About The Country Wife Blog

Friday, May 30, 2014

Gardening Today: The Kitchen Garden is IN!

This morning I awoke early.  It was gently misting outside but there was enough daylight to go out and get my hands dirty with the garden.  Son #3 had given us some very sturdy metal posts and two rolls of heavy wire that he had used in his garden last year for tomato trellises.  They seemed just the thing for our garden so that was my main project for today.
Left end of Kitchen garden

The posts were taller than I am so it was a bit difficult to pound them into the ground with our splitting maul, but I did get all four in the ground...two for the ends of the tomato row and two for the ends of the pea row. I did manage to pound my left forearm once in the process, which raised a sore black and blue mark...good for a few comments on gardening with the ladies, I guess...

The next job was to get the wire unrolled, pushed flat, and ends of the wires clipped  so they could come back on themselves and grab the posts at the ends of the rows.  That was more of a project than I had imagined.  I am used to cutting chicken wire with tin snips.  This wire was in NO WAY as simple a job!  I was finally about two-thirds of the way through cutting the wires when Ethan came by for Seminary and asked if he could help.  It had taken me ten minutes to cut those wires.  He did cut the rest of them in less than thirty SECONDS!!!  That is the difference between old wimpy lady  hands and young strong boy hands!  I am so grateful for his help because I was wearing down...a pretty frequent problem here.

Right end of Kitchen garden

Installing the wire on the posts was no picnic, either, but was finally accomplished so it was on to the planting.

Closer up of the right end of Kitchen garden

This year we did not start any plants ourselves.  Our first purchase was a flat of basil.  Within the first couple of nights something ate half the leaves INSIDE THE HOUSE...so it was not slugs, as one gardener suggested.  Later on we purchased some dead bug material which seems to have slowed up the bug damage...

With the garden now "ready" with composted goat doo, spaghnum peat moss, spading, straw in a walking path, and fencing and posts installed, the planting could be finished.  The plants we used were Sunsweet tomatoes-6,  lettuces-12 leaf lettuces, basil-10, sage-1, Parris Island Cos Lettuce--a few feet of row, Sugar Snap peas, Maestro peas, zucchini--3 plants from which I should have selected one strong but couldn't bear to pinch out two, and rhubarb-1.  This to go along with the 7 German hardneck garlic I planted last fall.

View of things yet to do for the final setting-up process...taking away the cement blocks!

With the plants (and Parris Island Cos seeds) in the ground, now I feel like I can just lie back and wait for the harvest.  Well, there will be a small matter of weeding, and potentially watering...

The annotations are a result of finding a new app called Skitch which is part of the Evernote app.  So far I love them both. I think I will probably love them even more when I really learn how to use them!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Food Today: Broccoli Quiche in a No-Roll Pie Crust

One of my favorite foods is quiche.  It is quick and easy and almost always comes out well.  When I received broccoli as a gift I decided to go with a quiche for lunch.  It tasted wonderful and it even looked good!  At least to me.  PLUS Dear One really enjoyed it too, since I had chopped the broccoli and onions exceedingly fine!

The quiche can be made with many different cheeses and vegetables.  Also meats, if you are a meat eater, which I would sometimes like to be!

To find the recipes, go to Grammie's Kitchen and Bedtime Stories.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Food Today: A Nice Chinese-like Dipping Sauce

When I realized that the reason I like to go to Chinese buffets off and on to eat was because I LOVE the sauces for General Tsao's Chicken/Tofu and for dumplings as well as other sauces, I decided it must be possible to find recipes on the internet. 

As it happens, I was right, at least to some extent.  I have found many recipes.  Some of them I have tried.  Some did not do it for me.  Some were pretty good but I did not "save" them so I just made up my own recipes remembering the ingredients for the most part.  Now I don't have the compulsion to go out to eat!  My own sauce, my own vegetables, my own sauteed tofu....YAY!

My most recent dipping sauce recipe is here:

2/3 cups Braggs Liquid Aminos (could use soy sauce)
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons Hoisin sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee)
2 Tablespoons garlic chile sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee)

Stir these together well and refrigerate until needed.  OR you could just spoon it down the gullet immediately.

For breakfast I spooned this sauce over a bowl with steamed broccoli, lightly fried egg, and sauteed sweet potatoes.  Really yummy and pretty low on the glycemic index, I think...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Knitting Today: The Fish Hat

Whenever we go on vacation I like to see if there is a yarn shop, library, or thrift store nearby.  The thrift store because I love to see what other people have discarded, and perhaps to find something that I have been missing for years and just have to have!The yarn shops and libraries often have classes available.  I love learning new things.

During our Cape Cod vacation I found the Yarn Hound in Dennis.  This shop tickled me especially because I call my genealogy business The Genealogy Hound!  When we made our first stop at the Yarn Hound shop I discovered that they were having a charity open knitting afternoon later in the week. I decided then and there to go back.

It was nice to see a large table with many knitting ladies chitchatting as if they were old friends.  I expect they WERE old friends!  At least they were knitting shop friends....The shop owner asked what I could knit.  When I told her I would knit anything she gave me a "kit" of yarn and a pattern for the fish hat that was found on Knitty.com.

There were lovely yarns, both synthetic and natural which I knitted into this hat:

I call this the eyeless fish hat...Sadly, I lost the white felt circles the shop owner gave me for eyes. I will have to send the fist back eyeless...

It was nice to be included in this charity project. I would love to have been able to get the hat knitted up and returned before returning home, but...no time as we were leaving the next morning.  The Post Office will be our friend!

If you are in the Dennis, Massachusetts area, do drop in.  Parking is in the rear of the building.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Knitting Today: More Washcloths

Several ladies in our church are moving on with their families, mostly because husbands have finished schooling.  We are so very sad to see them go.  We will be having an evening together to share memories and bid farewell.  Some of us decided that a gift would be in order, but nothing extravagant.  What could be better than a washcloth, perhaps with a special soap, or even better, some maple candy!

So, I have been knitting the last week or so.  One of my favorite round cloths is called the Cherry Pie Cloth.  It is a simple cloth to knit, especially if you are actually paying attention to what you are doing!  The pattern is easily memorized.  You just have to make note of the row on which you are knitting.

Here are seven completed cloths:

When I finished the first few I thought they looked very spring-like.  Later on I thought they looked like jewels...that was when I was knitting the red one (garnet) which does not show up here due to having been knitting when I was paying more attention to something else and ended up with 18 stitches being knitted rather than the 15 that are required.  Well, in my defense, another round cloth I make DID have 18 stitches and followed the same format...

So...there may be enough of these cloths but I may continue on since they are fun to do and I need to sit down every so often and don't like to just vegetate.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sewing Today: Plus Sign Quilt Update

It is almost always fun to try new computer software.  You may wonder how that can possibly relate to the title of this post, but it does work, really!

Today I received an email from Evernote, a piece of software I use for genealogy research and also for internet surfing.  One of its most useful capabilities is the option for selecting parts of a webpage to clip/save.  I love to clip recipes, and oh so much more.

Well, apparently Evernote also owns a little app called Skitch.  I wanted to try it out so I downloaded it to my iPad Mini.  I then found a photo on my Camera Roll for trying.  Once I had tried it for about two minutes I made this little orange mark-up on the picture, "shared" it to my email, then downloaded to my MacBook Pro's Download folder...just because I am a little clunky/old-fashioned and wanted to write this post using the MacBook rather than the iPad. 

It worked like a charm!

Here is the first trial using Skitch!  You will notice that I have already shown you this photo in a previous post.  This time I have circled the error for even easier visibility.  Notice that Skitch also lets you put in a caption for your photo.  Nice touch.  Of course, the advertising is not ideal, but...

Now on to the new!  Below you will see the Plus Sign quilt all laid out.  Of course, the last few rows are not sewn together yet, just laid there so I could see if I could recoup from the error shown above without restitching.  As you can see, I could mostly do that.  There is one heavily blue area but I decided to let it go.

The quilt is now 21 squares by 20 squares.  That will make a difference for the surrounding bands that I had planned.  It will probably measure about 40 inches by 42 inches.  We shall see once it is stitched.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Travel Today: Mostly Plus Sign Quilt Progress, or Not...

The Plus Sign Quilt

Nearly three years ago a large group of ladies in the Relief Society decided they wanted to make a quilt.  Lissa chose a pattern that was simple squares.  We met several times during the fall to preview the quilt and learn how to make it.  Squares were suggested as 2.5, 3.5, or 4.5 inches square.

The quilt I chose to make has 2.5 inch squares because the lovely batik fabric I had was only able to be cut into 2.5 inch squares.  I have not made a quilt with such small squares but was up for the challenge.

Pile of 2.5 inch squares ready to sew
That fall and winter I cut out all the squares.  Because I had a sort-of coordinating fabric in a blue print, and quite a lot of it, compared to the batik,  I planned my Plus Sign quilt to have alternating blue print plus signs with the batik plus signs.

Because I did not have enough of this fabric to make a whole quilt I decided to make the quilt with a central medallion surrounded by two or perhaps three sashing rounds.  I knew I would have to find some more batik fabric to coordinate with the batik that was already on board.

Having finished cutting out the squares and planning the quilt, last year on our vacation to North Carolina, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and the Atlantic City, New Jersey areas, I decided to take along the sewing machine and fabric to see if I could complete the quilt before returning home in two weeks.

It was a great plan, which I mentioned to some dear friends.  To the person, they were against my plan!  Everyone said, "Leave the quilt and sewing machine home.  Vacation!!!"  Well, since I had it in my head that this was a good idea, off we went with machine, fabric, and plans in tow.

We finally got the sewing machine out in Virginia Beach, at a resort which was right on the Boardwalk, but quite high up.  They had a Monsters on the Beach event while we were there. Quite noisy even as high up as we were.
Beginning to sew

So, after setting up the little quilting sewing machine that I had been given by our daughter, I realized that I did not know certain things about the running of that particular machine so I went online for a manual.  That was somewhat of a trick but finally I found it, read the manual, learned what I needed, and set up the machine properly.

Third  row starting to sew.
With all the fabric squares set up in order and the pattern in front of me I started to sew.  On THE VERY FIRST STITCH the needle broke.  That did it!  I took the machine apart; packed up all the fabric, patterns, and overall plan; and I returned the sewing machine to the trunk of the car where it stayed until we reached home a week and a half later.

Plus Sign quilt as far as it got on vacation
This year I decided to try again, but brought my regular sewing machine, a very nice old HEAVY White 305.  Even with a pattern and plan it was not easy.  By the end of vacation I had almost half the central medallion sewn together.
Plus SIgn quilt with a few more rows, set up for more sewing
When we came home I decided I would work one row per day until it was done.  The first day I did three more rows.  When I was ready to do the fourteenth row I discovered that I had made a mistake on the very first row when we got home!  R-r-r-r!!! 

Having a great tolerance for error, I decided to let that error go, after all, the plus signs look lovely together, even if they are in the wrong position for this quilt.  Now I am trying to lay out the rest of the quilt to see if I can overcome the error or if I have to tear out those rows YET AGAIN!!!  The first few rows were torn out several times.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Travel Today: Vacaton Over, time to hit the road to home...

We spent a nice week on Cape Cod.  The weather was not stellar but we still had a lovely time.  Dear One did some hiking most days (mostly flat trails...) and a long bike ride for the first time in years another day.  I walked on the beach in the heavy mist a couple of times, went to the Yarn Hound in Dennis to participate in their charity knitting afternoon, and worked on the Plus Sign quilt most of the time.  Next year I will leave sewing machine and quilts at home!

We packed the trunk early in the day so we could get a quick start off the Cape.

There was not room enough in the trunk so we packed the cabin of the car as well.

Next vacation I think we will do things differently.  In an ideal world, we would take a few changes of clothing and a credit card!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Garden Today: The Garlic Project

The garlic project is progressing! You might remember that I attended a garlic-growing class at a library when we were on vacation in Rangeley, Maine last fall during which each class member received a bag with several garlic bulbs ready to plant.  I followed the directions from the class instructor as exactly as I could.  Then came winter followed by a wonky spring.

 In early April I removed the heavy straw mulch from the garlic planted area.  What a delightful surprise!  There were actually seven plants growing! The same number of bulbs I had planted way back in October!

Little garlic plants grew under their bed of straw mulch and look happy to be uncovered.

The above picture made my spring!

 Even though we had several times when snow covered the little guys after I pulled off the mulch, they still look happy.  Each day that goes by the garlic plants look better and better.  I have hope that we might actually harvest some plants come July....

Mulched garlic rows happily growing next to their chive friends.  At least, I hope they are friends with the chives...

Because garlic cannot have ANY WEEDS AT ALL growing with them, we have mulched them rather heavily. I may potentially add more mulch as the summer goes by...after reading about garlic culture again so I give those little plants every chance to mature...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Food Today: Homemade Honey Mustard

While on vacation I saw a Food Network show which off-handedly mentioned that mustard was easy to make and could be tailored to your own tastes.  When I got home I watched half a dozen different YouTube channels on making mustard at home, then put "Homemade Mustard" in Google search.  Below is the recipe that I used with minor changes.  It is found at David Lebovitz's website.

Homemade Mustard
Yield 1 cup (250g)
  • 1/3 cup (55g) mustard seeds (I used a combination of brown and white mustard seeds, more brown than white.  It made all the difference!)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) dry white wine (or water)  (I used water.)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • big pinch of cayenne
  • 2-4 tablespoons warm water, if necessary
  • optional: 1-3 teaspoons prepared horseradish, to taste  (I don't think I used the horseradish this time...OK, you are right, I am forgetful. I made this last week and should remember...)
Something I added that was not here at all was 2 Tablespoons of honey, so this made a very spicy honey mustard.  Number 4 son seemed to like it.
1. Combine all the ingredients, except the horseradish, in a stainless-steel bowl. Cover, and let stand for 2-3 days.
2. Put the ingredients in a blender and whiz until as smooth as possible. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water if the mustard is too thick. Blend in the horseradish, if using.
Storage: The mustard will keep for up to 6 months refrigerated, although it’s best if used within one month.

This is how the mustard looks...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Travel Today: Lunch at The Brazilian Grill!

Dorcas and I met in early afternoon and went to The Brazilian Grill in Hyannis.  Dear One and I had stopped the day before so I could investigate the salad bar to see if it would appeal to him.  There really were many vegetarian options but they were a bit more esoteric than the plain fare we have at home.  It looked really exciting to me but he chose to remain home.

When Dorcas and I arrived around 1 PM there were a few diners in the restaurant, especially right next to the table for two where we were lodged!  No problem.  Very shortly after we sat down our first gaucho arrived with lamb!  It was my first bite of lamb. So very delicious.  Sadly, the lamb never arrived again.  I should have asked for it.

Meats that did arrive were several kinds of steak, some pork, some Brazilian pork sausages, chicken wings, chicken hearts, chicken livers (I think), steak with cheese stuffed in it (my least favorite), and something else that I chose not to eat but cannot now remember what it was.  We hardly were able to get to the salad bar because of the procession of gauchos and meats, but we did make a break for it at one point when another table was being "meated".

The salad bar was filled with many dishes...one of the most attractively served was the roasted carrots.  They were delicious as well.

The spicy peanut sauce was good on EVERYTHING!  I will have to find a recipe for that stuff...

Besides green salad-y things there were platters of potato salad, chicken salad, bulgar salad, quinoa salad, sliced tomatoes, cheeses and a cheese and cold cut platter, beautiful bread, fruits, and a whole hot table of things like stuffed fish, chicken saltimbocca which had such a lovely name that I tried it.  It was good.

The hot table also had kielbasi, tortillas and several kinds of bean preparations, as well as beef stew, another soup, and braised oxtails!  I had not seen oxtails since the last time my mother made oxtail soup lo, these many years ago.  I had a tiny dab in memory of Mother's delicious soup.

We spent quite a while visiting during and after eating.  Finally the wait staff brought a lovely little dish of swirled whipped cream drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with a birthday candle.  The three of them sang a birthday song (I assume...) in Portuguese.  Very sweet of them to do. I do think it was a final signal that they wanted us to clear out, but we did not feel compelled to do so as there were no other diners in the place at that time!

After eating until we had had enough we headed out for a drive around the several local towns.  Dorcas is a fabulous tour guide.  We went down little streets which opened up onto lovely ocean vistas. We drove around corners which suddenly gave us fabulous views.  We saw so many beautiful homes of all sizes.  We even stopped at the Sturgis Library which is said to have a wonderful genealogy collection. I later found this to be true.

After several hours of "driving off our lunch" we headed back to Colonial Acres.  It was such a lovely afternoon in every way.  I was ready for a nap, though, when we returned to the cottage.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Travel Today: Provincetown and points South

We arrived back in West Yarmouth late last night after driving home for little brother's wedding, an event which was so sweet on very many levels.  Because we were late back and arose later than we should, we did not participate in the pancake and sausage breakfast at the resort but instead headed off to Brewster for church.

Church was lovely as always, particularly so when we found Dorcas there!  Dorcas and I made plans for the week, some of which actually happened!  As I was "touring" around the church after meetings I came into the Relief Society room where I found a lovely flower afghan. I NEED to find that pattern!  I would love to make just that type of blanket sometime after the unfinished projects are done...probably a very long time from now....!

Floral afghan in  Brewster Relief Society room

After church we headed east on Route 6 stopping in Chatham at the Coast Guard Station then moved up the peninsula to Provincetown.  We were amazed at the narrow streets and the many shops.  We just drove through and were grateful it was NOT summer!  The traffic must be deadly during that time of the year.

Chatham Coast Guard station

Nice spot to watch the ocean and seaside birds cavort

Description of Mayflower landfall plus cutaway of the ship
Mayflower Landfall

We stopped at one lighthouse, I think in Chatham but it could have been near the Three Sisters Lighthouse in Eastham.

Lighthouse from a distance from the car!

We stopped at the Pilgrim Monument, went in and found it was quite costly to walk around in the museum, gift shop, and monument itself and since I would not have been able to do much of it we confined ourselves to taking a picture of the thing!  There was a note inside that said, "Of course you can climb to the top!  This 94-year old man made it all the way to the top and so can you."  Right.

One view of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown