Saturday, January 30, 2010

what's for supper

sometimes dinner at my house is a simple affair; sometimes not.

this time not. i thought i'd "whip up a little something", which in this case means a batch of crêpes marie-patrice, an  herbed saffron crêpe stuffed with asparagus spears, roasted red pepper, and palm hearts, served under a sauce almost but not completely unlike hollandaise.

here's the crêpe batter; you have to let it rest a while in order to let the saffron develop in it.

it helps if you roast the asparagus a day ahead of time.
vegetables on the cutting board; peppers and palm hearts.
some of each in the crêpe...
...and you roll them right up!

meanwhile, on the other side of the kitchen, bread dough is in for a second rise. this one is called "short stack"; instead of vegetable oil i have used butter, and instead of sugar, i have used grade b maple syrup. i made most of it into loaves, but split-layered these and made them rolls. 
this is just an insalata caprese variation, with smoked salmon instead of cheese on half the tomatoes.

the last thing to be done, of course, is to make the almost-but-not-entirely-unlike-hollandaise sauce. 
and it all looks very pretty on the table.

oh! did i fail to introduce you? something halfway between a soup and a purée: carrot, squash and ginger.

and a bottle of a very fine ginger beer that i brought back from pilgrimage.

Friday, January 29, 2010

afternoon in my kitchen

i have a friend coming for dinner for the first time in a long time, so i thought i'd whip a little something up.

so i decided to make a little thing with choux paste. have you ever worked with choux paste? i don't own an electric mixer (i'm very retro), so i have to do all that work by hand.

 here's the dough in the double boiler.

 on the sheet

in the oven

  on the rack; handsome little devils.

what's going to go in them is a nice crème patisserie, with a center of spiced raisins slow simmered in maple syrup.

spiced raisins simmering

 i don't know about how you do things, but i separate eggs by hand.

 the milk gets scalded


and the eggs and sugar and such get cooked in the double-boiler

 everything gets put together and stirred

 and then set to cool.

 the tops get cut off

and carefully, gently, you take the extra stuff out of the middles.

i go right ahead and eat it.

and then a bottom layer of pastry cream goes in

followed by a few of those raisins.

see how nice and sticky they are?

  and then some more of the pudding, almost to the top.

a little whipped cream, and...
we're done!

Friday, January 15, 2010

little round hats

i wear hats, year round. they're black, they're round.

this group is representative of my collection. they come in fleece, knit, microfleece. some are lined, some not. one has a tassel. some are hats for sleeping in, some for going outside in, some to wear around the house, and a couple are for church.

you maybe can't see the difference.

this one is suitable for church.

this one's for sleeping in.

it's very simple.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

keep digging.

so i keep going out to play in my snow cave, and i keep being tired when i come inside. aside from all the belly crawling and hand digging, the mined snow has to be moved from the driveway and carried in.

a fully loaded sled weighs about forty pounds, and today i moved twenty-eight sledloads. do the math; that's a half ton. i'm building a second dome out on the raised walkway, and it doesn't look very impressive, but it represents a LOT of pounds of snow carried in. each new horizontal foot of the raised walkway requires on average seven sledloads of snow to build.

this whole project is now large enough that my neighbors notice with some interest. or rather, the neighborhood children and men notice; the children stare and the men ask if they can come see it. the women seem to be aggressively disinterested.

i tell my neighbors when they ask that i'm thinking of putting in a barbecue pit and bocce court. they tell me i should string lights.

in terms of a workout, i am now taking "playing in the snow" more seriously.

the slideshow  still updates after each construction day.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

into the hole again!

day five was a HUGE day in the cave. there is now enough room to sit up all the way, to work on my hands and knees, and -this is the big news- there's room to turn around and exit forward-facing instead of having to creep backward up out of the hole.

i've moved hundreds of sledloads of mined snow, but because it's spread out when i get it to the structure, you don't notice it getting all that much taller.

building the elevated walkway is slow going, because each foot of it eats hundreds of pounds of snow as its foundation, four feet high and several feet wide.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

into the hole

this morning the sun is out, which is striking because for a lot of the winter the sun doesn't really rise here until after ten because i live so close to the mountain, but also this is where the mountain scrapes the weather off of the sky and the clouds have been hanging low enough that i can't see across the street let alone the top of the ridge, so i am totally distracted by the sun shining full on through my window.


yesterday, friday, was day four in snow cave construction, kind of a big day for me. on thursday, day three, i'd dug in far enough so that i could no longer pull the snow out with my shovel and so had to face the horrid prospect of going full in that hole and bringing the sled with me to load it up and empty it outside.

i think i mentioned claustrophobia.

while other things scare me, i have only the two really extreme phobias: closed spaces and vomit. the second one only matters here because when i am in a closed space, i feel sufficiently nauseated as to be very much afraid that i WILL vomit, and in a closed space. the two fears, therefore, interlock and amplify each other until they are overwhelming.

but i'm nothing if not stubborn. i think it would be really nifty to have made a cool snow cave, so i'm going to find a way to cope. crashco always says that we should not so much face our fears as run up and kiss them on the lips, and this is kind of like that.

there are a lot of little tasks that go along with the digging, though. i've come to call them mining, farming, and building.

while the plow leaves huge piles of snow for me to work with, they're more wide than they are tall, and i'm working on a HUGE structure here. so i go out into the driveway and mine the plow piles from there, which has the added benefit of widening the driveway and these days all that snow kind of cramps it in.

then i carry the hundreds and hundreds of pounds of packed snow in on the sled, and dump it over the top of the structure. in order to fill in the low places, the valleys between the plow piles, i have to use a LONG handled scraper to push the new loose snow out over the top before it sets, which i have come to think of as farming.

building is what i'm doing with the external details; the alcove that will eventually have tool storage and seating, the stairs, the raised walkway.

so there's a lot to do besides going down into the hole. but when the time comes, or at least when it came on thursday, there were a few minutes of paralyzed terror at the mouth of it.

"into the hole.", i would tell myself. and my rule was that once i'd said it, i was going in.

if i got in there and had to roll over or reposition myself to dig and bumped up against ceiling, i felt sick and panicked. i had just enough space that i needed to use the sled to bring out the snow, but that meant the sled would be taking up some of the usable space.

it was agony.

my first order of business was to dig enough room so that i could take it there in with me, load it up, and still have space to move around.

starting work yesterday, then, was, uh, uncomfortable. when you build a snow cave, periodically the ceiling settles. and mine had;  the ceiling at the start of day four was lower than it had been before, and the entrance smaller. since i am very careful about how much to dig away at the entrance, a matter of structural integrity of some importance, it took a while to make the adjustments.

but then i'd made enough room to move around in there with the sled, so it wasn't so bad anymore. creeping in was still pretty scary, though. and then i got a brilliant idea: ride the sled in. the terrain under the cave slopes downward as you go in, and i'm taking advantage of all the available space i have, so you don't just do in, you go down a little.

not quite a toboggan run, but it beats creeping in on your belly and having time to think about the scariness of it.

the building is going pretty well, too. yesterday i started cutting the alcove outside the front door where there's going to be seating and tool storage, and my stairs are taking shape nicely. i have four fully functional steps and have started to pack the platform for the raised walkway.

they're not pretty yet, but they're functional.

and why do i need functional steps?

hello! farming! i have to be able to get up there to spread the mined snow around. i need altitude. the raised walkway is, so far, only cosmetic, but the steps are utilitarian.

it snowed overninght, so i have a layer of material i didn't have to schlepp in. today after lunch i'll go out and dig more, and work on the shape of the staircase, to make it pretty. when you move snow, you have to let it set. and then you usually have to compact it more, put in a little more, and let it set before you can work with it, especially edges of things.

it's slow work.

the slideshow, which is found here, updates after each day's work, whether i write about it or not.

more about the cave: invasion of the mole people!

Friday, January 08, 2010

thirteen hours

twenty some-odd years ago i did a photo project for which i took a picture wherever i was at five-eighteen in the afternoon, a randomly selected time. it was kind of an interesting year, but an ambitious project, and a nightmare of documentation.

of course back in the day i was shooting with a beautiful old canon AE-1 and since it was my primary camera, a lot of stuff went on those rolls that weren't related to the project, so there was a lot of notetaking and sorting and let's just say that digital photography has changed things a lot.

i decided then that if i ever again did a similar project, i'd have a better catalogue system, and rotate the hours. it's the kind of project you think about for a while and then start on 1 january of some future year, you know?

so december was winding down and i thought: why not this year?

i chose the interval of thirteen hours because it's easy enough to keep track of, and takes a pretty fast clip in its procession around the clock, which i thought would be interesting.

but more than that, i settled on the interval of thirteen hours because last fall i was having mood swings that often, and that's uncomfortable. what does my life really look like every thirteen hours? since i'm kind of a creature of habit, some of the shots are going to be predictable. for instance, my next shot is at 1400 today, and i pretty much already know i'll be out front, digging.

the first week is complete, though, and although i haven't decided what i'm going to do with all the photos (762 when all is said and done and shot), i've posted the first week here.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

invasion of the mole people

going outside to play is just so much better if you have to wear specialized clothing for it.

i think i have mentioned elsewhere that i am a gear weenie. so. polypro base layers: tights, two shirts, one midweight, one fleece. wool socks, hiking boots, snowpants.

not just snowpants; they have to have suspenders, snow skirts, slashpads, and reinforced butt and knees. gaiters, of course. the kind that hook over your boots like spats. very stylish.

soft wool hat, soft neck gaiter. glove liners. gloves with idiot loops, rubberized palms, and gauntlet length with drawstings -you guessed- to keep out the snow.

jacket: this is my geocaching jacket, but it doubles as my digging in the snow jacket, which is pretty much what winter geocaching is all about, anyway. it also has a snowskirt. the idea is to keep the snow out. it's amazing how much happier you are in super cold weather if the elements simply can't get in.

so it takes me twenty minutes to get dressed, but once i'm outside, i am READY.

and what am i doing outside? building a really spiffy snow cave. if you are, like i am, extremely claustrophobic, this is a fun winter activity, espectially when you get to the point in your construction that you have to get ALL THE WAY IN to dig, but you don't yet have enough room to really move around.

and of course the entrance has to be teeny. you have to go in and out on your belly.

half of my nightmares involve being in some small space where the only exit is small enough i have to go on my belly.

if you are claustrophobic you can have extra fun with this activity if you use your imagination and pretend you have been swallowed by an avalanche and have to dig space around you so you can breathe.

my favorite tool for digging right now is my really spiffy dakine two-handled snow-scoop. if i think of it later, i'll take a picture of it for the slideshow.

slideshow, you say?

of course. 

it'll update with the construction.

Friday, January 01, 2010

happy new year!

here's my hat; my other hat.

i went to first night burlington last night, which i always like to do. last year of course i'd nearly frozen to death the week before and had to stay home, but aside from the church service (stunningly beautiful) and the fireworks (provincial), i just love to walk up and down the streets.

you have to understand that i have the full rack of first night buttons, which this year total twenty-seven. i wear them on a scarf draped around my neck, like a stole, almost. people stop me on the streets to take my picture.

last night i was also giving out copies of my Christmas album to random strangers, which is kind of fun. it isn't really an anonymous generosity because there i am in the flesh, but there's no contact information on it, so they couldn't write to tell me about it if they wanted to. it's just a surprise moment of good humor and random gift-giving.

there ought to be more of that in this world; it brightens up the place.


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