Wednesday, December 17, 2014

more lights

There was a string of lights hanging around with nowhere to go, so I taped it to the center of the window over the kitchen sink.  There's an outlet above the stove.

Of course this means we can't pull down the shade after dark as we always do, but there's something about Christmas that makes you less inclined to follow your usual path. 

Then I went outside to see how it looked. Because it's really for the pleasure of the neighbors.

It's nice!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

people who write on the outside of envelopes...

ususally manage to warm the heart -

from Susan, who hasn't been blogging for a while

This charming communication may as well have come from Tasha Tudor herself, so delightful was it. Susan, I wish you and yours the same - but I'll write and tell you so. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

farewell, Cindy

Cindy went to her new home today. After nine and a half months, it's a relief to have some normalcy, but... I do miss her. She was cute. My eyes are teary at times, thinking about her leaving.

I don't know why she wouldn't stop going after Dolly - I mean, I don't know her history, so I can't judge. She was very cute in every other way - purring all the time, looking at you with googly eyes; lots of fun and chuckles.

After weeks of spraying her with the water bottle ten or twenty times a day it had all come to a head when she attacked Dolly in one of the litter boxes. Ours have covers, because Henry can't pee without spraying off the side, and Dolly was in there, and Cindy went in after her. I soon put a stop to it, but afterward Dolly was afraid to go downstairs to use the box, so we had to bring one upstairs every night into the kitchen and even then she took some cajoling to go inside it. So we got the idea to just keep Cindy downstairs when we weren't home, and let her up when Dolly was sleeping in somebody's bedroom. That's been much more peaceful and that's what we've been doing for two months or so. Dolly really perked up after that, and it was obvious she was relieved to be "free" of Cindy - I think she could tell we were protecting her from Cindy. She started playing in a way we hadn't seen since Cindy came. Which was sad, but that didn't mean we would just give her to anyone who showed an interest.

There was a lead once, but it didn't come to anything, and then a few weeks ago one of my brother's clients was telling him how she missed having a cat, but because of two long cruises they had planned, was afraid they couldn't get a cat before 2017. But my brother had a great idea - if they liked Cindy, we could just take her back when they were away for these extended periods. Hurrah!  They were all excited and emailed him - when could they come and meet her?  About four days later they showed up and everybody got along fine.

Be happy, little Cindy!  It's so good to be back to normal, but I do miss you even so.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

in the St. Lucia blog procession

I'm joining up with Heather's St. Lucia Day blog procession just a day late.

Thursday I made Lucia buns and today I iced a few, using apple cider mixed into the xxx sugar. After looking at too many recipes on pinterest, I just went with my good old Betty Crocker cookbook, but rather than citron, I put in pignoli and golden raisins - not too many.

Since discovering how un-messy bread-baking is when you use a KitchenAid mixer, I've been trying different types of recipes - what a pleasure!  No more "cement" stuck to the sponge, etc. Ugh. Anyway, I enjoyed trying these, but should have frozen them; even though they were in an airtight container, they are a little dry today. My brother was not deterred, however. A short moment in the microwave and he pronounced them quite edible.

I've also been playing a favorite Christmas cd of mine, Bereden Vag, which means "Prepare the Way", I think.  Sung by children from Uppsala Musikklasser, a school in Sweden, with solos by the wonderful Peter Mattei.  I'm not Scandinavian, but I love hearing this. There are several Swedish carols and then some English ones - very well done. Otherwise, we're quiet around here!

"a cause for rejoicing"

"Christ's coming is good news to those who are aware of their emptiness and need. For them it is a cause for rejoicing. It spells loss, however, for those who are full of themselves, their own importance, and their possessions."

                                               -  Magnificat, December 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

hydrangea magic

What is it about a dried hydrangea?  I had one bloom in a white vase in the kitchen and wanted to fit in some Christmas things. I was going to toss it.

Something prevented me. I broke the stem way down and it's glowing now in a setting more worthy of it.

The colors, the shadings!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lucia buns

I made Lucia buns today

among other things.

"the heavy tyranny of our own desires"

"What a wearisome struggle it is to maintain our imagined autonomy! When we choose Christ instead of the endless demands of our own small selves as the path to life, we might imagine we are choosing a burdensome road, but instead we do indeed find rest for our souls! In Advent, we pray to be delivered from the heavy tyranny of our own desires and to be renewed in strength through Christ."

                                                     from Magnificat, December 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas village

Someone gave the library a ceramic Christmas village, and I had to photograph it. There's a barn

and some houses:  a farmhouse

a mansion, with tree house out back

even a house for sale

and a lodge, which is my favorite.

I want to go inside

There is a church, of course

with carolers outside

next to a gazebo

There are other things, like a dairy barn with cows

gas station

burger place

I guess they sell furniture here, or maybe just the wood.

There is a Salvation Army band

a place selling Christmas trees

and train station.

And two more things no country town could possibly be without: a man walking his dog,

and a conveniently placed fire hydrant.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

an experiment

We have many plants at the library, and it's one of my jobs to water them. Thinking lately that I could do a little more by them, I started with a peace lily which sits on a counter near the main desk. It seems content enough in its pot, but the pot itself is a little dull.

So, I knitted a cozy for it in a plain stockinette, but the instructions I followed for keeping the edges from curling didn't work. I suppose I could use it like that, but I was wishing it wasn't quite so curled up. While pondering what to do, I came across some sashiko stitching on pinterest which was used to reinforce a weak fabric, and wondered if I could use some kind of stitching to sort of shore up those edges.

I just picked the first stitch in the embroidery book and began. So far, even though I've got to get my stitches more uniform, it is working!  We'll see how things turn out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"poverty and need are Advent attitudes"

"Those who look for for the fulfillment of God's promises out of a sense that they are entitled to them because of their intelligence, their virtue, their achievements, often discover to their cost that they were looking only for themselves - and it is themselves they find. Those who look for God in their poverty and need find themselves seeing what many longed to see but did not and what many longed to hear but did not. Poverty and need are Advent attitudes."

                       For the poor who are oppressed and the needy who groan
I myself will arise, says the Lord.
I will grant them the salvation for which they thirst...

It is you, O Lord, who will take us in your care
-  from Psalm 12 

(Magnificat, December 2014)

Monday, December 1, 2014

breadmaking with Leila

I've long wished that Leila would be more forthcoming with her knowledge of bread-making.  And then my moment arrived on Friday - she shared a recipe for a cinnamon raisin bread, along with her own method. Saturday, I got to work.

The dough is a rich one, with plenty of butter, egg and milk. She advises dividing each into three sections in order to braid them. Each part gets more butter on it, with sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Then you roll it up and make the braid. For some reason I rolled up the first one the short way, and ended up with three parts that looked like spring rolls. What to do?  I laid them side by side in the bread pan where they looked very cute.

With the other loaf I got it right, except they weren't long enough for a really nice braid - but that was okay - it looked well enough. Two loaves, plus I put a small amount of dough in the fridge for some rolls.

How well they turned out!  Leila seems to go almost entirely by instinct when making bread. She also uses a mixer - a KitchenAid, of course. Other brands don't have the stamina for it. Doing it with a mixer always seemed like cheating to me; I wanted to do it by hand, and I have done it several times. But because I wanted to learn something from her and follow her instructions, I used my KitchenAid, which is a four and a half quart (she has a fiver).

Now I understand why she does it this way. The machine does ALL the kneading - the ingredients go in, the mixer is turning, you make sure it's all combined. Then you let it sit for twenty minutes. Come back, give it another turn in the machine and sweetly put it into the greased bowl to rise. No elbow grease required. It had to rise twice, with a gently punch-down (really a push-down) in between. Into the bread pans, heat the moderate oven for only ten minutes and in they go.  One's almost gone, the other's in the freezer.

And the rolls? I made them last night. And since I'd never made yeast rolls, I poked around. And this on Anna's blog was what I found - bury a chocolate filling inside of each, like a holiday treasure, and let me tell you - those are gone, too.

And it's just the beginning.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"joyful preparation"

"Advent is a season of joyful preparation for the coming of Christ, but the joy lies in knowing that God will clear away all the obstacles we ourselves have made to his coming into our lives in full. We begin therefore in a spirit of repentance.'

                                        from Magnificat, November 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

just what I needed

no, it isn't dirty - it's some kind of spatterware

This thing has been hanging out in the kitchen for many years. It's made of tin, and has a screw top with little holes. My mother used to put some powder in it - was it talc?  Anyway, I've been ignoring it, only giving it momentary attention when I dust.

Today, I'm making Leila's bread recipe and in her photos she's got a small jar nearby with flour in it. I thought I needed something similar to be able to shake flour on the counter and the dough, rather than getting my sticky hands into the canister. And then I suddenly remembered this little thing! I looked inside. Yes, it was flour in there - probably twenty years old.  But I cleaned it out and put in some fresh, and what a helpful little article it is!

In my ongoing purgings I had looked at it more than once with evil intent, but now am very glad that its pretty design prevented me from discarding it.

I just love it!

Friday, November 28, 2014

a Thanksgiving sandwich

After snowing all day Wednesday,

with much cooking going on in between,

it decided to snow again at the end of the day.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Litany of Thanksgiving

For the love of God, for faith, family, and friends, We thank you, O Lord.

For joys, successes, achievements, and accomplishments, We thank you, O Lord.

For health, safety, work, and rest, We thank you, O Lord.

For struggles, sorrows, trials, and sufferings, We thank you, O Lord.

For our jobs, for those who support us, for our education, and for the chance to serve,
          We thank you, O Lord.

For our gifts, talents, and abilities, for honors, for strength and energy, We thank you, O Lord.

For our homes, for food, warmth, and shelter, for all the things that have made us happy,
         We thank you, O Lord.

For our hobbies and pets, for happy memories, for our favorite things, for leisure and relaxation,      
          We thank you, O Lord.

For our nation, for freedom and peace, for teachers, leaders, and those who give us a good example,
         We thank you, O Lord.

For the ability to say "I'm sorry", for the grace of repentance, for the forgiveness of others, for the generosity of others, We thank you, O Lord.

For good advice, for financial security, for the trust others put in us, for tenderness, understanding, and compassion, We thank you, O Lord.

For kindness, goodness, joy, and laughter, for the times we have helped others or made them happy,
          We thank you, O Lord.

For all the wonders of creation, for beauty, music, sports, and art, for new opportunities and second chances, We thank you, O Lord.

For failures and rejection, for all the ways we have grown up and become better people,
          We thank you, O Lord.

For renewed hope and fulfilled dreams, for the providence and protection of heaven,
         We thank you, O Lord.

For the gift of life, We thank you, O Lord.

                     composed by Father Peter John Cameron, taken from Magnificat, November 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Nothing like snow in New England to push you into a festive mood; tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the snow arrived while I was at work. We really didn't want it quite yet, but I admit it does bring the festive feelings up a notch. Now, back to the menu.

Monday, November 24, 2014

a new garden

This picture was taken through a window, hence the glare.  But it's a photo of a new garden, or what I hope will end up being a new garden next spring.

I have happily discovered Charles Dowding and his no-dig gardening methods. His idea is that if you lay a few inches of good compost on top of the existing soil, that's all that is needed; the worms will come up to find it, and carry it down through. According to him, you just cause more weeds to grow when the soil is disturbed by so much digging. So, what I did here is lay a very large piece (the same size as my little garden!) of cardboard about a foot away from my existing garden and some newspaper on top. (The wind began to blow, so I didn't put down as much as I'd intended.) Then, compost on top. I'll put more down as early in spring as I can and see what happens. He says the soil won't be terrific right away, but things will get better each year, and I'm certainly willing to try it.

On another note, I was outside today - November 24th - in my flip flops, scattering some triple phosphate on my roses and other shrubby things around the yard. It was in the sixties!  And on Wednesday we are to expect at least six inches of snow.  New England.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

planning the holiday

There is something about saying  "we always do this"  which helps keep the years together. Time is such an elusive thing that if we keep on meaning to do something interesting, but never do it, year would follow year with no special thoughtfulness being expressed in making gifts, surprises, charming table settings, and familiar favorite food. Tradition is a good gift intended to guard the best gifts.

                                                     -  Edith Schaeffer

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pinterest recipes: chocolate avocado mousse

I have been determined to make this one for a while now. A pudding of sorts, but more mousse-like; with no dairy, although you could use milk if you wanted, and the hidden but major ingredient being four avocadoes.

There is no photo here - you know what a chocolate mousse/pudding should look like. And here is the recipe, or the picture I should say, which got my attention.  So, with my ingredients at hand, I re-read the directions. And the very first thing threw me right off and I wasn't sure what to do.  "1/2 cup crushed dark chocolate". What does she mean? Finely crushed, which would be a significantly more than slightly crushed. Or something in between? I was wishing she'd given weights rather than measures, when I realized that it was adapted from this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis. Ah, Giada just used chocolate chips!  Okay. So what I ended up doing was somewhere betwixt the both of these two methods.

I didn't think my blender could handle this, so into the food processor I put: four very ripe avocadoes, a half cup plus two tablespoons of coconut milk, a half cup of honey, one tablespoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt, half cup of Hershey's cocoa and a melted-and-slightly-cooled half cup of semisweet chocolate morsels. I may or may not have included a dash of black pepper; I don't recall, but Linda says she thinks I did, so if she tasted pepper maybe I did put it in. I didn't want the red pepper, and I didn't have raw sugar, so those were left out.

The coconut milk had separated in the can, which I expected, so I first tried whisking it together in a bowl, and then measuring. The whole amount was almost too much for my seven cup processor, so the mixer would have been best, really. Anyway, I tried some and my brother tried some and then I brought it to work today.

Well, I really wished I'd had my camera, because there were raves about it and Katie wants to include it somehow in her Thanksgiving menu. I told them they could finish it off and that's what they did. To me, it's a novelty and I may never make it again, but I can say that it really is very good.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the ruffle at the hem

Well, since there was some interest, here is the dress with a ruffle basted on. I won't know how well I like it till it's done and I put it on.

What I'm trying to achieve is the look of a fuller petticoat underneath, but without bothering to make one. Here are some images I saved on Pinterest:

This dress is actually hanging outside a Welsh pub, and it is two layers - this kind of thing appeals to me greatly.

This is from Etsy, I believe. The ruffle isn't attached to the dress, but it could have been done that way.

This is called the Blanchefleur - it's really what I was thinking of. But my dress is fuller than this rather slim one, and the flounce is quite extended. So, mine isn't going to end up anything like that.

I just want to finish it and move on to something else, because it's way too cold now to be wearing it.
But never fear, I'll keep trying!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

for the birds

Trisha came by yesterday while I was out; she had made these seed-covered bagels with the story hour children, and she brought me some!  I hung them in the front trees, and now we're eager to see who will find them first.

Friday, November 14, 2014

plum dress with linen sleeves

I had started on another dress like this - scoop-neck, a-line - then I a-lined it more, and after two interruptions where I had to drop it to work on something else, I'm  back to it now and getting near the end.

From fabric I had on hand, but not enough for the sleeves, so I used some lightweight linen in a matching color. Then I thought to embroider a running stitch with the same plum shade. The stitching echoes the "dashes" on the fabric, I think.

Then I decided to do another row.

My embroidery skills are rudimentary, but I won't let that stop me.  Now I just have to figure out the hem. A linen ruffle peeking out?