Tuesday, April 7, 2020

fluffy and bright

The forsythia near the driveway is like a fluffy, yellow cloud.


Monday, April 6, 2020

beautiful spring, welcome

The birds don't seem to know about corona viruses; they were singing beautifully this morning.


It was a gorgeous, sunny day. The grass is suddenly green everywhere.

I saw my first dandelion.


Determined to survive.


Sunday, April 5, 2020

low-yeast bread success

I am so psyched: I baked a loaf of bread, using only a quarter teaspoon of yeast. It came out just fine!


the cauliflower has sprouted!

Ever since I stumbled upon Artisan Bread with Steve, a youtube channel, I was wanting to try his method. Over the past few years, my researches have led me to the idea that a long rise using less yeast gives much more flavor - it's a more natural way of doing things. So, when I find a recipe which interests me, I make it, but with less yeast than called for.

after mixing and sitting out all night

But Steve uses only one quarter teaspoon, and that's hardly any. And his recipes look good, but I wanted to understand the method. He uses more water, which enables you to proceed with less yeast, and no kneading. Like the 5-minute artisan breads. So, after doing more research, I discovered that a flour to water ratio is normally 5:3. But with wetter, artisan-type doughs, the water amount is about three quarters of the flour weight. So that meant I'd have to weigh my flour after measuring to determine how much liquid to add. But I did it, and mixed it, and after 18 hours I shaped it for the second rise.

ready for the second proof

Another hour and a half or so, and it was ready for baking. So now I have three methods of baking bread, and depending on how much time I have and when I'm available, making bread can be done around my schedule. Excellent!





prayer for Holy Week

"O Lord, we are so easily deceived still into expecting from you a kingdom governed according to the laws of this world. Keep our eyes fixed on the triumph of life over death through the mystery of the cross, so that we may grow into a deeper understanding of the power of your law of love over the laws of human expectation, through Christ our Lord. Amen."

                                                                   -  from Magnificat, April 2020

Saturday, April 4, 2020

bags that move and other things

I saw a cloth shopping bag scoot across the living room floor today; we're living in strange times.

On the subject of bags, I had to make a new one for the clothespins - the old was in tatters. I used a fabric which was I thought would last, but it was almost too thick to get through the holes.


You know, the holes on that metal piece with the hook? But I managed. And though the toile design isn't right side up all around, it does look springy hanging there.

On the subject of sewing, I dug out a jersey top I'd started to make a while back. 



My intention is to finish it. 

On the subject of finishing things, I washed the last of my turtleneck sweaters by hand this afternoon, and it's drying flat in the spare room. So glad that's out of the way!

And on the subject of doing things by hand, I polished my red shoes today. They've been looking sorry for a while.


I always air them afterward to get rid of the odor. Not the foot odor! The polish. :)


the bag mover




Friday, April 3, 2020

a little Camus


The neighbors hens wandered again the other day. I guess they know enough to only wander nearby.

At the library, we withdrew a few bread machine cookbooks, which I brought home. I like to try new recipes, and it's easy to adapt them for mixing by hand or with a mixer. And I'm especially eager to try a method that uses only a quarter teaspoon of yeast per loaf. It's on a youtube channel "Artisan Bread with Steve". I wish I knew a way to adapt his method for use with other recipes. For me, the less yeast used, the better.


Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world, yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

-   Albert Camus*

No, I have not been reading Camus! This passage was in a magazine.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

"a time to choose what matters"

"Lord, you are calling us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: 'Be converted!', 'Return to me with all your heart' (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.

Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons."

                       
                                                             - Pope Francis, from the Urbi et Orbi message, Mar. 27                                             

Saturday, March 28, 2020

diversion while mending


Had to mend another hole in my colorful wool scarf this evening. Meanwhile, the little Orphan had spied the switchplate on my wall, and was jumping up to try and get it. Even while I heard myself screech, "What ARE you doing??" it was a strange sort of entertainment.

Thankfully she can't jump high enough.

Friday, March 27, 2020

springing

The Christmas cactus at work has re-bloomed, for some reason. I don't think it's ever done that. Yesterday the mildness caused me to open a few windows, and so I heard the mockingbird singing. And this morning at the library I went outside to get the newspapers and I heard one singing there, too. Wonderful. We are still going to work, and today we began bringing out requests curbside for our patrons. It requires more work on our end, but it's good to be able to get the books and other things out to people.


"Our natural tendency is to praise God only when things are going well. But Scripture tells us, Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you....After praising God, the other forms of prayer - repentance, reading God's Word, interceding for others, or praying for my own needs - flow more from the leading of the Holy Spirit and less from my own limited human ideas. I'm able to pray with a heart more attuned to God's will and his wonderful purposes."

                                                               -  Mary Healy, from Magnificat, March 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

the trainee

I scrubbed the floor today


and somebody watched me.

Monday, March 23, 2020

March wishes

March, where I live, is the most unpredictable of months. Usually it's muddy from melting winter snows, and more than occasionally we get a blizzard. Also, coming after the shortest month, it seems very long.

But none of this is the case this year. Except for today. We have had mildness, no snow since January, and no sign of wild weather. But this morning I heard the weatherman say we'd have a bit of snow, and then rain.

Well. It snowed all day until late afternoon, turned to rain, but even now the rain is mixed with sleet. That's March.

But whatever your climate I hope and pray everyone who's got to stay inside has good books to read, and warm companionship!


"You cannot live indefinitely off refrigerators, politics, finance, and crosswords. It is just not possible. You cannot live without literature, or colors, or love."

-  The Little Prince


Sunday, March 22, 2020

improvements

Sometimes when I make mac and cheese I use blocks of nice cheddar, instead of the pre-shredded stuff.  But sometimes I am too lazy to shred it, or even let the food processor shred it.


So I cut cubes. They melt eventually, just taking a little longer than grating.


God, whose almighty word
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight:
Hear us, we humbly pray,
And where the gospel day
Sheds not its glorious ray,
Let there be light!

Savior, you came to give
Those who in darkness live
Healing and sight,
Health to the sick in mind,
Sight to the inward blind:
Now to all humankind
Let there be light!

-  from Magnificat, March 2020


Debra and her husband stopped in their walk around the neighborhood. As we spoke, another couple strolled by - they waved and we said a loud "hi!". I don't know who they were. Two weeks ago, one or the other of us may have been too preoccupied or less aware of the other to offer a greeting. Now, things are different. May it continue, on all sides. 

a spot of levity

or, bathroom humor, as the case may be:  Something my brother saw on facebook and recreated for my benefit -


which ends up being way more comical-looking in this photo than in "person", which made us both laugh like a couple of kids.

Assuming this is the work of an American, which I don't know for sure -  may we never lose our sense of humor in this country!  Amen.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

staying calm and carrying on

Today was cool, but sunny and beautiful. Trisha called to ask if it was the right time for pruning roses. I hadn't even thought about it! I told her yes, and then went outside - there was almost an inch of growth in places, but I cut them back severely like I always do - they're too close to the house for any other treatment.

The governor is going to make us all stay in, as of Monday evening. So, I'll go to work on Monday, but that'll be it, I guess. I just mended a waffle-knit top I wear around the house. I am behind on my mending. We're just trying to keep busy and keep in peace.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

certainty

This was in my morning prayers today:

"God's faithful constancy is an anchor in an ever-shifting world, where love declared today is spurned tomorrow, and all other certainties are blown away by the wind*."

*emphasis mine

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

snow and holiness

I got up this morning to see this


I guess I haven't heard the weatherman lately, as I certainly didn't expect snow. It's gone now. It has occurred to me that my snow photos are often of the same scene - the shed, the bridge. But that's what I see out my window, and I'm usually in the middle of something so I just take the picture.

This was in Magnificat today:

Give peace to those who have destroyed our peace; we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Grant love to those who have refused us love; we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Protect from injury those who have done us injury; we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Grant success to those who have competed with us to our loss; we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Give prosperity to those who have taken what was ours; we pray: Lord, have mercy.


At the library, we realized it's not a good idea to bring things out to people - it's better to keep distance as much as possible. 

"We all must experience some darkness, otherwise how can we appreciate the light?
We all must experience the nearness of despair, otherwise, how can we know when to celebrate the triumph of hope?"

                                               -  Vigen GuroianTending the Heart of Virtue
                  

Monday, March 16, 2020

in all seriousness

The library is closed to the public now, and for the next two weeks. We are still going to work, there is always plenty to do, and over the weekend we told the patrons that if they needed anything we could gather it for them and bring it out when they drive up. Everyone seemed pleased to think we would do that.


I checked out every cd the library has of religious vocal music from the middle ages and renaissance era. I'm playing them during Lent. This music is mostly solemn and it seems to soothe the cats.


I've always been partial to it, too, and it fits in with the seriousness of the season.


I had a new recipe to try today which required me to slice an acorn squash. I've never been able to do that - they are too hard (and probably my knives are too dull). But today I had an idea. I put it in the microwave for just one minute. Then I found I was able to halve it. But I still couldn't slice it. So, I put the halves back in for one minute. I could slice it after that! Then it got roasted with some other vegetables. I will remember this technique.




A woman in our church's ladies' group suggested putting an electric or battery-powered candle in the window, as a small sign of encouragement, I suppose. So, I did. Tough times.



Sunday, March 15, 2020

early St. Patrick's Day dinner

Tuesday is the feast of St. Patrick and I bought the corned beef weeks ago. But I work Tuesday; I could cook the dinner tomorrow, thereby making two dinners, but I thought I'd make it today, and hope for some leftovers on Tuesday.

 so much fat

It all really depends on what sized pot you have. Mine is more tall than wide, and after the meat is almost done, you have to put in the carrots, cabbage and potatoes and cook them in the flavored  liquid. 

A couple of weeks ago I came across a recipe for the well-known Irish dish, colcannon. It so happened I had a bag of shredded cruciferous vegetables that was hanging around and I decided to make my own version of it. I braised the veg in some water and drained it. Then rinsed and boiled a bag of small red potatoes, drained them, mashed them and added butter, cream salt, pepper, cream and some cheddar cheese. It was easy and tasty, and I had a thought - make it again for Patrick's day, which would give me more room in the pot for the vegetables. Potatoes are important for this meal, but they take up room in the pot and absorb liquid. 

So, that's what I did.


There was plenty of room to cook a pound of carrots in the pot with three big wedges of cabbage!


And outside the maple trees are full of their red buds.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

something to ponder

"Since God exists only in gift form, his life, even in principle, cannot become a possession. Instead, it is 'had' only in the measure that it is given away."

                                     -  Bishop Robert Barron

Friday, March 13, 2020

catching up

More than once this week I intended to post here, but was too tired when I had the time.  I need a different schedule.

The fellows with the big claw came back this week! They've been laying down more dirt and tamping down everything.


I never thought to see them until maybe April,  but this month has been so un-Marchlike I can't believe it. Monday's temps were over seventy - and we all have spring fever, of course.

When I bring Dolly outside and we go across the brook, we come across a few - tags, I guess you can call them - tied to branches here and there, some pink, some blue (pink and blue - what might THAT mean, I ask you), but we don't know who put them there. Nobody will lay claim to them. Last year my brother said he was thinking of building another bridge across, further along so there'd be two, and I asked him about it the other day, if he still had that plan. He said these tags are preventing him; he asked the water company guys when they came by recently and they knew nothing about them. Previously, he'd asked others - the electric company people, maybe? And the town - nobody is saying what they signify or who put them there. He feels he can't do anything until he knows and there doesn't seem anybody left to ask.   ???


one of the pink ones

So, no new bridge for a while. 



The forsythia is getting ready to bloom. No wonder in this mild weather. Last year it bloomed mid-April. I haven't heard the weatherman say the weather is turning, so I guess the mild spell is staying. 

I took down a winter scene which was hanging over a chair in the living room. I didn't replace it right away, and the (small!) hook was up on the wall. Can you guess what I'm going to say next? Somebody who lives in this house was seen on the back of the chair, jumping up at the hook. 


These things are little but they don't escape her eagle eye. I had clear tape over the hole in the refrigerator door, but she still poked it through and more than once her little claw was stuck there, her highness sort of twisting slowly, slowly in the wind (so to speak). Extricated by one of us, and she hadn't learned one jot of a lesson and was right back there again, poking at it. I thought she was smarter than that, but maybe her drive to "do something" is greater than her sense.





Sunday, March 8, 2020

being perfect

"On our own we cannot be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect - but we must be to correspond to the task our nature lays upon us. We cannot do this, but we can follow him, cling to him, become his. If we belong to him as his limbs and members, then through our participation we become what he is: his goodness becomes ours."

                                                        - Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, March 7, 2020

memory work

Years ago when I bought a single lens reflex camera, I found that I never used it because I knew that if I took pictures I would never bother to look at them. It wasn't until I started blogging that I actually had a good (to me) reason for taking photos.



I've been keeping a Commonplace Book - just a notebook for writing quotes and things worth remembering. There's not an awful lot in it, but I was very happy to start one because sometimes you read something that you don't want to lose forever.

But, these quotes I write down, well, they sit there on the page. And, just like with the printed photographs, I don't go back and read any of it. Until the other day when I heard something which made me realize that you want to be memorizing these things that are so important to you. Well! That made sense. You want it to become part of you - that's why it appealed to you in the first place!

We'll see how well I do. But at the very least it should be good exercise for my brain.


"There is a kind of immortality in every garden."  -  Gladys Taber

Thursday, March 5, 2020

spring promise

"Spring so often promises what in the end it never pays, spring can cheat and lie and disappoint. You can sit at the window and wait for spring many a weary day."

                                                          -  Susan Hill, from The Magic Apple Tree

That's how I always feel about spring here, but this time, no. It's still mild and spring really seems to be coming. I brought Dolly out again the other day and she actually ran up a tree, about four and a half feet up and then I grabbed her. She chased a dead leaf, ran a bit so I had to run to keep up with her, and we saw our neighbors chickens cross the brook - a good bit of excitement for our Dolly. 



Monday, March 2, 2020

the love of beauty

"Poets and makers of beautiful things share in the same desire to achieve virtue through their creative powers. And through their love of beauty, they draw themselves closer to God."

                                                          -   Marsilio Ficino, from Theology of Home

Sunday, March 1, 2020

shenanigans

Well, it's March.

It's pretty cold today, and yesterday it snowed twice. Then, the sun came out and nothing had accumulated. Twice. We'll see what comes next.


I heard an interview with a woman who is behind this website, which is so beautiful I've added it to my "places to go" group on the right - it's called Cultivating. It's full of lovely images, thoughtful meditations, delicious and nourishing recipes and everything good, true and beautiful.


I would say that the Orphan is wilder now than before her surgery. When we bought our refrigerator we had them move the handle to the opposite side, and on the left side is a button-looking thing. She would frequently jump at it, trying to get it. This seemed harmless to me, since the thing was (presumably!) secured there. I came home one day and there was an envelope which my brother had written on:


She got it off there.


Persistence. Let that be a lesson to us - don't give up! But if he doesn't use Super Glue to stick it back on, I suppose she'll just go at it again.

In the living room, she  is suddenly going after the throw on the back of the couch. She takes it down, and I put it back. This game repeats itself several times a day.


She can find fun everywhere with these loose covers I have on all the chairs.


She's happy. And then, for a rest, she disappears.


Well, almost.

Monday, February 24, 2020

I'd say spring was coming, but it's almost March

Saturday I emailed the fellow who portrayed George Washington and asked him to convey our birthday wishes to the General; he said he would, gladly. Amazing.

I definitely have spring fever right now. It's sixty degrees outside and sunny - I think the cats also have it. Everyone wants to be near an open window.

Where I live, February is generally the coldest month. Not this year. It's been mostly in the forties, and we've had no appreciable snow since December. So, on a day like this I can really feel that I'm ready for spring to begin.

Except that I don't trust March. And wouldn't you know, I came across a poem in my Phyllis McGinley book on that very subject.


Song for a Personal Prejudice

January's bearable
In spite of bad report.
Though February's terrible,
It's short.
With snows in proper season,
Each burdens down the larch.
But March is full of treason,
And I hate March.

Hold your hats and duck, boys, March is nearly due,
The sleet is on the windowpane, the slush is on the shoe.
The pneumococcus carols a loud, triumphant song,
And not a holiday's in sight the whole month long.

On many a wedding present
In June my ducats fly.
The temperature's unpleasant 
In July.
As August airs grow olden,
Hay fever's what I've got.
But any time seems golden
Compared to you-know-what.

Pick your shovels up, lads, you'll never know reprieve,
For March is on the threshold with a blizzard up its sleeve,
With a pussy-willow fable that is feeble in its facts,
And a brand-new estimation of your extra income tax.

October leaves I rake with
An ardor far from faint,
And April wetting take with-
Out complaint.
Serene, in weather lawful,
I shiver or I parch.
But March is merely awful.
I can't stand March.

Away, that month despicable, those days of dread and doubt,
When the gale blows down the chimney and the oil is running out.
(Besides, I own a private cause to call the time accurst -
I'll have another birthday when its March the twenty-first).




Monday, February 17, 2020

another Presidents' Day

Well, it's another Presidents' Day.  The fellow who came to the library as George Washington wrote a book, and I've got it - it is a fictional account of the battles of Dorchester Heights and Harlem Heights, both little enough known that he felt he should tell the story. And he used the actual words of the well-known figures in the story whenever possible.

"Thursday the 7th, being set apart by the honorable the[sic] legislature of this province, as a day of fasting and prayer, 'to implore the Lord, and giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favor and protection. All officers, and soldiers, are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence, and attention on that day, to the sacred duties due to the Lord of hosts, for his mercies already received, and for those blessings, which our holiness and uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through his mercy to obtain."

                                                      -  George Washington,  March 1775

Saturday, February 15, 2020

clever minds

I am still reading through my book of poems by Phyllis McGinley. And I'm still amazed at her seemingly limitless ability to make rhymes on every subject - not just rhymes, of course, but intelligent, clever, witty and other things.


Incident in the Afternoon

I heard two ladies at a play - 
A comedy considered witty -
It was a Wednesday matinee
And they had come from Garden City.
Their frocks were rather arts-and-crafts,
And they had lunched, I learned, at Schrafft's.

Although we did not speak or bow
Or comment even on the weather,
More intimate I know them now
Than if we'd gone to school together.
(As you must presently divine,
their seats were rather near to mine.)

Before the curtain rose I heard
What each had told her spouse that morning.
I learned the history, word for word,
Of why three cooks had given warning.
Also that neither cared a straw
For domineering sons-in-law.

I heard a bridge hand, play by play.
I heard how all's not gold that glitters.
I heard a moral resume
Of half a dozen baby-sitters.
I learned beyond the slightest question
Shrimps are a trial to digestion.

The lights went down. The stage was set.
Still, in the dusk that fans the senses,
Those ladies I had never met
Poured out their swollen confidences.
The dialogue was smart. It stirred them
To conversation. And I heard them.

Above each stylish epigram
Wherewith the hero mocked his rival,
They proved how nicely curried lamb
Might justify a roast's revival,
That some best-selling author's recent
Book was lively. But indecent.

I heard a list of maladies
Their all too solid flesh was heir to.
I heard that one, in her deep freeze,
Could store a steer, but did not care to.
A neighbor's delicate condition
I heard of, all through intermission.

They laid their lives, like open tomes,
Upon my lap and turned the pages.
I heard their taste in hats and homes,
their politics, but not their ages.
So much I heard of strange and true
Almost it reconciled me to
One fact, unseemly to recall:
I did not hear the play at all.


I swear this woman was every bit as brilliantly clever as Jane Austen, in her way. And that's saying something (although just my opinion).

And speaking of Jane, the ladies' group at church gave a Jane Austen tea and luncheon today, with a speaker. And it was very enjoyable. The attention to detail was surprising; over eighty attended, and it must have been a lot of work.

First of all, we were given pre-printed name tags - not to wear, but to put in for a raffle if we wanted. There were four or five choices. There were tea party-ish hats there and a mirror, if you wanted to be hatted during the program. Each table was set for eight and everyone had a favor at their seat. Inside was a teabag and a Ghirardelli square of chocolate; the little gold box was closed with a little cameo pin!


Not fine jewelry, but still -
Each table had two or three little papers elegantly printed with quotations from famous people - quotes about love:


I took these photos at home. I can't believe I forgot my camera! The decorations were so pretty.

Each table was labeled with the names of couples from Jane Austen novels: ours were John and Isabella Knightley. They called us up to get our food by table. There was cream of mushroom soup or one with beans and kale - that was good. And if you asked, a gluten-free one with carrots and ginger. Three croissant sandwiches: tuna, chicken or tomato and mozzarella.  Salad greens with several toppings and ranch or Italian dressing. And the desserts - I wondered if they'd come from a bakery, they looked so perfect. But everything was homemade.

In between the meal and dessert a young woman gave a talk about Jane Austen's vision of what real romance in a novel should look like  in comparison with overly emotional, melodramatic depictions which were popular in her day. Lastly, they had the raffle. Everyone was delighted with the whole affair.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

about waiting

"Waiting is not a punishment; waiting is part of the magic of becoming who we are."

                                               -  Joy Clarkson