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Archive for the ‘Just for fun’ Category

They looked so temptingly delicious; green and orange and red and ready! I couldn’t help myself, standing at the farm stand, looking at them. 

We had just finished the stuffed peppers; a meal and then leftovers. The second act of leftovers was even better than the first act. I felt like clapping, but, really, who claps for her own cooking?

I bought more peppers. They have been so firm and flavorful this year; I simply can’t resist them. Five, big bell peppers and a bag of the smaller, snack-sized ones, which are really quite delicious and make great snacks, followed me home. A few of the bell peppers went into a stir-fry, the rest were exiled to the refrigerator as they were beginning to soften. There they languished – until yesterday afternoon. A half-dozen or so of small, new potatoes, with dirt still hanging on, were sitting on the counter, along with some sweet onions and a bunch of freshly picked oregano from the herb pot on the deck.

I love cooking, following recipes, reading food blogs, magazines and books, but, I’ve been cooking for so long now that I often find myself just making meals up from what I know, what I’ve read, and what I like. Do you do this too?

I turned the oven on, washed and cut the potatoes, leaving the skins on, and threw them in a pot of water. While they rumbled around in the pot,  my afternoon cup of tea sat brewing. I sliced the peppers into strips, tossed some olive oil and seasonings on them and put them in a large, glass baking pan. I took the teabag out, dripped some local honey into the cup, sliced one of the onions, then quartered two Italian sausage links, which followed the drained and parboiled potatoes into the pan. Lid on, pot in oven, and teacup in hand, I settled down for a late afternoon read.

Our evening’s meal slowly roasted, the flavors melding together; a peasant’s meal that turned into a candle lit feast!

When Janice commented, on my recent stuffed pepper post that she and her mother would clean and freeze a bushel’s worth of peppers, slicing some, dicing others and leaving some whole, for the long winter ahead, I imagined the scene with a smile. I think I will buy some more peppers and do the same, and promise I will stop writing about peppers.

Do you freeze or can your summer’s bounty?

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I have her hands; the small hands of a girl. I can still wear children’s gloves. I tend to fold my hands in my lap as she did.

I have her hands – and I have her name. Penelope.  She never, ever called me Penny. I was always Πηνελόπη . Penelope.

While I have her hands, I do not resemble her, but, her hands, ah, her hands they are always with me. I feel them when I roll dough into balls for Greek powdered sugar cookies (kourambethes) and how I hold a knife when I cut vegetables for briami (vegetable stew). My meatballs are shaped as Yia Yia’s were – she always seems to be with me in my kitchen. I see her hands in my own when I water the flowers in my garden and when I pinch the dried seeds off of spent blooms. How I wish I had her zinnia seeds, which she carefully harvested and placed in different colored tissues, then tied them in little bundles with thread. Yia Yia could neither read nor write, but, she had her own filing system that allowed her to sow her seeds come spring in the colors she chose.

I wish I had the descendants of those seeds.

I am grateful to have this photo. It is one of only a few I have of the two of us. It is the last one taken before she passed away less than wo years later. She held her hands this way because they hurt. Yia Yia never complained from the arthritis she had. She would rub her hands to ease her pain or retreat quietly to her bedroom.

Dottie gave me this picture, about a year ago, before cancer debilitated her. It was among our mother’s things. Dottie thought I might like to have it, which I do, especially since I did not have this particular likeness of the two of us.

This photo was taken in the kitchen, on the day in June, 1968 that I graduated from Proviso East High School. The sleeves of my gown are too long. 50 years later, my sleeves are still almost always way too long. I keep hoping I will grow into them. I did, however, manage the near perfect “flip” under my cap.

Yia Yia looks sad. It is her aching hands that give her that look. I know she was pleased that afternoon. She was pleased that her namesake finished high school, and she was pleased that Πηνελόπη could read and write and would vote when she turned 21. Though she never indicated it to me, I am sure she was also a bit sad that summer’s end would find me traveling away to college. She never told me to stay, nor did she tell me to go.

Our television sat on the counter top , behind me, in the kitchen. Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, my world turned round and round in our kitchen. It was from the chairs around the kitchen table that Yia Yia and I watched the many turbulent events of 1968 unfold. It was at that kitchen table that I would sit, after coming home from school, and read her the news of the day. I would stop and pick up a late afternoon newspaper on my way home from school – back-in-the-day when we still had late afternoon newspapers. “Πηνελόπη, sit, Eat. Read me the news” – and so, I did, my fingers dusted with  newsprint, the tragedies, turbulence, troubles of the times passing from my lips to my Yia Yia’s ears. Sometimes, we would discuss an event or she would ask me to re-read a few lines. Mostly –  I would read and she would listen and we would be together, sharing the moments, me at the beginning of my time, she so close to the end of hers.

I treasure this image. My own world, like the world around us, changed dramatically in less that a year that followed my high school graduation. This image of  us, however, the two Penelopes, is forever frozen in time.

 

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How fortunate I was to have had these trusty engines stowed safely behind the driver’s seat. They kept me company and pushed me forward as I chug, chug, chugged along on my long ride home past farmland and forests, mists and moisture, sunshine and shadows in the peaks and valleys of landscape. At times it felt as if I had been dropped into a bowl of candy corn, the panorama of fall colors following me with views I never tire of.

While our Up North family has graciously travelled down several times in the past year, I have not had the opportunity to visit them until recently. Packed with pumpkin muffins and assorted granny goodies, I was anxious for a few precious days. I wasn’t disappointed.

One fine day, we spent a delightful afternoon on an island.

Nicolette Island is located on the Mississippi River which flows through Minneapolis. The island houses restored Victorian dwellings, De Lasalle High School, the Nicolette Island Park, an impressive pavilion, the Bell of Two Friends, the Nicolette Island Inn, and winding paths that afford amazing scenery and opportunities for young ones to explore, pretend, and appreciate nature. Our daughter and son-in-law, Katy and Tom, have instilled a healthy appreciation and respect for nature in their children and are to be commended for their efforts and example.

 

As we approached the Bell of Two Friends, we giggled a bit as the backside looked a bit like, well, like a backside. Once we went under and around the sculpture we were amazed at this stunning monument of peace.

Fall had come to Nicolette Island on what was a crisp, overcast day, displaying colorful splendor on this lovely island.

 

 

We walked and wandered, St. Anthony Falls and industry sharing the space, before crossing back into downtown Minneapolis and Penny’s Cafe.

 


The chef made our crepes on a large, heated wheel, across from the table we chose to sit. We all watched in awe as he balanced the orders, spreading crepe batter on the wheel, filling and folding, making sandwiches and other delectables on another slab to his right.

I chose a crepe fromage, which exceeded expectations! It was outstanding. Ezra, who chose what the woman who took our orders described as special, wholeheartedly agreed, saying it was special, as he energetically tackled his grilled cheese sandwich. Kezzie’s little stuffed fawn, stuffed in his special way, snuggled for warmth next to Katy’s coffee as we all enjoyed the food and the ambiance of Penny’s Cafe.

What a balm for the soul this little adventure was, with an attentive and caring mommy, two darling, inquisitive grandkids, nature and even nourishment in an establishment bearing my name. There were so many other moments of joy during my brief  trip; too many to mention in an already long post. I was grateful for my time with our Up North family and appreciate Ezra’s sharing of his engines as I wended my way home.

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It was surprisingly busy for a Sunday afternoon. Long lines at the counters and dressing room. I was in a high-end store in a high-end shopping center in need of a specific item I’ve needed that Nordstrom’s carried. Sunday was the last day of their semi-annual sale and a good deal was to be had!

I queued up for a dressing room, then to make my purchase. I thought about grabbing a quick bite in the restaurant, realized I was all queued out and just needed to head home. I walked toward the escalator, following another flow of shoppers navigating more lines, and approached the rolling staircase.

There I was, a smallish bag in one hand, a largish purse in the other, not well-balanced at all, with the optical illusion of steps before me oscillating downward in a “Now you see me, now you don’t” pattern.

I don’t do steps well. You can imagine my expertise on escalators.

I waited, a second longer than socially acceptable, then dipped my toes onto the outgoing step, grabbing the sliding rail, aware of the growing line-up behind me. I am the pain in the butt you do not want to follow on escalators, but, I am what I am (or is it I yam what I yam?) and stepped on, turning slightly  to see who was on the step behind me.

No one!

No one was behind me – then someone was. Detecting my slight turn of the head, a soft voice said, “You are fine. I’ve got your back.” Someone had my back! Wow! My protector said “I’m a rehab nurse. I saw your hesitation. I do not want you to be hurt and don’t want to have to take care of you on the bottom of the escalator”. We both chuckled, I told her I appreciated her kindness, and disembarked from the disappearing steps as they folded into wherever it is that escalator steps escape to. I tilted my head back toward my rear guard and said “Thank you, dear angel, for having my back”. “You’re welcome”. 

It is comforting to know that someone has your back now-and-then, especially on an escalator.

Has anyone had your back lately?

From YouTube

 

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We baked. We always do.  Shortbread, granola, a chocolate Bundt cake for Papa’s birthday. Still, there wasn’t enough time for this sweet young lady and me to have one last cup of tea.

This charming lad and I watched Thomas the Train and cuddled in early morning before breakfast before he turned into a thirsty Minion after he and his cousins and sister rode bikes and scooters round and round the front island, laughing and screaming as children do when having fun and expending energy.

Kez and Ez did what children in the Midwest do in summer; they caught lightning bugs (fireflies) in jelly jars, the lids with small holes punched out. Pure childlike glee at seeing them light up the night.

I am missing them. The house is quiet and the hours still, but, grateful for such a good week together with them, their parents, Aunt Jenny and Uncle Jason, and watching them interact with cousins on both sides of their family.

It is always nice to have photos to share. I hope you won’t mind if I do.

Our citizen scientist was quite knowledgeable about Monarch eggs and caterpillars. As soon as she heard me proclaim “there are two Monarchs floating around the front garden” she took to finding eggs.

Once upon a time, Ezra’s Papa (aka Antler Man) sat in this very same rocking chair with his own great-grandfather.

Whether riding furiously around in circles, measuring ingredients for a cake – or measuring who is the tallest, these two darlings brought smiles to my face and joy in heart. A grateful heart and big thank you to their Mommy and Daddy for sharing them with us this week.

 

 

 

 

 

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I don’t often see my name in print, even though it has recently gained in popularity, thanks to the actress Penélope Cruz! Ever since Penélope became famous, I have noticed most people can now pronounce my moniker! This is a most welcome development as I have spent most of my life cringing, not because I do not like my name (I do), but, because it is usually, well, let’s just say it is usually “butchered”. Pen-op-o-lee. Pen-o-lope. Pen-o-lo-pee, and more with accents on different syllables to add to the pain.

I was named for my paternal grandmother, a custom of many cultures, especially among Greeks. Even among Greeks, there have not been many Penelopes that I have known. (Okay, only two, and they were brief encounters, and one was my Yia Yia’s goddaughter.

So it was that on a recent morning Penelope appeared in my email inbox.

I subscribe to A.Word.A.Day, which is fun to receive and often enlightens or inspires me. It brings to mind a high school English class, creative writing. We used a small paperback book which I believe was called “30 Days to a Better Vocabulary” as part of the curriculum.

Back to my inbox and the day’s word, which surprised and delighted me – Penelopize ! Well, by gosh and by golly, that explains why I might procrastinate, put things off, stall; I’m really and truly penelopizing.

Do you ever penelopize?

Do you subscribe to a daily message?

From my inbox, with a few links:

 

A.Word.A.Day from Wordsmith.com

PRONUNCIATION:
(puh-NEL-uh-pyz)

MEANING:
verb intr.: To delay or gain time to put off an undesired event.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Penelope, the wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus in Greek mythology. She waited 20 years for her husband’s return from the Trojan War (ten years of war, and ten years on his way home). She kept her many suitors at bay by telling them she would marry them when she had finished weaving her web, a shroud for her father-in-law. She wove the web during the day only to unravel it during the night. Earliest documented use: 1780. Her name has become a synonym for a faithful wife: penelope.

Image source here.

Wordsmith.org 

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Oddly enough, Tony Orlando and Dawn have been singing away in my head lately.

Knock three times, on the ceiling if you want me,

twice on the pipes, if the answer is no

There I was, water raining down, my hair all wet and lathered up, when the water pressure slowly diminished until it was but a mere dribble. It would have been easier to rinse with an eye dropper. I somehow managed to get the soap out – and then became shower-deprived, followed by  flusher deprived- if you know what I mean.

For awhile, we were able to wash dishes and hands and use water by tapping on a valve, in the basement, two flights down. This meant we both needed to be in the house. It was, shall I say, an interesting “tap” dance in marital harmony.

I hesitated to complain, but DID, quite vociferously, in fact, to my beloved Antler Man, who had been waiting to shower for a very long time as he recovered from a foot wound. Instead of a shower he was employed in fixing the flusher (which I just wrote for alliteration). We did, in the end, need a new pressure valve and then, a few days later, a new tank. Thank heaven for this dear man who meets many such challenges and for our neighbor Rick who lent a helping hand and some expertise.

All’s well that ends well and a few more horticultural posts are perking away.

Besides being in a flush, I’ve been busy with family, gardening, and life in general and apologize for being absent for such a long while. I hope you are all doing well. For now, while I take another shower, here’s a clip from a movie I enjoy viewing every-now-and-again. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. It reminds me of our recent plumbing issues here on the Cutoff.

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