Saturday, March 19, 2011
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people….
On this bright March, Saturday morning, Jim and I made our way over the mountain from our Nittany Valley into Big Valley, a haven of sort for us. We crossed the boundaries of our everyday work days by cresting the mountains that surround us. We drove through the Pennsylvania farmlands, breathing in sights of newly shorn lambs, grazing cattle, and freshly ploughed fields.
Driving out of town, I observed to my husband that the news weighs so heavily. The devastation of Japan is hardly fathomable; Jim commented he feels such insult to land and home of such a dignified, honorable culture seems even harder to comprehend. While I have watched with fascination (and a certain amount of celebration) the revolution rippling throughout the Arab world, the march toward military action in Libya feels ominous. I dread yet one more war….
On the Pennsylvania home front, my profession and my vocation—education (along with all other public employees), is taking a sucker punch (and I must confess I am still finding it inconceivable that we talking this way) for the financial shortfall of my state (as well as other states nationwide). The suggestion is to balance the budget on the backs of people who have worked hard and honorably for a living while we continue with tax breaks for business, who in many ways promulgated a gambling, lavish, live-beyond-your means ethos that literally broke the bank (okay, blantant editorializing...I know).
Yesterday, three teachers I respect all cried, the stress from a week of state testing tipping the scales of the weight caring educators bear every day.
I need the weekend to repair a bit. And a repair kit for us in safe, secure Central Pennsylvania comes as simply as a good meal...
Saturday dinner for us is always big meal. Matthew is home, and I enjoy planning and making a family dinner for the three of us. Tonight I pulled out comfort food recipes—Pittsburgh Potatoes from my Nana and meatloaf from Adele Davis, one of the first cookbooks I owned as a newly engaged bride-to-be. Ground chuck from Peachey’s in Big Valley, bacon and potatoes from Sycamore Farm in Pennsylvania Furnace, and onions, peppers, and carrots from our own CSA. Old recipes laden with memories, local food, the light of almost spring, and family=batteries recharging, well filling up.
Comfort Food Recipes:
Pittsburgh Potatoes (from my Nana Lydia Hueston)
(interesting…this assumes you know how to make a white sauce)
4 C. diced uncooked potatoes
small onion minced and cooked with potatoes for 5 minutes
2 C. medium white sauce ( 4 T. butter, 4 T. flour & 2 C. milk)
salt & pepper
1 C. grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ C. cracker crumbs
Boil potatoes and onions in water. Place in baking dish. Add cheese to white sauce. Pour over potatoes and sprinkle with cracker crumbs. Dot with butter.
Bake in 350º oven for 20-25 minutes.
Meat Loaf (from Adele Davis, Let’s Cook It Right)
2 slices whole-wheat into ½ cup fresh milk
When moist, add and mix well:
1 or 2 shredded onions
1 minced clove garlic
¼ C wheat germ
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 ½ tsp. salt (I never add salt to anything…years of cooking for a kidney dialysis patient)
2 T. chopped parsley
small onion and bell pepper chopped (I used frozen I had from summer)
1-2 grated carrots
½ teaspoon basil and freshly ground peppercorns
Mix thoroughly, preferably with fingertips. Mold into loaf in a shallow baking dish or pack into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle with paprika. (I crisscrossed two strips of bacon over the top). Bake in moderate oven at 350º for about 1 hour until temperature in center is 185º.
I only wish nourishing the body and soul of the world were as easy.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
This week, I spent my knitting hours working through a basket full of remnant yarn from former projects ( I recycle well, don't I?). Truthfully, I sincerely try to be one who uses up rather than throws out. Perusing my collection of yarn leftovers, I made my first pass-through, gathering up bits of assorted yarn to give to two colleagues who are creating a "recycled" project workshop, intended for a menu day during the long stretch up of upcoming PSSA days (AND that is another post altogether--No Child Left Behind and state mandated testing). Then...I considered the remainder of this yarn and thought--I could really recycle it all into felted potholders. So...I began knitting squares and combining colors, all the while relishing the fun of mixing hues and recalling other projects.
And finally, I put them in an old pillowcase and felted them....into potholders.
Surely, there is a metaphor here. You take what you have, assemble it, plunge it into the rotating, hot waters of life, and you end up with something solid, useful....and just maybe...even pretty.
Monday, March 7, 2011
One of the easiest and most satisfying things to knit is a simple pattern my mother gave me for a baby hat. The pattern is one used by a team of local knitters who supply the hospital with hats to cover tiny newborn heads. Here it is:
Cast on 60 stitches using fine baby yarn and number 4 needles. Knit 5 rows of K1 P! ribbing. Change to number 8 needles and knit 24 rows in stockinette stitch (K1 row--P1 row). Knit 1-knit 2 together across one row. Knit 5 rows of K1 P1 ribbing. K2 together across row.
Cut yarn to 18 inch length, thread on yarn needle and put through remaining stitches. Pull up and sew together and down the side. Use any color or combination. Trim top as desired--bow, pom-pom, etc.
(My variation: I make these hats by knitting in-the-round on double points. They come together very quickly--this one, made last night for little baby Bodhie, was knit in its entirety while watching Iron Man 2!)
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
My big brother turned 6o last week, so last weekend my sister-in-law threw him a big (really big!) surprise party. We drove to New Jersey to celebrate and that we did, all weekend. Saturday night was a family dinner, with steak, smashed potatoes, ice cream cake and presents. I knit Dick a pair of birthday socks to go with the gift certificate designated for his hobby--photography.
The next day, after church (where he lead the service and preached two times), we somehow managed to get him to the big fellowship hall where 160 friends and family waited to fête and roast him.
Knowing him the longest, I kicked off the roasting. It was actually more difficult than I originally thought to pull out only a few story snapshots about our growing up in the Eisenhower 50's and the Kennedy/Johnson 60's. We had a loving, secure, and (in our own Herman-way) magical childhood. I have always liked having a brother; he has always been scholarly, wise, reflective, loyal, disciplined, kind, and thoughtful--truly a man of God from a very young age. There has never been a day in my life when I could not say I was proud of my big brother….I still am. Happy Birthday, Dick. I love you...