Cross Stitch Patterns from Fine Art by Scarlet Quince
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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... art ... life

June 29
Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Today is my mother’s birthday and in her honor I’m making a rhubarb pie, which was a pie she often made. She grew rhubarb in our yard and we ate a LOT of rhubarb (mostly stewed, with the odd pie). I believe that she only had 3 plants so I don’t quite know how there could have been the enormous amounts of rhubarb I remember.

I have her cookbook which she bought on her honeymoon.

I’ve modified her recipe slightly. It only called for 2 cups of rhubarb and I like more filling than that in my pies, so I use 4 cups. I didn’t double the sugar, though, because I like my pie a little tarter than the original recipe made, so I went from 1 cup of sugar to 1 1/2. Everything else is the same.

Cut up 4 cups of rhubarb into small pieces.

Put the rhubarb into a mixing bowl. Mix 1 1/2 cups of sugar with 3 T of flour. Break an egg into the bowl of rhubarb, stir, then add the sugar-flour mixture and mix thoroughly.

Prepare 2 9″ crusts. I spent a long time learning to make flaky pie crust but now I use the Pillsbury crusts that come rolled up in the refrigerator roll section. They are very good if you roll them out a little bigger and thinner, AND if you don’t keep them in the freezer so long that they get freezer-burned (oops). (This also allows you to make almost as much mess as if you were making pie crust from scratch.) I enjoy using my mother’s rolling pin and a pie plate my sister gave her.

If you want to make your own crust, here’s how I do it. Put 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt in the work bowl of a food processor, along with the steel knife. Put the whole thing in the freezer. Put about 3/4 cup of shortening in a measuring cup and put it in the freezer until it’s mostly hard. Cut the shortening into chunks, add to the food processor, and process until you have small crumbs. Don’t go on and on or the shortening will warm up and the bits will start to get larger. Dump the mixture into a mixing bowl and add 6 T of ice water. Stir with a fork until it forms a ball. Divide into 2 pieces (the one for the bottom can be a little larger than the piece for the top). To roll, form the dough into a thick cookie. Roll from the center out in all directions, patching any cracks that start to form before they get too big. Flip the crust over before it gets too big and keep rolling until it’s the right size.

Fold the pie crust in half and lift it into the pie plate.

Then open it up and make sure it’s centered. Pour in the filling. The rhubarb gives off a lot of juice and just in the short time it has been standing, a lot of the sugar has dissolved. Sometimes I let it stand for an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until it all dissolves. I can’t give any good reason for doing that.

Roll out the other crust. Moisten the lip of the bottom crust all the way around, then fold the top crust in half and put it on top. Press around the rim to seal the pie. If there’s excess dough, trim it so it’s even. Go around the pie folding the cut edge of the crust to the outside.

Then crimp it with your fingers and cut some slits or a fancy R. It’s a good idea to press the crimp against the pie plate here and there to keep the top crust from shrinking down. I forgot to do that.

Bake in an oven preheated to 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350, and give it another 30 or 40 minutes. The pie is done when you can see the filling bubbling.

Another thing my mother used to do when we were small was make what I call pie crust sticks. Roll out the leftover dough into some sort of oval or rectangle and sprinkle half of it with sugar and cinnamon. (She used to add pats of butter to the filling, which probably made the sugar melt better, but I don’t do that.)

Fold the other half over the filling. Put it on a baking sheet and cut into sticks. These will be done around the time you need to turn the oven down.

Happy birthday, Mom!


Farewell, Sandy
Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Sandy was a feral cat who lived in our yard and garage (we adjusted the door so it didn’t close all the way so that the wild cats could get in to eat and be out of the weather). He was almost white, with pinkish Siamese markings and blue eyes.

He knew exactly when it was mealtime and was always there waiting. He was very friendly and loved to bump his head against your legs, the other cats, car tires, you name it, and when he bumped you, you stayed bumped. Brindle Cat just wanted to eat but his top priority was bumping and sometimes she could hardly keep her head over the dish.

He liked to sleep on the roof of my car and often when I pulled out a cloud of cat hair would blow off. Many times there were cat footprints sliding down the windshield. In the winter he slept on a ratty old bathmat that had made it just past the door at the back of the garage and no farther. We never saw him on it but it would be warm when we touched it and Sandy would be going away. MRA began to worry that he needed more protection from the cold one winter and bought him a nice cat nest, but Sandy wouldn’t sleep in it until we put the dirty old bathmat into it.

He was almost always around somewhere, sleeping in the side yard, rolling on the sidewalk, resting on the porch, or waiting outside the garage for his late night meal, and the sight of him always made me smile.

But it has been over a week since we have seen him, and we’ve come to the conclusion that something has happened to him, as things do with outdoor cats. We’ll probably never know what and maybe that’s just as well. My head accepts it but my heart keeps hoping to catch a glimpse of a little white cat.

Sleep well, Sandy.


Thoughts on evacuating and belongings
Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

When I first realized there were fires all around us, I started making a list of things to take if we needed to evacuate and gathering things up. Now that the panic is over (not that we were really ever in danger) I’ve been thinking more about the whole subject of being prepared to evacuate, what to take, what things I wouldn’t want to lose, and if we did lose most everything, what would we actually replace?

It’s hard to be rational about all this. One person I talked to said that she hated to leave her house because then she would not be able to protect it. Fire is apparently the monster under the bed of my mind — when we return from a trip I always half expect to find the house burned down. From what, I don’t know — not wildfires, since these were such a shock. Tornadoes are much more likely here and yet I don’t worry much about them, nor have I ever considering making an evacuation kit or even list in the event of a tornado. We don’t have a basement and in the event of a tornado you’re supposed to go into a bathroom, preferably one with no windows, and hang onto the pipes (picture me lying on the floor in the bathroom clinging to the pipes under the sink as the house blows away over me). The most worrying I have ever done about that scenario is to wonder how we would get all three cats into that bathroom, particularly the one who won’t allow us to pick her up.

Here are the conclusions I’ve come to mulling all this over.

I should make a detailed, prioritized list of the things we would want to gather up if we needed to get out. To the extent possible, the things on the list should be already gathered/packed and ready to go. (Picture albums, which we rarely look at, could be packed — art on the walls could not, unless we want to let a possible disaster run our lives.) I found a good sample list and thoughts on an emergency plan here. One thing I would grab for sure would be the computer (just the box, not the peripherals) and lots of the things on that list are on the computer. Or in the safe deposit box — but I hadn’t thought of taking the key!

For me, the main things to save would be the cats, photo albums (and I’ve been scanning those and putting them online), needlework (finished and un), art, some jewelry and heirlooms, the computer. My grandmother was a big collector of glass and crystal, and I have some of her things. I would hate to lose them but it’s hardly the kind of thing you can take if you’re fleeing for your life.

Which led me to the thought: there’s so much STUFF around here. The vast majority of it is never used and I wish there were a lot less of it. Admittedly, it’s much easier for me to identify things belonging to MRA that should go away (it’s my stuff but his junk) and he probably feels the same way about my things. In some cases I can see it: there’s a needleboard for pressing velvet without crushing it which I used for making a velvet jacket, what, 30 years ago? Am I really ever going to make anything out of velvet again? I know some people say “If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it.” But there ARE things that we actually do use only once every few years, but that would be expensive to replace, like the sleeping bags. Do we really need an entire wall of computer science books that are rarely referred to? Clearly not, but then those belong to MRA.

One of the things I have put off doing, over and over, is a household inventory. You’re supposed to do that, right? So I bought one of those little books where you can go room to room and write down all the things in that room. Would you like my little book? It’s in new condition. But it would not be that much work to take digital photos of everything, mess and all, and burn a CD or two. (Once, MANY years ago, MRA spent a day getting things out, taking pictures, putting them away, and finally he began to wonder why the roll of film in the camera wasn’t used up. Then he discovered that there WAS no film in the camera. Bless his heart, he put film in and did it all again. We still have those pictures in the safe deposit box, but many of the things IN the pictures are gone. I wouldn’t go to that much trouble — just point the camera into closets and cupboards.) But in reality, although it’s hard to make up my mind that I NO LONGER NEED any given item, there are lots of things that I certainly wouldn’t replace if they were gone, and that’s an easier way to think about it. So I should still take the pictures for insurance purposes, but maybe I can start slowly getting rid of things I wouldn’t replace. If it makes me happy to own something that falls into that category, for some reason, I don’t have to get rid of it (yet) — there are plenty of things I’m not especially attached to. Baby steps!


NOW what?!
Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Hurricanes, floods, hail … now fire!

All the yellow, orange, and green spots are various fires, and the quince flower is where we are. We got a lot of wind but no rain with Hurricane Lee, which made landfall in Louisiana and went east. The fires were made much worse by all the wind, and the fact that it basically hasn’t rained here in a year. I completely freaked out when I found out about them and was getting all set to evacuate. Once I realized that they were not actually heading toward us, I calmed down. It has been amazingly difficult to get information (or accurate information). The Weather Underground web site, for example, has staunchly insisted that we were having winds of 1 mile per hour even as the fire reports said the winds were 25-35 mph. Fortunately, the wind is gone, so I hope they will start to be able to contain these fires.

The large fire to the east of us started in the Lost Pines, which is a stand of loblolly pines which are the remnants of pine forest which covered much of Texas during the Ice Age. All but 100 of 6000 acres have burned. I suppose there have been wildfires there before so I hope it will come back. Here’s a video of how fast the fire spread.


10.61″
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

That’s how much rain we’ve had from Hermine. So far. (There’s still rain to the west of us but I don’t think we’ll get much more.) It rained gently all day yesterday and was soaking in nicely, but after dinner it started to rain harder. The yard flooded and there’s a lot of dirt in the pond now. This map shows how much rain fell around here. We’re in the purple spot.

ewx_ntp

We have a “tipping bucket” rain gauge which I love. Seriously, it’s one of my favorite possessions. If you’re going to get a ton of rain, you want to know how much you got, but ordinary tube rain gauges fill up at 6 inches, and then you either get to go out in the rain and major puddles and empty them, or not know. We don’t often get more than 6 inches at a time, but it happens probably twice a year at least. This one never fills up. It catches rain in a little bucket and the bucket tips over and empties every time it has 0.05″. Then it sends a signal to a receiver inside the house and we can just watch the total go up and up while staying dry.


Mayhem at midnight
Friday, September 3rd, 2010

We have an atrium in our house — windows on 3 sides and 2 skylights on top. There’s a tile floor, and since we painted the walls white (they were originally brown) it’s a great place for plants. It’s under the peak of the roof and the lowest point of the ceiling is at about 12 feet and slopes up to 15 feet. The skylights open and close and have screens. Last night, about 4 AM, MRA woke me to tell me that two racoons had tried to walk on the screens and fallen into the atrium.

They were climbing the walls and the plants trying to find a way out and pretty much wrecking the place.

Rac1

I knotted three sheets together (including the top sheet we were using at the time) and MRA went up on the roof, in the rain, in the dark, and tied one end to the skylight and lowered it down. They could have climbed it but chose to keep trying other things. One was clearly the leader and the other one just followed it wherever it went.

Rac2

Two of their confederates were waiting for them on the back deck, probably wondering what on earth had happened. The two in the atrium kept up a steady chittering. They didn’t seem afraid of me at all. It was interesting to watch them, because they kept trying different things. After they had tried to climb in one corner and fallen, they would go somewhere else to try. Finally they made it to the peak of the ceiling and the leader went all the way across the beam, upside down, and the follower followed him. There was no future in that, and it looked like the follower finally thought, “Hey, this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing” so it went back across the beam and worked its way over to the skylight and somehow climbed out and joined the two outside and they left. Kind of rude.

The other one kept falling. It was painful to see an animal fall that far but he never seemed to be hurt, probably because racoons are made of pure evil.

Rac3

After two more falls, he got discouraged and lay down. I wondered if it would be possible to throw a blanket over him and swoop him outside, but I didn’t dare try it. He rested awhile, then had two more climbs and falls. Then he began climbing in the corner where the floodlights are mounted. I thought he was probably going to knock the lights down but he got past them without incident, and this time he worked his way to a skylight and got out and I heard him running off across the roof.

Rac4

Now we have a mess. Both screens were knocked loose — one fell to the floor and the other is hanging from the skylight. You can see my 12-foot tall fishtail palm lying on the floor. It wasn’t damaged but the plant it fell on isn’t looking so hot. Most of the plants came through well although many of them lost a lot of leaves. They got into most of the hanging plants and knocked one down, and most of the brackets are bent. MRA closed the skylights before it got light so that the atrium didn’t fill up with birds. I think in the future the windows will just be cracked enough to keep the humidity down. I enjoy seeing wild animals, but enough is enough! Snakes, skunks, racoons — it’s like Wild Kingdom around here, only I don’t have a Jim. (Remember how Jim always got the dirty jobs? Marlin Perkins was always saying things like, “We’ll wait here while Jim subdues the boa constrictor.”


Silver lining
Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

vialMy cat, Lucky, has diabetes. (Yes, this is the cat who also has a heart murmur, hyper cardiomyopathy, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma.) We found this out in May and we’re still trying to get the insulin dose right. If I take him to the vet to have his glucose levels checked, stress causes his blood sugar to go way, way up, so I’m testing him at home with a little glucometer. The test strips come in a little vial with an attached lid that snaps tight shut. It is PERFECT (once empty) for keeping needles in. Not only is it just the right size, these vials have a dessicant built into the lining, so they should keep rust down. If you know someone who has diabetes (and from what I read you probably do, whether you realize it or not) ask them to save you a vial. (The vials for human test strips are the same — we started with a human glucometer but they don’t work right for cats.)


Some like it hot
Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

hot cat

I don’t make her go outside, she wants to. Cats make good thermometers. This is what 95 looks like.

Although you can’t tell from this picture, Topsy is on the “catio”: a little useless porch that is enclosed top and sides with chicken wire to keep the cats safe (and to keep them from wandering off, since Jemima doesn’t come when called).


Skunk and friends
Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

One night recently, MRA went out to see if the wild cats had food (we leave food for the feral cats in the garage, and have 3 or 4 regulars), and there was a very small skunk eating the cat food! Very cute.

A couple of nights later, the little skunk was back, and this time he had a friend with him.
Skunks 2

I was nervous taking this picture because you never know what might set a skunk off, but it didn’t faze them. Sandy, one of the not-very wild cats, was hanging around, and he didn’t seem to mind the skunks and they didn’t mind him. Fortunately, the skunks have not continued to multiply.


Snakes in a pond!
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

OK, there’s only one snake, but it’s a big one. [Full disclosure: I consider any snake over 6 inches long to be a big snake.]

I first saw this snake crawling into the jasmine in the back yard. I only saw its tail but there was plenty of that. After some hunting around online I decided it was a blotched water snake. They eat fish. So I looked out at the pond and THERE IT WAS right by the pond. Creepy.

snake 1

I saw it go into the water a couple of times and the first thing it does is stick its head under water, I guess to see who else is there.

snake 2

Then it takes its head out, gets situated, and just dives in. I think most of our fish are too big for this snake to eat, but probably not all. I don’t know how long it has been around or if any of the fish are missing. I got the skimmer and bothered it around the pond a lot but I couldn’t make it get out. I didn’t see it attack a fish and they didn’t seem overly concerned but if there is such a thing as smart fish, they don’t live here.

snake 4

The snake mostly just hangs out under water. This is blurry but he’s just lying in a water lily pot.

snake 3

He comes up for air about once a minute. How does a snake tread water?

That was Monday, and I haven’t seen him since. I hope he decided our pond wasn’t as peaceful as he thought it would be, or that there wasn’t anything to eat, and moved on. Of course there are a million places a snake could hide in our back yard and it worries me not knowing where he is. It’s not a poisonous snake but it will strike if it feels cornered and I don’t know how paranoid they are. As a friend said, it doesn’t matter if it’s poisonous — if it attacked me I would drop dead on the spot.




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