Monday, October 31, 2016

We'll See ...

I've been debating with myself about whether to try NaBloPoMo this year or not. There are still lots of medical demands on my time this month, at least through the 18th, and that only leaves me a week and half in November. Those days have been the light at the end of my tunnel and I'm not sure I'm up to the stress of producing posts for 30 days straight. I know my quality suffers when I write for quantity, along with knitting and reading time.

But in the midst of all these reasons not to do it, I read Karen's and Kat's posts about Gratitude Week. I feel like I'm often grateful, especially for the big stuff, but I can certainly use a push to focus more on the many positive things in my life, things that I should be grateful for but often overlook. And like Kat mentioned, I can also feel graceless in searching for gratitude in the ordinary and mundane in my life.

So I've signed up for Gratitude Week prompts and will try to post something I'm grateful for each day this week. Today I'm grateful that I no longer have small children at home that I need to provide with Halloween costumes. I don't know the reason, but Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. I didn't enjoy dressing up as a child, asking for candy from strangers, or creepy skeletons and bats, and I don't like those things much as an adult. I can choose not to participate, and I'm grateful for that. No more painting golf balls gold and attaching wings to make a golden snitch.

For some bonus gratitude, I'm also grateful that I sewed this cape for Ryan when he was in first grade. He was always easy to please in the costume department because he only ever wanted to dress up as two things. The cape served us well for many years when Ryan used it multiple times as a pirate cape, then a long string of Harry Potter costumes, and Justin even wore it when he played George Washington in second grade.

Justin always wanted to something more difficult like a Tyrannosaurus rex or a cheetah, but I'm grateful we could usually compromise on a costume that made both of us happy. Here he is as Purple Ninja Guy. Surely you've heard of him and his sidekick, Green Ninja Guy!

And I just thought of another one! I'm grateful that I wrote this post as it provided me with a good opportunity to hunt down these photos and reminisce about some really good times with my boys.

Maybe gratitude is additive, multiplicative, or exponential? I'm still not sure about NaBloPoMo, but I've enjoyed the first day of Gratitude Week, so we'll see ...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Right Now - End of October 2016

I did a Right Now post at the beginning of October, but that was mainly because September had whizzed right past me. Kym was kind enough to remind me that the end of October is fast approaching, so here's what I've got going on Right Now.

Sucking - All the leaves with our leaf-sucker. This is only my first pile of this fall and I'll need to repeat this process through the end of November. While it's a lot to wrestle around the yard, it's still easier than raking.

Knitting - There is a Hitchhiker on the needles of course, and I also started a hat for Justin. I'm usually looking for something warm and double-layered to knit for him at this time of year, but since he's in southern Texas where winter temperatures don't get much below 40°, I've had to think in a new direction. I found some fingering weight merino/silk that will hopefully not be too hot. 

Watching - All seasons of the Gilmore Girls (really rewatching for the umpteenth time).

Laughing at - Speaking of Gilmore Girls, I may have found out where all the anvils have gone. They're on Amazonwho thought they would recommend a nice 275 pound model to me after I put one knife-making book for Justin on my wish list.

Anticipating - Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix November 25th. I think watching and knitting (and hoping that Rory ends up with Jess) is going to be the perfect way to spend Black Friday.

Reading - Unbroken (listening to the audiobook because I missed Edward Herrmann after watching all those Gilmore Girls episodes), Faithful (because I was lucky enough to have my Netgalley request approved), and The Dog Stars. It seems that all my Netgalley requests got approved all at once (And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and Idaho), and since I need to review those in a timely manner, I'll probably be reading them first before I return to The Dog Stars. 

Drinking - Plenty of tea in keeping with my vow not to buy any more until I drink most of what I already have. There was also some
Kon-Mari-ing of the liquor cabinet, so I'm drinking Godiva chocolate liqueur, Malibu rum, and Pumpkin Pie Cream liqueur (not together).

Looking Forward To - November 9th, when this surreal election season will be over.

Planning - A few free hours this weekend for a return visit to Nockamixon Lake. I took some of my favorite photos there last year, and I hope I can see the amazing autumnal glow again, or appreciate some new autumnal loveliness.

So what's going on in your world right now? I hope it's good!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Think ... Write ... Thursday!

View through my window
glowing gold and waning green
The wind whispers fall.


Light lambent through oak
highlights grayish-green lichens
A fall panoply.

Today's Think Write Thursday topic is to write about either an abandoned building or the view through your window. 

Read other Think ... Write ... Thursday! posts here, and sign up for Carole and Kat's great idea here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

Like every other town in America at this time of year, my town is lousy with signs.

The citizens in our town have been fighting about what to do with the Union Hotel on Main Street for years, and now each side has its own sign.

The "just knock it down" proponents have expressed their enthusiasm with a multitude of exclamation points, and a misspelling.

The redevelopment and adaptive reuse side chose grammatical correctness.

And then there are the political signs. With only two weeks to go, they are everywhere. I wonder if anyone has ever seen one of these and exclaimed, "Yes! That's the candidate I'm voting for based on the attractiveness of their sign and the fact that I'm bombarded by them at every turn!"

Some of these are amusing, like the McCain/Palin sign I see on my walk route every day. I'd love to ask the homeowner if he longs to return to 2008, but political discussions might ruin the peacefulness of the walk. There's also Joey Novick, who promised back in May that he was "Not running this year. If written in, will not run. If elected, will not serve." Joey seems to have changed his mind and gotten a good deal on signs. I've counted at least 30 on my three-mile walk.

I'm not fatalistic, and won't be voting for this scenario, but my favorite sign did make me laugh out loud. That's a good thing during this seemingly endless season of signs.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Green Tomato Bread - Take Two

We did manage to finish the green tomato bread with slightly weird chunks of tomato, so my next job was to try some improvements. Chopping and shredding the remainder of the green tomatoes was a pleasant task. Some were bright green, some had hints of pink, and I had to take a few minutes to admire their variety in the bowl.

After shredding with the food processor, I ended up with seven bags of tomato goop to freeze, enough for 14 loaves of green tomato bread.

It turns out that shredded green tomato goop makes a fine loaf of bread!

The original recipe is here. The recipe, after my tweaks and modifications:

2 cups shredded green tomatoes
1.25 - 1.5 cups sugar
0.5 cup oil + 0.5 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1.5 tsp nutmeg

Mix, bake in 2 greased 9x5" loaf pans at 350° for 50-60 min. Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Green Tomato Bread - Take One

A hard frost was forecast for last Friday night, so I hurried out to the garden to pick string beans and the remaining red tomatoes. I was happy to find at least four meals' worth of beans and 20 or so small tomatoes. There were a lot of green tomatoes, but with two quarts of green tomato relish and another two quarts of green tomato salsa already in the refrigerator, I left them and got to work snapping beans.

But I just couldn't stop thinking about those green tomatoes. Searching for a new and unique way to use them, I came across a possibility - Green Tomato Bread. This was new to me, had relatively high ratings, and of course, there were all those poor green tomatoes just going to waste on the vines, so I went out in the dark and picked a five gallon bucket full before they were claimed by frost.

The first time I try a new recipe, I usually make it as written, but I did make a few changes. I reduced the sugar to 1.5 cups, used 0.5 cup oil + 0.5 cup applesauce, and added 1 tsp. each of nutmeg and ground cloves. I had chili in the crockpot next to the mixer, and had left the chili powder out for further seasoning. Chili powder looks almost exactly like ground cloves when you're not paying attention, but I'm happy to say that I averted a seasoning disaster before it was too late.

I was anxious to see what baking did to the hard green tomatoes, as the batter looked a bit like fruitcake with pieces of citron sticking out. 

The pieces of green tomato seemed to stick out even more after baking. I could hardly wait for it to cool enough before I cut into the loaf for a real test.

The verdict? It tastes great, with a slightly weird consistency due to the pieces of tomato. It's not too weird for me to eat, but I wouldn't feel good gifting a loaf to a friend. It did take three slices for me to decide this, and John is the least picky eater I know, so there isn't any real danger that these two loaves won't get eaten.

While the loaves were baking, I was thinking about how to get rid of the problem of hard tomato pieces, and it dawned on me - I should shred the tomatoes in my food processor, just like I do with zucchini. I'm sorry I wasn't smart enough to think of this before, but stay tuned for Green Tomato Bread - Take 2 (now with new and improved shredded green tomatoes)!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Think ... Write ... Thursday!

Corn Critters at The Cabin

"Ten for me," I said with the confidence of the oldest cousin.
"Eleven," proclaimed Rick.
When Jack came back with "Fourteen," all of the cousins gathered around the oilcloth-covered table knew that the challenge was on.

There were five of us cousins, my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my grandparents at The Cabin, my grandparents' place in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. They had purchased the land when we were all quite young, and after tent camping for several years, we gradually built The Cabin. G'pa and G'ma (that's what we called them) hoped it would become a gathering place for the family, and that's exactly what it was. It had a pump, but no running water; Coleman lanterns, but no electricity, and an outhouse where you had to be careful not to get trapped by a skunk or sheep (true stories!). It also had a huge wood-burning cast iron stove. My grandmother had grown up using one like it, and I marveled at her abilities to bake cakes, bread, and produce delicious meals with it. Today she was making our favorite - corn fritters. 

G'ma's were not the usual deep-fried little nuggets of corn fritters; hers were more of a thin pancake consistency. Think crepes with corn in them. Sometime over our years of growing up eating G'ma's corn fritters, we cousins had morphed the name into corn critters, which we found hilarious. My sister and I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and my cousins lived 400 miles away in Cleveland, but whenever we were together each one of us tried to eat more corn critters than the others.

I don't remember how many corn critters I managed to eat that day, but what I do recall is how absolutely delicious they were, with crispy, perfectly-browned edges, tender morsels of fresh sweet corn in every bite, seasoned only with a little salt and butter as we had been taught by G'pa. Years later, after G'ma was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a series of strokes, my mother tried to write down the corn critter recipe. To be honest, I've never made them, partly because I don't have a wood-burning cast iron stove to cook them on, but mainly because I'm happy and deliciously content with the wonderful memories of The Best Breakfast I Ever Had.

Read other Think ... Write ... Thursday! posts here, and sign up for Carole and Kat's great idea here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do you believe ... ?

I visited The Loopy Ewe in person and all I got was a circular needle?! It's true ... sort of. I had 20 minutes to spare on Saturday during our Fort Collins visit, so I ran in and bought some size 3 needles because I brought 4s but didn't like the Hitchhiker I had started with them.

While it was a bit sad to leave without yarn, I meant to go back on Monday or Tuesday to browse and pet yarn, but there were just too many other things to do during our short visit.

Once I was home, I found that I really like the sharpness of the HiyaHiya circular I bought, and thought it would be a good idea if I ordered a couple more sizes and cable lengths. I had a little trouble with the online cart, so I called The Loopy Ewe to place my order. Lynn was so helpful and pleasant to talk to (just like all of the Loopy Elves) that when she asked if that was it for my order, several skeins of Julie Spins MCN also fell into my cart. I'm so happy to be a Wayfarer and have No Regrets.

I'm also quite pleased to have purchased new yarn while still spending maximum time with my family. Win - Win!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Beer, a Rare Unicorn, and a Rattlesnake

I was never much of a beer drinker before Ryan moved to Colorado. Wine was my alcoholic beverage of choice, with an occasional really cold Yuengling if I mowed on a really hot day. But once I started to explore Fort Collins in 2013, things slowly began to change. The town and many of its citizens pursue beer brewing and drinking with a fervor and intensity I have never seen before. There are at least 20 craft breweries, Beer Week, Tour de Fat (because after beer, bikes matter in Fort Collins), a terrific bar with 100 beers on tap, and Colorado State University offers a B.S. in fermentation science. People in Fort Collins take their beer very seriously, but also with a ton of fun.

New Belgium is one of the breweries I'm most familiar with, mainly because they have a great tour and some wonderful beer. I've visited at least four times, but Justin had never been before, so of course we had to take him.

There are beautiful mosaics on the floor between the brewing vessels in the main brew house,

and foeders built from wood previously used by vineyards to store wine. These are where the bases (Oscar and Felix) used in New Belgium's sour beers are aged.

There is a smaller pilot brewery within the larger brewery, where they experiment and brew surprises.

There is ample opportunity to taste beer throughout the tour, and we got to taste something brand new that's not even for sale yet - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale. It's a joint venture between New Belgium and Ben and Jerry's that is meant to raise awareness and money to fight climate change. I'll be honest; I thought it was going to taste awful, but it's delicious! Our tour guide said it would be available the third week of October in 47 states. I'm going to buy plenty to drink, and I'm already imagining making some beer bread with it. A loaf with chocolate chips and one with dried cherries ...

Justin is a great son, but he wasn't willing to sneak down into the bottling room to get me some more Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale.

Each tour that I've been on has been slightly different, and this time our tour guide told us about beers she called Rare Unicorns. She said that sometimes the pilot brewery produces a few barrels of something they think might be interesting. These might occasionally be released into the community to see what people think, so she encouraged us to keep our eyes open. Ryan has lived here for more than three years and has never come across one of these special concoctions, so imagine our surprise when we left New Belgium, headed to Choice City for lunch, and spied a Blueberry Oscar Sour. It was excellent, maybe partly because it's fleeting and ephemeral, but truly a delightful Rare Unicorn.

And that promised rattlesnake? While we did some hiking, no rattlesnakes were seen in the wild, but when your brother lives in Texas, you just might get one of his hand-captured and hand-tanned masterpieces for your birthday. (The hole is from where he shot it.)

Better on the wall than in the wild!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Front Range and Lagrange

Flying into Denver airport provides a lovely view of the snow-capped Front Range. Some people enjoy the beach as their happy place, but for me it's definitely the mountains. Maybe someday I'll be able to live somewhere with a daily view of "my mountains", but until then, occasional restorative visits will have to do.

Fall was just beginning to arrive in Colorado and it was glorious.

In addition to the Front Range, I also attended Ryan's Calculus II class and learned about Lagrange. Lagrange multipliers are used in mathematical optimization, "a strategy of finding the local minima and maxima of a function subject to equality constraints." Got that? I'm not sure I did, despite the excellent instructor.

In addition to mountains and math, I'll tell you about beer (and maybe even a rattlesnake) next time.