Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Musings. Looking Back.

I am attempting to look back at 2013 with love.  And humor.  It ain't easy.  I do believe that, if you look hard enough, you can find love and humor in almost everything.  Especially in memories.  And as time passes, it runs them through a fine sieve in kindness and you are left with mostly good memories.  Of course, when you reach an age, alot of those memories are adrift somewhere in that foggy ocean you call your mind - along with your glasses, that matching sock and last week's crossword puzzle.

Kay.  Her death was a huge loss for me, and I think about her almost every day.  But I am thinking of her more often with love and humor - I've adopted her mantra as my own:  Holy Crap!  It covers every situation, both bad and good.  I see her dear face in my mind and it makes me smile.  I pull out my large braising pan and thank God for her idiosyncrasies and manic focus (and unsurpassed pan cleaning skills.)  I hope to be the kind of friend that she was to so many, although I'll be happy to be that kind of friend to fewer.  She had supernatural friendship powers and I do not.

Bernie.  This one is a little tougher because it is still raw.  But I can see her coming to the back door with a pile of snow on her nose, ears straight up, almost bouncing with happiness that it was winter.  I think of the UPS guy, leaving packages at the top of the driveway because of the "mad dog" - he never knew what a marshmallow she was, and I never told him.  Bernie running the cats over to beat Scrappy to their food dishes - making sure to get those last molecules of Fancy Feast in case they left a trace.  Tiptoeing past her back room 'lair' only to realize she's not there to disturb.

The Great Turkey Project.  Besides learning that the LLF female mojo had let me down - I also learned my limits.  I'm pretty adept at adding things into the routine, as long as I do it gradually, and everything was humming along - until winter.  Two of the boys found a new home and Thomas now thinks he's a large chicken.

The importance of lists.  The wheels fell of the list cart this year and I realized how important lists are.  To me.  With the focus of a fruit fly, I went willy-nilly through the homestead and didn't get one really important thing accomplished.  I managed to drop an empty rubber feed dish over the banty hen's nest of eggs (When?  In the Summer?) to discourage her and then forgot about the nest.  I'd remember every now and then, but forgot again and then, when I did think about it, I would figure I'd wait until the dead of winter, as the nest full of eggs was probably a toxic bomb waiting to go off.  It never made it to The List.

Friends.  My biggest blessing.  I have the best friends in the Universe and I love them all to pieces.

I think the most obvious and recurring theme song of 2013 has been that "The Old Grey Mare Just Ain't What She Used to Be."  I have to face reality (eeek) and realize that no matter how ageless I assume myself to be, I am NOT 30.  I cannot have everything I want, the way I want it.  This year I labored away and got not alot of joy out of it.  I don't intend to repeat the experience.

I will now go sit down and write down my list.  And stick to it.  Today.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays to You...

I wish you all the very Merriest of all Christmases and a Wonderful New Year!  May you and yours be blessed with health, happiness and good friends ~~

And thank you from the bottom of my heart (and Scrappy's, too) for your kind words, thoughts and prayers on the loss of our Bernice.  I cannot express how much they meant to me.  Hugs to you all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I had to say goodbye to my sweet girl this morning.  When she left us, she took a large portion of my heart. I'm going to take a hiatus from blogging for a bit.  See you soon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ho, Ho, Holey Cow!

Santa dropped off a big box on our front stoop this past weekend via the ever-obliging favorite USPS guy, Don.  Thankfully, before the big snow storm.  There was a whole lot of interest in this box by the furred occupants of LLF.

No wonder!

And may I say that Santa Claus no only thought of Scrappy, Bernie and the Boyz, she also included the goats, sheep, llama, turkey, and chickens in her largesse!  And me!!!! 

Santie loves catz better 'cause we gotz two

What do you mean, Santa has enough

We L.O.V.E. Santa Claus!!! (You know who you are....)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Musings - Winter/Holiday Edition.

Our Christmas stockings were really the highlight of the day - unfortunately for my parents, we had no mantle on which to hang them, so they were hung on the end of our bed frames.  This was no problem for my sisters - those sisters who fell right to sleep and slept through anything.  This was a problem for me.  And for my poor, sleep-deprived parents.  I was so jigged about Santa coming that I could not sleep a wink!  They had to wait me out.  I think they were greatly relieved when I found out there was no actual Santa Claus.  In our stockings, among the tangerines, gold covered chocolate coins, and new pair of socks, were some real treasures - a horse model (oh Heaven!), handknit mittens (from Mama Claus), tool kit (oh Double Dog Heaven!)  Whatever we received, we were thrilled beyond words to get it.  I remember sitting on the floor in the living room, my parents on the sofa, coffee in hand, while we took turns opening ours and bringing them their gifts, too.  It was a wonderful time.

Why I do not have a live (or any) Christmas tree.  Simple:  Catz.  Back in a prior life, when I was married, we had a great house that just cried out for a Christmas tree.  So off to the back half acre I went and cut down a nice-sized tree.  I had been schlepping ornaments around with me on my multiple moves for years - how nice to be able to actually display them!  The tree went up, lights and ornaments went on, a festive, holiday adult beverage was enjoyed by the fire and then off to bed.  I should interject here that we had two cats - Figaro and Newton (get it? nudge, nudge, wink, wink)  Fig was a lunatic and Newton was my boy.  Very early Christmas morning I awoke, blinked and blinked again.  My half of the bed was completely covered with ornaments.  Only my half.  Ex got nada.  Says something for the wisdom of catz...  Of course, I am implying that this was a GOOD thing.  Ahem.

As I gingerly slid from underneath the covers, I put on my slippers and followed the trail of ornaments through the hall, down the stairs and.....there was the bare nekkid tree.  With Fig firmly ensconced in the lights, trapped like a rat.  It took me 10 minutes just to get him loose.  I removed what little was left on the tree, pulled on my boots and coat, and dragged the tree outside where I propped it in the corner of the deck and let the birds enjoy it.  That was the first - and last - Christmas tree.  I would hate to think what would become of one today - OnceSlim the Flying Squirrel, Kramer The Tooth and Jabba the Cookie would make short work of it.

One of my most outstanding winter memories involved the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio.  For those of you who have not experienced this gem, I weep for you.  It is the thing I miss most about anywhere I've ever lived.  And that's saying something.  (Except for Els in Holland.  But she's not a thing, she's a wonderful, kind, talented friend and I miss her something terrible.)  Deep one winter, the winter before I was to move to the Netherlands, coincidentally, I was renting a tiny apartment in the upstairs of an old Victorian house located in an historic district (Ohio City) of Cleveland.  It was a Saturday and there was a full-blown blizzard underway.  I was all snug in my tiny nest, reading A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle.  About one third of the way into the book, I was overcome by an immediate need to have a baguette, cheese and a bottle of wine.  (If you've read the book, you will understand the urgency.)  So I put on fifteen layers of clothes and battled my way against wind and snow to the market - about a half-mile as the crow flies (or flew - as this is past tense...).  I walked through the door and was overcome by the smells of smoked meat, coffee, pastries.  It was warm and the lights reflecting in the tiled interior were all golden.  I swear I heard angels singing.  I made my purchases (including fresh butter and homemade jam for the rest of the baguette in the morning) and trudged my way home.  It was marvelous.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's a Jungle in Here!

Two FOs and counting. 

Hedgehog (Purl Bee)

Alligator Scarf (Morehouse)

I hope their mother forgives me for knitting with wool......

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blueberry Pie Sauerkraut

Blueberry Pie Sauerkraut
(From a recipe in Taproot Magazine Issue: 7)

2 heads cabbage (green, red or both - I had two small regular green and one large Savoy)
3 tart apples (I don't know that I would add these next time - they didn't add much to the flavoring)
1 qt frozen blueberries
4 tablespoons salt (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional, but I would add them next time)

Core cabbages and shred as thinly as possible. Place in a large vessel (is this related to a vestment?) that can take a beating. (I used my favorite giant ceramic mixing bowl.)  Add about 3 T of salt and mix well. Don’t be afraid to use your hands. Pound the sliced cabbage with a kraut pounder or other pounding tool until it begins to release liquid (a few minutes).

Peel and core your apples and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. add to the mix and test the salt, adding the additional tablespoon if needed. Rule of thumb when making sauerkraut is to taste the mixture and add enough salt so that it is more salty than you would like if you were to eat it straight up, but not so salty that you feel like spitting it out.

Pound the mixture a little bit more to break up the apples somewhat and release more juice. Add the blueberries last, partially thawed so as not to obliterate them, and pound again, lightly. If you are opting for caraway, add seeds now. Stir it all up.

Using a two gallon crock or other container (I used half gallon Mason jars), put a couple handfuls of mixture into fermenting vessel at a time, pressing down to bring the juices up as you go. There should be liquid covering your kraut when you get near to the top of the jar. Leave an inch of room at the top. Weight top to keep kraut submerged. You can use a cabbage leaf with a rock on top.  If using mason jars, lightly screw on the lids and place in a roasting pan to catch any juices that bubble out from the lids.

In three days, test your kraut. It should be ready to eat, but can ferment up to several weeks. Once it reaches the degree of crunchy/soft that you want, store in the refrigerator. It will continue to ferment at a much slower rate in cold storage.  I let mine ferment a little under two weeks, then put it in the fridge.  It is slightly crunchy, which is how I like my sauerkraut.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's Blue!! It's Good!!

It's Apple Blueberry Pie Sauerkraut!!!  And they said it couldn't be done....

I will admit to some trepidation - after all, this is my first foray into
fermented foods.  But, Eureka!  Good thing I like it - there are three half-gallon
Mason jars of it in my fridge.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Monday Musings.

The onset of the Holiday Season, always plunges me into a deep pool of nostalgia.  It doesn't take much to send me rocketing backwards in time.  I was thinking, recently, of Christmas parties.  Back many lifetimes ago, I was part of a creative team in an advertising agency in Cleveland.  I was a pretty fair artist, but lacked the killer instinct that was necessary to 'make it'.  It had seemed like the right move in the progression of art school to advertising, but they were (and probably still are) two different things.  Nevertheless, being part of a creative group was a lot of fun!  I vaguely (ahem) remember the holiday season being a long string of interconnected parties.  That was back in the day when I could get away with wearing hot pants.  .  .  never mind.  (TMI???)

When I was married, we had a gang that we socialized with (the group of the Cold Bird notoriety) and every holiday was a reason to throw a party.  Then I was divorced and that was the end of that.  Of that gang.  I did have a good friend, Rip, who was a Host Extraordinaire.  He was a wonderful guy, well-loved, many-friended.  He passed away a few years ago and, with his passing, so ended my ties to Cleveland and an end to an era.  After that, I bounced around over a continent or two and eventually landed in the City.  There was a seismic change in my social life after that - I do think that, the larger the city the more difficult it is to find one's tribe.  Which does seem perverse.  I mean, there you are, surrounded by millions of people, but alone all the same. 

Then I was here.  Of course, I am sure that my age has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the fact that now my idea of a hot party is the local library's annual soiree - usually consisting of  a handful of people shoveling down free food and grousing about the limited booze.  And then there is the 'invitation only' party way up at the top of the hollow (oxymoron?) where the local grand dame holds court, surrounded by the chosen few and her mob of rescue dogs.  I love it.

My very favorite party?  A fire in the fireplace, a nice bottle of wine and a party of six.  Me, Bernice, Scrappy, Cookie, OnceSlim, and Kramer.  Suits me to a tee.

The Right Equipment.

I am a fairly novice seamstress, but I can sew a straight line (most of the time) and can read a pattern.  I like being able to make things for myself (and the dogs) - especially when I can reuse, upcycle and make do.  I would love to learn how to quilt, but I fear that I have two big strikes against me:  the focus of a fruit fly and I am math-challenged.

My very favorite sewing machine - the one I use for almost everything - is my mother's old Singer Featherweight.  She got this when she graduated from college - 1949, I believe.  This little gem is built like a tank (and weighs almost as much), has NEVER broken down, and - other than the occasional belt replacement - has functioned flawlessly for all these years.  I recently had to track down a repair person to replace the original cords that run from the pedal to the machine.  I (luckily) noticed there were breaks along the cord just before Kramer clamped his jaws on it.  That would have put a sparkle in his eyes. 

I was very lucky and found a repair guy that works out of his house - right on my pathway to work!  He can and will work on any type of sewing machine and told me lots of interesting things about the early Singers.  Cool beans.  He also has an adorable dog.  Who quickly discovered that I drive around with dog treats. 

For fancier sewing, I have an older Husqvarna (Husky 145).  It is desperately in need of a once-over and now that I've found my repair guy, it's next on the list.  Right under car repairs, vet bills, fuel oil, and gasoline.

I have my holiday gifts to make, a few pair of pants to hem, and my exciting new project - flannel-lined window shades for my living room windows!  I have a real problem with window 'dressing'.  Mostly, I like them bare-nekkid.  That is a problem, however, if I happen to be bare-nekkid.  I don't think the neighbors are ready for that.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Another Important Tool for the Homestead Arsenal!

I know that many of you (including yours truly) have been following 5 Acres and a Dream's blog for years.  Leigh is a treasure trove of information and encouragement for homesteaders - beginner to advanced.  I don't know how many times I have gone to her very useful resource listing and found the answers to prickly questions.

There have been tantalizing little wafts of the existence of 'a book' over the past few months, and I am very happy and excited to see that it is REAL!  Leigh is launched and has announced a giveaway of a copy of the book on her blog here.  So hop on over and enter!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Comfort Food : Health Food -- Oxymoron??

Not when that comfort food is Quinoa and Winter Squash Bake! 

Amazingly, it has completely, totally, firmly, and bodaciously kicked mac 'n cheeze's butt on my list of favorite comfort foods.  (Truth Alert:  Mac 'n Cheeze is STILL on the list, but rice pasta has taken some of the comfort out of it.)  I came across this recipe on my favorite cooking blog - The Kitchn.  And then I came across my giant Sweet Meat Squash, squatting there in my root cellar (aka the guest room closet).  And that behemoth was developing a soft spot - HORRORS!!!!  Karma?  Kismet?  I think yes.

I lopped off half the squash, cut out the soft spot, and still had over two pounds of diced squash.

(Slight Aside)  This was the first time I have grown Sweet Meat squash and just put one plant in.  It gifted me with two squash - a large and a ginormous.  After tasting this squash, I may plant my entire garden in it.  And red Kuri.

(Back on subject)  In the process of making the dish, I discovered my new favorite food:  roasted squash.  I have had it on salads, by itself, tossed with EVO, salt and pepper.  I could live on the stuff - and given the leftover portion of my ginormo squash, I just may for a month or so.

Here, for your viewing, reading, eating pleasure, is the recipe:

Quinoa & Winter Squash Bake
from The Kitchn
Serves 8
(My notes/changes/comments in italics)

1-1/2 lbs butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 T olive oil (plus more for brushing on the top)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 T ground flax seeds (I had flaxseed meal and used that)
1/2 cup + 1T water
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used four because I could...)
1 tsp each, finely chopped fresh marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme  (Not surprisingly, this being  December, I did NOT have fresh herbs - so I used a half tsp each marjoram, sage & thyme.  I did have a potted rosemary plant, so used fresh.)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 cups cooked quinoa (they recommend cooking it in vege broth, but I had turkey broth so used that.)
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
3 T currants or chopped dried cranberries (I used cranberries)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss cubed squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in oven until tender, about 30 minutes.  Turn halfway through.  Remove from oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees.

Combine flax and water in a medium bowl and stir with a fork until thickened.  Mash half of the squash using a fork or food processor.  Add the mashed squash to the flax mixture and stir to combine well.  Set aside.
(I just mashed it in the same bowl with the flax, as I am the only one here that washes dishes...)

Heat 1 T olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add quinoa and mashed squash/flax mixture to the onions, along with the paprika, nutmeg, 2 tsp of salt (don't skip) and a few (dozen) cracks of pepper.  Stir until well combined.  Add remaining cubed squash, pumpkin seeds and currants/cranberries and stir to combine.  Adjust seasonings if needed. 

Transfer mixture to a greased 9-inch pie plate or similar sized oven proof dish.  Press down firmly and evenly and brush top with a little olive oil.  Bake until set and edges are browned, about 40 mins.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.  Leftovers will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week.

Comfort food, baby, comfort food!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Musings.

I have lots of 'things' that remind me of friends and relatives - both living and passed.  A large braising pan that I use frequently reminds me of my friend, Kay, sadly lost to us this year.  I had been cooking something or other and - as is frequently the case (because I will NEVER learn) - was multi-tasking.  My brain+multi-tasking is like oil+water.  It does not mix.  I ended up outside and by the time I came in, the whatever had become a blackened crust, one with the pan.  Just then, Kay called and I whined on and on about ruining my favorite pan.  "Hold on!" she cried and hung up.  Four minutes later, she was bustling through the door.  She took the pan, turned around, and said, over her shoulder, "I'll be back in a little while with the pan."  About a half hour later, she once again bustled through the door (Kay never walked, she bustled) holding my pan which looked better than new.  She was so very special on so may levels.

My all-time favorite sweater is a green/blue mohair cardigan with fancy, lacy panels down the front and down the sleeves.  This was knit by my Great Aunt Edie.  About 35 years ago.  She even made the matching buttons.  She and I had a mutual love of anything green.  She struggled with my backassward way of knitting and finally gave up, happy that I actually loved to knit - no matter how odd it was.  She and I also shared the Christmas tradition of making the gingerbread men; I have very fond memories of the two of us in her tiny kitchen, dusted with flour, GA Edie grilling me on the state capitols.  She was a real stickler on maintaining the dignity of the cookie men.  I had a tendency to put them in different positions.  She would follow closely behind me as I transferred the dough boys to the baking sheets, straightening a leg here, an arm there.  Strictly by the book.  She smoked exactly one cigarette every evening with her daily Scotch.  Our dachshund, Inger, adored her.  So did we.

This time of year I often think back over past holidays - the year I spilled the beans to my youngest sister that our parents had gotten her a toy sewing machine.  I was one of THOSE children - the ones that ferreted out even the most well-hidden gifts.  Good gawd, I was an exasperating child.  Or trying to get high on Whiskey Balls - those delectable spirit-sodden cookies my mother used to bake.  I didn't manage to get a toot on, but I sure did develop a stomach ache.  Or the thrill of coming out into the living room and finding the tree lights on, and our little piles of presents.  Mine was not the age of excess, for which I am very thankful.  We got one 'big' present, and lots of little treasures.  And all three of us would get some of the same things.  I still have the little hammer that came with our first tool kits.

What is the reasoning behind scented trash bags?  Do they really think that imbuing the plastic with Eau d' Sickeningly Sweet Floral Scent will take out the - say, rancid onion smell?  Cat litter?  Those potatoes you discovered in the back of the vegetable bin that have been there since early 2012?  Why are we constantly trying to cover up smells?  It makes me think of those city folks who are all giddy to have a country place, and then are jolted upright in their designer Carharts when the farmer next to them spreads manure on his fields.  Instead of spraying chemicals, I may add.  Although, truth be told, my farmer neighbor does both. 

And, speaking of scents, who is in charge of  those vanilla scents?  I have yet to find a candle, spray or any other scent-releasing method that calls itself vanilla and actually smells like vanilla.  I tend to be sensitive to strong smells that lean in the fake floral direction.  As in GAG.  The only candles I can burn are unscented or pine.  Pine that smells like pine.  Now, if I could find a lemon-scented candle that smelled like real lemons, I would burn those babies day and night...