Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just call me Penelope . . .

As I was unraveling my crocheting project for, oh, I dunno . . . the fifth or sixth time, my son remarked that I reminded him of Penelope, Odysseus' wife.  Yes, I have a son that uses Homer as material for his smart aleck cracks.  Penelope was known for her faithfulness while she waited for her husband to return from fighting that pesky Trojan War.  For three years, she weaved a shroud for the eventual funeral of her father-in-law, Laertes, and claimed that she would choose a new husband as soon as the shroud was completed. By day, the queen weaved her shroud and at night, she unraveled what she had done, until eventually she got caught. 

There's one obvious conclusion to be drawn from this:  Penelope was not a blogger.  Fellow bloggers would not have let her get away with it for so long without wanting to see the progress . . . so, just to make sure no suitors for my hand get angry with me, here's what I've done so far . . .

But suitors beware: My husband and I just celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary last week. Our marriage shroud is still being crocheted. Every stitch has been a labor of love, and there's no end in sight for this project . . . you'd better find yourself another Penelope . . .

Meanwhile, it's that time of year again.  Boxes in my Living Room can only mean one thing:  My son is going back to college soon.  There goes that little catch in my breath . . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tea Bread Tuesday: Spiced Peach-Carrot Bread

Just a moment please, I'm having an epiphany . . . This . . . . is . . . . amazing!

Imagine little bits of peaches bursting in your mouth, making every bite so incredibly juicy . . . and then the carrots and spices adding layers and layers of flavor . . . and then the pecans . . . ah, the pecans . . . a little crunch . . . a little more flavor . . . my taste buds are having a party!

From Southern Living Magazine (July 2011), here's the recipe:

¾ cup chopped pecan
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups peeled and chopped fresh, ripe peaches
¾ cup freshly grated carrots
2/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.  Cool 15 minutes.
  2. Stir together flour and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl; add peaches, next 4 ingredients, and toasted pecans, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Spoon batter into a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes.  Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring and because it has fresh peaches in it”

—Alice Walker

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Crochet . . . organize . . . unravel . . . repeat . . .

I won't show the crocheting project today . . . it's too depressing . . . I've started over twice, unraveled rows several times . . . my neck hurts . . . I have a cramp in my left hand . . .  I had to do something else . . .  Let's see . . . 

Oh, yes, I'll restack the plastic bags in the cabinet . . .  It's one of those pesky jobs that needs to be done . . . like NEVER!

And by the way, those yellow cardstock sheets taped to the bottom of the cabinet were put there by my son who's into feng shui . . .  I have no idea what it means, but I'll have to ask him about balancing my chi to see if the crocheting improves . . .

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Revisiting an old hobby . . .

I fell in love with this afghan from Pottery Barn.  Doesn't it just scream cozy?  It made me think of cuddling up on a chilly afternoon with a fire burning in the fireplace and a cup of hot cocoa steaming by my side . . .  Then I looked at the price tag:  $79!  “Are they kidding me?” I thought.  “I could do this myself for a fraction of the cost!”

And so it began.  With delusions of grandeur running amok, I've spent $66.25 in yarn and pattern books.  Then, because I didn't know how to crochet a cable stitch and had actually never really learned how to read patterns, I decided to take a class at our local Joann's - for an additional $35 (I tried YouTube, but in this instance, it wasn't helping).

Let me tell you, it's been a while since I have been challenged like this.  I have been so frustrated with this stitch!  I can't begin to count how many times I wanted to give up!  I cursed Pottery Barn and the day I saw that throw!  But there's always an epiphany:  I had been practicing the pattern on the yarn that they gave me when I took the class - a chartreuse green color - and I just wasn't “feeling it” - I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong, or visualizing the end product. 

I decided to get a skein of white yarn and try again.  It began to get easier.  For one thing, I felt calmer - I only thought to give up once every 10 minutes or so . . .  And finally . . . Voilà!  Yes!!!  Victory is mine!!!  I feel like a football player doing a silly touchdown dance!  Check out this perfectly executed cable turn!

Now let's get this party started!  I've chosen a 100% cotton yarn that feels wonderful on my skin.  It's not very stretchy, but, oh, it's a dream to work with . . . and did I mention how great it feels?

Even looking at the pile of skeins makes me happy!  And do you notice the label?  What could be more delicious than working with sugar and cream? 

There will probably be some shrinkage . . . and I've added to the length and width of the original pattern so another trip to the store for more yarn is in the works . . . who knows how much this afghan will truly cost me in the end.  But how do you price satisfaction . . . ?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Carmela's Salad Redux . . .

The original Carmela's Salad is still my favorite, but here's proof that a good thing can be modified in many ways, and continue to work beautifully . . . or, in this case, deliciously . . .

This time, the pièce de resistance is salmon, baked simply in the oven with a little lemon juice . . .  Steam some asparagus spears and red potatoes . . . boil some eggs . . .

Make a lemon vinaigrette, or stick to olive oil and vinegar . . .

Keep it simple.  As Ina Garten would say, simple food has the most style . . .

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Watermelon Tablescape

Homage to watermelon . . . one of the joys of summer!

“When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat.”
                                                     —Mark Twain

I'm joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for the fabulous weekly tablescape blog party.  Please stop by and visit.  Be amazed at the talent of these bloggers.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Precious blessings

“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!”
 —Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The labor of democracy: Happy 4th of July!

I found this little book on the bargain rack at Barnes and Noble.  It was marked down to $4.99.  Four dollars and ninety nine cents plus tax for access to the combined wisdom of our Founding Fathers - men of the Enlightenment, all too human, but wise beyond their time.  At a leisurely pace, and with many interruptions, I was able to read it cover to cover in a couple of days.

My wish, as we celebrate our nation's independence, is for more people to read for themselves the content of this little book; for more people to stop trusting self-serving politicians or bombastic commentators, and seek out truth, wherever it may lie.  And then, armed with the truth, change themselves. 

“This above all:  To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
—William Shakespeare