Friday, January 28, 2022

snow storm coming

 When I left work this afternoon, I heard a wren trilling. I wonder how the little birds will fare tomorrow, in the big snowstorm that's on the way. From around midnight to around midnight, it's going to snow, and quite a lot - blizzard conditions in part of the state. We'll try to make it enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

making perfect yogurt

 I like to make my yogurt in the evenings, and I intended to last night but at the end of the day I didn't want to do one more thing, so I didn't. But while I was at work today I thought about it, and really the Instant Pot does it all - it's just a matter of keeping on top of when the milk is heated up sufficiently and when it's cooled enough. And I thought I might give it a go when I got home, even though it would be in between dinner stuff and laundry stuff and the rest of it. 

I have made yogurt on and off over the years, never sticking to it for too long, but I've made it on the stove and in the crockpot. And then strained it, as most people these days like it thick. Then I bought an Instant Pot. I had heard they are the best way to make yogurt. It's true. 

It's a big one - an eight quart, and I keep it in the spare room down the hall. So I brought it to the kitchen, plugged it in, set it to "saute" and poured in a half gallon of pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) milk. Then I went off to get changed, feed the cats, etc., etc. I know enough now to watch for the milk to steam, and then to start to become frothy - by then it's getting up to 185 F. I take the liner containing the hot milk and put it somewhere to cool. It has to get down to around 115 F, and that takes somewhere between twenty and twenty-five minutes. I add only one quarter cup of my previous yogurt, stir a bit, put the lid on securely and set it on "yogurt". It will keep it at the perfect temperature until I'm up in the morning, which tomorrow will be about thirteen hours later. I will take out the liner and put it in the basement fridge. And when I get home I can ladle it into jars. 

This will be the fourth time I've made it in the Instant Pot, and I can tell you it is the thickest I've ever made. Not as thick as Greek yogurt, but thick enough for me to feel I don't have to bother straining it. Which is great, because there's no waste. I get a half gallon of yogurt when I'm done! For less than three dollars. I'm not terrific at flavoring it; I have it with my granola. The Instant Pot is big and takes up a lot of room, but it makes perfect yogurt. I just need to remember to learn to use it for other things.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

hidden things

 I like to observe holidays; they exist for a reason. It may amount to a cloth on the table, some dessert, a day of less housework. Sunday is also in this category - it's different from the other days of the week. 

From the first reading at Mass: 

   Today is holy to the Lord, your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep.... Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. 

                                                              -Nehemiah 8:9

"If we take for ourselves no other model than those who are world-famous, this will hurt us a great deal and result in a lifetime of striving to be somebody. But if we follow the model of a Redeemer who for thirty years lived in obscurity, it should not distress us to be ignored. There are very few people of worldly importance; far in the majority are the multitudes of ordinary people whose path to heaven is unexciting and unromantic. How very kind of God to show us by his long, hidden life that his plan of redemption includes everyone, even those whose lives are so unremarkable that the world does not notice at all!"

                                                                - Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P., from Magnificat, January 2022

Thursday, January 20, 2022

warmth in numbers

 When I came up the basement stairs into the kitchen I could see out the window to the bird feeder; there were three dark gray juncos and a brown wren. The juncos prefer eating on the ground, but it was snowing. I've discovered a new podcast called BirdNote - it's very short, two minutes usually, and today they were talking about what some birds do when it's cold. Apparently, Eurasian Wrens, who are common in the UK, have been found 40 in a nest box! And over here, the winter wren was found over thirty together. Bluebirds huddle together, too. 

So now we have a little snow again, and when it gets down in the twenties tomorrow I can think of the little birds warming each other with some companionship.

Monday, January 17, 2022

scones for hermits

 It's the feast of St. Anthony, the hermit. Why didn't I think to make hermits? But it's getting late, the butter is in the freezer and there is bread in the oven. I've got to start on the soup. Oh, blast! But I did make scones earlier, and they are spiced and homey - they'll have to do.

O raise your voices! Wake the world!
And let your songs of praise be heard!
For both in town and desert waste
God's glory finds a dwelling place.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

not even one percent

 When Orphan Annie finally had her check-up, she was found to weigh eleven and a half pounds. Ahem. This would be our fault, of course. Dr. P. said it can't continue.

So she hasn't eaten one piece of dry food since, and she does not get food every time she cries, and she cries very pitifully, like all cute cats know how to do.

But we also found out what kind of cat she is. And she's not a Burmese, not even one percent! Here's the lowdown:  

  • 41% American domestic and 11% European domestic
  • 13% Maine Coon and 12% Norwegian Forest cat (my favorite cat!!) 
  • 10% Sphynx (really???)
  • 2% Highlander 
That was the Western section. There is a Persian section which says she's 10% Scottish Fold and 1% British Shorthair. So, the British Shorthair is a Persian? And the Scottish Fold, too? Interesting.

Ten percent Sphynx - you know these cats are hairless, right? And she's twenty five percent very hairy cat (the Maine Coon and Forest Cat, which I think are related from way back, along with the Siberian cat: very large, fluffy cats). I had to look up the Highlander, which has ears that seem to curl forward, as opposed to the Scottish Fold, whose ears curve back. What a confusing family line. 

According to something I read, Burmese cats know how to play fetch, and they have a very silky coat and are heavier than they seem. They are good natured, rather like a dog in some ways. Annie is all those things, but it's not enough to make her Burmese. :D It's very cool to me that she's part Norwegian Forest Cat, but that doesn't make her look like one. And, what is the difference between the American Domestic and the European Domestic? I never heard of either. She is a tiny bit British Shorthair, but not American Shorthair. Aren't all regular cats in this country American shorthairs? 

the little imposter

You know that Dolly is next, right?

Friday, January 14, 2022

to sleep, or not to sleep

 I returned Yeats to the library; now I have Wordsworth. 

This evening I hankered for a hot cocoa, so I had one, but I wonder if the caffeine will disturb my sleep.


A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by,
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;
I have thought of all by turns, and yet do lie
Sleepless! and soon the small birds' melodies
Must hear, first uttered from my orchard trees;
And the first cuckoo's melancholy cry.
Even thus last night, and two nights more, I lay
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear tonight away:
Without thee what is all the morning's wealth?
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

- William Wordsworth

Monday, January 10, 2022

winter night

 "There is something at once magnificent and terrible about moonlight on the snow during these cold, white January nights. 
 If one is outside, and cold, the landscape has a profoundly lonely look, underlined by shadows. Only in a warm house, surrounded by people and the pattern of busy living, is this loneliness abated. Even then it is awesome and beautiful."

                                                  - Rachel Peden, A Farmwife's Almanac of Country Living

Saturday, January 8, 2022

the profound stillness

 I think I happened upon an answer to my question from yesterday:

"Why do people always get so still when they watch the snow, murmured Carol at the kitchen window, as if they could see it better that way?
  It is because the beginning of snow is, itself, a profound stillness in which the listener hears the thoughts of his own secret heart."

                                           -  from A Farmwife's Almanac of Country Living, by Rachel Peden

Friday, January 7, 2022


 We knew it would snow overnight, only two to five inches, and over a fifteen-hour period. 

early morning

But it came faster, and heavier, and I got an email first thing that said the Town offices were closing, and that included the library. A snow day!

What is it about a snowfall that compels you to feel quiet inside, even while you are joyfully going about finishing up what you didn't do the day before.

deep, dark afternoon sky

Thursday, January 6, 2022

when I have time


What I'm reading at present. Jane Eyre is more fantastic than I remembered. Highly Irregular was a Christmas present - it's about many quirks of the English language. The young woman who wrote it is smart as a whip. (now, I wonder what she'd make of that saying?) The reason I've got The Mind of the Middle Ages, well - I read The Year of Our Lord, 1943, and in it, Alan Jacobs mentioned something about the Romanesque period as having a different way of thinking than previously or later - anyway, it caught my curiosity enough that I hope this book may shed some light. It's rather like a textbook but interesting all the same. May it continue that way! I have nothing to say yet about The Apostles and Their Times. 

I also pick up A Literary Christmas now and then - it has a pretty cover

And today, being Epiphany, ended the daily Advent (and later) meditations in Malcolm Guite's Waiting on the Word. I can't say enough about it - if it sounds good to you, buy it.

I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow
Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow;
And then I must scrub and bake and sweep
Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;
And the young lie long and dream in their bed
Of the matching of ribbons for bosom and head,
And their day goes over in idleness,
And they sigh if the wind but lift a tress;
While I must work because I am old,
And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.

- The Song of the Old Mother, by W. B. Yeats

Monday, January 3, 2022

the little folk and the embattled flaming multitude

 Well, it's a new year, and there's a new reading challenge I'm embarking on. The very first thing is to read eleven poems by a poet who's been highlighted on the Well-Read Poem podcast - I chose William Butler Yeats. 

I've never been much of a poetry person, but I think the influence of Gretchen, for one thing, has encouraged me; also, the two poetry podcasts I subscribe to - it does seem to grow on you. So I opened the poetry book of Yeats' work, and the very first one grabbed me. 

To Some I Have Talked with by the Fire

While I wrought out these fitful Danaan rhymes,
My heart would brim with dreams about the times
When we bent down above the fading coals;
And talked of the dark folk, who live in souls
Of passionate men, like bats in the dead trees;
And of the wayward twilight companies,
Who sigh with mingled sorrow and content,
Because their blossoming dreams have never bent
Under the fruit of evil and of good;
And of the embattled flaming multitude
Who rise, wing above wing, flame above flame,
And, like a storm, cry the Ineffable Name;
And with the clashing of their sword blades make
A rapturous music, till the morning break,
And the white hush end all, but the loud beat
Of their long wings, the flash of their white feet. 

Fantastic! Then I went to youtube, hoping to hear some recited by actors. Here's Sam Neill (why did I think he was American?). 

Yeats was really into the world of the little folk - well, I like the fairy folk myself. Except that after a while I wondered if he ever came back to earth. But I don't know anything about the man. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

reflecting Christmas

 "Surely happiness is reflective, like the light of heaven; and every countenance bright with smiles, and glowing with innocent enjoyment, is a mirror transmitting to others the rays of a supreme and ever shining benevolence. He who can turn churlishly away from contemplating the felicity of his fellow beings, and can sit down darkling and repining in his loneliness when all around is joyful ... wants the genial and social sympathies which constitute the charm of a merry Christmas."

                                                                          -  Washington Irving, from The Sketch Book

Saturday, January 1, 2022

New Year's table

 I've been wanting to put the little Christmas tree on the table during dinner some time - that was easy enough, since it sits right next to the table on a shelf. And I've been wishing I had charger plates for a more elegant look. Years ago I bought a big, gold, plastic one but what good is only one? 

Anyway, I wondered how the tree would look with that charger plate under it, and when I went up on the stool to get it, I saw three more behind it, and a silver one! I've had them so long, and never used them once - so I forgot they were even there. I put them under the dark blue plates and found some Santa paper napkins which livened up the place settings with some design and color.

 I put a thrifted brass candle holder with holly leaf cut-outs next to the tree and went through the cards we got - one that Debra made seemed to go nicely there.

 It was lovely!

ring in

A Happy New Year to everyone!

 Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

                                        - Tennyson, from Ring Out, Wild Bells