didgeridoo and Friday too

The previous night’s storm brought the humidity & temps down a bit and as I was in desperate need of  a break from work yesterday, one of my teammates joined me for a walk through the cemetery close by.  I’ve written about this beautiful place in an earlier post.  As we headed down the hill on the backside, we approached the next hill at the edge of the lake; we pass a wonderful stand of bamboo and, lo and behold, there lay some fallen canes.  There is a lot of it in NC and on our last trip, the son mentioned he’d like a piece to make a didgeridoo.  We didn’t score any due to constraints of available space and private property restrictions.  You can’t take anything from the cemetery as it is a nature preserve but I knew they would just mulch it like they do with all the other dead wood so we dragged it up the hill and continued on our path.  We nonchalantly walked by the guards on our way out, hauling our booty, waving as usual.  By the time they thought of something to say, we were thru the gates and headed down Broadway with our 15 foot log.  We carried it into work and set it in the hall so I could wipe it off before I put it in my car.  Lots of smiles along the way, especially as we went through the emergency entrance (the revolving door wasn’t an option – in younger years I might have tried it).  Come time to leave, one of my other mates helped me shove it into my ride – we attached this garish red bow leftover from some 60’s Christmas display to the end of it as it hung out at least a car length and off I went.  I laughed at my own stupid ass all the way home (as did everyone else I passed – especially the group outside the bar in Germantown enjoying happy hour).  The traffic gods were on my side as I encountered very little traffic driving in the left lane with the festive pole hanging out there in the right.  One tense moment as I passed a cyclist but I cleared him.  This picture doesn’t really depict how dorky this looks.

Our son, the didgeridoo-maker, is a luthier – he’s been back with us after spending 6 years in Phoenix getting educated and experienced.  At an early age he witnessed the joys of junk picking and creating using found objects.  Some people call this hoarding, we call it repurposing.  He has set up shop at the Mellwood Arts Center http://www.mellwoodartcenter.com/

The dream, of course, is to build custom guitars – bass being his forte.  As mentioned earlier, he plays with a group currently meandering around the eastern part of the country; he is also an accomplished sax player and his mother would like to hear him play once again.  Repair work sustains life while he works on his current project(s);   Please visit his site and place an order. http://www.scottguitarworks.com/

During down times at work, our discussions often revolve around food.  One of the kids is going away next week and has booked accommodations with a kitchen.  My family does this almost exclusively as most of our trips involve enjoying the benefits of my brother’s timeshares.  She has successfully tried a number of my slow cooker recipes at the holidays and was going to use them on her trip.  This gal, by the way, does not appreciate my decorative office gnomes and was kind enough to forward me this super picture – I’m surprised she wasn’t afraid to let them into her phone!

We got to talking about Thanksgiving food as one of the recipes is for boneless turkey breast in the s-cooker.  I’ve been halfheartedly trying to empty my freezers and today I hit my stride.  This was so I could put off working on the porch sealer project.  I made the week’s fiber-load muffins (recipe back there somewhere) with dried blueberries past the ‘best if used by’ date.  Getting a jump on Sunday dinner (I always think I am but I’m actually just cooking more stuff) I found two bags of last year’s frozen cranberries so I made my sis’s cranberry pie – also used up really outdated-but-not-rancid organic shortening (just 2 Tbsp and it really makes the topping crunchy!) and dinner will be an impossible pie made with frozen Christmas turkey & dressing with Trader Joe’s baking mix about to expire.  Maybe this should be a new theme – Stale but not Dangerous?  Not as Tasty as it Used to Be?

Oh I do need to promote another product I like a lot – Gleen Green Cleaning Cloths http://gleencloth.com/– picked one up at Kroger awhile back.  Not cheap, almost $5 but the first time I used it to wash my full-glass front door I was hooked.  Proceeded to do all my windows, blinds, shutters, wood surfaces (including furniture), stainless, leather, tchotchkes, dog, (don’t have a dog) and anything else in the path.  I usually use a vinegar- water mix on the windows but it says you can just use plain water.  I had to constantly rinse the cloth – didn’t think the place was THAT dirty. The best part is no streaks or lint left behind!  Yay!

At this time I’m mentally up to date.  Later taters. (someone else made that up)

Impossible Turkey and Stuffing Pie

Cranberry Pie

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July? Really?

The week of the 4th we travelled to my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Etowah, NC; I was happy to have our son with us as he brings a different dimension to the mix.  Not only do I have someone to converse with on the trip, he’s fitness-oriented which helps to keep me motivated.  He hiked in the Pisgah National Forest www.hikewnc.info/trailheads/Pisgah, I walked the hills of the neighborhood; he went to the fabulous Y in Biltmore Park, Image Gallery I did yoga in the backyard; he ran 6 miles, my sis and I walked three.  He got poison ivy.  We always go for a Black and Bleu Burger at the Black Rose in Hendersonville but this time we changed it up as we had been eating more meat than usual.  I had an outstanding spinach salad with goat cheese.  Although that area sees quite a bit of rain, the weather was fantastic compared to L-ville, where it was in the 100’s.  There are so many towns to visit in the Asheville vicinity, we try to visit 2 – 3 times a year.  One excursion took us to the River Arts District along the French Broad River  http://www.riverartsdistrict.com/; as usual I’ve let almost two weeks go by with a post hanging fire and now August is a week away.  The Daughter and family were on another trip over the weekend so thinking I’d have less prep for Sunday dinner, I decided to finally get the back porch cleaned.  Last year it just got a lick and a promise (kept up with the big chunks of course) but with most of the storm damage repair complete it was time.  This is also prep for the annual wood preservative application.  This time I’m trying an Olympic product that promises to last more than one season.  You don’t get much service out of the clear coats but this one talked the talk.  We haul everything outside and scrub it down with Dawn and a degreaser.  I chose solar screen fabric for the top areas when we added the porch on to the house – it was a pretty good decision as it provides a certain amount of privacy but with good visibility looking out.  The fabric is strong and hasn’t stretched in 6 years and has prevented a lot of furniture fabric fade.  My husband thinks it holds in the heat but I think that’s a function of an un-insulated screened porch baking in the sun all day. It’s a nasty hard job but so nice when it’s done.  One other side effect of this production is that all the furniture and trinkets have to be cleaned, painted, renewed and/or replaced.  Whew.  I’m happy with this year’s outcome as I hit a great sale at Target and was able to replace the hodgepodge of cushions I’d collected over the years.  The painting wasn’t so bad either as I’m loving the Krylon and Rust-Oleum products – especially the bronzes and stains.  I’ll probably coat the porch this weekend as the temperature is supposed to be a little cooler Saturday.  The boy-o left today for a two-week road trip thru the Northeast territories with his band Quiet Hollers http://www.quiethollers.com/ .  We all got together for a send-off on Pizza Nite – the offerings were  Barbecue, Garden Veg and  a couple of leftover slices of Margherita frozen from the week before. That one was especially tasty as we made it with fresh Cherokee Purple tomatoes

we brought back from Asheville along with fresh pesto with basil from the garden.  As usual I used Mama Mary’s Whole Wheat Pizza Crusts.  The barbecue was frozen leftover shredded chicken breast tossed with Stubbs’ Spicy Barbecue Sauce, an onion sliced and softened by placing it in a foil pack with a splash of olive oil and placing it in the oven while it preheated to 425°, sliced banana peppers and shredded colby jack.  The Veg consisted of a saute of frozen pepper & onion stir fry blend, pre-sliced mushrooms and a sliced baby summer squash; fresh romas and basil on top of the mix and a shredded mozzarella-fontina blend to finish.  We usually cheese the crusts a bit before adding the toppings and always sprinkle cornmeal on the pan/stone before adding the crust.  They bake about 12 – 15 minutes and I turn down the heat to 385° about halfway thru.  I was using convection since I had both oven racks going.  We were watching the 2012 Clio Awards for advertising – I hope they post them on YouTube soon, there were a couple that were insanely hilarious that I’d like to share; unfortunately I can’t remember the products they were hawking.  America’s Got Talent followed, most of us were out on the porch watching while we ate…just about the time I get tired of this show they arrive at the finals.  I don’t like watching anything competitive – life’s tough enough.  I’d like to see what’s happened to  some of the great and bizarre acts that don’t make it..I hope that they’ve been picked up by some talent scout and we’ll see them in a commercial or Disneyworld.    Or TLC.  Or the History Channel with the Swamp People.  After that I ran everyone off and went to bed.

Pizza Recipes – use the search box

The June of Roofs

A couple of months ago our little neighborhood suffered a hailstorm – it cut a peculiar swath through town, the beginnings of which were reminiscent of the tornado super outbreak of ’74.  I mentioned this in previous posts, I’m ever so thankful for the insurance I’ve paid for all of these years;  our blocks have been abuzz with roofers and other contractors, homeowners outside watching and talking with their neighbors  – an oddly festive atmosphere.  Most of us have chosen the architectural shingles – we’re beginning to look like an English village.  Last weekend the family celebrated Father’s Day and our two childrens’ birthdays.  I wasn’t sure what the weather would bring so planned on cooking indoors.  Sure enough we had a downpour but were able to enjoy porch time, presents and a nice dinner.  As usual I was trying to cram too much into my Saturday so tossed one of my favorite crockpot recipes together – the recipe began as Turkey and Butternut Squash Ragout with Beans but has become Chicken Thigh and Sweet Potato Ragout with Beans – try and find turkey thighs this time of year.  Not a fan anyway – too much stringy meat.  The best part of this meal is the side of polenta.

Cheesy Polenta

Turkey and Butternut Squash Ragout

As Time Goes Bye Bye

I’ve discovered yet another use for Mr. Clean Magic Erasers they remove oil-based deck stain splatters from your skin.  Having spent the better part of the afternoon reviving the backyard privacy fence with black stain, it was time switch gears and start dinner prep.  I had planned an easy meal (mentioned in an earlier post) of pesto salmon with sweet potato fries and a steamer bag of vegetables, but I also wanted to start on Sunday’s meal as the bro-in-law was in town and would be joining us along with his mother for Sunday dinner.  I had put on my fabric garden gloves for quick removal in order to answer the many calls from work I was receiving as our RIS system upgrade had quickly degraded to a downgrade by the end of the week. The day was blistering hot but the more irritated I became with the work problems, the more productive I became in the yard.  Damn fence got done and as some of you might know, one completed project makes the remaining surrounding environment look shabby.  Proceeded to pot up a bunch more herbs, re-pot root bound ornamental trees, paint the rest of the patio chairs,  yadayadayada.  I finally stopped when I realized hypothermia was setting in.  Looong story short, needed to quickly clean up; the stain had seeped through the gloves and the rest of me was covered in splatter,all of it quite dry by that time.  I have a magic eraser in the shower to wipe down the tile – I gave my hand a swipe with it and off came the stain (that is, enough of it to not necessitate a mineral spirit bath).  I wonder if it would work as a DIY dermabrasion?  Just kidding.  Dinner ensued and I did manage to put together a  tortellini salad for the next day made with  frozen pesto I had put up last fall.  I freeze it in ice-cube trays (leftover whipping cream as well).    Sunday dinner was fun – the weather was beautiful so we were able to enjoy sitting outside.  The meal was great – my favorite tomato tart (good tomatoes from Tennessee are in), grilled flat-iron steak, the pesto salad and a last-minute veggie, green beans with feta, toasted walnuts and cranberries.  Dessert was Very Berry Triple Fruit Pie. The evening’s entertainment (besides our granddaughter, the star of any show) was home movies on the laptop with soundtrack provided my YouTube station http://www.youtube.com/user/4basil9?feature=guide .  We have remote speakers hooked up to our PC.  Our daughter has been transferring our family VHS tapes to DVD and brings a few over each week.  The transfer is taking awhile as she can’t help but watch them as she’s editing.

I’d like to send a shout-out to our Bashford Manor Lowes..fast forward to  Memorial Day weekend, the backyard is coming together but I still had no repair/replacement plan for our deteriorated concrete patio, my main view as I look out the kitchen window while I do most of my food prep & cleanup.  I do have a $4K bid to turn it into a ground level deck and Concrete-man has not called me back with a quote.  I want this off my plate as I’m tired of thinking about this and now have to obtain a number of other quotes for the hail damaged stuff.  I get online for a few minutes and outdoor carpet pops up amongst many other pricey options. Eureka!  Hop in the car – first stop is Target for landscape lights (since I just mentally saved about $3K, I rationalize I can now purchase some yard tchotchkes.  Next door is Wal Mart for a bag of black mulch and, hopefully, some zinnias as I have difficulties starting plants from seed due to the eco-system that is my yard.  Too many critters that appreciate my efforts and enjoy munching on tender seedlings, bulbs and any vegetables that attempt to grow.  On to Lowes where the first person we encounter as we walk in the door asks if we need help and proceeds to escort us to the flooring area.  We quickly decide on a sample and the gal stops a co-worker to help her roll out, cut and shrink-wrap a 12′ x 12′ piece for us.  We were out of there in 15 minutes.  Great service!!  My patio looks so much better and all for under $100. 

I made a cheeseburger salad (using soy crumbles) based on Ree Drummond’s recipe for last week’s Sunday gathering..wasn’t sure about the weather and didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen.  It’s an interactive meal as you build your own salad.  A side dish of zingy coleslaw (I accidentally added a Serrano instead of a jalapeno) rounded it out.  As the title of this post implies, too much time is passing too quickly; can’t remember what dessert was, maybe Ghirardelli Turtle Brownies.  Heading out to the yard as it’s once again Sunday.  Daughter and family are in Florida so it will be a quiet dinner.  Our son has had two career boosts this weekend, one of which was landing a school system bid.  I’m really hoping he can continue on his journey to follow his heart.  Tonight will feature adult beverages,  grilled lamb burgers with spinach feta relish, a bang-up potato salad (had to use up some celery and Wickles Pickles relish) and grilled carrots with fresh thyme.  There may be beans.  Dessert will involve dark chocolate.  I now must go forth and buy sod.

Pasta with Pesto

Fresh Tomato Tart

Flat Iron Steak Southwest Rub

Green Beans & Cranberries

Very Berry Triple Fruit Pie

Cheeseburger Salad

Coleslaws

Grilled Lamb Burgers

Spinach Relish

Classic Potato Salad with Cornichons

Time to Make the Donuts

I can’t open anything these days..the packaging makes me freakin’ crazy(ier)!!!  Sunday mornings I usually make a batch of muffins.  I believe in the power of dietary fiber – these Cereal Muffins are loaded! You soak  a cup of cereal in buttermilk for 15 minutes or so then add the rest of the players.  Uncle Sam has 10g of fiber! I always have Saco Buttermilk Blend in the fridge as I don’t use buttermilk enough to buy a container of it.

 I add dried fruit – Aldi has great choices and prices – I always stock cranberries, apricots, dates, figs & currants.  Aldi  nuts as well – walnuts, almonds, peanuts or pecans.  I made another batch of snack mix too – more fiber yipee!  All of this required the opening of various cereal bags, foil lid liners, blister packs and the like.   My cucumber was shrink-wrapped and further struggles ensued while trying to open my bag of chopped nuts as zip lock bags now have double zippers!  Think I mentioned doing fish in the clay baker tonite – I know each fillet will be encased in its own personal vacuum-packed pouch.  I’ll soldier on with the help of my box cutter, ice pick or circular saw.

I love my clay bakers –  my Mother introduced me to one decades ago while we were visiting her and my step-father in Myrtle Beach; she had bought one at Waccamaw Pottery, which I recently read is supposed to undergo a revival.  Mom had prepared a simple medley of layered vegetables and potatoes seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper and butter and baked at 425° for half an hour.   The pot lids are soaked in water for 15 minutes prior to cooking, which keeps food from drying out.  High heat enhances the flavors and nutrients are preserved.   This model, also called a Romertopf Clay Baker, can be found at Williams-Sonoma.  Here’s the Sunday dinner lineup – served with a brown rice pilaf and Aldi’s  tangy and not-too-sloppy coleslaw.

Clay Pot Fish

Cucumber Onion Salad

Back to where I started….

Snack Mix

7 Grain Cereal Muffins

A recipe for oven-baked donuts using baking mix – I prefer Trader Joe’s or Hodgson Mill Insta-Bake.

Chocolate Oven Doughnut

Mother’s Day Eve

I picked up a nice looking large outdoor plant pot at Aldi (one of their usual ‘seasonal’ items) – anodized bronze with a fleur-de-lis pattern.  I think they’re fiberglass or resin – durable and lightweight but depending on what I’m putting in them I sometimes add something for ballast, broken bricks, rocks etc.  since they can easily tip over in a good wind.  Also, no sense wasting all that soil if I’m just planting a cluster of herbs.  I had an empty plastic orange juice bottle in the recycling bin…filled it with water, added a few drops of bleach to retard mold and voila, perfect fit.  This container will hold thyme and sage – I’m trying to start the sage from cuttings from last year’s plant that got extremely leggy over the winter and bolted after the first warm days of spring.  Wal Mart had great looking herbs for $2 – picked up basil, thyme, cilantro (thought it was regular parsley, will give it to daughter as I have the cilantro-tastes-like-soap gene and although I can’t taste much of anything, cilantro still tastes like crap to me) oregano and dill, which is in the ground behind the peonies and against the fence, as it gets very funky-tall.  The basil is in a good-sized pot as I plant seeds next to the plant every few weeks as it’s quick to bolt as well.  I still have frozen basil and frozen pesto from last year that I need to use.  Maybe I’ll add some tortellini and pesto to the Mother’s Day menu.

It’s good to go back and read what one’s written before one publishes; spell-check and grammar check is great but there needs to be a WTF-check; I left the o off of pesto in the last paragraph.

This has been a difficult work-week and we’ve been dealing with a lot of hail damage details.

Having said that, I’m lucky to have a job and a house and cars and insurance!

I went on my quarterly field trip to Meijer’s to stock up on the pizza crusts mentioned in a previous post, refried black beans with jalapenos, vegetarian baked beans, Alfresco products (nitrate free yummy sausages), ground lamb and a hundred extra bucks worth of other stuff.  I bought a double-walled cup for my afternoon iced coffee.  I saw the most beautiful picture of a glass of coffee on What Katie Ate whatkatieate.blogspot.com – stunning photography on that blog.  I decided I needed something a little more attractive than the plastic cups I usually drink from.  Ha.  The new cup is plastic. But attractive.  I returned to find the boy-o cooking up his weekend breakfast mash.  That is such a good thing.

We whiled away a couple of hours talking..so nice for me.  I put dinner in the crocker..which reminds me, I’m doing the Fight for Air walk June 9, Arnold C gave me a fantastic donation!!!

Saturday’s I like to have something chugging away in the crockpot filling the house with good smells and leaving me time for other endeavors; summer brings fresh things that entail a lot of prep and dealing with the grill and Mr. Man.  I often think I’d like an electric Foreman Grill.  I think I’ll pick one up at Kroger next week wonder if the senior discount will apply.

I’ve been trying to do most of the grocery shopping on the way home from work – dependent on whether or not I get a walk in during the workday lunchtime.  I think what this really means is that I am grocery shopping every day of the week.  The theory is I’ll have it all done before the weekend but if the bulk of it’s done during the week, this leaves time for more frivolous grocery shopping but at a less frenetic pace.  Or whatever psychological term you want to call what I do.

Tonite’s offering is Tarragon Chicken with Leeks and Peas in the crockpot…such a sweet recipe.  I love adding my frozen whipping cream cubes at the end.

Barb’s Chicken with Tarragon Slow Cooker

Back in the day we all had free-standing freezers; I’m lucky enough to have an immense French-door fridge/freezer combo that we were able to retrofit into our eensy-beensy galley kitchen.  In addition, we have a fridge in the basement that stores beer, all of my flours, back-stock misc. crap and more frozen stuff.  I still shop daily. I wonder what the net cost is of a loaf of reduced day-old bread that’s been languishing in the freezer for 3 months?

Martha, is it a good thing to have 3 frozen hambones?  I’m not a ham fan but the gents sure love it’s salty nitrate-infused goodness.  OK I lie – I love me some pea soup and the ham/pineapple pizza’s good for using up the leftovers.  Also good to add to the Sunday breakfast omelet for the menfolk.

I still haven’t posted last week’s rant…I’ll tidy it up and get it out tomorrow as I need to move forward with this issue.  I thought there was forward movement to reduce the amount of packaging but it only seems to have gotten worse.

Sooo…sliced & blanched 2# of Vidalia onions for tomorrow’s casserole, scrubbed the spuds, prepped the flat-iron steak rub, wondered which beet recipe I’d like to use (if I do the orange salad I’ll need more arugula but at least I have the orange!), wrapped up a couple of goodies for the other Moms in our lives and threw down a couple of brewskies.  See you tomorrow.

A Good Day for Beans

Today is Thunder over Louisville (or elsewhere, Saturday, April 21st).  This event kicks off the Kentucky Derby festival – the air show is spectacular, couldn’t care less about the fireworks although I appreciate what it takes to put on the biggest pyrotechnics exhibition in the country.  When the weather’s good, which it’s not this year (overcast & cold), the crowds are immense and no matter how you plan it, it will take 3 hours for you to get home to your house less than a mile away.  Louisville has considered  installing a light rail system for decades (along with other forward-thinking municipal projects) but so far no progress.  We did get the new arena built which is pretty impressive, I’ve heard; looks good from the outside.  Although I don’t have a problem navigating the downtown area with its labyrinth of one-way streets and roadways that end abruptly for an expressway ramp or random building, there’s just no way to get out in a reasonable amount of time when there’s a major event.  I speak from experience and now enjoy most of these functions from home – the TV stations do a fabulous job. Apparently this year there are shuttle buses to get one in and out.  Stunning weather the early part of the week – made it a point to walk  on lunch break a couple of times with my partner in crime.  Our facility is close to Cave Hill Cemetary  – we head there where we get a brisk couple of miles in while appreciating the beauty and  spirituality of the grounds;  free therapy with health benefits!

Last Sunday we had veg lasagne with a simple salad of baby greens & spinach and a nice dense artisan bread.  Tomorrow will probably be salmon & vegetables in the clay pot with wild rice and slaw – not quite ready for grill time.  So…good to use up the ham bone (still have 2 more in the freezer – I don’t care much for ham but the menfolk do so I oblige on the holidays) and I love anything on cornbread + cheese.  I usually make a killer pea soup  but this time I wanted squishy great northerns.  Also added some frozen mixed beans – Aldi had some lovely mixed bagged beans – bought a couple of pounds and as I was loading my overly packed bags into the car one of the straps broke and the bag fell to the ground.  Also inside the bag was a jar of pickles that of course, broke; the juice leaked into the beans;  damned if I would throw them away as I’m tighter than bark on a tree.  Soaked them all and ended up with 3 large bags o’beans.  The attached bean recipe was modified for the crocker..used dried beans + frozen beans + hambone, no cumin or tomato paste.  Wow. Fireworks audio choreography leaving me speechless.

Such an interesting melange of music.  Fireworks photo at top was sent to my phone by daughter watching from The Quonset Hut on Phoenix Hill w/family & friends.  Son playing music gig in the Starks Building downtown sent this one…   I took the cemetery shot from my phone while on the aforementioned walk – can’t believe it came out as I didn’t have my glasses on and I totally can’t see squat w/o them.

Vegetable Lasagne

Freezing Pre-soaked Beans

Herbed White Bean and Sausage Stew

Cornbread