Saturday, May 31, 2008

Random thoughts.........

I got an email joke from a girl friend last week - it was the one about why they don't let women over 50 have babies - you see, they think we would set them down and forget where we put them. It's probably true.

I need to buy one of those little recorders (like in the commercial where the lady says "One loaf of bread and a quart of milk" Who couldn't remember that?) During the day I have these brief flashes of brilliance - a thought so grand it could only have come from Robert Fulghum - you know the "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarden" guy? Then I could record those moments of grand thought so that I could share them with you - but alas, they come and go, like fairies in the garden. Maybe just keeping a little notepad in my purse would help.

So, my random thought for today is: Don't be afraid to say "I'd like to know you better"

A local man named Tom Hunter is a talented singer and song writer - one of the most talented that I've ever had the pleasure to meet. He has been a teacher and most recently a minster. I've known OF him for many years - my good friend Linda was his family's day care provider and they have remained friends for almost 30 years. Tom and his wife Gwen have performed their wonderful music locally and nationally.

Last week it was announced that he has been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease a rare and fatal prion disease that affects the brain - similar to BSE (otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease) or Scrapie (even the word strikes terror in the heart of a shepherd). It is a cruel disease, taking bits of one's life away daily - most often, the afflicted person is aware of what he or she is losing, making it even more heartbreaking. It progresses rapidly, and is, as I said, fatal.

Over the years, I've often wished that I knew Tom and Gwen better. Our circles of friends overlap, but never quite enough to make a connection, if you know what I mean. And that is not a bad thing - one cannot be all, or know all things to all people, but sometimes, you just wish you had known a person a little better.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stir Fried Beef with Green Beans & More

Here is a new recipe that I tried last week.

Actually, I had a very funny conversation with my sister Merrill about people who don't follow recipes - Oh, they are short butter, so they put in oil (fat is fat, right? - not really, but...or yellow food coloring for an egg - yup, it's happened) Or, like I did last week with some rhubarb bars that I made for church - the recipe called for a 9x13 pan - but I wanted to make more than a 9x13 pan would yield - so I used my lasagna pan, which is 11 x 17 -

The recipe was actually quite good, (found it on the Land'OLakes butter web site - they have a WHOLE mess of rhubarb recipes PLUS good recipes for just about anything you want to bake). It had an oatmeal shortbread crust with a rhubarb/strawberry compote on top of that, then a little bit of the crust mixture was crumbled over the top. Conventional wisdom would say that if you are using a pan that is about 1/2 again bigger than what the recipe calls for, you make your recipe 1/2 again bigger, right? No, I was asleep at the wheel (or maybe just napping) - so my crust was just a weeee bit skinny which allowed the compote mixture to kind of soak thru and make the bars a weeee bit soggy - but they tasted good, and that what counts, right?

Anyhow, I digress - I get several cooking/recipe magazines - and I always try to find a new recipe in each magazine to make - generally for dinner - sometimes to take to church, whatever - If The Shepherd doesn't like it, things will oft times end up at my office - there are 40 hungry people there who will generally try anything, once.

"Cooks Country" is one of the magazines that I enjoy reading - It is put out by "America's Test Kitchens". They find old recipes and update them, they have "equipment review" and "food review" sections that grade different products and have lots and lots of recipes. Like a few other magazines ("Taste of Home", for example) they have no advertising, which I like. They also have eight bound in recipe cards for "30 Minute Recipes" - those I really like.

When I saw this recipe for Stir-Fried Beef with Green Beans and Water Chestnuts, it looked interesting. Remember what I said about not following a recipe, though - sometimes you just have to make changes. this recipe called for 8 CLOVES OF GARLIC, for pete's sake - The Shepherd would never go for that, that's for sure. Which is probably why there were no onions (who needs onions when you have 8 CLOVES OF GARLIC!?!?) It also called for two TABLESPOONS of grated fresh ginger. Now, I like fresh ginger as much as the next guy, (well maybe not) , but whew - two tablespoons? I guess that was to offset all that garlic.

It also called for 1/3 cup of oyster sauce (who really has a fresh jar of oyster sauce in their kitchen? Who really needs a jar of oyster sauce in their kitchen?) Since Oyster Sauce is basically thickened soy sauce, I just used soy sauce and cornstarch. I also thought it would be good with some sliced mushrooms, and while I'm at it, lets have it on noodles rather than white rice.

Anyhow, here is my revised recipe for
Stir Fried Beef, with Green Beans, Water Chestnuts, Onions & Mushrooms with Noodles(serves 4-6)

1/4 cup reduced sodium Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth (you will use another 1/2 cup when you cook the noodles)
2 tsp. rice vinegar (ok, so I didn't have any rice vinegar either - a tsp of white wine vinegar worked just fine, thank you)
1 clove garlic, minced finely or pressed in a garlic press
1/2 - 1 tsp fresh ginger (I use my Pampered Chef garlic press to do fresh ginger too - just peel a little chunk and pop it in the press - much easier than grating your knuckles)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil (and I always end up using more)
1 and 1/2 lbs steak - (the recipe called for flank steak and the store didn't have any, so I got a flatiron steak. According to Better Homes & Gardens, it is really one of the most tender steaks - I don't know about that, but I froze it enough so I could slice it REALLY thin, like 1/8 inch thin - It was very flavorful and I had enough left over from the package that we had fajitas later in the week - made good fajitas too)

1 medium sweet onion, sliced into ribbons

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces - I was really disappointed because our grocery store (which shall remain nameless) has really been falling down on the job in the produce department - the fresh green beans were actually moldy! - ick. So I bought a 1# package of frozen green beans - worked like a champ - you just have to cook them a teentsy bit longer.

1 8 oz. can of sliced water chestnuts, drained
Another garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/3 lb fresh button mushrooms sliced

Yakisoba (Japenese style) noodles, fresh (refrigerator case with other fresh pastas) if you can get them, or find the dried noodles in the Oriental section of your grocery store. (Cook them first - also, you won't need to stir fry them as long as the fresh ones)
1/2 cup beef broth (put the rest in the freezer for when you make soup the next time)

Whisk the first six ingredients (soy sauce thru the ginger) in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat until just just before smoking point. Cook half of the steak until browned, about a minute or two per side. Transfer the cooked steak to a large bowl and repeat with the rest of the steak, using the 2nd tablespoon of oil. (transfer it to the large bowl as well.)

Heat another tablespoon of oil in the same pan (do not wash) Put the green beans in and stir around a little. Cook for a few minutes until they start to get bright green. Push them to the side and add the onion ribbons, the water chestnuts and the mushrooms. Cook until the onions and the mushroom slices are limp and the green beans are almost done. Add the garlic right at the end and stir in - about 30 seconds. Transfer all the vegetables to the large bowl with the meat.

Yakisoba literally means "fried noodle" in Japanese. In our local grocery stores I have been able to find a brand actually called "Yakisoba" and it is a pack of fresh noodles about the size of a pack of dried ramen noodles (oh, please don't use ramen noodles for this recipe). I got a "three pack" of noodles, because I knew I was cooking with the idea of left overs so I wouldn't have to cook again the next night. Open the packs of noodles and put them in the skillet. (DON'T use the seasoning packet - throw it away, it's mostly salt anyhow) Let them fry for a minute or two til they start to soften - then pour 1/2 cup of beef broth over them and put the lid on the skillet so they heat up faster - 30 seconds to a minute - I don't know how to describe it, but they will "come apart" from a "lump of noodles" into individual noodles...

Ok, your noodles are cooked - Now, pour all the meat and vegetables from the bowl back into your skillet. Remember the sauce you made with the first six ingredients? Pour this sauce over your meat, vegetables and noodles and carefully toss so your vegies and your noodles don't mush up. Cook for about a minute or two so the sauce thickens the dish (about one minute)

Since this has vegies in it, you don't need another vegetable - maybe some Oriental style coleslaw or a green salad with a nice sesame dressing? We just made it a one dish meal.

Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh, couldn't pass up more pink from the garden...

Bleeding Heart is one of the spring flowers that I really have memories of. Both my mom and my Grandma had it in their gardens. My grandma also had lots of Lily of the Valley planted around the back of her house. I had a big patch of it growing at my old house (pre-The Shepherd) in town - I've had a hard time getting it to take hold here - don't know why.

But the Bleeding Heart blossoms always reminded me of "Court Ladies" with their puffy sleeves. We also have a nice patch of wild Bleeding Heart growing under the Pink Dogwood.

This variety is Japanese - the blossoms are such a dark pink they are "almost" red

And then there are more azaleas

Oops, this flower is Orange - Sorry Neelix - don't have many Orange flowers in our garden right now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

One month Birthday for H.B.

Unlike my friend Nancy's darling daughter I'm not much for getting down on "lamb level" any more. If'n I got down there, it would be by accident (literally) and it would be "difficult" (to say the least) to get back up. SO, The Shepherd kindly brought Mr. H.B. (and yes, it stands for "Happy Birthday" - don't ask me, I didn't name him) up to my level by standing him on top of the "ram-ada" for the little barn. He wasn't real keen on the whole issue, but, then again, life is tough when you're the favorite son.

The little guy is built like a Sherman Tank, which I think is from lack of competition for goodies...

His horns appear to be coming in correctly and his wool is nice and "floofy"(a highly technical term, you know) - wonder if The Shepherd will give me dibs on his fleece?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting to know me.......

My friend Franna has tagged me for a “getting to know you” meme – “Please won’t you come out to play?” she implored. Since I haven’t done one of these for a while, I thought it would be fun to do, so here goes -

The rules: Posted here at the beginning. The player answers all questions. The player then chooses six people you want to know more about and tags those people by listing their names at the end of the post and going to their blog and leaving a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Also, you let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, 1998. Wow, what WAS I doing? I was selling Pampered Chef products but other than that, I can’t really remember anything specific. I’m working the same job, married to the same man, have the same cats and am living in the same house today as I was in 1998. (see question 4)

So, I started by “Google-ing” 1998 - I looked up the top 30 movies – I think we saw two of them in the theater (“You’ve Got Mail” and “Star Trek, Insurrection” ) and I’ve only seen about 6 of the rest on TV. (sort of sad isn’t it) – But not as sad as the music of 1998 - - N*Sync, Celine Dion and the Backstreet Boys all seemed to be popular – but with the exception of a couple of Shania Twain songs and Fleetwood Mac re-recording “Landslide”, there wasn’t a darn song OUT OF the TOP 75 that I recognized! – Scary for someone who made a second living by singing and playing guitar for 21 years of her life.

Maybe seeing what was on TV that year would jog my mind – Charmed (did watch) and Sex in the City (didn’t have HBO) were both on the hot list. It was the last year for Seinfeld (not a big loss in my opinion) – You might have found me watching the X-Files or Law and Order, but more than likely re-runs of M*A*S*H or something on Food Network. Still there didn’t seem to be any defining “moment” for me – so I checked out Wikepedia –
* Bill had his “improper physical relationship” with Monica;
* The movie “Titanic” (still haven’t seen that one all the way thru either) won 11 Oscars;
* Apple unveiled the “iMac”;
* Viagra was approved by the FDA;
* GOOGLE was founded!; (and it took less than 10 years for “googling” to become a commonly used verb ie: “he googled her before they went out for drinks”
* The US & British forces invaded Iraq;
* and at 77 years old, and 38 years after he was the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn went into space on the Shuttle Discovery – making him the 2nd oldest person to go into space. Way to go J.G.!

2. What were five things on my to-do list today (not in any particular order)? Laundry; shop for groceries; get cat food; clean the cat box; go work on the church plant sale. (I did four of them…)

3. What snacks do I enjoy?
Hmm – snacks? Popcorn, although I don’t have it much; mandarin oranges (canned), really good chocolates, cheese & crackers (wheat thins), ice cream, Milky Way Midnight Bar,

4. Where are some places I've lived?
I have lived in two places, Mansfield, WA and Bellingham, WA - not very adventuresome, I’m afraid.

5. What things would I do if I were a billionaire?

Ah, the American Dream - to be able to buy gasoline when ever you want it.

“How much is a billion?”, I thought to myself (and promptly went to Google for the answer).

A billion, in America, is a thousand million. That would be written like this:


A billion is a very difficult number for me to comprehend, but one advertising agency put that figure into perspective in this press release:
* A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
* A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
* A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
* A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate Washington spends it.

So what would I do with that Billion Dollars?

First, I’d pay off our mortgage and buy out the guy next door to get rid of him and his 24/7 noise. I'd move out the house and turn the whole place into another pasture! Remember the old TV show “The Millionaire”? This guy went around and gave away $1 Million to people who soon found that they were better off before. To heck with that, I’d pay off the mortgages of all my family and close friends, maybe even some not so close friends –

Second, Of course, The Shepherd could quit his day job and I’d start looking for a very responsible and honest person to replace me at work and bid my job adieu.

Third – I’d put the ’91 Ford Festiva out to pasture and find a Really comfortable new car.

Fourth - I’d probably give a big chunk of it to ”The Hutch” (The Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium). They do an awful lot of good for a lot of people, myself included.

And Franna’s idea of an electric gate – That is not a bad one either…

Hope you enjoyed getting to know me – More than you wanted to know? Probably – And part of the problem with getting in on the end of a meme is that everyone I know has done it already – so, if you are a random visitor and you’d like to participate – Go for it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This playing with fiber thing is kind of fun...

Really fun, in fact, it's getting down right addicting. (EEEK)

Every year, in June, there is a magnificent "festival" in Eugene, Oregon - called the Black Sheep Gathering. It started over 25 years ago, when the editors of the "Black Sheep Newsletter" wanted to find a way to get fiber producers and fiber users together - (for more history info, click here ) John & I have tried to go when ever we could over the past ten years - it is fun to be able to see the different sheep, goats, bunnies, etc. - AND there is THE BEST vendor show - two big barns FULL of all kinds of trouble - Oh, I meant fiber and fiber related things to buy!

Well about three or four years ago, I bought this:

(Actually it all came stuffed into a paper sack. I had the presence of mind to separate it out into little baggies.)

Angora locks - dyed in the most divine jewel tones I had ever seen. At the time, I had no idea how I would ever use it (or process it for that matter) - but since then, I have added a set of hand carders to my toy collection. When I took the spinning class from Yvonne a couple of months ago, we experimented a little with hand carded fiber and I sat and watched one of the gals at spinner guild hand card a whole bunch of fleece last month.

So I decided I was READY!

Here is what I came up with - there is some pink and some burgandy hiding there someplace - it is like working with fluffy colored clouds - like holding a big handful of cotton candy. What fun.

So, I got some of it spun up and I plied it with this

And now it looks like this

The gals at work really liked it, however I suspect that they just didn't want to hurt my feelings. I'm going to make a purse out of it - found a neat pattern in one of the new crochet books I have been collecting. I'll keep you posted! (and I'm making my list of things that I want to bring back from Eugene THIS year.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

And still More Pink!

I thought you would enjoy a little walk thru The Shepherd's garden - his azaleas are in full bloom right now

And the maples are all leafed out - (eat your heart out, Michelle - there are more where this came from)

And of course, no walk through the garden goes unsnoopervised.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More pink -

This peony was a gift from our friend Diane two years ago after my cancer surgery. John has carefully tended it in the greenhouse and it gives us the most beautiful porcelain like blossoms. Doesn't it look like a Chinese painting? The gift that keeps on giving. Thanks, Diane!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pink Snow?

The cherry tree in the back yard is so very beautiful this time of the year - loaded with blossoms.

The petals make me think of pink snow!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

An H.B. Update

Out for a run with Mom & Auntie Pearl.

Hmmmm - who's this?

Come on, big boy, gimme a kiss...

Friends? We'll see -

Thursday, May 15, 2008

At least 20 liters a day –

This is my contribution to Bloggers Unite for Human Rights – May 15, 2008. I feel that I was only able to scratch the surface but I learned a lot as I studied for this entry. I hope you find my findings interesting.

Water - Ever since the dawn of time, human kind has forged their settlements around its availability. Water to drink, to irrigate the seeds that they had learned would supply them with grain. The watering holes were where the animals congregated – good for the hunter – not so good if you were the hunted.

Water – “Cool, clear water” the old cowboy song says – for most people of the world it is there when they need it, without thought – just turn on the faucet. But one of every six people on the planet lack access to safe drinking water – that is over 1.1 billion people globally. “Deprivation linked to water is a source of poverty, of inequality, of social injustice, and of great disparities in life chances.” (K. Watkins, Director UN Human Development Report Office) Water-related diseases kill up to FIVE million people annually. Half of all the schools in the world do not have access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. This lack of access disproportionately affects the lives of women and children because they are the “providers” – it is their jobs to provide water for the family and the animals – often they will walk many miles a day and wait in line for hours only to find the water tainted.

Water as a fundamental Human Right, not a commodity - Around the world, people are finally beginning to assert that access to affordable, safe and sufficient water is a human right. International human rights law now requires governments to make their best efforts to provide water to their citizens and demands that they report on their progress.* (“Right to Water”, a Unitarian Universalist Service Committee [UUSC] environmental justice report)

Ironically only 3-5% of the world’s water is used for “human needs” such as drinking and bathing. Most of the world’s water is used by agriculture. A critical problem facing many areas of the US & the world is the contamination of surface and ground water by mining. This contamination becomes a two-fold problem because it destroys agriculture – many families end up having to buy the majority of the basic staples because of the effects of mining.

“Water costs nothing for those with everything and everything for those with nothing.” - It is believed that over 100,000 deaths will occur due to the current crisis in Myanmar [Burma], sadly caused by too much water in the form of a cyclone, which has left this impoverished nation with little water that is not affected by sewage or contamination from the bodies of dead persons and animals. Even before this crisis, it is estimated that a child dies every 15 seconds from a water-related disease, cholera, diarrhea, malaria to name a few.

Reading the articles to write this blog was sobering and yet, I believe that major strides have been made in this area of Human Rights. Simply the global RECOGNITION that the right to clean fresh water is one of the inalienable rights of all members of the human family is a start. All it will take is 20 liters a day.

* Some of the articles that I read for this blog entry are:
“Water Rights and Wrongs” A young people’s summary of the Untied Nations Human Development Report 2006 – Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis.

“Right to Water: Crisis and Hope” a publication of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee on defending the human right to water.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Six word memoirs

Recently there has been a lot of Media buzz” around a new book called “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure”. It is a collection, by Smith Magazine, of almost 1,000 six-word memoirs, including additions from many celebrities including Stephen Colbert, and Jane Goodall - it also includes six word memoirs from ordinary every day people. Newspapers have picked up the idea and there have been articles in both the Seattle Times/PI and Bellingham Herald Sunday papers. When I read the original small article in the Herald, I had no idea that this project was so large, but after reading the Times/PI article, I looked the book up on the internet and found out more info about the book and "The Legend".

The Legend - “Legend has it that author Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Last year, SMITH Magazine promoted the idea by asking their readers for their own six-word memoirs. Little did they realize what they were starting - People sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”)” * from Smith Magazine’s web site.

So I decided to try my own hand at writing one of these short, sweet stories - I came up with:

“Life with animals is never boring” and

“The Shepherd - my partner in music.” or how about

“Sister, friend, wife, bookkeeper, cat mom” - that one didn’t inspire me very much, but it did describe my life to a “T” - I think the best that I came up with was this one, though -

“Farm girl, city girl, farm girl”

I also tried it out in our church newsletter (I am the Editor) - our members came up with some good ones:

"Young at heart, old everywhere else" G.M.
"Climbed slippery slopes, some sliding back" T.H.
"Life can be empty - or full" S.L.
"Pink and sparkly, flower fairies dancing" from four year old E.W.
and finally - "This I know – alive is best." F.T.

What do you think - share your life's story with us - leave your six word memoir in the comments - or better yet - put it on your blog and see what your friends come up with.

And now for something completely different....

What do you think? Today was our Spindrifters meeting. I actually haven't been spinning at all for the last month or so - but I had prepped some fiber that Yvonne gave to us from the spinning class I took from her in March. So I took it with me and spun it up today. I can't remember what it was for sure, maybe Coreydale? But it spun up like a dream - but I think that the preparation sure made all the difference - I have some grey shetland left over from my sister's scarf that I think I will ply it with - I want to make a carry bag from all the stuff I've been practicing on.

Then I'll get down to business on Susie's fleece.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Happy Blogoversary to me........

A rather lopsided picture of HB & his momma, I must say - he's growing like a weed - The Shepherd tried putting Anna Dee and her boys in with Gwennie and HB - lasted all of about 5 minutes before Gwennie went after Taylor and Buddy - with the intent to obliterate! So, HB is going to have to be content with his mom's company for the next month or so until we can wean the whole shootin' match - Anybody want a grumpy horned ewe?

I've noticed that several of the blogs I read have had anniversaries lately - You may or may not know that I started my blog two years ago to keep my family anf friends updated on my experience with a diagnosis of uterine cancer. Luckily it was caught early - the surgery was successful and no other treatment was required. After my "recovery" was complete, people asked me if I was going to continue writing my blog, as they said they enjoyed reading what I had to say. What a great compliment that was.

I have really enjoyed the writing and especially have enjoyed the many friends that I have met along the way - sheepy friends, cat friends, spinner/fiber/knitter friends, foodie friends, every day life friends - let's see, have I left anyone out? This is also my 311th post - wow - who knew I had so much to say?

Some things I'm working on - The BlogCatalog Community has joined with Amnesty International for "Bloggers Unite for Human Rights" Day on May 15. "Bloggers Unite is an initiative designed to harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place. By challenging bloggers to blog about a particular social cause on a single day, a single voice can be joined with thousands of others to help make a real positive difference; from raising awareness for cancer, to an effort to better education systems or support 3rd world countries."

I hope you will click on the badge along side this blog and find out more about this worthwhile cause. It is so easy to go from day to day and not really THINK about those in this world who are living without the simplest of human rights - access to food and water, freedom of religion - I am looking forward to seeing what others have to say on their blogs.

Another thing that has my attention are "Six-Word Memoirs" - made popular by the recently published book "Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six word memoirs by writers famous and obscure" Can you describe your life in six words? Not more or less, just six words. I did a page on Six Word Memoirs for my church newsletter - it was incredibly fun to see what people had written. I'll share some ideas about this soon too, so be thinking of your own six word memoir.

There has been so much excitement about the sheep lately, it's been a while since I shared a recipe with you, so I need to think up something yummy to share -

I guess this means that I'll be blogging for a while longer - There's always something more to say.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Yes sir, yes sir, FIVE bags full!

Do you remember our road trip at the end of March to Gretchen's Wool Mill? We took seven fleeces - four from this year and three from last down for processing. True to her word, she called last week - in just a month, our fleeces were ready to pick up!

Luckily the weather was much better this time around - heavy rain in spots, but no rain at all once we got to Gretchen's place. Finished fleeces were inspected and duly loaded into the truck for the ride home.

Here they are - five bags full - (Anna Dee's & Regina's were combined)

All nicely wrapped in paper - this is Susie's from last year.

Click on the pictures to biggify so you can see the beautiful fibers!

I get to choose between Susie's fleece from last year and Gwennie's from this year - The Shepherd wants to have the other three made into sweater vests for himself. The one I don't choose will be our first offering for sale on the Washington Wool dot Net website!