Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Can That Be???

Saturday night last I attended my 50th high school reunion. How on earth did those 50 years go by so darn fast??? It was so good to see so many of my former classmates but so sad to learn of how many had passed on and how many were facing serious health difficulties. Our class had 358 graduating seniors but only about 100 attended plus spouses. Many could not be located, many just could not attend. But of the ones who were able to make it, boy did we have a good time!!! So much reminiscing, so much catching up, so much story-telling! What is interesting about a 50th reunion is that the petty things of the 20th have faded away. No more "clique-ness" or who can outskinny whom. Grudges seem to have disappeared. Just good conversation with folks you spent a very important part of your life with. One teacher even attended. I found that pretty remarkable. Of course, the slide show of our high school days made for some pretty good chuckles!

Here's a good celebratory pie and boy, will it keep you awake long enough to party!

My Really Really Chocolate Pie

Purchased Oreo crust (OR homemade: 1 1/2 c. Oreos--about 20--crushed in food

processor. Add 3T melted butter. Mix well and press into a greased 9” pie plate.

Bake at 350 degrees 10-15 minutes. Cool.)

Filling Mix 1 c. sugar, 1/3 c. cornstarch, pinch of salt and 1 t. instant espresso powder.

Gradually whisk in 3 slightly beaten egg yolks. Put on medium heat and gradually stir

in 1 c. cream and 2 c. milk. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Cook and whisk until

mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in 6 oz. semisweet chocolate mini

chips and 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped. Whisk until smooth. Pour into crust.

Topping Top with whipped cream OR a meringue: 3 egg whites and 1/4 t. cream of

tartar beaten to stiff peaks. Gradually add 6 T sugar and beat till stiff and glossy.

Spread over hot filling, sealing meringue to crust. Place on a baking sheet and bake at

350 degrees till golden. Rotate sheet and bake about 2 more minutes.

Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate after a few hours.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Survey Says....FALL!

Ahhhh, that sweet time of year has just arrived. Tinges of orange popping into the trees, smoky smells in the air, pumpkins landing on front porches, socks and sweaters pulled out of hiding, football games on the teevee, weekend festivals abounding, baking bread aromas wafting from the oven and...soups, stews and bean pots bubbling away on top of the stove.

Cannellini Beans With Kielbasa

Fell in love with cannellini beans a few years ago on a trip to Italy after

tasting them in an incredible soup. Since then I have used them in all

kinds of recipes from tuna salad to lettuce salad to mashed in dips! Hereʼs

a recipe I have been working on for a while to get just like we like it!

Drain and rinse 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans. (Great Northern white

beans can be substituted. Not all grocery stores stock cannellinis.) Set


In a large skillet heat about 2 T bacon drippings. In this, saute 1 package

of Kielbasa (that has been sliced into 3/4” pieces diagonally) till lightly

browned. Remove and set aside.

In same skillet add more bacon drippings if needed and saute 1 chopped

yellow onion till soft. Add 3 cloves garlic that have been pressed.

Cook about a minute longer. Add back in the Kielbasa and 1 cup organic

chicken stock. Season with house seasoning (mine is Kosher salt,

coarsely ground black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder) to taste.

Splash in some Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for about 15 minutes or

until some of the liquid has reduced down to desired thickness. Great with

a crusty bread or cornbread!

Chunky Carrot-Tomato Soup

Roast about 4 pounds tomatoes (peeled, cored and sliced in half) OR

2 28oz cans tomatoes on a baking sheet that have been tossed with olive

oil, salt and pepper in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile

melt some butter with a little more olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add 1 chopped

yellow onion, 4 or 5 medium carrots that have been peeled and diced, 2

stalks diced celery and 3” garlic paste. Cook over low heat till veggies are

soft. Add roasted tomatoes and 2 cups organic chicken stock. Simmer on

low for about 20-30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender. Add 3/4

cup buttermilk (or cream) that has been tempered in a small amount of hot

soup. Taste and add more S&P if needed. Great with grilled cheese


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fun With A Vintage Bread Box

I have been shopping for a while for a bread box--the kind that opens easily and doesn't require both hands to do it, the kind that has ventilation holes to prevent condensation build up, the kind that just looks cute and not too industrial. Well, turns out I have had one right here on the premises the whole time! I was in my basement looking for who-knows-what when my eye landed on this thing! I have had it for probably 25 years and used it for decoration at my previous home. Hmmmm....could this be cleaned up and re-purposed as an actual bread box?

Found this spray paint which matches my KitchenAid blender and mixer at Hobby Lobby. No way! So after much scrubbing and sanitizing, I began to prime the box. Drop cloth in place on the patio table, it was spray, spray, spray!

Here it is, almost finished. I'm thinking I'll leave the star off and maybe stencil the word BREAD across the front with white paint. DH says, no, leave it plain. Gonna have to ponder that one for awhile. In the meantime, my bread has a place to live!

HELP! In my lower righthand sidebar is a list of archived posts. The titles are there but won't show up unless highlighted. I have tried everything I can think of in the Design section of my blog but nothing is working. Anyone have a suggestion? Also Facebook, why did you change things just as I had gotten used to navigating you?????

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gratuitous Cat Photo

Nothing like a warm stream of sunlight!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Husband, The Enabler

Yesterday we decided to make a quick trip up to Omaha to spend a few hours with Older Son. While we were there, DH insisted we stop in at one of my favorite Omaha haunts, The Country Sampler Quilt Shop. He knows how to hurt a girl!!! I think he is thinking about that lovely Bernina sitting up in the sewing room collecting dust! While I still enjoy looking at all the gorgeous fabrics and sample quilts, what caught my eye was this:

I have been a fan of Kathleen Tracy's books since her first one came out in 2004, American Doll Quilts. I also have Prairie Children and Their Quilts and Remembering Adelia so this is a nice addition to the collection. I love how she weaves history in with the darling quilts. I love her sense of color and the warmth her quilts convey. And I love that she is a fellow Mid-Westerner and likes to dabble in jewelry making! I think we have a connection.

I really liked this quilt in the book:

So simple yet so evocative of those Sanitary Commission quilts that show up a lot in Civil War history pieces. I appreciate the easy sewing techniques she used on this quilt. Easy? My middle name.

Okay, I promise. This is the last mention of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. We did attend the open house Sunday. Organizers were expecting 25,000 people to turn out. A whopping 50,000 folks showed up!!!! And that's with a Chiefs game on TV. The parking was challenging, but we were able to find onstreet parking just two blocks away. The line to get in was longer than long, but we only had to stand in the light drizzle for 45 minutes--some people waited one or two hours! Once inside the center we were overwhelmed and amazed. The wait was well worth it. There are two main theaters which will host symphonies, operas, theater, ballet and other arts. They are gorgeous. The beautiful foyers and views are spectacular. Kansas City, you have arrived.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Will This Reincarnated Blog Be?

Settling back into blogging has been a good thing. It is such a good way to chronicle parts of one's days. I felt that one reason I had the "bloggie blues" for so many months was that it was primarily a quilting blog. Well, when you've basically stopped quilting, what is there to blog about??? So I decided to change my banner to include cooking and reading--the two things I do most--and just living the retirement life in general. There! That ought to give me a few more topics.

Reading has been a lifelong passion. Novels, historic nonfiction, cookbooks, education reform studies, food politics, celebrity biographies--anything that catches my fancy is fair game. Well, let me tell you, when I received a Kindle for my birthday about a year ago, the whole reading thing was kicked up several notches!!!

Being able to hold hundreds and hundreds of books inside this one little ole' device and tuck it in my purse for reading on the go and download new books ANYWHERE--well, hello, this was just made for me. The only downside is the cost. However, my public library is "in talks" with Amazon to allow free downloads. The books will stay on the Kindle for a short time, then disappear. Counting down the days till this happens!

Another wonderful thing I discovered a few years ago is It is a great place to store titles of books I've read. I have been known to buy a book I have already read DOH! Now, I can either check goodreads or my Kindle home list and make sure not to do that!!! Only wish I had had these options 50 years ago LOL. Goodreads shows that I have logged in 138 books since I started using it. Hmmm....that's a lot of housework that didn't get done.

Blogger seems to only want to load up 5 images at a time--some things never change! Here are a few recent books I have enjoyed:

Ruth Reichl is one of my favorite authors. I have read everyone of her books I could find.
She was a former food critic for NY Times and editor of now-defunct Gourmet magazine among other things. She has a magical way of weaving in food, cooking and restaurants with family history. Her stories of her mother's cooking disasters are worth the read alone.

Tina Fey--love her! So much fun to find out how she got to where she is today. There is so much more to her than a Sarah Palin impersonation--although she does do that brilliantly. Her comedic writing skills are so great--both on TV and in books.

This book should be required reading for all educators and law-makers. It very ably points out the flaws with trying to run an educational system with No Child Left Behind tactics. As a retired teacher, I saw the massive destruction occurring in schools by the endless focus on testing, preparing for testing, misusing the testing, crushed spirits due to over-testing and poor use of test results. Testing is not education.

This book was a little hard to read but worth sticking with. The narrator is a five-year-old boy who has been held in captivity all his life in a shed with his mother who was kidnapped as a teenager. It is a story of ingenuity in the face of seemingly impossible odds and mothering in the worst of circumstances. I honestly could not put it down.

And, oh my, speaking of books I could not put down, this is it! Sarah's Key takes place in both 1942 and the present. It is an unfolding mystery during the horrific times when Paris police helped round up Jews for the Nazis to send them off to death camps. While it is so painful to think about that inhumane time in history, it is so important to know about it to try to prevent it from happening again. Again, a story of indomitable spirit and hope.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Deja Vu (Or Sure Glad Fabric Doesn't Rust)

Okay, so re-entering the blogging world is making me a little antsy. All those projects that are STILL unfinished kinda make me feel bad. I redid my "Projects In Waiting" list on my sidebar so that I could maybe sorta kinda get a manageable number of quilts to maybe sorta kinda think about dragging out and working on. Maybe. Sorta. Kinda. I figured 5 was a nice round number--ha ha--so I ventured into the scary sewing room and pulled out 5 and photographed them (there's the deja vu part). I am trying to remember why they were abandoned in the first place. I think I may have an inkling....

Here are the blocks from Women of Influence, the 2009 Kansas City Star BOM. I liked some of them, the flowery ones, but some of the others seemed so "been there done that" to me. I think I even "gasp" replaced some of the original ones. These blocks just aren't doing it for me. So I'm thinking I may use some of them but make some new ones to replace the ones I don't really like. Hmmmm....

A few years back I was so into quilting. When I wasn't sewing blocks and putting quilts together, I was shopping for fabric or poring through quilt books or attending quilt shows or getting together with quilting buddies to talk about quilts or reading blogs about quilting or watching TV quilt shows. Perhaps I overdosed! But it gave me so much pleasure to be involved in quilting. Then something happened! I just quit--almost cold turkey! Oh, there was the occasional baby quilt to be made or a quilty-type gift item, but the zest just wasn't there anymore. So I am determined to recapture that lust. However, I think the key is going to be, "If I don't love it, why am I doing it?" Maybe some of the projects will have to be donated or rethought.

Here's one I still DO love, the 2009 Bunny Hill BOM, A Tisket A Tasket. I just need to come up with a clever way to set the blocks. I'm thinking maybe a tilted block setting....

I know why this one fell out of favor! These are so NOT my colors! Maybe I'll finish it and set it out on the porch swing for Halloween!!! I do love string quilts--just not this Wacky Web String quilt.

And this little puppy has been to this stage for a long time. It was a BOM for Pat Sloan's internet group back in the day! I do like it and it could probably be finished up in a coupla afternoons. It is called Farmers Market and I do love farmers markets!!!

Another string quilt, Chocolate & Cherries--all ready to be quilted. I had originally planned to do a big-stitch quilting on it. Now I'm a-thinkin'--straight line machine quilting. Get that sucker done done!!!
Well, I wish I could say that these were all the unfinished projects lying around my sewing room. I could say it but then I'd be lying! So many more. But even if I get only one project done, that will be one more finished than I have right this minute.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tricked Out Kansas City

After years in the making--literally--our piece de resistance is finally opening! The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the feather in Kansas City's cap, is so incredibly beautiful. I wish these photos did better justice. Sunday is a free open house for the new center and I plan to be there--along with at least 25,000 of my closest friends. Watching the construction go slowly along, I would always breathe a spontaneous "Wow!" every time we drove by. It always made me think of the Sydney Opera House. We are so lucky here in KC to have many things we can feel pride in. Fountains galore, the Country Club Plaza, many museums including the nationally renown Nelson, professional sports teams Chiefs & Royals, wonderful restaurants...I could go on and on. Yep, I love my city. Well, except for the summer humidity and the winter ice storms! I am so excited that this newest work of art is opening. Maybe it will put Kansas City on the map!

Peach Butter

One of Hubs' favorite things this past month has been peach butter--kind of a cross between jelly and sauce. So delicious on an English muffin or toast. We have already gone through two jars and the three that I have held back for gifts may go the way of all things yummy!

In a large pot bring to a boil and reduce to simmer : four pounds of peaches (blanched, iced, peeled and chunked) with one cup of water till tender, about 15-20 minutes. Puree with immersion blender. Add 3 cups sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Bring to strong simmer, stirring frequently. Cook for about 30-40 minutes till thickened. Ladle hot peach butter into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims. Put on lids and rings. Process in boiling water canner 10 minutes. Remove to towel and DO NOT DISTURB for several hours. Check for seal.

*This recipe was adapted from Ball Blue Book. I decreased the sugar called for and increased the water and added lemon juice for acidity!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Summer Plans An Exit Strategy

Here in KC we've had a nice string of gorgeous weather--mild temperatures, gentle breezes and some overnight rain here and there--teasing us with the autumn to come. Yesterday summer reared its ugly head and said, "I'm not done with you yet!!!" Temps in the 90s put us right back in our place. Calendars don't lie! The harvest moon last night, though, made me forget about temperatures and calendars and airconditioning and mosquitoes. So incredibly beautiful. Pausing to think about summer's dwindle, I'm reflecting this morning on what I'll miss most. The brilliant colors of zinnias, petunias and roses? The croaking frogs and flittery dragonflies at the pond? The baby cardinals attempting to leave the nest? The lazy afternoons in the family room recliner with my nose buried in my Kindle? The Cuisinart ice-cream maker churning out strawberry yumminess? The Weber fired up with Italian sausage and peppers grilling away? Well, all of that, for sure. But mostly I'll miss the farmers markets (which we have in abundance around these parts) and my husband's homegrown tomatoes! It's been a summer of...salsa-making and sauce-making. Tiresome, but I'll be glad come January!

For some reason I got on a ratatouille kick this summer. Through July and August we must have had it at least once every two weeks. And I never remembered to shoot a photo!

Ratatouille PREP: Scrub a large eggplant and cut it into 3/4" pieces. Place in a colander, sprinkle with Kosher salt. Scrub two zucchinis and cut into 3/4" pieces and place in a bowl. Salt. Place bowl on top of the eggplant in the colander. Let stand for about 30 min. Wrap each in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove some of the moisture. Quarter lengthwise, then thin slice crosswise 2 yellow or Vidalia onions. Halve, seed and chop two pounds tomatoes (4 or 5) OR two cans diced tomatoes in tomato juice. Cut one red bell pepper into 1" pieces. Press 8 - 10 garlic cloves. COOK: Saute onion in olive oil in a large skillet. Transfer to Dutch oven (DO). Saute zucchini, adding more oil if needed. Add to DO. Saute eggplant, add to DO. Cook red bell pepper strips till soft. Add to DO. To the DO add the tomatoes, garlic, fresh or dried basil, fresh or dried parsley, fresh or dried chives (other herbs would work too but basil, parsley and chives are what I have growing in pots on my deck!) and house seasoning. (My house seasoning is Kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. I make up batches and keep it in a shaker.) Can add tomato juice or veggie stock if needed. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer till veggies are tender but not mushy. Taste. Add more house seasoning if needed. This is so darn good even my veggie-shy sons love it. gets better after sitting in the fridge a day or two. can add some grilled kielbasa and cannellini beans on the second or third day (if there is any left) for a hearty entree! And......well, that's enough about ratatouille!

Speaking of zucchini....

Zucchini Soup

Yummy and mild, a tasty goodbye to summer...

In medium Dutch oven saute 1 chopped yellow onion till soft. Add three zukes that

have been scrubbed and cut into 1” cubes and 3 small Yukon potatoes, peeled and

cubed. Stir to coat in the oil. Cover with organic chicken stock. Add garlic powder,

onion powder, Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (my house seasoning). Cover and bring to boil.

Reduce to simmer and cook till zukes and potatoes are soft. Puree with stick blender

till smooth. Add a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice and some fresh chopped herbs

(parsley and chives are good). Temper some cream (1/4 to 1/2 cup) in a small amount

of hot soup. Add to the pot. Taste...may need more cream and more salt and pepper.

***A sprinkling of grated sharp cheddar on top wouldnʼt be frowned on! Serve with

crusty bread.

As summer crawls to a close, it's good to savor those wonderful veggies for another week or two. But autumn will bring its own rewards...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Lo-o-ong Hiatus

Looking in Merriam-Webster, I find that "hiatus" means an interruption in time or continuity. No mention of how long the interruption has to be in order to be considered a hiatus and not a "quitting". Phew! My last post was 15 months ago. There were many times when I considered closing down shop altogether but the nagging memories of so many great blogging pals kept me from doing that. we go again. Probably no former readers still out there but would love to hear from any who happen to stumble across this blog! It is said that life is what happens when you are making so true. Some of life's issues have been resolved, others still in progress. Sorry for no further explanation but that's how it must be...for now.

Today is a day full of memories for so many Americans. It often feels like the terrorist attacks were just yesterday. I am always grateful to the many who protect us on a daily basis, both on our homeland and abroad. Thank you.