Tuesday, June 29

Thankfully fixed

Like just about everything bought at that oversized industrial sales complex that begins with a W, my vacuum cleaner wasn't expected to last long. Add on top of that resolve the fact that I have a Border Collie who sheds a winter coat every Spring/Summer and a Wife with hair three feet in length, life expectancy of a household cleaning device is more-so decreased.

I have managed to keep my vacuum running strong with a complete disassembly and total cleaning every six months or so, as well as slashing and removing whatever has accumulated on the roller brush every week. So, I was disturbed when Jamie tried to clean our carpet, and the vacuum rattled something fierce. After six years of use, the roller brush's drive belt lost a few teeth, and was causing a terrible vibration as it struggled to keep the rollers in motion. Turns out you should replace it every six months. Oopsie!

After a week of waiting on a certain courier's "express" delivery, the replacement part arrived, and I was able to reassemble everything. I noticed a couple cracks in the plastic on the backside, and can you tell I'm a jet engine mechanic when I reinforced it with safety wire?

Now repaired, I tested it out by cleaning the apartment. It pulled two full bags of dirt, dust, leaves, carpet fuzz, and puppy fur out! Not bad for a piece of equipment whose manufacturer's warranty expired sixty months ago.

I usually end with some conclusion or moral. What could I pull out of this? Hmm, I guess it would have to be: "A vacuum cleaner is a power tool, and thus carpet cleaning is a man's job." I'm sure my Bride will have few objections.

Doctors with Lasers

Last January, I resolved to get rid of a severe inconvenience that plagued me since 3rd grade . . . the need for eyeglasses. In standard terms, with 20/20 being considered perfect eyesight, mine scaled beyond the 20/200 mark. I couldn't read a book title in my hands without glasses!

Like many problems, you learn to live with it, but my latest expenditure at Lenscrafters really got under my skin. Since I live a very active lifestyle, I resolved to get the strongest lenses and frames available in January 2009. After 400 bucks, I had a pair of heat treated titanium frames with shatter resistant, scratch resistant, glare resistant lenses. I figured nothing could get the best of this eye wear. They were junk within nine months!

So, I paid Dr. MacRae a visit at University of Rochester's Flaum Eye Institute. After two concurrent eye exams, the standard "Danger Speech," and my grilling to get the most information short of observing the procedure out of these physicians, I forked over my credit card, and said my goodbyes to 17th century corrective doctrine.

With the help of some Valium, I slept for 18 hours after the surgery. The following handful of weeks were ailed with frequent problems of focusing on a close object after focusing far away. Now, it is four months after surgery, and I have 20/15 vision . . . better than what is considered perfect vision! It was expensive, but no problems with hassling around every morning, looking for my glasses. No more tearing out eyelashes while forcing my eyelids open to accept a new contact lens. None of that crap!

Which is good, because in my line of work it's better to not have to bother with glasses, especially when I'm playing in the snow, 250 miles away from the nearest supplier of saline solution, and digging a snow shelter into the Greenland ice cap that I would call home for a few days. So in conclusion, if you hate your glasses, find one of these Lasik centres.

Saturday, June 26

Works in Progress

So, I took pictures of our CSA bounty this week... and then I lost them somehow. Sorry. I guess you'll have to take my word for the fact that it was great! Strawberries, raspberries, swiss chard, lots of lettuce and some radishes. We made a HUGE salad and I've got some strawberry rhubarb preserves started right now. Here you can see the pears I canned (with brown sugar syrup!) and the watermelon pickles.

I'm very lucky to have a handy husband. He was able to take the vacuum apart and figure out that the reason it abruptly stopped working was a ruined belt. Turns out you're supposed to replace it every six months... and we haven't replaced it in six years. So the new one is on order and hopefully we'll be back to working order soon!

I had a fantastic time yesterday hunting through the quilting store for fabrics to use in my first quilt! Class starts on Tuesday and I'm very excited! I needed two colors, each with three variations of light to dark, and one accent color. Debbie, the lady at the store, was phenominal in helping me make sure everything matched and complimented each other and the quilt design. Other than that, not much to tell. Today is a work-around-the-house day. More fun stuff soon!

Wednesday, June 23

Enjoyment & Experiments

It's only been two days since I posted, but it feels like there's plenty to note. Sorry in advance for lots of links rather than pics...

Yesterday was my birthday, and I celebrated by spending most of the day in the kitchen. :0) Thank you to all for the cards, flowers, etc!

In my kitchen playtime, I made Honey Vanilla Pound Cake (really good and a perfect base for strawberry shortcake) and Swiss Chard Dolmades (a creative new way to use the swiss chard that came in our CSA bag). I liked the idea of the dolmades, but will definitely improvise my own filling next time with a lot more spice to it. In addition, I located a recipe for make-your-own Vanilla Extract that will save me a bazillion dollars. Vanilla extract that doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup is expensive! Meanwhile, I got to enjoy World War Z as an audio book free on youtube! So fantastic.

While I was playing, the Supreme Court was doing their best to advance the extinction of mankind, compliments of their latest brilliant decision to allow Monsanto to sell GM (genetically modified) seeds without testing. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to understand that this is a terrible idea, but if you'd like to have nightmares about all the very real and frightening consequences of GM seed please let me know and I'll be happy to give you a short reading list.

Back to enjoyable things, I timed myself and discovered that I can grind 2/3 cup of flour per minute by hand. :0) That, along with the fact that I just emptied my second superpail of hard wheat means only one thing: I bake (and eat) WAY to much bread! Lol. Speaking of which, I've got a fresh batch of dough rising. It's a much simpler version of the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day plan, where you make a big batch of dough, let it sit in your fridge, and take off hunks whenever you want fresh bread. This reduces your prep time to about a hour from thought to done baking. Nice, huh? (EDIT: This is to die for and sinfully easy! Make some!)

Since the World Cup has been going on the last couple days, Eric has been teaching me the basics of the sport and keeping me posted on who's doing well and who is an embarassment to their nation (*cough*France*cough*) While I may never sit and watch a whole game, it's be suprisingly fun to learn.

PSA of the day: the government thinks individuals don't have the right to choose what to eat or what to feed your children. I won't rant... I'm sure you all know what I think already.

Like to read? If you read The Shack, please make sure you read the counter book that was recently published - Burning Down The Shack. The original is not exactly what it's presented to be.

Okay... that's enough out of me for now. Hugs all around! :0)

Monday, June 21

Recipes Galore

I promised a few people recipes recently and, as I sat down to type them out, realized that some were already available online. So, in the interests of efficiency, I will post links to them here.

New things I tried (and liked):
Strawberry Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar
Barley Risotto

Recipes I promised people:
Brown Rice Flour Mix (for the brownies below)
Amazing Chicken Pot Pie

Okay, I can't for the life of me find this recipe online anywhere, so I'm going to break down and type it out. My understanding of copyright law is that if I give credit to the source and paraphrase the directions, it's okay to post, so here goes!

Gluten Free Brownies by Annalise Roberts in "Gluten Free Baking Classics"

2/3 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix (above)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 lrg eggs
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325*. Line 8 in. square pan with lightly greased foil. Combine flour mix, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum in small bowl. Set aside. Melt chocolate and butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. (remove from heat) Whisk in eggs one at a time until smooth. Whisk in dry. Stir in nuts if using. Bake for about 45 min. Cool for 5 min before cutting.

I won't post the recipes for pickled pears or pickled peaches until after my initial batches have been tested, so that's it for today. Happy baking!

Sunday, June 20

Life in Pictures

Today has been a busy and productive day. Seeing as it's summer, much of the activity has centered around the kitchen! Banana chips (for granola) and bread crumbs (why buy what you can make better yourself?) in the dehydrator.

An experiment on the counter... watermelon rind pickles. I'd read about them, but never seen any. Since mini melons were on sale this week and I was apt to buy one anyway, I figured it was a good time to try this new recipe. Here the peel is soaking in brine over night; I'll let you know how they turn out!

On the stove, bubbling away, is the canner. Spiced peaches (also on sale this week) - if they taste half as good as they smell, I'm hooked! It smells like peach cobbler... mmm... Unfortunately, they have to cure for three months, so it will be a little while before I can tell you if they turned out!

On the floor is our latest attempt to acquire border-collie-proof toys. We are quickly reaching the conclusion that there is no such thing. Arthas considers squeaky toys a personal affront and makes a point of killing any squeaker in short order. The puncture marks and shredded nylon make me suspect this toy, however much delighted in, will not be long for this world.

My birthday presents came early this year - Eric bought me both a book I loved (The Crazy Makers - read it; it will change how you look at food), and a stoneware cookie sheet! How cool is that?! Easy to maintain and perfect for everything from artisan bread to cookies to crackers (next on my list of things to master).

And a suprise house-warming gift from a friend! I had mentioned to my friend Kerry a month or so ago that Eric and I were looking for crystal wine goblets, but that I was out of my league because I don't know the first thing about crystal. Kerry's soon-to-be-husband David happens to be an expert on crystal. So what did they do? They sent us some! How beautiful are these? My pictures don't do them justice; they are lovely and we are delighted. :0)

Okay, that's it for now. Our trip to Rochester went well and was without incident, and although we were quite productive I didn't remember to take any pictures. lol.
More stuff to post soon! -hugs-

Thursday, June 17

The Search Concludes

After much searching and polite explaining that we were looking for a solid (real) wood table without leaves (which inexplicably baffled people), we finally found a dining room set we love!

Made with reclaimed barnwood (how awesome is that?!), it is exactly what we wanted. It's heavy, too! There's a store in Glen Falls that sells Amish made and Adirondack-style furniture, and I'm sure we'll go back if we ever need more. Loved it!

Happily, our furniture searching is now over. :0)

Headed to Rochester for a few days. Back on Monday with pictures of the early birthday presents my husband brought me and a beautiful housewarming present from a friend!

Sunday, June 13

Book Reviews

Yes, I know... lots of posts recently. But there's a lot going on!
Four quick book reviews today. (And no pictures, because I'm REALLY annoyed with blogger's inability to properly format them...sorry...)

Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds - obviously haven't read it yet... Purchased as a reference material, intial review seems impressive. Excellent illustrations and sketches, clear and easy to read descriptions and all kinds of fascinating facts in easy to use format.

The Book of Preserves - the beginning of my quest to read everything I can get my hands on relating to preserving and food storage. Not a bad start; I've copied out several simple recipes. Not going on my list of resources worth owning, however. Just not that helpful.

Putting Food By - considering one of the classic tomes of preserving wisdom, this is a clearing house of basic information on canning processes and safety. I have my eye on the companion book, Putting Food Up with Honey, but this will definitely make the need-a-copy-for-my-shelf list! If you're new to canning, it's a good place to start.

unChristian - picked up at the library on a whim, this turned out to be fantastic. A little dry, but precious in content: three years of research into what people really think about Christians and why. Most of it rang soundly true. I would love to see this book get in the hands of pastors and ministry leaders. A valuable read for everyone, no matter where you stand.

Friday, June 11

Food Storage Analyzer

Have you ever noticed the Preparedness Pantry button on the side of our blog? It's a link to the great people at Emergency Essentials and the very informative blog they run. Full of info about preparing for emergencies of all kinds.

I've known for a while that they had a tool called the Food Storage Analyzer, but never made time to try it out... Until now.


It's awesome!!

You plug in basic information (age/gender) of the people you're preparing for and it calculates the number of calories you will most likely need per day (if it looks a little high, it's because people usually need extra calories when they're working all day, and let's face it - if there's a major emergency, we're not going to be sitting around watching tv!).

Then, the program gives you the option to plug in what you already have on hand. This is great, because not only can you choose from commercially available products, but you can enter your own if you don't see what you like/want on their list! The program also allows you to earmark products you have not yet purchased but intend to so that you can evaluate their impact on your preparedness level.

The best part: this free calculator takes all your inputs and tells you how many days worth of food you have and it's nutritional content.

It even allows you to search items by nutritional need (i.e. if you come up really low on vitamin c, it can give you a list of suggested items high in vitamin c that you can add to your supply).

I strongly suggest you check this out now, while it's summer and produce abounds!

Canning, dehydrating and freezing summer's bounty while produce of all kinds is in season is the least expensive and one of the most nutritious ways to feed your family - in an emergency or as a general practice. (There are plenty of other options for those less domestically inclined or limited in resources/storage space: MRE's, meal replacement bars, etc.)

Whatever your opinions on emergency planning or food, I encourage you to check out this resource. It's easy both to use and update and can offer you some really insightful perspectives on where your family stands.

If you try it, let me know - I'd love to hear other people's results and opinions!

Wednesday, June 9

Hodge Podge

First off, food notes: Chicken Empanadas - if they're not already in your cookbook, add them now! And Strawberries with Balsamic-Honey Yogurt. Not posted yet, but to die for. Look for them on Recipezaar soon!

Next up, furniture - ours came! The beautiful living room set we bought does an excellent job of complimenting the amazing shelves my talented husband build, does it? (Yes, we need to fix the wiring situation... one step at a time.)

Interesting reading - on gardening in suburbia. While I can't say I agree with all his ideas, it's a good debate with several facets well deserving of deeper debate.

Gun control - the best graphics I've seen in a long time illustrating basic concepts. (Click on the links by subject on the bottom of the page.) Here are my favorites:

Also, it's farm stand and farmers' market season! If you don't already have a favorite, check out the Weston Price Foundation website to find a good one near you and start stocking up! :0)

Monday, June 7

Pay Attention

This is an excerpt from an email I received... sounds a lot like the strategy being used to pass the International Rights of the Child abomination! Disturbing, infuriating and serious. Please read and pass along!

On Wednesday Obama Took the First Major Step in a Plan to Ban All Firearms in the United States. The Obama administration intends to force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for US citizens through the signing of international treaties with foreign nations. By signing international treaties on gun control, the Obama administration can use the US State Department to bypass the normal legislative process in Congress. Once the US Government signs these international treaties, all US citizens will be subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments. These are laws that have been developed and promoted by organizations such as the United Nations and individuals such as George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. The laws are designed and intended to lead to the complete ban and confiscation of all firearms. The Obama administration is attempting to use tactics and methods of gun control that will inflict major damage to our 2nd Amendment before US citizens even understand what has happened.

Obama can appear before the public and tell them that he does not intend to pursue any legislation (in the United States) that will lead to new gun control laws, while cloaked in secrecy, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is committing the US to international treaties and foreign gun control laws. Does that mean Obama is telling the truth? What it means is that there will be no publicized gun control debates in the media or votes in Congress.

We will wake up one morning and find that the United States has signed a treaty that prohibits firearm and ammunition manufacturers from selling to the public. We will wake up another morning and find that the US has signed a treaty that prohibits any transfer of firearm ownership. And then, we will wake up yet another morning and find that the US has signed a treaty that requires US citizens to deliver any firearm they own to the local government collection and destruction center or face imprisonment. This has happened in other countries, past and present!

As sure as government health care will be forced on us by the Obama administration through whatever means necessary, so will gun control. Read the Article U.S. reverses stance on treaty to regulate arms trade WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States reversed policy on Wednesday and said it would back launching talks on a treaty to regulate arms sales as long as the talks operated by consensus, a stance critics said gave every nation a veto. The decision, announced in a statement released by the U.S. State Department, overturns the position of former President George W. Bush's administration, which had opposed such a treaty on the grounds that national controls were better. View The Full Article Here Click on the link below for further acknowledgement….. http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE59E0Q920091015

Before you leave comments telling me that Snopes doesn't agree with this, do what I did and run the question past credible and informed sources like the NRA: Bolton on Global Arms Treaty

Saturday, June 5

Freaking Adorable

Considering how much milk I cook with, and my desire to master cheese making (let's not get into how much of THAT I cook with), I find the idea of keeping milk animals appealing. Not that cows really hold much interest.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across Nigerian Dwarf Milking Goats on a homesteading site! Friendly, productive and about the size of a dog - how fun! I have added them to the mental homestead I am building for future development. (Yes, I know. I have issues.) But really, aren't you smiling just to look at them? You're welcome for the entertainment. :0)

Open Letter

Dear fellow shoppers,

This is the second time this year one of you has seen fit to imply that I am not competant enough to accurately assess the needs of and make decisions regarding my border collie. First it was the sticky note on the windshield. Now it's a page over the store p.a. system to return to my vehicle. Because it's hot outside. And there's a dog in the car. And I am clearly not intelligent enough to realize that all dogs should be left at home, alone, in a house air conditioned down to 50 degrees at all times.

Nevermind that my dog LOVES to ride in the car and HATES to be alone. Or that he has water. Or that I have been in the store less than 10 minutes. To say nothing of the fact that I take better care of my dog than most people do of their children.

As infuriating as your behavior is, I am willing to make a good faith effort to compromise. I propose the following resolution: if you see a dog in a car on a hot day and disapprove, either decide that it's enough of an emergency to call the cops or leave the situation the h*ll alone. Alternatively, you may personally wait at my vehicle with your stop watch and we can discuss the matter when I return... Either one is acceptable, but passive-agressive crap will no longer be politely tolerated.



Thursday, June 3


We joined a CSA! Astonishingly, there’s a farm stand in easy walking distance of our apartment. When we stopped by for strawberries and asparagus, we discovered they’re running a CSA this summer. We signed up on the spot! It should start next week, so I’ll keep you posted on the results!

I'm very excited because I have wanted to try one of these since I heard about them two years ago. Going to the farmers' market is fun, but this is like playing Iron Chef at home for a whole summer!

For those of you not familiar with the term, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You essentially buy shares in a farm at the beginning of a season and get a box with a pre-agreed weight of vegetables every week. (We signed up for 5# a week, which is considered half a share and appropriate for 2 people. A full share at 10# a week would feed four.)

In addition to being great for farmers, CSAs also allow people to expand their culinary horizons. It's like Food TV (not that I have cable and get to watch it much)... you get a box and have to figure out creative uses for whatever you got! Some CSAs are more like community gardens with a farmer as overseer and actually allow or require participants to spend time on the farm each week helping out. I personally think that would be great for a family with kids who could use to learn where food comes from these days!

For more information on CSAs and finding one near you, go here. For more information on how our adventure turns out, check back later!

For the Record

For the record, I hate formatting on blogger. No matter how many times I adjust it, and how many times it shows up perfectly in the preview, it never posts as correctly formatted... Grr!

Wednesday, June 2

Getting Settled

Not quite a week has passed since we got our keys to this new home, and the last tote was opened and unpacked yesterday! Plenty remains to be done, but it already feels more lived in than any of our previous apartments.

I, of course, started with the kitchen. (It takes up the most boxes...) Can you tell I like cookbooks and olive oil?

Eric hung all the pots and pans on the wall around my beloved white board. Just looking at all my lists and things to drop off various places in one neat spot makes me feel like the whole world is organized. I've even gotten a menu put together for the week with new recipes to try!

Eric also did the hard things like evenly hanging everything that had to go on a wall (I can't hang things straight to save my life) and crafting beautiful shelves to hold our library.

This apartment is rather different from any of the ones we've lived in before, and I look forward to seeing how it works out. It's near everything and comfortably far enough out from the city proper. There will be lots more to post as we add more personal touches, but hope you enjoyed the sneak peak!

Tuesday, June 1

Wine Sauce

While typing this recipe up to pass along to a friend, it occurred to me that for someone who likes to cook I never post cooking related material on here! So, as a first step towards remedying that, here's a light and delicious sauce for your summer grilling from the Cibi Deliziosi restaurant. (Hint: if you make extra, you can freeze it in plastic bags for an easy meal in the future!)

Wine Sauce with Mushrooms & Onion

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 lrg onion, thinly sliced (may sub ¼ lb chopped leeks or shallots)

Pinch of dried herbs (marjoram, thyme, sage and/or rosemary recommended)

½ lb mushrooms, thick sliced

Pinch of salt

½ cup wine (red or white, non-oaked!)

2 cups broth (chicken, beef or veg)

2 tbsp flour dissolved in ¼ cup water (slurry)

2 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (garnish, optional)

In a 10” sauté pan put 1 tbsp olive oil (do not allow to smoke). Add the marjoram/thyme. Cook 20 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the onions and cook them until they are slightly golden (about 5 minutes), stirring twice. (Don’t toss or salt caramelizing onions.)

Toss with a pinch of salt and remove to a plate.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook over med-high heat stirring only occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are browned.

Return the onions to the pan. Add the wine and cook uncovered for 5 min.

Add the broth. Bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer 5-10 min to reduce the broth slightly. Stir in the dissolved flour.

Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. If desired, whisk in cold butter for a shiny, velvety texture.

Add parsley and remove from heat. Season with salt & pepper to taste and serve warm.