Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Sewing Days

Whipping the cream in Christmas Past

My family has many Christmas Dinner traditions, some so subtle that we don’t actually recognize them as traditions until they don’t happen.  One such was my mother causing a scene of some sort.  I miss this one sadly.  Sometimes I was humiliated, sometimes amused, sometimes annoyed, but never bored by her antics.  Another is the to-do over the whipped cream.  Yet another is that the person whipping the cream wears The Apron. My aunt Pauline made this apron  close to (or possibly even more than) fifty years ago for my Uncle Bill.  It was her own design, and everyone loves it.  Whoever is overseeing the turkey, making the gravy, (or whipping the cream,) usually wears it while he (at least it is usually “he” as she has many sons) is momentarily king of the kitchen. Recently my cousin Tim was visiting his mom, preparing a treat - in the apron, of course - and reminiscing about a visit from Uncle Tim, my Uncle Bill’s brother. Four year old Timmy had gotten up first, and come down to the kitchen were Uncle Tim was about to fix an “Uncle Tim fry-up.”  He said he would show Timmy how to make breakfast, and folded the apron so that it actually fit Timmy, and they cooked breakfast together.  Pauline told him that since he loved the apron so, he could take it home.  Tim was thrilled – so thrilled that his wife Michaella put a picture of him happily cooking in the apron on Facebook. 

This did not sit well with other traditionalists, and to avoid hurt feelings, Tim sadly brought the apron back so it could return to its status as “pro tem crown of the current kitchen king.” 

Pauline, seeing Tim’s disappointment, decided to reproduce the apron.  We traced out a pattern, made a trip to the material store, and spent a couple of fun days sewing it up.  What a success it was.  There were quite a few moist eyes around the table when Tim opened his gift.  Now Tim and  his family can wear the new apron at his house for the next fifty years at least, and all the brothers can continue to wear the old one when visiting their mother.  

Joe modeling the old and Tim the new aprons

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day

Christmas Cards

I am having a very lazy Boxing Day, recovering from Christmas. I think that is what Boxing Day is really all about.  For several days, my car was locked in my garage and I couldn’t get at it, so I walked, walked, walked to church about a zillion times – through driving rain and bitter cold, and with not that much time in between for sleeping.  Sort of driving and sort of bitter and only five times, an so not too terribly dreadful after all.  I just love to complain.  The singing, while stressful and energy sapping, was wonderful, and the family event was fun too.  No one acted up (actually there was only that danger from one person – the oldest one there, who should know better, but sometimes doesn’t.) 

This morning I was going through one of my gifts, looking for some chocolate that I knew was in the package, and realized I had missed one of my best presents which had been artfully hidden in the tissue paper.  Brilliant little Skat card ornaments, made by my wonderful Skat companions.  Are they not the sweetest?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas!

I'm wishing a Happy and Blessed Christmas to all my wonderful blogfriends!  And incidentally, a Happy New Year too.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Slightly Horrible Day

Fixing it up.  Isn't it lovely?

By now, probably everyone who reads this blog has already heard me complain about my day on Sunday.  And heard, and heard, and heard. And doesn’t want to read about it now.  But, there might be someone who hasn’t, so here I go!  As I said, it was Sunday, so, after working till midnight the evening before, I drug myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to get ready for church. (At this time of the year, that may not be much of an exaggeration.  Dawn comes pretty late.) I had my tea, got dressed in my Sunday best, gathered my choir materials and keys, and was just having a final sip cup of tea when I heard, “Drip, drip, drip.”  “One of my roof gutters must be clogged,” I thought.  “The rain is dripping onto a window sill or something.”  I pondered this for a moment or so, and then realized that it wasn’t raining.  Yikes!  I went downstairs to my basement, and found the floor covered with water.  Once again,  I attributed the drip to rain.  This was not totally unreasonable, as it had been raining ferociously for several days.  Then I saw water spewing forth from my wonderful new(ish) water heater.  Aaaargh!  I called Dan the Plumber, who had put in the water heater, and I fear that he was still in bed. He told me how to turn everything off – the water heater and the water.  Actually, the heater had already turned itself off.  I had tried to turn off the water before calling, but was trying in the wrong place.  He quickly got dressed and was there in a flash!  I had to miss choir, and feared that I was going to have to miss work as well, since Dan the Plumber worked on it for hours, leaving at one point to go to the hardware store to get a part.  I kept calling the nurse staffing office with updates, and given that they were short of nurses that day, they were as interested in getting it fixed as I was.  And I was mentally calculating the huge plumbing bill that was growing more huge by the minute.  When it was finally fixed, just in time for me to get ready for work, wonderful Dan said that there would be no charge. “Warranty work,” he said. We argued about this a bit, but he was adamant.  Am I ever lucky to have such a great fellow to do my plumbing!

Putting the water heater in three years ago. Isn't the old one horrible?
So what started as a horrible day, ended up a mixed bag of a day, but mostly a good one. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Shopping Day

“I’m a little embarrassed about one of my purchases,” I told one of my favorite checkout ladies at my favorite grocery store.  Her eyes lit up, and she eagerly looked through the contents of my grocery cart.  When she saw what I was buying, she was visibly disappointed, but agreed that it was a necessary purchase, and only the tiniest bit embarrassing.  Then she happily told me of other patron’s far more embarrassing purchases, often hidden deep down under heads of lettuce and bags of apples. We could hardly stop shrieking with laughter, and got jealous stares from other clientele and employees.  Sorry, but this is a G-rated blog, so I can’t fill you in. Hint: it was not an incontinence product. That would no doubt embarrass me, but one would just have to get over it.  What in the world could be embarrassing from Grocery Outlet?  Well, these super tacky leopard print reading glasses are a little embarrassing, but they only cost $2, and I will wear them only in the privacy of my own home, and I am, of course, a consenting adult, so it’s okay, despite how hideous they are.  Hideous but sort of cute!

The real embarrassment? Well, I've been reading lately that chocolate is good for you in so many ways, so I decided to get some for medicinal purposes.  And why go half way? I went whole hog.  Yum!

Such weakness!  I feel like a piggy.  Sooo embarrassing!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Lost Day

View from Queen Anne.  You can see an identical picture here.

I woke up still contented after the lovely dinner with The Twins on Queen Anne Hill at the fabulous Five Spot.  After dinner, we walked off a bit of our dessert, toiling up this humungous  flight of stairs (Queen Anne is full of flights of stairs,) to our parking spot, from which we drove around to some of the Queen Anne hot spots. 

We looked for St. Ann’s church, where once, in my mother’s youth, her underpants had fallen off as she came out of Mass.  She daintily pretended nothing was happening, stepped out of them and walked on. We have long wondered what the sexton thought when he found them.  My mother was always perfectly turned out, in beautiful clothes, but, needing to be economical somewhere, she wore her underwear until it was barely hanging on by the last thread.  Some economies can lead to trouble.

But how was the day lost?  After getting a new computer (several years ago) I tried to load my Skat game into my computer, and was unsuccessful.  So instead, I played Bridge with a computer character trio, and had been happy with that.  Suddenly, I was desperate to play Skat, and gave uploading it another go.  Finally I realized where I had gone wrong, and got it working.  I play with a couple of mousies, whom Rachael long ago named Rachael and Lillian. They nearly always win, and I am thrilled to win even a hand.  Winning an entire game would be out of the question.  These mice are smug, sarcastic little girls who tell me, if I lose a hand in the final trick, something like, “Kurz vor dem Locus in die Hose gegangen” (“Oops! Went in the pants right in front of the bathroom door!")  Or, when I lose earlier in the hand, “Der Ofen is aus!”  (The oven is out!)  They always have something triumphant to say when they win a hand, but never notice on the few occasions when I do.  Anyhow, they are sadly addictive, and I spent much of a potentially productive day playing with them. 

Later, when I went to the Cathedral Kitchen to help feed the hungry, I found that someone had made some super delicious fudge.  There went a weeks worth of healthy dieting.  In minutes.  Later, at choir practice, I found that a song I had thought was easy, and hence had not practiced, was not easy at all.  I should have been working on that instead of playing cards with mice. 

Oh well, my lost day was a fun day, so I am not too upset about it. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Another Busy Day

Nothing to do with today's post, but a nice picture of the Seattle Art Museum camels

Several years ago, I had a patient, a very nice somewhat elderly (i.e, older  than I) man as a patient.  He was fumbling about with his cell phone, and obviously didn’t know how to use it.  I'm sure that I didn’t say, “How can you possibly not know how to use your cell phone?” because I absolutely understand how one can not know how to use one’s cell phone.  But somehow, an explanation seemed, to him at least, necessary.  He told me that it was a new one and he hadn’t quite mastered it yet.  He went on to further explain that he had recently washed his old one in the washing machine.  Now I understand how a cat can accidentally get in the dryer, but….   He said that he has a pair of those pants with lots of pockets – just the type I was gardening in (today, not then, of course.) He had gone through his pockets, before washing them, but apparently not well enough.  I thought of that man today.

I had been out planting bulbs in the rain.  I had debated about what to wear, and then decided that as it was laundry day, I would just wear the pair of pants I had on, the one pair I have that fits, and then do the laundry.  I planted my bulbs and felt very industrious and virtuous to boot, and came in, all muddy, to take a shower and do the laundry.  First, as it was “clean sheet day,” I washed the white, and then the dark.  I didn’t really have enough dark for a load, but I went around the house looking for semi-dirty things to wash.  Somehow, that assuages my guilt about a half full load of washing.  Later, as a reward for all this activity, I made a cup of tea and settled down with my book.  I realized I needed to text a friend, and reached into my pocket (of my second favorite pants, which don’t fit,) for my phone.  My heart sank.  It was that feeling when a sudden realization makes your stomach feel as though it is dropping with a clunk down deep into your lower innards.  How could I be so stupid?  Then I looked over to where I had been when I took off my pants for my shower, and there they were, hanging over the chair where I had slung them.  I realized that I had been really stupid, and gathered up that pile of colored clothes and washed them, totally forgetting to put in the main thing I had wanted to wash!  My cell phone was safe!  Sometimes too much efficiency can be a bad thing.

Likewise, only a pumpkin instead of camels

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Traumatic Couple of Days

The one incident-free item on the menu.

Do you ever have days when things just go wrong and go wrong and go wrong?  You think, “Well, I can’t imagine what else could happen!” and then you immediately find out.  I’ve had terrible battery karma lately.  First my glow in the dark alarm clock batteries went.  The clock required AAA’s and fortunately, I had two (antiques, I later realized.)  I put them in, and was pleased with myself for being so efficient.  The batteries lasted a grand total of two days.  Fortunately, this was not an emergency, as I have a little phalanx of (non-glow in the dark) clocks in my bedroom, all poised to make sure I get out of bed on time on Sunday mornings. However, later that evening, the batteries on my furnace thermostat went out.  I opened it up, confident that with my supply of various sizes of batteries, this would be no problem.  However, guess what!  AAA’s again!  It seems like not that many things take this size, so that made it also seem like the battery gods were aligned against me.  And this time it was more of an emergency, as with no thermostat, there would be no heat, and it was getting pretty cold. I joggled the batteries around a bit, giving a small boost to their lease on life, and then the next day, Margaret and I forged out through the winds and rains, battling the elements to get the necessary electrical gear.  I hoped that that would be that, battery-wise!  But such was not to be.

I was baking bread and a cake for my dinner with The Twins, and as I was using my wonderful electric scale to measure out the 500 gm flour for the bread, I was thinking that it seemed like an awfully lot of flour.  Then, I measured out the various dried fruits for the cake.  No way these fruits are going to fit into this little cake pan, even if there were no flour, sugar, or eggs, I told myself.  So I weighed a cup of water.  It weighed 162 gm instead of the usual 227.  Aaaaaaaargh!  Converting to cups, I remeasured the bead flour, and it was close enough to the right amount.  But not quite right.  I could add some more water to fix the bread problem, but the fruits were waaaaaay off.  Converting again, I calculated how many cups total of fruit I needed, and found that I had about 30% too much.   Well, I can save the extra fruit for some future cake.  Fortunately, I had not put in any the eggs, oil or sugar.  The scale’s battery must have been in it’s death throes as I was measuring flour for the bread, and just doing agonal breathing as I measured the fruit.  I have lots of non-AAA batteries, so I opened the scale up to find that it had one of those funny rectangular biggish ones. I had a few of those, but then I couldn’t figure out how to get the old one out!   I called my aunt, who reassured me.  “The Twins are clever.  They will be able to fix it.”  (This turned out to be true.)  “But I’m cooking now!  That will be too late,” I wailed.  I had expected to be cooking until about seven p.m., but, given all my unexpected culinary problems,  I finally dropped into bed closer to midnight.  

No more measuring problems with my dinner, but when I dropped my chopped onions from their storage container into the sizzling oil, instead of the expected “fwoosh” sound, there was a “clunk.”  There in the pan was the lid of the container, being sautéed along with the onions.  I managed to get it out without ruining either  it or the onions.  The rest of the dinner preparation was happily uneventful. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stormy Days

Storm Damage in Seattle!

Not to worry!  You're in good hands. I'm an orthopedic nurse!

All well!  These days, they put human patients together with glue too!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Very Fun Day!

At the Antique Mall 

Samos and I were going to go out to lunch and to do some other fun thing. But what that other fun thing was, we hadn’t quite decided.  We thought about going for a canoe ride, but the weather was pretty dreary and chilly.  Very chilly! I had visions of the canoe tipping over and dropping us into frigid Lake Washington, ending up in pounds of sodden wet clothes, shivering and turning blue as we made our sad way home after the upset.  Ugh!  Canoeing was potentially fun, but also potentially horrible.  I timidly suggested shopping.  Not the most exciting thing, and something I loathe doing alone and quite enjoy if I do it with a friend. We both needed to go to the plant store and Costco, so I was pleased when Samos thought it a good idea. First Costco, where I planned to buy one thing  - Alka Seltzer, my ever faithful headache remedy.  Most folks don’t realize that each tablet has an aspirin embedded in it, and the fizziness seems to send the headache relief directly to where it needs to go.  Plus, it‘s fun to have all those tiny bubbles tickling your nose.  And with a teaspoon of Tang – a real treat!  I know, I know!  This sounds a little pervy, but when one has a headache…….    Well, I guess it is not humanly possible to go to Costco and buy only one thing, so I bought a bunch of things and then felt guilty.  I’m sure I really need them though. (Especially the Marilyn Monroe DVD's!)  

We visited an Antique Mall, where I actually did buy only one thing, and that was the treasure of the day.  I have my special silver knife, fork and spoon that I always use, but I was missing a real dinner fork.  Instead I used the salad fork of the set.  I had been looking and looking for a fork to match – looking for years, in fact.  One of the stalls had a big bin of silverware, so we looked through it.  There were spoons and salad forks in the proper pattern galore!  But not a fork.  Finally I found one! Heaven be praised!  I was really happy.  Samos thought I should look for a backup, but in the whole bin of forks, there was only the one.  Rather than be disappointed about no backup, this made my one treasure even more valued. 

Happy mealtime ahead!

Finally, after a trip to the garden store for leaf raking equipment (ugh!), we went to a restaurant which had been a favorite years ago, but had been closed the last few times we tried to visit.  We were thrilled to find it reopened and had a super yummy Ethiopian lunch. 

Special fork not needed.
When we got home, I was knackered after all that strenuous shopping, but I had to do a gardening chore – planting some bulbs.  I got dressed in my gardening clothes, stepped out onto the porch, thought, “Yuck!  It is really cold, crispy, drippy and draining.  Just not the weather to work outside.” I told myself that I would be so happy when those daffodils came out in the spring, but that thought was not helpful.   Suddenly I remembered that I had a big pile of ironing to do.  “I had better work on that,” I happily told myself.  So much more fun than digging in dirt.  It seems that most folks I know love to putter in their gardens.  Most folks altogether, in fact.  I envy them.  I love to have nice flowers, but dealing with them is pure drudgery.  If only I could enjoy it, how much more pleasurable would life be!  But……  I hate it.  I wonder if I can force myself to go do it now?  I will report back.  Maybe. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Humbling Day

No exciting events in the Joannaworld lately.  Rebecca, on the other hand has had a lot of excitement.  You can read about it here!  

I seem to have been spending more time than usual at church recently.  This is not due to an uptick in piety, but more to how things just happen to happen.   A few days ago, I went to the St. James Mass in Remembrance of the Deceased Homeless of Seattle.  I have planned to go to this every year, and I always seem to forget about it when the day actually comes.  This year, fortunately, a friend and fellow volunteer working with me at the Cathedral Kitchen reminded me and we went together.  Mass at St. James is always moving, but this service was particularly so.  The names of the fifty-seven homeless people who have died were printed on the order of worship, and after Mass, the cathedral bells tolled fifty seven times for the departed.    Patty Bowman, Director of the cathedral's social outreach program, gave a very moving reflection on the loss that we all share when our regrettable economy allows such pervasive homelessness to happen - and when we ourselves allow these unfortunate people to sink into invisibility.  She said that there are over 8,000 homeless in King County, and 40% of these are children.   Also, over 40% of the homeless men here are veterans, many of whom suffer from psychic wounds received during their military service - serving the rest of us, that would be. These numbers are truly shocking.

Several inter-faith groups presented hand knitted hats, gloves, and scarves made by their members.  Pictured is one four huge baskets of knitted things which surrounded the altar.   

Let's hope that either I remember to remember next year, or that some friendly soul reminds me again. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Day!

Sooooooo relieved, and very happy!  Nothing will quite beat the emotions of the 2008 election, but this one comes close!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Another Up and Down Day

Sitting behind the orchestra at rehearsal. They will look much more formal the next night.

The last two evenings, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, are among my top favorites of the year - the rehearsal for Mozart’s divine Requiem on Thursday, and then the actual performance at Mass on All Souls Day.  Actually, I think the rehearsal with the orchestra might be my real favorite by a very slivery margin, as it is more relaxed, and we always get to sing Happy Birthday to our director.  How often do you sing Happy Birthday to someone you love, with a full orchestra accompaniment?  Not often! 

Then, after the rehearsal, I got home and found that some careless individual had parked his car in front of my driveway so I couldn’t get into my garage.  This was the third time in thirty years that this has happened, but oddly, the second time this week.  The first time was when Becca and I were going on an outing to the knitting store, and the car was a horrible phallic looking black thing, so I got a certain amount of schadenfreude having it towed.  Yes, evil, I know.  We were not in a rush, and so just had another cup of tea while we waited.  Last night  things were different.  I was tired, and it was a Volkswagen, so I felt badly about its owner’s distress.  (I guess this shows that I am a car-ist.)  But I had to get into the garage as the street parking is very limited at certain times. Earlier during the day, some little furry orange person had thrown up in my bed, so I had washed all the linen.  When I finally got in after the rehearsal, I found that the duvet was not quite dry. Grrrrrrr!  But I put it in the dryer, took a shower, moved my car into the garage, by which time the duvet was dry, and so I happily settled down with my book.  All in all, a very pleasant day. 

However, now that I consider, the actual Requiem Mass, with its mystery and glory, has to be the best of all.  Not relaxing, but wondrously wonderful. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Up and Down Day

Martha's largesse surrounding my humble offerings in the middle.

Several up and down days, actually!  There haven’t been any major events around here lately, but there have been some that were notable, at least to me.  One of my three annual ordeals has been successfully endured.  That is my Sunday for bringing choir treats.  This usually means getting up early on Saturday and shopping, and then fretting and dithering about all day, trying to spur myself into cooking action, and finally getting moving way too late in the day – thus necessitating cooking till nearly midnight. And then getting up at four in the morning to put on the finishing touches. Somehow, this poor organizational pattern is repeated every year.  I was very lucky this year, as there are always two people assigned to do treats every Sunday, and this time my partner was my dear friend Martha, who is the undisputed Queen of Treats.  This meant way less anxiety on my part, as whatever I did would be a mere glimmer in the glare of Martha’s culinary glory.  When Rebecca and I were in the choir, we were always partners, and were Treats Princesses, but it was really Rebecca who was the Treats Princess and I was the Treats Scullery Maid.  Nonetheless, I gained a Treats reputation that, once Rebecca was no longer in the choir, I felt compelled to maintain.  This time, I made my usual deviled eggs, something bready, a vegetable tray and some dip.  I usually make one other slightly vegetebular thing, and this time it was sushi rolls.  My bready thing was focaccia, and in my morning frenzy, I made several mistakes with it.  First, I had the oven too hot and forgot to turn it down when I put the bread it, and then I forgot to spray water into the oven three times in the first ten minutes of baking as the recipe directs.  When I opened the oven and saw a giant Ak-Mak lying there, I was horrified.  If Martha had not been my partner, I might have died on the spot. But she was, so I didn’t.  The Ak-Mak turned out to be quite successful, and a friend even asked for the recipe.  I told her it was all a mistake, but she wanted the mistaken directions, as its Ak-Makiness was what appealed to her.  I also made a Middle Eastern dip -  recipe here, and that too, was unexpectedly delightful.  It is très, très garlicky and has a surprising bite.  

The dip was actually white, with green flecks and red rose petals. 
 Camera refused to make it white. 

I used the last of it on an English muffin lunch, pictured here. 

And what are the other two dreaded annual events?  One involves the gynecologist, and the other is my annual review at work.  Ugh to both of them!  I’ll take choir treats any day.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Blocking Day

Tobias  really enjoys being helpful, no matter what one is trying to do.  He helps do crossword puzzles, read books, loves to help with the newspaper, and is particularly helpful when one is trying to knit or sew.  Or in this instance to block a sweater. 

I'm on top of it, Mum!  I am saving the towels while you wet the sweater and get it all ready to block.  

Don't worry, you can put the sopping wet sweater right here.  Just don't put it on me!

Ick!  I didn't know it would be this horrible and wet.  But it's okay.  I have it all under control!

It's a good thing you squoze all that water out of it.  Otherwise I might not want to sit on it. 

You think you foiled me?


Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Fun Day with a Friend

Wow!  No blog posts from me lately, it seems.  I have been too busy with Aunt care and patient care.  But life has gone on, mostly pleasantly, despite my incommunicado status.  Just a little catching up seems in order. 

Ana often comes to visit in order to block her sweaters on my wooly board, and I welcome these visits.  Blocking sweaters is fun, and even more fun when two people are doing it.  I have a sweater of my own waiting for later in the day.  Ana frequently considers getting her own wooly board, but I discourage this thought because that would eliminate an excuse for a visit and a peek at her most recent creations.  This sweater, Meg Swanson’s Phoenix is pretty amazing, don’t you think?

On a recent visit, Ana wanted to make Julia Child’s pumpkin soup, but I was less enthusiastic, because I am banting, and the pound or two of butter in that particular soup recipe makes me queasy for days afterward.  Also, I seem to recall that making that soup was an all day event! So Ana came up with a slimmed down version, and it was super, super delicious.  And waaaaaaay more healthy.  And pretty quick to make.  We had a day of blocking, knitting, and movie watching planned, and the soup making portion of the day went by in a flash.  But once again, maybe that was there were two of us doing it.

Here is Ana’s recipe:

600 g peeled seeded pumpkin, cut in to roughly 3/4" peices
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
Handful fresh sage, chopped
1 loaf bread, cut in to bite-size croutons, and toasted in the oven (I toasted at 350 for 20 minutes, stirring at 10 and 15 minutes)
1 quart "chicken" stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Grated swiss cheese, to garnish
Heavy cream, to garnish

In a pressure cooker over medium high heat, sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add chopped sage, and sauté until lightly browned.  If desired, reserve some sage for garnish at the table.

Add the pumpkin to the pressure cooker, and stir to combine the ingredients.  Pour in the "chicken" stock.  Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes.

Take approximately 3/4 of the croutons, and place in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until you have bread crumbs.  Reserve remaining croutons to garnish at the table.

Release pressure using quick release method.  Stir soup.  Stir in the bread crumbs you created above.  If desired, you may puree the soup using an immersion blender at this point.  You may also add additional "chicken" stock if the soup is thicker than you would prefer.

Serve the soup, garnishing with drizzled cream, the grated Swiss cheese, croutons, and sage pieces as desired.