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...


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 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. 

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. 

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."

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