Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's A Lovely Day


We had little visitors for the weekend. Mommy and J-Daddy dropped them off at the farm on Friday on their way to a wedding. (Big Sister spent the weekend with a friend.) Fortunately for us, Jessica had already planned to be here the same weekend. This was an all-hands-on-deck kind of weekend.


There had been plans to visit the Dr. Seuss exhibit at a nearby museum. But the little people had zero desire to leave the farm. They had two days of playing outside, riding everything with wheels. That included their little pink car, the big wheel, the scooter, and the red wagon. It also meant rides through the pasture in the big green John Deere tractor and the classic old blue Jeep. Things they don't get to do at home.

Remember that there were two little girls and three adults here for the weekend. Then how could we be so tired when the weekend was over? My days went something like this:

In the kitchen:
 I sit down.
"Mimi, I want a snack" "But you just finished dinner (or lunch or breakfast or another snack.)" "Pleeease! I'm hungry." "I'm starving."
I stand up and go to the kitchen and peel an apple.

I sit down.
SPLAT!!  The dinner plate hits the floor. "Mimi!"
I stand up and clean up the mess and make another plate.

I sit down to eat.
A fork hits the floor. "Mimi!"
I stand up and get another fork.

In the den:
I sit down.
"No! No! That's Mimi's knitting. You can't play with that."
I stand up and move the knitting to the mantle.

I sit down.
"Mimi, can I draw with this?"
I stand up and put the permanent marker on the mantle and find the washable markers.

I sit down.
...Silence...
I stand up and go see what's going on.

In the bedroom:
I get in the bed.
"Mimi, I need to go potty."
I get up and take care of that.

I get in the bed.
"Mimi, where's my bunny? I need my bunny."
I get up and find the bunny.

I get in the bed.
"Mimi, I spilled my water."
I get up and mop up the spill.

You get the idea. All of us were doing the same kind of thing. But with three grownups here, we did manage to keep the littles fed and entertained and safe.


After everyone had left, we talked about how the newly-turned-three Baby Girl sounded so grown up now. She looked up at her adored Aunt Jecca, who had taken her out to swing, and told her, "It's a lovely day." And Little Sister sneaked up behind me on Saturday and stuck this pink note on my shoulder. It truly was a lovely day and a wonderful weekend.

When the house was quiet, after all the cars were loaded, and the visitors headed down the road, we picked up the dollhouse with its million tiny pieces of furnishings, the plastic princesses, the farm set, the checker game, and the crayons and coloring books. We emptied the mantle which had filled up with confiscated items. We deflated and rolled up the air bed—which Little Sister prefers to a bed. Then we sat down. It might have been more like a collapse.

And then we thought this is what grandparenting is all about. There are many reasons grandparents are important. One of those important things is making memories. We usually think that we are making memories for the little ones. But every bit as important is that we are making memories for us. Memories that will be the springboard for those, "Remember that time...." conversations that Daddy-O and I will have later. Memories that will keep us company when we don't see these little girls for many weeks and we miss them terribly. Memories about that "lovely day"—the lovely weekend—we had with family.










Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Exploring The Instant Pot - Teriyaki Chicken


I promise I'm not going to bombard you with Instant Pot recipes because I know many (maybe most) of you don't have one. But this was really good and it's making me think that the Instant Pot is worth adding to my kitchen. Understand that I have plenty of storage space, so I don't have the issue of where to store it. That might be a real problem for some of you.

And if you are a fairly competent cook, you can make this recipe without an Instant Pot. You could mix the sauce, pour it over the chicken and put it in the oven. Or, it could be done in a regular pressure cooker. And I imagine it would be fine in a crockpot.

Using the Instant Pot did free me to prep the rest of the dinner. From the time I pushed the button to start the cooking process until the pressure released at the end, it was 21 minutes. Add about five minutes at the beginning to measure out the sauce ingredients and another five minutes at the end to thicken the sauce. So dinner was on the table in thirty minutes. For us, that is faster than any takeout food that we could have picked up.

Now, oven cooking and slow cookers also give you a "hands off" way to make dinner. You must do a little prep work, but the cooking itself with any of these methods does not require your attention. An hour in the oven, about eight hours in a slow cooker, or twenty minutes in a pressure cooker. Any of these will give you teriyaki chicken for dinner. Pick the cooking style that fits your day. It's nice to have choices.


Tonight it was the Instant Pot that worked with my schedule. I started cooking at 6:00 pm and we sat down to eat at 6:30. That's pretty quick. I am not ready to declare that the Instant Pot has "changed my life" (yes, there are people who say that) and I am not using it every day, but so far I'm glad I gave in and ordered one.

If you are cutting back on sugar in your diet, this recipe is not for you. But it was delicious. The food rule around our house is "all things in moderation." So this won't be a weekly meal, but I will make it again.

TERIYAKI CHICKEN (Instant Pot)

1 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1-2 lbs thawed chicken breasts

Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, ginger, and garlic in the Instant Pot. Add chicken and turn in sauce to coat. Close lid and set vent to pressure.
Set Instant Pot to Poultry setting and set time for 5-7 minutes. Let pressure release naturally.
Remove chicken from sauce and set aside. Stir in cornstarch to thicken sauce. (I turned on the "saute" function to do this.)
Slice chicken and add back into sauce.

Serve over rice, with plenty of sauce.


The chicken breasts I had were large, so I cooked for 7 minutes. Smaller ones or thinner ones might take the lesser time.





Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Bed Had Wheels


I just got home from official Mimi duty. (It's nice to be needed.) Baby Girl made a trip to the hospital on Monday morning. She told me, "I'm going to get my ears cracked." In adult speak, that's called getting ear tubes. Everything went smoothly and quickly. She was back at home by mid-afternoon, sleeping off her hard morning. By suppertime, she was wide awake.

I asked her to tell me about what happened. In between bounces and twirls and spins and tumbles, this newly-turned-three-year-old told me, "I went to the hospital." And again I asked her to tell me about it. "The bed had wheels!" "The nurse told me I had to be very patient."  She spread her fingers and put her hand over her nose. "They put a big thing on my face." Then she ran to the table beside her bed and pointed to the mask on her nebulizer. "It was like this. I think they gave me a breathing treatment." She ended with, "And I ate a popsicle." All in all, she had a good day.

Her mommy said that Baby Girl's nurse called a few other nurses into her room to see this happy little chatterbox. Most of the other little ones there that morning for the same procedure were not having such a positive experience. They could hear the unhappy contingent down the hall. No doubt about it. A happy toddler was the exception.

And while Mommy and J-Daddy were busy tending to the little patient, I was the chauffeur for the big sisters. There was a quick breakfast before school that morning. Little Sister asked for honey toast, her current favorite breakfast. And then on the way to school, she proceeded to tell me how to make it. "Mimi, you should try it. You could make this." So I thought I'd share her recipe with you.


Here's the recipe...in Little Sister's own words:

HONEY TOAST

bread
honey

First you toast your own bread.

Then you drizzle honey from side to side. You can drizzle it from front to back, too. But Mommy won't let me have that much honey.

And then you eat it. Enjoy!








Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Quick & Easy Cake


"What? It's MY turn to bring the dessert?" If that's ever happened to you—finding yourself in need of a quick dessert—here is an entirely reasonable option. The Publix bakery is good, but for me, this is even quicker that a trip to the store. (Oh, the joys of rural life.) And I do like a homemade cake best.

We have baked this cake for years. The recipe came from a cousin who has gone on the glory. It wouldn't surprise me if she's baking her cakes for the angels in heaven now. I have paired this cake with chocolate frosting and caramel icing and, like we did on Palm Sunday, topped it with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Strawberry shortcake is the perfect springtime dessert.

If you aren't in need of this recipe now, save it for later. It only takes a few minutes to mix together. There is no sifting the flour, no softening the butter, no creaming butter and sugar. None of that. Just dump everything in a large bowl and beat it with a hand mixer. And then it's ready to pour into a baking pan.

QUICK & EASY CAKE

2 cups self-rising flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I use whatever kind I have in the refrigerator)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat until well mixed. (I use an electric hand mixer.) Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.

It can also be baked in layers or used for cupcakes. Just adjust the baking time accordingly.



On occasion I cook a real Sunday dinner. 



Saturday, April 8, 2017

In The Company Of Extraordinary Women


For the third time, I'm back at home from the annual Knitting Pipeline Retreat in Georgia. Each one has been wonderful, but maybe because it WAS the third time, this retreat was truly special. It was different than that first year when I arrived not knowing a soul except for one person that I only "knew" through Ravelry messages. That first day was tinged with anxiety when I walked in alone. So many new faces.

This year I was late getting there because we celebrated Baby Girl's 3rd birthday that afternoon. But when I walked into the big gathering room last Sunday, it felt like I was coming home. In an instant, I was enveloped in hugs and shouted greetings and love. These are people I know now. Someone slipped a tiny gift into my hand. A "just because" gift. Another brought me "Mimi socks"—a treat from one Mimi to another. How good it made me feel to hear, "We're glad you finally got here!"

I've written before about the wide range of interests that these knitters have outside of the yarn world. And I'm always amazed that they gather from every corner of the country to spend a few days together in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia. One even comes from London each year to be there among this group of creative women.

But this year in particular, I felt that I was in the company of extraordinary women. Women who know so much about goodness and kindness and caring. They had much to teach me about generosity and being gracious. As I knitted, I took note of how they listened to each other and how they encouraged one another. At each mealtime—in defiance of the law of human nature—knitters looked for a seat at a different table, wanting to sit with different people. Wanting to make sure everyone was included in the conversation.

I have come home finding myself challenged to be a better me. To be more aware of those around me, to be kinder, to be more generous, to see who might need a hug or a whispered encouragement. To let someone gently know, "I see you. I know you are there." To be quicker to do good.

Possibly because this conference center is in a remote location where phone service is spotty, WIFI barely works and there is no television, friendships have grown deep here. I had a few minutes of conversation with the retreat organizer. She said there are two kinds of retreats—those that are organized around classes and learning new skills and those that are designed to let knitters be together, away from everyday activities. She chose to let her retreats to be the latter, to be occasions for building relationships.

And yet there is still plenty to be learned as you sit next to a knitter who knows a thing or two that you haven't tried yet. Or, you'll find someone sitting on the porch who has already encountered the problem you are having at the moment. The collective knowledge of the craft and the skills possessed by these women is enormous. But the magic of this retreat is in the relationships that have been created.

We now know the names of grandchildren. We know who left a sick cat at home. We know who takes care of elderly parents. We know the knitters traveling to Australia and Iceland and India this year and we look forward to seeing pictures on Instagram later. We know who will have a new baby in the family by this time next year. We know whose son will graduate this spring and whose son is getting married soon. These knitting friends may live several states away but each one is as close as a text message.

Yes. Of course, it's about the yarn and the knitting. That's what got us here. But, oh, it is so, so much more now. Thank you, Paula, for making this happen. And thank you, Missy, for sending me a message on Ravelry that first year, "This isn't far from you. You should come."



Now, I cannot end this post without mentioning this year's weather. It will be part of the retreat lore forever. We spent nearly an hour sheltering in a basement hallway on Monday while the tornado sirens were going off outside. It was just another place to knit and visit. And two days later, the second weather front passed through on the day the retreat ended. Several knitters ended up spending the night at the airport (the lucky ones got hotel rooms) when hundreds of flights were cancelled. Those driving home had some white knuckle moments as they carefully maneuvered through Atlanta highways in torrential rain and high winds as they headed to other states to the north, south and west.

Some of us left a little early hoping to get out of harm's way. It was hard to miss a minute of retreat visiting, but we were glad to be off the road when the worst hit. It was a relief when we learned every knitter finally made it safely to their next destination, whether that was home or another knitting retreat in different state.

Until next year, ladies! I'm already looking forward to it.






Friday, March 31, 2017

Breakfast In A Flash


I'm pretty good at keeping foods for dinner in the freezer. I don't make that much effort with breakfast foods. Breakfast is so quick and easy to make, that I normally don't bother. But Daddy-O likes a bigger breakfast than I do. Like bacon and eggs. Or, sausage biscuits. And those do take more time in the morning.

Last week while I was on my quest to restock the freezer, I added a couple of items that Daddy-O can grab in a hurry. He's on his own for a few days now while I'm at a knitting retreat. With a couple of breakfast options in the freezer, I know he won't be hungry in the mornings.

I baked applesauce muffins which I have made many times. They freeze well. I popped them into the freezer, two to a pint-size freezer ziplock bag. He can take out one pack for breakfast or a snack when he wants something. And because they are packed in "twos," he won't need to thaw out the others until he's ready.

And after applesauce muffins, I made "egg muffins." I made a version of these once with vegetable and remember Daddy-O saying, "These are good. But they'd be better if they had some meat in them." So this sausage/egg/cheese recipe sounded like what he wanted.


These can be eaten as is, or you can smash them flat and tuck into a toasted English muffin or a biscuit. Kind of like homemade fast food!

EGG "MUFFINS"

1 lb turkey sausage (I used pork sausage)
6 large eggs
1 cup egg whites (from 7 large eggs)
1/4 cup minced onion
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown sausage until no pink remains. Drain on paper towels. Spray muffin tins with PAM. Divide the cooked sausage, onion and cheeses between the 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, egg whites, and salt & pepper. Pour egg mixture over the sausage and cheese in each cup.

Bake 22-25 minutes, until set and lightly browned.

Remove from pan and serve warm. Or, let cook completely on a wire rack and refrigerate or freeze.

To reheat from refrigerated, microwave about 30 seconds. To reheat from frozen, microwave 45-60 seconds. (Microwave ovens vary, so figure out the time for yours.)


To freeze them, I placed the cooled muffins on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking pan. Freeze for 1-2 hours, and then wrap for freezer storage. You might want to set a timer to remind you to go back and bag them up. It's easy to forget.


I put them into packs of two and labeled with thawing instructions. Then after trying out the "thaw from frozen" directions, Daddy-O discovered that it took him about 75 seconds to thaw his.


And in the interest of full disclosure, this is what mine looked like coming out of the oven. There was some overflow. I just trimmed that off as I removed them from the cups and everything was good.




Second Life For Dresses



Back in another lifetime, I loved sewing beautiful lacy dresses for our two little girls. And they loved these dresses that twirled out wide when they would spin around and around. Many, many hours were invested in making sweet garments for my sweet little girls. So as you can imagine, when my girls outgrew the dresses about 30 years ago, I couldn't bare to part with them. They were carefully packed away.

Now I have two more little girls—our granddaughters—who love to twirl in pretty dresses. So this week I pulled out the dresses that I think might fit them now. And I got them ready to take with me when I head that way this weekend. (There is a birthday party for a certain 3 year old happening!)

You rarely see dresses like these any more, but this was the typical Sunday dress for little girls at our church back then. As I ironed for hours, I thought about why little girls don't wear these to church any more. And I think it's because I had to iron for hours. No one wants takes the time any more for that. It is a labor intensive process to iron miles of lace and ruffles. Moms are busy elsewhere.

I also wondered how I found the time to do this kind of sewing with young children in the house. No social media? No text messages? No smart phone with beeps and whistles that requires attention? No Pinterest boards to follow. No blogs to read? Or write? Maybe. Whatever the reason, life is different now. But I'm delighted that, at that point in my life, I had time to make these precious dresses. And even happier that I saved them for this generation.

It is likely that these dresses will only be worn one more time. My own little girls wore them to church every Sunday, but now the two that fit might be worn on Easter. And then we'll pack them away again. Who knows? Maybe there will be more little girls to wear these in years to come.


Of all the objects that we might want to save, textiles are particularly fragile. These dresses are made with batiste fabric that is as thin as tissue paper. And the threads in the lace are as delicate as butterfly eyelashes. So as I ironed, I found a few spots where the lace had simply given way to age. A basic whipped stitch with a single fine thread made a presentable repair.

If you have keepsake garments—like baby clothes, christening gowns, etc— that you want to keep for years, here are some steps you should take before storing them. Understand that these are not true conservation techniques. But these basic steps will help your stored clothing survive longer than they might otherwise.

Clean the garment before storage. Even oil from your hands can show up as yellow spots years later.  I hand wash these dresses in cold water, using a gentle detergent such as Delicare. Rinse in cold water and repeat until rinse water is clear. Do not wring out. Hang to dry. Do not iron until ready to wear it again.

Once a year, check garment for any discoloration. Wash again every year or two (or 4 or 5) to keep them fresh.

If storing in a drawer or box, wrap in acid-free tissue paper. If possible, don't fold the garment. If hanging, make a cover with an old, well-washed 100% cotton pillowcase to keep the dust off the dress. An old pillowcase that has been washed many times should be pretty much chemical free. Don't use metal hangers because they can rust. I like padded hangers.

Store in a dark, dry place with a moderate temperature. That means not in a hot attic or in a damp basement.

And then if you save some special dresses like I did, you'll be lucky and your grandchildren will be girls!