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

Ooof

Nov. 25th, 2015 11:43 pm
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Tomorrow there will be twelve people eating dinner here, if everybody shows up who might. I began the week with a stubborn migraine, but as of right now have dusted and vacuumed the sunroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and media room, much to the annoyance of the cats. Lady Jane Grey, the newest arrival, has a very good "I do not approve" expression. I have also mopped everything but the media room and the dining room. The bucket of clean water with vinegar in it and the rinsed mop are already set out, but I can't do any more til tomorrow, since my lower back has almost as good an "I do not approve" expression as Lady Jane.

I've also made two vegan pumpkin pies and one mince pie, also, though incidentally, vegan. There were no catastrophes. The piecrust entered that tiresome state where it seems to need a lot of extra cold water, but you don't want to put too much in lest you produce the dread cardboard texture. The pies are not beautiful, but the crust seems to taste all right. I still need to make a smallish casserole, also some vegan mushroom gravy and, if all goes well, roasted turnips, carrots, and broccoli. The last is supererogatory but I want to do it.

Arwen kept me company by lying on her back either in the hall or on the kitchen floor and blinking benignly when I talked to her. She is a muted tortie cat, short-haired but plush, and has a kind of windowpane belly pattern in gray and peach. Sometimes one can pet it, but not today. She has a Siamese voice (actual parentage not really known) and made sort of quacky goat noises when I indicated an intention of petting her.

Ninja helped by putting his paws on my knee and looking winsome. He rode on my shoulders for about five minutes, but I am not his regular shoulder-steed and he eventually leapt down and curled up on a flattened paper bag that Arwen had moved into the kitchen in case she should want it.

Upstairs, Saffron raced up and down when I appeared, and Cassie stole half a corn muffin right off my plate when I stopped for dinner. I am afraid that I took it away from her, which seems very unfair.

David did much of the shopping and has put the turkey to brine. My youngest brother, who generally works as a bass player but was once a professional cook, is coming to dinner because his band is on tour right in the area at the right time. I'm hoping to get him to cook the salmon for the non-eaters of turkey. He's usually pretty obliging. My mom is bringing an apple crisp for non-eaters of pumpkin and mince (my other brother is allergic to pumpkin), and also mashed potatoes and some kind of vegetable. There's about a ninety-five percent probability that she will bring green beans, but she did once confound me by bringing roasted onions, peppers, and squash.

Other guests are bringing cranberry sauce and Eric is bringing wine, cider, beer, and maybe some soda, though we probably have enough left over from hosting the MinnStf meeting last month. Lydy had to work all week (so does Eric), but is going to clean the bathroom, undoubtedly with feline assistance.

It's been weirdly warm but very gray and dark outside, so that stepping outside causes cognitive dissonance.

I'm going to assemble my recipes and put them with the mop and the bucket of vinegar and water. I think I can keep all the tasks separate, and won't end up pickling the turnips in cat hair.

I hope you will have a good weekend, whatever you may be doing with it.

Pamela

Cooking

Dec. 23rd, 2014 11:10 pm
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
At the beginning of this year I got tired of buying random vegetables and protein sources and hoping I could make them match up into dinners, so I started doing an abbreviated version of menu planning. I write the dinners I want to make down on a Post-It and then do the actual shopping. This week's Post-It says "Pad Thai (REMEMBER THE CABBAGE -- well, I did remember it but I didn't put it in), Grogan's Minestrone (frozen multigrain ciabatta rolls), ALL THE PIES."

I have saved, or more accurately, failed to recycle, a random assortment of these Post-Its, which I reproduce below for my own reference and possibly for your mild interest.

Tempeh Mushroom Stroganoff
Carrot Cashew Curry
Sardine Pasta (GET GREEN VEGETABLE)

Fish Masala, Aloo Gobi
SOUP, bread
hoisin explosion tofu (Tropp)
chickpea and sweet potato curry

Mimi's Spaghetti (Grogan again)
fish masala, green bean and potato curry
beans and kale (check to see if enough canned black-eyed peas)

Tofu Tacos
Tempeh Mushroom Stroganoff
Salmon, sweet potato, broccoli, frozen rolls

Carrot Cashew Curry
Sardine Pasta, green beans
MAKE BANANA BREAD
Curried red kidney beans with mustard greens

Vegan Lasagna (spinach mushroom Gimme Lean mock sausage)
Tofu vegetable quiche
Tofu fried rice

Very spicy delicious chickpeas (Jaffray), curried peas and mushrooms
macaroni and goat cheese, vegetable casserole (Grogan)
pasta with soy chorizo

Pasta with cauliflower, feta, and walnuts (add broccoli)
Tortilla casserole
lentil cassoulet (get mock sausage, price shallots)

Tuna curry, steamed broccoli
Lebanese/Canadian macaroni and bean casserole, add kale or else GET GREEN VEGETABLE
Vegan chili, ditto cornbread


That does look odd. Vegan food is always safe for me. I can't have cow's-milk products. I can have sheep or goat's-milk cheeses, but they are expensive, so we don't have them that often. I don't eat eggs or meat but I do eat fish and seafood, which are also expensive, except for sardines and canned tuna. Mock meat is fairly pricy too, except at Trader Joe's.

Cooking anecdotes welcome in the comments.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I'm sorry it's been so long since I posted.

Recent Feline Depredations:

1. A few weeks ago I made a tortilla casserole.  It was pretty good, but I thought it would benefit both from some kind of vegetarian meat substitute and from about double the number of corn tortillas, since they are so nice when they have soaked up a lot of enchilada sauce.  I accordingly bought some Gimme Lean mock sausage at the Linden Hills Co-op, and a couple of packages of corn tortillas from Coborns Delivers.  I ended up keeping the corn tortillas on the unheated front staircase; in the weather we were having, it was more than cold enough there.  The sausage I put into the freezer.

On Tuesday evening, I decided to make the casserole.  I accordingly removed the sausage from the freezer and put it into the refrigerator; and I took the brown paper bag holding the corn tortillas from the staircase and left it on an armchair in the cat-sitting room.  This is actually the upstairs dining room in the view of the people who designed our duplex, but we have it full of cat furniture, regular furniture that cats have clawed, and cat toys; and we sit there with cats.

When I was going through the crisper finding the vegetables I needed for the casserole, I realized that the vegetables I'd gotten for the stir-fry were looking a little limp, and decided that it would be better to make the stir-fry that evening and the casserole the next.  I put the sausage back in the freezer, but I forgot about the corn tortillas.  I made the stir-fry, which was very good.  After we had eaten it I remarked that it was odd that cats had not been plaguing us, especially Cassie.  I went to look for her.  She was meatloafed next to the radiator in the library, a favorite place of hers in cold weather.  Before her in pride of place was a somewhat mutilated package of corn tortillas; around her, as Raphael discovered with a more careful examination, was a scattering of gnawed tortilla bits.  I had removed the tattered package to the trash when I first noticed the situation. Raphael decided it would be best to clean up the crumbs, and told me that Cassie was killing them -- picking them up in her mouth and shaking them vigorously to break their little corny necks -- but did not seem inclined to actually eat them.

The second package of corn tortillas was unmolested, and I put it into the refrigerator.

2.  On  Wednesday evening, I actually made the casserole, though obviously I had to do without extra corn tortillas.  While I was assembling it, Saffron came tearing into the kitchen with her neck fully extended, chirruping and sniffing and chittering.  She considered jumping up onto the stove, decided that the stove was too cluttered, and leapt instead onto the wooden cart we keep the microwave on, and thence to the top of the microwave, talking a mile a minute and sniffing madly.  "There is no meat in this food," I told her, which is a remark I frequently make to both cats.  "Please get down off that cart."  She jumped down and ran around the kitchen, sniffing and commenting; finally she shot off into the library on one of her regular tears.

We ate the casserole and I put the leftovers away without further feline interference.  But when I went into my office before bed to check email once more and put the computer to sleep, the wrapper from off the mock sausage was lying on the floor in there, licked extremely clean.  Since Cassie's method for getting things out of the trash involves tipping the can over, I assume this was Saffron's doing.

3.  When I was placing the online order that included the corn tortillas, Coborns had a big banner up on the website saying that they strongly recommended that people be at home to receive their groceries if the groceries were being delivered on Monday, and that groceries should absolutely be removed from the outside within thirty minutes of delivery, at the worst.  I dutifully went down when the doorbell rang, and took the groceries from the driver and brought them into the warmth.

The bananas were extremely green and are now turning black while still being rock-hard, so I wonder if they froze despite their little foam blanket.  I haven't really investigated them yet.  The soy milk was partially frozen.  Everything else seemed all right.  This afternoon Saffron showed a strong interest in some of the canned and packaged goods that we keep on the built-in the dining room, since there is not enough storage space in the kitchen.  She seemed most intrigued by a bag of co-op cereal, so I removed it from under her nose, and she was affronted and went off casually to show that she really didn't care about the cereal at all.  Or so I thought at the time.  However, later this afternoon when I came upstairs from moving laundry along, on the floor of the cat-sitting room I descried a tattered plastic produce bag and two baking potatoes.   The bag, though it had not been actually closed, was well chewed.  The potatoes looked quite damp.  This was not, fortunately, because they had been licked by cats, but because they were starting to get rotten.  They must have partially frozen too.  I could smell the typical rotten-potato smell when I picked them up. Saffron could obviously smell it much earlier and thought it was less awful than I do, though not actually good enough to cause her to eat the potatoes when she got a good sniff of them.

I will try to follow this with something more actually resembling content, but I thought it would be good to break the ice.  Or do I mean freeze the potato?

Pamela

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