Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Normally the secular new year kind of passes me by. Deep winter doesn't give me the sense of rebirth and possibility that I feel during the Jewish new year which falls just as everything moves into autumnal glory. Just as I stay well outside the Christmas frenzy, I also tend to avoid resolutions and new beginnings as January rolls around as they're not part of my personal rhythm.

So it's odd that I'm finding myself anticipating that rollover to a new calendar year this time around. I don't know if my recent dental work could be affecting me already but I am feeling stronger, healthier, and less fuzzy headed than I have in months. Recently when looking around at everything I should be doing, I've been likely to shut down, overwhelmed, and begin to long for a nap. I'm no paragon of energy at the moment, but it does seem within the realm of possibility that I might be able to regain control of some things that have gotten away from me. I suppose that's not much, especially for the overachievers out there, but it's enough to fill me with cautious optimism.

Enough of that New Year's silliness--how about some photos? I love going back over the year in photos and being reminded of everything from spring flowers to family outings.

I wish all my readers only good things in 2009. May it be a year of health and happiness and growth.

Monday, December 29, 2008


It was cold and wet and nearly all the animals were sleeping or hiding from the crowds but the lights were lovely and the visiting cousins made it even more fun. We followed the outing with dinner and freshly made doughnuts to celebrate the final night of Chanukah.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Little Miracle

After 6 snowy, icy housebound days I am delighted to report that we left the house today! We've had weeks of frigid temperatures but it's beginning to warm up and our record breaking snowfall is melting. Much as I love snow I'm not sad to see it go, at least for now. It can come back once school starts up again.

My intrepid husband drove us through slippery snow covered side streets (and fully plowed main roads) so we could spend the evening celebrating Chanukah with good friends. We made latkes and had a chocolate chip cookie taste off and then listened to music of both the holiday and non-holiday variety. I particularly enjoyed listening to this album. While I've always despised "the dreidel song" for its annoying stick-in-your-head qualities, this version was loads of fun, especially accompanied by video. Enjoy!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snowstorm Soup

I know, I know--not very pretty, is it? But it's tasty so read on......

We've been pretty much housebound for four days now. We were able to send the boys through the snow to the local beer and cigarette emporium we fondly call The Crappy Mart for milk and eggs of questionable quality but otherwise it's all about the pantry.

In honor of our epic arctic blast (the most snow in 40 years!) I'm calling last night's dinner Snowstorm Soup. It's a tomato-based lentil and pasta soup with a sample of all the vegetables in the house. When cooked together long enough my picky kids hardly realize they've consumed bok choi and sweet potatoes. They key was having some of last summer's basil pesto tucked away in the freezer. Hearty and warming, this is just the thing for a chilly, snowbound evening meal. Try serving it with a crusty no knead baguette and I don't think you could ask for more.

The recipe can be found here. I hope it warms you on a frozen night some day soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Another Bread Pudding

At the risk of overdoing it, I'm going to share yet another delicious bread pudding with you all. I wish I could talk about my Chanukah donuts but they were so weird that for the first time in recorded history, we had some left over this morning and that was with three teenage boys in the house last night. I don't know what happened but I'm blaming it on the yeast and moving on.

This morning, as I watched the sky dump white stuff for the third day in a row and looked through our remaining provisions I came across last Friday's challah, some heavy cream nearing its due date, and a few bananas. Just like that, a new bread pudding was born and, my friends, this was a winner.

I started with bananas briefly sauteed in butter, sweetened with dark brown sugar and finished with dark rum. I tipped these into a dish of cubed challah and topped with a custard of eggs, heavy cream, and vanilla. Another sprinkle of brown sugar produced a sweet, crunchy topping and my goodness, this was delicious! It was just the thing to have come out of the oven when my intrepid husband returned home after his two hour long attempt at getting to work. He never made it, but got to have bread pudding and a cozy nap instead so I think it all worked out for the best, don't you?
You'll find my recipe here and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


This is what it looks like around here:

There's not a lot going on and, apart from the frozen icy branches scraping on the windows, it's pretty quiet. The weather people are now saying that maybe we won't pull out of this as quickly as originally forecast. It's not so bad, though.

Chanukah begins tonight and we are well supplied with provisions for latkes and doughnuts. We're well supplied with candles for our many chanukiyot , dreidels, and gelt. I even have a few gifts tucked away and ready to go. As far as I'm concerned, we could spend the entire holiday like this, in front of the fire though I am looking forward to seeing friends later in the week after things warm up.

Here's wishing everyone a holiday filled with light and joy and maybe even a miracle or two.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cat Rescue 911

With a couple of notable exceptions, this has been rather a dull week as we spent most of our time worrying about the next storm and pretty much staying put. That's really the only reason I'm sharing the following with you. That and the fact that The Cat Came Back received a surprising number of comments. I guess my readers like a good Chet story.

I'd been feeling rather sheepish this week after I wrote that. Chet woke up from his cozy nap that evening and began whining to get outside. He's got some Siamese in him so his whine is particularly awful and we tend to obey just to make it stop. Off he went, and I didn't see him again that night. Or the next day. By Wednesday morning I was worried and did a tour of the neighborhood in the snow and wind. I talked to a number of neighbors, all of whom knew and loved him. But no one had actually seen him. I was trying not to worry and hoping he was keeping warm.

Today when I ran out to the grocery store, I noticed him out of the corner of my eye. I walked over and found him frantically howling from the window above the garage in a vacant house down the street. I'm not sure how he got up there but he was about 12 feet off the ground inside a locked, empty house and clearly did not want to jump.

I called the boys and they responded with astonishing speed. Normally when I ask for help, a few weeks pass before they show up but I mentioned Chet and they appeared almost instantly, ready to help. It was like Kitty 911 and they were ready to save some lives!

We hauled the ladder down the street. Chet wasn't any more enthusiastic about the ladder than he was about jumping so The Dark Lord, being far taller than I am, lurched around on the top of the ladder and finally dragged him down.
He's back in now and with a new Massive Giant Killer Snow/Ice Storm on the way (our meteorologists are having quite the time) Chet will be staying in for a while because I am not getting involved in kitty rescue in an ice storm.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Today didn't exactly work out as planned but worked out wonderfully nonetheless. A friend and I had made plans to drive to Tacoma for a leisurely day here. As decadent as it sounds, my doctor is actually recommending that I visit the sauna frequently over the next few weeks to aid my body's attempts to eliminate traces of mercury from my body but the thought of a day trip with a good friend sounded heavenly.

This has been crazy weather week so it was wait and watch until this morning when snow began falling copiously and we regretfully called of our excursion. But luckily I had Plan B which involved a visit to a sauna in town, a much simpler affair but without much in the way of driving hazards.

I'd been meaning to visit Loyly for ages and now I wish I'd gone sooner. I'll definitely be back, and often because it was like a 2 hour vacation. This place is heavenly, offering a dry sauna, a steam room, and a lovely, simple lounge area for cooling down in between. If you are lucky enough to live in Portland I'd advise you to drop in for a visit ASAP. The rates are quite reasonable and the expereince is remarkable. I don't know that I've ever felt so clean and well rested.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Winner

After a very scientific drawing, the winner of the Magpie Ima Biennial Crafty Giveaway is Mimi who will be the recipient of a lovely handmade gift. Mimi, please send your address privately so I can ship your little something and thanks to everyone for your comments, each and every time. I always appreciate you taking the time to respond to all my crazy posts.

I plan on making that little giveaway something tomorrow when we're scheduled to be snowed in. I love that 1/2" of snow is enough to call a snow day here in Portland. It's OK. I need the time to recover from today's 3 hour and 45 minute dental ordeal. After saving up $2000 over the last year, I finally took the plunge and had all of my old amalgam fillings removed and replaced with a safer alternative. Since I'd already lost three fillings in the last couple of years, I think it's safe to assume that they were all starting to break down and would eventually need to be replaced anyway if I hope to keep my teeth.

But what really drove me to take this big, terrifying, expensive step was simply this: my doctor believes that the trigger for my Grave's Disease may well be toxic mercury exposure as the amalgam fillings placed in my teenage years begin to break down. Numerous studies indicate mercury's negative impact on thyroid function, especially in relation to autoimmune disease. The arguments for ridding my body of mercury were very persuasive even though I knew it would be huge for me.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up. At the very least, I've proactively dealt with the inevitable deterioration of decades old fillings and replaced them with a far safer alternative material. And...hello? I sat there for nearly four hours while eleven fillings were replaced. That's something right there given my dental phobias-- a huge step, really.

But wouldn't it be something if clearing my body of toxins actually stopped this stupid disease in its tracks? I would so love to have my body return to normal and my old energy back.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Cat Came Back

As anyone in the Portland area knows it is cold right now. The streets are icy, school and piano lessons were canceled today, and anyone who could stayed put since we Portlanders are simply unaccustomed to a normal winter as other people understand it.

I've been worrying about some of my plants. I know my little daphne isn't terribly hardy so it's got an upended landry basket as a shelter. Our fig protection blew apart in the wind so I'm hoping they'll tough it out. And I really hope my blueberry bushes, finally productive, won't be harmed.

But what I worried most about was Chet. Formally known as Chester, the big orange male tabby who showed up here a few years ago and declared it home has refused to come in the house for months. He wandered out about the time Miss Chutki showed up. Once the balance shifted to 3 female cats I think he decided not to stick around as the lone male cat.

He's mostly been hanging around the apartments across the street along with a bunch of scruffy looking unkempt toms. I'd call him and he'd either ignore me or run away which made me terribly sad since I'm quite fond of the big dope. He's big and strong and loud and makes his feelings known. There's no way to have him in the house if he doesn't want to be here.

Since the Big Chill started I've seen Chet hanging around our patio. I put out food and made up a nice nest for him which haven't been touched. This afternoon I found him huddling by the basement window and, despite his protests, dragged him in the house. He headed straight for the food, wandered around nervously, and then settled down in his old place on the rocking chair. I kept my distance all afternoon but finally went over to give him a little love. He growled a bit and then, I guess realizing who I was, started licking my hand, rubbing his face on me and, yes, purring the mighty purr I hadn't heard in months. I'm so happy to have him back.

I think he looks happy to be here as well.

Rice Pudding for a Chilly Day

I'm not a very enthusiastic meat eater mostly because I don't much like the smell of cooking flesh or the way most meat feels in my mouth and this meat has never really been part of my cooking repertoire. As we transitioned to a kosher kitchen, meat meals came to mean more fuss and trickier meal planning. The laws of kashrut forbid mixing meat and dairy and thus we have two sets of dishes, utensils, and cookware. And meat meals tend to be followed by not so spectacular desserts given that there can be no butter, cream, or other dairy products.

I could never eat meat again and be just fine but when my growing children request it, I try to respect their wishes, which is how I ended up with a 5 lb organic free range (but not kosher) chicken in my cart on Friday. The same chicken spent a couple of hours roasting to perfection after being rubbed with fresh rosemary, olive oil, and tangerine juice and was declared delicious by everyone except me. This time around, oh irony of ironies, I was the picky one! We followed the meal with my non-dairy dessert standby: apple charlotte.

The leftover chicken became part of a stir-fry the next night but when the dessert request came I was stumped. But only briefly. I thought a coconut milk rice pudding with Indian spices might be just the thing and set about coming up with a recipe by combining elements from Claudia Roden and this recipe from the web. Coconut milk makes a fine alternative to milk without all the weird additives in most milk substitutes. This dish takes a bit of patience since it calls for cooking the rice in the milk rather than working with leftover rice as in many rice pudding recipes. But the result is lovely: thick and creamy and slightly exotic and perfect with a steaming mug of masala chai on a chilly night. You'll find the recipe here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winter is Here!

The long-predicted Great Winter Storm finally arrived and we awoke to maybe an inch of snow on the ground. Not enough to make even a puny little snowman, much to the dismay of my disappointed daughter. But it is cold.

We went round and round about whether or not to go out. I'd been looking forward to the Crafty Wonderland Super Colossal Holiday Sale for weeks and was not about to let a little chill slow me down so we suited up--most of us, anyway. The Dark Lord declared us nuts and settled down with a good book while the rest of us trudged off through the snowy streets to the nearby light rail station.

It was a good day to not be driving and we hopped off at our destination in no time. Crafty Wonderland is a monthly gathering of artisans that relocated to the huge and impersonal convention center for their big December sale. There is so much to see, so much beauty, and so much inspiration for anyone who likes to make things. Luckily they set up a hands-on craft table for those who can't wait to get home

I found myself wishing for a much heftier income than our perfectly comfortable family has. So many lovely, lovely things. We picked up a couple of small treats but I was mostly there to feast my eyes and fill my head with ideas as I love nothing more than to see what other people are making.
Our perfectly timed trip into the city was balanced by a less than ideal trip home which involved malfunctioning trains and a great deal of waiting, most of which was, mercifully, not outdoors. Given that we were packed like sardines into train cars that mostly didn't move for nearly 2 hours, I felt people showed remarkably good humor. The local news even popped in at one point to film our remarkable good humor. I called home ahead of time and had The Dark Lord heat up the very tasty cider which I am now drinking (with a slug of dark rum for good measure) and as the wind howls and blows the powdery snow around outside I must say it is indeed good to be home.

I'm so enjoying your comments on yesterday's post. Keep it up! The great Magpie Ima biennial birthday drawing will take place tomorrow night so make sure to leave a comment for your chance to win some genuine handmade crafty goodness.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, December 13, 2008


It's hard to believe but today is the second anniversary here at Magpie Ima. Two years of crafty goodness, random observations, cranky rants and more. I've learned a lot since I started here. I'd like to think my writing has improved and I know my photographs have. Better yet, my observation skills have improved as I try to put my life down in words and pictures to share with all of you. And I love the connections that have been made here. This blog had brought me new friends from around the world and strengthened real-life friendships as well. I really enjoy looking for things to share, tweaking my posts to get them just so and what I really love love love are your thoughtful and witty comments, each of which makes me feel like a rock star.

So, in honor of this auspicious occasion, I'm doing a birthday giveaway. The lucky winner will receive a genuine handcrafted gift which shall remain a mystery until it arrives. Here's all you have to do to enter this thrilling contest: leave a comment letting me know which of the more than 300 posts I've published is your favorite and why. I'll randomly draw a name from the comments and inform the lucky winner on December 15th.

Thanks to all of you who make my day when you come to visit.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Silver Lining

The upside of being sick all week is that I had countless hours to work on the ripple blanket which is now big enough to keep me and my fluffy assistant warm as I work on it. It's grown quite a bit over the last few days and it might even be done--I haven't decided yet. It's a decidedly non-symmetrical thing--I'm hoping a good blocking will curb its trapezoidal tendencies but really, who will care when snuggled beneath its wooly, colorful waves? It's been a very enjoyable project but I think it created more odd balls of yarn than it used. Which means, of course, that another ripple afghan can't be far off.

They're predicting A Great Big Winter Storm here in Portland over the next few days and the kid in me is thrilled. Here's hoping all my local readers stay cozy and warm, kind of like these two:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This is not looking good.

Apart from a little election night giddiness during which I pretty much decided to suspend disbelief, I've always expressed some hesitation in wholeheartedly supporting Obama here on this blog. I've watched as he's made his cabinet picks many of whom are recycled Clintonistas if not actual Clintons. Change? I don't think so.

Some of the possible appointees being considered are baffling to me. My friend Liz has written about the proposed nominees for Secretary of Agriculture here and does a great job of explaining why the position is so important and how to speak up in support of people who could have a huge, positive impact on national food policy.

Today I read that Obama is considering Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. Klein's background is in law, not education. He's been neither a teacher nor an administrator.

As Greg Palast points out in his excellent post on this topic,
Klein is as qualified to run the Department of Education as Dick Cheney is to dance in Swan Lake.
He was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomboerg to run the NYC schools in the hopes that Kelin could rung the schools like a business. Half the kids in NYC have failed to graduate high school under his watch, test scores have flatlined (or worse since he's been accused of monkeying around with the numbers) , and he's wasted millions of dollars on consultants with no real positive outcome. Basically Klein has been a disaster for the New York City schools.

Didn't we vote for change? Why in the world is Obama considering for Secretary of Education a man who pretty much embodies everything that is wrong with Bush's education policies? All I can figure is he doesn't want to look like he's beholden to the teachers unions. Except, damn it, he is. Every teacher I know worked to get Obama elected because we wanted a change from the drudgery and failure that came with NCLB.

I am so angry about this as teacher, as a parent of a school aged child, and as a taxpayer. I am desperately hoping Obama will live up to his promise and appoint someone with a real record of success and a broad knowledge of education to this post and start to undo the damage the the Bush administration has done to our children. Jonathan Kozol, recipient of the 1988 Award.Image via Wikipedia

My suggestion? How about someone like Jonathan Kozol, a widely respected educator with decades of experience, in-depth knowledge, and a genuine heartfelt passion for teaching? That's the kind of change I want to see.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Top 10

I feel so much better now. I still have the drippy nose, manly voice, and splitting headache but I just got one of these from Elisheva over at Ragamuffin Studies who is both an excellent writer and, bless her heart, one of my most consistent commenters. Also we started blogging almost exactly at the same time which I think is pretty cool although I'm fully aware that my writing has yet to reach the quality of hers. But who's comparing?

Apparently there are rules and the rules say I am supposed to link to 10 of my favorite blogs. Only ten? I currently have nearly 150 subscriptions in Google Reader so 10 seems rather sparse. I will attempt to give you my short list but don't feel bad if you don't see your blog listed here because picking a favorite blog is kind of like picking a favorite color--pretty much impossible as far as I'm concerned and it kind of depends on the day and my mood.

So for today, and my current mood:

Even with a limit of 10 there's a pretty wide range here from bikes to Bollywood, from food to food policy, and of course lots of making things. I hope you find a new favorite here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sniffle. Drip. Repeat.

The only good news about this evil head cold is that I should be over it by the time my 3 week break starts on Friday. This is a bad one. Even my dreaded tonic has failed to stop it. I did virtually nothing nothing all day other than discover that I can now watch movies instantly on Netflix thanks to our upgraded DSL. Isn't technology wonderful? If only it could cure the common cold...

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Very Long Novel

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but in and around the knitting and the sewing and the cooking and the parenting I have been reading A Suitable Boy, a novel I’ve tried to read numerous times over the years.

The first attempts involved library copies but at nearly 1500 pages, I simply ran out of time before the due date. Also—nearly 1500 pages—kind of large. While pregnant with The Princess, my belly made a good giant-hardback-novel-holder but after her arrival I decided to try again with a purchased paperback. Also not so easy to hold. And as a sleep deprived, constantly nursing mother, I had a hard time paying attention to the numerous characters, main plot lines, lesser plot lines, and hundreds of minor characters. Did I mention that this is a long book?

After a couple of years of watching Bollywood movies, I thought I might give it another try. Complex 3 hour sagas are not bad training for a book like this. I started reading again in August have been reading (albeit with numerous side reads) ever since. It turns out that it’s a wonderful book. Complex, yes, but beautifully written, skillfully paced, and almost never dull. I confess to skimming a couple of the courtroom scenes but otherwise I really enjoyed the book and loved immersing myself in the story for hours at a time.

Even so, I am delighted to report that my 4+month reading marathon is over. No more sore wrists. No more backtracking to figure out what was going on when I nodded off the night before. No more smartass comments from the man who sleeps in my bed. No more feeling guilty about my little trysts with other authors. I have finished what appears to be either the longest novel ever written in English or the longest novel in the English language published in a single volume depending on who you believe. I expected heavenly choirs and flashes of golden light. No such luck, unfortunately. Still it seems like some kind of celebration is in order. Ideas?

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pure Luxury

A person who is very dear to me cannot wear wool. For a knitter that's something of a tragedy but there are sheep-free fiber options out there. My favorite by far is silk, especially a loosely spun yarn that's squishy and soft and utterly delightful. I've never knitted anything for myself from this lovely yarn as it's super-expensive but I feel like it's a completely justifiable luxury for people I love.
Using a simple but pretty rib pattern I found in Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns I designed what I think is a lovely scarf. The silk is such a delight to knit with and the project is flying along.
I'm hoping its recipient will love it but, if not, it makes a nice resting place for the formerly wanton Miss Chutki, the feline teen mother we took in last summer. She takes a lot of daytime naps since she spends most nights crashing around, chirping at her toys and making a surprising amount of racket. It's a lucky cat who gets to rest her pretty little head on pure silk!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]