Monday, December 29, 2008

Dinner Guests

It's been quite awhile since we had company for dinner. G is busy cleaning. I am busy prepping the food. So far, I have blanched asparagus and sugar snap peas. Peeled and seeded tomatoes for bruschetta (to serve with Prosecco) as an appetizer. I don't usually work this way, but I felt I should put to use all the information and techniques I learn while watching the Food Channel.

We are having chicken with a breading of butter, Parmesan and seasoned breadcrumbs. I still need to prep the chicken and pound it very thin between sheets of clear plastic wrap

For dessert we are having chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. The cake is soaking up the hot butter, sugar and Kahlua syrup I poured over it. The cake itself is chocolate fudge with half a cup of Kahlua in the cake mixture. It smells heavenly.

The olive oil and basil for the bruschetta smells divine also. I will toast some Italian flatbread and then rub the toast with a cut garlic clove and top each slice with the tomato, basil, olive oil mixture. And , no, we don't eat this way every day, but we could. It's all very simple food and best of all, most of it was "on special" at the supermarket.

Not that it mattered. Every time I go to the supermarket, I put less in the cart and the bill at the end is higher than the previous visit. I am always startled by the total. Especially now that both G and I are not working.

If things get tight, we can always have beans and biscuits. The cowboy diet. With music. There was a cheese they sold in Germany and when you ordered some they would ask if you wanted your cheese with music or without. Finally, some kind German explained "music" to me. Ah, I understood, then. The cheese with music gave you gas.

On that charming note, I shall return to my kitchen duties.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Santa Has Left The Building

And it was a very nice Christmas. I finally got my wish and we did no shopping, no wrapping and now, no exchanging, returning etc.

The Christmas Burritos were excellent. Better than they have ever been. The pumpkin pie was good, also. Riley loved his peanut butter filled frozen Kong and the little stuffed Hippo that Santa brought him. Too bad about the squeaker getting bitten so quickly. I won the holiday Scrabble game with 212 points.

The sun was shining and the snow melted off the sidewalks and streets but not the lawn. Still good enough for snowballs and snowmen (which Riley knocked over and chewed up). Our tree got a good review from the daughter and the son was invited to "feast" with a bunch of guys who love to cook. He lives far away to the west where it is raining, but not snowing.

So goodnight to all and pleasant dreams!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two and Eight

I can't begin to describe the perplexity of my co workers when I got down on the floor (literally) to take this photo. I just had to bring the camera to work for these wonderful "dots" created by the open ends of pressed wood logs. I almost used Rayna's "I'm an artist" line.

Last night I hugged several co workers farewell. They won't be working on Wednesday, my last day at work. The ones I hugged are looking for new employment and may not be back when the spring season begins in March. I may never see them again. Everyone but 3 or 4 are being laid off for two and maybe three months. Okay for me, sort of, but not a good choice for most with rent, car payments and insurance. We make so little that unemployment doesn't come to much.
Parting, is indeed, such sweet sorrow.

And tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I usually spent the day cooking. I will, instead, spend the day working. What will Sam do without her pierogi? I guess I have to make them today. What will G and I eat tomorrow? Perhaps I should have planned ahead?????

There are NO presents to wrap. We did NO shopping. I know we should have been helping the economy by buying things that are on sale, but actually, we don't need anything right now. I did want a pair of pajamas but I pulled a 2X pair out of the Goodwill bag, and, with some tucks, they will do for this winter. I thought I needed socks but now that I have only one more winter day at work, I don't need more socks. (watering plants = wet socks) Watering plants equals wet socks, wet pant legs and wet sleeves. And then you help a customer carry something OUTSIDE where its 7 degrees and windy. Wow!

I described my emotional state (to a friend) as being like a kite, suddenly having no one holding the string. No downward tug. No parent after a lifetime of having him there. No work after 9 months of such pleasant work. Uncertain circumstances in the world rippling into my life.

Eight more days in this year and I can begin a new year, fresh and clean. New hopes, dreams and plans. After I complete my ONE new years resolution from 2008 -- making a buttonhole with my sewing machine.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

When Happiness Shows Up

When Happiness shows up: offer it a comfortable seat. I am "feathering" my Christmas nest with twinkling lights, vintage and new ornaments, holiday food and higher settings on the furnace. What better use of my money? Heat. Lights. Things baking in the oven.

Happiness : This week's mail brought the most delightful Christmas card from Marianne in Hattersheim. An actual letter. Full of good cheer. It was like we were sitting down together for a nice chat. Oh, thank you, Marianne. Such good memories of Germany and your friendship. I know you read this blog on Sunday, and perhaps you have already done so today, but when you do read this, know that we would offer you the most comfortable of seats (to entice you to stay!).

Happiness: It is snowing and very cold here. A blizzard warning is in effect. But the snow is dry and powdery and easily plowed. It is also easily blown around so white out conditions could happen on the roads. We have no where to go. Let it snow. The flakes are big and fluffy and coming down like a big swirly snowglobe. So pretty.

Happiness: G & I did some grocery shopping on Thursday and found a ham. Hoorah!!! A whole, 16 pound ham that hadn't been "spiral sliced" or loaded with water. In fact, they had three hams in three different weighs. So we got to choose. I love having a ham in the fridge to nibble on for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then for soup.

Happiness: Is spending time with friends. Not spending time in stores, shopping for things we don't really need. I spent yesterday afternoon with my walking buddy. She gave her daughter and son in law the gift of a snowy weekend in Boston at a posh hotel (rates are extremely low right now), while she babysits their 16 month old son. While he napped , we had coffee and a very nice conversation. Too cold for our usual walk. Then the three of us played "ball".

Happiness: Is having G drive me to work tomorrow and then come pick me up.

Happiness: Is going down to my workroom/studio and doing whatever I want all afternoon. Cleaning. Sorting. Sewing. Just sitting. Doesn't matter what I find to do. I'll be surrounded by fabric.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fabric/Art , finally!

Each year I make my own Christmas Card using a tree as the theme each year. I find I can be more creative with strict parameters. So, a tree. And I took a random bag of fabric scraps, scissors, glue stick and that was it, to FiberArts over the ArtWalk weekend (and ice storm) and worked on the trees. I fudged a bit and used some felt I had in my work basket for another project.

There were odd scraps of fabric in the bundle. the one on the left had blue beads sort of glued to the surface. I added buttons and stitched the pieces down with invisible thread and the zigzag stitch the next day. I slipped the finished (sort of) 4 by 6 inch pieces carefully into purchased photo card holders that I got in the summer for 70% off.

The hardest part was getting started. And the first cards were a bit on the ugly duckling side but after making five, I went back and fixed them just a bit and they looked ever so much better. And the final stitching makes a world of difference. I like the felt as a backing better than just fabric (too thin and wobbly).

As I got closer to the end, I got much looser and the results were more "arty" like the tree on the left. I really wish they all had that carefree spirit. The one on the right is a bit dark in the photo but has a very rich texture with the glittery tulle, lush green satin and a wonderful textured, gathered fabric for the stem all on a bed of flecked felt.

These two trees are just "swinging" to some jazzy Christmas music. I believe these were the last two I made. You can see the textures of fabric I found in my bundle, which was from the fabric swap at my chapter meeting. The one where 12 out of 60 participated. My swap bundle was from a crazy quilter. O La La!!! All the pieces were 6 or 8 inches square. Just bits.

Then I had to choose who gets a card. And what card. They are in the mail and some should have arrived (to local venues) today. I hope you love them as much as I love all of you!

I have lights on my "wild" uncultivated Christmas tree but no ornaments yet. I have slipcovers to remove and wash in the living room, dining room to clean in preparation for inviting guests to eat with us over the next two weeks, twinkly lights to hang from the molding (think Nigella's Christmas Kitchen), the kitchen itself is spotless (not a normal) as G has been cleaning it daily after breakfast and dinner now that he is home. He's been walking the dog every day also.

I think we will be going to 111 Maine Street for lunch later today. I have been very strict with G on credit card usage and meals out. But it's Christmas. And he does enjoy his Flank Steak Sandwich with Crispy Potatoes. The onions on the sandwich are carmelized and then reduced in Port wine.

We will be going to the grocery store after lunch. I really want to purchase a holiday ham but I do not want a spiral sliced one. So it's been difficult. I may chat with the butcher and see if I can place a special order.

We finally finished the lasagna I prepared last Thursday (before the storm). It was one of the best I've ever made. G had the last piece with a nice mixed salad for dinner last night. I had a bowl of oatmeal because K at work got me Nachos from Taco Bell for lunch. Have I mentioned how very much I adore K ????? Not to worry. He's 18. J at work (34) reminded me to go start my truck when it got close to closing time at work yesterday. Wanted me to have a nice warm vehicle for the ride home. Did I mention, enough times, what wonderful co workers I have here at the greenhouse?

It's 10:30 in the morning and I haven't finished my first cup of coffee yet and I'm still in my pajamas. I need a "to do" list to get me motivated. I made a list of five items on Tuesday and got them all done by dinner time. WOW! Could not believe it. So, another list of five today. Be warm. Be Happy. Make something today!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ice Storm Cometh For One Day

The bank cocktail party on Wednesday was great and for the first time (that I recall) we "networked" and G had a job interview scheduled for Friday. I had three glasses of wine and my first bacon wrapped scallop evah!

The Ice Storm began after we had gone to bed on Thursday. We awoke to no lights, heat or telephone. For some strange and wonderous reason, the electric flickered on, just when G was trying to open the garage doors. G then jump started the generator we have had since the first, memorable ice storm of 1998 (no power for 6 full days), and we plugged the coffeemaker in (priorities). We made coffee and then plugged in the toaster oven and toasted bagels. Then we heated water in the electric kettle so we could wash our hair and faces. G had the interview and I had work. The roads were covered in slush, the trees were bent under the weight of an ice coating on branches and leaves. Our road is partially blocked by three birch trees drooping down to the asphalt.

I worked on my girl scout skills and got a nice fire going in the woodstove so that by sunset it was nearly 66 degrees in the great room/kitchen (much warmer than when I heat with oil), there was no reason to go into work (icy roads = no customers), so I stayed home and read Mansfield Park and tended the fire.

I had prepared a huge pan of lasagna on Thursday. I think I was preparing for my being at Fiberworks all weekend for ArtWalk and figured we would just have leftover lasagna each evening. That lasagna came in handy Friday evening. G ran the generator line to the refrigerator for about 90 minutes to get everything COLD and then we plugged in the toaster oven and baked a small portion of the lasagna. I made salad by candlelight. While we ate dinner, we listened to the channel 6 news (TV) broadcast on the radio. Kept looking up at the television screen when they said "look at this". Duh!

When it came time to go to bed, we jumped into a freezing cold bed (no heat from the woodstove made it down there) and snuggled under the thick LL Bean down comforter and slept like we were on a tropical beach somewhere. So warm and toasty. Usually, the comforter is too warm, but Friday night, it was perfect.

This morning I got the woodstove going, we got the generator going for coffee and bagels and then plugged in the fridge to get COLD and that's when G noticed the little red light on the phone answering machine and flicked on the light switch. POWER!!!!!

My daughter still has no power and no heat. So G hooked the generator to her furnace (very tricky business and best left to someone who knows what they are doing) and heated her little house up to 69 degrees for the evening. If she still has no power tomorrow, he will take it back and hook it up again and reheat the house. Can't leave a generator untended overnight or outdoors. They get stolen.

Now we have visited the world of no job, no health insurance, no electricity, no heat and no phone. The Winter of 2008. Could be worse. If we had a well, we would include no water and all that entails.

Tonight, hot food baking in the OVEN. Ice in our drinks from the ICE MAKER. HOT SHOWERS. Clean dishes in the DISH WASHER. Heat from the FURNACE. LIGHTS to read by. TELEVISION & TiVo. BLOGGING on the INTERNET. It was only ONE day but I was flashing back on the SIX days in 1998. I am so very thankful for all my appliances, furnace and most of all for the hot shower I am going to take right now. Later!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Where I Work

This is my workspace. If you walk straight back, past the white bench, you'll come to the back doors where all my deliveries arrive (in warm weather). My carts are coming in through the warehouse these cold days and then through the garden center and down the ramp into the greenhouse. I order replacement poinsettias every afternoon before going home. These are the fourteen dollar, pinched pinks and whites.

This is a non pinched red. I love the little yellow flowers in the center. The red leaves are just that- leaves. You didn't know that did you? I have explained the way to color the leaves on poinsettias that are living a long and lovely life as a houseplant. Fourteen hours of complete darkness for 5 to 6 weeks. I actually did this with a poinsettia and got it to turn a pale red in it's second winter with me. I felt like Mrs. Wizard.

It snowed overnight. Just an inch or two but it feels more like winter now. Riley loves the snow and wants to go out, go out, go out. He has squirrels to track and chase. He ran through the Invisible Fence this afternoon. I don't think he felt anything. No jolt of electricity. So now we have to stand at the window and watch him. I whistled for him when he was in the woods and he came right home. But if he gets too far, he may not hear us or may get confused and lost. It's too cold here at night for a house dog to be lost in the woods. And there are coyote.

The crew Christmas party was fun. We were the "old" people (G & I). Old enough to be the grandparents of most of the others. But they didn't treat us that way. They expected us to "get jiggy" with them. We laughed a lot. I have very nice co-workers. VERY nice.

This week we are going to a cocktail party hosted by the team that manages our 401K. How's that for a brave and daring thing to do???? Wow. And then on the weekend, the Art Walk Open House at the gallery where my quilts are on display. I have to be there Saturday and Sunday to talk with any guests who come see my work. I hope someone comes.

We had the last of the Thanksgiving Turkey, roasted to a fair thee well, with BBQ sauce and served on cheese covered corn chips with salsa, sour cream and jalapenos. Turkey Nachos. I did get the turkey a little too brown (really, there was some black) but when you roast it till crispy with BBQ sauce it almost tastes like pulled pork. (which I like better than turkey) I made Mexican Black Bean Bisque and it is very spicy and hot. Too hot. Next time I will skip the red pepper and jalapenos.

All the Thanksgiving pies are gone. Eaten. Today I baked caramel walnut brownies for G's desserts. I think I will be skipping dessert at home for a few weeks. I do have parties to attend and WILL eat dessert at parties if the dessert looks delicious. And I have nuts in the shell to snack on. Walnuts and Almonds. We always had a bowl of mixed nuts when I was a kid. At Christmas only. When my kids were little, we always had large bowls of naval oranges in December and I would peel several oranges for the two of them every day. I wonder if they still eat oranges?

I was going to work on my handmade Christmas cards today but I worked on the evergreen head ornament for the Hindu Goddess by my front door (pictures to come) and I took apart the Thanksgiving table centerpiece and made it over into a Christmas centerpiece with evergreens, pine cones and Christmas balls (which are too large and need to be replaced).

I'm going to go watch some TiVo (Mansfield Park) while G watches the football game. See Ya!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Beginning To Look Like Christmas

My Advent board is back and I have three items on it: my twelve by twelve, a folded paper trivet and a little swag of greens I'm working on for my Hindu goddess out on the porch. I figured out how to fold and wrap the paper for the trivet and now I have to contemplate how to fold fabric to make some little pieces. AND I have to work on my original Christmas trees for my cards. I have sewn, painted, collaged paper for my cards in past years. I just need to clear the decks, get out supplies and "play" until something strikes me as "it".

Last year I made ornaments with whatever I had to hand and I also cherry picked stuff off of trees in the attic with handmade stuff on them. This year I will have project ideas on my advent board. A month of daily ideas or work in progress.

We have better Christmas music at work. Instrumentals. All that caroling gets tedious and a nice instrumental clears the head. Still enjoying Santa Baby with Eartha Kitt, the Beachboys, and Elvis's Blue Christmas. No chipmunks, which is sad. No Gramma getting run over by Santa which is very good. No frogs croaking out Jingle Bells. Ugh!

Wreaths, trees and poinsettias are selling, finally. No matter what the economy is doing, we gotta have a little merry Christmas in our hearts and homes.

What's Good Today: Thanksgiving Turkey is finished. We still have some apple pie but the pumpkin is gone. Black beans are soaking for some Black Bean Bisque. Tonight's dinner is baked potatoes, sauteed pork steaks, steamed green beans and applesauce. Dog is out for his daily walk. Sun is shining. Time to pack my lunch and dress for work.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Friend of Twelve by Twelve

I had all sorts of "good ideas" but no time to go down to the studio to work on them. So here is what I could accomplish yesterday evening. I had a"number" of fabrics with numbers printed on them and the selvages of other fabrics yielded colorful strips of numbers. I'm not proud of this but I am finished. The gray patterned fabric represents my gray matter (brain) trying to add all these numbers together. In the end: I would guess which is why I added that word to the piece. In the days, weeks, months ahead I may add more items to this collage. As I find them.

I may do a small piece of just numbers from the edges of fabrics. They are polka dots after all.

In school, numbers were like a foreign language to me. I still add by counting out the numbers with the tip of my pencil. Five plus seven? Five and then I count out seven taps (6,7 etc). I'm fond of Suduko because it seems like math but it's actually logic.