01 December 2012

A month of being thankful

There was a meme on Facebook to post something each day about which to be thankful.  My final post got a bit large and FB kept freezing, so I decided to move the whole list here.

1) Coming through safely the storm, and also my loved ones and friends losing no more than some fences and trees at most. We were very lucky.

2) That I can work as a volunteer at the Mobile Foodshare truck today instead of being a customer - and that I can help the people who do need food distributions.

3) I am thankful today for all the people who helped make breakfast and lunch a success - we fed two crowds! Five people helped cook and serve, plus to husband of one for dishing "Gypsy Soup" (that his wife made - vegan and everybody RAVED about it, we served many second portions) and helping some people carry their lunches to their seats.

4) Today I am going to be thankful that someone else is cooking breakfast - and lunch too, if I am lucky!

5) Thankful that there is just one more day of insanity before the election!

6) Thankful to be in a country where I can vote, where I will not get shot for voting, and where almost anybody of any colour, creed, gender, or economic status has the ability to vote.

7) Today I am thankful that I am working out of a home office and did not have to try to drive home in this weather.

8) I am thankful the temperature warmed and the snow melted and I could get my car out of the snow with no trouble.

9) I am thankful to be having supper with a bunch of "Chaotic Peasants" tonight.

10) Thankful to have spent an evening with good friends at an interesting and to get a blue-frosted cupcake with a Cyclops (X-Men, for the uninformed) pick at the concession stand.

11) Today I am thankful for our VETERANS.

12) Since my thankful yesterday was for our veterans, my thankful today is for those serving in our military, because they will become our veterans.

13) Thankful for our cast and crew, pulling together to solve problems and make the show run smoothly. And especially for people like Greg, who is basically rebuilding a major set piece overnight (with some help from Adam and Paul), and Barbara who is coming in to finish all the painting the set designer/builder couldn't get around to doing.

14) Thankful that we have a day off from rehearsals tomorrow.

15) Thankful it was the last CSA delivery of the year. We got some great stuff (including romanesco, which I am very happy my share partner let me take from our share, and apple jam and kimchi in the last salty/sweet share) but it’s getting pretty cold to be outside at the distribution site for 2-3 hours.

16)  Thankful that tonight is OPENING NIGHT for West Hartford CommunityTheater’s “My Fair Lady” and we can get that show on the boards!16) Thankful that tonight is OPENING NIGHT for West Hartford Community Theater's "My Fair Lady" and we can get that show on the boards!ple jam and kimchi in the last salty/sweet share) but it's getting pretty cold to be outside at the distribution site for 2-3 hours.
16) Thankful that tonight is OPENING NIGHT for West Hartford Community Theater's "My Fair Lady" and we can get that show on the boards!

 17) Thankful for the cast and crew who made today's doubleheader (matinee and evening show) not just possible but fun and terrific.   (Although I have to admit, ditching the cast party for a cast nap instead does seem like a good idea...........)  Also thankful to the director for treating the backstage crew to supper from Noodles & Co. tonight (Japanese udon with tofu for me).

18) Thankful for my Jacuzzi tub.  (Posted after strike of a show with four performances in three days.)

19) Thankful for insurance, and how much of prescriptions it covers.

20) Thankful for understanding and supportive boss, boss-of-boss, and matrix boss.

21) Thankful for my family, in so very many ways.
(Except maybe the teeth-of-chalk, wide feet, and bad eyes. And my dad's sense of humour about half the time.)  (OK, also not so fond of the fact that my nieces are both my height or taller. SHEESH!!!!)

22) Thankful that we live in a country where people can write, sing, and enjoy a song like this. And so many others.

23) Today I am thankful for my baby brother, born on this date a bunch of years ago. While there were times when we were kids that I would gladly have sold or traded him to gypsies, pixies, or anybody who would take him, since I was almost three he has been a constant in my life - companion, confidant, conspirator. He is also a great father (even if my nieces are already taller than I - he should have worked that out a BIT better, maybe not until they are fifteen or so?), a great husband (so says SIL), has his name on a patent, an MBA (gotten while a father AND traveling a lot for work – I am very impressed), published photography, and mad chef skills.  Which we are giving him a break on for his birthday with takeout from Outback and dessert from Kilwin’s or Carvel.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB!!!

24) Thankful to have spent money locally today - local merchants, local restaurant. Couldn't do anything about the cinema but I do recommend "Lincoln" - there was hardly an empty seat and the audience reacted as if it were a play, laughing, cheering, and applauding at various points. When they did the roll call, you could hardly hear breathing!

25) Thankful for a weekend with the family (and random gekkos), full of laughter, music. food, games, swimming, and ice-cream. Also thankful that SouthwestAirlines got us all there and back with our luggage - and letting us take luggage at no additional charge so that we could do our usual Christmas-at-Thanksgiving swaps.

26) Thankful for a good Monday.  Work done (and I didn't forget my passcodes after the long weekend of food-coma!), errands run, boxes moved into livingroom in prep for sorting exercise. And speaking of exercise - new elliptical is set up and working. I just have to figure out the display stuff..........

27) Thankful that I have a warm, secure house with enough food and warm clothing. On "Giving Tuesday," what did you do to help those who don't?

28) Thankful for my bestie Judy and fellow Texan Laura, who drove me to and from surgery, today!  Also to the Brenners for keeping me overnight, just in case.

29) Thankful to be home again after a successful Surgery Part 1, hoping for a rapid adjustment. Now that I know what to expect, I'm looking forward to Part 2.

30)  Looking back on the month of thankfuls, I see that I have a really good life and a lot of things for which to be thankful – and yet so many other things that I could include:

·         Art museums and galleries, and the artists who fill them.  And the fact that you can experience them by more than just walking around, through things like Second Saturdays forFamilies and the living Clue games and other activities.

·         Theatres, and not just because I like to play in them.  Places that transport us, entertain us, enthrall us, and sometimes challenge us.

·         Cinema, because there are some things that don’t fit into theatres (and it’s cheaper).

·         Travel, because I like to do it and can afford it and get to visit some of the above and other places and experiences all over the world, from the Mariinsky Ballet to The Reclining Buddha to the Grand Canyon to almost touching the sky in New Zealand.

·         Music.

·         Public television and radio, without which I could not enjoy some of my favourite shows and without which I would not have learned a lot as a child and teen.

·         Having really good doctors and access to medical care, which has saved my life a couple of times and is now restoring my sight to a level I cannot remember having.

·         First responders, who protect and serve.  Policemen and firemen and paramedics and all the others who are there when we need them and do things that others wouldn’t dare.

·         Having a warm house and enough clothing and food and things, and being able to help those who don’t.  I know I said this earlier in the month, but I’m still thankful as I read about people who don’t.

·         That there are good people in the world who DO try to help others, and make the world safe for them and the next generation.

·         Speaking of the next generation – baby giggles.

·         Being able to experience the world with children and learn from my elders.

·         Ice cream.  And naps.  Had both today.

·         Friends, and not just the ones I have on Facebook.  People with whom I can be myself and be silly, and discuss things for hours or sit quietly and enjoy each other’s presence, do “what can possibly go wrong?” and have stories to tell on the other side, who I can rely upon even if we don’t see each other very often anymore.

·         Family.  Because according to a lot of people I have a good one – and I agree.

·         For living in a country where, whatever you may think of it and its leaders, we have a lot of freedoms and opportunities that you might not get elsewhere.  My forebears came here because of that, and I see it today, especially with all the griping that people are able to do about the government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  I have been in places where this freedom doesn’t exist, or didn’t so recently that people still whisper.  Having the freedom to speak out, the ability to make changes, and just plain being able to vote, is a real treasure that we should cherish and respect.

·         Freedom of religion, and freedom from religion.

·         Creativity.  I may or may not have it, but I can enjoy it from others.

·        Books.  And public libraries.  The former can take you anywhere, anytime, suck you away better than time machines and magic carpets.  The latter make them accessible to all.

05 September 2012

Copyright Law - 225 Years On

Good or bad, American copyright law turned 225 years old today.  Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution includes the sentence that "The Congress shall have Power" ... "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" - words that were submitted to the delegates for their consideration on September 5, 1787.

There are many people who think that this clause needs to be stricken.  Many people who feel that this right is used to coerce money from people and limit creativity.  And as an attorney who focuses in non-patent intellectual property law, I could be accused of being one of these, on behalf of my clients.

However - the origin of the statute was to protect the rights of artists.  This is the part that so many people forget.  If you are a creator, this langauge was written to prevent others from stealing your livelihood.  If you are an artist, or a writer, or a musician, or one of the many other creative types whose works are protected by the Copyright Act, you understand what I am talking about.

At the time the Constitution was written, there was no protection for creative persons in the Colonies.  Only those in Mother England could protect and defend their creative works.  For authors, artists, and others in what would become the United States of America, there was no protection - and so it was authors and musicians who fought for the U.S. Copyright law.  Today many of the cases we hear about in the courts feature people who are suing because they believe that someone else has misused their creative work - photograph, music - for monetary gain.

The greater danger to artists, however, is not people who don't misuse their work for monetary gain - it is people who take their works without paying at all.  Recently, an intern on NPR's All Songs Considered wrote an article in which she admitted that most of her music library comes from stealing.  She doesn't pay for music, she swaps tracks with friends or copied albums from the physical discs at her college radio station's library.

Other people copy patterns, recipes, articles, or even whole books and share them.  I was appalled at one of my first knitting guild meetings after I moved to Dallas when one of the members - without a single word from anybody - handed out copies of a pattern from a recent magazine because she thought that people would enjoy making it.

Whenever this type of activity occurs, the person making the copy prevents the creator of that work - the songwriter, the musician, the designer, the writer - from receiving a royalty.  Royalties are how these people are compensated for their efforts.  It is the same as someone eating a meal and not paying the tab, or walking out of a store with a coat for s/he they didn't pay.  It is as if they said "I really like your work, so I am going to take it and not pay you."  Don't you think it should be the other way around?  Shouldn't we say "I really like your stuff and I'll be happy to pay you for it"?

As one author that I enjoy said it:

The same applies to any creative person.  When you respect their copyright, you help these people make a living doing something they love:  MusicWriting.  Painting.  Sculpture.  Choreography.  Graphic Design.  Pattern DesignMaking movies.  Photography.

Respect their copyrights.  Help the artists survive.  Help them make a living doing what they love to do.  Buy their works - don't steal them.

I haven't mentioned plagiarism, although with the starrt of the school year we start a new season, because the problem with plagiarism is not just stealing the writing, but taking credit for someone else's work.  Although money may not be involved, academic accomplishment is.  An author recently posted an article telling other authors what to do if they find out that someone has plagiarized their work.  Students increasingly think nothing of plagiarizing someone else's writing and taking credit for it, even when they face expulsion.  Give credit where it's due.

02 September 2012

Tomato Tart

I love tomatoes.

In the summer, I mostly eat them raw - out of hand, chopped in salads, chopped with just a bit of herbs or salt to perk them up a bit.  I slice them into salads, sometimes with little more than the tomatoes involved:
This was my breakfast in mid-July:  A fresh heirloom tomato, not too thinly sliced, arranged between two slices of wholegrain bread lightly spread with a fresh chevre from my CSA.  It was FABULOUS.

Last year I read a recipe in Food and Wine magazine for a tart that was little more than tomatoes piled in a simple crust and slowly baked.  With my CSA's annual picnic coming, I made one to take and share:
For its simplicity, it is marvellously good, and surprisingly substantial.  Of course I have been tweaking it, using my own piecrust recipe instead of the magazine's, and every time I make one it comes out a little differently.  So here is a step-by-step summary, combining two different tarts because I get caught up in the cooking and don't always remember to take pictures.

Step 1:  Make the Dough
Piecrust has a reputation for being tricky and difficult.  Many years ago a friend taught me to make it in the food processor, which takes out much of the intimidation, at least for me.  Just put the flour(s) into the machine, add a pinch of salt and the fat, and use bursts to combine until it is like grains of sand.  I generally start with a cup to a cup-and-a-half of flours and one-third as much butter, or butter and chevre, or whatever other fat(s) I am using:
You can also use oil, or vegetable fat, or lard, or whatever.  The key is to cut up a solid fat into smaller pieces, which are easier to combine, and to use bursts, not running the machine constantly.  If you do that and are using gluten-containing flours it gets gummy and tough.  I often add some cornmeal to my mixture because I like the texture it adds.  Sometimes I add some of the herbs to the dough - basil, thyme, savory, and sage are good choices.

Oh - I mentioned "if" and "gluten-containing flours"!  Yes, you can use almost any combination for this recipe.  So if you don't eat gluten, use other flours.  If you don't do dairy, use vegetable fat or nut oil or olive oil or whatever.  It's flexible.  Your dough might be a bit more crumbly, but since we're not doing a raised dough the flours don't matter as much as they might otherwise.

Then, with the machine running, add ice water through the feeding tube.  I put some ice and water into a measuring cup and dribble in from the spout.  Start with a couple of tablespoons and add more carefully.  If you put too much in, the dough gets gloppy.  If you think it's close, stop the machine and open it and pinch the dough.  When it's about the same feeling as your earlobe, it's right.

I am not more precise on the amount of ice water that you need because it depends upon the flours and the fat.  You will need less if you use oil.  You will need more with some flours than others, or if the weather has been very dry as your flour may be drier.  You can always add a spoonful or so of water if needed.  And if you do add too much?  Either add in some more flour (or grated dry cheese) or do a pat-in instead of trying to roll out the dough.  It will take a bit longer to bake.

Step 2:  Constructing the Tart
Roll out the dough to fit into your pan.  Sometimes I put a bit of cornmeal on the counter for the last roll, again to add texture.  Otherwise I just use lots of flour.  In the righthand picture the dough contains some basil and was rolled out with cornmeal mixed into the flour.
The leaves are purple basil that I couldn't resist
buying at the farmer's market because it is pretty.
I had eaten a lot of my tomatoes so this is a
rather small tart - make it as big as you like.

There is basil in this dough.  I learned last year that using a
tart pan with a removable bottom is a BIG help when serving.
Then you add the tomatoes.  Mostly I use tiny ones - grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes.  But earlier this summer I wanted to make one and I didn't have too many of the little ones.
My CSA also gave us eggplant and very
large heads of garlic.  The tomato in the
sandwich at the top is from this delivery.
However, my CSA had given us a number of what they call "paste tomatoes" which have more flesh and less moisture, and I thought they would be perfect to use as a bottom layer, in slices, as shown in the photo at the right:

When I just have the small ones, I will cut larger ones in half, as I did with the "black" tomatoes around the rim in this tart:

I added a sprinkle of chopped basil and kosher salt to the first layer.  You can sprinkle herbs in by layers or mix them in wherever you like, or leave them out.

As you can see, sometimes I make designs and sometimes I just pile in as many tomatoes as I can:
Step 3:  Baking the Tart
This can be tough, because it takes about two hours.  The recipe has 100 minutes, I sometimes do a bit more if I have piled the tomatoes in especially thickly.  Do NOT be tempted to "speed it up" with a higher temperature, you will just burn everything.  Keep the oven at 300-325(F) degrees and be patient.  In fact, unless you are making a small tart, don't even bother to look until 90 minutes have passed.
The goal is to have the tomatoes slowly roasting and carmelizing slightly.  The end result, as you can see from this photo, is to keep it juicy but to have the tomato flavours concetrated and richer:
Another good thing about this tart is that it can be served hot, warm, or cold.  It can be the vegetable side dish or the main course.  Add some salad, and it's a meal.
One guess what I'll be doing with these heirlooms from Urban Oaks Organic Farm?

12 August 2012

Ravellenic Games - medaling!

The "Ravellenic Games" are basically a knitter's challenge to declare that you will make something, cast on and finish during the Olympics. I'm a quiet person who doesn't usually announce in advance. But I do commit to myself to make something. When it first started, via The Yarn Harlot, I declared for a Multidirectional Scarf and made it with two balls of Lion Brand Magic Stripes (now discontinued) in Jelly Bean. I finished the scarf easily, in part because I had a trip to Thailand which meant a lot of knitting time, and the pattern is just garter stitch so it's great for mindless knitting.

I don't remember what I did for the last Olympics, but this time I decided to try for "medals" in two "events" - knitting and crocheting, both for charity. For my knitting event I decided to make five hats for an organization called PatPat's Hats, which collects chemo caps for kids that are distributed through local hospitals, in thanks for the treatment that PatPat received when he had chemo. He's healthy now and his hair is coming back, but it's a great way to say "thank you" to the people who helped and to pass along the love and good wishes.

I thought about making a hat in each of the five rings colours. Then I thought that the black one would be depressing to a child.* And I wanted to use up stash yarn. So I made these:
The arrangement is roughly in the rings colours. The top three are Patons Canadiana Colours, with the middle one standing in for black and using leftovers from the ones on either side of it. The pattern is one I love from KnitPicks' free patterns section and very easy. The brown one does contain gold (it's Encore Worsted Colorspun #7172) and the one in bottom right does contain bits of green. Yes, I did crochet two of the five, but since I knitted three I counted this as being majority knitting. Maybe silver instead of gold since I didn't knit all five?

*I have since decided that I could get a ball in each colour, and make the hats primarily in the ring colour with accents of the other four. I guess I have my next Games project already planned!

The other event was to crochet a shawl. I used a pattern I've made several times before and five balls of Lion Brand Amazing - two in "Joshua Tree" and three in "Vinyard" because that's what I got on clearance at Joann's a couple weeks ago:
I changed the pattern by adding a couple of extra rows of shells at the bottom and two rows of single crochet at the top edge. I might be able to get another row out of the remainder, but it's not certain. This goes past my waist in the back and feels like it will be nicely warm. It is going into the collections for the mammas at the orphanages supported by Mittens for Akkol and its related organizations. I've made this pattern a couple of times for myself, and now I feel inspired to make another, maybe of some Katia Jamaica that I have in bright colours and could make a great summer shawl. I do wear them on cool nights at concerts or theatre in the parks.

16 July 2012

Extra-Special Sushi Night

I belong to a Meetup.com group called Fabulous Foodies and once in a while we have a special event.  Tonight it was a meal prepared and hosted by Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi, who spoke about sustainable eating, why certain foods should be avoided (including a number of popular sushi items that do not appear on Miya's menu, such as eel and tuna), and what he is doing to support the environment and create an earth-supporting restaurant.

He served some Emerald Witches' Lips sake, a special house creation (described on their menu, along with the Chinese Firecracker that was passed at the end of the evening) as an apertif.  We all got a piece or two of their homemade pickled (in maple syrup) ginger for palate-cleansing later.

Then, we got to eat:
There was an official photographer, and it was very crowded, so I didn't take pictures of the entire event.  The plate above shows some of the rolls we ate, many from Miya's regular menu:  Tyger, Tyger; Black-Eyed Squid (possibly my favorite); Ride the Wild Donkey (it was about this time that Bun realized he had to tell us all the ingredients, as I quizzed him about the fruit in the "lobster roll"); The Greatest Sushi South of the Mason-Dixon Line (it contained okra - of course it was good!); Kanibaba, Ching Chong Roll; Spicy Broccoli Roll; something with clams (which our hostess raved over); a felafel-inspired roll (OK, that one was really my favorite); and a couple of others.  Not all of which lasted long enough to get on the plate to be photographed, as you can guess.
Afterwards, over beer and more sake, it was great to be able to speak with him and his assistant, Rasheed, who took pictures for the restaurant's blog, passed trays of sushi, chatted about books, and late in the evening enjoyed what he said were his first Mallomars ever.  I mentioned that Miya's Sushi tends to have one of the most popular tables at the annual Celebration of Connecticut Farms, which this year will be at Ashlawn Farm in Lyme, which has their own coffee roasting plant.   Several of the Fabulous Foodies are planning a trek to New Haven to enjoy Miya's Sushi again soon.

15 July 2012

Hill-Stead Farmer's Market Today

The Connecticut Farmers Market Trail asked people to post about their purchases at a local farmers market, and I wanted to review the one I usually attend, but Examiner.com is having issues with their slideshow feature.  Bonus post today so I can share the pictures I took, with most of the writeup in my Examiner.com column:
Walking up from the new parking lot.
 The original parking lots were filled by a few minutes after opening.  This walk takes you to the back of the house. The house is open for tours on Farmers Market Sundays, admission free.
A good first stop is the "Friends Of" booth.
Make a donation and get a button good for discounts all season.
Because my CSA keeps me well-supplied with veggies, I was here looking for fruit.  Most of the booths were fairly crowded, so I took long shots and could get a picture at only certain booths.

Fresh bread and muffins were very popular.
Fresh flowers for the table and plants for the yard.

Cherry. Overstuffed Apple, and Fruits of the Farm (Rhubarb, Strawberry, Red Raspberry)
I did not buy pie because I was planning to get some peaches and makes a fresh peach pie.  If this vendor had any peach pie, they were out when I shopped. They did have plums, three kinds of cherries, apricots, and other fruit that I bought for snacking.  Another vendor often has "seconds" of funny-looking or slightly dinged fruit that is perfect for making into jams and pies.

The Italian Ice booth is probably one of the most popular vendors onsite.   In addition to the standard flavours, they offer special written on cards and stuck to their sign - today's are raspberry-lemon, orange-mint, and grapefruit.  Keep an eye out for peach - it goes fast!

You can eat while you listen to music.

There are picnic tables available:

Some lucky people got the rocking chairs on the west portico.

Those who know me are not surprised that I find yarn anywhere I go:
So did someone else!  She spoke to the vendor for quite a while.

03 June 2012

Herbfest 2012

Saturday was Herbfest, which I found out about through a friend.  She was trying to organize a group to be there all day; I couldn't go until after class.  So I told her I would just go on my own.  I got there just as the morning's steady rain turned into a true gullywasher - and apparently just as the foraging class got to the edge of the woods.

When I decided to wade across the rushing walkway, since it looked as if the gullies would get washed for quite a while yet, I passed the two tents where farms sold plants.  Checked in, paying $5 and adding my nonperishable food items to the cartons by the door.  Was directed to the two classrooms, and got to the kitchen to find that everybody was just starting to straggle back from their morning swim.

As the students dried off and the teacher, Lynn Murdock, started to explain what they had managed to gather (and sent someone out to collect some nettles from the side of the barn, so that people could see what they looked like - the cutter was advised to hold a basket underneath and cut so that the pieces fell into it, to avoid touching the stinging hairs), Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi walked in.  He started cooking some of the greens, showed the class the multigrain sushi rice he had brought, and rolled up some sushi for us to try, integrating the clover, plantain, lamb's quarters, and dandelion greens.  While cooking, Bun and Lynn discussed sustainable eating, Bun's latest ventures in expanding the locavote options, and answered questions from the class.

You can see a picture of the finished sushi on Bun's blog - my friends Caryl and Bill are two of the smiling faces in the background, but I was too far back to make it into the shot.

After an abbreviated lunch break (because of the cooking time - but we had two or three bites of sushi, which tided me over for a bit) I went to the other building for the next two classes I wanted to take:  a class on Nutritional Herbs with Rosemari Roast followed by one on making tinctures with Debra Hultgren.  These two classes fit well together.  In the first one, I received a sample of dried nettle, about one day's worth if you drink the strong infusion that several teachers recommend.  It was interesting that when asked, the attendees defined "nutrition" in terms of "balance" and "organic" and "eat a variety of foods", only getting down to "vitamins" as the seventh or eighth thing on our list.  Apparently this is unusual even for persons interested in health and "Food as Medicine."

After the second class, I went back to see if there was anything else I wanted to buy, having done a speed-shop through the small vendor hall (a few vendors apparently couldn't make it in the torrents of the morning) and picked up some freeze-dried corn and peas .  I love these!  They make such a great snack.  You can see the total of my shopping here:

OK, the knitting piled up at the bottom is not a new purchase.  It was the auto-knitting I took to work on during classes when I wasn't taking notes.  It will be a basic variation on the Steppe Sweater for Mittens for Akkol's tween collection, Patons Classic Wool doubled on US#10.5 needles.  I started after my morning class (the bit I did in class was too wide, frogged and restarted) so the 7" shown here was only the Herbfest knitting.  Yes, it's a very easy pattern to follow!  Just plain knitting.

Specifics about my purchases are:
A "Got Organic" clay-dyed T-shirt, a rosemary flaxseed-filled muscle warming pad (microwave briefly, apply to sore or tense area, repeat as needed), a pair of beesewax candles, and a small bar of beeswax.  Sewers know about the benefit of waxing thread that will be used in high-stress areas, such as buttons, for added strength.  I've wanted a clay-dyed T-shirt since seeing some in a store on my family's trip through the Southwest last year, and not wanting to promote a specific company.  This one is perfect!

You can see the peas and corn in this photo, plus the bag of dried nettles from my afternoon class.  Also showing are four bars of soap:  Chocolate and Coffee, which will be gifts for my SIL, and Ginger-Lemon and Rosemary-Sage for me.

The baskets were made by a women's cooperative in Vietnam, and were on clear-out by the vendor.  He said that they had closed their shop and he was tired of paying inventory tax.  I bought one whole set, and the remaining baskets from a set that was broken.  They are very smooth inside, and will be handy for storing and organzing things.

Two items are not in the photo:  lemon balm and may apple.  I bought live plants and put them in the ground as soon as I got home.  The rain had stopped and the earth was of course very soft and wet, perfect for setting the plents.  Both of these (I am completely unfamiliar with may apple) are supposed to grow well in shade, and that is mostly what my property has (and why I can't grow more of the herbs that I love and wish I could have on hand, as I did in Texas).  We shall see!

28 May 2012

Memorial Day 2012

I find that other than a parade that seems more about children - scout troops, local bands, various sports teams - than the soldiers, in most areas Memorial Day has turned into just a day off from work, nothing terribly special, maybe the inevitable sales and the opening of summer season for pools and barbeques.

We were lucky in my family.  Nobody who served failed to come back.  But there are lots of families who are not so lucky, even in the last week.  Soldiers go away, and there's no way to know until they do or don't whether they will come back.

There is a famous and very short poem called "In Flanders Fields" which is the source of the poppies that used to spring up like spring flowers this time of year.  I remember buying them when I was a child and wearing them proudly, sometimes a small bouquet of them because I didn't want to pass by anybody who was selling one.
I remember my great-grandmother buying poppies when I was very small, telling me that we bought them to remember and honor the soldiers who had fought and died for our freedoms.  I remember seeing the old men, many still fitting in their uniforms, others wearing whatever part of the uniform still fit, selling the poppies on street corners, in front of grocery stores, all over town in the week or two before Memorial Day.

You don't see them as much anymore.  The number of old soldiers in the parades is dwindling.  Gone are the ones from World War I, "The War to End All Wars."  We are losing those from World War II, "The War After That."  And the Korean War.  Age is taking them from us.

We are also losing those from the Vietnam War, some due to age and some due to mental and other wounds that were not imagined in the earlier wars.  I don't remember that war, but I remember reading about the returning soldiers being spit upon and shunned, and even as an adult not understanding why that could be.  These were soldiers who fought to preserve freedom.  Whatever else you think of them, or their war, they did not deserve to return to hatred.  Maybe sadness, maybe other reactions, but not a hatred that made them wonder why they had enlisted to serve this country.

And now we have other wars:  Gulf War.  Afghanistan.  Iraq.   Other sandy places.    And we have different injuries, and different deaths.  Soldiers come home surviving injuries that would have killed them in an earlier war.  Internal injuries, physical and emotional, that are also new to this age of IEDs and children as shields and the propaganda that tells our soldiers that the people they think they are saving, hate and want to kill them.

On Memorial Day we are supposed to remember and honour our war dead - any war, and no matter how they died.  We should also remember and honour the living, who served and should know how we appreciate it before all we can do is stick a flag into the ground in front of their headstone or another memorial location, and salute it.  These are people who risked their lives every day, who committed to risk their lives, often for people they don't know, and who sometimes hate them.  To serve a country that sometimes dishonored them and the flag they swore to follow.

Remember our military.  Thank them.  Honor them.

Whether you agree with the reason for the fight, remember that these are the people who committed to the fight, who ignored their fear and sometimes walked into death, or horrific injuries, because it was their job to do so.  If nothing else, honour their bravery.

My family came to this country to enjoy the freedoms our military helped obtain and preserve for us.  I will always love and honor and respect and appreciate them for that.

13 May 2012

Two Movies and a Shawl

Continuing from the previous post:
After knitting eight sweaters plus test-knitting some mittens, I wanted to make something for ME.  So I did this: It took a bit under a week to do.  The pattern is a only-found-by-Wayback-Machine shawl pattern for a discontinued Crystal Palace yarn called "Merino Stripes." I used a dollar-a-ball no-name yarn I found at AC Moore, which I thought was fun. You can't see how it sparkles, but the closeup does show a few of the sequins that are contained in the yarn. The background is almost charcoal grey, twisted with a thread that shades as you see between sea green and light teal. VERY pretty, and I had just enough to make a shawl to fit me.
I finished while getting my hair cut, and gave the remaining partial ball to the stylist.  She also crafts and crochets and I know she will find a good use for it.  She really likes the shawl.
I don't need to figure out what to do next, because I have two baby blankets to finish.  I frogged one of the items I started because I didn't like how it looked, and I am trying to figure out what to do with some other yarn that I'd like to use but isn't speaking to me properly.  I did start another charity item, a baby blanket that will end up in Kazahkstan, just to have something to do during my bible class and other congregational events where I think charity work will be less objectionable.

I did get to see movies this week.  How I fit them in, I'm not quite sure!

On Tuesday it was "Science on Screen" and we saw "The Time Machine" which was followed by a talk from a physicist.  On Wednesday an evening meeting cancelled and I was able to use a free pass to see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" which I really enjoyed.  Although some of the plot points were predictable, watching that cast perform was a joy, and there were enough points NOT predictable to make the time fly.

Finally, on Friday I saw "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" - again some predictable points (and one completely implausable reappearance) but very enjoyable.  So that's technically three movies - but I counted only the new ones for my title.  "Science on Screen" I see as much for the science as anything.  Y'all know I'm geeky that way.

Now to pack my crocheting - I have a week where I am in three other states on various days, starting later today.  It does allow me a semi-surprise visit to my parents for Mother's Day.

To all the mothers out there - enjoy your day, and thank you!

Eight Sweaters, Two Movies, and a Shawl

I've been busy, not just with work but also meeting a knitting deadline for Mittens for Akkol, which does a big project every spring.  One of the founders makes a trip with sets of warm woollies for each graduate of their independent living program.  Each graduate gets to choose three colours and the knitters make a sweater, hat, scarf, mittens, and two pairs of socks for each graduate, plus a few extras in case someone wasn't there on measuring day.
Since I find sweaters easier to do, with the big swaths of repetitive knitting that works well for conference calls, meetings, and traveling, I signed up for several and ended up knitting these:

As you can see, I did a number of styles, partly to keep my interest and partly to try new things and partly so the grads wouldn't feel that their sweaters were cranked out.  Although it felt a bit that way at the end!  Even when I used the same basic pattern, as on the two cardigans, I did enough variation that I don't think they look the same.  And I tried to organize the pictures a little better, but am giving up at this point.

The purple-acid yellow-aqua one was fun to do, in part ot incorporate the colours.  It's one of the "extra" sets and when someone said she was knitting mittens, hat, and scarf with the yellow, I remembered that I had some in stash and was wondering what to do.  It went very well with the other colours, I think.  The basic style is the same as the purple-turquoise-black one.

Seven of the sweaters are for girls, one for a boy - yes, it's the solid-colour gansey.  All are wool or wool-alpaca, because it is COLD in Kazahkstan.  I knit most with doubled yarn, partly for speed and partly for warmth.

In addition, I found a wool hat (handspun and handdyed yarn) that I send, and was asked to test-knit some mittens for their fundraising pattern book.  After I finished them, I combined leftover purple alpaca-wool with the remaining handdyed yarn used for the mittens, and made a matching hat:

After all that was done, I had a bit of startitis.  And I wanted to make something for ME as a reward for all those sweaters.  So I knit a shawl.  Apparently this post has as many pictures as I can include, so I will have to tell you about the shawl separately.

17 March 2012

St. Patrick's Day cookery

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit - Happy St. Patrick's Day to You!

It has been a long time since I wrote the blog.  I've been busy, but that's not much excuse.  I am going to try to write at least weekly.  I also finally restarted my Examiner.com column, celebrating "Pi Day" earlier this week and today writing a long article on Irish food and drink.   To show that I really do cook what I write about, I thought I would write up what I prepared today.

The soda bread was made for lunchtime, since I have a class on Saturdays and we get food there.  Although you should let soda bread rest a bit after it comes out of the oven, as you can see I wasn't very patient:
My recipe was simple:  One cup of unbleached flour, a half-cup of whole wheat flour, and a half cup of oat flour made by buzzing American oatmeal in a grinder, to which I added a half-teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder.  While the last isn't traditional if you use buttermilk, I didn't have that so was using evaporated milk, and without the chemical reaction of the buttermilk with the soda, you need to add a bit of baking powder.  As noted, I then added about five ounces of milk, until I achieved a soft dough.  Carefully patting it into a round, I made a deeply slashed cross in the top and baked it at 400(F) for about forty minutes.

While it baked, I had an onion in its skin in a small pan with some water, also baking.  When I took the bread out I added a bit more water and let the onion finish roasting until it was quite soft inside.  It was easy to reheat at suppertime.

For the main course, I made potato cakes, or "boxty", with smoked fish.  To do this I created mashed potatoes with about ten ounces of potatoes, some chopped garlic scapes, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, and about an ounce of butter.  When it was all nicely beaten, I added a third of a cup of unbleached flour and an egg.  it was a bit soft so I just dropped scoops into hot butter and fried them on both sides until done.

As you can see, I have some Irish butter that I used to fry the potato cakes.  It also went onto the soda bread.  The fish were small chubs, and the flaked meat warmed nicely on the hot cakes.  Then I sauteed some kale and cabbage together for a side dish, and here is the finished supper:

If you think the amount of flaked fish looks like less than two fishes worth, it is.  I mixed the rest of the flaked fish into the remaining potato mixture and created two fishcakes.  These I fried and put into the refrigerator with the remaining greens and half the onion - tomorrow's meal is ready to heat!

Very, very yummy.  I didn't make any of the dessert recipes in my article, but with all this I don't need any.