Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Only Tuesday

Did you ever have one of those days where you just wanted to go home but the trains were all running in the opposite direction?

Maybe it's just post-holiday grind.  Perhaps early onset Spring fever.  Or it could be SuperBowl anticipation.  Which, of course, will be followed by the traditional SuperBowl Monday vacation day!!!

Whatever the cause, I just hope my train is on time.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Honey Bees

This is where our honey comes from.

I was out and about in the truck when I happened to pass by the local farm where we get our honey.  All of the bees are snug inside.  Only a few adventuresome types sneak out on really warm days to take a short flight over to the pond.  But even though there was no way I would get stung - and kill the bee in the process - I opted to take this pic from the safety of our truck.

No need for unnecessary risk!

I always thought it would be so cool to have bee hives.  I pictured myself strolling out to them with a cute little honey harvesting basket in one hand and an offering of flowers for the bees in the other.  I would open the hive, pull out a comb, and serve fresh honey on the breakfast table.

Just a few problems with that.  First, I am allergic to bees - poke me with an epi allergic to bees.  Second, since we make a point of getting older plants here at the manor, most of them do not use European honey bees for pollination - they use native pollinators.  There just wouldn't be a lot of food for them and they would most likely start flying over to the neighbors.  Third, even though I know my neighbors are big fans of the honey bee and supporting its' habitat - I don't think they are ready for a swarm of bees to visit them on their patio.

Of course, I'm open to change.  So if there is a way to resolve these problems I will definitely rethink getting hives for the backyard.  In the meantime, I'm glad to shop for my honey at the market.

There is a myth that if you buy your honey from local bees it really helps your allergies.  The debunking of the myth says that since the bees harvest pollen from flowers, not from trees, weeds and grass, there is no "peer reviewed" proof or logic that this is true.

Maybe it is mind over matter?  I'll keep buying local honey.  Even if it doesn't help my allergies, it certainly helps our local economy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are You Kidding Me!?

Laurel thinks you will appreciate this tale, a lot, and laugh - like she and her husband-of-the-year did - so I am sharing.  I took no pictures of the actual event, so you will just have to take my word for it and ask yourself - is this the angelic little creature I am talking about?

I had to take my pup to the vet yesterday for blood work - you would not believe what that evil demon puppy put me through!

I got up super early to exercise her before we went so she would be calm.  Then I took her out to the truck at 8-freaking-30 a.m. for the 9 a.m. appointment which is 5 minutes from our house so she will have enough time to walk around before she has to go inside.

She sees the crate in the truck and is not having any of it.

I pick her up, put her in the truck, she climbs over my shoulder, down my back and around my waist to try to escape under my arm.  I kid you not.

We wrestle.  She wins.

I tug. I cajole. I beg. I order her about.

No luck.

9:30 - I go inside to get a hot dog.

See the nice hot dog?  Don't you want some?  Just come a little closer!  That's a good girl...

I get her sitting in the truck next to the crate.

10:15 - Still sitting

I look at her and say - fine, we don't have to go and get your blood test, you can just die as far as I'm concerned.

She looks at me, looks at the crate, gets up, walks calmly into the crate and sits down.


We drive the 5 minutes to the clinic.

10:30 - Dogs everywhere - I am really worried because she's a jumper, you know - and most people don't appreciate jumpers.

There are 3 little girls right in front of the door to the store  - oh look at the cute puppy! they come at her with their hands outstretched - I'M FREAKING OUT! - I say, she jumps - they say, that's okay - my puppy goes forward...

and she sniffs them.

There's no jumping.  Just a polite sniff.

What the )*#&$@#*$!!!!!!!

We go into the store, she does buttsniff greetings with all the dogs, there's no incident.  Then...




She sits at my feet and is all staring up at me attentively.


She is sweet, obediant and just the cutest dog ever.  A woman with a c-a-t comes over.  My puppy sees it.  I'm ready - this is the moment she will go psycho.

She sits.

A bunny passes by.  Not even a twitch.

The vet calls us, she gets up, holds her PAWS UP for her mani-pedi.  The vet says, we need to switch her to the other side.  She stands up and turns around.

11:00 - I get her back out to the truck.  Same stubborn sitting, clawing to get away, freaking out.

I show her other dogs in cars and trucks - see, dogs like to go for a ride!

Snapping, snarling, pulling away.

Okay - treats... come closer, closer ---- got her and put her on the seat.

Pup, I am not walking home, so you can either get in the crate or...

She gets up and gets into the crate and lays down ---


I drove home.  I just left the truck in the driveway - unplugged, left the crate there, went inside and poured myself a drink - at 11:30a.m.

My Dear Honey thought it was the funniest thing he had ever heard.  I wasn't laughing.

I just couldn't believe her !!! "why I'm just the sweetest little doggie you've ever seen" routine!  You would have thought she was Scarlett O'Hara herself the way she was carrying on.  Little Miss Prance-a-lot.

It did cross my mind to toss her and the crate out of the truck on the way home.

But, as draining as it was, at the end of the day, she chose to get in the crate - twice - even though it  was not what she wanted to do and she was scared.  I was glad that she trusted me enough to know that what I was asking was going to be an okay thing.

When we got inside, she went had herself a good snooze.  She was out like a light and slept for almost 15 minutes (that's 3 hours in basset hound time).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Baby Mittens

I finished the baby mittens for my friend's new little girl who is due to come into the world any day now.  This pattern vexed me.  It vexed me good.

I started out with a Magic Loop and half double crochet standard double increase initially.  It didn't work.  The mittens were squared off on top and swooped down like the brim on a southern belles bonnets.  It wasn't pretty.

I scoured the net.  Read through Ravelry.  Poured over pattern after pattern.  I made 8 different attempts at mittens.  All failures.  I blamed myself for losing the original perfect mitten, hat and bootie pattern.  I was filled with crocheting sorrow.

But then I thought - why not just make the first few rows double crochet?  The stitches would be twice as long and they would round over instead of squaring off and swooping.  So I did.  And it worked!

I added a detail at the top to match the bootie detail and all was right in the world once again.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Sad Little Plow

So sad to see this little plow all alone in the rain.  He's just sitting there waiting for next winter.  Nothing to do now but sit there and rust.

I almost felt  sorry for this little guy when I spotted him hanging out at the edge of the parking lot.  Almost.

Then I remembered.  I remembered the years of snow.  The backbreaking shoveling.  Searching for cotter pins for the plow at 3a.m.  Freezing as pellets of ice swarmed around me, stinging every bare patch of skin.  And this little guy warmed up and zipping around the parking lot in all of his glory.  I remembered this.

So have no pity for the little plow at the edge of the parking lot.  His day will come again.  The Canadian winds will rip through my carefully constructed layers of warmth - chilling me to the bone.  Blizzards of snow will coat every surface, burying my truck and freezing the doors closed.

And this sad little plow will be happy again.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Storm Is Coming

Part of me is loving the storms coming through because each one is bringing Spring closer - the other part of me is cold, wet and so tired of no sunshine.

The part of me that is cold and wet is a lot bigger than the part that is loving the storms.

Okay.  Much better now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Who knew?  So much happiness from one little can.  Easy and delicious.  Did I mention easy?  I speak of homemade hummus.

You can make it fancy.  You can add stuff - roasted garlic, olives, chocolate chips, lemon zest, whatever you'd like.  Or you can make it bare bones plain.

I made it bare bones plain this weekend.  Just the basics.  Just pure goodness.

Just the thing to munch on when you're watching your Dear Honey's football team play in the finals.  Even though it should have been your team.  Because your team had such a great season.  And your quarterback had all those first downs all by himself last week.  And your team put so much heart into the game.  And it's not fair.  Because it really should have been your team - and not your Dear Honey's team.  And if they were playing today, the other team would be going down - big time!  Because my team could most certainly kick their...  But I digress.

So here's what you need:

1 can of chick peas
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Open the can of chick peas.

Pour it into a pot on the stove and bring it to a boil.

The skins on the chick peas will start to pop off.  It's done.  There will still be some liquid left in the pan. Don't toss it out - you may need it.

Use a slotted spoon to get the chick peas out of the pot and put them in a bowl.  Add the minced garlic.

Add the lemon juice.  And add the salt.  Normally I would also add some tahini - 2 Tablespoons, but I forgot to get some tahini when I was in the city, so I'm skipping it.  It'll still work.

Start mashing it up.  Keep mashing it up until it is the consistency you want.  I like mine with a few chunks of chick peas in it, so I use the potato masher.  If you like yours perfectly silky smooth, you may want to do this in a food processor instead of a bowl.  Or you could still use the potato masher and just get rid of some of those feelings about having to watch your Dear Honey's team in the playoffs.  I guarantee it will come out as smooth as silk quicker than you can say "Touchdown!"

Drizzle in about 1/2 of the olive oil and mash it some more until it is all mashed together.  If it is too thick, add a teaspoon or so of the liquid left over in the pan (not more olive oil - you'll need that in a minute).  I wanted mine a little thick, so I didn't add any liquid.

Put the hummus in a serving bowl.

Pour the rest of the olive oil over it.  It not only adds a little more flavor to the hummus, it acts as sort of a sealant from the air so the hummus doesn't dry out.

I went a little crazy and dusted it with paprika.  I'm just a wild child when it comes to hummus.

Warm hummus - nutty, lemony.

That's the good stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pink Sky

Sometimes you just can't help yourself and this is one of those times.  I was tossing my coat on to head out the door on the way to the train when I happened to glance out the window and saw the awesome pinks in the sky above the Hudson.

Normally heading out of the office is a stress inducing moment in my day.   Did I grab everything I need to grab to get done tonight?  Can I finish enough to get out on time?  Will the elevator hit every floor on the way down?  Where did I put my truck keys?  Do I have my train ticket?  Will I make the bus or do I have to run 2 miles - again?  What's the traffic like?  Is the train running on time?  Where are my keys!?

Then I saw this sky.  And I stopped.  And I looked.  And everything was calm.

I had to grab my camera so I could share it with you.  It was just so pretty.

I think it looks like a mix of cotton candy and a pink diamond.  Or in other words - everything that is right with the world.

Found my keys.

Very nice. Very nice indeed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Gung Hay Fat Choi!  Happy Chinese New Year!  Today was the beginning of the Spring Festival - or Chinese New Year - and what better way to celebrate than to eat oranges light up some firecrackers hand out red packets of money head out to a park and see what happening!

So I headed out to the nearest patch of park during lunch to see how things were doing - and it looks good.  Lots of color.  I'm not talking about the taxis either.

You see those little red buds?  Those are flowers in the making.  Spring is on its' way!

The city is further south than our bucolic manor, so I'll have to wait a few more weeks to see any significant buds at home, but it's coming!  I have hope!  The sun will return!

Of course now that I've admitted hope, I'm sure Mother Nature is going to slam us with a huge freezing messy storm.

That's okay though.  Gung hay fat choi!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Football Finger Food

Chicken fingers with a creamy spicy dipping sauce make a great decadent treat for game day.  Although we don't eat a lot of fried foods for our everyday meals, when it comes time for the playoffs, the crispy succulent tidbits have a way of making it onto the menu.

The great thing about chicken fingers is that they can go from a plain salt/pepper to a hot and spicy buffalo wing coating just by changing the finishing sauce.  And they're super quick to make.

This recipe will make a very lightly coated chicken finger.  Just enough coating to hold the seasoning onto the chicken - not a heavily coated super crunchy chicken finger.

You'll need:

Oil for frying
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Chicken strips
Spicy Mustard

Pour some oil into a frying pan and let that heat up.  I'm reusing the pan that I made the sausage in and leaving those little bits in the oil for some extra flavor.  You don't need to use a lot of oil here - this isn't deep frying, it's pan frying.  So only pour enough oil in to come about 1/4 of the way up on a piece of chicken.  Less is more here.

Put the flour - about 3/4 cup, garlic powder - a teaspoon or so, cayenne pepper - 1/2 teaspoon (or more!), salt - 1/2 teaspoon, and pepper - 1/4 teaspoon into a bowl and mix it up.

Pour a cup of milk into another bowl.  Wash off the chicken and pat it dry.

Dip the chicken finger into the milk and pull it out - let it drip for a second or two.

Now dip the chicken finger into the seasoned flour mixture.  The flour will stick to the chicken in a really thin coating.  Shake off the extra flour.

Place the chicken finger into the hot oil.  You see how the oil is sizzling a bit as the chicken goes in?  That's what we want.  Also - notice how I put it in so the part nearest goes down first and the part away plops in last?  This way if it accidentally falls off of the fork and splashes hot boiling oil all over the place - one of those places won't be on me.  Because then there would be burning and pain and hospitals and bandages - and I would miss the game.  I don't want to miss the game.

Flip them when they get lightly toasty on the first side - not too toasty looking because they will cook more as you cook the 2nd side.  In the picture you can see the 1st side comes out darker than the 2nd side, but I assure you the chicken is cooked to perfection.  When the 2nd side gets lightly toasty, pull them out and place them on paper towels to drain off any excess oil.  For larger batches I would put them on a rack to drain so I don't have to use tons of paper towels, but for this little batch, a single paper towel handles the job nicely.

Now for the sauce.  Simple. Simple. Simple.

Spoon out about a 1/2 cup of mayonnaise into a bowl.  Add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Add to that 1 1/2 tablespoons of spicy brown mustard and a tablespoon of drained horseradish.  Mix it all up.  You're done.

Chicken fingers and spicy dipping sauce.  Tasty, crunchy, spicy deliciousness.

We really enjoyed this finger food menu for the big game.  The chicken fingers were delish and flew off the plate.  The sausage stuffed potato skins also went fast.  For an added kick, we drizzled the spicy dipping sauce on top.  Finally the cheesy olive biscuits finished up the trio of finger foods as a salty, cheesy bite (also great with the dipping sauce!).

So that was "dinner" - chicken, biscuits and potatoes served up as finger foods.  Not very balanced, but oh so very good!  And yes, we did eat our vegetables later on in a nice salad - with the remains of that dipping sauce for dressing!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mini Chullo

Time to continue down the path for the baby gifts.  After going round and round on what type to make, I finally settled on this cute little chullo.

I love the earflaps on these.  They keep the little one warm and frame their tiny face.  And the braided ties with the fringe give them something to play with while keeping the chullo in place no matter how squirmy they are.

The chullo style of hat is Peruvian.  The intricate designs on these alpaca wool hats sold by the street vendors in the city with their little llama, snowdrifts and mountains adorning them always make my fingers want to start knitting whenever I see them.

The top of the hat is a little beanie - like half of a ball,  The two flaps are gently sloped triangles.  The ties are made from the fastening off of the yarn, so it has very little finishing to do.  Yay!  I love that part the best.

Again, I used that washable acrylic that's super soft yet super practical.  There's no added color here.  I thought about adding a little brim on it and weaving some ribbon through, but then I thought that it would be easier to match it to all sorts of outfits if it was just a simple white.  I also thought that it allowed the design of the chullo to shine.

Size E crochet hook
1 oz Fingering yarn

Start with a Magic Loop (or a circle of ch3 if you prefer), ch1

Row 1 - 12 hdc in ring, pull to tighten, ch 1
Row 2 - 2 hdc in each hdc from Row 1, ch 1
Row 3 - (hdc, hdc, 2 hdc), repeat between the ( ), ch1
Row 4 - (hdc, hdc, hdc 2 hdc), repeat between the ( ), ch1
Row 5 - (hdc, hdc, hdc, hdc, 2 hdc), repeat between the ( ), ch1
Row 6 - (hdc, hdc, hdc, hdc, hdc, 2 hdc), repeat between the ( ), ch1
Row 7 - hdc around, ch1
Row 8 - hdc around, ch1
Row 9 - hdc around, ch1
Row 10 - hdc around, ch1
Row 11 - hdc around, ch1
Row 12 - hdc around, ch1
Row 13 - hdc around, ch1
Row 14 - hdc around, ch1
Row 15 - hdc around, ch1
Row 16 - hdc around, ch1

First earflap

Row 17a - 15 hdc, ch1
Row 18a - hdc across, ch1
Row 19a - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 20a - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 21a - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 22a - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 23a - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 24a - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 25a - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Pull the loop out 2-feet, leave the tail 2-feet and cut the yarn.  This will be part of the tie.

Second earflap

Skip 25 stitches and attach.

Row 17b - 15 hdc, ch1
Row 18b - hdc across, ch1
Row 19b - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 20b - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 21b - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 22b - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 23b - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 24b - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Row 25b - dec, hdc to last 2, dec
Pull the loop out 2-feet, leave the tail 2-feet and cut the yarn.  This will be part of the tie.


Attach at the tip of an earflap leaving a 2-foot tail.
Row 26a - sc to the tip of the 2nd earflap.
Pull the loop out 2-feet, leave the tail 2-feet and cut the yarn.  This will be part of the tie.

Attach at the tip of that same earflap leaving a 2-foot tail.
Row 26b - sc to the tip of the 2nd earflap.
Pull the loop out 2-feet, leave the tail 2-feet and cut the yarn.  This will be part of the tie.

You will end up with 7 2-foot long strands at the tip of each earflap.

Separate the strands into 2-strands, 3-strands and 2-strands.  
Braid together.  
Tie a knot at the end leaving 3-inches of fringe.


Trim evenly and unravel the yarn.


Weave in the end from the magic loop.

That's it!  You're done.


ch - chain
hdc - half double crochet
dec - decrease (as hdc)

You could absolutely decorate this with little flowers or cute buttons and the like.  It would be adorable.  

Okay - it's adorable with or without decoration.  Awww!  I know the mommy-to-be will love it and the baby will have fun chewing and tugging on the ties.

It's a hat - it's a toy - it's a chullo!

I wonder if I could get my little girl to wear one?

Probably not.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Grocery Shopping

At the end of a long week the last thing I wanted to do was to go grocery shopping.

But when you have great skies like this to look at on the trip to the store it makes for a lovely drive.

I find the light playing against the clouds so beautiful - like a painting.  When I see this, I stop thinking about it having been a long week and start thinking about what a wonderful weekend it will be.

Looking forward - a good thing to do while driving!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Traffic Jam

There was supposed to be a huge traffic jam tonight on the way to the train because a certain somebody who lives in Washington, D.C. was in town and coming to the Apollo theater.  

There were cops and emergency vehicles all the way down the street.

Police barricades were setup for blocks and blocks to keep the crush of the crowds under control.

Yup.  Traffic jam.  Bumper to bumper cars.  People everywhere.  Yup.

And I missed it all by leaving a mere 10 minutes early from the office.

It's all about the timing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bootie Call

Five of my friends are heading into the last few days/weeks/months of their pregnancies and that means one thing - time to make the booties.

I used to have a super pattern for baby booties, mittens and hat - but I lost it.  I know I still have it somewhere, but after 2 days of looking I still can't find it and my first set is due tomorrow.  Well, my girlfriends always say that I work best under pressure so I guess now is my chance to shine!

Here's what I came up with for the bootie.  It works up quickly - about 20 minutes per boot including stitching it up.

I know that most knitters love to use wonderful wools to knit with, but I've found that most new moms prefer a washable fiber so I use a super soft acrylic yarn.  Soft enough for the newborn, tough enough to  let all of the drippy things that come out of newborns get washed away in the laundry.

Size E crochet hook
1 oz. Fingering yarn

Row 1 - ch 34
Row 2 - hdc across, ch 2
Row 3 - hdc across, ch 2
Row 4 - hdc across, ch 2
Row 5 - dc across
Row 6 - sl 5, ch 3, dc in same stitch as ch 3, dc across, leave 4 unworked
Row 7 - dc across, ch 3
Row 8 - dc across, ch 3
Row 9 - *fpdc, bpdc* across

Whip stitch seams.  Weave blue and pink ribbons through the front/back post double crochets - the new mom can just remove the appropriate color.  You can roll the edge down for a cuff, or leave it up for extra warmth.  

ch - chain
hdc - half double crochet
dc - double crochet
sl - slip stitch
fpdc - front post double crochet
bpdc - back post double crochet

I think they're pretty darn cute.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Footsteps in the Snow

This morning I was greeted by a carpet of snow.  Surprise!  Crunchy, slippery, heavy, wet snow.

It was great just hearing it crunch as I walked down the driveway to the truck.  Little footprints from nighttime visitors crisscrossed the patio explaining clearly why my puppy was so excited last night.  But now there was nothing but a still calm and the crunching snow underfoot.

There's no way I can possibly complain about 2 tiny little inches of snow in mid-January this year.  It was warmer than this weekend.  The snow slid off of the truck in big clumps.  No trees were falling.  No roofs needed shoveling off.  There's not enough to shovel - let alone plow.

There wasn't even enough to stick to the road for slush or ice.

I could get used to this.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Biscuits and Butterflies

Last night I made olive cheesy biscuits as part of the football fare.  I based them on my girlfriend's sausage and cheese biscuit  - sort of.

She always makes these delicious sausage and cheese biscuit hors d'oeuvres when we pop over.  They are so delicious!  She says to just toss in some cooked and crumbled sausage along with some cheese into a quick biscuit mix and pop them in the oven.  So quick, so easy.  Right.

Well, I've tried making her sausage and cheese biscuits and let me just put it this way.  My dog won't eat them.

It reminds me of my butterfly bushes.  I say "bushes" because there have been a few of them over the years.  My Dear Honey likes them, so I tried to oblige by planting one for him.  It died.  For three years I tried to get one to grow.  They died.  Finally I asked one of my gardening friends how they got their butterfly bush to grow.  His response, "I just stuck it in the ground and it grew."  I think this is a case of the butterfly bush all over again.

Anyway, back to the biscuits.

You'll need cheddar cheese, chopped olives, black pepper, some biscuit mix and some milk.

I used a cup of biscuit mix.

Toss that into a mixing bowl.

Take about 2 ounces of cheddar cheese.

Grate that up into the bowl with the mix.

Get about 14 green brined olives - the ones that come in the jar are fine.  That's what I used here.

Coarsely chop those up and add them to the mix.  Also add in a bit of pepper.  Leave out the salt though - the olives are salted enough already.

Add in the milk.  I used about a 1/3 cup of milk, but I didn't add it all at once.  Pour in about half of the milk and give it 3-5 quick stirs to mix it up.  It's a biscuit and you always try to stir biscuit dough as little as possible or they turn into hockey pucks.  And hockey pucks are not very tasty at all.  If there's still dry mix in the bowl then go ahead and add more milk.  You don't want it too gooey here, so go easy.

Here it is all mixed together.  There's a little bit of dry clinging to the side of the bowl - that's okay. 

Drop heaping teaspoons of the mix onto a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 450-degrees.  The bottom should be golden brown.

And there you have it - olive cheesy biscuits.  They're as easy as growing a butterfly bush - or so I'm told.