This year's jack-o-lantern:
I'm filled with nostalgia for Halloweens of the recent past, during which I spent the evening alternately giving out candy to the neighborhood kids and writing flashfics for trick-or-treating online fan-friends. I don't have the energy; don't know how I did it then, either.
I have finished Hidden Figures. It was interesting and I am glad to have read it, but I wasn't enthralled. I realize that one of the factors in that was the lack of images. Most histories of recent times have photos and so on. This had absolutely none. I'm puzzled. NASA could have supplied a number of them, because you can find them online (examples here and here).
Next, I should start the book I just got in preparation for the Days of Awe: This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transfiguration, by Alan Lew (1944–2009). The author was a rabbi who was also an adherent of Buddhist thought: he's been called the "Zen rabbi."
However, I am sure that instead, I will start with volumes 2 and 3 of A Silent Voice, the manga I started last week.
We have had beautiful weather this weekend, but I haven't taken that much advantage of it. We did walk out for gelato (the Mr.: dark chocolate and hazelnut) and sorbet (me: grapefruit) yesterday afternoon at the neighborhood place (Dolci Gelati), and today we walked to Busboys & Poets for brunch (which has become a near-weekly habit).
I have just finished making 6 quarts of chicken stock. I think this is the best I've made. I used more or less this recipe, which I have bookmarked for later. The main difference between this and what I have made previously is far more carrots (6 instead of 2 or 3) and peppercorns (2 teaspoons); also, leaving the skin on the halved onion, which has an effect on the color. And darn I should have known that (it's one of the common natural fabric dye ingredients, for a golden yellow), and in fact, I remember my late mother doing the same.
The chicken stock is for matzoh ball soup for second seder at my sister's place this coming Saturday. I am the official Matzoh Ball Maker on our side of the family. The first seder will be at our friends Michael and Sharon's. They have asked me to bring a fruit platter, which should be easy, except that I will be working most of Friday. I will try to pick up fresh fruit the night before, I think.
And the Mr. is upstairs doing the taxes, because yes, it's spring. *sigh*
We never have Christmas with the Mr.'s family on the actual day, because our brother-in-law (married to the Mr.'s sister) is a minister (formerly Lutheran, now Episcopalian) and he is always too busy. So we've taken to having it on M.L. King Day weekend.( Cut for more and a couple of pictures of the weather )
In related news, I have leveled up in Waze and am now a Waze Warrior, so my icon on the map has a little shield. I go up very slowly in Waze because I only use it on expeditions of some length, when someone else is driving.
Also, I got a couple of late holiday cards in the last few days, including a very cute handmade one from Spain. :-) (You know who you are!)
I just had a serious medical procedure (on Rosh Hashana, ironically, but that's when it could be scheduled). I am on a new medication and on a greatly increased dose of one of my accustomed medications. And I am a diabetic.
I will be consuming a small amount of food today and some water, not fasting entirely, as is the commandment.
I still feel guilty about it. But that's tradition too. :-\
The family are all a bit hungover today after our annual pilgrimage to the Mr.'s sister's place in western Maryland for a late Christmas celebration. It's a trip of 154 miles (248 km), which GoogleMaps thinks should take 2½ hours, but it took more like 3, with backups caused by roadwork outside of Frederick and a stop for restrooms and coffee near Sharpsburg (site of a famous Civil War battle, Antietam). We left home at 10:00 a.m. and were back around 12 hours later.
The weather was great for traveling, as clear and dry and open as I can remember its ever being for this trip. It can get very snowy in western Maryland, and there are ski resorts, despite the mountains' modest heights. Of those on the list at the link, we drove over Meadow Mountain, Big Savage Mountain, and others, including the titular Sideling Hill (site of a dramatic road cut that displays the local geology in a striking fashion). Savage Mountain is also the site of part of the Eastern Continental Divide: the watershed on one side drains into the Chesapeake Bay and thence to the Atlantic Ocean, while on the other side, it drains into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico.
We actually spent only about four or so hours hanging with the relatives, eating home-cooked (for the most part) food (roast lamb and ham, baked salmon, and lots of sides and desserts) and exchanging gifts. On the way back, the sky was so clear and the stars very bright, even from inside the car. We made an unplanned stop in Frederick and had a late supper at Dutch's Daughter, which was pretty good "traditional American" food (heavy on beef and seafood).
Today we are all stiff and spaced-out: too much driving and sitting.
After blowing off our accustomed gourmet New Year's Eve experience (for very good reason, I might add), the Mr. felt well enough to go to Kat & Andrew's New Year's Day brunch, another two-decades+ fixture in our lives.
I wanted to make something to bring, and the main thing we had in the house besides pantry staples was apples. Several different kinds of apples. I found this recipe on Epicurious, which recommends using at least 4 different types of apples, so I made it. But it was intended for an 8-inch springform pan, and we have only a 10-inch one.
In a moment of rare mathematical thought, I realized that this is a volume problem, and that the shape involved is a (short, squat) cylinder. I found a handy calculator via Google and discovered that the volume ratios were 1 to 1.5. Well! The original recipe calls for 2 eggs, so this was easy-peasy. I did find some additional adjustments needed (our eggs were likely extra large rather than just large, so I needed to add more flour, and I had to extend the baking time, which I did in 10-minute increments, checking the cake for done-ness each cycle), and I also added a bit of cinnamon, because I like cinnamon.
The apples I used were a mixture of Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gold Rush, and Gala.( Cut for recipe, with my notes where I made changes )
The cake had competition at the brunch: this was a big year for homemade cakes. Those I could identify include a chocolate swiss cake roll as a buche de Noel, my late mother's sour cream coffee cake (made by my sister, in this case), what appeared to be a pumpkin bread with currants, and our hosts' daughter's blueberry tea cake. We left about 1/3 of our cake when we departed the party, but there was still a group of 10 college- and grad-school-age party-goers playing Cards Against Humanity in the front parlor, so we may never see the remaining cake again!
May our pleas rise to You in the evening
May You receive our cries during the day
And may you confirm our rejoicing by evening.
. . .
Is this the kind of fast I wanted, a day whose focus is self-affliction? Do I really want you to bow your head like a bullrush, to wear sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you mean by a fast, a day to obtain God's approval? Hello, this is the kind of fast I want: Loosen the bonds created by wickedness, untie the cords that keep people enslaved, snap all the yokes of the oppressed, and let them go free. Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless into your house; provide clothing for those who lack it, and do not turn away from those in need.
Then your light will break through like the dawn, and your healing energies will quickly spread .... Then when you call, God will answer; you will ask for help, and God will respond 'Hineni – here I am." - Isaiah
. . .
"And Adonai said, 'I have forgiven them [the people] as you have asked.'"