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."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hot & Sweet Chicken

Hot & Sweet Chicken

I'm sharing a recipe from the archives today while we are busy enjoying house guests for a few days. I have made it many times. These photos from from last week.


This is without a doubt the best of the easy recipes that I use. I just looked to see how many times I've posted it here before and I counted four times. But I haven't posted it in the last three years, so it's time to share it again for you newer readers. And to jog your memory if you've been here a while.

It was the first meal I made after my long stay at Mommy's. The cupboard was bare after my days away and when I went grocery shopping, chicken thighs were on sale. And I remembered this recipe. Daddy-O was late getting home from the livestock show on Saturday and I knew we wouldn't be going out anywhere. So this was the easiest meal I could make. And truthfully, it's one of the best.


1 cup pineapple preserves (apricot or peach are good, too)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic (I used the jar kind)
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco, or to taste (I used 1 tsp of Texas Pete)
1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6-8 thighs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine preserves, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic and Tabasco. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until preserves are melted.

Arrange thighs in a 9x13-inch pan, sprayed with PAM. (Or, line with foil for easier clean up.) Pour sauce over the chicken, turning to coat. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until done, spooning sauce over chicken while baking. 

If you use bone-in chicken pieces, the cooking time will be longer. Adjust as necessary. This is what I used this time—that's what was on sale—and I baked them for about 45-50 minutes. I did pull the skin off these thighs before baking.

This time I served this with Sesame Asian salad (a Dole chopped salad kit that I stirred together,) boil-in-the-bag brown rice and I toasted jalapeno cheddar bread I bought at the grocery store bakery. I am envious of those of you who can dial a number and have food show up at your door a little later. There is no "order your food and have it delivered" here in the country. Not even pizza. But this was nearly as easy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Weekend Knitting Tally

Pattern:  Kid's Fruit Hat by Ann Norling (minus the leafy top)
Yarn:  Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, white
Needles:  size 6

You read last week about my deep search for the white baby hat that was on the needles. And you saw that in my search,  I pulled out every bag I could find that held some kind of knitting. Well, you know that I finally located that missing little hat. But in the process of searching, I had to face all of those unfinished projects. Most were just bits of simple knitting that I'm sure I started when I needed some "social knitting." That's the kind you can do while you're talking to other knitters.

Well, that digging deep and finding these abandoned projects was a good thing. I tossed a few of them in a bigger bag and took them with me to the lake for our weekend.  I finished the little hat right as the weekend began. It's ready and waiting for the October baby. Yahoo! I'm ahead of the curve, for once.

Pattern:  Waffle Knit Dish Cloth from Homespun Living 
Yarn:  Cotton yarn, but I can't remember the brand
Needles:  size 7

One can never have enough dishcloths. So when I need a quick-to-start easy project, I'll begin another one. Usually I make the Grandmother's Favorite. It's my favorite, too. You only cast on 4 stitches, so it's the very quickest to begin. And I never need to look at a pattern for that one.

But the waffle knit dishcloth is a great (and free) pattern, too. I've made it before. It was one of the first "I know how to knit something beyond a straight scarf" project. It's a four row pattern that does require a little focus. I knitted 12 repeats of that 4-row pattern for a good size cloth. The actual pattern has a contrast stripe in the center that I chose to leave out.

Now I can scratch this one off my "unfinished" list. Remember, that just because it's simple doesn't mean you can't learn something. I used a new-to-me technique for weaving in the ends this time. Check out this video from Very Pink Knits.

Pattern: Sock Recipe:  A Good, Plain Sock from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Yarn:  Knit Picks Felici, Countess colorway
Needles:  size 1.5

This is the project that I was happiest to finish. The second sock—the SECOND sock, mind you—was only about three inches from the end. And I had just set it aside for ages. No clue why. But it is done now, just in time for cooler weather when I can wear them.

Yes. I know my stripes don't line up. They are supposed to be that way because I like them a little funky. This yarn comes in a small ball, so it takes one ball of yarn for each sock. I started one sock from the outside of the ball. The other sock was started with yarn pulled from the inside of the ball. The stripe sequence is reversed. Just for fun.

And I tried a variation on the Kitchener stitch at the toe. I happened across this video. She leaves out the set-up stitches. So the first sock that I made months ago was closed with my usual way. And the second sock uses this "new" method. It was fun to compare them on a single pair of socks. They both work. Nice to have options.

There are a few more bags for me to empty, but I feel really good to have these done. This is when I'm a little envious of the monogamous knitters. Those who never start a new project until they have completely finished the current one. Obviously, I'm not made that way. But on the plus side, I didn't find 20+ bags of partially knitted projects. I know some of those knitters, too!

Pattern:  Easy Folded Poncho from Churchmouse Yarns & Teas
Yarn:  Rowan Tweed, Keld colorway
Needles:  size 6 

While this poncho was not part of the "neglected" knitting, it was part of my weekend knitting. It did not travel to the lake, though. I finished knitting this mile-and-a-half of plain stockinette (it was really only 50 inches) and soaked it and pinned it out just before we walked out the door. Leaving it in the floor to dry was perfect. I didn't have to look at it for three days. And yesterday when we got home, it was ready to unpin and stitch up. There is only a single shoulder seam. So before Labor Day was over, this was finished and ready to wear. Now I'm just waiting on fall weather to get here.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Last Of The Lake Days

The last summer holiday weekend.  We had a quiet weekend at the lake, just the two of us. Everyone was busy with other plans this year. Jessica was having a lake weekend elsewhere. Mommy and her family had city fun that included a trip to a puppet museum. Baby Girl starts preschool tomorrow. Her very first day. A long trip home and back was too much to add to their weekend.

So Daddy-O and I did what old people do. We read, napped, watched the kids across the cove invent their own ninja water games, I knitted, he fished, and of course, we ate. The most fun meal was the day we took the boat to a little lakeside restaurant for excellent burgers.

Now, the lake houses across from us are large and beautiful and landscaped. They are all relatively new, as that land was owned by a paper company for years and years. While they have the fancier houses, those of us on the "vintage" side (our lake house was built as a fishing cabin over 50 years ago) get the glorious sunrises to enjoy. And, even better, we get the afternoon shade. I'll take a shady seat on the pier over a newer house any day. Didn't someone just tell me that "scruffy" is in style now? Then we are very stylish.

The boat traffic starts winding down this weekend. The fishermen will be out all year 'round, but it's time for the recreational boaters to think about taking their boats out of the lake for the year. We enjoyed being out on the water when the temperature wasn't hovering near 100 degrees for a change, though. The weather is perfect now and it's time to stop.

I never get tired of photographing the lake. I am often out early in the morning in my pajamas before the sun is fully up, looking for yet one more way to make it look interesting. A view I haven't noticed. This morning, I found my version of 50 shades of gray.

And when you're up this early, you get to see the lake when it's mirror smooth. That never lasts long, so I admire it while I can. Within minutes a boat will go by. The wind will blow. And this mirror surface is gone for the day.

And just a few minutes later, the sun tops the trees. That means it's time for me to head to the porch and get coffee. And today when this photo was made, it also meant it was time to pack up and head home. Daddy-O is already on a tractor in the hay field this morning. It's a busy time of year on the farm, so we were glad for a weekend get-away.

Our trips to the lake will be less frequent now. We always say we'll come down more in the fall. We'll clean out the refrigerator and the pantry shelves before winter. And maybe this year we will. But that often never happens. This is where summer ends.

Like the birds who know it's time to fly south, we know that the seasons are changing and our schedules will do likewise. But THIS year, maybe we will get back at least for another visit or two, when sitting on the pier requires a jacket. And we will take hot chocolate out with us. Stay tuned to see if that happens this year.

Happy Labor Day!