Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Birthdayful Day

My mother, God rest her soul, would have celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday, had she still been with us.  But as she was not, we celebrated her centenary ourselves, and were sure that she was with us in spirit.  It seems like months ago that we prepared a gala 90th birthday party for her.  She attended that one in the flesh, and had a great time. 
As usual, Rebecca was the chef du jour, and I was the assistant.  The day previous, I cleaned, set the table, shopped, and baked a cake per her instructions (recipe here on her fabulous food blog.)  Then in the morning, I fetched her and we shopped some more, trying to find pine nuts at a better price than  the stunning $39 a pound, which they were at our first stop. I was the one with the credit card, so I naturally balked at the price, despite the fact that we only needed half a cup.  We went to another likely source, PFI, and were happy to see that they were $24 a pound.  I fear that this would not have made me at all happy had I gone there first, but the initial shock had inured me somewhat.  While searching for our pine nuts, we found many other delicacies which we absolutely needed, and spent more than we would have if we had gotten them at the original market.  Becca found some pickled mango (mango is my top favorite food thing), and she was sure it would be just the ticket.  When we got home, we opened the jar and she tasted it.  Her face fell.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “I thought it would be good.”  Feeling that anything with mango in it had to be at least okay, I tasted it. “Maybe in very small portions, next to my pilaf,”  I said sadly.  But I think that despite the fact that it tastes more of salt than of mango, it really will be nice mixed into a lovely pilaf.

We prepared vegan lasagna, with Margaret assisting in the making of the noodles.  Happily for our guests, she is too old to give as much help as she wanted to.  Despite Margaret’s help, the lasagna was delicious.   I made a grapefruit and fennel salad, once again with Becca supervising.  Margaret was less interested in that.  

It was a fun party, and I am looking forward to celebrating her next centenary 100 years from now. 

There was another milestone birthday for the Twins! All the best to them on their big day!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Pleasant Day

Holy Week and Easter Sunday are over for another year.  I am heaving a sigh of both relief and regret.  Relief because it is all so much work, and regret because it is all so wonderful.  The sudden transition from joy to profound sorrow on Palm Sunday, is reversed a week later, when the darkness of Good Friday gives way to the golden light of Easter.  The Easter Vigil service starts with the lighting of the Easter fire and the Pascal Candle from which the other candles are lit. The church is in total darkness, and then lit only by the candles of the faithful – and these are extinguished for the readings.  It is very dark, very mysterious, and a little scary if your role requires that you move from place to place. The service lasts about three and a half hours, but with the wonderful stories, the chanting of Psalms, and the triumphant entry of the newly baptized, the time flies by.  I stagger home well after midnight, exhausted, and dread coming back at the crack of dawn for more of the same.  But every year, energy is rekindled as  I process with the choir through the Great Ceremonial Doors, singing “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.” It is like a burst of glorious light and glorious music as we enter the cathedral.  This year, I could not even sing, I was so moved by the beauty of it all.  

Here is Maria, preparing the altar for the Easter Vespers Service, and Maria, Corinna, and Dan taking a breather between the many events of the day. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A day at the beauty salon

Rebecca made a special visit to help me give Margaret a manicure.  I need help for two reasons.  The main thing is that Margaret is not very cooperative.  She needs the distraction of someone other than the manicurist restraining her and constantly waving a treat before her eyes.  Otherwise, she squirms, snarls, and makes desperate bids for freedom.  The other reason is that I need moral support.  The first time we did her fingernails, we cut into the quick, which went an abnormally long way into the nail.  This totally shattered the three of us (me, Becca, and Margaret herself.)  I had cut many dog fingernails, and Margaret’s were really unusual.  So, when again needed a trim, Becca and I took her to the groomer to have it done.  He was confidence itself, and scoffed at our fears and warnings.  After about two nails into the procedure, both Rebecca and his grooming table were bespattered with blood. He admitted that we were right, didn’t charge us, and hinted that we should never come back.  So Margaret’s nails grew unchecked, until she began to look like a little Mandarin.  Still, we were afraid to cut them.  Then, I took her to the vet for some other thing, and she (the vet) recoiled in horror when she saw Margaret’s disgusting fingernails.  She (the vet again) whipped out her clippers and snipped them right off.  No blood!  Had Margaret’s nails become normal in her old age?  Maybe.  Still we were afraid.  The next time she went to the vet, (this time the vet was a he)  he clipped them again with no problem.  That was some time ago, and now they were getting long again.  Margaret was healthy and didn’t need to go to the vet, so we decided to give her manicure another try.  With the Kwik Stop at hand,  Becca held her and offered constant treats while I snipped away. I cut them very gingerly, and not very short. Hurray!  No blood.  Then, since we were set up for our beauty shop, I gave Becca a haircut.  Margaret was jealous so we gave her a trim also.  She quickly lost her enthusiasm, and once again needed the distraction of continuous treats.  Or do you think she might have been putting one over on us, and been acting badly on purpose to get some snacks?  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An Uncertain Day

I’m not sure what sort of day it was.  It had its ups and downs.  I had invited Dakki for breakfast.  “Not too early,”  she warned. 
“What time would be good then?” I asked  She is definitely not an early riser. She thought eleven would do.  I called the evening before and left a reminder message. Eleven came. Eleven-o-five. No Dakki.  The phone rang.  “What time did you say?” she asked.  Grrrrrr!  A Down!
“Eleven,” I crabbily replied. 
“I’ll be there in a few minutes.” 
“What does a few minutes mean?” 
“Yeah, right,” I thought.  “No way!”
At ten after twelve, (that must have been what she meant by “ten,”) she arrived, completely unrepentant.  I never finish any last minute cooking till I see the whites of her eyes, so I quickly fixed us some nice soft boiled eggs to go with our scones, and we had Becca-made marmalade to put on them.  Scones and soft boiled eggs covered with HP Fruity Sauce - one of my favorite breakfasts, and with excellent, though tardy, company.   An Up!
When we were done, I could see that she was here for the long haul, so I decided to give myself a foot soak – something that is too boring to do all alone.  Once I was steeping, I realized that I could be sewing the buttons on my just completed sweater.  Dakki gathered the materials needed, since I was stuck in my pan of hot water, and I triumphantly did the final bit of work in this sweater (Alice Starmore’s Oregon,) which has been brewing since August.  I am pleased with the way it turned out. A big Up! Dakki took pictures, because I knew you would want to see it.  Another Up!
 Then my computer froze!!!!!  I did everything I could think of to thaw it, but it was no go.  A major, major Down.  I thought about making an appointment at the Mac store, but the first day I would have free would be Tuesday. Giant Down.  I looked up the particulars on the Mac store website, and it said you could drop in, but you would have to wait.  Another Down.  I decided to chance it. I drove there and there were no traffic jams. An Up.  When I got to the store, it was filled with customers.  The Mac store seemed to be the place that the elite meet.  A Depressing Down, but then the woman told me I would have to wait ten minutes!  A very big Up.  I had been prepared for the worst with my book and all.  I find that bringing a book almost ensures that the wait will not be long.  Not having a book seems to have the opposite effect.  They fixed my computer in two minutes flat.  I was very happy.  So, as you can see, it was a day with its Ups and Downs.

Incidentally, the music on my car CD player was Hayden string quartets.  On the way to the Mac store, I was thinking, “Why do I usually think this music is so great.  It’s actually pretty annoying.  It sounds like cranky cats.”  On the way home, the same music was exquisite.  Delightfully purring kittens.  Funny how that works!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Dopey Day

 Ana was coming for dinner and a movie.  Most often when she comes, I more or less throw something together at the last minute so that I can do whatever it was that I needed to do during the day.  This time, however, I decided to actually do some cooking.  My menu included a pear and red wine sorbet, a squash and mushroom minestrone, ciabatta, and fruit salad.  None of these items required a lot of fussing-about time, but the bread and the sorbet required sitting-about time.  In other words, I needed to get an early start.   My plan had been to stop at the all-night grocery store on the way home from work, but when I was released from bondage, I was l like a horse on its way back to the stable, mindlessly galloping home, eager for my cup of Ovaltine and my bed.  So, having forgotten to go to the grocery store the evening before, I needed to spring out  of bed the first thing in the morning and go purchase my pears.  I am incapable of genuine springing in the wee ours of the morn, but I did my best and slithered forth  at a somewhat early hour.  Usually, I walk to the store, but since I was in a bit of a hurry, I decided to ride my bicycle – for the first time since autumn.  The last time I rode it, I realized that my usual cool weather attire got caught in the chain, so I carefully selected appropriate clothes.  I made sure I had the canvas totes that would work best in the bike basket.  I checked the tires.  Almost full, but not quite.  They would have to do.  I tested the combination lock to be sure it hadn’t rusted itself together over the winter.  It all checked out, and I was off.  Huffing and puffing, heart racing from the exertion, I arrived at the store, gathered my purchases, and as I approached the checkout line, realized that had forgotten to bring the means to pay.  Aaaaaargh!!!!
I left my selections there in the basket, sadly rode home debating what to do next.  I absolutely was not up for another bike ride uphill with under filled tires.  Walking would make for a really late start.  Margaret suggested that I take the car, and that way she could come and give comfort as we drove along.  Perhaps she engineered the whole thing so she could have an outing. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

An Adventurous Day

Seattle has a somewhat new light rail system, and I had long wanted to test ride it, but never had a reason to, as it doesn’t go anywhere that I ever want to go.  Rachael is a member of the jet set, and has ridden it to the airport several times.  She thinks it is great.  Rebecca and I had been going to take it to the cooking supply store in the SoDo district, but fortunately, we decided to take the car.  Had we taken the train, we would have had a terrible time with all our many purchases.  So instead, we rescheduled our train trip, and decided to go another day to lunch in Columbia City, an attractive Seattle neighborhood to the south.  I have been to the Columbia City library branch, but had I never really walked around the little downtown area.

The initial problem with our train adventure was how to get a ticket.  We climbed aboard on Chinatown, but there had been no obvious way to pay at the station.  Rebecca swiped her bus pass, but I only had bus tickets, as I don’t ride the bus that frequently.  There were no little slots for tickets, money, anything.  Just a place to swipe your pass.  So I did the natural thing, and just got on, bus ticket in hand, hoping for the best.  The best happened and we arrived at our destination without me getting arrested.  As I said, Columbia City is a cute neighborhood, but it is not noted for its fine restaurants.  It does have a popular bakery, but Becca is a vegan, so most bakeries are out of bounds.  We decided to try the promising looking Columbia City Ale House, and we were certainly glad that we did.  Our lunches were très yummissima.  After lunch, replete, we wandered into a used bookstore, and not expecting to find anything we wanted, were again pleasantly surprised to find some knitting books that we absolutely needed.  Odd, because minutes previously, we hadn’t needed any at all.  But things change, don’t they. 

Here are some pictures from our adventure.  Rebecca took the ones on the train.  


Columbia City Train Station lions

PS:  I didn't get arrested on the way home either.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Very Busy Couple of Days

There are two recurrent events in my life which I refer to as The Annual Ordeal.  They have nothing in common except that they both inevitably happen once a year.  The first is the yearly physical check-up.  Other than the fact that I like my doctor a lot, there is little positive that I can say about that one.  The other is my turn to prepare choir treats, i.e., a buffet breakfast for sixty people.  When Rebecca was in the choir, we did it together and it was fun.  She loves to cook, and so she happily engineered the whole thing.  I was the able assistant who did what she was told.  Then later, Tom helped me, and he did what he was told, frequently commenting, “I can’t believe you are going to this trouble.  I never would.”  But he helped me, and working with him was fun.  Now, I have to do it on my own and it is sort of fun and sort of terrible.   On Thursday, Becca came over and reviewed my menu.  “You have too much stuff.  You know how you can never get a bunch of things made on time.  Leave out the cake.”  Discouraging, but pretty accurate.   I did leave out the cake, but later added in cookies.   Rachael visited and helped me fold the spring rolls.  She too looked over my menu, and said, “What are people going to put on the bread?”  “Jam or cheese,”  I said.  “That won’t do at all.  You need hummus.  Bread is no good without hummus.”  A novel concept, but possibly true, so at the eleventh hour (actually more like the eighth hour,)  I added hummus to the list.  I cooked for much of two days, and at midnight the evening before, was in a state of panic.  Everything tasted awful.  The bread tasted metallic.  The fruit tasted like cardboard.  I was too anxious to even want to taste anything else.  The next morning, Noble Rebecca got up at the crack of dawn to come help me transport the food and set up the table.  I was in a state.  It was good to have her company, as well as her help. 
Well, it seemed to be a great success.  I was pleased that my choirmates professed to like everything.  And that Rachael --- she didn’t even taste the hummus!     

Here is a picture of the aftermess, and the few slices of bread which, along with a little hummus, was the only food left.    My appetite restored, I gobbled them up and then set to, washing all those dishes.

And here is my recipe for deviled eggs.  These are a success with everyone except my own family.  They think they are too mustardy, but I think that is what makes them good.  Of course, I am a major mustard fan, and occasionally make myself a mustard sandwich. 

Deviled Eggs
2 dozen eggs, hard boiled*
Mayonnaise, about 1/3 cup
Dijon Mustard, about 1/3 cup (this is the secret ingredient that makes the eggs so delicious)
Capers, a heaping teaspoon
Horseradish, about a level teaspoon
Cilantro or parsley, chopped, about 2 tablespoons
Pepper,  freshly ground, about 1/8 tsp
Sliced olives, cilantro leaves for décor

Halve the eggs and drop the yolks into the food processor bowl.  Arrange the whites on egg plates, or whatever you are going to serve them on. 
Start with about ¼ cup of mayonnaise and an equal amount of Dijon mustard added to the yolks in the food processor.   Process for a few seconds and check the results.  They will probably be lumpy and firm at this point.  Add a bit more mustard and mayo equally, and process for a few more seconds.  You want the yolks to be smooth, and soft enough to pipe onto the whites but firm enough to hold their shape.  Keep adding a little of both at a time until you have the right consistency. 
Add the pepper, capers, horseradish and parsley and/or cilantro.  Process a few more seconds until the yolk mixture is smooth. 
Transfer to an icing bag with a star tip, and pipe onto the whites.  Of course, you can do this with a spoon if you don’t have an icing bag.  But if you don’t have an icing bag, you should get one.  It will make your life much easier, and will make lovelier deviled eggs. 

*With this many eggs, it is a snap to cook them in the pressure cooker.  Cover them with cold water, bring the cooker to full pressure and cook for four minutes.  Quick release the pressure by immersing the cooker in a sink full of cold water, and then cool the eggs themselves in cold water.  The pressure cooked eggs are not only quick to fix, but they always peel very easily.