Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Fun (and a tiny bit triumphant) Day

Pasta is pretty in pink!

I saw this recipe in the New York Times, and really, really wanted to make it.  It looked sooo delightfully pink and jovial, and I love beets.  I felt that its uniqueness would most appeal to daring eaters, so this eliminated my aunties – both incredible food wimps – as potential guests.  It had to be adventurers who love beets.  All this pointed directly to The Twins.  We decided to have it at their house, so I prepared the sauce and they prepared everything else.  And indeed, it was très yummy! And the evening was très, très fun.  Usually when we play Skat, I am a chronic loser, but the first hand was one of the best I have ever had.  Ever! In my entire Skat life!  This made me pretty cheery, but I tried to restrain my gleeful smirks.  I find gloating winners even more annoying than pouting losers.  (Usually however, these two traits are combined in the same person.)  I hope I managed. 

I recommend this recipe, both because it is very tasty, and visually impressive, but also it is pretty quick to make – provided you have a food processor to grate the beets.  The beet sauce and ricotta topping can all be done ahead, and then the pasta cooked at the last minute.  Try it and amaze your non-wimpy friends!

The table looked colorful and festive. In short - exquisite!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Sisyphean Day

They just keep coming down!

But there is the occasional bright spot!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another Birthday

A mish mash of Christmas decor  preparations

Actually, it’s not a birthday - or I should say not my birthday - but on my real one, Samos and I, although we tried, did not manage to get together and have been unable to until now.  So we celebrated it with a lovely lunch at a new-to-us vegetarian restaurant and some fun shopping.  He knew that Rebecca and I would not have been to this restaurant, as it required a long drive and some tricky navigation, neither of which are my special enthusiasms.  Au contraire!  I loathe both of them.  So it was a fun treat, with good company and delicious food.  Then we went plant shopping (for him – although I could not resist getting at least one.)  I thought that the nursery was unusual in that it combined a Christmas store and a nursery.  However, when I tried to google it, I discovered that this is not unusual at all, au contraire again – it is très ordinaire! There are lots of them.  The folks at Rosso’s do the Christmas décor for many local stores and business, including some pretty big names – store-wise.

Then we went to an antique mall that we like, and I got some soup spoons, my lack of which has been highlighted by several recent winter meals.  Samos made a new friend.  Don’t they seem to be smiling at one another?

This second one seems not quite so charmed by him.

My birthday gift made me shriek with joy!  There it is on the very left.  A Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee commemorative tea caddy.  Yay! Why do I love these Royal Family tchotchkes?  I can’t say.  My personal connection with them is pretty minimal.  In fact, non-existent, but nonetheless, I adore them all, along with all the related memorabilia.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Banner Day

Happy Birthday to Dakki!  It’s the fiftieth anniversary of her thirty-ninth birthday.  Imagine being the same age for fifty years.  It seems impossible, but Dakki has done it.  I recall once, years ago, when Dakki had been thirty-nine for several decades, the two of us were in a bank setting up a new account, or some such thing.  The bank clerk asked Dakki how old she was, and she promptly replied, “Thirty-nine.”  Then, he asked for her date of birth.  Not being in the least adept at quick mental math, she simply gaped at him.  As I promptly supplied the appropriate date, Dakki looked relieved, and I believe that the bank man was relieved as well. 

So once again, Happy Birthday to my darling and adored Auntie!

She seems to be quite the party animal!  Some of Dakki’s friends gave her a party earlier in the day, and she is getting another party on the weekend, as everyone was going to work today.  But alas, I was ill and couldn’t go. I managed to pull myself together enough to heat up some leftovers and make my superior five minute lemon cake so that we could have a tiny party on the proper day – just the two of us.  After our dinner and cake, we watched an episode of The Irish RM – one of my favorite Masterpiece Theaters from about the time that Dakki had been thirty-nine for only about thirty years. It was a nice birthday for Dakki and a nice sick day for me.

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Energetic Morning

Amanitas make me happy - looking at them, I mean - not tasting them. 

A few months ago, I noted that Rebecca and I had started running together several times a week.  It would be more accurate to say that she prods me on, and I whine, trotting along at a pace barely faster than walking. One could by no stretch of the imagination actually call it running.  Meanwhile she runs circles around me just like Leslie did when we took him on country walks. And when I am not there, she runs, runs, runs.  Real running.  But about six weeks ago, we both had almost simultaneous injuries which slowed us down and necessitated a recovery period.  I did something to my hip and she did something to a tendon or two.  So it had been a goodly time since we had “run” together.  We were a little nervous about how it would go when we recommenced our regimen.  The very first time, when she finally managed to coax me into running shoes and out of the house, we went .8 mile, and I thought I was going to die.  But gradually we got better, and were going a whole 5K (sounds much more impressive than 3.5 miles, doesn’t it.)  I was afraid that after the hiatus, I would have regressed back to .8 or less, and so, she admitted, was she.  For several days, I managed to come up with (really) legitimate excuses, but finally, I had none, and we agreed on our restarting date.  The morning of, I was hoping that she wouldn’t call to roust me out of bed, and she later confessed that she was a bit hopeful that I would refuse to get up.  But I didn’t.  Both being a tiny bit anxious about our injuries, we agreed that we would not overdo it.  No problem there for me.  I never over do it, but Becca has high exercise ideals.  So, we are back in the saddle with our fun morning runs.  This time we went through Volunteer Park, saw lovely amanitas, rode the camels, and visited the Civil War Cemetery.  

I knew that there was a Civil War Cemetery, and I even knew approximately where it was.  In fact, I had gone past it many times without ever really taking in that it was there.  So I was happy to slow down, take some deep breaths and a few pictures.

Volunteer Park Camel

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Miraculous Day

Our mittis are off to a good start.  Note Peggy's special note-to-self, a useful hint when knitting.

Peggy was coming to brunch and a knitalong, and I was excited about fixing a biggish breakfast, getting together, starting our mittis, and just having a pleasant morning of food,  knitting and chatter.  The evening before, I had debated about whether to cast on the first mitti, or to wait and do it in the morning when Peggy  was there, working on hers.  This was a real decision, because on one hand, I was enmeshed in knitting a little scarf, and wanted to continue with that, but on the other hand, starting a new knitting project is sometimes both traumatic and humiliating – requiring several do-overs and a certain amount of bad language.  I decided to work on the scarf and be humble the next morning, publicly starting my mitti.  Minutes later, I came to the end of the scarf’s first ball of yarn, and looked in my knitting bag for the second.  Nothing!  It must have fallen out and be lurking somewhere in my bed, I thought.  But after taking the bed linen apart, I sadly concluded that it was not there.  I looked under the bed and sadly concluded that I had better do a much more thorough job next time I vacuumed my bedroom.  I looked in all my other knitting bags.  No yarn.  I prayed to St. Anthony, but to no avail.  So, grumbling,  I cast on the mittis and worked on them a bit to get them going, and then switched to another Long Abandoned Project. (Some good came of this, as my enthusiasm for the LAP was rekindled, and I can actually foresee finishing it in the not terribly far future.) 

In the morning, Peggy and I had a nice brunch, had fun knitting, and said some more prayers to St. Anthony.  Peggy is a particularly good pray-er, so I was confident that when she left and I went upstairs and looked again for my ball of yarn, I would find it.  But such was not the case.

Nero Wolfe biscuits

The next morning, her husband John, a fellow choir member, came up to me after practice and asked if I had lost a ball of yarn in the choir room.  There was one in the little storage shelf under his choir desk!  Well, a few days before, I had knitted there a minute or two while waiting for my pal Barbara so we could work on the choir notebooks.  It must have dropped out of my bag then.  But what a miracle – that just John would have ben assigned that choir desk, and would notice the yarn, and would think it might be mine.  Three miracle-lets! The ball had been there for days, and we had already had a practice session without anyone noticing my yarn, let alone knowing that it would be mine.  Saint Anthony has performed yet another of his many miraculous miracles.  And once again, I am ever so grateful to him.  

Becca-made jam

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Baking Day

Glenda's Super Delicious Sugar Cookies

Faithful readers will recall that I have mentioned choir treats several times – both the yumminess when other people bring them, and the psychological trauma involved when I bring them.  They can be a delight on the one hand, and an ordeal on the other.  On Sunday mornings during our first years in the choir, Rebecca and I would get up and check the treats calendar, and then decide whether we needed to eat a good breakfast or if we could depend on the treat provider of the day to provide well.  Once, I told Rebecca that it was ***** bringing the treats, and so we had better eat a good breakfast.  “She'll probably bring a packet of Lorna Doones,” I said.  Now, I love Lorna Doone cookies, but one packet will not feed a sixty person choir.  When we got there, we were convulsed with laughter.  She had actually brought a packet of Lorna Doones.  And nothing else.  I recall that that year, my friend Glenda had brought, among other things, a big plate of home-made sugar cookies and some sliced cucumbers spears.  I thought that these were odd things to bring for breakfast, but the sugar cookies were the best I had ever eaten.  I am sure that I made a real piggy of myself.  And the cucumbers (the odder part,) were the perfect thing for throats needing solace from an hour of hearty singing.  They were divinely delicious.  Ever since, on my treat day, I have included cucumber spears.  And I always think of Glenda as I prepare them.  After choir that Sunday, I was going on and on about Glenda’s sugar cookies, and Rebecca looked a little crestfallen.  I asked what the matter was, and she said that she thought I didn’t like that sort of cookie, and so had never made them, although they were a fave of hers too.

Well, a week or two ago, I was thrilled to see that Glenda had brought her sugar cookies again, although no cucumbers.  I ate the lioness’s share and was thrilled to get the recipe, which Glenda has said I may share with you.  Triple Yum!

Glenda and I chose the same color one Sunday.

Glenda’s Sugar Cookies    (updated per Glenda Nov 29)

2 cups flour  (256 g)
½ tsp soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp vanilla

1 cup sugar (200 g)
1 cup shortening  (226 g) – Glenda used butter flavored – I used half Crisco and half butter
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°
Whisk the dry ingredients together.  Beat the sugar and shortening (or butter) till fluffy, and then beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Mix in the dry ingredients, and then form teaspoon fulls of dough into little balls and place on an ungreased or silpatted cookie sheet.  Flatten the cookie dough balls with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, and bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.  Put the finished product on a rack to cool, and then eat up! 

This recipe seems like it would lend itself to many flavor options - a bit of lemon extract, orange extract, or even peppermint extract.  I would definitely skip the peppermint, but there are many who might like it.