Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First you pillage, then you burn


Here I am at not even 7:00AM on my birthday, awake for who knows what reason as I am not working today. I do have to call in yet to make sure my supervisor got my email, but I'm 90% sure there will be no problem. Not that 10% is not enough to keep me from going back to sleep when I wake up at my regular time.

Entering into my last year of being in my 40s, it's weird. Really. Mentally, emotionally, I don't feel like I'm even in my 40s yet. Physically, I feel like I'm getting there, but certainly not "almost 50", and that's mostly due to my leg being jacked up. I am sure I'd be much more spry if I had full mobility.

Saturday, our wonderful friends Shirley and Dave invited us over for a dinner in honor of my birthday. It was very touching-it's been a very long time since I had a friend who was willing to do something like that for me. Especially since we learned when we got there that their beloved kitty had passed away unexpectedly the day before and they were both pretty upset about it. In spite of that, a good time was had by all and the food was amazing.


Wonderfully cooked rib roast, potatoes, and greens. With chocolate cheesecake for dessert. And some pretty great wines.

I'm being taken out to dinner tonight at Casbah, a restaurant that is part of the Big Burrito group here (local nice restaurant un-chain) and I'm looking forward to it. Also, my daughter is going to stop by on her way home from class today and I haven't seen her since we were at her place for dinner so that will be nice. My mom is going to dinner with us. We will have to use all our powers to prevent her from grabbing the check. Sigh. Moms.

Just opened my present from Bob, and he got me an awesome set of knives, ones that were on my wish list, the OXO Good Grips knives. Fantastic! I have been working with one half-decent knife for ten years, it'll be nice to have the proper tools for the job.

In case you've been curious about the outcome of the BRESMA orphanage situation, here's a good recap from the PG. I am not sure how to feel about it. As I said to a friend on facebook, On one hand I'm very glad the kids are ok. On the other hand, wow, they twisted a lot of arms and bent a lot of rules. On the gripping hand, imperialism. It all bothers me but as a mom, concern for the kids' lives comes first. It's confusing. I can only hope that the kids stay in touch with their cultural heritage because it's certain that Haiti is going to be troubled with this for a long time, and there will at least be a diaspora of children, if not everyone, because of this. It's good to know, though, that mountains could be moved, a teaspoon at a time, to get those kids safe.

It was also a triumph of social networking, with local mega-popular blog That's Church taking a lead role in getting the word out both via her blog and twitter. The family of the women in charge of the orphanage worked with the blog owner to make her the point person on the social networking end, getting information and requests for specific help out, and passing along the only reliable news as it became available. A wonderful thing all in all, though Virginia from That's Church took a lot of heat from some people for being less than forthcoming with info at the family's request. All I can say is if I ever need to be rescued, I hope I get someone like her on my side-it was amazing to watch.

I'm knitting two pair of socks, neither of which have photos that are worthy of being shared at this point. Yesterday, I decided to treat myself to some spinning as well. I'm finishing the orange Border Leicester that I got in Waynesburg back last spring.

The 365 project goes on. Here's this week's photos.

"Fruit", one of the hats I made for the orphans. The hats are going to be donated to I dunno, probably Catholic Charities because they get a lot of refugees.

I did two photos for 1/20,
Keyed up
"Keyed Up"

Keyed in
"Keyed In", both shenanigans with cell phone pics and my wimpy photo editing program.

look up, it's all around you
"Look Up, It's All Around You", 1/21, the day the bus broke down at the end of the busway and we had to walk from there into town. This is the dome of the rotunda in front of the old Pennsylvania Railroad station, now luxury apartments and offices. One of my favorite buildings in town.

Urban decay
"Urban Decay" for 1/22. Another cell phone picture.

this is not as beautiful as love
"This is not as beautiful as love", 1/23. Bob brought me roses on Friday.

"Vines" for 1/24, detail of the top of a hat I made for my elder daughter's roommate.

And finally, "Fierce", from 1/25, a detail of my favorite tee shirt in the world. I love my sumo wrestler. He makes me feel invincible.

That's about it!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Orzo in cream sauce with capers

Sorry, I missed taking a picture of this yummy side dish, but it was too good not to post.

8 oz dry Orzo
3 Tbsp butter
One shallot, sliced thin
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 to 1/3 cup capers, drained.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook orzo in a medium saucepan to two minutes less than package instructions. At the same time, melt butter in small saucepan. Once the foam subsides, add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they just start to brown. Add wine and bring to boil. Add cream. Add fresh ground pepper. Bring to just before boiling then turn heat down to a high simmer and allow to cook while you finish the orzo, whisking frequently but not continuously. Watch that it does not boil over.

Drain orzo, put back in saucepan, add cream sauce, stir in. Leave on low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add capers just before serving and add salt if needed.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stuffed eggplant


One large eggplant
Olive Oil
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and sliced
Two small yellow onions, chopped
Five medium Crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced
Tbsp butter
4 oz pancetta, cubed
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Asiago or similar
2 tbsp capers
One egg or two egg whites
1/2 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 375
Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and score the inner meat with a knife, getting to about 1/2 inch from the skin but not piercing it.
Baste eggplant halves with olive oil, place skin side down in baking pan that has the bottom lightly coated with olive oil. Salt and pepper lightly. Bake for approx 20 minutes or until the cuts separate and the meat begins to soften. Remove from oven, but leave the oven on.

While the eggplant bakes, melt butter in a saute' pan. Add garlic and onions and cook until just browning. Add pancetta. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add mushrooms. Stir, cover, and cook until mushrooms shrink by about half. Remove cover, add wine. Stir well, boil down until the liquid is starting to thicken.

With a spoon, scrape the meat from the eggplant halves, leaving a thick layer of meat against the skin. Add the meat to the pan with the other ingredients, and stir together, simmering about five minutes and blending the eggplant in.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and cheese. Add the capers and the contents of the saute' pan and stir together. Beat egg and stir in. Spoon into eggplant halves and return to oven. Bake about 10-15 minutes until tops browned and sizzling. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes before serving.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I don't belong here, I don't belong there

Title courtesy of the amazing Nina Simone and her song Missisippi Goddamn.

I really don't have much to say. Like many people here in Pittsburgh and around the world, I'm waiting for news on the BRESMA orphans and my heart is breaking for Haiti and the Haitian people. This is a tragedy of the highest order. People are dying who should be okay, now. Dying from disease and infection and grief. All I know how to do is to donate money and make baby hats. And I can't donate any more money right now. But i don't have pictures of the hats yet. Maybe later in the week.

Donate here, please. If you can.
All the money will go to the orphans' needs when they arrive here. And they'll have a lot of needs.

One of the things that did surprise me though it probably should not have is that Mary Beth Buchanan, a crony of GWBush, talked out of her ass about getting the kids back here, like she could just take it upon herself to swoop into Haiti and remove all the kids. She got a lot of people's hopes up and then they were dashed when we learned she was really not as far into the process as she thought.

At this point, there's a plane on the ground in Haiti from Pittsburgh with medical goods, food, water, doctors, etc. The intention is to bring 61 kids and the McMutrie sisters back to Pittsburgh. I hope that is the case but I'll believe it when I see them here.

But I'm hopeful enough that I'm still knitting hats, at any rate.

I did have some cooking adventures this week, including a foray into beef in pastry which went pretty well considering it was the wrong type of meat, whole wheat instead of white flour, and I did the mushroom pate wrong. It would not win any prizes on Food Network, but it was a worthy step on my way up the culinary ladder.
The rolled out pastry with the mushroom pate on it.

Sizzling away.

Today, I made my first Hollandaise sauce and served it with poached mahi mahi, risotto, and veggies.
It made a nice plate. I'll tell you what, I am doing hollandaise in the food processor from now on, that whipping the egg yolks by hand and trying to pour butter in at the same time is overrated.

Here's this week's 365 photos.

"Shine", taken at my daughter's house when she made us dinner on Tuesday.

am I blue?
"Am I Blue?" before cutting my nails down a little later in the week. Cell phone picture.

landing strip
"Landing Strip". Another cell phone picture, before the snow melted.

flick er
"Flick Er", a last minute snap when I realized I'd almost forgotten to take a photo that day.

Ginger the Manatee

"Ginger the Manatee" was a twofer with "Ginger the Dinosaur" on Saturday.

Ginger the Dinosaur

"Privilege", Sunday's dinner, the aforementioned beef in pastry. Reminding myself how very fortunate we are.

Mondays off
"Monday Off". Loving the light in our house, as usual.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Still holding on

Latest on the orphanage situation. I am so worried for them. They were on CNN tonight and those women are so brave and keeping such a cheerful strong face on for the kids, but you can tell there's so much fear underneath.

If you are in a position to help, please do so. The kids will need warm clothing when they get here. They'll need hats. I'm knitting hats. It keeps me from sitting here sniffling and tearing up watching CNN and hoping for good news.

Last year, when the brother of these two women shared their story at work and invited us to a fundraiser (to which I didn't go, and wish I had), I thought there was something amazing about them. Readers of this blog know that I am about as agnostic as a big ol' heathen can get, but I admire so much when someone has that kind of love in their heart. No worries if they want to attribute it to deity, it goes to a good place and it saves lives.

So I'm knitting hats. If you want to knit some hats, I'm sure they'd be welcomed. Drop me a note here or in email (jlongstreth at comcast dot net) and I'll make sure they get to a child's head when they arrive here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Because no chance is too small

There is an urgent situation in Haiti, obviously, but this is extra urgent. Jamie and Ali McMutrie run the BRESMA orphanage in Port Au Prince. They need to get babies evacuated, as soon as possible. Just in case some person with a private jet or the resources to hire one is reading this blog-(like I said, no chance is too small) please read this.

A quote from a quick borrowed blackberry message that breaks my heart-

“Our housé is falling b two also. Adoptions stoppéd five yrs at least. We are living in yard no food water bank stores phone mostly. Only idéa is if u no anyoné important who can give réfugee status to all thé bresma u.s. kids. We trùly cant keep babys alive water contaminated. This is our only hope -
only private planes allowed. We know its cràzy but can évryone come togethér and find a person to help us like obama? Thé kids r almost américan and will have homes. We try to call all day and cant. Sending this from a strangers blackberry.”

Please spread the word. These young ladies do amazing work finding homes for children in dire need under normal circumstances. Now it's truly a life and death situation for them.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Four years

It's been four years today since I quit smoking. I don't have a lot to say-it's still not gone from my character but it continues to get easier. I will say that it's been a good decision overall and one I will never regret.

My crafting mojo is stuck right now. I've made several false starts over the weekend on various projects and none have taken off properly. There's a pair of boot socks showing promise. We shall see.

My co-worker's baby needs a new sweater, as all babies do, and since Cosy was kind enough to come up with such a clever pattern as the baby eggplant, the least I could do was to knit it.

This was also part of my 365 photos, but not this shot.


The weather has sucked big time the past week. Days when it has not snowed have been few and they've been bitterly cold, like yesterday and today. As pretty as it is, I've very much had enough of winter.


Saturday night was dinner with Mensans. We met at the Green Forest restaurant, just down the road from home. Meat on skewers, in large quantities, a fabulous salad/seafood bar, and dessert.


The pineapple sorbet tasted like I was sitting on the beach in Hawaii, eating a pineapple with my bare hands while the juice ran down my chin and all over my shirt. It was incredible. Worth every penny. Green Forest is a good once-a-year restaurant. Ok, maybe twice a year. Any more than that is too much. But I recommend it highly.

This is the end result of the scarf I was working on last week.

It came out disappointingly short. I still like it, but I would like it more were it much longer and squishier.

This week's 365 project photos.




Alien landscape. Rescue needed.

"Alien landscape. Rescue needed."

baby eggplants need warmth too

"Baby Eggplants need warmth too"

icicles on every damn thing

"Icicles on every damn thing"


The view from the dentist's chair

"The view from the dentist's chair". Literally. I took this after my teeth cleaning today. It's a little more scenic in the summer, but there's a lot of birds and basically nice to see instead of four sterile walls. Each chair has a bay window like that.

There will be a recipe forthcoming for potato-bacon soup. I made some on Friday when I was home for a snow day. (the snow day turned out to be a good call. I would not have fared well out in the elements that day.) It was awesome, and I want to make it again. Our neighbor across the vacant lot, Rob, came over and cleaned out our driveway on Saturday with his mower/plow dealie, so we sent the half of the soup that I'd put aside home with him in thanks for his work. Poor Bob has been like whatshisface pushing that boulder up the hill. Sisyphus? Is that the dude? The snow has not given him a break and I'm really not up to shoveling. I went outside to take some pictures while it was coming down on Friday, and ended up falling. I was ok (still sore) but it was pretty scary to realize I was down in the snow and unsure about getting up again. Needless to say it all worked out and I am not much worse for wear. Nor is my camera, which landed in a snowbank.

Until next time.

Monday, January 04, 2010

In with the new

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I posted here. My apologies-it's been a bit of a hectic month what with the holidays and so on.

Today is a dual birthday-Bob and my mother both. So this will not be a long entry, as I am busy cooking a lovely dinner and trying to get the house organized enough to have my mom over for dinner. I also made a cake, and can prove it.


I put some sprinkles on top, too.

All the crazy holiday crafting got done in plenty of time, and was all well-received. I put puffy paint on the bottoms of the slippers to make them non-skid, and that was fun as well. I did different patterns and even some words, but did not take photos. The hats all fit, at least as far as I can tell, and overall it seemed folks were pleased with their gifts.

Bob loved his present.

That's the Beatles boxed set, all digitally remastered. It sounds wonderful. His reaction was priceless-he just kept saying "holy crap!" My mom was laughing. It was fun. She liked her GPS unit, and the kids got money and stuffed animals and books and were happy with them too.


Anna was only in for the weekend. Hated to see her go so soon but she'll be back.

The weather has been crap around here.
Pretty, but crap. I hate snow more than ever and I am terrified of falling. But this too shall pass.

I got some awesome gifts. My mom got me a sewing machine and carrying case for it. My daughter got me a stick blender and a cookbook (Julia Child!) along with some original art that she made for me and a CD and knitting book I wanted. And Bob got me two cookbooks, one of which was the same one Lena got me so we returned it and got a food processor instead, which arrived today.

I'm excited about all the cooking related gifts because I have felt for a while now that although I'm a good cook with good fundamentals, I am ready to bring it up a level and the gifts I got will help me do that. The techniques I've read in the Julia Child book have started making a difference already! I feel like I can become the cook I always wanted to be now. It's kind of exciting.

In knitting, I've been knitting. I've also spun some yarn-I got fiber at Handmade Arcade when I went there shopping and one bit of it was calling out to me. Just some handdyed farm wool.


And as soon as I finished spinning it, it demanded to be knit, so I'm making myself Stephanie Pearl McPhee's One Row Scarf. So far, so good.

I wish I could write more but there are a million things to do before my mom gets here and if I get started, I won't be able to stop. I do need to blog more often-perhaps I can accomplish that in the new year.

One thing I will be doing is a Photo 365 project with a group from Ravelry-the idea is to take one photo (at least) a day for 365 days, so here are mine, so far. I have a set on flickr with them as well. I started on the first of the year.

Project 365 Photos this week-

self portrait with bird and bad judgment
"Self-Portrait with Bird and Bad Judgment"

assorted craft
"Assorted Craft"

still life with ginger and brioschi
"Still Life with Ginger and Brioschi"

late morning light
"Late Morning Light"