Monday, August 30, 2021

It took all summer

 It took all summer and now that school has started we finally made it to the beach.  We put chairs in the car, took our books, PH took his bathing suit and towel and off we went.  It wasn't over 90 degrees (like it's been for the past two weeks,) it wasn't a crowded weekend so no more excuses.

The skies were deep blue

The beach was almost deserted, the only people around were retired or young parents of toddlers
We decided this was what we'd do:  first we'd walk from the pavilion down to the pier, walk the pier and come back by way of the shoreline to the pavilion, get our chairs from the car and settle down.
Here he is, Dangerous Dan defying the roll of the waves to go to the Land's End. I hid behind that concrete structure you see along the margin.
As is usual with us, we changed course halfway through. We do that a lot.  You can do that when it's just the two of you.  I call it pivoting.  After our walk we decided the sun was really hot, we aren't looking for a tan so headed into town for lunch.  PH had never been to this restaurant and being a Monday and everything nowadays being prefaced with, "if it's still open" because of the lack of workers,  we figured this was the place for lunch.  I could guarantee he would enjoy this place
So here I am, one of those people taking pictures of food.  I find that a strange thing to do but here I was doing it.  PH is a traditionalist and had a hearty breakfast.  I warned him this place serves BIG portions.
I am more daring.  This was a Monte Christo sandwich drizzled with raspberry.  OMG.

We dawdled all the way home foraging at farm stands along the way and decided that even though we didn't sit in the sun on the beach we had a really good beach day.


Yesterday, while it was still over 90 degrees so the air conditioning was on I decided to make loaf #2 of the Pompeii Project.  No way was I going to do a winter thing like baking bread if the temperatures were like they've been but with the air conditioning on I had socks on and I thought I might have killed Montana so it was a test.  To see if I killed Montana. 

This recipe made two loaves, it's the one Friend Harry sent from the National Geographic article. I thought I could use the hot humid day to help the bread rise.  The directions even said, "place bread in a warm humid place to rise."  I could do that on the front porch.  It was a heavy rise, it took 6 hours, three for the first rise, three for the second.  So essentially, this was an all day project.  It was very different from the first recipe. Very different.  This one called for fennel seeds, poppy seeds, fresh parsley, it smelled different when baking.  I am not going to say how this one compared to the first loaf till Friend Harry and Marge taste their loaf.  I don't want to influence their taste buds.   

Oh, by the way, I did not kill Montana.  She perked up just fine after I fed her.  Kind of like me.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Saga Continues

 In my head I originally called this quilt Pink Quilt.  I don't name my quilts per se but I do refer to them as someone sometimes.  Do you recall that I had it machine quilted by someone with a long arm and it turned out to be a BIG mistake because it was quilted so horribly?  Sure you do, the photos where ghastly.

I spent some time with a pile of safety pins and marked the places that were the absolute worst of the machine quilting and ripped those sections out, restitched them by hand all the time realizing the thing was going to look like a hodge podge of quilting, then handed it to PH to wash in hot water and put in the dryer to see if the machine stitching I left in would tighten up a bit, saving me from having to rip the entire quilt apart.   This is how it came out of the dryer.  I thought, "well, ok, it's a utility quilt and so just ok."
I really loved that the back made the quilt reversible and gave a reason for this panel print to live.
Here are the pieces with better lighting.  The white background was nice.
And this is how it came out of the dryer.  When PH handed it to me and I turned it over I could not believe what I saw. Those squares are, as you can see, quite pink. I didn't believe what I was seeing.
BUT the big mystery - look at that white border!  NO pink bled onto that white border. None. Not a teensy smidge of a bleed. AND it didn't turn any of the lighter colors on the front pink!  I do not understand at all but I thought actually it didn't ruin an already ruined quilt, as long as the pink bleed behaved and stayed within the white border you could make the argument it was supposed to be this way, that the panel was originally this color AND I was ever so eternally grateful I didn't cut and use these squares into something really special only to have THAT ruined.   This Pink Quilt has lived up to its name.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger


I like reading prequels especially when, in your own time, you come to wonder about what came before.

Lightning Strike  is a Cork O'Connor  story that takes us back to his adolescent years when Cork's father is tasked with finding the reason Big John Manydeeds is found hanging from a tree at Lightning Strike, a sacred place to the Ojibwe on Iron Lake.   People who want to dismiss any death of a Native American say it was suicide but it just doesn't make sense to the people who know him both on and off the reservation. Why was his blood alcohol level off the charts when he didn't drink anymore?  How did he get up that tree by himself? These are questions the people want but don't trust Liam O'Connor to find the answers to.

Cork's got a pretty good life for a small town boy in early 1960's Aurora, Minnesota.  Freedom to roam morning to night, a couple of paper routes to give him some money, two best friends,  parents who are respected, though his father Liam has to work hard for respect because he is Irish and married in.  Because Cork has the freedom to move around the lakes and area on his bike and canoe and because his mother and grandmother belong to the tribe, he has the respect of the elders in the tribe and the town.   This freedom makes him able to listen to the talk. He hears conversations his dad doesn't.  He sees things and makes connections and seeks the wisdom of tribal elders.  

Cork doesn't solve the mystery of Big John's death but he IS instrumental in gathering the information his father needs to put it all together.  He isn't a cocky little kid, he isn't perfect but he is smart and his parents understand him.  I had to think back to that time and remember what a child's freedom to roam meant.  

Eventually, after false starts and stops the pieces begin to come together and Big John's death is explained.  And we come to know how Cork O'Connor came to be Cork O'Connor.  

If you are a fan of Cork O'Connor and author Kreuger you won't be sorry you spent some time in the 1960's with this young man.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

New Project

 It was time for a new project.  This one required much research on my part only because I wanted to be as authentic as possible while still recognizing it could not possibly be authentic.  Get a cup of tea, this is going to be a long one.

Coincidentally Friend Harry and I happened to see a blurb in a magazine about 2,000 year old bread that had been found in the ovens of Pompeii and been analyzed and recreated.  I was intrigued and while he found the recipe from National Geographic, I looked online and discovered there are quite a few 2,000 year old bread recipes from Pompeii and they are all different.  I printed out a few, Harry sent me the one he downloaded and I started in.

First problem was sourdough starter.  Now, I love to bake and I'm a good cook if I do say so myself but I think there's something chemically about my make up that prevents successful bread.  I've tried for years and years and don't have good results.  A good result is more accident than skill for me. I've made bread in the past that the squirrels, who can crack a black walnut with their teeth struggle with a rejected loaf I tossed out the door. 

That being said the sourdough was my biggest concern.  I don't need another child.  I don't need another hobby and sourdough starter sounds like a big pain.  But, the Romans didn't go to the store and buy a packet of instant dry yeast so I searched for starter instructions.

PH suggested going online and on Etsy I found someone selling some of their family's 100 year old starter.  I ordered some.  But it was only about 1/4 of a cup and I needed to "grow" more. So THAT took time and crossed fingers that I didn't kill it.

I went to the library and got a couple of books.  I love Duff Goldman.  He may be silly but he's also a seriously trained baker and accessible.  I tried his recipe for starter.  He said to name your starter.  If you name it and it's sitting in the fridge you won't forget it.  I named this Duff.  Those are blueberries floating in there. He said to do that.  But after a week Duff didn't appear to be growing.  It smelled like he said it should but no bubbles.  I gave Duff the benefit of the doubt and made a small recipe of non-descript sourdough white bread and it was squirrel food.  Actually, it was less than that, I didn't even bake it.  Total flop.  Duff is going down the drain.

Montana, on the other hand was very bubbly. 

Now for the moment of truth.  I had grown enough of Montana to make half of one of the recipes I found online.  It had the smallest amount of ingredients, easiest instructions, most accessible ingredients.  I found the ancient grains, by the way, in a little store in the next town over.  I was shocked to find Kamut berries (now I have to find a way to grind them into flour which is why I didn't use THAT recipe.)  I even had Spelt in the freezer and I bought buckwheat flour and organic bread flour. 
I printed out a few of the other recipes, they are all different so I'm not really sure how authentic these 2,000 year old Pompeii breads are "real."

I was pleased with the way it came together.  I could tell immediately that it might work.  This is the loaf unbaked, after rising.    If you want to be "authentic" you put the string belt around the loaf and score it.  That's the way they carried them as they came out of the ovens.  The string would have a loop tied in and they would string the loop onto a pole and carry them to sell them.  
Yesterday was a nice warm day so I put it outside, covered, in the sun to rise and it did (that can be one of my issues).  It cracked a bit but I was reluctant to grease it with olive oil.  Just in case.  I don't need to jinx any bread I make, I can do that quite well without trying. 

And here it is baked.  It actually looked good!  But it was late last night when it came out of the oven and one thing Duff said was don't cut a loaf while it's warm, there's still stuff going on with bread till it's cooled so leave it alone to cool.  By the time that happened we were willing to wait till this morning.
Ta Da!   This morning I cut a small slice.  The crumb is good, it's heavy, dense and PH and I both thought it tasted great.  It certainly isn't sandwich bread but more like a meal bread.  PH said it's dunking-in-olive-oil bread  and he's right.  It's got really good taste.  I did it!  Squirrels can just move on!

But I'm not finished.  Montana has been fed and sat on the sunny counter till it started to bubble again and now lives in the fridge.  I have to grow enough to make one of the other recipes - once I find a way to grind Kamut kernels into flour.   There's yet a third recipe I found that included fennel, poppy seeds and parsley that someone named Philostratus, a Greek born Imperial Roman-era sophist wrote about. It didn't come from Pompeii but what the heck, I've got the sourdough starter in the fridge.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

More stuff

 It's not like we are tied to our blogs and I don't feel the pressure anymore to produce regularly but I've come to realize this is just as much a diary as connecting with friends from afar.  I love hearing from everyone and apologize for getting so far behind in replying to your posts but rest assured I AM reading them.

So for the past couple of weeks it's been like this.  Hot. Hot enough we turned on the air conditioner.  I have a thing about air conditioners - I am eternally grateful we have one but I hate using it.  For our long winter we are shut up behind closed doors and windows so the minute the overnight temperature reaches 40 degrees we start sleeping with the windows open a little and once we take off the socks the doors and windows are open during the day and wide open at night for the night air and bug noises. I have to have fresh air.   But we've had some intense heat and humidity the past 10 days or so and it's meant windows are closed and the air con is on.  Tomorrow they promise this heat will end.  There's been enough rain that everything is green and lush, very unusual for mid-August when normally it's all brown and tired looking.

Our Ceci had a birthday
I have joined the ranks of those needing a hearing aid.  Can you see the little extension cord going from inside, over the top of the ear to the receiver behind?  Yesterday wonderfully kind Friend Laurie said she couldn't see it even when I was touching it to show her.  Friend forever, she.
There has been some hand project prepping going on in anticipation of our upcoming retreat at the end of September.  We hope this new variant of Covid will abate enough so we can go but are prepared for being told we can't.  It will kill me but we all want to live till tomorrow don't we?  PH and I still mask when we go inside anywhere, we never stopped.  I know lock downs are now happening in Australia but here in America I am quite sure there would be anarchy if the government tried that again.  Instead they beg the naysayers to get vaccinated. And beg and beg and beg.

Our lovely Bob and Dodie were in town for a couple of days and we met on his 91st birthday for dinner.  When I told the waiter at the restaurant that we were being joined by a 91 year old birthday boy I am quite sure they didn't expect this coming in the door!  The waiter was so stunned with how young and vibrant Bob is he commented a couple of times and a man in the next booth came over to agree!  He and Dodie are so dear to us.

Peaches are here, blueberries are waning from peak and I had some of each so this morning I made some hand pies with two peaches, sliced them in half and put a half on a circle of dough, put another circle on top and baked them with blueberry turnovers.  They will cool and go in the freezer for future desserts with friends.  But dang they look good enough to eat!

There is also a new science project going on in the kitchen.  I'll document it if and when it works but it's getting close to being dealt with.  

We work the concert tonight at the Showboat so it's time to take a nap.  I asked PH if he ever wondered how much we would accomplish if we didn't take a nap and he said, "never."

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Yours Cheerfully

 Yours Cheerfully: A Novel (2) (The Emmy Lake Chronicles)

 Yours cheerfully by a. J. Pearce

     If you read Dear Mrs. Bird you will be well acquainted with the people in Yours Cheerfully because this is a continuation of the Emmeline Lake Chronicles. In fact it hardly skips a beat. In Dear Mrs. Bird young Emmy took a job at Women’s Friend magazine helping Mrs. Bird with the correspondence from readers. Her job, initially, was to sort the mail into approved topics, you know, the innocent questions that could be answered simply. But Emmy found that there were far more pressing concerns from readers and she crossed a couple of lines in reaching out to the readers. In the end she became the “new” Mrs. Bird with the parting of Henrietta Bird.

Yours Cheerfully picks up with Emmy becoming more of a journalist than just an advice columnist. The War Ministry needs workers in the factories and the men are all gone. It’s up to the women to take up the tasks and they are more than willing to pull up their overalls and do whatever it takes to bring their men home. The Ministry needs help recruiting women so they turn to the women’s magazines to spread the word.

Emmy thinks a good slant on this would be to tell readers just what working in a factory is like – in the words of the women already doing the work. And she’s right, but as she gets closer to the women as they tell their stories she discovers it isn’t as easy as the men in charge make it sound. If the women are working long shifts what are they to do with their children?

Emmy is back in full force with Bunty, Charles, her editor Mr. Collins and the rest of the Women’s Friend staff showing us that things really haven’t changed all that much. If you enjoyed Dear Mrs. Bird you will welcome the company again in Yours Cheerfully, a new installment in the Emmeline Lake Chronicles.