Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Weekend

Gutters installed on the house.  Now we can begin to harvest rainwater, protect our foundation, and reduce ice on the back patio this winter.  I smiled when I looked out the backdoor window and saw only two sets of feet balenced high on ladders.
Yummy chickpea and potato curry made.  We're trying to use up the smallest of the fingerlings rapidly as they don't keep nearly as well as their larger counterparts. I don't know when Matt started liking spicy so much though.  I almost thought it was too much and he--shockingly--seemed like it was no big deal.  This is the third time this has happened recently.  Its quite out of character, but maybe he's just finally developed a tolerance for the heat. 
Risk played.  I conquered the world--not to brag--but, like usual.  I am unstoppable.  Behind my peaceful facade is a ruthless world leader waiting to get out.  :  )  Actually, I would be a terrible world leader...so I restrict my tyranny to game boards and little plastic people.
Bluegrass music enjoyed with friends in costumes, like Hannah the little cowgirl.  There was a whole zoo--lions, tigers, lizards, giraffes, penguins, etc.  And an alien.  And a bass player in a skin-tight Spiderman suit. 
Weird nature finds.  This cocoon-like item was safely tucked in this hollowed out tree limb.  It's made of carefully wrapped leaves!  It was amazing!  One end was open, as you can see, and there is a small pinprick of a hole on the side of the tube.  I need to do some research!  I find something neat every time I dig around in the woodpile.  Actually, this time I also found what appeared to be a very flat wasp's nest on the end of a log.  I poked at it and it revealed that the log was hollow and the nest went into its depths.  So it looked small and flat, but really the wasp's had just saved themselves a lot of work my using a hollow.  Crazy cool.
Wood cut and stacked.  We don't have a big woodpile.  Yet.  This is our first winter with a wood stove.  We are really looking forward it though.  Always-cold me more so than the always-hot Matt.  We were gifted a bunch of wood that needed cut and we'd also inherited a big messy pile of it (and other riff-raff) alongside the garage from the previous owner.  Matt cut with the saw, I snapped smaller branches for kindling with my foot, and we neatly stacked them. 
New cemeteries visited.  Matt told me there was a cemetery he'd meant to show me because it was kind of unique and near our house.  So after the wood stacking we rode bicycle over.  It is three levels, I think.  Terraces of graves with stairs between the levels.  There was also a wall where people who'd been cremated could have their remains preserved behind a marble tile.  It was a fairly new cemetery.  Most of the graves were from the 1970's all the way up to those from 2012 which are obviously still very fresh. 

This woman was 100 years old.  Can you imagine all the changes she saw in her life?  The world of her birth would have been a completely different world than the one of her death.  It was a very interesting thought to consider.  Matt and I tossed out a few ideas about what it might be like when we are 100.  He's much more optimistic than I am.  I love him for that.  Its good for me.
Dinner marinating and ready to be popped in the oven.  We made the Ethiopian Seitan and Peppers, but used tofu instead of seitan.

Monday, October 29, 2012

We did it... again!

I've read that once something happens it is more likely to happen again.  It was in one of Masuru Emoto's books about water crystals.  He said that at one point it was commonly known that glycerin didn't crystallize...until one barrel did during transport.  Not so long after it that happened again.  And then again.  And then again.  It caused quite a stir.  Now it is commonly known that glycerin crystallizes.  It didn't used to, but now it does.  Or so I read.  So maybe this isn't all that surprising, but we managed to use all eight triple word scores again--a mere two weeks after it happened the first time.  I'm so blessed that it doesn't take much to make my day.

Birding Around the House

One of the many, many things I really enjoy about our house is the birds.  It seems like the place is just crazy with birds.  This works out well for me because I think I could watch birds all day long.   It can actually be quite distracting.  I go out to pin clothes to the line and it takes twice as long as it should because of the chickadees and blue jays.  How can I possibly resist watching their antics?!  I just cannot. 

At the end of the season I collect leftover corn and sunflowers at the community garden which I use to provide fodder for my winged neighbors.  I really prefer watching them have to work for the food as they do when they must pry it from the flower head or cob.  Its seems more natural for them than eating out of feeder and is more interesting to me.  That said, I do have feeders, too.  But, they've been quite empty since the sunflower seed from last season ran out months ago.  I'm glad to have restocked since I've yet to make it to Tractor Supply for more commercial seed.

I used to keep a little list of birds I'd seen around the rental house.  I've just recently revived the tradition at our home now.  It is below.  Maybe I'll even remember to add to it as we sight new species of birds around the house.

Birds around the house:
House sparrow
American robin
Black-capped chickadee
Yellow warbler
Blue jay
Pine siskin
Downy woodpecker
Northern flicker
Coopers hawk
Sharp shinned hawk
American crow
Cedar waxwing
Dark-eyed junco

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lentil Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are a longtime favorite.  Though, truth be told, I don't think I cared much for it as a child.  It certainly isn't one of my favorite childhood foods.  But, when I first learned to make it some years ago (based off Matt's mom's recipe) I was in heaven.  Its so simple and fast and the flavor is so comforting to me.  Definitely one of my comfort foods in adulthood...which may be partially due to the fact I always eat it over a nice, big wheat roll.  Oh, how I love bread.  And tomatoes.  And peppers.  See, this is why I am so supremely satisfied by a dinner of sloppy joes!!
I really like how all the colored peppers add to the look of the dish.  So much prettier than your run of the mill Sloppy Joes!
Lentil Sloppy Joes

2 cups cooked lentils (I usually cook mine to nearly mush as I find it very....burgery...for lack of a better term.)
1/2 onion, diced (or three tiny baby onions like the ones we grew this year)
Sweet peppers, diced (as many as you like, probably around 1-3 cups worth.  Add a few spicy peppers if you wish.)
1/2 pint tomato sauce
1-2 T brown sugar
2 t white vinegar
1 T ketchup
1-2 T chili powder

Saute the onion until starting to become translucent.  
Add peppers and saute a few more minutes, until tender.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until well mixed.
Serve over rolls either open-face or as a sandwich.

Jeez.  I guess I MUST like Sloppy Joes as I already posted a recipe for them.  Oh well.  I already wrote the post now.  An really, what blog doesn't need at least TWO Sloppy Joe recipe variations?!  In any case, this one is better as I think lentil are superior and the ratios better.  It has more peppers, for one thing, which I always find to be a plus.  It is all rather funny though since I am sure they were both modified off the same recipe. 

Inspiration Thursday - Phenomenal Woman

I'm not usually a poetry reader...which has always struck me as a tad funny since I am a poet.  Writing is one thing.  Reading another.  Some poets reach me, but the majority of it doesn't move me the way prose does.  But, I somewhat recently unearthed a slim volume of poetry by Maya Angelou that was given to me by Morgan, a friend in college who has now lives across the country from me.  She had inscribed a message to me that read in part to "Keep some Maya around.  She'll save you every time."   I hadn't read the collection in quite some time so I plucked it from the shelf and read it.  The poem Phenomenal Woman has been running though my head in the days since. 

Phenomenal Woman
By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Baby Potatoes with Garlic and Peanut

We made a new recipe this weekend that we just can't stop talking about.  It was so good.  We based it off of a recipe that Matt found in a book we picked up at the library called 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking.  It is just chocked full of great sounding dishes.  When we made out the menu for the week we had to restrain ourselves at only three curries.

This dish has a very mild curry taste (that made me think maybe even my curry-hating sister, Sarah, might like it).  The peanut-sesame combo makes a wonderful base to the flavors of this dish.  With only one cayenne it was not at all spicy, so ratchet it up to three or more if that is to your liking.  It was a perfect use for our pounds of garden fresh, itty-bitty fingerling potatoes, but I suspect it will be added to repertoire with cubed potatoes even when the fingerlings are not so readily available.
Easy Little Bread (right out of the oven), honey crisp apples (during their anticipated and brief season), and Baby Potatoes with Garlic and Peanut over quinoa.  Yuuuuummmy!  
Baby Potatoes with Garlic and Peanut

2 T white sesame seeds
2 T raw peanuts
4 cloves garlic
1-3 dried cayenne peppers
2 T vegetable oil
1 lb baby potatoes (new, fingerling, etc) - 1 inch cubes can be substituted
1/2 t turmeric
1 lb tomatoes, diced  (or about 10 oz sauce)
2 C water
1 t salt
1 T curry powder
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped (if you have it)

  • Grind sesame seeds, peanuts, garlic, and peppers in food processor forming a gritty, sticky blend.  
  • Heat oil over med-low heat.
  • Add blended mixture and roast, stirring, until it start to release its oils and loosen, turning crumbly and nutty brown in color.  This should be about 5-8 minutes.
  • Add turmeric and cook for just a few seconds before adding the remaining ingredients (except cilantro).
  • Raise the heat and bring mixture to a boil.
  • Reduce heat back to med-low and cover, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender and the sauce thickened up.  This should be about 25-30 minutes.
  • Stir in chopped cilantro and serve. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Freak Peppers

We picked the last of the peppers on Sunday.  After covering (and uncovering) them several times we decided to take advantage of the lovely day and clean up the garden beds for the winter--except for that one which Matt is using for experimental fall plantings of carrots and greens.  The hoses were disconnected.  The ditch pump drained and stored.  The grass mowed one last time.  Leaves and pepper plants added to the compost pile.  All under the lovely autumn sun.

In harvesting, cleaning, and weighing the peppers we found a few extra special fruits--like a nardello pepper that had tied itself up in knots and a bell pepper with a tongue.  You don't see gems like this at the store!

Glorious, Glowing Sunrise

The Grand Prismatic Sky
Up at once to see the sun.
Watching as the day is begun.
Glowing, shifting, radiant sun,
Changing quickly and soon its done.
The prismatic and blazing are fleeting and gone.
Leaving me awaiting the next glorious dawn.

An Autumn Walk

Yesterday was so nice.  The sun came out and took away just enough of autumn's crisp chill as to make it very, very pleasant.  The sun felt good, extra good, because at this point one must wonder how many of these nice, sunny autumn days we have left.  A sunny winter day has its charm, too, but sunny autumn days seems to have an extra excitement.  Its like summer is trying to hold out just a bit longer.
After a morning of productivity in harvesting the last of the peppers and potatoes and winterizing the garden and associated tools we found that the sun was still shining brightly.  We were not quite ready for lunch, but not quite ready to tackle cutting and stacking our small wood pile.  So I suggested a walk.
We still are in Explore Mode in our neighborhood walks.  There are so many different routes one can take that it will take some time before we are as familiar with them as we were with our old neighborhood.   This is great fun.  In addition to the pleasure of walking we see something new--an impressive house, a lovely tree, a neighbor keeping chickens--on every walk. 
This particular stroll we discovered a park just 15 minutes from our house that neither of us knew existed.  It had swings, picnic tables, horseshoe pits, and a sizable expanse of grass and trees.  We stopped and had a swing for a while, enjoying the scenery of the rim rocks and autumn hues which made the grass seem shockingly green.  We used to walk to Pioneer Park which was near our rental house for picnics and recreating.  We were excited to find a new park, close to our new home, to make our new picnicking grounds.

And of course, the leaves were fantastic. 
It is amazing--this transformation.  This change that takes place before our very eyes.  This change that makes the mornings dark and cold.  That brings frost to the windows and recolors the entire landscape.  That sends the leaves swirling down in a multicolored rainstorm.  We haven't changed, but gradually the world around us is--and so we too must eventually change.  Longer sleeves and taller socks.  Trading sandals for boots.  Lamps on earlier in the evening.  Warmth in great demand rather than in sweltering excess.  Isn't is just amazing that we are part of such an astonishing, miraculous cycle?!  What a wonderful world!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Bright Star - Inspiration Thursday

"Wouldn't it be too bad if we left this world and hadn't done all we could for peace?" - Jeanette Rankin

I am reading a book about the life and significance of Jeannette Rankin.  While I was familiar with some of her story the book has added a depth of understanding and admiration for me.  What an amazing woman!!  At a time when women were second-class citizens she was brave enough to try for something more.  She helped bring about changes that had tremendous significance for our state, our nation and, as a woman, for me quite personally. 

She attended college--no small thing in her day--because her parents thought education was the most important thing to success. 

Even as a little girl she had thought it was wrong that women had little to no voice in their government.  Through her activism in Washington state, Montana and later Washington D.C., marching with flags and signs, giving speeches, writing letters, she helped give the right to vote to the women of our country. 

When she decided to become the first woman ever to be elected to the U.S. Congress people ridiculed her and told her it was impossible.  But she succeeded and in 1917 was the only woman in Congress.  I am proud that my home state was the first to send a woman to the capital in such an important capacity.   After the 1919 session of congress she hoped to be remembered for being the only woman able to vote to give all women the right to vote.

Jeanette was a creature of  amazing determination and courage.  While the rest of the congress voted to enter World War I she voted not to because she felt war was not the answer.  The hope had been for a unanimous vote which would show our strength to the world.  But Jeanette just couldn't do it.  She couldn't vote for war.  This decision caused her great torment.  Opponent said she was hysterical and an overly emotional woman--they even spread false rumors that she'd cried and fainted in Congress during the vote.  The suffragists she was allied with were outraged thinking she was hurting their cause by making women look weak and unpatriotic.  She would go on to cast the only vote no to enter World War II decades later.  But she stood up for what she believed in regardless of the ridicule.

And for that and so many reasons she is my inspiration for this Inspirational Thursday. 

The book is:  Jeanette Rankin:  Bright Star in the Big Sky by Mary Barmeyer O'Brien

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oh-So-Portable Pesto and Other Travel Food

When we go camping or on vacation we bring our own food.  There are a number of reason for this.  One, its easier, in my mind, to bring food than to have to find it in an unfamiliar place.  Two, its cheaper than eating out or buying food on the fly.  We travel a lot and it would get expensive!  Three, I am able to eat the organic foods I prefer to.  Four, as a mostly-vegan and a rather picky eater its just easier than reading labels or making special requests of my hosts and/or restaurant staff.

So what do we eat on the road?  I've been asked that more than once.   The answer is lots of things, but there are some things that tend to make up the bulk of it.

Pizza (probably our most frequent travel food.  You can put anything on it and it doesn't require reheating, a plate, or utensils)
Pasta with pesto
Curries, usually over rice or quinoa
Stir-fry (a wide variety)
Soups/stews (vegetable, tomato, chili, carrot, chuckwagon, corn, potato, etc)
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Quesadillas, either cheese or hummus
Veggie breakfast wraps (sauteed vegetables in a tortilla)
Breakfast potatoes (cubed potatoes fried with onions, peppers, etc)
Fried Tofu
Mashed Potatoes
Carrots with peanut butter
Chips and salsa or hummus
Dried fruit
Spiced lentils with rice (which we affectionately call gruel because while quick and filling it is not prety)
Biscuits and gravy

We have a single burner camp stove that runs off of a small propane tank.  We have one pot and one frying pan.  We bring our round wooden cutting board which also doubles as a plate and a lid for the frying pan.  We do tend to eat a lot right out of the pot to save on dishes, since its just the two of us mostly, but we also have two bowls each and the accompanying spoon and fork.  We bring a serrated knife, butter knife, and spatula.  And a thermos which I fill with tea on the first evening of a trip and lasts me through the night and into the next day.  Perfect on cold mornings as there is no waiting for water to boil and tea to steep.  We pack a table cloth.

We tend to precook most things so that at camp we just have to heat it up.   This is especially true of potatoes.  They take forever to cook on a camp stove so we always precook them.  We will saute up raw onions and peppers in the country.  Once Matt breaded and fried eggplant in the forest.  Another time he ambitiously built a camp oven and baked biscuits.  As a general rule though, we precook.  Its just faster and easier.  (And when I get hungry while backpacking it usually attacks with a vengeance and quick food is a must!)
We stock our cooler with homemade block ice and pint and quart jars of precooked meals.  Curry in one jar.  Breakfast potatoes in another.  Chopped onions and peppers in a third.  A small jar containing pesto.  My jar of hot sauce.  A tub of Earth Balance margarine.  Sometimes a jar of apple juice.  And so on.  Then we will also have the dry food bag where we will have peanut butter, tea, spices, bread or biscuits, nuts, and the like.

And it works for us.  With a little planning we're able to travel on the cheap and have good quality food immediately available when we want it which means we can have greater flexibility in our travels--driving or hiking until the mood to stop and eat strikes us. 
Home-cooked food is right at home on the road as well as in the kitchen.  And I am too used to eating this good to settle for anything less.

Cats And Kites

Cats and kites don't mix.  Just a little something I learned recently.

I decided to take advantage of the blustery weather by taking my kite out for a spin.

The wind was being fickle.  We launch and it would fly for a bit and then the wind would change directions completely and it would crash before I was able to make the needed adjustments to keep it in the air.

After one such crash I noticed an orange kitty making a beeline for me.  I do not have any animal companions of my own and so live vicariously through neighborhood cats and friends and family who do have animals.  I told Matt to wait on launching the kite again so I could pet him and set the handles of my kite down on the grass. 
He started purring up a storm almost immediately.  He was small, not fully grown, and vigorously friendly.  Matt even came over and gave him some rubs.  (Matt usually lets me and the cats be because he tends to spook them off and thus, ends my fun time.)

It soon became clear though the the cat was not really making a beeline for petting.  He was making a beeline for what must have seemed to be possibly the most superb-looking string for a cat to play with ever.  I am such a sucker for cats I would have probably let him play with my kite strings, but Matt was the voice of reason and suggested it might not be a good idea.  So I took the strings away...or I tried to.  It was tough to get the cat to let go long enough to lift the strings (which were spread out across the grass for the entire length of the string) up high enough to keep them out of his reach.
And when we had successfully done that much the kitty started pouncing and rolling on the kite's tail.  Once he even thwarted an attempted kite launch by hanging on to the tail!

When we were trying to fold it up afterwards he did his best to prevent it--laying on top and getting wound up in the strings and tail.
All these cat photos are of my Dad and Dana's cats.  They are beautiful and fun and endlessly chase that laser pointer to my great amusement.  When they hear it clicked on they come running from other parts of the house.
It was so darn funny that it wasn't even frustrating trying to disengage him from the string.  The fickle wind was a bit disappointing, but the amusing antics of that cat were reason enough to take the kite out. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Candy" Grapes

Perhaps its because I only get them once a year. 
Perhaps its the satisfaction of picking them myself. 
Perhaps its that they are so freshly picked without any substantial transport time.
Perhaps they really are the best tasting variety of grape on earth. 
Whatever the reason I think concord grapes are like candy.  I can hardly get any into the juicer because they all--somehow--try to end up in my mouth.  Matt is busy pulling them off the stem.  I am busy stuffing them into my mouth.  Purple-blue fingers, and lips, and chin, and teeth, and tongue.  Seriously.  Like candy.

But we did, in fact, manage to get some into the juicer.   We had some with breakfast this morning and rows of quart jars on the shelves downstairs for drinking and making jelly with.  Hooray.
Like that apron over the coat look!?!  That will be necessary when making juice in the yard in October.
But I still like them best whole.  You know, with their being candy grapes and all.  Now I have to wait until next year once more.

Triple Word Score

Matt has always had this goal of using every Triple Word Score space on the Scrabble board.  I've always thought it basically impossible.  There are eight of them.  One in each corner and one at the center point of each side of the board.   It would take a lot of long words to spread the board out that much.  But, Matt has always insisted it would be awesome and gets excited when we have most of them in play because he always held out hope we'd manage it.

We've come close.  (We do play a lot of Scrabble, after all.)  We rather easily achieve six of the eight spaces.  But, as I said, to get all eight I never really considered an option.

 And then we did it a couple nights ago.
And Matt was SO happy.

(And I took a picture.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Potato Harvest

We harvested the last of the potatoes at the community garden last night.  A few more hills at the home garden and we will have them all in for the year.  We're looking right on target to exceed our 100lb goal.
The purple potatoes (All Blue) are my favorite.  I find their flavor good and their color outstanding. 
We grew two varieties of fingerling potatoes (LaRatte and Russian Banana).  I don't think we did a good enough job with our labels to keep them separate.  I think fingerlings are wonderful, especially roasted, but I must say they are a bit of a pain to harvest and clean.  They're so small and there are so many of them!!  But, they're worth it, I think.
Then there are the more standard potatoes, like Russets and Yukon Golds, which we like for baking and for making gnocchi.   (We are so making gnocchi this weekend!  Yummy!)
There was also a red potato with red flesh (All Red) which we've never grown before.  Its of good size and flavor, but didn't seem as prolific as its All Blue counterpart.

The potatoes found it pretty easy to just grow under the path, which at the community garden are made of carpet.  We opted not to eat the ones grown directly in carpet, but I thought it was pretty interesting.  It was the path of least resistance, I guess!
I think potato harvest is like a treasure hunt.  Its certainly one of my favorite crops to bring in.  My hands did get a bit chilly yesterday though, digging in the cool, damp earth under the grey sky!  But, I am looking forward to all those potatoes and now the job is pretty much done until next year.  Hooray!