Thursday, March 16, 2017

Winter Blast, Re-carded Wool, and Mormons

At work, the other day was a bad day.  That's all I can say about it -- no consolation -- it was simply a bad day; and bad days happen.  Between being short-staffed and extra client concerns about the call centres handling their special instructions during the multiple closures due to the storm, internal strife was extremely high today.  When a third of the clients along the East Coast are out and turning the phones to the agents, inter-departmental bickering would best wait until after things have settled down.
...but no. 

While I was dealing with several agent issues and errors in dispatching messages, etc.,  I have two different people from our sales department feel the need to run the show with their issues.  The worst thing that can ever happen in a large corporation with several departments is for one department to begin to tell those from another what to do -- not only the act, itself but, even worse, to copy the client in an email -- making themselves out to attempting to look good and the rest of us naughty little children that need to do our jobs like we're supposed to do; and even worse than that -- to BLIND copy your boss and you are on the verge of getting written up.

Management in any capacity isn't all its cracked up to be.  You get it from all ends.

After logging out, after supper, I thought a nice bit of spinning would help, but, I seemed to be more tense than usual and so, I ended up with a lot broken yarn and bits and pieces filling the top of my spinning trunk more than what was being spun into yarn.  I realised right then and there that I needed to calm my nerves and relax just enough to do the thing that was going to relax me and take away my tension built up over the past ten hours; kind of priming the pump.

So, the first thing I did was throw my spindle onto the bat of wool on the couch and go take a shower.  If I were to hold that thing one more second, I was probably going to do worse than just throw it.  While I was in the shower, I just let the water run over me and try to wash my tension away -- some of it.

A thought came to me:  I can use my brand new carders to card out all of that stringy mess and re-spin the wool!  Since an overpayment to the State of Maine was made from my wages in the form of taxes was returned to me, a trip to Halcyon in Bath afforded me a few tools, including a set of carders as my plans for the future are to get some raw fleeces for a good price and I needed to practice carding anyway, having never done it before.  I also had a bat of wool that was somewhat carded on a drum carder, but, still needed a bit of work, so, I decided to practice with that.

My first place to go, of course, was the YouTube so that I could see some demonstrations on wool carding.  What was I to behold before typing in the search for carding wool?  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's most recent episode of "Music And The Spoken Word"  I actually quite like that program (different story for different time) and I love hearing the songs and hymn by such a beautiful choir, so I opened a new tab with the program and then stopped the stream and went back to watching demonstrations on carding wool and immediately began carding both the wool from the bat and the monstrous bits that came from earlier in the day.

...and then onto the Choir!  Something moved me about them and just finding them by happenstance on the front page of the YouTube -- something was asking me to do exactly what I was doing.  Rolag after rolag, song after song, and in between it all, gazing out into the beautiful, heavenly snowstorm -- three hours later, I ended up spinning the entire bat and was ready to ply it!  My nerves and my spirit were well rested and at peace.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Cream Tea Success

Inspired by Ruth Goodman in the Edwardian Farm series, I became fascinated with the concept of making clotted cream and having a Devonshire cream tea right here in Maine (five time zones away), but, here in Portland, I don't have the access to easily get some raw, unprocessed milk to let the cream rise overnight; nor to cook it in a bain-marie over a steady coal fire in the iron potbelly stove; so, I began searching and searching recipes for how to do the best I could with the local, or even regional local (because it's fresher) ultra-pasturised heavy cream and the rest of the modern equipment.  I discovered on many other sites and blogs a way to do it in the oven -- open and in direct heat -- and every account I read stated that it was just as good as the farmhouse cream (cream that's risen to the top of the milk overnight, and cooked in the same milk and skimmed off in the morning.)

Clotted Cream
The best cream to use is fresh, that has been stood to rise from fresh milk, but, store-bought will work.  Ultra-pasteurised heavy cream will clot nicely, but, the flavour will be a little less robust and the crust, a little less golden -- only a little less, but, the taste is still amazing!  When cooked long enough at just the right temperature, the clots will be nice and heavy; the texture, a cross between whipped cream and butter, and tastes just as rich.

Stand a quart of cream in a quart-and-a-half baking dish open overnight (I stood mine in my Corningware baking dish right in the room-temperature oven.)  First thing in the morning, turn on the oven to 170-175F.  The general consensus from my research seems to lean even further toward 180, however, all of that was based on making cream with non-pasteurised, so, I decided to cook my cream at a lower temperature hoping the cream would clot a bit better. Cook the cream for eight or nine hours. Gently remove the dish with the cream from the oven without agitating the crust and then cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate it open overnight.  Next morning, skim the crust and the clots underneath with a slotted spoon or any other kind of skimmer with holes to drain the liquid.  Make sure that the skimmer goes well beneath the clots under the crust so that they are all skimmed together.  Place the skimmings in layers in a dish and then stir it all together until it's textured, but, smooth.

Clotted Cream Leavings
After skimming the clotted cream, the leavings leftover can be used for baking.  My cream was still thick enough and plenty, so, I decided to churn it for butter (it took longer than regular churning as most of the fats were clotted during the cooking -- the rest left over will be a bit more sparse.

Use the butter and buttermilk to make cut rounds.

Cut Rounds
Cut rounds are more like American buttermilk biscuits, but rolled into a sausage and cut into discs, instead of rolled out and cut with a cutter.

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Using the butter and buttermilk from the leavings, for a cup of flour, blend in about a third to a half a cup of butter.  Add to it, a tablespoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of salt and about a third to a half a cup of the buttermilk until it makes a nice dough.  Roll it into a fat sausage and cut rounds off of the end all the way down.  Put them into the oven and bake until they have risen and then reduce the heat to between 425 and 400 and then finish baking them until they're done.

Cream Tea
When the cut rounds are cool enough, split a round in half and butter each half; spread some strawberry jam or apple jelly and then top it with the clotted cream.  Serve it with a good tea.  I like Earl Grey, black, without cream or sugar.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It Started With Her

Grama taught me how to knit.

I was five years old and it began with five stitches neatly cast onto a size 7 double pointed needle; after about fifteen minutes, question after question, attempt after attempt, five clumsily knit stitches managed to get themselves onto the other needle...

...about a year and a half later, five stitches turned to ten, fifteen, twenty, and the ability to read a pattern and further learning in the "Bernat Book Of Complete Knitting" that she dug out of her collection of pattern books and gave me, where I learned the proper name "garter stitch" which was the beautiful rows and rows of ridges -- knitting even on two needles back and forth...just plainly knit...knit...knit over and over again.  

I was in love.

A few years after my love affair with the craft began, she partnered with her eldest daughter, my Aunt Chris, and opened "The Craft and Yarn Shop" which began in her small living room on James Street in Biddeford, Maine, and then moved to a nice mall during the summer in a favorite tourist town, Old Orchard Beach, and, then again, back to the house on James Street.

When the two women weren't doing affairs with the shop, they stayed on the fair circuit and traveled 'round Maine with their crafts.  Oh, the days that I miss:  seeing the booth set up in the house with all of the crafts on the shelves, ready for pictures to be taken for the next application; even better, seeing the booth set up at the fair -- and if not the big booth, most certainly the rented table stacked and filled to capacity.

We children did get to see a bit of Maine just by traveling to these destinations.  

After a few years, the shop closed, the fair dates grew fewer, but the crafting still went on and on in the form of charity work -- now, of course, knitting wasn't the only craft involved, but, memories of mittens and hats and booties and slippers and afghans -- and seeing them being put in boxes or bags to bring to someone less fortunate than those of us who had such luxuries.  

Years later, I, myself, decided to go the charity route and knit simple sweaters and booties and hats especially for preemies -- the littlest of all people -- brand new in this world.  

As I knit daily, I finally did develop some other patterns with some inspiration from some people closest to me, but most of all, the drive and common sense and just the simple pure love of knitting instilled in me by Grama, who has passed on, leaving me just that much empty -- for what she began so many years ago, I would only wish that she would be around to see what was to come of her lessons; a part of her, though, shall live on in the following pages -- at least the bits of knitting stories and journals and a pattern or two, of which, to her, are most warmly dedicated.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Carrot Pudding

I tried this recipe and it was very lovely; a bit dense, but, very good.  I would think that with the salty water, I would use less salt in the seasoning.

'thinking of experimenting with other seasonings, as well.

Carrot Pudding (for 2 persons)

1lb scraped carrots, 2 oz margarine, Breadcrumbs as required, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon minced onion, salt and pepper.

Method - Rinse the carrots, then place them in a saucepan of boiling salted water to cover. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook slowly till soft. Rub through a sieve. Measure and place puree in a basin. Add half as much breadcrumbs as carrot puree, then add onion and the margarine, melted till creamy. Season to taste, then add enough beaten egg to bind the mixture. Place in a greased pudding basin. Cover with greased paper. Steam for 45 minutes. Turn out onto a hot dish. Serve with cheese or caper sauce or left over gravy.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Encouragement. Again.

Okay, so, I've been "encouraged" to begin writing again.

After some thought, I have decided to do it

...not that the cut on my thumb right where it hits the spacebar does any good (not that it was undeserved -- playing with Klondike waving a catnip bag over his head and knowing that yes, indeed, he would swipe at it, and his claw catches me instead)

...not that I finally agree -- only AFTER having half a drink or more.

...not that I think I have anything about which to write, even though I keep thinking to myself, "Oh, I should blog about that...or this...or it...or etc."

...not that I love writing and am glad to even be posting something at all.

I've had this blog for years and have posted here and there about things.  After almost a year, I don't know if I should pick up where I left off or just plain write what is happening now.  I think I'll do the latter.  I have enough material -- it's just getting it out there in words.  (realise:  the absolute definition of writer's block)

The time is now, and I have the writing bug again, anyway.  Sometimes, One just needs the encouragement and that's what has happened, and this is what becomes of it.

(oh, good Lord, I'm writing again.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Julenisse decided to stop by…

The Julenisse decided to stop by…not that I cooked up a batch of porridge…not that the weather has been cold enough for it.

I just don’t understand...

…how anyone can live without a cat.