Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh Joy!

I don't just love to cook, I LOVE to cook! Thanksgiving dinner is one of my favorites and I plan for it months in advance.

Today, H was off on a road trip with his friends from the Veteran's Club so I got busy and started cooking and baking right away early in the morning.

In the time H was off on his road trip, I put together a crock pot full of Hungarian Cabbage Rolls for dinner, baked three pumpkin pies, two of which will be donated to the Veteran's Club for their annual Thanksgiving Dinner for veterans who have no family nearby and would otherwise be alone for the holiday.

Another pumpkin pie and a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie will be for our dinner on Thursday, along with Cranberry Ginger Sauce, Cranberry Orange Relish, and bacon cornbread for the Cornbread, cranberry and pecan stuffing which I'll put together on Thursday morning along with a traditional bread stuffing.

Am I pooped? You bet. If only Sluggo could take my picture instead of the other way around. You'd probably find me in the same position in front of the wood stove!

Last night at 4:50 pm, the International Space Station flew directly overhead and that baby was hauling, well, you know what. I tried to get a picture of it, but it was going so fast and I had the camera in zoom, so this was the best I could do:

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance for another shot before it was out of range. Oh well, at least I saw it!

Off to put my feet up now.

Life is good but tired.

Hugs, Giddy

Monday, November 24, 2008

15 Bean Soup

Yesterday dawned bright and beautiful, but boy, the wind was howling and the temperature was bone chilling cold. Not having anywhere to go and nothing better to do, I decided it was a great day to do a bit of baking and cooking. I needed to bake a couple of wheat loaves to dice up for Thursday's turkey stuffing, so I got that going first thing. The recipe I used was from my favorite bread book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day". If you haven't checked out Zoe Bakes site yet, it's well worth a peek.

The next item on the agenda was a favorite - 15 bean soup.

To begin, head to the well stocked pantry to assemble the necessary items for the soup.

This is only one small part of the huge pantry we have downstairs. H and I awhile back decided we could not depend on our shrinking 401K and now deal in "grocery futures". We delight in finding a deal at the grocery store and stock up accordingly. Loss leaders in the weekly ads catch our eye if it's something we normally use.

Anyway, I digress. Having loaded my arms with ingredients from the pantry, I headed back upstairs to prepare the mirepoix.

Classic mirepoix consists of equal amounts of finely diced celery, carrot and onion. I used 1 carrot, 3 stalks of celery and a large onion. My personal preference is for only 1 carrot as I feel that too much of it makes the soup seem a bit sweet.

The beans were carefully picked over, rinsed and soaked the night before.

An integral part of this recipe is careful supervision by one or more cats, although the boys were more interested in playing "swat" with each other!

The veggies and about 4 minced cloves of garlic were sweated in about 2 TBSP of olive oil just until soft and the onions glassy.

Add three cans of low sodium chicken broth, one can of petite diced tomatoes, 2 bay leaves and 1 tsp red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender - about 1 hour or so. Needless to say, this pot simmered on the wood stove til the early afternoon. About 1/2 hour before they are done, add 1 TBSP each of dried oregano and basil and a TBSP of chopped fresh rosemary, pepper to taste, and salt if you think it's necessary. Now, I could stop right here, but H thinks he's missing something if he doesn't have meat in his dish, so I chopped up one half of a smoked sausage and added that for his Highness.

The resulting potage was scrumptious and just the thing for a cold November Sunday lunch while watching a great black and white, classic movie on TV.

In addition to the cooking and baking, I've been keeping my hands very busy with my knitting. I finished a hat, scarf and mittens for H's Mother, a hat for his sister, a pair of socks for me, two hats for some young folks and I started on a new shawl, but ran out of yarn, so it will have to be put aside til next week when I can get back to Bangor.

Some days, I just don't seem to have enough hours in my day!

Life is very good!

Hugs, Giddy

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Snow!

Last evening, we had another beautiful sunset that gave the house a warm, rosy glow.

The whole house was bathed in the last golden rays of the evening sun


This morning, we awoke to snow! We were not expecting any here on the coast so it was a bit of a surprise. (although, I learned years ago not to be surprised by weather, having lived with Mr. Meteorologist for over four decades!)

It was a light, feathery blowing snow, heralding the advent of the winter season, just a wee bit early for my taste, but it is lovely. By the time it ended, we had over an inch.

The porch pumpkin had a snow toupee this morning!

And I guess it will be time to replace the autumn door wreath pretty soon!

Oh well, not to worry, there's plenty of wine in the cellar, a few scented candles glowing and a toasty heat coming from the wood stove.

Life is Good and Warm!

Hugs, Giddy

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rx - A prescription for a cold and the budget

A cold is a nasty thing. The stuffy nose, the hacking, the sneezing, can't sleep. The best thing I've ever found for an old fashioned cold is a good, old fashioned bowl of chicken soup, and I don't mean one of those found inside a red and white can!

Yesterday, H and I were out doing a bit of grocery shopping and I saw they had whole chickens on sale for .89 cents a pound. I picked up a small one for $3.50 and after getting back home, proceeded to throw it into the old stock pot along with a laundry list of other ingredients. I'm sure every one has their own favorite recipe, but here is mine. It includes lots of flavorful antioxidents and fresh or dried herbs.

Cover the bird with cold water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, add:

3 whole carrots, peeled
3 stalks of celery
1 large onion stuck with 3 whole cloves
a large handful of fresh parsley
2 large sprigs of fresh sage
1 Rosemary branch
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
10 pepper corns
3 bay leaves
1 tsp turmeric (antioxident and gives the soup a beautiful yellow color)
3 or 4 slices of fresh ginger (also a great antioxident)
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 - 3 hours (I do this on the wood stove - saves propane).

The aroma filling the house is marvelous and will soon put you into a deep relaxed state while waiting for the soup.

After the requisite amount of time, let the bird cool and pick off the meat. Feed the scraps to the crows - hey! They gotta eat too, ya know.

Now, take the breast, cut it into large dice and make a great Curried Chicken Salad for tomorrow's lunch or dinner. This bird's breast made enough for two meals of chicken salad for H and me.

There was enough meat left for plenty in the soup and then some left over for chicken enchiladas later on this week.

Chop the veggies and with the meat, add to the chicken stock......

Voila! You now have a wonderful, nourishing soup, guaranteed to unblock your stuffy nose and warm your belly. Not only that, but you have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, two meals of chicken salad and enough for the enchiladas. That's a lot of meals from one small chicken!

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Oh, and let's not forget that the "boys", Spike and Sluggo also got a treat in their dinner bowls!

Life is Good with soup!

Hugs, Giddy

Thursday, November 20, 2008

November sunset and other stuff

Yesterday was one of those rare moments when I looked out the living room doors and saw an amazing sight! The sunset was so dramatic with the sun shining a bright pillar of light up into the heavens. I must have taken a half dozen shots, but this one was the best. This is the time of year when the sunsets are spectacular and I keep my camera handy during the afternoon hours.

And, speaking of afternoon hours, that's the time the boys have a snooze. Spike likes the back of the love seat and Sluggo prefers to lay on the tiles in front of the nice, warm wood stove. Gee, do ya think they're spoiled????

Yesterday was also our day to run to the Ark Animal Shelter to pick up two cats, a small Pomeranian and a Yellow Lab to transport them to the vet for various and sundry procedures. The little Pom whose name was "Chubbs" was in a crate and yapped the whole trip while Tiana, the Lab sat patiently in the back seat of the Jeep. Nary a peep out of the cats. Normally, we have quite a chorus in the back.

I always take some baked goodies for the ladies at the Ark. After all, they deserve something for all good deeds they do. I took them a plate of the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies I made.

A busy day, indeed!

Oh, I also found a really neat site. It's called Pete Bakes and is really interesting! Check it out when you have a free moment.

Life is Good

Hugs, Giddy

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trip to Reno

Nope, this was not a gambling junket to the biggest little city, but rather a visit to H's mother who resides in Carson City.

Warning, this rant is LONG!

I'm not one to whine much, but I have to tell you that the trip out and back were horrendous! We began our trip by leaving home at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. The trip to the Bangor airport takes about 45 minutes and even longer in the dark. For those of you who live in populated areas where there is light from stores and street lights, you cannot even begin to imagine how dark it is up here in northern New England. Fortunately, we had a full moon to help brighten our way.

The flight from Bangor to JFK went off without a hitch and seeing how we had a 2 1/2 hour layover in JFK, we were not worried in the least about making our connection in Salt Lake City. Oh, foolish country bumpkins! About 1 hour before takeoff from JFK, we were apprised that there was a hydraulic leak in the aircraft which would need to be repaired before we could take off. The watch and wait began in earnest. We were finally able to take off around 11:30 a.m. and our flight from SLC was due to takeoff at 2:56 p.m. Mountain Time. We landed with 10 minutes to spare, however, we were in Concourse C and our gate was in Concourse B. H and I ran as fast as we could, but alas, we missed the flight by two minutes. TWO FREAKING MINUTES!!!!!!!

The next flight to Reno was at 8:30 pm. so we sat, cooling our jets for another five hours. By the time we made it to Reno, we had been up for over 21 hours. Gratefully, we had made reservations at a hotel five minutes from the airport. We arrived at the Atlantis hotel/casino and walked in to a wall of horrible tobacco smoke in the casino, checked in and got to our room as quickly as possible. The saving grace about this place was that it only cost us $100 for the three night stay. After about two more hours to settle down, we finally got some sleep after being up for 24 hours. I don't remember ever staying up that long, even in my teens!

The view from our 9th floor hotel window was nothing but lights across the city. There was a neat fountain below us that changed colors.

In keeping with the Atlantis theme, the lamps in the room had dolphins on them.

The visit with H's Mom was enjoyable and we were able to take her to a couple of appointments, go grocery shopping and help out a bit around her house. Mom has macular degeneration and is not able to see much, but with a bit of help from a magnifying device, she was able to enjoy a few photos and a video of her great grandchildren.

Friday found us gratefully winging our way back home. The flight from Reno to Los Angeles was beautiful and I managed to get a photo of the sunrise over the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the window of the plane.

After having been patted down in Reno because I won the jackpot and was chosen for the random "extra" security screening, we landed in Los Angeles only to find that we had to take a bus to the Delta concourse and this meant having to go through security once again. Sigh.

You would have thought we were Ma and Pa Kettle wandering through the LA airport. Everything seemed so big, bright and loud! H and I just hunkered down til time for our flight to JFK, which proved to be uneventful until time to land. The landing gear was down and were were just about to touch down when the pilot hit the throttle and took us straight up! Seems the plane in front of us had not yet cleared the runway. Soooo, off we took, went back around and got back in to line for another attempt at landing. Twenty minutes later, we were finally on the ground, but could we deplane? NOOOOOO! They couldn't get the walkway to connect up to the plane, so there all us 250 passengers were, standing in the hot airplane, sweating like little hogs about to be sent to slaughter. Fifteen minutes later, they finally found someone who could operate the darned thing and we got off the plane. Of course, we deplaned at Gate 11 and had to get to Gate 23, so once again, off we ran because our plane was due to leave in a very short while. I'll spare you the rest of the sordid tale, but suffice it to say, we got back to Bangor at 11:30 p.m., tired, hot and hungry, but eternally grateful to be back safe and sound in our beloved Maine.

Note to self: Do not, I repeat, do not ever book us through either JFK or LAX again!!!!

The boys were happy to see us again and after getting the wood stove up and running, we were all warm and happy to be together again.

And as Dorothy says, "There's no place like home"!

Life is truly good.....

Hugs, Giddy

Sunday, November 02, 2008

It's All About Cats!

Now that Samhain (Halloween) is past us, it's safe for our black cats to show their faces again. Our lovely felines have unfortunately been the brunt of some very sadistic and untrue tales down through the ages. They have long been vilified as "familiars" to witches and unduly endowed with fantastic, supernatural powers. These vitriolic untruths were unfortunately perpetuated by early Christians who were trying to convert Pagans to their way of thinking.

Gratefully, our beautiful babies are now not only accepted in to our society, but have become the most popular pet in the nation. Please believe me, I am a dog lover, as well, having been the friend to four wonderful mutts over the past 40 or so years. My most memorable dog was a poodle named Desi (Short for Silver Desiree) and she was undoubtedly the smartest animal I've ever known. She lived to be 18 years old, and to this day is sorely missed and talked about all the time. She was truly one in a million friend.

However, time marches on and today's animal friends are our adopted Spike and Sluggo. Today, we feature Spike, our Halloween kitty whose holiday we just celebrated. He graciously consented to a photo feature for today's blog. So without further ado, we present His Royal Majesty, Spike!

His Royal Highness, Prince Sluggo, just quietly looked on and couldn't believe His Majesty would lower himself to sit still for this flagrant display.

Oh, Life is Very Good With our Furry Friends!

Hugs, Giddy