Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Slackin', Picnicin' and Pork Pie

Yes, yes, I know. I've been naughty. I've been away! I've had these challenges

  • Work putting the halt to any personal internet use (even if it's on breaks! EVIL!)

  • The looming audits from a customer AND a regulator.

  • Hubby being home.

  • Busy with two ORS events in one week.

  • Sewing!!!!!

  • Tiredness and overwhelming heat.

  • Lots of whining and excuses.

Yep. That about sums it up. HOWEVER, I did manage time to make a pork pie for the ORS picnic. I was a bit miffed at my decision to allow the butchery department to grind my pork shoulder for me. It was in essence just ground pork, and it made the filling sort of dense--I was supposed to chop it up finely not grind it to smithereens. It was still tasty though. I made my own filling; and used a crust recipe from Colloquial Cookin' a delightful blog of a French lady who really whirls up a storm dans la cuisine, if you get my meaning. I probably should have gone with her version of the filling too; but hey, you live, you learn. At least it came out pretty looking. See for yourself:

It was lovely. Really. The crust is SOOooo pretty. I used some cookie-cutters to make a ring of flowers and ivy-leaves just because it's always fun to play with pastry.

I brought a lovely salad of baby greens and carrots, and some cheese & salami with bread-- it was good. However it was massively upstaged by my 'picnic blanket date's mouth-watering offerings fresh from her pastry-chef oven (also evil) S-II (of the prior post) if you recall, is of the habit of arriving bearing cruel delicitudes. And she did; scones of three disgustingly delicious varieties, freshly whipped cream, jam, tiny little evil cheesecakes.... augh, it was sinful. The dense pork-pie was quickly discarded for melt in your mouth, crunch outside, crumbly inside scones with chocolate chips and hazelnuts... ::FAINT::

Okay... enough of that. It's nearly pornographic.

Anyway, here are some more photos of the ORS picnic. I stole these photos from a certain gentleman belonging to a certain Lady some of us know. ::smirk to the Lady of Portland House::

Happy week. I hope I'll post an office-special on Friday! Dentist appointment tomorrow. Eep!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cupcakes, quietude and seam-ripping.

My young friend Stephanie (S-II) came by on Sunday to learn to make a gown from a pattern. On Saturday, I'd cracked out two gowns already and hers was the last one that needed done before the picnic this weekend. I didn't expect her to take on the project so emphatically, and she got the whole gown done that day. I didn't have to do very much, and spent most of the day tinkering around with silly things like adding lace trim while S-II tackled the hard stuff (mua ha).

She arrived bearing gifts (see above... see again just in case you didn't get the whole effect of numminess). She is an accomplished pastry chef, which means she is inherently evil. We drank tea, had some of these delicious treats, sewed, chatted, mumbled, giggled, and had an all around lovely Sunday.

I have an office special awaiting watercolours, but since I am pretty much swamped until next week, it may be a few days before I post it. Either way... have patience with me. I'll be back at it soon enough. ;)

Steph (the older one).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Foiled and Used!

Yes, my ability to post new office specials has been severely hampered by some doom & gloom rumours at work. You see my company is clamping down on rampant internet use as another added reason and excuse to kick people to the curb. You see firing someone is infinitely cheaper than laying them off, so they have their minions out and about looking for firable offenses.

I heard it through the grapevine through a fellow geek in the IT Department that they will begin tracking individual user's internet time, and use that information when it comes to review time. Pretty evil, isn't it? Considering how quickly I can stamp out an office special, type out some fairly random post to accompany it, and be on and off blogspot -- I shouldn't really be concerned, but since they do probably log visited sites, and here I am logging on to a blog during my work day, I suppose it can be construed as my being naughty. Heaven forbid!

Anyway, that is in part made posting during the day a no-no, and by the time night rolls around, and I've got the dogs let out, fed, let out again, dinner cooked & eaten, dishes cleaned, a load of laundry done or picked up all the dog toys strewn all over the place, some eviscerated and their fluffy guts spread all over kingdom come... I'm usually not really thinking all too much about blogging. In fact, I usually remember the next day, at my desk, while sitting down with a fresh cup of green tea, thinking "This would be a great time to draw an office special.. Oh, waaait... Riiight. I have some new drawings but they're at work and unscanned.

OH WELL. I'll make do I suppose. Damned IT spies.

I grabbed my camera this evening, after I fed the monsties, and took some pictures of some of the interesting blooms that are busy showing off right now. My day lilies are in that stage where they bloomed spectacularly, and now he blossoms are shriveled and ugly, and the next ones are still all alien-pod-like... so I couldn't grab those... but here are two of my favourite delicate flowers that I adore.

This is my Crocosmia Lucifer. Loverly isn't it? The red is so vivid and saturated it's almost hard to imagine it's natural.

The Gaura is probably more common. Despite it being hailed as a great plant for well drained soil and direct sun, I have had very little luck with these plants. This year I just crammed it in the base of the wisteria pot this year, and hope that it'll survive. I've tried various colours and types of Gaura in the past years, including a really pretty variegated one that died immediately. As my Master Gardener coworker says; "more will die than will flourish." Thanks A LOT. I want these to work because I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the delicate little butterfly flowers that flicker around when there's the slightest breeze.

O.C. (Yes, Orange Cat... that's his name, we are Soooooo original, and he's not even ALL orange, he's orange in spots, and his orange spots are really tabbied up) has been coming back. Tonight, I went outside to take the flower pictures, and I hear the persistent, persistent meowing of the 'oh, I'm so shy, let me take hours to come to you but once you touch my head and pet me in the tiniest way I'll follow you around rubbing all up on you and meowing incessantly until your head explodes' cat. So I tossed some kibble in his little bowl, because now he has a freakin' bowl... Remind you of another post I once made? (being bamboozled on a smaller scale) and he just totally crammed his head in there and just hoovered it.

Then when me ate every last kibble in the bowl, he's like... PET ME SLAVE! MEOW MEOW MEOW... So I comply like some stupid robot, which he is just mega-kitty-delighted, rolling around, purring, stretching up his back in that Halloween cat thing... then he's like. Yah, thanks, later lady. Off he gingerly tippy toes away in his kitty-user way. Cats... I know there's a reason why I don't like them as much as I like dogs. There's a word for creatures like that in French: Le Profiteur. Or maybe Sale bête is a more apt description.

Either way, I always walk away from OC encounters feeling like I just threw on my clothes, stuffed my underwear in my purse, and ran home after that questionable one-night stand. Damned cat.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of Ravioli

Okay, so it's soon for me to be delving into the world of pasta again, however things just work out that way sometimes. I've been poking around online looking for ravioli fillings that really seem interesting, but I didn't want anything that would require a degree from the Culinary Institute of America to make.

I couldn't find anything that wasn't too plain, too fatty or too boring. Then I was at New Seasons on Friday, grabbing some little niblets to eat for dinner, when I noticed that they'd just put out some fresh dungeoness crabmeat. That sounded SO good. So I got a quarter pound of it (it's much expensive, so I went with a teeny amount which turned out to be just enough). I picked up a little tub of low-fat ricotta, and another little block of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

So this morning, I took out the remaining 4 segments of pasta dough, and set it out to defrost. I went about my business trying to organize the shelves in the guest-room so it can serve as my craft-central. Before I started the pasta, I made the filling. I plopped my little 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of crab into my trusty metal bowl. In went one egg, the ricotta cheese and some grated not-so-expensive Parm. I also tossed in a dash of ground pepper and a little pinch or two of salt.

I hucked that into the fridge as I always do. I then went to work and processed the dough into into noodles. I made short work of the pasta dough segments, turning them into wide (as wide as my pasta-machine) noodles.

Out came my the latest acquisition from Kitchen Kaboodle--the raggedy remnants of the price tag still clinging tenaciously to the handle. My ravioli wheel. I spooned some of the crab-meat ricotta filling into a ziploc baggie, and snipped off the corner, and used it as a piping bag to make nice dollops of filling on the noodle.

On the second one, I figured out NOT to put the dollop so close to the edge. :) isn't that mottled, grainy texture on the noodle just beautiful? I filled only half the noodle with dollops, and then I moistened around each dollop. I lifted the empty half of the noodle and folded it over the fillings, pressing down between each one to press the raviolis closed.

Then the fun part. The wheel slices a tidy line as it presses the edges closed with pretty notches. I made sure to run the wheel on all sides (except the folded edge). I got six raviolis per swath of noodle (one was larger and gave me eight)... so a total of 26 raviolis were produced. These are large ravs... at least 2" x 2". They varied of course... being hand made and rustic and all. :D

I didn't want to make a rich creamy sauce. I am trying to veer away from meals that come with a side of angioplasty... so I opted for a nice simple marinara sauce (as interpreted by me). I didn't want to make a sauce that was so strong that it would overpower the subtle flavour of the crab filling.

Some coarsely chopped garlic, some shallot, basil, oregano, and some tarragon. Just a smidgen.

Into the pan with olive oil. I sweated it a little bit before adding 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1 can of pureed tomatoes.

So now that this sauce is simmering, I set a nice deep pot of water to boil, with a dash of salt. And one by one, I plop in raviolis. I do them in batches. They take about 4 or so minutes to cook. I take them out and drain them in the colander.

I put some on a plate, spoon some of the marinara onto the noodles, and then sprinkle some parmigiano-reggiano on there along with a little baby ball of fresh mozzarella. Mmm mmm mmm.

The crab is subtle but you can taste it. It's not disappointing like lobster ravioli often is because you don't taste it. I was very satisfied with my improvised filling. Happy 4th all.

Happy Independence Day!

For those of you who do not remember, this holiday is commemorating that historical day when Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith saved the world. If you remember, aliens descended on earth and blew up pretty much every one of the planet's national monuments and historic sites with massive beams of obliterator stuff, and then the President, who was Bill Pullman, ordered a nuclear strike against the ships, and Bill Pullman's wife (who also happens to be President Roslin in BSG) bit the dust because of it, and they all ended up at area 51, where Will & Jeff took off in a ship into space to blow up the mothership full of dreadlocked aliens, and President Pullman gave a majorly cheesy speech before the crazy pilot flew up the alien ship's obliterator, and blew it to smithereens, and the mothership blew apart into a zillion pieces that burned up in our atmosphere and that's why today we use fireworks.

Happy 4th.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Happy Not-Yet-Friday! (It's Friday for me ::smug::)

Okay, so this office special is seemingly random. Okay, not seemingly, it is random... but go figure, one cannot always control what comes out of one's head... and the first thing that popped into my head when I was drawing (after I finished a rather cheesy looking replica of an Ingres pencil portrait replacing the people's heads with cat heads... but I won't get into that today) was the memory of my sister's sheep when we put Bob the Llama into the enclosure with them the first time.

They were terrified; except for 'Pruneface' the sheep. He liked Bob. He hung out near him all the time. But Bob, being a snooty, popular sort, didn't like any of the sheep; and spurned them on the most part. Instead, he buddied up with Chewy the pack goat, and the two of them would pal around in the fields, and every day, I'd drive up to see them both sitting in the shade of the oak tree side by side. The sheep had long gotten used to Bob, but still did their own thing on the most part. Except Pruneface. He hung about nearby as if the spurned loser that nobody wanted in their clique. Poor guy.

Sometimes I miss my sister's farm. Not often, but I find myself missing Pruneface, whose trust in me was hard-earned, but precious; because I had worked so hard to get him to let me pet his pruney sheep-head. I miss the Shetlands too, especially the little ones... and the goats. I really miss Bob sometimes, and his weird kazoo noise and floopy llama-lips. But mostly, I miss the self-sufficiency of collecting beautiful aracauna eggs... the wood fires after the stove got hot, and the privacy of the place. I wish sometimes I had that sort of acreage again not just for the sake of having a horse of my own at home, but also so Simon and Flower can run until their little wheels wear off and I don't have to worry if they're going to get squished by a tourist in an escalade who's renting a nearby cabin.

We get real characters up where we are. Recently, we've had a snotty little spoiled brat whose mother rented her a cabin up the street so she could 'quietly study for college' while she taught at Windells; a camp for boarders and BMXers that's near where we live. She's a ski-champ; and a total spoiled-rotten brat, it turns out. The moment she had the cabin, the owner was phoned by all of the surrounding neighbors complaining about the speeds at which the girl and her family and friends were driving down the gravel road, the hoards of cars crammed into the parking area when she held parties (which was against the renting rules) and all manner of other issues. We're not close to the cabin, so we only noticed the cars going by at breakneck speed, arcing gravel and dust behind them in great clouds, and nearly squashing Simon once. She was supposed to be there alone according to the cabin owner, who lamented all this to me this week, but then mom appeared to 'visit', she came to stay, with the girl's friend, and then her son, and her son's friend. This cabin is SMALL. It has one room with a double bed and a loft you can barely stand in. That's it. All of these people wormed their way in. Unbelievable.

Whenever the cabin owner went to confront her about breaking the rental rules and neighbor complaints, her mother was there to defend her daughter's behaviour. "She's a good girl, she's a good girl!" The ski-champ could not handle even the smallest confrontation, and would collapse into hyperventilation, and her mother would resort to panic; "She's got Hyperventilation problems!" she would cry. Wow. How does she handle ski competition? Hyperventilating down the hill? Please. The cabin owner was having the worst time trying to get this pack of stupid people out of her cabin before they destroyed it. They finally left yesterday... Thank heavens. The neighborhood is breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The problem is that people who come up to a neighborhood like ours to rent are up to have a good time. They have no sense of responsibility, no sense of ownership; they don't care because in a week or so, they're gone. So they are loud, dirty, obnoxious, entitled, speeders, destructive, pushy and all number of other things to make us resentful of them; even if they are the bread and butter of a recreational community like the villages of Mount Hood.

And now it's 4th of July weekend. I can look forward to driving home in a gridlock of RVs, SUVs and Subarus with stuff strapped all over them; heading in my direction; all crammed with people who don't really think about the fact that this is a community, not just a resort. I suppose it's the price I pay for living where I do. But at times like this, that 20 acre farm sure looks good.


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