Archive for the 'RL happenings' Category

On A Winter’s Day

IMG_0273I’m not dreaming of California. I’m dreaming of a warm tropical beach, the sound of waves lapping at the shore, a pile of books by my chaise lounge, the cabana attendant within easy calling distance, no electronic devices, no news feeds and time, time, time to savor the sun, sand, water, sky and books.

The sky is gray, the news is dispiriting, I’m busybusybusy with work, and still not 100% recovered from illness (probably because I pushed too soon and then relapsed. Oops).

Yesterday was Valentine’s day and I offered to cook my valentine one of his favorite casseroles for dinner. Alas, when I went to open the necessary soup cans, I noticed that we were just about 2 years past the expiration date. Even for me that seemed excessive. *grin* Not to fear, I substituted whipping cream and cheese and dried soup and the casserole was yummy.

The days are getting longer, the little bit of snow/slush we got this week is nearly gone, and soon it will be spring.
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The White Cat Demands Attention

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She says: “hey, I’m too cute for words, too!!!” Even if she often scowls and complains. When she’s in my lap being brushed, she has a very happy face. But other times she is in contention for grumpy face of the year. 🙂 But we LOVE our white kitty!!! (Even if she does shed all over the red couch.)

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The Polar Vortex Roars In

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I’ve been home sick the last few days – sick enough that I don’t even login to work. I think maybe I’m on the recovery road – my brain seems to be functioning a bit more today.

polarvortex2Yesterday as I languished in my chair under blankets, the sky darkened, the snow began falling. Then the snow began whirling and twirling and blowing sideways, and the house across the street vanished. It looked like the end of the world was nigh.

A lot of storm and fury, signifying not snow accumulation but plunging arctic temperatures. At the moment my outdoor thermometer says 4 degrees but the weather station says that with windchill it’s -12. I missed getting a picture of the 2 degrees last night.

Brrrrrr. Yes, I ran the electric heater in the basement so that if the cats needed the “facilities” it would not be too cold. Spoiled, spoiled kitties.
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Party Day!!!

AKA “We’re Having a Party, Part 4″

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At last here it was – Party Day!!!! I was up very early. I hadn’t really slept very much the night before – between the pain in my legs (long-standing issue – hah hah – did you GET that???) and my whirling brain, I was lucky I got any sleep. What was the first thing I did? I fed the cats, of course. 🙂 I know what is important in this house and so do they. When I walked out to get the newspaper (yes, I am old-fashioned enough to receive a PAPER newspaper daily) I saw that someone had parked their car in front of my driveway. Although the car was about 3 feet from the apron, it still didn’t leave me room to drive on the grass to get out and get bagels. table 2 Normally this is the kind of thing in the past that would have had me calling the police hysterically demanding that the car be towed but I’ve mellowed a lot over the years. I wasn’t thrilled, because I was hoping to use my driveway for parking guests’ cars, but I wasn’t as freaked out as I might have been because my husband’s car was at the curb and driveable. But still – a bad omen or something getting rid of any last bad karma by having an inconvenience that wasn’t a show-stopper? I decided to consider it a clearing.

At this distance from the day, I have to confess that I don’t remember a lot clearly. My husband went out to get the bagels (stopping at the most likely neighbor to own the offending car). My sister showed up early to help put together the things that couldn’t be assembled the previous day – the Asian Salad Wonton Cups. There was more. I know there was. Because we were setting the table, arranging the drinks, and cleaning every utensil as it was used and putting it away. You see, I had one march of the cruditemore major request of my staff, um, I mean my family. I told them that I wanted the house to look as if I simply waved my magic wand and all the food appeared. The guest of honor at this party was the renovated kitchen, and NOTHING could be out to mar the look and beauty of the counters, cabinets, floor, and appliances. That is a big ask when you consider my menu and the work involved.

We had to cook the hot food – the quiche and the mushrooms. The turkey had to be sliced. The condiments, liquors, drink add-ons and utensils all had to be laid out. I had to make the mulled cider and assemble the cocktail punch. My husband had to run out for more sugar (we had none for coffee & tea) and beer. My brother-in-law showed up with his home-baked pretzels and salt-sticks (the most fantabulous rolls you will ever have) plus a tray of his spinach & cheese (maybe it was broccoli??) rolls he’d made for the prior night’s party. We did it all. Arranging trays and platters and drinks and paper plates and plastic utensils and vacuuming and sweeping and wiping surfaces and putting everything away.
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We were so efficient and so on-top of everything that I even had 45 minutes to go upstairs, change into my party outfit, apply make-up (I was pretending to be a grown-up) and spray glitter in my hair (not too grown-up). My sister and her husband had everything cleaned and put away by the time I came back down. The kitchen was immaculate (except for the cider pot on the stove, where it belonged for that day). It looked as if I had waved my magic wand and all the food simply appeared!!!
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EVERYTHING was in place and party ready. Or was it? WHITE CAT!!!!! That cat. I wasn’t going to put this in but I changed my mind. BC and GC very quickly grasped that there was a LOT happening on the first floor and they headed upstairs (despite their memories of The Great Incarceration, I’m sure) and there they stayed – out of the way. Not so WC. She was not pleased and she was very happy to let me know that. First, she – sigh, what is the delicate way to put this??? She left a DEPOSIT in the front hall. That was still fairly early on in the morning so I removed it, washed the floor, told her that she exhibited poor behavior and carried on with what I had to do.
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On my check list for Tuesday, and you can see this in the photos, I had “take off red couch cover”. I’ve posted pictures of WC in what she considers to be her boudoir – the back of the red couch in the sun room. I keep that couch covered with a matching cover in the vain attempt to protect it from stains and non-removable cat fur. WC has the silkiest, finest fur you will ever encounter. She was ensconced on the couch. We would be in the sun room because the TV is in the sun room and people would be watching the football games. cat fur on couchMy sister went to dislodge her. Now you need to know that for 16+ years my sister has attempted to make nice to WC and for 16+ years WC laughs in my sister’s face and runs away. We all figured this was a piece of cake – my sister would walk in there and look at WC and talk to her and WC would take off, as she has done REPEATEDLY in the past. It didn’t happen that way. WC simply glared and did not move. We must have gone through this routine 3 times and each time I said, fine, leave her be, we still have time. We ran out of time. WC finally headed up the stairs when the first guests arrived. I threw my big, grand, celebration party with white cat fur matted all-over the back of my red couch. I didn’t mention it and neither did the folks watching TV. But other than that, I think the house looked great and the party was quite a success.
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Menu:

My brother-in-law baked the salt sticks, the pretzels and the spinach/cheese rolls. No recipe available from me.
I made the quiche, and I made several changes to it, including making it gluten-free (but not nightshade free *grin*). This is a good recipe for getting started on a 13×9 quiche (my pan is 14×10).
I made the marinated (fake) crab meat – *laughing* – the fake part means that the fish is really pollock, not shell fish. The original recipe is Zesty Marinated Shrimp. I probably did not do justice to this recipe as we found it too citrusy for our tastes, but to be fair I did not keep the proportions as I found them. So I still like the recipe and will do it in less of a “factory production” moment.
I mulled the cider and I do that by looking at a variety of recipes and then gathering up whatever I have and wrapping it in cheese cloth. I put the cider on a low flame and let it seep for a few hours.
The cocktail punch was delicious, simple and kept me going all party. 🙂
I considered also making several Champagne Mules but decided that even for me that might a bit much. So I left all the ingredients and the instructions out with the prosecco and other cold drinks and desserts.
I made the fruit skewers and again, they were simply what I thought might work, no specific recipe.
I also made the tahini cookies and the shortbread – I don’t have any links for those. If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll post them.
I also made (or assembled) a sugar-free strawberry shortcake. I bought a sugar-free angel food cake and cut it in half on the y axis. The day of the party I used whipped cream and strawberries, put the top layer back on, then used whipped cream and strawberries on top. In the interest of speed, I used the canned whipped cream, which does not hold up as well as hand-made whipped cream. But it sufficed for this purpose and was eaten. 🙂
My guests also brought cookies and cakes and other very tasty desserts, so that table was much fuller than the picture shows.
My sister made the crudite cups, as I’ve mentioned. I saw a picture online and it made me think of doing something similar. We ended up using 2 oz cups, and a few 3 oz cups. 2 oz cups are more than sufficient. Next time I might not make the cups pretty, because people wouldn’t take a cup because they didn’t like EVERYTHING in it. Oy. So eat what you like and subtly ditch the rest. We did have a lot left over but they did NOT go to waste. I rinsed off the dressing from and my husband made a fantastic vegetable soup.
My sister also did the cheese skewers, which were our own creation with what we had, and she assembled the caprese skewers, which were beautiful and tasty. The only tricky part to that was adding the balsamic glaze at the last moment.
My sister assembled the Asian Salad Wonton Cups which were gorgeous and delicious but again needed to be assembled the day-of, although I had prepared everything in advance.
My husband prepared the marinade, cooked and sliced the turkey.
I made the stuffed mushrooms, and made them gluten free (yes, Virginia, there ARE gluten free bread crumbs). They were very good and there weren’t many left over at all.
My husband made the mini BLTs. We used turkey bacon and party rye bread. These were a mistake – one of my “we didn’t need so much food” mistakes. They tasted fine, but with all the other dishes, they just weren’t that popular. My b-i-l ended up taking them home, ditching everything but the bacon and used that in a different dish. It’s a shame, really. They were so cute.
Little preparation, only presentation:
Bagels, lox, cream cheese. I believe it was my husband who prepared the tomatoes, lettuce and sliced onion for the lox. (Correction – it was my b-i-l, with cleanup by my sister. 🙂 )
Store-bought cheese cake slices. Again, an unnecessary item given all the other desserts that did arrive. But I can’t count on food that I don’t know is coming (which will be the subject of another post one day). The cheesecake made my office mates very happy. 🙂

Office Reflections

winter skyline

distant mountains.

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Although I still miss the lake and the trees at my previous location, this office can enchant. Whether it’s when I walk in on Monday morning and am greeted by the distant mountains at the end of the hall, or when the sun breaks through after a rainy day, casting late-day shadows on cubicle walls, I’m grateful to have glimpses of nature.

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schflera shadowI do prefer lots of long days of sunshine, but there is pleasure to be had walking out of the office at sunset on a winter’s day. The sky is filled with color, and the windows capture the flames.

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office windows at sunset

Where To Put All the Food??

AKA “We’re Having a Party, Part 3″

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img_9963 Food preparation was going to take 4 days – Saturday through Tuesday. I do have two refrigerators, and the new one is HUGE, but even so – I had a LOT of food to store both before preparation and after. Where does all that food fit?

Some food wasn’t showing up until the day of the party. My brother-in-law was baking his famous, fantastic pretzels and also his salt sticks. He’d bring them on Tuesday. The bagels would be purchased on Tuesday. The punch and mulled cider couldn’t be assembled until Tuesday. My basement is fairly cool so vegetables that did not need refrigeration could be stored down there. I use my deck as a walk-in freezer for winter parties, but it was getting quite warm that weekend. That meant I could only use the deck for refrigerated (not frozen) items. Using the deck for food (as opposed to beverages) also means I need to come up with some way to keep out the various roaming animals. img_9965I wasn’t too worried about the falcon returning nor the roving gangs of deer, but we also have raccoons (known for their dexterity with locked receptacles), ground hogs, squirrels, skunks and cats. It would take a little thought and prevention to use the deck.

I started the baking and food prep on Saturday night, getting cookie dough ready. I got cookie baking done Sunday morning, as well as preparing the quiche dough. I headed out grocery shopping with my sister on Sunday late morning, and then came home and began creating all the various marinades and dressings that we’d need for the entrees. Sunday was also the day to put the turkey in to marinate. I’d seen an appealing marinade on another blog, Cooking Without Limits, and keeping with my “everything different” theme, I suggested to my husband that we use that. img_9969He took a look at the Spicy Turkey Breast in Beer Sauce recipe and agreed that, with a few modifications (no bacon for one), it sounded delicious and right for our party.

I’d selected so many of my dishes on the premise that I wanted “finger food” – food that people could pick up and eat while they wandered and talked. I didn’t want a lot of food that required people to sit down and use 2 hands to eat. I had the turkey, the quiche and the bagels/lox/cream cheese for “real” eating. I wanted everything else to be eat-as-you-go and “I’ll just have one more little nosh”. It’s a great idea but getting all that food onto skewers and into little cups takes a LOT OF TIME. img_9967 It looks so EASY but it is incredibly time consuming. This is where my sister was beyond compare. She sat there at my dining room table slicing and arranging all the crudite. She took home the skewers, the cheese, the basil, the dressing, and the tomatoes and skewered food all through the football game (had her team WON, I’d be putting in a mention of that. But alas, neither of us had winning bowl games this year. 😦 ). Not only did she do all of that labor-intensive work on Monday, she came early Tuesday to help assemble the asian salad cups and other dishes.

img_9962Monday was the night I had to utilize the deck for more cold storage. We’d cooked the turkey on Monday so that we could slice it on Tuesday. The wonton cups were made. The cookies I was baking were made (salted tahini chocolate chip cookies). The fruit skewers were done. The crudite cups were assembled. I got out one of my plastic storage bins from the renovation – used to pack up our lives for 6 months 🙂 – and began creating layers within the bin. I made sure to lash down and protect the bin from raccoons once I put it outside.

We prepped for hours. I think I only snapped once. 🙂 My sister and husband might disagree with that. But we hit our deadlines!! My sister was able to get home and see her football game and get out to her New Year’s Eve party. My husband and I made it to our New Year’s dinner OUT – where someone waited on me, and all the food prep was done by someone else out of sight and I didn’t have to do any cleanup beyond using my napkin.img_9966 I did come home and did a bit more preparation – baking the shortbread cookies and rolling out the quiche dough. I was still awake at midnight to hear the fireworks across the river. The sky was completely overcast so all I could see were the clouds lit by the explosions. Somewhere around 1 am I made it to bed although I make no claims about actually falling asleep. 🙂 My brain was still churning and my bad leg joints had begun to complain. Ah yes, running full throttle!

I’m Too Cute For Words

Meow. Wherever I go I’m adorable.

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