Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Contemplations on Country Life.

I have been heavily musing.  Or contemplating.  Whatever.  I am blaming it on longer days and listening to classical music on my commute.  Haydn will do that to you.

I love the sounds of the rural place I live (except, of course, the #&*@ gravel pit noises).  The redwing blackbirds are back, the cardinals are in full voice, Canada geese cruise overhead, and then there are the peepers.  I roll my windows down and drive slowly past the wetlands, just to hear them better.

I love the surprise lawn ornaments.  Two mornings ago, the dogs erupted into their full alert voices.  Since it was before six thirty, I was pretty sure it was not to alert me that a vehicle was coming up the driveway.  I looked out the front windows and ... there were six very BIG bovine girls making a beeline for my raised beds.  I would have taken pictures, but the raised beds were in peril!  I shot out the door, whooping and flapping my arms.  The cows slowed slightly, then stopped and stared at me.  Then very slowly turned and headed back to the road.  They obviously decided it would be prudent to put some space between themselves and the crazy person.  I herded them back around the corner, up the road and sent them up my neighbor's driveway.  This man has seriously challenged fencing.

Another perk of country living is the up-close and personal relationship you have with every manner of rodent.  I had been driving around for months, suffering from itchy, irritated eyes as soon as I was in my car for more than 10 minutes.  When I took my car in (again) for some front suspension work, I asked my mechanic if he would have the filters looked at.  The example above is now in the Midas Hall of Fame.  That filter should be white.  He asked if he could keep it to show customers.  What - did he think I wanted it back?  Good grief.

My dear, 80+ neighbor, Lisa - she of the 3x a week yoga and amazingly sunny personality - makes her own kombucha.  I have tried making it myself, but it never has measured up to hers.  She surprised me over the weekend by telling me she had been growing a kombucha scoby just for me and it was now ready to be re-homed.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  So I hot-footed it over to her place and picked up my very own scoby (nestled in a gallon of her kombucha so I wouldn't have to wait a week or so...).  She also gave me a half packet of peas and we marked out a place for her summer chicken home.
This thoughtfulness is nothing strange in my area.  Neighbors look out for each other, lend a helping hand (asked or not) and don't interfere in your life (while knowing just about everything that goes on in it - including the color and conditions of your BGPs, should you happen to hang your wash on the line).  My farmer neighbor was driving by on his way for evening milking recently, when he saw me standing behind my car - tailgate up, small freezer half on/half off.  He braked, reversed and pulled up the driveway.  While I tottered off to get the handcart, he reached in, grabbed the crate straps and hefted it out and walked it to the front deck.  OMG.  All I contributed was "wow" and "wow", as I trailed behind him.  I tried to salvage any self-respect I could manage and told him I could handle it from there - but he put it inside for me anyway.  From there I could wrestle it into its place on my own.  With only the dogs as my witness.  There was strong language involved. 
I got a chill up my spine after reading a post by one of the bloggers I follow - a single woman with livestock who had a very scary 'wrestling match' with one of her goats.  It made me realize that a) I need to keep my phone with me at all times, even if I only am 50 yards from my house and, b) I really, really, really miss Kay.  There is no such thing as saying too much good about someone who will call you every morning and night to make sure you are okay.  When she died, a great deal of my security was pulled out from beneath me.

On a funner note - my all-time favorite Easter egg!  My youngest sister stayed overnight with me just before Easter and we painted eggs.  She came up with this cutie and I claimed it as my own.  I will admit, however, that I had a strong hankering for hard-boiled egg on my lunch salad so, alas, it is no more.  OMG.  Do you think?  Will I be sorry?  Will it burst out in the middle of a management meeting, devouring attorneys and lobbyists alike?!?  Have I been watching too many SciFi movies?

Monday, March 28, 2016

My, my. What a big mouth you have....

Our regular programming will be back later this week...

It's official.  I've opened my virtual mouth on this blog 1000 times.  Wholly Mackerel.  That's a lot of blah, blah, blah.

To celebrate, I am going to have a giveaway.  It's a thank you for everyone who has read along and especially to those who take the time to comment.  It's a celebration of all the friends I've made through this blog and the blogs I follow and for all the new friends and blogs to come!

It's a way to not have to come up with an original idea....

The giveaway is open to contiguous US readers only, I'm afraid.  Although I might come up with an alternative prize that can be more easily (read: cheaply) mailed.  As a matter of fact, that's a great idea.  SO (my favorite way to open a sentence...) I'll have two drawings.

US prize:

Penzey's Kind Heart Box.  I love their spices and herbs, and I love their message of love, nurturing and acceptance.

Everywhere Else Prize:

To enter in the giveaway contest, please leave a comment below about anything.  Let's get a stream of consciousness going here...  Deadline is Thursday, March 31 at midnight.  Another anniversary - I closed on my house ten years ago - and moved in that night with a bed, a chair and patio furniture!  Party, party, party!!!
Bon chance!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Traditions


Growing up in our family meant that nothing was 'given'.  You worked for what you wanted.  I don't mean that in a harsh way - it was just how things used to be.  You had a meager allowance that was earned by completing a list of weekly chores.  I remember lusting mightily after an English Black Racer bicycle.  I loathed my little girlie bike, with it's fat tires and two-toned turquoise paint.  Even the playing cards clothes-pinned to my spokes and streamers trailing out of the handle bars could not make me love it.   In order to have my new bike, I needed to earn at least half of it, so I edged lawns, swept, washed, raked, toted, schlepped and did whatever I had to do to earn my half.  It was worth it - I loved that bike to pieces for years - until I ran it into a tree.

Working for what we wanted also stretched into holidays and vacations.  Want your Easter eggs?  Well, here are the clues and good luck to you!  This continued well into adulthood.  As the clues portrayed here (my dad's last effort) showed, you had better be on your toes.  That meant knowing your Ottoman Empire (egg hidden under a corresponding piece of living room furniture).   As either of my sisters would tell you, I was not a patient child.  Nor a patient teenager.  Nor a patient adult.  I'm still working on it.

One of the high points of our summer vacations was the Treasure Hunt up at the Canadian cabin.  Well, it was the high point until I put myself in charge.  By the time we found our treasure (at its apex, my parents hid it on a deserted island in the middle of the lake), I had hounded and harassed my poor sisters to the point of tears.  There are many victory photographs where we all looked miserable.  I was such a pain.

My parents did, however, quit hiding my birthday presents after my 21st birthday.  They had bought me a brand new Singer sewing machine and hid it in the trunk of their car.  After following a devilishly challenging trail of clues, I reached the car (outside) and the trunk lock was frozen (January).  My father intervened when I went for the tire iron.  I was such a pain for many years.

Now, I hope, we can pass the wonderful (choke) Easter tradition on to the next generation.  Where, I might add, the brain cells and level of patience seem to have risen to the top (speaking totally of myself).  My nephew's girlfriend, the lovely Sabrina, sashayed into our Easter tradition like a swan gliding on a lake.  Having never met us or set foot in the house, she found every last, stinking one of her eggs within moments.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday Musings 77-98



As you can tell, I did a lot of purging in my bookcases this weekend.  And I'm not done.  I have a goal to consolidate four bookcases into three.  I am closing in on it.  While going through the stacks, I realized that there are very few places you can send books these days.  Our local library is not welcoming of used books, even though they have a book and bake sale every year.  I imagine there are not as many people cruising the aisles as there once was.  However, I find that homesteading books are valuable.  Just not as many as I have!  If you see anything in the stacks here that you would like, I will send them for postage, first asked, first dibs.  If you can't make out the titles (what?  my photographs are not clear?  I am so shocked.) ask me and I will clarify.

Other than the books, I found this little cheese tray (#1) that is, quite frankly, useless.  It is one of those clever designs that does not include serviceability.  I'm all for clever, but I don't have room in my cupboards for things that just look cute and don't work.  If that's what I wanted, I'd start dating again.  Heehee.  As for #2, well, I am giving up the scale.  I know how I am doing, weight-wise, by how I feel and how my clothes fit.  You can get too fixated on the number of pounds and ounces, and I don't - personally - think that's healthy.  Either that, or my mother's denial gene has kicked in.

Other exciting things - I pruned my grapevine!  Such a riveting life I lead.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Oh, hail.

Chickens and sheep are running for cover.  Pepperoni is trying to find a secret place inside for his personal commode.

More Treasure

The first postcard I ever received.

My favorite teacher of all time.
I had quite an emotional trip Saturday night.  I took three of my five shoe boxes of "Letters" and sorted through them.  It made me quite nostalgic for a slower time - a time when people sat down and put pen to paper.  You had to think carefully of your words, what you wanted to say.  You contemplated things.  You cogitated.  I realized how lucky I have been through my life - I have letters from friends who reached out to me and comforted me, no matter where in the world I was.  I have piles of newsy letters from my mother (who will not pick up the phone - but she was a letter-writer).  I have letters from my sister, written from all over Europe, on all number of materials, as she toured with her band.  I have letters from a dear friend in the Netherlands, chronicling the ups and downs, great achievements, discovery of true love and the celebration of it in her life.  I have funny notes and cards.  I have a few brief notes from my father - all business, direct and to the point.  I have thank you notes from nephews and niece, children of friends.  I have cards with bits of plants and flowers tucked inside.  I have my great-aunt Edie's death certificate and my God parent certificate from my nephew's baptism.  (Thankfully, he managed to grow up just fine without my guidance....and now has a tot of his own.)  I have letters I have written to editors over the years.  I have memorial programs and notices.  I have postcards from my best male friend as he traveled all over the world, and the letter his son wrote to tell me he died.

Emails just don't measure up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Unearthing Treasures.

In my purging quests, I have come across some real treasures.  This, for instance.  Anyone know what it is?  It was made for me by an acquaintance who had done a stint with the Peace Corps.  It's a low-tech brooder!  Little chicks go inside all the nice, warm strips of sweatshirt material and cuddle together and keep themselves warm.  It was designed to be used in places that had no electricity.  Awesome-Sauce!  No matter how awkward and difficult it is to store, I will not part with it.  It falls under the heading of "You Never Know".

We've got bagels! Sort of.

On my way to bagel-ness
There is no way of keeping a bagel-loving girl down for long.  I may have suffered a temporary defeat, due to that darn GF thing, but where there's a will (and there was), there's a way.  I've experimented with all kinds of GF recipes for bagels.  None have satisfied until this one.   This is based on a King Arthur Flour recipe for GF oat bagels.  What I really like about these, is the tangy-ness that's achieved with the addition of molasses and ACV.  Oh, and cheese.  Gotta have the cheese!

I whipped up a batch of these this weekend - as most of you with gluten intolerance issues knows, GF baked goods do not have lastability.  Two days, tops, and it's Stalesville.   This recipe addresses the problem by having you make the bagels to just shy of their second rising, then putting them in the freezer.  I freeze mine on parchment paper sprinkled with coarse corn meal, then slip them into a zip-close bag.  To enjoy your bagel, just pull it out the night before, let it rest and rise in the fridge over night, and bake in the morning.  Easy-peasy. 

p.s. If you got a new post notification and can't open it -- it's because I meant to save it and published it and then saved it again.  Sheesh.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Musings 70-76







This was a gnarly purging weekend.  There were mad forays into various corners of the homestead - items flung in piles.  There was angst.  There was wine.  And there was a lot of whining.

1- Handmade oven rack puller thingys.  I like to do my part in perpetuating budding entrepreneurs, but I really, honestly, never used these.  I am in lurve with my pot holders.

2- I don't know if this was a total cop-out but, after much angst on the possibility of sending these to a landfill, I rationalized that they are biodegradable and then put them on freecycle.  One is always hopeful.

3- Cute set that I saved from the landfill.  Honestly, they are too small for my windowsill herb needs.  There has to be SOMEONE who will love them and bring them home.

4- Small enameled round box (is it still considered a box if it's round?) made in China and from China.  Bad mojo memories. 

5- LOTS of angst on this one.  I have, however, seen and re-seen every episode of Murder She Wrote to the point that I can no longer be surprised at whodunit.  All 12 seasons, too.  It's now part of the semi-local library where I can go borrow one if I get desperate.

6- Kirk Stieff pewter hollowware S&P shakers.  I'm out of collector mode - perhaps someone is not.

7-  Ah, what a love/hate relationship is wrapped up with this item.  This is the third microwave I've owned in 10 years.  I give them up, then break down and get another.  Then give it up, etc.  However, I did an experiment with this one - I unplugged it and counted how many times I plugged it in to use it over a period of six months.  Twice.  I am strong.  I have a large supply of BGPs (as opposed to large BGPs...)  I can do it.

Of course, you know what happened.  Once I removed it from my mind and my counter, I promptly forgot to thaw the dogs' frozen raw food and immediately got it.  Three pairs of BGPs and I (wo)manned up and made them a cheese and ham omelet.

I.  Am.  Strong. (ish)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Freedom to Cook as Badly as You Want.

I am sitting in my office, trying to eat my baked apple (with no sugar) while my nostrils are being assaulted by an overdose of garlic powder.  Sounds strange?  It is.  Down the hall there is an office of interesting folks - they provide services to lawyers and others who need to deal with the State.  One of the employees is a frustrated chef.  He whips up all manner of breakfasts and lunches for the small staff - most of whom do not make a lot of money, so I am sure they appreciate the free food - and it seems that he has an obsession with garlic powder.  Unfortunately for those of us who share the floor and its all-inclusive HVAC system, there is no venting mechanism that would redirect the stench aroma of concentrated artificial garlic to the outside where it could mingle with exhaust fumes.

There are two camps in this war on our sense of smell.  One is outraged and outspoken in its demands that he be stopped toot-sweet, as they say in France.  The other is, let the guy live out his dreams - no matter how much we have to suffer.  I am in the latter group.  Of course, I think it would be a grand idea if they would pony up the money to put in a proper venting system so I don't feel like I am eating my lunch through an old sock.

I do NOT smell like an old sock.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday Musings 63-69





5-7 (+100)

I've been trying to be in a 'better place' as I commute to work each morning.  Better than that place where everyone in front of me is an idiot.  You know.  I switched my soundtrack to classical and it's working beautifully.  I find my daydreaming is of a much kinder, gentler sort if I'm letting Mozart waft in and out of my ears.  Such as:  I wonder how many reed instruments there are....oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, guitar.  KIDDING.  Just checking to see how many of you were nodding off.

Without further ado, this week's jettisoned object d'trash:

1- Yes, I know it's wrinkled.  That's why it is going.  Seriously, this is a very nice new-to-me cashmere cardigan.  But (big BUT) it's pink.

2- I tried to use this but I don't have closet poles that are high enough.  It doesn't have anything to do with the fact that there is no room in the closet because of all the ... stuff.  True.  Yep.  It's already found a new home with someone who has the right idea - START organized.

3- A very clever birthday greeting in punched metal.  However, now that I do not celebrate my birthday, it can go merrily on its way to brightening up another celebrant who is not so jaded.

4- A sad and boring entry.  I don't know why, but the sight of it, with its missing glass and dusty edges, just makes me sad.  Poor frame-y.

5-7 A large bin of miscellaneous stuff has left the building.  Along with Elvis.  I did one of those manic cleanings of a corner in the craft/sewing/etc. room this weekend and this was the result.  It went on Freecycle and was gone within the hour.  It's amazing.  The bin, however, stayed.  I love my bins.  (Thank you, Sylvie xo)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What a difference a month makes.

On February 1, I waded into the Whole30 arena.  I agreed (with myself) to abstain from sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol, and dairy for the month.  The fact that I chose February - a month with 29 days - was purely coincidental.  Really.  It was, honest.

I am NOT a tower of will power.  I am a shaky little haystack of willpower, so this commitment was about more than winnowing out problem foods.  How did it go?  I get a gold star!  Okay, a gold-ish star.  I did not waver until Day 27.  When I had a piece of chocolate.  That tasted too sweet.  The end results of so much no-ness were interesting.  I slept better, but dreamt more vividly.  Or maybe because.  I lost weight.  I have more energy.  The hardest part was the monotony of the diet - meat, fish, vegetables, fruit.  I am not a big meat-eater, so I was burned out by Day 5.  I basically lived on salads, soup and my breakfast smoothies.  I learned to bake apples with no sugar - I used raw apple cider that I get from a local orchard and freeze in pint jars.  I found that clarified butter (allowed) has the same buttery flavor as straight butter (not allowed).  I discovered that I could drink coffee black.  As long as it was good coffee.  As a matter of fact, I rather prefer black coffee.

I also got the same reaction from most of my friends when they were informed of my foray into no-ness.  "Great.  See you in March."

Zoodles saved me.

As did herbs and spices.
While I did try to stick with seasonal vegetables - which are what in February? - out of desperation, I got some zucchini and made zoodles so that I would have a vessel for my homemade meat sauce.  I also used a great deal more herbs and spices to jazz things up, and went through a lot of my previously unopened herbal teas.

So, what was the first thing I added, now that the Month of None is over?  Oatmeal with almond milk and frozen raspberries.  I thought I died and went to heaven.  Part of this regimen is to slowly reintroduce dairy, grains, legumes and sugar so that you can get a handle on what causes what, if any distress.  I have a sneaking suspicion that dairy is the culprit, but I am NOT giving up cheese.  Nope, sorry.  I will just eat less of it.

Tomorrow's addition?  Do you think it's tacky to have wine with breakfast?