Saturday, February 11, 2017

Three Sweet Recipes

In the late 1970s, I joined the Doubleday Book Club. The book that has seen the most use is the Doubleday Cookbook, Volume 2 by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna. So much use that the spine is completely cracked in 2 places and oil spots the edges. Absolutely revolting and shameful that I abused it and left it in such condition.  The section I turn to the most frequently is the cookie section. Two recipes in particular are in heavy rotation. I adapted to our taste. The third recipe is for puffy pancakes.

Clement favors the lemon wafers which are described as "nice and tart" and they are!

Lemon Wafers

1/2 c butter
1 1/3 c sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 c unsifted flour
1/4 t mace (I never used it)

This fills 2 cookie sheets. I use parchment paper to line them.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter until light and fluffy, then beat in sugar, mix in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in lemon juice and rind; mix in flour, and mace. Drop from a teaspoon, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.  bake about 15 minutes until cookies are lightly ringed in brown.  While still warm, transfer to wire racks to cool. About 55 calories per cookie.

After these are done I follow with Wisteria's favorite Tollhouse cookies.  Same parchment paper. Lemon flavor doesn't seem to transfer.

Tollhouse Cookies

1 c plus 2 T sifted flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c butter
2/3 plus 2 T firmly packed light brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 egg 1 (6 oz) package chocolate chips (I substitute dark chocolate that I've chopped up)
1/2 c  coarsely chopped pecans (I don't use)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Sift flour with baking soda and set aside. Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.  Mix in dry ingredients; stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop by well-rounded 1/2 teaspoonfuls on lightly greased (I use parchment paper) baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly edged in brown.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.  About 65 calories per cookie.

Clement loves pancakes that are like little puffy pillows, especially on Saturday mornings. I like to experiment with different sizes of spoons for ladling onto griddle.  Littler pancakes are cuter.

Basic Pancakes

1 c sifted flour
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1 egg lightly beaten
3/4 c milk
(I add a splash of vanilla)

Sift flour and baking powder.  Combine egg milk, oil, and vanilla.  Slowly stir into dry ingredients only until dampened--batter should be lumpy. Use big spoon that hold about 3 T's worth. Fry on hot oiled griddle.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface, turn gently and brown flip side. About 80 calories per pancake, more with delicious maple syrup.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Winter Fun on the Sled; or in the Bed: Reading

Our parents took us sledding on a hill in Humboldt Park, which was one of many places named after Alexander Von Humboldt, German explorer and naturalist, 1769 to 1859.  He influenced Charles Darwin, John Muir of the redwoods, and others with his web of life/global interconnectedness point of view. I've been reading an excellent book about his life and travels written by Andrea Wulf.

Winter is a time of reflection and reading for me.  I thought I would gather up some more favorite books you might enjoy as well. I always liked reading a cross section of books by the same author if I really liked the first. I love fiction, but as I have increasing difficulty reading small or medium print, especially in the evenings. And so, I find myself appreciating books with pictures more and more.  In no particular order, except for the pile up by the side of my bed:

*If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home and The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley. I've seen British documentaries hosted by her and enjoyed the mix of history and juicy, gossipy presentation, endlessly compelling.

* Creative Space and Time: Making Room for Making Art by Rice Freeman-Zachery. I loved her voodoonotes blog, which sadly seems to be gone--why? There it showed her beautiful art quilts, embellished clothing, colorful, whimsical home. She has written other books, which I heartily recommend as well.

*The Secret Birds, The Wonder, and others by Tony Fitzpatrick. He is a Chicago-based artist and writer.  I went to see (twice) his exhibit of bird collages at the DePaul Museum.  Beautiful paintings/assemblage using ephemera like cigar wrappers and matchbook covers of nightclubs that no longer exist.  I love Joseph Cornell's shadow boxes and Fitzpatrick's work is reminiscent in its dreaminess and ache for things you can't touch, places you can't go.

*How to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and  DIY and Prints: 50+ Designs and 20 Projects to Get You Started  by Heather Ross.  The first is a combination, a memoir, and just when it becomes painful to read, interspersed with how-tos at the end of each chapter. The second, a project book with bonus gifts; with a golden chapter on how to create designs in photoshop; many of her sweet patterns of unicorns, toadstools, princesses, mermaids, etc, to photocopy & use for crafts; a dvd with cute, downloadable designs of hers. 

*The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen Notes and  From the Larder by Nigel Slater. I wish I could pull out the delicious foods photographed and eat them up.  Barring that, I must resign myself to following the short, not too complicated recipes to satisfy my appetite.  I like the spirit of improvisation, if not this then that, use what you have, thought process he presents.  Lovely writer, several years ago, I read his memoir, Toast, spanning his childhood and adolescence.  Tart, bitter, sweet, in turn, like many childhood memories are. 

*Decorate Fearlessly: Using Whimsy, Confidence, and a Dash of Surprise to Create Deeply Personal Spaces and Be Your Own Decorator: Taking Inspiration and Cues From Today's Top Designers by Susanna Salk.  Gorgeous, imaginative interiors to drink in.  Two of my favorite picture books to savor. Our own living room is inspired by the Peacock Room. Cough, cough, inspired, if not realized. 😅

* The Yestermorrow Clothes Book: How to Remodel Secondhand Clothes by Diana Funaro, published in 1976.  I haven't read it  yet, just looked at the photos and illustrations.  Models have sexy Addicted to Love/Robert Palmer vibe.  Not the black dresses, but the vamp makeup. I love that era of fashion!
The chapters headings include mending, decorating, recycling, remodeling dresses, transforming lingerie and loungewear into street clothes, refitting and redesigning sweaters, reworking coats and jackets, altering and updating jeans. Lots of hippie refashions like turning pants into skirts, patchwork, inserting flash of print onto sides of jeans.

Addicted to Love/Robert Palmer link:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Swaddling at night

Princess and the Pea/Edmund Dulac
A former boyfriend told me I should have been born on a planet with no gravity.  I bruise easily, feel every grain of sand in my shoe, and can tell fabric content percentages by feel alone. I dream of comfort in bed.  As a wedding present for a wedding that didn't happen (to another former boyfriend) my mother and aunts made me a comforter and 2 pillows.

They brought over lots of down from Poland.  We picked through it separating away the fluffy, lofty "puch" away from the poky quills.  We worked in my mother's front room and were covered in white evening after evening.  My mom bought a thickly woven blue ticking cloth to sew into cases so that no down would escape. We took the measurement of the top of my queen sized bed and divided into evenly spaced intervals.  They sewed vertical  channels into the cloth, each about 9 inches wide. Each channel was stuffed with as much down as entire American comforters hold. I don't recall exactly, but maybe something like 26 ounces.  

The resulting "koldra" was entirely heavy and comforting to sleep under. I bought flannel duvet covers to put it into. Delicious to be pressed into my soft mattress.  I kept my heat low at night and enjoyed the sensation of a only a cold nose.  Sometimes I awoke to seeing my breath in the morning light.  I regulated my temperature by tucking my feet in and out again.  My brother built a special shelf high up in my long walk in closet for summer storage.  It took two to roll it up, wrap up with a blanket, and heft it up to rest until the following winter. 

Another kind of down covering is a "pierzyna."  Basically a large, loose, fluffy pillow/bag o' down. When I visited my mother's home village in the mountains, the summer nights got very cool. On colder nights, you fluffed it to one thickness and slept a wee child under an enormous puffball.  On milder nights, you fluffed the majority of the down to the bottom and slept under a thin layer.  My mother's youngest brother would throw my little brothers into the air and let them land softly and sink in, way in.

link to Zbigniew Wozniak's site shows lady airing pierzyna outside:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Packing Away Christmas

A 2-day operation to dismantle, day 1: the baubles and lights tucked into boxes brought up from the basement, day 2: the tree itself.  I walked downstairs with several loads of steel branches on a bed sheet.  The sturdy, heavy, and heavy duty tree acquired last year from generous freecycler who was tired of assembling it.  I got a hard pinch putting the top on both years, better luck next year.  Still it's nicer than lugging out a previously fresh tree, shedding needles all the way, transporting to park a mile away to be turned into mulch.  Mysteriously, the volume of the branches, trunk, base, top expanded twofold, so the parts overflowed the coffinlike storage box.  Only an empty refrigerator box could contain my packing. Lacking that, I'll leave it to my clever husband to make it fit.

Tonight, dark out, leaving work, standing on a corner, an older lady called out to turning drivers, calling them pigs for zooming through during her time to walk. I got to the corner as well. The light turned to red, a cluster of people gathered, light turned green again, started to cross street in the inky night. In the middle of the street, either a guy who was behind me and dashed in front, or ahead of me and turned around, crouched down in front of me, and pointed a phone or camera that flashed strobelike into my eyes.  Creepy sneak attack.  I was so surprised and angry, if I had anything in my hands other than my big, fluffy mittens, I would have whacked the device out of his hands. Thought ok, I wasn't shot, I wasn't tasered, keep moving. I kept walking out of reflex, knowing the turning cars would be bearing down again. I was blinded, don't know which way the offender went. Bus homeward, then walking on a veneer of ice all the way home, my last nerve tingling.

Encounters like this make me crave living like a hermit, reading stacks of books, packing up ornaments, sorting laundry, washing baseboards, anything that does not require leaving my house.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sassy to Sensible in One Evening: Sweatpants Edition

I'll attempt to paint a picture with words.  This project took place on a dark night, so picture quality was poor.

I had a pair of purple low-rise sweat pants that I had never worn as they started about 6 inches below my belly button (bikini height). My preferred height is a more comfortable one at my natural waistline.

I took a burgundy, felted wool sweater, turned it inside out, cut it in a curve, underneath the sleeves, that matched the curve and width at the top line of the pants.  So I had a tube that was about 12 inches tall, I planned on folding it over like yoga pants. The wide part joined the hip, and the narrow ribbed part faced upwards.

I pulled the drawstring out, left the soft elastic in. I turned the pants inside out.  I used a couple pieces of cardboard to keep the front & back separated and pinned the inside out sweater--about 6 pins on each side was plenty.  (In retrospect, I shouldn't have turned it inside out so the seams would not show when folded over.  No biggie though, since most likely a sweater will be covering the tummy.)

I hand sewed the cut edge of the sweater to the bottom seam of the pants' existing waistband, removing one pin at a time as I inched forward and around. I thought of doing a second cycle around the top edge of the pants existing waistband, but the union seemed sturdy enough.  I tried them on and they felt so much better in comfort and modesty.

I took my scissors to the sweater again and cut the sleeves off above the seam, and voila! a pair of cozy armwarmers. Just a dickie-sized remnant left--perhaps future warmers with a soft cotton lining?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Stuff Kitty Didn't Want for Christmas

So Wisteria and I were walking to the first of two bus stops to go visit her orthodontist.  Crossing an alley I cast a sideways glance for oncoming cars.  My eyes alighted instead on a red gift bag on display. I slowed down to it pick up. It was labeled "Kitty." (No, it wasn't, it was another "K" name).

Unfortunately the slowing down made us miss the first bus, to Wisteria's chagrin.  All was forgiven when we peeked inside.  Examining the contents entertained us on our bus rides.  The brand new items included an automotive additive, electronic calendar that records and counts down to special occasions, the letter "K" to hang on a wall, Christmas pickle that yodels, car air freshener in strawberry and lemonade scents,  large plastic chips and dip dish, new nail files with college logo, reindeer ornament, wall hanging of dog saying, "The cat did it!"

Wisteria claimed the Christmas pickle and we will regift  rehome the other items to other households that may or may not pass them on.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Little and Mighty Survivor

The following is a school assignment written by my dear daughter, Wisteria, who came into our family like a very adorable hurricane through the miracle of international adoption. The overall wait was about 6 years only partially owing to our hatred of paperwork. When we started we were told it would be 6 to 7 months.  However if that happened we wouldn't have met this particular, very dear person. I always wanted to adopt since I read about world overpopulation in the 1970s.  She was considered a special needs child owing to her "advanced" age.  Most people want babies.  At the time we adopted, kids up to the age of 15 were eligible to be adopted.

I believe life is possible to win even when you don't think everything is great and happy. Let me tell you it was not personally great for me back when I was living in ####. I didn't have a mom. She sadly passed away when I was 5 years old. On the other hand, my dad was too busy getting drunk, barely realizing he was hurting himself and hurting me. By the time I was 7 years old, I started running away from home. Walking down the street, I remember smelling all the foods I knew I couldn't have.

But I didn't give up thanks to all the abandoned dogs I found on the way. They made me feel like I had someone. That they understood what I was going through, especially the bulldog I found. It was a girl, she was black and white and followed me everywhere. I tried my best to feed her. I brought her home. My dad took her and from that day I never saw her again. That wasn't the hardest part. Especially hearing your dad or who you thought was your real dad saying, “You're not my real child. I found you in the garbage.”

Still at this point, I'm 14 years old and still wonder who is my dad or mom? Did I ever see them? Or did my dad just say that not knowing what he was saying from all the alcohol? I didn't give up. At that point I was just grateful I had a dad, even though he wasn't there for most of my life. I don't blame him. I always blamed myself. I remember asking myself, “What is wrong with me? Was I really that bad that I ended up in the garbage like a used or unwanted thing?”

By the time I was seven and a half years old, I couldn't deal with my life anymore, so I went to the police and asked them to take me somewhere else that was more happy. They told me there was a place that had many other kids just like me and it would be really fun. There wouldn't be anymore worries and you could go to school and I didn't know what that was because I had never been to school. So at that point, I was so determined to go. I told my dad and he told me, “If you go, I'll kill myself.” I still remember his exact words from that day. But by the time I heard that, it was too late. They took me away. I remember it was a very long drive to get there. When I arrived, I saw everyone was so happy and dancing and talking to each other. But all I did was cry and cry nonstop until they started hitting me. But I still cried as they hit me, because hitting was not new to me. My dad did the same. A few days later, I was settled down at this so-called perfect place called the orphanage. The orphanage, where parents would leave their children that they couldn't raise or have too many of, but that wasn't my situation. I chose to be there, thinking it would be better for me and my dad. Mostly my dad, he never seemed happy or noticed when I ran away or it seemed like it at the time.

My dad came to visit me, he brought some goods, but I didn't care about that. I was so happy to see him and not dead. I begged for him to take me back and we both cried. He said he wanted to but he couldn't because I made my choice. I couldn't change my mind. That was it. Other people could adopt me. He promised to come back and visit me or he'll try, but that never happened. I never heard from him since that day, so I began to run away form the orphanage, which was way harder than running away from home. There are cameras and people everywhere, but somehow I found a way to get out. Not the safest way, I had to climb up walls that were very tall and jump off to get on the other side of the orphanage. Once I got out, I kept running and running as far and fast as I could, to get far from it as possible. I didn't go back on my own at night, the police found me and brought me back. I got hit again and again to teach me a lesson. I didn't care. I kept doing this over and over again while I was at the orphanage and every time the police found me and set me back to the orphanage. Every time I got hit again and again. After a while I gave up. I knew they would just keep finding me, so I had to learn to deal with the orphanage.

So I dealt and when I was eight years old, a family with a disabled kid—I don't remember his name--adopted me thinking I could help their kid and watch him. But he always caused trouble but didn't get into trouble. I got in trouble for him. And it wasn't like the punishment was like no screen time for a week or a time out, you're grounded. Instead they took their boy to a neighbor, so they had time alone with me in the house. The boy's dad would whip me and kick me so hard, something I had never experienced until that day. I kept crying so hard and kept saying, “I didn't do it! I'm so sorry!” But he didn't care. I ended up with black bruises all over my body, except for my face. They told me to cover it, so I did. No one saw it. This happened a few times and they finally got tired of hitting me so they sent me back to the orphanage, saying I was misbehaving and that I didn't listen to anything. When they left, I said my side of the story. I showed my bruised body and the orphanage people were so shocked because of how bad it was. So they took care of my body and the people who hit me really bad. At that moment I never wanted to be adopted ever again/ I didn't want to go through all that pain again.

When I was nine, I heard someone wanted to adopt me from America. At the time, I didn't know where that was and what it was, but I didn't have a say in whether I wanted to be adopted or not. Later on that week, I got a box of the family who wanted me, which is currently my mom, dad, and my older brother. They sent me a picture album of the whole family and the different rooms in the house, including my bedroom, that I sleep in now. I am truly grateful, but at the same time, when this first happened, I was pissed and really scared. They spoke a different language that I couldn't understand. But for the first time, I had the chance to eat anything I wanted, which let me tell you was great. I was so happy, I went a little crazy. It was on the plane, even though I didn't know what it was or what was happening, I cried so much, everyone around was looking at my parents, like, “Can you tell her to shut up?” They looked sorry for my parents. My parents knew I wasn't happy to be leaving ##### and I was scared. When we arrived in America, I was so amazed because there was a lot of snow and this was the year 2011, one of the biggest snow storms. I just kept wanting to play in it because it never snowed in my part of #####, except for 2011 when I left. It seemed like a fairy tale that I had never seen or experienced.

One of the hardest part for me living in America was when I first came and still was learning English and dealing with people who are racist and people who made fun of my English or people not respectful of where I came from. Over the course of fourteen years of living, I learned you can't beat life, but you can always try to make the best of it. This summer, I'm hoping to clear up my bad history in ##### and make it more happy with my new, truly lovely family.