Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Time Off

Taking the week off to update some computer issues
and recharge my spiritual battery.
Be blissed!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Homemade Suet

 We're bird lovers.
We enjoy feeding them
and watching their daily antics.
Earlier this year, we made homemade suet feeders
out of branches we found in the yard of the rental.

 You can find that post here.
Today we're sharing something we tried for the first time.
This homemade suet,
made from 4 simple ingredients,
 goes into those feeders.
This is a great family project,
especially for kids out of school on the holiday break.
After all, the birds gotta eat!

All you need is corn meal, crunchy peanut butter,
vegetable shortening and birdseed.

The shortening and peanut butter are melted in a pan
over low heat, just until they come together.

Dump the liquid mixture into a bowl with
the cornmeal, then add birdseed.
Mix until well combined.

 We repurposed trays and plastic containers
to use as molds until the suet was set. 
You could also use a cupcake pan,
using paper liners.

We left the suet overnight in the garage,
as it was plenty cold to help it set.
You could also refrigerate it for a few hours. 
Using something akin to a tongue depressor,
or your fingers,
fill the holes with the mixture
and watch them come-a-callin'!

Bon Apetit!

Homemade Suet
3/4 C shortening
1 C chunky peanut butter
2 1/2 cornmeal
1/2-1/3 C birdseed

Melt shortening and peanut butter.
over low heat.
Mix cornmeal with liquid,
then add birdseed.
Press into molds.
Let cool at least a few hours.
Serve in suet feeders.

 photo TWTpictures_zpslz1mzxyh.jpg

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

We're Percolatin'!

Holiday shopping has been taking place.
This year, a concerted effort was made to buy locally.
There are several antique "shabby chic"-type stores in town.
The enamel cabinet that I bought a few weeks ago was found there.
That was such a fantastic surprise.
Little did I know when I was Christmas shopping,
that I'd find something I've wanted for quite some time.

 This corning ware percolator caught my eye.
I had purchased one similar to it a few years back
at the Florida Flywheeler's Flea Market.
The interior had been badly stained by something,
but I took the chance that I could get it clean enough to use.
That didn't happen,
so I've been using it to collect any leftover water from steaming veggies or the like,
and then reusing it to water plants.

What a pleasant surprise it was when I peered into this beauty!
It is in pristine condition
and the price was right at only $18.00!
It hopped right into my basket!

Christmas came a little early for me.
Since moving into our new (smaller) home,
I've downsized so many things,
including many of my kitchen staples.
Keeping only the items I truly love is now the goal.
Not only does this percolator fulfill a longtime desire,
it makes the best cup of coffee I've had in a good, long time.

Steps to Perfect Percolated Coffee
1.  Measure out the water for the amount of cups needed.
(There are corresponding marks printed inside of this model.)
2.  Rinse the metal basket in cool water.
(This is supposed to help keep grounds in the basket, and out of your coffee.)
3.  Fill basket with measured coffee grounds.
4.  Place basket assembly into coffeepot and replace lid.
5.  Place on high heat until percolation starts.
6.  Turn down to simmer and percolate 10-15 minutes,
according to the strength desired.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Garden Friday

 We had a bit of winter weather in the last week,
although it's officially still autumn.
This is what our garden looked like for a few days.

 After the snow melted, the pots were uncovered during the day,
so that the seedlings and crops could get some much-needed sunshine.
The inverted pots worked exceptionally well,
and no signs of freeze damage were found.
Here are the plants that sailed through the bitter cold.

Broccoli is still flourishing,
and I actually sampled a bite yesterday.

The Brussels Sprouts are starting to bud out on the main stalk.

Both of the kales seem hardy enough.
This is dino kale, and below,

 Vates curly kale.
These have been munched on many times.

The leek have no trouble dealing with frigid temperatures.
They snuggle together in their container and continue to thrive.

The shallots also have a deep bin in which to grow.
All of the crops seemed to drink up every drop of sunshine and heat.

Surprisingly, even the youngest seedlings
have gotten through the snow and freezes.
I simply covered the whole lot of them with an overturned pot. 

I checked on this parsley that was started from seed.
It had been transplanted to a bed in front of the house earlier in the fall, 
and I was happy to see it doing well.

This shot makes me smile.
This is our collection of pumpkins from the beginning of fall.
If we were still in Florida,
they would have long been rotted by now.
We delight in the preservation powers of the cold.
Hmmm, maybe it will do the same for me?

 I have no idea what kind of tree this is,
but it is something to behold.
Each one of the golfball-sized seed pods
hangs from its bare branches like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

 What a unique gift this tree offers.
Just a quick shake of the pod
results in endless potential.
Mother Nature never stops providing.

 This week I have marveled at the brilliance of the blue skies,
and been grateful for the returning sun.

There is so much beauty around us.
Every day is another chance to show gratitude 
for this magical world in which we live.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Crockpot Turkey Breast

With the holidays looming,
turkey is on the menu for a lot of folks
who can't get enough of the stuff at Thanksgiving.
Our Thanksgiving meal is usually pretty simple.
As it's just the three of us, (and one of us doesn't eat meat),
it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to buy a whole turkey,
so we make a few side dishes and enjoy the day together.
To make the preparation even easier,
we have enlisted the assistance of the crock pot.
It couldn't be simpler to make a moist, juicy turkey breast
with enough leftovers to satisfy the natives.

The turkey breast is washed and dried,
then placed into the crockpot.
A dry rub is used to coat the bird.
No water is added to the pot,
but it comes out moist and tender.
This meal is so easy,
it's worth making more than once a year!

Crockpot Turkey Breast
One 3-5 pound turkey breast
2 t salt
1 t onion powder
1 t Italian seasonings
1 t paprika
4 cloves garlic, smashed

Place turkey breast in crock pot
and season with dry rub.
Add garlic cloves to pot.
Cook on high for 6 hours,
or low for 8-10 hours.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Snow Fixation

"Snow provokes responses
that reach right back to childhood."
~ Andy Goldsworthy

 When researching a quote to express my feelings about snow,
this one was spot-on.
I don't know what comes over me.
When enveloped by the white stuff,
I am six years old again.

I grew up with snow.  Lots of snow.
Living in the suburbs of Chicago as a child,
we were inundated with snow almost every winter.
It was enchanting then, as it is now.

 Perhaps this love affair will fade over time,
as winter continues
and is more a factor in our daily lives.
But I'm thinking 
that because I was deprived  of this spell-binding precipitation for forty-odd years,
it will remain something wonderful 
for the rest of my life.

 It humbles me, to know that God created this beautiful winter blanket,
to transform the Earth as we know it,
into a sublime spiritual sanctuary.
What a gift, this season.

During the holidays,
when things get frantic,
it's almost as if the Universe gives us permission
to slow down, take a deep breath
and savor the wonder of it all.

 Majestic views surround us,
with white-tipped trees and bare branches 
giving us a new look at the forest in our back yards.
It's easier to see the birds' nests at this time of year,
and reminds us that Mother Nature is taking care of Her charges, 
even in the harshest of weather.

It always seemed curious to me 
that some grown-ups liked winter.
Most adults I know feel that it is a nuisance,
something that is wished away,
anxious for milder conditions.
But now, having experienced snow again,
I can see the magic in its properties.
When it snows, I am transfixed.
And I hope that never leaves me.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Garden Friday

Here's how our container garden looked earlier in the year
when we were just getting started.
At that time, there were warm temperatures
and abundant sunshine.

But we are in the throes of colder weather
and I spent some time on Wednesday getting the crops ready for the severe change.
A few sheets, some stakes and several clothespins later,
 the garden is ready to face the coldest winds.
The stakes were used for the taller crops,
to keep the sheets above the tops of the plants. 

For the shorter seedlings,
these  empty pots were simply inverted to use as covers.
Then I placed a brick on top to keep them in place. 

With little sun expected in the next few days,
these pots may just stay covered until we see brighter skies.
This is our first fall garden on this property,
so I'm not really sure what to expect.
Hopefully, everything will come out just fine.

What precautions do you take in the garden 
during colder weather?