Tuesday, December 31, 2019

jars of cookies, fancy that

We are getting near the end of the home-baked cookies from my brother's clients. There were a few in this container, a few in that one. 

I saw this idea in a magazine. Assorted cookies, in a jar. Jars of cookies. Cookie Jars.* I have plenty of those!

*How many cookie jars have I seen, none of them actual jars, and I never thought about it? This seems hilarious to me.

Monday, December 30, 2019

wisdom from Dickens

"A nation without fancy, without some romance, never did, never can, never will hold a great place under the sun."

                                                            -   Charles Dickens,
                                                         from a webinar on A Christmas Carol,
                                                              with Angelina Stanford and Thomas Banks

Sunday, December 29, 2019

festive look for the front door

I find that I'm often drawn to American folk art type things. I bought this felt house ornament at a friend's annual craft event. It's a good size, larger than the usual thing you hang on the tree. I've been looking at it, wondering where it might belong.

I had thought about making a wreath again this year, after last year's success, but I don't know. I'd have to put Annie in another room, shut up, while I worked on it; I'm not sure I want to do that. Meanwhile, I bought this little fall-type wreath at the thrift store earlier in the month, so I hung it up. But it's small. I suddenly thought to hang the felt house with it.

the door knocker is visible underneath - it's a musical note
I like it!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

decoration alteration

My brother's little rustic tree which I always put in the kitchen is really a tangle of raffia or long straw. I decided to trim it while still keeping its character.

It's hard to tell, but believe me - it looks much better. And I saved the excess for the Baby.

I had to put this nativity out of the reach of certain furry persons who shan't be named, but I like the new set-up. I also moved the woodland Madonna painting to the kitchen corner cabinet.

It looks very pretty there, but I've twice found the above right-hand tree on the floor.

the responsible party, caught red-handed but too fast to be photographed

As for the tree, I found more paper and cloth ornaments that I expected to, and it didn't look bad until the orphan started taking things down. When I hang them up again they seem to end up higher than before and today I noticed that it's all bare on the lower third, which makes it look very odd. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

a dry Christmas

A Merry Christmas, everyone! Now is the time to enjoy Christmas, and that's what I'm hoping to do.

Yesterday, after getting home from Mass, I had my hot cereal as usual. I thought it wasn't my imagination that the water pressure was not one hundred per cent, but my brother had gone out to find a newspaper, so I just kept on. Then I saw a white truck drive by with flashing lights - from the water company. Well, after a bit our water petered out - it was Christmas Day, and by noontime we had no water.

A water main on the corner gave out and it wasn't for at least an hour afterward that I got the official email saying they hoped water would return by later in the afternoon. We were going to Joanne's; I looked up and down the street, wondering how my neighbors were going to cope. By 2:15 we were very glad to leave and go to a place with two toilets where we could wash our hands as often as we wanted.

It was a good visit, a nice dinner and all was well here when we got home. What do you do if your water stops and company is coming? Wait, I suppose, until everyone shows up and then all just go out to a restaurant somewhere. But on the way to Joanne's it looked like a lot of places were closed.

There are many areas in the world which still do not have running water and I thought of them, too. But they have a familiar routine for dealing with it. The mind thinks of all manner of things at such times. I also thought about composting toilets. But it was a good day, and today was a quiet day at home.

My aim was to make a nice dinner, and when we were done I said we'd better see what the Polish lady had given us - she had told my brother to wait until Christmas! Well, it was kind of heavy and it might have been a fruitcake, but it wasn't.

It was the gingerbread! The gingerbread that I've never forgotten, the gingerbread I've wanted to try and copy, the first thing she ever made for us (my brother really - she doesn't know me from Adam). The gingerbread! Would you think a person could get so excited about a dessert? And why have I never tried to copy it?

Well, the only gingerbread recipe I'm familiar with is Anna's and it's dark and soft, not suitable for this. You can see this is lighter, and it's a regular cake consistency. It's a quickbread and she cuts it in half. The last time there was apricot preserve in between, but this time it's a dark fruit spread. She's apparently flexible. It has a chocolate coating, not ganache - that stays soft, doesn't it? This doesn't come off on the paper wrapping. The gingerbread is a nice, spicy flavor. To my way of thinking, it's a delightful dessert! Dziekuje bardzo, dear lady! I need to just find a gingerbread *cake* recipe, and just try to copy it! After we've eaten this, of course.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

making ready

Cyndi likes crafting around the holidays, especially. She had wanted photos of the cats - for ornaments. I thought one with Mr. Kibble and one with Henry would be very nice. Then I asked her if she could make an extra Kibble ornament for Diane. She did!

Today was the day I was set on; last year, on Christmas Eve day Diane called me to say that Kibble had gone into her house on his own. I wanted to give her something to thank her for taking such loving care of him and letting us share in that, especially at the end. I brought her some cookies, a box of chocolates and the ornament. We were getting teary-eyed talking about him.

Cyndi also made one for Elizabeth with her dear Cleo on it.

"Advent is closing and the longing of the Church for light and for the spring, the budding forth of the Savior, is culminating in the mystery of Christmas, and we can put aside our cares to make the house of our soul ready for for the Child, with prayer as simple as a folk song, rocking the cradle of peace to the beating of the human heart."

                                              -  Caryll Houselander,  from Magnificat

still their heavenly music floats

Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurl
And still their heavenly music floats, O'er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains they bend on hovering wing
And ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.

Monday, December 23, 2019

winter reassurance

"It is a comfort in winter to see... signs of life on the long nights of early dark, we feel drawn towards them. When the leaves shut us off from one another again, and the lights are not lit until nine or ten o'clock, there is warmth outdoors, and light in the sky itself, and then people go for evening walks and meet in the lanes, stand to talk at gates, look over into one another's gardens. But in winter, when we all scurry back into our individual burrows, and no one lingers, we need to be able to see each other's houses and lights, for reassurance."

                                                                         -   Susan Hill,  The Magic Apple Tree

Saturday, December 21, 2019

the goodies are pouring in

It's happening again - my brother's clients, the baked goods.

The first one was from The Polish Lady.

But it's in the freezer for now.

Friday, December 20, 2019

a bluebird house

A woman was selling bird houses at a craft sale after Mass; her husband made them. I was eyeing the cute ones that looked almost Tudor style, but when I asked my brother which type he wanted, he told me to get the bluebird house. I have never seen a live bluebird!

So exciting, but we will have to be patient till spring.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

book snowman

Every year I show here what clever people I work with.

When I came upstairs to the children's section the other day, I asked who made this cute snowman. But before I could get an answer, I had guessed. Cheryl made it - apparently my boss had found it online.
Above the books, his hat is made of empty dvd cases and above that, cd cases. Pretty cute.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

a gift

All day, sleet has been falling. Suzy Q, my boss, called this morning to say "stay home". This was very welcome - a chance to catch up on things!

I made some cookie dough - it's chilling. And wrote a few cards. A certain person tried taking me away from this task, but I persevered. I kept hearing her rustling around with the Christmas tree; I would get up, but when I rounded the corner, she'd run into a (conveniently) nearby box.

She knew I didn't want her climbing that tree! This went on for a while, as you may imagine. Until she grew tired and found a place to nap.

Didn't need the cushion, I guess.

I am grateful for this day of catch-up.

Monday, December 16, 2019

dolly-ism #4

No matter how busy your day, even a little time carved out for quiet meditation will make all the difference.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

a prayer for Advent

                                  From outward turmoil and inner disturbance:
                                           - Deliver us, O Lord.

                                  From quarreling in our homes and war among nations:
                                          - Deliver us, O Lord.

                                  From the bustle that keeps us from prayer in this busy season:
                                          - Deliver us, O Lord.

                                                        - from Magnificat, December 2019

Thursday, December 12, 2019

awaiting the day

I was mixing a batch of cupcakes today when I heard a metallic "clunk". There was a screw on the counter. The KitchenAid was still running and it took me a while to find the space where it belonged. Check your mixers once in a while for loose screws!

We had two days of warm weather and plenty of rain, and our lovely snow disappeared. But then it got cold on Wednesday morning and snowed again, more than the weathermen thought it would, so it's white once more, and cold. I went outside that morning at work to get the newspaper and grabbed my little camera.

Later, the sun came out.

Today was Frank Sinatra's birthday  anniversary - how could I forget? Other Catholics know this to be the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe; I know it's Sinatra's birthday.

The little orphan has been howling and acting strangely. It took us a bit to realize what the problem is, poor mite. She is six months old and needs to be spayed; her appointment is in a month. She still seems so small!

We've been singing this in church recently.

O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
and sadness flee away.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

prayer of St. Ambrose

Yesterday was the feast of St. Ambrose. He wrote this prayer:

God, creator of all things
and ruler of the heavens, fitting
the day with beauteous light
and the night with the grace of sleep:
May rest restore our slackened limbs
to the exercise of toil,
lighten our wearied minds,
and relieve our anxious preoccupations.
Now that the day is over and night has begun,
we, your devotees, sing our hymn,
offering thanks and begging
that you would help us in our sinfulness.
May the depths of our hearts magnify you,
may our harmonious voices sound you,
may our chaste affections love you,
may our sober minds adore you.
Thus, when the deep gloom of night
closes in upon the day,
our faith may not know darkness
and the night may shine with faith.
Do not permit our minds to slumber;
it is sinfulness that knows slumber.
May faith, which refreshes the chaste, 
temper sleep's embrace.
When the depths of our hearts have been stripped of unclean thoughts,
let them dream of you,
nor let worry, the stratagem of the envious foe,
disturb us as we rest.
We beseech Christ and the Father,
and the Spirit of Christ and the Father,
who are one and omnipotent.
O Trinity, assist us who pray to you!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

golden fence

It seems our neighbor treated his fence with something which makes it golden, especially in the light of morning.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Advent joy

"There is a joy in the Advent prayers that nothing on earth can equal, because they are so perfectly in accord with the spirit of those who did receive the Redeemer. They might be the very words of Mary, or Joseph, or the shepherds. Following these prayers yearly, as the Church urges us to do, makes us one in spirit with the humble ones who saw him and understood. It makes the Incarnation a living thing, not an incident of the long ago but a tremendously important part of our lives which recurs again and again.

Two thousand years are nothing in the eyes of God, who is eternal. Today we are as certainly given the opportunity of receiving or rejecting him as were the people of Bethlehem on a starry night long ago when the Word was made flesh and came to dwell among us."

Monday, December 2, 2019

still snowing

This is the way December should be. A white month. Of course, it's only the second, but it's been snowing all day, just flakes here and there, but enough to make a blanket and now it's gotten heavier.

I went across the brook the other day to try and find something of interest to stick into the urn on the front step. I cut something that's probably spruce and two dried hydrangea heads. I'll keep looking, because it still needs more. A little here, a little there.

Not very wintery-looking, but beautiful.

I was cleaning in the bathroom and got a sudden notion to wash the window. It occurred to me that just because it was too cold to wash the outside, I could do the inside and the storm windows (which we keep in all year). This was a novel idea. I mean, window-washing weather is over, so I thought I just couldn't clean them till spring. You see how hard it is for me to think outside the box when it comes to housework. Anyway, it was fun, opening the window in the snowing and blowing to remove the storm windows, and then quickly shutting it again. It looks so much better! Never too old to learn (something obvious).

 see the cobwebs? gone now!

After I cleaned the shower curtain liner, the supervisor came along to survey my work.

Where I live, December is a month eclipsed by Christmas. Or, one could say it takes its identity from its association with Christmas. And as such, in my imagination it is fresh and white all month. But in reality, it isn't. The temperatures are usually mild and start getting near freezing around the time of the solstice, although this week temps in the thirties are predicted for every day. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

an Advent snow

Well, it's December first already, and it also happens to be the first day of Advent. Outside it is overcast and cold. It feels raw; it's going to snow! How amazingly convenient - there's nothing like a bit of snow to bring you into the holiday spirit, especially since Thanksgiving was just the other day and it's hard to go from one to the other so quickly.

I've put out the electric window candles; the ones in the living room are taped to the woodwork, in case a certain little person gets any ideas. The small nativity won't be on the lower shelf in the corner cabinet this year, because stepping on that shelf from the kitchen table is too much of a temptation even to our older cats. I put Mary and Joseph on one of the little shelves above the sink and cut out a  piece of plaid flannel to the shape of the shelf. I think it may work out well -  when the Three Kings come, I can put them on some of the other shelves there.

The watchmen on the heights are crying,
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices:
Come forth, ye virgins, night is past!
The Bridegroom comes, awake,
Your lamps with gladness take;
And for his marriage feast prepare,
For ye must go to meet him there.

Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing,
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all-glorious,,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious,
Her star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, thou blessed One,
God's own beloved Son,
We follow till the halls we see
Where thou hast bid us sup with thee.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

"What it's all about in the end"

"The ultimate goal of all prayer is the coming of the Kingdom of God, and hence first of all the sanctification of his name, so that, in a word, his will, his whole will and nothing but his will may be accomplished.

If God, if the knowledge of God, if, in a word, the love of God should interest us so strongly, it is not only because that is the way of salvation, for ourselves...and for the world. On the contrary, we should say that the salvation of the world and our own are only worthy of interest because God wishes to be known and loved, known and loved for himself.

In the last analysis, that is the great Christian revelation. For the Christian, for the Church, God is not just a 'Good' to be revealed to people so that they can profit by it. God is Someone: Someone who loves each and every one of us, who expects us all to love him, above all who expects each of us, this very day, without waiting any longer, to recognize his love and surrender to it as completely as possible."

                                     Father Louis Bouyer,    from Magnificat, November, 2019   

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

a day in the kitchen

I have a nice co-worker who didn't have to cook for Thanksgiving, and she wanted to work today, a half-day. So, she worked and I stayed home! I spent the day in the kitchen.

I always have more pumpkin pie filling than will fit in the crust, so there were three extra custards for dessert today.

The broccoli/cauliflower gratin is done.

Gruyere is often the cheese called for in these dishes, but I was in the middle of grating the cheese when I realized I'd bought gouda! I really couldn't find a huge difference online, and the sauce looks and tastes fine, so - it is what it is! As long as we can eat it and it's tasty!

I also made the gravy. There won't be drippings with a turkey breast, so I would rather do as much ahead of time as possible.

I wanted a cranberry apple pie, but didn't want to bother. I was going to make a crisp, but really wanted it in pie form. I ended up making a one-crust pie with crisp topping. (don't know what I was fussing about)

A lot of dish-washing, a minimal bit of cleaning, one load of laundry, and a small batch of cookies.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

pie crust ramblings

For my brother's birthday I was going to make a cheesecake, as I usually do. But he seemed to be fighting a cold the week before, so I asked him if he wanted to be eating so much dairy, and he said a blueberry pie would be just fine. So, that's what I did.

My mother was a good cook, but she couldn't make a pie crust; we would eat supermarket pies when we were kids, and we didn't know any better, but then I learned how to make one in Home Ec. class. Afterward, the holiday pies would fall to me - everyone liked my pies and all was well for years. I think I used a recipe from a Farm Journal cookbook, and shortening was called for.

When "The Omega Plan" came out, I found out how unhealthy Crisco was, so I switched to using canola oil. (it took another several years for me to understand about organic, non-GMO canola oil) I've been making oil crusts for years now, but it's a softer dough. No rolling it out on a floured counter - I roll it between sheets of wax paper. It's thinner, too, and I've given up trying to crimp the edges prettily like I used to do back when. The taste is good and my fruit pies never get soggy on the bottom.

Back to my brother: I was too low on canola oil to make a crust, but at the supermarket I couldn't find any of the Spectrum brand I always get - it was nowhere. I thought of trying lard, but the package said it had three additives which sounded foreign and awful to me. Well. At home I had butter, and coconut oil. And, while they say that some things make better pie crusts than others, fat is still fat, and I knew I could make one with whatever I had around.

I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but with one stick of butter and one cup of coconut oil. I left out the sugar. It was like the old days, rolling it out on the counter with flour all over the place! It came out fine, except that the bottom crust got gooey from the berries. (I always put way less thickener than called for, deliberately, for plenty of juiciness.)

I've been pondering for a while if I should start making butter crusts. If I do, I am going to roll them out between wax paper, in order to get them thinner - I think I can avoid the gooey factor that way. Meanwhile, I bought some grapeseed oil at the store, as the bottle said it was suitable for higher heat, as in baking. I'll probably use it for the pumpkin pie I make tomorrow, as I'm more used to the oil crust and I have lots of cooking to do ahead of Thanksgiving. But I will go back to the other method again - it's good to have options.

I ended up making the cheesecake anyway. It's a great recipe, isn't too big, has not-too-much sugar, and can be made with goat cheese, so is pretty healthy.

It went fast. Unlike this post, which I'm sure was too involved for anyone but a dedicated pie baker!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

a fresh treat

My brother came home with a dozen eggs from a client who has chickens. They said, don't refrigerate! They'll last a week on the counter. This seems hard to get used to. But in the end, it won't matter - we used nine of them the first day.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

an end in sight

They paved our road today; with many large trucks and other vehicles, rolling and flattening; men tamping down the asphalt around the edges of the storm drains by hand, all glimpsed out the window in between ironing and cleaning and cooking, all very fascinating. My brother says they'll have to make another layer, but it is almost done.

shake, rattle and roll

We thought, last Thursday, the road would soon be paved, because they were putting down more dirt and rolling over it to flatten it out. But, no.

Monday, after my brother went out, I looked outside to see a large mound of dirt at the end of our driveway and the big claw was parked on our front lawn.

it got bigger than this

There were deep trenches again with workers in them up to the neck. Phase three, I guess: They were doing the storm drains. So, first they had replaced pipes that brought sewage out, the the pipes which bring clean water in, and now the storm drains. Phase four, presumably, is the paving. (I am surmising).  Everyone's yard has either mounds of dirt on it, or stacks of pipe.

Day after day they dig these pits, and have to fill them in at day's end. Amazing. 

This is all a prelude to yesterday morning. My brother had just gone out on an errand and I was getting ready for work. The house began to shake, like an earthquake. I knew it wasn't that - those fellows were outside. I think this contraption compacts the soil to ready it for paving.

These fellows always show up around 7 every day, but this morning all was strangely quiet and deserted. Until now - I can hear their vehicles beeping as I write this. We'll see what transpires today. If anyone on the street has a large party planned for Thanksgiving next week, that could be interesting.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

he comes

All faded is the glowing light
That once from heaven shone,
When startled shepherds in the night
The angels came upon.

O shine again, ye angel host,
And say that he is near;
Though but a simple few at most
Believe he will appear.

O come again, thou mighty King,
Let earth thy glory see;
And let us hear the angels sing,
"He comes with victory".

-  from Magnificat, November 2019

Saturday, November 16, 2019

more futility and destruction

I was wondering how long it would take the little orphan to find the throw over the back of the rocking chair.

Not long. And that stuff you probably think is lint on the chair pad? It's the stuffing coming out of the slits she cut in the fabric. Probably the first week she came.

And why did I ever think I could have periods where the kitchen table would actually be clean for a few minutes? I do scrub it, since cats do go on it.

She shows up even before it has a chance to dry. And wriggles all around. Of course.

Cute little bugger.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

working on the bathroom window

I have been slowly, very slowly removing the wallpaper in the bathroom and painting the walls - just the upper half of the small room, the bottom half being tile.

It looks bare without any pattern on the walls; it will take getting used to. So, I was looking at the window with fresh eyes the other day. I had removed the shade and the upper curtain a while back, with the idea to let more light in, but with just a curtain on the bottom half it did look rather blah. I picked out a book from my shelf and flipped through, looking for ideas of, I don't know what, things to put above the window, or a very sheer curtain (I really didn't want to do that but sometimes a good picture changes your ideas). I saw this:

Now, I don't have painted woodwork, or those nice knobs. But, laughably, the curtain rod brackets were still up, screwed into the window frame. I looked through my fabric and saw some left from my summer dress. I cut a long piece, pinked the ends to make it neater, folded it and laid it over the brackets.

Very hard to get a decent photo, and it's certainly nothing fabulous, but now something is up there and it doesn't block any light. And today I made new curtains with some beautiful soft denim I've had for years, which matches the swag very well. They still need to be hemmed and I hope I can do that Saturday.

I love the frayed look of the selvages.