Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lamb, Lentils and Lemons

"A Confession: watching almost any animal for long enough makes me wonder how it tastes." -Andrew Beahrs, Twain's Feast

Tis the season for lamb -new lambs are being born now, and last year's lambs have just been butchered. The reality of home raised food is that our meat has a face. I've spent the last two days packaging lamb for the freezer, and thinking of all the different and delicious ways to cook and serve lamb: roast leg of lamb, lamb chops (we had some last night for dinner and they were delicious!), lamb shanks, lamb burgers, shepherds pie, lamb curries, and lamb stews. I made a dozen packages of cubed lamb -and thought of stews. Lamb goes well with lentils -they're paired frequently in many ethnic recipes- and I plan to make these three variations on lamb and lentil stew starting with the Mediterranean-style tonight. They all begin with the same base of browned lamb, onions, broth and lentils, and finish with the addition of lemon juice. The variation is in the spices (and vegetables) added, and the possibilities seem almost endless.

Lamb, Lentils and Lemon Stews
To make in a crock-pot, heat a large skillet or caste iron pan. To make in a pressure cooker, or an enameled Dutch oven, heat and add:
2 T. olive oil
Add and brown:
1 1/2 lbs. cubed lamb stew meat (with or without bones)

Add and cook a few minutes:
3 minced or sliced garlic cloves
1 c. chopped onion or leeks
1 chopped carrot

1 c. dried green lentils
2 c. stock or water
1/2 - 1 t. salt
1/8 - 1/4 t. ground black pepper

For Mediterranean-style (adapted from allrecipes.com) add:
14 oz. can or 1 pint jar diced tomatoes
1/2 t. each Italian seasoning, dried thyme, sage and basil

For Curried-style (adapted from Molly Wizenberg) add:
1-2 T. curry powder
1-2 t. garam masala

For Moroccan-style (adapted from Lorna Sass) add:
8-10 pitted prunes
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. garam masala
1 lb. eggplant, peeled and cubed

For cooking in a pressure cooker, lock on the lid and bring to high pressure. Cook for 12 minutes then allow to drop naturally. If using an enameled Dutch oven, simmer covered until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. To make in a crock-pot, brown meat, add the rest of the ingredients, and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Stir in 1-2 T. lemon juice to taste before serving. Serve with additional lemon wedges and if desired, any of the following toppings of choice: sliced green onion, yogurt and minced mint, or crumbled feta cheese. Vegetables can also be added during cooking: potatoes or Swiss Chard added with the lentils, or spinach during last few minutes of the cooking time -or leave them and the carrots out. One can't go wrong with a stew of lamb and lentils.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Orange Marmalade and Cranberry Sauce

Unless you have Hungarian Goulash for Thanksgiving dinner, as my turkey hating daughter in Austin did this year (proving wrong what I said about people wanting turkey on Thanksgiving even if they don't love turkey), cranberry sauce is an essential part of Thanksgiving. And for most of us who like, or even love roast turkey, it is naked without cranberry sauce. I think the best part of the big roast bird is all the leftovers the next day -the plethora of recipes using leftover roast turkey meat; a plate of turkey and cranberry sauce, and stuffing and potatoes, covered with gravy; a pie sampler with a dollop of ice cream; or a sliced potato roll, with mayo, turkey, and cranberry sauce.

Several years ago, my youngest (not the turkey hating) daughter started making our cranberry sauce for Turkey Day. She follows the directions on the bag, and adds a half-pint of orange marmalade at the end of the cooking time. The orange and cranberry flavors go well together to create a sauce that's quite fan-fabulously special. It is a cinch to make -if you have orange marmalade on hand. We depleted our orange marmalade stash this weekend, by making several batches of this amazing cranberry sauce, and so it is time for me to make more orange marmalade, a chore I'm more than happy to do. Oranges and lemons are readily available in the stores now, and there are no other preserving projects on the horizon. Making the orange marmalade is pretty straightforward. Spread out over two or three days, it is a small batch artistic preserving project, rather than my more usual kitchen garden profusion preserving projects, and it fills the kitchen with the most heavenly scent -reason enough for me to make several batches.

Orange Marmalade
4 thin-skinned oranges, preferably organic
2-3 lemons, preferably organic
Wash fruit and slice very thin. Remove and discard seeds and cores.
Measure the sliced fruit and for each cup, add 2 1/2 c. cold water (or just add 6 c. water). Let stand 6-24 hours.

The next day, heat fruit mixture to boiling. Cook until tender, 15-30 minutes. Again let stand 6-24 hours.

On the third day, measure fruit mixture and add an equal amount of sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and cook to jelly stage (about 10-20 minutes, but it can take much longer. Cook and test until it jells on a small plate placed in the freezer for 5 minutes). Pour into 3-4 half-pint jars and seal. Process in water bath for 5-10 minutes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Potato Rolls

Thanksgiving is about the food. At some point in many a cook's culinary life, we decide we want to do something different for the feast. When we tentatively announce we're thinking about making this 'new thing,' the truth comes out that most everyone just wants the old things. They want the same old traditional foods with their Norman Rockwell appeal, and they want the same leftovers. Most of us want the turkey (even if we don't really love turkey) with stuffing, the mashed potatoes and gravy, the traditional family side dishes (whatever those may be), and pie -several kinds if we're greedy (and I am very, very greedy). We are all receptive to a new dessert, or vegetable side dish added -as long as we still get to have the same traditional ones we've always had. For Thanksgiving, as with all the other holiday dinners, my family always definitely wants to have my Grandma Arlene's Potato Rolls. Some years, as we plan to do this year, we drive to Oregon to be with my husband's family for the day. My youngest daughter makes her special cranberry sauce (she adds a half-pint of orange marmalade as it cooks), we usually contribute a vegetable, and I always bring potato rolls made the day before.

This is my cherished copy of the recipe, written by my grandmother Arlene. I usually halve the quantities, and make a few minor changes -substituting honey for sugar, butter for shortening, and buttermilk for milk. And it's usually cold here, so I often use Rapid Rise Yeast which will help it raise a bit faster.

Potato Rolls

Combine in a small bowl and leave 5 minutes:
1/4 c. water
1 T. rapid rise yeast (or regular yeast)

1/2 c. hot mashed potatoes
1/4 c. melted butter
1/4 c. honey
2 t. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten

In a large stand mixer bowl, combine frothy yeast, potato mixture, and 2 c. bread flour. Beat well. Add more flour to make a soft dough (2-3 c. more), change to dough hook and knead well (6-8 minutes longer, if kneading by hand). Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place (if you have one) to rise until doubled in size (1-2+ hours). Deflate and raise again. Shape into balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Rise again for 10-20 minutes or so (they are best if you are patient with this rising). Bake 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Makes 2 dozen rolls.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Update: Sherecie's Sexy Knee Hi Socks!

Sherecie's sexy knee hi socks -these are so cool!

And her kitty is pretty cute, too!

Crafts and Cocktails

I am absolutely delighted with the adults that my nieces, nephews, and own three children have become. Knowing all of them, and being a part of their lives, is a constant joy and wonder to me. The two youngest in this photo will both graduate from high school this year and Sherecie, in the hat, is now an amazing knitter, and quickly on her way to becoming a phenomenal spinner.

She swears she doesn't text and drive, but I did catch her texting and spinning this weekend! She told me, "If I'm not eating, sleeping or working, I'm knitting." I don't think she's exaggerating! She's wonderfully enthusiastic and passionate about fiber, and like most really passionate knitters that I know, completely insane! She came for a farm visit this weekend, and brought her mom...

Shelly, The Dessert Queen, who is married to my youngest brother, and...

her sister, Aliesha, who spun on a wheel for the first time! We talked and ate, and talked and drank cocktails, and talked and worked on our crafts. It was so much fun! Sherecie finished a pair of knee hi socks she's been knitting (I wish I'd gotten a photo), showed off her new Lady Bug Spinning Wheel, and spun some Peruvian wool she'd bought. When the girls were young, I often would bring my kids and stay with them at the ranch (and later at the beach), or Shelly would drive up to our house in Everett. Shelly and I would quilt, Sherecie was always doing one kind of craft or another, the kids would play, we'd go on little adventures, cook great foods, talk, and just enjoy being together.

The big question is: What do you bake when the Dessert Queen comes for a visit? I decided to bake the Georgia Special Cake recipe, poking the cake after taking it out of the oven and pouring on the pineapple juice drained from the can of crushed pineapple. Yes, it was yummy! They brought Prosecco, red wine, a chocolate cake, chocolate, and chocolate covered edamames, and Sherecie gave me a knitting book. I love it; there's probably half a dozen projects I want to make in this book of a dozen knit handbags! Thanks-you, Thanks-you, Thank-you! I made a Pina Colada for Sherecie, and everyone had my version of a cosmopolitan for our crafts and cocktails night. It was so much fun, that I'm definitely going to make it an annual event from now on.

Country Cosmopolitan

Mix in a water glass (or a pint jar):

1 c. ice cubes

Cran-Raspberry juice (fill glass or jar 3/4 full)

1 1/2 oz. Absolut Vodka

1/2 oz. Raspberry Liqueur, homemade or Chateau Monet

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

The Pretty Purly Knit Markers I discovered on Etsy are absolutely lovely and just what every knitter needs -or maybe just wants. I bought some recently and they are completely charming, well constructed, and really beautiful too.

Knotty Knitters 2011 Calendar is a Helen Mirren Calendar Girls style fund raising effort for autism. I haven't seen it yet, but what's not to love about it?

Drinking the Italian wine, Prosecco always makes me happy. I always say that if I was really wealthy, I would always have some of this in my fridge. I do have two cups of coffee every morning, and we can afford to buy a bottle of wine when we want, so I do feel wealthy with these consistent luxuries in my daily life.

The color green (less minty-colored and more 1930's than this photo's showing) that I just painted our bedroom and...

...the emerald green of this yarn. I'm knitting the brocade square, part of the square a month project Tandy in the SKG is doing for us. I love it! I love that I can use an odd skein or two of my yarn to make each square, and that it is a project done in small increments over the year to create something big.

Any and all grandmother stories and recipes. There is so much they have to share. "By this point, we have all been through one kind of hell or another." -author Terry McMillan

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Red Star Quilt

Quilts are like families -they are pulled together- sometimes planned but oftentimes not. They can be quite humble or quite grand, made from high quality or cheap and even tacky fabric, and neither of which necessarily determines the charm or integrity of the finished quilt sewn together. Love and patience can create a beautiful thing from very little, as sloppiness and lack of care can destroy great potential -both in quilts and families.

I love quilts and I love quilting. I love the stories every quilt has to tell, even though many of their stories we never know, or only know incompletely. Touching an old handmade quilt gives only a hint of its history and of its maker or makers. Even if its completely unknown, quilts all have a story and that is why I am drawn to them. I intimately know the story of some parts of this quilt, very vague bits of other parts, but no one really knows all of it.

The stars were hand pieced by my father's grandmother, Ovanda Hawes Noyes, who at one time was quite the accomplished quilt maker, judging from what she left behind. My grandmother (her hired girl, and later daughter-in-law) told me that all her finished quilts were given to the more favored daughter-in-law, so I never saw any of them. My grandmother at one point, cared for both her parents and her husband's elderly parents (all at the same time, at one point) in her home, which was the same ranch house I grew up in. Her uncompleted quilts were left there, and miraculously (or meticulously, I should say), stored away. When I was in my thirties, I took up hand piecing and hand quilting with a passion, and my mom gave the uncompleted quilts to me when I expressed an interest in them.

Two year before my parents were to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, I had the idea to get as many friends and families as possible, to contribute a quilt block to put together as an anniversary quilt. I knew I would need a year to hand quilt a queen size quilt, so it was a big project that required planning, but it could be done. Red was chosen as the main color, being my mother's favorite color, and the color of these pieced stars made by my father's grandmother. The idea was received with great enthusiasm, and it was really lovely what people created for the different blocks -each was unique and incredibly wonderful. My sister-in-law and I got together with our six kids (ages 5-11) for a long weekend (or was it a week?) at my house in Everett (she was then living at the ranch house), and we helped each of them make a simple four square quilt block to contribute.

Between the time I received everyone's blocks and actually put them together, in February my father was told he had one year to live. He had survived lung cancer for 11 years, after having two separate lung operations that had removed 1/2 and 2/3 of each of his lungs. He died in October, his funeral was held on my mom's birthday, and it was all incredibly heart wrenching. Later, I decided to go ahead and complete the quilt for my mom. I put all the blocks together and -LITERALLY- the day before I began to hand quilt it, she called to tell me one of the changes she was making in her life was she was getting a much smaller bed. So, I restructured her quilt, but going from a queen to a twin size, required leaving several blocks out. I couldn't bear to not include what everyone had sent me, so I took out these stars and the blocks the kids had done. Needless to say, she was overwhelmed the following year when we gave her the quilt for her birthday at a family dinner. Now, ten years later, she's taken the parts I had to leave out and made them into this quilt to give to me. Like most quilt labels, this one indicates the journey of the creation of the quilt and the thread traveling through the generations, but it leaves out the heartbreaks, the untidy complications, and the many lost details that go into the making of a quilt -and a family.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tamale Pie

Even by my standards, this is a rather lame photo. Please remember, looks aren't everything. The infamous Marion Cunningham wrote she always wanted to open a tamale shop called Holey Moley Tamales and serve this as the house specialty, seeing it as a rare example of more being better in a dish. I made this last night, and for the life of me, try as I might, I can't remember the first time I ever made this. I remember making it early on when we were just a young couple, I remember making it when I had 9 tots around the table in my home day care, and I remember it being devoured my a trio of teens and their friends, but I can't remember where I got the recipe (The Oregonian's FoodDay?). Tamale Pie is just something I've always made, and I will say, it is universally well received by all. It can easily be made vegetarian, or bare essentials style, or holey moley style, with anything you might want to add. It is a fabulous week night supper recipe: the-little-pan-that-can, bake until bubbly, satisfaction at its best.

Tamale Pie
Using a 6-quart pressure cooker, cook 1 1/2 c. pinto beans in 1 1/2 qts. water at high pressure for 30 minutes. Shut off heat and let pressure drop naturally (Or use two cans of black beans).

Oil or spray a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish, or an 8 inch square and a second dish for freezing unbaked -two for one bonus cooking! Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix in a pot:
1 c. water
1 t. salt
1 c. yellow cornmeal
1 c. boiling water
Cook, stirring until thickened. Spoon into baking dish(es) and spread (or pat out) evenly to form a bottom crust. I sometimes also bake it all in a smaller 7 x 11 inch dish and form a side crust.

In skillet, cook 1-2 lbs ground beef (or pork sausage, or a mix of the two. Omit for vegetarian, or substitute shredded chicken or turkey)
Season with: 1 t. each cumin, chili powder (optional), garlic and salt
1/2 - 1 chopped onion or 1 large leek
1 pint home canned tomatoes, 15 oz can tomato and/or 8 oz can tomato sauce, or 1 c. salsa

Optional additions I didn't use:
4 oz. mild green chili peppers (or minced fresh or frozen jalapeno)
1 bell pepper, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced

Add to skillet, or layer separately:
Well drained beans
15 oz. can or 1 pint home canned (or 1 1/2 c. defrosted frozen) corn
Cover cornmeal crust with this filling or layer components. For this one, I cooked and seasoned the ground beef, then simply layered it with the beans, some sliced leeks and blopped on some salsa. I could only find a shy 1/2 c. in the fridge and no tomatoes in the cupboard and it was still great. This is an extremely flexible casserole that can't go wrong -my favorite kind!

Top with:
1-2 c. grated cheddar cheese
15 oz. can sliced black olives
Bake until bubbly, 20 to 60 minutes. Serve with ketchup, sour cream -and pickled jalapenos!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole is a Thanksgiving classic for many families, but not mine. The truth is before last week, I had never eaten it. A few years ago, my daughter had it at a friend's house, and she came home raving about how amazingly good this bean thing she'd had was. I decided to make it this year with frozen beans, though I think fresh beans (of course) would probably be much better.

I've seen this recipe many times over the years, and also the strategic displays in the grocery aisles, but the main reason I've never made this classic before now was that, to me, fried onions from a can does not sound at all appetizing. On the other hand, this year my husband grew some really nice shallots, and fried shallots definitely does sound appetizing! The addition of fresh mushrooms and tarragon enriches and complements the frozen garden vegetables, making this a scrumptious side dish. Next time I make this, I think I might go completely sans cans, omit the can of mushroom soup, and make a simple roux based mushroom cream sauce instead.

Green Bean Casserole
Defrost one quart frozen beans, drain, and put in casserole dish.

Peel and slice 5-6 shallots into rings. Shake in Ziploc bag with:
1/3 c. flour
1 t. Lawry's seasoning, or paprika
Put in colander and shake to discard excess flour.
Fry in 2+ inches of hot oil. Drain.

In saucepan, melt:
2 T. butter
1/2 lb. chopped fresh mushrooms
Cook until browned without stirring too much.

1 can cream mushroom soup
3/4 can milk (use 1 can for fresh beans)
1 t. lemon juice
1 t. soy sauce
1 T. fresh tarragon (1 t. dried)
Whisk until smooth and bring to a simmer. Pour over beans. Stir. Add half shallots. Stir. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with remaining half of shallots and bake an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Again, a dessert recipe beginning with, 'melt 1 stick of butter.' Blame it on the weather, but I can't help myself and am drawn to these desserts in November. Or blame it on my son, who came home for a visit, after seeing Congo Bars and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins posted together on my blog. Boy, was he disappointed! I had mailed some to his sister in Austin, and taken the rest to my spinning guild meeting, and there was nothing but crumbs left when he stopped by, hungry for home cooked desserts. Good Mom that I am, I immediately whipped up a cake and popped it in the oven, just for him.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is such a 1950's June Cleaver sort of dessert, developed by the Dole company to increase the consumption of canned pineapple. Though I remember having it as a child once or twice, it is a cake that in all honesty, I have no nostalgia for, and that has never been a part of my own personal repertoire. Until now. There is an obscene luridness to its maraschino cherry studded appearance, and though I've made several other more swanky 1990's versions of upside down cake: cranberry, pear and gingerbread cake, and a mango with a cornmeal cake -all very good- I never really was intrigued by the classic pineapple version.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake came into radar range of this same son, and the question, "Why have we never had a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake?" was asked with with the bewildered tone of someone who had been deprived as a child. I hadn't quite realized that my son and husband are both really huge fans of pineapple (who says you can't learn something new about the men you think you know absolutely everything about after 20 and 43 years, respectively?). I stepped up to the oven immediately, and surprisingly, this cake is really quite delicious. Unpretentious, really quick and easy, good warm or cold, both with or without ice cream on the side. And it makes pineapple-lovers very happy.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
In a 10-12 inch caste-iron skillet, melt:
1/2 c. butter
Add: 1/2 c. brown sugar and cook until it thickens and bubbles a bit. Remove from heat.
Arrange pineapple rings from a 20 oz. in skillet. Place maraschino cherries in center of each ring. This is optional if you think they are too weird of a food substance, or like my mom, don't like them.

Beat with mixer:
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. nutmeg
Add flour mix, alternating with:
1/2 c. milk, buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream (I used buttermilk)
Stir, scraping sides of mixer bowl, until smooth, but do not over mix. Pour or spoon cake batter evenly over arranged pineapple in skillet. Bake 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick tests done. Let stand 10 minutes. Run knife around edge of skillet, if necessary, then invert onto large plate. Serve warm or cold, with or without ice cream. Personally, I like to have a slice with a cup of coffee for breakfast, but I suppose it's not the sort of thing everyone likes first thing in the morning.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More Color of November

The squash, Delicata, acorn and Gold Nugget, harvested a few days ago after our first light frost.

My current knitting project, Brooke's Column of Leaves Hat pattern, using my last skein of a yarn I made awhile ago. A friend gave me a lovely yarn she had bought in Italy, and I plied it with a single of my handspun to create this yarn, the color of November.

And there's something about baking in November that draws me to recipes beginning with, "melt 1 stick of butter." Like these pumpkin Chocolate Chip mini-muffins. You SO want to make these, with or without the almonds. They are really great for make ahead, or take along, breakfasts or snacks. I take them to family reunions, and overnight visits, add them to gift baskets, and send them in care and holiday packages. I have been making them for years, being a big fan of all things pumpkin, and even those who are not big fans of pumpkin like them. Of course, when I say pumpkin, I mean a sugar pumpkin or squash, and not a jack-o-lantern pumpkin. These muffins were made with the leftovers from a baked Gold Nugget -good texture, not too moist, vividly orange and excellent flavor.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Muffins by Elizabeth Alston

1/2 c. butter
Cool and add:
1 c. mashed squash or pumpkin
2 eggs
1 c. chocolate chips

1 1/3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. each nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. sliced or chopped, slivered almonds (optional)

Fold pumpkin mix into flour mix just until moistened. Scoop into greased or paper-lined muffin cups (12 regular size or 24 mini). Bake 350 degrees, 20-25 minutes (13-15 minutes for mini-muffins), Cool on rack and store in airtight container, preferably for one to two days.

Butterscotch Brownies from a recipe in a 1960's Ladies Home Journal Cookbook that I bought at a yard sale while on a camping trip with my Auntie Marilyn and toddler daughter. Butterscotch Brownies plus walnuts and chocolate chips make Congo Bars. These are worthy of the Dessert Queen, herself.

Congo Bars

Melt in a pot:
1/2 c. butter

Add: 2 c. brown sugar (almost a 1 lb. bag)
Stir to dissolve. Beat in:
2 eggs -one at a time
1 t. vanilla

In a bowl mix:
1 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
Add and stir until mixed well. In all honesty, I just add the flour and all into the pot, giving it a quick fluff before stirring.

1 c. chopped walnuts (gathered and given to me by my Auntie Marilyn. I so appreciate them -and her!)
1/2 - 1 c. chocolate chips

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish and bake 325-350 for 25 minutes. Cool a bit and cut into bars.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's for Dinner?

It may sound incredibly odd (or pathetically lame), but for me, many of the most interesting conversations I have with anyone are about what they cook and eat at home. Not necessarily the Wow! things, but I find the everyday grind things interesting too, as well as what their mom made when the cupboard was bare, the first things they learned to cook, and what they cook for their families now. Last night, I made hash with chopped blue potatoes and red onions fried up with some diced leftover meats. Fry or boil an egg and plop it on top (or on the side), with or without ketchup, and that's dinner. Not fancy, but filling, inexpensive, quick and easy farm food for when it's cold outside.

For tonight, I put some pork country ribs in my crock-pot, added a leftover tablespoon of garlic butter from the French Onion Soup we made a couple nights back, and some homemade BBQ sauce that takes about two minutes to mix up. The ribs will cook all day (while I'm painting my bedroom, among other things), I'll buy some rolls and shred the meat for sandwiches, make a coleslaw, and Ta-Dah -dinner. If you read this, please comment. I really would love to know for tonight, yesterday or tomorrow -What's for dinner?

It's Cold Outside

I love driving our 1970 VW bus around. Kids enthusiastically give it the peace sign and I drive it more mindfully than our other car. It is amazing how much stuff, or how many people, you can fit into one of these, and several bags of poultry feed or a bale of hay easily fit in the back. It is really, really fun for summer road trips, and for taking my booth stuff to the farmer's market -everything fits with tons of room to spare.

Yesterday, when I stepped outside to make a trip to the feed store in our trusty green machine, I noticed the cold was lingering past the usual morning chill and the reality, that driving a VW bus in the winter is exactly like driving a refrigerator down the road, hit me as it does every year at this time. Now, one of my few personal rules for here is no whining, ranting or venting, so I will simply note that it's cold outside -and not just in the mornings.

I went back inside and dug out my fingerless gloves from their warm weather storage. They are perfect for driving the VW bus around and keep my hands relatively warm, but they are not so good for feeding hay to the flock, as you can imagine. They are well received among the teen and young adults, if you are starting to think about knitting projects for gifts -tis the season after all. I've made half a dozen pair or so over the past few years, and will say on the plus side they use very little yarn, are very hip and are a very practical gift (my favorite kind). On the negative side, hands are like people, sizes and shapes vary, and I had to adjust and accommodate for mine to fit some vastly different ones. And then there are all those fingers to knit and join. That said, any glove pattern will work, I just add a bit of ribbing instead of finishing the fingertips.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From Buckley to Baja

My cousin, Michelle lives in Buckley, an hour and a half drive from me. Yesterday, she brought her two little girls to visit. Last year, one of her little darlings wanted only two things for Christmas. One was a bunny, which absolutely melts my heart. Mom is holding firm though, and instead of having their own, she says they can come to my house and hold the bunnies here.

So they come to visit and hold the bunnies. Yesterday, they almost got their mom to take this one home. Almost, but not quite. My cousin has always lived near Seattle, but when we were kids she visited the ranch often. There is a symmetry to her bringing her girls to visit me now.

I got some good belly laughs while swinging with them: going high (but not too high because I might get scared), almost falling off the swing, and almost getting close enough to mom to get their mucky boots on her. For whatever reason, kids find this absolutely hilarious -moms not so much.

And we went to see the new lamb, of course. And of course, they wanted to pet it, but we didn't get even close to almost. Our mother's are sisters. My aunt lives in Eastern Washington, but comes over to visit her granddaughters often, and will be with them in just a few days. Her birthday was yesterday -Happy Birthday, Auntie Marilyn! I'm sending her the best hugs possible, grandchildren hugs. Our family is far-flung, but technology and travel keep us in touch.

My mom (in red) was part of an annual paella competition last week in Baja Mexico, and she sent me pictures. She bought this impressive 32" paella pan for the occasion. If you are inspired, Your Best Paella, is a weekly on-line contest with all the past winning paella recipes available. They ALL look really scrumptious (I'm thinking the Rabbit on the Range recipe is one I want to try, just don't tell the little girls).

This is Team Rattlesnake in action. They didn't win, but it sounds like they had quite an experience, and now mom knows the nuances of making paella.

Michelle says we should definitely make one with both our moms this summer when we all get together in August. Oh definitely, I say.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Color of November

November is the color of the fallen maple leaves that blanket our backyard right now, waiting to be raked and used for mulch in the garden, and the Carrot Ginger Soup I made last week.

It is the color of the beard my father grew every year for hunting season, and the Hereford cattle that he raised.

It is the color of the light coming through a church window, somewhere in the Seattle area in November in 1959, when my parents were married. She was nineteen, and he only a little bit older -the age of my own children now.

The color of November will always be the color his beard was, twenty-five years later and twenty-six years ago, the night they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary -their children young adults, as mine are just now becoming- with a houseful of friends and family, and elk hunting early the next morning.