Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our diet is really in the pits right now

Stone fruits. Cannot...get...enough... stone fruits.

Cherries, apricots and plums, people are practically throwing them at us. I picked up some cherries and pluots at the Kaiser Farmers Market, then some more at Sunflower Market and then bought more fruit from a Romanian vendor, from the back of his truck, on the street. Probably so illegal but oh well, it was stone fruit and I'm addicted. At least it was not from a dark alley, although I just might at his prices. He was flattering me silly about my language skills as he piled more and more yellow cherries and apricots in my bags. Nu sunt proasta (I'm no dummy) and I knew what he was up to, but I just let him fill up the bags higher and higher. I can quit summer fruit anytime I want to, really, I just don't want to.

I got home and washed and ate and washed and ate loads of fruit. I prepped a bunch of apricots into our newly purchased slightly damaged really great deal Excalibur Dehydrator. They are made right here in River City, so the cheap price of the imperfect model plus no shipping costs made for a great deal. We are in dried fruit and kale/flaxmeal chip heaven, if you consider heaven a place where kale/flaxmeal chips are made.

Then a friend called - would we be interested in a large bag of plums and apricots from someone's tree? Bring 'em down, we'll make them feel welcome. So along with the apricots drying their little hearts out and the vast amount already down my chute, I now have an apricot and plum low fat vegan cobbler baking into oozy goodness. The recipe?

Cut up stone fruit.
Throw away the pits.
Put in baking pan.
Check again for pits.
Sprinkle with sugar if the plums are puckering up your face.
Cover with oatmeal.
Eat and enjoy while watching for pits.

Now what to do with the rest? They will have to wait. Right now I need to figure out what in heaven's name is making my stomach cramp.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Death of a salad bowl

It was such a cool salad bowl with a unique shape - very deep and oval. It was thick and beautiful and handcrafted from hardwood and it was mine. Until it cracked up. As in split down the seam of handcrafted hardwood while in the fridge, spilling Asian dressing all over the shelf. It was a really dramatic end to a gorgeous piece of culinary equipment, the Grand Canyon fissure of salad bowl death. I wonder if it made a sound when it bit the dust. Only the pickled zucchini know for sure.

I would post a photo, but my camera, on the same day as the death of the salad bowl, came down with photo flu and is out of commission. Turning it on causes the lens to start freaking out, going in and out without control. It's as if my trusty little camera that got me through so much is all jacked up on Red Bull. Then comes the scary part - a message with a large red X - something bad about lens failure. Now I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure lenses are key to a camera's usefulness. We can live without the wooden salad bowl, but I see a new camera in our near future.

Photo credit to

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A slight bright white plight

It really bugs me when I don't understand basic scientific principles. I like to be informed. I like to "get it". Color is one of the things I just don't get. Rays are bouncing off objects and flying deep into our eyes, where they are shooting information past our retinas back into the recesses of our brains and we say Blue! I see a blue flower! Is that how it works?

I always forget: is white the absence of all color? Or is white the one that is actually all the colors together and our brain gets confused and we say White! I see a crisp white shirt (except for the big stain right there in front where I dripped some tomato sauce). If only tomato sauce was the absence of all color, then Oxi-Clean and Spray & Wash would go belly-up. Many modern white fabrics are not even really white. They are dyed white. Pretty sneaky, huh? That's why bleaching white clothes often makes a stain. As if life isn't frustrating enough with all those tomatoes flying at us.

Right now I'm in desperate need for some crisp white cotton. And it has to be 100% cotton so it will fray in a rag quilt. There are probably some white cotton dress shirts in our towering ironing pile, the pile that will never go away. Would he notice? I could claim they had some tomato sauce stains that just wouldn't bleach out. I could say I just don't comprehend color and it was in the interest of understanding this profound subject that I was forced to experiment with his crisp white cotton shirts. Does a white shirt even exist in the black hole of our ironing pile?


This vintage damask will look great with the un-color that is white.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Preparing peppery pickles in my PJs

I'm not a hang around for hours in my pajamas kind of person. Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially on a cold rainy morning. I've just never been able to start a productive day until I get into some halfway real clothes. Even when I am sick as a dog, I get up, change into different PJs and head back to bed.

Then came my new un-schedule. Here is the new reality on a working night: I go to bed super early, in my clothes, because I don't want to miss one nano-second of sleep. This seldom works. I toss and turn and tell myself to just get up and do something, anything productive, but I don't. I just lie there.

Then when I come home in the morning, the PJs come on and I'm back in bed when most normal people are getting up. Ernst knows the drill: Don't make noise, Don't laugh. Don't talk. Don't stand on the squeaky section of the hardwood floor in the bedroom. Don't scream "The Kings/Padres/Chargers lost AGAIN?" Don't talk loud to the dog. Don't talk softly to the dog. Don't make a sound, the insomniac wife is trying to get her beauty rest. Basically, all I ask is that he bury his entire personality, the one I married, and become a mime for the morning. This was much easier when he was on his teacher schedule - now with summer here he is home giving me the silent treatment by my request.

Even after a night of work, I usually can sleep until only 9:30, sometimes a bit longer. Today I slept almost until noon, a new record. But that was still less than 5 hours of sleep. My body wants to stay in pajamas much longer than 5 hours. That is why I was making Refrigerator Zucchini Pickles in my PJs at 2 o'clock in the afternoon today.
Watch out watermelon!

I found this recipe last summer on Etsy. Here is the link and the official recipe by Kimberley Hasselbrink:

1 pound zucchini (or any summer squash)
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon dill seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Trim the ends off zucchini and slice lengthwise into quarters.
Bring vinegar, water, salt and spices to a boil. Simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat.
Thoroughly sanitize and rinse the jar you’ll use and keep it filled with hot water until you’re ready to use it.
Pack the zucchini snugly in the jar. Tuck the garlic cloves in. Pour the hot brine over the squash. Let the jar sit, uncovered, until it has cooled, about an hour. Cover and refrigerate. They should keep for a couple of months, if not longer.

Here is what I actually did:
I forgot to keep the jars hot before I added the spears.
I added a bit less hot pepper flakes because the longer they sit in the fridge, the HOTTER they get.
I didn't have any mustard seeds.
I didn't have any dill seeds, I added fresh dill sprigs.
I didn't have any garlic cloves, I added jarred. (Are you noticing a trend? I'm out of a bunch of stuff but this is a very forgiving recipe.)
I tripled it because while I'm chopping and jarring, I want to make a bunch.
I did one jar with bell peppers and carrots, and put a jalapeno pepper in three of the jars.
I failed to pack the veggies snugly in the jars - they seemed to want their space.
I added a little less salt and a tiny bit of sugar, just because I'm obstinate from not enough sleep.

Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. Last year I was pickling anything alive in the kitchen and everything turned out yummy: green beans, carrots, cauliflower and of course all the big monster baseball bat-sized zucchini that would otherwise have to be doorbell ditched at the neighbors. When they get really big, scoop out the seeds; otherwise try to stick to the teeny zucchini. The Moldovans pickle watermelon and I have recipes for picked rhubarb and pickled grapes. I think we're going to need a bigger refrigerator.

Not quite baseball bat-sized, but they were pretty fat.
There needs to more fresh dill in this world.

Not a peck of pickled peppers, just a punch.

One of these canning funnels is highly recommended.

I tripled the pickling recipe and only got five jars. You do the math, I'm too tired.

Currently getting into a pickle in the fridge.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I married a sound guy

Sac Convention Center all spiffy and ready for the crowds

We have been volunteering at convention set-ups for a long time now. For many years we attended the lovely Cow Palace, but now we meet at the Sacramento Convention Center. The inside joke in the Sound Department has always been, if you don't get your work done, we hear they need help in the Cleaning Department. I think that joke has been around since the Sound Department's job was hanging some loud speakers on poles and calling it done. My how things have changed.

Now that we have gone all techy with digital this and electronic that, the work to set up one of our conventions is getting quite involved. Four big video screens, simultaneous Romanian translation and in a few weeks a separate room entirely for the Hmong language with video tie-in; it makes the good ol' days of the Cow Palace positively quaint.

Ernst was up until midnight each night before the convention, there at the crack of dawn early each morning, and one of the last to leave each night. And for our week, it was set it all up on Thursday and tear it down again on Sunday. Once again, I forgot to pack some grubby clothes, so I was there in my skirt, trying to stay ever so ladylike, peeling up gaffer tape from the speaker and video wires across the floors.

We decided if brown is the new black and 50 is the new 40, then Sound is the new Cleaning Department.

Are there any openings?
Orange is the new yellow in hard hats.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Let them eat rice cakes?

There used to be a time when I worried about what food to serve our guests. Back then, when my house was more under control, preparing for guests meant a quick check that the sheets on the guest bed were in fact changed, a sanitizing of the bathroom, making the kitchen shine and a once-over with the vacuum. And then it was the dilemma of  - What to serve? What to serve? I'm a person who just cannot cook while someone is watching. Things burn, smoke alarms go off, food gets destroyed. The food must be prepped and ready to go, sometimes with a list of notes so I don't forget the stuff that I already have waiting in the fridge. Hosting a cooking show is not on my list of careers that got away.

By far the best place we EVER lived for entertaining guests was South Lake Tahoe. Not only did people actually want to stay with us for some reason besides a conference, an early plane reservation or a medical appointment - we had a great house for it. There was a whole upstairs area just for guests; with a bedroom, a bathroom and loft with a futon. Plus we had the use of a rarely used vacation rental on the first floor. Not being a morning person, I came up with my go-to list of do-ahead breakfast meals, all involving butter and/or cheese, sugar, maple syrup and some highly processed bread product - the kind of breakfasts that sent you back to bed for a nap. As mentioned, we had lots of guests and I got the whole cooking for crowds thing down as best  I could with my personality.

The second greatest place we lived was the guest cottage in a fancy schmancy gated enclave with ponds and fountains and flowers and gardeners that came twice a week. Two bathrooms and a bigger kitchen to move and groove in made entertaining pleasant. I did manage to set the smoke alarm off there quite often because people have a funny habit of hanging out in big kitchens talking to the hostess as she tries to prepare dinner. But the flowers and the fountains made up for the screeching alarm.

Now that my house is less than pristine on any given day, the cooking has taken a back seat to the cleaning worries when guests are expected. It seems that as each year passes, it takes me an hour longer to get this place in shape. Seeing as our wedding presents are now old enough to order drinks in a bar, those hours are adding up. Our guests are now the ones with the dilemma. "What in the world are the militant vegan, tofu-eating, Rice Dream-guzzling, green smoothie-making culinary monks going to serve me?" The people that know us well know the drill. BYOB&P&E&DP&JF (Bring your own beef and poultry and eggs and dairy products and junk food) That is the case of our friend coming tonight. Although it is hard to be fully prepared for the realities of our new eating plan, I think he at least has a clue.

After he leaves, it is a quick change of the sheets for another guest tomorrow. We don't know much about him, just that he is from Seattle or Portland or someplace green and cool, that we met him once and will probably recognize him when we see him and that he speaks English but is learning Romanian like we are. That is all we really need to know. But does he know how ghastly hot it is here? Does he know we have a dog who steals socks and other unmentionables? Does he know he must bring his own butter or margarine or yellow spread of choice? Does he know our line-dried towels are stiff as boards? That we don't watch TV? Will he ever want to come back? Would I?

Be our guest! The gated enclave it is not, but we love this neighborhood.

Friday, June 8, 2012

School's out, for teachers too!

My morning started with my most dreaded household chore - ironing. I had promised the Big E that I would iron the gown he was to wear to his student's graduation tonight. We both fail miserably in the ironing department - we just don't have his co-worker Jeff's pressing gene.

Speaking of genes, I came home to this today on my kitchen sink:

Hmm, end of the year, science teachers are clearing out their classrooms... the pond scum experiment ended up on my clean counter, on the clean dish towel, where the clean dishes go. That vial full of vile stuff was sitting at an odd angle, and before I knew it I had disturbed its delicate balance. Now I need to know if the angle was crucial, will microbes escape and invade the house? I can't call because the mad science teacher is at the ceremony, up there with all the other teachers, probably appearing like a normal person who doesn't bring home pond scum experiments into his wife's (semi) clean kitchen.

It's going to be a long summer! And as always, I'll be happy to have the mad science teacher home for his summer break. I have quite the ironing pile for him to work on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sacramento has sisters, lots of them

This spring I was in downtown Sacramento with two of my friends from Moldova. We happened to drive by City Hall at 10th and I Streets and we all did a double-take. There was a big pole with many blue city signs on it, pointing off into all directions. Did we see a sign for CHISINAU? The capitol of Moldova? The tiny country that elicits the response, Where in the world is Moldova?

We just had to see it again, so we went around the block. Sure enough, there were the signs for all of Sacramento's Sister Cities, with our little Chisinau (Kee-shee-now) right up there with the best of them.

Sacramento's Sister Cities and the year of induction

Manila/Pasay City, Philippines 1961/2006
Matsuyama, Japan 1981
Jinan, China 1984
Hamilton, New Zealand 1988
Liestal, Switzerland 1989
Chisinau, Moldova 1989
Yongsan-gu, Korea 1997
San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua 2006
Bethlehem, Palestine 2009

As the Sister City Council states - "The mission statement of the Sister City Program clearly captures our participation and investment in this endeavor – 'Promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.' Our participation in the Sister Cities Program has allowed Sacramentans to meet new friends and build relationships with people throughout our nine sister cities, as well as the entire world."

I don't know about all that, but the Moldovans were thrilled to see the Chisinau sign. If I am anywhere near there and I have a Moldovan in the car, they get a few trips around City Hall to see their sign. This last weekend we finally stopped and got out to take a photo.

I had a weird feeling that I had been there before and my husband reminded me why. A few years back, our friends Micah and Jennifer were putting on their (private) Great Sacramento Race. It is one fun day of friendly but intense competition: word games, a photo/scavenger hunt, a disgusting eating contest and a full-out foot race around Sacramento. We (I) decided that we could take a shortcut through a construction zone on our way to Cesar Chavez park. We sort of got stuck inside a fence that said something to the effect Don't You Dare Climb This Fence, the Jail is Really Close By! So I climbed it, using a backhoe-type vehicle as a ladder to help me over the fence. When I safely, and with very soft shoes I might add, plopped down on the other side onto another backhoe, my husband followed me and we were off to the park. We won that year, forbidden fence and all.

So now the former construction zone is a pleasant public area and it seems like an old stomping ground friend. We crossed the street to see the outdoor sculptures and poetry wall at the EPA building. There is a large stepping stone sculpture and it didn't have any sort of sign that said  Don't You Dare Walk On This Indestructible Object!, so my husband did. He was in a suit, how much harm could he have caused? A security guard came over and told him to get down. Some people just have no sense of adventure.

If not in a skirt, I seriously would have climbed that pillar.

Next time you're downtown near City Hall, check out the sister city sign. Sacramento isn't an only child after all.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sandy the beach quilt hits the shore

What to do when your summer skirts make you look like a beached walrus? Go on a diet? Start exercising? Bah! Those tactics are for amateurs! I say you take those evil skirts, hack them up into squares and make a rag quilt out of them. For money. That'll show 'em.

This happy seaside-themed quilt started with a sewing project gone wrong from my local Goodwill store. It appears someone bought this beach themed fabric and had an idea to make a really giant pillow of some sort and some window shades. For whatever reason (probably not enough pillow stuffing existed on the planet) it ended up at my local store.

I loved the colors of yellow, blue, green and white with a touch of dark peach. It sat around in my fabric stash for quite a while, waiting while I figured out what to do with it. Finally, this week I cut up the above mentioned skirts, a large denim jacket from a friend's garage sale, some scraps of dark peach from another project, and a tablecloth with a strong early 90's look. I had myself 49 squares of material just waiting to become a couch surfer's cover-up.

On Etsy it's officially called Sandy - a kind of Beachy, sort of Peachy, almost Shabby Chic-y Rag Quilt. I call it a fitting end to skirts that dared to not flatter my figure. My other skirts are shaking on their hangers.