5-3-2017 Garden Meditation Day

The weather this week has been quite mixed. We’ve had some lovely summery days, and today I’m back in my furry boots and flannel undies, and still a bit chilly.  But our flowers are really going to town! The quince bush is blossoming. (We really need to trim it back.) The first of the bleeding hearts are up. The lilac bushes we’ve put in are growing and looking healthy. I’m not sure how soon we’ll see blossoms. I am certain that the bushes around our mailbox are lilacs, but the town crews always cut them back, so they’ve never bloomed. I wonder if we could transplant them? I notice it’s getting hard to find an empty spot to plant this year’s forced bulbs. They have accumulated beautifully. More of the daffodil/ narcissus types of flowers have started blooming, I guess they come out at different times!
  We now get enough in the garden that I have a vase of them on the table- although it gets moved OFF the table during meals because the flower smell competes with the food smells. It never occurred to me that one could use bulbs as a cut flower- we never had enough- you know, one bulb produces one bloom. Don’t waste it. But I have learned that they last pretty well in a vase, and they are multiplying, which makes them look good too. I guess we had too many moles before. Thanks, cats!
The cats are not as much fun to pat just now, because on the first of the month we do the flea treatment that goes on the back of their necks, so their fur is always sort of clumpy and greasy there for a few days.  Still, better than them getting covered with fleas and ticks!
The violets came out this week- and so did the knotweed- very impressively! (I hope to put up pictures I took with my phone, but for some reason it’s stopped recognizing a connection to my Facebook- meanwhile the computer decided to talk to my camera over the weekend, although at the moment the battery needs recharging. That reminds me that all this information we are storing as data goes away if we lose power in any major way. I suppose we can enjoy it while it’s here. I DO love being able to look things up so easily!

Now I can share the picture I wanted from last week with the gorgeous peppers that went into the tortellini soup! It was beautiful! I was surprised (although I didn’t get a picture of it) how much color the tortellini retained after cooking in with the tomato sauce.
This week I decided to try Shrimp Scampi. (Saturday was Shrimp Scampi Day.) John read me the recipe and it turns out that it’s simply shrimp sautee’d in garlic and oil, and served on linguini. Sometimes they add hot peppers, so I added a drop and it was nice enough that I think I’ll try it again. I didn’t have any white wine around to deglaze the pan, so I used a bit of old mead. I guess the ease and taste is why it got famous. We have a challenge at our house, Willow has the beginnings of a shellfish allergy, so she avoids them to keep it from getting serious, while Kat loves shrimp. Kat, on the other hand, doesn’t like fish, so often if the rest of us are eating fish, she’ll have some shrimp. She also tends to order it when we eat out. So we get by.

Just for hucks and giggles, here’s some holidays for the next week.
Today is Paranormal Day (but I’ve used that as a Subject line, so I chose Garden Meditation for the header). The first Wednesday in May is also the Great American Grump Out!
4 Star Wars Day (May the Forth be with you!), also Hoagie & Homebrew Day
5 Cinco de Mayo, which leads to Enchilada & Chipotle Day, and Day of the Midwife (continuing the Star Wars joke it’s the Revenge of the Fifth)
6 Dandelion Day, Crepe Suzette, the first Saturday is also Martin Z. Mollusk Day. (We can see why they chose to link it to a weekend, like Groundhog, this is a NJ hermit crab who’s forced to indicate whether Summer is coming!) It’s also Naked Gardening (what, aren’t the blackflies out yet?), and the day Monarchs return. You can look if you aren’t indoors hiding from the naked gardeners.
7 Roast Leg of Lamb Day; the first Sunday is World Laughter Day, & Bereaved Mothers Day
8 Disaster Preparedness Day (do you have a bug-out bag? stored water? enough toilet paper?), and Coconut Cream Pie Day (which IMO is more honored in the breach than the observance.)
9 very light- it’s Butterscotch Brownies Day and Lost Sock Memorial Day.
10 Liver and Onions Day, Bike to School Day (if it’s allowed!) & Trust Your Intuition Day
I will note that about half the holidays this month appear to be attached to days of the week, rather than day of the month. This plays hairy havoc with the various holiday sites, and since when I’m posting on Holidays that Might Get Overlooked, I do my best to make sure I check them and get them right, it’s taking much longer than I want to spend. Why would they do that? I can see Mother’s Day or Easter, but Space Day or Password Day? Feh!
Oh yes, and if you pay attention to that- Mercury has gone direct again. There were nearly enought screw ups this week that I almost started creditting Mercury Retrograde as being a screwed up time.
I don’t feel constrained to eat whatever the holidays are mentioning that day, but occasionally the reminder does inspire me. For example, on Tuna Day, I didn’t have anything thawed, so I made “Glop” the tuna and rice casserole from my childhood. Admittedly it’s changed over the years. Mother made it with Velvetta and minute rice- and she stirred a can of mushrooms into one end for her and Dad. While I use melted Velvetta as a base, my cheese sauce is mostly cheese, I use good rice, and I add freshly sautéd mushrooms, and onions, and this time I added the last of the sautéd jalapeños. It was tasty.
Steve came up on Sunday and we had burgers- but GOOD burgers. I sautéd onions, and mushrooms, and jalapeños, sliced tomatoes and fresh lettuce. Sauteing in butter, of course. At “the last minute” I discovered that the ground beef I’d been planning to use had gone over. It was after 7 on a Sunday, and we were out of luck, but tried the Village Store, which is open until 7:30. We got very lucky- they had some burger. I’m not entirely sure they were supposed to sell us any. It seems that Don has sold it to new owners. We met them- the gentleman is “CP”, (you will not be surprised that I can’t remember his whole name.) Apparently the switch over was only last week, and they are still dealing with getting all the permits and such that they need. Gods forbid that they should just keep doing what they’ve been doing for 30 years without giving the poor folks a hard time. I don’t know how the down would deal without the Village Store, so we’ll have to go there more frequently for a while.
The burgers were great, and afterwards we had Walpergis Night Cake- our traditional chocolate in a bundt pan topped with a ring of dancers made of paperdolls, around a central fire. This year we made the fire with epsom salts and alcohol in a little metal dish I usually use to hold used tea bags. It looked pretty cool- but didn’t photograph as well as I’d have liked.
Beside the chocolate cake, I also made a seed cake. I was very disturbed because I couldn’t find Cassandra’s no gag seedcase recipe that I always use. Only for Beltaine I use 9 seeds- Anise, Caraway, Fennel, Sesame, Poppy, Cardamom, Coriander, Dill, and alfalfa. Yes, when getting to the end, I have to be creative, or at least less fussy. I have used mustard seed on occasion (but not many). Mostly I go with the Anise- but I used a lot of sesame this year. Sadly, it didn’t come out as well as it should have done. I used another pound cake recipe, and it just didn’t work the same.
Luckily, I complained about it on facebook and Kat Stark found the recipe in one of my old cookbooks and is loaning it back to me to scan and copy. I seem to have lost the masters for theh old cookbooks in the computer crash years ago, and sold all the copies, so if I want to make them again (get them published on Lulu) I’m going to have to find other people who’ve bought them and are willing to loan me copies. Or start from scratch. Sigh.

The next day was Mayday and the girls looked adorable. Kat was wearing one of her lovely cream colored dresses (with a flannel petticoat, and Willow had made herself a new dress. It was pink with little roses and she found some green ruffles to trim it. Why should the little girls get all the cute clothes? (Willow wore thermal leggings as well as pink and white striped stockings under hers.) They both wore wreathes of flowers.
I didn’t dress for Mayday, but then, I’m old. I did make a Beltane cake, and when I couldn’t find the old cake May Pole, Willow made me a new one. Sadly we are not as cake-hungry as we used to be, and I think two cakes are excessive to our needs these days. I need to invite more people over for holidays.

Willow is mostly going to Avi’s to help with homework, although today, when they went to Costco, she picked some stuff up for her and dropped it off, to save Avi the trip. Apparently Avi’s kids are fairly picky eaters, so Avi has to keep two sets of food in the house, one with flavor for her (and Willow when she’s there), and one with virtually no taste for the kids.  This is another thing that Willow’s working on. They are hesitant to try anything new, and Willow wants to teach them that it’s safe. I’m still worried about her energy levels.

Although I find myself finishing this after midnight, as usual, we are gradually shifting our sleep schedules back so that we aren’t wasting so much daylight. But most days this past week I’ve been in bed at ten or eleven. It’s far too easy to stay up to get “one more thing” done. I, for example, have started getting the dishes done in the evening. When the kids were sharing them, we’d let them go until morning because dinner stressed them out, and by the time they’d wound down, it was too late to do them. I took over the dishes- as I’m fastest, and until this past week did them when I came down in the morning. I do like having them done when I come down- on the other hand, when you start with a clear counter and sink, it makes it very obvious how many dishes accumulate during the day (breakfast, lunch, snacks, cooking)!

Last Thursday the eye doctor’s office called to say  my contacts came in, and wanted to schedule me to come pick them up on Tuesday. I’ve been on one contact since December, and they sent for them (in theory) a week ago. I understand why they want me to try them on, and sit around waiting for 15 minutes, in case there’s a problem the guy needs to check. But since they schedule so far out, and he splits his time between Milford and Nashua, I was frustrated that I couldn’t come get them. I talked them into letting me have them, and coming back later so he could check. But then when I went to put them in, there was only one. We’d ordered another pair since it was a year old prescription. Luckily, it was the one I didn’t have. They ordered another and now I’m waiting to hear from them about that one.
The same day I stopped at the Insurance office to get the annual certificate of Liability/proof of insurance for Pennsic, and I sat there where the poor woman was switched from person to person trying to get it authorized, tried to get her computer to cooperate. She finally gave up and mailed it to me when she’d achieved success, but didn’t make me wait. It’s almost enough to make me believe in Mercury retrograde as a factor- not quite, it simply describes a climate where things require extra work. Still, this should mean it’ll be easier going for Willow. She’s trying to get a loan for her next car. It really looks like we should get her a credit card of her own, although what she’d use it on, I do not know since we mostly only get stuff for the house. I am now getting social security widows benefits. Because it’s all coming to the same house, that means they reduced Kat’s and Johns enough that it won’t be as much of an advantage as we’d hoped. I was imagining I’d get what they’d been getting, and hoping we could pay down the debt we’ve created by spending more than we were taking in, but it’s added nearly another $400 in total so maybe we’ll break even if we cut back more. I’m just afraid the supplamental insurance I’m required to get is going to use up the whole of that additional income.
In the “good news” area, I found the library book I’d lost- it was in the stack of holiday books by the computer. Whew! I won’t have to pay $30 for a paperback! And I found the “cuticle spoon”, which seems to be the name of the bizarre tool of which I have become so fond. It turned up in some collection and I didn’t use it for a long time, but after I did I came to love it. When it went missing and I wanted to replace it I didn’t have a word for it- but I think I’ve narrowed it down to “cuticle spoon”, or maybe cuticle pusher. Anyway, I was worried it had fallen into the water bed, and since one end is sharp, that could have been very bad. But no, it just disappeared and reappeared where it was supposed to be. Fairies!
Brief diversion into politics because of the current attempt to pass a budget, too many politicians don’t seem to get that every dollar spent on preserving health saves five to ten dollars in an improved economy. They are just so confused about hidden costs! If you don’t count the costs of clean-up, or negative effects on anything, you aren’t going to get an accurate cost analysis!

I m finally getting some paint to canvas although my getting distracted by dishes or laundry, or facebook still slows down the process. I am at the point where, before I get to detail, I want to get the composition correct, proportions on the subject, perspective (which shouldn’t be as much of an issue in a naif style portrait, but it bugs me.  In this one the problem is that he wants “half him, half his stuff”. He’s a clockmaker, and the stuff is cool, but I can’t spend as much time on that detail as I’m sure he’d like. I already expanded the canvas once to fit it in, but when I pulled the shelf of finished clocks in over the workbench, it changed the lines so they don’t come together properly, and I can’t paint the clock at a different angle than I can see it. I don’t think people understand quite how it works. *I* don’t understand how it works, I just do it. Phoeey!
This week I’ve watched the first season of Grimm, and I’ve quite enjoyed it. Monroe (the clockmaker-werewolf) continues to be my favorite character. Frankly, I’m not thrilled with the meta plot they’re overlaying on it with big political intrigues between the different breeds. I did like the episode with Troll type creatures running a Mafia-like shakedown on bridge builders. I’m also glad that the folks around him (his partner Hank and girlfriend Juliette) are neither helpless nor stupid, and thus are halfway to figuring out what’s going on even though they don’t want to beleive in the supernatural. Next week I’ll watch season two. I hope it remains as good.
I’ve also watched more West Wing– it continues to be an antidote to current politics. It makes me feel good to imagine frighteningly intelligent and fiercely moral people in the White House wrestling with how to deal with the conflicting pressures. I’ve finished the third season- which contained a documentary including interviews with several previous Presidents and White House staff members from Kissinger to Carter. There was also a story cycle in which the Press Secretary was assigned a Secret Service guard, Simon. When they started flirting, my “Detect Plot Device” went off, and I knew he was not going to survive. He couldn’t be a continuing character because NCIS was going to start in 2003. That character was very reminiscent of Gibbs. I didn’t realize he was that tall- I guess a lot of the NCIS crew are, but he was as tall as Allison Janney, who plays CJ, and she’s six foot. I think that’s a fine height for a woman!

A Netflix movie arrived this week from when I was checking out old westerns: Five Card Stud starred Dean Martin, Robern Mitchum and Roddy McDowell. The plot revolved around a lynching when a stranger was caught cheating at cards. Not a nice thing to do, but you don’t kill a man for it. It was rather disturbing to see the lack of regret among the murderers as well as the apathy from most everyone else. They only hinted obliquely that the black bartender “wouldn’t have participated” because he’d object to lynchings on principal. It was violent, but was against violence, so I guess that makes it vaguely acceptable. I watched one of John’s: Journey into the West.  It was a mythic Chinese fantasy about a demon hunter. At least when he failed, he was properly dejected about the victims of the demon. The special effects were nothing special, and the characters were one dimensional, but it was a fun film to have in the background while I painted. At the end the hunter and his companions headed off in search of a sequel I think.  Over the weekend a friend, Kate, suggested the Netflix offering A Street Cat named Bob. Apparently it was based on a true story, which was turned into a book, (which made it limp a bit, because real life isn’t as logical and neatly tied up as fiction is) but it was sweet, and I’m glad I saw it.
I’m reading the Autoimmune Epidemic, which is hard because it’s discouraging, and a bit scary. One wants to do everything possible to avoid the risks being described- and they’re everywhere. I also don’t want to talk about it with the kids, because it will only depress them, and they don’t need that. So I’m “heroically” keeping it to myself, and wishing we didn’t need even the limited number of toxic substances we use (compared to most Americans). For fun, I’m reading the other Lindsey Davis novelette: The Spook Who Spoke Again. It’s from the point of view of Falco’s bright eleven year old adopted son/brother, who is really clever, but not particularly moral (and not as smart as he thinks he is). That’s going slowly as I am trying to not read too long after going to bed. I’m trying to collect all my Marcus D Falco books- I’ve loaned the first to Steve, and if he likes them, it would be easier to just hand him the batch. When you’ve actually bought all the books in a series, it feels good to share it, if only to have someone with whom to talk about it.

Ah well, WAY too late! Until next week:


“Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness”, George Orwell 1984  (noted in a comment on a blog post on the CTCW site.)