Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016 Christmas Cookie Bake is ON...

So, we did our Thanksgiving celebration last Sunday. Hubby and I did the turkey + turkey breast, the cranberry relish and the brandied sweet potatoes. Kid #2 did the mashed potatoes.

The rest of dinner was parceled out among the family. It was great. Food was good; election discussion was minimal. I christened our youngest family member "Tigger" after explaining about Tigger and his bouncy-bouncy-bouncing. He loves it. 

The nephews decided that THEY were taking over Christmas dinner. This could get interesting...At first, they wanted to do a Mexican theme. I have no problems with that - I love Mexican food. But - there are a number of folks with dietary this or that, so we're doing a "northern" Southern thing. I say we, because my brother begged me to do my pulled pork. Oh well. I knew I wouldn't get a holiday free from cooking. And I'm ok with that. 

So, that being said, we took advantage of having Thanksgiving Day free. I have one yoga class to teach Friday morning, another one Saturday morning, and then another one Sunday night. But otherwise, aside from meeting friends for lunch on Saturday, I'm polishing off the 2016 Christmas Baking, if I can. 

Baking...
Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

This is what has happened since last night:

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies
Spiced Shortbread Stars
Tollhouse cookies
Fruitcake cookies
Honey cookies (a dairy-free Jewish recipe, actually)

Don't forget, we have potica and the "walnut tarts" I made up out of thin air, already in the freezer... My cookie lists are fluid - depending on what we find on the internet, what I pull out of the old recipe boxes and how much time we have, the initial list can change at least once during a baking session -- often at least twice. 
Walnut tarts

I have some pics - but I was so busy baking and Hubby was so busy trying to finish off the deck that I didn't get as many as I wanted to. 

Spiced Shortbread Stars
So, the changes to the list? Instead of the "Santa's Whiskers," I added the Fruitcake Cookies. I also added the Honey Cookies - I've been looking for alternatives to the richer, more chocolate-laden stuff. We have so much heavy bakery, and in many respects, I like a little sass to my cookies. So the shortbread, which was supposed to be lemon, turned out to be pumpkin-pie-spiced stars. I did those while talking to Kid #1...we had a lovely conversation, and I do miss him, in spite of my blatherings about how you raise your kids to fly on their own... And there may still be a lemon cookie or lemon bar on the list at some point - I'm not done yet!

Fruitcake Cookies
I baked from about 9 a.m. till just about 3:30 p.m. Straight through. Batch after batch. Hubby was in and out with the deck. It's freezing cold here - so much so that one of the glass birdbaths broke with the temperature change. The weather turned really quickly - tomorrow, they're calling for rain-mixed-with-snow! 

I had a decision to make: I was going to make my sister's favorite, M & M Cookies. But I also wanted something straight-up traditional and simple. For example, the Fruitcake Cookies are someone's granny's recipe - and the recipe actually called for seven pounds - SEVEN pounds of mixed nuts! I tossed in a bag of walnut halves and about 2/3 c. of sunflower seeds, and called it even. I've got raisins and cranberries on the list for tomorrow, if we go anywhere. I may venture out while I'm on the road for yoga, but otherwise, I'm back to the baking tomorrow as well (which is when my sister's cookies will get done). 

My initial dilemma was which "plain" cookie was to be baked this time? I guess that it may seem strange that Tollhouse Cookies are "plain" - but they really are, compared to some of the others I make. And I didn't add anything to this. I added no nuts. I added no spices (and I hate to not add spices...). I added no extra chocolate. 

Big or little?
I have learned, over the years, that there's a trick to reasonably "fluffy" Tollhouse cookies. When I first started using that recipe, they came out flat and hard. The chocolate morsels were like bumps on a hunk of dough which looked like it had been run through my pasta maker a couple of times... My friend Jess can make a stunningly beautiful, fluffy, soft Tollhouse, and I can't quite replicate his recipe. But - this time, I don't soften the butter in the initial creaming of the butter and sugar. And then I kept the dough cold in between the batches. They're not terribly big or fluffy, but they're not looking like manhole covers either! 

Then my next dilemma was in regard to the size of the Tollhouse cookies. Which size of scoop for the cookies? Smaller or larger? I did one of each, baked the batch and then decide, what the heck -- it's CHRISTMAS - so I did the larger one. And they came out just fine - I have slightly more than 5 dozen. I love the cookie scoops. I rebelled against them for a long time, but I find them much more efficient, and the results are more uniform. As you can see, for the Fruitcake cookies, I used the larger one, too. 

The No-Bakes get shaped with 2 spoons. That's a rule. And it's not my recipe. It's from my revered MIL and I'm not messing with it. Just like I don't want anyone messing with my granny's recipes, I will not futz with a tradition from anyone's family - or more particularly, anyone's family that I know personally! I have been known to take a random "my granny's recipe" that I find online and mess with it; I can't help it. But if someone hands me a recipe or an old family cookbook, I will - to the best of my abilities - keep with the tradition established in the recipe. It's my way of honoring the bakers who came before me - carrying on their tradition and passing it on to my kids so that they can do the same. 

The Latest List... 
My own tradition of the Christmas Baking has been something I've been doing since around 1979 or so - and at first, it was to give things for Christmas because I couldn't afford to buy them. But later, after I found that I really enjoyed the cookie-baking and researching for recipes, it came to be something I enjoyed. I'm kind of diverse when it comes to cookies. I'll often stick with the same basic list, but I'll look at new recipes or take something and fiddle with it. When the kids were at home, they had veto power over any recipe I tried...and there were a few that were definitely "don't bother with THAT again" -- in spite of the fact that they were "contest winning" cookies. The kids have very specific requirements for cookies, and they made their desires known. It was a blast to collaborate, actually. 

The Santa's Whiskers was a good example. I did those for 2 years running, and this year, I looked for something else to do (mainly because I couldn't find the recipe...) and came across that Fruitcake Cookie thing. 


Honey Cookies
And then I found the Honey Cookies. For those folks that are dairy free, this one is from a Jewish blogger. I recall that the concept of "kosher" has something to do with how you can't mix certain foods. So there's no butter in there; it uses vegetable oil instead. (If anyone knows specifically, please comment!)

I've looked for a decent honey cookie recipe for a while. Most of them don't have "enough" honey in them. You can't taste it. It's just a sweet, bland cookie. 

Well.... Not this one. Seriously delicious, and I could make a huge dent in the batch. It uses Turbinado sugar for the sparkles. I ran out (that rarely happens in my house, truthfully), and so I used regular dusting sugar in yellow so as to not obscure the beautiful deep gold of the cookies. I don't like the regular dusting sugar - not enough oomph, and besides, Turbinado has that slightly smokey taste to it - molasses, you know? It gives the cookies a nice contrast with the strong honey flavor. Turbinado sugar is also on my list, in case you're wondering. This recipe is amazing; only takes about 10 minutes to put the whole thing together, you roll the balls of dough, roll in sugar and bake for exactly 10 minutes. Truly, bang-on specific to the recipe and no fiddling needed. You can taste the honey, a nice clean burst of flavor, and it's not cloyingly sweet - which you might think it would be because of the extra sugar on top. I will try these with other honeys - like a robust buckwheat honey or something with more floral overtones in it. This recipe is a keeper. 

Knitting...

The baby jacket is moving along. Needless to say, nothing much got done today till I was done baking! I've cast off the final sleeve and am working on the last bit of the front. Sixty rows in total, but there are only about 25 stitches in a row, so once I get cranking (and there's a Mystery Marathon on PBS)...I'm golden. I'm actually on Row 25 now, so maybe this weekend, I'll be seaming and sewing on the buttons. Lots of yarn left, so booties and a hat are coming into play now as well. 

No picture yet. But maybe next time, and it'll be the finished thing. Right now, it's a pile of orange stuff. 

Prayer Shawl
Oh, oh.... I did a teeny, tiny "cheat." At church, we have a lovely Prayer Shawl Ministry. And when I walked in, I found a small triangular shawl made out of just about the exact shade of pumpkin, just sitting on the stack!! It'll be just perfect for Little Mama if she needs it for nursing or even just because it'll match our Little Pumpkin ensemble. I'm going to have the whole shebang blessed before I wrap it up. I think she'll like that.

I'm also alternating baby knitting with the Shape-It Scarf, so that I have it available to wear sooner rather than later. But those wings...Boy, are they taking a long time! Because it's lace-weight on needles about 5 times larger than they should be, and because alpaca can be slippery, I can't just whip along without checking in on my knitting every so often. 

I'm kind of itching to start something new, but I want to plow through this so that it's done and I'm not in a time-crunch at the last moment. Especially since babies can be totally unreliable. 

The Deck...

Ta-da!! Here it is, 90% completed. I say 90% because of a few things. As you can see, the skirting on the bottom isn't quite done yet (it needs to be behind the stairs as well). And in the spring, those pavers alongside the deck will be completed and graveled in, so that we can bring the trash cans around to the front for pick-up. We'll also have some sort of barrier to keep the pea gravel contained. 

And then there's the city... When I went outside to look at it with Hubby, I noticed a pink sticker. Pink isn't the color you want... Seems the deck hasn't passed its last inspection. 

See those rails there, closer to the right? Well, Hubby told the inspector that he'd be installing "cappers" - those fatter boards on top of the balusters, so that when you climb the steps, that's where your hand naturally goes to hold onto the rail. And the inspector agreed. He even complimented Hubby on the solid construction and the design of the structure. 

Well, apparently, we need a "grab-able handrail" on the inside of those railings. Hubby is annoyed. We have to special-order the one rail he will concede to put up. I'm still not certain why we have to have it. The sidewalk has sunk a bit, but that will be fixed when the weather is warmer - the guy who built our house wasn't exactly persnickety in his construction methods. Let's just say that "rebar" was never on the parts list when he poured the sidewalks... 

It's a great deck; it'll be lovely to have the added space (the steps are wider and easier to maneuver with three dogs), and it's nice to have something pretty to look at. I think he's tossing around the idea of doing this same railing on our porch, which will need some TLC soon. 

Random Picture...

Hearts are everywhere. This morning, in the Chicago Tribune, the front-page story was about a couple, Roger and Joe, who finalized the adoption of a brother and sister who've been in their custody since babyhood. 

Heart on a Bread Tab
We need these stories. We need them to balance out the ugly, hateful stuff we see. We're in a very weird stage of our development as a nation. Kid #1 and I had that discussion while I was kneading the shortbread. 

My concern is that we're all in our little "social media bubble." We hang around with friends. We listen to opinions that reinforce our own. There may be people who read this blog who, when I mention the couple, Roger and Joe, they might be offended. 

Am I always comfortable? No, not really. Am I aware that the world is sorely in need of peace and love? Yes. Am I aware that we're a speck in the eye of God, and that we're in a place right now where hate seems to have a slight upper hand? Sadly, yes. Families like Roger and Joe? They've adopted 2 kids. They've put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. Walked the walk. Talked the talk. Whatever cliche you want to use, go for it. They've brought these two kids into their family and into their hearts, and will raise them to be wonderful adults - and maybe I'm sugar-coating it, and there are elements of butterflies and moonbeams, but I always smile when I see an adoption; because I know that for so many other kids, adoption isn't an option. These guys are giving these kids a family. 

These faux-Christians always in the news who "say" that they're pro-life? Don't see them adopting - and if they're protesting abortion clinics and harassing women who go to Planned Parenthood, I'm thinking they're not fostering kids or seeking other solutions. They have one issue in mind and that's the end of their discussion. I'm quoting Sr. Joan Chittester, a Benedictine nun for whom I have much respect:

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

These words have generated a lot of controversy. But in their essence, they are saying something: We need, as humans, to look beyond a one-issue platform. We need to see that, if we don't do those things which we are commanded to do regardless of the faith we espouse -- and really, The Golden Rule is central to most of the mainstream faiths -- if we don't feed the hungry, if we don't make sure that the children are truly educated (as in - to THINK, not just pass tests), and if we don't make sure that people are adequately housed? 

How can we say we believe in anything remotely "Christian" if we narrow our focus to one issue? How can we abide by that most basic tenet: "Treat each person the same as you wish to be treated" - if we don't look at the essential human-ness of that person?

Look for the hearts. They're there. If you have eyes to see. 








Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hit By A Really BIG Bus...

...that's what I'm feeling lately. Not sure I can talk about it yet. But I will. 

And I have a "migraine hangover" so please bear with me... It was a 2-Maxalt headache, but it seems like I've got a bit of a fog going on.

Just A Few Things...

Just a few things have happened lately. The Cubs won the World Series. Yes, they did!

And we elected a bullying moron for president. Yes. We did. 

I watched the Cubs, though I admit I went to bed in disgust when they and their bats didn't show up for that one game. But I did it. I'm glad I was able to do that because being a life-long Cub fan, it's certainly something I've never done. So I guess I can cross that one off my bucket list. 

I would like to go to a game at Wrigley just once. I hear that it's the atmosphere more than anything else. You certainly won't have the amenities one has at home, like multiple camera angles, your favorite chair and a quick trip to the bathroom! But it would be nice to see it. I suppose I could find some knitting to bring along with me. 

I love the chalk wall. This is on one wall of Wrigley Field (probably two walls, by now) and grew organically. The management let it be, and people have been adding "In memory of..." messages since the Cubs won. Management is going to preserve it in photos though they've already said they're going to eventually power-wash it all as they continue to renovate the ball field. By all rights, my grandmother and my great-grandma should be on that wall. But they're in my heart, so that's all that matters. I will be making some small "W" flags and will, come spring, plant them at their graves. 

The cemeteries clean the gravesites to prepare them for winter, so if I do anything now, it's likely to be removed. 

We can wait. 

We've waited this long...

Knitting...

So, I was an election judge this year, and I knew it was going to be busy. Despite what the national results were, our polling place was constantly moving. We had over 560 voters (we're tiny - this was a big turnout), and I think our longest break was perhaps 20 minutes. 


I knew the baby sweater wasn't going to cut it. I was at the only fiddly-bit on the whole thing: adding the curve to the neck. Instead, I grabbed the Shape-It scarf since the wings are straight knitting. 

I sat next to Nick, a newbie judge who was THE. SLOWEST. TYPIST. EVER. We have tablets to check people in, though we still vote on paper. Nick was the absolute slowest person on the planet, and it was all I could do to not snatch the tablet from beneath his fingers. 

He was trying, bless his little heart...

And in a lull, he says to me, "Are you crocheting?" Hey - I give him props for KNOWING enough to ask. So I explained that I was knitting, and I let him pet the baby alpaca yarn. His mother "did one or the other, I don't know" and he has a "blanket" that was done for him. 

Very nice guy. And he appreciated the alpaca (or he was a great faker about it!). But I really didn't get more than 2 rows done, maybe 3. I'm going to try to put a few more rows on in the next day or so. I want to get it done so that I can block it out and wear it when the weather finally turns. It'll look lovely with my leather coat.

The baby sweater is growing. I'm on the sleeve, got about maybe 10 rows to go before I bind off there, and finish the body. Then - done. Just the buttons. 

I realized, to my chagrin, that the buttonholes are askew. Blast! It was the World Series. I'm going to have to take the sweater to a priest for a blessing as it is, since during a few of the games, I wasn't saying anything nice... I'll just tell mommy that the whole thing is asymmetrical and this is a design component. 

That works. 

I think I can pull a matching hat out of the yarn I have left. And maybe a pair of booties, but I'll have to put some brown tops on them or something. Haven't gotten that far yet. Or maybe I do the hat with a brown ribbing edge? Or stripes? It could be cute. And the buttons are brown, that's why I'm veering in that direction.

Christmas Baking 2016...

The Great Potica Bake Part I has happened. Ten. Count 'em. TEN long loaves, 2 small ones. Kid #2 came down to help, because of Hubby's chipped wrist bone - he didn't have enough flex in his wrist to help roll. 

I tried something different this time. I did the prep in stages. I did the filling and stuck that in the fridge on Friday. Then, on Friday night I did the dough.

I checked with my friend and chef Carolyn - and she said, "yeah do up to the first rise and stick it in the fridge - it'll rise a bit and should be fine."

Well. It doubled in size and popped the lid off the sealed bowl. Hmmmmmm. 

I was off to a church function on Saturday, and The Kid was going to come down around noon. We serve lunch at the local homeless shelter as part of our outreach. Sadly, I was kind of verging on a migraine, which didn't help (and yeah, it "bloomed" after the last bake, thankfully). 

I asked Hubby to take the dough out of the fridge, and I think we had a bit of a problem estimating how long it would take to warm up. Just as, I think, we underestimated how long it would take to cool off - the rising happened because the dough was warm and it took a while to chill, so the yeast did its thing...

The Kid took charge of the filling and did the "drudge work" of greasing pans and flouring the cloth. I wanted him to help roll, but seeing as he's a large guy (tall - just about 6'2") and has hands that are "basketball hands" -- that didn't work out well. 

I ended up doing the rolling, and as the dough came to warm up, the rolling was - even though I hesitate to say it - perfect. Seriously, no trouble after the first one, which was still too cold. 

See, here's the issue: Potica dough is notorious for being more finicky than you can imagine. It's bothered by temperature. It's crabby about humidity. It's cranky about the amount of flour on the cloth... And it's picky about the rolling pin. 

I ended up with my marble rolling pin. (Hey mom, since I've been doing these for 6 years now, can I have Dad's ball-bearing solid oak rolling pin, please???) It worked well, and the cloth, being fairly new, actually behaved better than last year. 

There's also mythology about the cloth too. We had a damask tablecloth. It was, in my estimation, about 40 years old. I finally retired it the year before last, when it got too hole-y to patch anymore and the darns were so large that they were tearing the dough. 

The dough has to be thin, and the cloth was already worn. The darns didn't help. So we bought a new one a few years ago, and it's taken some punishment to break it in. It's good now, I think. 

I rolled, he prepped the rolled dough (and no, I can't give you details. The mythology also involves secrecy about the exact components of the recipe. My granny would haunt me.), and we got it all put together. 

We thought at first that we'd have to re-do the last batch of dough because of the extraordinary rise it got overnight, but it seemed like everything went well. 

We may do another single batch over Christmas break so that we have extra for Easter. It freezes well. And I've got 4 of them sold for Christmas already. Thankfully, I got 4 "pretty" ones out of this day's work. Kid #2 got one of the half-loaves for his help.

Frankly, I missed Kid #1 - he's our "premier roller" and he's working out of state. He may not even come home for Christmas. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. But I don't have a choice in that one, that's for sure... All I can do is send him a care package and hope he's doing ok. 

So here's The 2016 Cookie List. It's mostly final. I may put together a biscotti, just to lighten up all the heavy flavors. 

Kid #2 has his list and he usually brings them to our family celebrations. 

This is the list that ends up on my holiday platters for gifts. So there also may be some pumpkin bread or some date-somethings. 

I like to have variety, and while I appreciate the tradition of the same cookies, I always try a few different ones every year to shake things up a bit. I noticed that I didn't add any "bread" or "bar cookies" so those might make it on there. 

The "walnut tarts" -- those are a new invention of mine. I have more potica filling left. I didn't make it as "wet" as Hubby thinks I should, but I think it's too wet and doesn't cook well when the filling is too heavy. And my dad never put a lot of filling in. And the dough was especially thin this year, as I mentioned, so I went with a little lighter hand. 

Hubby has been bugging me. Nay - he has been positively NAGGING me to try his grandma's Never Fail Pie Crust. I've been avoiding it, because I don't do pie crusts. But Kid #2 tried it (he also stinks at pie crusts) and told me (ha!) "The Curse is lifted...it works, so go for it." 

So what I thought, since I only have about a half-batch of filling left, and there's no way I can make only a "half-batch" of dough, is that I might try a tart. Tiny tarts. Like pecan tassies, if you know what those are. If not, I've provided a link. My granny used to make these, too. 

This is the experiment for the day. It may flop tremendously, but it might be ok. We shall see. 

Garden Bounty...

The garden has given up everything but the carrots, and those are coming out soon. 

This is the last of the kale, and Hubby got a 2-quart bag full of Brussels Sprouts, which isn't bad for our first year. 

It's getting cooler, so I'm not in the mood for smoothies. I did The Google and found that I could just bag it and freeze it (after washing, of course!). I bought a can of soup for the office and it's Kale, Quinoa and Red Lentil. That shouldn't be too hard to duplicate. Or even a creamy kale soup? Or adding it to a veggie soup. Once it's frozen, I can chunk off a hunk and dice it up, toss it in a stew or soup, and there ya go. 

Or I can let it stay in the fridge and use it next year for smoothies. Either way. Didn't want to waste it, so this is a great alternative. 

If anyone has any decent recipes, I'm all ears. I know I can't do my usual sauteed kale. Like most greens, freezing changes the texture. Maybe I can fiddle with Mario Batali's Kale Pesto recipe. Boy, I wonder if that would be too strong? Kale makes itself known, and sometimes that's not always good. 

I'm also wondering how the Brussels Sprouts will be, and I'm toying with a potatoes-and-sprouts recipe for Thanksgiving. We still have Rosemary in the garden, and I've frozen some basil and parsley. 

As has been our practice, we're doing most of Thanksgiving again, though my mom is hosting. I don't mind, and in past years, we've been parceling out the side dishes to the grandkids - they have to learn somehow, so it's a good thing to do. And for the most part - they're mostly boys; they'll eat anything. 

The Election...

OK, I think I'm ready to talk. 

I was devastated by the results of the election on a couple of levels. First, in full disclosure, I am not a fan of Hillary. I was a Bernie voter and I would vote for him again in a heartbeat. And I think he'd have beaten the bullying moron (or BM as I shall hereinafter refer...).

Do I believe we need a woman as president? Absolutely. Just not her. 

Is she qualified? Absolutely. But we don't do political dynasties here in the US. It was bad enough with Pappy Bush and Shrub. And then Jebbie tried again - and failed miserably. 

Hillary, despite her qualifications, has more baggage than O'Hare International Airport during the Thanksgiving weekend. It was never going to happen. I'm sorry to burst bubbles, but it wasn't going to happen. 

As usual, Democrats sat on their laurels and underestimated "the base." That nebulous group of individuals who vote and always, always stun the professional data-geeks spoke, loudly.

That being said, many people spoke by silence. The voter turnout was at a historic low for a presidential year - especially given the contentious nature of this election cycle. 

My boss is a typical (R) - she's a Reagan-worshiper and was gleeful at the prospect of a "better" SCOTUS. And she voted for the BM. And she said, "If I had any INKLING he'd win, I'd have voted 3rd-party." Which in essence meant she'd have voted for the bullying moron. 

Stuff is whirling around about the Electoral College being overturned, and maybe we need to have that discussion - when tempers and emotions have cooled. We really do need to at least talk about it. It wouldn't have mattered which way the election had gone, because the discussion about the institution itself needs to be had. We have drilled into our kids' heads that "your vote matters," but really, in a presidential election, it doesn't seem to. Hillary has won the popular vote. But she lost the EC vote, at least for now. 

The Federalist papers say that the Electors have a duty to make sure the president is fit and to determine if there are any things or issues which would disqualify the candidate. The BM clearly is not qualified. The terrified visage portrayed during the ceremonial White House visit is clear. Boss Lady, for what it's worth, thinks that he won't last more than 2 years. But 2 years is a long time to do a lot of damage. 

And she thinks that even if Pence is then Prez, Roe v. Wade will be fine. FINE... she says. "It's an institution, like Brown v. Board of Education. It won't be overturned." I hope she's right. Pence is the one who says that Indiana women have to bury ANY miscarriage births. And he tried to create a state-run media. 

While I cringe at the thought of Kim Jong Il and Vladmir Putin at a state dinner, I feel for my younger sisters-in-life - the women of child-bearing age who will clearly have all choice taken from them if that guy gets hold of the Presidential Pen.  

So my choice is to sit and wring my hands; do "Facebook activism;"** or actually, you know, DO SOMETHING. 

I'm choosing to do something. I'm not sure what, but I'm taking Bernie's advice as seen in this clip here. I posted this and a friend of mine, who for some reason HATES Bernie, said she "couldn't bear his sneering face." 

I don't think Bernie sneers. But I appreciate her bruised feelings. I don't like her tone, but I can only control my own reaction to others. 

I have already contacted my senator and representative, and asked them to demand that the BM release the taxes. We have a right to see if there are any disqualifiers there (see the comment on the EC above). I'm going to donate to causes which will have an impact. I'm going to write letters. I'm going to call people (which is REALLY out of my comfort zone) and I'm going to talk to local officials, too. Nationally, we must do something about the stranglehold now on our government - and locally, we could always use the help, too. It starts locally, and grows into a global movement. 

**Facebook activism refers to those folks who "click" or "share" something and then feel all proud of themselves for "being involved."

Don't kid yourself. You're a speck on the cosmos. You're better off getting off your rear end and actually contributing something: even a little bit helps. Make a phone call. Write a letter. Join a cause. Contribute money if you can. But don't sit in your chair clicking away and thinking you're changing the world. Because you're not. 

So that's my take. I will do my homework and pick a cause or causes to concentrate on. And I will get involved. This is our wake-up call. 

Random Picture... 

So the deck is coming along. We have a "deck" part, we have railings (not up yet) and posts. The steps are all stained and coming along. Even with a chipped bone in his wrist, Hubby is plugging along. 


Today, we take down the hummingbird feeders and get them stored away for winter. He may even mow one or two more times this season. He's determined to get the deck done before the cold sets in. I will, of course, post a picture of the finished product. 

We chatted about whether we're going to put the grill out there. "Or do you want to sit out here," he says. 

We've had a lovely patio he put together about 10 years ago. Upon which we've rarely sat. Even with nice chairs. We have a porch. Upon which we've rarely sat... We're not really "outside-sitters." But maybe we should be. 

It's all part of being a part of your neighborhood and a part of society. We've lost the "porch sitter" aspect of our neighborhood, and I think that's to our detriment. I am horribly shy (go ahead, laugh, but it's true). I don't like to be in situations where I'm faced with people I don't know. 

But it's time to step out of that comfort zone. Not like I'm going to change the world, right? 

But then again, by changing my own attitude, am I not making a step toward changing the world? Margaret Mead said it best: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has."




















Tuesday, October 25, 2016

True Confessions...

...I have never seen a World Series. 

The snarky among you might mention that I am, after all, a Cub fan...

But I'm going to watch tonight; we'll see if the "family curse" holds, because my granny used to not watch. Yep. NOT watch. Because she said when she DID watch, they lost. 

I'm hoping the curse isn't really a curse. 

So the first thing that strikes me is the number of people IN THE STANDS who choose to watch the game through their stinkin' cell phones.

People. You are AT THE WORLD SERIES. Put down the phone... 

Most of the time we watch sports on TV we either watch for the commercials (Super Bowl) or to see who's singing the National Anthem and how badly they botch it. Baseball - tonight's game, for example - doesn't start with the anthem. They just started right in.

Well, I don't know if my heart can stand this game!

Knitting...

The sweater continues apace. I'm almost to the point of putting the left side onto the scrap yarn so I can continue with the right front and the rest of the right sleeve. It's progress. It's buttonholes, so on we go. 

Theoretically, I should be practicing my guitar. Christmas is coming... But I'm cranking away at the blog and then working on the sweater. I can't decide my next project. Oh, I know I'm going to shoot for a hat, at least. Maybe socks, if I can find a toddler sock pattern. 

But I need a project for me. I mean, aside from finishing the Shape-It scarf. I have to Stash Dive, though. Yes, I have yarn that I've purchased, but I really need to get into the stash and start some of those projects that have been sitting there for a while. 

We shall see. 

Socks, definitely, but I want something to wear other than on my feet. Or on my neck. Kinda tired of scarves, too (sorry, Shape-It - I consider you lace, not a "scarf" that'll keep me warm with a jacket).

Reading...

I've started "The Citadel." It's an oldie but a goodie. Yes, I have 2 books going, but that's not odd for me. It's a smaller book, so I can drag it to work and read on my (ha) lunch breaks. 

I try to take a "computer break" during the day; I work on computers all day and I get tired of looking at the screen. I usually try to read a "real" book, though I have used my Kindle. I get a lot of my books from the second-hand store, and that makes it easier for me to stay within my "book budget."

Smoothie...

So I made a smoothie with garden kale. Surprisingly, I was unable to find Haas avocados, so I bought something called a Florida avocado. And it stunk... I mean it wasn't ripe, and it felt like it was frozen solid sometime during transit. I had to skip the avocado in my smoothie. I was a bit concerned because it was very kale-heavy, so I added 2 bananas, a pear, a cucumber and an apple. 

As you can see by the picture, the Florida avocado has a smoother skin and it's HUGE. The gal at the Jewel said it was "just like" the Haas avocado, but from what I've read, the calories and the fat content are not alike. Aside from the size (which is the issue with the calories), I'm not all that sure I'd use it again. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to use it at all... It wasn't ripe, and I had to have Hubby help cut the blasted thing. And of course, if they're not ripe, they're not going to get any better when they're cut. I tasted it, and it was like eating a green banana. Urgh. 

I don't know - maybe it would've been better if the thing was actually ripe. Or maybe I should have just sprung for the Haas avocados, but due to a shortage, they were really pricey. 

So in order to "save the smoothie," I ended up adding honey. I rarely add sweeteners because I don't think you need them. But this one needed honey. 

And more. So I rooted in the freezer and found a small bag of blueberries. That did it. It looks a little "dark" but it tastes pretty good. It's a little more liquid without the creaminess of the avocado, but it's something I'd do again...if I can remember what it was I actually did!

The garden is still belching kale, and the carrots have to be pulled up yet. We may yet have an experiment with kale soup. Or kale pesto - that sounds good. While I like my sauteed kale, I'm a little bored with it. I have to think of something else to do with kale that's savory. I have to think about it a bit. 

Random Picture...

From last fall, at the park. It was a lovely afternoon, and we took the girls for a long walk. The colors were at their peak and the light was perfect. So far this year? I'm not sure how the colors will go. It was an odd summer, and it was on the wet side too. Our backyard tree hasn't decided if it's going to turn color yet, and the front yard tree is still pretty bright green. Mr. K's birch tree is a waterfall of green and gold; but so far, nothing else is moving. 

All I can do is wait and see what happens in the next few weeks. I'm afraid it's going to be a "blink and miss it" kind of fall. 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Monogamy...

Have I got your attention?

Well, it's not what you think. But maybe it is. 

The Cubs...

WE WON!!! The Cubs are going to the World Series. I'm beside myself. I wore my Ron Santo jersey to church today, and when a confirmed Cubs-hater (what the heck...I never did understand that) pointed out to me that the Gospel today was Luke, and it was about humility, I smiled and said, "We've been humble for over 100 years."


He tossed his hands up, and said, "Well, you got me there."

And what is it about Cubs-haters? Hubby, sadly, is one, and I don't understand it. Even my friend Sue, who bleeds White Sox colors, actually said that this was going to be the Year of the Midwest Match-up. This was always a thorn in our relationship. But she's come around. She was in Billy Goat Tavern last night to watch the game. I'm so jealous of that! 

World Series tickets are out of sight...I heard anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000. Yikes! Guess I will be watching from the comfort of my knitting chair...

My granny would have loved this. We were talking about it in yoga tonight and while Hubby insists that we should, genetically, be Sox fans, it wasn't that way. We had WJOL and Channel 9. It was Cubs all the way. 

I was predisposed to be a Cub fan from an early age. We listened to WJOL and they had the Cubs games. We watched the 4 channels we had, and Grandma and Grandpa preferred Channel 9. "Home of the Chicago Cubs." 

So there you have it. The reason I bleed blue and red. 

I have three wish list items:

1.  A real Cub jacket (I sent 2 links to Hubby)
2.  A Greg Maddux Cubs jersey
3.  A Dave Ross Cubs jersey

My Ron Santo jersey is my pride and joy. And I did buy a "Champions" t-shirt with Rizzo's number on it. It's the first "new" Cubs attire I've purchased in probably 10 years. 

Tuesday will be a nail-biter. The city is truly ready. We're ready for this. We've waited long enough.

Knitting...

See the cream color here, second batch of hanks from the right? THAT is the "beige" I was referring to. 

I went back to Wool & Company to pick up my Haps book (more about that in a moment), and in the meantime, I worked on a bit of a review for the e-zine I subscribe to, "Addicted to Sock Knitting." I had owed them this review for a while, but when Wool & Co. was in between owners and we weren't sure what was going to happen (will they stay or will they close?) I had to wait. 

It was worth the wait!

And of course, I came home with more sock yarn. I've never knitted with Sirdar, but I have folks in the ASK group who have, so I do have to post this for their ideas. Not sure which pattern will call this yarn. Some folks can tell right away, and I don't have that knack yet. But I loved the combo. I would prefer if yarn companies would at least put a sample pic or have a poster showing what their yarns look like knitted up. But some shops don't want the posters. The gal in Morris had lots of Opal posters, but this person at Wool & Co. wants a cleaner look - you can tell by how she's organized things, so I don't think there will be anything like that. 

From a quick Google search, it looks like Sole to Sole is primarily a self-striping yarn and they're pretty strong stripes. Maybe a plain vanilla with a ribbing down the sides would be nice. 

It's mine. All mine! Finally! The Book of Haps is here and I have it. The patterns are truly drool-worthy, and there are several without charts, so I can take a stab at them. Also, I saw a beautiful lace pattern that was charted AND written out. Heaven!

What I also like are the historical bits. The pictures. The background. 

I have the Hansel hap downloaded from Ravelry. I just have to get it to the top of the list. 

Thus brings up the concept of Monogamy.

Monogamy...

Are you monogamous? I am. 

And I don't only mean in marriage. I mean in many other things: I'm not a "swings both ways" kind of gal in sports. I'm a Cub fan and that's it. I was ok with the Sox winning the pennant before we did, but I wasn't dancing in the streets. I don't expect die-hard Sox fans to dance in the street, but I do expect an appreciation of what the Cubs have become. It's just plain respect for good work and a great team. 

I'm also monogamous when it comes to politics, for the most part. I'm a liberal progressive. I tend to vote that way and I tend to believe that polices that include ALL of us are generally good for our society as a whole, rather than narrow bits of the population. 

I'm also - I think - monogamous when it comes to projects. I really, really, REALLY want to start another project, but I have the baby sweater to finish. And then I have the Shape-It scarf. And then I have the socks. I have two singletons that need mates. 

So perhaps I'm "serially monogamous" in that I have a lot of WIPs on the needles, but I knit for long stretches on one project, till I finish it. I know - I have SABLE (Stash Available Beyond Life Expectancy) and a WIP list that would shock you. Or maybe not...

And I've tried the "knit this on Monday, this on Tuesday..." system. It doesn't work. Because of my schedule, it's not uncommon for me to go several days without picking up the needles. So if it was a complex thing, like the February Lady Sweater (WIP), it's not going to happen if I have only a half hour. For one thing, it's gonna take me a half hour to figure out where I am in the pattern. But also, with a lacy yoke, I need time to get past that part. Once I'm on the body or sleeves or wherever there's a whack of straight, clean knitting, I can do that piecemeal stuff. But for right now? 

If I start a hap, I'll be knitting on that hap till the cows come home. And I have a baby to knit for first!

Pumpkin Spice Everything...

I'm not a huge PSL fan. I think that pumpkin spice in coffee sounds, frankly, icky. But as I put together a cup of tea this afternoon, I found this decaf in my Tea Box. This tea is older than the PSL craze, actually... And it was pretty good, but it needed to be double-strength before you could actually taste anything. 

I have a few more bags; I'll have to pull them out. I had a migraine starting the other day and frankly, I was on a caffeine binge. I had taken an Excedrin Migraine, which works if I catch it quickly enough. I had a couple of cups of chai which is totally not normal. But it all helped. Though I had a hard time sleeping this weekend. 

This tea is decaf, which was nice. It was warming and felt good going down. Don't know if I can find it again. I know I'm annoyed because I can't find my favorite chamomile anymore, but I don't know if I'd go out of my way to find this pumpkin spice tea. It's fine, but when I'm out? No worries. 

Random picture...

I went to the Jewel today. First off, I figured they'd have a Cubs shirt there. Don't judge me. It's our time...

And I needed to find a few other things. I came across this. Woah. 

It's jackfruit. It's kinda ugly. And kinda big; to the left there are pomegranates. And to the right is taro - our Jewel is getting exotic. These things were easily the size of footballs, if not larger. According to a story in the Washington Post, it seems to be pretty versatile. It's a member of the breadfruit and fig family. And apparently, it can be used as a meat substitute. Who knew?

It's also kinda pricey. But I can see why, since it can be used for everything from a salad to a burger. 

I'm up for an experiment, but this is kind of ridiculously large. I read the article I linked here - and I don't think it's worth the money to try it. Especially given that this is way, WAY more brown than they're suggesting at WaPo. 

The article says it has a texture similar to pulled pork. But in order to break the fruit down, you have to glove, spread newspapers, oil the knife AND your gloved hands... Ummmmmm. No thanks. I think I'll stick with pulled pork MY way. 






Friday, October 21, 2016

Progress...

And the deck continues. Today, Hubby finished the concrete blocks. Tomorrow, since it got chilly this afternoon, the adhesive holding the blocks will be put on. Then he's got to drill for the footings, and pour those. 

An inspection happens after the footings are poured and then once more after he frames it in. 

It's going to be as I suspected, a "plain Jane" deck, but he's going to do something a little different. See the "upper" corner (upper right hand of the blocks) and the "lower" corner (the corner to the lower right just ahead of the sidewalk)? When spring comes, he's going to create block work that makes those into a pair of "garden" areas. He's also going to extend the paving blocks - the deck comes nearly to the property line, and he wants to "ring" it with the pavers because we have to keep our garbage cans in the back by the shed (local ordinance), and when he needs to bring them to the front on trash day, he wants a firm surface to haul them, especially in the winter. 

Yes, it's the north side of the house, but I think I can get hostas to grow there, or coral bells. Or maybe even some boxwood, for year-round green. If I want to do flowers, they'll have to be shade-lovers because this is "deep north" - there's virtually no sunshine on that section because it's just about the middle of the house, and in our old neighborhood, the houses are kind of close together. 

The arborvitae there are our "best buy." When we started seriously landscaping the yard, we wanted a fence, but we wanted it to look natural. The home & garden store in one location was leaving to move across town. We got just about 30 of the arborvitae for $5 each. They wanted to get rid of them. And the trees just took off in that spot. We've cut a few down, because we needed the room when we did some work to the back yard, but otherwise, they're a lovely fence and the birds and squirrels adore the fact that there's always a hiding place for them. 

Reading...

I finished "The Edible Woman" by Margaret Atwood. It was Atwood. It was a good story, and the end is a twist. Like I said: Atwood. 

I'd recommend reading her stories. I find her imagery clear and her structure really strong. And - she makes me think. Some of her stories are definitely dystopian in nature, but that's what makes her who she is and what makes her writing so impactful. She holds a mirror up and shows us the worst - but makes it redeeming because of her characters. 

Now, I've started "An Unnecessary Woman," by Rabin Alameddine. It's about an elderly woman "with a past shaped by the Lebanese Civil War." Already, I feel like I could sit down with this woman and have a nice chat over some tea and cookies. I've linked it to the NPR review. 

I've set aside Jimmy Carter's tome about women, abuse of power and religion. It's a great read in that there's certainly enough evidence to go around. But it's heavy. It's a book you can certainly pick up and put down, and I think at this point, I need to take it in small doses. I really want to finish it; but with everything going on at work, frankly - I'm exhausted and my brain hurts. I've been billing 4 - 6 hours a day, but that's also with doing overtime. 

I really want to just come home and knit or read something "fluffy." So Jimmy Carter has to wait a bit till things ease up.


Knitting...

The thing is - it's still a partial sweater. It's a little bigger. But not much else has changed. I'm going back to Wool & Co. to pick up my Book of Haps. It's in. They called (it was quick) and Hubby texts me, "Your book of hats is in." 

Yeah. Hats. Haps. He doesn't know, poor dear. For those of you who don't know, a hap shawl is a large-ish shawl that you can wrap about yourself. Think of the way Maureen O'Hara wrapped a shawl around herself in "The Quiet Man," and you'll sort of have the idea. I got hooked on the idea of actually knitting one from "Jean's Knitting" - a blog I follow. So I had a peek at the Hansel (and downloaded it from Ravelry), and then I decided I needed the book. 

When I was at Wool & Co., I thought they had it. I wanted to buy it from a local business. I could've gotten it from Schoolhouse Press or Amazon, but I wanted to support them. And I'm surprised it got here so fast!

I have to ask them for permission to review them for the Addicted to Sock Knitting e-zine. I was all set to write the shop up, but then I found out they were closing. I had to wait to see if they'd reopen, and I'm glad I did - even though the sock-yarn area is a bit smaller, it's an amazing redesign of the shop. 


When Roberta and I got there, she immediately gravitated to the bulky yarns, and they were kind enough to figure out what she'd need for a plain cover for a twin bed for her one grandson. I can't wait to see how it turns out. 

And yes. I bought yarn. I bought some Regia "ragg" sock yarn; I needed (ha - go ahead, laugh) something kind of middling-plain for a nice ribbed sock. And the Sweet Georgia is going to be another Shape-It Scarf. The purple had a rather strong competitor in the lovely pewter shot through with that silver sparkle. Who knows what will make its way into my bag next time...

And I saw the Churchmouse Double Reversible Poncho sitting on a chair and I tried it on. This one, I'm blaming on Roberta! The deep burgundy baby alpaca worsted? 

Yummmmmmmmmmm. I was torn between that and a beautiful beige. I know - you're thinking "Beige???" But it was a stunning deep cream color, which would go with anything I have in my wardrobe and it wasn't "too white" or "too bland." It was almost buttery, but not yellow, if that makes any sense. 

There was also a purple (of course) but I thought I wanted to do something a little different. This poncho is done in two parts and grafted together; it's a ribbed-ish pattern, enough to give it some interest. And then you kind of flip it and graft it. It's not too big. I'm making it with slightly less yarn because I know alpaca can take on a life of its own, and I didn't want something drooping down to my knees. This one hit me right at the hips, so that's kind of where I'm aiming. 

Random Picture...

Like I said, it was "a week" at work. The nasty divorce trial is going on Week #3. I don't even want to know the size of the bill, but thankfully, this client will pay us. (Don't get me started...it's been a long one)

I came home, cancelled my guitar lesson because I brought work home, and all I wanted to do was vegetate. Hubby reminded me that we had pierogi left in the freezer. So up came a small bag of potato and a small bag of sauerkraut. I ate them. Every one. 

My sister has had surgery on her right shoulder and right foot. The foot was a repair, and the shoulder was a first-time. She's cranky and not feeling like eating. She's a little bit of a thing, and loves my pierogi. So - when she's off her pain meds, I'll drop by and make them for her. I have a bag left in the fridge, and if they're not her favorite flavor, I'll make her some fresh ones. 

Hubby has gone to bed...he was up before the hens and worked hard on the deck. I've turned off the TV because there was a French film on with subtitles, and I didn't want to watch it. I'm enjoying the quiet, with Tippi here snoozing next to me. 

I'll knit a few more rows on the sweater and then head off to bed myself. Haircut in the a.m. and we need to go vote. And I have a private yoga session to teach in the afternoon. 

How's your weekend shaping up?