Thursday, February 27, 2014

Great Recipes Galore

This morning I was flipping through several cook books looking for a recipe for baked rice pudding.  I had a big container of cooked rice in the refrigerator, and I knew I had seen a recipe (somewhere) in one of my cook books for making rice pudding with cooked rice.

I did find the recipe I wanted without too much trouble.  But what I found so interesting (and not for the first time) was all the delicious sounding recipes that popped out at me as I skimmed through a few books.

When I'm bored with cooking the "usual" fare and hungry for something new, I've always found that just casually looking through a cook book gives me all sorts of ideas for new recipes to try.

Even though I've done it for fifty-plus years, I can't say I'm tired of cooking.  But I will admit to getting tired of (often!) eating my own cooking.  Side note:  I have a husband who does not care for eating out.  His standard line is, "Why should I go out to eat when I can have a much better, more satisfying, nutritionally well-balanced meal at home?"  (Boy, I obviously did something very wrong way back when.)

We've never eaten out a lot (obviously) but I will admit that doing so these days doesn't hold the appeal it once did.  Going to a lot of work and effort to insure the food we eat is of the highest quality and freshness, free of chemicals and other contaminants has always been very important to us.  Today when eating out, I'm never sure how the food has been raised, where it's been raised, and the conditions under which it's been prepared.

This brings me right back to needing to frequently try new recipes and ways of preparing our food.  And you know what?  There's no doubt there are some attractive, well-written, interesting, appealing cook books out there.

And I think I may own a couple hundred of them.  This is just one area in my kitchen where my cook books live.

If I never bought another cook book in my life, I'd always be able to find plenty of new ideas for food to prepare and serve.

I do know cooking can be a real challenge if you hold down a full-time job away from home.  Been there, done that.  One of my priorities in those days was to spend a portion of a weekend day cooking for the upcoming week.  With refrigeration, home freezers, crock pots and home canned goods on the pantry shelves, it's not impossible to have a week's worth of meals ready.

What have I been trying to say here?  When you get down in the doldrums of what in the world to make for the next meal, if you're just plain bored with cooking the food you set on your table, gather up a couple/few cook books, find some time to get comfy on the couch or in your favorite chair with a glass of wine or cup of tea, browse through the books and you'll be amazed at the new ideas and tempting dishes you'll come up with in short order.

Oh, and that recipe for rice pudding I tried this morning?  A real dud.  Ya can't win 'em all!  (Big grin.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday Wordy Wanderings

Well, b-r-r-r!  We've been chucking wood into our stoves all day today, but I'm not sure we're gaining much on the Arctic air descending upon us.  There's a warning of dangerous wind chills overnight and into the afternoon tomorrow.  Snow showers and blowing snow (the blowing snow making travel dangerous) with wind chills of -35° to -45°.  Don't know what you would do, but we stick darn close to home in this weather.  Geesh.

We have so much snow on the ground that the wildlife, the deer especially, are struggling to get around.  Many people in our area feed hay and corn to the deer, but we don't.  However, in the past week we have been putting out some of our apples that are starting to turn along with extra beets and mangels.  We put them at the top of a snowbank at the curve of our driveway where a deer path passes.  We've been regularly seeing deer helping themselves to the goodies.

A week or so ago we heard that a lynx had been spotted close by.  Last week we lost three hens and a rooster.  The tracks in the snow were identifiable and not those of a lynx, but a bobcat.  (Lynx and bobcats are easily mistaken for one another.)  Yes, we feel bad about losing the chickens, but in a way it was their own fault.  They were ones that refused to go into the chicken house, and preferred (bird brains?) to roost in a heavily branched evergreen right by the chicken house.  We felt for sure they were going to freeze solid in the frigid nights we've been having, but Papa Pea got tired of capturing them every night (nearly impossible as they tried to outsmart him by roosting higher and higher) when they so definitely wanted to stay outside.  Now we don't have to worry about them freezing to death.  End of (sad) story.  End of our Icelandic breed of chickens.

I can't remember if I mentioned I was giving thought to putting batting in my spring shower curtain (and am too lazy to go back and check) or not, but since I've been looking at it for the past day or so trying to decide how to quilt it, I'm thinking I want to use some batting to give the quilting more definition.  I purchased a cheap economical low loft batting that will be even lighter (I think) than the Thermore I used once before on a shower curtain.  It's not nearly as dense (or nice) as the Thermore, but may just give me the results I want.  We'll see.

I have three messes projects spread out on my desk here and another one on the bed behind me.  I should try to clear them up before calling it quits for the night.  Or not.  Okay, I'll move the one on the bed to join the others on the desk . . . before I add another quilt to the bed for tonight.  We may need it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thinking Spring (Shower Curtain, That Is)

The weather today, up here near the Arctic Circle, is sunny but there is a nasty little wind picking up snow from all surfaces and recirculating it (with a vengeance) in the air.  We've hit a high for the day of 8°.  At least that's above zero, so we're thankful for small favors.  Because of the wind we do have a wind chill advisory in effect until sometime tomorrow.

It's been a great day for being in my quilt room, listening to an audio book and finishing the top of my new, quilted spring shower curtain.

Here's a picture of the finished top, being held up in my kitchen by a tall man with a wide wing span.  The curtain measures 65" wide by 71" top to bottom.

This closer shot gives you a better idea of the outer border print.

Now I need to back it with muslin and machine quilt it.  I've put batting in only one of my shower curtains using Thermore (which is a very thin batting) but even that made the curtain heavier than I was comfortable with.

After the quilting is done and the binding is put on, next come the button holes along the top where the shower rod rings will attach to hold it up, and I'll have a new spring shower curtain.  

I don't switch to my spring decorations until the winter's snow is well on the way to being gone.   This year there's no way I have to panic that I won't be able to get the shower curtain completed in time to welcome the spring time melt and warmer weather!

Friday, February 21, 2014

And March is our Big Snow Month!

Oooo, my back.

My neck.

My shoulders.

My arms.

I think my nose is frozen.

I know my fingers are.

There is snow inside my boots.

Inside my socks.

Inside my . . . never mind.

It is 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

I am finally done helping move snow outside.

Papa Pea is just "finishing up this last little bit," he says.

We did squeeze in a quick break for breakfast
somewhere around 11 a.m.

Now I could eat a bear.

If someone else would cook it.

I can hardly move.

I am really, really tired.

Send help.

How much snow did we get overnight?  I don't know.  Who's counting anymore at this point?

We think it must be somewhere around 12-14".   Although the winds along with the snowfall made some beautiful sculptures, they were like cement to move on the driveway and in the yard and on the paths.

Traditionally, the month of March is the one in which we get most of our snow.

Uh-oh.  Where are we going to put more snow?  No sense worrying about it.  It will all work out.

For now, I'm hitting the Arnica to sooth my aches and pains.  While hoping we don't get any more snow soon.  I need to rest a little before attaching my body to the snow shovel again.

All is well.  

We're warm and secure.  The pantry is full.  Our daughter will do more plowing for us on the driveway tonight after work.  Right now it's a narrow passageway out to the main road.  A bit like the bobsled run at the Olympics, but passable.  

All is well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sharing Some of Our Snow with You

I snapped these pictures when I was out doing some shoveling this morning.

That snow bank on the right is over six feel high.

The same snow from another angle.

Helloooo!  Anybody home?

Apples trees going under.

Most of these pictures are paths and areas right around the front of the house that we keep shoveled.  I should have given you a view of all the huge piles we've made with the snowplow.  I'll have to do that after our next predicted snow . . . which is supposed to be Thursday.  Eight to ten inches with high winds.  That may prove to be very interesting.

The way things continue to go this winter, we may still have snow on the ground in July.  (Did I just say that out loud?  Bite my tongue!)

Monday, February 17, 2014

On an Olympic Roll

Sitting and watching the Olympics sure has been profitable for me.  I'm finishing up some UFOs that have been hanging around for a long time.

This is a knitted hat for a little guy.  I have no little one in mind, but I'm betting I can find someone who would like it sooner or later.

Finished this little hat using the remaining yarn from two different skeins.  I was so close to running out of yarn that I didn't even have enough yarn for any kind of a tassel on top.  Do you think it looks okay without that little touch?  Both these hats are toddler size.

It seems like the second sock to this pair I made for myself took about ten times as long to knit as the first one.  Why is that?  I'm pleased with these . . . and they even fit!  The only thing I would change if I use the pattern again is to make the ribbing at the top wider.  I'm sure they are going to stay up with no problem, it's just that a wider ribbing would look better visually to me.

Only one more vine/flower panel to go on the spring shower curtain.  I started on the third one (shown in the picture) this morning at 9:15 and finished it at 12:15.  So now I know it takes three hours to do each one.  Amazing that it takes that long, isn't it?

Shower curtain isn't done, of course, but I'm so happy with all the little projects I've been able to finish recently.  Gee, if the Olympics were on more often, think of all I could accomplish!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Knitted Scarf - Berry Pattern

I haven't been getting much done on my quilted shower curtain.  Just too darn much to do during a day's time.  In the evening, I've been plopping my tush down on the couch and watching some of the Olympics.  I can't sit there with idle hands, though, so a couple of days ago I took some time to sort through the jumble of bags and baskets in a corner of my quilting room to find some handwork to do while watching TV.

My goodness!  Who knew I had so many unfinished projects in that heap of yarn and patterns?

I decided to work on this scarf which I finished last night . . . hooray!

It's a cotton yarn so the scarf is meant to be worn more as an accessory (although not necessarily with this gray sweatshirt I have on today!) than something to keep my neck warm.

I like this pattern because even the back, or wrong side, is attractive.  (In this picture the right side is on the right, flip side on the left.)  It's called the "berry" pattern.  I've used it to make a scarf once before, but this one I think I'll keep for myself.  It is orange, and we all know orange is my color!

Happy Valentine's Day to y'all!  We're celebrating by doing some snow removal.  I just came in from shoveling off the front deck.  The piles of snow surrounding the deck are so high now that it's hard to throw the snow over them without it tumbling back at me.  We got around 6-8" yesterday but had winds that caused a bit of drifting.  Papa Pea shoveled a drift away from the door before I could even get out to the deck.   Hope all of you who are experiencing some winter weather in the south and east are warm and safe. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stockpiling Eggs

I know there are many different ways of "preserving" eggs for future use.  The way I've had luck doing it is super-simple and works for me.

Our hens usually go into a molt and stop laying eggs around the middle December.  (Just before I plan on using more of them than usual for holiday baking, of course.)  Knowing this lack of the beautiful, oval orbs is on the horizon, I start stockpiling my eggs about a month before that time.  We don't sell our eggs, but do give them away to friends and use them for barter.  This comes to a screeching halt at that time.

How do I "stockpile" them?  Simply by storing them in our spare refrigerator.

When the eggs come from the hen house, I don't let them sit around at room temperature.  I clean them, put them in egg cartons, label them and into cold storage they go.  Jiffy quick.

I realize many sources say you should never wash your eggs in water because the shells are permeable and will absorb water.  (I also know that commercial egg factories submerge their eggs in hot, soapy [yuck] water to insure they are pristinely clean when they appear in grocery stores.)

Supposedly you can rid your eggs of any dirt by lightly sanding them with sand paper.  (Hmmm, if the egg shells are porous enough for water to get through to some degree, wouldn't the dust from rubbing them with sand paper penetrate the shell?)  I've tried sanding and I can assure you it does not do a good job of removing dirt, manure or whatever else those sometimes muddy little chicken feet deposit on the eggs shells.

But I don't submerge my eggs in water to clean them either.  I put them in a dry sink, turn the faucet on to a low stream of tepid water, moisten a paper towel and clean each egg before placing it on a clean cloth or paper towel to air dry.  Then the eggs are put into egg cartons and go in the refrigerator.  I try to make the time from chicken house to storage refrigerator as short as possible.

Each filled egg carton is labeled with the date so I know which eggs are oldest, which are newest.

I think by the first part of this past December, when our hens squeezed out their last egg before going on hiatus, I had about 18 dozen eggs squirreled away.

I have read that eggs may be as much as two months old when they are purchased from a grocery store.  I just used a carton of eggs from our birds that was 2-1/2 months old and all of the eggs were just fine.

When using "older" eggs, I do put them through a bit of a test first.  And this does require submerging them in water.  Briefly.

~ Put the eggs in a bowl of cold water.  Water should cover eggs by an inch or so.

~ If the egg remains on the bottom of the bowl, it's still fresh.

~ If it sits on the bottom with a slight tilt or angle, it's still fresh and fine to eat.

~ If it stands on end on the bottom of the bowl, it's still safe to eat but is best used for baking.

~ If it floats off the bottom, it's stale and is best discarded.

In the picture above, you can see the white egg on the right is tilted up.  (These were eggs from a carton marked December 31st.  And it's quite possible the tilted egg was older than that because at that time, we were getting very few eggs a day so it took a while for me to fill a whole carton of twelve eggs.)  I cracked that egg into a separate bowl this morning and found it to be A-OK so I used it in a baked egg dish.

Of the many dozen eggs I stockpiled this winter, I still have two dozen "old" ones to use.  I have no fear of using them, especially after I run them through the float test.  Out of all the eggs I saved and have been using in the past couple of months, I had only one that floated to the top of the water.  I cracked it open, and although it looked and smelled fine, I chose not to use it.  Granddog Tucker was happy to have it as a mid-morning snack.

My method of storing eggs certainly wouldn't be as good a method as dehydrating or freezing for a long, long length of time.  But it works for me for the period our hens go into their molt and quit laying during the darkest days of winter.  I think the thing is if you take proper care of your eggs right away when they come from the chickens, they will store very well in a refrigerated temperature for a couple of months . . . or even a smidge longer.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shock Therapy Produces Eggs

One morning last week we lost two chickens to what we believe was a big owl.  (Apparently, Mr. [or Ms.] Owl thought the first chicken tasted so good, he/she came back for one more.)

For the past couple of months, our chickens have been on their annual no-egg-laying vacation, and if it weren't for the fact that I stockpiled enough eggs, we would have been on a sad, eggless diet during December and January.

Now I'm beginning to think the owl attack has scared the eggs right out of the hens, because for the last several days we've been getting a good number of eggs.

One hen (proud producer of that biggie on the lower right hand corner) seems to be trying to make up for lost time.  And bless our little bantam hens (eggs in top row).  Even while everyone else was on hiatus, we continued to get one, sometimes two, bantam eggs a day.  We love our little banties!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Rocketing Along . . . Slowly

My spring shower curtain project is progressing.

One appliqued "flower" panel is done, and I'm working on the second one.  There are four of them in total.

The flower panels are fun to do because I can see the progress in a very definite way as I go along.

I find myself wanting to do the applique work by hand instead of by machine ('cause I MUCH prefer the way it looks) but know it would take for-EVAH.  That's fine for a nice piece that will be enjoyed and taken care of for a long time, but my shower curtains get washed at the end of each seasonal period of use.  Plus, the bathroom window (facing south) is at right angles smack next to the shower stall in our small bathroom and all of my shower curtains get faded . . . which means I feel the need to replace them every few years.

Lots on my list for today, but with luck I'll get to spend at least some time in my quilt room.  At least no snow to shovel and/or remove in the last week.  Just continued cold weather and even some bright sunshine now and then.  Old Sol is definitely getting higher in the sky.  Life is good!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Of Smiles, Eye Contact and Compliments

Yesterday, Linda over at Multilocus wrote a post that struck a chord with me.  She talked of taking the time to make eye contact and share a smile with another person (or people) with whom we have casual contact during a day's time.

Her post reminded me of something I wrote shortly after I started blogging in 2008.  I looked it up and decided to repeat it here today.

Years ago I made an embroidered sampler that hangs in my kitchen.  It says, "I Know I'm Efficient.  Tell Me I'm Beautiful."

An acquaintance of ours, who was a talented and well-respected physician (the last I knew he was running an AIDS hospice in the middle of New York City), stopped in briefly one day to pick up a part for his wood stove that we had ordered for him.  (We were dealers for Jotul wood stoves at the time.)

As he was standing in the doorway, I could see he was looking across the kitchen and reading my sampler.  He got a little, half-smile on his face, nodded his head slowly and said, "Ain't that the truth."

This was not a vain man who needed constant reassuring in regards to his physical attractiveness, but a well-established, highly intelligent, professional person who one would assume had all the confidence in the world.  And yet, the basic need for appreciation and reassurance of one's "beauty," be it of physical body or soul, was there just as strongly as in any of the rest of us.

Much of the time we are all too willing to loudly and frequently make fun of imperfection in body shape, grouse about personality short-falls or voice our irritation regarding the habits of those around us.

But how often do we take the time to pay someone a compliment?  "You have such gorgeous eyes."  "You have really beautiful hair."  "You have the most attractive smile."  "Your delightful laugh is so uplifting."  When wouln't it make any of us feel wonderful to be given an honest compliment?

If we would all make a conscious effort to give a compliment to one person each day for one week, I have a sneaky suspicion it would not only make a lot of people feel a momentary warm glow . . . but more likely make them feel pretty darn chirky for the whole day. 

It's those "little" things that can mean so much to each and every one of us.  We get so caught up in our lives, the hustle and bustle of our sometimes too busy days.  Yet it takes so little time to make eye contact, share a kind word and a warm smile.

So go ahead now, and tell me I'm beautiful.  (Oh, wait.  I don't suppose it counts for much if one asks for the compliment.  Drat.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

You Asked For It

Gosh, in the dim recesses of my mind I seem to recall a TV show (this was way back in my childhood) called "You Asked for It!"  People wrote in with weird questions and the show presented answers to the inquiries.  Anywho . . . 

In answer to multitudinous two requests, here's a little more info on the spring shower curtain I'm making.

These are a few (not all of them) of the strip sets I made to begin construction.  They were set together on the diagonal.

And formed these eight vertical strips.

Next they had to be trimmed . . . 

. . . which left this pile of triangles.  

Of course, I couldn't toss them (gadzooks, no!) so put them in a baggie and then into my special box of scraps that I will probably never someday dive into and create unbelievably magnificent quilted pieces that will end up at the Smithsonian Recycling Center.

The strips all trimmed up.

Then I cut the alternating panels on which the appliqued vines and flowers will go.  I didn't yet cut the plain panels to size because applique work tends to pull a piece of fabric up/in/smaller and these panels will probably be a tad bit shorter when the applique work is finished.  There will also be 1" wide strips of a blue fabric between the colored panels and the appliqued ones, but I won't cut them until the panels are completed.

Cutting out and constructing the applique pieces takes a lot of time.  Yesterday I got all the bias stems made . . . 

. . . and some of the flowers cut out.  Next the leaves and then I'll be ready to start the applique work fun!