29 October 2015

Sophie Sleeps

Of course I am biased and think that Sophie is cute and adorable.  But she is.  It's no secret that I am not particularly skilled with a camera and taking wonderfully composed pictures, showcasing my subject as its best.  So when I try to capture the cuteness, the result is often not what I intended.

This picture was somewhat successful.  I did manage to show that Sophie uses the pillows to prop her head up, because that's what pillows are for.  She sees us doing that, so surely, that's what you're supposed to do.  And she does that really well.

I did wait til she closed her eyes and laid her head back down.  Altho I also ended up with a multitude of shots of her eyes slit open, her mouth open in a huge yawn, her head perked up as she watched me watching her.  Thankfully, it's digital and I'm not wasting film, as I might have done in the past.

But I failed to show that the rest of her body is stretched out on the sheet covering the couch cushions.  I didn't photo those minutes of her pulling the tail end of the blanket down off the back of the couch, then tunneling under the pile of disarrayed soft throw, and arranging herself just right.  I didn't show that she heaved a deep sigh, as she snuggled her shoulders into the pillows, the blanket draped over the lower part of her body, her feet and tail tip sticking out from under the blanket.

I did not manage to show that she is copying my ritual of teasing out a portion of the top sheet from under the pile of sleeping dogs, pushing my pillows into the right places, tucking one just under my neck, as I lie on my side, my foot hanging off the edge of the mattress, exposed to the cooler air because it's too warm under the cover, but some cover is needed...then heaving a sigh and closing my eyes when I'm all arranged, just right.

26 October 2015

'tis the season

For years, I considered my mother's birthday to be the kick~off for my holiday season.  Her birthday was October 25th.  She died last December and as this October progressed from start to middle to now, I wondered if I would still consider this the start to my holidays.  The answer is:  probably not always; but for right now, yeah.  Perhaps not even next year, but for this year, yes.

This year has been a year of firsts, in many ways.  When a loved one dies, it's their absence that is the most noticeable, especially within that first year of death; at least that is how I felt much of this year.  I'm still saying good bye, still grieving, still adjusting to traditions that now don't include mom's physical presence.

In my family, we'd often call the birthday person and sing "happy birthday" to them over the phone.  Sometimes we'd do that on a recording, if they were out.  Sometimes we'd get the other folks who might be visiting us to join in.  One year, I kept the recording of my mom, dad, and brother singing happy birthday to me over my voice~mail for the entire year; because listening to them sing to me made me smile and feel loved.  It felt strange not to be picking out a birthday card or to be calling mom today.  I'll miss going to Red Lobster to treat each other, once for her birthday in October and once for my birthday in November.  We didn't go last year, either; because we wanted to wait til she was feeling better.

Even tho I knew that today might be tricky, difficult, that I might laugh over memories and then start crying because they were memories; it was a better day than I'd hoped.  Several folks really made that possible for me.  Thank you, I appreciate you so very much.  Also, I knew mom would have wanted me to not dwell on things; tho I knew she'd definitely understand my tears too.

Mom never really made a big deal over her birthday, it's a day, just a day, she'd say.  But I could count on a telephone call at about 4:55pm my time, on November 16th, from mom; because that's when I was born.  So even tho mom didn't consider October 25th to be all that important, I did.  As I said earlier, to me, mom's birthday marked the beginning of the holidays.

Why?  Well, there's mom's birthday, then Halloween {which in my hometown meant a big parade, costumes, candy, bands {including bagpipes}, trick or treating, bean soup, and hot chocolate...for the past six years, it's been my wedding anniversary, which means that it's the most special day of the year for me}, then a few weeks later is my birthday, and then a week or so later is Thanksgiving {which in my family was THE holiday,  bigger and more meaningful to my family than even christmas}.

That's the first half of the holiday season to me.  Last year, during that time, my mother's heart was faltering and her health was failing.  She was dying, tho we didn't realize that for sure at that time.

She died December fifth.

So last year, during the second half of the holiday season, which includes my father's birthday on December 15th, christmas/yule, and welcoming the new year; I was just so hugely relieved that mom was no longer dying.  I was so glad that she didn't linger for an incredibly long period of time, struggling to breathe, being miserable while prolonging her existence.  I was relieved that she was done dying.  One of her favorite characters in one of her favorite movies, Sipsy in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, said, "a true lady always knows when it is time to go."

This holiday season most likely will be a lil more teary and tense for me, in some ways.  Because I miss her.  I miss her lots.  I feel her absence in so many ways, so deeply.

Calavera, a sugar skull often seen
during the celebrations of
El Dia de los Muetos
In other ways, I think I will enjoy this holiday season 
in ways that I haven't in several years past.  There will be less stress overall this year, because I made time and cleared my schedule of commitments and obligations earlier this autumn.  I have the ability to sit with my grief if I need to, without feeling guilty because I "should" be doing this, that, or the other thing.  I also have awareness, so I can monitor myself to make sure that I'm in an ok space/place overall.

My husband is so supportive, usually; but even moreso now.  He's able to be here with me, with a bit less stress himself {he retired in the spring from his second career}.  He misses my mom too, having loved her and her ways, even when she told him, "ya watch weird shit, Jerry, ya watch weird shit."

This year, there is a new grandbaby whose mom, sister, and nan/aunt decorated pumpkins over this weekend.  I see this baby often and get to sing, "I'm gonna get the baby, I'm gonna get the baby" in a joyous, yet bragging, way to my husband {even tho when I get the baby, he does too, silly me}.  She'll be spending her first thanksgiving with us, bringing her mom too {wink}.  This tiny creature just blows me away and makes me think of all sorts of things; some deeper ponderings {like at what point do we stop being so pleased with just being and start to have criteria that must be met in order to be happy} and some not so deep~~like what color will her hair be?

We have plans to see the majority of the family at some point over the next few months.  But also plans to relax with each other, as Jerry watches football and I finish a few knitted projects.  These holidays, we have plans, but we also have enough flexibility to adjust and take things as they come.

After all, 'tis the season; no rush, we've got time to enjoy the days ahead.

14 October 2015

Mom's Rolling Pin

I remember mom's rolling pin from my childhood, tho I think she'd had it even before then, when she herself was a child.  She had two, I think one was her mother's and one was hers.  When I was a child and thru my teens, I used one and she used the other.

In the spring of this year, Jerry and I had went
thru mom's kitchen, packing most of it to return to my father and brother.  We removed perishables, and used them.  Most of the dishes, pots, pans, bakewear, pie pans, cookie sheets, utensils, etc, we packed for my brother~~my mother and I had talked about how my brother does way more cooking than I do and would use those things.

Mom was all about utility; beautiful items that are functional were the optimal gifts for her to give and receive.  But there were sometimes when the aesthetics of a piece trumped its practicality.  At such times, those pleasing aesthetics were indeed the function of that item; truly a piece of art, in whatever media, falls squarely in this framework.

There are a few things from the kitchen I brought home.  One of them was mom's rolling pin.  Jerry had asked me if it was ok, if I would want him to do some wood burning to it, because he wanted to and he misses mom, he loved her too.

Of course it was a great idea.  So he discussed with me various ideas regarding designs, what information to include, her maiden name, and so forth.  And then he spent a few months giving it lots of thought.

This past week, Jerry worked on the rolling pin for days.  Today, he finished up the display board.  I love it.

07 October 2015

Cheese, please!

Kroger's and Murray's partner
to bring cheeeeeeese!
to twenty states' Kroger & affiliates
I've heard our new Kroger's expansion includes a cheese counter, so I asked my husband to pick up some cheese, please.  I really didn't know what I wanted and figured Jerry makes excellent choices as my personal shopper for clothes, so with my warped logic, I then surmised that he would also make excellent choices of cheese.  Besides, I love cheese and rarely have a met a cheese that I didn't like.  Remember cheese kisses?  If you do not, I am not surprised.  Cheese kisses were not popular and only were on the market for a very brief time in the 70s, apparently because I was the only one who liked them.  It's become part of family lore, retold by others with shudders and cringes.

Chianti with no fava beans
Jerry came home with a lovely assortment of six cheeses and a Chianti salami, as well as some crackers to cleanse the palate. We've lots of wine, but I had just poured myself so green tea that I'd steeped slices of turmeric root in...besides, noon is a tad too early for wine for me.  Most days.

This salami is a dense meat, but not too dense.  It is encased in a skin, with a fair bit of oil.  The texture is pleasant, and so is the taste.  I didn't eat much of it, since it does have so many flavors that it stands as its own treat and I wanted to focus on the cheese more so than the salami.  One thing that I enjoyed about it tho was the use of spices.  I like spicy foods, but sometimes salami can have too much and it feels to me that all that spiciness is to cover for something else.  Like folks who use way too much perfume might be disguising other less pleasant odors.  So I'd rather that my salami have a nice blend of spices, but let's not go overboard, shall we?  No, we shalnt.

Cheese us, yes!  Let's focus on the cheese!  My go~to cheese tends to be Swiss.  I love swiss and remember my dad and I eating baby swiss slices when I was a child.  Right around the same time that he and I also would go outside and eat sardines from the can, with crackers.  I remember a few types of sardines, but I think that I liked the kind in mustard best.  The last time I had sardines, they were bigger with fewer in the can than what I remembered.  So cheese, yeah, ok~~of the six cheeses Jerry brought home today, the swiss is what we tried last, because we're somewhat familiar with swiss.  This was a Jarlsberg Lite, which made me wonder what the different is between this and the regular...is the nonLite version more full~bodied?  Fewer holes?  Is the difference comparable to the baby swiss vs swiss?  Not sure, but will explore the matter further in the future!  This Jarlsberg Lite was a bit more dense in consistency with lots of bubbly holes dispersed in small bursts rather than huge gaping holes that you can drive a smartCar thru.  The kick actually hits you more so at the end of chewing, then lingers as an after taste.  Very nice!

Piave Vecchio and parmgiano reggiano are often compared,  The piave surprised me because as I bit into this drier cheese, lush tropical fruit scents wafted up my nose and then as I chewed it, I tasted a blend of citrus fruitiness that confused me but I liked it.  I was confused, since the cheese is a more crumbly sort and the fruity taste was juicy.  It takes lil to confuse me, apparently.  I definitely liked this and can see it being grated on salad greens or even a fresh fruit salad.  Very good!

The Parmgiano Reggiano is considered the "king of cheese".  To
me, what I noticed the most, was a sweet & salty taste with a gritty texture.  I enjoyed it, but think I would love it more so pared with some thin sliced ham or turkey wrapped around it and perhaps even slightly melted.  Not sure, exactly, so I will be trying it with other foods in the future.

Both of the last two cheeses are usually served in a grated, shredded, or powdered form here in the USA.  We tend to shake it from its can onto spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, and other dishes we think are Italian.  But I thought of the holidays past and sitting around the table, playing a boardgame, dominoes, cards, or yahtzee while snacking on fruits, dips, veggies, cheeses, and ring bologna with my friends and family.

Speaking of the holidays, Murray's Black Pepper BellaVitano reminds of some sort of traditional holiday dessert.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but then I remember that AllSpice contains black pepper and that is usually added to most fruit pies.  My mom made pies every year, usually pumpkin and apple, but sometimes cherry, peach, mincemeat, and others.  This cheese is great on its own, and even better with apple/raisin pie.  It was by far the most popular with both Jerry and I this afternoon.  We loved it!

The Jamaican Jack cheese called No Woman was the first cheese we opened and we both enjoyed it,
tho Jerry like both it and the black pepper cheese pretty much equally.  I like it, but was eager to try the other cheeses.  Although I did find it tasty, I was disappointed in the overall lack of spiciness.  It smells spicier than it tasted and with a name like that, I was expecting that extra jerk spice.  If I didn't have that expectation, I think I would have liked it lots more.  I think that it would melt nicely and in that case, it would make an awesome grilled cheese, with ham or turkey, on some really good bread.  With tomato basil soup.  Yes.  It would.

Chipotle Jack put us back on more familiar territory, which came both as a disappointment and as a Yea!  It was a disappointment to be on familiar ground, because our cheese adventure was drawing to a close, much like this post.  But the cheese itself was tasty and moist, a bit on the softer side, as we americans tend to prefer our cheese...I think it's mostly because that's what we know and how we were brought up.  If we were, as the French are, surrounded with cheeses as children {omg, I love that phrase, cheeses as children, so fun to say and fun to write/type too.  just imagine the short story you could pull outta that...cheeses with children, set in a sunday school...too delicious!}; if we were surrounded with cheeses as we grew up, we'd all be getting all riled up over our preferred cheese as we sometimes can over bbq, sweet tea, or any other regional food that differ from that same food prepared in a different way.  You'd have your american vs provolone, vs cheddar, vs brie, vs blues...to the nth degree.  We'd have cheeses with names like Metallica and the heavy cheese, versus the hard rockin' cheese, versus groovy tastes.  We'd be putting peanuts and blackeyed peas in cheese and caramel swirls.  We'd be doing things that other countries would feel are profane and crimes against god, and then again, we'd be having marches dedicated to not letting the big cheese stand alone.  We'd be all freaked out by who keeps moving our cheese, there'd be children's books devoted to finding the cheese in the marbled rind, and we'd wonder where our misspent youth's cheese went to.  We'd have folks wanting lactose free cheese in all the varieties and we'd have way more revitalization in the Make Your Own Home Fermented Cheese movement.  We'd again be saying, "cheeeeeeeeese" while taking pix with our friends, our family holiday shots would be with us saying "brieeeeee" because we think our family is unique and smarter than other families.  Wisconsin, Vermont, and other cheesy locales would become more popular than the Napa Valley wine tasting tours.  And we'd have children writing reports about their favorite cheese, and school projects revolving around each class raising goats to milk versus the other school's fixation on cow's milk as the base for various cheeses.  Then you'd have the avant garde groups making cheese with coconut milk, hemp milk, and almond milk.  And you'd have the herpetologist grad students doing their theses on snake milk cheese.  Some group of mothers weaning their toddlers would decide that donating their extra frozen pumped milk to neonatal units, they'd make cottage cheese for their tykes to transition easier to semi~solid foods.   In short, if we grew up with a variety of cheeses regularly consumed, the USA stance would be ohh! SO! different than any other society's reaction to cheese's presence in their culture.

{i had to slip the culture in, what cheese entry would be complete without it?!?}

06 October 2015

Work in Progress & Resting Scowl Face

Here lately, I've been catching up on some of my fiber projects, mostly knit.  Nothing too wild and creatively cutting edge.  Just some regular knitting, in this case, 1x1 ribbing, using a strand of worsted weight and a strand of variegated fuzzy fur to give it some depth and subtle shadings within each color way.  I worked on it some yesterday, and used a few other colors than the original grey and blue that I started with.  This lacks only the final swath done in dark blue, which is what I am doing now {well, not NOW, now I am typing, and I am not yet talented enough to type and knit at the same time; and I don't think I want to learn that particular skill set}~~you might see the top line of dark stitches, and that is the final color I'm working with.  At this point, the throw is about 3'x4'.  It'll be more square, I think, when I'm through.  I anticipate that I'll be thru by week's end.  Then on to the Not Quite 50 Shades of Green chevron throw.  Yea!

Also, I just realized I look kind of pissed off in this pic.  I'm not.  I have resting scowl face, which is somewhat different than resting bitch face.  I think that in resting bitch face, you are simply not smiling and you look like you are just keeping your thoughts to yourself, or keeping yourself from smacking the shit out of someone.

With resting scowl face, you actively look angry, like something is really irritating you and you are not bothering to keep your reaction in.  You look furious over seemingly nothing.  My daughter in law told me a few years ago that she was really worried that she'd done something wrong or that I was disapproving of something going on around me.  Nope, that's just my face.  I started off with resting bitch as a teen and it's developed into scowl and by the time I am an old woman, I'll have crotchety crochet face.  You whipperschnapper you.