Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween - Giveaway Grand Finale

I've had so much fun looking over all the giveaways Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom has been offering all month - she really saved the best for last, though.  Just check out what she's giving away today!  First, there's a whole basket of Salem goodies from October Farm and then, there's the FULL set of field guides from Weiser Books.  I'm sure going to be sad tomorrow when this series of giveaways end... well, until the fun begins for the Yule season around the blogoverse, anyway!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Roman Roots of Halloween

I think most everyone knows the Celtic-inspired Samhain that runs concurrently with Halloween, and shares many of the same features - but have you ever heard of the Ancient Roman holiday Lemuria?  This observance occurred in May - but here's an interesting thing... it is very likely connected with All Saint's Day, which, of course, is the day following Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve.

You see, the Catholic Church originally observed All Saints Day on May 13 , altering it to November 1 by Pope Gregory III in 835 to commemorate the building of  an oratory to house St. Peter's relics in Rome.  The original date in May was the final day of the Roman festival of Lemuria, which involves dealing with one's ancestors.  Several other Roman customs coincide with later Christian holidays, and it isn't difficult to imagine that the early Christians - who did not exist in a vacuum but sprang up from the culture in which they lived - attached their meanings to the holidays and customs that were already familiar to them, just as we tend to do today.  I also tend to believe that moving it to that date, so near the also-known harvest customs of the Celts is why many Celtic customs have grown attached to the date.

But back to Lemuria - for the Romans, Lemuria was a three day festival when each household would exorcise itself of any malevolent ancestors (lemures) still hanging about and to honor the friendly spirits (lares) living there peacably.  This was an important duty of the head of the household throughout the year, who was tasked with honoring the household spirits daily through prayer and offerings of food and drink, but at this time of year, it was time to clean spiritual house, so to speak.

The means to do so was to appease the spirits through offerings and ritual in order  to encourage them to leave.  Romans believed that spirits were peers and should be treated as such - shown respect, but not deference, and while they could not be compelled to do anything, they were willing to negotiate terms.  Many religious practices involved promising to do something in exchange for favors - and fulfillment of promises made in order to ensure future good fortune.

A brief explanation of the rite of Lemuria is that the head of the household rises at midnight and walks the house barefoot (the dead were buried with 'feet unfettered' - so the head of household is meeting the spirits on their own terms) and spits mouthfuls of black beans behind him, crying, "‘With these beans I redeem me and mine".  The spirts are said to take the offering of beans and go - or not.  The head of household then bangs on metal gongs, saying, "Ancestral spirits, depart!" to frighten off those that refused the offering of beans.  Finally, offerings are made to the friendly household spirits that are supposed to be there - a sort of very early 'trick or treat', where treats are offered to the spirits in order to avoid unfriendly tricks.

Ovid, in his Fasti, describes the ritual of Lemuria thus and goes on to explain its origin as coming from Romulus and Remus - and even shares why it's considered unlucky to marry in May:

"When Hesperus, the Evening Star, has shown his lovely face
Three times, from that day, and the defeated stars fled Phoebus,
It will be the ancient sacred rites of the Lemuria,
When we make offerings to the voiceless spirits.

The year was once shorter, the pious rites of purification, februa,
Were unknown, nor were you, two-faced Janus, leader of the months:
Yet they still brought gifts owed to the ashes of the dead,
The grandson paid respects to his buried grandfather’s tomb.

It was May month, named for our ancestors (maiores),
And a relic of the old custom still continues.

When midnight comes, lending silence to sleep,
And all the dogs and hedgerow birds are quiet,
He who remembers ancient rites, and fears the gods,
Rises (no fetters binding his two feet)
And makes the sign with thumb and closed fingers,
Lest an insubstantial shade meets him in the silence.

After cleansing his hands in spring water,
He turns and first taking some black beans,
Throws them with averted face: saying, while throwing:
‘With these beans I throw I redeem me and mine.’

He says this nine times without looking back: the shade
Is thought to gather the beans, and follow behind, unseen.

Again he touches water, and sounds the Temesan bronze,
And asks the spirit to leave his house.

When nine times he’s cried: ‘Ancestral spirit, depart,’
He looks back, and believes the sacred rite’s fulfilled.

Why the day’s so called, and the origin of the name,
Escapes me: that’s for some god to discover.
Mercury, son of the Pleiad, explain it to me, by your
Potent wand: you’ve often seen Stygian Jove’s halls.
The caduceus-bearer came, at my prayer. Learn then,
The reason for the name: the god himself revealed it.

When Romulus had sunk his brother’s spirit in the grave,
And justice was done to the over-hasty Remus,
The wretched Faustulus, and Acca with streaming hair,
Sprinkled the calcined bones with their tears.
Then at twilight they returned home grieving,
And flung themselves on the hard couch, just as it lay.

The bloodstained ghost of Remus seemed to stand
By the bed, speaking these words in a faint murmur:

‘Behold, I who was half, the other part of your care,
See what I am, and know what I was once!
If the birds had signalled the throne was mine,
I might have been highest, ruling over the people,
Now I’m an empty phantom, gliding from the fire:
That is what remains of Remus’ form!

Ah, where is Mars, my father? If you once spoke
The truth, it was he who sent us the she-wolf’s teats.
The rash hand of a citizen undid what the wolf saved.
O how gentle she was in comparison!

Savage Celer, wounded, may you yield your cruel spirit,
And bloodstained as I am, sink beneath the earth.

My brother never wished it: his love equals mine:
He offered, at my death, all he could, his tears.
Beg him by your weeping, by your nurturing,
To signal a day of celebration in my honour.’

They stretched out their arms at this, longing to embrace him,
But the fleeting shade escaped their clutching hands.
When the phantom fleeing dispelled their sleep,
They both told the king of his brother’s words.

Romulus, complying, called that day the Remuria,
When reverence is paid our buried ancestors.

Over time the harsh consonant at the beginning
Of the name, was altered into a soft one:
And soon the silent spirits were called Lemures too:
That’s the meaning of the word, that’s its force.

And the ancients closed the temples on these days,
As you see them shut still at the season of the dead.

It’s a time when it’s not suitable for widows or virgins
To wed: she who marries then won’t live long.
And if you attend to proverbs, then, for that reason too,
People say unlucky women wed in the month of May.

Though these three festivals fall at the same time,
They are not observed on three consecutive days."

Friday, October 29, 2010

This is my lucky week!

I won another giveaway!  The Whimsical Cottage was kind enough to host a giveaway for Busted Knuckle Photography, and I got to choose my print of choice.  Soon, I will have the peaceful and joyful Facade in Blue to hang - isn't that pretty?

To make it an even better day - I'm waiting word from my eldest daughter who is in the middle of giving birth to my eighth grandchild (her third child and first son). 

It's just one of those days when I keep catching myself smiling.

Crepes for Breakfast

Just a small update to the previous post to add a picture and say the the crepes heat up beautifully (a few seconds in the microwave or could pop them in a hot oven for a few minutes) and made a breakfast that felt like a luxury in seconds flat.  Today's was filled with cottage cheese - and I was going to top it with some sliced bananas, but I had some homemade applesauce I'd taken down from the freezer that I wanted instead.

The crepes recipe is a winner - and so ridiculously easy that it will become a regular thing to keep on hand here for 'I don't feel like doing anything  complicated" days.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, unplanned drop-in guests - what don't these work for?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comfort Food Crepes

Poor Deanna is having a hard week... boy troubles and she's making wise choices but feeling terrible about it, and her unhappiness makes me feel just lost.  Hardest part about parenting a child on the verge of adulthood - there become fewer ways to make it all better, with no lessening of the impulse to try.
This is why comfort food exists - she loves Chicken Pot Pie.  And on a recent trip to DC, we found ourselves in a little hole in the wall crepe shop where she fell in love. So, we've brainstormed ways to fill crepes, and decided Chicken Pot Pie filling would work fine.

So here she is feeling very blue... and here I am, needing to eat soft food for another couple weeks... and oooh! Good time to do crepes.

I chose to double Mark Bittman's recipe for crepes from How to Cook Everything, Rev (p817) and they were incredibly easy and really tasty, too.

I also made up some mashed potatoes, and a concoction of diced cooked chicken, peas and carrots, some cream cheese, chicken broth and a bit of milk and flour (just use whatever chicken pot pie filling you use - mine was very on the fly, combining until the consistency looked good and it tasted right.

Putting them together involved putting some mashed potatoes down the center of a crepe, rolling it up  and topping with the pot pie filling and we both ate our fill - I even got full, and I've been starving for days now.

As I put the last of the leftovers in the refrigerator, I remembered I should have taken a picture, so... oops.  I'll add one tomorrow, because I plan to have crepes for breakfast too.  These are going to be awesome with cottage cheese and banana slices.

(modified from Mark Bittman)
(makes about 16 large crepes)

2 c. flour (white, buckwheat, oat flour, or any mixture you'd like - I just used white this time)
3 c. milk - I used almond milk
4 eggs
4 T. butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp sugar (I used honey)

Whisk together all of the above to create a thin batter.  Let it sit (in fridge if it's warm) for an hour or more.  When time to cook, put a small dab of butter into a hot crepe pan or seasoned skillet and spoon batter into the pan, tilting to create a thin later.  Cook until top begins to look dry, then flip and cook for another minute or so.

Keep prepared crepes warm in the oven until all are done.

So easy!

Here they are, done up breakfast style:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day of the Dead Skull Ornament

Babysitting my run-about granddaughter means keeping very alert - nothing that takes away focus, nothing that can't be dropped instantly when needed.  She's at a lovely, but exhausting exploratory stage.  Fortunately, they still involve naps.

Before she came, I decided to prep a simple craft to keep my hands busy without involving a level of distraction that could be dangerous.  On whim, I decided I wanted to make a felt sugar skull for the Day of the Dead.

For years now, I've been meaning to buy a sugar mold to make the real thing - but there's never money or time when I'm thinking about it, so I wind up making other skulls instead.  One year, it was Rice Krispie Treat skulls.  This year.. it's felt.

I used a skull cookie cutter as a guide to cut out the skull shapes.  The hanger is some hemp twine and the stitching has just been 'doodled' casually throughout the day.  There are three buttons - two for eyes and a tiny one at the chin.  Since it was a whim, I didn't really plot out a design - I think I'd like to make more of these and work out the patterns a bit more, but I like how it came out anyway!  The felt is just stitched together with a blanket stitch - no turning it inside out.

Hailey liked coming over to watch the progress too - as soon as the teeth were put on, she started talking to it... "Raarrrrghhhh!" and the to me, "Oooooh!" and running away, only to come back a minute later to repeat the process.  I may have to make her one (minus buttons) - they'll go along with the skeleton beanie teddy I got her last Halloween!

Meanwhile, this one has found a spot on the tree, and looks quite dapper if I do say so myself!

(shared with Lucky Linky Tuesday, Welcome WednesdayWe Did It! Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, and Hoo's Got Talent Wednesday)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baubles, and Babies, and Bread

This week is starting to feel increasingly scattered.  I'm not getting nearly as many things done as I want to, but I am getting things done in bits.

First I'm doing a lot of babysitting for my 16 month old granddaughter, Hailey and she's reached the age where she's not only whole lot of fun - she's also going great guns and it takes a lot of energy and alertness to keep her engaged in ways that don't involve being a destructo-monster.  I've got her all day tomorrow, so nothin' else is getting done then.

(I did this four times?? HOW??! I am Officially Too Old For This)

But I did manage to finish stitching a little bauble - one last little thing for Halloween this year.  I hope to get it finished off before Sunday, but I'm not sure that I will.  Ah well - I'm wicked enough to leave it up after Samhain's passed.

I also baked up the last of the artisan bread dough in the refrigerator - it's going to be about two weeks before I can eat properly, so I gave the loaf to Hailey's parents.

Having made it through that first batch, I regard this as a success - the process works wonderfully.  This dough was supposed to be able to last a couple weeks... it made it a bit over a week, and I think I need to puzzle out the right container a bit more - the top of the dough was starting to dry out.  I also need a little more practice getting the knack of turning it out into the pan to cook - I want a bread board and a stone to bake on, but it's doable without.  It just takes a bit more finesse, and that will come with practice.

Deanna wants me to do it again - but white bread, please.  I don't think I will, though, until I can eat it, too.  It is too much torture to smell fresh baked bread and not be able to enjoy it.

Now having said that, I plan to spend parts of Thursday and Friday making some marshmallow ghosts and sugar cookie skulls - I know I can eat the marshmallows, at least!  So, eating or no eating, I'm not letting the day go by without some sweet treats and a bit of spooky fun.

Shared with Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Toot Your Horn Tuesday and:

Tuesday Tag-Along

HOO Are YOU? Oct 26


1. How many times a year do you get your hair cut?
One if I think about it - I am very bad at taking care of my hair.  It's curly/frizzy and pretty much grows 'til I get tired of it, announce I'm cutting it off, looks great until I get out of the salon, and then I'm growing it out again.  I have more than once announced in half seriousness that I'm shaving my head.  I haven't yet - it would just grow out again and look worse.

2. Where is the worst place to be stuck waiting?
Anywhere where I am out of reach of something to read while I wait.  The inside of an MRI machine comes to mind.

3. What are your favorite pizza toppings?  It MUST have mushrooms and olives.  After that, I'm easy as long as there are no nasty bell peppers on there.  If I don't have to share, it's likely to have spicy sausage, banana peppers, maybe some pineapple.  But honestly...more mushrooms and olives would be good too.  Feta on pizza is awesome, too.

4. What's your favorite thing about where you live?
I live in a small town in West Virginia right now - my number one favorite thing about the area is the people.  West Virginians are absolutely without doubt (and I've lived all over the world, so I know) the nicest, most down to earth friendliest and non-whiniest people I've ever met.  If they have a dollar to their name they'll figure out a  way to give you two dollars if you need it.  I almost hate to praise West Virginia too much, or everyone will want to move here and then it won't be the same.  "Pride" is the most positive sense defines these folks, I think.

The other thing I love here is the view - I'm not a fan of the hills come winter when it's slippery but there is no question that if you want to see something beautiful at any given moment, just open your eyes.  Whether its a sea of autumn foliage, or a gurgling waterfall, or just the way the sky seems close enough to touch, this is an incredibly beautiful state.

5. What's your favorite fruit? Veggie?

I am no good at favorites - my ideal meal would be a huge buffet where I could have one good taste of everything.  That said, I sure do love winter squash and sweet potatoes and corn and cranberries and apples and cherries... how All American is all that!?

Samhain Giveaway from Bringing Up the Salamanders

This giveaway is one I find really charming - Bringing up the Salamanders is offering a magnetic Wheel of the Year for the refrigerator along with one of her delightful baby goddesses - a winner will be chosen Oct 31.  This would be a wonderful way to gently share an awareness of the pagan yearly cycle with children - not to mention curious nonpagans who visit your home.

I especially love her felt goddesses - each one is stitched with symbols that reflect who she is in a very clear and interesting manner.  One..or a few ... of these will be mine when I can justify the expense.  Just lovely!

Tarot Tuesday - A Spread for Halloween

This time of year is perfect for divination, so today I thought I'd share a couple Tarot spreads I have created.  The first is based on Halloween...(one for Samhain will be in a later post)  I did this up a few years ago, when I wanted an upbeat general purpose spread with a Halloween theme for an event where I would likely be reading for several people who'd never experienced a Tarot reading before.  This was specifically meant to be used with the Halloween Tarot deck:

Morgana's Trick or Treat Spread


1. What do you want in your Halloween bag? (what is your goal?)
2. What costume are you wearing? (what role are you playing as you work toward that goal?)
3. Tricks (what is in your control - what 'tricks' can you do to work toward your goal?)
4. Treats (what isn't in your control - what 'treats' come to you without your effort?)
5. What do you take home? (what comes to you from this experience?)

I'll do a sample reading later with this, but if you try it out, please let me know... I'd love to hear how the spread works for others!

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Won! Woo!

I have a lot of fun entering various giveaways - they're a really interesting and exciting way to explore new sites, products and shops, but I didn't figure I'd ever actually win anything.  Well, surprise, surprise, because I just got notified that I won the second giveaway from Sharon's Cross Stitch Obsession.  I'll be sure to post pictures when I get it - and I can't wait to see these!  It includes 3 Halloween cross stitch kits, including one stuffed onament and a beading project.  Fun! 

Thank you Sharon!  This news made my day!

What's (Sorta) Cooking, Oct 25 - 31

Meals this week are going to be tricky - I am limited in what I can eat, and Deanna is grabbing food on the fly between drama practice and other extracurriculars.

I've decided not to do a menu 'plan' so much as just make a list of possibilities.  This is not going to be a greatly nutritious week, I fear. (grr)

Cooking / Prep Tasks this week:

1. Make bread with the artisan dough still left in the fridge.  Give one loaf to daughter Jackie, and freeze the other.  I need to find out how to freeze this dough... it's surely possible?

2. Slow cook a pot of beans.  Mash some for self.  Freeze the rest.

3. Make marshmallow ghosts.

Meal ideas for me (combo of any of these that sound ok)

1. Grits and soft boiled eggs
2. Cottage cheese and applesauce
3. Mashed beans
4. Mashed sweet potatoes.
5. Pureed soups
6. Smoothies
7. Yogurt and soft fruit.
8. Hummus
9. Mashed Potatoes and gravy.

Ho hum.

Meal ideas for Deanna:

1. Leftover Gulaschsuppe
2. Breakfast Burritos
3. Sandwich fixings
4. Salad - keep salad fixings in fridge
5. Homemade French Bread Pizza
6. Hot Wings and Fries

Also - individual portions of veggies are in freezer to be heated and added as I can manage to convince her to do so.

(This post shared with Menu Plan Monday)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Experiencing the Crone

Do you ever have an event happen in your life that is so bad - so mortifying - that you contemplate just hiding under your bed forever rather than have to explain it to anyone?  I've had a few - the latest happened on Friday night, and it was bad enough that I've spent a good part of the last couple days crying great big helpless sobs of loss and humiliation.

And the worst part is that I absolutely know the story is going to seem funny in that horrible "I know I shouldn't laugh but..." way, and I am no where near at the stage where I can laugh along and don't want to be that person sobbing, "It's not funny!!!" either.

So.  Backstory - a few years ago, I shattered my hip.  Bone deterioration from the medications used to treat life long rheumatoid arthritis was the likely reason why it shattered and certainly the reason why it failed to heal over the next couple years.  For a long time, I was basically being held up by pins, while the  surrounding bone had the consistency of cold oatmeal.  Sitting down, standing up, walking, laying down... it was pretty much nonstop torture, so onto the waiting list for a hip replacement I went.

None of which has anything to do with what I'm about to say, other than to lead up to this: To have replacement surgery, you have to be entirely free of any and all infection or the implant will be rejected.  And another wonderful side effect of RA is a constant and mostly losing battle with infections of all sorts - to include gum disease.   When my time came up to have the surgery, I was presented with two choices:  I could either go back to the bottom of the list, extending out the pain I was in for another year or more while we focused the battle on getting my mouth healthier, or.. we could lose the teeth, which would immediately get rid of the gum disease too.

I was in my early 40s, and it felt like the last shreds of my dignity were being stripped, but here's the thing - I was at the point of having to scream a little everytime I stood up, just to work up the guts to do it.  Dignity was already pretty much out the window.  So I had my teeth pulled, mourned my ego dying a thousand humiliating deaths, and got on with things.

Today I walk with a cane and I have to be mindful about how I walk to avoid falling over and dislocating the hip - but that pain is a thing of my past.   My full dentures are managable, although I still carry some embarrassment that I have to have them so early in life.

And yea... they're funny.  Face clattering teeth in gag shops, videos of sky diving grannies losing their teeth, joke after joke after joke about unappealing old women with their teeth in a jar.  I know the humor is there - and I'm even a little embarrassed that I don't find them so funny, like I shouldn't be sensitive about this.  It's just a piece of who I am.

One of the downsides of dentures (and there are so many) is that the upper plate covers your palate which can sometimes lead to choking when you eat - and that's what happened Friday.  Michael and I were out for dinner, and talking while we ate, and a bit of food hit the back of my mouth wrong, and I choked, and wound up losing a bit of my dinner into my napkin. VERY embarrassing - so I was already in total shame mode when I took the napkin to the bathroom to empty it out... dumped the contents into the toilet and flushed...

.. and realized my lower plate was no longer in my mouth.

Pausing for laughter and its ok - it's a horrible funny thing.

There was then the awfulness of talking to the manager and asking if they might call a plumber to snake for it, and being told yes, but then having to ask her a couple times if she wanted my info before it occurred to her to pretend they were going to really do anything.

Nope... they are gone.  They are enormously more expensive than I can afford and they're gone.  I am now on a liquid/soft food diet (and just for fun, this all happened just after I'd stocked up groceries with nice, chewy things I can't eat) until I can get a replacement - and I can't even call a dentist until Monday.  Michael has offered to pay what they cost - which means we're going to need to rethink some of the near future plans we'd happily been discussing when all this happened.  I have no idea how long after I see a dentist it will be before I have the replacement.

And I feel so stoooopid about this.  And ugly and worn out and old and there is a little girl inside me stomping her feet and yelling that I'm not OLD enough to be this old.

I was first diagnosed with RA when i was 19, before my first child was born, so for me, the Crone has been present within me since before the Mother made her appearance.  There never has been that mythical logical progression from Maiden to Mother to Crone.  And you'd think by now I'd stop being embarrassed by her - to rise up in power and grin my toothless grin and feel strong.  Sometimes I do.  And then sometimes, I do something dumb and get to live with the result, and just feel old and tired.

Crone moon, indeed.  She's got a wicked sense of humor, that one.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blood Moon or Wise-Crone Moon

The Full Moon before Halloween - tonight's full moon - is for me the real entry into the Halloween/Samhain season.  This moon focuses on the Crone aspect of the Goddess, and on the death portion of the life cycle.  Samhain itself is the third harvest - Lughnassagh in August is the first, the Grain Harvest.  The Autumn Equinox, or Mabon, is the Fruit and Vegetable Harvest, and finally, Samhain is the Meat Harvest, which very much highlights Death.  This is why it regarded by many pagans as the end of the year - with Death, the year ends and becomes fertile soil for the year to come.

I think with the Blood Moon it is important to remember our role in the cycle of life and death - to be mindful in our eating practices to respect those animals that die so that we might be nourished.. To keep in mind that even those who are vegetarian impact life and death - we can't avoid it, but we should at least notice our place in it.

This isn't a very easy thing to contemplate - it's hard not to just give up and think it's all too much to pay attention to, and I am very far from living as mindfully and respectfully as I want to. But it is something that hunters of old knew far better than we do - that the needs that sustain our lives always, always, result in death for something else, and so it's a spiritual act to not waste what comes to us, or to engage in the hubris of thinking we are removed from the bloody, messy parts of life.

I do not engage in elaborate ritual - not because I don't like them, but simply because I never manage to get around to it.  But I do try to acknowledge the Full Moons and quarter and cross-quarter days.  Simple ways to acknowledge this one:


- Wear shades of red.

- Drink wine or cranberry juice with dinner.

- Decorate with cranberries, acorns, deer figurines, Indian corn, apples, etc.

- Burn red candles or cinnamon or dragon's blood incense.

- Chili, beef stew, and the like with corn bread are good meals for tonight.

- A meal that is culturally linked to your ancestry would also be good.


- Say thank you... offer a blessing over your meal today, thanking the life that was lost to provide you with this meal.

- Find out what free range and compassionately raised meat, dairy and egg options are available in your area.  You don't need to commit to it all the way all at once... just find out what's possible.

- Volunteer some time or money at a local animal shelter.

PLAY (with children or not):

- Hide and seek is a good name... flashlight hide and seek by the light of the moon is better!

- Draw pictures of what you're thankful for, particularly those things that are sacrificed for your well being

- Tell ghost stories by the light of the moon.  

- Read Tarot or practice other forms of divination... it is said that the veil between this world and the spirit world will begin to grow thinner from tonight through to Samhain.

What simple ideas do you have for observing this moon?  Feel free to add suggestions in comments!

Reusing Classico Spaghetti Jars

A very brief word here - I'm probably the last person in the universe to know this, but it's exciting to me anyway.  I've been saving up Classico spaghetti sauce jars for years - they're pretty canning jars, except not wide mouthed.

Mind you, I don't actually can, but they're just far too pretty to throw away - I use them as on-the-fly flower vases, to store food in the fridge or freezer, name it.  Right now, I've got a bunch of them down in the baseent holding pysanky egg dye from a craft project last spring.

I've been come across a couple simpler canning/pickling projects I'd like to try, but really, really didn't want to have to buy a whole lot of stuff just to try it.. well... Ball (the canning supply company) sells lids that fit the Classico jars - the lids with the separate flat insert so you get a good seal.  I got a box of 12 for less than $2.00, along with a widmouth funnel that fits the opening. 

It just makes me happy to know I can get full use out of those jars for such low cost.  Now to decide what I'll do with this!

Five Question Friday - Oct 22

1. Who is the better cook, you or your spouse?
There is no spouse. The former spouse thought he was better - he was wrong.  Future spouse is a good cook - but I'm better, mainly by virtue of needing to figure out how to feed a large family of people who don't like the same things.  Together, we're great. :)

2. How often do you talk to your mom?
My mother is gone now, so I don't talk with her at all anymore.

3. Are you adventurous in the kitchen or stick to the recipe?
Adventurous.  Unless I really understand the dynamics of a recipe, I'll try to follow it fairly closely the first time - but then I start modifying like crazy.

4. Is your second toe longer than your big toe?

5. Do you dress up for Halloween? (Bonus question: What will you be this year?)
I used to.  I'm at an odd age now where my last remaining at-home child will be out with friends, and no one trick or treats in our neighborhood so dressing up would be a bit silly.  But after its just me and Michael, I totally plan to make Halloween our annual party day complete with dressing up.  What I'll be this year is alone (awwwwww......).


Yesterday was full of food - first, I made the Baked Oatmeal again, this time with steel cut oats.  Michael said he definitely favors the chewier, more substantial nature of the steel cut.  I like it very much too (and good thing, because there is a ton of it left over - I made too much), though I have to say there was something good to be said about the creamier texture of the rolled oats.  Also, this time, I think I didn't add enough flavor - it needed more fruit, more cinnamon, more maple syrup. I really want to try this with fresh banana slices baked in.  No big issue on the flavor, though - top with fruit, with more maple syrup, with yogurt, and it's back to awesome.

It's also a ridiculously filling start to the day, so why oh why did Michael and I feel the need to stop by the Chinese buffet other than that we do every time he's visiting out this way?  It's really a good buffet - the food is always fresh and well tended, and there is a large salad bar.  I tried to keep to the salad, but there were also a few fried tidbits on my plate.

So maybe NOT doing dinner would have made sense - but Deanna had asked for Gulaschsuppe, and it's one of my favorites too.

Back in the 70s and again in the 80s, I lived in Germany.... the first time with my parents, the second time with my ex-husband.  He is the one that got me hooked on Gulaschsuppe, because he was on the search for the Best Bowl of Gulaschsuppe Ever.  Pretty much, every restaurant there has it on the menu, and every version is different.  To me, it is essentially Germany's chili - and like American chili, each pot has individual characteristics, and everyone fervently swears that theirs is the RIGHT way to do it.

I developed this over several years of trying to make it, because after we left Germany, it was very hard to come by.  And I fervently swear that mine is the RIGHT way to do it.  Unless you'd like to add chopped bell peppers to it - which I don't, but there are variations with peppers and without potatoes.   The no-potato versions are just wrong.  Those potatoes soak up all the wonderful saucy goodness.

If you look carefully next to the bowl, you'll noticed a nice little crusty roll.... that's the second bit off my artisan bread dough, and it was every bit as easy as promised...  fluffy inside, crusty outside and just perfect for soaking up the broth without falling apart.  So in spite of all this being much more food that I normally eat in one day, I'm very happy!

A note on the beef - I pick what's at a good price.  You needn't choose the priciest cuts if you're going to give this time to simmer, as the wine will tenderize it.  So use what appeals to you, but do give it the time it takes to develop the flavors.

Also, a note on the wine - ever notice those little six packs of individual serving bottles of wine they sell in the grocery store and wonder who buys them? I do - for cooking.  One bottle is usually just about right to use in a meal when wine is called for, if you don't want to have to drink up the rest of an opened bottle.  Keep a six pack of red and a six pack of white on hand and you've got a jump start on some flavorful meals without wasting wine.  If you don't normally cook with alcohol, don't worry... this entirely cooks off.  It just provides some tenderizing and depth of flavor to the meat.  If you want to go really traditional, you can splash a bit more on top of the soup at serving.. that won't cook off, though.

Serves 4-6

2 T. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lb beef, cubed into bite sized pieces
2/3 cup red wine
6 med thin skinned potatoes, peeled and cubed into bite sized pieces
32 oz beef broth
3 bay leaves
2 T. caraway seeds
1 T. hot Hungarian paprika
2 T. sweet Hungarian paprika
1 small can tomato paste

Cook onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion is caramelized.  Scrape pot and add beef, browning well .. the crusty bits add to the flavor. (Don't burn.)  Scrape the pot again and add the wine, which will deglaze the pot - let it simmer on low until the wine has almost entirely evaporated.

Add broth, bay leaves, caraway seeds and paprikas, and let simmer for as long as you've got time for... I like to give it at least an hour, but less is fine. 

Add potato cubes and enough water to cover plus about 1 inch above, and bring to boil.  When potatoes are tender, add tomato paste, lower to a simmer and let cook for about another 1/2 hour. 

Serve with crusty rolls.

One final word on the paprika - this is NOT the stuff labeled paprika in the spice jars that you sprinkle on deviled eggs for coloring.   Hungarian paprika is readily available in grocery stores in tins and for best results you want both.  If you want less heat, lean harder on the sweet paprika than the hot.  The hot is really hot - in experimenting with this, I've made it mild enough to feed a toddler, and hot enough to peel paint.  We like ours hot but not deadly - adjust yours to your own preference.

(shared with Strut Your Stuff Blog PartyShow Off Your Stuff Blog Party, Flaunt It Friday, Follow Me/Follow U, Frugal Friday, and Susieqtpie's Recipes 2)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gross Halloween Make Up Effects

Warning - even watching this being applied, it still looks gross and gory - if that's not your thing, don't watch!

Michael's friend Alex (well, mine too, but we met through Michael) is not only one of the founding members of DC's Molotov Theatre, as well as a founding member of Lean and Hungry Theatre (doing Shakespeare as radio-plays), he's also Molotov's special effects guru. One of the first time we went over to visit with him, he was excitedly brainstorming how to stage someone being disemboweled. (We later saw the effect done on stage and.... dude is GOOD at what he does)

Just in time for Halloween, the Washington Post asked him to demonstrate how to do gory make up effects, and Alex happily zombied up one of their reporters.  In case you want to try this at home, here are the instructions... they're pretty much ridiculously simple and unnervingly realistic looking.

First, How to Look Like Your Face is Getting Ripped Off:

Then, How to Make a Deep Bloody Gash:

One final note for those still reading - as I noted, Lean & Hungry Theatre have been getting some good airtime with WAMU (DC'sNPR station) and will be performing MacBeth live on radio from 6-7pm Halloween night.  If this is of interest to you, WAMU streams its live broadcast, so it will be listenable even for those of us out of area.   Their version of Twelfth Night is available through iTunes, and I found it very listenable even without visual cues.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Artisan Bread - First Try

I am having a day where every time I even think about focusing on something, five other somethings fight for attention, leaving me scattered and feeling harassed and overworked without actually managing to do anything at all.

(HAH! She said! HAH, interrupted FOUR... times just typing that comment.)

So consider this a placeholder post which will hopefully be filled in with something coherent later. (Or not, but them's the breaks)

Yesterday, I tried the basic recipe for 5 Minute Artisan Bread as explained by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.  I've been wanting both of their artisan bread books for awhile now, but I want to follow the process a few times to make sure I can do it, and to find out whether or not I WILL do it.

The first question is answered with a big fat yes - I physically can manage the stirring process that's needed much much better than my arthritic hands can cope with kneading.  The dough did what it was supposed to...rose, fell, made bread that tasted and looked like it was supposed to.

There will be a picture here of the dough rising up like the Swamp Thing later.  There won't be any picture of that first loaf of bread, though - we dove into it like maniacs and it was pretty much gone before I realized I need to learn to assertively yell, "Don't touch that until I get a picture!" without sounding like a crazy person.

It was good.  Now I am letting the remaining dough sit for a couple days, because I want to fairly test how it alters as it ages - instructions say it will last 2 weeks, taking on the characteristics of sourdough.... we'll see!

If you want to give this a go, Mother Earth has a comprehensive article with the basic recipe and a few variants.  For my first try, I used bread flour and 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and I am looking forward to trying more whole grains.   Time will tell if I stick with this enough to justify th expense of the cookbooks... but I'm tentatively thinking that I can get back to regular bread making using this method.

N is For... Nash

Ogden Nash, that is.  A wonderful, whimsical, nonsensical poet who made some of the silliest rhymes I've ever seen.  Mr. Nash passed away in 1971 when I was ten - an occasion of great sorrow for those of us children who saw him as the second pillar of great literature (along side Dr. Seuss, of course) without realizing at all the enormous quantity of adult silliness he had also penned.  "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" used to sound quite salacious to the 12 year old mind, and imagine that - it comes from the same source as "The camel has a single hump, the dromedary two.."

Today, though I'm going to share a longer Ogden Nash poem with a bit of spooky shiver in it:

A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor

The hands of the clock were reaching high
In an old midtown hotel;
I name no name, but its sordid fame
Is table talk in hell.
I name no name, but hell's own flame
Illumes the lobby garish,
A gilded snare just off Times Square
For the maidens of the parish.

The revolving door swept the grimy floor
Like a crinoline grotesque,
And a lowly bum from an ancient slum
Crept furtively past the desk.
His footsteps sift into the lift
As a knife in the sheath is slipped,
Stealthy and swift into the lift
As a vampire into a crypt.

Old Maxie, the elevator boy,
Was reading an ode by Shelley,
But he dropped the ode as it were a toad
When the gun jammed into his belly.
There came a whisper as soft as mud
In the bed of an old canal:
"Take me up to the suite of Pinball Pete,
The rat who betrayed my gal."

The lift doth rise with groans and sighs
Like a duchess for the waltz,
Then in middle shaft, like a duchess daft,
It changes its mind and halts.
The bum bites lip as the landlocked ship
Doth neither fall nor rise,
But Maxie the elevator boy
Regards him with burning eyes.
"First, to explore the thirteenth floor,"
Says Maxie, "would be wise."

Quoth the bum, "There is moss on your double cross,
I have been this way before,
I have cased the joint at every point,
And there is no thirteenth floor.
The architect he skipped direct
From twelve unto fourteen,
There is twelve below and fourteen above,
And nothing in between,
For the vermin who dwell in this hotel
Could never abide thirteen."

Said Max, "Thirteen, that floor obscene,
Is hidden from human sight;
But once a year it doth appear,
On this Walpurgis Night.
Ere you peril your soul in murderer's role,
Heed those who sinned of yore;
The path they trod led away from God,
And onto the thirteenth floor,
Where those they slew, a grisly crew,
Reproach them forevermore.

"We are higher than twelve and below fourteen,"
Said Maxie to the bum,
"And the sickening draft that taints the shaft
Is a whiff of kingdom come.
The sickening draft that taints the shaft
Blows through the devil's door!"
And he squashed the latch like a fungus patch,
And revealed the thirteenth floor.

It was cheap cigars like lurid scars
That glowed in the rancid gloom,
The murk was a-boil with fusel oil
And the reek of stale perfume.
And round and round there dragged and wound
A loathsome conga chain,
The square and the hep in slow lock step,
The slayer and the slain.
(For the souls of the victims ascend on high,
But their bodies below remain.)

The clean souls fly to their home in the sky,
But their bodies remain below
To pursue the Cain who each has slain
And harry him to and fro.
When life is extinct each corpse is linked
To its gibbering murderer,
As a chicken is bound with wire around
The neck of a killer cur.

Handcuffed to Hate come Doctor Waite
(He tastes the poison now),
And Ruth and Judd and a head of blood
With horns upon its brow.
Up sashays Nan with her feathery fan
From Floradora bright;
She never hung for Caesar Young
But she's dancing with him tonight.

Here's the bulging hip and the foam-flecked lip
Of the mad dog, Vincent Coll,
And over there that ill-met pair,
Becker and Rosenthal,
Here's Legs and Dutch and a dozen such
Of braggart bullies and brutes,
And each one bends 'neath the weight of friends
Who are wearing concrete suits.

Now the damned make way for the double-damned
Who emerge with shuffling pace
From the nightmare zone of persons unknown,
With neither name nor face.
And poor Dot King to one doth cling,
Joined in a ghastly jig,
While Elwell doth jape at a goblin shape
And tickle it with his wig.

See Rothstein pass like breath on a glass,
The original Black Sox kid;
He riffles the pack, riding piggyback
On the killer whose name he hid.
And smeared like brine on a slavering swine,
Starr Faithful, once so fair,
Drawn from the sea to her debauchee,
With the salt sand in her hair.

And still they come, and from the bum
The icy sweat doth spray;
His white lips scream as in a dream,
"For God's sake, let's away!
If ever I meet with Pinball Pete
I will not seek his gore,
Lest a treadmill grim I must trudge with him
On the hideous thirteenth floor."

"For you I rejoice," said Maxie's voice,
"And I bid you go in peace,
But I am late for a dancing date
That nevermore will cease.
So remember, friend, as your way you wend,
That it would have happened to you,
But I turned the heat on Pinball Pete;
You see - I had a daughter, too!"

The bum reached out and he tried to shout,
But the door in his face was slammed,
And silent as stone he rode down alone
From the floor of the double-damned. 

 (shared with ABC Wednesday)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

HOO Are YOU? Oct 19


1.What was your favorite meal growing up?
I really loved pork chops as a kid - but they don't make pigs the way they used to.  The chops growing up were juicy and tender and full of flavor and the bone was cut like a little T-bone that I'd gnaw on to get every last bit of flavor.  Pork nowadays is leaner  and bland and it takes a lot of doing not to have it be sawdust dry.  So,along with far too many fresh veggies, pork has to get relegated to something that tastes a lot better in memory than it is in reality anymore. (Sign #1743 that I am getting old)
2. What's your favorite month? 
Actually... October!  It is full of color, good smells, a really fun holiday and is generally cool and crisp - and it's like the gateway month to the whole holiday season.
3. What store is most represented in your wardrobe?
Hah... it's been a long time since I shopped for clothes for me.  But, there's a whole section of work clothes from Dress Barn in there - I don't wear them much but hey are taking up space.

4. How many times do you go to the movie theater each month/year?
Maybe about four times a year?
5. Fill in the blank- I've never been able to ___________________
Whistle.  How stupid is that?  That and brain surgery.

Stitching Finish - Quilt Motif Ornament

I wanted something simple to stich without constant referral to a graph for the trip out to Michael's home and back, so I looked through my old magazines and chose Log Cabin Ornaments from the November 2001 issue of For the Love of Cross Stitch.  I was able to stitch up most of it in the car going each way, with just a bit more time spent while I was out there on it while relaxing.

The pattern is pretty, but what really had me interested was the way the ornament was put together - the magazine showed it stitch on perforated paper - I actually used perforated plastic because that is what I had on hand in white.  You stich the graph twice, with the second one only using the corners, and when it's done, cut it so that the corners are tabs which can then be inserted into each other to hold it together.  The article suggested finishing by gluing craft paper to each section before putting them together - instead, I cut one star shaped piece of red craft foam, which allows the 'petals' to stay slightly three dimensional, while framing off the stitchery nicely.

I really like the way this turned out - and already want to think out some other small motifs that could come together like this.  Wouldn't a Wheel of the Year look nice this way?

Shared with Tuesday Tag Along, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Toot Your Horn Tuesday, Anything Related Tuesday, Take-a-Look Tuesday, and...  


Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig

We made it back home around 7:30 last night, after a brief stop off at Subway to grab dinner like substances.  The evening was spent catching up with Deanna and allowing Frankie Cat to climb all over all of us and yell at us for leaving her (she was visited for longish periods every day by each of my daughters, but that is NOT THE SAME!)

Other than watching some TV and enjoying my comfy chair (I do so miss you, comfy chair, when I am away...), I didn't do a whole lot - today is going to have to be a work day.  Michael's here on this side until Sunday, but he'll be telecommuting at least part of the time during the day, and meanwhile I am seeing to-dos everywhere I look.

So... it's time for a list - the week's chores (may be more than a week's worth here):

1. Bills - get all the money sent to where it needs to go.
2. Groceries
- make out list
- order from Angel Food Ministries (deadline today)
- shop for fill in items
3. Call Daughter #2 in Nebraska
4. Call Daughter #1 in Maryland

1. Clear out refrigerator and clean
2. Mop kitchen floor
3. Clean out microwave

Dining Room
1. Straighten
2. Pack of box of serving items I can do without for a bit for Michael to take back.
3. Vacuum

Living Room
1. Straighten
2. Dust
3. Vacuum
4. Tidy bookshelves

1. Clean
2. Medicine cabinet - clean out!

Bedroom - longer term project here.
1. Work on declutter - ugh.
2. Box up clothes I don't wear for giveaway.
3. Tidy/sort bookshelves

1. Make Bread Dough
2. Slow Cook a Pot of Beans for the Freezer
3. Inventory Freezer Items

1. Finish off quilt ornament (backing and hanging loop)
2. Start (mumble mumble) ornament for exchange.
3. Make a felt ornament.
4. Print out a couple Halloween printables to display

Monday, October 18, 2010

What's Cookin' This Week - 10/18 - 10/24

Today I head home and we should arrive just about dinner time tonight.  Deanna will be heading home too, getting there around the same time we do, and that should be interesting because we'll all be hungry and no one in the mood to leap into the kitchen and cook.  So, probably I'm picking something up on the way but I'm not sure what yet - has to be cheap and my next act after feeding everyone will be to quick like a bunny shoot out utility payments..woo hoo!  This getting back to my regularly scheduled life isn't sounding so fun yet, is it?

So here is what my post vacation brain thinks we're having for dinner this week:

Mon - 18th (Meatless?? Maybe...)
Take out something or another

(UPDATE:  Subway sandwiches, so no Meatless Monday this week.  Not sure if I'll make that up later this week or not. But we're home now!)

Tue - 19th (Trying a New Recipe)
Spaghetti with Meat sauce, Garlic Bread,  Salad

Early in the day, I'll be making up a batch of "5 Minute Artisan Bread" - first time trying that method so here's hoping it works, because that's going to wind up being the garlic bread for dinner.  I really, really want it to work.

After dinner I'll be soaking some steel cut oats to try that baked oatmeal again - Michael and I want to compare flavor/texture between steel cut and rolled oats.

Wed - 20th (Fend for Yourself)
Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal

Dinner: Fend for Your Self (if there are leftovers with the spaghetti - otherwise I'll figure something out.  Deanna may or may not be here - I never know on Wednesdays)

Thu - 21st (Trying a New Recipe)
Chicken 'pot pie' Crepes (crepes with a chicken and veggie filling), Salad

Fri - 22nd (Make it Fast - going to the movies tonight)
Chicken and Salad Wraps, French Fries

Sat - 23rd (Breakfast for Dinner)
Breakfast For Dinner: Pumpkin Pancakes, Cranberry Syrup, Bacon, Scrambled Eggs
Sun - 24th - Soup Sunday
Gulaschsuppe, Rolls

I'm not entirely satisfied with this game plan - no meatless nights at all, and a bit heavy on the beef, so this may wind up edited once I get home and can inventory what I have already.

(shared with Menu Plan Monday)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Social Butterfly, That's Me!

I do believe I've been out doing more this past week than I usually do in 3 months!

- Molotov on Friday was a lot of fun.  That was the first anthology set I'd seen of theirs... it had a sort of dark burlesque feel to it, with a narrator of sorts dressed as a hobo clown (I think) and playing a wooden organ in a box - I don't even know how else to describe it, but it was very cool.  He was really ribald and crude (and funny).  There were three short one acts in between his bits that involved murder and sex. (The one in the middle was like a demented Love American Style sketch).  I remember thinking toward the end of the last one act that this had not been nearly as gory as I thought it would be... that sex was the theme of the night more so than graphic violence - when the punchline of that act happened and...ew.   It was a fun night out, but I do like their actual plays better.

- Yesterday morning, we made this Pepperoni Lasagna to take over for a neighborhood party next door - this is the second year they've done this and I really love it - it's becoming very unusual anymore for neighborhoods to know each other, much less hang out together.  We had people there that have lived in the neigbhorhood since the 1940s, and others who moved here this year.  Lots of good food, good blues music being played by the self appointed DJ and an all-round good time.   On request, Michael hauled over his outdoor firebowl to set up there, and that kept things cozy in spite of the cool temperature.

- But we couldn't stay long, because we had tickets to go see Craig Ferguson (I know!) up at Warner Theatre - we took the Metro subway in to avoid parking issues and had a great time.  That man has got some energy, boy!

- When we got back home around 11pm, a few diehards were still relaxing around the firepit so we rejoined them, and got to bed very late.

- But, up early because we're going to church this morning, and it's Soup Sunday.  So I'm about to make Curried Apple Soup... yummm....

- Rest and Relaxation this afternoon.  Tomorrow, I have some doctor's appointments, and then its time to drive home.  Such a lovely visit this has been.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween Horror Theatre

I am strongly hoping tonight's plans become a regular Halloween month tradition for us - we're attending the Molotov Theatre's latest performance Blood, Sweat, and Fears III: The Red Velvet Curtain.  Molotov is a DC theatre troupe that specializes in Grand Guignol theater - ranging from recreations of the 19th century French plays that comprised the movement, to original horror tales, to adaptations of classic plays (notably Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus) that emphasis the graphic nature of the plot.. no exit stage right or plunging the theatre into darkness to hide what happens - this is the theatre if Freddy Kruger were in charge.

Michael and I attended our first performance at Molotov to support a friend who is one of the founders - but we've returned, sometimes wearing grungy clothes to avoid any possibility of damage from randomly flying stage blood, because they are really good.  NOT for everyone.. and that's ok, because not everyone would fit in the small stage.  But in spite of the deliberate intent to shock and appall, there has also been great humor and moments of heart wrenching depth in every play we've seen so far.  BSF III will be my third, and Michael's fourth, and I'm really looking forward to, even while being intimidated and worried that I might spend half the evening with my hands over my eyes.

Molotov is NOT for kids or for the squeamish (well, unless you like having your squeamishness challenged) - but if you're in the DC area and wanting to experience something off the beaten path, I highly recommend it.  That the troupe is composed of some really fine actors with a creative streak when it comes to props doesn't hurt at all.

It's very strange - I'm not a fan of graphic horror movies - either they seem to just be about trying to make me throw up with a bad plot, or I forget to even watch the movie and start just trying to analyse how the effects were handled.  And yet, there on the stage, not 10 feet away, I forget the props and the unreality of what's happening, and the experience is much more intimate and real.

I keep most of my Halloween doings to the whimsical and spooky rather than the dark and bloody - but this is my one happy exception to that!

In case you're interested:

Blood, Sweat, and Fears III: The Red Velvet Curtain
Oct 15 - Nov 13
8:00 pm Wed-Sun
Tickets: $20.00
1409 Playbill Cafe
1409 14th Street NW, Washington, DC

Five Question Friday

1. What is your favorite Halloween candy?
I like the snack sized chocolates - 3 Musketeers, Mounds, Reeses, etc.  If it's chocolate, it's good.

2. Do you fold your socks?

I roll them up and then turn the roll inside the cuff of one of them... is that folded? (That's in theory.... there is also the infamous 'sock basket' where all the mismatches live)

3. What is something that you wish you had been warned about?
No one warned me that just about the time you feel wise enough to be listened to, everyone else thinks you're half way to feebleminded.

4. What is the most significant difference between you and your significant other?

I have children (and grandchildren) and he doesn't - this leads to each of us sometimes having to explain outlooks and cultural references that seem totally normal to the other one.

5. What are three words you would use to describe yourself? (And, just for fun...if your significant other is around, ask him/her what 3 words they would use to describe you!!)


wise (or brilliant)

Little wonder why I love him, eh?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Italian Vegetable Strata

Tonight, I'm making Italian Vegetable Strata based on this recipe. Looking it over, the Italian comes from the seasoning, and some resemblance to antipasto.... enough that  I wish I'd had some banana peppers and kalamata olives to add.  But that'll be for next time!

This time, I did this:

1 cup diced carrots
1 pint fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 zucchini, sliced
2/3 cup milk
3 slices multi-grain bread, cubed
1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
5 eggs
2 cups shredded cheese (I used a blend of cheddar and jack)
4 T. Italian bread crumbs
2 T. Italian Blend Mrs. Dash seasoning mix

 Lightly saute the onion, garlic and carrots in a little olive oil, then add mushrooms and zucchini to the pan with a small amount of water, cover and steam for a few minutes.  Vegetables should be softened but not mushy. Let cool, so that they don't curdle the eggs when they're combined.

In a small bowl, combine bread cubes and milk and combine to soak the bread.

In a large bowl, whisk 5 eggs until fluffy, then add the steamed vegetables, the artichoke hearts, the seasoning, and about 1/3 of the cheese.  Fold in the bread cubes and mix gently.

Grease a baking dish and sprinkle with 2 T. crumbs, then turn vegetable-egg mixture into the dish.  Top with the remaining cheese, then sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs.   Cook for an hour at 375F.

Now I can't speak for this yet - it's still cooking, but it looks like it's going to taste great.  We're going to have salad and a bottle of wine with this tonight.  I'll come back - hopefully with pictures - to let you know how it went!

Update - We ate 2/3rds of this, brainstorming all the other fillings and flavor palates we might use - it was wonderful!

This one definitely goes on the list of meatless meals to feed people who are suspicious of eating meatless... you truly do not notice the lack.

This is a winner and going in the regular rotation for me and Michael. (Deanna would not eat it - she doesn't like zucchini or mushrooms... for her, I think I might try a blend of sweet potato, black beans, corn and a bit of chipotle.)

I love recipes that turn out to be 'master recipes' and this is one of those.

(this entry shared with Simple Lives Thursday,Show Off Your Stuff Thursday, Flaunt It Friday, Frugal Friday, Friday Link Party, Fantastic Frugal Friday and Friday Favorites)

Rainy Thursday

Today is just sliding out from underneath me - it's raining hard and very dark and grey, and my lovely internal barometer (thank you, rheumatoid arthritis!) is clanging the achy alarm.

It's supposed to be the only day like this - then back to partly sunny and cool, so no complaint here, just an observation... days like this I just want to hibernate.  Michael's beagle, Sadie, agrees... she gave me the 'what, are you nuts??' look when I offered to let her outside and has now - with great effort - woken from her nap on the bed to come keep me company on the couch.

In a little bit, I'll pull myself together enough to put together a vegetable frittata for dinner tonight - I'm so very happy that Michael shares my interest in increasing meatless (but not vegan) meal nights, and in trying new things.  After a million years of trying to accomodate a half dozen differently-picky eaters, this is a very nice change of pace.

For now, I'm enjoying stitching a little quilt Christmas ornament and listening to Radio Riel play an eclectic mix of Canadian music in honor of their Thanksgiving this past Monday.   I'd go make myself some tea, but that would involve unburying from under the dog, and she looks too cozy for that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Funky an Fabulous Fabric Pumpkins (Giveaway)

Before plunging into the Christmas season, Deck the Halls is offering a wonderful giveaway of three fabric pumpkins.  She's got all sorts - Halloween themed, harvest themed, some rustic and some fun and whimsical - I'd really love to have a collection of these, and I bet you would too.  Head over and comment before the 15th to get in on the fun!

These solid colored ones are my favorite - they'd look wonderful from early September all the way through November.  Which ones do you like best? Go let her know!

Tarot Tuesday - Tarot and other Pagan Motifs in Cross Stitch

Today, I just want to point the way to a nice little collection of freebie cross stitch charts that portray simple images pertaining to each of the Major Arcana.  Celtic Tarot in Cross Stitch has been around for a very long time, and also includes some minor arcana designs - but they're pips only so not very interesting.

Even if Tarot is not your interest, many of these designs might be of interest - there's a sprig of Oak and Mistletoe for Yule, a Maypole for Beltane, a Greenman, as well as unicorns, rainbows, etc.  I think they'd not only make excellent ornaments or cards, but they're just the right size to stitch a decorative bag in which to store your favorite Tarot deck or other small treasures.

It can be hard to find Pagan cross stitch graphs - it's easier today than it was 15 years ago but it still takes some searching. has a pretty good collection of various pagan symbols worked in cross stitch, I especially like the triple spiral.

On the commercial side, Gryphons Moon has the best collection I've come across... many of these aren't overtly pagan, but rather lean to the Celtic/fantasy side, including Yule stockings and some really pretty seasonal artwork. 

Now, while I'll looking around to see what else is there I just tripped over this sight that has a few free graphs including some really cute sugar skulls for Day of the Dead - not tarot, not even necessarily pagan - but super cute for those still decorating for Halloween or Samhain! They're small and quick to stitch up.  And when you work your way back to the main section of this site, you'll note that Stitch Witch has a pretty large collection of pagan and goddess stitchery in various styles, and graphs are available by mail or as .pdf downloads.

Still pretty light on Tarot - specific charts but this is enough to keep the pagan stitcher's fingers busy.

M is For... Marvelous Medieval Merriment and Marketplace!

A month ago, I'd never been to a single Renaissance Faire in my life - though I've been wanting to go for a long time.  In the past three weeks, I've been to two - the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival with my family, and the Maryland Renaissance Festival with Michael this past Saturday.

Both were fun, though the Maryland Festival was at least four times larger, and much more crowded (we were told many times throughout the day that it was the most crowded day in the festival's history).   It was so big and so crowded, in fact, that we only saw a couple performances... it was very difficult to get seats, unless you came early and camped out... and that seemed a waste of the day. So of the two, I have to say I enjoyed the performers at the Pittsburgh Festival much more (because I got to SEE them) - especially The Washing Well Wenches.   That said, Maryland had the better food (not great - frankly, Renn Faire food is pretty much just bad amusement park food with some turkey legs thrown in for fun) - mainly because it had better beer and mead.

The Market offerings at each were marvelous to behold - amazing period outfits, crafts of all sorts.  It's simply incredible how much creativity there is out there.   I grabbed business cards where I could for later perusing  - and fair warning, these people are wonderful crafters but some are badly in need of some website design help.  Push past it and look at their wares:

Moresca Clothing and Costume  - these period pieces are absolutely stunning.  Very well made, beautiful to look at with intricate touches that make each piece a work of art.  If I could, I'd wear this stuff every day of my life (I'd also need to live in a cardboard box to afford it, but truly the craftsmanship that goes into these make the  prices totally fair.  I talked Michael into getting a shirt from them.. maybe over the next few years we can slowly build up a pair of costumes.

Wolfstone Kilt Company - another wonderful clothing shop, specializing in - of course - kilts, but also with a large number of medieval and renaissance women's wear.  Potomac Leather (a wing of the same company) also has a wide variety of accessories and leather apparel.

Tall Toad - Headwear for the Upwardly Noble - Had a great time in this shop... first, I want every bit of headgear they carry.  second, I want to figure out how to make every bit of headgear they carry. At the very least,  I see one of their headband snoods in my not too distant future.

Mythical Designs - leather sculptured into faery masks, hair clips, ornaments and more.  These are fascinating and very lush.  I would love to have one of the greenman masks for my wall. (I'd love to have any of the masks... but I wear glasses, so masks are not for me)

Art of the Wood - laser cut wood pieces - plaques, steins, boxes.

Signs of Spirit - wood carvings, mostly of spiritual symbols. Michael really liked these a lot and we wound up with two - a Unitarian Universalist chalice and a triple moon with a triskele in the center.

Wheat Goddesses - I think I must have spent a good half hour looking over each of these in the shop - incredibly well made corn dollies and figures, each with a story behind them.  To say I want one is a ridiculous understatement.  Wheat braiding is on my list of things I want to learn to do - and now I have motivation to do so.  Meanwhile, I neeeed this kitchen witch.

Captain Thom's Chili Pepper Company - Just what it says... chili peppers, hot sauces, spices... If you're a chili head, this looks like a winner.    These were offered at a herbalist's shop that didn't have a card I could take.  We picked up some gingerbread tea and some culinary lavender from there.

As far as the fair itself went, we stayed until the sun set and it was suddenly very dark - lights out, everything shutting down, and it turned into a walk through the woods to get back to the car.  Somehow that seemed like a magical end to the day's merriment.

(this entry is linked to ABC Wednesday , and Welcome Wednesday)