Saturday, November 26, 2011

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, for which, of course, I am thankful. There was none of the delightful acrimonious drama that one so often reads about in the advice columns. No one misbehaved, there were no ill feelings.  But then, there never is, as we all pretty much love one another.  There is occasional drama, as the time, years ago, when my grandfather went to the bathroom which is on the back porch, and accidently locked himself out of the house.  No one missed him for quite a while.  When someone finally did, and went to let him in, he was sputtering with rage. Another time, my mother said that she was too hot, so Dakki suggested that she take her clothes off, and she did.  Not quite all of them, of course, but enough of them to seriously embarrass her daughter.  There was none of that this year, but it was a fun, lively gathering nonetheless.  

Rachael, Dakki, and Patten

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

St. Cecilia's Day

“Oh Heaven forbid!  I forgot to bring the dips!  Is there time to go home and get it before practice starts? NO!!!  Horrors!”  With that, I woke up from my nap, grateful to realize that it was only a dream, choir practice was not about to start in fifteen minutes, and I had not forgotten the dip.  We were having a St. Cecilia’s Day party during the rehearsal, and my friend Martha had volunteered to cater the event, with a little help from me.  I was making my favorite cookie recipe (actually, one of my many favorite cookie recipes, as I am a tremendous fan of nearly all cookies,) veggies, and two dips. 

A while ago, Rebecca invited the Aunties to dinner, and prepared many delicacies, but the hit of the evening was the French salad dressing she made to put on iceberg lettuce.  She selected this because Dakki is such a culinary stick-in-the-mud, and usually only likes things she has eaten since the age of three.  This dressing seemed pretty retro, and therefore likely to appeal to her.  But surprise!  We all loved it, and gobbled up the entire batch.  It was one of the best salad dressings I ever ate, zippy and zingy, but not overly so. I thought it would make a nice vegetable dip, but in its salad dressing form, would be too messy.  So I increased the cornstarch to thicken it up, and voila!  A very successful dip.

You can find the original recipe here.  I increased the cornstarch to 1.5 tablespoons, and this produced a nice thick, but not too thick dip, which stuck to the vegetables without dribbling down one’s front.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Make-Ahead Day

Several months ago, I got a fabulous new rice cooker.  Rebecca had been carping on the inadequacy of the one I had, and singing the virtues of the one she had.  I had to admit that I was a little jealous of hers, but was feeling a certain defensive attachment to my relatively new, but seemingly antediluvian model.  All it did was cook rice!  What good is that!  Before she goes to bed, Rebecca sets hers up to have a nice oatmeal porridge breakfast ready when she has finished her bath and is ready to eat it in the morning.  Before she goes to work, she tells it to have her dinner ready when she arrives home.  No matter what sort of rice she is preparing, her rice cooker knows just what is needed. I think the kicker might have been perfectly cooked polenta.  How can one argue against that?  Finally, I no longer could, and so I gave in and got one.   I had planned to tell you all about it at the time.  I prepared something luscious and beautiful, and  took pictures.  And then I got distracted and onto something else, so you missed out on the rice cooker news flash.

Brown rice made in the new cooker - a success!

I made lovely brown rice (always a challenge in my old one), and some great polenta (not even possible in the old one,) but I had yet to try out its spectacular “having-dinner-ready-when-you-get-home” function.  The time had  come!  On Sundays, I sing with the Women’s Schola at the 1730 Mass, and when I get home, I am usually totally knackered and hungry as a wolf.  Knowing that when I arrived home, if there was nothing ready, I would eat something awful just to quickly fill the void, I decided to have some yummy oat porridge ready on my return.  I used Rebecca’s recipe and put in an apple, a banana, and some raisins.  It was a wonderful thing to come home - tired, bedraggled, and starving - to find this repast waiting. 

Delightful Dinner Oatmeal

The next week I had polenta and some roasted vegetables waiting.  What a delight.  Almost like having a cook preparing a meal while you are out.  Another day, I made porridge again, this time with blueberries.  Purple oatmeal!  Not very photogenic, but delicious.

As you can see, I am not one who requires breakfast food in the morning and dinner food in the evening. I think apple pie, pizza, or left over Chinese food make an excellent breakfast, and scrambled eggs or oatmeal make an delightful dinner.  

First rice prepared in new cooker
PS.  The above oatmeal is made from steel-cut oats.  I wrote about making oatmeal with rolled oats several years ago.  You can read that  here.  As you can see, I am a great fan of oatmeal.  Odd, since in my youth, the only way I liked oats was in a cookie.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Beautifying Day

Every time my home phone rings, I get a little nervous, wondering who it is, and if it is ringing to alert me to some disaster.  This fear stems from the time my parents began to get very frail, and it too often actually was someone from their residence calling to alert me to some new problem.  Now that my parents have earned their heavenly reward, and thus there are no more calls from Exeter House, and since most people call me on my cell phone,  I still worry.  The only folk who call me on that phone are the aunties , and one has to worry about them at least a little, or my job asking why I am not there (fortunately, I only get this call about once every five years when I, or more often, they, have somehow mixed up my schedule)– or could I pleeeeeese come in and work extra.  I get this call fairly frequently. Being a girl who can’t say no, I always wait for the answering machine to tell me who it is and what they want before I answer.  That way, I don’t have to say that, no, I can’t work extra.  I just consider a moment, decide I really don’t want to work extra, listen to them plead, and then say nothing at all.  So I was being my usual cautious self when the call came from my favorite grocery store.   I had won the drawing for a gift certificate!  The certificate would be for the amount of the money  that my receipt (the drawing ticket) said I had saved.  Well, thanks to my friend Marta (not the Marta with the blog on my sidebar, but a different Marta, also in my choir), I had saved quite a lot.  I often meet her there, especially after church on Sunday, and we sometimes go through the aisles together.  This Sunday, she pointed out a facial cream which she had tried and liked.  Its original price was $56, but at fabulous Grocery Outlet, it was only $6! 

What a bargain! She suggested I try it, I could not resist, and so I bought some.  At her suggestion, I also got these facial masque treatment things (60¢ each) to try as well. She had purchased one the week before, but not tried it out yet. I thought that perhaps I could transform myself from an old hag into a sparkling young beauty!  Rebecca and I gave it a go, and found it a little messy.  Also a little difficult to drink one’s tea without getting a sip of face goo along with the tea.  I used a straw, but Becca gave up on tea and just waited.  She didn’t do tea with a straw.  Not hot tea anyway.  Mine, being cooled with a judicious dollop of milk, was tepid enough to sip up like a nice ice cream soda. 
After our beauty treatment, we went to Grocery Outlet to collect my prize.  I told her I would get her a present with my winnings, but all she got was a jar of peaches and another of olives.  I would never be so restrained if my mom were treating. 

P.S. Still an old hag.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yet Another Grateful Day

Every “semester,” our choir has a “Men Only” Sunday and a “Women Only” Sunday, giving everyone one Sunday off.  I love to go to Mass on Men’s Sunday, because it is one of the rare times I can truly appreciate the beauty of the choir, even if only half of it is singing.  Often, the men are joined by the astonishing Schola Cantorum, the St. James children’s choir, and sometimes by an orchestra (or perhaps an orchestralet, as was the case today.)  Given the whole daylight savings business, and that I worked the evening before, and had to work again that evening, I decided to not set my alarm, but to strive to wake up on time naturally.  At some ungodly hour my phone rang, and my first thought was, “It’s not really Men Only Sunday, and someone is calling to see why I am not at choir practice.”  I looked at the caller ID and it was Rachael, making this an even more likely possibility, as she is not an early morning girl, except by extreme necessity.  I looked at the clock.  If I were going to make it to church on time, I would have to leap out of bed right that minute, and scurry around like a dervish – getting dressed and feeding the furry folk with lightening speed.  But I just could not stir.  I lay there and lamented my laziness, but still could not move.  When I finally did emerge and stumbled down to make my tea and reset the clocks, I got a glorious surprise.  I had mistaken the way Daylight Savings Time works, and it was TWO hours earlier than I thought it was.  Hurrah!  Now I was able to dash around, feeding and pottying everyone, and getting dressed.  The morning was autumn-glorious, all scarlet and golden, and when I got to church, the service was as exquisitely beautiful as ever, but the music….   It was divine.  As children and the men sang Kyrie from Haydn’s St. Nicholas Mass, I had to fight back tears.  Later in the Mass, as they sang the Biebl Ave Maria, I surrendered and gave up the fight altogether.  We who go to St. James are certainly blest in our wonderful parish!

It was difficult to get good photos unobtrusively, and these were the best I could do.  

A Day Full of Gratitude

Wow!  What an amazing surprise!  My birthday packet from my friend Sabine arrived a day or two late, so I saved it for the perfect moment to open it – a leisurely moment with a cup of tea and a friend to share my pleasure. I was astonished at its wonderfulness, which you cannot really appreciate from the picture.  And…. one of the best things – A  Verena sock magazine, an annual favorite, is not even in the picture, because I had it on my bed to read and forgot to put it back in the box for the photo shoot.  Thank you again, Sabine!  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A catty day

I mentioned to a friend at work that I had a  blog, and he asked, “Oh, are you one of those people who write blogs about their cat?”  I hesitated.  “Well, maybe a little.”  But I am sure you are all interested in Tobias’s doings.  Here he is being adorable.  

 And here he is being a little naughty, sitting in my drawer, pretending not to notice me glaring at him, wanting him to move along so I can close the drawer.