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.