Sunday, July 26, 2009

Feast of St. Ann

One of my favorite days in the calendar, one that I anticipate is this day the Feast of St. Ann. In the traditional calendar, St. Ann was honored alone. In the modernized calendar, St. Joachim has been added. This is appropriate, I think, especially in a culture when fathers are all too often relegated to roles as sit-com dads or comedy movie bumblers. Fathers, and thus grandfathers are as important as mothers and grandmothers.

I have an especial love for the images of St. Ann with the little girl, her daughter, Mary at her knee, a book open. This is an image of a woman who is clearly literate, passing on her knowledge to her daughter. She would also have taught spinning and weaving and the other domestic arts to this daughter who was destined to play such a powerful role in "salvation history", a term I put in quotes because it was part of the catechism instruction that I received as a child (also at my mother's knee--and my father's) and that I have not heard used recently.

There was, I believe, a seamless integration of the activities, what I believe today we might call "roles"--of St Ann and St Joachim as they went about their daily lives. Today the closest that many of us come to physical labor is picking up and adjusting the keyboard and the mouse and then typing as we sit down to our computers. To exercise our bodies we go for a run or to the gym.

In an earlier, pre-industrial, pre-modern society, the muscles were used everyday for everyday tasks. Spinning, weaving, sweeping, carpentry. (This raises the question, that I don't believe I have ever heard an answer to--St Joseph was a carpenter, what did St Joachim do?)

I miss hearing the lovely chants for this feast and should go poking around on the internet to see if I can find them. I am grateful for the childhood spent learning these devotions and the traditions of Catholicism, and for the time, too brief in retrospect, that I spent singing in a chant choir when I was a young woman. Grateful, too that that chant choir is still well and singing in Palo Alto.

Today is a lovely day with cloud cover still at almost 9:30. I can remember so many times that we sang in a heat wave, an evening Mass. As the sun set the cooling ocean breeze would blow in the chapel windows and doors and by the time that the last note had been sung, the last candle blown out and the last program collected, we would shiver slightly as we walked across the lawn to the house were we would have refreshments to continue the celebration of the feast.

I am grateful for these memories too and wish you a happy and blessed St Ann's Day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Catching Up

I've been using the hot days of the last week to do some catching up. Sorting and actually shredding paper is one of the most boring task sets in the universe. Be sure not to mix the-goes-in-the-shredder-pile up with the goes-in-the-recycle pile. There is a sense of accomplishment when it is done that almost makes up for the time.

I have chores in every room of the house--grateful that it isn't a bigger house! Oh yes, I am. Too much paper, too many books, too little time. Never thought I would reach the point of too many books, but I have. I am glad for the public library and the Special Outreach Services Program that brings books to me. Fewer books would have come into the house if I had known about this earlier.

The sewing room, newly painted in the summer of 2007, may emerge this summer. That would be wonderful. The living room might be visible again before my family comes to visit. it has been a default sorting space and knitting accumulation space, with its own accumulation of books. I should take before and after pictures. Then this could become a decluttering blog!

Some of this blends with Using What We Have. A storage bin was cleared to put my new store of herbal products and supplies away where they would not make me sneeze. I was very pleased to consolidate and use a bin I had rather than buy yet another bin to stack into the clutter. More of that to come.

Reading books that are old friends that I haven't read in a decade is another example of using what I have when the library books run out. Last week I unraveled a shoulder shawl that I had knit two years ago that had not worked out quite right. In the meantime I found two more skeins of the yarn, a deep, luxurious purple color of a somewhat bulky wool yarn. I got it from someone on the Internet and had it put away. It is now two skeins away from becoming a new, warm triangle shawl for me to use come cold weather. (As hot as it was last week, it is hard to believe that it will ever be cold again. Of course, it will!) There is already a hat made from this yarn, just have to sew up the side.

This is the summer for finishing lots of small projects and then finding space to store them properly so that they can be used. It is fun to put the things from one season away and take out those for the next season. Much for fun than just letting it all clutter in bags stuck around the place.

So even though it is sometimes only one object at a time and it seems mortally slow, I am catching up. I am grateful for the return of the cool weather--it is in the 50's outside as I write this and 67 in my office. The pictures of the fog surging through the Golden Gate that are shown on the weather forecasts are some of the most beautiful that I ever see in summer. Sometimes, as I remember to take a deep breath, I am simply grateful to be alive.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Using What We Have

A friend emailed me recently that she was cleaning out her fridge and freezer prior to going on a long trip. She plans to disconnect the unit and leave it open while she is gone. She indicated that she was diligently working her way through the groceries that she had on hand rather than buying more and that this was a discipline, since what she had to eat wasn't necessarily what she wanted to eat.

This is a uniquely American dilemna, I think. (And is dilemna spelled with an n as I think that it is, or two m's as the Google spellchecker is telling me? I don't think I have ever seen the two m version and I can't find my old spelling dictionary anywhere around the computer.) I digress.

Americans are blessed with such an abundance of food as well as the refrigerators, cupboards and pantries to store it in, that we can easily overbuy from any reasonable or responsible supply.

My current refrigerator is smaller than my old one, but it still has far more food within it than I can expect to consume in a week. Perhaps more than I can consume in two weeks. The freezer is also full. I have not used all of the pesto that I made with so much love last Fall, and I must do so. It would be a shame to see that go to waste. There is no ice cream in the freezer--partly because I no longer eat anything with soy in it and partly because there simply isn't room for ice cream.

A round plate with fruit, very pretty, resides on the kitchen counter. What possessed me to order so much? Of course, when I order online, I don't see how many that will be. Still, one organic apricot went moldy and so did one lemon. It hasn't even been hot. Better to have bought less or shared more with a friend who visited for lunch on Friday.

I am considering using what I have as a challenge to clean out the kitchen. What can I have that is delicious and nutritious? What will be merely delicious? How unbalanced will my diet be if I try this experiment? I will run out of milk and definitely need to buy that.

Another challenge would then be to buy only what I need and will truly use within a defined period. The period should be defined by how long things will keep and the need should be based on a standard of nutrition that begins with protein grams, adds carbohydrates, adds calcium, adds fat and then includes fiber. (Vitamins and minerals will come primarily from supplements as they do now.)

If I were to devise this challenge and stick to it, how much money would I save? But that is probably not the whole point. The principal point is to cut down on waste and recognize that while so many people in the world go hungry, I am an American who can watch cooking shows, and be tempted to make food that is really beyond the necessary (I saw a segment this afternoon where someone put corn stuffing into meatloaf); an American who can eat anything at anytime from anywhere in the world and who can decide that I am bored with what I have on hand and order out from an array of restaurants that deliver the cuisine of the world to my door. (Limited by my budget, of course.)

All of that is good and I like it. Still, I am wondering how I will fare if I give myself this challenge. No ordering anything except milk until I have used up what I have. (I'll let you know.)

I am grateful for my kitchen and its pantry and a goodly array of supplies. For the pesto and one dozen lemon cupcakes in the freezer, I am also grateful. For the kale from a friend's garden, for the community of sharing that is my neighborhood with all of its gardens and fruit trees. For the community of sharing that is the Internet, too. (I wouldn't have the overstocked dilemna without the Internet.)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oops, zucchini and onion correction

Sigh! I have done it again. The picture of the red onions in my last post seems to have lost the zucchinis.

Here is the correct picture.

The zucchinis were indeed the best that I have ever had.

Here is the link to the Pinconning Cheese company
The website is a marvelous thing. So many kinds of cheese. So many kinds of sausage. I think this is probably the same shop Grandpa went to since it has been in business since 1948 and it is close to Bay City and Saginaw. I hope that when cooler weather comes in Fall I can check this one out.

In the meantime a friend emailed me that she is going to the Milk Pail, a local (Mountain View) wonderful place for all things dairy, plus produce, tomorrow. So I will have cheese to go with my beer bread. Several years ago my sister discovered Iveta Gourmet Scone mixes at the Milk Pail when she visited and they have an interesting story. Another family owned business, Iveta began in Chicago and moved to Santa Cruz. All of their mixes are formulated so that only one ingredient is needed--heavy cream. Delicious and simple. (But it did lead to my keeping cream on hand for awhile and that isn't really in the diet now.) Here is their link They ship.

I don't see the pumpkin mix listed now. It would be too bad if they have discontinued it.

The lemon cupcakes turned out well and are even better made with sour cream than they are with yogurt. Half are now in the freezer so that I won't simply eat them all at once. (Nice for breakfast, though!)

I am grateful for all of these goodies and the kindness of friends which makes it all possible.

Summer's Bounty

Last night I was grateful to PBS for producing and airing A Capitol Fourth. The fireworks each year with the Capitol Mall are so splendid. I would have been happier with a bit more patriotic music and less of the pop culture glitz, but I suppose that is me. It is good to remember what the Fourth of July is really all about and I can't help wishing that they would give us a little more history and maybe even read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

The celebration of the Fourth is part of the bounty of summer. More is in the photos below.

The first picture is of red spring onions from a neighbor's garden with zucchini from Planet Organics. The second is apricots, peaches and plucots, again from Planet Organics. Planet Organics is a family owned grocery delivery business in the Bay Area. I have gotten some amazing things from them recently.

Last Thursday evening it was finally cool enough in the house and I found the time to make Whole Wheat Beer Batter Bread, one of the recipes that I posted about two or so Sundays ago. It is fabulous. So good, that delicious does not do it justice. Simply fabulous. It wants a slice of Havarti with Dill or of a good cheddar--extra sharp, preferably.

That reminds me of the cheese my Grandpa would send us each Christmas when we still lived in Toledo. The cheese came from Pinconning, Michigan. I must look for it again here on the Internet.

More lemon cupcakes are in my Sunday schedule. Gratitude for the Fourth of July and for the opportunities to cook and bake is also a part of my day, this beautiful day.