Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Knitting Project Completed and Books Read

For the last two weeks I have been preoccupied with turning some beautiful purple yarn that I found in my stash into a garment, ad libitum, that is without a pattern. Here it is

I found that it was great fun to figure out how to count out and tie off the stitches that would become the hood and then bind off the two sides, pick up the hood stitches and knit them. After this picture was taken I sewed the top of the hood together and added "I-cord" to the corners where the hood and body of the shawl intersect so that it will be easy to keep it anchored when I wear it next winter.

Last week, one evening was almost cold enough to wear it; two nights later I kept myself awake reading Murder with Puffins, while the fans ran and blew enough cool air into the house to bring the temperature down enough to sleep. ("Changeable as the weather", that is the kind of summer we have had.)

I indulged in reading the next China Bayles mystery that the library lady brought me, Spanish Dagger and am now reading the next one, Nightshade. I have one more to go, Wormwood and then I think I will have to go back and read the first one over again and the rest in sequence. Like the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, I think I can read these over and over.

Except that I am being prodded and pep-talked by a very persuasive and persistent young woman from twenty-five hundred miles away to "finish your book, Aunt Maggie". Niece Jenny, who lives in Toledo. I said, "Which one." I have almost as many unfinished projects as I have clutter in my house--and yes, they are almost certainly related.

Well, tomorrow is another day and it is late now. I am grateful that I found that pretty yarn and I think I will be even more grateful when the cold weather comes in December. Grateful, too for this mild summer. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to write that I am grateful for finishing one of those manuscripts. One of these days.

My apologies for the coding errors in the first post of this; I have edited it, which may be against blogging etiquette, but it seems better to fix it than leave it in an incomprehensible state. (Shouldn't blog when I am falling asleep!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Journeys Taken

Fifty years ago today, on August 17, 1959 my family arrived in the Bay Area in our 1955 Chevy Bel Air, a green and white two-door sedan with a fully loaded car top carrier and an equally loaded trunk. (Ah, the capacity of that trunk! ) We had spent the night in Virginia City, Nevada, an historic silver mining town. I remember a Polar Bear mounted in a glass case--something that was rather shocking then and would be utterly appalling, if not actually illegal, now. The beauty of the creature still haunts me.

Papa knew that we would make it to our destination that day, so he allowed time for
lingering and being on vacation as it were. We had spent the last nine days driving across the country from Toledo, Ohio. Across the Midwest plains states, bypassing Chicago--Papa did not like city traffic, (Much later I realized that he had actually lived in Chicago for a short time when he was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Station to fill out his contracted term with the Navy after the war in the Pacific ended.)

Through Iowa with its, "Iowa has more pigs than people" highway signs, we stayed overnight in Nebraska at a Motor Inn, a wonderful place that had been built in the 1920's. With its two bedrooms, spacious bathroom, front entry hall that would easily have doubled as a sitting room if it had had furniture, and tiny kitchen ("kitchenette") we could have spent a week there--if there had been something to do!

Our journey took us to Wyoming and I remember eating lunch in a town called Laramie and marveling at the splendor of the mountains. "Purple mountains majesties" became real to me that day. Onwards to Utah, with even grander scenery we stayed over on the fourteenth of August. The next day, the fifteenth, was the Feast of the Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation, so Papa inquired of the cashier at the restaurant where we ate supper and then we found the church we would go to in the morning and checked the schedule for morning Mass.

Very bright and early the next morning we arrived at an empty parking lot and watched sunrise in the Rocky mountains, wondering where the people were who should be attending Mass. Only after we had been sitting there for a bit, did our parents realize that the time zones had changed and we were an hour ahead of everybody! We went back to our motel and gathered our things together so that we would be ready to leave after Mass. We could not eat breakfast, of course, because we wanted to receive Communion and the laws of fasting still held in 1959.

I remember seeing sisters in the congregation with the great white headdresses that would later show up on tv in Sally Field's "the Flying Nun". Daughters of Charity, perhaps? Mass was quick and breakfast eaten and we were on our way again, marveling still at the deep drop and glorious mountains that we drove through. That night was spent in Elko, Nevada, I believe and then two days later we were home, although we did not call it that yet.

It was the essence of the great American Road Trip. I may still have the AAA "Triptik" somewhere in the house. It changed our families lives, of course, for we became Californians and our parents lived out there lives here, as I very well may, in this house that I still live in.

I am grateful for these memories and for my family today. Grateful too for the Bay Areas's natural air conditioning, that I love!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blue Vegetables

In the last year of my late mother's life she frequently said, "Oh, I wish someone would invent a new vegetable." Shortly after her death, the explosion in exotic and rare vegetables took place. I even have a large book, written in the 1980's devoted to these specialty vegetables that now days, thanks to Farmer's Markets, gourmet cooking shows and "foodie" blogs are no longer exotic or rare.

I thought of Mama when I saw that the purple cauliflower that I wrote about a week ago turns blue when it is cooked. My friend, who showed it to me right after she bought it, shared a generous bag of it with me.

Here is a picture

And another

Smells and tastes just like cauliflower. I am tempted to make a bleu cheese sauce and something with blue corn meal to complete the blue motif, or is it a blue food conceit?

All of this adds up to a new definition of playing with my food. I confess to a fascination with it. Find a wine with a blue label, make something with blue icing for dessert and have a blue food party. (Lemon cupcakes with blueberry frosting, a recipe that I found a few months ago and haven't tried yet.) Would anybody come or would they think it too weird? (I promise not to dye the chicken blue--but what could the entree be to keep with the theme?)

I could make the invitations blue (a digitally enhanced blue rose maybe) and ask the guests to wear something blue.

Now all I need is a clean house and a sous chef and I would be all set.

Seriously, I am grateful for this blue vegetable, even more grateful for my friend who shares her food finds with me. The weather is beautiful today--I feared that it would be hot and it is not, so I am grateful for that too. Always grateful for things that remind me of my Mama as well.

A blessed Sunday and day after the Feast of the Assumption. May all your vegetables taste yummy and delight you, whether they are blue or not. (And one of these days, I may learn to proofread before I hit post!)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Random Thoughts

The days have been flying by. Too many books, too little time! I have thirteen books from the library and I think that I am about half way through them. Novels are the majority. I have read A Dilly of a Death, another China Bayles mystery by Susan Wittig Albert, who has become one of my most favorite authors. Then I was engrossed in Interred With Their Bones, a complex story that spanned several centuries and was primarily a modern day action thriller/mystery. Following these books were several that are the reading equivalent of eating popcorn.

This week the weather has been gorgeous with even a little rain on Thursday. Just enough to smell good and give us a dramatic sky, it was not enough to water the plants. Now we are due for a heat wave. I will be glad when that is over. July and August are two of my least favorite months. Followed by January. If I could hibernate during those three months, I think that I would!

This week I made the rye/onion variation of the beer batter bread. This is so good! I am thinking about trying for a whole wheat and cinnamon, raisin variation. I'm not sure how this will go with the beer, though. Report to follow if I do it.

I was struck by the news this week of the two young women journalists returning home from Korea. It was touching to see them reunited with their families.

At the same time, I was struck by the fact that I did not see a single allusion to Hiroshima on Thursday, August 6, the anniversary of that awful event. Are we starting to forget? We never should. The danger is still so great.

Finally, I have been meaning all week to share this marvelous vegetable that a friend showed me from the Farmer's Market, a purple cauliflower.

I need to ask her if it cooked purple and if it tasted any different for being such a fabulous color.

I am grateful for this length of cooler days, even as I go into heat wave mode again and I am grateful that Fall is coming.