Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thanksgiving Photo Dump

So I posted many of these on Twitter and Facebook last Wednesday and Thursday, but never on my blog. And with it being a week post-Thanksgiving, I'd better get them up here or forever hold my peace. Think of this as a photo documentation of the busiest two cooking days of the year, or a celebration of food, or something like that.
 I started with pies on Wednesday, baking two pumpkins. Only the pumpkin on the left was more like spaghetti squash and was not suitable for pie; on the right is what I think was a kabocha squash, not a pumpkin. It eventually made it into the pie.
 Mocha pecan pie
 kabocha squash "pumpkin" pie, with pie-dough decoration by Quarta
 classic apple
 Quarta made the cranberry sauce

 Nasturtiums and plum branches, still pretty in the garden.
 Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme... plus a little oregano and marjoram. From the garden.
 Thursday morning I started in on the stuffing. Stovetop, by popular demand.
 Most of the herbs went into the softened butter, to rub under the turkey skin.
 The setting up of the oven is an ordeal. You have to put the meat probe in first or it will complain, and the setting was convect roast, 325 degrees, with the probe set to 180. Obviously we were just warming up here.
 My well-worn copy of the Thanksgiving 1994 issue. The subscription was a gift from my late mother, and I always think of her and Thanksgivings past when I use it... which I still do.
 Whipped cream for the pies
 Tertia peeled potatoes... lots of them
 Quarta had made a sweet potato casserole the previous day
the bird, done. I like putting the butter/herb mixture under the skin, even if it makes it look funny; it stays moist that way.
 The table
 After the meal, the cook still has to get the meat off the bird, and then divide the bones into two batches for stock. Or as the current health food gurus call it, "bone broth," I make one batch in the crock pot overnight, and one stovetop until early evening.
Someone must have been watching football. It's just as well I'm a football agnostic. Grandma brought her poker chips
Peter really doesn't like having his picture taken, but I guess I had fed him well enough he couldn't complain too much.

That's all the photo-blogging I could manage before the post-Thanksgiving collapse. We missed Daniel, but he was at least with family on the other side of the country.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yarn Along and a few flyby book reports

Spoiler alert: If you are one of my sons, don't scroll down below the top two pictures of Smudge. Or Christmas Will Be Spoiled and it won't be my fault. Daniel -- and this counts as a book report too -- I finished book 4 of the Wheel of Time this morning. I have no idea what is going on... they're in the desert, then they're in some kind of archetypal dream world and I'm never sure how they got there. I will have to read the summary notes for the first four books here, because there's no way I'm listening to them again before moving on. Peter, you can take comfort in the fact that my Spotify discover weekly list is much cooler than your father's. He was mocking one of my '60s songs (you know he spies on your Spotify playlist, right?), but his songs are mostly from the 1560s.
Smudge is a hard cat to get to pose, because he always wants to jump up on your lap and purr, and he can't hold still. I got these two shots, which will have to do. It's a bit cute and pathetic to see the kitty pawprints by his empty food bowl. He's not losing weight though, and no sign of fleas. He seems very sleek and fat, and has been chasing birds. There was a slug that got stuck between his food and water bowl when they were stacked and brought inside last night. I hate it when slugs sneak into the house.

Other books I am currently reading are Tom Clancy/Mark Greaney (the designated successor for Tom Clancy) "Full Force and Effect," which is about North Korea trying to get nuclear missiles, and I am midway through the most recent release of Vince Flynn's designated successor, Kyle Mills, "Order to Kill," which is about Russia assisting ISIS to try to get nuclear missiles. Because of the way I request loans from my library's Kindle app and never know when they'll show up, for a brief time I also had the first Brad Thor book out along with the other two, an author I'd like to start reading. And I decided that I can't really give my full attention to more than one thriller at a time, so I'm just actively working on the Clancy one now. I don't usually read only thrillers, it just happened that way. I also have an audiobook of Gone Girl I started listening to. I hate both characters so far. Not sure if I'll continue.

I am just now getting back into quilting and sewing after too long a hiatus, and the blog has been very neglected, but I have been knitting slowly but fairly steadily all year. So I'm linking up today to Ginny's Yarn-Along, where many knitters share their progress.

These Stashbuster Spirals socks were finished last week. They have Kat's Sweet Tomato Heels, which I've always really liked in combination with the pattern. This pair came out looking very handsome, and used up a lot of small bits and balls of yarn leftover from other socks.
This pair was started a few days ago, and though it probably will look a little more patchwork-y than the first, I think it will still look handsome. I am really hoping to have it done by Christmas. I recently took stock of my sock yarn stash: I have two skeins that I purchased at Sock Summit 2011, and I really need to knit them up rather than hoarding them. There are a few others besides those, and I probably have odd balls enough for at least 3 more Stashbuster Spirals. So when at least 3 additional socks are done besides these, then I will allow myself to go off my sock yarn diet. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mystery Monday... I'm In (Again)

I can't seem to resist the annual ritual of the Bonnie K. Hunter mystery quilt. Even though I shouldn't, I found myself diving into it last Friday, along with several hundred others probably. Today we're linking up to the Quiltville blog to see other people's progress and cheer each other on.
This is why I "shouldn't" be participating: I haven't quilted since the early spring, the last three years' mystery quilts are not quilted, and last year's still needs the borders put on. From bottom to top, Celtic Solstice, Grand Illusion, and Allietare... proving that the annual mystery quilt is just as much a part of my holiday season as finding recipes for leftover turkey. Maybe it's the primal urge to organize and rethink one's life before the new year, maybe it's my way of avoiding holiday stress and putting off real cleaning...I don't know... but Friday morning, I woke up and thought, hmm, better check out what the first clue of the mystery quilt is, and Friday afternoon I was finishing up some flannel baby quilts last touched in the spring and pulling boxes of colors from my stash cabinet. Remember the shave-and-a-haircut scene from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" "Toons, it gets them every time." I'm like that with the mystery quilt.
 2" Bits! I decided to play with the boundaries of neutrality... I've seen Bonnie use a fairly loose interpretation of what a "neutral" is, and so, as I worked with mine, I tried to find a way to include some fabrics I wouldn't normally.
This is a selection of pretty sedate, party-line neutrals in the above 4-patches. I thought the pink dots were a bit daring at first, but looking at this grouping, I feel like, if I just used this range, I might get bored. I don't like being bored.
So here, I have one "nonconformist" patch in every 4-patch. I think of them as independent voters. They keep things interesting. They may have some unorthodox color, or an unexpected pattern, or be a little darker than the typical cream, but they're probably fine.
Here's a selection of ones that have 2 of the 4 patches as nonconformists. If I wasn't sure, I held them against the first "boring" group and saw which ones jumped out at me. This is kind of like the closely-contested states: people are polarized and fight against each other, but they're all part of the same American quilt and they're gonna have to figure out how to get along somehow. I included some fabrics that are very pretty and garden-like in themselves, and kind of remind me of the South of France, but I'm not sure how well they will play with the rest of the colors in the quilt. Maybe in moderation they will be fine; maybe I'll make a bunch extra and decide when I'm putting the quilt together later on.
Here are the anarchists and rioters (but in a neutral way): 3 or 4 patches are kind of "in your face." BUT, if all my 4-patches were this radical, maybe a revolution would happen and the first group would seem to be the outliers. I don't know. I could go on polling my scraps forever and come up with different combinations every time. For now, I'm just enjoying playing in my scraps again. Technically, I'm more than a third of the way done with this clue, and I've made very good progress on the flannel baby quilt project. I'll try to add the borders to Allietare soon. It's all good.



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Randomday

This was the week Muffball, the inside cat, had fleas. We didn't realize it at first, because she's an inside cat and we hadn't seen a flea since the summer. It was so bad, she scratched herself raw in spots, and when I took her to the vet Monday he said she was having an allergic reaction, probably to the fleas, and I had been giving her the wrong dosage of Advantage. Because she's not a small cat anymore, although she still seems small to me. Except when I was trying to put her in the carrying cage to go to the vet. Then she fought like a demon and nearly overpowered me five times. But the vet gave her a cortisone shot, and I gave her a second dose of flea medicine, and I haven't seen one flea since, and her scabby skin has really started to improve. So when I take her back next month for her regular shots, I think I'll look into getting her the extended-wear collar, so I won't have to worry about forgetting Advantage.

Tertia has been working with the Theater club at school, and yesterday and today they had performances of "Love, Live," a series of vignettes presented as if TV watchers were channel surfing. It was pretty well-done. Tertia's role had only one line; she was the smoothie-drinking testimonial in the Bass-O-Matic infomercial. She raised her glass with stoic determination and a slight smile. I was really impressed. I also really enjoyed the Romeo and Juliet scene where Romeo's lines were the original but Juliet was a jive-talker. And the commercial for Swiftamine... the doctor-approved cure for Taylor Swift Induced Vertigo (they did tell me that there were hundreds of causes of dizziness, so it just makes sense). And the boy who's scheming about how to get into detention so he can pursue a bad girl called "Harm" (short for Harmony).

Quarta got a haircut today. She has a ponytail all packaged up to mail in to Locks of Love, and has been flipping her hair around all day.

Peter has made his appearance back home for Thanksgiving, and has a pretty full social calendar already. We hope to see him a few times in the coming week.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have to plan and cook that in the coming week. The turkey, christened by Quarta "Jeffrey the 14th", is now thawing on the top rack of the fridge. Other details to be figured out, hopefully soon.

Romanian has been released in beta on Duolingo. I've started it, wanting to add the fifth modern Romance language to my list. It's quite fun so far. Really seems to be a crossroads of Europe, with loan words from French, German, Italian and probably some other ones I don't know, and of course a lot of Latin.

I'm still spending a lot of time on Twitter in the post-election days. I haven't really managed to keep up with the Washington Post... it keeps refreshing and making me reload, which takes it back to the beginning of the paper. I end up getting frustrated and just reading what I can before falling asleep at night. Sometimes I make it, mostly not. Skipping the sports section is of course a given; also the opinion pieces, if they're clearly marked and not by someone I really enjoy reading. I wonder if, even yet, the mainstream media realize that they are the ones largely to blame for creating the Trump phenomenon?



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Randomday

It's been such a weird week. When the history books are written they'll probably still be talking about what a weird week it was. So I'll mix normal Randomday material with political weirdness and the blog will go on. Just as the country will. Probably.

So how many people were surprised by the results of the election? Steve says he thought all along that Trump could win. Maybe he should have been hired as a pollster or political consultant. But most of us were shocked.

Trump's acceptance speech was surprising... partly because his election was the biggest surprise, but also because he seemed ever so slightly less orange, and, if not quite presidential, at least dignified and conciliatory. I'm honestly not sure how to feel about him; I find his extreme extroversion toxic and he tends to suck all the air out of a room when he speaks, but that may just be my introversion reacting to him. If I don't listen to his speeches and never make the mistake of trusting media accounts of him again, and if he is surrounded by adults who make sure he follows the laws of the land (and put his Twitter account in a lockbox), he might even grow to be a decent president. It's a bigger job than just one man, and I do believe people can grow.  It's nice to see Republicans win all around: and while I don't really count Trump as a real Republican, there are real Republicans I respect who are working with him.

Hillary's concession speech... when it finally came after a pretty long delay... was really gracious. Nothing in the race became her like the leaving of it. I don't quite get why her followers are so terribly sad. She'll be okay. She has the consolation that she now has time to spend with Bill and the rest of the family, and she can go back to Chappaqua and get that building permit and pay the fees she forgot about for the work on her second mansion. And preumably, she can continue accepting foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and grotesquely inflated speaking fees. What she'll spend it all on I don't know... she already has pantsuits in every color of the rainbow. I think she has learned not to call people "deplorable." Mock the Midwest at your peril! (I mean, did you see WISCONSIN going red?!) I do think it would be nice if she could discover that yes, the unborn person does have rights.

Portland has been experiencing protests/riots for five nights straight. It started out as poor distraught Millennials who couldn't deal with an electoral disappointment. I try not to mock or gloat...too much. But I've been there, on the White House lawn, crying and hugging people the day after losing an election (1992). I was devastated, and in my 20's. It never occurred to me to march in the streets and riot. Republicans generally don't do that. We always just were sad for awhile and moved on. But this is a different era, and these are the children of helicopter parents who have protected them from even the slightest disappointment. Not to mention all the apocalyptic self-help clickbait articles about the election: "what will we tell our daughters?!" For starters, how about, "respect the law, stay away from unlawful assemblies, obey the police when they tell you to disperse, and no, you may not take a baseball bat to the #TrumpProtest #TrumpRiot #NotMyPresident or whatever they're calling it tonight."

Seriously, Portland has experienced more than a million dollars of damage to various businesses. Police are tired from having to don riot gear for 5 nights in a row and even the mayor is pleading with people to channel their anti-Trump hate towards his favorite liberal causes like Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile he wants to encourage normal Portlanders to patronize businesses to make up for the damage that has already been done. I don't ultimately think he will be successful; the Columbia River has become a bigger barrier to me wanting to go shopping in Portland than it ever was before. I'm thinking Facebook will soon need to have a nightly check-in feature for Portland and other cities where riots are going on: "yes, I got home safely and am now in my house with the blinds drawn." To be fair, the naive young people who started the protest movement have found that less idealistic anarchists are moving in and hijacking their peaceful protests. You've heard the saying that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality? ... I'm predicting a conservative renaissance even in liberal Portland.

Okay, enough politics. Steve is visiting Peter in Pullman this weekend and is even now watching the WSU Berkeley game. Last I checked WSU was winning handily, but Steve is wearing his Berkeley shirt. (He likes to say he became a conservative at Berkeley).

This week I started the job of pruning our grape fines. I don't think we ever did it right, and they are really gnarly. It doesn't seem to be possible to kill them once they've been established, or we would probably have done it, but previous attempts to prune and train them have not been successful. I have brought in some of my tender herbs (lemon verbena and pineapple sage) to try to keep them over winter without killing them. I also planted some sage and rosemary seeds to see if I can grow new plants from the seeds of the old. Several sage sprouts and one rosemary have resulted. Again, I'll be trying not to kill them this winter.

I introduced the girls to some classic American concepts today. I fried up some Spam for breakfast: Quarta had a piece and Tertia had half a piece... too salty. I think it has been at least 35 years since I last tasted Spam. This evening we watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It's probably been 15 years since I saw that last, or more. I never realized Charlie Sheen was in it. And the vengeful principal actor also played the emperor in Amadeus. And the school secretary with the high-pitched voice has a huge list of voice acting credits on IMDB. My mother would have loved IMDB... back in the '80s she WAS our family IMDB. But she couldn't remember names with 100% speed and accuracy, so there would be that moment in the early part of a film where she'd say, "Oh, that's ... what's his name?" and then a couple hours later when everyone had forgotten she'd remember and blurt out his name, whatever it was. We'd be in the middle of dinner and she'd put her fork down and say, "Cesar Romero!" or "Lon Chaney Jr!" It was a gift. I think Tertia has it too, but only with actors who have played in Harry Potter or Once Upon a Time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Clarity and Peace

Since the Indiana primary, I have been struggling with near-constant anxiety and depression about the political situation. I gave up any hope of a Republican victory, (remembering that I have been a Republican for 40 years: Memories of Election Days Past written in 2012), with only a long-shot hope that the Free the Delegates people would stop Trump at the Convention, and then even less that he might step down or be forced out by parliamentary procedures with in the party. I staked out a position with the #NeverTrump crowd. I kept getting Civiqs polls, which I would always answer with "I will never vote for Donald Trump" as well as "I will never vote for Hillary Clinton." And I followed through. I have never not voted, and I have never not voted for a Republican, at least in the President slot. If I had still been living in a battlground state, like Ohio or Virginia, I would have been even more anxious and paralyzed by indecision. Because as much as I distrust the better angels of Trump's temperament to be a guiding hand on the rudder of the ship of state, I am long familiar with Hillary Clinton's policies, and they are toxic. To an honest question as to which one is preferable to the other, I was not sure. And I know I was not alone. In a sense, living in a deep blue state gave me the luxury of writing in the name of someone I knew would not win, but I, like most people it seems, was convinced Hillary was inevitable.

Seeking some peace on the eve of Election Day, I did what every Calvinist does: I googled "Providence of God memes." You know I love quotes, and some good ones surfaced. That led to researching several quotes of former presidents, and I posted many of them on my Facebook page:

"Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God. And yet it is a sin that Christians commit perhaps more frequently than any other." - John MacArthur

"It is a most blessed thing to be subject to the sovereignty of God." - John Calvin

"It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor." - George Washington

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day." - Abraham Lincoln

"We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." - John Adams

"I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings upon this House, and all that may hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." - John Adams



(Mr. Adams sounds like a crotchety old man. I have to respect that).




"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!" - Abraham Lincoln

So, going into the day of the election, I had a little peace about the outcome even if I was very sad. But then yesterday morning, standing on the driveway with Tertia and waiting for the short bus at 6:30, I felt compelled to talk to her. She had already reminded me it was election day, and with her childcare class she was scheduled to assist in some kind of election day craft. She had watched some of one of the debates with me, and she is 17... she could vote next year. She's probably hearing all sorts of political talk at school and, because she can't process irony or abstract concepts very well, I decided I needed to tell her in very simple terms why I couldn't support Hillary Clinton for President, and why I was sad that she was probably going to win. I told her it was because Clinton thinks it is okay to kill babies before they're born, if the mother doesn't want them. That's all I said. I couldn't bring myself to tell her that unborn children with Down syndrome are killed at a much higher rate than any other group. I didn't need to. She got very quiet and obviously sad, trying to process. How do you process that an entire political system is built upon the premise of selectively denying the right to life to those most vulnerable? And how would you explain to an intellectually disabled young woman that a woman who believes it is a fundamental right to kill babies just like her is probably going to become the next president? I had a moment of sad clarity then. Sometimes, it really is that simple. People who promote the killing of babies shouldn't become president.

I found myself unexpectedly happy to see Hillary go down... maybe some of it was Schadenfreude, but also, and this was a surprise, I almost started rooting for Trump. I'll try not to gloat on Facebook, and I'll try not to use the laughing face emoji on your "why I'm mourning today" links. I'll save the snark for Twitter. But if you want an analysis of the election that I essentially agree with, check this, especially points 2 and 6. Mock Middle  America at your peril. And you really have cried "wolf" too many times. 

I respect the right of every voter to follow his or her conscience, and I believe that's what played out yesterday, and we have to live with the results, and find a way to live with each other going forward. It's a complicated set of reasons that motivates any one of us in the simplest and most straightforward election, and this was not that. I still have very grave concerns about Trump's fitness for office. But I will do my duty as an American to support him, and my duty as a Christian to pray for him.

With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds." - Abraham Lincoln

Monday, October 31, 2016

Master of the Game



Master of the Game
with Hillary Rodham Clinton and chorus of Democrats
From the tragi-comedy Les Déplorables (forthcoming)

Enter Hillary, wearing Armani and greeting chorus members

Welcome, my friends, sit yourselves down,
And meet the best fundraiser in town.
Clinton Foundation, not what it looks,
We’ll keep your favors off of the books.
Seldom will you see folks like Bill and me,
We grant you influence for your generosity—

Master of the game, I really have no shame,
Ready with a fake smile cause you’re all the same.
Schmooze a Saudi prince, butter up some banks,
Major donor access is how I say “thanks!”
Everybody’s favorite crony, doesn’t cost me to be nice—
In my administration, everything has got its little price.

Charge ‘em for the meet, extra for the greet,
Ten percent for sitting in a front row seat.
Here a little bait, there a little switch,
You have to pay to play till we’re all super-rich
Foreigners are more than welcome, Lincoln bedroom’s occupied,
Thirty thousand emails, none of which were classified (of course not!)

Master of the game, doctor of the spin,
Huma’s here to keep me on my Coumadin,
I had a little fall, it was nothing much at all,
Soon we’ll celebrate at the Inaugural Ball!
When it comes to wiping servers, there are lots of tricks I know,
But see that ol’ glass ceiling, soon you’ll all be reeling
Feeling how dang powerful I grow!

(Enter Anthony Weiner with laptop: he hands it over to FBI director James Comey, entering from opposite side. As this goes on, Bill and Huma whisper worriedly to each other.)

The Clinton body count, it might increase by one,
As long as no one finds me with the smoking gun,
Champion of the rich, nanny of the State,
All these revelations coming much too late:
I’ve already been anointed; early voting favors me!
It’s in my pantsuit pocket, soon I’ll be the master of D.C!

(full chorus, while Hillary suffers from coughing fit)
Master of the game! Doctor of the spin!
Stonewall for a few more days and then we’re in!
Everybody’s favorite crony! Everybody’s bosom friend!
Grant insider access, raise a buncha taxes,
(All these moral lapses short-circuit my synapses!)
I’m working like a demon and I’ll win!


Author's note: I saw Les Miserables on Broadway as a college senior in 1989; I supported George H.W. Bush in the 1992 campaign that gave us Bill Clinton. I was in the crowd on the WH lawn that welcomed President Bush home from Texas the day after the election. Somewhere between the Whitewater scandal and the Lincoln Bedroom scandal of the first Clinton administration, I became convinced that the Clintons were the Thenardiers, the corrupt innkeepers, of Les Miserables, somehow come to political power in America. This song is the long-incubating result. - Katherine Chapman