Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Things That Make Me Go "Mmmmmmm"

A year and a half ago, I all but walked away from this blog. I metaphorically threw myself out a window and had very little to say. So, that being the case, why bother writing it all down?

It has taken me all this time to come to grips with the realization that I didn't like the person I had become. Now, think about that.

How do you live with someone you don't like and can't escape from?! I am who I am. Or am I?

Was I always that way or did I evolve? Can I revolve? Can I reinvent or recreate or merely tap into all that I want to be and quietly walk away from the rest? I think focussing on that 'quietly' part is going to take some doing, some real discipline.

I have also learned that everything I fear comes to me. Isn't that interesting?

Well, on my road to 100 Happy Days I am finding that I can refocus my attention to all the things out there in the vast world that makes me happy and by doing this, I can, well..... not ignore but also and more importantly not embrace that which makes me angry. I learned that I cannot change those things. They have to change themselves, if they want to.

I WANT to. I want to go back to writing about the things that made me start this blog: Cats and Quilts and the odd occasional chicken. Toss in growing vegetables and the odd bread recipe to two and you've got a pretty happy person who loves being alive.

This is me, today:


Monday, February 10, 2014

I Swear This Happened to Me

Some years ago, it was around summer 2004, I had the opportunity to travel to Rio de Janeiro for a 5 days and went with John. 

During the day, I was with two other women and we had the occasion to have a driver who knew everything and everyone in Rio, it seemed. No matter where we went, people were waving to him and talking...... he was extremely personable and knowledgeable as well. We did all the sight-seeing, like the gondola up Sugar Loaf and jewelry stores with mining museums....... we ate in some very interesting 'salad bars'. 

But for the last day, I went solo and this was the day to visit the cathedral and then up to Christ the Redeemer.

I pause now to state that I had an HP digital camera which used 4 lithium battery or 4 AAs. The lithium was recommended for this camera and I brought 4 spare along because I wanted to have plenty of battery life for the whole trip. What I didn't count on  was taking as many photos as I did on this trip. 

This camera showed how much cell life was left as I took photos and I was able to extend the life as the batteries were dying out by turning off and on the camera and grabbing an extra shot or two. Or three. 

The morning we set out to see the cathedral and Christ the Redeemer I checked on my the barry levels of the last 4 batteries and I saw they were less than half strength so I stopped at a shop and bought 4 (expensive) AA batteries... just in case. There were so many things to photograph this day and I wasted no time in doing so. 
We buzzed past the stadium were Carnival begins. Along the beachfront. Then on to the cathedral.

The cathedral in Rio was so unique and modern in the manner that anything from the 50s is modern.  From the outside you would never think this was a Catholic Cathedral.

From the inside, however, it is unmistakably so.

Around the inside were all the stations of the cross and seating was plentiful. I spent an hour inside, taking photos and within a few minutes, the camera batteries died. No sweat.... I planned ahead. I was not using the flash at all and figured that would save the life of the batteries.

We left the cathedral and started up Corcorvado and stopped at a scenic lookout. From this elevation, Rio de Janeiro is exquisite.

 After I had taken only several shots, I checked the battery icon and it showed there was very little life left! What! I just bought them! 

Oh well, oh well. I turned the camera off to save what was there. And I had that little trick as back-up.

As we continued up the mountain, the driver filled me in on the history of the statue, the visit of Pope John Paul I in 1980 and how Brazil had modernized the entire facility to accommodate disabilities with an escalator to the base. Finally he finished with "There are 220 steps up to the statue." 

Oh really? He left me there and I told him I'd be back in about and hour or so. I checked the battery level and was real disappointed to see the icon read on tick away from empty. I turned it off and said to myself, "well, just take a few images as you go up and shoot the important ones on the way down." I hit the escalator to the base.  From there, the view looking up is enough to make me dizzy, I took the camera out and shot a picture immediately.

As I climbed the steps to the statue, I encountered stopping points with patios where I could rest and enjoy the sights of the city from various viewpoints. For my part, I was more interested in the Redeemer. While this picture below looks exactly like the one above, you can tell it is not taken from the same location  by looking at the vegetation on the left side and compare it's location to the other photo. At this point in time, I checked the battery icon and I swear, I swear this is true. It was full.

Well, okay. That's weird. I left the camera on and continued counting steps to the next patio.

At each of these you can look up and see another angle of the statue.
I am almost to the platform at this shot.

Now I am standing amongst 300 people or more on a huge platform that angles out and away from the statue so the viewer can get a real good look at the face. All these people are milling about so I try not to get in their way.

From the farthest place on that patio/platform you can look down on the city and get a good idea how far up the mountain is.


There are plaques that tell the story of the construction and reconstruction at the foot and the viewer can walk completely around the statue.

But back to the statue..

 It is stunning. On a beautiful day, every angle was inspiring so I kept shooting. I had to wait for people to move away before I could take up a position and sometimes I was on the ground aiming upward. All of this took considerable time.

This is when I checked the battery icon and I SWEAR this is true. It was full. 

 I started my way back down and started counting again the steps to double check and be sure I had the right count. And I took more shots as I went, this time focussing more on the hillside.

 I thought this shot was beautiful.

As I walked off the last step, the camera shut off. The batteries were dead.

I can't explain it. I can't understand it and I can't deny it is sounds like a lie. But it is the truth and I never turned the camera off. I had been up there for around 80 minutes with that camera on the whole time.

And yes, 220 steps, up and 220 back down. 

I am not saying this is a miracle but there is an energy field on that mountain and at that statue. 

I swear this happened to me.

If you want to see some exceptional photographs of this remarkable statue, check out this site.

Monday, April 15, 2013

If I Had A Dog

I'd like to have a dog, go on long walks with it and learn all about the world of dogs. I watch the Dog Whisperer and realize there is so much I do not know about these creatures.

However, if I had a SMALL dog, I would probably humiliate it by doing something like this. Now and then.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Losing Weight

Writing down what you eat everyday is not a new concept. Counting calories goes back, like, forever but I remember it as something attached to Weight Watchers and is not a discipline I have every really given a shot at.

Last year, I spent time going Atkins and reducing my carbs, increasing the proteins, etc. It certainly worked but for someone who has a working relationship with grains of every description, after a month, it was getting to me. I lost a little and gained it straight back.

Just before she returned to her life after Christmas, my daughter listened politely to me moaning about all the running not dropping a pound from my body. This was whined about over breakfast, I might add. The next day we ran together at Bogue Chitto State Park; it was a 10 Mile Trail Race/Run and very hilly and occasionally wet and rather treacherous in places. It's a trail!

The track was a 5 mile loop and after the first, I had had enough. My feet were aching and the 10 milers were already looping us to completion.  If we had gone around again, the organizers would have to hang around another 2 hours. But, I felt defeated by de feet and age and weight. So I did what I do best and whined about it some more. Over breakfast.

And my daughter said, "Well, I have say you are probably eating WAY more than you need to to maintain a healthy weight. A woman your age doesn't need more than 1600 calories."

"    "  That silence was from me. I wasn't happy hearing this at all. I could've sworn I need at least 2400 calories. I can only suppose my silence emboldened her to continue.

"Immediately after breakfast yesterday, you ate a piece of chocolate."

This was true. I did it without thinking. And this brings me to my point. I eat a lot without even thinking! The sewing room is directly off the kitchen and I pass through it a hundred times a day when I am home so it is easy to reach out and grab a handful of chips or the odd Halloween mini-bars and say to myself, it's just one. And they all add up over time.

So I logged on to Livestrong where they had this MyPlate program which allows me to track every single morsel that passes the lips. I plunked in my height and weight, how much I wish to lose and by what date and it tells me how many calories I can consume in one day to achieve the goal I set for myself.

As I eat, I enter the what and how much and when, and it then calculates how many calories, carbs, proteins, etc I accumulate and tells me how many I left to consume that day. And I have to be HONEST for this to work. I' mean, otherwise, what is the point!

So far, one week, no bread, lost 2.5 lbs.

Thanks Rach!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rose Caturani's Ragout

I have the great fortune to have been born into two distinctly ethnic and diverse cultures; Swedish and Italian. With this came a love of food and luckily for me, the love of cooking. I have shared some Swedish recipes and today, I bring you Rose Caturani's Ragout.

First, meet my Grandmother, Rosina Nobile Caturani.

For some reason I will never know, she did not like the full name, Rosina. She came to America from Racalmuto, Sicily, leaving her family for the dream of earning money here and returning as quickly as possible. She never returned and never saw any of her family again except a younger sister who had emigrated to Argentina after WWII. 50 years had passed and when Grandma came back, she said, "She was so old!" Think now, my grandmother had to have been in her late 70s at this point.

She had been a telegraph operator in Palermo during WWI and told me that she was once of the first to learn the war had ended. It was after that she came here and eventually met my grandfather who was an immigrant from Naples. He worked at a bank at that time and came from a pretty strong family. There is a hospital with the name Caturani in New York and I was told the doctor it was named for was an uncle to my grandfather. 

Now, growing up, Grandma had never cooked and once she married, it was my grandfather who taught her a thing or thirty about the art of ragout and other wonders. But he had his quirks. She would tell me, in hushed voice, "He doesn't like onion. He tells me not to put in onion. What does he know. I put in onion. He eats." 

My brother and I would arrive from the airport with my Dad, pulling into the attached garage and she'd be standing on the top step, each successful year a little shorter. Behind her, bubbling on the old stove, would be the vat of ragout and the aroma could be detected from the street corner. Dad drove a convertible, so I'm telling you... you could smell the fragrance once we turned the last corner.

As I grew older, she would let me peel the garlic and chop onion as she explained how she made this unbelievably delicious spaghetti sauce she called ragout. (I remember when I saw Ragu on the grocery shelf for the first time and thought, OH that's how it's spelled!)

First it takes lambs necks and pigs feet. I kid you not and good luck with this unless you live where lambs are raised or near an italian butcher! We have been on the search for lambs necks for months now and the closest we have come is a processor up in Kentwood who says he'll butcher the whole lamb, if we bring one in. (anyone want to sell me a lamb?)

Last week, John read in the local newspaper a restaurant review of Palace Cafe that included a side note about a great braised lambs necks from another restaurant. We called to find out where on the planet were they getting these lambs necks and were told from their meat purveyor which only sells wholesale. sigh

So we did the next best and bought lamb chops. At least here you get a little marrow from the bone and lots of good meat. It ain't cheap, let me tell you, this recipe. At one time in the way gone distant past, lambs necks and pigs feet were basically toss-away by-products but today, not so much. Nothing is cheap but I refer you to this past post of mine

This ragout is Not Cheap, Not Fast but oh so Good!

Okay, Ingredients

4-5 pigs feet
some lamb necks (or chops I used 4 and this was good.)
4-5 sweet Italian sausages
1 large onion
4 toes of garlic (more if you like, I do)
1 large can tomato paste
1 large can tomato puree
2 large cans crushed or diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey
Sweet Basil (dried or fresh)
Red Wine, like merlot

In a large and I do mean large sauce pot, brown the pigs feet and lamb necks in about 2-3 tbls of olive oil ...... then add the sausage. Once the sausage has browned, add the onion and cook, stirring so they don't stick, until translucent. Now add the garlic but don't let it burn!

Push all the meat to the outer edges of the pot and add the paste in the center. This you want to cook. It literally will remove all the browned bit on the bottom of the pot as you stir it and spread it into the meats and start to separate from it's oils. After about 5-6 minutes, add the puree and stir it all together until it is well blended with the paste and meats. Now add the crushed tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper and at least 2 tbls of basil and 2 tsps fennel and a little red wine. Lower the heat to a simmer and let this cook for several hours. Stir occasionally and check the water levels. You sure don't want it to evaporate! Taste it and add salt and/or pepper to taste. Remember that this is going to cook for hours and will reduce so go easy on salt.

After some 5 hours, you can remove the pig feet and neck bones. You should find that the meat has fallen off the neck bones but the feet should be intact. Fish around and make certain you get them all. There isn't any meat on the feet so toss them out but if you like you can put the neck bones back in the pot for further cooking once you have pulled off any remaining lamb meat. That goes back in the pot for sure!

I allowed my vat to simmer for over 7 hours then I refrigerated it over night and returned it to the stove the next day for dinner.


Now, you have made so much sauce here that unless you are feeding an army, you'll have lots to spare. However, the sausage may disappear after the first feast.... what to do, what to do.

I'd make large meatballs with veal and pork, using more fennel, parsley, breadcrumbs, eggs, salt and pepper and I would bake them in a shallow pan filled with water-downed sauce in the 350 oven (drape a sheet of foil over the top so you don't have to clean an oven!), turning them once about an hour into it, for 1 1/2 hours and then simmer them in the sauce pot for another hour or more for another feast. But that's just me!

Baking meatballs in sauce is a great way to avoid the splatter that frying makes and allows the fat to rend away. You don't need that in your sauce anyway!

Mangia! Mangia! Thanks, Grandma... you are always with me!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bored Finger Drumming

So........ Is it 2013 yet?

I cannot wait for this year to end. I am excited about January1 and I have a laundry-list of goals.

No, I am not waiting for Tuesday next to get here before I begin. In fact, I have mentally leapt into the future and as such, my New Year will actually start on Saturday, December 30.

 I so cannot wait to leave this year behind that I will RUN away from it, 10 miles at the Bogue Chitto State Park!

After the BR Beach Half, I bought a new pair of shoes so that commits me through the Rock n Roll in February. After that, well we'll review.

And I can't wait (but I must) to plant the seeds for this summers tomato crops! Timing is everything here in SELA and you can grow veg 12 months out of every year. At the moment, we are feasting on beets, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, kale, brussel sprouts and lettuces. It's been a great year for broccoli as well.

My cousin gave me a substantial papaya tree that I plan to plant in the spring with hopes that we can get a few of those delicious fruits before next fall. And I hope (oh please oh please) that the 4 year old guava plants will produce this year. They are looking really good!

I have a few quilts percolating upstairs and more than a few to quilt hanging in the closet (still.... sigh) so once again, resolution: Quilt 1 (at least) each month.

So, I say good-bye til January. I wish you all peace & love and a Happy New Year. Be safe out there.