer, and then figure out how to use it. So…… I procrastinated, as before, by doing some nursing at-home-learning things. Now I have them all done, which is a relief, but not enough of a relief to make up for the camera. Which, I might add, I still have not dealt with. Maybe Rachael will do it when she gets home.

I had been planning all week to make bread pudding, and had been foiled one way or another every day, but today in my efforts to avoid the camera, I finally did it. And it was wonderful! The household vermin were particularly intrigued by it at every stage of its making, and even more so when it was done. I have had a time fighting them off. So now------ the second UPS man has come, bringing the Kitchenaid, the bread pudding was delicious, I am off to sing at a wonderful liturgy – the Chrism Mass, so the day is definitely looking up. I did not get my glove finished which was my main goal for the day, but maybe later.

BBB Pudding (Blueberry Banana Bread Pudding)

4 cups of old bread cubed (I used NYT bread 4 days old, and an English muffin)
2 cups of milk
half a cube of butter
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
a teaspoon of vanilla
a large ripe banana, sliced thinly (or two small)
½ cup, at least, of blueberries (I used frozen blueberries thawed)

Scald the milk, and melt the butter in it. Whisk in the sugar. Pour it over the bread and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Whisk the eggs and vanilla, and add them to the bread and milk. In a well greased dish, layer the bread mixture and a layer of bananas and blueberries twice, ending with a bread layer. Bake it at 350 for about 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, and the bread tips are nicely browned.

This is really yummy - definite comfort food for those with camera anxieties!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A pressured day

Amazing! A disaster free dinner preparation! I was excited about trying out the new pressure cooker, and somehow less afraid of this one, although there was no reason for that, really. I remembered a recipe from the distant past for black beans cooked with oranges and served with rice, and I remembered that it was very good. I thought it was from Diet for a Small Planet, but I could not find it. Rebecca, who is an expert at finding anything, anywhere, looked as well but to no avail. I was resigned to making black bean soup ordinaire, but I flicked through the book one last time, and noticed Feijoda Brazilian Dinner – not what I would ever thought to have looked up! (Reminiscent of the time I could not find the recipe for Bodega Bay Bars because they were actually called Montego Bay Bars.) There was much more to the recipe than I remembered, including the black beans cooked with a whole orange which mooshes itself up into the beans, and a gazpacho like sauce served over the rice and beans. Cooking the beans was a miracle. The recipe said to cook them for two to three hours, and I cooked them to perfection in nine minutes! Thank you, Rebecca Ross and Lorna Sass for convincing me that a pressure cooker is not a lethal instrument. We had also New York Times bread, my busy day option – and just now, my no KitchenAid option. Also some tiny bok choy purchased on the recent trip to Viet Wah.
Note that, in addition to my new pressure cooker, I have used my new salad dressing thing, and my new red soup server.
Here is Tom about to enjoy the dinner!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A dubious shopping day

Rebecca wanted to go on a fun outing - an urban hike to somewhere in the city, but I was desperate to get a new camera, as the one I have had for the last three years is showing signs of developing a diva personality, refusing to perform unless the situation is exactly to its liking. I checked on the web, and Costo apparently had the one that the New York Times told me to buy, so I convinced her to go there with me to get it. For the entire trip, my bladder was screaming. On the way, we stopped at the Viet Wah, which has possibly the grossest bathrooms in the state of Washington, and hence unusable, and then and half way there we had to stop to wait for a verrrrrrrry loooooong train and I noticed that we were quite low on gas. Rebecca wanted to get gas before Costco (and ergo before the blessed Costo bathrooms), but I knew that this was definitely not an option. Who knows what delays one will encounter in getting gas. It could take a really long time, with the lines, the frustrating equipment and all. Usually, I go to my beloved Hilltop Service Station where they clean your windows, check the fluids, and give your dog a biscuit. However, we got Costco gas which one has to pump oneself - always a frightful ordeal for me. Rebecca usually manages the credit card and I manage the gas. She claims that she is unable to do the gas pump. I am skeptical about this because I know that I would claim that too if it were an option for me. Her father had this same inability. Pumping gas is so repellent that even macho pride could not overcome his repugnance.
Well, Costco did not have my camera, nor did it have what Rebecca wanted, so the whole trip was a bust except for the gas.
We did make some delightful purchases in the Viet Wah, although my bladder sucked the initial pleasure out of them. Today, I am seeing them in a more positive light. Here is a NewYear's Rice Ball, and the "Cooking Joy"- a container for one's work lunch. I was so excited about my salad and its many ingredients in their new plastic pockets that I forgot to take the salad dressing. This was a disappointment, but the salad was good anyway, and my Cooking Joy was fun to use at work. My co-workers were all amazed by it, and by the nice plastic plate (also from Viet Wah) I use for my work dinners.
Rebecca ordered the camera on line, so actually, the day was successful except that we didn't feel successful and we didn't get exercise as in the original plan. Oh well.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A wooly day

This Nancy Bush glove design from Meg Swanson’s Gathering of Lace is my top favorite glove pattern. I originally made the gray pair in leftover Satakieli, a Finnish yarn, which is recommended in the pattern. Meg had suggested this lovely yarn for the Bavarian socks I knit Rebecca a year or two ago. They are her favorite socks, she says, partly because of the yarn which is firm but soft, and partly also because of their Bavarianity. I had sufficient yarn for the gloves left, and this was a happy thing. I made another pair in alpaca as a Christmas present. Subsequent to that, I heard bad things about alpaca’s stability, but my friend has been too polite to tell me if her gloves grew and grew. I have now done one and a half pair of these green gloves, also of leftover sock yarn - this time Knitpicks. Actually, I purchased the yarn years ago to make socks, then was desperate to make Rebecca some fingerless gloves for Christmas – no time to get special yarn, and so I used partly the solid green and partly some self-striping sock yarn, again leftover. These too were a great success. Perhaps she will let me take a picture of them one day, as they are sort of cute. You can see another pair of gloves from leftover sock yarn here. Scroll down a ways past the sweaters.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A shopping day

I planned to go to the cooking supplies store and get a container for salad dressing – one that could stay in the refrigerator and then come to the table. Rebecca and I met at the library so we could have afternoon tea, and she opted to help me pick out a salad cruet, or whatever those little things are called. We found some nice ones for $49, and then an equally nice one for $6. I got a green topped one, see picture, and she got an orange topped one. “O look, Annie," she said," there is a real bargain on pressure cookers. You could use another one, and this one is bigger than the one you have.” A bit later, “Look, there is just what you need for serving soup. A tureen and cute little bowls. And they exactly match your kitchen!” Of course I am a so easily swayed. So my $6 item ended up costing me twenty times that! But I am looking forward to pressure cooking some nice soup this weekend. And serving some new sort of salad dressing in my nice little container.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A productive day

My knitting blog would seem to more aptly titled, “What I had for dinner last night blog.” Once again, I have no knitting to show –maybe tomorrow if I can stay up late tonight – but I did have a great dinner last night. I had never cooked an entire Indian dinner and I was always amazed whenever Rebecca did, which was frequently. That was my plan for yesterday, but when I woke up, I had the feeling it was going to be one of those days when one never really gets going. I could visualize myself sitting there, knitting one more row, one more pattern repeat, just finish this finger, and so on till the day was gone, and I felt sure that I would not get beyond it. Then I would be suffused with guilt at not doing what I should be doing, and then later yet, in an agonized frenzy trying to catch up and bitter at my wasted day. I didn’t want to go to the store, and was a bit fearful about my cooking plans, so in order to procrastinate, I did a bunch of nurse “at home learnings.” I had been procrastinating about these for quite a while, and my deadline was approaching, so it seemed a good idea to procrastinate on the immediate thing (dinner) by doing the less immediate thing (nursing educational modules.) I am not sure why I had to do one or the other of these things – was it my Protestant work ethic, or, more likely, my Catholic guilt? Anyhow, the learning modules did not take long, as I had already done the work on them and just had to do them on line to get the certificates, and I felt gratified when I had them done. Then the store --- my sainted aunt was going and took me with her, so was motivation to move. Then to cooking. Actually, none of the dishes I made was difficult; it just seems necessary to have so many of them for an Indian dinner. I used Laxmi’s Vegetarian Kitchen, and what a wonderful cookbook it is! I made a pea and potato dish, and my hand tipped with the hot stuff, so Rachael and I were cautious with it, but Tom liked it a lot. I was more careful with the peppers in the rest of the dinner – tomato and cucumber raita, a cauliflower dish, a red pepper dish, and a spinach rice pilaf. Laxmi gave me her mother’s recipe for masala and it had about 50 spices in it. Naturally, I didn’t have half of them, but the results were satisfactory anyway. I also started a flatbread early on, but realized that my expectations had overshot reality, and so I did not fix it as it had to be done at the last minute. I think this must be the task of the eldest daughter or the daughter-in-law, as I cannot imagine rolling out and frying the bread in addition to finishing up everything else. Rachael and I had it today for lunch, and it was yummy.

Maria is helping with the cleanup.