Thursday, February 28, 2013

finishing off a baby quilt

I'm joining Elizabeth for needle&thREAD today - I had put this baby quilt aside over the Christmas holidays, but now I'm done with the hand quilting and today I'm working on binding it.

The binding is an off-white. I've been reading Peggy Noonan's John Paul the Great from 2005. A  little book which is not a biography, but her account of how he affected her own life, and what kind of influence that she as a journalist thinks he had on society. So far I like it.

dreary days

outside. Inside is another story.

Blessed are you, O God of the universe,
giver of all good gifts!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


My mother used to par-cook things. Not that I paid any attention, but I would often hear her say she'd par-cooked this, or she'd par-cooked that. What I mean is, it was a regular thing she did. Often. But I have never done it.

I defrosted some chicken the other day and didn't end up using it; coming home after five p.m. today, I couldn't really - I didn't want to eat dinner too late. But I did not want it to linger defrosted in the refrigerator and then I suddenly thought of it - I would par-cook it! So I did. I seasoned it and put it in the oven for an hour.

It's funny that I haven't done this before. Maybe it's my new enthusiasm for bread-making over a period of days that gave me the idea. Hmm.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

in the desert, between two gardens

Yet another explanation of the Lenten journey, but this has to be the best ever.

From the monks at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass.  -

Lent, the springtime of the Church, situates us between two gardens- the garden of Eden, that lush middle Eastern paradise where the first Adam lost his innocence and the garden of the Resurrection on Easter morning where the new Adam wounded and resurrected will walk in peace restoring our lost innocence. In between we spend 40 days with Christ Jesus our Lord in the desert, the place where wild beasts and demons are most at home, this place of self-knowledge, where we discover who we are and what we most desperately need- Mercy in abundance.

I hope they don't mind my " borrowing"  it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

delicious pizza, finally

I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen the other day where they made a thin crust pizza. This was a recipe which takes at least two days to make, maybe even three. Which is right up my alley. So I made it!

There are three things which make this pizza crust so good: bread dough, ice water and a slow rise in the fridge. The food processor is also important.

I've tried two different pizza recipes and was disappointed at the tasteless crusts. But this one is different! My search is over. They also gave a very tasty no-cook sauce recipe. I can't say enough about it. 

My problem is going to be in learning what to put on top. The crust is thin, and that's the way I like pizza, but too much stuff on top can make it soggy. They advised only a half cup of sauce, but I'd like to try more. On one, I put spinach leaves with some fresh grated Parmesan. On the other I julienned some frying peppers. That one got a little soggy - moisture from the peppers? There is also two teaspoons of sugar in the crust, which I'm not sure is necessary - I'll cut back on that next time. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

cat grass

Our dinner guest the other day brought me a little kit to grow oat grass for the kitties.

8:00 a.m.

5:30 p.m.

Joining Fiona for Green Day.   Dolly and Henry will have their green day tomorrow.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

a beautiful coincidence

This morning I was looking at the Mass readings for today; the first reading is from the book of Esther.

"Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said:  'God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O Lord, always free those who are pleasing to you. Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God.

And now, come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.' "

Then I discovered that today is the Fast of Esther.  Well!

(Esther before Ahasuerus, by Artemisia Gentileschi)

Here is a prayer said in Catholic churches on the night before Easter -

Recalling our spiritual roots in biblical Israel
and remembering that Jesus was an authentic son of Israel,
we pray in a special way for the Jewish people
our elder brothers and sisters in covenant with God.
May our peoples be a blessing for each other and for the whole world.

(adapted from the Easter Vigil service)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

looking out

"As long as you have a window, life is exciting."

                           -    Gladys Taber,  Country Chronicle

Monday, February 18, 2013

bread when it's convenient

I used to watch Martha Stewart's tv show in the beginning, many years ago when it was just a weekly.  And there is one episode which sticks in my mind more than any other.

She'd gone to a bakery in New York run by an Eastern European couple; Czech, I think. They were talking about how bread rises. This is where I learned that yeast is a mold. They used to scrape the walls in the kitchen to get the wherewithal to make their breads rise. Ignoring the immediate idea of how this can possibly be sanitary (?), I think this was when the seeds were planted which have grown into a fascination with how yeast works and how breads rise. Aside from just following recipes though, I've never felt like I was really learning how the whole process works.

Recently I ran into a youtube video of Claus Meyer speechifying about bread. He insists that you should
  1. use less yeast
  2. use more water
  3. knead a lot more
  4. let it rise at least eight hours
  5. use more salt
Then, I saw another youtube video where he introduced Chad Robertson of Tartine bakery in San Francisco, and I noticed that instead of throwing more flour on the surface to prevent sticking, he just wet his hands and wet the dough scraper for easier handling.

I had tried the Five Minute Artisan method last year and concluded it wasn't for us - it was more bread than the two of us can eat, and it was salty - we're not salt-lovers here. But I liked the idea that you don't have to spend the whole day at it - that you can do it in stages.

Since I'm not baking much during Lent, but will need something around to snack on if I start wilting, I decided to focus on bread-making and last Thursday I thought I'd make the Swedish Limpa Rye recipe from my trusty old Betty Crocker cookbook. But the day wore on and  I wasn't getting to it. Still, in late afternoon I was determined, and on a sudden whim, I mixed up the recipe using half the amount of yeast and cool water instead of warm. I kneaded it and put it in the fridge. It was too late to deal with it and I was going to be out the entire next day -  I wanted to slow down the process until I could get back to it.

Saturday morning I took it out of the fridge and of course it was very cold. I heated the oven slightly for a place to warm it up. It was a very slow process and all the while the voice inside my head was asking me if maybe I'd made a mistake, maybe it wouldn't rise at all, etc., etc. But what I knew was that it must rise eventually, even if it took a week! And I was willing to wait. And see.

After the first rise was done, I kneaded it some more even though it wasn't called for, but I felt I should.  I let it rise again. (there are three rises for this bread).  It was finally ready at bedtime for the shaping and the third rise and I was going to put it back in the refrigerator when I decided why not leave it out all night? I shaped it into two loaves and left it on the draining board with a loose bit of plastic and two towels. It was near a window and the night was cold and windy - I almost moved it away, but my inner feeling was that if it could rise a little in the cold fridge, it would come to no harm near a window. Anyway, I was curious! I left it until we came home from Mass. It looked ready to bake.

It worked!  Instead of having to arrange my day around the bread risings, I arranged the risings around my schedule, and that's kind of where I want to go with this. Of course, if we were depending on homemade bread every day, I'd have to do things differently, but I have a bread machine, and we buy rye at the supermarket. This is going to be a slow learning process and eventually it may turn into something we depend on in place of store-bought bread, but I don't want to put that burden on myself at the beginning.

Meanwhile, I had a slice

with the butter mixture I make and a bit of honey.  Oh, boy!

"It's really a question of arranging matters so that the dough suits your time table rather than the other way around."
                                     - Elizabeth David

Sunday, February 17, 2013

a seed dropped and buried in the soil

Before the fruit is ripened by the sun,
Before the petals or the leaves uncoil,
Before the first fine silken root is spun,
A seed is dropped and buried in the soil.

Before we gain the grace that comes through loss,
Before we live by more than bread and breath,
Before we lift with joy an empty cross,
We face with Christ the seed's renewing death.

                                                      -   Magnificat, February, 2013         

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"better to be happy..."

"Too often someone says to me in despair, 'I cannot do this....I cannot do that....' I hear this even from some friend who can make a gorgeous hostess robe out of a couple of old bath towels. Or someone who can hardly fry an egg without turning it to solid rubber but can get out an extension ladder and climb to the roof and clean out clogged eaves. Or someone else who is paralyzed at the thought of making an announcement at a club meeting but always says the right thing to anyone in trouble.

We all have dreams of what we might have been. But it is better to be happy with whatever gifts we do possess - and to use them to the fullest."

                                             -  Gladys Taber,   Country Chronicle

Thursday, February 14, 2013

chicken ribs?

I bought some already-flavored-but-not-cooked ribs with garlic and ginger seasoning, on sale. I usually season my own, but it was a good deal. Tonight I opened the package and looked to see how they recommended cooking them. 

Three hundred and fifty degrees for fifteen minutes or so, until the chicken is done. 
The chicken?

Now, I like to cook and always try new things. Ribs aren't something I had much of growing up; I've made pork ribs once. I had to stop. And think. Chicken ribs - have I heard of them before? I looked at the meat - it looked like pork. 

Of course it was pork. Mama mia.

a happy St. Valentine's

to everyone

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

another description of Lent

" the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us.

True repentance is an interior attitude in which we are willing to let go of everything that prevents us from growing into spiritual maturity, and there is hardly a moment in our lives in which we are not invited to detach ourselves from certain ways of thinking, ways of speaking, ways of acting, that for a long time gave us energy, but that always again need to be renewed and recreated."

                                              -  Henri Nouwen

Sunday, February 10, 2013

living Lent well

"...we must live it [Lent] well to understand that love of neighbor is a consequence of faith. That is so because we are a people of faith who have been conquered by Christ's love and have chosen to live under its influence."

                                               -  Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, February 9, 2013

rather buried

This morning while my brother was out snowblowing - (the big snowy thing by the way, is just the rhododendron) - I thought I could at least clean off the front steps.

Not much space in which to squeeze outside, so I pushed snow off the edge of the step with a broom until I could get out. It was piled high.

I was amazed at this snow hanging like a big fluffy comforter over the roof edge!

The snow ended around noontime, and the sun was shining brightly by mid-afternoon. The wind remained most of the day. See how deep! We got about thirty inches.

We have power. I'm grateful.

and still snowing

above the front door's awning!

Friday, February 8, 2013

through the windows

I've been trying to take a little video of the blizzard, but no luck so far.

Visibility is down - I can barely see the house in back of us.

I'm getting sleepy.

green world

Birthday presents on hold for Cyndi, almost a month after the fact.  Well, life happens. 

I know I won't be seeing her today - we're going to have a blizzard later. Two or maybe even three feet of snow. Kinda scary.

Joining Fiona for Green Day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

a cat story from Gladys Taber

Picture this, if you will -

"Our black Manx, for instance... was a big solid cat with sea-green eyes set in a blocky head... He was composed in manner...As for intelligence, I have told the tale often of the day we watched him from the kitchen window as he stepped quietly along the border carrying a weed stalk. 

Then he stopped and poked the stalk upright in the soft earth, tiptoed back, and sat motionless. In a few minutes the weed stalk moved, and then he pounced and jumped back with a mole in his mouth. Obviously, as the mole got near the surface the weed trembled, and he was an easy target. Had I been alone in the house, no one would have believed this, but there were three spectators to testify."

                                      - Gladys Taber,  Country Chronicle 

Monday, February 4, 2013

another invisible zipper in

After just barely succeeding in my last attempt at an invisible zipper, I've tried again and it's better than any I've done yet!

My last try was for a velveteen skirt, and I was so dreading it that I put in in by hand. But then I bought some lovely cotton velvet - it's heavier, almost upholstery fabric. I knew I had to use the machine for this one.

why is it so hard to photograph velvet?

It's in! With my old sewing machine and a regular zipper foot, according to some different instructions from an old issue of Threads, shared by a kind lady.

Blessed relief.  Until I have to do another one.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

pancakes, ice cream, maple syrup

It was Margo's doing.

Last year she celebrated International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, and everyone wished they'd only known!  So she kindly gave this reminder a week ago. I bought some Breyer's Black Raspberry Chocolate ice cream; I was ready.

Delicious!  Then, it was a cup of tea to still my chattering teeth.

How to Make Pancakes

Whisk together:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of milk*
  • 2 tablespoons of oil or melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • a half teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
Mix together well. And while you're doing this, heat up your skillet on med-high for a few minutes. When you throw a drop of water on it, and it skids across the surface, it should be hot enough. You don't need to oil your pan when there's fat in the recipe, but your pancakes will stick when the pan isn't hot enough.

See the last picture here - I make them on the small side; they're easier to handle. Pour some batter in the pan - a ladle is good for this - and watch them until the sides look like they're setting up. Turn them carefully with a thin spatula - the first batch is most likely to stick a little but don't worry about it. Turn down the heat to medium. My pan isn't even non-stick - it isn't necessary! But it does have a thick bottom which helps to heat things evenly. 

Stand there, be vigilant; you'll get used to how they look when it's time to turn them. And you should probably get the heat down to med-low by the third group of pancakes. You don't want them to burn, and the pan is going to keep getting hotter.

Cook up the whole batch, eat what you want and freeze the rest. You can heat them in the toaster for next time. Serve with ice cream, maple syrup and tea!

*you may use buttermilk instead of milk, but also add a half teaspoon of baking soda.  

this recipe is from Martha Stewart's original tv show, way back when she was only on once a week. She may have improved on it since then, but it's okay enough for me.