Let Me Tell You About The Time When I Tried To Visit My Neighbors And Got Lost In The Forest…

I know.

The title is long.

However.

The title isn’t nearly as long as my trip through the forest this weekend.

It all began with a dream.

The dream of an official housewarming party.

A week ago, I ordered lovely purple invitations with matching thank you cards and stylish envelopes and purple address stickers.

Oh yes, my friends. I stepped it up for this event.

I figured, since we were going to be here for the rest of our lives, because this is the most beautiful place on the face of the earth, and I am enamored with the idea of living here, and dumbfounded by the fact that I am allowed to actually live here, I wanted to do things right from the very beginning.

The first step was getting the invitations, so I ordered official paper invitations with purple celtic designs and RSVP phone numbers, and the whole deal.  They are beautiful, and friendly and darn near professional.  I was very impressed with myself, quite frankly.

The next step was simply to deliver them to my neighbors.  This is where things got tricky.

Now, if you have been following along, the fact is that we do live in a forest.  So our “neighbors” are far and few between.  But, I figured it would be best if I hand delivered the invitations so I could put a face to a name before anyone showed up to the party.  Besides, you also have to figure that people who move to a forest aren’t people who are particularly interested in extroverted events, such as parties.  We enjoy our solitude among the cedars, the silence of the forest and a decent amount of isolation at the ends of our ginormously long driveways.

Speaking of driveways…

In terms of length, our driveway really isn’t that bad.  It is a little walk across the land, and the length and width of it is all dirt, twigs and moss.  Yet, you can still see the street from the top of our little hill.  That, in our neighborhood, is at least something.

Other driveways along this road are not only a little long, but longer to the point that I had to pull up Google Earth and use the scale to find out exactly how long they actually were.  You certainly can’t see the houses from the road, nor from the middle of their driveway.  It isn’t until you are within a stones throw of the house when you see the mossy roofs peek out from behind the blooming Japanese Maple trees which veil these inhabitants from the world.

I began my journey to deliver my enveloped, official housewarming invitations on late Saturday afternoon and I did not return until well after dinner time.

I set out with three children, a stack of envelopes and a vision.  A vision that meeting people hidden in the woods was not only a good idea, but an extraordinarily fantastic idea which I should carry out.  Me, and my ridiculously introverted self, would go boldly forth to bond with my neighbors on this island as we hide ourselves from the modern world.

Phase 1:  We began with easy targets…I mean neighbors.  The houses flanking us are relatively close, with equally sized driveways.  We accomplished these two houses with ease, and with zero human interaction.

Phase 2: The houses that supposedly were across the road from us, although we had never actually seen the houses.  We began down the first very lengthy driveway.  Down a straight, around a bend, over a little hill, another bend and then suddenly…the mossy rooftops.  I looked at this house, which was clearly from a John Grisham novel, that overlooked the water with giant storm windows letting us look straight through the belly of the house into the churning, grayish waters that lay on the other side.  The forest was silent and the sky was layered with thin sheets of fog, which loomed over us until dusk.

This house was way out of my league.  I don’t know what I was even doing, standing on their doorstep with my flimsy purple invitations quivering in my hands.

My eldest had already rung the doorbell, and there was a thin, shaky, slightly older man who came to the door.  Confusion was across his face, staring at the wandering troupe who disturbed his John Grisham home.

“Hi!  I’m Tamarah, and we just moved into the green house across the street.  We are having a housewarming party in a few weeks, and we would love it if you were able to come!” I said, as confident as a wolf, as I held out my invitation to him.

Please take the invitation.

“It’s nice to meet you! I’m Tim.  Oh, you just moved in?  To the old Feally’s home?”

“Yes, we have been there for a month and I didn’t want to wait too long until I met our neighbors.” Big, friendly smile.

“That sounds lovely!  I look forward to coming! Thank you for walking all the way down here to drop this off!”

“Wonderful!  We will see you then!”

I swear, on all my stack of original Nancy Drew books, that is exactly how the conversation went.

With a bolster in my step, I walked all the way down the mossy driveway back to our road.  And on to the next extremely long driveway.

And the next extremely long driveway.

And…the…next….extremely…long…driveway.

By this time, two of the three children had fallen away and retired back to our house.  I couldn’t blame them at all; we had already visited two beaches and hiked at a lake, all on our island, earlier in the day, so we were a little worn out before then.  It was just me and my oldest, keeping the journey, and the dream, alive.

However, at this point we were tired, too, and were standing at the doorstep of an empty house and wondering how many more houses there were to visit…when suddenly…

We spotted a little trail that cut through the forest.  This little trail joined these houses together!  What luck!!

We hurried across the little trail and cut through the forest to the next house.

And the next house.

And the next house.

By the time we had reached June and Victor’s house, we were almost out of invitations; but we had met so many of our very friendly neighbors, it was exciting!  I spent time being invited in and given email addresses, and hearing about the history of the neighborhood, and what they do and what we do.  Despite my original hesitation for this venture, it was becoming amazingly successful!

We approached June and Victor’s house with ease, and explained our housewarming party ideas and we would love to see them there.

“Where do you live?”

“We live in the green house a little down from the mailboxes.  In the old Feally’s house.”

“The green house…?”

“..Yes…it is next to the mailboxes.  When you go down the road, and turn right…”

“Turn right…?  How…did you get here?  Did you walk all the way down the driveway to get here?”

I explained how we had originally gone down many driveways already, until we found the little path that cut through the woods.  And that was our brilliant plan, and how we got to their house so quickly!

Her husband was listening from the other room, and came in to see us in person.  Both of them began chuckling.  And then they began laughing.

“Well, I don’t know where the green house is on your street…because you aren’t on your street anymore!  …Do you know where you are?”

Suddenly, I didn’t.  I was simply going down driveways to deliver invitations to our neighbors…wasn’t I?

Not only were they not our neighbors, but we were on a street a mile away from my house.

That’s right folks.  A mile away from my house.  In another forest.  On another street.  They had never even driven down my road in the whole 20-something years they had lived there.

I can’t even begin to tell you how pleasant they were.  Victor got out his iPad, and we charted out what happened on Google Maps.  I showed him where we lived (“I live in this clump of trees”) and he showed me where they lived, and where we were (“We live in these clump of trees”).  June was extremely helpful and walked me over to her neighbors house, to make sure I actually got there, and said I needed to talk with her because she actually had a neighborhood network already in place, and I should get connected with her.  After that (she wasn’t home, but I got to meet her very friendly husband), I got out my iPhone to plot a course on the map to get home.

Ugh. All the way back up to the main road, then over the main road, then down my road, turn…and three doors down and I was home.

We were a little tempted to call Ben and have him pick us up by then.  Our little journey had already taken an hour and a half, and I was more than tired.  Plus, we were losing sunlight rapidly and there are no streetlights out in our neck of the woods.

We began walking, again, farther down the road.  I was dreading the walk, just because it would take so long and I was walking in thick wellies.  My feet were killing me.

As luck would have it, I actually recognized the woods we were coming upon…we had actually cut across these woods before, on another day, and I knew the other side led to our street!  We had to chance it: into the woods we went.

I love those woods because they are quiet, peaceful, and there is a random meadow with gigantic sheep in the middle of it.  I love those sheep.  They look downright confused when they are approached by people interfering with their sheeping activities.  Slowly, they each walk over to the fence and stare at us.  They softly pat their hooves on the ground as they track us passing by their meadow.  They have nearly inaudible bleats between themselves, trying to figure out where we came from, until off we go on our merry way, leaving those poor, confused sheep to their sheeping business.

Now, at this point you would think the story would be over.  You would think that we would walk across these woods and find the end of our road, and go home with an amusing story to tell.

You would think that, as we thought that.

Until we discovered an old man tending a huge bonfire in the middle of the woods, all by himself.

I don’t know what would happen, but if I was that man, I would wonder why two people just appeared at his isolated bonfire out of nowhere.  I need to disarm this situation, right quick.

“I am sure there are more orthodox ways of introducing ourselves,” I begin, “but we are at a loss at the moment to those ways.”

(That is really what I said.  In real life.)

His name is Keith, and he is the father of Neil.  He is just visiting from Japan, and after listening to our journey, which he thought to be quite amusing, he directed us to the house to meet his daughter-in-law, Linda.

I met her and her husband, and was invited inside to partake in homegrown chicken eggs and freshly canned jam to take home, got to witness their Roomba and listen to their 3 little kids having a very boisterous bath time upstairs, led by grandma.  They told me about things they discovered on the island, and how wonderful it has been living there.

We gave our last invitation to Linda and Neil, whom I am thoroughly looking forward to getting to know better, and headed back home.

It was a long trip, but it was such an interesting trip.  What astonishes me is how all these very different people can live hidden away in the forest, and I got to have the delight of meeting them all on my rambling, mossy, lost-in-the-woods adventure.

It is amazing what I find behind these trees, all the time.

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I Upgraded My Electric Pressure Cooker, And I Am Kind Of Geeking Out.

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Within this box is my new pressure cooker.

My old one was a little old, and I certainly used it until it’s dying breath.  The green LED display was half working, and the timer was shoddy.  Sometimes it counted down, sometimes it got up to pressure…but there were too many times when I put in a chicken for 25 minutes, and came back to partially cooked chicken.

And that just ain’t flying on my kitchen turf.

So, one of the things to leave behind was my beloved pressure cooker.  I didn’t know what I was going to replace it with, and I wasn’t sure what other models were out there.  The last model I had was the cheapest I could find, and it did the job pretty well for the number of years I had it.

But times have changed, and I have a better understanding of what electric pressure cookers can do now.

And, baby: I’m driving a Ferrari this time.

 

Before we get too far into this, I have a bunch of recipes for electric pressure cookers over at Tamarah.org!

Here is one of my favorites, Down Home Chili.

Okay, let’s go!

 

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Check this out.

This is the Elite…Platinum…Multi-Function Digital Pressure Cooker.

HooDoggy is this nice.

Specifically, I got the

MaxiMatic EPC-808 Elite Platinum 8-Quart Pressure Cooker

and I ordered it on Amazon. (*linky!)

 

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This baby has so many more buttons and features than my last one.

The last pressure cooker I had only had “high” and “low” and “time.”  This sucker has “hours” and “minutes” and a whole bunch more stuff.  Looky!

 

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So this is the inside.  The pot is removable, which is nice for cleaning.  Also dishwasher safe.

 

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This is the release valve, which is super swank.  The last one I had was just a jiggle top.  This one has a whole labeled dial, and it doesn’t look like it will fall apart!  Bonus!!

 

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This monster is huge.  But it has to be, because it is 8 Quarts.  The last one I had was 6 quarts, and I could fit a whole chicken in there, if I squished the legs down.  This one is HUGE, and I LOVE it.

I have been thinking for a while now that I needed to get another pressure cooker, because the one pot was kind of covering a meal for all of us…but the little people are getting bigger and starting to eat more.   One pressure cooker meal for 7 people was not really cutting it, entirely, anymore.  But with this one, I think I can do one meal again!  Bigger is definitely better for us.

 

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This is starting to warm up, and it just looks like “The Future.”

What I want to point out is how many features there are on this futuristic machine:

Reheat. Beans. Brown Rice. White Rice. Ancient Grains. Stew. Poultry. Pork/Ribs. Soups. Beef. Potatoes. Desserts. Veg/Fish.

It also has a Delay Timer!

I am so in love with this.

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This is what it looks like when it is closed and warming up.

Very quiet, very safe.  The outside isn’t warm to the touch, and the lid is locked.  This means I don’t have to worry about the kids being around it, or knocking it off or getting hurt.

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It is now up to pressure and that is when the timer starts!  I set it for 10 minutes just to get it going.

I was very impressed with how quickly it came to pressure, and how accurate the timer was.  Both were spot on.

 

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Okay, so after I played around with it enough, I went ahead and made dinner with it.

And if you thought I was messing around, then you just don’t know how I work.

First meal: Corned Beef!

Now, normally Corned Beef takes around 8-9 hours on low for a Crock Pot.  But that isn’t how electric pressure cookers work…we work in minutes, not hours.

So I put the Corned Beef in, added 6 cups of water and the seasonings, and set the timer for 55 minutes.

And walked away.

It came up to pressure very quickly, sealed and cooked for exactly 55 minutes.  When it was done, it beeped a few times and I came back to let the pressure release.

And what came out…?

 

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This lovely dish!  Perfectly cooked.  Not soggy, not raw, not mushy.  Just a perfectly cooked roast of Corned Beef.

 

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We enjoyed this meal thoroughly  🙂

 

Now, just to finish this off…here are some of the cooking times for different foods.

This will give you a better idea of how long it takes to cook meals.  Not in hours.  In minutes.

And then you can go buy one on Amazon and change how you ever cooked food  🙂

 

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*I wish I was getting paid for these reviews, but I’m not.  I just sincerely believe that good, wholesome food, from scratch, can be an awesome and uncomplicated experience for everybody.  

Rest Assured, The Journey Will Take You Somewhere

“A person who can’t bear to share their habits is a person who needs to quit them.”  -Stephen King

 

This morning I was reading a book review in the Seattle Times of Gretchen Rubin’s new book, “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives”

In her book, Rubin focuses on our habits and how they create our identity, which is an interesting idea.   She asserts that “we have the inherent power to start good ones and stop bad ones, but we are surprisingly loath to do so.

Since we have moved, most of our normal routines are gone.  We don’t have places to go weekly, we don’t know many people around here yet.  Our weekly habits are definitely different, but the change in our daily habits have changed just a little.  For instance, I wear a heavy sweater all day now, which is something I didn’t have to do after February in California.  I have also been wearing Ben’s socks every day because my feet are cold/freezing, and this is a very different habit than my previous barefooted life in warmer climes.

Our food hasn’t changed much, thanks to the consistency of Costco and our already rather set diet, but where we eat out has.  Instead of hitting In-n-Out, we now hit Jake’s Pickup, which is found in a Chevron gas station and run by a previous head chef who thought it was deplorable that people on-the-go are stuck with useless fast food instead of helpful nutritious food…and I’m not kidding, this guy is where it’s at.  His tuna sandwich alone, made from sashimi grade ahi, is the best tuna sandwich I have ever had in my life.  I have talked with the Sous Chef about finding the best gluten free bread recipe for them, since they make everything in house.  We love this place, and we love what they’re doing.  They are changing how people see food on-the-go, and they are making the small corner of the world they have to control, a better, brighter, healthier corner.

Habits are habits because they don’t change, though.  That is the entire purpose of a habit: you can rely on it to be consistent.  You can rely on the habits in your life for hourly, daily, weekly …or lifelong periods of time.

But what if you leave your habit?  What if you walk away from it?  What happens next?

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)

 

Leaving a habit lets you look back and see it with new eyes.  Sometimes, if not most of the time, habits are a comfortable place.  They are usually a safe place, only because you can depend on the habit to always be there.  Leaving a habit changes the entire dynamic of your day, as well as the way you live your life because habits reflect your goals and values; even if they are bad goals and vacuous values.   If your goal is to be a good person, then your values will be entirely absorbed in making sure you only do good things in order to attain your goal.  The problem with this is that your values are supported by the habits you instill to reach your goal, which inherently revolves around the goodness of you.

Overall, it takes time and reflection to see how habits can be constructive, deconstructive or reconstructive.

How you can analyze your relationship with your habits is very similar to how to assess a healthy, or unhealthy, relationship:

In a healthy, constructive relationship, you treat each other with respect.  You listen to each other, and you communicate with each other.  You feel secure and comfortable with each other, and you can trust the other person with your vulnerability.  You take interest in each others lives, and most importantly you support each other.  That is what love looks like, in a nutshell.

 Nutshell Love.

On the other hand, an unhealthy and deconstructive relationship tends to have a more controlling, oppressive nature to it.  One side, or both sides, try to control or manipulate the other person.  They are not only not interested in the happiness of the other person, but they go out of their way to make them feel bad about themselves.  Instead of spending time with the other person, they make many excuses as to why they do not have time for them.  They criticize the other person for things they do, or who they are.  But worst of all, they use tantrums or threats to prevent the other from leaving.

How many habits do we have that  are, in truth, deconstructing us, that we could change “but we are surprisingly loath to do so”?

Although “we have the inherent power to start good ones and stop bad ones,” we continue on with habits that deconstruct us.  Habits that make us feel worthless.  Habits that are not interested in our happiness, and make excuses for why we don’t have time for ourselves.  And worst of all, habits that throw tantrums and threaten us when we think about leaving.

Listen.

You are not your habit.  Your identity is shaped by the habits you choose to accept, and you have the ability to choose healthy, constructive habits that actually reflect on your values and what you really believe.

 

“Habits are part of your identity,” Rubin said in a recent phone interview. “Changing them means changing a fundamental part of who we are.”

What is frustrating is looking back on habits you have left behind, and thinking that creating the same habits again is a good idea.  The amazing thing about changing is the opportunity to both look back on what you have done, and forge a new path ahead of you.  Even though the new path will be paved with stones hewn from past adventures, this new journey will still lead you to somewhere farther off in the distance; and that is the whole point of a journey.  To discover new corners of the earth, and of yourself.

What if change led to growth?  And yet…”Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

You can be assured that however it ends, the journey will always take you somewhere.

 

Today’s Forecast: Thunderstorms and Rant-Fests. Writers Are Weird.

I didn’t write all yesterday…

 

ALL.

 

YESTERDAY.

 

It feel like something is blocking up inside me this morning, and I am awful.  I am angry, depressed, irritated, unfocused and a mess of thoughts.

There are a million ideas that are crowding in my chest, bumping into each other and creating this grating thunderstorm that is building puddles of unusable material and generally eating away at me.

One whole day.  And this happens.

I have a notebook and a new gel pen next to my laptop right now, and I already have 3 pages worth of notes.  This is just silly.  Why did I not write yesterday??  I know better than this.

Writers gonna write.

“If George Washington Carver Invented Peanut Butter, Then Who Invented Jelly?”

These are the questions that keep us up at night, over here in the forest.

My daughter was doing her history lesson the other day, and she was learning about George Washington Carver.  I told her, in a very short and broad summary, that George Washington Carver was the man who invented peanut butter.

Now, the thing is, the longer story of George Washington Carver  is amazingly fascinating.  The reason why he focused on peanut crops, among other crops like sweet potatoes and soybeans, was because they helped to heal the nitrogen depleted soil that was almost useless after too many cotton harvests.

After graduating with a degree in agriculture, Carver began working at the University of Iowa, but it was a letter from Booker T. Washington that changed his course:

In April 1896, Carver received a letter from Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute, one of the first African American colleges in the United States. “I cannot offer you money, position or fame,” read this letter. “The first two you have. The last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve. These things I now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work – hard work, the task of bringing people from degradation, poverty and waste to full manhood. Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to be in your head.

Carver was determined to use his knowledge to help poor farmers of the rural South. He began by introducing the idea of crop rotation. In the Tuskegee experimental fields, Carver settled on peanuts because it was a simple crop to grow and had excellent nitrogen fixating properties to improve soil depleted by growing cotton.

 

It wasn’t an interest in peanuts that drove Carver, but it was filling a need in the South and helping farmers sustain their farms that motivated him in his career in agriculture….which is amazing stuff.  He was an amazing man who helped rebuild the nation (and I’m kind of a sucker for good history).


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Seriously.

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But, back to our history lesson:

After I summarized Carver’s works, she looked puzzled and asked, “If George Washington Carver invented peanut butter, then who invented jelly?”

I…have no idea. I kind of figured it was just a recipe that has been around forever to preserve fruits.

But there should be some answer out there…to Google!

 

Naturally, this is creating a few rabbit trails.

On one hand, there is a really boring story.  There is the general idea that jelly was acquired through the road of trades and commerce in the Far East: “Although, the exact date is unknown, the making of jam and jelly probably began centuries ago in the Middle Eastern countries, where sugar cane grew naturally.  It is believed that the returning Crusaders first introduced jam and jelly to Europe.  By the late Middle Ages, jams, jellies and fruit conserves were popular there.  The use of sugar cane to make jam and jelly can be traced back to the 16th century when the Spanish came to the West Indies where they preserved fruit. ” (link)

That is probably true.  But there is no good story in there, so I kept looking for any other theories on the origins of jelly. Lo and behold, I found one!

There is an epic tale of an esteemed Roman man who was stuffed with incredible self-discipline, curiosity, culinary intrigue, and loads and loads of money.

Which is helpful when you go around being a writer for a living…

In the first century there was a man named Marcus Gavius Apicius who published a recipe book, and this book included a recipe for fruit preserves:

The world’s first known book of recipes, written by the famous 1st century AD Roman epicure, Marcus Gavius Apicius, includes a recipe for quince jam.

Simple enough story.  Straightforward. Easy. But….

Who was this Marcus Gavius Apicius, though?

ApicioSo statuesque.

Marcus Gavius Apicius is believed to have been a Roman gourmet and lover of luxury, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius. The Roman cookbook Apicius is often attributed to him, though its impossible to prove the connection.

and yet,

Evidence for the life of M. Gavius Apicius derives partly from contemporary or almost-contemporary sources but is partly filtered through the above-named work by Apion, whose purpose was presumably to explain the names and origins of luxury foods, especially those anecdotally linked to Apicius. From these sources the following anecdotes about M. Gavius Apicius (hereafter called Apicius) survive: to what extent they form a real biography is doubtful.

Nevertheless, Apicius was an interesting dude.

Apicius dined with Maecenas (70 – 8 BC), Augustus‘s adviser: Martial, Epigrams 10.73. It is possible that Martial drew this idea from a facile comparison made bySeneca between Maecenas, cultural adviser, and Apicius, gastronomic adviser.

– Drusus (13 BC – 14 September AD 23), son of Tiberius, was persuaded by Apicius not to eat cymae, cabbage tops or cabbage sprouts, because they were a common food…

– Apicius was “born to enjoy every extravagant luxury that could be contrived”. He advised that red mullet were at their best if, before cooking, they had been drowned in a bath of fish sauce made from red mullet…

Apicius advised that flamingo’s tongue was of superb flavour…

 

 

Run Away!!!

– Based on existing methods of producing goose liver (foie gras), Apicius devised a similar method of producing pork liver. He fed his pigs with dried figs and slaughtered them with an overdose of mulsum (honeyed wine)…

and finally,

Having spent a fortune of 100 million sestertii on his kitchen, spent all the gifts he had received from the Imperial court, and thus swallowed up his income in lavish hospitality, Apicius found that he had only 10 million sestertii left. Afraid of dying in relative poverty, he poisoned himself…

 

It is, indeed, the Roman way.

 

What was most interesting about my little trip down the gastronomical legend of Marcus Gavius Apicius, was not the report of the lavishes of flamingo tongues; it was his perfect 5 course Roman meal plan:

  • Appetizer: Olive Caviar
  • Starter: Sweet Ham
  • Main Course: Imperial Chicken
  • Cheese: Herbed Cheese
  • Dessert: Honeyed Dates

 

Not much has changed in +2000 years…!

And so, without further ado…Apicius’ Quince Jelly Recipe:

 

img_7874Thank you to The Joy Kitchen for providing the recipe!

 

“The quince has played part in humankind’s orchard for centuries at least. The quince was Paris’s offering to Aphrodite, and Apicius’s ancient Roman cookbook contains recipes for stewing quince with honey.”

Quince Jelly – The Joy Kitchen
Makes about 3 to 4 half-pints

– Wash, remove stems and chop into 1/4-inch pieces:
            3 1/2 pounds quinces
– Place in a large heavy saucepan with:
            7 cups water
– Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, mashing and stirring frequently, until the fruit is thoroughly soft, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain through a jelly bag or a clean, doubled kitchen towel (I used a flour sack towel folded over on itself). Reserve the pulp to make membrillo, below.

– For each 1 cup of clear juice, add:
            1 cup sugar
– Stir in:
            2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

– Boil rapidly, stirring frequently, to the jelling point*. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Pour the hot jelly into hot sterilized 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a water bath for 5 minutes.

* Generally, the easiest way to tell you’ve reached the jelling point is when the liquid reaches 220˚F, but for quince, which contains a lot of pectin, you may want to remove it from the heat at about 218˚F. You can also use the quick-chill test. Put a plate in the freezer before you start making the jelly. As the liquid cooks and thickens, occasionally drop a small amount of the liquid onto the cold plate. Put the plate back in the freezer for a couple minutes. If, the liquid wrinkles when you run your finger through it, the liquid has reached the jelling point.

 

Who Are You? – Chocolate Covered Braaaaiiinnnssss

It is your monthly edition of “Who Are You?”!!

Are you excited??  Because I am excited.

It is a chilly, sunny day here on the island and I am kind of waiting for the sunlight to get a little more overhead before I go outside.  It is mid-50s all day, so bring a jacket.  And a scarf.  Apparently scarves are for more than just apparel…who knew?

/CA

On to the Chocolate Covered Brains!

 

What Is The Flavor Of Your Life?

Chocolate
Ben and I agree that this isn’t the right flavor.  It is actually Nutmeg.  You can put Nutmeg on anything and make it better, but you have to actually grate the nut, itself.  Be the nut.
Chocolate
The flavor of your life is chocolate! You are everyone’s favorite, most decadent treat because you’re gracious, compassionate and adventurous! You’re sweet enough to give anyone a toothache and just like chocolate, you have amazing taste and and really know how to go with the flow!

Do You Know Too Much?

MASTER OF ALL KNOWLEDGE!
I, indeed, know a little bit about everything.  This also means I don’t specialize in anything. Which is kind of irritating, but if you need to know whether or not penguins can be found in the Arctic, I’m your gal.  Unfortunately, I completely seize up when under pressure…so winning Jeopardy is out for me.
MASTER
Your mind is like a huge storage and you never forget anything! You love to learn and discover new things, and fortunately for you, you remember every detail of it forever.
You know how to pronounce and even spell Benedict Cumberbatch, you know what Capital city of Netherlands is and we promise, if you go to the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire game show – you’ll win!

Can We Guess Your Age By Your General Knowledge?

You are a mature & knowledgeable 55 year old!
I make too many fart jokes to be a “mature” 55 year old…
You
Based on your general knowledge, we guess that you are 55 years old!You are a mature person, well educated and creative, but you still have a lot to learn. Your life can be a little hectic at times as you try to juggle your career and family life, yet somehow you manage to do it.
You have accomplished a lot during your time on this planet, and we know that some of your greatest accomplishments are yet to come!

 

What Kind Of Smart Are You?

Science smart!
And yet I failed my Chemistry 1 class, and I will never fulfill my career as a marine biologist.  Hey, who wants to be a poet instead??  *raises hands*
Science
You have the thirst for knowledge that most people can’t even dream about!
You have a very developed brain, one that always craves for challenge.
Since you were little, you’ve always known that you were smarter than the people around you, but you were very modest about it. You used your wisdom to help others, challenge them and make them strive to know more.
Now that you are an adult, you use your brain to investigate life’s true meaning.

What is Your Brain Actually Good At?

Logical Brain
 I honestly wonder what the other options are…if anyone gets a different answer, let me know!
Logical
You have a logical mind! You notice patterns and are stimulated by your curiosity. You like to get to the bottom of things, and try to base your conclusions on solid evidence. You’re an excellent problem-solver.

 

Warrior
Naturally.
Warrior
You were a warrior in your past life! Your personality reveals a strength and fighting spirit that few can match. You’re strong, determined, dedicated, and willing to sacrifice for what you believe in. Your past life was very difficult and full of struggle, but you were incredibly courageous and achieved a great deal. There’s a fire within you that will take you far in life. You may have had some rough patches already in this life, but rely on your inner warrior because nothing can stop you! What do you think about your past life as a warrior? Let us know!

 

 

 

A Proper Irish Whiskey Recipe. You’re Welcome.

There aren’t many things that are better than a proper Irish Whiskey.

The story that I have heard of how Irish Whiskey got its name, is one night somewhere (I forget where, but it doesn’t matter) there were a bunch of people who were stuck at an airport after their flight was heavily delayed.  A few of them went to a restaurant in the airport for some dinner and drinks, but there was a huge storm and it was freezing so everyone was ordering stews and coffee to warm up.  The bartender felt bad for these poor souls who were stuck huddled in an airport, so he put some whiskey into their coffees to help warm them up a little bit more.

One of the diners tasted the coffee, and asked, “Is this Russian coffee?” The waiter smiled and said, “It’s Irish coffee!”

That’s the story I heard, and I like it so I’m keeping it.

Now. Irish Coffee was “invented” in Buena Vista bar in SanFrancisco.  We have been to this bar, and it is, indeed, very good Irish Coffee.

But you can make it at home very easily!  Here’s what’cha do:

Ingredients:

  • 2 sugar cubes
  • fresh brewed black coffee
  • heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey
  • A proper glass, and a spoon

Get Started!

1. You need the proper cup.  

You’d think it was one of those mugs, but that isn’t it.  You need this cup, and you can find them at BevMo, or Amazon:

51m5WRDkBsL._SL1000_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The heavy whipping cream-

pour some into another glass and add 1 tsp of vanilla.  Whip it with a whisk until it is “lightly whipped.”  Not so it is too thick, but not too thin so it is still liquid.

3. Fill the cup with boiling water

This will get the glass prepped for the hot coffee.

4. Dump the water, place 2 sugar cubes into the cup

5. Pour the coffee into the glass, stir with spoon until sugar is dissolved

6. Fill the Tullamore Dew cap with whiskey and pour it into the coffee

7. Now take the spoon and hold it over the coffee…pour the lightly whipped cream onto the spoon, so it gently rests on top of the coffee drink

 

Buena-Vista-Coffee-Recipe

 

And you’re done!

Enjoy thoroughly.

Cheers!

 

 

 

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! How About Some Whiskey Reviews

Ralfy Whiskey Reviews

ralf

Ralfy really has the best reviews, and he has reviewed hundreds of whiskeys, bourbons, ryes and a few other odds n ends.  He has helped me understand the complexities in Islay whiskeys, and the subtleties in bourbons tremendously.  Ralfy is the best!

If I was being true to the day, I would give you reviews of Irish whiskeys.  But I don’t like Irish whiskies unless it is in my coffee.  So, I will give you some of my favorite Scottish whiskey reviews, and a couple American bourbon reviews.

This is his review of Islay, and Laphroig.  Very informative about the whiskey and the reigon.

This is Ralfy’s review of Octomore, which is so incredibly peated, it will knock your socks off.  Your eyelashes will be peated eyelashes after this drink…  But it is pretty amazing.

And then a few of my favorites…Knob Creek bourbon review

And Buffalo Trace bourbon, which is an absolutely lovely bourbon that I enjoy the most.

 

Finally, to round out  this is is a BBC “History of Ireland” that was very well done…

…and I enjoyed watching it almost as much as I thoroughly loved Neil Oliver’s “History of Sotland” series, which is paralleled.  Neil Oliver has done such an amazing job in exploring history, I could watch his videos every day and always learn something new.  I just realized I might be biased towards Scotland on this post.

Maybe.

#GoScotland!

I Had To Buy A New Mop On The Ides Of March.

The Smithsonian is on the task of covering heinous crimes. They have compiled the…

“Top Ten Reasons to Beware the Ides of March

2. A Raid on Southern England, 1360
A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “on discovering that the French could act as viciously in his realm as the English did in France.”

4. Czar Nicholas II Abdicates His Throne, 1917
Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.

and, worst of all:

8. CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,” 1971
Word leaks that CBS-TV is canceling “The Ed Sullivan Show” after 23 years on the network, which also dumped Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason in the preceding month. A generation mourns.

That one is harsh.  Ed Sullivan…though, I hardly remember thee.

 

Today is pretty rough, and reading random lists is kind of helping.  Remembering the Ides of March is helping get my mind off things for now.  It’s a little break in the storm, so to speak.

 

This morning was another lovely morning.  Outside it was a cold, but sunny day on the island in the Sound.  I was greeted with wispy fog commuting through the trees on their way to work this morning, as I and the kids dropped Ben off at the ferry, and unfortunately they were stuck in a little bit of traffic at the round-about, as well.  The sunlight was filtering through the towering pine trees, and everything just seemed so peaceful and quiet.  It was a beautiful morning on the island.

 

This morning I was going to do some cleaning around the house, and I was going to start by mopping downstairs, but I don’t have a mop.

I wanted to vacuum the bedrooms today, but I don’t have a vacuum.

 

I am in the middle of all this right now, and I still don’t know how to process everything.  I am trying to keep busy, stay on our daily schedule, and not break open the bottle of wine in the kitchen (I’m saving that for later).  But the waves of emotion keep washing over me, and my stomach is in knots when I think about it.

We got a call from our agent from our previous home last Thursday just as we were getting dinner. The front door to our old house had apparently been open all day, and a neighbor had called her to let her know.  They said the bathroom upstairs was flooded and pooling into the kitchen.  So, that’s not good news.

Ben flew down Friday morning, which we were planning for a while already, and he was originally going to pick up what we left in the garage.  Mostly stuff that couldn’t fit in our moving van, bikes, lamps, treadmill, etc. But now we don’t know if there is anything left.

We called the police and had them check out the house, and they said it clearly appeared to be a forced entry through the side garage door, but no one was inside, and we have an official police report saying it was breaking and entering. The kids are upset, and I’m getting worried about Ben going down alone…but there isn’t much we can do about it, and we are trusting that things are going to be okay.

I just couldn’t shake it all Friday.  On one hand, we called our insurance and they were incredibly helpful.  They said this was covered, and they were going to dispatch a clean up/repair crew to the house.  This was such a relief, since I don’t know how much it is going to cost to repair the house.  I don’t even know where to begin on something like this.  I don’t even know how safe the house is now.  This house that we were just living in, two weeks ago.  My kids slept in those rooms.  I taught at my desk in that house.  I made birthday cakes in that kitchen.  We enjoyed fires in the winter in that living room.  We just lived there.

I am so furious that this happened, and some dude has been sleeping in our home and flooding the bathroom and no one on the street thought it was weird. We lived there for 7 years…where were any of the neighbors who I gave Christmas cards to? Or to whom my daughter gave Valentine’s cards?  Or even the next door neighbor who I gave a spare dog crate to, when their puppies were outside in 110F degree sun all weekend?  Nobody is around?  Anyone?

When Ben finally got to the house on Friday, we were able to see what the real damage was.

It was a lot worse than we thought.

The stuff in the garage is mostly gone. Everything was torn apart and stomped over.  All of our bikes, vacuums, lamps, shelves, tons of stuff. The treadmill is gone.  The vacuum is gone.  The Hoover Floormate is gone.  My sewing machine is gone.  My daughter’s sewing machine is gone.  The box of cables is gone.  The patio set is gone.  The hamper is gone, and the clothes are gone.  The toys are gone.  The tricycles for the kids are gone.  The Radio Flyer wagon is gone.  I still have to go through the pictures we took before we left to itemize what was stolen.

The door to the garage was definitely busted in. They kicked the door so hard, it broke the entire door frame off.  They made a mess of the garage, and I didn’t think there was anything in the empty house to take…but I was incredibly wrong.

They also took all the cabinet doors off all the cabinets in every bathroom. The shower doors are gone. The closet doors are all gone in every room and in the hallways.  The refrigerator that was supposed to stay with the house is gone.  The microwave is gone. They were apparently “in process” because there were two huge mirror doors in my bathroom that were already dismounted, and a sink was in a hallway.

They were in the process of taking a toilet, but the bonus to that one is that they unscrewed the toilet upstairs and flooded the house intentionally.   The kitchen ceiling is ripping apart, there are huge, 3foot holes in the ceiling and waterfalls were soaking the kitchen cabinets and the living room carpet, and they will all need to be removed now.

There is more, but that’s just the bulk of it.

Our realtor is going to sell it as is after some repair, and insurance will pay us for the losses.  That’s the plan, as far as I know.

This is pretty hard to swallow, and while I am trying to keep my mind on life here…the waves of nausea hit me when I think of all of this, and I don’t know what we can do.  There is nothing else to do, at this point.  Ben brought home what was left, and that should be the end of it.

 On one hand, I am so extremely grateful that we are safe.  No one is hurt, and we didn’t have to defend ourselves from anybody while we were in that house.  It’ll take a little while to get some things we need, but it’s all stuff.  It’ll just take time.

On the other hand, that was our home.  And it has been so thoroughly gutted and ruined, it is a skeleton of what we knew.  All the happy memories we had have been replaced with theft and destruction.  The purple walls I painted stand across pools of water on the floors that once felt the bare feet of my children.

 

I’m just trying to breathe through this. But I kind of want to crawl in bed.  I have been seriously conflicted with whether or not I should even write about this, since this level of violation is deeply invasive and this is a very personal trial.  I don’t even know how to process what happened.  I thought we were going to move, like we have always moved.  We just go from one house to another.  The invasion into our home was so thorough and so disgusting, it makes me enormously thankful we weren’t there when it happened.  I can’t even think of my children having been there with such horrible people near by, and we thought we were in a safe place…there are a lot of “what if” thoughts going through my head, but right now I need to think through this, and I need to think beyond it.  I know we are going to be okay now, I know we are all safe now, and I am so grateful we have a home far away from the mess.

I know all this, and I am trying to stay positive. But this sucks.