Monthly Archives: July 2010

A Few Days of “ME” Time

I had scheduled a couple of vacation days at the end of the week because I was supposed to have my Little Buddy visit for a couple of days, but that fell through.  And it turned out to be just as well.  We would have spent two days in the car and about 1-1/2 days for the actual visit.  New arrangements have been made, and I will have him for an entire week in mid to late September.  I am much happier with that plan, but I was looking forward to seeing him.  I went ahead and took the days off anyway, and have been enjoying my leisure time.  I spent some time reorganizing my kitchen, organizing projects, purging some things that have not been used in awhile, shopping, cooking, catching up on tivoed cooking shows and things like that.

Last night I picked my mother up and we went to Final Friday for a bit.  There was a ceramics exhibit I wanted to see at a local gallery and it was the last night for it.  There was an awesome vintage and handmade bicycle exhibit at one of the galleries. I took some photos.

The bicycle in the middle has a tooled leather seat and tooled leather handgrips! They were all very cool!

One gallery had a “nerdy artist” book sale and we browsed the books.  My mother bought a book of Robert Browning poetry and several magazines.  I purchase a Monet book for the fashionista.  She loves Monet.

Then we bought some vanilla latte gelato — which was excellent — and sat outside in the square listening to some music.  There were girls doing hula hoop tricks to drum beats and then they twirled and danced with fire sticks.  That was pretty unusual. It was a nice evening to get out.  It had been pretty hot yesterday, but when the sun began to go down, it cooled off a bit.

I adopted another soldier recently, and this morning I took my first box off to the post office.  I did not sponsor anyone last year as one of the fashionista’s good friends was in Afghanistan and we sent care packages to him.  So the soldier I just adopted is a medic and one of his requests was for candy and teddy bears for the children over there that they treat. Awww. I know space is limited over there and I was thinking about how to get teddy bears off in the mail and then I had a brilliant idea.  The fashionista has a box full of Beanie Babies that is still in the basement.  So I called her and she agreed to donate all but about 5 that have sentimental value to her.  They are soft and small and colorful, so I hope that works out.  I mailed off three in my first box along with a bag of Jolly Rancher hard candies.  I figure I can send three or four each month. The post office has changed the customs forms and I ended up writing out a list of the items and quantity and price on a plain sheet of paper.  The postal clerk told me it will be easier if I just do that each month and bring in five copies along with one custom form.  The forms only have about 4 lines and toiletries (which are needed items) have to be listed individually.  She said I can group candy, cookies, books, etc. but some things have to be specifically itemized. I told her I preferred the old forms and she agreed with me.

So, this month’s soldier box is done and on its way to Afghanistan.  School supplies have been purchased to donate.  Each year my church supplies a local elementary school with a backpack filled with school supplies for each child.  The church purchases 300-400 backpacks and they are distributed on a Sunday and then filled and returned the following Sunday.  School starts a little earlier this year, so a list of needed supplies was emailed and I have already purchased my items.  And since I was already buying school supplies, I bought extra for the city-wide collection effort and to put in my Operation Christmas Child shoebox. It is a good feeling to have those things done. 

Now on to some knitting and sewing!


Wish it was Sunday

That’s my fun day – la la la la la. We finally got some rain over the weekend — and lots of sticky humidity.  But the rain was definitely a blessing.

 

Fusilli with sauteed tomatoes, pecorino, and fresh basil

Fusilli with sauteed tomatoes, pecorino and fresh basil

This is the only food photo I have from the weekend.  My oven is on the fritz and I am waiting for either a new element or a new appliance.  And of course since I don’t have an oven to use, I want to bake.  Go figure.  We always want what we can’t have. 

The place I usually buy my Lebanese groceries from is currently closed, so I went to my first alternate location on Saturday morning.  I picked up some chickpeas, small containers of hummus and laban, a carton of feta, and several small eggplants.  I also stopped by a truck selling produce by the side of the road and purchased tomatoes, zucchini, and cantaloupe.  I intended to go out to the farm market, but remembered that it was “tomato day” and figured it would be too crowded — and later I heard from a friend that it was, so it was just as well I came across the lone seller by the side of the road. I went to a local ceramics supply shop and picked up a carving tool, a flexible rib and a glaze stamp. Returned library books I am finished with.

The rest of the weekend I just puttered around.  I made a ratatouille.  I cut out the apron for the fashionista — finally! Yesterday I set up the sewing machine and listened to several podcasts while sewing — the apron is nearly done.  One evening of sewing and it will be finished. I finished knitting a brown facecloth. Played with the pug. Not much going on at the moment.


Trying to Beat the Heat!

We are having a spell of hot hot hot weather here in the middle of the U.S. It has been around 80 when I get up in the mornings.  I try not to listen too much to the weather news — there are two pieces of information I really never want to know.  The wind chill in the winter and the heat index in the summer!

The pug and I have not been able to get out and walk at the park at all. It is just too hot to take her out except to potty.

Pottery class is going well.  The pot I made my first night of class in June has been glazed and fired. I also threw a mug and this past Monday I sanded it and put it in the firing room to be bisque fired.

First glazed pot

 

Mug 7-16

 

A somewhat humorous event occurred in class.  I had thrown a cylinder and I was trying to put a collar on it and it collapsed in two places due to a thin spot in the clay.  Just as I was about to trash it, my instructor said “You need to keep that.  Controlled collapses are so cool.” So I thought — well, if that’s what you see, then fine by me.

The more time I spend in the studio the more I enjoy it.  I want to create some stamps for stamping designs on some of the pieces I make.  The other evening I threw a small cylinder that I really did “control collapse”  at the top, a small vase, and another mug body.  I think I may try to get over there Friday after work and pull a handle for the mug.

Sunday I made another yummy salad.  Tuna, cucumber, and avocado salad with fresh dill. It is definitely a full meal salad.

Tuna cucumber avocado salad

 

In early August I am helping with a benefit and I agreed to prepare three appetizers for the VIP hour.  My appetizers will be paired with white wine, so of course I am doing veggies!  I think most of the other appetizer stations will be done by local businesses and caterers, so mine have to be top notch since I am the only non-business person.  Hope I can measure up!  I am doing cucumber slices with a dollop of my homemade hummus.  The second will be caprese skewers.  And I have been toying with doing a crostini for my third and playing around with different ideas.  And this is what I am pretty set on — a sweet pea crostini.

Sweet pea crostini

Excuse the bite marks in the photo.  It was near my dinnertime when I made this and I was so hungry that I bit into it and then thought to photograph it!

Suddenly I have several of the books on my summer reading list to get through.  I was trying to space them all out, but now I have several I am trying to read.  My lunchtime book at the office is The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.  My evening book at home is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  And next up is Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok — and another whose title I cannot think of at the moment.

I am down to finishing the sleeves on the striped toddler cardigan.  Still knitting dishcloths.  I have not been terribly motivated recently in the knitting department.  I decided to start knitting a man’s ribbed scarf and I got out the needles and the yarn and cast on and knit about 5 inches and decided I don’t want to make one right now after all.  I just don’t have a project in mind at the moment.  And that is an unusual occurrence.  Perhaps it is because there are so many other things I have going or want to do at this time.


Hooked

Italian Tomato-Bread Salad

on this salad.  Oh my goodness!  It is absolutely delicious!  Sorry that the photo is a little fuzzy.  Fresh chopped tomato, capers, red onion, roasted red pepper in oil, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and dry bread. I am in love.  I didn’t put the fresh basil on it, which would have added another dimension to the flavor, but it didn’t need it.

My findings at the farm market this past Saturday included — yellow squash, baby zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, peaches — much more there, but this is what I came home with.  I made meatless koosa (Lebanese stuffed yellow squash) and what I call farm market vegetable stew which is loosely based on ratatouille.

Meatless Koosa

Farm market vegetable stew

 

I had a fairly quiet weekend.  It was very rainy.  Took the pug to the park during the rain breaks.  Went to a cookout Friday evening for a bit.  Spent most of that holding a young couple’s 3 month old baby — she was such a doll!  Sunday afternoon I went with a friend to see Eclipse — got lost in the Forks fantasy world for a couple of hours.  Cooked, knitted, worked on some other projects, read.  I am nearly finished with the latest Frances Mayes book that is on my summer reading list, Every Day in Tuscany.  Reading it makes me want to go back to Italy/Sicily one of these days.  Will have to add that to my bucket list.  I talked to both girls over the weekend.

Monday evening was the start of a new pottery class.  I threw the body of a mug that I determined is a keeper.  I would like to go to open studio time on Friday, but instead I will be at the office.  I hope to take several more Fridays here and there to get in some extra time on the wheel.  So it will be Monday before I can pull and add the handle and trim it for bisque firing.  And I need to glaze the little pot that I made my first night in class at the beginning of June.  Since that time, I have been working on technique and haven’t made anything I wanted to keep.  I took a small bag of my clay home as I keep thinking that I want to make some clay pendants and beads for jewelry one of these days. One more thing on my lengthy to do list.


Time for a Change

I just finished reading Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World and Keep Us Safe by Maria Rodale, granddaughter of J.I. Rodale.  This book confirms much of what I have been thinking for quite some time now. My eyes have been opened more to the changes that we need to make in our food system. Check this book out from your local library and read it if you want to learn more.

I believe that the rise in cancer, diabetes, asthma, earlier puberty in children, and so many other ailments and physical afflictions are prevalent in America because of processed foods, factory farming, and chemical farming.

Americans want cheap, quick, convenient tasty food.  Unfortunately, we have gotten what we want. And it is killing us.

Have you watched Food, Inc.?  The World According to Monsanto?  Supersize Me?  Or read any of Michael Pollan’s books?  If not, I encourage you to do so. I believe it will help to change the way you think about the food you purchase.

Even WalMart has realized that consumers are leaning toward purchasing healthier products and has gotten on the organic bandwagon.  I have done some price comparisons in area stores — Target Supercenter, Dillons, and WalMart — WalMart does have lower prices on a good percentage of organic foodstuffs in our area.

Now that it is summer, I am growing some of my own food — tomatoes, herbs, eggplant, cucumbers, green beans and zucchini.  I buy eggs either at the farm market or from a source I know to be humane.  If you have not purchased any “organic” “cage free” “antibiotic and hormone free” eggs, I encourage you to find some.  The yolks are brighter and there really is a difference in taste — most supermarket eggs, like tomatoes in the winter, are devoid of flavor. I go to the local farm market every Saturday morning to purchase vegetables and fruit, and an occasional pie. 

Through the use of chemicals, we are not only poisoning our land, our food, and our animals, we are letting ourselves be slowly poisoned also.

I am against the use of antibiotics and hormones in raising animals for food.  I am opposed to factory farming practices.  I am opposed to the use of pesticides in growing food. I am opposed to GMOs.

We may believe that we have little voice in changing the way things are done, but we can vote with our dollars. By making healthy purchases, we show the corporations what we as consumers want.  Dillons tracks what you purchase when you use your Plus card every week.  Every store’s computer system records what consumers purchase.  Use your dollars and your buying power to make a difference to your health, your family’s health, and the planet.