Monday, December 29, 2008

A Happy New Year

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Firefighter, Cat Herder, Magician

Ever have one of those weeks at work when nothing you planned to do can be addressed because you are so busy putting out fires? When your efforts at being part of a sane approach are trampled by the feet of organizational chaos? When the rules seem to change at whim?

If I wrote a recruitment posting, and included a more accurate (and certainly more colorful) description of the job I do, it would look like this:

Looking for Other Duties as Assigned, in a Small and Driven unit within an Traditional Heirarchy that finds itself transitioning to Corporitization?

Spend, play with, reorganize, spit polish and lament over miniscule resources. Alternately appreciate or get bushwacked by new business practices while managing this little pantry of goodies and those it feeds. Snake charming, firefighting, mind reading, and scrapbooking skills a plus.

Extra Special Other Duties may include (but are not limited to): musical chairs/desks/you name it, preventing a kitchen fire by emptying almost a loaf's worth of bread crumbs from the office toaster, General of the supply closet - sometimes commanding recon missions to local hallways for freebies, knowing the answer to the question "How do We say what We say?" and other pithy inquiries, corralling innumerable moving parts to get one small thing accomplished. Rodeo experience, cat herding, thermodynamics and gourmet cooking skills desired, unlimited patience and naive impression that it can't get worse required.

Join us in a diverse environment of unique and quirky people with individualized working styles. Free yourself from organization and method, savoring your role as a purely reactionary member of the workforce, and become one with the Now, or as we like to call it, the "What Now".

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

lunch on the porch

Reading: The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. Beautifully written.
Eating: Butternut Squash Gnocchi
In the glass: Orange/carrot juice to chase away this cold

Monday, September 22, 2008

* sniffle * hack *

Why are all my comfort foods the same color? Seriously, I ask myself this every time I get sick. I end up craving custard, or rice pudding, teas heavy with milk and honey, toast with butter, soups rich with chicken fat and lemon juice, heated apple juice with honey and a shot of citrus... Is anyone else like this? Why don't I get a hankering for red? Or spicy foods? Why does beige food make me (a person who loves color) feel warm and cosseted?

I've been battling this cold for days, and telling myself that it's just allergies, but it's making itself known in full force today. Maybe you're familiar with that weird euphoria you get when you have a lot to do at work and there are pestilent forces frolicking in your system. Today was not the day to make major decisions, or to use the office shredder. I hope I didn't do either...

I am looking forward to the corn chowder I'll pull out of the freezer tonight. I used homemade chicken stock, so it's rich and fatty. I'll add a bit of cream and some lemon to the broth once it's heated, and I have some leftover rolls to warm in the oven. I'll try to home cook my way to health. It will be a beige meal, but if that's what my germ addled brain decides I want, I'm not going to argue with it!

Photo credit M'soft Clipart

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wanted: Fairy Godmother

Wouldn't it be nice to come home and find that your dirty laundry and dishes, your scuffed and dirty floor, and your stray detritus had magically cleaned themselves and returned to their places? I know it doesn't happen, but honestly, I would be a changed woman if it did.

We've had a long two weeks (well, a year really) of goodbyes. Several friends have moved away. Far away. Spend-a-lot-of-money-to-see-them away. London, Texas, Oregon. Email doesn't quite cut it, and we are not fans of the phone. I realized this week that we've been having send off parties and last-time-to-____ gatherings for a year now.

The most recent rash of festivities was for Ethan, who moved to Portland, Oregon after ten years of being my neighbor and twenty years of being practically another sibling. We are incredibly excited for him - it's a great community to move to and will fuel his artistic life. We're excited for us too - what a cool place to visit. We're also trying to figure out what to do with ourselves now that there are so many spaces that fun people used to occupy... Which means, in all honesty, that we're sitting in our apartment wondering why the dirty leavings of our daily life won't just up and wash themselves, the brats. And we're staring at each other with the glazed look couples use when they're too tired to invest in conversation beyond the words "what?" "nope" and "uh-huh".

Pitiful huh? We have other friends, and they are pretty cool. But they're an hour or more away, and it takes some planning because somehow, when we weren't looking, we all went and became adults with lives. It really gets in the way. I'm still trying to figure out how to make playing the point of my adult life without coming across as some nut with responsibility and commitment issues. If I were say, a river otter, none of this would be a problem. But that's as likely as my dishes and clothes pulling a Disney moment and becoming pleasantly animated and dutiful.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cookbook find

At a used bookstore I promise I'll take Heather to next time she's here, I found a real treasure. The American Woman's Cook Book with a green frosted vinyl style cover, published in 1940. Eight hundred and fifteen pages of advice and recipes, with labeled thumb indents for each section.

As much as I'd love to, I won't quote from it extensively because you can download it yourself, kitschy pictures and all.

On the sticks: we won't even talk about it, since these sticks haven't clicked in some time.

In the glass: water as an antidote for the Brewer's Fest we were at yesterday. There is a chocolate vanilla beer from Montreal that I am going to hunt down next time we're there. Thick, rich, cold heaven in a glass.

Under the needle: Using up ribbon and scrap fabric for lanyards for our various sets of keys. I feel like I'm at summer camp, but they stitch up quickly and the colors are loud enough it should take real effort to misplace them. Or so I hope.

Pie update: Successfully made my mother's apple sheet pie for a big 4th of July celebration. A little bit of crushed cereal sprinkled on the bottom crust soaks up the juice nicely, and the pieces can be picked up in your hand for easy eating. Pie Fest 2008 planning is in the works! A friend I've known for more than half my life, is moving to Portland, OR at the end of the summer. We'll be having a pieluck dinner in his honor.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Baking therapy

On an average day, I find myself juggling (despite my childless, apartmented existence) a handful of issues that blur the lines between work and not-work. I can't tell anymore what's my baggage, and what's someone else's baggage dumped in my lap. Whether it's family, friends or coworkers, it aaalll adds up. Good jugglers make it seem like their hands just graze objects that are inherently airborne. I am not always a good juggler, sometimes treating issues like they were mosquitos, cream pies, or rotten tomatoes.

Generally, there's some kind of crash, and serious readjustment has to be scheduled. In this rural state where town is two streets, and the weather isn't always conducive to going out to play, I resort to complex kitchen behavior. It wears me out, but if I want to banish annoyances from my mind, AND there's good food when I'm done, it's just fine.

Bless a fresh hot roll from the oven with a pat of butter tucked into it. Bless my grandmother for her bread machine that makes that (and two dozen other rolls) possible with only 10 minutes of actual work on my part. No one cares whether your dough was kneaded by hand or by machine when you pull rolls out of their oven from being rewarmed. They decide to invite you over again very soon, they roll their eyes heavenward, they remember their own grandmothers.

Thanks be for the solid thump of a maple rolling pin as it lands. Picked up at an antique shop for a song by my mother, and oiled and babied by my father before it came to me at Christmas. It's sturdy and can cowboy up to wrangle pie dough like nobody's business. It sets a good example that I try to live up to...

Digital schmigital. I prefer my chicken timer and its little anticipatory ticks, like soft chicken clucks. Its ring sounds very much like the old rotary telephone at my folk's house when I was a kid. I have a digital timer, but it's more bossy than helpful, and gets used during lunch break to let me know when it's time to put my book down and walk back up the hill to work. My chicken sits on my stove top and does her thing in a most comforting manner.

Chicken pot pie... roasted chicken and vegetables, creamy gravy and a sour cream pie crust baked in my big cast iron skillet. The recipe from Cook's Illustrated is the best I've ever tried. When I am feeling pretty darn sorry for myself, this pot pie makes it all okay - both the labor and the eating of it.

I don't know how Steve feels about the general frenzy of flour and potholders in our teeny kitchen. I know he eats the outcomes quite happily. He is kind enough to go back to the store when I do something smart like pour half baked pumpkin pie all over the kitchen floor, and he often cuts butter into flour for pie crust or biscuits. His skills at "disposing of" baked goods that are cosmetically challenged are unparalleled. There is nothing quite like the impromptu (and sympathetic) sous chef.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

First Week and a Little Fiber

I made it through my first week of training for the new job. I'd forgotten that learning new things can be so exhausting! After the first two days I was barely able to put coherent sentences together by the end of the day. Part of it is that my entire routine has been tossed out the window and I'm at the mercy of someone else's time schedule. I do like the woman who I will be working for directly, which certainly helps. If someone had told me first that she had a few little OCD issues, I might have been better prepared. Things like not using her pen or touching her things for example. However! Walking to work is still making up for a lot of things, so I will not dwell on that!

By the end of the week I was able to do quite a bit of what I will need to do every day without too much assistance, and I think that as things come along, I will be able to figure stuff out. I will still have at least next week for training, and possibly part of the following week. Of course I'm going on vacation the week after the Fourth of July and I'm hoping that I don't forget all my new responsibilities over that week!

As a reward for being such a good girl during my first week, I got to have a little fiber therapy yesterday. M wanted to go to some Army Supply type store down in Salem (no, really, don't ask), so I was able to go to the Yarn and Fiber Co. in Windham. After touching just about everything they had, I came home with a skein of Cherry Tree Hill Silk & Merino DK
that I have been patting ever since.

I also came home with a skein of sock yarn (I know, aren't you surprised?) that I had never seen before. It's by Ivy Brambles and it's so blue I can't stand it. Gorgeous and soft and squishy.

And just in case you were wondering if I ever actually knit with all this yarn, I also have a finished object to show! This is what became of the Malabrigo Silky Wool that I got with Kate -

With all my walking to work this winter, I'm thinking I'm going to need plenty of scarves, mittens and hats. I loved working with this yarn. I may have to look for some more to make a few more things.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I was sent home, but it was just hype

We were sent home today, with a tornado threat looming. I walk to work, and was not relishing an unwilling Mary Poppins routine (we heard that the winds might be 60-80 miles an hour). It's not my typical style to flee at the first hint of weather, but I was the first one out the door, hustling home in rain and thunder. I made it to the apartment just as the rain really started to dump, and packed up anything that might blow around on our porch. Called my better half to let him know where I was, and then sat down to watch the onset of a big whopper storm. Just in time for the sun to peek out. Honestly.

I'm not so excited about tornadoes, but I do like a good crack-boom thunderstorm. It's been so oppressively hot here, I was ready for that nastiness to go out with a bang. Nothin' doin'. I'm disappointed actually, and now rather out of sorts... I don't know what it means that that inspired me to blog, but here I am.

New pies tried: White Russian Pie (w/ bourbon and coffee brandy), White Chocolate Pie with raspberry sauce, Peaches and Cream Pie. Also a Derby Pie made by someone else, that was like liquid chocolate chip cookie - all sugar, very good.

Books I have open: Shogun (again), The New Good Cake Book, Green Housekeeping

Projects on the sticks: a felted carrot and that darn mohair wrap I just can't seem to finish

How I'm trying not to freak out about the economy: Growing a few of our own herbs and veg, making our own laundry detergent (from the Simple Dollar blog, great stuff!), stocking up on the basics when I can afford them (flour, rice), trying not to lose sight of the forest for all the green marketed trees

After-work beverage of choice: Otter Creek's Otter San - Japanese style beer brewed with sake yeast

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Comfort of Common Sense

I may have to revert back to my old practice of not reading the news. The headlines add up and overwhelm me these days, and while I remind myself that the media sensationalizes, the basic facts of poverty, disaster and political foolishness remain. Obsessive red tape and policy shroud our lives to such a degree that we stop functioning like human(itarian) beings. I see this increasingly at my workplace, as well as in the operations of government, where humans in crisis take place below political posturing and ego.

I had an instance today that sent me home for lunch in tears of frustration. How could something so simple be made to be so complicated? There are days when I can feel a chain of frustration, weariness and anger being forged one link at a time. Each link is a discomfited employee, and today felt heavy with the weight of all of them. Call it an administration out of touch with employees, an organization struggling to modernize practices... as much as the employees would like to sort things out in a reasonable way, we end up being a terrible burden to each other as we manage the daily confusion and fallout from administrative decisions. Days like this make a lunch break a time of readjustment.

I go home for lunch when I can, and I always have a book waiting for me, if not a sunny stoop and some good leftovers. Today I continued the Essays of E.B. White. White is the author of Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Trumpeter Swan, not to mention the revisionist of The Elements of Style (Strunk & White), and a superb essayist. The book of essays I'm reading range from the 50's to the 70's. While I may take a hiatus from the news, I'm certainly don't want to bury my head in the sand. I'd rather spend my time reading the well voiced, reasonable and quiet outrage of White as he writes about exactly the issues we struggle with fifty years later. Polluted soil and polluted food, the death of passenger trains, disarmament, the ways of politicians... White comforts me with common sense, even as he writes about his prescient frustrations with the world. His reflections are sometimes laments, sometimes acceptance, often nostalgic, always wry - a combination that soothes my wounded spirit, makes me feel a sense of companionship in this world. I find myself thinking of his gift with words throughout the day, and it braces me. Like a good friend who sympathizes without sacrificing honesty, he does not patronize, is not over familiar, and shares enough of himself to establish trust and empathy.

Charlotte's Web was always my favorite book as a child, and I am thrilled to have rediscovered this author that so engaged me so many years ago. Once this book of essays is read, I have two more like it on my shelf... and I certainly won't hesitate to add his children's books to my reading list to further my free therapy. His contexts are just as captivating as his subjects, fictional or otherwise. You read it in his sketches of New York City, and the animal doings on his farm in Maine. As much as White wonders about the state of things, he is also full of wonderment.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Is That A Light I See?

Back at the beginning of February I gave my notice here at the bank. I was surprised to learn that management did not in fact want me to leave, and I was told that something else would be available for me. I left that meeting feeling pretty damned good about things.

Fast forward about a month and a half. I had applied for the position that everyone thought I should get, as the Operations Department Assistant Manager. In the end, I didn't get it. The person who did get it is far more qualified in the operations world, even if she doesn't have the management experience that I do. To be totally honest, this didn't break my heart. If I never "manage" anyone other than myself and Mark again, I'll be perfectly happy.

So, my next step was to apply for the position that was left vacant by the person who got the management job (Is this too confusing? Am I babbling like a crazy person yet?). Her position was very similar to what I did at the last bank I worked for, dealing primarily with overdrafts and the ATM/debit card world. I have not wanted a job quite possibly ever as much as I wanted this one.

The interview went pretty well in my opinion, even though I am notoriously hard on myself about things like that. There wasn't anything she could throw at me that I hadn't already had experience with. I convinced myself that obviously there was no one better suited to or qualified for this job.

I started to feel a little less hopeful after finding out that there were seven other internal candidates for this position. Surely one of them would have seniority, or would deserve it more, or would be sleeping with someone's brother. Surely one of them will get it and not me.

After waiting in agony for another week I got a phone call today. Guess what? I'M THE NEW OVERDRAFT AND ATM/DEBIT CARD PROGRAM COORDINATOR!!!!!!! SQUEEEEEE!!!!!!! WOO-HOO!!!!! (Wild dancing around the room ensues.)!!!! Break out the crazy hats and noise makers (and maybe a little wine) because I'm absolutely crazy out of my mind thrilled about this!

This means that I can finally get out of face-to-face customer service. This means that I never have to sit trapped in my office while someone who smells like the fishing docks on Rye Harbor rambles on for an hour about where their father used to bank back in the days before computers. This means that I never have to have a crazy bicycle-helmet wearing person try to use a photocopy of him with Bill Richardson as a valid "photo" ID (hey, if a possible future president knows who he is, who am I to question him?).

You wanna know what else this means? It means I get to move to another office. And you wanna know what that means? It means that I get to walk to work.High gas prices be damned! I will be walking to work.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Work rhymes with jerk

I have that stressed out at myself feeling. Not mad at myself, stressed out at myself. There's something I should have done lurking around every corner, and all I can do is expect it. It's that time of year in academia when students cry, faculty fizzle, and paperwork and chaos reign supreme. For staff it's like watching a roller coaster ride knowing there's a barfer in the front seat.

Some of this is a result of too many things to do in my particular role. Some of it is that it's "normal" to feel that way this time of year as the curtains of academic and fiscal year crash closed (shoot whoever came up with that schedule please). Quite often my "something I should have done" is really someone else's last minute remembrance of something that needs to get done. Pronto. And those kinds of things generally fall within my job of "other duties as assigned". I should have business cards with that as my title... not a good investment since I've discovered that the best use for business cards is making lists on the backs. Nice, small, manageable, pocketable lists.

Anyway, I feel jangly and incompetent. No matter how much I catch up, there's a new confusion waiting to pounce... and it makes me feel like I'm not doing my job. I'm paranoid that it makes me look to others like I'm not doing my job. And then I get stressed out at myself... which leads to a growly stressed out stomach... which you probably shouldn't feed ice cream to, even though you are really craving something creamy, sugary and comforting.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Have to Stop Swapping Like This

I am participating in another yarn and goodie swap on Ravelry, a May Flowers Swap to celebrate the end of another long winter. Here's a picture of my spoils from my swapper, thedish! Thanks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

All Done

The Bruins season is over. I haven't said much to anyone about it since I sort of needed a few days to think about it. I know I must sound completely ridiculous to some people. I'm sure some of you don't care even a little bit. It's just sports, right? But I do care. I've cared for over thirty years now, and I don't see that stopping any time soon.

I'm going to do my very best to avoid the inevitable landslide of news that will accompany this loss. I don't want to hear the excuses or the attacks. I will not wander down the road of "what if." What if Bergeron hadn't gotten hurt? What if we had seen Manny Fernandez this year? What if Phil Kessel didn't end up on the bench for three games? What if Glen Murray could have played all of game seven? What if the officiating went our way? None of that matters. It didn't matter a few months ago and it doesn't matter now.

I'm going to go outside of all of this and give my Bruins some love. I'm not going to say that I'm not really disappointed. I am. I couldn't watch most of that game. I knew the odds were still kind of against them, but I wanted to believe that it might be different this year.

They gave us a better season than anyone expected and now that I've had a bit of time to be realistic about things, I'm very pleased about that. I have a truly positive feeling about this team now and I hope that it continues. I'm almost on the verge of saying that maybe Bruins management finally have a clue and may actually have the wherewithal to give us a team worthy of their ardent fans. I enjoyed watching this season. Almost. Ask me again next season.

At least now I can console myself with the evidence that even in victory, Montreal fans are classless idiots. I'd be ashamed to be a fan of the Habs right now. Shop windows were smashed, five businesses were ransacked, people rioted in the streets and three of the dozen police cars destroyed were set on fire. Can you imagine what it would have been like if they had lost?

Friday, April 18, 2008

What Was That?

Seriously. The Bruins won last night. We're actually going to a game six. Against Montreal.

I have to admit that after Montreal scored the first goal, I wandered away, heartsick and a little disgusted. I said after the Bruins won their first game of the series that I was just happy that they didn't get swept. I lied. I want them to win this series. I want them to make the Habs cry like little babies. (Generally I'm a complete softie about things, but hockey apparently brings out my hostile side.) I came back a little while later and was pleased to see the score tied at one. I was speechless for the next four goals. Should Kessel have been benched for the last few games? They don't pay me to make those decisions, so I'll just say I'm glad he responded the way he did.

I had pretty much resigned myself to letting go of this series and saying "maybe next year." I can't decide if I'm happy that they won or if they're just tormenting me by prolonging the agony. As a Bruins fan, I am used to the disappointments. It has become (in my mind) similar to the Red Sox not winning the World Series for 86 years. I know that some thirty-odd years since winning the Cup is not 86 years, but it's been most of my lifetime and it's getting old. I would love to see the Bruins win and stop being the forgotten team in this area. A little respect is all I want.

And speaking of respect, Harry Sinden - WTF? Once again you have shamed the Bruins and their fans with your stupid, pointless remarks. You should have let go of this team years ago. You are the direct cause of many of the problems the team has faced in the past few decades. There is a management team in place, finally, that seems to 1.) Know what the hell they're doing, and 2.) Actually care about what happens. Time for your big ego to go retire to Florida. Maybe you can hook up with Phil Esposito and reminisce about your glory years. Bye now.

In any event, I am looking forward to Saturday nights game with my usual mix of anticipation and nausea. I'm a little scared to hope out loud for a positive outcome, but oh, how I want it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

If Not Now, When?

Never, that's when.

If I don't start writing blog posts right now it will just keep getting harder and harder to come back.

So many factors have conspired to prevent me from blogging. There are many times during the week that I will think of something or see something and compose a little post in my head. That's as far as it usually gets. By the time I get home, I'm usually exhausted and don't feel like writing. I did all the work to think of it, why don't you just read my mind? Thanks, that would be much easier.

Another thing that often keeps me from posting is my fear of not meeting expectations. I start to feel sort of hemmed in by the parameters of this blog, feeling like I need to talk about knitting, or cooking, or some sort of catastrophe. Thinking that most of the things that I feel like writing about don't really fall into any of those categories. Feeling like what I write should be funny or sarcastic or at least some sort of wry observation. To be honest, there hasn't been a whole lot of funny in my life for the past six months or so. My sense of humor has let me down quite a bit lately, and I'm not used to that. I feel that by posting an entry that is not about any of the expected things or if just isn't funny, I'm letting someone down.

It occurred to me this weekend that this is in fact my blog. My place to write whatever the hell I want. And I want to write stuff. It isn't going to be pretty, and it probably isn't going to be funny. It might be about knitting, it might be about the Stanley Cup playoffs, it might be about the Red Sox, it might be about a book I just read, it might be about the tricycle riding demon that lives downstairs or the ass who cut me off on the way to work. I don't know. I don't care anymore. I just felt like saying hi, and maybe I'll keep stopping by.

Friday, April 11, 2008

dammit dammit dammit

Ever put together a nice long spreadsheet of numbers in Excel that you've pulled from other worksheets, moved things around, totalled different columns for different purposes... inserted the totals from that sheet into a larger calculation... only to find (by freak chance) that an equation was wrong?

Number of curse words = COUNT of people you've already shown your incorrect figures to
Degree of stupidity = SUM of total screwed up subtotals
Reminding myself I'm only human = also being thankful that today is Friday and my boss and coworker have the weekend to try to forget what a twit I am

Erg. Time for a Friday-style beverage.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Red Sox Swap

I decided to participate in a swap over on Ravelry in my Red Sox Knitters group, and I just got my package today! Sheila sent me some great stuff, and since I'm having trouble getting my pictures up over there, I'm posting them here too!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Holiday baking stress

When I talked to my mother last week, something possessed me to volunteer to make everything but the ham for Easter dinner. We're not really a get-dressed-to-go-to-church bunch, and Dad's a chocoholic, so the holiday is pretty much about food and springtime in our family. So... spring eats would be things like asparagus, mom's lemon meringue pie and sweet, fluffy rolls like my grandmother always makes. And bacon. My aunt swears that there is very little that can't be improved by the addition of bacon.

Please note that I named other people in relation to some of the food choices. That's because these are items I have never made. I've never had to, mom and/or her mother always has. My mother is gluten-free, so that makes baking interesting at times. It generally means two pies (one with gluten free crust, which has it's own special challenges). I was confident I could juggle all of this noooo problem. Which isn't untrue... I can generally pull off family catering, but the no problem part should never be an assumption. I do it to myself every time, despite the "Abort Mission" faces my Better Half makes when he hears me rattle off menu selections and available time frame. "Don't worry" I say "it will be fine". It usually is... often with his help.

I had pie dough in the fridge leftover from a pie fit a few days earlier, and figured I could just use it for my lemon meringue. This is the point where I found out that pie dough really needs to be used the next day (not the day after the next day), and that I was completely unprepared for the rigors of pre-baking the shell. Don't laugh, it stressed me out! When I saw my first attempt, I shuddered... butter should never be applied towards something so nasty. Frankencrust met trash can in a matter of seconds. I bought a "pie chain" recently, for exactly this kind of thing, to keep the bottom crust from bubbling up. Wasted my money... not big enough, not heavy enough, and the sides slid down like a pair of queen sized pantyhose on a toddler. I now know that a pie plate full of good ol' dried beans would have been fine. Steve helped me mix up fresh dough, and I used that lame pie chain and another pie plate to force the crust to keep its shape, and it worked. Lemon filling from scratch... no problem. Meringue? Completely intimidating. I broiled it just before we left the house, and to my great relief, it was lovely. A nice high mound of fluffy sugar. We packed it carefully, and it was transported without event. Only to find out, when we pulled it out for dessert that meringue shrinks. A lot. I even piled it right to the crust, hoping to anchor it a bit. My mother tried to console me by admitting that she always has that problem no matter what she does. But the image of beautiful meringue skating around the lemon filling committed me to some research on this subject (anyone have any tricks?).

Rolls. One of those things that seem easy to make until you actually think about how much time it takes to let things rise. I didn't realize what a family tradition dinner rolls were for me until I found myself stressing out about whether or not these would be able to meet the expectation of our collective tastebuds, conditioned after years to Gram's parker house rolls. Thanks go to my other grandmother for the gift of her bread machine! On the dough setting it kneaded the rolls for me, and the recipe I used gave me very simple shaping instructions. A relief to my ugly-crust traumatized brain. They turned out quite well actually. Not the same of course, but I will definitely make them again.

Very rarely am I worried about trying new recipes. I usually dive right in, and grumble about the results later. But this time, it felt like I had the ghosts of the bakers in my life peeking over my shoulder. Worse, they were joined by the ghosts of those accustomed to eating their baking! I'm pretty conscious about family tradition, particularly when it comes to food, so I was a little surprised to discover this anxiety in myself. It really was fine, and the bacon in the scalloped potatoes was heavenly... and I just may have finally learned not to be such a smarty pants about my baking.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Weird Pie the First

It could have been a disaster to blog about, but it wasn't. I made an Avocado Pie last week. Think key lime but creamier. Crumb crust (store bought, not Heather's homemade yummy crumb crust), sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, egg yolks, lime juice and a mashed avocado. The recipe called for lemon juice, but never one to follow any instructions to a T... I'll try the lemon next time, as the lime dominated the pie and I'm not sure that was the intent. Once out of the oven, I poured on the sweetened sour cream topping and chilled it. It was pretty good! There was a bit of greeny avocado flavor and the creaminess of the fruit held through baking. The sour cream top was a nice contrast. It was a pretty pie, the avocado baked to a nice light green color - the same green people seem to want key lime to be, and I sprinkled lime zest on the white top.

The recipe came from a book called Blue Ribbon Pies, which takes recipes from state, county and local fairs. Most recipes are quite simple, with few ingredients. I may have to try the Southern Buttermilk Lemon Pie, or the Zucchini Pie next. The latter promises to taste like apple crisp!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dairy and fiber is good for you

Work and weather have been challenging and draining lately. It's February in Vermont after all, so of course this is unavoidable. Flower shows bloom all through New England this time of year, and resorts sell weekend getaways to desperate yankees by using words like "hot tub" and "relax". Anything that seems the antithesis of slush or rock salt or snow shovels becomes what we all crave.

The sky was a gorgeous blue today, and waking up to sunshine was a nice change. Before I got too hopeful, the flaky d.j. on the radio warned me of subzero windchill temps. Instead of throwing an all out "I want spring now" temper tantrum, I sighed and packed my bag for a day without a walk home for lunch.

What does one bring to work with them to create a fake lunchtime getaway (when one is used to a five minute walk and then the peace and quiet of her favorite chair, a book, and good leftovers)? The recent Saveur magazine, chock full of butter, and the mohair shawl I'm working on. I have always been a firm believer in butter from my first plate of starch. I was further convinced of it's charms when I called my mother after a failed pie crust attempt (my first) - she immediately guessed that I'd tried to substitute margarine. "Throw it away" she said "start again, use butter". I did, and I've not batted an eye at not-butter for baking ever since. I'm the daughter of a woman raised on a dairy farm, it can't be helped. The mohair was from my mother too, and it was high time I got it on and off some needles. While I'd be trapped in my office, I did look forward to the good company of creamy reading and floaty fiber in my fingers.

It was a horribly drudgish morning, so I took an early lunch. At the appointed hour, I moved my chair into the sunny patch in my office, put my back to the door and my feet on the desk. I slurped down butternut squash soup while reading about the de-vilification of butter and it's return to the table (hallelujah!), and sat with a pile of whispery and warm mohair in my lap. Something about the soft click of needles blocks out the sounds of jammed copiers and coworkers talking at each other. It was lovely. At home tonight, I remember my lunch hour more than the rest of my blurred day, which is more than I'd hoped for.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sweeping out cobwebs

For some reason, there was a conversation at Steve's office about just how much yarn I had. When details were divulged, his boss said it sounded like it was time for me to knit or get off the pot. After a month of moving all of our furniture around, and doing some I-wish-it-was-spring cleaning, I'd just come to that conclusion myself, albeit not quite so... succinctly.

We've switched workspaces, the artist and I. His drafting table faces the windows in the office now, and I'm curled into the corner by the heating vent. The sewing machine is the short side of the L that is my space, and we can both get to it (he learned to sew last week so he could make puppets). This works out better than we'd anticipated actually, and in a celebration of organization and inspiration, I'm trying to be good to my workspace and not overtax it with a bunch of half-baked projects.

I've assembled what I call the "basket of shame". It sits by my desk, full of things I either have to frog or finish. They stare up at me, little orphaned projects... the guilt alone is some serious incentive.

I'm almost done cutting all of our old denim into quilt blocks, and I've salvaged some of the zippers to sew into felted or fabric bags. Just two pairs of jeans left. The denim will be paired with my favorite bright fat quarters in a simple quilt. My grandmother is a quilter, and while this will not even touch her finished pieces, it should be attractive and will make me proud of my use up/make do abilities.

I have a pile of mending sitting by my machine, so I can do an odd bit or two when I have a free moment. Buttons will once again be reunited with plackets, and Steve may get some of his clothing back once it's patched. Pants will be hemmed, shoulder pads will be torn out. And then I'm going to train myself not to look at something and think "it'll be fine if I just...". And hopefully the mending basket will stay empty... ish.

The stack of magazines I was saving, for who remembers what, is gone. Inspiration clipped out, and the chaff recycled. There's a clipboard on my desk with the tidbits I culled, and I flip through that every once in a while, changing the one on top to fit my mindset (a gorgeous cork tiled floor, a gingham quilt, a color combo of orange and aqua).

Maybe it's the full moon, maybe it's the new space for my brain and eyes and hands to play in... but my sleep the last few days has been full of colors and images and project ideas. It is rare that I remember that kind of thing when I wake up, I'm usually more focused on the people and emotions in my dreams. These pictures lasted well beyond that first waking moment, and so I sat with a glass of wine at my desk last night to sketch them out with coloured pencils. I poked through my stacks of fabric, yarn, and ribbon and found matches, and then bundled up my sketch with the appropriate bits and put them in plastic bags. I now have a small pile of projects, stored so I can see their colors, and can pick one up when I feel like working on something. My notes and all the little bits of detritus I think would help are in there. It's a bit scary actually. Like I have some kind of momentum... that I should respect... and do something with.

Unwilling to fully engage in an analysis of my own behavior (I'm never productive AND organized unless I'm baking), I picked up the mohair wrap from the shame basket (if your mother buys you local handspun mohair, you darn well better do something with it), and started to work on it. The voice in the back of my mind was very quiet, and only said it once, but it was clear as a bell... "knit or get off the pot"!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Frankenchick pics

I promised pictures of the gift I knit and felted (and cut and sewed and cussed at) for Christmas. Not only did I complete the project without taking any photos, but I packed her up, whisked her across international borders, and left her in London without proof of ever having worked on her at all (if you don't count the felted scraps under my desk). The recipient was kind enough to send pictures.

I decided that my chicken loving friend in London needed an obsession appropriate tea cozy. I knit a miniature version. I even knit a swatch for this one... but it didn't do me any good. I cast waaay too many stitches onto round needles, and it wasn't until halfway through cast off that that became painfully clear. Sometimes it seems that cussing actually fuels my creativity, and this seemed to be the case. I figured out a work-around involving scissors, my sewing machine, a dose of my better half's perspective, and went to work.

And truly, she is a frankenchicken. Knit and felted, cut into pieces, and sewn back together again. The handle protrudes from under her tail feathers, and her comb hides the steam spout. Her bottom is ribbed so that it curls round the base of the pot a bit.

I'm happy to say she was a hit, and our friends even tromped her through London for a day. If you want to see the London sights with a felted chicken, you can check it out on YouTube.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Jumping Off the Cliff

I did something yesterday that I have spent a long time thinking about. I think anyone who knows me and anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows how much my job has been troubling me. I'm not going to go over the gory details again, since there are a good many things that I can't talk about publicly. Being in banking brings with it many policies and regulations, including very strict ones about confidentiality.
The expectations of this job have been extremely hard for me to fulfill. Organizing this particular staff has been like trying to wrangle cats, or discipline teenagers. I haven't been enjoying that. The multiple meetings and business calls and business functions are wearing me out. I'm not particularly extroverted. I am very talkative and open with my friends and family, but that's completely different. The audits and warnings and probations have been terrifying and exhausting. I haven't been sleeping. I haven't been keeping in touch with friends and family who deserve far better than that (hi, guys, sorry 'bout that). I can't have a day off without anxiety and a sense of foreboding and horror about having to go back.

I finally decided that being unemployed was a better alternative to destroying myself for a job I obviously didn't like. I'm not a quitter and I hate to lose, but I've given this position a chance for four months. I couldn't do it any longer.

Yesterday afternoon I called and asked if I could meet with my boss and her boss. The three of us sat down, and discussed it. I told them I didn't think I was the person for the job. I told them I wasn't going to change who I was to fit the ideal of what they wanted. I told them that I appreciated the chance they gave me to try, but that I had made a mistake. I told them that I had been with the bank for over three years and I didn't want to leave, but I saw no point in continuing down this path. I reminded them of all that I have to offer and how well I had done everything asked of me and more during those previous three years. I was surprisingly calm and I think I made all my points effectively. While I was telling them all of this, a sense of calm came over me that I have not felt in quite a long time. They asked me a lot of questions, which I expected. It went far better than I had imagined.

I'm not sure exactly when during the conference I realized it, but this did not end up the way I thought it would. I figured out that not only were they being quite understanding, but they had apparently been expecting me to say this to them eventually and had already thought about it. What they had been thinking about was not how soon they could get rid of me, but where else they could put me. They want me to stay. They don't want me in a position that I'm this unhappy with. I'm stunned. And pleased. And very, very relieved. I think I might actually be able to relax this weekend.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stuff I came home with

Although we did spend time poking around shops, and we did come home from London with our extra bags full, we didn't spend an incredible amount of money on souvenirs. With the conversion rate at about .51 US dollars to 1.00 British pounds, we were "selective".

At Covent Garden Market, we stopped at Pollock's Toy Shop and Museum. It was packed from ceiling to floor with all kinds of lovely paper toys and Punch 'n Judy sets. We purchased a few pocket sized things. The deck of cards pictured at right are 1"x2" each and can be combined in endless permutations. On each card (which connects neatly at the edges with every other card), a road runs along the seaside, punctuated by knights, farmers, castles, and craggy islands. The five year old in me finds this fascinating, and imagines no end of stories inspired by the scene that unfolds. They remind me of bedtimes when Dad made up stories for me about favorite book characters because the books themselves had been exhausted. We also picked up a few paper scenes from this shop - a miniature farm and a small Victorian neighborhood (which I can't locate, so perhaps I only think we bought it).

Books are not only heavy, but crazy expensive. So while I was sorely tempted many times, I brought home only two books. The first was from the British Museum. So clever of them to put signs in their Japanese exhibit, letting me know what was available in the museum shop! It worked, and on our way out, I picked up A Japanese Menagerie by Kawanabe Kyosai. The anthropomorphism is delightful, and I'm both impressed by the simple grace with which the animals are portrayed, and forced to laugh out loud at their antics. The cover art is part of a painting entitled "Frog School" and in the book itself, among the bats, mice, birds and cats, is picture of a frog rickshaw that I love. Kyosai manipulates the bow legged stance and froggy grimace very cleverly.

Did I say two books? I meant three. Funny, how they multiply when you're not looking. Two cookbooks followed me home. Both were found at discount bookstores, to the relief of my wallet. Our first meal "out" in London was at a noodle chain called Wagamama's. After a cold wander along the Thames, we had a fantastic hot lunch there. The noodles and other ingredients are fresher than fresh, and can be ordered in soups, grilled, with sauce... you name it. When I saw the cookbook for cheap, I snatched it up.

It's not hard to guess that the second book was about pie. When I saw the cover, I chuckled to myself. Tarts with Tops On was just too delicious in name and content to leave behind. My sense of humor was seconded by the bookseller who said lightly "And if you turn the book upside down they'd be tarts with NO tops, now wouldn't they?". The author, Tamasin Day-Lewis, writes her lists of ingredients much like I cook, with "generous handfuls" of things, "yesterday's gravy" and recommendations that "your butcher will do this for you if you ask nicely" and that a particular brand of dry cider "is a killer". I can't wait to try the recipe for Apple Hat and Forfar Bridies.

Portobello Road was good for a shoulder bag and a pair of earrings (which I purchased twice, since I was brilliant enough to lose one of the first pair within a day). I came away from Camden Locks with a small black leather pig with two buttons for nostrils. He is quintessential Camden - punk/goth style and slightly off the wall. Borough Market yielded lovely foodstuffs, much of which I couldn't possibly get back to the states in one piece. I'll post more about that particular visit later, because it's food and I could go on and on about it. I did find yarn... can't remember where now, but we were in a courtyard with some lovely vintage shops. I saw diner style china on the shelves that was exactly the pattern my mother has at camp! (That kind of thing happened much more often than expected.) Sadly, I left behind a red tea set with white polka dots and some electrically pastel and tinselly vintage christmas decorations, for the best probably.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Homesick for the UK

It's my second week back to the grind after a two week vacation visiting good friends in London. The funny homesickish stomach pangs (no, not pains - pangs, pain with fangs) I feel every time I think about my trip aren't as strong as they were that first week or so.

When I was a kid, we vacationed with the cousins in Maine. Landlocked for the rest of the year, and obsessed with the ocean, I literally had to be torn away when we left. During the long car ride back, and the awful process of unpacking, I reveled in every shell, freckle and piece of sand I managed to bring home with me. I often hid a piece of clothing from the laundry pile (and my mother, supervisor and processor of said pile). Usually a t-shirt or sweatshirt that smelled like my time there... pine trees and sun-bleached salt. I'd pull it out every once in a while, breathe in, wallow in my sense of loss. Eventually, my mother found the stray item, or I faced facts and surrendered it to the hamper. I learned early on that you could belong to more than one place, and that the sense of being homesick for someplace that wasn't technically "Home" was probably a permanent state of affairs.

Leaving London was very much like this. And I certainly did not expect that. For so many reasons. I am public transportation phobic, probably because I've never really experienced real public transportation. Oh yes, I've taken buses, but this is a small rural state, it's just not the same. I'm an outdoorsy person, not necessarily in a rugged, athletic way- but I do need to be out of doors or my sanity begins to ebb. I believe in sidewalk etiquette - I move for you, you move for me. I have rather a hard time with big crowds, when being short becomes a frustrating disadvantage. I'm fairly social... but that doesn't always mean I like... people. So while I was looking forward to the visit, I was also anticipating some disenchantment with the daily experiences of city living.

Didn't happen. No disenchantment. Enjoyed the tube, and became reasonably comfortable with the maps. And once a city feels accessible to you, it changes everything. Chimney pots... Twilight in London is gorgeous because there is so much dramatic architecture outlined by the purpling sky. Chimney pots may not be your idea of drama, but to a gal who gobbled up British literature like it was candy, they were iconic! Bland food? My mother will attest to my life long love affair with potatoes. Especially mashed. Perfected by a pint of good beer (it seemed impossible to find bad beer actually), and some kind of meat served hot... in a pie. So happy to see so much pie, buttery pie crust being another great food love. Sticky toffee pudding? When I die, I may just stipulate that family and friends be served sticky toffee pudding. I truly believe it would snap them right out of mourning. I thought the food "plain" rather than bland, and admit that i relished plain for two weeks straight and missed it when I got home. My need for green was satisfied with a long walk through a park between tube stations. We walked every day, so much so that with all the delicious food I was inhaling, I lost a few pounds! There was plenty of outdoors to be out in. To be quite Mary Poppins about it, it was all in all a very satisfactory visit in every way. I would love to go back. I would love to win the lottery so I could afford to go back.

I don't want to be one of those people who is so enamored of their trip (and themselves) that they go on ad nauseum. Perhaps it's too late for me already in that respect. I won't promise not to talk more about our vacation, but I'll try to be reasonable. Consider this fair warning of more posts and pictures about the food and sights!

Friday, January 25, 2008


So, there have been a lot of very strange and unpleasant things happening to me lately. Tonight, to cap off a crappy week, my ex-husband called me. WTF?!?! Why? Why did he call? Am I just being immature? Am I supposed to be friends with him? I've long since let go of the anger towards him, and I have forgiven him for a good many of the bad things that he did, but I don't want to be friends with him. I don't want us call each other and compare notes on how life has gone since we split. Why? Why would either of us want that? I don't want to know about him, and I don't want to share my current life with him either. Is this weird or am I just over-reacting?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I might be back

Hey, it's nice to see you again... I'm feeling much more relaxed and I'm not feeling the need to take copious amounts of my anti-anxiety medication. For those of you who emailed and asked, it wasn't anything to do with family, or illness, or accidents. Because of what I do for a living, I really can't say exactly what happened to send me close to a nervous breakdown, but I think we are now in a place where we can start behaving normally. If nothing else, the most obvious thing learned from this is that I have got to get out of banking.

The main reason to break the blog silence is that after complaining for at least a year about my lack of a laptop computer, I now have a laptop computer! There's nothing like an anxiety attack to send a girl right out to spend too much money, is there? I'm completely and totally in love with this thing. I got a Toshiba Satellite on sale last weekend and so far, I'm really very impressed. Now I can sit on the couch and blog and surf aimlessly while watching Alton Brown on the Food Network. It doesn't get much better than that, now does it? I'm also pleased that I'm not hating Windows Vista as much as I had been warned. I am afraid that I will end up bankrupting myself buying new games to play on it, since it seems that many things I already have are not willing to play nicely with Vista.

Another reason to blog is that we had a little bit of a scare the other night. Right around 8:45 Monday night, I heard some strange sounds and went out on the deck. It was dark and quiet and at first nothing seemed wrong. Then I heard and saw what looked like fireworks, which might be unusual this time of year, but there are quite a few college age people around here who like fireworks, so I didn't think much of it. Then I heard someone yelling and suddenly there were sparks in the air, and smoke billowing from a building about five houses away from us. I ran back inside and went to the front window for a better view, and there were flames shooting up the entire front of the building. I don't think I realized just how fast fire moves. I ran upstairs to get Mark, and by the time I got back downstairs, it was really bad. Bad enough that the sparks (Who am I kidding? These were big flaming chucks of wood flying through the air) drifting over our roof made me start looking for the cat carrier, and deciding what to do and if we should be getting ready to leave. I like to be prepared, you know. We were also a little concerned because from what we could tell at the time, the building on fire was right next to the building that Mark's cousin lives in. It was a while before anyone felt like relaxing and going to bed. Fortunately no one was hurt, mostly because no one was home, and a neighbor even got the dog and two cats from the house out. It certainly made me think about our own fire safety plan. You never think it will happen to you, but it can. Sometimes being overly anxious and extra prepared can pay off.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I guess I can't keep kidding myself that I'm blogging on a regular basis anymore. Most of our readers are close friends and family, but there are a few other readers who stop by occasionally. I feel that I owe you some sort of explanation so at least I don't have to have this nagging sense of guilt about not writing.

I've been taking a bit of a break from blogging because of certain things that are slightly out of my control right now. Pretty much the only thing occupying my mind these days is the one thing I can't blog about. I haven't been knitting so I have no pretty things to show anyone. One of the things I need to have in order to write here is a sense of humor, and I've sort of lost that right now. I do know that this is temporary, and I'll be back at some point, really.

I hope that in the meantime Kate will have some stories about her recent trip to the UK to keep us all entertained!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Greetings from the Land of Pie!

A quick post, since my friend Alex has just removed pork and sausage pasties from the oven. Which means dinner is imminent. The grocery here is packed with a variety of pie beyond my wildest imaginings. Bite size, hand sized, full sized with anything from fruit or custard to meats. You name it, the Brits have put it in a pie. They're best with hot mashed (potatoes) and a interestingly named beer... like Bishop's Finger, Fursty Ferret, Bishop's Tipple (bishops here, so straight laced and of fine reputations), Old Peculiar, Spitfire and Snecklifter. We're not drinking them all at once, of course, but it's fun to pull one out of the fridge and ask a pal if they'd like a bit of Spitfire. Bishop's Finger has been the best for crude jokes, besides being a good beer.

Time for supper, and a chance to watch our slideshow of photos for the day, so I'll sign off. Cheers!