Friday, November 20, 2015

November Meeting for Brush and Palette

November 17 marked a different venue for the B&P monthly meeting. Eleven women gathered in the back room of Artist's Haven to paint still life pictures.

B&P President Elise Lind (shown above) says it is one of her favorite meetings of the year when everyone is invited to show up, paint in their favorite medium, and share camaraderie.

Shown above is Laegan McGee as she was finding the angle from which to paint a still life of a silver service along with autumn squashes and apples.

After just a few hours, here are products from the group after viewing and painting the still life setups.

Trudy Ungaro brought delicious chocolate cinnamon rolls, yet no picture of either her or the dessert bread was snapped on Thursday. This photographer will try to do a better job of capturing the moments of B&P meetings in future posts.

Below is friend Shirley visiting with Julie and me this week at Mesa Manor.  She did not paint, but came along with me Tuesday to help start a small painting group at the Manor.  And she brought us her home made kraut burgers for lunch!  Our art group did not start out with much enthusiasm, but if I keep at it, more residents might likely become involved in a new outlet of mixing colors.  At the least, it spurred conversation.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cardioversion, A Birthday, A Shawl

What do you call a "busy week?"  For just the husband and myself, the week now ending could be called filled with activity, if you consider numerous visits to various physicians and a birthday lunch a bit out of the ordinary.

Yesterday was the husband's birthday; he spent half the morning in the hospital being zapped by electricity through his heart. Actual terminology is cardioversion; he has been in atrial fibrillation for quite a while now, so that is an effort to get the heart beating correctly. This morning he said his chest felt like someone had punched him hard, poor guy. But yesterday the nurse ordered him a full breakfast and asked kitchen staff for a piece of cake since it was his birthday. Cake was not to be found, but the tray came with a cookie that I wrapped up and took back home for his dessert celebration.

Julie came home two days ago, again in the big white bus, for a lunch with relatives. She comes every Thursday now and seems to enjoy being away from the nursing home.  She says she feels like a released inmate when she travels away from there.  I hope she is kidding, I think she is kidding, but I understand.  Julie gets good care there and the staff is conscientious.  I now think of the nurses and activity directors as friends.  The on site social worker even gifts Julie various Word Chum apparel and is very fond of Julie. Julie is easy to like. 

And next week Julie has two appointments with physicians away from the Manor, so we will both take the big white bus to see a GI doc and a surgeon.  Julie will likely have an operation fairly soon to take away some diseased colon, but enough of that.

Frost was on the lawn this morning and it is below freezing during the night hours.  An owl was heard hooting around 6 AM, but he has not appeared in our owl house yet.  Gene says it sounds like a Great Horned Owl, not like the screech owl that lived in our back yard last winter.  We keep close watch on the doggies when they are outside because critters, raccoons and foxes, are coming down from the mountains in search of food.

On the knitting front, I am almost finished with another shawl for Julie.  This one I am keeping back as a Christmas present, along with a purchased flannel lounger in exactly the same colors. Notice Libby is modeling the shawl and not seeming very interested in the process.

About time to get out and to the favorite Mexican food place to get Julie and me some take-out for lunch, then on to the Manor.  I get enough for us so that I can eat with her not only on Saturdays, but also on Sunday after church.  Would that be called left over left overs?  The other lunches during the week, I usually take soup and eat with her in the Garden Room at the Manor while she has a food tray served.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Who? Me? Cook?

"What is your favorite holiday recipe?" asked a columnist who writes for the Grand Junction Senior Beacon.  She asked, also saying that she would like to take my picture and have my favorite recipe in the upcoming November issue, along with several other contributors.  We had just come out of an evening meeting at church last week when she caught me, and I was actually thinking of how quickly I could jump into my pj's and then into a warm bed.  Food was not on my radar when the clock was nearing 9 pm.

Taken a little off-guard by her question, my first thought was of the shockingly pink cranberry relish that Susan Stamberg shared several years ago on the radio.  I had made that, and it was a bit different from what others might share.  Then I gave the old brain a minute more to think and said, "well, it is not my recipe, and err...actually, I don't cook it, because my husband is outstanding in the culinary category, but I can tell you what it is and give you an internet link to the recipe."  By this time, Writer Lady could hardly back out of her offer to feature my favorite holiday recipe. So she went ahead and took my mug shot and wrote down the information.

Here, let me just do a cut and paste job and reveal the Gene Amole Recipe for Thanksgiving Stuffing that my husband makes semi-annually (we like it with chicken in the summer, too.)

from Living The Grand Life
I first started posting this recipe in 2007. Folks seem to like it. We still make it every year. Here it is again so that you can get your shopping list finished. 
Gene Amole was a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News. He was a hometown writer who knew the city well and wrote on a variety of topics.
In 1982, he was looking for a Thanksgiving topic. In desperation he published his recipe for stuffing.
In 1998 he wrote about this about his recipe column: "It was a smash. I had more favorable comments about that column than anything I had written previously. Since then, I have reprinted it twice, the last time eight years ago, but I still get a flood of requests each year to send people copies because they had lost theirs."
 And so he printed the recipe one final time in November of 1998.
My wife is from the south and always had cornbread stuffing. I grew up in Denver and was used to a rather plain white bread stuffing. We adopted this recipe as a new family tradition and have enjoyed it for many years. It is a recipe that responds well to variations. I like to use a whole pound of Italian sausage and Texas pecans.
Gene Amole’s Thanksgiving Turkey Stuffing

20 slices of white bread (or use a package of dried bread cubes)
6 slices of dark, Jewish pumpernickel (don't leave this out)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sage
½ pound breakfast sausage
½ pound Italian sausage
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or macadamia nuts
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 to 2 Granny Smith or Jonathan apples
Handful of cranberries
2 cups thick-sliced mushrooms
¼ lb. butter
2 cans chicken broth
2 tablespoons Harvey's Bristol Cream or jug sherry

Gene Amole’s directions:
Now, relax. It is impossible to screw up turkey stuffing. First, let's assume you are roasting a 15-20 pound bird. You'll need about 20 slices of white bread and a half-dozen slices of dark, Jewish pumpernickel. Lightly toast and cut each slice into crouton-size cubes and put into a large bowl.

It's a good idea to mix spices separately in a small bowl. Combine a tablespoon of Salt with a teaspoon of Pepper and a tablespoon of Sage. Be careful not to use too much salt because there is salt in some of the ingredients. Next, mix the spices and sprinkle them over the bread cubes.

Now, you are ready to go to the stove. Crumble and brown in a skillet a half-pound each of breakfast sausage and Italian sausage. Drain off the grease and remove sausage with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the bread crumbs and spices.

Add a cup each of chopped celery, chopped onion and chopped walnuts. If you are a big spender, use macadamia nuts instead of walnuts. Add three or four tablespoons of chopped, fresh parsley. Peel, core, chop and add one or two Granny Smith or Jonathan apples. I like to mix in a handful or so of fresh cranberries for color. To all of this, add a couple of cups of mushrooms, sliced thick.

The last thing to add is the liquid. Melt a quarter-pound of butter in two cups of canned chicken broth. After it is blended, add two tablespoons of either Harvey's Bristol Creme or jug sherry. Take a little nip for yourself.

You are almost there. Drizzle the liquid over the ingredients in the large bowl. I like a reasonably fluffy stuffing. You can add more liquid if you like. Toss the bread cubes and spices with the liquid until evenly mixed.

Food science no longer recommends stuffing the bird. We make up the recipe and bake it in a ceramic casserole dish. I guess that makes it dressing as opposed to stuffing - whatever you call it, it's good.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Volunteering with Enthusiasm

Have you ever been proud of a skill that you have mastered?  

Never could I sail, run marathons, quilt, ace chemistry exams or debate with confidence, but often I could do projects with my hands. And stitching embroidery was one of those feminine and housewifery activities that I learned at my mother's knee.

I was always proud of my samplers, praised for my dexterity in pulling embroidery floss up and through fabric to make a pretty chain stitch, then moving forward to work with silk ribbons in the 90's to create more intricate patterns on lingerie or sachet pouches. I still feel accomplished in creating pretty hand work with thread ends skillfully knotted and tightly tucked under on the back side of fabric, surely worthy of a prize if entered in the "Needlework" category in any county fair.

Yesterday, I picked up our local Senior Beacon, its target audience honed to those over fifty years of age.  I was waiting for my eyes to dilate in the dimmed room provided by the ophthalmologist when I read various volunteer opportunities made available through the Beacon.  Lo and behold, there in front of my now blurred vision was a blurb that embroiderers were needed at our local quilting shop for November 14, next Saturday.  Embroiderers were requested to work on ribbons for Breast Cancer Survivors, among a few other causes.  Proceeds from the sale of the ribbons would go back to their respective charities.

Thinking that perhaps I could meet a few other women who had the same burning desire to share their talents for a cause, I decided to take the plunge and offer my assistance at the fabric store, if only for a few hours next weekend.  It would be fun to have coffee with a new group of people.  While there, I would peruse quilting designs.  My mind and I decided to seize this opportunity.

Carefully, I tore out that magazine notice with the published contact telephone number. Still waiting in the dimmed room, eyes becoming more blurred from the atropine drops used to dilate pupils, I could barely see the listed phone number.  But why should I wait until later to call?  When later came, I might decide to pass off the moment to share my handwork talent.  They probably really needed me.  With fierce bravado, I dialed on my mobile phone, was connected, then put on hold, then reconnected to the appropriate person designated to coordinate collective expertise of volunteers.

"Hello, my name is Nancy and I would like to volunteer a few hours next Saturday for the ribbon adornment embroidery work you are coordinating."  This felt so satisfying.  I was thinking of the finished ribbons and that maybe they might even sell for $5 each!

"We are so happy you called," the woman on the other end of the line responded, "and what hours can I put down for you?" she added.

"The afternoon would be best, maybe after 1:30," I said, reviewing in my mind that Julie and I could still have lunch together and that I could go from Mesa Manor and then home after putting in an hour or two on the ribbons.  "And should I bring my materials with me?  Will you provide patterns ?"  I was mentally taking stock of what I would take: embroidery scissors, flossing threads, needles, my magnifying glass that hung on a cord, resting on the top of my bosom, intensifying the sight area where the needle embellishment was to be worked.  I really needed both the magnifier and my bifocals to see well.  Hmm, still thinking...

Coordinating Woman responded: "Oh, yes, please bring your threads.  And what type machine do you have?  What embroidery disks do you have?  Do you have a letter font disk?"

What?  What machine did I have?  What disks?  A font?  "Oh." Ding, on went the light bulb.  "I don't have a machine.  I was talking about hand embroidery."  Cringing inwardly, I realized she was talking about machine embroidery whereas I was referring to 18th century embroidery, the skill of which I was so proud.

Coordinating Woman: "Thanks anyway, dear," pause ..."that was nice of you to offer.  Here we work with machine embroidery only."

It was then I realized that she must have thought my little crafting skill was anachronistic, certainly not of value in 2015.  After all, their business sold expensive embroidery machines, along with every costly doohickey available. They were in business to make a profit, and they make good money keeping up with technology in embroidery.

Chagrined, I inwardly shrank, felt  stupid and senior-ly old, out-of date, obsolete in not only my thinking, but also in my skill set. What a truly humbling, ego deflating experience.

Next Saturday, I will stick to cleaning  the garden area around Mesa Manor and will not be offering my old fashioned expertise to embellish ribbons with floss.

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”  ― Colette

Thursday, November 5, 2015

St. Paul and Time with Friend

What a beautiful city.  Old houses, steep roofs, a beautiful autumn weekend to spend with a friend.

A Victorian lady carved from a tree trunk.

This is the Cathedral of St. Paul, celebrating its 100th year in 2015.Kathy and I toured the Cathedral.

A trip to St. Paul MUST include a visit to the Fitzgerald Theater, home of Public Radio and Garrison Keillor.

I took the virtual mic for a photo opportunity.

We dined well, but did not find any iconic restaurant soups that Minnesota touts as comfort food.  That was odd, but the pumpkin pancakes made up for the lack of soup.

My sweet friend Kathy and me.  Be well, Kathy.  Thank you for those wonderful days with you in St. Paul.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Speakeasy Post: a Book Review

Speakeasy is an online forum for bloggers who review books.  I read books, and blog, and can give an opinion when asked.  So I signed up to be a Speakeasy  reviewer. There is very little to it, and loose deadlines: reviewers are given a month to read a free book and give an online book review.  My first book arrived via download a while back, and I have tried several times in different short reading sessions to digest it, but with little success.

Beauty as a Sense of Being by Solomon Katz was the first book I read for Speakasy.

Katz's writing is disjointed, skipping from thought to thought, each lesson or kernel of truth interspersed with free form prose, which I found distracting.  In the first two chapters (there were eight chapters in the book), I counted 42 subheadings and a half dozen interspersed prose stanzas which came from Katz through his subconcious. These subheadings appeared as if in a personal journaling type format, randomly chosen without cohesion tying in one thought to the next, rather like free form association.  These stanzas must have been of import to Katz, likely personal pointers for achieving mental health balance.

As a psychologist, the author may have helped many people along their life journeys, but this book of writings did not hold my interest because the writers' thoughts were scattered, jumping from topic to topic without transition. I did not find the book helpful.

Chapters 3-8 were skimmed over, and the style continued.  Time to move on and read another book.