Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In memory of my Grandma

My grandma passed away on Monday, less than a year after my grandfather died.  The day after his birthday.  This is my favorite picture of her; she was an absolutely beautiful woman both inside and out.  The hallmark of what a Grandma should be; unfailing in her kindness, dignity, grace and love for her family.

My mother's mother.  They were both shining examples of love and fierce loyalty to family.

She met my Grandpa at a social dance when he was stationed down south during the Korean War and moved North with him as a young bride to a new family and place totally foreign to her.

She, along with my mother, taught me to love the kitchen.  That cooking and care could be an expression of both creativity and love for family. 

In her kitchen she taught me to bake and can.

Before the farmhouse was auctioned I cleared out her recipe drawer next to the stove. Sifting through it I wondered how much the creativity of the kitchen may have been a comfort to the isolation of living on a farm in a small town.

For the viewing tonight I made a collage of my favorite photo and one of her handwritten recipies, then ran off photocopies for everyone in attendance.

Peanut Blossoms. Because she was the kind of Grandma to let the kids pick all of the Hershey Kisses off and leave the cookies behind in the tray.

Rest in peace and know you were loved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pasta, pasta, pasta

Our oldest son has been on a Play-Doh kick lately that borders on obsession; if he's not playing with his Play-Doh he's demanding to either make more of it from scratch or to watch You-tube videos of other people playing with Play-Doh (yep, that's a thing).  It's fun, creative play and it's inspired me too.  I've been practicing making pasta shapes while we're playing together and secretly, at night, I have been doing my own shaping with pasta.  

Besides my obsession with Pasta Grannies  I've found this video to be ridiculously addicting helpful.  
I couldn't do it without my handy Kitchen-Aid mixer with the pasta attachments..  With the main rollers I've made batches of  egg-noodle dough during the day and then pulled them out to play with after the kids have gone to bed.  It's mindless fun.  I've learned a ton and we get the eat the delicious results.   

A tray of fun ready for the freezer.

I've learned so far that: 1) I miss my ducks.  Ok, chickens eggs are great and all but duck egg pasta has a wonderful color and just feels special.  2)  I really should get some sort of large wooden cutting board to work on like the Pasta Grannies have - I've been working on the kitchen table (an old 30's thing) and it doesn't seem to work as a cutting surface - the pasta sheets slide around too much when they're being cut.  3) Play-doh is not pasta.  It's fun to practice with but pasta is thinner and dries very quickly.

These were run through the pasta rollers many, many times with fresh thyme folded into the dough.  Then I hand-cut them into strips, my attempt at fettucine.

Here we had it with chicken.  It's this recipe for creamy lemon chicken thighs.  Her version looks amazing and it was a really yummy dish.

Bow ties, or butterflies.  Wow, what fun to make.  I've used these as tiny accents to vegetables, a nice bit of bite and texture.

Salmon cakes and peas with the butterflies.

When I asked my oldest what he wanted for dinner yesterday he said "chicken and broccoli".  He doesn't eat chicken and broccoli, Daniel Tiger does.  But it sounded good to me so I made it for dinner with mushrooms - kind of a white wine "chicken Marsala" thing.  

I haven't used these little cavatelli yet.

And here's the sauce I made from all of the tomatoes in the freezer:

It's from Cooks Illustrated magazine.  You can't can it, it needs to be frozen but it couldn't be simpler.  It's very thin and as a result does not take much to coat the noodles - I put three containers of it in the freezer.

This fresh pasta is so wonderful in that I can make a batch of different shapes, throw them in the freezer and have them when we want them.  Frozen, they cook up in seconds.  It's been a really relaxing way to pass the time and something fun to learn about.

Friday, October 19, 2018

First frost, cheap seeds, squash dinner

I want to remember that we had our first hard frost last night.   The grass was all silver and sparkly when we woke up and the windshields were frosted over on the cars.  The kids were scheduled to go visit my in-laws for the morning so I took this time to dig the canna and dahlia tubers from the garden for storage.  I didn't go crazy like I did last year, I only dug up maybe 1/20th of the cannas in the garden. Picked the tallest and nicest, dug them and they're curing and waiting to be stored in the basement for the winter.

That's enough.  I'm not trying to repopulate the whole county with cannas, just next year's garden.

The garden is a disaster.  It is so bad that there is a tree growing in it, about 5 foot high, that I did not plant.  Nature did, and it was only noticed a month ago.   The whole thing is a mess that will require a weed wacker.  Something needs to change next season. This massive garden made sense when I had a farmer's market booth but at this point in my life I cannot keep up with it.

  I thought to move the geese into it since it is fenced, thinking that they could help clear it and get some free feed but they were absolutely uncooperative.  I did find these nice surprises: some more birdhouse gourds (the only things resistant to the squash bugs apparently), some tiny fingerling potatoes and a mess of beans that had gotten old.  

My oldest and I sat on the porch today in the sun and shelled the beans for fun. The gourds I'll cure and this winter we'll decorate them and turn them into birdhouses. 

This baby swiss chard was a bonus find, tucked under a canna plant.  

This little goji bush I bought in February did well in the pot and needs to be planted somewhere permanent

Our property has some kind of horrible weed, 5 feet high,  each with hundreds of these little prickers.  I was covered in them after a morning of work.  My pants, my shirt, in my hair.  I don't know what they are but they're the bane of the yard.

The local Dollar General store puts their seeds on clearance every fall and I was happy to luck upon them on sale today.  They're inexpensive to begin with but were discounted 70% and then another % on top of that  - tons of seed packets for next year - at a cost of 8 to 13 cents each.

Tonight we had acorn squash for dinner, it's so easy and the second time we've had it this fall.  Cut an acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and put face-down in an oiled cast iron skillet.  Into the oven at 400 until fork tender (half an hour).  While it's baking, cook some onion, Italian sausage, apple and greens in a skillet.  Add some pre-cooked rice to the mix  Really easy and good.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A week in pictures: Fall, paw paws, cooking & books

We've turned the corner into Fall.  The rains have come along with the cold.  Hats, scarves and wool blankets are handy.  Here's a bit of what's going on.

The baby and I in the hammock before the cold snap.

It was a really nice evening.

The oldest has emptied the potting soil out of the flower crocks on the porch.  He's been making tracks in the dirt for his toy cars.  Sure - I guess it's a "mess" but it also buys me time, a very valuable commodity around here.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through this.  Had read this before when I was younger, maybe 12? A fun read about the Appalachian Trail

Have been blissfully reading some back issues I got at the book sale.  I *love* this magazine.

I made this pasta dish from that issue.  It's simply Italian sausage, sweet onions, thyme (lots) and cream (half & half).  We didn't have penne pasta so this is what I used. It was light and a nice change to try something new. The thyme was nice.

And then the cold came.  This little guy is talking, talking, talking, in a 3-month old way.  It's  just beautiful.  And usually at 4 a.m. Oh well.  I'll sleep when the kids are old. This season of my life won't last forever and I intend to enjoy it.

They're so pretty.  We need to do some sort of Fall craft project soon.  I'm thinking that we may make "stained glass" by arranging leaves between waxed or contact paper.  Maybe a mobile? 


Wow, these beauties.  What a wonderful surprise.  My father came over yesterday with these in a little storage container.  "Where did you get these?!" I asked.  Paw Paws.  I was thrilled.  This fruit is native to our area of the country but I've never seen one let alone eaten one.  It's been kind of like chasing a unicorn.  These are domesticated ones.  He was at a relative's house, saw them and though I might like to try them.  It was not unlike the time we were gifted a pile of quince.

The flavor is like a wonderful blend of pineapple, quince and banana.  The texture is like a custard.  And they are full of seeds.  Lucky for me.

Look! They're huge.  I know you need two types to cross pollinate.  The plot he got these from did have two varieties.  So I'm going to save all of the seeds, plant them and cross my fingers.   

This summer was so busy that when we had extra tomatoes they just got tossed into the freezer whole.  I pulled them out today to deal with them and plan on making sauce tomorrow. Freezing tomatoes whole is so handy; it couldn't be easier and the skin comes right off when they thaw.

A bunch of dahlias picked this week.  It's nice to see some beauty in the cold wet weather, see below:

Because this is what happens when it rains all night and I don't lock the geese up.  They're very, very happy.  I am not, as the area of the poultry yard nearest the gate and water barrel  has turned into a mud/goose poo area as slick as ice.  Ew, ew, ew. God help anyone nearby if I fall in it.

I met the ladies in our little book club for dinner tonight.  We're going to do some fun seasonal reading;  Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the short story by Daphne Du Mar that was turned into The Birds.  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

And then it was Fall.

Fall seems to have happened so suddenly. I guess it feels like that every year. The days are shorter, the mornings colder. It's nice in a way.

Our house looks cute. Squash bugs were terrible this year and decimated everything planted. We produced one squash and one pumpkin. The rest were purchased from a farm up the road or gifted by my father who, God bless him, tossed some seeds in a compost pile and had a great pumpkin harvest.

The big oval one is our only winter squash.

These beauties are in the Ali's parking lot. No idea what they are but it would be nice to plant some here, they are so pretty in the fall.

I love this sedum.

The goldenrod is nearly over. There are a few asters left that the bees are gathering off of.  I'll help my father extract honey this month and am really looking forward to it.

The yard from the poultry run.

Bee has been off the charts the last couple of weeks with chipmunk kills. Sometimes I doubt there are any left in a mile radius. We didn't know we even had any here until she started bringing them home.  She has a specific wailing noise she makes when she's caught something and this morning I heard her yelling her "Family! I brought you a gift!" seconds before the oldest said "Mama! Bee has a chipmunk! On the porch!" She wanted to bring it inside. Hell no. So she left it in the flower crock. Thanks, Bee.

PIicked up these two stray chicken salt and pepper shakers at an estate sale. They obviously don't match but are really sweet.

I had mentioned to my dad months ago that the oldest needed a bug cage - nothing heavy or glass but just something light to bring critters inside to study.  And I didn't feel like paying retail for one.  He found this secondhand within a week of that conversation and I think it cost a dollar
 We've used it all summer to bring insects in the house, identify them, watch them and then let them go.  This is a little snake I found and caught in the garden.  My husband recognized it as a tiny Dekay snake which eats earthworms and slugs.  You can see it in the fork of the branch in the picture. Our son was SO excited to see it up close, watch it flick it's tongue out and to hold it before we put it back where we found it.

 One of my very first memories is from when I was about 5; my dad catching a tiny snake for me to look at.  We carried it home in a plastic box for 22 shells so I could study it..

Also of my mother leaving me alone in the woods at that same age when she saw a snake and bolted.  She was terrified of them. I was collected eventually. 

"MAMA, GET THE BOOK!" He said.  Out came the little vintage Golden Guide.  We read all about our snake and every other reptile in North America. 

Some lovely asters he picked for me.

A walk with the cousins.

I was thrilled to find this at a yard sale today for $15: a brand new Pendleton blanket with the tags. It's lovely and I hope it will be an heirloom  (although upon seeing it the oldest announced "Look! Two bears! And a volcano!!!")

Nigel is a Brahma mix and his colors just look like Fall. He's a beautiful gentleman.

The remaining quail have gone in the freezer. I probably *should* do something about the amount of poultry still out there but It's hard to justify sending older hens to the freezer when they're still laying. If asked how many birds there are I would be forced to go out there and count. I have no idea.  Guessing, conservatively...  a shit load. There are chickens everywhere. We don't have space to house all of these over the winter so some of them will graduate to pot pies and fajitas in the next month. That little one next to Nigel was supposed to be sexed as a pullet but is obviously male. 

We painted pumpkins tonight. The pumpkins are adorable and there was paint all over.  Our dining room table is old and shabby but perfect for crafts.

Walking an unhappy baby around the yard in the dark, in the carrier.

I'm glad for it to be fall and am looking forward to some warm meals and the changing of leaves.