Saturday, July 31, 2010

A exertional day

Years ago, when I was young (relatively) and fit, I had a roommate who was younger, but significantly less fit. I wanted her to take the occasional bike ride with me, but she never would. She hadn’t ridden since she was little, she said, and then only one of those funny bikes that look like a banana. She was afraid that riding a normal bicycle would be too difficult. I was disappointed, and went on my bike rides alone. One day, I came home and found that she had practiced in a nearby parking lot, and was willing to give it a go. Our first venture was to go to the grocery store – about a mile away. “What if there are hills?” she asked. I reassured her. “It’s flat as a pancake all the way.” To me, it really was flat as a pancake. I guess that “hill” is a relative word. Half way there, she was furious. “You said it was flat! It goes straight uphill. Nearly a 90° incline,” she panted, pink and sweaty. I said that she was mistaken, it was totally flat. By the time we got to the grocery store, she was gasping, beet red, and I feared for her health.

This was brought home to me when, after not being on a bike for a few years, I took my maiden voyage on my new bicycle - to my aunt’s house, which is in the same direction as the grocery store. Suddenly I realized that there actually was a hill there, and that it was very steep. It’s never there when I walk to the store. By the time I reached my destination, I too, was pink and gasping. I thought of my hardness of heart and lack of sympathy with poor Eileen on her first outing up those arduous hills, and I felt guilty.

I must add that Eileen persevered, and we had a lovely vacation cycling around Lopez Island – a nearby cyclists’ paradise. It was made even more thrilling because there was an alleged murderess living there. She was purported to have poisoned her husband's orange juice, chopped him up and hidden the pieces. We were pleasantly thrilled at the thought that we could run into her, but were planning to decline any orange juice she might offer. I now see that she was supposed to have shot him, and then chopped him up, but we thought it was orange juice at the time.

PS Thanks to my blog friend Lorette, the Knitting Doctor, for cluing me in on making the little degree sign on my Mac!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Nice lunch preparatory to a horrible rest of the day.

Samos and I were excited. We were about to have an adventure! (This will give you an idea of the level of adventure in my usually ever so dull life!) He had gotten emails offering coupons to vegetarian – and I suppose, other – restaurants in the area. One had to pay on line in advance, print the coupon, and then produce it at the eatery and then, supposedly, get a great bargain. Scary! What if the printer suddenly is on the blink? I suppose you only get one chance. My printer way too often has its own little issues - meaning it won't issue what I want it to. In this case, the coupon cost $10, for which one could get $20 worth of fine cuisine! He had never done this before, and was a little fearful that it wouldn’t work --- $10 wasted! His coupon was for the Sage Café, one of Rebecca’s favorites. It is also his favorite super sandwich place, sporting a few sit down seats, and probably lots of take-out. Well, the coupon worked nicely and our sandwiches were très yummisma, but huge. He got a New York Reuben (where else would a Reuben be from?) and I had a Venice Beach. I’m not sure exactly where Venice Beach is, but not, in this case, in Italy. I think it has the aroma of muscle men showing off, and muscle cars in which they get there to show off. In any case, its eponymous sandwich had tempeh bacon, tomato, and avocado – all muscle building materials. This was a fun way to spend a few hours before a truly horrible evening at work. (This being an upbeat blog, I won’t bore you with the details.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another fun day

Ana finished yet another sweater – that makes about four in the time I have done one. When she brought it over to be blocked, it looked like a baby lamb before it taking its first steps – a soft, fuzzy, curly mass. We soaked and washed it, and laid out the towels to sop up the excess water before putting it on the wooly board. Here is Margaret helping us, by making sure the towels are ready for their job. Margaret is very good at this sort of thing. She particularly enjoys helping me in this way when I am preparing to sew a garment, and am laying out the fabric for cutting. I am not always as appreciative as I should be.

My usual tactic for putting sweaters on the wooly board has been to use dental floss for stabilizing the neck and the bottom, and for securing the center opening. I was inspired to try something different this time, and we experimented, using blocking wires instead of the floss. Not only was this much quicker, but I think it did a better job. As you can see, once the sweater was blocked, it became a remarkable thing of beauty. A delicate lace creation that will be perfect for cool the autumn days coming soon.

We got it onto the wooly board, and then went shopping for dinner (tofu burgers) ingredients. When we returned, the house smelt very strange. “What’s that? It smells like gas or something rotting!” I asked. “I think that’s wet alpaca smell,” Ana said. “It’s the sweater.” Ana will have to be careful to always wear a coat over it in the rain. Years ago, I had a colleague who wore a hand knitted poncho from somewhere in South America. It was made of dog hair, and whenever it rained, he smelled delightful, I thought. I love wet dog smell. Many of my co-workers did not feel the same way, and were eager for him to take it off and hang it in the coatroom.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

An Important Holiday

I love National Holidays! And today is the National Holiday of our parish. It is the feast of St. James, and the fact that it has fallen on a Sunday makes it extra special. The choir, on vacation for the summer, reconvenes, so not only is there a wonderful picnic, but we get to see all our choir friends – some for the first time since early June. I am usually relieved when our choir vacation begins, but after a week or two, I begin longing for the St. James celebration with its wonderful music, wonderful food (if one likes hot dogs and hamburgers,) and, most of all, wonderful company.
St. James himself emerges from his storage place in the attic, and leads the procession out of Mass, blessing the congregation as he goes. I have always been relieved that I have never been asked to be one of his managers. It looks scary. One year, however, my group was assigned to put him together and then later disassemble him. That was very tricky. Maybe as dodgy as running his innards, which Corinna has been very efficiently doing. She looks pretty calm about it, doesn’t she?

Afterward, hot and tired, I was very grateful when my friend Martha offered me a ride home. Here she is with her husband Joe.

There are two sets of sisters in these photos. Can you find them?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A horrible day which ended well

Much of yesterday was not my favorite day. I have recently been determined to buy a new bicycle, but I seem to be foiled at every turn. For most of my life, a bicycle had been my primary means of transportation, and after my last one gave up the ghost a few years ago, I delayed replacing it. I had gotten used to walking, driving, or taking the bus. Seattle is not a great town for cycling, as it seems to be one huge hill after another. Nonetheless, I love cycling, and have been missing it. I read about the Dutch Oma bicycle, and I desperately wanted one. I guess that has been my stumbling block. Being an Oma myself, I felt that I needed this bicycle and no other would do. However, it was prohibitively expensive, so I kept not getting one. Then, looking at the website of the Dutch Bicycle shop in Ballard, I realized that there was a similar version which was way less costly. I decided to get that one. I daresay that you, my faithful readers, know how I hate to drive. But I geared myself up and ventured off to the wilds of outer Seattle. Ballard is a long way away. I had looked at the map, and getting there seemed pretty straightforward. However, nothing having to do with “getting there” is ever straightforward for me. I made it to “very close,” but then got lost. I called them up for directions, and the man said they were closed for construction. Arrrrrrgh. He would make me a special appointment on Saturday. Well, I wanted a bicycle today, and making that arduous journey twice was too much, so I said “No Thanks!” Then on the way home, I thought about it. So I called him back and said I would come on Saturday. Did they have the model I wanted? No, they did not. It would have to be special ordered. Well, that is like buying a pig in a poke. Foiled again! I pouted some, and then decided to go to the more local cycle store and get an inferior bike. Whether to walk or drive? If I walked, I could ride my new bicycle home, but if I didn’t find one I liked, I would have to walk back, and time was tight, since I had a date with my aunt to go to an art opening. So I drove. I found a bike to buy, and moved my car closer to the store so the woman could put it in. And while backing into a parking space, I backed into another car. Fortunately, no damage, but shattering, even so. Then it wouldn’t fit in the car! !@#$%^! So I drove home, bicycle-less, only to get a phone call from Pauline saying that she was ill and could we go to the art exhibit another night. I had a tentative date with Ana if the date with Pauline didn’t materialize. It had been up in the air because Pauline had to coordinate with her children who are visiting. Soooo, I called Ana and we scheduled dinner and a movie. Then Pauline called back and said she felt better. Sigh. At this point, the day took a turn for the better. I fixed dinner for Ana, and we watched several episodes of Doc Martin. The dinner was good, the movie was relaxing, and the company was nice. So a pleasant end to a dreadful day. And now I still have the art exhibit to look forward to.

This photograph is an metaphor for the day. I haven’t quite figured out how, but there seems to be a definite relationship.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A fun day

I have two sets of cousins on my father’s side – the six children of his sister and the seven children of his brother. The auntly cousins I spend time with often, including visiting the family of one of them in Hawaii several times a year. The avuncular family mostly live in the wilds of outer Seattle. Way outer Seattle - mysterious places where we seldom venture. So, we mainly see them at funerals and weddings, and it had been quite a while since I had seen any of them. However, the Hawaiian branch is here for a visit, and this created a great excuse for the two groups to get together for a picnic in my aunt’s yard. I still think of those cousins as a band of rowdy teenagers, so it was a shock to hear them talking about their grandchildren. Rachael, who had been looking forward to this event, took a nap to prepare, and then almost slept through it. There were constant cries of, “Where’s Rachael?” and I couldn’t tell them. I called, texted, and called again, but no reply. Finally, my aunt, whom everyone obeys, said, “I will call her.” Instantly my phone lit up, and a sleepy voice said, “Have they eaten all the food?” I said not, and that she should hurry over. So she did, and all her little cousins cheered when she arrived. They all seem to adore her (which is not surprising, since she is adorable.)

My contribution was a Greek watermelon barley salad, made from a recipe in the New York Times. The evening before, I prepared the barley in the pressure cooker, and when it was done, I was worried because it seemed so mooshy. I use barley all the time for soup, but it has been years (maybe decades) since I have used it as a – what should I say ? – as a non-soup item. So I was unsure. I thought I might make it again, or start over using farro, but then was lazy and thought, “Too much work!” By morning, it was a solid, sort of gelatinous mass. Gross!! I broke it up into bits and used it anyway. It was perfect! The salad was a great success. Joseph wanted to know who had made the Hippie Salad. I said it wasn’t a hippie salad, it was a Greek salad. He said that it had lentils, which made it a hippie salad. Someone else pointed out that there were no lentils, just barley and black eyed peas. Do you think lentils are the major factor in a hippie salad? I would say that that honor goes to tahini. What do you think? In my mind, however, hippie salad = yummy salad. If that is the criterion, then this one would qualify.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

An enlightened day

Have you ever had a space problem that was subtle but unsolvable? Years ago when Rebecca was in grade school, I took piano lessons from Mrs. Scotchler – a wonderful gnome-like woman whom I adored. Cycling to her house in the country was one of the joyous events of my week, and at that time, there seemed to be many. I had my music lesson, tea, usually some freshly baked bread, and a roam through her abundant garden. All this was punctuated by her wise and witty chatter. I have never forgotten her prized white asparagus, which, she explained, was white because it grew up buried under straw and became etiolated from lack of light. (Why else would one become etiolated?) Once when I came for my lesson, she was exuberant about a problem newly solved. She has some piece of furniture, which just didn’t seem to go into the space where she wanted it to be. The fact that it didn’t quite fit had been a sort of annoyance to her for ages. Suddenly, she realized that if she reoriented it, and traded its place with another item, it would all fit perfectly. It is funny about these irritating little problems that manage to lightly torment one for years, and the suddenly the solution, which had been there all along, pops into the light. When I returned home, I looked critically at a quilt I had made from the scraps of Rebecca’s little dresses and Dennis’s shirts that I had sewn. I thought the quilt was beautiful, and loved it for its memories, but it never quite fit on the bed. I had sewn it "stream of consciousness" style, and hadn’t really planned out its final dimensions. As I stood looking at it, yet again sad that it was such an awkward size, I realized that if I turned it sideways, it would be just right. How could this never occurred to me before? I had made the bed and put on the quilt hundreds of times! What I dodo I felt, but also how glad that my nice quilt now fit my bed!

Pictured here is my plastic container drawer. The things I use most frequently were always a little difficult to get out, and caused an inward grumble every time I needed them to prepare my work lunch. We are talking about years of lunch fixing and grumbling here. Maybe even a decade. Suddenly, as I was struggling yet again to get my lunch containers out, I realized that if I switched the places of the ones I seldom and my favorites which I always use, the problem would be solved. What a happy moment this was. And why didn’t this moment come years ago?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A very hot day

I can’t believe it! Four days ago, it was pouring rain, and now it is hideously hot. Rebecca told me that in the afternoon it was 94. My bedroom was an appalling 103. I took many cold showers throughout the day. Poor Margaret was looking truly pathetic, so I let (actually “forced” would be a more accurate term) her run in the sprinkler to cool off. She was remarkably unenthusiastic, but seemed much more comfortable afterward. I just hate hot weather.

I was having computer issues, so Ana came over after work to help me with them, to untangle a hank of yarn, to watch a movie, and of course to have dinner. I had a carefully selected hot day dinner, and it turned out better than I could have imagined. I started it in the morning when it was still reasonably cool. When I first tasted the faro dish, it was too sour, but after sitting around for several hours, it mellowed and was delicious. This was the first time I had ever cooked faro, so I was excited about that. Oops! I just searched this blog for the story of first time I every ate faro, and I see that I actually did cook it once before. So I must amend that and say that this is the first time I cooked it when it came out as I expected it to. I served it with a melon salad, and it was just the ticket.

This can be made ahead, and is good served at room temperature.

Faro Salad

2 cups of faro, soaked for several hours
3 cups vegetable broth
10 baby carrots
15 green French beans
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 T vinegar
2 nectarines, sliced
6 small tomatoes, sliced
handful of coriander and parsley
thyme – 1 T fresh, or 1 tsp dried
2 green onions, chopped
freshly ground pepper
fresh mozzarella

Soak the faro in a quart of water for several hours. Drain it, and using your handy pressure cooker, cook in the vegetable broth at high pressure for about 25 minutes (or cook for 50 minutes in a conventional pot.)

Cut the carrots into thin strips, and trim the French beans. Blanch them together in a quart of boiling water for about a minute. Rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking further. Saute for another minute (or less) in olive oil, and stir in about a tablespoon of lemon juice, some salt and pepper. Set aside.
Zest and juice the lemon. Stir them into the faro, along with about a tablespoon nice wine vinegar. Add salt and a generous amount of pepper.
Chop the parsley and cilantro, and toss in, along with the thyme and chopped green onion. Just before serving, add the nectarines and tomato slices. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella.

This recipe is based on one from 101 Cookbooks, a very favorite recipe site.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A friendly day

Every time I use my little metric food scale (actually, it does ounces too, but most of what I make wants metric), I think loving thoughts of Ana who gave it to me as a gift when I was floundering about in the kitchen after Rebecca moved into her own place, leaving me pretty helpless – cooking wise. On a recent day, Ana was coming to watch movies and knit. I decided to make an almond cake from a David Lebovitz recipe. I used the scale extensively to measure out the almonds, sugar, butter, and flour, and then ground the almonds up my 35 year-old Cuisinart food processor, a gift from my darling daddy. To make almond paste, the almonds needed to be mixed with sugar syrup, cooked to the softball stage. Unlike my mother, I am incapable of doing this without a candy thermometer. The thermometer I used was a gift from John, my gardener. While working on this project, I wore an apron, which was about the same age as the food processor. It was made for me by my then neighbor Mita Markland, long gone to her heavenly reward. When the cake was ready for baking, I put the springform pan on a cookie sheet given to me by Tom. While I was working, I thought of all these people and how lucky and grateful I was to have known them. I fretted because, although Rebecca has given me many cooking items as gifts, I didn’t seem to have used one on this cake. However, I finally realized that she had given me a Japanese knife, and I had used this when cutting the almond paste in half. Additionally, she gave me lots of advice about actually making the almond paste which I had never done before. She advised me to use the recipe in “Joy of Cooking,” so I did. It was delicious, as was the cake. I’m calling this cake a Friendship Cake, because so many of my friends helped make it. Hmmm, I think I will have a piece right now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Fourth of July! It looks like we might have a rainy one here in Seattle!
This picture is of Fourth of July Past - with Tom, Becca, and Margaret.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A relieved day

Rachael and I were ordering new pajamas from LL Bean. I was reading out the numbers, and she was personing (inclusive language for manning) the computer. We made our selections, and got the same pair, but in different colors. She got XX Small for herself. “Get me medium,” I said. “Oh, no,” she advised. “ Get Small. LL Bean has vanity sizing.” “No they don’t,” I said. “LL Bean is a reliable old fashioned company that doesn’t stoop to that sort of thing.” “Yes, they do. Everyone is vain. Remember that horrible huge skirt you just got.” “That was The Vermont Country Store.” “Well, you can’t get much more old-fashioned and reliable than that,” she countered. So I ordered Small. They came, and were lovely. But a little difficult to get on over my bottom, and a little snug when on. Not the best thing for pajamas. I was determined to wear them and to also enjoy them, but it was a struggle. I prayed that they wouldn’t shrink, even a millimeter. Fortunately, they didn’t. But they were sort of a sorrow to me. Yet another reminder of the gradually extending girth. Then, after two washings, I took a closer look at the little bow on the waist of them. Maybe, just maybe, it was not a decorative effect, but an actual tie. I untied it. Oh, happy day!!! My pajamas now fit nicely. I’m pleased every time I put them on. I have to admit that I am vain, and was flattered that LLBean thought I was still small, when I know perfectly well that I have not been genuinely small for many, many years. What a happy mistake. How can one be so silly as to think that a tie doesn’t untie?