Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Recipe post

At my first Thanksgiving in my house, I served a braised Brussels sprouts in mustard butter that everyone liked very much. Every time that I am asked to serve it again there is a panicked scurry to remember from where I got the recipe. I usually remember I mentioned it on the blog, and then once I search I realize that I didn't post the recipe, just a link to the University of Illinois Ag Extension page. Since my state has been gutting their support to Ag Extension in recent years, I thought perhaps: a) other parts of the country might be doing the same; and b) if that's the case, this page I rely on will vanish. And so, for posterity (as well as my own convenience) I'm quoting the recipe here:

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Butter
Braising is an excellent method for cooking Brussels sprouts. Braising refers to cooking food with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

1 pound small, firm, bright green Brussels sprouts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Check each head, peel off any loose or discolored leaves. Using a paring knife, cut an X through the core end of each head.
Bring sprouts, water and salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Lower heat, cover and simmer. Shake pan once or twice during braising to redistribute sprouts.
Cook until just tender 8 to 10 minutes. Test by piercing with a knife tip. Drain well.
Melt butter in a large skillet of medium heat. Whisk in mustard until smooth. Cook , stirring constantly until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds.
Add sprouts to skillet, coating well with the butter mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 3 to 4.

[Originally from the Brussels Sprouts entry of the Vegetable Directory, University of Illinois Extension.

And yes, I need this again this year. I'm about to print it out to take it with me to my Mom's. We don't do Thanksgiving at my place any more. Mom traded with me -- now I'm in charge of Easter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014



Long time, no write! How the heck is everyone?

No time to talk now, but I wanted to show you this. It's a video by Pomplamoose, who are favorites of mine for all their cover songs. This one, though? This is an original song by them, and I love it.

It's so very bouncy. Innit?

Anyway, I'll write more later. My hands have other things I need them to be doing right now. At the moment I am hip-deep in knitting a sweater (life list #12, look out!) for my Dad. Been doing it for a while, had to put it down for a bit 'cause I was having some slight vision problems (ugh. Age), and then summer came along I didn't want a lap full of wool, but I picked it up again once the heat broke, and now? I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (and no, it's not an oncoming train, thankyouverymuch)! I really do think I can get this finished, blocked, and wearable by Christmas. Woo! It's not a Christmas present, though, 'cause he already knows about it, and I prefer my presents to be surprises. Just something he can wear at Christmas. If he wants.

Another excuse reason I haven't been blogging recently is 'cause my laptop went kaflooey a while back and I haven't gotten around to replacing it yet. So there's that.

Okay. More later. Buh-bye.

Friday, March 21, 2014

DMC color changes, for my own reference...

...and I suppose also for anyone who embroiders using DMC

Just ran across the following piece of information that I *know* I will forget, courtesy of Scarlet Quince News for March 2014:

"DMC Merged Colors

"In 2005, DMC 'merged' some of their color numbers in Europe. Changes in their dye formulas caused by evolving regulations and restrictions on chemicals used in dying meant that 7 pairs of colors had become so close together as to be indistinguishable. For each pair of colors, they discontinued one of the numbers and printed both numbers on the label of the other. Up until now, all 14 separate color numbers have been available in the US, but now the new labeling is going into effect in the US. Here are the colors in question:

Discontinued Substitute
504 3813
731 732
776 3326

"Example of new DMC labeling for merged colors Here is an example of the new labeling" [newsletter has an image of the label. Discontinued color is in parenthesis under the other color number.]

"At the moment, you may find 504 in the 504 bin, and both 3813 and 3813 (504) in the 3813 bin. If the stores are smart, they'll put some 3813 (504) in the 504 bin when all the old 504 is gone, but you may want to print this list and keep it in your wallet. We question how well the news will trickle down from DMC to local craft shops."

I know I'm gonna forget this and go crazy looking for a color that no longer exists when working an older pattern. Here's hoping I remember to look here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oh, that's right! I have a blog, don't I?

I've been reading over my l'il blog in recent days, and it's hit me how much I miss blogging. I think I'm gonna try easing back into it.

Mind you, this may be the final burst of activity before I decide to kill the damn thing altogether. I don't think so, though. It's occurred to me lately that this blog as been languishing since I started using Twitter more often. Perhaps I need to cut back on using that, and then I will be able to do better at this.

And no, the fact that I'm making this decision right now means I'm gonna fling myself into another NaNoBloMo thing. At the end of a solid month I'd be so sick of this I wouldn't touch it again until 2015.

So, watch this space. There might be something here tomorrow. Saturday at the latest.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

All cried out (cover song)

Hullo. Been a while, I know. I have a blog post to write about going to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, but until then, have a listen to this:

I found  this on Blip, when I was looking for the version by Fink. I think I like this better. He's really good, no?

Monday, March 11, 2013


It almost didn't register. Then, once she'd realized what she'd seen, Tracey almost kept walking. None of her business. Wasn't about her.

She turned back, took a few steps, changed her mind, turned around and walked away again.

She stopped, dug around in her coat pocket, and came up with a battered paper napkin. She turned back again, napkin in hand, and went right up to it. She waited until a group of pedestrians had passed by her before she got started.


It was scrawled in bright pink chalk on the cement top of the four-foot high brick pillar. She spit on her napkin and started to rub at it.

Why did she care? Her name wasn't Kristen. She didn't know who Kristen was. She didn't know anyone named Kristen, come to think of it. She had no idea if this had been done in anger, with malice, out of boredom. Maybe Kristen had been there when it happened, and had laughed at it.

Did that matter?

This napkin wasn't doing much good. The writing may be fading, but it was still quite legible. And the napkin was starting to fall apart. She spit on it again and rubbed harder. Dammit, this wasn't going to work. She checked her pockets for something else: another napkin, a tissue, anything. There was nothing. Better check her purse. As she was rummaging around in it, the sleeve of her black wool coat scraped across the cement, smearing the words better than the napkin had.

Okay, then.

She attacked the words with the cuff of her right sleeve.

A bearded young man passed by, brow furrowed, trying to figure out what this woman was doing. Tracey met his gaze, unconsciously jutting out her chin in defiance. He dropped his eyes and hurried past.

In a university this large, there was bound to be more than one Kristen. One of them might read this. Might think it was meant for her.

And even if the Kristen it was meant for had seen it, had been there when it was written, had laughed at it even, did that really mean she found it funny?  How many times had Tracey laughed while some joke had stabbed her right in the heart?

She rubbed harder.

God. People! The casual cruelty of the popular teen or twenty-something; the way it was taken up and amplified by their followers, in an attempt to curry favor; the gleeful, eager cruelty of the unpopular teen, siding with the popular against the even more unpopular, grateful that this time, they weren't in the one in the cross-hairs; the shoves and the threats, growled through clenched teeth, of the one nobody liked, the one determined to make someone feel worse than him. It reminded her of what she'd heard about barnyard chickens, the way the stronger would gang up on the weakest in the flock and peck the poor thing to death.

Worse than the violence (or the threat of it) were the betrayals: the ones who managed to sneak in under the radar and befriend you, only to scamper back to your tormentors and hand them weapons guaranteed to hit home.

She thanked her stars she'd been through with school before the Internet became prevalent. Things had been bad enough with 400 people in her own grade despising her for no good reason. How much worse is it now with MySpace, Facebook, text messaging, a whole Internet ready to pig-pile onto one lone person who doesn't quite fit in? It would have been enough to make her fling herself off of a roof.

Nice haircut. Who did that, and how drunk were they?

Where'd you get those jeans, Goodwill?

Brace-Face. Fatso. Four-eyes. Lardass. Geek. Brainiac. Weirdo. Freak.

Who said you could sit at this table?

That boy you like? Billy? He thinks you're disgusting.

You suck.

Snipe, snarl, sneer.

Peck, peck, peck.

Scrub, scrub, scrub.

There. It was gone. Maybe Kristen, whoever she was, would never see it. And, even if she had, she won't have to see it again.

Tracey headed off down the sidewalk, picking off friction-formed black wool pellets from her coat. She tossed the now-shredded napkin into a trash can a few blocks later. Her friends, waiting for her on a bench outside the cafe, stood up as she drew near. They greeted each other warmly, walked into the restaurant, and took off their coats.

"Hey," Laura said, grabbing Tracey's right coat sleeve. "You've got some schmutz here." She started to rub at the pink smear.

"That's all right," said Tracey, gently removing the sleeve from her friend's hands.

"It looks like chalk dust, or something." Zane said, inspecting it. "Shouldn't be too hard to get out. Let's get some water and a rag." He started to look around for someone to ask.

"No," Tracey said firmly. "Leave it."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Incoming messages

A few weeks ago my sister wrote something on her blog about her talent. I don't know what else to call it. Judge for yourself what you think it is, but if you have some sort of derisive comment to make, keep it to yourself.

The reason I bring up her post is because of a question she asked at the end of it: "Does this happen to anyone else?"

I'd like to say, "No." I really would. And if I forget about this one particular instance, I could say, "No."

But I can't forget that instance, see, because it involves a friend of mine from high school, one of my very best friends. She felt like a sister to me. It's about the week she fell ill and died, and I didn't know anything about it because I was out of the country, unreachable. Except that I did know. Sort of. Somehow.

I was on a trip to Canada with some friends in August about ten years ago. We went to the Stratford Festival of Canada, which I highly recommend. This town in Ontario has turned repertory theatre into the town's main business. From May to October, on three separate stages, they perform a variety of plays.  At least half of them are Shakespeare, but there's always a mix. Aside from all the Shakespeare, I've seen Anything Goes, Medea, Collected Stories, Elizabeth Rex (an original work by a local playwright), Tempest Toss'd, and Threepenny Opera. And that's just a sampling.

2000 was the first year I went. We were there to watch (among other things) Hamlet, performed by Paul Gross, a Canadian playwright/actor/musician/director/producer who'd risen to fame (mostly in Canada and Europe, though he has a following here) for his role in a TV series about a Mountie working at the Canadian Consulate in Chicago. The show was called "Due South," and my friend Maddie was tracking his career with professional interest. She would later go on to write her PhD dissertation about him.

The week we were there was the week around my friend Victoria's birthday. I had sent her present early, because I wanted to make sure she got it before I left the country--she lived in Kansas, I'm in Pennsylvania. I have never trusted the mail to get things where they're supposed to be in a timely manner and/or in the intended condition, which means when something arrives intact and on time, I am always pleasantly surprised. She had called me to thank me, and to wish me a happy birthday as well (I was thirteen days older than she). During the course of the conversation, she told me about something odd that had happened while she was driving home from work. Her leg started to hurt her, a lot. She said the pain was so intense, she screamed out at one point. Then, just as quickly as it started, it stopped. She thought it was a cramp. She only mentioned because it had happened that day, and her leg was a little achy still. The conversation drifted on to other topics. At one point I made her laugh so loud and so hard that her husband came up from the basement to see what was so funny. I have no memory of what I said, just the sound of her laugh.

Maddie, Barbara, and I spent a day or two in Toronto first, because all three of us love Toronto. We got to Stratford on a Monday evening. I know this because there are no plays on Monday. They build their week Tuesday through Saturday, Monday is their day of rest. It's also the day most of one group of tourists are replaced by the next one.

I'd say from about Tuesday onward, Victoria was on my mind. I'm sure this is partly because I thought she'd love what we were doing. I sent her a birthday card from there, telling her she definitely had to come here with me sometime, that she'd have a blast. She was a huge Shakespeare fan, loved theater and art and even opera (which I didn't develop a taste for until a couple of years ago), and I'm sure that an entire town whose main industry was a combination of tourism and theater would charm her the way it was charming me. And I dunno, partly I just couldn't get her out of my head. I kept seeing things and feeling like I was pointing them out to her. Which was silly, of course, because she was all the way over in Kansas, and I was up there in Ontario.

The day we drove back was a Saturday. It was the day after Vicki's birthday. It was a particularly long ride, because we took a wrong turn somewhere and almost wound up in the wrong part of the U.S. ("Guys?" I asked from the backseat, gazing out the window. "That sign says we're headed for Sault St. Marie. Isn't that in Michigan?" Screeee. One abrupt pull-over, consultation of maps, and U-turn later, and we were headed toward Buffalo. Only added 2 hours onto our travel time.), and I didn't get home until well after midnight.

I was dead tired. I seriously contemplated sleeping in my clothes. As I stumbled toward bed, something made me stop, go to the kitchen, and look at the answering machine. It used a blinking light instead of an LED number readout to alert you to messages. Steady light=no messages; flashing light= message: one flash for each message, then pause, then resume flashing. The light was steady. At least it looked steady. I could swear it had flickered for a moment, so I made myself look at it extra hard. Nope. I headed to bed. No message for me.

Yes there is.

I didn't hear that so much as I felt it. All right. I turned back around and looked again. Steady light. I looked for a very long time. No flashes, not the barest flicker of one. No message. Ignore that feeling. It's wrong. There is no message.


Around noon the next day I got a call from Brent, Vicki's husband. He'd never called me before about anything, not once, but instead of realizing something was up, I just greeted him cheerfully. I didn't hear, or more accurately didn't understand what he was saying, at least not right away. Here's the gist of it:

Sometime around the beginning of the previous week, Vicki started to have trouble breathing. Brent took her to the hospital, where they found she'd thrown a blood clot (remember the leg pain? I think that was the clot) that had wandered into one of her lungs. They got rid of it, kept her a couple days, and released her when they thought they had things under control (she'd been on my mind since Tuesday). Brent had been trying to call me all week, but had apparently written the number down wrong, because he couldn't get through until this morning (no message, but there was a message). The evening of the day she was released from the hospital, she threw another clot. She was having trouble breathing again, this time so severely that Brent called 911. She went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, and they could not revive her. That was a day before her birthday, when I thought I was wandering around Stratford with her in my head. I think by the time I sent her that second birthday card she was already gone.

You know how in the movies when someone hears someone has died, they say, "That's not funny!" or "I just spoke to (or saw) him/her!" ? I always assumed that was for effect, and that it was an awful silly bit of dialogue. My first thought? That Brent was playing some horrible practical joke. The next? That she couldn't be dead. I'd just spoken to her a week ago. Brent told me that Vicki had wanted to make sure I was thanked for my birthday present. She'd forgotten she'd already done that (I was on her mind too). I made sure that I told him I had never seen her happier than when she was with him. It was true. Their brief history together had a bit of a turbulent start--her parents (well, her father) disliked Brent intensely, and for no reason anyone else could see except that it was threatening to break up their domestic arrangement. She wound up having to move out, because they gave her a "him or us" ultimatum and she chose him. They hadn't spoken in a few years. Brent called them when Vicki was in the hospital, and they came running. Thank goodness that got mended while it could.

I couldn't even go to the funeral. I'd just used up all my vacation time and my extra money on a trip to Canada. I couldn't fly to Kansas. Brent promised to call me with an address to send flowers to, but he forgot. When I called again a few days later, the funeral had already happened. I'd missed the whole thing.

That night I had a very vivid dream. I was in a very ornate room. The furniture was all Victorian, in reds and golds. In the middle of the room was an oval table, made of mahogany and topped in white marble. On the table sat a large hurricane lamp, ruby-red, with the light burning in it. Inside the lamp there was a goldfish swimming. I went to the table, blew out the light, took the top off and got the fish out. It lay there in my hand, perfectly content--not gasping or anything--while with the other hand I cleaned out the lamp and replaced it with fresh fuel and a new wick. I put the fish back in the lamp, and it went back to swimming around and around. I lit the lamp, put the shade back on, and left the room, taking one last look over my shoulder to the lamp on the table, where the fish was watching me. It looked like it was waving at me.

I woke up knowing that was about Victoria, but not having the faintest idea what it meant. I'm still not quite sure.

So anyway, what was that? Distress call from Kansas, followed by a visit from the dead? Or me thinking of a friend because her birthday was approaching, and not believing I could leave town for a week and not get a phone call the whole time I was away? I should point out that just about everyone knew I was away, and I sometimes go for weeks without an incoming phone call.

And while we're at it, can anyone interpret that dream?