Sunday, August 17, 2008

Moving On.

You can now find me here. It's a small blog, sweet and simple. I hope you like it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersein, Good Night

Over the past year or so, I have been blessed to communicate with some very special people. You! As I have written tales of things that have happened in my life, shared pictures of things I have created and stories of people I have met, you have been there to encourage me, lift me, comfort me, compliment me and be the lovely women that you are.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and so Meandering Travels of Mindless Thoughts is saying goodbye for now. It may not be forever, it may come back in a new form. But for now, I am signing off, taking a break, sitting back and taking it easy. No, not really taking it easy. I will be doing those things that I have been putting off for writing.
So, thank you. Thank you for reading and laughing and taking the time out of your busy day to visit. I will miss that camaraderie that has developed between us.
Don't worry, I'll still be popping in to see what all of you have been up to, though! This doesn't mean I will stop reading your blogs. Nope, not one bit. How could I get through the day? But me writing takes thought and time and focus that I need to direct elsewhere.
Take care, be well. I will see you at the back fence, where we can chat for a bit now and then, and catch up on what you've been doing, observing and creating.

madrekarin is off for new adventures.

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Things, New Foods, New Life

This has been a week of change her at our house. On Wednesday, the very nice men from our local heating and air company came and installed a heat pump/air conditioner in the family room half of the house. What a difference it makes! No more loud, blowing window unit freezing the backs of our heads as we sit watching television. No more hot little corner for the computer. No more hot, stuffy kitchen and dining room. No more sweaty cook in said kitchen.
How on earth did I live without this amazing device in my attic for ten years?! The poor men who worked through the day yesterday have my utmost respect. There is nothing worse than a Georgia attic in the summertime, and to be stuck in one for nine hours would be more than I could bear. But they did it, and kept smiles on their faces and pleasant conversations all through the day. Only when they were nearly finished did I discover that they had not stopped for lunch. How could that be? You have to eat!
guilt washed over me as I began cooking dinner for my family. The smell of shrimp and garlic wafted up to the attic and I am certain they their stomachs were rumbling.
"Would you like to join us for dinner?"
"No, thank you, ma'am."
When they left, I gave them enough extra dollars to get a decent dinner for themselves. It was the least I could do.

On Tuesday evening, I decided to make myself a little treat from the rhubarb I bought on the ill-fated trip to the Farmer's Market. I chose to stew it with sugar and make something similar to applesauce. Rhubarb Sauce.
I started with this:

Then added this:

Then I decided to add some of this- the candied ginger made from the ginger slices I used for the ginger syrup. (I just had to write ginger waa-yyy too many times.)

And I ended up with this! Rhubarb sauce in my favorite, creamy Brown Cow yogurt. Doesn't that look delicious?

Now for the new life. My oldest son, Nathan, the quiet one, has joined THE ARMY!! And I am totally okay with that. He will do his Basic training in Fort Jackson, SC. Close enough so that we can go to his graduation. Then, he will be off to California for his AIT. He has chosen linguistics- learning either Portuguese (a language that is in demand and one he can read already), Italian or Japanese.

I am so excited for him. This will give him purpose, direction and the discipline that he needs, allow him to see places that he wants to see (and some he doesn't really want to- but hey, you have to take the good with the bad), the chance to make new friends and really discover who he is.

Yay, Nathan. We are very proud of you. You have Heavenly Father on your side and with Him, all things are possible. Now go, and live your life, and enjoy the things that come your way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Chain of Unfortunate Events

Have you ever had a day where things go wrong and all you want to do is to climb into your comfy bed and hide under the covers? That was my day today.
It started out innocently enough- making breakfast, doing laundry, washing dishes. But then, I decided to leave the house. Not a good idea.
First stop, Goodwill with #1Son in tow. As I was looking in the skirt aisle I happened to see the woman who worked in the fabric department at WalMart many years ago. She was nearly an institution there, until her granddaughter was born and she retired to care for her.
I whispered "Hello. How are you?" across the skirts and we caught up on what had been happening in our lives in the past ten years. She remembered me bringing in my daughter and how Ainslie would sit on the cutting table as fabric was laid out and scissors slid through it. I told her that daughter was almost twenty now. "Time sure does go fast." was her reply. We chatted a bit more and with a "It was wonderful to see you." goodbye, I walked to housewares to see what treasures they might have. We met again. And again. And again.
It is one thing to have a sweet conversation with someone and quite another to have to keep fumbling for things to say as you bump into each other at every turn. Time to go.
I thought that Nathan and I would head to a few other thrift stores and then perhaps have a little lunch somewhere. I mentioned the restaurant at the State Farmer's Market and he countered with lunch at the DeKalb Farmer's Market. He won.
The entire way there I was planning what I would have for lunch. With an ever-so-colorful array of international foods, it is difficult to decide just what to eat.
I did a bit of shopping first, picking up fresh English peas, broccoli rabe, Brussel sprouts, some grass-fed ground beef and a lovely, plump roasting hen. (Don't tell the girls!)
We parked our cart and got into the line, ready to make our choices. I went down the salad side first. Onto my plate went spinach, spring greens, carrots, olives, cucumbers and thinly sliced Spanish onions. A few sunflower seeds sprinkled on the top for more crunch and my salad was ready for dressing. I chose blue cheese. Mistake. As I poured the dressing from its pitcher, great blobs of blue cheese fell out, followed by a mass of creamy liquid. Way too much. Oh, well. too late now.
I slipped across to the other side to see if they had lentil samosas. They did. Oh, yum.
You get a choice of lamb, beef, vegetable or lentil. I've not had the lamb, but the beef is good. The vegetable samosas consist of mashed potatoes filled with what look like yesterday's leftover veggies. They are not good. But the lentil is divine. Brown and green lentils, spiced with who-knows-what (but it's delicious) and enveloped in a crisply fried wrapping. Perhaps not the most healthy of things to eat, but heavenly nonetheless. As an afterthought, and with encouragement from Nathan, I ladled a bowlful of mushroom soup for myself.
Sliding my tray down the shiny metal bars of the food carts, the unthinkable happened. The corner of the tray caught up underneath the drink holder. I tried to maneuver it out and as I did, I overcompensated. The weight of the plate caused the tray to tip, which allowed the plate of blue cheese-drowned salad and the bowl of mushroom soup to fly through the air, with the greatest of ease.
I watched, helpless, as creamy broth and flecks of mushroom directed themselves towards the very bare legs of the man across from me. The salad spread itself on the floor, with dressing oozing around it like blood from a gunshot wound. I was horrified, embarrassed and unable to move.
At last gaining my senses, I offered the man my napkins to wipe the glop off of his legs, and bent down to begin cleaning up the mess that I had just made.
"No. Ma'am, no. They will clean it up." lilted across the register from the cashier, a pleasant Pakistani woman. She smiled at me and said it was okay. Not.
I looked at my tray and discovered that the lentil samosa was still there, snug in its paper bag.
I offered to pay for the lunch I had ruined, but was told it was not necessary. Accidents happen. I did pay for my samosa and Nathan's lunch and went to find a table where no one could see me.
I did my best to shrink away as I ate my lunch, which posed it's own set of problems. As I bit into it, lentils began to propel themselves out of the samosa, down my chin and onto my lap. Thank goodness my mother taught me to keep a napkin in my lap. It was there to catch the eighteen small, brown rounds of evilness.
I am not a big believer in karma, but there may, perhaps, be something to it. Maybe this was the result of me trying to dodge the WalMart fabric lady in the Goodwill. Maybe it was just a bad day. Who knows? But one thing is for sure-
I think I'll stay home tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Finally, Pictures!

After nearly giving up entirely, I found that I could load each picture individually with success.
Still a bit frustrating though. But, now you can see the treasures that I found during the last week. There are more yet to come. :)

Two Spode platters found at the shop off Moreland Ave. in Atlanta. $22 for both. Now that's a deal!

My birthday present to me! A cherry necklace kit and beautiful blue and white glass rings from the French General. Oh, my, I am in love with these!

The sweetest little doll bed I purchased at Dawn's yard sale. Can you not see this trimmed out with a ticking mattress stuffed with wool, tiny pillows, soft linens and an itty-bitty quilt?
Be sure to come back an see what it looks like in a few weeks.

The little sewing kit, with beautiful, softly colored thread, even tinier sewing kits and a package of perfect English needles. Sewing heaven!

My new screen door. For where? I don't know yet. But I promise it will be put to good use. Behind the door you can see the huge roll of grape vine. It looks like a big nest sitting on my porch.

Most of the linens and aprons from Dawn. Today was the perfect day to wash and hang them on the line, giving the sun every chance to whiten the whites and the breeze to soften the lot of them. I just love how they look hanging there, blowing slightly back and forth and making my back yard a most colorful spot.
Thank you so much, Dawn, for stuffing things into my hands, showing me your lovely craft room and being such a good friend. I could have stayed longer and bought more, but mostly I would have loved to just sit and chat. We must do that one day.

What a Week!

Both of my brothers were in town this past week and we had such a good time. I love when family comes to visit. Even Clark, the brother in the middle of the picture. Is there any doubt as to why he is still single? I don't think so.

This is a picture of my parents, my son, JA, the aforementioned Clark, my brother Donald and his wife Lynne and daughter Lizzie. (They could only be here for a few days, so we tried to cram in a much fun as we could in a short period of time.)
Saturday, my mom, Clark and I hit Scott's antique market. I found a few things; a lovely, soft piece of hand spun linen, a few watch faces, and a tiny little copper tea kettle that turned out to have been made from a penny. We ate lunch there, which I would not recommend. It is very expensive. I wish we had packed a lunch and ate in the truck because then I would have had more money for stuff!
The rest of the week sped by so fast it is a bit of a blur. One day we went thrifting, finding a place off of Moreland Ave. that we had never been in before. It was....interesting to say the least. But, we did find a few things, so it was not a total loss.
Thursday, the day D and family had to leave, we spent at home playing marbles on the board my grandmother made, chatting and wishing that 7:00 pm would not arrive. But it did, and they are now home and I miss having them here. Lots.
Clark did not have to leave until this morning, so we were back to running about. Friday was a trip to the High Museum to see the Houdon sculpture and the Civil Rights exhibits. The sculptures were extraordinary. Superbly executed, life-like images of George Washington, Voltaire, Ben Franklin, Houdon's own wife and daughter and more.
The Civil Rights exhibit is mesmerizing, sad and riveting all at once. Photographs detail the anger and rage that surrounded that period of time. You cannot leave there without feeling deep emotion. I would recommend it to anyone who lives here in Georgia or will be visiting here this summer.
Lunch at Eat's on Ponce de Leon proved a hit. A small hole-in-the-wall, they serve up tasty pastas and chicken and have the friendliest staff you'll ever find. Go! Go and have their jerk chicken or linguine with olive oil and garlic, mushrooms and peppers. Mmmmmmm.
Saturday morning, through closely spaced rain drops, we drove south to Dawn's house for her yard sale. Brave girl- she put it on despite the weather and there were many bargains to be found. I purchased 7 bags of linens and fabric, an old screen door, a few aprons, a little sewing kit, a roll of grapevine and a sweet doll bed. Because Blogger has been being a bit difficult, I will have to post the pictures later. It only let me upload this one photo.
If you read her blog, you know that even though it was pouring down rain most of the morning, her yard sale was a huge success!! It was worth all of that hard work! :)
A quick trip home to drop off our goodies and we were off again, this time to pick up my #1Son and head to the Michael C. Carlos Museum for the Lost Kingdoms of the Nile exhibit and lunch at The Earl in East Atlanta. It was a long day and by the time we got home, we were all exhausted.
And so, to quote Edward R. Morrow, "that is the week that was." Fun, fast, full, fatiguing.
And I would do it all over again.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Half a Century

This was the Time magazine cover on June 16, 1958, the day I was born. See that dress form in the top left corner? That would look so cool in my house. Yes, a vintage dress form would be lovely.

Vintage. I love that word. It evokes a feeling of comfort, it draws memories, it make us nostalgic for a sweeter, simpler time. Finding a vintage object means that someone cared enough to keep it, care for it and preserve it.
If you come to my house today, you will find a living, breathing vintage object- me!
You won't find me looking like Jean Thorn, the woman on the cover above. No, I'll be mucking-out the hen house, weeding the garden, hanging laundry and sprucing up the house for guests tonight, keeping those vintage traditions of long ago.
So, Happy Birthday, Vintage Me. I think fifty is going to be a very good age to be.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Grandfather

I found this picture this morning while cleaning. It's a picture my grandfather, my dad's dad. Isn't he handsome? And get a load of that baby!

Yes, that is me, in all my happy baby chubbiness in the arms of one of my favorite men on Earth, my Grampa Kimball. That lap was the place you could go to when you needed protection from your brothers or just a hug. And when you were ready to get down, you'd get a big squish and be told that you were such a "hot potato", then you would see that smile and know that you were loved, just for who you were.
On Monday, this baby turns fifty and even though my grandfather is no longer here, I know that I am still his "hot potato".
One day those arms will gather me in a hug and I will see that smile again. I hope he likes the person I've grown into. He should. A lot of who I am today is because of him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I had forgotten what it was like to have a three year-old in the house. After all, it has been almost seventeen years since my last child was that little.
I had forgotten how busy they are, and curious. About everything.
This is my friend's daughter. I'm watching her while her mom and dad are at a horse show with her sisters. It has been a very busy day here at the S house. Very being an understatement.

We decided to go see the geese at Minnow Pond. As you can tell, we also took in the Lotus Pond as well. It is just as stunning as last year's display. Huge, round leaves on slim stems that belie their strength. Some of them were as big as B herself. Flowers of the softest cream and pink, suited her taste perfectly.
Imagine the reaction of someone so small to such a sight. A little fearful, a little curious, a little surprised. I pulled a leaf over for her to hold. She asked me if she could sit on it.
"Well, if you were as light as a bug, you could. But you are heavier than a bug and it may not hold you up."
"Oh. I won't sit on it."
"Good idea."
While we were walking around the Lotus Pond, we found the shell of a craw fish. Poor thing. His shell had been left behind after a lovely morning repast for some lucky bird.
Assuring her that it would not, could not, bite her, B decided it was interesting and began to ask all sorts of questions.
"Why is he dead?"
"Where is his mother?"
"Why did they eat him?"
"Can we take him home?"
I am sure the conversation would have lasted longer had a small trail of fire ants not decided that B's feet were too cute to miss.
Darn those pesky creatures.

We walked back to Minnow Pond to feed the geese. Today's menu was day-old wheat bread. The geese have become much more bold. They have no fear of people, even the babies. We quickly became surrounded by honking, waddling birds.
In the group is a white goose that we have named George. Living at the pond for years, he is clearly the leader, a bit like Flora. He is blind in one eye now and has to cock his head just so to see what it is you are offering. I feel a bit sorry for him. Well, I did until he decided that B's pinkie finger looked tasty and latched onto it. A quick pop on his beak released his hold.
Through her tears, B told George that he was not very nice. Good for her.
In the flock of wild geese, I noticed a small male with what could only be described as a cleft beak. The upper portion of his beak was malformed and very short. You could see his tongue trying to grab a small piece of bread to eat. He couldn't do it. Oh, how sorry I felt for him.
How had he survived so long with such a disability? I'm sure that in the water he was much more able to bring food into his mouth. Gliding along with his beak under the surface would enable him to scoop up tiny brim into his mouth.
In the picture below you can see him and the outline of his deformity. He is the second goose from the left, the one being chastised by another.

I explained to B about this little goose, that he had something wrong with him and that he may not live to be a big goose.

"He needs his mom." Yes. Yes he does.

I wonder how she got so smart?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pecking Order

These are the new girls, Blanche and Hazel. My husband , #1Son and I picked them up on Memorial Day. Two Buff Orpington sisters, a week or two older than Flora, just trying to get along in this new place. They are the low gals on the totem pole.

Flora has established herself as the Queen of the Coop. Not a surprise really, as she was the first one here and she has that spunky personality (that is probably what saved her in the "attack") .
Mavis and Pearl have been at the receiving end of her displeasure many a time and now it is these two girl's turn. I feel sorry for them.
Anything or anyone that enters the chicken yard is greeted first by Flora. Strutting her stuff, she makes sure that she is noticed. And heaven forbid if attention goes in the opposite direction from her. The wings spread, the head goes down and the legs start moving at a rapid pace. Goodness knows, she does not want to miss a thing.
It is her beak that first plunges into a wedge of soft, pink watermelon, pecks at a basil leaf or pierces a tomato. The others wait patiently, looking on with longing, waiting for her to step back and give her nod of approval. Then, and only then, do the others scurry forth to partake of a tasty treat that has come their way.
I sat in the chicken yard one day observing this behavior with amusement. The thought occurred to me that people are a lot like chickens.
In any given situation, there is always a Head Chick, a Flora. You know her. She's the one that moves right in, taking charge whether she should or not, and begins to organize things her way.
Don't try to help, because she can do it all.
But, someone always does. The Mavis and Pearls of the world, step up to do the bidding of the Floras. It's just their nature. Not willing to take on all of the responsibility themselves, they are quite content to be lead, with a nod of approval of course, to begin taking on small assignments until the Floras deem them ready to take on more.
I see that in my hens. Mavis and Pearl are always the next to move in, having been given a clucky "All Clear" from Flora. "Yes, you may pass. But you may not."
Poor Hazel and Blanche. They are always the last invited to the party. Although, I think they like to stay in the shadows, waiting for Hurricane Flora to whip through doing what she does (or thinks she does) best.
The funny thing about them is this- In the end, they are the ones who benefit the most. In all of her hurry-upness and pomp, Flora quickly loses interest. Of course she does. She expended all of her energy in trying to be the first one there and keeping everyone else at bay, that she wore herself out!
Mavis and Pearl, unable (or unwilling) to think for themselves quickly follow suit, giving Hazel and Blanche carte blanche to enjoy the spoils, whether it be a tasty treat or a little cuddle.
Don't get me wrong, there is much to love about all of the hens in my chicken yard. Flora makes me laugh at her antics. She is a bit like Mrs. Olsen in Little House on the Prairie, infuriating and comical all at the same time. Mavis and Pearl are like Cinderella's self-absorbed step-sisters- all fluff and nonsense. I cannot wait for them to realize that Flora is "not all that and a bag of chips", as my sister says.
But Hazel and Blanche have stolen my heart. Quiet and subdued, they know that they do not have to be ill-mannered to get what they need and want. It just comes to them naturally.
Low gals on the totem pole unite. Being on top doesn't make you the best. It just makes you that much harder to reach.
How's that working for ya, Flora?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Miss Bunny Says......

"Try this scrumptious dessert!!"

And it is simple, simple. Spoon one cup of yogurt into a bowl (I use Brown Cow plain yogurt with the cream top. Delicious!) Slice two strawberries and place decoratively around the bowl. Oh, wait! That's only for pictures. Just toss them in there! Then spoon some ginger syrup, if you made it, on top of that and enjoy. Oh my goodness, it is so yummy! And good for you too.
I wonder what else ginger syrup would be good on?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pop! Fizz! How Sweet It Is.....

I think I am going to name this summer of 2008 Project Summer. A time of risk-taking and experimentation, giving my family the opportunity to try new things.
Some will be hits and some will not. I have already had my share of both. Herbed cheese- a hit. Fruit cheese- not so much. Steak and egg fritatta- a hit. Grilled pizza- a hit.
Well, I guess I'm doing better than I thought.
Today's experiment was inspired by an article I read in a magazine. Don't ask me which magazine, because I cannot remember. I did remember the quantities of ingredients though, so pulling this off was fairly easy. So, veg peeler in hand, ginger root, a pot of water and some sparkly sugar, and I was ready to make.....Ginger Syrup!
Why ginger syrup? To make ginger ale, of course!!
This is a pot with 2 cups of peeled and sliced ginger, 2 cups (or so) of water and 2 cups (or so) of sugar. Simple, eh?

Simmer these ingredients until the liquid is reduced by half. You can also use a candy thermometer and gauge your temperature. A syrup is made at about 200-230 degrees F.
Once the syrup is reduced, strain it into a large jar. I used a wide-mouthed canning jar. Do not throw away the ginger. You will need it for something yummy later.

Isn't that pretty?
Now, take the slices of ginger and toss them in a bowl of sugar. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and bake them in a low oven (about 200-225 degrees) for 2 1/2-3 hours. It depends on the humidity really. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Place in an airtight container.

To make ginger ale, pour 2 tablespoons ( or to suit your taste) of syrup in a glass. Pour 8 ounces of chilled club soda over the top and add a bit of ice. Decorate the rim of the glass with a slice of candied ginger.

This glass does not have its decorative ginger slice because I ate it. I couldn't help it. It was calling to me.
But still, is that not a lovely thing to behold? The taste is very different from what you buy in the grocery store. It is lighter and a bit less sweet. As it rolls over your tongue you get that pleasant bite that only fresh ginger possesses, without the heat. You may want to enjoy the candied ginger as you sip.

Another project completed today was the hanging of the tomato plants. Upside down, hanging on a shepherd's hook, they stayed in their buckets just fine. Now we just have to wait for them to begin producing tomatoes. I think this is going to be a very fun summer!!

I hope that you have one too. :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spudtacular Sight

I took a brave step this spring and planted potatoes. I have never grown potatoes before, so I read all I could find on the subject. I would not recommend doing this, as I became more confused with each piece of information I read.
Dig deep, don't dig deep, trench, don't trench, raised bed, no raised bed, slope, no slope. Dirt? Straw? Oh my goodness! It was all just a bit much.
So, I reached for my copy of Country Wisdom and Know-How, that had sat by my bed for months, and turned to the "Growing Potatoes" section. What was recommended here seemed pretty straight-forward. Turn the garden soil deeply. Do not compact it by walking on it. Determine your rows and place a seed potato evenly spaced across the entire bed. Cover with 18" of straw, water and wait. Okay, done.
I did not hold much hope for this little potato bed of mine, as my thumb has been a rather pallid shade of green the past few years.
My son, our two intrepid missionaries (who never fail to offer their assistance for any service project) and I had dug deeply, turning the hard clay and adding amendments such as peat moss, organic garden soil and cow manure. The result was a lovely, soft mixture of soil the color of the burned sugar on the bottom of my oven. (But that's another story.) The rest was up to Mother Nature to help my little potatoes to pull through.
Well, pull she did! Take a peek for yourself. See those lovely deep green plants poking through the straw? Those are potato plants!! I squealed with delight when I saw them. Because where there are plants, there will be potatoes.

Is that not a beautiful sight to behold? The tops have now been covered with a new layer of straw, so that sunlight does not get down and turn the forming potatoes green. That is probably the hardest part of growing them this way, trying to keep the potatoes in the dark.

But I am hopeful that these sturdy little plants will produce pounds of sweet Purple Viking and Yukon Gold potatoes. My family will be delighted. Especially my meat and potatoes- loving husband.

I don't think there is anything mroe satisfying than placing a seed (or seed potato) in the ground and having it grow and produce food for your family. It is an absolute miracle.

The remainder of our garden is doing as well as the potato patch. By the end of summer, I hope to have been able to feed my family, share vegetables with my parents, along with some elderly members of our church and put some up for the winter.

That's a lot to expect from a small plot of land but I have faith that it will come through. Just like those little potato plants poking through the straw.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not What She Wanted to Hear

Husband- "Hey, dear. What are we cooking on Monday?"
Me- "Chicken."
Somehow, I don't think Pearl was amused.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What I Made for Lunch Today.

I think I will be making up for lost time for a while here. One of the things that I worked on whilst I was away was cheesemaking. Not hard cheeses, but lovely, soft farmer cheese. Mmmmm.
If you have not had this tasty delight, you are really missing out.
This morning I decided to make an herbed cheese. So, I snipped a bit of tarragon, chopped some garlic and a-whey I went. :)
Here is the recipe. You will amaze your families and friends by making your own cheese. Don't be intimidated, this is super, super simple.
Herbed Farmer Cheese
1 gallon whole milk (organic if possible)
1 T salt
2 T chopped tarragon
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4-1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Line a large colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.
In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, pour in milk and add salt. Insert a candy thermometer on the side of the pot. Heat milk/salt mixture to 150 degrees on thermometer. Add tarragon, garlic and pepper.
Cook over medium heat until the milk is almost boiling, approximately 100 degrees Centigrade or 200 degrees Farenheit on the thermometer.
As soon as small bubbles appear along the edge of the pan, just before boiling, add lemon juice. If the milk does not curdle, heat it a bit more. You will be able to see the small, fine curds forming.
Pour your curdled milk/cheese into the colander and allow to drain. (It will take a bit of time. Be patient.)
If the whey is yellow, you have successfully removed all of the milk solids. If it is still white, you can repeat the process and add a bit more lemon juice. You will want to get every bit of cheese you can!
Once the cheese has drained, remove it to a small, covered dish and refrigerate. Serve with crackers and just a small tidge of pride at making something really cool!
Yeild: About 2 1/2 cups of soft, finely grained cheese.
Crackers, anyone?

I'm Back.

Did you miss me? I just took a little blog vacation. Not from reading them, though. I know what all of you have been up to. But me? Well, I've just hung back a little bit, taken a deep breath and sorted out a few things. Good things.
This month of May has been simply wonderful. I was chosen as the Farmgirl of the Month, by my friend Tina, over at the Farmgirl Connection. How sweet was that? And because I was the FOTM, I received some wonderful wishes through the forum and treats in my mailbox.
Thank you, Tina, Pam, Bertha, Autumn, Maryjane, MaryJane, Meg, Nancy Jo, Rebekka. My goodness, I am so grateful.
I have sipped sweet herbal teas, washed my dishes with hand-crocheted dish cloths, snuggled with a Georgia Bullfrog-ette and a stuffed pear that smeels divine, tucked up a beautifully embroidered pillow in a tiny chair, listened quietly to the liquid voice of John Denver, planted seeds and placed tiny treasures in my craft room, where I can be surrounded by the love and friendship that radiates from them.

Who would not love a sweetly embroidered clothespin bag that came full of vintage trim and organic chocolate? I know I do! This came from MaryJane and Meg. My, they know me well. :)

Adding to the delight of mail love, Colleen, sent me a little care package of her own. It was full of scrapbooking supplies, and books. Oh, my! The books! Still Life with Chickens (how appropriate for this new chicken mom), A Perfect Day, Small and Simple Things by Marjorie Pay Hinckley- the most sweet, adorable woman who ever lived (other than Colleen).
I am ever amazed at the kindness and generosity of the women that I have "met" in Bloglandia.

Women with gentle voices, generous hearts, kind souls, and smart minds. They are like this flower, that grew in my back garden. Soft, full, delightful, beautiful with a heavenly scent. A joy to the eye and the heart.
Their friendship is sweet and delicious, satisfying and nourishing. A bit like the Pioneer Woman's apricot breakfast bars. (Only I made mine with homemade strawberry jam.)

The miracle of friendship that comes from women that I have never met is an amazing thing. Beyond treats in the mail, it is the knowledge that someone, somewhere is thinking about you, caring about you and wanting things to be well for you that lifts your heart, quiets your doubts and opens your eyes to the fact that there are many, many good people in this world. And I have the pleasure to be in their company on this incredible connector know as the Internet.

I will leave you with a few words by Sister Hinckley, who sums up how I feel quite succinctly:

"Who knows but that something wonderful may happen today. Have faith that it will. After all, every morning is a chance at a new day!"

Wonderful things have happened because of wonderful people like you. What a lovely thing that is.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Wishing you a day of rest, a day of sweetness and a day full of hugs!
(Photo by Freddy Franzella)

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

I'll be sharing my day with my sweet husband. It's his birthday! That's okay by me, because my birthday comes right around Father's Day. Our children think it is part of an evil plot on our part. Who? Us? We would never do that.

Would we?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jam Session

Yesterday afternoon, I took a trip to the strawberry farm a few miles down the road from my house. I purchased three buckets of luscious fruit, colored the deepest red with perky green caps.
This morning found me in the kitchen preparing to make strawberry jam, one of my favorite things to do in the springtime. A trip under the house yielded enough quart jars for my needs.
Every jam making session starts the same way- a sinkfull of hot, soapy water so that I will have sparkling clean jars; a clean counter top; a pot of hot water for lids and rings and the canner on the boil for processing; the big enamel pot ready for mashing fruit and the Dutch oven waiting on the stove to cook the jam; a colander for washing the fruit and my little paring knife laid out ready to lop off the tops of the berries.
I love the process of jam-making. Preparing the fruit for cooking, measuring out the sugar, watching for the boil, readying the jars and ladling the hot jam into them. A rhythm develops quickly and the entire morning becomes a dance of swirls and dips.

I have used this spoon to stir my jam for many, many years. It was a gift from my friend, Cilla. She found it in a kitchen shop in Ipswich, England, not far from her parent's house. I love this spoon. It has a little peg that prevents it from falling into large pots, and is flat on the bottom so as to gather the jam up from the bottom in a quick sweep. Don't you think I need a nice wooden ladle to go with my spoon?

After spooning off the foam, I ladled the jam into the jars using this jelly funnel. I found it at an estate sale. It is made of porcelain and is the lovliest creamy white color. I can only imagine how many gallons of jam or jelly were poured through its opening. I hope it is happy with me using it now.

(I don't know about you, but I think the foam is the best part of jam-making! I always make toast, spread it with Irish butter and spoon on the foamy bits. A little treat for the cook!)

I succeeded in making six quarts of ruby-colored jam, plus two half-pints for gifts. I am always a bit impatient when it comes to letting it set, so I made sure to put some in the refrigerator in a bowl so I can have some tonight.
I believe that I can sum up my morning's work in one word- Bliss. Strawberry bliss.
Okay, that's two words.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Kentucky Derby Hat Swap Hat

I know this is supposed to be posted tomorrow, but I won't be home.
This is the hat I made for Terisa, from Running With Scissors. Talk about intimidation. Have you seen her blog? Beautiful. And the clothes that she designed? Just amazing. And I had to make a hat for her!
The base of the hat is made from paper maché. It's a bit stiff, but still wearable. For about a minute. :)
The crown is partially covered with silk hydrangea blooms, and some of them are accented with sparkly centers. Just for the bling effect.

On the side are two silk peony blossoms and a tiny nest with a sweet little bird perched inside of it. Corkscrewed paper twists (which were easy to make ) accent the side view.

The base of the crown is trimmed with a hand-ruffled ecru twill tape. I think it gives it a nice feminine touch.

Around the brim is hemp twine executed in a blanket stitch. If you look closely you can see the staples used to keep the layers together. Don't look closely.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the result. I like the softness of the colors and the contrast between the glossy paper and the flowers. The real test will be if Terisa likes it!!

I surely hope so.

My Farmhouse Kitchen

Those three words conjure up pictures of baskets filled with warm, fluffy biscuits spread with homemade jam and fresh eggs ; shelves filled with sparkly glass jars filled with fruits and vegetables grown outside in the kitchen garden; jams and jellies glistening with jewel-like colors so rich they are fit for royalty; crocks filled with the tools-of-the-trade, worn with use yet still relied-upon to do their appointed jobs; a well-scrubbed kitchen table, spread with snowy linens and a pitcher of wild flowers; a sink full of frothy bubbles, warm water and the breakfast dishes; a wooden floor, polished to perfection, gleaming in the sunlight.
Are any of these things found in my own kitchen? Somewhat, yes. But they never quite fit the picture that is in my head.
I love my kitchen, I really do. Wide, open shelves hold my dishes, glassware and mixing bowls, along with the everyday staples of flour, sugar, rice and salt. Everything is there at my fingertips, making cooking a snap.
Across the kitchen, along the long common wall between the living room and dining room areas is a large pantry cabinet, complete with a screen door. Built by my husband and me, it holds cans and bottles and jars of food. Things have a tendency to get lost in there sometimes but for the most part, it is well-organized, with neat rows and stacks of provender.
While I do have wood floors in my kitchen, as well as the rest of the house, it is neither polished nor gleaming. Instead, it is marked with the wear and tear of everyday family life. Scratches from the dogs and furniture being shifted about, make it look a bit shabby, but I love it nonetheless.
My floors get a weekly washing with Dr. Bronner's Eucalyptus Castile Soap. The scent is clean and energizing. During the summer months, it will be washed twice a week, as the dogs and family are spending more time outside and consequently bringing more of it in with them. In between, I sweep. I do own a vacuum cleaner, but I like the rythmn of sweeping and the homeliness of it. Plus, it is good exercise.
Once things are clean, I can get to the business of cooking. It is something I take great delight in doing, and I think I do it well.
Stews, soups, casseroles, breads, cookies, cakes and pies are churned out for a family that is sometimes not as appreciative as I would like them to be. Of my three children, two are picky eaters, and their father makes the scales tip out of balance in their favor. (Hmmm, perhaps that explains the lush padding that I have accumulated!) Against better judgement, I still try to entice them with savories and sweets, and probably will until I draw my last breath.
The only thing missing from my farmhouse kitchen is a screen door, solid wood and painted white, with a spring that slaps it against the door frame with a resounding "Crack!". That would truly complete my happy little picture.
Funny thing is, I have screen doors under my house, bought at yard sales for a song, and I have nowhere to put them! The French doors in the back of the kitchen-dining area won't accomodate them. But you can trust me when I say, that I will find a way to put them to good use. In fact, one of them now serves as the entry to the chicken yard!
All-in-all, I think that a farmhouse kitchen is more of an attitude than appearance. My little suburban kitchen is as much of one as a kitchen in a true farmhouse, surrounded by fields of wheat or corn, cows and chickens. It has become that way because of what occurs within its walls- hearty meals cooked with love, canning fruits and veg to carry us through winter, jams and jellies made to give us a taste of summer all through the year, pies and cakes made for bake sales and contests as well as a hungry family.
If that is not truly the case, then I have a sign hanging in my kitchen that declares it to be such.
I've covered all the bases.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Okay, This Is the Last Chicken Post (for now)

I would like to introduce Mavis (on the left) and Pearl. They are five-week-old Rhode Island Red pullets.
Both hens have very sweet dispositions, and I think will adapt very well.

Flora, however, may have other ideas. She is not quite sure of these two beautiful red-heads!
This is their first tentative meeting.

I do not think that Flora was very impressed. Do you?

But, I think she may prefer two new friends than this little kitty. Merideth is much to curious about what is happening in the chicken yard. She insists on trying to fit her head through the fencing. That would explain the frustration on her face.

I think these three chicks will get along just fine. And soon enough, they will be delivering fresh eggs for our breakfast. And the Omelet Hotel will be in business. :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Flora Says.............

Welcome to......

(after much thought and bribing with feed,

and the desire to do things her way!)

~The Omelet Hotel~

Congratulations to you, Bramble!!

You will now have a rather sweet picture of Flora to display in your own coop!

Miss Flora is really thrilled now that she has a name for her new home! And she is especially thankful to all of you who were thoughtful enough to submit names for her chicken house.

Very thankful indeed.

(Bramble, I have your address, so I will be sending the lovely rendition of Flora to you as soon as the final touches have been added!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If I Draw Your Name, You Get Flora!!

No, not the real Flora! But a reasonable facsimile of my little chicken. She is not quite finished, as I have to wait for her spots to dry before I can move on. I really do not like having to wait for paint to dry, but wait I must if I want this to be perfect for its new owner.
Who knows, maybe they can hang it in their own chicken coop!

Flora in her polka dot dress, waiting in a field of strawberries. Just for you!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Inside Coop

Do you think that the chickens will be happy here?