Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Many of my friends catalog their books using LibraryThing.

I prefer using my notebook to jot down what books I have read but after dealing with scraps of paper all over the place, with book titles on them, I decided to try LibraryThing to keep track of the books I WANT to read.

I read a lot of book reviews (that's my job!) so when there are interesting books, I log them into the site and apply tags (Italian mystery, baseball, etc).  I like to read mysteries and when a new author is started, I end up listing very book by that author and try to put in the notes the order of the books.  Most mysteries you don't need to read in order but that's how I prefer to do it.

There are lists for both the kids, books they have recommended as well as ones I think they might enjoy.

E is an avid reader but this year is the first year she has had to deal with required reading and she is having a tough time with that.    She's having a hard time slogging through the books that don't interest her.  Any words of wisdom other than "sorry honey, you just have to read it"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My book notebook

Several years ago, I was returning a book to the library.  The next day I thought, hmm, I enjoyed that book, let's get another by the same author.  I could not remember the author or the book title.  Librarians are used to this from others (um, there's a book I need, it has a red cover) but not from myself!  My memory is excellent for many things such as schedules, faces, voices but literally minutes after I walk out of the movie or close that book, I can't remember anything about it.

So, I started a notebook.  Kept on my bedside table.  Author, title, date read.  It was started in May 2005.

Here are the 2005 entries (* denotes Mother/Daughter book club reads)


Paths of Desire by Dominique Browning
Serve it Forth by M.F.K. Fisher
Guys, Dolls and Curve Balls: Damon Runyon on Baseball
The Sign of the Book by John Dunning


Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
Hot Six by Janet Evanovich


Chronicles, Vol One by Bob Dylan
Last Shot by John Feinstein
Who Cloned the President by Ron Roy
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Tulipomania by Mike Dash


Laugh til you cry by Joan Lowry Nixon
Hard Boys: Danger in Extreme by Franklin Dixon
Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams
Harry Potter, Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
Being Dead is no Excuse by Gayden Metcalfe
Deadly Slipper by Michelle Wan
Conspiracy by Patricia Finney


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
Never Nosh a Matzo Ball by Sharon Kahn
To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
Assassin by Patricia Finney


Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her by Melanie Rehak
Nurse Mathilda by Christiana Brand
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson *
Betrayal by Patricia Finney
A Small Farm in Maine by Terry Silber


The People in Pineapple Place by Anne Lindbergh
Riding Feedom by Pam Munoz Ryan


Small Island by Andrea Levy
Have Mercy on us all by Fred Vargas
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Half Magic by Edward Eager *
Deception by Jan Burchett
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Knitting Project

I barely finish the old project when I have a new one lined up.  I get emails from various knitting groups and this one caught my eye to try from the Knitting Brewing Co.

Mystery Sock II Knit-along.

The idea is you get a new clue to part of the pattern every week or so.  You need to sign up to Ravelry and join their group. 

So I ordered the Mint Julep as my main color and the Last Call as my contrast color.  Imagine my surprise that when the yarn and first clue arrived, I discovered it was written for the Magic Loop style of knitting socks.

Thank goodness for You Tube.  Yesterday I spent the afternoon with the laptop and my knitting, trying to figure out how to do it. I frogged 2 times and I think 3rd time's the charm.  I seem to have the hang of it. 

The pattern involves Mosaic knitting which I have done in the past, so hopefully it won't be too much of a challenge.

Size 1 needles and fine yarn - it's time for new glasses.

Finished Sweater

I swore off sweaters a long time ago, unless it was being knitted for a baby.  Too much hassle trying to get it to fit.  When I saw this pattern though, I decided it was time to try again.  Bulky yarn, big needles, piece of cake.  It didn't take that long to knit and since it was on circular needles, there were not sleeves to sew in.  I finished it this weekend and it only needs to be blocked.

The lovely E modeling it

I have lots of odds and ends of yarn and it's time to use them up.  Any knitters out there?  I'm thinking I could make some charity oriented things and I'm sure I can search for organizations who do that but has anyone contributed to a particular one with good results?

My stash




My friend at Guinnah sent me this link to a list of charities.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 6

The snowstorm thwarted my plans for going to the farmer's market this past weekend.  So this week's meal for the Dark Days Challenge is going to be "mostly" local.   The theme among the other participants seems to be squash, kale, squash and more kale!

We are having a local breakfast this week.  I still have a truckload of sweet potatoes and some of them were getting a little soft, so I cooked up a bunch last week.    Our meal this morning is sweet potato muffins and fruit smoothies.

Sweet Potato Muffins

I have a notebook full of recipes, cut out from various sources.  My new year's resolution is to try and actually cook from those recipes!  This one came from the Raleigh News and Observer.  The local ingredients are the sweet potato, eggs, milk, honey.  I mistakenly used the non-local unsalted butter instead of the local salted butter - not counting flour and spices.  The recipe called for applesauce which I didn't have, so I grabbed a Safeway bought apple and made some.

Apples cooking

Sweet Potatoes

Eggs and milk from South Mountain Creamery, honey from PA

Ready for the oven

Fruit Smoothie

My daughter doesn't like milk so I try to sneak some in with smoothies.  This one is made with strawberries and blueberries, picked last summer.  Over the weekend, S and I made yogurt.  The milk was local but I had to buy some yogurt for a starter and used Brown Cow, whole milk with cream on top (this stuff is awesome!).  My dairy makes yogurt but the kids don't like it because it's too thin.  I don't really eat yogurt on its own anymore.  Every summer job I had while in HS and College, my lunch was yogurt and a piece of fruit.  No more yogurt for me unless it's hidden in something.

The smoothie was fruit, yogurt, honey and cranberry juice.

Fruit and Yogurt

The drink

Monday, December 21, 2009

What to eat in a Blizzard

S and I were hunkered down for the weekend.  I was confident that we would eat heartily, using food from the freezer.

Friday night  - snow starts to fall.

Chicken noodle soup with bread and cheese.  I boiled the local chicken that was eaten earlier in the week to make stock.  Picked the bones and then made soup with the last of my garden carrots, parsnips and a local onion.  Added safeway brand egg noodles.  We are it with some french cheeses and french bread.

S brought his yogurt maker over so we started a batch that was ready by Sat morning.

Saturday - it's a blizzard.

I was looking at all my jars of grains and saw the wild rice and decided to see what I could do with that.  One of my favorite cookbooks (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) has a recipe for wild rice fritters.  It called for ricotta cheese and luckily, I had some leftover from an earlier dinner.  So, I made up the batter and we ate the cakes for breakfast with maple syrup (local from Maine - bought while we were in Maine this summer).  Also had oranges and grapefruits (bought from the elementary school fundraiser, shipped from FL - delicious).

We spent most of the day shoveling and sledding and then walked to my local fabulous store, Rodman's.  Bought beer and chips.  Came home and made nachos.  I fried up a can of black beans, seasoned with cumin, chili powder and chipotle powder, mashed them up and then added a can of green chilies.  Plopped on chips, grated cheese and baked in the oven.  Emptied the last of the salsa and added some homemade hot sauce.  Yum.

For dinner, I again looked at my jars of grains and decided on pea soup. I had defrosted the last of the local ham from last year's pig.  So I made soup with the last of my green and yellow peas, pureed it when cooked and added diced ham.  Took out some sweet potato rolls (made with tubers from my garden) and heated them up.  Found the last of the salad mix I got from my farmer.  Soup, salad and rolls.

Sunday - snow done, shoveling begins anew.

I ate the last of the fritters while S had homemade granola with homemade yogurt and local milk.

After shoveling, we picked up the kids as their dad was snowed in with no shovel - we brought the shovel and exchanged it for the kids!

Lunch as turkey burgers from the freezer, the last of the chicken noodle soup and pea soup for me. I made a fruit smoothie (strawberries picked last summer, banana, local honey, homemade yogurt and cranberry juice) for me and E.

For dinner, I took out the last of the frozen tilapia.  I made foil packets with the fish and for the kids, sprinkled with a spice mix from Penzey's.  For S and me, I chopped black olives and combined with capers, herbs de provence and lemon juice and topped the fish.  Baked for 20 min or so.  Meanwhile, S made sweet potato fries and I made a delicious pilaf with Israeli couscous.  Saute shallots in butter and oil, add white wine, then couscous, dried cranberries and thyme and chicken broth. Cook for 15 min.

I still have lots of food in my freezer and pantry!

The Blizzard

That was quite a storm.  Luckily it happened on a Sat, school is out for break and I'm on vacation.  Don't need the car until Christmas evening so it can stay in front of the house.  Here are some pictures of outside the house, during the storm.

The cold frame - there is lettuce under there

There's the lettuce

The frame was covered with snow seconds after this.

Robins in my tree

The robins were amazing.  There were a dozen or more of them, all in my maple tree.  My neighbor has a feeder and it was full of birds.


Skimmia Japonica berries - my front yard

Rosebud - front yard

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Memorial Service

My elderly neighbor died on Friday.  She was 82 and had been in failing health for a couple of years.  She lived with her sister, in the bright yellow house behind my house.  For the past couple of years, Nora lived in the Methodist Home and that was where the memorial service was today.   The service was full of people who had known Nora through many aspects of her life and all had really wonderful things to say about her.  She was a very caring woman and I will miss seeing her gardening in her backyard and walking her dog.

This is the second service I've been to in a couple of months for elderly women that I have known.  The minister quoted from Eugene O'Neill today:

"When you're 50 you start thinking about things you haven't thought about before. I used to think getting old was about vanity - but actually it's about losing people you love.  Getting wrinkles is trivial."

Since  I am now closer to 50 than 40, I've been thinking about this quote since I came home from Nora's service.  My morbid thought was would anyone show up at my memorial service!  I'll have to make sure that it's stipulated that a party should be thrown with good food.  I've already told my kids they are to dig a hole, throw in my ashes and plant a tree.

Dark Days Challenge Week 5

I have fallen madly in like with the little farmer's market near my house.  It's not that I avoid the markets (and here in DC, there is one on every corner, including on my campus), it's just that between my own garden and my CSA, the farmer's markets did not hold that much interest for me.  My CSA farmer did not offer chickens this year and I'm still waiting on my pig. In the meantime, it's off to the market to find local meat.  This week's meal was last night and our guests included my favorite 3 year old niece and her mom.  The menu was:

Roasted chicken - local poultry from farmer's market, stuffed with leeks from market and rosemary from my garden, rubbed with local butter
Steamed Carrots - my garden
Roasted potatoes - farmer's market
Parsnip puree - my garden
The chicken with neck attached

The unnerving thing about this chicken is the neck was still attached and since I don't have a meat cleaver, the neck stayed attached while roasting.  The looks of it was, well, a little naughty.

I used a very simple recipe from the cookbook Starting with Ingredients by Aliza Green. 

Leeks, rosemary and butter


Cut up potatoes, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and whatever herb desired.  Roast at 450 along side the chicken.  The potatoes only take 1/2 hour so put in oven towards end of chicken roasting time.

Parsnips and carrots

Carrots were peeled and sliced and steamed until done.

Parsnips were peeled and cut into chunks, then simmered in water until done.  Put chunks through a ricer, then add butter and milk and mix with wooden spoon, salt and pepper.  I have to say, even though my kids didn't want to try it (they ate everything else), the parsnips were absolutely delicious.

Happy Eaters!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Invasive plants

Oh how does my neighbor's garden grow?  With at least a half dozen invasive plants, all working their way into my yard.  This is from the rental property on one side of me.  I count at least English Ivy, honeysuckle, porcelain berry, poison ivy, mulberry trees, locust trees, and bindweed.  I spend way too much time trying to control the weeds that creep over from that house.

My honey, S, sent me this site

Be PlantWise

One can search for alternative native plants. 

I'm thinking of installing a very tall fence on that side of my house.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Merry Christmas from Black and Decker

I just received an email from Black and Decker, offering me a special deal for their loyal customers.

Let me tell you about my experience with Black and Decker.

In the spirit of trying to reuse and recycle, I wanted to figure out a way to fix my toaster oven.  The toaster button would not stay pressed - sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn't.  I didn't want to just throw it away since the oven part was fine and I figured the button just needed to be replaced or something like that.

I searched the Black and Decker website for repair information and found a customer service email.  An email was sent to them, explaining the problem and asking if there was an authorized repair place in my area.  The response was "Black and Decker has no authorized service centers".  Period.  No other advice.  So I reply, saying, you're telling me I can't get this repaired and my only alternative is to throw it away?  The response from B&D was "you can take it to your preferred service repair center but we can not recommend one".  Okay.  My response was to tell them that they were not helpful and that I thought B&D made crappy products that broke down after not much use and forced customers to buy new products.  The response from B&D was "we are sorry you are not happy with our response and we will send your comments on to our supervisor"

I did end up calling my favorite service center, Waters Appliance Service Inc, in Gaithersburg, MD.  As soon as I said Black and Decker, the very nice man on the phone said "oh no.  Not Black and Decker" and he proceeded to tell me the story of how the company sold their small appliance division to another company and the service and quality had gone downhill and that they no longer repaired B&D products.

This happened over the summer and was the last I heard from Black and Decker until my holiday email.

I also had a Black and Decker weed wacker that stopped working this summer.  For tools, I was able to get a phone number for customer service.  I explained the problem to the rep and was told it sounded like I needed a new battery pack.  Ok, where can I get one?  I was given the name of a service center in MD and gave them a call.  After explaining the problem and giving them the model and brand the response was "oh that model was discontinued."  The original B&D customer service rep couldn't have told me that from the start?!!

One last story about small appliances.  I had an American Harvest dehyrdrator.  It stopped working this summer. I called customer service who told me that I could pay to have the machine shipped to them but they couldn't tell me whether or not they could fix it and I would be better off buying a new one.

Am I the only one who wants her appliances/tools to be fixable?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 4

What's for dinner tonight?

I decided to make cream of tomato soup and a gratin of sunchokes and cauliflower.

Cream of tomato soup

1/2 onion, diced - local, bought Sat at the New Morning Farm market
globs of butter - delivered from local dairy
dried basil - my garden
1 quart pureed tomatoes, frozen - my garden
2 cubes of roasted tomato puree - my garden
2 tblsp flour - not local
heavy cream - delivered from local dairy

Melt butter, add onions and basil.  Saute until onions are cooked.  Sprinkle in flour,  cook for a min or two.  Add tomatoes, and simmer until thickened.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add a few glugs of cream and heat.

Onion and Butter

Garden tomatoes and heavy cream

Roasted tomato puree - frozen in ice cube trays

Cream of tomato soup

Sunchoke gratin

Last week I bought some sunchokes from my CSA farmer.  I roasted some of them and needed to use up the rest. I had a little bit of cauliflower left over from last week's dark days meal.  My farmer  had sent out a recipe from Marcella Hazen for a gratin so I decided to combine both veggies.

Sunchokes Gratin

Handful of sunchokes - local, WV farmer
Cauliflower - local, bought at farmer's market
Butter, milk and cream - local dairy

Peel sunchokes and slice.  Chop cauliflower.  Layer with dots of butter, salt and pepper.  Pour over some milk, then some cream.  Bake in 375 oven until tender (40 min or so)

Sunchokes and Cauliflower


Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Garden Pictures

Looking at the entrance to my garden from inside

The two beds against the fence are the new additions

View from one end

Middle of the garden

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is it time for chickens?

My mom keeps chickens.  Then again, she lives in a rural Maine and has lots of space to pamper her babies.

There is a movement to bring chickens back to DC.  I'm seriously considering this.  Would my poor neighbors think I've gone off the deep end?  Or would they be begging me for those delicious eggs?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Garden

I have a new vegetable garden.  It's in the same plot but it's completely redesigned.  My gardening neighbor had a little triangular plot that was adjacent to mine.  Friends of his were using it to teach their children about gardening.  The friends have moved away so my plot neighbor suggested that the little piece of land be incorporated into my plot. How could I say no?  After checking that it was ok with our garden overseer, this weekend we got to work.

Parsnips and Fava Beans

The added section is in upper left - from the barrel to the left.

This past weekend we worked on expanding my fence to enclose the little area, plus the path that was between my fence and the triangle.  The end result is about 100 more square feet!

Lettuce under frame, mustard greens, arugula, onions, leeks, garlic, beets

Last year I attempted to create better paths and raised beds.  While working on expanding my plot, my gardening neighbor and I decided to make the raised beds and paths a little more organized.

The batteries ran out while I was taking pictures. More pictures to come.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 3

Sundays seem to be the best day to plan the dark days meal.  My heritage hog from my CSA farmer is due to arrive between now and Christmas and there is absolutely no room in the extra freezer for 1/2 a pig.  Some of it may have to go to my honey's freezer (gasp!).  Today's SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) meal needed to come out of the freezer.


Pork chops - CSA heritage hog from last year (Large Black hog)
Mushroom sauce - farmer's market - mushrooms grown in PA
Roasted Green beans - my garden
Garlic - my garden
Sweet potato baked fries - my garden
Celeriac salad - farmer's market
Pickled Dilly beans - my garden

Pork Chops

The pork chops were brined in a solution of 4 cups water to 1/4 cup salt.  Boil salt and water, let cool, then add chops. I let them sit overnight in the fridge.  Dredge in flour, pepper and thyme (dried thyme from my garden).  Saute in olive oil, remove when cooked and tent under foil.  Add sliced  mushrooms to the pan, saute until cooked.  Sprinkle with flour, then add some veg or chicken stock (I added mushroom stock, made from a mushroom base from Minor's soup base. )  The soup base and flour are not local.  Cooked mushroom mix until thickened, add chops on top to heat through.



Sweet potato baked fries

Peel the sweet potatoes, slice into equal sizes.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 min at 475, then take out, turn potatoes and roast for 10 min more.

Green beans

Toss with olive oil and whole peeled garlic cloves, salt and pepper.  Put in oven with sweet potatoes at 475.  Roast for 25 min.





Dilly Beans

I opened these because I wanted them and knew the kids wouldn't like them, hence the roasted beans for them.  I pickled these last summer - made with dill and garlic. They are TART but delicious.


Celeriac salad - I bought a celeriac at the farmers market on campus last week.  When I lived in Geneva, Switzerland, oh so many years ago, celeriac salad was a mainstay on any menu.  It's julienned vegetable in a remoulade sauce.  I ran out of eggs, so I just made a vinaigrette.

The meals!
For kids: chops, roasted beans, fries and a couple of mushrooms

For me:
Dilly beans, celeriac salad, sweet potato fries, chops with mushroom sauce


Friday, November 27, 2009

Recycle - Reuse - Food Storage

This piece of furniture now lives in my basement

It's a section of the library's shelf list.  There were 10 sections sold off in the past month. My neighbor and I each bought one.  It was a bargain for $50, especially since S and I saw one about 1/4 the size in a furniture shop on 14th St, selling for $227.   My neighbor cut his in half and he is using it as a work bench/storage in his garage.

The card catalog was in my garage while I figured out where to put it in the house.  I really wanted it upstairs somewhere but that would take redesigning the whole first floor.  Since I wasn't up to that task and didn't want this to sit in my garage all winter, today S, my neighbor and I moved it into the basement.

I think most of the sweet potatoes will fit into it.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 2 - The Meal

Sunday night seems to be a good night to have the dark days challenge meal.  I decided on Cream of Cauliflower Soup served with salad and popovers.

Soup ingredients

Carrots, potatoes and garlic - from my garden
Cauliflower and leek - farmer's market
Cheddar Cheese - Irish, not local
Milk - from the local dairy, home delivery

The recipe couldn't be easier.  It's from the original Moosewood Cookbook.  Chop vegetables, add whole garlic cloves along with water to cover.  Simmer until vegetables are soft.  Puree in blender, add seasoning and grated cheddar cheese and some milk.

Blended soup in pot


Butter, milk and eggs - local dairy
Flour, salt and sugar- not local


The recipe is from an old cookbook called "Cole's Complete Culinary Reference.  Cooking A to Z"

1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp melted butter or vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

Add ingredients in order to blender.  Blend for a few minutes until smooth, scraping sides of container.  Pour into greased popover pans.  Bake at 400 for 35 to 40 minutes.

The secret is to put the popover pan into the oven while it is preheating.  Take out when ready to bake, spray with nonstick spray and then pour batter into the pan and place back in to the oven.



Arugula and Lettuce - my garden
Olive Oil and vinegar - not local

A successful meal.  The kids loved the popovers, munched salad without dressing and even ate all their soup.