31 March, 2010

Mid week recount of our weekend adventures...

We were invited to our friends' house for dinner on Saturday for a meal of traditional Polish food! I fearlessly offered to make the "Polish Bread" or as i have always known it, Sourdough. I even braved offering to bake it in my Dutch Oven...
Well... what i didn't tell them was... *sigh*

I have never made Sourdough Bread before.

There! I said it!
My mom was an awesome camp cook and would always volunteer to teach people how to make foil dinners on fire coals, how to cook Cornish Game Hens in the fire pit, and of course how to cook in a Dutch Oven.
Did i ever pay attention? Did i ever really care? No... lol I was always more interested in wandering off on my own to contemplate the complexities of pine cones, find moose poop (to indicate to dad where i thought he could go hunting the next day), and try to cross rivers by jumping stones like they did in the movies.
Occasionally, my mom would MAKE me help her in the camp kitchen, but i did so begrudgingly and always staring out at the lush ferns, tantalizing Huckleberry bushes, and lichen longingly. I was a nature kid. I loved learning all about wild flora and fauna... and my mother taught me all about them too...
But when it came to cooking i was only ever interested in foil dinners and baking cookies at home. Forget the breads. Forget the Game Hens.

Well despite my best efforts of not learning things, my mother inevitably left some pearls of knowledge embedded in my brain, and for that i'm glad. I remember how to fillet a fish. I remember what parts of the Halibut are good. I know where it's best to shoot a moose so it doesn't run too far. I can cast a line, pan for gold, and identify fallen Eagle feathers. I remember how to start a campfire without kerosene or lighter fluid. I remember how to find a good campsite, and pitch a tent quickly. I've helped mom set up camp at dark, and i value the warmth and light of a gas lantern.
And fortunately, i remember to never wash my Dutch Oven (which belonged to mother) with soap, remember to oil it between use, and how to cook some things in it.
I have watched her bake beautiful Pineapple Upside-down Cakes, Killer breads, and melt-in-your-mouth meats. She was most famous for her Sourdough Bread though.
I thought, "Self, it's time to resurface those things that mom has taught you and make her proud."

I dug out her recipe (which was one i laminated a while ago to my delight), and began the starter. I fed it a couple times, stirred it twice a day for 4 or 5 days, pouring off some of the sourdough "hooch" now and then as i saw fit. Finally, Saturday arrived and i was excited to begin my adventures in Sourdough Breadmaking.

I wont share the recipe just yet, as my mom had a special way of writing her recipes, which i will still have to completely figure out before sharing... She wrote recipes very concise relying on already known knowledge and just as a reference for herself...
HA! Fortunately, it was just what i needed to fill in the gaps of what i remembered and what i didn't. I even got a little online help for what the recipe itself didn't cover.
(someday, i plan to write out a cookbook for posterity using my mom's recipes and writing down the stuff that she knew as well as my own experiences with the recipes, tips, and photos)
This is during the initial rise. At this point it has already doubled, but i was greedy and left it to rise a little longer... hehhe
I made my dough and kneaded it until it passed the "windowpane test" - basically knead the bread dough until a small glob rolled into a ball stretches out evenly into a translucent membraney "window" without tearing - set it into the oiled Dutch Oven, and placed it near the wood stove to keep warm and rise.
About 2 hours later, the dough was pushing the lid off the dutch oven, so i punched it down a little and at this point I thought it would be a good time to start the coals.

We didn't have many briquettes and NO lighter fluid, so V went out and started some try timber. Once it got burning strong enough, we started adding the briquettes we DID have along with some regular coal for fires.
hehe! My handsome husband took a break from sawing wood for our shelves upstairs and for firewood to help me with the fire.
Warming my toesies by the hot briquettes and coals...
Once the coals were ready (or as ready as i could tell) i placed them under and over the Dutch Oven and began the baking process! One of the things i was surprised to remember was how many Briquettes i needed to heat the Dutch Oven to about 325F (160C). Just take the size of your Dutch Oven and double it. Twenty Briquettes for a 10 inch Dutch Oven. For Baking, i should place two thirds on top and one third on bottom.
But i didn't have enough briquettes!!! So i improvised.
Every 15 minutes, i went out and turned the oven and rotated the lid a little so there weren't "hot spots" (a tip i found on the internet somewhere...) and in the mean time...
 ...hung some laundry outside!!! This was our first "warm-ish" and dry day of the season, so we were happy to get more clothes dry quicker with the wind and sunshine (which is blocked by a cloud in this photo). Actually, it's freaking cold here in Rathcormac today but it's CRAZY windy, so i have clothes out on the line hoping they'll dry before the rain comes later.
After about an hour outside baking, we brought it inside to have a look. Unfortunately, all of the briquettes were dead and no longer giving enough heat to finish the bread, so i had to stick it in the oven in the house (inside the Dutch Oven still) for about 20 minutes. I let it cool inside the Dutch Oven and VOILA! A beautiful, Huge, loaf of Sourdough bread!
Ick. Here is me holding half our loaf of bread. Look how great the crumb looks! Ahh... So happy. And it tasted awesome too! So glad i'm on a diet. No more photos like this, please. *shudder*
The bread was a hit at our friends' party and they asked me to make another loaf for them for Easter.

I'm still trying to understand how the Roman Catholics celebrate Easter, but apparently one thing to do is bring a basket full of food to church to be blessed... WOW! An actual PURPOSE for the Easter Baskets that i've grown up with! haha!
We didn't have a basket, so Karina lent us one of hers. V is excited that we will be celebrating Easter the way of his traditions. I am excited to experience it too, actually. I've never done anything like it.
V expressed that he was a little bummed that we don't have a decorative white cloth to line the basket with... so i offered to make one. I think he was a bit skeptical at first.
Remember the curtains i made recently? They are lined with some white cotton fabric on the back. Since i had plenty of fabric left over from the curtain project, i just cut a small square of white cotton, sewed a single fold hem around the edges, then embroidered a little designed on all four corners.
Hahaha! Embroidery is also something my mother taught me a million years ago... I even used my very first wooden embroidery hoop on this project that was purchased for me when i showed an interest in learning back when i was maybe 7 or 8 years old. My first time embroidering something seriously in almost 20 years was a little shaky at first. In the above photo, you can kind of see a difference in my first try (the flourish in the middle of the three) vs. my final try (which is at the bottom). All in all, it came out well, i think - 
It looks nice in the basket, and V is happy :) So i win.

24 March, 2010

Flowers, Egg Noodle Recipe, and a Potholder too!

It may be a little rude, but i'm going to do it anyway...



I just wanted to brag a little... JUST a little... My husband brings me flowers. hehehe These Hyacinths are SO FRAGRANT! its amazing. It's like capturing a little bit of spring in our own home. Heavenly.

I also made another one of these cool paper lampshades. This one sits over the bulb by our telly, and is made out of card stock. At first, i didn't think it would let out enough light, but after a few days i've decided i really like the diffused light that it creates. It's very romantic. Here's a tutorial on how to make one for yourself!

In my baking adventures i made a Sour Cream Pound Cake for a friend's birthday with some homemade raspberry topping. I sealed the topping into a cleaned out Nutella jar and decorated the lid with paper and ribbon.

Yesterday, i decided to make Egg Noodles. Out comes to cookbook!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted but not hot.
Stir together flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, butter, and milk. When all your ingredients are combined and mixed, place dough on a lightly floured surface and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes. When your time is up and the dough is smooth, you know you're done. It should look like this:
It's so happy!
Roll your dough out onto the counter (or whatever you roll your dough out onto) to your desired thickness and use a knife to cut the dough into strips. Alternately, my grandmother taught me that if you roll your dough into a log after you flatten it, and cut strips from the end, it's easier.
I didn't do it either way....
because i'm a rebel...
... or i just have my mom's old noodle maker:
I tore the dough in two, and placed the first ball into the flattening rollers on their widest setting (which is about 1/8th")
flattening the dough in preparation for noodles
Next, i placed the flattened dough into the "noodle-cutting" end. This was a bit tricky because the dough was very elastic! I almost needed an extra hand to feed it and crank the handle at the same time!
Here's what it looks like coming out! Pretty cool, i think. I still separate all the noodles from this form so they can dry a little better.
My mom used to place them on a drying rack or even on hangers around our kitchen. I remember sneaking into the kitchen and filching some of the drying noodles before they were stiff! hehehe
I decided to just lay them all out flat on some butcher paper. Later, i moved them (still on the paper) to a cookie sheet and placed them under our wood-burning stove to dry. 
I'm still not sure what i'm going to use them for, as they were originally intended for dinner last night... but since they weren't dried enough, i used regular pasta instead.
I might make a stew or even just noodles in white sauce with some blanched veggies! mmmm getting huuuungry....

Speaking of which- i saw these in one of the little grocery stores in Fermoy and couldn't resist purchasing them simply for their charm...
BAHAHAHAHA! i busted them out yesterday and really, i think they should be called "Hard Little Skinny Sausages in Some Sort of Juice". They weren't the most horrible thing i have had, but... not really like amazing Ballpark Franks... *drool*
Actually, in relation to the "Hot Dogs" i made a discovery! Yesterday i microwaved one of these beauts and needed a potholder to grab it and use to protect my legs (i was planning to use my lap as a table) ... and i realized all we have are dish towels. I'm not complaining about our dishtowels- because they serve their purpose dutifully, but grab a moist dishtowel to pull something out of the oven with and you'll end up with a mess on the floor and crispy fingers.
So i decided to make a potholder today with some scraps:
this is the top and bottom of said potholder, and i must say that i am pretty happy with how it came out! I don't have any quilter's batting or even any heat resistant fiber... but neither did pioneers. lol! i just used a couple layers of fleece for insulation and will hope for the best. 
yay!

Alas, i must go make phone calls now that all the businesses are open over in America. blah.

23 March, 2010

This is me. Honestly.

*deep breath*

I am 25 years old.
In 4 months and 17 days, i will be 26. I never thought i would turn 18.
I cried when i turned 18 because i thought i was old. Wow. I bought a pair of cute jeans to wear on my 18th birthday as an incentive to lose weight. I didn't lose the weight, but i wore them anyway and wore a sweatshirt to cover my "muffin top".
Realizing that i've had a struggle with my weight and self image for at least 7 years kinda makes me want to throw up... but not the bulimic route. Been there, done that.
Today i set a real goal. Recently i resolved to diet and exercise but didn't set goals. I realized today that goals are important. I wrote down a goal. Today i set a workout routine.
I can't believe i'm actually working out! It's hard work to get this big ole body movin' but once i'm doing it, and i'm all warmed up... I can't believe how great it feels.
Let me share something with you. Getting up from sitting on the floor, going up stairs, standing, sitting, walking... all feels like i'm carrying a backpack full of sand. Once i get moving, i've got the momentum and it gets easier, but it's the BEGINNING that is the hardest part... which is why i am blogging this for the world to see.
There.
Now i'm accountable.
To someone else other than myself.
It feels good.
And strange.
I feel like i'm at an AA meeting... except for food. Overeaters Anonymous. Now there's a group for me.


"Hi. My name is Shannon and i have an intense love of chocolate, sweets, and overeating. I don't drink enough water or exercise often. I like to sit in front of my computer for hours and prefer to exercise my brain rather than my body."
"Hiiii Shannnnon."

Enough is enough. Today i measured my body and was surprised at how interestingly difficult it was to be honest about those numbers with myself. WOW! I kept having to remind myself that i'm not trying to impress anyone and that nobody is looking. LOL! It's a pretty bad reflection on your own self image when you can't be honest with yourself, right? Yes.

Therefore, i'm taking it to the next level. Watch this

Dear Internet,
I measured my body today and found these things to be true:
  1. My chest is 43"
  2. My waist is 36.5"
  3. My hips are 48.5"
 My dress pattern calls for the following measurements:
  1. Chest 40"
  2. Waist 32"
  3. Hip 42"
I don't view this to be an unreachable short term goal, and so i am officially beginning to work towards a healthier, slimmer Me. My long term goal is to lose 40 lbs by the end of July (and ultimately, before my 26th birthday in mid/late August). If i reach my short term goal before i reach my long term one, i will make a new short term goal.
If that makes any sense. lol

Wish me luck!
love, 
  Shannon


There! i did it. *exhale* I set goals.
NOW! Off to do things less sedentary. 


This is me:

Torn.

Tonight i got out my dress pattern and looked through it. I showed it to my in-laws and they think it's pretty great too (i knew there was a reason i love this family!). So as far as i can tell, the dress pattern was either not used at all, or used once as a larger size than the pattern calls for because all the pieces are cut about an inch on the outside of the lines. This makes me happy.

I also learned recently (when V bought his suit and fabric for his vest in November) that Poland is a great place to buy good quality fabric for cheapsies. Actually, it's something i'm really looking forward to when i go in July, buying fabric.
Tonight when we were talking to V's parents, i looked at the back of the pattern and read the bottom corner where it reads "Suggested Fabrics"
Linen, Cottons, Gingham, Lightweight Wool, Polished Cotton and Faille. 
I'll admit; i didn't have a clue what Faille was until i googled it. It's a dressier option, and i suspect it's a medium weight fabric which would definitely call for an underskirt... the problem? Faille is literally ten times more expensive per yard than Gingham at $50+ vs $5 per yard.
blah
i'll stick with the lightweight cotton family. V loves the idea of gingham and so do i, frankly... but on the other hand i do want a wedding dress. Even if it might be colored. 
V's mom is already on the hunt for some blue and yellow gingham for me (which if it turns out that i'd like something else instead, wouldn't be too much of an issue, as these will still be super cute for nice summery dresses anyhow)... 
Maybe i need to sleep on it.

What are your thoughts on V's suit? 


You can't tell, but his vest here is green. The vest he'll wear in July with this suit is a brighter, gold  satiny version of the torn paper at the beginning of this post. His suit is a lovely chocolate brown with pin stripes. 
This suit + summer wedding = good or weird? 

22 March, 2010

Project Wedding Dress: the fabric

First, let me catch us up on photos from my previous post:

Aftermath of the main course at our Fondue shindig
-photo by V, crop by me

Our friend Sławek or "Chudy" ("Skinny", in English)
-photo by V, edit by me

Paweł and Karina
-photo by V, edit/crop by me

Our sourdough starter, overflowing in all its yumminess. This was Day One, before i transferred it to a plastic bowl

-----------------------------------------------------------------

I am excited to announce that we are officially going to Poland! YAY! V booked our tickets today! We will be there for 10 wonderful days where i will be completely immersed in family, language, and a whole other culture!
I. Am. STOKED!
Also, we're having another little wedding ceremony for ourselves and V's family in Poland. I am making my own dress for the occasion and have about a million and a half ideas.


At first, i had considered an Organza, or Taffeta in off white, or even a Cotton-y type fabric, but now after consideration, the "re-wedding" will be in the summer... so why not make it a color? White weddings from what i have understood have always been symbolic of innocence and sexual purity. 
Well, let's be honest. Innocence is a relative term, and we all know that i'm currently married... why stand on old traditions?
The thing is, if i chose white (or off white) it's because i want to wear it - not because i believe in the traditions that are created by people. I'll never forget talking to a friend of mine once (when i was single) about ideas for a "someday wedding". I suggested that i would like to be married in the fall and wear an off-white/cream colored dress. In my head, i was thinking that off-white/cream would be nice with the change of colors... on the other hand, she burst out "THANK YOU!" and told me more or less how i shouldn't be married in white because i'm not pure (this from the same friend who told me "you know i can't support your decision" when i excitedly told her of my engagement to V).
Rude! I mean, i agreed with her to placate her but it sincerely hurt my feelings. It is somehow burned into my mind exactly where we were, what the weather was, and how it felt to bottle up how i really felt. "Pure" is something that is a matter of how you were raised. My view of "pure" growing up was instilled by my religion- that a woman would be "pure" before marriage by remaining a virgin, and doing nothing more than hugging,  kissing, and holding hands with her soon to be husband. By no means would he see her naked, and heavy petting was right out the window. With those standards, even my friend shouldn't have worn white on her wedding day.
But... like i said- it's a matter of opinion.
I've digressed again, haven't I? hmmm....


Back to the subject matter... fabric.
I loved the idea of having an off white dress with a brightly colored sash and hem, but now, i'm leaning towards a colorful dress anyway! 


Yellow Gingham! how awesome would this be with possibly a solid yellow band around the waist (depending on how pudgy i look in the dress) and some sort of cute hem? I've even thought about a scalloped white cotton hem around the bottom and the sleeves... I've just realized that my blog is also a gingham motif... i swear i do not have a fetish lol! i don't own a single gingham thing!
You can see my dress pattern here. 


I briefly considered lavender gingham, but decided against it when i remembered that V's suit is brown with a yellow/gold waistcoat, and yellow would be a better match. As for hair - red hair wont clash with yellow, will it? Does that even matter?




Hmm... what do you think of the whole "white vs. color" thing? 

21 March, 2010

Fondue, Sourdough, and all sorts of goodies!

This week has been wonderful. I've had V home with me for most of it, and it has been a nice "mini staycation" for both of us.
Here in Ireland, St. Patricks day is a national holiday, so everyone pretty much has it off. V's union also took the day after St. Pat's off, so he was home Wednesday and Thursday, worked Friday, and was home for the usual Saturday and today, Sunday.
I recently got a new (to me) cookbook and there are some AWESOME fondue recipes in it. It has had me itching to have a fondue party ever since! Especially when my books came from America, and with them a Fondue book. A dear friend of mine actually opened my eyes to the world of Fondue after taking me out to The Melting Pot for my 24th birthday.
I hate to say it, but V and i have two distinct sets of friends (together, not separately). Our Polish friends, and our Non-Polish friends. I would love to invite all of them together but A.) i dont have enough room or enough food for 9 people at the same time, and B.) We only have one translator among us and i worry about us segregating ourselves into "language" groups. V with our Polish speaking friends, and me with our English speaking friends... sigh.
SO... the only solution is to have two fondue parties! Right?!
I was hoping to have them close together, but... no. I spent 5 hours in the kitchen yesterday preparing all the food for us and our guests (we had our Polish friends over first), not to mention the hours finding the right recipes for the meat that we already have in our freezer as well as vegetables, etc.
Unfortunately, because i was so busy and pressed for time,  i didn't take photos of ANY of the food. But i shall now tell you all about it. Is that mean? lol

V has a propane two burner camp stove that served as his regular cooking stove in his previous place. I couldn't believe that a rented unit didn't come with a stove, but considering that the downstairs was about 200 sq. ft, i suppose i can see how a stove/oven wouldn't fit. We placed the camp stove in the center of our table for community dipping, and it was absolutely perfect! The only thing i would change if i could, was that the gas was a bit too hot (even on low) for a couple of the sauces.

First Course:
Gouda, Gin, and Beer Fondue served with blanched vegetables and pieces of baguette. This was fun! I actually take joy in introducing people to new recipes, especially if they're closed-minded about food. V takes a lot of (playful) razzing from his Polish friends whenever he serves or talks about food that isn't cooked the way his Polish friends are used to it... of course he and they are from different parts of Poland, but at any rate, i can see how it would be frustrating for him. Because of this, i was somewhat pessimistic about the way things were going to go and if our guests would be pleased with the dinner, since they've never had fondue. I knew it was a lot of work, and didn't want to go at it for naught.
I blanched the vegetables, and rinsed them in cold water (to stop the cooking process) ahead of time, and cut up bite-size pieces of baguette. Everyone sat around the table and as they sat, we turned on a burner of the camp stove and got started! I started putting the ingredients in as the recipe called for, and they seemed very interested, and even joked about it being a Hibachi style dinner. After the cheese fondue was ready V explained what to do (in Polish, as most of the conversations are as such, being the majority) and i showed them how to "stab and dip" the vegetables and bread, place them on your plate, and eat them with a fork. The gin made for a great taste (which was surprising to me), and all in all, though initially apprehensive, everyone was pleased with how it all tasted and the fun in dipping your food. Next time, i've considered adding a bit of chili powder for a little "kick".

Main Course:
Ahead of time, I made small cheesy meatballs (meatballs with a cube of cheddar at the center), and tossed bits of chicken with oil, chili powder, and paprika. Also i prepared several sauces including  Curry and Mango Chutney Sauce; Tomato, Basil, and Onion Puree; Applesauce and Dijon Sauce (i made my own applesauce for this one!); and Hot and Sweet Mustard Sauce. I wish i had some Kielbasa to serve with it all, as well- but Ireland in all it's glory closes up shops at about 4-5:00 (or earlier) on Saturdays and i didn't think about it until too late.
At the table, i mixed up some vegetable broth, and once it was boiling demonstrated how to cook the meat. Stab and boil for 2-3 minutes, eat.
The meatballs were a big hit, but not so much the chicken. LOL! I'm not sure about the chicken either. * I should probably take this moment to explain that i have ended my Lenten meat fast prematurely because of my concern for my protein needs as well as just not being a very good Vegetarian. I still plan on making many of our meals Vegetarian, but instead of being completely Vegetarian, i have decided to eat meat only very sparingly. Also, i am taking into consideration the Thyroid issues that run in my bloodlines, as well as autoimmune disease which can be accelerated by too much soy. * 
Next time, i'll be sure to have some Kielbasa, as it would have gone wonderfully with the Applebutter Dijon as well as the Hot and Sweet Mustard Sauces.
My favorite with the meatballs was the Tomato, Basil, and Onion Puree as well as the Curry Sauces. MMM!

Dessert:
Ahead of time while some of the sauces were simmering for dinner, i made a Sour Cream Pound Cake from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, cooled it, and cut it into bite-sized squares for the White Chocolate Raspberry dipping sauce!
That's right. White Chocolate Raspberry. It. Was. AMAZING.
If you want any of the recipes for the above mentioned foods, let me know, but i'm typing out how to make the White Chocolate Raspberry sauce here.

Ingredients:
1lb White Chocolate, in small bits. (for those of you to whom this is available, White Chocolate Chips would be great! We dont have them here, so i had to chop up a few candy bars)
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1-2 C frozen (or fresh) raspberries.

In a small pot, on low heat, warm the heavy cream. While it warms, place the raspberries in another small pot on medium heat. Once the cream is warm, put the white chocolate into the pot and let it soften, about 3 minutes. While the chocolate is softening, mash the raspberries in the pot. Once they're all mushy and liquidous, strain all the seeds out leaving a yummy raspberry sauce in a bowl.
At this point, stir your chocolate until all the lumps are out. This is when i brought it to the table and set it on the camp stove (on low... which was too much and ended up burning it a little... but it was a good flavor because i caught it just in time!). Pour the raspberry sauce all swirly into the chocolate sauce, and swirl it with a knife to make it look all marbeled. Beautiful!
I retained some raspberries for dipping, sliced up a few bananas, and served the pound cake all to go with the chocolate sauce.

This sauce was all the rage. ESPECIALLY with the bananas, which i didn't expect. We all nearly licked the pot clean.
Later, after everyone had gone, V told me how much of a hit everything was, and how impressed they were with the Fondue. Today, i am still riding the high of our successful dinner party and am so happy that my hours in the kitchen beforehand were completely appreciated. :-D

Next weekend, we have been invited over to their house for some traditional Polish food cooked on a fire with Dutch Ovens! I was so excited that i broke out my 10" Dutch Oven and offered to make some of my mom's Dutch Oven Sourdough bread.
I think they were apprehensive at first, but V explained that on our recent trip to Seattle, i had expressed my love for Sourdough, and had to buy a bit at a bakery to see if he enjoyed it. V immediately identified it as traditional Polish bread to my delight, so it would be a good addition to a traditional Polish meal.
I explained that i learned how to make it in Alaska where it is a big deal... and Alaska used to be Russia... which has a bit of an influence on Polish food...

SO today i broke out mom's old recipes (some were dated 1989, haha) and made some Sourdough Starter today. I forgot how much the starter EXPANDS! After a couple hours, it had outgrown its original container, and i had to move it into a bowl. We've been keeping the cottage warm, so hopefully in a few days we'll have some nicely fermented sourdough sponge :) I can't wait! ( V took a photo of our sourdough in its first container as it had overflowed, which i will have to liberate from his camera soon) Until then, adieu!

16 March, 2010

Feast your eyes on this!

As we were shopping last week, i picked up a can of salmon. My husband was incredulous! He complained about how much he hates canned food and "why can't we get the frozen stuff instead?". I insisted that i wanted to only spend €2 instead of €5 and maybe it didn't matter in the long run, but we're short on money now. Too much "college shopping" maybe.
I did have something in mind, and i told him he'd never had guessed that it was canned salmon... he remained skeptical. That is, until dinner later that week. heh!
First of all, the can of salmon was "Super Value" brand, but was stamped "Alaska USA" on the top... i dunno. It seemed to have traveled a long way, so i was also fairly concerned about the hype i had created. Salmon is my favorite food ever, and i could eat it every day - I hoped this measured up.

My plan was for Salmon patties! I found a recipe online, but halfway through gathering my supplies, discovered that we were out of some things, so i improvised. I must say that it really turned out better than i had imagined.

The recipe called for:
  • 1 (14.75 ounce) can salmon, drained and flaked (i had half that)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup garlic and herb seasoned dry bread crumbs (none of these. Only plain and homemade)
  • 1/4 cup dry potato flakes (fresh out of potatoes too)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed (chose not to use because of the sauce, which will contain much dill)
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt (nope. dont have this)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
A couple years ago, i would have been discouraged at not having every single item that was called for on the list. Now i just use most recipes as a guideline for something better.

So! First things first. I made "italian breadcrumbs". What exactly goes into Italian style breadcrumbs, i have no idea. But i DO know what goes into Italian style dishes, and decided that was a good place to start. Since i was out of potatoes, which i assume soak up some of the wetness of the recipe, i put an entire cup of breadcrumbs into this recipe. In a medium bowl, i mixed:
  • 1 Cup plain breadcrumbs (which i made over time by using the heels and leftover bread that was too dry to eat, dried it completely, and ran it through the food processor)
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground colored peppercorns
Smelled Italian to me :)
I then added both eggs to the breadcrumbs and beat with a whisk for about a minute, after which i added the salmon and mashed it all together with a potato masher.  I also decided that since i didn't have enough salmon, i left the oils and everything in it too.


In the mean time, as a substitute for the potatoes (or flakes) i shredded about a cup of Celeriac that we had left over in the fridge from the soup last week. I placed the shredded Celeriac into a boiling pot of slightly salted water and let nature run its course. When the Celeriac was nice and tender, i poured it into a sieve and pressed the water out with my hands:
then added it to the salmon mix. Since Celeriac tastes reminiscent of celery, that takes care of the whole "celery salt" thing. In went a pinch of sea salt, too. By this time, the mixture is a mushy bowl of yum. It's malleable but doesn't fall apart.

I warmed the olive oil on the skillet, and created two "patties" with my hands and placed them on the hot oil. 

Fried on both sides. I was careful not to have too high of heat so the patties would cook all the way through, and still be brown on the outside. 

For the sauce, a friend of mine usually makes hers with just sour cream and dill. While this is good, i wanted it to have a little *something* extra. So i mixed:
  • 1/2 Cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs Dijon mustard with seeds
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tbs fresh dill

To go on the side, i boiled some broccoli. Never broiled broccoli before? No problem.
Cut your broccoli into edible pieces, place into boiling water until just tender. Expect about 4-5 minutes. 

Preheat your broiler and set your rack 7 or so inches below the coils.
Once your broccoli is done boiling, drain, and place into a shallow baking dish- like a casserole dish or the like, and sprinkle with the topping of your choice.

I put freshly ground colored pepper and sea salt with a dash of garlic powder and a couple other seasonings.
Place into the oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Altogether it was a great meal and V admitted he was wrong about canned salmon. I'll definitely be making this more often.


In other news, i've been a busy bee lately. I made a very cool crocheted rag rug for the first time!

And i think it really brightens up the room! It measures about 4 feet in diameter and was made from 6 pillow cases, and 3 double sized duvet covers. I really love the way it turned out and the way it feels under my bare feet. V loves it too! A few weeks ago, i posted briefly about the project here. The balls of fabric on the very right edge were used in this rug, and then some.
Hopefully, i'll find a couple more duvet covers/ sheets/ whatever at the second hand shops so i can work on my purple one. It really adds a touch of "homeyness" and warmth to our cold little cottage.
I love it!!

well, i must go contemplate dinner... in the mean time, i shall dodge these little (big) monsters. EEK!


8 years ago... wow.

A letter i found from my mother:

Thursday
May 2, 2002
After lunch in
Room #18 - Raymond, WA

Dearest Daughter,

    Good day! I just moved your picture by my lamp and decided to finish my lunch writing to you at the same time! Yep, your picture goes with me! You'd kinda like this little town for a day. After that it forces you to play solitaire a lot!
   I fix lunch and some suppers here in the room from some foods brought by us and bought by us to save eating the same boring stuff out. I challenged dad to bring something back that can be microwaved or from the Chinese buffet! I have a cute little refrigerator that holds a qt. of salad dressing, some lunch meat, orange juice in a qt, lying on its side, 2 cans of pop, 1 qt. of applesauce, dad's qt milk, and my "milk" stuff. In the ice cooler, i have a tupper bowl full of ice I replace once a day from the ice machine outside across the parking lot. We brought oranges, lemons for water, and grapefruits. Then the dry stuff that I just put in one of the dresser drawers is our breakfast cereals, sugar, cans of tuna, Ritz crackers, can opener, some utensils. Then I go over to the box in the night stand that contains the family dinnerware a la paper products, can of pears and two of Kim's small bowls for whatever use i need. So I have and ice chest, box full, drawer full, and refer. and I make lunches and dinners for 3! It is sorta something for me to do too, as I fold napkins, set up the table with the cheap flower centerpiece compliments of the motel, on this tiny round table. I do have a candle burning just for the "smell". "Cookies and Cream" really is fun. you should see the crumbs on the floor and full garbage cans everyday! They vacuum and say nothing. I am going to wash my windows next when i take today's garbage out. All the little microwave boxes from the lasagna and alfredo chicken. Ha. Two tiny bite sized pieces of chicken. Then i have a frosted flat german chocolate cake on top of the microwave - all the comforts of home! But their tub has a black caulking ring around it! Dumb to caulk in anything but white! Gross, gross, gross.
   Yesterday I bought from the huge hardware store some dble ruffled petunias for the little boxes outside the rooms. May Day! I gave them to the young co-owner and said I had to satisfy my May Day tradition, feel dirt under my nails, and to leave a souvenir! He thanked me saying that was generous. Denny's had a closeout of $.99 a cube so i bought a few. Pink will lighten this place up a lot!
  Then i fixed dad's work Carhaart  pants knees by folding a place mat into quarters, stuffing into the pocket created. So when he kneels down, his boney knees aren't pressed into rocks. He sure has had a lot of charlie horses in his legs every night. Even when sitting in a chair they'd hit. They're doing so much being in the wire pulling, connecting stuff, on the roof pulling wire, and connecting all of it. Today they are pulling wire and connecting the pumps that actually pump gas to your car. They're called "mixers" if you flip the handle for supreme, the computer switches the mixer to the supreme tank. If you switch to regular, it'll switch to that but you get 3/4 gal of whatever was left from the previous pumped gas customer! In other words, you don't always get what you want for the first 3/4 gal unless you're lucky! Thus, motorcyclists are really messed up as they run strictly on on type and have a real tough time keeping their motors running smoothly. So I learned something new today and I'm passing it along to you.
   Saturday they'll be pumping gas - I sure hope the computer system, phones, all are ready to work. Permanent power is now on. So, dad has to connect some stuff hot. He knows how to do that, - Turn the breaker off!! He and Jim have been working 2 hrs a day. I am so glad Jim came to work for 3 days. It takes 2 to pull wire and to connect at each end. The inspector was out there yesterday and carded all the workers!!! You have to have a Washington journeyman's card or apprentice card that is current or a nasty fine is levied to the company plus the worker. And, they have to  be on your body or truck. Dad has been carded twice in his whole electrical career and both times have been in this last year! He has one for Utah, Alaska, and Washington. He has to do 8hrs of classwork in each state for 2002 yet. WA is done. How and when he is going to do Utah, i dont know. AK + WA are reciprocal. So he has to send his proof to AK.
   I have paid off 8 Dr. bills this week. I just need your dental one - which I hope you have sent already. I'll call if it isn't there when I get home. Ha! By the time you get this letter, it'll be paid. Time......
All we'll have left is my cat scan bill and the Dr. who reads them. He charged almost $600 to do that! There wasn't any charge from the former lab! And when we got through with that bill, it was $198 total! This one will be negotiated again. Grr.
   I finally can see the little mountain range - The rain clouds had it obliterated plus the motel girl finally washed one half the window. The other half she couldn't do as it retracted over the immovable one. It can be takenout but that isn't her job nor mine. The apple trees are in full bloom plus the non fruit trees - the Hawthornes are so pretty in pink puff balls. Petals fall in pink "rain" when i let go of the branch from sniffing them. I didn't go for my walk yet today, Don't wanna as i just washed my hair and i dont want it all flat.
   I forgot the news even though you'll know before this gets to you. Laurie's baby, Damon, was born Monday (4/29/02) morning 10:55am. He weighed 6# 14oz. and came one month early. They said he looked and sounded good but they'll be monitoring him for 48 hrs to make sure his lungs are functioning well. She went in Sunday night late after her water broke but it took 12 hours later, an epidural, and lots of effort to bring him forth. We haven't called yet, but will tonight to see how things are.
  Well, are the BYU tests done? Must have been different to be doing that all alone, no one else to compare to afterwards or nothing. Hmm. A once in a lifetime deal.
   Our time here has been 2 1/2 weeks. Hm. I have learned to do things to keep from beng a "bench bunny" playing solitaire for hours on end.
  I made a little formal purse from scraps of Melody's dress [hand drawn photo]. It's just cute and if she don't use it, oh well that's okay. It only took 2 hrs to make.
  Boring day. I don't feel like sewing doll clothes either. Some days are like that at Ron and Kim's too. When i can't move furniture, plucl plants dead leaves off or whatever, i can bet bored easy. Life goes on. Some days I look back at what i did around the house and I miss it a lot. I have this "dirt digging urge" or creativeness like work on my album pages of which i can't do. I can't make envelopes i can't put things on walls to make me more at home... So i just say "one day at a time" and know it'll get better. Better meaning, our own digs with our stuff.
The dongs need some serious grooming and loving. A whole year and confined to cages. If she doesn't come in season soon, I'm advertising Pepper for sale. Reasons are many. Wherever we will be, I want Rowdy to be the main loved dog. He'll be getting older faster now. he is the cutest and most responsive. He could be yours but you aren't in a place nor time in life for him. he will get cleaned up this weekend though. Kim doesn't really do anything for them, just puts food in the dish.
  Putz. I'm tired and babbling. I'll add more later. It's raining so no walk today.

Love, Mom.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kim was my brother's wife. My parents and i moved from Utah to Washington abruptly, and had no place of our own, so we moved in with my brother and Kim. They only had a double wide mobile home so there wasn't much space for 5 people. Kim didn't really appreciate my mom's style of cleaning and running a house, so after a while - they, my parents, felt unwelcome and stayed in their room most of the time.
There was a lot of fighting between my brother and his wife, which caused tension for my family and we fought a lot too. Finally, i was fed up and needed to get away.
I had gone to Alaska on a trip the previous August (2001) to meet my biological family for the first time in my memory. They had mentioned that i was welcome to spend my senior year there, if i wanted... so i went. I was living with my (biological) grandparents when this was written.

Dad was working on a job and mom had gone with him (as she has done with any job my dad works out of town for more than a couple days). I don't remember originally reading this letter, but i'm glad i kept it. There's so much of her in it. From the loopy script handwriting, to the language. I can almost hear her voice. If i close my eyes, i can almost smell her in the paper.
Memories are funny things.

15 March, 2010

DIY Decorative Paper Lampshade: A Tutorial

This tutorial is for one of these:
A Lampshade made from paper. I made this one from regular printer paper, but it would be fun to make a few out of card stock, vellum, or even just different colored papers! I assume the printer paper works well with only the small size, as there might be too much weight to support with a larger one.
Have fun with it! Once you see how to make the regular "ball", you can make other things too! Here are some examples from IQ light (click on "variations").

First, Cut out thirty of these (you can print the bigger pattern and cut out thirty of these for a big-ish one*, or you can print out the second one on A4 paper, and make a smaller one) *for a larger one, i suggest using more sturdy paper.

Note how there is a high side and a low side to this. It DOES matter... especially in the beginning, when you're making your "rosette". Follow along with this video, and you'll get a good idea of how to start.


When i watched this video, i had a little trouble about halfway through, when the lamp is turned as a bowl. Since you're watching it from the top, you can't see how it's being put together very well. 
This diagram from iqlight.com was a real life saver.


First row is the rosette. Second row makes it into a "bowl". Third row alternates vertical and horizontal pieces. For the third row, i found it easiest to insert the vertical ones first, and the horizontal ones after instead of all in a row like they show in the video. Fourth row is actually where i stopped, because my light is a fixture, not a hanging lamp. I needed an opening large enough to fit around the socket. I personally took two pieces of florists wire and bent them into a circular shape to support the paper shade and attach it to the outside of (the plastic part) my light socket. Basically, it stays on because of the pressure of the wire on the outside of the socket.
DO NOT STICK THE WIRE INTO THE SOCKET. I am not responsible for you or your expenses if you electrocute yourself. Be CAREFUL. Be SMART. You should be fine. Just had to throw that out there. LOL!
the Fifth row closes the ball.

Have fun with this! At some stage, i will attempt making another for the bare bulb up in my bedroom, but for now, i leave you with this photo. Cheers!

11 March, 2010

As Promised!

Hi!!
I know it's been a while. Sorry about the absence. Things around here have been a little bit more busy than usual!
I'm going to do something silly, and start at the most recent events and move backward. Unusual, i know. Just thought i would mix it up a little. Keeps you on your toes!

First, i would like to state that i am typing this out as i listen to a RAT scurry about within the walls of my cottage. That is right, a RAT. Scratching along, leaving its giant turds, and eating my darned stuff! It ate the plastic and cotton out of some of my monthly items that were stored in the bathroom closet, and it ate some nice thick cocoa butter lotion i had. It was possibly one of the thickest plastic things i have, and it ate right through it! Bastard. I told the landlord about it but he doesn't seem to believe me that a rat is in the house. I tried to tell him "well maybe it's a bunny!" but he wasn't havin' it and wouldn't come have a look. Oh well. Guess he's too busy. He said that because there's so many cats on the property i shouldn't have a rat, and if i did i should probably have expected it, living near the cows and horses and their food... sigh.
Humane, schmumane, we put out mouse poison. It ate it all. Good. It's still around though... because i can still hear it... or it's mate... best friend... whatever.

My stuff came from America the day before yesterday! Our cottage is CHAOS!
It was a really good feeling to go through it all though. I was happy to see that it was mostly unbroken, despite how the boxes looked...

Some of them came literally ripped apart and taped back together. Fortunately, nothing is missing. The only casualties were to two of my grandmother's Fostoria Crystal goblets (from possibly the 1920s?), but i think it was really my fault... i didn't pack them well enough. I have several more pieces of that set. Not to worry.
I got my cookbooks! YAY! Less online searching! That photo on the end, is actually a xerox of my brother Mark's face. LOL! He actually drew a little character for the front of that binder too that reads "Gwammas wessipie book"! It made my mom laugh whenever she saw it, which, i'm sure, was the point. :)
Already, i made a pound cake and some raspberry sauce for a friend's birthday party from my Better Homes and Gardens book! Win!
i just love cooking and baking... *sigh*

Speaking of which, V wanted to cook last week, so i let him. He made some yummy foods!
This was V's variation of stuffed bell peppers. I must say that the yellow one was the best i've possibly ever had. They were filled with a wild mushroom risotto. Period. Yum.
He also made something the "green" way!
Atop the stove! He made an incredibly delicious vegetable stew sans electricity! It was perfect, really- the slow heat of the stove... ahhh yum!
(i can still hear the rat, btw... ewww!!!)

This week, i made a vegetarian version of "sloppy joes" that was in a word, TERRIFIC! If you hadn't known it was vegetarian, you'd have never guessed. It was substantial, spicy, flavorful... Good times.
Click the photo for where to find the recipe ;-)
This above photo actually was the inspiration for a sewing project. Can you guess what or why?
...
Look at the steam. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but it is billowing TOWARD me, not UP like it's supposed to. Talk about a draft! When i saw this, i immediately put my hand toward the seams in the window and was horrified to feel a steady stream of COLD air coming IN! No wonder we have been so cold! It's drafty!
So i made curtains.
I re-purposed an old door curtain from V's last place (we have blue and white checked ones now... not amazing, but they match) and the swag of another set of curtains that i made about 4 years ago. They don't match perfectly, but i really like the cheer it brings to the window. At night, i'll draw them closed to slow the drafty draft.
While i was making these curtains, i was inspired otherwise too! If you have a look at the previous photos showing the chaos of the living room, at the end of the clothesline you'll notice a bare lightbulb.
Bare.
Cringe.
It looks lame during the day (and all the time), and at night it's quite glaring on the eyes... Maybe just mine because they're sensitive to light (i have a hard time driving at night, too) BUT i decided to make a shade for it, and i'm happy with how it turned out.
I didn't want just any shade... i didn't want a boring, plain shade... and it had to be small because our ceilings are fairly low. Am i picky? Maybe. I just know what i want, and i didn't want to have to pay for something.
SO i searched... aaaand i searched... and finally, i found something awesome.
BEHOLD! After cutting out a million little bits of curvy, bendy, pattern and about half an hour of assembly, i give you:
THIS! it is glorious, isn't it. Stay tuned for a tutorial on how to make one for yourself :-D

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