Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

Today is New Year's Eve. We'll probably celebrate it much the same way we always do; not a lotta hoopla here. If we're still awake when 2008 rolls in I was thinking I'd welcome it in with a bloody mimosa. That means I'm going to pick a few of my blood oranges and juice them. Then I'll take that juice and mix it with champagne.

Believe it or not for me the cheap champagne works the best for this light drink. I usually use Andre Extra Dry. I don't care for it just by itself, but when used to make a mimosa it's the best.

Party safely and I'll see you next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Today is our 28th wedding anniversary. Who knew it would last so long?

With a 50% divorce rate among first marriages that's quite an accomplishment these days. And add to that he was a police officer and I was a police employee (Police Service Technician--we did most of the same things, just didn't respond to calls with suspects). Those statistics are even worse than average. I can use the fingers of one hand (not including the thumb) to count the first marriages in the P.D. that are still in existence today.

You always hear that the first year is the toughest for newlyweds. I found our first year to be a breeze and that worried me. I wondered why it was so easy. A couple years after we'd been married a friend made a joke about the arguments during the first year. I looked at her and told her we had never had any arguments of any kind. She couldn't believe it.

Looking back perhaps it was because we were on opposite shifts. He worked midnights and I was on days. He was sleeping when I got home and I was sleeping when he got up to go to work. The only time we saw each other was in passing at work in the morning or in the evening on his first night off. Needless to say, our days off did not coincide.

Somehow in spite of the odds, we managed to live happily together. I'm not saying it's been a bed of roses the whole way... Or maybe it has been. Most of it's been the sweet smelling petals and every once in a great while there's been a little thorn.

Here's wishing us a happily EVER AFTER!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another Birthday


In English that means:


I would make a cake or pie in your honor but I'd be the only one eating it and my doctor got on to me about my sugar numbers!

Enjoy your day.


+ i )\( @

Friday, December 28, 2007

Lemon Juicing

The lemon tree is full of ripe lemons. It's time to start juicing.

First we have to pick them. The outer ones are easy. It's the inner ones that are trickier to get. If you've never seen a lemon tree up close then you need to know they have wicked sharp spines.

Then they need to be washed. Why wash when we're only after the juice inside? Simple! Because when you juice this many lemons at one time, the hand holding the lemon will get wet from the juice from slicing or water from washing or the oil from the skin from holding onto the juicer. Then it's inevitable that it will start dripping down the outside of the lemon, gathering whatever is on the peel and dripping into the juice collecting area of the juicer. And remember, these lemons were from outside, where they get dirty from our dusty polluted valley air, and the birds sit in the tree and poop where ever they please. That poop falls on the lemons too. They're easy to clean in a sink full of water and the rough side of a scrubby sponge.

Dirty lemon...

...clean lemon.

Now we have a bowl full of clean lemons waiting to be sliced.

I've got my juicer ready to go with the 4 cup holder underneath. The cutting board is right there. I like to cut as many as will fit on the board before juicing. I can usually go through two board fulls before I have to stop and clean the pulp and seed catcher. The garbage is just to the right so the juiced halves get dropped in after juicing. I started with the lemons I zested for the limoncello.

That's one good smelling garbage can!

After an hour and a half and five buckets of lemons I got 12 quarts of lemon juice. I got tired so I stopped. The tree still has 2/3 of fruit on there. Somebody help me out!

The next step will be to transfer all this juice to quart size bags. Then they will be frozen until I use them in various recipes.

Lemon meringue pie, anyone?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Food Photography

I think in my next life I might like to be a food photographer.

This was our dinner tonight: a simple chicken fried steak with homemade coleslaw (cabbage from our garden) and fakie garlic mashed potatoes (using powdered garlic, ack!) covered with packaged sausage gravy (eww!). Not a real homemade meal to be sure, but it would pass the mustard with Sandra Lee. It really wasn't too bad.

Well, as far as food photography goes, this particular photo is not really all that good. It looks like the flash was blocked or something. But I do love taking photos of food stuff with my camera. My nifty Nikon D40x camera. Sometimes the pictures just come out so right.

For example these lemons. I juiced a ton of lemons today (at least it seemed like a ton!). The last time I waited too long before I picked and juiced the lemons and we had a bad freeze which virtually ruined most of the crop.

I'll tell you all about the juicing tomorrow.

The truth is, with a camera like mine this kind of thing isn't too difficult. You may have heard it said that photographers take dozens and dozens of photos before they get a good shot? I've found that to be true. It also seems that I may think I have a good photo but once I blow it up on the computer it may not be all that. And the same is true for other shots I took that I think may not be that great but once revealed on the computer they are better than I thought.

Another thing is once you get them on the computer you may see things you weren't aware of originally. Like with these lemons in the bowl. The reflection on the bowl is showing more lemons in the sink. I didn't notice that until after I looked at the picture on the computer.

I've taken many pictures thinking I'd post them later on my "Daily Photos" site, but after reviewing them I changed my mind. If you are a beginner and new to all this stuff like I am, then my point is to practice, practice, practice. Take a bunch of pictures using different settings and see what happens.

One piece of advice I would give would be to take your camera with you everywhere. Unfortunately I don't follow that rule myself and have missed some really great sunsets. Today is a perfect example of that. I was coming home from the store and the sky was filled with brilliant specks of gold, orange, red, and purple. By the time I got home it was gone. So do as I say, not as I do.

And have fun doing it.

Birthday Girl

Today is my second oldest sister's birthday. You may remember her as the cheesemaker.

Since we were the closest in age while we were growing up we had a lot in common. Most of all that we were horse crazy. While we weren't able to own our own horses when we were children we were able to take lessons on a weekly basis. Half paid for by our parents, and we had to pay the other half from our allowances.

When we eventually left home we were each able to own a horse. We continued with our riding lessons, though this time on a monthly basis. We would trailer the horses to the site where the lessons were being given, sometimes as far away as Fresno, about 200 miles from here. We went to a lot of little horse shows together. We were as close as siblings could be.

Below is a photograph of a show we went to in 1985. Her husband worked for a radio station and had access to tons of t-shirts and miscellaneous give away items. Here we are with our matching station t-shirts and the goofy "sunglasses" that were a give away item. Aren't we a pair? (Why am I always the fatter one?)

Sadly, times have changed and we don't get to do a lot of the things we used to. The areas where we used to go riding on weekends for three hours at a time have been built up with neighborhoods. I've had a few serious horsebackriding accidents (broken both collarbones in separate incidents) which seriously curtailed my previous pipedreams of riding in the Olympics. And then we both had kids which, for me at least, further changed my priorities.

She's also had her share of accidents. While I still have my daughter's pony to play around with my sister still owns a couple of horses and is still more serious about riding than I am.

We don't get together as much as we used to. I guess life gets in the way sometimes. But no matter; we'll always remain BFF!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Just for fun I took a picture of the overly large container I bought to make the limoncello. Next to it is the jar I'm using now (which I will have to find something about twice as big) and a coffee mug for size comparison. Only 39 more days to go until the next step.

And today is Christmas Eve. Obviously that means Christmas is tomorrow. I better run and get my last minute gifts now!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Apple Galette et al

I had a couple of apples in the fridge and I've been thinking about making something a little different than the normal apple pie. I'd seen a couple of magazines and recipe books that had various galette recipes. A galette is a "round flat French cake, pastry, tart, or pancake" (Encarta Dictionary) which can have either a sweet of savory topping.

I found a recipe for an Apple Galette on I didn't take pictures of the process but I have a few of the end result. I won't post the recipe here, but I'll give you the link here.

I found this particular recipe to be easier to make than I thought it would be. The only thing is I apparently have a small problem with reading the recipe through prior to actually starting it. (This will be a New Year's Resolution!)

My cake doesn't look as pretty as the one on the website, but I'll bet it tastes just as good. I'll tell you my mistake in case you are as dim as I am.

The directions say to roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. That was no problem. I did have a problem getting it to roll out as large and thin as they said, so I didn't. Then it said to remove the top parchment and use the bottom parchment to help transfer the dough to your baking sheet. It didn't say to grease and flour the pan or anything like that. That wasn't a big concern because I know there are certain cookies where you don't do that. After I got the dough on my pan I read a little further and realized I made it really hard on myself. I was supposed to just slide the dough, parchment and all, onto the baking sheet, leaving the parchment underneath. Great! By that time I had already prepared the top. So now I attempted to lift the sticky dough off the baking pan and try to slide the parchment back underneath. I managed to do it with a little help, but it kind of messed up my apple design.

Well, messy top or not, it was still quite tasty. It would be a perfect for a Christmas brunch or any Kaffee Klatsch (do people still do that?) The nice thing is it's not too sweet so your taste buds won't get overwhelmed.

Trust me, this recipe is a keeper. It's easy and tasty!

Remember towards the beginning of this I said I had a problem reading through directions? Here's another example of that and apparently I'm not the only one afflicted with this problem.

Since I have a very prolific Meyer Lemon Tree I always look for ways to use the product. I've been seeing a lot of "Limoncello" on the cooking shows. And remember the Danny Devito fiasco earlier this year? He and George Clooney were drinking limoncello and Mr. Devito showed up still a little intoxicated at an interview.

I did a bit of research and it seems there are many different recipes for limoncello. The basics are the same: lots of lemons; sugar; water; and booze, most commonly vodka. The recipe I chose called for two 750 ml bottles of 100 proof vodka. Earlier I had bought a large bottle of Smirnoff. My husband suggested I buy a large container to put the concoction in while it was "cooking". This particular recipe also suggested the stuff needs to steep for 40 days for the first part, and 40 days for the second part. Although it's not required to go that long, the flavors would be more intense.

I went to Smart & Final to look for a large container. I found a 22 quart food grade bucket (like in restaurants) with a lid. The vodka I had bought earlier was only 80 proof so I looked for one that was 100 proof. I finally found some 100 proof at the third store I went to. Then I realized I had made a small error.

It seems I need to learn some math. 750 ml is about 3 cups. When I got home my husband admitted he read the recipe wrong too. He thought the lemons would be cut into slices and put into the alcohol. In truth you don't use any part of the lemon except the peel. After zesting 18 lemons, I got about 1 cup of peel. The first part of the recipe calls for steeping the zest in a container with the first bottle for 4o days. Then we need to make a simple syrup, add that and the second bottle to the zest mixture and steep for another 40 days. Then you strain it and it's ready to go!

So we certainly didn't need an 88 cup container for about 10 cups of stuff! I'll let you know if it was worth it in 80 days.

Yesterday we made tamales for the first time ever. I didn't document any of that either because I wasn't sure how they'd turn out. It's something that is traditional for Mexicans to make around Christmas. I don't know why that is, and obviously tamales are available year round. Carli came over to help me and we set to work. First my husband made the meat. We used pork and seasoned it three different ways. We had pork with garlic and onions, pork with chilies and cheese, and pork seasoned with mole sauce. For the masa we made one batch with plain masa and one batch lightly seasoned with chipotle chili powder.

Tamales are not hard to make, just a bit labor intensive. And I'm sure once we've made them a few times it will get easier and easier. I know we will make these again: they were delicious.

Two more days til Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hair Cut

I know I said I'd wait until all the colored part of my hair was cut off before I took a picture of my new 'do, but I put on a little makeup this morning and decided to post a picture for my curious relatives who live out of town. (Most of my relatives are rather curious, and I don't mean inquisitive. But that's another story.)

You can see most of it is gray with just a little bit of colored part left.

I feel pretty silly too. I took about 15 pictures and they were all messed up from the flash. Of course that's going to happen when you take a picture in the mirror. Then I had an idea "flash". Turn the flash on the camera off! DUH!

Also notice how I'm holding my head up just a tad to hide some of the loose neck skin. Just think how great I could make myself look if I had PhotoShop!

Meanwhile, just 4 days until Christmas (including today). Yee HAW!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

First Visit--Or Not

Today was supposed to be Gus's and my first visit as volunteer visitors for Hoffman Hospice. Like I said before, I was a little nervous. But I knew everything would be okay because we had met the client at Hoffman Hospice a few days ago, and my boss, Kim, the volunteer coordinator, would be with us while we made our first couple of visits.

The Therapy Dogs are supposed to be bathed within 24 hours of each visit. I didn't bathe Gus yesterday, so I gave him his bath today. He wasn't real thrilled with the whole ordeal.

First I cleaned his ears out with doggie ear wipes. He puts up with that pretty well because I have to do that on a weekly basis anyway. Then I brushed him thoroughly. First with an "undercoat rake" to help remove dead hair. Then with the pin brush to collect any other hairs. Then I used a "stripping knife" to remove fuzzy hairs that weren't supposed to be there. As if you didn't know, Golden Retrievers are very hairy dogs. Gus loves the brushing part.

Next comes the actual bath. I got him in the tub and since there's no shower on the end of a hose I used a large plastic tumbler to help wet him down. I took off my socks and shoes, rolled up my pants and got into the tub with him. I think he liked that. After I got him all wet, I sudsed him up real well. I think he didn't like that.

Then I had to rinse all the lather off of him. That took a while because I was using the cup. Finally he was rinsed clean. He stood with his front paws on the rim while I towelled him dry.

At last he was towel dried to my satisfaction. Now he was clean!

He was also ready to get out of the bathroom!

I let him outside to finish drying. He was happy to be out!

Our visit was supposed to be at 4 pm. I figured Gus would be totally dry by then and I could also go over him one more time with the pin brush, just for good measure. Kim called around 1:30 and said we were going to have to postpone our visit. With the Christmas holiday hubbub we decided to wait until after the first of the year. Things will be calmer then.

I told Gus the news. He said he'll keep the baby company until we can make our first visit...

Monday, December 17, 2007

For The Birthday Boy


A Few Updates On Everything

Not much has been happening lately, which is why I haven't posted much lately. In the last week I got my hair cut. It's short again, something I do every five years or so. I'll keep it short, then grow it out, then cut it again. I had decided earlier to stop coloring over the gray. Even though the gray part isn't long enough I couldn't stand it any longer and cut it. I think it looks good and it feels good too. That might sound a little wierd but I've been having bad hot flashes and night sweats lately and it helps for that. When it gets to the point where all the color is cut off I'll put on some make up and take a picture to post.

I'm beginning to wonder if the sheep really are pregnant. It seems as if nothing is happening now. Ewenice is the only one who looks like she may be carrying babies but it's hard to tell because they are all wooly now. If nothing happens by the end of January I'll put Perry back in with the ewes.

And speaking of Perry, he decided to rearrange his pen. Look what he did to one of the panels. And he got a little cut on his head for his trouble. I guess that's why they're called "dumb sheep."

Perry put a bow in the panel.
Perry got a little cut on his head for his trouble. See the dribble of blood? Serves him right!
It's times like these that make me want to get rid of the sheep altogether. On the other hand, I want to keep them because the babies are so cute to watch running around. My dream is that we will one day move to more property and the animals can be on actual acreage, and fed with real, fresh grass, except maybe in the winter when the grass will have to be supplemented with hay. My son has one more year to go for high school and so far the plan is to wait until he graduates. Besides, I have to keep them so my sister can perfect her sheep cheese making skills.

The cow family is doing fine. This little bull calf is a feisty one. He's had a few leading lessons and so far so good. I haven't yet advertised him for sale. I'm not sure if he'll be sold or if we're going to put him in the freezer! I wouldn't mind having another cow but room is at a premium around here right now. I'd have to sell the pony which I don't want to do either.

The cows having breakfast.
Gus and I graduated from our hospice volunteer training last week. We are going to make our first visit on Thursday. That means Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning Gus will have to have a bath because the dogs are required to be bathed within 24 hours of their visit. Our volunteer coordinator will come with us, so I'm feeling a little less anxious about the visit. I'm sure everything will be fine.

The poor neglected garden is actually not doing too badly. The true winter stuff is doing great, like the cabbage, carrots, beets, and cauliflower. We were surprised to find a few brussels sprouts mixed in with the cauliflower. After all, we didn't buy any brussels sprouts because we've never had good luck with them. Surprise!

Last week I also finished a baby blanket that one of Carli's friends had requested. It was the heart design. This time I used the right size hook and blue baby yarn so it came out the correct size and didn't use a ton of yarn like Carli's pink heart blankie. The friend said she'd pay me for it so I charged her $25. Hey, maybe I could start a side business!

The grandbaby is doing great. She's starting to stay awake a little more in the day time. She had a little bout of colic but it seems to be fading as quickly as it came on. We switched formula, she gets baby gas drops, and we also started using a different bottle at times. It's a "Dr. Brown" bottle, the design of which is supposed to reduce air intake while the baby is drinking. I think it helps.

Happy baby.
Wil is going to be transferred to Vista West after the Christmas break. I sure hope that helps.

I got all my Christmas cards mailed out, the tree is up, and the house is decorated, finally.

And that is basically what's been going on around here. Yep, pretty much nothing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Flaming Cherries

One of my mom's favorite desserts was "flaming cherries." My dad once made the mistake of taking her to a restaurant where the dessert was made tableside. She then made my dad take her back again and again until she was able to make it herself at home.

Unfortunately my mom's recipe was lost. I asked my siblings if they might have the recipe but, alas, none did. All I could remember was my mom used frozen orange juice concentrate, and she made it according to how many people were to be served. For example for two people she'd put two heaping tablespoons of concentrate in, for four people four heaping tablespoons.

In response to my request for Mom's recipe, my AZ sister sent me a couple of recipes she found off the internet that sounded close. I took the recipes and played with them a little and the following is what I came up with. It's not my mom's recipe exactly but it's close. Also just a note here. I tried to do the flambe'ing thing but I couldn't get it to work. The second time I had a little bit of a flame, but it wasn't like my mom's. Hey, it still tastes good!

To start: I found a jar of Morello Cherries (allegedly pitted, but we found a couple anyway!); butter; sugar; frozen orange juice concentrate; Cointreau or another orange liquer; and corn starch for thickening (optional).
This is a "per person" recipe so start by melting one teaspoon "p/p" butter in a pan.
Reserve 1/4 cherry juice p/p and add to pan...
...with two tablespoons sugar p/p.
Add one heaping tablespoon frozen oj concentrate p/p.
Stir until everything is melted.
Add 1/4 cup cherries p/p.

Add 2 tablespoons Cointreau p/p. Remove pan from heat and attempt to light it.

It's supposed to burn with a low blue flame but I couldn't get it to work right. Anyhoo, then you take it and pour it over vanilla ice cream. If you prefer a thicker sauce, this is the time to add the cornstarch. Mix two teaspoons cornstarch with about four tablespoons water (or enough to make a thin paste), then stir into the cherry mixture. Heat over low heat until it thickens to your desired...uh... thickness. Okay, moving on. Now pour over the ice cream.


If, IF you have leftovers (yeah, right!) it can be stored in the fridge. Simply reheat in microwave or in a saucepan before pouring over the next batch of icecream. Or you can do like I did and eat it straight out of the leftover bowl. But don't tell anyone I did that!


multiply each ingredient PER PERSON
1 t butter
1/4 cherry juice
2 T sugar
1 heaping T frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 C cherries
2 T Cointreau or other orange flavored liquer
cornstarch for thickening (optional)

Melt butter in pan. Add cherry juice, sugar, oj concentrate. Stir together over low heat until melted. Add cherries. Remove from heat and add liquer. Attempt to light it and once lit, shake pan gently until the flame extinguishes itself. At this time thicken sauce with cornstarch if desired. (Make a slurry of cornstarch and cold water--about 2 teaspoons corn starch 4 tablespoons cold water, or enough to make a thin paste.)

To serve: pour over vanilla ice cream.