Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Four Years Long November

this is not Nancy
When we moved to the Sacramento area, I met Nancy, who has become a very dear friend. She is sensible and even-keeled, and she has an amazing way of getting my thinking back on track. But early on I learned she and her husband had no TV and hadn't owned one for years. What, is she CRAZY? How do you not even own a TV. But I grew to love her anyway.

Several years back, I decided to not watch TV for a whole week. I can't believe that was such a big deal, but it was. We had never had a large TV, a nice TV, or more than one TV and we have never paid for cable. If we had it where we lived, we had it. If not, we would set up rabbit ears behind the TV cabinet. In our last place, we had free cable for quite a while (don't ask, don't tell) but then they cut us off. How rude!

Even under the circumstances I just described, I was a TV junkie. Never in the morning, couldn't stand morning shows, and late night shows were always on so late at night. But I was in from Oprah on. I loved the news, the more the merrier and then came the crime shows. The theme music to Law and Order would give me a rush. I loved the shows about kidnapped kids and unsolved murders. Once when I was watching a particularly sad one, Ernst came in and said "Do you know how awful that sounds? Why are you watching this?" All that sadness and those graphic crime details were streaming into our house, and I was letting it all in with the remote in my hot little hand.

But reality shows were never my thing. I can honestly say I have watched only one episode of American Idol. We were in Sacramento from Tahoe, I had minor surgery and was recuperating at the home of a friend before heading back up the hill. I saw the last show of the first season, and in my Vicodon induced stupor couldn't figure out what the fuss was about. We also watched the second half of the first season of Survivor and that was it. I've never seen Dancing with the Stars. I've never seen The Apprentice. The only reality show we ever liked was Amazing Race. We viewed it as practice for when our friends Micah and Jennifer would stage one of their totally fun local versions.

The first time I gave up TV for a week was huge. I was climbing the walls. I was right back to it when the week was over. But four years ago this month, I decided to give it up for four weeks. Since November starts with NO, I thought it would be a good month to go cold turkey since it has 30 days, not 31. Let's not go crazy here. Here were my thoughts:

Week One - I'm climbing the walls
Week Two - This is not too bad, getting so much more done
Week Three - I kind of like this
Week Four - Let's go six months
Second Month - OK, a whole year, I'll go a whole year
Sometime in the first six months - I never EVER want to go back to watching TV, never ever, can't stand it, hate the color of it, the noise, the flashing images, the news, the shows, yuck, yuck. Goodbye TV. Good riddance.

I have not looked back. I am TV free and loving it! If we go to a hotel, I peek at the cooking shows on the Food Network (the big stars all got REALLY BIG in the past four years, Tyler Florence, you were such a cutie, what happened? And the Barefoot Contessa - Yikes! Maybe get some walking shoes?) If we go somewhere and a TV is on, it is a distraction and I find it so annoying. I can't believe this is the same person who used to define her day in "half past Rachel Ray" and "a quarter to Brian Williams" increments. Once I survived the Olympics in China coverage free, I knew I was never going back.

My co-workers often have the TV on at work so I must put up with it. It's as if the TV execs think we have the attention span of fleas, and so even the news has little substance. The scrolling information on the bottom screen is distracting. And the shows! Something about a bounty hunter named Dog, his brother, his son, the wife of Dog with hair like a poodle. Tattoos and ugliness are just flowing off the screen. It would be awful to have neighbors like that. Why do they warrant their own television show?

I'm still a news junkie big time, but it comes to us via the Sacramento Bee and Capitol Public Radio. Slow news is good news. I like the breaking stories to percolate before I learn of them; the facts and relevance of it all are better analyzed the next day. If the world comes to an end, I'm sure my family will call and I can run across to Carmen and Jason's place to see it all unfold live with helicopters and earnest looking reporters out braving the elements. But right now, life is good boob tube free.

Five reasons I miss TV
I really love cooking shows.
Many conversations go over my head.
The nights can be very quiet.
I love to watch Doppler when it is green.
I have no idea what a Kardashian is.

Five reasons (of many) I don't miss TV
I have more time to cook healthy food.
More time to read and do crafts.
Our house is nice and quiet and there is no eerie blue flashing color on the walls.
It's easier to keep up with the important news.
I have no idea what a Kardashian is!

Images from, and

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Best Gifts

Did you happen to catch this You Tube video of Walmart shoppers grabbing up $2 waffle makers? Check out the woman in blue. The one with the falling down pants. And the tramp stamp (which really adds to her beauty, don't you think?) She ends up with three waffle makers and more revealed skin than I like to show in a department store!

Contrast that little snippet of joy with what I received last night. Two little brothers we know had a very special surprise for me. Yaroslav and Nikita are such cuties, they have giant beautiful eyes and eyelashes that women crave - to have on ourselves. And out of the blue, for no reason at all, they had these little packages for me.

I love everything about this. The wrapping was adorable. I love their little names written on the tissue. The curly cue ribbon. And I love that one pen wouldn't do, they each wanted to give me a pen with my name on it. I wrote out some little Thank You cards in Romanian. After they read them, they will know it'll take more than a special pen to help poor Jessica learn this language!

In this season of frantic shopping, waffle iron melees and frayed nerves, it is wonderful to receive such a sweet little present. This reinforced to me what true gift giving is: an act of love from the heart, for no reason other than to say you are special and I was thinking of you. I love my pens! And thank you to Iaric and Nikita's Mom for teaching her boys the true meaning and joy of gift giving.

*Update. It isn't two pens, it is a pen and pencil set. But did Iaric give me the pen and Niki the pencil, or the other way around? Fortunately my thank cards were generic.*

Monday, November 28, 2011

Squished by Squash

Fall/Winter 2011 - The Year of the Squash. They just keep coming. That really big white pumpkin came from the Romanian store, but the rest are from the garden that loves us. There is still one more butternut squash out there and the tomatoes are still putting out blossoms and fruit. And it is cold and foggy. Maybe they sense I am still underemployed and we can use the FOOD!

We all have a better side, and this is not it for the white pumpkin. Maybe this is why it was free. But even with a huge part cut off, this number gave us some amazing output.

My mom always had us lay down newspaper whenever we did anything messy - carved pumpkins, water colored, ate pomegranates. I still do it and then the whole mess, papers and all, can go in the compost pile. I'm sure we'll get some white pumpkins next year coming out of the compost area.

With all this squash coming at us at once, I baked it up, scraped it out and went to work making food out of it. The results? Another Squash Surprise Vegan Pumpkin Pie-Like Dessert Thing, wow good. And a savory White Pumpkin Soup. Really ugly, but really good. Better eaten in the dark or with just a few candles. How white pumpkin can turn such an unappetizing color is a culinary mystery, but the taste was yumsville.

The White Trash Winter Garden is thriving! I forgot which was the kale and which was the chard - my nifty little tags faded in the sun. But I do know lettuce, and it is doing its thing.

I made a nice little salad from this yesterday. Not the E's idea of lettuce, he likes iceberg, or at least Romaine. This kind makes him feel like a cow, but I love it and hope it helps me not look like a cow.

One last group hug before the massacre
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dull Scissors, Sharp Blanket

 What is worse than waiting for paint to dry? Waiting for your rag quilt scissors to come back from sharpening. When you have an adorable quilt waiting. On Black Saturday. When it could be on my Etsy shop.

The Jean Quilt turned out really cute, but I can't finish it until my rag quilt scissors get sharpened. The whole bottom is made from jeans and it was a bear to sew. I broke 2 needles, and they were the denim needles. But I can't wait to finish it and write the description - something about jeans on the bottom and a cute shirt on top. I am jazzed to do another one, but the needle breaking is quite jarring. Maybe next a nice easy baby quilt to calm my nerves?

Jean Gehenna?

arranging the top

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chestnuts Roasting on a Non Stick Surface Pan

When our house guests from Portland came this month, they brought some really large and fresh chestnuts and we roasted them one night while they were here. These are not those chestnuts. These are from Raley's and they were very "picked over". They are fun to roast (probably more fun if you follow the directions in the song) and really yummy when they are fresh from Oregon.
Before we gave up all things dairy and I still baked, when people asked if I wanted persimmons, I said "the baking kind?"
Now I ask, "the eating kind?"  Today our friend Vasile, who works at a Romanian produce store, gave me some free rejects and they were the eating kind. If you slice them horizontally it reveals one of nature's magical wonders.

Orange, Kiwi and Pomegranate Salad

More free food leftovers from the Romanian store, pomegranates. Another favorite of mine, especially since I learned the best way of getting the arils out. Separate them in a bowl of water. That way the juice doesn't squirt all over, the yellow peely stuff floats to the top and the arils sink to the bottom.

Vegan Pumpkin Goop
This can't look too exciting for a regular person, but I have triumphed. I have made pumpkin pie. OK, it's not really a pie. And it's not really pumpkin. More like Squash Surprise. This is from a butternut squash from our garden. After cooking it, I whipped it up, added Egg Replacer, maple syrup, soy milk, spices, vanilla and some whiskey for fun. It is awesome. Now it just needs some Tofu Whipping Cream and I am ready to invite Marie Calandar herself for a bit of vegan pie heaven. Next time, there will be crust.

 This comes under the You Can't Win 'Em All category. I've wanted to make Ernst some savory stuffing, but the boxed ones have oil added. I actually went to Whole Foods today and stood in a long line with the turkey buying public, just to buy my little itty box of sage to make this. Using more free food, I used some bread that had cranberries and walnuts in it already. It just did not want to become savory. It is still fighting. No matter how much salt I add to make this stuff(ing) taste like Stove Top, it won't budge. The Big E says, in the grand scheme of things, it was much more important that the pumpkin thing turned out.
Stubborn Stuffing
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Launder Dog Meets Molly

One of our very favorite businesses in Sacramento is Launder Dog. It's a self-service dog wash and so much more. The owner Pamela is awesome at answering all kinds of pet related questions. Kodie adored going there for grooming. We could leave him there all afternoon and it was like a day spa for him. He was well behaved (by our standards) and they all loved him. They were a big help to us in dealing with his aging issues. When Ernst went in to tell them Kodie had died, Pamela cried too and gave Ernst a hug.

Molly, on the other hand, must be watched like a hawk. This time Ernst walked her there so she'd use up some exuberance. We have to come in when it's slow, and the timing of our arrival and exit is crucial. Pamela was so understanding when Molly attacked her cat, but we don't want to get banned from the place. We sure aren't washing her in our shower during the cold weather.

I missed the meeting the other night because I was still sick. Molly thought she was pulling one over on me while I was sleeping. I found her on the couch - a huge No No in our house. No dogs on the bed, no dogs on the couch. Maybe she figured now that she was smelling like a daisy she got some extra privileges. Not happening, little pup.

"If I close my eyes really tight maybe she'll just go away."
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Crochet Your Veggies

The Carrot Curls Scarf

My goodness, how hard is it to photograph a scarf? That took way too long. On Etsy, there are the two camps for photographing scarves - using a human model or a mannequin. Now if one of my pretty young Moldovan friends with the lovely long necks were here, I would have used a human model. And seeing that I am fresh out of mannequins, I had to make due. Taylor to the rescue!

This was really fun to make, and I so want to claim it as my own. But the Wide World of Scarves for Sale beckons, and I'm interested to see what becomes of this one. After finishing it, I have a bizarre craving for Cheese Whiz.
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

We've "Bean" Lied To

All these years, I have dutifully soaked dried beans the night before cooking. If I forgot, I fell back on the Loser Method, the quick soak in hot water for an hour. Well, it seems the soaking method is all washed up. It's not necessary, and in fact beans taste better without a pre-soak.

Adding to the shake up, salting them doesn't toughen them after all. I didn't believe it, but had to try it. After rinsing, (which they say isn't needed, but yuck, I'm going to rinse) put the beans in a pot. Add water. Cook. When they are tender they are done. I cooked pintos with a chopped onion, chili powder, cumin and paprika. I didn't keep track, but they cooked fast, didn't get mushy and they did seem to have a better taste. After they were done, I threw in a bag of frozen corn, a can of tomato sauce and a small can of diced chiles. Yum. I'm a believer.

Here is a supposedly even easier way, but I don't have a Dutch oven to try it in. I'm afraid all my pans would have melting handles if I did this.

How to cook dry beans in the oven:
Heat the oven to 325°. Put 1 pound of beans in a 3-quart (or larger) Dutch oven or pot with a tight-fitting lid. A clay pot is ideal. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 1 inch. Put on the lid and bake for 75 minutes. Check the beans and stir them. If they are tender, take them out of the oven. If they aren't done, put them back in for 15 minute intervals until they are, adding a cup of hot water if they seem to be drying out. This will take at most 2 hours, but will probably take less than 90 minutes.

So, there you have a cooking legend debunked. What will they tell us next - peeling bananas is so Last Century? Avocado pits are edible?  Soaking beans decreases gas? Well, that remains to be seen.

photo from

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yarn Tales

The Oops Blanket  

Apparently I forgot the difference between a double crochet stitch and a half double crochet stitch. There was a nagging suspicion that something wasn't quite right, but I forged ahead. Stitch after stitch, row after row. It was only until I was You Tubing some crochet videos that I noticed what I had done. But the beauty of crocheting blankets is this: as long as you are consistent with the mistake, it will all work out. So other than being left with a bit more yarn than expected and the pattern being a little tight, I can live with it. Hopefully the baby won't be annoyed as he spends hours staring at my error.

As soon as it dries completely, this blanket is off to Germany to be critiqued by Gute Deutsche Hausfrauen. (Tsk, tsk, she meant well.) It was a great project as I dealt with my Stagnation o' t'Lungs. If I could trust Ernst to pick out the RIGHT ORANGE, I want to start a curly scarf. But he's color challenged and hates orange, so the scarf is not happening until I get myself out of the house. I don't remember how long I've been wearing these pajamas, so maybe a trip to Michael's will be a good reason to get out amongst the living.

Decisions, decisions

Good Molly!
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Needles versus Hooks

If you learned to knit first, crocheting probably freaks you out.
 If you learned to crochet first, knitting probably freaks you out.

I learned to crochet first. My sister Janice taught me when I young, and through the years I have made quite a few things. But just like the road not taken, crocheters look longingly at knitted projects and think, If Only. The instructions look impossible, and what happens if everything comes off the needles? I did make one knitted item, my all time favorite scarf. It was from some really cool Italian yarn that had little pokies coming out at intervals. Again, it was my sister Janice who taught me how. It was crazy hard yarn to learn with, but I was determined. I will never forget, there were 13 stitches across and each time I came to the end of a row I let out a huge sigh. I love it, but that was that, and I never knitted again.

This little video is so endearing though, makes me want to tackle another project. It must be the accent, or her delicate pretty hands. Or maybe her choice of words, I love when she says "It may seem a bit slow and fiddly." We should all use the word fiddly more often. It uses a yard called Rico Can Can, which I can only find on the Internet. I want to find a local seller, I'm way too color fussy to pick a color online. But this may be the one thing that convinces me to get over my fear of knitting and jump in with two needles. Do they have to call them needles?

A really cute You Tube video about knitting obsessions

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

All Balled Up and Nowhere to Go

Our Portland weekend has been cancelled due to the Yucks. Last night as we were getting ready for bed, Ernst was spraying his throat with Cloreseptic, the counters were covered with medicine and I was gargling with salt water. The scene was so pathetic, I laughed, spitting salt water all over the wall. At that point we knew our road trip was history.

It might rain this weekend, which would be lovely. I have my crochet project ready to go, the house is reasonably clean from our company last weekend, and our schedule is cleared. We are ready for a Phlegm Fest! The only thing I was missing was a size K crochet needle. I know where it is. It's in a box marked Crafts up in the attic. There is no way either of us is getting that box down. I called my neighbor Judy, My Kingdom for a K Hook! She came to my rescue, and I'm all set to salvage the weekend.

a future little baby blanket

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Maladies From Mars, Viruses From Venus

The official cold and virus season has hit our house. First the Big E got it last week, and he is getting worse not better. I was bragging for a week that I haven't been sick in years. All bragging aside, he does get sick way more often than I do. But I too have come down with "IT."

We still have our big Portland weekend planned. Ernst is to give his first Romanian talk. My sister's re-modeled basement in her charming home awaits us. Dinner with Erin and Jill is planned for Saturday night. The house/dog sitters are in place. I am mentally packing, I even washed my favorite jammies. But I think my body may have other plans.

I thought I had enough oomph to run in Michaels to pick up some yarn for the trip. I have a baby gift to make and since a sewing machine doesn't work too well on a road trip, crocheting it will be. That is if there is a road trip. As I was standing in line, it really hit. I'm sick. It hurts to breathe. Air passing into my lungs is making me nauseated. Still waiting to see how E is, he dragged himself to work today.

There are some big differences in how we "do sickness."

This is my MO, if I have no other obligations:

Sleep. Use the bathroom. Drink water. Sleep. Repeat the process until I am better.

Here is Ernst's way of getting better:

Stay awake all day. Produce enormous amounts of germ infested cups, glasses, bowls and spoons. Cough. Make head cold noises. Cough. Make more gross noises. Create messes. Cough. Finally go to bed, but cough so much even the neighbors don't sleep. Order the codiene cough syrup, which means me standing in line at the pharmacy with half of sick Sacramento. Stop coughing for 10 whole minutes. Try Doctor Dan's Miracle Elixer (hot tea, lemon, honey and whiskey.) 10 more minutes of peace. Start the "choking cough", which can last weeks. Try a new medicine: Jaegermeister. Make more germy dishes. Slowly, ever so painfully slowly, get better.

Portland, we have a problem. It starts with an E and ends with an RNST.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ginger the Cookie Quilt is off to Texas

posing as a Ho-Ho

That's the way the cookie crumbles, out of the blue another sale popped up. Well, not so much out of the blue. My kind buyer was sending me "convos" on Etsy about my quilts. She finally decided on the Ginger quilt. That makes only 3 left. Not too much inventory facing December, but I can't make these things in my sleep. Or could I... The Sleeping Beauty Quilt? The Rip Van "Wrinkle"?

Ginger, the Cookie Quilt

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photos from 11-11-11

Way too much food? Beautiful people? Circle dances? A botched ceremony that didn't have the couple married until a do-over by the minister? A dancing bear? It must have been a Moldovan wedding!

Cousins and cousins-in-law

Fun Size is catching up to me in height!

the forever misspelled place cards

For the ceremony that made me cry, my SD card was not working. What brought on the tears? It was when our friend Micah, who happens to be Igor's boss, walked Rafaela down the aisle. So very, very sweet. I wasn't expecting it and it made me so emotional. Much later in the evening Micah did a skit reenacting the different stages in Igor's life, ending up in a bear costume on a skateboard wearing a pink tutu! Totally Micah all the way. The fact that everyone loved it and it was not strange in any way to have a bear in a tutu at a fancy wedding? That's where the Moldovan culture kicked in. Love it.

The dancing was fun and crazy, Rafaela was simply beautiful and the company was great. We had to leave a little early since I had to work and Ernst has a cold. We stayed for one last dance, and that is when I had the little run-in. As in our circle dance ran into another circle dance and I got someone's elbow smacked into my collar bone. Ouch! That was my last dance for the night. I thought I was prepared this time. I brought booties and ear plugs. Silly of me to forget the full body armor. Next wedding: pack the football pads.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is The Day. Forget the Royal Wedding, this has it beat. This is the day that Igor and Rafaela will marry. November 11, 2011. Eleven Eleven Eleven. I suggested this date to Igor when they got engaged, and this is the day they picked. It's supposed to rain. So much for my brilliant ideas.

We have known Igor and his family for years now. They were one of the first of the waves of Moldovans into our life, and a large part of the reason we decided to learn Romanian. The expression "They are good people" was pretty much invented for this family. Peter and Nina have six children and Igor is the oldest. They have been so good to us; if I had a Romanian word in my brain for every meal we have enjoyed in their home, I might be able to express myself.

Last fall as our building project kicked into full gear, two sisters originally from Moldova moved in, Rafaela and Teodora. We were up to our eyeballs in construction and cooking and cleaning the site and meeting at another hall during the process. It was all a blur, except for one interesting development. At one of those meetings I noticed it: a definite spark between Igor and Rafaela! No, I wasn't just seeing things, there were sparks galore and by spring the wedding of the year was in the planning stages.

Moldova is not an easy country to live in. It is very poor. It was of course even harder during the Soviet era, with communism and much oppression. But added to that, what of the lives of people who refused to join the military? People who helped produce banned literature? That meant an even harder time of it. Those stellar kind of people are represented in both families that are uniting today.

Igor's dad Peter and his uncle Pavel both served time in prison for their stand as conscientious objectors. His aunts helped produce literature that was illegal to possess, let alone print. They won't talk about it too much: they don't like to make a big deal of it. But it is big to us. We are honored to have them as friends. Peter related to us about the time he and Nina decided to help friends in another town by attending their meetings. No big deal here, but there that meant riding bicycles to get anywhere. When it was wintertime, they peddled through the snow, in the dark, to get to the other town, with their little baby boy Igor strapped to the front! That is the kind of heritage this young man has.

Rafaela's parents are still in Moldova and will watch their daughter's marriage on Skype. Only she and her sister came here to find work. Years back, her grandparents were deported to Siberia because of their beliefs, and Rafaela's father was born in Siberia.  After serving their sentence, the family returned to their life in Moldova. Rafaela is a lovely young woman and has had to work so hard in her life here. She is a bit of a girl wonder here in Sacramento: the one that finally got Igor to give up bachelorhood.

We are so excited for these two and their wonderful families. They are following in the enormous footsteps that were left before them, and we wish them the very best. If it rains, please forget is was me who suggested this day to get married. But really, aren't a few sprinkles worth having to get such a cool wedding date? 11-11-11, it doesn't get better than that. And it doesn't get much better than Igor and Rafaela.