My daughter, C. brought these beautiful paper placemats of cardinals decked out in Renaissance-like headgear. Just LOVED their whimsical touch to our Christmas table this year. The truffle salt that we used on the roast filet of beef wasn’t too bad either! Lots of good cheer and thoughtful gifts, all around. We are thankful for such sweet family gatherings.
On Tuesday, I had a chance to have lunch with a friend whom I’ve known since junior high school back in Virginia. It was the first time I’d seen him in a few months, the last time when I brought him sushi to his house while he was recovering from radiation and immunotherapy treatments for Stage IV melanoma that had metastisized to tumors in his brain.
Now, just a few months later, he looked light and uplifted with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye that I had not seen for years, even before he became so terminally ill, it seemed. We had a relaxing lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant in Northampton, MA. where the manager of the restaurant offered us desserts, compliments of the house! We had each feared that he might not make it to Christmas this year – but instead, he seems so stabilized and recovered that he drove himself to Virginia for a Thanksgiving visit with his family just a couple of weeks ago.
Former President Jimmy Carter has made a similarly remarkable recovery from melanoma and tumors in his brain as well in just a few short months. So, with the combined radiation and especially the novel immunotherapy treatments that have evolved in recent years, one cancer, at least, seems to be treatable. It has been glacially slow for progress like this to be made on other forms of the disease, especially ovarian cancer which is still impossible to detect early enough to do much about it.
So, we are celebrating Christmas this year with a light heart and gratitude for small and big miracles. I’d say this one was pretty big though, wouldn’t you?
Here’s a photo of a “Waldorf”-type doll that we are giving to our five year old granddaughter for Christmas! (I don’t think she has access to this blog as yet so thought I’d post a sneak preview here.)
Made a couple of outfits for her today which entailed digging out my old sewing machine and learning all over again how to wind a bobbin and thread a sewing machine (Youtube was a lifesaver!) I had to use a magnifying glass and tweezers to thread the needle though.
It’s been over forty years since I did this for my daughters! Thank God our other granddaughter is at Johns Hopkins University! Yeah!
To commemorate Christmas, 2014, here is a photo of the lovely branch chandelier that hung over our kitchen table on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Its presence took away the arduous task of setting up the traditional Christmas tree (and having to take it down after the holidays.)
Following this lesson learned that less is indeed so much more than before, I’m also simplifying my life significantly in the new year that has just begun. Here’s to acknowledging what’s real and to fostering renewed contentment in ourselves and in our home.
Now that the Christmas things have been packed up and put away, I turned my attention yesterday to learning how to use the new Tascam recorder my daughters gave me. After a few tries, learning how to input the settings like “turn mic on,” I sat down at the piano and played through the Bach Prelude in C major. In the middle of that playthrough, the phone rang (G. calling me) which I ignored (see if you can hear it on the video. . .)
I shared the recording with my daughters yesterday which they were able to play and then wanted to upload it as an audio onto YouTube because transmission of the audio clip was too large for a few friends’ mailboxes which were bounced back to me as “undeliverable.”
This morning, after reading that YouTube only accepts video clips (with music in the background) I learned that I have something called I-Video on my Macbook Pro dock (duh!) So, I went through some photos and added enough of them so that the “soundtrack” of the Bach played all the way through, adding a final photo so that the last C-major chord could be heard.
Not being that technologically able, I managed to upload this video onto YouTube (twice!) set the viewing button to “public” and hope that it will play for anyone who might be curious to see what’s possible with a little time and preserverance. Thanks for listening/watching. . .
(In carrying out this little exercise, I am reminded once again how profoundly fortunate I am, surrounded by the love of this beautiful family.)
It’s really amazing what you can learn by watching YouTube clips. I can see now how learning from watching a “show-and-tell”video is so much accessible and easier to grasp than merely reading recipes, for example. Our Christmas Dinner is on the English side this year, roasting a filet of beef and yorkshire pudding. I’ve made yorkshire pudding before in a large skillet where you cut up the puffed up creation into wedges and serve with the slices of roast beef and pass the gravy around.
I’ve also made popovers which is a favorite in our family and they are heavenly to see and eat, with a little sweet butter and some honey.That is, when the popovers rise and when they don’t stick to the pan. I even have special “popover baking pans.” Okay, so many of you will know that yorkshire pudding is identical to popovers. The word “pudding” makes us think it’s, well, something different. But it isn’t.
Anyhow, I started looking at some Youtube clips yesterday for how to make yorkshire pudding. It was really interesting with home videos of elderly ladies in very plain kitchens throwing the ingredients together in an old plastic bowl, scraping it around, putting lard into the pans to heat up before filling with batter half way up the muffin tins. The results were small, flat, small, flat little yorkshire puddings. They seemed to be very pleased by this (small, flat) tradition in their family, though. I moved on to other cooks who put the four ingredients, flour, egg, salt and milk, always making a “well” in the flour before adding the egg; some beating up the egg before mixing with the flour but always in that order. One let the batter sit for an hour before baking but I wasn’t sure why.
All used some kind of shortening (lard, golden crisco, vegetable oil) to layer the bottom of their muffin tins which they heated to smoking hot in the oven before taking back out to pour the batter in the muffin cups halfway. On the fourth clip, some guy said he liked his puffed up so he poured his batter all the way to the rim. That made sense to me too. And his started to look like what we know as popovers.
So if you are still reading, I’ve arrived at the final and most definitive process to make what they call sky-high yorkshire pudding (or popovers) every time. And you know what, it’s really different, although there are still only the four ingredients. This lesson truly demonstrates that cooking is sheer chemistry, and that’s all. So here goes.
In the first place, this is the first demonstration that mixed up the milk and three eggs FIRST with a mixer. Then beat in an extra EGG WHITE (a la souffles and such.) So the guy is beating up the milk and eggs with a mixer incorporating lots of AIR, right? THEN, he adds the flour, but only in little bits so that it gets incorporated little by little into the batter. ALL of the other recipes instructed you to make a well in the flour, add the egg, beaten or not, and mix it together into a PASTE (translate: NOT airy.) Then add the salt and milk to it. The difference, shall we say, is night and day.
But there’s more. After this light, airy batter is well mixed, put it into a container with a spout in the refrigerator OVERNIGHT. Something must happen to the gluten in the flour during this standing step. The next day, heat up your muffin cups with the grease in it until smoking hot, stir your batter lightly to incorporate after resting, and quickly pour the batter to the TOP. Apparently, the temperature deferential between the smoking hot oil in the pan and the very cold batter that’s been sitting causes an EXPLOSION which results in huge popovers! Put them into the oven and do not open the door for 25-45 minutes depending upon how many you’re baking.
These babies are amazing–HUGE puffed up tops almost toppling over from their bases and they pop right out of the pan too (couldn’t resist that.)
So, I’m excited about trying this out for our dinner. I have every confidence that they will turn out to be sky-high too. If you’d like to watch that YouTube clip too, here it is.
Oh, and he forgets to tell you how much flour to use so there’s a footnote underneath. If you’re like me, you’ll have to Google the conversion from milliliters of milk and grams of flour. I already did it so I’m happy to share with you that it’s about a cup and a half of each when all is said and done.
Postscript: I’m happy to report that the recipe here will work well, as long as: a) you don’t put in too much oil in the shallow muffin pans so that oil spills over into the bottom of your oven at high heat and “catch fire” (that’s right!) and b) you let them bake at high heat 425-450 degrees for 15-20 minutes until they pop but don’t take them out yet, turn the heat down to 350 and let them bake for about 15 minutes longer. On Christmas Eve, they popped hugely (and the grease spilled over) but I took them out too early and they immediately deflated into little wisps of nothing.
Tonight (New Year’s Eve,) I made them again without the fussiness of making the batter and letting it sit overnight although I did whisk two eggs and 1 cup milk together first and added 1 cup flour/pinch of salt in small amounts into the liquid and let the batter sit on the counter while waiting to bake. I heated the oven to 450 degrees, sprayed Pam in the cups along the sides and used my deep, cone-shaped popover pan instead of the shallow muffin pan. I put a teaspoon of oil in the bottom of each cup and let the pan heat up in the oven for 10 minutes. As a precaution, I lined a cookie sheet with some aluminum foil and placed it on the lower rack underneath where the popover pan would go. I took the hot pan out and filled the cups almost to the top (less 1/8 inch) and the batter filled five cups, not six.
The popovers popped with huge heads in about 15 minutes; I turned down the heat without opening the oven door and let them cook about 15 minutes longer so that the popovers would actually bake. When I took them out, they came out easily and ratained their shape, crunchy outside with a smooth popover-y inside. Smeared with sweet butter and honey, they were sublime. In fact, now that this popover recipe has been tweaked (to death!) I have come to think about how they might serve as the main attraction for any meal–with a nice fruit salad with greens or a cup of soup. Mostly, people fight over the popovers (we split the fifth one.) Hope this will inspire you to try it yourself. . . and that you will enjoy this simple, delectable treat with self-satisfied smiles between bites: that’s how we enjoyed them tonight!
You know how things are when you’re about two weeks away from THE DAY if you are celebrating Christmas and things, although they seem do-able, start to feel a little overwhelming?
I’m happy to report that we have made a good deal of headway by discussing logistical puzzles that have given way to solutions that offered up more possibilities than when we were boxed into the “way it had to be.” One example for me and my daughters was that M. wanted very much to stop by H-Mart, a humongous asian grocery store halfway here on Christmas Eve day to be able to buy thin-sliced Kobe beef Read the rest of this entry »
So on the day after Christmas and celebration of Hanukkah, what seems most important to me in hindsight is being present. Not presents, although they are wonderfully thoughtful, fun and touching. But being together. In the moment. Sharing our company. Watching a 15-month year old baby understand what is going on around her. And enjoying every moment of her reactions to bubbles being blown or a small quilt being unwrapped. Beside me on the couch, our other granddaughter, who will be sixteen next month put on her new pearl earrings. . . now that she has just had her ears pierced, we are all delighted with a new category in which we can find little treasures. Tonight, the little one offered a plastic block in trade for the older one’s I-Phone. . . and then didn’t want to give it back!
Josie trading a plastic block with Anna for her I-Phone!
Being present everyday is what I think we eventually learn to do, especially when our children are not that anymore, but who are living their own adult lives with all the ups and downs that life entails. Choosing to be with people that you love means everything. Because our presence is what we have to give of ourselves in the end.
Being there. Being here. Being with each other. Especially right now.