pameladean: (Default)
I just took down the 2015 Minnesota Weatherguide Calendar (it does not do to be hasty about these things), the December photograph in which was a lovely one of a snow- and icicle-encrusted evergreen branch in the foreground, with a wave caught breaking in white spray behind it, and snow- and evergreen-encrusted islands on the horizon, somewhere on Lake Superior. The January photo for the 2016 calendar is also of Lake Superior, at Gooseberry Falls State Park, a rocky beach with lumps of ice perched atop the rocks, each one perfectly sized for its perch, as if a wave had come in and instantly frozen. In the background are the lake, looking very cold, and a low but brilliant sun. I read the Phenology section with great pleasure, because it almost always tells you to listen for the "fee-bee" call of chickadees establishing their territories, and the drumming of downy woodpeckers. And even in the middle of the city, I have heard both of these things already, birds not being great devotees of the Gregorian calendar.

Today a lot of house sparrows are yelling their heads off in the neighbors' pea-bush hedge, and occasionally a crow makes a pronouncement about some esoteric matter.

I'm hoping to post more, however mundane the content of the posts is. Here is a bit that I wrote but never posted just before Christmas.

Read more... )

"Today I made vegan cream of mushroom soup, which is quite delicious, if extremely rich; but I didn't make it to be eaten as soup, but rather to be used in a casserole the recipe for which comes from the family of one of my partners. Then I made dinner for Raphael and me (macaroni and goat cheese and steamed broccoli), and now I am roasting some mushrooms, to be followed by green beans and cauliflower. The last-minute roasted vegetables I made for Thanksgiving (turnips, broccoli, and carrots) were so wonderful that I want to have some more at Christmas dinner. Sadly, some people I seem to be related to don't like turnips, so I'm doing these different vegetables. I had more mushrooms than I needed for the soup, and that is how it all arose. I expect these vegetables will still be wonderful, and I also got some turnips to roast later in the week." In the event, the roasted vegetables were very good, and I did roast turnips, carrots, broccoli, and more mushrooms a few days later. Also very good. I was sneaking the leftovers cold out of the fridge as if they were cheesecake.

The day before Christmas was a better day for pie crust than the day before Thanksgiving. All the pies came out fine. David has heroically finished the mince, and both pumpkin pies are still being worked on. I didn't assist the situation much by making two loaves of banana bread and then lugging one all over on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day but never actually getting it out at a party, so now we have to eat all of that too. The horror. It's a good batch. The recipe uses up to six bananas, with enough whole-wheat flour and sugar to hold them together and some rising agents, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon, with optional walnuts. Aside from the quality of the bananas, which is not really under our control, the keys to a good batch of banana bread seem to be increasing the amount of walnuts, toasting them thoroughly, using fresh cinnamon and good vanilla (thanks, [livejournal.com profile] carbonel!), and not under-baking the result. It's also useful to gauge the level of moisture in the bananas and lower the number used if they seem too gooshy.

Christmas dinner was small this year, but we all had a good time. [livejournal.com profile] lydy was gallivanting about the East Coast and David's sister couldn't make it, so it was just five of us. We had lots of leftovers, which was very satisfying. I tried to recreate my youngest brother's balsamic-mustard-maple-syrup reduction for the salmon, but it came out too mustardy. Still very tasty, just not sublime. And the oyster casserole was a great success with [livejournal.com profile] arkuat as a birthday treat. Follow Your Heart vegan cheddar substitute melts like Velveeta and makes a grand cheesy sauce with homemade vegan cream of mushroom soup. I had leftover soup and ended up making more cheesy sauce and putting it over baked potatoes after I'd eaten all the proper leftovers.

This seems to be a very foodish post. I suppose it's the time of year.

David and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary by going to Kyoto All You Can Eat Sushi. My favorite piece was the sweet potato hand roll, but it was all very good. On New Year's Eve Day David had to go deal with a complicated computer project. I made rosemary shortbread that was too dry and crumbly and slightly greasy, and oatmeal shortbread that did not work right at all. The rosemary was demonstrably shortbread, not greasy oatmeal candy like the oatmeal attempt, but it still wasn't right. I think Earth Balance has messed with the formula of their tub margarine so that it doesn't work right for baking, and I will henceforward need to only use the Buttery Sticks for baking. These are sadly no good for just putting on your toast or potato, which is annoying.

On New Year's Eve, David and I went to two parties. I actually hate this, and cherish a useless nostalgia for the comparatively few years when everyone I wanted to see attended the MinnStf party. Even then, when I had first joined MinnStf, there was at least one splinter group that had its own party; I just didn't know those people well and didn't care. The MinnStf party was hosted in a really grand fashion with chicken noodle soup, tacos with a vast array of possible fillings, and, it was rumored, a turkey breast; also huge tubs of hummus, interestingly flavored chips, vegetables (including what looked and tasted like heirloom cherry tomatoes of several varieties), and a plenitude of fruit and candy. The banana bread seemed surplus to requirements, so I didn't get it out. I had several pleasant conversations, and the general conversation upstairs was also nice. I felt guilty leaving, but was very glad, at the second party, to see at least six people I always love to talk to and a number of other congenial sorts, as well as two very self-possessed and fluffy cats. This party was also more than well supplied with edibles, so I didn't bring the banana bread out for it either.

We got home before 2, when I realized that I'd forgotten my knapsack with the lonely loaf of banana bread in it, so we had to drive back to get it, David exhibiting remarkable patience at my fecklessness. I am looking after Lydy's cats while she's gone, so there was half an hour of washing food bowls, parcelling out wet food to the healthy in small doses and to the cat with kidney issues in a larger one, refilling waterers, scooping litter boxes and cleaning up the floor where Naomi, the kidney cat, earnestly pees from inside the box. I don't even, but we love her a lot. Then when I got upstairs, Saffron produced a long fussy lecture about my deficiencies in being gone so much and then clattering around downstairs instead of attending to her. She had been quite adequately looked after by Raphael while I was away, but that was not, I take it, the issue.

She was very snuggly overnight. When I woke up I glanced at the clock and thought, 11:09, that's not bad at all. However, a closer look showed that it was 1:09, so there was some scrambling around. However, David and I had agreed that we would get to the Hair of the Dog party after three but before five, and we did manage that. This is one of my favorite parties, and it was really lovely. All but two pieces of the inadequate rosemary shortbread did get eaten. There were goat butter and good bread and goat and sheep cheeses and fava bean dip and Thai hummus and taramasalata and sesame brussels sprouts and fancy olives and six kinds of herring and celery and grape tomatoes and carrots and cornichons and a very chunky guacamole and a gingerbread trifle, which was not at all Pamela-safe, but Beth offered me a bite and it was stupendous. I had a nice conversation with Katie and Magenta and got to hear lemur anecdotes from Karen, and Josh let us look at the portable museums he'd contributed to the Kickstarter for. They are small blocks of lucite in which are embedded very small bits of museumy objects, like dinosaur skin and bone and a bit of tape from an Apollo mission's music selection. I liked the Japanese star sand the best (it's microfossils), but it was all well worth looking at and pondering. I also got to talk a bit to Laura Jean, which almost never happens, and to Tamsin, though most of my conversation with her had occurred the evening before. The general conversation around the museums also included Eric and David, and Beth and Barb J. and Bruce. It was not actually alliterative, though.

Eric and I had decided to just have our date continuing on from the party, so we went back to my house around ten, and I did a bunch more cat work. Ninja helped us make the bed, as usual, with an interruption from Lady Jane, who keeps trying to play with him but hasn't persuaded him to return the desire yet. We read our books and didn't stay up terribly late. Lady Jane leapt onto the bed for petting several times, but didn't want to stay. We had most of our date on Saturday, ending with brunch at the Himalayan Restaurant, a brief stop at the new coop on 38th Street, and a stop to fill up the tank of Lydy's car, which she had kindly lent Eric and me in her absence.

Then I came home and caught up on LJ and had many thoughts about people's 2015 roundup posts, about whether I am remotely a working writer any more and other somber musings. It's easy enough to fix this. Well, no, it's not easy at all. But it's very simple.

Saffron had more to say to me about my various absences, but this week will be normal, so perhaps I won't be scolded so much either by my cat or by my brain.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
First! The ebook version of Points of Departure, Pat Wrede's and my collection of all our original Liavek stories plus a new story by Pat and a new collaboration by both of us, telling the often-crossing stories of Granny Carry and the Benedicti family, is on sale for $2.99 from the following vendors:

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/zppqh9d

ibooks: http://tinyurl.com/jpca42t

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/jr7adpw

Paperback copies vary wildly in price, but I always encourage people to support their local independent bookstore if they are lucky enough to have one.

Second!

This is what actually impelled me to post. You may recall a cat-related saga earlier in the year when I lost most of our 2014 tax information and then rediscovered it. I'm afraid that I did not, in gratitude, immediately finish preparing the taxes. Sadly, I finished preparing the taxes the week before Thanksgiving, impelled by the realization that one is not eligible to apply for health insurance subsidies on the individual market if one has not filed one's taxes, but upheld by the knowledge that our accountants just last year went to all-electronic filing, so that once things were done the filing part would be instantaneous.

Well, it would have been, but, not really amazingly, there's a deadline for e-filing, and it's in October. So yesterday, after a horrified look at the calendar and a quick call to the accountant's office, I waylaid David as he was heading innocently out the door to take a thumb drive containing a concert video to friends. We went to the accountants' office and had a nice chat with the accountant while the taxes were being photocopied. Then we went to the nearest post office, helpfully pointed out by the accountant's getting me to stand behind a plant in a far corner of his office and peer out the window. We signed the taxes in the car and then, having stood in line for a while, I paid various amounts of money to get the tax forms to St. Paul and Fresno as quickly as possible.

I want to pause to extol the extreme kindness, sympathy, knowledegability, and helpfulness of the Post Office employees, not only to me, but to the many equally infuriating people ahead of me in line who didn't know what they wanted, complained when it cost money, had not packed up their boxes adequately or had forgotten the slips for the packages they wanted to pick up. Every single one of those Post Office employees deserves to be paid twice as much as they get, whatever it is.

Then we took the thumb drive along to our friends and had a lovely chat with them as well.

I was figuring that I would not be able to sign up for health insurance in time to get coverage by January 1, and would need to get some kind of interim coverage for that month. However, I got an email this morning saying that MNSure had extended the deadline to December 28th, which provides a much better chance that things will work out.

Third.

Thanksgiving went off pretty well, given how many people we had and the curious attrition that had occurred in our supply of dishes and flatware. David and I had Lund's sushi for lunch; the rice had suffered in storage, but it was still tasty and prevented sudden blood-sugar drops later on. I did not manage to make my small casserole, which is just as well, because the new-to-me mock cheese I'd been planning to use is really not up to snuff and would not have worked properly. I did make the roasted vegetables, and they were delicious. My youngest brother was a delight, and did cook the salmon for non-eaters of turkey. He called up recipes on his phone, and when informed sadly that no, we did not actually have any parsley or almonds, he just kept looking until he lit upon a reduction of mustard and balsamic vinegar with garlic and olive oil, which was so tasty that my other brother ate the extra salmon filet I'd had plans for. This continued a theme: [livejournal.com profile] arkuat had brought vinho verde because he knows that I like it, but I was too busy running around during the appetizer phase, and everybody else drank it all. Next year I am going to manage better.

My mother brought mashed potatoes, including a non-dairy version just for me; she also brought braised celery and leeks, which is about a dozen times as delicious as you think it will be, even if you think highly of the idea. [livejournal.com profile] fgh's cranberry sauce with ginger was excellent with salmon. Both her daughters came along this year, which was extremely pleasant, and they brought a very nice spread of appetizers. And my mother and local brother and I were very glad to see our youngest, even though he'd arrived at 2 am on Wednesday and was expecting the band's bus to collect him again around midnight on Thanksgiving. My family accordingly left around nine, and [livejournal.com profile] lydy kindly gave Eric a ride home so he wouldn't have to cope with the holiday bus schedule; but Felicia, Rachel, and Judy stuck around to keep us company while David carved the rest of the turkey and reduced the carcass into a form suitable for soup. The house smelled of turkey soup for the next day or two. I can't eat it, but it still smells lovely to me.

Fourth.

International Bad Cat Day, pastry version. So I went to a monthly gathering of fellow writers at a bakery that sometimes has olive-oil pastries flavored with orange and fennel. I don't know if there is egg in them, but they don't do me any harm, so there can't be much. They had the pastries, so I got half a dozen and ate one while socializing and drinking tea with all the lovely people. Then I met Eric for a date and gave him one. Then I gave Raphael one. The following day, I ate the fourth, and reminded Raphael that there were two left. We had a late dinner that night. If it's just the two of us, we often eat dinner in Raphael's office, with the door shut. My office has no door. If you eat where the cats can see you there are various behaviors that make finishing your food difficult, let alone reading or watching TV or even conversing while consuming it. So we had our dinner and watched whatever we were watching at that point (Dr. Who or Parks and Rec, probably). When we came out, it was time for the cats' own supper. Ordinarily the two of them pour into the office with the appearance of about a dozen, tails upright, voices proclaiming starvation.

No cats. "WHERE ARE THEY?" I said. "WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?"

There was no depredation in the kitchen. In my office, however, the brown paper bag containing the last two pastries -- which I had carefully set on a tall filing cabinet that Cassie couldn't get onto in one jump, and that I believed Saffron could not, less because of the height than because she couldn't get a good run or a good view of the top first -- was on the office floor with the bottom torn out, and both cats were feasting on the pastries. Raphael took the bag away from them and then I cleaned up the crumbs, to much feline protest. They had had quite enough to be going on with. Next time I am just eating everything at once. Possibly with some nice vinho verde.

I wish I had five things, but I don't seem to.

I wish you light in this season of darkness.

Pamela
pameladean: (Default)
It's been some time since I posted. I thought I would try dividing things up into smaller posts rather than doing one huge looming one with cut-tags and ending up with a strange interlarding of comments on twelve different pieces of news and six different issues.

A close family member (not a partner or a member of my household) has been having a cancer scare. She does not in fact have cancer, but it was a very stressful month, in which a cascade of different kinds of scans and blood tests and visits to various oncologists was rendered much worse than it should have been by a slow-moving iatrogenic trainwreck. This began with a severe allergic reaction to the contast medium for the CAT scan and continued on through gigantic hallucination-causing doses of Benedryl to end in several other nasty drugs and an extended period as a couch potato, a role very ill-suited to the person in question and disquieting to everybody. Only this week has ordinary life seemed to be re-establishing itself. The patient, who was incorrectly diagnosed with a different flavor of cancer in 1996, has had frequent occasion to make use of my subject line.

I preferred to have solid information, whether good or bad, before posting; and it seemed difficult, mostly because of my habit of flinging everything into a single post, to write anything without mentioning it.

Pamela
pameladean: (Default)
It's been some time since I posted. I thought I would try dividing things up into smaller posts rather than doing one huge looming one with cut-tags and ending up with a strange interlarding of comments on twelve different pieces of news and six different issues.

A close family member (not a partner or a member of my household) has been having a cancer scare. She does not in fact have cancer, but it was a very stressful month, in which a cascade of different kinds of scans and blood tests and visits to various oncologists was rendered much worse than it should have been by a slow-moving iatrogenic trainwreck. This began with a severe allergic reaction to the contast medium for the CAT scan and continued on through gigantic hallucination-causing doses of Benedryl to end in several other nasty drugs and an extended period as a couch potato, a role very ill-suited to the person in question and disquieting to everybody. Only this week has ordinary life seemed to be re-establishing itself. The patient, who was incorrectly diagnosed with a different flavor of cancer in 1996, has had frequent occasion to make use of my subject line.

I preferred to have solid information, whether good or bad, before posting; and it seemed difficult, mostly because of my habit of flinging everything into a single post, to write anything without mentioning it.

Pamela

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