Friday, March 21, 2014

A Dried Up Day

About a million years ago, my mother gave me a dehydrator as a gift.  While I was thrilled with the present, I don’t think I ever used it, at least not beyond a dehydration test drive or two. Rebecca, on the other hand, was a dehydration enthusiast, and was drying things all the time. A year or so after she moved into her own apartment, she called to see if I still had the dehydrator.  Of course I did, I said.  But when I went to find it for her, our basement was in such chaos that it didn’t seem to be there at all. You will have an idea of the basement mess when I tell you that I also had not been able to find her sewing machine.  The dehydrator is about the same size. A former friend who had worked on my basement, had made free with many of my tools and equipment, and so I was sure that he had taken it. Nowadays, whenever Rebecca, my aunt, or I can’t find something, we immediately say that J must have made off with it.  Usually we find it later, but we are not ashamed of our rash assumptions, as they were not only rash, but reasonable.  

Anyway, I could not find the dehydrator.  She really wanted to dry some vegetables, so, I took one more desperate look for the big machine, and there it was. I happily called her, but in the meantime, while it was still lost, she had purchased a new one.  This was just as well, because mine had been a Ford Model A version, and she got herself the BMW variety, which more suited her needs.  So there mine sat, still collecting dust.  Rebecca frequently encouraged me to use it, tempting me with some of her dried concoctions.  Finally, a dried pineapple slice did the trick.  She also mentioned that dried bananas are particularly good – a thing apart from the ones you buy at the grocery store.  Here are the results of my first foray into the land of dehydrated fruits.  Yum!  The pineapples are super good, but the bananas are out of this world!  When I told Rebecca that a downside of all this was that I ate an entire dried pineapple in a day, she replied that that was okay.  She did it all the time.

Those little brown things on the right don't look like much, but they are the hyper-flavorful bananas!

A bargain box of mangos fits into a bowl! Along with a few pineapple bits! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Highly Crummy Day

Soothing picture to soothe on an unsoothing day

It started off badly.  Rebecca wanted to go on our jog early, so I programmed myself to get up sort of early.  Instead of sort of early, I awoke at five, feeling only minimally alert, but knowing that this was it.  I was awake for the day.  Bummer.  I lay snuggling in my cozy bed, trying to lure Morpheus to return, but he apparently had business elsewhere.  I finally gave in, made my tea and read the paper.  Then tried to snooze again.  Still no luck. By early, Becca had meant in the vicinity of nine!!!  So I puttered around, accomplishing nothing, and then started off for her house.  As we had shopping and a trip to the dreaded car emissions place on our agenda, I was going to drive instead of cycle.  I was backing my car out of the garage when, fortunately, I noticed that some other car was obstructing my driveway.  But unfortunately, I decided that I could get out of the garage anyway, using a bit of clever maneuvering.  With my eyes totally on what was behind me, I scraped the car’s side mirror on the edge of the garage door.  There was a hideous scrunching sound from the car, and an ugly profane sound from me. Rats!  Our run was not terribly successful, and involved way too much winging and gasping from me.  I just didn’t feel up to it, and Becca was not terribly understanding about this.  She just kept urging me on and I just kept complaining.  

When our run was finally over, and I was about to collapse, we went to the car emissions place.  You can read one of my last hideous trips here.  I had come out of their driveway, and whoosh, I was on the freeway headed south.  Becca is a real little Sacajawea, and is usually the navigator.  I warned her about the freeway.  “No problem,”  she said.  “Go that way.”  I was skeptical and reminded her again about the freeway.  She rolled her eyes.  I obeyed her, and whoosh!  We were on the freeway headed south.  But unlike Margaret, God rest her little soul, Becca was able to direct us back to town efficiently.  We went shopping without disaster, and then went to her apartment to recover and knit.  I quickly discovered an appalling knitting error, and decided that I had to be all alone to fix it.  So I went home, and when I got there, the car which had blocked my driveway was getting a ticket and was about to be towed.  I had mixed emotions about this.  That fellow deserved a ticket, but towing seemed a little extreme.  Then I thought about my squashed side mirror and how much it was going to cost to fix it, and felt a little better about the towing.  I came in, and looked for my phone to text Becca about the tow truck.  I looked and looked.  Then this sad picture popped into my head.

  My scrambled knitting and phone sitting on Becca’s table.  So another trip out!   Aargh.  Home again at last,  I decided that the best thing to do would be to go to bed.  So I did.  And I knitted until I made another hideous mistake.  Not up to an immediate repair job, I went to sleep.  What a relief that was. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Happy St. Patrick's Day

Not Ireland, but it looks like it, doesn't it!

Happy Saint Patricks Day, all you Irish and also you Irish wannabes!

Yesterday, the folks at St. James celebrated the day with the annual St. Pat’s Day Pancake Breakfast!  (See photo album here.) As I said in a recent post, I am not a big fan of pancakes, but I am, being Irish, quite a lover of the humble potato, and there were great roasted potatoes.  And, even better than the potatoes, there was a group of lightening footed Irish dancers.  They were wonderful to watch and listen to as their heels clicked to the whirling rhythms.  But they brought to mind events that, I fear, long ago had scarred me for life!
Sr. Hilda Marie would have been in Hibernian Heaven 

I am not sure how many pancake breakfasts I went to in my youth – no doubt many – but the main Catholic fundraising meals that I remember are the corned beef and cabbage dinners served by the Knights of Columbus.  How I loved them!  However much I loved the corned beef and cabbage, there was one facet of them I did not love. The school students were expected to provide some entertainment! That was in the days when the priests were treated as gods who must be constantly propitiated, and the nuns in my school were among the primary vestal virgins appeasing them.  Sister Hilda Marie, a Teutonic dragoness, was their leader, and a very enthusiastic propitiator, as well as an enthusiastic folk dancer.  This year it was Irish dancing, as a tribute to our Irish priests.   We were always being tormented with dancing lessons, and I often had to have her for a partner, a signal humiliation, as besides being the teacher and a nun, she had a very generous bosom. Poor me! In addition to no sense of direction, I have always been blessed with two left feet when it comes to this sort of thing, and I just could not do the dances.  Sr. H was determined, and unmoved by my whining,  took no excuses.  On the dreaded night, we lined up on the stage in our horrible little outfits (actually, I don’t even remember what we wore, but I am sure it was horrible) in front of, I was certain, the whole parish, and as the others tripped through their paces, I stumbled around at the end of the lineup, a complete klutz, my face burning in humiliation, mortified and in agony.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me to call in sick.  Probably the allure of the corned beef and cabbage.

The Propitiator and the Propitiated 
A tiny photo of Sr. Hilda Marie.  I remembered her as being much older, much larger, and much more terrifying.  Well, actually, she does look pretty terrifying, don't you think?

Thanks to The Twins for the Irish Dancers Photo!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A fun evening!

I adore the little mandala bats!

I have been an admirer of Samos’s Auntie Kree Arvanitas since long before I met her.  My first acquaintance was when she was in Greece, and Samos, who was not in Greece, was collecting her mail.  While I didn’t meet her in person for quite some time, I did check over her junk mail, (Amnesty International, and ACLU to name a few of her correspondents,) and so I knew that she was my kind of person and hence, was eager to meet her.  Once she returned from Greece, we became better acquainted, of course.  Since she had no access to my junk mail (much less interesting - Macy’s, LL Bean, and the Vermont Country Store are high frequency items – although I do occasionally get some more worthy mail  with pleas for funds from the Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society and lots from Seattle Opera), I had the jump on her.  She has proved true to her junk mail through the years, personally and politically.  Oh!  And lest I forget ----- she gave my darling kitty, Tobias. 

Kree and Michelle

But on top of being a wonderful parson and politically correct (in my sense of “correct”,) she is a fabulous artist.  I posted on a previous showing here. And last night she had opening of  a new show.  Her art has evolved in an amazing  way, always Eastern, always political, but now becoming more mythological.

This lion is a tiny part of a large and complex mandala

"Twitter Revolution in Heaven"

What is an art opening without lovely food?  Michelle was worried that we would be too late and the cupcakes would be gone.  We arrived in time for there to be plenty of cupcakes, as well as blintzes, exotic cheeses and crackers and much more.

You can see the show until April 2  at 

3510 Fremont Place NSeattle, Washington 98103

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pancake Day

Pancake accompaniments

There are several cooking feats, generally supposed to be basic and simple, that I have never mastered, and making pancakes is one of them.  This may be related to the fact that I also don’t like eating them.  Iron blobs weighting down the stomach – that’s my idea of a pancake. Rebecca was a great Pancake Day aficionada, but I think that I usually missed it because I worked evenings and so only ate dinner with my dear little family a few times a week, probably not often on Tuesdays. But, being a good Catholic, and this being a Christian Feast, just as is Mardi Gras, I did want to celebrate Pancake Day. BBC Good Food website had an inspirational pancake post, with a recipe that looked yummy!  When I say that I don’t like pancakes and have not had success at making them, I am talking about American pancakes.  English pancakes and crepes are another matter.  Yummy to eat, and foolproof to make.  But in contrast to the iron blobs, they seem a little unsubstantial.  So I thought I had better make a bunch of other things to fill the empty spaces.  Perhaps a vegetabley salad sort of affair, as not only was it pancake day, but it is the beginning of asparagus season!  Triple yummy! 

When preparing food for guests, I always find making dishes that need to be fussed with at the last minute (like pancakes) pretty stressful. But The Darling Twins have witnessed so many of my last minute preparation fiascos, and afterwards, life has gone on as before, that I was willing to give it a go.  Everything but the pancakes could be made well in advance, and the salad was a bunch of stress-free roasted vegetables.  Beets?  No problem!  Broiling the peppers?  A little dicey, as the broiler didn’t seem to be working, and then I forgot momentarily about them broiling away in the other oven.  A smoke filled kitchen jogged my memory.  No problem there, just close the kitchen door so the smoke alarm doesn’t go off, and charred is fine in the matter of peppers.  And the asparagus?  Piece of cake!  Just bathe them in olive oil, and roast them till there are done.  Ah!  There’s the rub!  When they were done, I was trying to take the pan out of the oven with insufficient hot pad assistance. I barely had a grip on it and when the hot olive oil spattered on my hand, I lost the little that I had.  The sizzling glass pan leapt from my grasp and shot back into the oven, gliding across the burners like an Olympic luge, and nestling safely under the blistering baking stone was completely out of my reach. With the baking stone in place, I couldn’t even really see it. Heart pounding, hands shaking, I tried to assess the situation. I couldn’t tell if the glass was still intact, and couldn’t see the asparagus.  Disaster!  What to do? First, open the oven door, to let things cool off.  Second, put Tobias out on the porch so that he could not emulate any of the characters in Hansel and Gretel. Then, third, have a cup of tea to restore the nerves!  This done, and the oven cooled somewhat, I managed, fearing electrocution all the while, and with the help of tongs and long handled ladles, to scoot the pan to the front of the oven where I could get it out.  Halleluiah!  The glass pan was not broken, and all the asparagi were still in it.  And they were delicious.

Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus – sufficient number of spears to lie side by side in a baking dish
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
Clove or two of garlic,
Salt and pepper,
Ponzu sauce, about a tablespoon
Capers, about two tablespoons

Heat the oven to 450°.   Snap the tough, thick bottoms off the asparagus spears.  Crush the garlic and moosh into the olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to the oil, and whisk in the ponzu sauce.  Place the asparagus spears in the baking dish, and pour the olive oil mixture over them.  Swish things around so that every spear is shiny and well oiled. Arrange the spears so that they are not overlapping.  Bake until done. (I hate it when recipes say vague things like that!)  The length of baking time will, of course, vary, depending on the thickness of the spears.  Set the timer for 15 minutes for medium thick spears, and then check them to see how they are doing. When done, sprinkle the capers over them.  Serve immediately, or cool to room temp.  They are excellent both ways.

This is an easy and delicious way to prepare one of springtime’s delights. 

I have gotten many compliments on my lovely photos in the previous post, but they are actually Maria Laughin’s photos.  I meant to note this in the post, but forgot.  I am an indistinguishable speck somewhere in them, as opposed to being behind the camera. You can see more of her photos of this amazing event here.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Great Night and a Cobbler's Delight

Abelard and Heloise sing, accompanied by Heloise's nuns. 

The women's choirs sing Verdi's "Lauda alla Vergine Maria"

Last night was the first official performance of this year’s “Great Music for Great Cathedrals,” at our own great cathedral.  One of my friends, a member of  Jubliate!, the girls choir, said that being in this event was “better than Christmas,”  and I have to agree with her.  This year’s performance, which is likely to be the last one ever, is possibly also the best one ever.  With music from the 13th century to almost yesterday (relatively speaking,) multiple choirs, the Cathedral Brass, seven organs, lights, colors, incense, and the wonderful cathedral itself, it is an opportunity for a rare experience.  The extraordinary Cathedral Youth Music performs the Play of Daniel, and it is mind bending!  No need for psychedelics during such an amazing production. 

Not everyone appreciated this amazing presentation quite as much as I did.  

Who would think they could ever be naughty?

My friends Dashiel, Callie, and Cyrus, whose parents were busy, busy, busy – their mom on the costume crew, and their dad in the Cathedral Choir – thought the whole thing was a bust, and decided to show their parents just how dissatisfied they felt.  I was sure that Dashiel, my favorite basset and particular friend, was innocent, but his mother Peggy said that no, he was probably the ring leader.  

There were other footwear disasters too.  Sixteen years ago, the first time I was ever in Great Music, I purchased special shoes, as black shoes are requisite.  I have worn them in every production since, and I wore them for the dress rehearsal this year.  When I put them on for the actual performance last night, they felt odd and lumpy.  Imagine my surprise when I examined them and found that the soles had disintegrated.   Well, back to the manly boots for me.  They are way more comfy anyway.