Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pineapple Oatmeal Cookies

When I looked at this photo on the computer, I decided that I should have taken it from another direction.  But it is too late.  That last cookie has been eaten.

This recipe is one that my mother got from a friend when I was in elementary school.  The recipe fit Mother's criteria.  There was brown sugar in it which is better than white sugar.  There is oatmeal in it.  Oatmeal is always good. And there is fruit in it.  My youngest son recently asked his wife to make them so she asked me for the recipe.

Pineapple Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening (oleo or butter)
1 egg
1 cup crushed pineapple drained
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream the sugars and shortening together.
Stir in the egg.
Add drained pineapple and oatmeal.
Add flour.  (I always measure the spices into the flour and sift them with the flour into the batter.)
Drop by spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees until cookies are slightly brown on the edges.  8 to 12 minutes.  I check them every 2 minutes after the first 8 minutes.  The cookies have to be brown enough on the bottom so they can be lifted from the pan but not so brown that they lose their softness.  These cookies are so soft that they stick together if stacked.

 A 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple drained yields about 1 1/2 cups of pineapple.  I don't like to waste the 1/2 cup so I add it to the batter and add a little more flour if necessary.

1/2 cup nuts can be added to the batter if you like.

Tom and I were married when my youngest sister was twelve.  She copied this recipe along with many others on index cards as her wedding gift to us.  Here is the original recipe.  This is the entire set of directions.  I had to search my memory banks to come up with the details.  I think I have remembered them all.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

St. Valentine's Weekend, A Good Weekend to Stay Inside

We've are going through a spell of cold weather.  It started on Valentine's Day, February 14.  The early morning was pleasant.  When I met Jeanne for breakfast, it was 30 degrees F (1.11 C.)  I wondered if the forecast for cold temperatures was a false alarm.  If we had known how warm the morning was going to be we would have walked at Charleston Falls.  Abby, Jeanne's dog, would have been delighted, not mourning because she was left at home.

I had errands to run after breakfast so when Jeanne left to prepare for a visit from grandchildren, I set off.  It was still nice when I walked over and returned some library books.  But by the time, I had finished grocery shopping at Foodtown, the wind had kicked up and fine snowflakes were blowing horizontally.  Temperatures began dipping.  The fifteen to twenty-five  mile an hour wind made the air feel even colder.

By afternoon, blowing snow had covered our patio.

The snow blurred the view of the backyard.  The bows of the Douglas Firs bounced and waved about.

By the next morning, we had beautiful sunshine.

The birds were glad we had filled the feeders.  So were the squirrels.  The temperature was 3 degrees F (-16.11 C).
The high for the day was 15 degrees F (-9.44 C).  Because there was no wind, the day was quite pleasant as long as we were dressed for it.

No sun on Monday morning when I looked out.  The entire day was overcast with snow flurries at times, and steady snow at other times.  There wasn't much accumulation.  Schools were closed for Presidents' Day, the day we remember all our presidents.

I didn't see the cardinals sitting in the fir tree until I looked at the photo I took.

I spent most of the day playing with polymer clay.  Monday was a holiday for me as well as the children.

This morning, we were back to 3 degrees F (-16.11 C).  I ignored the report from the airport a few miles away.  Their  thermometer read -2 degrees F (-18.88 C).  The sun was bright and there was very little breeze.  I even took a short walk to Charleston Falls...just to the falls and back.  It was 10 degrees (-12.22 C) by then.

  The maintenance staffer apologized because he hadn't yet blown all the snow off the trail clear to the falls. He told me they like to blow off this fine light snow before the day warms up enough to create icy spots.

This afternoon the temperatures climbed up to 25 degrees F (3.88 C ).  How nice to have it "warm".


Thursday, February 12, 2015

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Book by Ken Kesey, and the Play

After I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest  at The Glenmore Playhouse, I happened to see the book when I was at our local library.  On a whim, I checked it out.  It has taken me two months but I have read it.  The book reads easily but the emotions it arouses are strong.  I could only handle a little at a time.

I read the book years and years ago.  Maybe I read a Reader's Digest Condensed Books version.  It is a book I have never forgotten.  Though I didn't remember the details, I remembered the basic plot of the book and the characters...especially Randle McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.  I had forgotten that Chief Bromden was the narrator though I did remember that much of the book read like a nightmare and other parts were just plain funny.  I remembered, too, that the end was tragic but uplifting at the same time.

This time, I found the beginning hard to read.  Partly, this was  because the book starts off almost lighthearted and I know the ending is not  lighthearted.  Also the narrator, Chief Bromden, sometimes expresses his feelings as events when the reader knows the events are not really happening.  Clearly, he is crazy...or is he?

He says as he looks back on the whole set of events...(This story burning into him like steam)..."It's gonna burn me just that way, finally telling about all this, about the hospital, and her, and the guys -- and about McMurphy.  I been silent so long now it's gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy telling this is ranting and raving my God; you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please.  It's hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it.  But it's the truth even if it didn't happen."

Like most great fiction, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest works on many different levels.  It can be read as a condemnation of mental health facilities in the 1950s and 1960s.  That is the simplest interpretation.

It can also be read as the conflict between the individual and society as a whole. "Papa says if you don't watch it people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite."( Chief Bromden)

It took me weeks to read Parts I and II which lead to the inevitable end in Part III. I kept deciding I'd rather read something that was FUN. Even though much of Cuckoo's Nest is funny, it is not FUN. But, when I finally made it to Part Three I couldn't put the book down.  Parts One and Two are necessary because they set up Part Three so don't skip them.

 Chief Bromden is a seemingly mute and deaf  patient, who, for most of the play, watches the action. ( He is a major player in the final act.)  In the book, he is the narrator who others think is mute and deaf but who clearly has a deep interest in all that is happening around him.  He is Every Man living his life and trying to make sense of life.   Sometimes his thoughts are poetic as in the following description.

"There were little brown birds occasionally on the fence; when a puff of leaves would hit the fence the birds would fly off with the wind.  It looked at first like the leaves were hitting the fence and turning into birds and flying away."

Randle Patrick McMurphy is the hero, the Individual.  He is a gambler, determined to live life on his terms.  McMurphy stirs up life within the closed-up Chief Bromden when he stirs up the patients on Nurse Ratched's ward.  He also stirs up Nurse Ratched which turns out to be his downfall.

Ron Samad as Chief Bromden and Steffen Whorton as Randle Patrick McMurphy  in The Drama Workshop's rehearsal of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at The Glenmore Playhouse.  McMurphy has learned that Chief Bromden in not deaf and mute.

Nurse Ratched is Society, or the Combine as Chief Bromden calls it,  always interested in keeping the Individuals  under control.  She ignores Chief Bromden because she thinks he is not an issue in her ward.  Since we are seeing through Chief Bromden's eyes, we know this is a big mistake on Nurse Ratched's part.

This is Chief Bromden's description of Nurse Ratched as she recovers from a sudden anger spell.. ".all the patients start coming out of the dorms to check on what's the hullabaloo, and she has to change back before she's caught in the shape of her hideous real self."

Chief Bromden (Ron Samad) and Nurse Ratched (Gretchen Gantner) in rehearsal.  (The Drama Workshop, Glenmore Playhouse)

Because the book does not have time and place restraints as the play does, the action occurs in other places beside the ward and we learn more about the lasting effect of McMurphy's actions and his final gamble on the other inmates.

The play captures the essence of the story and is well worth seeing. But for an in depth view of the story, it is necessary to read the book.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lilian Nichols Shows Us How to Make a Valentine Heart in Polymer Clay

Annette brought Lilian a heart cane project by Valerie Mathewson which was shown step by step  on Polymer Clay Central and asked if Lilian would use it for a class project with us.

Lilian adapted the project for our class.  

The large slice is the size of Lilian's finished cane before she reduced it.  The small size is the reduced size that she plans to use for making earrings and other jewelry.

When Ceal measured the large slice she discovered it was nearly 1 1/2 inches across. When Lilian reduced this cane to the small size in the first photo, she had a cane about three feet long.

Usually we students work with canes that are less than 10 inches in length when finished.  Lilian suggested that we make our center heart smaller than hers so we would have smaller completed canes.  She also suggested that we plan to make the cane about 3 inches long before reduction.

First we made two rolls of red about three inches long.  Lilian showed us how to use a section of plexiglass to create rolls that were the same diameter along the entire length.

Here are my rolls.

Next she demonstrated how to shape each roll into the shape of a half heart.

Then she laid the two sections together and sharpened the pointed bottom by pinching and pressing the edges.

Here is Mary Ann's completed heart.

The next step was to wrap the heart with a layer of white clay.  Here Ceal is beginning to wrap.

And here is Sally's wrapped heart.

A knitting needle ( 000 or 0000) pressed down will work the wrap into the indentation of the heart.
Mary Ann's wrapped cane is below.

The next step was to make the pink lace around the heart.  It is possible to make rolls and cut them in half lengthwise.  I think that was Ceal's choice of shaping.

Another method is to use an Extruder.  Extruders can be bought at polymer clay supply stores.  For the lace, use the half circle disk.

Sally used an Extruder to make the lace on her cane.

After attaching the lace, a thin layer of a contrasting clay was wrapped around the cane.  We chose a variety of, antique gold, purple, blue.  The thin knitting needle came in handy again to work the clay into the dips between the half circles that formed the lace.

Now it was time to insert triangles of white clay in each of the dips.  The triangles can be made by shaping a thin roll of clay into a three-sided strip or by using the Extruder with a triangle disk.  You can see the disk in the photo of the Extruder earlier in this blog.

Below...Mary Ann's cane showing how she inserted the triangles.

A white layer of clay is wrapped around the triangle ring.  Here is how Sally's looked before she sliced off the uneven end.

And here is Ceal's.

And here is Mary Ann's after she sliced off the end.

We're nearly to the end of the project.

Here are some of the strips Sally cut for the final layer.

Sally's completed cane, ready to be reduced.

Ceal's completed cane.  To the  right, you can see the adapted directions that Lilian wrote out for us.

 Mary Ann's completed cane.

Below is Lilian's completed cane after being reduced by alternately squeezing it and stretching it.  If the reduction is done carefully the pattern is not distorted.  This is a cut that was made halfway down a three foot cane.