Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Baby

The Baby
Originally uploaded by By Jane.
What else is there to say....

Sunday, February 25, 2007

the Oscars

It is 10:30 pm EST & despite ABC's efforts to liven the proceeding, I--yawn--don't know how I'm going to make it to the end of the show. I'm already at the "don't really care" stage--and only one of the major awards (Best Sup. Actor) has been announced.

Maybe that's the problem. The efforts to focus on all the unheralded below-the-line categories is admirable...but ultimately tedious. All the SNLish bits can't make them less so.

Okay, the first good award just got presented, but I'm not going to: I'M NO SPOILER!!!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Heellloooo out there....

I'm trapped in a fortune cookie factory.....heellllpppp

Not really. I'm in an apt on the upper upper part of Manhattan. Think George Washington Bridge. Think the Cloisters. Outside it's cold. Dirty crusted snow on the sidewalk cold. Inside I'm wearing shorts and a tank top--steam heat is that good!

The baby is very very small, as is appropriate for a person who is 3 weeks old. He does a lot of sleeping and eating, with several episodes of intense looking at--what? He's at that stage where he seems to be communicating with beings the rest of us can't see.

I'm having a very good time...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Leavin' On A Jet Plane....

...a Jet Blue plane, to be exact. I am still one of their loyal customers, who can't see what all the angst is about, but then I didn't have to sit on a plane for ten hours. And hopefully I won't tomorrow night either, when I take the Red Eye from Sac to JFK. I hate the Red Eye, but it's the only direct flight.

I'm going to see Miss B and her boys and help her with them for a week. It is a working week, as I shall be channeling my mother and doing the cooking, etc. Miss B never got the Libby Treatment after giving birth. Her older sister did; in fact, my mother was in the delivery room when her great granddaughter was born. I feel badly that Miss B missed out, so I shall try in my own way to duplicate the Jewish mother thing that my mom did so well. She was always there when you needed her (and sometimes when you didn't!) and she just did, without asking how to or why or when. I think it was part of her sure sense that she always knew what was best for you.

I have spent much time and money in therapy working to get rid of such narcissitic tendencies, so my boundaries are clearer, which may or may not be helpful. We shall see.

Monday, February 19, 2007

And still another FO

This is a purse...you couldn't tell?

It is the "Two Sticks Aran Purse" by Barbara Selesnick of Keep It Simple. She did it in white and used two chunky bamboo needles for the "sticks". She also had a chain strap. I did it in a camouflage-y varigated yarn called Jumbo Merino, and took a set of carved rosewood needles that I already owned for the "sticks". I lined it with a snazzy cotton and put a snap at the inside top. And rather than the chain--which was supposed to come from a hardware store (?!)--I did an I-cord.

All in all, I like like it, although it is smaller than I saw in my mind's eye (which obviously can't picture 8" correctly). And the cables don't show up as well as they did with the white. And I can't imagine where I'd wear it--maybe to a disco or mosh pit, where the sticks might come in handy. The next time I go to one.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Figuring out how to post from my Treo-- getting ready for my Auntie Acts.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another FO.....a scarf & knitting as Zen practice

I bought this yarn (the name of which I hope I'll remember before I'm done posting) when I was making the poncho for Kayla. It's a rather expensive, hand-dyed wool, and in the end, I opted to go for a less expensive yarn for Kayla. Not, I hasten to add, because a still-growing 10 year old was not worth the expense, but because the yarn when knitted up felt a tad rough.

So I had this hank of wool hanging around, and concurrent with that is my upgrading my knitting book library, which also meant a review of my past knitting book library. There I found Zen & The Art of Knitting, by Bernadette Murphy. The book was published in 2002, which those of you keeping track will know is the YOTA,Year of The Aneurysm. (Or perhaps we should say all time prior to July 2002 was B.A., and all time after was A.A. But that makes it sound like some college-type degrees, and since I'm way past the A.A. and the B.A. stages, let's just refer to time as Before YOTA and After YOTA.)

I bought the book Before YOTA because Bernadette Murphy is a friend of mine (can one still say that about someone one hasn't seen or spoken to in five years?). But I hadn't, I must confess, actually read the book. But then YOTA interfered and knitting was not so much on my mind. Just buying a book that a friend has written is enough, I think; reading it is just icing on the cake.

Here we are, After YOTA, and I'm knitting again. And thinking how my knitting is a visualization of my internal process. That is, all of my stuff, my shit, my schtick or whatever you call it, comes out when I'm knitting. The same stuff that operates in my life, to good and ill, operates in my knitting. And this realization sent me back to Zen and the Art of Knitting, to see what Bernadette has to say about the topic.

So I'm leafing through the Index and I see an entry for "Judaism". Aha, I think. What can the Irish Catholic Bernadette being saying about Judaism? So I'm reading about Mitzvah Day at Temple Israel of Hollywood and how Bernadette knit Preemie caps there and about the conversation at the table and suddenly I see my name. There on page 96 am I--and I didn't know it. Or maybe I did, but forgot due to YOTA.

I got very excited with no one but D to jump around and point it out to, and we know he's not the most appreciative of audiences. Then I felt incredibly guilty that I have not kept up the friendship with Bernadette. Then I decided to make the scarf she describes on page 33 of the Chapter, "Feeding The Soul" in her honor.

The pattern calls for a 2x2 rib interspersed with knit every other row. But of course, I fucked up and lost track of what row I was on. But in the spirit of Making Lemonade, etc. etc. I created my own pattern of reversing the 2x2 and knit for an inch every three inches.

And now I've reached the end of this post and I still can't remember what the yarn is, even though Danielle told me last night. What she also said was that if you wash this yarn, it gets very soft.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Finished Objects

As opposed to UnFinished Objects (UFOs), which is my usual MO. This is a sweater vest for Bonji, Miss B's oldest son, brother of Seiji, for whom there will be a FO soon.

This was not particularly fun to make (sorry, kid) as the yarn was quite stiff, and I felt like I was fighting with it. Also, the idea that a small sweater is less angst than a big one is, IMHO, hogwash.

Still, I'm pleased with the end result. The buttons came from my mother's old collection of buttons, which makes for a nice touch. And the squiggles are crocheted bits that I needlefelted on. I am big into felting these days, as you shall eventually learn.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Story of the Stuffed Cabbage - Part II

My mother taught me to cook. My two earliest memories of being in the kitchen as more than an observer were when she had me preparing roast chicken. Salt and pepper it inside and out, shove a quartered onion up it, put it in a pan, stick it in the oven at 375 for an hour or so, and when the leg wiggles, the chicken is done.

The other memory is when I made dinner for my dad. My mother was away and that left me in the dominant female position, which I fulfilled with a meal heavy on food types that I liked, canned green beans for one, but also a new-to-me product, Cool Whip. I hate to tell you how long ago this was; suffice to say, Cool Whip did not start out in those cute little tubs in the freezer. It originally came in packets that you had to mix up. I thought it was, well, cool. So canned green beans and Cool Whip--even I knew that something was missing, so I mixed several different colors of Cool Whip. Blue Cool Whip as meat, yellow Cool Whip as potatoes, and red Cool Whip as salad. The green was taken care of by our canned beans, remember. My father was a peach, and I believe he cleaned his plate and may have asked for seconds.

All of this was a preamble to a lifetime reputation as one hell of a cook. Thus, I felt no fear when faced with the Stuffed Cabbage. I found two recipes, one in the vintage Good Housekeeping that my sister gave me when I got married [the first time] and the other in Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook. I used the first the only other time I made Stuffed Cabbage, which was back when I was married [the first time] and had an unfortunate mishap with the stuffing bowl and the dish washing soap, which tainted forever that recipe with the tang of lemon Palmolive. That being the case, I elected to go with Joan Nathan.

Nathan's recipe is unique, or so it seems to me, in two ways. First, rather than lemon, she uses frozen lemonade. Second, she recommends that one freeze the cabbage head for two days prior to making the rolls because this makes it easier to fold the cabbage. I followed her recipe to the T--almost. The only part I didn't do: Miss B is a vegetarian, and thus my Stuffed Cabbage had to be meat less. I substituted some product called Chorn (or that may be the name of the village in Russia that my grandfather came from). Whatever--this stuff is made of egg whites and other things and is crumbled up to look just like hamburger meat that's been cooked. I mixed the fake hamburger with the onion and garlic and rice that Nathan called for--and it didn't smell bad, but it didn't smell good either. Although how fake meat would/should smell is beyond me. Still, I must have had a frisson of concern because I did note the odd odor.

But I persisted and went on to the prepping of the cabbage. This called for defrosting the thing over night (can you see how long this is taking on the shetl--two days to freeze, one day to defrost, and this is just the cabbage we're talking about). Then I cut the core out of it and, as instructed, began to separate and spread the cabbage leaves out. Nathan is right; the formerly crisp, sturdy cabbage leaves were now, well, limp. They had taken on an odd coloration, sort of translucent, but with a vaguely plastic look. Kinda like they food samples that some Asian restaurants put in their windows. It's food, but yet not food.

However, they were quite easy to work with, and I began the stuffing processing with a kind of joy. I was channeling my mother; my hands just seemed to know how they should go, and it was a kind of Zen moment for me. Soon, I had a pot full of little cabbage rolls. I meant to stop at this point and take a picture so this could be an illustrated tale, but I poured the tomato sauce over them before I remembered that. So, sadly, my story is text only. I put the covered pot in the oven at 350 for four hours, as Nathan said to, and walked away, feeling proud.

You all know where this is going, don't you. I don't have to drag it out and detail the odor of burning tomato sauce, turning the temp down, more odor, more temp down, until after two hours or so, I couldn't stand it and pulled the pot out. Already I had some crispy critters in there, but I could remember times my mother had burned things and she just left the burnt parts and served up the still-good middles. So all was okay, I could still feel pride, and we would eat our Stuffed Cabbage for dinner.

Even up to the point when I served myself a portion of the Cabbage from the pot, I was still walking in my mother's shoes. I could feel myself holding the spoon as she had (and, truth be told, it was her spoon) and plating the Stuffed Cabbage as she had and taken a forkful as she once did and--.

These were not my mother's Stuffed Cabbage. I hope they weren't Joan Nathan's Stuffed Cabbage either. They were, in a word, awful. I don't think it was just the fake meat, although that probably contributed (Note: can fake meat go bad, because this stuff smelled rank). The frozen cabbage certainly contributed. It occurred to me that the chemical breakdown that renders the cabbage malleable may also make it spoiled. Whatever, my Stuffed Cabbage were gag-worthy. I had D try them, just to make sure I wasn't prejudiced by having dealt with all the ingredients, and he said, "it's not often that I can't eat something...."

He went out for hamburgers, and I stuffed my Stuffed Cabbage down the disposal. It was, to say the least, a chastening experience.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Story of the Stuffed Cabbage

My mother was known far and wide, particularly within our immediate family, for her Stuffed Cabbage. She was an excellent cook of that genre of Eastern European dishes, but her cabbage was among the best. It was a meal she made to say 'I love you,' and no wonder since it requires a multitude of prep steps. Stuffed Cabbage is clearly a shetl food, made by women who (a) are making do with the end of the end cuts, and the dregs of the field, and (b) have nothing better to do with their time than peel apart a cabbage, cook the individual leaves to a softness suitable for folding, and then spoon stuffing into the leaves and roll them up, put them into a pot, and cook in a sauce, which has already been cooked for some time, for four or five hours. They are also called Pigs in the Blanket, but not by Jews who keep kosher.

I don't remember the last time I had my mother's Stuffed Cabbage, but back in '96, she gave me a casserole of them. Frozen. To keep on hand, should one want a taste of Mom.

I did just that, kept them on hand in my freezer, tucked away in the back in their celadon green ceramic dish for oh, I hate to tell you how long. Far past the point when they would have been tasty. Far past the point when they would have even been edible. After my mother died, I liked seeing that green dish in the freezer. It reminded me of her, and it spoke to the fact that I was still, even in absentia, being mothered. To anyone who dared to comment, I told them we were keeping it to send out and have its chemical makeup determined, since my mother left no written recipe for her famous Stuffed Cabbage.

The years passed, and still the green dish remained in the freezer. Then we were moving, and among the many decisions of what reminders of my parents to keep and what to throw (yes, to some stationary from my father's last business; no, to his household bills from 1983), I was faced with the Stuffed Cabbage. I regret to tell you, dear reader, that it was also 'no' to the Stuffed Cabbage. I don't think I did the actually handling of the bowl into the garbage; probably I got my friend Jimmie, who was doing most of the heavy work for us that week, to do it for me. Probably I just said with a wave of my hand, "Toss it." I doubt that I made much of what it was, since he was already overwhelmed with the Stuff My Family Thinks It Has To Keep.

So the Stuffed Cabbage is gone, and I confess, I haven't missed it much. Until last week, when Miss B, in a swoop of postpartum something or other, asked me if I'd gotten the recipe back from the chemist's as she was hankering after Mama's Stuffed Cabbage, and could I make it for her when I came to visit. I didn't have the heart to tell her I had never actually sent it to the chemist, and I rarely have the heart to say "no" to her requests, so I smiled and said, "I can do that. I can do that."

And tomorrow, I will tell you the story of how and why and whether I could or could not.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Hundred Bottles of Beer...

...on the wall, a hundred bottles of beer.....

This is my 100th post. I'm working on abject triviality.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Red Tide Hits Elk Grove...

No, not the band (is there such a band?)--it's some schmutz in the water in the creek by my house. What is it? Will it multiply? And who sent it???????????????????

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Photo Shop Light

The thing about being a dilettante is that one must try out all sorts of activities, previously (and one might say better) left to the experts. The fact that I know nothing about a particular art form means little to me. I have that supreme parent-engendered confidence that I can do anything I want to and be really, miraculously good at it. This means that I try every and anything that catches my attention. It also means that inevitably I crash and burn and abandon said effort when--whoa! how did that happen?--the results don't look like I expected them to. Still, I have fun while I'm at it...

Currently I'm working away at photography. I bought the license for Arcsoft Photo Studio and I'm having fun playing. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm more than willing to share with you.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


For no good reason. Just because I haven't felt like posting. For no good reason.

I've been reading other blogs and commenting on some of them, although I have been a tad derelict about that too. There seems to be a low-level conversation going on at the moment about this commenting thing. It's rude not to. It takes too much time to. It's a way of participating in a dialogue because bloggers blog to communicate. No, bloggers blog willy nilly of anyone being out there. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But if I can't think of something to say...why say anything? Just to register that I've been there?

I wonder why I haven't felt like posting. Let me deconstruct this. Let me count the ways.... Let me shut up.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Gassner's Newest Greatgrandchild....

Miss B had her baby boy on Wednesday, the last day of January. His name is Seiji Lou. He looks, according to Miss B, exactly like his big brother, Bonji Harold, except for his ears. I'm not sure what that means, but I can tell you he has a set of lungs on him.