Monday, December 30, 2013

afternoon delights

A sunny spot in the living room with a bit of hand stitching, listening to Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring on the radio.

With company.

Friday, December 27, 2013

time for crossing the desert

"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary?"

                                        -  anonymous  (from Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

an Italian time

Like every Christmas, we spent it with my Italian side of the family. 

Very lively. Kissing everybody. Rum cake. Laughing.

And a new ornament - the Italian flag - and everybody got one.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"the incredible truth"

"We do not dare to believe or trust the incredible truth that God could live in us, and live there out of choice, out of preference. The message of hope the contemplative offers you is not that you need to find your way through the jungle of language and problems that today surround God; but that whether you understand or not, God loves you, is present to you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you, and offers you an understanding and light which are like nothing you ever found in books or heard in sermons."

                                   -   Thomas Merton

Friday, December 20, 2013

a smart cookie

The Smart Cookie I'm talking about is me. 

I've mentioned these before. Once you've had them you don't forget them. And I've never met a person who didn't love them. 

You roll the little balls of dough in some sugar, and since it's holiday time, I got out my silver sugar, which is rod-shaped and can really make a statement. Mixed it up with the granulated sugar, and they came out perfect. Very wintery looking, as if they'd blown into the kitchen after a tumble through the ice and snow.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

two winter yarns

I'm joining Ginny again for yarnalong. I've begun knitting a cowl for myself, just because it's a good way to use up some Wool Ease Chunky - I don't know if I'll even like it. We'll see. I'm using the Simple Ribbed Cowl pattern here on Ravelry

I have issues with using circular needles - it feels like my gauge is loose when I use them, at least at the beginning of the work until I get going. So it was fortuitous that when I decided to make this, I didn't have any size thirteen circulars and had to go with the elevens.

My book is one of Anne Perry's annual Christmas mysteries, A Christmas Odyssey, from three years ago. These are always enjoyable and there are about a dozen by now, and can be read in any order since they're not a series.

"not now"

I see him, though not now;
I behold him, though not near;
A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.

- Numbers 24:17

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

in a Christmas dreamland

The Music Lover, lulled to sleep after enjoying Christmas carols.

Monday, December 16, 2013

the reds

We've got some snow on the ground; now it's really winter. It's feeling like Christmas. And another of the things I do in Advent is get out the reds. A throw, dishes, ornaments, napkins - it turns everything warm, cozy and cheerful.

A crocheted ornament from Tracy, hanging from the kitchen light with a snowman gift tag.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

a reason why Catholics are devoted to the mother of Jesus

"The genuine significance of Catholic devotion to Mary is to be seen in the light of the Incarnation itself. The Church believes that the one who was closest to him in this great mystery was the one who participated most perfectly in the gift.

Mary, who was empty of all egotism, free from all sin, was as pure as the glass of a very clean window that has no other function than to admit the light of the sun. If we rejoice in that light, we implicitly praise the cleanness of the window. And, of course, it might be argued that in such a case we might well forget the window altogether. This is true. And yet the Son of God, in emptying himself of his majestic power, having become a child, abandoning himself in complete dependence to the loving care of a human mother, in a certain sense draws our attention once again to her.

The Light has wished to remind us of the window, because he is grateful to her and because he has an infinitely tender and personal love for her. If he asks us to share this love, it is certainly a great grace and a privilege, and one of the most important aspects of this privilege is that it enables us, to some extent, to appreciate the mystery of God's great love and respect for his creatures."

                                               -  Thomas Merton

(Madonna and Child, by Marianne Stokes)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Santa Lucia

Today was the feast of St. Lucy, who is especially revered in Sweden. Which is a fascination to me, as Protestants don't generally want to pay much attention to the saints.  I like to play this cd on her day (but not just today); beautifully performed by students in an elementary school for singing, but very professional.

When the days are cold and grey and the nights long and overcast
and summer sleeps like frozen earth
When snow has fallen brightly from a grey and cloudy sky
and everyone dresses warmly against the bitter cold
then a light reaches into every dark corner
for look, Lucia is standing among you.

- from Lucia Song

Thursday, December 12, 2013

easy winter scene

In the current issue of Country Living is an awfully cute idea with inexpensive salt shakers, small bottle brush trees, a miniature stag and salt for snow.  Meanwhile, I found myself at the thrift store yesterday and found one of those great mason jars with a glass lid and wire closure. It's pretty good sized; the opening being about three inches with plenty of room inside for a little winter scene. 

So when Emily came again today, I sent her outside to gather some sticks and greenery. Our little glass deer fits right in with yew pieces behind and red berries in the "snow".

We included a taller stick to give the crowded arrangement some balance. You could do a lot with this idea.

Now our little fawn is sitting happily on a shelf in the secretary.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

sentiment on a Christmas card

This, inside a card we received yesterday:

   During this Holy Season, may your hearts be warmed with the golden memories of all the happy days you have ever known. 

   May every gift God has given you fill the hearts of all who are dear to you with its fragrance.

   And may the peace-giving smile of the Infant Jesus abide with you always, keeping you lovingly near to Him and to Mary, His Virgin Mother, and to St. Joseph.

And I also wish this for all my blogging friends.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

incredible sunrise

Yes, it was the sun rise. I could hardly believe it. And then we had snow all day. "Sailors take warning."

Monday, December 9, 2013

perfect for a tablecloth

I used it last year for the tree skirt, but I suddenly realized how perfect it works on the table. A yarn-dyed cotton plaid in navy and "natural", it may be homespun but I'm not sure - the only homespun I've seen was heavier and stiffer than this.

The blue (plastic) and the patterned (plastic) placemats look well on it. Our red New England-y patterned dishware looks fine with it, as do the cheap (microwaveable) blue plates from the supermarket.

The china, too!

It also blends very well with the wallpaper. And looks as okay rumply as smooth. I'm thrilled!
It fits on the table with just a little to spare, and all I'm going to do is zigzag the cut edges.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"the most obvious reason we might think of cats as little people"

"Cynics often suggest that cats trick people into providing food and shelter through false displays of affection, and that cat owners project their own emotions onto their cats, imagining that the love they feel for their pet is reciprocated.

We cannot dismiss these claims lightly, but surely we feel such affection for cats with good reason. ..Our emotional bond with cats does not stem from gratitude for mere utility; in fact, many of today's cat owners find themselves disgusted by their cat's hunting prowess, while continuing to love them as pets. So it is indeed possible that we humans are somewhat credulous, drawn in by some quality cats possess that encourages us to anthropomorphize their behavior.

The most obvious reason we might think of cats as little people is the humanlike qualities of their facial features. Their eyes face forward, like ours and unlike those of most animals...Their heads are round and their foreheads are large, reminding us of a human baby's face."

                                  -   Cat Sense,   John Bradshaw

Friday, December 6, 2013

a handsome neighbor

Emily dropped by yesterday, and a neighborhood cat came along and sat on top of her warm hood.

He's a favorite of ours for some reason. I like his wide-eyed, frank gaze and his long nose, and the fur around his neck is longer, like a mane. I am assuming he's a he, but I don't know. He came along one day when I had Dolly outside, but when she started meowing in a funny way I brought her in. So, I think of him as her boyfriend.

There are several cats in the neighborhood, but we always comment when this guy comes around.

(no, we're not looking to take in another cat - we just like him!)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

green mitts and cats

I am still enamored with knitting these hand warmers, and getting better at it, too.  Susan showed me where to learn how to avoid those holes you get near the thumbs.  Practice.  Here is the link.

I've been reading Cat Sense by John Bradshaw, been quoting it here and am still at it - it's detailed and my reading's been slacking off lately.   Cats seem incapable of forming alliances between family groups, unlike, for example, some primates; negotiation skills of this sophistication lie beyond their capabilities. It's all quite interesting.

joining Ginny for yarnalong.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas baking

doesn't have to be all cookies. These cranberry-orange muffins just came out of the oven.

I think they'd be pretty good with a bit of orange-y icing, when the time comes.

Monday, December 2, 2013

the second Advent thing

the second thing I always want to do when Advent begins is hang up the gaudy wreath. It makes a big splash.

"The Advent liturgy builds up the excitement and anticipatory joy about the coming of the Lord. But is this not a preparation that can only lead to an anticlimax? I don't think so.

Advent does not lead to nervous tension stemming from expectation of something spectacular about to happen. Rather, it leads to a growing inner stillness and joy allowing me to realize that the One for whom I am waiting has already arrived and speaks to me in the silence of my heart."

                                                         -  Henri Nouwen

Sunday, December 1, 2013

in the silence of prayer

"In this silence [of prayer] we find a new energy and a real unity. God's energy becomes ours, allowing us to perform things well. There is a unity of our thoughts with his thoughts, of our prayers with his prayers, of our actions with his actions, of our life with his life.

If we follow this way, our faith will grow, our conviction will grow, and the striving for holiness will become our daily task."

                                                -     Mother Theresa

Saturday, November 30, 2013

the first thing

The first thing I like to do when Advent begins

is put the lights in the window. Because Somebody's coming.

Friday, November 29, 2013

how to make apple crisp

if you've never done it before.

The first thing you need to know is what you're going to bake it in. Get it ready, and as you cut up your apples, put them in there. This is so you know how much cutting to do. 

Where I shop, they have a reduced produce section and I've been getting lots of apples every week. So I usually have an assortment for my apple crisp. I don't even always know what types I'm using - that shouldn't matter too much as long as you pay attention to the apples as you cut them. 

Unless you really want to, you don't need to peel them. This was a revelation to me when I realized it. I'd never leave the peels on for a pie, but a crisp is a more casual affair than a pie. So, wash your apples well, and cut them in good bite-sized pieces, removing the cores. 

I dislike pies and crisps with large chunks of fruit - it may look artsy but it's awkward to eat. And if you make them too small, the whole thing will be mushy, so pay attention. You'll get it.

When you think enough apples are in there, cut one or two more; apples cook down, but even if you don't use the extras, they will be a tasty snack for you.

 If your apples are from the reduced section, they may be less than perfect. If they're not really crisp, they may not be real juicy. Keep this in mind as you proceed. So now, if you think you have cut enough, dump them into a large bowl. You're going to add sugar and spices. Cinnamon is always important for cooked apple dishes. You could also put in some nutmeg. I added some allspice to this - there's something about allspice which I find hard to resist, at this time of year especially. How much spices depends on how big your crisp will be. A teaspoon of cinnamon won't hurt, no matter what size, but you can experiment because you'll probably be making this again.

Now, the sugar. Taste a piece or two of apple - the sweetness or tartness will determine how much you use. I like light brown sugar, although I ran out so I also used some dark. When you add sugar to fruit, the juices start to flow, and you'll see this happening. Two or three tablespoons will be enough, really. Fruit has natural sugars in it; you want it to taste natural, right? If you know you are using all tart apples, I will allow you to put in a quarter cup of sugar, but no more!  :) This is supposed to be good for you.

Now, if your apples are looking quite juicy, you may want to add a tablespoon of flour. This will prevent it from being too runny when it's done. But if the fruit is maybe a little older, it'll be less juicy and you'll be sorry about the flour - you don't want anything gummy like that stuff you get at the supermarket.

So, next dump those apples back into your pie plate or whatever you're using. This one is a heavy, red-outside and ivory-inside ceramic pie dish, and you've probably seen them at the supermarket for ten or fifteen dollars. It makes a nice big crisp. But now you have to make the topping mixture. Start melting a half stick of butter, meanwhile mixing into a smallish bowl two-thirds cup of quick-cooking oats, six tablespoons of flour, one quarter cup of brown sugar and some cinnamon if you like.

Stir it up to mix, then pour in the butter. Use your fingers to mix it thoroughly; it will "wet" your flour mixture and enable the topping to brown nicely without any floury parts. I want to say here that in most other recipes, you will see twice as much butter called for, but it isn't necessary! Half the amount is adequate, and I learned that from Cooking Light magazine, which is where I got this topping recipe that I've adapted here. If you're using a nine-inch pie plate for this, you may want to mix up half this amount.

Now, still with your fingers, sprinkle it all over the top of the fruit. When it's all there, bake it in a preheated oven set at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

You have just made yourself an apple crisp! The first of many.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

with thanks

with thanks to God:

for the beauty and fruitfulness of the earth,
     and the mystery and wonder of all creation

for the love of family and friends,
     and the blessings of a community of faith and worship

for health and strength,
     and the courage to bear ill health and weakness

for the gift of work,
     and for the opportunities of creative leisure

 -   from Magnificat, November 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

more about cats

cute pink ears

"In addition to...sensitivity to ultrasound, cats can hear the same full range of frequencies that we can, from the lowest bass notes to the highest treble. Almost no other mammal exhibits such a wide range, about eleven octaves in total.

Cats' hearing is therefore superior to ours in many ways, but inferior in one respect: the ability to distinguish minor differences between sounds, both in pitch and intensity. If it was possible to train a cat to sing, it couldn't sing in tune (bad news for Andrew Lloyd Webber)."

                                           -   Cat Sense,  John Bradshaw

Monday, November 25, 2013

rising tides

We've been in a dry spell, but not for long. The forecast is for two to four inches of rain.

My activity level is also rising; I've been baking bread all day for the stuffing, which I've never yet made from scratch. When I come home from work Wednesday (a half day) I'll make the sweet potato pie, do the cranberry sauce, and roast the turkey breast. Trying to make sure everything sails along smoothly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tuscan Sky hand warmers

Back to knitting, and the simple wristlets again. This yarn is too pricey for a large project, but eleven dollars for hand-made wool hand warmers?  Not to mention the pleasure I have in making them. The yarn's been discontinued, but I am so tempted to just buy up every color they have left and make a bunch of these.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

a new book about cats

"The first pet cat I ever got to know was...a neurotic Burmese by the name of Kelly. Kelly belonged to a friend of my mother's who had bouts of illness, and no neighbor to feed her cat while she was hospitalized. Kelly boarded with us; he could not be let out in case he tried to run back home, he yowled incessantly, he would eat only boiled cod, and he was evidently used to receiving the undivided attention of his besotted owner. While he was with us, he spent most of his time hiding behind the couch, but within a few seconds of the telephone ringing, he would emerge, make sure that my mother's attention was occupied by the person on the other end of the line, and then sink his long Burmese canines deep into her calf. Regular callers became accustomed to the idea that twenty seconds in, the conversation would be interrupted by a scream and then a muttered curse."

                                                        -  Cat Sense  -  John Bradshaw

Henry, not Kelly

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

looking out

My brother found this article about cats' vision. I was amazed at how poorly they actually see; nothing at all like I'd supposed. It's no wonder that movement is what best catches their attention. A lot of what they are seeing is a blur, so they manage pretty well, considering. Their night vision is much brighter than ours, but I find myself feeling rather sorry for them. As for their not seeing colors brightly - that's probably just as well - I think it would just be a distraction to them.

Monday, November 18, 2013

the Saladmaster

Today I had to grate two bars of cheddar cheese for dinner. Yes, I have an electric food processor, but I've been wanting to use this old Saladmaster. It worked like a charm.

I remember when my mother bought it. It was back in the seventies; we were on a Main Street a couple of towns over. She'd always been interested in health food and things like that, even then when it was definitely considered kooky. There appeared a small store that sold vitamins, etc., and we went in. They were demonstrating the Saladmaster.

My childhood memories are pretty dim, but I remember this for some reason. The man grated some carrot very fine (like the cheese, above) and made a dressing with cider vinegar and honey. We liked it. I have no idea what this cost her, but she bought it.

Unfortunately, it takes up a lot of space and storing it was awkward - she rarely used it. 

I came across it recently in my kitchen cleaning/purging and have so been wanting to use it.  It has a three-legged base with suction cups to keep it stable. A top section which neatly fits down over the base, six of these cup-looking things with various styles of sharp openings. And a thin curved piece which you hold over your food item against the "cup", which you've slid into place. You turn a handle clockwise and your food gets grated, pickle-sliced, or whatever! All stainless steel.

Right now I've got it in a perfect sized box in a corner of the living room, and I'm really hoping that when the cabinets are purged there will be a space for this treasure.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

too many recipes

is that possible? How many recipes does one need?

My purging of unwanted items has not extended to the recipes: the box which should only contain the keepers, a ziploc bag positively stuffed with umpteen torn-out pages, a few cookbooks and two or three years worth of Everyday Food magazine given to me by Beth, who would rather copy the ones she likes than accumulate whole magazines (such a smart girl).

Not to mention that at work we're getting new cookbooks in daily.

 like this delight which came in yesterday!

It has occurred to me more than once that if I just threw the whole thing out I would breathe a sigh of relief and be able to (gradually, I hope) begin anew; this is very tempting.  But that seems a bit extreme. I know I'd especially regret the ones I tore out of old Gourmets - they aren't around anymore. 

The whole idea of cooking is that if you do it long enough, you won't need a recipe - you'll just know what to do without one. But you need to practice, practice, practice. So, I guess I'll keep them and just try to go through 'em faster.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

baby afghan, almost done

I've been using up all the wool-blend chunky yarn I had and then bought more. A mixture of pumpkin, creams, gray and oatmeal with a walnut border (there are dark brown strands in the oatmeal yarn). So, not just for baby but anyone could use it - more sensible for a fourth child, I think.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

argyle skirt

hemmed last night and worn today, with an orange sweater.

Monday, November 11, 2013

with gratitude

found on Pinterest:

"What is a veteran? A veteran - whether active duty, discharged, retired or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including his life."

Thank you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt; or, What You Will*

I made up my own recipe after looking around at other ideas. Here's what I did, exactly:

Into the blender I put two 7-oz. containers of Fage low-fat Greek yogurt, with a cup of canned pumpkin*, a half cup of maple syrup and a half teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. After tasting it, I added some leftover Cabot Greek yogurt, and maybe three soup spoonfuls of light brown sugar, because it was still tart. And another dash of the spice, with a bit of vanilla. Oh, and I poured in a bit of heavy cream. Sorry, it wasn't very exact, was it?  It could have used at least another third cup of sugar, but I was deliberately trying to avoid too much of that, so if you're okay with the tartness, it was very nice. I also mixed in a good amount of mini semisweet chocolate chips at the end. We had it on top of brownies. For somebody's birthday.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

making crumbs

I'm not sure where I heard it (Leila, maybe), but you can use a canning jar screwed  onto your blender. So I tried it for grinding up ginger snaps and it was much better and neater than the large "pitcher" which comes with blenders!

Friday, November 8, 2013

pumpkin deceit

I thought I might try a pumpkin frozen yogurt, and was looking up recipes at work today when I saw this:

"Canned pumpkin sold in the United States is usually not pumpkin at all. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows the more durable blue hubbard squash to be labeled as pumpkin, so most of us grew up eating squash pie, not pumpkin pie."   from The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book, by Bruce Weinstein.  What?!

Did you know this? I sure didn't.  It's not that I mind the fact that I've been eating squash all these many years - it has always tasted good - but why oh why oh why oh why  - well, you know what I'm getting at.  

Anyway, I found some recipes online and I think I'm going to try it. 

Blue Hubbard Squash frozen yogurt. sigh.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

the social eater

That's what my brother calls her.

The cats had eaten their lunch - Dolly didn't seem to want any more. After a while, I sat down to have mine and there she was. The Social Eater. She wants to eat when we're eating, to be sociable.

So, I got her dish, and we ate together.

Monday, November 4, 2013

easy November dinner

I have a memory from years ago, coming home from work with a nauseous headache, and my mother had made a sauerkraut dish for supper. It was just what I needed to settle my stomach - a real blessing.

Sauerkraut is just right for cold November days, isn't it?  And this recipe is pretty quick.

I used a whole kielbasa - I wanted a higher meat-to-sauerkraut ratio - and added some water left from steaming the carrots we had with it to make it a bit more juicy, and then just a dash of powdered savory. I buy a locally made sausage, cut it in chunks and boil it ten minutes beforehand to get some of the fat out, but it was still a very fast and satisfying meal.