17 April 2022

Magpie on Magpies

Sometimes the universe conspires and magpies come at you from all sides. All three of these magpies came to me this past week.(Click the pix for more information.)

A friend sent a link to a podcast about a Japanese boy in an internment camp who befriended a magpie - or the magpie befriended him:

Another friend snapped a picture of a painting in a museum in Philadelphia, of a magpie eating cake:

Magpie eating cake-rubens peale

And the New York Times had an article about very very clever magpies in Australia, helping other magpies:

I do like magpies. They are smart and charismatic and nicely graphic.

26 February 2022

I Have Solved the Buttermilk Problem

You know how you buy a QUART of buttermilk because a recipe needs a little bit, and then the quart sits there in the fridge until it's over the hill and you throw it out, thereby wasting most of the quart? (And then you feel terrible because food waste is actually an enormous problem - the USDA estimates that more than 30% of the food supply gets wasted.)

I have figured it out, or - to be specific - I have found a way to buy one quart of buttermilk and use it all up in two recipes: Whole Grain Pancakes for breakfast, and Buttermilk Brined Chicken for dinner.

The recipe for the pancakes is something I adapted from the New York Times site; I changed up the flours a bit to reduce the carbohydrate load. They are very tender, and complexly flavored. We make up the whole batch and then I freeze what we don't eat for breakfast. They reheat well, in the toaster. In lieu of syrup, I usually blitz a handful of frozen strawberries in the microwave; they kind of fall apart and become a good syrup analog. Feel free to use maple syrup, if that's how you roll.


WHOLE GRAIN PANCAKES (makes about 14 good sized pancakes)
1 cup spelt (or whole wheat flour) 
3/4 cup almond meal 
1/2 cup cornmeal 
1/4 cup rolled oats 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
2 1/4 cups buttermilk 
3 eggs 
1/4 cup melted butter

 In a large bowl, mix together spelt, almond meal, cornmeal, oats, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, mix together buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until smooth. 

Heat up a griddle over medium heat. Add a little butter to the pan and let it melt. Using a 1/3 cup measure, pour batter onto griddle - make as many as you can at a time. Leave space for pancakes to spread. 

Cook until bubbles form and start to burst, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate as they finish, and serve immediately with butter and maple syrup or melted strawberries. 

Repeat with the remaining batter, until done. 

If you are going to freeze the excess, cool them on a baking rack. When cool, separate with waxed paper or parchment, and stack them into an airtight freezer container.

Once you've finished breakfast, you're going to want to brine the chicken. Back up. You've been roasting chicken for years. You shove a lemon or some herbs in the cavity, fling the bird in a cast iron skillet in a hot oven, and bob's your uncle. Roast chicken gets A LOT of ink, but it's not hard; it's just roast chicken. But. Brining your chicken in buttermilk? It's kind of magic. You think there's nothing new under the sun, and then you decide to make the quart of buttermilk come out even, and yeah. Do it.


Here's the thing: Samin Nosrat tells you to use 2 cups of buttermilk for one chicken in a gallon ziplock bag. BUT 1 3/4 cups is fine too, and 1 3/4 cups is what you have left after you're done making pancakes. Nosrat's recipe is divine and it's on her website. But you should get her book - Salt Fat Acid Heat - because it's good and useful and informative.

And there you have it. Two recipes, one quart of buttermilk, no science experiments with the leftover lurking in the back of the refrigerator.

25 February 2022

My Crankiness Knows No Bounds, and Yet...

About a month ago, I posted a picture of an envelope on Facebook...

PICTURE OF AN ENVELOPE WITH SOME 1-CENT STAMPS

...with a comment: See that envelope? That's in the outgoing mail. Does it have a check in it? It does not. It has a note asking that they take me off of their list because of that ridiculous stunt with the five 1-cent stamps.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Human Rights Watch has used this direct mail ploy; I wrote about it two years ago, on this very blog!

Today's mail included ANOTHER solicitation from Human Rights Watch. I opened it. (I always open the solicitations, it's like a busman's holiday - you have to check out what other non-profits are doing - and if they're really appealing I might even send them to my Development Department. And sometimes the March of Dimes sends you an actual dime - free money! I digress.)

I had to laugh. Instead of a bunch of live 1-cent stamps, it had printed images of stamp-like doodles.

Well played, Human Rights Watch, well played. (But no, don't put me back on your list.)

23 January 2022

The Warmth Of A Quilt

The summer before I went to college, my mother and I made a patchwork quilt for my dorm room. It wasn’t fancy, just a log cabin pattern made of 2” x 6” strips made into 6” blocks. And it wasn’t actually quilted - it was tied through to the blue and white gingham backing with yarn at the intersections of the blocks. On one of the corner blocks, I embroidered my initials and the year.

That quilt cheerfully lived on my dorm bed for four years, but once I graduated, it got stored away at my mother’s house.

Years later, after my daughter moved from a crib to a bed, I pulled the quilt out of storage. It looked perfect in her room. But over time, small person shenanigans, coupled with the age of the quilt, meant that the fabric was springing holes at the drop of a hat. Periodically, I’d haul it off the bed and appliqué new patches in place - patching the patchwork - but eventually I put it away and bought a down comforter for her bed.

This past September, she went off to college - to my alma mater, as it happens. Her dorm room is on a corner, and her bed is hard up against the window, and it’s a little chilly. She told me she thought she needed another blanket - and the quilt popped into my head.

So we pulled it out, and carefully catalogued the fragile spots, and I taught her how to cut the strips, turn and iron the edges, wrestle the quilt into position in the sewing machine, and patch patch patch.

We rebound the edges, and she embroidered a strip with her initials and 2022. 

The quilt went back to school with her yesterday.

It is crudely made, as far as quilts go, but it is full of love - my mother's, mine, and now my daughter's. And I hope it keeps her warm for years to come.

31 May 2021

Punch Line: Absence

An old family friend died today. They lived around the corner from us, and when we moved around the block, they lived down the street. 

My father first met Wally when he came around a corner and discovered a guy with a beat up Land Rover and a trailer ... and a boat that had fallen off the trailer into the street. They became fast friends - and remained friends for the next 50 years. 

 Wally was a musician, a raconteur, a delight. He loved to fish; here he is in the Deschutes, with his first steelhead, wearing an inimitable hat.
And he was an inveterate joke teller. Here's one: 

 A guy went to the doctor and said, Doctor, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but every time I fart, it sounds like the word honda. 
That’s interesting. I've never heard of anything like that before. Do you think you could fart for me? says the doctor. 
The guy said okay and sure enough, the doctor heard honda
After several attempts to figure out what was wrong with the guy, the doctor ran out of ideas, so he sent him to all sorts of specialists, but none of them could figure out why the guy's farts sounded like honda. Finally, as a last resort, someone suggested that the guy see a dentist. 
After explaining the problem to the dentist, the dentist opened the guy's mouth and examined his teeth. The dentist said Aha! You have an abscessed tooth
The guy said Okay, but what has that got to do with my farts?
Don't you see? said the dentist, Abscess Makes The Fart Go Honda.

Wally, I hope you are telling your jokes to the angels.

29 January 2021

On saints and plumbing parts

"Why," asked my husband, "do you have a reducer on your desk?"



Well, it's not really my *desk* - it's really our dining room table, but I have been working from home for ten and a half months and it's not like we're throwing dinner parties, and yes, I had been rummaging around in the bin of spare plumbing bits in the cellar, because I needed something to act as a candlestick. As one does. 

Over time, I've accumulated many many candles - mostly tapers, some pillars, a few in jars or tins. Some I've bought, some were gifts, a couple of dozen were a score from our local Buy Nothing page (a super useful iteration of Facebook). And yes, some of the candle stash came home with me when we cleaned out our mother's house. Since about mid-December, because it's dark and cold out, we've been lighting candles on the mantle almost every night. I have, as a result, been working through the candle drawer. 

Stuffed way in the back was a plastic bag, clear plastic, the long narrow kind the newspaper comes in. (My mother was the queen of reusing every single plastic bag, even the ones that had had newsprint in them and probably shouldn't have had celery stored in them later.) Inside, wrapped in tattered newsprint, I could feel several candles. My fingers knew that they were bigger wider taller than standard tapers, so I've ignored them for years, thinking they were some kind of utility candle. But the other day, I pulled them out and unwrapped them. Huh. Two tapers, and one half taper. The half taper had been sawed cleanly across - so the wick was merely visible in cross section, no little loose bit of string emerged. More mysteriously, all three were stamped STA. ISABEL down towards the bottom. 


And because they were bigger than normal, they weren't going to fit in any candlestick I own. Happily, the reducer worked PERFECTLY.




Many questions remain, though. Where did my mother come by three clearly ecclesiastical candles? Who was Saint Isabel? Why did someone saw the third candle in half? And how did it take me so long to surface these mysteries? 

02 January 2021

Book Log 2020

It is a perennial conundrum that I used to rail about the child's "required" book logs, back when she was in elementary school, and yet I delight in recording the books I've read via my Goodreads account. I *think* I read 68 books in 2020.

Last year, I started tagging books as male/female authors, and fiction/non-fiction. 

It took a little data manipulation to figure out what I'd read, but I can report that I made a conscious effort to read books by women and in fact, did so: I read 46 books by women, and 21 by male authors. (One book was an anthology, hence 46 + 21 does not equal 68.) 

Other stats: I read 19 library books, 7 mysteries, 2 books of poetry, and 2 cookbooks. 11 books were non-fiction, 6 were re-reads, and I abandoned 6. 

I rarely give star ratings to the books I log on Goodreads, and my "reviews" are really just notes to self - they aren't intended to be comprehensive reviews. That said, I did give four stars to these good books: 

And five stars to these: 

The Mendelsohn reminds me - I read Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey, as well as Maria Dahvana Headley's translation of Beowulf. And I was amused to find myself shelving the Headley RIGHT NEXT TO the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf. How convenient to have the translator's names so similar, so as to make the filing of Beowulf so satisfying. (It is entirely possible that we have at least another Beowulf, but I did not check.) Reading An Odyssey shortly after The Odyssey was good - it gave me a lot of insight into the book. Similarly, I read Headley's The Mere Wife before I read her Beowulf; The Mere Wife is a modern day novel riffing on the Beowulf tale, and helped me figure out some of the bones of the poem. [It occurs to me that I tagged neither Beowulf nor The Odyssey as poetry...perhaps I should have!] 

Possibly the oddest book I read was one on fungi. Funguses.  Merlin Sheldrake's book is called Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures - and it is FASCINATING, so much so that I gave two copies away to friends. If you don't want to read a book about fungi, check out Sheldrake's Instagram post, where he eats his book. There's a fungus among us. 

The last book I finished in 2020 was one I got for Christmas: The Year of Knots. It's kind of a "how to" book - but it's both how to tie (some knots) and how to be more creative in your life. I've now learned to tie three new decorative flat knots, and I've even memorized one of them. I'm not sure that I'll be taking up macrame in 2021, but stranger things have happened.