Monday, June 22, 2009

Take me to the RIver

First, true confession time. Last week, when I was watching True Blood with Najah, a bunch of square dancers in full regalia came into Sam's bar. I said, "I used to dress like that back in square dance club". Give me a break, I was in junior high. So today, for my birthday, this is what she gave me:

The handles are ties, and the sides are album covers. Square dance songs, complete with calls. Some titles? Boil them cabbages down, Pop Goes the Weasal, Devil's Dream, and my personal favorite : Back up and Push.

The river is running high right now. Yesterday as we finished our walk through Prospect Park an upside down canoe went by. Someone else was already calling 911. Later, I found out that the canoe belonged to Najah's husband Tim's friend Arthur. Tim and Arthur had planned to run the river, but made it only 100 yards before being tipped out of the boat, which sailed merrily along without them. They are both fine, and very lucky to have been tossed out in a boulderless stretch. About 1/4 mile or so further down are the boulders you can see in the photo at the top of the blog. Tim has been grounded from any further boat trips - it seems this is not the first time he's fallen overboard.

So today, Najah & I met to celebrate Tim's escape and my birthday. Sitting by the river, just above the rapids, we toasted with Jim Beam, followed by a Coke chaser. I learned that whiskey followed by Coke is sooooo much better than whiskey in Coke. It creates a marvelous, burny, smokey sweetness in the mouth. But I digress. We stood ankle deep in the cold, fast moving water. Najah made her offerings of thanksgiving. I tossed water over my head & neck. I wanted to submerge, but common sense prevailed. Najah scooped up some water and sprinkled over me, invoking a birthday blessing.

Take me to the river,

drop me in the water

Push me in the river,

dip me in the water

Washing me, washing me down

Friday, June 19, 2009

Broken Thought Process DaythatendsinY

I miss my fish and the sound of the aquarium. I like the sound of flowing water. Maybe I need a fountain.

It's already too hot in the kitchen. We start coming in a 6am next week. Bleh.

Why does she go straight to weepy panic mode - pissed off or inquiring would be so much more effective.

Why did I agree to go out tonight? I just want to go to bed.

How did I end up with so much on my social calendar? It's just not normal.

I need to find a way to brush up on unused pastry skills that does not involve making loads of fattening things at home.

My upcoming birthday is precipitating a lot of soul searching and depression, what-the-hell-have-I-done-so-far and what-am-I-going-to-do-next. I'm not what I want to be. I'm not sure what I want to be. I don't know if I'm capable of being what I want to be. Maybe I'm just too lazy to make the effort.

That write-in-the-shower pad Jenn put on facebook is awesome. About time someone came up with that. Why wasn't it me? Oh, yeah. Science.

How do sculptors make stone look like diaphanous fabric? Why are cake artists into bright tacky-colored fondant and frosting? I'm glad we don't do wedding cakes anymore. I hate covering cakes in fondant. It's fun for sculpture, but not for covering. And it tastes bad. Really bad.

Do I have time for a nap and a shower? Do I care?

Where is all the time going? It seems to be going by so fast, and I'm left here feeling empty, feeling useless, feeling like a waste of time.

You are not a window Kitty. Get off the keyboard.

I really need a glass of water. I miss going to Free Writing on Friday mornings. It was really good for me. I haven't been able to go for over a year.

It's hot. I'm tired. And I don't want to go out. But I said I would. This is why I so rarely give my word - once it's done, it has to be honored. Integrity can be so inconvenient.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And then there were none

The book said Orandas were difficult to keep. The book was right. The two remaining fish, Beaker, the little redcap in the background, and Coco, the one with the solo portrait, developed a raging parasitic infection. They were clearly suffering, so I euthanized them this afternoon. I am done with fish, at least for now. I'll empty and sanitize the tank, put it in the garage, and take some time to think about whether to try again, or to make a terrarium (plants only) or to donate the tank. They're buried in the garden, with the other 3 fish, among the ornamental plants. Marked by a shell. Yes, I know they were freshwater fish, but I don't care. I like the shell, I loved the fish. I don't know how many animals I euthanized in my 7 years working in an animal shelter. But today, right now, I feel the weight of them all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Snowmelt Tuesday

Here is the creek during winter - large waterworn rocks and boulders that provide a safe, dry area for crossing the creek without walking another half mile to the bridge.

And here is the same spot during snowmelt. I love snowmelt. The water is rushing and roaring, the woods become green and lush, the paths wash out in the low spots, little waterfalls spring up. Snowmelt changes the look and feel of the park.

On a tiny island in one of the lakes is the roosting tree - it's hard to see in the photo, but it's full of cormorants. So graceful in the water, so odd-looking in the tree. Also caught on film yesterday - a young redtail hawk, ducklings and a blue heron. The fish and dragonflies moved too fast yesterday.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Zen and the Art of Pie Dough

I love working with dough. I love how the mess of flour and liquid transforms into a silken, smooth, living thing. Bread doughs, laminated doughs, biscuit doughs, pie dough.....

Pie dough is tricky. You have to know when to stop, know to stop before the dough is too wet, before it's overworked to a prematurely smooth paste that will shrink in the oven. Most books don't mention that part, the part about stopping when the dough is still a rough-looking shaggy mess. Which is just cruel. I spent much of my life thinking I couldn't make a good pie dough. It took a weeklong pastry class to show me the light. I've been in love with pie ever since.

These are a two of my favorite pie doughs:

Pate Brisee (from pastry school)

12 ounces all purpose flour

8 ounces fat (butter, shortening, lard or Earth Balance for the vegans. Can combine fats)

1/2 tsp salt

4 ounces ice cold water

OR, from Humble Pie (by Anne Dimock)

2/3 cup vegetable shortening

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

6 tablespoons ice water

Combine dry ingredients. Cut the fat into small pieces and toss into the flour mixture. Using your fingers or a fork, mix the fat into the sugar until it resembles coarse meal. I usually stop when the fat is in pea-sized flakes. Add about half the water, mix in. Slowly add the water until the dough just hangs together when squeezed. The dough should look rough and shaggy - it should not be smooth. Divide the dough into two disks, wrap in plastic, and put in the fridge for at least an hour. This will allow the moisture to distribute evenly, and allows the gluten to relax.

Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer for about six months.

3 of my favorite books about pie:

Humble Pie by Anne Dimock

The Perfect Pie by Susan G. Purdy

Now go forth and make some pie.