Monday, December 21, 2009

Ice Skating, heating stones, and cole slaw

The world is miraculous. It is splendid. I had to work saturday a bit, so I moved my weekly cleaning day to Sunday. After a few hours of dishes to Selected Shorts, sweeping, taking out the trash and piles, and setting dinner to cooking, I noticed my neighbor and his daughters pulling an ice sled and their skates to the pond. I peaked out of my living room window, and sure enough, there were two kids, a grown man, and a dog skating circles under my window on a beautifully frozen pond/stream (it's a dammed stream, and under my window, it's pretty narrow, though once it goes under the bridge and across the road it spreads into a lovely acre-sized pond (and nowhere is it deeper than 4 feet - which is great for skating and bad for swimming).

After a week of surprisingly cold temperatures for December never getting up past 23*F (about -5 Celsius to everyone else) and no snow - the blizzard that clobbered the northeast missed us this far north and inland entirely - the weather is perfect for ice skating. over an acre of perfectly frozen water, with no snow to sweep off or ruin the texture. The stream flows down to the pond from areas I've never explored. A house burned down around the bend from the stream last week. I'd like to skate up there one of these days. The fire was so huge and sad and beautiful - it would be good, i think, for me to see its effects.

I ended up going out to skate 3 times. I had hot chocolate and the most pristine spread of cookies all handmade by my landlady with perfectly iced gingerbreads, flower-shaped sugar cookie sandwiches with raspberry and quince jam and powdered sugar, little chocolate cake and jam with ganache cubes, lemon pound cake squares, ginger snaps, and rugellah. I aspire to such domestic perfection. I make a point of never showing up empty handed (for the sake of propriety and general joy and the continuity of the spirit of giving), so I brought over some sour cherry jam, the christmas presents I had made, and a book of paper dolls for the oldest daughter's birthday which is on Christmas (a day after mine!). Then I went out skating again with their 3 girls for at least another hour.

Friends came over for a dinner of root veggies, barley and chicken soup in turkey stock and cole slaw (see recipe below). We went out ice skating with my kerosene lantern. Dressed in fleece leggings and my turmeric-dyed house skirt, with gloves, scarf, and my long winter coat, the stars so bright they were reflected in the perfect ice, it was a wonderful, beautiful sight. Aesthetics are a lovely part of life!

My friends and I figured out a very clever little personal heater. I had a smooth river stone, flat on one side, about 3 inches in diameter. My friend tied cotton kitchen twine around it so it hangs like a necklace. when heated on a brick on the stove (not directly on the stove - that's too hot) it's the perfect temperature to wear around my neck under my sweater but over my long sleeved shirt (it's winter - layers! layers! layers! 2 on legs (including feet) and 3 on top is my standard rule - one of the tops damn well better be a sweater too). It heats right at the core and radiates that heat for well over an hour. It is by far the most magical way of staying warmm - and the most effective! Just keep your eye out for the right sized stone and a boyscout who knows his knots. if you don't have a wood stove, you could probably boil the stone - just be careful that it doesn't burn you!

Life is so magical when it's a winter wonderland! i am so incredibly happy it's hard to describe. it's as if winter is conspiring with me to make everything perfect and wonderful.

New Years' party at my house with ice skating and everything - come on come all (if I actually know you or you're a friend of a friend). It will be a night to remember! Hot stones will be handed out for ice skating. Bring skates, a sled (if there's enough snow), and plenty of warm clothes. I'll provide warm beverages for adults, kids, and designated drivers.

Killer Cole Slaw
I always have cabbage in the house. It;s cheap, it sits in the fridge forever, and it's versatile. So when my one-pot soup had to serve as dinner for four, I had to figure out how to add a side dish. In the fridge: a full array of winter storage veggies and condiments. nothing else. So here goes:

- Finely cut cabbage. You can shred it with a cuisinart, but why, when it's easy to shred cabbage with a knife and the crunch is so much more satisfying? To fine chop cabbage, cut off a chunk and then cut shreds on a diagonal.

- Grate a few carrots to get to the cabbage/carrot ratio you want (or parsnips, or beets - whatever you have that's sweet and can be grated)

- Mix in Mayo - enough to cover everything but not too much. nothing kills a good cole slaw like too much mayo.

- Add in enough pickle brine so that it tastes salty enough and somewhat tangy, and has enough moisture (I just use the leftovers from my store-bought or homemade dill pickles - always leave this on hand when you finish the jar of pickles for soups and slaws. it's a delciious treat). If you pickle brine has garlic in the bottom, add it to the slaw.

- If you have it, add some Dill. This adds an authentic Russian taste to your slaw, which will add a nice ethnic touch.

- Add black pepper, mix it up, and let it sit for a bit so the flavors meld. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Yum! Now you have a side dish to your otherwise scant dinner spread.

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