Friday, August 29, 2008

Fresh tomatoes and okra, oh my!

Our tomatoes and okra are finally coming in at a faster pace. All the rain we've had the past few days has helped immensely. Now I must keep up with feeding us fresh veggies as they are picked--the only thing I desire to can this year is cold packed pickled okra.

We've been eating a salad of tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and salt and pepper almost every day. Now I've run out of mozzarella. Until I make the 30 mile trip for more mozzarella I need to improvise.

So I improvised and came up with this:

Okay, so maybe I need some sort of food designer who can plate my food to look appetizing! But it really tastes pretty good.

I fried about a half pound of bacon and crumbled it. Then chopped up a couple of tomatoes, mixed them with the bacon. I tossed in about a handful of torn basil and parsley from the garden. I whisked some mayo--maybe one quarter cup--a couple of splashs of red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Drizzled this on the tomato, bacon, basil, parsley mixture and tossed. It was yummy.

Now for the okra:

This is a recipe Husband found last year when our okra crop was humongous, gigantic and extremely prolific.

Easy Indian Style Okra

3 tbs butter
1 med onion, chopped
1 lb sliced, fresh okra
1/2 tsp each--cumin, ginger, coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper

Melt butter, add onion, cook until tender. Stir in okra, add seasonings. Cook and stir a few minutes, reduce heat to med-low, cover and cook for 20 min., stirring occasionally.

Other than breaded and deep fried, it's our family's favorite way to eat okra. Of course, I'm not sure if any of us really LIKES okra, but we enjoy eating it.......

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's time to introduce...

Jingles the not so amazing wonder cat, so named by my three sons after many days and many names, this one stuck. She was a mere 6 weeks old when we first brought her home and she loved sleeping in oldest son's slippers. She can't fit in shoes anymore, but she still enjoys cuddling on laps and nuzzling necks.

Granted this is not a very flattering photo.

This scowl seems pretty permanent since the arrival of:

This is Fry, our grand-cat. He belongs to eldest son and daughter-in-law who are living in not-pet-friendly housing at this time--we are cat-sitting.

Fry (yes, that Fry,the Futurama guy) is a great cat. He's quirky and soft and affectionate. Though he is quite big--bigger than any cat we've ever had before.

We've all been speculating on whether or not Fry has some Maine coon in him. He's just about a year old and already weighs in at 15 lbs! According to Wikipedia average adult male Maine coons weigh between 13 and 20 lbs. It also mentions that Maine Coons growth is slower than most cats, with Maines sometimes not reaching full size until age 4 or 5. Yikes!

Since we're not doing any kind of dna or paternity testing on Fry, we'll just have to wait it out and see just how big he gets! I'll keep you posted.

Jingles does scowl an awful lot, her life was peaceful and solitary until Fry. It took a few weeks of hiding in the basement and hissing whenever Fry came near, just to show him who exactly was in charge, now she's adjusted very well to Fry and they spend many hours sliding along the hardwood floors.

Cats are warm, comforting, and of course, entertaining.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I can crochet!

It's been 25+ years since I've attempted to crochet anything. When I did yarn play those years ago my most ambitious projects were all afghans of one stitch type, simply repeated over and over.

Late this past spring I got the itch to stitch and found loads of books with wonderful exciting patterns. Since then I've been hooked! Ha!

This is my current work-in-progress:

Can you guess what it's "growing" to be?

Give up?

Here's a couple of photos:

That's the front and here's the back:

I still have a long way to go!

I started the wrap project in May but took a break to attempt my first baby sweater.

Success! My beautiful granddaughter wearing my finished product. Just a little big, but she'll grow into it, right?

Here's the pattern photo:

Several times, okay, more than several times, I had to unravel and unravel and unravel, and pull yarn away from cats and dogs who always think I'm playing with them! I stuck with it, though, image of my granddaughter wearing my homemade sweater in my mind and voila!

Now I'm surfing the web for crochet books, blogs and websites. There is sooo much out there. Just a few of my favorites: Monster Crochet , the Lion Brand Yarn site, , and

YouTube even has a few learn to crochet movies.

I'll update my progress on the wrap, in the meantime, though I've come across a few patterns for some really neat looking striped hard can they be?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunflower Christmas Tree

Yes, that's what I call this:

This sunflower "tree" stands about 8 feet tall and, along with several other sunflowers popped up in our vegetable garden. Mind you, this year I planted NO giant/mammoth sunflower seeds anywhere!

Last year I planted these:

Yes, that's Youngest Son standing in front of the garden for proportion purposes.

I also planted these next to the porch:

The seeds were called Mammoth Sunflowers--that they were!

This year I planted seeds for miniature sunflowers next to the porch. Maybe two plants came up.

I was pleasantly surprised to watch my sunflower tree grow and grow and add bloom after bloom. Unfortunately it's shaded the cucumber plants Husband planted. We've had one small cucumber so far. The vine has traveled up the sunflowers and is flowering. I'm hopeful we'll get a least a few more cukes--if it ever rains again.

Sunflowers are so easy to grow, even someone with a --what would be the opposite of a green thumb-- well, whatever it is, it's what I've got. My gardening and plant successes rank right up there with my cooking without a recipe successes.

Anyway, we've thoroughly enjoyed our "naturalization" sunflowers. Supplying the birds with the dried flower heads last year has rewarded us greatly.

I wonder what we'll have growing next year?

P.S. Did you know that there are two types of sunflower seeds--black oil and striped? I didn't. This website lists which birds prefer which seeds.

Quick writing update

Wendy is still making the rounds out there in publisher deep space. I've decided to query agents. From my research, agents usually respond within a reasonable amount of time. Right now I'm gathering a list of appropriate agents that accept queries--most prefer email--and within the next few weeks Wendy will be visiting some agent types.

Magdalena is on hold right now. I'm having issues with her age.........

I've dabbled on a few of my other novels, but my brain always returns to middle grade. I've begun a new one, this time about a couple of boys. It's been fun writing!

The quest continues.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Clay pot cooking

Something else I picked up on our North Carolina visit was one of these:

A Romertopf clay cooking pot. I've been on the lookout for one of these for quite a while. Paying enormous shipping for an online order wasn't an option, so I was pleased to find this one.

I've tried it out twice thus far. The first time with a venison roast and vegetables, it worked well. This second time I used a pork loin.

The loin weighed about 6 lbs and had good bulk, nice and thick, not skinny like some are. I cut it in half, 3 lbs is plenty big for us.

I decided to make my own recipe--yikes--I'm not usually too good at winging it when it comes to cooking. I wanted to use what I had on hand. So, while I soaked the pot in cold water for 15 minutes I searched and this is what I came up with:

- fresh beets from our garden--yay!
- about a cup of leftover sauerkraut (Boars Head brand)
- one large onion
- one very large clove of garlic from an Elephant head garlic bulb
- salt, pepper

First, I cleaned the beets. Cut off the greens (to save for later), rinsed, peeled and quartered the beets. I used 6 beets.

Then I chopped the onion and sliced the garlic clove.

By now, the pot was ready.

I placed the pork in first, fat side up. I stabbed it a few times with my meat fork and sprinkled it with salt and pepper, rubbing the seasonings into the meat.

Next I placed the beets, onions, and garlic around the pork. Then I dumped on the sauerkraut, spreading it out across and around the pork.

Put the top on the pot, placed it in a cold oven (very important to put pot in a cold oven or the clay might crack), turned the oven on to 450 degrees and set the timer for 90 minutes.

The end result was pretty tasty. The beets cooked nicely and the sauerkraut added a nice flavor. The pork was a wee bit dry, next time I'll test the meat temperature after 60 minutes.

I did take a picture, but it didn't look too appealing! The beets colored eveything reddish purple, so it looked a little weird.

What I really like is how fast and juicy everything cooks up in these clay pots. I've used my Crock pot for cooking pork alot and it dries it out terribly. I think I can work on the time and get great results with this clay pot.

Next time I'll take appealing photos to share.

Oh yes, the beet tops. Husband soaks them repeatedly to remove all the grit, chops them up and sautes them in butter. They're still a little bitter--what green isn't--but let's face it, what doesn't taste yummy with lots of butter!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ronnie Dante and the Detergents

Last week or so while channel surfing I happened upon the local public tv station's fund drive. They were pushing those 60s compilation cds. Michele Phillips of the Mamas and Papas gushing over the greatness of the 60s music, flashes of clips from original artists, and some recent performances of these "oldies but goodies" singing to an audience filled with more "oldies but goodies."

I always enjoy watching these things in bits and pieces. The music is always fun and a little bit of nostalgia is good for the soul.

This time what piqued my interest was Michele Phillips introducing Ron Dante, noting that he was the original lead voice of the Archies. My mind tumbled. I knew who the Archies were, I even own a couple of the 45s. Hmmm, I thought, Ron Dante, could he be Ronnie Dante?

Cut to the recent performance and upon close inspection, yeah, this guy looks like an older version of guy I met 40+ years ago, who gave me these:

Way back when, my Aunt Irene and Uncle Ted lived in Staten Island. On one of many family visits, my dad took my young Aunt Karen (she's just 7 years older than I am) and myself across the street to meet a new teen idol--Ronnie Dante. Karen, who was probably 15 or 16 at the time, appreciated this opportunity more than I did.

Ronnie was cute and cheerfully gave us his autograph and these 45s. I have no idea were the autograph is, maybe Karen knows. But as you can see by my boldly placed Magic-Markered initials, I took possession of the records.

After that PBS show I dug through the basement boxes and found them. Never realized before that they're "not for sale" copies.

We had our picture taken, Ronnie, Karen and I. It's small, square, and black and white, typical of the time, and I can't find it anywhere. Somewhere in one of the many, many, many boxes of old photos all my family members (including me) are storing, that photo is hiding. Maybe I'll find it one day.

Hadn't thought about Ronnie Dante at all since that "fan" meeting. How interesting it's been Googling him and discovering he had/has a very successful career after "Poor Boys" and "Here She Comes." He has a myspace page with songs, You Tube clips, etc., etc.

Though I'd rather just listen to my old 45s.

"Here she comes, m-m-m-my that's my baby, here she's comes...."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Figs, not Fig Newtons

Aren't these beautiful?

These figs came from my father-in-law's fig tree in North Carolina. The tree is huge and produces succulent, scrumptious fruit. I have to admit that before I'd met my husband I had no idea what a fig was, never even occurred to me that the figs in Fig Newtons might be some sort of fruit and not just a sugary concoction. While visiting in North Carolina we just walk by and pick and eat, they're too good to resist. No need to peel, just bite and enjoy the sticky juice dripping down your hand. The skin is fuzzy, like a peach and the inside texture reminds me of a kiwi.

Whenever we visit I have grand illusions of bringing home a large bucket of plump, ripe fruit and making preserves or jam. Usually, by the time our car pulls into the garage, this is what's left of the fruit. They are the perfect size snack to pop in your mouth while driving, a lot healthier that my favorite potato chips.

Some fig facts:

*Figs are a good source of potassium, a mineral which helps to control blood pressure.

*Figs have no fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol or sodium.

*Fig puree can be used to replace fat in baked goods.

*Charles M. Roser, a cookie maker born in Ohio, created the Fig Newtown recipe, then later sold it to Kennedy Biscuit works, which later became Nabisco.

*From Central Africa to the Far East, the fig tree is known as the Tree of Life and Knowledge.

*Fig remnants have been found in excavated sights throughout the Middle East that date back to at least 5,000 B.C.

*Cuban fig-eating bats are found in the Cayman Islands, Haiti and the Domincan Republic. Their body is only about 2.25 inches in length, but their wingspan is 13 inches.

*People born between June 14 and June 23 are considered Fig Tree people.

Several attempts at propagating our own tree have failed. We'll try again in early fall, which is the best time.

Here's a recipe for homemade Fig Newtons, I haven't tried it yet, maybe when I have an abundance of figs in my own backyard!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New look, new blog

After a very long absence I have returned. I do believe I have banished the goblins that had blocked my computer's access to my blog. Many, many things have happened this past year and all will be revealed bit by bit, so as not to overwhelm the faint at heart....

To begin with, the look of my blog will go through a gradual change. I'm striving for a warm and inviting place that will be reflected in the colors and layout. The content of my posts will change also. While writing is still my lot in life, kids, cats, dogs, food, crocheting and books will encompass a very large portion of my postings.

Life is good, let's live it.

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