Saturday, October 31, 2009

Julia's Souffle

I was inspired, a few weeks ago after seeing Julie and Julia, to request The Art of French Cooking from the library. It's a popular book and I had to wait a few weeks to receive it. Now that it's here, I've been reading it like a novel, dreaming, and attempting my first souffle. (The DH has been doing a lot of Julia impersonations. He's pretty good.) As cookbooks go, this one is excellent. The recipes are thorough and come with lots of explanation. In my day job, I spend time thinking about the physical placement of words on a page, and I appreciate how the recipes are layed out.

But the real joy is that the recipe worked! (Here is a similar version of her recipe, without the wonderful introduction that includes how to beat the eggs and prepare the pan.)

The souffle puffed up nicely and stayed that way throughout serving and eating. (Thanks to Sweetcakes for loaning the pan! This pan would have held a larger recipe - that's why the souffle isn't puffed over the sides. I like it this way, though, because next time I won't need to bother with putting foil or paper around the pan.)

The DH contributed steamed kale, served with radishes, sesame oil and balsamic vinegar. It was the perfect side for the souffle. I can't wait to make this meal again!
Photos by the DH, dear hubby

Friday, October 30, 2009

Funky Legs Friday

Happy Halloween! This is part of my witchy woman outfit. I can't really call it a costume, because it's my normal clothing. Just witched up a bit.

About Funky Legs Friday...
I need a little fun in my life right now. SO, let's talk about tights.

Here's the deal - I like wearing skirts, and I like to wear them year-round. My lifestyle is such that I walk a lot, even in cooler weather, and so I'm always looking for fun and functional legwear. My rebel/playful side comes out in this realm. To add a little spunk to my week, I'm starting Funky Leg Friday! Each Friday through November, I'll show a pair of gams in funky leg coverings.

The tights in the picture above are wonderful! They feel like a soft, crocheted shawl. They're a rayon/nylon/spandex blend that feels like cotton. They're heavier and warmer than the typical tight. They remind me of the material from little girls' tights. I got them at Target, which has, by the way, quite a selection of cool tights these days.

I hope you're enjoying Halloween! I'll try not to eat too much candy.

Photo by the DH

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Quilt of Memories

This quilt was made by my Grandma Tressie. (Isn't that a wonderful name?) It is hand pieced and hand quilted. I've had it in my hope chest for years and years and years. I think the hope chest was supposed to be for gathering up stuff to use when I was a married woman. Well, I've been so for 13 years now. I guess it's time.

I haven't used the quilt before because it's so precious to me. I don't want it to get damaged. Yet, the quilt is meant to be viewed. It's a storybook of memories. Many of the fabrics she chose (scraps I'm sure) were from clothing that she had also made for me. For example, Grandma used this plum calico print to make a "prairie dress" and matching bonnet for me. A bona fide bonnet! My class, maybe in 2nd grade, was taking a field trip to a log cabin village. I wanted a bonnet with intense desire that I can still feel. (I was in a Little House craze those days.) I no longer have the dress or the bonnet, but I have this quilt. What a gift! She was a wise woman to know I would one day treasure this.

I'm not sure why the idea came to me recently to pull out this quilt. It has been safely tucked away for a long time. Maybe because the nights are cooler now. Maybe because Grandma's birthday was this month. (She passed away in the late 1990s, herself also being in her late 90s.) Maybe because we're in that time of year when the spirits are said to be close to us. For whatever reason, I wanted to put it to use. Such a quilt full of memories!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spicy Herbed Vinegar

I've been making spicy herbed vinegar, and I'm loving it! It's a simple recipe from the Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving (thank you, Library!) The peppers are from the Farmer's Market. The rosemary and garlic are from the garden. The vinegar is the plain white stuff. (You could use fancy vinegars. However, the white stuff works well and is very economical.)

The vinegar is very versatile as a condiment or finishing splash of flavor. Consider using it on:
  • Kale chips , my favorite way to use the vinegar! I use it in the wet mixture, as well as splashing it on the baked chips.
  • Raw or steamed veggies, as a flavor splash.
  • Rice, as a flavor splash.
  • Salad, mixed with oil as a dressing.
It's a fun and colorful way to put the summer herbs to use before the frosts come!

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Autumn Walk

Hoagy in the rose garden

The DH took this photo, and the next one

Yep, that's me, celebrating life and fall leaves

Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween Costumes, Tea-Themed

If you're still thinking of a Halloween costume, consider these tea-themed ones. (Images from various places on the web.)
A paper mache teapot! SO cool! Read about it here.

Mad Hatter costume, from Amazon

Pebbles, serving tea

Seriously, though, my favorite costumes are those creatively put together (like the paper mache teapot), not the purchased kind. Here are some that would be easy to pull together:

  • A matchmaker serving a brew guaranteed to bring love into your life
  • A gypsy (with a fish bowl for a crystal ball - I did this one year), reading your tea leaves
  • Mary Poppins (black dress, umbrella), serving tea
  • Instructions for sewing a tea bag costume

OK, clever readers, what tea-themed costume ideas do you have?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your First Memories of Tea

My first memories of tea involve cold mornings, coming in from having fed the horses with my father. We'd walk back from the barn on a wintry Saturday in January. Mom would make us Lipton tea in brown earthenware mugs. (She still has a few, and I love them!) I remember adding two spoons of sugar, then wrapping my hands around the heated mug and breathing in the warm steam. smelled and tasted so good and warmed my belly!

What are your first memories of tea?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Loved and Lucky!

To borrow a phrase from my good friend CC, I'm a "loved and lucky" woman. I came home to these lovely zinnias (the last of them) all over the house. Flowers are magical!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Blackwater Woods

I've been (and still am) with a dear friend, her family, and her band of angel friends for the past few days. It's not my story to tell, other than this: I've seen us - fragile, strong, imperfect humanity - at our most real and best.

Here is a poem that means a lot to me.

By Mary Oliver

In Blackwater Woods, excerpt

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Planning Ahead

NaBloPoMo - November is the original National Blog Posting Month. The idea is that you post on your blog every day for the month. I've done it the past two years. I'm considering my availability for this year. You can find more info here. NaBloPoMo has expanded beyond the original November month to be available any time of year. Join up whenever you like. And, my hat is off to those bloggers who post daily as a habit!

Halloween - I like to dress up for Halloween, but I'm not sure if I will this year. I may just settle for a walk around town to be entertained by the college students. If I do dress up, it will be a last-minute affair. Those are often the best costumes!

Christmas - I used to refuse to discuss Christmas before Halloween, but as I've moved into more of a crafting mindset, I realize that homemade gifts take time! So, I plan ahead! This year, I may not make as much by hand because of some time constraints, but I'm trying to find local gifts. In addition, here's something I'm drooling over. I've mentioned it to Santa (always my Mother): 2010 Datebook by KellyRae.

What are you planning for the holidays?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pears and Cheese

Since I'm on the topic of old-timey foods, let's talk about pears. There are many varieties of heirloom pears. In fact, according to one article I read, many pears in the stores today are still heirloom. That's cool! Around where I live, old farms often have a pear tree quietly producing somewhere. It was once loved, if not still.

Pears were (and are) valuable because they ripen off the tree. This means you can keep them around for awhile, a handy feature before supermarkets. We're trying a method of wrapping the pears in newspaper and keeping them in a cool place. So far, so good. We'll see how it goes.

One of my favorite treats is a pear with cheese. Here, I'm enjoying a green pear (I don't know what kind; we picked it from a kind person's yard) with swiss cheese from a local dairy. It is so yummy!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Perfect Fall Cookie

We have a persimmon tree near us, and I love persimmon pudding! It reminds me of Grandma. I wanted to branch out this year beyond the pudding (a moist cake), and so I tried a persimmon cookie recipe. I am a fan! These cookies are deliciously sweet and spicy, and pair perfectly with a cup of strong black tea.

In the Midwest, we have American persimmons. The American persimmon is very soft-sided and thin-skinned, not at all like the firm Asian ones you see at a grocery store. You'll seldom see an American persimmon at the grocer's because they're no good unless very ripe and that makes it hard to transport them. You may find persimmon pulp at farmer's markets. The best way, however, is to walk around in the woods and find a tree. You won't have much competition for the fruit (except from the critters) because not many two-leggeds know how to use persimmons any more. It's definitely an old-timey food. The genus name of this tree is Diospyros and it means "fruit of the gods." Persimmons were important to the fall diet for Native Americans and early settlers.

I used this recipe for the cookies, with a few modifications. I left out the raisins and nuts (on purpose) and inadvertently left out the egg. I detected no negative impact without the egg, so the recipe could easily be converted to vegan. I added a dash of ginger powder. I also replaced the sugar with honey, and used about half the amount listed. Of course, I used whole wheat. The recipe is a keeper. I must have made large cookies, because I got 24 out of one batch (compared to their 90!)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Weekend Meandering

It's been a great weekend! Not much planned, which is rare for me, and something I think I need more of.

Yesterday I meandered through the Farmer's Market, purchasing some local, unpasteurized Swiss cheese and hot peppers. Then I happened by the French window. I gave in to the siren's call of hot chocolate. The conversation was as delicious as the drink. "Oh, you want some hot chocolate? Good! My hot chocolate is wonderful. It is bitter." She says this with a French accent as she's plopping on whipped cream from the bowl it was whipped in. Mmmmm. And she was right. The bitter chocolate worked well with the sweetness and the cream. Wish I'd had my camera! I don't know her recipe, but I think this one might be close. See the first recipe on the last page, but the full article is worth the read.

I came home from the library with a stack of books about living in small spaces. I spent some autumn sun-drenched time browsing through them with the DH. I look at the general concept and he goes for the finite details. He points out what he likes and how he envisions it (he's way more visual than I). He also shows me how we'd never see what's in the photo in real life because they've manipulated the furnishings. Or look - that mirror was anchored so poorly into the dry wall, it's gonna fall down! It's refreshing to walk away with an inspiring concept, but to realize that these house photos are fantasy. No doubt they have a foot in reality, but they shouldn't be compared to real life. And somehow, it's very funny.

Dreaming and laughing is good medicine, because it keeps me from getting in a twist about things I can't control, but desperately want to. Like Corporate America and the economy.

Last night, we went to a bonfire. I think at least one of these each year is good for my soul. There were about 20 or so people, and I was entertained by the wide variety of s'mores making. Some people were burners, others the patient lot (that's not me), waiting for the marshmallow to turn golden brown all around. I tried a new s'mores variety - with Reese's cups. I recommend it!

I've been tempted, but have resisted, checking my work e-mail.

Today, we're just hanging around and then taking a long bike ride through the hills and bottoms that I dearly love. I hope you're enjoying the weekend!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tea and Breast Cancer Awareness

It's October, and that means it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As you've likely heard, the antioxidants in tea (especially green tea) called catechins may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Why do I use the word "may"? Because human tests have shown mixed results. In lab tests, results are often promising, but with humans, lifestyle variables such as diet and exercise cloud the view. The results are promising enough for me to believe that when I'm drinking green tea, I'm investing in my health.

Read more here and here. (A note about these articles: I felt they were balanced reviews of the research. I tried to cite only reputable research organizations. There's a lot out there on this topic, so be cautious and look into the rigor of the research.)

If you're looking for a way to support the cause, I recommend getting physical and joining a local walk/run. Find one near you. In addition, here are some retail items you might enjoy:
  • Republic of Tea has its Sip for the Cure tea collection. A portion of the proceeds from sales go to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization.
  • The National Breast Cancer Foundation offers a pink polka dot, pink-ribboned teacup and saucer.
  • The Breast Cancer Site has lovely pink glass, pink-ribboned teapot ornaments.
  • And I'm sure there's more!
And one other note - the temperature of your tea matters! Some studies indicate that people who regularly scald the throat and esophagus with hot beverages (including tea) have an increased chance of cancers in those areas. So let that tea cool a bit and don't burn yourself with it.

Here's a special {hug} to all the women and men who have battled cancer of any type, and to their families and friends.