1/23/2013

What's For Dinner

It's another bitter cold night in Wisconsin, with temperatures predicted to dip to -16° F overnight! You read that correctly. Sixteen below zero! A simmering pot of soup on the stove helps keep the cold away and makes me forget about anything but the wonderful aromas emanating from my kitchen.

Earlier today I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen's blog for Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Garlic that sounded like just the thing for a cold winter supper. Although the majority of our meals are vegetarian I did opt to keep the sausage in this recipe. I think it would be just as good without it, or you could even use a non-meat alternative in its place. Conveniently, I had everything I needed in my fridge and pantry, so I didn't have to venture out into the cold to make a trip to the market. The only change I made was to use kale instead of chard. The recipe makes a generous amount so I'll be able to freeze half for a future meal and still have plenty for a few lunches in the days ahead. The soup is also very pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds. Doesn't it look scrumptious? You won't be disappointed.

I'd picked up a few loaves of some good crusty bread at Trader Joe's almost a week ago. I usually buy several loaves and freeze them, since I'm over an hour away from the nearest store. Unfortunately I left one loaf out, intending to use it right away, and then forgot about it. I heard you can revive a stale loaf of bread by splashing it under the kitchen tap, wrapping it in foil and warming it in the oven for a few minutes. Worked like a charm! Crusty on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. A nice glass of red wine finished off the meal perfectly. I can't wait to have it again for lunch tomorrow.

1/20/2013

Party Crasher



Welcome back January. I didn't think you were going to show up this year. I'd started to grow accustomed to your absence. I should have known you'd crash the genteel party in a big way with your sudden arrival. Rushing in with your steely cold winds, clear bright skies, slap to the face greeting, and blindingly bright snow. Stealing the limelight. I acknowledge you. Now can you please leave? 


   

I grabbed my camera this morning to take a few pictures of the lacy frost patterns on our windows. With luring temperatures in the forties one day, followed by a plunge to sub-zero less than twenty-four hours later, this is the result. I love the intricate variety of patterns. The feathers, spikes and ladders.

And the wind! Oh my! Yesterday the wind started roaring, with enormous gusts that made the house shake and creak, tree branches fall and garbage cans roll. Twenty-five below wind chills! We ventured out into the cold last night to a surprise party for our god-daughter. Fifteen minutes after leaving home, just as we were arriving at our destination, we could finally start to feel a little heat emanating from the car's heater. Brrrrr. I'm not much of a party person, but the warm crowded venue, the music, camaraderie, food and drink was all very welcoming for once. We stayed much longer than intended, reluctant to go back out into that bitter cold.


Today the sun is shining brightly, looking so lovely and tempting. But tonight the thermometer will take another big fall if the weather predictors are right, dropping fifteen degrees lower than last night! You can be sure this gal isn't going anywhere! In fact I think it's a good day to stay in and do some baking to help warm the kitchen up a bit. I've been doing a bit of kitchen cupboard cleaning and taking stock of my pantry so it might almost be a pleasure working in the kitchen for a change. 



1/07/2013

The Eye Behind the Camera

     After lots of scrimping and saving I recently was able to cross an item off the top of my wish list, a nice DSLR camera. It's a huge upgrade from my point-and-shoot Canon Powershot, which got me thinking about the other cameras I've owned over the years. From my first camera, one of those funny flat Kodak 110's with the disposable flash cubes that were mounted on a little pedestal to prevent red eye, to my much loved Nikon FM which I still miss using. 

   When I was much younger I used to entertain dreams of becoming a professional photographer, imagining an exciting life of world travel and adventure as a photo journalist. 

     I think the photography bug first hit me back in my sophomore year of high school when I took a multi-media class and one of the units was on photography. Our assignment was to shoot a roll of black-and-white film (this was in the early 70's) and then submit four of our best photos for the teacher's critique and grading. I borrowed my parent's Kodak Instamatic loaded with a 126 film cartridge, and armed with my newly gained knowledge of photo composition ventured out for my virgin photo shoot. I had literally never used a camera before! 

Kodak Instamatic camera
     I can still remember how carefully and time-consumingly I composed each frame, holding my breath to steady the camera as I gently squeezed the shutter release button. I was so nervous about wasting a single one of the mere twelve exposures on that film. For one thing I'd had to invest my own money for the film and developing. It may not sound like much now but my hard earned fifty-cents-an-hour babysitting earnings were precious to me. Secondly, the finished film had to be dropped off at the local drug store to be sent out for processing. It could take up to a week to get the developed photos back. Unlike today's instant playback digital cameras there was no way of knowing how the pictures might turn out, especially for someone as inexperienced as I was. I could end up with a whole roll of over or under exposed pictures, blurry subjects or off-center photos thanks to parallax error. (I think that thrill of the unknown is partly why Lomography is so popular for today's younger generation who have grown up with digital photography.) And finally, in my family the camera was only brought out for birthdays, Christmas, graduations and other special occasions. The film might sit in the camera for months before the roll was finished and ready to be developed! Though only twelve exposures, shooting a whole roll of film in a single day seemed crazily extravagant! 

     I still have the photos I shot that day and in my mind they are still the very best photos I have ever taken or ever will. The anticipation of waiting for the pictures to be developed, finally being handed the packet of photos by the drug store clerk and holding my breath as I opened it was on a par with an Academy Awards envelope opening! And I might be the winner...or not. And there they were at last! To hold those very real photos and see an actual image. An identifiable image no less!  An embodiment of what I had envisioned in my head! It was truly amazing. I felt like a legitimate artist! 

     That sharp grained Kodak Tri-X Pan black and white film was great stuff. The finished pictures were small, maybe three and a half inches square, but they seemed bill board sized in importance to me. There was the picture I had taken lying on my back on the ground looking up into the towering oak tree silhouetted against the sky. The photo I captured of my toddler brother trying to see his reflection in a puddle. The mysterious half open door of a ramshackle old shed down in a back alley that leaves one wondering what is inside. And my pièce de résistance! The photo I had taken inside my friend's grandmother's barn, the lens aimed at a single window where an oblique beam of sunlight illuminated the treads of a wooden stairway to the hay loft above. I remember being stunned when I saw that photo.   It looked like art! I couldn't believe I had taken it. I think even my teacher was skeptical. He gave me an A+.







     I never became a professional photographer. I've never been further outside the borders of this country than Canada. My life could hardly be described as adventurous. I've had nicer and more expensive cameras in the years since. Yet when I look at these old photos I know this is my best work, though none might agree, and nothing can ever compare for me. It serves to remind me that a camera is only as good as the eye behind it and that art is in the eye of the beholder



1/01/2013

The Key to an Organized Home

If you clicked here hoping for a grand revelation about the secret to an organized home, well my friend, you'll be sadly disappointed. If you want to go with me on a journey of tiny baby steps, tiny tiny baby steps to getting organized, then you're in the right place. I'm putting it down here on paper...er, make that digital cyberspace...that my #1 top priority resolution for 2013 is to delve into all the nooks and crannies of this old house to sort, purge and organize!! 

So what does all this have to do with keys? Remember I said baby steps? Here's where I'm starting.


For years there has been a little box full of old keys in the back of a kitchen cupboard. This odd assortment of keys includes skeleton keys that may or may not fit some of the doors in this old house, keys for long gone cars, for lost padlocks, bike locks, and mystery keys. Quite a few of the keys were inherited with the house. Some look like they could be for a safe deposit box. Oooh, that's intriguing. A couple look like skate keys. (For the younger set who are clueless about skate keys, old time skates attached to the outside of the wearer's shoes and were adjustable in size. The key was used to lock or unlock the skate to adjust its length. Great idea! The skate grew with the kid and could be used by siblings too. How did the skate companies ever stay in business without planned obsolescence?)

Here they are all laid out. 


I don't want to throw any of these keys out, just in case. After all, you never know when a 1991 Dodge Grand Caravan might reappear that just happens to have an ignition that works with my keys! Or maaaybe when I finally get to excavating the garage attic I'll find the roller skates that go with those rusty skate keys.  Or that safe deposit box...hmmmm. In the meantime I thought it might be nice to display some of these keys somehow as an homage to the history of this old house of ours. To wit, I did some web sleuthing to see what I might want to do.

I like this idea found over at My Crafty Days. How pretty!

 I also like the simplicity of just hanging a few keys on a wall somewhere.

Skeleton key display.
Another simple idea...a pretty ribbon and a single key displayed on a stack of old books,  as seen at Hilltop Cottage


Now I just need to work on the rest of that kitchen cupboard shelf. It's a high shelf where things tend to go to be forgotten. Did you know candles multiply when left in dark places? So do cookie cutters. And  ten flashlights aren't doing much good when eight of them have dead batteries. Sigh. Baby steps, baby steps.