Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Have No Original Thoughts

Here I go again doing a blog post because of something one of you fantastic, creative, intelligent (shall I go on?) bloggers suggested.

A couple of days ago, Erin over at Garden Now - Think Later, suggested we all do a post showing and talking about our sewing/craft/quilting/knitting/crocheting areas whether that be a dedicated room in the house or a set-up on the kitchen table. Click on the above link and be sure to go see Erin's use of a small space with fantastic results.

Being basically lazy (and not having any time lately to even go into my quilting studio let alone take new pictures), I'm posting this link of my own which will take you to a blog post I did just about two years ago giving a tour of my special room.

I am indeed a lucky, lucky ducky to have a specific room of my own for my quilting and sewing. But just so all of you know (and for those of you who may be frustrated and still only dreaming of having your own space), I worked on our small (30" x 48") kitchen table for many (MANY) years while storing my supplies in the bottom of a kitchen cabinet. Don't lose hope; you might have to wait for that larger house or until a bedroom is vacated by a child leaving home, but you will get that little haven of your own someday.

The room that is now my quilt studio was originally a 12' x 16' detached storage shed when we bought the property. We used it as a workshop while we tore the existing house structure down to the studs and started reconstruction from there. Eventually, we added a 16' x 16' addition on to the end of our house and moved the 12' x 16' shed to attach to that new addition. In that position, it was used for a few more years for storage while we worked on other projects.

Then I designed the interior of my (to be) quilt studio. We managed to clear out all the "stuff" stored in there, and Papa Pea and I dove in to redo the ceiling, floor and walls. We built the storage units, cutting table, and design walls to my specifications. It didn't happen overnight, I'll tell ya, but once it was finished it turned out to be just about perfect.

I love it (it is my sanctuary) and cannot wait until we're done with this current remodeling of our house (is there no end?!) so I can get back in there. And maybe not emerge again for a month!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Copy Catting

I feel like I'm doing a cross between Patty's Counting Blessings and Mama Tea's Sunday Scribbles with my post tonight. Just some unrelated things I've been thinking about today and thought I'd share.

* * * * * *

I'm thankful for my iron. (Go head, you funny people who don't even own an iron, scoff as much as you like.) Yes, I iron a basket of our clothes every week after the laundry is done, and I just don't see how any of you manage to have clothes that look decent without ironing. I must have missed that class somewhere along the line that taught one how to take clothes off the line or out of the dryer at just the right time so they don't look so wrinkled. Also, I couldn't quilt or sew without an iron by my side.

Having said that, I have the WORST luck with irons of anybody else in the world. I have had really good irons including the most expensive Rowenta irons and all of them either leak water or have temper tantrums shooting their temperature gauges into the stratosphere or refuse to heat up at all on alternating days of the week. If I had saved all the irons I've had to give up on, our house would sink into the soil it's built on from the weight of the irons.

This past spring hubby and I were in a store in the big city and I mentioned that (once again) I needed a new iron. He picked out one for me that cost $9.99 reasoning that no matter how much I spent on an iron, it never lasted for more than a couple of months anyway so I might as well get a cheap one. Guess what iron has worked perfectly for me for the last several months? Right. I really should pick up another one just like it the next time we're in that store. That way when this one finally conks out in 20-25 years, I'll have a replacement.

* * * * * *

I love my quilt studio. I feel so fortunate to have a whole room that is mine, mine, mine. No one else goes in there to do anything. I can shut the door and have complete privacy to . . . well, do all those secret things like make quilts and wall hangings and sew the suspender buttons on my husband's pants. (Those same buttons that he manages to lose one of at least every other week.)

The only problem is I have spent so little time in my sanctuary in the last year that I sometimes feel like throwing a genuine conniption fit. (Either that or renting out the efficiently designed space and getting some income off it.) Any empty floor or table space in there is currently used for storage of household goods and/or furniture that is in the way of our remodeling. Also miscellaneous supplies for same remodeling seem to find their way in there regularly.

I can't even bring myself to read my quilting magazines as new issues come. It makes me down and depressed thinking about my wonderful (neglected) quilting studio and knowing I just don't have the time to spend in it right now. I know the room is lonely without my presence. I can feel it.

* * * * * *

We have tons (literally) of dry wood under cover for this heating season. And a couple more tons stacked in 8' lengths in the back yard that we hope to work on this winter so we'll be ahead in refilling the wood sheds come next spring. Also, we're so fortunate to live on our own land that provides us with acres of wood that we could use to heat our home. It's a good feeling to know that no matter how high in price heating fuel rises, we don't have to buy it.

* * * * * *

Being able to go for a hike in our own woods and harvest our Christmas tree is a nifty option. That's what we did this afternoon. I wrote a day or so ago about not being very enthused about putting up a tree this year because in the midst of our remodeling, the only place we can fit one is on the end of a storage cabinet in the kitchen. And it would have to be a very small tree. Very small.

Well, between hubby really wanting a tree and you dear readers encouraging me to (stop my whining and) put one up, I gave in. Wait until you see this Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It will give you a laugh if nothing else. I promise to post pictures when we find some time in the next couple of days to get it set up.

* * * * * *

That's it for tonight, folks. I drank a beer with our pizza for dinner and it tasted so good I just finished another one. And now I'm finished. In more ways than one. *Hick.*

Friday, November 25, 2011

Slog Along Day

Both of the human inhabitants of this homestead slept poorly last night. Papa Pea developed a stiff neck late yesterday and it kept him from any kind of comfortable sleep during the night.

After having a WON-derful night's sleep night before last, I woke at 1:50 last night for a potty stop and when I shuffled back to bed found that even though I was tired, I couldn't fall back asleep for love nor money. (Insert frustrated scream.) WHY does that happen?

So the outcome was that we both looked and felt like something the cat dragged in for most of the day.

My main aim today was to get all the fall/Thanksgiving decorations taken down and put away and the Christmas decorations up. Needless to say, there will be no decorating in the living room area this year, but I will do what I can to make things look festive in the kitchen. I also do a little decorating in the bathroom and bedroom.

Did I complete my task? Nope, but I'm about 80% done. I should be able to finish up tomorrow and still have time for other things.

I'm thinking I'm not going to put up a tree this year. (Papa Pea is not happy with this idea and when Chicken Mama hears of it, she will throw one big, royal hissy-fit.) No way can one go in the construction zone of the living room. There is only one safe (far enough away from the wood stove) place where I could put a very small tree in the kitchen.

It would be on the closest end of the above cabinet in the southwest corner of the kitchen. The phone and answering service are on the opposite end of the unit and need to stay there. (You can see the unfinished door into the living room area on the right of the picture.) Strings of lights, usually put on the tree, are resting on the top of the cabinet. If I don't put up a tree, I'm thinking about figuring out some way to string the lights around the windows so we can have them on in the evening and early morning. Although I must admit, at this moment in time that, too, seems like a lot of work.

We've lost virtually all the snow cover we got a little over a week ago. Outside it looks, and smells, like spring. However (dum-da-dum-dum), the forecast is for a mixture of snow and freezing rain (oh, joy) starting at midnight tonight and continuing until 6 p.m. on Saturday. The snow we would welcome, but ice is not nice.

I meant to take a picture today to show how much the gardens look just as they do in the spring, but the daylight slipped away from me a little too, too fast. Don't know what the situation is in all of your various locations but come 5 p.m. in our neck of the woods these days, it's durn close to pitch dark. And in a couple more weeks, it will be 4:30. So, so different than in the summertime!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Hubby and I will be alone for most of the day today. And that feels just fine. We're actually looking forward to it. A day of not doing anything we don't truly want to do. Sleeping in and feeling okay about having a lazy day.

I'm going to start the day sitting with my morning latte at the kitchen table making a list of all I have to be thankful for. My list will be long. I may have to have a second latte.

Often on Thanksgiving when we are sharing the meal with others, we go around the table and each person says why he or she is especially grateful on that day. Sometimes what a person says is surprising.

My husband always thanks me for each meal I prepare and set on the table for us. Every day, no matter what the occasion. That's a big something for me to be thankful for right there.

My father-in-law could not have been described as a romantic or sentimental man. He and my mother-in-law were married on Thanksgiving Day. He never could understand why they couldn't celebrate their anniversary on Thanksgiving each year. He thought that would have just been so much easier than remembering the exact date.

Helen and Scott Nearing, early back-to-the-landers striving to live a self-reliant life style, always marked Thanksgiving Day by going on an apple fast; all they ate all day was apples in protest of what they called the gluttony by so many people who over-eat on the holiday.

When I was growing up, my folks frequently hosted Thanksgiving at our house for our big extended family. We ate around the dining room table on mom's best dishes and white tablecloth. As many card tables as necessary were set up in the corners to accommodate the younger generation. Our meal was always at noon and everyone stayed the rest of the day. One thing I remember that seems odd to me now is that when mom and the other female relatives cleared the table after the main meal, all the leftovers were spread on the table in the kitchen and we snacked on this food the rest of the day and then pretty much polished it off for our evening meal which was eaten before everyone left to go home. Nothing was refrigerated for those five or six hours. 'Tis a wonder we all didn't wake up dead the next morning because of food poisoning.

I wonder what would happen if we all made this Thanksgiving the start of a more peaceful, content-with-what-we-have holiday season? Rather than participating in the Black Friday frantic frenzy of shopping for shopping's sake, what if we all stayed home and savored the day? We could take a leisurely walk or hike, work on a craft we love, read a book, simmer a huge pot of turkey vegetable soup, make a holiday wreath or two while spending the day with holiday music playing in the background.

The holidays are what we make of them. I personally want to make a real effort to handle them in a way that is more enjoyable, less stressful and brings me more joy and fulfillment. Sounds selfish? Well, I can't change anyone else, but I can change myself. In theory that should make it better for everyone around me. Certainly something to work toward.

One last Thanksgiving thought: I'm very, very thankful for all of you I've gotten to know to one degree or another through the magic of blogging. Years ago I used to participate in our community playhouse productions. I think the thing I enjoyed most about my involvement was that I got to know people that I never would have in my primarily homebody-type life. That's much the same way I feel about blogging. It brings all of you into my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Is This The End Of The Week?

Even though it's only Wednesday, it feels like we've put in a whole week on the remodeling during the past three days. Tomorrow we're giving ourselves the whole day off which is much needed and will be greatly appreciated by these two (feelin' kinda weary tonight) home owners.

We got the wall covering of the living room stairway finished today.

This is the wall from the living room side. The horizontal slats on the right are the "pocket" for the pocket door. Doorway (without door) is farther on down the line. I have to set up in the garage (now that we have a break in using the saw to cut in there) and get the finish put on the door so it can be hung.

We have stairs! Kind of. We got the three stringers up but had to reinstall the old treads temporarily because I need to put a finish on the new treads (cut and ready) and the risers (which aren't cut yet) before installation. But at least the crude ladder access is no more.

From the living room we will take a step up onto the landing at the foot of the stairs. The door you see straight ahead leads into my quilt studio. Turning immediately left on the landing takes you up the stairs.

Big glitch encountered today . . . we found out we're not going to be able to use the ceiling material we had decided upon. Long story, but not interesting enough to take the time to relate. It simply means we have to go back to the drawing board to find another material we will use.

Here I thought we had the ceiling, wall and floor materials all figured out so time and effort could be put elsewhere.

During this remodeling, I've found that I don't enjoy the process of picking out materials. I know what I like and I know what I don't like but spending the time researching, shopping and deciding isn't my cuppa tea. I'm so much of a concrete person (my husband has intimated on occasion that the "concrete" is in my head) that I want to get on with the DOING and being able to SEE the efforts of a day's work.

So, we're back to coming up with material for the ceiling that we both can live with (let alone actually be excited about) and that fits into our budget. We'll find something. In the meantime, there are paaa-lenty of things we can do to keep the forward momentum going. AFTER tomorrow's day off, that is.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From Bad Stairway, To No Stairway

It was hard, but we finally settled on the specifications of the new stairway going up to Papa Pea's office.

The basic problem we faced is we don't have enough space to fit in a "made to scale" stairway. Literally the only place in the living room we could possibly put the stairway just doesn't allow a long enough run for the standard measurements. The room we're working with is a smidge over 15 x 15' but in that space there are four doors and one whole wall of windows. Put in the stairway (somewhere, somehow) and we have a room 15 x 11-1/2'. Not large, but lots bigger than we had before!

Papa Pea and I tried but couldn't figure out a satisfactory way of building the stairs. Okay, call in the big guns. B measured and figured and erased and measured again and finally told us we had two choices.

We could build the stairway with treads this size and risers this size or treads that size and risers that size. Those two options were the very best we had. We made the decision and the work started.

Above are Papa Pea and B taking down the old (temporary) stairway.

This is a view of a stairway you don't usually see. I'm taking the picture from the bottom where the stairs will start going up to the second floor.

The inside of the stairway will be finished with bead board. When I took this shot I was standing in the living room looking through the outer stud wall of the stairway with the wall of bead board we got up today on the opposite wall.

Here's the way we're getting upstairs tonight. After this, any stairway will be an improvement.

We did also get the three stringers for the stairs cut today so with luck, by tomorrow night we'll have easier access!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wall Up, Kindling Done

Lady Carpenter Extraordinaire, B, was here today lending her professional expertise in getting the wall up in the living room that will close off the stairway going up to Papa Pea's office. It was a little tricky because 1) getting anything squared up and level in this place is challenging to say the least, and 2) the new wall will have a pocket door in it.

This is the temporary stairway we've been living with before work started.

Here's as far as we got today.

After lunch I was told my services were no longer needed (waaah!) and to go find something else productive to do.

Well. I knew where to go. To the kindling bin! Prior to today, I'd put in one long session and one short session in an effort to get it filled up for the heating season.

Here's the picture I posted last week . . .

. . . and here's what it looked like when I staggered back into the house late this afternoon.

I did misjudge how many bundles of cut-to-length slabs I'd need to completely fill the bin. I could have used two, maybe three, more to legitimately call it filled to the brim.

But I split all I had and even though it is a scant bit short, I'm pretty sure it will last us through this heating season with no problem. I think.

More work in the living room scheduled for tomorrow. It sure does help keep the enthusiasm going when one can actually see progress rather than the seemingly endless work on all the necessary stuff that doesn't show. Maybe we'll get to the new stairway tomorrow?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Project Apron: Done!

Okay, Susan, you tough task master. You made us all sign on the dotted line and commit to getting our aprons done by Thanksgiving . . . and I'm glad you did.

I choose a very simple design, loose and easy to wear but one that should do the job of saving the front of all my classy (ya, right) homestead outfits from stains and splatters. (I really should make a set of sleeve protectors to match because the cuffs of my shirts seem to suffer also.)

The fabric I used is a winter-ish pine bough and holly accented with red berries. I bought it a few years back to make winter pillowcases . . . but that never happened.

The back called for a single button closure at the top but I took the lazy way out and used two snaps instead. (This picture looks like I was told to go stand in the corner for some transgression.)

Wanna know the best thing about this apron and why I may wear it all day, every day until it self-destructs? When my hubby was taking the pictures, he said, "Are you losing weight?" Heck, no . . . and if I were, how could he tell under the shapelessness of the apron? But if it gives that illusion, I'll wear it to cover up my belly, bumps and bulges from now 'til the cows come home.

Thanks again, Susan, for organizing this fun project. Can't wait to see everyone elses creations!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Few Cutting Remarks

Ever heard the expression "not the sharpest knife in the drawer" when describing someone who's a little dim? That's what I feel like when I'm in the kitchen cooking and can't figure out why I can't cut an even slice of bread. Or when my knife slips off the onion (and narrowly misses my finger) rather than dicing the veggie. Or when cutting an apple requires me to put all my weight on the knife while bearing down. "Oh, right! I haven't sharpened my knives in a while," I say to myself as the dawning light causes me to remember.

There is really nothing like a sharp knife to make work in the kitchen easier. They say you are more apt to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one and I totally agree. Why make your work harder (or more dangerous) than it needs to be? Stop and take time to put a clean, sharp edge on those knives.

When hubby and I were first married, he insisted that the only way to have really sharp, well-maintained knives was to sharpen them with a whetstone. Because I could never get the knack of using said whetstone, he happily volunteered to become the Official Knife Sharpener of the family.

Well, drat and dang, it quickly became a big pain in the patoot to be knee-deep into meal preparation only to decide I needed a knife sharpened. I'd have to drop everything, go seek him out and ask if he had time to grab his trusty whetstone and sharpen a knife for me. Besides all that (and you don't need to tell him I shared this), he never really got the knives that sharp.

So taking the bull by the horns, about 30-some years ago I purchased an electric knife sharpener. I got a Presto Eversharp Electric Knife Sharpener and it's one of the best purchases I ever made and I still use it to this day to sharpen my knives.

I've had the same basic five knives in my kitchen for way too many years to count.

Although I have a serrated bread knife (which, sad to say, cannot be sharpened with my electric knife sharpener), it's my large chef's knife I always use to slice bread.

It seems I have more control of it and can consistently make uniform slices of bread with no trouble. However, if anyone else is in my kitchen and needs to slice bread, they inevitably grab the serrated "bread" knife.

Above are the other three knives I use constantly. The top one is a 6" small chef's knife I grab more than any other one. I've had people ask me why I have such a small chef's knife. It fits my hand and I can control it better than the traditional longer chef's knife. When we owned the restaurant, I bought an identical one for the kitchen there but don't think anyone ever used it but me.

The middle knife is kind of all-purpose with a 5" blade, and the small one is a good paring knife. I use these five knives over and over and don't feel a need or desire for anything more. As seldom as I use the serrated bread knife, I could probably get along without it although I'm sure I'd get grief from anyone else trying to slice bread in my kitchen and not finding a "real" bread knife.

I suspect a cook's knives are a very personal thing and we all probably have our favorites because of our own needs, habits and quirks. But bottom line, a sharp knife makes kitchen work easier and it's worth regularly taking the time to make sure yours stay that way regardless of what method you use to that end.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Maybe it's just my warped sense of humor, but this is something I see almost every year and find hysterically funny.

Our pond froze solid overnight last night and we had a slight dusting of snow. The first two incoming Mallards of the day got a surprise when they landed, and slid several yards on the ice before coming to a stop by crashing into the bank at the side of the pond.

If you look closely at the picture, you can see where they dragged their tail feathers in the middle of their sliding feet in an effort to put on the brakes.

Once they came to a stop in the weeds, they gathered their dignity and waddled back out toward the center of the pond.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Another Potpourri

This morning, Jane over at Hard Work Homestead did a post about a luscious sounding potpourri she made with the leftover peels from a bounty of oranges someone had given her.

Her potpourri reminded me that it's the season to start using a potpourri that I make every year.

Here's the recipe I follow in making mine.

2 cups dried apples, cut in pieces
2 cups fresh cranberries, halved
10 - 6" cinnamon sticks, broken
4 whole nutmegs, smashed with a hammer
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/2 cup whole allspice

Allow apples and cranberries to air dry for several days. (I do this by spreading them in a 9 x 13" open pan and stirring a couple of times each day. You could also do it in a food dehydrator.)

When cranberries are dried, mix all ingredients together and store in an air-tight jar.

To simmer the potpourri, place 1/4 cup mixture and one cup water in a small saucepan.

Place the pan over a low heat and simmer for several hours, enjoying the delightful aroma. Add more water as needed.

This recipe makes about one quart of potpourri. Eight-ounce jars of it along with instructions make a nice little gift.

I simmer ours on the wood stove. (It would be nice if I could come up with a more attractive container, wouldn't it?) It works just as well over a very low heat on any cooking range.

This concoction gives off a wonderful aroma. Often when people walk in they think it's something yummy baking in the oven. Ooops. Maybe not so nice to whet their appetites then not have something to serve them!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Kindling Bin

We took the day off from remodeling today to get some other things caught up.

This is our kindling bin. For some reason, I didn't get it filled up this summer. Sigh.

I gathered the few sticks of kindling left in the bottom today and then Papa Pea cleaned out all the miscellaneous debris. Looks nice and clean, doesn't it? And E.M.P.T.Y.

Now I need to get busy and get it filled to the tippy-top. I have lots of dry slabwood cut into kindling length pieces that just need to be split by me and my trusty little hand ax.

Well, it's a start anyway.

I quit earlier than I would have liked when hubby needed help unloading building supplies that were still in the truck from our last Friday trip to the big city. Can't remember what happened after that, but I never did make it back to my kindling project. I'll try to squeeze in some time there again tomorrow.

I really don't mind making kindling at all. I can either listen to an audio book while I'm splitting or use the time to think. Good thing I'm currently listening to a good book. Thinking AND using an ax is sometimes more than I can muckle.

So This Is Progress, Huh?

I keep telling myself that work on the living room will go faster than work on the kitchen did. (Work on the living room will go faster than work on the kitchen did. Repeat over and over and over.)

Our small, old kitchen table is proving useful to hold stuff. But it's also in the way.

Things always have to look worse before they look better, right?

We have got to get this furniture out of the room. Any ideas where we might put it?

Please tell me this is progress.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Quick Peek

Got the bookcase at the end of the kitchen island put in place this morning.

Here it is . . . empty.

Here it is . . . full!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wanna See My Freezers?

How's that for the most exciting invitation you've had all day? I was so pooped last night I didn't even have the energy to take pictures of the freezers newly installed in the pantry, but I got them this morning.

The above is looking directly through the open pantry door to the opposite side of the room. Look, it's a huge freezer! It's a super-deep bath tub? It's a casket for a troupe of midgets standing up? (I've got to get some kind of window treatment on that window.)

Looking to the right side of the pantry you can see the small freezer next to the big one. (Hang in there, Erin. I know someday you and your bountiful garden produce are going to have the luxury of all this, too!)

View to the left shows some very messy shelves with stuff just thrown on them helter-skelter. (Look, Sue, scallopy shelves!) You wouldn't believe all I have crammed in the cabinets. At least we got all the remodeling materials that were stored in there out yesterday. New I just need to find the time to get in there and start making sense of the disorganization. Now THAT will be fun!

We've got three or four really hectic days coming up so I will probably be MIA for a few days. Be back soon. Have a great weekend, Everybody!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Apologies, Apologies . . . And A Winner!

I promised to announce first thing this morning the winner of the two Linda McCartney cook books I recently offered as a giveaway. Well, this was one of those days that started before I was ready and totally got away from me.

An 8 o'clock appointment this morning came before I had my full wits about me, and I never did catch up. A few errands on my way home from the appointment then I spent a little time with my very sick daughter.

Then on to work on the homestead that needed tending to. We've never moved the two freezers into my new pantry because it's been full of remodeling materials. My pantry! I finally have a pantry, I've had a pantry for a couple of months now but I've not yet been able to use it! (Can you tell I'm frustrated about this? Sorry about the outburst. Back to the facts now.)

Well, we knew the freezers needed to be moved from the garage into the pantry before we got snow on the ground. The only way to get them in was out the attached garage, all the way around the house, up onto the front deck, into and through the house to the pantry. (Pant, pant.) So snow and ice on the ground would only have complicated the move.

Getting both the large freezer and small freezer moved meant I had to unload them, defrost each of them while they were empty, get them into the pantry and, of course, put everything back into the freezers.

That done (oof and ugh) we spent several hours going over the basic plans with our carpenter friend, B, on the finishing of what will be our living room. This includes building a new stairway up into Papa Pea's office and one down into our basement. Hubby and I had the electrical plan in good shape but wanted to run it by B who came up with several good suggestions and changes. Then we moved on to everything else including wall, ceiling and floor materials, sound-proofing for the ceiling, construction of a pocket door at the bottom of the stairway up to the office area, installation of the wood burning stove in the living room, fireproof materials for in back of and under the stove, etc., etc. How can talking, planning and making decisions be so exhausting?

Anyway, it was a very full day with a simple dinner of eggs and toast, and I haven't had a chance to do the drawing for the cook books until just now. So without any further ado or folderolling around . . .

I will put the nine names of you readers who are interested in the books in this little red pot, and draw out one who will be the winner.

And that slip of paper says . . . Peggy! In her comment, Peggy said that if she should win, she would give the books to her eldest daughter who is a vegetarian. What a nice mommy! Peggy, if you would go over to my "Contact" button on my right hand side bar and send me your mailing address, I'll get the books off to you as soon as I can. Thanks to all of you who have shown an interest in the various cook books I've been cleaning off my shelves. More to come!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kitchen Trim and Finish

We got the last "biggie" done in the kitchen today when we put the back extension on the island.

Here's the front of the island before backing was installed.

And the back view.

I had to empty the drawers and pull-out shelves for the installation of the back piece.

The empty drawers and shelves ended up stacked on our bed (again) and the contents of the drawers were piled in boxes and stashed in the to-be living room for the day.

Fast forward a few hours, a little bit of blood, sweat and tears (no tears actually) and here's the new front view.

Island seen from the back.

I wanted a 6" shelf extension on the back of the counter so I could push counter top items out of the way to give me the full width for work space. We also installed two electrical outlets in the top unit which I hadn't had (and really missed) since I've been using the island as my main work area in the kitchen.

All in all, I'm pickled tink with the way this back addition worked out. It does make the kitchen look a little smaller, but less like an open warehouse. Wa-hoo, scratch another item off the list!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Potatoes On My Mind

Y'all know what I'm going to miss most of all from my non-garden this past season? Potatoes. There's just nuthin' like the flavor of homegrown potatoes.

It's hard to tell where or when the "bad press" on the potato started, but It's unfortunate. Think of losing a few pounds, and you immediately think of cutting potatoes out of your diet. Most likely, however, any unwanted calories are contained in the gravy or sour cream added to the potatoes. (Or the Snickers candy bar you snarfed right before dinner . . . because the devil made you do it.)

It's true, potatoes are about 20% carbohydrates but they also offer vitamins and minerals galore. They're extremely rich in potassium which stimulates the kidneys to dispose of body waste (always a good thing), works with sodium to normalize the heartbeat (let's all remain calm), and joins with phosphorus to send oxygen to the brain (who can't use more of that?).

Potatoes are about 2% protein and are believed to be capable of sustaining life, even if no other food is available. My grandmother remembered her childhood in Scotland when her family did indeed exist for long periods of time on potatoes alone. (Next time anyone complains about leftovers, remind them of my Grandma Maggie.)

Because of a higher-than-necessary intake of protein, the typical American diet produces an acid reaction in the body. Potatoes are one of the most alkaline foods and help to balance the acid-producing foods we may be ingesting.

As with so many fruits and vegetables, a large amount of the nutritive value is found just under the skin of the potato, and for this reason it's wise to leave the skin on in preparation. But beware because unfortunately most commercially grown and marketed potatoes will have been sprayed to inhibit insect damage, some are even waxed to increase storage life, and yes, red potatoes are sometimes "enhanced" with dyes. I wouldn't advise leaving the skin on a potato that I hadn't grown myself or known the grower and his farming/gardening practices.

Boiling potatoes in the "jacket" preserves the greatest amount of vitamins and minerals. Baking whole potatoes is also a nutritious way of preparation.

The Vitamin C content of potatoes is high but does diminish in storage. And sad to say but true, the traditional way of serving mashed potatoes by paring, boiling, then mashing results in a Vitamin C loss of about 57%.

If you raise your own spuds or buy them in quantity, they are best stored at approximately 40-50 degrees in a dry, dark, well-ventilated cellar. If stored at warmer temps or in damp, humid conditions they tend to sprout, losing their keeping quality and nutritional value.

I'm still searching for a local source of organically grown potatoes to tide us over the winter but not having much luck because apparently it wasn't a good year for growing spuds in our area. Lack of an abundant potato crop is another indication of a nation-wide poor gardening and farming year just past. Usually we have no trouble growing potatoes (or any root crop) in our northeastern corner of Minnesota.

Next year I'll probably go overboard and plant way more than we need in our garden so that a year from now I'll again have potatoes on my mind, but it will be because I've got an ample supply squirreled away, and I'll be thinking of all the ways I can use and enjoy them through the winter months.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mama Tea Started It . . .

In her post this morning, Mama Tea over at A Farmish Kind of Life intimated she was going to eat homemade pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting for breakfast. (Gosh, does that sound good!)

Well, just so happens I baked a Honey Apple Pan Cake today . . . just to warm up the kitchen, mind you. (Keep this coffee cake in mind, please. It will reappear later in the post.)

For breakfast this morning I made a nice egg casserole dish and for lunch we ate the last of some homemade green split pea with vegetables soup. As we were finishing lunch, I mentioned that I needed to get the Swiss Steak I had planned for dinner going.

Hubby promptly commented, "I haven't felt very hungry today. Why don't we just have some of the cake you made for dinner?"

He did not have to suggest that twice. Or beg. Or twist my arm.

I figured if Mama Tea could indulge in her wholesome, homemade pumpkin bars for breakfast, we'd join in on the Sunday-take-it-easy-go-with-the-flow and have coffee cake for dinner.

Just for extra added nutrition (he claimed), Papa Pea had his in a bowl with fresh, raw milk.

We put a pretty good dent in the pan of cake. But, after all, it WAS our whole dinner, right?