Friday, October 29, 2010

Remembering Oma.

Well, it's been almost a week, so here's my post. Last Saturday morning, my grandmother, my Oma, passed away.

It's an understatement to say "I loved her dearly."

She led an incredible, INCREDIBLE life. Born in Poland in the 20s, she was taken by the Germans to work in an ammunitions depot in WWII. She came back home once for a visit, where her mother tried to fool the nazis into believing my grandmother had a fever (hot compresses, etc). The Germans weren't fooled and they took her again. She never again saw her parents. She was fourteen years old.

She escaped the depot in the dead of night. Literally escaped. And from there, you have one barely-teenage Polish girl having to suddenly fit into nazi Germany. Her stories, when she told them, were amazing. She was in Dresden during its destruction (a fact I only found out because I happened to have the book "Destruction of Dresden," and she saw it and said "oh, I was there for that. It's why I have problems with my one foot being cold or numb. I had to cross that town during that and in snow.") Stories like this were not uncommon.

But mostly, I'll remember my grandmother for what I saw. A woman who loved to cook and feed people. A woman who hated money being spent on her, but if you DID something (action-wise) for her, she would not forget it. She was pretty short, so I quickly met her and kept growing, but she didn't care.

She's the woman who would squawk if you tried to pick her up.

She's the person who taught me how to cook my favorite foods (and the foods that ended up being served at our wedding).

She's the person who taught my parrot (when we were on vacation) to say "Hey Baby!"

I will forever do things because of her. A box of chocolate-covered cherries at Christmastime. Split pea soup with kielbasa on Christmas Eve. Because of her, I learned how to pinch with my toes ("bat toes" she called it, and yes, we used to have bat toe wars).

She loved her dusters-- these super-thin daytime smock dress things that made you look cold just by looking at her. She loved them, though she would always complain about being cold. If we got too wild around her, she would just say "oh, you're making me nervous!" and we'd stop.

She'd sing the song "Tiny Bubbles" and insert fake (drunken-sounding) hiccups in between lyrics.

She had the most adorable accent.

She loved me, despite the fact that I had to share a large bed with her when we visited Germany, and apparently, the 10-year old me kicked a LOT in her sleep. She loved me, despite the fact that I almost yanked her earring (accidentally) out of her ear when I was little. She loved me, despite the fact that I would pick her up just to hear that squawk.

She was extremely adept at rummy (card game).

Her laugh? A cackle. You couldn't help but smile when you heard it.

She loved candy. It really bewildered a few doctors because she had a bad habit of eating lots right before blood sugar tests.

She was a knitting machine, especially in the mid 2000s. I have ample scarves. I really stink at knitting, but a couple of years ago, I decided to send her a scarf. I used huge needles to make about a 4' long, airy scarf. She thought it was not a scarf because it was so airy. But, never one to waste, she UNRAVELED the entire scarf and made me a potholder. True story.

She fed my parents' dachshund so much while they were on vacation that the dog's stomach dragged on the ground when they got back. My parents' next dachshund had a picky stomach, so he could only eat kibble. No handouts (or you stood a good chance at being at the vet's the next day). This was torture for my grandmother.

From her, my mother learned the joy of gardening. From both of them, I learned too.

She used to pinch me on my cheeks, utter Polish words, and kiss me.

I think I'm going to throw a big dinner sometime in the next few months. Out will come Oma's recipes, one by one. We will have friends come, and we will celebrate.

I do take solace in the fact that she did have a full life. She was in no pain at the end, and for that, I'm thankful. I like to think she's with my grandfather and uncle, and I know she's missed both of them.

I love you, Oma.

Monday, October 25, 2010


It was a sad weekend in my part of the world. More on that later when I feel up to it. But for now, here's what I finished with my acorns on Friday night.

Acorns: Plucked from the ground and cooked at 175 degrees for a while to dry them.
Wreath: Wooden with the ability to put a photo or sign in the middle. $4 at Walmart.
Paint: Martha Stewart, sample size ($2.95), "Blueberry Pie."
Glue: Low heat hot glue.

It is tied outside with a white ribbon on our door. The photo does not do it justice. I should take a photo of the door in natural light instead of this over-exposed flash photography photo.... I'm also considering using poster putty to make it not bang against the door whenever the door is opened. I'm worried about losing acorns.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nutty Projects

This year seemed to produce a lot of natural inedibles.

And I figure.... if it's inedible, great, I can't eat it. But I can craft with it, right?

So, first up to bat: Acorns. I know... you can do certain processes to make acorns edible, but I really didn't want to hassle.

I first dried the nuts. I didn't want any funky mold or anything. I did this by just putting them in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour or so. I should have increased the time and decreased the temp, but oh well. I've heard you can also just stick them in the dehydrator.
And, if you look closely, you see my project. PAINT! I plan on gluing these suckers to something (wreath?) and painting the wreath purple. I am excited. Why purple? Well, first of all, I LOVE the color. It's "Blueberry Pie" by Martha Stewart. But secondly, I just thought it'd be different. It'd also make it more of a winter wreath than just a Christmastime wreath. And finally, acorns are naturally a little dusty-looking. Paint gets rid of the dust. So, if they look dusty with the paint, it's because I haven't cleaned.

Close-up view of the purple (below). I only bought a small sample-size can of paint, which set me back less than $3. I'll report back on the coverage of the paint for the size.

Next up? Horse chestnuts. Now these are interesting suckers. Inedible, but GORGEOUS. I mean, the striations on the nuts are just beautiful. Like well-stained mahogany or teak. But, I have a lot of these so who knows. Maybe some will get painted too. That remains to be seen.I'm not sure what I want to do with the chestnuts yet. Another wreath? Maybe. Maybe a sash to go over the windowsill, like a garland? Maybe. It all depends how these suckers look with they dry and how easily they glue down. I do have some extra wood, so building a fake garland wouldn't be that difficult. I think if I try to actually glue them together or to a sash that it would not be that structurally well-built. But we'll see!

So those are the project on the table today and this weekend. I also bought some high-heat paint and was going to (finally) paint that fireplace, but it looks like we're in for a long while of rain. Shucks! I think the plan is to eventually sell the fireplace. As much as we love it, we discovered that we don't do too many fires in the summertime, and our current large firepit really does the trick well. I also like that our firepit has the screen so you can enjoy the fire, but nothing rolls out.

However, the other fireplace was free, so if we spend the manpower and a small amount fixing it up, we should be able to sell it. We'll see!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010



And no, it is NOT (I REPEAT, NOT) a job with these qualifications:

(thanks to for the image)

Nope. Instead, I will be doing good in the world. I hope. I'm helping implement a new, thorough, treatment-based (for parents, foster parents and kids) foster program.

Yes, I know. Nifty.

I should preface that it is part time. This means I can still (hopefully, discussion with my ever-busy boss coming soon...) keep my old job but not be as freaked out when the projects run thin.

It also means I can apply for other positions that are also part-time (ones that receive less competition) to round out my schedule. That would equal full time, with hopefully one eventually leading to full time. AND, it opens a lot of doors for me in fields I'm interested in, but I needed a bit more experience.

Totally exciting.

And? I get to wear jeans to work.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hopping foot to foot.

I've been looking at various real estate listings (as per usual for me) and also building company websites. You know, just for kicks.

And I wonder...

Someday, when we do have a house, I wonder if I will hop from square foot to square foot in the house and state how much money was spent. Most of the websites break down the cost (note: without interest) of a home by square foot. Though a great measure, I still find it amusing.

Suddenly, that broom closet became really expensive. Fourth bedroom, anyone?


It also makes me want to get a shrunken set of plans for the house and grid it into 360 little squares. Yes, and cross them off as the mortgage is paid.

I can see a conversation with a kid someday:
"Mom, why is my room not red yet?"
"Because you're not paid for."


Monday, October 18, 2010

Cluck Norris.

My plucky little frizzle has been named.

Meet: Cluck Norris.
The name, I think, TOTALLY fits him. I mean, this little spunky dude has been prone to such activities as walking down the middle of the feed trough while all the hens peck at the food from the sides.

Attitude. And a mohawk.

**NOTE: I have not yet cooked the sweet meat squash. Been busy with the pumpkins. So more on the sweet meat to come!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tackling the Sweet Meat Squash

Today I am tackling a Sweet Meat Squash.
I bought one last Sunday, and today, I've decided to cook mine up. The reviews on these squash are amazing, including "best squash ever" and "the Northwest's fantastic secret." It also supposedly makes the best pumpkin pie, due to the taste and sweetness.

Obviously, this squash needs to be tried.

The farm near us sells them for $4.99 each, which is a decent steal for a 10+lb squash that sprawls and does not produce a ton of fruits. I want to cook one now so I can nab a few more, if necessary. Due to the tough skins, they supposedly keep for a long time, so I don't have to cook these guys right away. I feel the same way about my butternuts. My sugar pie pumpkins though, are in the oven right now.

*** Added Edit: I just weighed it. Tops the scales at 19.6 lbs!!! Really makes the $4.99 price seem better, huh? Right at 25 cents a pound!

My unfamiliarity on this squash is prompting a lot of google searches on my behalf. Can you eat the seeds? Yes. How to roast? Cooking in halves seems the best bet. How tough is the skin? Supposedly gets harder the longer stored, but it's pretty tough. How long to cook? We'll see...

It is such a cool-looking squash, I tell ya!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Insight on life (and roasted pumpkin-- not related)

I realized yesterday that in quickly typing my blog post , I hit the nail on the head. Strange how sometimes you've been searching for the right way to say something, but when you aren't particularly thinking deep about it, the truth comes out. So yesterday, I really summed up what I want in my next job: more meaning to my job than just its purpose being to earn us a paycheck.

Wow. It's true. While a decent salary would be nice, I've stepped beyond the importance of the job being that final take-home number. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to work for free. B and I have goals and those goals require incomes. But the overall satisfaction of what I'm doing has become more important. This darn adulthood thing occasionally stuns me.

ANYWAY, on to pumpkins:

I picked up a few (ok 7) pumpkins from various places. One from our yard, one from the store, and five from a local farm. The farm? $1 each. Nice. So now, I have to roast the pumpkins.

I have a secret for you though. Most places say just wash the pumpkin and stick it in the oven. I wash the pumpin and CUT IT IN HALF.


I cut it in half to get the seeds. I don't want them baked yet, or covered in baked goop. So I scoop out the seeds and goop (goop to chickens, who LOVE it), and then put the pumpkin back in the oven, both halves together. The weight of the top half keeps a good seal so that the pumpkin stays together.

And, then, 1 hour to 1.5 hours later, the pumpkin comes out looking something like this (ignore the pan. I use my nasty pan for pumpkins):

How do you know you've done a good roasting job? Thwap the pumpkin gently with a spoon.
If it's done, it will easily leave a dent.

The cut-in-half method is also good for taking off the shell. The top half literally peels off. I scrape each piece a little (maybe 2-4 tbs of meat on there total though)...

but it's really easy, because the pumpkin is cut in half.

That leaves me with a ball of cooked pumpkin to scoop. Once that is done, I have the second half of the pumpkin, which, because of the halving, looks like a bowl. Perfect for scooping.

You can take the cooked pumpkin and freeze it, or put it in the fridge if you're using it soon.

EASY, right? And it tastes GREAT in recipes. I have the space in our freezer (which is actually more efficient if you have it packed with stuff), so I'm doing a bunch of these. That way, in January, etc, when pumpkin is hard to find, I can easily find it for our usage. I have a few pumpkin recipes to try too, so I'll post about those once I run through the test runs.

Baking rules for pumpkin: 350 in the oven (racks arranged so pumpkin is in middle of oven) for 1 hour to 1.5 hours. Use the sugar pie pumpkins or other pumpkins that are meant for baking. Most the carving pumpkins are too big and are NOT good baking pumpkins.

PS: I use the nasty baking pans because IF the pumpkin accidentally splits, it might ooze, and if it oozes while baking, I might not realize it right away (because it's in there for 1-1.5 hours). Since nothing I'm scooping is touching the pan, why not use the nasty pan?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New cookbook and tomorrow...

I borrowed this cookbook from a friend, just to try it out. I ended up buying myself a copy (from Amazon's used-but-looks-new section) because I had to have it. The cookbook is: Vegan Planet.

Before I go any further, I am not a vegan. I am not a vegetarian. I try to eat local, well-raised-in-good-conditions meat, but that's it on the hopeful guidelines.

So why am I using a VEGAN cookbook?

Because I swear to you that if you do cook vegetarian/vegan, you'll accomplish a number of things.

1) You'll expand your repertoire of recipes. No meat in the house? No problem. You know how to cook without it.

2) You'll learn new tricks. Substitute nonfat plain yogurt for sour cream. etc etc.

But most importantly 3) You'll learn how to spice food.


So many meat recipes focus on the taste of the meat. If there are spices, they are generally you're typical, found-prepackaged-in-a-spice-rack spices. And the focus is not on the taste of anything else but generally, the meat. Ok, sometimes a roasted veggie gets thrown in. But, generally speaking? Meat.

But vegetarians and vegans don't have that option, so it becomes about the TASTE of the FOOD, not just one ingredient. And the results are amazing. Luckily, we have a few bulk-bin spice stores in town, so I can easily get more unknown spices for cheap (usually under $0.50 for the small portion needed). It's more about the combination of tastes though, that makes it fun.

Take last night, for example. I made what ended up tasting like thai chicken. Ok, I did cheat. I did throw in a few chicken breasts, mostly because my husband likes meat and somewhat raises an eyebrow at meatless recipes if cooked too frequently. (but you can do that with vegetarian/vegan recipes. It's allowed. By me.) The recipe called for a sauce which included rice vinegar, soy sauce, basil, peanut butter, water, chili powder and garlic. Weird-sounding? It was delicious. And the rest of the concoction included me chopping up napa cabbage, more basil, green bell peppers, and carrots.

It. was. delicious. We ate the mixture on lettuce wraps.

I'll start posting more tricks as I learn them. But this sure is fun!!

In other news... interview tomorrow. I'm hopeful. It's with a good group, and it would be really fantastic to have more meaning to my job than just its purpose being to earn us a paycheck.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New dog bed? I think not.

Maddie's dog bed has a corner it has to go in. In our small house, there is limited space to begin with. Additionally, it has to be a space able to be seen by us so we can make sure she's on it when she is supposed to be!

She had a much bigger dog bed, but it was just TOO big (and beginning to look pretty gross). So we decided that bed will be her "dog is too wet to be let loose in the house, so she stays tied (indoors) to the back door on her old bed" bed. Hey, it's soon to be rainy winter, so one has to plan for these things. Or else risk muddy indoor frolicking.

With much exclamation (by the humans) and much body wiggling (by Maddie, mostly because the humans sounded excited), we gave Madster her new bed last night. It's significantly cushier than her old bed, so she pounced on it several times. It's in the same place as her old bed, so she has accepted it as her bed. This was confirmed when I gave her a treat. She knows to take all treats to her bed, and she took her treat to her new bed. Success!!

But this morning, when I woke up and let Maddie out, I came across this:

Stupidly, I had thought: Dark bed=Maddie fur and dirt won't show. ACK! I forgot about Paddington! See the clumps of Paddington fur on there? Sigh, and the TAG is still on the bed even.

Maddie was a bit perplexed. Pads had often sat on her old bed, but it was big and Maddie was cool with it.

I realized that Maddie in this photo is licking her lilps. Not a good sign. And Pads is staring straight at her. Pads was the cat that swiped Maddie when they first met. No more swipes have occurred, but Mads knows to just let Old Man Pads be.

Maddie looks confused in this photo. As if she's looking for another bed.

And finally, resignation. Maddie decides best to not bother the cat and makes herself comfy on the rug. (PS: my shoes only look HUGE in this photo because of the angle. I promise I'm not a giant)

Drama doggie mornings. Maddie is not allowed on the couch without permission, but I know that now that I'm at work, that's where she's at. So cat gets the bed, she gets the couch. Stinker dog.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sushi party

It was my cool neighbor Joe's birthday last week. We had a party on Monday (surprise Joe!), but Joe decided to have folks over and HE made sushi (with Vince) on Sunday! And wow. Wow. Wowo

Joe, analyzing the delights of his labor.

Wow! Sushi!!

Joe, a vegetarian, made yummy chicken sticks.

And here come the sushi photos:

Needless to say, we were STUFFED. Luckily, we live next door, so we could just roll home.

The ever-helpful helper, Vince.
Vince works at a bakery, and he made these SWEET cakes for Joe. One for the sushi party, one for the surprise party the next day.
Camo cake and a periodical table of elements. SO COOL.
They're watching seasons of Lost right now, so the camo cake was also Lost-themed.

Joe liked the cakes. He matched even.

Obligatory smiling for the camera.
And Vince, being the cake pro, cut the cake.
Joe, laughing at Vince's expert cutting.
Super knife and warm water even.

Sushi! Party! I need to find things to bribe Joe with so he can teach me how to make sushi rolls.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not what I wanted, but that'll do: Beer cake.

It was a friend's birthday on Saturday. My promised contribution was the cake. I try to do "different" cakes because, well... why not? So this one, I decided, was going to be in the shape of one of his favorite beers: Chimay. Luckily, Chimay bottles are pretty squatty, so they were easier to construct than tall bottles.

First order of business though: Getting the requested vanilla icing dyed brown. Harder than it looks.

And this began my list of issues. The icing, with all the dye, was a bit runny. Sure, I could add more powdered sugar, but that throws the balances off. SIGH. I was frustrated. It worked, but it was not my best icing day. I should have just covered the cake in vanilla and then added a thin layer of chocolate. Done. SIGH.

And then, for the individual beer bottles, I WAS AN IDIOT. I used a plastic bottle with the bottom cut out as a cookie cutter of sorts, and made a bunch of cake circles. As soon as I finished, I realized the idiot I was. Individual bottles? UNSTABLE. Crud. Why did I do that? I had thought this through and told myself that I needed SHEETS of cake with JUST the outside edges and tops scalloped like bottles. MUCH more stable. CRUD!

Not wanting to scrap the entire cake, I decided to forgo beautifulness and lean the bottles inward towards the center. This made the entire cake a bit more stable, though the straightness of the bottles was compromised.

Anyway. Cup of chocolate pudding and cake= beer. Beer bottle caps (courtesy of a friend who works in a bakery and could get me the soy/rice paper printed), and a marzipan bottle opener. I decided to put a ring on the bottom of the bottles just to make it look prettier (and less like bottles, but whatever).

I've decided that my next cake that I have to transport will only consist of piping. I like piping.

The bottlecap from the "opened" bottle, the glass, and the bottle opener.
It got a thumbs up from our friend Tyson. The bottles were leaning at this point from the journey over to Jason's house....
Each bottle also had a Chimay label, as reviewed by this slice of cake (it looked prettier before it was bonked by ice cream).

So, it could have gone better, but it wasn't too shabby. Two stupid mistakes: the food dye and the cake sculpting, but whatever. I don't do this for a living! And it still tasted good. :)