Archive for April, 2012

cousI have a reputation as being a fearless cook.  Which means I will try anything and see what happens.  I am not a good recipe-follower, but I am instinctive and most of the time my “experiments” work out pretty well.

I must say that I am not really a good baker as opposed to cook.  I can make good breads, but when it comes to cakes and other confections I will leave that to others.  I think it is the fact that I do not really have a sweet tooth.

Anyway, the other day I was rummaging through my very large deep-freezer in the basement.  This freezer is full of all sort of things, most of which I hoarded last fall when the prospect of a long winter was front of mind.  I figured that there were going to be weeks when I would not be able to make it to the store due to blizzards so I needed to have provisions to make it through.

Alas the winter was mild and I am afraid of the basement, so I still have a ton of food waiting to be defrosted and enjoyed.  As fate would have it, the main refrigerator and freezer in the kitchen gave out last week, which meant I had to be creative for a few days until a new unit could be delivered.

This meant a few meals right out of the freezer.  Which brings me back to the where I started – rummaging through my very large deep freezer in the basement.  I have quite a few whole chickens in the freezer – as I love chicken and they are often on sale at my local grocer.  Anyway, I decided to cook a chicken for dinner along with some fresh broccoli I had purchased (which thankfully did not need much refrigeration).

After the chicken had defrosted, I prepared it for the oven. 

[By the way, I like the simple open roast method – just place the chicken breast side up on a rack in a shallow baking pan.  I often rub a little olive oil on the breast and then sprinkle some sea salt on top.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes per pound.]

As I was about to plop the chicken in the oven, I thought to myself that it might be nice to have some stuffing with the meal.  Of course I had no stuffing and did not really have the time or desire to make some or run to the store, so I went to the pantry to see what I could find.  Well, I had a box of couscous that was just calling to me.

This is the simple to make variety – where you basically just add some hot water, let steam, and then fluff with a fork and you are good to go.  This was couscous with roasted garlic flavor, and I thought that it might make a nice stuffing so I whipped it up and packed it inside the chicken.

The result was, well, couscous as a nice side dish for the dinner.  The cool thing was that by cooking the garlic-infused couscous in the chicken gave the meat a nice added flavor.  The couscous also gained a bit of a new flavor as well, but it was much more subtle.

The reviews?  Mixed.  It was a fun experiment, but I am not sure anything was really gained by having the couscous cooked in the bird as opposed to separately.  Bread-based stuffings are much more likely to take on the juices and flavors than couscous. 

The best part was just trying something new and not having it be a total disaster.

PWIt has been a while since I featured a stationary find. I have made no secret of my love of note cards and fine papers, etc.  There is no shortage of places you can go for such things.  However, I am always happy to find a place that has a back story of creative people who share a passion for these types of products.  Paperwink is just such a place.

About the creative people behind Paperwink“Tara and Darcey met in Venice, CA, where they worked together designing award-winning pieces for Knock Knock, a stationery and product design company. Over the years, they discovered that they have similar likes: paper, design, vintage life and putting letters and colors together. They decided to share their craft and ideas with others by creating invitations, announcements, stationery and, well, things. They packed their bags with pens, fonts, textures and inspiration and began their labor of love, Paperwink.”

Paperwink offers a great line of address stamps and stationary and they are sure to have something for everybody.  I was particularly intrigued by Paperwink’s line of stamped bags – muslin bags with an image stamped on them.  Everyone knows I love muslin bags – so these bags are great and if you prefer no stamp – you can order a few plain muslin bags and customize them.

See all the cool products of Paperwink here.

shilohI enjoy reading about American history, which comes as no surprise to Lost Cowboy fans.  What is less known is that I am also a little bit of an American Civil War buff.  Although I never dressed up in period uniforms and reenacted encampments, I spent a great deal of my youth reading anything I could find about the war.  I especially liked reading the firsthand accounts and diaries that so many people left behind.

It had been a while since I read anything on the war when I heard that the new book Shiloh, 1862 by Winston Groom was due for release a couple of weeks back.  We are at the beginning of many milestone anniversaries related to the war that will be marked in the coming months and years as the war was under way 150 years ago.  In fact, we just passed the 150th anniversary of the Shiloh battle, which made reading this book even more interesting to me.

About Shiloh, 1862: “In the spring of 1862, many Americans still believed that the Civil War, ‘would be over by Christmas.‘ The previous summer in Virginia, Bull Run, with nearly 5,000 casualties, had been shocking, but suddenly came word from a far away place in the wildernesses of Southwest Tennessee of an appalling battle costing 23,000 casualties, most of them during a single day. It was more than had resulted from the entire American Revolution. As author Winston Groom reveals in this dramatic, heart-rending account, the Battle of Shiloh would single-handedly change the psyche of the military, politicians, and American people–North and South–about what they had unleashed by creating a Civil War.”

First and foremost, I have to say that I devoured this book and enjoyed it very much.  It is interesting to note that in our collective knowledge of the Civil War and what we think we know is mostly the battles and events that took place in the east, like Gettysburg and Sherman‘s March.  The western battles, of which Shiloh was huge, have never gained the same attention for whatever reason.  Mr. Groom’s book goes a long way in making this pivotal battle come alive for now and forever.

Many of the major figures of the war are here, notably General Grant, and it is interesting to read in detail about so many people and other events from a major battle early in the campaign just a year after Fort Sumter with three devastating years to come.

Mr. Groom, who perhaps is best known for writing “Forrest Gump”, is a gifted writer.  I won’t belittle his amazing grasp of history and the material by saying this book reads like a novel.  However, Mr. Groom has made the story of Shiloh and its impact accessible and compelling.  Definitely a good read for fellow history buffs and anyone who wants to know more about a pivotal part of a defining era in U.S. history.

Shiloh, 1862 by Winston Groom is available from Amazon and other booksellers.

 chocorua.04.10.2012

It is a strange season here in the mountains of New Hampshire. Most years this is what is called “mud season” – the time when the snow is melting and everything turns to mud. This year with the early snowmelt and unusually dry weather, there isn’t a lot of mud around. In fact, local authorities are extremely concerned about the risk of brush fires.

Meanwhile, as we check at Lake Chocorua (at the foot of the glorious Mount Chocorua in Tamworth, NH, we can see stormy skies to the north where snow squalls continued to ensure Mount Washington is covered in snow. The lake is relatively calm, unlike the whitecaps we saw on our last visit. The mountain is dark and gloomy looking today – waiting for the splashes of green that are sure to come in a few weeks.

I say it all the time, but once again, I am amazed by the ever-changing look of this great scene.

 

 

lineausTo look at me you may be tempted to think that I have never seen the inside of a gym.  To that I say that I’ve seen plenty…  in old movies.  I love the gyms in old movies, there is always a big punching bag and a medicine ball – both items looking like they are well-used and well-crafted.

Most of the gym equipment we see these days does not look as good, it may be well designed, and more functional, but much let attractive.  However, I have discovered the Lineaus Athletic Company, a company that makes traditional punching bags and medicine balls in a variety of shapes and they are really cool.

About the medicine balls of Lineaus Athletic Company:  “Lineaus products have their design origins in traditional forms. Human needs for athletic equipment call for a variety of shapes, sizes, and weights. Each custom-made and numbered product is designed to be durable while being soft to the touch.”

The products of Lineaus are not cheap, but they are pretty.  I am thinking about saving my pennies so I can buy the $5,800 medicine bag just to hang in my house. 

See all the fine “medicine” products of Lineaus Athletic Company here.

Happy.Easter.2012

TEN3In this day and age when the traditional broadcast networks have lost their dominance, and we can pretty watch whatever we want when we want…  I wanted to give kudos to ABC for continuing the tradition of showing the classic epic film The Ten Commandments in primetime during the Easter/Passover season.

Programming like this these days is rare and it is a throwback to a time when choices on television were fewer and broadcasts like this were events.  ABC has shown this film during the Easter/Passover season for decades now, most recently every year on Holy Saturday.

About The Ten Commandments “Starring Charlton Heston as Moses, this dramatic Biblical epic is presented with an all-star cast, including Yul Brynner as Pharaoh, Anne Baxter as Queen Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson as the overseer of the slaves and Yvonne DeCarlo as Moses’ wife.  The film traces the story of Moses, from the time his mother set him afloat on the Nile, through his years as a young commander in Pharaoh’s army to his betrayal and exile and, finally, his deliverance of the Israelites and the receiving of God’s Commandments.”

I moved into this house in northern New Hampshire last year on Good Friday.  By the next day (following a six inch snow fall and noticing way more work to do on the house than I bargained for) I was questioning if I had made the right decision to take over the house. 

I had no cable or internet connection yet and the mountains and distance from broadcast signals made it a challenge to get any TV or radio reception.  But I knew the strongest signal in the area was an ABC station out of Poland Springs, Maine.  I rooted around and managed to create a make-shift antenna that after several minutes of moving things around – adding coat hangers and aluminum foil balls here and there – was able to get a signal…  just in time to watch The Ten Commandments while I colored eggs.  The reception was fuzzy, but it good enough for me.

I didn’t have much going on in the house yet.  It was still cold and I was all alone far away from friends and family.  But sitting there watching the film and marking the holiday, I knew everything was going to be alright.

Visit ABC’s The Ten Commandments site here.

The Ten Commandments airs tonight on ABC at 7PM EDT/6PM CDT

returnI could not let Good Friday go by without an appreciation for a piece of art I have hanging the living room of this old house in New Hampshire.  It is a large framed print by British/German artist Herbert Gustav Schmalz from 1903 called The Return From Calvary.

The image is epic in scale as it depicts the family of Jesus of Nazareth following his crucifixion, an event Christians mark on this day.

I love this work and fell in love with it the first time I saw it as it hung in my good friend Lynda’s grandmother’s home.  Years later, Lynda asked me if I would like to borrow the piece to hang in my home – kind of like when museums lend parts of their collections to other museums for special exhibits.  I took her up on that offer right away.

Now, several years later, I am pleased to say I still have the print and it hangs in a prominent place in my home.  I look at it every day and not only marvel at the image itself (I find new details often), but what it represents.

The artistic, historical and religious meanings aside, the print also represents what has become a treasured tradition with Lynda – our friendly exchange program of art and antiques.  Since we first exchanged this print, we have gone on share all sorts of things and it has further enhanced our already great friendship.

As a shout-out to Lynda and her blog, Grateful Evermore, I am grateful on this holiest of days on the Christian calendar, for great friends and shared passions.

The Return From Calvary by Herbert Gustav Schmalz as it hangs today in my home:

Returntoc

rab3The other day I wrote about my mother’s little career of making bunny dolls.  Well, it is a lesser known fact that my dad also got into the bunny making business, albeit for a very short time.

When my mother decided all she wanted to do was retire (early) to an old farm house in New Hampshire and make her crafts, my dad went along too.  He decided he had done everything he set out to do in his career, the youngest of his four children (yours truly) was off to college, and it sounded like a good idea to hang out in the country with the love of his life, my mom.

Well, that was the plan.  As it worked out, my mom got a bit of a head start while my dad wound things down.  By the time he joined her full time, she was well into the production of her beloved dolls and outfits.  As so often happens to newly retired couples, my dad drove my mother crazy by just being around all the time.  So she encouraged him to take up a craft of his own.  He decided on woodworking.  He invested in all sorts of table saws and related equipment and started making all sorts of things, mostly decorative items fit for the then trendy “country” décor.

He made a great Santa Claus door stop, actually a bunch of them, that he gave as gifts and they were well received and now a treasured find every year.  He made some wooden toys and other things for kids. But he made quite a few wooden bunny things to compliment what my mother was doing.

Alas, after a very intense period of this wood work he decided he just wasn’t into it and turned his attention and time to managing my mother’s growing enterprise and ultimately taking a part time job to keep himself busy and sane.

However, many of the things he made survive.  And just in time for Easter, I found a couple of sets of bunny couples which my dad made which were still hanging around the old house.  If you knew my dad you would not think of him as the creative or crafty type, that is my mom.  But looking at his work now I have a new appreciation for his skills as he designed the stencils for these things as well as doing the saw and filing work and the fishing paint job. 

I can say that these things are not really my taste, but I get a great deal of joy looking at them and picturing my dad making them.  I have these displayed in the house now for Easter.  Next week I am going to put them away until next Easter, when I will pull them out and appreciate them all over again.

rab2

rab4

Pictured throughout this post are a few of my dad’s wood works that are still hanging around.

Baseguys.1Play Ball!

The 2012 Major League Baseball season is officially underway and I am so excited.  I love baseball and I love baseball-related things, especially vintage baseball items.

At a recent auction I picked up these great baseball figures in a box lot with a bunch of other smalls.  I love this type of thing.  I am guessing that these generic ballplayers were not made as toys for kids to play with but rather as decorations for a boy’s birthday cake.  They are made of hard plastic, unlike the softer plastic that toys are often made from.

In any case, I love these little guys and have them displayed in the house to help get me excited about the new season. 

Go Cubs!

 Baseguys.2