Archive for November, 2018

My Winter Garden

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I love my garden. I love flowers, I love growing herbs for cooking, I love the smell of greenery. I know that I have many bulbs I could dig up and winter-over, but it’s all too much effort at this point. rosemary and bay At the same time I’m very happy come the fall and I can stop taking care of all of the plants. 🙂 Maybe some day (that oft-referenced, never-actioned retirement) I’ll be the kind of person to dig up bulbs and store them in the basement. That day is not today. I do, however, attempt to winter over the succulents. They are interesting and comparatively tidy. Even more relevant, however, is the fact that the cats appear to be uninterested in them. This year I also brought in one of the palm trees from the front porch. I’m not sure which species it is exactly, but I checked all of the ones that look like what I have and they were all okay for cats. I bought it at Home Depot so if anyone can put a better identification on it, that would be helpful.

When I had the kitchen updated a bit approximately 12 years ago, I added grow lights to the bay window. I had visions of starting plants from seeds, and growing herbs in the winter. kitchen succulentsI did some of that but not very much. Instead I’ve been using that area to winter-over the succulents. I started with succulents a few years ago after seeing the beautiful arrangements my sister made. I had one pot, and it was small enough that I could bring it in and out. Last year I expanded to another pot, a big one that was on a roller out front. It weighs a ton. My husband brought it in for me and we had it on the floor by the door to the deck. This year that location is no longer available so we had to lift it up to the window seat in the breakfast room bay window. Oh my, that thing is HEAVY. Two of the three palms had already died by the time we were moving the plants inside, but one of them still appeared to be salvageable. I pruned off all of the obviously brown and broken fronds and we brought that in as well.

The major problem with bringing the plants inside is the water. First I need to remember to water them. Second I need to remember not to over-water them and flood the shelf underneath. The pot in the kitchen is easy – not too big, not too heavy.breakfast room plants The other 2 pots are extremely heavy and I thought they might crack anything that wasn’t metal or soft plastic. They are sitting on platters that function but are not aesthetically pleasing. My new kitchen and breakfast room are definitely about aesthetically pleasing. I’m on the hunt for some platter that is attractive, of the correct depth, and waterproof. And THAT’S why there is no picture of the base of the pots! I also moved a grow light into the breakfast room – you can see the pinkish light in the photo. I’m not sure that will be sufficient light for the succulents, but I hope it works. My memory tells me that the palm does NOT need direct sunlight (it was on the porch, after all), so I am hoping that it will have sufficient light from the window and what it gets from the grow light.

Many of my herbs winter-over with no assistance from me. The mint has been coming back for a few years as do the chives. Last year the thyme also managed to save a bit of itself. winterized porchI take all of the big pots, take the flowers out and put them in the compost (or in the leaf bags) and put the now plant-less pots on the porch. Then I take whichever herbs have survived the frost and cold and place those pots as the second row. They line the railing so they can get whatever sun and rain comes their way. The chives seem to manage on this benign neglect so I put them in the corner where I hope they will get the most sun and rain. We’ll see how the others do. The pot with the rosemary and bay leaves is way too heavy to move. I’ve considered digging up those 2 plants and bringing them inside simply for the lovely smell. Maybe if I get super ambitious this weekend I’ll do that. But if past performance is any indicator of future earnings – probably not that likely. 🙂

And now for the obligatory cat photo. GC was all curled up on the couch. She meowed a few times but obliged me by staying in that spot. She’s such a sweet girl.

GC on couch

GC being adorable

The Big Red Pot

le creuset oval dutch ovenThat’s what we call it – my husband’s favorite pot. Other people would call it a dutch oven or, more specifically, Le Creuset Oval dutch oven. It weighs a ton, cooks like a dream, and is easy to clean. I’d never used it until I tried another of the great vegan recipes I’d found.

Last year (or perhaps it was even the year before) I’d seen a recipe in the local newspaper for a whole roasted cauliflower. fresh from the gardenThe recipe called for removing the leaves, a little bit of the core, but otherwise keeping the head intact. Steam the cauliflower until a fork will pierce it easily, then coat it with a mix of mayonnaise, chili sauce and grated cheese, and roast it in the oven. (I’d give you the link, because it’s sooooo easy and yummy, but although I searched online, I can’t find that specific recipe. But there are many others that show up.) Normally I’m opposed to recipes that require “phases” – cook it once in one pot and be done with it was my motto. But that was BEFORE the new kitchen. My life apparently has a new demarcation line. I made many dishes for T-day that required preparatory stages.

There were 2 recipes that I thought might be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner – the cauliflower pot roast and the vegan turducken (also called vegducken). cauliflower pre roastingThe cauliflower pot roast won out for testing first because I had most of those ingredients. Of course I ended up doing things just a wee bit differently than the recipe directed, because I was (oh surprise) multi-tasking and wasn’t paying sufficient attention. But the end result was so tasty, and so satisfying, that there was no question – THIS would be the Thanksgiving dish we’d bring to dinner. My husband’s verdict on the dish: spectacular.

Here were my changes for the test run: I didn’t have fennel so I used anise. I didn’t have vegetable broth so I used chicken broth. I left out the nutritional yeast. I don’t remember if I used red or brown lentils, but I’m going to guess I used red lentils. As for following the cooking directions, I missed some steps there as well. I cut the core of the cauliflower too deeply and it was no longer one complete unit. I had one big piece and I propped that on the ones that had separated. first cauliflower pot roastAfter I cut all the side vegetables I put them into the pot with the cauliflower – I didn’t realize I was supposed to toss them with the oil and seasoning first. I ended up drizzling the oil and sprinkling the seasoning. I didn’t saute the onions – I tossed them straight into the broth (and I blame my husband for this because he was talking to me at the time 🙂 ). We did not at the time have an immersion blender (we do NOW) and so I did not puree the gravy. It smelled fantastic anyway. We also felt that the vegetables needed more cooking than the directions indicated, but that is probably because I used more vegetables than specified. When it was all done, we poured the gravy over the vegetables in the pot, rather than serving separately. It was delicious. We both purred as we ate. There were so many tantalizing flavors and textures.

For the “production” version I did much better at following the ingredients and the directions.thanksgiving cauliflower Again I used anise instead of fennel (my local store seems to only carry anise and I didn’t feel like making a special trip). I left out the potatoes since I knew there would be lots of other potato dishes. I added parsnips in place of the potatoes and I included some extra florets of cauliflower. We now own an immersion blender so I did puree the gravy. I forgot to get a picture of it, however. I believe that everyone at the dinner enjoyed the dish – there was less than a portion left. 🙂 I recommend this dish completely. I think I’d also skip pureeing the gravy – I liked it more as a broth with veggies, but obviously that is a personal preference. It tasted fantastic both times.

I’m so glad there are such creative people out there posting their recipes. I’m okay with modifying a recipe, but I don’t think I’ve ever created something from nothing. And on that note I’ll tell you that soon I’ll post about the red lentil-butternut squash soup I made for dinner last night. Yum.

And now for the obligatory cat photo.
BC closeup 2

The Pie Lady

It has happened – we handed over the final payment check. The kitchen ceiling was repaired after the pipe leak (yes, the pipe was repaired also). The floor was pulled up and redone in the doorway and the breakfast room. The kitchen is gorgeous and functional and I love every moment I spend there. I have been cooking and baking and trying out new recipes. I may have done more cooking in the last few weeks than I have done in the last few years. Okay, that WAS an exaggeration, but you understand the emotion there. 🙂

I’m not a vegetarian, I do eat meat, but I eat a lot less meat than I did in years past. That’s partly age/digestion and partly diet/weight. 🙂 Now you know all my secrets. kale pie openAlthough Thanksgiving dinner is not at my house (except for the fun of hosting it last year), I do contribute a vegetable side dish and sugar free desserts. This year I wanted to find something exciting and interesting, something that would ‘represent’ my gorgeous new kitchen. A FB friend posted a link to LiveKindly’s article “12 Meat-Free Mains for the Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving”. The picture looked so yummy I had to click through. The pictures of the entrees were GORGEOUS and nearly all the dishes sounded delicious. Some of them even looked as if they would not be too difficult to make.

There were still 2 weeks to go before T-day, so I decided to test out some of the recipes and decide which I should make. I got ambitious and made both the Kale Almond Butternut Squash pie and a no-sugar apple pie. I was in a hurry and multi-tasking, so I did not chop the kale as finely as it needs. cooked kale pieMy other take on this recipe, and I thought this while I was making it and after eating it, is that it needs liquid. Next time I will either puree some of the squash before adding it to the pie, or mix in some squash soup. The crust, however, is phenomenal. I’ve not cooked with coconut oil before (I’ve used coconut milk) and the particular brand I used was very solid (I gather some brands are not as thick). I foolishly put the dough for the top crust into the refrigerator while I was working and it was so thick/dry that it was very difficult to work it. That’s on me, however, not the recipe. The crust is delicious. My husband said it was like eating scones. He broke off edge pieces and munched on them. 🙂 I have to agree. Using the coconut oil for the crust added a dimension to the pie I’d never have imagined. Fantastic recipe (but add some liquid).

The apple pie was also an experiment. I used to make my sugar-free apple pie filling by pureeing raisins with some juice. There is a LOT of sugar in raisins. I had 2 ideas for this year. apple pie closeupI used dried apricots, which have a lot less sugar than raisins, pureed with cranberries and cranberry juice (diet). I misjudged that as it was my first time working with the apricots, and I did not have enough liquid there. I layer the apples, then spread some of the pureed mixture, then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg, and do the layers again. On the top I put fresh orange zest. It tasted fine, but it needed more moisture. It also was not going to be sweet enough for my brother-in-law, who likes things much sweeter than we do (my husband and I). But we had a great dinner that night – pie for dinner and pie for dessert.

I’ll tell you about the other dishes and the apple-pie remake in another post. 🙂 I’m including the obligatory cat photo. I apologize for the horrible quality but I took it with my incredibly old iPad2 (7 years old already). Had I gotten up to get my camera, WC would have moved and I would not have this picture of her. She’s so cute when she is sleeping. Also QUIET. 🙂
wc sleeping

The Yearly Pilgrimage

Every year my husband and I take at least one drive up to the Delaware Water Gap and then meander our way home. Sometimes we do it in the spring, but usually we do it in the fall. Sometimes we do it both seasons, now that we have the convertible. 🙂 This past weekend was our pilgrimage. Although it was bright and sunny, it was also in the 40s with wind. We decided to leave the top UP on the car.

My husband loaded the back seat with CDs: Blind Faith, John Mayall, Manassas and more of the same ilk. I confess – *I* thought we’d listen to football. I was wrong. 🙂 I didn’t even get to check scores until after we’d been driving for nearly 3 hours.

Driving with my husband is a lot like driving with Honour. Neither of them will take pictures out the window for me and neither of them wants to stop anywhere. IMG_9569I thought we should not cross the river at the Gap but drive to Belvidere. I’m fairly certain we’ve never been to Belvidere. And there is a free bridge in Belvidere that we could have taken across to Pennsylvania. I’m all about free bridges (other than Rt 80 right through the Gap), which is why I refuse to take the Rt 202 bridge. There are so many cool little towns on both sides of the river with great (old, small, FREE) bridges.

But my husband had our itinerary planned before we ever left the house, so we crossed at the Gap and meandered down along the river on Rt 611 and Rt 32, until we took the bridge to Stockton. Those of you who know me as Ms Leadfoot would undoubtedly have been shocked to see me pulling off the road to let cars that had accumulated behind me go by. We really were meandering. Fiesta was a bit annoyed, but ultimately even she relaxed and enjoyed watching the scenery.

The painting on the overpass is in Easton. I hung out the window while I was stopped at the red light. One of these days I’ll let someone else drive (hah) so I can also get a picture of the donkeys at the narrow end of the abutment.

My husband’s goal was dinner in a lovely restaurant in Ewing, NJ – Erini’s. We’d eaten there a few weeks ago with friends and I had to agree it was a great place for dinner, even if we had NOT been driving for 4.5 hours. Our waiter Matt did an excellent job. A lovely meal. When we came out to go to the car, the moon was gorgeous in the clear night sky. I took a picture, figuring there was no way this would come out as anything but a big blur. I was happy to be wrong. Into the car for another hour of driving. I suppose for some that much driving would be a horrible time, but we do enjoy our pilgrimage.
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The Elusive Catbird

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GC alerted me to the presence of the elusive catbird in the bushes outside of our living room window.

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It’s very hard to capture these elusive creatures on camera (do we still say “on film”?). You can’t approach them directly – you must shoot through windows with screens. The morning sun streams into the lens, and the catbird is black (affectionally called “Lilah”).
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Catbirds never stay long in one spot. There is always a distraction somewhere, calling them to investigate.

Dressing the Walls

IMG_8035One of a homeowner’s great pleasures, and often greatest frustrations, is decorating the walls of the house. Some people like a stark look, almost nothing on clean walls. Others hang zillions of photos – family, or vacation, or nature, or animals. Others hang artwork (however you choose to define it). My old kitchen had walls with LOTS of pictures and art and photos, because I had a lot of wall space and LOTS of chachkes.

My new kitchen has cabinets and brick, not exactly conducive to attachments. It also has a very clean, spare look, also not exactly welcoming to chachkes. I had a lot of chachkes hanging on the old cabinets, from the windows, on the refrigerator. I didn’t want to repeat that in the new kitchen. But there was a wall that cried out for artwork. I knew from the design stage that there was a wall that would need something.

I thought I’d found the perfect picture to hang on the wall between the basement door and the doorway to the front hall, above the new radiator. I’d found it in July at a street fair, when I bought another picture from the artist, Linda McAdams.IMG_9532 As I realized when I started looking for dish towels and oven mitts, there is no way that RED will work in this kitchen, and the “perfect picture” had a big red and white striped beach umbrella (that’s why it was perfect and I loved it *grin*). I was a bit bummed, to tell the truth. My friend and I started idly perusing Linda’s website via my phone and discovered that besides her beach/ocean series, she had an Italy portfolio as well. So many of the colors were the same colors as the brick backsplash in the kitchen – warm, rustic, brick. My friend was clicking through the mini pictures when I stopped her. “That looks like Castel Sant’Angelo”, I said. We enlarged the photo and sure enough – it was Castel Sant’Angelo.

I LOVE Castel Sant’Angelo. When my son and I were in Italy a few years ago, one of our best experiences was touring Castel Sant’Angelo. IMG_9531We spent so much time there, loving every floor, taking a zillion photos, staring out at the bridges across the Tiber. Originally Hadrian’s tomb, various popes turned it into a fortress, attached to St. Peter’s Basilica. We both took panoramic shots of the river and Pons Aelius (sorry – we switch to Latin for this *grin*) and the 10 angel statues decorating the bridge. We spent our whole time there exclaiming how much my husband would love to see it – structures, architecture, archaeology, history. All 3 of us adore those fields. *grin* And for B, who I know reads this blog – we love talking about Hannibal and elephants, too. *grin*

Once I saw that photo I knew I had THE picture for my kitchen. 3 of my friends had seen photos of the kitchen with the back splash and said it reminded them of Tuscany/Italy. I’d felt that way also. IMG_9538 Here was a picture that was the right color, the right mood, and a reminder of an extremely happy time. I had to have it. I contacted Linda McAdams, gave her the measurements for that space, gave her my credit card and within 2 weeks – there it was. I also learned a lot about how to hang artwork on a drywall (not plaster wall) that was hollow – the pocket door is behind the wall – no long strong nails could be used. A friend had recommended Command hangers (I’d never heard of this fantastic product before) but although I DID buy various packs of Command hangers for future use, we ended up using High and Mighty hangers, which are designed specifically for drywall.

My sister “discovered” the art for the doorway between the breakfast room and the kitchen. It was in my dining room. I’d bought it many years ago with a bonus check I’d received, due in part to the work I’d done in virtual worlds. The piece was mounted on a dark wall. IMG_9537It SHOULD have been on a lighter wall but we never did get around to repainting that wall for that purpose. The piece, therefore, has probably been overlooked by most visitors for years. Now it has a place of honor over the new doorway, with lots of light from the skylight and a clean white wall behind. I can enjoy it every day when I sit at the bistro table.

I will probably put back at least one of the pieces that used to be in the breakfast room on the driveway-side wall above the table, and very possibly put them both back. I’ll have to get that done before the “come see my new kitchen party”. 🙂

An Unexpected Gift

They say that revenge is a dish best served cold, meaning it happens long after the fact. What do they say about gifts that appear long after the gifting? There must be some equally apt phrase. Maybe it’s “good things come to those who wait”.

fricker1I have finally decided to upgrade my blog from a free account to a paid account. I have no good reason. Or rather, I suspect the final straw is NOT something that will be handled by a paid account. The last week or so I’ve been getting trackbacks from spam sites. It was annoying. I’ve also used over 75% of my media storage. I thought I’d investigate and see what I’d learn.

I had a wonderful, informative, upbeat chat with the online chat support. Do you know that they are called “Happiness Engineers”? I think that is a GREAT title. The person with whom I was chatting was a fantastic representative of that concept. She gave me a discount code to give me 2 months free. I noticed something odd when I went to pay. The screen was showing me a $15 credit, bringing the bill to $33. When I put in the discount code, the amount was just over $39. ???? I asked my happiness engineer where the $15 credit originated. She said “The $15 credit is applying the value you have left in your current plan to the upgraded one.” Well that was odd. fricker 3My current plan was a FREE plan, I had never paid any money to WordPress. The HE agreed my plan was a free one and she investigated further. “I show $15 in gift credit from a user named “Fricker Fraker” back in 2009. Dear reader, I kid you not – tears came to my eyes.

Fricker – I don’t know where you are, or how you are, but thank you, thank you, thank you. What a sweet, generous gesture on your part. Which is exactly how I remember you.

Ahuva ❤ Fricker


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