Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cup of tea, anyone?

Yet another very rainy day in the Ozarks, and I return home from town after having run some errands, without an umbrella,  feeling rather damp. Time to get into something warm and settle down with a cup of tea.

Would you care to join me? Not too long ago, I went nuts in the salvage store and I can offer you many varieties of tea. What kinds?

I am not supposed to drink a lot of caffeine, so the The "California Orange" can contains caffeine-free orange pekoe, if just regular type tea is what you want... 

And this is not even all of them, which I am somewhat embarrassed to admit (I am in good company, the LOML once accumulated 42 tubes of toothpaste that he found on sale)..

And I have a lovely teapot.

I can offer a variety of cups to drink it from....

And some Honey-Lavender biscotti, which is perfect for dipping if you're a "dunker"...

which I found out about at the food  blog written by Sidewalk Shoes (and I even copied the way she took her photograph) who had a link to it. And she is right, it is about the best biscotti I have ever made. Biscotti is a wonderful form of cookie for eating with something hot and fluid, because it can be made without any added fat, which helps to keep the calorie count down.

So, shall we have a tea party?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Magic Under the Cedars

After what seems like days and days of rain (have we magically been transported back to Oregon? I think to myself) ...

enough rain that even the most cheerful people are beginning to complain just a little bit about it,

even though we are probably in a drought, and need every drop....

the clouds finally blow away and the beautiful blue sky of fall returns.

We take a walk through the field to see if our little pond is full (and it is!),

and there at our feet, springing up under the cedar trees,

are these amazing jewels of mushrooms, rivaling the most beautiful fall colors...


on the trees around the house...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I become a geezer?

Upon awaking this morning, I realized that I have turned another year older and I may now be a geezer. Possibly. The LOML says I won't officially be a geezer for another 5 years, and he may be right, but most of the commercial establishments in these here parts offer a discount to people my age. It is now cheaper for me to see a movie. Today (or tomorrow) I believe I will take our boy to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, which is playing at a cinema in the next town down the road. He remembers me reading that story to him when he was a little kid.

I have not made up my mind about what I want for my birthday dinner. Either homemade macaroni and cheese, or meatloaf with mashed potatoes. I am also wrestling with what sort of dessert I will feed myself and the men to honor me on my special day. Either an apple pie with ice cream, or a chocolate cake layered with pudding, whipped topping, and Heath bar bits.

I know at least two of the presents that I will get--the CD Dreamboat Annie by Heart and a lavender-scented diffuser with a nice pottery bottle--because I picked them out myself. A package from my sister sits waiting to be opened, and there are some cards, too.

The first birthday I remember celebrating was when I was 3 years old. My mom and dad got me a child-sized fishing pole that came in a metal tube.

 This enabled me to go fishing with my father.

 I remember turning 16 and 21, but the rest of them are sort of a blur. I think I will no doubt remember turning 60 because of its association with our family's recent bereavement. But, I have made the decision that this will be happy day, and so it will.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mixing It Up

For many years we have purchased certain spice mixtures from Penzey's, among them, jerk and Herbes de Provence.

And then I came upon a wonderful recipe on a blog for homemade tomato soup - Provence Tomato Soup. I would send you to the original source but I am not able to find it again, for some reason. We were buying some rather expensive commercial tomato soup, but this tastes far better, with the additional benefit of no additives, except for sodium, which is impossible to escape if one uses canned tomatoes.

Provence Tomato Soup

Olive oil for sauteeing
1 large onion, medium diced
2 large cloves garlic, finely diced
1 small can tomato paste
2-3 tbsp Herbes de Provence
1/2 cup white wine
4 14-oz cans diced tomatoes (with liquid)
2 quarts chicken broth (home made, canned low-sodium, or bouillon cubes)
Salt and pepper to taste
Soft goat cheese for each bowl.

Heat a few tbsp of olive oil in a large soup pot, add the onion and garlic, and saute until nearly translucent. Add the tomato paste and the Herbes de Provence, and wine. Stir. Add the tomatoes, including the liquid. Cover and bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes to blend the flavors, you don't need to cook it to death. The LOML says adding a bit of brown sugar to the soup improves the taste.

This makes 8-10 serving. The soup freezes well.

Penzey's is a good company to deal with - when we first began ordering from them, they always included a sample of another spice along with the order -- but their spices are rather expensive. The recipe requires quite a bit of Herbes de Provence, and we were going through it at a remarkably fast clip after the LOML decided to begin making this soup and eating it for a bedtime snack every night. So, I decided to see if I could make my own. In past years, before the Internet took off, it wasn't so easy to track down recipes for spice blends, now there are many to choose from.

So we took a trip to the bulk food store....

and came home with bags of spices and I began to assemble a version of Herbes de Provence as close to the Penzey's blend as I could find.

So I measured out the herbs...

And ground them up....

And here they are...

And at about the same time, we also ran out of jerk, so I went looking for a recipe for that. There must be 15 or 20 different jerks out there, all with mostly the same ingredients, but with slightly different proportoins.

And now we are good to go...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oh Where Is My Squirt Bottle?

I used to clean house for a woman who had a bunch of kids, which she homeschooled, so they were usually there when I came to clean the house. And on more than one occasion they watched the Veggietales movie when I was there, and I saw parts of it as I moved in and out of the various rooms. I was already somewhat familiar with this song, because I had heard other children singing it on occasion. They let me borrow the tape. There were two songs we particularly liked "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" and this song about the missing hairbrush which we often sing to each other when we have lost something.

I have a small green squirt bottle that serves various function depending on what I am doing and where I am when I am doing it.

In the summer when the window is open where I sit working away at my job, I keep the squirt bottle handy to aim a stream of water through the screen at the squirrels that show up to gobble down the sunflower seeds. It doesn't really stop them, but I like scaring them and watching them leap out of the way of the water.

Once it get too cold for the back door to stand partly open, then the cat will start to bother me. The typical scenario is: she is outside and wants in, so she leaps up on the bird feeder to meow at me and I get up to let her in. Then about 5 minutes after she comes in, she wants out, and then she leaps up by my computer and sits by the window and  looks out. Then she will leap from there onto the printers and put her little kitty paws on certain buttons that make the printers go bezerk. Where was I. Oh yes. I occasionally squirt her with the water to make her leave me alone.

Then, when I am baking bread, I will put fresh warm water in the bottle, turn the nozzle to mist, and put a thin film of water on top of the dough. That makes a nice chewy crust that the LOML likes. The last time I used the squirt bottle, I left it sitting on the ledge in the kitchen, and it was perfectly happy to be sitting there, but the LOML decided it was in the way and he wanted it put up someplace. I argued with him about it for a bit but decided that was not a battle I really wanted to fight. So he said "I"ll put it here...."

So this afternoon when I went to mist the top of the buns I was making, I could not find the spray bottle. I asked him where it was and he couldn't remember where he put it either, but "I know it is in a logical place," he said. A logical place would be in the cupboard in the kitchen where I keep the white flour, or in the pantry where I store the baking pans and the whole wheat flour . It was in neither place. So we commenced the great Squirt Bottle hunt. And we found it, finally, in a totally illogical place -- in the cupboard where I keep ingredients that I never ever use when I make bread.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

And Now For My Next Trick...

Every day the Senior Center in town provides a noon meal for $3.00 for folks older than 60 who want to come and eat. Younger folk can also eat, but they must pay $5.00. A Meals-on-Wheels program also operates, and they send food out to seniors who are not able to come to the center to eat. In addition to making sure these folks, some of who are at risk for malnutrition, get at least one nutritious meal a day, the Center is a gathering place for social activities, complete with a pool table, exercise equipment, board games, and other amusements.

Once a month the Center offers an all-you-can-eat breakfast for $4.00 on Saturday morning, cooked and served by volunteers from community service organizations and local churches, as a way to raise funds. Our church signed up with the Lutheran church in town to be in charge of the breakfast today.

There were several things volunteers could do: pour coffee, wait on the tables, or work in the kitchen, cooking, serving food from the steam table, or rinsing dishes and loading them into the dishwasher.

I tried to determine what activity would be the easiest for me to do without goofing it up, because I tend to make big messes when food is involved. It was quite amazing how much cleaner our kitchen became when my husband more or less took over the cooking.

But I digress. When someone asked if I would like to work at the steam table in the kitchen dishing up the food, I agreed that would be a good thing for me to do. I had visions of me pouring coffee and missing the mug, or returning to the table with the plate of food and dumping it on the person's lap, that sort of thing.

The diners checked off what they wanted on slips that were on the tables and the waiter came to the window with the slip and we assembled the food. Our station was biscuits and sausage gravy and scrambled eggs. The woman standing next to me was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan "Yes, I am one of those crazy Lutherans." We agreed that she would put the biscuit(s) on the plate and ladle on the sausage gravy, and that I would add the scoop of scrambled eggs.

The first order arrived. She put two biscuits on the plate, broke them in half, poured over the gravy, and handed me the plate. I added the scrambled eggs and dumped about half of the eggs into the pan of gravy in the steam table. So she laughed, and I laughed, and I fished out the eggs with a slotted spoon. But I did learn my lesson, and when the next plate was handed to me for eggs, I held the plate over the pan eggs, and there were no more mishaps.

Another one of the crazy Lutherans came to the window and said "Hamburger, hamburger, hamburger !" I stared at him in amazement for a second, and then said "Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi," and he said. "No, no, no, you're supposed to say 'Fries, fries, fries!' and then we laughed, remembering the old Saturday Night Live skit, and offered some opinions about why so many talented people, such as John Belushi  self-destructed and he went on his way.

A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Treasure in a Jar of Clay

A few days ago as I was preparing for the Sunday school lesson I teach, I was looking up scriptures and came across a passage in 2 Corinthians with the subhead “Treasures in Jars of Clay.”

I thought immediately of my precious mother, whose life was slipping away. She was a treasure. A wonderful blessed treasure.

Yesterday in the early morning hours she left her earthly jar of clay behind and went to Heaven.

She is no longer reading about it. She is now living it.
I talked to her regularly on the telephone, and she always had something funny and positive to say, something encouraging. The last time I saw her was in July. I am so grateful I had that chance.

I am so thankful we were able to get a family picture taken.

The last one with all of us there. The last one before our family circle became broken here on earth.

Everyone knows death is going to come for his or her parents eventually, and when the parent has a terminal illness, one can mentally prepare for it somewhat. But knowing about it and then living through are so very very different.

I am so very glad that I have an amazing storehouse of memories of her and that she will always be there.
Precious Memories

Precious memories, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul;
How they linger, ever near me,
And the sacred past unfold.

 Precious memories, how they linger,
 How they ever flood my soul;
 In the still ness of the midnight,
 Precous, sacred scenes unfold.

 Precious father, loving mother,
 Fly across the lonely years;
 And old homescenes of my childhood,
 In fond memory appears.

 In the stillness of the midnight,
 Echoes from the past I hear;
 Old time singing, gladness bringing,
 From that lovely land somewhere.

 As I travel on life's pathway,
 Know not what the years may hold;
 As I ponder, hope grows fonder,
 Precious memories flood my soul.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Staying in the Lines

A few weeks ago our 30-something boy came in after a hard day at the sawmill with a box of crayons and a coloring book.


I feel like I am bored on the weekends and I don't have anything to do so I think I will color. It will help to relax me.

And so he did start to color...

Well, I like to color too. As I have said in previous posts, I am not an artistically creative person in terms of making things with my hands, but coloring a picture is something I can do. I know there is an idea that making children color in the lines is somehow repressive, maybe so. But I like the security of having the boundary of a line, and the pleasing effect of staying in the lines.

I found a wonderful Web site with lots of geometric designs and so we have been coloring.

And our refrigerator is becoming truly decorated.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Am Sent to Corporate

I do freelance work for a Large Corporation that has numerous offices scattered about in the East. The Large Corporation was supposed to send me some documents, but did not.

Two days ago I sent an e-mail to my contact at the Large Corporation about the document. I also called one of the phone numbers for one of the office branches of the Large Corporation and arrived at the automated answering system that required me to listen to a menu with numerous choices and push a button to make my choice, which led to yet another menu in which I had to push a button, and on it went until finally I eventually got to speak to an actual person.

He was very nice, but his office did not handle that. He said he would talk to someone who might know and call me back.

I was very surprised to actually receive a phone call from him about 30 minutes later. He said:

I am going to send this request to Corporate.


I was stunned. I thought only people in "The Office" said that word. I pictured the Michael Scott character sitting at his desk saying that to me. I almost laughed.

Yesterday I called a number at another location of Large Corporation and requested help tracking down the document.

Today I have received an e-mail that shows my request is now bouncing around Corporate.

I wonder if they will actually fax the document. I need it by Thursday. The clock is ticking....

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I Am Mathematically Challenged

What it means when one goes on a diet where every stinkin' calorie counts is that one must... count every stinkin' calorie.

We have been doing this for more than 3 years now. It has certainly worked -- we have both lost a lot of weight -- but at times it gets rather tedious, especially when one happens to be making something from scratch - like soup, for instance - and calorie counts for all the ingredients must be calculated and then summed and then divided by how many serving sizes there are or how much it weighs.

And then it gets rather interesting when the one doing all that calculating has trouble arriving at 4 when presented with 2 + 2, well.... case in point...

I made my version of hamburger buns the other morning, using 3 cups of flour at 400 calories each and 1 tsp of sugar at 15 calories.

When I took the buns out of the oven, I weighed them and the total weight was 1 pound 6.25 ounces.

To find out the calorie count for each ounce, I divided the total calories by the weight in ounces.

Everybody with me so far? G-o-o-o-o-d.

So I got out the handy dandy calculator and came up with 1215 calories for the ingredients (3 x 400 + 15) and 18.25 ounces for the total weight of the buns, which works out to about 66 calories an ounce.

The LOML says, "Wait a minute! That cannot possibly be right. Last time you made these you added oil and it was 61 calories an ounce. You're telling me you left out the oil and it is now 66 calories an ounce? Something is not right. Figure it again."

I figured it again and got the same answer.

I stood there and thought about it for a minute and... and... then I felt like an idiot. Of course 1 pound and 6.25 ounces is 22.25 ounces, not 18.25....

So we all breathed a sign of relief that each ounce of bun is now about 55 calories and the world is once again running in well-greased grooves.

And to think that during my brief stint as a schoolteacher, I enjoyed teaching math the most.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I Win a Contest!

I admire very much people who can take raw materials like paper and fabric and wood and paint and glue and create something beautiful from it. I do not happen to have this particular gene myself. Oh, I can wield a crochet hook and make a passable granny square or a crochet top to a hand towel for hanging on the stove, and I can click knitting needles together and make some cotton dish cloths, and I can do a bit of embroidery, but I am not often able to create really beautiful things out of stuff. Well, I should sort of take that back; actually, I did make something beautiful once upon a time.

The line between whether these things are "art" or "craft" seems to be rather murky. Our son and I visited with a woman behind the table at an art show recently and she explained that a painting on canvas is art, but a painting on a saw blade would be a craft.

Huh? What?

I am aware of an oil painting on wooden planks by a famous artist. I wonder if she would consider that to be "craft."

At any rate, the lovely artsy-craftsy woman at Four Dog Day had a contest not too long ago, and just for the heck of it (I almost didn't bother because I never, ever win contests), I guessed what I thought she was going to be making. I guessed right, and I actually won. And the prize was choosing something from her Web site. So I did, I chose a most useful item -- a set of bookmarks, and she sent them.

Aren't they lovely?

If I say nothing about this, probably no one who reads this blog will notice, but just to emphasize the point that things I try to make from raw materials often do not turn out very well is that when I positioned these lovely bookmarks for their photo, I put one of them upside down.

Richard was kind enough to point it out me when he downloaded the photos off the camera.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Soup Day

This morning the sky turned from black to pearly gray; pouring rain, a cold, dreary, wet day.

A day for a nice hot bowl of soup.

I would like to invite that Granny in Oklahoma to hop in her car and drive over here to make me some of that wonderful soup she wrote about on her blog. I'm guessing she could get here in 5 or 6 hours.

I don't have anything on hand to make her soup, but I do have the ingredients to make fish chowder - potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, a frozen plastic jar of liquid from canned fish, and some clam base. This is comfort food for me; my mother used to make wonderful fish chowder.

To go with it will be some homemade bread, which I will began baking in about an hour.

It will be good.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Peter Piper Picked....

My dad used to recite tongue twisters to us when we were kids...

Rubber baby buggy bumpers

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

A slightly new version of Peter Piper sprang to mind when we visited the Fall Festival in town on Saturday. The vendors who sell their produce at the Farmer’s Market set up at the street fair for one last sale.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled purple peppers

I had no idea there was such a thing as a purple pepper. It was just beautiful.

And among the last of this year’s harvest, boxes of little gourds...

in all shapes and sizes...

and textures.

I shall miss the locally grown vegetables and especially the apples, but then again I won't have to deal with the problem of fresh vegetable going bad in the refrigerator. Indeed, I found an eggplant on the verge of rotting in the vegetable drawer, along with a pepper, and some zucchini so I cooked them all together with a can of tomatoes, and then decided I wanted bean soup for lunch, so I added part of the eggplant mixture into the bean soup with some large whole wheat pasta and made a sort of minnestrone soup. It was good.