Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Well...I Never Did Look Good In a Turban

Serves me right for trying to predict anything.  So far I'm down one.  Which, to me, is like: FAIL.
I usually spend at least a full two days before Thanksgiving in the kitchen. Today I have spent the WHOLE ENTIRE DAY driving in the car, and will be out on and off still until 9 p.m.  I have been home for 60 minutes at a time.  Three times.  I haven't even put the groceries away from this morning (Ok, yes, the milk and whatnot, but nothing else). So nothing, I repeat nothing, is getting done so far. No bread. No pudding. No pies. No dips. I did boil some eggs yesterday. And the turkey is defrosting, I think.
I need to start a group called Over-Ambitious Anonymous. Unless there already is one, then I just need to join it.  Although if I put it on my to do list, at the rate I'm going, I'll miss the first meeting anyway.  Sigh
I'm starting to like my aunt's tried-and-true description of cooking.  Here's her idea of cooking, in her own words:  "I wait til I'm hungry, turn on the oven to 400 degrees, and set the timer for 15 minutes. Then, I open the freezer and see what fits that 'recipe'.  Done deal.  Go out and play."
I love her.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Predictions--I'm Like The Gypsy Queen of Foretelling My Own Future

Not yours, though, so don't get excited and ask me for anything.  With you, anything could happen…sorry.
No...this isn't what I meant. 

For example, this summer, when I was surveying the sheer quantity of vegetables we would be harvesting from the garden that we'd waited 5 years to re-plant, a voice in my head (which sounded exactly like the Wicked Witch from Oz) said "You'll be canning vegetables right up until Thanksgiving, you fool."  Of course, I ignored the voice, and I hoped it was wrong. 
Turns out, it was right.  Exactly, to the day.
Yesterday I finished canning the last batch of borscht from our late beets and put away the canning pot in the garage.  On my way back INTO the house, I brought the turkey in to defrost. 
On.  The.   Same.   Day.  
I know, scary, huh?  And then the smartass other voice that I try not to let talk back too much said "Well, at least I won't be canning ON THANKSGIVING.  I win."  So, there's that.  I talk to myself way too much.
I can, however, predict some other things that will happen here soon.  We'll just see if I'm right…
1.  Starting Monday, I will be baking ALL THE THINGS for Thanksgiving.  Homemade everything.  It's like my Martha gene goes into overdrive at the holidays.  There will be (the intention of) homemade marshmallows, caramels wrapped in wax paper, 5 different pies with fruits from the garden, chocolate pudding, mashed sweet yams and garlic mashed potatoes, homemade cheese nips and deep-fried Panko-crusted cheese balls with homemade hot sauce.  And the cheese dip! Artichoke dip! Crab dip! Mini beef wellingtons (ok, with store bought puff pastry, I cut myself some slack, people!).  Shrimp cocktail with homemade sauce!   Vegetable and meat trays!  200 deviled eggs, because that's how many extra eggs I HAVE right now from the overabundant CHICKENS I signed up for last spring.  Braided sweet breads with homemade cranberry butter.  The list goes on…
Wait.  It's just US, right?  Possibly unfortunately, I know how to cook enough for 40, but my Martha gene has a hard time deciphering whether there's actually 40, or if it's just for the 4 of us.  So, I always try to pare it down.  Simplify.  But no.  It's a FREAKING HOLIDAY, PEOPLE.  WE MUST HAVE ALL THIS YUMMY FOOD.  It won't be the same if we don't have everysinglething on the list!
And there IS a list, too.  I have kept a list of everything I've made for every holiday since like 1997, in a book all its own.  No reason.  But it's interesting to have, and I like to flip back through the years.  Then I'll see something and think, OMG, we have to make THAT! How did I forget those?  And so on.
2.  Since I'm done canning, (well…sort of…there's still a wheelbarrow of ripening tomatoes in the garage that I am currently ignoring), I will possibly be able to get back to the Lady of Leisure thing that I was expecting more of this year.  Oh sure, I did my share of leisure-ing around in my first year off from being a crazy wedding cake baker, but not what you'd call serious lazing.  Soon, though.  Maybe January.
2-1/2.  Actually, what happens next will be the MAKE ALL THE CRAFTS phase of the year, which is where I make homemade Everything for gifts.  This year I'm thinking candles.  Hand-dipped tapers.  And possibly votives.  Definitely votives.  And wouldn't it be nice to knit some little---ahh, STOP.  I won't be knitting anything little for anyone; there isn't time.  But the tapers, yes, I think that could happen.
Around here...this is Christmas music
3.  I also predict much LESS time online.  Once the snow falls and the trees are up (we have 8 Christmas trees, it's a Thing here--one in every room, pretty much), and the Christmas music is playing every day (Sinatra era only, baby), I love the idea of slowing things dooooowwwwnnnn and detaching from the world out there.  I don't care what's in the news.  I don't want to see what the Kardashians are doing, or wearing, for the holidays.  (Who ARE they, anyway?? I don't get it.)  I don't have TV, so the internet is it, and that's easy to leave disconnected.  I feel more…present…in my life, without the internet.  We all do, I think, and it should be practiced more.  Hence, I also predict the time spent blogging will decline while I actually do this stuff, but I can always write about it later.

At Thanksgiving, I find myself wanting to sit by the fire in a cozy chair with a hot chocolate, to hand-write my Christmas lists and cards, with a calligraphy pen, in my best penmanship.  Penmanship! Remember WRITING?  With pens and stuff?  I'd use a feather nib and an old inkwell for my Christmas lists, but I'm pretty sure they're hard to find, and I'm such a klutz that we'd end up with no one getting cards, or all of them covered in ink blots ("Wow, I think Shane and Stef are doing good.  Or maybe this is a cry for help…"), or I'd spill the ink on the carpet and myself and have to renovate the WHOLE ENTIRE UPSTAIRS.  So, ok, maybe just a pen.  Or even a pencil, so I could erase stuff like "please just send money this year". 
But, remember penmanship? The gentle smooth drop down and curving uppppp and backwards of a cursive "g"?  The capital S?  How hard "f" was?  (I remember that, because I had one in my name--I hated "f"s).  And those dotted-line-between-the-solid-lines notepads, where you practiced it all? 
Moving on…
4.  I also predict more exercising happening, because…cookies, you guys.  We are a house of girls, so we are ALWAYS on a diet, pretty much.  Carbs are from the devil, most days.  And since my Martha gene refuses not to make ALL THE THINGS for the holidays, that means there's a constant battle between the Martha gene ("Try these butter cookies and eggnog!") and the wicked witch ("You'll get fat, my pretty, and your little cat, too!!").  So, maybe more exercise.  But, without the canning pot going 8 hours a day, I now have time to work out if I want. 
BwahahahahaHAHA.  If I *want*?   (muffled laughter)   Sorry…  I never *want* to work out.  It's more of a "should" thing, but "want"?  Um, no.  I'd rather just wake up tomorrow with the body I wished for.  Or how about the one I already used to have, effortlessly.  Is that so hard?  I already HAD it.  Where'd it go?? Maybe it's because I didn't appreciate it enough then.       (Body!! I'm sorry!!)
5. I also predict less Facebook and probably no Twitter, unless I need a traffic report.  I love all my friends, but at the holidays I want to actually SEE them and hear their voices, not read status updates.  By the way, "Having coffee…" doesn't count as an interesting status update unless you can finish the sentence with "…on the moon.  With Morgan Freeman."    Digressing again, sorry.

6.  Also more time to work on the cookbook project, which I started and WILL finish, though it's turning into a longer project than I expected.  But *I* can't even wait to use that book! ALL THE THINGS!  In ONE book!  I could clean out my whole cupboard--well, almost. 
As for you all…I can't predict for you, but I wish you the most blessed and safe Thanksgiving week, full of everything and everyone you're most thankful for.  We have had an interesting year here, and we have so much to be thankful for!  I won't elaborate, but please remember to  Shower the People You Love With Love.  Or cookies, or candles...or whatever is your Thing. 
I'm off to the kitchen, my happy place.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hey, Maybe New Shoes CAN Change Your Life

Or at least the landscape of your closet.

I actually have a magnet to that effect on my stove.  Thanks, Mom.  I like the juxtaposition of the shallowness of that sentiment, combined with my intense geeky love of history books, all things garden-y and organic, and the fact that I almost NEVER SHOP EVER for myself.  NEVER EVER EVER.

But I do have a love affair thing with new shoes.  It's part of the magic that is me.

Inspired by the BOGO Sale at Payless last night, and with some time to kill waiting to pick up my oldest, who just got a job at the mall, I realized that, even with my large collection of needless but fun and sometimes totally unnecessary shoes, I don't have any brown boots.  Or booties.  And it was a sale, people.  Come on.

Yay, no more black boots with EVERYTHING
I'm in love with these, with jeans.  

But my point is:  Do you ever notice that when you bring home something new, suddenly you feel like EVERYTHING ELSE MUST BE REARRANGED RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Also, many garments seem to be screaming, "throw me out already, for the love of Pete, woman!"

I was just going to put my new shoes away in the closet, when I started thinking that, you know, I have clothes that I haven't worn since George Bush was president.  And I don't mean W.  Why is that? Well, first, probably because THEY DON'T FIT, DUMMY, WHY ARE YOU KEEPING THESE?  YOU WILL NEVER FIT IN THAT AGAIN BECAUSE YOU SUCK AT LOSING WEIGHT!!!  hahaHAHAHAHA

To justify some of them--you never know when I might suddenly need a great pants suit with built-in shoulder pads, or those 5 really stunning sequined floor-length evening gowns.  Especially now that I'm a retired stay-at-home gardening occasional blogging wife and mother who spends her spare time canning and reading, in leggings and an oversized t-shirt, and now, also--possibly--trawling the (gasp) mall with time to kill.


Maybe it's just that it's really fall, that season of change.  Maybe it's that I realized these clothes will a) NEVER fit or b) never be part of what we like to call a "Pinterest-y outfit".  Ever.  Or maybe I'm just sick of the overflow and need to make some room. 

Anyhoo--It's time to go through my closet and do some ruthless downsizing.  If I haven't worn it since 2002, it needs to GO.  No matter how cute it was, or is. 

Also, I may always be this size that I am, right now, so those old skinnier-self clothes also need to go.  If I suddenly wake up one morning 20 pounds lighter without having had my arm amputated or something, I'll treat myself to some new clothes. 

Ok, that's all.

But I do LOVE my new shoes today.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Duck, duck...MOOSE.

I crack myself up.  Sorry--

It's comforting, in a way, to live somewhere *out* there far enough, that the only thing we need to worry about, before popping out the back door, at 4 pm in broad daylight, is a MOOSE.  Or three.

The other day, my daughter opened the back door and saw this:

Busted.  Well, this is awkward...
They are not afraid of much, and they make themselves at home, so I'm glad she didn't just hop off the porch and go walking out to the garden, because...

Hello? I'm still here.    (Notice the ATV right there in the picture!)

There is a mother moose who brings her twins here fairly often right now, and they are having a heyday nibbling through what's left in the vegetable garden.  I wondered why my brussels sprout stems are disappearing so fast...surely no deer could take bites that big.

A few days after these pictures were taken, we walked in from the garage at like 4:30 p.m., and I heard my oldest at the back door, going, "Mom...come look...out by the pond..."  So I looked out and saw this-- Whoa.  What the heck? That's a tall moose! Or a horse in need of a chiropractor.

then I blinked and...whoops, TWO babies were peeking out!


I grabbed the camera and went and sat on the back deck and filmed a bit, and she was really pretty cool about it.  We've had moose around here for years, so it's probably a generational thing--The moms just bring their kids back every year, like, "See, THIS is where they have roses.  And beets! And broccoli! Plus, there's that swampy pond where you can wade around."  Moose heaven. 

I KNOW, they can be dangerous or whatever, but seriously I've had tons of them in our yard over the years, and I've never had any trouble from them.  Other than A LOT LESS BRUSSELS SPROUTS to harvest.

She let them wander around and nibble the pond garden, like this:

While she stood watch in the yard. 
Actually right here, she's kind of intently watching our neighbor, who was 5 acres away, working on his property. 

Then she gathered the twins up, and they followed her away, back wherever they came from.

So, it's a safe neighborhood, but still.  It does make it interesting, when we say "Who wants to go check the mail?" after dark...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We Now Have a Clowder, or a Glaring--Or is it a Glaring Clowder?

Our sweet newest addition

Wikipedia says a group of cats is called a clowder, and my daughter says it's also called a glaring, which I thought was hilarious, because that's what I'm seeing a lot of, this week.  Glaring.  And hissing.  (And not just because there are lots of girls in this house...) 

Since I'm making chili (again) because of our overabundance of tomatoes, I'm in the kitchen (again), where my mind tends to wander, and I thought hey, we got a new pet, and I haven't even TOLD anyone yet.  And since my phone never rings EVER (except for customers), I'm telling you. 

(This is the part where you put on your "How interesting--please tell me more" face...)

So, yes, we have officially crossed some kind of line and now have THREE cats.  I lean towards thinking three is too many, maybe, which is why I also strictly do NOT go to the animal shelter, because I'd end up taking them ALL home, so then I think maybe three is pretty good.  But four, no.  Four would be officially too many.  Really.

We saved all three of our cats (Louis, Jack and--tentatively named--Sam) from stray-hood by taking them in, so we now have a misfit band of prior strays, who turned out to be total rock stars, to quote Shane.  Which makes me wonder...aren't MOST cats in that boat (not the rock star boat--the misfit/saved/stray boat)?  I mean, do you know anyone, even one single person, who has ever said, "Oh, we're shopping for a cat.  You know, perusing breed websites and driving around to breeders and setting our spending limit.  We haven't really decided yet, but we're sure that *right cat* will come along."  No.  People do NOT shop for cats, or at least...not in this neck of the woods.

Pretty much all my life, I have always had a varying rotation of, but never more than, two cats, which seemed just right--"two" appearing to be the very limit of how many cats we should have.  Remember that "two cats in the yarrrrrd" line from the Cat Stevens song?  He didn't say "three cats in the yarrrrd," because that would have skewed the picture, right?

Louis has been here the longest (about 9 years), so he is the Big Cahuna.  He is also very lazy and just.plain.big.  But we try not to judge...

Louis on a hard day of --nothing

We got him from a family after he was dumped at their house as a kitten, to keep them from taking him to the shelter.

Then there's Jack...

Last year Shane brought home Jack one night from a lady at a gas station who was trying to find him a home rather than let him run wild.  Louis hated him at first, but Jackie was convinced that Louis was his new BFF/Big Brother and refused to leave him alone, so Lou had no choice but to just accept it.
Resistance is futile


 This seems like just the right number

And then, last week my oldest went for a jog and came home with...Sam:
His first night at our house...WHO could ditch this little guy?

We live in a fairly rural area, and I swear there's an invisible symbol on our road sign, renaming it:  Dump Your Unwanted Cats Here. (Cat dumpers...you guys suck, by the way.  It's NOVEMBER!)

Sam was sitting by the stop sign at the corner of our main road and the highway (nowhere NEAR a house or farm).  He saw my daughter and immediately jumped on the road and started running after her, meowing, all the way to our front porch, where he curled up on her lap and made himself at home.  We put the word out with the neighbors, in case someone was missing a kitten, but I'm pretty sure he was dumped. In November.  In the middle of nowhere. 

So, I guess we now have a clowder of cats. And this week there has been a lot of glaring and hissing, and, once Jack realized Sam is a kitten...a lot more NOISE.  Since they are both at the age where ANYtime is a good time for wrestling, we now have Cat Olympics at all hours, with what sounds like the championship rounds taking place whenever we're trying to sleep. 

Louis is still SO not amused, and sometimes he will just growl at the WALL right now.  He's super grumpy about Sam, and I'm pretty sure he's the one who, the very first morning after Sam arrived, pee'd right in the middle of our bed.  Like, oh yeah?--well, see how you like THIS.  That is so NOT COOL.  Especially when Shane doesn't really *like* cats.  Moves like that...really do NOT help your position, Louis.  Get it together. 

So, the glaring clowder continues.  And the chili needs my attention, so I better go.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tomatoes Are Why Pioneers Went Extinct

Ok, I can't even believe that it's actually November and I'm STILL FREAKING CANNING TOMATOES.  What the actual heck? I totally forgot about the length of time in the fall that you will still be putting up food, if you plant a big garden like ours.  Oh sure, I used to do this and have always canned our vegetables and fruit, (and I do love it, but still, you burn out sometimes), and I haven't canned our food since like 2008, so give me a break here.  It's going to be snowing soon, I have 100 tulip and daffodils that haven't been planted yet, and I'm still here looking at this: 

These need canned
So do these...
Don't forget these!
I'm thinking…"Well.  I've made ketchup, tomato soup, tomato juice, tomato vegetable soup, stewed tomatoes, mild AND medium salsa, pasta sauce, minestrone, and chili.  What ELSE CAN I MAKE WITH ALL THESE FREAKING TOMATOES?" 
Oh, that's right, MORE OF EVERYTHING.  Because I hate wasting food.  So I will keep canning until I have found a use for everysingletomato that I have, which should be, like, Christmas Eve.  I just realized I'm oddly sort of not sad to see that some of them won't ripen on the counter. 
(Aww, this one's no good.  I'll have to throw it out hahahahHAHAHAHA)
On that note, I am TOTALLY SOLD on the "throwing rotten tomatoes" thing now as being super gross.  Like if someone threw rotten tomatoes at you on stage (not that I've had that happen; I would rather stab myself in the eye with a fork than be on stage, ever), but, oh my gosh, you guys, even ONE truly rotten tomato can stink to high heaven!  I just thought you should know this…in case you ever heard of someone who got pelted with rotten tomatoes and then gave them a hard time, like, "What? You actually threw UP?!?  It can't be that bad".  Yes it totally IS.  But I don't think that happens much these days, which I suppose is good.  Nowadays, if we hate someone's performance, we can write them a bad review on Yelp or whatever, but the tomato thing would still totally work because they'd have to immediately stop performing and go take a shower, and try not to puke, so you'd have personally halted their career, for free, for that evening anyway.
Sorry, digressing.  Just wigging out a little bit right now, what with ALL THE TIME IN THE KITCHEN.  If you have ever canned food in a pressure canner, you know that while the process time is running (for 30-85 MINUTES), you can NOT LEAVE THAT STOVE.  I mean, not at all.  Ok, if you have to pee, maybe, yes, but other than that, NO, YOU ARE NOT LEAVING.   You will put a chair in the kitchen, pull up a book (or 5) and you will sit and watch that dial gauge the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME.  Every. Minute.  So, if Ed McMahon comes to your door, you are totally going to miss it, because you sure don't want to have to restart the stupid timer and sit back down.  For another 85 minutes.   
Maybe if pioneers had had internet, they wouldn't have gone extinct…because pioneer women could have totally blogged about their lives while they were canning.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE all our homemade organic food, and I don't usually complain, because then I get people who look at me all judgy and go, "So…is it that you can't afford to buy organic food at the store, you peasant?", and I'm like, "No.  You totally don't get it."  (It's that I don't appreciate paying 5 TIMES AS MUCH AS NONORGANIC, for food that I can make myself, at home.  But then…what's my time worth?  It's like a circle…) So, ok--yes, I shouldn't complain.  It's lovely food and completely healthy and delicious, and usually every bite of it came from our land, which you can't put a price on.  But I do see why the pioneers all sort of died out when they invented SUPERMARKETS where you just go, oh, that looks yummy.  I'll buy THAT.  Then you just…take it home and eat it.  But then things got…unhealthy, (which may also be why they died out)…and you realize a garden is really a great investment after all, and then you're back in the kitchen like a pioneer.   There's that circle again…
So, right now, my life is a constant balance between the love of being all "Yay, I made all our food! Bring on the snow days!" and the feeling of "Oh my GOSH I really AM barefoot in the kitchen.  At midnight".  At least I didn't do it while I was pregnant…back then I just worked 40 hours a week at a full-time job.  (*frowning*  Wait, that seems backwards.  Nevermind.)

With any luck, I'll be done just in time to hurry up and knit some mittens for Christmas gifts or something, right before we sit down to tomato soup, chili, and tomato juice, with chips and salsa, for Christmas dinner.