Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow in San Anselmo

Readers of this blog know that I'm a huge Van Morrison fan. Last weekend I was tuned into the Loft on XM Satellite radio and DJ Meg Griffin played a track of his I'd never heard before - Snow in San Anselmo (c. 1973).

Wow. Awesome lyrics and a huge sense of being in the moment. Great tune to warm the winter months.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Behold the humble bean (perfected)

I love beans.

Beans with garlic.

Beans with cheese.

Beans with rice. And cheese.

Hoppin' John (a New Year's Eve favorite).

Minestrone soup.

Lately I've been trying to cook dried beans into delicious dishes and my efforts have often fallen flat. Beans have been dry, undercooked, or broken and mushy.

Last night I saw on PBS an episode of "America's Test Kitchen" where they address the problems with cooking beans.

They first started by soaking the dry beans in brine (salt water), which they say, leads to softer skins. This is because the sodium allows more water to penetrate the skin, leading to a "softer texture." Because the water only penetrates the skin, this method does not affect the inside of the bean.

On the show, they made one of my favorite soups, Tuscan bean.

After soaking the dry cannellini beans overnight in brine (I used great northern, because that's what I had on hand), they cooked pancetta (I had bacon), and then sauteed onion, celery, and carrots, and, later, eight cloves of garlic for one minute, in the bacon and drippings. Then they poured in the soaked beans and bay leaves and brought to a simmer. They did not at any time allow the beans to boil, because this leads to rupture and loss of creamy texture. They then put the pot into a very slow oven (250 degrees) for 45 minutes.

Then they added kale (I had spinach) and a can of diced tomatoes and cooked for another 30 or so minutes.

Assuring that the beans were done (only achieved by tasting), they added salt, pepper, and rosemary (or other seasonings.)

The keys here are soaking the beans in brine, slow simmering in a warm oven, and adding the seasoning after the beans are done. I think these techniques can be applied to any bean dish.

In the new year I'm looking forward to many delicious, healthy bean dishes!

To access recipes on the America's Test Kitchen site you have to sign up.

I am happy that I did.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Baby surrendered to firefighters

Men sometimes get a bad rap.

Sometimes they are called distant. Sometimes they seem angry.

I was just thinking of this as I read a CNN story about a woman who surrendered her newborn baby to firefighters, who I believe to be males, at a Los Angeles fire station. They named the baby "Noel" and made sure she got to a hospital and received medical attention.

Across our country, loving and brave men man our fire stations. They stand ready to rescue the elderly from flames, respond to accidents, and take in the most vulnerable - newborn infants.

Raise up your holiday toasts to the brave people who man fire stations around our nation.

These folks are doing great work. We rely on them in crisis and we trust them with the most vulnerable among us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT & 8 Republicans

Good for the eight Republicans - Collins, Murkowski, Kirk, et al. - who voted to rescind Don't Ask Don't Tell, the odious bill that made gay/lesbian military members the subject of witch hunts. Thousands of these patriots have been rooted out and sent home as a result of one of the worst pieces of legislation to come out of the Clinton years.

Although he was only keeping up with the zeitgeist of the era and the legislation was a major policy evolution, it still was lamentable as it forced people to lie about who they were.

Thank God things have changed.

As more openness has made society realize that the gay community is made up of our friends, neighbors, brothers, and sisters our culture has become much more accepting and tolerant. In 1980, gay "union" ceremonies were spoken of in whispers. In 2010, they are a cause for celebration at a neighbors' house.

The bill also suggests that, despite all the lying and partisan histrionics that characterize Washington, we are moving to an era of bipartisanship, although many more Repubs should have signed onto this legislation.

Obama, the ultimate pragmatist, seems to be working in itty bitty increments to bring people together to enact significant changes for our society.

I am very sorry that he had to adopt continued tax cuts for billionaires in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits and other aids for the lower and middle classes. But, he didn't have the votes to fight this compromise. Although we would have loved to see him stand up and fight, we know what the outcome still would have been.

I say F*(k the billionaires. Yeah some of them they may have worked their asses off for that money. But, we live in a society where those who have must help those who have not.

Sometimes government is the engine that keeps that idea working. Many folks find that unacceptable, but it is really what keeps us strong as a united democracy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cat in Cold Weather

We've been hit with blizzard conditions—blowing snow and temperatures hovering around the zero mark. We keep the thermostat at about 59 degrees. This means that the kitchen, with cold air pouring in around the foundation, stays at about 45 and the bathroom, which has an insulation problem, hovers around 41. We keep a pencil stream of water flowing in both rooms. We also keep the sink cabinet doors open and fans blowing (slightly) warmer air in.

The sparrows, doves, blue jays, cardinals, juncos, and flickers are starving. I created a pen around a table to feed them on. I don't want the big white cat, Blaze, to have easy pickings. He kills enough without help.

But today something weird happened. The black Labs, Banjo and Meisha, went outside and, when I called them in, found them, hackles up, hovering around the cat door at the side of the porch. I thought the stray black kittie must have visited again.

But, I worried when I called Blaze and he didn't come. I thought he should have been quite cold by now.

I went out 30 minutes later and called. No blaze.

When darkness fell, I took a flashlight and shone it beneath the porch. Here comes poor, scared Blaze. He came in, skipped his food bowl, and went right to his basket by the fire. He looked scared and uncomfortable. I picked him up and petted him. He then curled up more peacefully.

I think some animal, lured by the birdseed, must have scared him.

This is a dangerous time of year as everyone tries to survive.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Republicans

OK, let's understand this.

The Republicans swept into Congress in November 2010 on a platform of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and deficit reduction.

In their first major negotiation with the Obama administration they wrangle continued tax cuts for billionaires and a limited tax rate for the wealthiest Americans who inherit estates from their elders in exchange for 13 months worth of continued unemployment payments to citizens who have been looking for work for over 99 weeks.

This deal will add billions to the deficit. We need to extend the unemployment benefits because we have been unable to stimulate the economy. All of that money will be spent and will help jobs and the economy. Billionaires, however, have not proven that over the past ten years that they have used their tax cuts to stimulate the economy or create jobs. Has anyone looked at the unemployment rate recently?

Billionaires will sock this money away.

I don't know that the $250,000 cut off for married couples really works. People in that income range spend lots of their money and probably do help create jobs. Big difference between $250,000 and one million in terms of income levels.

Perhaps we could continue the tax cuts for those making under one million. I could accept an argument that that would help create jobs.

Over one million, however, I am less convinced. This only adds to the deficit and continues to press a burden on future generations.

Republicans are amazing in their ability to speak from both sides of their mouths. They insist we must reduce the deficit but at the same time advocate for deficit-increasing tax cuts for billionaires.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

three-minute fiction contest

I entered National Public Radio's most recent "Three Minute Fiction" contest. My little story didn't make it into the favorites, so I'll share it with you here.

Keep writing, keep trying, keep striving, and, most of all, keep dreaming.

Draw the Shades

Some people swore that the house was haunted.

Not me. I wasn’t afraid of the wrought iron fence, the eyebrow window, or even the wild cats that lived under the expansive front porch.

When I passed the Murphy house on my way home from school, I walked nonchalantly.

Except last Thursday. I heard someone crying. It sounded like a kitten at first but I knew it was a girl. Who was she? This was an ordinary small town with a few old two-story houses sitting squat down in the middle. They stood out like parade floats. Murphy had been the piano teacher and her house was one of them. I listened.

Murphy died last winter and everyone said her daughters would hold an auction come spring. The older girls had left town years ago. Since her death, people walking or driving past the towering house claimed to hear sounds and even music from the piano. I wondered how many kids, like me, had waited in the dark, sunless parlor to play at the worn keyboard.

“God love us,” my mom said as we drove home from the IGA, hearing music from the Murphy place.

To my mom, who loved a good haunting, and to Emma, who was willing to believe anything, and to her ever-worrisome mother, I said emphatically, “It’s not a ghost, it’s a girl.”

Maybe she’s Murph’s daughter, the one nobody talked about after eighth grade. She was just gone one day. Maybe she’s a girl who stopped here on her way to somewhere else.
I stated boldly, after dinner at Emma’s house, that we would go there tonight. We’d miss the Friday night football game. I’d save Emma from a date with Brendon. She didn’t understand that  “B” stood, frankly, for bad news. Emma believed that kindness could cure anything, and I couldn’t dissuade her. I’d forgo a date with Mark the Magnificent. He’d make fun of my Goodwill clothes. I could live without it. Emma would don her best Nancy Drew and go with me. She was my best friend.

After loading the dishwasher, Emma and I walked across the church parking lot to the Murphy place. We killed our flashlights as we got close. We heard humming. We looked up into the heavily draped first floor window, from which emanated a beautiful waltz.

Emma asked, “do you think she’s back?”

They had been friends in grade school. If she knew, Emma never said why she went away or where she had gone. Mom hinted at reasons, and they didn’t sound pretty. I remember hearing isolated words as she talked on the phone: father, fork, blood, middle of night, crazy. None of it made any sense to me as a kid—nonsense that I tried to ignore over wheaty-oats and milk.

But that night Emma and I sank down into the foxtails growing along the fence. We listened to the piano for a long time and panicked when we heard crying.

“Linda was a sweet girl,” Emma said. I grabbed her as she stood up. “I know she was.” We sat close to each other as the sobs turned into humming.

We watched the cars driving back from the football field and avoided their headlights as we walked home.

Sometimes we can piece together the past and sometimes we can understand it. The future, however, is something else entirely.

I will always love Emma for her kindness and her unwavering acceptance of those she loves.

But, it took many years to understand why, between us, nothing was ever the same again after that.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Democrats Lose the House… and Perhaps the Senate

Conventional Wisdom has written this headline.

Obama has lost all of his momentum they say. He's in the gutter with us.

Has President Obama executed a flawless first term? No.

Was he handed an impossible situation? Yes.

Obama and Pelosi and Reid stumbled many times over the past couple of years. But given the problems left to them by Bush II (deficit, wars, economic devastation) they've done pretty damned well overall.

Please come out in full force on Tuesday.


And drag your friends, brothers, spouse, housemates, and coworkers with you.

We can do this!!

We must not allow the right wing to take over our country.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Schock takes us for granted

Please watch the debate at WTVP between Congressman Aaron Schock, his Democratic opponent, the wildly capable attorney DK Hirner, and the "watchdog," Green Party Candidate Sheldon Shafer, master of the Lakeview Planetarium and popular physics instructor at Bradley University.


What most strikes me about this race is that Aaron Schock appears to be a shoo in. He has sent no mailers to our home and has racked up no annoying robo calls.

Shock believes so strongly in the polls that he feels he doesn't have to do much work to earn our votes. He believes he is returning to Washington no matter what.

Voters of the "Fighting" Eighteenth District, let's make him think again!!

He voted against health care, against stimulus spending (although he glad handed every ribbon cutting in his district), Wall Street reform, and TARP. He was a just say "no" Republican, defying the President purely for partisan politics. After having done NOTHING, he still feels sure that you will vote with him. He must have pocketed all that Bush and Gingrich campaign cash, because he sure hasn't spent it in the district.

Why vote for Aaron? He has only said "no." He has given no positive steps forward and offers no new ideas. Vote for Hirner or vote for Shafer. Either of these candidates is more knowledgeable and more capable than "Six Pack." And they don't take your vote for granted.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

’Detta May

My sweet kitty is dying.

We adopted Dettie in 1995, after the gruesome death of the beautiful black cat we called "Birdie." After Birdie died, following a failed leg amputation, the vet assistant cheerfully told us about a cat she had rescued from the wild. She had been trying to capture her all winter but only succeeded come spring. When it came time to have her spayed, she sadly realized why the wild one was eager to find a warm home.

Well, since 1995, Odetta, named for that awesome folk singer, has remained wild.

When she came home with us, she was full of knotted long hair. I wrangled her to comb it out. Her anger calmed a bit after she realized I was the stronger.

But she has always continued to be a defiant, sometimes angry, sometimes loving, soul. She was my hero several years ago when she deliberately killed an entire litter of rats. Every night for a week she deposited one on the back door. I praised her effusively. She was the proudest cat ever.

She loved to sit on my lap, but if I looked at her wrong, or moved my leg in a way that seemed inconvenient to her, she would strike out in hissing anger.

You just learned to love Odetta.

In her later years, she developed a raging hunger. She would howl in the most astonishing way until she got the food she wanted. Freshly cooked salmon or chicken were sure to satisfy. Canned tuna would do in a pinch. Fancy Feast (God love them) has sustained us through many a crisis.

Now we bid goodbye to this dear, fierce soul. But she isn't going without a fight. We took her in to the vet on Saturday. She got three injections, but none of them could revive her failing organs.

I continue to clean her up after her accidents. But I love that she seems to be peacefully enjoying her last days on the sun porch. The sun streams in all day. The birds sing. The cicadas and crickets join in a chorus together. I believe she is enjoying them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Garden Photo of the Day 8/19/10 Praying Mantis

Went out to put a letter in the mailbox and noticed Ms. Praying Mantis munching on her cicada lunch. She took an annoyed moment to have her photo taken. Made my day!

Click photo for a larger version. :-}

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mama Told Me

Days Like This

Summer is waning!

The heat-filled, oppressive days are giving way to cooler hours.

But even if things are getting better, I remember Mama's message: when you think things are going well there will be "days like this."

That is so true, but we also have the hope of butterflies fluttering among the garden flowers; goldfinches munching on the zinnia seeds; hummingbirds hovering around the coreopsis.

Still, pain hovers over the weeds and promises to pounce.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This just noted

My Rubbermaid "Revelations" 12 qt storage container (which I've used most recently to soak my tired cracked feet) is a "Limited Edition."


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

New dog

Banjo has been a lonely depressed soul since the loss of Carlos and Lucy last year. We had a good spring alone and it was fun to see his personality without the influence of the older dogs, but I knew he needed a friend. I also knew that I couldn't handle a puppy right now as I'm limited to lifting 15 pounds and strenuous activity leaves my neck in extreme pain. We found a great Lab rescue organization down by Springfield called Canine Solutions.

They introduced us to a wonderful 18-month old black Lab named Meisha. She and Banjo hit it off right at first. They haven't been overly affectionate or playful but have gotten along great. Today, day 12, they started playing. They were in the pool and enjoyed racing each other. When I got them out, they ran circles around the yard, Meisha did the play bow, and Banjo jumped on her playfully. So good to see them happy and enjoying each other's company. She is missing her brother, from whom she was recently separated, and Banjo misses his friend Lucy.

Meisha loves our back yard pool. She doesn't bother with steps, but flings herself into the water to capture her coveted ball.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

tired of all the nonsense

Recently the GOP and T-Party have been screaming about Obama's "job-killing agenda."

"Govament needs to stand back and let the private sector create jobs!"

"Govament is just standing in the way with senseless regulations, taxes, and commi agendas."

Oh, but when Goldman Sachs and BP totally F*** things up and try to ruin our nation, what are these babies crying? Why isn't Obama doing something? He needs to ride in on a big white stallion and create jobs that Wall Street took away. He needs to deal with Goldman Sachs. He needs to clean up the Gulf because obviously BP doesn't have a God-Loving Clue!

What do you want, hypocrites, government or not?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Garden Photo of the Day 5/23/10 Wild Ginger

This year I'm trying to be a frugal gardener. I have been establishing plants in different areas of my yard, and the last several years this has meant going to area nurseries and buying perennials and some annuals just for fun.

I've been disappointed when some of the perennials didn't come back the next year. The past two winters have brought extreme cold temps (-20) so only native or the hardiest plants survived. I've decided to focus on plants that are native to Illinois or ones proven to survive here - such as peonies, hostas, etc.

This season I'm going to focus my energy on cultivating existing plants for transplant to other areas of the yard. One plant that I love and that has enjoyed great success here is one native to Illinois—Asarum canadense reflexum or Wild Ginger.

My specimens came from my sister's yard in Kentucky, but they are quite at home in Illinois, where Wild Ginger grows naturally in nearly every county. From an original two or three plants five years ago, a large patch has flourished underneath a tree in the back yard. They have lovely leaves, especially stunning when a nice colony has developed. To find the tiny flower, however, you have to lift up the leaves and look on the ground. (You can just see it in my photo.) The plant gets its name from its fragrance, which is similar to ginger. 

I dug up and transplanted five plants last week and, thanks to some good rain, they are thriving. I'm looking forward to a nice colony under our maple tree beside the patio in a few years. I also dug up (from down the bluff behind our house) some bluebells roots and planted them next to the ginger for a nice woodland effect in early spring. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Garden Photo of the Day 5/21/10 More Containers!

I am also growing green peppers, Roma tomatoes, Early Girl tomatoes, and Kentucky Wonder Beans in containers.

I think the tomatoes will prevail, but a little unsure about the beans.

If they thrive I'll post photos!

I'm so into container gardening as it eliminates the need for extensive weeding, something I can't do right now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Garden Photo of the Day 5/20/10 Lettuce

I had hopes of growing a luscious garden this year but was restricted by recent surgery. My sister came and filled pots with soil and lifted them onto a ledge where I could easily reach them. This collaboration has resulted in a joyous display of red lettuces, mesclun mix, and baby spinach. Yum!

And watching these seeds grow has been a nice experience. Eating them - with a little Newman's Own Italian dressing - even better.

Container gardener is awesome, I have to say.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Garden Photo of the Day 5/17/10

I never knew that purple and orange made such a brilliant combination. The heavy purple iris, unable to hold their heads up, fell into a patch of orange coreopsis.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Van Morrison

Anyone who know me understands that I am a huge Van Morrison fan. He possesses and exudes enormous talent.

For the last several years, fans were able to enjoy rare footage of his performances on YouTube. And then, all these were removed. I understand where he is coming from. I know that early in his career he was sucked dry by record industry execs. They exploited his talent and reaped profits while raping him. I can understand his anger and his refusal to let these awesome performances be seen for free on YouTube.

But consider: where can we see them and pay for them? Nowhere.

When people view this awesome footage, won't they be motivated to purchase music? Yes!

Today I found a Russian site that is still broadcasting them.


Enjoy while you can. Van, and Web Sheriff: these are awesome performances. All we want to do is enjoy them. Find a way where we can pay you to do so and we will. Withholding them, however, is just not right.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Take the bus?

We drove over to East Peoria today to engage in a little economic "slippage" and shop at the PetSmart and Office Max. From where we are on the West Bluff it just seems less stressful to jump over the Bob Michel Bridge than to navigate Sterling or University and War Memorial to do a little shopping. The traffic is much less congested.

Peoria's CityLink buses also traverse the bridge and ferry shoppers to EP. Today, we saw a bus broken down between the WalMart and Lowes. As we crossed back over to Peoria, we passed a CityLink tow truck on its way to rescue the stranded bus. The last time I took CityLink I ended up riding in a white 13-person van rather than a regular bus. Stuffing passengers into and letting them off of these conveyances is more than a bit awkward.

I remember reading in the PJS a while back that CityLink bought several buses on the cheap from Chicago Transit Authority "for parts." Unfortunately I have noticed that these CTA buses, lacking CityLink colors or logo, have been crawling down regular CityLink routes.

This is a sad state of affairs. If the chances of boarding a bus that is going to break down seem good, who is really going to take that chance on their way to work unless they have no other option? Stimulus funds? Hello! If CityLink could purchase 20 new buses wouldn't that create at least a few jobs. Aaron (say no to stimulus) Schock what say you dude? We need a little leadership here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wonderful thought

Our neighborhood association recently successfully completed a publication of the history of our area. So many people helped with research, editing, writing, and gathering of  images. We had a lot of fun working on the project. Members held editing sessions at their homes and served delicious sustenance to keep us going.

My task was some photography and completing the lay out. Once the publication was handed out to neighbors, my co-conspirators presented me with a framed version of the publication. They had all signed it with warm thoughts for my meager contribution.

I just have to say it is wonderful to live in a neighborhood of such warm, thoughtful, caring, and involved people.

We all care about and support each other. We watch out for each other. I feel privileged to live here and thank all my friends for their gift.

Just think about your own community—whether it be your cubicle neighbors, your school friends, or your neighbors. Take time to get to know the people around you. Work with them. Cooperate with them. You will be triply blessed by the effort you put forth.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


For months now, ever since developing a serious pinched nerve condition, I have thought a lot about meditation. This is a subject about which I am ignorant. I have downloaded an audio-book from Audible.com, but right now can't get it to my ipod, so I've only heard bits and pieces. I found a website about transcendental meditation, but learned that it would cost me a lot of money to hire a guru. On the Huffington Post the other day I read an article by Sadhguru about his mystical experiences.

Recently I had surgery to physically repair the condition. Although I relied on traditional medicine to cure that unbearable pain, I think meditative experiences could be beneficial to my whole life experience.

I was very depressed yesterday and called my sister, looking for a tunnel out of my despair. She asked, nonchalantly, "why not bake some cookies."

Quickly, I responded that "I don't want or need any cookies."

Thinking of her two energetic boys and of me, she said, "you could send them to us."

So today for the first time in over a year I baked chocolate chip cookies. I ate one and determined they were pretty good. (Thanks to a new stand mixer which makes creaming butter and sugar a breeze.) Family came over later in the day and determined they were awesome.

That's the power of doing things for other people, I guess.

After putting one batch in the oven, I went outside with my dog Banjo. He wanted to sniff and roll, so I relaxed on the hammock. I saw a solitary leaf above me on the maple tree covered with thousands of leaves.

I thought, is this meditation? If I focus on this leaf? Sadhguru wrote about being one with the world, being outside himself, while realizing that all of his understanding of human experience was within himself.

I focused on the leaf. What did it feel? What did it experience? What did it understand of its life cycle? How did it feel when the wind blew? What did it have to do with my experience of it?

And then the phone rang. I went inside and my sister was on the other end. I said good thing you called the cookies are just ready to come out and I would have forgotten them while I stared at the leaf.

I plan to keep working on the meditative experience!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Atrazine / breast cancer link / Komen denies knowledge

I'm linking to an important article by scientist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber on the Huffington Post.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-steingraber/escape-from-the-heartland_b_564005.html

Although the Susan B. Komen Foundation denies a link between agricultural and industrial chemicals and breast cancer (http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FactorsThatDoNotIncreaseRisk.html#BloodOrganochlorineLevels), Steingraber states that probable links exist between the pesticide Atrazine and breast cancer.

Let's face it, the founder of the Susan B. Komen Foundation is a staunch Republican, named by President Bush as an ambassador to Hungary. The Republican party sleeps with big business, big agricultural, and big chemical.

So wear your pink t-shirts and ribbons, but remember that the Komen Foundation has its head in the sand when it comes to facing the serious environmental links to breast cancer. Facing those dangers would demand drastic changes to the way we live, the way we grow our food, and our diet. A conservative such as Brinker is politically motivated to ignore these realities.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Good cry

Do you ever just need a good cry?

Your dog died prematurely.

A physical ailment or the economic downturn forced you out of a job.

The BP  oil spill seems to be growing out of control.

President Obama isn't a miracle worker and the press stresses that fact every day.

The Tea Party "haters" seem motivated by racism and feed on misinformation spewed by both elected officials and one-dimensional media figures.

Although despair and crying are natural human reactions to situations, we still have face dilemmas and setbacks with intelligence.

Positive voices need to become as loud as the negative ones.

Friday, March 12, 2010

sounds that I love

1. Bells in the distance.
2. Van Morrison singing.
3. Strong winds.
4. Nuthatches outside my window.
5. Playgrounds at recess.
6. The Apple Mail chime of an incoming message.
7. Pen on paper.
8.  John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."
9. Spring rain.
10. Someone spontaneously breaking into song.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Big ol' slice of persimmon pie

My sister lives in Kentucky on a farm where they have planted lots of nut and fruit trees. Last summer the Paw Paw trees came into their own and she froze bags and bags of pulp. They are good for smoothies apparently but she has a freezer full, prompting her to look for recipes. She found one for Paw Paw Chiffon Pie, which turns out to be pretty good.

She visited this weekend and we made one of the famous pies, a reprise of one she introduced at Thanksgiving last year to wide acclaim.

Her persimmon trees are also doing well and she left us with a thawing bag of persimmon pulp. We didn't want to refreeze it, so Andy whipped up one of his famous flaky crusts and turned the persimmon loose on the same chiffon pie recipe used for the Paw Paw.

Another good effort. Delicious. Here's a link to the Kentucky State University Web site, which provides many other Paw Paw recipes should you be so richly blessed.  http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/pawpaw/recipes.htm

Here's the chiffon recipe:

Pawpaw Chiffon Pie 
  • 1½ Tbsp. gelatin
  • ¼ c. cold water
  • ½ c. sugar, brown or white
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • ½ c. milk
  • 1 c. pureed pawpaw pulp
  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ c. white sugar
  • 1 c. heavy cream, whipped
  • 1 baked 9-inch pastry shell
Soften gelatin in cold water. Combine the ½ c. sugar with the salt, egg yolks, and milk in the top of a double boiler. Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture coats a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in softened gelatin and pawpaw puree. Chill until a spoonful holds its shape (about half an hour). Beat the egg whites stiff with ¼ c. of white sugar. Fold egg whites and half of the whipped cream into the filling. Pour into the baked pastry shell. Spread remaining whipped cream on top of pie. Serves 6 to 8.
Note: Graham cracker crust may be used instead of the pastry shell.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Turning the corner

It's been a difficult year but things are looking up. First, I went out to fill the bird feeders this afternoon and a warm, comforting sun shone down. Patches of snow had melted to reveal brown grass. Green shoots broke the soil, although barely perceptibly.  An enticing earthy smell filled the air.

We started 2009 with three Labrador retrievers but ended it with just one, the 5-year-old baby, Banjo. I knew my old friend Carlos wasn't likely to make it through the year, but  I expected to have dear sweet 9-year-old Lucy as a companion for a while longer. Some bizarre event sent her digestive system into complete collapse. Her pancreas ripped apart and she died at the vet clinic on Christmas. Banjo and I both have been mourning her all winter.

Banjo is a good watch dog - when he chooses to be - but he doesn't have the intense protective instinct that his elders did. I guess he never had to, because they were always in charge. So, with spring's arrival I hope to also acquire a protective female. She'll provide the Banj some much-needed company and help keep us safe.

Getting a puppy, however, means I need to get better. Last summer I developed a pinched nerve in my cervical spine which became so extreme that I quit my job. My insurance company recommended Rush Hospital for spine surgery and I met a terrific surgeon there who gives surgery a 90% chance of improving my pain and numbness. I'm looking forward to getting back to work, training a puppy, and even gardening later in the summer.