Friday, July 30, 2010

Throwing the Shoe

While dotting comment boxes with sentiments the day before last weekend was about to begin, I may have mentioned to some of you that my upcoming Saturday was to be about work before play. Midmorning on the 24th, I met with

(She resembled this actress, but was instead partial to the perro chihuahueñ.)
an extraordinary woman,

whose identity I will continue to shelter by referring to her, here, as "Miss Gish." (Truthfully, she is quite the picture of the Silent Screen star Lillian, except that she talks. A LOT. And in a delightful, melodic voice that sounds as if her throat is juggling small stones every time she speaks. Divine!) and her three charming Chihuahuas, to see if the four of us would find each other as agreeable as we did during our phone conversation earlier in the week. (Yes, believe it or not, Miss Gish had her phone set to “Speaker”when she rang me up, so as to not leave anyone out!) Being that I am a professional dog walker and “Lillian,” a potential client in need of my services, I then ventured her way to meet her and her furry family members. Likewise, they interviewed me.

Our meeting went very, very well! Trying to be on their best behavior (The Chihuahua is surprisingly active for its little size.), “Fetch” and “Carrie” were still the adorable little beings who had previously “talked” me into the ground over the telephone, as was their senior citizen-ish, I’m-the-boss-like-it-or-lump-it, visually challenged roommate,

(Not Irene, but close.)

As we chatted at great length and then some, my maybe-prospective charges enjoyed treats from the basketful that I had baked especially for them (One snackette a piece, except for the glamorous Irene, who, even though “she is watching her waistline,” just had to have two!).

Then Miss Gish led our parade to the parlor piano, where she played show tunes that her Chihuahuas would soon be harmonizing to. Their howling was near-insanity, but contagious. I couldn’t help myself and boisterously joined them in song! Lillian suggested we next do rounds, but indeed it was time for me to depart.

Even though and way before our get-together’s end, I was totally smitten with the whole batch of them~~all of whom declared/yippy-yapped “Yes, a thousand times, yes!” to wanting me to be their new walker~~I told them I would have to give my schedule the once over and do a certain amount of careful considering, before giving them my answer. Dog walking is, after all, serious business. I promised make my decision in a week’s time.

But of course I’d draw up a contract!!! Because what was not to love about this distinctive clan?? Miss Lillian is the sweetest heart and, although I’d have to provide additional coats for them when going out in colder weather, Fetch, Carrie and Irene are most affectionate, entertaining, sassy, talkative, playful and robust! And did I mention good at conflict resolution? (More about that in a later-on blog entry, to be sure!)

Nevertheless, to remove any doubt that I was indeed heading myself in the right direction, and to avoid being down-the-road flummoxed due to useless second-guessing, I put on my best slippers, both of which took me straightaway to Gemmama’s back-garden toolshed (because her house was much too high for the task) to perform a simple method of divination known as “throwing the shoe.” I then took off one of my dainty pantoffles and tossed it over the roof of the small barn. SO MOTE IT BE! The shoe landed sole down and with its toe pointing in the direction of Gish Manor!

Tomorrow morning, I will dial up Lillian and the wonderful, new little puppiwinkles in my life! I hope Irene answers. She’s such a hoot!

POSTSCRIPT: You, too, can be popular beyond arfs! To make the same basket of goodies that I treated my Chihuahua pals to, just follow this easy recipe:

(NOTE: These treats are even edible by the human keeper of four-legged friends! And please remember: because not all bow-wows can manage them and because most dogs will not chew Rolaids, be on the safe side. Read over the ingredients to ensure that your poocher can eat what is listed..)

Apple PupPIES

2 cups wheat flour
1 cup instant oats
1/2 cup corn meal
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup apple sauce
2 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup water
Apple Red food coloring if desired

(Preheat oven 375*) To form a dough that will not be sticky to the touch but will stick together, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Food coloring may be added at this time. To give the mixwad a pink tint that really makes the treat look like an apple, add several drops of red food coloring and mix furiously to blend evenly. Flour your work surface and rolling pin before rolling out the dough to a 1/4" to 1/3" thickness. Many times-cut with an apple-shaped cookie cutter. (In a bind? A pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter looks like an apple, too!) Place all treats on a cookie pan ~ Note: because these pupPIEs do not raise or flatten out when heated, like a baker would typically expect, there is no need to distance them on the baking sheet like regular cookies. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Cool thoroughly before serving, or next you will be watching your popularity circle the drain.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hell's Kitchen

That would be me, the hungry but anxious looking one,
middle-right, about to be served.

It sounded like a very good idea, being invited to my friend Soose’s house for dinner last night. But Shhhh! Don’t tell Soose’s mother: not everyone who can conflagrate a pilot light is a good cook.

I know. I know. If you can't say anything nice...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bewitching A Blue Brew

O Merriest J O Y ! Have you heard? Chocolate and Marmalade Tea’s garden just hatched its first blueberry of the season! In celebration of this auspicious occasion and in anticipation of more “blue” to come, I opened Gemmama’s pantry cupboard to find her sister Driven’s one contribution to the family recipe box ~~that I might share a special, timely recipe with Ms. Michelle (and any other berry pickers about to have an abundance of blueberries at their fingertips and who are wondering what “delicious” they can do with them).

My Great Aunt Driven long, long ago came up with this marvelous mead and named it after her second ex-husband, Eduard, who claimed until the very end that it was all his idea.

Not Ed’s Blueberry Mead

Starting with the Primary Fermentation ingredients list, which includes:

~ 10 lbs wildflower honey (or clover, if honey is unavailable–-but wildflower is much thicker, making it the more agreeable choice)
~ 5 lbs frozen blueberries, slightly thawed or 5 pounds fresh blueberries (About fresh blueberries: Use the low-bush kind if you can; they are inexplicably tastier. Also know: fresh fruit used in brewing should be frozen and then near-thawed before using. Supposedly, it allows the yeast to get at more of the sugars.)
~ 4 gallons of bottled spring water

~ Wyeast Dry Mead Yeast ~ 3 to 4 packets (Because it is the best! Home meaders will find it at their local beer and wine making shop.)

and, later, using the Secondary Fermentation ingredients:
~ 5 lbs wildflower or clover honey
~ 5 lbs frozen blueberries,

this recipe asks you to proceed as follows: Allow 3 ½ gallons of boiling bottled spring water to cool to 160ish degrees, then steep the lightly crushed fruit (A cheesecloth pouch works fine.) for 30 minutes . Very, very carefully remove the bag (Blueberry stains are a nightmare!) and let it drip till no more drops. Return the “must” (the unfermented juice) to the stove, this time heating it to 140 degrees . Remove from burner and dissolve 10 pounds of honey into it. Chill to 65 degrees, then expose to the circulation of air (“aerate”) by stirring, and throw in the yeast. (Do not skimp when it comes to the amount of yeast, as it truly is the magic ingredient!)

Ferment for one month in a large five-gallon or so, glass jug or other suitable, clear container. It’s nice to be able to see what’s brewing! ~~you’re going to just love the end color, I promise you! To this primary brew, add the rest of the honey (5 pounds), stirring till it dissolves. Also add the final batch of blueberries (5 pounds). Let the fermentation take off again. After another month or two, rack off the dregs. Ferment another four to six months before getting out the goblets. Unless, of course, patience escapes you completely, because not to worry. Your palate will find Not Ed’s to be quite enjoyable even at the 3-4 month mark!

Spit-spot with you then! You’ll want to start your blueberry mead now for next Midsummer pouring.

The perfect image to affix to your blue mead bottle labels!

blueberries: fotosearch

Friday, July 23, 2010

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...


Gather ‘round the cauldron, everyone, and cozy your overstuffeds right up close to it, because I have a Tale Worthy of a Tell, as my Great Aunt Driven always calls them. (Curious? Long ago and maybe even before that, my aunt was nicknamed such, because her hair suddenly whitened at an unexpected age (?!) ~but that’s another story indeed.) She’s the one who got me interested in the first place in what I'm about to share with you. Whereas some people delight in their ongoing accumulation of

I couldn’t stop myself from posting these--my Tulah would simply die for them! I just might put them under the tree for her, come Christmas!)
salt and peppers
( My other great aunt, Tu, does.),

or "books of major significance" but then again, mostly not (That would be you, Gemmama!), or "decades and decades of spent saliva," as my philatelist Great Uncle Ned refers to it, I, on the other hand, collect ghost stories ~~many of which I inherited from dear Driven, who does the same.

Still comfy? Cauldron’s not too hot or bubbly for you? Then here’s a bump in the night from my "Recentlies" file. It’sure to give you that goblins-blowing-cold-breath-on-you feel:

It was a dark and stormy night... GOTCHA! That was just me tinkering with you! I’ve always wanted my telling of a tale to open that way, and I thought this might be that opportunity. A thousand pardons, then? Thank you! No more fun-fussy, I promise you. I will begin again:

This uncanny story comes from a young man named Shawn, who grew up in a very old house. But it’s best when he’s spinning the yarn:

"As a result of pecking order, I got the single attic room by myself. One summer night when I was about sixteen, it was so hot in my room that I couldn’t stand it. So, around one o’clock in the morning, I decided to go downstairs, where I collapsed in the livingroom loveseat. I didn’t bother to turn the lights on.

"I hadn’t been there long when I sensed that someone was sitting next to me. Next to me was a woman wearing an old-fashioned wedding dress. No sooner had I seen the young bride than, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the figure of a man dressed as a minister standing in front of the loveseat. He was muttering something like, ‘You could marry my daughter.’ I just sat there, frozen. Then he began reciting, ‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...

"I thought I must be dreaming, so I jumped up and ran to the kitchen sink to splash water on my face. But, just before I could get to the sink, the man reappeared in front of me again, repeating, ‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...’ I looked to my left and there she was standing again–-the woman in the wedding dress–-standing next to me. So I ran past the minisster—or rather through him—and back up to my attic bedroom. I got under the covers—because ghosts can’t get you when you’re under the covers—and tried to forget about the heat and about what just happened. Eventually, I fell asleep.

"The next morning, I decided not to tell anybody for fear they’d think I was crazy. Years later, My sister and I were talking about that house. At one point, she asked me if I knew the history of it. I told her no and asked her to fill me in. She told me that there was a young woman living there long ago who was jilted on her wedding day. For years afterwards, she never left the house.

"There was no electricity in the house back then, and folks would sometimes see her at night, walking with a candle. She died in the room that became my sister’s room after my family moved in.

"My sister went on to tell me about something strange that had happened to her in the house. It happened one night after she broke up with her boyfriend. She was laying on her bed, crying when she heard the distinct sound of a woman cackling right there in the room with her."
(Excerpted from a called The Ghost Next Door by Mark Alan Morris, whom I hope doesn’t mind me passing the story along to you, here. Thank you very kindly, sir!)

You can’t help but wonder what would have happen if Shawn had stuck around for the rest of the ceremony!

Now might I interest you in a piece of pie to settle those rattled bones?

It’s blueberry booberry!

bride, pie: I'm still trying to locate the source, as I seem to have misplaced it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spot and Lamb’s~Wool to the Rescue

Late into the night was lovely, when I decided to put that perfect time to good use: investigating my “new” neighborhood on the little footpaths that tangle it together. (My previous post tells of me house sitting for Gemmama, my grandmother who is away visiting a dear old friend.) Even though I basically grew up at my grandmother’s side, landscapes can change over the years, and I was about to find out that they did just that.

As I gazed up at the stars, looking for one that I could wish on (I wanted to see a deer in a field, but since Gemmama’s house is located in a residential section, that wasn’t likely to happen.), I became disoriented. Sometimes in the night, everything you were just looking at suddenly becomes so unfamiliar. Had Pixies dancing under the moonlight led me astray? Just in case, I took off my jacket and put it on again, inside out, to break the spell. Still bewildered, I realized nobody but me was to blame for getting myself [gulp!] lost!

The hoot of a hidden owl kept my spirits up, until and fortunately, I spied Gemmama’s cat, Spot, who just happened to be out mousing nearby. I am certain he followed me; it’s something he would do. After he kindly led me back “home” (That is something Spot would do, too.), I rewarded him with a spare sardine that I’d nestled in a tart pan in an attempt to convince Spot I had baked just for him. But being that he is a cat smarter than most, I don’t think I had him fooled. Spot enjoyed the fish just the same.

Since I am not in favor of small, headless once-swimmers wedged in tins, I instead warmed a kettle of Lamb’s~Wool, leftover from last October, that of which Gemmama had stockpiled batches of in her deep freeze. I don’t know how she does it, but my grandmother manages to save this wonderful spiced drink without cold-burning the apples or losing the brew’s “medicinal” properties. Only took two cupfuls would take me straight to a wonderful dreamland!

Might I share the recipe with you? (Remember, do not drink and drive– be it broomsticks or otherwise!)


2 pints of ale
8 Tpoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cloves
6 bruised cooking apples for the roasting
6 eggs

Pour the ale into a saucepan and heat gently on the stovetop until it starts to bubble. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue cooking on low heat for nearly a half an hour. Meanwhile, cut the bruised cooking apples into slices, discarding the stems and seeds. (Don't forget to make a wish each time you pull out a stem!) Place them in a heatproof dish with a bit of water and bake uncovered in the oven on low heat until they become soft. Remove the apples from the oven and place them in a large bowl, one from which you can ladle. Remove the spiced ale from the heat, and, if you desire, stir in 6 beaten eggs. Poor the mixture over the warm apples in the bowl. Serve warm.

Not only does this brew taste exceptionally good and promises a sweet dream if you drink it after midnight, but the whiteness of the roasted apples as they float in the cider is quite an enjoyable as well! Please write this on your recipe card, too: Nuts make a nice accompaniment to Lamb's~Wool.

I guess I know what I'm going to have to add to my grocery shopping list!

lamb illustration, sardine tin

Saturday, July 17, 2010

If Nothing Else, There’s the Promise of Pie!

I like early and I like late because it is so quiet. So does my grandmother. Yesterday, Gemmama and I shared both times together sifting through a big box of snapshots, some of them curling and some of them colored and most of them of her holding me when I was just little. I looked like a happy, baby lapdog! And, isn’t “sifting” a simply lovely word?!

Between photographs, we nibbled away at one of her “secret formula” pies until it was gone completely! Whenever I’ve watched my grandmother mix together a pie, a good part of the time, Gemmama will follow a standard recipe, only to add several, unmeasured dips into the sugar cannister. (She’s all-butter crust, too!) As the pie bakes, she conjures up a long and fancy name for it. I can’t for the life of me remember yesterday’s label, but it doesn’t matter really, since each time she puts a tart in the oven, the name changes~~ even if it’s a recipe she’s used time again! And, then, as my grandmother sinks the knife to cut the first piece, she bows her head and says, “There’s probably 200 calories per syllable. Let’s thank the stars that none of them count!”

When I thought the day couldn’t be more wonderful, Gemmama surprised me with an invitation to be the custodian of her house while she is away! A dear friend of hers is “ailing” and is need of assistance for an undetermined amount of time. My grandmother, a good reader of all things between the lines, is rather certain that Luella just wants a little company. “Aye yi yi !” Gemmama happily chanted. “Likely, we’ll sip ‘embellished’ tea and never bother to get dressed as we talk till we're blue and sometimes pea-green in the face about all the good times we once let roll in!”

So, during the not so quiet part of yesterday, I did my “walks” and rearranged my schedule (I’m a professional dog walker), while my grandmother, who loves her housecoats and expensive perfumes, packed both for her adventure across the pond.

She flew out this morning, the conventional way, of course, leaving me to my own devices, namely: Gemmama’s vast collection of books! Her library, stacks and shelves to the ceiling with volumes as numerous as the calories her pie names tally to, is all about powers, potions, lotions, tonics, teas, charms, incantations, cat magic, mews, myths, mystery, lore, fauna, flora and mora! I even spied one small bookcase dedicated to our beloved: Mr. Johnny Carson! I might need a paper bag to control my breathing!

Might you come sit for a “spell”? Along with the goings-on I encounter at my new “home” and the postcards Gemmama will be sending to me, I plan on sharing snips, snaps and snurrs from her literary collection with you here.

Merry meet, and merry part, until we merry meet again!

P.S. There will be pie!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Glad Greetings!

Good Day and Good Welcome!
I will return in short order
with only nice things to say ~~ I promise!

Have a piece of pie while you wait?
Go ahead, I made it myself. It’s double-crusted blueberry and you’re sure to like it!

pie, vane