Galette, gavotte

After a long food discussion at Thanksgiving, Danger Baby and his wife sent me a Trader Joe's gift card and the I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook by Cherie Mercer Twohy for Christmas. I went on a fantasy fill-your-cart shopping trip to fuel a winter Big Cook, but not after reading the cookbook. So, when I did start marking recipes with colorful sticky arrows I had the inspirations, but not all the ingredients. And the first inspiration was the asparagus tart on page 24. Had the fresh asparagus from Trader Joe's and 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Two out of seven ingredients! We have a winner.

You sigh. You roll your eyes. Have I ever had all the ingredients? Have I ever followed the directions?

I love cooking with Google. Type in the items I have, and, voilĂ , recipes appear. They may not be tested recipes, but I won't follow them anyway. 

Asparagus + crust + cheese....   

Wait! Asparagus + refrigerator piecrust dough + Parmesan cheese + mushrooms + Meyer lemon + garlic + spinach ...BINGO!

Google results were for asparagus galettes. Galettes seem to be unfettered savory or sweet pastries made without a confining pie pan. How did I not know about this ridiculously easy way to make a supper or brunch? I wanted to dance a gavotte!

galette--a flat round cake of pastry or bread

gavotte--a medium-paced French dance, popular in the 18th century;  a piece of music accompanying or in the rhythm of a gavotte, composed in common time beginning on the third beat of the bar.
With a full tummy I drifted off into a happy dream of an earlier trickle-down era, the early '80s in Omaha. Upon awakening I couldn't remember the name of a favorite ladies' lunch destination beloved by my mom after discovery by  my Welcome Wagon club. The restaurant was done in lovely pinks and corals with white trim and not-annoying paintings hanging on the walls. Best of all was the dessert counter visited after soup-salad-sandwich with its amazing rich cakes. The restaurant was probably on the south side of Center Street, maybe Pacific, a little east of District 66. Fritzi's favorite cake was a ga- ga- ga- something with apricots. It took about an hour of searching to find the word "gateau," and I never did find the name of the restaurant (I am embarrassed to admit this failure):

gateau--a rich cake, typically one containing layers of cream or fruit.

Stumbling around in rich French desserts I got side-tracked by garrote. (This is not a French carrot cake.) The first time I read of murder by garrote was in Margaret Truman's Murder in the White House. Donald Bain, who died in October, ghostwrote some of Truman's mysteries, but not that one.

  • garrote--kill someone by strangulation, typically with a length of wire or cord.

  • But what of Marat? Did he die by garrote? He did not.

    Mystery readers mourn the loss of Sue Grafton today. While I only made it to "N is for..." I always wanted Kinsey's shipshape apartment and elderly neighbors.

    Thanks to Donna Leon and Louise Penny for another year of thoughtful, well-written mysteries.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Hope, park, purse, fly

    In a year-end display of flagrant optimism I purchased a new purse at DSW today. It is not a perfect purse, or a stylish handbag, or even vaguely appealing. It just seemed workable, and the extremely workable purse of the previous 2.5 years bit the dust.

    Yes, it has come down to workable. How will this purse work traveling through the TSA screener and under the seat in front of me? Does it have a cross-body strap? Can it be cleaned up with a Clorox disinfecting wipe after a bad Panda Express moment? Will it hold a bagel sandwich, a library book, or all of my prescriptions? Will it preserve my invisibility as a woman of a certain age? Please don't let it make a statement!

    The 2017 fiction audiobook that rises most often to mind is not the amazing Lincoln in the Bardo, performed by a full cast. It is Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Katherine Rooney, narrated by Xe Sands. New Year's Eve 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish, former ad copywriter genius, takes a ten-mile stroll around a gritty Manhattan in her mink coat ruminating over her six decades in NYC. How do we travel? How do we stroll? What's in our heavily-packed psychological wheelie luggage?

    I would not want to lift the karmic baggage of 2017 into the overhead carry-on bin. The stress of 2017 won't fit in the bin, and I don't fit in the ever-shrinking airplane seats. It's all I can do to stow my purse under the seat.

    Not to be downer Debby Dystopia here, but life in the Trump administration has been a drag on my in-town miles-per-gallon in 2017. Being hopeful, or at least staying calm, is an everyday challenge. That's why I love leaving the Buick at Park'N'Fly. 

    The guys who drive the shuttle vans have a unanimous appreciation for the 2002 Buick Century. They tell me I could sell this beauty for big bucks. They rhapsodize on its fine points and pristine condition. They ooh and ah about its mileage total. It's Mad Max meets Fidel: Road Warrior. 

    I drive off in my magic pumpkin coach with my purse of invisibility. Maybe we can survive after all.

    And hey, there's a purse museum in Little Rock. And hey, there are some Buick museums, too.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Ladling oatmeal with millennials

    Let's learn about work with Weekly Reader!

    Punch in: Tcheck in formally at a job upon arrival.
    Punch out: To check out formally at a job upon departure.
    punch time clock

    Hold the fort: To take responsibility for a situation while another person is temporarily absent.
    All hands on deck:  
    A call for all members of a ship's crew to come to the deck, usually in a time of crisis. By extension, everyone 
    available to help with a problem, or a call for those people to help. 

    Image result for Pony Express mail must go through The mail must go through.

    Work your fingers to the bone: Boney fingers 
    Related image Your job may be crucial for the greater good: Keep the ships from crashing on the rocks no matter how small you are.
    Image result for hospital kitchen traylineLadle that cream of wheat through holidays and blizzards: Sick people need to eat, and so do the folks taking care of them.

    Find your own sub: You are responsible for covering the time and the work you are assigned whether or not working is convenient.

    The show must go on: Regardless of what happens, whatever show has been planned still has to be staged for the waiting patrons.

    Just a tiny cog in a big machine: You probably aren't as important as you imagine.

    Another day older and deeper in debt: Tennesse Ernie & ZZ Top.

    Perpetual tardiness is arrogance: It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late. Rubbish. You are rude. And inconsiderate.

    Let's just get it out there: Working with millennials is not always a picnic in the park. I birthed and raise three of them, but most of the others are from another galaxy. Even so, many are amazingly committed to causes and passions, an inspiration to older coworkers, and a bonus to any team. Except when one wants to boot them off the island... Kids These Days gave me valuable new and often infuriating insight into how we created the Millenials and the economic situations they face.

    Bring out the hammock:  You didn't just imagine it. Our weekends have lost the restoring, relaxing powers we desperately need.

    Much has been written about Hillbilly Elegy and The Glass Castle. Jeannette Walls' book is the more powerful to my mind, bringing out so many choices we make about work, callings, parenthood, and personal responsibility. Do any of our choices make more sense, and why?

    34523218  The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Two Days Off  7445
    34186840    27161156

    David Brown's memoir is a powerful description of police work, but also a celebration of vocation, meaning and purpose in one's life work.

    The Promised Land of Error is a reminder that for much of mankind's existence work took up less of each day than it does in this time of labor-saving devices and technology.

    And now this Christmas evening I will hang it up without ranting about earbuds on the job. Be present.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Gifts for taste buds

    Inspired by Claudia Leon, a blogger who has lived all over the world and shares amazing photos, I got curious about preserving Meyer lemons in the Moroccan manner. Eight lemons for $1.99 at Trader Joe's was another deciding factor. Kosher salt and a pint jar, check.

    The Daring Gourmet recipe I used only called for lemons, salt, and water. I've since found recipes with cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel seeds and coriander seeds.

    Yesterday was so dark and rainy that spicy soup was on my mind. It's time for eggplant and sausage stew! Steamy tonight, and it just gets better by freezing it for future lunch breaks. This is how at looks before it cooks:
    You can see the tomatoes, andouille sausage, spinach, eggplant, celery, and white beans, but you can't see my addition of a parmesan rind. Take that, Blue Apron!

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    No knees, no hips, no shoulders?

    Major contraption.
    The TSA-Pre screener asked the question fast, "No knees, no hips, no shoulders?"

    Huh? I thought he said "sore knees, sore hips, sore shoulders," and answered "yes." How did he know I'd been sitting on the floor with my grandson playing Legos and Lite-Brite for two days?

    "No, wait," I said as it dawned on me he was asking if I was titanium-free. He stared and slowly asked, "All   original   equipment?" like I might possibly be hearing impaired. Nodding and miming that I was creaky but manufacturer parts only, he waved me through the machine.

    Our solar system and another solar system nearby. Pluto is far left.

    Remember when Barbie was unbendable and needed a metal stand? Nobody told us it was our future!

    Image result for schematic of Lego anatomy  Image result for Barbie doll metal stand

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    A leaf is to catch with a stick

    First thing on a walk is to find a very useful stick. A stick is to imitate old relatives with canes. A stick is to poke and scratch the sand. A stick is useful for pointing grown-ups where to look. It is very good for fling-flanging about in the air.

    A leaf passing by in time is for catching with a stick. A pinecone is difficult to catch. A stick is for emphasis when telling Daddy to find a rock to throw in the lake. A lake, of course, is for throwing rocks into.

    Picnicked on my lunch break watching a little boy and two grown-ups select sticks for hiking and for retrieving tennis balls from the creek. The perfect stick was elusive. "Look, Dad! I upgraded my stick!" Easy to download and install.

    With thanks to Antoinette Portis, Ruth Krauss, and Maurice Sendak.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Thanksgiving memories first and ten, Alps and zen

    Football memories in black and white on a very small, snowy screen--

    Football and pitted black olives on Thanksgiving. Corralling my siblings to make construction paper, toilet paper tube, and crayon holiday table decorations for Pilgrims + Indians, and Cornhuskers vs. Sooners. For many years this Big 8 Conference rivalry held the gridiron centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day, right after the parades. The 1971 meeting was dubbed the "Game of the Century." In my mind Jeff Kinney is not the famous creator of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, but the Cornhusker teammate of Jerry Tagge and Johnny Rodgers.

    1971 The Husker offense was led by junior flanker Johnny Rodgers, a future Heisman Trophy winner, senior quarterback Jerry Tagge, and bullish senior tailback Jeff Kinney; the latter two were first round picks in the 1972 NFL Draft. The Sooner defense was anchored by all-Big 8 defensive tackle Derland Moore, a future All-American and NFL Pro Bowler.[
    In 1971, in what has become known as college football's "Game of the Century," Rodgers returned a punt 72 yards to score the first touchdown which set the tone for his team's 35-31 victory over the University of Oklahoma SoonersESPN describes Rodgers' performance as "unforgettable." However, some observers consider his greatest single performance to be in the 1973 Orange Bowl when he led his team to a 40-6 victory over the University of Notre Dame. Rodgers ran for three touchdowns, caught a 50-yard pass for another touchdown, and threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to a teammate. He did all this before leaving the game with 21 minutes still to play.[1]

    Brand new at the library, Chuck Carlson's book about the "Ice Bowl" of New Year's Eve, 1967, set off this personal pigskin reverie.  Bart Starr was my favorite as a kid growing up in the Vince Lombardi/Bob Devaney years.  Good was good. (Evil was Oklahoma). That the game was played at minus 45 degrees was abominable evidence that grownups made some questionable decisions -- and not just your father's necktie.

    Perhaps a book about the "Heidi Bowl" will be next.  Joe Namath vs. alive-hilled Alps. November  1968.  Curt Gowdy announcing.  The network leaving the tense game to show the scheduled family movie, "Heidi."

    Practiced a "mountain meditation" in class Tuesday. We imagined a mountain, observed every detail of the mountain through the hours of the day and the seasons of a year. Then we brought the mountain inside ourselves. I felt very calm and heavy and immovable. No goats, cheese, or embroidered aprons on my mountain.

    And because this is a post-Thanksgiving post, I will leave you with the Leon Lett fumble in the 1993 Classic  between the Cowboys and Dolphins in the snow and sleet in Dallas -- view here.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Get that guy an egg timer

    How many sudoku do you do, dear, before you call the cops?

    One clue.
    Assumptions of gender and age.  Male. Teen.
    No pounding on the bathroom door. Only child.
    Possible crime or accident scene.

    You've  read the book. You've seen the movie. 

    The victim is only discovered when the water overflows into the next apartment.

    Natural causes?
    Water waster?

    Saturday evening just home from work to the plumbing roar of the shower running in the next apartment. Kick off shoes, get a beverage, boot up computer, plug in phone, write to-do list for the weekend. The shower is still running. This guy (I assume) must have a hot Saturday night date. Or, more likely, the tenant has fallen and hit his head on the faucet, his blubbery, wrinkled body blocking the drain, water overflowing down into the vacant show model unit.

    Time to dial 9-1-1?

    But, no. The shower is off.

    Alarm rings at 7:20 this morning and the shower guy is cleaning up again. Unbelievable! I do a sudoku (medium difficulty), write a grocery list, and begin a second puzzle. Water is still running. This is serious. Either the guy is a serial bathtub murderer, or he just uses up all the hot water for the entire building to torture us. He must  be stopped! I'm calling the cops!

    P.S. No singing heard.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Gong Show

    Even my meditation app hates me. 

    Grateful I am that my employer is focused on employee wellness. Tuesday lunch break is given over to mindfulness meditation with instructor Janet Sandman. Other days I make a little meditation time in my office using the Insight Timer app on my phone. It's free. It gongs, and gurgles with falling rainwater. And then I still have time for my sandwich.

    Between phone settings and meditation app settings I scored a fail, not to be judgmental, but there it is. I was just sitting and breathing and counting "one" on each exhale and gently reminding my shoulders to stay away from my ears and kindly escorting thoughts out through the back hall to the fire exit over and over and over and the water was gurgling and gurgling and how could this only be fifteen minutes? I finally left my breathing to discover that the final gong setting was unspecified. It was never going to ding, no matter how long I set my thoughts on tiny origami boats and floated them off down the stream. Infinitely treading water while the sunburned lifesaving instructor in the Speedo quits without giving two weeks notice, clears out his locker, and drives off in the VW microbus, spewing gravel in the parking lot.

    Looking out the window at the gorgeous yellow ginkgo leaves I gulp my sandwich. Thoughts onward CASCADE® 

    Do. Or do not. There is no try.

    No matter what, my dishwasher declines to open the detergent dispenser at the appointed time in the cycle. I try creative visualizations of suds bubbling out of the cave from behind the magic door. Letting go of expectations for the appliance did not work any better than attempts to chisel the solidified detergent with a kitchen knife.

    In the busy household with young kids the sound of major home appliances running was more constant than breath or heartbeat. Wash to rinse to spin was my inner timer. App was short for appliance! The dishwasher was my chuckling spiritual guide.

    Preschoolers pause for a mini-moment of breath awareness. Breathe in slowly through your nose smelling a flower. 1 - 2 - 3. Breathe out slowly through your mouth blowing a bubble. 1 - 2 - 3.

    Leaving the mental default habits of enumerating, naming, judging, anticipating to become one with the cosmos, right? Wrong. The computer declines to send jobs to the physical printer right beside me on the desk. It wants to send the jobs to a cosmic printer in the clouds. GONG! Gong! Gongggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

    Recent library acquisitions:


    And just fyi, Chuck Barris was the host of "The Gong Show." Also, the lifesaving instructor was named Merle.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Miss Scarlet in the Lavatory with the Shower Curtain

    Like millions of Americans I live in an apartment painted a weird Pittsburgh Paint color between grey poupon mustard and hummus. The color is the go-to for multi-family community management companies because if at first it makes tenants nauseous, in no time at all it becomes invisible.

    Amazon Prime shipped its "Basic" shower curtain and vinyl shower curtain liner with hooks for about twenty-two bucks via flying monkeys.  Yippee! The shower curtain looks fab with hummus/poupon paint.  Bad news: the clear vinyl liner fumes may kill me before I get a test morning shower.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Black and white challenge OR Ghost vs. Fairies

    Blog author of  NOT IN A STRAIGHT LINE, Photolera Claudinha, challenged me to post black and white photos on Facebook and tag friends to do the same. I can't quite get that together, but I've enjoyed the reminder to try some black and white shots. Halloween seems like a good time to compare black/white images with color.

    Having just startled three deer on the trail as I went up the hill, it was nice to stop and snap the sparkling webs in the ten a.m. sunlight and catch my breath. The black and white photo emphasizes the underlying geometry of the spider's web, while the color one showcases the light coming from behind the web through the stems and grasses.

    Flying off to haunt the neighborhood.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Abby Normal

    Our favorite yard decorations on the every Sunday morning walking route are these delightful dancing ghosts. The slightest breeze gets them doing a bit of a shimmy. In the early dark of October evenings the ghosts are lit by a long string of lights that form their "arms." It is the ghosts' second year in the neighborhood. My walking buddy and I find they make us ridiculously happy in the era of dismal news, disasters, lies, predators, massacres, and on and on. I don't know if Trump has brought back Christmas as he proclaims, but I am sure glad for Halloween. If I had a yard and a tree, I would sure make some dancing ghosts! Here's how.

    When the "Addams Family" television series premiered in 1964, my dear parents, Howie and Fritz, took their big book of New Yorker cartoons off the high shelf and introduced me to the cartoons of Charles Addams, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, Syd Hoff, Peter Arno,  and James Thurber. Dad would patiently explain the historical and political back stories of cartoons I did not understand. I've been hooked on political cartoons ever since. They gave me an insight into history, but also into my parents' takes on the history they had lived through. Later they would introduce me to World War II through Bill Mauldin's cartoons in Up Front.

    Saying "Merry Christmas" again.

    Instead of cartoons, I've spent the day studying a cookbook! Talk about abnormal behavior! This is one very practical and inspiring cookbook, with great color photos and explanations. Since it is finally cool enough to consider cooking, I am hooked. Look for it at your library, and request it if they don't have it! America's Test Kitchen's One-Pan Wonders may change your life.

    And just in case you haven't taken this trip:

    Get on the bus, Gus.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


    Imagine walking into Stone Moth Canyon

    At the far end of the trail you pass beyond a ridge and can no longer see or hear any signs of the city. No houses, no traffic noise, not even the tinkle of the popsicle truck. Thankfully, no litter.  Just the trail and the volcanic basalt, and the markings. The canyon has a low, continuous hum. Bending low, you realize it is the sound of small bees.

    Imagine the petroglyphs scratched into the black basalt are symbols of moths. Hundreds, thousands of moths marking the boulders. You would have to climb in and around the stones to spy moths on every side, even on the top to be viewed from high on the ridge. What do the moth symbols mean? Who made them? Why?

    We can only guess at the meanings of the petroglyphs in Albuquerque's magical National Petroglyph Monument. We can only be open to the wonder and the connection to those artists of so long ago. Are there moths painted deep inside caves? Are there moths in the art of indigenous peoples of Africa, Australia, even the polar regions?

    Thank you to the moth-makers whose images I edited onto the basalt of the canyon. They seemed like images across millennia. Here are a couple sites that intrigued me as I went on this imaginary hike:

    The petroglyphs below were made 400 to 700  years ago. Most were made by Native Americans, but a few were made by early Spanish settlers in the area. They are very young compared to the estimate of 20,000 years old for the Lascaux cave paintings.

    This one is my favorite. It seems to tell a tall tale of long-billed birds eating lizards and snakes. A person with big feet walked through the story!

    When I see the hand symbols my thought is always, "I am. I make."

    Keep making.

    © 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder