Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stop It!

Ok, here's the thing.  I love to blog.  I don't do it often enough and I don't do it well enough but I find that blogging serves lots of purposes -- it provides me an outlet to write, which I love to do; it provides me an outlet to vent which is sometimes necessary; it provides me an outlet to share and to get to know other people.  I run  a clean blog.  I am NOT a person who enjoys or participates in the seedy side of life.  I am religious, I am patriotic, I adore my family,  I am an advocate for those who need one and I do it all in a wholesome way that I am not ashamed for anybody to look at or read -- that is why my blog is public.  However, it seems that, for some reason completely unfathomable to me, my blog is being visited by porn sites as is registered in my "stats".  I understand that is just an undesired risk when you have a public blog but, really?  What in the world could be attracting this sort of reader?  I have noticed that this has happened occasionally but it seems in the last week or so it has increased a lot and I am not appreciative of it.  I am concerned about it, I am not sure why since the readers don't comment or make their presence known in any way, but it bothers me and if it continues I will be forced to make my blog private which I really don't want to do -- but I will if I have to. 

I read lots of blogs, I find them very informative and enjoyable, and I try not to just "lurk" but rather leave a comment that I was there.  I don't always but I try to.  It bothers me that my blog is attracting this sort of people and, unless I look at the stats on the dashboard, I don't know it -- it feels like a violation of sorts.

So, to my unwelcome friends --- please go away or make yourself known.  There is nothing here that should be of any interest to you and I am not comfortable with the idea that you are here.  Thank you.  Have a nice day.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Intuitive Cooking -- Who Knew?

A while back my daughter, faced with meal planning for the week, make the statement  that she wished she could just cook -- no recipes, no cookbook, just go to the store, buy what appeals to her and make a meal.  Sounds reasonable to me.  She and I have pretty much the same attitude toward cooking -- a necessary evil and the more  involved it becomes the more evil it becomes. I have two shelves in my library devoted to all manner of cookbook and I never open them.  The only one I have studied at length is Mark Bittman's  How to Cook Everything.

So, I was sitting here today watching Martha Stewart make vegetable stock and I started thinking about what my daughter had said.  That led me to think about my mother who was a fantastic cook and we didn't have a cookbook in  the house.  She would go to the grocery store -- ONE grocery store -- not a day's worth of gadding about with grocery ads in her hand, no gourmet shops, no farmers markets. She went once every two weeks and picked up milk at the convenience store in between.   Her idea of meal planning for a week was seven meats, seven starches, two veggies per night and an occasional dessert.  Then there were the staples -- bread, milk, butter, blah blah blah -- you get the picture.  Same thing each week regular as clock work but she worked magic with those basic ingredients.  At the beginning of the week, usually a Sunday we had a big meal -- roast, potatoes, carrots, etc and leftovers the next day.  As the week would wind down to Saturday we would have what she called our "poor" meal -- usually beans and cornbread or soup or stew and she always had a cake or pie.  Didn't sound too poor to me!  And.....she never used a recipe or a cookbook.  There wasn't one in the house.  She said she remembered how they made some things  in Home Ec in junior high school which was great for Floating Island but she just seemed to have an intuitive knack for cooking, seasoning, and getting everything on the table at the same time -- all done.

So, when I started searching the internet for "intuitive cooking" it dawned on me that that was what my mother did before it became a "style" or "technique".  Then I realized why my daughter gets slightly exasperated with me when she asks me how I cook something -- I simply can't tell her.  She wants numbers, people, in  cups and teaspoons.  I don't cook like that.  I have told her that she needs to decide to cook something, look up how to do it and then, just do it.  The simpler the better.  Learn to make a great salad, roast a chicken, a pork loin -- all simple and good. I no longer cook large roasts because it is just too much for us and Hubs really doesn't care for leftovers -- something I just can't change his mind on.  So, instead, I braise really lean stew meat with onions and garlic, let it cook for a while and voila! beef we can cut with a fork.  My daughter even likes it and she was the only child vegetarian I knew in the 80's. 

So, as I read several blogs on the subject of intuitive cooking -- the rules for intuitive cooking and even recipes for intuitive cooking (????), I realized I had a few of my own so here goes:

Buy the best you can afford to buy keeping all the food groups in mind.  Realize that  shopping at the overpriced, gourmet store doesn't necessarily mean better.

If fresh isn't so fresh, buy frozen.  It works.

Start simple -- learn to roast a whole chicken really well.  It isn't hard and you have lots of meat left over for all sorts of chicken-y things -- like chicken salad.

When you have that done, move on to beef.  Salt and pepper is the best seasoning for beef.

Remember to keep your plate balanced with protein, starch and veggies -- be colorful.  Protein doesn't necessarily mean meat.

Make a simple vinegar dressing and  experiment with herbs and seasoning.

Learn to love olive oil.

Frying isn't your friend but steaming and sauteing is.

Onions, celery, parsley, garlic are basics -- like white underwear.  ALWAYS have it on hand.  Always. You can buy frozen chopped onions or you can do your own -- they freeze very well.

Keeping your junior high school home ec class in mind (oh,  they don't have that anymore, do they?) Well, anyway remember balance and portion control.

Have fun -- cook what appeals to you -- what you like.  You are doing the cooking for you --- do what you want.

None of these rules apply to baking.  However, I don't bake so who cares.

My daughter has perfected a few dishes and is more and more willing to try new things even though she still wants a recipe and that is ok.  At some point, she will discover that she has just gone in and cooked a meal without thinking about it and she will be pleased.

My goal --  to stock my freezer with homemade stock.  I love stock. Now I am hungry for chicken soup.  Damn.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Musing Monday -- February 18, 2013

Tell us what you are reading right now -- what you think of it so far, why you chose it, what you are (or aren't) enjoying about it.

I am currently reading Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini.  It is the second book in the Elm Creek Quilts series.  My daughter purchased the first book in the series for me and she brought me this one yesterday.  I am reading it now because I just finished The Quilter's Apprentice, wasn't ready for it to end so I am ready to jump into this one. 

I started it last night when I went to bed so I haven't gotten too far but it takes up where the first one left off and it has drawn me in immediately.  Even though I haven't read enough to say whether there are things I won't like, I really doubt it.  I really enjoy these sorts of books and I like reading series so I am sure it will be very enjoyable.  I will review when I am done.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book Reviews -- 2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge

The last couple of weeks have been good reading weeks for me.  The books I completed were completely different in nature but they were both quick reads and page turners for different reasons.

The first book is "The Quilter's Apprentice" by Jennifer Chiaverini.  This book was a gift from my daughter and, let's just say she knows me  well.  While I have heard of Chiaverini through quilting sources, I had not read her books and I have to say that I was definitely missing out.  The book is about two young people, Sarah and Matt McClure, making a new start  in a new place -- a small college town in Pennsylvania.  Matt is a landscape architect and has landed a job at Elm Creek Manor, the family home of aging Sylvia Compson.  Sarah, looking for a change in career and unable to make any acceptable connections, accepted a position as personal assistant to the testy Mrs. Compson -- her job being to help Mrs. C prep the manor for sale.  Without saying too much, let me just assure you that there are relationships formed, relationships mended, realizations, new starts for everyone all around and a very happy ending.  This is a feel good book.  There are conflicts but not horrible conflicts.  There is sadness but not so sad that there is no comfort.  For a quilter, this book is a little bit of heaven.  I mean, what is not to love about a small, picturesque town with a quaint quilt store.  As I read along I caught myself doing the rocking stitch in the air -- I guess once it is part of you, you never really quit.  It really made me want to try to do some hand quilting again, I will just have to go slow so the hands don't hurt so much.  I can hardly wait to start the next book in the series.  Thank you, daughter!

The second book I read was "Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.  This is a work of fiction based on a real place -- the Tawawa Resort in Xenia, Ohio. The resort opened in 1852 and closed in 1855 due to declining business resulting from  the displeasure of the  northern white patrons with the southern white patrons and their slave entourages.  The property changed hands and became the Ohio African University in 1856.  Enrollment decreased during the Civil War and the university eventually closed. in 1863 the property was purchased by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and became Wilberforce University which continues to be the nation's oldest African University.  It is believed that many of the first students were the children of the slave women and their white owners.

As I said previously, this is a work of fiction detailing the summer vacations of four slave mistresses and their white masters.  The strength of this book, in my opinion, is the characterization.  When this book first caught my eye I shied away from it because of the subject matter.  I couldn't imagine a book about slavery being "entertaining" and I certainly wouldn't use that word to describe this book.  As I began, I felt bad reading about these women in their deplorable situations -- some true slaves, some in love with their masters, some whose masters loved them -- but then I realized that these women wanted me to read about them, to "know" them, to see that these women were women like any other with the strength, knowledge and abilities to get them through -- just like all women of the ages.  One of the most compelling  themes is the need, desire and endurance of relationships between these women.  I am not talking about romantic relationships but rather the relationships that uphold us all through birth, death, joy, sorrow and loss.  Slaves were viewed as being pretty much inhuman and this book dispells that notion by showing how these women dealt with the "stuff" of life, how their strengths, frailties, and faith were no different than any woman -- then or now.

I was afraid that the graphic nature of this book would be more than  I could  handle.  I do read for pleasure and I couldn't imagine reading about cruelties toward these women being pleasurable and it wasn't but there was only enough of these scenes to move the story along-- it wasn't overdone for shock value.  It was a compelling book and these women drew me in.  I found myself thinking about how I would react in each of their situations and which one I identified with most.

With all of this said, it was a page turner, it was enlightening and it did have a happy ending -- a couple of them actually.

I would recommend this to anybody interested in history.  If you are looking for something light and airy -- pass this one by.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday

Well, not for me.  I am not a professional sports fan so I am reading my way through this game although my husband is watching it.  I am yearning for "Downtown Abbey" but it will have to wait a bit.

 "What am I reading", you might ask.  I am reading through my blog list which I try to do every day.  I have a very nice variety of blogs that I enjoy reading that cover a variety of subjects.  I get such pleasure and inspiration from these blogs and feel that I have actually made friends with many of the authors.  I start my day out reading a specific few and, as I sit with my cuppa and my computer in the early morning, I feel like I am having a nice visit with a friend.  Reading blogs is such a different experience from social networking (i.e. Facebook) -- much more rewarding and a lot less manic (read "political").

I am also reading a couple of new books.  One I am enjoying a great deal, the other, not so much.  "The Quilter's Apprentice" by Jennifer Chiaverini was a gift to me from my daughter.  She certainly knows me well and knew that I would enjoy getting into this series.  What's not to love?  I mean, quilting, a beautiful old mansion in Pennsylvania, a woman trying to "find herself", an older woman looking to/needing to connect -- I love books involving the human condition and this is brimming with that.  Throw in a quaint quilt shop (would love to own one!) and I am in reading heaven.  This book is a page turner and even though I am only about half done, I would definitely recommend.

The second book that I am reading --or trying to -- is one that caught my eye months ago but I was hesitant to acquire it so I waited until I found it on the discount shelf at the bookstore before I bought it and I am glad I waited.  It is "Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdez and, while it has my interest, I am afraid it is going to be a lot more graphic than I like.  I am sure it involves the human condition as it concerns a posh vacation spot where wealthy plantation owners would frequent with their slave mistresses.  I am not sure I am going to get very far into this book as I don't think I will be able to handle the subject matter.  I will see and let you know.  I don't usually give up on books but I do read for pleasure and I am not sure this is going to be pleasurable.

I am finishing up some cross stitch Christmas ornaments that I started a while back.  They were supposed to be done for Christmas but I got sick and, well, it just didn't happen.  Oh well, there is always next year!  I especially enjoy doing the ornies from Little House Needleworks because they are challenging enough but quick enough to almost qualify as instant gratification -- providing you don't get sick!  These are the ones I am currently working on.


I had planned a flat finish for these but I really enjoy a pillow-type finish with ribbons and things so I think that is what I will do -- maybe with a velvet backing.  I have a lot of time to figure it out!

It has been a quiet weekend.  My knee and foot are killing me so I haven't been up and around very much.  I already have arthritis (first diagnosed at 34 years old! A couple of years ago) and then I twisted it badly trying to get up off the floor while babysitting.  I am ok once I am down but if I have to do much getting up and down, I am done.  So, between that and the plantar faciitis in my right heel, I am fairly useless.  In spite of that, and the headache I can't get rid of, I did do laundry today and rearrange my kitchen counters and swap some flour/sugar into new canisters. I wasn't entirely idle but I did do a bit of resting as I went.  All of this knee/foot pain is really tiring and I missed church today because I just wasn't moving around very well and, honestly, exhausted.  It took me all day to get any energy and it didn't last long.  I sound like an ancient, old crone but I am not -- however, I think my knees are at least twenty five years older than the rest of me.  Ouch.

On that note, I am back to my book.  I will review it later on.