Monday, December 29, 2014

hay and straw

O Lord, you have created all!
How did you come to be so small,
To sweetly sleep in manger-bed
Where lowing cattle lately fed?

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
You have but hay and straw so rough
On which as king so rich and great
To be enthroned in humble state.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for thee.

-  from Magnificat, December 2014


Saturday, December 27, 2014

mac and cheese, a different way

There's a very popular Jewish deli in the next town and we went there on my birthday. I had their macaroni and cheese, which is really good. The waitress didn't know the recipe, but she did know that it contained chicken broth. Hmm.

That was interesting, because I had been wondering if mac and cheese could be made with some liquid other than milk - I mean, of course it could, but how strange would it look? - and here was a direction to go in. I do have a recipe using tomatoes and tomato sauce, but here I was looking for just a slight twist on the traditional.  I decided to try it.

Prior to that, I'd bought some Christmas-tree shaped pasta at Home Goods, (four dollars, mind you, but who can resist such a thing?), and that put me on the path of mac and cheese for Christmas Eve dinner.  So, I made it!

I had 14 ounces of pasta, which is close enough to a pound. I had four cups worth of shredded cheddar. I knew I needed four cups of "white sauce".

I always keep Knorr bouillon cubes on hand in case there is no real thing around, but it's salty so I use it half strength. I dissolved one cube into a quart of hot water ahead of time. Then I melted a stick of butter, whisked in a half cup of flour and let it bubble a bit, then whisked the broth into it, brought it to a boil and boiled it for one minute. At that point the cheese got stirred in and all melted happily. No salt necessary!  It looked fine and there was plenty of it. I baked it in the usual way and that was that. It looked fine and tasted very delicious although a little rich.  I am happy knowing I'm eating only half as much dairy as is usually in that dish, but I may try it next time with vegetable broth.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

'tis He is born

Why does the chilling winter's morn
Smile like a field beset with corn;
Or smell to a mead new shorn,
Thus on the sudden? Come and see
The cause why things thus fragrant be.

'Tis he is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and lustre, public mirth,
To heaven and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

-  Robert Herrick

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas joy

"When I think of Christmas Eves, Christmas feasts, Christmas songs, and Christmas stories, I know that they do not represent a short and transient gladness. Instead, they speak of a joy unspeakable and full of glory. God loves the world and sent His Son. Whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. That is Christmas joy. That is the Christmas spirit."

                                                  -  Corrie Ten Boom

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

a Cindy update

Cindy's new people have been emailing my brother with updates, and the latest is this:

my photo

"You'd think she had lived here for months, not days...She's been taking 2 hr naps on my lap every afternoon since Thursday and has been sleeping on the bed with us at night since then as well."

Ah!  This is what I was longing to hear!   Thank you, St. Francis.  Little Cindy -  they call her Mindy now -  has come to her perfect home.  Finally.

Monday, December 22, 2014

more cookies

I baked cookies today, but it's not enough.  I've got to make more.

There are worse things than the aroma of chicken soup, chocolate ginger cookies and the Cambridge Singers. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas kitty

which lasted about two minutes.  But it really was the perfect shade of red.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

the glad sound

Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes,
the Savior promised long:
let every heart prepare a throne,
and every voice a song.

He comes, the prisoners to release
in Satan's bondage held;
the gates of brass before Him burst,
the iron fetters yield.

He comes, the broken heart to bind,
the bleeding soul to cure,
and with the treasures of His grace
to bless the humble poor.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim,
and heaven's eternal arches ring
with Thy beloved name.

-  Philip Doddridge

Friday, December 19, 2014

gold stars

Yesterday I baked cookies for the library cookie sale. I haven't used cookie cutters for I don't know how long - it was fun, after I sternly told myself that "you can't expect to make Christmas cookies and do all the usual housework in one day".  I really have a hard time letting go of my routine for these occasions, but I know that if I insist on "squeezing in" the extra activity, I won't enjoy it. There has to be a day for baking cookies; a day for decorating; and hopefully, a day for cleaning.  I think I need to make a routine for departing from the routine.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

more lights

There was a string of lights hanging around with nowhere to go, so I taped it to the center of the window over the kitchen sink.  There's an outlet above the stove.

Of course this means we can't pull down the shade after dark as we always do, but there's something about Christmas that makes you less inclined to follow your usual path. 

Then I went outside to see how it looked. Because it's really for the pleasure of the neighbors.

It's nice!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

people who write on the outside of envelopes...

ususally manage to warm the heart -

from Susan, who hasn't been blogging for a while

This charming communication may as well have come from Tasha Tudor herself, so delightful was it. Susan, I wish you and yours the same - but I'll write and tell you so. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

farewell, Cindy

Cindy went to her new home today. After nine and a half months, it's a relief to have some normalcy, but... I do miss her. She was cute. My eyes are teary at times, thinking about her leaving.

I don't know why she wouldn't stop going after Dolly - I mean, I don't know her history, so I can't judge. She was very cute in every other way - purring all the time, looking at you with googly eyes; lots of fun and chuckles.

After weeks of spraying her with the water bottle ten or twenty times a day it had all come to a head when she attacked Dolly in one of the litter boxes. Ours have covers, because Henry can't pee without spraying off the side, and Dolly was in there, and Cindy went in after her. I soon put a stop to it, but afterward Dolly was afraid to go downstairs to use the box, so we had to bring one upstairs every night into the kitchen and even then she took some cajoling to go inside it. So we got the idea to just keep Cindy downstairs when we weren't home, and let her up when Dolly was sleeping in somebody's bedroom. That's been much more peaceful and that's what we've been doing for two months or so. Dolly really perked up after that, and it was obvious she was relieved to be "free" of Cindy - I think she could tell we were protecting her from Cindy. She started playing in a way we hadn't seen since Cindy came. Which was sad, but that didn't mean we would just give her to anyone who showed an interest.

There was a lead once, but it didn't come to anything, and then a few weeks ago one of my brother's clients was telling him how she missed having a cat, but because of two long cruises they had planned, was afraid they couldn't get a cat before 2017. But my brother had a great idea - if they liked Cindy, we could just take her back when they were away for these extended periods. Hurrah!  They were all excited and emailed him - when could they come and meet her?  About four days later they showed up and everybody got along fine.

Be happy, little Cindy!  It's so good to be back to normal, but I do miss you even so.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

in the St. Lucia blog procession

I'm joining up with Heather's St. Lucia Day blog procession just a day late.

Thursday I made Lucia buns and today I iced a few, using apple cider mixed into the xxx sugar. After looking at too many recipes on pinterest, I just went with my good old Betty Crocker cookbook, but rather than citron, I put in pignoli and golden raisins - not too many.

Since discovering how un-messy bread-baking is when you use a KitchenAid mixer, I've been trying different types of recipes - what a pleasure!  No more "cement" stuck to the sponge, etc. Ugh. Anyway, I enjoyed trying these, but should have frozen them; even though they were in an airtight container, they are a little dry today. My brother was not deterred, however. A short moment in the microwave and he pronounced them quite edible.

I've also been playing a favorite Christmas cd of mine, Bereden Vag, which means "Prepare the Way", I think.  Sung by children from Uppsala Musikklasser, a school in Sweden, with solos by the wonderful Peter Mattei.  I'm not Scandinavian, but I love hearing this. There are several Swedish carols and then some English ones - very well done. Otherwise, we're quiet around here!

"a cause for rejoicing"

"Christ's coming is good news to those who are aware of their emptiness and need. For them it is a cause for rejoicing. It spells loss, however, for those who are full of themselves, their own importance, and their possessions."

                                               -  Magnificat, December 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

hydrangea magic

What is it about a dried hydrangea?  I had one bloom in a white vase in the kitchen and wanted to fit in some Christmas things. I was going to toss it.

Something prevented me. I broke the stem way down and it's glowing now in a setting more worthy of it.

The colors, the shadings!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lucia buns

I made Lucia buns today

among other things.

"the heavy tyranny of our own desires"

"What a wearisome struggle it is to maintain our imagined autonomy! When we choose Christ instead of the endless demands of our own small selves as the path to life, we might imagine we are choosing a burdensome road, but instead we do indeed find rest for our souls! In Advent, we pray to be delivered from the heavy tyranny of our own desires and to be renewed in strength through Christ."

                                                     from Magnificat, December 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas village

Someone gave the library a ceramic Christmas village, and I had to photograph it. There's a barn

and some houses:  a farmhouse

a mansion, with tree house out back

even a house for sale

and a lodge, which is my favorite.

I want to go inside

There is a church, of course

with carolers outside

next to a gazebo

There are other things, like a dairy barn with cows

gas station

burger place

I guess they sell furniture here, or maybe just the wood.

There is a Salvation Army band

a place selling Christmas trees

and train station.

And two more things no country town could possibly be without: a man walking his dog,

and a conveniently placed fire hydrant.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

an experiment

We have many plants at the library, and it's one of my jobs to water them. Thinking lately that I could do a little more by them, I started with a peace lily which sits on a counter near the main desk. It seems content enough in its pot, but the pot itself is a little dull.

So, I knitted a cozy for it in a plain stockinette, but the instructions I followed for keeping the edges from curling didn't work. I suppose I could use it like that, but I was wishing it wasn't quite so curled up. While pondering what to do, I came across some sashiko stitching on pinterest which was used to reinforce a weak fabric, and wondered if I could use some kind of stitching to sort of shore up those edges.

I just picked the first stitch in the embroidery book and began. So far, even though I've got to get my stitches more uniform, it is working!  We'll see how things turn out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"poverty and need are Advent attitudes"

"Those who look for for the fulfillment of God's promises out of a sense that they are entitled to them because of their intelligence, their virtue, their achievements, often discover to their cost that they were looking only for themselves - and it is themselves they find. Those who look for God in their poverty and need find themselves seeing what many longed to see but did not and what many longed to hear but did not. Poverty and need are Advent attitudes."

                       For the poor who are oppressed and the needy who groan
I myself will arise, says the Lord.
I will grant them the salvation for which they thirst...

It is you, O Lord, who will take us in your care
-  from Psalm 12 

(Magnificat, December 2014)

Monday, December 1, 2014

breadmaking with Leila

I've long wished that Leila would be more forthcoming with her knowledge of bread-making.  And then my moment arrived on Friday - she shared a recipe for a cinnamon raisin bread, along with her own method. Saturday, I got to work.

The dough is a rich one, with plenty of butter, egg and milk. She advises dividing each into three sections in order to braid them. Each part gets more butter on it, with sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Then you roll it up and make the braid. For some reason I rolled up the first one the short way, and ended up with three parts that looked like spring rolls. What to do?  I laid them side by side in the bread pan where they looked very cute.

With the other loaf I got it right, except they weren't long enough for a really nice braid - but that was okay - it looked well enough. Two loaves, plus I put a small amount of dough in the fridge for some rolls.

How well they turned out!  Leila seems to go almost entirely by instinct when making bread. She also uses a mixer - a KitchenAid, of course. Other brands don't have the stamina for it. Doing it with a mixer always seemed like cheating to me; I wanted to do it by hand, and I have done it several times. But because I wanted to learn something from her and follow her instructions, I used my KitchenAid, which is a four and a half quart (she has a fiver).

Now I understand why she does it this way. The machine does ALL the kneading - the ingredients go in, the mixer is turning, you make sure it's all combined. Then you let it sit for twenty minutes. Come back, give it another turn in the machine and sweetly put it into the greased bowl to rise. No elbow grease required. It had to rise twice, with a gently punch-down (really a push-down) in between. Into the bread pans, heat the moderate oven for only ten minutes and in they go.  One's almost gone, the other's in the freezer.

And the rolls? I made them last night. And since I'd never made yeast rolls, I poked around. And this on Anna's blog was what I found - bury a chocolate filling inside of each, like a holiday treasure, and let me tell you - those are gone, too.

And it's just the beginning.