Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coming Attractions

A few years ago, at an estate sale, I picked up a small black pocket diary from 1910. It was in with a bunch of papers and not marked with a price. When I asked the woman running the sale how much she wanted for it, she casually looked at the first few pages, saw nothing was written on them, and charged me $1 for it. (note-the diary pictured is not the actual diary.)

Had she been paying closer attention she would have seen that starting in February, the owner of said diary, F. E. Filsinger, of 504 Stinard Avenue, Syracuse NY, had written something each and every day until the end of the year. (504 Stinard Ave no longer exists as an address in Syracuse, incidentally)

What a find!

Since it's been exactly 100 years since Mr Filsinger penned the words in his diary I thought it would be neat to share them with you daily on the date that he wrote them. The don't start until February 6th so you'll have to wait a few days. I'll also still be writing my other posts as these are short.

There is nothing sensational or lurid in the pages. Nothing shocking or embarrassing to him so this caused me no moral pause at sharing it.  (Although there are some sweet and surprising things.) Sometimes he just eats dinner at his mom's house. He's a gentleman. He's just a regular guy living his life like you or me. The entries are short, and each day he reports the weather and the time he's writing. However,  I find this little glimpse into his life 100 years ago fascinating and a little special. I hope you do too!

I wonder what he would think about me sharing his words after 100 years.

I only read until October because I didn't want it to end.

If I share it with you, then it does not have to.

You Should Invite Me To Dinner

Because if you do I will bring,

Chocolate Caramel Frozen Parfaits

These were so so very good this weekend! I brought them to Kristin and Michael's house for dessert on Saturday night.They turned out exactly like the picture and tasted like frozen chocolate mousse.

I even made the homemade chocolate sauce and real whipped cream as an accompaniment.

However, foodie over zealousness prevails in this recipe as well. There are not that many ingredients in the recipe, and yet.... and yet, it uses so many bowls....At one point it says "melt x in a small saucepan" and  then it goes on to say, "In another small saucepan, heat up x"  What? How many small saucepans do they think I have. The answer, is that I have 1!! Just like I have only 1 bowl to my kitchenaid stand mixer yet the recipe has you mix up the custard for 10 min and then "in another bowl" beat the whipped cream...Those extra bowls are like $40, I don't think so.....

Overall, except for all of the dishwashing, it was a pretty easy and impressive dessert.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Homemade Cherry Liquer

This past July we went cherry picking and I mixed up some Cherry liquer using this Crabapple Liquer recipe.

I meant to let it sit for a while and then strain it and bottle it for Christmas presents.   I never got around to it. (Sorry friends!) So tonight, 7 months after starting it, I strained and bottled it.  It's pretty delicious. You don't need to wait 7 months to enjoy something like this, usually 30 days is sufficient. 

I never know when to post these kinds of posts-When I making it, when I'm done or when you could logically make something similar. Because really, it does you very little good to read about this now if  you want to make something like this. If you are planning on coming over soon for a drink then this information may be worth it to you now.... 

Next time around I'll post it as a reminder when I make it.

It's a gorgeous ruby red and tastes a little like port. The crabapple one did not taste like port. It was a sweeter and more syurpy. Just like the Crabapple Liquer, I'll probably drink this as a cocktail mixed with sparkling water. Bridget would make martinis out of it. I had a some tonight in a glass straight and it was nice having a little July sunshine on a cold winter night in Janurary.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Genesee Country Village & Museum Pioneer Experience Surprise!

Back when I lived like a pioneer, the museum had a photographer take photos of us.  I've never seen any of them, but have a large number of my own (non-professional of course.)

This morning I was browsing the museum website and stumbled on myself cooking over an open fire! That was a fun little surprise.

If you look at the picture please notice how nice my fire looks. None of my personal pictures show my fire like this!  The dutch oven they are referring to in the description is holding pumpkin and apple soup for our dinner on Friday night. To the right of the dutch oven is a pot of water that stays by the fire all day so that you have warm water when you need it. Of course you need to first carry the water with a yoke and buckets to get it to that pot!  Luckily, the water source is uphill so you walk downhill when your buckets are full!

What I am doing in the picture is heating an iron ladle full of water to clean the dishes with as utensils and wooden kitchen instruments needed to have boiling water poured over them after scrubbing them in the wash basin. Notice how I am holding it with 2 hands. This is because it takes a little while for the water to heat to boiling and an iron ladle tends to get heavy! 

I like how it says women would have had little time to fuss in the kitchen as there is too much work to be done elsewhere. While this is true, my own experience was a lot of fussing in the kitchen, mostly due to the fact that there were so many visitors that it literally took me all day to cook 4 items in that fireplace.

What a nice little reminder for me today of my experience!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Zipper Anxiety

As practice for kindergarten,my girl's teacher had all the kids line up in the hall today and whoever could put their coat on and zip it up would get a sticker.

My daughter, like most children her age, gets inordinately excited over getting a sticker. My cynical side wants to take her aside and assure her she can buy herself as many sticker as she wants when she gets older, but I know that's not the point. The point is to get your coat on. And ZIP it...

I knew there was going to be trouble as zipping isn't something she's mastered yet.

She gets the coat on. And tries to zip it

No luck.

She tries some more. Children all around her are all zipped up and proudly wearing stickers on their coats. A small boy who called me "A little old" a few weeks back, tells me: "She's can't do it."

Thanks Captain Obvious.....

I can see this really start to bother her. I'm standing against the wall opposite her in the hallway and trying not to burn holes in her coat with my laser-like stare.  My hands are practically tingling with the need to zip her jacket.

She's struggling. I watch. I think I started sweating.....

I try and use my powers of telekinesis to will the darn thing to zip, but to no avail.... 

She faces the wall and starts to cry. Her teacher tells her that she'll do it again on Wed so she'll get another chance. This does not make her feel better.

I go over, bend down and ask if she'd like to work on it a little more.

Now she's pretty stubborn and sometimes when she can't do something she completely gives up so I wasn't sure how this was going to work out. 

She literally took a deep breath and dove back into the task. I was so proud of her.

After many anxiety inducing tries, she FINALLY gets it all zipped up. I finally exhale the breath I've been holding. Other mommies and her teacher make a big deal out of this. She gets the sticker. I go over to her.  She buries her head in my shoulder and whispers,

""Now I have another problem, I've very embarrassed."

The cynical side of me wants to tell her that there will be way bigger things for her to feel embarrassed over in her lifetime,  but I know that's not the point. I can't even tell her it's no big deal because she's embarrassed and really, that's how she feels.....

Good lord, THESE are the things people forget to tell you about parenting. That some day you will be standing in the pre-school hallway and will be unable to do anything about your child's struggles or embarrasment. You will WATCH  and pray she gets it.  Because IF you help her, you really aren't helping her and she still won't get the sticker. And then you will reflect on how this is merely the beginning of this process for you and for her.

This will overwhelm you a little.  This is why people forget to tell you these things.

I wonder if her teacher was training me today more than she was making sure my girl could zip up for next year.

Next year I may look for a coat with buttons.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Indian Night

This weekend we had Indian night.

At one time, my husband dated an Indian girl and as a result, developed a great love of Indian food & culture. In fact, on one of our first dates he took me to my first Indian restaurant. He ate the entire meal with his hands while I shot sidelong glances at the other diners, none of whom were using their digits like utensils. The whole thing was a little bizarre. Luckily, the waitress was suitably impressed enough for me to figure out that this was completely acceptable. Knowing my penchant for authenticity you would think I would have been more impressed by this than I was.  I was just happy when they came around with hot towels at the end of the meal....

But I digress.

Saturday, my husband took our daughter to the Indian market where they came back with a myriad of Indian fare from homemade samosas to Indian snack food, Indian beer, mango juice and mango ice cream for dessert. They also bought incense, henna tattoos and bindis (sparkly ones!) for our foreheads. We made black gram lentil curry (from a package) and Beef Vindaloo, from scratch!  The beef was crazy good and not too spicy, even my daughter liked it. It was served over rice with a side of chapati bread, which one could use to scoop up the food with. I still opted for a fork....

We let our daughter wear the Sari that we have. She looked so cute all wrapped up! I actually wore the skirt of the sari with a tee shirt and Indian scarf. We both wore the bindis but apparently I put them too high on our foreheads (I think perhaps a slavic woman's 3rd eye may be located higher up.) We also listened to Bollywood faves on Pandora as a musical accompaniment!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Craigslist Creepies

In addition to selling various things on eBay and books on Amazon, I will occasionally sell items on Craigslist that are too big to ship or don't translate well to eBay.

On Craigslist it is exceptionally fast and easy to list something and it's free. It's a lot less formal and I don't go crazy with description nor do I have to weigh it and package it. (I always include a picture though) I've sold almost everything I ever listed (Although I only really list things I think are going to sell. Maybe I've sold 15 or 20 things this way.)

This afternoon I listed something. And this evening I got the following email:

"I'll be by tomorrow at 12 to pick it up." 

That was the entire email. No asking if I still had it. No name. Cryptic email address. No asking for directions (which are not on my ad, neither is my email address.)

12 noon? 12 Midnight?

To someone who is afraid of killers this sounds oddly close to:

"I'll be by tomorrow at 12 to hack you into a million pieces."

Needless to say, I'm just going to ignore this person. If you can't give me your name then I certainly can't give you directions to where I live. Additionally, I never have people come over to pick things up when it's just myself and my daughter at home. I always make them wait until my husband is home. And even then I meet most people at the door for a quick exchange of money and stuff. I have let 2 people into my home but they were both pregnant women buying baby stuff and I felt like I could have taken either one of them....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gardening Miscalculation

I like to think of myself as an ok gardener.

I'm no expert by any stretch, but I get by. I know when to prune things and how to grow a halfway decent vegetable garden. I know the names of many flowers and have perfected herb growing such that I usually enjoy fresh herbs all year long. (Ok. don't be too impressed with that, herbs are the easiest things to grow ever.) At this time of year I'm used to picking fresh herbs out  from under the snow and using them. (The more hardy types like thyme, parsley, sage, etc...)
This winter this is not the case. Back in the spring I moved the herb garden to a lovely little patch next to the driveway. Deer don't eat herbs so I could not see taking up valuable fenced space. And they were all mixed in and among the veggies. Why not, I reasoned, group them all together. It was very green this summer and really prolific.

What I failed to take into consideration is the fact that this garden is EXACTLY where the snowplow guy pushes the snow every year. So rather than having a few inches of snow covering them, there is 4 feet of snow. And even I'm not going to shovel out my herbs from a depth of 4 feet. And it's that dirty parking lot snow. It's completely gross.

What gets me is how come I didn't think of this? I've been gardening more than 10 years now. How come when I was moving those plants this never occurred to me? All summer long when I would take my coffee out in the morning or sit out in the evening with a glass of wine, how come this never crossed my mind? Even this fall when I was picking herbs to dry BECAUSE OF THE COMING WINTER and then writing the check to pay the snowplow guy, I never made the connection.  My god, look at the picture, look at all those herbs. Look at the DRIVEWAY.....

I'm actually marveling at my obtuseness on this one.

I guess no matter how good or how long you do something, there is always something to still be learned.....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti, Mobile Giving and Technology Changing The World

Today I  marveled at the way that giving has been transformed by technology.

You can donate $10 to The Red Cross Haiti relief by texting “Haiti” to 90999. Amazing. Easy. I did this as soon as I was made aware of it. It took seconds....Just seconds....  Imagine that! Just think of the people who will donate who might never have before. Or those who mean to donate but just never get around to it. This was so immediate. So fast. So impressive really. In 2 days they have raised $3 Million Dollars, $10 at a time.

You can learn more about the  Red Cross Program Here.

Whole Wheat Artisan Bread

A lot of people find the time after the holidays a letdown. I like the slower pace. Less stuff in the house. Less expectations all around. I'm usually recovering from my own Christmas overindulgence and tend to turn to a  kind of self imposed austerity. I like using up things from the pantry & freezer (I usually don't let anyone near the frozen strawberries or blueberries until Jan, although this year I relented in November.) I also like to cook and bake from scratch at this time of year. Nothing says cosy like a windy storm outside and warm bread baking in the oven.

I have been making this no knead bread from Mother Earth News. It turns out beautifully. It's easy. I made it for stuffing for Thanksgiving and it's pretty impressive when you have people over. (my friend Kristin's is better than mine  because she has a baking stone)  It's made with completely white flour though and we  normally eat whole wheat so it's not ideal for every day. (And it's so good that it's probably better if I don't have enough around to eat it every day.) I've tried making the loaf with whole wheat but it results in a pretty dense loaf that I could possibly use as a home protection device should the need arise. The nice thing about that loaf is that you can leave the dough in the fridge for up to 14 days and the longer it sits, the more it starts to taste like sourdough.

So I was delighted this month when my copy of Mother Earth News showed up and there was a recipe for a WHOLE WHEAT version. From the same people who came up with the first recipe! Each loaf contains only 1/2 cup white flour which is pretty awesome. I made my first batch yesterday. It turned out super. So super that I now completely want the book that it comes from, Healthy Breads In 5 Minutes A Day.

I didn't take a picture of it and now the darn loaf is half gone!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where Do You Want To Go?

When I was a little girl I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books. After I was done with those, my mom bought me a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. In the back of that book are some pictures taken from the Laura Ingalls homesteads that had been made into museums.

They made sad because  I was never going to get to see them.  I noted the museum at The Surveyor's House was in DeSmet, South Dakota.  I could not imagine ever getting to go there and I knew,my parents would never take me there. We had no reason to travel to South Dakota. I pondered the unfairness of life and that I lived so far away.  South Dakota might as well have been New Delhi.  It was rather depressing.

My parents never did take me there.

I, however, got there anyway. One time, I worked in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a few weeks.  Sioux Falls is about an 1-11/2 hours away from DeSmet. I can't recall how far exactly. Anyway, there was no way I was going to get that close to DeSmet and not go. I took the last day of the business trip as a vacation day, rented a car with my own money, and set off early to realize my childhood dream.

It was a magic day for me. South Dakota is a place visually different from where I live. The clouds were high in the sky and the landscape stretched out far in every direction. The radio plays farm reports and already, in September, there was a cold chill in the air, even though it was a bright sunny day.

I got to the museum and bought a ticket for The Surveyor's House.. I remember saying something like "You have no idea what this means to me." to the woman at the counter and she just looked at me. Of course she did, she probably hears that same line 100 times a week. It was no less true for me though.

When I got over to the house I had to wait a few minutes for someone to come and open it up. While I was waiting, a car pulled and a woman and her son got out while the dad idled at the curb.  He finally shut the car off when she motioned for him to. We said hello and I told her I was waiting to go in and asked if she was too. She got all teary eyed and explained that they had already come 30 min out of their way on their journey somewhere else and that her husband didn't want to spend anymore time or money to go in....She said she had always wanted to come here and she was never again going to get the chance so she at least wanted to SEE IT....I got teary too.

To come all that way. And be so close.... And not get to go in. OH MY GOD.....

The door opened and I went in and  gave her a little wave as I did. (I guess dreams are like that sometimes aren't they? Some people get to come along, some people don't.)

I stood in the doorway of the pantry which is made up to look like how Laura saw it for the first time.
I stood at the graves of Ma & Pa and Mary Ingalls (Laura and Almanzo are buried in Missouri.)  I went to the other museum at  Pa & Ma's house.  I saw Mary's piano. I stood on Main street where Pa's store had been and tried to imagine a blizzard such that I could not see across the street.  I stood at the site of Pa's original claim and TOUCHED THE COTTONWOOD TREES THAT HE PLANTED FOR HIS GIRLS (Can you say chills down my spine!) I saw Laura and Almanzo's claim and imagined a little white house on fire. The entire day I was giddy with excitement.

I thought of this whole post because when I was at Wegmans today I bought a book from the Bargain Table-1000 Places to go in the US & Canada before you die. (Which included the homestead in DeSmet) I've been feeling some wanderlust lately and an intense need for newness.  It made me think about all the places I want to go and all the things I want to do before I die and the many morals I could draw from the above story. (From don't give up your dreams to don't marry a man who won't give you an hour to live out one of yours.)

But really, I probably wrote it as a reminder to myself. I do have a lot of places I want to go but sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees. Just like that little girl back in my childhood bedroom who knew she was never going to find herself standing in The Surveyor's House in South Dakota, I doubt.  I worry.  I plan. I plan to plan.  I wonder. I don't always Believe... Belief is hard. Sometimes harder than actual doing. No one taught me that I could do whatever I wanted. WHATEVER I WANTED. I have come to that conclusion on my own. And while I know it to be true, sometimes it bears repeating to my un-trusting mind.

Do you have somewhere that you want to go that you haven't yet?

Why not?


I have been to the Surveyor's House. It was amazing...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Princess And The Frog

Today I took my girl to her first movie in a theater! (Yes, Jacquie, I know, Amish child....)

We have been to the planetarium before which is very much like the movies. Why am I defending this? Possibly because it makes it sound like I'm part of some weird religious sect that I've never taken my 5 year old to the movies before....It just really has not come up.

We saw the Disney movie, The Princess And The Frog. It was really pretty great. It was a lovely looking movie and the story line is by far, the most far reaching one in terms of messages to little girls. The main character is not looking for a husband, much less a prince. She's working hard so that she can own her own restaurant.  The music is good. The frog is funny. At the end, my daughter turned to me and said, "That was a perfect movie!" and it pretty much was. 

It's probably the best Disney princess movie there is, although personally I would rank it right behind , Beauty and the Beast, due to the bookish Belle, and the fact that she loves the beast, AS THE BEAST. While he is still horrible looking. (And he's actually not horrible looking as a beast, but then again, I tend to like facial hair.....) As the prince he looks a little too much like Fabio....

We took homemade popcorn ( I like to make it on the stove in a pan) with, what else, real butter on top and our own drinks. When I was younger my mother's habit of bringing snacks to movies always embarrassed the crap out of me. It really did. Her bag was kind of ugly and rather obvious and she carried it kind of like a cooler. I felt like the whole world knew we were sneaking in forbidden food and thought we were poor. Silly child, I know. These days I carry it in a pretty Vera Bardley bag that could very well be a large purse. I'm not trying to hide it mind you and I'm no longer embarrassed about it, I just can't abide paying $7 or whatever it is for buttery flavoring....   As an adult I get it. I'm just wondering if my daughter will as she gets older or if she's going to be cringing when I hand out ziplock bags of popcorn...

We don't Need No Stinkin' Snuggies

Today I noticed that something that I own looks suspiciously like a Snuggie already.

My bathrobe.

It's long and fleecey and even has a hood (which I don't wear) Alas, it is not leopard print. But when turned around, works much the same way as the Sunggie. How do I know this? Well I tried it out of course. And laughed the whole time.

After dinner tonight I announced my new discovery and got the bathrobe out. At one point soon after that ,all 3 of us had our bathrobes on like Snuggies. I noted that the hood could be used to store remote controls or catch food from falling on the couch (because if I'm going to be a couch potato I might as well be sloppy to boot!)

I was joking about it because I really do want the leopard print one and I'm not about to go walking around my house with my bathrobe on backward. However, after I put my daughter to bed, I came downstairs and there was my husband, sitting on the couch, wearing his darn bathrobe backward while using the laptop.... Seriously.... I don't even know what more to say about that.....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Scrambled Eggs

Yup, this post is really about scrambled eggs. I didn't use that title as a pithy little intro about my biological clock or anything like that. I'm really talking about chicken eggs....

I make really great scrambled eggs. Jen thinks I make the best scrambled eggs ever and lets me make them whenever we see each other. Or perhaps it's that fact that I'm critical about the scrambled egg endeavors of others and she just doesn't  want to be bothered with my bitching.

Ok, I know there are other things in the world that one might want to brag about. Harder more complicated things to cook.  This might seem like a pretty small accomplishment, almost not worth mentioning. Scrambled eggs. But a lot of people get them wrong.

I'm not one of them.

There are a few key things that you must and must not do and I am going to share these with you today.

Scramble your eggs with a little water. I mean like a teaspoon per egg (not like the one in your silverware drawer, like a real teaspoon-you don't need to measure this-just be aware of this. Of course if you have no clue what a real teaspoon of water looks like you may want to check it out.) Now just mix it all up. Don't beat the hell out of them. You don't need to totally incorporate your white into your yoke. Gently is your key word here. Use a fork. Don't be a spaz.

Melt some butter. Ok this is important. I use a stainless steel pan so I need to do this. Otherwise the eggs stick like crazy in it. But even if you use non-stick, MELT SOME DAMN BUTTER IN IT. And I mean REAL butter. Forget the non-stick spray. That is why your eggs suck.

I'm going to take a small aside and talk about butter for a minute. Most of you know I love butter. You know what-Life is way to short to use crappy margarine. Really people. Butter is not going to kill you. Neither is real cream in your coffee for that matter. It's the other crap you eat that might kill you, but butter won't be the culprit. Trust me, my father had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass and eats margarine and those flavored fat free coffee creamers.  That didn't help him....It won't help you. Enjoy your life a little more. Eat some butter.

So back to your pan with some melted butter. Use enough so your eggs don't stick. I use about med high heat. Pour the eggs in and let them set for 20-30 seconds. I like a heat resistant spatula for this next part.  Gently fold the eggs over on themselves. Keep folding. Don't get all crazy and stir them around. You'll end up breaking them apart too much like that. Again, gentle.....

Ok here is the CRUCIAL step. Just BEFORE you feel the eggs are done. Like you think "These eggs are almost done." At that point take the eggs OFF the heat. Then fold them over again. The eggs will finish cooking in the pan. You won't be eating runny eggs. I promise. If you wait until the eggs are done then you will over cook them. They will be hard and dry and you'll have to eat them with burnt toast with margarine and coffee with fake cream in it.... (and I do know so many of my  friends use this creamer, don't worry. I still love you. I can even find pleasure in it myself sometimes...I just prefer the real thing.)

Now another step for the more advanced. If you want cheese in your eggs, you NEVER, EVER, EVER mix the cheese into the eggs when you scramble them up. Put the cheese into the eggs at the time that you take the eggs off the heat. Just fold it all in. There is no way that your cheese needs to cook for as long as your eggs do. Additionally, some cheeses will give off a lot of water and you'll end up with a runny mess if you add the cheese and eggs to the pan from the beginning. Just don't do it. You might as well start from scratch if you do.

Add salt and pepper after the eggs are done. Not before they are cooked.

If you want to add veggies, cook them up before you add the eggs, unless we are talking spinach and then add that with some feta cheese at the cheese time mentioned above.

It's all really about the butter and the heat, use them both well.

Happy Eating!

Friday, January 1, 2010

"We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

                                -- Edith Lovejoy Pierce