Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Togetherness and Being Thankful (Otherwise Entitled: When This Candle Burn Out, You Gonna Die!)

You see what I've had to deal with for the past week?  Yes, the in-laws have been to visit, and yes, Michael's dad (that would be Grandpa Eugene) continued throughout the week to try his hand at some 'art'.  I would be quite offended about it, if it didn't keep reminding me of this:  

And this is quite good, in my opinion.  It is called 'As I Am' and 'As I Would Like to Be' by G.K. Chesterton.  Anyway, as of yesterday, all of the grandparents have left town.  And this means that the house is very quiet, and very dark, and we are all a bit depressed.  On the bright side, I guess we've got this lovely artwork to ponder.

Friday, November 19, 2010

On Festering Wounds, A Duck, and Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

I've been wounded! No, really, I've sustained a right-proper injury. And what this means is that I am no longer sewing a thing until I get a nice thimble for my fingers and plenty more antibiotics and ibuprofen into my system.**   

So there I was pinning a pattern to fabric, and I stabbed my thumb so blasted hard and so blasted deep, that I spoke only in French for a few minutes. (By French, I actually mean that I used up every profane word in my vocabulary.) And then a little while later I forgot all about it. And then...

A couple of days later I was doing something or other (which I can't seem to remember) when I thought I got a massive splinter in the same thumb. It felt all itchy and nasty, but I looked and looked and could not find a splinter.  And then I forgot all about it. And then...

Sunday night, the whole house is asleep, and my thumb starts throbbing like crazy. I hopped out of bed, downed ibuprofen, got an ice pack, and went back to bed, grumbling all the while. I debated waking Michael up to have him put a drill bit in my thumb nail, but seriously, even if the man was wide awake I'm not sure I'd trust him to do that. So instead, I vowed to call the doctor first thing in the morning. And then...

I woke up in the morning, thumb throbbing and looking slightly vile, and said, 'I'm not calling the doctor to tell him that my thumb hurts. I've got my pride, I'll just play through.  Besides, it will eventually go away, right?' And that's what I did -- until two days later when I found myself awake until almost four in the morning.  I was miserable and incredibly put-out. Seriously, what the hell? And that's when I called the doctor.

Apparently I have a raving infection in my finger. It looks all warbled and discolored and full of nasty stuff. And you should count yourself lucky that I'm not the sort of person who would take a picture and slap it up here for you to see. Instead, I'll show you pictures of the project I was working on that drove me to such a state.

My friend Jane gave me this British book quite awhile ago called Pretty Little Things to Make. I looked wistfully through it a handful of times, and that was that. And then one day Emilia started looking at it. She could not take her eyes off of the picture of the duck laundry bag, 'maybe we make that, mama?' So we hopped in the car, drove to the fabric store, bought all the necessary things, went home, and got to it. I spent over two hours just trying to make the pattern. Seriously, these little patterns in books that you are supposed to blow up to the right size are a pain in the arse. I did it on our home copier, and finally got the measurements right when I blew the original image up 400% and then that image an extra 150%. Then I taped it all together using regular 8x10 paper. Voilà.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pear & Ginger Muffins for a Wisp of a Breakfast

Oh, how I have lamented so many times over the years the fact that I am not a morning person.  Wouldn't it be great to be the kind of person who springs right out of bed in the morning, five minutes before the alarm clock even goes off, with a great big smile across my face, and singing songs about sunshine and all that crap?  It would.  But alas, it is not so.  I am an outright, grade-A, bonafide grump in the morning -- every morning.  It's awful, but there it is.

Anyway, this morning was no exception.  I woke up, wandered into the study, sat in front of the computer for about five minutes, and then stammered off back to bed.  And as I lay there, I thought about three things:

1. Michael off at work, sitting at his desk and being tired because we went to bed so blasted late last night. (This made me feel rather guilty.  It also made me imagine him slightly in the manner of Bob Cratchet -- you know, all cold, hunched over, with holes in his mittens.) 2. What in sam-hell are we going to have for breakfast this morning because I am sick sick sick of everything I've been cooking up.  (This made me feel depressed, yet oddly inspired.) 3. If I'm quick, I can probably conjure up a batch of those muffins I've been eyeing before Emilia wakes up.  (This thought put a fire under my bum and made me spring back out of bed and rush to the kitchen, not all sunshiny, but out of bed, nonetheless.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sophia Loren's Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone once said something along the lines of this: 'The Catholic Church stands against human cloning.  However, we may be willing to make an exception in the case of Sophia Loren.'  And all I have to say is that the man makes a fine point.  Seriously.  Sophia Loren is gorgeous -- and that is an understatement, to be sure. 

I would think that being so gorgeous must be quite exhausting, but not so for Ms. Loren.  Because apart from all the other things that have filled her busy schedule over the years, Sophia Loren likes to cook.  So much so, that she has written a couple of cookbooks over the years demonstrating her abilities.   I've got her first book, In the Kitchen with Love, (a first edition, thank you very much) which is devoted to Neapolitan cuisine*.   The book is written in a friendly, chit-chatty sort of way, and filled with pictures of her throwing pizza dough up in the air, feeding chickens, setting the dining room table, etc, all while wearing her signature lined eyes.  Oh, how I wish I had the nerve to do my eyes up like that.  I love that mid 60s/early 70s eye-liner look that she mastered (Audrey Hepburn also mastered it in the movie How to Steal a Million, by the way).  But the truth of the matter is that one looks rather absurd wearing eyes like that on a normal day-to-day basis.  Or, at least I would. And what's more, is that eyes like that usually only look lovely in photos or movies and such -- not while you are wandering around the produce section of the grocery store, or trying your hand at sewing a pair of flannel pajamas for your two-year-old, or while making batch after batch of pastry dough for eclairs.  You get the idea.

In fact, there is not much about Sophia Loren, generally speaking, that is attainable.  But that is where her recipes come in to play.  So while I may currently be looking, shall we say, slightly less than ravishing, I can still conjure up a batch of her tomato sauce to pile on a bowl-full of spaghetti.  I've done it twice now in a week and a half.  Emilia loves it because she happens to adore spaghetti all sorts, and Michael adores it because he finds Sophia Loren dreamy, and I adore it because it is easy-peasy.  Seriously, all that goes in it olive oil, garlic, canned tomatoes (although we only buy the jarred ones these days on account of all that nasty BPA), basil, salt, and touch of sugar.  Why on earth people buy jarred sauce filled with high-fructose corn syrup and all sorts of nasties is beyond me.  And making your own sauce is ridiculously simple to do.  But hey, that's just me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ghost-Pleasing Chocolate Cake

Ever since Halloween, Emilia has been obsessed with witches and ghosts.  She has been spending a great deal of time running around the house as a witch, using her wooden duck on a stick as a broom with a tiny plastic cat in tow, declaring, 'I'm a witch, mama!'  Alternatively, she has been throwing her beloved blanket on top of her head, and refusing to let us call her Emilia.  'I'm not Emilia!  I'm a ghost now!'  Sometimes she even insists that she is either a witch or a ghost as she sports her Mary Poppins ensemble, 'I'm a Mary Poppins ghost!'  Anyway, you get the idea.

I may have mentioned that when we saw Grandma and Grandpa (that would be my mom and David) in Oregon a few weeks ago, they came bearing gifts.  It was hilarious, not to mention slightly awesome, having them randomly pull things out, saying 'Oh, honey, we got this for the girl,' or, 'Have you shown her that yet?  Well, what are you waiting for!'  Anyway, one of those 'things' happened to be a book.  And goodness knows we do like a good book around here.  (No, we're not nerds, thank you very much -- just wicked smart intellectuals.  Or something like that anyway.)  The book is called The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, and it's fabulous.  We've read it a handful of times now, and each time Emilia points at Miss Cora Lee Merriweather and says either: 'What she is doing?'  Or, 'She a gho-o-o-o-o-st!  The answer to the her question is that Cora Lee is saying 'Get out of my kitchen!', using your scariest voice, of course.  Or that Cora Lee is throwing eggs and making a right-old mess of the place.  Although sometimes she just likes to point at the cat.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November,
     Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason
          Should ever be forgot.*

You'll know what I'm talking about, of course.  On this day in 1605, Guy Fawkes (and his baker's dozen of men) planned to blow up Parliament.  They intended to wipe out the entire English system of government, along with its lovely buildings, using nothing more than barrel after barrel of gunpowder.  And just because Guy Fawkes happened to be out for a leisurely stroll underneath the House of Parliament with the explosive stuff, he (along with Robert Catesby and the bakers' dozen) were captured, tortured, and then put to death.  While they were at it, as many other Catholics as could be rounded up were also tortured and put to death, just by association.  Aaah, good times, no?

All this just because Guy Fawkes wished to put an end to the virtual Catholic witch-hunt that went on in Britain for well over 150 years.  And in doing so, he ended up casting himself as a not very nice sort of fellow.  This is why every fifth of November Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy at barbeques, office parties, or wherever one goes to do such a thing.  It used to be that the pope was often interchanged with Mr. Fawkes, and burnt in his stead.  However, someone must have decided years ago that this was in extremely poor taste and it isn't done much anymore.  Yet the pope is still burned as part of the celebration in parts of Northern Ireland to this day.

But really, Catholics throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not exactly highly revered in Britain.  Instead, King James I thought it best to seek them out, torture, execute, force them into bankruptcy, make public lessons out of them, toss them into the pokey, er, I mean gael, and so on.  In fact, being a priest at that time was basically a death sentence, and not a very nice death at that.  If you don't believe me then maybe you should pick up Francis Dolan's copy of Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender, and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture.  And yes, the book is literally as fascinating as the title.  Another good one to read is Remember Remember the Fifth of November: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot by James Sharpe.

But before you get to those two insightful books, might I suggest a bit of a celebration taken directly from the pages of The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living -- a superb publication, if I do say so myself.

Celebrate: While this day is not part of the Church's liturgical calendar, there's no reason we can't enjoy it -- albeit giving the holiday a bit of a twist.  Why not get the baking enthusiasts in your family (i.e., the girls) to make a House of Parliament out of gingerbread?  Find pictures of these Gothic buildings on the internet and make the best copy you can, lovingly adding details with icing, perhaps even forming a tiny King James I out of marzipan.  Unveil it at the outset of tonight's family dinner -- or at a gathering of friends.  As dinner unfolds, tell the story of Guy Fawkes and his friends.  Then for desert take the gingerbread parliament outside, stuff it with M-80 fireworks, and blow it to hell.

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

*Taken from James Sharpe's book, Remember Remember the Fifth of November.
**The second photo was taken while we were wandering around York one day, oh, so long ago.  We got a nice long lesson from one of the Tour Guides at a church there.  (We also got a promise that we would not be bored while at said church, because they were cutting edge with drums, the rock and roll, and so on during the service.  Ummm, no thanks.)  Anyway, not the York Minster, but the one right behind it.  If I remember correctly, it is the church where Guy Fawkes's father had him baptized as an infant.  But he then proceeded to fall in with the wrong crowd while at school.  You know how it is.  Anyway, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Picasso at SAM

There is a serious hullabaloo going on right now because Picasso is in Seattle.  That's right.  The Musée Picasso in Paris has decided to temporarily hand over a great deal of their Picasso pieces for our viewing pleasure.  And believe you me, it's a big deal.  The Seattle Art Museum was jam-packed today, filled to the gills with people wanting to catch a glimpse of his famous masterpieces.

Emilia and I got their around noon-ish, and then stood in line for ages to get our tickets.  Tickets procured, husband/dada procured (Michael walked the couple of blocks from his office to meet us), we went up the escalator and were on our merry way.  Well, not to see Picasso yet.  We had to wait an hour and then get in another line for that.  So instead, we busied ourselves looking at the scary mouse again, the Italian Room, an awesome drawing of Leda and the Swan, the African dancing/war masks, and so on. 

Just as Emilia started complaining that it was time to go home and that she needed her lunch, it was time to queue up for the exhibit.  Right as we made it past the ticket check-point, some old lady right behind us says, quite loudly, I might add, 'Are we going to be stuck behind all this baby stuff the whole time!'  What a grumpy old coot.  Then she immediately shuffled past, with her surly friend in tow, making her way to a different section of the exhibit -- you know, basically any part that we were not currently occupying.  Give me a break, since when does an umbrella stroller count as annoying baby stuff.  Anyway, I told Michael to run up and shout behind the old coot's ear, 'Must we really be trapped behind these hideously old people all day!'  He tried, but she must have spotted him and moved quickly on. Sprightly for being so old and grumpy, don't you think? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Boo! (On Halloween, Scary Shrubberies, and a Practically Perfect Costume)

Happy All Saints' Day! And a belated Happy Halloween, to boot!

We were supposed to go to church today, but since All Saints' fell on a Monday, it is not a Holy Day of Obligation this year. (I find that all rather confusing, to tell you the truth.) Anyway, we would have gladly gone to church today, however, the options for mass were at 6:30am and 9:00am. I hate to say it, but as a general rule, we ain't going nowhere at 6:30/9:00 in the morning. Seriously, it's practically the middle of the night, to quote Auntie Mame. Instead we cleaned the house, went to the grocery store, did laundry, Emilia wowed me by going potty in the toilet -- three times, so far, and so on.

What I've been doing is giving her a small piece of Halloween candy every time she goes potty. You know, either a candy corn or one of those little pumpkins thingys. We've got them in a big apothecary jar in the living room. However, after trick-or-treating last night, she thinks the stakes have risen, and is now reaching for suckers/taffy/candy bars. Not a chance in hell is she going to get one of those every time she goes. Does she think I'm crazy?

Anyway, on to trick-or-treating. Yesterday, after a near throw-down in order to get her down for a nap, we all hopped in the car and went over to Aunt Kari's house. (Well, except Governor. We thought it best to leave the sorry bugger home.) Kari made these scrumptious beef and Stilton pasties, with roasted root vegetables. (Absolutely divine, by the by.) While those were in the oven, Michael went on the new zip-line they've just installed in their backyard. The thing is over twenty feet off the ground and a hundred feet long. Complete lunatics,they are.  (Although, I was sorely tempted after Dale offered me ten bucks to do it...) Anyway, Emilia opted for the more civilized trampoline with her cousins, and it was so funny watching her littlest cousin run all willy-nilly across it.