Saturday, December 29, 2012

Miss Marple & Biscuits


I am having a deliciously lazy Saturday at home, lounging about and devouring rooster-shaped pancakes by the plateful.  The animals are enjoying a slightly warmer day, but it is still very nice to have a little fire burning away in the wood stove, keeping the house cozy.  It's the kind of day where I just want to putter about in the kitchen, concocting various delicious eats and perhaps adding something to the pantry.

I still have quite a lot of grapefruit, and there are a few ways to make it into preserves.  Three days ago, I started the three-day process to make a batch of Gingered Grapefruit Marmalade.  While "three days" sounds like it might be a ton of work, it really isn't too bad at all.  Day one, you seed the grapefruit and whizz it in the food processor until it is very finely chopped, and then you simmer it for ten minutes, and it is left covered sitting out overnight.  Day two, bring it to a simmer again for ten minutes, recover it, and let it sit overnight again.  On the third day, it takes a bit more work and additions of chopped preserved ginger, pectin, and sugar, some serious simmering, and then you get to pour it into little jelly jars.  After that, all that is left is to sit back and admire the pretty pink glow of homemade marmalade.

I think I may concoct a Pomegranate Custard, which would be quite fitting with my current mania for Agatha Christie's Miss Marple episodes.  They are always eating various custards and puddings and biscuits by the plateful, and drinking quite a lot of tea.  Hmm, maybe I will need to break out my little brown betty tea pot and enjoy a cuppa or two.

Note:  The recipe I used for the marmalade can be found in a favorite book of mine, Well Preserved by Joan Hassol.  I've tried many of her concoctions, and they haven't failed me yet!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quarter-Acre Christmas: A Photo Essay

























The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it is always young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung.
--Phillip Brooks

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"I Will Survive."

Today certainly will go down in the anals of Days Of Oddness.  First off, it was Wednesday of the week before Christmas, and you could fairly taste the sugar crazed madness exuding from tiny child-sized bodies.  Second, there's a storm coming in tonight and as the barometer drops, everyone goes a little nutty.  Both those thing made for a thrilling day, but the best bit was yet to come.

I have been having a bit of a time finding a source for small bales of hay.  With the drought encouraging sales of hay to far norh and far south climes, hay was expensive and hard to come by this year to begin with.  Factor in needing a small square bale instead of the large bale or round bale that seem to be all the rage, and you've got yourself a hay conundrum.  Imagine my great delight when I found a post on Craigslist for small bales of hay, in an area I was traveling to this morning.

Yippee!

Of course, with Craigslist posters, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you find an interesting individual at the other end of the email connection.  It started off well, with a prompt email reply this morning, but then came the issue of (a) I didn't want to hang about for hour after getting done with work, and no further replies were coming to my inquiry of where to find the advertised hay and (b) the person didn't seem to have or like using the phone.

What is a farmgirl to do?

I suppose there are several options, including chucking it in and deciding to go elsewhere for the elusive hay, but I chose what was lurking behind Door #3:  release my inner stalker and Google the seller.

Oh yes, I did.  I Googled and tracked her down using public tax records.  Off I merrily went in Lucille Laverne, bounding through the back roads to get my hay.  All was well, until I discovered that the address was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down a winding dirt road, liberally posted with NO TRESPASSING and STAY OUT and NO SOLICITATION signs.  (If the signs weren't unfriendly enough, the bullet holes in them were positively unnerving.)  I had a serious twinge of doubt, that inner voice muttering Holey crap, girl...really?  You're gonna go down this road?, but I was a woman on a mission and there was potentially hay at the end of that unfriendly road.

Undaunted, I took the turn down that road less travelled and off we went.  After working my way back down and around the ridge, the woods opened up to reveal a scraggling homestead of cobbled together outbuildings and a large unfinished handmade house wrapped in Tyvek and insulation.  A burned out truck completed the picture.  No dogs, no kids, no movement outside, but as I pulled up toward the house, I spied a movement behind one of the dark windows.  Somebody was watching, and I really hoped it was the woman who I had emailed about the elusive hay.

A woman emerged from the house, and I hopped out to greet her.  After establishing who she was (the hay seller) and who I was (the crazy stalker lady wanting to buy her hay), she looked me up and down, smirked, and nodded.  She accepted my story about the googling, as long it was only "this time", and pointed me in the direction of the barn.  "Park there," she barked.  I nearly saluted her and parked where directed.  Yes, ma'am.

Silently, we bucked hay and stacked it up in the back of LuLa.  I don't think she was impressed with my style, but its hard to move hay when you are wearing slippery dress boots and a little dress outfit, particularly when your partner is dressed for farm work.  But we got the job done, and she mellowed a bit when I passed her the cash for the goods.  She said she had more hay to sell, and I said I would pass the word along to others in need.  "Thanks", she said, "but don't you go telling them where to find me."  Fixing me with a fierce glare, she went on to tell me that if the Apocalypse  happens as planned on Friday, and martial law was enacted, I shouldn't even bother to come looking because she would be gone, her family would be gone, and no one would be able to find them.

Thank goodness I got that hay today.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It Caught Me

courtesy of www.cdc.org




This is a picture of the lovely cold virus now inhabiting my body.  Well, maybe a cousin or something, but you get the idea.  Many of these nasty goobers multiplying in droves, making my lungs wheeze in distress.  Yippee.

It was only a matter of time, I guess, but I was really hoping the onset of cold season would have held off until, oh...say, next June or something.  After feeling like kaka on Friday, I recovered somewhat on Saturday and was able to enjoy a fine Friendstimas (yay, Friendstimas!).  It was a fine time, lots of laughter, good food, and great friends.  I can hardly wait for next year's event.

But then, I started to feel all kinds of the Queen of the Coughing and Sneezing Fits yesterday, and here I am today, bleah bleah bleah. I did make it to work, mostly because cancelling wasn't really an option, but it was a near thing, I tell you what.

Good thing there's coffee and delicious hot soup to be had.  A few bowls of this, and I think I will live:

Lobster Corn Chowder

You'll need: one cooked lobster, shelled and meat chopped; one cup frozen corn; half cup each of chopped onions, yellow and red peppers, celery, and carrot; two cloves garlic, finely chopped; four cups hot chicken broth; 1 cup cream; various amounts of butter, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Slosh a little olive oil in a large stock pot and heat.  Saute all vegetables in the oil, adding a little butter for "flavor".  When onion is slightly softened, add in lobster meat and hot broth.  Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so.  Season with salt and pepper, add cream and stir well.  If desired, make a slurry with hot broth and a couple tablespoons of flour, add to hot soup and boil for a few minutes until it thickens.  Serve hot with toasted bread, and your cold will pack up and leave.

Eventually.  But, you'll at least have yummy Lobster Corn Chowder to make you feel better until the virus has wandered off over the distant horizon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Check It Out...

Episode 3 of  The Chicken Lady's Yarn is now available!  Click on the link on the scrolling side bar to the right. ------------------------>

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yeehaw!

Look what showed up this evening:


Yessiree, that there's a forty pound box of grapefruit goodness, straight from the Lone Star State.  Today is, as I was informed by the local Ag Tech teacher, "fruit day".  Hooray!

The scent wafting from my gigantor box is incredible, sweet and tangy and full of citrus vim and vigor.  The cut open one pictured above has already been consumed, and man oh man I am lusting after another.  I have to pace myself, though.  If I eat too many at one go, I may just rot my enamel straight off my incisors and give myself a duodenal ulcer.

Nothing says Christmas like a self-induced ulcer, all in the name of supporting the local FFA troupe at the high school.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Lobstahhh!"

I had a wonderous fine thing happen today:  I discovered lobster in the freezer.

photo from www.visitrenotahoe.com
Strange place to find it, I know, but when you live in the Upper Midwest and there isn't an ocean to be found for several hundred miles, you find lobster either (1) at really fancy restaurants where the average farmgirl cannot afford to eat, (2) specially flown in to the fancy grocery store for the occasion, creating a party the likes of which can only be repeated once every five years, give or take, or (3) on special at the cheap-o grocery where I shop for the staples that I don't grow on my own.  They also have inexpensive nutella substitute, which has sustained me on many a long and arduous day.

It's a splurge no matter how you look at it, but Friendstimas is coming this weekend and when pondering the meal for the Friendstimas Feast on Saturday afternoon, we decided that some gorgeous gluttony was called for.  I do believe that steamed lobster with garlic butter sauce will just about fit THAT particular bill.

(We are also going to have barbequed ribs, red velvet cupcakes, and homemade spinach-artichoke dip a la Applebee's look-a-like recipe.  Ahh, Friendstimas!  My favorite holiday of them all...)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Candy, Stuff of the Gods

No pictures, because I can't manipulate my camera with chocolate covered fingers.  Trust me, this is seriously good.  As in, addiction good.  Oh my...

Snickers Rocky Road Fudge

You'll need:  Eight snickers bars, chopped up; giant bag of chocolate chips (think megasize, holding about 6 cups or so?);  one cup mini-marshmallows; 1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts.

Put a large bowl over a pot filled with boiling water.  Put in two of the chopped snickers bars, and all of the chocolate chips.  Stir and melt completely.  Add in the rest of the snickers, the marshmallows and the peanuts, stir well to coat everything with chocolate.  Pour into a foil lined square pan, press additional peanuts and marshmallows into the top of the bars.  Cool completely in the fridge, cut into squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Seriously.  This is like chocolate crack.  Mmmmmmm.....

Sleigh Ride!

video

Friday, December 7, 2012

Joyfully Friday


I am so not destined to be a world traveler.  Jump across two time zones and back again in the same number of days, and I wind up tired beyond belief and with a serious case of the type of distraction that goes by the name of SQUIRREL!  Let's just say, it was a really interesting day at work today.  I had a whole lot more in common with my Kindergartners than I was personally comfortable with.

Just call me Queen of the Short-Attention Span.

Anyhoo, I do believe an early bedtime is in store for my future.  I have a final exam scheduled for 9 AM, and I cannot focus on studying so I am throwing in the towel, to heck with cramming, I'll take my chances on the roulette wheel that is the multiple choice question/true-false/general fill-in-the-blank horror show that awaits me in the morning.  The dogs are snoring, the cats are curled up in front of respective heat ducts, and I can't think of a single good reason not to join them.

Did I mention it is snowing outside?  It's got me thinking about the upcoming holi-mania, which makes me think of chocolate, which makes me think of knitting, leading me to ponder "do I have enough crackers in the cupboard?", and then I mentally start an inventory of how much toilet paper is stashed in the bathroom closet, and then I think about needing to do laundry, making me think that I might have forgotten to feed the fish and pay the electric bill, but then I remember that I did remember to bring my coat inside from the backseat of the truck earlier, but I also remember that I forgot to plug in my cell phone last night, which then (oddly enough) makes me think of disgusting jello fish served with white gravy, and that makes me start singing this in my head:


SQUIRREL!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Not Cut Out for Vegas?


So here I sit, waiting to log on to my last class of the semester, and I am in the wild city of Las Vegas.  I'm not on the Strip--in fact, my hotel is a $40 cab ride away from the Strip--and my fully windowed wall looks out at the distant mountains and desert.  It's kind of pretty, not what you'd expect from all the hype surrounding Vegas, and I like it.

It is one of the many reasons I think I am not cut out to become a frequent flyer to this town.  For example, you may not be a Vegasphile if:

(1)  Instead of pondering what show to go score tickets for, you start wondering if there is a yarn shop near your casino because the knitting project you brought on the plane is nearly done, and there's a whole other day of seminars to sit through.
(2)  The waitress sidles up to your slot machine to get your drink order, and you automatically order water.  Sparkling.  With ice.
(3)  Your total gambling budget is $20, because that's one roll of quarters and seriously, who needs to chance more change than that?
(4)  You go in to the buffet, and all you can think is how many thousands of miles ALL that food traveled to wind up under heat lamps and on steam trays.  (I still ate too much, though.  What can I say?  I heart gelato.)
(5)  You look at the artistically lit landscaping surrounding your resort hotel and mentally can calculate how many gallons of water and pounds of chemical fertilizer must be needed to sustain all those palm trees and fancy grasses in the middle of a desert.

Somehow, I don't think I am cut out for the high roller lifestyle.  I do plan on making extensive use of the giant tub (with a view of the mountains) as soon as I am done with class.  Oooh, and I think I'm gonna get room service, too!

Do you think they serve a locally sourced salad?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

TuTu Cute


With a house decorated with lots of pinky-purple trim and outbuildings of the same shade, it can be a challenge to find holiday decorations to match.  Red and green just don't seem to go....this year, I have a whole pink theme going on, with some pink & white trees, lots of sparkling pink lights, and even a pink-and-turquoise santa sign.  It is just lovely, but until now finding a wreath to go with all that pinkiliciousness has been a tad difficult.

Lucky for me, the holiday issue of MaryJane's Farm Magazine had a whole raft of wreath ideas made out of burlap.  It got me thinking:  Hmmm, tutus!  So I took myself to the fabric area of W*mart and found this tulle type of fabric, that I think people might use to make those homemade kitchen scrubbies.  I bought all they had, and found a wire wreath frame, some decorations and a roll of turquoise wired ribbon.  A couple of hours of weaving, bunching and fluffing, and I would up with a glorious purple monstrosity of a custom wreath.

I love it.

The actual wreath making is ridiculously easy; the most challenging part was cutting the material into four inch wide strips.  Because the material was so meshy and see-through, I held two or three strips together and worked them around the frame like that, smushing them together and leaving plenty of bunchiness to make the wreath nice and full.  You can get all the details of how to make this and other similar wreath projects from MaryJane's magazine, so I won't spill all the beans here.  Needless to say, it is an easy project.  After all, who doesn't want a holiday tutu hanging on their door?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Dose of Holiday Cheer

video

As you can see, we get into the holiday season around here.  The stockings are hung, the Christmas tree is a-glow, and there is a good supply of sipping cocoa and marshmallows in the cupboard.  Turn up those holiday tunes and prepare to be holidazed!