Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Pleasant Evening

A rare treat -  my friend Eileen came for dinner and a  card game (klabberjass).  More often, we meet for lunch, so this was nicer, from my perspective anyway, because it lasted longer.  Plus, we can’t play cards in a restaurant – at least not the one we usually frequent. 

I served one of my favorite hot day dinners – gazpacho. Every time I make it I think of Woman on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, a very funny movie, in which gazpacho plays a major role. 

Gazpacho – an excellent hot day dinner

1 smallish loaf of crusty bread
2 cloves garlic, sliced
olive oil

2 large tomatoes, peeled
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green and 1 red pepper, chopped
1 purple onion
one big clove of garlic

26 oz can of plum tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp Tabasco sauce (oddly, I didn’t have any, and so used Vietnamese hot sauce)
salt, pepper
bunch of chopped chives

First, make the croutons by cutting the bread into one inch cubes.  Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic. When the garlic is translucent and just beginning to brown, remove it and set it aside.  Sauté the bread chunks until browned in all sides, adding more oil as necessary. Set them aside, with the garlic mixed in.

As you chop the vegetables, put half the tomatoes, half the cucumber, half the peppers, and half the onion in separate bowls.  Put the other half in the blender, along with the clove of garlic.  Add the can of tomatoes  and puree the whole thing. Transfer to a large bowl, and then add the vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  You won’t need much salt, as the canned tomatoes are already salty. Garnish with the chopped chives. 

When you are ready to eat, set out out the chopped vegetables, (each in their separate dishes) and the croutons, to be dished up as accompaniments.  Very easy, and very yummy.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Lump-like Day

Samos and I were both bummed.  I sat around my house all afternoon, feeling guilty that I simply could not summon up the energy to do any of the things I so much needed to do.  I just sat there like a sulking big lump of damp cotton ball.  He sat around his house all afternoon and felt the same.  We decided to try to cheer ourselves up by taking an energizing evening stroll through the Arboretum's swamp walk.  It was so energizing, that while we didn’t actually get lost, we traversed bits that we had never been through before.  I say we didn’t get lost, because that is what Samos kept telling me, but I was the teeniest bit anxious about it.  We even saw naked people strutting about a secluded beachlet. I’ve never seen that in the Arboretum before. (Sadly, no photos – besides, this is a G-rated blog.) We both felt significantly cheered up afterward.  

Historic Carroll's Clock at MOHAI

Samos thought this dog was enjoying himself.  I thought he looked a little apprehensive.  What do you think?

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Day at the Opera

“You didn’t write a review of Porgy and Bess,” Rebecca said.   “It got to be too late,” I answered.  “Besides, what I write isn’t a review.  It’s two sentences about what I thought.”  What did I think?  I went out to lunch with my friend Suzanne today, and she asked if I had gone to Porgy and Bess.  “What did you think?” she wanted to know.  “Oh my God!  It was electric!”  “That’s just what I thought,” she said.   “It was so alive!” I babbled on.  “I have never seen an opera that seemed so vibrant and so immediate. I was astonished.”  “That’s just what I thought,” she said.  She told me that when she saw the opera line-up for this year, and she saw Porgy and Bess on it, she thought, “Ho hum.  The songs are nice, but will it add up to an opera?  But then, whammo!  The best opera in years.  The music was amazing”  “That’s just what I thought,” I said.  Two women thinking the same thing.  The songs in Porgy and Bess seem such a part of us, as Americans, a part of who we are, that we take them for granted.  I think of them as entities in themselves, and not part of a larger organism.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to be totally blown away by seeing them in their proper context. Everything about this opera was perfect  - the singing, the acting, the scenery, and most of all the stupendous music.   I wanted it to go on forever.   "That's just what I thought," we both said. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Serviceable Day

Carmen, Miller, and Margaret

Sunday was an energy-free day for me.  I just couldn’t get moving.  I managed to go to church, and was certainly glad I had roused myself sufficiently, as the service was wonderful, and the Schola Cantorum (the children’s choir) was even more amazing than usual.  In fact, was celestial in the extreme.  The folks in the pew next to me apparently felt the same.  After the choir’s last song, a piece composed specifically for the Schola Cantorum, my neighbor’s mouth was agape.   “Wow!” he gasped.   It really was pretty “Wow!”  I wish all of you could have been there.

Elijah and his Dad

Then I attended another little service in my aunt’s back yard.  It was to commemorate the life of Carmen, a Newfoundland, the furry companion of my friend John, and a great favorite of my aunt. Several neighbors, including Glen and his parents, came to bid farewell to Carmen.  Glen has been barking a “Hello” to Margaret, Becca, and me for years, but now he is slowing down and makes do with a smile and a tail wag.  Jude and Elijah were there with their father, too.  Here Jude gives Glen a loving pat. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A sweaty day

I just noticed that it has been a week since I felt that I had anything blogworthy to say.  Hmmmmm!  I still don’t have anything blogworthy to say.  I have had a pretty humdrum few days lately, mostly because I have had to work a whole extra day this week.  While I love my job, I feel that I spend sufficient time doing it, and any extra is a terrible burden.  Terrible.  On one of my days off, I cleaned, grocery shopped, and did laundry.  All day long  Dull, dull, dull, I know, but somehow, after such a day, I am gratified and happy that things look tidy.  Gratifying, but not interesting.  You don’t want to hear about it, I am sure.  On the other day off, Rebecca and I went on an urban hike to the University District.  This is a pretty long walk, but not too long.  Just right, in fact, and then, as to reward ourselves for our efforts, there are quite a few restaurants to choose from when one reaches the destination.  Usually, Rebecca is ready to start long before I am, and this time was no exception. Plus, we have a deadline of sorts, since Thursday is our Family Kitchen dishwashing day, and we don’t want to be late for that.  So, as too often happens, I overslept, and then stumbled out of bed in a stupor.  I was so late that I had only 1.5 cups of tea.  Big mistake. This is really, really, not enough.  About the time we approached the Volunteer Park wading pool, and I had regaled Becca (for about the thousandth time) with my memories of coming here with my Grandmother when I was wading pool age, and how we had many nice days here with baby Rachael, I switched into heavy whine mode.  It was too hot.  I felt faint from lack of tea.  And dehydrated.  I should have gone to the potty before we left.  It was way, way too hot.  If only I could find a sprinkler and moisten my fevered brow.  Etc.  Becca was stoical about my whining, and feigned suitable sympathy. 

As I trudged and Becca sprang along, we noted the first signs of the approaching autumn.  Falling leaves, profusions of dahlias, and lovely apples.  Are apples the national fruit of Washington?  I think maybe.

As we crossed the University of Washington campus, we found a lawn sprinkler and I wetted myself down.  This improved my mood considerably.  Then at the restaurant, one of my favorites, I gulped down my huge glass of water and half of Becca’s.  She was shocked when she went to take a sip and her glass was nearly empty.  I felt much cheerier, and didn’t whine at all on the way home (by bus, I might add.  It is all uphill all the way.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

A playful day

Geoffrey Tobias now goes by Tobias.  He said he didn’t quite feel up to being called Geoffrey.  He is a most remarkable kitty, unique in so many ways.  Every cat I have ever had, when served his or her meal, has been like a starving sled dog, bolting his food, terrified that some other member of the team might beat him or her to a single bite.  There was yowling every morning as I staggered into the kitchen first thing, and twining and leg rubbing in the evening.  No chance of me forgetting to feed those felines.  The kitty buffet disappeared in seconds.  Tobias, on the other hand, is very casual about his food.  He can take it or leave it.  In fact, he always waits to be seated by the staff (me) before  taking his place. He has his own special dining area, which is well out of Margaret’s reach.  Margaret having no similar food issues, would be happy to quickly finish off anything that he hesitates to gobble up.  He has let me know that his food needs special preparation, part wet, part dry, topped off by a few tablespoons of warm water, and then mixed well.  He watches to see that I fix it properly, but when I set it at his place, he just stares at it until I lift him up and show it to him.  He eats about half, ambles off, comes back to and finishes off the rest within the next hour or so. 

With the usual cat, during meal preparation for humans, all food must be hidden away or covered if the cook is not in the room.  Once I was making frosting roses for Rachael’ s birthday cake and had about thirty of them prepared and laid out on a tray.  I left the room for a minute, and when I came back, Farnaby had taken a taste of every one.  Just like Ramona.  Once my then roommate was making herself a turkey sandwich for her work lunch, and left it unmonitored on the counter while she slipped out of the room briefly.  Farnaby took the turkey out of the sandwich, kept it,  dropped the bread down to Leslie, the cairn terrier eagerly  waiting on the floor below, then ate the turkey himself.  Tobias would never do that.  I leave my cooking unattended all the time, and he has never touched it. 

Maria helping with dinner preparation

All my other kitties have loved their toys.  Maria’s toys have to be hidden from her, or she will play them to death in short order, just as she would a real live mousie.  She quivers with excitement when she sees her pink feather bird-on-a-fishing-pole coming out of the cupboard.  She stalks it, leaps at it, worries it, and won’t let it be for a second.  Tobias, in contrast, can, with a lot of work on the part of his mistress or her guests, be finally roused to show some interest in his red feather snake, but the interest quickly fades.  His Uncle Farney loved his busy balls, but to Tobias, they are a big ho-hum.  I even got him one with a feather attached.  Not interested. 

Imagine my surprise when I was sitting reading at my kitchen table, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him scurrying and leaping about like a little kitten!  What could be happening! I had a huge spider, a left over Halloween decoration, sitting on my radio next to his little breakfast nook (see it in the picture above.)  He had removed it, and was frolicking about the kitchen floor, batting it, chasing it, and having a wonderful time.  He chased it into the next room and back into the kitchen.  The next morning, his spider was gone.  I searched in all the corners and under the furniture, but no spider.  A day later, when I was in the bathroom, I noticed him looking longingly under the vanity cabinet.  There is a small opening in the base of the cabinet, and all that is under there is a family of huge dust bunnies.  Could it be that his spider was visiting the bunnies?  I got a flashlight, struggled down onto my tummy, looked, and there, lurking in the back corner was the spider.  With some effort, I got it out, returned it to him in the kitchen.  What a happy kitty.  What a funny favorite toy. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

A shopping day

As noted previously, the drive to West Seattle is treacherous no matter which route one takes.  My friend Laura, who actually lives there, has also recently documented this.  Rebecca loves going to West Seattle, and I agree that it is a pleasant place, with its cozy downtown, comfy looking homes, and lovely beaches.  But I have a horror of driving there – due to the “fear of the bridge” factor.   So, at her suggestion, we rode the bus for our long overdue outing to visit Littleknits, for me to purchase a gift for a friend, and for Rebecca’s  to buff up her yarn stash.  I was not going to add anything to mine.  Definitely not!  It was a pleasant walk downtown to catch the bus and then an almost stress free ride to our destination.  I had not realized that we would need to go via the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and naturally, as our bus approached the viaduct on-ramp, I had visions of earthquakes with crumbling columns flinging our bus through the air and then to the ground far below, dashing it and us to pieces.  I am happy to report that the earth did not quake as we made our way over the viaduct or the bridge, and I forgot to worry about it on the return trip.  The viaduct was actually so disconcerting that I also forgot to worry about the bridge altogether.  Actually my concerns about the bridge are not about it collapsing, but rather about finding the correct exit ramp.  Seattle exits are all too frequently not marked until it is too late to change into the necessary lane, and since the exits could be either on the right or the left – with no logic to their placement - unless you actually know well in advance where the exit will be, driving can be traumatic.   I finally realized that I didn’t need to worry about this at all, as the bus driver was assuredly familiar with the exit system, but I am just programmed to worry about any trip to West Seattle.

We arrived in one piece – two pieces really, as there were two of us, and were greeted by Louis, one of the world’s sweetest dogs.  I have a horror of having too many knitting projects going – more than one for which concentration is needed to knit at home in private, and another requiring no brain at all for knitting in public –  that is my preferred limit.  Any more, and I feel the ever present Catholic guilt, although why, I couldn’t say, as the idea of knitting being a guilt producer is pretty ridiculous.  Some of us are more guilt ridden than others.  That much is obvious.  I had only entered into temptation’s way because I was purchasing a gift.  I had no intention of buying unneeded yarn for myself.  Indeed I had not.  However, the primary temptation was bright silky yellow shot with deep red.  What a lovely shawlette it would make.  The little angel and devil on the opposing shoulders were there, but the angel was fairly quiescent.  The devil, on the other hand, in the form of the yellow silkiness and Rebecca herself whispering how happy I would be if I had it, she had just the perfect pattern to lend me, etc., were right there tempting me on.  Naturally, I succumbed.  Now I have to force myself even harder to finish my (very long term) current project, a sweater which will be wonderful when finished, but which has become, dare I say it?  Supremely tedious.  I might just have to knit a few stitches to try it out.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Night Out

Well, I have been a lax blogger lately.  I think working at my actual job has taken it out of me.  I usually need a day to recover and it seems like I have been working nearly every other day – or QOD, as we say in the medical world.  Thus, I work a day, stagger through the next day to recover, work a day, recover, and then have to do the whole thing over again.  Just working and recovering.  But earlier in the week, on the National Night Out, I went to the block party of one of my favorite patients ever.  She is a near neighbor and we have several friends in common, but I hadn’t known her until she was my patient a month or two ago, and we just hit it off – or “just clicked,” as she told her friend.  

She invited me to her Night Out block party and I was happy to go.  I had planned to stop in at my more local Night Out party on my way home, but when that time came, I realized that I was ready for bed.  Actually this one was pretty local too – just a short walk to her house.  I was delighted to see my former patient, Mrs. Benton, and her daughter.  As you can see, her neighbors were a very friendly group – both the people and the dogs.  

Mrs. Benton's daughter wore a fabulous tee shirt.  

Even the dogs were super friendly!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

An Unplanned Day

I had been seriously planning to go to a Lutheran Hymnfest at the Cathedral, and had been looking forward to it for at least a month.  Singing hymns is one of my funnest things to do.  Sunday morning, I told my friends at church that I would see them the next evening.  Then Monday morning, with my usual pre-tea stupor and post-work hangover, I lay in bed and planned my day.  I do this every morning, and then when, as usually happens, things don't go the way I had planned, I can get all frustrated and feel inadequate.  As a rule, I plan to do a lot more than I possibly could, so I am doomed to failure from the start.   On that morning, as I planned my day, it seemed like a good day to fix Dakki dinner and watch a movie with her. So I called and asked her to come join me for dinner, and of course she accepted.  Dakki is not one to turn down free food, no matter what the source.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I remembered the Hymnfest!  What to do?  Disinvite Dakki, or bag the Hymnfest.  I didn't really have another available day in the near future to have Dakki, so I decided to stay home and fix a nice dinner.  I had been planning to make a bean entree, from a nice bag of giant white Greek beans that were hiding somewhere in my pantry.  But I had recently rearranged my dried foods so as to foil the mousies who were helping themselves.  Tobias has taken care of them, I am happy to add.  Anyway, I could not find the Greek beans, no matter how hard I looked.. I had a box of  haricots verts and so decided to use them instead.  Unfortunately, I put in too much water and they turned into bean soup.  No problem! Bean soup is yummy (sometimes).    

Our dinner was good, and our movie was better. We watched Otto Preminger's "Bunny Lake is Missing," a rather quirrky Hitchcockian sort of mystery from the early sixties.   I have watched several Otto P films lately, and enjoyed them quite a bit.  While I had heard of this one, I had not heard much.  The title didn't sound too promising, and the review I read was not that enthusiastic  either.  However it turned out to be very enjoyable.  Carol Lynley was the young mother who, days after moving to England, went to pick her child up after the first day at the new school, only to find that Bunny is missing, and no one has seen her.  No one at all!  Kier Dullea plays her handsome but somewhat sinister and overly affectionate brother, Sir Laurence Olivier the suave police inspector, and Noel Coward her amusingly perverted, Chihuahua carrying, alcoholic landlord, owner of an original whip once belonging “to the Master Himself,” the Marquis de Sade, or so he says. As he is being questioned, he asks the Police Inspector if he would be so kind as to give him a few lashes with it.  As the movie progresses, we begin to wonder whether the child, Bunny, has ever existed, as no one,  has seen her – or if she is a figment of her fragile mother’s imagination.

 The next day I was telling Becca about my missing beans, and she walked into my pantry and spotted them immediately.  Grrrr!