Friday, January 30, 2009


There is a lot of chatter on blogs about the medical benefits of letting children play in the dirt. I just read an interesting article about how high fever, whether viral, bacterial or plasmodic in origin, triggers the immune system to fight cancer.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Deja Vu

Just when I thought I had nothing for a blog post, there is a twin repeat from last week. Car in ditch. Ricky this time. "Mom, it's been 3 months since the last time."

Oh, he's fine, except for a huge bruise on his left shoulder and some self-disgust that it happened.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I've changed my (kitchen) ways

Parchment paper
I grew up "greasing" cookie pans. It worked but was messy. Parchment paper is easy to use, easy to clean and works well. I recently tried "Baker's Joy" oil and flour spray and didn't like it except for those tiny muffin tins that are impossible to grease and flour as well as pans with ridges.

Chef's knife
I used a Chef knife for the last 15 years of my 40 or so years of adult cooking. Whap, whap, whap and I'm done slicing and dicing. I remember Mom dicing a whole onion with a paring knife while holding it in her hand.

Joy of Cooking
I started with a Betty Crocker cookbook. Sure, there are serviceable recipes in it and I still use a few of them. I changed my ways about 1985 with the purchase of Joy. It gives me so much background and variations that I often I just create my own recipes. I am now migrating to the internet, researching recipe variations and then creating my own.

In the olden days, I used the smallest side of a grater to zest lemons and oranges. Then I upgraded to a Pampered Chef zester. It was easier but still resulted in chunky zest. The microplaner is perfect. I use it for nutmeg and hard cheese also.

Potato Masher
For years I whipped out the mixer to whip potatoes. I now scrub the potato, cut them into small chunks, skin on, and then use the oh-so-quiet potato masher. We like little chunks in the potatoes, especially with lots of butter (and cream cheese or sour cream or whatever else I feel like adding.)

Pyrex small bowls with lids
I bought eight 2-cup glass bowls to bake and serve individual berry puff puddings at a dinner party. I used them so much afterward that I bought four 1-cup bowls and lids and then another eight bowls. I use these bowls instead of plastic storage containers or freezer bags for most items. Cook, freeze, microwave, serve--all in the same bowl. I use the refrigerator freezer to store prepared food in these containers and all we have to do is pop the lid and microwave. Right now, you could serve yourself potato soup, cuban black bean soup, turkey and noodles, chili soup, teriyaki pork or meatballs from these bowls, all neatly stacked in my small freezer.

A day at The Highlands

After church, breakfast and grading homework, we headed out to the tree farm for some cross-country skiing. We call it The Highlands because of the 70 foot bluff overlooking the river and the fact that my husband's ancestors came from Scotland.

We discovered the neighbors from the Art Farm (two artists are rehabbing an old Amish farm across the road, starting with purple paint) had laid ski tracks around our land and through the neighbor's woods. A fine powder of snow filled the tracks for perfect skiing. The weather seemed balmy (24 degrees) and the sun was shining, but the wind was blowing hard. After some skiing, we built a little fire in a sheltered spot and warmed up Cuban black bean soup for lunch.

We hit the trails again and then switched to boots to prune some of the trees. Note the small hardwoods behind Steve. We are pruning so all the hardwoods have one dominant straight leader. This is called financial pruning (best timber price when mature) rather than aesthetic pruning, although I let one oak in an open spot continue growing with spreading branches. Maybe someone will put a swing there someday.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Daily Life/Daily Disasters

I'm sure glad yesterday is done, over, kaput, never to be seen again. Today has been much better (so far).

First, the temperature is now a balmy 26 degrees compared to last night's negative 14 degrees. I went outside several times today in just a lightweight jacket, while I dressed in layers yesterday. I recently read that what I call long underwear is now called a base layer. Much more civilized, don't you think?

Second, I got a call from my son yesterday morning. He was sitting in the ditch in the canyons, just like his brother several months ago. Car sustained damage from the front bumper to the rear bumper. Son missed the big trees. Son was not injured. This is his "new" car. My husband cosigned for it. Insurance is already over $1400 a year for him. And to top it all, I told him to stay home and he disobeyed. Last night I decided to talk to him as an adult instead of a child. I reminded him of Proverbs 19:20, "Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days." And I think his eyes glazed over while I was talking.

Finally, I made the best Cuban Black Bean Soup last night. See that line: If a thicker, smoother soup is desired, purée half of the soup in a blender. I decided I wanted a thicker soup, so I put part of it in the blender and hit pulse. The lid flew off and black goop literally flew five feet in every direction. Today, my kitchen is clean and I'm heating a bowl of soup for supper.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"This is a piece of cardboard...

to be used only if you need a piece of cardboard."

This morning, I found this in a box of papers from my mother's estate. It was written by Dad. I'm sure it made my mother laugh.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Do it sooner, rather than later

I painted my dining room today and it reminded me to make changes sooner, rather than later. A good reminder for the new year.

I have disliked the color in the dining room since I painted it, about ten years ago. Here's a picture from a baby shower that shows the dining room. The french doors are open in the picture, but there's a good shot of one wall. The paint has a pinkish cast and it washed out the beauty of the woodwork.

Here's what it look like tonight, almost finished. The color is not true; it's darker and not olive. The tape is still on, I have some trim to finish on the built-in sassafras china cabinet that my husband made for me, and I need to iron the freshly washed valance to hang over the doors. Oh, and clean up my paint mess, too.

So on the theme of changes, perhaps I shall work on getting the plank floors I want. It may be a while since my husband wants to put radiant heating under the floors and build the planks himself, probably from trees harvested from our tree farm. Oh, well, I'm pleased with the new paint for now.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Critters

Two critter encounters today: opossum and hawk.

While I was shaking some rugs on the back deck, a large hawk (20 inches) flew within ten feet of me. It landed in a small tree about 20 feet away, with its back to me, and slowing moved its head one way and then another, looking for prey. I never did see its front, but it had a fan-shaped tail with wide brown and black stripes, ending in a white stripe. Its brown back had buff dots and its head was a lighter shade of brown. I couldn't make a definite ID from my references, but it was fun to watch.

Then tonight, Steve called me to look out the back door, where he had sat a half full bottle of wine to remain chilled. (I must be an optimist, because I didn't think of it as half empty.) A (o)possum was gnawing on the cork, trying to get a taste.