Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guest Blogger

I am going to California to visit my mother. Lee is staying here to animal sit and to work on his GMC one ton truck that he is rebuilding. There is a possibility that he will add something here about the truck or the animals or work on this place in general.

There is also the possibility that I will not like what he writes. Like tractors sliding toward the "cliff" when no human is here to call 911. Or stupid pet tricks on the bed. But this is the risk you take when you give someone your password. This may be a cautionary tale for the rest of you!

Lee doesn't talk a lot, so this may be the only way I'll know what he is up to when I am gone. Can't wait.

Midnight Madness

Organizing my craft room has made me want to get back into making greeting cards. I am not as good at making cards that I think up and need a lot of help in that regard. My black embossing ink pad had dried up, so I went to Michael's to buy more and to see if they had any books of ideas to make cards. I also hoped to see any items that might jump out and say, USE ME.

I found a few things I wanted and then came home and put them in their places! I LOVE doing that.

One of the new stamps I bought (hey! I know I have plenty, but they were 40% off!)was a pincushion with a few buttons. I thought this would be a good thing to have, what with my new interest in quilting. Then the brain that I can't shut off remembered I had seen a card with paper quilting blocks, so I thought I could put that in the middle. THEN I thought I could even tie it with yarn, like a quilt and give it as a Thank You card for Carolyn at the Old Trinity Schoolhouse Quilt Shop. WHEW! Say that three times fast! I had really enjoyed my class and learned a lot and she was VERY patient with me.

I would have to wait on the thank you, though. I was leaving for California in two days and the last class was the next morning. No time. So I wrote down my ideas on a piece of paper. Then I had a few more ideas and wrote THOSE down, knowing if I didn't they would run through my head and keep me from sleeping. I put the notes aside and went to bed.

About 1:00 I woke up. By 3:00 I gave up and went up to the craft room and started stamping. I embossed the cards and colored in the pincushion. The first one I used marking pens and the second one I used watercolor pencils. Then I took a small brush and wet it a tiny bit. I wiped it on my wrist to dry it a bit and then went over the pencil marks. This turns the lines into watercolor and you can spread it around the embossed area.

Next I had to remember the dimensions of one of the Flying Geese quilt blocks. I cut one piece of paper from my scrapbooking stash 2" X 4". Then I cut a different piece 2" X 2" and then cut that one on the diagonal so that I had 2 triangles. (Never once did I think that a person should not use and Exacto blade at 4 AM.) I glued these on the longer piece in a Flying Geese pattern and was pretty proud of myself! And by the way, gluing is way easier than sewing. But I don't think paper quilts will catch on.

I cut some batting slightly larger that the "quilt" block and then used some white yarn to tie knots in the quilt piece through the back of the card.

I was pretty happy with myself and wanted to blog about it right then and there. Then I realized that putting anything on the internet at 5 AM is probably not a good idea. I went to bed and read until I could get to sleep. Love the mini book lights!

Sausage, Leek, Zucchini Frittata

I was reading a novel and the people in the book were at a posting house in England . I love historical novels. They were eating a egg, bacon, leek and cheese tart. That sounded good to me. I had some sausage, eggs and Swiss cheese, so I bought some leeks and went adventuring in the kitchen.

Sausage, Leek, Zucchini Frittata

1 "tube" of Jimmy Dean sausage, or Italian sausage, if you like.
2 Leeks
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 Tablespoon flour
4 eggs
1 cup milk or half and half or combine them. I did.
1 1/2 to 2 cups grated Swiss cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 425.

When I went to get the sausage, I noticed that I had bought some MAPLE Jimmy Dean sausage. I must have had it in mind for something. I decided a little maple would be OK in this dish and if it was horrible, no one needed to know and we could go out to eat! If I didn't have the Maple sausage and was going to the store, I would use Italian sausage, but it was fine and I couldn't taste any maple.

Cook the sausage in a cast iron pan over medium, breaking up the sausage as it cooks.

Washing the leeks is important. They can be full of dirt. Cut off the top leafy green part and the root at the bottom. Then slice them lengthwise. Spread them apart under running water and make sure they are thoroughly rinsed. Lay them on the cutting board with the flat part down and slice little half circles. Add the leeks and the zucchini to the sausage and cook until they start to become translucent.

While the meat and veg are cooking, break 4 eggs into a medium bowl. Add one cup of milk or half and half. I used a combination. Then add the flour, s & P and whisk it all together.

Spread the cheese over the meat in the pan and then pour the egg mixture over everything. Stir everything together gently.

As the egg starts to set, use a spatula to push aside the cooked egg and allow the liquid egg to slide into the space. Do this gently until the eggs are starting to look set, then sprinkle on some Parmesan and put the pan in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

You can slide a clean knife in the middle to make sure it is set. It is set if it comes out mostly clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

And yes, I DID serve them with the last of the strawberries. There are only two of us and we can't eat them all at one time!!! I also served it with a dieting woman's idea of a shandy. Half sugar free lemonade and half beer. Lee had the unadulterated other half. Not as good as a shandy, but once again, what I had!

Have you noticed that when you get old you let the pets rule the house? If I set the table, I have to make sure to sit down quickly or they might decide that I am no longer hungry and take it for themselves.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Train vs Dog

This morning RJ and I went to the barn as usual. When I opened the back doors, he alerted on something and took off to the far edge of the farm. Way in the distance I could see a groundhog running along the property line. It is quite a distance and I was amazed that RJ could see or smell it.

Have you seen a groundhog in the wild? They are nothing like the one in the movie, Groundhog. He is a fat domesticated guy. Ours are sleek and beautiful, kind of like an otter. On the other hand they dig massive holes and are a danger to horses and can destroy a landscape. So I don't want any here, but I can't seem to shoot the wee beasties!

When RJ took off after the groundhog I was glad. I wanted RJ to scare it off so he would take his excavating skills elsewhere. I went about the business of feeding and scooping and didn't notice that RJ had not returned. I did notice that a train was coming.

There is a train track that runs alongside our property line. They run many times a day hauling coal and crushed rock and any number of other things. I have only seen a passenger train once. Usually they are long freight trains. Long, heavy unable to stop freight trains. And we have a happy-go-lucky, goofy kind of dog.

When I heard the train approaching I realized that RJ was down by the tracks and probably distracted by his newly sworn enemy. I instantly called for RJ to come. Then I was sorry. If he had chased the interloper across the tracks, he may turn and come back to me and cross at the wrong moment. He runs in front of the Mule all the time and trusts us to avoid him. Trains are bad at avoiding things on the tracks.

I had a few moments of intense worry. Then RJ came loping up to me just as the train passed below us. I don't know where he was when I called him, but he was safe now and there was no sign of a groundhog. A good morning.

RJ is a goofy kind of guy, but he is hell on wheels to any wee beastie on "his" farm. He has killed a number of small creatures. Today I saw a dead fox on one of the hills.

I have no idea what got to him. It could have been RJ. He certainly chases any animal he sees. On the other hand, we do have some rabies here in Botetourt County. He was rather badly decomposed so I can't try to play CSI and figure things out. I hope some other predator did do it, because I don't like the idea of a rabid animal running loose here. We have two city cats after all.

This is their idea of an exciting adventure outside. They need their big "brother" to keep all wild animals far from the house. That is his job.

Maybe if the word gets out to the wildlife around here I will be allowed to harvest our fruit crop this year. I object to having it stolen while I sleep. Get 'em RJ.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pork With Lentils

If you have never had lentils, you might look at them and think..I pass. They are sort of like anemic-looking split peas. However they are good for you and will take on the taste of the lovely things you put in them. This meal is nice enough for a weekend meal and quick enough for a weekday dinner.

Pork With Lentils

1 pork tenderloin..One feeds about 3 people so get what you need.
salt and pepper
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
2 Tablespoon Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar (or red wine vinegar if you can't find it)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons Tuscan Herb Olive Oil (or any good EVOO)
1 finely chopped celery rib
1 medium or 5 or 6 mini carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces, chopped
2 Tablespoons cilantro

Put the walnuts on a tray and toast in a toaster oven for 10 minutes on 325. Let cool.

Turn the big oven to 425 and put a pot with 4 cups of water on to boil. Then rinse the lentils. While you wait for the water to boil, heat a cast iron pan with a few Tablespoons of EVOO and trim the tenderloin. You want to get rid of the silvery ligaments or tendons or whatever it is....get rid of it. Make sure to disinfect everything before you start chopping the veg. AND also use the other side of the cutting board. (A friendly reminder from your health department)

Sprinkle the pork with s&p and brown it in the cast iron pan. It will take about 3 minutes on each side. Then put it in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.

By this time the pot of water will start to boil. Add the lentils and remember to stir occasionally. Reduce the temperature under the pot to simmer and set the timer for 20 minutes. If they start to get soft before then, take them off and drain.

Chop up your carrots, celery, onion, walnut and cilantro. Put them in a large bowl. in a small bowl mix the vinegar, mustard and olive oil. Add a dash of s&p. (This is what I should do. I, however dumped everything in one bowl and mixed it up and it was just fine.) After you drain the lentils, add them to the vegetables and pour the dressing on top. Mix thoroughly.

By now, the pork should be done. Remove it and let it sit while you get everything ready. After you have let it rest for about 5 minutes, slice and serve! I like to serve it with a bit of horseradish.

Oh, yeah. I served it with strawberries... again. What can I say. Strawberries were on sale and I like them.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Balsamic Chicken Breasts and Roasted Vegetables

One of my new favorite stores in Roanoke is Oliveto. They sell many types of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. They had a write up in a recent edition of the Roanoke Times. As part of the write up they had a few recipes. I played around with the recipes and here is what I came up with via Oliveto and the Roanoke Times!

Balsamic Chicken Breasts and Roasted Vegetables

1 small butternut squash
1 small sweet potato
3 red potatoes
1 large onion
15 or so small peeled carrots
4 Tablespoon Tuscan Herb Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons 18 year old Balsamic Vinegar
Italian Herbs about 1/4 teaspoon
salt and pepper

The Roasted Veg takes the longest, so start with them. Turn on the oven to 450 degrees, Peel the squash and the sweet potato and cut into cubes. Quarter the onion and dump out the carrots. I put them all in the roasting pan and poured the OO and the vinegar on top. Add the S&P and the herbs. Then stir them up and put them in the over for about 30 minutes. Stir half way through and then at about 25 minutes. If they are getting too dark, they are done. Remember the vinegar will add some color all by itself.

Then start the chicken

Chicken strips
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoon Tuscan Herb Olive Oil
Italian Herbs
1 Tablespoon 18 year old Balsamic Vinegar

You could use chicken breasts, but we don't eat that much meat and the strips cook up very fast. After you put the veg in the oven, rinse and pat dry the chicken strips. I cut out the thick white tendon. Heat up a cast iron pan and add some OO. I used the Tuscan Herb again. Consistency! When the oil is hot, add the chicken that you have sprinkled with s&p and the herbs. Cook about 3 minutes on one side and then turn.. Add a teaspoon or so of chopped garlic or some whole cloves. Add the Vinegar and cook for 3 more minutes. When you plate the chicken make sure to get some of the garlic and vinegar with it. So good.

I served it with some corn bread, because I had some left over from another meal. Italian bread would be great with this. We had strawberries with some Cool Whip for dessert.

Hand Quilting

I am practicing hand quilting. I have 2 small bits of muslin with some batting sandwiched in between. I have a plastic frame to keep the fabric tight. I have a few designs I drew, traced and scribbled on to use for my experiment. Here is what I have concluded.

I will be machine quilting.

Of course, next week is the machine quilting class. There is a good chance that I will conclude the following:

I will be sending out any future quilt tops to be quilted by someone else!

In the meantime I have been practicing hiding the knot. To do this you wrap the thread twice around the needle and pull it to the end. Do not wrap three times as then thread will have too big of a knot. Then you start the thread away from the line you are going to outline and come up on the line, pulling the knot into the middle of the sandwich.

There is a method to "stack" stitches by stabbing down through the fabric and rocking the needle up and down so that when you pull the thread through you should have 2 or 3 stitches with each pull.

This is a skill I don't have, so I need to work on it...a lot. And that is what I will do, maybe tomorrow...or the day after that...

Getting Organized

When we moved here there was a long skinny room that served no purpose except to house the pull-down stairs for the attic. We added the cabinets and the counter top. I like to do scrap booking, rubber stamping and stained glass. I wanted to learn how to make quilts. So part of the counter tops are wood for when I need something heat resistant. And part are lowered with no cabinets for comfortable sewing. I also had a tall rolling cabinet that was overcrowded with crafty things. With Lee's help, I have been trying to get more organized

We put up a shelf and tried to figure what next? I looked on a lot of sites for ideas, like the container store and pinterest. I also Googled craft rooms. I liked the idea of cubes horizontally across the wall and different colored containers. But I also wanted them to be clear, so I could see in them and labeled so I didn't have to see in them!

This is a work in progress. I have been taking things out of drawers to put them in containers Some I will put in smaller organizers and place back and then label the drawers, but I like the idea that I can look on the wall and see what I have and what I need and where everything is!

I have one more shelf to buy and a few more clear containers and then I will be done...for now. I would like to put in a TV or radio to keep me company. I would like room for a friend to come work with me. But this is what I have and I am getting excited about it!

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Thought It Was Spring

This was the first winter where we didn't have any snow. And now we can't say that any longer. It has been such a warm winter, we'd begun to think we wouldn't have any snow at all. We only had to lock the horses in the barn to keep warm about 7 or 8 days in total. The daffodils have come up and started to think about blooming. The fruit trees have contemplated blossoming.

The snow started early yesterday. At first it didn't stick. I guess it was too warm. After a few hours the snow began to come down in earnest. It began to build up on the grass first and then the trees. It didn't stick on the blacktop driveway until the sun went down.

Because neither of us have to go to work today, we could just enjoy the snow. Lee didn't have to get out and plow in the middle of the night to make sure it didn't get too deep for our tractor. I didn't have to go to the barn in the cold and dark to get to work on time. We were able to drive the 4 wheel drive mule down and back at the reasonable hour of 8:00.

Other than fixing soup for dinner, I did NOTHING of any significance. I read a little, wrote a little, sewed a little, called my mother and did none of the housework that I needed to get done. None of it. That is going to have to be done today, but I am glad to have had a day of quiet and nothingness. I wouldn't want that everyday, but it was a lovely break.

Here are some pictures so that you can see the kind of beauty we are blessed with here in Virginia. I like to step back and be grateful.

Even the fence around the vegetable garden becomes beautiful.

RJ loves rooting around in the snow, but doesn't like being called over to have his picture taken.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Southwestern Chicken Soup

A snowy day is the perfect day to make soup. I like to do anything to make soup the easy way, so here is what I made today, and it was really good. And I'd tell you if it wasn't. Of course if it was really gross, I wouldn't put it here at all.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

Once again for vegetarian, leave out the meat and use vegetarian broth. It will still be delicious.

1 cup chopped up frozen chicken breast strips, thawed
small hunk of Kielbasa, chopped,just because I had some
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic

I have to stop here and explain that we call garlic, raglic. It happened a long time ago after a trip to the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The girls and I were playing hangman, where you come up with a word and mark the number of letters and somone guesses letters until they figure out the word or get all their parts "hung" on a scaffolding. Tara had the letters _a_lic. She went through the whole alphabet trying to figure out what was missing and finally guessed raglic. Of course, she will never live this down. She especially loves garlic and wanted to go to the Garlic Festival. When Trista was a student at UCLA, she had taken Tara to the Stinking Rose, one of their favorite restaurants that serves garlic with every dish. And yet, we still call it Raglic. So put in a teaspoon or so of raglic!

1/4 cup brown rice
1 Tablespoon wild rice
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups chicken broth
1 can each Black Beans and Corn, drained and rinsed
1/2 small can tomato paste I put the rest in a ziploc bag and freeze for the next time I make soup.

1/2 can green chilies I used the rest in some corn bread, the recipe is on this blog
1/2 cup shopped fresh tomatoes
2 Tablespoons cilantro
sour cream

I started with pre-cooked chicken breast strips from the freezer and a small hunk of Kielbasa from another recipe. Chop them up. Chop up the onion. Put the Olive Oil in a Dutch Oven and cook the onions until almost tender. Add the RAGLIC, rices and the spices. Cook until the aromas of the spices make you really hungry.

Add the meat, stir for a few minutes and then add the broth. Bring to a boil.

Next add the beans, the corn, the chilies and the tomato paste. Reduce the temperature to simmer and let cook for about 45 minutes.

Add the fresh tomatoes and the cilantro.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and slices of avocado.

Hand Basting

Here is what I have learned about hand basting for my quilt. I am not good at it and have no patience for it. I'd better stock up in those little quilter's safety pins.

I can't use a thimble and yet I hate getting little finger pokes over and over.

And most importantly of all, cats don't help. The loose thimbles

and the running and pulling and twisting threads

are just way too much fun.

And I decided it is snowing and the horses need to get in the barn before it gets too deep to drive there. That is my excuse and I am sticking with it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Free Blueberries ,Like Free Heat

Just like our free heat experiment ended up costing hundreds of dollars for a wood stove and then the stove pipes, our free blueberries may do the same.

Blueberries do well on a well drained slope and we have a slope near the water for the garden. It is behind our fenced in vegetable garden and beyond the "orchard". It's pretty steep, but Lee thought the tractor could work there. It is also at the edge of a steep hill, so there is not a large margin for error. Unfortunately us city folks have the capacity for exceeding that large margin.

First, Lee put the plow we bought from a neighbor on the tractor in place of the scraper. It is a good thing he bought a quick connect because they are forecasting snow for Sunday and we may need that to clear the drive! It makes it easier to change out implements for the 3-point hitch on the tractor.

Lee turned the new compost and then started bringing up buckets of the seasoned compost in the front loader.

I got the sulphur from the barn with a shovel and a rake and we thought we were in business.

While Lee did the tractor work, I spread the sulphur with the scientific method of flinging it off the shovel. I figured the plowing would distribute it throughout the soil for me!

Here comes the part that we did not anticipate and is probably making any REAL farmers laugh their nether parts off. It has been raining and the compost was wet and slick. We were working on a slope. Do you see where I am going? Every time Lee tried to just drive across the "blueberry patch" to be, he slid towards the edge of the hill...or maybe I should call it the cliff, so you can see the fear that I had. There is no amount of blueberries worth Lee rolling down the hill. Not even REALLY good berries and lots of them. Plus, the tractor was expensive!

Not only was the compost on top of the ground slick, and I mean boot sucking, face planting slick, but the grass under it was wet and slick, although Lee had been able to drive across it with no problem to dump the compost. So I got out there with a shovel and a rake and spread everything out. My hopes are that the slick compost will dry out and then we will try again. And if it rains, some of the compost will soak in the soil anyway! I just don't want it to wash over the "cliff" after all this work.

Hindsight being 20/20, we realized that we should have plowed up the patch first and them dumped in the compost. But we can't undo it, so we will wait and see if we can plow it after a few days of sun. Not this weekend with the potential snow, however. Worse case scenario, I will have to rent a rototiller and do it by hand. I don't want to do that, however. Working with heavy machinery on a slope is very hard work. And the area is pretty big. It's about 21 feet X 36 feet. I'd rather use horse power than people power. That's an idea. Hitch up the horses! If only...