And So It Begins – 11/22/2019

Another front is barreling through our area. After a miserably dry summer, we are at least getting some rain. It rained hard over night, the wind was quite gusty when we went out late morning. Today is colder than yesterday with the high reached around noon and a downward fall to around freezing with more rain tomorrow and even colder temperatures.

Between rain, the car has been packed with totes of soap, salve, yarn, knits, laundry stain bars, beard oil, Men’s grooming boxes, Guest Bath boxes, display racks and two mannequins. Tomorrow the rain isn’t supposed to begin until after I am unloaded and hopefully with help toted upstairs to the room I have been assigned at the Catawba Farmers Holiday Market. I hope the rain doesn’t prevent folks from coming out to shop. I am inside, a few vendors are under the picnic shelter. It might be cold and damp for them. I don’t know if the Catawba Community Center is heated, so I will layer in wool and be prepared to peel layers if necessary. This event provides each vendor an 8 foot table and a chair, so I don’t need to load my tables and since it is indoors, I don’t need my tent. I have one more pair of mittens on the needles that I hope to have ready for tomorrow, but if not, I will have them for other Holiday markets. I was making them for me, but decided they are too pink for my tastes, so I will spin something else for mine or dig through my yarn to find a skein I like.

Next weekend there is no event, but then I have 3 weekends in a row (if stock holds) at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market Holiday event and 2 of those weekends in costume spinning and vending in the late afternoon/evening hours at Wilderness Road Regional Museum Noel Nights and Christmas Bazaar. They will require tables, chair, and the Farmer’s Market one, my tent and weights. The car is quite full then.

This morning, I awoke to the memory that 56 years ago, as I sat in class in High School awaiting the arrival of a friend who had moved away and was coming to visit for my 16th birthday party, an announcement was made that our President had been shot and later died. That is probably the most significant first historical memory of my life. The friend did arrive, the party did not happen, and the country watched the news in shock and mourned. Yesterday, I celebrated my 72nd birthday and am thankful to my family and friends who remembered me with well wishes and to my hubby, who treated me to a new wool hoodie, some chocolates, and a dinner out at a local restaurant that we had not tried before.

The Thanksgiving shopping got done in the rain today. A few gifts were purchased last night. One warm cozy gift was finished yesterday. I look forward to having some of our children and their families join us next week and wish the entire family could be together for a holiday again.

Old Dog, New Trick – 10/26/2019

Depending on the trick, this old dog can be taught a new one. About 2 years ago, ads for the Instant Pot or it’s other brand variations were prevalent. I suggested to hubby that it would be a good birthday or Christmas gift (those events are only a month apart). He didn’t know what one was and I had a coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond that was about to expire, so we went looking. They had a different brand that I didn’t like all the features on it, and we had to go over to Target for something else and they did have two sizes of Instant Pot brand on sale. I didn’t get it for my birthday or Christmas, he told me to go on and get it right then as it wasn’t very expensive. It has totally changed the way I cook. To be able to cook dry beans in 40 minutes, stew, or brown rice in about the same amount of time was luxury. I have used it for making yogurt, but that is as easy in a cooler. I cooked a dozen eggs for deviled eggs, but a steamer works just as well. The Instant Pot gets used about 5 times each week. Now that I know it’s features and how long it takes to make a recipe, I have begun to experiment with other recipes.

One that I used to make for the family is Greek Stew. It takes hours to prepare, but is delicious and even better as left overs. The farmers market had green bell peppers and the last of the season’s eggplants today, both are ingredients necessary for the stew.

Because I needed the kitchen for one last soap session, but because I wanted to prepare the stew while the ingredients were fresh, I set about altering the recipe for the Instant Pot. The recipe starts by sauteing onion quarters until golden. It has a feature for that. Once the onions are spooned out, stew beef dredged in flour and cinnamon is browned, again the saute feature. The browned beef and onions are added back together with tomato sauce and beef broth and simmered for several hours to tenderize and cook the meat. Instead of hours, 40 minutes on the pressure setting will handle it. Then you add raw rice and cook til the rice is tender, the Instant Pot has a rice setting. Then you add cubed eggplant and cook for 20-30 minutes which can be done on the low saute setting and finally 10 minutes with large chunks of green bell peppers. Instead of more than 4-5 hours, this stew will be ready in just a little over an hour.

The beautiful pottery bowls are from a local pottery and friend, Dashing Dog Studio, the wooden ladle is from Chester P. Basil’s Wood, purchased at a craft fair at least a dozen years ago.

Sometimes, I don’t know how I cooked without it, but if necessary, I can still cook on the stove top, the top of the woodstove, or the gas grill when Mother Nature takes out our power.

Olio – 9/28/2019

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

About mid week, I realized that one of my interchangeable needle tips being used to knit the Hitchhiker scarf, my car project, not only wouldn’t stay tightened, but when an attempt to tighten was made it would just keep turning. I switched the tip from the other end to see if it was the cable which would have been an easy fix as there are extras, but no, the tip itself was stripped. I felt like something was wrong when I first started using it, but went into denial mode until it became a problem. My supplier for the Knitter’s Pride Karbonz needles is a small online shop out of Burlington, NC, Knit Bin. She is quick in processing orders and answering questions. I contacted her, reminded her that I had just purchased them in May and ask about Knitter’s Pride warranty. She contacted them, they didn’t want the flawed one back, she mailed me a new tip on Thursday and I got it on Friday. Such great service, so that project is back in my bag when I am the passenger in the car.

Because that project was stalled, I worked on the Free Your Fade from Andrea Mowry that I started with the Only the Finest yarn I bought at Black Mountain in late August.

It is the 4 mini skeins and the full skein wound in the center of this photo. I began it with the gray, moved to the darker blue gray, and I’m now on the variegated one tucked under the reddish roving on the right. Next will be the lavender, and finally the Merlot color to end the knit. You can see the gray, the blue gray, and the start of the fade into the variegated in the picture below. This is going to be a very generous shawl/scarf just for me this time.

There has been little spinning done this week, a bit of white Cormo on a Turkish spindle, but nothing to show off.

It has been hot and extremely dry this week. We have walked our usual 2.25 to 2.5 miles almost every day, usually after dinner as the sun is low and the temperature falling. Today they called for 40% scattered showers and for a change, we were in the path. We had a light shower followed a couple hours later by a good hard rain that lasted maybe half an hour. It won’t break the drought, but it did cool off the day from near 90 to 79 and settled the dust, maybe reduced the fire risk a little.

I have been an avid reader all my life. Hubby is too, as are two of our children, and all of the reading age grandchildren. Being a reader is relaxing and can take you to places you’ve never been. Years ago, someone from the knit group or spinning group mentioned the Louise Penney series set is a small (not real) village in Quebec with the main character holding various roles during the series, mostly as an officer of some level in the provincial police. I tired of the series and quit reading them for a couple of years, then picked up another more recent one where he was in charge of a school. A good friend is a fan of the books and suggested I read the two that follow that one. Being out of anything at home, I looked at the electronic selection from our library and found the next in the series. The author is excellent in descriptions.

I grew up being served “Shepherd’s Pie” and later preparing the same for my family. The version didn’t differ much from Girl Scout Stew, a mix of ground beef, canned or frozen mixed vegetables, but the pie topped with a ring of mashed potatoes (they were usually instant when I was a kid.)

Bear with me, here. In the book above, the Bistro in the village was preparing “Shepherd’s Pie,” the description different from what I grew up with, but described so vividly that I could practically smell and taste it. The one in the book was savory with ground beef, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and herbed gravy, topped with mashed potatoes in which Gruyere cheese had been melted. I had decided that it was too tempting not to try. I envisioned aromatic herbs such as Rosemary and Thyme. This morning I thawed a pound of ground beef from the Farmers Market and purchased Yukon gold potatoes and mushrooms while there today. I had what I needed to make it. Then I read a blog post on corn bread, Northern vs Southern style, why sugar was added to the recipe; with and without flour in the batter. I make excellent corn bread, it has to be made in the 8″ cast iron skillet. Well, now I wanted corn bread too. Mind you, there are only two of us in this household at this point, but left over pan toasted cornbread is delicious. For dinner tonight, I made the Shepherd’s Pie per the book description, ground beef with onions and garlic, gravy rich with rosemary and thyme, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, but I didn’t have Gruyere, however I did have a delicious cheese from the Farmers Market, so I added chunks of it to the hot potatoes and mashed it in with the butter and milk, topped the casserole and baked. Of course I mixed up corn bread while it was baking and upped the oven temperature, added the hot skillet of batter and finished baking them both.

Peas cooked as a vegetable and oh boy am I full. I will never make Shepherd’s Pie the “old” way again. This is savory and delicious. Reading can be dangerous and delicious.

Now we need to go walk it off before it gets dark.