Friday, February 27, 2015

Winter Thoughts At The End Of February

I'm thinking it just might still be snowing in June this year.  Nothing has melted but a few icicles on the south side roof edges.  On a positive note: we can see the black asphalt of the driveway for the first time since all this snow started falling.

Did you see the pictures of our 70 car pile up?  No one died.  Nothing really serious.  Heart attack, broken bones.  All of those people were very very lucky.  Especially the pregnant lady in the folded up SUV and the guy trapped in his car under the bus--he had to sit and wait until they had removed enough cars to finally reach his car.  How do you not get panicky.

Our carpenter (who was going to be doing the bathrooms this month) has a winter job plowing.  He says he hasn't done one tiny bit of carpentry since the snow started falling.  Just endless plowing and then endless repairs on the plows or the trucks.  Sounds depressing.  Since most winter contracts for plowing are for the season----not for endless, twice weekly storms.

I am looking forward.  To planting seeds.  Even as my husband warns--there won't be any place warm to plant them when they need to be planted.

I have been making pots of red chili beans this winter.  From small red dry beans.  No canned stuff. and eating the beans with brown rice.  Healthy Food.  I have been making my own chili seasonings from dry chilies, coffee, chocolate, onions, etc.  Like chemistry.

I have also been making pots and pots of chicken soup for G.  He says it makes him feel "warm" after all the outside work with the snowblower.  He had to make wider paths in the back yard for the dog. We also have paths to all the exits--in case of emergencies.  We see too many homes, on our walks, with no way to get to the front door.  The garage, yes.  The front door, no.  And I bet, no way out the back door, either.

Riley is resting--even though he much prefers being active.  We are trying to keep him off the snowbanks where he likes to do "his business".  So--he isn't the happiest of dogs.  Not even looking out the window at the squirrels and big fat black crows.  If you can't chase them, why look?

And there are no rabbits here in Maine (not even polka dotted ones).  I've often wondered why that is, as I saw rabbits all the time in Illinois.  Perhaps it's the Fishers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It's All Good

When the Vet had Riley all knocked out and ready to do the aspiration of what he felt might be a  dangerous cancerous lymph gland, he said to his tech--"let's just take it out" and so they cut and took out the ...... ta da fatty tissue ball.  Not a swollen lymph gland.

At this point Dr H. and the tech nearly broke out into the happy dance and high fives.

People. (!!!!!)

Man.  Are we all happy right now.  The fatty mass is going to the lab.  Riley is on pain meds for the incision and is very Zombie-like.  He's drinking water, sleeping and going out on the leash to pee.  He'll eat treats but not his food.  An hour ago he barked.

It's all good.

Oh, the lymph gland is still in Riley and other than being a bit irritated by rubbing against the fat ball, looks normal.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Walking The Dog

That's about the only reason G and I have for going outside these February days.  How many storms in the past few weeks?  Coming two or three in a week.  No melting.  The snow is piled up so high that Riley is way up over our heads as he climbs to the top and then swims (walks) across the top. The roadways are getting more and more narrow and G and I have to tuck ourselves into the slush so cars can pass safely.  It gets tricky if on coming traffic has bald tires.  I though my ticket would be punched as a newspaper delivery guy lost control of the car and--luckily for me---plowed into a snow bank and not my knees.

The restaurant G used to manage is being closed and he has been invited to join the Breakfast Club in their last meeting there tomorrow morning.  He should go.  The Breakfast Club will be happy to see him one more time.

Riley has a vet appointment tomorrow morning regarding his lymph gland.  Aspiration.  To see what it's all about.  So, it would be good for G to have somewhere happy to go while that is happening.

My daughter is enjoying her new job.  Not the drive to work, this winter.  But her co-workers are very nice and she has her own office.  I am very thankful she is happy.

My son is enjoying his new job (it's been almost a year now) and he has just moved into an new apartment.  NEW.  After living in a1950's rental with no updates for too many years.  He did a very brave thing (well, moving was pretty off the charts as well) by deleting a large pile of "things he no longer needed" before moving.  He took only what he loved or needed with him to the new place. A fresh start.  He sends us pictures of his new home. I am very thankful he is happy.

Our neighbor across the street is moving.  And I wish she was getting rid of the things that no longer matter.  Instead of getting rid of things she is packing up the past (her failed marriage) and trying to take it with her into the future.

She wonders why we stay here.  In ice cold Maine. But as I told her, it's only 2.5 months.  And then it's almost May when Maine is absolute perfection.  And, it's home.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy New Year

The year of the ram.  I don't know how that translates for the dogs that G and I are. We'll see. But I will be taking the Swedish wooden horse down off the mantle and replacing it with the Irish wool ram I received as a gift from Ireland when G was a "traveling man".

My Winter Minestrone is way too heavy on the tomato.  A 28 ounce can of pureed tomatoes.  I have added more water and tried to lower the carb count by not adding the pasta in the recipe.  I will be adding MORE water to the next 100 bowls (it made so much) and I will be adding the pasta.  It doesn't taste bad.  It just has a "one note" taste.  Tomato, tomato, tomato.  All the nice vegetables: celery, carrots, butternut squash, kale, onions, garlic, white beans and potato are lost.  I looked at the picture posted on the blog where I first noticed this recipe--and it is indeed pretty tomato-y but the broth looks more watery than mine.  Sometimes a recipe is good from the beginning.  And other times it takes work to get it right.  And sometimes the effort to fix a recipe is wasted.  I have a perfectly perfect vegetable soup recipe I didn't use. Duh!!

We had another storm last night.  The plow just went by the driveway so I think I will jump up and look out the window and see how high the pile is at the end.  Well.  Not high enough to keep us from blasting through it at some speed.  But it still needs clearing.  G is getting ready to go out and get the newspaper--along with his trusted assistant Riley.

It was calm and sunny the past two afternoons and we took Riley for a walk on neighborhood streets.  He, typically, climbed every high snowbank (and they are taller than G or I) and typically--chose to poop on the top of the tallest pile.  G got to climb up and collect both days.  BUT, the up and down is really excellent exercise for a large muscular dog like Riley.  Not so much for a 60 something dog owner.

These twice a week storms are tiresome.  And the Blah, Blah, Blah of the weather men on the news is even more tiresome.  After the last "oh, gosh, it missed us" storm they are now saying "might" more than "it's gonna bury us".  We were supposed to get 6 to 10 inches of new snow last night and possibly-- the hype-- up to 12 to 20 inches.   Looks like 3 to me.  We'll see who is right when G goes out to shovel the back deck.

Anyway, I think we should go out today and eat some Chinese dumplings and noodles for good luck.

Riley finally--after all these years of chasing them in the yard--caught a squirrel.  G was hoping it was just stunned but it hasn't moved from the spot where G put it in the garden.  Riley can't get into the garden.  We'll see.  Circle of life an all.  But Riley wants to go catch another one.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Wanting Some Color MidWinter

The backyard looks like the surface of the moon.  All white, cold and pitted with surface craters. the "blizzard " brought only a tiny bit of new snow--but the winds (which howled all night) moved the dry snow all over the yard.  It's very very cold.  It's almost like we actually DO live in the Arctic as many of our friends think.

I've been making lists of plants, shrubs and trees.  Thinking about adding a few things to the landscape here. Some things with color.

Edit: the tree in the picture is a Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula) good for zones 7 to 10, slow growing and up to 20 or 30 feet at maturity.  This tree is growing at the New York Botanical Garden.

Today's culinary projects include Muffin Cup Lasagna using won ton wrappers instead of pasta.  Well, won ton wrappers are pasta.  I made a muffin pan of 12 for my daughter on Friday.  No report on how they turned out but G has asked for his own pan of lasagna muffins.  I sent him out for more ingredients and found a quarter pound hamburger patty in the freezer--so I think he may get meat and spinach.

G has finished off the pot of chicken soup I made for him on Friday.  I am having brown rice and a few scoops of the red bean dish I made for myself.  I added onions, peppers, tomato sauce, cocoa and guajillo chile puree (the Vitamix) to the cooked beans.  I also added a bit of brown sugar, some honey and some mustard.  I like this batch almost as much as the first pot of beans I made at the beginning of the month.  The first batch got too sweet when I tried to overcome the bitterness of ancho chilies.
The dry chilies I used this time have subtle heat.  Next time perhaps one ancho and four or five of the guajillo.  We'll see.  G got me small red beans and I like them better than kidney beans.

I think I may use the vegetables I have in the fridge to make a small pot of winter minestrone.  I saw it on a blog this morning (Diary of a Locavore) and it looked delicious.  An Ina Garten recipe. You could look it up that way.  

Riley is giving me the dog's version of the "stink eye" so he must want me to go get G and "do something".  The cold and the snow have kept us from the daily walk and the dog isn't too happy about it.  We have a few errands to do.  And that gives the dog a "ride in the car" which--even though it seems less than interesting to me, must be right up there with cheese wrapped pills for the dog.  That's another issue.  Riley doesn't have any more pills to take--so therefore no more cheese.  Not a happy guy.  But he is compensating by licking birdseed off the snow under the feeders.

G is going outside to clear the bottom of the driveway.  Then we'll go do errands.

The sun is shining and the wind has stopped blowing and I finally have room in the freezer for ice cream.  So it's not all gloom and doom around here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Early Wishes For A Happy Valentine's Day

We'll be getting more snow and some very very frigid temperatures for the holiday so I thought I would post now--just in case.

Things I Have Noticed Lately and Just Don't Understand:

The two books I just read had some connection to old Amsterdam.  The Miniaturist and The Signature Of All Things.  And both books had never had their book spines cracked open.  I was the first to read them.  And, in further investigation, the book I am reading now, Dominion, was never opened either-- in 2 years.

The library where I used to work, used to buy quite a lot of fiction.  Now they don't.  And they removed any fiction from the shelves if it hadn't been checked out in the five years before the day they checked.  The books were taken off the shelves and sent to Goodwill.  Now, when I order books they come from other libraries.

I also checked the three fiction books I purchased at last year's book sale and haven't read as yet.  They also had never been opened or read.  The pages were solidly together.  No gaps when the covers were opened and spread out to 90 degrees. Purchased and then never opened or read.  Gifts?

One is Wolf Hall.  Now in the process of being turned into a Masterpiece production by PBS.  Ahhh!  Loved the book when I read it a few years ago.  Bought the book sale copy so I could read it again any time I wanted in the future.  My library doesn't own a copy but sent this pristine, unopened copy to the book sale rather than add it to the collection.

I remember visiting a newly built library in Georgia.  Built to replace an old, smaller building.  In the new library--all the books were brand new.  Author collections contained only the newest releases.  I asked about the older books from the old library and the library personnel I spoke with said "we got rid of all that old stuff".  It honestly felt like I had been punched in the chest.

I just don't understand.  A library is a place where books are kept.  Kept.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

It's Pantry Clean Out Month

Before I get started on the Pantry Clean out---  We found a Hoosier just like this one at a garage sale down the street from us (that house we bought where we only saw the roof because of the snow) when Spring arrived.  It was coated in paint.  But we stripped it and used in in that house, for 6 years in Germany, in the next house in Chicago and finally here in Maine.  The Hoosier lives with our daughter now but isn't used as a pantry.

I love that the mixer sits in one of the cabinets.  In our Hoosier there is a flour sifter over where the mixer is in this picture.  Same doors and drawers.

Anyway.  In February there are lots of Pantry Challenges on the internet.  The one I remember that first got me interested in this was probably 10 or more years ago.  I sometimes wish I still had the names of those great websites.  I don't.  The idea is to "shop" your fridge, freezer and pantry and use what you already have.

I am interesting in doing it this February because I want ice cream.  And I don't have room in the freezer for even a PINT of ice cream.  Yes, it's that full.  And, Yes, the freezer is that small. Remember I had to remove all the frozen berries and make jam.  It's that space challenged.  I may have to remove the frozen peaches and strawberries in order to make room for ice cream.

The first site that I went on 10 years ago had a few rules.  Such as only being able to buy a few "fresh" things each week.  Usually eggs, milk, bread etc.  Stuff that is best used fresh.

I tried it and it was fun.  Mostly I opened the freezer to see what I might want to thaw out and then checked to see what sort of recipe I could find to use the freezer item and whatever I happened to have in the fridge or pantry.  Can't make pasta if you don't have pasta.  You get it.

I found that the things I had to buy "fresh" were often onions, carrots and potatoes.  With those three things I could make quite a few meals out of whatever was in the freezer.  In fact, most of my recipes start with peeling an onion or two.  Spell correct just said "peeling an opinion or two".  Well that too.

Things I Did Today.
Potted up all the Spring Bulbs I didn't get into the ground in the Fall (and making quite a dirty mess)
Drove to work to buy more dirt to pot up the bulbs.  (first time I have driven the car in 6 weeks)
I am silently sending "love" to someone (in my thoughts) who may need a bit of extra care and love.
I am enjoying The Signature of All Things, my new book
Changed the linens on the bed, started three loads of wash.
Eating the remainder of the Super Kale Salad (with added carrots and red onion)
I found a recipe for Butternut Sauced Penne Pasta which will use up some of the butternut squash I roasted a few days ago.  A Weight Watcher's recipe--8 points whatever that means.  I'll just have it with the brown rice--- in a bowl.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

What I Like Today-Thursday 2/5/2015

That my visit to the doctor is a thing of the past.  Not that it was terrible.  She didn't yell but told me I only get "one pass" each year.  And I wasn't one of the sad souls wearing a face mask and feeling terribly sick-- there were many of those.

My biggest decision this morning was whether to eat breakfast and drink coffee before going to the office and being weighed.  I even wondered about removing my boots before stepping on the scale. And--well, to both I said 'screw it".  I am what I am. Weigh what I weigh.

I did have a baseline EKG because I had never had one in all my 68 years.  It was positively normal.

I refused the pneumonia vaccine.

I now have an inhaler ($40 co-pay--boo!!)  which is making my breathing easier.  It should be extra good on cold walks outside.  Doctor checked back into my files and I had inhalers before.  When I worked at the library and it was very dusty with new construction.  I wheezed.  I think every member of my immediate family had some sort of breathing/asthma issue.  Had--no longer with us.

My new favorite thing at the grocery.  It used to be chicken tenders from the deli--all crisp and fried.
Now it's the Super Foods Kale Salad.  I had a small one yesterday and today got a one pound container.   I detected kale, red onion, walnuts and a few blueberries in it.  Whole Foods had one--but they don't anymore and it had some seeds in it.  I liked it very much as well. I have seeds and can always add some.  In fact, I am going to google super foods and find out what they are.

Yesterday I bought a 5.6 pound butternut squash and peeled and cubed it (quite a workout) and roasted the cubes with olive oil.  Today I found a bunch of large beets (organic) and they are wrapped in foil and roasting in the oven.  I also have a big batch of brown rice resting in the rice cooker.  I am seeing a few Rice Bowls in my future with kale, red onion, butternut cubes and beets.  Perhaps a few raisins or dried cranberries.  And walnuts?

I am trying very hard to eat the 5 suggested fruits of vegetable recommended.  I eat larger servings so perhaps I needn't try so hard?  I already had a banana and yesterday I had fresh pineapple with my yogurt.

We heard a commercial on the radio--while driving through town to the doctor on slippery, unplowed streets--- that people can have --21 POUNDS of "stuff" clogging their colons.  The radio guy had a "PRODUCT" we could send for/order which would remove that 21 pounds.  How could this be true???  So people really could be full of s**t.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

What I See Outside

I think it is supposed to snow again.  40% chance of more snow.

Tomorrow I go for a doctor's visit.  Postponed (due to weather) from Monday--and previous to that postponed from last Thursday--for weather.  The phone may ring in the morning postponing the appointment yet again.

I ordered books from the Maine Library Service.  Lots of the lending libraries said there was a long holding time. So, I ordered nine.  Thinking it would take time to get them.  Not so.  I have a huge pile on the table. I am working my way through the first one-- The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton.  Takes place in the last half of the 1600's in Amsterdam.  It's quite dark.

Not much else to write about.  G and I took Riley for a walk on neighborhood streets on the leash. He (and us) hadn't been out walking since last Monday.  When we got back home I took Riley out on the paths around the yard.  Riley was running around like a crazy dog and knocked me onto the ground. And---I had fallen and couldn't get up.  Really.  I had hoped G would look out the door and come help me up.  Eventually, I did manage to get up and back into the house.  I was covered in snow.  Riley thought it was all the best sort of fun.  Wanted to do it more often.

I eventually dried off and warmed up.  Riley took a nap.  G had to go out and charge up the battery in my car--I've not driven the car in many many weeks.  Since it started snowing.

Well, back to reading.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Endless, Endless Snow.

G and I went outside today.  Well, G went outside yesterday as well, at 10 pm when the wind finally quit, to snowplow the 8 inches we got during the day.  It seems like 80 inches.  I don't think we got over 5 degrees yesterday--with wind it was below zero.

Today the sun is shining and I had an appointment for a haircut.  The roads---OMG--slushy, slippery, messy.  So, not the way life is here in Maine usually.  At the salon I was being coaxed into another visit in the afternoon for a pedicure.  Massaging chair and the possibility of little flowers on my toenails.   But I am not driving this winter unless the roads are perfectly dry.  And G had a job removing snow (Friday's and yesterday's) from a friend's driveway.

When G gets back, we are going to the library to get me a book.  I need a book.

I also stayed home for a "fact finding interview" by the unemployment office.  One second into the call-- an apology because there was no reason for it. They had made a mistake.  How nice is that? I love when someone, cheerfully, admits to an error and begs my pardon.  Nice.

I made pizza for the Super Bowl on Sunday.  And I even watched the game.  And I was happy I did as the game was a very good one, entertaining and exciting.  50% of the of the multi million $$$ commercials were good.  What a waste of money.  And the Patriots won.  Which was good because G was beside himself with worry and anxiety through the game and by the 4th quarter 11 second mark he was very very sad.  By the 10 second mark he was very very happy.  I hope the very same two teams (Patriots and Seattle) get to do it again next super bowl ---and I have a feeling it will happen.

G made me two planting boxes for my onion and leek seedlings.  Very posh boxes.  I will show them to you when I have them filled with dirt and seeds.

I sorted my seed packets yesterday and chose the items I want to plant this year.  More flowers.  More onions.  More herbs.  More carrots.  No turnips. This year I want kohlrabi instead.  And I want fennel that makes bulbs.  Last year I waited and waited for the fennel to make seeds and it never did.  I need fennel if I am ever to make my own sausages.

I am also going to plant smaller tomato varieties in hopes of more tomatoes--sooner.  We had terrible luck with wilt last year on the tomatoes and struggled to keep the plants alive until the fruit could ripen.  I am starting the seeds WAY earlier than the seed charts recommend.  I need to have really hefty seedlings ready to go into the ground in June if I am to have a good crop of tomatoes.

And I want to have all the items for ratatouille in the garden.  I made three huge pots of the stuff (for the freezer) and it just wasn't enough.  I especially love eating it when it's snowing.

Yesterday I had a Rice Bowl.  Brown rice, wilted kale and spinach, onions and peppers tossed with a very odd Parmesan from Trader Joes that melts and gets sticky.  The cheese made everything stick together in big chewy clumps and it was quite wonderful.  I'm making another bowl today--with a bigger pile of rice and the addition of some edamame since I am almost out of kale.

More snow coming on Thursday and again on the weekend.  Two a week storms for the next 6 weeks? we'll see.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

If Only It Would Stop Snowing

The forecast (here in Maine) is for over a foot more snow tomorrow.  In addition to the 24 inches on the ground and the 10 plus feet of plowed snow in every parking lot and along the sides of all the roads.  Visibility is slim to none.

Reminds me of going from our home in Florida up to Chicago in 1979 house hunting due to a job promotion for G.  The house we eventually purchased was seen, by us, as a roof sitting on top of a huge pile of snow.  Imagine our delight when the snow melted and we discovered a brick patio and double gas grills.

We can still see the houses here in Maine--not just roof tops.  But we can't see oncoming traffic at intersections.

Before Maine got all environmental the snow piles were loaded on dump trucks and driven to the ocean where it was dumped.  Now, well, they try and find vacant lots and open grassy areas and dump the snow there instead.  That's if they have time between storms.  Two days isn't enough time.
and that's the way it is here.  Every two days--another heavy storm.

Riley, G and I haven't been out for our daily walk since Monday of last week.  Businesses have already announced plans to be closed tomorrow.  The rush will be on to get to the grocery store.
Here in Maine--the typical list is to get a loaf of bread, milk, bottled water and batteries which sounds reasonable.  G's list is for orange juice and rice wine vinegar so far, but he might need more gas for the snowblower and the generator if the snow is heavy this time around.

I think I will be canceling my doctor's appointment for tomorrow and possibly making a few wabi sabi placemats out of fabric scraps.  I just wish my scraps looked as nice as the ones up top.  Like solid colors.  I'll have to repurpose some shirts--maybe.

Happy Superbowl.  I have pizza dough started and some stuff to make nachos.  And lemons and limes for margaritas.  I won't be watching but I do like the food.  (smile)