Monday, January 30, 2012

True Confessions

Yes, it's time to fess up.  A few weird things known only by a few of my closest friends.  Maybe not even them.

#1.  Last night I made baked beans with hot dogs and bacon.  I make this probably once a month or so.  Usually whenever we have some leftover baked beans from getting barbecue from our local 'cue shop, The Commissary, I make this.  But I've also been known to open some cans of baked beans and take it from there.

I add a bunch of stuff to the beans (whether they are from The Commissary or the pantry).  Onions, peppers, ketchup, mustard, molasses, barbecue sauce, chipotle raspberry sauce, brown sugar, anything and everything.  Plunk those dogs on top, cover (or wrap) with slices of mostly cooked bacon, sprinkle more brown sugar on top and stick in the 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or so.  A casserole of salty sweet bubbly goodness.  This was my favorite dinner when I was little.  The addition of blueberry muffins on the side made this a special birthday dinner when I was growing up.  A kid's dream dinner.  But my youngest is now 14.  And the funny thing is, my kids have never really liked it.  And can you get more politically incorrect than liking hot dogs AND bacon?

#2.  Last summer when our neighbors across the street got ready to move to Pennsylvania and had to clean out their freezer to sell it, they offered us all of the venison and duck that was filling their freezer.  Well, I had to say yes to free food!  So now I have venison and duck in my freezer.  Where they have been since July.  I have no idea how to cook venison and duck.  I can't tell what cuts they are until they are thawed.  They aren't labeled (except with the names and addresses of the various hunters who gave this bounty to our neighbor, who was a pastor).  It's all too overwhelming.  The few attempts I have made to deal with this have ended in failure.  I have found that you cannot simply use any old duck recipe to cook WILD duck.  But yet I can't get rid of this stuff.  Instead, as I dive into the freezer in search of chicken, ground beef, frozen malabar spinach, blueberries, green beans, etc., the ducks sit in the way, occasionally falling out in front of me, but always reproaching my failure to embrace this opportunity.  Well, I have the 2 remaining whole ducks out and in the stock pot as I speak, with "wild duck gumbo" on the menu for tonight.  Which will hopefully be better than my last attempt at the ducks, wherein I attempted to roast them and found out NEVER EVER roast a wild duck.

trusty red stock pot

ducks in the stock pot
cooked ducks to wrestle the meat off of

the duck meat

beginnings of wild duck gumbo
Forgot to take a picture of the finished gumbo.  It was pretty good.  I added the duck stock back in to the roux, onions, peppers, celery and smoked sausage you see - the stock and ducks had been cooked with garlic, onion, celery, pepper, thyme, worcester sauce,and salt.  Also added in some sliced okra from the freezer, as well as the duck meat.  Served it in bowls with a big scoop of brown basmati rice in the center.  It was actually pretty good for dinner, and we'll have some for lunch tomorrow and some for the freezer.

#3.  Also freezer related.  But I will spare you pictures.  I do believe a family's deepest darkest secrets may be discerned from the contents of their freezer (or at least insight into things one has difficulty with processing -- both physically and conceptually).  I have a placenta in the freezer.  When we had our now 14 year old at home, with good friends and midwife in attendance, I knew the house we were in was not our "forever" house and that we would likely move.  Which we did within six months.  So rather than plant the placenta in the garden, we kept it in the freezer to await planting in our dream acreage.  Which of course we never got.  We moved from one suburban subdivision to our current one -- and our yard was extremely dreary when we first moved here.  It just didn't seem right to plant the placenta in a garden that I didn't intend to have the rest of my days, so in the freezer it stayed.  And here it is 14 years later.  With no particular plans or prospects to move (although I still hope to end up near a beach at some point).  And I've kind of lost interest in the placenta (it seemed so IMPORTANT 14 years ago!), but it doesn't seem right or respectful to chunk it in the garbage.  What to do what to do.

I know I'm not the only one with a placenta in the freezer, because the same neighbors who gave us the duck in their freezer also accidentally gave us the wife's placenta from her home birth a few years earlier.  I returned it to them.  I sure don't need two placentas in my freezer.

And that's it for this edition of "True Confessions".

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Land is Waking

The Land is beginning to wake here.  Our temperatures are up and down, in the upper 20's some nights, but rising to near 70 degrees several days later, rain every 3 or 4 days.  In our dining room I have a plate that holds some small bud vases with twigs cut from the forsythia and pussy willow in the yard.

We will have daffodils in bloom this week I think.

Likewise, the hellebores (so close to the ground they are easy to miss).

Perennials beginning to wake up.  This is the giant coneflower, that will ultimately be 7 or 8 feet tall.

Self seeded hollyhocks!

Back in the house -- success in bringing the Christmas Cactus back in to bloom.

And my 25 cent "rescue" African Violet from Lowe's last winter seems to enjoy our south facing kitchen  window also.

Yes, I can definitely feel it.  The pulsating life force oozing from the Land.

Linking to Cielo's House in the Roses , Boogie Board CottageHome and Garden Thursday

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's raining outside so the fairies came in . . .

We are having a couple of very wet, sloppy days outside, but spring is hovering just beneath the earth's surface and even bursting through in a few spots.   I noticed our resident fairies must have woken up and come inside to escape the rain.  I found them playing in the dining room.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Remember that fabulous full moon last week?  The Wolf Moon -- or in the Choctaw/Chickasaw languages of the Mississippi River valley lands -- Neshoba Moon (Neshoba or Nashoba meaning "wolf"). It was so incredibly bright, shining through the January bare branches of the trees in our front yard.  If you saw the moon last week, you know this picture doesn't begin to do it justice.  See the tree with the red berries on the left?  That is my favorite tree in the winter time -- a possum haw, they call it here.

Ilex decidua.  A deciduous holly.  Haw is an old-timey word for fruit, so I guess possums may be fond of it.

I love how the red berries stand out against the bark and the green of the pines and cedars.

It's especially striking when there is snow.  I bought this tree at a native plant sale and planted it when it was a 24 inch baby.  Over the years I worried that it might need a pollinator (like many hollies) or that I had bought a male tree (did you know that some tree species have separate male and female trees?  Hollies, and Gingkos), because it did not set any fruit for many years.  This year is the heaviest berry set I have had on it.

I've noticed this winter that the trees and shrubs have held on to their berries very late in the season.  Usually by mid January the birds, squirrels, raccoons and possums have left the branches very bare.  I haven't had as many birds at my feeders this winter either.  I wonder if it is due to our cats (although there have always been cats in the neighborhood, and this is the third winter Ophelia and Belle have lived at our house).  Santa brought the cats very elegant sparkly collars with bells this Christmas, but the collar was seriously irritating Ophelia's throat so we removed hers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Another haiku

Sharp pellets of snow,
Whipping wind to make you cry.
Dog, must we go out?

okay, I guess it's really sleet if it's pellets and makes noise.  But here in the south, if it's frozen and not rain and looks white we call it snow.

It is really cold!

And really windy!
And I really don't want to take the dog on a walk (but I will).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

a haiku for today

 Walk in cold drizzle,
Browns and grays.  Mist stings my face!
Drops cling to berries.

linking to Home and Garden Thursday

Saturday, January 7, 2012

366 Calendar Challenge

So, I figure I can do with a challenge.  I decided to join in the 366 Challenge over at The Kathryn Wheel .  Each month you make a calendar page for that month, with little blanks to write, draw, doodle, or whatever in each day with whatever is important for that day.  I think it will be a fun way to keep track of the little things in the year, like yesterday's 69 degree high on a beautifully sunny day and today's afternoon at the fencing tournament that our 18 yr old participated in.

I think I can do 11 more as each month comes.

linking also to Masterpiece Monday

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January Harvest

A small harvest for January -- for beef stir fry with the last of the Christmas prime rib that I had tucked into the freezer, augmented with some additional broccoli from Costco's.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

late Christmas ornament post

Life got in the way of making timely posts in December (as well it should! so I make no apology).  In between finishing up a bit of homeschooling, decorating, cooking, Christmas shopping, crafting, posting reminders of homeschool activities/field trips to our Unschoolers of Memphis yahoo group and Homeschoolers of Memphis Eclectic Message Board, taking the girls to see the Tennessee Shakespeare Company Southern Yuletide performance of The Gift of the Magi and Other Christmas Readings, to see A Christmas Carol at Theater Memphis, on a backstage tour of The Orpheum Theater in downtown Memphis, along with walking through The Peabody Hotel, seeing the Peabody ducks (that swim in the indoor fountain), lunch at The Little Tea Shop on Monroe (a Memphis lunch tradition, where prices remain reasonable, corn sticks rule, 40+ years of customers' drawings decorate the walls, and local lawyers and judges have "their" tables where their sweet tea is waiting for them when they get out of court), a trip to Memphis City Hall to straighten out a pension issue of my mother's (where my mild-mannered 18 year old fencing daughter said "oops, I have 2 knives in my purse" and about got cited for carrying an illegal knife -- illegal in that it was over 4 inches long!!?? -- in to City Hall -- I guess that's one of those homeschooler learning gaps: the girls aren't terribly cognizant of security checks) -- well all of that just didn't leave a lot of time for uploading pictures and composing coherent posts.  So, after that summary of our busy December, here are some pics of the ornaments I made this year.

And thus concludes the Christmas Season of 2011.  So many treats left unmade, so many activities left undone . . . .

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Dinner

Dinner for New Year's Day -- less bound to family tradition than Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, but an opportunity to delve into cultural heritage cooking -- more "roots" or folk cuisine.  I like to immerse myself in the folk essence of a place -- what makes THIS place unique or interesting.  Food is one of those pathways into the essence of place.  Here in the south the New Year tradition involves pork (a favored meat of farming cultures through most of the world), blackeyed peas, rice, and greens.  But the way these elements can be prepared and varied and mixed up is infinite.  It's a very fine line between Hoppin' John, Jambalaya, Jump-up Rice, Jolof Rice (there even appears to be a visual linguistic connection between the names).  So I pull out several cookbooks to concoct my own version.  These are three that I used:  Desperation Dinners (the name says it all -- quick get to the point easy to use recipes, and it has one for an easy Jambalaya);  Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (great vegetarian cookbook, every recipe a winner, and it has a recipe for blackeye peas called Cajun Skillet Beans; and Kwanzaa, An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking, which is full of wonderful recipes of the African Diaspora lands.
So I take elements from several recipes, using both blackeye peas and dried purple hull peas from the garden, peppers and tomatoes frozen from summer harvest, lots of herbs both fresh and dried, along with onions, celery, some shrimp and some smoked sausage.

Some greens (I think it is some malabar spinach and some swiss chard) from the freezer, cooked kind of low and slow with some onion, garlic, a bit of hot sauce to finish off and a chopped hard boiled egg on top.

Plated up with the rice to catch the juices, a salad with orange slices and pomegranate and a home made roll.  Yeah, it was pretty tasty.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Great Quarter Experiment

Sometime back before the beginning of 2011 I read something somewhere about someone (hmm, this may be where pinterest comes in kind of handy) who saved every quarter that came into her possession as change for a full year.  At the end of the year she had over $700.00 saved.  Sounded good to me, although I suspected one actually had to spend a lot of money to garner $700 in quarters in change.

I was curious as to how we would do on such an endeavor -- modified of course to accommodate our thrifty (cheap?) lifestyle, since we don't have spending situations that generate change every day.  So, every week this year on each Sunday we dumped any quarters we had as change into a large jar.

Now, on New Year Day 2012 we have tallied the results:  $71.00

After an initial let down that it wasn't $700, or even $100, I thought this was pretty cool -- I didn't have to "work" at it at all.  I didn't have to deprive myself of anything, did not even consciously try to "save" quarters through the week -- if there were quarters at the end of the week, they went in the jar, if not -- no biggie.  I started wondering how much money we would have had to have on deposit for one year (like a CD or Money Market) to earn $71 at the current interest rates offered -- about $25,000!!  So not too bad, considering we "earned" that "interest" on money spent on groceries, occasionally eating out, magazine purchases, trips to Target, Hobby Lobby, etc.

Linking to Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage