Archive | January, 2011

Last Day of January

31 Jan

And the outside temperature on the house has dropped since 6AM from about 8 degrees to less than five.  Which means it is about zero out there.  The animals were let out on their own recognizance for morning latrine duty.  Hawthorne was first back and pounded on the door with his front paw: Bam, Bam, Bam.  The fire is going.

Last night was very fun.  Four ladies who live close and who have known each other for decades–some of us went to college together–came over so we could watch the Masterpiece Theatre version of Jane Eyre. The best version out there.  There was lots of food, too.  Winter squash, my mother’s home canned grape juice with ginger ale, rice and lentils with vegetables and herbs, Camembert and slow cooked mushrooms, chai, creamy potato soup, homemade salsa with cheese and two kinds of chips–yellow and blue, a warm homemade apple pie made with lots of cinnamon,  and a round loaf of homemade no knead bread from a NY Times recipe.  It is essentially the way my friend K makes it in Mongolia.  She makes it on a much larger scale.

Alas, I see Mark Bittman has written his last column His videos are fabulous.  My loaf was baked in an old cast iron pot that had no lid. I covered two tin pie plates with aluminum foil for a lid.  Worked fine.  Just needed to cook the bread uncovered about 15 minutes more.  Initially it was too moist inside.  But the crust!  Cracking and splintering heaven.  So we had a wonderful lady time together.

Sometimes I think it would be nice if children reached a nymph stage, like cicadas, where they would burrow into the ground, live and crawl in deep dark soil, far underground, and suck juice from tree roots for years until they are ready to molt into adults.  Don’t you?  But I only think this sometimes.

I am reading Laura Bush’s biography, Spoken From the Heart, on loan to me from my Aunt Janice.  It is really good.  I recommend it  especially to those who wish to understand a more rural, hardscrabble mindset as opposed to city-of-your-choice.

For a book club I am also reading The Necklace, about 13 women who bought a diamond necklace together and the changes it brought to them individually and in the community.  I notice they are all tan and most of them are bottle blonds.  Well, it did take place in California.  Maybe it wouldn’t work here since layers are the fashion accessory of choice for at least three months of the year.  Just finished The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle. The former is my favorite in the series.  Much of the latter is painful to read but is a bookend to the former. And has an ending that we can all hope for.  My copies must be quite old now, since I can not even find a picture on Amazon of the cover of The Last Battle that looks like ours.

Running through my head are the tunes and a few words to hymns from Eritrea and Ethiopia.  They were the loveliest of the songs from other nations that were sung yesterday at church for International Sunday.  And I had been practicing them all week on the piano.

Window Shopping

26 Jan

Are not these incredibly luscious blooms?  They are the flowers of the Transylvanian Hepatica from Arrowhead Alpines, a favorite place to window shop.  I sometimes even buy a few plants.

Hepaticas are native to this region and come in a mixture of white, pink, and pale blue.  I am partial to the blue, so this dark stunner caught my eye.  So did the price tag: $39.00!  For one

Hepatica plant!    Of course, when you compare it to other hepaticas on the same page, it looks almost reasonable since they are priced at almost seventy dollars.  Shocking.  Note that the regular

American Hepatica are only $8.00 apiece.  Come visit me.

Quilt blogs have caught my attention.  There are quite a few in Australia.  Speaking of which, we received a package this week from Julia and Rob, who had been at BTI and visited us a few times.

They had particularly liked (not really) Goldilocks the snake.  The majority of snakes in Australia are deadly.  So holding a bright orange constrictor was a thrill.  We took photos so they could show how brave they were to folks at home.

Julia started knitting while she was in the states.  I thought it great fun that an Aussie whose husband is from a sheep station learned to knit –wool–in the US.  We also did a dye pot using Lamb O’Lakes wool.  Along with a very fun Aussie Christmas card note  Julia sent me/us a Donna hay cookbook on salads and vegetables. (That is, by the way, a great site to get recipe ideas.)  I had pulled out the two books of hers  I have while she was here and enthused about them.  They are gorgeous to look through and there are photos right near the recipes.  And the recipes are nice.  Although I spent my Border’s Bucks buying a Donna hay magazine earlier this month and was sorely disappointed.  What snooty ads!  Then when Angela was visiting and we were tired of making fun of the ads I used a dessert recipe for which I had all the ingredients on hand: coffee jelly with a chocolate cream topping.  Bleh!  Too sweet by far.  and heavy on the cream topping. Simply ghastly.  Her salads look far nicer and can serve as main dishes since there is some sort of meat or cheese in them.

Anyway, back to quilts.  I like Quiltsalott and have been checking out her links.  I also like the European magazine Quiltmania.  One can get so many great ideas from looking through pages.  For Christmas I made quite a few zippered pouches using an online tutorial.  And then last week I made on of these quilted zippered pouches.  I recognize where quiltsalott got her idea: from the book Houses, houses, houses! by Yoko Saito.

Must go walk Hawthorne and myself.  The other place I have been window shopping is Sephora–for moisturizers, not the glam beauty stuff. Well, maybe a perfume.

Random Thoughts

24 Jan

Have decide spur of the moment that since a friend in a far-off land who has many small children can just list interesting events, so can I.  Although her events and writing skills exceed mine in interest and ability.

Marsha and I went to NY City two weekends ago to visit Dawn.  We were all at Cornell; Dawn lived across the hall from me and she and Marsha took economics together. New York streets were full of fur coats and garbage.  More of both than I have ever seen.  We had a very fun visit walking up and down and over and across to visit all sorts of mostly fancy used clothing shops.  Where the used clothes were more expensive than most of new ones I ever buy.  With names you would recognize on them.  The cloth and sewing and styles were of great interest.  There was fur for sale in the shops, too. We went to a free night of opera at Hunter College.  As we were walking home, Dawn noticed people funneling into an auditorium, so we followed them, found out about the evening’s free performance and were told there were no more tickets.  But we walked over through throngs of people to the free ticket table just to make sure.  Good thing we did.  We ended up with balcony front row tickets.  Great seats.  Marvelous concert.  Sets, costumes, acting, singing–all wonderful.  A full pit orchestra that was just a tad loud sometimes.  We went to Times Square at night, and had home-cooked meals and Peruvian chicken, seviche, avocado salad,  and yuca fritas and went to church in Soho in Greenwich Village in a beautiful church.  I sat there thinking “How can they rent this fabulously beautiful church at 10.45AM on a Sunday morning”?  Because it is a Seventh Day Adventist church, natch.  Dawn’s apartment mate is interesting and wonderful.  She played fairy godmother to us all.  I came home with a beautiful Mongolian style hat: yellow fabric crown and fur headband.

Hawthorne and I are taking a class together.  It is called Agility Foundations Level 1.  We are learning what a clicker is and I am learning how to use it to get behavior I want.  Right now Hawthorne gets to hear a click and receive a treat when he touches my open hand with his nose.  His treats:  his regular food mixed with small cut up pieces of cheese, baloney and chicken gizzards.  He is the largest dog in the class.  And the loudest.  And he peed the most.  But her went through the tunnel, which I thought he might not.  Isabelle went with us.  She didn’t like the lady who did not want Hawthorne to  go near her Jack Russell.  Ah, well.

It is cold here.  I waited until the afternoon to take Hawthorne on his walk.  It was above ten then.  I know, it’s colder in UlaanBaator.  Am having trouble enough with the cold here. Jay took the car to work.  It was -15 F  and the truck would not start.

Last week one morning I saw three small black creatures during my walk.  A small caterpillar, a flying insect, and a spider were each about 1/4 inch long.  They were in different places, but all on or near my daily route.  They gave me hope that spring will actually come, since at the time I thought they might know something about the weather I did not.  The foot of snow since then makes me think that was just me, though.

I need to go visit my neighbor.  She is elderly and believes she will not live through the winter.  She wants Jay and me to help with her funeral.  I just found out we can.  There are no rules, legal-wise, about funerals.  Only weddings.





New Year

3 Jan

New Year’s eve Angela and Leslie joined us for supper, games and music.  We had homemade pizza, lasagna, and smoked salmon.  The salmon turned out nicely- carefully following directions  does make a difference.  This time I not only covered the fillets with salt but measured the liquid which ran off to ensure a 10% reduction in weight.  I then soaked them in brine for an hour.  They drained and rested overnight to produce a shiny skin then were smoked over three hours, slowly raising the temperature from 100 degrees F to about 170 deg. F the last half hour.

The result: highly smoked, edible skin, mildly salted not raw but not cooked through flesh, and a toothsome, shiny outside.

Also on the menu: guacamole, pesto dip, various raw veggies, and refrigerator ribbon cookies.  The recipe is an older one from Ellie.  It is becoming a favorite here.  There is a pound of dough in the recipe.  I calculate there is about one teaspoon butter in each cookie.

This particular batch had dried apricots as well as some cherries in the one layer since the cherries ran out.  The other layers are chocolate and pecan and poppy seed.

Angela taught me how to play cribbage, a card game I grew up watching my father play but never totally understanding.  A word game and ‘Cut the Rope’ on her little hand held machine were fun, too.


The morning of New Year’s Day was spring-like and that continued into yesterday.  The snow has mostly melted and in the evenings it sounded as if it were raining, but it was snow running off the roofs. I let the chickens out to run around and scratch.

This morning there was a lovely pink sunrise.  Yesterday’s was pastel and hazy layers. Today it is back into the 20’s and Hawthorne coming back all Mr. Mud-Foot was not a worry.

Isabelle, A and two of her daughters, and I drove to a big mall in Syracuse yesterday after church so the two youngest girls could use Christmas money to purchase dresses for a fancy school dance.  Isabelle came home with two.  I have not been shopping for anything like fancy dresses and was astounded at the low sale prices.  I could not have bought the fabric, pattern, and notions  at the price of a ready-made garment.


For us there are still three more days of Christmas.  We celebrate up through Three King’s Day.  Epiphany.  The kings bring a present or two on that last day.  Usually a game.  In years past we would have a party with special Baba au Rum cake which contained a bean.  Whoever got the bean became the King for the day, had to wear a crown, give a speech, and was able to give decrees.  Not this year.  Work and school will prevent that.

This is the tree.  And here is what Hawthorne likes doing:

This year’s Christmas quilt: snow globes with birds and greenery.

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