Thursday, October 27, 2011

Every year, I look forward to All Saints’ Day, and the Requiem Mass at St. James.  Most often, it is Mozart, but occasionally we sing another setting.  This year, it is Fauré, utterly beautiful, and absolutely comforting.  Mozart’s Requiem leads us through the horrors of hell, past the slobbering, salivating mouth of the lion, into the profound pit of darkness, and finally into the eternal light and the merciful arms of Pie Jesu, but the trip is terrifying.  Fauré, on the other hand, is confident from the beginning that the heavenly light is there waiting for him.  The music is all light and love. 

Many, many years ago, I attended this Mass at St. James, and was looking forward to being exquisitely moved by the beauty of the service itself, and by the silken music of Fauré.  Unfortunately, there was a little old lady sitting behind me, and she was chattering throughout the whole Mass. I will give her the benefit of thinking that possibly she was praying aloud.  However, I doubt that that was it.  She was pretty annoying, to say the least.  During one of the most beautiful and solemn parts of the Mass, I turned around and scowled at her.  She glowered at me, and then popped me on the head with her prayer book.  I tried to shrink into a mere nothing, but I daresay, I failed.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another Fun Day!

Not the Opera House, and also not Pisa!

What is it about operas and dental chairs?  As soon as I lie back into the dentist’s chair, and get all set up with wires, rubber dams, pickers and pokers, and whatever else is needed in my mouth, I am suddenly overcome with  totally irresistible need to sneeze.  Similarly, shortly after I settle into my opera house seat, the overture ends, and an expectant silence ensues as we wait for the singing to start, I am overwhelmed by an uncontrollable coughing fit.  Inevitable and Horrible. 

Armed with cough drops, pre-unwrapped, so as to avoid paper rattling during the program, Rebecca and I made our way to the Opera House for Carmen.  “Not my favorite opera,” I told her.  “In fact, I don’t like it at all.”  “Why not?"she wanted to know.   “The story is so stupid.”  She gaped!  “They’re all stupid stories,” she exclaimed.  “That isn’t usually a problem.” “This is stupid in a different way.  Everyone in it is horrible.  They deserve what they get.”  She was shocked at my callousness.  There have been other operas that were “not my favorites," but when I finally saw them, they were elevated to favorites after all - for example, Bluebeard.  Becca loved to listen to it when she was little, but I thought it was waaaaay too creepy, despite being Bartok, who actually is a favorite.  She had to listen to it when I wasn’t home. But what is too creepy to listen to as you do the dishes, or such like, may be fun in an actual opera.  I could happily listen to Carmen when I was doing dishes, or anything else, for that matter (except sitting there actually watching it,) as long as I didn’t know what was supposed to be happening. The music is wonderful – sing along fun, in fact.  Also in fact, there was an old (very old) fellow sitting right behind us who was doing just that.  We kept hoping that his equally old wife would hush him, but she didn’t. Not an opera enhancing experience.  But sort of cute, and so not as annoying as one might expect.  Years ago, Rachael’s fifth grade put on “Sound of Music,” and a little boy, about four, sitting behind us, lustily sang  along with every song.  I enjoyed him a lot, and wanted to sing along myself, but, of course, didn’t dare.  

So … Carmen is still not my favorite opera!  But on the positive side, I met my friend, the Bantam of the Opera – aka Mary Burt - whose chicken purse I had admired long ago.  It was fun to see her and her beautiful purse again.  

Also not the Opera House, but one of the county buildings I went to on a day of tedious errands.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Weird Evening

As I trudged home from the evening service on Sunday, I was planning the dinner I would fix for myself. My mouth watered as I thought about it! My idea was to slice up an onion, and sauté it till beautifully translucent, add a clove or two of sliced garlic and give that a few turns, and then dump in a bagful of spinach.  In just a couple of stirs, that would be nicely wilted and wonderful.  (I love spinach altogether and in any form.)  When the spinach was nearly ready and nicely salted and peppered, I would plop in an egg and poach it in the spinach with the pan covered so the top of the egg would get cooked more quickly.  Not too cooked though – just still nice and runny – but not too runny.   Mmmmmmmmmm!  I pictured the whole process as I trotted along through the brisk autumn air.  I could not wait, and knew that I could have this ready within minutes of stepping in my door.  And sure enough, I did.  It was so lovely that I debated getting my camera and taking a blog picture.  But no, the light was too dim, and I was too hungry! I sat down, poured myself a nice glass of wine to accompany my meal, and ….. blip ……      No lights.  No lights anywhere. My kitchen was dark as the inside of a cow.  The whole neighborhood was dark as the inside of a cow! What to do?  Eat in the dark? That didn’t sound good, especially with a poached egg.  Those are not darkness friendly.  I managed to find a candle, started my meal, and called my aunt, who lives just around the corner.  She had been in her pantry when the lights went out, and couldn’t find her way out.  She later said that she had somehow made a mental 90° turn without actually making that turn. Hence the confusion.  Our handyman John had come to rescue her, and then cycled off to check out the source of the problem.  Some car had run into a power pole and cut the electricity to a huge swath of Seattle.  John helped Aunt Dakki get bundled off to Aunt Pauline’s, but I opted to stay home and read by candlelight.  As, on the way home, I had been planning my dinner (which was a success, I might add – very tasty), I had also been planning my evening of knitting till the wee hours.  Alas, none of that in the dark!  I read my book by candlelight for an hour or so, and then went to sleep – way too early.  A waste of a good evening.  But at midnight, the light blinked on, so I reset my clock, read a bit, and went back to sleep.  All in all, it was a rather pleasant evening.  It would have been a very sad evening if the lights had gone out about ten minutes earlier, before my egg was nicely cooked.  

Some neighborhood ladies

Since I didn't take pictures of my dinner, I'm giving you some images from my neighborhood, reminiscent of the ingredients of my oeuf florentine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Instructive Day

There are a few items which are requisites of civilized living – or at any rate, of civilized cooking and dining.  I used to speculate as to what, if burgled, I would have to immediately replace.  In my kitchen, it was my Cuisinart food processor.  At that time, I didn’t have a Kitchenaid mixer, so that magnificent tool was not in the running.  Now, I think I use it lots more.  In short, I couldn’t do without it. But, then there are other, more humble  things to consider ……

Ana was coming for dinner and a movie, and for once, I actually had the meal prepared on time.  Just about the time she was due to arrive, I had everything ready - even Margaret and Tobias were fed and Margaret had gone potty – and I was about to open a bottle of wine.  I turned, and somehow my sleeve got caught on the corkscrew.  It fell onto the floor and into its three pieces, and went scuttling across the room.  I found two of the parts, but could not find the third, and the most important, part.  Margaret offered to help, but the two of us were flummoxed.  It was nowhere.  I got out a flashlight and looked under the stove and the refrigerator.  Nothing! I looked in my “things drawer,” for a spare, but apparently, I only had the one.  How can one possibly have dinner if one does not have a corkscrew?  Ana arrived, and was horrified at our dilemma.  We could not have wine with our meal without a corkscrew!  We had a moment of silence, and both prayed to St. Anthony to help us find the corkscrew.  Being a Catholic, and an Italian Catholic at that, he would certainly understand the absolute necessity of this little bit of plastic and metal.  Sure enough, as soon as we had prayed, I looked under the refrigerator again, and there, among the dust mice, was the rogue corkscrew.  We thanked St. A, and sat down to a very nice meal of barley soup (the first of the season,) and a pear salad – also the first of the season. 

My little corkscrew is a bit of a miracle.  It works every time, and pulls that cork straight out.  I first read about it years ago in some cooking magazine (probably Gourmet,)  and as I always had cork pulling troubles, I rushed out and got one.  Given its plasticness and unimpressive looks, it was sort of expensive, but it was altogether worth it.  As my father was a lover of both wine and gadgets, I got him one for a Christmas present that year.  I could tell that, when he opened his gift, he was shocked that I had gotten him such a humble present.  But when he opened the bottle of wine for dinner, his face lit up.  “This is really nice,” he said.  “I can see why you knew I would like it.”  Vindicated by technology!  This was probably thirty years ago, when hot technology consisted of such things.  Incidentally, I got Pauline one too, and we both are still using the same ones all these years later.  I am now thinking that maybe I had better invest in a backup, just to avert some future dinnertime disaster.  

Very Basic Pear Salad   

For the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon rice vinegar,
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard,
3 tablespoons olive oil,
salt and pepper

For the salad,

2 ripe pears, peeled and sliced,
a nice bed of rocket,
a sprinkling of walnuts, and
a sprinkling of broken feta.

Very Qwik-N-EZ! 

Thoroughly mix the vinaigrette ingredients.  Artistically lay the pear slices on the bed of rocket, pour the vinaigrette over them, and sprinkle on the walnuts and feta.  So simple!  So yummy!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Clean sheet day

Rebecca and I both agree that one of the most delightful moments of the day is that longed for one in which we finally slips between the sheets with our arduous diurnal travails behind us.  A bit of reading, a bit of knitting, and then peaceful oblivion, snuggled next to the kitty and pup.  And the most delightful moment of the week is when one slips between freshly laundered linens – as yet unsullied by man (in this case, woman,) or beast.  The anticipated ecstasy of this moment was something Rachael could not (or would not) grasp.  She could not understand why I would be so irked when I changed all my bed linen, went out – usually to choir practice, as Thursday is my bed changing day and also choir practice evening – and then came home expecting this wonderful “clean sheet moment,” only to find her hot sweaty little self in a tangle of my sheets and blankets, my bed now a rumpled mess and absolutely not the crisp, lovely arrangement I had left.  At first, she argued against the delight of clean sheets – why was I so finicky, what was the big deal, and why should I feel that it was a treat just for me.  Well, I countered, it was after all, my bed.  She had her own bed and I never mussed it up.  Then when she felt that these arguments were no longer viable, she feigned ignorance, claiming that she could not possibly know when my sheets were clean, (and, once again, what was the big deal anyway?)  So I made a little laminated sign that I put out on the bed every clean sheet day.  She often missed this --- once her contacts were out, she couldn’t see… etc, etc, etc.   Aaaargh!  Her bed was very nice, and in the summer, much cooler than mine, but mine seemed to have irresistible charms. 

Once, years ago, after a really, really horrible evening at work, I came home at midnight, desperate for the solace of my bed.  I flipped back the covers, only to find that Leslie, my darling cairn terrier had crawled under the covers and thrown up potatoes on the sheets.  I got hysterical, really hysterical.  Rebecca, noble girl that she is, got up, came in and totally changed the linen on my bed while I sobbed in the corner.  Finding Rachael in my bed was no where near this.  In fact, I was often happy to find her there, just not on clean sheet night. 

Now that she has moved into her own apartment, I miss her often and wish she were her with her interesting prattle and good company.  But on clean sheet night, I always give a little sigh of relief that Rachael will not be in my bed when I get home, and Margaret is too old to get up on it and mess it up until I assist her.  There will be virginal sheets, clean and untainted by any occupation but mine.   Aaaaaaaah!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Serendipitous Day

It seems as though at the onset of every autumn, and again every spring, I am blasted into submission by a dreadful cold.  This year is, sadly, no exception.  I am hideous to behold – pink, damp, and dripping.  In short, a soggy lump.  I had a date with John, my handyman helper, to vacuum out the furnace ducts so that when I finally turned on the heating, my house would not be suffused in a cloud of dust, spiced with the occasional mouse poop.  When John showed up yesterday, vacuum in hand, he took one look at me and said, “Not a good day, huh?”  “Let’s try tomorrow,” I pleaded.  Tomorrow came, only when it did, it was, of course, today, and I didn’t feel much better.  What the heck, I thought.  It won’t take that long.  In the immortal words of Tom Stratman, “Yeah, right!”  In order to do one of the vents, we had to move the China cabinet, and in order to do that, I had to take everything out of it.  And it is full to the brim with my fragile glassware, serving plates and bowls. I opened it up, removed a stack of dishes, came back to get more, and my heart nearly stopped.  A huge grey thing leapt out with a jingle jangle of clattering crockery and a frightened “Meow.”  Why do cats so love to get into these places?  And then why do they not stay long enough to let you take their picture?  Once we moved the China cabinet, we were confronted with a very furry wall, (not a cat this time,) and I was rather embarrassed.

In order to do another vent, we had to move a shelf that holds my pots and pans.  In order to do that, I had to move all my house plants and a huge bunch of heavy cast iron cookware. Yuck!  But when we moved the shelf in the kitchen, quelle horreur! The wall behind it had on a thick dust bunny coat, and  the floor – well, I don’t even want to describe it.  Horrible!   This time, I did not even think of taking a picture. Then…. once everything was cleaned up, I had to put it all back.  All this on a day which I had planned to spend sulking in bed! 

There were major plusses to the day, though.  It makes me happy when I have cleaned the house, and this was at least part of the house cleaned.  And then, I found several little forgotten treasures.  One was a card I had gotten for Becca when she was a wee one.  She had to have several teeth extracted, and afterward was sick – very sick.  While Dennis stayed with her, I cycled off the store to get her prescription, and a little sick-day present.  At the gift store, I found this card.  The astonishing thing was that the wall paper was the same, the quilt was the same, and the table was the same – just like the bed my little mousie girl was recovering in.  It was amazing - just like at tiny portrait of actual her.  So finding this was a happy moment, a memory of my darling girl when she was tiny (sort of tiny, anyway,) and thought that everything I did was wonderful.  She knows better now.

So, on furnace duct cleaning day, pleasant things come to light and make the horrible day a little bit worthwhile. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Another fun day

On Thursdays, Rebecca and I often have a fun outing before we go to Feed the Hungry at the Cathedral Kitchen in the late afternoon.  This week, I had a ton of stuff to do in the morning, and she had something to do in the far northern reaches of town, so we decided to meet for lunch at the Tamarind Tree after our tasks were done. We both were in the mood for some wonderful Vietnamese delicacies. 

The day was perfectly lovely, so we opted to eat on the patio.  Our food arrived, and it was beautiful, as well as hyper-delicious looking.  My tummy smiled!  “This is the best restaurant in the world,” I contentedly said.  “Don’t you think?”  “Well," she answered doubtfully, “I guess it depends on your criteria.”  I said that my criteria were, “wonderful food, a pleasant ambience, friendly staff, inexpensive, and accessible.”  By accessible, I meant that we could walk there, and if no time to walk, then there is parking. She still looked a little skeptical.  “Well, what do you think is the best restaurant in the world?” I countered.  “The Canterbury,” she said.  Seeing my stunned look, she said, “I really like to go there.”  I agreed that it was a fun place to go.  “Of course,” she said, “ the food isn’t that good.” 

So much for what I thought would probably be the sine qua non of the world’s best restaurant.