We’ve had family visiting from Seattle for the past several days, and on the first day we put together a clambake – a huge pot (about 7 gallons) filled with potatoes, chorizo, sausage, corn on the cob, steamers, little necks, and lobster.
My original laptop finally quit on me a while back, but I haven’t been able to do anything to replace it. So I told myself in a stern voice that once upon a time I didn’t even have a laptop, I used the desktop computer and that was just fine, and there was no reason I couldn’t do that again, so stop feeling sorry for your laptopless self right now, missy.
So I used the computer in our music/computer room and of course that worked fine.
Except for when the kids needed to practice. I’d be in the way. Or on the stool they needed to sit on. Or it was Alex practicing violin and it kind of hurt my ears to be so close to all that…………music.
So I started trying to figure out how to fix that.
(I know, I know, such a problem to complain about when there are so many other bigger issues in the world. But this is not a heavy website, it’s a light one. So my laptop issues are pretty much as heavy as things get.)
Anyway, it occurred to me that my mother bought a laptop years ago that she very, very, very, rarely (or never) used. Periodically she would call me or my sister for help getting it started again because it would sit dormant for so long it wouldn’t get updated and just ran sloooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwly at best. Plus it’s got a semron processor, which, I discovered, was the kind dinosaurs used on their laptops. Not the fast-paced dinosaurs, but the slow, lumbering kind.
I offered to buy the laptop from my mother, and she refused that, saying she’d like to give it to me and in return I could help her choose a new one when she decided to do that. So I said okay.
And I brought it home and plugged it in, and twenty five millennia later, I was able to get past the “Welcome” screen and attempt to explore things. I’ll fast forward through the agony and just say that for a birthday gift Bill asked his computer guy coworker to get all the stuff off my death-bed laptop and get this “new” one to run better/faster.
So here I am. And it’s even better than I expected, because Awesome Computer Guy added RAM and memory and cleaned it all up and tricked it into running faster with some sort of Computer Guy magic.
I am SO grateful.
And now I’m just getting used to having the laptop again. I got out of my writing habits (which, I know, were sometimes pretty sporadic), and for a while I didn’t even know where to set it up. But now I’m here in the living room, by the big front window, which is one of the two places I used to like to sit and type. The other place was downstairs on the same work table as my sewing machine, but since I rearranged everything down in the sewing area, that might not work out now.
Bill (the Hunter, the Great Provider, Farmer of the Bay and Gardener of the Back Yard) has been doing a bunch of crabbing lately. We’re eating our fill and then packing the remaining meat in crab stock and freezing it.
I’m looking forward to winter, when we’ll thaw one of those packages and make something yummy with locally caught crab meat…stuffed mushrooms, maybe. Stuffed flounder. Cheese and Crabmeat Fondue. Crab Rangoon. Who knows what else.
A couple of weeks ago Bill and I were horrified to discover that Julia’s hermit crab was dead. We found it’s curled, lifeless body outside the shell one day, and since this came so soon after Softie’s passing, well, we dreaded telling Julia. Although, she’s been angling for a guinea pig or hamster, so we also realized maybe she wouldn’t mourn this loss quite so much.
It was just me and Overly Serious Girl this morning. After running a quick errand and watering the window boxes and buckets (well, the plants growing in them), we adjourned to the air-conditioned basement/work space to accomplish something.
You’ve probably heard of this sort of thing – using old tee shirts to make something new, like shopping bags or quilts or, in my case recently, rugs. I’d say braided rugs, because that’s what they look like, but actually they’re kind of crocheted…sort of.
Anyway, I don’t have enough how-to pictures – woefully unprepared am I – but I taught myself to finger crochet and I made simple little bracelets for Julia and her friends out of the bottom seams of old tee shirts. I taught Julia how to do it, and she made seven bracelets in half an hour.
Anyway, using this same technique of crochet without a hook, you can make long chains with strips of old tee shirts (nice to use because they’re stretchy) or other strips of fabric…denim…yarn, whatever.
So I’d salvaged and sliced up a lot of old tee shirts from this household, and I decided to make little rugs for the kids’ rooms. More summery than the shag rugs they’ve got now.
I made two lonnnnnnng chains, one with Julia colors and one with Alex colors, and yesterday I started binding Julia’s rug. Now, if I was REALLY crocheting, I suppose I could crochet the whole thing together using some sort of round and round stitching. But that’s not happening. So I just started spiraling the chain and stitching it together on the back side. Here’s a picture I took not long after I started:
Very exciting, except you can probably tell the “rug” is curving more like a hat or a really large soft bowl. At first I thought I could stretch it out and it would lie flat…but as I kept going (past the above point) the cupping just became more pronounced. So I looked up stuff online about this sort of issue with braided/crocheted rugs, and learned I was stitching it all too tightly.
And after a lot of heavy sighing and frowning, I ripped out all my stitches and started again, this time with a looser stitch and paying careful attention to potential buckling.
Here’s where I was at the end of my day yesterday:
I’d gotten about as far as that white section before, and it was definitely NOT flat. This is much better.
It’s currently 17.5” in diameter, and I’ve got a bunch more left of the chain to go. Not sure how big this will get, but it really doesn’t matter. Julia already likes it.
I like it because I know where all those different portions of fabric came from. That little dark pink section near the top of the picture? A very small pair of stretchy pants Julia had…dark pink with black polka dots and black lace at the ankles. The section that looks white? Actually it’s also got tiny pale rosebuds, and it came from maternity summer pajamas I had when I was nursing.
One more – see the section that’s a blend of deal and dark purple? More very worn stretchy pants I couldn’t completely part with:
That’s about it for now, but I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to. There are other things, too, but they’ll have to wait.
After a rather sudden and fast-moving illness, Softie is gone.
She passed away Tuesday night, in our living room/basement. The kids were asleep. I think Alex suspected, though.
I sat with her. First I held her, but when that seemed too uncomfortable for her, I laid her down on the carpet and stayed down there with her.
She rested her head in my left hand, while I petted her non-stop with my right hand.
And all the while I looked into those eyes of hers.
I told her over and over that I was sorry, so sorry, and that it was okay…I’m here…I love you….
She looked at me but sometimes it was as if she was looking through me, and that is the image, one of them, that has stayed with me, haunting me, squeezing my heart inside my chest and forcing new tears to my eyes.
Sometimes it seemed to me she looked at me with reproach. Why couldn’t I do more for her? Why wasn’t I saving her? That’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. So sorry.
Bill and I were both sitting with her when she exhaled for the last time. Scratchy was nearby. He knew something was wrong.
I wrapped Softie in one of Julia’s old baby blankets. It has tiny rose buds along the binding and I’ve always liked it. Then I put Softie in a plastic box – no lid – and tucked the ends of the blanket around her. She’d have looked like she was sleeping, only we couldn’t figure out how to close her eyes. So…she was resting. Bill put the box in the downstairs fridge.
Two days later Bill and the kids dug a hole near the garage. There’s a really pretty blue hydrangea growing there, so we thought it was the perfect spot.
When I got home from work, they showed me the hole (very deep – the kids stood in it to show just how deep), and I brought Softie up from the refrigerator, and we held her funeral.
The kids – no, all of us – picked flowers from everywhere in the yard and placed them in the cinder block that Bill had placed on top of the dirt so no animals would try to dig her up.
Julia played her recorder.
We cried some more.
And then we went inside. Alex changed into his baseball uniform, and we headed to his game.
Life goes on, of course.
But frequently, still, I see her eyes from that final night, and something squeezes my heart. Hard.
And that’s about all I want to write about this right now.
When I recently fell back in love with quilting (not that I ever fell out of it…but we had kind of a parting of the ways and now we realize we are meant to be together forever), I figured there must be a gazillion quilting blogs out there, and I was curious to see what people were doing. So I think I typed in a search like “quilting blogs” or something, and landed on this page.
If you scroll down, there is a HUGE list of quilting blogs. I’ve been clicking on one or two of them whenever I get some time to explore. Some are defunct (the list went up in 2010), some have moved, but a lot of them are still there and it’s fun – and inspiring – to look at all the quilts people have made.
Go take a look. So much talent and passion and artistry out there!
So the other day at dinner Julia said, out of the blue, “I don’t like eating raisins because it’s like eating tiny old people.”
I have no explanation.
The baby quilt I’ve been working on has conjured up memories of other baby quilts I’ve made, especially one of the first ones. Not sure if I’ve told this story before, but here goes…
This was back when ALLLLLL my quilting was hand-sewn. Piecing AND quilting. Everything. I loved it. And I still do, though too much of it bothers my hands. But this was a while ago.
Anyway, one of my sister’s friends, Betsy, was having a baby – I believe she was the first of their group to do so, and I was invited to the baby shower, and so I decided to make a quilt. I kind of blended aspects of the styles of Monet and Seurat, with colors from Monet’s Water Lilies. So I used soft greens and pinks and blues, and all the pieces were hexagons. I can’t describe it better, and I don’t have pictures, but I remember loving the creation of it…the artists, their styles, the colors…and yay – a baby!
Anyway, because I was a card-carrying member of Procrastinators Anonymous (still am, but not as bad), soon it was the night before the shower and I still hadn’t finished the quilt.
But I DO finish things. And the shower was at something like eleven o’clock the following morning (a Saturday, I assume), so, hey, I’d just stay up kind of late and get it done.
I was up all night. All. Night. I had the tv on, I was in the living room with my quilt on a table, and I was stitching my fingers off.
And yes, dammit, I finished that quilt.
I don’t remember if I took any sort of nap that morning, before the shower. I kind of don’t think I did.
Anyway, to make it even better, I had to drive, because my mom, who was also invited, had had surgery on the bottom of her foot and it was still in a cast or boot or something.
The shower was half an hour or so from where we were both living (and my sister wasn’t even able to come to the shower for some reason…she was living up in Boston at the time, so maybe it was because of work or something?) (and, as yet another side note, I now live just minutes from the church basement where that baby shower took place) …where was I? Oh yeah, half hour drive. So here we go, my limping mother and me with most of my brain wrapped in fuzz.
We put our gifts with the others and found seats sort of near the back. I propped my eyes open with paper clips. And the shower was under way.
While other gifts are being opened in the story, I’ll take a moment to explain the weirdness going on in my head during the shower.
I was big.
I felt, as I willed myself to remain upright on that folding chair in that church basement, with all the many sweet church member ladies and family members and friends, like I was twice the size – at least – of my usual self. Not fat. Big. A giant. That’s how sleep deprivation was distorting my world. I tried not to move so I wouldn’t frighten anyone with my big-ness.
And eventually Betsy got to the baby quilt. She pulled it from the bag (or unwrapped it – I don’t remember) and held it up for all to see, (as I tried to shrink down so I was normal-sized) and said, loudly, “JAYNE W MADE THIS!”
And the word loudly doesn’t do it justice. Her voice THUNDERED the words, and as she said them I seemed to grow bigger and all the little old ladies and moms and cousins and friends turned, as one, to look at me as I was contorting into something that might pass for normal-sized in my metal folding chair.
I hope I smiled politely.
No one ran away screaming, so I guess I looked harmless.
And the shower proceeded normally, with the rest of the gifts opened, lots of oohs and aaahs and smiles at all the adorable baby things…lots of thank-yous from Betsy, and then, of course, food.
That is my best baby quilt story.
I made baby quilts for my sister’s two kids, both of which were late. Not sure how late my nephew’s quilt was, but my niece didn’t get hers til she turned two. Hey, there were a lot of appliquéd flowers on that one. That sort of detail takes TIME.
Anyway, so that’s the baby quilt stuff.
Like I said in my previous post, all this quilting has resulted in a resurgence of my love of designing and sewing. So naturally I had to rearrange my sewing/jewelry-making/other stuff-making area. (For some reason I can’t stand the term “crafting” or anything “craft-“ related. I can’t use it. Ick.)
So that’s what I did yesterday. I’m still not completely done, but that’s today’s job.
Both pictures were taken in bad light and with my phone, so please excuse the poor image quality….
The biggest change I wanted to make was to have that tall work table sticking out from the wall so that I could walk around it and work on big projects. It’s a bit of a tight fit back there, but I made it work and I’m SO happy about it. There are still areas that need to be tidied up or reorganized, but that’s the easy part.
The hardest part was moving the rolltop desk. Now, it does come apart, so that helps, and I remove all the drawers, of course, but still – it’s heavy, even broken down into sections. But I did it. I’ve done it so many times over the years, I’m actually pretty good at reassembling it, which is tricky because the center writing part has to slide in between the two drawer portions, so those things have to be just the right distance apart, and that middle writing section is HEA-VY because it’s got a huge piece of some sort of stone inlay as the writing surface. And, of course, there’s maneuvering the whole roll-top section – which is one enormous unwieldy piece – and fitting it onto the pegs that hold it in place (the pegs jut up from the corners of the two main drawer-holding parts of the desk). Anyway, putting that together successfully is always cause for high-fiving oneself. Not that I did, of course, because that would be weird.
And that’s about all the writing I have time for. I’ve got some laundry to hang outside, and some reorganizing to finish downstairs.
And, of course, that baby quilt isn’t finished yet….
I worked on the baby quilt a bunch yesterday, made some cookies, got dinner ready, went with the kids to the book fair at their school, and did some more quilting before I went to bed.
I haven’t hand quilted in a while – my stitches are a clear illustration of that. Don’t have pictures to show you, but I will at some point.
It took me a while to get going, trying to find a way that felt comfortable now, because my fingers start feeling needles-and-pins-y when I’m doing all sorts of hand work – peeling, chopping, sewing, pinning, writing, tying shoes, braiding my hair – stuff like that. Sometimes it goes away after a while. I think my little hand muscles loosen up or something. I don’t know how it works. But I know I can compensate, or change the way I’m holding something or doing something, and it’s manageable.
Anyway, I fiddled around a bit and finally got into a good rhythm with the sewing. And it was so great to be doing that again. Like harvesting coriander seed, it’s meditative. Rhythmic.
It makes me happy.
And speaking of things that make me happy, here are the couple of pictures promised by the post title:
Julia, of course, mid-cartwheel. We were at the ball field the other day. Alex’s game was over and the coaches were talking to the team in the dugout. Julia and I were waiting, and Julia, who does not do “patiently” or “sitting still” all that well, was turning endless cartwheels and practicing round-offs. The sun was going down, and I was catching some great shadows of her against the back of the dugout wall. No shadow of her in this picture, but it was the best of the cartwheel shots (taken on my phone), so I thought I’d share.
This is Alex running through his music before the elementary school band and orchestra concert last week. The five local elementary schools come together for this concert – so five different groups of 4th grade violin, five groups of 5th grade violin, and 5 groups of band kids, all playing together. It’s pretty remarkable, and I love their music teacher.
You’ll notice that Alex isn’t playing his violin in that picture (though he is in the violin group and played that instrument as well). He does fine on violin. But he doesn’t love it. He plays it because, as Bill has pointed out, it gives him an in, an opportunity to play his guitar. So Alex was one of the kids who had a solo that night. The others were all from the band. Bill had arranged the second of movement of a Vivaldi concerto for Alex to play on guitar, and Alex’s violin teacher played the orchestra part on keyboard.
We went early so Alex and his teacher could run through the piece. That’s when I took the above picture. I like it – Alex with all the music stands and empty chairs behind him.
I only took one picture during the performance – first of all my hands had broken out in a cold sweat just before it was Alex’s turn to play, and because I didn’t want the click of the camera to be a distraction. And it also occurred to me that I should just sit there and listen, and delight in the moment.
I think I will be baking some cookies today. Nothing new – I’m making these, I think, since I have a lot of limes and a bag of shredded coconut. Not sure if there will be nuts in them or not.
I was at Alex’s baseball game last night, sitting on the bleachers, when Julia came running up to tell me someone was here to see me. (Julia spends Alex’s games playing with whichever younger sisters of other baseball players are around. There’s a good supply of them. Most are girls she knows either from school or from the season last year, and when she spots them and they see her, it’s like a tenth year reunion of best friends who haven’t seen each other since graduation. Very cute.)
Anyway, the someone was the mom of one of Julia’s former classmates. Her son is playing baseball, too, and he had a practice that night.
She asked me how my writing was going, and for a minute I had no idea what she meant.
Oh, yeah, this blog. Um, I haven’t been doing much writing over the past year.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot, on and off. I even thought, recently, that maybe this website had run its course. Maybe I should just say thank you and goodnight.
Still, I keep finding that I just don’t feel like writing about food. I think, maybe, that I don’t need to write about food like I used to, because cooking is now “what I do for a living.” I just don’t feel like photographing what I make for dinner and talking all about it. Unless it’s something very different or really interesting. I don’t know. It’s weird, but that fire has burned out.
And I came to the conclusion (yesterday, after mulling things over), that that’s fine. I’m not required to write about food. I can write about whatever I want to. Or not.
I see my stats dip way down when it’s not pre-Easter (when those posts about coloring eggs are all over the place), and at first I felt this panic – Oh no! I have to get those numbers up! – but…why? I am not dependent on the ad revenue. It’s nice, but not crucial. So…I can relax about that.
I have today off. My days off are so precious to me. At first I’d use days off to catch up on all the household things – do tons of laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking, baking, etc. But now, I don’t want to use up my time – MY time – doing all that. So I try to get as much of that stuff done on work days, or have the kids do some of it, so that I can spend my days off doing what I WANT to do do.
Lately it’s been all about the fabric. I’m working on a quilt but I can’t show you because it’s a baby quilt and a gift and no one gets to see it (out there in internet land) until after the baby arrives. Which should be soon. SO excited!!
I love fabric. I love designing quilts or little wall hangings or pillows… and I haven’t really done a lot of that in a LONG time. But now, I think now that I’m cooking for a living, it’s like THAT hobby or passion or whatever it is has been sated, and now I have room for other creative pursuits.
And isn’t that a great thing?
I still need to get back to repairing other quilts we have – a project I started a while back and then dropped. But it can wait til after this baby quilt. And it’s Spring – we don’t need as many quilts.
I’ve also been sucked into the black hole of Pinterest, and that’s actually been a great motivator for me. I see all these amazing creative projects (including quilts), and I just want to make them all. Or not – but make my own things. Because why not?
So that’s what I’m working on today. Hoping to finish the baby quilt. And then a couple other little projects…and then….?
When I first started working at my job (I wanted to write “my new job” but after over a year now, I suppose it’s not so new), I was, frankly, a nervous wreck. I know I wrote about that, so I don’t think I’ll go into it again, but the short version is that I am way overly critical of myself about oh…everything I do…and so much of my time at the job (and before it every day) was spent in my head alternately criticizing myself, berating myself for not being better/faster/more efficient and for not already knowing how to do everything there, and imagining all sorts of disparaging things my new coworkers must be thinking of me.
Anyway, as a result of that nervous wreckness, I could barely eat for six weeks and I lost some weight, which was nice, but not in a manner I would recommend to anyone.
In addition to all the self-flagellation and not eating, I was also back in my home town, where many people from all my pre-college years still resided.
And post-college, because I moved back to that same town for a while some years ago when I returned from out of state.
Anyway. In my overly emotional and jagged mental state during those first weeks, I didn’t want to see anyone I knew. I was afraid I’d cry. So many swirling emotions were that close to the surface, I didn’t think I could dam them in if the level got any higher.
So, naturally, I saw ghosts.
For one thing, every older man of a certain age – and dressed in a certain way – was my father.
Oh, my father’s still alive. And still living in town. And I did see him (and still do) periodically when he’s shopping there. But at first, I didn’t. I just thought I did.
Every older gentleman in jeans and a lightweight jacket and some sort of baseball-style hat – my dad. I can’t count the number of total strangers I almost spoke to before realizing that no, they only looked like my dad because they were rows of produce away with their backs to me and my father doesn’t even have a jacket that color.
Or a beard.
They weren’t him. But for a moment, they were.
And then when he really came in, I had all sorts of other emotions swirling around that bubbled to the surface…but that’s another post, maybe, some day.
Anyway, besides my dad ghosts, there were others.
People who looked familiar. My brain – already overtaxed – would rush around (in my head, where it couldn’t scare anyone) looking through every classroom I’d ever been in, trying to bring a name to that face. Was he…? Was she…?
And along with the facial recognition thing came the quick back-in-time feeling. If it was (or looked like) someone from elementary school, then BANG, besides being an incompetent fake cook at my new job, I was also EIGHT YEARS OLD. Or, worse, ELEVEN. Or, even worse, ANY AND ALL OF MY AGES IN HIGH SCHOOL.
Not only was I an incompetent fake cook, but I was also legally too young to be working there, plus awkward and shy, plus I had braces again! And pimples! And hair that wouldn’t hold a curl!
AND, (yes, there’s more) – some of the people I saw were (or looked like) friends of my parents. Couples or halves of couples who used to come to dinner parties, or belonged to the Rotary club, or the Garden club, or something. They had more wrinkles, yes, but they were out and about, shopping, chatting with friends and neighbors “Oh, fancy seeing you here!” Smiling.
My mom should have been there, too.
I’d see women of her age, vital and…doing. Participating. Living.
Mom was at home.
It’s a long story.
But anyway, many ghosts.
Ghosts of people.
Ghosts of emotions.
Ghosts of what ifs.
Ghosts of whys.
Those first six weeks were exhausting. Most of that – okay, all of that – was my own doing. My own letting go of the reins and letting every anxiety and insecurity I’ve ever had race wildly through the streets, past the strengths and mental defenses I’d built up over time (who were currently feebly trying to wave the out-of-control stampede into a corral).
What kept me going was, simply, that I really liked my job. I was getting to do something I loved to do.
So I survived. And people I worked with were encouraging and critical but never mean (like the cartoon versions in my head), and I managed to battle my own WRONG thoughts and get to where I could eat a bit more often.
And here I am.
I’m happy to go to work. I get to cook stuff!
I still have bad moments, but I learn from them and I can laugh them off.
It’s been reading week at the elementary school, and yesterday was “Dress Like a Pirate Day” (because of the treasure in books, I believe), and because we are the Last Minute Family lately, Julia and I put her costume together about twenty minutes before she had to leave for school.
A week or two ago I pulled out all the bins of fabric from their bins and shelves and reorganized it. Rather than just organize by color, which is my usual method, this time I sorted first by type of fabric. So now I’ve got all the cottons and cotton/poly blends together, all the stretchy fabrics together, all the fancy (sheers, shiny, lacy) together, all the sturdy fabric together, all the super heavy duty (upholstery, etc) together, and – in its own huge Rubbermaid bin – denim.
It’s such a nice feeling to get that done and to go downstairs to my corner of the basement and see the neatly divided stacks and bins of fabric, just ready and waiting.
I also have bins with all the little bits and pieces that are too small to fold and really organize. For years I’d insisted (to myself) that they, too, needed to be part of my whole sort-by-color operation, but I’ve changed, apparently. I’ve become less rigid. I’ve gotten sick of all those scraps mixed in with the larger pieces. It’s annoying to see a pattern and think That’s Perfect! only to pull it from the mess and discover it’s a sort of triangular piece roughly 4” on a side with a weird little bite-like scoop cut out of one point and pretty much useless for the purpose I’d had in mind.
Done with that.
Anyway, while I was clearing everything out of the bins at the start of this project, I also pulled down the huge piece of gray fake fur that the cats like to snooze on, way up on top of all the shelves. I knew it had to be coated in cat fur, and at the very least I could run it through the dryer to clean it up a bit. As I tugged, a whole pet store’s worth of cat toys came flying down, pelting me on the head and shoulders.
THAT’S where they all were! I saw some I hadn’t seen in years. It never occurred to me that our little hunters would drag their rattling prey way up to their comfy aerie….well, now I know.
Yesterday morning, Julia yelled for me – there was something I HAD to see!!!! I brought my camera – a habit I’ve neglected of late – and there was Softie, in one of my nicely fluffed and reorganized bins. (Quilting cottons, by the way.)
Apparently I don’t have as many medium shades of fabric as I do lights and darks, so Softie made herself a little nest.
She’s staring at the desk lamp off to the right. I switched it on so I could take the pictures in this post.
Other than that little turn of her head, she didn’t move. Or get out of the bin.
Clearly I need more fabric, if only to keep the cats out of the bins.
We love our grilled cheese sandwiches around here. From the simplest – bread, cheese, a hot pan and butter – to all sorts of complex concoctions, no one in my family ever says no to this simple and simply satisfying sandwich.
So when Kitchen PLAY asked if I’d like to participate in their “30 Days of Grilled Cheese” event, sponsored by LAND O LAKES, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
We weren’t even going to have corned beef this year on St. Patrick’s Day. Julia and Bill had been sick, Alex isn’t a huge fan of it, and I wasn’t interested in working in a kitchen all day and then coming home and working in the kitchen all night. It was never a big deal at my house when I was growing up (we were Scots and English!), and when Bill was growing up, he didn’t really love the meal, but it was tradition…so, we got in the habit of making it once a year.
Anyway, at the last minute, sort of, Bill decided to cook some corned beef. Not the whole boiled dinner – none of us like boiled cabbage particularly, and there are tastier ways to cook vegetables. But corned beef was on sale, and heck, why not. So he bought a point cut (cheaper than the leaner flat cut) and put it in a dutch oven with some beef stock and the flavor packet that came with the corned beef. He used about enough liquid to come about halfway up the side of the beef – not enough to cover. Then he put the lid on the pot, put the whole thing in the oven, and braised it for about four and a half hours.
When we took the corned beef out to check on it at that point, the meat just fell apart when the fork touched it. Really. It was that tender.
And it was delicious. And tender. Did I already say tender? I’ll say it once more. Tender.
One of the things I never like with corned beef is that it just gets so…tense. Sure, slice it thin for sandwiches the next day, or slather it with mustard. But still…I just don’t think boiling does this cut of beef (the brisket) any favors.
So henceforth, when we feel the need for any sort of corned beef and cabbage dinner, we’ll braise the corned beef and serve it with fresh slaw. And then, the next day, have our Reubens with homemade sauerkraut.
Boiling? No more.
Oh, and also – for dinner tonight, we had breakfast – corned beef hash and eggs. So good.
I check my “stats” periodically just to see where readers are coming from and which posts are currently popular. There are certain ones I see visited often, so I’m used to them, but then something completely unexpected will be the #1 post of the day.
Like yesterday – apparently a whole bunch of people came over via a Reddit link that referenced my “Herbivores of the African Plains” cake – Julia’s birthday, 2011.
Two weeks since my last post. Didn’t realize it was so long.
Winter break was last week, so everyone was home and the week sped past. My neck hurts from watching it, it moved that quickly.
I had a weird moment a few days ago…maybe not a moment…more like a drawn-out look through a different looking-glass. I was watching some cooking show – I think it was one of those international kinds of things where the host travels to various cities in a given country and samples the local food, in this case, lots of (yummy looking) street foods.
But it wasn’t about the host, or even the food. No, there were other people standing there during various segments, and a couple of them were speaking about the local food, and on the screen the person’s name would appear, and beneath it, the descriptive “Food Blogger.”
And I thought “hunh.”
Profound, I know.
I think I used to consider myself a food blogger, not that I like labels really, but if you had to describe what point on the blogging map I lived nearest to, I guess “food” was it. Closely followed by family. And aimless babbling.
Lately, however, say, within the past year, I feel myself parting with the “food blogger” affiliation. I still cook, of course, and bake. We must eat, after all. But I feel less like writing about it now. That could be because cooking is now my job, not just a useful hobby. I love my job, and I’m so happy – and even still a bit startled – to be doing what I’m doing. But…now that I am surrounded by people who have been cooking professionally far longer than I, I am – and I’ve written this before – feeling a bit humbled. Less…peacock-like about the things I cook. Not always, but a lot. So I just don’t photograph my cooking so much now. And on my days off…I tend to drift toward other hobbies instead. Those window quilts. The denim potholders. Stuff like that.
Or, very very occasionally, I spend part of my day off relaxing. It’s a strange endeavor. I always feel a little uncomfortable, a little guilty, doing NOTHING. This morning I had breakfast on the couch, watched old stuff on tv, and, at some point, actually dozed off. Yes. I took a nap. I woke up a little before noon feeling puzzled and too warm and more clear-headed than I’d felt earlier but still kind of sluggish. I figured since I’d slept the morning away I should GET UP AND DO SOMETHING, in order to make the most of my precious DAY ALL TO MYSELF. But. I had too many possible things to do and no idea which one to choose.
So I skipped them all and worked on trying to organize a few things for the household – paperwork, bills, finances, shopping…that sort of thing. Soon, very soon, I want to tackle our filing cabinet. Four drawers of the past, crammed in and mostly forgotten. It needs cleaning out and reorganizing.
So do other sections of this house. I went upstairs and put laundry away, and then reorganized the drawers in my bureau and rearranged the furniture a bit. I wanted to rearrange Alex’s room but he wouldn’t let me. I had Julia clean off the desk in her bedroom, and we added a lamp so she could do her homework there, and I was satisfied. For now.
Still so many projects to tackle. I scribbled a lot of them down on some lined paper I snitched from the kids’ supply, and I felt better just getting that on paper.
And that’s about it. Made excellent macaroni and cheese for dinner, fried some hotdogs to go with it, and that was that.
Now? I think I’ll go stare at my fabric for a while and see what it wants me to do.
Sometimes I just feel like I don’t have anything GREAT to write about so I just skip posting. I think I shouldn’t just sit here and ramble on and on about nothing, because it’s not good reading for anyone.
But sometimes it’s all I’ve got – the rambling on and on. It’s like talking to my sister – we just ramble on and on. Sometimes we have a purpose to our conversation, but mostly it’s just…like sitting at the kitchen table and chatting over coffee.
Well, I’ve got my morning coffee. Do you need yours topped off?
Seriously, I don’t know what to call these. But I wanted to tell you about them because they’re yummy and SO easy and I would have eaten a whole pan myself but fortunately I sent some off to school with the kids.
I have spent too much time (or wasted, probably) not doing things because I was afraid I’d do them wrong. If I didn’t think I could do something perfectly, I just wouldn’t do it. So many roads not taken.
But that’s okay – I’m in a good spot at this time in my life.
Maybe that’s why I actually finished window quilt #4 today.
When I was a kid, my mother used to make this dish sometimes on Sunday mornings. It’s a slow-morning kind of breakfast, and Dad’s photography business was closed on Sundays.
I haven’t had savory baked eggs since that time, and lately it’s been on my mind. So I asked my Mom for details recently and here we are. The ingredients are simple – onions, butter, salt and pepper, eggs, cheese. The end result is so simple and incredibly yummy, I’m kind of annoyed with myself for not giving this a try years ago.
I went back to work yesterday after a few days off (see previous post for all the fun), and was so happy to be back there, not just because I love my job, but because of the people I work with. I love being surrounded by people who are good at what they do and are passionate about it. And the fact that they’re all so much better cooks than I am gives me something to work toward.
There was a very old merry-go-round at the playground in town when I was a kid. Wooden floor to it, with iron rails that curved out from the center and down to the edge of the floor…like a big, tough spider holding the whole thing together. Kids would stand on this, hanging on to the spider legs, while one or two other kids held the outer leg part and ran, around and around, making the whole thing spin faster and faster until the running kids couldn’t keep up and jumped on board to spin along with everyone else.
I didn’t like that ride. I don’t like spinning around and around, seeing the rest of the world blur and zip past….
(Enlarged close-up of hardened foamy section of a cough drop.)
I’ve never made cough drops before, just so you know. But I happened upon this post about making cough drop lollipops and coincidentally my husband is sick, AND I forgot to pick up cough drops at the store yesterday…so I just had to make them.
I figured I should post a picture of Softie since Scratchy’s been getting more face time lately.
Here she is, sitting on one of the quilts, which is on my ironing board. I’d been tying the layers together and went upstairs to check on the bread in the oven. When I came back down, Softie had claimed the spot.
While I was at work today Bill and the kids went digging for clams. Yep, in January. After about an hour and a half of digging they brought home fifteen pounds total. Mostly little necks, with about a dozen steamers, a razor clam, and two oysters.
She doesn’t need them, she just likes them. She likes to “borrow” mine now and then (when I let her…and if I don’t need to see for a while), but since I don’t let her keep them, her glasses-wearing has been minimal.
I took no pictures while we were opening gifts, but I did take this shot of Julia’s hermit crab (I don’t know it’s name – sometime’s it’s Hermie, sometime’s it’s Shelly…sometimes it has other names, depending on Julia’s whims) playing with one of the new sponges Santa left in his/her stocking.
A few weeks ago a dear friend of mine sent me a box of cookbooks. Included in that box was a book of German recipes, and contained therein was a recipe for Lebkuchen different from the one I’m used to making.
I had two days off, back to back, last week, and figured I’d use them for a baking marathon. That time of year, you know. I try (really, I do) to get the German cookies made early enough so we can ship them off to various far-flung family members so they arrive BEFORE Christmas. (Without having to overnight them, heh heh.)
Anyway, one of the cookies that’s part of that collection is Lebkuchen, a traditional German spiced cookie that includes candied citrus peel – what kind you use depends on the recipe you’re following. Bill’s mom’s version has candied orange peel and candied citron, the kinds that come in those 4 oz. containers in the grocery store.
I generally make more than one batch of these cookies, because they’re one of the favorites, so that means several containers of each kind of candied peel.
Now, this year, for various reasons (including the Scratchy saga), money is tight. And those candied peel containers are pricey, for the amount you get. And they’re also probably loaded with preservatives and additives and other “-ives” that aren’t at all good for you…so I decided it would be both healthier and cheaper to make my own candied peel. And it’s a cool thing to do. And pretty.
I’ve thought of doing it in years past, but then I’d get lazy and just buy the containers. This year, with two days off IN A ROW! I decided to candy some peel.