Monday, August 29, 2016

my mother's recipes

I went through my mother's recipe boxes today. I don't know why I never thought to before - she's been gone eight years.

Some were definitely familiar, others not, and I suppose many were just ones she'd collected but never made, and none of them were entirely her own creations. She was a very good cook, but I think she went on inspiration as she was cooking, but didn't record any of that.

So I saved about one quarter of them. Cooking was such a different prospect back then, with so much cheesy casserole-y stuff, so much Campbell's soup in the recipe, etc. I don't cook like that very often. I didn't save anything which we won't be eating, but I found plenty of interest.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

always strawberries

Two years ago I bought strawberry plants at Agway, and a strawberry pot. When the cold came, they couldn't last in the pot, of course. Last year I bought more plants and did the same. They didn't do well in the pot, but two survived, I think. At the very end of the warmth, before the ground hardened, I stuck them in one of my gardens.

I know enough about them to know that they spread, so I had been avoiding putting them in the ground, mulling over where the best spot might be where they'd stay put and behave themselves. But when it got too late for any more wondering, I just planted them. I suddenly had the freeing idea that I'd be better off just going with the consequences. I had some dill in the other bed, and I thought that if I had a dill garden and a strawberry garden, that would be okay. (and you can also see the weeds here, I'm sure)

Anyway, I had forgotten what type they were, but they're small, so I guess they must be alpines. And they are ever-bearing. Always either those pretty white flowers, or the luscious berries! They may take over the whole place, but I am willing to adapt to that eventuality

Thursday, August 25, 2016

two plain soups, and meatballs a different way

I made two soups recently which surprised me. I forget where the first was from, but it entailed sauteeing some leeks in olive oil, and then adding chicken broth with romaine lettuce and snow or snap peas (I get them mixed up). Cook it for a little while, put through the blender and strain. When I decided to make, I paid full price for the ingredients, of course; but the second time I made it I used onions, and had the lettuce and the peas on hand - they were wilting, and it was very handy to know this recipe.

The second one was something from August's British Country Living - a Sicilian recipe which actually called for zucchini leaves for the greens! And fresh tomatoes. You chop up two onions and cook them in olive oil, then put in water! yes, plain water, one and a half liters, (or litres) with a pound of your greens, a pound of tomatoes, skinned and seeded and two garlic cloves, chopped. Cook for a while with 125 grams of really small pasta - like alphabets - until the greens are tender and serve with plenty of Parmesan.  Do I need to tell you that I used spinach (frozen), and did not skin or seed my tomatoes? The surprise was that we really liked it!

It tasted flat, as you can guess, but that's why the Parmesan. I tell you, I feel that I learned something from making it, and hope I remember that a tasty soup can come from almost nothing of interest. (well, zucchini leaves are very interesting, but we're not growing any this year, and I doubt if I'd have a pound of them, anyway.) This whole thing reminds me of the Stone Soup folktale - basically a soup made out of very little, but still good. 

my meatballs are never round

This afternoon I started to make some meatballs, and I've been using the same method for quite a while now. But today I went into the fridge looking for things to put in and use up. I found a mostly empty bottle of capers with less than two tablespoons left. Then, a container of hummus - roasted red pepper - which had perhaps one third cup in it, so I scooped that in. At this point I thought I wouldn't need salt or pepper, but I dumped the end of the Italian seasoning bottle in - a teaspoon, maybe, but didn't dare add anything more. The bread I included had it's own flavor and the meatballs turned out quite good. I haven't made up my own recipe for that in a long time. 

So I tend to go back and forth, trying new recipes and spending more than perhaps I should in the making, but that's the price you pay for learning something new. The trick is remembering the ones worth remembering. Now for a while I'll spend less and stick to the familiar. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

the Dottie Angel dress: getting there

I finished the Dottie Angel dress, except I didn't hem it. Here it is, wrinkled, and with the pockets looking (but not!) uneven.  This version was the experiment; I had to unpick the tucks and re-place them an inch and a half lower. And I don't care for such a low back - next time I'll raise it at least three and a half inches.

I left off the ties, as an afterthought, even though I had cut them out.  But I am going to try it again, and even make my own bias binding because I prefer the softness of all-cotton to the store-bought stuff, at least for this project. I like the idea of a summer dress with throwonability - not for anything but daily living around the house - and this could be really cute for that, if I get it right.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Are parsleyed potatoes an English thing?

I've read that potatoes cooked with butter and parsley is an English dish, but -

When we were little, my parents were friendly with an older couple. My mother thought this friendship was especially important because there were no grandparents, and so these good people were as close to that as we could get.  They had a very small Italian restaurant in the city, where we'd often go on Sunday evenings; my brother enjoyed being allowed to set the tables (red checked tablecloths!) and refill the shaker jars with red pepper flakes and grated parmesan. The wife did all the cooking herself and the husband waited tables - they were well into middle age back then, and worked hard! Her spaghetti sauce was like nothing I've tasted since.

Anyway, she was an excellent cook, and made a couple of things which still stay in my mind, and one of them - this will probably surprise you - was to slice canned potatoes, and sort of fry them in butter with parsley. We ate plenty of canned veg when I was a kid, and I didn't mind potatoes canned (don't think I'd want them now).

Anyway, tonight I was putting my brother's dinner together - he works late - and there is some leftover chicken and some boiled potatoes. I sliced them up, and browned them in butter with some parsley. They're good; better than just warmed over.

But, isn't this an English thing?

Monday, August 15, 2016

the key to summer

I will give you the key to this garden gate.
Bright summer lives over the wall.
You may play in the sun till the season grows late,
and bring back the key in the fall.

-  Arnold Lobel

Sunday, August 14, 2016

and, finally

last, but not least -

Henry on my flip flops last night

Amazing that, for three days in a row, they each took a turn posing for me. These were not pictures from my archive. 

Twinkle toes,
He comes and goes,
In and out the door.
He can't remember
Where's he been
A minute or so before.

 -  Arnold Lobel

Saturday, August 13, 2016

from the Churchill Factor

"It has been said that the difference between Hitler's speeches and Churchill's speeches was that Hitler made you think he could do anything; Churchill made you think you could do anything."

                                                -  Boris Johnson,  The Churchill Factor

Friday, August 12, 2016

Thursday, August 11, 2016


We're in the dog days of summer now, the days when the air conditioning (thank God for it!) is running even at night. But today there was cause for rejoicing because we had blessed rain - and some yesterday, too. It's been very, very dry. And have you ever noticed the garden always seems to prefer rain water to tap water?

It was so cool and pleasant in the living room today that Dolly actually wanted to lay on some warm laundry.

Good thing my brother isn't bothered by the cat hair on his sheets.

I've been working on a Dottie Angel frock  - or rather, I realized I started one a month ago, and somehow haven't felt much like sewing lately; but that's ridiculous - I want to get it done.  I made one a while back and it ended up being huge, and the fabric was stiff and cheap and it was awful - I rolled it up and stashed it somewhere I don't remember. I have higher hopes for this one. It's a very cute design and would be a useful garment, I think. Today I'm working on finishing the neck.

Have you ever noticed that if there are any flip flops hanging around, a cat is sure to lay on them?

This is not my imagination. I have a picture of Henry on some, and am sure I'll soon have one of Sweetie.

I'm reading another book on Winston Churchill. The first one, Churchill's Trial, I'd read a review of, and had to buy it; it's basically a character study of the man during his experiences with the two world wars. Now I've got a library book by Boris Johnson, recent mayor of London, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. He's a good writer and not afraid of giving strong opinions, which makes it very interesting to me. It seems that Churchill was the sole voice against appeasement with Hitler - what a terrifying thing to imagine how things could have ended up!

In between the rain, sunshine and occasional thunder there was a very brief sun shower, which I caught (quite poorly!) in a little video.

It rains and it pours.
I've got too many chores.
There's the cooking and cleaning to do.
I'd rather be out on a wet, green hill,
Laughing and dancing with you.

-  Arnold Lobel

found on the internet

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

the old woman of long ago

There was an old woman of long ago
Who went about her mending.
She sewed the wind against the clouds
To stop the trees from bending.
She stitched the sun to the highest hill
To hold the day from ending.

Her thimble and threads were close at hand
For needlework and quilting,
For sewing gardens to the sky
To keep the blooms from wilting,
For lacing the land to the crescent moon
To save the world from tilting.

rhyme and picture by Arnold Lobel


Monday, August 8, 2016

a gerbera daisy

I know nothing about gerbera daisies, except they're full of charm. So I brought one home from the supermarket the other day, and put it in the front window. It wilted sadly in a short time.

Since they're not hardy in our zone, I'll just keep it in the house.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

a prayer for our country

This was in Magnificat on our Independence Day, but it's just as good for any day -

We pray you, O God of might, wisdom, and justice,
 through whom authority is administered,
 laws are enacted, and judgment decreed,
 assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude
 the President of these United States,
 that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
 and be eminently useful to your people,
 over whom he presides;
 by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion;
by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy;
and by restraining vice and immorality.

Let the light of your divine wisdom direct
the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws
framed for our rule and government,
so that they may tend to the preservation of peace,
the promotion of national happiness,
the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge;
and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for the governor of this state,
for the members of the assembly,
for all judges, magistrates, and other officers
who are appointed to guard our political welfare, 
that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection,
to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy,
all our fellow citizens throughout the United States,
that we may be blessed in the knowledge
and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law;
that we may be preserved in union,
and in that peace which the world cannot give;
and after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.
Grant this, we beseech you, O Lord of mercy,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

-   Archbishop John Carroll, the first bishop of the United States

Thursday, August 4, 2016

blackberry surprise

What a surprise to me that we have blackberries growing in back! Not tons of them, but it's awfully nice to have them at all, since the black raspberry crop was sparse this year. We've been very dry, but it hasn't affected these juicy beauties.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"Churchill taught"

   "Churchill...taught that free peoples must work together to guard their freedom, and to do so they must recognize each other for the friends in principle that they are.
   'Trust the people' was his lifelong refrain. As people are not beasts, he thought they had the right to govern themselves. He thought that statesmen must understand the propriety and advantage of the people's authority and should calculate their actions to benefit them and to sustain their authority for the long term.
   Churchill taught that free markets are 'twice blessed' because they confer benefits on both parties in every transaction. He taught that ' the way in which peaceful peoples earn their livelihood', and if people are allowed to ply their trade in free markets under the rule of law, nearly all can prosper. He taught that there must be safeguards to prevent this arrangement from building a society populated by drones, or a society dominated by bureaucrats, which two things he thought moved hand in hand.  He thought opinions were elevated by talking, which meant debate and argument. He taught that citizens must pay attention to debates and arguments, or others will rule them.

   Civilization, like government, is an activity, a form of community. It begins with the rule of law under the control of civilians. It proceeds to its first goal, the safeguarding of people in their homes and with their families, living fully human lives in care of themselves and others, participating in the common rule of all. It culminates in the beautiful things to know and to see, in art, in science, in learning.
   He taught that the discipline, self-restraint, courage, and charity that make a nation civilized and strong must be located in the people, and if people have these things, they can and will care tor themselves and for their nation, including their fellow citizens who suffer misfortune and privation. If the people do not have them, all is lost. He taught that they must be encouraged to learn the things that are highest and that bring out their best, things beyond themselves and their use."

                                                      -  from Churchill's Trials,  by Larry P. Arnn  (all emphasis mine)

Monday, August 1, 2016

chocolate raspberry jam, the easiest way

I have a board on pinterest with photos of ideas. Pictures of food that I think are good ideas, but with intent to use my own inspiration for the recipe, not the actual recipes behind the photos.  Things like a smallish, high cheesecake with thick chocolate topping, pumpkin bread with streusel and maple glaze, blackberry chocolate chip ice cream, chuck roast with balsamic and dijon, and raspberry and chocolate jam. I don't think you need any particular recipe for any of those, but a picture can speak a thousand words to me.

So, I bought a jar of Bonne Maman raspberry preserves, and melted it along with half a bar of dark chocolate. Now it's in this jar, and I'm bringing it to work tomorrow with some Stella D'Oro cookies. A nice treat.