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.




Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ciabatta

Is there a better name that evokes a longing for bread? Ciabatta.

I love bread. Almost all bread. I love the smell of a bakery and can usually ferret out one on a roadtrip from 10 miles away. I love to bake bread as well and that brings me to this:

Ciabatta. I woke up yesterday with a hankering to bake ciabatta, having never done so previously.

So off I went in search of recipes on the innertubes and came across several that looked more than promising. Trouble soon followed.

At first glance, all recipes have this thing I had never heard of: biga. What the heck is this? Simply put, it's a starter of fermentation that adds that special chewy texture and I dare say, flavor to the ciabatta which distinguishes it from most other breads. It is not sour.

So, while I went into this day of baking wholeheartedly, I was quickly squashed back with the understanding that ciabatti take 2 days. The next stumbling block was which biga to make, the one that takes 24 hours and is thick, or the one that takes 8 hours.

I tossed the coin and went with the 24 hour. It used a more whole wheat/rye mix and I thought that sounded really earthy (I love rye) and made it using this recipe. I could always make the other method another time.

Then, as I was cleaning up the bowls and counter, I thought.... well, wait a sec. If I do this and it doesn't rise, I will be out 24 hours.... let me do the other method now and I can always freeze bread if they both work well! So, I went with this recipe.  If you try this one, you'll see that the biga is much thinner which makes sense because it starts in as little as 8 hours or overnight.

All that was yesterday and what a rainy day it was. Perfect for baking bread, in my book. Today,  well, it's still raining out there steadily and I have been working my through the 2nd step in ciabatta baking.

With this first recipe, I am about half-way through the rising process, something that should take 3 hours or so. I am very excited to report that the thick, slow biga rose beautifully overnight, tripling in size as it should have.

Once the loaves are in the final rise, I will start with the other recipe and see how that one is looking.

A few hours later, this is what the first loaves look like.
The bread has a great nutty taste and chewy texture but not the kind of holes I expected to see. I wrapped the bottom one up in clingwrap and froze it for later in the week.

I made rolls and one loaf from the second recipe and await the final rise.

And here is the results of that one. Again, nowhere near the bubbly holes I expected but the flavor of this bread is outstanding....... If I do this again, (and I will) I will reduce the amount of salt in the first batch to >2 teaspoons...... but I really liked the flavor of the wheat/rye blend.

With the second, I will try to touch it less and hope the bubbles don't disappear.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fat Fat The Water Rat

You know, I just don't get it. I am plogging again 3 x a week and I eat what I think is healthy, probably too much,  and I don't eat desserts (much) (maybe once a week) (ok twice) and for what ever reason my weight has crept up to 160 lbs.

This disturbs me.

Now, this does not sound serious or life-altering but still. A few months ago I sat around 153 and wanted the exercise to reduce that. But now, 160.  That's 7 lbs EXTRA. I am not a math-whiz but is that like a 6% increase? I don't know... but yesterday, I was so uncomfortable.  I felt like a balloon.  An overfilled balloon. It was frightening in the sense of out- of- controlness.

Does anyone out there have REASONABLE suggestions? I am going back to reducing all carbs and see what happens.

Something has to happen because this is unmanageable!

Charmed Blocks - Free Modern Quilt Pattern

A few days ago, I was in another of those "I just want to have a day of fun!" modes so I pulled out a charm pack I bought at the shop a few years ago.

Merry and Bright by Sandy Gervais

It's from Moda and my daughter was interested in a modern Christmas quilt. I purchase two charm packs and a few lengths of fabric 'friends' to go along with it. But time passes and I forgot all about it until the other weekend when I spied with my little eyes and thought, "A HA! the very thing. How much trouble could I get into with this?"

So, I came up with a quilt and have turned into a pattern that will be available for free on our store's website shortly.


I am posting this quilt pattern here first, however, because I was hoping that someone(s) would like to make it and be my spot-checker for mistakes. It measures 56" x 62" and is a snap to make.

To print the pattern, click on the printer icon in the upper left corner. You can increase the view by sliding the bar next to the printer button and you can view it full screen by clicking on the monitor button.



If you would like to sew this quilt and let me know what you think, I would be very grateful. I am getting into this modern quilt thing.......

 In the meantime, I am going to throw this one onto the quilting machine and have a blast using modern quilting motifs in white thread. I'll post that photo later.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Busy Day

It started with my first run since March. I went two times after the 1/2 Marathon but my heart (and knee) was into it at that point in time. 

I woke up this morning feeling really good, great even and I thought it might be time to slip on the shoes and give it another go. 4 months (ish) is long enough time to  rest the IT band that hurt so awfully after that long plog and I went for 30 minutes and I can honestly say that even at 6 am, it is steamy hot and humid in the deep south but much better than tying to go at it around 7:30am. I was finished before the sun topped the trees and was grateful. 
Now, why you might ask, am I doing this again in the hot of the summer? Well, I committed to doing the Rock n Roll Half Marathon again next year in February and am committing to do the Baton Rouge Beach in Dec. so I guess I need to get back in the groove.
When I "trained" for the 2012, I had exactly 18 weeks between commitment and completion and I mean from the day I strapped on the shoes to the day of the marathon. Nd frankly, for a minimally active person at 52, that really was asking a lot. But that is behind me (along with excess baggage) and Dec. is a long way away and I know I will do better and feel better and have better shoes this time!

But enough about me.... have you seen this pot of chicken stock? If you are a friend on Facebook, it may look familiar. I love chicken soup... it is usefull for many dishes and I intend to make three favorits (of mine) this week. Mexican tortilla soup, chicken curry and italian pasta i fagoli. Call me ethnic.

Now, I have also been hacking away at this most diffy of quilts, the 2nd Civil War Quilt and I used a layout similar to one I found at the Flickr site, except I used 9 on point squares for the center instead of 16. Now I will have to add boders borders borders to make it large enough to drape King, ven thou this means I may not be able to quilt it myself. C'est la vie!







I

Did You Miss Me?

Nah, probably not. I see it has been two months since the last posting and it feels even longer since. It is good to back away from things at times. Get some distance to see life in a different perspective.

I even stayed away from sewing for several weeks and I think I benefited from this as well. Even plogging. Haven't done that since the R n R 1/2 Marathon back in March. I think of it all as a vacation but don't think for one minute I've been sitting around watching Netflix and popping popcorn. (okay I have been doing that.....) but it is summer and the vegetables have been belching out of the garden and that means canning, peeling, freezing, pickling and not in that order!

I have cleaned out the freezer as well to see where we stand in there and now I almost can stand in there! Except it's a chest freezer so I would look rather silly. And cold.

What I really really truly want to do is get 4 or more quilts on the machine (one at a time, naturally) and knock them out. I bought a couple of new books which I wrote briefly about at Bright Hopes Quilting and found some new design I want to practice, but first I have to dredge the machine out from under piles of draping stuff.

Ever buy an exercise machine, or seen one set up in a bedroom, never used except to hang clothes off of? Picture a quilting machine then, all set up and recently serviced; just waiting for a quilt-top to be pinned in place. But I can't because I have been using it to hold projects on hold, ironing yet to do, some fabric I bought as backing for another quilt I can't seen to locate, bills paid that need to be filed and pincushions I am using to finish the last Civil War quilt that has me pulling my hair out. It's so cluttered, even the cat has issues.

Yesterday, I started tackling the excavation in order to get where I wish to be and I hope by Wednesday to actually have a quilt ready to go.

In a bid to re-enter the quilting room gently, I did complete this little quilt in one day.

It's for the Seasoned Quilter wall hanging at the shop.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fun With Julia

The Obama-Biden campaign online site has posted this new "The Life of Julia"  which is sad and creepy at the same time.

All the wonderful things this fictional woman, Julia, will experience as she ages under the policies set in place by Prez Obama.It's sad to me because it plods along for 67 years with the least amount of risk or change or goal-settings. She goes to school, goes to college, goes to work at 23, decides to have one child, after working full-time for 19 YEARS!!!! she takes govt. money to start her own business as a web-designer and works another 25 YEARS as a business owner (presumably) and retires.


Julia retires. After years of contributing to Social Security, she receives monthly benefits that help her retire comfortably, without worrying that she'll run out of savings. This allows her to volunteer at a community garden.


(The community garden. You know, you gotta love it, even Michelle gets to massage Julia's life.)

So to me it is sad because Julia has lived a life of such limited scope. She didn't get married. She didn't travel. She didn't break any hearts along the way. She went to school for 5 years to do the same job for the next 44 years. Then she got farmed out to slave in a garden that produces vegetables that other people get to eat.

It's creepy because everything she DOES experience: school, higher ed, surgery, pregnancy prevention, medical care, business, retirement and volunteering, is processed through the ever-watchful eye of someone else. Someone else gives the seal of approval.

And BTW, how can ANYONE in 2012 tell me what Julia can live comfortably on in 2076? So, 300 years from the founding of this great nation, this administration has Americans' lives all sorted out.

All we have to do is not vote for Romney? Do we live in a vacuum? Will absolutely nothing happen between now and oh say, 2058 to make a slight hiccup in this Master Plan?

Oh dear, Well, let's lighten things up with Iowahawk; the repository of fine writing blended with hilarious whacky.

This is what the Hawk envisions for Julia



I especially love the last line.  C'mon Julia!!! Let's garden!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Are you keeping up with the Elizabeth Warren brouhaha up in Massachusetts? She is in a senate contest with Scott Brown, the usurper who walked off with Kennedy's seat in the last election. You remember that guy? The one with the pick-up truck?

So who is Elizabeth Warren and why am I writing this post? She has been a Harvard professor for quite some time now and had listed her heritage for 10 years in faculty minority law professor directories as such but removed it at Harvard because she didn't think it pertinent or something.

Now she comes out and says she checked the box all those years in an effort to get included in get-togethers "with other people who are like I am" and she assumed the heritage was true because she grew up in a family that talked about being Native American and her grandfather "had high cheekbones like all Indian have".

Now, I don't know and I don't care what the truth is to her heritage and her hiring at Harvard but they did use her heritage to tout their faculty's diversity so clearly, Harvard cared.



Harvard Law spokesman Mike Chmura told the Crimson that of 71 law school professors and assistant professors, 11 were women, five were black, one was Native American and one was Hispanic.
"Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American," the Crimson reported.




Well, I read this quote on MJHAWEYE'S blog this morning and got such a chuckle of it I wanted to share :

But if you took a look at MJ Hawkeye, age, 66, I could pass for Tonto. I have cheekbones so high they're above my eyebrows. My hair has to be thinned with a lawnmower. I could live to be older than Methuselah and I'd never go bald. Some guys wear caps when it gets cold. I wear my hair. I have a chest so big it should have staves around it. My complexion so dark I tan in January. I'm the kind of guy who could run around shouting, "Whoo-whoo-whoo and get away with it". Elizabeth Warren is a phony. 

And that's all I have to share.

Oh except this: She is trying to deflect the criticism to her opponent. It's all Scott Brown' fault that she is getting bad press


“The only one as I understand it who’s raising any question about whether or not I was qualified for my job is Scott Brown and I think I am qualified and frankly I’m a little shocked to hear anybody raise a question about whether or not I’m qualified to hold a job teaching,” she said, pushing to put Brown on defense. “What does he think it takes for a woman to be qualified?”

I didn't interpret this has anyone questioning her qualifications to hold a teaching job.  Did you? I interpreted this as questioning whether the job she got at Harvard was under false pretenses, intentional or not. The fact is she listed herself while as a professor at U Texas and U Penn as minority and she dropped it after hiring on at Harvard. Now, unless there was another American Indian working at Harvard, Lucy has some 'splainin' to do.

Unless, by 'minority', she was referring to her sex. I think there were only 11 women out of the 71 law professors.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Carpe Diem--trunc Presse Diem

I think that is latin for :seize the day then squeeze it.

I could be wrong but in any case..... the thought occurred to me yesterday as I did this very thing.

It started by being out in the back 2 watering all the fruit trees and admiring the recent growth on the raspberry vines (finally). I was beginning to be concerned but it is all due to the (very) (remarkably) early Spring we had this year that everything is out of whack.

I wanted to clean out the coop and spread the straw on the squash in the lower garden which is also finally beginning to show strength. All the tomatoes are going gangbusters and that is such a relief. The corn is struggling still and the black-eyed peas did nothing. Hmmmm so I think I will try my luck at a drying bean on that frame instead. Something like a pinto or such. I don't want to waste the effort of erecting the grow frame altogether...

So after the coop cleaning, I pulled half of the remaining carrots

and made room for our last 6 tomato plants which were waiting for space. Seeing then side by side with the ones I planted last month really shows the difference in sizes. I hope this will also provide a staggered harvest as well.

The peas are really coming in now but I think the ones that did germinate are not the English peas but the snow peas, of which you eat the pods rather than wait for actual peas...... oh well! So much for home-grown peas n carrots! I will try (harder) again next year to get it right.

So after all this, I fertilized everything with calcium and scraped weeds off and mulched. Before I knew it, it was 10:30..... So I went in and worked on an applique, Glory Garden.
Fuzzy. Well those are only a few of the blocks that go into the whole quilt.

On Friday, we drove across the lake to drop off 21 quilts which are destined for the GSQA quilt show in Slidell, LA. afterwards we had lunch at the Taj Mahal, an Indian buffet, which reminded me how much I enjoy eating ethnic foods. We made a pitstop at the International Market and I picked up some spice packets to make another Indian feast tonight. I intend to use the veg from the garden to whip up a nice variety of dishes.

Q has made progress on overcoming this licking fixation. The cream I have been applying to her ear has calmed her down to the extent that this morning, when Polo met her at the door, they touched noses and she let him walk past without turning into a hissing viper. She does sleep a
lot that this has me concerned.


I am off to Sam's this morning......

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Doings Goings

I've been occupied at various endeavors lately and thus away from bloglife but I am indeed aware of its's existence and although I don't have much to say, I can report this much.

Farmlife: The crops are off to a dicey start. The corn looks so skimply and weak, it will be a miracle if we get an ear. The same is true about several squashes. I don't know what the dealio is but if something goo doesn't happen and soon, I might as well plow under the lower bed altogether!
Now in the raised beds, it's a different story. They are doing alright. Nothing to brag about but it's early days yet. The tomatoes really responded to the heavy rains we had last week. The English peas are finaly flowering and growing up the trellis. (yea) I lost all the new eggplant we seeded so I bought 6 little plants today from the Feed n Seed. All the lettuces are doing splendidly and we are eating our weight in salad. The avocado trees are hanging in and we have a few little fruits to show. The peach trees that were late to bloom have now done so except the last one. I can on;y hope it is still alive as we did lose a plum.

I have my fingers crossed that we will have peas and carrots ripe at the same time this year... that would be so cool.

Cats: Q has been licking herself hairless and it really started to show this week when I realized her back legs looks so scrawny. Well, there is no hair back there now so I took her to the vet in hopes it wasn't fleas. It wasn't and it shouldn't considering I use Advantage and Frontline. No, she has anxiety and stress and she shows it by constant grooming so now the little dear is on cat prozac.

Landscaping: It never ends. The lorepedlum had gone bonkers on the driveway so I whacked them all down to the nub. John took 6 of them away from the house which has cleared up a space for something smaller, like lilies of the nile and shasta daisies. The end result of the day's labour is my bicep is killing me right now and I don't recognize this pain.

Quilts: working on several tops all at once. Still have a backlog of quilting to do.


Happy and blessed Easter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Leek and Potato Soup

More than anything else. I think of this blog as a book for my "children". They are in their 20s now so put the word in scary quote marks.... scary for me, not for them, hopefully.

I write this so they will have in words some recipes and photographs from this wonderful life I have been living. This is a post about leeks and a soup I love to make and eat.

If you have read any previous posts about leeks, you must know how chuff I feel about growing these marvelous onions. I have tried the conventional yellow and purple and white onions but, like my luck with figs, I am the only person in SELA who can't seem to grow them. Leeks, I do just peachy with for some reason or another and I really get smug when I have grown them from seeds. Other times, I have found a grow-pot at Lowes with leeks and just gone that route. It is not the easiest thing to seed them at just the opportune time for good growth transplant.

Now, check out these babies:

These have had the roots and crown cut away, and slit down length-wise to facilitate cleaning, and are ready to be chopped into 1/4" slices. I stop right where the white turns light green and I dump them in a large bowl and rinse cold water in.



This allows the onion layers to swell and let any grit rinse out. You don't want anything like that in a great soup.

Now I remove 3-5 outer leaves and keep the lower part (see where I am pointing? That is the keeper, the others on the upper left is tossed)

and toss them on the compost pail and continue chopping and rinsing. You will always find more dirt and grit in this area because of the way leeks grow in soil. I goo almost to the tips of the greens, especially if they are still bright and tender.


See the dirt? You definitely don't want that!

These I put in a separate bowl, usually one with a white interior so I can really see the dirt well. Get it all cleaned out. Rinse rinse rinse. Trust me.... dirt can hide very well, thank you!

Now at this point if you have more leeks than you want to use, parboil them and freeze in small freezer bags for future use. When you grow these beauties, this is an awesome onion to have on hand for quiches, stews and spaghetti sauce.

On to the soup!

3-4 large leeks, cleaned as I have described so thoroughly above
2 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large soup pot

Saute the leeks until they have softened and add

4 large white potatoes, peeled and chopped into good-sized chunks. Russets are good, yukon golds add a buttery flavor that I like. You can use reds as well.

4-6 cups of chicken stock (I use the granules unless I happen to have canned stock on the shelf.)

White pepper and more salt if you really think you need it. Now let it simmer for 25 minutes and voila!

I say "if you really need salt" because bouillon cubes are heavy-salt and some people use salted butter. I always buy unsalted but I think I am strange about this. I usually wait til the end of cooking and taste the liquid.

If you want to thicken the soup, crush some of the cubed potatoes. They are a natural thickening agent and help eliminate the need for high-calorie flour or cream. This trick also helpes thicken beans... mash a half a cup of them and stir into a pot of beans for instant thick 'gravy'.


Here you can see the ratio of leeks to potato. Obviously, that can be reversed if you so choose. Me, I like the onion.

The Perfect Day

...Didn't start yesterday, I'll tell you that!

The "Perfect Day" was today but yesterday stared with a (slight) calamity.

On Monday, I planted all the tomatoes we started from seed back in Feb. 35 plants to be precise. 20 in the raised beds and 15 in the lower garden. We really like the Parks Razzleberries and Cherokee Purples and Evas so we went with those, naturally and decided to try a few new (to us) varieties like Pruden Purples, Black Krim and one Virginia Sweet we bought from an avid Master Gardener who just happens to live across the highway from us. I also seeded Margerite plums and Costoluto Genovese from last year's success and have made the executive decision to completely omit any cherry toms or tomatillos (unless I happen upon a seed pack of tomas. If so, all caution will be out the window.)

Seedlings are by nature susceptible to all sorts of attack and by now, I should know better than to leave them to all predators but alas, this is exactly what I did Monday night. I blithely walked away and forgot to sprinkle Sevin dust on these young sprouts so it should come as little surprise to learn, Tuesday morning, that 4 of them were immediately cut down by those miserable cutworms!!!!

I hate these creatures (may God forgive for saying this but I really do! I hate them with passion)(ggrrrrrrrr) and I can't believe the sense of rage I felt when I saw the little toma tops laying there on the dirt, slightly shriveled as though they had just in the ribbon light of dawn been whacked by these ruthless marauders.

So I cried my way back to the house and threw myself on John's mercy to help me protect the others and he came back with a marvelous solution.


He bought giant drinkstraws and ct them first lengthwise and them into 3" pieces and we slipped them around the lower stalk just at dirt level and pressed them lightly into the soil. That was last night and I am pleased to report all the others have survived the night and I replanted the missing spaces with my back-ups. It is so important to have a back-up waiting in the wings.

This morning, I planted the second set of zuccs and butternut squashes and will go out now and give them a collar before night falls. The rest of the day has been joyfully spent doing alittle organizing in the sewing room, working on a Grandmother's Garden I have had in the works for years (moan) and baking a banana cake.

All in all, a very good day. 4 eggs from the ladies (nothing yesterday... I'm telling you, it was not a good day, farm-wise) Leek and potato soup for dinner. Can't beat that!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Organize One Drawer

My foray into cooking Beef Rendang last week made me face a dilemma head on. That is,

What the heck all is in my spice drawer?????

I had envelopes and jars and zippies and tins and it was all a big jumble that I, over the three years we've lived here, would look at, fish around in and close with a promise to "deal with it" later.

So since it was only one drawer and I thought to myself, "how long could this take?", I tackled it. It took three days of tackling but it is done.


Those little jars up front are found at Michaels in the Brides aisle. They are gift jars and the perfect size for those spices you buy at World Market in small pouches. And as you see, they don't take up valuable real estate that large jars use.

I feel rather smug. Too bad all the other drawers are still all chaos.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beef Rendang

I grew up with a positive aversion to coconut. Mind you, my limited access to it back then was in Almond Joy or Mounds chocolate bars and the grinding texture and sickly sweet flavor did not impress me as a child so I avoided anything with the word 'coconut' in it for years.

Then we moved to the Far East and my path was crossed with a dish called Beef Rendang which is a spicy sweet aromatic and thicker version of what we might call 'stew'. I first tried it in a restaurant, I believe, and could buy it ready-made in tins (dreadful) but eventually was taught to make it by the housekeeper of a man who lived next door to us in Brunei.

The housekeeper/cook was a transvestite to begin with and I never knew which persona I would meet each day working out in the garden or running errands. At first I thought they were two different people, and I suppose that really is most accurate. But not germane to the story.

On the appointed day, I bopped over and after we visited for a few minutes, we got busy in the kitchen, by which I mean, she got busy and I took notes. She did not speak English, I did not speak Malay but we both communicated like fast friends over a common bond: Food.

Here is where I first discovered that coconut goes into the making of this delicious curry. And that most foreign and mesmerizing ingredient, lemongrass.

All the spices and herbs were ground up with a mortar, which took more time than necessary these days, thanks to our advanced technology of the mini-blender (c'mon folks, just get one) and today I whirr them all together in less than 2 minutes. But back then, I confess, as she ground and ground away, the fragrances that were released filled the room and senses like nothing I had ever experienced (except possibly, when in a bakery).

Then the ingredients are all fried up in a large pot and coconut milk and water added. This then slowly cooks for several hours and the beef tenderizes and pulls in the spices even as they break down. at first, the liquid is light in color and almost off-putting but eventually as it evaporates, the curry takes on a darker, richer color and if you prefer a 'dry' curry, you can continue til it's practically non-existent. This is not something I like because I let the rice we serve with the rendang soak up that gravy.


Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound boneless beef cubes, cheap cuts are fine
5 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cinnamon stick (about 2-inch long)
4 cloves
3 star anise, I use powdered star anise 1/4 teasp. This is not the anise seed!
3 cardamom pods, or 1/4 teasp of the seeds from within

1 lemongrass (cut into 4-inch length and pounded) I used the stuff in the squeeze tube as the lemongrass is harder to find here

1 cup thick coconut milk (canned. Try to get a can from Thailand, not Mexico. It is prepared a little differently)
1 cup water
2 teaspoons tamarind pulp (soaked in some warm water for the juice and discard the seeds )(good luck finding this. I substituted 7 prunes and added 1 Tables of Lime juice)
6 kaffir lime leaves (very finely sliced) Sorry, I grow my own here in the South. Again, Good luck. try an Asian Grocery store
6 tablespoons kerisik (toasted coconut) (couldn't find it, omitted it altogether)
1 tablespoon sugar/palm sugar or to taste
Salt to taste

Spice Paste:

5 shallots
1 inch galangal
(Ii have powdered )
3 lemongrass (white part only) (Squeeze tube, (again)
5 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
10-12 dried chilies (soaked in warm water and seeded)

Method:

  1. Chop the spice paste ingredients and then blend it in a food processor until fine.
  2. Heat the oil in a stew pot, add the spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and cardamom and stir-fry them until aromatic.
  3. Add the beef and the pounded lemongrass and stir for 1 minute.
  4. Add the coconut milk, tamarind juice, water, and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until the meat is almost cooked.
  5. Add the kaffir lime leaves, kerisik (toasted coconut), sugar/palm sugar, stirring to blend well with the meat.
  6. Lower the heat to low, cover the lid, and simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is really tender and the gravy has dried up.
  7. Add salt to taste. If not sweet enough, add more sugar to taste.
  8. Serve immediately with steamed rice and save some for overnight.

Okay, that fine recipe is from the link on the name above and it is superb. Galangal is a root much like ginger but different and you might find it at the Asian Grocery. I brought alot of these these ground dried spices back from Thailand and will search for them locally the next time I cross the lake.

I allowed it all to cook to at least 5 hours total and it would taste even better today if there was any left. Note to self: Make twice as much next time!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Sprung While We Were Not Watching

Yes, it slithered in on it's belly like a reptile and now all the water oaks are bloomed out and I don't know what is going with the peach trees and plums. They are just barren. I hope they aren't waiting for more chill hours because at this point in time, they'll have to wait another 10 months.


We spend several days out in the field planting and setting stakes for runner beans. I had already seeded 7 varieties of tomatoes and transplanted them into larger pots last week. At this point, they are hardening off to be planted in the plot and raised beds along with fancy peppers.
In the ground we now have:


Potatoes, zucs & cucs, yellow crook-necks, Silver Queen corn, Blue Lake, Moonlight runners, black-eyed peas. Soon to add the tomatoes and after the potato harvests, I'll plant okra!
In the raised beds, we have a few rutabagas left, celery, 3 kales going to town and they are SO good, carrots, a mix of salad greens, French shallots and English peas (quite the UN out there)(they refuse to speak with each other)

In the afternoon, I seeded more skinny eggplant (J has become a big fan of the eggplant lately) butternut suash, a zuc called the Contender (wouldn't you plant something with this name?) marigolds and zinnias and I just found another seedpack of eggplant that need to be seeded.

I have been slowly weeding an preparing to set in the eggplant and peppers and this year we are going to designate one of the beds for cantaloupe. I intend to train them upward and will support the fruit in slings. This because when we had them in the lower plot, something made off with all but two. The raised beds are protected by a fence.

Now, as I returned from Nonna's last Sunday, I stopped along the highway to get some shots of the lovely wisteria that has bloomed out along the roadways. It is only a brief time to enjoy them as they will be history again in two weeks and I swiped some seed pods. I want to try to propagate plant for myself. I know they are invasive so I must choose a site wisely. I think I know just the spot!


Wisteria: Beautiful





Azalea Wall Along the Highway



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cucidati and Then Some




A couple of years ago, I met a mother/daughter duo in a quilting class who, after we established a familial Italian connection, told me an intriguing story about a tradition from New Orleans called St. Joseph's Altar.


Now, I have lived here off and on for close to 20 years, and although I am not Catholic, I thought I had a handle on local happenings and this one completely slipped my radar. In addition to the tradition itself, these ladies made a fig cookie recipe that grabbed me by the throat and hasn't let me go. Cucidati....even the name intrigues.

You can see them here, iced cookie logs wrapped in cellopane.

I had the impression that these cookies take time to make and are usually exclusively mad around the Eastertime. This may not be the case, but as I said, it was my impression. The Altar is set up to honor St. Joseph and came to New Orleans from Sicily where the tradition started after a time where the famine in Sicily brought the people to beg their patron saint, Joseph, for relief. In answering their prayers, they paid homage to him by erecting an altar with their harvest and giving the food to the less fortunate.



In New Orleans, people would drape a greenery on their doorways to signify that they had built their own altar inside and invited people in to partake of the food and the tradition lives on in Churches, schools, homes and in this following case a local bakery, Nonna Randazzo's.

I spent summers and most Christmas weeks with my Father and Grandmother as a child and grew up hearing and eating Italian. The two of them conversed almost exclusively in the language and neither my brother nor I ever learned it. We instead spoke Swedish back home in Texas with our Mother and Mormor. Yessss. that was quite the combination.
My father's mother was in fact from Sicily and devoutly Catholic. But she learned to cook (deliciously, I might add) by my Grandfather who hailed from Naples. We ate like kings and queens in New York and I learned to make ragu and caccitore and biscotti and sesame anise cookies but I never had any fig filled nothing so I raced home and phoned Dad and asked him about it. After determining that I clearly had the pronunciation incorrect, we Googled it phonetically and ta-da! He got it! But no, he knew the cookie but not the tradition! And no my Grandmother who loved figs as much or more as me, never made them.

Again, that was a couple of years ago and last year another quilting group I am in spoke of this St. Joseph's Altar again and told me about Nonna's and that they held an Altar every year that was open to all! And that it was going to be held the sencond week in March. So, I went!


John met me there last Sunday and we enjoyed the very pleasant company of strangers at the lovely Nonna's in Covington. Here are a few photos for you to enjoy


If you can identify any of the dishes and give me names, I would be much appreciated!


When we left, we were handed a "goodie bag" with several items inside. A St. Joseph's Prayer card, a sesame anise cookie (memories!) a fava bean for luck (place it in your pantry and you will never run out of food.) (It's in there) and several cookies and a crust of bread for the freezer. Now in the face of a mighty storm, you break a piece of the bread off and cast it to the wind to protect your home!

And if you are interested in learning more about St Joseph's Altar, this is a link to the Virtual St Joseph's Altar

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Did It... It Wasn't Pretty

Last Sunday was the Big Day, the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans and we crossed the finish line in 3 hours 20 minutes 21 seconds.

The start was in the CBD and snaked around an entire city block, We were somewhere in the middle of the back of the line and it took our corral 29 minutes to cross the Starting Line. There were well over 20,000 people in this race and we met about a hundred of them standing in the corral and mooing our way to the front. Some were wearing the same shirt so I asked if they were a part of a club. No, this shirt was for runners who had completed 3 Marathons in 3 months. Any three consecutive months. Now we saw another shirt that read 50 States and asked about it. This man, in his 70s had run 192 MARATHONS in every state of the union. I'd capitalize the 192 if I could, for emphasis!

Here are R and P at the start of the race..... all fierce and ready to rock.

I found some sport tape at the Expo the day before and wrapped my right ankle and left knee is an effort to give them some added support. The good news is the ankle felt great the whole way through. The bad news is I have done some damage to the knee regardless the tape and by mile 9 .5 , I was in agony.


But Rachel and I slowed down to walking fast. Even at that, we were passing other walkers. I had no concept of the time that had passed and was determined I would cross that finish line in under 4 hours.

That was somewhere behind the the NOMA in City Park and as we approached the buiding itself, I saw hand-made sign reading ".25 miles".. Me: "REALLY!!!! REALLY???? It's only a quarter left???!!!!"


So we made a break for it and eventually ran under a huge scaffolding I mistook for the end...... Oh no wait.... keep going! Keep going!!!! So we plogged a little further and crossed.

YEA!!!!!!!! WE did it, now what do we do???


Here was the best part and now that I am more familiar with what to expect, I want to do it again.

After we crossed the finish line, we were handed or medals and limped away to where people press on you bananas and bagels and chocolate milk, Gatorade and water and fruit cups and oh, I don't remember what all...... Here is where I intend to linger at any future HM. I left that area WAY too quickly... big mistake!

But I was really hankering for that free beer and jambalaya we were promised. We hadn't eat much for breakfast and I was ravenous at this point.


We never found the free beer....... We finally found and I stood in a beer line that NEVER advanced for what seemed to be over 10 minutes. I saw people with cash in their hands standing there but never saw anyone ever leave the front with beer..... Meanwhile R and P went in search of food and came back with 3 styro cups of absolutely delicious jamba but they cost $5.00 each! Hmmmm... we clearly were doing something amiss.


We finally gave up on the beer altogether and tried to go back to get another water bottle or two but once you leave the gauntlet, you may not return.
So we found some bleachers and sat to eat and wonder where from that position do we have to travel to find the car park. I was wondering if my feet and knee would be able to transport me to the car! There were no officials anywhere to ask.... all the people along the gauntlet line were volunteers barking at the spectators to leave room for the runners to pass out of the way.

We eventually determined it would be faster to just walk across the park to the car than to walk the other direction to the bus line for the car park shuttle.

So the question immediately after the run was "would I do it again?" At that time, the answer was a firm no. But enough days have passed now and the answer is yes. I will and here is why:

I know better what to expect from all of it. The training, the actual distance, the prep the week before, pacing. clothing, and I had a great time. Now I want to do it again, only faster.

I know.... but another t shirt read

"Half Marathoners are only Half Crazy"

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One Week and Counting

So.... the final week before the half marathon. I ran 7.5 today and have increased the odd interval to 2:1 from 1:1 and guess what! My feet don't hurt as much as they used to.

Now my knees are killing me. When did this happen????? My left knee especially and for te first 4 miles my right ankle felt like I had been sitting on it for hours and had a kink in it I could not shake. Eventually all the bones and muscles stopped complaining and by the time I hit 6 miles, I felt fine.

We check in on Saturday and get our numbers. The "race" begins at 7:oo am Sunday morning. We figure it will take approximately 3 hours 20 minutes to finish. I wrote the word in scary quotes because I don't see it as a much a race as an event for me. My goal is finishing upright and with the minimum amount of pain. Oh and under 4 hours. Even if I had to walk the final miles I can do this now.

Still, no weight has left the carcass.... muscles are more evident but the pudgy middle remains. Ah age. You are so cruel.

I made a sample of a Lone Star for an up-coming class at the shop.


This is all I intend to do as a sample but I will ring the entire quilt with more stars around the perimeter and make it larger. So much so I might not be able to quilt it myself. That's okay..... there are so many splendid machine quilters in this area, I will hire one to the job for me. This is a quilt I want to keep for our bed (king) so size is an issue. The fabric here is mostly from Kathy Brown's new Abigail line. Very talented artist just over in Baton Rouge.

I have the Seasoned Quilter on the machine right now and will go finish her up this evening.

I got a little depressed this morning while searching for something in the closet where the quilts hang, waiting for quilting. Depressed because of all the unquilted tops, lined up and stagnant. There are so many more in the works as well that will soon end up that black hole. And so many more I thought I wanted to make but it is getting ridiculous now.

There are 6 huge quilts in there, all identical except the fabric selection, that are making me really crazy. I was hoping to have them done LAST YEAR!!!!!! Ha! Fat chance. They DID make a real dent in my stash but not enough of one to make me less crazed.

I have to get more finished before the growing season starts up. Once that happens, I will be so far behind. Yikes... jus thinking about it makes me nervous.

I better go talk to the chickens

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Man, Did It Rain Here Yesterday!

Which in truth is a very good thing. I only hope the deluge didn't wash away the carrot seeds we sowed Thursday. "We shall see what we shall see." ~Lucia Lucas

This, however, has curtailed my running schedule somewhat. Two weeks from today at approximately this hour of the morning, I'll be heading to the starting point of an adventure. With my cousin, who instigated this and my daughter who aides and abets me in all areas of nonsense, by my side (and possibly on either side dragging me across the finish line) I will plog 13.1 miles.

What else can I relate? Oh yes.... this! We started a new BOM at the shop
So cute!!!!


and I rushed home Thursday with my packet and feverishly began tracing the fusible and sorting out all the designated fabrics for the different pieces (oooh so exciting!!!!) and fused everything down. Did I say everything? Yes... I am very thorough. I began carefully cutting the pieces out and laying them down on the pattern. Oh it was looking so cute! That's when it dawned on me that I had fused all the pieces to the front of the fabrics, instead on the back. Where it is supposed to be fused.

Nobody tops me when it comes to stupid! So after Georgia rushed me new fabric and fusible, I concentrated and did it right the 2nd time. I have a good excuse for being distracted, though.

I love Netflix streaming and recently they uploaded the Frasier series. I never watched these back in the days it ran on TV so picture me in the workroom, crying with laughter while cutting out those shapes. This show was hilarious! It isn't often that I laugh out loud during comedies but lately this one and The Big Bang Theory have really gotten me roaring. Again, I am late to the party because anyone I ask if they'd seen these say, "Yes. Years ago!" Gee.....

Hey, ever get the Wolfermans English Muffins catalogue in the mail and wonder if they are worth trying out? The answer is a strong affirmative. They are wonderful! And so many varieties to choose from, you will be in a quandary as to which to try first or next. Have fun!

I can't believe how quickly this short month February is passing. Even with the leap day, it's gone fast. Mardi Gras is in two days and once more I will avoid all parades with reckless abandon. Instead, I shall hang out with the chickens and throw them stuff! They are as silly as any parade goer I've seen, except they don't lift their shirts. They surround me and jump up to grab stuff and cluck at me. Seriously, if they could talk, I swear it would be the line, "Throw me something!" And I do! And just like parade crowds, what I throw is never enough! So I throw more.....

Hey, that's how I roll.

If you do go parading, stay safe. If you don't, come join me on the Back Two.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Are We Too Far Gone?

Do you remember the hue and cry Nancy Reagan got when she rolled out that slogan "Just Say No"? If not, it was in reference to drug use as in Just Don't. Don't take drugs.

Oh she was such a hopeless square! AND rich! What did SHE know about ordinary average American's miserable lives back in the 80's? It was so bad back then, drugs were necessary to get through another day.

Now, you might be thinking that is going to be a rant about the alleged drug-induced death of Whitney Houston and Jamie Lee Curtis leaping on the back of the bandwagon to implore the Obama Administration to "do something" in regards to drug ADDICTION. Well, no, you are wrong.

I am about to RAIL, rant and vent about this! A State Inspector in N. Caroline has descended upon an Pre-K school to inspect, not the kitchen, not the Principal's desk or laptop for potential pornography, and not the Teacher's lounge for paraphenelia....... oh no, that is so yesterday.
Now they inspect lunch boxes of 4 year olds. Lunches brought from home, presumably packed by caring parental units to insure a nutritious meal for the child they love and care about and provide for.

And guess what? They are found to be lacking. Well, what a surprise.

The nutrition standards for pre-K lunch require milk, two servings of fruit or vegetable, bread or grains and a meat or meat alternative. The school didn’t receive a high grade from the January assessment because the home-made lunches didn’t meet those guidelines.

The inspector decided that this child was not getting her requirements and a tray was foisted upon her. This tray had chicken nuggets, milk, a fruit and a veg. The child then, traumatized, ate the nuggets. ONLY. Not the veg, not the sandwich, banana and the chips Mom packed, and not the school fruit.

I suppose you might be wondering, "what did mom pack that day?" A turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, apple juice and potato chips. What was missing? The milk.

At first the article picks up on the lack of veg, but later it is stated that milk was at issue. I believe cheese in the milk family. The apple juice and banana must surely make up for the '2 servings' of fruit or veg. And, oh by the way, isn't a potato chip a vegetable to start with?

WHAT AM I SAYING!? I'm as bad as they are!

What it is that makes this so NUTS is some person YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW is demanding YOUR child eat something you didn't give her! Where do we live again?

Apparently, you can't "Just Say No!" to the Government! Now, you have the First Lady's program of healthy eating and it's long incidious fingers in your child's stomach! Where oh where are the women marching in lock-step shouting "Keep Your Hands Off My CHILD'S Body!!!!!"

And the WASTE!!! That child didn't eat TWO meals, nevermind one vegeatable. Who, pray-tell, pays for this waste?

According to this article, the parents were charged and have stated they see no reason they should pay. Apparently the principal of this school has no knowledge of who pays for the meals it served that day, but sleep easy; they're looking into it!

Oh, and it also stated that the original inspector was wrong in the first place. What a shock! The lunch was completely fine. Uneaten, but perfectly fine.

I am so thankful my kids are grown. I fear for my future grandchildren if THIS is what they face. Are we too far gone down the road of Socialism that there is no turning back?

The Dept of Re-Education and the Food and Drug-Use Administration are out of control! I cannot believe this is what Michelle Obama envisioned when she started down this unhealthy path but it only takes one over-zealous bureaucrat to misplace his power and all heck breaks loose.

Take away recess and give the kid ritalin! That'll fix him! We used to have parallel uneven bars and the balance beam in junior high. I didn't LIKE them but we used them! I bet those haven't been seen since the 70's. Who could afford the insurance?

The saddest thing about this is the cowing of America. We have women missing air-flights because the TSA sends home the women Pat-Down experts and men are not allowed to frisk a woman. (yeah, right) We see elderly people manhandled and groped, items pilfered and weapons missed.

The children have no idea where Indonesia is but their self-esteem is high. They can't read the Bible or gather for prayer but they get to go on field-trip to a mosque to "learn about the architecture and observe a midday prayer service". Don't believe me?


The government disallows the sale or consumption of raw milk and you can't transport it across state lines. Milk! Heck you can't buy it in Louisiana. All because some people have gotten sick from bacterial infections. Hello? People get sick eating in a restaurant all the time and I don't see that shutting down the industry!

Once again, can we not be held responsible for anything in our lives anymore?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Visualizing the Possible

I ran the 10 miles again today , with three weeks to go to the Rock n Roll Half Marathon. By the ninth mile, my knees were hurting. Mmmmm that's a first.

At around mile 5, I was feeling very good, smooth running up and down small hills. I had to rub my feet a few times as well but I am really used to doing this now.

I changed my route up a little, too, running past horse farms on a very hilly lane. No traffic to speak of.

Now that I feel more confident I'll actually make it to 13.1, I am beginning to "visualize" crossing the finish line. I try to "see" it off in the distance as a beacon, a goal. I would like to cross it strong and running but we'll see how it goes.

Tomorow: sushi with Kathryn and Mitch and John.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Feeling Sorry*

....for anyone who is even remotely like me.

One drawback to waking early (besides the obvious) is my habit of websurfing quiltblogs. Once in the web, I stumble upon so many potentially fun "challenges" that I really really want to join in on. Take for example this one:

Vicki Welch is hosting a challenge that makes you really think about color and how it is used to a great advantage in quilt-making. She has a 12 month challenge that looks so interesting, I immediately went to the the drawers of fabric and started pulling out what I had to match. Except not much matched with precision. Oh I found some fabrics but they were already ear-marked for other projects and I can't go scalping from to give to another. Which obviously means I will have to buy fabrics if I want to take part in this. And that goes directly against the resolution to use the fabric I have on hand and stop squirreling away all this boltage!

So I am in the horns of a dilemma of sorts. And I feel sorry for anyone who does this to themselves as well.....

Do I give this one a pass NOW before I really get immersed or do I pull up the web-site at the shop and find a few fat quarters and proceed with reckless abandon? What to do, what to do.... it really looks interesting and educational.....

see? I take on too many projects. That really goes without saying and I ought to simplify to some degree.

I'll think about it. I mean, it's just one block, right? One each month.... and I am coming to the end of the Civil War Commemorative quilts.

HEY! I made Miss February...

And we received our shipment of avocado trees! However, it is supposed to freeze tonight so now the orchard is in the entry hall, naturally. Can you believe how crazy the winter has been? I just planted salad greens and English peas out the garden on Wednesday and the tomato seeds indoors and here we get a hard freeze? I thought for certain Spring came early and completely. Goes to show you!

I tried to make yogurt yesterday. Tried as in failed to make yogurt yesterday. Was the milk too hot when I added the yogurt? Did it get too cold? hmmm so I am going at it again this morning. This time I am incubating it in a crockpot on low setting. Perhaps that will keep it at a steady temp.

I used to make yogurt, in India. And we made paneer but I don't remember how. It was just something we did every other day when the milk wallah came up the stairs and sold milk straight from the buffalo. Unpastuerized so we did that first. Boil the milk for 20 minutes. Cool. Skim the cream off the top and make butter and ghee. But that was so long ago...

Have you tried the "greek" yogurt out there? It is much thicker and I really like it. But it is expensive and I had a quart of milk extra (I forgot I had one in the fridge and bought a second one) so instead of drinking more milk than I ought, I thought HEY make yogurt!

See? I just keep adding more things in my day! Crazy!

I have decided to enter two maybe three quilts in a regional quilt show.
Two are finished and the third on needs quilting but I have another to get on the big machine first. It is for a cousin and will be picked up in early March. I'll post a photo of it when it is done.

*I don't feel sorry in the poor poor pitiful me.... I feel sorry there aren't more hours in the day to do everything. There are just too many fun things to get involved with out there!!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hee Hee Hee

January. I made my mind up that I was responsible for making this the BEST year of my life. All the really good ones have had active participation so here I go. Fully and completely involved from the start!

This is a very daunting challenge, in and of itself! How in the world can I top other fabulous years from the past?
Let's Review!


1982: I married John. This is the 30th anniversary. amazing...... So much happened that year. We married and moved 4 times in one year. By Christmas, we were together in Dubai.

1984: I visited New Zealand and discovered I was pregnant. I stood on a glacier. I saw walruses. in the wild. C'mn!!! How many of you can say that!!! We lived in Brunei on Borneo

1985: I had my first child. Without meds. In a jungle hospital with midwives. In September I flew alone back to America and proved that adults were worse than infants when it came to traveling on an aircraft. Rachel said not one peep. Meanwhile the man behind us never stopped
complaining. 8 hours. I do not exaggerate for effect. Non-stop moaning.

1988: I had my last child. We lived in Bombay and I flew to Houston for the birth. Both my mother and my mother-in-law were in the delivery room with me!!!!! Thank GOD for that! It was awful and they were wonderful. I don't deserve them. (But they are stuck with me for eternity) and 6 weeks later my in-laws helped me fly back to Bombay! By the end of the year, we lived in Singapore.

1992: We moved to Alaska. Let that sink in. ALASKA! We lived there almost 5 years and leaving it in 1996 was heart-wrenching. It was the place I lived the longest in my entire life. Until now, of course.

2003: We toured Europe. 5 weeks and we lived to tell. 5 weeks in 5 foreign countries with 3 separate currencies and the hottest temperatures on record. It was nothing short of amazing. Wonderful people. Wonderful friends and wonderful family. It took months of planning and organizing and crossing all the t's, etc. I took nothing to chance getting there. Once we were there, we took it all one day at a time. I will never forget it. Fabulous.

2009: Kids are grown and gone. We moved to a farm. We adopted chickens. We built a garden to eat from. We left the rat-race. Well, okay, we moved away from it but it's still there if we choose to engage.

To the present. Now, up to Sept. 2011 I was cruising and having a blast in general, but to be truthful, I have been slacking. There is SO much I want to do! Or should I say, accomplish! So, now when things come across my vision, I ask myself "Shall I do it!?"

So far this year, I have:

Run 70 miles.
Seen Gordon Lightfoot in concert for the third time
Seen Spamalot
Sewn 2 quilts
Quilted 4 quilt-tops
Won this!

At the end of February, I shall post the tally of things done/accomplished.... by the year's end, I hope I will look back in awe and wonder.