Saturday, February 27, 2010

A day disastrous on the domestic arts front

What a day!! My Elizabeth Zimmerman Green Sweater has had issues from the get go. I have been severely tempted to – Oh, Merciful Heavens! I just looked up, and Margaret is trying to make a nest of it!! No, Margaret, no! Bad dog! As I was saying, I have been very tempted to just abandon it. Then I think back to another sweater with an equally troubled gestation, and I realize that that sweater is now one of my favorites. So I persevere. But for how long? The most recent disaster was pretty unbelievable! Suddenly it had a hole it it. It looked like a squirrel had taken a nibble of it. I had just cut the steek, so I suppose I have only myself to blame, although I can’t see how this could have happened, and I would much rather blame a squirrel. As you can imagine, I was stunned when I saw the hole. I decided to secure the stitches and ignore the whole thing for a while.

Then this morning, as I was making scones for Rachael, I thought, “This flour has an odd texture!” If you search this blog for “This flour has an odd texture,” you might find several entries. The stories would all be similar. I was looking in my crowded little flour cupboard for self-raising flour, and with my presbyopic vision, I misread the label. These little labels, by the way, were put on by Becca and make me happy every time I see them. Unfortunately, they would be more useful if only I could see them more clearly. Once I became suspicious about the flour – after I had already put the butter in, I looked more closely at the label. What to do? I added some salt, baking powder, and baking soda, along with the milk, and the resultant scones might have been okay, except that the flour was a little past its pull date. They were definitely not unbearably light.

Then, I cleaned the refrigerator. I took the shelf with the jams out, washed it, put it back, and replaced the jams! Crash! The shelf fell out, and the jams went everywhere. No picture because I was concentrating on getting them up before Margaret licked them up and cut her tongue on the broken glass. I cleaned everything up, returned the jams to the refrigerator, and - crash! It happened again. No breakage the second time, at least.
What will happen next? I seem to be on a bad luck roll. Maybe the best thing would be to take a nap!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A gastronomic day

So many birthdays! The penultimate time Samos and I went out to lunch was to celebrate his birthday, which, I am embarrassed to admit, I had totally forgotten all about. Fortunately, he reminded me. We went to the elegant Café Flora, my new favorite restaurant. The food was delightful, and he said it was one of the best meals he ever had. This time, we were more “down home,” and went to our favorite Vietnamese vegan restaurant. There is something so comforting about slurping up noodles from a bowl of Phở. I guess it is similar to the chicken soup effect - warm, wet, and slightly slimy. What is better? Not much.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A signal day

A signal event! Rachael turned twenty-one! Who would have thought such a thing could have happened so quickly! It seems like days ago that her place at the table was on my lap. She refused to have her own chair, but did agree to have her own plate. So when the table was set, there were always two plates right next to one another in one place, and one chair for that spot. Now I have trouble corralling her to even eat for dinner with me at all. In years past, Rebecca and I have prepared a big dinner for family and friends on Rachael’s birthday, but this year she preferred to go out and rooty toot with her friends. Fancy that! Everyone (with the possible exception of said friends) was disappointed. The next day, Auntie Pauline invited Aunt Dakki, Rebecca, me, and Rachael (of course), for ice cream and cake to celebrate the event. Rachael, who had declined to have a party even on a different day, seemed pleased about this. Here is the Birthday Cake with the proper number of candles – the yellow each representing five years, and the blue, one year.

Thinking back to my 21st birthday, I recall that I went out to the local pizzeria with my friend Shelley, and ordered 7-Up because (a) I didn’t really like the other options, and (b) I was embarrassed to show my ID and have a fuss made. Having dinner with my parents would never in a million years have occurred to me as an option. So I guess Rachael is not that unusual!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Wedding Day

Today was the wedding day of one of my work colleagues – one of my top favorite co-workers. Richelle has been planning of the wedding for a year and six days, and we have all been consultants at times, so it was great fun to see the finished product, so to speak. As you can see, Richelle is a beautiful bride, and she is just as wonderful personally – she is one of the kindest and most sensible people I know. It was great fun to meet her family and friends and to share this happy day with her.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A miraculous day

Once again, Dakki and I had to get up at the very crack of dawn, and to go the eye doctor for a check up. Dakki, who wears coke bottle specs, has been blind as a near-sighted bat since an early age, even with her glasses on. She came out of the ophthalmologist’s office, with her eye looking terrible – a very patriotic red, white, and blue. So I was pretty astonished when she sat down next to me, and read the title of a brochure which was on a rack across the room. It was a small room, but none the less, it was a miracle of sorts! And without her glasses, even. “I haven’t seen this well since before the seventh grade!” she exclaimed. We went downstairs to the eyeglasses store, where Dakki got a blank lens in her glasses on the new eye side, since she still needs optical help for the other eye. We came home and had some celebratory tea and scones.

Later in the day, Rachael got a phone call with great news about a job she has been applying for. Another celebratory meal was in order, so to celebrate Dakki’s new eye, and Rachael’s new job, we went out to dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant. The waiter thought we were a cute family with our four generations of ladies, and gave us complementary desserts

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A medicinal day

Here is an update for all Dakki’s anxious fans. Her cataract surgery went very well, and she is here now, causing trouble. In other words, she is her usual self. The surgery was set for 7:45! Or at least that was the time she was supposed to be there. For both of us, this is the middle of the night, since I worked till midnight, and Dakki never retires till the wee hours. To prepare, I got everything ready and set my alarm before I went to bed. I leapt up when the alarm went off, fed Margaret and took her for her walkies, made a cup of tea, brought it with, and set off in my pajamas. I was hoping I didn’t have a flat tire or anything. Such embarrassment potential. I dropped Dakki off, came home, and went immediately back to sleep. I had turned my phone down really low for work the evening before, so, happy in the arms of Morpheus, the first thing I heard through the fogs was a very faint buzz. I struggled to consciousness, and this time got dressed, since I had to actually go inside the hospital to fetch Dakki. Here she is, charming the staff, with her cute nurse Jack, RN who is giving her her post-op instructions. One instruction was to only do light housework. When we heard this, we both snorted. The last time Dakki did any housework at all was probably 1956!

I asked Dakki for a quote for her fans, and she says to say that she was surrounded by handsome men who distracted her from any operative unpleasantness.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yet another fun evening

Reporting in after the first performance, still unscathed, having maintained full consciousness throughout, and having managed to be where I was supposed to be every time, I’m ready for another go. There were wondrous photo ops, but I didn’t want to take pictures during the actual performance, so here are a few from backstage. That is where the real fun is. The rest is serious business.

Above are Marina, Alvaro, and little Cecilia, looking all Renaissance and angelic, and below are Corinna, Maria, and I looking all Renaissance and monastic.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Lucky Day

Today was a day when I thought I had very little to do before the big events of the evening. Just some errands to run. When I began deciding on my errand plan of action, I realized that the two most important items – getting gas for the car, and going to the library – were in opposite directions. Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate to drive, and that I do it as little as possible. I walk or take the bus whenever I can, and when I can’t, I carefully think out my routes so as to minimize the whole thing, and am grumpy when family members suggest little side trips. So what to do? Except for grocery shopping, I didn’t really need either of my paramount my tasks to be done today, I just needed to do them soon. So which to do? If I went for gas, I could return my almost overdue library books at another branch, and would just have to pick up my books in waiting later. This seemed like the best plan. When I got to my favorite gas station, Hilltop, probably the last remaining full service gas station in the Northern Hemisphere, the young service attendant asked, “Did you know that you have a flat tire?” Whoa! No, of course I didn’t! I got out and looked at it, and it was indeed flat. Almost down to the rim! “We can fix it,” he said. “It will take about 15 minutes.” I was thinking – what if I had decided to go to the library instead of the gas station!!!! Disaster would have ensued.

The dress rehearsal for Great Music was disaster free as well, except that I nearly passed out during the long Baroque piece. I had been so busy with my errands, Family Kitchen, and then the actual performance, that I had forgotten to drink anything since about lunch time. Knowing that consciousness is waning is a pretty horrible feeling, especially in front of about 800 people. I made it to the end of the piece, and as things were getting seriously fuzzy and lights were changing, was able to sit down. After a few minutes, I staggered to the sacristy, drank about a quart of water, and was almost fully recovered. Another lucky near miss.

Two more surreptitiously taken photos from the Wednesday rehearsal. The top is my friend Barbara showing the Jubilate! girls their moves, and the bottom one is Jim showing everyone their moves - both from The Play of Daniel portion of the program.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another fun evening

Happily, the Great Music for Great Cathedrals dress rehearsal for the dress rehearsal seemed to go quite smoothly. I managed not to go astray, or attract attention in any way whatever – egregious or otherwise – and this is one of my primary goals at these events. Tempers flared several times, but not mine, and never in my direction. In fact, I was unaware of these little contretemps, and only heard about them later. This is a good thing, because I am wimpy, get inwardly tense even being in the presence of other folks’ angry outbursts.

The music was wonderful, of course. We always perform one Baroque piece in which the choir is divided up into four little choirs stationed around the Cathedral. As you can imagine, this is a bit unnerving, since the four choirs have to stay together, but one can’t even see the others, let alone hear them. I always fear lest the music will fall apart, but it never does. This year the multi-choir number is by Heindrich Schutz. It is longish, and had seemed a tad on the boring side when we practiced it, but it was exquisitely beautiful when fully fitted out with the brass band, and sung in the wonderful acoustics of St. James.

These photos were taken surreptitiously during the rehearsal, and do not at all give you an idea of the beauty and wonder of it all.

The actual performances will be on Friday and Saturday, February 12 and 13. This is a musical event well worth your time (and money, of course.) Tickets and more information are available here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A very exciting evening

Tonight begins a marathon of slightly S&M events. I am sure it isn’t a painful experience for everyone, but it has that potential for me. This evening is the dress rehearsal for the dress rehearsal for the final Great Music for Great Cathedrals extravaganza. This fabulous spectacle of music, song, dance, and light has been an almost annual St. James tradition for twenty-five years. Over four hundred people, mostly volunteers, are involved. More than a hundred musicians will be taking part. It is truly a wonderful, all-encompassing experience. Most of the time. At other times it is slightly torturous. The mountain of work involved, while not torturous, is definitely tortuous. In years past, I have been involved in preparing props, sewing costumes, and the like. This year, my only role, other than being in the choir, is helping bring treats and sustenance for the stage crew. Learning the music is nothing, compared with learning where to go, what to do when, what one should be wearing when one does it, and then keeping one’s mind on the business at hand at all times. And once one has firmly grasped all this, there is the standing around, being quiet (not my norm), nervously awaiting one’s next entrance, and hoping against hope that one doesn’t go to the wrong spot, or in any way make a spectacle of one’s self. One year, I had my cues all memorized, knew the order of everything, but in the excitement, forgot about one piece. I was stumbling about in the dark getting ready to sing Rachmaninoff, when Jim the director, also feeling his way about in the dark, said, “What are you doing here?” in a rather horrified voice. “Getting ready to sing Rachmaninoff,” I confidently answered. “NO!” he said. “You’re a ped*!” Appalled, I scuttled off to join my fellows Schola ladies and be a ground bass. I hope and pray that nothing like this happens tonight.

*In some early music, the ground bass is called the “ped,” or “foot.” Or maybe the people singing it are the peds. Not really sure about that. The peds sing the same few measures over and over, and the melodic parts happen above this. It can be very beautiful.

The photos are taken by Maria Laughlin during GMGC's of yore.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

An Up and Down day

In January, Rebecca and I decided to knit the Elizabeth Zimmerman Green Sweater, which I found quite attractive, in addition to having such an interesting history. For those of my readers who don’t know, Elizabeth Zimmerman is the Julia Child of Knitting. When Rebecca was a baby, Dennis and I watched Julia every week, and she taught me to cook. We also watched Elizabeth, and she taught us to knit. The first week, she showed us the basics, and told us what to purchase for the sweaters we were going to make. This was a natural sheep colored white (in our case, anyway) raglan sweater knitted from the bottom up. We started out with the plain stockinet, and added the more complicated ribbing once we had mastered the middle. When we went to purchase our supplies, the knitting store lady was totally incredulous about this construction method. However, we persevered, knitting a new section each week with Elizabeth showing us what to do in the upcoming week. Finally, we both had nice matching sweaters. We loved Elizabeth – she was warm, witty, and as enthusiastic about knitting as Julia was about cooking. She did as much to change the rigid face of American knitting as Julia did to change the uninteresting face of American cooking.
Anyhow, Rebecca and I got our kits with the pattern and yarn similar to the original from Schoolhouse Press, run by Elizabeth’s daughter Meg who carries on the family tradition. I was gung-ho, and had the body nearly knitted up to the shoulders. I had made swatches from the suggested range of needles, and selected size 4.0mm as the one which worked best for me. Somehow, my sweater was not looking as nice as my swatch had. The stitches were oddly uneven – even more uneven than my usual. “Well, it will improve when I block it,” I thought. Suddenly, after having stared at the needles for quite a number of hours, I noticed that one end of my circular needle ends looked bigger than the other. I checked them with my needle gauge, and indeed, one was 4.0mm and the other 4.5mm. I could not believe that I could have made such a dumb mistake. Well, it was easy, since my kit of circular needles with interchangeable ends had three 4.5mm’s and only one 4.0mm. So now my sweater looks like the third picture. Well, actually, I have started again and it is about two inches long. I can’t believe it!!!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A pleasant evening with Dakki

My refrigerator was full of rogue vegetables, either left over from some earlier meal preparation, or purchased for a meal that never happened. I decided to make a big soup to use them up. While gathering my ingredients, and delving into my potato bin, I made a horrifying discovery – something large, black, slimy, and totally unidentifiable. I suspect it of having been the remains of a bag of potatoes. Blech. Double blech. Rebecca was present when I made this awful find, and was delighted witness such a signal housekeeping lapse, and to give me a lecture on the storage of potatoes. I think age (the potatoes' age, not mine) was more of a factor here, rather than improper storage technique, but there was that too, I must admit. Fortunately, there were some healthy specimens left, as my mental recipe wanted potatoes. The soup turned out very well, and I have included a recipe.

In addition to many slightly aged vegetables, I had two heavy cream containers, one half full, and left over from Christmas!!! I had been too lazy to either use it or toss it out. The other was from a more recent dessert that never materialized. I decided to make ice cream. The usually blasé Rachael said, “You mean you are going to whip up some ice cream, just like that? In minutes?” She seemed incredulous. But so it was. I examined the Christmas carton, and was surprised to find that it still looked okay. I daringly tasted it. Once again, it seemed to be in pretty good shape. I had Dakki taste it. She agreed, so I used those, and some yogurt to bring the total amount up to 2 cups. I added a cup of frozen blueberries and a third cup of sugar, whirred the whole thing in my blender, and then made ice cream in my handy Donvier ice cream maker. An impressive dessert in minutes.

I recently wrote about watching Lassie Come Home a number of years ago, and my embarrassing experience at the theater. I decided that I needed to see it again, so after dinner, Dakki and I watched it. It’s one of my favorite movies, and in my case at any rate, a real tear jerker. The fountains begin to flow about five minutes into the movie. I don’t know what it is about it. I have seen much sadder movies, and been unmoved. But this one always gets me. I loved the book when I was young, and it is one of the very few that I actually remember reading. I mean to say that there are many books that I remember having read, and remember what happened in them, and what I thought about it, but this one I remember where I was (outside in a lawn chair in the shade on a very hot day,) what I was wearing (blue shorts and a white blouse), and what I was eating as I read (Kool-Aid popsicles.) Another book about which I remember the particulars of my reading experience is Josie and Joe by Ruth Gipson Plowhead. I know, you’ve never heard of it. It was another of my favorites (and Rebecca’s, as well), and the only book I ever dropped into the bathtub while reading there. Which, of course, is why I remember the particulars of that one.

Zesty Squash Soup (made in the pressure cooker)

3 medium onions, cut up
1 head of garlic, peeled and sliced,
2 cups or more of cubed butternut squash,
2 cups diced potatoes,
2 chopped sweet red peppers
1 chopped apple,
1 piece of ginger the size of a fat man’s thumb, chopped into small dice
1 cup of chopped celery,
1 carrot diced (would have used more, but that’s all there was)
6 cups vegetarian broth
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper,
and salt (if needed)

Sauté the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic and give it a few more stirs. Add the remaining ingredients up to the lemon, and cook at high pressure for five minutes. I made this without the lemon, and it was a little dull. So I added more salt and the juice of a lemon, and then threw in the entire lemon as well. I cooked it for a bit longer and it was perfect. The lemon seemed to disappear into the soup, and perked it up quite a bit. If I were making it again, I would add the lemon at the outset. When it is cooked and seasoned to your taste, whirl it with an immersion blender till it is fairly pureed, but still has some lumps to give it a nice texture. Add the cilantro and serve. Yum.