A plethora of preparations

Very long day again, largely filled with home and family things.

We are fortunate enough to have a cleaning service come to clean our house every other week, which helps us fight back the chaos. We typically spend quite a bit of time before they come decluttering and organizing, basically trying to expose surfaces that potentially could be cleaned. To make things less stressful on both the people who come into the house and on the dog (who is very anxious), we get ourselves out of the way when they come. For the last couple years, at least since the pandemic, the tradition when the kids have been home has been to bundle us all into the car, and then go to the Starbucks drive-through in a nearby town. (Before the pandemic, Brodie would go to doggie daycare and John and I would typically go to work. But this stopped when quarantine shut everything down. The doggy daycare presumably reopened after not too much time, but we didn’t get back into that pattern. And now Brodie hasn’t been socializing enough with other dogs to manage that kind of thing. He didn’t really like it that much in the first place, but it was good to get him to socialize with other dogs. But I digress.)

Brodie in the morning, biting a poofy platypus.

Anyhow, the morning was spent cleaning and organizing, then we had the brief excursion, and then back to the house for more preparations. I’m still trying to find the dining room table, which I believe to be the surface under the months worth of accumulation of papers and other work and project-related items.

A freshly cleaned sink with an appealingly-arrayed assortment of glassware.

Phoebe then had a couple of friends coming over, so we all took Covid tests to make sure we were safe. (Of the friends has a medically vulnerable family member.) Then I walked Brodie again around 3:30. (Afternoon walks have to get earlier and earlier, as the sun sets a little after 4 now.)

Brodie looking majestic in the golden glow of the setting sun.

More cleaning and organizing followed. Then dinner (take-out, happily), and then food prep for tomorrow. Various vegetables were washed and cut, and I made my traditional pumpkin custard. (Effectively a crustless dairy-free pumpkin pie.) My mom and the kids helped with lots of the vegetable tasks. Tomorrow will involve more cooking and food preparation, and the final push to make the dining room presentable for guests. (Happily, the friends who are coming know us and our home well enough that they won’t be too alarmed the by a bit of clutter. Or more than a bit of clutter, as the case may be.)

Pumpkin custard, fresh from the oven.

The other big task that needs to happen this week (by the time the post office closes on Friday) is the writing of another 80 or so postcards to Georgia. As is my way, I committed to the sending of a lot of handwritten postcards. After the Georgia runoff was announced, a couple of my friends contacted me expressing interested in writing cards for the runoff. When I was in DC (actually, having a rest on a bench in the National Gallery), I got an email with details on a project with a mailing deadline of 11/25. I optimistically signed up for 500 addresses. I contacted the 2 friends who’d first expressed interest, and then reached out to more people. I got permission from the group organizing the postcards to get mailing addresses printed, and very quickly the 500 addresses were claimed. So I requested more addresses. And then I reached out to more people, and requested more addresses. I spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of weeks printing labels, assembling packets, contacting people, and doing a few deliveries. In the end, I requested a total of 1150 addresses, and distributed 1040 of them to friends and acquaintances. Which is a lot, and fantastic. But, if you do the math, that leaves a not insignificant number for me to get written. Happily, my mom is lending a hand with the hand-writing, and I plan to recruit others in the household as well. Maybe even after the feast tomorrow.

A postcard penned with an intermediate level of care. The writing isn’t my neatest, but I drew a peach. Not all 110 will get peaches. But I do enjoy drawing the peaches!

Off to bed for me now, as tomorrow will be a full day.

Rutabaga for days

rutabaga (n.)“Swedish turnip,” 1799, from Swedish dialectal (West Götland) rotabagge, from rot “root” (from PIE root *wrād- “branch, root”) + bagge “bag” (see bag (n.)). (from Etymology Online)

There was a time in my life when I had never, to my knowledge, eaten rutabaga. That day has long since passed. At some point, maybe 20 years ago or so, rutabaga became a key component of the roasted root vegetables that I make as part of our fall and winter holiday feasts. But it turns out that I can’t always find rutabaga at the grocery store. So it was that when I was in Vermont on Saturday, I brought home not only my firstborn child, but also a rather substantial rutabaga. We had stopped in to the local co-op/grocery store for snacks for the road, and I poked my head into the rather small produce section. Having not scored a rutabaga at my local store, I was happy to see rutabagas in stock. There were only a few, and all of them looked pretty big. I picked out the smallest one. Which, it turns out, was still quite large. I didn’t think too much of it until checking out, at which point the cashier said, “wow, that’s a big rutabaga.” It turned out to be over 3 pounds, and to cost over $10. I considered putting it back (because this seemed a rather hefty commitment for one root vegetable), but in the end, decided to pay the hefty sum and heft the hefty root home.

But I also decided that I would get my money’s worth out of it. Not only in the roast pan, but also here. Having once declared November 21 to be the International Day of the Odd Vegetable (or alternately the Day of Peculiar Produce), I decided that I would share my bounty pictorially. Joining the annals of noteworthy produce, such as the extraordinary eggplant of 2011, the dashing squash of 2012, and the sorrowful potato of 2015, I bring to you the humble but hulking rutabaga of 2022.

Below are some of the photos that I took of this venerable vegetable. I wasn’t sure what the appropriate light would be for its portrait session, so I tried several options and backdrops.

Brodie was uncertain of the threat-level of this rutabaga.

One thing that struck me about this rutabaga was its resemblance to an old-fashioned ice bag or cold compress. (And one thing that strikes me in writing this is that the hefty rutabaga is one thing that I would not want to be struck with. Especially about the head. Because I would certainly need an ice pack to recover.)

I was also amused to note that the etymology of rutabaga contains roots meaning “root” and “bag.” So aptly named. I think my rutabaga should be the poster child for rutabaga etymology.

I’m just going to post about pancakes, and then go to sleep.

Yes, I did actually just say that out loud a minute ago. And then decided that that should be my post title.

Once again, it is late, and the day passed by without me having a grand plan for my daily post. The day was a fairly mellow one. I started the day waking up too early, and considering trying to do some work before the rest of the family got up. But I puttered on my phone, had my tea, and walked the dog and then decided to use a package of gluten-free pumpkin pancakes I’d gotten a few weeks ago. That’s not a very interesting story (flat as a pancake, as far as stories go), but the pancakes were pretty tasty. Also, at least one of them appeared to be happy.

Also, in the last little odd-shaped pancakes I get when scraping the last of the batter out of the bowl, I found this critter.

At first I thought, “hey, those look like rabbit ears.” And then I thought, “or like a duck bill.” And so it was that I stumbled across another naturally occuring instance of the rabbit-duck illusion. It does seem like I’m fairly often entertained by faces and other shapes I find around in unexpected places. (Though if I’m often finding them, are they really so unexpected?) Are you this way as well?

Tomorrow we are all back to the grind after a lovely long holiday weekend. Theo is back to his in-person school (he’s doing hybrid), and Phoebe has to do a sort of extended independent study for her school. John and I both have work. Plus I have to get back to the pile of volunteer/community commitments that I energetically offered to do before getting side-stracked.

Only one more day of my traditional November daily blogging commitment. I keep wishing that I were better about keeping up the blog during the rest of the year.

pie are square (and other pumpkin tidbits)

This year, our Thanksgiving will be a smaller affair. While we’ve never had a particularly big gathering, we have traditionally shared the day with at least one other household. For years, we would always go down to my in-laws’ house. More recently, we started having Thanksgiving at home, and my mother-in-law would join us. Then we started having over a friend of mine and her two sons. There have also been years when my mother has visited, and one year (4 years ago), when my sister and nephews also visited in addition to my mother. That was our biggest gathering, with a total of 12 people.

This year, our number will just be the 4 humans who live in our house, plus our doggo. The plan is still to have most of our usual feast items, but maybe in slightly smaller quantities. (Although it is possible that we will still have copious quantities of potatoes. You know how I hate the thought of being short on potatoes.) One standard we have is a pumpkin custard that I make, which is basically a dairy-free pumpkin pie without the crust. I can’t remember when or why I started making it without the shell, but it works for us. And I typically bake it in a square pan. Which reminds me of the old “pie are round, son” joke. (You can find a version of the joke here, which was possibly my first Pi Day post, from 2008.)

On other pumpkin related topics, here Theo and I put together a fall display on our breakfast nook table. I have a growing collection of glass pumpkins, plus we have a few other decorative pumpkins of other materials. Then the CSA I’ve been participating in this year provided me with some rather pretty squashes. And then we joked about all the varieties of pumpkin in our display, so decided we should add the canned pumpkin, too. And then the goofy jack-o-lantern bucket.

And just because, here’s one more pumpkin photo.

Brodie, our doggo, sniffing one of our Halloween pumpkins. (Before the pumpkins collapsed and had to be sent off into the woods.)

Pie Another Day

Today is Pi Day, a day on which I like to celebrate pie. While my traditional Pi Day Pi Pie is not yet in the oven, I have been baking up these tasty pie treats for ages.* Plus, with the new Bond movie’s release delayed, along with so many things these uncertain days, we could use some certainty. And we can certainly use some pie.

I share with you the selected pie-filled adventures of British Pastry Service’s elite secret agent, DoubleCrust7.

Dr. NoBake (1962)

In the first film of the saga, Agent DoubleCrust7 battles mysterious Dr. NoBake, a megalomaniacal chef bent on destroying the U.S. baking industry. DoubleCrust travels to Jamaica, where he finds beautiful Honey Pie, and confronts Dr. NoBake in his massive ovenless kitchen.

From Russia with Crust (1963)

Agent DoubleCrust7 is back on the menu, this time battling a secret Russian organization known as KURNIK. Out to snatch a secret meringue whipping device, KURNIK uses the ravishing Tartiana to lure DoubleCrust into helping them. Will DoubleCrust escape without getting his crust burnt and his filling whipped?

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The Spy Who Loved Pie (1977)

Globetrotting agent DoubleCrust7 eats pie in jaw-dropping locales, from turnover on the cliffs of Dover, to plunging into deep-dish in the deep sea. Pairing with dessert-loving Russian agent Anya Pavlova, he must defeat megalomaniac pie magnate Karl Strudelberg, who threatens to destroy New York City’s bakeries with inferior ingredients.

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For Your Pies Only (1981)

DoubleCrust7 is dispatched to recover Britain’s strategic pie-baking plans before they fall into the hands of the Russians. When the secret recipe for the Queen’s favorite steak and kidney pie goes missing, DoubleCrust joins forces with the vengeful Greek beauty Spanakopita to find the key ingredients.

A View to a Quiche (1985)

After recovering a microchip from the half-eaten dessert of a deceased colleague in Russia, DoubleCrust7 discovers that the technology has the potential for sinister culinary applications. DoubleCrust faces off against the unsavory bakers, who are scheming to cause massive destruction of crusts to eliminate the quiche-baking competition.

Pie Another Day (2002)

Having survived a bleak and pieless prison, DoubleCrust7 is released to seek justice and pie. DoubleCrust knows he’s been double-crossed, and suspects agent Crumbtop has turned turnover. Pairing with NSA agent Cherry BerryPie, he uncovers Crumbtop’s plot with British millionaire Spotted Dick involving a highly deadly pie server.

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No Time to Pie (2020)

In this highly anticipated new feature, DoubleCrust7 returns to rescue a kidnapped pastry chef. Following the trail of crumbs, he tracks down a mysterious pie-eating villain who is developing his own killer recipe for a devastatingly addictive blueberry pie.

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Where will DoubleCrust7 show up next? We can’t be sure, but we know that the devious villains will always get their just desserts.

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*Indeed, it was back in November that I started this. Back when I was preparing to pie for Thanksgiving. We ended up getting a frozen pie crust that we decided not to use. We decided to pie another day. Naturally that led me to this.

3 disconnected photos

Today was a largely mellow day involving continued cleaning up from yesterday’s dinner. I spent some time putting together some ingredients for rather elaborate (and decidedly silly) blog post that is still only half-baked. Since I don’t want to stay up too much later, I foraged through my photo collections for a few morsels I’d been saving. I came across this set. Well, that’s not exactly true. I came across a similar set of photos: 1) the three little tomatoes in a blue bowl, 2) the 6 red potatoes in a colander and 3) 2 photos of cranberries in a little white bowl. One had 3 cranberries, which went nicely with the 3 tomatoes. But since I took the potato picture last December, I couldn’t go back and only put in 3 potatoes. (And I didn’t think to take any new photos of potatoes as I was prepping them yesterday.) The other photo of cranberries in the bowl had 7 cranberries. And it bothered me that it gave me a set of 3, 6 and 7. So then I realized that I still had half a bag of fresh cranberries in the fridge, and a little while bowl sitting empty on the table. So, yes, I staged the 3rd photo to have the bowl contain 9 cranberries so I could have the photos contain 3, 6 and 9 oval-shaped red produce objects. A much more satisfying number sequence.

 

petty potato predicament

discoball-colander
My colander (in which I rinsed my potatoes) looked rather like a disco ball in the bright morning light.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year, which has become a tradition in recent years. In addition to my family of four, plus my mother-in-law (who is in assisted living in a neighboring town), it has also become a tradition to invite a friend of mine and her two boys.  This year, we were happy to have my mother join us from California, bringing our grand total to 9.

I know that many people host big gatherings of 20 or even 40 people, which honestly sounds totally exhausting to this quiet introvert. (I’ll stick to my table for 9, thank you very much.)

While this relatively small and very comfortable gathering tends to be pretty low-key, I do go a bit crazy with the side dishes. For me, the “side” dishes are actually the main event of the meal. (My immediate family doesn’t eat turkey, and I’m not able to eat the Tofurkey that the rest of my family eats.) So we tend to have lots of different things: various roasted vegetables, stuffing (my famous “stuffed pan”), mashed potatoes, veggie gravy, cranberry sauce(s), as well as simple vegetables like corn and green beans. My mother and I spent much of yesterday chopping and prepping veggies. I went to bed feeling like we were in pretty good shape.

However, going through my mental list as I lay in bed, I got stuck on the potatoes. I intentionally hadn’t prepped the potatoes, as I didn’t want them to brown. But I also hadn’t really counted them.

Doing my mental calculations of person-to-potato ratios, I suddenly became convinced that I didn’t have nearly enough potatoes. It was almost midnight, and I knew that stores would be closed in the morning. (This didn’t stop me from searching online for various grocery stores and checking their hours). I mentally reconfigured the quantities of potatoes in the roasted root vegetables (in which they traditionally play a key role) and considered what remaining potatoes could be left to mash. I imagined rationing out the paltry portions of potatoes to family and guests.

I agonized over the potatoes. I seriously lost sleep. It was not so much a potato panic as a ponderous potato pessimism.

In the morning, I counted the potatoes. The situation was less dire than I’d imagined in my late-night ravings. But still, I apparently could not let it drop. While walking the dog, I persisted in pondering about potatoes. I texted my friend who would be joining us for dinner: “Do you have any potatoes?”

This is, of course, a totally normal question to ask a friend out of the blue.

potato-greeting

The story has a happy ending. My friend brought along her potatoes, and I added a few of them to my boiling pot of potatoes. The resulting mashed potatoes were of respectable quantities. No garments were rent over tiny potato allowances.

In the end, the meal and the day were successful and fulfilling. I am feeling full of both gratitude and potatoes.

And I have to laugh at myself for getting so worked up about such small potatoes.

 

chocolandscapes

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I’m sure anyone who regularly eats chococolate has had the disappointing exerience of having some that was exposed to heat before you had a chance to eat it. You eagerly open the package, and find that instead of a silky smooth and evenly dark brown surface, you have a blotchy discolored mass. Even more disappointingly, the texture of the chocolate is usually a bit changed, and not for the better.

I recently had several such moments, but instead of unadulterated disappointment, my disappointment was tempered by surprise and admiration. Somehow, my chocolate had transformed itself into little canvases, with fascinating abstract landscapes.

I ate them anyhow. After taking a few photos.

choco-landscape1

What do you see in these? In the first one (shown once cropped, and once in a hand), several people saw a winter scene.

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What else do you see? I mean, aside from chocolate?

choco-landscape3

Somehow, I have made it to day 29 of (almost) daily blogging.

potato eyes (and other features)

I was preparing dinner one evening earlier this month, and this potato caught my eye.

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In fact, the potato’s eye caught my eye. And its eyebrow.

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A few nights later, I was again cutting potatoes, and once more, a potato caught my eye. And looked back at me pleadingly.

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Tell me you don’t see the face.

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“She must be running out of ideas,” you may be thinking. “Surely she can find something to post about beyond potatoes.”

If you think I’m posting about potatoes because I’m tired and out of ideas, you are only partly right. In fact, this was a planned potato post. At least a partially planned potato post. You see, I have a past of presenting particularly peculiar produce. Witness the sad potato of 2015, the jaunty butternut squash of 2012, and the shifty-looking eggplant of 2011. Somehow, I managed to post each of these on November 21st in years past. This year, though, I guess I forgot. In spite of having prepared the potato pictures, the 21st past with nary a vegetable. (Out of curiosity, I checked the dates when I took the potato photos above. Oddly enough, it was on November 8th and November 13th. And while I did not post them on the 21st, I do notice that the sum of 8 and 13 is 21.) (And really, this part is just me rambling on because it’s late.)