For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cookin' with Hippocrates

I finally tried a recipe I've been eye-balling in The Philosopher's Kitchen; Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook, for some time. I happen to really love barley, but the rest of the family isn't quite so enthusiastic about it - and Eldest doesn't like it at all. I tried it anyways. ;-)

Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.), by the way, swore by barley's healthfulness and "prescribed a diet consisting solely of cereals and breads made from barley for the duration of an illness."

Herbed Barley with Pancetta

4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, halved and thinly sliced
1 celery rib with leaves, thinly sliced
1 leek, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf (not pictured)

1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup pearl barley
1 quart chicken stock
1/3 cup lentils
salt and freshly milled pepper

(note: remember to pick through the lentils and barley to get rid of things like the blackish piece you can see in the lentil bowl.)

Saute the pancetta and onion in a large stockpot over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes

This photo was taken at about 8 minutes. I figured it looked right.

(I suppose the pancetta was supposed to provide the fat necessary for this part, but it didn't seem to be enough, so I did add a touch of oil.)

Add the garlic, carrot, celery, leek, bay leaf, and savory. (See - I remembered to include the bay leaf...) Saute until the vegetables become tender, about 5 minutes.

Raise the heat, add 2 tablespoons of the dill, the barley, and the stock and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat, cover and slow-boil for 45 minutes.

Add the lentils and continue cooking until tender, 15-20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with the remaining 2 tablespoons of fresh dill.

The verdict: It went over fairly well. I loved it, though I think I'll go a bit slighter on the salt next time. Dh liked it, too. The girls... the word "strange" was used, but they said it tasted good. Eldest said she just needed to get over the fact that it was barley. *L*

Way cool video!

I found this on The Presurfer.

What you're seeing...

A loudspeaker with a metal plate on top, sprinkled with salt.

The patterns show the different sound vibrations as the tone changes.

WARNING: Keep the sound low or even shut it off. It can get pretty hard on the ears.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another library list

I guess I'd better get in the habit of posting more often, since the "school year" has started, though we don't actually have our facilitator visit until next week.

So this is our new library list. We ended up returning two large bags and one small one when we went in, only to come back out with two more bags of books. *L* We hadn't returned everything, so I figure I'd better write up the new list before everything gets hopelessly mixed together. ;-)

Eldest got her usual varied selection.

Gene Future: The Promise and Perils of the New Biology - Thomas F. Lee
The Trial - Franz Kafka
The Stories that Haunt Us: More Terrifying Tales from the author of Maritime Mysteries - Bill Jessome
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Nemesis: The Death-Star and the Other Theories of Mass Extinction - Donald Goldsmith
Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires - Michael E. Bell
Night Creatures - Enchanted World Series (usually, Youngest picks books from this series. ;-D )
Vampires, Zombies and Monster Men - Farson

The irony of all these vampire books is that Eldest doesn't like vampires and really detests vampire stories. She started reading the Anne Rice books and was totally turned off the entire genre. But, she's doing some stuff that requires vampire research, so there ya go. Eldest is also staying away from this entire list until such time as she finished the books she hadn't returned yet. She's finished Fly, which was a fascinating - and hilarious - read. Who though a book about evolution, genetics and fruit flies could be so funny?

Youngest still has stuff from last time, so she only took out one more book, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels - Scott McCloud

I've already gone through a lot of my books, so I can tell you more about them. ;-)

Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker - Debbie Stoller. This book has a wide variety of designs from different designers, as well as the basics of crochet. Some of the patterns are hopelessly tacky. Others are pretty fantastic. And I'll never understand why anyone would make a crochet string bikini, never mind actually wear one. *shudder*

Vintage Crochet: 30 Gorgeous Designs for Home, Garden, Fashion - Susan Cropper. Usually when I see things like "vintage" or "contemporary" in craft book titles, it's a warning to me that they will be filled with the weirdest things ever. Happily, this isn't like that. There are some designs that had me scratching my head a bit, but most of the patterns in this book are really good renditions of old techniques and patterns.

Christmas Ornaments to Make: 101 Sparkling Holiday Trims - Better Homes and Gardens. This one has some thread crochet patterns that I really like. Not anything I can use my glow in the dark yarn for, mind you; I have chunkier items in mind for that.

300 Slow Cooker Favorites and The Best Family Slow Cooker Recipes - Donna-Marle Pye. These were the only two slow cooker books I found, and it wasn't until I started looking at them later than I realized they were by the same person, and that the smaller one was basically a pared down remake of the 300 Favorites one. Which is fine. A lot of amazing sounding recipes to try out!

Once-a-Month Cooking - Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg. I've been curious about once a month cooking for years, having talked to people on a home school email list that actually do it. It's not something we can do right now, but once every two weeks cooking is a possibility. ;-D

Margaretta Acworth's Georgian Cookery Book - edited by Alice and Frank Prochask. The authors found the handwritten cookbook of Margaretta Acworth, which gave a wonderful glimpse into life in the time period. The recipes were pared down to a few that could be more easily recreated in modern kitchens - and which they found taseted great, too. ;-)

The Roman Cookery of Apicius: A Treasury of Gourmet Recipes & Herbal Cookery, Translated and Adapted for the Modern Kitchen - John Edwards. Apicius defines ancient Roman cookery, even though he didn't actually write all the cookbooks attributed to him (there were also other people of the same name, but none as famous or flamboyant). Both recipes and history are fascinating, and I'd love to try and find some of the ingredients and try a few out.

The Philosopher's Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook - Francine Segan. I actually took this out before and enjoyed it so much, I went hunting for it again. Really interesting. This is the source of Eldest's mushroom dish. The actual name of the recipe is Field and Forest Salad.

Now for the cd's of the week...

Bach: Art of Fugue - Vladimir Feltsman piano (I'm actually listening to this 2 cd set as I write this post)
Jungle Drums - Morton Gould and his Orchestra
Canto Gregorian
Dowland: Fancyes, Dreams and Spirits: Lute Music 1 - Nigel North, Lute

and the dvd's...

Joanne Weir's Cooking Class - this is a 4 dvd set. We've already watched most of the first one, and are more impressed than we thought we would be. No preaching are demonizing of certain ingredients. The people on here actually *like* their food!

Crochet Fasions in Motion: Create Trendy Fashion Accents - Liesure Arts. A how-to dvd with projects ranging from a hat and scarf set to a sarong skirt and fingerless gloves.

Fit for Real People - featuring Marta Alto. A how-to for sewing clothes to fit your own body type.

Shark Mountain: The Expedition of a Lifetime with Award-winning filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall. Because we like shark stuff.

Dogfight Over Guadaleanal - Secrets of the Dead series. We'd really liked the Headless Romans dvd of this series and wanted to try out another.

Eldest picked this next bunch with her dad in mind.
France is Free - Rene-Jean Bouyer
1805 The Battle of Austerlitz - narrated by Brian Blessed
D-Day: The Battle that Liberated the World
The Libertation of Holland
The Battle of Britain: the Official History

I'd say this will tide us over for a little while. ;-)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

We got a rather large slow cooker recently. I'd never had any experience with one before, but I knew so many people who swore by them, I've long wanted to get one. I ended up getting it for free, too, using the loyalty points at our local grocery store. Can't go wrong with that! :-D

I don't have any slow cooker recipes, save the ones that came with the cooker's instruction booklet. So I've been experimenting with recipes and suggestions in the booklet and modifying recipes I already use. Not that I'm a stickler for using recipes much in the first place. ;-)

This morning I used the cooker to make a stew while Youngest and I were out for most of the day. It worked so well, I thought I'd share it here.

(Note: both girls have expressed interest in cooking, so you'll probably be reading many more food and cooking related posts in the future.)

So here we have it. My version of Slow Cooker Beef Stew.
I'm sort of loose on the quantities - feel free to adjust them for the size of your cooker.

approx. 2 pounds stewing beef
5-6 potatoes (I used Russet, because that's what I had)
4 carrots
1 large parsnip
(normally, I'd include an onion, but I'd used my last onion up a couple of days ago. Include 1 yellow onion, if you have it handy. Also, most recipes for beef stew call for celery, but my kids don't like cooked celery, so I use the parsnip instead. Feel free to adjust veggies to your personal preference.)
approx. 1 1/2 cups beef stock
approx. 1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper, paprika, bay leaf, garlic granules (or fresh garlic)

First, get your stew meat out and plop it all into the crock pot.

Shoo cats out of kitchen.

Add the flour, salt (about 1/2 -1 tsp) and pepper (about 1/2 tsp).

Pry kitten off ankle and remove from kitchen.

Stir or toss the meat until evenly coated with the flour. Place crock into cooker and set aside.

Use spray bottle of water to chase kitten out of kitchen.

Peel and slice the parsnip and carrots, tossing them on top of the meat, spreading evenly. (This would be when you add the onion, chopped, if you have one. )

Note both cats sitting just outside the kitchen, hoping you drop some meat.

Peel and cube the potatoes, then add to pot, spreading evenly.

Sprinkle on paprika, garlic granules (or fresh chopped garlic) - I have no idea how much I used - and add bay leaf. Or use whatever herbs and spices you like best and have on hand.

Pour broth into the pot. (I just made some up from powdered bouillon.)

Put lid on crock and set the cooker to either HIGH 6 hours or LOW 10 hours. I used HIGH 6 hours today.

Note disdainful expressions on cats' faces as you leave the kitchen.

Head out for the day. Go to the park. Run errands. Do stuff with your kids. Relax in the knowledge that, by the time you get home, supper will be ready. Swoon at the heavenly smells filling your home when you get back.

After the slow cooker switches from cook to warm, uncover the stew. Remove the bay leaf. Thoroughly stir the stew. Note how the meat is so tender, it practically disintegrates.

Chase cats out of kitchen.

Chase hungry husband out of kitchen.

Shut off the cooker and leave the stirred stew to sit and cool down for a while.

After about 5 minutes, give up waiting for the stew to cool down and have the entire family dig in, putting up with burned lips and tongues from insanely hot potatoes.

Resolve that next time, you'll wait for the potatoes cool down more before eating. Laugh at yourself, because you know that'll never happen.

Goes great with buttered buns.

Note to self, once again, that getting a slow cooker was a really, really good idea.

Actually, we're now talking about getting a second, smaller, slow cooker. I found some slow cooker recipe books and some of the beverages sound amazing. I figure we can have one small slow cooker for drinks, and save the large one for meals. I'm already dreaming of waking up on cold winter mornings to the smell of hot spiced apple cider...


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A sort of library list

I've been lax in keeping up with the library lists lately. We've been renewing and taking out more so often, I figured it'd be easier to just do it this way.

Click on the photo for the larger size.

The CD titles are illegible, though. They are:

The Good Road by Cheryl Bear
Joy of Life by Karunesh
Love/Hate by Nine Black Alps.

The stack on the right - everything below the dvd's - is mine. The stack on the left is the girls' stuff. Not that it matters much. Our current read-aloud has been Darwin's Blind Spot. Great stuff - I highly recommend it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My first string crochet.

Not too far from us is a Reuse Centre. I'd been meaning to check it out for ages, and the girls and I finally managed it. I had to ask how things work, since we'd never been there before. I knew people donated stuff, but not how people acquired stuff. It turns out that you can grab as much as you want for $2. The only thing is that they weigh what you've picked up, since that's how they keep track of things.

There was so much stuff there; books, knick-knacks, bin after bin of fabric sorted by colour, and more bins of all sorts of stuff. Youngest and I found one with yarn in it. There were a couple of spools of crochet thread in variagated colours. I got one in greens and another that ranged from pale yellow to bright orange.

Which meant I needed to get some tiny hooks. I ended up getting set of them, since I had no idea what size would be best. Then I went through a book of crochet motifs I bought a little while ago and settled on the pattern you see in this photo. The sample in the book was make with yarn, and the effect is very different. It's like a miniature doiley, measuring about 3-4 inches across.

I've decided on this year's Christmas decorations. I picked up a ball of white glow in the dark yarn and will be using it to crochet various shapes. I just need to find a variety of patterns I like.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

That time of year again

Although in some places a lot of kids have already started school, today was the first day of school locally. It was also the day of our annual Not Back to School Picnic. A whole bunch of us gathered together at one of the local parks. There were a lot of wee ones at the play structure while the older ones played in the trees, kicked some balls around, and so on. Youngest and I both brought our crochet. I'm pausing with the sweater I'm making to whip up a pair of slippers for my husband, using chunky yarn and a large hook. Youngest asked me to show her how to make slippers, and is making a pair for her dad, too. I don't follow a pattern with these at all. A number of years ago, my Italian pen pal sent me a gift that included some exquisite cutwork embroidery and a pair of crocheted slippers, made by her mother. When I learned to crochet, I studied those slippers to figure out how to make another pair, as they do wear out rather quickly. I adjust them to fit whoever I'm making them for, so no two pairs are ever quite the same, which makes explaining how to make them a bit of a challenge! *L*

Elder daughter isn't wanting to go to the park days anymore. She'd rather stay home and work on her studies and other projects. Today was a chance to spend time with a friend who's going to school now - a very different school that allows the students to be very self-directed. If we were to send our girls to school, a place like this is exactly what I'd like. I don't want to know how much the parents are paying to send her there, though... :-P

Just for fun, Eldest dressed up for the day, including a purple wig styled in a short bob. Although she's had the wig for a while, this is the first time I've actually seen her wearing it. I thought it looked really great. She got creative with the make-up, too, and the entire ensemble was really quite nice.

There's a young girl among the group that, quite some time ago, decided my daughter was a witch. Or a vampire. Or a witchy vampire. *L* Today, she sat for a long while, staring intently at Eldest while munching on a muffin. When she finished eating and had to walk past my daughter to leave the picnic shelter, she suddenly stopped and said, "you're a purple haired witch!!" and dashed away.

Eldest finds her really funny.

I'm trying something a bit different this year. With the girls getting older, I feel a bit more focus is needed in certain areas. I've made up a chart with two columns for each of the girls. One is for "must cover" areas - things we (Dh and I) feel the girls need to work on. Just as an example, I included "time management" for Youngest, as she tends to sort of forget about time completely, and ends up not accomplishing things because of it. The other column is "want to cover." For here, I've asked the girls to brainstorm and just write in whatever they feel they'd like to do this year. Eldest wrote in that she'd like to recreate the delicious, buttery flavour of waffles in beverage form. That's going to be a challenge. LOL

Once we've got the feedback, we'll talk about what's been written in, decide on what we want to work on, how and when, and prioritize things a bit. After that, it'll be a sort of guide for the year. We'll see how this works out.

In the mean time, I've gone and found myself another job. The one I was hired for in the spring is still there, except I've only had one shift all summer. I haven't left them, but it looks like I will end up doing so. I'm going to be working as a cashier again, this time in a huge, warehouse style grocery store that's a fair bit farther from us. I could take the train there, but since I'd be leaving after 11pm every shift, I will be driving. Taking the train, as well as the walks to and from the stations, isn't very safe that time of night. The pay is less than the other job, but I'll have my 4 nights a week. In the other place, I can't even get through to anyone at the office to sign up for shifts - or even find out if there *are* any on days I'm available. It's a bit of a shame, really. I do enjoy working there, and the pay is pretty darn good. A higher pay doesn't mean much when there's no shifts. I'm going to wait and see before I officially hand in my vest, though. This new place, though, has quite a lot of benefits that will more than make up for the difference in pay, once my probationary period is over.

Tonight was my first day in training. It went well. At this point, there's not much different from any other grocery store, so there isn't much that's new for me. I've got two more training shifts this week, then another 3 training shifts next week. On the last day, we'll actually be working till for the 4 hours, while supervised by the trainer.

I was a bit surprised at how old their Point of Sale equipment is. This is a HUGE, successful national chain. You'd think they could spring for new POS system once in a while. These tills look like they haven't been upgraded since the 80's. The only new stuff they've got are the debit machines and passcard scanners, and those are external attachments.

The training group is very small. Only 4 people. I think that's a good idea. The last grocery store I worked at, the training group I was part of was somewhere around 10 people. It gets a bit confusing that way. Escpecially when we had to all crowd around a single till to learn how to use it.

So we'll see how this works out. I'm a bit trepidatious about it. The place is always insanely busy, and they're really short staffed with cashiers. Sometimes, I'll look at the huge line ups and wonder, just *why* did I apply here? Then I remember that really, there's only one customer - the one in front of me. I just need to focus on my one customer, and that's the part I really enjoy.