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.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Margaret's Happy Day

It's hard to do the crossword with your left hand (unless you are left handed, of course.)

Margaret has long been hoping for an invitation to visit my Aunt Pauline, but aside from a few quick stops to drop something off, or pick something up, she has never really been a guest there.  Pauline, I regret to say, is not overly fond of dogs.  However, I also (and even more sadly) regret to say, Pauline took a spill and fractured her collarbone recently, and needed to have someone there to help her for a few days while she recovers.  I couldn’t leave Margaret on her own, so I told her that she would have to come and help nurse Pauline, and would have to be a very good dog, so as to impress Pauline if she ever wanted to be invited back.  Margaret was thrilled and promised.  

Gifts of flowers are so cheering!

In spite of this, very shortly after we arrived, my Cousin Joseph, who was just leaving, and I looked on in horror, as Margaret – no doubt overcome by the situation - squatted and made a little puddle on the carpet!  Almost right at Pauline’s feet!  Just to show that she was at home here, I imagine.  Joseph cut short his farewells, came back in, created a distraction while I scuttled out to the kitchen for paper towels and then very discreetly dealt with the evidence of Margaret’s crime.  Once Margaret established herself as mistress of the situation, and had put down her identifying mark, she was a perfect lady.  And she was in ecstasy!  Because of my fear of another accident, I carried her about from room to room wherever I went, took her with me on my jaunts to the grocery store, took her out to potty more frequently than ever, and in general, devoted myself 24/7 to her and Pauline.  Margaret asks nothing more!  She and Pauline got on very well, and I am sure that she will be invited to return soon, given that with the exception of her one little mishap, she was the perfect guest.  And Pauline seems to be recovering nicely, I am happy to say. 

Margaret is making herself right at home.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Birthday Sort of Day

My birthday is not one of my favorite days, and as I get older, it becomes less and less so – a sort of annual memento mori!  When I was in grade school, my mother, a serious party girl, tried several times to muster my enthusiasm for a birthday party, and never succeeded - but she forged ahead anyway.  After the first two attempts, at which I spent most of the party in the bathroom throwing up, she abandoned the effort and my family went out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  This was a great relief to me.  I didn’t like other people’s birthday parties either, but I dreaded them less than my own.  This was a matter of nerves, of course, but also, given that my mother was sort of an early healthy food devotee, the birthday parties were not just a shock to my shy sensibilities, but also were a shock to my stomach, being no doubt the first sugary gastronomic onslaught in months.  This year, Rebecca was channeling my mom, and was all for a party.  I whined, and so we went to my favorite restaurant instead.  She made three cakes (to accommodate the various diets, and to include my favorite ginger cake,) and we had these afterward.  I have to confess, that without my mother to safeguard my diet, I tolerated the cake and ice cream much better than I did in my youth.   

Tom, Rachael, Marigold, and Becca

Marigold joined us for cake and ice cream, and I have to say that Tobias was not the best host.  The less said about that, the better.

My fabulous new purse!
Rebecca was horrified when she saw my previous post, about the lovely purses and such that Peggy made, because she had made me a nice little bicycling purse, special for when I cycled to her house to knit with her.  She worried that I wouldn’t need another purse, but this one has a totally different purpose.  And of course, I love it both because it is lovable, but also because my darling girl made it.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Fashionable Day

A fuzzy pic of Joanna, Peggy, and Kathy modeling the latest in pursewear.  

I went to a fashionable Cathedral event lately, and found that the most fashion-forward ladies were all sporting a creation by my friend Peggy.  Peggy is a supremely clever person in many areas, but one of the most obvious to the uninitiated into her full wonders, is her quilting expertise, and as a maker of small beautiful things that contain the necessities of life.  By which I mean hankies, Kindles and credit cards.    See?  There is a place for each of them!  

A sweet little clutch for those feminine essentials.

For times when a few more essentials are essential.

Tobias presents the Kindle covers made for Becca and me

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Spidery Day

Three graceful webs

It’s Spider Season in Seattle!  I understand that many folks are not as thrilled about spider season as I am, but every year, I'm happy to see it coming.  For one thing, it means that autumn is approaching, and for another thing, it means lovely spiders.  I am not sure when my relationship with spiders began to warm, but I do recall, once when I was about six, waking up screaming.  My parents came rushing into my dark bedroom to comfort me, and I told them that there was a huge spider on my ceiling. They said this could not be, but turned on the light to show me, and --- there she was! Staring down at me, smirking. Sad now to say, I am sure that my father dispatched her quickly.  The wonder was, how I knew she was there.  It was a little family mystery. Another time, when I still a child, but a much bigger one, as I was reading in my bedroom, I heard shrieking from the living room.  This time, I hurried in to save my mother and found her leaping about, tearing off her clothes.  She said that as she was vacuuming, a huge spider had scuttled down his web from the ceiling and dropped down the back of her blouse. We never found the poor spider, who must have run off in a fright, but I think this may be when my attitude towards spiders began to turn.  One of my happy memories is the walks my friend Denise and I used to take every Thursday, around the Chico Sewer Pond, keeping track of the birds who stopped by.  Early in the autumn, we would marvel as clouds of gossamer floated by with their cargo of spiderings bound for new homes away from their mums.   

Since ancient times, spiders have been good luck, and killing one will surely bring misfortune of some sort.  For those who don’t relish sharing their personal space with a spider, it is advised that the little arachnid be gently carried outside and released.  However, a spider in the house also means far, far fewer mosquitoes, flies, and other noisome insects. So on many counts, it is best to leave them be. 

My friend Martha had much better luck with her spider web picture, seen here.  Or maybe she was just less of a slugabed and got up before the dew had all evaporated. 

This little fellow seems to be an amputee.