I can see you from here

Ship Island

So I did a thing, I turned 42 this year. We were in Louisiana visiting David’s family and friends. For my birthday David took me out to Ship Island, a place that means so much to me. We walked up the beach until we found a quiet spot away from the crowd. We swam and ate and played. This time I put on my goggles and snorkel and went to float on my belly. The world became silent and close. David grabbed my feet and floated me around as I relaxed in my oceanic cocoon.

When we got back to David’s parents house we found that his mom had set up a little birthday dinner complete with brownies and 2 kinds of ice cream.

Birthdays after about 36 or 37 don’t really seem to matter as much unless it’s a ‘milestone’, like 40. I turned 42 and it wasn’t a big deal but also it was perfect.

As a bit of a side note… there was almost no life in the waters where we were swimming. No crabs, maybe 2 comb jellies, no periwinkles on the beach. A sheepshead fish followed us a bit but there was nothing to stir up for him to eat. Weird? Sad?

An Order of Protection pt2

From Maddie’s perspective she has 2 jobs. One is to get as many be-bys (as in be by me. be-bys) as possible with me and to keep me safe. She guards me, she puts herself between me and the world and she does an excellent job. She has earned many peanut butter biscuits for her efforts. And this is what I see…

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I see her little piggo tail, it’s how I know I am safe.

This is what I see when I build a blanket fort in the living room
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This is what I see when I am cleaning the kitchen
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This is what I see when I am cooking dinner
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This is what I see when Maddie isn’t quite sure about what’s going on
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This is what I see when I am peeing
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This is what I see a year later when Maddie suddenly got old and her skin super rumpled
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This is what I see when I take too long in the bathroom
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This is what I see when I go camping
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This is what I see when I am spinning yarn on Kristen’s back porch
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This is what I see when we go on a picnic
Maddie guards our most precious campsite

This is what I see when we move into a brand new apartment
Maddie doing what she does

This is what David sees when I take a shower
The Guard

This is what David sees when I take a shower while on vacation
Maddie guarding the bathroom as I shower

A year ago we found out Maddie has cancer in her bladder. I expected it would happen sooner or later, she’s an old dog. We took her off the prednisone put her on piroxicam because it’s good at reducing inflammation. The tumor in her bladder was causing constant bladder infections and piroxicam can sometimes reduce the size of the tumor. I read up on it, it seemed like a 50/50 thing for shrinking the tumor and it would be good with her arthritis. Much to everyone’s surprise the piroxicam didn’t reduce the tumor, it got rid of it. She still has the cancer in the walls of her bladder but the tumor is gone.

I AM NOT in any way touting piroxicam as a miracle drug. It had a 50/50 chance and it worked out for us. I did a lot of research and I tried to be very realistic about what might happen on the piroxicam. I was not keen on switching her off the prednisone, which had kept her healthy for many years, and putting her on a new drug. I did a lot of research and worrying. But it worked and I am grateful.

Maddie is 14 years old. She’s headed to 15 years. She is 14 years old and she has cancer in her bladder, she is losing some control over her back legs, she a little noodly in the head sometimes. She is Maddie

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Handshakes

As I have mentioned before, I like projects where I have a hand in as many steps as possible. This one is special.

First, my mom sent me a couple bumps of black shetland wool roving. This roving came from sheep owned by my mom’s friend. I don’t have a great picture of it but it is on the right side over there.

backlog.

I have a backlog of fiber to spin. I know!

My friend Kristen lets me use her drum carder. A drum carder is a terrifying machine with a million horrifying teeth that want to scrape the flesh from your bones. Also, you can use it to blend different fibers so that you can spin them up together. I took the wool, ran it through the carder with some very sparkly bits. Not too much, just enough to accent it.

The Mayor's Wife

There i have it, wool from my mom that she got from her friend and now I have it and it is ready to be spun.

Pre-drafted:
The Mayor's Wife

Singles:
The Mayor's Wife, singles to be plyed.

Plied:
The Mayor's Wife, plyed

Washed, thwacked and ready to go:
The Mayor's Wife

I asked my mom to help me line a purse and in exchange I gave this yarn to her. It was the best thing, sharing this gift with her. And then for Christmas I got a most excellent present from my mom.

My scarf

My scarf

She gave me the wool, I gave her the yarn, she gave me a beautiful scarf. This is one of those projects that really mean a lot to me. I get many compliments on it and I love to tell the story. There is a photo of me in the scarf but also I am covered in dirty ice and crappy grit because I fall down all the time and a picture of me coveren in crap really isn’t something you want to see.

Pillow talk

I have a hand crank pasta roller that I thoroughly loved but I cannot use it anymore. Two surgeries on my wrist have caused their damage and cranking that machine would leave my hand numb for 2 days. I love my roller but it did not love me so much. A friend had the attachment roller and the 2 cutters for the Kitchen Aid and she was getting rid of them. I promptly bought them! Much excitement!

I used it a few times and then it was time to practice my ravioli skills.

So, first we have the cheese. If you recall I did try to make ricotta from the whey of the mozzarella I made. My intention was to use the ricotta for the raviolis and that would have been some sort of hardcore food ownership magic something something. But it didn’t work. So, what was I to do? I definitely wanted that specific ricotta texture, it was the mostly correct filling. So, I noodled on it and had an experiment idea.

I make paneer pretty regularly, it’s cheap and easy and pretty foolproof. Half gallon of whole milk heated to a soft boil (make sure it is a soft boil, not just simmering or scalding and certainly not a hard boil) add 1/3 cup lemon juice. Stir gently, watch the curds come together. Strain it through butter muslin, rinse, suspend and drain. But…but what if I added flavors to the cheese between adding the lemon juice and draining the cheese?

I don’t know, let’s find out.

For the ravioli I wanted to make an orange and parsley flavored cheese filling. I zested and squeezed a fat orange, finely chopped some fresh parsley and added salt.

Orange zest, orange juice, parsley, salt

Heated the milk, added the lemon juice, waited about 30 seconds and gently stirred the mixture into the cheese.

Paneer with orange zest, orange juice, parsley and salt

It worked! It actually turned out better than expected. It was pretty dry but we can deal with that. Off it went into the fridge for the night and I went to bed visualizing rolling pasta sheets.

The Science of the Best Fresh Pasta. I sat down with this and read it through a couple times. I’ve made pasta a lot with varying degrees of success and I figured it was time to come up with a solid plan based on knowing things instead of always sort of winging it. I had to futz a bit with the recipe because I suddenly found I did not have the number of eggs I thought I did and also it is just David and me and I didn’t want some huge amount of leftover pasta (and, yes, I know dry it or freeze it or whatever…). I cut the recipe in half and there was not nearly enough moisture in there at all (sometimes egg sizes are not consistent here). It was just crumbles so I added another egg. That helped but it was pretty stiff dough. I could make it into a ball but it was never springy or elastic, just stiff. And though I had the pasta roller to save my hand from the cranking pain I did not have enough pasta dough volume to be mixed together in the stand mixer. I had to knead by hand and that was not awesome, my hand ached. A friend pointed me to mixing the dough in my food processor and I will definitely do that next time.

Still life with flour

I let the dough rest and then I rolled and rolled and rolled and I paid attention and I took notes in my brain. I was serious about getting this into the smart part of my brain, not the inattentive and winging it part of my brain. The first few sheets were okay but as I went through they got better with more consistency and cleaner edges. I rolled 8 sheets from the dough. I didn’t have a good idea at all what size wrapper to cut from the sheet to make a balanced dough to cheese ratio for my raviolis. I ended up cutting them way too big. Lesson learned and noted in the smart part of my brain. I rolled the pasta down to level 6 on the rollers and I think next time I will only go to 5 and see if I like that better.

Sheet o'pasta

You will notice that there are no pictures of the actual ravioli. They were ugly, insanely ugly.

For the filling I threw the orange and parsley paneer into the food processor with the egg whites leftover from making the dough. That worked out well, no extra egg whites shoved to the back of the fridge never to be found until we need that one mustard that we never use and we find it and see the egg whites and feel sort of bad about them. So, cheese, egg whites, more salt and some black pepper. Zoom the food processor and then what came out was really exactly what I wanted. The texture was actually even better than what I had imagines, and the fat in the cheese drew some of the orange flavor from the zest and it had an excellent orange flavor. Needed more parsley and salt though.

I was not going to sauce these in spaghetti sauce. Instead…

I chopped up half a green cabbage, a big apple and a sweet potato
Cabbage, sweet potato and apple

Then I toasted up a bag of walnuts in obscene amounts of brown butter. I cook up brown butter a pound at a time and keep it in the fridge along with the fatback, bacon grease and leaf lard, I do a lot of fat type experiments.

Walnuts toasting in unhealthy amounts of brown butter.

Then I added sage, rosemary, cinnamon, allspice, ground coriander, garlic…um and some other stuff I don’t remember right into the hot butter and let that cook a bit with the walnuts. I emptied that into the big bowl of veggies, mixed it up and threw in onto a jelly roll pan and roasted it in the oven until it got suitably crispy. Boiled up the ravioli and served them with the roasted cabbage mix.

The filling in the ravioli was perfect, it was even better than ricotta (in my own wienery opinion). It was creamy and not sticky and the orange flavor was evident without being overwhelming.

There was not enough cheese for the amount of pasta that I made, I ended up cutting the leftover pasta into fat noodles and boiled them up with the ravioli. The individual raviolis had more noodle than they should for the amount of cheese in them. So, this means next time I do this I will double the cheese and cut smaller wrappers.

The whole thing could have used more salt in any of the components. I fear over salting things but I pull back too much sometimes. Also, a good dose of red pepper flakes would have been welcomed somewhere in there, but I am out of red pepper flakes (but my Penzeys order just shipped today.)

And here is Maddie in her special underpants!
Maddie in her special 'nunders