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I'm never bored. If I'm not knitting or spinning, I'm gardening or reading. There's so much to learn and never enough time. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cozy Corner

I love to spin with my drop spindle in the evening. It keeps my hands busy. I drink a nice cup of herbal tea or, healthier yet, a big glass of water. I'm not riveted to most of what's on the tube (with the exception of Downton Abbey or Doc Martin). Spinning is productive. I get yarn when I'm finished. I don't have to concentrate on my project, my hands remember what to do. It's tactile. The fiber is soft, the yarn on my spindle is squishy like a teddy bear. I'm spinning dark chocolate brown pure Alpaca, a gift from my daughter from our local farm, Alpaca Hill.  Many spinners would consider the process a bit boring. They need color - the brighter the better - to lift their spirits out of the mid-winder doldrums. I look forward to my little corner at the end of the day - pure, cozy comfort.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Clutter makes me Crazy!

There are plenty of posts on YouTube that explain the secret to an organized home. Marie Kondo explains the secrets in her book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up", which I admit I have not read. I think I pretty much get the gist of her program. However, I do have to keep things that do not bring me joy. Some are necessities. Some have monetary value. Some I hope to get back into at some point before I die. A few would simply make me feel too guilty to sell, give away or throw out. I am in the process of reclaiming my spare room and turning it into a sewing room for me. This has been my goal for over a year and the end is near. It's taken me a while to find places to store everything I plan to keep. I'll offer the rest to my children before the spring tag sale. The balance will go to Goodwill or the dump.

The grandchildren's toys live in my coffee table.

My son laughs at me when I ask him to put something back "where it lives". And here's the theme of this post. The easiest (and I think the only way) to reduce clutter in a home is to make sure that everything has a "home". If we have "homeless" items, we need to find or make them a home. Sometimes we have to get creative. Especially if you (as I did) live in a small home or apartment. Not that this house is a mansion, but there are enough places to create storage where none existed before. Here's an example: We have collected assorted paperwork, ear medicines, dog brush and other paraphernalia that relates to our little dog. I found a storage box that looks like a suitcase when I was browsing Michael's. I tuck it out of the way in the stairwell that leads to the basement. I can reach it by simply opening the cellar door but I don't have to search far to find what I need. The french script on the valise cracks me up.

I have two more that match the kitchen colors. One holds gardening information, the other has packing tape, scotch tape, rubber bands, paperclips. You get the idea. We have grandchildren, 3 of whom are under age 6. I have two storage cubes that hold their toys and serve as a coffee table in the living room when pushed together. And I don't have to worry about them getting hurt on a sharp edged coffee table if they fall while they're playing. I have two more cubes in the family room that hold my knitting and yarn

Where I hide my gardening ideas and kitchen desk supplies

A large tray on it's holder, granny's silver plate and 100 bottles of acrylic paint on the stair landing
The area by the front door collects coats, dog leashes, umbrellas - cubbies keep things under control
When I visited my husband's home for the first time, coats, shoes and everything else landed on a couch near the front door. I knew I'd never break the habit of a man over 50. So I went with it. The upper shelf catches coats and leashes, the lower bench keeps shoes and grandkids' books where they can find them. The games and puzzles are in the coat closet on the other side of the front door. I am definitely not a "neat-nik". Things get a little crazy around the computer area in the kitchen. I don't put everything away as quickly as I should. But things do find their way home on a regular basis because they have homes. I think that's the true "magic" to tidying up.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I Shall Wear Purple or Red

Jenny Joseph's famous poem called "Warning - When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple"... I'm sure you've heard it or heard of it.
If we're fortunate to attain an age that allows us to draw social security (or qualify for the senior discount at our favorite store) it's time to stop allowing others to dictate style to us. Some love shoes, I love coats. I'm almost six feet tall and never blend in anywhere. Most certainly, not in purple. I love to spin yarn and recently decided to start knitting with it. I made some fingerless mitts and a cowl to keep my neck warm. They're luscious browns and gold with sparkle and go nicely with my purple coat. They should be just right for my red coat, too.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ancestral Pantry Dinner

New Year's Day dinner is not the big deal it was when I was a kid. Families would get together for another big holiday meal. Maybe I was unaware, but I don't remember people bringing food to our house unless it was for a traditional "potluck". New Year's Day was considered an actual holiday. We dressed appropriately and ate well. It was one last day to enjoy the Christmas tree before heading back to school or work and reality. Unless we're all healthy and still have the energy to host an open house (which we haven't done in a few years), New Year's Day is just low key and leftovers. This year hub's got a cold and we missed going out for New Year's Eve. For whatever reason, I decided to defrost a two pound pork loin for the three of us and proceeded to figure out how create a dinner worthy of my own expectations. And I had to do it with what was in the house. I found a recipe called "Roast Pork Loin with Apples" on the Food Network website. I seemed to have most of what was on the ingredient list in the house. What I didn't have, I used a reasonable substitution.
Here's the recipe and my substitutions:

2 T vegetable oil                                              I used olive oil
2 lb. boneless center cut pork loin                    I had a 2 lb pork loin (from freezer)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper              I used pink salt and ground pepper
1 medium onion, thickly sliced                        Same
2 carrots, thickly sliced                                   I had 3/4 bag of organic baby carrots
2 stalks celery, thickly sliced                          I had a head of organic celery
3 cloves garlic, smashed                                 Same
3 sprigs fresh thyme                                        Surprisingly still alive in my garden
3 sprigs fresh rosemary                                   Barely alive in my garden but passable
4 T cold unsalted butter                                  Same
2 apples, peeled and sliced                             Same
1 cup apple cider                                            Small apple juice  - we have grandkids
2 T apple cider vinegar                                   Bragg's with the Mother, yet
2 T Whole grain mustard                                Yellow mustard

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Season pork loin generously with salt and pepper. Sear the meat until golden brown, transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, herb sprigs (I also added cut up fennel I found in the vegetable drawer) and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir until vegetables are softened or about 8 minutes. Sir in the sliced apples, push the mixture to the sides and set the pork in the middle of the pan with any collected juices from the plate. Roast, uncovered at 400 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes until a meat thermometer registers desired doneness. Standard used to be 160 but 150 is currently acceptable for moist, juicy meat.
When the pork is at the desired temperature, transfer it and the vegetables to a serving dish, and cover loosely with foil, discarding the herbs.

Return the skillet to high heat, add the vinegar, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Reduce by half, then add the cider or apple juice and reduce by about half again. Removed the skillet from the heat, whisk in the mustard and the remaining butter. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle some sauce over the meat and serve the rest on the side.
Now the reason I call this meal "Ancestral" is that it would have please both my mother and my grandmother. It's real food. Nothing pre-packed or instant. And everything was in the house. And that makes it "Pantry Cooking". Keeping basics in the fridge, such as onions, carrots, celery and apples, frozen protein of some type can really make an average cook seem like an accomplished one. It's not difficult to keep the basics tucked away, such as vinegar, mustard and apple juice. The only real caveats to keeping a pantry are this - make sure to check expiration dates before you buy and re-check regularly. And be careful with pre-packaged, prepared and cereal/grain based food. If you've ever had meal moths hatch and fly around your house, it's an experience you never want to repeat! Today I'm going to defrost some salmon fillets, make a marinade and try to finish knitting my socks. I finished all 3 pairs of mittens for my grandsons. It's time to knit for grandma for a while. Hope you have a Happy and Healthy 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

All is Calm



This is the calm before the crazy. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The baking is finished, the shopping is done, the presents are wrapped. Six grandkids will be under the tree tomorrow and I'll be ready for them. I didn't decorate much this year. Just some greens I picked up at Trader Joe's, the tree got trimmed and I brought a few things out of storage. With so much unrest in the world, I really needed some peace this year. I braved the Christmas shopping madness just twice. Tomorrow we're a houseful for dinner and delight. But I'll also keep Christmas quietly in my heart and pray for peace that the world so desperately needs. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Filet Mignon - Yes, Please!

Have you ever looked at the gorgeous beef filet in the butcher's section of your grocery store and wished you could make a perfect Filet Mignon for your lover?  Never mind impressing your mother-in-law!  Christmas is coming. And after that New Year's Eve. Just the two of you, snuggled up with champagne and a lovely dinner. The kids are with grandma. Or maybe you don't have children yet. Or it's Christmas Eve and the candles are lit, the music is playing and you're wrestling with a turkey or worse? I wouldn't recommend trying this on company without a bit of experience. Come on. You're worth it! Get a couple of steaks, thick cut little beauties for the two of you and give it a try!  You need a heavy skillet that can go in the oven on high temperatures. And you need a good meat thermometer. Preferably and instant digital read one. Here's what you do. You can send me a note to thank me later.

First, in your pan (10" works well) melt some butter and olive oil together. Or use some bacon drippings. A couple of tablespoons should do it. Your filet has no fat on it so you need to add some to the pan. You should salt and pepper both sides. Then brown them nicely on medium high heat. You can tell the browning is complete when the meat doesn't stick to the pan. Like I said, cast iron is best.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. When your filets are brown, pop them in the oven. Be careful and use thick oven mitts for this. Your pan till be very HOT. Set your timer for 5 minutes. At this point you'll begin to check the temperature. If you like your meat on the rare side you'll pull them at 145 degrees on your thermometer. Decide which filet is yours and cut into it a bit. If it's too rare, put them back in the oven for another 3 minutes. Check your temperature each time. Since pork is done at around 160, you'll probably hit your sweet spot between 145 and 155. Otherwise, the meat is gray and the juices are dried up. Remember, you check a steak by cutting into it and serving it with that side down. No one will know!

My dinner last night.  A perfectly done. Filet mignon, brussel sprouts with bacon, rice pilaf. Perfect!
Stick with me and we'll roast a chicken to perfection outside on the gas grill.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mittens for 3 Little Kittens

I was reading in bed the other night, occasionally looking up to chat with bug the devil out of my husband who was actually trying to read his book. I was explaining that I was knitting mittens for the first time and that I was making a pair for each of the little grandsons for their Christmas stockings. A nursery rhyme about mittens and kittens came flowing back into my brain from kindergarten but I could only recall part of it. Do little ones actually learn nursery rhymes any more? It must have been a fairly good brain exercise if I could recall even a few lines almost 60 years later. Maybe I'll look it up and teach is to my little grandsons when I give them the mittens. So it goes like this:

                                                    Three Little Kittens

Three little kittens, they lost their mittens and they began to cry. Oh, mother dear, we sadly fear that we have lost our mittens. What? Lost your mittens, you naughty kittens! Then you shall have no pie!

Okay, there we go. Kittens crying, mother scolding and withholding food. Child abuse, for sure.

Three little kittens, they found their mittens, and they began to cry. Oh, mother dear, see here, see here. For we have found our mittens. Put on your mittens, you silly kittens and you shall have some pie, 

Food as reward. Definitely could contribute to the trend toward childhood obesity.

Then the little guys got into real trouble.

Three little kittens put on their mittens and soon ate up the pie. Oh, mother dear, we greatly fear that we have soiled out mittens. What? Soiled your mittens, you naughty kittens. Then they began to sigh.

Name calling? More abusive behavior. You're not supposed to tell kittens they're "bad". Their behavior is unacceptable.

Three little kittens, they washed their mittens and hung them out to dry. Oh, mother dear, do yo not hear that we have washed our mittens? What? washed your mittens, then you're good kittens, but I smell a rat close by.

So Mother's not doing her job, protecting the family from marauding rats and she's worried about the kids getting their clothes a bit dirty. I think my kids would think I was nuts if I tried to teach the grandkids nursery rhymes. Better to stick to the knitting. (These are being knitted from Susan B. Anderson's Waiting for Winter pattern.)