Week in review: 02/15/2013

February 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

I took a walk with some friends at sunrise on Saturday morning.  We walked around a 40-acre lake a few miles away from the farmhouse.  Ages ago, I used to live in this community.

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I saw some pelicans sunning themselves on a dock.

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Dave has been using the back bedroom at the farmhouse as a sort of storeroom.  All of the boxes stacked everywhere, along with whatever else he occasionally felt like throwing in there, was driving me crazy.  So, one night while he was in class, I started clearing it out.  I intentionally waited to do this while he was out of the house, because he starts getting nervous when he sees me organizing his stuff.

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I was three hours into the task when he came home.  He was amazingly unfazed by the giant trash bags, and the general havoc, and even expressed gratitude that I was tackling something that he’d evidently been wanting to start for awhile.  I’m not finished yet, but feels so good to almost have a room.  When it is clear, I think I’m going to turn it into an office.  Meanwhile, the morning after starting the project, I woke up to this:

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I couldn’t figure out why my legs ached so much, and discovered I’d bruised them up pretty badly when I was moving boxes, television sets, and computers out of the room.  There’s more bruising to come, because we still have to load up the car, and haul all of the stuff off to Goodwill.

Dave and I finished welding the frame for the gate and did the installation.  Otis supervised.

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Now we can put boards onto the frame, and the fence and gate project will be complete.

We’re trying to stick to mostly low carb meals this week, although sometimes Dave slips up and eats cookies.  Here’s some chili we had for dinner on Wednesday:

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Chili always tastes better with some grated cheddar cheese and sour cream on top.

A trip to the hardware store had us purchasing some seeds for this year’s garden.

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Week in review: 6/29/2012

June 29, 2012 § 6 Comments

I tried sleeping outside on the hammock again.  After my previous attempt (when mosquitos had a buffet on my head), I was a little afraid that I would again be inundated by insects.  This time though, it was very nice.  There were very few mosquitos, and I was able to relax in the hammock and enjoy the solitude.  Early in the morning, coyotes wandering across the property disturbed me, and I decided to come back inside.

Meanwhile, someone gave me a William Sonoma gift certificate, and I ended up buying a counter-top compost bucket.  It’s a stainless steel version of the free plastic coffee can that we’ve been keeping in the sink to store the compost.  It’s not bad-looking, but now it sits on the counter, as opposed to taking up no room at all inside of the kitchen sink.  This brings total compost pile investment to about $150…I wonder if spending $150 on GARBAGE is practical.

The road workers are just about finished with the road in front of our house, and now we can reinstall the fence around our yard.  We’re looking at putting our split rail fence back up, with some sort of fast-growing non-toxic foliage between the fence and our house.  While we like the wide open look of our house from the road, we do want a bit of noise protection.  We’d also like to be able to let the dogs out without having to worry about leashes…poor beasts have had very little freedom since the road work started last fall.  If you have any ideas for a fast-growing foliage we can plant, we’d love to hear them!

Dave’s 1964 356 Porsche arrived in a pink truck.  Now, the fun begins.  After he and the driver installed the beautiful car in our barn, Dave led me on an inspection tour.  Dave was practically rubbing his hands together with glee…”the engine is in terrible shape,” he said, “and look at this horrible upholstery.”  He was in Man Heaven.

Dave stepped on Slim Jim the Water Snake this week while working near the pond…For a few moments, it appeared that Slim Jim would not recover…not to mention Dave’s near heart attack from stepping on a snake.  However after both Dave and Slim Jim got over the surprise from the encounter, both were undamaged.  Hopefully this will be a lesson to Slim Jim, and he will henceforth refrain from lounging about on paths in the pasture.

I grew tired of not being able to find thank you notes and birthday cards, and finally organized them in this little box that we now store in one of our bookshelves.  The box was on clearance from IKEA.   Of course, while I was there, I bought a bunch of other things that weren’t on clearance, making my trip there not much of a savings at all.  Isn’t that always the way it is with IKEA?

Organizing everyday seasonings

June 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

Experts say that cooks shouldn’t store seasonings next to the stove, advising that the high levels of heat will quickly degrade the spices.  We’ve always ignored this rule.  When we tried storing seasonings in the pantry, where they evidently belong, we found outselves returning again and again for the same bottles and jars.  It was a hassle, so we store the most-used items in small stainless steel trays next to the stove.  These are seasonings we use so frequently, they don’t have time to be degraded from the heat.  Here are our most-used go-to items:

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Herbs de Provence

Peppercorns (in a grinder)

Red pepper flakes

Sea salt with dried garlic (in a grinder)

Sea salt (plain)

Canola oil spritzer (for greasing pans)

The small container with the white lid contains dried lavender from our herb garden.  It’s actually not an everyday item, and was just sitting around to be included in some homemade Herbs de Provence that we made this past weekend.  Notably missing is fresh garlic.  Although we also cook with an enormous amount of fresh garlic, we never keep this next to the stove.  Fresh garlic stays in a basket on the other side of the kitchen, along with other fresh fruits and vegetables that we use frequently.  We also keep a jar of fresh minced garlic in the refrigerator (if you have tried this, it is an enormous timesaver).

Even though we have two kinds of sea salt next to the stove, we actually don’t cook with a lot of salt.  It’s not something that we use automatically.  I (Libby) am very sensitive to salt, while Dave adores it.  When Dave’s at the stove, he tends to use salt, while I prefer to add it after the food has been cooked.  Unless it is essential to the cooking of the food (as in dishes that use dried beans, in which salt plays an important role in tenderizing the beans), I just leave it out and we can add it in later via the salt shaker at the table.

Once a week, I wash the trays, and Dave fills up the olive oil and red pepper flake containers.  He is so in love with red pepper flakes that I buy different kinds for him for his birthday and special holidays.  His most recent acquisition was a container of Szechuan red pepper flakes, which are outstandingly delicious.  The trays, by the way, are just stainless breading trays from William Sonoma.  They come in a container of three, and when we want to use the trays for breading, we just wash them out and then replace them with the spices when we’re done cooking.  An alternative to this is to just use a small white tray (which we used until recently), a basket, or a small shelf…whatever works for your particular kitchen.

We’re interested to hear about your everyday seasonings…what stays out all the time?  Are there any seasonings that you can’t live without?  Do you have favorite seasonings that make their way into almost every meal you prepare?

Loving my cookbooks

February 18, 2012 § 6 Comments

I used to buy all of my books, and then realized that my home’s library was filling up with books that I read only one time.  While I love the smell and feel of a book as much as anyone, It didn’t make sense to have so many books that I wasn’t really reading.  So, a little over a year ago, I purged several hundred books and hauled them off to my town’s library for their semi-annual book sale.

What remains are my research volumes, a few hundred fiction books, some first editions, and several hundred cookbooks.  It’s still a lot of books but we feel better for having cleared out what we no longer needed.  We also have an e-reader and a tablet, so it’s not like we don’t also have access to the books that we tossed.

Almost all of our cookbooks stayed home (except those ubiquituous Southern Living cookbooks, which I swear have sex and multiply on our bookshelves…where do they COME FROM?).  Other than the Southern Living cookbooks, which I gleefully tossed, I couldn’t bring myself to give away very many of the cookbooks.   I find that I love almost every kind of cookbook, especially the odd strange ones with really silly recipes that no one in his right mind would want to prepare (Chicken Feet in Mole Sauce with Green Rice…double yum!).  My favorites are cookbooks with beautiful pictures; I prefer the ones that have a picture for every recipe.  I  also love the recipes that make me laugh…anything that feeds 15 people and calls for a can of tunafish, a 1-pound bag of noodles, several cups of crushed saltines, and 4 cans of condensed soup is kinda funny.  I doubt I’ll make any of those strange recipes, but I still love reading them.  Actually, any recipe with any of the following ingredients or words is probably not going to EVER be served in our home:

log

congealed

feet

dick

greasy

pancreas

heart

tongue

paw

Rocky Mountain Oysters

testicles

penis

eyeballs

lips

suckers

aspic

thalamus

brains

ear

tail

cat

dog

Where do you draw the line?  Is there something that you refuse to eat because it’s just too strange, or is so disgusting, you can’t bring yourself to even think about eating it?  I’m a very good sport when it comes to eating (in spite of the extensive list above).  I’ve actually eaten many (maybe all?) of the things on my list.  I’ve been to many places, and I can almost always smile and eat whatever is served to me, regardless of what it is, and I usually like what I’m served (the list above is more political and personal than being based on my tastebuds).  I can honestly say that the only thing I will consistently not eat EVER is cooked carrots.  Dave’s a little different…but I’ll let him tell you about that in another post.

Make a menu, and stick to it (sort of)

February 10, 2012 § 3 Comments

Every Saturday morning, while the washing machine chugs away with our clothes, our dogs wrestle in the living room, and Dave sleeps in, I drink my coffee and make a menu for the week.  I encourage Dave to sleep in on the weekends…he needs the rest, and I also enjoy my early morning time.  We subscribe to several cooking magazines, and I’m always bringing home new cookbooks from the library (if we like them, we end up buying them for our ever-expanding cookbook collection).  Every week, I select a magazine or cookbook that will be the week’s inspiration.  From it, I select recipes for the week’s meals, and then I consult the pantry and prepare a shopping list.

Although we do have regular favorites for which we use no recipe at all, much of the week’s meals come from that week’s inspiration. I try to use only one cookbook or magazine per week.  More than that is just too irritating.  It’s difficult enough to prepare meals during the week, and I want as little of the hassle factor as possible.

Once I have my cookbook (or magazine) for the week, and the recipes I’ll be making from it, I grab my list, and head to the farmer’s market and several grocery stores.  Always on our list are items like 2% organic milk, dog food (we have 3 rather large dogs, so buying 50 pounds of food a week for them is our norm), salted butter, eggs, Greek yogurt, sour cream, flour, and apples (which we each eat for breakfast every morning).  In addition to the regular list are the items needed to prepare the week’s “special meals,” which include dinners, as well as the ingredients for 1-2 lunches for me and Dave to bring to our offices.  I enjoy, but don’t always get a chance to prepare, one weekly meal for me and my coworkers every week.  Dave, whose work group isn’t as welcoming of home-cooked treats, just packs the occasional lunch for himself.

I find it is very helpful to write my menu on the same sheet of paper I use to prepare the shopping list.  While I’m at the market, I’ll invariably see something on sale and end up substituting  or completely slashing a menu item.  Having the list and our menu in hand prevents me from the spontaneous and completely unnecessary purchases (14 bags of vinegar and black pepper potato chips, anyone?), but allows me to make logical and astute substitutions.

A thrifty new dish for the car keys

February 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dave likes to come home, dump his wallet, car keys, and backpack on the dinner table, and then head back outside to check on the pond and feed the fish.  I’ve been trying to motivate him into putting his backpack on the hall hooks, and the contents of his pockets onto the buffet.  So far, he is resistant to my charms.  I think though, that this little Goodwill dish might do the trick.

I found it last Saturday.  I like the little clanking sound his car keys make in the dish, but frankly I’m not hopeful that they’ll end up there very often.   If it doesn’t work out for the car keys, I’m going to repurpose it for a candy dish.  Either way, it’s not as if we’re out much cash…I mean, come on…it was less than a dollar.

Picture collection

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

This past weekend I went through the house and collected all of the little odds and ends that I thought might look nice hanging on the mudroom wall.  The mudroom is viewable from the front entry, and we’ve been wondering how to make the stark white wall look more appealing.  I tried a wall hanging there, then a mirror, but neither looked quite right.   I finally decided to go with some pictures that we already have.  Here’s what I came up with:

Everything in this collection has some meaning for us.  This Minerva relief was my dad’s:

 

And the Latin plaque is a copy of one that is carved onto Carl Jung’s tomb.  The small red Peruvian paintings are from Dave’s mom, as is the aluminum tree painting which she made.  I took swatches of fabric and interesting bits of paper from greeting cards and put them into frames.  The red frame on the top right holds a piece of fabric from Dave’s mom’s travels (it looks like another piece from Peru, but I can’t be sure).

It looks so much more welcoming than the former plain white wall.

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