Saturday, January 7, 2012


I came across some wonderful lines in a book I've been reading this week.  The novel is about Paris in the 1930's, as seen through the eyes of Binh, the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.  The lines refer to Binh's first meeting with Gertrude Stein, and they immediately brought to mind this photo of my daughter and myself.  See if you agree.
"A woman with the face of an owl emerges and positions herself inside of a wedge of light.  The woman, I think, has the face of an "Ancient."  This is not to say that her face is wrinkled or dulled.  Ancients, according to Bao, my bunkmate on board the Niobe, wear faces that have not changed for centuries.  To look at them, he said, is to look at a series of paintings of their ancestors and their descendants, as when two mirrors endlessly reflect each other's images.  Bao said that Ancients possess features so strong and forceful that they can withstand generation after generation of new and insurgent bloodlines.  Women, who are accused of adultery because the faces of their children refuse to resemble those of their husbands, are often Ancients.  In a firefly moment of introspection, Bao said that these women are feared because they make a mockery out of the marriage union, that their children's preordained faces proclaim too loudly that the man is irrelevant, that maybe he is not needed at all."   from The Book of Salt, by Monique Truong

Funny, no?  And yes, I look just like my mother (though I did get my father's hair-color).

Friday, January 6, 2012


One thing that seemed to be a major turning point in my confidence as a cook was realizing that, even though I no longer do weekly menu planning and mega shopping trips, I can still go several days without having to make a grocery run, calling for pizza delivery, or eating PB&J for dinner.  Three times in the past week we have had truly yummy meals that I pulled together from what was at hand, and my hubby was none the wiser.  It got me to thinkin', that this is a really good talent to have -- especially if you live someplace where you could easily get flooded or iced in for a few days, as I do, or even if your car was in the shop for a few days, or if you were putting in extra long hours at work and didn't have time to go to the store.

I started to call this post "Pantry Food", and to just tell you some of my favorite go-to recipes. Then I got to thinking that maybe I should call it Larder Food instead.  Larder is an old term that's coming back into use again, as more and more people realize that it's not those mixes and convenience items you buy  and stack on your pantry shelves that really matter, it's more what you keep in your fridge, your freezer, your spice cabinet, and your garden!  Now I'm thinking that, instead of just giving you my favorite recipes, maybe we could help each other out, so I decided to play a little game with you.  I'm going to give you a list of a few things that I always have in my "larder".  I want you to think about those ingredients for a while, and what you would do if you couldn't get to the store, then come back and tell us something yummy you could make, using just these items. I'll give you the recipe for the one pictured above, just to get you started, and will share several more with you in the coming week. Bon Appetit!

Ah, almost forgot, the list!

From the fridge:  
Cheese -- cheddar or mj, fontina or mozzarella, parmesan, feta or goat
Dijon mustard, mayo, or any other condiments you usually keep around
Roasted peppers or pimentos, sundried tomatoes, capers
Olives, such as Kalamata or Nicoise
Eggs, butter, milk or cream
Fresh peppers, both hot and sweet
Leftover veggies

In the freezer:
Nuts, such as pine nuts, almonds, pecans and walnuts, and some of the spiced pecans I make
prosciutto, pepperoni, leftover uncooked bacon
a big bag of chicken tenders
frozen ravioli or gnocchi
leftover meats, such as roasted chicken, grilled steak, ham, etc.
leftover artisanal bread, sliced, so I can pull out just what I need for a sandwich or toast
small personal pizza crusts
leftover soups and stews

In the pantry:
olive oil
an assortment of good vinegars
onions, garlic, shallots
canned tomatoes, whole and diced
canned beans - chick peas (garbanzo), white beans (cannellini), black beans
stocks - beef, chicken, veggie
spices, kosher or sea salt, peppercorns for the grinder
pizza and pasta sauce
potatoes (I like the little bags of baby dutch yellow)
canned tuna and boneless salmon
rice and pastas
flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, extracts, etc.
condiments such as Worcestershire and Soy Sauce (which I refrigerate after opening)

From the garden:
various herbs, such as chives, Italian parsley, sage and rosemary
lettuce, arugula, and any other greens you like to grow


2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped green onions (if I don't have any on hand, I add more yellow onion, or shallots)
1 (16 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 T. coarsely chopped garlic
1 (16 oz.) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1/2 cup chicken stock, canned, low-sodium
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat and add the onion and green onion.  Saute for 2 - 3 minutes to soften the vegetables, then add the remaining ingredients, except the parsley.  Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and boil gently for 15 minutes.  Remove the lid and boil a few minutes longer to reduce the liquid.  Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with parsley. (4 side servings or two main dish)  We just eat it with a slice of crusty bread, but you could serve it with some sliced sausage or cold cuts if you wished.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


This morning, it was almost as if someone was looking directly down on my bottle tree.

I think he likes it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Know what I love most about my journaling and blogging habit?  I love the way it opens my eyes to the wonder of ordinary days.  There was a time when it seemed like most of my days went by in a blur.  I always found myself wondering where the time had gone, and why I didn't have more to show for it.

Now I've discovered that if I start my days by just dumping all the clutter from my brain out onto the pages of a journal, and downloading all the new photos from my camera, when I take the time to sift through it all, I always find that those ordinary days weren't so ordinary after all.  In fact, they were studded with precious gems -- gems that fill me with gratitude.  Don't believe me? Here is a typical journal entry, from an ordinary day in early December.  Notice how my attitude changes from the time I picked up my pen, until I laid it down again.

"It's been a busy couple of days!  Can't really remember accomplishing much, just know that it whizzed by in a flash.  Let's see, I do remember John and I meeting Lex in Austin on Tuesday, to have lunch and to see Hugo (what a great movie!).  Oh yeah, Monday I had to go back to the periodontist for a check up.  Wednesday and Thursday are kind of a blur, other than going to Zumba and getting my giant box of Christmas gifts for the Lane women mailed off to Ohio.  Oh, and making that quiche and baked tomatoes with goat cheese and bread crumbs for dinner (Yum!).  Oh, wait!  I just remembered something else about Monday!  After my doctors appointment I went to Wal-mart and filled a shopping cart with all kinds of toys that I could donate.  That was fun!  I also treated myself to a new Christmas book at Hastings, and lunch at Wingstop.  That was a very good day!  Yesterday I finally cleared all our projects and crap off the dining room table, and finally pulled the gorgeous jacquard tablecloth I brought back from Provence out of the closet. It's not a Christmas cloth per se, but should look fabulous with my Indo-market Christmas dishes.  Other than getting the icicle lights and garland out on the porch, I guess I'm done decorating.  Woohoo! Last night I helped represent The Bountiful Sprout at the Slow Money event over in Austin, which was fairly awesome.  Always good to see dedicated people trying to make a difference, to help counter-balance all the crap you see on the news.  Today we will be celebrating Outdoor Woman's big six-oh!  We were supposed to be climbing Enchanted Rock, but with this rain, we may have to come up with plan B.  Wow!  I guess the week wasn't a waste after all.  In fact, it was pretty darn wonderful!"

Want to discover the gems buried in your days and weeks?  All you have to do is pick up a pen!

Fun new journals that Santa left in my stocking.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


One thing my hubby really, really loves is feeding birds.  There's just one problem -- keeping his birdseed away from all the other critters that seem to enjoy it as much or more than the birds do!  He's tried every imaginable sturdy plastic or galvanized trash can-like container with a snap-lock lid, and still we come out to find seed scattered hither and yon.  Squirrels, raccoons, deer -- they've all had a go at it. Since our garage is open-air, his only solution was to start stacking it all in my utility room, a solution I'm none too crazy about.

Now, I almost never go to our monthly flea market here in Wimberley, but back in the fall, when my sister and niece were here, they talked me into accompanying them.  Guess what I found while there?  The perfect birthday gift for my hubby!
We found it at a booth run by an older gentleman and his sister. Apparently, he likes to go scavenging around on old farmsteads and country places to see what interesting pieces he can find, then he brings them to his sister and lets her "decorate" them.
He called this piece a "critter-proof feed-storer".  I'm guessing it was probably meant for chicken feed, and that the lip around the base might have been meant to hold a little water, to keep the ants out. Or maybe it was just for balance, to keep them from knocking it over.
All I know is that it is extremely heavy, and because you have to lift and twist all at once, to get the lid off, it can be a mite tricky even for us humans.  Here's hoping it stymies those other critters altogether, for this is one cute container -- one which I won't mind him leaving out on the porch the least little bit!

Monday, January 2, 2012


Do you recall, back in September, the wonderful little market basket that I gave away to honor my blog's 4th anniversary?  If you read the comments after I announced the winner, you might have noticed that my sister-in-law Priscilla was really, really hoping to win that basket. Well, to tell you the truth, she did.  However, since I happened to know that she was getting this very thing for Christmas, I put her name back in the hat, and drew another one.  Sorry, Pris!
Actually, that's what all the adult females in my family got this year, though each was a different color and design.  Also, instead of the Boggy Creek cookbook, I gave them all Serving Up the Harvest, by Andrea Chesman, and instead of the little cowgirl coin purse, they each got one of the beautiful jacquard dish towels that I brought back from Provence, which just happened to be in their favorite colors.  I assumed they would use them to dry dishes, but my niece Jessica had other ideas.  She and Geoff had just moved into a new home, and she said the colors in the towel were so perfect for her new kitchen, she just couldn't bear to relegate it to a drawer.  Instead she bought a set of fabric stretchers from the hobby shop, et voila!  The brilliant art masterpiece you see above was created -- another shining example of divergent thinking, and creative reuse!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I knew a fellow once, in my late 20's, who just couldn't wrap his head around an adult like myself, who still got so giddy over Christmas. "Obviously," he told me, "you've never experienced a truly bad Christmas."  Well, a lot of years and a lot of Christmases have gone by since then.  I had my first miscarriage right before Christmas, and though it didn't dampen my spirits too terribly much, it made some of my loved ones, who had bought baby-related things for our gifts and who realized that my green and white tree skirt was actually the baby quilt I'd been working on for so long, rather uncomfortable.
Then we lost my mother right before Christmas, just two years ago. And, of course, there was this year -- spending most of Christmas in the hospital, with all of us wondering just how many more Christmases we'd have with my dear hubby.
Still, I guess I must not have experienced a truly bad one yet, because, to tell you the truth, the only thing that ever makes me really sad at Christmas is this -- packing it all up, and having to wait nine or ten excruciating months, before I can start getting giddy all over again!