Sunday, September 06, 2020

Universal Bereavement, An Inspiring Achievement


Not a week into September, and the light is already changing. Omaha is at the far end of the Central time zone, and while we get a few extra minutes of light than Chicago 500 miles to our East, it isn't much consolation. We've been experiencing (I won't say,"enjoying") a late season heatwave, but with it has come a drought-one of our worst Nebraska Augusts on record. Today the mercury is predicted to top out at 101 F, but by tomorrow we will be cooling 40 degrees, and by Tuesday evening we are told to prepare for 43 F overnight. It will be nice to turn off the air conditioning which has been running at a steady pace since July. 

I fed the sourdough starters, abandoned in their jars at the back of the fridge since spring. They were still lively when brought back with water and flour, so it seemed silly not to bake a bread. My typical sandwich loaf recipe only requires 30 minutes in the oven at moderate temperature, but the loaf pictured above took much longer, the first 30 minutes in high heat inside an enamel casserole providing a mini steam oven. Once the lid is removed it continues another 25 minutes or so, but the result is rather lovely. It was the perfect bread to serve with tomato salads, sponging up the last bits of juice and dressing. There's nothing special in the bread-starter, flour, water, salt, a bit of sugar and some vital wheat gluten to give the plain flour a boost in the absence of strong bread flour. The only thing a sourdough really requires is time-something in theory I ought to have more of being at home, but still seems at a premium by the end of the day. That's ultimately a good thing, I'm sure but it hardly feels it in the rushed moments. I haven't watched television, read books, or been faced with searching out ways to occupy my time. The pile of summer clothes needing mending has grown and now as autumn arrives I suspect they will get packed away unmended with that unrealistic optimism that next year will somehow be different and I'll resolve to stitch up hems and replace buttons knowing I absolutely won't. The pile sits by the door of the bedroom reminding me of my inadequacies and failures like a ghost of my mother. Well fuck that. Back into the storage box you go, Mother. 

Have you ever roasted grapes? A bit of olive oil, salt and rosemary, a slow oven for half an hour? Here I've also roasted some dried apricots and used them as a topping for focaccia. Autumnal dining for the lazy. The presentation is spectacular even if the effort is minimal. 

Speaking of presentation, here's some semolina egg noodles with parsley rolled between the sheets. I was inspired by a post at Twigg Studios . I may give the flower pasta a try as well since the nasturtiums, violas, and sunflowers are all still going strong in the garden. I have a very old, Imperia pasta machine from my mother-in-law that does a good job rolling the sheets of dough thinly. While not impossible to do with a heavy rolling pin and a strong arm, the machine does make quick work of it. 

With noodles that pretty it would be a shame to adorn them with uninteresting tomato sauce. Beans and the first acorn squash of the season felt just right by the calendar. 

I was able to make this with vegan butter without any issues. 
That recipe was long ago clipped from a magazine and affixed in a notebook of favourites. I don't always have ruby Port and will just use cheap red Cabernet for the entire lot. With 1/2 cup of sugar it is hardly noticeable. 

After all that cooking it seemed only right I reward myself with some new eyeglass frames. Well, "new" as in rather old in this case,  as these are deadstock Ted Lapidus frames from the late 70s. I'm going to have them set with my Rx for daily wear. My mum had this pair in solid navy blue and I always liked them. As we look nothing alike I'm not worried about seeing her reflected back in the mirror. So much for putting mother back in the box. at $79.00 on ebay, they were much less expensive than any frames I might have found new at the local optometrist's. As my husband observed, the round frames I wear have the effect of making me look like a baby animal, and as a result give the impression of being non-threatening and approachable. That was all well and good pre-Coronavirus but I'm now ready for some distance (six feet at the minimum, thank you very much). I've worn square and rectangle frames before, but they were wire rimmed and made me look less a baby owl and more someone that would try to sell you dope with a cheerful, "First one's free" pitch. Hopefully, these will fall somewhere between the extremes. I also won an ebay auction for two pair of vintage sunnies that haven't arrived yet. If they feel secure enough, I might have them set with Rx lenses as well. 
Also picked up this very inexpensive piece of Georgian mourning jewellery. When I posted it on Instagram it appeared as though the glass was cracked. Upon closer inspection with magnification it is in fact, two crystal pieces. I won't be taking it apart to clean as I don't want to disturb what Danny, somewhat uncomfortably described as, "Some 200 year old hair off a corpse." He's never really warmed to the idea of hairwork, or momento mori in general. Anyway, as it is only about 2 cm, I might have it set into a ring if and when it makes sense to run errands that aren't of the vital sort again. In the US that might be rather a long while as we cheerfully go careening into our demise. I'd use the old, "re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic" but really we're just throwing women and children overboard, lifeboats be damned. Never underestimate American determination to be our own worst enemies. 

Who turned up the gravity?!? Let that be a lesson not to get down on the floor to take photos as the getting back up part requires a bit more motivation that I possess most days. Isn't that really all anyone wants to do at this point-sprawl on the floor like an over-tired toddler, so overwhelmed managing a tantrum seems like too much work? Go get me a juice box and a mini bottle of gin. 

Here's the unseen part of the photo-some ancient trousers purchased at Target in the 90s, a suede waistcoat with embroidery, and a belt that reminds me where I live should (not that early) senility take hold. Wouldn't want to get confused and end up in Iowa-they're more screwed-up than we are, a seeming impossibility. It may, as the large car dealership in Council Bluffs says in their ad trying to get customers from Omaha, "Pay to cross the bridge", when buying an automobile, but when it comes to Coronavirus, you'll want to stay on our side of the river. 

There, managed to get off the floor. No one was going to bring me a cocktail, so as with generally everything, I had to get up and do it myself. 
Saying goodbye to summer means packing away the white linen trousers. Yes, yes, you may still wear white after labour day-but linen is a stretch. 

What goes better with wide linen trousers than a sequined boob tube? Not much my friends, not much. 

Time to pack away the embroidered Mexican dresses as well. Even if a few warm days show up, this would feel out of place in autumn. 
The straw bag never left the house this summer. I barely did either. 

 Some cheerful plastic accessories from the simpler years of the 70s when all we had to worry about were gas shortages, inflation, and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Whip Inflation Now (WIN). Never thought I'd feel nostalgic for President Ford. Fucking hell, we're really in it, aren't we? 
I'd say I have nothing to look forward to, but that wouldn't be entirely honest as I have a dental appointment on Wednesday. I get to have a lie down even if my mouth is gaping open, and I'm drooling myself like a pensioner doped on anti-psychotics. The bridge to replace the tooth that broke two years ago is finally going in, not that anyone will see it beneath a mask. I should have dealt with it sooner, but the teeth on either side needed crowns and I just wasn't up for all that. Now of course...well I'm paying premiums for dental insurance so might as well. Don't expect smiling. I'd say something like, "I'm smiling on the inside" but really all this face says is, "Bitch, I am from Chicago." I probably wouldn't cut anyone, but I wouldn't swear to it. At any rate, I don't carry a blade so it is a non-issue. Lucky you.

I need to start planning the winter garden. My brain says "plant kale", but my stomach says, "I don't like eating ornamental plants." The struggle goes on. 

Hope September treats you well, and for the love of all that's good and holy, wear a mask. Really. They work. 



Beth Waltz said...

If I can figure out the tech, I'm going to print out the floor photo (with the HAIR!), add your caption, "Bitch, I'm from Chicago", and frame it.
It will be hung in my study beneath the photo of a rain-bedraggled owl which bears a quote from Cornelius Talbot: "I am tired of acquiring wisdom. Somebody bring me a drink and a whoopie cushion."
It's the heat. And the plague. And the news of never-ending stupidities. And the hungry ghosts of the ancestors that lurk in boxes. And teeth, especially teeth.
Like the looks of that Onion-Port Marmalade receipt! Just the thing for reciprocal gifting to those hunters who give me venison or pork. (The woods are alive with deer and feral pigs -- and bow hunters.)

Bibi Maizoon said...

On the floor photo: But your hair looks fabulous!
I feel like gin & a juice box myself, come to think of it.
That scrummy sourdough loaf looks fantastic!
The crazy weather this year has made gardening impossible here - flood & landslide warnings daily too.
Oxford University studies that predicted 50,000 deaths in the "best-case scenario" here in Nepal have luckily been way off. So far we have only 289 deaths and 46,257 cases. There have been riots in Kathmandu as people are upset at not being able to celebrate their festivals. I did not know the Nepalese army had water cannons - but I do now! The Kathmandu valley is still under complete lockdown and taking a severe economic toll. I can't imagine they can keep Nepal's international borders closed past the opening of tourist season on October 1. As Beth says, the never-ending stupidities are working my nerves. It seems we all have the most incompetent people doing the most important things in this world.

Vix said...

I had those Ted Lapidus sunglasses in blue and white for years, they ended up being held together with glue - the last pair perished when I met up with Ann & Jos!
Liking the sound of the oven-cooked grapes. Yum! xxx

Polyester Princess said...

I can't believe how the light has changed in such a short space of time. It was still quite dark when I got up this morning - very noticeable if one has been accustomed to lie-ins for a week - and while we were away, it was pitch dark by 9 pm. The sourdough bread looks fantastic, and I'm loving your new frames. What a steal! Your hair looks fabulous in the floor photo, and it's a toss up between your red Mexican dress and that embroidered waistcoat for my favourite of your outfits! xxx

Emily said...

Your multicolored tube top, white pants, big hoops, and black blazer are stunning! I want the world to (safely) open up again so you can wear that ensemble to some place fancy, like the opera or the ballet. An outfit that beautiful deserves to be admired in public. You'd be the envy of every woman there.

Thanks for your tips on freezing runzas. I'm going to make them next week. I'm also going to try the roasted grapes. We're in the middle of a heat wave ourselves, but knock on wood, by mid-September we'll have normal autumn weather so all this roasting and baking won't compete with the hot sun.

Congrats on the new Lapidus sunglasses and the Georgian stickpin. Your hair is truly beautiful in the floor photo. I think if I were to sprawl out on the floor, my husband would assume I've had too many cocktails and would not bring me another, LOL.

Thanks for yet another blog entry. They're such great fun to read. Keep up the good work on your novel too. I can't wait for that to come out.

Unknown said...

Hi! You have such a great sense of humor. I love reading your blog. It always makes me smile (and sometimes laugh out loud at some of the things you say). And who doesn't need that now? Huh? Yeah, everyone. Thank you! I never post anything here but I just had to tell you that. Your blog is the best! Arlene from NJ Yeah, I'm from NJ, but I'm nothing like Snookie from the beach (tv show). We're not all like that.

bahnwärterin said...

yummy bread and beautiful pasta!!
love the "lying on the floor and looking glam" photo! i´m not a fan of gin, but wodka would doooooo.....
can´t wait to see you with the new glasses, great idea to use vintage sunny frames. and i need such a rainbow sparkly top - even if a have no idea when to wear it - if ever the self isolation gets over.
stay safe and sane! xxxxxx

Goody said...

I can't take credit for Bitch I'm from Chicago-that was an angry drag queen that uttered it first!
The onion jam is so good with so many things-keeps well too.

Seriously-how do these people manage to stay in power?! Ah well, glad to hear you've avoided the worst of it. Maybe with proper safety protocols the tourist season can go on? Knowing what we know now about masks and distancing might help. Fingers crossed for you.

Oh no! I was looking forward to us having matching shades ;) Maybe you'll find another pair.

It gets harder to drag out of bed in the dark, that's for sure. I hope you have an easier time of it this winter without doing a daily commute in darkness.

Thank you. I've been trying to decide what to do with my hair and it seems like the best answer is to leave it alone.
The novel is slogging along. There's an end in sight, but man-it was ambitious to write something this "Out there."

Thank you!

Thank you. I've only ever had bad (cheap) vodka, so I'm not sure if I'd like it better if it didn't begin life as potatoes! Someday, I'll have to experiment.
Stay safe-I already know you're sane!

Mim said...

We are definitely wearing masks!

Don't beat yourself up about things you haven't done. Just coping with the stress of life right now is hard - it's more draining than we all realise, I think.

Those glasses are great. I have an approachable face too, it's like a curse - I'm always being stopped by lost tourists in Bath for directions. Here's hoping that squary is scary.

Shannon said...

"Bitch I'm from Chicago" made me laugh out loud. People who tell me to smile (I have serious RBF) tend to get the eyebrow in response. I untrained that automatic response years ago and I'm glad I did.

I think my life needs onion jam. Thank you. <3

Vronni's Style Meanderings said...

Hello Goody!

The food looks delicious and I love the idea of roasting grapes; I'll definitely give that a go!

You look fab in your outfits; the boob tube is spectacular; I've never worn one! Love the humongous earrings, the fish bag and the green and red 70s jewellery. I also loved your mourning brooch - don't listen to Danny.

The new glasses are very cool. I meant to buy a pair online and then get my prescription lens fitted into them; but completely forgot and went straight to the opticians...

Take care and I hope you cool down and get some rain soon!

Emily said...

I roasted some grapes today with rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil. It was divine! It tasted very similar to how Christian Dior Poison smells.

I think I'll put a few spoonfuls of the grapes in my oatmeal tomorrow.

Thanks for suggesting this recipe. It will become an autumn staple for me.

Goody said...

If anyone asked me for directions they'd be worse off! I've lived here for years and still can't find my way around.

let me know if you make the jam!

I hope you like them-I suspect most fruit does well roasted-rhubarb works nicely too. I asked Danny is the idea of a wig bothered him as much as a hair brooch and he made a face, so I guess that's a yes.

I'm so glad you liked it. I can see the roasted grapes getting a plum, note, particularly if you used black grapes. I haven't smelled Poison in years, but I remember it being very heavy in the plum.