Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

The girls are all safe and sound, together, (for better or worse) in the barn. Glad to be rid of those stinky boys. (H.B. says, "I am NOT a stinky boy!)

The boys (particular the wethers) on the other hand, are bereft, "Why have you taken our friends from us?" they cry. Now they have no buffer between them and those gnarly rams. Oh, well, the balance of breeding season is often precarious -

We sang this hymn last week at church - I thought you'd like to see it "illustrated".

Autumn Hymn, by W.R. Jones

When summer green is fading and winds blow brisk & free
A wealth of autumn glories, recall us God to thee.

From flaming bush and headland, the woodland’s gold array
The captured light of summer shines back thru skies grown gray

Ahead the cold and darkness, the winter snow and storm
But autumn radiance tokens thine inward fire to warm;

No matter how we tremble, amid the darkness then
When love shines in the shadow, light shall break forth again.

Thou singer in the rhythms that echo in our hearts
We glimpse thee in the beauty the changing year imparts

Let loveliness in autumn, to us assurance be
That Joy knows many seasons in hearts attuned to thee


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Real men DO eat quiche

I know I've mentioned it once or twice before, but I love cookbooks - I can sit down and read them like a good novel. The newest one I just bought is a brand new (copyright 2008) spiral bound paperback Better Homes & Gardens cookbook called "9x13 - The Pan That Can - More than 370 Family Favorites to fit America's Most Popular Pan".

Now if that isn't just the coolest idea for a cookbook for someone who lives with someone who loves casseroles, I don't know what is. It's got entire chapters devoted to stratas and coffee cakes, lasagnas, meats & poultry dishes, fish, seafood & vegetarian dishes, sides and salads, then it moves to the sublime - bars, brownies, puddings, cobblers, crisps and more.

A couple of years ago when I joined a cookbook book club, one of the 5 for $1 books that I got was a brand new 2005 version of the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Nice and shiny red - "Everything that I need to know to cook today!" - it proclaimed on the cover.

WHAT WAS I THINKING? What was so wrong with the Betty Crocker Cookbook that I already had - only the fact that it had been published around the time I was born? Only the fact that it was (poorly) held together with duct tape? I always figured that they'd have to pry the old one out of my dying fingers - but I was seduced by the newness of this shiny red cookbook - the fact that it had slow cooker recipes (heck, I don't even have a slow cooker - I just gave the new 7 1/2 quart Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker that my sister Nance gave me for Christmas to our church auction, because I decided that it was much too big for just two people). I was tempted by the chapter on Grilling, even though we don't have a grill, - I was enticed by recipes for "Rice, Grains, Beans & Pastas" - Beguiled by a whole section of recipes called "20 Minutes or Less" -(hmmm. actually, I don't remember seeing that part before - I should look through that chapter a little more closely).

Oh, sorry, I digress - anyhow, how could I part with that familiar five ring binder -where you can tell all my favorite recipes by the splatters and smudges on the pages...I finally have relented and have been going through the old book and taking out the pages of the recipes that I really love - turns out the new book has the familiar 5 ring binder too, so those pages just fit fine.
The first pages I transferred over to the new book were the first four pages from the "Pies" chapter - no oil or eggs in my pie crust - just flour, salt and Crisco, thank you very much. And I have never been able to figure out how one is supposed to cut the shortening into flour with two knives. Give me my Pampered Chef pastry cutter and I'm all over it. Add a little bit of ice water and nothing can compare with the rolling pin that I won from Miss Tate for being the outstanding Home Ec student when I was a Junior in High School. That rolling pin has seen a LOT of pie crusts.

Then several years ago, there was an article on Quiche in a local magazine. They had a 7 paragraph "inset" called "Create your own Quiche" which I cut out and taped on the page right across from my favorite pie crust recipe. It has been a recipe I've gone back to time and time again, because my "real man" loves quiche.
"Create your Own Quiche"
A basic 5 step recipe that uses your choice of fillings.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare a single pastry crust (or buy the made up ones in the prepared foods aisle at the grocery - no one has to know) and press into a deep 9" pie pan (I make two crusts, double the custard recipe and voile' - quiche for lunch too)

Cover the bottom of the crust with 1 and 1/2 cups grated cheese - Swiss or medium cheddar works best. I like the convenient already shredded Mexican Mix with cheddar, jack and asiago cheese. You could use some mozzarella and feta for a Mediterranean taste.

Top the cheese layer with ONE of the following suggested filling ingredients:
Suggested fillings (approximately 1 cup):

- 1 medium sweet onion & 1/4 lb. of mushrooms sauteed in butter with salt, pepper & thyme
- 6 oz or crab or shrimp meat plus some chopped tomatoes & sauteed onions or sliced green onions
**3/4 cup of steamed broccoli and 1/4 cup sliced onions & mushrooms that have been sauteed in butter and 1/2 cup chopped ham slice (this is one I probably use the most)
- 8 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled, 1/2 cup sliced onion, sauteed (the classic Quiche Lorraine)
- Any combination of vegies (broccoli, zucchini, bell pepper, etc.) that have been sauteed in a little butter or olive oil to "pre-cook" them and get rid of some of the moisture.
- Black olives and garlic and wilted spinach with fresh oregano. Use the mozzarella & feta cheeses (this sounds yummy to me, but The Shepherd would never go for it)

Make a custard by mixing the following:
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup milk (evaporated milk or half & half may also be used - makes a nicer, firmer filling, I think) some recipes call for cream but who needs the calories - low fat evaporated milk gives you the same texture and about a zillion less calories -
3 TBS flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard (now I don't know about you, but who has (fresh) dry mustard in their spice cupboard? - I substitute about a tsp of Dijon mustard and mix it in with the eggs before I add the milk)

Pour the custard over the filling layer and sprinkle with a little bit of extra cheese if desired - (or make a cool design with some of your filling materials) Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until the center appears solid when jiggled. Personally I stick a knife in about 3 inches from the side and if it comes out clean, it's done.

Serve with some nice crusty bread and a glass of iced tea (or a nice glass of wine if you like) Bon Appetite!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mugging for snuggles

H.B. has happily had the company of Pearl and Luna for the last 5 weeks, but he is starting to get bored with all the extra company -

One night last week when The Shepherd got home from work, he noticed several of his larger bonsai plants had been knocked over - thinking that perhaps one of the neighborhood dogs had gotten in between when he left at 7:30 a.m. and I leave at 8:30, he set about righting everything - but then he realized he didn't see any dog tracks on the ground - instead, there were lots of little hoof prints around - he quickly ruled out deer - as #1 - they were little prints and #2 - we don't have any deer in our neighborhood...

So he walked the fence line and found a spot about two feet where the field fence had been broken through - and low and behold - there was all this fuzzy black wool caught in the wire - this little Houdini had broken through the fence, and from the pattern of prints left, he munched his way through the nursery - (thankfully not eating any poisonous plants - he's still here) - took a little trip into the barn and munched a bunch of hay (probably why he wasn't hungry enough to munch on the rhododendrons) - went over to see his buddies Danny and Taylor and THEN, apparently looking at his watch and realizing that if he wasn't back in the pasture when dad got home from work, he'd be in big trouble - wiggled his way BACK through the fence and back into the pasture.

Oh, yes, you are a big pain in the butt, and yes, I'll scratch you back there on your shoulder where it feels so good -

Some guys have all the luck...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where There's Fiber...

We had a "distinguished" guest at our spinner guild meeting last Saturday! Judith MacKenzie McCuin was in town to teach some classes on spinning, spinning for weaving and spinning for knitting (none of which I could take because it was the first of the month and there was no way I could have responsibly taken the time off from work to go - darn). Anyhow, she came in the afternoon and gave a little talk on the history of spinning in North America.

I have never given much thought to the "politics" of fiber until recently - hearing Celia Quinn speak about spinning with drop spindles and the impact that it had on civilization - and now listening to Judith speak -

Fiber - fabric (or the lack of), and being taxed on their own wool, (along with the other unfriendly policies that England imposed), was part of what brought the colonies to war.

I probably should have stopped my spinning and taken notes - I'm so A.D.D. that all I have to do is see a bird on a branch outside and I lose my train of thought and anything that went in one ear, escaped out the other without being noticed or remembered. BUT, I have ordered Ms. MacKenzies' new book, "The Intentional Spinner" from Interweave Press. So maybe after I read it, I'll give you all a book report...

It was wonderful to have our friend Donna from Sedro Woolley come and join our merry group.

Judith also told some stories of her childhood in British Columbia - learning to spin the fluffy wool of the coastal Salish sheep from the First Nations spinners who prepare the yarn for their famous Cowichan sweaters by rubbing it on their leg - collect a little yarn, knit a little, go back to "spinning" - She gave us some samples of this lofty wool to try - it didn't work for me - but some were able to get a respectable yarn by doing this method. I realized that the yarn used in a locally crocheted shawl that The Shepherd gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago was probably made by this same way. I had never been able to figure out how they got such a thick yarn with a spinning wheel - that's one mystery solved.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dona Nobis Pacem

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
by Ed McCurdy (original copywrite 1950)

Last night I had the strangest dream, I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room and the room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said they'd never fight again.

And when the paper all was signed and a million copies made,
They all joined hands and bowed their heads and grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below were dancing round and round
While swords and guns and uniforms were scattered on the ground.

Last night I had the strangest dream, I'd ever dreamed before,
I dreamed the world had all agreed, to put an end to war.

Chords: ( C - F C/G Em/Am Dm G C / F C G C )

My favorite version of this song is sung by Joan Baez - I have never been able to sing it without crying. I hope some day, in my lifetime, it will not be such a strange dream.

Dona Nobis Pacem.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Welcome a new blogger

Our good friend and one of our favorite musicians, Lydia McCauley has started a new blog called Quieting, after her newly released album of the same name. It promises to be a very thoughtful place to visit.

Clicking on her name (above) will take you to her web site - when you get there, click on "MP3's" and listen to some of her music. (clicking on "Quieting" (above) will, of course, take you to her blog).

"Quieting" is Lydia's first CD in almost 4 years and is all instrumental. Here are the notes from her web site about this album:

"This instrumental music celebrates a deepening connection with the natural world. It is a place where every bug counts. Cottonwood seeds hold the potential for one's very breath. The shape of a mountain is a song in itself. Frogs become close companions. Hawthorn trees open the heart. Pigs can dance. Bees can swing. Children grow up into beautiful people while adults rediscover the wonder of childhood. Wishes are granted. Life and death are honored as one in the same."

Two special musical guests that help to make this CD very special are cellist Jami Sieber and on oboe and French horn, internationally recognized artist, Nancy Rumbel.

Lydia and her husband Kurt have traveled extensively in Cambodia, India and Burma, as well as Italy and Ireland, so the photographs on her blog are outstanding.

The Shepherd and I would like to congratulate Lydia & the band on their new CD and we hope you will take a few minutes to visit her web site and check out her blog.

Monday, November 03, 2008

This is my political statement for the day.
Cats for Obama
My kind of web site.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A report on the Spin-In

Last Saturday, Oct. 25, was the date of the Spindrifter's 2nd Annual Spin In. It took place at the local High School which was remodeled several years ago and has a beautiful, airy commons area just in the front doors.

Just what is a Spin-In, you ask? No, it's not some strange Sufi ritual - it is an opportunity for people of all ages who spin fibers into yarn to come together to learn, visit, eat and shop! (we had 16 vendors this year - it was really cool) and whether one uses a drop spindle or a spinning wheel, it is sure to be a fun day. It is an all day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) event and a coffee/water/tea and snack table is provided, but most people bring a sack lunch.

This year, our guest speaker was Celia Quinn, a nationally recognized fiber arts teacher (she has been teaching since the late 1980's and writes articles for Spin Off and other magazines) who ventures down to the lower 48 from Alaska once a year or so to give talks and classes. Her talk was about Drop Spindles - from the earliest - (a rock and a stick) to ones used today in Africa and South America. - they haven't changed much, and the impact that the ability to spin fibers into string/yarn made on civilization - Frankly, I hadn't expected her talk to be interesting - I thought she was going to teach HOW to use a drop spindle, which I wasn't at all interested in - but WOW - the slumbering anthropologist in me woke up with a start. She had wonderful examples of all different kinds from all over the world, including one that had been excavated from an archeological dig! Very informative and fascinating talk and she is so personable. (she also gave a workshop the next day on spinning novelty yarns, which I would have loved to have taken, however, church choir & the resident Minister of Music (The Shepherd's "Other Hat") took a priority. Maybe next time.

This was only the second "Spin-In" that I have attended (altho June's Black Sheep Gathering is somewhat like a HUGE Spin-in) - Last year, I went as an "attendee" - This year I went as a vendor! Yes, Marietta Shetlands had a table at the vendor fair (The Shepherd was kind enough to let me sell some Washington Wool dot Net tote bags that I had purchased for the occasion) - and can you believe it - I took pictures of everyone else's tables but our own?!?!

Don't tell him I said so, but, selling doesn't really come natural to The Shepherd. He is very proud of our fleeces (and was pleased at some very complimentary comments by Ms. Quinn) - but it took a bit for him to warm up to the whole notion. I, on the other hand, really love selling. Many people would walk up and look at the table - He had it very nicely set up with the NASSA Shetland color chartg and had samples of the different fleeces that we have right now and Luna's Blue Ribbon fleece held a place of honor right in front of the table. It was fun to watch people come up and touch it and get this "dreamy look" on their faces. Sorry folks, it's not for sale! But I had taken several skeins of shetland wool that I'd recently spun and basically felt if I could get the wonderful soft Shetland fiber in a spinner's hand, they would be interested in finding out more. And they were - we sold one whole processed fleece and two "future fleeces" - one lady really wanted Moni's fleece from next spring, and one of our guild members paid half for a fleece (we're donating the other "half") for next year's Sheep to Shawl at the summer Highland Games. As long as it turns out to be a good fleece, she will get Danny's beautiful moorit fleece for our members to spin and weave into a splendid shawl.

I also had taken Friday afternoon off to bake 10 dozen (Yup, 10 dozen!) scones for the "coffee" table, courtesy of Washington Wool dot Net. It was really fun to do and took me back to the days when I'd make big (serving 75-80 people) dinners for our church. The scones were easy compared to that - just Krusteze Scone mix and water - added currents to some and mini chocolate chips to others - I think they were enjoyed by all.

I bought a few things from the vendors - traded one of my tote bags for a couple of spare Ashford bobbins -Bought a pound of Grey wool (I think it was CVM) to crochet up into stripes with the crimson superfine merino I spun up last week for WSU Cougar caps for my nephews. I also bought some tea and tea bags, a belated birthday present for my co-worker, and two charts (one for crochet and one for knitting) that provide me with the yardage needed to make particular items - hats, scarves, vests, wraps, etc. These charts will be invaluable as I continue to spin - that has been my biggest boondoggle - how much yarn do I need for certain projects. These charts will answer that question.

Nancy from NW Handspun Yarns sets up her booth - she is one of our Whatcom county "LYS" (that's Local Yarn Store)

Lynda Bylsma from Lost River Alpacas had lots of mill-spun alpaca yarn and big baskets of beautiful fiber.

Here are a couple other of the booths.

So, the next time you get the opportunity to go to a Spin-In - take it - visit with the vendors - listen to the speaker - who knows, you might even get bitten by the spinning bug - then you can start your own stash...

Saturday, November 01, 2008