Friday, May 29, 2015
Just a few days ago, I read a quote that said, "Perfection is the enemy of good enough." Wish I could remember where I read it to give credit to a wise person. I am not a perfectionist by any means. But I can have my moments.
I have worked on this colorful shawl, made from my leftover yarn scraps, for quite a while now. I took it to the midwest, mostly for airport knitting. I knitted some on my return trip and then put in a few more rows the next day. Those were the days, after intense babysitting, when both my brain and my body were beyond tired. Total fatigue. Knitting is restful and restorative for me, so it made sense to knit a little.
But as I worked on it at home, sitting on my porch where the only noise was the hummingbird wars going on beside me, my brain began to come back to full function. And then it hit me. Inches back, I had made a series of mistakes.
I had a few choices. I could take out a couple of inches and correct it. I could forge ahead and hope. Or, I could carefully take the shawl off the needles and see what was happening. That's what I decided to do. That process took less than 30 minutes.
So, what did I decide after I spread it out to see what it looked like? It's not perfect. But it is good enough. I am knitting this shawl from scraps. I am making it to wear with my jeans. I can only devote so many hours to knitting. It is good enough.
I remembered that quote about perfection and I started thinking about times when we should appreciate "good enough."
Years ago, there were home economics teachers who, instead of teaching kids to sew, taught them to hate sewing because the final product had to be "perfect." Perfection shouldn't be the goal for a beginner. When I taught home ec, the first sewing project was a simple skirt and the goal was different. If it didn't fall apart or fall off the one wearing it, it was good enough. There was time to build skills as we went on.
Some piano teachers have been known to focus so much on hitting all the right notes, that the music is lost. I learned later in life that sometimes it's better to keep the rhythm going (okay--maybe this doesn't apply to classical piano) than it is to stop and hunt the right note. Sometimes a joyful noise can be good enough. Encourage the love of music and let the accuracy come along in it's own time.
Have you ever thought about inviting friends for lunch—when the house is perfectly clean? How about accepting that it is good enough and have them over now? Why put off having fun? One of the best times I've had recently was when a friend invited me over to share leftovers. Her leftovers were better than good enough. I'd go to her house anytime for leftovers.
One of my favorite memories of my daddy is hearing him scrape off the dark brown parts of almost-burnt toast on the mornings he cooked breakfast for us. (There weren't many of those. Something desperate must have happened to my mother.) He knew about good enough. In fact, I kind of like well done toast now.
It is so easy to get caught up in working toward having everything exactly right. Maybe it's time to appreciate that sometimes "good enough" can be just about perfect.
Monday, May 25, 2015
For years, another mom and I parked beside each other every day as we waited for school to be dismissed. Our daughters were best friends. We both could back our cars into those parking spaces with the precision of experienced truckers. We had to back into the spaces so that we would have a hope of getting out into the crazy flow of traffic that started as soon as the children exploded from the school doors.
Parked side by side, we rolled down the car windows and talked about the ordinary stuff of life. Grocery shopping. Stain removal. Redecorating. Bargain hunting. And cooking. Kay was an excellent cook. One day she was telling me that she had made sauteed mushrooms the night before. I asked for the recipe. She laughed and told me that it was so easy that there was no recipe. So easy that her sixth-grade daughter would make them for an after school snack. (We make ours to go with grilled steaks.) And then she told me how she did it:
Melt butter in a skillet. Add a little Worcestershire sauce and fresh lemon juice. Stir together. Gently stir in a package of sliced mushrooms and sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms release their juices. Continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated and the mushroom are browned.
For two decades now, I've made Kay's mushrooms. I think about her every time I make them. And how I miss seeing her now that we are both grandmothers and our daughters are all grown up and they haven't needed an after school pick up in a very long time.
I never thought about making mushrooms a different way—until we were at the lake last weekend and I realized there was no Worcestershire sauce there. The lake kitchen is decently stocked, but there was no Worcestershire sauce. And the store is miles away.
I would have to make do. I checked out a couple of recipes on Google and found one that called for ingredients I did have in our tiny kitchen. I will give you the recipe I found—plus the adjustments I made. But let me say that I didn't measure anything. I just threw all in a pan and cooked!
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
8-oz package sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
good sprinkle of garlic powder
a splash of red wine
Stir together lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar and oil. Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot. Add lemon juice/oil mixture, then sauté mushrooms, stirring, until mushrooms release their liquid and it evaporates. Continue stirring until mushrooms are golden brown. Add butter, wine and garlic powder and saute , stirring, until butter is absorbed.
Kay, I love your mushroom recipe and always will. But this second recipe was really good. Like really, REALLY good. I'll still probably use your recipe often because I can do it without thinking. But I want to try this one again. Maybe it was the red wine that added the depth of flavor. Maybe I'll add a little wine to the original recipe. Maybe I'll call Kay and tell her hello.
Everyone needs some slow days. Days when you can change your regular routine and do things differently. Even just a little break is good.
We are blessed to have just such a spot for slowing down. This lake cabin isn't fancy. It isn't big. Most everything here is old and creaky. But it's comfortable.
There is always something that needs fixing when a house is this old, especially the first time down for the summer. But this place is ours. It has been in the family for over 50 years. My father-in-law bought this place when Daddy-O was about 11 years old.
We mostly do slow things here. (After the chores are done.) A little fishing, hoping all the while that you don't catch anything. A little knitting that you aren't in a rush to finish. Maybe read a book that you've not had time to pick up at home.
There are plenty of lake activities if you want more to do, though. Sometimes we just watch. There is a serious swimmer (top left) who swims the length of our cove. We see an occasional sailboat. (top right) And there are always fishermen, working the water just off our pier early in the mornings. (bottom left) We did enjoy time on the boat this weekend. Never got the kayaks out, though. Something to look forward to next time.
And here is a reminder that we only share this lake. There are so many creatures and critters in the water and in the air and on the land. Birds. Snakes. Fish. Squirrels. Lizards. Raccoons. Beavers. We all coexist peacefully.
We even took a rare evening cruise up the lake just before dark. Not many boats out on the lake last night. That made it even nicer. These are times to savor.
This was a remarkable weekend, one when the temperature was pleasant and a cool breeze was always blowing. Hot weather is more typical. We never turned on the air conditioning. I think that's a first. We also never turned on the TV. We only get one channel anyway, so we didn't miss much there.
Food always tastes better when it's eaten on the porch. We kept the cooking simple. The bacon and eggs I cooked for breakfast this morning was the most complicated meal cooked all weekend. Well, maybe not complicated but it dirtied up the most pans!
Good times this weekend with family. Looking forward to more good times as the summer unfolds.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Pattern: Everyday Wrap
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Light (Vintage Safari colorway)
Needles: size 8
Every Thursday I look forward to searching for a parking place on the town square and heading to the Thursday afternoon knitting group. It's just a small group of knitters who gather at a local photography shop (the owner is a knitter) that has room to host us. Some of us had talked about starting something like this for years, then one day I mentioned it to the photographer friend. She said, "How about coming here? Want to start next week?" Perfect!
There is so much chatter and laughter each week. I've gotten to know a couple of new folks. All of these knitters are readers, too, so there is always "book talk," almost like a knitting/book club. It's fun to see what the others are knitting and what yarns they have tried. There is always someone to help you figure out a puzzling pattern.
Our Thursday knitting group doesn't usually do "group projects." Everyone is free to work on anything they want to. But weeks ago we decided to all make this easy wrap to boost our newest knitter. She is making it as her first project after making lots of dishcloths. It's just a rectangle made with lots and lots of stockinette stitch. It is seamed together in a clever manner and it can be worn a couple of ways.
The pattern also offers a knitted ruffle along the seam line. But I have just the tiniest bit of yarn left. I am still thinking about it. It's possible I would have just enough. Maybe. So for right now it will rest at this stage while I think about the ruffle. This non-ruffled version is also pictured on the pattern, so it is a legitimate choice.
I think I'll enjoy it all the way through summer. Chilly air conditioned rooms. Cool evenings. I love it when someone else pushes me to make something that I would have never chosen on my own. And I find out I like it. Even the yarn was a gift. I love this color, but I doubt I would have picked it. Maybe it's time I break out of my rut.
Friday, May 22, 2015
This is a classic Southern recipe. There is no pretense that it's a healthy recipe. It is just a delicious recipe. And it's incredibly easy to make. I think of this as a holiday or luncheon or party recipe. The very first time I ever had them was at my bridal luncheon, hosted by my high school home economics teacher. This is the recipe I got from her.
I was at Mommy's house on Mother's Day. Sunday lunch was take-out deli items from Fresh Market because there was so much going on at their house that day. But Mommy added one hot item to the table. These little muffins are so easy that even in a crazy-mode household, they were manageable.
They are simple enough that Little Sister could stir them up by herself. Mommy did help by melting the butter and pouring that in. We always make these as mini-muffins. The bite-size version is perfect as far as we are concerned. They are so rich that you might only eat one or two. Or, what is more likely is that you will just keep popping "one more" in your mouth!
SOUR CREAM MUFFINS
1 cup sour cream
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups self-rising flour
Stir together. Spoon into greased mini-muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees from 15-20 minutes.
Can be baked until almost done, then removed from pans and frozen. Place on cookie sheet to freeze, then wrap them securely to store in the freezer. Complete browning just before serving.
Makes 36 (or maybe more) mini muffins
I have also seen this recipe called Sour Cream Gems. And Paula Deen's recipe is called Sour Cream Butter Biscuits. Whatever the name, they are delicious!
Thursday, May 21, 2015
But yesterday it was time for this tired grandmother to head home. Sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight probably was the longest time I had sat still in many days. My age was telling on this trip. I had all three girls by myself for the better part of a week. Three healthy busy girls were left in my care.
There were still three busy healthy girls at home when Mommy and J-Daddy got back. That was the goal. The bigger possibility was that I would not survive the week! But I did. (I really need to bump up my exercise routine at home before I do this again.)
One thing I was so looking forward to was getting to know the littlest of the three. Because of the distance, I just hadn't spent time with her. It took her a couple of days to warm up to the strange person (me) in her home. But after that, we were fine. She is always walking now. Never still. I spent much time turning her in a different (safer) direction.
Big Sister wanted a French braid for field day one morning. And Little Sister wants everything that her big sister has. I am terribly out of practice but these were acceptable and we got to school on time.
I am an early riser by nature. With the time difference, I woke up VERY early at their house. I found I looked forward to this time just before the sun came up. It was good for me to have some quiet time. There isn't much of that in a house with three children, but I actually knitted an entire shawlette while I was there. Started the day I arrived and finished it just in time to wear home.
Pattern: Lacy Baktus
Yarn: Bella Lino
Needles: size 5
Every morning after I had knitted for a while, still before anyone else work up, I was joined by this sleepy little person who wanted to snuggle. She told me every day, "I'm flying back home with you, Mimi." She had her little pink suitcase packed and carried it around for days. But sadly there was no ticket for her this time.
I'm missing my little buddy this morning, but I'll be back soon to help with the actual getting-those-girls-across-the-country part of the move. And then we won't have to spend a day flying (or two days driving) to see them. That will be nice.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Mommy and her family in the midwest are contemplating a move this summer. I am flying out today to babysit while Mommy and J-Daddy look at houses in the new location. In preparation, there have been several moving companies in to look at the house and give estimates for packing and moving them. Obviously Little Sister (age 4) has paid more attention than anyone realized.
We got this text message from Mommy yesterday...
Little Sister has been walking me around the house, asking me to show her each room, and then proceeding to ask me which items go. She enters each entry into a calculator, saying she’s the “estimate lady.” Once she had seen every room, I asked her how much the move was going to cost.... $56,428,078, but it does include moving the baby, too.
Her estimate might be a little on the high side.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
I am thinking about how many days I'll be away when I head out this weekend to babysit the granddaughters. When I go, I always try to leave some cooked foods in the freezer for Daddy-O to make it easier for him to have a meal. Sometimes my freezer stash includes muffins that he can have for breakfast.
But the last time I was out visiting, the mother of Big Sister's good friend was telling about making "egg muffins" to put in her freezer. She said her family loved them. And she liked to keep them on hand because it was so easy for her daughters to grab a couple and zap them in the microwave for an on-the-go breakfast.
She sent the recipe yesterday. It's one I have looked at for years but never made. It's the Vegetable Quiche Cups to Go from the South Beach cookbook. (Not sure why the photo has these little quiches in crust--it's a crustless recipe.)
I made them this morning with some slight variation. I didn't have Egg Beaters or reduced-fat cheese here. So if you are truly wanting low-fat or lower calorie, you'll need to look at the original recipe. I also added one more egg than the Egg Beaters-to-egg equivalent. Three eggs just didn't look like enough.
Warm from the oven, these are delicious. I'm trusting Megan's mom that they are also good from the freezer. Just be sure the peel off the foil cups before microwaving.
VEGETABLE QUICHE CUPS
1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced green or red pepper
a few grinds of black pepper
Microwave the spinach for 2-1/2 minutes on HIGH. Squeeze out the excess liquid.
Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups and spray the liners with PAM.
Combine eggs, spinach, cheese, onion, green peppers, and black pepper. Mix well. Divide evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
May be frozen and reheated in the microwave. (Remove the foil cups) Can use any combination of appropriate vegetables.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said "No farmers. No food." I know that some of you have gardens and produce some of your own food. But most people in this country depend on farmers to provide what they buy at the grocery store. Farm work is crucial to all of us.
Hay season is a busy time here on the farm. This afternoon Daddy-O is baling hay, while the blue tractor is raking hay ahead of him. That old saying "make hay while the sun shines" is more than a saying. It's truth. None of this heavy equipment can run on soft wet earth. And you can't bale wet hay.
So today while it is sunny and gorgeous, the work is done as quickly as possible. Over the next few weeks, hay will be baled and stored. Hopefully enough to feed the cattle over the winter months.
I am often asked what I do here on the farm. I don't drive the tractors, although there are wives on neighboring farms who can do that. My answer is always the same--I feed the farmer. It's a small contribution. But Daddy-O appreciates it.
Monday, May 4, 2015
This grandmother had a fun weekend in the city. I drove down to Atlanta for Derby Day, a charity event that raises funds for The Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation hospital that treats patients with brain and spinal cord injuries, a truly remarkable facility that is ranked among the top in the nation.
Derby Day has been going on for years. This was the 33rd Annual Derby Day. Jessica's very good friends co-chaired the event this year. Thanks to their hard work and that of many volunteers, it all went so smoothly.
Derby Day attracts about 1,500 attendees of all ages. There were babies and children, many many young professionals and folks with silver hair—all dressed in Derby Day finery, including those wonderful hats.
The big day was held at Chastain Horse Park in Atlanta. While it was not like being at the actual race, a horse park was the next best place to be. The food was fabulous. The band, The Last Waltz Ensemble, played all afternoon. The weather was perfect.
Late in the afternoon I was lucky to find a seat in the shade with a good view of everything. Jessica checked in to make sure I was having fun. She didn't have to worry. I had a great time.
There was a silent auction and a live auction. Everything at Derby Day is done with thoughts of having fun and raising funds. During the afternoon I met many of Jessica's friends. Finally I have faces to put with names I've heard for years. I met parents of friends. (Some of them even read this blog. Hi!)
And after a full afternoon of fun, it was time for the big event--the Kentucky Derby. When the race started, the crowd focused on one of the two giant screens outdoors. And there were big screen TVs for those who opted to stay inside. Just a perfect day all the way around.
And as always, a weekend in Atlanta is going to include delicious food in fun restaurants. Both of these photos were breakfast!
Now I am back at home on the farm, happy to settle down for a few days before I head out to visit grandchildren. Grandmothers are busy people.