Saturday, December 28, 2013


 Frozen freezes on the trees and bushes every day. If the sun should come out, it "rains" down for a few minutes so at least we're getting some moisture. But it looks like we'll be setting a record for the driest year EVER (well, since they've been keeping records here starting in the 1880's)   
I've tied up some branches of the rose tree (using old pantyhose) to keep the limbs from snapping off under the weight of the frozen fog. Since I haven't worn pantyhose for years, I'm gonna have to wait for a sale on 'em and buy up a few pairs for the coming gardening season. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Here are my three favourite pets...all in the same spot, kicking back after a hard day in the office. Izzie is perched on the drawing board because Chase got to Mr A's lap first. 


 As is my tradition for the last 10 years or so, I fix a pot of minestrone soup for "Boxing Day" as the Brits have named the day after Christmas. I've already ladeled out 2 full bowls of the good stuff and still have plenty for the rest of the week...Jack always says that I cooked enough for a threshing crew!
Combined with some nice crusty garlic french bread from Costco and you have a great, tum-warming meal for a foggy day. Yes, we're in the doldrums of high pressure, which means freezing fog every morning and a sun break in the afternoon for about 30 minutes if we're lucky.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


 With the snow melt came the UPS man (on foot down our slippery long driveway) with my newest addition to the kitchen armament collection...a 6" cleaver. This beauty is a Henkel Twin Works brand, but made in Espana, not Germany as the Macy's website states...But it IS NOT made in China like so many knives are these know how I feel about stuff "Fabrique en Chine!"
 "Why does one need this killer instrument," you ask? 
Well, for years I've used cutlery scissors to part out a bird, but it takes a long time and with my "arthuritus" it became harder and harder to do it. And if you buy chicken these days, you've no doubt noticed that you can buy packages of one cut, say breasts or thighs, but finding an entire cut-up chicken is more and more difficult. My theory is that most of the chicken stuff comes pre-packaged these days from the bird works and most chain stores don't want to hire "real" butchers to hack and wack birds apart. Costs too much, so they don't. That leaves us with buying whole birds if we want a variety or buying several packs and doing a mix and match repackaging, so you end up with all the various parts. Sometimes in the summer I can find a "grill pack" which is 1 and 1/2 chickens cut into halves. Whoopti dooo!
 So how much time and effort did it take to cut this chickee up? About 5 minutes, very little effort. And I wasn't don't want to rush with this instrument, you sorta want to be in a zen-like moment...just you, the cleaver and the bird. Slowly, with fingers well back of the intended cutting site, you place the cleaver on the bird and wam! I always use my index finger to feel for the joint before I place the point wacking through a bone if you don't need to.  
 The other test for my new baby is rough chopping. It does fine as long as you remember to push forward with the blade. Nice clean cuts...makes it easy to quarter an onion for the soup pot! And I noticed that the handle gave me more leverage than a regular knife. 
So do I think this cleaver is a worthy addition to my knife collection and does it warrant the $60 price tag? I think so...and maybe in 5 years of hacking and wacking whole birds I'll pay for it with the price of whole birds usually at least .75 cents to $1 a pound cheaper than pre-packaged parts. And when I googled "meat cleavers" I was amazed that you could spend upwards of $600 for one (27 layers of hand hammered metal, by a Samuri sword maker)! Good grief! And yes, you can spend as little as 24.95 for one as well...and you know where it is made!
Because all my knives are Henkel brand, and are 25 to 45 years old...still going strong, I feel it's worth it to buy a relatively good one. And who knows, I might find other uses for it! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013


 The greenhouse temp is hovering around 80 degrees this morning, while the outside temp is a balmy 24 degrees. The greenhouse heater keeps it at 55 degrees basically, (making the meter spin a bit faster) and the sun does the rest. The plants are happy and so am I!
 Meanwhile certain fur clad parties have been enjoying a romp in the snow, barking at the Downy Woodpeckers and big old fat Robins that dare trespass into his territory. For a dog raised in the southern San Joaquin Valley, he surprisingly loves the snow. Wish I could say the same! 
 He also likes to lick it! Yummm...?
Yeah, I'm talking about you, Chase! 
Meanwhile, we made our first foray out of the wilds and into Medford over the frozen roads in the 4WD Subaru Brat. Our main road remains closed because of the ice on the hills so we detoured down an equally hilly road that gets more sun and has thawed partly. Saw several BMW's that couldn't make it up the hills parked in the snow banks. Hee hee! These are the same folks who can't wait to charge around you if you drive any where near the speed limit! The tow trucks won't even come up here to get them out. Likewise school buses won't run up here, along with garbage trucks.  
So we got to the Post Office and to a crowded Trader Joe's. After 6 days stuck at home, it was like getting out of jail. We were hoping for a chance to go dance today but they are predicting freezing rain this afternoon, which will definitely add injury to insult! So much for the weather guessers prediction of a "warmer and wetter winter!" Oye! Just can't catch a break!
Usually our snow only lasts a couple of days and melts off quickly. Did I mention I'm sick of snow? And it's not even officially winter yet! Good times! 

Monday, December 9, 2013


 We're having a cold wave, an artic blast cold wave...(sung to "We're having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave...") About every ten years or so, we get a hideous cold air mass down from Alaska on the Jet Stream. Not quite as bad as 1972 when it got down to -10 in Medford, but still pesky. The good news is that the gas line from Albany didn't freeze up like it did in '72, so we have heat and the electricity stayed on. We haven't left the house for town since Thursday and the roads are still frozen, with many of the main roads closed. They've just concentrated on keeping Interstate 5 open most of the time. Luckily I have a full freezer, so I don't need any food yet. 
I am hoping that my evergreen clematis hangs in there...time will tell. The snow is so dry that it's like shoveling powdered sugar. Our total was about 8" for this storm, which is 4" more than our average for the year. Today the sun is out and it has warmed up to a balmy 30 degrees for a short time. Looks like we won't get out today, so cabin fever may set in soon. The neighbor kids used our driveway for a sled run. It's a perfect downhill slope away from the road. 
We've missed a couple of dances this weekend and may not get out to dance tomorrow either. Schools remains closed and lots of things are cancelled. It's more than enough winter for us!

Monday, December 2, 2013


 Just before the first winter storm came in, I decided to paint our neighbor's hideous fence that runs along our driveway. It's the first thing you see when you turn into our parking area. This is perhaps one of the World's ugliest fences and we have to look at it every time we go out front. It all looked like the far right and the far left panels...multi color cedar boards.
I just wanted it to disappear into the background so I went to my favorite Miller Paint...and bought a gallon of "Storm" stain in "wet sand." The young clerk tried to talk me out buying it...He said, "You should wait until spring to do that!" He had several good reasons why.
I looked at him and said, "Look, you might as well learn this lesson early in life...never try to talk a woman out of something when she has the bit in her teeth to do it." The more mature male clerks at the counter just nodded in agreement.
So I got two nice, 55 degree hours in full sun for the painting and several more hours for it to dry. It did soak up the paint so I still need another gallon to finish this section off and then do a second coat. I also plan to add a horizontal 6" green stripe running the full length near the top of the fence, just because. Now all I need is another nice day...Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 17, 2013


 I combat "gardening withdrawal" by putting little succulents in my southeast facing kitchen window. They like the light and I like the green! Above from left to right I have a variegated crassula (Jade plant), a sedum and a Kalanchoe. 
This is a miniature ice plant that has hot pink blooms occasionally. I water these only once a week. I've been advised to water them thoroughly so that water drips out the bottom of their little plastic pots. That way mineral salts from the chlorinated don't build up in the potting mix. All the plastic pots are set on plastic peanuts in the pottery pots so the roots don't set in water.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


 This is my regular pantry which is installed in a hallway closet. The shelving unit allows me to organize everything so I can see it because it's not too deep and fairly wide. Seems like a logical thing to me.
Then there's the cold pantry...aka the freezer section. Oye! I've never figured this out...WHY ARE REFRIGERATORS DESIGNED BACKWARDS? Every cook knows that fridges need to be half as deep and twice as wide. Then food wouldn't get lost in the back. And then I wouldn't have to empty out the entire bin to get something! Or have the entire contents of a shelf fall out on my feet as I'm pulling out a bag of peas.
HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO DO? I guess it's the "we've always done it this way..." syndrome! But this is the 21st Century...time to think outside the original design, don't you think?

Friday, November 15, 2013


 Thanks to Trader Joes, I can have huckleberry pie without paying $12 a pound for wild berries at the local Grower's Market. Seems that in Oregon, only the indigenous Indian tribes have a license to pick and sell the wild blueberries, aka huckleberries. The wild berries also feed the deer, elk and bears. So they are coveted and don't last long during their harvest season which is usually sometime in September. They are found in the Cascade mountains at elevations from 3000' and higher. As for flavor, they are soooo much tastier than those bloated, watery domestic blueberries that you find in the supermarket. Just combine these tart morsels with some sugar or berry preserves, a bit of cornstarch and a pinch of salt. 
Here is my simple attempt at a lattice crust combined with a frozen pie shell. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream and you'll never settle for domestic blueberries again!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I've been buying Trader Joe's bouquets for years and just found out that those nice lilies included in many bouquets are TOXIC TO CATS...
Seems that not only the foliage but the POLLEN can kill a cat by causing kidney failure. Looking back on this, it could explain the mysterious illnesses that our cat Izzie has had a couple of times...which included vomiting, lethargy and drooling. And it's not just oriental lilies...daylilies, tiger lilies (both of which I have in my garden) can also be toxic. I'll be digging these buggers up this winter and trashing them. WHO KNEW? You know how cats like to get up on counters and rub up on things...she probably got the sticky pollen on her fur and licked herself. Our vet, who is more of a dog guy, never mentioned this to me. He put our cat on antibiotics and she snapped out of it after about 4 days. And the blood screening did show a bit of reduction in kidney function as I recall. So we were lucky! If you need more proof, just go online and Goggle it. Tons of horror stories! 

Yeah, we're talking about you, Izzie!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I sorta vowed not to do another of Julia's recipes anytime soon after the chicken roasting/oven smoking event but...I couldn't resist picking up some frozen sole at Trader's. This recipe is easy and good as long as you remember that Julia never saw a cube of butter she didn't like!
The trick to this recipe is that you DO have to think ahead a bit and clarify some butter. I do it by melting a 1/2 cube of butter in a Pyrex cup and then sticking it into the fridge to harden. The white, watery milk solids will be on the bottom of the solid butter. Just wipe the bottom of the chunk of butter on a paper towel, wipe out the glass dish and put the butter back in it. It's now clarified so it won't burn so quickly.  
For this quick supper I sauteed some cooked Yukon Gold potatoes in a bit of olive oil. Then I cut up a strip of applewood smoked bacon, fried it and added about 1/2 a package of fresh Trader Joe's wild arugula along with some chopped pimento peppers I trying to use up.
Then I wiped out the pan, put it on medium high and added about 1 tablespoon of butter( half the amount that Julia recommends). I seasoned the fish, dusted it in flour, shaking off the excess and put it into the hot pan. It only takes about 2 minutes per side and you're done! I placed the sole on the bed of arugula and served it.
The fish was nice and crispy but not overdone. And I have to admit that the butter does add a nice flavor. The trick is to have the pan fairly hot so the sole will cook quickly. And my not as enthusiastic fish eater husband appreciated the potatoes. (We don't all like fish for breakfast like me, I guess)...

Saturday, November 9, 2013


 I think Ronald Regan said that...sort of. After the big truss up, it was time to fingerpaint in the butter. Again I was following the step-by-step in Julia's "The Way to Cook." I cut the amount of butter by half, figuring that 1 tablespoon shmeared over the bird would do the trick. I added a little Meyer lemon olive oil from Lucero. So Henrietta was ready for the big roast up.
Julia said to pre heat the oven to 450 degrees. I followed this and put the bird in. At 10 minute intervals (per Julia) I was to open the oven and baste, turning the bird on a side. So I opened the oven door after just ten minutes and immediately set off the smoke alarms and was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Seems I didn't read the fine print...something about if it smokes, add some water to the pan and that will fix it...
Clearly they didn't have a smoke alarm in their Santa Barbara home (Paul and Julia) in the 1980's when she was writing this cookbook...or maybe her kitchen didn't open up to the rest of the living area like my "open plan" house. Or maybe she had a big ass venting system in her range hood.
The cat and dog made for under the bed and I yelled for Jack to come and help me. We opened every window and door in the place (it was 50 degrees and raining at the time). I poured 2 cups of water into the roasting pan and then another cup just to make sure I had enough to cover the bottom. I lowered the oven temp to 425 and hoped that in the next 10 minute basting period, all would be well.  
When the dinger went off, I slowly cracked the oven door open and again the smoke alarm went wild. I added more water and again turned down the temp (per Julia) to 350 for the rest of the roasting time. Thank goodness, I thought...that'll cure it. 
This drill continued every 10 minutes. Now the smoke alarm was only peeping for a second or two. I kept flipping the bird so to speak every 10 minutes and basting, basting, basting. By 70 minutes, the bird was done and so was I!
Yes, it was brown but sort of looked like a war victim in the skin department...all that turning took its toll.
    So here it is sliced and ready for dinner...and yes, it was moist...
Gosh, now I know why I sometimes just buy a cooked rotisserie bird at Costco...Bon Apetit, Julia!

Friday, November 8, 2013


 I admit it...I got crazy in the head and decided to truss a 6 pound chicken for roasting. I guess I was inspired by the many times I have watched the "Julie and Julia" movie. I used Julia's "Way to Cook" cookbook (published in 1989), a wrist breaking tome complete with lots of photos.
What I DID NOT HAVE WAS A REAL TRUSSING NEEDLE, which looks like a short knitting needle (about 7" long) with an eye made for kitchen twine. I had no hope of getting one before the use by date of the chicken, so I had to figure out what to use instead. Here you see my solution...a thermometer probe, a carpet needle and kitchen string.
 The thermometer probe is almost the same size as a real trussing needle. I poked Henrietta chicken with the probe to make a hole. Then I had to carefully thread the curved needle with the string attached through the hole without drawing blood (mine). Not as easy to do as I had hoped. It helps to be ambidextrous! Here I am doing the last part..."closing the barn door" as Julia called it. I had already strung the top part of the bird and secured the wings in the same manner.
 I finally had the string fished through the legs with a bit in the middle through the breast as shown.
 Now all you do is tie it up tightly and you have a trussed hen. Cute, no?
I also put some fresh sage leaves under the skin of the breast. Not in the cookbook but always fun to do.
"The Way To Cook" was published in 1989 when Julia would have been in her late 70's I think. She acknowledged the microwave and the food processor. She also left out most of those hideous aspic recipes, so I think it was an attempt to update "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
So "Why truss a chicken?" you ask...good question. Maybe because I'm semi-retired and had some time to kill in the kitchen? Or perhaps I just wanted to see if I could do it like Julia. Then again, maybe it would lead to a better, moister roasted bird. Stay tuned to this blog.

Monday, November 4, 2013


 Three days and nights of sorting makes Jack a tired boy! But IT HAD TO HAPPEN!
When we downsized from our spacious 400 sq ft studio on Grey Eagle Drive to a 11x12 bedroom studio at Angel Crest Manor, we just sort of threw stuff in the closet and said, "We'll get to this soon!" So 2 1/2 years have passed and we finally got to it due to forces beyond our control...our big copier that we bought in 2005 gave up the ghost unless we were willing to spend about $1500 on replacement imaging units. It was time to retire "Tojo" and get a new, smaller copier. But BEFORE that happened, guess who insisted on painting the room her favorite color "Creme Brulee" and cleaning out the closet full of paper. I think that we have easily thrown out about 500 lbs of paper!

 So here is our new pride and joy, "R2D2." It came to us from the Canon Solutions office with that nick name. It is the smallest full color copier that they sell...far smaller than the big commercial units.  
As you can see, it fits on this credenza and doesn't take up the entire corner like the old Oce copier. Jack now has room for his white drawing cabinets and original art storage where he can get to it. We also treated ourselves to new office chairs and donated our cheapie IKEA ones to Goodwill. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Our view from the front door looking NE at our neighbor's maple which is in a fine Fall livery of gold, the predominate hue of Autumn here in the West. We're just poised...rakes, brooms and leaf blowers in hand awaiting the big wind of a Pacific storm to blow the leaves into our yard!
Meanwhile, Chase is barking 'em down in the backyard...he has quite a nice pile started!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Yeah, these crisp nights are turning the maple leaves and turning me to thoughts of pumpkin....yumm! Here's a quick way to do a pumpkin pie...
1 small can of sweetened condensed milk, 2 eggs, a pinch of salt, pumpkin from the can and some pumpkin pie spice makes a fast, scrumptious classic pie... or in my case, a not so classic rectangle. I always add a little real maple syrup or molasses to zip it up a notch. Bon, bon, bon appetit!

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Experts and chefs ( including Julia) warn us about the handling of raw poultry products. But I wondered about "fresh frozen" chicken and turkey..."Does the Salmonella 'die' when it's frozen?" I asked hopefully. The USDA say, "Nope, sorry, studies shows it might be a bit degraded but still present." Evidently the only way around this is to do what is recommended by the experts, handle carefully and cook thoroughly.
 I like Julia Child's idea of laying down newspapers on the counter, using a plastic or non porous cutting surface and rolling up all the paper towels and packaging into the newspaper when you are done and chucking it all in the garbage. Then it's just a matter of washing everything thoroughly in soapy hot water (sometimes I add bleach but I don't know if that really makes a difference). When you think of all the chicken and turkey we've eaten in our lives...
We used to have Fircrest brand chicken in was the main brand and it was a small Oregon company and I don't recall any "scares". It's only with the big chain stores that we've gone to Foster Farms. Even Costco uses Foster Farms. I heard they just threw out 40,000 pounds of rotisserie chicken!
So I guess the "Looks done to me!" test for chicken and turkey doesn't cut it...back to using my instant read thermometer on stove top or baked chicken and not trusting the pop up on the turkey breast...I'll stick in my meat thermometer from now on. 

Monday, October 7, 2013


 Since it seems to be "KITCHEN IMPROVEMENT MONTH" here at Angel Crest Manor, Ty from "The Cutting Edge" paid me a visit today. He has his sharpening shop set up in his van. I hadn't had my knives sharpened since 2007, I think, so it was time!
I got all these sharpened, including my left-handed serrated ones for a very reasonable $32.50!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Here you see a 6' Jack posing with 9' tall that I bought at the Grange this spring, thinking it was a dill. You can never have too much dill, I thought, so I quickly threw another pot into my shopping cart. Love that stuff!
It wasn't until about 2 months later that I realized that the licorice odor coming from the garden was from the "dill", a fennel in disguise! That's what I get for not wearing my glasses when picking out starter plants!


 Sunday morn and time for some yummy pumpkin pancakes, I thought. Okay, no big deal... just follow the directions for my first use of my new griddle on my new range.
I knew that this ceramic top cooks much hotter than my old, scaggy electric but good grief! I used my "bridge element" which is stove speak for cooking with both the front and back burner along with a center "bridge" so you get a continuous area of heat. Oh yeah, did I ever! It didn't help that I was using a pumpkin pancake mix from Trader's with more sugar in it than plain old Bisquick. The first batch burned quickly, even though I had turned down the burners from a "7" to a "5" (as recommended in the manual) as soon as I put the batter on the griddle. Seems like I can't use the Frigidaire manual for this...way too hot! So I tossed the gooey, burnt cakes into the trash and started over...using a "5" for heating and turning it down to a "3." Better result but still darker than I wanted and maybe not quite all the way cooked in the middle.  "Good but not great," as Julia Child would say.  
So we ate 'em anyway, along with some homemade applesauce and some Taylor's sausage. Gee, at least the plate warming drawer worked very well!