Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Money, Money, Money

I’ve been reading a really good book, The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford.  Starting with the first coins, made in Lydia in the fifth century BC, to our current venture into electronic money, the author uses clear language to show how money shapes culture, even civilization itself.  Fascinating!
For anyone in the Twin Cities area this coming Sunday, January 21, and interested in English coinage from Canute to Elizabeth II, I am giving a short lecture on that subject at my church.  St. George’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis Park will host me (I’m a member) between the services (8 am and 10:30) from nine-fifteen am until ten o’clock.  I will have my collection of English coins on display.  For a dollar you can also buy a cup of coffee or tea and choose from among a selection of really good pastries.  A sample from my talk:
Control of money belongs to the government, which is why the head of government in kingdoms is stamped on the coin.  Father Tom preached a few months ago on Baptism, on how the Sacrament puts a stamp on the new Christian, marking him or her as “Christ’s own forever.”  This leads me to come to all kinds of allegorical connections between the Sacrament and my coins, some of them, probably, incorrect, even heretical.  But still, Christ is the head of our church, and by Baptism we are marked as His permanently in the same way as these coins are permanently stamped with the face of the person responsible for their existence.  I find that a lovely coincidence.
Do come if you can.  The doughnuts really are good.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Boursin Chicken and Peas with Parsley Noodles

How is it possible that January is half-way over? The holidays flew by with a whoosh of activity and a smidge of travel, and now it's the new year.

Do you look back and see what was left undone in the old year, before adding it to the new year's To Do list? I do, and my 2018 is looking as crazy-busy as 2017 was in some respects.

I have started saying No. No, I won't sign up for another two-year term on a non-profit board (which would be a second consecutive stint, and my fourth two-year term overall). I term out on another non-profit board in June, right before our family vacation/reunion in Maine.

I need to write more this year than I did last year, and saying No is my strategy.

I did say Yes to Husband this morning, when he asked for Chicken Noodle. Not soup, not a stew, it's a fast and easy dinner I can get on the table within 30 minutes after walking in the door. Today I decided to fancy it up, because he's worth it.

Boursin Chicken and Peas with Parsley Noodles

1 pound chicken tenders, tossed in seasoned flour
1 8 oz package sliced mushrooms
1 sweet onion, diced
1/3 C chicken stock, or as needed to create sauce
Boursin cheese, garlic and herb flavor
1/2 package frozen peas
1/2 package medium egg noodles
4 T oil, divided
4 T butter, divided
Parsley (I used Garden Gourmet freeze-dried parsley)
Salt and pepper

Boil water and prepare egg noodles according to package directions. Drain the noodles and return to the pot, tossing with 2 T butter, salt and pepper, and parsley. Boom - Parsley Noodles!

While the water boils and the noodles cook, heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add coated chicken and cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove from pan (chicken won't be cooked through - not to worry). Add oil and butter to pan and add mushrooms, let cook for 3 minutes, then add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes before adding chicken stock.

Return chicken to skillet, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add boursin cheese and stir into stock and vegetables; add peas, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Plate Parsley Noodles and top with Boursin Chicken and Peas; sprinkle parsley over all. Fast, easy, and best of all, delicious!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

My First Project Revealed: My Needle Felt Llama

I'm not very good at following directions. I can write them, but I hate following them. Weird, eh?

However, since this was my first needle point experiment, I did (somewhat) follow the instructions in the pamphlet. They suggested that I divide the white portion of my roving, which is unspun yarn, into three piles. One third would be the llama's body. One third would be the head and neck. One third would be the legs.

After that, I was supposed to roll or shape the roving loosely into the appropriate body parts. However, I wanted my llama to have an armature, so he would be more sturdy and steady on his feet. Using a white wire coat hanger, I cut wire into lengths. One long portion was the tail, spine, neck and head. Two portions of the same length were the legs. These I joined with masking tape.

To make sure I didn't run out of yarn, I checked this armature against the dimensions of the finished product as listed on the package. It was correct, so I continued by wrapping my roving around the armature and then needle felting it.

So what is needle felting? Basically, you stab the roving over and over with a needle to pack down the fiber into a compact shape. Or in my case, you stab the roving, stab your fingers, stab the roving, and bleed on your project.

It's helpful to use a sponge beneath your project as a base, something to stab into, but only on those rare moments when you are not punching the needle into your flesh. And yes, I did a LOT of punching the needle into my flesh. I would get into a rhythm of punching, packing the fibers down, and I'd get distracted. (Tip: Do not attempt to watch your favorite series on Netflix while doing needle felting.) The sharp burst of pain from the needle implement would quickly snap my attention back to the here and now.

How did I do? Well, here's my finished product. I'll let you judge its merits. What do you think?

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Little Time Away

I have been spending countless hours every day as I do the rewrite of THE CHAIN GANG. Every day starts out the same. I go over a hard copy of the pages I’m going to work on. Often as not, I find something that requires me to go back and change something earlier in the manuscript. Then I move to the computer and start to actually redo what needs to be changed. The hours slip by unnoticed and suddenly it’s nighttime. The deadline is looming and I have a set number of pages I need to go each day to make it.

And then there was today. My knit and crochet group meets on Thursday mornings. My attendance is rather spotty. It seems there is always something someone has to have me do on Thursday mornings. They are a wonderful group and I always feel energized when I manage to get there. I thought I’d go for just an hour.

I had already committed to babysitting for Jakey in the afternoon. I did go over the hard copy of the pages I would have liked to have completed today while I drank my coffee. But that turned out to be the only work on the manuscript I got done, unless you count the perfect line I thought of and scribbled on an envelope in my purse.

The knit and crochet group was wonderful as always. I forgot about everything and just enjoyed all the company. I also worked on another version of the bracelet for the book. And since we meet at a Joann’s store, I got some more bracelet making supplies. It is fun trying all different kinds of cord and different stitches.

I brought along some work when I went to take care of Jakey, but who was I kidding. It was just Jakey the whole time. It is amazing to see how he is changing from being a baby to being a little boy. He was fascinated by the version of the bracelet I was wearing. The few hours I was supposed to take care of him turned into more hours when after his parents both got home we all visited.

By the time I got to my place it was too late to start working on pages. But I think I needed to take a step back and let a little fresh air blow through my mind. Hopefully, I’ll manage to make up for the time off tomorrow.