Friday, January 27, 2012

Another Conservative Day

Life has been fairly bereft of blogworthy events lately.  Humdrum has been the word.  But yesterday, Samos and I went to lunch and then to the Volunteer Park Conservatory, a favorite place, and one which I have mentioned before.  We enjoy going again and again just to say hello to our favorite plants.  When we got there, we headed straight for the warm, warm, dry cactus room, as it was a very cold day outside, and Samos loves the desert.  We basked a bit in the heat with the cacti, and then headed for the tropical room.  

A hungry carnivore!

This is my favorite, but not because I love the tropics. Au contraire! It was very hot and very steamy, (my most unfavorite weather) and is definitely not my chosen milieu.  But I do love the luxurious greenness and, like all ghoulish children, I always need to stop by the carnivorous plants.  Little Shop of Horrors is a movie that I always find terrifying, and always enjoy!

A television crew was making a news spot about the conservatory, and we got to be sample visitors – on television.  You can see us here.  Well, I guess you can't!  I can't find the link again.  But the above picture was from the King 5 news site.     

Me pretending there is not that big thing behind me.


Monday, January 23, 2012

A Post-Snow Day

Leaves in the melting snow

Some people are never satisfied!  My family well knows that I am always complaining that I never have a day to do nothing at all but read, knit, and sip tea, and then I had four such days, one after another!   Snowed in and no going anywhere, unable to do much besides read, knit, and sip tea. Wow!  I was really beginning to seriously whine about  having too many perfect days in a row.  Each  morning, I got up and told myself that today I would make my way through wind and weather to the store for provisions, and each day I would decide that tomorrow might be a better choice for the trek. (I did have to compel myself to stagger off to work one evening, and was quite happy about being forced out of the house!!)  Finally, the snow began to thaw, and I did voluntarily make the expedition to the store.  By this time, it was not such an adventure, but just a pleasant walk. 

Now that life is back in full swing, I am already pining for a day with just books, yarn, and tea.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Snowy Day

What a couple of days!  All my friends have thoroughly covered the Sunday snow storm, and it now seems redundant to even talk about it, but here I am with my perspective on matters.  My perspective is – I was really sad that I had to go to work on Sunday, as the snow seemed to be a foot high, and it was the perfect day to not venture outside the door.  The perfect day for sipping tea and settling in with a good book. 

Sunday morning, as I walked to choir practice, the first flakes were gently meandering down.  I hoped that only a few would meander, but such was not to be.  Although many choir members come from far away, nearly everyone was there - a good thing – since we were singing an eight part Bruckner Agnus Dei, and even a few folks lacking could have made it impossible.  Jim had the “Lamb of God” from The Messiah on hand as Plan B, but we were able to stick to Plan A, and sing the subtle and exquisite Agnus Dei.  Bruckner and I have had issues in the past, especially with Agnus Deis.  A couple of years ago, we were singing different one, and it was really difficult.  At least for me, it was.  I had practiced and practiced and felt that I had it down pat.  Then, during the actual performance, I had a little mind blink, and totally lost the place. Maybe I had turned two pages at once or something, but I simply could not find where we were, and was getting more and more frantic.  Not helpful, of course.  I tried to shrink into an inconspicuous little speck, but failed at that and was caught out. I believe I realized where we were about two measures before the end of the piece.  Another time we were singing a Bruckner Agnus Dei, and I got all wobbly and faint.  Horrors!  Passing out at church would be the worst.  (Oddly, people seem to do it all the time.  All that kneeling and standing up, I imagine.)  I sat down and sang, feeling both woozy and conspicuous, but happily, the worst did not happen.  This Sunday, the spell was broken, and the Agnus Dei was mercifully uneventful.  And was very beautiful.

On the way home, there were more flakes wafting down, but they seemed to disappear just as they reached the earth. Then, as I was getting dressed for work, the heavens opened, and not gentle flakes, but huge blobs came hurtling down.  In a very short time, there seemed to be at least a foot-thick carpet on the ground.  Margaret was ecstatic, but I was less pleased, as I had to slog through it to get to work and, worse yet, slog home again at midnight.  As I was coming home on my usual route through Seattle U, I was suddenly bewildered and couldn’t find my path.  How can the snow have made things so confusing, I wondered.  The path goes between some trees and a lot of bushes, and I finally realized that one of the trees had fallen, changing the landscape entirely.  The photo is taken just after I made my way around the fallen tree.  Aside from the worry about slipping on the glassy ice, I always enjoy walking home from work in the snow, seeing the students frolicking in the wee hours, sledding and making snowpeople, and this evening was no exception.

And on Monday, I did have the perfect snow day, sipping tea and reading my book. 

O heavens!  I just looked out the window, and it is coming down again, and not in gentle single flecks, but in hearty big feather factory bunches.  I hope I enjoy walking home from work again tonight.  Somehow, coming through the snow at midnight seems much nicer in retrospect than in prospect. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Very Church-filled Day

Some of the instruments for the concert

This morning, my choir sang at a funeral.  We were to be there at ten to rehearse for the eleven o’clock service.  I considered eating a little pick-me-up first, but given that we had to be there so (for me, anyway,) early, I made do with a couple of cups of tea, and was on my way.   I didn’t know the principal party, but it seems that he was a wonderful fellow, loved by all who knew him, and sure to be sorely missed by many.  Consequently, the funeral was lengthy.  In fact, we didn’t leave till nearly one-thirty.  I was famished, and getting very whiney.  I scurried home to my breakfast – now lunch, gobbled it up, and quickly felt much better.  This all brought to mind the memorial mass our choir sang when the Pope John Paul II died.  Rebecca and I planned to sing at the mass, and then go to lunch before I went to work.  Well, that one went on until it was actually time to go to work – so late that I had to hurry to avoid being late.  And once again, I had left the house without a proper breakfast.  By the time I got to work at three, I was beyond hungry, and was actually shaking, nearly crying.  My boss, a faithful Catholic, asked what was amiss, and I told her about the mass and the Pope. She assumed that I was all upset about the death of the Pope, while in fact, it was just lack of food, and the even worse lack of prospect of getting any soon.  She felt so sorry for me in my sorrow, that she let me go home!!!  I didn’t set her straight until years later.

This evening, I was a (this time, well fed) volunteer usherette at a fabulous Cathedral concert – a staged production of several short oratorios by Carissimi and one by Charpentier.  This was a much more intimate performance than that at the Opera House, and hence, was even more amazing.  Those opera stars don’t really even seem human- they are more like supermen and women, from another world.  These singers were very human, right there in front of us, and very fabulous.  I marveled that a regular person can sing like they did.  Well, not regular, but a real person – one whom one could talk to and maybe run into at the races.  I’m not sure why I said “at the races.”  That was just the first place which came to mind.  The races are one of the last places I would ever go. I like them in Dick Francis’s books, but that’s it. The essence of tedium in my mind.  But à chacun son goût.  But again, maybe it was because I love the Marx Brothers, and they went to both the opera and the races!  That must be it.

A Chickenless Day

A while ago, Crafty Cakewagon presented a recipe for vegan chicken and dumplings.  My mother-in-law used to make chicken and dumplings, and I loved them.  I decided to make Crafty’s vegan version myself, but got sidetracked by images of chicken pot pie, which my own mother made, and which I used to make in my young bride days – the days when a chicken made three meals, the third, either something like this, or perhaps chicken noodle soup.  This vegetarian version turned out to be quite tasty.  It is not for the faint of heart, as it has a lot of butter, and hence, is not very heart healthy.  But that makes it all the better! 

No-Chicken Pot Pie

For the (not-chicken) innards:
1 large onion, chopped,
4 cloves garlic sliced,
1 cup celery, chopped,
4 medium carrots, diced,
2 cups sliced mushrooms,
1 cup frozen peas,
small jar pimentos, drained

For the sauce:

6 T butter,
6 T flour,
½ t salt and some pepper,
1 3/4 C broth, (I used kosher chicken broth powder in 1 cup water and ¾ cup wine,)
2/3 C milk,

For the crust:
1 cup self-rising (raising?) flour,
Walnut sized glob of butter (a large walnut,)
Enough milk to get it all moist – start with ¼ cup.

Set the oven for 400°

Sauté the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and give it a few more stirs.  Add the celery and carrots, and sauté until the carrots are softened a bit.  Stir in the mushrooms and stir till the mushrooms are cooked and the mushroom juice has mostly evaporated. Drop in the pimento, and set the whole thing aside.

In another pan, cook the butter until it is bubbling.  Stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture is very smooth.  Add the salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in the liquids, and continue whisking until you have a very thick sauce.  Cook at least a minute, stirring all the while.  Gently fold in the vegetables.  Transfer the mixture to the oiled dish in which you plan to bake it.

Prepare the biscuit crust.  Cut the butter into the self-raising flour until it has the consistency of coarse meal.  Dump the whole thing on one end of a clean work surface.  With the palm of your hand, squoosh the flour mixture, about 1/5 cup at time, across the work surface (frissage.)  This incorporates the butter nicely.  Put this mixture back in its bowl and slowly add the milk, tossing the flour gently to mix it in.   When the dough is barely moist throughout, gather it into a ball, and, on a floured surface, pat it into the  shape to fit the top of your baking dish. 

Lay the biscuit dough on the vegetable mixture, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is a bit golden.

Monday, January 9, 2012

An Easygoing Day

My faithful readers will know that I am an inveterate procrastinator. "Mañana!” is one of my guiding principles.  For example, I have three Aran sweaters, one given to me by my mother, which I seldom wear, as I want to keep it in its relatively pristine condition, and to have a nice sweater to wear when I have need to appear really clean.  The second is one I knitted for Rebecca more than twenty years ago, which she rejected, saying it was too white.  She was remembering that lovely greasy with lanolin grey-white of the true Aran yarn with which I had knitted her sweaters in Ireland when she was little.  I don’t think one can get that delightfully smelly yarn anymore.  It was a real breath of the Auld Sod, with the scent of Irish sheep, and infused with tiny Irish twigs.    Instead of the despised overly white cardigan, she demanded one that I had knitted for myself many years previous, now at least forty years old and still going. That one could never be accused of excessive whiteness. Its non-whiteness was not from lanolin, however, but rather from years of constant wear. She gave me back the reviled too-white one which since has become a nice ecru – verging on beige.  And once again, not from lanolin.  My third Aran was given to me by an Irish friend, and was knitted by her sister.  This alone makes it precious, quite aside from it being a great sweater with nice pockets.  I love these sweaters, and have worn one or the other nearly every day – and every night for quite a few years.  My house is cold and I prefer to put on a sweater rather than turn up the heat.  Finally, I decided that after all those years of constant wear, they needed a bath.  But another year went by while I thought about giving them one.  Then as the need became more imperative, I could delay no longer, but even then, I put that unpleasant job off for another month or two.  So  finally, I did steel myself, washed them, and laid them out on my sweater drying rack.  I feared that Tobias would sit on them, but he didn’t.  After they were dry and I had put them back into circulation, I dithered about for a few more days about putting away the rack.  It is not fun to assemble or to disassemble. I was awaiting the perfect moment.  That moment came when I found a very large kitty using the rack for a hammock, and the hammock on the verge of collapsing.  Sometimes one just needs a little inspiration before springing (or in my case, slouching) into action.