Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Gift from Mimi

My cousin Donald's wife, Mimi, has taken up watercolor late in her life. I've been very impressed with her talent and choice of subject matter. She reads my blog, so she knows I love lichen and sent this watercolor as a Christmas gift.
I LOVE it!!

What I love even more is that she uses her resources wisely and painted the lichen on the back of another watercolor that I love too.
What to do???????

I love both pictures a great deal, so I'm thinking on how to have them both framed. They are both huge gifts for me. The Blackcap Jam from Rachel was right up there at the top too. Anyway, I want to publicly thank Mimi for her generous gifts to me!

Monday, December 21, 2009

'My Christmas Gifts' 2009

The special gifts I made this year for my friends is festive cranberry sauce.
It is pretty, it is hard to stay out of, and it is easy to make.
My recipe calls for 8 cups of cranberries. I buy the bags of fresh ones when they are on sale and freeze them if there isn't time to put them up when I buy them.
So, you can use fresh or freshly frozen berries.
It is important to go through the bags of berries to discard the overripe/underripe ones.
By the time you have done this you have about 2 cups. It takes 4 bags for this recipe.
While I sort through the berries I bring 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar to a boil on a meduim high setting. Boil for about 5 minutes.
I use evaporated cane juice crystals because they are a kind of sugar that has not been bleached or processed to the point of losing the molasses.
When the water/sugar concoction has boiled for 5 minutes, add the 8 cups of fresh cranberries. Do not stir. You can see that I made the mistake of stirring and have foam to deal with. I don't mind it a bit, but you don't want to give foam away as a gift! The berries boil on meduim high until most of them have split their skins. You can hear the 'popping' as they do this while you putter around the kitchen with this activity. It takes about 10 minutes for this part.

You can see beside the cranberries a small saucepan with 7 lids and screw caps. I've washed them and am boiling them for about 5 minutes in about 3 inches of water. In the oven are 7 clean jars in a pan with about an inch of water at 220 degrees for 20 minutes.

When the berries are ready, fill the jars, wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth, place lids and screw caps on, and process for 10 minutes.
I use a steamer canner rather than a boiling water bath because it take much less time. I've used this steamer canner since we lived in Misery (Missouri, to some) in the 80's, so I know it is a time-saving way to process many foods.

Voila! Here is the finished product with labels for whom they are to be given.
My DH loves this stuff, putting it on pound cake for dessert if we haven't had chicken for dinner. He would eat it right out of the jar if I'd let him!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Favorites

This blog is for Jackie, who moved me to share some of my favorite decorations. After my last post containing pictures and instructions for my favorite Christmas activity (at Thanksgiving) I want to share some pics of the first decoration that ALWAYS goes before others, usually on Thanksgiving day.
The nativiy scene below was created and constructed by my children; other family member, friends and my students who became enamored of this event have contributed some of the elements rounding out the scene.
There is money which my friend Carol brought back from Israel in the forground along with tiny wrapped gifts. The covered basket was sent to me while serving in China in 2001. It contains tiny dolls. The 'babe' in the basket is a doll that came attached to a larger doll we bought for my daughter when we had our famous $5.00 Christmas. That was all the money we had for each child in 1987. I bought the doll with this tiny dolly attached to her wrist, made clothing from scraps in an old trunk and bought a $.25 suitcase at a yard sale that I lined with white brocade from the trunk too. Anyway, we used this dolly that first Christmas in the state of Misery to enhance the nativity creation. Students have bought and given me stone elephants, cows, angels, camels, and cats to place around the scene too. This is my favorite decoration because of the fond memories of my children and their childhood, along with the fact that it represents the Reason for the season.

Above you can see one of my husband's favorite tree decorations, made by his daughter when she was a child, a popcycle sled with her name onit. I was out of town when he got the tree, and when I returned he'd not only put it up, but had decorated it...something I've never experienced before. It was somewhat sad not to have participated, but he found great joy in doing it by himself.

Another favorite decoration of mine is this cloisonne` ornament I bought at the factory in Bejing when I 'missioned' in China for the first time in the summer of 2000.

The 'icicles' are my favorites too. They came from an antique lamp that was no longer usable. Removing the pendants from the lamp, I tucked them away for decorations the next year and have used them for about 20 years now.

The lack of light, even with a flash, makes our tree look a little sad, kind of Charlie Brown-ish. We are happy with it being small because the living space is pretty full of our regular lives. This Christmas will be quite different in many ways. We will celebrate with only a few family members, I will be recovering from surgery and will not be in on too much dinner preparation, and I will miss my children unendingly. As Zora Neal Hurston says in her book Their Eyes Were Watch God, (and you must say this with a southern accent) "Chilrens gots to have theys own lives." And mine do.
I'm very happy with a simple Christmas, few decorations that don't become tiresome after 20 days, and a quaint, old-fashioned tree. The nativiy is one the grandchildren who live close by can play with too, which warms my heart.
A warm heart, family memories, fudge...for what more could we ask???

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stained Glass Window Christmas Wrap, Part 2

Here are a couple pictures of the finished product.
As you can see they are really beautiful.
The paper used for these was cheap and sparkly paper from the Dollar Store.

This project is definitely worth the effort and little expense for the food coloring.

Stained Glass Window Christmas Wrap

When the Thanksgiving dinner is over, cleaned up and in hiding for latecomers and snackers I bring out the first of the fun Christmas activities.
We put on Elvis's Blue Christmas album for effect only because that's what we did when my children were young. So this has been going on for about 35 years. We lived in Alfalfa, Oregon when this was first installed as a firm traditon.
Above you see me gathering some of my son's children: Alana, Brianna, and Trenton. Marcus comes in a bit later, after his nap, for the dipping part.
You will need some inexpensive white tissue paper and large bottles of food coloring.
Fan-fold the tissue paper into a long rectangle.
Then fan-fold the rectangle to the point of having a folded piece about 3 inches wide.
You don't have to NEATLY fold! Adults and adept kids can make this activity more interesting by folding the long fan-folded rectangle into triangular folds for the last step. You can see an example of the triangular piece in Trenton's hand below.
This year I used red, green and yellow food coloring, but get blue too if you can. I usually buy 2 bottles of each color so your people can dip as much as they want. I also place an old sheet doubled up on the table for spills.
Holding your piece VERY gently by the top,
dip for 1 full second, lift to let drip,
turn quickly upside down so the color runs.
When the color finishes running, dip into another color. You want as little white showing as posible, and when colors run together you get even more colors. Alana looks a little disappointed in the amount of white on her first one, but has many more opportunities to dip others.

Above, Brianna is happy about her triangle of dipped paper.
You want to dip light colors first, like yellow.

Line up the finished dipped pieces on thick layers of newpaper to dry.
When completely dry(usually the next day) unfold carefully, press with a dry iron and praise each other for the beautious creations! Frame some pieces as gifts, or hang in a dry window for atmospheric effect, or use in gift bags, or wrap your gifts in these treasures.
All my kids and grandkids love this do I!

You may have noticed the drink in front of creation too.
A "Catherine" is sparkling water (Perrier is best) over ice, a slice of lemon and some crushed peppermint stick sprinkled on top, very festive and refreshing... Bon apetit!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

He's a Beauty; don't you think?
Dante Christopher Giordano, my grandson.
Kimber did so well on bedrest for all those weeks of never knowing whether he could stay in long enough to develop fully. He came 4 weeks early, and he's perfect. Her milk had not come in, and skin-to-skin time is vital in stimulating it. Here they are, skin-to-skin.

He is bright eyed and alert and weighing only 5 pounds here.

He rests beside a doll dressed in 'newborn' size clothes and wearing the booties for
which his Great-grandma Boothby (my mom) is famous.

His Daddy was able to stay for his birth due to the Red Cross's efforts to delay his going back to Iraq for some days. Chris's own dad had tripple by-pass heart surgery the same day Dante was born, an eventful R and R from the war!

I was gone for nearly 2 months caring for Isabella and Kimber before Chris came home and before the baby came, then afterwards until Kimber could drive and take care of much around the house. She has learned to order groceries online and have them delivered; she has learned to depend on busy family members and Isabella.
I praise God for all He has done in this situation!
Not only was His mission accomplished, but mine in "being available" which was the Word He gave me back in April!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

While 'The Cat's' Away

This is what's been growing in my daughter's belly-garden! She looks so good now that she's over the flu and off work, on bedrest and drinking LOTS of fluids for Baby Dante.
She is at 34 weeks now, so he can be 'taken' because there are serious complications. Kimber insists that she feels well (and she does!) enough to drive. Isn't she darling?????
I knitted socks for much of the time I wasn't doing laundry or cleaning and cooking or playing with Isabella. One 'free' afternoon I joined my sister's quilt club for a few hours. The ladies were fun to watch as they made lovely quilts like the one displayed behind me. The shop was only 3 minutes from Kimber's home, so I felt comfortable being gone. It was nice to get our for a small spell and give Kimber some space too.

Also, I had the pleasure of watching Isabella's gymnastics class. She is now a 'Hot Shot' with five other little girls. This is the "Ta-Da" pose they are trained to do after each trick.
They've been doing handstands. And she is good!

We fostered out little Piper for some hectic days we thought we'd be staying at the hospital, but finally brought her home. Isabella really missed her puppy, kissing her, squeezing her, and sleeping with her when she finally arrived. I'm not sure if Piper was as glad to see Isabella as she was to see Piper.

I thank all of you who prayed for me during this stressful time. Round One is over. I've been home for a day, and I'll leave to go back tomorrow because there will be a break in the weather.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kitchen Queen Rides Again

Okay, one more tomato has passed all the tests here. You can tell by my measuring 'stick' how big it is, almost disguising itself as one of those tasty Brandywines.......almost.
Its size and flavor live up to its name:
Super Maarmalade!
After harvesting all my tomatoes yesterday because the temperatures are dipping for good (there is snow on Grangeville Mountain today!) this relentless Amish Paste, below, surpassed all my expectations. This is a washtub full from ONE plant! I gathered 4 washtubs of greeningtomatoes, placing them in a cool dark room.

Salsa has taken a back burner to roasted tomatoes today. The aroma in the house induces me to snack all day long for want of a taste. Below is a mixture of zucchini, garlic and tomatoes covered in a drizzle of olive oil, some kosher salt, a healthy sprinkling of basil and oregano. It took about 2 and a half hours at 350 degrees and warmed up the kitchen right nicely. Thanks for this idea and the recipe help, Connie!

The 'Piece de Resistance':
Green Tomato Pie
(my favorite, next to rhubarb custard)

Green Tomato Pie Recipe
Mix together:
1 1/3 cup sugar
6 2/3 T flour
1 t salt
1/1/3 t cinnamon or nutmeg
4 cups sliced green tomatoes
1 T vinegar
1/1/3 t lemon zest
Let sit while you make the crust of your choice. I always make a whole wheat crust because we don't do white flour any more. Place the filling into the botton crust, add 1 1/3 T butter in pieces on top.
Bake at 425 for 50-60 minutes.
Since I have only 10 inch pie pans I increase everything a little to adjust for a larger pie. You know how to do that, I'm sure.
I felt like the Queen of the Kitchen yesterday. And my DH, who has rules for what he eats (exotic? never eaten it before? "No thank you!"). could not stay out of the pie. After lunch I ask brightly, "Did you get enough?" His reply, with a twinkling eye, was "I think I need a few more vegetables." And, away he took himself to cut a big slice of pie. He is so funny! It is very much like Apple Pie, but not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tastey Tomato 'Keepers'

My new measuring 'stick' is butter these days. We all know how big one is, so it is a perfect comparison tool. You may recall a few blogs ago I used butter to show the size of our plums, which are nearly finished.

You might also recall that I had a 'plant failure' in June because I'd forgotten to take the cover off the plants one day when it finally warmed up. The plants were 'baked', so to speak, and have taken their time in the recovery room. Today, in this Indian Summer weather, I have picked a bucket of luscious keepers.
I would love to be able to grow Brandywines and Principe Borghese, but they don't do well in the cool summers we endure here at 3000 feet near the mountains in Idaho.
The two favorite keepers in the bowl are the Amish Paste Tomatoes we jokingly call our footballs. They are meaty and flavorful. The Fedco catalog touts them as "prolific, good in drought and wet weather. They were also ranked as the 2nd best-tasting variety at the 2006 Heirloom Tomato Tasting at Decorah, IA." This year I was willing to give space for two plants, and will certainly do that again next year! The Cosmonaut Volkov is the other tomato in the bowl. It is "sweet, rich and fullbodied", says the Fedco Catalog, "always good and occasionally sublime." Both of these tomatoes have passed numerous tests here in the high mountain country where the days are short and cool. The heat of summer is short. We've already had one frost that I know of. And these just keep on tickin'!

You can see the plants have recovered quite well.

I am getting about 2 1/2 gallons each day right now. And you KNOW what I do with them if you read the last blog on Salsa!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Splendid Salsa ...Bon Apetit

This is the Splendid Salsa from the farmgirl kitchen where I've been acting like Julia Child is my best friend lately.
I know; I'm so fickle; MaryJane Butters was my best friend two weeks ago.

It is I doing my best Julia Child imitation.
After having seen the movie Julia and Julie I decided that my pearls had spent enough time in their beautiful box. I'm wearing them, along with the darling apron my sister Margy made for me. You KNOW I'm mad for aprons!

Here are the chopped tomatoes, which I usually put in quart freezer baggies and pop into the freezer. Our favorite use for these frozen tomatoes is salsa in the dead of winter. They act like they've never been frozen at all! I also pop limes (after cutting them in half) into the freezer for this recipe. They don't act like they've been frozen either! In fact, they are easier to juice.

Nygous tomatoes are the ones Connie has encouraged me to grow. And this is how I save the seeds of these and other favorites: I cut them on the cutting board and lay a napkin down on top to soak up the seeds. I label and date them, setting them in the sunroom to dry, then store them away for the winter. I've spelled the name wrong on the napkin, but you get the idea.
Anna's Salsa
1 quart of fresh or frozen tomatoes, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime squeezed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
We don't like our salsa hot, but you can add hot stuff (cayenne, tobasco) if you like.
Also, below is the requested recipe for pesto. I just found it on the internet, and there are many variations. This is one I like:
Pesto Sauce for Amuse Bouche
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
Place basil leaves in small batches in food processor and whip until well chopped (do about 3/4 cup at a time). Add about 1/3 the nuts and garlic, blend again. Add about 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese; blend while slowly adding about 1/3 of the olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides of container. Process until it forms a thick smooth paste. Repeat until all ingredients are added, mix all batchs together well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche, (pronounced ah mooz' boosh), is French for something to amuse your mouth (bouche), a tastey treat before dinner, like an hors d'oeuvre. Finally I have tomatoes! I made pesto from fresh basil in the garden, and stuffed these tiny sweet tomatoes. No everyone likes pesto, so I've surrounded the amuse bouche with some wedges for my "Girls Night Out" get together.
This bee is having a little Amuse Bouche too! We inspected honey bees today for the home-school science project to see how much pollen they were carrying. This bee was one of many on the Gailardia today.

Then, one of my favorite plants in the garden, thanks to Connie,
is the tall Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate. I delight in its height and winsome waving of slender arms in a breeze. Hunter and Carson are peeking out to show the height. They are almost as tall as I (not quite 5 feet), so you can see how tall this KMOtGG is!

A new apron!
My friend Lisa gave me a card table size tablecloth from her mother's things. It is the most darling apron I've made. And I'm keepin' this one! I could eat it up...another little amuse bouche ;).

Friday, September 4, 2009

Table for Two?

I have longed for a spot on the patio to set up a table for a romatic lunch or sweet tea time with a friend. My DH removed his table saw from the patio while I was gone to western Washington to care for my daughter and grand-daughter. Today I spent hours out there removing other items, storing garden equipment in a better fashion and setting up this little piece of heaven. The flowers are from the garden. The plums are just now ripening.
Would you get a look at the size of these puppies? They are almost as big as puppies, come to think of it!

My dear daughter, Kimber, with baby Dante beginning to show pretty well in front has been so sick with this pregnancy, suffering a raging ear infection for two weeks on top of morning sickness all day long even now at 27 weeks. She has recovered now and is back to work.

Isabella and I love to play beauty shop where she braids my very short hair, doctor where she fills my belly button with sparkly lip gloss and school where she is the bossy teacher, calling me Elizabeth, and telling me to be the snack monitor today.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hollyhocks...and more

by Dorothy Aldis
Larkspur and Hollyhock,
Pink Rose and Purple Stock,
Lovely smelling Mignonette
Lilies not quite opened yet,
Phlox the favorite of bees,
Bleeding Heart and Peonies -
Just their names are nice to say,
On a summer's day.
The above are not the named flowers in the poem, but just as exquisite.
My sister, Margy, recited this poem for us about a year ago on a garden tour as we left Connie's on a VERY hot day.
Below, this hollyhock is tiny in stock only; its flowers are normal size!
Is this the Drama Queen, Connie?
The unfolding and opening of one my bold pink favorites.

The face of this hollyhock is everybit as complicated as ours, and surprisingly lovely with no make-up or new hairdo!
I may have had to buy a lug of tomatoes to put up yesterday,
but my flowers flouish.