Friday, August 29, 2008

A nice day

Suzanne and I are millimeters away from finishing with Tom’s apartment. To celebrate, Suzanne brought some treats, including these three lovely figs, which she gave to me. “Three figs” sounds a bit like William Carlos Williams or Lawrence Durrell, doesn’t it? Or maybe even Henry Miller. Actually, there were originally four figs – that doesn’t sound as nice, does it. I fixed the problem by eating one and it was delicious, so sweet, and so room temperature – the way fruits taste best – not cold.
Later in the evening, two of my choir friends, Angela and David came to play Skat. We had pretzels made by me (without the requisite lye, as I could not find any) and bul to drink. There is no picture because we gobbled them up and gulped it down before I thought to take one. Dave is displaying the remains of one of the best Skat hands I have ever gotten. Since we were still in training mode, the hand was not quite the thrill it might have been in cut-throat competition.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A relaxing morning preparatory to busy afternoon

This is generally a blog about nothing, and today I really, really have nothing to write about. I have been working, working, working – either at my job or at some other thing I would rather not be doing. In short, I have not been reading, I have not been knitting, I have not been working in my garden, I have not been cooking, I have not been cleaning my house, I have not even been working crosswords. That is the real truth. I have been so busy lately that I have not done a crossword puzzle in about three weeks. Today, however I did one, and realized how much I love them. It is such a soothing comfort to have pen in hand and think about things and then suddenly have an “Aha” moment when it all comes clear. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite all come clear with today’s puzzle (and it is only Wdnesday), but I bet Rachael can help me finish it. I am seriously out of practice.
This little fellow is a present Rebecca got me several years ago. I had always wanted a Gartenzwerg, and they are sort of hard to find and expensive when found. Along with plastic flamingos, they are sort of a symbol of Kitsch, but sometimes Kitsch is me. He make me happy every time I meet him in my garden.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A wedding filled day

Wow! Three weddings in one day! I sang at one in the morning, and it was pretty incredible. I used to play the organ for weddings, and I must say that I am a trifle jaded with regard to them. In short, I hate them. However, the one this morning was for Natasha, a fellow choir member, and it was totally wonderful. She had a chamber orchestra to accompany the choir, and she selected some of the usual - Jesu of Man’s Desiring and Panis Angelicus - and some not so usual – Hubert Parry's I Was Glad which is so beautiful that I really am glad every time I hear it. Click on it and you can hear it too. It was one of the first pieces we did when I joined the Cathedral Choir, and I was quite overwhelmed. Everyone else knew it, so we didn’t practice it much – rather like today when we ran through it once in the morning before the wedding, and then I felt competent only to turn the pages at the right time (if lucky). At Catholic weddings, there is frequently a Mary song, and the most usual one is the Bach Gounod Ave Maria. This is such a chestnut! When I have a CD with it on it, I usually press “Next” at its start. However, our soprano Yali Cheng sang it with the original setting – piano and strings with the voice just a part of something bigger and way more wonderful. As it started, I thought, “Oh my gosh! I bet my father came down from heaven to hear this.” He would never have pressed “Next.” The cello and violin were celestial – vibrating to deep in the soul. Yali sang it more exquisitely than I have heard it sung before. The notes just hung in the air like silver mists.
The afternoon wedding was at the Cathedral as well, and Rachael’s choir sang for that, so I didn’t go, but there was family representation.
The evening wedding was that of a co-worker, and I was quite looking forward to it. However, when the time came, I could not force myself out the door. I am afraid that I am a stay-at-home-ophile, and consequently a go-out-ophobe, and it was the first day in quite a while that I have not had something I had to do somewhere else - actually, I did, but as you see, I didn't do it. Consequently, my house has been a house of horrors. There was an entire family of dust muskrats living under my bed. It was so refreshing to vacuum them up. I still have a huge pile of things to deal with, but I have put it all in my dining room and I can close my eyes when I walk through that room. When I compute, I have my back to it. Yesterday I had to close my eyes throughout the whole house.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A keyed up day.

It feels as though I have spent every recent living moment that I was not actually working at my job, working at clearing out Tom’s apartment. He was rather a packrat, so this has been quite the task. This evening, after the Family Kitchen, Rebecca and I went back in to fetch the boxes I had packed up earlier in the afternoon. As we returned to the car with our load, I realized that I didn’t have my car keys. “I’ll wait here and guard, while you go up and get them,” Rebecca offered. I went back up and they were NOWHERE. We had only come in, picked up the boxes and left. Where could they be???? On the elevator going back down, I met a woman in a wheelchair, and I asked her to pray to St. Anthony to find my keys. She asked my name, no doubt so that St. A. would find the proper person’s keys, and said she would pray twice. I got to the car, and asked Rebecca if she might have them. No, she didn’t. Could she just check her pockets? Perhaps St. Anthony had put them there for us. And mirabile dictu, there they were. This was odd because normally, if I ask her to keep the keys she is a little testy about it. (She admits this.) Modern car keys are too big for fashionably tight pants and so she doesn’t like to have them in her pocket. I didn’t remember giving them to her and she didn’t remember taking them. But there they were, and there we were. Saved. Just then, saintly Suzanne, who has been helping me with the apartment, came rushing up the hill. “Praise God! There you are!” she said. Her car was locked in the garage of the apartment (it was supposed to be open till seven and it was now six-thirty,) and the only way to get to it was via the inside of the apartment building. The manageress had gone home for the day, and Rebecca and I had the only other keys. So, Suzanne was saved by the St. Anthony miracle of my lost and then found keys. Later when I finally staggered home, thrilled at the prospect of laying my aching bones in bed, I couldn’t find my house keys in my bag. I called Rachael, whom I expected to be inside, but she didn’t answer, having gone to a movie. I thought I could get the spare set from my aunt, the keeper of the emergency key, but realized with sinking heart that Rachael had borrowed it the day before when she forgot her key, and had probably not returned it yet. Nonetheless, I called my aunt, who didn’t quite understand what I was so hysterical about – I was really quite beside myself. When she finally realized that I was sobbing on my front porch because I couldn’t get into my house, she kindly drove me to Rebecca’s house to borrow her key. Now everyone has everyone else’s key, but I am happily in bed and soon to go to sleep. So, good night, my friends, and sweet dreams.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A musical day

For starters, the music at Mass was wonderful, but this is not blog-worthy news, since it is always wonderful. Then, later in the day, I went to a musical tea party with my friend Suzanne who won the tea party at a charitable auction. The party was given by the Drs. Berg. Their house was an art museum unto itself, the tea spread was delicious, and the music was great fun. The musicians were the host and two of his friends. They played trios spanning Buxtehude to Astor Piazolla, and then the host, a very nice fellow, gave me a demonstration of his personal pipe organ, and offered to let me play it. Unfortunately, my fingers have not touched organ keys in about ten years, so I declined. I did get to turn his pages though. This job can be almost as traumatic as actually performing. Of course, this was a casual event, so it was fun. I used occasionally to turn for the organist at St. James, but once I got distracted and lost the place, and he has never asked me to turn pages again. And it wasn’t even my fault, since the person who was supposed to be turning forgot and processed off, and then – no doubt filled with horror at her omission, rushed back and said, “I’m supposed to be turning!” just at a crucial point – about three quarters down the right hand page. I glanced up at her meaningfully, and all was lost. “All” being the place in the music.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Slow Learner Day

On a hot day last week, Rebecca and I went to the movies to see Chris and Don. We enjoyed the movie, but we nearly froze in the cinema air conditioning. We vowed to wear our silk underwear and parkas next time. This evening we went to see Aida at the opera house. Once again, it was a very hot day, and I wondered about the air conditioning. No, I thought – all those opera going ladies with their vast expanses of bare flesh - the opera people surely must keep it warm for them. But I took my recently knitted shawl just in case. I so seldom go anywhere that one dresses up for enough to wear a shawl, and it was a rare opportunity. Rebecca looked cute in one of my father’s golf shirts, and looked sufficiently warm for a foray into ancient Egypt. However, when we got there, it was frigid. Now Rebecca frequently used to wonder at my father and aunt, both of whom always had a sweater on, no matter what the weather, and who always shivered and complained of cold if it was less than 80. She said that she had previously considered it a moral failing on their parts to always be so cold. But now, she has joined the ranks of the circulatorily challenged, and is always cold herself. She was naturally much colder than I – the one who had had the wit to bring a shawl. So we shared. The shawl, having turned out much longer than I expected, was just right for two. It was a good thing that I had made it way too big, not realizing how much it would grow when I blocked it.
Earlier, we had gone to our favorite pre-opera Thai restaurant, and eaten like little piggies. We then had to walk around Seattle Center feeling bloated as poisoned pups, as my Uncle Robert was wont to say. Once again, we were slow learners.
The top picture is the Seattle Center fountain, around which we walked to try to lessen our feelings of bloat, and the second is us in the shawl during intermission.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A joyfully celebratory day

Tom’s funeral on Wednesday evening was wonderful beyond belief. It was really a love-Tom-fest with about six hundred of his closest friends. It is amazing how deeply he touched the lives of so many people with his teaching and example. It was a joyful celebration, though often through tears, of an amazing life. Like St. Therese of Lisieux, Tom didn’t really do anything spectacular or huge; rather, he was just always kind and gentle, loving and giving in little ways. I never heard him say a crabby word to anyone, ever. He was tolerant of even the most annoying (and we know how many of them there are!). Sometimes later however, he would be gently ironic, and always witty about them, but never unkind.
The homily was brilliant, as Father Ryan’s homilies always are, and the music, with his friend Dan as cantor, sung by the Women’s Schola whom Tom loved, selected and conducted by our Jim, was celestial. And…… it was all composed by Tom himself. How many people do you know who compose the music for their own funeral? Afterwards, there was a fabulous pot-luck. How Tom did love pot-lucks! I prepared some focaccia and as you can see, it had a problem. It tasted yummy anyway. Rebecca made three types – red pepper, potato, and olive, and hers – as one might expect – had no problems and tasted superb.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A busy day

Rebecca and I went shopping for dinner supplies and were foiled at every turn! Well, not quite. On the way from church to her house, I noticed that I was nearly out of gas, and at a strange gas station – one where you actually have to do your own gas - I put my card in the slot, and it had expired. Fortunately, I had a secret supply of cash in the ashtray for just such an emergency. We walked to the farmers market, and it was fun filled as usual, but the prices seemed a bit over the top. I think of some poor soul working at minimum wage, toiling for half an hour to buy an avocado, and my venomous feelings about a certain party in power begin to boil. Grrrrr. Get those greedy monsters out of there. “You fed me when I was hungry; you clothed me when I was naked.” “What you did to the least of these, you did to me.” With all their daily bible reading, they seemed to have missed those bits. At the yarn store, Rebecca was shocked at the price of the yarn she wanted to buy, but she was firm and got it anyway. Then, we needed wonton wrappers for our fabulous dinner, and the first two stores we went to had little empty spaces where the wonton wrappers went. We were discouraged, and did not fancy a trip to China Town just then. Our last hope, our usual neighborhood store (as opposed to the first two which were huge posh emporiums,) had them and that was a relief, as I was about done in with shopping. I had only had two tiny cups of tea in the morning, and it was beginning to tell on me. Rebecca was the main author of the dinner, and I was the sous chef – my main functions being to husk and scrape the “bird bit” corn, help stuff the raviolis, and set the table. The corn was the bargain of the day, since it had bird bit tops that had to be cut off. Who minds a little bird lips on one’s corn? Not us!
These are corn raviolis with pesto and tomatoes, a green bean salad, and a nectarine galette.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A two present day

My friend Jill, who, with her husband runs the Family Kitchen, is one of the true saints of today. I won’t go into the particulars of that – you must just believe me. She has given me two presents lately. The first was a Sparkletts water bottle from the 30’s. This company is still delivering water, but as you can see, their style has become significantly more prosaic. This bottle is a little work of art. It has a lovely lid – a sort of glass stopper such as one finds in cruets. It belonged to one of her ancient aunties who actually had water delivered in it. Jill knew I would like it because I was so pleased to find a glass milk bottle at the Kitchen, and wanted to use it for a vase, which I thought would look well in my funky house. The other present was a box of chocolates, which she sent home from the Family Kitchen with Rachael. (Rachael and her friend Lillian, good girls that they are, volunteer there on Fridays, while Rebecca and I go on Thursdays, but I didn’t go that week because Tom was so ill.) I am sure Rachael initially said the chocolates were for me, but Rachael now tells me they were for Tom, who wasn’t up to them, and therefore they are hers by default.
When Rachael was small, someone, probably my mother, gave her a box of very nice chocolates. Everyone was interested in them, but Rachael passed them around once or twice and then kept them to herself, as would we all. One day, Rebecca and Lillian’s father Bill came home and found the box of chocolates. They peeked inside, and lo! Every chocolate had a bite taken out of it. “Well,” they thought. “Rachael has tried all these chocolates and rejected them. That means we can eat them!” Eminently logical, I would say. So they ate them. Rachael arrived on the scene, went to check on her chocolates, and there was a dreadful shriek!! They had utterly misinterpreted the bites. The bites were there to discourage anyone else from eating chocolates previously tainted by human lips! Rachael didn’t realize that we are not as sensitive and finicky as she is. This morning I took a peek into the disputed box of chocolates and this is what I found!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Sad-Happy Day

In Memoriam
Tom Stratman
May 16, 1939 - August 6, 2008
Teacher, philosopher, poet, musician, friend.

A gentle, wonderful man, an inspiration to many.

Tom died this morning, listening to Bach's Magnificat. Joanna and Rebecca were with him, to help send him on his eagerly anticipated journey to heaven.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A leafy day

My neighbor Mrs. Luna is a fytophobe, a word I just made up, meaning that she is opposed to too much greenery in her yard, or, sadly, in her neighbor’s yard. When I first moved into my house, thirty years ago, there was a nice tall hedge between my house and her house on my property, I might add. Shortly after I moved in, she cut it down, and had some specious rationale as to why she did it. There was no point in getting angry at that point, since the hedge was already gone. She had a lovely tree in her yard, which she cut down for no reason at all. We all mourned its passing, and could not believe that a rational person would do such a thing. She came into my yard another time and mutilated my lilac tree because it was touching her utility wires, which cross over my garden. This made me quite angry, but I restrained myself, because aside from this one major character flaw, she is a delightful neighbor. When Rachael was a tot, she was constantly bringing us odd presents like weird Asian candy and cookies, or huge boxes of breakfast cereal that she got at the PX (her husband is a WWII veteran, meaning they are old.) She was supportive when we were being bothered by our ghost, (a story for another day) and told us stories about the ghost, Sophia, in her pre-ghost days. She has always kept close tabs on us. Once she asked about Rebecca’s school, and said, “She studies so hard.” “How do you know that?” I asked. “I see her in her bedroom, always at her books.” I am sure she would need binoculars for this.
After the hedge was gone, we put up the fence you see here. I would paint it in the wee early morning, i.e. 4:30 a.m. to avoid the heat, and Mrs. Luna was out there every morning to keep me company. A friend has just repainted it, and I warned him that she would be out to assess his job and give him tips. She was. He quite enjoyed her.
Last year, Rebecca planted three grape plants, and one day, two of them which were twining on the fence (the one that Mrs. Luna considers her fence, I am sure), were suddenly little stumps. Rebecca was in tears, and I was consumed with rage. I am afraid that I was quite rude to Mrs. Luna, and even mentioned the word “police.” Everyone here had mixed emotions about my angry outbreak, and for a while, Mrs. Luna ignored me as she drove by. However, happily, there has been a rapprochement, and the other grape plant is flourishing. One of the stumps has had a resurrection of sorts as well.
Tom Update: Very weak, but comfortable.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

An oaten day

When Rachael was a wee tot and her mom was in school, I was in charge of her in the mornings. Nearly every day, we had oatmeal for breakfast, very occasionally venturing off into the Malt-O-Meal arena, but not too often. I had perfected the oatmeal recipe so that it was just the way we liked it. Rachael, ever the picky eater, was one of the few people I know who was willing to branch out a bit in the matter of oatmeal, so we frequently had fruits or nuts in it. Then, Rachael went to school and her mom fixed her breakfast every day, and years went by without us having oatmeal. The specifics of my recipe were lost in the mists of time. Now, once again, I am fixing Rachael breakfast, and once again, we are fans of oatmeal, sometimes even having it for dinner. Here is the kicker: I am going to share my secret recipe with you!! We are talking Quaker’s Old Fashioned rolled oats here. The package gives two options – one for smoother, mooshier oatmeal, and one for oatmeal with a bit more texture. The difference depends on when you add the oats to the water – add them when it is cold for mooshy, and when it’s boiling for a more al dente dish. We use a 2:1 ratio. For instance, two cups of water to one cup of oats. This is significantly more oats than the package calls for. Divide the oats in half, and add one half to the cold water. Add your firm or dried fruit at this point as well - later, for fruit you don't want to be cooked. A chopped apple and some dried cranberries are an excellent choice. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often so that it doesn’t burn. When it bubbles, add the second half of the rolled oats, and give it a few stirs – for about 10 more seconds. Let it sit off the heat for a minute or two, and serve it with brown sugar (or white, or honey, or whatever) and milk. Yummers! Now that Tom’s food choices are so circumscribed, we have been having oatmeal or Malt-O-Meal often. Today we added blueberries and nectarines. Michael is inspecting my dish of it, and he approves. I meant to take a picture before I added the milk, which turned purple instantly, but I forgot.
Rachael is fixing Tom some iced tea, another of the favored food items.