appetizers for the flower feast

There are a bunch of blooms to report on even in cold MN. A lot of them are right in my house.

I found there fabulous white 'spider?' mums at the coop for the dinner table. I put them in a short vase with sprigs of yellow forsythia. They continue to be so cheery. This was the first time I brought forsythia into the house. It really worked.

The spray roses that I mentioned earlier were heavy drinkers, I didn't realize their water got so low on Saturday, I think this is what ended their time so early. Usually spray roses stay and stay. I'm sad about this.

However one of our dinner guest brought a fabulous yellow potted Parade rose grown in Canada. I think I'll plant it outside in a few weeks, but for now I am enjoying its scent immensely indoors.

Another guest brought beautiful mauve tulips. I love them. Tulips always amaze me for their colors with hardly any scent. Basically I guess I just love flowers.

What to do with fabulous flowers when you go out of town? I guess ask your cat minder to check them, but it seems a shame to not have someone enjoying them. Should I take them with me in the car.... inquiring minds want to know.

Outside things are popping up all over. We have a few tulips open. The crocus is done. The buds on the cherry tree are fat. The peonies are awake should bloom 'on time'. The later tulips are coming up but no signs of the siberian iris which surprises me. The dandelions and violets are out on the south side, I have already started to pull those golden beauties, and the creeping Charlie is also purply on the south.

All in all it's a very hopeful start to another growing season. May is practically here, hurray!

DP IV report

Silly acronyms are funny, ok maybe just to me.

The dinner party was great. It was really fun having a group of people who really didn't know each other much and getting together for a meal and talk.

The food report: must remember in future the serving information in this one cookbook is totally off!! I doubled the casserole because the author said it only served 4 people. Big mistake, I had to put leftovers in the freezer. It was also not as yummy as the first time I remember making it. The sweet fruity flavor just seemed too one dimensional. Oh well. The leeks and mushroom saute was divine even though we had two non mushroom eaters. The rest of us gobbled them up happily. The roasted daikon and rutabaga were yummy as well. The homemade vanilla ice cream [with palm sugar] and strawberries were springlike even though the weather turned really chilly. The tomato spinach soup was warming and dependable, one of my favorite dinner party recipes. The artichoke dip didn't come out as well as I remember it. Was it me? I have made it for parties before and it's been great. Those who imbibed alcohol had the alto adige pinot grigio '04 which I take no credit for -- I just buy what the nice man at bright wines suggests..

People report: two of the women unknown to me, had been to India and we had some interesting discussions about that. One woman was looking for a home for an old canoe! We have just the lake for it, I find that pretty exciting. There was a lot of dog talk, slow/local food talk. We got to show the house to people who have never seen it. We shared very bad pictures of the cottage. My dear wife did most of the cleaning so that I could think about the food. It works well, and then we have an extra clean house to enjoy later. We were so well organized that at 6:30 pm we realized we were ready and had an hour free before the first guest showed up.

It was just a really pleasant, relaxed, fun time. I am so glad we started doing this. I love the feeling of slow connections which I never get at a bigger party. We are already looking forward to the next one in June. Perhaps a barbecue? I feel like I just want to encourage everyone to give this a try, it doesn't have to be fancy, but throw open your home and invite some friends in the share it. Very rewarding certainly for the hosts and I hope for our guests as well.

effectiveness and beans

I'll go out on a tiny limb [in good company] and state for myself "I don't give a shit how effective torture is, it is illegal and imo immoral as well". Why anyone is even making this moronic argument, sure if a co-worker is threatening me, and someone kills him that would be an effective way of getting rid of the threat but still -- illegal. Do people even listen to themselves when they say these lame things? Why isn't every bible thumping christian up in arms about this? Do they think their Jesus would support it? You know, as long as it's effective, sometimes oh ok never.... I'm just going to stop myself from continuing down this crazy train.

Though I can join my 83 year old father when he says "I didn't vote for him or his administration --either time", it doesn't make me feel any less heartsick now. I have been telling my dogs how lucky they are to be dogs this week. *sigh*

So to other less depressing topics. Green beans are unavailable right now, my coop isn't even carrying them, so I need to rethink my side dish for tonight. I know in the past I have bought green beans at this time of the year, something must be different this year. I am thinking super simple roasted veggies. I am noticing other food oddities right now. I am finding some of the most yummy grapefruits I have ever had outside of AZ. It's almost May, surely grapefruit season is over? I'm not complaining mind you, just confused.

What my coop does have right now are spray roses which I love. I got some awesome coral ones, but I need something for the table as well. I love flowers. The violets and forsythia are blooming outside as well. It really is spring. I may have gone a bit overboard in buying juices for tonight, but most people invited do not drink alcohol so I went a little wild. I also bought a bottle of Campari and some soda for me. I love it and I probably won't be opening a bottle of wine for myself.

I have that 'nervous yet excited before a party' feeling. It will be a good time.

prepping for dinner IV

The roman numerals make me think of the Superbowl...dinner parties -- like a super bowl but with better food. In my own head I can be so funny. :)

Anyway, making my list for the coop. Talking food choices with DW and searching for that wild rice that I am sure that I have. Noticing the cleanliness level of my dishes in a whole new way. Mostly just enjoying the anticipation of knowing soon we will be seeing some of our friends and really enjoying them.

I am a big dork who loves to think about flowers on the table and wonder about the weather. Should I sweep the front porch out, will it be warm enough that people might actually enjoy being outside a bit? I love the setting up, the cooking, the tidying afterwards. Reining in my Italian upbringing that constantly wonders 'is that enough food, will people get enough?'. Luckily I married a Swede who can talk me down from that edge. "honey there is plenty, people will love it" and so on. Must decide on a dessert. This is a hard thing to do. So many choices. I love making desserts that people adore with whole wheat flour and agave nectar or palm sugar instead of sugar. So Cream puffs? Cheesecake? Apple Tart? Homemade ice cream?

Apparently I just love dinner parties. I feel giddy. I love that I don't feel like I am constantly working, I love chatting to everyone. I love cooking for people. I love the balance I feel in my life, it's a great antidote to work.

Above all I remember the most important thing, most people are more than delighted to eat food someone else has cooked for them. It will be great.

Barber of Seville

This opera was definitely a cure for my Friday blues. It was so amusing, lovely music, campy, witty, silly--my brain turned off completely.

It is such a happy reminder that humans can create zany entertainment, we can add to the beauty of the world. I once again bought tickets where I didn't really want them. For some reason in this venue I get the seating chart mixed up. We were in the front row center which entailed a teeny bit of neck craning but it was delightful to see the singers' faces as they performed their parts. I was in awe of their ability to produce such beautiful sound while doing a lot of acting and very physical comedy.

We enjoyed the chance to dress up and go to the opera immensely. Thank the goddess for art. It really does heal I think. I think the run closed today which is a shame, everyone should have had the chance to see it.

Yesterday was another fabulous day with a graduation to celebrate, a dear friend just finished 4 years of training to become a homeopath. We went to the ceremony to celebrate then there was lovely after party at the Wilde Roast. It was such a delight to witness the culmination of all that hard work, and when I think that I wrote one of her reference letters 4 years ago I get quite teary eyed. Brava Su.

Sunday seems to be rounding off a nice weekend and there is ECD tonight. We are preparing to go back to the cottage next weekend and there is a dinner party to get ready for on Friday night. Lots to look forward to in life. It's good to remember what is good. I hope everyone else has pleasant thoughts to dwell on this week.

sadness filled heart

What a week, eh? I find it hard to voice my pain over the memos that were released this week. I spent the 8 years W was in office reminding myself that it was not forever, all things change eventually. That is the brilliant part about change, bad things don't last any more than the good ones. But the release of the memos is such a painful reminder for me of just how much damage can be done to [and by] a country in 8 years.

All the fear that is so prevalent due to the global economy woes with more and more layoffs being announced every day and now this heavy sadness on top. I am just trying to accept it. I guess because trying to ignore it or push it away is impossible [and would be unhealthy anyway] it is everywhere in the very air for me.

So I try to hold that in one hand and reach out with my other hand to what I can do. I can do my work, I can be nice to myself, I can do a couple of errands, I can re pot a plant, buy some stuff for my early garden in the south facing, by the house, sheltered part of the yard and I can look forward to the opera with friends tonight. Mostly I can try to be kind to all I meet today because really it's hard for everyone. Not one of us is alone.

Tax Day a holiday?

When I upload national holidays to my electronic calendar it loads up "Tax Day: United States" for today. WTF? I mean did I miss when this day became a holiday?

I wonder if I know the meaning of the word holiday? I didn't think it meant the day that an annoying amount of yearly paperwork is due to the government. [and let me just say that MN's forms are particularly annoying, they don't want you to send in your W2, oh no they want a another form filled out with same information on the W2]

Anyway taxes got sent in very late again this year, deliberately. I do not use tax rebates as a saving plan. [though I did for years] Then I had a mortgage for years and I got money back on because of the interest I paid. Then for a few years since I sold my property my taxes went back to basics and I did my best to balance out my exceptions [or do I mean exemptions?] because I want all my money when I earn it thank you very much. I don't want the government to use it [for free] for months. Though they will charge you big if you owe them "too much" at the end of the year. In MN the limit is $500 I believe. Note though if they owe you a huge amount $500, $1000, $5000 they don't pay you for getting to use your money all that time.

Wow, I had no idea tax day would make me so 'ranty'. I won't even start on the escrow insurance/tax 'scam' that banks do so that they can use your money for free.

Of course all this will change next year with the interest from the cottage mortgage payments. It will probably be several years before I get it all back into balance again but I love a mathy challenge.

oh yeah -- merry tax day all.

Did you notice?

I managed to get a picture to display yesterday?

Here's another one of the cutest border collie in the world, to me at least. She is 14 and deaf but still loves to chase her frisbee. She is not thrilled about water but she will get her feet wet to drink. Our other dog loves water she has already gone up to her chest.

Easter, I had a nice and relaxed morning. I slept so well which was much needed because it was so horribly cold the night before at the cottage. Strange I didn't have any chocolate the whole day. Wasn't a deliberate choice, it just happened. Carolyn's family made the most fabulous brunch, timbales, spinach tart, fruit, sweet rolls. We just brought the bubbly, since we spent the rest of the weekend working at the cottage and other paid projects and had no time for cooking.

I made it to ECD last night. It was one of those weeks where the music all started to sound the same to me, and not in a good way. I had my first bike ride a couple of days ago. I feel like exercise is a good thing again. I'm sore but not too bad. The weather is finally a bit more spring-like around here. It's all looking up.

I read the above and I realize that my attitude must be improving because unhappy things also happened. A close friend lost her dad to cancer this week. This is the third friend in a year to lose a parent. Another friend shared her daughter is really bad with the cancer, they hope that they may be able to use radiation and chemo to put her in remission but, well what a thing to hope.

Yep, time to write my parents. *sigh*

streak over here's why

My 12 days of posting in a row are over. But I had a good reason.

We have closed on the cottage!! It was surreal and exhausting and wonderful. All the snow and ice is gone and I got to see the blue, blue of the lake. It was so beautiful.

I got to see all the old stuff being carried out. And the first bit of our stuff went in. We got to meet the wood stove. We completely froze on the air mattress because we didn't have an insulating layer between the mattress and the freezing foundation.

We sat on the deck and admired the water. The dogs waded and drank it. I was reminded how horrible it is to live with out running water and then felt gratitude when I thought about how few people on the planet have it.

It just mind boggling to think of this cottage on this beautiful lake we now have to cherish. Sure there is a lot to be done, but for now I drank in the quiet.

and the fact that there are no bugs out yet!

self care despair

I am having one of those "busy weeks". You know the kind. In fact if you are a mother with several children under 12 you probably have them frequently.

This week we are closing on the lake house and work, well let's just say, they are loading it on. I am exhausted. Too exhausted to do the stuff that will make me feel better. Biking, qi gong, journaling, walking in the sunshine. All ways that have been have been tested, that I know make me feel better. But I am too tired to do them, all the while knowing that if I did at least some of them I would not feel as tired.

I just feel stuck [and tired] I know I am not alone, this web page calls attention to this problem. It' s always nice to know you are not alone with a problem. I think that can tone down the guilt but it seems that this is one of those things we all have to solve in our unique way.

We all have different jobs and family structures and so forth. I hope being present and aware and thoughtful and listening to yourself is the way to go. But again it is so hard to do when you are so tired. It makes things that should be joyful stressful. Like is throwing a dinner party wonderful or stressful? How about a lake house? A trip to India? Stress really sucks the joy out of stuff.

So I wanna take the joy back, maybe after a nap?

States of Hope

So very, very brain dead but certainly happy.

First Iowa, now Vermont, DC... it's been quite a week and it is only Tuesday.

I am so tired but sitting here so happy with tears in my eyes. I'm thinking about my third wedding. I haven't had my third wedding yet but it has never seemed closer. I can see a time when my country, my entire country will recognize all my rights as a citizen and I will marry the woman I love for the third and final time.

Update: I may be wrong about the third final time bit. When I got home my DW talked a lot about how Iowa is close by, we could do a day trip and they don't have residency requirements and well, I am a sucker for a proposal. So wedding v3.0 may be sooner than expected.

In my own country, legally, with all the benefits and breaks it entails. Anywhere in my own country. I am just overwhelmed with the idea, that it is coming. That I will live to see it.

We probably won't have a big party since we enjoyed that already. We probably won't 'go away' to do it, although that was fabulous.

I know it will be wonderful though. Maybe I'll wear orange.

Happy thought: I may finally get to be a chief bridal ninja as well!!

It feels right. It feels potent. I hope.

you always remember your first... knitting swap PT 2

Finally I know my package has been receivied.

I have done other swaps with strangers before, the large BT list has an ornament swap that they do every year. [If you like kidlit or have little girls get yourself some Betsy/Tacy books asap, they are back in print] I have enjoyed it but stopped doing it after a few years, I got too many ornaments that I disliked and I felt bad because I didn't want them. So in order to have a more stress free life I decided it just wasn't for me.

In the years that have followed knitting related swaps have become legion, but I never did one. I resisted. Just like I resisted Ravelry "knitting cr@ck" they called it. But when knitting becomes entangled with MWMF my defenses go down. All due to Tanya, I joined Ravelry. [luckily she uses her powers for good: sock knitting at warp speed and sharing knitting joy with others] After she had reeled us all in to the Fest/Ravelry group she suggested a swap. It's been great.

Unlike my ornament exchanges you have a chance to 'read up' on your person thanks to elfster and ravelry. Our swap also had a limit of one skein, so certainly no least not that I could do in that time. I was able to find out her favorite colours and at least get an idea of items she does and does not go was fun and taxing and cool all at once. Now the blue[ish] hat is in the mail and I am just hoping that it fits and that she likes and if she doesn't that she is a good liar and...

Not that it didn't have it's frustrations. She very simply stated that blue was her favorite color. Now blue is not a color I go towareds much at all but I found a fabulous hand painted skein of wool, sure it had bits of green and purple in it, but mainly blue. It wasn't 'me' but I could see it was beautiful. I didn't trust my judgement though, I took it home and showed it to my best friend, who is all about blue. She has ocean blue eyes and looks fabulous in blue and wears blue all the time. I showed her the skein and asked her what color it was? Blue and it's beautiful she said. I felt triumphant and started knitting, and darn it all the hand painted yumminess came together in a fabric that, well, could have been more blue. I tried though I really did. I wish I was faster and had the time to try again but the swap deadline had to be met.

I also have another reason for enjoying this swap. It seems likely I will be in India when all the women are cavorting in the MI woods at fest. I will miss MI so much this year. I hope what I made for my swapmate will be going to MI in her luggage.

You always remember your first...knitting swap PT 1

It's an emotional time in a knitter's life when she has done her first swap and I have just completed mine--at least my package is in the mail and I have gotten mine this past weekend.

It was a beautiful package. The outside of the box was decorated. The was a fest music mix CD, great chocolate and my beautiful knitted item. Everything was wrapped in cheerful tissue paper. Really, it was like opening a box of spring time. My scarf/necklet was knit from a lovely wool [in garnet] that I have heard of but never bought. I wish you all could feel how cozy and soft it is. I feel very spoiled [in the best way] by the giver, who is not blogless and you will see is an extremely creative and talented person.

I can only hope that my own recipient feels the same way about my box.

I know this is a stressful time for many not just me. The 2 shooting sprees this week show that in a horrible way. My stress feels puny [but still anxiety provoking] in the face of those who are worried about keeping their children fed and a roof over their heads.

It makes me more grateful for things like this swap and the chance to take part of it. Or Iowa's recent decision to legalize marriages between all adults. It is so wonderful to be able to remember kindness. It is lovely to reach out to strangers in a caring way. It is something be reminded that people can tend toward love and not because they fear retribution or punishment.

I feel blessed.

closing week fright

I could write about the yummy palm sugar cookies I made today and question why exactly they were so crispy. I could bemoan the fact that it is cold and wet and snowing here this weekend. I could also try to write a more intimate truth.

We are closing on the lake house this week and I am freaking out! It is all going to become so real so very, very soon. I still have no idea if I will like spending lots of time in a lake house I am responsible for...I don't know how hardly anything works...I worry I won't have time, I'll lose activities that I enjoy doing here and now. Nothing is really in my control. Why am I making a big purchase when the economy is spinning? What if house prices drop even more and I kick myself? Why is this the week when I am so busy at work? What if work goes away like it did for over 600,000 people last month alone!! Is the weather ever going to warm up? Do all my friends and family think I am nuts to be doing this?

Basically, I am spinning around in my head. The fear of the unknown is something. And this is something I signed up for, it's not something that just happened to me. eeekk!!
....deep breathing...
Of course today I did realize I could get the red toaster oven for here, the toaster oven I have been craving since Rome and take my great copper toaster up to the lake. That made me pretty happy. I am such the appliance nut.

I will breathe and think about the new appliances I will now have an excuse to buy.

Dinner Party IV

Time to plan dinner party IV. We spent a good chunk of March trying to figure out when Carolyn would be in Boulder for work. Ends up it will not be happening in April.

This means we could finally nail down a date for our next dinner party, 4/24. We will be inviting people this week. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes down, so many people have such extremely busy schedules.

I think we will have several vegetarians in this round so it will have to be scrumptious and meatless. The weather could be 75 or 45. It will be a bit of challenge, early spring being such a 'dead' time culinary speaking. No local asparagus yet, perhaps some strawberries? though not local...

I have a fabulous cauliflower soup that I adore, perhaps we'll have that maybe with homemade bread. For the entree maybe the seitan wild rice casserole with green beans or a green salad. Strawberry shortcake on biscuit not sponge is a spring favorite or cheesecake. Will have a lot of no alcohol types in this crowd probably, must stock up with the fun juices when on sale.

I wonder if we'll be having dinner parties on the lake in September!

cast of my fridge

Have I ever mentioned my sweet pets that live in my fridge? [quick check for tag] Nope, I don't think so. [or maybe I did in the artisan bread post] They are no trouble at all, so happy, useful and yummy. It's my sour dough starter.

Apparently I am a goofball, but I think it's hysterical to start talking to someone about my many the fridge...who are my starter. My inner-chef must be about 12 years old.

I have had a starter for about 6 months now and it has been an interesting road. A lot of information on the web has been too scientific for me to bother to wade through. Also I like to cook with whole wheat, almost exclusively, and I have not yet found many doing that. Add my not baking with processed sugar, you probably are not surprised to hear I make a lot of things up.

I have had triumphs. My WW dark chocolate chip cookies are really good. They are made with agave nectar and chips are grain sweetened. However my second attempt at WW sourdough cinnamon rolls was a complete flop, although the dogs are enjoying them.

I made them once before, spur of the moment, and they turned out ok. Too sweet though with all the agave and pecans I thought. They didn't rise enough either that first time. I tried v2 this week, I was so in the mood for yummy yet semi healthy sweet rolls, but they were horrible. They weren't sweet enough for me! It's been a long time since I thought something wasn't sweet enough. They took forever to rise. No, I am not putting a recipe out here, although I guess I could as a grim warning.

It was so disappointing. Notes on possible fixes:
-more sweetener, this may be the recipe to try out rapadura.
-starter more robust so that it happily doubles in the 2-3 hours given
-pecans always make things better.
-don't skimp on butter, or cinnamon in the middle.

Once I and the dogs recover, my feelings and their stomachs, I'll have to try again.

plane fares to India

Although I am in the fortunate position of having my work pay for the flight to India my wife is not. So if she wants to go we have to pay for her ticket. The same summer that we are buying, cheaply sure, a place up north. If we had a choice we would change the timing of that.

She was feeling conflicted last week "I want to go, but the money should we do it right now" I reminded her that she has always wanted to go to India and she would probably end up being pretty bummed if she does not. I had a foolish, silly, brilliant idea.

If we gave up eating out for 3 months, I said [April, May and June] we could probably save the money for your airfare. We do eat out quite a bit. This seemed so doable last week. [we will treat ourselves once a month btw]

Last night, I was feeling rushed and overwhelmed. I had forgotten to start dinner [corned beef with cabbage]. I remembered at about 4:45. My sweetie came home, I announced I wanted to eat out. I announced I knew we weren't but that I had to say it. Then I opened a can of soup and got fed. It was the evening of April first.
I didn't even make it one day without the desire. How long do you think I'll last until I cave? Can I make it 3 days, 3 weeks, much less 3 months!?!

CSA decisions '09 and pre gardening

Here it is April and it is time for me to think about CSAs and gardening. Since it's so early I don't have to do much more than thinking which is bug free and can be done inside at a sunny window [or you know a window with snow/sleet swirling outside--whatever]. Pretty sweet.

We joined a highly recommended salad based CSA last year. We figured we certainly needed more salad in our lives. It didn't end up being a good fit for us though. We wanted more of a mixture of veggies not just greens that ended up needing to be used very fast and were at times very hard to identify.

So I have spent some time over the winter researching various CSAs and we have many to choose from around here. We decided to go with Driftless Organics. We like what we have heard about them, the boxes look like they have a good mix, including local soft fruits and root veggies. They also do unrefined, local sunflower oil, we got a small share of that. I am feeling pretty pumped. Who cares about winter having a last hurrah up here? Fresh tomatoes and BLTs with organic cottage bacon are closer than they seem.

I have also been musing about gardening this year in our large southerly exposure yard. I have never been much of a gardener. Not something my family had room to do. But I have been thinking. Eating good quality food is so important to me. Being more connected to my food is something I am working on. I want to appreciate my food for all the effort that goes into it. I want to be more engaged. Also I don't want to stress myself out or bite off more than I can chew. I want to do things small.

We have a double lot here in town with lots of sun and space on one side. We have a nice warm low bed perhaps 4' x 20' where we have some roses and delphiniums planted with plenty of room for additions. There is a primitive but useful watering system set up there and it gets plenty of light. There are lovely neighborhood nurseries I like supporting. I think I may actually do some gardening this year and not just flowers and herbs but some veggies like tomatoes and peppers.

I am a bit excited about it. Fingers crossed I am maintain some focus and enthusiasm as the spring progresses. Related goal: Finally get a compost bin set up, it's so silly that we don't have one with all this room.