Wednesday, July 27, 2016

at home

Nancy and Eileen came for dinner not long ago; they brought this hanging plant.

It all started when Eileen came to the library to help out - she volunteers - and began her tale of woe. Their house (charming! I love it!) is a place of misery due to a neighbor (very next door) who plays his music full blast for hours every day. And who wants to close their windows in summer?  Also, they were getting new kitchen cabinets and that room was torn up. When I came home I told my brother, "We have to have them over soon."

I made chili and Rose's chocolate ice cream recipe and when they were leaving, they said they always feel so at home and comfortable at our place. What nicer thing can anyone say than that?

Monday, July 25, 2016

frittata success

Mastery of the frittata eluded me for years. I guess, looking back, I didn't understand it. My original impression of it was the spaghetti pie - remember that?  Leftover spaghetti, cooked up in a large skillet somehow so it all stays together, and with a bit of a crust. I had no idea how to even begin, and when I tried, it never cooked on top; I didn't have an oven-proof skillet, so I couldn't finish it off properly.

But somewhere along the way I realized that, where an omelet is egg with a filling, a frittata is lots of filling, held together by some egg. And then you cook the top of it in the oven. Ah!  When I realized that I thought I might be able to do it. And I did!

one of the last two pieces

So, this was it. With that old spaghetti pie in mind, I began my plan with some leftover orzo, cooked with mushrooms and chickpeas, nicely flavored. But first, I heated some olive oil in the pan and poked into the fridge for leftover veg. There was the dregs of a bag of salad greens, so I pushed them around in the skillet for a few minutes, and then I found the end of some canned diced tomatoes, so I added that, with some herbs which I forget right now. Then, in went the pasta, and there was lots of it. It was sticking together, so I added artichoke cooking liquid from the previous day, just to loosen it up, and when it looked ready, I whisked up six eggs (maybe salted and peppered?) and put them in. When I thought it must be almost done, I sprinkled the whole with shredded cheddar, stuck the pan under the broiler for four minutes, and it came out so nicely!  I did it! Two slices left, and I put them in the freezer; I'll be glad to see how it freezes. 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

"to settle down in the quiet of our own being"

"It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from the effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition."

                                                                                   -  Thomas Merton  (from our church bulletin)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

real Calphalon

At the thrift store/consignment shop last time, I saw a real Calphalon skillet for twenty three dollars, and grabbed it.

I have another twelve-inch, heavy bottomed skillet without a name on it, and it's good. But this one is better.

Monday, July 18, 2016

morning prayer

"O Lord, as we travel through this day of our life, our strength is in you; in our hearts are the roads to our eternal destination, the place where you dwell for ever with your people in joy and in peace. Sustain us as we pass through the bitter valleys of suffering; shield us as dangers threaten; let us rejoice in the springs of living water that refresh us on our way; and keep us faithful until journey's end, through Christ our Lord. Amen."  

-  from Magnificat,  July 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

making space

There aren't many personal things of my mother's which I am able to use, but it's nice when there are.

She had this pink-striped canvas-covered accordion file for clippings, and it's perfect for the magazine articles from the large stack of Magazines Which I Thought I Had to Keep. Turns out I don't, and even after tearing out what I couldn't bear to part with, it all fits in here easily, to my Great Surprise. How some things change!

Friday, July 15, 2016

chicken at high temperatures

I brought out an old issue of Everyday Food magazine, and decided to try a recipe of Emeril's for chicken wings, baked at 500 degrees.

I don't cook my chicken at such a high temperature, but I was curious. I would learn something either way: if it came out well, I would learn something about cooking at a higher temp and also have a faster method for occasions when I'd need one; if it failed, I'd have a better reason for avoiding the higher temps.

Twenty minutes on one side and ten on the other did not cook these things to my satisfaction, or even sufficiently brown them. I turned it down to 400 for a while, and then to 350 to finish. I'm not sure what I learned from this - maybe that I can start them out high to speed things up. That's something, I suppose.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

summer rain

This morning soon after daylight arrived, the heavens suddenly opened - and it came straight down, as it does only in summer.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Sweetie's in

We have another cat here.

It's Sweetie - we took her in.

Is anyone surprised?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

more garlic

Did I mention that the woman who was wanting to learn to braid garlic the other day, said she'd bring me some?

Well, she did!

Monday, July 4, 2016

hymn for America

I love this native land of mine, 
A noble land and free,
Adorned by nature's lavish hand
With fairest artistry,

Within this western sphere it lies,
A gem of peerless price
Whose shores are washed by ageless tides -
A long-lost paradise.

It was unto this gracious land
Our founding fathers came
To build a nation strong and grand
Unto thy glorious name:

A land whose firm foundations sure
Were built on faith in thee,
Where virtues's good and brotherhood
Were crowned with liberty.

Preserve this nation as thine own
And keep its people free;
Keep ever bright this beacon-light
Of truth and liberty!

-  from Magnificat, July 2016

Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

Saturday, July 2, 2016

our own garlic

A woman came in the library hoping we had a book on how to braid garlic. Not the usual way, but a fancy way; and no, she'd watched a youtube video surely ten times but couldn't follow it, so she was hoping for some simple photos. We didn't come up with anything, unfortunately, but she told me she pulled up her garlic (four hundred!) a week ago.

So, I thought I'd better pull up mine today.

The bulbs are small, but it is very exciting. Of course I chopped off the tops, and then found out it's better to leave them. I suppose it'll be all right. They need to dry for two weeks.

And now I have a space to put a watermelon plant Debra gave me.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

a beautiful runner

There's a sort-of consignment shop nearby with tag sale prices, at least on some things. The other day I found this

it's long, and beautiful. I think it was a dollar fifty.

I'm not too into this sort of thing, but it was way too pretty and too cheap to leave there.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

if only you know how to look at it

"Jane Austen's life may have seemed uneventful.... Her genius began with the recognition that such lives as hers were very eventful indeed - that every life is eventful, if only you know how to look at it. She did not think that her existence was quiet or trivial or boring; she thought it was delightful and enthralling, and she wanted us to see that our own are, too. She understood that what fills our days should fill our hearts, and what fills our hearts should fill our novels."

                                    -   from  A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

Friday, June 24, 2016

no locks on the door

I shall have to do a deal of travelling before I come in sight of your Celestial City. If I arrive late, you'll say a good word for me, won't you, Beth?

Something in the boy's face troubled his little friend; but she said cheerfully, with her quiet eyes on the changing clouds, if people really want to go, and really try all their lives, I think they will get in; for I don't believe there are any locks on that door, or any guards at the gate. I always imagine it is as it is in the picture, where the shining ones stretch out their hands to welcome poor Christian as he comes up from the river.

                                                          Little Women,  Louisa May Alcott

Thursday, June 23, 2016

too much to read, but knitting anyway

It's not very often I join in with yarnalong.  I finally got going on my little scarf, and I am at a point where I've internalized it and don't need to look at the directions anymore.

I bought the pattern through ravelry - it's called Veron. By a woman named Poirot!  I wonder if she's related to Hercule?  Anyway, it's got a nice wide cabled border, and when your yarn weighs twenty percent of what it weighed when you started, you start the border on the other side. I hope.   I like this light blue yarn with the primary red, blue and yellow specks, plus some olive ones.  The knitting bag was a gift from Cheryl - it has a drawstring and is a good size for smaller projects.

I'm reading too many books, but sometimes that just happens. Because of my recent interest in Fruitlands and the "American Bloomsbury" group from Concord, MA , I've been reading "Little Women" again after so many years. I'm so surprised at how I'm enjoying it! I also found a used copy of one of Tif Fussell's books - she's the lady behind Dottie Angel - because I was curious about her.  Those two books are the light reading, and when my brain is working properly I am trying to learn more about our electoral system. This book by Tara Ross is very thorough - Very Thorough - and she's in favor of it. Which I am too, by the way, even though I find it hard to understand. So, that's why I bought this. Finally, I've been following along with Leila's book club with Josef Ratzinger's "The Spirit of the Liturgy" on Fridays.

I also want to congratulate Ginny and her family on the birth of little Mae. Many blessings to them all!

Monday, June 20, 2016

"better than money or fashion"

"I thought, as a little lesson, I would show you what happens when every one thinks only of herself. Don't you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another, to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it comes, and to bear or forbear, that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all?

Then let me advise you to take up your little burdens again, for though they seem heavy sometimes, they are good for us, and lighten as we learn to carry them. Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for every one; it keeps us from ennui and mischief, is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money or fashion."

                                            -   Little Women,   Louisa May Alcott

Sunday, June 19, 2016

small garden, happy kitty and pantry stew

My garden is very tiny -

what's in it are two strawberry plants, a short row of garlic, one (or possibly two) dill plants and several tomato plants - San Marzano, which were begun very late and won't be ready before mid-August. I have a very hard time getting enthused about it until it becomes hot - which is not the best attitude for a New Englander.

Dolly longs for the outdoors at this time of year, and if she doesn't get out at least every couple of days, she pines like the Beast longing for Beauty. But then when she does, she's a new person!  She's re-invigorated for a while, and then sleeps happily.

I couldn't believe last night that even after carefully planning a menu and writing down all the ingredients I'd need at the store, I'd forgotten to buy almost everything required for today's dinner!  Happily, I was able to make do with what was here, so I guess that means I saved money!

A chard and white bean stew from Smitten Kitchen.  I chose it in order to chip away at an opened bottle of white wine; I forgot to buy the chard and the beans. ahem.  But I had some beans and I had some baby kale. I used crushed tomatoes instead of pureed. It was very good. We had it with kielbasa on the side, and green salad. Milk chocolate pudding for dessert.

Joining Leila this week, who has a REAL garden.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"the source of life-long peace, happiness, and strength"

"My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all, if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of life-long peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily and go to God will all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother."

                                                     -  (Marmee to Jo) Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

walnut rice salad

In my recipe box, there are a good few which I've never even tried. This wasn't anything before the advent of Pinterest, but now that it's so easy to collect recipes online, too - the box kind of falls by the wayside.

But I still want to keep it. So I've got to apply myself to trying out whichever ones still have appeal, and letting go of the rest.

This week I made something from a California walnuts ad, torn out of a magazine many years ago.

I forget that you can make a salad with rice. This is very nice, and worth sharing.

Take a cup of raw rice and cook it. Drain, and set aside for ten mins.  Meanwhile, combine 3 T. walnut oil, 2 T. rice vinegar, half a T. sugar and half a tsp. of salt. Mix into rice after ten mins. Stir in a shredded carrot, and a half English cuke, thinly sliced, 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese. Serve with cherry tomatoes.

I doubled the whole thing, used brown rice, olive oil and an herbed, soft goat cheese and less of it. I served the tomatoes on the side.  It was a little strange tonight having to heat up the leftovers - warm cukes, hmm - but a nice change.

Monday, June 13, 2016

from Fruitlands to Little Women

It all began back in April, when Anna ended up in Massachusetts and went to Fruitlands.  I'd never heard of the place, or really known very much about Louisa May Alcott. So, like anyone who has discovered a new interest, I forgot all about it, almost immediately. (ahem)

For only a couple of days, because what should cross my path the next time I was working in the children's department at the library, but a book about Fruitlands?  A semi-fictional children's book which includes what remains of Louisa May's diary about her stay there, in addition to which the author wrote a made-up diary to "supplement" the real one, with the idea that since Louisa's parents were going to read her diary, she would also write a secret one, with a bit more honesty to it. It seemed plausible to me, and was the only book at the library about the subject. I made a request for a book from another library and passed the time in between by reading American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever. So good - fascinating!  I really knew nothing about Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Alcott, Melville, or that they were connected.

Now I have to read Little Women, of course, even though I did read it many years ago. This edition has appealing sketches and informational tidbits on the period, hopefully of interest to young readers.

They always looked back before turning the corner, for their mother was always at the window, to nod and smile, and wave her hand to them. Somehow it seemed as if they couldn't have got through the day without that, for whatever their mood might be, the last glimpse of that motherly face was sure to affect them like sunshine.

I suppose I'll have to watch all the film versions after this, in order to compare them. Such drudgery!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"O lovely cat"

"As when light on the ocean turns to haze
And violent gales make waters froth and vie,
Up to the flaming stars that light the sky
The weary night-time pilot turns his gaze.

So do I turn, O lovely cat, in my
Dire fortune to thy holy orbs of sight
And fancy that before me are alight
Two stars as welcome as the northwind dry.

I see another kitten and you seem
The Greater and the Lesser Bear: O cats,
The lanterns of my room, beloved cats:

As God may keep you safe from blows malign,
As Heaven may furnish you with meat and cream,
O give me light to write these songs of mine!"

                           -  Cats, by Torquato Tasso, trans. by Lowry Nelson, Jr.

Friday, June 10, 2016

"better to have than the honeycomb"

Come to me, all you that yearn for me, and be filled with my fruits;
You will remember me as sweeter than honey, better to have than the honeycomb,
He that eats of me shall hunger still,
he who drinks of me will thirst for more;
He who obeys me will not be put to shame,
he who serves me will never fail.

                                                                                   - Sirach: 24:18-21

Thursday, June 9, 2016

tomato ready

I seem to start my indoor seeds later than I should. These tomato plants won't be ready till mid August. But I am always afraid they'll get too big before I can put them in the ground, and I'll have to keep moving them to bigger pots in the greenhouse.  These San Marzanos will soon be too large for their yogurt containers, but today was so cool and windy - I couldn't plant them.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

garlic scapes

Suddenly scapes have appeared in the garlic bed. If I hadn't seen pictures online, I would not have know anything. Will have to look up a recipe.

Monday, June 6, 2016

peanut butter and plum tomatoes

Not together, no.

One day Katie brought some peanut butter balls to work for a snack. I loved them; they contained peanut butter, honey, oats and protein powder. You mix it up, refrigerate it and then roll into balls. I then discovered they are called energy bites and there are a few recipes for them online.

I've been making my own version, because you can't beat them for the ease of making, and something quick and filling to eat.  Mine has no protein powder; I use equal parts of p.b. and rolled oats, plus some quick oats. I often add cocoa powder and a small amount of honey - two or three teaspoons. Maybe some sesame seeds. I wouldn't say they're delicious like the original, but they're good enough for me.

The other day I had a recipe which called for semi-dried tomatoes. Never heard of 'em! So, I looked for a recipe. The BBC is actually where I found this, and I've made it twice since. This will take a bunch of unremarkable supermarket plum tomatoes (I mean the out-of-season ones) and turn them into something worthwhile.  You just slice them lengthwise, lay them cut sides up on a baking sheet, brush cut edges with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, basil, Italian seasoning...whatever.  Cook in the oven at 275 for 2 - 3 hours. Don't make them on a hot day!

Smoosh them into a jar, and top with olive oil. They'll wait for you in the fridge until you need them to jazz up a salad or whatever. Yesterday I had some cod and they came in very handy for that.