Things I’m Loving Lately: September/October Edition

One of the blogs that I follow faithfully is Annie’s Eats.  Mostly, Annie’s blog is a cooking blog…but every so often she publishes something a little more personal.  One of her regular personal-type posts is called “Things I’m Loving Lately”.  She recently published her September/October edition of this regular post and I was struck by how very similar and yet very different Annie’s “things” were compared to my “things I’m loving lately”.  Perhaps it’s the difference in our stages of life (Annie is a thirty-something with small children and a burgeoning career whereas I’m a fifty-four year old empty-nester waiting it out until retirement) … or the difference in our economic circumstances (Annie is a doctor married to a teacher living in a large city in the United States whereas I’m an accountant/software systems analyst living in rural Canada…and my husband left me years ago) … or maybe it’s just that each and every one of us is unique.  Anyway – take a look at Annie’s “things” and then read about mine.  I think you’ll see (and maybe relate to) the similarities and the differences.  Note:  I admit that I followed the form and content of Annie’s post when creating my own…and there were a couple of things that she loved that I knew absolutely nothing about…but when I looked into them I discovered I had a connection after all!

Knitting Bag

The minute I walked into Value Village and saw this bag I knew it was meant to be mine.  My old knitting bag had seen better days.  I drag my knitting/reading/general all purpose bag with me everywhere and my old bag was beginning to look like I had dragged it through the war.  I love the bright colours.  This beautiful bag was mine for the bargain price of $7.99 (that’s $7.99 CDN!).  Thanks so much to the individual who donated it!

Birkenstock FootprintsOh the joys of aging…!  Joints begin to deteriorate and hurt.  I’m afraid there will be no more “sexy shoes” for me.  These days, shoes that offer good support and keep my joints in place are of the utmost importance.  This past summer I purchased my first ever pair of Birkenstock sandals and I have to admit, they were ugly…but they made me feel good…and it seems to me that when you feel good you look good…ugly shoes and all.  I decided a second pair of Birkenstocks were needed for the winter but when I investigated, I discovered that the only type of even semi-closed in Birkenstocks available in Canada were clogs (or a work shoe for nurses).  I wanted something that would go with my jeans so I headed to Ebay and look what I found!  Loafers!  …and only $44.49 CDN including shipping.  Not exactly Annie’s sexy little flats…but between you and me…she’s going to be in Birkenstocks someday too. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!!!

Dovobet OintmentNow…on to the section about “beauty products”.  Fall of 2013 finds Annie donning nail polish in a lovely deep purple shade.  Meanwhile, here in Canada, I’m rubbing a lovely, sticky ointment on my knees and elbows every night before I go to bed.  Recently, my nurse practitioner referred me to a dermatologist to find out what was causing the dry, red cracking ugliness on my elbows and knees.  Turns out this old girl has a touch of psoriasis.  I am thrilled to report that this stuff really works!  Things are improving and I’m hopeful that within the next few weeks my elbows and knees will be pink and smooth once again.  NOTE:  You require a prescription to purchase Dovobet.

The next two sections in Annie’s “things” post dealt with knitting and reading. All I can say is…”back away from the keyboard”.  This old girl has been knitting and reading since before you were born!

SocksAnnie’s blog indicates she has a definite thing for fingerless gloves at the moment. My recent knitting focus, on the other hand, has been on socks.  Last year I made a few pairs and gave them away as Christmas gifts.  That prompted many requests.  Who knew handknit socks were so popular?  I promised that this Christmas, everyone on my gift list would receive a pair.  I am also making the cutest mini mitten Advent Calendar.  I got the pattern on the Ravelry website.  It’s called “Smitten”.  My goal is to knit one mini mitten per day until all twenty-four are completed.

SmittenI feel very fortunate.  Unlike Annie, because I am at a different stage in my life, I have time for knitting.  Poor Annie can only browse longingly through patterns and plan for future knitting projects.  There is an irony in all of this, though.  I finally have more spare time…more time to do the things I love…like knitting and reading…and now my eyesight is starting to fail me.  OK…now I’m going to insert a dirty word here…so prepare yourself…are you ready?

MENOPAUSE

There…I said it…that nasty condition that makes the female body dry up like a prune.  Everything dries up, including your eyes.  No one told you about that, did they?  When your eyes are dry you simply can’t make them focus.  Yes, you can put drops in your eyes but then you have to wait for your eyes to absorb the moisture…and you still can’t focus for a while.  BUT…where there is a will there is a way!  Personally, I have discovered that after knitting for so very many years (they used to call me Mme Defarge in high school…way back in the 70’s…and no, I didn’t disco dance…all right…well maybe just a little) I can now knit pretty much by feel.  That takes the strain off the old eyes.  And reading?  All I can say is “God bless technology”.  Audiobooks have become my constant companion.  Bonus!  I can read and knit at the same time!

I plan to check out the books that Annie recommended on her blog. I checked my local library to see if they had them.  One is on order and the other one is currently loaned to another user but I placed a hold on both of them. (One of the books is actually from the “Young Adult” section of the library…you know…the teenager section of the Children’s Library.  Won’t I raise some eyebrows when I check that one out?!)  Meanwhile…I just finished reading/listening to…

Books-the-end-of-your-life

No!  It’s not what it sounds like!  I’m not dying!  The book is about a woman who has terminal cancer and her son and the books they read and discuss during the last months of her life and how those books help them communicate about what’s happening to them without speaking about it directly.  I lost my own mother last December.  She was almost blind during her final years and could no longer read.  I read to her.  This book spoke to me at a time when I was still grieving the loss of my own mother.  I am thankful to have found it.  Plus…it provided me with a whole list of books I now want to read.

I have to admit, there were a couple of items in Annie’s post that I just couldn’t relate to.  I had absolutely no idea who Ryan Gosling was.  (No, I don’t live in a bubble…I just don’t get out much!) I asked the fellow I work with if  he knew who he was.  He did…and furthermore he informed me that Ryan Gosling’s Uncle Perry lives in Port Elgin, a town nearby.  Apparently, Uncle Perry used to be an Elvis impersonator.  Now Elvis…him I know.

The other thing I have to admit knowing nothing about is “hash tags”.  In my mother’s day, hash was something you ate.  In my day, has was an illegal drug.  Now apparently it has something to do with the internet.  Perhaps if I knew more about hash tags, more people would read my blog.

So you see…Annie and I definitely have some favourite things in common this month…we both got new bags…we both got new shoes…we’ve both been reading…and we have both been planning our Christmas knitting (I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do some).  Our favourite things are, however, different…a handmade tote vs a Value Village special…sexy little flats vs Birkenstocks…fingerless gloves vs socks…young adult fiction vs “The End of Your Life Book Club”.  Similar yet different…but isn’t that what makes the world an interesting place?

P.S. – Annie…if you ever read this post…please know that I sincerely hope I haven’t offended you.  I love your blog.  You are an amazing young woman and I admire you greatly.

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Digesting the Written Word

I love my local library.   The building itself is beautiful.  It’s an old Carnegie library with a modern addition on one end.  The original building was constructed in 1914 with funds from the Carnegie Foundation.  In 2003, the “great hall” of the Carnegie building was restored to its original grandeur.  There is nothing better than curling up with a good book on a wing chair in front of the fireplace in the Carnegie section of the library.

As lovely as the building is, however, my favourite thing about the library is its wonderful and ever-growing collection of books.  I feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m surrounded by all those volume-filled shelves.  And the very best part is I can borrow whatever I like…free!!  I visit the library at least twice a week.  I usually know what I’m looking for when I arrive (I find one book  leads me to another).  On the rare occasion when I arrive without a list of titles in hand, however, I head to the shelf reserved for new titles.  There typically aren’t any bestsellers on this shelf (the bestsellers are already checked out and usually have long waiting lists) but every once in a while I uncover a hidden gem.  My most recent read was Susan Vreeland’s latest novel, “Clara and Mr. Tiffany“.

“Clara and Mr. Tiffany” is fiction based on fact.  It tells the story of Clara Driscoll and her work for and with Louis Comfort Tiffany (Tiffany stained glass), son of Charles Lewis Tiffany (Tiffany Jewellers).  The story takes place at the beginning of the 20th Century in New York City.  The world was changing and so was the role of women in the world.  Through Clara we learn of the struggles of women to pursue and maintain a career.  We also learn of the significant contribution of Clara Driscoll and the “Tiffany girls” to the art of stained glass, in particular the development of the Tiffany lamp.  The Tiffany girls had to maintain a high moral standard both on and off the job.  Any deviation threatened the existence of the entire women’s department.  At one point in the novel, Clara discovers  that two of the women in her department have been spending time in the company of a married man after business hours.  If this serious indiscretion is discovered by the management of Tiffany Glass, Clara is certain the women’s department will be dissolved.  In order to have a private talk with the women in question, Clara arranges to take them out for lunch.  They enjoy a meal of “chicken hash” with applesauce and cornbread and ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert.

I don’t know about you, but reading about food makes me hungry and when I read Clara’s description of her lunch-time meal I decided I wanted to recreate it.  Cornbread and applesauce were easy enough make.  Even the ice cream and chocolate sauce weren’t new (thanks to David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop).  I have noticed a lot of posts recently on Foodbuzz regarding “vintage” recipes.  Clara had enjoyed her chicken hash in the first decade of the 20th century.  That meant I definitely needed a vintage recipe.  I headed to my cookbook shelf and there nestled between Fannie Farmer and the St. Stanislaus Church cookbook was a notebook filled with recipes that were definitely vintage.  It was my mother’s high school notebook from her “Household Science” class, circa 1933-34.  In it I found the following recipe for “Brown Hash”.

Mom’s recipe provided me with the general idea for creating hash.  I modified it slightly to create a 21st century version of Clara’s chicken hash.  I took 2 cups of cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces.  I processed it for a few seconds in my food processor until it was roughly chopped.  I combined the chopped chicken with 2 cups of mashed potatoes (I mash my potatoes with a potato masher to leave them with a “mealy” consistency…the way my Irish grandfather said potatoes should be mashed), a bit of chopped onion and just enough gravy to give it a bit of flavour (about 1/4 cup).  I heated the mixture through in a frying pan sprayed with cooking spray and coated with a bit of olive oil.  I served it with carrots,  gravy, cornbread and applesauce.  It was yummy…and I thought of Clara the entire time I was enjoying it.