Monday, July 29, 2013

lassoing summer

Yes, I realize the typical topic of my posts focus on summertime lately, and today will be no exception. Here I sit with the windows wide open enjoying the low humidity  and 75 degree weather that today has brought. As July is singing its "cicada songs" leading us into August, I have a mental picture of myself twirling a strong rope with a grimaced face and feet firmly bored into the ground attempting to lasso summer, to slow it down, just a little.

The plan was that the scrap book album of our summertime vacation was to take two weeks to complete, the girls and I  were to devote those two weeks to getting it done, period, finis. The project is still spread upon the entire surface of my dining room table.  It seems the girls did not "have the vision" I had...sounds I trudge on, almost at the finish line though. Today I worked on it for the greater part of the day.

I also made some soup with fresh corn and potatoes.  First, I sauteed shallots and garlic in olive oil, tossed in some chives, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper along with the red potatoes, and then added chicken stock pulled from the freezer. The fresh corn cut from the cob was added after the potatoes were almost tender. It will make a delicious supper.

I received a letter today. This friend and I continue to write to each other, we have been doing this for close to twenty years.

Do you see the date? She began the letter in May and just discovered it unmailed, in late July! She just continued on writing and sent it along with a knitting pattern for a scarf.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

a summer luncheon

A friend and her five lovely daughters came to visit yesterday. We all rallied together in the kitchen and prepared a lunch of pasta with fresh veggies, ricotta and feta cheese, cucumber sandwiches, and watermelon with pieces of mint.

Then we set a lovely table under the trees. After we carried the bowls of food and bottles of freshly brewed tea infused with sprigs of rosemary, we sat down and ate our fill of this delicious summer meal.

 Conversation of the feminine kind was in abundance from start to finish.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

capturing another yarn along

The last time I joined in with Ginny's yarn along I was knitting a green market bag. I finally completed it and wanted to share it amongst a garden of green. I knitted this bag with the thoughts of gifting it to someone. I followed the pattern and as most knitters, or even seamstresses, know patterns can be adjusted to our own adaptions. For this particular bag, my first thoughts are I would make the handle more stout by adding 4-5 stitches. Due to the handle's length,  which is certainly needed, and the purpose of the bag being to hold market items, it will stretch when weight is added.

As a side note, I bought the yarn over two years ago with the thoughts of a project in mind, an apron. It is an inexpensive cotton, Sugar n' Cream. When I purchased the skeins I obviously paid no attention to lot numbers. As the market bag was carried outside to make the photos in the herb garden, what was hidden in inside light was highlighted in natural light, the colors of the yarn were slightly different. I like to think it adds rustic goodness.

I believe I recently posted about some of my summertime reading. I Capture the Castle is picked up most evenings to read, or carried from here to there in case I have a few moments to escape into another place. I am enjoying reading this book, but I hesitate to give a review per se until I finish it. I keep thinking something is coming up, yet maybe that is the heart of its beauty, a simple story with complex, intriguing characters. Characters that you wish you knew, which can be the best part of any fictional novel. I will mention one of my most favorite chapter scene so far was when two of the characters took an evening swim in the castle's moat, a moat that swans inhabited.

amongst a garden of green

Friday, July 19, 2013

it's summertime

Summertime is grabbing me with its delights.  In my garden the hummingbirds make regular visits to the monarda, the butterflies flit from bloom to bloom on the butterfly bushes, while the daisies are content to smile pertly around corners and over the stone walls.

 A bounty of vegetables and fruits, ripe and irresistible, fill my refrigerator and counter tops. Cooking is simple and tastes like, well, summertime.

I want to mention a summertime dish that you really must try this summer; it certainly is a familiar dish for sure. Easy to assemble and prepare with just a few ingredients, so easy in fact that it seems like, "So-what", but please believe me when I say is so much better than it appears at first thought.

 Take a baguette, slice it and drizzle with olive oil and a few sprinkles of salt. Toast in a 400 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes (less depending on your oven). Then add fresh mozzarella cheese and a slice of tomato to each baguette. Roma rounds fit nicely, but you can cut and slice in half any tomato and it does not mater in the least. Once more drizzle with olive oil, grind some fresh black pepper and sprinkle salt over the tops. Then pop them into the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Top with a fresh basil leaf after removing from the oven. I have also splashed some balsamic vinegar over these before eating them.

Try some and please tell me what you think.

As far as other things happening this summer:
 I am almost finished knitting the market bag. I like how it is coming together, and I have not decided yet if I will give it away or keep it for myself. Sometimes I like to try using new things I have made  before giving them away, that allows me to make any possible alterations if needed.

Reading,  because what is summertime without reading after all:
 In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Left Neglected  by Lisa Genova

Thursday, July 18, 2013

ping listening

I am listening for the pings.

One of my very most favorite things to can or preserve involves the process of pickling. So for the past two days I have made pickles from cucumbers, the bread and butter variety being my personal choice. How satisfying to hear those pings to let you know your jars are sealed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

soup is served

Making a delicious soup need not be difficult or time consuming. In my experience of making soups, I am most inspired by the ones that do not require a recipe, but rather meld together with whatever available ingredients I have at hand. Tamar Adler's book, An Everlasting Meal, gave me even more inspiration for the creating of tasty soups economically by using food parts that might be tossed into the garbage as waste (ie, cheese rinds, skins, peelings, or end parts). 

During the winter months I would take one morning a week, usually Thursdays, to make a soup with the leftover meat and vegetables sitting on my refrigerator's shelves. The comforting aroma of soup would be wafting throughout my house about the time that Charlotte's violin teacher would arrive for her lesson. Then the girls and I would either eat the soup for lunch or it would be our dinner that night when my husband came home.

Now that summer is here with the rich supply of local, fresh vegetables, I am making soups on a regular basis once more. Cream soups, which are wonderful when served cold, or a mish- mash of vegetables chopped, sauteed and left to simmer with homemade chicken stock to make a more stew-type and heartier soup.

I totally agree with her statement that one does not have to be a professional to cook well. This book is an enjoyable read, and who doesn't appreciate reading a good cookbook especially in the summer months? She gives a no nonsense approach to cooking and you even find several recipes thrown in here and there to try.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

the "fermenator"

 I've given myself a new job description, instead of stating that I like to ferment things, I've dubbed myself the "fermenator".
You might have remembered me mentioning on other posts in times past, here and here, my experimentations in fermentation.

Years ago, while on the farm, I had my first attempt at making apple cider vinegar. I used Carla Emery's recipe found in Encyclopedia of Country Living.  My concoction sat in an antique covered crock until it began to make a slushy stuff on top, I sensed failure.

But now I know fermentation will bubble and grow stuff, it is alive and growing, not necessarily bad.

So with my organic apple scraps and cores, distilled water, a glass jar, and a piece of cheesecloth, I am on my way to making apple cider vinegar. It rests inside my cupboard, at this stage it has a most delightful smell.

Now that it is beginning to thicken and form a scum on top, I shall let it stand quiet and undisturbed for a month.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

in between times

 We are having those days in between the end of a school year and the beginning of another. These are glorious days crammed with all manner of things.

While at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel in Yellowstone Park, I was dismayed to find out I had left my nightgown at the hotel in Jackson Hole. Simple enough make a phone call, right? Simple except there was no cell phone coverage or internet in Yellowstone to even look up the phone number of the hotel in Jackson Hole. It was some time past our picnic lunch the next day before I was able to get a strong enough connection to make the needed phone call. Yes, they had the gown, and yes they would be glad to mail it to my home. A package arrived at my house a few days after my favorite Verena nightgown.

As we drove into our driveway late on the night of our arrival home, the car's headlights shone on our hydrangea bush. While we were away its blooms peaked in a mass of various shades of pink and violet. The blooms hang copiously adorning my backyard, one of its attractions. The gardenias are also blooming, perfumy sweet, and unlike the bountiful hydrangea blooms, they only survive one day before turning brown and shriveling up into a little brown pod.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

an icon of a pleasant home


 Frankly, I love them. In the years of living out on the farm, I had the most fantastic clothesline. Practical, serviceable, and there were only a very few days during the spring, summer, or fall that freshly laundered clothes, sheets or towels were not heeped into a basket, carried outside, and pegged onto the clothesline. Even in the cold chill of winter days, I would continue to use my clothesline to dry my bed linens.

In the ten years that I have lived in this house and this particular neighborhood, I have mourned the loss of something so simple and satisfying. But now I've discovered the neighborhood "rules" allow for discreet clotheslines, ones that can not be seen from the road.

I have literally awakened from sleep for several years with the sweet thoughts of hanging clothes on the line.

 Finally, I have a clothesline in my life once again, retractable, modified for sure, and just big enough for me to hang one set of sheets and pillowcases. It is situated in an out of the way corner of my yard, and for the most part it is private.

Today I washed my bed linens, took my new clothes pegs, and with utmost delight I hung those sheets and pillowcases onto my little retractable line. Tonight I shall snuggle under their fragrant crispness.

All day the blanket snapped and swelled
on the line, roused by a hot spring wind....
  From there it witnessed the first sparrow,
early flies lifting their sticky feet,
and a green haze on the south-sloping hills.
Clouds rose over the mountain....At dusk
I took the blanket in, and we slept,
restless, under its fragrant weight.
-Wash- by Jane Kenyon

at the shore cum amica mea

So it was that on Thursday afternoon we headed out to the beach, two young girls (Charlotte and her friend), me and my friend, and Rancher, ...