Blog, Cooking, windy

Another Power Outage

Day 108

We received the edge of this arctic blast which for us meant high winds. I think our highest gusts were 35 mph.

We lost power right before 9:00 am. Internet/WiFi and cell followed shortly thereafter.

I had planned to make a 15-bean soup today. We do have a generator but it supplies only the basics which does not include our electric cooktop.

This meant the beans soaked over 24 hours. When the power came on at 8:30 pm, I decided to cook the beans. I was afraid they would be mush by morning.

So, I spent the day napping and reading which was heavenly. I finally started Becoming Mrs. Lewis and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is definitely a writer’s book.

We still have no WiFi so I will try to update this over cell. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Man, that soup smells good!

Blog, christmas, Cooking, Family, Home, thanksgiving, traditions

Easing Into the Holidays

Day 45

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving. Normally we would be caught up in the swirl of preparations, but not this year. Our family will be spread hither and yon, so we decided not to cook a lot of food just for the two of us. Our daughter who lives fairly close by invited us to join them and we happily accepted.

Morning

It was another beautiful day here in the foothills. We had our coffee and took a morning walk. Ugh. I am really out of shape, but I am determined to get some exercise and move a little more.

The morning was cool, but not brisk like it has been. It felt good to be out in the morning air. It’s getting harder for me because I am showing signs of arthritis in my knees. But, we walked and after a short distance, it became a little easier.

The neighbors have horses and one was grazing by the fence that runs alongside the road. I noticed it had a blanket on this morning. I paused long enough to snap a quick picture on my phone. As we made our trek back toward the house, I stopped again to take a picture of all the horses grazing. The leaves and the grass are slowly disappearing into winter.

IMG_7827Breakfast was simple this morning. Hubby had cereal with organic blackberries and organic raspberries. I scrambled an egg in avocado oil and had a sliced avocado. It was really tasty. I am trying to be cognizant of all the unhealthy fats we add to our food and breakfast can be one of the worst! Afterward, I had a handful of organic blueberries. It was a marvelous way to start the rest of the day.

Afternoon

I spent the afternoon catching up on some blogs of my friends and responding to comments on my own blog. It is nice to take a few minutes to see what is going on in everyone’s life — it makes you feel closer somehow.

Today we planned a simple evening meal — chorizo, kale and potato soup. It’s simmering on the stove now, almost ready for consumption.

IMG_7834While I cooked, I decided it was time to turn on the Christmas music. Normally I wait until Thanksgiving day, but since we aren’t cooking this year, it just felt right. Next Friday we will make the trek to McAffey’s tree farm in Waynesville to pick out a Christmas tree. This has become a tradition for us. They cut the tree and then we get a cup of hot cider or hot cocoa. It’s a great way to kick off the rest of the season.

We have never shopped on Black Friday and I doubt we ever will. Our gift-giving is limited and we just enjoy the lights, the feeling and the meaning of the holidays. It doesn’t matter to me what any of us celebrate. For me, it’s Christmas, but for many of my friends and family, it is Hanukkah. What is important to me is that we cherish the reason for the holiday, be kind to one another and focus on what is important in our lives.

It is a time of giving. I encourage everyone to think about giving outside of your own family. It does not need to be a lot because every donation matters. There is so much need right now, especially following all the hurricanes and fires. Then add in all those struggling with health issues and work issues and financial issues, there is a lot of good to be done.

I cannot help but think back to the two times I worked for companies that decided to ‘downsize’ the first week of December. I pray that companies do a better job in managing their own finances so families will not endure such a hardship at the end of the year.

Off to have dinner. I am ringing in the holidays in my own simple way.

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them,
is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” 

W. T. Purkiser

art, Blog, Cooking, creativity, Food, friends, jewelry, Relaxation, Writing

Downtime

Day 25

Day 25 — wow, that is almost a month. I must say this has been a little easier than I anticipated, but I still have 11+ months to go so I should not be getting too cocky about this yet. It has been good for me. My blog is like my best friend. I come here to unload my problems or just chat about my day.

I am still recovering from yesterday. I slept in fairly late, but I blame that on the medicine I took yesterday. I am feeling better, but still have moments here and there that let me know I am not yet recovered.

Taking it Easy

As I said, I got up late but managed to fix some breakfast for hubby and I. Just simple scrambled eggs and toast. It was nice to just sit together and chat for a few minutes. Just fixing a little breakfast took more energy than I thought, so I sat down and caught up on email and social media.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up in a few days and I tried to recruit a few people to write along with me. So far, one person — everyone else — no cigar. I probably will not meet my goal, but I am going to give it a try. Who knows, I might just come up with the next great American novel.

I had an enjoyable video chat with my daughter and my youngest granddaughter who is home sick this week. Technology is amazing and I am always so excited to see her and see how much she has changed. She is at the age where every day it is some new word or new action. It fills my heart with such joy.

We had tuna salad for lunch and then I had a quick chat with my son who filled me in on all the fun of my granddaughter’s birthday party that we unfortunately missed. It’s always nice to chat with him, except that I learned my grandson is sick with a virus. At least it is nothing serious. My poor little ones!

Creating

ButterBell
Butter Bell

Today was the perfect day to pull out those watercolor pencils I bought. I have not tried to sketch anything in so long I was very tentative about it. I did play with some rough sketches a little. Results were not great, however, I am pleased with at least the effort. I know the more I practice the better it will be. I’ve not used watercolor pencils much so that will be a bit of a learning curve as well.

I created a new cover for my Facebook page that reflects how I am feeling about the hate so prevalent in our world right now. It makes me feel better to find some outlet to express how I feel, but I also know my vote is the most powerful action I can take.

44943354_10156876839606057_2837108756964179968_oAfter lunch I managed to take a few pictures of the rings I made in my ill-fated weekend workshop. They do not have the finish I would have liked, but I am happy with them just the same. At least I am creating again and that feels good.

I have a pot of chili on the stove simmering in preparation for dinner and hopefully some quarts to go into the freezer. I was inspired after hearing my good friend Lauren was enjoying some split pea soup. I love split pea soup but it is the one soup that always fails me!

All in all it was a good day of rest and creativity. A welcome respite from the chaos of the world.

How was your day?

IMG_2615

“Rest and be thankful.”
William Wordsworth

 

 

 

 

Blog, Cooking, Food, Home, memories

Comfort Food

Day 21

Nothing says home like comfort food. The smell, the taste and often times the simple thought of it induces a feeling of well being and happiness. It can be a memory from our past or some flavor combination that maybe stimulates something in our distant DNA. I am not a scientist, so I do not know, but what I do know is that food and memory go hand-in-hand.

Breakfast

eggs and toastThis morning was chilly here in the foothills. The overnight temperature hit 42 degrees F. We have not yet hit the freezing mark, but we have danced around it several times. Our house has a lot of windows so the house is not always toasty warm in every nook and cranny. I have already donned my fleece pants and sweats to keep me warm.

When I started thinking about breakfast, I knew immediately I wanted ‘chopped up hard boiled eggs’ — a breakfast meal we had many times growing up. It is a homey concoction of hard boiled eggs chopped up with butter and salt and pepper. Always served with buttered toast. It is warm and inviting and says everything about home and sitting around with family in our PJ’s enjoying a meal together. My husband has never tried it. He thinks the idea of putting butter on hard boiled eggs is not at all appealing.

Most of my comfort foods I associate with growing up seem to revolve around breakfast. My grandmother made pancakes — hotcakes as she called them — always served with butter and warm syrup. The syrup had to be warm. I am sure a warm breakfast meal was always important as it was often very cold in the valley where I grew up.

My other breakfast favorite was leftover biscuits, sliced and toasted under the broiler, served with butter and syrup. I am seeing a pattern here – warm foods, butter and warm syrup. Maybe I just respond to carbs more that the average person.

Of course there were meals I did not like AT ALL. We often had oatmeal to which my grandmother added raisins and brown sugar. Lord, save me from warm puffy raisins. Ugh. The other was ‘corn meal mush’. Cornmeal cooked in boiling water served hot with milk. Yuck. It was especially bad when I bit in to a lump of dry cornmeal that did not get mixed well with the water. Nope. Do not miss that at all.

Cast Iron Cooking

Cornbread seems to be served in one or two basic ways. Sweetened or unsweetened. I like both okay, but warm unsweetened cornbread with melted butter (butter again!) is a food I will never tire of. Always baked in a cast iron skillet in a hot oven so you get an amazing browned crust.

I remember one meal at my maternal grandparents house. We sat down to eat when my grandmother brought a plate to the table, slices of delicious warm cake — or so I thought. It was cornbread. My paternal grandmother never sliced her cornbread, it was always broken, so sliced cornbread was new to me. I was sorely disappointed (even though I love cornbread) to learn I was not destined to have cake for dinner that day.

The other comfort food always made in a cast iron skillet, was pineapple upside down cake. Again, butter in the skillet, slices of pineapple and brown sugar topped with a rich batter and baked in a fairly hot oven. My mouth waters just thinking about it. We never had cherries on ours and it is still my preference not to have cherries. But it must be warm.

Every southern cook has a cast iron skillet. It is used for everything from eggs, to cornbread, to frying chicken and even dessert. Definitely a must-have in my kitchen.

My Mom

My mom was a great country cook. She made wonderful fried chicken with biscuits and milk gravy. I have never been able to achieve her level of expertise in frying chicken. She would never buy a pre-cut chicken – it always had to be whole so she could cut the pieces the way she wanted them. It was the best – hot or cold.

The other thing my mother used to make was a salad/dessert we just called ‘banana salad’. It was simple – a banana sliced in half lengthwise. The flat surface of the banana spread with Miracle Whip, then topped with chopped peanuts. The idea of this delicacy seems to turn more people’s stomaches that any food I talk about. But, it was so delicious. Unfortunately, I developed a minor peanut allergy late in life, but I discovered that it is just as delicious with chopped cashews.

Cool Weather Fare

Panang CurryNow that we live where there are four seasons, we are getting back to eating more hearty meals. Especially in the winter. We look forward to sweater weather and pots of homemade soup. I absolutely love Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for chorizo and kale soup. It is so good and one we eat often (with cornbread of course). My husband also makes a killer homemade vegetable soup that has also become a winter staple.

It’s not just food you make at home. It’s food that speaks to us. Last night it was take-out Thai food from a great local Thai restaurant. I had Panang Curry as I always do. My daughter got me hooked on it and it has become one of my favorite comfort foods. Maybe I will even try to make it myself someday if I can find kaffir lime leaves somewhere locally.

Comfort means a lot in this crazy world. I do not eat the foods I mention often, but they are foods that mean home to me. And home means comfort.

“Food is a lot of people’s therapy. When we say comfort food, we really mean that. It’s releasing dopamine and serotonin in your brain that makes you feel good.”
Brett Hoebel

 

 

Blog, Cooking, Family, gardens, Home

Home Cooking

Day 16

Nothing says home like a meal taken to the table and eaten with those people we love. It is our very identity. Food is such an important part of our heritage and cooking says a lot about our relationship with the people who raised us.

Gardens As a Food Source

IMG_7213My families were great cooks. We grew up with meager means, but heck, I didn’t know it. I thought we had everything. My mom, my step-mom and my grandmothers were great cooks. They cooked simply – everything taken from their environment. We were farm to table before it was a thing.

It started with the garden. Planting a garden was a lot of work. It started in the fall. Often old plant stems were plowed under so they could again become part of the soil. In spring, the soil was turned over (a term for plowing under) and the dark rich earth was brought to the surface.

Planting and tending the garden was everyone’s responsibility. I learned early on how to plant, fertilize, weed and hoe a garden. We did not think of it as work – it was just part of what we did.

Harvest Forward

IMG_7214Once plants were mature, the harvest began. Again, as children, we learned to pick and string green beans at a very early age. Pulling onions, ‘hilling’ potatoes, picking cucumbers and tomatoes was just part of the routine of growing up country.

We had a small grape arbor where we grew the most amazing concord grapes. Those were picked and turned into jam and jelly and even a little wine – which we were never allowed to touch. Thinking about it, I can close my eyes and picture the bees swarming around the fallen grapes and tasting the warm grape right off the vine. It was divine!

We sat on the porch and shucked corn, snapped beans and sorted potatoes. It was a communal time of conversation and just getting the work done. After we were finished our jobs, the preserving started.

Mothers and Grandmothers

I came from a fabulous line of amazing cooks. None ever used a recipe, but I have watched them cook more times than I can remember. In late summer and early fall we ate fresh vegetables but it was also time for ‘putting up’ food for the winter.

Tomatoes were canned and turned into tomato juice. Fruits were turned into jellies. Cucumbers were turned into pickles. Beans were canned. Beets were pickled and potatoes were put into the cellar where they would stay cool for use all winter.

My paternal grandmother made grape jelly. I was always fascinated by the paraffin wax she melted and poured on top to seal the jelly from any contaminants. I used to sneak behind her and put my fingertips in the hot paraffin and then, once cooled, pull off my fingertips in utter amazement — fingerprints and all! My maternal grandmother made apple jelly from a pound apple tree in her front yard. It was so clear you could see right through it.

Recipes? What Recipes?

Recipes were few and far between. There were some that may have been clipped from a magazine or some were written if acquired from a neighbor. But, for the most part, all the ‘know how’ was in their heads. They cooked, they tasted and they served the most amazing meals.

IMG_7229I do have my maternal grandmother’s recipe for ‘Angel Biscuits’ but mine never rise high and fluffy like hers did. She made the BEST ‘Angel Biscuits’ I have ever tasted. She also wrote down her ‘Fool Proof Piecrust’ recipe for me — but I think I might be a fool!

I cook much the same way, although I do love cookbooks. I have a few favorites that I consult over and over again. Tonight I tried a new recipe. It turned out well, but I am already thinking about how I would alter it. That’s just the way we learned to cook.

My son recently asked me to cook for him on his 40th birthday. He asked for flank steak and mashed potatoes. It was one of our staples when my children were growing up. I bought flank steak because it was cheap – not so much anymore folks! It is his memory of the comfort food that he is after, not so much the food.

The Legacy

Both my children are good cooks in their own right. They both cook for their families frequently. My daughter makes THE BEST meatloaf ever. I am not sure either of them really use recipes much, but this I know — they are building memories and a lifetime of comfort for their children.

And that makes me proud.

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 
Laurie Colwin