Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Best Kind Of Grandmother Gig

Taking a blog break...






PS...the Balsamic Chicken (I posted the recipe last week) was a hit with the little people last night. Big people, too. Easy vacation meal when you bring the pre-measured spices. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Balsamic Chicken

Photo credit: Jessica

It's funny that I can make these recipes and love them and then completely forget about them. (Do you ever do that?) This is one that falls in that category. When Jessica posted the above photo on her blog a couple of weeks ago, she said that she had gotten the recipe from my blog. Really? I actually had to go look and see when I had posted it. It was about three years ago.

So it is overdue to make another appearance here. What an easy meal to make for dinner on a busy night last week. I walked in the door from handbell practice and this was ready to put on the plate.

The joy of posting these recipes here on my blog is that I can find the notes I make about what I've cooked. Three years ago I wrote that I needed to shorten the cooking time. So, this time I cooked it on HIGH for about 4 hours. This might not fit into your schedule if you are away all day. If you set the slow cooker to LOW, cook it for about 6 hours. I found that 8 hours was too long.

The joy of this recipe—other than it all goes into the slow cooker—is that the seasonings are all things that you likely have on hand. And there is no slicing or dicing. Just measure dry spices out of the little bottles. Sure, there are times when only fresh herbs will do. But there are times when "easy" is more important.

Give this one a try soon. If you actually have the fresh parsley for garnish, this looks like a company dinner. But it also works for a Wednesday night supper.


2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used jarred minced garlic)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
fresh chopped parsley

Combine the first five dry spices in a small bowl and spread over chicken on both sides. Set aside. Pour olive oil and garlic on the bottom of the crockpot. Place chicken pieces on top. Pour balsamic vinegar over the chicken. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6 hours. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

Borrowing a wonderful tip from reader Becky, I packed up the slow cooker to take to the beach where I'm on "grandmother duty" this week. She said they use a slow cooker for a few easy meals when they go. AND she measures out spices/seasonings before she leaves home. No need to buy an assortment of bottles when you only need a teaspoon or less of any of them. I think she goes even further and will freeze meat—such as a pork tenderloin—in the marinade and pack that into a cooler. Good idea for you to file away for your next trip.

PS  You can find the recipe for the orzo salad you see in the top photo on Jessica's blog post. That was her side dish with this recipe. She also has other yummy recipes there.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

37 Years Ago

It's been 37 years. More ups than downs. More smiles than frowns. Back then we joked that we got married between the soybeans and the hay.

Not "between" the two fields. But "between" on the farming calendar. Between the soybean harvest and hay season, which means the hay gets cut and baled.  (For the record, soybeans are no longer on our farm calendar.) Yes. We really did chose this date because it worked with the farm life.

And right on cue, Daddy-O finished this year's hay yesterday. Just in time for the two of us to spend time celebrating today.

So, husband, my partner, my helper, my cheerleader, my encourager, the love of my life...let me say thank you for 37 years. We're good together, aren't we?

Monday, September 19, 2016

I Am Renewed

There is "tired" and then, there is "good tired." I arrived home yesterday from the Rewind Retreat "good tired." Tired in body, but refreshed in spirit. It was not quite 48 hours long but it was a true getaway. Knitting retreats are as much about fellowship as about knitting. It's a chance to meet new friends and get to know old friends better. In this beautiful camp setting where there are no televisions, we could set aside the daily news blast (most of which is either depressing or disturbing) and let ourselves truly unwind. It's like hitting the reset button. Of course, there were plenty of iPhones on hand, but they were mostly used to touch base with family. Or, maybe look up a knitting pattern.

For two days, we just visited with other. Got to know each other better. (I knew fewer than half of the 21 attendees this time.) Swapped ideas. Talked about books. Told stories. Laughed a lot. All while knitting. Instead of looking up a "how to" on YouTube (which is a wonderful resource) there was always a real live knitter in the room who could show you what you needed to know. Or, help you solve a problem. Or make an educated suggestion.

In a world that feeds on divisiveness in nearly everything—politics, climate, religion, vaccinations, schooling, food name it—we lived for two days without talking about those things. No rule. We just didn't. Instead of controversy, there was plenty of coffee. Plenty of snack food. Too little sleep. Too few hours in each day. No cooking to do or kitchen to clean. No search for the car keys because there was no need to drive. It was exactly what a retreat should be.

Now, you know you cannot put this much yarn and this many knitters in a room together and come away without learning something new. The new skill for this retreat was learning to add beads to our knitting. And it wasn't nearly as hard as I though it would be. I'm always happy to know my brain can learn one more thing.

Personally, after this weekend, I'm rethinking my decision to avoid variegated yarns. (The yarn I used contained variations of a single color.) They are always fun to look at in the hank, but often when knitted up, they are disappointing. But here are a few of the works in progress from other knitters. And I love them all. Getting to see these shawls in person (as opposed to just photos) was an education for my eye.

We all worked on a pattern designed especially for this retreat. I cannot wait to finish my version. And then I might have to dig out a couple of multicolored skeins of yarn that I've had stashed for too long. Thank you, ladies, for inspiration and for friendship.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lake, Camp, Yarn, Friends = Retreat

My knits for show & tell

"Mimi! I'm going to a pajama party!" First words I heard from Little Sister on the phone a few days ago. She was so excited. Turns out it was pajama day for her kindergarten class. Still exciting.

Well, Mimi is going to a pajama party today, too. Sort of. It's actually a knitting retreat held yearly at the lake near us. We meet at a camp on the lake and for two nights, it's like a pajama party. With yarn. There are snacks out all the time. You can stay up as late as you want to. Or get up as early as you want to. (That would be me.) There's always lots of laughing. We get to visit with friends. And see them in their pajamas.

So it's time for me to step away from this computer and start packing a few things. Instead of taking a favorite teddy bear, this group will come with knitted items. It's too hot to wear them yet, so we will have show and tell. It's one of the favorite parts of the weekend. We get to see what others are knitting and even try things on. That's a great way to choose a new pattern.

Whatever you are doing, have fun. Or work hard, if that's on your schedule. Be in the moment. Enjoy.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Sun Comes Up Every Day

 When I walk toward the coffee pot in the morning, I walk toward the sunrise.

 I cannnot avoid whatever show the sun offers.

 So for years now, I've made sunrise photos nearly every morning.

 I make these photos for me, because I enjoy doing it.
(Yes, the sun is there. Behind the clouds.)

I make these photos for friends who are never up 
early enough to see what this part of morning looks like.

Other early riser friends enjoy my view 
because their morning sun is blocked by trees and buildings.

Ask any kindergarten class "What color is the sky?" 
and they will all shout, "Blue!" My grandchildren know better.

I love the pre-sunrise cloudy mornings, too.
Some mornings I'm a very early riser.

How can I not think "Today is a gift" when I see this sky before breakfast?

 Some mornings the sun and I ease into the day.

Some mornings begin boldly.

  There are people who collect coins or stamps. I collect mornings.

Honesty requires that I collect the plain skies, too.

Peaceful skies. Busy skies. I love them all.

Today's sky says, "Get moving. You're running late today."

These photos were all made in the last several weeks. And all photographed with my iPhone 6+.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Photo credit:  Knitmarion

Weeks ago I got an email from a knitter friend whose husband flies. "Have you ever heard of this fly-in? I think it's in your area. We are coming and wondered if you knew anything about it." I didn't really know anything about it except that it's held close to our house. And we had room for visitors. So we got to spend the most delightful weekend with friends. (If you don't know, a fly-in is a gathering of airplanes and airplane lovers. Much like our knitting retreats—but with airplanes instead of yarn.)

For once I did less of the "special stuff" that I think I should do for company, and just focused on visiting with them. Yes, I did clean off the kitchen table so we could sit down and eat. And yes, I put flowers on the table as a centerpiece. But no, I didn't bake the cookies or cinnamon rolls I wanted to make (sorry, time) and it was okay. I made a very simple supper that could be prepped before they arrived and baked just before we ate. 

Shortly before we had visitors, my daughter emailed me an article about "scruffy hospitality"*—which is simply about focusing on the people and not the house. Such a better way to be. No, the house was not a total mess. That's not what "scruffy" means here. But I left the toys in the den. I didn't worry about putting away the little things sitting on the bookshelves. And I didn't stress that I didn't make all of the food from scratch. I did as much as I could and then stopped before I was too tired. I wanted a welcoming home more than I wanted a perfect house.

One thing I did get done—well, at least it was in the oven when they arrived—was the classic Chex snack mix. This recipe came from another knitting friend, Missy. We made it last year at Christmas. In my mind it's a holiday recipe, but I need to reframe my thinking. It's good any time of the year. One round of the very slow baking and I had a snack for our visitors, a snack for next weekend's knitting retreat, and there will still be plenty for Daddy-O to munch on for weeks.

I couldn't find Wheat Chex this time. I don't know if that cereal doesn't exist anymore or if my stores have replaced it with Vanilla Chex, Cinnamon Chex, and Chocolate Chex which I did find. (Obviously my town has not jumped on the clean food wagon yet.) I didn't have time to drive to the next town to hunt down a box of cereal, so I used Quaker "Life Original" instead. That totally worked.

Make sure you read the recipe through and know that this take FIVE HOURS in the oven. It doesn't take but a few minutes to mix it up. But you do need to plan to be at home for those hours so that you can stir every 45 minutes.

NUTS & BOLTS (recipe from Missy's Mimi)

1 box Wheat Chex
1 box Rice Chex
1 box Cheerios (large)
1 (16-oz) bag pretzel sticks (I think 8 oz. is plenty)
1-1/2 lb mixed nuts (I use 1 lb mixed nuts and 1/2 lb pecan halves)
1-1/4 lb. butter (5 sticks)
3 tablespoons Tabasco
4 tablespoons Worcestershire

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mix first five ingredients together in a VERY large bowl or pot. Bring butter, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce to a boil. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir gently to coat everything.

Pour into two large roasting pans (I use the disposable foil ones) and put on middle racks in ovens if you have a double oven, or put both in one oven and alternate positions a few times while cooking. Cook for 4-1/2 to 5 hours, stirring gently every 45 minutes.

Let cool and seal in airtight containers. (Each batch makes twelve 8-oz bags.) If sealed well, this Chex mix stays crunchy for a long time.

Those are Missy's notes in the recipe. I did exactly as she instructed. My pot for mixing is 10 qts. and it was barely big enough. (If you don't own a giant pot, I think you could divide your cereals, nuts and butter mix up between the two foil pans.) Stir carefully. I slid my pans into the oven at exactly 2:00 PM so I knew it would be done at 7:00 PM. I wrote down my 45 minute time intervals (2:45, 3:30, etc) and marked them off every time I stirred. That made it easy to keep up with it.

*from the article by Jack King...
"Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together."