Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The solution for me was to go to my favorite book of all cookbooks, one that I found years ago at a used bookstore: The New York Times Menu Cookbook, published in 1966. The fun thing is that this huge book of recipes was written pre-carbs and fat days so the recipes are based purely on taste rather than health - a bad thing most of the time, but occasionally it must be done! It also has a fantastic index. I looked up "ham" and came up with dozens of recipes including ham. This is what I chose, and it was a wonderfully delicious choice that tasted like a cross between a creamy Italian pasta primavera dish and a vegetable medley/pot pie (don't let the simple, innocent name deceive you):
Ham and Vegetable Casserole
4 Tbs. of butter
1 small chopped onion
1.5 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
1 cup of diced potatoes
1 cup of diced carrots
1 cup of chopped green beans
2 cups of diced cooked ham
1 cup of fresh bread crumbs (put a few slices in a food processor or vitamix and you have crumbs)
Few slices of bacon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
1. I chopped all veggies (onions separately) in a food processor to cut down on time.
2. Melt butter in saucepan and add onion, cooking until transparent.
3. Bring milk to a boil.
4. Meanwhile blend flour in with onions and start the bacon cooking in a frying pan (you will need the drippings so don't microwave).
5. bring some water to a boil and cook the chopped veggies for only a few minutes ~2-3.
6. Add the boiled milk slowly in with the onions/flour/butter mixture, mixing until it thickens.
7. Add cooked veggies and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Place mixture into a 1.5 quart casserole dish.
9. Dice up the cooked bacon and sprinkle on top.
10. Add bread crumbs to the bacon drippings and sprinkle on top of everything.
11. Bake the casserole for thirty minutes or until mixture is hot and the bread crumbs are brown.
Note: this is supposed to serve 6 but really in today's serving sizes, especially if you are serving no side dishes, serves 3 to 4. Even that looks like a small amount, but it is surprisingly filling - really packs a punch. We had enough for the two of us to have dinner last night and leftovers for lunch.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Clementine is not quite sure about the disco ball from my sister. It will take her ~ 4 months to get used to it, but Clementine still said, "Thanks Aunt Heather"
Paulie in his new homemade Christmas PJs (from me).
Paul says, "Thanks, Mum, for Batman!"
Heather, the Thomas Kincaid puzzle is so much fun!! We have much more done since this picture was taken a few days ago. The Vader puzzle we started Wednesday night and finished on Christmas.
Funny story about going to the neighbors to give out our plates of cookies on Christmas eve. We finished the cookies and mince pies around 4:30 and I left the cinnamon roll dough to rise for the 1.5 hours that's required. Thinking we'd be gone 20 minutes or so I almost left the birds out of their cages. Paul said he thought we'd be gone for quite some time because we'll probably end up talking, etc. "oh, no, I don't think so." I explained, "everyone will be getting ready for Christmas and so we'll deliver our cookies, wish them merry christmas and move on."
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Paul in the Santa hat and the tree finished.
Then we helped Tracy decorate her baby Christmas tree.
Friday, December 5, 2008
We decided to hog wild for this Thanksgiving dinner, to enjoy and give thanks for all we have. Actually, we had a little bit of a miscommunication, because Paul thought we were going to cut down on the veggies this year, and I thought we were doing the "Engish Traditional" as I have dubbed holiday dinners that we do. Paul loves to have the fancy 27 kazillion veggies that they do for a traditional English Christmas dinner, and since they don't have Thanksgiving over there, we usually do the same dinner, more or less, for Thanksgiving and Christmas here.
I had to do a pie, and I found a really good apple pie recipe that has caused Paul to beg for a pie every week.
The the turkey that we injected with cajun marinade. It didn't come out real spicy but kept the turkey incredibly moist.
Paul jumped into action towards the tail end of cooking when he suddenly realized we were doing the 27 kajillion veggies. I became frantic in the last 20 minutes and shouted for help! He was hanging curtain rods, and I hated to stop a good thing in action, but crisis in the kitchen was more pressing.
We also had cabbage, carrots and rutabaga, roast potatoes and homemade cranberry relish.
7) we are beginning to make some good friends and feeling more established here
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
And the bathroom, which I don't think has changed since last I posted pictures (other than a few new plants around the fountain). Oddly, my bathroom is my sanctuary when I want to relax. The water trickling in the urn (big brown thing in the center) is pure relaxation.. all I do is add water to the tub, hop in with a good book and enjoy the sun streaming in. This is the only room that has any decor other than furniture. We are on the 30 year plan!
I will add more pictures later of some of the other rooms that have furniture (some rooms are still empty) in case you are interested.
Friday, November 21, 2008
The various buildings of the school were scattered among beautiful southern style homes.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I found a piece of cotton on the side of the road, as it is blown all over the place, and brought it home as a souvenir. Wouldn't it be fun to spin into yarn and knit a pair of socks? Only, the one pod is probably enough to do one finger of one glove! Spinning cotton is a different experience than spinning wool or alpaca. The fibers are so short. I have spun dyed cotton to make a hat, but it's one of those projects I haven't finished..
This is the cotton field from a distance. See the thicker patch near the treeline?
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Speaking of Paul, A few weeks ago I mentioned that the back of The Sweater II was almost finished. Well here it is! I had been working on it a few rows each night for the past week and last night I measued and it was the correct length: 26.5". Inspired from getting a big section done, I immediately cast on the stitches to start the first sleeve. I only wish I could get this done for Paul before winter is over. With spinning the yarn almost as fast as I'm knitting it, it seems like it could be possible, but with lots of experience in having unrealistic goals for my crafts, I know this will not come to pass!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
"People, these trees are troublesome and dangerous, I had to rebuild the garage years ago because one approx. 30 inches in diameter fell across it, limbs, leaves, balls, are constantly falling. From what I have seen and heard these trees are very weak, lots of times breaking off 20 and 30 feet up with just a little wind. Anyhow, just want to rant a little because I so disliked those trees."
"For all you that don't like sweet gum trees, get some goats, mine have cleaned up every tree they could munch on and none come back because the goats eat as soon as anything on them sprouts. No problem here!"
"HELP!I had two VERY large sweetgums cut down in my backyard and now I have hundreds if not literally THOUSANDS of small sweetgum trees popping up EVERYWHERE around my house. I just run them over with the lawnmower and sure enough in 1 week they are everywhere again... What can I do/spray to get rid of all of these trees and keep what grass I do have? Please help!"
"My 9 year experience with a twenty year old sweet gum tree is: 1) the spikey balls are good for nothing, except building muscles raking the never ending supply, 2) it will raise the floor of your garage an 1 1/2" in the course of a couple of months and evidently crack it, 3) the branches, at any age, will easily snap in a wind storm - and aim for your roof, 4) the wood burns well, but only after it dries for three years, AND, 5) unless you dig all the roots out once you've fallen the tree and dug out the stump, you will continue to have sweet gum starts all over your world FOR YEARS. Good luck!"
"Reading through all these postings, I didn't see anyone mention the feature of this tree that I enjoy the most - crush some leaves in your hand and they produce a smell like turpentine. I don't like gathering up the thousands of "spiny balls" either, but I do enjoy the shade provided by the one tree we have in our front yard. Hey - I haven't gotten the flu in several years! maybe inhaling the "fumes" from the crushed leaves has something to do with it? Caution: some folks (such as my wife) may experience negative effects from this practice, but I really enjoy it!"
"Dear sweet gum club,I too have many sweet gum trees. Has anyone seen the wireball contraption that rolls on the ground picking up the balls as it is pushed?"
"The first year we lived in this house with the gumball trees our bull terrior got two infections in between her toes from those spikey little devils. Be careful with your pets."
"I would love to know how to effectively even rake up these gumballs. My hubby tried to "vacuum" them with a leaf blower. Not good! We could spend weeks raking and not make a dent!"
"Does ANYONE have a solution to our population explosion of gumballs?
Shockingly, not only do these huge, towering trees spit spiked balls all over our lot, but this spring, OVERNIGHT, it dumped some sort of leafy-type pods --- thousands, millions of them --- covering the patio and surrounding area. WORSE, these pods almost immediately ROT and STINK, almost like manure! As if that weren't enough, they then shed pollen, which creates an even further mess! What could people be thinking of when they plant these things? We live in Atlanta, so everything that thrives elsewhere thrives even more here!"
"I have come up with one use for the "porcupine balls" as i call them. i put them in the bottom of my potted plants (annuals) instead of rocks, for drainage. at the end of the season, i just dump the whole thing in the compost pile & dont have to dig out the rocks! i have also heard of making table top Christmas trees out of them, but havent tried it myself."
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
What better time to be outside doing field work? None that I can think of. And lucky me, I've been out for 3 weeks already and have enjoyed every bit of it (when I've been smart enough to dress warm enough).
But amidst the leaf excitement, last week I was in the field with my boss who happens to be a (self-proclaimed) expert on deciduous trees. I didn't know this because he's a geologist not a biologist. But get him outside and he's pointing out hickory trees here and maples there and live oaks yonder. So we were sitting and sampling a well and admiring the surrounding tree coloration when I saw a tree that looked the spitting image of Mavis the Maple who Paul and I have fondly raised from the wee size of 6" tall. I proudly stated, "I have a maple tree just like that one." He smirked and said, putting on his Agent C cap, "Actually it's real identity is a sweet gum tree." I didn't dare tell him that I have even named my sweet gum tree "Mavis the Maple." I just concealed my disappointment and said, "oh."
Meanwhile, Mavis the Makeshift Maple is enjoying her new home, transplanted in our backyard a few weeks ago. She has decided not to change colors yet, and it's probably because she's suffering from an identity crisis.
Monday, October 27, 2008
But some of my favorite things about the fall are sitting by the fire and reading a good book and bundling up in flannel sheets and cozy blankets at night. I sleep so wonderfully in the cold weather. It is also a time when I enjoy my knitting more.
It is not fun to have a hot sweater on your lap in the summer and work on knitting it with sweaty hands, and so naturally I didn't get a lot done on The Sweater II this summer. But I am 1.5 inches from finishing the back as of this weekend! I will post a picture when it is done and off the needles. I think I'll work on the sleeves next before starting the front piece, to add a bit of variety (the front is identical to the back).
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The other night I felt like making something really easy, but didn't want to have to resort to a box. Ok, I did use a jar of something, but for the most part it was a very fresh food dinner, the flavors went well together and with very little time involved(15-20 minutes).
1 jar of Trader Joe's Corn and Chile Tomato-less Salsa
4 chicken breasts
1 head of broccoli
8 oz of sliced baby bella mushrooms
grapeseed oil (healthy and relatively low fat)
Heat a few Tbs. of grapeseed oil in a large frying pan,season chicken with cumin, salt, pepper and paprika. When oil is hot add the chicken breasts.
Meanwhile, slice the polenta (I've never had polenta before so don't know if I was doing this the traditional way) into 1/4" slices and add to the pan with the chicken.
Heat a pot of water to boiling. Meanwhile cut the broccoli and then add to the pot of boiling water.
Heat another pan with 1 Tbs. of grapeseed oil.
Flip the chicken and polenta after lightly brown. Add corn salsa.
Add mushrooms to new pan of hot oil and saute until brown.
Serve with the corn salsa on top of the chicken and polenta, with mushrooms and broccoli on the side.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
On the second day of Jim and Susan's reign, I came back from work and they asked me if I knew anything about an auditor from my company arriving. I usually get a safety audit once a week and since I already had one that week, I was not expecting another one. "No, I don't know any more auditors arriving this week." Susan said, "Oh, well, we were just wondering if you knew if he was going to be a late check-in or not." I said that I was sorry I couldn't be of more help, but if it was a safety audit I was getting, then it was intended to be a surprise. Susan lowered her voice to a whisper and said, "We'll let you know one way or another if he arrives so that you have a warning." I laughed and admired her good humor.
Then next morning I came downstairs and my sausage and egg sandwich was wrapped in foil and sitting on the counter for me promptly at 6:30, same as what John normally does for me. I took it with me to eat on the drive to the site, and when I got in the truck and opened up the foil, there was a secret note in with my sandwich:
I laughed half the drive to work, and dubbed Susan "Agent S." I have dubbed all of us who can perform covert operations. I am Agent K of course, my dearest friend Laurie, Agent L, who I worked with in California, is one of the sneakiest of all when it comes to finding out the latest office news. My sister is Agent H and is real good with agent speak, and Mom is Agent M, pretty newly installed. Agent S is the newest recruit, and will do just fine holding down the mountain post in North Carolina. We had so much fun talking the rest of the week, and I'm sad that she will be gone when I go up there again in a few weeks.
Friday, September 26, 2008
1 pound of beef flank steak
1 onion cut into strips
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 orange bell pepper cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper cut into strips
cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa as garnish if desired
Combine onion, Rotel, chili powder, cilantro, steak (I put the steak in whole and shredded in the pot after cooking), and cumin in Crockpot. Cook on low for about 4 hours. Add bell peppers and garlic and cook an additional hour on low. Serve with tortillas and any accompaniments.
Paul gave this recipe two thumbs up, even though we didn't even have the garnish items, and we ran out of tortillas!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Now, this is one of the coolest aspects of doing work up here besides the wildlife. We get to stay at the Waverly Inn, a bed and breakfast run by a couple who treat you like family. They gave me the best room in the house, a beautiful room with an adjoining sun room since I was staying a piece (pretty much all month minus a few days).
Downstairs on the front porch they serve snacks and drinks so people can chat and meet other guests, while enjoying the peaceful event of rocking in the rocking chairs and enjoying the birds. Every evening they greet me by name and ask how work was, bring me a ice cold glass of coke and pull up a rocking chair for me. Afterwards, I enjoy a hot bath get something to eat at a nearby restaurant within walking distance and then come back "home" to grab a slice of homemade cake that John and Diane have in the kitchen. I mosie upstairs with my cake and herbal tea and watch a bit of one of the movies I brought. It was like working really hard for 12 hours and having 4 hours of vacation afterwards. Not bad!
On Saturday night after work, I went to see a play, Unnecessary Farce, at the Flatrock Playhouse. I laughed for 2 hours and came back to the Waverly and slept like a rock. It was a fantastic comedy, and I needed it after a few stressful days at work that followed the bee sting.
My sun room adjoining my bedroom at the Waverly.
There was a nearby nursery that has loads of cool shrubs and so on my drive home I loaded up to start working on our backyard.
I have 4 days off starting today and then head up to Hendersonville again for another 10 days. Have a good weekend!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Anyway, we've been spending a lot of time outdoors for another reason. Fairy has been driving us crazy. She's been squawking and squeeking and screaming to be held and everytime we leave the room she amplifies. I took her to the vet a few weeks ago and the vet thinks it's part hormonal and part we've been catering to the squawks. So she has become like a whining child used to getting her way. Solution: to ignore it or get out of the house. So, here we are eating dinner outside, and see my camp chair in the background for lounging and studying.
This was another delicious crockpot recipe that we tried on the weekend- very good.
Then with all the outdoor time, we discovered a few turtles roaming around our backyard. Here is Ted, probably in search of Cynthia.