Sunday, February 28, 2010

"A Prayer From The Living World"

The sun rises earlier, portending Spring. A portion of a post from Doctor Zero that needs to be read in full:

"...You may view suicide as your last chance to shake the pillars of a world that has turned its back on you. The world doesn’t need any more shaking. If you’ve been telling yourself that no one will miss you when you’re gone, you are wrong. Your suicide would tear a hole through the future, and nothing could ever fill the space where you used to be. You might think you’re alone, but you don’t have to walk more than a couple of miles from your house to see a building full of people who would be delighted to meet you. There are places like Suicide Hotlines, staffed by men and women who have spent their entire lives preparing to hear the sound of your voice, and greet every day hoping to learn your name.

"You may be afraid to face the years ahead. You’re not the only one, and if you extinguish the light of your faith and wisdom, you consign others to darkness. You might see death by your own hand as the end of unbearable pain… but I ask you to think about Walter Koenig, facing a wall of cameras with quiet grace in the hours after finding his son’s body, and understand that it’s only the beginning of agony.

"You might have decided your fellow men are rotten to the core, and you’re weary of their company. Listen to the music of Mozart, or look upon the work of Michelangelo, and consider the argument of those who profoundly disagree. Maybe part of your problem is that you’ve been listening to the wrong music, or looking at the wrong pictures. Dark waters are easy to drown in. The judgment of the human race will not lack witnesses for the defense, and they will make their case to you, if you give them a chance...." Copyright © John Hayward 2009

Please go and read the rest via Hot Air). It is a beautiful essay of hope and love.

It does not require expertise or education to help someone who needs a willing ear to listen. If you feel called to do so, consider volunteering with a crisis hotline. I did so for more than a year, and found that sometimes what people need most at the moment is a stranger they can speak openly to.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Seven Quick Takes: British Mystery: BBC America, PBS and Netflix

- Does anyone else love the Foyle's War series, available through Netflix? Am I the only one who always thinks of the young Queen-to-be Elizabeth when his driver is on screen? What great casting, good acting, and fine stories, all around wonderful production. The BBC at its best.

- Who is watching BBC America these days? They seem to have discontinued every show that would be remotely interesting to fans of British TV. I get more interestng British programming on RFD Channel. Who hasn't seen all the reruns of How Clean is Your House and Gordon Ramsey's Restaurant Makeovers (the old ones that didn't require a bleep every third word) a dozen times? Top Gear is fun, but it still doesn't keep me on the BBCA for more than an hour a week.

- If you liked Inspector Morse, you will probably really enjoy Inspector Lewis. Lewis is as good as ever, and his seargent is as well cast for him as Lewis was for Morse. Aired on PBS Mystery in August, but also available from Netflix.

- Another new favorite is The Last Detective, a classic underappreciated brilliant detective and other quirky characters starring the guy who played Tristam in the old All Creatures Great and Small series.

- We switched satellite providers and have a PBS channel for the first time in years. Sure is nice to have Masterpiece Theater again, even if they are sporatic about it. I'm enjoying getting to see Nova again too.

- I can't get enough of 1940s House, and have rented it again and again from Netflix. It puts the rest of the "Period House" series to shame (Although Manor House was reasonably true to intention, and there was at least minor privation in Frontier House).

If this sounds like I watch a lot of tv, it's more that I watch in spurts, and I multitask while it is on. Nothing sets up a mood for accomplishment like British accents in the background. :-)

I've been meaning to join in Conversion Diary's "7 Quick Takes Friday" for ages. It's always interesting, and lots of great participants!

Update: I've since discovered even more fabulous British TV and British Mysteries, and posted about them here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Seeing Art In Person, With Our Own Eyes

Friends visited last week, and we went to a couple of local art exhibits while they were here. Called "Stars of Texas", these center around an annual juried show that lasts for two weeks and includes daily demonstrations by artists accepted for the show. A "Juried" show means that
entrants were chosen by an art judge to be displayed. These exhibits were free to visit, so our wonderful outing was most frugal entertainment.

I think books, photos, TV, and the images on the internet sometimes fool us into thinking we have seen works of art, when in fact if they have not been viewed in person, we have not seen them at all. The difference is as much like seeing a photo of a person and meeting them face to face. It is really that strong. I could have stayed for hours just observing piece after piece.

Paul bought a sculpture a while back in Rising Star, TX by Sleepy Gomez. It is titled "Worshiper" and is carved from mesquite, reflecting the form of the natural growth of the wood. We were delighted to see more of Gomez' work at Stars of Texas, and to find that he had won a prize there: the Don C. Martin Sculpture Award.

Our collection also includes a carving our neighbor made, and paintings by my mother and by friends, pictures by others who may not have recognition, but we like them. That is our one rule: we collect what we like. And our other rule is: only one of us has to like it. The other will live with the appalling but strangely fascinating folk art sculptures and be quiet. Except for on her blog. ;-)

We went, last summer, up to the Dallas Museum of Art with Devin and Sandy and kids to see the Tut Exhibit. We arrived early and had time to wander the halls of American paintings, and the Art of Mexico (including pre-columbian art) exhibit. The kids were as enthralled as we were. Sandy bought a membership so that they could attend as often as they want. We enjoyed seeing the Egyptian antiquity artifacts, but the real stars were the paintings in the other galleries. We may never possess such wonders, but in a way we always shall for we have seen them with our own eyes.

The other thing about seeing art in person is that it inspires us to want to make art ourselves. And while some talents achieve heights most cannot aspire to, it is still true that each of us is an artist and can make beautiful art. Take some classes, or just jump in and start working. Get
out a paint box or pencil, a whittling knife or a lump of clay, and find out what kind of art pleases you to do. You very likely will be pleasantly surprised.

Victorian Bible Verse Cards "You Are My Friends"

These lovely calling cards with bible verses were popular during the Victorian era up through the Edwardian. This one probably dates from the turn of the last century, 1900 or so. It pictures a little girl dressed in pink among pink roses. Roses meant "Beauty" in the language of flowers, and they still do today, don't you think?

The verse on the card is the words of our Lord from John 15: 14 (King James Version)

"12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

" 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

" 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. "

What a beautiful day this Sunday is.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dear So and So

Dear So and So


Dear Winter,

I don't believe in anthropoginobldygoop global warming, but this year, Winter, you are making me wish I did.

Time to go, Winter, and let Spring come. Please.

We might long for you again in the sweltering Summer if you go on now.

Pretty please?

Signed: Hates The Cold


I found "Dear So and So" over at Mom In High Heels, always fun. To take part, check out Kat's blog at 3 Bedroom Bungalow - a new find. Thanks to both for fun blogs that let us share their adventures!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Laundry Room Decorating: A Cheerful Haven for Ironing

When we first saw this house (before we bought it), the laundry room was used like a closet. Tiers of jam-packed clothes racks went around the room, and the windows were shuttered with hanging garments. Although it had been done up with a laundry themed border, the closed window blinds and clutter made the room a cave to escape from - quickly.

With little more than paint, sunlight, and a few photographs, it's become one of my favorite places in the house. I love ironing in this room. I keep the blinds open to let the sun stream in, and can look out upon the neighborhood and a shady yard while I press our shirts.

Did you ever notice that all over the world, laundry is done in exactly the same ways? These photos show laundry hanging on lines to dry outside an apartment in Cuba, an Adobe in Bolivia, hung by soliders from a military tank in Israel, and an American sailor guarding uniform shirts drying on regimented clotheslines.

I bought the photos from and framed them with inexpensive mats and frames (that I spray painted white) from Hobby Lobby. All Posters has a great selection of laundry photos, and I ordered each of them in the same size. Remember when choosing to get ones that have similar orientations - either horizontal or vertical - if you want them to match as I have done. There were some superb ones that were oriented vertically, but because I had my heart set on using the tank, the others needed to be horizontal as well. As an aside, they had fantastic customer service, and I will buy from them again.

It took some doing to scrape off the 4 layers of different wallpaper border that had been successively painted and papered over! The wall you don't see was turned into a make-do floor to ceiling cabinet by the previous owners, with deep shelves and whole sheets of plywood on hinges for doors, which close with screen hooks. I just painted them the same color as the walls
and they melt away from view.

A vintage globe bank collects the change that comes out of pockets. The graniteware bucket has hydrangeas on it and serves as a little waste basket, catching the dryer lint. It sits on a white washcloth so that it won't mar the top of the dryer.

Above the windows, hanging plant brackets hold the coat hangers while I am ironing, then fold away when done. I got these brackets at the Dollar Store for $1.50 each, whereas special decorative hooks from the home improvement stores were around $12 each. These work perfectly for their purpose.

I save those little packets of silica gel and lay in the window sills to absorb moisture in case the windows sweat in winter. I deliberately choose to keep the window treatments plain, mini blinds only, partly because of the hooks above them while ironing, but also to make it easier to keep the room clean and dust free. Curtains tend to hide windows and collect cobwebs. With just blinds, I can open them up and the light streams in over clean sills and through clear windows.

Everything as much as possible is up off the floor to make cleaning easy, including the tiny bakers rack that holds laundry supplies, and since the shelves are wire, they don't get dusty. The rack for the iron and ironing board also came from the dollar store, as did the ticking clothespin bag (and the clothes pins). Take a walk down the laundry aisle in your dollar
stores and older grocery stores - you will be amazed!

The embroidered blue bird laundry bag is a vintage one. This is also the room in which I keep a vintage calendar that corresponds to the current year. It is a perfect escape tool for daydreaming while ironing - happy days indeed!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Big Grandmother's Home Made Chicken and Egg Noodles

Big Grandmother (Mema's mother, the boys' Great-great-grandmother) taught me how to make chicken and egg noodles. She cooked from scratch even for herself, and this was one of her favorite dishes. This is what our family made instead of dumplings.

They are easy to make, and require few ingredients. They do require a little time, and they are best if you can let them dry for a few hours before dropping them into the boiling chicken broth.

I always used to roll mine out and cut them by hand. Now that I have a snazzy little pasta machine (inherited from Thelma) I use it instead, but you do not need one. Hand rolled and hand cut are even better, I think, because they are a lttle thicker.

Take 2 cups of flour, and add 1 tsp (teaspoon) of salt. Add a sprinkle of black pepper, and mix together well. Then add about 1/4 cup of shortening or lard, and mix it into the flour with your hands until it has a uniform crumbly texture.

Make a well in the flour and add two eggs. Mix them into the flour until all the flour is a very stiff dough. If necessary, you can add a little water, only one Tbls (tablespoon) at a time, to get all the flour incorporated. This takes a little muscle to do: just keep working it. The dough should be stiff but not sticky by the time you are done.

Flour your board and rolling pin, and sprinkle flour on the ball of dough. At this stage, you don't have to worry about "too much" flour. You want to be sure it doesn't stick. Roll it out very thin - this is sometimes easier to do if you divide the dough in half and roll and cut one half before
doing the other half.

When it's rolled out, sprinkle generously with flour again and cut into long strips about 1/2 inch wide and as long as the dough.

When they are all cut, lay them out on newspapers or cuptowels to dry for a while. I usually try to let them dry for from 2 to 4 hours - just depends on how much time you have. Over time, you'll find the right amount of time for your taste.

While they are drying, put a whole chicken (with the skin on) into a large pot with a lid, cover with water, add a couple of tsp (teaspoons) of salt and stew it (simmer) until done. This usually takes an hour or so. If starting with a frozen chicken it will need a couple of hours. Add more water if needed.

When done, remove the chicken onto a plate or large bowl and set aside to cool enough so that you can remove the meat from the bones.

Bring the broth to a boil. Toss the noodles with more flour and add them to the broth a handful at a time, stirring after each addition. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer, uncovered, while you prepare the chicken meat.

Remove the skin and discard it with the bones. I like to leave the meat in large pieces, just as it was torn from the bones. The breast meat might need to be torn into smaller chunks.

Add the meat back into the broth with the noodles. The excess flour that was on the noodles should have thickened the broth nicely.

If needed you can add thickener. How to make thickener: Take a couple of tablespoons of flour and mix with cold water in a cup or jar. In a cup, stir with a fork or whisk until you have a slurry. In a jar, you can put the lid on and shake like crazy until it's all mixed up. Then add the
thickener to the broth, stirring at the same time.

The reason you don't just add flour directly to the broth is that it causes lumps. By mixing it with a little water first, you prevent lumps. this works with making gravies or sauces of any kind too.

Simmer the noodles for about 40 minutes to an hour. This keeps well, and is even better leftover the next day, so it makes a good Sunday Dinner for those who try to keep the 4th Commandment and have Sunday as a Day of Rest (Exodus 20:8-11). It is perfect on its own, or you can serve with bread and butter on the side.

A fun way to serve it is in the milk glass covered hen dishes - just be sure to warm them first by rinsing with hot water so the hot broth won't crack them when you ladle it in

Friday, February 5, 2010

Home Made Croutons

Here is how Paul makes croutons. We use these for his Caesar Salad (recipe just posted today - see below) and - one of Thelma's innovations - in our Split Pea Soup. Like everything, the better the flavor of your olive oil and butter, the better the final product will be.

Cut stale bread into cubes the day before and let dry. You can also use dried french bread as we did here, but it is easier and tidier to cut it before it dries.

In a large skillet, heat a couple of tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and add an equal amount of butter.

When melted, throw in the bread cubes and toss quickly so that the oil gets on each piece.

Toast over medium high heat, turning each with tongs as it browns until all sides are brown.

Drain on brown paper (brown paper grocery sacks are the best) or paper towels.

Use right away, or store at room temperature. They will keep for a few days, unless people come past and snack on them! :-)

How Paul Makes Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad is named for the Mexican chef who invented it in Tijuana in the 1920s. Our family agrees that Paul's Caesar Salad is the world's best. It has simply ruined me, as all others disapoint in comparison. One of the most eagerly awaited courses of our Christmas dinner, even the children love it. His Caesar is a fully traditional version, including anchovies and egg, and he makes his own croutons. Here's how he does it.

NOTE: if you are concerned about the raw egg, you can pasturize the yolk by mixing it with the lemon juice and vinegar and heating over a double boiler, whisking constantly, until it reaches 150 degrees. Here is a place with full directions:

Paul mixes his dressing right in the salad bowl, starting with a tablespoon or two of anchovies, 3 or 4 whole, peeled cloves of garlic, and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Mash these together with a fork. The coarseness of the salt helps grind the garlic and anchovies into a paste.

Add about a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard. A little secret Paul taught me of making salad dressings is that dijon mustard helps to emulsify the oil, so always add a bit to your vinegrettes and they won't separate as quickly.

Add the juice of half a lemon and an equal amount of red wine vinegar.

Add one raw egg, and mix it all together well. (If you are pasturizing, follow the instructions in the link above about mixing the lemon juice, vinegar and egg and warming it all, then add it into the bowl).

Drizzle in Extra virgin Olive Oil, whisking as you go. The amount will be about equal to the total of the lemon juice and vinegar together, but taste from time to time to get the right balance.

Toss the romaine lettuce into the dressing well. When fully tossed, add copious amounts of grated parmesan cheese.

Add lovely homemade croutons, and toss again. Because of the number of photos involved, I posted a separate post on how to make the croutons, just after this one.

Plate and add a grind of fresh cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Bon Appetite!


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