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Sunday, February 17, 2013


After the busy week, comes the weekend.   At the beginning of last week, I invited Joe and Gail to join us on Sunday, for dinner.  The plan was very simple.  I was going to prepare some chicken and vegetables, put them in the crock pot, and let them simmer all day.  This was a revolutionary concept for me, as usually, when preparing for guests, I spend two days in the kitchen, and by the time they arrive, I am needing another weekend!  My tendancy to 'over cater', had been put on hold, and I was going to make it all very uncomplicated.  However, after issuing my invite, as I mentioned last week, my name was pulled from the hat, and we had tickets gratis to see Christopher Cross on Saturday night, so we were going to have two social evenings.  As I really did not have very much to achieve, besides acquiring the groceries for supper, on Saturday, I foresaw plenty of time to get ready for our evening at the Austin Symphony, and be very relaxed by Sunday evening. 

Housework completed, Samantha and I headed out to 'Sprouts' to buy my bell peppers, tomatilloes, (my new favourite ingredient,) organic kale, (with the red stalks,) and a few other colourful veggies, which would all add to the flavour and presentation.  We then made our way to Walmart for our regular items, and back to my house.  It was about 3pm, and my concert started at 8pm, so my afternoon was winding down very nicely.  Dana was not at home.  He had recently got back in contact with a very old friend, whom he has not seen for 30 years, and they were going to meet at the office around noon.  I called to let him know that I was at home, and he said they were just winding up their 'visit'.  As it was still early, I decided to make my cheesecake.  For years, I have reverted to my 'old faithful', velvet dessert, which can be made very successfully with most varieties of cream cheese.  However, I had been wanting to achieve the New York style, which really does need the more sour curd cheese.  After years of trying to find something that was comparable, Rose had suggested I use 'quark'.  The recipe I intended to use was one that was made by Rose, and her mother (my former late mother-in-law).  I had found the ingredient in Whole Foods, during my mad lunchtime dash a couple of weeks ago, and it had been sitting in my fridge, awaiting its destiny.  Calculating the amount of time needed, on Saturday, I judged that I could have the cheesecake made, the vegetables and chicken prepared, and still have a couple of hours to spare.  

The coveted dairy recipe calls for, among other things, a tablespoon of custard powder.  For those that do not know what Bird's Custard powder is, I can only describe it as a form of sweetened cornstarch, which can be mixed with milk to make a creamy topping, or as with the cornstarch, to thicken.  Samantha started to chop my vegetables, for which she received my grateful thanks, and I set to separating my eggs, and whisking in the sugar.  With all ingredients in the bowl, I asked Samantha to get the custard powder from the cupboard.  The kitchen looked slightly the worse for wear, with the de-seeded peppers, squash, kale and tomatoes (both red and green) splattered across my counter tops, and the chicken breasts laying lethargically on boards.  I was beginning to think my two hours of leisure before having to leave the house, would be reduced to an hour and a half.  Suddenly, I heard a 'plop', and turned to see Samantha covered from head to toe in a thick blanket of slightly off white dust, holding the half full tin of custard powder in her confectionary gloved hand.  'Why did you take the lid of?', seemed to evoke some sort of amusement, and she laughed as she answered that it had come off in her hand, as she had tried to take it from the cupboard.  My pantry and the rest of my kitchen looked like it had been hit by an internal snow storm, and I saw my leisure time dwindle to nothing.  Just as I surveyed the damage,  together with the stack of severed veggies, and dead chicken, my phone rang.  'Are you up to receiving a visitor.  Bill really wants to meet you'.  I didn't use bad language, but simply said, 'No.  Samantha has just thrown custard powder all over my kitchen'.  Again, this seemed to evoke some form of amusement, and Dana chuckled.  'Okay, see you in ten minutes', was his answer.  'But my kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it, and I am in a mess. The place is a disaster area', was once again met with hearty laughter, before a click announced that the call was over.  I believe at that point I used bad language.  Still giggling, despite my curling into a ball in the corner, Samantha asked if I wanted her to help clear up the mess.  HELP?  I was beyond help!  I went to the cupboard and retrieved the vacuum.  By this time, Samantha was beside herself, cackling hysterically, telling me that she could not use the hoover. Announcing that I would do it myself, caused yet more delight.  After my housework on a Saturday, as the vacuum is bagless, I wash out the cylinder, and had not replaced it with the spare.  If I had used the machine, it would have redistributed the powder all around the living room.  I did not see where that would be remotely amusing!

However, as always, my daughter took me in hand, attached the tools to the cleaner, which proceeded to suck up the mess. I finished pouring the mixture into the tin, stuck it in the oven and started to build my stew pot.  Dana arrived in the middle of the proceedings, with a complete stranger, who must have wondered what had made Dana's standards drop so drastically when seeking out a domestic princess for his castle!  I did not realise that the powder had actually reached my hair and face, and whilst I had brushed down my jeans, I still bore resemblance to a Pierrot clown, although my tears were not black; I reserved that colour for my mood!  Samantha had emptied my pantry, wiped down all the items, and shelves, from the floor to the top shelf, (yes, it had travelled that far!) but had not started to wipe the surrounding areas, and my black fridge now resembled a piano keyboard.  Bill was very gracious, and shook my hand, as I headed him away from the crater, and herded both gentlemen into the lounge.  I made my excuses and left them to talk, while I returned to the catastophe formerly known as my kitchen! 

It did not take as long as I expected to clear the mess.  However, Dana's pal did not leave until ten minutes before we were due to leave the house.  I quickly scrambled into my long dress, applied the tiniest amount of make up, and slid into my shoes, all within the six hundred seconds!  We forewent dinner, as all the restaurants were full, and had a cup of coffee at the event center.  Completely overdressed, we took our seats, which had suburb positioning.  In fact, Mr Cross sang a duet with the Musical Director's wife, an accomplished singer, herself, and she came and took a seat next to Dana.  It was after the interval that we found out that her mother, and grandmother, along with other kin members, were all around us.  I remarked to Dana that we were indeed given a premier location, as we were, 'seated with the family!'  The concert was magnificent, and the Symphony complimented the singer perfectly.  Although totally harassed upon our arrival, by the time the show had come to its conclusion, I was feeling rejuvenated!

My Saturday's desire became my Sunday's actual, as I put the pot into its 'crock' early, and by mid afternoon, all had reduced to make a delicious stock, and by the time my guests arrived, all was done.  As we were not eating until late, and as we had missed dinner the previous night, Dana insisted on taking me out for breakfast (such a gentleman).  When we returned, I baked three loaves; olive, rye with caraway seeds, and onion with dill, all of which had a wonderful sour dough taste that I have been attempting to achieve since I started to bake bread.  Also my first endeavour at making salsa was extremely successful, and to top it off, the cheesecake received the highest praise.  (I believe there is room for improvement, but that will come next time!)  My leisurely afternoon made for a very casual and relaxed hostess! I even managed to finish knitting another cardigan!  Although it is said, self praise is no praise, I am willing to contemplate that. perhaps, there is an exception to the rule.  Perhaps the only panic situation, was when I passed the mirror and caught a glimpse of my face.  I looked as if I was very ill, with the bags under my eyes being considerably darker than usual, and my eyes themselves looking very deep set.  On closer inspection, I was extremely worried, as I felt quite well.  However, it was then I remembered that although I had cleaned my face upon our return the previous evening, due to the rarity of my wearing mascara, I had forgotten to clean my lashes properly, thus producing a very dirty mess under my eyes.  Yes, I had gone out in public with a dirty face!

Monday saw the beginning of another busy, yet inspiring week.  There were several new challenges that awaited me in Dana's periodical absences, all of which create............another story.

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