Friday, December 16, 2011

Cute kitty? or just plain nuts....

Swee'pea's newest antics...
When I put new litter in the box - scoop by scoop...
Swee'pea can't get in there fast enough to toss and turn. It makes it tough to get enough new litter in there. But he just can't get enough of that fresh clean feel.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas came early...

and my birthday too..
Because my Dad and Ann bought me a butcher block maple table top for them both!!!
Oh... it's so pretty!!!I also added a pull out shelf. This island was inspired by Ken, and someday it will get the full Ken-treatment: a hole cut in the top for a "garbage disposal", and maybe cabinets as well. We'll see.
At the moment I am so excited to be working with my new butcher block! Considering this:
is what I was working with before. Ugh. Not only is it not pretty but it had started to sag quite seriously in the middle. It was only matter of time before the whole thing said, "good night sister!" and crashed in half. With this new top it will be a while before that happens (I sure hope).
And how did I score such a beautiful island? Well - as mentioned before my Dad and Ann sprung for the maple top - I treated myself to an early birthday shopping spree at Home Depot for the rest and with the help of a good friend, Michael (aka The Muscle), I had me a new island! And I love it!
Jacques as usual, was on hand for inspection.
Once the table was build the major dilemma ws - what will be the first thing to cook on the new table?...
Eggs Benedict.
Yes. There were left over collard greens which replaced spinach quite beautifully, ham, eggs, and lovely hollandaise to be made in the Cuisinart - on the butcher block. Ah, yum. Eggs Benedict has to be my favorite breakfast - so yummy when you make it yourself. Especially since you won't be chintzy with the sauce.
Why the rush to get this table done? Why couldn't the table arrive on Christmas with a big red bow and be put put together after? Well - that's because I am set to be the next big TV star! Okay - not really - but I am going to be on tv (I hope) - here's the story:
My little cookbook hit it big with some articles locally, which is great. And our local PBS affiliate WHYY has a little show called Friday Arts. It will be in the Art of Food segment. The producer contacted us a few weeks ago about doing a segment on Mrs. Emlen's cookbook! Very very cool! :) So last week they spent and entire Wednesday interviewing me at work and then they came to my house today to film actual cooking segment! How exciting is that?
So we decided to do the recipes for "The Hen's Nest for a Supper Table", "Floating Island", and "Spinach". Things went fairly well.
The Hen's nest calls for blancmange. Here's your history lesson for the day:
Blancmange is a very very old recipe. It came to western Europe with returning crusaders around 1200C.E. At that time is was a savory dish which was a cream and almond soup with chicken or fish in it pepped up with expensive spices. This was an upper class dish to be sure. Around 1600 the dish changed to become a sweet desert type dish as we know it today. It is almond milk, sugar, gelatin, and whipped cream put into some sort of mold. It holds its shape very well. And Mrs. Emlen's recipe says to fill Bantam's eggs with blancmange, then make a "nest" with candied lemon peel. Once the "eggs" have jelled you put them on the nest. Sounds great right? Yeah, I had trouble. We couldn't get the eggs to chill so they didn't set right! :( They tasted amazing! but since PBS hasn't figured out how to deliver taste yet... it needed to look great. It didn't really. So I'm going to try it one more time and see if I can't get some beautiful still shots.
Since I couldn't get bantam's eggs I had to settle for Quail eggs - which present problems of their own. On the left is a regular chicken egg and on the right is the quail egg. The quail eggs don't break as easily. That is - the shell breaks differently than a chicken egg. Lots of problems. Cross your fingers for me that 3rd time is the charm.
At least the 'straw' is already finished. I made loads of candied lemon peal. It was the second thing I chopped up on my new butcher block.

The final result? I am pooped. I mean - ex - haus -ted! I've been cleaning like a mad crazy lady since the weekend. We're not talking a little dusting, we're talking full on detailing! Pulling every surface horizontal to the floor down and cleaning it, vacuuming twice, scrubbing with little scrubby sponges, and even re-painting the back splash to make it look clean. Then I also spent Sunday trying out the blancmange recipe - that was an entire adventure unto itself, and as if that all wasn't enough, I realized last night that I was making messy in the kitchen and I needed and apron. So - I woke up at 6am, showered, dressed, ran to grocery store to pick up last minute things I forgot I needed more of, and sewed an apron. Sigh. I know, I am crazy. I do know it.

And just in case you need some kitty pictures here are some gratuitous ones:
Swee'pea at the water barrel:
Handsome Jacques

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

a flurry of activity

Thanksgiving weekend was a quiet one for me. I stayed home, roasted a little chicken and made all the fixin's. It was delicious! Made fab-u-lous gravy, bean casserole, mashed potatoes, collard greens (from my garden) and I can't remember what else. Was delicious. and it was just enough to have left overs, but not enough to get sick of the left overs. Just right. The rest of the weekend I took care of business.
Friday I spent all day working on my shop at You check it out here. There is finally a place to purchase blank journals and notebooks. I will probably also post my artist books there at some point.
Saturday was the day to finish projects which should have been done a long time ago! sigh. I'm trying to get some of these projects off of my list. I'm happy to say that the three I wanted to finish I did. Very happy about that.
1. The doorway to my apartment:
The doorway was a left over project from when Jeff (of the-bathroom-Jeff) was here! That's the back of the wall with the huge beam for book shelves. I just never got around to finishing it. And especially since it was outside and I never saw it except for when I was coming home, it wasn't high on the priority list. But I am thrilled that it is done now. Thank goodness the former owner left me all of his paint in the basement. I didn't even have to buy any!
2. Bedroom ceiling:
before:after:I also finally finished patching and painting the holes that Electrician Lee punched into my bedroom ceiling. There were two of them, those are also about 2 years old. Again, nothing pressing, but annoying when I did notice.
3. The kitchen shelf:
This fell down this summer while I was away. It was because I used the wrong brackets. I thought they would be fine. Nope. If you want a shelf to hang you need to use something solid. So here is my wall (again) before:
Preparation of the garlands before hanging those too:
Swee'pea is very interested in things that come from outdoors. And of course we are at the oral fixation stage of development so he had to chew on the pine needles, swallow, throw the whole lot up, repeat - until all of the pine boughs had been used up. Pea Brain. I don't know about you, but if something makes me throw up - I don't go right back to it.
But success with the shelf was a achieved!
All of this was accomplished in one day (except for the pine garland) and all of it was observed by curious kitties:
In other news, the cookbook is doing very very well. There have been some newspaper articles about it. I did a blog post here about the program at work. We had 53 people attend in the rain! That rates as a success! We are down to 135 books left, so if you haven't purchased yours make sure to do it soon.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The world is standing on its head

It's snowing. Seriously - in October. See the white stuff on the grass? That's snow. Crazy.My raspberries haven't even dropped all their leaves! You can see them poking through the sad looking porch, which didn't get done this year.
The threat of the weather forced me to go out early this morning and pick the remaining tomatoes, some collard greens, and herbs. It was very cold, and Jacques, who insisted on going outside, sat on the bricks by the tomatoes complaining loudly about the weather. I still had to go out later to pick up my farm share and run a few other errands. It's amazing how it takes some getting used to the cold weather. It's like we are in denial that it could really be so cold so we don't dress appropriately. I forgot some gloves or mittens. My hands were absolutely freezing! I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to knit next... and after standing at the gas station trying to deal with the debit machine while you can't feel your fingers, it was really a no-brianer...mittens. And they will be some fabulous color work things. I'm leaning towards some geometric patterns, but then I saw these. Octopus mittens! Well, since I finally think I picked the last of everything in the garden, I might as well give the summary of that. Had a dickens of a time with the tomatoes this year. I tried using the seeds I got in Germany last summer. This went really well in some respects. All the seeds sprouted and I ended up with ENORMOUS plants. But not much fruit. So I was listening to a garden show one day and someone called in with the same problem that I had. Turns out was too much nitrogen in the soil. All ya gotta do is counter act that with some bone meal. Worked like a charm. Unfortunately a bit later than I would have liked. I didn't end up with the same amount of tomatoes had I figured this out sooner. But they were still delicious. I found the same farmer again when I was there this summer. He told me the seeds were from Poland and had been in his family for over 90 years. I got a better look at some of his tomatoes, there were some really funny lookin' ones. Maybe I'll try those next time I'm there.

I did finally get Chinese Lanterns. Now that I know what they look like, maybe I won't "weed" them all out next year before they can turn into this. They are really pretty. I also finally figured out what to do with all of the Melisse. This is a plant similar to lemon verbena although it's not quite the same. It is delicious in tea - especially sun tea. I've also used it in some cooking when I needed a slight hint of lemon - it's especially yummy in quinoa.
However, My entire bowl here, turned into melisse pesto. Wow. Imagine pesto but with a very nice lemon flavor. Very very yummy. What I will NOT plant again next year is catnip. This little guy showed up on my porch about three weeks ago. He was very sweet, and had some sort of injury to one of his back legs. He was sleeping on a piece of cardboard wedged between the house and a slab of marble on my porch. It took two weeks before I had a chance to take him somewhere to see if he had a chip in him.
Turns out his name is Scott, he has a chip and had been adopted from PAWS, (which was where I took him to see if he had a chip), so they just took him back. On the other had, I'm glad I took him last weekend, he would have been so cold this weekend.
And yes, the other one is still with me. I don't know why I cannot just make the flyer to get him adopted. He's miserable, I'm miserable, Jacques and Swee'pea are ticked off... sigh, he has a very sweet side - but he is such a pain at other times.
He is a catnip fiend. When he does sneak upstairs, after checking out if there is any food in the food bowls, he heads right over to the bowl with all of the catnip toys and goes bonkers. All of those toys were in the bowl, five minutes earlier.
He's also quite agile, turns out. My Dad and Ann came to do an east coast road trip and book-ended the trip by visiting me, or keeping Lucky company, depending on how you look at it. After they left the first time, all of the sheets and things were piled high on a chair. Look you found the prime comfy spot immediately! When they came back the second time, we went out to visit Ephrata Cloister. This is an amazing little place. We've been working on a collection (at work) that has about 22 illuminated music manuscripts made a the cloister in the mid 1700's.
The manuscripts are beautiful. Each one made with special little drawings scattered throughout. We've been very curious about where they came from. So my Dad, Ann, and I went out, and then this past Friday, Leah, Mary and I went to visit.
Here's where they made those amazing manuscripts. This room has very low ceilings.
It was still great even the second time around. Much colder though! Whew! The cloister was self-sustaining. They made not only their own cloth, clothes etc. but they also made their own paper, had a tannery and a print shop.
In other updates, I'm valiantly trying to finish some long over due projects, like putting the base board on here. I've got it cut to size - but it's not attached yet. I still have to cut the hole in for the electrical socket. It seems like a very do-able winter project.
The other winter project will be my ceiling. I heard from both the insurance and a roofer person in September... then nothing. I did call my insurance adjuster and he will be out until this coming Monday. Hopefully I'll hear something then. If water is coming down this way - I'll bet warm air is getting out that way and I have no intention of heating all of West Philly this winter.

So what do you do when it snows in October? Pick up a little pumpkin at the farmers market, stuff it and bake it. Yum.
Stuffed Pumpkin
some sort of Italian sausage - I used mild 'cause that's what I had.
onion (large)
bay leaf
quinoa (cooked)
a mildly sharp cheese that will melt nicely
Saute all of the above, clean out the pumpkin and stuff with filling. It will hold more than you think it will. Bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Yum.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It got me after all...

Yep - Irene got me anyway. Didn't discover that until last night. Here are the pictures, I'll elaborate more this evening.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

a little more life in the house

I tried. I really did, I tried to get something done this weekend, but it was just too hot. But I did finally manage to change the door knob on my door. Poor Katie lost the keys to my place in December when I was in Hawaii. So that I still only have one key to my door, I decided to keep the deadbolt - and just put a knob on door. Should be fine.
I also checked out a circular saw back in July so that I could tackle this baseboard. So I managed to take the picture this weekend -but not much else.
I have had three batches of collard greens from my garden. Super yummy. Collards are so sweet and tender when they are young and fresh from the garden!
On the other hand, the tomatoes have suffered. Everytime it gets close to time - some damn little squirrel sticks it's claws into the side and chews a great big hole out of the side. I have one ripe one sitting up on the table but I've lost three others. I'm trying out my garlic theory again. Spraying garlic all over the tomatoes. We'll see.
My cousin Rosanna got married this weekend, in Hawaii! Yay! - I couldn't make it to the wedding, but I made her guestbook.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Can't wait to see pictures of the wedding!
The second caterpillar has come to a tragic end. It attached itself to the cheesecloth, and then on a windy day the rubberband broke - the cheese cloth was on the floor and the cocoon was at the bottom of the jar. It had been looking funny for a while though.
Today I got the full story - some wasp layed an egg inside the poor caterpillar - when it went to pupate - the wasp hatched and at the caterpillar. :(. Poor little guy.

Speaking of poor little guys poor Lucky is still miserable. Here he is not knowing that Jacques is right above him. Lucky doesn't jump up on anything. So it's very easy for Jacques to assert his dominance.
Lucky is just miserable and tells me all about it all the time. I think he would be a great kitty as a one-kitty household. But he can't get used to the other kitties. And they aren't really interested in getting used to him either.

And how about our blasted government getting our credit down-graded. That's got me pretty worked up right now. Grrrr.